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A Congressman and an Astronaut Propose a New Plan For NASA 221

Posted by timothy
from the can't-we-involve-bruce-willis-somehow? dept.
MarkWhittington writes "Reflecting a rising discontent with the state of the U.S. space program in the wake of the last space shuttle mission, Rep. Pete Olson, R-Texas, and Apollo astronaut Walt Cunningham have proposed a new space plan that addresses space exploration, the role of commercial space, and reform of NASA."
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A Congressman and an Astronaut Propose a New Plan For NASA

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  • by FatLittleMonkey (1341387) on Monday July 25, 2011 @05:19AM (#36868628)

    FTFA: "Instead, NASA was directed to pursue a riskier course, diverting billions of dollars to a group of companies– most devoid of experience in manned space vehicles"

    Ah, Republicans, all for market solutions, as long as the money goes to the your preferred part of the market.
    (Even better, they're blaming Obama for wasting $9b on the ridiculous Constellation.)

    • by dzfoo (772245)

      I think they are blaming Obama for cancelling the Constellation program, which inevitably turns the $9bn already invested in it into waste.

                -dZ.

      • by murdocj (543661) on Monday July 25, 2011 @07:47AM (#36869160)

        The 9 billion was already wasted, Obama simply had the courage to admit that.

        • by Karmashock (2415832) on Monday July 25, 2011 @08:30AM (#36869396)
          These two comments underline the problem with keeping the space program in the government's hands. The reality is that the political divides within the US are making US governance dysfunctional and ultimately everything that we wish to remain reliable must be isolated or abstracted away from the ebb and flow of the two parties war over control. Doubtless both sides will say the best solution is for the other side to submit to it's power but that seems unlikely. If carried to an extreme that will mean the end of the republic as all decisions will be in the hands of the unelected. The democrats hate the space program except when they love it and the republicans love the space program except when they hate it. There's little rhyme or reason to it. They're both playing to the crowd when they think it will win them votes and when not they'll loot the budget for other programs or ideas. Who trusts they'll keep funding space programs and who even trusts that NASA is doing a good job of allocating what resources it gets? We've all heard the horror stories of no-bid contracts, cost plus contracts, and just straight up cronyism as it regards these things. A private sector space industry if it can actually be nurtured into existence will self sustain, self direct, and be both beyond the inevitable chaos of US politics without requiring the republic to chain itself to an endless system of unalterable rules. So that is why I find the private sector model appealing. I question whether those that are against it do so because they don't believe it will be made a reality or whether they're just reflexively anti corporate despite the fact that we all depend upon the corporations as economic institutions. Ironically, it seems those that live in cities seem to hate them most even though none are more dependent upon them then those same people. Just an observation.
          • The dysfunction of the Government was planned by the founders. It was intended to prevent the Government from even trying to create huge wasteful programs, because if they have so much trouble with small things why take on huge complex projects with wide-reaching consequences? The dysfunction of government is inherent to all governments, whether under the pretense of one party "cooperative" or "efficient" rule or not. Dysfunction is beneficial as it naturally keeps the government small, and aims toward a
          • "Ironically, it seems those that live in cities seem to hate them most even though none are more dependent upon them then those same people"

            Maybe it's BECAUSE they are dependent on corporations and know how well they serve the people (their customers)? Perhaps it's because corporations, in order to maximize profit, must minimize delivery? Competition, too, is minimized, by co-opting or eliminating competitors - that's the nature of the beast. Face it, corporations are not the ideal delivery mechanism for

            • Point of order, re:

              Perhaps it's because corporations, in order to maximize profit, must minimize delivery?

              Hate to say it, but minimizing delivery can hurt profits more than help, as customers wanting an item but not getting it (or those getting less than they expected) decide to buy a competing item instead. I know what you were getting at, but the sentence came out a bit awkward.

              And corporations are immune, of course

              While not perfectly so, they are. A *competent* ( note emphasis) contract comes with milestones, hard limits, SLAs, and escape clauses. The sad majority of government contracts have none of these.

              Before you react, no

          • by arth1 (260657)

            A private sector space industry if it can actually be nurtured into existence will self sustain, self direct, and be both beyond the inevitable chaos of US politics without requiring the republic to chain itself to an endless system of unalterable rules.

