Policy: March 2010 Archives

NASA chief on new space strategy, Achenblog, Washington Post

"Q. Is Obama going to offer any sweeteners when he goes to central Florida [for April 15 space conference]? The fact that the President is taking time to visit Florida to discuss the future of America's space program demonstrates his commitment to NASA, and our robust exploration vision. I think people will see firsthand what I see - his passionate commitment to a bold future in space which is at the heart of the decision to add an additional $6 billion to NASA's budget."

Unused NASA tower epitomizes brewing fight over space budget, The Hill

"Our greatest accomplishment in human space flight were gained because President Kennedy said we will land a man on the moon and return him safely to earth by the end of this decade," Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) said in February. "President Kennedy didn't say, 'We're going to spend a few billion dollars on some really unique research and development.'"

Imagination may be casualty of loss of space program, Deseret News

"Five years ago, I wrote in favor of privatizing the space program, mainly because of costs. I was wrong. The race to the moon never was a competition to see whether capitalism or communism was superior. The U.S. space program was just as dependent on the public treasury as was the Soviets'. It was, rather, a matter of pride and national security. Maybe we've lost that vision because our chief enemies these days, fanatical Middle Eastern terrorists, don't have a space program. But the price of becoming "a second-rate space country" is just as unthinkable as it was 40 years ago."

Keith's 23 Mar update: I have learned that after the President holds his summit event at the KSC Headquarters area the President will then have a town hall meeting onsite at NASA KSC where he will hear - and take questions from KSC employees. He will also tour a number of KSC facilities (VAB, OPF etc.) It would seem that the concerns of the KSC workforce have managed to trickle up to OSTP. Stay tuned.

Lt. Gov wants Obama to debate; space summit venue hunt is on, Orlando Sentinel

"It remains to be seen what exactly White House plans are for the meeting, which is now being called a "Space Conference." NASA deputy administrator Lori Garver was at Kennedy Space Center last week scoping out possible venues for the meeting. Her choices are the Operations and Checkout (O&C) building that was recently refurbished as a factory to assemble the Orion crew capsule that is now on the Constellation chopping block; the Operations Support Building 2; the Training Auditorium; the Debus Center at the visitor complex; and the Saturn Center ... The location of the meeting isn't the only aspect of the conference taxing officials' minds. Administration insiders are still discussing various formats as well as whom to invite to the event."

View From the 9th Floor

Prepared Statement by NASA Administrator Statement of Charles F. Bolden before the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Committee on Appropriations

"Before I discuss the details of the NASA budget request, I would like to talk in general about the President's new course for human exploration of space. With this budget, the United States has positioned itself to continue our space leadership for years."

Remarks by NASA Deputy Administrator Lori B. Garver at the American Astronautical Society's 48th Robert H. Goddard Memorial Symposium

"The President's budget, should it be approved by Congress, will enable NASA to align with the priorities of the Nation and to more optimally contribute to our Nation's future."

Space Policy Snapshot

Workers Prep For Final NASA Missions At Michoud, WDSU

"Two sets of astronauts will visit NASA's Michoud facility this week, even as the facility's future remains in question. Hundreds of workers have been laid off over the past two years. Lockheed Martin was contracted between 1973 and 2008 to do $10.7 billion in work for the federal government. With federal funding for NASA in question, the 1,426 people who still work there wonder what is next for the agency and for themselves."

Fla. Senator Says Obama 'Restructuring' NASA Plans, WESH

"Florida's senior senator, after talking to the president, said U.S. astronauts could wind up launching in an American-built spacecraft after all. It would mean developing a giant rocket based on space shuttle engines, tanks and boosters to go with a new spacecraft, Billow said, perhaps the very one NASA was designing anyway."

NASA's down-to-earth problem, op ed, Lou Friedman, LA Times

"However the budget proposal is acted on in Congress, it is clear that the nation is not going to go ahead with the Constellation project, which had a primary goal of returning humans to the moon by 2020 -- neither its Ares I rocket, which was to replace the space shuttle in delivering humans into Earth orbit, nor its moon mission. The 2004 Vision for Space Exploration may have been farsighted, but its implementation plan for Constellation was shortsighted: an inadequate goal and inadequate funds to achieve it."

