Policy: November 2012 Archives

The Vision for Space Exploration: After the Vision, What Next? (Part 5), Paul Spudis

"Many of us working in or with NASA recognized that the 2004 Vision for Space Exploration (VSE) was a breakthrough, the necessary fulcrum needed to change our approach and direction to spaceflight. It was a program that would have opened the door to a wide variety of previously unobtainable missions. In this five-part series to establish and clarify the history and intent of the VSE, I've shared my insider's perspective on why and how it was conceived, executed and eventually terminated - a cautionary tale, if you will, and hopefully, an instructive one. In this last post, I want to examine what lessons should be drawn from this history and how we should move forward in a positive way to have and to build a U.S. space program truly "worthy of a great nation."

Ditch the asteroid mission, Mr President, BBC

"Whatever the truth, I hope that Nasa is aiming big, because its current ambitions are - by its own scientists admissions - somewhat lacking. Although we now have the capability to return humans to the Moon, and travel beyond with manned missions to Mars, the world's leading space-faring nation has another destination in its sights: an asteroid. A small lump of rock."

Almost Being There: Why the Future of Space Exploration Is Not What You Think, Wired

"Congress was all for ditching the moon and Mars plans but decided to keep building the shiny new rocket (maintaining employment in many of their constituent districts). The Space Launch System, which is scheduled to be ready for human crews in 2019, will be the most powerful rocket ever built, capable of bringing astronauts beyond low-Earth orbit, where the space station sits, for the first time since the Apollo days. This puts NASA in a conundrum. "Once you're out there, then what do you do?" said astronomer Jack Burns from the University of Colorado. Within a decade, we may be able to get people in the vicinity of the moon but "there's not enough money in the budget to build a human lander."

A glimpse at a gateway, Space Review

"This is a multi-center team that's been working on trying to figure out what the agency's going to be doing next," [Harold White] said in a presentation that was part of a panel session on advanced concepts at the conference. "In principle, this is an incremental approach to human space exploration. We're trying to take small steps and use as much of the stuff that we have in hand, and incorporate advanced technologies where appropriate to close the architecture."

Charlie Bolden Intends To Press President Obama on Mars Mission Mandate for NASA, earlier post

"At one point, Bolden teared up and said that "Mars is the Goal". Bolden claimed that he was intent upon going to the White House, "pounding his shoe on the table", and demanding a commitment from President Obama to direct NASA to send humans to Mars. Bolden said that he needs that commitment to allow him to decide what to do (not do) with regard to extending the ISS."

Keith's note: The President directed NASA to send humans to an asteroid and eventually (in the 2030's) to Mars. But with talk of L2 or L1 bases, Moon missions, etc. it would seem that some parts of the agency have engaged in mission creep beyond what the White House directed them to do. Then again, the President did say "Mars in the 2030s" and planning for that has to start sooner or later. Regardless of what destination(s) that different parts of NASA think they are aiming for, there is no money for the payloads needed to accomplish any of the missions. With Thanksgiving looming, so is NASA's "passback" on the FY 2014 budget to OMB. Word has it that there will be some of Bolden's Mars shoe pounding included in NASA's budget response. Stay tuned.

Post-election Space Policy

Keith's note: President Obama has won re-election. What will this mean for space policy? Will (should) NASA have a new administrator? - if so, then who? Should NASA's budget be increased? Should there be more commercial focus? Does the planetary science budget need to be increased? Will Congress be more or less cooperative with the White House? Thoughts?

Oh yes: Charlie Bolden is on a trip to Hawaii for 6 days for the local 237th Marine Corps Birthday Ball. He's the guest of honor at this event.

Earlier Election 2012 posts

Keith's note: The National Research Council has created the Committee on Human Spaceflight - yet another semi-annual effort to study and advise Congress on NASA's human space flight activities: "In accordance with Section 204 of the NASA Authorization Act 2010, the National Research Council (NRC) will appoint an ad hoc committee to undertake a study to review the long-term goals, core capabilities, and direction of the U.S. human spaceflight program and make recommendations to enable a sustainable U.S. human spaceflight program."

Do these congressionally-mandated NRC policy committees ever really say anything useful or new about space policy? These NASA efforts are quasi-regular exercises where a group of familiar names an a few new ones are brought together for a series of sedate meetings that last for more than a year. You see, congressional authorization committees direct NASA to pay for these studies when they feel that Congress needs a blue ribbon panel to produce verbiage that they can use to beat NASA and the current administration over the head when Congress feels that they are not being listened to.

Once completed, the policy reports are only cited if the have useful sentences that support (or seem to support) a niche position that one politician or committee may take. By definition, NRC reports are never controversial but rather embody lots of slow-motion consensus and inevitable watering down of important issues. Its not that these are substandard efforts by any means since the NRC is an impressive, competent organization. At most, however, these studies take a long time to conduct and are usually a blip on the radar when they issue their final document.

The NASA Authorization Act of 2010 was signed into law on 11 October 2010. It has taken more than 2 years for everyone to get around to starting this study. The start date listed for this committee is November 2012 and its report is due for delivery in May 2014. That's 1 year, 7 months. This NRC is responding to authorizing legislation passed in 2010 by the 111th Congress, with a committee now being requested by the 112th Congress, and its report will be presented to yet another Congress (113th) during the second year of a new presidential administration in mid-2014 - one where policies are in place that will differ from those in place when the task was assigned, with budgets that differ from initial conditions under which the study was undertaken.



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This page is an archive of entries in the Policy category from November 2012.

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