Congress, NASA

House members to unveil “Space Leadership Act” today

Four members of the House of Representatives will appear at a press conference this afternoon outside the Capitol to announce new legislation that they claim will “change business as usual at NASA and result in a more stable and more accountable space program.” Reps. John Culberson (R-TX), Frank Wolf (R-VA), Bill Posey (R-FL), and Pete Olson (R-TX) plan to discuss the “Space Leadership Act” at the 1:30pm press conference; the announcement also indicates that Reps. Lamar Smith (R-TX) and James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) are also co-sponors of the bill.

The announcement provides no details about the legislation, but in the past some of these members have talked about legislation to provide “continuity” for the space agency by giving the NASA administrator a 10-year term and giving the Office of Management and Budget “less input” into the budget development process. However, introducing such legislation so late in the current Congress makes it highly unlikely it will progress very far this time around.

56 comments to House members to unveil “Space Leadership Act” today

  • Dark Blue Nine

    Here’s a crazy idea for our civil space leadership on the Hill…

    Congress should either add several billion dollars to the NASA budget annually so that the SLS/MPCV that Congress designed can get fielded on a reasonable schedule with funding left to spare for actual space exploration hardware, or…

    Congress should terminate SLS/MPCV and give NASA the freedom to find efficient heavy lift and crew transport options so that there is funding left within the existing budget runout for actual space exploration hardware.

    Meddling with the term of the NASA Administrator or pretending that the Legislative Branch can somehow keep the Executive Branch from proposing the budgets it wants are not going to change the annually repeated, multi-billion dollar failure in Congress to fund SLS/MPCV at the budget Congress prescribed in the 2010 NASA Authorization Act.

  • This attempt (to make cancellation of boondoggle programs such as SLS more difficult) would be laughable if it wasn’t a symptom of the sickness brought about by the perverse economic relationship between powerful committee members and NASA. A decadent relationship created and cultivated by those same committee members that will only harm NASA and the politicians’ constituencies in the long run.

  • Coastal Ron

    They wouldn’t be proposing this unless there was a President of the opposite party in the White House (and looking more likely to stay for another 4 years).

    I’m sure there are constitutional issues with such a proposal, and it doesn’t even address the real question of long-term program stability.

    However stability should not be conflated with “not allowing programs to be added, changed or cancelled”. As has been pointed out by many, Congress meddles to much with the fine details within NASA’s budget. The President and Congress should provide the overall goals, provide the budget, and let the professionals determine the “best” course. The President continues to preside over NASA, but Congress continues to provide oversight and the threat of budget changes – in other words, balance.

    Congress mandating a rocket (i.e. SLS), when the user community hasn’t asked for it, is indicative of pork politics at it’s best (which means worst for U.S. Taxpayers).

    More of a sign that Congress is out of touch with the needs of the electorate that put them there to solve real problems. Oh, and notice this is all Republican’s, which likely means the proposal will die on the House side and not be brought up in the (currently) Democrat-controlled Senate.

  • common sense

    Nah, you guys, I know. Congress should work on a bill for serious stuff like 50 year old Apollo artifacts! Right?

    No actually I have an even better idea. What about the “Congress Leadership Act”? Where Congress would be required to provide leadership not only in space matters but all matters? How cool would that be? Leadership in Congress! Yay!

    Whatever.

  • DCSCA

    The GOP is the last place on Earth o look to for ‘Space Leadership.’ Their Presidendial candidate has all but dismissed it and would fire anyone who broaches the subject. But then, the GOP enjoys playing with language- like labelling ketchup in warm water, ‘soup.’ =eyeroll=

    Rick Boozer wrote @ September 20th, 2012 at 11:31 am

    Of course the ultimate boondoggle is subsidizing LEO ops to doomed space platforms under the guise of ‘private enterprise’ – which it is not- and celebrating the Magnified Importance of Diminished Vision..

  • Rhyolite

    Stability and accountability are opposite poles. If you want stability then make the administrator dictator for life. If you want accountability than make the administrator’s term 1 year so he answers to congress and the executive every year and increase the influence of outside reviewers like OMB.

  • adastramike

    Although neither a Republican nor a Democrat, I actually welcome legislation like this. We can’t have each new President create his own NASA, either every 4 years or every 8 years, regardless of their party. We also can’t have Congress getting involved in technical design details. What if a given President wants to gut a specific part of NASA either because he or his staff don’t like or understand it, either to save pennies or redirect the money elsewhere? Or what if some Congressman goes on a NASA-hate rampage and tries to do the same? NASA needs stability with its large programs so that they won’t be terminated every few years just because the political party in power changes. I surely hope this bill makes some progress. It’s interesting that it’s just Republicans supporting this bill. Where is something similar but alternative from the Democrats?

    It’s just funny to note that a Democratic president proposed the first Moon program, a Republican canceled it, then a Republican proposed a return to the Moon program, then a Democrat canceled it. We can’t have these kinds of starts and stops. We also need some independent recommendations on the future of NASA’s HSF program, not tied to any administration with preconceived biases. If this bill or one like it passes, I hope it won’t apply to Bolden. I’d hate to see him as Administrator for 10 years; he doesn’t have true leadership — he just follows the party line. We need someone in charge at NASA who cares about NASA, not about advancing one particular administration’s viewpoints. I’d say the same if a Republican were in power. NASA should be like the FBI, in the sense that it’s goals are truly long term and for the public benefit in terms of science, exploration, and inspiration. It shouldn’t be shuffled around based on political whims.

