Saturday, September 29, 2012

U.S. space program: Just another broken Obama promise

Neil Armstrong came out of retirement to oppose President Obama’s vision for NASA

U.S. space program:
Just another broken Obama promise

When then-presidential candidate Barack Obama came to the heart of the nation's space program, Brevard County, he promised that he'd protect space-industry jobs in the face of NASA budget cuts under President Bush. Obama namechecked one-time astronaut and current Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson as an ally in Congress to ensure it all got done.

Story from: Miami Herald

Take a look around today, and you'll see the results didn't match Obama's rhetoric.
"Fifty years of liftoffs are becoming eight months of layoffs. Have a look around Brevard County. It's shrinking. Lots of people are moving away, taking businesses down with them," 60 Minutes' Scott Pelley intoned last night in a segment called "Hard Landing."
"The 7,000 layoffs at the space center triggered 7,000 more in the community. Unemployment has been close to 11 percent."
Pelley goes on to note that, in 2010, Obama cancelled NASA's Constellation program and "then, Congress dealt another blow, by cutting the funding for the Obama plan in half."That's a sign this was a bipartisan deal. And it also goes to show that, despite the Republican talking point that government spending doesn't create jobs, it does. And its absence costs them.
The show features out-of-work space program casualties taking Obama to task. Politically speaking, Brevard County isn't a high priority for Democrats (the county backed McCain while Florida backed Obama). But Sen. Nelson has always counted on Brevard in his elections, and the job picture there could complicate that for him this election year -- regardless of how hard he fought for the space program.

Some excerpts from Obama's space speech in August 2008:
"When I was growing up, NASA inspired the world with achievements that we're still proud of...
"Today we have an administration that sets ambitious goals for NASA without giving NASA the support it needs to reach them. As a result, NASA's had to cut back on research, trim their program, which means that after the space shuttle shuts down in 2010, we're going to have to rely on Russian space craft to keep us into orbit.
"So let me be clear: we canot cede our leadership in space. That's why I'm going to close the gap, ensure that our space program doesn't suffer when the shuttle goes out of service. We may extend an additional shuttle launch. We're going to work with Bill Nelson to add at least one flight after 2010 by continuing to support NASA funding, by speeding the development of the shuttle's successor, by making sure that all those who work in the space industry in Florida do not lose their jobs when the shuttle is retired because we cant afford to lose their expertise. But more broadly, we need a real vision for the next stage of space exploration...." Ryan on U.S. space program: Just another broken Obama promise

September 22, 2012 By Jason Rhian 
Speaking near the Space Coast in Orlando, Fla., on Saturday, GOP vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan blasted the president's "broken promises" on the space race, warning that "China may one day be looking down on us from the moon."
 Barack Obama  Space Coast Broken Promise
The current President of the United States, Barack Obama, made his intentions regarding space exploration clear on the campaign trail on November 22, 2007. If space advocates and enthusiasts had actually paid attention to Obama’s education policy statement released that day, candidate Obama would certainly have lost some of the votes he received.
In essence Obama stated he would cut by 64%, and postpone, the program-of-record at that time, the Constellation Program, for five years. The diverted funds would then be redirected to then-candidate Obama’s education efforts.
Needless to say, this did not sit very well with folks along Florida’s Space Coast, which makes up the eastern anchor of the politically important I-4 Corridor. Obama’s poll numbers plummeted along the Space Coast.
So, just a few days before the Democratic Convention, and after much cajoling by Florida’s senior Senator Bill Nelson, candidate Obama visited Brevard County and gave a broad, general speech about how much he actually wanted to support NASA. Most cynical was his comment using the motto of the Bush Administration’s Vision for Space Exploration – “Moon, Mars and Beyond”. In essence, he wrapped his comments in the colors of the program-of-record to persuade worried aerospace workers to vote for him.

It turned out that they had every reason to be worried.
For those that watched the president’s inauguration procession, where NASA placed in Obama’s hierarchy of importance – dead last – should have been a warning of things to come. Even the multi-colored grass munchers of the “Lawn Rangers” were further up in the Inaugural procession than the space agency, the very one that has provided our nation with many of the advancements and accomplishments, which we now take for granted.
On the seventh anniversary of the loss, of the crew of space shuttle Columbia President Obama showed his regard for NASA by introducing his FY 2011 Budget proposal that called for the complete cancellation of the Constellation Program.

The seven years and $9 billion already invested in it would all have been lost. The space industry and numerous politicians –including many in his own party – were less than amused. The Administration thought the storm of opposition in Congress would blow over, but as time marched on, momentum seemed to move away from the President. Many of the Florida voters who had voted for him expressed “buyer’s remorse”. But it was too late.

Video courtesy of CBS
In an effort to shore-up not only his flailing space plan but his support in Florida, the President made another trip to the state’s Space Coast, this time to Kennedy Space Center, and he brought along Buzz Aldrin for help. I, like many members of the press, traveled to the Space Center to hear what the President had to say for himself. The President’s defenders in the space agency stressed that his budget proposal was a move to reign in the cost overruns that had occurred on the Constellation Program. Yeah, not thinking so.

