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NASA's Orion crew vehicle  (Source: UPI)
Senate and White House compromise

The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation committee terminated NASA's plan to send astronauts to the moon by 2020 by approving the construction of a new rocket for a new mission.

Originally, NASA wanted to send astronauts to the moon through the Constellation moon-rocket program, which is a human spaceflight program that aims to develop technologies and gain experience needed for space travel. In February of this year, U.S. President Barack Obama wanted to cancel the program through a proposal that would be effective with the 2011 fiscal year budget, but in April, he announced changes to this proposal during a speech at the Kennedy Space Center.

Obama's reconstructed plan was to rely on commercial rocket companies to help send cargo and astronauts to space for cheap in hopes of NASA being able to focus on developing more futuristic types of rockets. But Obama's proposal was shot down because of the importance of protecting home-state jobs, and also the strong distrust of commercial companies. 

Now, the Senate panel has settled on a compromise between what the White House wants, which is to see the commercial space industry grow, and what Congress wants, which is to see NASA built its own rocket. The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation committee agreed by unanimous vote that NASA is to both build its own rocket, and plan a future undefined flight at some point. 

There are still large concerns associated with this new compromise, though. Many are afraid that it will end up like the five-year Constellation program, which was cancelled after spending $9 billion because of financial and technical problems that prevented any chance of there being a 2020 landing on the moon. In addition, there is substantial fear surrounding the fact that NASA is stuck having to build a new rocket without the proper resources needed to make it happen.

"The only big-picture question, in my mind, is whether or not the funding is adequate to perform this plan," said Leroy Chiao, a member of the presidential panel last year.

This new bill ensures the continued development of the Orion crew capsule, which began under the Constellation program, while also building the new rocket, which could potentially carry Orion to the International Space Station sometime before 2016. The bill plans to budget "more than $11 billion" over the next three years to set all of this in motion.

According to U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), a liaison between the White House and Congress, the state of Florida would benefit from the new compromised bill because 2,000 jobs would be made for development of the new rocket and an extra 1,000 would be created for new commercial efforts. With 9,000 expected job losses from the Kennedy Space Center "after the shuttle's final mission" that would occur "sometime next year," this is a bit of a relief and an advantage that the new plan presents.

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Where are they all going to go?
By DoeBoy on 7/18/2010 12:24:35 PM , Rating: 4
Seems to me like all the people that are getting fired could easily get picked up by a foreign nation that has money and is looking for a quick uptake in technological know how. Seems like its a big waste to let all these smart people go.

RE: Where are they all going to go?
By ajfink on 7/18/2010 6:35:24 PM , Rating: 4
A lot of them might be picked up by the rapidly expanding US private space industry. Hopefully, beats the hell out of them going to China or India.

RE: Where are they all going to go?
By Mclendo06 on 7/18/2010 9:40:14 PM , Rating: 4
rapidly expanding US private space industry

...consists of a few niche companies with very small staffs that aren't even thinking about complex mission operations or large-scale programs right now. I seriously doubt that they are looking to hire more than a fraction of the thousands of people who are about to be out of work because of policy choices that the current administration has made. Basically, these decisions have ensured that if the United States ever manages to put together a manned space program again, there won't be enough people left around who know how to run it because most of the old mission operations people will have mission operat... -er- I mean jobs in totally unrelated fields and will likely be reluctant to go back.

RE: Where are they all going to go?
By CheesePoofs on 7/18/2010 11:03:18 PM , Rating: 2
False. I'm working for a small private space company .... just plain false.

RE: Where are they all going to go?
By Cypherdude1 on 7/19/10, Rating: -1
RE: Where are they all going to go?
By hughlle on 7/19/2010 7:05:20 AM , Rating: 2
Already been but can't go again. I don't care what people say about "lost plans". This has ore to do than just money :D it;s not this difficult to repeat something achieved 40 years ago

By namechamps on 7/19/2010 8:57:30 AM , Rating: 5
NASA budget is 0.5% of the federal budget.

Someone saying we are "broke" because of NASA is like an American household who is $80,000 in credit card debt from buying too large house, too large of a car, going on too many vacations, spending thousands of clothes they don't need, eating out 4 times a week, buying only organic food, owns HDTV, Home Theater, Bluray, Wii, Xbox nad couple hundred movies & games.....

then reaches the conclusion that they need to cut dryer sheets from the budget. If only they would cut dryer sheets out of the budget everything would be fine.

By Mclendo06 on 7/19/2010 12:45:35 PM , Rating: 2
In the midst of your tirade there is one golden nugget of truth that bothers me as much or more about this whole fiasco than anything else. That is Florida. Decisions that are being made are purely for political reasons. Generally speaking, as goes Florida so goes the presidency. You hear very little about the number of jobs that are being lost in Texas, and I can guarantee you that Obama doesn't care one iota about it since he knows he will never carry that state. I'm not saying that the jobs in Florida are more or less important than jobs in Texas, it's just that the decisions being made about where to try and reduce job losses are being made solely based on political reasons and not based on what is the best for NASA in general.

