Russia: September 2008 Archives

NASA Gets Its Waiver

Statement by the President on H.R. 2638, the "Consolidated Security, Disaster Assistance, and Continuing Appropriations Act, 2009"

"Today I have signed into law H.R. 2638, the "Consolidated Security, Disaster Assistance, and Continuing Appropriations Act, 2009." The Act, consisting of five divisions, consolidates into a single Act several appropriations bills. It provides through emergency supplemental appropriations additional Fiscal Year (FY) 2008 resources needed for relief and recovery from hurricanes, floods, and other disasters, and other supplemental appropriations."

Spending Bill Would Resolve a Pressing NASA Concern, NY Times

"A little-noticed provision of a stopgap spending bill passed by the House on Wednesday could resolve one of the most pressing issues for the United States space program. The $630 billion measure, which is known as a continuing resolution, will put off major spending and energy decisions into next year if it is passed by the Senate. It keeps government agencies functioning at current funding levels, and includes additional appropriations for the Pentagon, hurricane relief, veterans health care and other projects."

Editor's note: Much of the lobbying process to get the CR passed was actually done so as to get votes lined up for the $700 billion bailout package. Members were allowed ot insert things with the understanding that they'd be favorable inclined toward the bailout package. So, if the NASA waiver was included in the CR then it was apparently important enough (politically) for at least one member to get it included so as to get their vote on the bail out in exchange. This demonstrates some level of real political importance for space. The question is: who got it inserted into the CR language?

House Extends INKSNA Waiver

House Extends INKSNA Waiver

"Today, as part of the Continuing Resolution (CR), the U.S. House of Representatives extended the waiver to the Iran, North Korea, and Syria Nonproliferation Act from January 1, 2012 to July 1, 2016, which will allow NASA to continue to purchase needed ISS-related goods and services from the Russians and ensure that U.S. astronauts will continue to have access to the ISS after the current waiver expires.

The House passed the CR by a vote of 370 to 58."

Soyuz Waiver Update

NASA clears hurdle on Soyuz, Orlando Sentinel

"NASA Administrator Michael Griffin on Tuesday won the approval of a key Senate committee in his battle to buy Russian spacecraft as a four-year replacement for the space shuttle. But the fight is far from over. And Griffin has less than two weeks to persuade the rest of Congress to allow the use of Soyuz spacecraft to take U.S. astronauts to the international space station after the space shuttle's planned retirement in 2010."

Tuesday, September 23, 2008, Business Meeting

S.3103: A bill to amend the Iran, North Korea, and Syria nonproliferation Act to allow certain extraordinary payments in connection with the International Space Station.

Obama On NASA Options

Obama Calls on Senate and House Leadership to Renew America's Commitment to NASA

"As Dr. Michael Griffin, the NASA administrator, said recently, "In a rational world, (NASA) would have been allowed to pick a Shuttle retirement date to be consistent with Ares/Orion availability, (NASA) would have been asked to deploy Ares/Orion as early as possible (rather than "not later than 2014") and we would have been provided the necessary budget to make it so" [NASA e-mail, 8/18/08]. Regrettably, the current administration has not behaved rationally and, with the Russian invasion of Georgia, NASA is now left with more limited options, all of them much worse than if the administration and their Republican allies in Congress had thought through the strategic consequences of these decisions five years ago."

Once More Unto the Breach

Senate to consider NASA request to buy Soyuz, Orlando Sentinel

"On Tuesday, Griffin faces a moment of truth. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is due to weigh his request against sentiment in Congress that Moscow, because of its recent invasion of the neighboring country of Georgia, cannot be trusted. It is very difficult for Congress to understand why we should continue a practice of depending upon agreements with the Russians when they are busy invading another country, Griffin conceded last week after a luncheon on Capitol Hill."

Senate Foreign Relations Committee

"Chairman: Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr."

Obama: Buy Soyuz if necessary but look at flying shuttle longer, Orlando Sentinel

"Democratic Presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama is now considering stopping NASA from retiring the shuttle in 2010 as well as looking to see if commercial companies can build new rockets to keep America in space independent of foreign countries. ... Obamas Republican rival, Sen. John McCain last month called on the White House to stop NASA from closing any more shuttle contracts just in case the next administration decided it wanted to fly more shuttle missions. Neither candidate appears to like the idea of buying more Soyuz from Moscow and depending on Russia for American access to the international space station."