  • amightywind

    Congress should either…

    Or go another direction and drastically reduce ISS funding, terminate 10% of NASA employees and redirect the funds to SLS/Orion. Corporations restructure and redeploy capital all the time.

    by giving the NASA administrator a 10-year term

    A ridiculous notion since the NASA Administrator and his officers are political appointees. I don’t want to endure these Bolsheviks any longer than I have to. Our democracy depends on the elected doing the will of the electorate and making changes, not on bowing to the convenience of a corrupt bureaucracy seeking to dig in for life.

  • @DSCA
    “Of course the ultimate boondoggle is subsidizing LEO ops to doomed space platforms under the guise of ‘private enterprise’ – which it is not- and celebrating the Magnified Importance of Diminished Vision..”
    If the ultimate goal was only “subsidizing LEO ops” to “space platforms under the guise of ‘private enterprise’” you would be correct.

  • Googaw

    If the ultimate goal was only “subsidizing LEO ops” to “space platforms under the guise of ‘private enterprise’” you would be correct.

    Not only do the ends justify the means, but our sci-fi fantasies of the future justify the means.

  • common sense

    This is so great! Real great material I wish Bill Maher would have a look at that. Hell with the constitution, the separation of powers. Just give it all to Congress. Judge Dredd here we go!

    =======
    http://spaceref.com/news/viewpr.html?pid=38643

    The Space Leadership Act will:

    * Create a Board of Directors chosen by the administration, House, and Senate, made up of former astronauts and eminent scientists responsible for:

    >>>>> And astronauts (!) and scientists (!!) have a say in Space Policy
    >>>>> because…

    – Preparing a budget submission approved by the Administrator and submitted CONCURRENTLY to House and Senate Appropriations and the president.

    >>>>> president? Not President. I know we need to respect the Oval
    >>>>> Office but not as much as Congress.

    – Recommending three candidates for NASA Administrator, Deputy Administrator and CFO; the president is encouraged to select one of the above, who would then be approved by the Senate.

    >>>>> Here we go again with this guy the president. Compare that with
    >>>>> the NASA Administrator, Deputy Administrator and CFO!

    – Preparing a quadrennial review of space programs and other reports.

    >>>>> Pretty soon we will be the Union of Soviet Americans. Cool, really!

    * Board terms would change to three, three-year terms. (Currently, two, six-year terms)

    >>>>> We “currently” have such a board already??? Nice to know.
    >>>>> What are they doing? Who are these people?!?! Darn.

    – It will also include a clause that states that no board member can work for a company which has business with NASA.

    >>>>> How about they cannot receive funding for their election
    >>>>> campaigns from a company that (not which, “whiches” ride
    >>>>> brooms, not rockets) has, had, or plans to have any business
    >>>>> with NASA.

    * The Administrator would be selected for a 10-year term.

    – This mirrors the FBI directors 10-year term.

    >>>>> Ah yeah I can see the parallel with the FBI. National Security!
    >>>>> How about NSA, CIA? DoE? DoD? They don’t deserve a 10 year
    >>>>> appointment? I guess not. Their budget is much smaller than
    >>>>> NASA and of course not subject to politics! I am so naive.

    – The board will be allowed to remove the NASA Administrator for cause.

    >>>>> For what cause? Be specific. Democratic is cause enough?

    * The legislation extends the provision for long term contracting from EELV (Evolvable Expendable Launch Vehicle) to rocket propulsion systems and manned and unmanned space transportation vehicles and payloads, including expendable launch vehicles, and related services.

    >>>>> Oh yeah! Absolutely, let’s contract for 10-20 or maybe 50 years!
    >>>>> Hell with competition and it would keep a nice stream of revenues
    >>>>> in those Republican heros coffers! Yeah. Nice. Real nice. Here my
    >>>>> fellow citizens, in your face.

  • @adastramike
    “It’s just funny to note that a Democratic president proposed the first Moon program, a Republican canceled it, then a Republican proposed a return to the Moon program, then a Democrat canceled it. We can’t have these kinds of starts and stops.”
    And you would rather have had that last “Moon program” continue even though it didn’t even have a snow ball’s chance in Hell of actually accomplishing its stated goal? Better to have projects that are impossible to implement under their allocated budgets be cancelled than to keep sinking taxpayer dollars into something that literally can go nowhere no matter how long you let it go.

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “Or go another direction and drastically reduce ISS funding, terminate 10% of NASA employees and redirect the funds to SLS/Orion.”

    Cutting the NASA civil servant workforce will only save $200-300 million. Zeroing out ISS Research will only save another $230 million. ISS O&M is already going down from $1.7 billion last year (FY 2011) to $1.1 billion by FY 2017 — there’s no blood to be had from that turnip without decrewing and/or deorbiting ISS. So cutting ISS to the marrow only generates about $530 million per year in savings total.

