Time Running Out For NASA Reform

SAS Bulletin 9/5/10


The proposed new NASA space exploration policy looks as promising as anything we've seen come from those quarters for a long time. These reforms pass responsibility for basic space access to the US commercial sector, while refocusing NASA away from their ruinously inefficient in-house rocket development bureaucracy and back toward developing new technologies for future transportation and deep-space exploration.  The new policy has potential to radically reduce the costs of basic orbital access, of routine space operations, and of deeper exploration too, vastly expanding our space development and future exploration possibilities.

But it's a long way from a promising new policy to a successful program. First the Congress gets to decide what will and will not actually get funded each year. This process is already well on its way to running off the rails, with the House in particular on course to gut new NASA R&D in order to send 92% of NASA's Exploration budget to the same old failed in-House NASA vehicle development projects.  (These NASA vehicle projects have in recent years cost ten or more times as much as US commercial or DOD equivalents.)

The Senate approach isn't quite as bad - they still want to send 71% of the Exploration budget to in-house vehicle developments, but they do give NASA some wiggle room on how to go about it - under their plan, a protracted NASA heavy-lift vehicle (HLV) boondoggle is merely likely rather than inevitable, and a lesser but still useful amount of advanced R&D will still be done.

What are we asking you to do about this?  Contact your Senators and your Representative, and let them know what you think!  The message we suggest is, support the Senate NASA Authorization and oppose the House NASA Authorization.  We're the first to admit that that's the cautious tactical lesser-of-two-evils approach - our analysis is that NASA reform survives to fight again next year under the Senate version, under the House version not so much.  But it's your country, your taxes, your NASA.  If you cut to the core of the matter and tell them, support new NASA R&D, oppose a new NASA HLV, we won't lose sleep over it.

Why are we here writing you this Sunday of Labor Day weekend, instead of cooling out at the beach? Because there's not much time left to catch your Senators or Representative back in the home district. Labor Day event appearances may present opportunities to meet them in person and make a one-line statement supporting these important NASA reforms. You can also look for local events they're showing up at during the coming week (campaign season is starting) or even call their district offices to see if you can set up appointments to meet them (or staffers) before they head back to DC at the start of next week for Congress's resumed sessions.  (The Senate is back in session starting Monday 9/13, the House Tuesday 9/14.)

For much more detail, see Space Access Update #117 (http://www.space-access.org/updates/sau117.html) and Space Access Update #118 (http://www.space-access.org/updates/sau118.html).

thanks for your time

Henry Vanderbilt
for Space Access Society
"Reach low orbit and you're halfway to anywhere in the Solar System"
- Robert A Heinlein, as related by G Harry Stine