Policy: August 2009 Archives

Waiting for Norm (Update)

Augustine commission delays report release, Orlando Sentinel

"An independent space panel won't release its report on American human spaceflight today as expected. Instead the commission is shooting for a release in mid-September, said NASA's liaison to the 10-member panel, led by retired Lockheed Martin CEO Norm Augustine. The committee, however, aims to send a draft of their executive summary to NASA and the White House sometime in the next 36 hours, said NASA official Phil McAlister. He said the report won't contain any surprises and should correspond to four to seven options developed in hearings earlier this month."

Keith's note: I am told that the White House has already been at work for some time on their analysis and response based to the report based upon initial outbriefings and expected "options" (Shh! they are really recommendations. OSTP just likes the "options" spin better such that they are seen as making the decisions.) That said, when the report is formally delivered - and the White House officially responds - you can be certain that this will not be the final word.

Additional studies will be needed (playing one option off against another) and they will most certainly be done in parallel with development of NASA's FY 2011 budget. Hmm ... possible midcourse changes in NASA's human space flight policy and simultaneous preparation of a new budget - all in time for the traditional "pass back" of that budget by NASA to OMB at Thanksgiving. It is going to be a busy Fall.

Sources report that there were supposed to be congressional hearings of some sort with Holdren, Bolden et al on/around 15-16 September - but that was before the Augustine Committee decided to put more work into their report. Stay tuned.

NASA needs stability and resources, Houston Chronicle, opinion by NASA astronauts Jeff Ashby, Michael Bloomfield, Bob Crippen, Roger Crouch, Jan Davis, Brian Duffy, Jim Halsell, Steve Hawley, Rick Hieb, Scott Doc Horowitz, Bruce McCandless II, Don McMonagle, Pam Melroy, Charlie Precourt, Ken Reightler and Kent Rominger

"We believe that America's space exploration program has positively impacted the world perhaps more than any single national endeavor during the last half century. Our space leadership is a projection of this country's technical capability leveraged to foster peaceful cooperation among nations in a politically uncertain world. Each of us has been part of this great space legacy and continues to be committed to ensuring the safety, vitality, sustainability and excitement of the future space program. U.S. investment in space and technology generates tens of thousands of jobs, stimulates small businesses and entrepreneurship, drives innovation and inspires the next generation of engineers, scientists and explorers so critical to America's future."

Waiting For Norm

Panel keeps NASA chief guessing, Huntsville Times

"What will a White House-appointed panel of experts suggest to President Barack Obama for NASA's future course? The space agency's new leader - former astronaut Charles Bolden - is privy to new plans about as much as the ordinary man on the street, he said. Bolden is asked, he said, about what the Augustine Commission recommendations might be quiet frequently and the standing answer is: "I don't know," Bolden told a gathering of defense and aerospace workers at the 2009 Space and Missile Defense Conference Wednesday. "I do know that I will be at the briefing table with those who will write the recommendations for the president," said Bolden, a former U.S. Marine general and test pilot who was confirmed as the space agency's new chief a month ago."

NASA Panel Faces the Facts, and Asteroids, Wired

"The 60s are over and no amount of artists' renderings are going to bring back the Apollo days if NASA's budget doesn't get a big boost. That's the key message from the independent panel chartered to rethink NASA's future. The Review of Human Space Flight Plans group also is looking at a variety of imaginative approaches to space exploration that could make NASA's future seem less like reheated Apollo leftovers."

Rocket Booster: Let The Private Sector Help NASA, Wired

"After leading the way in the human exploration of space for nearly 50 years, the future of U.S. manned space flight is in question. The space shuttle makes its last flight next year, and after that NASA must rely on the Russians to put astronauts in space. Unless it looks to the private sector. It may have to. A preliminary report from the Review of U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee (it even has a Facebook page) says current budget restraints are jeopardizing all future manned space flights even as NASA develops the Orion crew exploration vehicle that will replace the shuttle."

NASA May Outsource Amid Budget Woes, WS Journal

"For the first time since the advent of manned space exploration, the U.S. appears ready to outsource to private companies everything from transporting astronauts to ferrying cargo into orbit. Proposals gaining momentum in Washington, according to federal officials, aerospace industry officials and others familiar with the discussions, call for contractors to build and run competing rockets and space capsule under commercial contracts."

Keith's note: According to a report "End of an Era?" on NASA's plan to send humans back to the Moon that aired on NBC News "all of that is in jeopardy". Jay Barbery says that NASA has "58,000 people employed through contractors and civil servants" and that cutting the moon mission "would cut this in half". John Logsdon referred to setting goals and then cutting funding in half saying "this is not a case study of excellence in aitonal leadership." Sally Ride and Mike Griffin are quoted as well.

