Lunar Precursor Robotic Program Changes Ahead

Editor's update: Yesterday (Friday) morning, NASA PAO refused to comment on the record to me about the new operating plan or changes in the LPRP (see quote below). Yet a few hours later NASA PAO is quoted on space.com and the Huntsville Times answering the very same questions I asked hours before - questions that were specifically not answered. Something fishy is going on here.

Reliable sources report that this LPRP move is not just a budget driven decision There are also issues of technical competence - and overall VSE implementation philosophy at work as well.

Ask yourself this: how much time has been lost (and money wasted) moving these lunar program and project offices around the country every few months - and why was this done? Word has it that Mike Griffin is very dissatisfied with the technical expertise (or lack thereof) at MSFC. Of course he also felt this way about GSFC and ARC at one point or another.

One look at comments made by Mike Griffin and Scott Horowitz (see below) is clear evidence of their lack of interest in any precursor lunar robotic missions. Indeed, they feel that all NASA needs for human missions is a "map" (of the moon).

In addition, there is a clear budget component to this current move. By cancelling or descoping these robotic missions, money is freed up to cover nagging problems that Griffin and Horowitz feel they need to attend to i.e. Ares 1 and Orion.

Editor's 15 Mar note: Word has it that the LPRP office at MSFC is either being totally shut down or dramatically reduced in size with lunar mission coordination moving back to HQ (after making a cross country tour from GSFC to ARC, then MSFC). Meanwhile, contracts are being terminated for robotics work given that the number of post-LRO robotics programs has begun to shrink rather dramatically. It is almost certain that such changes will be reflected in the agency's new Operating Plan.

According to NASA PAO: "NASA hopes to be sending the draft Operating Plan to Congress for review this week. By law, Congress will have 15 days to review this draft and send comments back to NASA. After we [NASA] have worked with Congress and the final Operations Plan is in place, NASA will be able to discuss specific aspects of the plan. It would be inappropriate for NASA to comment on draft version of this plan as they are circulated on Capitol Hill for congressional review."

President Bush Announces New Vision for Space Exploration Program, White House

"Beginning no later than 2008, we will send a series of robotic missions to the lunar surface to research and prepare for future human exploration."

Lunar Science: Asking for the Moon, Science (subscription)

"Scott Horowitz, NASA's exploration chief, says that those robotic missions would be nice to do--if the agency had the money. All he really needs, he told the scientists, is "a damn good map," which LRO will provide. He made it clear his interest is not in blue-sky research. "We don't have to get rocks back."

NASA Urges Closing Lunar Robotics Office, Aviation Week

"Among the actions NASA recommends in its fiscal 2007 operating plan is shutting down the Lunar Precursor and Robotic Program Office at Marshall Space Flight Center, where a whole generation of unmanned orbiters, rovers, hoppers and penetrators was under consideration as scouts for a human landing on the moon."

Editor's 13 Mar note: Word has it that a considerable change in the way that the LPRP (Lunar Precursor Robotic Program) office at MSFC works is about to be implemented. Meanwhile, their website is totally non-functional right now. Indeed, it says that it was "Last Updated: 31 December 1969" i.e. just after Apollo 12.

Editor's update: I guess someone at MSFC reads NASA Watch - the website is now offline and you get this note: "The website you have entered is under beta, and is unavailable at this time." Here is what it looked like before someone finally decided to do something. If this was truly a vibrant, long-term activity, you'd think that someone at MSFC would at least have devoted the resources to operate a functional website a long time ago. GSFC has a nice LRO website and ARC has a nice LCROSS website.

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This page contains a single entry by Keith Cowing published on March 17, 2007 11:02 AM.

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