Congress: February 2016 Archives

Staying course on the Journey to Mars, Lou Friedman via SpaceReview

"NASA does not yet have a plan for its now generally agreed-upon space exploration goal, human missions to Mars. It would be a mistake if they did. A plan now, without a specified and approved program and with many options for mission design and technology development, would be premature and wasteful. It would force both a timetable and cost estimates that, by their very definition, would be unrealistic and unsustainable. A premature plan might foreclose some of the options cited above for reaching into the solar system, years before the requisite experience is gained to make the best choices."

Keith's note: It would be a "mistake" for NASA to have a plan for human missions to Mars? Really? How do you develop a budget unless you have a plan against which to derive costs and schedule? Indeed, how do you develop a plan if you do not have an overarching strategy with goals and objectives to guide the development of that plan? How do you know what you need to learn and develop if you have no idea where you are going? Lou Friedman is living in some alternate universe where he thinks that we should run that process in reverse.

If Friedman's cluelessness was not already established by this statement, it should be clear from his support for the Asteroid Redirect Mission, a one-off stunt promoted by the Planetary Society that has no strategic relevance to a human mission to Mars (or the Moon). Watch as it evaporates after the election - regardless of who wins. But wait, there's more. Undeterred from supporting one pointless mission, there's yet another that Friedman supports: the Humans Orbiting Mars mission. In this plan the Planetary Society expects NASA to spend billions and take longer than is currently envisioned in NASA plans to *almost* send humans to the surface of Mars.

Its these half-baked ideas that distract people from making the big decisions that need to be made with regard to America's future in space - decisions that need to be clearly stated, clearly described such that everyone understands where NASA wants to go (and why), and then clearly funded such that anyone can glance at a one page chart and see if everything is/is not going according to plan. Without clear goals, coherent strategy, and a solid plan, NASA will continue to stumble down a ever-changing and increasingly hard to support path on the #JourneyToNowhere

House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Reviews Bill to Bring Stability to NASA, House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology

"The Space Leadership Preservation Act will improve our space program and improve morale at NASA centers by ensuring that we take the politics out of science and provide NASA with clear direction and guidance that outlasts the political whims of any one presidential administration and the political whims of Congress."

Committee on Science, Space, and Technology Holds Hearing on Space Leadership Act

"Democrats on the Committee expressed numerous concerns with the bill: that allowing Congress to use a party-based formula to appoint Board Members would inject partisan politics into that Board; having the Board prepare a NASA budget at the same time as NASA would create wasteful duplication, confusion, and instability; and that establishing a fixed, 10-year term for the Administrator would increase instability, not mitigate it, especially if a new President plans to pursue a different policy agenda from his or her predecessor and doesn't see that Administrator as being part of his or her "team"."

Hearing: The Space Leadership Preservation Act and the Need for Stability at NASA

"Tomorrow, February 25 at 10:00 a.m. ET, the House Science Committee will hold a hearing on the need for stability at NASA through changing presidential administrations. The hearing will feature former astronaut and first female Space Shuttle pilot and commander, Colonel Eileen Collins, as well as former NASA Administrator Michael Griffin. Rep. John Culberson, chairman of the Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee, will also testify. Culberson is the author of legislation the Science Committee will review on Thursday, the Space Leadership Preservation Act, which is intended to bring stability to NASA despite changing presidential administrations."

Keith's note: So ... would Mike Griffin entertain the notion of being Donald Trump's NASA Administrator?

Hearing Charter: The Space Leadership Preservation Act and the Need for Stability at NASA

Statement by Eileen Collins: Hearing: The Space Leadership Preservation Act and the Need for Stability at NASA

"I believe program cancellation decisions that are made by bureaucracies, behind closed doors, and without input by the people, are divisive, damaging, cowardly, and many times more expensive in the long run. As a shuttle commander, I would never make a huge decision without input from all the experts, even the ones I do not agree with. So what will keep us from having surprises like this that set us back years? Answer: A continuity of purpose over many years, over political administrations, and over normal changes in leadership throughout the chain of command. I know there must be ways to do this through policy, organizational structure, and strong leadership."

Statement by Michael Griffin: Hearing: The Space Leadership Preservation Act and the Need for Stability at NASA

"What might the "right path" look like? I have been clear in the past and hope to be clear now to me the most logical step beyond the ISS is an international partnership, led by the United States, to return to the Moon, this time to stay. In the course of so doing we will learn what is needed to go beyond, to go to Mars. And if, as I have long suspected, the Moon turns out to be quite an interesting and useful destination in its own right, well then, so much the better."