    SLS/MPCV need an annual infusion on the order of $3 billion per year, on top of the $3 billion Congress has underfunded them in FY 2011 in FY 2012. So even with all the conceivable ISS cuts in the world, we’re off by $2.5 billion (with a “b”) per year from getting SLS/MPCV back on track.

    And that’s before sequestration takes another ~$200-300 million per year out of the SLS/MPCV budget…

  • It’s just funny to note that a Democratic president proposed the first Moon program, a Republican canceled it, then a Republican proposed a return to the Moon program, then a Democrat canceled it

    Apollo was canceled by Lyndon Johnson — production was ordered to end in 1967. The actual flights were just inertia of existing hardware.

  • Gary Warburton

    I think the only improvement Nasa needs is for both the congress and the senate to be confined to budget matters only this is their expertise they`re ones that know what we can afford. They should not be stipulating
    what kind of vehicle is built. That is Nasa`s job. They can help decide with the president where they want to go and the extent of the development ie. how long the duration and how expensive but little else. Nasa and its scientists and engineers decide the rest: what kind of vehicle and how they`ll do it.

  • mike shupp

    I await eagerly the reaction from the White House when incoming President Mitt Romney is told by Republican Congressmen that his notions for using NASA to secure economic and military goals — after approval by “independent” experts who will determine what NASA really “needs”, of course — must be put aside for the next ten years if they conflict with what NASA’s own leadership has decided upon.

    Oh yes indeedy, such a special moment….

  • I’m waiting to see the exact language of the bill, but so far I’ve heard nothing about reforming appropriations. A budget is one thing. The Appropriations Committee deciding how much NASA actually gets is another. And it’s been the appropriations committees that have whacked commercial crew the last two fiscal year cycles.

  • common sense

    “incoming President Mitt Romney”

    President of what? Bain Capital?

  • Heinrich Monroe

    … then a Republican proposed a return to the Moon program, then a Democrat canceled it. We can’t have these kinds of starts and stops.

    Oh yes we can. Especially when the program that is started turns out not to be fiscally executable. The failure of Constellation was not its cancellation, you should understand.

    I agree that there should be mechanisms that provide more programmatic sustainability, but you have to have a program that is worth sustaining. ESAS was a great idea. But Constellation was built on promises not kept.

    The idea of handing over NASA policy entirely to Congress, which does budgets for exactly one year, is crazy. At least the administration budget offers a five year runout to tell everyone where they think they’re going.

  • Mark R. Whittington

    One of the beautiful things about this proposal, besides the fact that it is annoying the usual suspects, is that it will stop future presidents from upending space policy by fiat, just as Obama did, throwing the space agency into chaos. Since Congress still has the power of the purse and authorization, midcourse corrections would still be possible, but the president will need to go before Congress to do it. The trick, if this thing is passed, is to start out with a sensible space policy.

  • Heinrich Monroe

    Since Congress still has the power of the purse and authorization, midcourse corrections would still be possible, but the president will need to go before Congress to do it.

    Excuse me, but Congress can make NASA do whatever it wants. Always could. The SLS wasn’t originally in the President’s budget. Congress told him it better be from now on. What the President and NASA, his agency, can do now, is create a smart, integrated program that taps the skills available. Congress can preach and visionate, but they can’t do that. They don’t have a clue about the technical capabilities, managerial skills, or scientific goals of the agency that they want to do the job. In fact, that’s how we’ve gotten into the SLS mess, by having that program simply levied on an agency with no regard for policy integration. That’s how we’re getting an HLV with no forseeable payloads.

    The reason the President proposes a space budget to Congress is that, when it comes to the details, his space agency knows VASTLY more than Congress does. The devil is in those details.

    It should not be ignored that Congress is far more heavily lubricated by industrial money than the White House. As a result, the integration that Congress will seek is how well the greenbacks fit in their money box.

  • Robert G. Oler

    mike shupp wrote @ September 20th, 2012 at 4:56 pm

    I await eagerly the reaction from the White House when incoming President Mitt Romney >>

    sorry broke out into laughter there…you were I think making a serious point but that “notion” is in itself jocular RGO

  • Robert G. Oler

    Mark R. Whittington wrote @ September 20th, 2012 at 6:42 pm

    One of the beautiful things about this proposal, besides the fact that it is annoying the usual suspects, is that it will stop future presidents from upending space policy by fiat, just as Obama did, throwing the space agency into chaos.>>

    LOL

    the entire bill, at least as Olson is shilling it, is a solution in search of a problem.

    NASA is not the FBI or the FAA in terms of its “high dollar programs”. the FBI’s missions are fairly fixed as are its notions of expenditures.

    NASA’s large budget items are not that, nor do they generation broad based support…what they have been for sometime is a lot of money seeking the lowest common denominator.

    The entire bill is DOA…it is going to crumble quickly under the politics of sequestration and a collapsing GOP presidential run. The GOP will shortly imitate the South Vietnamese Army in its final days…every person for themselves. RGO

  • The text of the proposed legislation is on Rep. Wolf’s web site at:

    http://wolf.house.gov/uploads/Space_Leadership_Act.pdf

    As I suspected, the devil is in the details.