            It will also actively work to hinder others, which is why I firmly believe that coprorations must be prevented from ever gaining a foothold in space. Space belongs to humanity, not the US, and not individual companies. It's better that space stays undeveloped until we can get our shit together than that it gets exploited by commercial interests who will fight teeth and claw to keep "their" monopolies.
            The moon isn't going anywhere. It will be ready for us when we're ready for it. And by dogs, we're not.

      • The ghost of Constellation keeps on marching on like a zombie that has to be killed multiple times. It has morphed into SLS and will likely morph again into something else, while the Ares I has now morphed into the "Liberty" spacecraft.

        Keep in mind that the Ares I was mainly supposed to be a Shuttle SRB that flew on its own, but since it didn't have enough "umph" to make it to orbit, they had to add an extra section.... which added far more complications to the design than anybody who started the idea was willing to admit.

        Now if NASA could only design a rocket system that actually flew. NASA has a dismal record of one launcher program after another getting cancelled, of which the Constellation program is merely the last of a long line of bureaucratic failures. Fancy dreams do eventually have to face the ugly truth called physics, and the results often aren't pretty.

      • I think they are blaming Obama for cancelling the Constellation program, which inevitably turns the $9bn already invested in it into waste.

        That is a sunk cost [wikipedia.org]. Under rational decision making, money already spent should not have any influence over forward looking financial decisions. The argument that "we've spend $X billions already which will go to waste" is fallacious logic. The money is gone regardless of whether any future benefit is realized. Only future expenditures matter. If a credible argument can be made that by spending an $Y additional dollars some benefit will be received that is worth $Y dollars, then the project should go a

    • Democrats are all for market solutions for spacelaunch..... because the current system is so screwed up that going with a "market solution" is 100% not the way that George W. Bush did it. Therefore it must be good.

      I do like this phrase: "Democrats don't think free markets work in the atmosphere, Republicans don't think it works above."

      BTW, the $9 billion being dumped on Constellation is mostly a Republican earmark of monumental proportions. I find it strange that of all of the earmarks that Republicans are willing to keep, this one stands out. I think that figure may even be a bit low, but that is your figure and large enough I can live with it as it gets the point across that it is a colossal waste of money. For myself, I think Constellation is just plain wrong to be happening for many reasons, even if it might be a potential employer for myself and that its cancellation will adversely impact many of my neighbors.

    • by elrous0 (869638) *

      When Pete Olson said that we need to ween ourselves off the government tit, by "we" he meant "you" of course.

    • by Nyeerrmm (940927)

      I like how Boeing, ULA and ATK are listed as having no experience. This is neglecting the fact that no-experience applies less and less to SpaceX. You'd think being able to get a completely new good-sized vehicle flying with two successul test flights would speak to their capabilities.

      When will these people realize that the old way of building spaceships hasn't produced a new vehicle in 30 years! Claiming NASA has the experience to build something new is disingenuous -- this is not to put the blame on NA

    • Yes, even though Constellation was forced upon them by Senator Shelby of Alabama.

  • ah, Pete Olson (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdotNO@SPAMhackish.org> on Monday July 25, 2011 @05:30AM (#36868648)

    So, he ran on a platform of slashing nearly all government programs, eliminating many agencies entirely, and halving the budgets of others--- because private-sector alternatives are always superior, whether it's private schools, private healthcare, or corporate research labs.

    Oh, except NASA, which is a vitally important public service that can't be replicated in the private sector. Coincidentally, he represents a district in southeastern Houston, and NASA is one of the largest employers in that district.

    • He claims the commericial companies that are now supposed to do the space race have little experience in manned space flight... well so did NASA at the time of JFK decleration. Further more, he claims Obama changed the plans but forgets to mention that this started under republican leadership and that with the huge debt republican leadership gave to Obama, the guy has little choice.

      This is just about pork pure and simple. Oh and JFK was a democrat as well. Guess from which side of the political spectrum he

      • by jittles (1613415)

        with the huge debt republican leadership gave to Obama, the guy has little choice.

        I hate to break it to you but both sides are responsible for the current problem, and Obama has done his fair share of spending:

        In 2007, before the recession, federal expenditures reached $2.73 trillion. By 2009 expenditures had climbed to $3.52 trillion. In 2009 alone, overall federal spending rose 18%, or $536 billion. Throw in a $65 billion reduction in debt service costs due to low interest rates, and the overall spending increase was 22%.

        That is from the WSJ [wsj.com]

        • There's 2 problems with this argument that really really bad.

          1. Bush signed the 2009 budget right before he left office. I still hold congress accountable for budget descisions, but it was in no way Obama who made any spending choices until 2010, whereupon republicans stonewalled any budget bill until halfway through the year. Obama has had no unopposed budget proposals. It very much smells of hypocricy.
          2. 2009's budget in particular included about 800 billion in immediate spending that has no impact o

        • I hate to break it to you but both sides are responsible for the current problem, and Obama has done his fair share of spending:

          Oh, please. You people and your (pfft!) reality. This is Slashdot. You must choose a side and fight, fight, FIGHT! Damn your silly facts and figures. They threaten the local belief systems, and therefore must be banished! BANISHED, I say!

          • I wish people would stop making this exact post about everything they agree with. It makes you look dense and intellecually lazy.
            "I will supplment this reasonably cogent argument with my sarchasm. Everyone will appreciate that". As I posted above, I do have signifigant concerns about both the numbers and their relevance for blaming obama in particular. At the very least, let me say: you're not helping, nor are you being funny.

            For a post complaining about mindless partisanship, you sure do seem to be en

            • Aw, you poor thing. Did someone not giving a gnat's fart about you or your vastly important and world changing political posts leave you all sad?

              you're not helping

              I know. Don't care. The real comedy here is you think you are.

              nor are you being funny.

              Wasn't trying to be.

              Honestly, I wish the ideologues on both sides would all catch ebola.

              (rimshot)

              Hey yo!

      • by strack (1051390)
        jfk = apollo, saturn V. nixon = shuttle. i think ill go with the democrats on this one.
        • This shallow analysis was brought to you by the letter I.

          Ideology, it's the mind killer. Ask for it by name. Ideology. It's easier than thinking.

      • Oh and JFK was a democrat as well. Guess from which side of the political spectrum he got a lot of opposition for state funded space exploration?

        The Whigs?

        Gosh, you guessed right!

        Well flip my lid!

    • Oh, except NASA, which is a vitally important public service that can't be replicated in the private sector.

      How is NASA "vitally important"? We could close NASA tomorrow, and still could launch all of our rockets at USAF facilities such as Vandenberg AFB. The only thing NASA gave us that the Air Force couldn't do was Space Shuttle facilities, and we've retired that program anyway.

      I'm all for retiring NASA... and all of our Cold War military, intelligence, and technology institutions born from it... and starting over with an eye on future needs. We'll need an Army and Navy of some kind (with air capabilities), but

      • by sjbe (173966)

        How is NASA "vitally important"?

        Research out of NASA has resulted in literally hundreds of billions of dollars of economic benefit. FAR more than the cost of NASA to the country.

        The only thing NASA gave us that the Air Force couldn't do was Space Shuttle facilities, and we've retired that program anyway.

        The Air Force has probes to explore other planets? Didn't know the Air Force had any interest in exploring Pluto.

  • Some Texas Republican wants to spend money on something? But this week Texas Republicans are smashing the US economy against the debt they ran up for 30 years. Who's going to pay for their insanity?

  • by Michael_gr (1066324) on Monday July 25, 2011 @05:32AM (#36868668)
    Only a call to create a plan. The article is wrongfully disdainful of private rocket companies. Nine years ago, SpaceX started developing their launch systems. They started from scratch. They Spent maybe 10% of the equivalent NASA budget for Constellation. And they have something to show for it - several successful launches, a space capsule that has successfully returned form orbit and is being fitted for a manned launch, and a heavy launch vehicle in the works. NASA, in the mean time, was creating a *derived* system and yet ran into technological problems and have yet to produce a single piece of hardware that can do anything. Obama is diverting funds from a slow-moving, conservative, wasteful government agency and cancelled an under-performing, over-budget, technologically conservative (and yet riddled with problems) program. The money was diverted to the free market. And yet, all the space-loving republicans who touted the free market's ability to compete with NASA are now howling and complaining. Why? cause it's OBAMA, that's why.
    • by Issarlk (1429361) on Monday July 25, 2011 @05:47AM (#36868742)
      Nope. Because SpaceX is not in their backyard, employing their electors.
    • by Hazel Bergeron (2015538) on Monday July 25, 2011 @06:45AM (#36868918) Journal

      If by "scratch" you mean using existing launch sites, applying NASA discoveries, tech and employees, and taking expertise from ("investing in") existing academic spin-offs and other established aerospace operations, then yes, SpaceX started from "scratch".

