Congress becomes rocket scientists.
One of the major faults of the Obama plan for space was that there was no plan. There were directives to spend money. The directives included spending money on commercial space companies to develop new technologies. There were directives for NASA to spend money on developing new rocket technologies. There were directives to spend money hitching rides to our own space station on Russian rockets at increasingly higher fees. There were directives to spend money on Global Warming policies. And there was a directive to spend money trying to make friends with Arab countries. The only solid goal-oriented directive was to extend the mission life of the ISS to 2020.
Well, the Obama administration knows how to spend money but they don't know how to develop a goal-specific program with deadlines. Now I'm all in favor of spending money on NASA. If you're a space nut you know all about spin-offs and how greatly our nation has been enriched through the use of technologies developed through the Moon programs. In fact, why can't more of that pork-filled wasted TARP money be sent NASA's way? It sure would be a better return for the dollar.
Sure, there was a vague goal for NASA to develop a new rocket to take people into low-orbit. But the "plan" was for NASA to "explore" and create technologies so we'd have a rocket plan by 2015. SO basically, the plan was to spend a lot of money to have a plan in 5 years. What a waste of resources. What was needed was some leadership.
We kind of got some. There are many Americans very upset that there will be a lack of US spaceflight capability once the shuttles retire. Well, folks, blame that one on Bush, not Obama, since the Constellation program came from the recovery from the Columbia disaster early during the first Bush term of office. Unfortunately, by not funding Constellation correctly, the delays meant nothing would be ready to fly by the time the shuttles retired.
With the gap appearing ominously, our Congress has decided at least to act. The new NASA funding plan calls for NASA to create a Heavy Lift Vehicle, using shuttle-derived technology, by the years 2015-2016. This at least gives our NASA heroes a basic deadline to build onto to create a program.
This at least gave our local space company ATK the opportunity to be involved in using it's shuttle booster technology in the design of the new HLV. Unfortunately, they must be seeing it more of a definite end to Constellation, as they've laid off another 450 people. This has got to be a disappointment as well to our government leaders, who were recently praising the new bill as a job-saver. Looks like instead it's merely the promise of jobs to come.