    Basically it strips control of NASA from the White House and gives it to the Congress. That alone probably makes it unconstitutional.

    The President would be stripped of any ability to select the Administrator from a qualified pool of candidates. Instead, the President would be presented a list of nominees from a newly created 11-member Board of Directors.

    Who would be on this board?

    Three of them would be appointed by the President. The other eight would be appointed by the Congress.

    If this isn’t a brazen power grab by Congress, I don’t know what is.

    One thing we’ve learned in recent years is that space pork in Congress is bipartisan. All this bill does is assure that the pork keeps flowing.

    We all know this bill is going nowhere. If it ever got to the President, he would veto it for the power grab it is. Save everyone the trouble now and flush it down the toilet before Congress wastes taxpayer dollars on its deliberation.

  • common sense

    “ESAS was a great idea. But Constellation was built on promises not kept.”

    Neither ESAS nor Constellation was a great idea.

    ESAS was poorly put together in too little time or Constellation might not have failed. Lack of basic analysis in ESAS and reliance on beliefs. Just like SLS and MPCV now.

    The mechanism for stability has nothing to do with NASA’s ways to run a program. The mechanism today is to get NASA out of the way of running the analysis, design and most of all the system integration of the vehicles. Having Congress out of the way would be the legendary cherry.

    If Congress has nothing to do these days they can always come up with a bill for leadership in strawberry picking and assignment of memorabilia for the laying of the railways in the 19th century. Something important to this nation I mean of course.

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “One of the beautiful things about this proposal, besides the fact that it is annoying the usual suspects, is that it will stop future presidents from upending space policy by fiat, just as Obama did, throwing the space agency into chaos. Since Congress still has the power of the purse and authorization, midcourse corrections would still be possible, but the president will need to go before Congress to do it.”

    These two sentences are incoherent. Even without this proposed bill, the President still has to “go before Congress” with his annual NASA budget proposal. Therefore, Obama did not “upend space policy by fiat”, e.g., terminate Ares I by himself. The Obama Administration sent a budget proposal to Congress, and Congress had to agree to that proposal in both authorization and appropriations. And they did — the 2010 NASA Authorization Act, which was written by the Senate and won a House vote by about a 3-1 margin, did not authorize funding Ares I.

    The proposed bill would change little about this Constitutional separation of powers. Congress would get to see NASA’s budget proposal to the White House, and maybe the NASA Administrator could be a little more publicly defiant of the White House if there was a disagreement within the Administration. But OMB would still have the final word on the President’s official budget proposal is for NASA in any particular fiscal year, and the White House would still have the full power to negotiate for their preferred budget or veto a bill they disagreed with — regardless of the Administrator’s term or a congressionally selected board.

    Like most bills that come out of NASA’s authorization committees, this one is hardly worth the paper it’s written on in terms of its ability to effect substantive change and will probably never see a floor vote. Another waste of amateurish staff time and taxpayer dollars.

  • NeilShipley

    Gary Warburton wrote @ September 20th, 2012 at 4:33 pm

    ‘I think the only improvement Nasa needs is for both the congress and the senate to be confined to budget matters only this is their expertise they`re ones that know what we can afford.’
    Fell off chair laughing – best one yet. ‘…budget matters … congress expertise … afford’ Oxymoron me thinks.

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “We can’t have each new President create his own NASA, either every 4 years or every 8 years, regardless of their party.”

    Presidents (or their Administrations) don’t create or recreate NASA unless they’re forced to. Kennedy with Apollo is the exception, but all the other Presidents who have made their mark on the direction of NASA’s human space flight programs only did so because their Administrations were forced to deal with a mess, often budgetary, usually of NASA’s own making.

    Nixon picked Shuttle because the rest of NASA’s post-Apollo planning was enormously unaffordable.

    Reagan started Freedom because Shuttle was not turning into a good answer to Mir, and then had Endeavour built after the Challenger disaster.

    Clinton reigned in endless Freedom replanning, gave the long-delayed program a new purpose relevant to the post-Cold War environment it now found itself in, and got NASA to start actual ISS development and deployment.

    Bush II terminated several ISS elements because of a massive overrun at NASA at the outset of that administration.

    Bush II also started the VSE to respond to the Columbia disaster.

    And Obama terminated Ares I in response to tens of billions of dollars worth of cost-growth and year-for-year delays on NASA’s implementation of the VSE, the Constellation program.

    If SLS/MPCV budgets don’t quickly rise — very unlikely given congressional appropriations over the past two years and sequestration and the rest of the nasty pending budget environment — there will eventually be a reckoning on those programs as well. Whether the reckoning occurs in the next four years (the rest of Obama’s watch or the first term of a Romney White House) remains to be seen.

    “We also can’t have Congress getting involved in technical design details.”

    Then you probably don’t want Congress appointing a board that will effectively select the NASA Administrator and perform quadrennial reviews of NASA’s programs.

    “NASA needs stability with its large programs so that they won’t be terminated every few years”

    Then NASA must propose and manage programs without major budget overruns every few years. And Congress must adequately fund those programs. With the exception of COTS and hopefully CCDev, neither condition has been true in NASA’s human space flight programs for decades. And this bill wouldn’t change either condition.