Part of me is beginning to suspect that if doing so wouldn't result in any political repercussion, Obama would either eliminate NASA altogether or incorporate it into NOAA as an organization for observing and collecting data on climate change, and claim that he just reduced the federal budget by a fraction of a percent - er - 17 billion dollars - er - 17,000 million dollars. Or just throw it at unsustainable entitlement programs.

By MrBlastman on 7/19/2010 10:41:55 AM , Rating: 4
More details, please. :)

This whole decision, well, this whole mess created by Obama is ludicrous. The guy has no clue apparently, and this is just another in a long line of nutty decisions made by him and his staff.

NASA costs very little to the bottom line. Surely it is a much better investment than pissing money down the drain in programs such as ACORN and suing the state of Arizona. NASA might not change the world immediately, but over time, the agency has contributed a great deal to our society in many discreet ways.

We need NASA and especially, need them to be funded. Programs such as a second trip to the moon might on the surface look like a waste of time, but, in reality, they serve to give the scientists something to work towards--thus, honing their skills for the next big step which is traveling to Mars (assuming no dramatic discovery such as bending spacetime or folding through into higher dimensions are not discovered anytime soon).

Throwing money at NASA to develop a rocket with no clear purpose is just plain nuts. NASA needs a purpose which in turn, gives America a purpose.

RE: Where are they all going to go?
By Mclendo06 on 7/19/2010 12:24:09 PM , Rating: 2
I'm working for a small private space company

Then granted you know more about your plans and operations than I do. If I am misinformed, then perhaps you can shed a little light on some specific questions I have...

What do you see as the current time line for any private space company to be performing an orbital mission with complexities such as ferrying astronauts to/from the ISS (maneuver/docking/etc.)?

How does that compare with the planned Constellation date of 2015-2016 for manned missions to the ISS?

Is your company planning to conduct its own mission operations?

How long until you have a mission operations segment of your company that is capable of supporting the aforementioned missions?

What does your private company foresee its primary revenue source being?

Please understand that I am excited about the prospect of private industry engaging in manned spaceflight independent of NASA. My issue is that the plan put forward by the White House is akin to telling the US military that they have to get rid of all their transport aircraft and pay FedEx, UPS, and commercial airlines to transport all of their equipment and troops for them. While such a decision might be more economical for the military, it would have a profound effect on national security.
The private manned spaceflight industry needs to demonstrate that it is sustainable and capable of safely performing complex missions before NASA does away with running its own manned space program.

RE: Where are they all going to go?
By niva on 7/19/2010 4:58:42 PM , Rating: 2
He never said anything about "manned" spaceflight. Even if he's working for SpaceX or Orbital Sciences (which is not small by any means) they're now working on unmanned flights. Obama does want those kinds of companies to upgrade to manned missions but it will be a long time before that happens.

By FITCamaro on 7/18/2010 10:05:55 PM , Rating: 4
You do realize that all information related to rocket systems used by NASA is export controlled right?

By DanNeely on 7/18/2010 10:07:37 PM , Rating: 2
The main defense against this is that said persons would likely find themselves permanent ex-patriots unless they want to spend a lengthy time in Club Fed if they did so because anything related to high performance rocketry is going to be covered by ITAR export controls (because an ICBM and a space rocket are interchangeable from a technology perspective.)

Cart before the horse
By Divide Overflow on 7/19/2010 12:42:18 AM , Rating: 4
You don't build a rocket for an "undefined flight".

You set a goal & objective, then design and build a rocket that will meet that need.

RE: Cart before the horse
By namechamps on 7/19/2010 9:35:20 AM , Rating: 2
Thank you.

Most likely any future mission will be hamstrung by the limits of using the "already developed booster" rather than an optimal fit between payload and booster.

Worst case scenario the booster gets dropped and a NEW one developed 10-20 years from now pushing the program back yet another decade.

By Daniel8uk on 7/18/2010 1:27:56 PM , Rating: 1
With the latest in CGI technologies I don't understand why they haven't been back to the moon, it's 2010 guys, get with the program!

RE: Strange...
By judasmachine on 7/18/2010 8:04:12 PM , Rating: 4
Now people would know, having seen a lot of 'shops, we could tell by the pixels. ;)

By chromal on 7/18/2010 2:31:38 PM , Rating: 5
So... the US Senate obsessively wants the federal NASA department to construct a new heavy-lift platform for moon/mars/deep-space missions, but again, won't actually pay for it. This seems like the same-old pork-barrel politics as ever. They simply want to make sure NASA bleeds enough cash to keep the contractor ecosystem greased with pork, nevermind that it's backstabbing any credible chances of success.