GAO: NASA: Preliminary Observations on Major Acquisition Projects and Management Challenges, GAO

"Our ongoing work has also found that the Space Launch System and Orion, the two largest projects in this critical stage of development, face cost, schedule, and technical risks. For example, the Space Launch System program has expended significant amounts of schedule reserve over the past year to address delays with development of the core stage, which is the Space Launch System's propellant tank and structural backbone. The Orion program continues to face design challenges, including redesigning the heat shield following the determination that the previous design used in the first flight test in December 2014 would not meet requirements for the first uncrewed flight. The standing review boards for each program have raised concerns about the programs' ability to remain within their cost and schedule baselines. If cost overruns materialize on these programs, they could have a ripple effect on the portfolio and result in the potential postponement or even force the cancellation of projects in earlier stages of development. We have ongoing work on both of these programs and we plan to issue reports on them later this summer."

SLS upper stage caught in political tug-of-war, SpaceNews

"NASA is stopping work, at the request of Congress, on human-rating the initial upper stage for the Space Launch System, even as the agency argues that its funding projections require it to use that upper stage on crewed missions. At issue is the future use of the Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage (ICPS), an upper stage derived from the Delta 4's upper stage. The ICPS is intended for use on at least the first SLS launch, which will not carry a crew. NASA confirmed Feb. 18 that it has instructed teams to stop work on efforts to human-rate the ICPS for later, crewed SLS missions, following instructions from Congress in the report accompanying the 2016 omnibus spending bill."

NASA moves to enforce early switch to EUS for SLS,

"The EUS recieved a specific reference from NASA Chief Financial Officer David Radzanowski in comments made to the media after the announcement, citing that the reduced funding could impact on implementing the EUS on the second flight of SLS."

Keith's note: On one hand NASA stops work on anything that would involve use of the Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage (ICPS) for a crewed EM-2 mission but on the other hand its FY 2017 budget request is nowhere near enough to develop the Exploration Upper Stage (EUS) such that crewed EM-2 can stay on its current schedule. In other words the White House, NASA, and Congress are all but ensuring that the first flight of SLS with humans will most certainly slip - possibly after the second term of the next person to be elected president. NASA started this big Ares-V/SLS effort back in the middle of the Bush presidency. This latest threat to SLS could mean that more than two, double-term presidencies will have passed before NASA can send its new big rocket with anyone on board.

I wonder how many Atlas, Delta, and Falcon rockets you could have bought with the money NASA has spent on Ares-V/SLS? How much sooner could we have begun to build and operate a real cis-lunar infrastructure had we gone with private sector rockets? Yes, it would take more launches, but given the chronic inability for NASA to field its new big rocket, we'd have been further along - for less money - if we'd taken the commercial approaches first envisioned when the Vision for Space Exploration was announced in January 2004. But no, NASA is on a #JourneyToNowhere instead.

- NASA Is Building A Rocket That It Can't Afford To Use, earlier post
- NASA Begins Its Journey To Nowhere, earlier post

NASA's New Budget Would Gut Europa But Otherwise Support Planetary Exploration, Planetary Society

"Europa isn't Mars, and studying and eventually getting humans to Mars is NASA's current overriding goal. Pure politics. Several of the Congressional leaders who are strongly backing the Europa mission and planetary exploration in general are highly conservative politically. While they favor spending more money on planetary missions, they also want to cut funding for missions for NASA to study the Earth, especially climate change. Essentially proposing to push out the launch of a Europa mission to forever may be part of a hardball negotiating tactic to trade more funding for the Europa mission for also fully funding the President's generous proposed budget for Earth science missions."

Keith's note: This is hilarious. The Planetary Society is using the "politics" dog whistle when in fact politics is all that they engage in when they lobby Congress for their referred projects - and against those they do not like. In this case, they are not getting their way, so, of course it is due to that horrible Washington scourge called "politics". What will be fun to watch is when the Planetary Society eventually realizes that the only way that they are going to get their preferred Europa mission ala Rep. Culberson, is to fly it on a SLS. That means that they will have to start lobbying for SLS - and against (or not in support of) Earth science and/or commercial crew (where their extra Europa money will come from). Of course SLS is at the heart of NASA's #JourneyToMars so the Planetary Society will have to start to support that effort (which is also eating Europa funds) and not their Almost-Mission to Mars concept.

NASA budget proposal widens divide between White House and Congress, Ars Technica

"Although NASA is proceeding with development of the SLS, a number of outside panels have questioned whether NASA can afford to build, fly and, sustain the expensive program, especially with projections of low flight rates of one launch or fewer per year. The biggest concern is that the rocket is so expensive to fly it precludes a meaningful exploration program within NASA's existing budget."