    “It’s interesting that it’s just Republicans supporting this bill.”

    Not really. There’s a Democrat in the White House. Of course Republicans in Congress are sponsoring a lame bill to give the appearance of reducing this Democrat’s power over NASA’s budget, programs, and management.

    “We also need some independent recommendations on the future of NASA’s HSF program, not tied to any administration with preconceived biases.”

    That’s why there’s such a study starting at the National Research Council currently:

    http://sites.nationalacademies.org/DEPS/ASEB/DEPS_069080?ssSourceSiteId=SSB

    Congress asked for this NRC study. If the reason for the board in the proposed legislation is to set an apolitical, long-term, sustainable direction for civil human space flight, then it duplicates (and would likely contradict) the ongoing study that Congress has already asked for.

    Ready, fire, aim…

    “… he doesn’t have true leadership — he just follows the party line. We need someone in charge at NASA who cares about NASA, not about advancing one particular administration’s viewpoints.”

    The NASA Administrator is a government manager and part of the Executive Branch; he’s not an independent political entity. The NASA Administrator is appointed by, works for, and remains in his position at the pleasure of the President. The NASA Administrator cannot contravene the White House without losing (or the risk of losing) his job.

    It would be like telling your boss that you’re not going to tow the party line at your place of work and then oppose his viewpoints in staff meetings. You’re not going to do that unless you’re looking to lose your job.

    “NASA should be like the FBI”

    The 10-year term for the FBI Director is a limit set to prevent the kinds of abuses of power that J. Edgar Hoover inflicted on various U.S. citizens for 48 years. It’s not a minimum — it’s a maximum. The President can still remove an FBI Director before his term is up. Wolf, Posey, and the other sponsors of this bill are apparently ignorant about the why’s and how’s of the very FBI model they’re trying so hard to emulate.

    Moreover, as with the FBI, taking the nominating process for major appointments out of the hands of the Exective and putting it in the hands of the Legislative Branch is almost certainly unconstitutional. More on both points here:

    http://jonathanturley.org/2011/05/21/is-the-10-year-term-limit-for-the-fbi-director-constitutional/

  • mike shupp

    Robert G. Oler wrote @ September 20th, 2012 at 8:16 pm

    So you broke into laughter? Well …. I smiled.

    There is a semi-serious point in that comment: No President is likely to accept cheerfully the notion that NASA is not under his control (and no sober constitutional lawyer, I suspect). I.e., this is AT BEST a power grab by Congress, and it will not fare well.

    Continuing … the longest any NASA administrator served was James Webb, who almost made to 8 years. James Fletcher served for 7 years if memory serves, but in two periods. There’s never ever been a NASA administrator who served ten years, I seriously doubt there’s any candidate for the job eager to serve such a term, and I seriously doubt Congress really wants to see a bureaucrat so entrenched. Even in the semi-comparable FBI case, the director is appointed to office for only a five year term, with one possible reappointment. NOBODY gets a ten year appointment anymore, except sort of with Supreme Court Justices.

    Still continuing …. Start of Mercury to Apollo 11 ran about 8 or 9 years; Kennedy’s speech on going to the moon till Apollo 17 was a period of about 11 years; Space Shuttle R&D to first flight was about 14 years; space station construction ran to ten or fifteen years, depending on how you measure things; space station occupancy has run about 11 years and might go another 9 or so. These aren’t time periods which fit neatly into ten year blocks, and I can’t quite convince myself Congress is going to step up and boost NASA funding consistently to speed up accomplishing this goal or that in spaceflight.

    So all in all, I’m unconvinced that this “space leadership” bill will work well if enacted, or even that it has much chance of being enacted. I think it’s just something half a dozen Congressmen cooked up that will let them go home in another month and campaign on the basis that they’ve proposed Real Legislation to Solve Real :Problems.

    I have a poor opinion of such behavior.

  • common sense

    The point is not so much that the bill will pass or not, it probably won’t. The point is what those people in Congress think they are doing. When most people are through rough times all they can think of is a bill that tastes nothing like constitutional. They spend a ridiculous amount of time doing stupid useless work.

    How about full cost accounting in Congress? Charge numbers to see what they spend their time on?

    Hey Tea-Party how about that?

  • Coastal Ron

    Stephen C. Smith wrote @ September 20th, 2012 at 8:45 pm

    Thanks for the summary Stephen. It didn’t look like something worth the paper it was printed on, but at least it looks like you got a few laughs out of it.

  • mike shupp

    Stephen C. Smith wrote @ September 20th, 2012 at 8:45 pm

    Apologies, you’be backed up my opinions here, and I should have given you a call out in the above post. Thanks very much.

  • Heinrich Monroe

    Neither ESAS nor Constellation was a great idea.

    ESAS was a “vision” that NASA hasn’t had for a long time. It gave some sense of unity of purpose to the agency. It wasn’t an implementation plan, but a grand picture of the national relationship to space with a Presidential signature. The reason Constellation failed had nothing to do with ESAS. While one can criticize Mike Griffin’s Moon-or-bust mandate for Constellation (which was hardly to be found in ESAS), and the presumption of familiarity by modern NASA with building any kind of lunar architecture, the main reason it failed was largely because the Administration didn’t ask for, and probably didn’t think it could get, the money that it allegedly promised to Griffin.

