Congress: September 2011 Archives

Geological Society of America Planetary Geology Division: NASA Funding and James Webb Space Telescope

"... advocates such as the American Astronomical Society have identified JWST as their highest priority (it was the top major initiative for U.S. astrophysics in the 2001 & 2010 NRC Astrophysics Decadal Surveys). That prioritization is among activities only within astrophysics, not planetary science, Earth science or heliophysics. Because astronomers have been so strongly supportive of JWST for the current and future budgets, it is only appropriate that they be responsible for the consequences of such a choice. The biggest concern of planetary scientists, therefore, is that our own current and planned planetary missions, and supporting research and data analysis funding, will be severely reduced over the next decade to pay for the JWST overruns (JWST is now scheduled for a 2018 launch with a total cost approaching $8.7 billion)."

Letter from Rep. Frank Wolf to OMB Director Jacob Lew Regarding James Webb Space Telescope

"In the coming weeks, the House and Senate will sit down to negotiate final appropriations bills for fiscal year 2012, and the appropriate level of funding for JWST will be one of the most significant issues considered. For us to make a truly informed decision that takes into account both the value of JWST and the value of opportunities that may be precluded by the JWST replan, we must have the offset information. If such information is not provided by the time that conference negotiations begin, I will consider that to be an indication that JWST is no higher in priority than any other existing or planned NASA activity."

Fuel Depots and Congress

Rohrabacher Demands Release of NASA's Recent On-Orbit Fuel Depot Analysis

"Today, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) continued his criticism of NASA's new design for deep space exploration by sending a letter to former NASA's Administrator Dr. Michael D. Griffin asking him to join Rohrabacher's call for NASA to release their recent analysis and conclusions regarding on-orbit fuel depots. Dr. Griffin spoke about on-orbit technology during his testimony before the House Science, Space and Technology Committee on September 22rd, 2011."I'm certain you are aware that on-orbit fuel depots were included in NASA's initial Human Exploration presented on May 25, 2010," writes Rohrabacher. "Somewhere in the intervening time, depots were dropped from the plan. It is important for Congress and the American people to understand how and why that decision was made."

House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology Committee Democrats See Some Progress on JPSS, Urge Stable Funding

"The National Polar Orbiting Satellite System (NPOESS) was to be the United States' next-generation satellite system to monitor the Earth's weather, atmosphere, oceans, land and near-space environment, replacing the Department of Defense's (DOD's) and NOAA's polar orbiting satellites. However, the polar orbiting satellite acquisition program was neglected and mismanaged."

Troubled Weather Satellite's Future Uncertain, Witnesses Say

"The ability to do timely and accurate weather forecasting is not at question here, and should not be compromised," said E&E Chairman Andy Harris (R-MD). "However, given the number of problems this program has experienced, the time has come to talk about what is the best way for NOAA to obtain the necessary data to do these forecasts. And by best way, I mean the most efficient and cost effective way."

- Polar Satellites: Agencies Need to Address Potential Gaps in Weather and Climate Data Coverage, GAO
- Statement by Rep. Paul Broun
- Statement by Rep. Andy Harris
- Statement by Rep. Miller
- Statement by Rep. Donna Edwards
- Testimony by Kathryn Sullivan
- Testimony by Christopher Scolese
- Hearing Charter

NASA Statement on Today's House Hearing Featuring Testimony by Neil Armstrong and Gene Cernan

According to a statement by NASA Associate Administrator for the Office of Communications, David Weaver: "We respect the contributions Neil Armstrong and Gene Cernan have made in service to our country, and thank them for helping to pave the way for our exciting future forward. Just as their ambitious missions captivated the nation's attention nearly a half-century ago, today's American space explorers are leading the way to even farther destinations that will one day allow the first astronauts to set foot on Mars. ...

Adams Looks for Answers on NASA Human Spaceflight (with YouTube clip)

"- Questions directed to Dr. Griffin: When you were Administrator at NASA did you or your deputies ever ignore one of the authorization bills?
- Did you ever get subpoenaed by a House or Senate committee for outright ignoring their requests for information?
- Were you or your deputies ever accused by a Senator in your own party of sabotaging a NASA project just because you didn't agree with Congress?
- Did you ever decide to ignore the role or will of Congress when they asked for your plans to implement the next step in President Bush's vision for NASA?
- Can you think of any reason to slow roll a project that has been authorized and demanded by Congress in Federal law?
- Can you think of any reason why it would be acceptable for a NASA Administrator or his or her deputy to ignore Congress?"

Keith's note: It would seem that Rep. Adams and her staff see her as some sort of crusader on this issue. They have gleefully posted her 5 minutes of questions on YouTube. Alas, she doesn't seem to be willing or able to directly accuse the current NASA Administrator, his staff - or the White House - of sabotage, ignoring Congress, etc. Instead, she used this odd line of questioning - one that can only elicit an answer of "No" from Griffin (or anyone else). The implication (apparently) being that if he didn't do these things then perhaps someone else (not in the room) may have. Mike Griffin seemed to be caught off guard by this line of questioning and answered curtly "no" each time - as if he was being interrogated by some snarky TV lawyer.

