NASA

Final FY13 operating plan tweaks NASA’s budget

Late last week NASA quietly released its final operating plan for fiscal year 2013, with just a month left in the fiscal year. The plan adjusts spending on some agency programs based on the post-sequester cuts to the FY2013 appropriations bill passed by Congress in March. The breakout of spending for agency programs in the operating plan, versus what the administration originally requested for NASA for FY13 back in early 2012, is below (all amounts in millions of dollars):

Account FY13 Request FY13 Final Difference
SCIENCE $4,911.2 $4,781.6 -$129.6
- Earth Science $1,784.8 $1,659.2 -$125.6
- Planetary Science $1,192.3 $1,271.5 $79.2
- Astrophysics $659.4 $617.0 -$42.4
- JWST $627.6 $627.6 $0.0
- Heliophysics $647.0 $606.3 -$40.7
SPACE TECHNOLOGY $699.0 $614.5 -$84.5
AERONAUTICS $551.5 $529.5 -$22.0
EXPLORATION SYSTEMS $3,932.8 $3,705.5 -$227.3
- SLS / Ground Systems $1,504.5 $1,770.0 $265.5
- Orion $1,024.9 $1,113.8 $88.9
- Commercial Spaceflight $829.7 $525.0 -$304.7
- Exploration R&D $333.7 $296.7 -$37.0
SPACE OPERATIONS $4,013.2 $3,724.9 -$288.3
- ISS $3,007.6 $2,775.9 -$231.7
- Space Shuttle $70.0 $38.8 -$31.2
- Space and Flight Support $935.6 $910.2 -$25.4
EDUCATION $100.0 $116.3 $16.3
CROSS AGENCY SUPPORT $2,847.5 $2,711.0 -$136.5
CONSTRUCTION $619.2 $646.6 $27.4
INSPECTOR GENERAL $37.0 $35.3 -$1.7
TOTAL $17,711.4 $16,865.2 -$846.2

Every major account suffered a reduction with the exception of education, which saw a slight increase from the $100 million originally requested. Orion and SLS (including ground systems) ended up with somewhat more than what the administration first requested, although less than the pre-sequester levels in the final appropriations bill. Commercial crew, by comparison, got less than requested, but the operating plan funds the program at the same level in that appropriations bill, $525 million, negating the impact of the sequester.

In the sciences, planetary science ended up with nearly $80 million more than requested, although short of the $1.415 billion in the pre-sequester appropriations bill. However, assuming the $75 million set aside in the bill for preparatory work on a proposed Europa mission (not requested by NASA) remains in place, the budget is effectively unchanged from the request. JWST ends up with exactly the amount originally requested to keep that program on track, while other science programs are cut by 6-7 percent from the original request.

34 comments to Final FY13 operating plan tweaks NASA’s budget

  • amightywind

    Nice to see all of the negative signs next to the administration requests. We must learn to live within our means. The exception is SLS/Orion, of course.

    • Vladislaw

      Thanks windy … I needed a laugh ..

      With support for SLS the MPCV literally drying up before out eyes after the devastating report by the OIG and then Kraft coming out against it, it will not be long now before we can kiss this monster pork train to nowhere . good bye.

      • Bennett In Vermont

        I hope you’re right. It sickens me to see the line items for SLS and “Orion” eating up over 17% of the NASA budget. What a colossal waste of money and opportunity.

      • Vladislaw wrote:

        With support for SLS the MPCV literally drying up before out eyes after the devastating report by the OIG and then Kraft coming out against it, it will not be long now before we can kiss this monster pork train to nowhere . good bye.

        Nobody in Congress cares what Chris Craft thinks. I suspect that the vast majority of space subcommittee members have no idea who he is, much less care.

        • Vladislaw

          That I understand Stephen, but it does have an eroding effect on low information people which eventually turns into a broader public opinion. I look at a lot of space blogs.. it is getting hard to find any that support this anymore.

