Elvis, Robert Goulet and Mars

Elvis' frenemy, Robert Goulet (Credit: Vera Goulet)

by Douglas Messier
Parabolic Arc Managing Editor

Rumor has it that Elvis Presley hated — just hated — singer Robert Goulet. It seems that while Elvis was in Germany serving in the Army, the velvety voiced singer was putting the moves on one of King’s girls back home.  Nobody did that to the King, baby! And so began a lifelong enmity between the two former friends.

One day, the story goes, Elvis was watching television when Goulet appeared on it. Rather than just changing the channel like any other mortal, the King took out his revolver and shot out the television screen, sending sparks everywhere and members of his Memphis Mafia diving for cover.

Did this actually happen? Yes. But, Goulet said that he was actually friends with Elvis and that he didn’t take the shooting personally:

He also shot 50 other people. They told me that he had about a hundred sets in the basement. And he’d shoot the damn thing out – you know he was on pills and he didn’t know quite what he was doing and he’d BANG! and they’d look at each other and say, “Get another set!”…The point is I knew he was not himself so therefore it wasn’t anything to do with me. He shot out Mel Torme. He shot out Frank [Sinatra]. But I get all the credit.

I recalled that story this week as Congress began its annual hearings on NASA’s budget. Every time I watch one of these things on NASA TV, I want to pull an Elvis and shoot out the television. Only I don’t have a TV or a gun, so I watch online. And since I don’t have 100 spare computers sitting around, I just avoid the hearings all together.

Unlike Elvis, I’m not hopped up on anything. However, I’m not sure I can say the same of our duly elected representatives in Congress. Their pronouncements and decisions don’t seem to make any sense. And based upon media reports, that pattern continued this week. Consider the following:

Wolf Eyes Commercial Crew Budget for Mars Relief
Space News

The chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee that funds NASA appealed to the agency to reduce the scope of its Commercial Crew Program and direct resulting savings into robotic Mars exploration, which is in line for deep cuts.

Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) asked NASA Administrator Charles Bolden during a March 21 hearing on the agency’s 2013 budget the same question he asked of the White House’s chief science adviserlast month: would NASA’s partnership with commercial companies to develop astronaut transports be cheaper if the companies competing for NASA funds combined their efforts into a single “all for one and one for all” project?

“At least give them an opportunity to express whether or not they could,” Wolf urged Bolden during the hearing. “Any savings that we could get would also allow us to continue the Mars program.”

Wolf urged NASA to have that conversation sooner rather than later. “There will be a point where people have made so many investments in so many different processes that can’t be connected and therefore it’s too late,” Wolf said. “At least give them an opportunity to express whether or not they could” cooperate.

Now, I don’t know why I — a moderate Democrat and Barack Obama supporter — need to be the one to explain the benefits of competition to a Republican. But, suffice to say that to my ears, Wolf sounds like the avowed socialist here. (ZING!)  What he’s saying makes no sense whatsoever.

Elvis shoots Scratchy. (Credit: The Simpsons/20th Century Fox)

Just reading this….It just makes me want to….must resist urge to…get a hold of yourself…keep it together, Big D!

OK. I’m all right now. Calm. Safe place. Think Graceland.

I also get tired of saying this over and over again: the more you cut commercial crew, the longer we have to pay the Russians to send our astronauts to the space station. You can either pay the $400 million now to American companies, or pay the Russians that amount (and possibly much more) later. Orion and the Space Launch System aren’t going to come riding over the hill like the cavalry to save the day.

Why does this man want to drive up costs and keep us dependent upon the Russians longer than we have to in order to get a few pounds of Martian rocks back to Earth in about a decade from now? That’s providing that NASA’s budget could even sustain such an effort, which looks unlikely given the squeeze that the federal spending is under.

Congressional nonsense would be bad enough if NASA’s leader wasn’t giving legislators a reason to cut the budget even further. During the hearing, Bolden disagreed with Director of Commercial Spaceflight Development Phil McAlister, who had earlier said the program wouldn’t be worth doing unless it got full funding this year, according to Jeff Foust:

Bolden disagrees with earlier comment by NASA’s Phil McAlister, says program still makes sense even if not fully funded in FY13

Wrong. The correct answer when asked if you really need all the money you’re requesting for something is, YES! Yes, dammit! We gotta get Americans back into space! On our own ships! And this is the best way to do it! If we wait for SLS/Orion, we’ll won’t have our own access to space for 10 years! That’s unacceptable! Who wants that?

OK. after that little rant, I feel better now.

Until the next set of hearings, I’ll leave you with this classic Elvis clip, which nicely of sums up my frustrations with the endless talk on the Hill: