Live Blog – Hearing U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, & Transportation

Hearings – U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, & Transportation

Wow! The full Committee is at the hearing.

Video for the Hearing can be found here.

CHAIRMAN DAVID ROCKERFELLER – Our space program is at a turning point. Earlier this year, the Obama Administration charted a new course for NASA, and I know there is still a lot of uncertainty, particularly when it comes to the proposed plans for human spaceflight. This hearing is an important opportunity to take a close look at those plans.

I have said it before in this Committee, and I have addressed it directly with Administrator Bolden during his confirmation: I believe we need a new direction. To many, including myself, defenders of the status quo for NASA seem to justify their views solely because of the impact on jobs. I can relate as much as anyone to the fight for jobs in my state. It is always the utmost priority – but we must strike a balance between economic development and modernizing our space program so we can remain competitive for years to come.

NASA’s first mission must be to do what is best for the nation. The American people deserve the most from their space program. NASA’s role cannot stay static. The President has challenged the United States Government to seek greater international collaboration, enable commercial services and develop new exploration technologies. These are good priorities and should help ensure that in tough fiscal times, we build our space future in a measured, relevant, innovative, and sustainable way. This is not easy to do but we can do it – and we must. Because of budget constraints, NASA’s current budget of $18 billion may be a high water mark for years to come. We cannot assume the agency will have unlimited resources for every mission it wants to undertake. We have to make hard choices.

Today, I look forward to taking a robust evaluation of the agency’s plans for human space flight. But more than that, we have to measure and shape those goals against our greater national priorities for the years and decades ahead. NASA’s research in aeronautics helped create our global leadership in aviation; we need its scientific minds to be solving today’s and tomorrow’s challenges in energy, medical research, and robotics. In addition, we need to understand how it will support our workforce, protect our industrial base, ensure national security, and strengthen international relationships. And we have to examine how we use human space flight as an important tool of smart-power, exemplified by our International Space Station partnership with strong U.S. and Russian participation. Efforts like this can build stability, ensure global access to space, and help us move toward greater transparency as we establish “rules of the road” in space.

I know that our focus today is specifically on human spaceflight, but I do not want anyone to forget the agency’s broader priorities, including exploration but also science, aeronautics, education, and technology. These are a foundation for our future. They are enormously important, and I hope the agency finds that balance again as we move forward. I also hope that we will increase our focus on tying NASA’s human space flight efforts to benefits in these areas.

I want to thank all of our witnesses today – including Mr. Neil Armstrong, Commander of Apollo 11 and Captain Eugene Cernan, Commander of Apollo 17 – for your service to your country and for sharing your insight here today. In the past, I have been critical of NASA’s financial and program management. As we move toward reauthorization, I firmly believe this committee has a significant oversight role to play. NASA cannot continue down the same path. Thank you.

 

 

RANKING MEMBER KAY HUTCHISON – Her concerns are that we cannot continue down the path we have gone. She really has serious reservations of a policy that disgards billions spent on R&D for a program that outsources to a new industry not yet capable. She believes we will get to Mars by making use of past investments in NASA by building a bridge from where we are to where we want to be. Senator Hutchison believes that there are serious risks in extending ISS when Shuttle is not extended since Shuttle is the only launcher capable of fully servicing ISS. This would also bridge the gap between the end of the Space Shuttle and the beginning of Constellation. Hutchison wants to extend Shuttle just 2 years by stretching out flights. She seems particularly interested in focusing in Holdren and Bolden and whether they have taken risk of ISS if Shuttle is not available. Her questions focus on the following: Why wait til 2015 for an HLV design? Why did the Administration not follow any of the recommendations in the Augustine Committee’s Final Report rather than creating a whole new option on its own? What happens if we don’t have a NASA-owned human spaceflight capability if the commercial crewed launchers run into trouble? Will the American taxpayers have to foot the bill?

SUBCOMMITTEE CHAIRMAN BILL NELSON – They are starting the mark-up in the Subcommittee. This is such an important hearing because so many, including the NASA family, who are looking to the Senate to help the Executive Branch to chart the course of where the human spaceflight path goes. Many have given advice to the President, and his speech on April 15 is an indication of that. The President was asked to look at the restructuring of Constellation, not cancellation. We asked for the extension of ISS and got that. But Nelson forgets the NASA Reauthorization Act of 2008 that kept ISS up til 2020 and possibly beyond–partisan shot. And some ask that since there’s additional hardware for another Shuttle flight, something the President didn’t mention. And we ask for the safe completion of the Shuttle manifest, even if that means flying into next year. This has been proposed by the President. But the Committees continue hear, and they will work, to refine, the President’s plans for human space flight. The importance of education and industrial base are going to be examined in light of the President’s program. The HLV decision needs to be explored. SUBCOMMITTEE RANKING MEMBER DAVID VITTER – He is extremely concerned about the Administration’s plans for human space flight. The fundamental concerns are:

  1. Loss of leadership role in human spaceflight.
  2. Complete reliance on the commercial section when there’s no evidence that they can supply this capability. He wants to see it grow but not put all eggs on that bet.
  3. If we change NASA into a research institution, we should remember the core mission of NASA, human space exploration and not put too much on ancillary missions. Vitter would like to have Armstrong, Cernan and Augustine go before Holdren and Bolden since they’ve not been heard from whereas Bolden and Holdren have.

SENATOR LeMIEUX  – The proposal to kill the Constellation Project would be devestating, in the words of Armstrong and Cernan. By terminating Shuttle, we will not longer have access to low earth orbit. We will relinquish our status as leaders in human spaceflight. We have spent $10B on Constellation. It is the law of the land and has been approved twice, as well as supported by language in 2010 supporting Constellation. Laws have not been changed and Congress has not changed course, but evidence shows that NASA is trying to kill Constellation. Today, the U.S. leads in human space flight. That is not acceptable.

 

SENATOR BROWNBACK – He is a strong supporter of NASA and the commercial space efforts. With the retirement of Shuttle, NASA is at a cross-roads. Opening up commercial space presents new opportunities. The tight budgetary atmosphere affects how we can integrate space into the budget.

SENATOR JOHNS – Like many, I grew-up with immense respect for Neil Armstrong. His concerns about the President’s plans for NASA are a source of his worries. Johns feels that the complete lack of transparency in buidling this new space plan is an area of serious concern.

SENATOR PRYOR – He has immense respect for Senator Nelson. He seems to focus on two issues, what is the safest way to access low-earth orbit.

DR. HOLDREN – Reading his opening statement. He maintains that the Administration, that he and the President feel that space exploration is important for the United States. He states that the technical and budgetary troubles facing human space flight when it came to office. States that Augustine states that Constellation was not doable under any likely circumstances. “It was clearly time to press the ‘Reset’ button!” The President’s budget roll-out for the FY 2011 Budget were a response to that.

NASA ADMINISTRATOR BOLDEN – Reading, in effect, his opening statement. He indicates that Armstrong and Cernan have not bought into the Administration’s space plans. He is attempting a strong defense of the President’s space plans to keep the sinking ship afloat.

NASA will submit a revised FY 2011 Budget soon to reflect the extension of Orion as a lifeboat.

AmericaSpace: Honestly…how can he repeat the same words that have been so discredited?

CHAIRMAN ROCKERFELLER – A variety of priorities have been suggested. Starting with Dr. Holdren, how would you list the budget requirements and priorities of NASA?

HOLDREN – NASA has a number of priorities and in a tight budget we will have to work to fit those in. Human space flight is one of those priorities that will play a part. At the same time, the earth observation, aeronautics, green aviation, non-human exploration all play a part.

ROCKERFELLER – So medical research would fall below that?

HOLDREN – We need to use NASA for…what, all things for all parties. All major functions must be maintained.

BOLDEN – Uh oh, NASA Administrator Bolden is waxing rhapsodic about the Kennedy – Webb discussion over the future of NASA. Now, he answers the question, yes, NASA’s top priority is human space flight. That opens the avenues that lead to other break-throughs. Other federal agencies can do the job’s of non-space.

AmericaSpace: Oops, NASA-TV just dropped the hearing for a previously recorded spacewalk. Switching to the Committee’s feed.

HUTCHISON – If you don’t look at stable source of maintaining ISS, how can you maintain that ISS will yield science? Why not spend our money on our on capabilities rather than renting space. What if the commercial companies are unable to fulfill their responsibilities? What if there are over-runs? Will the taxpayers pay for those and spend more money? Why not use a tried and true entity such as NASA? Why have you gone on this tack with so many unknowns?

BOLDEN – Of the two companies in COTS, SpaceX is the only unknown. Orbital Sciences has been flying for years.

AmericaSpace Note: What Bolden doesn’t mention is that Orbital does not want to get into the human program.

As for the Russians, they have not flown so many times with so little risk to life. He believes that the American manufacturers can make it happen.  HOLDREN – Wants to remind that all of the rockets have been built by commercial entities.

HUTCHISON – True that commercial entities will build the rockets, but will do as they have for 40 years, under the auspices of

NASA. There’s so much more than just building the rocket. By terminating Constellation, spending $2.5B to terminate, for that amount we could have another two Shuttle flights. What are the priorities?

HOLDREN – Safety will remain under the oversight of NASA. Really? There will be no safety short-fall.

HUTCHISON – She’s not against the private sector, just against it being the only source for our human access.

SENATOR NELSON – Hutchison is right. In the past, NASA has run the program with the contractors working under that. Space is very unforgiving. And if this new plan does not work out, we rely on the Russians, and their limited cargo capabilities to ISS. Now Nelson is focusing on the…well, weird way that the President’s space plan was formulated. And because of mistakes in the roll-out that unfairly mischaracterized the President as anti-space, he had to go to KSC to explain he wasn’t anti-space. Dr. Holdren, how was that passback handled? But this was not an ordinary year. He is claiming that the Augustine Committee Final Report changed everything. When was the President consulted on the budget? Were any Center directors consulted over the budget?

BOLDEN – I would like to address that. With Tom Crimmins, we began discussion between Associate Administrators, Center directors, and other senior NASA management and we discussed every potential outcome of the budget.

SENATOR VITTER – All of our eggs are being put into one commercial basket. You told Armstrong and Cernan that you would do anything you needed to do to bail them out, even if that included bailing them out, including bigger than Chrysler.

BOLDEN – I don’t remember saying that, but I’ll do what I need to for human space. I will do everything in my power to facilitate their success.

VITTER – I have seen specific language that you used. It made quite an impact to those on the conversation. This is from direct participants who were taking notes.

BOLDEN – We will stay on time and budget, but there will be technical difficulties.

VITTER – In light of continuing Orion, why is NASA going beyond the norm on contractor termination liability?

BOLDEN – I just reminded them to read their contracts.

VITTER – Did you send letters to the Webb Telescope contractors? Are the termination terms being held to them?

BOLDEN – The contract terms require this.

VITTER – What other programs contracts did you send these letters to?

BOLDEN – No other contractors contacted us about termination. When things are going well, normally they don’t worry about this.

VITTER – One last question for Mr. Holdren, this NASA budget is an extra $6B and it’s not going to exploration, so it’s a major increase going elsewhere. With those increased resources, other things could have been done on existing programs?

HODLREN – We could always spend money on existing programs rather than killing those programs and starting new ones.

BOLDEN – We could spend that $6B for many years of R&D or rather for one year of Constellation. Oops, Augustine said that Constellation only needed $3B each year to get it back on track. The scientists are happy. So are University Presidents are happy.

ROCKERFELLER – WOW! He just rebuked Bolden on his long answers. Don’t give Senators time to answer and they won’t vote for your programs.

LeMIEUX – When will be the next NASA mission powered by a NASA rocket?

BOLDEN – The next

Which one will that be?

BOLDEN – Falcon 9 in early 2011 and then with Orbital.

Are those rockets will take us to ISS? By 2011?

BOLDEN – No, that won’t happen until 2015.

LEMIEUX – So 2015, that is it. Why are we waiting until 2015 for an HLV decision?

BOLDEN – No. I can’t give him an HLV decision until 2015.

LEMIEUX – What about Ares V?

BOLDEN – I don’t know that the Constellation is the best answer.

LMIEUX – So, you’ll be able to use the $9B spent on Constellation for the HLV issues? If we’ve already invested in Ares…

BOLDEN – We’ve only invested in Ares I, that does go to the Ares V. I can’t break-out the different components.

LEMIEUX – Are you telling contractors that contracts are ending?

BOLDEN – No, I cannot do that.

SENATOR BROWNBACK – So NASA is going to be paying for intitial flights in 2011? How much will that cost?

BOLDEN – NASA has paid $250M for those demo launches.

BROWNBACK – So they will be launching then. When will they fly for you?

BOLDEN – That will missions to ISS. Those demonstration flights will be in…let me get that to you.

BROWNBACK – How many flights will they fly before going to ISS?

BOLDEN – Both Orbital and SpaceX will have the same flights. That’s under the COTS contract.

BROWNBACK – So, will these be manned?

BOLDEN – No! We’ve a long way to go for that.

BROWNBACK – So when will first crewed fligths occur?

BOLDEN – 2015.

BROWNBACK – I’m a great fan of Augustine. But it feels like we are loosing leadership in human space flight on the budget he can do. IS this simply a dollars and sense issue?

BOLDEN – If we want to explore beyond earth orbit, we have to free NASA.

BROWNBACK – Is there any other way for us to continue a human space program that’s agressive under the budget you contemplate?

BOLDEN – We have an aggressive program now.

BROWNBACK – But the Russians will be carting us back and forth. I’m trying to ask if there’s a way to do space under our current budget?

BOLDEN – No.

ROCKERFELLER – One short question. If we don’t do our work in science and technology, then everything you’re trying to do in NASA will be for nothing. Education is a strong leader for a young generation that is reaching out to be inspired. You have something called “Education”, and you’re putting only 1% into that. Questions whether that is sufficient.

BOLDEN – There are several robotics programs, one that will have spheres flying in the ISS.

HOLDREN – The President agrees with you on the importance of education. The White House is reaching out on STEM education.

NELSON – Did you have any discussions with DOD on effects of cancellation of SRM manufacturing.

HOLDREN – Yes we did. There was an impact but not an unmanageable impact.

NELSON – That may be, but would it surprise you that there is a document from the head of the Joint Chief that the DOD was absolutely shocked that NASA cancelled the testing of solid rocket motors of which NASA has over 80% of the work on that?

HOLDREN – DOD is big and can support its interests in this domain. There will be solution to that issue.

NELSON – Did you have a discussion within the week before the budget was rolled-out?

HOLDREN – It was well before the week of the roll-out.

NELSON – So General, you knew this when you were in Israel.

BOLDEN – I knew it before I left for Israel.

NELSON – Are there ongoing discussions in NASA about extending Shuttle by one more flight.

BOLDEN – If I have spare supplies for an additional flight, I’d like to fly.

NELSON – But the crew could take safe refuge on ISS.

BOLDEN – That and if we don’t reach ISS.

NELSON – What would be the cost of continued of Ares I testing?

BOLDEN – In the area of $1B to $1.5B. If this is only for Ares I testing and not for launching an Ares I rocket, that cost rises to $1.6B.

NELSON – Speaking of Orion, why do we want a half-baked Orion?

BOLDEN – We don’t. We don’t want a crewed module…I don’t want to set on a design when we are not going beyond earth orbit in 2020. I don’t want Orion that is for Moon going to Mars.

NELSON – Then why don’t we rely on Soyuz?

BOLDEN – I need to have my industry continuing to work on spacecraft. It’s important that we have an American vehicle docked to ISS.

SENATOR WARNER – This is a nice break from derivatives. One of the important questions will be the safety of the commercial launchers. Have you thought about the standards? What about working with the FAA?

BOLDEN – We’ve thought it through very seriously. I have an insight/oversight group reporting to me shortly. There are too many boards and oversight committees. He’d like to have the sort of structure that he has with Moscow when they conduct a flight readiness review. The problem with the commercial launchers is that they don’t have the experience that the Russians do.

WARNER – Maybe the work that Langley does with the FAA could be helpful…the lessons learned there could be helpful. I’d like my other questions to be submitted for the record.

ROCKERFELLER – He wants a third way, so not Constellation as is and not the President’s program. 30 second recess for Armstrong and Cernan to get seated. Now asking people to get seated! Now calling panel to be seated, asking the press to hurry up photographing Armstrong, Cernan, and Augustine. “I want order in this room!”

He’s welcoming Armstrong, Cernan and Augustine.

ARMSTRONG – Mr. Chairman, and Members of this Committee, I want to express my sincere appreciation for being invited to present my views on NASA‟s new plan for human space flight. As I have come to accept that my opportunities to once again see our beautiful planet Earth from afar are limited, I can speak my mind without fear of jeopardizing my crew status.

New non-classified national program concepts are, typically, accompanied by substantial review and debate in a number of venues. That process is occasionally frustrating, but it assures that all the major issues (performance, cost, funding, safety, schedule etc.) will be examined in some detail prior to a public proposal.

 

After the tragic loss of Columbia and its crew, and the completion of the accident investigation, Admiral Gehman, the Chairman of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board, noted that NASA needed a long term, strategic, guiding vision. President Bush, after reflection, proposed such a vision: finish the International Space Station, return to the moon, establish a permanent presence there, and venture onward toward Mars. After completion of the very detailed Exploration Systems Architecture Study (ESAS), that vision became a Program known as Constellation. A high level panel of human space flight veterans and a highly experienced independent review team vetted the ESAS conclusions.

 

ESAS results were briefed to senior Administration officials including OSTP, OMB, USAF Air Staff and DDR&E. Of course, this Committee as well as other congressional committees and subcommittees were briefed.

 

As this committee well knows, that vision was analyzed, debated, and improved upon within the Congress for nearly two years.

 

You then concluded, nearly unanimously, that it was the appropriate policy for our country. Three years later, after a change in Congressional control, the policy was once again approved, although it was still not adequately funded.With regard to President Obama‟s 2010 plan, I have yet to find a person in NASA, the Defense Department, the Air Force, the National Academies, industry, or academia that had any knowledge of the plan prior to its announcement. Rumors abound that neither the NASA Administrator nor the President‟s Science and Technology Advisor were knowledgeable about the plan. Lack of review normally guarantees that there will be overlooked requirements and unwelcome consequences. How could such a chain of events happen? A plan that was invisible to so many was likely contrived by a very small group in secret who persuaded the President that this was a unique opportunity to put his stamp on a new and innovative program. I believe the President was poorly advised.

 

America has invested substantially for more than half a century to acquire a position of leadership in space. But for any organization, a public utility, an airline, a university, or an NFL team, to maintain a leadership position requires steadfast determination and a continuing investment in the future. That investment must be made wisely.

 

I believe that, so far, our national investment in space exploration, and our sharing of the knowledge gained with the rest of the world, has been made wisely and has served us very well. America is respected for the contributions it has made in learning to sail upon this new ocean. If the leadership we have acquired through our investment is allowed simply to fade away, other nations will surely step in where we have faltered. I do not believe that this would be in our best interests.

 

I am very concerned that the new plan, as I understand it, will prohibit us from having human access to low Earth orbit on our own rockets and spacecraft until the private aerospace industry is able to qualify their hardware under development as rated for human occupancy. I support the encouragement of the newcomers toward their goal of lower cost access to space.

 

But having cut my teeth in rockets more than 50 years ago, I am not confident. The most experienced rocket engineers with whom I have spoken believe that will require many years and substantial investment to reach the necessary level of safety and reliability. Business analysts believe that at least two qualified competitors would be required to have any chance of reducing ticket prices. They further believe that a commercial market large enough to support even one competitor is unlikely.

 

If these experts are correct, the United States will be limited to buying passage to the International Space Station from Russia, and will be prohibited from traveling to other destinations in LEO, such as the Hubble Space telescope, or any of the frequently mentioned destinations out on the space frontier.

