Live Blog – Senate Science Subcommittee on Space NASA Hearing

Great comic from Florida Today

AmericaSpace Note: We apologize that this transcript is less than thorough. All of us graduated sine laude in typing.

This is a live blog on the hearing by the Senate Commerce, Science & Transportation Subcommittee on Science and Space regarding NASA’s FY 2011 Budget Request, as broadcast on NASA-TV.

Interesting, most of the subcommittee members are not present. And there seems to be plenty of room for spectators.

Nelson

Senator Nelson is making his opening comments. He’s talking about the President’s NASA Budget. Some good–extension ISS to 2020, additional aeronautics spending, and encouraging education (STEM).

Because President did not make declaration himself that Constellation would be terminated, and because of the angst of NASA workers about lay-off’s gives perception that President is killing human space flight program.

Politicians live in world of perception. When perception and substance do not agree, we need to fix things. President proposes, Congress disposes. We are going to look into this to clear up the perception so that clear declaration of President’s mission in space is clear to all. The President and his people need to clearly state goals.

The goal for the last 40 years is to go to Mars. How do we do all of that?

We should develop technology to do that. No win is a good win unless you know where the harbor is.

You’ve got to be very careful where you going because you might not get there.

The President’s budget does not get us beyond low Earth orbit. Nelson fears that this will keep the US on the side-lines while other go to the Moon and beyond. Nelson hopes that we will get a bold statement of vision and where the goal is–Mars. And that vision should push us beyond low-earth orbit.

Once the President makes his vision clear, then NASA and Congress will work together to get the vision implemented. Nelson feels we need the continued testing of a booster, an new HLV, and spacecraft for beyond low earth orbit. And this should be done in concert with the President’s budget.

Nelson like aerocapture, in-orbit fuel depots, and space power. Effort should be of technologies to make getting off the pad easier.

Nelson wants national security space and commercial space. Nelson supports passing to commercials LEO work. But there are concerns.

We need to make sure that we are not putting all our eggs in one basket–competition with legacy and new commercials should compete for NASA business. Eventually winners will become apparent.

Second point-astronaut safety must not be put at risk. Mikulski and Shelby are concerned about his. They and Nelson have talked about this. Commercials must be held to the same standards that NASA has for human rating. Human rating standards must be made and given to commercials.

Lastly, we must do right by the NASA workers who have put this nation at the forefront. At a time of transition, when industrial base that has been built over the last 50 years. NASA putting the commercial guys on notice to look at the incredible talented NASA workforce.

Nelson wants to keep working on a test launch vehicle and keeping those at NASA focused on that work.

Nelson has never seen the appropriators and authorizers so unified.

Vitter

Hearing should have Garver eventually since she is one of the real architects of this plan. This plan would end America’s human space program.

Vitter really wants to hear from Deputy Administrator Garver.

There has been some talk that someday the Deputy Administrator might want to run NASA someday. Vitter will fight any move by Garver ever to run NASA. Oops.

The program cancels all major human space flight programs with little more than a hope and a prayer that commercial guys will pick this human launch capability in the near future. And none of this plan comports with the Augustine Committee.

The plan abandons Kennedy’s vision. Kennedy said to go to the Moon. He didn’t say let’s develop some great R&D.

The Budget has no mission at all. You don’t accomplish great things without a clearly defined mission.

What does this do to the gap, the employment gap? This plan will only expand the employment gap and increases the gap above what would have occured under Constellation.

The gap grows to infinity as far as the NASA family and NASA’s long-term capabilities.

NASA folks have been very patient waiting for Administration’s statement on space vision. And what they heard was that they will never go to space.

Vitter will fight with every ounce of energy to fight this budget. There is great bipartisan support not only in this Committee but in the Appropriations Subcommittee.

Nelson

We are going to perfect this budget Senator Vitter.

Nelson is praising Bolden. (Protecting him from Garver fall-out)

Bolden

Defending Garver. She’s been unfairly represented. He wanted her at hearing

Asking for patience as NASA tried to get its new mission planned out.

Now he’s making his opening statements.