Keith's note: With the cuts to both SLS and Orion in the Administration's FY 2017 budget you can expect the same food fight with Congress to pick up where it left off last time. And as was the case before, Congress will go after Commercial Crew and Cargo, Technology, and Earth Science to put SLS and Orion back at the level Congress wants. Of course, election time will soon skew everything and the chances that there will be a formal budget will drop. The net result is that NASA will not know for certain what its budget will be and this uncertainty will cause launch dates to slip to the right. With these slips the overall cost of the SLS and Orion programs will increase - and commercial crew will take longer to happen than might otherwise be the case.

Naturally, the next Administration will stall for time and eventually appoint a blue ribbon panel to write a report and the cycle will start all over again. Their conclusion will be that NASA has no plan (and that it needs to hurry up and develop one) and, by the way, NASA cannot do all of the things it has been tasked to do under a budget that does not grow. Considering that all of these arguments are set to occur under a NASA budget that is likely going to stay flat, nothing will change since no one will give up pushing for the things that they want NASA to do. The inevitable result will be that NASA will end up with a launch system that will have nothing to launch on the imaginary #JourneyToNowhere.

The State of Our NASA is Strong: Remarks on the State of NASA by NASA Administrator Bolden

"... it's because of the work of our contractors and our partners in classrooms, boardrooms, laboratories and even garages across our country, that: The state of our NASA is as strong as it's ever been and when I say "our," I really mean it. Because of the work of you and your NASA colleagues to make aviation cleaner, greener, safer and quieter ... the state of our NASA is strong."

Director of Coalition for Deep Space Exploration Responds to Administration's FY2017 NASA Budget

"The greatest challenge to these programs is not technical, but budget stability, plain and simple."

Rep. Lamar Smith Statement on President's Final Budget

"Today we received another unrealistic budget from the president that spends money we don't have and increases taxes on Americans by $2.6 trillion over 10 years. This level of spending insults hardworking American families who don't want to be burdened with higher taxes and slower economic growth."

Commercial Spaceflight Federation Statement on FY17 Budget Request

"Within the NASA portfolio, the request continues the bipartisan commitment to the United States achieving safe, reliable, and independent human access to the International Space Station (ISS) from American soil by 2017."

Space experts warn Congress that NASA's "Journey to Mars" is illusory, Ars Technica

"Another panelist, Tom Young, the former director of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center and former president and chief operating officer of the Martin Marietta Corporation, agreed that NASA does not currently have a clear pathway to Mars. "What we do not have is a plan, strategy, or architecture with sufficient detail that takes us from today to humans on the surface of Mars," he said. Young said he favored continuing with a mission to Mars but that following such a course required hard choices and narrowing NASA's focus. The agency cannot both have a flourishing program in low Earth orbit with the International Space Station while also trying to mount a Mars exploration program, he argued. Agency officials have said they are not ready to talk in detail about Mars plans because they are evolving."

Congress asks: Can NASA really get astronauts to Mars?, Christian Science Monitor

"We pretend that we are on a '#JourneytoMars,' but in fact, possess neither the technology nor the economic resources necessary to undertake a human Mars mission now or within the foreseeable future," testified Paul Spudis, senior scientist at the Lunar and Planetary Institute, a Texas-based space research institution."

The Moon or Mars? NASA Must Pick 1 Goal for Astronauts, Experts Tell Congress,

"[Tom] Young spoke about the desire to have fewer "tombstones" for cancelled projects and more "memorials" to successful ones. He reiterated the thesis of his opening remarks, that what NASA needs more than anything is a concrete plan for how it should proceed. "I am personally passionate about humans going to Mars, but I'm equally passionate about a good, disciplined plan that is not frivolous," he said. "A plan that does what is required, but also doesn't just do what's possible."

Many politicians are unhappy with what they see as NASA's disregard for concrete details and deadlines, Inverse

"The committee seemed most irritated about how the Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) NASA's plan to send a robotic spacecraft to a near-Earth asteroid, pick up a giant boulder, and bring it to lunar orbit for a crew to study fits into the overall Mars objective. .. [ARM] is a misguided mission without a mission, without a launch date, and without ties to exploration goals," said Representative Lamar Smith from Texas. "It's just a time-wasting distraction."

- ASAP: NASA Has No Plan or Firm Funding For Its #JourneyToMars
- Kicking The Can Down the Road to Mars, earlier post
- NASA Begins Its Journey To Nowhere, earlier post
- Yet Another NASA Mars "Plan" Without A Plan - or a Budget, earlier post
- NASA's Strategic Plan Isn't Strategic - or a Plan, earlier post
- Charlie Bolden's Meandering Strategic Plans, earlier post



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