House Science Committee pledges bipartisan cooperation

The full House Science Committee, which will be devoting attention this year to NASA and commercial space transportation among other topics, emerged from a closed-door retreat on Tuesday with plans to work across party lines on key issues. “Newspaper headlines insist that Capitol Hill is hopelessly gridlocked. I want the Science, Space, and Technology Committee to be the exception,” said Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), chairman of the committee, in a post-retreat press release. “This bipartisan retreat sets a good tone of cooperation for what can be a year of bipartisan achievements.”

The ranking member of the full committee, Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), shared those sentiments in the same statement. The committee, she said, “has much important work to do in the 113th Congress and the only way we will be able to get it done is through bipartisanship.” What the committee members discussed in the committee wasn’t disclosed, but they did have a couple of celebrity guests: Neil deGrasse Tyson and Bill Nye, the latter noting on Twitter that they were at the retreat to remind the committee “of the great value of science.”

Speaking yesterday at the FAA Commercial Space Transportation Conference in Washington, Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD), the ranking member of the committee’s space subcommittee, also welcomed bipartisan cooperation she expected on space issues in the committee. “There really is a sense—and Chairman Smith has certainly indicated this—that we are really going to, as much as possible, return the Science Committee to one that really does think about the future,” she said.

Edwards said that she and the subcommittee’s chairman, Rep. Steven Palazzo (R-MS), have a “great working relationship” that will extend to work this year on a new NASA authorization bill that can establish objectives and funding levels that appropriators can fulfill with their separate funding bills. “I hope that the chairman and I are able to work on realistic goals, that we’re able to set a course that Mr. [Chaka] Fattah and his colleagues and his colleagues are able to resource,” she said, referring to the ranking member of the Commerce, Justice, and Science subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee.

20 comments to House Science Committee pledges bipartisan cooperation

  • Dark Blue Nine

    I don’t recall partisan gridlock ever being a concern on the House Science Committee or its subcommittees. The two major concerns with the House Science Committee are legislative impotence and corrupt oversight.

    They couldn’t get their own version of the 2010 NASA Authorization Act through the House, which preferred the Senate version. When your own chamber of congress doesn’t like your committee’s bills, your committee is legislatively impotent. Your committee might as well not exist.

    Worse, when confronted with independent reports of spiralling costs on Ares I and multi-ten billion dollar mismatches between Constellation needs and budget availability, the Science Committee responded by doubling down on Ares I and Constellation. At least the Senate bothered to prop up a veneer of change by relabeling Orion as MPCV and transforming Ares V into SLS. Again, your committee might as well not exist if it’s so corrupted by parochial influences that it can’t change course when a multi-billion dollar national program is shown to be running off a cliff.

    The Science Committee thumping its chest about bipartisanship is like a firefighter crew thumping their chests about how they saved my dog’s house while my family’s house burns to the ground. It totally ignores the real problems on the House Science Committee.

    • Egad

      What three or four concrete things would you recommend HSC do this year and next to make itself more relevant? Mr. Smith is My Congressman(tm)and I could send him a constituent letter — indications are, FWIW, that his staff does read such.

      • Fred Willett

        Late this year or early next year when the Falcon Heavy rolls to the pad and comparisons start getting made to the SLS
        Capacity FH 53t vs SLS 70t
        Govt Cost FH $0 vs SLS $18B.
        Per flight cost FH $85M vs SLS $1B
        First Flight FH 2014 vs SLS 2017 providing it doesn’t slip again.
        I’d advise your congressman to find someplace to hide.

        • DCSCA

          Late this year or early next year when the Falcon Heavy rolls…. barked Freddo.

          =eyeroll= More press releases. Space X has flown nobody and had– what– two grocery runs with less than a ton of supplies to the ISS. Meanwhile, in fantasyland, thanks to Siemens software commercials, it looks like it launches several times a day and the ISS plucks Dragons out of space as often as Homer grabs a donut.

          Fly somebody.

          • JimNobles

            DCSCA said: “Fly somebody.”
            Soon enough. They are on schedule and looking good.

          • josh

            why don’t you tell that to nasa? spacex is on track to “fly somebody”.

          • Coastal Ron

            DCSCA moaned, yet again:

            Space X has flown nobody and had– what– two grocery runs with less than a ton of supplies to the ISS.

            You have been schooled on this many times, but apparently certain things don’t stick in your brain.

            SpaceX doesn’t operate on your schedule, they operate on a more rational one that let’s them develop their crew system in a sustainable way – you want them to rush development for some fake glory. Their initial customer doesn’t need their crew transportation services until late 2016, so why waste money pushing for anything earlier? That wouldn’t be smart.

