Congress, NASA

A busy week of NASA hearings

Several hearings this week by House and Senate committees will examine NASA’s 2014 budget request and its overall space exploration plans. The hearings start this afternoon with one on “Challenges and Opportunities for Human Space Exploration” by the Senate Commerce Committee’s space subcommittee. Scheduled to testify are NASA associate administrator for human exploration and operations Bill Gerstenmaier, former astronaut Tom Stafford, and Steve Cook of Dynetics.

The House Science Committee’s space subcommittee will hold a hearing Wednesday afternoon on NASA’s fiscal year 2014 budget request. NASA administrator Charles Bolden is the sole witness.

Last, and perhaps most important, is a hearing by the Commerce, Justice, and Science subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee on the NASA FY14 budget proposal, scheduled for 9:30 am Thursday. Bolden will testify at that hearing, along with NASA inspector general Paul Martin. Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), who chairs the full appropriations committee along with the CJS subcommittee, said last week she would support the administration’s new asteroid initiative included in the budget request, but raised concerns about the level of funding for Orion included in the proposal.

35 comments to A busy week of NASA hearings

  • garantizar

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  • Dark Blue Nine

    The Senate Commerce Committee is seeking advice from Steve Cook, the former ESAS team co-lead and Ares I manager? Mr. I’ve-Got-the-Best-PowerPoints-Who-Needs-Engineering-and-Budgets? The same guy who thought SSMEs could be air-started, who thought the acoustics on SRBs outside the Shuttle stack were trivial, and who didn’t think Orion needed margins? The same genius who’s now shilling F-1s as an “affordable” path to SLS LRBs? Really?

    I know he’s just there so Alabama is represented to satisfy Shelby, but c’mon, there are much more intelligent and honest managers and engineers in that state than Cook (or Griffin) to choose from. We don’t have to keep scraping up Constellation’s dregs.

    • Ben Russell-Gough

      You’re forgetting that the pro-ArsenalSpace crowd at Congress think that CxP was a great success and that it was betrayed by small thinkers who were too risk adverse (yes, and I’m sure plenty of commentators here think that too). Therefore, despite the manifest failure of CxP in programmatic terms, to them Steve Cook is a great rocket sage and reminder of better times; only Mike Griffin would be better in their eyes.

      • Actually, the people who were too risk averse were the people who proposed trying to repeat Apollo, without the supporting budget.

        • DCSCA

          You are wholly uinqualified to disxcuss ‘risk aversion’ given your often staten position on this forum that values the hardware over the people who ride in it. Not to mention your advocacy for scuba gear and bean bag chairs for spaceflight. Stay away from HSF, Rand. You’ve got bad karma.

    • common sense

      Oh great. And Stafford also who is on record (http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1592/1) with his reluctance about commercial crew.

      What is the point of this hearing?

      Hearing the same bs about commercial space vs. NASA even though commercial space is a NASA activity?

      I cannot believe this people in Congress that are responsible for sequestration and the ruin of our economy are adamantly wasting tax payers money in useless, senseless, idiotic one sided hearings.

      Sometime in the near future when SpaceX will launch crew to a Bigelow station on the Moon what kind of hearing are we going to have?

      What a waste, what a shame.

  • common sense

    Oh great. And Stafford also who is on record (http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1592/1) with his reluctance about commercial crew.

    What is the point of this hearing?

    Hearing the same bs about commercial space vs. NASA even though commercial space is a NASA activity?

    I cannot believe this people in Congress that are responsible for sequestration and the ruin of our economy are adamantly wasting tax payers money in useless, senseless, idiotic one sided hearings.

    Sometime in the near future when SpaceX will launch crew to a Bigelow station on the Moon what kind of hearing are we going to have?

    What a waste, what a shame.

  • Egad

    > Bill Gerstenmaier, former astronaut Tom Stafford, and Steve Cook of Dynetics.

    This mostly looks like a cooked witness list, but the slightly interesting word is Dynetics. Dynetics is at least nominally competing against ATK for the advanced booster contract. It will be worth listening for words that might relate to that.

