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Commentary of the Testimony by the Honorable Robert Walker

Amazing Hearing in Congress Yesterday, 12/12/12, The Honorable Ralph Hall chaired his last hearing concerning American spaceflight. Sadly, it wasn’t attended by all the members of the full Committee on Science, Space and Technology. What a shame – it was the best hearing the committee has had in memory. Nothing against the hearing that included Neil Armstrong, Gene Cernan, Maria Zuber, and Mike Griffin; but this hearing had real substance.

The testimony laid out by former congressman and the former chair of the committee, Robert Walker, was simply astounding. Mr. Walker deftly points out all the problems that NASA is experiencing. Moreover, he testified as if he were speaking on behalf of TEA Party in Space (TPiS). Here are some of his quotes from his prepared testimony:

“…I will emphasize the public-private partnerships because I believe them to the best way to obtain the resources so vitally needed to make NASA’s missions achievable.”

Does this not send a clear and direct message that we need limited government approach where the private sector can more freely engage in space? We contend it does. This is not removing NASA from the space exploration and settlement equation; instead, it is giving a bigger piece of the equation to private industry.

“It makes no sense for NASA to spend billions on development of technology which is already available or under development by other sectors of the government or private industry.”

TPiS agrees. There is absolutely no reason to spend upwards of $1.9 billion a year on Space Launch System (SLS) when United Launch Alliance (ULA) has something called Atlas V Phase 2 which is passed Critical Design Review (CDR) and simply needs someone to order one. CEV, Orion, MPCV, MPCV Orion is a bit of a different story as it serves as the “backup” to the commercial companies building their own vehicles that will carry humans back into space. However, the argument that CEV, Orion, MPCV, MPCV Orion is the only vehicle capable of going beyond LEO is simply false.

For those who disagree – Dragon has visited ISS twice and returned safely. CEV, Orion, MPCV, MPCV Orion has been delayed with EFT-1. CEV, Orion, MPCV, The MPCV Orion flight article which will be used in EFT-1 has three cracks in the bulkhead which will not affect the flight.. CEV, Orion, MPCV, MPCV Orion will not carry humans until at least 2021. CEV, Orion, MPCV, MPCV Orion is underfunded according to the 2010 NASA Authorization Bill. CEV, Orion, MPCV, MPCV Orion has been underfunded by the President, the senate, and the house; Democrats, Republicans, Tea Party types, and socialists all agree – you cannot blame George W. Bush or Barack H. Obama…

 

…and do the policy wonks in DC and NASA bureaucrats really expect anyone to believe commercial companies cannot figure out Beyond Low Earth Orbit (BLEO) operations by the time 2021 rolls around?

Please.

“If NASA programs and centers were restructured to take advantage of a flow of private capital, there is no end to the potential collaborations.”

All any of us at TPiS can think of here is NASA Ames and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). Arguably, the two best centers which drive innovation and cutting edge technology. Yet, certain members of the house and senate clamor to the idea of trying to shut down the best kept secret in NASA – Ames. Located in the middle of Silicon Valley, the synergy between public and private partnerships is on display for all to see.
 

And yes, we know JPL is not a center but a Federally Funded Research and Development Center (FFRDC). This is how all of our centers should operate… the ones that survive that is. So much of the NASA budget is consumed with infrastructure. When you donate to a charity, you want to make sure the most money is going to support that charity, not support overhead in management. If you give a dollar to a charity you expect about five percent to go administrative cost and the rest to “the charity”. NASA’s infrastructure cost, as best we can tell because the NASA budget is so convoluted, is about 20 percent to infrastructure. 20 percent of $17.2 billion is $3.44 BILLION DOLLARS!

Naturally, NASA would not get $3.44 billion, but what if we could save costs and get it down to where NASA spends $1.75 billion on infrastructure? That would add an extra $1.69 billion into the budget. Looks to us like that would allow Science Mission Directorate (SMD) to get well from our perspective. What say you?

“…when the Go Daddy rover is traversing Martian terrain, we will be more solidly on our way to fulfilling our destiny in the stars. Moreover, we will have assured that destiny by leveraging our greatest economic asset, the inventiveness of a free market.”

When congress understands this – the United States will once again dominate the space sector. No amount of Chinese espionage or European subsidy will be able to stay close, let alone compete, with US.


What were those Tea Party core values again? Fiscal Responsibility, Limited Governments, and oh, Free Markets.

Personally, I could have never said it as good as Mr. Walker, but this is Tea Party testimony through and through. It is the only approach to saving our space program.

We do hope Chairman Smith agrees.

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