Congress, NASA

Politicians want to get the politics out of NASA

Thursday afternoon four Republican members of the House of Representatives formally unveiled legislation that they claim will depoliticize NASA. The “Space Leadership Preservation Act” (sometimes called just the Space Leadership Act) would make a number of changes to how NASA is run, including the establishment of a board of directors and a fixed ten-year term for the NASA administrator. Those and other changes, the bill’s sponsors argue, would provide stability to an organization that has gone though changes in recent years that have resulted in canceled programes and wasted money.

“We’re introducing this legislation today to restore the NASA we know and love,” said Rep. John Culberson (R-TX), the lead sponsor for the bill, at a press conference outside the US Capitol. “The NASA that we know is capable of maintaining that world leadership in space exploration, if we would just get the politics out of NASA, allow them to do what they do best, to allow NASA to be led by the scientists, the engineers, the astronauts, the professionals that have made that agency an extraordinary place.”

The legislation would establish a Board of Directors whose members would be appointed by the White House and Congress. The board would be responsible for developing a budget proposal for NASA that would be delivered simultaneously to both the White House and Congress, and also selecting nominees for the posts of administrator, deputy administrator, and CFO. The President would select one of the nominees provided by the board for those posts; the administrator, under this model, would serve a single ten-year term. NASA would also have power to perform multi-year procurements for launch vehicles and spacecraft under the bill.

“The status quo has to change,” said co-sponsor Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA). The bill takes elements from other agencies—like the ten-year administrator’s term from the FBI, and the board of directors from the NSF—to provide that change, he argued. The bill “is an effort to start a national conversation on this whereby we can preserve, energize, and enhance the space program.”

This approach, the bill’s sponsors argued, would give NASA stability and protect it from sudden changes in policies; several cited the Obama Administration’s move to cancel the Constellation program in 2010 as one example. “The administration’s canceling of the Constellation program, after investing nearly $9 billion and five years of development, is the perfect example of why these changes are needed,” said Rep. Bill Posey (R-FL), a co-sponsor of the bill. He added that bill would ensure that “recent success stories with commercial crew programs will continue on a positive trajectory.”

The bill “could be called the ‘Neil Armstrong Leadership Act,’” suggested Rep. Pete Olson (R-TX), citing the late Apollo 11′s concerns after the current administration sought to cancel Constellation. “Neil Armstrong became outraged. This bill takes cares of the problems Neil Armstrong was so concerned about.”

But why introduce this bill now, so late in the current Congress? The House is wrapping up work today and expected to then go on recess until after the November elections. The limited time available once members return is likely to be devoted to dealing with the FY2013 budget and seeking a solution to avoid the automatic spending cuts that would go into effect in January under sequestration.

“We are offering the bill today because we want this, I hope, to become a part of the debate in the presidential campaign,” said Culberson. He added that that they’ve been promised a hearing by House Science Committee chairman Rep. Ralph Hall (R-TX). “We’ve encountered wide-ranging and very deep support for the concepts behind this bill.” He added that Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) is “keenly interested” in supporting the bill in the Senate. Wolf, meanwhile, held open the possibility of the bill becoming law “by March or April of next year” when the continuing resolution that will fund the government for first six months of fiscal year 2013 ends.

But the prospects of the bill’s passage, or its signing by the President, remain unclear. For all the talk about getting “the politics out of NASA”, all of the current co-sponsors of the bill are Republicans. Another Houston-area member, Rep. Gene Green (D-TX), told the Houston Chronicle that while he was interested in the legislation, he had not been contacted during its development. “It sounded like they just wanted Republicans on it; they didn’t want it to be bipartisan,” he told the Chronicle.

It’s also unclear whether any president, regardless of party, would support a bill that transfers some the of executive branch’s power to Congress. Eight of the 11 members of the proposed board would be selected by Congress (three by the majority and one by the minority in each house), giving it a majority over the selection of nominees for administrator and in the development of the budget. Congress would also get to see the resulting budget submission, which today, as for most other agencies, goes only to the Office of Management and Budget. (OMB would still be free to alter it in the administration’s overall budget proposal, but Congress would be able to see what changed.) What would a president of either party gain by agreeing to a proposal like that?