My Word: America can do better than relying on Russia for our space program (Dave Weldon), Orlando Sentinel

"Sen. Bill Nelson, the Bush Administration, the Orlando Sentinel Editorial Board and most in Congress are ready to do business as usual with the Russians, claiming we have no choice. I don't buy that argument, and I take strong issue when the Sentinel Editorial Board suggests I am not a supporter of the space program because I don't go along. The real difference is I believe America can do better and that the workers at KSC deserve better during this transition."

NASA chief says Congress must act to get Russian craft, USA Today

"The development of the shuttle's successor could be delayed if Congress, as expected, passes stopgap funding legislation for part of 2009 rather than a formal budget, Griffin said. The members of Congress he has spoken to understand the need, he said, but "I cannot predict an outcome." Congress will be in session for less than two weeks before adjourning in advance of the fall elections."

This Certainly Won't Help

Russia ratchets up US tensions with arms sales to Iran and Venezuela, Times Online

"Russia snubbed its nose at the United States today by announcing plans to sell military equipment to both Iran and Venezuela. The head of the state arms exporter said that Russia was negotiating to sell new anti-aircraft systems to Iran despite American objections."

We think: Rep. Weldon is hurting the space program by fighting the use of Russian spacecraft, editorial, Orlando Sentinel

"Mr. Weldon will retire from Congress this year after seven terms. Cutting off U.S. access to the space station would be an unfortunate legacy for him."

The ISS: Who needs it?, Moscow News

"The United States, which has been skeptical about it, has suddenly developed an interest, especially in how its crews are to be taken to the station after its Space Shuttle program winds up in 2010. Unfortunately, the renewed American interest in the ISS is neither because of concern for the station's future, nor because of the coming anniversary. The cause was provided by the Caucasian crisis. And had it not happened, American participation in the program would have ended quietly, despite all assurances to the contrary."

Weldon Says Russian Waiver Means Pink Slips for KSC

"Today, Congressman Dave Weldon (FL-15) denounced the efforts by Senator Bill Nelson and others to obtain a waiver of the Iran Nonproliferation Act for NASA. This waiver would allow the U.S. to purchase the Russian-made Soyuz spacecraft and force the U.S. to rely on Russia over the next five to seven years to transport American astronauts in space to reach the U.S.-led International Space Station."

Why NASA Needs Soyuz

NASA Talking Points: The Urgency of NASA's Need for Legislation to Continue to Purchase Soyuz Crew Vehicles From Russia (Courtesy of the Orlando Sentinel)

"NASA needs Congress to provide legislative extension allowing purchase of Russian Soyuz crew vehicles to support astronauts on the International Space Station by October 2008 or else NASA will have no choice but to de-crew all U.S. astronauts from the International Space Station in 2012. ...

... If Congress does not extend NASA's legislative exemption to allow the purchase of Russian Soyuz crew services, the result will be to damage the United States' collaboration with our international partners on the International Space Station, effectively ceding control of this $50 Billion investment (cost through 2010) to Russia..."

NASA: Shuttle won't solve space station problem, Russia will, Orlando Sentinel

"Even before NASA finishes its study into the possibility of flying the space shuttle beyond its scheduled retirement in 2010, top agency officials have concluded that extending the life of the orbiter fleet wont solve the problem of keeping the international space station operable for U.S. astronauts."

Griffin claims there is a 'jihad' against the Space Shuttle, Nature

"In other words: stopping flying the Shuttle before its replacement is ready is a bonehead move. Griffin even goes on to claim that "retiring the Shuttle is a jihad rather than an engineering and program management decision" for the President's Office of Science and Technology Policy and the Office of Management and Budget. If he was that angry before the email leaked he must be apoplectic now his private thoughts are all over the internet..."

Nelson, Griffin to huddle Thursday, Orlando Sentinel

"NASA Administrator Michael Griffin is set to pow-wow with one of his biggest congressional allies on Thursday, but U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., likely has little good news to share. Griffin and NASA need Congress to pass two measures this fall to help the agency, but Congress likely does not have the time to aid NASA -- as congressional leaders do not expect to be in session longer than a few weeks so that members can return to the campaign trail."

NASA chief says he backs 2010 shuttle retirement, Houston Chornicle

"In a brief statement on Sunday, Griffin did not refute the newspaper's account, and chief NASA spokesman David Mould authenticated the e-mail. However, Griffin complained the reporting failed to "provide the contextual framework for my remarks," which was an internal agency discussion over the implications of the Russian military's invasion of neighboring Georgia."