Our Opinion: Saving Constellation is a noble mission, editorial, Tallahassee Democrat

"We salute Florida's temporary U.S. Sen. George LeMieux for working mightily in Washington to stop the de-escalation of America's space programs, most specifically termination of the Constellation Program as submitted in a budget proposal by the president. Mr. LeMieux, offering an amendment to the FAA Reauthorization bill regarding NASA, knows the importance of space missions to Florida. If diminished, hundreds of jobs will be lost along the Space Coast, but the loss of science, research, technology and space travel aspirations will create a negative ripple effect in myriad ways well beyond our state."

Can commercial space win over Congress?, Space Review

"At last week's Senate hearing ULA president and CEO Michael Gass said his company was interested in and capable of serving the human spaceflight market. "The EELV rockets provide the quickest and safest approach for closing the gap following the retirement of the space shuttle," he said. "We will be working with multiple companies that will compete for crew services, and we plan to provide launch services in support of their proposals."

Mayor Parker urges Obama to save Constellation, KTRK

"Houston Mayor Annise Parker this week invited President Barack Obama to come to Houston during her trip to Washington, D.C. to ask for help and to fight for NASA. ... Mayor Parker did meet with NASA Administrator Charles Bolden during her time in D.C. this week. She asked him to consider a Plan B to keep Constellation alive and, if not that, then some sort of soft landing for Johnson Space Center. That way Houston doesn't lose all those jobs overnight after the last shuttle flight in September."

AL and FL Lawmakers begin push to Stop NASA from canceling Constellation, WAFF

"U.S. Senators George LeMieux (R-FL) and Jeff Sessions (R-AL) launched an effort to prohibit the termination of the Constellation Program, NASA's program to replace the soon-to-be-retired space shuttle Thursday. The amendment to the FAA Reauthorization bill reiterates federal law prohibiting NASA from using funds in FY2010 to cancel Constellation contracts. Joining LeMieux and Sessions in the effort are Sens. Roger Wicker (R-MS), Richard Shelby (R-AL), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), and Bob Bennett (R-UT)."

Where Will Space Summit Be Held?

"I anticipate it will be a very staged and scripted event where protestors will not be on camera," [Chirs] Muro said. "I would assume it would be at the Kennedy Space Center, invite only." According to NASA public affairs at KSC, they haven't been given any direction so far from the White House as to the event on their property."

A Mission to Nowhere

Space: The pull of gravity, Financial Times

"Three elderly American heroes have been touring US military bases in Europe and Asia this month, telling inspiring tales of space adventures that took place before most people in the audience were born. But the Apollo astronauts - Neil Armstrong, Gene Cernan and Jim Lovell - were not just living on past glories. They looked at the future of manned space flight and lamented President Barack Obama's decision last month to cancel the Constellation programme under which Nasa would have taken Americans back to the moon by 2020. "We will go back to the moon, notwithstanding our president and his outlook for the future of space," said Mr Cernan at Ramstein Air Base in Germany. The man who in 1972 was the last to walk on the lunar surface added: "Under the president's proposed budget, it is a mission to nowhere."

"Headed to Oval Office for meeting with the president about America's space program. Lots of folks unhappy with newly released plan for NASA", SenBillNelson on Twitter

Nelson sees NASA gains after talk with Obama, Florida Today

"We'll see the fruits of that conversation when the president visits on April 15," Nelson told journalists after his Oval Office meeting. Nelson, D-Orlando, met with Obama and Vice President Joe Biden to discuss the space program and, more briefly, health care reform legislation. "Excellent conversation," Nelson said of the talk. But he wouldn't comment on whether Obama supports his push for an extra shuttle flight or for pushing ahead with plans to develop a heavy-lift rocket, saying only, "To be determined."

Utahns in Congress all against cuts to NASA, Salt Lake Tribune

"Such a course will come back to haunt us in the future," said Sen. Orrin Hatch. "Canceling the project now, in a time of high unemployment and after our nation has already invested heavily in the technology, is penny wise and pound foolish." Hatch signed the letter to President Barack Obama along with Republican Sen. Bob Bennett, Reps. Rob Bishop and Jason Chaffetz and Democratic Rep. Jim Matheson."

