Congress, NASA

House Science Committee to take on NASA’s strategic vision this week

The House Science Committee has scheduled a hearing for Wednesday at 9:30 am on “The Future of NASA: Perspectives on Strategic Vision for America’s Space Program.” (This hearing was originally scheduled for last week, but postponed when the House was not in session at the previous time.) The title of the hearing is pretty self-explanatory, with one of the topics of discussion to be the release last week of the report by the National Research Council on NASA’s strategic direction, or lack thereof. Scheduled witnesses include:

  • The Honorable Robert Walker, Wexler & Walker
  • Maj. Gen. Ronald Sega, USAF (Ret), Vice Chair, National Research Council Committee on NASA’s Strategic Direction
  • Ms. Marion C. Blakey, President & CEO, Aerospace Industries Association
  • Dr. Thomas Zurbuchen Ph.D, Professor for Space Science and Aerospace Engineering, Associate Dean for Entrepreneurial Programs, University of Michigan
  • Dr. Scott Pace, Ph.D, Director, Space Policy Institute, The George Washington University

Most of those names are pretty familiar to the space community; Walker, in fact, is a former chairman of the House Science Committee. An exception may be Zurbuchen, whose areas of interest as listed on his university website include not just space science studies but also, among others, “Developing and analyzing space mission architectures for various exploration and commercial applications.” In August he wrote a blog post expressing concern about the future of NASA’s Mars exploration program given the lack of missions in the pipeline (a situation at least partially remedied by NASA’s later selection of the InSight lander in 2016 and a Curiosity-like rover for 2020). He criticizes “bean-counters” for making decisions for short-term benefit but “long-term severe consequences” and suggests now is the time to start thinking about human Mars missions. “Needless to say, I would make a condition to fire a lot of NASA so-called managers, bureaucrats and bean counters before making such massive investments” in a Mars program, he writes.

23 comments to House Science Committee to take on NASA’s strategic vision this week

  • I just emailed three of them introducing them to the concept of Lunar COTS programs and suggesting how such a program would fulfill the goal of a robust cis-lunar infrastructure taking advantage of NASA’s manned program. Thanks for this post.

  • common sense

    Window dressing as usual. Waste of taxpayers’ money.

    Speaking of which. Will sequestration deal with unnecessary waste of taxpayers’ money in such meetings by our dear Congress?

  • josh

    scott pace? what a joke.

  • Neil Shipley

    These guys clearly have time on their hands. What a waste.

  • In this week in space exploration history, 40 years ago, American astronauts were on the Moon, for the very last time, on the final Lunar expedition to have taken place. NO ASTRONAUT FROM ANY COUNTRY HAS EVER LEFT LOW EARTH ORBIT IN ALL THE FOURTY YEARS SINCE THAT TIME. America has done nothing but go around in circles, just immediately above the Earth, for that four-decade span, with its manned program. Because of President Obama and his awful decision to cancel Project Constellation, the enormous rift of NO manned deep space-flights will likely go on for a fifth or sixth decade.

    • And if you were to have your way and have us rely totally on SLS, that’s the way it would be for another 40 years. The Government Accountability Office said Constellation was unimplementable with the budget it had or was likely to get. Get over it. It’s time to leave your irrational Pollyanna mindset behind.

      • The SLS should be changed into the original concept, the Ares 5. This form of the rocket was to have had the full rocket strength to launch both the earth escape stage and the L-SAM. I actually lament the way they’re going about it: the so-called SLS—-which by the way, is a horrible name, full of reminder about the STS, which reigned at the realm of manned launches for 30 years without getting us anywhere—-is basically an orphaned launch system, deleted of its real reason to be. If it turns out to be a quasi-replica of the possible Ares 4, it might still be way too small of a rocket to launch BOTH an earth departure stage AND a lunar lander. I also hate the implications behind Ares 1 having been cancelled: Wasn’t the plan all along to have a smaller rocket launch the Orion CEV capsule, with a crew, in order to RENDEZVOUS IN LEO with the Heavy Lift cargo vehicles, then go out into deep space??! Without the Altair L-SAM and the EDS, what’s the darn point then, to building such a huge rocket?! You don’t need an Ares 4 [or a different-named replica] just to send into orbit a manned Orion capsule! What is the game plan now? MORE LEO space station activities?! The entire process makes NO sense, orphaned away from its Lunar exploration purpose. Without the Return-to-the-Moon goal, as a fully intended plan, there is simply NO fixed purpose for the SLS. It all sounds just like the Space Shuttle:Phase 2; if you ask me!!

