credit NASA / caption: even if you’re the acting something surely you’re not unable to do anything?
Jeff Foust’s Space Politics qoutes NASA Johnson Space Center director Mike Coats from the 19 March Space Transportation Association (STA) breakfast meeting (I was surprised about this, I usually get STA invites and my DC colleagues attend when they can but I knew nothing about this) as saying that NASA employee’s are frustrated at the lack of an Obama administration space policy and that acting administrator Christopher Scolese (pictured above) feels limited by what he can do because of this and the fact that he is only the acting administrator
In some respects this point of view makes sense and can even be sympathised with but for Hyperbola it raises some questions and misses the reality of the situation, whereby there are Congressionally appropriated funds and as we say in journalism, “follow the money”Let’s face it whatever the policy is money makes things happen and your policy can be going to Mars by 2020 but if there is no moolah then there is no Martian trip for anyone
Looking at Scolese’s FY2010 budget statement it does one thing that the FY2010 document does not, it explicitly refers to new space transportation systems. While also being carefully worded not to appear to suggest that the budget is an endorsement of any particular vision, Scolese’s statement is a clear indication that Constellation is still getting funded – and no Hyperbola does not think that new transportation systems could mean something different to Ares and Orion
While the NASA review that Obama touted during a recent media briefing suggests that that FY2010 budget may be superceded by events the space agency does now have its FY2009 monies. And that budget is very clear about what NASA should be doing for the next six months (and probably longer)
With over $4.4 billion for science, $446 million for aeronautics, $3.5 billion for exploration and $5.7 billion for space operations, Shuttle and space station, there is little ambiguity there; its business as usual
For Constellation systems alone there is over $3 billion. That includes $1.1 billion for the Orion crew exploration vehicle, a 30% increase over the 2008 money available and Ares I crew launch vehicle gets a modest incraese to just over $1 billion
That is plenty of money to be getting on with and if something is being funded it has to be the de facto policy of any organisation to be doing that, so what is the problem for NASA’s management?
I have no doubt that NASA personnel are worried, who wouldn’t be? A change of administrations was always seen as the ultimate test for the vision for space exploration and Constellation programme. Would a Democratic party government can it all just because it is a George Bush policy?
That would be very dumb. And the good news is that while the FY2010 budget highlights document comes out clearly for more climate science, the space exploration paragraph refers explicitly to returning Americans to the Moon
So Hyperbola asks again, where is the policy crisis?
Rather than Coats racheting up the stress for the agency’s employees and contractors by emphasising the unknown future for the FY2010 budget and its detail Scolese could have used the National Space Symposium to reassure people that for much of this year it is going to be business as usual and that as part of the NASA management team he would be explaining to the new administration what the policy options being considered actually mean for a workforce that is seeing day-by-day its non-aerospace friends and families get laid off as the recession deepens
On a final note about the recent Mae Jemison candidature speculation Hyperbola is going to say that it thinks it is highly unlikely that this former astronaut would be selected
While some might think that an Afro-American woman, and the first to go into space, would be a great choice that continues the historic firsts that Obama’s election is bringing about, her career since NASA, what of it can be determined from internet searches, does not indicate someone who has the “skill set” (I hate phrases like that) to manage a large and deeply political research and technology organisation like NASA
Michael Griffin’s resume made him a strong candidate but he seemed frustrated by the political need to constantly sell the vision and related programmes. Can you find a politically aware engineering manager with chief executive experience and salesmanship qualities?
And lastly, the first thing the media will pick up on about Jemison is that she was in a certain television show. Expect the headlines to be “Trekkie beams into NASA top job”
credit Viacom/Paramount /caption: Jemison played a low ranking transporter room operator