I guess Rep. Adams was hoping that Griffin would use the opportunity to dump on Bolden and the White House - but he did not. Indeed, Griffin went on to note that the NASA Administrator serves the Executive branch and that the Executive branch directs the agency's direction and for a NASA Administrator not to do what he was directed to do would be "mutinous". In other words, Bolden is doing what his boss wants him to do.

In the future, it might be more efficient for Rep. Adams to just fire her accusations directly at the Obama Administration and not try to do the indirect insinuation by proxy TV lawyer thing and try to get a former NASA Administrator to say the things she is reluctant to say herself.

Committee Democrats Urge Sustained Support for Renewed Human Space Exploration Program

"Today the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology held a hearing entitled, "NASA Human Spaceflight Past, Present, and Future: Where Do We Go From Here?" The purpose of the hearing was to assess NASA's human space exploration goals, plans and capabilities, and examine related issues affecting the Nation's leadership in space and the state of the aerospace industrial base."

Apollo Astronauts Neil Armstrong and Eugene Cernan Testify

"The witnesses agreed that a robust human spaceflight effort is vital to the strength of our nation now and in the future. Human spaceflight serves a number of important purposes, including building a strong economy, supporting a high-skilled workforce, ensuring our national security and inspiring the nation. A national commitment to this effort, led by the President and Congress, is essential, particularly in an era of budget austerity. The witnesses further agreed that NASA's recent announcement that it had selected a design for the Space Launch System (SLS) is an important step forward."

- Statement by Rep. Jerry Costello
- Statement by Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson
- Testimony by Neil Armstrong
- Testimony by Eugene Cernan
- Testimony by Maria Zuber
- Testimony by Michael Griffin

FY2012 Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations Subcommittee Mark - NASA Excerpt

* The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is funded at $17.9 billion, a reduction of $509 million or 2.8 percent from the FY2011 enacted level.

* The bill preserves NASA portfolio balanced among science, aeronautics, technology and human space flight investments, including the Orion Multipurpose Crew Vehicle, the heavy lift Space Launch System, and commercial crew development.

* The bill provides funds to enable a 2018 launch of the James Webb Space Telescope.

Webb telescope gets rescued in the Senate, Nature

"At the subcommittee meeting today, the Senator said the beleaguered mission would get $530 million in 2012 -- much more than the $374 million that had been asked for in the president's budget request. But the agency as a whole would get $17.9 billion -- half a billion less than it received in 2011.'"

Hope, With 'Stringent' Orders, for NASA's Webb Telescope

"In remarks delivered at the markup today, Mikulski noted that although her panel wanted to continue funding for the telescope, it also wanted NASA to be more accountable in executing the project. "We have added stringent language, limiting development costs" and insisted on "a report from NASA senior management, ensuring that the NASA has gotten its act together in managing the telescope," she said."

Keith's note: I have to wonder why yet another report from the same people who have botched JWST managment is going to be any more accurate or reliable than what they have reported or said thus far. Oh yes - adding $156 million to one project (JWST) while cutting NASA's top line by $500 million is just going to exacerbate trench warfare between NASA's space and planetary science community. Do the math: NASA overall gets $500 million less than 2011 and yet JWST gets more than the President asked for. NASA has to deal with that $500 million cut plus the additional $156 million that JWST has sucked up out of NASA's reduced budget i.e. NASA has $656 million less to work with - according to the Senate - so far. Stay tuned.

NASA Administrator Message: NASA Announce Design for New Deep Space Exploration System

"Today is a big day at NASA. The next chapter of America's space exploration story is being written, right here, right now. We've selected the design for a new space exploration system that will take humans far beyond Earth. This important decision will create high-quality jobs here at home and provide the cornerstone for America's future human space exploration efforts."

Senators, NASA To Hold Press Conference Today on NASA Announcement

"U.S. Senators Kay Bailey Hutchison, Ranking Member of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, and Bill Nelson, Chairman of Science and Space Subcommittee, along with Charles Bolden, NASA Administrator, and other members of Congress, will hold a press conference today to discuss the NASA announcement on the future of our space program.

WHO: NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and Members of Congress, including U.S. Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison and Bill Nelson
WHEN:TODAY, Wednesday, Sept. 14, at 10 a.m.
WHERE: SDG-50 on the ground floor of the Senate Dirksen Building
NOTE: Press conference will be live webcast on the Senate Commerce Committee's website."

This will also be broadcast on NASA TV at

NASA Announces Major Decisions for Future Human Spaceflight

"At 12 p.m. NASA will hold a background media teleconference with William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for NASA's Human Exploration and Operations (HEO) Mission Directorate, Doug Cooke, deputy associate administrator for HEO, NASA Chief Financial Officer Beth Robinson and other senior managers."

NASA Unveils Giant New Rocket Design, AP

"The design for NASA's newest behemoth of a rocket harkens back to the giant workhorse liquid rockets that propelled men to the moon. But this time the destinations will be much farther and the rocket even more powerful. The Obama administration on Wednesday will unveil its much-delayed general plans for its rocket design, called the Space Launch System, which will cost about $35 billion, according to senior administration sources and information obtained by The Associated Press.."

