House Senate Conflict Over NASA Spaceflight Funding

A synopsis of where things are in the great debate over the nation’s human space flight program is presented by Kaufman and Eggen of the Washington Post in, Conflict Over NASA Spaceflight Program Complicates Funding.

An interesting point made in the article is that some on the Democratic side of the House might be feeling more sympathetic to commercial crewed space. That will be relevant if the House votes on its 2010 NASA Reauthorization Act before the election recess. After the November 2nd elections however, it certainly stretches credulity to imagine that newly elected Republicans are going to support the President’s initiative any more than the current Republicans, who are, as the article mentions, in near universal opposition.

The article quotes Scott Pace, current director of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University and a Bush-era NASA official, “On both political and substantive grounds, the administration has handled the NASA human spaceflight side badly.” He goes on, “It’s perfectly reasonable for these companies to come out and say why they think they’re going to succeed. But that doesn’t mean the government should take that at face value.”

AmericaSpace Note: Pace is spot-on on both counts; the Administration has bungled its proposed changes to NASA from Day 1 and the claims by the commercial companies have never been backed-up by numbers. As has been stated here, this was a policy and political miscalculation of epic proportions that graduate space policy students will be studying, and shaking their heads over, for…possibly decades. Quite a legacy…

Amusingly, SpaceX CEO Musk seems oblivious as to Shelby’s opposition to SpaceX’s attempt to take the human space flight program away from NASA. Here’s a hint from a Southerner; in the South it is very impolite to bite the hand that feeds you. And the $238 million that NASA has roughly fed SpaceX to develop its Falcon 9 makes for a lot of food. But that mixed with threatening Shelby’s, Alabama’s really, Marshall Space Flight Center was just down-right…misguided to the point of lacking in intelligence.

However, the biggest misunderstanding, naiveté really, by Obama space plan creators and supporters was that Republicans would swoon over the commercial aspects of the President’s plan. They so didn’t get Republicans – the flag always comes first. And it certainly didn’t help when Neil Armstrong and Gene Cernan, astronauts who planted the flag on the Moon, came out in opposition. That opposition served as the biggest embarrassment of all for the President’s proposed policy.


  1. Sorry, but as a Republican and Atlanta tea party organizer I think you have a very simplistic view of what Republicans think, what a space industry (not a program) should be, and what commercial space companies are capable of. $238 million pays for about 1 month of Shuttle and is one tenth of what’s been spent on Ares I. NASA hasn’t designed a successful launch vehicle in over 30 years but SpaceX has built two in 6 years.

    If “flag comes first” then why don’t we have a national airplane or computer? We’ve been flying people into space for 50 years, if now isn’t the time for NASA to turn over human space flight to industry then when, if ever? I’m as patriotic as the next guy, but when do we actually get to start acting like the small government capitalists we say we are?

    • Michael,

      Given that the Shuttle was developed when few at SpaceX were even teething, it should come as no surprise that the Shuttle is more expensive to operate than an unmanned launcher developed over the last 4 years. And $238M may only pay for 1/2 of a Shuttle flight, but the Shuttle can lift 24.4mt where the current Falcon 9, which the $238M paid for, can lift 8mt, or less than 1/3 of the Shuttle. And…your point is?

      No, you’re right–there is no national airplane. But let me turn the question around–why do you believe that a commercial crewed launch market cannot co-exist with national crewed launcher(s)? What is your historical reference? As this site has mentioned on more than one occasion, our nation has both a military air lift command and a commercial cargo/passenger market and both thrive and co-exist just fine.

      Lastly Michael, note that I didn’t say that the Tea Party wouldn’t go along with Obama’s plans to outsource our space program. I recognize that the Tea Party plays by its own rules and not by those of the GOP. As to what the Tea Party candidates who do manage to win on November 2nd, we will have to wait and see since, much like the Tea Party itself, there is no ideological cohesion or structure on the issue of space among Tea Party candidates. And you never really know what a member of Congress will do until they are in office. But I do imagine that, wishing to win a nice seat on a Committee important to constituents back home, that even the Tea Party entrants can be persuaded to support the GOP leadership, which is in near universal opposition to the President’s proposed outsourcing of our national human space flight program.

      • According to Ken Kramer reporting on behalf of SpaceRef, in December 2008, NASA awarded SpaceX a $1.6 billion contract to conduct a minimum of 12 flights and deliver at least 20,000 kg of cargo to resupply the ISS after the Space Shuttle is retired sometime in 2011.

        The Shuttle can loft 24,400 kg in one launch costing $500 million.

        SpaceX is paid $1.6 billion for 20,000 kg while NASA costs $500 million for 24,400 kg. This isn’t sounding like such a good deal now. Where are we getting this wrong?

  2. Republicans will end up supporting some similar version of this funding proposal. Once they’ve got a handle on it in a way they can call their own it will be done, perhaps more economically?

    Rep. Boehner, the speaker presumptive, has been a long supporter of NASA, check his votes. Specifically has support of the 2004 Commercial Space Legislation. Whatever the Republicans or T-partiest or fiscal conservatives choose to do I think they will appreciate the national security concerns at the very least.

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