Politico’s Manu Raju and John Bresnahan have written an interesting article on the final NASA budget for the remainder of 2011, Congress: Shooting for the moon amid cuts. It’s emphasis on the lobbying of aerospace contractors obscures the fact that bipartisan, super-majorities in both houses voted to reject the White House’s 2010 plans for NASA. To garner that sort of intense opposition by members of both parties requires something more simply lobbying dollars. What killed the President’s plan can best be summed up by Neil Armstrong’s March 12, 2010 testimony,
“With regard to President Obama’s 2010 [space] 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.”
What the whole space debate of 2010 resolved was that our goals in space, as Senator Mikulski eloquently stated, should not be rewritten every time a new Administration comes in. To imagine that it is Congress that has injected an element of long-term focus and stability in our national space policy has to be one of the biggest surprises of 2010. And a pleasant one.