Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Tex) disses private space

By Phil Plait | June 7, 2010 7:00 am

spacex_f9logoI’m scratching my head over the reactions of some Congresscritters about the successful launch of the Falcon 9 rocket by SpaceX on Friday. Given that NASA has several billion dollars it will be giving to commercial transport systems over the next few years, you’d think that Congress would be happy that a private company was able to get a medium-lift rocket into orbit on their first try.

But then, you wouldn’t be Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison. This Texas Republican — that’s important, hang on — gave a short statement after the launch that was at best tepid, and in reality a slap in the face to SpaceX and all the other private space companies:

This first successful test flight of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket is a belated sign that efforts to develop modest commercial space cargo capabilities are showing some promising signs. While this test flight was important, the program to demonstrate commercial cargo and crew transport capabilities, which I support, was intended to enhance not replace NASA’s own proven abilities to deliver critical cargo and humans to low Earth orbit. Make no mistake, even this modest success is more than a year behind schedule, and the project deadlines of other private space companies continue to slip as well. This test does not change the fact that commercial space programs are not ready to close the gap in human spaceflight if the space shuttle is retired this year with no proven replacement capability and the Constellation program is simultaneously cancelled [sic] as the President proposes.

kaybaileyhutchisonSenator — with all due respect — that’s baloney. Plain and simple.

First of all, her passive aggressive stance — using the word "modest" not once but twice, as well as using the term "belated sign" — are ridiculous. This is unexplored territory for the private sector, so while the delays have been irritating for us space enthusiasts, they’re expected. How many delays has NASA had over the years developing new tech? That statement from her is prejudicial and ridiculous.

Second, with her last sentence she continues with the blatantly false meme that Obama is to blame for the gap after the Shuttle; this is the same patently wrong claim she made in an editorial she wrote for the Houston Chronicle in March. Senator, in case you or one of your staff actually reads this, let me be very clear here: there will be a four to five year gap, at least, between the Shuttle retirement and any new NASA heavy-lift rocket, no matter what Obama does. It was the Bush Administration that made 2010 the retirement date for the Shuttle program, and did not have a replacement plan in place for it.

NASA logoTo be certain, I am not blaming (only) Bush for this; both NASA and Congress should have been working on a realistic Shuttle replacement ten years ago. More.

That gap will happen no matter what. Period. Senator Hutchison could sign a check to NASA for twenty billion bucks today, and we still won’t have a post-Shuttle heavy lift capability until 2015 at the soonest. So this idea that Obama is to blame for the gap is nonsense at best, political spin for sure, and dangerously close to an out-and-out lie at worst.

Elon Musk, head of SpaceX, points out that his company is based in Texas, so he’s a little miffed that she would snipe at it. Also, since she’s a Republican, I would expect her to support private industry.

To make it worse, she’s joined by Representative Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL), who said:

"Belated progress for one so-called commercial provider must not be confused with progress for our nation’s human space flight program," Shelby said. "As a nation, we cannot place our future space flight on one fledgling company’s definition of success."

"So-called", Sen. Shelby? How do you define "commercial" then? And he’s precisely wrong: this is in fact and in deed progress for our nation’s space flight program. The Falcon 9 will be used to bring people, including American astronauts, to the space station. They are working with NASA right now to get the hardware in place to meet NASA’s safety requirements.

And his last sentence is a strawman argument; a distortion of what he opposes so he can tear it down. No one is betting our entire manned program’s future on SpaceX. They’re a part of it, to be sure, but not the be all and end all.

And remember, throughout all this, Obama’s plan calls for NASA to create a new heavy-lift rocket (see point #2 in that link). But that plan doesn’t include Constellation.

So again, we have a Republican who appears to be against privatization. Why would this be? Of course, Hutchison’s state has NASA’s Johnson Space Flight Center, which controls manned spaceflight, and Shelby’s district state includes NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center. Sigh.

But because this isn’t bizarro enough, Senator Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat and former astronaut, is hugely enthusiastic about SpaceX. Not only that, Representative Suzanne Kosmas — also a Democrat; whose district includes Kennedy Space Center — warmly praised the launch. If Hutchison and Shelby are playing state and district politics, then why do Nelson and Kosmas take the opposite stance?

It’s getting to be that I can’t tell the industrialists from the socialists without a program.

Anyway, I expect to be countering these fallacious claims for a long time. I cannot understand what is motivating some of these politicians, but the blatantly wrong and twisted spin needs to have a light shone on it. I have problems with Obama’s space policy as well, and at some point I’ll shake all that out, but casting aspersion on SpaceX is ridiculous. What they have done is amazing and important. They’re the first to do this, but there are several more companies close behind. This is the future of near-Earth space travel, and the folks in Congress better figure that out sooner rather than later, or their districts really will be in trouble.

Tip o’ the spacesuit visor to Slashdot.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: NASA, Piece of mind, Politics, Space

Comments (139)

  1. I am no longer surprised by Republican hypocrisy. The acronym IOKIYAR* applies perfectly in this situation.

    * – It’s OK if you’re a Republican

  2. Charles Boyer

    Why is Hutchinson negative about the SpaceX launch while Nelson and Kosmas are for it?

    Because of party politics, plain and simple.

    SpaceX had a great first go at it, and they’ve proven what they can do. Now they need to build on that and prove that they can put Falcon9 up reliably. There will be setbacks along the way unless they are incredibly lucky. Nonetheless, they will learn something from each launch attempt and they are well positioned now to deliver their COTS contract successfully and also to build a successful space taxi for HSF.