NASA's manned spaceflight program in 2010 is a bloated mockery of the program circa 1960-1972. What's weird is that they're quick to attack things like 'socialized' medicine, but want to socialize space exploration? WTF, seriously, WTF. Kill the Nixon space shuttle and contractor welfare it represents and let the innovators have 1/10th the capital wasted and we'll go places. Anything else is foolish hogwash nostalgia BS with no productive or feasible end-goal.

I see another agenda
By yxalitis on 7/18/2010 6:37:27 PM , Rating: 2
Didn't the USAF just develop and launch their own satellite using a secretly developed heavy lifter?

If the funding for that has already been approved, I guess (hope?) that what we have here is a place holder until the USAF rocket can be made more available for civilian tasks...

RE: I see another agenda
By delphinus100 on 7/18/2010 7:06:12 PM , Rating: 2
The Delta IV is adequate for anything the USAF/DoD needs for the foreseeable future. They have no payloads beyond Hubble-sized recon-sats.

And you can't (nor is there any particular need's not as if none have ever existed before) develop a heavy-lift (however you define that) launcher. The launch facilities alone don't lend themselves to stealth and secrecy, any more than shipyards do. This is how we knew about the Soviet N-1 and Energia, before they ever flew.

And the moment one flies, it'll be known for a radius of many tens of miles. You can't hide the fact of orbital launches, only (maybe) their purpose.

The US has lost its ambition
By 91TTZ on 7/19/2010 10:13:01 AM , Rating: 2
Has anyone noticed how the US has morphed from the land of opportunity where the best ideas can thrive into a welfare state where massive amounts of time and money is spent supporting those who contribute nothing?

We used to have a "sink or swim" mentality where the cream of the top rose to the top. Sure, some people were left behind but the country as a whole rose to awesome heights.

Now we live in the time of "equal opportunity", "affirmative action", "no child left behind", and "political correctness". But you know what? It's not equal opportunity because our policies are drying up those opportunities. Instead of no child left behind it's really "all children left behind" because we're forced to cater to the weak instead of catering to the strong. We're dumbing things down to the lowest common denominator.

I miss the old USA. Sure, it had its faults, but it was better than it is now.

RE: The US has lost its ambition
By rcc on 7/19/2010 3:05:00 PM , Rating: 2
You mean back when the country had goals, and lots of people worked toward them? As opposed to working harder to avoid having to work at all?

Ah man, you're going to get me all nostolgic.

By delphinus100 on 7/18/2010 6:19:50 PM , Rating: 2
The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation committee terminated NASA's plan to send astronauts to the moon by 2020 by approving the construction of a new rocket for a new mission.

What they did was cancel Constellation. This is not the same thing, it was never the One True Way to get to the Moon (or anywhere else), any more than Apollo was.

And the heavy-lift launcher is more for Senator Nelson's benefit, than any operational requirement that can't be met by Falcon-9/EELVs and orbital assembly.

Which is not to say that there aren't a few other details of the bill that give me cause for concern...

I can't help but feel
By S3anister on 7/19/2010 12:03:34 AM , Rating: 2
as though the current USA is the old USSR heading down a deep hole...
The bill plans to budget "more than $11 billion" over the next three years to set all of this in motion.

..the new rocket, which could potentially carry Orion to the International Space Station sometime before 2016.

No One has a plan
By dtm4trix on 7/19/2010 10:07:19 PM , Rating: 2
NASA is to both build its own rocket, and plan a future undefined flight at some point

Is it me or does this sound a little vague? WTF is the matter with these people? So they wasted 9 billion on Constellation and are replacing it with some un-known new rocket design? For what purpose? Low earth orbit? They really need to pull their heads out of their collective arses and come up with a viable well financed plan and stick to it. But i'm sure when the next president comes into office he'll change that up as well. I F*&king hate politicians. That's one of the biggest problems with this country is that no one has any vision for the future outside of their next re-election campaign. So it takes decades to get anything accomplished.

Disturbing misuse of money.
By tank171 on 7/20/2010 12:46:02 AM , Rating: 2
I find it extremely disturbing that our congresspeople bicker about $10 or $20 billion for sending people into space, but they have no problem blowing hundreds of billions at a time on revitalizing the economy. Its not their job to support failing corporations. Its their job to do things not financially viable for the citizens to do, like building roads and exploring space. The jobs and technology made by space programs is huge. This is how they should stimulate the economy, not by throwing money at it wildly.

Turns out by "hope"
By Sahrin on 7/18/2010 12:44:57 PM , Rating: 1
He meant unemployment checks, socialized health care and welfare, and not human spaceflight. I've got to tell you, nothing gives me more hope than government handouts and massive debt.

By DominionSeraph on 7/18/10, Rating: -1
RE: hmmmm...
By rcc on 7/19/2010 3:23:23 PM , Rating: 1
(Materials would be jobs, so don't even try that angle.)

