Rep. Steven Palazzo, (R-MS), chairman of the House Space Subcommittee, has released a rather ominous statement in which he uses frayed relations between the United States and Russia to take a hatchet to NASA’s budget. I’ve put the key phrase in bold.
“When the Obama Administration ended the Constellation program, our nation was forced to depend upon Russian rockets to carry American astronauts into space and maintain a U.S. presence on the International Space Station (ISS). Thankfully, NASA currently maintains access to ISS. But as relations with Russia have been strained over the past few weeks, we can no longer afford to ignore the issues NASA faces. If we are serious about once more launching American astronauts on American rockets from American soil, we must make tough decisions within NASA’s budget. Only when the budget has been stripped of costly and complex distractions will it once again reflect the priorities of the sole government agency tasked with space exploration. In a world that is not getting safer, I believe these are not only matters of national pride, but also of national security.”
Oh, now….what could those distractions be? What indeed? Let me take a wild guess as to what Palazzo has in mind:
- Commercial crew. Nothing seems to bother the pro-private sector, anti-government Republicans in the House more than this effort to turn over this function to commercial companies. My guess is Palazzo either tries to force NASA to down select to one provider immediately, or he tries to cancel the program outright.
- Space Launch System/Orion. The very type of mega-government program that conservatives hate (unless its in their district and state) will be fully funded. The subcommittee might actually request that plans to put crews aboard the Orion vehicle be moved up from 2021.
- Earth sciences. The Republicans have stocked the House Science Committee with global warming deniers. Not one believes that climate change really exists, or that it poses any serious threat to the planet. So, look for that budget to be raided.
- National security. Palazzo will somehow re-define the Space Launch System and Orion as having some type of vital national security role. What that role is will never really be clear. But, it won’t stop them from trying.
Hopefully, this doesn’t get any further than the Space Subcommittee. Palazzo and his merry band tried to radically rewrite NASA’s budget last year. None of their ideas really went anywhere.