Bolden Attacks “Myths” of NASA’s New Plan But Sheds No Light

NASA chief Bolden at JSC - Julio Cortez Chronicle

Jeff Foust covers NASA Administrator Bolden’s presentation yesterday to the Washington Business Roundtable luncheon in, Bolden Attacks The “Myths” About NASA’s New Plan, during which the Administrator offered up a defense for NASA’s “new” plan.

And we decided to take a look at his defense and offer some criticism since there’s little we can find to support in what the NASA Administrator is reported to have said.

NASA Administrator Bolden states that Constellation would not get us to the Moon until sometime after 2030. As to why this would cause an ongoing program to be canceled he does not clarify. Perhaps there is some internal NASA study or a directive from the White House stipulating that if a human space program does not reach the Moon before 2030 it is not worth funding.

Administrator Bolden also states that Constellation was on an unsustainable path, as determined by NASA and White House leadership. It would be natural to assume that what the General really meant was that White House Science Advisor John Holdren, Bolden himself, and NASA Deputy Administrator Garver thought that Constellation was on an unsustainable path.

What the NASA Administrator does not do is clarify as to whether there was any consideration whatsoever of simply requesting the additional $3B yearly to fund Constellation, as included by the Augustin Committee in its “Less-Constrained Budget” case in Section 6.3.2, page 85-86 of its Final Report, so that we could have Ares I/Orion launched by 2016 and lunar missions in the mid-2020’s? More pointedly, what has never been mentioned is whether or not the Administrator, his Deputy Administrator and the White House Science Advisor ever even discussed continuing Constellation or simply went forward with their own vision for space exploration, call it VSE 2.0? The evidence at this point seems to be the latter, not the former.

And here’s the rub. While Holdren, Bolden, and Garver, along with their staff, may be very capable and bright about matters concerning space, it is doubtful that they have the requisite backgrounds that, inside of a few months, would enable them to produce a product that has more merit or deeper analysis than the NASA’s own ESAS Study of 2005. We are not saying that such a group as they would be incapable, just that from the evidence it’s clear they did not undertake, or if they did so undertake did not complete, such a study. Had Holdren, Bolden & Garver done so, the question, “Where’s the beef?” would have already been answered when, so far, it has not.

Listening to the repeated statements by NASA’s leadership about their “new” plans, one could be forgiven for succumbing to the feeling that there is no there, there. And perhaps this is the reason that so much opposition on so many fronts has risen against the White House plans for NASA. Better the devil you know than the one you don’t.

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