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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 7/19/2010 12:24:09 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
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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