Shares concerns of NASA family of which he’s been a part since 1980’s.

NASA’s budget and bold new direction will push new directions and investment in aerospace private sector job creation.

New budget does a better job of advancing technology than past budgets.

AmericaSpace: Who wrote this statement?

Praising the NASA family effort in Constellation and they will play a role beyond.

Nelson

Opening statement of Senator Hutchison has been entered into the record.

Ok, Mars is the goal. Do you have the authority to say this?

Bolden

White House approved this statement.
But can’t tell the President when we can get to Mars.

Nelson

How will you develop technologies to get to Mars?

Bolden

I don’t have studies with me, but the President wants to develop the technologies and capabilities to get to Mars.
I don’t need and want a HLV to get a in-orbit fuel depot–could use a Taurus, Falcon 9, Delta for the tech demos.

Nelson

Found additional money. $9B in Constellation and $2B to shut-down Constellation. So what technologies from Constellation could be used?

Bolden

Looking at Constellation technologies. Falcon 9 uses the TPS from Constellation. SpaceX is also looking at MLAS, developed from Constellation, originally by Mike Griffin.

Nelson

Existing testing of rocket X, what is the value of testing rocket X in R&D program.

Bolden

Fiscal constraints prevent testing, though he’d love to test as much as possible.
Not enough money for that.

Vitter

So, you want to explore issue of Deputy Administrator. He agrees with statements positive to Bolden by NASA.
Who started this radical new budget?

Bolden

I participated in building the budget.
If you want someone to blame?

Vitter

You didn’t answer my question.
Who is the prime author of the radical budget?
Will you refute my claim?

Bolden

Garver not an enemy of human space flight.
She and I are different.
Not answering question and talking about not having everyone agree with him

Vitter

Are you refuting point that she was the prime architect of this budget?
There is nothing in this budget that will not inspire future generation. My two 7th grade children will not be inspired by this budget.

Bolden

Mars is too far off to inspire. But talking with ISS astronauts is not.
It does not matter how astronauts get to orbit. There access and exploration.
Whether I get to space on an Ares, Delta, Falcon, Taurus…what matters is that we have an American way to get to ISS.

Vitter

We have a disagreement. You don’t want 7th graders to think about Mars. I do because it will inspire. Shuttle and astronauts are great people but do not inspire–that’s so yesterday.

Bolden

I think you under estimate your children.
Talks about his

Vitter

They are going to look at the messages of this budget and conclude that they will never get there.
Where in the Augustine Commission’s report that supports this budget.

Bolden

This is not a radical departure from past space visions. What is different is that it funds the vision.
Before we had a great vision but not enough money. Now we have enough money to make an orderly progression to reach Mars.

Vitter

Nonsense–this is a radical departure.
Final question–you say you’re a member of the NASA family, I know you are–but this budget, canceling every human space flight in sight, expands the gap of that they will ever see space travel.

Bolden

I’ve told the NASA family that I don’t know how they feel…getting emotional
Dont’ think we would ever have reached anywhere under funding of Constellation.
ISS would have ditched in 2015. Ares would have reached ISS after it was ditched.
President will keep ISS up til 2020. And money to do tech.
No amount of money could get us to Mars in a decade–we don’t know enough. Wants to go to Mars in days.

Vitter

I don’t support past budget.

Nelson

You and I had a private conversation about budget concerns and since you shared your concerns publically, then I will.
Nothing different from Bush Admin–OMB still running NASA.
It is time for President to step-out and make Mars the target.
If we leave it to OMB, it will be a long time til we reach Mars.
If we have a Presidential directive, things will move closer.

Vitter

I hope we do have a change and a new direction. OMB couldn’t be the author of this budget because of significant new money here. And a radical new change of approach. Not OMB counting beans here. I hope we get a vision.

Nelson

Since there is new money here, there is an opportunity to work with this budget.

LeMieux

I too am disappointed in this budget.
Canceling these programs to get where we want without a goal and directionless spending, next year will be worse.
It is not as though this Administration does not know how to spend money. This is not a question of money, but of priorities when you are spending $3.8T and betting in only $2.5T.
Whose idea, who made that recommendation to cancel Constellation?