          • mike shupp

            I look at a lot of space blogs also. There aren’t all that many, and they don’t have that many readers. Some numbers: (1) Clark Lindsey’s HOBBYSPACE, as of January 2005 had 5000 pageviews a day. (2) John Goff at SELENIUM BOONDOCKS reported a couple of months ago that his site had 500,000 visitors over a period of 8 years. (3) Keith Cowling’s NASAWATCH-SPACEREF complex (5 websites) claims 425,000 unique visitors each month. (4) Over at THE SPACE REVIEW, Jeff Faust quotes monthly averages of 53,800 unique visitors and 560,000 pageviews. (5) Reaching for the Big Leagues, SPACE.COM claims 3.2 million visitors (and 18 million pageviews) per month. (That’s from a pitch for advertising, you might want to sprinkle on a little salt.) (6) Purely a guess, but it seems reasonable that NASA at all its various websites probably gets several million unique visitors each month, mostly school kids steered that way by teachers.

            So…. NASA supports the SLS, at least on its websites. Ditto SPACE.COM. You might want to argue these are primarily for the uninformed public, and that neither is exactly what you and I would mean by “blog.” I’ll go along with that, but let’s admit then that the typical “real” space blog probably has 50,000 to 80,000 visitors per month, that most of these viewers are repeaters, and that there’s considerable overlap of blog readerships. What’s that give us? A million readers at space blogs? Half of that? And let’s be charitable and call them “reasonably well informed” readers — at least they know what the points of argument are around here.

            Now consider: The USA has around 2.5 to 3.0 Moslem citizens, according to Wikipedia. About 1/4 are converts, about 3/4 are derived from the middle east, either as immigrants or children or grandchildren of immigrants. Odds are, most of those 2 million or so people have some idea of what Syria is going through right now, and have ideas about what that nation has been through or might hope to become. if only because they actually lived in Syria at some point or lived in a nation which neighbored Syria or had close relatives who had such contact with Syria. To use a phrase, they’re “reasonably well informed.”

            So now I wonder. (A) Should US policy toward Syria be based entirely on the consensus of those reasonably well informed Moslems, many of whom are — let us honestly admit — much more knowledgable about the history and politics of the Middle East than you or I or the average American politician?

            And if your answer is No, then I have to ask (B) Should US space policy, including such matters as the development of the SLS and Orion capsule and the James Webb Space Telescope, and the choice of sending astronauts to a captured asteroid or the Moon or Mars, or even the continuance of a manned US spaceflight program, be based entirely on the consensus views of the people who read and leave comments at SPACE POLITICS, AMERICA SPACE. NASA WATCH, and half a dozen other web sites?

            • Vladislaw

              I seem to look at few you do not ..
              nasaspaceflight
              spaceflightnow
              spacenews
              cosmic log
              cbs news
              parabolic arc
              space review
              flight global
              space today
              Science daily
              Write stuff
              flame trench
              space daily

            • Vladislaw

              When I started reading Space politics 8 years ago.. I was a big rocket supporter…since becoming more informed, that view has changed. That view, and what I now advocate, was changed from reading the blogs. Not the official NASA line. I am not alone. When I first started reading space blogs, when the VSE was announced almost all blogs were positive..

              now .. it is rare to find support for big rockets on blogs. That is all I am saying. There has been a sea change in attitudes from commentators. You can see it on here, the change over the years… Only a few hold outs now.

              • And I’ll throw a big bouquet in Jeff Foust’s direction because I’ve learned a lot about space politics in recent years from this blog.

              • Vladislaw

                I agree with you Stephen and I also have kudos for Jeff and a lot of others who pushed me off of following the standard Congressional/NASA lines .. space is hard therefore we need bigger budgets… When that was not the problem at all.

              • Coastal Ron

                Vladislaw said:

                When I started reading Space politics 8 years ago.. I was a big rocket supporter…

                I was a big fan of DIRECT when I started reading and commenting here. Through debate, discussion and information that others provided, I came to realize that not only was DIRECT not the best path forward, but that any unique, large, government-owned rocket was likely the wrong choice.

                I also did not realize the political aspects of “space” until spending time on Space Politics, and I feel that I am a much better educated and informed citizen because of it’s existence.

                Thank you Jeff. And thank you to the many people whose conversations have contributed in positive ways.

