April 25, 2010

Oklahoma Senator Not a Fan of NASA Plan (Source: Space Politics)
I [Jeff Foust] asked Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) his thoughts about President Obama's new plans for NASA. “Well, I don’t think the president has done many things right—I can’t think of anything—and certainly cutting back on the space program, which is what he’s doing… His priorities are social engineering, they’re not the military, they’re not infrastructure, they’re certainly not the space program,” he said. “I often say to people that we’re going to change the House and the Senate in November, and a lot of these things that he’s done we can undo, and I plan to do that.”

His comments appeared to be in contrast with those of a number of other guests at an Oklahoma Rocket Racing event, including Aldrin, Peter Diamandis, and Richard Garriott, among others, who talked up throughout the day the prospects of the commercial sector taking over transportation of astronauts to low Earth orbit. So I asked Inhofe: do you support that aspect of the plan? His ambiguity-free response: “No, I do not.” (4/25)

The Silicon Valley of Space (Source: SpaceKSC blog)
My concern is that local leadership has totally failed to diversify the local economy in the more than six years since President Bush cancelled the Space Shuttle. To this day, local elected officials still demand we continue with an unsustainable status quo. They're oblivious to the reality that NASA has spent the last six years shutting down the Shuttle program. Many of the second- and third-tier contractors have gone out of business or moved on to other things.

The Constellation program was assumed to absorb some of the job losses, but as was documented by the Augustine Panel report Constellation wasn't going to launch Ares I until at least 2018, two years after the International Space Station was scheduled to be decommissioned and splashed into an ocean because ISS money would be transferred to fund Constellation. There would be no need for Ares I if there's no ISS to fly to. Augustine also found that the Ares V moon program wouldn't be ready to fly until 2028, if ever.

But local elected officials and union officials don't care about that. They want to keep the federal government in the role of the coal company that will one day abandon the West Virginia mining town. The Silicon Valley of Space can only happen if Suzanne Kosmas, Bill Posey, Robin Fisher and the others fighting Obama stop pandering and start working to diversify our local economy. If they don't change their attitude, the Space Coast may become another New River Gorge, a string of mining towns abandoned to the forces of Nature once the coal ran out. (4/25)

California: Private Space Tourism Taking Off Without Us (Source: San Francisco Chronicle)
While our politicians in Sacramento continue to proselytize for "green jobs" that may or may not appear, they have been ignoring one of California's most important and innovative industries: private space travel. This malign neglect has allowed New Mexico to capture the space tourism business, and the loss serves as a sad poster child for California's overall competitive failure.

Our cautionary tale of California's lost spaceships lost begins in June 2004. The private human spaceflight industry was ramping up in California's Mojave Desert with the historic flights of SpaceShipOne, designed by brilliant Southern California aerospace engineers. At the maiden flights, the spacecraft's financier, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, and its visionary designer, Burt Rutan of Scaled Composites, were far from alone on the ground. The top brass from both the FAA and NASA were in attendance as well, and President Bush phoned in to congratulate the team.

One group, however, was notably absent - California's governor and other political leaders such as Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer. This new enterprise would clearly need facilities to operate from, and it would seem that an expanded Mojave spaceport - the nation's first and only such facility at the time - would be the obvious solution. But who was on hand to fill this need and capture the hundreds of millions in investment dollars and the load of high-paying high-tech jobs? It was indeed a governor, but not our Terminator. It was Bill Richardson of New Mexico - a state just a few hundred miles away but light-years ahead in business acumen and vision. Click here to view the article. (4/25)

Musk: Shelby's View Costly (Source: Huntsville Times)
The CEO of a company seeking to carry American astronauts into space says U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Tuscaloosa, is fighting a new national space plan that would bring billions into North Alabama. "I just don't understand what his beef is," Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX, said. "I don't really understand why Senator Shelby is so opposed to commercial crew," Musk said, "given that Atlas and Delta are right there in Alabama, because no one's going to be a bigger winner in commercial crew than United Launch Alliance."

Obama would give NASA a new $6 billion to ramp up a commercial space industry while NASA studies deep-space missions. "For ULA it's a certainty," Musk said of winning contracts. "For SpaceX it's much more a question mark." Much of the deep-space research would be done at Marshall Space Flight Center over the next five years under a $3.1 billion appropriation, Obama says. (4/25)

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