Norm Augustine's Report on NASA's Bleak Future, ExecutiveBiz

"After just seven more missions to the International Space Station (ISS), the Space Shuttle will retire without a replacement. Ex-Lockheed Martin CEO Norm Augustine, chair of the United States Human Space Flight Plans Committee review, has published his committee's findings, and NASA's budgetary future looks bleak. Augustine told PBS "the human space flight program really isn't executable with the money we have." Augustine has given the "White House a dilemma" of accepting the necessary increase in spending or continuing on a path that leads to severely constrained and delayed space exploration."

NASA administrator talks about space program's future, WAFF

"My answer always is the same - I don't know," he said. "A lot of people fear the Augustine report. I don't. I don't see a drastic change to how we approach [the space program.]"

NASA review panel options an unknown to space agency administrator, Huntsville Times

"The future has to include encouraging young people to become engineers and scientists. "When I would visit schools in the '80s and '90s," Bolden told the crowd of about 2,000 people, "I would ask students 'Who wants to be an astronaut?' Nearly every hand in the room would go up. Now, when I visit schools, maybe two or three hands go up. "We have to reach them. ... I want every hand in that room to go up."

Flying on empty, Houston Chronicle

"The signals coming from a presidential commission compiling recommendations for the future of NASA's manned space program are alarming, particularly for communities like Houston that have a large economic stake riding on the outcome. At a public meeting in Washington last week in preparation for delivering its final report to the White House later this month, members of the 10-person Human Space Flight Plans Committee said the space agency lacks the financial fuel to support efforts to put astronauts on the moon and Mars in the relatively near future. As they whittled down the potential options for President Barack Obama, comments were grim."

Augustine Committee Update

NASA's future gets bleaker: Obama faced with manned-space dilemma, Orlando Sentinel

"Shaping the future of America's space program began Friday, when members of the committee presented their preliminary findings to NASA chief Charlie Bolden and White House officials. Initial reports indicated the group agreed to retire the space shuttle in 2011, extend the space station until 2020 and use more commercial rockets. They also liked the idea of exploring deep space -- rather than landing on the moon. On Wednesday, the panel said that Constellation, NASA's current back-to-the-moon program, is running $50 billion over the current budget through 2020. But the alternatives presented Friday are almost as expensive, requiring $20-to-$30 billion more than the current budget through 2020. The outcome was not entirely unexpected."

Can't We All Get Along

Keith's note: As you may recall there was an aborted protest of sorts being mounted at the recent 5 August meeting of the Augustine Committee. According to this article placards/bumper stickers that said "Mars Direct - Cowards Return To The Moon" were found in several locations at the Carnegie Institute, the host of that day's meeting.

According to sources at NASA when staff supporting the Augustine Committee arrived at the Carnegie Institution to prepare for the meeting they found these bumper stickers already mounted on placards that had been placed all around the auditorium as well as at various other places in the building.The staff cleaned up as many as they could find - but apparently, not all of them.

A Mars Society member has admitted that he did this on his own volition and the Mars Society claims that they knew nothing about this. Regardless of what actually happened, one would hope that Mars Society members learned a lesson from this. Public protests are a good thing to do. Done properly and strategically, they can have a marked effect on the course of policy development. But you need to send a message that the recipients i.e. the people who might join your cause and/or are in a position to support or thwart your efforts, can do something with.

Space exploration is not exactly on the top of everyone's list here in Washington. As such, neither does this town's political radar easily register the interests of what are commonly called "space advocates". When space advocates do manage to gain the attention of presidential advisory committees in this fashion, there is collateral damage to the efforts of all space advocates since the message sent - and received - was "we can't even agree among ourselves".

Its not as if space advocates do not have a sympathetic ear at NASA. Just look at what the agency's Deputy Administrator and the Chief Of Staff have on their resumes. Give them something that they can work with. A groundswell of impassioned public support - voiced in a variety of fora - can be a tool that they and the Administrator can use to argue for a more expansive and inclusive space program.

But arguing against or for spending billions of dollars to visit a specific planet for reasons that boil down to "because I say so" is not going to have much effect when the news features daily public protests about the economy, health care, and wars in the Middle East. Space advocates need to find a reason why people - regular taxpayers and policy makers alike - should care about space when "we have so many problems here on Earth".

So far, I haven't seen one.

