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House Passes NASA Authorization Bill 149

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the please-sir-can-i-have-some-more dept.
simonbp writes "The US House of Representatives has just passed the Senate version of the FY2011 NASA Authorization Act. This bill is a compromise between Obama's proposed budget and earlier House bills. It cancels Ares I in favor of commercially-operated crew transportation to ISS, adds technology development funds, and keeps a version of Orion and a new heavy-lift 'Space Launch System' to both be operational by 2016. The timing of this bill was crucial to keeping key NASA personnel and contractors from being laid off."
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House Passes NASA Authorization Bill

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  • Budget or 'plan'? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by MozeeToby (1163751) on Thursday September 30, 2010 @10:04AM (#33746510)

    So does this bill include a realistic budget to actually accomplish these goals or is it just "oh yeah, we support NASA 100%" political pandering? Last version of the bill I read about included keeping the shuttle program going with no additional launches and no additional funding, just moving money from some other NASA program and pay people who won't be doing any real work.

    • by tnk1 (899206) on Thursday September 30, 2010 @10:17AM (#33746658)

      Political pandering. However, sometimes they make mistakes in the bills and particularly resourceful people actually manage to get things done in spite of the best efforts of Congress.

      Unfortunately, for something more complex than some unmanned missions and face-saving missions to the ISS, we're probably going to need a new enemy and a new Space Race, and the terrorists aren't going to cut it. That or a hundred more years of incremental improvement to the point that orbital flight is so cheap we can do it without the government. Sad.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by MozeeToby (1163751)

        Well, until someone in office has the vision to budget for the development of a non-chemical launch technology space travel isn't going to become routine anyway. Even massive funding into a new rocket isn't going to be the kind of game changer that you're looking for, we need a launch loop [wikipedia.org], space elevator, laser rocket [wikipedia.org], or at the very least a nuclear rocket [wikipedia.org] to finish the jump to being a truly spaceworthy species.

        • by strack (1051390) on Thursday September 30, 2010 @10:41AM (#33746966)
          ok. i need to put a end to this. a launch loop is fucking ridiculous. you dont realize how difficult a problem it is to have 1000km of cable flying around in magnetic suspension in a vacuum at mach 25. and cornering at mach 25. and then hanging things off it to launch. nothings impossible, but this is really fucking close. and will end up a hell of a lot more expensive than conventional rockets. the nuclear rocket would be nice, if people werent such pussies about nuclear material on a rocket. the laser rocket design that heats up hydrogen with lasers from the ground with a heat exchanger is quite the excellent idea. most of the advantages of the nuclear approach with none of the political queasiness. i personally like the idea of the rail launched scramjet first stage that flys back, with a reusable second stage that launches when the scramjet stage reaches the edge of the envelope.
          • by digitig (1056110)
            Why not just beam up to an orbiting vessel powered by dilithium crystals?
          • I love this line from the wikipedia article:

            Unlike the space elevator, no new materials need to be developed.

            Right before it discusses building a 4000 km long airtight sheath held 80 km in the air capable of holding a vacuum with an iron tube going 31,000 MPH, such a tube apparently being perfectly flexible enough to go around the curves. All for supposedly $10 billion. (Seriously, that's what the article says). I'm not an expert in physics, economics, drug use, but I do happen to have enough common sense to say that whoever came up with the space loop idea is batshit in

      • by Moryath (553296)

        However, sometimes they make mistakes in the bills and particularly resourceful people actually manage to get things done in spite of the best efforts of Congress.

        Not this time. The bill as written is basically a "fuck JSC, move everything to Florida" bill. It was written this way because JSC's in Clear Lake, TX, which is a solidly conservative district (thanks to the same Democrat gerrymandering that keeps Gene Green and Sheila Jackson Lee in "safe districts"), while KSC out in Florida is located in a dist

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Pojut (1027544)

      Pretty much everything at this point is political pandering when NASA is involved. When was the last time you saw NASA have real support, either in the media or on capital hill?