            Luckily Musk is far smarter than you… but I guess that goes without saying… ;-)

        • Neil Shipley

          Totally agree. Even if SpaceX costs rise, it’s unlikely to be significant and certainly won’t dent their progress.
          NSF forum poll forecasts 4 flights next year. They’ve were accurate for 2012. Elon says 6 while Gwynn says 8. Interesting. Either way they’ll be upping the flight rate and expect to grab a greater share of the international launch market barring failures. No reason at this point to forecast any.
          Oh and Sea Launch looks like going under due to their latest failure. More potential international business for SpaceX.
          Don’t like to see only one provider in the market but if things continue, that’s what I predict for the U.S. ULA might last out a bit longer or be subsidised more for the occassional launch as backup but they’ll lose most of their business.

      • Dark Blue Nine

        “What three or four concrete things would you recommend HSC do this year and next to make itself more relevant? Mr. Smith is My Congressman(tm)and I could send him a constituent letter — indications are, FWIW, that his staff does read such.”

        1) Rep. Smith should direct the Government Accountability Office to prepare an independent report on the executability and sustainability of SLS and MPCV development and operations from budget, schedule, technical, and safety perspectives. Key issues that should be addressed in the GAO report include: a) the multi-billion dollar gap between the 2010 NASA Authorization Act budget and FY10 through FY13 Appropriations for these two projects, the impact of this budget gap on meeting the 2010 Act’s 2016 date for starting SLS operations and other milestones, and the realism of closing this budget gap; b) the lack of budget for development of exploration architecture elements such as mission modules, landers, transit stages, and proximity operations vehicles, and its impact on future milestones; c) the 4,000lb. gap between MPCV’s current mass and the mass limits of MPCV’s parachutes and the realism of closing that gap; d) the 1,500lb. gap between MPCV’s service module mass and the mass limits of future missions; e) the recent, multi-year deferrel of tests for MPCV’s Launch Abort System and its impact on crew safety; and f) any other relevant issues uncovered by the GAO.

        2) Rep. Smith should direct NASA to fund an independent report of SLS and MPCV alternatives for support of NEO, Mars, and lunar missions at the National Research Council. This report should cover, at a minimum: a) the Delta IV Heavy, EELV Phase 2, Falcon 9 Heavy, and Falcon Superheavy launch vehicles; b) evolution of the CST-100, Dragon, and the Blue Origin Space Vehicles, including the addition of service and mission modules; and c) propellant storage and transfer. Cost, schedule, capability, and safety should be evaluated on an apples-to-apples basis for these vehicles using the same mission requirements.

        3) Rep. Smith and his staff should use the results of the GAO and NRC reports when developing the 2013 NASA Authorization Bill and consider actions up to and including SLS and MPCV termination and replacement with less costly, faster, more capable, and safer options that better fit the likely NASA budget going forward.

  • Sometimes the Evil Party and the Stupid Party get together and do something both evil and stupid. This is called bipartisanship.

    Rohrabacher’s the only hope.

    • Hate to say it, but that’s my take on it too.

    • E. P. Grondine

      Hi Rand –

      Stupid and Evil?
      Which one is which?

      That’s far too nasty, in my view. The way I used to think of it was the “There’s no problem” party and the “There’s a problem, let’s set up a program” party.

      Rohrabacher will be able to fight off ATK’s attempts to shut down SpaceX. But that still leaves the problem of moving our space tech base centers forward, and getting the best results for our dollars.

      • Neil Shipley

        Hi E.P. How exactly is ATK going to shut down SpaceX? That’s the beauty of this situation now. SpaceX can’t be stopped now since they don’t depend on government for their success. The only way they’ll fail is through their own actions or inaction, not through any political or for that matter market intervention.

    • Coastal Ron

      Rand Simberg said:

      Rohrabacher’s the only hope.

      Looking at the notes on NewSpace Watch from the FAA Commercial Space Transportation Conference, Tony Detora, Senior Policy Advisor, for Rep. Dana Rohrabacher was noted as saying:

      – Not building the payloads for the SLS
      – Timelines get pushed out, costs go up
      – Don’t see an exploration path with SLS with the available funding expected

      There is at least one realist on the Congressional committee overseeing NASA. We’ll see what influence he is able to exert over the next two years, especially since he would be able to show other committee members what NASA could do without being burdened by the SLS. Still, it will take acknowledged schedule & budget slips to get the debate going, so we’ll have to wait and see when NASA will start announcing them.

    • DCSCA

      “Sometimes the Evil Party and the Stupid Party get together and do something both evil and stupid. This is called bipartisanship.” whines Rand.

      Well, the GOP is split into two camps these days, isn’t it. =eyeroll=

      “Rohrabacher’s the only hope.” gasps Rand.

      Which means your position is essentially hopeless w/t likes of Dana ‘dinosaur flatulence causes climate change’ Rohnbacher in your camp.

  • Ben Russell-Gough

    The cynic in me says this: “‘Bipartisanship’, in this context, usually means: “We all agree to protect the pork for all of our districts.””

  • DougSpace

    Yeah Ben. You’re probably correct.

  • josh

    when will nasa finally announce that sls is already over budget and behind schedule? you can’t hide the truth forever.

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