Tag Archives: government

Burt Rutan on future of space

At an airshow on Thursday, July 29, in Oskosh, Wisconsin, Burt Rutan, designer of SpaceShipOne, made some interesting remarks about the past and future of private space flight. Key quote:

Rutan said NASA should give 10 to 15 percent of its budget to new space companies like Elon Musk’s SpaceX without regulating how to spend the money. “That would allow them to not (have to) beg for commercial investment, while still working in an entrepreneurial mode.”

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An update on the Dept of Energy’s hold on monies to East Anglia

This story about the Department of Energy’s decision in May to suspend payments to the University of East Anglia because of the climategate scandal might very well be a Potemkin village. The story notes that they are placing a hold on $200k. However, Anthony Watts notes that DOE has probably provided East Anglia significantly more funds, in the millions. The suspension in funds then is only about one specific and not very large contract, with nothing said about the other funding. Note also that the hold was placed in May, pending the results of East Anglia’s own investigation. Since that investigation was a whitewash, I expect DOE to release these funds in near future.

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NAACP leader arrested trying to attend school board meeting

Freedom of speech alert: the head of a local North Carolina NAACP chapter was arrested when he tried to attend a local school board meeting to protest its actions. He had been arrested for trespassing at a previous board meeting, and it is unclear if his attempted appearance this time was a trespass as well.

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House releases their text of NASA budget

The House Committee on Science and Technology has released the text [pdf] of its NASA reauthorization bill. The committee’s short thumbnail description of the language suggests it is similar to the Senate language. A quick scan of the text also suggests this as well. I hope to take a closer look at both the Senate and House bills later this week and then give my take on both.

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Gender politics at NASA

O joy! It’s time to favor gender over achievement at NASA. The Obama administration is considering using governmental authority at NASA and other agencies to guarantee that the same number of women receive science, technology, engineering, and math degrees as men. The actual White House statement emphasizes the need “to ensure equity in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education programs.” [emphasis mine].

If you want to be really annoyed, download NASA’s Office of Diversity and Equal Opportunity documentation [pdf] and read how institutions are expected to do “periodic reviews of data broken down by gender. . . to ensure program policies and practices are not having a negative impact on program participation.” [page 5]

In other words, NASA should decide whether to provide education funds to universities, based not on the ability of those universities produce qualified engineers and scientists of any sex but on the number of women in their programs.

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New plan from the Senate

This analysis of the Senate budget plan that passed the Senate Commerce committee today hits all the most important points. Key quote (in connection with the Senate’s mandate that NASA start over in building a new heavy lift rocket):

Over the last five years, Constellation has cost at least $9 billion and produced little more than one test flight for a stripped-down version of the program’s Ares I rocket. While the Senate plan instructs NASA to salvage parts of Constellation when possible – and provides $11 billion over the next several years — it will take time and resources to create a new design. Adding to the pressure is the 2016 deadline that Congress gives NASA to have the new vehicle ready.

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Senate deal for NASA

More coverage describing today’s Senate committee vote on the 2011 NASA budget. Interestingly, the Commerce committee and a number of its members have each issued their own press releases. I get the feeling they are trying to convince us they have acomplished something. Here are two from the chairman and ranking member:

Democratic press release
Republican press release

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compromise approved by Senate panel

Keith Cowing at NASAWatch reports in detail about the unanimous approval of the amended Senate budget for NASA. The final budget appears to have raised the funding for commercial space development to match the Obama request, while adding one more flight to the shuttle schedule and mandating an immediate start of work on some sort of heavy-lift rocket.

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The failure of the political class

Yesterday Clark Lindsey of rlvnews.com noted that my essay “You’ve got to play the game” appears to “blame the Administration solely for its problems in reforming NASA.” This is not entirely correct. My essay yesterday was specifically intended to lay out the errors and faults of Obama and his administration in their efforts to change NASA. Its purpose was not to discuss the foolishnesses of Congress, the stupidity of which I think everyone is very much aware.

However, Clark is correct when he notes that when it comes to this space war over NASA’s future, Congress is as much at fault as Obama. They are micromanaging NASA’s program in ways that can do little good for the future. Worse, they have shown a greater interest in maintaining pork barrel spending than funding NASA intelligently.

All in all, we have here a complete failure of the political class. I really do hate to sound pessimistic, but for NASA’s near term future, I honestly do not expect positive things to come from the compromise deal that Congress and the President now seem willing to agree to.

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You’ve got to play the game

The release of the Senate’s draft language for NASA’s 2011 budget yesterday reveals a great deal about the failures of the Obama administration. Despite months of advocacy by administration officials as well as the upper management of NASA, it appears that the Senate (soon to be followed in a similar manner by the House) is eagerly willing to dismantle much of what the Obama administration is proposing for NASA, and is going to micromanage its own space program.

Why this happened is all very simple: You’ve got to play the game.

If you are going to request major changes to any government program that requires the approval of elected officials beholden to the people in their districts, you have to provide those elected officials some cover for their actions. You simply can’t shutdown these programs willy-nilly without any negotiation and expect members of Congress to go along — even if what you propose is a good idea and makes sense.

Unfortunately, this is exactly what the Obama administration has done. They have not only shown an astonishing incompetence at playing the political game, they have often acted as if politics is completely irrelevant to their needs, a position that is both stupid and counter-productive considering that Obama is a politician who has to get the agreement of the politicians in Congress. » Read more

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There simply is no money for NASA

All the discussion about the future of NASA must be put in some fiscal context, and here it is: the Debt and Deficit Commission that the Obama administration created to review the spending problems of the federal government has some bad news: there literally is no money for anything but Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Key quote from the Washington Post article:

The commission leaders said that, at present, federal revenue is fully consumed by three programs: Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. “The rest of the federal government, including fighting two wars, homeland security, education, art, culture, you name it, veterans — the whole rest of the discretionary budget is being financed by China and other countries,” Simpson said.

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Another climategate whitewash?

Another climategate whitewash? The Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency has reviewed the 2007 UN IPCC report and decided that, though the report did have some really embarrassing errors (including some new ones uncovered by the review), the IPCC’s conclusion — that global warming is happening and that it is caused by humans — must still be correct.

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Government and the impending shortage of helium

The law of unintended consequences strikes again! We are going to run out of our supply of helium, and it is all because the government first tried to manage and control the resource in the early 20th century, and then decided in the 1990s to extricate itself from that management. For those of us following the continuing space war over NASA’s future, this story is most instructive in illustrating how difficult it is to get the government out of our lives, once we have let it in.

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