NASA chief Charles Bolden testified today before the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies. Bolden was extremely supportive of the Presidents new plan for NASA saying “…the President put forward what I believe to be the most authentically visionary policy for real human space exploration that we have ever had.”
The question remains whether the President’s plan for NASA will go forward as envisioned or will congress force him to make some significant compromises. Bolden went on to say in his prepared statement; “The President’s FY 2011 budget request is good for NASA because it sets the Agency on a sustainable path that is tightly linked to our Nation’s interests. One measure of this is that it increases the Agency’s top-line, in a time when many agencies have been flat or taken a cut.”
At the heart of the changes the President is asking of NASA is to scrap the Constellation Program. “At the highest level, the President and his staff, as well as my NASA senior leadership team, closely reviewed the Augustine Committee report, and we came to the same conclusion as the Committee: The Constellation program was on an unsustainable trajectory. And if we continue on that course, at best we would end up flying a handful of astronauts to the moon sometime after 2030″, said Bolden.
Congress however, especially those members who districts will see major job cuts, are fighting for their constituents jobs. But besides job cuts, there is the another issue at the heart of this political battle and that is the commercial outsourcing of the future human spaceflight needs of the US. Many believe that money already spent on key Constellation Program pieces of architecture including Ares and it’s derivatives and the Orion spacecraft should continue and that NASA should lead in the development of these spacecraft.
While the politicians continue to fight over what to do, the fact remains that the Space Shuttle will be grounded permanently by next year and jobs will be lost and for the foreseeable future NASA will have no human rated launch capability.