32 comments to Politicians want to get the politics out of NASA

  • amightywind

    It is interesting that politics have seeped so deeply into NASA (not to mention EPA, HHS, NOAA), yet not so much in the DOD. Why?

    The NASA leadership as well as much of the remaining rank and file are predominantly liberal. Two factors are at work. For decades now, new NASA recruits have spent years in the leftist indoctrination of higher education. They openly support the President’s political agenda and industry crony network.The original NASA drew young engineers from conservative universities from the south. Now they come from Berkeley.

    As their ranks of liberals have swollen they have displaced conservative elements. Furthermore, the NASA leadership, with political cover from the Whitehouse, has conducted a pogrom against conservatives on the Space Coast, in Huntsville, and Houston. It is nearly complete.

    On they other hand, the military remains a bastion of conservatives. The officer core has not been as affected by the university system. The service academies provide the preferred career route. So a non-partisan culture of duty still predominates. The officer officer core generally detests Obama, and his policies, yet they salute, say “Yes, Sir!” and do their duty.

    With all due respect to the GOP in the House, it is a mistake to try to depoliticize NASA by bypassing democracy and the power of the executive branch to set policy. We get the NASA we deserve, and right now, we deserve malaise. The GOP needs only to regain the Presidency and then be as aggressive about removing democrat supporters from NASA’s ranks as Obama has been about filling them.

  • Click here for my column.

    The whole thing is an attempt to transfer control of NASA from the executive branch to the legislative branch, which makes it unconstitutional.

    My thinking is that they’ll try to amend it to whatever legislation comes out of Congress this fall to avoid sequestration, giving the President no choice but to accept it.

    On its own, it would be vetoed.

  • Googaw

    Ha ha! “Getting the politics out of NASA” is rather like “getting the pimples out of acne.”

  • Rhyolite

    Politicians want to get the politics out of pork from NASA

  • common sense

    “It is interesting that politics have seeped so deeply into NASA (not to mention EPA, HHS, NOAA), yet not so much in the DOD. Why?”

    Whhhaaatttt???? Not into the DoD??? I’d love to live in your world. Nah. Come to think of it I prefer mine. No politics in DoD????? Can you pass me what you’re having?

  • Dark Blue Nine

    It would be easier to take this bill seriously if its sponsors and their staffs evinced even the slightest understanding of the FBI and National Science Board models they’re using to justify their proposed legislation.

    First, the members of the National Science Board (NSB) are appointed by the President (with Senate confirmation), not Congress as the bill’s sponsors propose to do with NASA. This is explicitely done to keep the NSB as apolitical as possible. Contrary to the sponsors’ claims, putting the nominating process for members of a hypothetical NASA board in the hands of Congress will make that board more political, not less.

    Second, the NSB reviews NSF’s annual budget request and then submits it to OMB, not Congress and OMB as the bill’s sponsors propose to do with NASA. Contrary to the sponsors’ claim, their draft bill has no legal precedent when it comes to Congress getting a legal right to see the Executive’s internal budget deliberations. It’s likely unconstitutional.

    Third, per its own charter, the NSB still has to set NSF programmatics within the priorities and policies established by the President and Congress. Contrary to the sponsors’ claim, the existence of a NASA board is not going to keep a future White House or Congress from cancelling NASA programs when they’re experiencing massive overruns and schedule slips.

    More on the NSB here:

    http://www.nsf.gov/nsb/about/

    Fourth, the 10-year term for the FBI Director is not set to insulate the FBI Director from the White House but to limit the kinds of abuses of power that J. Edgar Hoover inflicted on various U.S. citizens for 48 years. It’s a maximum, not a minimum. The President can still remove an FBI Director before his term is up. See http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/natsec/RS20963.pdf.

    Fifth, legislation takes the nominating process for the FBI Director out of the hands of the Exective and put it into the hands of the Legislative Branch is almost certainly unconstitutional, as discussed towards the end here:

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

    Every piece of legislation that emanates from NASA’s authorization committees reads like it was written during amateur night at the Apollo. When the members and staff don’t like a rocket’s cancellation, they substitute a bigger and more complex one and give it less money and schedule. Junior college engineering students know better. And when the members and staff don’t like the amount of control they have over NASA, they gin up a new governance model by misreading (making up?) other examples that do the exact opposite in many cases of what the members and staff want. Junior college political science students know better.

