Orion is being funded, buts in on the chopping block Gurney 11 (Matt, writer @ National Post, 6/10/11, http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2011/06/10/matt-gurney-nasa-gets-its-ships-now-it-needs-a-mission/) JPG
Those millions may have some cause for optimism. NASA, with Congressional support, has revived a part of the Constellation program: the Orion crew capsule. These small but high-tech space ships would provide enough space and supplies for four astronauts to conduct three-week missions. They are essentially modern-day updates of the Apollo program capsules that took men to the moon in the 1960s and ’70s, and avoid the costly mistakes of the well-intentioned but fundamentally flawed space shuttles, which despite their high-tech reputation, never lived up to the hopes of their designers. That leaves NASA with a rocket and new ships under development, and that’s a good thing for science, for exploration and for the prestige of the United States. But it also means that there are expensive items being developed with no clear mission or purpose — President Obama cancelledthe program that Orion and the heavy lift rocket were to have been used for. NASA needs a realistic plan on how they can be used. In this early epoch of space travel, it is too early to hope for dollar-for-dollar economic returns from flights into the deep black of space, but there are real, tangible benefits that can be achieved, with the right mission and the will to accomplish it. America needs a long-term, non-partisan goal to aim for in space, both in low Earth orbit and beyond. It then needs a plan on how to reach that goal, one that is sympathetic to the enormous fiscal pressure the United States is currently under, and will likely remain under for some time. Only when such a goal and plan have been decided upon, with support of both political parties, will the investment in NASA be a wise one. Right now, with no plan on how to use the new rockets and ships, and no consensus that they should be used at all, NASA’s vehicle plans will remain a very tempting piece of low-hanging fruit for budgetary hawks looking for ways to avoid making much harder, less popular cuts to America’s federal budget.
Orion is key to space leadership and exploration – cuts turn the case Hall 11 (Ralph, Republican Congressperson from Texas, http://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/technology/149233-the-future-value-of-nasa-depends-on-priorities?page=1#comments) JPG
As the nation’s only civilian space and aeronautics research and development agency, NASA has a unique and important role in fostering innovation and keeping America competitive. Through NASA’s leadership, the U.S. has set the standard for the world in human space flight, exploration, and aeronautics. The investments we have made in NASA research and development have spawned scientific discoveries that have vastly increased our understanding of the Earth, Sun, our solar system and the universe. Last year, Congress approved a plan to ensure a balanced portfolio of science and exploration at NASA. This plan created a roadmap that would give U.S. astronauts access to the International Space Station while developing capabilities to travel beyond low Earth orbit. Unfortunately, this administration seems to be ignoring clear Congressional intent. Last year, Congress passed and the President signed the NASA Authorization Act of 2010. The bill directed NASA to give priority to the development of a Space Launch System (SLS) and Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV) to replace the retiring Shuttle. The bill also authorized NASA to “help determine the most effective and efficient means of advancing the development of commercial crew services.” NASA’s FY12 request flips the relative priority, seeking a 70 percent increase for commercial crew ($850 million versus $500 million authorization); and a 31 percent decrease for the SLS and MPCV ($2.8 billion versus $4 billion authorization). NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said at a recent hearing that NASA would not need exploration capabilities until after 2020, although Congress clearly directed NASA to develop the heavy lift system with an initial capability to return to the International Space Station by 2016. Failure to do so will result in continued reliance on the Russians’ Soyuz to transport astronauts to the International Space Station. This is unacceptable. NASA should give highest priority to developing the SLS and MPCV programs that build on the tremendous investments that have already been made in the Constellation systems. We cannot, as the NASA Administrator suggests, wait until 2020. Meanwhile, the commercial space companies will have the opportunity to continue to develop the capability to ferry cargo to the ISS, as provided in the authorization bill enacted into law last year. Ultimately, perhaps they will demonstrate their capability also to safely transport astronauts. Space exploration, however, is too important to be placed at risk for failure, so we must continue to support a robust program at NASA, which has a record of success. We must also take the current economic realities into consideration. We cannot afford to go to Mars if Americans cannot afford to go to the grocery store. But we must begin working toward those goals. Technology development programs at NASA are most successful when they are goal-oriented, and NASA needs clearly articulated exploration goals in order to make the best use of taxpayer investments. For more than 50 years, NASA has spawned scientific discoveries and spinoffs, and the next 50 will be just as valuable. As chairman of the Committee on Science, Space and Technology, I will continue to push NASA to adhere to congressional direction and follow the priorities that are now the law of the land. If we want to remain the world leader in space, the administration must work together with Congress to provide vision, direction and goals to inspire the next generation.