              • mike shupp

                Vladislaw — Decent list. My own taste, I admit, runs to smaller web sites, Fred Zimmerman’s BEYOND THE BLACK or Rand Simberg’s TRANSTERRESTRIAL MUSINGS rather than say THE FLAME TRENCH. Not that I agree with them on politics or all of space policy, but I’m more interested in their opinions than straightforward news.

                As for the value of space blogs, I might mention that I currently go different ways on different days about the future worth of orbiting propellant depots. If I ever do settle on a definite opinion, it will probably be much influenced by the arguments I’ve encountered here and at other blogs — where else is this kind of thing being debated, after all? — and I expect I’ll find opportunity to repeat some of those arguments in comments at other non-space-related blogs which happen to touch upon space matters.

                So I’m not out to disparage space blogs or websites, the splendid people who create and edit them, or the fine people who read and comment on them. I’m just saying we shouldn’t be surprised when our collective wisdom fails to become national policy, and suggesting that perhaps we should occasionally be philosophical about our lack of influence.

              • Coastal Ron

                mike shupp said:

                I might mention that I currently go different ways on different days about the future worth of orbiting propellant depots.

                You don’t need people on this blog to convince you about the need for propellant depots – just consider what would happen if every car you could buy was not able to be refueled anytime you wanted, but instead came with a full, but sealed, propellant tank?

                Or consider how flexible and powerful our military WOULDN’T be if they couldn’t refuel at any time, any where they needed when they are far from base?

                If we don’t implement and master refueling in space, we are doomed to not doing much, and not going far, in space.

              • mike shupp

                Coastal Ron: The question isn’t IF, but WHEN AND HOW.

                I’d dearly love to see reusable manned spacecraft routinely passing from planet to planet (or more realistically, lunar orbit to Martian orbit and back) and this obviously doesn’t happen without refueling capabilities of some sort. But do we build orbiting fuel depots which work with a single type of rocket for a single type of mission (say some future SpaceX vehicle aimed at EM Lagrange Point 3 circa 2030) or general purpose refueling stations for spacecraft of all nations? (Is Representative Wolf going to let a US-owned fuel depot provide fuel to a Chinese rocket? Can you convince the Chinese of this?)

                Have we solved the boil-off problem, so liquid hydrogen can be stored without significant loss, or are the depots empty most of the time, being filled up only just before a particular mission needs them. Should we employ one or two extremely large depots, suitable for refueling Saturn 5 ground stages) or a dozen smaller ones? What’s most economical, and what’s safest? Does the depot operate for a period of years, or is it a one-shot? Or does it make sense to begin with one-shot depots to demonstrate the concept?

                And must we build depots before restarting manned flights to the Moon and elsewhere, or will it be necessary to start flying beyond LEO on a regular basis to convince Congress or other funders that fuel depots will make economic sense? And exactly how might a system of depots be financed: as a traditional NASA program, as a COTS-style program, in cooperation with other nations, or by purely commercial firms which purchase fuel from various sources (dedicated propellant carriers mostly, one would assume, but also ordinary boosters launched with a fuel excess) and sell it for whatever the market bears to anyone who wishes to buy?

                Ah, decisions, decisions!

              • Fred Willett

                Ditto to what Ron said. This is a very informative site. Kudos Jeff.

              • Coastal Ron

                mike shupp said:

                But do we build orbiting fuel depots which work with a single type of rocket for a single type of mission … or general purpose refueling stations for spacecraft of all nations?

                Why do you always try to limit the amount of options?

                To answer this, just take a clue from what we do on Earth. Whatever the first propellant is that we decide to store in space first, it will have a refueling probe that could be standard, or could be unique. That’s up to the operator to decide, but I would bet that they would make it as useful as possible.

                As to whether China would use it, that’s over-thinking the problem. That type of situation here on Earth is handled up front with contracts, which define what the customer wants and what the supplier will supply. The options are endless – again, just like they are here on Earth.

                Have we solved the boil-off problem, so liquid hydrogen can be stored without significant loss, or are the depots empty most of the time, being filled up only just before a particular mission needs them.

                For LH2 ULA thinks the boil-off problem can be mitigated so that it’s pretty low, and that low amount can be used for station keeping (which would need propellant anyways). I think that’s the hardest one to store in space.