This is Why People Often Don't Take Space Advocates Seriously, earlier post

Review of U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee Meeting: Washington, DC

"The Aug. 12 meeting will be held from 1 to 5 p.m. EDT at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center Amphitheater, located at 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW in Washington. "

Watch on NASA TV

Near-Earth Object Surveys and Hazard Mitigation Strategies: Interim Report

"The United States is currently the only country with an active, government-sponsored effort to detect and track potentially hazardous near-Earth objects (NEOs). At congressional direction, NASA funds several ground-based observatories primarily dedicated to conducting NEO surveys. Several new or proposed observatories with other non-NEO objectives can also contribute to the NEO survey task. Congress has mandated that NASA detect1 and track 90 percent of NEOs that are 1 kilometer in diameter or larger. These objects represent a great potential hazard to life on Earth and could cause global destruction. NASA is close to accomplishing this goal. Congress has more recently mandated that by 2020 NASA should detect and track 90 percent of NEOs that are 140 meters in diameter or larger, a category of objects that is generally recognized to represent a very significant threat to life on Earth if they strike in or near urban areas. Achieving this goal may require the building of one or more additional observatories, possibly including a space-based observatory."

IFPTE Letter to Norman Augustine

"It is an honor and privilege for the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE) to represent thousands of talented and dedicated NASA employees distributed across the country from the Washington D.C. area to California and from Ohio to Alabama. As NASA's largest federal employee Union, we focus on their broad concerns which range from nitty-gritty institutional personnel issues to national aerospace policy. NASA employees did not come to the Agency merely to collect a paycheck, but rather to work hard on challenging problems, to contribute to amazing collective human accomplishments larger than any individual accomplishment, and to communicate NASA's achievements to inspire young Americans into a science or engineering education and into aerospace careers. NASA civil servants care deeply about their Agency and its future, and thus want to assist your Committee in providing President Obama and Administrator Bolden with the best possible set of options. To that end, IFPTE would like to provide you with the following three recommendations."

Found art, The Space Review

"On Wednesday, August 5, the Human Spaceflight Review Committee, popularly called the Augustine Commission, held a public meeting in Washington, DC. Robert Zubrin spoke to the committee. Somebody, probably a Mars Society member but probably not Zubrin himself, left several of these bumper-sticker-sized placards around the building. I found this one in the men's room."

Keith's note: Despite comments to the contrary by the Mars Society's Executive Director, their local DC chapter paints a somewhat different picture i.e. that these bumper stickers were distributed at the Mars Society convention in the DC metro area several days before: "Hi Folks, I picked one up at our Con on the last day or so, somewhere in the vicinity of the exhibit room, I think. I did not see any at the Auggies meeting, but having had lunch with Zubrin, I saw no evidence he was aware of them. C'est la vie. It is an amusing sentiment, but misplaced. The dangers of the moon far exceed those of Mars, so it could be argued that only the foolishly "brave" return to the moon. Cheers, Bob Terry"

NASA Narrows Options for Post-Shuttle Future, NY Times

"Where to in space? A blue-ribbon panel charged by the Obama administration to review the United States' human spaceflight program has narrowed the options to seven. In three meetings last week, subcommittees of the panel presented possibilities for space flight after NASA retires its space shuttles, coming up with 864 permutations, said Edward F. Crawley, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a panel member."

Committee debates options for space program's future, SpaceflightNow

"The committee deliberating America's future in human spaceflight is beginning to narrow down an expansive list of alternatives to be presented to the White House at the end of this month. The panel discussed a preliminary list of seven paths for the space program, which included conservative, affordable scenarios and ambitious options that would put astronauts on Mars."

Augustine Commission considering options that delay -- or abandon -- NASA moon landing, Orlando Sentinel

"The presidential panel looking at NASA's human space program spent Wednesday narrowing nearly 900 exploration options into seven scenarios that will be refined for presentation to President Barack Obama later this month. They range from budget-busting plans to fly straight to Mars to more-affordable plans to just orbit the moon and nearby asteroids. Some would extend the life of the space shuttle, now due for retirement in 2010, and the international space station, now slated to close in 2015. There was no mention in any options of returning astronauts to the moon by 2020, which is NASA's current goal."

Human Space Flight Review Committee Announces Meeting Agendas

"The Review of U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee will hold public meetings Aug. 5 and 12. The meetings are open to the public and news media representatives. No registration is required, but seating is limited to the locations' capacity.

The Aug. 5 meeting will be held from 8 a.m. to noon EDT at the Carnegie Institution, located at 1530 P St. NW in Washington. No press conference is scheduled on Aug. 5. The Aug. 12 meeting will be held from 1 to 5 p.m. EDT at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center Amphitheater, located at 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW in Washington."


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