Perhaps, but since you didn't factor those jobs in, the comment is meaningless.

Space Exploration
By JohnStClair on 7/18/10, Rating: -1
RE: Space Exploration
By delphinus100 on 7/18/2010 6:55:31 PM , Rating: 4
Recipe for Rabbit Stew:

First, you catch a rabbit...

You got ant exotic matter/negative energy laying around? Who is Andy Basagio? Does he?

And I've read my share of Kip Thorne and Robert Forward, too. You don't need anything as fancy as 'elevator' structures, if you can do this at all. Just go into the damn thing, re-appear at the other. The 'other' could be sent to Mars (or wherever) by a leisurely slow ship (or a relativistic near-light starship*), where re-supply and re-fuel is simple, and everyone aboard could just 'step' back to Earth at the end of their shift, replaced by someone else.

(* And the traveling end of the wormhole is attached to that ship's frame of reference. If it's going to a star 50ly away, but close enough to lightspeed for time dilation to make, say, only 5 years pass on the can use this method to step directly from here to that distant star system, only 5 years after the ship has departed. Thorne has said this, too.)

But first catch that rabbit. Make and maintain a traversable wormhole, if you can. And though I'm not from Missouri, you really need to show me. 'Extraordinary claims' and all that.

Wake me when you have it.

and who cares about the moon
By lucyfek on 7/18/10, Rating: -1
RE: and who cares about the moon
By rcc on 7/19/2010 3:25:29 PM , Rating: 1
Hmmm, no, not really, we don't.

IMNSHO, of course.

Manned space flight
By killerclick on 7/18/10, Rating: -1
RE: Manned space flight
By delphinus100 on 7/18/2010 6:27:50 PM , Rating: 3
China can't even do an average of one LEO mission per year, yet.

India can't do its first manned LEO mission until 2017 or so.

Russia (the only ones with a continuous, pretty much uninterrupted HSF capability) would like to do more, but has money/funding issues, too.

The ESA doesn't seem to know what it wants, just now,


RE: Manned space flight
By namechamps on 7/19/2010 9:31:44 AM , Rating: 2
The 21st century just started. There are 90 more year left.

US empire is in terminal decline, we are giving up on the hard, the difficult, the "impossible" and accepting America Idol and family guy reruns are "enough".

China may just be taking faltering first steps into space and India, Brazil, and others are just dreamers. I put Russia and ESA in the same group as US. We/they "could" do it but we won't. Hell we are cutting NASA moon shot and the entire NASA budget is 0.5% of federal budget. When you consider that our govt has 3 levels of budgets NASA ends up being about 0.1% of total tax revenue and about 0.0005% of GDP. If we aren't willing to spare that then we have certainly passed the torch to the emerging nations.

You have to remember circa 1950 the US was just a dreamer too. 90 years is a long time. 20 year ago I assumed the first man on mars would be an American today I think that is unlikely. Most likely the mission will be international and the first man on Mars will be Chinese because that Honor will go to the nations who picks up the largest % of the bill.

RE: Manned space flight
By rcc on 7/19/2010 3:20:53 PM , Rating: 2
Unfortunately, exploration doesn't come without risk, risk to life. While the people that would actually like to explore are willing to take that risk, the politicians and population in general is not. So everything chokes on over engineering, etc.

Some countries and societies are less worried about it, and they will make more progress if their overall tech base allows.

Good, bad, or indifferent, the deaths of the 7 Challenger astronauts caused a far bigger uproar than the thousands of deaths in auto accidents every year, or those caused by smoking, etc.

RE: Manned space flight
By Felofasofa on 7/19/2010 10:17:52 PM , Rating: 2
I think the first person on Mars should be a Maori, preferably Temuera Morrison, aka Jake the Muss, aka Jango Fett, aka Stormtrooper Clone.

RE: Manned space flight
By iFX on 7/18/2010 7:18:11 PM , Rating: 1
You are but an ant under our feet. We rule the world and you know.

RE: Manned space flight
By BladeVenom on 7/19/2010 5:21:07 AM , Rating: 1
...peaceful decline like the British Empire post WW2.

Peaceful? What about Palestine, Malaya, Korea, Suez Canal Zone, Kenya, Cyprus, Suez Borneo, Vietnam, Aden, Radfan, Oman, Dhofar, Northern Ireland, The Falklands War, The Gulf Wars, and The Afghanistan War?

RE: Manned space flight
By killerclick on 7/19/2010 10:00:09 AM , Rating: 2
Considering how much they lost and the fact they had nuclear weapons, I think they deflated pretty peacefully, especially that there wasn't much internal strife.

"So if you want to save the planet, feel free to drive your Hummer. Just avoid the drive thru line at McDonalds." -- Michael Asher
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