More People Are Noticing The NASA Problem

Fox News has picked up the story on the rocket to nowhere:

Stifled by legislative bottlenecks, NASA will be forced to continue an already defunct rocket program until March, costing the agency half a billion dollars while adding more hurdles to the imminent task of replacing the space shuttle.

It’s always useful to note that half a billion dollars is about what SpaceX has spent to date on: creating a company, purchasing/leasing/modifying test, manufacturing and launch facilities, developing from scratch and demonstrating engines, two orbital launch systems, and a pressurized return capsule. This is the difference between NASA doing a traditional cost-plus procurement versus a fixed-price one. And it’s not just SpaceX — we’ve seen similar rapid, cost-effective progress from Boeing on their fixed-price commercial crew contract.

And of course, Shelby’s spokesman says that it’s NASA’s fault:

Shelby’s office says that there is no reason NASA can’t move forward.

“NASA is just making excuses and continuing to drag its feet, just as it has done for the past two years under the Obama administration,” Shelby spokesman Jonathan Graffeo said Wednesday.

As I note here, this isn’t NASA’s fault — it’s the fault of a Congress that has set them up to fail. They have two contradictory laws, and they can’t obey one without disobeying the other, so it’s inevitable that they will be acting illegally until Congress fixes it.

16 thoughts on “More People Are Noticing The NASA Problem”

  1. It may all be academic if Congress is serious about following to the letter their new Constitutional Rule.

    Two new rules will give Constitution a starring role in GOP-controlled House

    By Philip Rucker and Krissah Thompson
    Washington Post Staff Writers
    Wednesday, December 29, 2010; 5:34 PM

    [[[And then they will require that every new bill contain a statement by the legislator who wrote it citing the constitutional authority to enact the proposed law.]]]

    Although the “Common Defense” clause of Section 8 may have been applied to justify the origin of NASA in 1959, and the development of Apollo and Shuttle during the Cold War, its difficult to see how it could be applied to the development of a HLV for exploration or any NASA science other the Earth observation. Commercial crew also wouldn’t fit since there is nothing in the Constitution about promoting commerce, merely that it would be regulated between the states. If Congress actually is serious about this provision it will change the dynamics greatly of the space debate.

  2. If the new Congress takes the proposed “constitutional authority” idea truly seriously by the end of 2011 the federal government will shrink by about 75% and entire departments will be gone. Does anyone really expect that?

  3. G’day,

    Would the Constitution Rule allow the establishment of a US Space Command? I would think a manned BEO space capability, not necessary one requiring a HLLV, could certainly be justified on planetary defense grounds.



  4. G’day,

    Ooops I meant US Space Guard. Something Rand has been promoting here for some time. I would think such an organisation could be justified under the US constitution.



  5. Yes, but it will be $500 million spent in the congressman’s district. It may not buy any rockets, but it will buy a hell of a lot of votes. Just try doing that with some stupid voyage to a planet with no voters there to corrupt!

  6. After a decade or two, almost every governmental apparatus is captured by its bureaucrats, at which point it tries its best for stasis in what it is to promote. Amtrak. NASA. The Department of Education. The list is long.

  7. To the private sector a half a billion dollars is enough to start a whole new industry. To the federal government it is a rounding error. How many new industries will be lost due to a wasteful spending of a totally dysfunctional federal government?

  8. Commerce clause.

    Will it have anything whatsoever to do with any trade between any two states? Say for example, by producing Rocket Fuel in Alabama, might it possibly affect the price of Rocket Fuel elsewhere, by preventing Alabama from buying as much from out of state?

    Then the Commerce clause applies. See Wickard vs Filburn , what I think is second only to Dred Scott in terms of pernicious judicial ruling by the SCOTUS.

  9. Jody:

    Despite Glenn Reynolds award, this is really the best comment of all time!

    I hope it spreads to all corners of the earth.

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