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Having spent the day returning from covering the President's speech in Florida, we are just catching up on reaction to it. Rather than reinvent the wheel, here are links to Jeff Foust's roundup of congressional and other statements on Spacepolitics.com and to Keith Cowing's on NASAWatch.
Based on a quick read, it looks as though the speech did not change the dynamics of the debate very much among those who have been commenting on it all along. Still to be heard from, though, are key congressional players like the chairs of the House and Senate appropriations subcommittees that fund NASA (Rep. Alan Mollohan and Sen. Barbara Mikulski), the ranking member of the House appropriations subcommittee (Rep. Frank Wolf), and the chair of the House Science and Technology Committee (Rep. Bart Gordon) and its Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee (Rep. Gabrielle Giffords). Sen. Mikulski will hold a hearing on NASA this coming week (April 22).
It's been clear for many weeks that some sort of compromise would have to be worked out between Congress and the White House on the future of the human space flight program. The President's plan, revealed as part of the FY2011 budget request, met a cold reception on Capitol Hill. In advance of President Obama's speech at Kennedy Space Center tomorrow at 2:45 pm EDT, an OSTP fact sheet released yesterday provides the outlines of that compromise.
One ingredient is retaining the Orion capsule from the Constellation program instead of cancelling all of Constellation as originally planned. The "new" Orion would be a pale version of itself, though. Instead of a capsule to take people to the Moon and Mars and, incidentally, to the International Space Station for a few years, its new purpose would be only to take crews home from the ISS in an emergency - a capability sometimes referred to as a Crew Return Vehicle (CRV). Russia's Soyuz spacecraft have been the CRVs throughout the decade that crews have occupied the ISS. There has been much talk of building an "Orion-lite" with less capability than originally planned, but this takes that a step or two further. The change does give the White House the opportunity to say that the modified plan "restructures" instead of "cancels" Constellation, an important nuance politically.
Accelerating the choice of a firm design for a heavy lift launch vehicle is also part of the modified plan, and creating more jobs for Florida by 2012 than there would have been under the previous plan, according to OSTP and a NASA fact sheet.
The OSTP fact sheet also says that the President will outline a timetable for human exploration, and it references Mars as the ultimate destination several times. The President's original plan was sharply criticized for lacking those elements.
To the President's credit, it appears as though he is trying to be responsive to the withering criticism from both parties in Congress. Whether it will be enough to win the day remains to be seen.
The schedule for tomorrow is as follows. Everything will be broadcast on NASA TV.
1:30 pm President Obama lands at Kennedy Space Center
2:45 pm President Obama speaks
3:45 pm President Obama departs aboard Air Force One
3:45 pm NASA "conference" begins with NASA Administrator Bolden, Norm Augustine, and Presidential Science Adviser John Holdren providing an overview
4:25 pm Four "breakout" groups will meet concurrently on the following topics:
- Increasing Access to and Utilization of the International Space Station
- Jumpstarting the New Technologies to Take Us Beyond
- Expanding our Reach into the Solar System
- Harnessing Space to Expand Economic Opportunity
5:40 pm NASA Administrator Bolden will wrap-up the conference
UPDATE 3: The President's speech is over and pretty much followed what was in the OSTP fact sheet two days ago. It seems to have been well received by the invitation-only audience. The NASA "conference" has begun as Norm Augustine is reviewing what his report said last year. Check back with SpacePolicyOnline.com in a bit for a report on the President's speech.
UPDATE 2: The President is about to speak.
UPDATE 1: President Obama, followed by Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) and Rep. Suzanne Kosmas (D-FL), and then followed by NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden and Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin, just came down the steps from Air Force One.
ORIGINAL STORY: Edtor's Note: I am here at the Operations and Checkout (O&C) building at Kennedy Space Center (KSC) eagerly awaiting the President's speech. He is not due to land for more than half an hour yet, and the speech does not begin until 2:45, but the media are being assembled so we are in place when he gets to this building (and then there are the security considerations that require everyone to be here in advance). Media had a choice of being at the Air Force One landing and takeoff, or being here to cover the speech. Logisitically it was not possible to cover both venues. Naturally, I chose the speech. There are four plasma screens in front of me that appear to be broadcasting NASA TV -- with shots of the International Space Station crew busily at work -- and later will be used to broadcast the breakout sessions. This is a huge building and even with 100 or so media people in it at the moment it would not quite be accurate to call the atmosphere "electric," but I certainly am excited to be here. Follow me on Twitter (SpcPlcyOnline), or check back here for updates. -- Marcia Smith
Kennedy Space Center, FL - President Obama told an invitation-only audience at Kennedy Space Center (KSC) today that his plan for NASA will assure U.S. leadership in space is stronger in the 21st Century than it was in the last century. Saying that no one is more committed to NASA's human space flight program than he is, the President said humans will land on Mars and "I expect to be around to see it."