 

As I examine the plan as stated during the announcement and subsequent explanations, I find a number of assertions which, at best, demand careful analysis, and at worst, do not deserve any analysis.

 

The Augustine Commission found that “NASA essentially has the resources either to build a major new system or to operate one, but not to do both”. In that context, the principal choices would be develop the Constellation Program or to continue to operate the Shuttle and the ISS.

 

The Shuttle, a stellar low Earth orbit machine, is scheduled for termination this year. It has a great deal of versatility and can do many things well, although the current protocol limits its operation to the ISS orbital inclination. While the Shuttle is four decade old technology, it has been operating well and could be expected to be able to continue to do so for some years if approved. Shuttle operation is, however, very costly. It could not be justified solely as a crew taxi, but would, and should, continue to carry cargo, and continue to perform the many other services it now provides.

 

The now to be cancelled Constellation program showed promise to fulfill lofty goals with a high level of safety and flexibility. Constellation would also be very costly. Critics claim it is „unexecutable‟, primarily because it has been under funded.

 

The new 2010 plan goals are largely undefined in the near term but have been characterized as supporting ISS through 2020 and finding breakthrough technology to allow flying to a near Earth asteroid and to Mars at some time in the future.

These are vastly different plans and choosing the proper path is vital to America‟s continued space leadership.

Orion

 

Amendments to the 2010 plan were announced in the President‟s April 15 speech at the Kennedy Space Center. He stated that the cancelled Orion Spacecraft would be given new life as an emergency return vehicle from the International Space Station. Such a craft would be necessary if an Orbiter or Soyus was not available, if the ISS had a major emergency, or in case of a medical emergency.

 

In the first decade of ISS operation we have not needed such a spacecraft, and, hopefully, in the remaining ISS lifetime, we will not need one. However, there certainly is merit in having emergency escape ability. The difficulties crop up when we examine the detail of the requirements necessary for such a vehicle.

 

Configuration studies of emergency return vehicles have been going on for decades, NASA had a selected vehicle for development, the X-38, a lifting body which had substantial promise, but was cancelled for budgetary reasons in 2002.

 

The complexities of such a craft, required because of the wide variety of emergency situations that could be encountered, indicated that a near ballistic shape such as Orion would be inferior to a configuration with higher aerodynamic performance.

 

Because the Orion Light, as described, would be capable of carrying humans on only a return to Earth trajectory and not from Earth to the ISS, its utility would not seem to compare well with the Soyus and its 2-way trajectories that are currently used. The time and cost of this development including the autonomous or remotely controlled rendezvous and docking would appear to be significant. It appears that this would be a very expensive project with limited usefulness.

Heavy Lift

 

The second Florida announcement concerned studying heavy lift rockets with the objective of choosing a best design by 2015, then beginning construction and test. It was asserted: “That‟s at least two years earlier than previously planned….and that‟s conservative, given that the previous program was behind schedule and over budget.” The assertion is disingenuous, in that it is comparing an unknown project in the future with a known project already underway for some years. The „previous program‟ is assumed to be the Ares V which depends on the same 5.5 segment SRBs and J-2X engines of the recently cancelled Ares 1.

 

The delay in the Ares 1 development was due to under funding as a result of Shuttle Return to Flight requirements, ISS requirements, 2004 hurricane damage, OMB reductions and FY2010 Budget reductions. The budget reductions for Constellation through 2020 totaled more than 20 billion dollars. Considering those realities, some members of the Augustine Committee concluded that the Ares program was being quite well managed and in reasonably good shape.

 

Knowledge in Heavy Lift rockets is currently substantial. A great deal of such study has been completed in recent years as a part of the normal NASA and military studies. As of the time I write this testimony, NASA‟s web site describes the Ares V as follows: “Under the goals of NASA’s exploration mission, Ares V is a vital part of the cost-effective space transportation infrastructure being developed by NASA’s Constellation Program to carry human explorers back to the moon, and then onward to Mars and other destinations in the solar system.”

 

While Ares has been criticized for being late and over budget, the cause of that condition is largely understood. It seems appropriate that the reason for discarding all this work should be explained to this committee.

 

A heavy lift rocket derived from the Shuttle (SDHLV) has often been suggested as a useful vehicle and could be produced in far less time than that proposed in the 2010 plan, The technology and hardware, for this development is already largely available and would not require five years of study to implement.

Workforce

 

The plan‟s consequent expected loss of jobs in space communities has been widely reported. This committee knows far more about such matters than I and I will not comment on it. I am concerned, however, about work force issues. Shuttle termination and Constellation cancellation will result in widespread breakup of design, manufacturing, test and operating teams that will be expensive and time consuming to reassemble when they are once again needed.

 

With the job market so tight, individuals who are in programs expected to be cancelled or cut back are leaving to pick up one of the few available jobs. Some of the best and the brightest are already leaving because of the uncertain future. Maintenance of a quality workforce is vital to a successful spaceflight program and attention to this consequence of the new plan must be considered,

Safety

 

It was asserted that by buying taxi service to Low Earth Orbit rather than owning the taxis, “we can continue to ensure rigorous safety standards are met”. The logic of that statement is mystifying. Does it mean that safety standards will be achieved by regulation, or contract, or by government involvement? Does it mean that the safety considerations in the taxi design, construction and test will be assured by government oversight? The Augustine Committee report is quoted as follows: “Thus, the Committee views any commercial program of crew transport to ISS as involving a strong independent mission assurance role for NASA.” The cost of that government involvement will be substantial and that cost must be acknowledged in the total cost of the service.

 

The private company spacecraft, to my knowledge, have not been as rigorously analyzed for safety as have existing rockets, Ares and shuttle derivatives, but it must be noted that Ares 1 enjoys, by a significant margin, the highest safety rating of the configurations studied.

 

I have highlighted just a few of the many issues and questions engendered by the 2010 NASA plan. I do believe, if the National Space Plan is subject to the normal review process of this Congress, the aerospace industry, and the reliable experts we know in the military and aerospace community, America will be well served.

CERNAN – Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for inviting me here today to express my personal views concerning the Administration’s proposed FY2011 budget as it pertains to America’s role in the future of Human Exploration in Space.

One month ago, Neil Armstrong, Jim Lovell and I released an opinion paper expressing our concern over the Administration’s FY2011 proposed space budget. We spent a great deal of time writing and refining our document, choosing words such as “devastating”, “slide to mediocrity”, and “third rate stature” very carefully, so that the intent of our message would not be misinterpreted and our deep concern about the future direction of human space flight as outlined in the President’s proposal would be fully understood. We particularly wanted to avoid any political overtones because the support of America’s role in space since its beginning has traditionally transcended partisan politics.