      This is how it always is when an industry is privatised: following a period where politics deliberately stifles the government programme, there are calls for privatisation; the early gold-diggers plough funds into the project, essentially copying what has gone before and producing what appears to be progress but is in fact little more than a reimplementation of what has gone before. A decade later, we will be back to stagnation, but with control out of the hands of the people and reliance on a bulky corporate infrastructure with no incentive but profit.

      The same pattern has been observed with every major industry since the early '80s yet we continue being suckers for punishment. And now we have soooo much choice and everything's so much better, right? If the only pace of government-sponsored technological development from the '50s through the '70s had been maintained for another 30 years! But, no, in the US it was redirected entirely to the purpose of toppling the USSR from the '80s, and then sold off to the friendliest bidder. And China, which is not so friendly, but knows how to be a good creditor.

      • by robot256 (1635039) on Monday July 25, 2011 @07:37AM (#36869112)

        So? What is wrong with letting the private sector do what they are best at--taking existing technology and refining it to the point of profitability? It's not trivial work, and we need it done just as much as we need the research in the first place. I think we've pretty well proven that the current system of government funding is incapable of actually producing an efficient production program.

        Besides, the minute the space shuttle became a "production" vehicle, the progress stopped. It should never have been elevated to that status; the shuttle was an incomplete and half-baked idea from the start and should have been the first in a long list of modern spacecraft experiments by NASA. Instead, we were stuck with a boondoggle program in need of justification, hence Hubble and the space station. All worthy enterprises, but could have been so, so much cheaper if the shuttle had been refined for another 10 years--or changed completely--before production.

        IMHO, the real test is to see if we can jump-start the real research in NASA while simultaneously promoting private-sector production development of existing technologies. And no, a Constellation-style (read: Apollo-style) heavy-lift rocket does not constitute real research. That too can be left to the private sector. I've said it a million times, Constellation was squarely on track to become just as expensive and unreliable as the shuttle--that "$9b wasted" was a drop in the bucket compared to what the program would have cost in the long run. The real research is in ion & plasma drives, space elevators, and planetary exploration vehicles, etc.

        • What is wrong with letting the private sector do what they are best at--taking existing technology and refining it to the point of profitability?

          You may have untintentionally set up a straw man. My present argument was against privatisation of space flight research, not for restricting the privilege of lucky entrepreneurs to spend money on fun projects which might then make them more money.

          The OP is arguing about diverting government money to "the free market", or something, as if SpaceX's profit-based implementation efforts are a substitute for NASA's research efforts (worse, he may be suggesting that one proper function of government is to channel

          • by robot256 (1635039)

            What is wrong with letting the private sector do what they are best at--taking existing technology and refining it to the point of profitability?

            You may have untintentionally set up a straw man. My present argument was against privatisation of space flight research, not for restricting the privilege of lucky entrepreneurs to spend money on fun projects which might then make them more money.

            The OP is arguing about diverting government money to "the free market", or something, as if SpaceX's profit-based implementation efforts are a substitute for NASA's research efforts (worse, he may be suggesting that one proper function of government is to channel money to private corporations). It's part of a wider philosophical obsession with applying capitalism everywhere that has resulted in the privatisation, stagnation and price-gouging of various industries and services since the early '80s.

            Yes, I may have misinterpreted your comment a little. I detected some disdain in your comment about government projects being starved before privatization, etc., and then assumed that you were arguing against privatization in general because of that. I agree with everything you have said.

      • by strack (1051390)
        for the prices spacex are charging per tonne to orbit, id hardly call them 'gold-diggers'. more like 'holy shit boeing and lockmart have beeing pumping the government for fat cost-plus government contracts for launch services for decades and spacex is a breath of fucking fresh air to DOD and nasa'
        • Yeah, the first one's always free.

          Call me when SpaceX have done a century of their own "research" at commercial prices and we'll see how things are going.

