Budget: July 2010 Archives

Senate compromise may be setting up NASA for another failure, Orlando Sentinel

"The plan orders NASA to build a heavy-lift rocket and capsule capable of reaching the International Space Station by 2016. But it budgets less money for the new spacecraft - roughly $11 billion over three years, with $3 billion next year -- than what the troubled Constellation program would have received. That - plus the short deadline -- has set off alarms. Days before the compromise was announced, NASA chief Charlie Bolden and Deputy Lori Garver told its two champions -- U.S. Sens. Bill Nelson, D-Florida and Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas -- that NASA could not finish the proposed new rocket before 2020, according to three sources present at the meetings. When asked about the conversation, Nelson spokesman Dan McLaughlin said the NASA officials were responding to lower dollar figures than what Congress ultimately approved. NASA spokesman Michael Cabbage said it "would not be appropriate to discuss private conversations between NASA and members of Congress."

Keith's note: Word has it that there are big worries at NASA and Northrop Grumman with regard to Webb Space Telescope. If NASA ends up operating under a Continuing Resolution - one that does not provide the increased funds that Webb requires - there is a fear that large layoffs may be in the near-term forecast. Stay tuned.

House NASA Bill Puts Brakes on Commercial Crew Initiative, Space News

"According to the bill text, commercial crew programs would get just $50 million annually through 2015 and another $500 million over that same time period via direct government loans or loan guarantees. Although the bill fully funds the $4.2 billion sought for routine commercial cargo resupply runs to the space station starting in 2011, it reduces the president's $312 million request for NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Service (COTS) program next year to just $14 million. The Senate version provided $300 million for the agency's COTS providers in 2011."

House, Senate have different ideas for NASA's future, Florida Today

"There is no additional shuttle flight, funding would be slashed for commercial rockets and NASA would be told to "restructure" the Constellation program that Obama wanted to kill. The bill diverges significantly from a measure approved by a Senate panel last week, which the White House supports. The differences threaten to delay consensus on the space agency's policy. "We are facing tough economic times that demand tough choices," said Rep. Bart Gordon, D-Tenn., chairman of the House Science and Technology Committee."

NASA Legislation Embraced by Appropriations Committee Presents Unified Senate Position on Space

"Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), Ranking Member on the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, said the approval of the Commerce, Science, Justice Appropriations legislation by the Senate Appropriations Committee today presents a unified Senate position on NASA and the future of America's human spaceflight programs."

Keith's note: There may come a point where the White House says that they cannot support this "compromise". It all seems to hinge on whether the "compromise" that the White House got with the Senate prevails over the "compromise" that the House wants - one that the White House has been silent about thus far. Either way, Congress has thrown the original White House proposal back in OMB/OSTP's face in a form that more or less brings Constellation back to life (minus the name) albeit without Ares 1 or Altair. Ares V simply has a new name. And the commerical aspirations inherent in the White House plans? They are reduced (depending on which "compromise" you look at) to the point of being window dressing - if not outright irrelevant.

The fact that the White House has yielded to Congressional pressure can be seen a number of ways. You could just say that they are being pragmatic and realistic with regard to what can be realistically accomplished. But given the way in which they initially hurled the policy out with near zero pre-coordination, and then brought the President in for a quick fix when it flopped, you have to wonder if they even planned things in advance or considered the long term strategic issues that they'd need to address. And now they show little if any spine when Congress repudiates the entire package. This makes you wonder if the White House ever actually had serious interest in this policy in the first place. Indeed, this entire process has been composed of several sudden spikes of activity by the White House followed by long periods of disinterest and/or silence.

The fix is in for the time being, it would seem. But you all know that we'll all be revisiting this situation in 18-24 months when costs start to rise and an election amplifies the political rhetoric once again.

Is this any way to explore the solar system?

Shelby: CJS Bill Sustains Human Space Flight

"U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), ranking member of the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee (CJS), today announced subcommittee approval of the fiscal year 2011 CJS Appropriations bill, which restores significant funding for NASA's human space flight program. Following today's action by the subcommittee, the bill will now go to the full Appropriations Committee for consideration."

Frank Sietzen Jr.: Last week, the Senate Commerce, Science and Space Committee marked up a draft of a proposed FY2011 Authorization bill for NASA. That bill maintains the Obama administration's top line budget for the civil space agency, but otherwise it contains virtually none of the individual funding areas for human spaceflight that the administration had sought.