  3. yaos

    This makes her a socialist, vote her out!

  4. JR

    I don’t understand. Are the republicans for or against government intervention in private industry? are they for or against gov. spending? I have a really hard time keeping up with politics on either side of the coin.

  5. Jer

    I cannot understand what is motivating some of these politicians

    Rhetorical “can’t understand” or actual “can’t understand”?

    If this is an honest “can’t understand” – it’s the “R” next to their names in an election year, nothing more. They cannot be openly praiseworthy of anything that a Democratic administration/Congress has a part of – even if the part is mainly just being in power when the transition occurs. So they have to diss it. Even if it seems wholly and arbitrarily contrary to their usual pro-corporate, anti-government leanings.

  6. Douglas Troy

    Phil, do you ever Email your blog posts to these Congress persons? If not, I strongly encourage you to do so.

    Actually, just go ahead and write a letter to all of Congress, because I bet most of them don’t have a firm grasp on this, and they need to be educated so they can make appropriate decisions and not ill advised assumptions.

    Just a thought.

  7. What, Republicans are against the private sector replacing certain duties of a government agency? Has the world turned upside down? Or is Carey #1 correct, and this is just hypocrisy and their real agenda is to go after something they perceive is a success for Obama?

    Also, why are they complaining about a year behind schedule? It’s not like NASA has never had to delay any of their missions for a year. :)

  8. It is mind boggling.
    It makes you wonder who make a statement first.
    Suppose it was a democrats. For some reason, a democrat praised the Falcon X. This of course meant that the Republicans needed to take a distinctive stance because you can’t be the “other party” if you say the same thing they do. But of course, since the republicans are actually in favor of the commercial space program, they can’t just openly dis it. So they throw in lots of passive aggressive snipes.

    Or it could have been the opposite. For some reasons the republican throws in snipes and the democrats laud the launch to seem distinctive.

    Just saying.

  9. Sandy

    I presume Shelby’s response is fueled in part by the money / jobs Alabama gets because of the Marshall Space Flight Center. I guess he sees commercial space flight as a threat. Whatever – I wasn’t going to vote for him anyway and stupid comments like that only validate my desire to see him tossed out of office.

  10. CI

    Nelson and Kosmas don’t support the space program, they are just Obama clones that do whatever he wants. Unfortunately they have no backbone to stand up against him like these other politicians. I can’t wait till they are both out of office…

  11. davem

    Am I the only one to misread ‘R-Tex’ as ‘T-Rex’?

  12. CI (#10): And your evidence for that is…?

  13. cancelled [sic]

    Not only is she a Texan Republican, she writes British.

    Into Boston Harbor with her forthwith.

  14. Yep, it’s Republican hypocrisy. Pure & simple.
    I’m gonna go puke now, ‘scuse me…
    Baaaggg, hhhijjlarfffff!
    Raaajjjgh! Hoojjjgllllifff!
    Guh, guh, guh. Pitooie!

  15. Scott B

    Sure it’s Republican hypocrisy. Pretty typical example. Just don’t think the other side is any cleaner. Dems are against big business until that business is lining their pockets.

  16. kirk

    This is worse than it looks on first reading Space X has a Texas facility. KBH is insulting her own constituents. Her actual complaint? Look at who’s picture is on the launch countdown website…

    “President Barack Obama and SpaceX CEO and CTO Elon Musk at the SpaceX Falcon 9
    launch pad, Cape Canaveral, Florida on April 15, 2010…”

    http://www.spacex.com/updates.php

  17. Mr BA, Elon Musk said that their test facilities are based in Texas. To quote Musk: “I don’t understand why she’s trying to hurt a Texas company”. I believe he meant that part of SpaceX is in Texas. Not all of it.
    According to Wikipedia, the SpaceX HQ is in California.
    the quote is from that page: http://www.spaceflightnow.com/falcon9/001/100604launch/index.html

  18. Mchl

    And here’s what I have to say to this…. Actually I’ll just quote latest SpaceX press release:

    “The NASA COTS program has demonstrated the power of what can be accomplished when you combine private sector responsiveness and ingenuity with the guidance, support and insight of the US government. For less than the cost of the Ares I mobile service tower, SpaceX has developed all the flight hardware for the Falcon 9 orbital rocket, Dragon spacecraft, as well as three launch sites. SpaceX has been profitable for three consecutive years (2007 through 2009) and expects to remain modestly profitable for the foreseeable future. The company has over 1000 employees in California, Texas and Florida, and has been approximately doubling in size every two years. A majority of the future growth is expected to occur in Texas and Florida.”

  19. Ad Hominid

    Yesterday I joked about the socialist commissar Kay Hutchison and the workers and peasants at NASA launching a campaign against SpaceX, but this is not really a conflict between government and private enterprise.
    It is a conflict between the established NASA contractors like Boeing and Lockheed-Martin and the upstarts like SpaceX . The latter have shown a new and much less costly way of doing things. This is embarrassing to the fatcats and, worse yet, a threat to the bloated profits they earn from their obscenely expensive, ponderously managed, and 100% government financed programs.
    The Wall Street Journal and other fatcat agitprop outlets have made much of the additional $1 billion it will allegedly cost to certify the Falcon 9/Dragon combination to carry passengers to the ISS. They neglect to mention that Ares managers had requested an additional $40 billion for further R&D on their boosters alone just before their program got the axe.
    Elon Musk is like an idealistic young caseworker who finds a major welfare cheat and tries to take away the crook’s Lexus and 20,000 sq ft mansion. It saves the taxpayers money, but the cheats naturally don’t like it. They can be expected to bring in their political hacks or friends to bring pressure on their behalf.
    I think that is what is happening here. We should probably take a look at Hutchison’s and Shelby’s respective dealings with the aerospace corporate welfare fatcats who stand to lose so much from SpaceX’s success.