          • by bberens (965711)
            I would add... call me when NASA's infrastructure for doing these things internally has been gone for the better part of a decade and we'll see what SpaceX's costs are when there's no real competition.
      • by Shotgun (30919)

        If by "scratch" you mean using existing launch sites, applying NASA discoveries, tech and employees, and taking expertise from ("investing in") existing academic spin-offs and other established aerospace operations, then yes, SpaceX started from "scratch".

        And NASA has access to all the same research, launch sites and expertise...and yet they're still behind.

        I'm sure you had a counterpoint there somewhere, I'm just not seeing it.

        • And NASA has access to all the same research, launch sites and expertise...and yet they're still behind.

          Behind on what? Explain precisely what it is which they (i) wanted to do and (ii) were at liberty to do but (iii) have not done. In your answer, make sure you compare and contrast the research output of the two organisations and demonstrate an understanding of the relationship between NASA and the private sector.

    • by NReitzel (77941) on Monday July 25, 2011 @09:53AM (#36870216) Homepage

      At the risk of Piling On, let me point out that NASA spent nearly two billion dollars on developing plans for their Great Space Station. After years and years of practice, they had produced many viewgraphs and powerpoint presentations. And who flew the first piece of the space station? The Russians, of course. Whose spacecraft ferry crew to and from the space station? The Russians, of course. Who launches resupply missions to the space station? The Russians, of course.

      And as for wasting nine billion dollars, what did we get for nine billion dollars? Some nice animations about what a great thing the Constellation program ought to be. We have a booster launch that wasn't even a new booster, it was the same old Solid Rocket Booster that blew up the Challanger, with a dummy fifth segment. And the spacecraft? What a spacecraft. A recycled Apollo capsule.

      The NASA we have now is a ghost of what it was. The good engineers have left (and gone to SpaceX, among many others) and what we are left with are slackers and bureaucrats, and a labor force that wants to keep doing whatever they are doing. Should they learn something new? Oh, heck no. Let's just try to go back to the glory days of Apollo, and relabel it "Constellation".

      There is absolutely no riskier plan on or off Earth, than not taking any risks.

      • by Teancum (67324)

        While I agree with much of the sentiment made here, this is going a bit over the top. The ISS was an evolutionary design change from the original Space Station Freedom concept, which was mostly NASA-produced hardware. Even now, there are clear differences between the Russian segment vs. the American segment, where the "Unity" node is the only thing holding them together. That the Russian section went up first has a whole bunch of factors but it wasn't for the lack of ability on the part of America to bui

      • At the risk of Piling On, let me point out that NASA spent nearly two billion dollars on developing plans for their Great Space Station. After years and years of practice, they had produced many viewgraphs and powerpoint presentations.

        That's a pretty simpleminded view. Because they reason they produced nothing but viewgraphs for years is the same reason we're in such a mess now with Constellation, Orion, and the 'new' HLV: Congress and the Administration constantly changing the budget and the ground rules

    • by Shotgun (30919)

      Not all are complaining.
      And it has nothing to do with OBAMA.

  • Real soon now... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by taiwanjohn (103839) on Monday July 25, 2011 @06:04AM (#36868788)

    > In coming weeks we, with others committed to the HSF program, will offer a more detailed plan to return to flight.

    So... what? Do they have a plan already, and the just aren't ready to tell us? Or are they still thinking about it? What's the point of even making an announcement like this if all you've got to say is a few extremely general talking points?

    Basically, we have a TX congressman who wants to get the pork flowing back to his deep-pocket-donor pals in the military/industrial complex. [yawn]

  • by cmholm (69081) <cmholm&mauiholm,org> on Monday July 25, 2011 @06:06AM (#36868794) Homepage Journal

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't this the same Olson who never met a program he didn't want to cut, or a tax expenditure (ie. loophole) for the oil industry he didn't want to protect? It's natural for a Congressional Rep to protect local industry, so I'm not surprised he's looking to replace his pork funding stream.

    The days when a noticeable fraction of the US GDP goes into NASA are long over. Unless someone discovers an asteroid that shits tax breaks, private industry is going to stick with shooting sats into orbit. It's been a nice ride, but US man-in-space is basically over for the rest of my lifetime. I'll be interested to see how far the Chinese and Indians go before they hit their own limits.

    The snarky title refers to Rep. Olson's largest campaign contributor, and I think it safe to say that the Kochs' could give a rat's behind about space flight.

