Congress, NASA

Gerstenmaier: a “lot of good things” in NRC human space exploration report

Later this morning, the full House Science Committee will hold a hearing on the “Pathways to Exploration” report by the National Research Council’s Committee on Human Spaceflight. The hearing’s charter, posted to the committee’s website yesterday evening, doesn’t offer many hints about committee members’ thoughts or lines of questioning about the report: the charter runs only one page.

At a meeting of the Human Exploration and Operations Committee of the NASA Advisory Council (NAC) on Monday, Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA associate administrator for human exploration and operations, briefly touched upon the NRC’s report. “I think it’s worthwhile to read the report,” he told the committee. “It’s kind of long, but I think there’s a lot of good things in the report that are noteworthy that you should read from the committee’s standpoint.” He added there may be “some actionable items” in the report that may be of interest to the full NAC.

“I think it’ll also be interesting to see how it will be perceived in the hearing this week,” Gerstenmaier added, referring to today’s Science Committee hearing. “You’ve had a chance of seeing us describe the strategy and how we’re actually implementing it, then you’ll get a chance to see how another committee sees that, and responding back could be helpful for us.”

18 comments to Gerstenmaier: a “lot of good things” in NRC human space exploration report

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “I think there’s a lot of good things in the report that are noteworthy that you should read from the committee’s standpoint”

    Particularly the utterly unrealistic annual 5% budget increase ad infinitum, because that’s the only way I can pretend to afford to undertake any actual exploration (or pioneering or whatever) with SLS/MPCV before the heat death of the universe.

    “You’ve had a chance of seeing us describe the strategy and how we’re actually implementing it, then you’ll get a chance to see how another committee sees that, and responding back could be helpful for us.”

    This is a report to the authorization committee, which doesn’t control the purse strings and whose draft legislation doesn’t even affect the current fiscal year, nevertheless future budgets. They’re currently not capable of doing anything “helpful”, and will only use today’s hearing to push their equally unfunded and unrealistic lunar surface return using SLS/MPCV.

    This whole debate (if that word can even be used) is taking place in a deafening echo chamber.

    • James

      When Obama is out, the next new President will convene an “Augustine II” committee to review NASA HSF; they will come to the same conclusion as the NRC; the new President will then cancel NASA HSF.

      The only reason that won’t happen now is because Congress commissioned this NRC Report, not the President.

      Lots of noise and arm waving today, with no real impact on the future.

      I’m predicting more of the same for NASA HSF, with eventual death.

      • James: the new President will then cancel NASA HSF

        Only by not adequately funding it to an even greater degree than now. I don’t think any President likely to actually get elected is going to want to take that leap, nor would Congress support it. A couple of decades ago, that would not have been true, but today, too many special interests would get hurt.

        The “worst” case that I foresee (which is actually the best case) is that said future President (at least if he or she is not from the South) will pull another Obama and try to cancel or gut SLS / Orion in favor of getting someone else to pay for the space program (via COTS and CCtCAP). If someone from the South gets elected, COTS and CCtCAP would be killed or neglected, which would effectively kill the ISS, and SLS / Orion would get the cash – which I believe would be the worst outcome because we’d spend vast sums of money we don’t have failing to get any human spaceflight. However, in that sense, you would be correct. . . .

        – Donald

  • The Clown Car arrives at 10 AM EDT.

  • Egad

    Slightly relevant to this, NASA has recently put up, “Aligned with FY15 Congressional Request”,

    http://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/files/FY15_AMPM.pdf

    Agency Mission Planning Model — (PDF, 51 KB) — chart outlining NASA missions as currently planned through FY 2035.

    Note that all EM missions are footnoted with “SLS and Orion vehicle only – destination/mission elements TBD.” Also, the exploration cadence after 2023 hangs in at one per two years.

    • Coastal Ron

      Egad said:

      Note that all EM missions are footnoted with “SLS and Orion vehicle only – destination/mission elements TBD.” Also, the exploration cadence after 2023 hangs in at one per two years.

