NASA Tries To Explain Changes To SLS Launch Plans

Keith's update: NASA held a hastily-arranged 30 minute media briefing this afternoon on the surprise plan to put a crew on the very first SLS mission.This plan was semi-officially announced last week.

NASA Associate Administrator for Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate Bill Gerstenmaier said that NASA had been contacted by the Trump transition Team before and after the Inauguration about EM-1 options. He said that he has been asked by Acting Administrator Lightfoot to do a feasibility study of putting a crew on EM-1.

NASA Deputy Associate Administrator for Exploration Systems Development Bill Hill said that they were not going to let the study affect current EM-1 and EM-2 plans. Gerstenmaier said that the White House had offered them some schedule flexibility on EM-1 if the decision to fly a crew was made. The extent of that flexibility was not detailed.

The basic idea is to send 2 crew on an 8-9 day flight around the Moon. Both Hill and Gerstenmaier said that they have no opinion one way or the other about whether this is a good idea and reiterated that they are just doing a study. When asked what the risk and loss of crew numbers were Gerstenmaier did not have an answer but said that they' do studies, etc. No firm answer was given when asked about the advisability of flying humans on a new launch vehicle for the first time.

I asked Bill Gerstenmaier if the White House specifically asked or directed NASA to put a crew on EM-1; whether the White House explained the specific reasons why they wanted a crew on EM-1, and whether the White House promised NASA the funding required to make this happen. Gerstenmaier punted on my question and said (again) that this was a feasibility study and that no mention of budgets was made when they talked to the White House.

When asked what the astronaut office thought of putting a crew on EM-1 Gerstenmaier said he did not know and would not presume to guess what they thought. When asked if there was an astronaut on the team he said there was one and that the astronaut office would pick others to help out but he declined to name the astronaut that has already been chosen to be on the team.

At no point did Gerstenmaier or Hill ever say what the rationale for flying a crew on EM-1 was. Gerstenmaier seemed to be suggesting that they had been thinking about this already.

In summary: The White House asked NASA to look at putting crew on EM-1 and they are studying it - but no one knows - or will say why they are studying it.

Lightfoot Tries a SLS Hail Mary Pass, earlier post

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This page contains a single entry by Keith Cowing published on February 24, 2017 1:50 PM.

Today's Sudden NASA Media Briefing on SLS Launch Fever was the previous entry in this blog.

Ellen Stofan, Stealth Congressional Witness is the next entry in this blog.

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