NASA: Ending Constellation Will Cost More, Aviation Week

"The $2.5 billion in NASA's Fiscal 2011 budget request to terminate the Constellation Program is probably "oversubscribed," and will not cover all of the expenses expected to grow from shutting down the shuttle-follow-on effort."

Crist, lawmakers wring hands over NASA job losses, Orlando Sentinel

"Gov. Charlie Crist huddled with Florida lawmakers Tuesday to figure out ways the state could stop a White House plan for NASA that cancels the agency's moon rocket program and its future jobs at Kennedy Space Center. But his Capitol Hill tour generated little more than sound bites. The only concrete strategy came from U.S. Rep. Ron Klein, D-Boca Raton, who suggested that Crist work with other governors to create a united resistance to the new NASA plan."

Parker heads to D.C. to talk up NASA, light rail, Houston Chronicle

"Parker is scheduled to meet with senior Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, Transportation Secretary Roy LaHood, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan and members of the local congressional delegation in a two-day blitz. Shortly after she was elected, the administration had invited her to "open dialogue" on certain key issues in Washington, and today's trip marks her first opportunity to take the president up on the offer, Parker said."

Parker to Rally Support for NASA in Washington D.C., Fox Houston

"From a conference room at city hall, Houston Mayor Annise Parker set her sights on Washington D.C. And a recent decision by the Obama administration to cancel funding for a program that could result in nearly 7,000 lost jobs at Johnson Space Center."

Shuttle stretch: Congress should provide funding to extend the life of the shuttle program, Houston Chronicle

"We agree with Sen. Hutchison that the nation should not be forced into a false choice between maintaining the shuttle or developing other programs while relying on the Russians or Chinese for access to space. We can -- and must -- do both, and additional short-term funding for the shuttle is the best route to preserving our independent launch capabilities while building a robust manned space program for the future."

Slow new space shuttle, don't kill it, says Bishop, Salt Lake Tribune

"Bishop called Obama's cut "naive" and argues that it will not only cede American space superiority to Russia, India and China, but it will hurt national security. "The kinds of people and the kinds of jobs that build a rocket to put a man on the moon, are the same kinds of jobs and the same kinds of people who build missiles to defend this country," he said."

Lawmakers want another NASA study, Orlando Sentinel

"The lawmakers, including U.S. Rep. Bill Posey, R-Rockledge, want NASA to conduct a 30-day study that would find ways within NASA's proposed $19 billion budget to "ensure uninterrupted, independent U.S. human space flight access," according to a letter outlining their request."

Daniel In The Lion's Den

Obama facing uprising over new NASA strategy, Reuters

"U.S. President Barack Obama is trying to tamp down an uprising in politically vital Florida against a new strategy for NASA that has rankled space veterans and lawmakers and sparked fears of job losses. ... It is making for a potentially explosive environment when Obama travels to the Cape Canaveral area on April 15 to host a space conference with top officials and leaders in the field. "What reception will they get? Not good," said Keith Cowing, editor of nasawatch.com, a website that closely monitors the U.S. space agency. "It's a gutsy move. It's Daniel in the Lion's Den."

Obama's plans for NASA changes met with harsh criticism, Washington Post

"They made a mistake when they rolled out their space program, because they gave the perception that they had killed the manned space program," said Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), who disagrees with that perception but wants the Obama plan modified. Nelson said the president should declare during the Florida conference that NASA's goal is to send humans to Mars. Nelson noted that the Interstate 4 corridor through Central Florida is critical for national candidates. "I think it has a lot of repercussions for the president. If a national candidate does not carry the I-4 corridor, they don't win Florida," Nelson said."

Keith's note: The buzz at KSC and among the Florida Congressional delegation is that President Obama will hold a "Town Hall" style meeting on 15 April and that he will use that event to announce that he is authorizing one additional space shuttle mission after the four remaining flights currently on the shuttle manifest. This would stretch out employment for shuttle workers by as much as six months - well into the Summer and early Fall of 2011 - just as the 2012 presidential campaign season is starting to fire up.

