There’s one Augustine panelist who endores the Constellation Program for NASA:
Two days before a blue-ribbon panel’s final report on options for the U.S. human spaceflight program is due, a key panelist issued a strong personal endorsement of the NASA’s existing plan to go back to the Moon with the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle and Ares family of rockets.
“I’m a rocket engineer, a rocket scientist. I’m a big, big believer in the need for rocket technology, so I personally want to see Ares 1 going and the program going as it’s currently structured,” said retired Air Force Gen. Lester Lyles, a member of the White House-appointed Review of U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee led by former Lockheed Martin chief Norm Augustine.
Lyles, who led the Augustine panel’s subcommittee on interagency and international cooperation, said while it may be prudent to study other options, he would not want to “disrupt” what he considers a successful program.
“When I say successful, I mean they’re meeting most of their milestones, if not all of them, and seem to be technically doing the right thing,” said Lyles, who spoke Oct. 20 during a luncheon hosted by Women in Aerospace and the Washington Space Business Roundtable here, two days before the Augustine panel is slated to release its final report at an Oct. 22 press conference here. A summary report released in September said that NASA’s current program was “unsustainable” without a substantial budget boost and laid out several options for a U.S. human spaceflight program that did not include the Ares 1 rocket under development since 2005.
During his talk, Lyles said Augustine would address criticism of the panel’s cost estimates, conducted by Los Angeles-based Aerospace Corp., during the press conference.
“We know since the initial summary of the report came out there’s been some criticism, some comments about cost analysis that we did, and some comments from a lot of circles as to whether or not, why we did not endorse the program of record strongly enough,” Lyles said. “I thought we had, and I think that might be one of the things you’ll hear Norm address on Thursday.”
Lyles, who said he was recently tapped by NASA Administrator Charles Bolden to lead the NASA Advisory Council’s space exploration subcommittee, said the Augustine panel determined an additional increase of $3 billion annually beginning next year is needed to fund any meaningful space exploration beyond low Earth orbit.
“Human spaceflight beyond [low Earth orbit] is not viable under the current fiscal year  budget guideline,” he said. “We thought that increased funding level would allow the administration, NASA, to support either an exploration program perhaps going to the Moon first or a flexible path option, so that’s what you’ll find.”
Asked to clarify whether or not the committee is calling for a full $3 billion annually for NASA beginning next year, or a more gradual increase leading to a $3 billion plus-up by 2014, as the panel’s initial findings appeared to indicate, Lyles said meaningful human space exploration is possible only with an immediate $3 billion annual increase above the agency’s 2010 budget run-out.
“I’m not sure what has changed in our final deliberations. I will tell you going in, in our final session, we were talking not a ramp up, we were talking about $3 billion a year,” he said. “We thought at least that was necessary, not to get us back to where we should have been if the budget hadn’t been constrained since 2004, that would take probably significantly more dollars if you will, but we certainly weren’t talking about a ramp up, we were talking about a step increase, if you will.”
Lyles said that $3 billion annual increase would not include additional funding to keep station going beyond 2016, an expense not included in NASA’s current budget plan.
I wonder what the international partners have to say about no additional funds from the US after 2016?
Would they come up with more partners or money on their own?
If not, would they chip in with the Chinese on their space station in 2018?
Check out New Scientist’s version of the Augustine Panel’s Options that will be presented to the White House tomorrow:
A White House-appointed panel has rated five visions of the future of US human space flight. New Scientist added up the numbers1 The status quo
If NASA continues on its current path with no extra money, its new Ares I rocket and Orion capsule (planned design illustrated here) will not be ready until after the International Space Station has been de-orbited – which is scheduled to happen in 2016. The return to the moon for which Ares and Orion have been designed would not happen until “well into the 2030s, if ever”, according to the committee’s summary report
Destination reached: ISS (but only until 2016, when it is de-orbited)
For: safety (0) – astronauts stay relatively safe by not venturing beyond Earth orbit
Against: schedule (-2) – human moon landings still wanted, but lack of funds could postpone them indefinitely
Overall score: -15
It’s going to go down to the wire. The politicos in states like Texas, Florida and Alabama want to bring the pork home to the constituents where NASA has contractors that’s building the ‘corn-dog’ (Ares1) rocket’s parts.
Most are hollering for the $3 billion short-fall now (2010 mid-terms y’know) in order to look the hero who saves NASA ‘jobs.’
It’s almost comical to watch.