Editor's note: Some of you may recall my posting on 11 March 2005 that Mike Griffin was going to be the next Administrator of NASA. In that posting I recalled an action taken by Griffin during the Space Station Freedom redesign activity - one I described as having "demonstrated personal integrity - and did so in a public way that was rather career adverse." At the time, a common NASA phrase for such an action was to say that someone "fell on their sword".

For the first time on NASA Watch, here is the letter that Griffin wrote that more or less encapsulated that action - and also sank his immediate future at NASA at the same time.

To his credit, Mike Griffin has taken rather bold and blunt stances before. Motives aside, is he doing that again? And if so, isn't it curious that both actions were due to threats to the space station - something that is not Mike Griffin's favorite NASA project?

Editor's note: Alas, the gathering consensus amongst the cyberpundits (with absolutely no data whatsoever to base this on, mind you) is that Mike Griffin either leaked this memo - or (much more likely) looked the other way as it "found" its way to a much broader, more receptive distribution. The thought being that he knows that his days at NASA may well be numbered and that he has nothing to lose except his own credibility and that he needs to look out for the agency's future.

There is a bit of logic to this gossip. Look at the initial distribution list of this memo. Everyone on that list is a solid professional and they are pretty tight with Mike Griffin. As such, I really doubt that something so easily traceable back to such a very small group would get out - unless Griffin wanted it to.

If this is indeed what is going on (again, I have zero proof) then it is a bit of a departure for Griffin since he tends to try and keep things like this inside the family. Given that Griffin self-described himself as "Spock" early in his tenure, I started wondering about his motives now. What will Spock do? Hmmm ... what would Jim Kirk do? Have a look at this iconic video [below] from "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan".

Is Mike Griffin trying to change the rules?

Statement of NASA Administrator Michael Griffin on Aug. 18 Email

Internal NASA email from NASA Administrator Griffin regarding Space Shuttle, ISS, Russia, Ares, Orion, OSTP, OMB and Budgetary Issues

"Exactly as I predicted, events have unfolded in a way that makes it clear how unwise it was for he US to adopt a policy of deliberate dependance upon another power for access to ISS. In a rational world, we would have been allowed to pick a Shuttle retirement date to be consistent with Ares/Orion availability, we would have been asked to deploy Ares/Orion as early as possible (rather than "not later than 2014") and we would have been provided the necessary budget to make it so. I realize that no one on this distribution disagrees with me on this point, I'm just saying it again, that's all.

The rational approach didn't happen, primarily because for OSTP and OMB, retiring the Shuttle is a jihad rather than an engineering and program management decision. Further, they actively do not want the ISS to be sustained, and have done everything possible to ensure that it would not be. They were always "okay" with buying Soyuz/Progress, and if it didn't happen, well, that was okay too. You will recall they didn't want us to brink up the need for another INKSNA exemption during budget hearings this year. I disobeyed their wishes in doing so, because we knew that we needed to get this on the table in '08."

Griffin not optimistic about new deal to buy Soyuz rides, Spaceflightnow

"My own guess is at this point we're going to have some period in 2012 where there's no American or international partner crew on station, that there's only the Russians there," he said. "That period always ends three years from when we have a contract with the Russians. So if we can get through all this by June of next year and have a contract with the Russians, then in the latter part of 2012 we can fly a Soyuz flight and restore things to normal."

NASA's Exploration Systems Architecture Study -- Final Report, Nov. 2005, Executive Summary, section 1.1.1

"Dr. Michael Griffin was named the new NASA Administrator in April 2005. With concurrence from Congress, he immediately set out to restructure NASA's Exploration Program by making its priority to accelerate the development of the CEV to reduce or eliminate the planned gap in U.S. human access to space. He established a goal for the CEV to begin operation in 2011 and to be capable of ferrying crew and cargo to and from the ISS."

Shuttle Vs Soyuz OpEds Appear

We think: Congress needs to maintain U.S. access to the international space station, editorial, Orlando Sentinel

"Lawmakers have little choice but to hold their noses and grant the waiver, so the United States can maintain its access to the space station and protect its huge investment. They need to look for other, better ways to underscore their anger with Russia. Lawmakers also need to find the $2 billion, called for in House-passed legislation, that could speed up the development of NASA's next vehicle by a couple of years. That would make the period that the U.S. astronauts are forced to depend on Mr. Putin's taxi service as short as possible."


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This page is an archive of entries in the Russia category from September 2008.

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