    Even if I disagree with their goals, I’d like to see my tax dollars going to effective legislators and competent staffers, not the can’t-shoot-straight-gang on these subcommittees.

    Cripes…

  • Coastal Ron

    amightywind wrote @ September 21st, 2012 at 1:25 pm

    It is interesting that politics have seeped so deeply into NASA …, yet not so much in the DOD.

    Apparently you don’t keep up with the DoD world – it is intensely political. The SecDef has to field calls from Congresscritters all the time about “why did you move my cheese!” Oh, and why don’t you ask former SecDef Cheney about his experiences in trying to kill the V-22 Osprey.

    If Congress funds it, then Congress wants a say in it.

    For decades now, new NASA recruits have spent years in the leftist indoctrination of higher education.

    You are against higher education? Do you want high school drop-outs building rockets? You’re not making sense.

    The original NASA drew young engineers from conservative universities from the south. Now they come from Berkeley.

    Yes, I’m sure no one from MIT or Cal Tech was good enough to be hired… ;-)

    Any other fairy tales you want to tell us?

  • common sense

    @ Dark Blue Nine wrote @ September 21st, 2012 at 3:09 pm

    “like it was written during amateur night at the Apollo”

    Intentional or not, so appropriate! Maybe they could invite Cernan for a chitchat on intangibles?

    “Even if I disagree with their goals, I’d like to see my tax dollars going to effective legislators and competent staffers, not the can’t-shoot-straight-gang on these subcommittees.”

    Are you crazy??? What are we going to post about then? Like we have opinions supported by facts? By real analysis? Like a real productive and constructive discourse? Come on! Think again! Let’s assemble a board of panels to tell us what we like to hear and already know. After all we need to wisely spend our tax dollars, now don’t we?

  • common sense

    @ Coastal Ron wrote @ September 21st, 2012 at 3:22 pm

    It’s Caltech… Not Cal Tech ;)

    If our breezing friend knew what he was talking about (sigh) he’d know that Berkeley grads are not crazy enough to go to NASA. These grads actually go into and make money in the capitalist world instead. But I guess working at start ups and other liberal fields is not capitalist enough. Makes me think he may not know what capitalist means just like the current crop of GOPers. They mistake capitalism with fascism. There is a difference. It’s the problem with going to higher education institution you actually learn things…

  • The U.S. Constitution is very clear that executive power rests with the President, while legislative power rests with the Congress.

    If the majority of both houses is one party, but the President is of the other party, then the President’s opposition party would have a 6-5 control over NASA.

    Although the Act states a board member can’t be “employed by or representing an organization with which the Administration has a contract,” it says nothing about owning stock or drawing a pension. It’s not far fetched to envision the executive of a space-industrial complex company, e.g. ATK, taking a leave of absence from ATK to serve on the Board.

    The Board puts together a budget which goes to the President, who then has to explain to Congress why his budget differs from the Board’s. Apparently the NASA Administrator — originally nominated by the Board — has no say in the NASA budget. He might as well not exist.

    The bill is a scheme to protect the space-industrial complex by violating the U.S. Constitution, shifting executive power to the legislative branch. Flush it down the toilet and move on.

  • common sense

    Oh I almost forgot. Equating the military with the DoD yet another subtle, very subtle GOP nonsense… But what are we gonna do?

    Here just for you windy: You can read, right?

    “Election Data: Military Communities Shift Democratic in 2008″

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/brandon-friedman/election-data-military-co_b_143621.html

  • Smokey

    Keep arguing guys while US Astronauts plan their next trip to the ISS on a Russian Rocket, and the Chinese keep planning for a moon landing.

  • common sense

    We’ll miss you flying Endeavour.

    A plane, a spacecraft should not be ket captive in a museum. So get some well deserved rest but you job is not done just yet. Watch and inspire all those friends, young and not so young, who are going to come say hi to you!

    Hasta la vista baby!

  • Coastal Ron

    Smokey wrote @ September 21st, 2012 at 4:44 pm

    Keep arguing guys while US Astronauts plan their next trip to the ISS on a Russian Rocket

    So I guess you support President Obama’s efforts to get Commercial Crew going? There is only so much that can be done with a recalcitrant Congress.