    • common sense

      And all that from some one who was not even born in the US? I tell you. This country is going mad. Trying to help others with a plan for healthcare, with re-adjusting the tax rates, trying to boost the economy (what is left of it anyway), stopping wars… All the while we could have had (actually no but…) a big rocket and a capsule! And for a budget which is not even half a percent of our federal budget.

      Then of course… http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Budget_of_NASA

      “NASA’s FY 2011 budget of $18.4 billion represents about 0.5% of the $3.4 trillion United States federal budget during the year, or about 35% of total spending on academic scientific research in the United States

      And just for fun. Since HSF has about 50% of NASA budget it means that about 17.5% of total spending on academic scientific research in the United States goes to HSF. I wonder if we could somehow rank the ROI on academic research vs. NASA HSF.

      Oh well.

      • I find it hilarious how anyone in the space interest community can still be supporting BO & the Dems! As I stated above, if NASA is now building a Heavy-Lift rocket WITHOUT intending to use it for renewed manned Lunar exploration, then the result will be just like the Space Shuttle: a fully orphaned program, with NO reason to be, except to try to be all things to all people at the same time! This approach to space launch systems has NEVER worked out well! Rockets & spacecrafts should always have a specific, specialized purpose, and NOT fall into the trap of “hey, we’ll just build it, and come up with a way to use it later.” I tell you: the asteroid mission idea is an awful one! The Lagrange space base gateway idea is also an awful one! But staying in LEO, doing boring business-as-usual, is the worst plan of all!

        • Coastal Ron

          Chris Castro lamented:

          As I stated above, if NASA is now building a Heavy-Lift rocket WITHOUT intending to use it for renewed manned Lunar exploration, then the result will be just like the Space Shuttle: a fully orphaned program, with NO reason to be, except to try to be all things to all people at the same time!

          In life there are basically two kinds of people – those that are amazed by the “magic” of a magician, and those that instead are wondering how the trick was done. You impress me as the former.

          So it is with the SLS, where you think it was NASA that dreamed up the SLS, but in reality it was Congress that dictated NASA not only had to build a rocket, but provided the specifics of what the rocket was supposed to be.

          And you continue to be clueless about this distinction…

          • I’m NOT clueless! Believe you me: a Heavy-Lift rocket is just what the country needs right now! But the way they’re going at it is just plain wrong! They are putting together a weaker-than-the-Ares 5 kind of rocket, and just basically shrugging their shoulders and saying:”If we build it, they will come.” Obama’s move to destroy Constellation, threw the whole cause of Heavy-Lift into anarchy, because now, the would-be rocket—-and I HATE THE NAME SLS—-has absolutely NO fixed purpose. They’re just building the giant thing WITHOUT any regard for its ability to launch a lunar module & an EDS. They’re just building it to satisfy some vague, endless possible set of applications. Hey friends!—What will they use it for?? More ISS modules, fuels depots & tanker craft, the Lagrange point gateway station idea, NEO rendezvous mission modules??? THIS IS NO WAY TO BUILD A NEW CISLUNAR CAPABILITY. Being all things to all people. THAT was just the thing that most went wrong with the Space Shuttle project.

  • The committee web site says today’s hearing is at 10 AM EST / 7 AM PST:

    http://science.house.gov/hearing/full-committee-hearing-future-nasa-perspectives-strategic-vision-americas-space-program

    Go to the link to watch the live webcast.

  • Well that was entirely predictable.

    When Rep. Clarke was acknowledged, I said to my wife, “Watch, he’s going to pander for NASA money coming to Detroit.” Sure enough, it was the first thing out of his mouth.