It was determined after the Columbia accident that NASA should return to its core values, focusing its resources once again on space exploration while continuing its space exploitation through its support of the International Space Station (ISS), with the Space Shuttle providing access to Low Earth Orbit (LEO). The Congress supported such a focus with a near-unanimous bi-partisan support in both the 2005 and 2008 NASA Authorization Acts.

We have recently heard a lot of eloquent verbage about the exploration of space – landing on an asteroid, circling Mars, and at some time in the future perhaps landing on the Red Planet. There is talk about a decision yet to come of building a large booster which might ultimately take us anywhere we want to go into the far reaches of the universe. There are, however, no details, no specific challenge, and no commitment as to where or specifically when this exploration might come to pass. “Hope is not a destination, nor is it a management tool.” I, personally, define the exploration, in contrast to exploitation, of space as “going where no man has gone before, doing what has never been done before, doing what others couldn’t do, wouldn’t do, or perhaps were afraid to do.”

However, when one examines the FY2011 budget proposal, nowhere is there to be found one penny allocated to support space exploration. Yes, there has been much rhetoric on transformative technology, heavy lift propulsion research, robotic precursor missions, significant investment in commercial crew and cargo capabilities, pursuit of cross-cutting space technology capabilities, climate change research, aeronautics R&D, and education initiatives. Yet nowhere do we find any mention of the Human Exploration of Space and nowhere do we find a commitment in dollars to support this national endeavor. We (Armstrong, Lovell and myself) have come to the unanimous conclusion that this budget proposal presents no challenges, has no focus, and in fact is a blueprint for a mission to “nowhere.”

In this proposed budget we find several billions of dollars allotted to developing commercial human access to low Earth orbit, based upon the assumptions and claims by those competing for this exclusive contract who say that they can achieve this goal in little more than three years, and that it can be done for something less than 5 billion dollars. (These are the same entrepreneurs who are over a year late delivering unmanned cargo to LEO.) This assumes they can design, build, flight test, and develop a man-rated spacecraft and booster architecture along with the infrastructure required for such a venture. This includes redesigning the requirements of mission control, developing the support and training simulators, writing technical manuals for training and onboard procedures, developing the synergy between a worldwide tracking network and the uniqueness of a newly designed space vehicle along with an emergency recovery force needed to handle this new space system. These are just a few of the development and support requirements to put any new manned system into space. Although I strongly support the goals and ideals of commercial access to space, the folks who propose such a limited architecture “do not yet know what they don’t know.” There are a myriad of technical challenges in their future yet to be overcome, safety considerations which cannot be compromised as well as a business plan and investors that they will have to satisfy. As an example, it took over a year and a half of review and redesign of the Apollo I hatch before operational and safety requirements were satisfied. All this will lead to unplanned delays which will cost the American taxpayer billions of unallocated dollars and lengthen “the gap” from Shuttle retirement to the day we can once again access LEO. Moreover, for a variety of reasons, a “Going Out of Business” sign hanging on the door is always a possibility in any high dollar – high risk investment.

The United States, through NASA, has spent a half-century learning what we didn’t know, finding answers to questions we weren’t smart enough to ask at the time, developing technology that was needed to meet the challenge and get the job done. We came from Alan Shepard’s flight in 1961 to the Space Station and Shuttle today with a side trip or two to the moon along the way. The evolution of this learning process was not without its cost – not just in dollars, but also in the lives of our friends and colleagues. It took the courage, effort, dedication and self-sacrifice of thousands of Americans who allowed us to come this far this quickly. And, although we paid dearly for our mistakes, it is a testimonial to their commitment and American ingenuity that everyone who went to the moon came home. Therein is a lesson we cannot afford to ignore. Is this the NASA we want to transform?

Based upon my background and experience, I submit to this Committee and to the Congress that it will take the private sector as long as 10 years to access LEO safely and cost-effectively. A prominent Russian academician is quoted as saying in order to bring a craft to the standard of quality and safety for piloted flight, the United States will be dependent on Russia until at least 2020. The Aerospace Corporation estimates an initial cost of 10-12 billion dollars, plus the added cost of modifications required to launch vehicle ground systems. Should such a commercial venture run into insurmountable technical problems, business venture concerns, or – God forbid – a catastrophic failure, it would leave the United States without a fallback program, unable to access even low Earth orbit for some indeterminate time to follow. In any event, under this proposal the United States will be abandoning its 50 billion dollar, 25 year investment in the ISS, leaving us hostage to foreign powers. Is this one of our “Potential Grand Challenges” of the 21st century?

Additionally, The President’s proposal suggests we develop “technology for the future.” The technology we enjoy today, 40 years after Apollo, is technology that was developed from accepting a challenge and reaching for a goal. It was technology with a focus, with a mission. To simply put the best and the brightest in a room and tell them to develop breakthrough technology that could or might or may be useful in the future is a naïve proposition. Exploration drives technology innovation – not the reverse.

Also in the proposal is the possibility that maybe, at some time, perhaps as far down the road as 2015, the United States would decide to develop a heavy lift booster. This is a very vague proposition that will likely never be funded to fruition. Coincidently, Constellation has a heavy lift booster, Ares V, not only on the drawing boards but in component test today. Why do we need a new decision in 2015 for one already in development today?

A late addition to the Administration’s proposal, and one very obviously not well thought out, was a provision to build an “Orion Light” spacecraft as a rescue vehicle on the ISS. Although we have never had need for a rescue vehicle, we have today two Soyuz continuously stationed on the ISS capable of carrying as many as six people to safety should the need arise, with a provision for a third Soyuz should the crew complement ever increase to as many as nine – which is highly unlikely. An “Orion Light”, before it is qualified to transport human beings to safety from the ISS, certainly would have to be man-rated. To man-rate a spacecraft requires a great deal more than following a list of safety requirements and protocol instructions included in its development. The “Orion Light” would have to go through an extensive development, test and evaluation phase before being qualified to carry humans. It sounds very similar to what the existing Ares I/Orion development proposal is all about within the overlying Constellation architecture.

Constellation itself is an architecture that over a five year period has gone through several detailed reviews and has been vetted by every government agency from the OMB to the DOD, and certainly by NASA – by every agency that has an ownership interest in any technical, scientific, budget or benefit to be derived from Human Space Exploration. In addition, an arsenal of the best engineers, scientists and management experts in America’s aerospace community added their knowledge and expertise to the review of the proposed Constellation architecture before it ever became an official program worthy of consideration. Constellation follows the Von Braun model in the evolution of the Saturn V, wherein the development of the Ares I is the embryo for the development of the Ares V. This shared DNA, with commonality of critical components throughout, leads to greater cost effectiveness, a higher degree of confidence and safety, and provides the first elements of a heavy lift booster. Appropriately under the law, both Houses of the Congress of the United States with overwhelmingly bi-partisan support, approved and agreed that Constellation should go forward.

