I'm a member of a local Homeschool group and this subject was brought to my attention so I'm taking a moment to copy and paste it here incase some of you hadn't heard. I find it quite interesting.
Subject: NASA's Budget
Date: Sat, 13 Feb 2010 21:08:27 -0600
I usually don't write these kinds of letters, but several of you have contacted me concerning what the recent Presidential Budget Request canceling the Constellation Program and Project Orion in particular means to NASA. I'm pretty revved about it and not in a good way.
As most of you know, I have been employed at the NASA’s Johnson Space Center for 30 years and I have participated in every major program during that time including the Space Shuttle, Space Station Freedom, International Space Station, Assured Crew Return Vehicle, Orbital Space Plane, and most recently Constellation as part of Project Orion. I have seen my share of programs come and go. We NASA guys generally roll with the punches and move from program to program without much protest knowing that these things happen, but this proposed budget from the President is a radical departure from the past. In the past, our programs were altered or morphed into something new or sometimes cancelled altogether, but there always remained a robust and vital human spaceflight effort building upon what we have learned.
But this time it’s different. This time the budget effectively cancels American human access to space for an unspecified amount of time. I am upset by the colossal waste of what will be $11 billion once the Program is closed out for NOTHING. Constellation was NOT overbudget and behind schedule contrary to the White House statement. Constellation was suffering from underfunding by nearly 40% due to two years without a budget being passed by Congress, but we were making due. This offends me as a taxpayer and citizen as well as a NASA employee. Thousands of jobs are at stake. These are high tech “shovel ready jobs.” The economy and US budget are really not to blame as there is enough money to spend $2.5 billion on a high speed rail system between Tampa and Orlando to get tourists to Disney World to see Spaceship Earth, Space Mountain, and Mission to Mars. How can we not allocate funds to get to the real thing? The $3 billiion that has been
cited as the amount needed to fully fund Constellation is about 1/300 of the stimulus bills that have been passed. How do you expect to inspire children to go into science and technology when all you have to show for it is broken promises?
I feel this budget is disrespectful of the NASA workforce and shows a lack of understanding of what this workforce does– putting people into space and bringing them home safely -and how special it is because this budget shifts this work immediately to unproven and high-risk commercial space enterprises. As we, the NASA workforce, uniquely know, Space is demanding and unforgiving. The NASA community has, over the last 50 years, through hard work, dedication, and the expensive lesson of friends’ lives lost, developed a unique capability to be able to routinely operate in space. Operating safely in the dynamic phases of flight such as launch, entry and landing requires a different skill set than just operating a space station in orbit. Managing the risks of human spaceflight cannot be learned over night by some new upstart company. The crew is not, as we were told by the NASA Deputy Administrator, just a “high-value payload.” I am all for a
robust commercial spaceflight business, but this budget is naive at best and dangerous at worst. It sacrifices our national access to space and in particular to OUR space station, and makes us rely on our former adversaries, the Russians, for access for an indefinite period of time. They can cut us off at anytime. We couldn’t even keep them from sending tourists to the ISS. How much will they charge us for access once they have a monopoly? A friend recently commented that in the end maybe the Russians did win the space race if we are just going to walk away….
I really don’t care if Constellation itself is cancelled, or morphed into something else, but we need to keep the only proven team in America -NASA working with industry-working on human access to space to close the gap created by the Shuttle’s retirement and build on what we have done. With this budget there is no plan at this time for the US to resume human missions into space. This budget states it is planning for that eventuality without specifying a mission or timetable. I fear we have not only lost the Moon, but ceded our preeminence in space. Author and poet Ruth Boorstin has said, “Be bold in what you stand for and careful what you fall for. ” Right now, the United States and NASA need to be bold, but we need to be careful that we don’t fall for a bunch of empty promises.
I would like you to know that this is in no way about me. As a civil servant, no matter what budget gets passes, I will get paid (nice part about being a civil servant). I am upset about what this means to our space program for the future and that's why I'm writing you.
There is an excellent short video put together by a contractor employee on his own at YouTube that illustrates what has been accomplished to date. It can be found at: http://www.youtube. com/watch? v=a2IQVZmHnJQ
Walt Cunningham, Apollo 7 astronaut, wrote an op-ed piece for the Houston Chronicle that I think sums up very well what is at stake. The full article can found at:
http://www.waltercu nningham. com/op_ed_ 022010.htm
If you feel as I do that it is important to maintain our access to space and close the space access gap as soon as possible, then I urge each and every one of you to please write to your elected representatives as soon as you can and feel free to forward this note. A website has also been set up to aid people in writing letters to their Congressmen at: http://www.goboldly nasa.org/
On February 17 NASA will be delivering its justification to change the FY2010 operating plan to Congress who must then in turn approve the new plan. Hearings are scheduled to be held on February 24-25. It is now up to the Congress to save our space program.
Thanks for your time,