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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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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.

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