  • common sense

    No ESAS was not a “vision”. The VSE was a “vision”, unfortunately more of a hallucination. You may want to get your facts together between VSE, ESAS, and Constellation.

    ESAS was a poorly put together plan done in 90 days that was supposed to secure NASA HSF for the several following decades. Had they done simple analyses they would have found that flying a effing 7 crew, 5 meter capsule on a 4 segment booster was wrong. Then came the 5 segment and it was wrong, still. Ask those who might candidly answer you who actually worked on the CEV. Don’t know if any of them are working MPCV today but you may want to ask. NASA was told 4 or 5 segment was not working. And it as before the oscillation issues. And it did not take 90 days for the teams working CEV to tell them so.

    Also Shuttle-C, sorry, Sidemount was equally stupid. An assemblage of parts designed to work in one configuration, STS, reassembled into another configuration hoping it would work. Unfortunately designing so complicated space vehicles does not work like a Lego. But hey, we can hope. Right?

    Yes Constellation failed in part because it was based on ESAS a poorly run 90 day study that let NASA believe they would be able to do Constellation.

    Actually the Steidle’s Spiral Approach was the exact approach supporting the VSE.

    Constellation failed because it had to be grandiose, Apollo on steroids nonsense. SpaceX is what should have been Constellation. And it will eventually be of course if someone over does not eff-up. Which you know can always happen. Still will be a lot cheaper than ESAS’ Constellation junk plan.

    I am not going to extract the dates, you can read.

    http://www.nasa.gov/pdf/55583main_vision_space_exploration2.pdf

    http://www.nasa.gov/pdf/361829main_02%20-%20Summary%20Description%20of%20Previous%20Studies.pdf

    http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/constellation/news/ESAS_report.html

    http://www.nasa.gov/pdf/207912main_Cx_PEIS_final_Chapter_2.pdf
    “The Proposed Action, to continue preparations for and to implement the Constellation Program, uses the ESAS and the underlying Presidential and Congressional directives as a starting point. “

  • common sense

    Ah I almost forgot. The direction to NASA initially after the VSE was to use the money they had to build an architecture. Not to go ask for more. I’ll leave it to you to look for reference this time. The only promise made that I know is that NASA was going to be able to “explore beyond LEO” if (major if here) they could do it with their existing budget. Hence Spiral. Not Constellation.

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “‘Neither ESAS nor Constellation was a great idea.’

    ESAS was a ‘vision’ that NASA hasn’t had for a long time. It gave some sense of unity of purpose to the agency. It wasn’t an implementation plan, but a grand picture of the national relationship to space with a Presidential signature. The reason Constellation failed had nothing to do with ESAS.”

    Sorry to butt in, but you guys are confusing ESAS with the VSE.

    ESAS, the Exploration Systems Architecture Study, was Griffin’s internal NASA study to support his decision to develop the Ares I and Orion projects and the overall Constellation program. It was a technical trade study, not a vision document that laid out purpose or unified the agency’s programs. Purposefully or accidentally, it was highly flawed in many of its assumptions, which either led to or lent support to many of the poor decisions on Ares I, Orion, and Constellation.

    The VSE, or Vision for Space Exploration, was released over a year earlier than ESAS. It wrapped high-level principles, programmatic elements, and budget around the Bush II Administration’s space exploration policy, which was developed and released as a response to and in the wake of the Columbia disaster. That policy, among other things, directed NASA to acquire, not build, cargo and crew transport to LEO. Of course, Griffin, ESAS, Constellation, and Ares I/Orion totally ignored this directive, and NASA is still paying a heavy price for that today.

    Although it’s getting a little long in the tooth, most of the VSE is still a sound prescription for reforming NASA’s human space exploration program. But NASA could do without studies like ESAS and the programs that flowed from it.

    Here’s links to PDFs of the original documents.

    VSE:
    http://www.nasa.gov/pdf/55583main_vision_space_exploration2.pdf

    ESAS:
    http://www.nasa.gov/pdf/140649main_ESAS_full.pdf

  • Robert G. Oler

    Heinrich Monroe wrote @ September 20th, 2012 at 11:29 pm
    the main reason it failed was largely because the Administration didn’t ask for, and probably didn’t think it could get, the money that it allegedly promised to Griffin.>>

    that is what Griffin would have one believe but it is not reality.

    Ares 1 and Orion should have been “doable” in any sane engineering program on the 15 billion that the program spent. They are NOT cutting edge technology; they use spin off systems or legacy hardware…they are not even “inventing” display systems for the Orion but taking them from the 87.

    for some “comparisions” in real and same dollars…the Gerald Ford CVN has done the R&D for the class and built the first one (more or less) for about the same amount of money…

    There are programs in NASA’s past that were far more challenging to the technology but there was less bureaucracy and were done on less dollars.

