Rollout Plan for Griffin's Architecture Gains Momentum

Editor's 16 Sep update: The public rollout will be monday at 11:00 am at NASA HQ.

NASA Office of Legislative Affairs Memo: Exploration Systems Architecture Study Briefing

"We appreciate your patience over the last few months and would like to offer the opportunity to provide you with a briefing on the ESAS. On Monday, September 19th at 9:00 a.m., NASA will provide a 1 hour briefing on the ESAS results."

Editor's 15 Sep update: Various organizations have had all hands meetings at NASA HQ today. The White House has approved NASA's ESAS and it will be unveiled publicly on Monday at NASA HQ. As to what it will look like: think Apollo - both for what it will feature - and what it will not feature - as well as how things will look- and how they will work. Mars is only a footnote - a distant one at that.

Editor's 14 Sep update: Today's ESAS briefing at the White House went well. You can expect public release of the details within a few days - probably early next week. Stay tuned.

Editor's 7 Sep update: The current plan is for NASA to brief OMB on its space plans on 14 September. Partners (and others) will be briefed on 15 September.

A public rollout should follow shortly thereafter. Stay tuned.

Editor's 24 Aug update: Karl Rove has signed off on NASA's proposed operations plan yet serious issues remain at OMB as to the financial aspects of what Mike Griffin wants to do. This will all come to a head on 12 September when NASA presents its plans - and budget needs - to OMB. Some NASA sources speak of a need on the part of Griffin's team to get a $5.5 billion plus up in NASA's budget between FY 2006-2010. Stay tuned.

Editor's 23 Aug note: Multiple sources point to a delay in the rollout of Mike Griffin's new exploration architecture. It won't be rolled out until early September. It would seem that multiple offices in the executive branch simply do not agree on key elements of what Griffin wants to do - and have serious problems with certain aspects - finances being the most important point of disagreement. Stay tuned.

Editor's note: The following note from a NASA Watch reader contains a gratuitous amount of anti-Iraq/anti-Bush Adminstration bias - far more than was needed to make a simple point in terms of the scope of the cost figures involved. Try and ignore that as you read on.

Reader Comment: Filling in the Blank Spaces in "Rollout Plan for Griffin's Architecture Stumbles"Keith, Call me Anonymous Career NASA Aerospace Engineer (my official title)

"In the June Midterm Briefing from the so-called "60 Day Study" -- now pushing 120 days -- there is a statement of projected budget shortfalls. Insofar as I can recall, the briefing expressed the opinion that to fly the Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV) in 2010 or 2011, NASA will need about another $9 Billion from 2007 to 2010 or 2011.

With the caveat that there is no way yet to evaluate these budget projections (although the learned bias is to assume that such numbers are magically derived), here is what the briefing said:

The briefing appeared to assume that the ENTIRE Exploration Systems Mission Directorate (ESMD) budget of about $3.6 Billion/year would become available to build CEV over that period. (This approach implies that the ENTIRE Exploration Program, including all other forms of exploration and supporting it such as Life Science and Physical Science from the old Code U would go into replacing the Space Shuttle).

[TIRADE HERE AGAINST FOOLISHLY AND SHORTSIGHTEDLY DESTROYING NASA'S UNIQUE CAPABILITIES THAT -- WHEN WE INEVITABLY NEED THEM -- WILL COST MUCH MORE TO REPLACE THAN TO MAINTAIN].

The shortfall of $9 Billion would come on top of that baseline, indicating a need for approximately $2 Billion more per year. These increased costs should not come as a surprise to anybody. There is no free lunch, even in government programs. Developing, building, testing, and safely operating a new space transportation system will cost the taxpayers about five or six weeks of the war in Iraq on top of the existing (if misdirected) NASA funds.

The more eye-opening budget projection concerned the human return to the moon on a nominal date of 2018. The ESAS assumed a two person crew, two day on the lunar surface sprint mission -- essentially Apollo Redux -- except over thirteen years instead of the eight that the Apollo Program lasted. The briefing stated that from 2012 to 2018, NASA will need at least another $46 Billion (~28 weeks of the Iraq War), which comes close to $7 Billion more per year. $7 B is nearly half of NASA's baseline annual budget of $16 B. How likely is Congress to give NASA or any other federal agency a 50% increase over baseline in 2012? Well, perhaps the USA will be out of Iraq by then . . .

So, these recollections may help to explain the difficulties OMB is facing when they confront the budget reality. Stated simply, NASA cannot safely develop CEV, return to the Moon, "and do the other things before this decade is out" on the cheap."

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This page contains a single entry by Keith Cowing published on September 16, 2005 10:40 AM.

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