      • by hedwards (940851)
        A lot of that has to do with what they're doing. The science is more important now than what they used to do, but it's seen as routine and boring. Which really is an amazing accomplishment, really. But it lacks the flash to really get people excited about it outside of science. And the experiments themselves are not particularly easy for lay people to understand.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by danwesnor (896499)
      It's an authorization bill, which defines mission, but does not provide funding. Funding is provided by an appropriation bill, which should come later. The OP is wrong about this bill preventing lay-offs, since a) there is no money in an authorization bill, and b) the lay-offs related to Constellation have already happened.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Nyeerrmm (940927)

        It does help prevent layoffs. There is continued funding in the continuing resolution. The problem was that no one knew what that money was going to be used for until the authorization bill passed.

        The layoff risk came not to NASA civil servants, but to contractors. While NASA could allocate CR funds to keep their employees even without knowing exactly what they should be doing, no contracting manager would have been able to keep people around without some indication of the direction of NASA, since NASA c

        • by danwesnor (896499)
          CR funding funds programs at their current or planned level, whichever is lowest. Since the old program is not in the authorization, it isn't funded. Since the new program has no appropriation, it also isn't funded. Civilians can be temporarily repurposed while waiting for funds, but contractors will have to fund any employees out of their own pockets. We just got word that here in Huntsville, another 150-250 people will get layoff notices tomorrow, and top of the 500 that have already lost their jobs,
          • by Nyeerrmm (940927)

            I believe the idea is that with an authorization bill passed, the CR can actually include language to redirect funding. Or so the people who actually understand this stuff tell me.

            Still, it would have been nice for the politicians to have gotten this sorted out sooner, so unnecessary layoffs wouldn't be an issue.

    • by Teancum (67324)

      This particular legislation is about the best compromise that can be made given political realities at the moment. The earlier version that was written up by members of the House was by far and away worse.

      This version has a provision for continued development of a new "heavy lift vehicle" and supports the COTS program including efforts to commercialize Earth to LEO manned spaceflight. Ares I is good and dead, but ATK does get some money in their direction too.

      Most of the major space advocacy groups are in

  • by dkleinsc (563838) on Thursday September 30, 2010 @10:10AM (#33746592) Homepage

    The basic problem is this: Projects in NASA take longer than a president will be in office.

    So presidents will announce some grand new space project that will take a decade. The next president, in the name of budget cuts, cuts the project. Then, in order to placate the pro-NASA folks, announces some other grand new space project that will take a decade. And of course the grand new space projects never get completed.

    As far as the congressional representation, they're primary concern with NASA is directing as much of the activity as possible to their congressional districts. For instance, Ohio's representation will do their best to ensure that more work gets done at Glenn in Cleveland, while Texas's folks try to get the work done in Houston.

    • by zrbyte (1666979)
      Hopefully private sector goals and plans will have a stronger impact on space exploration, than the 4 year political cycle of two steps forward, one step back. Go SpaceX and Co!
    • by Thanshin (1188877) on Thursday September 30, 2010 @10:23AM (#33746754)

      The basic problem is this: Projects in NASA take longer than a president will be in office.

      The basic problem is that commercial (practical uses) and scientific (pure investigation) exploration shouldn't be tied. Furthermore, space exploration/investigation shouldn't be tied to a government.

      NASA should separate into practical and scientific. Then, after the ESA and other space agencies have done the same, the scientific divisions should join in a United Space Agency (with a different name, but you know what I mean).

      • by Teancum (67324)

        By law NASA shouldn't even be involved with commercial spaceflight any more. That supposedly ended with the Reagan administration, but only now has it been realized to any substantial extent.

        The role that NASA is playing right now is for providing seed money to encourage commercial organizations to build spacecraft that NASA needs, along a model similar to how DARPA encourages many companies to develop military technology. If NASA does more of that, I'm entirely supportive so far as it meets the overall o

      • by FleaPlus (6935)

        > The basic problem is that commercial (practical uses) and scientific (pure investigation) exploration shouldn't be tied.