The question I have to ask is why do this? In so doing it just opens the door to delaying the shut down of the shuttle program initiated by President Bush. If the White House wants to do one additional launch, then why not do three or six? Adding one launch simply buys you six months or so of workforce retention but the end result is still the same. If the intent is to shut down the shuttle program, then NASA should do so and move on to a new way of getting into space. If, on the other hand, the White House wants to develop a true shuttle-derived launch vehicle like the sidemount, one that purposefully uses existing shuttle infrastructure and workforce, then that is another issue. Alas, no one has yet given me a reason to do this other than to keep people employed. While it may be a humane thing to do now that Constellation won't be there with a safety net, this is not the way to try and shift paradigms. Rather, it is a way to stall that shift.

What's next for NASA?, Mario Livio, Baltimore Sun

"In recent days, some of those criticizing NASA's proposed budget have tried to paint a picture of an agency without a vision. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. NASA's far-reaching ambitions in space science have been, and will continue to be, truly inspiring"

Keith's note: While Livio does make a number of cogent points about space science, I find it a little odd that he can make statements about the agency's overall "vision" while making zero mention of human spaceflight. If some members of Congress have their way, NASA will need to find more money somewhere - and that somewhere may well be space science. Perhaps then he'll take the time to look at the other things that NASA does. I am rather certain that Livio was in the audience last night at the Air and Space Museum for the premiere of Hubble IMAX 3D - a movie that was equally balanced between human and robotic spaceflight. I guess he missed all of those space suited astronauts working on the gem of his institute's research - one of whom works down the hall from him at STScI ...

Obama plans Florida space summit to defend his vision for NASA, Orlando Sentinel

"In the latest sign that his NASA vision is in peril, President Barack Obama will announce today his plans to host a space summit in Florida on April 15. The move follows weeks of criticism from Congress about his proposal to cancel NASA's Constellation moon-rocket program in favor of an approach that would push NASA engineers to develop new technologies while using commercial rocket companies for future astronaut missions."

President Obama to Host Space Conference in Florida in April, White House

"The President, along with top officials and other space leaders, will discuss the new course the Administration is charting for NASA and the future of U.S. leadership in human space flight. Specifically, the conference will focus on the goals and strategies in this new vision, the next steps, and the new technologies, new jobs, and new industries it will create. Conference topics will include the implications of the new strategy for Florida, the nation, and our ultimate activities in space."

Keith's note: This is not good news for the annual backslapping fest in Colorado Springs (the National Space Symposium). Charlie Bolden is supposed to be speaking on the last day - i.e. 15 April. I would guess that he will now be in Florida on this date - along with most of the news media. Oh well, Spock speaks on the evening of the 15th.

Sen. Nelson urges Obama to set NASA agenda, WDBO

"Part of that would be saving the workforce at Kennedy Space Center that otherwise in large part would be laid off in the cancellation of the Constellation program," Nelson said. "There's only one person that can lead the space program and that's the president. If he'll clearly set the goal, if he'll clearly say we're going to mars within a defined time frame, then we can get this space program back on track," he said."

Keith's update: Jay Costello is reporting on MSNBC that NASA has been urging the President not to travel to KSC for this summit. My sources at NASA Headquarters tell me that this is not the case.

Either way, it should be clear that this summit was not a NASA idea. Announcing something like this on a Sunday afternoon - with no NASA follow up is weird enough. In addition, the choice of a date is weird. Not only does it chop the end off of a large annual event that many space people attend, but it also brings the need for enhanced security during a shuttle mission - one whose launch could slip at a moment's notice. In addition, there is a question of cost. Given that the focus is on human space flight, and by its location, on Florida, one would expect that the entire KSC work force will want to try and attend or listen in. Given the logistics involved, this could amount to loss of perhaps half a work day. Multiply this by the tens of thousands of people affected. This time not only needs to be charged to something, it also puts a crimp in preparations for subsequent shuttle missions.