Bolden

Predecisional info

LeMieux

What this process unanimous in cancellign Constellation?

Bolden

Will not discuss the predisisional information.

LeMieux

What are the steps to getting to Mars. Need to look at Constellation as to what tech was developed. That determines what more we need to do. Then we sit down and decision, based on what we need, what do we need to get there?

LeMieux

Is the Moon a part of this program?

Bolden

Yes, the Moon is one stop. But we don’t need to live there.
We need to study asteroids. Why? Because they can do bad things to earth. One of the jobs of NASA is to defend the earth against impacts by things, not people.

LeMieux

When will you have a plan as to where we are going, when we will get there, and how much will it cost?

Bolden

We will have a plan. But two weeks

LeMieux

Plans and money go together! Without a plan, money will not follow.

Bolden

Using Constellation as an example as where I was when I came to office. Constellation was a lunar-centric program. No money to plan to go to Mars. Constellation upon my entry did not have landers, thought but no money. We were planning habitats on lunar surface when we don’t need that. I will never send a human into space for a mission that a robot could do.

LeMieux

Respectfully, when Kennedy challenged us to go to moon, we didn’t have the technology. If we don’t have a goal to go with a specific time, we lack drive and focus.
How are we going to get to the ISS?

Bolden

Same as we did after Columbia–Soyuz.
We are stuck where we are because we don’t have an American alternative.

LeMieux

What about extending Shuttle during the gap

Bolden

Can’t recommend that. Little value in stretching Shuttle. $2.5B yearly to operate Shuttle. We don’t have the money.

LeMieux

How will we reassemble folks who have left when we finally are ready to go back up?

Bolden

I can’t save all of the jobs. We were going to try to keep as many by transitioning them to Constellation. Hopeful that some will be picked up by commercial folks.

Nelson

Senator LeMieux, one of the things we pride ourselves on is that space is a non-partisan issue and we run the Committee this way. We all have sharp differences with the Administration over the budget. NASA had been starved for money and no rocket to replace the Shuttle. I want this Committee to be very active as we, along with Appropriations, “perfect” this budget.

Bolden

Thank you for having me, look forward to working with the Committee, and we’ll get it right.

AmericaSpace Note: Second hearing panel being seated.

Nelson

Distinguished panel. Will not have the same fireworks as before. Introduce the panel.
Captain “Hoot” Gibson — Known in the astronaut office as the best-of-the-best. First of class Top Gun graduate.
Miles O’Brien– Thirty-year journalist. Was chosen to fly on Shuttle as first journalist.
Michael Snyder — Started at Kennedy Center, engineer on propulsion and power systems and now a manager for those systems. We wanted someone who has been on the line.
Tom Young — Brings the grey hair on the panel. One of the most accomplished people in space. Member of National Academy of Engineering. Former COO of Martin Marietta.

Going by alphabetical order, so starting with Capt. Gibson.

Gibson

I was asked to talk about canceling Constellation and using commercial as replacement.
The Administration’s proposal open more questions than answers and has not clear path.
No technology pull so needed for technological innovation. This is unfocused.
Could end NASA space endeavors.
NASA is the leader in space today.
Now NASA must establish itself as the leader in beyond LEO travel. Augustine said now is the time to chart the path for human expansion into the solar system. This is inherent governmental due to risk to astronauts and large amounts of investment needed.
Astronaut safety is the number one priority.
As for continuing the Shuttle, it is according to the Augustine Committee the most reliable spacecraft available, noting that new human spacecraft are initially unreliable.
Commercial sector may eventually reach reliability to be as safe as NASA is in transporting astronauts, but until then they should be limited to cargo. Commercial sector should be assisted, but we must not just let go of core expertise at NASA in human space flight.
More than 1/3 of NASA human space flight workers are at risk of loosing their jobs.
Commercial spacecraft may eventually be reliable enough to transport astronauts and working with NASA centers of expertise.
We need a backup to the Soyuz.
When we no longer have our own access, Soyuz costs will grow beyond $52M. After 2014, according to Anatoly Perminov, head of the Federal Space Agency, after 2014, Soyuz "prices must absolutely change".
Keep Ares I as Rocket X is the quickest way to work our way to an HLV.
If we follow the Administration’s budget plan, we will no longer be a space faring nation. Mr. Chairman, I hope you and your Committee members work to change this budget.

