An Urgent Call To Action

Thoughts on tomorrow’s Senate vote on NASA authorization, from Henry Vanderbilt of the Space Access Society:

…let them both know that you support full funding for NASA Commercial Crew, and full funding for NASA space exploration technology, and that you are very much against any new NASA heavy lift booster development as very likely being a massive waste of taxpayer dollars.

Read the whole thing.

[Post Instalanche update]

More background and related links here.

[Thursday morning update]

Clark Lindsey has some links to the latest on the bill, here, here and here.

He also has some thoughts on how it could have been a lot worse:

while I don’t want to sugar-coat this awful bill, I’m just saying that it is no cause for despair. My philosophy from the start of this website and blog has been based on a belief that progress usually comes in step-by-step increments. It will be disappointing if the 2011 NASA budget doesn’t make the huge step initially promised. Nevertheless, even this bill is a step forward.

I never have high hopes for space policy. The bill could be a lot better, but just getting rid of Constellation, and particularly Ares, is a huge improvement. I’m willing to take if for now, and start to educate the Republicans so we can get better policy when they take over next year, and hope that they don’t try to undo everything that Obama did, and restore the disastrous Bush policy, simply on partisan grounds. It’s important to have a serious discussion on what we’re trying to accomplish, and how best to do it, regardless of the genesis of various policies. It hasn’t happened yet, but hope springs eternal.

[Update a while later]

No word about the press conference yet, but here is Hutchison’s official statement.

17 thoughts on “An Urgent Call To Action”

  1. Frankly, I think NASA should be de-funded. Between James Hansen and Islamic outreach as the highest mission, NASA has become a joke – and not one I want my tax dollars funding.

  2. Thanks for posting this, Rand. I called my the office of my Senator on the Commerce committee earlier today to ask for her support on all three amendments: restored commercial crew funding, restored space technology funding, and restored CRuSR suborbital science funding.

  3. Since NASA is now, according to its director, a diplomatic organization focused upon uplifting the benighted Mohammedans, the best course of action is to zero out its funding entirely.

    If we want to waste that money on diplomacy, we might as well shower it upon the Department of State, which has centuries of experience in wasting large sums on futile diplomacy. Foggy Bottom can certainly squander money with more panache than Houston.

    I’d love to see NASA return to doing basic research to enable entrepreneurial answers to space transportation problems. Unfortunately, there is bad precedent from NASA itself; under the Bush administration NASA very nearly zeroed out its basic aeronautical research. This research, over many decades, gave us such gifts as energy-efficient engine cowlings, the Fowler flap, tricycle landing gear (an innovation by Fred Weick that probably saves $2 million in insurance money every month), the area rule, the supercritical wing, variable planform geometry, the winglet, and those are just some of the gadgets. NASA also provided an understanding of many man-made and natural phenomena, for examples, ground effect, the formation of airframe ice, and the presence and location of the Van Allen belts. This understanding saves lives every day. But it’s now a finite body of information with zero growth.

    None of this basic research will be replaced by industry… industry does applied research, with quantifiable results (and quantifiable results that suggest a positive net present value, at that). Instead, we have something that devolved into one more middle-class jobs program, where fortunes are squandered on make-work. Bastiat’s broken window.

    I guess every government program sooner or later turns into pure rent-seeking. NASA’s there. Time to turn out the lights.

  4. There is much more to NASA than HSF. It is perhaps only desirable to end the HSF department at NASA, push all that reticent talent and expertise into the private sector where it might flourish in a more productive environment and actually do significant good.

  5. Looks like a good compromise, and with Boeing/Lockheed focused on the new heavy lift vehicle SpaceX and Orbital may well have the commercial crew program to themselves. If so it makes sense to cut the commercial crew funding since they are unlikely to need the extra funding. In essence commercial crew is returned to the COTS-D level of funding and time table.

    And if the President is buying in, as seems to be the case, the amendments will be a moot point since they will probably be dropped by the Committee to avoid killing the deal with the President.

    All in all it looks like a good compromise. The Constellation opponents get the Ares I and V killed as they wanted. New Space gets to keep commercial crew at a level that will make it more likely New Space firms will be selected for it. And the new SD HLV and Orion means the next administration has the option to return to the Moon by the simple addition of a lunar lander. Also the new SD HLV will give NASA the focus it needs as an organization, which was lacking in President Obama’s original plan.

    It looks like a win-win all around, something Congress, the President and the majority of the space community could live with, except of course for the zealots (pro-Ares I, Commercial Crew ONLY) on the extremes of the debate.

  6. Not sure why my last post didn’t go through.

    But as I note this looks like a good compromise and if its a done deal it makes the amendments moot.

  7. hope that they don’t try to undo everything that Obama did, and restore the disastrous Bush policy, simply on partisan grounds

    Flexible Path can be viewed as the affordable way to implement the VSE. The Bush policy was not a disaster, the implementation by NASA (i.e. Ares) was a disaster, and Obama is arguably himself restoring the Bush policy – probably the only fiscally-sane policy of the entire Obama administration.

  8. Yeah, I’m surprised Rand refered to Bush’s policy as disastrous, when he normally points to Griffin’s implementation. I’m going to assume he’s just frustrated by Republicans, since his post mentions KayBay, who I find very frustrating.

  9. I think Mr. Matula has it right. While the prompt pursuit of a needless HLV is a major policy blemish, both aesthetically and economically, at least the big dogs now have a diversionary bone to chase after and NewSpace firms have a fairly lengthy opportunity to establish some facts on the ground (and LEO). By the time said HLV gets completed – if ever – a more economically rational future administration can turn thumbs down with a solidly-proven alternative already in hand.

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