NASA's Integrity Issue - Propellant Depots
The tea party movement is motivated and guided by fiscal responsibility, limited government, and free markets. I would also add the constitution. The constitution is a guide which provides integrity to our system of government when it is followed. No one can deny the problems our government is facing with scandals like Fast and Furious, Solyndra, and NASA's leaked propellant depot study. Wait, NASA?
Last week NASA Watch was given a copy of a preliminary report of a study that was buried inside NASA. The findings are simply, staggering. Officials at NASA have kept from congress and the public a report that shows that NASA could explore beyond low earth orbit much sooner for billions less - if they embrace the free market principles which make America great. Yet, there is very little clamor to fully investigate what is actually going on inside NASA. Maybe because it is "rocket science" and people just don't understand. Maybe because it isn't politically sexy. No matter how you look at it, there is an integrity issue at NASA that is costing the American taxpayer billions of dollars.
In this "sand chart" you can now see why Senators Hutchison, Hatch, Nelson, and Shelby fought for this so hard. That giant maroon swath cutting across the page is Space Launch System (SLS) eating up at least $2.5 billion a year. We are talking about billions of dollars a year going to their states... each year. It should not be a surprise to anyone. These states have had this kind of money flowing into them since Apollo. There is a sense of entitlement. "Only NASA" can do the hard things.
This simply isn't true anymore.
This nation may need a 70 ton vehicle; however, this study suggests we don't. And if we do need this vehicle, shouldn't the free market be allowed to compete for the contracts? Perhaps in the 50s, 60s, and 70s, only NASA could design a super heavy lift vehicle, but not today. The private sector is quite capable of developing such a vehicle, should it be determined we need one.
NASA needs a mission. It is evident from the recent congressional hearings in the house that many people see that mission as going back to the moon. The moon is a great mission. We have to crawl before we walk, walk before we run, and run before we sprint. I would also suggest that repeating the Apollo model of massive infrastructure costs to explore the moon is a recipe for disaster. Apollo was canceled due to cost. Shuttle was canceled due to ISS completion, safety, and cost. Constellation was canceled because of cost. So why are we going down the same road of giant programs that are destined for spectacular failure when the congress in 2013 or 2014 looks at this and says, "we have spent how much and are how far behind?"
This isn't about one architecture verses another - this is about America regaining its dominance in space exploration. We need to recapture that dominance quickly. And we can with NASA and the free market. One of our core values is limited government. NASA plays a roll in that limited government piece. They can help, not with requirements creep or regulation, but with lessons learned and guidance. And it would be wise for our commercial partners to take a second and listen when lessons learned are provided. The free market moves quick, and TPIS likes that. However, we also want to make sure we do not have to completely "reinvent the wheel."
This study suggests we don't need to spend billions on a rocket. The propellant depot techonolgy is well advanced to the point it needs a demonstration flight. Four companies were awarded grants to work towards this demonstration flight. TPIS is happy to have met with some of these amazing people who are trying advance a fiscally responsible exploration program.
Our nation is stagnant right now. In our brief history we have always been explorers. We need to be the ones leading the exploration in space.