Two Hearings Point To A Fading NASA

Keith's note: A hearing by the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology yesterday competed with another hearing being held simultaneously by the Senate Commerce Committee. Not much happened in the House hearing other than the usual routine posturing by both sides. The main topic of discussion was the future of the ISS. Bill Gertsenmaier repeated the same incomplete jingos used concocted by NASA to describe how NASA somehow expects the ISS to be paid for by the private sector in the 2024/2025 time frame. Gertsenmaier referred to the NASA ISS Transition Plan (not really a "Plan") required by law, but was delivered months late to Congress. The three NASA Center directors present to testify said nothing particularly interesting.

Rep. Babin announced that he's introducing H.R.6910 "To specify goals and objectives of the United States with respect to human spaceflight, and for other purposes." This bill includes language that would extend the life of the International Space Station to 2030. Similar language on ISS extension was included in S.3277 - Space Frontier Act of 2018 which was passed out of the Senate Commerce Committee in August. The topic of ISS extensions was a conversation between Jim Bridenstine and Ted Cruz in the other hearing held yesterday.

- Hearing charter
- Video recording of hearing
- [Statement] Full Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas)
- [Statement] Space Subcommittee Chairman Brian Babin (R-Texas)
- [Statement] Ranking Member Johnson
- [Statement] Ranking Member Bera
- [Statement] William Gerstenmaier, HEOMD Associate Administrator
- [No prepared statement] Mark Geyer, JSC; Jody Singer, MSFC; Robert Cabana, KSC

In the Senate NASA Administrator Bridenstine Testified before the Senate Commerce Committee Subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness, In reality Bridenstine testified before Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA). Bill Nelson did a flyby appearance and no one else really stayed long enough to say much of anything. Cruz pushed on the issue of not being distracted by the Moon as we head for Mars, not abandoning the ISS, allowing NASA to derive financial benefit from better ISS commercialization and use of its logo, and making sure that the U.S. remains the global leader in space exploration. Bridenstine agreed with Cruz on everything - and was intrigued by Cruz' s comments on space commerce. Sen. Markey was all over NASA's Earth and Space Science plans and the fate of NASA's Education Office and Technology Directorate to which Bridenstine gave the stock NASA answers.

At one point Cruz referred to the NASA report "National Space Exploration Campaign Report - Pursuant to Section 432(b) of the NASA Transition Authorization Act of 2017 (P.L. 115-10), September 2018," which was required by law and due for delivery in 2017 which NASA delivered late (just like the ISS Transition Report). Cruz asked Bridenstine about the report's stated intent of putting humans back ont he Moon by 2029 and asked why it only took 7 years to go from statement of intent to landing on the Moon in the 1960s and why does it take so much longer now? Bridenstine said that this was the first question he asked when he arrived at NASA. His answer: NASA is going back in a sustainable fashion - to stay - and is doing so with partners in a more constrained fiscal environment. OK. That works for the time being - he's new to the job. But additional digging on his part is going to show that there is more to this than the talking points that he's been given.

- Webcast
- Global Space Race: Ensuring the United States Remains the Leader in Space Bill Nelson Opening Statement
- Prepared statements by Jim Bridenstine, Sen. Cruz, and Sen. Markey were not posted

One thing sticks out of these two hearings: both focused on important topics that NASA was required, by law, to provde reports to Congress about. Both reports, authored by Bill Gerstenmaier's HEOMD, were delivered many months after their due date. The reports provide no meaningulful information as to what NASA plans to do, why it wants to do these things, how it plans to do them, what it will actually cost, and who will pay to make all of this happen. These questions were, of course, what Congress wanted NASA's reports to answer in the first place. This pattern from NASA HEOMD of foot dragging and vague responses to simple questions from Congress has typified the way that NASA has explaining its human exploration plans for the past ten years. These responses are filled with Powerpoint cartoons but are otherwise lacking in real substance. And when the real programs go awry its hard to see why or understand what the consequences are - other than the need for more money and time.

A new Administrator now has to look at his agency's lackluster performance and, as prompted by Sen. Cruz, answer the question as to why it takes NASA longer to do things it once did much faster - and whether this is the way that the agency is going to comply with the current Administration's intent that NASA regain and/or maintain its leadership in space. Quite honestly it seems to be exactly the opposite of what is required.

- Yet Another NASA Space Policy Report That Reveals No Policy, earlier post
- NASA Quietly Submits ISS Transition Plan To Congress (Update) , earlier post

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This page contains a single entry by Keith Cowing published on September 27, 2018 10:13 AM.

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