While the President is almost certain to walk into a buzz saw of public outrage over the new space policy, there is something to be said about this trip. Not unlike Daniel in the lion's den, instead of relying on staff or surrogates to push this new policy, he's going to take the message there personally. Given the reaction to this space policy across the state of Florida this may not be the smartest thing to do politically, but given that it is "his" policy, it is probably the right thing to do from a personal perspective.

That said, he is going to get an earful. Telling people about how cool his new policy is or reminiscing about sitting on his grandfather's shoulders as an Apollo lunar crew passed by won't go far with this crowd. They live and breathe space exploration 365 days a year - and have done so for decades - and now they are going to be unemployed.

After 50 years of NASA, we must not leave space, Sen Hutchison

"If President Obama has his way, the U.S. will retire the space shuttle program later this year, just as the International Space Station is finally complete and without a viable alternative to take its place. America has spent billions of dollars building and maintaining the space station. Now that it is complete, the Obama budget plan ensures that we will no longer have easy access to it."

NASA's plan B(olden), Nature

"America's space agency seems to be in a right old state at the moment. NASA was already on the back foot after President Obama announced the cancellation of its planned replacement for the Space Shuttle (which should normally be prefixed with the word 'aging' or 'antiquated'). Now it seems to be putting out mixed messages about using private companies to get American's into space instead."

NASA's varied missions worthy of full budget support, William S. Smith Jr, Washington Post

"The goals of NASA's space science program are unequivocal and far-reaching. These missions rewrite textbooks regularly. NASA deserves great credit for its sustained commitment to space science. While there are a handful of celestial bodies accessible to human visitation, our scientific horizons are limitless. NASA's budget request for fiscal 2011 should be strongly supported."

Building a technology showcase, interview with Wallace Wood, National Space & Technology Association, Houston Chronicle

"What I'm looking to do is to hold a world-class conference that includes the public. That goes beyond just mere businesses coming together. I want to bring the public into it. In my mind you have this industry that's designing the future. At the end of the day, we're all consumers. That industry needs the consumer to keep it viable and strong. I think that a public that is included and informed in the process makes for an accountable industry."

NASA Internal memo: Message from the Administrator - March 5, 2010

"During a Strategic Management Council meeting on Tuesday, I asked JSC Director Mike Coats and MSFC Director Robert Lightfoot to put together a very small team to help me develop an accelerated plan for research and development on a heavy lift launch vehicle for future exploration, in support of that element of the President's FY11 NASA budget. Regrettably, this was subsequently reported by the news media as a request for a "Plan B" alternative to the President's budget."

Shelby has frank discussion with NASA Administrator, WAFF

"A frank discussion took place on Capitol Hill Thursday between Senator Richard Shelby and NASA administrator Charlie Bolden. It took place behind closed doors in Senator Shelby's office. Bolden and Shelby are very far apart on NASA's vision and therefore NASA's budget. In fact, many in Congress don't even see a vision for the space agency if there is no government owned and operated human space flight program , namely Constellation, once the shuttle retires."

A Strategic Retreat From Leadership, Rep. Mike Coffman, Huffington Post

"Seeking to put his stamp on America's storied adventures in rocketry and robotics, the president could have gone boldly in new directions, using past achievements as a springboard to new destinations. But his proposed budget for space exploration describes an approach that is both reckless and nave."

New NASA plans developing in Congress and, reportedly, inside NASA itself, Huntsville Times

"Bolden said in a statement later Thursday that NASA isn't undercutting the White House plan. "The president's budget for NASA is my budget. I strongly support the priorities and the direction for NASA that he has put forward," Bolden said. "I'm open to hearing ideas from any member of the NASA team, but I did not ask anybody for an alternative to the president's plan and budget."

Aderholt "Extremely Pleased" NASA May Be Planning Alternatives To Ending Constellation

"I am extremely pleased that NASA may be considering a Plan B option to the President's proposal to cancel human space flight. Since the President announced his Budget last month, I and many of my Republican and Democrat colleagues have expressed our disapproval of the plan, along with our desire in continuing with Constellation. But the fight is not over. I will continue to work on this because I believe that human spaceflight and exploration beyond earth is the very reason for NASA's existence."