In contrast to the five years which has been required to bring Constellation to its present status, the Augustine Committee was required to provide their report in 90 days. The report contained several suggestions and alternatives to Constellation, few of which were included in the FY2011 budget, but ultimately the Committee came to the conclusion that Constellation’s architecture had been well managed and is indeed executable, providing it has the appropriate funding that had been denied for several years. Important to note is that the Committee was directed to base their conclusions and recommendations not on the FY2009 budget, but rather on the FY2010 budget from which tens of billions of dollars had already been removed between 2010 and 2020. Naturally, the Augustine Committee concluded that Constellation was “unexecutable” within the confines of that budget. I would have reached the same conclusion. More importantly, however, the funding proposed for FY2011, if prudently administered, is more than adequate to continue the development of Constellation.

It is unknown how much time and thought was put into the existing budget proposal for FY2011, or by whom this proposal was generated, but it is common knowledge that few if any of those government agencies referred to above were asked to participate, nor, of significant note, was the DOD or the engineering or management expertise that exists throughout NASA today. This leads one to the conclusion that this proposal was most likely formulated in haste within the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and/or the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), with little or no input, by his own admission in earlier testimony, from the NASA Administrator, and from personal knowledge, from Center Directors, or senior NASA management. If that were the case, the originators quite likely were promoting their own agenda rather than that of NASA and America’s commitment to Human Space Exploration, as directed by Congress in the Authorization Bills of 2005 and 2008.

With the submission of FY2011 budget, either the Administration and the originators of this budget proposal are showing extreme naivete or, I can only conclude, they are willing to take accountability for a calculated plan to dismantle America’s leadership in the world of Human Space Exploration. In either case, this proposal is a travesty which flows against the grain of over 200 years of our history and, today, against the will of the majority of Americans. The space program has never been an entitlement, it’s an investment in the future – an investment in technology, jobs, world respect and leadership, and perhaps most importantly in the inspiration and education of our youth. Those best and brightest minds at NASA and throughout the multitudes of private contractors, large and small, did not join the team to design windmills, but to live their dreams of once again taking us where no man has gone before. If this budget proposal becomes the law of the land, these technicians, engineers, scientists, a generation removed from Apollo, yet re-inspired by the prospect of going back to the moon and on to Mars, will be gone – where I don’t know – but gone.

America’s human space flight program has for a half century risen above partisan differences from Eisenhower to Kennedy to the present day. The challenges and accomplishments of the past were those of a nation – never of a political party or of any individual agenda. Those flags that fly today in the valleys of the Moon, they are not blue flags or red flags, they are American flags! If we abdicate our leadership in space today, not only is human spaceflight and space exploration at risk, but I believe the future of this country and thus the future of our children and grandchildren as well. Now is the time for wiser heads in the Congress of the United States to prevail. Now is the time to overrule this Administration’s pledge to mediocrity. Now is the time to be bold, innovative and wise in how we invest in the future of America.

Thank you Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee for this opportunity to express my personal views on a subject for which I have a passion – the future of my country!

AUGUSTINE – Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee, thank you for this opportunity to address America’s future human spaceflight plans. I, like you, have had the great good fortune to have lived in this tiny sliver of time when humans first began to explore space, and have had the even greater good fortune to have participated in some small part of that effort as an engineer and as a manager. I must confess to you that I am a proponent of human spaceflight—not so much because of its impact on the economy, its support of science, or its advancements in engineering—although it does all those things—but for the intangibles it offers, including the inspiration it provides to our nation’s citizenry, particularly its young people; for the impact it has in paving the way for humans to move further out into the planetary system; and for what it says to the world about the American people and what we and our system of government and free enterprise can accomplish.

I should note at the outset that it would be difficult to gather a group of colleagues at this table for whom I have greater respect and admiration than those in whose company I find myself today. Nonetheless, as we have all noted, human spaceflight is a topic about which reasonable, caring people can, and do, sometimes disagree. In my opinion such healthy discussion can only help assure, as stated in the title of the report of the committee I recently chaired, that we have “a human spaceflight program worthy of a great nation.”

I have been requested to speak this afternoon from the perspective of the Committee on Human Spaceflight Plans, and to compare its findings and circumstances with those of a similar committee I chaired some twenty years ago. The most recent committee, which has now been formally disbanded, included scientists, engineers, managers, astronauts, professors, and a retired four-star Air Force General Officer. The findings in our report reflect our unanimous views.

I should note that in the case of the most recent study, our group was asked to provide options for consideration by the President, Congress and NASA. We were specifically not requested to provide recommendations—presumably so we could adopt a neutral stance in assessing the pros and cons of the various alternatives we might identify and not have to be advocates for any one proposed course. I have tried very hard to be faithful to that charge throughout the recent debate, albeit in some instances that has been impossible: for example, when narrowing the some 3,000 options our committee’s methodology identified down to a set of five options offered in our report.

Let me begin with the review that was conducted twenty years ago that addressed the entirety of NASA’s space activities, not solely the human spaceflight program as was the case in the more recent review. The earlier assessment was conducted in the shadow of the Challenger failure in which we lost seven of our friends and colleagues. It was also conducted as the Soviet Union—which had provided the impetus for much of America’s space activities until that time— was breaking apart. And, while funding for NASA always seems precious, at no time during the space era has NASA found itself in so challenging a budgetary environment as exists today. This of course cannot be ignored.

Some of the relevant findings of that report of twenty years ago have a bearing on the purposes of this hearing today. These included the observations that:

NASA is being asked to pursue goals that are not matched by the resources that are provided—a hazardous practice in a pursuit as demanding as human spaceflight.

Based upon our skepticism of the Shuttle reliability calculations, the loss of another Shuttle appears likely. Construction of a true heavy-lift launch vehicle is the highest priority for future human spaceflight activities. The technology program that underpins spaceflight is being starved, thereby leaving future decision-makers with only limited options.

America should have a balanced space program, using humans and robots where unique advantages are offered by each.

Turning to the present, the most important finding of the Committee on the Future of Human Spaceflight Plans was that the ongoing program is on an unsustainable trajectory. The reason is straightforward: when NASA began that program, for reasons it presumably believed sound, it predicated the effort on a future budget profile that each year has proven to be fully one-third less than planned. The impact of this has been exacerbated by NASA’s very high fixed costs—in some part attributable to the Congress’s practice of instructing the Administrator of NASA not to reduce NASA’s workforce or facility structure.