    …and the Chinese keep planning for a moon landing.

    I guess you don’t read Chinese very well – they only said they were “studying” going to the Moon. Their next goal is to have a space station 25% the size of the ISS in LEO by the early 2020′s. At that pace Masten or Armadillo could be on the Moon before them.

    Besides, if you are some sort of “Lunartic”, then you should be cheering the Chinese on so we get sucked up in another race.

  • Brian W

    If they really wanted to give NASA stable leadership, they could have simply given it a multi-year appropriations bill.

  • joe

    Actually the real loser would be the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

    As things are now done NASA (subject to approval from the Administrator – a Presidential appointee) submits a budget request to the OMB in private. The OMB then makes whatever changes they deem appropriate (subject to the approval of the President). The Congress then must craft and approve a final budget. If that budget differs from the presidential submission it leaves them open to charges of (what else) “pork” because they are requesting things “even NASA does not want”.

    Under the proposed system the original NASA proposal would be established by the new board (only partially appointed by the president – note to anyone who wants to make that political that means any president of any party). The OMB could still make whatever changes they deem appropriate (subject to the approval of the President). The Congress would still have to craft and approve a final budget, thus they would not have abdicated their responsibilities. The real difference would be that now the differences (if any) between what the technical people wanted and what the OMB wanted would be on the public record. Some people call that transparency.

  • DCSCA

    The agency was born out of politics in 1958 and maintained by same to date. -eyeroll=
    _______________________

    Wheels stop.

    And with that, shuttle Endeavour, perched atop its 747 carrier, parks at LAX to roll into retirement. A 25-year old, roughly $3.5 billion hanger queen destined for display at the California Science Center in downtown Los Angeles. Shipping and delivery costs- estimated at $28 million. Sister ship Discovery is already on display at the NASM annex outside Washington, D.C.; test bed Enterprise was barged to the USS Intrepid along the Hudson in Manhattan for view and Atlantis will be displayed at KSC in Florida. The 30 year long space shuttle era is over.

    And that’s as it should be.

    The program, spanning more than three decades, is benchmarked with multiple successes and two deadly, disastrous failures The accomplishments are easily researched- from deploying (repairing and servicing) the Hubble Space Telescope to assembling the ISS, refining space walking and habitation techniques- even carrying Russian cosmonauts- once fierce rivals in the space race of the 1960s- up to and back from space.

    Advocates of course know why it was time to ground these birds. The march of technology for one (shuttle was mid-70s engineering and upgraded to the max over the decades)– and the cost of simply maintaining and operating the fleet, along with the support teams, had become prohibitive. Fated similarly to Concorde, shuttles are relics of out-dated policies, victims of changing economics, advances in engineering and shifts in planning from the last century. They have earned their places in museums.

    Originally sold in the Nixon era as a reusable system to deliver large payloads to low Earth orbit (LEO) with reduced launch costs and a two week turnaround, shuttle never came close to fulfilling that sales pitch. It was never truly ‘operational’ and always ‘experimental’ by nature. And by design. In the end, shuttle was costing roughly $1 billion/launch when the program came to a close. And the turnaround times were measured in many months, not a few weeks. Re certification for flight – mandatory per the CAIB report- was cost-prohibitive as well. And post Challenger and Columbia accidents the total down time can be counted in years. Still, compared to its capsuled predecessors, the winged space glider was a versatile, engineering marvel, rivaling, if not surpassing Apollo in technical achievement for human spaceflight (HSF).

    The immediate problem, of course, is the famed ‘gap’– something Apollo veterans Gene Cernan, Jim Lovell and the late Neil Armstrong, among others, expressed alarm and concern about in Congressional testimony and various OpEds as well. [There was a gap between Apollo and shuttle- roughly six years, but there was work being done.] President George W. Bush accepted the recommendations of the CAIB report, terminated shuttle and proposed developing elements of Project Constellation as an overlap to minimize the gap, shifting shuttle funding and base technologies into a new program, a government space project of scale to move beyond LEO and return Americans to the moon, develop methods, procedures and hardware- then press on eventually to Mars. Unfortunately, like GHWBush’s space initiative in 1989, neither Dubya;s Dad nor Dubya pressed Congress for adequate funding. And in the case of Constellation, poor management and cost overruns in development of the Ares rocket- the base launch system which the entire 30 year Constellation program was planned around- all but devoured available funding.

