Olson: No More Bailouts (Except in My District)

Congress must fulfill duty to clarify NASA’s future
by U.S. Rep. Peter Olson
The Houston Chronicle

Russia, China and now India and Japan know that the future is still in human space flight. The mission of NASA must ensure that the U.S. remains the global leader. To that end, Congress has a duty to ultimately provide the necessary resources for NASA to accomplish this mission.

The last two Congresses — one controlled by Republicans, the other by Democrats — endorsed NASA’s current path. Unfortunately, they failed to provide the necessary funding. This Congress must meet our commitment to NASA. We must stop bailing out the past in a seemingly endless stream of bailouts and instead start providing for our future.

President Barack Obama rejected this path and instead offered a budget that would walk away from the $9 billion we’ve invested in the next generation exploration vehicle system known as Constellation. He would divert $6 billion in taxpayer dollars, much to companies that have no track record of putting a human in space, let alone ferrying cargo. That is not only wasteful, but potentially reckless. NASA has a nearly 50-year record of human space endeavor.

The House of Representatives has before it a strong bipartisan bill that preserves and improves NASA’s human space flight program, while also helping support private sector research and development in human space flight. This is a wise use of tax dollars that will ensure the continued role of the Johnson Space Center.

OK, a couple of things to note here:

“We must stop bailing out the past in a seemingly endless stream of bailouts and instead start providing for our future.”

Or, as Kang said in the classic “Citizen Kang” episode of The Simpsons:

“The politics of failure have failed. We need to make them work again.”

The massive bailouts of banks and insurance companies are necessary because Rep. Olson, George W. Bush and their fellow Republicans were not interested in regulating the financial system properly. The regulations would be too costly to afford.

In the case of NASA, Olson defines investing in our future as bailing out a Constellation program whose foundation rests upon the badly conceived Ares rockets. This is exactly the type of bailout that Olson is otherwise decrying.

He [Obama] would divert $6 billion in taxpayer dollars, much to companies that have no track record of putting a human in space, let alone ferrying cargo.

This is the Big Lie of the entire debate. NASA officials have said all along that they will spread out commercial funding. They want redundant access to orbit using multiple rockets and spacecraft. They will spread the funding around and hedge their bets.

It’s very likely that a good chunk of the funding would go to United Launch Alliance, which is a joint venture of Lockheed Martin and Boeing. These companies already send satellites into space for NASA and the military aboard two proven rockets.

Lockheed Martin and Boeing are also partners in United Space Alliance, which is the company that oversees space shuttle launches for NASA. There are decades of experience in these companies in building and operating vehicles and launching people and cargo into space.

Instead, Olson perpetuates the myth that most of this money will go to Elon Musk and SpaceX. No one within NASA has said this; their statements indicate the exact opposite. It’s high time that people started calling out these falsehoods.