        Huh? Every single NASA scientific exploration mission for quite some time has been launched on a commercial rocket. For example, the Spirit and Opportunity rovers on Mars were launched on Boeing's Delta II rockets.

        The above statement is a bit like saying that scientific instruments shouldn't be shipped via FedEx, or scientists shouldn't ride commercial airlines.

      • by bruthasj (175228)

        Just start calling it the "Federation" right now. First contact coming up soon anyway.

    • I'm glad that the bill has been passed. Now, could someone enlighten me on how it differs from those goals announced on April 15th?

      http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/microsites/ostp/ostp-space-conf-factsheet.pdf [whitehouse.gov]

      http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/80beats/2010/04/15/obamas-space-speech-well-go-to-mars-in-this-lifetime/ [discovermagazine.com]

    • by JeffSpudrinski (1310127) on Thursday September 30, 2010 @10:34AM (#33746876)

      There were only two reasons that the USA reached the moon:

      1) the president that announced the initiative had been popular and was assasinated. That happening made him a national hero and they did it for his legacy. Saying anything negative about JF Kennedy was politically unpopular in the 1960's, and no politician wanted to be the one accused of causing NASA to not reach the moon by 1970.
      2) the "space race" against the Russians. Once the race had been "won", there wasn't any emphasis on continuing...no matter how valuable the science and research was.

      The public lost interest. If it hadn't been for the drama of Apollo 13, the project would never have made it to 17 missions. It's a shame the program ended since those astronauts are/were among the bravest and smartest people alive.

      Just my $0.02.

      -JJS

      • 2) the "space race" against the Russians. Once the race had been "won", there wasn't any emphasis on continuing...

        I know that the goal at the time was to put a human on the moon, and we did that first. But the Russians did follow it up with a reasonably sophisticated rover only a year later. Rovers seem like the most (only?) viable way to conduct preliminary explorations of extra-terrestrial bodies. In hindsight, maybe they had the right idea.

        p.s. Not trying to belittle the accomplishments of the Apollo crews and engineers. Putting a squishy meatbag on the moon was an incredible feat. Getting him back safely was

      • by elrous0 (869638) *
        Your mileage may vary, but most of the astronauts I've met were attention-whoring, arrogant douchebags. Never saw much of what I would call "bravery" there.
      • by Teancum (67324)

        I put it more bluntly: NASA got to the Moon because of Lyndon B. Johnson. His control over the U.S. Senate was near legendary and that was political power he didn't give up when he made it to the White House. If you wanted to serve in the U.S. Senate as a Democrat during the 1960's (and most of the 1950's), you had to go through LBJ. The Republicans were irrelevant for the most part during that era.

        It was LBJ who put the bug into the ear of JFK to consider the whole idea of sending somebody to the Moon,

      • If it hadn't been for the drama of Apollo 13, the project would never have made it to 17 missions.

        JFTR: There never were 17 missions. It went

        • Apollo 1 (which never flew, but is included in the official
          mission lists in memory of the three Astronauts killed)
        • Apollo 7 - Apollo 17

        Apollo 2-6 did fly (while Apollo 2 and Apollo 3 aren't even official names for the missions),
        but were unmanned tests of Saturn V and Saturn IB rockets.

        That makes for 11 manned Apollo missions. Of those, only Apollo 8 and Apollo 10-17 actually went
        to the moon, and only Apollo 11, 12 and 14-17 landed - which gives us just six

    • by Chris Burke (6130)

      The basic problem is this: Projects in NASA take longer than a president will be in office.

      So presidents will announce some grand new space project that will take a decade. The next president, in the name of budget cuts, cuts the project.

      And the solution is to instead focus on small chunks of basic technology/capabilities rather than grand projects, so that they aren't vulnerable to being canceled, and make it easier to accomplish grand projects in the future without having to take a decade developing all

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      And of course the grand new space projects never get completed.

      Solution: Stop with the grand new space projects. Private industry has become large enough and/or space flight has become cheap enough that they can actually undertake these things. Let NASA come up with the magical ideas and the critical how and wherefore that the private sector can't manage for whatever reason, and let private companies actually do the deeds. NASA seems to be making incremental progress with this model already.