  20. @Mchl: They are only profitable because they swim in government money. They have launched ONE commercial satellite to date. They had just 3 launches that achieved orbit, 2 of them test flights. (It’s quite an achievment nowadays to have 3 failing rocket starts in a row like with the Falcon 1. I think the last rockets to achieve that were the Europa rocket and the N-1.)
    They haven’t even done something for NASA or the Air Force yet. SpaceX is more funded by the government than by anyone else.

  21. Big Al

    As a teenager back in the 1960′s I read “The Man Who Sold the Moon”, and wondered everr since where was private enterprise in the space race. Go SpaceX!

  22. jfb

    This is not your father’s Republican party. The GOP hasn’t been interested in governing since the mid-1980′s. It’s all about winning the next election for the sake of winning the next election, by whatever means necessary. If it takes believing six impossible things before breakfast, well, that’s what they’ll do.

    I’m surprised by KBH’s statement only to the extent that she bothered to make one. As significant as this launch was for certain people, I can’t imagine what would have prompted her to speak on it at all.

  23. Rob

    Who’s willing to bet Ms. Hutchison had a 2nd version of the press release to issue today had the launch been unsuccessful?

  24. Gus Snarp

    I have reservations about relying entirely on private companies for our lift vehicles, but I can easily imagine a scenario in which it could work. But see I’m on the political left, I believe that government can give us a layer of accountability that privatization eliminates and that is important in something as potentially dangerous and important as spaceflight. When those who otherwise tout privatization, up to and including of Social Security, suddenly attack a privatization program, there can be only two reasons: fear of losing the pork they’ve brought home to their states through NASA spending (pork which has helped weigh NASA down over the years) or simply taking any possible opportunity to attack Obama. And given the strength of Tea Party and Libertarian ideas among Republicans these days, the fact that SpaceX is Texas based and therefore still bringing federal money to the state, and the astounding level of unity among Republicans in opposing every word out of Obama’s mouth, I’m inclined toward the latter.

  25. Ad Hominid

    @Klopfer

    How much did the Ares contractors get before their program got the axe? How many of their flight tests have been successful?
    Oh, that’s right, their recycled Shuttle hardware never flew at all and wouldn’t have for years.
    The 1.6 billion SpaceX will be paid for a dozen flights to the ISS would barely have paid for just two Shuttle flights, even with the very suspect accounting used by Nasa and its hog trough contractor/clients. This is not even counting the multi-billion dollar upgrades the Shuttles would have needed to continue the program.

  26. Phil,

    Bill Nelson hasn’t been a big supporter of the commercialization of space in the past, so I wouldn’t read too much into him. He’s been wanting to either extend the Shuttle program or use COTS-D to bring jobs to his local district.

    As for Kosmas, from the NY Times:

    “Suzanne M. Kosmas, a Democratic congresswoman whose district includes the Kennedy Space Center and who has also been skeptical of the proposed NASA changes, issued a more complimentary statement: “The successful test launch of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket,” she said, “is a significant step in the development of the commercial space industry.”

    But Ms. Kosmas argued that commercial rockets should be a complement to a NASA-led program, not a replacement. ”

    So yeah, they may have been “warm” now, but I don’t think they have a history of doing anything different than Hutchison, ie, looking out for their own district first.

  27. Mount

    I really have no reason to like any party or politician period. I loathe them all! You never know what’s going on in their head’s, but you know it aint any good.

    We have the first private space program in the world! Anyone who don’t think that’s just awesome needs to be gone.

  28. Drew Caster

    Two republicans with large NASA interests in their states don’t speak for the entire party Phil.

    That’s called cherry picking statements.

  29. Papabear

    Phil there’s a feeling in Houston that the folks out at Johnson space center in Houston are getting hung out to dry because of politics. In other words the folks in the battleground state of Florida are getting more help from Washington than in the solidly Republican Texas (http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/metropolitan/7033686.html). While a lot of it is overblown it’s not like that would be anything new. Many budget decisions are made based on political implications rather than any sort of logic or reason, and it’s been done by both parties for a long time. That’s the biggest problem with having the government involved….decisions are based on politics more than anything else(Like Science). Hell, Kennedy didn’t really care about the space program. He just wanted to beat the Russians.

    I’m with you Phil. NASA should be funded well, and needs to be working on cutting edge stuff. I just wish they could do so while focusing on the science instead of the politics.

  30. Mea culpa; it was just pointed out to me that Shelby is a Senator, not a Representative. I fixed it.

  31. Kaeli

    THIS is why I want to strangle politicians. A Republican, who is supposed to worship free enterprise and embrace private solutions to public problems above all, has instead used this as an opportunity to point a finger at President Obama and try to place some sort of blame. This is becoming utter idiocy.

    A plague on both your houses, Washington, DC.

  32. Anton P. Nym

    All those GOP pols complaining about federal dollars going to Space-X seem to have forgotten those sweetheart mail contracts granted to fledgeling airlines in order to jump-start the aviation industry. Or all the government contracts placed with the railroads back in those days, for that matter.

    I’m going to miss Ares V (or Ares V lite), but it looks like that part of the program was in deep development trouble and vastly overbudget… not spending money on Falcon-9 wouldn’t have helped even slightly, whereas bankrolling Space-X at least opens up a second avenue that might succeed sooner and more cheaply. And I don’t miss that Lipstick-on-a-Pig Roman Candle misnamed “Ares I” the faintest bit.

    — Steve

  33. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    For less than the cost of the Ares I mobile service tower, SpaceX has developed all the flight hardware for the Falcon 9 orbital rocket, Dragon spacecraft, as well as three launch sites.

    That says it all, doesn’t it?

    - I want my mobile service tower, because it looks more professional with a red carpet transport line implying that we launch really, really often. … what, did we just spend the money so we can’t launch really, really often; we can’t launch often at all? Doesn’t matter, it sure looks professional. (And it makes a great toy model! [Wroom, wroom.])

    @ #18:

    It’s quite an achievment nowadays to have 3 failing rocket starts in a row

    According to Musk, the failure risk is ~ 50 % from statistics. That would make 3 consecutive fails a noticeable 0.5^3 ~ 10 % likelihood.

    In reality they optimistically changed the stage 2 engine for a newer one in the 3d Falcon-1 launch. (And IIRC it was the immediate cause of that accident.)

    Ariane, “the Europa rocket”, launch record was 0-1-0-0-1 failures for Ariane 1 to 5 respectively, btw confirming Musk’s observations [Wikipedia].

    For less successful programs, see for example:

    - “Of the three Delta III flights, the first two were failures” [Wikipedia].

    It’s quite an achievement nowadays to talk out of your hat.

  34. From what I can tell, the political plan seems to to go something like this:

    “hey guys- I got this great idea! We’ll all start spewing BS, distorting and twisting everything, and NOBODY will be able to keep up with it, so we can say what we want without being called to task!”

    Sadly, most politicians seem to have joined in on this plan.

  35. As a matter of perspective: I’m from the UK. To us, both the Republican and the Democrat parties are pretty much indistinguishable, as they’re both way out on the right wing compared to our politics.

    As a result, whenever I see the standard Republican vs Democrat ranting whenever zealots of the two parties meet, I feel both rather amused and slightly depressed: it’s so utterly parochial.

    Maybe what you guys really need is a coalition government.

  36. Gus Snarp

    @David Given – For the record, while you guys have the Liberal Democrat party, we have the Democratic party, not the Democrat party. I know it seems pedantic, but in the U.S. dropping the “-ic” from the party name is a ploy to strip the name of any positive connotation it has from association with a democratic form of government. So in the U.S. saying “Democrat party” sounds both ignorant and negative. I realize that being British, and probably having heard more than a few people who’ve taken the Republican bait and are using the wrong name, you probably didn’t know that.

  37. Can there be little doubt that our politicians are simple hypocrites without any sense of decency whatsoever? As a child during the Apollo program, I was inspired by Kennedy’s bold challenge to reach the moon, and the seemingly limitless horizons that science would grant us in terms of advancement and quality of life. As an adult, I’m aghast that our politicians view space exploration as simply a source of pork-barrel jobs in their district, and who oppose the success of others (ironically, even in their own state) who threaten the status quo.

  38. Gary Ansorge

    30. morgajel

    That will work fine,,,until the kids at Stewart and Colbert nail them. They must spend a LOT of time watching Faux Snooze.

    Politicians have one goal,,,to get re-elected. They accomplish this by bringing money to their districts/states and then claiming credit for that. Unfortunately, the easiest way to do that is to sup at the government trough. Actually encouraging new industries in their states is a lot more difficult. Here in Cartersville, Ga, we had a guy running for councilman who wanted to bring Tesla Motors to Georgia.

    He lost.

    I expect, if he had pushed for more federal monies, he’d have won. Bummer!

    Gary 7

  39. Riley

    Why is it that, according to leading Democrats in the White House and Congress, having a public option for health care is a good thing, but a public option (Constellation, or some other Government in-house program) for Space exploration is a bad thing??

    Why is it only hypocrisy when a Republican supports a government option, but not hypocrisy when a Democrat supports a private option??

    NASA needs its own way into space that it runs in parallel with its COTS incubator role. The appalling vision that Obama seems to be pushing is that COTS will become the ONLY thing NASA spends money on. I’ve got no problem with NASA helping Orbital Sciences Corp and SpaceX get started, but its insanity to make this our entire human spaceflight program.

    Having a public option for access to space IS a VERY good thing … and I’m very glad that Space State Republicans like Kay Bailey Hutchison are standing up for it. NASA should never be reduced to “just another paying customer” (as we unfortunately are vis-a-vis Soyuz flights)

    NASA needs to develop a fully functional Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle and a means to get it into orbit, if that’s something other than Arex I then so be it, but NASA needs its own vehicles.

    NASA’s raison d’etre should not be to function merely as Elon Musk’s Venture Capitalist.

  40. David Given wrote:

    “As a matter of perspective: I’m from the UK. To us, both the Republican and the Democrat parties are pretty much indistinguishable, as they’re both way out on the right wing compared to our politics.
    As a result, whenever I see the standard Republican vs Democrat ranting whenever zealots of the two parties meet, I feel both rather amused and slightly depressed: it’s so utterly parochial.
    Maybe what you guys really need is a coalition government.”

    People in the US who aren’t Dempublicans or Republocrats see them that way too–I just refer to them as the two factions of the Boot On Your Neck Party.

    The partisan ranting reminds me of your deranged football hooligans that we here stories about over here–a bunch of nutjobs getting all worked up about people doing the exact same thing, where the only difference is the name on their uniforms.

  41. @ ad hominem:

    It is a conflict between the established NASA contractors like Boeing and Lockheed-Martin and the upstarts like SpaceX

    This.

    True story: A few years back I worked on some PR videos for Boeing. “Zoom and Boom” they call them: a selection of their products zooming through the sky and blowing up real good.

    Anyway, we spent several tens of thousands of dollars putting together the video, which followed the basic outline they had laid out for us. Lots of zooming, lots of booming. The scripts and storyboards were approved by their internal staff, and everything was going swimmingly…until the CEO at the time, Harry Stonecipher, caught wind of our production. He threw it all out. And why? Because he wanted the work to go to a production company owned by one of his friends. No kidding. Tens of thousands of dollars of shareholder money tossed out, just so the exact same thing could be produced by his buddy, whose pockets became significantly fatter.

    The corporate world is no different than the government world, despite the bleats of the looney big gubmint = ebel folks.

  42. Gus Snarp

    Riley – You missed the part of the post where Phil mentioned that it was Bush who created this situation in the first place (true of many things Obama is being blamed for, like the bailouts), and that there will be a NASA lift vehicle, it just won’t be the existing over-budget, behind schedule program.

  43. Paul

    “then why do Nelson and Kosmas take the opposite stance”

    What would Kosmas’ stance be if SpaceX were to stage it’s launches from Guiana Space Centre instead of KSC? Of course she’s happy – the launch business is staying in her district.

  44. NewEnglandBob

    This Texas Republican…

    Two of those three words explain it all. Those words are why she is not sane. Hint: the word ‘this’ is just fine.

  45. Gus Snarp

    @kuhnigget – “The corporate world is no different than the government world” – Well, there is at least one difference – that sort of thing is at least nominally illegal in the public sector.

  46. Riley

    Gus Snarp:

    Sure, Bush dropped the ball, by not ordering larger increases in NASA’s budget to get the shuttle successor up and running faster, but Obama’s answer to Bushes inadequate spending is to ZERO OUT SPENDING? To just give up? That’s not acceptable policy either.

  47. No surprise here; first, it’s coming from a texas senator. Land of stupidity and creationism. Secondly, it comes from a republican. Home team for revisionist history.

  48. Ad Hominid

    @kuhnigget

    There is this difference as well: If a corporation wastes too much money, it can’t get more just by demanding it from taxpayers. The exception, of course, is those corporations like Boeing who can recruit enough political help to keep their snouts in the public trough for decades on end.

  49. Gus Snarp

    @Riley – That’s an entirely different argument. You claimed that private vehicles would be our only human spaceflight program, which is not true in the long term, and is true in the short term because of decisions made a long time ago. You also claimed that Democrats oppose a public space exploration program, which is just not true. Now you are arguing that Obama shouldn’t zero out spending, which is a different issue altogether, and I would tend to agree with you, but depending on what you mean by “zero out spending”, this may also be false since Obama’s plan calls for an overall increase in NASA’s budget.

  50. Old Rockin' Dave

    Riley, I don’t see any signs that any Democrats want NASA to go out of business. The rise of the American aviation industry between the World Wars didn’t put the government out of the aviation business. Instead, private aircraft developers and airlines became invaluable resources for all government operations that involved flight.
    We didn’t need the Air Corps or the Navy to design and build the aircraft that were used in World War II. Private industry did just fine in supplying them with planes that met or exceeded their needs.

  51. VJBinCT

    I can feel Elon Musk’s frustration with Senator Shelby’s statement. I could suggest a response:

    ‘Senator Shelby–you seem to take issue with SpaceX’s accomplishment of a successful launch of the Falcon 9. You call SpaceX a ‘so-called’ commercial endeavor. I have to say that we are indeed commercial: we are in it only for the money. You as a Republican should be uniquely qualified to recognize this.’

  52. Harbles

    Great Interview With Elon Musk on This week in Space with Miles O’Brien discussing this very issue. The only State that is a net looser under the Obama Space plan is Utah re: solid boosters. Alabama, Texas and Florida all retain or gain jobs. The Republicans have become the party of NO to everyting the new administration is trying to do regardless of the merits. We’ll see how that works out in November.

  53. Paul D.

    It’s quite an achievment nowadays to have 3 failing rocket starts in a row

    Actually, it IS quite an achievement. If your vehicle is cheap to build, the optimal approach to debugging the design involves more testing (and failing) and less “paralysis through analysis.”

  54. Anton P. Nym

    @46: Riley, it wasn’t inadequate spending alone that sank Ares. The program had turned into a pork barrel… every step of the project led to increased complexity and decreased launch capacity, with added cost. (Remember when Orion was supposed to hold a crew of 6? Then 4? Then rumblings that it’d have to be cut to 3?)

    The original premise of Constellation, using Shuttle-developed technology to quickly create a less labour-intensive and thus less costly successor, had long been abandoned. Project Constellation had crashed and burned; as with cars, sometimes it’s better to write off projects than it is to waste money trying to repair something so fundamentally broken.

    FYI, it’s only Constellation itself that’s zeroed out. Funds are there for developing a successor to the Shuttle and I suspect more will come available for production when NASA comes up with a workable plan. Also, Orion will live on in a limited role and could even perhaps be adopted by the next plan. Whatever was salvagable was salvaged from the wreckage.

    — Steve

  55. @ ad hominid:

    The exception, of course, is those corporations like Boeing who can recruit enough political help to keep their snouts in the public trough for decades on end.

    Yes. My point exactly. Boeing has deep pockets that help to keep their representatives (certainly not our representatives!) in Congress in line. I suspect that is Ms. Hutchinson’s motivation for her press release.

  56. Charles Boyer

    #48: Ad Hominid There is this difference as well: If a corporation wastes too much money, it can’t get more just by demanding it from taxpayers. The exception, of course, is those corporations like Boeing who can recruit enough political help to keep their snouts in the public trough for decades on end.

    Or banks and car manufacturers.

    Anyway, it’s all well and good to congratulate SpaceX for their success — it was spectacular and very well earned.

    I would caution you, however, to keep in mind that they company must still demonstrate two things: that they can reliably and repeatedly launch Falcon9 successfully. One launch does neither.

    They are off to a great start, but there is still quite a ways to go before those objectives are met fully.

  57. Ad Hominid

    @54 Charles

    All true, but if SpaceX can’t deliver, they go out of business. This is in contrast to their political heavyweight competitors, who have dominated NASA contracting for 50 years. When the latter fail, they just get more taxpayer money to either fix things or, more likely, cover them up.
    Does anyone else remember the outrageous claims that were made for the Shuttle while it was under development, 3 day turnaround time and $50lb to LEO payload costs, for instance?

  58. Ed

    Oh everyone is a hypocrite, if you’re going to bash Republicans (which I am not) about not wanting to privatize more the space sector, then you can bash democrats for not wanting the same level of oversight and control you they cherish from government run programs. The labeling and the bashing is juvenile and serves no purpose than to polarize people and make them pick sides (which in my opinion is the single biggest problem we have in this country at the moment.)

    Let be real here, it’s not like NASA isn’t insanely privatized now. It’s a FALSE argument that it’s either the government doing it or the private sector. Look who makes the shuttle, it’s boosters, the solid rocket boosters (Boeing, Thiokol, Lockheed, and a ton of sub contractors.) Most non-shuttle launches are carried out by the United Launch Alliance and their subcontractors.

    Most of the opposition from senators are about jobs. First, Space X is not a Texas company, they’re HQ’d right down the road from me here in southern California. Like most companies, I’m sure they have offices everywhere, but their main work force and tax base is right here (YES!) For fifty years we’ve been building a space industry that is very entrenched, and though it is privatized, the status quo is looking to be severely unbalanced which makes everyone nervous.

    And not just big, evil, mega corporations and their sleazy politicians. Actual people the show up to work every day that may not have a job. If my job was threatened from outside, especially in an economy like this, I’d sure expect my government representatives to fight for me. And kudos that they are. They end up being wrong, but they are fighting for their people.

    Second (and I apologize for responses this long), but lets look at Sen Nelson which most of you are praising as some enlightened politician. He was just as against this as Sen Hutchinson. So Obama threw him a bone by resurrecting the orion capsule. Seriously, none of you throwing stones at these two see anything wrong with that? Since then, Sen Nelson has been much more quiet.

    Third, politics. And yeah, the Republicans pretty much disagree with anything that Obama says. First, they really don’t like him, and second, it’s an election year. Not sure it’s any different than how Democrats treat Republicans though, but this goes back to all of us needing to be mature and thoughtful in how we talk. I’m tired of polarizing speech from everything on Fox News, some stuff on MSNBC, and just about everything from blogs.

    Fourth, and we never give credit to our politicians, maybe they actually stand fro something. Maybe people really feel like our leadership in space and science is being threatened with the plan Obama rolled out. Most of the former Astronauts think so, heck Neil deGrasse Tyson thinks so, and I do to. This post is too long already to go into why, but it’s a reasonable opinion to have. Yet again, I’m not some right wing nut for thinking so. I also voted for Obama if that helps temper vitriol against my post, and frankly it’s sad that I feel I have to offer that up.

  59. JW

    You cannot understand what is motivating some of these politicians? It’s the same thing it has always been — partisan politics! Republicans tear down Democrats and Democrats tear down Republicans. It is no more than that. The remarks have nothing to do with SpaceX and everything to do with Republican Senator(s) attacking the Democrat President. SpaceX or BP or Goldman Sachs or any other entity is just the vehicle for partisan attack. Of course I could be wrong…it could all be about self-promotion and keeping their names in the news…

  60. Joe

    Well said Phil. Absolutely no arguments here. This is a perfect example of political posturing and nothing more. Especially aggravating are Senator Shelby’s comments. NASA can’t continue to do all the heavy lifting (pun intended) if we’re going to advance our reach into space as a nation and as a planet. Hopefully Space X is the first in a long list of successful private space companies. More competition=better technology and lower costs.

    “It’s getting to be that I can’t tell the industrialists from the socialists without a program.”

    Nothing in this country frustrates me more.

  61. Ad Hominid

    @#56 Ed

    Thank you this well-considered post. I can’t agree with your conclusions, but I think we have made real progress in accurately framing this debate as “contractor vs. contractor” rather than as “government vs. business.”

  62. Woody Tanaka

    As long as the private companies are being fair to their employees (and real “fair” not the nonsense kind of “fair” that the capitalist and their sycophants push), they are capitalized sufficiently to cover the full and total costs that any failures of their system might experience, and place the protection of the environment and the security needs of the US above their own profits, then I am cautiously okay with them proceeding.