                As to mission needs, since boil-off rates can be calculated, getting the right amount of propellant to the right place just becomes a planning exercise.

                And must we build depots before restarting manned flights to the Moon and elsewhere…

                That was the FY11 NASA plan that Congress dumped. Since you have to decide at the beginning when building space hardware if it’s going to be refuelable or not, yes you do have to commit to it up front.

                …or will it be necessary to start flying beyond LEO on a regular basis to convince Congress or other funders that fuel depots will make economic sense?

                The ISS is proof that refuelable spacecraft are a good idea, but it’s impossible to predict what it will take to keep Congress from meddling too much with engineering decisions at NASA.

              • Vladislaw

                Mike Shupp, my apologies, I misunderstood where you were headed. I do agree with you some blog post is not going to change a porkonauts position. I was more about changing the minds of voters. As most are low information voters, they swallow the Congressional/NASA line. Support for space exploration is a mile wide and an inch deep. But as some have said.. you have to change enough minds so a representative can no longer answer a space question with drivel and will have to start having some semblence of reality in their answer.

                I still believe that will each passing year as commercial progresses you will see the pork premium chopped out of NASA until utlizing commercial options WILL be the option.

            • Coastal Ron

              mike shupp said:

              So now I wonder. (A) Should US policy toward Syria…

              As laudable as this attempt at distilling a complex issue is, it’s still too complex of an issue to be distilled down to what you have laid out. It’s a false choice, and it is too off-topic to discuss.

              And if your answer is No, then I have to ask (B) Should US space policy… be based entirely on the consensus views of the people who read and leave comments at SPACE POLITICS, AMERICA SPACE. NASA WATCH, and half a dozen other web sites?

              We elect politicians to make decisions, and sometimes we have to live with decisions that we don’t like. That’s life. But that doesn’t mean we can’t voice our opinions about the things we do and don’t like.

              Politicians do listen to their constituents, although some more than others.

              The value of being an informed electorate is that we can indeed provide feedback when our politicians ask, or at least when they are susceptible to influence from their constituents.

              Though space is really not a local issue, there are national constituents that do help to shape government policy. I strive to illuminate issues and possible solutions so that there are alternatives to what I consider bad choices, and I hope that by making those choices more visible on blogs and various news websites, that I can educate others too.

    • Dark Blue Nine

      “Nice to see all of the negative signs next to the administration requests. We must learn to live within our means. The exception is SLS/Orion, of course.”

      If you’re interested in the health of MPCV/SLS, then comparisons to the Administration’s FY 2014 request are useless. You have to look at the year-over-year trend. In the case of both MPCV and SLS, their budgets are going down. The MPCV/SLS total in FY 2012 was $3,001M. With this op plan, it’s $2,884M in FY 2014.

      The MPCV/SLS budget is slowly decreasing when it needs to be dramatically ramping up. As a result, important developments and tests are being delayed and huge risks taken. MPCV life support testing, for example, has been moved to EM-2 and will only get 30 hours of on-orbit testing before a crew will rely on it to execute a multi-day mission around the Moon:

      http://www.nasaspaceflight.com/2013/09/orion-30-hour-orbital-checkout-prior-tli/

      (Sadly, the ASAP had to remind NASA to conduct some actual in-space testing of MPCV’s life support systems before committing a lunar crew’s lives to it.)

      This is no way to budget for a major development program, in the civil space sector or otherwise. Either add the billions of dollars necessary to bring these behemoths in on some semblance of schedule and capability or terminate them. But don’t break them technically with partial funding and accept the accompanying huge risks. NASA doesn’t need another Space Shuttle.

      • common sense

        “You have to look at the year-over-year trend. In the case of both MPCV and SLS, their budgets are going down. The MPCV/SLS total in FY 2012 was $3,001M. With this op plan, it’s $2,884M in FY 2014.”

        I predicted years ago that Constellation would become a zombie program and I suspect this is exactly what you are observing. As contractors are moving out of the program there is need for less budget to keep them going. If they can “build” something before they are “all” gone then good but attrition is showing.

