NASA’s New Vision & Funding Promises?
Here is what I see happening assuming Congress does not fight the President’s vision. NASA will start implementing this change as soon as Congress allows the FY2010 funds to be redirected. In December, Congress slipped into their appropriations bill that Congress had to approve the cancellation of the Constellation program. Congress will fund FY2011 and maybe even FY2012 as Obama requests. But after that they will begin to decrease funding just like they have for every NASA program ever conducted and/or canceled. Why do you always hear that a Government program is behind schedule and over budget? There is a simple answer for that. Because Congress only approves and releases funds on a yearly basis and they typically cut funds from a program as the years go by. It happened to Apollo (change in direction), Shuttle, ISS (how many times did Congress try to kill it), X-33/X-34, Orbital Space Plane, shall I go on?
Words from the OMB Budget Fact Sheet
states the following: “NASA’s Constellation program – based largely on existing technologies – was based on a vision of returning astronauts back to the Moon by 2020. However, the program was over budget, behind schedule, and lacking in innovation due to a failure to invest in critical new technologies.” To anyone outside the space agency these sound like serious concerns and wow that program should be canceled. But, let’s look at the reality of the situation. The Constellation Program was built to former NASA Administrator’s Mike Griffin’s desires. Was it optimal. No. Was it going to work. Yes. Did Constellation get funded per the original baseline schedule and funding that was negotiated. No. So what happens when Congress doesn’t fund a program? Guess what, it gets behind schedule and over budget. Gee, imagine that. Constellation was based on existing technologies because the last time this country tried to build a space craft built based on low Technology Readiness Levels (TRLs) the problems were so great and would take much more money to resolve that the X-33/X-34 programs
NASA’s real problem is that its funding is done on an annual basis and is subject to the whims of congress. This is how our government agencies work. Wouldn’t it be amazing if NASA was given a long-term vision 10, 20, 50 years and funding was baselined and guaranteed for five years? Imagine the programs that could be executed within budget and perhaps even saving some money. Imagine the R&D that could be invested in.
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