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NASA Moon Science Politics

Senators Question Removal of NASA Program Manager 67

Hugh Pickens writes "The New York Times reports that one day after the removal of NASA's head of the Constellation Program, Senator John D. Rockefeller IV, chairman of the committee that oversees NASA, and Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, the committee's ranking Republican, have asked NASA's inspector general to look into whether the NASA leadership is undermining the agency's moon program and to 'examine whether this or other recent actions by NASA were intended or could reasonably have been expected to foreclose the ability of Congress to consider meaningful alternatives' to President Obama's proposed policy, which invests heavily in new space technologies and turns the launching of astronauts over to private companies. Congress has yet to agree to the president's proposed policy, and has inserted a clause into this year's budget legislation that prohibits NASA from canceling the Constellation program or starting alternatives without Congressional approval. The Constellation manager, Jeffrey M. Hanley, whose reassignment is being called a promotion, had been publicly supported by the NASA administrator and other NASA officials. But he may have incurred displeasure by publicly talking about how Constellation could be made to fit into the slimmed-down budgets that President Obama has proposed for NASA's human spaceflight endeavors."
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Senators Question Removal of NASA Program Manager

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  • Hutchinson (Score:2, Informative)

    by twoallbeefpatties ( 615632 ) on Sunday May 30, 2010 @10:21AM (#32396706)
    Short reminder - Kay Bailey Hutchinson is the Senator from Texas. Less funding to NASA = less government funding going to Texas. Not difficult to extrapolate.
  • by code_rage ( 130128 ) on Sunday May 30, 2010 @11:08AM (#32397054)

    Best short summary: Norm Augustine's testimony to Congress

    "...the mismatch of ends and means coupled with technical problems that were encountered on the Ares I program were such that during its first four years the program slipped between three and five years...". Read that again. After four years of development and billions of $, the objective was no closer than it was at the start of the program. I could cut NASA some slack on that if they were attempting to develop new technology, but the Ares I program was largely based on well-understood technology and an existing industrial production base.

    The Program Manager does not set the budget and he was not delivered the budget that was estimated for the job. So maybe the dismissal was unfair. But the PM's job is explicitly to develop the program within the actual (not wished for) triangle of resources, schedule and performance. If the delivered resources are so inadequate that the completion date never gets closer, then something else needs to change - this is the PM's job.

  • by Nyeerrmm ( 940927 ) on Sunday May 30, 2010 @11:31AM (#32397232)

    Two reasons:
    1. The technology hasn't improved that much (there just isn't that much room to improve rocket technology)
    2. The budget has been cut to a quarter of what it was in the 60s

    We could probably repeat Apollo at about half of what it cost the first time, but its expensive just to operate that architecture. Constellation would have suffered the same issue -- as an Augustine commission member said, if we were given a fully usable system right now, we would still have to cancel it under the current budget constraints, because we couldn't afford to operate it.

    Apollo was ideal for its time and goals. It got there quick, and it got there spectacularly, and they had money to burn due to external geopolitical factors. However, NASA thought that level of funding would go on forever and never had a good scale-back option. In order to do more than a mission to LEO under the current budget we need to rethink how an exploration system should look - small cheap manned launchers, on-orbit construction, and a focus on permanence. While these things may take longer, and be a little more expensive to build, we can do it piecemeal, and it will ultimately be far more sustainable.

  • by 0123456 ( 636235 ) on Sunday May 30, 2010 @12:36PM (#32397746)

    The Delta IV and Atlas V rockets are proven for cargo. To get a rocket 'man rated', i.e. ready for a human to launch in, requires vastly different engineering.

    No it doesn't. The cost of 'man-rating' the Delta and Atlas would be under a billion dollars; it's primarily a matter of trajectory changes to allow safe aborts, and allowing an abort to orbit after an engine failure.

    After all, the shuttle is 'man rated' and kills its crew about 2.5% of the time, so it's a pretty damn low bar to pass; any current expendable with a launch escape system would be safer..

  • by RoboRay ( 735839 ) on Sunday May 30, 2010 @03:53PM (#32399612)

    There's zero chance that Bush would receive credit for the 18th moon landing.

    Bush might get some credit for the 7th, though.

The unfacts, did we have them, are too imprecisely few to warrant our certitude.