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Another Open Letter to Congress - This One Supportive of Obama Plan

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 22-Jun-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:12 PM)

Another open letter about President Obama's plan for NASA has been sent to Congress signed by another set of space luminaries including former astronauts, former NASA and other government officials, scientists, industry leaders -- mostly the "new space" industry, and others.

This one supports the President's plan as long as it not only facilitates the emergence of commercial crew, but includes"acceleration of exploration beyond low Earth orbit" that is "clearly defined." The letter says these should be the two "highest priorities" of the human spaceflight program and are "both essential," with emphasis on "both." It is not obvious whether the clearly defined, accelerated exploration program they are seeking is different from what the President is currently proposing.

"NASA Day on the Hill" Tomorrow, June 23, Rayburn House Office Building

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 22-Jun-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:12 PM)

NASA will hold a "NASA Day on the Hill" tomorrow in the foyer of the Rayburn House Office Building. NASA says the event is open to the public. It will feature Earth and space science programs, aeronautics research, and human space flight. Astronauts Jose Hernandez, Anna Fisher and Pat Forrester will be there. A reception will be held from 5:00-7:00 pm.

John Glenn Weighs In On Human Spaceflight Future

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 21-Jun-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:14 PM)

John Glenn, the first American to orbit the Earth and later a U.S. Senator from Ohio, published an essay on the Ohio State University website giving his views on the future of the human spaceflight program. He agrees with the Obama Administration's decision to extend the International Space Station's timeframe and forgo a Moon base, but wants to keep the shuttle flying and keep NASA focused on sending people to Mars. He is not enthusiastic about commercial crew, and emphasizes the need for NASA to build a heavy lift launch vehicle.

He finds it "hard to accept" that American astronauts will have to rely on Russia to take them into space "probably for the next five to ten years" and does "not believe it has to be this way." He provides a brief background of the history of human spaceflight (with a few factual errors, but they do not undermine his basic points), and explains why he agrees with the President on some parts of the plan and not on others. His major thrust is advocating continuation of the space shuttle program and ensuring a robust program thereafter to ensure the United States does not lose its lead to China and India. Quoting Gus Grissom's famous line "No bucks, no Buck Rogers," Glenn stridently argues for adequate funding from the White House and Congress.

Glenn and Grissom were two of the first group of seven astronauts chosen in 1959. Grissom died in the 1967 Apollo 204 accident.

Glenn's first spaceflight was in 1962 as part of the Mercury program. His second was in 1998 when he flew aboard the shuttle as a U.S. Senator. He had already announced his decision not to run for reelection so it would be his final year in the Senate. The Clinton Administration's decision to allow him to fly was somewhat controversial not only because of his age at the time (77), but because it was the first time since the 1986 Challenger tragedy that a "spaceflight participant" was allowed on a shuttle mission. Glenn and his supporters argued that it could provide valuable life science data on how he reacted to spaceflight as a senior citizen and in comparison to his flight three decades earlier. He is currently an adjunct professor of political science and public affairs at Ohio State.

Events of Interest: Week of June 21-25, 2010

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 20-Jun-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:13 PM)

It's a quiet week from a space policy perspective, but the following events may be of interest. For more information, check our calendar on the right menu or click the links below. Times, dates and witnesses for congressional hearings and markups are subject to change. Check the relevant committee's website for up-to-date information.

Wednesday, June 23

  • Space Enterprise Council TechAmerica meeting on "Game-Changing Technologies - What is the Right Roadmap for Exploration?" 7:30 - 9:30 am, B-338 Rayburn House Office Building. Please RSVP to Gabrielle Vaughan: gabrielle.vaughan@techamerica.org
  • Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee hearing, outside witnesses testify about the FY2011 DOD budget request, 10:30 am, 192 Dirksen Senate Office Building

President Tells Congress He Would Shift $100 Million from NASA to Commerce and Labor for Workforce Transition

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 19-Jun-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:16 PM)

The $40 million President Obama promised on April 15 to help displaced Florida aerospace workers has grown to $100 million and broadened to other communities, and NASA's Exploration program would have to foot the bill if the President gets his way.

In a letter to Congress on Friday, the President requested a number of changes to the FY2011 budget requests for NASA and other agencies. The NASA change does not alter how much is being requested for NASA"s Exploration program, $4.3 billion, but tells Congress that of that amount, $100 million would be transferred to the Departments of Commerce and Labor. The Department of Commerce would get $75 million for economic development assistance in the affected communities, while the Department of Labor would get the remainder for training programs in those areas. The President's message does not say what programs within NASA's Exploration account will be cut to obtain the money. NASA also has to come up with funds for the crew rescue vehicle ("Orion-lite") the President announced in his April 15 speech.

The President's letter and revised NASA request do not address all the questions being asked by the House Science and Technology Committee, only the workforce issues caused by the President's proposed cancellation of Constellation. The President's letter says the money will be used for economic growth and job training activities around Kennedy Space Center and "other areas affected by job losses associated with programmatic changes in this account." The President promised $40 million for Florida workers, sparking complaints from representatives of other NASA centers that also would be negatively impacted by cancelling Constellation. The additional $60 million presumably responds to those complaints.

The House Science and Technology Committee and others in Congress already were asking how the President's plan for NASA is any more affordable than the Constellation program he wants to cancel. Imposing additional budgetary requirements on NASA without increasing the amount available to the agency is the same fate that befell Constellation, leading to the Augustine Committee's assessment that Constellation is not executable and the President's proposal to cancel it.