    • by NoNonAlphaCharsHere (2201864) on Monday July 25, 2011 @08:56AM (#36869602)

      It's been a nice ride, but US man-in-space is basically over for the rest of my lifetime.

      I remember watching Gordo Cooper's flight in the 3rd grade, first time I'd ever seen a TV in a classroom.
      I remember Ed White walking in space, and later dying.
      I remember Jim Lovell and Frank Borman on Christmas eve.
      I remember watching Neil and Buzzy live from the Moon.
      I remember getting up at 3:00 AM to watch STS-1 take off.
      And I remember getting up at 4:00 AM and tearing up as STS-135 landed, thinking "Well, that's the last I'll ever see of this".

      Shit, I got something in my eye again.

    • by elrous0 (869638) *

      an asteroid that shits tax breaks

      Ironically, that's Chris Christie's campaign slogan.

  • by Dr. Spork (142693) on Monday July 25, 2011 @07:07AM (#36868990)
    To be honest, I prefer Obama's "let the private sector do it" approach to manned space travel than the Texas Republican's "only big government can do it" manifesto. (I hope the irony is not lost on anyone.) In general, we need do de-emphasize human missions. These are largely vanity projects and don't generate anywhere near as much science as things like Wmap and the Mars rovers. The first question that any NASA proposal should begin with is: What do we want to learn about space? And what's the safest and most cost-effective way to learn it? These guys are still stuck in the old "wouldn't it be cool if we launched a guy to ...?"
    • by hey! (33014) on Monday July 25, 2011 @08:14AM (#36869282) Homepage Journal

      I see non-manned missions as a sensible prerequisite to manned ones. Before Vostok 1 you had Sputnik. There were 20 robotic launches in the Mercury Program before Alan Shepard went up on Mercury-Redstone 3. Before the manned lunar landing we had the Ranger, Surveyer and Lunar Orbiter programs.

      Even if you didn't care about the people you send to, say Mars, it would be financially unconscionable to send them there before we'd done some missions that returned Martian samples to earth. I'll give a few reasons here:

      * Experience shows that Mars landings are risky.
      * We have no experience with Mars launches; a few test runs are needed if returning human explorers is important.
      * Identify targets which can best be studied by humans before sending very expensive missions.
      * Maintain and advance planetary exploration skills with frequent cheap missions where failure *is* an option.
      * Reduce cost of manned exploration by developing proven and reliable systems.
      * Develop a sustainable, successful planetary exploration program before risking everything on a fabulously expensive manned mission with untried technology and uncertain goals.

      There are times when you have to be bold, but there are times when being sensible is the bold thing.

    • The irony is lost on most Republicans, because Obama is a "socialist", and the space program is a perfect opportunity for flag waving and chanting "USA!, USA!". So, sadly, about half the country. These are the same people who e-mail each other Hubble pictures with "Isn't it amazing what God can do?" captions.
    • by Frangible (881728)
      Yeah, we should just let ISS fall out of the sky. It's only the single most expensive object ever created. What possible science could we learn with the ISS?

      And these days, it looks like "let Federal Russia do it" is the true choice being made. Fortunately Russia somehow manages manned space flight cheaper and more reliably than our unmanned missions.

      It'll just be cosmonauts doing it and us stealing and looting Russian science. Not the first time in history that's happened. Oh well, we wouldn't want
  • and the bartender says: "hey! no deadbeats allowed, getoutta here ya bums"
  • Guess that whole "created or saved" thing is out the window now. Funny how people thought it was important to save car companies that A) make crap and B) couldn't survive without taxpayer subsidies yet manned spaceflight which has a wealth of benefits isn't worth it. http://www.freakonomics.com/2008/01/11/is-space-exploration-worth-the-cost-a-freakonomics-quorum/ [freakonomics.com]

  • From the article:

    Rep. Pete Olson (R-Texas) is the former ranking member for the House Science Committee, Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee. He represents the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.

    NASA has their own congressman? This is pure pork.

    Space-X is more likely to produce a launch system than NASA. A few months ago, they sent a capsule to orbit and recovered it safely. [spacex.com] Their first cargo delivery to the ISS is scheduled for later this year. They're working on an abort system so that their working Falcon-9 rocket can be man rated. And in 2012, they plan to launch the Falcon Heavy, with twice the payload of the Space Shuttle.

    All this is being done at costs not only far be

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