      NASA seems to be administration-heavy, so let's let all those managers manage s

    • Well, that's why it is good that this bill allocates some money to developing more commercial technologies to access space. Even if NASA can simply trick Congress into subsidizing the first few launches of companies like SpaceX, IOS, Armadillo, Orbital Sciences, and so on for the next couple years, that money could be spent to proof and test the new launch systems being developed by those companies. Once those commercial companies have a bit of a track record that they can point to and say, "See, we won't b
  • NASA is dead. Put a fork in it.
    • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

      by drinkypoo (153816)

      I know that it's virtually impossible to shrink a government entity, but that is what I believe is needed. Unfortunately, the people which need to be removed most are managers, and they are the hardest kind to extricate from any bureaucracy. Let NASA get back to doing or at least enabling actual science. Let scientists decide what that science shall be and let the managers figure out how to sell it to the public.

      Eliminating NASA would be a gigantic mistake. We need to be figuring out how to exploit the reso

      • by morgauxo (974071)
        Putting the scientists in charge won't get you space elevators it will get you more robots.
    • by wjousts (1529427)
      It's "Stick a fork in it, it's done". Why would you stick a fork in something that's dead? That's just weird. At least use your metaphors correctly.
    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      You want to fork NASA? having two NASAs doesn't sound like a very good idea.

      Or did you mean "NASA is done put a fork in it"? That would make sense if you understand what "put a fork in it" is all about. It's a cooking term, if you need a hint.

      Please don't use phrases you are ignorant of the meaning of. It does nothing to further discussion and simply confuses people. "Put a fork in it" isn't a buzzphrase, and at any rate using buzzphrases is what the stupid do to convice people they're knowledgeable.

      • by Teancum (67324)

        NASA is done. They did their great thing back in 1969 and then have been coasting for a long time.

        I think the metaphor is excellent as NASA is done as an agency. Unfortunately like all government zombies sometimes it is takes awhile for the polticians to realize that it is already dead except for the burial. NASA has been dying since the Nixon administration, it is time to put a steak through its heart and end it for once and all.

        • by mcgrew (92797) *

          NASA is done. They did their great thing back in 1969 and then have been coasting for a long time.

          You haven't been paying attention. There were two Voyager spacecraft that made it past the heliosphere, numerous probes to almost all if not all the planets, two Martian robots that outlased their design specs by a HUGE margin, put the Hubble in space, are now putting the Webb telescope in space, and that just skims the surface of what they've done. Nasa isn't about manned exploration (although that is a part o

    • Re:NASA is dead (Score:5, Interesting)

      by gad_zuki! (70830) on Thursday September 30, 2010 @10:51AM (#33747134)

      Pardon me, but from the timestamp on your comment its obvious that you didn't read shit about this bill before posting some inflammatory garbage that only helps bring down the SNR here.

      The facts are the NASA was dying under Bush. Constellation was 100% unaffordable and on top of that falling behind with delays and budget overruns. Neither Clinton or Bush properly planned for the post space shuttle era. Obama is now tasked to keep NASA alive via privatization of easy launches to the ISS and building a new capsule and rocket for an asteroid mission 15 years from now. Its not 1967. Private industry can handle lofting meatbags to the ISS. Government should be doing what private industry can't.

      This bill is a very interesting look into how our times have changed. Yes, it would be nice if it had more money attached to it, but we kinda spent our cash on tax cuts for the rich and two wars under Bush. You can't have nice things if you keep going into debt over war and cuts for people who don't need them.

      • by FleaPlus (6935)

        > Yes, it would be nice if it had more money attached to it, but we kinda spent our cash on tax cuts for the rich and two wars under Bush.

