An interesting video to watch is Senator Bill Nelson’s hearing questions on NASA budget, in which he asks Office of Management and Budget chief Orzak why the Obama Administration did not fund NASA’s human space flight program to the levels of $3 billion per year as recommended by the Administration’s own blue ribbon panel, the Augustin Committee, led by Norm Augustine, but instead recommended dramatic cuts. None-the-less, the Administration did accept most of the other recommendations of the Augustin Committee, that is extending the life of the International Space Station and opting for a flexible path for future human space flight.
Orzak starts by mentioning that Norm Augustine had endorsed the Administration’s budget numbers for NASA, to which Nelson replies that,
[Augstine’s statement supporting the Administration’s new [sic] human space budget] was a namby-pamby, watered-down statement that was oblique at best
Senator Nelson then goes on to give Orzaq some food for thought about the risk of putting the nation’s human space flight capabilities in the hands of one source, the still nascent and untested commercial launchers, the poster-child of which is SpaceX and is only now assembling and prepping for flight its first medium lift booster.
The best that Augustine could do in his statement, other than reviewing his Committee’s mandate and work was to include a sentence saying that at least the President wasn’t promising more than he delivered on NASA human spaceflight funding, which is…oh, close to zero.
While many of us who believe strongly in human spaceflight might have hoped that still further funding would have been possible, this is obviously a demanding period from a budgetary standpoint. Importantly, the President’s proposed program seems to match means to ends, and should therefore be executable.
We’ve included a video statement by Senator Nelson describing in more length his reasons for questioning the Administration’s efforts to cancel Project Constellation. The Florida Senator makes one rather egregious mistake by claiming that Ares I wouldn’t fly until 2018. The Marshall Space Flight Center has said recently that Ares I’s flight date is 2015 – 2016, the same as even the most optimistic claims of SpaceX.