    • Guest

      From my understanding the hearing was predictably horrible. I couldn’t even manage to get through the rambling theater of Mr. Nelson’s monster rocket and all that pixie dust. It’s hard to imagine space cadets being this clueless, but there it is.

      Please stand by, we are having technical difficulties.

  • josh

    steve cook? running multi-billion dollar projects into the ground (x-33, ares 1) is seen as an invaluable skill by congress i guess. seriously, what is this guy doing there?

  • DCSCA

    Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), who chairs the full appropriations committee along with the CJS subcommittee, said last week she would support the administration’s new asteroid initiative included in the budget request.”

    Oink, Oink. All the way to January 21, 2017. Project Lasso will never fly.

  • Just watched yesterday’s Senate hearing. I’m uploading it now to YouTube.

    It wasn’t that bad. Only Bill Nelson (D-FL) and Ted Cruz (R-TX) showed up. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) dropped in at the end to ask about procurement procedures.

    Otherwise, it was just a grab-bag of questions. Tom Stafford belittled assembly in LEO, claiming it couldn’t be done, which is why you need a heavy-lift rocket like Saturn V or Constellation or SLS. I wonder how he thinks the ISS was built.

    • DCSCA

      “I wonder how he thinks the ISS was built.”

      What’s to wonder- it was essentially ‘built’ on the ground and assembled on orbit.

    • Dark Blue Nine

      “I wonder how he thinks the ISS was built.”

      Stafford is the kind of cold, hard, fact-finder and acute, perceptive, clear thinker we need running NASA’s International Space Station Advisory Committee.

      Sigh…

    • Coastal Ron

      Stephen C. Smith said:

      Tom Stafford belittled assembly in LEO, claiming it couldn’t be done, which is why you need a heavy-lift rocket like Saturn V or Constellation or SLS.

      Besides the obvious point you highlight (i.e. how did the ISS get built?), I guess he doesn’t understand that no matter the size of the rocket, if we want to expand our presence out into space we will need to build things in space – LEO, GEO, EML, wherever.

      And, of course, we don’t build bigger and bigger trucks here on Earth when we want to build bigger and bigger buildings and structures, we use the existing trucks we have and use them over and over again to deliver pieces and parts of that massive building or structure.

      Stafford may have been a good astronaut, but he certainly doesn’t understand how things are built, and can be built.

      • DCSCA

        “if we want to expand our presence out into space we will need to build things in space – LEO, GEO, EML, wherever.” dreams Ron.

        You mean assemble. Components will almost certainly be built on the ground for decades to come.

        • Coastal Ron

          DCSCA opined:

          You mean assemble. Components will almost certainly be built on the ground for decades to come.

          Having spent decades in the field of manufacturing, the terms “build” and “assemble” are pretty interchangeable – take components or sub-assemblies, and add them into a larger assembly, then repeat until you get your finished product.

          Other than the Russian Zarya (FGB), none of the other ISS components (modules, trusses, solar arrays, robot arm, airlock, etc.) could operate independently, and had to be connected to the larger ISS structure in order to work. They were, for all intents and purposes, components of the larger structure.

          You really should get to know what’s been happening in space since the 60′s… ;-)

          • DCSCA

            Having spent decades in the field of manufacturing, the terms “build” and “assemble” are pretty interchangeable

            Except they’re not. Especially in this case. and if you truly had decades of experience in this firld, you’d know the diffrence w/respect to space ops.

            • Coastal Ron

              DCSCA mumbled:

              Except they’re not.

              Instead of sounding like a petulant child, why don’t you use real words to describe why you think you are right?

              Of course for you to truly understand what was done to “put together” the ISS, you’d have to actually LEARN about the ISS, and that will likely take months.

              if you truly had decades of experience in this firld…

              What’s a “firld”?

              And I’m pretty sure I never said I had decades of experience in a “firld”.

      • The passage where Stafford talks favorably of one heavy-lift vehicle versus LEO assembly begins at about 54 minutes. You can go here which will take you to that point:

        http://youtu.be/iJl6wmA9PRQ?t=54m00s

        Of assembly in orbit, he says, “It’s simply not possible.”

        • Coastal Ron

          Stephen C. Smith said:

          Of assembly in orbit, he says, “It’s simply not possible.”

