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The sorry state of the U.S. space program.. or how the mighty have fallen.


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I'm not sure how to keep this politically correct enough to avoid a thorough moding so I guess I'll just quote.

The following is a statement from NASA Administrator Charles Bolden on the Senate Appropriations subcommittee vote Wednesday on NASA’s Fiscal Year 2016 commercial crew budget:

"I am deeply disappointed that the Senate Appropriations subcommittee does not fully support NASA's plan to once again launch American astronauts from U.S. soil as soon as possible, and instead favors continuing to write checks to Russia.

“Remarkably, the Senate reduces funding for our Commercial Crew Program further than the House already does compared to the President’s Budget.

“By gutting this program and turning our backs on U.S. industry, NASA will be forced to continue to rely on Russia to get its astronauts to space – and continue to invest hundreds of millions of dollars into the Russian economy rather than our own.

“I support investing in America so that we can once again launch our astronauts on American vehicles.â€Â

-end-

David Weaver

Headquarters, Washington

202-358-1600

[email protected]

http://www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-administrator-statement-on-senate-appropriations-subcommittee-vote-on-commercial

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That's bad news :( and strange. I would have expected the US goverment to be interested in getting independent from russia with the current diplomatic situation in mind.

This will increase the competition among the comercial launch providers... I'm wondering if this will negatively affect the number of supported contestants or if the budget per contractor will be cut drastically.

Not sure if I like a shift to Orion and SLS. Comercial Spaceflight seems to create more inovations and new technologies relative to the invested money.

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I think it's telling enough that Charles Bolden actually makes an openly critical statement like this for once instead of biting his fist in frustration for fear of being sacked and replaced with a more obedient puppet... (and it's probably related to the White House actually threatening a presidential veto if Commercial Crew isn't funded to a level that avoids funding-based delays, which gives Bolden some support for once).

But I'd be careful with threads like these... I can see the descent into arguing politics coming a mile away, and that sort of content is prohibited here by the forum rules.

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From NASA's 1958 charter:

Sec. 102. (a) The Congress hereby declares that it is the policy of the United States that activities in space should be devoted to peaceful purposes for the benefit of all mankind.

If it is beneficial for all mankind that NASA buys into the Russian space program or anyone else's space program, then I don't see any problems with them doing that.

It's true of course that NASA has a budget to manage and that with the importance people put into the market, it is inevitable that if the market says buy Russian burn time, then that's what they'll do, like anyone else would in any other business. NASA is a business, not in pride but in science and exploration, to the benefit of all mankind.

Edit: Then there's the question of how long will Russia sell burn time to the US, and if any other agency will be able to provide the same services cheaper and/or more reliably.

2nd edit:

It is interesting to notice that there is room for ambiguity in the 1958 charter. Under section 102

(7) Cooperation by the United States with other nations and groups of nations in work done pursuant to this Act and in the peaceful application of the results, thereof; and

(8) The most effective utilization of the scientific and engineering resources of the United States, with close cooperation among all interested agencies of the United States in order to avoid unnecessary duplication of effort, facilities, and equipment.

There is room for a conflict between these. If there arises a conflict, one will have to give and I can't tell which one and in what manner.

Edited by LN400
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This is not unexpected to me. I saw this coming. Anybody with the right knowledge could have seen this coming for years. Expect massive cuts to SLS and Orion. In a few decades things might get better again, due to rivalry with china creating a second space race. Or something.

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So, potus cuts it, then senate cuts it even further? Is it election year or something?

Not quite. More like:

1.) NASA requests

2.) POTUS approves

3.) House cuts it a lot

4.) POTUS threatens to veto

5.) Senate takes what's left and cuts it further, ignoring POTUS completely

6.) NASA facepalms

7.) ???

We're currently waiting to see what step 7 is going to be... and how many more steps there will be after that, depends a lot on that.

Edited by Streetwind
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Not massive cuts to sls/Orion. Those are pork to lockmart, et al. Oddly the sides in commercial crew vs pork are reversed from what anyone would expect based upon ideology. Privatizing should be lionized by the current congress, not the other way around. Strange bedfellows are in fact the norm. Look at supposedly "for the people" stuff like the ACA, which is actually a gift to insurance and hospitals at the expense of patients and providers.

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Wait sorry, what's happened? I don't read American news.

I thought this was gonna be another generic (US sucks these days) thread but it sounds like something actually important happened.

Not really. The House proposed a budget that overfunded SLS and Orion above what NASA asked for, while cutting deeply commercial crew (the one thing Bolden said couldn't take more cuts). Then the Senate went and cut it further. An amendment to restore it will likely fail, and the White House threatens vetoing the thing, but likely won't.