      So EM-2 is shown in 2022, which I think is now a one year slip, and EM-3 is in 2023, which has no approved hardware or destination despite being less than 8 years out from a budgetary standpoint (i.e. no funding in FY15 legislation), and then after that NASA will have to violate it’s stated safety rule of flying the SLS at a flight cadence of no-less-than every 12 months by showing the SLS flying at a flight cadence of every two years.

      Well at least NASA is giving everyone 10 years notice that Congress will be forcing them to fly the SLS unsafely…

    • Dark Blue Nine

      “Note that all EM missions are footnoted with ‘SLS and Orion vehicle only – destination/mission elements TBD.’”

      Yeah, you gotta love all the asterisks.

      Oh, but our Director of Advanced Exploration Systems says that we’re going to deploy and supply “staging areas” in high lunar orbit! And at Phobos!

      http://www.spacepolicyonline.com/news/gerstenmaier-praises-nrc-human-space-exploration-report

      Using asterisked SLS launches with no payload besides MPCV at a launch rate of one every two years!

      Oh, wait…

      “Also, the exploration cadence after 2023 hangs in at one per two years.”

      Well, that must be wrong! Gerst said that we have to launch at least once per year to maintain flight safety!

      http://www.nasaspaceflight.com/2014/02/sls-launch-rate-repetitive-cadence-gerstenmaier/

      What a train wreck…

  • Crash Davis

    “This whole debate (if that word can even be used) is taking place in a deafening echo chamber.”

    “The Clown Car arrives at 10 AM EDT.”

    Say Lloyd Christmas and Harry Dunne.

  • Hiram

    Well, geez, the NRC report recommends sizable increases in NASA’s budget to achieve what it calls priority HSF goals. Why in the the world would Gerst NOT like it?

    The quotes from Gerst are hardly very enthusiastic, though. There may be “some actionable items”? Oops. I think the subtext of his mild approval is that calls to shower NASA with money are not only wonderful, but also lacking in credibility. When Gerst says the report is long, of course he’s referring to the fact that, with all those words, they couldn’t come up with creative ideas for a truly affordable approach to satisfying national needs for human space flight.

    “This is a report to the authorization committee, which doesn’t control the purse strings and whose draft legislation doesn’t even affect the current fiscal year, nevertheless future budgets.”

    Yes, but the authorizing committee is charged with exploring long range strategy in the interest of the nation. Authorization legislation is considered a formal “sense of Congress” on that strategy. Right now, approps is concerned with FY15, and this NRC report is pretty irrelevant to FY15. While the Space Subcommittee, which develops the authorization legislation, is largely a training ground where brand new legislators are planted to get their legislative wits about them, they are also the legislators to whom long range strategy may be most relevant. Not capable of doing anything helpful? Think again. Their derailment of the strategy to fondle an asteroid in cis-lunar space is crucially helpful in the interest of doing something better.

    • Dark Blue Nine

      “Yes, but the authorizing committee is charged with exploring long range strategy in the interest of the nation.”

      In theory, but not in practice. The 2010 NASA Authorization Act, which deferred any long-term strategy in favor of preserving Shuttle jobs at any cost now, being a prime case in point. And they haven’t articulated a coherent exploration plan that the appropriators could actually fund, in legislation or anywhere else, in the half decade since.

      “Their derailment of the strategy to fondle an asteroid in cis-lunar space”

      They can’t even get that right:

      http://www.spacepolicyonline.com/news/nasa-announces-arm-candidate-asteroids-study-contracts

      • Hiram

        “they haven’t articulated a coherent exploration plan that the appropriators could actually fund, in legislation or anywhere else, in the half decade since.”

        I never said they were doing their job. I was saying what they were supposed to be doing. To be fair, they are indeed “exploring strategy”. They just aren’t being very creative in making any. They’re at least using words like “Space exploration policy”, “key objectives”, and “stepping stone approach”. To the appropriators, the key is to throw money at congressional districts. They don’t do “policy” or “rationale”.

        “http://www.spacepolicyonline.com/news/nasa-announces-arm-candidate-asteroids-study-contracts”

        Even Marcia doesn’t have it quite right. ARM is about redirecting an asteroid (hence the acronym). Not about sending humans to fondle it. That’s a related program that is linked to ARM. Check out the ARCM (Asteroid Redirect Crewed Mission) concept. I think finding an asteroid to redirect is a great idea, and I’ll bet that Roharbacher thinks it is too. One would like to believe, however, that in the interest of planetary protection, it is understood that bagging a rock isn’t of great forward value.