    When President Obama was elected, aerospace panels, industry execs and competing camps inside NASA concluded the numbers made it all but certain Constellation could not meet its projected target dates even with massive increases in funding- a luxury clearly unaffordable in austere times. The economics forced the shelving of Constellation and a re-think on access to LEO, via government contracting and subsidizing the development of ;private enterprise’ space firms (like Space X and others) and through purchasing rides on the 40 year old, reliably operated, Russian Soyuz, for astronauts bound for extended-stays aboard the ISS, which has Russia as a partner. In addition, Congress continues to support development the SLS (the space launch system) and its newly proposed, heavy lift rocket similar to the Saturn V moon rocket from Apollo days and the development of the Orion spacecraft to press on out to beyond Earth orbit (BEO) objectives. (The Rabid Right routinely, and wrongly, chides Mr. Obama for canceling shuttle. Dubya did.)

    But costs and management problems continue to plague the civil space agency– which is in turmoil below the media radar. Like the doomed Super Collider a generation ago, the JWST is a fiscal mess with costs now in the $15 billion-plus range– and unlike the HST, it cannot be serviced by astronauts in the event of a failure. Costs for the recent Mars space rover, Curiosity, soared to roughly $2.5 billion, in an era when the cost of throw-away, unmanned spacecraft should be dropping, like disposable electronics are dropping worldwide. (Its two predecessors, Curiosity and Opportunity cost a third of Curiosity.)

    These massive government financed, civil space projects of scale have been scaled back- or outright terminated- because in an era when the government has to borrow 42 cents of every dollar it spends, they simply are high-profiled luxuries America cannot afford. Which makes the crocodile tears from flag-waving conservative commentators over shuttle’s end all the more amusing. Conservatives will point out that the civil space program has strong national defense overlays beyond the obvious soft power projection and emotional point of national pride. To be sure, shuttle had DoD ties- which affected how the orbiters were designed and funded through development- but the DoD bailed on shuttle after the 1986 Challenger accident, mothballed its multi-billion dollar launch pad at Vandenberg AFB and returned to using less costly, more reliable and timely, ELVs (expendable launch vehicles).

    The $100 billion-plus ISS, doomed to a Pacific grave- originally proposed by President Reagan nearly 30 years ago, continues to sail on (at roughly $3 billion/yr in operations costs) and should remain in orbit until splash in the early 2020s. Still, it is a relic of late 20th century Cold War planning; an aerospace ‘WPA project’ as the late Deke Slayton called it. Today. it is an ‘orbiting zombie,’ an expensive platform sustained with dubious and shifting rationales and questionable return when subjected to down-to-earth, 21st century cost-benefit analysis. But it is splendid engineering to be sure.

    Still, it is wrong for media types, from Brian Williams to Chris Wallace, to declare America’s HSF program ‘dead.’ SLS is in work. Orion in development and ‘private-enterprise,’ crewed spacecraft are on the horizon. But compared to the half century of American HSF projects of scale, it will be a lengthy gap; a quiet decade of under-reported busy work and development, full of promise. Until, perhaps, a new competitor, eager to hallmark this century as their own with a new endeavor, launches out toward the moon. PRC, Luna awaits fresh footprints, in the hear and now, of a new century. And Americans may just be contented to watch it all on their IPads— made and assembled, of course, in China.

  • Lars

    This smells like an effort by a select few individuals to institute a “pork guarantee” – More support for NASA projects that go nowhere but cannot be cancelled.

    Cancelling CxP was best outcome. Too bad that some leftovers of it still cling to life.

  • Heinrich Monroe

    The original NASA drew young engineers from conservative universities from the south. Now they come from Berkeley.

    I can’t resist pointing out that southern Gulf states have notoriously low rankings in youth education. I guess you can draw your own conclusions about what that means for conservatives, and perhaps how lucky we were with Apollo. But it’s also true that California is near the bottom of the list as well. Take that, Berkeley! No wonder we’re in trouble.