The President made no retreat from his conviction that the future of human space flight - at least to and from low Earth orbit - should be in the hands of the private sector. Instead, during his short visit, he found time to pop over to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (adjacent to KSC) to visit SpaceX's Falcon 9 sitting on its launch pad.
Obama reviewed the basics of his plan, which are essentially the same as what was announced in the FY2011 budget request. As presaged in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy press release on Tuesday, however, there is some fine tuning that may ameliorate some of his critics. While Orion is not really continued, the President said that NASA will develop a space station rescue craft using the technology developed in the Orion program.
The President's plan has been heavily criticized for not having a destination or timetable. The President offered some timelines today, but they are not in the near term. He said "early in the next decade, a set of crewed flights will test and prove the systems required for exploration beyond low Earth orbit" and new spacecraft for human missions beyond the Moon would be ready by 2025. As for a destination, he explicitly identified a human mission to an asteroid as the next step. Evoking President John F. Kennedy's famous 1961 speech calling on the nation to send a man to the Moon and return him safely to Earth within a decade, President Obama said that "By the mid-2030s, I believe we can send humans to orbit Mars and return them safely to Earth. And a landing on Mars will follow. And I expect to be around to see it." He eschewed the Moon, saying "We've been there before.... There's a lot more of space to explore."
As expected, he also said that a decision would be made by 2015 on what new heavy lift launch vehicle to develop, which he said was two years earlier than under the previous plan.
Noting that Rep. Suzanne Kosmas keeps reminding him that he promised to help with jobs in the transition from Shuttle to Constellation, he announced that he is proposing a $40 million initiative to develop a plan for regional economic growth and job creation along Florida's Space Coast. The plan is due by August 15. Separately he said that his proposal would add 2,500 more jobs in the next two years in the area than the previous plan, and that 10,000 jobs could be created nationwide over the next few years as companies compete to be part of the "new space transportation industry."
The speech does little to change the nature of the program revealed in February, but indicates that the White House is willing to respond to some of the criticism it has encountered. For those who firmly believe that new spacecraft and launch vehicles should be developed under the traditional government-private sector relationship that has defined the space program for the past 50 years, the speech probably did little to ease their concerns. Nor would those whose worry mostly about jobs be assuaged, since there were few details about how new jobs would be created. But for anyone who wanted to know where the human space flight program is headed and on what schedule, the President offered some answers today and his personal enthusiasm for the human space flight program. The ball is back in Congress' court to decide whether to embrace the President's plan for the future, try to keep the Constellation program in spite of the significant budget implications of that choice, or come up with something else.
Editor's note: The President said that before he went on stage someone told him that the space program was more than Tang and he replied that he really likes Tang. Regrettably that comment may reinforce the urban myth that Tang came out of the space program. It did not. Nor did Velcro or Teflon even though those are the three products that most people seem to think are space program spin-offs.
The International Space Education Institute of Leipzig, Germany and the University of Puerto Rico in Humacao claimed first place of their respective divisions in the 17th Annual Great Moonbuggy Race, NASA announced Saturday.
More than 70 student teams from around the world competed to design, build and race lightweight, human-powered buggies that tackle many of the same engineering challenges NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) encountered in developing the Apollo lunar rover in the 1960s.
The winners are selected based on vehicle assembly and race times in each division. The International Space Education Institute, also known as "Team Germany," won first place in the high school division after finishing the half-mile course that simulates the lunar surface in 3 minutes 37 seconds. The University of Puerto Rico at Humacao won the college division, completing the course in 4 minutes and 18 seconds.
Tammy Rowan, manager of MSFC's Academic Affairs Office, was quoted by NASA as saying: "it's our goal to augment and enrich the classroom experience, and inspire a new generation of scientists, engineers and explorers to carry on NASA's mission of discovery throughout our solar system and deliver untold benefits back home on Earth."