        Not a chance in the world any one would ramp up their budget. Next WH or not. You do not ramp up a failing program whatever the reason for the failure.

        So here we are. I also suspect that attrition will accelerate and that budget will be “worser” next time around…

        • Dark Blue Nine

          “As contractors are moving out of the program there is need for less budget to keep them going.”

          MPCV/SLS as a (very expensive) retirement program for the Shuttle workforce may be an accurate analogy. But I don’t think that’s what is happening here, at least not yet. I don’t know of any MPCV/SLS contractors coming off these projects or reducing their workforces. I think this is just plain old budget pressure squeezing a program that is only important in terms of its employment. Milestones will slip, additional technical risks will be taken, and content on the margins will be deleted or shipped overseas. But basically the same builds will be done by the same people, just over more and more ridiculously long schedules within a slowly shrinking budget.

          This is in stark contrast to the commercial crew budget, which only received $392M in FY 2012. With this FY 2014 op plan, it’s now up to $525M. It’s the difference between a program that supposed to deliver Shuttle workforce votes (or at least no angry votes for political opponents by fired Shuttle workers) and a program that supposed to deliver hardware, capabilities, and services.

          • common sense

            I am not sure I (totally) agree on this one.

            Constellation was designed to keep the workforce, not Spiral by O’Keefe. Since they are retiring the shuttle workforce and since there is no budget to speak of for Shuttle, those guys are most likely charging to SLS/MPCV. And since there is no work for them on non existent vehicles they are retiring. Otherwise who is charging almost $3.0B to the SLS/MPCV accounts. These were not jobs created “overnight”.

            Sure budget pressure too. I am not denying that. Said pressure that will accelerate the departure and when all is said and done and no one is there to “work” then they will close the accounts.

            • Dark Blue Nine

              “Since they are retiring the shuttle workforce and since there is no budget to speak of for Shuttle, those guys are most likely charging to SLS/MPCV.”

              No doubt. Totally agree. SLS especially was designed to keep the old Shuttle workforce employed and therefore not angrily voting out incumbents in Congress. That’s why Shelby, Hatch, Nelson, et al. mandated that it use the systems and contracts (ET, SSMEs, SRBs, etc.) from Shuttle.

              “And since there is no work for them on non existent vehicles they are retiring.”

              This is where we disagree. All or practically all of the dislocations in the contractors (USA, etc.) that _operated_ Shuttle have taken place. But the production and engineering contractors (USA’s parents, ATK, etc.) have been “saved” by SLS and MPCV and have moved to those “existent” projects (if not vehicles). And as long as there is some promise, however slim, that those projects will produce vehicles, Congressional incumbents will cling to these projects.

              In fact, even in the face of overwhelming evidence that these projects are broken, Congressional incumbents will hang on tooth and nail — witness the Orion/Ares I fiasco, Augustine, and Constellation’s morphing into MPCV/SLS. Their budgets may continue to decline slowly, their technical problems multiply, and their schedules move to the right, but MPCV/SLS aren’t going away through contractor retirements. It will take a White House with more fortitude than the Obama Administration demonstrated during Constellation’s termination to bury these zombies.

              • common sense

                “This is where we disagree. All or practically all of the dislocations in the contractors (USA, etc.) that _operated_ Shuttle have taken place.”

                I understand that.

                “But the production and engineering contractors (USA’s parents, ATK, etc.) have been “saved” by SLS and MPCV and have moved to those “existent” projects (if not vehicles). And as long as there is some promise, however slim, that those projects will produce vehicles, Congressional incumbents will cling to these projects.”

                Here is where I think the problem lies. As I am sure you know there was no design capabilities to perform a task of this magnitude at NASA, civil servants and contractors included. Now. Production? Well I can’t see where they are producing anything so these production types are most likely charging to some engineering design account of some sort. Engineering contractors? What are they engineering? I mean really, maybe MPCV has some semblance of engineering/production and how limited are those capabilities? Suffice to look at the vehicle – what vehicle you might ask but that is a different story, slightly. The fact of the matter is that there is no production to speak of on SLS, some engineering possibly. On MPCV some limited production and engineering. None of those justify a total budget of even a low side $2.5B. Billions!!!! Now if I recall correctly the shuttle workforce requires $200M a month which is $2.4B a year. How odd? Right. And that is without any production and very little engineering. Go figure.