O’Brien

Mr. Chairman, we here in Washington have a problem. The people and NASA programs are disconnected.
Strongly criticizing Constellation and NASA’s Vision for Space Exploration. Like the President’s budget. Syncs goals with budgetary realities.
We fundamentally have a failure to communicate. Administration didn’t market their budget well.
This plan was initially closely held by White House Office of Science.
Claims that most reporters are not well-informed. Wonder how Halvorson feels about that?

Snyder

I’ve worked on Shuttle for the last 10 years. I am an engineer. My views are my own but are shared by many in the community.
Morale across whole aerospace workforce is low. There is no plan, timetables, and budget. If you aim at nothing, you are sure to hit it.
We must break the cycle that any new program must make a break from what preceded it.
Workforce will not wait around in hope of better days ahead. Once left, it can only be rebuilt at significant cost.
The retirement of the Shuttle should be ceased.
Use of Soyuz rather than Shuttle is a sign of a lack of confidence in NASA and its employees when Shuttle is the safest human spacecraft available today.
Shuttle retirement should be triggered by demonstration of capabilities for launching humans safely by either NASA follow-on vehicle or commercial vehicle.
My biggest regret is that my daughters will have to look at the history books to see what this nation was once capable of doing.

Young

What NASA does says much about our country.
Budget gives a significant boost to science and aeronautics.
Talking about science budget impact of NASA budget.
The growth in aeronautics and new space technology are one of the most positive aspects of budget.
As for human space flight, the Augustine Commission report had a subtitle that is important–a program for a great nation. The budget fails that. Depending totally on commercial launchers for human space flight is a risk too far to take. We can only hope that this course is not tenable and reestablish a human space flight program worthy of a great nation.

Nelson

Commercial space flight hearing will be held within the next few weeks.
Hoot, how do you think NASA will certify human rating on commercial crew vehicles?

Gibson

Building a rocket for cargo with some redundancy, launching a few times, and saying the rocket is ready for humans will not work.
Regulations will be needed. Electrical, structural and other parts of the human rating standard are followed by commercial launchers.

Nelson

Should the astronaut office be involved in certification and validation?

Gibson

Absolutely it should be a part of this effort.

Nelson

You’re a propulsion guy. Should be have an HLV?

Gibson

Yes. We should move beyond LEO. And we should take advantage of Constellation technology, continue testing of Rocket X.

Nelson

Use that $2B for Rocket X and for Orion.

Gibson

Yes. This way we end up with something rather than cancellation costs.

Nelson

What will be the impact of the change in program?

Snyder

These contracts take a lot of time to formulate. Shuttle will end in 7 months. There will be no rapid change-over of people. So people will have to take care of themselves. And once burned, they will not return. They will move on.

Nelson

It is my hope that in this budget that the workforce transition will have a softer landing. If we have in Congress, Rocket X, a continuation of Constellation, will that give the workforce some sense of hope?

Snyder

Even if we continue with the program of record, we are going to loose capability when we shut-down Shuttle, our redundant access, that NASA Administrator Bolden says he wants, goes away and is replaced by foreign dominance. I challenge anyone to claim that the Shuttle is unsafe. We make that spacecraft as safe as it can be. Commercial guys will get there someday. But we need to continue access to the ISS. Servicing ISS is impossible once Shuttle is retired. ATV and HTV by international partners were built to work with Shuttle, not replace it.

Nelson

How does NASA work with the National Science Foundation decadal study?

Young

It’s an impressive process. NASA currently has the best of the best.

Nelson

A good hearing. The record will be open for two weeks for Senators to pose questions. Thank you and the meeting is adjourned.

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