          He’s a generation out of touch.

          In regards to boil off, which he apparently sees as the main reason in-orbit assembly of Earth Departure Stages won’t work, Boeing and Lockheed Martin would tell him that their rocket scientists say it will work – that using simple techniques that have already been tested in space, boil off of LH2 is about what they would need for station keeping, and so it would be used for station keeping.

          He also assumes that LH2 MUST be used, and that’s not true either. If NASA were able to buy transportation services, instead of being forced to run their own expensive/redundant system, then the market would determine the best propellant options. For instance, despite it’s lower ISP, RP-1 might be the less expensive overall when compared to LH2. Or maybe hypergolics. Let the market determine that.

        • josh

          stafford is either ignorant or deliberately misleading. either way, nobody should listen to this has-been.

  • DCSCA

    “Stafford may have been a good astronaut, but he certainly doesn’t understand how things are built, and can be built.” says Ron.

    Stafford certainly knows more about it than you, Ron. Among his credentials and accomplishments, General Stafford
    served on the National Research Council’s Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board; the Committee on NASA Scientific and Technological Program Reviews, and was chairman of the NASA Advisory Council Task Force on Shuttle-Mir Rendezvous and Docking Missions, and is currently the chairman of the NASA International Space Station Advisory Committee.

    • Coastal Ron

      DCSCA opined:

      Stafford certainly knows more about it than you…

      He knows more about being an astronaut that never spent any time assembling a 450mt space station in LEO, that’s for sure.

      If Congress needs to have first hand accounts of how space assembly works, there are probably a hundred U.S. astronauts that are far more qualified on the subject than the 82 year old Stafford.

      He represents his generation well, but it’s not his generation that built the ISS. It would be like someone asking you advice on how to use the internet to look up information… ;-)

    • Dark Blue Nine

      “Stafford certainly knows more about it than you, Ron. Among his credentials and accomplishments, General Stafford… is currently the chairman of the NASA International Space Station Advisory Committee.”

      You’re making Ron’s point for him. Stafford chairs the ISS Advisory Committee, a committee that oversees a 400 metric ton station that was successfully assembled in orbit from 15 pressurized modules over one Proton and 28 Shuttle flights and remains operational in orbit to this day. Yet Stafford testified to Congress that in-orbit assembly is “simply not possible”. The existence of the very program that he advises proves that Stafford’s statement to Congress is false.

      Stafford has either gone senile or is a hypocrite lying to Congress. Either way, he should be removed from his chairmanship.

      • Dark Blue Nine wrote:

        Stafford has either gone senile or is a hypocrite lying to Congress.

        I shudder at the thought of General Stafford and Rep. Ralph Hall having a lengthy discourse in open session. :-)

        Overall, Stafford held his own in the hearing, but kinda seemed to go off the tracks at that point in the session. Nelson asked him a simple question, which was how to inspire someone on the street to support space. Instead, Stafford goes off on a long rambling blather about heavy-lift and assembly and whatnot. Given his earlier remarks in the hearing, I think he was trying to be rah-rah about an Apollo redux like many in his astronaut generation are. It’s the only paradigm they know. There are exceptions (Aldrin, Schweickart) but most of them are stuck on doing what they did in the 1960s.

    • josh

      stafford doesn’t know the first thing about the future of spaceflight. he is a relict, like cernan.

  • Jame L

    maybe stafford is simply going senile and has altzheimers and has forgotten what he once knew?

    • DCSCA

      “maybe stafford is simply going senile and has altzheimers and has forgotten what he once knew?” quips Jame L

      More age discrimination from the NewsSpace crowd. Maybe he has forgortten more than you’ll ever know, too. =eyeroll=

      • B.S. As is indicated by the fact that we support the position of Aldrin and Schweickart, even though they are of similar age to Stafford. What makes us question Stafford’s reasoning capabilities are his self-contradictory statements.

        It is obvious you have never had a course in self-consistent logical reasoning and critical thinking. If I had thought processes as sloppy as yours, I would not be able to do valid and meaningful scientific research.

      • josh

        your hero worship of astronauts is quite amusing…

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