        IMHO, NASA needs to start spending its money better before it can expect to get more money from the taxpayers. Hopefully the transition to using proven commercial entities instead of attempting to build rockets in-house (which NASA hasn't successfully done in around 30 years) will help with this:

        http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewpr.html?pid=30992 [spaceref.com]

        The NASA COTS program has demonstrated the power of what can be accomplished when you combine private sector responsiveness and ingenuity with the guidance, support and insight of the US government. For less than the cost of the Ares I mobile service tower, SpaceX has developed all the flight hardware for the Falcon 9 orbital rocket, Dragon spacecraft, as well as three launch sites. SpaceX has been profitable for three consecutive years (2007 through 2009) and expects to remain modestly profitable for the foreseeable future.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Nyeerrmm (940927)

      Huh? How is it dead? NASA has money, they have goals, and a start on an idea of how to make manned exploration affordable and sustainable.

      Constellation was never going to fly. It had to get through a few more administration changes before getting to the moon, and if past performance is any indication, the budget was going to grow more, and the target dates were going to be pushed back. 2030 is a long way off.

      In its place we get a competitive market for Gemini class vehicles to reduce the risk of ever fa

  • Keep NASA personal (Score:5, Insightful)

    by zero_out (1705074) on Thursday September 30, 2010 @10:12AM (#33746616)

    The timing of this bill was crucial to keeping key NASA personal and contractors from being laid off.

    I've found that if you want to keep an organization personal, you can't have many contractors in it. Permanent employees tend to be more invested in the organization, which fosters a more personal culture. Contractors have a tendency to come and go, and act more like vendors than members.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Wiarumas (919682)
      True - if you want to keep the organization personal that may be a good strategy. However, if you want results, better stick to the contractors. Permanent government employees become obsolete and absorb cash. Its much better to have an expensive, yet disposable expert who works extremely hard in fear of the contract ending (or the client being upset).

      They deliver much better results than someone who is on payroll and going to get a paycheck and benefits regardless of their performance (sure they can b
  • Great (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Low Ranked Craig (1327799) on Thursday September 30, 2010 @10:17AM (#33746672)

    Nasa gets less that 1% of the budget, while Medicare, Social Security and Welfare get 57%, Defense gets 19% and the interest on the debt is 5%.

    Do you see the problem here?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by wjousts (1529427)
      Nope. Different things cost different amounts of money. I don't see throwing 57% of the budget at NASA being a good idea either.
      • With 57% of the budget going to NASA, we could have colonies on the moon and Mars, and we could send the retirees to Luna where the gravity will be easier on their osteoporosis, while the welfare recipients can be sent to work on Mars building new Projects in the Tharsis Bulge. Oh, and we won't need a defense budget, because anyone who acts up could be eliminated with redirected meteors.

        In conclusion: putting 57% of the budget into NASA would solve all our problems AND it would make for some absolutely awes

      • by Teancum (67324)

        It should be noted that the percentage of the federal budget going to NASA is now about 0.1%. I concur with Lord Ender here where if 57% of the federal budget was going to NASA, either the war in Afghanistan is going real well (not needing any more money) or NASA is flying solid gold spacecraft with diamonds as rocket fuel.

        NASA would also be accomplishing some really cool things for a trillion dollars per year for outlays. If only that were true.

    • Nasa gets less that 1% of the budget, while Medicare, Social Security and Welfare get 57%, Defense gets 19% and the interest on the debt is 5%.

      Do you see the problem here?

      Is it that we don't have anything budgeted to actually pay down the debt?

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by RealGrouchy (943109)

      Nasa gets less that 1% of the budget, while Medicare, Social Security and Welfare get 57%, Defense gets 19% and the interest on the debt is 5%.

      Do you see the problem here?

      Um... if the budget were 1% bigger, NASA would be free?

      - RG>

    • Re:Great (Score:5, Funny)

      by Thanshin (1188877) on Thursday September 30, 2010 @10:32AM (#33746858)

      Nasa gets less that 1% of the budget, while Medicare, Social Security and Welfare get 57%, Defense gets 19% and the interest on the debt is 5%.

      Do you see the problem here?

      Yes. Someone should've played more Civilization.