The above approach contrasts with that at the end of the Cold War, when the aerospace industry, in pursuit of efficiency, lost 640,000 of its employees and two-thirds of its companies or divisions of companies within a few years. Make no mistake, NASA is the finest space organization in the world with an extraordinarily talented group of people. But it is also a large, mature organization without a strong competitor. At least in the business world that is usually a formula for complacency, not success. The consequences of funding mismatches in such an environment can be severe. For example, the mismatch of ends and means coupled with technical problems that were encountered on the Ares I program were such that during its first four years the program slipped between three and five years—depending upon whose schedule estimate is accepted. Further, the heavy-lift vehicle and lunar lander were largely deferred. The question that thus arises with regard to the resulting disconnect among the Ares I schedule and that of International Space Station and the planned lunar return becomes not one of can the Ares I be built, but should it?

While the committee did not offer a program that cancelled the Constellation program in its entirety, it did offer an option, referred to in the report as “5B,” that generally approximates the President’s plan as it was described during his recent remarks at Cape Kennedy. This program appears to be a viable undertaking, one that ranked highly in our overall assessment…provided, and this is to be emphasized, that it is funded as stipulated and that decisions are made as scheduled (especially those regarding a heavy-lift vehicle). The funding profile identified in our report to support Option 5B adds to the baseline budget profile three billion dollars per year, phased in over the next four years and realistically corrected for inflation using the appropriate aerospace indices.

While the technical challenges of human spaceflight, especially beyond low-Earth-orbit, are immense—the determining factor in defining the program the nation is to pursue is the amount of funds the nation wishes to commit to the enterprise. At the higher or “enhanced” budget level the human spaceflight program would cost each citizen about ten cents per day. Nonetheless, the aggregate sum is undeniably immense.

Try as we might, our committee could find no dynamic, responsible human space exploration program costing less than the program augmented by $3B per year in inflation- corrected collars. That is not to say there are not important things to be done in space for lesser funds, particularly with robotics, but rather that human spaceflight programs under the more restrained funding profile will necessarily be confined to some 300 miles from the Earth’s surface.

Option 5B clearly establishes a human landing on Mars as the primary objective for the human spaceflight program. Unlike Constellation, which sought to reach its initial exploration goal, the Moon, some 20 years in the future, Option 5B follows a path with interim accomplishments including docking with an asteroid; visiting an Earth-Sun Lagrangian point and conducting training operations there; circumnavigating Mars; orbiting Mars; landing on one of Mars’ moons, Phobos or Deimos; and eventually landing humans on Mars. A return visit to the Moon is also quite possible, for technical and science reasons; however, it should be noted that our committee received many informal inputs, particularly from young people, questioning why we would have a space program whose centerpiece is something that was accomplished over a half-century earlier. Both China and India have announced plans to land humans on the Moon and it seems unrewarding for the U.S. to participate in a second race to the Moon.

Option 5B, like the President’s proposed program, provides for the commercialization of transportation between the Earth and low-Earth-orbit. The reason for this is that sooner or later NASA must free itself from operating a logistics line to low-Earth-orbit or it will not have the funds needed to meet the grand challenges that await beyond low-Earth-orbit and which NASA and only NASA is equipped to address: namely, the exploration of the solar system.

Our committee’s report explicitly states that commercializing transportation to LEO is not without risk. Nothing in space is without risk. But it is the committee’s belief that with proactive oversight by NASA, such an approach is feasible and responsible. From a purely business standpoint, we draw the analogy to the federal government’s guaranteeing a market to carry the mail to the fledgling airlines—an action that made airline travel commercially practicable.

When including this concept in some of the options in our report we noted that all companies, large and small, should be allowed to compete for the market created as just described. We noted that throughout its history NASA has performed the critical role of providing direction and oversight for industry—but it has been industry, not NASA, that has built the overwhelming preponderance of America’s space hardware. Further, one wonders what message our government sends in the increasingly competitive global marketplace if it concludes that America’s industry is not capable of safely carrying our astronauts into orbit, yet it is comfortable having Russia’s industry do so.

I will not seek to repeat the contents of our 154-page report this afternoon. But I would like to conclude with our most strongly held over-arching conviction, and that is that it would be

a disservice to NASA and to this nation to yet again initiate a space program where the means do not match the ends. Doing so merely guarantees that we will be meeting here still another time five to ten years hence. It is one thing to preserve jobs…it is another to conduct a space program. In this case, the former is easy…the latter is difficult.

Assuming that this principle of matching goals and resources is embraced, I have the utmost confidence that the extraordinary people of NASA, under Charlie Bolden’s exceptional leadership, can successfully carry out whatever program you who lead our nation may select. And I am hopeful that it will be a program that, as the title of our committee’s report states, is “worthy of this great nation.”

Thank you for this opportunity to speak on behalf of my colleagues on the Review of the U.S. Human Spaceflight Plans Committee.

ROCKERFELLER – Turns out that Senator Rockefeller is not a strong supporter of human space flight. We went to space in the 1960’s to do new things and we did them. He states though that he wants to understand the value of human space flight. And how does human spaceflight advance the Agency’s agenda over the ages, not just today. How does human space flight help the human condition sufficient to its budget.

CERNAN – You’re asking a lot. I do my best. If you want to talk about technology, the tech you hold in your hand, the technology I have in my iPhone today comes from the space program. Exploration drives technology innovation, not the reverse. There has to be a purpose to the development of technology. Only then can you develop the technology to match the mission. The technology developed during Apollo is in our hospitals today.

But more pointedly, curiosity is driven by exploration. It’s within our hearts, our souls and our desires to explore. We have been to the bottom of the ocean or the highest mountain, but you are still on earth. Is there life on Mars? That may not be enough to drive space exploration, but there are many others. We have more questions about the Moon now than we had when we went there.

The innovations that drive our communications satellites and mass communications were given birth by Kennedy’s dream to do not what is easy but is hard.

HUTCHISON – I would just add to what Capt. Cernan said, that we can put a satellite guided missile into a window rather than blowing up a town…

AmericaSpace: Ok…moving along…

Some have said that there is alternative energy development that can be researched in space. Space isn’t being pushed just to go, but to be the ones that capture the rays and do the other things that will keep us from having to drill oil, rather that having others harness that.

Capt. Cernan, you said, concerning that NASA will no longer lead private contractors, that contactors will be able to develop and build within $5B and 3 years rockets that will get us into low-earth orbit and build a new manned space system. You indicated that it would be a decade, not three years. My question is, do you think that money should be spent with NASA in control, but with creative control, perhaps a new version of Constellation, and not puting our money into termination contracts or renting space on Soyuz? Is that what you were proposing?

CERNAN – Concerning the infrastructure, the Aerospace Corporation did a report that stated it would take $10-$12B to support the commercial space efforts, not including infrastructure.