    Webb, MSL and yes Cx are all overbudget because of sloppy engineering management. not enough money RGO

  • Robert G. Oler

    mike shupp wrote @ September 20th, 2012 at 10:19 pm

    yeah, you made a serious and well timed post and part and I should have responded to that instead…mirth..

    This bill comes from both legislative laziness and a need by the people who proposed it to appear to be doing something; anything to deal with the guy in the White House (and to some extent his folks at NASA) …particularly as the beloved in the space sectors have started to give up on a Romney presidency (laugh joke funny) with a hoped for but unlikely restart of a “cathedrals in the sky”.

    None of these people least of all Olson have any real clue how to fix NASA and really dont care to actually…all they want to do is haave something to take to their technowelfare constitutents and say “wow if only” then that guy in the WH wouldnt be able to kill our sainted space program.

    There are solutions to problems at NASA but the mantra of the GOP right now is not to advance them. (and to be fair Charlie is not doing an overwhelmingly great job either) RGO

  • common sense wrote:

    The direction to NASA initially after the VSE was to use the money they had to build an architecture. Not to go ask for more.

    The evidence damning VSE was presented two weeks after President Bush’s speech — January 28, 2004, at the Senate Science Committee hearing where NASA Administratror Sean O’Keefe fleshed out VSE for the committee.

    Click here for the video of that hearing.

    Committee chair John McCain in his opening remarks called them on the total absence of realistic funding. Bill Nelson called them on the four-year gap, saying it would be more like 6-7 years. Both were right.

    Amazing to me is that no one in the nearly three-hour hearing showed the slightest bit of concern about relying on the Russians during that gap. But they complain about it eight years later, under a different administration. Typical congressional hypocrisy.

    Also typical was that Congress voted for this joke even though they knew it was a joke.

  • Martijn Meijering

    Congress should terminate SLS/MPCV and give NASA the freedom to find efficient heavy lift and crew transport options so that there is funding left within the existing budget runout for actual space exploration hardware.

    Not heavy lift, it isn’t necessary, and it gets in the way of the #1 thing that is necessary, namely radically cheaper space launch. The SLS SM and avionics could reasonably be part of the exploration hardware (but need not be), but the CM should be abandoned and / or turned into a commercial crew competitor with no special privileges and no special oversight or interference from NASA. The SM should be universal and support multiple commercial capsules. This involves a modest mass penalty, so let’s suck it up and get on with the program.

  • Martijn Meijering

    Sorry, I meant the MPCV SM and avionics.

  • E.P. Grondine

    Hi DBN, RGO –

    To summarize, ATK is a crummy company which could not deliver a crummy rocket anywhere near on time or on budget.

    Put another way, we could have had DIRECT and 2 manned launch systems for the money wasted on Ares 1.

    And we still don’t know what the hell Griffin was thinking.

    What we do know is that Rep. Wolf, whose district hosts ATK facilities, is now going to try to force ATK’s launcher on NASA at the expense of other US aerospace firms.

    RGO, I’ll have to differ with you on General Bolden’s performance, given the mess he inherited and the difficulties of the job.

  • Heinrich Monroe

    Sorry to butt in, but you guys are confusing ESAS with the VSE.

    Excuse me. You guys are precisely right. Typing too fast and thinking too slow. My apologies. Substitute “VSE” for “ESAS” in everything I wrote. Geez …

    VSE was the vision, ESAS was the plan it generated, and Constellation was hte implementation architecture. The vision was reasonable.

  • Florida Today has an article on this proposal. Click here to read.

    As we suspected, it’s all about protecting the next Constellation-style project to assure the pork keeps flowing.

  • common sense

    @ Dark Blue Nine wrote @ September 21st, 2012 at 12:39 am

    “Sorry to butt in, but you guys are confusing ESAS with the VSE.”

    Nope I was not, Heinrich was, but thanks for confirming my later posts ;)

    @ E.P. Grondine wrote @ September 21st, 2012 at 8:58 am

    Sorry but DIRECT is the same cr.. err nonsense as Sidemount. Just nicer looking.

    @ Heinrich Monroe wrote @ September 21st, 2012 at 9:34 am

    “VSE was the vision, ESAS was the plan it generated, and Constellation was hte implementation architecture. The vision was reasonable.”

    Okay then. But ESAS was not really an answer to VSE, rather an excuse how to use SRBs, nothing more really than to preserve existing contractors etc. Not a real answer to VSE. Spiral Approach was the real answer, the one that had a chance to make it. Kinda Flexible Path. The vision i still “reasonable” and is addressed with COTS and descendants. Only SLS/MPCV will go down the drain.

  • common sense

    @ Robert G. Oler wrote @ September 21st, 2012 at 1:24 am

    “and to be fair Charlie is not doing an overwhelmingly great job either”

    It is difficult to lead people who do not want to be led. It is interesting to see the flow of power at NASA. From the bottom up rather than the top down. If someone does not want to do as told they just won’t and there is no appropriate sanction. Try that in the private sector just for size.

    Even though NASA likes to claim they are kinda military org. They are not. Again The bottom up flow of power. I don’t think it would ever happen in any military org or it would be called mutiny I guess.

    So FWIW I think we’ll see the extent of his work after the election and sequestration. Hopefully SLS/MPCV will go and the ongoing re-org will be far more advanced but a re-org at HQ is not all that is needed.

