Yeah, What John said…

My old GW professor, space policy analyst John Logsdon, has written a great op-ed piece for Space News that sums up my own view of President Obama’s proposed space policy and the often hysterical opposition to it:

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NASA Future Uncertain After House Vote

Ares I-X lifts off from the Cape.

NASA budget: Lawmakers make no decision on Constellation, space shuttle future
Orlando Sentinel

A key congressional committee sidestepped a potential vote on NASA’s future Tuesday, opting to take no position on White House plans to scrap NASA’s moon-rocket program and replace the space shuttle with commercial rockets.

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Constellation’s Congressional Supporters Not Amused By Obama’s Latest Attempt to Kill the Program

Ares 1-X

As you might have expected, the Obama Administration’s decision to invoke the Anti-Deficiency Act in order to shut down the Constellation program has not gone over real well with Congressional supporters of NASA’s human spaceflight effort. I’ll let the senior Senator from the Lone Star State explain it all:

Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), Ranking Member of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, today said NASA leadership was skirting the law to shut down the Constellation program after NASA leadership publicly announced a decision to reprioritize work on the program. NASA’s stated justification for these actions is the Anti-Deficiency Act (ADA), which prohibits spending funds beyond levels that are appropriated in a given year, or obligating the government to pay money before funds have been appropriated. There are a number of unanswered questions on whether the ADA would apply in this situation, and if it did, the recently passed Defense Supplemental legislation clarifies that regardless of any provision of law, work must continue on the Constellation program.

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Congress, White House Get Down to Bargaining on NASA Budget

Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center

The Houston Chronicle reports that the White House and Congress are beginning to get down the hard business of negotiations on NASA’s new budget:

The political potshots have subsided and the serious horse-trading lies ahead as the White House and Congress grind toward a compromise to salvage parts of the NASA moon program crucial to Houston’s Johnson Space Center. The legislative end-game is up in the air, as is any clear date to declare success or defeat. But the mood surrounding the space program in the nation’s capital has shifted from seizing partisan advantage to pursuing at least some political pragmatism….

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Proposal Would Allow Ares Tests to Support NASA’s Heavy-Lift Vehicle

Ares I-X lifts off from the Cape.

Ambitious Ares test flight plan proposed for HLV demonstrations
NASASpaceflight.com

A plan has been created for the continued use of Ares via a series of test flights, ultimately leading up to a Heavy Lift Vehicle (HLV) program in the second half of this decade. Appearing to bank on major changes being negotiated by Congress in NASA’s FY2011 budget proposal, the plan would result in three Ares I test flights being conducted by the end of 2014…

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Shutting Down Constellation Program to be a Long, Costly Affair

Ares I-X rolls out to the launch pad at Cape Canaveral.

NASA’s tough mission: Dismantling Constellation
Orlando Sentinel

Obama’s 2011 budget proposal provides $2.5 billion to pay contractors whatever NASA owes them so the agency can stop work on Constellation’s Ares rockets, Orion capsule and Altair lunar lander. But administration officials acknowledge that this number is, at best, an educated guess…

Many inside and outside of the space agency, however, think the number is too low.

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Meanwhile, Down in the Sunshine State….

Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center

A few developments from Florida:

  • Gov. Charlie Crist is holding a “space summit” in Orlando on Thursday with more than 200 industry, political and community leaders to develop a joint approach to NASA’s proposed change of course. Florida Today has more….
  • Sen. Bill Nelson – who at first was critical of the change – seems to be warming to it a bit. He will chair a meeting of the Senate space and science subcommittee next week in which he will explore what can be saved from the Constellation program if it is indeed canceled. Nelson seems particularly interested in having a firm plan for a heavy-lift vehicle for flights to the moon and Mars. Read more here
  • Representatives Bill Posey and Suzanne Kosmas are among 27 House members who signed a letter to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden calling on him not to cancel any part of the Constellation program without Congressional approval. The bipartisan group also included representatives from Alabama, California, Louisiana, New Jersey, Ohio, Texas, Utah, West Virginia and Virginia.

Conservative Freshman Congressman Tries to Save Massive Government Space Effort

Ares I-X rolls out to the launch pad at Cape Canaveral.

The upcoming battle over the future of NASA should be very interesting, if for no other reason than to watch politicians trying to balance between deeply held principles and political expedience.

The Houston Chronicle points to just such a case today: freshman Texas Congressman Pete Olson. The ironies are quite deep in this one.

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Space Review Examines NASA Policy Shift

In The Space Review this week:

  • Jeff Foust looks at NASA’s proposal to shift toward commercial providers for human spaceflight.
  • Taylor Dinerman cautions that by raising NewSpace’s profile, the new NASA policy could endanger entrepreneurial space efforts.
  • Wayne Eleazer warns this may be another case of a “one size fits all” decision that doesn’t really fit the nation’s space access needs.
  • Dwayne Day finds little evidence that NASA will be ceding the moon to China with the new policy.
  • Dwayne also examines a recent claim that Obama changed course because of “space Nazis.”

Constellation Cancellation Presents Challenges, Opportunities for DOD

Obama’s Move To End Constellation Prompts Industrial Base Questions
Space News

[Air Force Gen. Robert] Kehler said the president’s decision to do away with Constellation and foster new commercial space transportation services presents both opportunities and challenges for the Air Force.

“I’m not a glass-half-empty kind of guy on this one,” he said. “I think we’ve got some opportunity there to go work together with NASA and commercial to make sure that we are preserving the essential pieces of the industrial base we have to go preserve.”

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Dinerman: Private Companies Not Up to the Task of Human Spaceflight

An artist's conception of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket lifting off from Florida.

Taylor Dinerman has an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal in which he says the private sector is not up to Barack Obama’s challenge that it take over human spaceflight:

The private sector simply is not up for the job. For one, NASA will have to establish a system to certify commercial orbital vehicles as safe for human transport, and with government bureaucracy, that will take years. Never mind the challenges of obtaining insurance.

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Task Force Formed in Huntsville to Fight Constellation Cancellation

Ares I-X lifts off from the Cape.

Huntsville Mayor Unveils Task Force To Fight For NASA’s Constellation Program
WHNT-TV

On Friday morning, Mayor Tommy Battle unveiled the “Second To None Initiative,” his task force for space exploration. It brings together a group of community leaders and national experts with the goal of protecting NASA’s future in Huntsville. Mayor Battle spoke at a news conference, along with former U.S. Representative Robert E. “Bud” Cramer. The task force’s goal is to restore full funding to NASA’s Constellation program.

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