Cash-Strapped NASA Probably Needs International Help to Get Back to the Moon

“Gimme Some Money” by Spinal Tap (“This is Spinal Tap”)

Strapped NASA might need global space partners
Orlando Sentinel

If the White House decides to return astronauts to the moon or send them to explore the solar system, NASA may have to look to Moscow, Paris, Tokyo and possibly even Beijing for help.

The reason: money. Without a massive increase in its budget, the agency won’t be able to send humans past the International Space Station anytime soon, according to a presidential panel that recently reviewed NASA’s manned space program.

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Final Augustine Commission Report Due in October

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The Augustine Commission’s full report on the future of America’s human spaceflight program will probably not be delivered for about two more weeks, the Huntsville Times reports. A draft report was released on September 9.

The commission, formed to advise the new Obama Administration, was given 120 days to submit a final report. That corresponds to mid-October.

Next Step in Space Coalition: NASA, Commercial Space Efforts Compatible

Model of NASA's Orion spacecraft
Model of NASA's Orion spacecraft

NEXT STEP IN SPACE PRESS RELEASE
September 22, 2009

Next Step in Space, a coalition of businesses, organizations, and people working toward ensuring the future of human spaceflight in the United States, today issued a white paper titled “Acquiring U.S. Commercial ISS Crew and Cargo Services Creates New Industry in LEO, Enables Program for Exploration Beyond” to help clarify issues discussed at a September 15th hearing of the House Committee on Science & Technology on “Options and Issues for NASA’s Human Space Flight Program.”

“Some comments made at the House hearing last week incorrectly suggested that the Augustine Committee’s recommendation to procure crew services to the International Space Station would necessarily be in lieu of further development of NASA’s exploration program to travel beyond Earth orbit,” said Bretton Alexander, President of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation. “However, these two programs are complementary, not competitive. As former NASA Administrator Mike Griffin has pointed out numerous times, the Constellation Program is designed and optimized for missions beyond low-Earth orbit, not for Space Station servicing.”

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Space Review Looks at Augustine, Mars and a Xombie

Altair
Altair

The Space Review has three pieces about the Augustine Commission, an old Mars movie, and the flight of the Xombie:

  • The $3-billion-a-year question – Jeff Foust looks at why we need a human spaceflight program.
  • NASA’s next step: Augustine (and Obama) versus Congress – Taylor Dinerman describes how the debate in Congress could put more pressure on the White House to provide additional funding for the current Constellation program.
  • Human space flight: in praise of (a modified) Option 4B – Edward Ellegood makes an argument in favor of the commission’s options (I don’t know either – read it!)
  • Planet Hollywood, part 1: Mission to Mars – Dwayne Day reviews the first of those films, Mission to Mars, whose efforts at technical accuracy were spoiled by a bad plot.
  • A Xombie over Mojave – Jeff Foust reports on the Masten’s Xombie flight in Mojave last week.

Augustine: NASA Budget Situation Even Worse Than It Looks

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Some sobering words about America’s predicament in space, courtesy of Norm Augustine and Aviation Week:

Augustine said the situation actually is worse than reflected in agency funding charts because so much of NASA’s overhead is charged to the shuttle program. Once the shuttle program is shut down, he said, that overhead will be charged elsewhere on the agency’s books – “probably to the Constellation program.”

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AIA: Human Spaceflight Needs More Money

aialogosm

AEROSPACE INDUSTRIES ASSOCIATION PRESS RELEASE

The summary issued yesterday by The Review of U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee, chaired by Norm Augustine, points to a crossroads in human space exploration programs, AIA President and CEO Marion Blakey said.

“We agree with the Committee’s conclusion that the U.S. faces a critical need for greater investment in the future of human space exploration,” said Blakey. “American leadership in this crucial international arena is perishable without a national commitment and a program matched with the resources needed for its execution.”

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Planetary Society Supports Augustine Commission Findings

Ares 1-X undergoing assembly
Ares 1-X undergoing assembly

THE PLANETARY SOCIETY PRESS RELEASE

Today, Norman Augustine, the Chair of the U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee, testifies to the U.S. Congress to present the summary of their final report to the Obama Administration. The Committee made a number of important conclusions and suggestions for changes in Constellation, the currently planned U.S. human spaceflight program.

“The Planetary Society agrees with their principal conclusion that human space exploration requires a gradual buildup of the NASA budget to at least $3 billion above the current level by 2014,” said Louis Friedman, Society Executive Director. “We also concur with their specific suggestions about changes to NASA’s planned program.” Those specific suggestions were:

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NSS Statement on Augustine Commission Report

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The NSS released a statement on Friday concerning the Augustine Commission report:

The National Space Society (NSS) welcomes the release of the Summary Report of the Review of U.S. Space Flight Plans Committee, better known as the Augustine Commission. NSS thanks the Commission for its hard work and due diligence, and for a thorough job given the time and resources available to its members.

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Griffin v. Augustine: Round 10

Former NASA Administrator Mike Griffin
Former NASA Administrator Mike Griffin

As one might expect, former NASA Administrator Mike Griffin isn’t digging what the Augustine Commission had to say, the Orlando Sentinel reports:

Former NASA Administrator Michael Griffin apparently has sent a scathing memo to friends and supporters in Washington, lashing out at the work of the presidential committee reviewing NASA’s human space flight plans and calling some of its recommendations  “irresponsible.”

In the 11-point email sent out Wednesday and made available to the Orlando Sentinel today, Griffin — the intellectual architect and champion of NASA’s Constellation Program of Ares rockets and Orion capsules — accused the committee of doing shoddy work and failing to make clear why Constellation isn’t viable and why the Ares I is a failed rocket.

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Musk: Dragon Could Fly Humans to ISS Quickly, Inexpensively

Artists conception of SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft in orbit
Artists conception of SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft in orbit

Space.com reports that SpaceX’s founder made bold claims about his company’s ability to make commercial human spacecraft available:

Elon Musk, president of Hawthorne, Calif.-based Space Exploration Technologies, said in a Sept. 8 teleconference with reporters that his company could have a commercial crew transportation capability ready within three years of a contract award. He said the cost of transporting astronauts to low Earth orbit would run about $20 million per seat, assuming four flights a year on the planned seven-passenger Dragon.

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CSF Hearts Augustine

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CSF PRESS RELEASE

The Commercial Spaceflight Federation and the Next Step in Space Coalition welcome the strong support of commercial spaceflight expressed by the White House’s Review of U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee, also known as the Augustine Committee for its Chairman, former aerospace industry executive Norm Augustine.

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Augustine Report: U.S. Needs to Spent $3 Billion More Annually to Go Beyond LEO

Altair
Unless the U.S. government can come up with an extra $3 billion annually to spend on NASA, the image of Altair on the lunar surface will remain an artist's conception.

In looking at the Augustine Commission’s report, the key findings are at the very end:

  • Human exploration beyond low-Earth orbit is not viable under the FY 2010 budget guideline.
  • Meaningful human exploration is possible under a less constrained budget, ramping to approximately $3 billion per year above the FY 2010 guidance in total resources.
  • Funding at the increased level would allow either an exploration program to explore Moon First or one that follows a Flexible Path of exploration. Either could produce results in a reasonable time frame.

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