      With 19% in Defense USA should've invaded at the very least his own continent. And 1% in research isn't going to get them to Alpha Centauri any time soon.

      Lower research to 0%, lower all health to 5% (no need for so much pop anyway) move everything else to defense and go for the domination victory before the japanese start deploying giant robots.

    • Re:Great (Score:4, Insightful)

      by gad_zuki! (70830) on Thursday September 30, 2010 @10:37AM (#33746916)

      >Do you see the problem here?

      That we spend so much of our money killing brown people for no good reason? Seriously, Bush's decision to invade Iraq cost us Constellation. Blame him. At least we have all those WMDs to justify it. Oh wait.

    • Where the hell did you get those numbers, because they don't match reality Federal Budget Breakdown [wikipedia.org].

      Especially if you at the numbers analytically. That 23% defense spending is misleading in a lot of ways. All of the Veterans' programs aren't included in it(Dept. of Veteran's affairs). Nuclear weapon maintenance(Department of Energy) isn't included in it. Dept of Homeland Security isn't included in it. The deathandtaxes [wallstats.com] poster has a pretty good breakdown that shows this.
    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      Social Security should not be included in the budget at all; it should have its own separate budget not tied to other Federal spending. I pay taxes specifically for Social Security, and they take those taxes and rather than using them to pay retirees as intended, they let the general fund "borrow" the cash interest-free, then bitch that it's not solvent.

      As to "welfare", would you mind citing some sources, preferably from a web site with a .gov extension? I found this one [house.gov] which says $313b in 2002. Wikipedia

    • Re:Great (Score:5, Informative)

      by hey! (33014) on Thursday September 30, 2010 @12:50PM (#33748842) Homepage Journal

      See a problem? I do. You're lumping welfare and social security together. That makes no sense; not only are they very different programs, they are financially different animals.

      It also misleadingly suggests that half our budget is going to welfare queens. That is simply not possible. The total budget of Administration for Families and Children (otherwise known as welfare) for 2011 is 17.48 billion, which is actually less than the 18.7 billion outlay in the fiscal year for NASA.

      Medicaid is a big program, but still nowhere near 50% of the budget. For FY 2011, the Medicaid budget is 297 billion. Medicare is even bigger at 491 billion. If you added up Medicaid, Medicare and welfare, you still less than the money spent on defense, so these can hardly break the 50% of the budget mark.

      To do that, you have to add social security into the mix, but that's inherently misleading from a budget balancing standpoint. Social Security brings in income. A *lot* of income. In fact it runs a surplus. To get an accurate picture, you have to look at both the expense *and* income side.

      Here are the top sources of income in the US budget (in billions of dollars):

      Individual Income Taxes: 1,121 or 43.7%.
      Social Security(payroll) Taxes: 934 or 36.4%.
      Corporate Income Taxes: 297 or 11.6%.
      Excise Taxes: 80 or 3.12%.
      Federal Reserve Deposits:79 or 3.08%.
      Customs Duties:29 or 1.13%.
      Estate Taxes: 24 or 0.94%.
      Everything Else (roughly): 10 or 0.39%.

      See the problem? Since Social Security expenditures are 730 billion, if you waved a magic wand and made that program disappear, you'd add 204 billion dollar to the budget deficit. That's on the same order of magnitude as *all corporate taxes* added up. It's fairly safe to say that without the Social Security surplus, there wouldn't be 18+ billion dollars lying around to spend on NASA.

      If we had a sensible approach to this, we'd set social security to one side and offset the cash influx with the expected liability for future payments. Then we'd invest the surplus in an instrument that paid interest, the goal being to ensure the cash flow remains balanced over the lifetime of the bulk of the people in the system.

      But we don't do that. Instead we wring our hands about an entirely foreseeable and manageable problem, then take the money that could deal with that problem, the working man's 204 billion dollar contribution to deficit reduction, and throw into things that don't benefit him. But to truthful if we did manage the social security surplus responsibly, there probably wouldn't be money for NASA under that scenario either.

