NASA Budget Issues

Andy Pasztor (I know, I know) has a piece in today’s Journal about the NASA budget proposal that was released a few minutes ago. As Jeff Foust notes, when he writes:

Commercial-space projects are years behind schedule, and critics still worry about placing undue reliance on them.

…compared to what? At least they weren’t slopping more than a year per year, as Constellation was, and they were spending orders of magnitude less money. Jeff also says:

…the article doesn’t say what that cutback in commercial crew funding is in respect to. If it’s compared to the 2012 projection in the administration’s FY11 budget request, which called for $1.4 billion, that is almost certainly correct, especially since the NASA authorization act passed last year included only $500 million for commercial crew development in 2012. It would be more newsworthy if the administration’s commercial crew request was less than that $500-million figure, especially since the article also indicates that the budget proposal “would be broadly consistent” with the act.

Actually, my reading of it is that it’s a cut from the $500M figure:

The White House last year initially proposed NASA spending of more than $1.2 billion annually on commercial spacecraft. Congress later reduced that figure to less than $500 million a year, and the latest budget envision further trims.

That sounds like a cut from the half billion to me. But then again, it is Andy Pasztor. Anyway, we’ll know today.

[Update a few minutes later]

Clark Lindsey has more thoughts, and there’s a lot of discussion in comments.

[Update a few mintues later]

Jeff Foust has more over at The Space Review today.

Be Careful

Don’t hurt the burglars. I liked this comment:

Don’t leave bottles of brown-coloured bottles of pesticides in your shed – burglars might think you have left them some beer. Don’t leave a supply of bird nuts – burglars might get food poisoning – thinking you were leaving them some munchies to go with the previous item. Don’t put pitch forks in your sheds – burglars might stab themselves on them as they clamber through the window. Don’t put glass in the window frame – burglars might get a scratch followed by blood poisoning. Make sure there is adequate lighting – in case burglars accidentally step on a rake and whack themselves in the gob. Please provide an adequate seating arrangement – so that weary burglars can take a rest, before taking the rest of your stuff. A bucket is NO substitute for slopping out, sorry I mean going to the ‘boudoir’. Burglars expect a proper netty! Adequate toilet paper should be on supply AT ALL TIMES!

Somehow, Great Britain doesn’t seem so great any more.

The Country’s In The Very Best Of Hands

Depressing thoughts on the administration and Egypt from Victor Davis Hanson, Roger Kimball, and Judith Levy:

All the above said, the actual implementation reflects somebody with the experience of two years in the Senate, who had never navigated outside of academia and Chicago tit-for-tat politics. So Mubarak is/is not a dictator, must leave now/yesterday/sometime soon as he serves as sort of a figurative leader/a critical transition player/a suspicious counter-revolutionary inasmuch as the U.S. must lay down conditions/advise only/respect Egyptian prerogatives, as private conversations with Egyptians are spilled to the press, Obama suggests the Cairo desire for freedom somehow channels his own support, and Biden, Clinton, and Obama contradict one another hourly. This is very sad.

…That smart diplomacy, it turns out, wasn’t ’smart’ as in clever. It was ’smart’ as in how your cheek feels when it’s been slapped hard. The bigger issue here concerns the place of the United States on the world stage. We just sent a message to our friends and allies about how they should value our professions of friendship and our commitments to help them. President Obama has mastered a certain rhetorical schtick. It revolves around the communication of a certain emotion of righteousness. You look out a crowd, eyes raised, and turn your head slowly to the the left, then to the right, then to the left again. It requires a certain arrogance, which Obama certain commands. To work, however, it also requires competence, an understanding of the way the world actually works, which he has once against demonstrated he lacks utterly.

…There are two possibilities, and they’re both appalling. One is that Clapper knew everything he was saying was a gross distortion of reality but said it anyway, thereby deliberately misleading the American people and giving aid and comfort to a group whose interests are completely antithetical to those of the United States. The other is that Clapper is genuinely ignorant of the agenda of the Muslim Brotherhood, a thought that is just about as unnerving as can be imagined.

If it needs to be to pointed out to the Director of National Intelligence that Google is his friend, we are in a boatload of trouble, folks. I wish I was kidding.

It makes me long for the robust, intelligent foreign policy of Jimmy Carter.

[Update a few minutes later]

“…a sense of powerlessness.”

“We Cannot Survive Without You”

I’ve been pointing for a year now that NASA needs private providers a lot more than they need NASA. Jeff Foust has a report from the plenary session of the conference yesterday, in which Charlie Bolden confirmed it. This will, of course, cause exploding of heads in the moronosphere.

[Update a few minutes later]

And as predicted, here is the latest insanity from Mark Whittington:

Charles Bolden was reported to have told Apollo astronaut Gene Cernan that he would provide a bailout for commercial space firms “equal to that given the auto industry” if the private sector faltered in providing space transportation services. Bolden later issued a non denial denial of Cernan’s account.

This raises the question of in what sense is the Obama program “commercial.” Under the Bush era COTS program, the consequences for failure were that a commercial company would be out of the program. Originally a company called Rocket Plane/Kistler was part of COTS. But because RP/Kistler could not meet milestones, it was replaced by another company called Orbital Systems.

But under the Obama plan, the only consequences for failure would be more money pumped into the commercial companies that are developing private space craft. With the demise of Constellation, companies competing for ISS servicing contracts have become too important to fail.

So far this virtual guarantee of money has not had much of an effect on the performance of companies in the commercial space program. Recently, SpaceX successfully orbited, reentered, and landed on the ocean a prototype of its Dragon space craft.

I don’t have time to dissect it right now, so I toss it as chum to the comment sharks. I will note though, that there is no logical connection between the first and second sentences in that last paragraph. Which is not atypical of a Whittington piece.

Biting Commentary about Infinity…and Beyond!

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