But it's my contention that the bill, whether or not it ever gets passed into law, is an historic development in legislative space affairs. Back in 2004, in our book "New Moon Rising", Keith Cowing and I used the phrase "opening a hinge of history" to describe how the Columbia Space Shuttle disaster provided an opening for an historic new direction in space policy. We initially perceived that direction as being the first era of human spaceflight since 1972 that was not to be dominated by the Shuttle program. But what really emerged would eventually become the so-called "Vision for Space Exploration".

NASA appears to no longer be shooting for the stars, opinion, LA Times

"The $150-million facility was built to contain the next-generation manned spacecraft for the Constellation program, NASA's project to send humans back to the moon. It is the largest acoustic test chamber in the world, created to buffet the spacecraft with intense sound waves, simulating the stresses of launch. The only problem is that the Constellation program almost certainly will be dead within months. President Obama in January proposed cancelling the troubled moon program, and a key Senate committee voted this week to kill Constellation."

NASA 'compromise' a good start, editorial, Huntsville Times

"Portions of the Constellation program, including the Orion crew capsule and a heavy-lift rocket designed to travel to Mars, appear likely to survive in some form but details won't be known until the final vote. The $19 billion budget provides for another shuttle flight some time next summer in addition to planned launches in November and February next year."

JSC rescue: Senate bill bolstering manned space flight welcome news for Houston, Houston Chronicle

"There's a lot for Houstonians to like in the $19 billion spending plan. While it cancels the Constellation program moon missions, it substitutes Mars and asteroids as long-term destinations. It will extend the life of the International Space Station through 2020, direct NASA to build a new heavy-lift launch rocket to be operational in six years, and continue development of the Orion crew exploration vehicle. At the same time it preserves the thrust of the Obama plan to support development of commercial launch crews to low Earth orbit."

Keith's note: The folks at the LA Times should do a little more fact checking. Yes, Constellation is being cancelled, but no Orion is not. So this test stand will still find use.

Space Coast leaders attack Nelson NASA bill, Orlando Sentinel

"I do not believe anyone in Brevard doubts your passion and commitment to NASA and its mission. However, the risk that this future for Florida might be bargained away for one more attuned to the needs of Alabama, Texas and Utah, in the name of political expediency, demands a response. There is no one on the Space Coast, least of all this EDC, that doesn't understand the need for a Heavy Lift Vehicle to enable NASA to go beyond LEO. And we zealously will seek to assure KSC participates fully in that endeavor. However, to sacrifice the workforce that so enriches our future is not something to which we can acquiesce quietly."

Senator Nelson Previews 2010 NASA Reauthorization Bill, AIP

"We are building consensus in what has otherwise been a consensus-less position of the future of the manned space program. The President had proposed one thing. He altered that. Different people have different ideas. Different aerospace companies all looking to have a certain part of the manned space program also have their different ideas. "Out of this mix, we are trying to bring together Senators to build a consensus in a bipartisan way; the space program is not only not partisan, it is not even bipartisan. It is nonpartisan - to be able to do this in a fairly unanimous way."

Spending Panel: Unclear Direction of Manned NASA Flights Adds to Uncertainty, Science

"So far, there doesn't appear to be any sign of compromise between the White House and opponents of the Administration's plan in Congress, who believe that canceling Constellation and investing in the development of commercial space flight to enable future space missions is a bad idea. As it is, it's unlikely that Congress will complete the budget-approval process--for NASA and most other agencies--before the congressional elections in November, which means that the budgets for most agencies will likely be determined by a continuing resolution."

House Appropriators Look to Authorizers for NASA Direction, Space News

"In the absence of authorization legislation, "this subcommittee has no business in appropriating even more funding for uncertain program outcomes," Mollohan said. "Accordingly, this bill makes the funding for human space exploration available only after the enactment of such authorization legislation."

Statement of Chairman Alan Mollohan Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee June 29, 2010

"For NASA, the bill provides a total of $19 billion, an increase of $276 million over last year's level, including significant and long needed new investments in science and education. For Human Space Exploration, the bill provides $4.2 billion, as requested and $498 million above 2010, but takes no position on the President's proposed new direction for the program."


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