The race, organized by MSFC, took place on April 9-10, 2010 at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, AL. For more information on these and other winning teams, see the press release or visit http://moonbuggy.msfc.nasa.gov/
Anticipation continues to mount as April 15 and President Obama's major space policy address nears. The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and NASA each have issued fact sheets that are available on OSTP's website. According to NASA's instructions to the media, the President will land at Kennedy Space Center at 1:30 pm EDT, and the program will begin at 2:45 pm. Air Force One and the President will depart at 3:45 pm. The conference includes "breakout groups" after the President's address and then a closing ceremony, but details are scarce. The entire event will be streamed on NASA TV.
How did we ever get along without Twitter? And Tweeters like Jeff Foust from Spacepolitics.com, Miles O'Brien from This Week in Space, and NASA's own Wayne Hale? Their tweets from the Space Foundation's National Space Symposium in Colorado Springs makes it seem like being there yourself! Here are a few samples from today's events featuring NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden, Commander of Air Force Space Command Gen. Robert Kehler, and a space investment industry panel. Check Twitter or these guys' blogs for more of their news and views.
jeff_foust: Bolden: this is a big week for space. More people will be thinking about it than perhaps ever before
jeff_foust: Bolden: the new plan features incremental, measured progress based on heritage and building upon milestones
jeff_foust: Bolden: can't express just how passionate Obama and I are about education, why it's an impt part of the plan
jeff_foust: Bolden ends with call to work together to fully realize NASA's goals. Leaves without taking any questions
jeff_foust: Gen. Kehler: in plans we used to put a big red circle around launch day. Now we put it around the day that capability enters service
jeff_foust: Kehler: we're using the same strategy for milspace programs as we did in Cold War. Have to realize that 1 strategy doesn't fit all.
jeff_foust: Next panel as #nss10 features Wall St analysts talking about space industry. Mass exodus from the room
jeff_foust: Good news for the space industry: investors have short memories and have forgotten the disasters of a decade ago
this_week_in_space: At the space syposium in CO - Charlie Bolden trying to sell skeptical/angry crowd on Obama space plan. Tough crowd
wayne_hale: At the NSS, Gen Kahler is giving a great, thoughtful, heartfelt speech that clearly explains goals and issues. We could learn from him.
wayne_hale: Listening to Charlie Bolden at the National Space Symposium. He's doing his best to make the case.
Former NASA Administrator Michael Griffin and a long list of former astronauts and retired NASA officials penned an open letter to President Obama warning that his new plan for NASA could "force as many as 30,000 irreplaceable engineers and managers out of the space industry."
Calling the plan "a terrible decision," the letter urges the President "to demonstrate the vision and determination necessary to keep our nation at the forefront of human exploration...." The full text of the letter appears below. President Obama is scheduled to speak at Kennedy Space Center on Thursday in what many are calling a "space summit" to further elucidate his vision for NASA, whose outlines were revealed in NASA's FY2011 budget request on February 1.
Here is the text of the open letter to the President.
Dear President Obama;
America is faced with the near-simultaneous ending of the Shuttle program and your recent budget proposal to cancel the Constellation program. This is wrong for our country for many reasons. We are very concerned about America ceding its hard earned global leadership in space technology to other nations. We are stunned that, in a time of economic crisis, this move will force as many as 30,000 irreplaceable engineers and managers out of the space industry. We see our human exploration program, one of the most inspirational tools to promote science, technology, engineering and math to our young people, being reduced to mediocrity. NASA's human space program has inspired awe and wonder in all ages by pursuing the American tradition of exploring the unknown. We strongly urge you to drop this misguided proposal that forces NASA out of human space operations for the foreseeable future.
For those of us who have accepted the risk and dedicated a portion of our lives to the exploration of outer space, this is a terrible decision. Our experiences were made possible by the efforts of thousands who were similarly dedicated to the exploration of the last frontier. Success in this great national adventure was predicated on well defined programs, an unwavering national commitment, and an ambitious challenge. We understand there are risks involved in human space flight, but they are calculated risks for worthy goals, whose benefits greatly exceed those risks.
America's greatness lies in her people: she will always have men and women willing to ride rockets into the heavens. America's challenge is to match their bravery and acceptance of risk with specific plans and goals worthy of their commitment. NASA must continue at the frontiers of human space exploration in order to develop the technology and set the standards of excellence that will enable commercial space ventures to eventually succeed. Canceling NASA's human space operations, after 50 years of unparalleled achievement, makes that objective impossible.
