Posts Tagged ‘Vision for Space Exploration’

To the Moon? I think not, Alice….

February 24, 2010

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The NASA insignia.

Image via Wikipedia

(ed. note: these remarks are part of my testimony to the Senate Committee on Science and Transportation hearing “Challenges and Opportunities in the NASA FY 2011 Budget Proposal” on February 24, 2010)

Washington – we have a problem – there is an uproar across the land over NASA’s course change – and it says a lot about how the public is no longer in the loop with the space agency.

The headlines read “NASA cancels its Moon mission”. Now I would submit to you most people reading those stories had no idea were were heading back to the moon in the first place. And guess what? We really weren’t! The program – packaged as the “Vision for Space Exploration” – never got the promised funding – and its “vision” was clearly focused on the rear view mirror.

Constellation was touted as “Apollo on Steroids” but really it was a ninety-pound weakling – an uninspired attempt to bring back the magic. NASA was acting like the middle aged high school football hero who spends too much time in the local saloon telling tales of the glory days when he led his team to the state championships.

But the country has grown up and moved on – and it is time for NASA to get off the bar stool and do the same.

And that is exactly what I see in this budget. This is a grown up approach to space exploration – one that synchs the goals with national needs and budgetary realities. The space agency is getting a slap in the face. “Thanks, I needed that!” is what it should be saying. But that is not what we are hearing. Change is never easy.

But wait a minute – isn’t NASA supposed to be all about change? In fact, if it can’t embrace – no actually invent – change – we should close the whole place down.

But wait there is more – because as much as anything else – what we have here is a failure to communicate.

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Regrets? I've Had a Few…

February 13, 2010
Ares I-X Launch.  Source:  NASA/Scott Andrews, Cannon

Ares I-X Launch. Source: NASA/Scott Andrews, Cannon

The news that NASA is heading off in a dramatic new direction has many people saying “ooooh!”…or “whoa!” – or in some cases “ouch!”  The Coalition for Space Exploration – which consists of all the big traditional space contractors thinks it is a big mistake to throw out Constellation lock stock and booster…One of the Coalition board members was there on the inside when Constellation was dreamed up – Former astronaut Fred Gregory was Deputy NASA Administrator when the Bush Administration announced the so called Vision for Space Exploration in 2004. I spoke with him before the shuttle launch.

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It's All About Politics

December 21, 2009
Source:  NASA/Scott Andrews, Cannon

Ares I-X Launch. Source: NASA/Scott Andrews, Cannon

More on NASA’s future. It appears President Obama is close to making a decision on which course to chart in space.   Whenever he shares HIS vision with the rest of us – the debate will  move to a broader realm – and of course to Congress – where nothing is guaranteed.

The other day , Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi showed her colors in a gabfest with reporters:

“I, myself, if you are asking me personally, I have not been a big fan of manned expeditions to outer space, in terms of safety and cost,” Pelosi told reporters a round table on legislative accomplishments this year. “But people could make the case; technology is always changing.”

Oh, boy.  Fortunately for space fans, there are some people in Congress who do their homework – and are strong supporters of manned spaceflight.

And as it turns out, many of them are big fans of the Bush “Vision for Space Exploration.”

Among the big supporters is the chairwoman of the House Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics, Gabrielle Giffords – a democrat of Arizona – who is married to NASA astronaut Mark Kelly.

On December 2 she held a hearing on the pros and cons of constellation versus commercial alternatives. And it seems clear where she stands:

“We hope to hear from our witnesses as to whether they believe that the burden of proof should be put on those who would propose alternatives to the Constellation program to demonstrate that their systems will be at least as safe as Ares/Orion. Alternatively, do they think it would it be acceptable to reduce the required level of crew safety on commercially provided crew transport services used to transport U.S. astronauts much below what looks to be achievable in the Constellation program?”

I guess you could call that a loaded question…In any case, if he had been in the room that day – former NASA  Administrator Mike Griffin might have stood up raised his hands and said “Amen!”  OK, well maybe the man who once likened himself to Spock would have been a bit more reserved – but he does firmly believes NASA should press on with Ares and Constellation as it is currently envisioned.

One of the big things he is worried about the the time between vehicles – the infamous “Gap.”  Watch below, or read the transcript of our interview.

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