    It is hard work ;)

  • Mary

    What really needs to happen:

    End the congressional mandates ( space pork ) on both sides of the isle.
    Stop using commercial space as the scapegoat for NASA’s failed policies.
    Set a realistic goal for human exploration within our solar system and beyond.

  • Heinrich Monroe

    ESAS was not really an answer to VSE, rather an excuse how to use SRBs, nothing more really than to preserve existing contractors etc.

    True. It wasn’t an “answer” to VSE. But it was sold as a response to VSE. ESAS was, to be clearer, the plan that was generated in response to VSE. Took some spinning, but when everyone was sufficiently dizzy from the spinning, they looked the other way. I agree completely that the Steidle “spiral” approach was most consistent with the flexible path construct, and was fiscally flexible enough to render it highly sustainable. But it did a poor job of marketing itself to the bootprints-means-exploration crowd. Steidle’s firing by Griffin, who heaved the spiral strategy overboard, was in many respects the beginning of the end of Constellation.

  • common sense

    “What really needs to happen:”

    is to revert NASA to NACA and be done with it for some years to come. Then we’ll see.

  • Space Cadet

    Such a bill might solve some problems. For e.g. Ed Weiler said one of the reasons he resigned whs frustration at having OMB functionaries three grades below him micromanaging NASA, overruling both NASA administration and the Decadal Surveys.

    And space programs inherently take more years than a single administration, so multi-year appropriations would help.

    On the other hand, simply shifting more power from the White House to Congress would hurt rather than help. Congress tends to arrive at compromises where if some on the committees want a particular project and some don’t, then they fund that project at half of the budget it needs to succeed (then cancel it later for lack of progress). In general, compromise in Congress should be encouraged, but some things don’t scale, such that a half-funded project produces nothing.

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “For e.g. Ed Weiler said one of the reasons he resigned whs frustration at having OMB functionaries three grades below him micromanaging NASA, overruling both NASA administration and the Decadal Surveys.”

    I’d be surprised if OMB was one of Ed’s driving reasons for resigning. He hired his next to last OMB examiner (Amy Snyder) to come work for SMD, and he (and Huntress) worked closely with her predecessors and their bosses.

    Ed always liked to spout off for effect. If he actually made that statement, I doubt it reflected his true reasoning. Ed was (still is?) a single parent, and I imagine his decision had a lot more to do with the age of his boy and how much time he was making available to him.

  • common sense

    @ Heinrich Monroe wrote @ September 21st, 2012 at 11:32 am

    “But it was sold as a response to VSE. ”

    Yes and that is all it was.

    “But it did a poor job of marketing itself to the bootprints-means-exploration crowd.”

    No I don’t think it was the problem, not really, Columbia is more what the problem was and O’Keefe leaving whom I think was the real connection to the WH and its support. All this I will admit is pure speculation but I saw how it went after O’Keefe left. Down the drain.

    “Steidle’s firing by Griffin, who heaved the spiral strategy overboard, was in many respects the beginning of the end of Constellation.”

    Griffin had his idea, I speculate again, that if he were to use existing contractors, going so far as offering sole-source contract to ATK and at the very least arguable contract to LMT, then he would garner support. And to some extent we can see how right he was: SLS and MPCV are still languishing today wasting billions with the support of our friendly Congress.

    BUT the technical plan was lousy and it all went south. So far south that we can’t even remember where it started. So instead of a 90 day trade study he might have been well advised to run a little real analysis to support trade studies that are generally run with workbooks of the MS kind supported by nice electronic slide of, you guessed it, the MS kind. I’d like to challenge any one to show any analysis that supported ESAS.

    The same bs we heard of crewed Sidemount which I am glad at least did not make it! What a pile of horse… thing. A side-mounted capsule with an abort system???? How in hell can they come up with such nonsense and have faith it will work????

    Anywho. FWIW.

  • common sense

    “Congress tends to arrive at compromises”

    This is not called compromises. Compromises make you progress.

    It is called status quo. And it goes nowhere.

  • Vladislaw

    “But it did a poor job of marketing itself to the bootprints-means-exploration crowd.”

    I thought it was lobbying from stakeholders that didn’t like the idea of no new rockets contained in the VSE and no new cost plus pork, but instead use already built EELV’s?

  • vulture4

    “I’d like to challenge any one to show any analysis that supported ESAS.”

    I’ve been trying for years to find anyone who actually worked on that study and is willing to admit it. The logic is twisted and irrational. The authors were obviously given a copy of Griffin’s “Planetary Society” paper with its Powerpoint-slide rocket designs and told to conclude that it was right in every respect.

    The topper is that apparently Orion will be launched on, yes, a Delta IV, which the ESAS said was impossible, before going on to the ESAS-derived SLS.

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “I’ve been trying for years to find anyone who actually worked on that study and is willing to admit it. The logic is twisted and irrational.”

    Their names are listed in the report. The lead was Doug Stanley. Of course, now his architecture studies tout the savings that could accrue from Falcon 9 Heavy and propellant depots:

    images.spaceref.com/news/2011/F9Prop.Depot.pdf

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