Rune. Just another day in the Hill.

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Wait sorry, what's happened? I don't read American news.

I thought this was gonna be another generic (US sucks these days) thread but it sounds like something actually important happened.

Just the usual mangling of NASA's budget. Politicians with no interest in or knowledge about space development force the agency to spend its budget on generating work without purpose in the states they represent, so they will get re-elected. This happens every year.

Except if this one goes through as it currently stands, the Commercial Crew program (Boeing's CST-100 and SpaceX's Dragon v2 projects) gets delayed by a year because NASA cannot pay the companies for completing their milestones. And neither company is allowed to launch until all their milestones are completed (which also includes paying them). As a result, the United states must take twice the amount that Commercial Crew gets shorted, and pay it to Russia for another year's worth of Soyuz seats, in addition to the cost of NASA's budget. That's half a billion tax dollars paid extra for achieving less.

So yeah, it's mostly a US-centric issue, but it's of interest to the space community because we're watching the development of these new crew vehicles with great interest. Delaying that program means also delaying the increase of crew size on the ISS, which means less space science; it means also delaying the manned Mars ambitions of SpaceX, who are using Commercial Crew as their development springboard; it means having another year of single-point-of-failure in human launch capability outside of China (which NASA is prohibited by law from cooperating with, even though they want to). The ISS is already forced to go into maintenance mode right now with only three people onboard for 1.5 months because Russia is still troubleshooting the Soyuz rocket after the recent loss of a Progress vehicle. We need this redundancy, we need more people on the ISS, and we need (well, want) more cool spacecraft :P

It's also particularly noteworthy because president Obama has basically said "you guys are nuts, I'm not signing this" when seeing the kind of budget that the congressmen are trying to pass. All bills passed ultimately require the president's signature to become law, unless both chambers of congress can indivudally cough up a 2/3rds majority overrule after the fact, which they are not going to get on this hotly disputed issue. So this is a pretty extreme measure that's rarely ever pulled. It's also equal to saying "NASA doesn't get a budget at all", which is a worrying prospect considering NASA's budget is still higher than the sum of all other civilian space budgets worldwide, and a lot hinges on it on an international level. Thankfully, those budgets are created well in advance (over a year), so there's still plenty of time to find a compromise. Provided the presidential veto actually happens, they're not that far in the process yet. We'll have to see.

Hopefully it'll end in a compromise that doesn't short Commercial Crew while simultaneusly forcing NASA to pay people to repaint the SLS factory a different color every month because they literally have nothing else spend money on but are forced by law to spend it on SLS anyway.

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Not massive cuts to sls/Orion. Those are pork to lockmart, et al. Oddly the sides in commercial crew vs pork are reversed from what anyone would expect based upon ideology. Privatizing should be lionized by the current congress, not the other way around. Strange bedfellows are in fact the norm. Look at supposedly "for the people" stuff like the ACA, which is actually a gift to insurance and hospitals at the expense of patients and providers.

What did you expect ? Cronyism is bipartisan.

What does this mean for SpaceX and Dragonv2?

Less funding for buying commercial space capacity, so less prospect for activity and growth for any private partner.

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Congressmen are a bunch of old troglodytes. With no vision for the destiny of humankind and our expansion into space, they just care about money.

Why do people have to be such dreadful beings?

Because money makes the world go round? Because we have a capitalist infrastructure and economy? Because a vision for mankind and a fiver will buy you a cup of coffee? Don't be naive.

So, I guess we put our funding into private space firms. Let NASA be the FAA of space; I don't have a big problem with that, really.

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Yeah, being the FAA to other countries ?

I'm not quite apalled through. Maybe SpaceX can try get more customer, trying to get funding on it's own. Or something akin of that. My only concern is for NASA not doing its job well as a space science agency, that's all.

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Well I'm not shocked by this, they've done it ever since Apollo 11... they'd already canceled Apollo 18-20 and stopped Saturn V production.

What pisses me off is they do this, then whine about why are we still flying Russian engines and buying Soyuz seats.

"Well, because you keep canceling programs like FASTRAC to R&D new American engines, and underfund the crew capsule program."

I'm glad to see Bolden stepping up and saying something, but in the end there's not much he can do, other than say "I told you so" a year down the road when Congress bitches about the bill for more Soyuz seats.

- - - Updated - - -

Musk of course is not stupid, and I'm sure he's not dependent on the CCAP money, he'll just fly more satellites.

On the good side, NASA says the SpaceX pad abort was a success and paid them for it. Straight out of KSP career mode! :-)

http://www.spaceflightinsider.com/organizations/space-exploration-technologies/nasa-approves-spacex-pad-abort-test-releases-payment/

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