  • Let’s see how long it takes for Lamar Smith to use this as a platform to renew his call for a 2021 Mars/Venus human flyby … without any funding …

  • Hiram

    You will find the webcast here

    http://www.ustream.tv/channel/hclive10

    Not yet linked to on the House Science site.

  • Hiram

    OK, so let’s dissect this a bit.

    Everyone acknowledged that NASA HSF is in bad shape. The GOP wants to blame it on this administration. To his credit, Mitch Daniels won’t let them get away with that. It’s not about THIS administration, he repeated. It’s about how future administrations build upon each other. There isn’t a lot of utility, he said, about talking about individual administrations (which many of these members really wanted to talk about). That’s politics for you

    There was an unconstructive swipe at Falcon 9H, and a swipe at Earth Science funding as well. That’s a forest and trees kind of a deal.

    The premise that ARM was creating a lot of “dead-end technologies”, in the sense that they wouldn’t contribute to human space flight to Mars, was underscored by members.

    The idea of cooperation with China was queried with some skepticism by several members. The co-chairs response was smart, that, you know, you really don’t know who’s going to be your friend in 30 years.

    I found the discussion of roadmaps and pathways was curious. The Science Committee has proudly mandated that NASA develop a Human Exploration Roadmap that will “define the specific capabilities and technologies necessary to extend human presence to the surface of Mars and the sets and sequences of missions required to demonstrate such capabilities and technologies.” But now the NRC committee co-chairs are saying that no, roadmaps don’t quite do it. What you need is a “pathway”. Huh? Rep. Edwards was properly confused by this, saying that “I’m troubled by the distinction of ‘pathway’ from ‘roadmap’.” I can imagine. I think, but I’m not really sure, that a roadmap is just a plan, but a pathway is considered more of a commitment and a new level of discipline. But, as Edwards mused, it was probably just terminology. The joke here is that they can’t even agree on the words they want to use.

    • Egad

      Rep. Edwards was properly confused

      I don’t know her overall record, but in watching these hearings she’s struck me as having a functioning brain and a sense of what members of Congress are supposed to be doing for the country. Would there more like her.

  • Hiram: Everyone acknowledged that NASA HSF is in bad shape.

    Meanwhile, under the radar, SpaceX, et al, are actually beginning to get somewhere — or SpaceX would be if they would concentrate more on getting their rocket off the ground and little less on pointless legal battles over payloads they aren’t going to win anyway and couldn’t fit into their launch rate if they did.

    – Donald

    • Robert G. Oler

      I am not sure the two talents are mutually exclusive…but I would note this…SpaceX needs to look very carefully at this launch campaign and see where they are going off the rails. they dont seem to be getting “better” at point and shoot. now its early but…RGO

      • Neil

        Yes it is early however OrbComm are on the public record as stating they’d rather a delay of a few weeks than not get to orbit.
        This mission has had some real bad luck and maybe, just maybe, it’s run it’s course. Launch vehicle issues, payload issues, range issues, weather. Just about anything you could think of has happened. Maybe she’ll finally fly in July.
        Oh and I’m sure that as each issue arises, SpaceX will make sure it doesn’t happen again. They have so far. No previous issues have returned TTBOMK.

        So far as NASA and the NRC report goes, well, IMHO it’s a train wreck and not going to get any better. Let’s hope to God that SpaceX can get their act together and keep moving the goal posts. The only issue they seem to be having is getting their birds off the ground – well in fairness it’s only been this launch that has tested them.

        Sources say they’re making really good progress on their other fronts which include FH, Raptor, F9R, DragonFly, Dragon V2 and a couple of pads. Sheesh they have a lot going for a coupany of only 3,500 odd people when you start adding it up.

        There’s a couple of interesting milestones coming up: the Fed. Court case and also the CCtCap award/s of which I think both are important. The case because if SpaceX get the chance to win some of those flights it’s more money to fund their future programs and the latter since this will mean faster development time for Dragon V2.

        Cheers.

Leave a Reply

  

  

  

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>