House Authorizers Demand Documents From NASA After NASA Misses Deadline

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 18-Jun-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:14 PM)

NASA did not meet yesterday's deadline to provide the House Science and Technology (HS&T) Committee with information and analysis about the agency's human spaceflight plans and budget. NASA did send a pro forma response to the committee's June 10 letter, but said only that the information was not yet ready. Today, the committee's leadership sent another letter to NASA Administrator Bolden demanding that the agency provide the documents NASA used to formulate its proposal by June 25, 2010.

"Since NASA has failed to provide the Committee with any detailed supporting materials with which Congress can judge the proposed human spaceflight plan, Congress must insist upon production of all materials NASA relied upon in formulating its proposal.

"We therefore demand that the following records...be produced to the Committee on Science and Technology:

"1) All records relating to the development of NASA's human spaceflight proposal included within the FY2011 budget request, including any analysis of the executability of the proposed plan through 2025;
"2) All records relating to the development of NASA's revised human spaceflight proposal announced by the President on April 15, 2010, including any analysis of the executability of the proposed plan through 2025;
"3) All records relating to any budgetary analysis performed by NASA relating to NASA's human spaceflight proposal, including any analysis of the executability of the proposed plan through 2025;
"4) All records relating to any budgetary analysis performed by NASA relating to the Constellation program generally, and Ares-I, Orion, and Ares-V specifically which was produced or utilized in formulation of NASA's human spaceflight proposal;
"5) All records relating to analysis or estimates of the employment impacts of cancelling the Constellation program both for the agency and for the private sector, and all records relating to analysis or estimates of the employment impacts of implementing NASA's human spaceflight plan;
"6) All other records NASA deems relevant to the support of the Administration's human spaceflight plan."

The letter ends with the terse statement that "We sincerely hope that in the future, NASA engages this Committee and this Congress in a more cooperative manner." Like the earlier letter, it is signed by the chairman and ranking member of the full committee, Rep. Bart Gordon (D-TN) and Rep. Ralph Hall (R-TX), and the chairwoman and ranking member of its Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) and Rep. Pete Olson (R-TX).

The committee has held a number of hearings on the President's proposal, most recently on May 26. A memo prepared by committee staff as background for the hearing expertly lays out the questions committee members are facing as they draft a new NASA authorization bill.

Senator Nelson Outlines Possible Compromise on Obama Plan

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 15-Jun-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:17 PM)

In February, Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), chair of the Senate appropriations subcommittee that funds NASA, wrote to her authorization counterpart, Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL), a letter outlining the principles that she would be using to assess President Obama's new plan for NASA. Yesterday, Senator Nelson wrote back, revealing a possible compromise with the Administration.

The letter, which is available via the Orlando Sentinel's Write Stuff blog, NASAWatch, and Space News, but does not seem to be on Senator Nelson's site or that of the Senate Commerce Committee, describes the key features of the authorization bill Senator Nelson plans to introduce. He chairs the Commerce Committee's subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics that authorizes NASA funding. (Not sure of the difference between an authorization and an appropriation? See our "What's a Markup?" Fact Sheet.)

According to the letter, the authorization bill will be "consistent with several of the President's priorities." It will continue the International Space Station at least until 2020, and provide logistics and support needed to maximize its scientific potential, include commercial cargo delivery. It also will call for an additional space shuttle flight (the "Launch on Need" mission) if it successfully completes an independent review of its safety. The Obama Administration does not have this mission in its plan.

As for commercial crew, Senator Nelson says that the bill will take a "walk before you run" approach, continuing the Commercial Crew Development Program, but also requiring a number of studies, assessments and milestones with astronaut safety as the "core component of these requirements."

The bill also will propose that NASA work with international partners to define near-term missions "in lunar and high-Earth orbits of space" that would "incorporate both robotic capabilities and the development of on-orbit capabilities, technology and infrastructures." The letter refers to initial missions to Lagrange points or lunar orbit as forming the foundation for follow-on missions elsewhere, but does not mention a human mission to an asteroid as announced by President Obama on April 15. The letter also says that a "mechanism to provide long-term strategic guidance on human space flight" is being explored.

Lastly, the letter says that NASA will be directed to initiate development of a heavy lift launch vehicle (HLLV) in FY2011, not in FY2015 as President Obama proposed, and that the HLLV and a crew exploration vehicle "leverage the workforce, contracts, assets and capabilities of the Shuttle, Ares I and Orion efforts."

New ISS Crew in Orbit

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 15-Jun-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:15 PM)

Soyuz TMA-19 lifted off successfully at 5:35 pm EDT from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan (3:35 am Wednesday local time). Three new crew members for the International Space Station (ISS) are aboard. They will join the three ISS crew already on the station on Thursday.

Mikulski Responds to Nelson

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 15-Jun-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:15 PM)

Responding to Senator Bill Nelson's letter about how he plans to shape a NASA authorization bill, Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) said in a statement yesterday that she sees it as "an alternative framework...that could snap us out of the 'stagnant quo'," according to Amy Klamper reporting in Space News. Senator Mikulski added that she would continue to work "with Senator Nelson and our colleagues" as authorization and appropriations bills progress during the summer.

NASA Appoints New Constellation Program Manager

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 14-Jun-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:15 PM)

NASA just announced that the new program manager of the Constellation program is Lawrence D. Thomas, who most recently was deputy program manager for Constellation at Marshall Space Flight Center. The new job is at Johnson Space Center (JSC). Charles M. Stegemoeller was appointed as Constellation deputy program manager. He had been director of the program planning and control office for the Constellation program at JSC. NASA "reassigned" Constellation program manager Jeff Hanley on May 26, prompting calls from some Members of Congress for an Inspector General investigation. NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden was quoted as saying that Hanley lost his job because he was too "attached" to the Constellation program, which the Obama Administration wants to terminate.

Events of Interest   

Full calendar of future events (with filters)-click here »


 

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