Getting into space isn’t a weeks long process, but takes years of preparation. How is that going to be prepared for by the commercial launchers? Are we going to subsidize that? Will they follow all of our safety regulations?

I’m concerned in the near-term about the gap. In the long-term, I’m worried about exploration. In the near-term, I think we should have something that closes the gap both from the front-end and back-end. That means extending Shuttle and pushing Ares I/Orion.

NELSON – We as Americans are by nature explorers. We had visionaries like President Jefferson who paid for the Lewis & Clark exploration. If we ever give up that characteristic, we will be a second-rate nation. That frontier is no longer westward, it is upward. Look what Hubble has done? And when we get the Webb Telescope up, we may get to the origin of the universe. Doesn’t that make us a better people? That’s my answer to the Chairman.

Now to Mr. Augustine, who has “been a steady hand through so many years.” Can you describe how this Administration’s plan, amended, how it compares with the options you layed out in your report?

AUGUSTINE – We narrowed the 3,000 options down to 5, and the President’s reflects 5B some. We proposed going into the HLV immediately. And we put in $3B annually. So our program was better funded. There are some advantages in delaying the HLV decision in technology and budget. And the concern is that you don’t restart in 5 years.

The 5B option, assuming it’s fully funded, it’s a rather exciting program. It gives you regular accomplishments such as docking at Lagrangian points, in-orbit refueling, circling Mars, so it offers all those exciting advantages.

That brings me to two other options. The only way to close the gap is to keep the Shuttle flying. We believe that it will be a 7 year gap. But then you don’t have some of the money you wanted to continue Constellation. It comes down to how much money you have. If you start HLV now you have that much less to modify and develop Orion.

ROCKERFELLER – Exploration is important. But what we also need to consider is what space flight contributes to the health of humankind. One is to do the undoable, such as Lewis & Clark, the Moon missions, but there’s also 1878 when Sir Isaac Newton opened Johns Hopkins. And he said that in the 2,000 years previous to that date, there’d been no real advances in medicine. In those days, there was no federal funding of any sort for medical research. There were no medical requirements. Johns Hopkins did, when Newton said to follow the truth no matter where it takes you, literally revolutionized medical education.

I say this in parting, not to rebut, but that the American search for newness, most quite glorious but not all.

BROWNBACK – We should have all of these hearings all of the time. Mr. Augustine, why not end Shuttle just to focus on Constellation? This is one of the things that bothers me, we start a program and then 5 years later do another one.

AUGUSTINE – There were several scenarios. The problem was that Constellation, which has slipped 5 years just in time for ISS to go into the ocean. Even if you extend ISS, even then it doesn’t do well.

BROWNBACK – I’m taken by Capt. Cernan’s comment that we don’t have a plan now. I agree with letting commercial launchers handle LEO. But you think that even with the Shuttle money, we will not reach our goals.

AUGUSTINE – There’s no way with NASA’s high infrastructure cost to have a strong exploration program.

HUTCHISON – I’ve heard budget as the reason for why we can’t keep Shuttle flying and closing the gap, but if we’re talking about putting $6B into commercial launchers who are not developed or tested, and then talking about bailing them out if they fail, I’m trying to find the best plan that keeps you in a budget but doesn’t keep you wedded to one way to do it and explore and access ISS where we’ve invested over $100B.

I’d like to ask Mr. Armstrong about the safety issue concerning the taxi service we’ll be buying from the Russians, would you talk about that.

ARMSTRONG – The prime recommendation of the Columbia Accident Recommendation Board was that safety be the prime condition. That has to be balanced with all programs. An acceptable safety level is what you’re looking for. We have a good bit of confidence built on the Shuttle now. Never-the-less, it’s a 40-year old technology that could be operated safely. The Ares I was projected by outside safety experts to be the safest vehicle compared to its competitors. They did not make a comparison with the commercial entities because there wasn’t enough data.

HUTCHISON – Talking about Soyuz, which is using 40 year old technology, and our ability to discern the safety of Soyuz vs. the commercial launchers that are untested and the Shuttle, do you have concerns about Soyuz for the years needed?

ARMSTRONG – It’s very difficult to answer that until the commercial launchers get into their flight testing. The Soyuz is very safe to return to earth on. The Shuttle would also be safe, with a bit of extra care. The key on Ares I was that it was meant to be the safest vehicle. The commercial vehicles…I just do not know the safety considerations they have.

HUTCHISON – You also comment on Orion light, which cannot launch humans, as maybe an expensive project with limited use. Do you think that is what we should put money into rather than a full Orion to be able to do the things that the President said were his goals?

ARMSTRONG – Orion Light would not be a good use of money. Orion Light will still be expensive to design and test, and wouldn’t serve the station for very long. And the configuration isn’t very good for say medical considerations. Orion can’t change its direction, its flight path.

CERNAN – We are already contracting with the Russians for Soyuz and lands on land. So I don’t understand the logic of Orion Light which will a ballistic vehicle that lands on the water. And you have to man-rate it anyway. And then you still have to have stand-by forces ready in an emergency. These are things that have not been though through. I would like to remind members of Congress and the American people that it costs the taxpayers little more than half a penny to fund NASA.

HUTCHISON – I think people would agree that the investment we have made has improved our lives, such as MRI’s, and made our health improved. Thank all of you for coming out and speaking so directly. I think Gen. Bolden will work with us to build a program that works for America.

NELSON – Mr. Augustine, did your commission determine that Ares would be safer than Shuttle, by a factor of 10?

AUGUSTINE – Our committee was very skeptical of failure and reliability models. As Gene was pointed out, Ares was designed with safety and reliability in mind. At the same time, there are two things that have not come up. First, NASA would have responsibiity to oversee reliability and safety in commercial launchers. In talking about the commercial launch companies, we keep focusing on the start-up’s. And that means, ULA.

AmericaSpace Note: But Mr. Augustine, ULA has said that it will not get into the human launch business unless NASA pays all of the costs!

NELSON – Mr. Lovell’s statement will be inserted into the record. Mr. Armstrong, will you tell us why landing on the Moon is more important than the lunar fly-by and Lagrangian points.

ARMSTRONG – We know 1,000 times more about the Moon than we did during Apollo. But there is so much we don’t know. There may be valuable minerals or other materials that could be useful for permanent settlements. I do think there’s value in going to the surface. There’s also value in using the Moon as a staging point for other exploration. We can learn in lunar regions many of the things that are unknown or undeveloped needed for planetary travel such as radiation exposure but still be able to get out of real trouble since earth is a short distance away. That’s why the Moon should be considered an important part.

NELSON – One of the things that the Chairman of the Augustine Commission wanted to do was keep the excitement by going to the Moon. Perhaps you can by stating what the goal is. The President has stated that goal. Now let’s see if we can do that.

The hearing is adjourned.



 

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