One of the greatest fears of any generation is not leaving things better for the young people of the next. In the area of human space flight, we are about to realize that fear; your NASA budget proposal raises more questions about our future in space than it answers.
Too many men and women have worked too hard and sacrificed too much to achieve America's preeminence in space, only to see that effort needlessly thrown away. We urge you to demonstrate the vision and determination necessary to keep our nation at the forefront of human space exploration with ambitious goals and the proper resources to see them through. This is not the time to abandon the promise of the space frontier for a lack of will or an unwillingness to pay the price.
Sincerely, in hopes of continued American leadership in human space exploration.
Past Director JSC
Skylab 3, STS 3
Past Director KSC
Michael D. Griffin
Past NASA Administrator
Past Director KSC
Apollo 12, Skylab 3
Alfred M. Worden
Gemini-Apollo Flight Director
Gemini 4, Apollo 9
Apollo Spacecraft Program Manager
Gemini-Apollo Flight Director
Past Director NASA Mission Ops.
Shuttle Landing Tests
Gemini 7, Gemini 12,
Apollo 8, Apollo 13
Gemini 7, Apollo 8
Skylab 2, STS-6
Past Associate Administrator
For Manned Space Flight
Gemini 9, Apollo 10,
Gemini 11, Apollo 12
On this day in 1961, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human being to fly into space. His one orbit of the Earth in Vostok 1 catalyzed the new John F. Kennedy Administration to boldly announced just six weeks later the goal of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to Earth by the end of the decade. In the intervening weeks, Alan Shepard became the first American astronaut to reach the limits of space, though his flight was suborbital (John Glenn was the first astronaut to orbit the Earth, in February 1962). Gagarin died in 1968 in a military aircraft accident in circumstances that remain unclear even today.
The following events may be of interest in the coming week. For more information, see our calendar on the right menu or click on the links below. Times, dates, and witnesses for congressional hearings are subject to change; check with the relevant committee for up to date information.
The BIG event, of course, is President Obama's space conference at Kennedy Space Center (KSC), FL on Thursday. The few details that have been made public so far are that the President will make a major space policy address and meet privately with some Members of Congress, and there will be four panel sessions on various topics. SpacePolicyOnline.com will post further information as it becomes available. According to NASA Administrator Bolden, the event will be broadcast on NASA TV. Florida Today reports that the President will arrive at KSC at 1:45 pm, speak at 3:00 pm, and depart at 3:45 pm.
Monday-Thursday, April 12-15
Monday, April 12
Tuesday, April 13
Wednesday, April 14
Thursday, April 15
- President Obama's Space Conference, Kennedy Space Center (KSC), FL. Florida Today reports that the President will arrive at KSC at 1:45 pm. speak at 3:00 pm, and depart at 3:45 pm.
Thursday-Friday, April 15-16
Events of Interest
- NASA Earth Day 2014 events, April 21-27, 2014, various locations nationwide and online
- Humans to Mars (H2M) Summit, April 22-24, 2014, George Washington University, Washington, DC
- Webinar on China's Antisatellite (ASAT) program, April 24, 2014, virtual, 11:00 am ET
- NEW USA Science & Engineering Festival, April 25-27, 2014, Washington Convention Center, Washington, DC
- NEW NASA Exploration Forum on Human Path to Mars, April 29, 2014, NASA HQ, Washington, DC, 12:30 - 3:00 pm ET
- HASC Subcmte Markups, April 30-May 1, 2014, various locations in Rayburn House Office Building, various times
- WIA Aerospace 2014: Breaking the Mold, April 30, 2014, Hyatt Regency Crystal City, Arlington, VA, 8:00 am - 4:45 pm ET
- AIAA Spotlight Awards and Gala Dinner, April 30, 2014, Ronald Reagan Building, Washington, DC
- Senate Approps CJS Sbcmte Hearing on NASA's FY2015 Budget Req, May 1, 2014, 10:00 am ET (room TBA)
- NEW Amer Astronautical Society Special Event on ISS Utilization, May 1, 2014, 253 Russell Senate Office Building, 1:00-6:00 pm ET
- NEW BLAST OFF: Future of Spaceflight, May 1, 2014, The Explorers Club HQ, 46 E 70th St, New York, NY, 6:00-9:00 pm ET
Full calendar of future events (with filters)-click here »
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