                “In fact, even in the face of overwhelming evidence that these projects are broken, Congressional incumbents will hang on tooth and nail — witness the Orion/Ares I fiasco, Augustine, and Constellation’s morphing into MPCV/SLS. Their budgets may continue to decline slowly, their technical problems multiply, and their schedules move to the right, but MPCV/SLS aren’t going away through contractor retirements.”

                The budget will decline as people retire. It would be fun to have the numbers of people working on Shuttle then on Constellation then on MPCV/SLS and look at the budget. Estimates would not not be all that hard considering an approximate $200/hr labor rate.

                “It will take a White House with more fortitude than the Obama Administration demonstrated during Constellation’s termination to bury these zombies.”

                Never going to happen especially in times of crisis. The lay-offs will occur slowly except for those that are directly working on launches since they have nothing to launch.

                Speculation? Yep. So we shall see.

      • Egad

        MPCV life support testing, for example, has been moved to EM-2 and will only get 30 hours of on-orbit testing before a crew will rely on it to execute a multi-day mission around the Moon

        Compare and contrast:

        Apollo 7 (October 11–22, 1968) was the first manned mission of Project Apollo… It was a C type mission – an eleven-day Earth-orbital mission…

        It flew in Earth orbit so the crew could check life-support, propulsion, and control systems…

        Also, there’s kind of an open question how similar other MPCV systems will be between EM-1 and, four years later, EM-2. Oh, and there’s the service modules — it’s not clear to me how locked in EM-2 is to a euroSM.

        • Dark Blue Nine

          “Compare and contrast:”

          Yeah, Apollo 7 tested life support systems for 260-odd hours. That an order of magnitude longer than EM-2 will test MPCV’s life support systems before risking crew lives in a lunar mission. The MPCV project is performing 10% of the on-orbit life support testing that Apollo performed. And Apollo was a race-driven, all-up, risky approach to engineering development.

          Yep, no unusual or unnecessary risks to missions or astronaut lives being taken to keep these monster employment, er, development projects within their ever declining budgets. No, sir. No risks at all.

          (And the ASAP had to remind the NASA to conduct at least a little on-orbit life support testing before undertaking a lunar mission? How dumb can you get?)

          • Egad

            I think I found the ASAP minutes that address the 30-hour check out. Not all of it makes immediate sense, which is not totally unusual for the minutes of such meetings. Anyway, FWIW,


            http://oiir.hq.nasa.gov/asap/documents/ASAP_Public_Meeting_Minutes_3rd-Qtr-2013.pdf

            NASA AEROSPACE SAFETY ADVISORY PANEL
            National Aeronautics and Space Administration
            Washington, DC 20546
            VADM Joseph W. Dyer USN (Ret.), Chair
            July 29, 2013

            [snip]

            EM-1, the uncrewed mission, is scheduled to fly in December 2017, and it is moving along.

            EM-2 will be the first crewed flight, currently scheduled for 2021. This is the mission that the ASAP had questions about — specifically, a first crewed flight with the first time the ECLSS and other systems would be on board and concerns about how to mitigate risk.

            Mr. Hill illustrated how the Program is addressing the risks, describing several models on how they would do that.

            There is one approach that includes a 30-hour high elliptical orbit (HEO) for checkout before committing to a trans-lunar return. The Program is still exploring this approach. They are also considering combining the first crewed-flight mission with an asteroid mission. This would complicate the mission considerably, and a number of things would need to be resolved. The Program team is in the process of figuring out what will work.

            The ASAP was satisfied that there are activities directed at characterizing and mitigating the risks associated with the first crewed flight, EM-2, and that the first-flight risk would be potentially reduced through the 30-hour checkout proposal. This appears to be a more prudent way to go. The mission planning team will start meeting on July 30 to assess what the mission would look like and options going forward.

  • Alan Ladwig

    NASA treats the Operating Plan like it was some big friggin secret and makes it very hard for the public – and employees – to ever see the data. You shouldn’t have to go to the Hill and beg for a copy from a staffer. It’s a public document so make it public and be done with it.

