A fascinating social/historical research paper could be written on when the space advocacy community began to think its best path was to hurt, not help NASA, why it reached this conclusion, and whether that change has in fact helped, hurt, or merely been a nuisance to our nation’s manned space exploration program?
I doubt very much that the political leaders hang on anything space advocates say when they are criticizing NASA except on those occasions when they can use that criticism to their own political advantage, for example canceling a maligned NASA program and transferring those liberated funds to one of their own pet projects. The times when sites like NASA Watch have had the biggest impact is when voters are asked to contact their Congressional Reps to request more funding for NASA, not when they critique NASA’s choice for, as an example, a launcher for Orion. In that realm, I would have to believe that Congressional and White House staffers would have to weigh such outside criticism with the acknowledgement that the folks at NASA have more info than do its critics and therefore were more likely to have made a good judgement.
Regarding the choice of Ares vs. Atlas V for launching Orion, I have been told by NASA critics, but have yet to see, that there are demonstrable advantages for going with the Atlas V. It would help their cause if these critics could produce a point-by-point argument supporting their view, one that the Center Director of MSFC would have trouble rebutting. Until those critics make that sort of effort, they have to accept that Congress and the White House are not going to demand NASA alter or revisit that, or any, decision.
On a side note, I apologize for not posting what I promised two days ago. The work I’m up to my neck in, an OpenGL space app, has taken more of my time than I planned. But it will be up by Monday AM.