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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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  • Can you imagine... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by RockMFR ( 1022315 ) on Sunday May 30, 2010 @08:43AM (#32396212)
    Can you imagine if the Congress of the 1950s had, instead of funding the Apollo program, wanted to fund production of the Wright Flyer?
  • by beaverdownunder ( 1822050 ) on Sunday May 30, 2010 @09:05AM (#32396304)
    I don't know about that -- technology has marched on at an (pun intended) astronomical pace. Also, these sorts of things tend to be very heavily documented. Don't get me wrong, I'm not outright arguing the moon missions 'never happened', but it strikes me there seems to be a 'gotcha' that we're not being made aware of, and it's a shame that the might of the public resources that could be made available to solve the problem by those who would like to see further extra-planetary activity is squandered just simply because NASA refuses to publicly say "we don't know" about whatever the issue is. It's always struck me that they're a bit more PR driven then they should be, and that ought to change.
  • by davmoo ( 63521 ) on Sunday May 30, 2010 @09:12AM (#32396328)

    If Congress wants the US space program to be top notch and succeed, then they need to *fully* fund it. Its "put up or shut up" time. Either give them the money to go to the moon, or close down the program.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 30, 2010 @09:41AM (#32396480)

    Rocket engines burn fuel at high pressure, they do not propel themselves by explosion. The only explosions are explosive bolts to separate the stages.

    If you want a rocket propelled by explosions look at the Orion Drive, which fires nuclear bombs behind it, which then explode and propel it forward.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 30, 2010 @11:45AM (#32397328)

    The Obama administrations efforts to kill Constellation is rooted in a desire to prevent Bush from receiving credit for any future moon landing or exploration of Mars.
    This is not idle speculation, and has been reported in many places. NASA finally had a "engineer" in the top position leading the program (Michael Griffin). Griffin was focused on engineering and science instead of playing politics and the Obama administration has crushed him.

  • by dougmc ( 70836 ) <> on Sunday May 30, 2010 @11:57AM (#32397414) Homepage

    ... using comparatively horribly primitive technology?

    It's not really that horribly primitive, at least not compared to 2010 technology rather than 2245 technology.

    Sure, we've got better computers, sensors, cameras, etc. today -- but rockets haven't changed that much since then. They're made with similar materials (well, we probably like things like carbon fiber more now, but our new materials and methods aren't *that* much better than what was used 40 years ago) and fuels. And our new high technology does make it that much more expensive.

    Going to the moon was hard 40 years ago. It might be marginally easier now (if you can get past the financial part of things) -- but it's still hard.

  • by strack ( 1051390 ) on Sunday May 30, 2010 @12:10PM (#32397516)
    because that horrific abomination that is the space shuttle has been eating up NASA's budget for the past 30 years.
  • by jonwil ( 467024 ) on Sunday May 30, 2010 @12:45PM (#32397828)

    What you said about "Get the politicians out of the mix" is EXACTLY what Obama wants to do (and exactly why Congress wont let him)

    The Obama proposal (from my understanding) means NASA would be buying off-the-shelf space hardware (rockets, boosters, capsules, landers, whatever else) or hardware build by private industry to NASA specs. Either way, it would be built by the company in the location that is most benifical to the company and not to some politician. And using the work force that is most benifical to the company, not the workforce that some politician wants to protect. And using the best technology for the job, not outdated technology forced onto a project by a politician who wants to keep the outdated technology (and the jobs in his state that go into making it) alive.

    Imagine if the the entire government bought things this way. No more $500 hammers when you could use a $50 hammer from the local hardware store that will do the job.

  • by darrenm ( 1632751 ) on Sunday May 30, 2010 @01:33PM (#32398298)
    What I have a hard time understanding is how NASA (the Americans) made it look so easy to complete six manned moon landings in a 3 year period 40 years ago, but nobody (neither NASA or any other country) has been able to do it since. By easy I mean banging them out every few months without incident/deaths.

    You can't tell me during the high flying economic times, when people were going to go into orbit with their dog just for fun, that countries like Russia or China haven't wanted to be known as the second country to make it to the moon, or the first country to land three people on the surface of the moon during a mission, etc.

    It's like 1972 happened and then every country on earth forgot that the moon existed, with respect to manned lunar missions.

    I'm not saying it's easy, or cheap, but if NASA could do it 41 years ago why hasn't anybody stepped up to the plate?
  • by Kartoffel ( 30238 ) on Sunday May 30, 2010 @01:42PM (#32398380)
    ULA has no idea what they're getting into, trying to man-rate Delta and Atlas. Yet even as an Ares I engineer I'm helping them to get there. As for Space-X, they're the Moller Skycar of the spaceflight business. In the past, even mentioning Direct would have gotten you dismissed as a tinfoil hatter yourself, but actually, one of the proposed HLV's to come out of Hanley's study last week had 4 segment solids with an SSME or RS-68 core. Very Direct-like, but without the woo.
  • by Kartoffel ( 30238 ) on Sunday May 30, 2010 @01:46PM (#32398412)
    Funny thing is, the baselined CCDev trajectories are standard commercial satellite trajectories. The EELV upper stage inserts the crew capsule directly into a circular decay for at least a week. This was rationalized away by requiring scale up RCS on the crew capsule with enough delta-V to deorbit the capsule in the event of a service module engine failure. To their credit, Boeing's commercial capsule does this. Can't say for sure about Lockmart or Space-X.

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