    This meeting was the same hypocritical nonsense.

    I’m uploading the webcast to YouTube and will let you know when it’s online. In case you’re suffering from insomnia.

  • Continuing my response to Coastal Ron, from the above one;—–So you see, my position is that a Heavy-Lift rocket IS needed, but it needs to be built concurrently with a good idea/concept about just what it is going to carry on its launch. Ares 5 again, was to have been built large enough & powerful enough to send a trans-lunar complement of vehicles [the L-SAM & the earth departure stage] into an LEO parking orbit. A separate launch and smaller rocket was to have dealt with getting the Orion CEV up there, for the rendezvous. And by the way, we could’ve been flexible on this point: either the Ares 1 could’ve done the task, or some other comparatively powerful rocket. But this vague, hazy implication that maybe the giant Heavy-Lift rocket is going to do this lighter job, sounds very bad to me. Unless we’re talking here about shrinking the full-Constellation sizes of these space crafts [the CEV & L-SAM], riding up in smaller, lighter dimensions & weights, and returning to Transposition & Docking after TLI, like on Apollo, I just can’t see how the trans-lunar concept would work. (Particularly when desiring a system that would improve & expand the basic capabilities of Apollo.)

    • Coastal Ron

      Chris Castro wrote:

      my position is that a Heavy-Lift rocket IS needed, but it needs to be built concurrently with a good idea/concept about just what it is going to carry on its launch.

      Finally, something that borders on good sense. So you do agree we shouldn’t build a $30B rocket until we know that there is something it’s needed to launch?

      As to the rest of your Moon hardware, do you understand that no one in Congress is willing to pay for that? No one is interested in creating a funding bill that both houses of Congress will support and will be sent to the President for approval?

      If Congress doesn’t want to do your Moon dreams, why build the SLS, right?

      • As BAD as it sounds, you may be quasi-right. When BO & the Flexible Path idiots finished off with Lunar exploration, it was one heck-of-a-shock to a whole lotta people! Particularly Congresspeople. Remember all that vague, maybe-someday-we’ll-do-it talk about delaying a Heavy-Lift system until 5 or 6 years into the future?? Waiting until say, 2015, so that “new, gamechanging technologies” were to have been developed?? Well, I suppose Congress couldn’t handle ALL of the Constellation destruction. Heck, Obama didn’t even want to build the Orion craft!! He’d have been satisfied if it was nothing more than a one-way escape pod from the ISS! But what Congress SHOULD have done, was save the Constellation project more fully, and simply stretched it out for a somewhat longer time. Instead of getting to the Moon by 2020, we could’ve acknowledged a less stressful goal aim of 2025 or 2030. But WE SHOULD BE BUILDING THE FULL-UP ARES 5. If the Altair lunar lander took a bit longer to construct, and get to its specific final weight & size configuration, then we probably would have had to do a fine task in estimating those parameters, then. (Saturn 5, was built concurently with all three of its sub-vehicles: the CM, LM, & EDS.) IF the ISS had had to be de-orbited & sunk earlier, then so be it!! The ISS was vacuuming up way too many dollar billions, per year; and LEO was NOT the focus of Project Constellation anyway!!

        • Coastal Ron

          Chris Castro moaned:

          But what Congress SHOULD have done, was save the Constellation project more fully, and simply stretched it out for a somewhat longer time. Instead of getting to the Moon by 2020, we could’ve acknowledged a less stressful goal aim of 2025 or 2030.

          This statement shows how divorced from reality you really are Chris. The Constellation program, even if FULLY funded, would not have reached the Moon until the 2030′s at the earliest. The EARLIEST. And you don’t have to believe me, just look at the last schedule for the Ares I, Orion, Ares V and Altair lander – only the Ares I and Orion had a chance to be ready by 2020, and only just barely.

          So downsizing the Constellation program – stretching it out – would have pushed the program out to the 2040′s. A 30 year program, which is more than a generation of aerospace workers.

          Now instead of backing a bloated government program to return to the Moon, you should be supporting the Golden Spike company. They have a plan that takes far less than $10B, and far less than a decade to return to the Moon. How can YOU not like that? It doesn’t even require politicians to be involved. What’s not to love?

