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Author’s Comment: What’s Next for NASA under the Obama Administration?

 

could NASA's Constellation program be in jeopardy under the Obama Administration?

Uh oh, spaghettios: could NASA's Constellation program be in jeopardy under the Obama Administration?

NASA chief Mike Griffin caused a bit of a ruckus several weeks ago when the Obama Administration transition team came a knockin’.  Griffin, whose baby is the Constellation program (which was a direct result of President George W. Bush’s Vision for Space Exploration policy in 2004) has gotten very testy during questioning by Obama representatives about the state of the project.  

Check out Dvorak Uncensored’s “NASA resisting Obama efforts to ‘check under the hood’.”   It looks like change may not be such a welcome thing in some government agencies.

And apparently NASA has some competition.  An article on popularmechanics.com suggests that the incoming Administration has met with “a group of renegade space vehicle designers” who are offering a less expensive alternative to the Constellation project.  This, the Jupiter DIRECT initiative, proposes to recycle parts from the retired Space Shuttle program, thereby saving tens of millions of dollars, as well as trimming years off the timeline for launch.  For a more detailed view on the origins of this “renegade” plan, see David Noland’s great article in Popular Mechanics magazine, “NASA & Its Discontents:  Frustrated Engineers Battle with NASA over the Future of Spaceflight.”

Of course, President-Elect Obama has made his discontentment with the Bush Administration’s position on NASA quite public.  In a letter to Congressional leaders in September 2008, he outlined steps Congress should take to preserve the United States’ investment in the International Space Station, as well as called for preservation of the Space Shuttle program beyond 2010 (the proposed year of its retirement) to avoid the U.S. being dependent upon–and paying–Russia for transporting U.S. astronauts aboard Soyuz for some years until a viable NASA alternative was available.

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The largest source of impedance current is NASA director Michael Griffin. He already knows he is on his way out the door, but he is doing all he can to keep the Aries project active in the face of spiralling costs and delays.

Because Aries will be the last chance of a legacy for Griffin, and he doesn’t want to loose that place in history. But Aries is a completely NASA in-house design, and that’s why it has so many problems, simply because the engineers working on the project are not the ones who have experience in their relative fields.

All previous NASA launch systems were developed by third-party contractors – Grumman for the lunar lander, Boeing and Lockheed-Martin for the Shyttle, Rocketdyne for engines etc.

In fact, the proposals of DIRECT have been reviewed and are backed by experienced Lockheed-Martin engineers, contractors who have actually been down this path before and successfully flown the same techonology on the Shuttle.

That NASA is ignoring them, and more importantly has been proven to actually fabricate evidence in order to dismiss DIRECT in preference for continuing Aries, is a complete outrage and we can only hope that the incoming administration is aware of the issues and holds NASA accountable.

Comment by MR. B




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