At KSC, President Obama spoke about his deep respect and appreciation for NASA. He then tossed the space agency a “Constellation Prize” – the President exclaimed that a stripped-down variant of the Orion spacecraft would be produced. Details were lacking. It was unclear how many of the craft would be made. And President Obama stated that the space agency would visit an asteroid by 2025 and that we would travel to Mars “sometime” within his lifetime. Being in the audience and watching the reaction to those statements was telling; the applause that he did receive was limp at best.
While at Kennedy Space Center, President Obama had an opportunity to show the space workers that he truly believed in, and supported, them. In that, he failed miserably. Instead of stopping by Launch Complex 39 or any of the launch pads that made the space age a reality, or of visiting with even a few NASA civil servants, who are after all his own employees, he instead visited Space Launch Complex-40 (SLC-40) – owned by SpaceX.   (Florida:  Do your own research on SpaceX, then vote)

The president’s actions spoke volumes. NASA and it’s people didn’t matter to him. The opposition in Congress to the President’s plans to end Constellation grew overnight as members reacted to the arrogance and lack of regard the President’s actions displayed.

NASA had, in one election, lost the momentum and direction that it had been building for close to a decade. In an attempt to further clarify his position, the “National Space Policy” was unveiled shortly after the president’s visit. This too turned out to be an “epic fail” in turns of clarification.
(Vote the Democratic-run House out along with Democratic Senators) Barely four months later, the Senate, under the President’s own Party, by unanimous consent, passed a bill that largely reversed the President’s space plans. A few weeks later, the House of Representatives held a debate on the House floor to consider the Senate’s bill, which the networks carried live. In the House, there was indeed opposition to the Senate’s effort, but not because it went against the President. No, the opposition from members such as Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was that the Senate bill did not go far enough in repudiating the President’s vision for America’s future space program. In the end, nearly 3/4 of the Democratic-run House voted for the Senate bill, a veto proof majority. The bill became law in October 2010 as the 2010 NASA Authorization Act. It was a stunning reversal to the President, and at the hands of a Congress run by his own Party. Obama’s predecessor was accused of accomplishing very little. But one of the things that Bush has been credited for was reinvigorating NASA. President Obama managed to fritter that away. If based solely on space-related matters President Obama would be deemed as a failure – and those who worked in our nation’s space program would say deservedly so. Later, the President only seemed to compound this failure with the release of his FY 2013 Budget Proposal – in which he requested that NASA’s planetary mission’s program be reduced by 20 percent.

The 2012 Space Race Is On!

By Jim Hillhouse
Saturday evening, the Romney campaign released it’s space policy white paper, Securing U.S. Leadership in Space. As Obama showed on Aug. 3, 2008 when he told the Space Coast of his unwavering support for NASA’s Constellation program, hope can be an important selling point to the Space Coast, and to winning the eastern anchor of the I-4 Corridor and Florida in 2008. Compared with what President Obama has in the last four years given the space community in general and the Florida Space Coast in particular, Romney’s space policy appears downright reassuring.

Unlike the President’s 2010 space policy, Romney will, as he first discussed in Florida in January, bring together experts from several disciplines to develop new goals for NASA. This point alone would differentiate in a large way a Romney Administration in developing a roadmap for NASA from that of the Obama Administration. As Neil Armstrong noted in his May 12, 2010 testimony before the Senate Commerce Committee,
    Rumors abound that neither the NASA Administrator nor the President‟s Science and Technology Advisor were knowledgeable about the plan. Lack of review normally guarantees that there will be overlooked requirements and unwelcome consequences. How could such a chain of events happen? A plan that was invisible to so many was likely contrived by a very small group in secret who persuaded the President that this was a unique opportunity to put his stamp on a new and innovative program. I believe the President was poorly advised.
Moments after the Romney campaign released its space paper, GOP Vice-Presidential nominee Rep. Paul Ryan gave a space policy speech at the University of Central Florida. During his speech, Ryan noted,
    It’s important that we have a space program that has a clear mission, a space program where we know where we are heading in the future, and a space program that is the unequivocal leader.
The Obama re-election campaign quickly responded that the Romney campaign was only pandering to the Space Coast while giving no specifics. But as Space Coast residents will recall, in early August 2008, candidate Obama came to the Space Coast to make many specific promises, very nearly all of which were subsequently broken in February 2010.
Today, there is little debate within Congress that NASA is not better off today than it was four years ago. NASA people at JSC, MSFC, LaRC, and KSC all say the same thing; that NASA’s spaceflight engineering talent is slowly being disassembled.

Voters now have two visions for NASA. One that seeks to strengthen the Agency so that it can lead, with the help of the commercial space companies, the march outward from low-Earth orbit. The other will see the continued transformation of NASA into a mere contracting agency for companies whose own technical skills and understanding of human space flight do not match that of NASA circa 1964, much less today. The latter vision is one that will not get us to the Moon, asteroids, and beyond and was the reason that in 2010 Neil Armstrong came out of retirement to oppose President Obama’s vision for NASA.

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