          Unless you are a government employee looking for a space entitlement program…

          • To Coastal Ron: I actually do NOT believe all that hype about Project Constellation not being able to reach the Moon by the 2020′s! If its project-in-&-of-itself elements had been fully worked on & funded, with the same dedication that has been going into the ISS project, then yes, the Moon would most definitely be reachable by our spacemen, sometime in the 2025-2030 time frame. But the Flexible Path people & the Commercial Space people had a big interest and stake in debunking future Lunar exploration as EVEN do-able. So you got all these alarming exposes about how the project could “never” be trusted to have been built prior to 2030, so that the Obama decision to finish it off would seem justified. Then what do you all think happenned next, in the wake of Constellation’s demise: The ISS would get a blank check to go on forever, then a legion of entrepreneur space companies would aim to build commercial capsules to reach it, wedding NASA to LEO even more solidly than it was before. Meanwhile the cause of Heavy-Lift would be tossed into a mire of endlessly different, non-related goals. Satisfying everyone, but acheiving nothing in the process. Plus, all the new goals assigned now to an each-&-every purpose, jack-of-all-trades Heavy-Lift space truck all have nothing to do with a manned lunar return: the name of the game now seems to be, let’s do everything but the Moon. It’s so horridly awful!!

  • The video of yesterday’s hearing is now on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lbNQYiB-XmY. Take some No-Doz, especially as Ralph Hall rambles about thanking people who aren’t in the room.

  • Second reply to Coastal Ron: As for space projects that take 30 years, hmm….let me think…didn’t something called the Space Shuttle, STS, take about that much time to carry through its manifest?! And THAT was for a space project that was confined to LEO! Obamaspace puts us on the road for the ISS project to last just about as long. Do you really think that those entrepreneur corporations are going to sit idly by in 2020, while their meal-ticket, their very reason-for-being, is threatened by the possible end of the ISS? OF COURSE NOT. The ISS will either continue apace, becoming the only human spaceflight goal, clear until 2030, or it will be replaced with another ISS. An ISS-2 or an ISS-B. Bingo! That just about reveals all that our astronauts are going to be doing, until the year 2040.

    • Coastal Ron

      Chris Castro wondered:

      As for space projects that take 30 years, hmm….let me think…didn’t something called the Space Shuttle, STS, take about that much time to carry through its manifest?!

      I think the word “program” is confusing you.

      The Shuttle was a transportation system that had it’s first flight 13 years after the initial program go-ahead, and it was deemed “operational” a year later (14 years total in case you are math-challenged). For comparison, the Apollo program took 8 years from Kennedy’s speech to when Neil Armstrong set foot on the Moon.

      By comparison, we’re talking about 30 years of DEVELOPMENT time before the FIRST program completion of the goal you are talking about (i.e. U.S. return to the surface of the Moon). No one in Congress is going to support that, not with a private company claiming they can do the same in 1/5 the time and 1/10 the budget.

      There is no national need to return to the Moon Chris, and Congress would not support the program you propose. Not at all.

      Cry and moan all you want, but all you have to do is listen to Congress to see that they don’t have any interest in returning to the Moon, and neither does the public at large.

      Why don’t you break your piggy bank and send your money to Golden Spike? They are more likely to get back to the Moon than a U.S. Government effort.

      • Golden Spike has some neat ideas going for it. But a for-profit organization, a corporation which needs to look out for its bottom line, will NOT be able to carry such a grandiose project up from the ground to fruition. Let’s be realistic. The government would have to be involved! The multiple billions of dollars that it’d take, totally imply government backing. In the end, a Heavy-Lift launcher is going to be needed—-but once a definite, concurrently developed payload of trans-lunar injection stage & lunar lander, are definable. Until then, these are dreams that’ll be out of our reach. Private corporations can only do so much: that is why commercial space means low earth orbit only! But I will tell you that the Golden Spike idea is a truly wonderful one,—–compared to all this bat guano about manned asteroid missions & lagrange point gateway stations!!

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