U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), ranking member of the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee, today wrote a letter to NASA Inspector General Paul Martin calling for an investigation of the Augustine Commissionâ€™s staff. The Augustine Commission was tasked with reviewing U.S. human space flight activities and presenting objective options to the President on the optimal path going forward. In light of the fact that several members of the Commissionâ€™s staff are federally registered lobbyists for the commercial space industry, Shelby called on NASA to investigate how these staff membersâ€™ involvement affected the Commissionâ€™s findings:
Sources close to the administration say a presidential decision based on the Augustine panelâ€™s options is not expected before Christmas. Meanwhile, language contained in the Senate version of the bill could complicate the administrationâ€™s efforts to change direction and pursue an alternate architecture by requiring the president to submit proposed changes to the spending plan in the form of a 2010 budget amendment.
Meanwhile, budget maneuvers continue on Capitol Hill. Last week, the Senate passed a $18.7 billion budget for NASA. However, the bill must be reconciled with a House bill that cut $670 million out of the space agency’s human spaceflight program. The reduction was made due to uncertainty over the Obama Administration’s direction on human spaceflight.
The Mars Society has released a statement in which it basically rejects all five options for the American human spaceflight program put forth last week by the Augustine Commission.
Instead of accepting the limited options presented by the Committee, we urge the Administration to follow a sixth option: Task NASA to develop, within 120 days, a minimum cost, minimum schedule mission to land humans on Mars…
Ain’t going to happen. But, good luck with that…
If you’re interested, the full statement is reproduced after the break.
XCOR CEO and Augustine Commission member Jeff Greason addressed the panel’s report in an interview with the Orlando Sentinel. He had a few choice things to say about criticism of the commission’s findings and U.S. space policy:
OS: Now, let me put something to you that has been put to me. I donâ€™t necessarily agree with it but it is a sentiment that is out there. By not finding anything useful the U.S. can do in space for NASAâ€™s current human space flight budget of $7 billion or $8 billion a year, the committee failed. Whatâ€™s your reaction to that sentiment?
JG: Itâ€™s not failure to point out truth. The truth is the truth. And it is high time that national space policy was made on the basis of truth and not on the basis of convenience. It is not true to say that we found there is nothing NASA can do within its current budget. There are two options laid out in the report that NASA can do with its current budget. What we did not find was a way for NASA to do significant human exploration beyond low Earth orbit in the near term with this current budget.Â And I donâ€™t like that answer either but that is not going to change it.
Shelby lashes out at White House space committee Orlando Sentinel
Republican Senator Richard Shelby launched a preemptive strike on President Barack Obama’s blue ribbon space panel the day before it was due to release its final report, calling the committeeâ€™s findings â€œworthless.â€
Human Space Flight Review Committee Chairman Norman Augustine will hold a press conference at 1 p.m. EDT, on Thursday, Oct. 22, in the Zenger Room of the National Press Club, 529 14th St. NW, in Washington.
Augustine will be accompanied by committee member Ed Crawley. Printed copies of the committee’s final report will be available during the press conference and an electronic copy of the report will be posted to the committee’s Web site at the start of the briefing.
Panel downplays risks of launch; NASA manager calls finding ‘a cop-out’ Florida Today
A presidential panel studying options for the nation’s human space program downplayed launch risk as a significant factor Thursday in evaluating the dangers astronauts will face on future flights.
Doing so — for the purposes of the group’s report to President Barack Obama — means that all NASA, military and commercial rockets rate the same in terms of relative risk despite differing levels of maturity, complexity and crew safety.
The director of NASA’s embattled moon-Mars program says President Barack Obama’s human spaceflight commission is making false claims about the advantages of alternatives and ignoring “anything positive” about the program NASA already has spent $9 billion on over the past five years.
In a forceful floor speech, Alabamaâ€™s senior senator defended NASAâ€™s current plan to return astronauts to the moon and jabbed the recent findings of a presidential space panel tasked with evaluating the agencyâ€™s troubled Constellation program.
The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) will host a panel of experts to discuss the implications of the Augustine Commission report, “Review of U.S. Human Space Flight Plans.” Scheduled for Monday, October 5 at 2:00 p.m. EDT* as a live, streaming, Internet radio broadcast, the discussion will be moderated by Dr. David Livingston, host of “The Space Show with Dr. David Livingston,” and may be accessed at www.thespaceshow.com. (*Note: Scheduling is subject to the actual release of the final report.)
The Review of U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee will hold a public teleconference on Thursday, Oct. 8, from approximately 1 to 2 p.m. EDT. The only topic for discussion will be finalization of scoring of options the committee presented in their summary report on Sept. 8.
This meeting will be held by teleconference only. The teleconference will be open to the public. The service limit is approximately 300 dial-in callers. Public participants will be in a listen-only mode. The following numbers are available to hear the teleconference:
Toll-free number: 1-888-373-5705 Other number: 1-719-457-3840 Participant Passcode: 190078
The meeting must be held on this date for the committee’s final report to support the time frame associated with the federal budget process. For this reason, it is not possible to accommodate the usual full public notice period. A notice in the Federal Register is expected to appear on or about Oct. 6.