    It is amusing that the rationale for this bill is based in the “instability” wrought upon NASA by the cancellation of Constellation. Posey pontificates thusly — “The administration’s canceling of the Constellation program, after investing nearly $9 billion and five years of development, is the perfect example of why these changes are needed”.
    Yes, he is arguing. We should have invested at least another $9B and taken at least another five years of development before we’d reluctantly admit the program to be, as the Augustine Committee declared, fiscally unexecutable. The idea that sunk costs rationalize a failing program is truly frightening, and this legislation would formalize that. But sunk costs are what wed Congress to a program. Would this Board have chartered an independent committee to evaluate the feasibility of Constellation? I suspect not.

  • Coastal Ron

    DCSCA wrote @ September 21st, 2012 at 8:24 pm

    From the length of that post, I think maybe you should be the one to go by the moniker ” amightywind”… ;-)

    Anyways, I got bored part way through that soliloquy, but from what key words I could see, you’re still thinking that some sort of “program of scale” is going to be funded for the unneeded SLS. Unlikely, even with this proposed change to NASA. Especially when it will likely take $25B/year to use the SLS twice a year ($5B for 2 flights, and $20B for two sets of mission hardware developed over a 10 year period). I’m sure a Vice President Ryan would LOVE to push for that stimulus.

    SLS is slowly building up to a point where it will be recognized that no one can afford a series of missions for it, and Congress won’t fund any. After that it’s a quick death for the SLS, and we can move on to real space exploration using existing rockets – likely including the SpaceX Falcon Heavy (53mt to LEO), which should have done it’s first qual flight by that point.

    Tick tock, tick tock.

  • Aberwys

    The folks on the Hill should ask for OMB to be an implementing arm, not a policy-defining arm. The real solution is there. The Admin for NASA is typically a presidential puppy-cute and fluffy with no bite.

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “As things are now done NASA (subject to approval from the Administrator – a Presidential appointee) submits a budget request to the OMB in private. The OMB then makes whatever changes they deem appropriate (subject to the approval of the President). The Congress then must craft and approve a final budget.”

    This is incomplete/inaccurate. After OMB passback, any department or agency can (and they do) appeal any and all OMB budget decisions, from OMB staff to the PADs to the Director to the VPOTUS/POTUS. If a NASA Administrator doesn’t like something in his budget, it’s because he either didn’t challenge it when he had the chance or because he didn’t do his homework and someone else in the White House, potentially even the President, trusted OMB staff analysis over NASA’s.

    “The real difference would be that now the differences (if any) between what the technical people wanted and what the OMB wanted would be on the public record. Some people call that transparency.”

    OMB staff are “technical people”. Always with advanced degrees and usually with years of experience in the relevant sector.

    “Some people call that transparency.”

    The whole point of embargoing the Executive budget decision process is minimizing parochial political influences, like those from the Hill, and maximizing the probability that good decisions will be made for the nation based on good information.

    Executive budget decisions on any other department or agency are not subject to congressional political meddling. Unless we’re trying to punish the agency with a substandard and compromised budget process, NASA should not be an exception.

  • Meanwhile, unlike what those Congress Critters want to do, here’s something that actually advances American space prowess. Grasshopper took its first short “hop” today of only a few feet. But that is just the start of a series of hops that will rapidly go much higher. A baby step toward the game changing capability of reusability.

    I would like to see NASA and industry work together, but if the politicos want to legislate NASA into irrelevance at least there is hope elsewhere.

  • vulture4

    Human spaceflight cannot succeed unless ISS succeeds, and ISS depends in inexpensive access to LEO. ISS was delayed indefinitely under Reagan, because it had no purpose. It was built under Clinton, who proposed it as a way to maintain trust between former nuclear adversaries, a goal which GW Bush and Putin, both rather casually taking more aggressive lines, tried to forget.

    A lot can be done on ISS. Whether it is productive depends not on discovering some miracle drug but on reducing the cost of getting there until is is lower than the value of the work that can be done. In particular, it can serve as a destination for a new generation of reusable launch systems.

