No Shuttle Extension

Or at least NASA’s not counting on one:

NASA will pay $335 million to Russia for four round-trip flights to the International Space Station in 2013 and 2014 under the terms of a new deal announced today by the American space agency.

The contract extends previous agreements with the Russians that ensure the station can keep a six-member crew after NASA retires the shuttle this year.

I wonder what the termination clause is if there is a decision to extend?

Liberty? Freedom?

“What’s that?,” asks Harry Reid:

Reid said he understands why some are angry at government and Washington during an economic recession that cost people jobs and sent the home foreclosure rates skyrocketing.

But he expressed confusion about what the Tea Party movement wants when its members call for more liberty and freedom and cite the Constitution in denouncing what they see as an expansion of the federal government, including with health care reform.

“The people who are really upset don’t really know why they’re upset,” Reid said.

“What do they mean?” Reid said he wonders when they call for more liberty and freedom. “I’m happy to talk about issues.”

“They want things to be the way they used to be,” Reid said. “They will never be the way they used to be.”

Well, I’m glad that I have intellectual betters like Harry Reid to tell me why I’m really upset.

Is he really this clueless, or does he just play it on teevee?

And did he notice that he could only get one percent of the number to turn out for his campaign start as showed up to protest him a week and a half ago? Oh, well. He’ll get a chance to spend more time with his family in a few months.

[Update a while later]

Harry Reid’s son is also going down in flames in his race for governor.


Show Me The Money

Keith Cowing is reporting that a “compromise” is taking shape and will be what is announced at the Tax Day summit in Florida.

If true, the good news is that Ares, like Francisco Franco, is still dead. The bad news is that with the Orion lite, NASA will once again be competing against private industry for a viable commercial activity. I like competition, but as in health care, the notion of competition from a taxpayer-subsidized entity remains anathema, if not an oxymoron. Also as in health care, the solution is not “competition” from the government, but to set up a structure that forces real competition among providers.

Beyond that, I think that a a Shuttle stretch and a Shuttle-derived sidemount is a waste of money, and a quarter of a century too late. It looks mainly like a jobs program to me.

Which would be all right, if it’s what is necessary to get political support for killing off the Ares disaster. The problem is that the new plan doesn’t fit the budget. As John Shannon said, Shuttle extension costs a couple hundred million a month, and with a low flight rate, each flight will be well over a billion, and not particularly safe, because it’s probably too low a rate for the operations people to maintain their edge.

“Red” has his estimate of the additional cost of this, over at Clark’s place:

Even just the Shuttle/sidemount Block 1 will be about $13B assuming those numbers. Let’s say you could gather funds from the 2011 budget for it as:

$1.5B – from the 2011 budget Constellation transition
$1.5B – from the KSC modernization
$0.6B – from the Shuttle slip contingency
$3.0B – from the HLV and propulsion research line
Also assume $0.4B gets directed to it from really fast pre-2011 budget work.

That’s $7B, leaving a $6B shortfall, even without starting Block 2 (if needed), Orion lite, exploration craft, or systems to integrate with ISS.

The remaining big new budget items (assuming commercial crew is protected as Keith suggests) are (setting aside Earth observations and Aeronautics which I assume are off the table):

$5B – space technology
$7.8B – exploration demos
$3.0B – robotic precursors
$2.4B – ISS increase

Even that $6B would put a huge hole in that, and the $6B is just a start, using optimistic assumptions. Also realize that even Griffin’s Constellation had IPP (now hidden inside space technology) and LRO/LCROSS as robotic precursors, so you’d be getting close to Griffin-esque territory already.

That was the problem that the new budget was supposed to solve. My biggest fear (in addition to the crowding out of commercial) is that once again the technology budget will be sacrificed. I notice in Keith’s report that there are two players who aren’t mentioned — OMB and Congress. Where is the money going to come from?

Also, I wonder why Tax Day was chosen as the date for the summit. In addition to its conflict with the National Space Symposium, it doesn’t seem a very propitious day to be announcing an increase in discretionary spending on an agency whose public support is broad but shallow, in a year in which spending and deficits have risen to the top of the public concern.

[Update a few minutes later]

There’s a lot more discussion over at Space Politics.

How Was Karl Rove…?

…so clueless?

About four years ago, around the time when Democrats were heatedly charging that Bush had “lied” about Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction in order to build a case for war (after all, they argued, if the weapons had existed, why weren’t we able to find them after liberating Iraq?), I was having lunch with Dr. Laurie Mylroie, one of America’s leading students of terrorism in general, and Iraqi terrorism in particular. Laurie was beside herself with anger. Why wasn’t the Bush administration citing Gen. James Clapper, the Director of the National Imagery and Mapping Agency, who said that satellite imagery proved conclusively that shortly before the war’s outbreak, Iraq had transferred its weapons of mass destruction to Syria? Why wasn’t it quoting Gen. Georges Sada, deputy chief of Saddam’s air force, or Gen. Moshe Ya’alon, Israel’s chief-of-staff, both of whom also claimed that Saddam’s weapons had been transferred to Syria? Why was it so tongue-tied, so unsure of itself, so unwilling to answer its critics? Didn’t anybody in the White House realize that if the Democrats’ charges went unanswered, they would fatally undermine the entire case for the war?

By this time, however, I had left the White House, so I had to tell Laurie the truth: Her revelations about Generals Clapper and Sada (though not Ya’alon) were news to me, and I had no idea why the White House wasn’t citing them.

I couldn’t figure it out either. I guess now we know the reason.

Thanks for Obama, Karl. Hope it turns out better than it is right now.

Biting Commentary about Infinity…and Beyond!