Sen. Shelby Slams Augustine Commission, Demands Investigation Into Alleged Conflicts of Interest

richard-shelbyRICHARD SHELBY PRESS RELEASE

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 Commission’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 Commission’s staff are federally registered lobbyists for the commercial space industry, Shelby called on NASA to investigate how these staff members’ involvement affected the Commission’s findings:

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What Will NASA Get for Christmas?

ares_Ix_launch

A space policy update from Space News:

Sources close to the administration say a presidential decision based on the Augustine panel’s options is not expected before Christmas. Meanwhile, language contained in the Senate version of the bill could complicate the administration’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.

Read the full story.

Space Review: Augustine, Robotics and Distributed Satellites

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The Space Review has four new essays this week:

  • The Planetary Society’s Louis Friedman writes an open letter to Obama urging the President to calls the Augustine commission report into and a blueprint for a bold new space exploration program;
  • Jeff Foust reports on some of the important space policy issues that do not involve NASA’s human spaceflight program;
  • Taylor DInerman discusses major issues and budgetary concerns involving NASA’s robotic space efforts;
  • Foust looks at a DARPA project that involves splitting up a large spacecraft into several smaller, interconnected satellites.

Mars Society: Go Directly to Mars, Do Not Pass Augustine

mars_panorama

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.

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Space Review Looks at Augustine, RLVs and Saddam Hussein

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The Space Review features the following articles this week:

  • Jeff Foust reports on the reaction to the Augustine Commission report and how the report is the next step, but not the last step, in crafting a new space policy.
  • Taylor Dinerman sees some encouraging signs that big companies and the government are taking a renewed interest in reusable launch vehicles.
  • Sam Dinkin looks at how further improvements in morbidity can make space settlement imminent.
  • Dwayne Day looks at Saddam Hussein’s effort to develop a space program.

Greason: U.S. Space Policy Must Be Based on “Truth”

jeff-greasonXCOR 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 don’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 NASA’s current human space flight budget of $7 billion or $8 billion a year, the committee failed. What’s your reaction to that sentiment?

JG: It’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.  And I don’t like that answer either but that is not going to change it.

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Augustine Commission Report: Key Points

Ares I-X rolls out to the launch pad at Cape Canaveral.
Ares I-X on the pad awaiting its October 27 launch. Ares may have the shortest lifespan of any rocket in history.

There were a number of key takeaways from the Augustine Commission’s press conference today:

  • The Ares I can be built, but it will take so long (until 2017) that it makes no sense to build it;
  • Extending space shuttle operations beyond next year would delay the debut of a successor vehicle by years;
  • The commercial sector is sufficiently advanced that it can handle orbital operations, leaving NASA to concentrate on missions beyond Earth orbit;
  • Moon landings are not the only option for human mission;
  • Going to Mars directly makes no sense financially or technically;
  • NASA Administrator Charles Bolden needs the authority to be able to restructure the agency to maximize efficiency and to be held accountable in the same way as a CEO of a company would be for results.

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Shelby Slams Augustine Commission on Eve of Report Release

richard-shelby

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 committee’s findings “worthless.”

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Augustine Commission Report Set for Thursday Release

augustine_logoNASA PRESS RELEASE

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.

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Augustine Panel Downplays Launch Risks Over NASA Objections

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

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.

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Constellation Chief Slams Augustine Commission, Commercial Spaceflight Option

ares-1x-assembled

Moon-Mars chief knocks ‘false claims’
Florida Today

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.

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Job Insecurity in New Orleans as Constellation Decision Looms

constellationObama may decide fate of New Orleans NASA jobs
WVUE-8 TV

President Obama may effectively decide how long most of the jobs at Michoud stay in place.

A presidential commission will issue its final report in coming weeks and could recommend an extended life for the space shuttle program.

Amidst that backdrop, Senator David Vitter, R-Louisiana, hosted a public forum at the NASA assembly facility in New Orleans East, a gathering that drew a room full of anxious engineers.

“I want to stay in New Orleans but it’s hard to find jobs,” said Matthew Stiegler, a Lockheed-Martin employee whose father worked in both the Apollo and Shuttle programs at Michoud.

Read the full story.

AIAA Panel to Discuss Augustine Commission Report

aiaaPRESS RELEASE

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.)

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Augustine Commission to Hold Meeting to Score Spaceflight Options

augustine_logoNASA PRESS RELEASE

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.