As this holiday season comes upon us (in the Anglo-descended cultures), many space geeks like me have been sitting on pins and needles about what the Obama Administration might use from the Augustine Commission v2.0 to consider what path NASA might take.
What? You’re surprised that I keep track of ‘mainstream’ spaceflight issues?
Of course I do. How else would I get the ‘scuttle-butt’ of the inner politics of corporate government and how pork money gets spread around to certain states?
Also, I have a soft spot in my heart for NASA and the rocket engineers who work, or have worked in the industry. To them I owe my initial interest in science and the human spaceflight program since I was eight years old despite of my research in more Fortean issues now-a-days.
So it breaks my heart to read comments on mainstream blogs like Nasaspaceflight, SpaceTransportNews, NASA Watch, The Space Review and others, because the people who comment on these sites are so intelligent and gifted that it’s obvious most of them have either worked in the industry or wish to work there. And the ideas and solutions they have come up with to close the gap in NASA’s space program are so practical that six blind men could tell that there’s an elephant in the room!
But in spite of their intelligence, most of them have no idea the gap in NASA’s human spaceflight program has already been preordained and there’s nothing they, or anyone in the public (taxpayers) can do about it.
Spaceflight political analyst James Oberg, (yes, the very same UFO debunker) has had the inside skinny on this very thing for around 16 years, since the Clinton Administration. Yup, the Clinton Administration. That’s how long the ‘gap’ in America’s spaceflight capability been in the making:
Now, there have been some pointed questions about how the United States wound up in the situation of supposedly being excessively dependent on Russian space services in the first place. Ironically, these inquiries usually are posed by critics of the Bush administration — which actually inherited that posture from the Clinton administration.When the Russians were first invited to join the international space station effort in 1993, a suspicious Congress approved the deal under the conditions that the Russian contribution “enhance but not enable” the project. That is, Moscow could play as add-ons, but it could not be placed “in the critical path” of any station function. These conditions were accepted by all parties.
From the beginning, the Clinton White House and then-NASA Administrator Dan Goldin misrepresented the plans and their implementation. Russia was quickly placed “in the critical path” for orbital hardware and space transportation. (Their self-esteem demanded it, one White House adviser asserted.) Alternate NASA-only approaches were scrapped.
That’s certainly an eye-opener, especially the “Alternate NASA-only approaches were scrapped.”
I wonder how many avowed space cadets know that? I didn’t until I read this article.
That’s why the x-33, x-38 and the NLS (National Launch System) died on the vine.
Pure international politics.
So I’m writing this to most of the fans of NASA and the proponents of the commercial spaceflight industry, “don’t count on the Obama Administration and Congress to add more funds to NASA ” and expect only minimal support for private space enterprises.
Because the fix is in.
“Soon, when space shuttles are taken out of operation, we will only be using your Soyuz rockets to put our astronauts into orbit,” John Beyrle said in an online conference hosted by Gazeta.ru.
The new Orion spacecraft, still in development in the U.S., will not be put into service until 2014.
Soyuz spacecraft have been contracted to deliver astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS).
NASA signed a contract with the Federal Space Agency Roscosmos to provide transportation services to the U.S. segment of the ISS with Russian Progress freighters and Soyuz manned spacecraft in 2007.
Under the $700 million contract, Russia will build two Soyuz and four Progress spacecraft for NASA.
You see, the Soyuzs’ and Progress’ have already been paid for.
There’s not going to be any extra money for human-rated EELV’s or COTS-D for Musk’s Dragon capsule or Orbital’s Taurus II.
Fa-getta ’bout it!
IMHO, the Obama Administration will let the Shuttle Program die a slow death by 2010/2011, as it has been doing. Count on the ARES I program to get some token funds, depending on the year to year whims of Congressional Appropriation Committees. And those funds will be pork ear-marked for states in which various ARES components are built.
Count on the first manned flight of ARES I in 2019/2020 at the earliest.
Maybe, just maybe, the International Space Station might be extended to 2020.
But I think that depends on how many more partners Obama and Charlie Bolden scrounge up to support it, China being the main candidate (India is also a possibility).
If not, it’ll be de-orbited (or the US part anyway) into the Pacific by the 2015 time-frame as planned.
There’ll be no heavy-lift (ARES V) until after AREAS I flies a regular schedule.
Don’t count on a NASA HLV (Heavy Lift Vehicle) until the 2030s.
Money, of course, will be the issue. There will simply be none.
SpaceX (or another contract/commercial flier) will have an HLV before NASA. Maybe NASA hopes to contract out HLV activities by then (2025)?
And as Oberg points out, “…I’ve found that expecting rationality in the debate over space policy is often a folly that ends in tears.”
Keep in mind also the Obama Administration are neo-liberal internationalists and have recycled Clinton Administration people.
As a fellow space-cadet, I’m not confident of hearing what I want to hear.
Maybe by the end of the year, we’ll be pleasantly surprised by a decision that is space progressive?
To me however, the glass is half empty.