      Now it *is* a politically conceivable scenario to get rid of Social Security and Medicaid (the notion of Medicare going away is fantasy). The 200 billion in surplus lost would be more than offset by 297 reduction in outlays. But if you think that anything like a proportionate share of that 97 billion dollars is going back into your pocket, you're either dreaming, or a member of a very small group of very wealthy people. So in that scenario, the working guy loses the programs that provide him security against tough times, but the programs that benefit the wealthy aren't going anywhere.

  • AP reports that Congress has passed a bill [google.com] that extends the life of the space shuttle program for a year, extends the life of the International Space Station from 2015 to 2020, and backs President Barack Obama's intent to use commercial carriers to lift humans into near-Earth space while dismantling the Constellation program under which former President George W. Bush sought to return astronauts to the moon. Obama, in pushing for the end of the Constellation program, said it was implausible under current bu
  • I wonder what the personnel reads in that..
    Misspelling personnel names has been proven to be harmful. [citation needles]

  • WhiIe it's better than the House version, it's basically a jobs bill, nothing more. You think Obama wants more people out of work right now?
  • by gad_zuki! (70830) on Thursday September 30, 2010 @10:26AM (#33746782)

    So, it looks like the GOP fought tooth and nail against privatizing spaceflight because they wanted to brink the pork home and more or less are dictating rocket design to NASA. Juicy bits here:

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2010/09/30/congress-passes-nasa-authorization-bill-but-id-rather-watch-sausages-being-made/ [discovermagazine.com]

    What really galled me, though, was that several Republicans blamed Obama for NASA's current mess, including Ralph Hall (R-TX, remember him?). This is grossly and demonstrably unfair and untrue. Rep. John Culberson (R-TX) hammered over and again the idea that Obama is trying to kill the manned space program. That is not true, and in fact the current situation (including the five year gap between the Shuttle and any follow-on rocket system) started in the Bush Administration. Constellation has been in trouble for some time, behind schedule and over-budget. I'm of the opinion that Obama's plan to defund Constellation does not kill the manned space program as Culberson said it will. I have written about this repeatedly: far from killing it, this new direction may save NASA from the mess it finds itself in right now.

    What's weird is how Culberson used the bogeyman of Obama to try to gain sympathy for the bill, saying that a yes vote on the bill would stop Obama's plan to dismantle NASA. I find that odd, as much of the bill aligns with Obama's plan for NASA, including defunding Constellation and promoting a new rocket system*. Moreover, I want to point out that Obama's plan, and this bill, funds private space concerns (like SpaceX, which is preparing to launch its Falcon 9 rocket which will be man-rated and capable of flights to the space station). You'd think Republicans would support this, as they have a mantra of privatizing health care, social security, and so many other government efforts. However, many Republicans don't like private space companies. An exception I must note was Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), who spoke up about funding private space efforts and how important it is. On most issues he and I disagree strongly, but on this one we agree.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by cycleflight (1811074)

      Here's an analogy. Ask a kid if he can get supplies to wash a car and wash it for $5, and tell him to get it all done in an hour. He says he can do it. Now give him $2.50, and expect it to be done in an hour. When the kid doesn't deliver a clean car in an hour and says he needs more money, call him behind schedule and over budget.

      Breaking with that analogy and stepping into the real world, now let's say that you tell a company that you can do an easier job for less money than one of their contractors that

      • Which would be true, except the the rocket that they were working on was for access to LEO only. They hadn't started on the Ares V yet because all the money was going into the shuttle. I think it's fair to change the scope of the mission, when the funded mission is not the same as the stated mission.

      • To continue with the car analogy.

        You have a massive auto company that has been making cars, trucks, and motorbikes that go 17MPH for the last 40 years.
        ($10000/Kg launched into low-earth orbit).

