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Link Turn – Intra-NASA – Priorities

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Link Turn – Intra-NASA – Priorities

Plan creates a mission for NASA – prevents budget cuts, means we don’t have to pay Russia, and guarantees more funding for the overall budget

Space Coalition 11 (2/10/11, JPG

NASA Inspector General Paul Martin underscored the urgency of addressing the uncertainty over the agency’s human spaceflight program in testimony presented Thursday to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice and Science. The Appropriations Committee is scheduling dozens of hearings with federal inspectors general, each sworn to eliminate waste, fraud and abuse within their respective agencies. “At the present time, NASA finds itself in a state of significant uncertainty, particularly with respect to its human space program,” Martin stated in prepared testimony presented to the subcommittee, which has jurisdiction over NASA spending. “The most immediate challenge facing NASA’s leadership is to manage the agency’s portfolio of space and science missions amid the continuing lack of clarity caused by conflicting legislative directives in the Authorization Act and a holdover provision in NASA’s fiscal year 2010 appropriations law.” The authorization measure directs NASA to develop a new heavy lift rocket and multi-purpose crew capsule to replace the shuttle, which is scheduled to retire later this year. It directs NASA to complete the development by the end of 2016, a deadline agency officials have said they cannot meet with the funding available. The new rocket and capsule would transport astronauts to the International Space Station as well as to deep space destinations. At the same time, most of the federal government, including NASA, is operating without a 2011 budget. Instead, most agencies are operating under an extension of the more restrictive 2010 budget. In NASA’s case, the 2010 appropriations measure prevents the agency from transitioning from the Constellation Program to the heavy lift rocket and multi-purpose capsule projects as well as a commercial space transportation initiative. The legislative snag will cost NASA $575 million by Oct. 1, the start of the 2012 fiscal year, if not corrected by Congress, Martin told the subcommittee. Martin raised related issues as well. High on that list of concerns is the disposition of $12 billion in facilities and property associated with the retiring shuttle program. Along side, is a gap of undetermined length between the shuttle’s retirement and the first flights of commercial U. S. spacecraft capable of transporting astronauts and cargo to the space station. Until commercial transportation providers are available, NASA is faced with paying Russia to carry astronauts to and from the station, Martin noted.

Link Turn – Immediate Returns

Savings from cancelled programs are allocated immediately

CBO 4 (Congressional Budget Office, Sept., pp. XVI, JPG

CBO’s assessments incorporated the assumptions, which are also part of NASA’s current projection, that the space shuttle would be retired in 2010 and the United States would terminate its participation in the International Space Station’s operations by 2017. Some people argue, however, that the space shuttle should be retired immediately to free up more funds in the near term for exploration and to avoid the potential safety risks identified since the loss of the shuttle Columbia. In CBO’s estimation, immediately retiring the shuttle and ending the United States’ involvement with the ISS offer potential savings of $39 billion to $43 billion from 2005 through 2020, de- pending on the costs of terminating the programs. If those savings were reallocated to exploration missions, the first human lunar return landing might be moved up by nearly four years, CBO estimates—that is, to 2016, compared with NASA’s projection of 2020. (That esti- mate is based on the assumptions that costs for the explo- ration vision do not increase relative to NASA’s projected amounts and that the maturation of technology and the missions’ overall design process can keep pace with such a schedule.

Climate research guarantees immediate returns

Mullen 6 (Shaun, award-winning editor and reporter, 4/1/6, JPG

What would constitute rational budget priorities for NASA? The agency's first emphasis should be research about Earth and the sun. That's the sole area in which NASA spending is odds-on to produce immediate returns for taxpayers. Second, NASA should fund more automated probes and satellites to study this solar system and close-by star systemsthe parts of space that might have some effect on us. Almost all NASA findings since the moon program have come from automated probes such as Cassini, which a few weeks ago discovered what appears to be a water vent on a moon of Saturn. Most probe projects cost less than a single launch of the space shuttle. Third, the agency should cancel the shuttle program and use the funds to research new propulsion systems that might fundamentally reduce the price of access to space. A fundamental propulsion breakthrough must come before grand visions like a Mars mission. . . .Fourth, NASA needs a serious program for searching nearby space for asteroids and comets that might strike Earth and figuring out how to deflect any big rock headed this way. Asteroids and comets large enough to cause devastation may strike Earth distressingly often . . . If NASA protected Earth against a strike from space, that might be, let's say, the most significant accomplishment in human history. Yet NASA has only a minor program to search for "near-Earth objects" and no program to figure out what to do about them. Preventing comet strikes would give taxpayers a return on their money, and we can't have that! The new budget request suggests that no one in the agency's hidebound, turf-obsessed upper management wants to think about what NASA can do to actually benefit the public.

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