NASA

Bolden: need to end sequestration and prevent another shutdown

Bolden and Orion

NASA administrator Charles Bolden speaks at a press availability November 17 with hardware for the first Orion test flight, slated for launch in September 2014, in the background. (credit: J. Foust)

In a blog post Thursday, NASA administrator Charles Bolden discussed the new national space transportation policy and its implications for the space agency. “This plan codifies the current, bipartisan priorities of NASA and provides further direction to other Federal agencies in realizing the President’s bold vision for space,” he wrote, discussing the agency’s commercial cargo and crew initiatives.

He also discussed, towards the end of the post, the continued development of the Space Launch System (SLS) heavy-lift rocket and Orion crew spacecraft, programs enabled, he argued, by allowing commercial entities to take over more routine operations in low Earth orbit. “The President’s budget request fully funds NASA’s development of these next generation systems, which will carry U.S. astronauts on deep space exploration missions to an asteroid and Mars. Full funding of the President’s request will enable an uncrewed flight test of Orion in 2014 and the SLS in 2017.”

Last week, the day before the successful launch of NASA’s MAVEN mission to Mars, Bolden visited the facility at the Kennedy Space Center where that first Orion is being assembled for the 2014 uncrewed test launch on a Delta IV Heavy, emphasizing the progress NASA and Orion’s prime contractor, Lockheed Martin, were making on the spacecraft. “My next step for Orion, as NASA administrator, is to go back to Washington, go back to Congress, and said, ‘Look, we are making steady progress. We are delivering on the things we said we were going to do, we need your continued support,’” he said in a brief Q&A with media.

Later, Bolden was asked if that progress he and others emphasized on Orion was making it easier for him to make that case in Congress in an era of constrained budgets. He replied that it was, in fact, becoming harder because of sequestration. “Sequestration is unreasonable,” he said. “My hope as the NASA administrator is that the Congress and the administration find a way to get us out of sequester because that is damaging to the program we have going.”

Bolden also warned against another shutdown like the one that halted most NASA activities for more than two weeks last month, saying it would be “tragic” if another shutdown occurred. “These guys are working at a really nice pace, and they were really moving out and they were doing all kinds of things on the vehicle when we told them they couldn’t come into this building for 16 days,” Bolden said, referring to work on Orion. “We can’t afford to do that again.”

22 comments to Bolden: need to end sequestration and prevent another shutdown

  • Coastal Ron

    I think a good sign of a properly designed program is that it can still move forward with variable funding. And not just move forward, but show results.

    For instance, the Commercial Cargo and Commercial Crew programs haves shown how a relatively small amount of funding can produce near-term results that don’t go away – plateaus of capabilities so to speak. $684M and six years of time got us two new cargo transportation systems.

    Contrast that with mega-programs like the SLS that don’t produce any usable capabilities for decades. DECADES. The SLS is based on the assumption that a long list of mega-space programs will be funded by Congress and will require yearly flights of the largest government-owned rocket in the world.

    Does anyone really believe that will happen, that the Tea Party is going to agree to a massive government program like that? Or that anyone will?

    One of the features of the so called “Flexible Path” was that it could produce tangible results with varying amounts of funding. We are in the mode of varying amounts of funding, so we need to adjust our programs to match that reality, which means it’s time to review old-style programs like the SLS.

  • Hiram

    “Bolden also warned against another shutdown like the one that halted most NASA activities for more than two weeks last month, saying it would be ‘tragic’ if another shutdown occurred.”

    Tragic?? Tragic because the “really nice pace” of the workers would be disrupted? Tragic because they couldn’t come into the building for 16 days? This guy is drinking his own Kool Aid. Now, Bolden has not experienced a Columbia or Challenger on his watch, so let’s cut him some slack in not recognizing real NASA tragedy for what it is. But at least his “tragedy” could be expressed in terms of nationally important tasks that won’t be accomplished in a sequestration. But Bolden won’t tell us that. I have to believe that the Kool Aid hasn’t fully taken effect in him, and he really doesn’t know what tasks of national importance are at risk.

    Look, sequestration is a matter of management stupidity, organizational inefficiency, and political posturing, but let’s save the word “tragic” for things that really deserve it.

    • E.P. Grondine

      Hiram -

      As Bolden personally knew some of the Columbia crew, it is likely he meant “tragic” in a different sense here.

      While were on the subject of “tragedies” though, I assume you yourself will be setting aside your narrow self interests and supporting the ARM now.

  • Jim M

    Hiram; I think we are seeing a tragedy in the making albeit, in slow motion. Perhaps it has not killed any one yet, but it is taking many lives. It is called the Orion CEV. As Coastal Ron points out, It is totally redundant with the Boeing CST100 and Dragon, both of which are further along, less expensive, and can be operated at considerably lower cost. The over-sized, overweight Orion will never be operated efficiently. The real tragedy is that after nearly a decade, there is no architecture except for an Apollo look alike that requires such a vehicle. Apollo did not make sense for the long term and everyone saw that 45 years ago, but after a decade NASA management has not come to grips with this. This is a true tragedy.

    • Hiram

      “I think we are seeing a tragedy in the making albeit, in slow motion. Perhaps it has not killed any one yet, but it is taking many lives. It is called the Orion CEV.”

      I think that fits neatly in the “organizational inefficiency” and “managerial stupidity” categories. To the extent that commercial carriers will outperform it, Orion will simply die on its own, much as SLS will. The tragedy of that, of course, could be thought of as development dollars wasted. But those development dollars were just political payoffs to strong NASA supporters in Congress. That being the case, that money could more pragmatically be considered to have been well spent. Organized crime calls it “protection money”. Space exploration is expensive. In more ways than you might have thought.