Commercial Spaceflight Federation Supports Letter on NASA Space Technology Funding

"The letter states, "The Space Technology program is a critical investment in NASA's future, our nation's future in space, and America's technology leadership position in the world." The letter notes, "We write in support of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Space Technology program for fiscal year (FY) 2012. We urge you to support the program at a level of at least $535 million plus costs to cover the NASA labor transition. ... As recognized by Congress in the America COMPETES Act, our nation's economic competitiveness and high standard of living are based on decades of investment in innovation, research, and technology. Through space technology, NASA will stimulate the economy and build America's global economic competitiveness through the creation of new products and services, new businesses and industries, and highquality, sustainable jobs across NASA Centers, universities, and both small and large businesses."

AAS Members Decadal Priorities and Fiscal Realities Informational Email 2011-10

"NASA and NSF receive input from many formal agency, interagency, and National Academies advisory committees about how to allocate their budgets and how to adjust to changing circumstances while trying to meet survey recommendations as best they can. The AAS does not support any one Division or astronomical discipline above others, or to the detriment of others. The decadal reports represent a community consensus of the most compelling questions, priorities, missions, projects, and activities in each discipline. It is not the purview of the AAS to second-guess the surveys or to re-order priorities or to select from among them. Our role is to support all of our disciplines. As we face the new economic climate, it might be worth recalling Abraham Lincoln's words: "A house divided against itself cannot stand."

NASA Internal Briefing: ESD Integration: Budget Availability Scenarios, August 19, 2011

This document covers four budgetary and Congressional scenarios whereby NASA would build the Space Launch System (SLS).

NASA Sees Testing SLS In 2017 for $18B, Aviation Week

"Early cost estimates for the heavy-lift Space Launch System (SLS) that Congress has ordered NASA to build indicate the agency believes it can test an unmanned version of the "core" vehicle selected by Administrator Charles Bolden for about $18 billion by the end of 2017."

Rocket man: Richard Shelby pushes NASA funds, Politico

"Republican Sen. Richard Shelby has been one of Barack Obama's most persistent critics, accusing the president of putting the country on a road to financial ruin with deficits as far as the eye can see. But his demands to slash government programs tend to stop at the Alabama state line. Here in his home state, Shelby has been pressuring the Obama administration to spend billions to build what could become the world's biggest rocket at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville -- a government project that would affect thousands of jobs, benefit a network of powerful industry interests and fill a major void at the agency after the collapse of the Bush-era Constellation initiative and the end of the space shuttle program in July."

White House Experiences Sticker Shock Over NASA's Plans, WS Journal

"An Aug. 19 budget analysis prepared by NASA managers, a copy of which was obtained by The Wall Street Journal, illustrates the sticker shock associated with NASA's drive to push U.S. manned flights beyond the orbiting international space station. ... Based on priorities already adopted by Congress--then adjusting for projected inflation and accelerated development efforts--the document indicates it could cost as much as $57 billion to deploy and use the proposed systems through 2025. Upgrading launch facilities and building additional spacecraft to allow astronauts to land on the moon or an asteroid, the document indicates, could boost the total to $62.5 billion None of the scenarios envision manned flight on the new rocket before the end of 2017."

Keith's Note: Numbers like this are not supposed to get out - so the White House, NASA, and everyone else in that closed loop can't be happy about this. Now that Congress has to confront the public reality of what NASA says their SLS-based architecture will cost, food fights are certain to follow.

This is just Constellation on Steroids - without all that back to the Moon stuff. I wonder what the new (higher) number would be if the costs of actually developing payloads and then supporting them across a serious, multi-year program of exploration were included? I would imagine that the end costs would not be much different than Constellation (except higher, of course) - and that the money to support such a program would be as equally an unrealistic fantasy as were the promised funds for Constellation.

I wonder what it would cost if NASA just posted an exploration plan and had the private sector bid on implementing it? Do we really need to build a new mega-rocket when existing or evolvable commercial rockets could launch smaller chunks in cheaper launch vehicles?

Keith's additional Note: WSJ has an odd for-pay firewall. In order to read this article, go to Google and paste "White House Experiences Sticker Shock Over NASA's Plans" into the search window. You can read the article but the link that is generated won't work for anyone else.

Florida senators dispute Sen. Richard Shelby's criticism of spending at Kennedy Space Center, Huntsville Times

"Florida's senators share the frustration. So do Texas Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison and more than a few House representatives. They've all pressed NASA and the White House this year to get started on SLS. But the Shelby/Sessions letter went further and accused NASA of wrongly shifting some $341 million to Kennedy Space Center in Florida for improvements that they say should go to SLS. Those improvements at Kennedy are only "tangentially" related to the heavy-lift rocket project, according to the Alabama senators. Florida's senators sent their own letter to the White House 11 days later on Aug. 26 saying "there appears to be a misunderstanding." Democrat Sen. Bill Nelson and Republican Sen. Marco Rubio say they wrote to "clarify the intent of the law." Spending for improvements at Kennedy was always part of SLS, the Florida senators said."



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