    ISS can function indefinitely, and can be upgraded however we wish. If we can use it productively we can go further. If we fail with the ISS we will certainly fail on the moon or Mars, where costs will be far higher. It is not a footstep in space; it is a foothold.

  • Heinrich Monroe

    It is not a footstep in space; it is a foothold.

    Well put. One of the most important roles of ISS is exactly that of a convenient and affordable destination in space. Destinations, as our culture defines them, are solid places where you can depart from your transit “ship”, plant your feet and have delimited space around you. To sit, to sleep, to eat, to live. Where there is a left, right, up, and down. Well, OK, for ISS, the up and down parts aren’t defined by gravity, but by the direction of your eyeballs.

    I think we all understand that the future of at least human space flight depends on minimizing the cost to LEO, and that endeavor simply demands an achievable target. There are those who would say that if there were no ISS, we’d have loads of people romping on the Moon. But I suspect that isn’t the case. In fact, I suspect we wouldn’t have people anywhere in space, if that were the case.

    I’m not sure I’d trust Congress, and a board selected by them, to see it that way. So say what you will about the rationale for ISS being technical and scientific smarts. But at root, it’s a lot more than that.

    I have a lot of respect for Culbertson, but his notion that such a bill would be part of the debate in a presidential campaign is just crackers. Given that, it is a little peculiar why this bill is being submitted now. Perhaps because space advocates don’t trust either of the two prospective administrations to give a high priority to sustainability in space projects? This could be taken as just a legislative reminder that Congress is sensitive to NASA projects that don’t see their way to completion.

  • Justin Kugler

    vulture4,
    That is precisely why I left my job as an ISS support contractor to help CASIS gets on its feet. The Station is a unique asset that only now starting to be appreciated for what it can do. The end of assembly is just the beginning of the story.

    As for this proposed legislation, I see it as nothing more than a naked power grab by Congressional Republicans who want to punish the White House for pushing the cancellation of Constellation. I don’t think even a Romney Administration would accept such an abrogation of executive power and authority.

  • vulture4

    “President George W. Bush accepted the recommendations of the CAIB report, terminated shuttle and proposed developing elements of Project Constellation”

    Just to be clear, the CAIB recommended a Shuttle replacement designed solely to provide access to LEO, saying that any more ambitious plan would be likely to fail. It further recommended that the Shuttle continue to fly until the replacement was operational and dod _not_ suggest it was to be cancelled when ISS assembly was complete. The CAIB were just people, like us, and not infallible, but Bush was not following their recommendations.

  • Scott Bass

    This plan is actually similar to thoughts I have had in the past, I can see benefits and pitfalls…… However I would be shocked to see a president sign this

  • Vladislaw

    “Keep arguing guys while US Astronauts plan their next trip to the ISS on a Russian Rocket,”

    You do realize American Astronauts have been riding on the soyuz for over a decade right? Even when America does have domestic capability, I am willing to wager NASA will still be buying seats from them so they don’t sell them to tourists.

  • DCSCA

    vulture4 wrote @ September 22nd, 2012 at 12:04 pm

    “Human spaceflight cannot succeed unless ISS succeeds,”

    Except it has. For half a century. And will in years to come, long after what of the ISS survives reentry is at the bottom of the Pacific. It’s commerical HSF that’s DOA w/o ISS.

  • DCSCA

    @vulture4 wrote @ September 22nd, 2012 at 4:26 pm

    Revisit section 9.3 of the CAIB and it pretty much sums up the mind set and options of that period recommended as presented to the Executive for consideration. Even then it was remarkably optimistic– and 2010 seemed far off at the time wuth talking of re-cert, capsules and space planes. But yes, as you say, they were people of that time– two wars ago. And as 2012 draws to a close, it reads remarkably dated already, doesn’t it, given the changing economics shifts in planning and immediate priorities of our times. . Yet as far as the lingering nag about a ‘defined goal’ goes the more things change, the more they stay the same. That singular refrain echoes through the pages of the report- anf across the decades from 1961 as well.

  • You do realize American Astronauts have been riding on the soyuz for over a decade right? Even when America does have domestic capability, I am willing to wager NASA will still be buying seats from them so they don’t sell them to tourists.

    You’d lose that bet. NASA won’t have the budget for such a trivial exercise.

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