Massive Fight Under Way To Keep Shuttle Program, WESH

"On Thursday, NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden said he still supports the president's plan to end U.S. human spaceflight. However, when he meets with members of Congress, he is expected to at least discuss Plan B."

New hope for Ares, ATK / NASA may be considering compromise, standard.net

"Bishop, R-Utah, cited a news story in the Wall Street Journal that says a memo by a member of Bolden's staff is telling NASA officials to plan out "what a potential compromise might look like" to satisfy Obama administration critics of the Constellation program. Bishop said Thursday that congressional delegations from Utah, Alabama, Florida and Texas are joining forces to work with NASA to keep Constellation alive. He said the memo is a hint that NASA is starting to listen."

NASA Administrator Reaffirms Support for 2011 Budget, NASA

"I'm open to hearing ideas from any member of the NASA team, but I did not ask anybody for an alternative to the President's plan and budget."

NASA Chief Bolden Seeks 'Plan B' for the Space Agency, Wall Street Journal

"NASA chief Charles Bolden has asked senior managers to draw up an alternate plan for the space agency after members of Congress indicated they wanted to reject a White House proposal to hire private companies to ferry U.S. astronauts into orbit and beyond. In an internal National Aeronautics and Space Administration memo viewed by The Wall Street Journal, Mr. Bolden ordered officials to map out "what a potential compromise might look like" to satisfy critics on Capitol Hill. By calling for an alternative plan, Mr. Bolden threatened to undercut White House efforts to get its proposed NASA budget through Congress."

Johnson Space Center Prepares 'Plan B' at Bolden's Request, Space News

"Bolden, however, said March 4 that he did not request NASA human spaceflight officials to come up with an alternative to Obama's plan. "The President's Budget for NASA is my budget. I strongly support the priorities and the direction for NASA that he has put forward," Bolden said in a written statement. "I'm open to hearing ideas from any member of the NASA team, but I did not ask anybody for an alternative to the President's plan and budget. We have to be forward thinking and aggressive in our pursuit of new technologies to take us beyond low-Earth orbit, and the President's plan does this. After years of underinvestment in new technology and unrealistic budgeting, we finally have an ambitious plan for NASA that sets the agency on a reinvigorated path of space exploration."

Keith's note: According to Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee staffer Jeff Bingham, posting as "51D Mascot" at nasaspaceflight.com regarding Sen. Hutchison's recent proposal:

"Absolutely right, but the point here is timing. At this stage you have "camps" at the extreme edges of "PoR" or bust and "Bold New Idea" with many of the influential folks and key players taking those positions--now. But when it becomes clear, as I believe it will, that neither of those are going to be sustainable, then a mddle ground will be sought. But it has to be articulated as an option, and THAT is the true purpose of this bill. Thus, an attempt to line up all those players prior to introduction would have been counterproductive. The hope is that having a reasonably cohesive, credible alternative "on the table" can provide an eventual rallying point for a path forward, or at the very least a focal point for the serious discussion of what that path should entail."

Bingham also notes here that "The Ares 1 references are, first, "suggestive" as options to be reviewed as part of HLV development. The notion is that an evolvable shuttle-derived HLV could begin with a core that might be an in-line configuration of 4-segment SSRBs, coupled to an ET-sized core segment (strengthened and with a boat-tail at the bottom holding SSMEs, and a payload attachment/inter-stage carrying an accelerated Orion with LAS attached) which would become the "government-operated" LEO/ISS support capability, with a target IOC of 2013."

Is NASA's New Space Plan Really That Radical?, Space.com

"['Radical'] might be a little bit dramatic, but it's certainly a big shift," said Leroy Chiao, former NASA astronaut and a member of the blue-ribbon panel President Obama commissioned to review NASA's plans before designing the new proposal. "I would say it's unprecedented." He said he thought it made sense to look to commercial industry to provide transport to low-Earth orbit, but that NASA should also stay in the business of building spacecraft. "NASA's job should be focused on exploration, going beyond low-Earth orbit," he said. Even though it may be a significant change, Chiao said it might be for the best. "Transitions are difficult but sometimes you need some kind of a dramatic change in order to get that improvement," he said."


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