    • Fred Willett

      The NASA folk running the program know the emperor has no clothes.
      But Congress has told NASA to shut up and build the super rocket. That’s all they can do … and hope funding turns up one day to use it.
      … and if you believe in the tooth fairy…

  • mike shupp

    Oops! The advertising page for THE SPACE REVIEW has a figure of 670.000 pageviews per month, not 560,000. I typed it correctly, I’m sure. But my ISP is using shoddy, second rate electrons to transmit my wisdom to the world. It’s THEIR fault, not mine. Their’s! THEIR’S!!

    Sorry, Jeff.

  • Hiram

    “Should US space policy, including such matters as the development of the SLS and Orion capsule and the James Webb Space Telescope, and the choice of sending astronauts to a captured asteroid or the Moon or Mars, or even the continuance of a manned US spaceflight program, be based entirely on the consensus views of the people who read and leave comments …”

    The answer to your question B is, of course not. But that’s not what is being argued here. The people who read and leave comments on these sites represent a fair quality sample of people who are highly interested in space exploration. FWIW, that sample is telling NASA that they aren’t that excited about SLS and, to the extent that NASA values public excitement and buy-in, NASA might be a little concerned. It’s not a matter of MAKING policy, but rather a matter of assessing policy. NASA might at least be concerned about the quality of their rationale and marketing for SLS. To the extent that SLS is supposed to be “inspirational”, it may not be quite having that effect.

    By the way, it’s “Cowing”, “Foust”, and at least in modern parlance, “Muslim”. I believe the latter word, when pronounced “Mozlem”, means something somewhat insulting in Arabic.

    On another topic for this thread, I note that it was reported that the level budget for JWST was the result of raiding the Planetary Science Division budget. At least, that was reported in Space News two months ago when the operating plan was first being engineered. Planetary Sciences came out with a net positive, but it would have been more positive without that.

  • This morning I uploaded to YouTube a May 1, 1991 House hearing on Space Station Freedom. The link is:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jzTVLIEUBYs

    Even though it’s 22 years ago, it could just as easily be today.

    To begin with, only a couple of House members show up. The time is dominated by then-Rep. Barbara Boxer, who was the subcommittee chair. Representing the minority was Christopher Cox, who went on chair the Securities and Exchange Commission under President George W. Bush.

    Three groups of panelists spoke. For me, the second-hour panelists were the most interesting. Five scientists, and four of them were opposed to not only a space station but human spaceflight in general. Only one, Dr. Robert Bayuzick from Vanderbilt, made a case for long-term human research on an orbiting space platform.

    The final hour was dedicated to Boxer beating up Adm. Richard Truly, who was the NASA Administrator.

    I think the video is instructive because it’s a clear demonstration of why a government human spaceflight program will always struggle to be viable. Most members of Congress don’t care unless it affects their district. Boxer kept grilling Truly about the true cost of operating a space station; Truly didn’t seem capable of justifying the expense, much less knowing what the expense would be. He did several times make the point that certain things NASA was doing were ordered by Congress and inefficient, that Congress dictated actions NASA didn’t support.

    With the exception of Dr. Bayuzick, no one attempted to articulate tangible benefits from microgravity research. He knew, because he was doing it; he’d flown experiments on the Shuttle. Truly, Cox and some others could only cite intangibles like man-was-meant-to-explore.

    The big difference between now and then is that now we have an emerging commercial space market. In the hearing, it was suggested that the private sector would never assume the risk on its own without government support. That’s what happened with commercial cargo and crew, but as we’ve seen there are strictly private ventures like Blue Origin and Bigelow and Virgin Galactic and XCOR and Golden Spike that are going their own way.

    Anyway, if you have no life like me you might find this interesting. We all know that Freedom fell flat on its face. This was known in 1991, but like many NASA programs it died a long lingering death.

  • Jim Nobles

    Apparently Lori Garver doesn’t intend to keep quiet even when leaving NASA.

    Orlando Sentinel article:

    http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/2013-09-06/news/os-nasa-sls-garver-20130906_1_space-launch-system-core-stage-orion-capsule

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