  63. JohnW

    From that editorial you linked, it seems that Hutchison’s position is to not retire the shuttle until there is a dedicated, proven replacement. Which, regardless of whether you agree or disagree with it, is one of several reasonable options.

    That gap will happen no matter what. Period. Senator Hutchison could sign a check to NASA for twenty billion bucks today, and we still won’t have a post-Shuttle heavy lift capability until 2015 at the soonest. So this idea that Obama is to blame for the gap is nonsense at best, political spin for sure, and dangerously close to an out-and-out lie at worst.

    Wouldn’t that gap disappear if the 20 billion dollar check went to extend the life of the shuttle program? It seems to me that yours is the real strawman argument here.

  64. Ad Hominid

    @63 Woody

    So, Woody, would you continue to exempt the capitalistic contractors (Boeing, Lockheed-Martin etc.) who have been building and operating NASA’s launch systems for the past fifty years?
    If not, why apply them now? If so, why would you apply these conditions to new contractors like SpaceX?

  65. JohnK

    Let’s see

    SpaceX is headquartered in Hawthorne CA, not Texas. They only have a small testing facility in Waco TX.

    SpaceX is not the first private company to put a rocket into space, Space Services Inc. was. And they did it in 1982.

    Elon Musk may claim to be a Republican, but a quick google search shows gives significant monies to members on both parties.

    Finally, as it stands right now, NASA has no contracts to any company for a human spaceflight. It is just a lot talk

  66. “Mea culpa; it was just pointed out to me that Shelby is a Senator, not a Representative. I fixed it.”

    Imagine if a conservative made that kind of error talking about science, you would be on it like a cheap suit on a car salesman. Goose, gander and all that… Philsy.

  67. Ed

    @62 Ad

    Thanks, we don’t need to agree, just disagree respectfully and intelligently.

  68. Ad Hominid

    @67

    No, to be really equivalent to a dumb (ie non-Goldwater) conservative, Phil would have to insist for years on end that Shelby is a representative rather than a senator, and try to pack school boards so he can alter textbooks to reflect this view.

  69. Imagine if a conservative made that kind of error talking about science, you would be on it like a cheap suit on a car salesman.

    They do. He is.

    Difference: they usually don’t apologize and correct their errors. Witness pretty much any creationist nonsense the good doctor calls out.

  70. Chris in Texas

    I’m again ashamed to be a Texan. Doomed.

  71. Avery

    Kay is an idiot. We ain’t too proud of her in Texas.
    She has been a dissappointment.

  72. Avery

    A politicians ONLY goal is re-election.
    The age of service, of giving back has been long gone. Carnegy was an anomolly. The noble rich are extinct and their heirs are ignorance focused on greed and misguided by social activism, bad science and foolhardy socialist/Marxist designs. I.Q. means nothing if it is warped by deceit. It still wanders down a fools path in a highly intelligent and entertaining way. Bye bye I wave at their backs!

  73. Christ in Texas

    Me too. Just don’t change the textbooks. They show my good side ; )

  74. Robin S

    Politics and NASA don’t mix, but unfortunately they’re bound at the hip. NASA’s biggest problem is and has been that it’s been so tightly controlled by Congress., the body least qualified to make technical–as well as other–decisions for NASA. Particularly bothersome is the influence of Congress over what happens at NASA field centers. Logic would indicate that NASA should decide what happens at said field centers, but alas logic isn’t used.

    Hutchison and Shelby aren’t exceptions. They’re just like the others. Nelson (Let’s not forget that it was political gamesmanship that got Nelson on a Space Shuttle mission, not any technical skill or qualification.), Kosmas, Grayson….they’re all the same. Let’s not forget that until very recently, Nelson has been a big opponent of the cancellation of Constellation and the end of the Shuttle program. Grayson comments aren’t that far afield from Hutchison’s. Hell, they’re all doing what’s politically tasty for them, not necessarily what’s right for NASA.

    Forgotten in all of the political rhetoric are the conclusions that came from the Aldridge Commission. Of all of the parties involved in the last two years, the Aldridge Commission had the least to gain personally. Their conclusions were sound plain to see. I think it would behoove everyone to re-read what the commission had to say.

    Given the limited and relatively small budget that NASA will always have, I would rather their money be spent pushing boundaries back and pursuing the high risk efforts that no one else can pursue, that is manned exploration of space beyond the Earth and Moon, robotic exploration of the Solar System and beyond, and the other high risk research they do (aeronautics, fuel, propulsion, and so on). If we insist that NASA also has to perform the LEO taxi service, then NASA will never have the money to go elsewhere: the numbers on this are painfully telling.

  75. Ken

    It’s pretty clear to me what’s motivating these republican senators: November.

    One thing the republican campaign machine is good at is staying “on message” no matter how untruthful or distorted it is. And they repeat that message as often as possible (with help from their friends in the media) until it frames the entire debate during campaign season.

    In this case, the message is: “Obama/Democrats killed the space program and that’s going to kill jobs.” Who cares whether it’s true, or whether it has anything to do with supposed conservative ideology. And anything that might undermine the message — such as signs of progress in commercial spaceflight — will be downplayed and spat upon. They’ll repeat the message over and over until people start believing it in the hopes that they’ll be a little more likely to put their check mark in the “R” column in a few months.

