Saturday, September 11, 2010

Bringing Home the Bacon

The excellent Space Politics blog has a couple articles by publisher Jeff Foust on the latest maneuvering by the House and Senate to craft a final NASA funding bill for FY 2011. Click on the links for Jeff's September 9 and September 10 postings.

Referenced among the posted comments are links to two opinion articles worth a read.

"NASA's Constellation Hallucination and the Congressional Money Drug" was written by Rick Tumlinson and posted Friday on The Huffington Post. Tumlinson is co-founder of the Space Frontier Foundation which, according to its web site, "was created in 1988 by a group of space community leaders who were dedicated to opening the space frontier to human settlement as rapidly as possible. These individuals had worked for years—some professionally and some as volunteers—in space research, policy and public outreach."

Tumlinson's article begins:

In the coming weeks some in Congress will try to kill America's future in space as they desperately work to prop up the tax sucking, pork eating dreamslaying monster known as the Constellation rocket program. Right now a bought and paid for cabal of hypocritical puppets in the House and Senate are trying to prop up this corpse of a dead end plan to go to the Moon and Mars that not only failed to deliver on President Bush's promise of a permanent U.S. presence in space, but continues to eat the budgets of the very exploration it was meant to support.

Aerospace engineer Rand Simberg of the Transterrestrial Musings blog published an article on National Review Online titled "Space Pork and Astronaut Nepotism".

While some congressmen were bemoaning the supposed “end of U.S. human spaceflight,” an authorization bill was proposed in the House that would essentially force NASA to resurrect the Ares program (though still without enough funding to successfully execute it). The House bill also slashes the requested budget for paying commercial companies to deliver astronaut crews into orbit. If passed, this bill would effectively extend for years our dependency on the Russians to keep the space station running, at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars not available to our own space industry. (It would also force the U.S. government to continue to waive Russia’s responsibilities under the Iran, North Korea, and Syria Nonproliferation Act, or INKSNA.)

UPDATE 10:45 AM EDTAviation Week reports that "U.S. human spaceflight could take off in any direction as lawmakers buckle down to a high-pressure pre-election session before fleeing Capitol Hill for the mid-term elections, including deciding whether to begin work on a shuttle-derived heavy-lift launcher next year under a new NASA concept."

Having conceded that its original space-policy message was dead on arrival in Congress, the Obama administration is looking for a compromise that tilts toward the Senate authorization language in areas beyond commercial space as well. All four NASA bills in Congress — the two appropriations measures as well as the authorization bills — would fund the agency at $19 billion in Fiscal 2011, so the question becomes how much of its original plan the White House can hope to buy with those funds.

I'll just observe that no Presidential budget proposal flies through Congress intact. As we've seen with the NASA sausage-making, members of Congress freely ignore the President's budget proposal and do what they want, which is often to redirect taxpayer dollars to their home districts.

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