  • Andrew Swallow

    “Sequestration is unreasonable,” he said. “My hope as the NASA administrator is that the Congress and the administration find a way to get us out of sequester because that is damaging to the program we have going.”

    This is about getting money so Bolden is having to speak like a politician. They are all having to give reasons why their part of government spending should not be cut.

    Many agencies just give emotional excuses why spending must continue. They ignore any cuts and just overspend. NASA has obeyed the sequestration by cutting an entire program. The Advanced Stirling Radioisotope Generator (ASRG).
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Advanced_Stirling_Radioisotope_Generator

    • Coastal Ron

      Andrew Swallow said:

      NASA has obeyed the sequestration by cutting an entire program. The Advanced Stirling Radioisotope Generator (ASRG).

      I read an article about the ASRG, and it had the potential to only need 25% the amount of Plutonium.

      Considering how hobbled NASA already is by a lack of Plutonium, it sure doesn’t make sense for NASA to kill off this program, because it’s going to severely limit the number of robotic missions NASA can field in the future. Penny-wise but pound foolish.

      Don’t know if this could be directly blamed on sequestration, but it can certainly be blamed on the lack of direction and focus from Congress.

    • Coastal Ron

      Regarding the Advanced Stirling Radioisotope Generator (ASRG), Gizmag has good article about how this decision will affect NASA’s Planetary Science Division:

      NASA’s cancellation of Advanced Sterling Radioisotope Generator casts doubt on future deep-space missions

      The closing paragraph of the article is:

      It appears to this occasionally paranoid writer that the only purpose of this plan, if indeed it was conceived with a purpose in mind, is to largely shut down NASA’s Planetary Science Division by preventing it from carrying out a sustainable launch program. It does seem clear that, intended or not, this is likely to be the effect.

      I wonder if Congress even cares…

      • RockyMtnSpace

        “I wonder if Congress even cares…”

        Clearly this administration doesn’t. It was their call to end the ASRG effort.

        • Coastal Ron

          RockyMtnSpace said:

          It [the Administration] was their call to end the ASRG effort.

          OK. And that was caused by what? A lack of fiscal stability from Congress which caused the Administration to try and protect short-term initiatives at the expense of longer-term opportunities?

          I don’t think anyone has clean hands in this, but the inability of Congress to provide any funding stability is causing havoc across the board in this country, and not just with NASA programs.

  • Jim M

    “organizational inefficiency” and “managerial stupidity”

    This managerial stupidity is killing the NASA human space flight program. That is a tragedy.

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “Bolden also warned against another shutdown like the one that halted most NASA activities for more than two weeks last month, saying it would be ‘tragic’ if another shutdown occurred. ‘These guys are working at a really nice pace, and they were really moving out and they were doing all kinds of things on the vehicle when we told them they couldn’t come into this building for 16 days,’ Bolden said, referring to work on Orion. ‘We can’t afford to do that again.’”

    NASA can now afford months of delays on MPCV. ESA is slipping the PDR for the SM by six months, and the date for the 2017 EM-1 test mission for both SLS and MPCV is now up in the air.

    “The European Space Agency (ESA) on Nov. 22 announced that its work on the propulsion module for NASA’s Orion crew-transport vehicle has been slowed by a further six months… The first flight with the ESA-produced propulsion module for Orion had been scheduled for 2017.”

    ESA Work on Orion Propulsion System Delayed Six Months
    http://www.spacenews.com/article/civil-space/38312esa-work-on-orion-propulsion-system-delayed-six-months

    • Neil Shipley

      No need really to point out that delay will add many more millions of dollars to the final cost of the MPCV. Slip the program and that’s inevitable. More budget blowout.

  • amightywind

    There will be no shutdown, but sequestration will remain in place. The GOP will delay everything in congress, including spending cuts, immigration, and entitlement reform, to let the dems marinate in Obamacare.

    ESA is slipping the PDR for the SM by six months

    The Bush Administration insured that there would be no foreign entities in the critical path of Constellation. Will the internationalists never learn?

    • common sense

      “The Bush Administration insured that there would be no foreign entities in the critical path of Constellation. Will the internationalists never learn?”

      More nonsense as usual. No wonder why you are a conservative right wing Republican. Nonsense seems to stick with you.

      Only Griffin damaged the relationship with international partners. The original CEV from Lockheed Martin was extensively associated with EADS and Northrop Grumman had Alenia for structures.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crew_Exploration_Vehicle

      ” – Northrop Grumman associated with Boeing as subcontractor for the Spiral One, Alenia Spazio, ARES Corporation, Draper Laboratory and United Space Alliance
      – Lockheed Martin associated with EADS SPACE Transportation, United Space Alliance, Aerojet, Honeywell, Orbital Sciences, Hamilton Sundstrand, and Wyle Laboratories (awarded the contract August 31, 2006).”

    • Dark Blue Nine

      “The Bush Administration insured that there would be no foreign entities in the critical path of Constellation. Will the internationalists never learn?”

      Exporting the SM had nothing to do with foreign relations. SLS and MPCV are too expensive for the budget, and NASA looked to ESA to make up some of the shortfall.

  • President Obama might want to consider proposing the elimination of NASA due to funding concerns.

    US House leadership, would no doubt, magically find a few more billion just to spite the President. Play the neo-non-conservatives to their weakness.

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