        They occasionally make noises that faster vehicles would be nice, but are impossible at the current state of technology.
        They hold periodic excersizes to make a faster vehicle, which results in nothing, as they decide to make it from single-crystal diamond or similar materials, and they can't get the production running

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Oh you stupid asshat! Will you stop with all the retarded, "My party is better than your party BS?" Both parties suck equally and you know it. You think only Republicans were trying to derail this bill? You're completely, totally, and utterly wrong. Here, take a look at this from the Spaceflightnow write up on this particular news bit:

      Speaking on the House floor before the vote Wednesday, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Arizona, said the legislation "lacks serious budgetary discipline" and includes an "unfunded mandate to keep the shuttle program going through all of fiscal year 2011 even after the shuttle is retired, which NASA estimates will cost the agency more than half a billion dollars."

      -- Source [spaceflightnow.com].

      You see that? Right there a Democrat from Arizona was one of the prime champions of Constellation and derailing funding to commercial spaceflight development. Do

      • by FleaPlus (6935)

        Will you stop with all the retarded, "My party is better than your party BS?" Both parties suck equally and you know it. You think only Republicans were trying to derail this bill? You're completely, totally, and utterly wrong.

        Right. The predominant factor regarding whether or not a politician has been opposed to NASA reform has been whether or not Ares/Constellation contractors are based in their state. That said, it's somewhat more humorous when Republicans do it, as you get to see politicians who are ostensibly pro-market arguing against commercial efforts in favor of huge monolithic government programs.

    • by fermion (181285)
      The likes of Kay Bailey Hutchinson and Ron Paul are not people who want small government, they just want to make sure as much money as possible makes it into the pockets of themselves and their people. Reevaluating NASA is one of the small ways we could have made government smaller, but it would also require that these legislators lose a bit of their income. We have seen this before, for instance when Paul pushed through millions of dollars for his fishing buddies. Small government is not really the thin
      • by Nyeerrmm (940927)

        I'm amused that Kay has been calling some of her own constituents incompetent during this fight.

        Its like she didn't realize that SpaceX employs 100-200 people near Waco. Granted its not as many people as in Clear Lake, but her tactlessness here was surprising.

    • by khallow (566160)
      The "Capitalists on Earth, socialists in space" phenomenon is bizarre. It even affects people who don't have an oinker in the public funds race. I think it illustrates how memes can glob together in weird ways.
    • They have a problem with any projects (private or government) that take away all the pork and jobs from companies like ATK who are currently getting all the contracts for the Shuttle.

  • by Blackjax (98754)

    The US space industry is at a critical juncture right now. The best crop of private space firms we've ever seen is out there now; from a funding standpoint, a technical maturity standpoint, and from a drive to make space routine & affordable standpoint. That being said, the government has the power to either foster them or chill the environment they are operating in and potentially kill them off (as has happened more than once in the past). For this industry to really take root and get strong enough

  • NASA is considered the number one example of unnecessary government spending in many conservative-libetarian polls. Misinformed voters think NASA consumes as much as a quarter of federal budget in some polls.
    • by edawstwin (242027)
      Which polls, and what's the correlation to "conservative-libetarians"? Are all non-conservatives fully informed? I'm a pretty hard core fiscal Libertarian and I think some amount of money for NASA is a great thing, and I don't know anyone personally who thinks that they need less money. They just need more autonomy, and Congress needs to actually listen when experts say it must be done a certain way or it's crap. Congress directs too much effort into dictating exactly what NASA does with the money, down
  • by laing (303349) on Thursday September 30, 2010 @01:27PM (#33749472)
    Why does our president want to grow the size of our government in most other areas, but privatize our space launch capability? His argument that the private sector is more efficient is a valid one. If he truly believes that the private sector is more efficient, then why not reduce our government by also outsourcing most other functions? Education is a good example. Bush tried to do this with his school voucher system and the democrats shot it down. What gives?
  • It's groaning under the weight of bureaucracy and petty empire builders. Since it's already run like a bad business, just can it and put all space exploitation and exploration out as commercial tenders. 25% on signing, 25% on launch, 50% on successful completion. Offer $3 billion to put a man on Mars and bring him safely home, and watch it just happen.

Arithmetic is being able to count up to twenty without taking off your shoes. -- Mickey Mouse

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