The Politics of NASA's New Path

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Mr. Bolden goes to Capitol Hill this week…

The NASA boss Charlie Bolden is a former Marine fighter and test pilot and astronaut and he is used to taking flak – after all he flew a hundred combat missions over southeast Asia during the Vietnam war. So facing off with some lawmakers on Capitol Hill over the controversial Obama NASA budget proposal – piece of cake- right?  Well, it started out that way – he began with the Senate Subcommittee on Science & Space.  The chairman – his former shuttle crew member – then Congressman – now Senator Bill Nelson.  Watch their exchange here.

And a somewhat chillier one with Senator David Vitter – a Republican from Louisiana – home of the Michoud Assembly facility – where they make the external fuel tanks for the shuttle- here.

And I got in on the action too…Here is some of what I had to say. And you can read my full remarks here.

The next day – Charlie Bolden found himself in a different orbit – namely the House of Representatives – where they don’t know comity – from comedy…and when he appeared before the House Science Committee, it was so silly you almost had to laugh as members from Texas Alabama and Florida tried to out Bolden-bash one another.

Cygnus Spacecraft.  Source:  Orbital Sciences

Cygnus Spacecraft. Source: Orbital Sciences

The Obama budget for the space agency puts some big bets on some commercial players to work more independently to get cargo – and ultimately humans to and from low earth orbit. But there are a host of concerns about transferring so much risk outside the space agency. One of the main players in this game is Orbital Sciences – Like its competitor SpaceX, the company is building a vehicle to deliver cargo to the ISS under contract to NASA. Veteran astronaut and NASA manager Frank Culbertson is now a senior VP with orbital – and he was listening intently – as I was  – when his former fellow astronaut Hoot Gibson said this in that Senate Hearing.  Watch and listen to our conversation here.

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One Response to “The Politics of NASA's New Path”

  1. charlesthespaceguy Says:

    Sadly, most of the words from elected officials are posturing for future elections, as they defend local jobs. Can we blame them for following the script we have written for them? I sure wish they would speak more about the capabilities that we are willingly abandoning, the missions we will not consider since we lost the ability to do them.
    Our “new” capabilities, when they arrive, will not include doing EVA from a capsule. They will not include an RMS capability.
    In the end, as long as our elected officials can claim that they will get more money in “the new budget” they will move on to other concerns. Later, if they money never shows up they will feign surprise and shock.
    I am reminded of a scene in my favorite movie where Rick’s Cafe Americain is shut down when the Chief of Police discovers gambling taking place! He is shocked and dismayed!

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