  76. Joe

    It’s really too bad you don’t focus more on science and less on politics, Phil. It’s getting to the point that about half of your posts are railing on some cause or another (many of which I fully agree with you, such as the Antivax nonsense), but I’d much rather you do away with these posts and focus on the science to make your point that way.

  77. Ed

    @76 Joe

    I agree with you on this topic, because it is completely subjective. At least with the Antivax and Creationist there’s scientific evidence to refute. This is all opinion, and frankly both sides have very valid arguments. As I said in my original post, it polarizes and labels people and it isn’t a healthy debate. All Senators (Rep and Dem) with NASA centers in their backyard are big space proponents, so let’s not label them as otherwise.

    This is a skeptic blog more than an Astronomy blog, so I don’t mind going into some strictly non-science stuff. But this isn’t a skeptic entry, this is a political one.

  78. Robin S

    @John W (64): It’s not feasible to keep flying the Shuttle. Production lines have been shut down; critical spares are either absent or in very short supply; and there’s simply not enough money to fly the Shuttle and pursue other manned space missions. This has been a long time coming, so it’s not as if the Shuttle retirement is a surprise to anyone. While I love the Shuttle and think it’s an amazing machine, objectively I have to say it’s been, throughout its life, the wrong machine. Depending on the mission, it’s either been too big or too small. It’s been way too expensive for what it does, and its been a huge drain on resources for NASA.

    @Ed (59): Well stated. Political polarization has pretty much delivered us unto a state we deserve. For all we complain about political shenanigans, we have to accept that we are to blame since we’re the ones pulling levers in voting booths.

    Your forth point, I can’t agree. Number of “experts” are like appeals to authority in a debate: pointless and weak. For every Armstrong and Cernan, there’s a Schweickart and Aldrin. So, which one is the more credible? Answer: none. I frankly give more weight to Sally Ride and her co-commssion participants. I sure like Neil deGrasse Tyson, but his view is only an opinion, worth no more than any other scientist’s or engineer’s opinion. He doesn’t bring anything special to the debate. Most of the astronauts? Do you have the results of a poll to support that? And what are the opinions of the astronauts that don’t voice their opinions? Do you see how pointless such things are?

    For what it’s worth, as an ex-employee of one of the big space contractors and as an ex-employee of NASA, my own view is that our “leadership” in space is not threatened at all; moreover, our leadership isn’t worth anything if it can’t withstand a few years of pause to develop the technology to push on to new heights, to push the envelope back further. Leadership, as it’s being discussed in the NASA debate, is just another red herring in the political debate…..er….buffoonery. Alas, my opinion is just my own.

  79. Ed

    @79 Robin

    I meant most of the Apollo Astronauts, sorry about that. My understanding is that the number that have come out pro/con this plan weight heavier toward the con. If I’m wrong, I retract. Also did not mean the current ones, I have no clue with the exception of a few I’ve talked to recently.

    As for pausing, here is my issue. I don’t trust the government in regards to the space program. I don’t care what party we’re talking about. Obama wishing to cancel Constellation is a perfect example. We can go 4-8 years on this plan, then the next administration cancels that plan. Many have written that Nixon cancelled Apollo because he didn’t like the Kennedy legacy. Cynical people can claim the same to Obama/Bush. Either way, we need an entirely new funding system devoid of this.

    For that reason I do like the current plan, but since we’re talking about shuttling people to the ISS, the only customer will be NASA, so we get back to funding either way. Researching new technologies and options is often a euphemism in government for letting something die a slow death. Obama’s version 1 of the plan had no set date or plan, just research. To me that was the evidence of his priority on manned space. Pressure from within and outside of his party made him add a date, heavy lift launcher, and resurrect Orion for something silly.

    Maybe I’ve lost my idealism, but having timelines outside of one’s administration is a recipe for failure. Look at Constellation. I want so bad for my kids to have a chance to go into deep space, and Mars, and I simply do not trust that this plan will go the distance. I seriously hope I’m wrong.

  80. TheBlackCat

    It’s getting to the point that about half of your posts are railing on some cause or another (many of which I fully agree with you, such as the Antivax nonsense), but I’d much rather you do away with these posts and focus on the science to make your point that way.

    As opposed to how things originally were, where all of his posts “are railing on some cause or another”? That was the original purpose of his website. All this regular science stuff was a later addition, when the blog first started.

    Looking at the latest page of the blog, there are 7 posts, exactly 1 of which is remotely political in nature (this one), one that is sci-fi oriented, and the rest being purely science or space-technology oriented. The page before that has the same numbers (counting the Falcon/UFO one as science). The page before that has a whole 2 political posts, the rest being science. The page before that has the same breakdown. So out of 28 posts there are 6 political ones. That is 6/28, or about 1/5. Far from “half”, and far less than how things were originally, before it became a blog.

    If you look at the first few full pages of the blog, back in 2005, there are: 2 critical, 2 critical, 3 critical, 2 critical, and so on. So if anything his recent posts have less “railing on some cause or another” than his first ones.

  81. Robin S

    @Ed (80): I can understand your angst.

    Not trusting the government with respect to NASA is probably a good thing. As I said, one of the biggest handicaps to NASA is being held so tightly under the thumb of Congress. NASA doesn’t have the freedom to make choices and direct its actions as does, say, the military. Unfortunately, NASA has always been a political football. It was a popular tool during the Cold War, but it didn’t take long for politicians–and, importantly, the public–to tire of the expense of Apollo and other projects. The Space Shuttle has only been popular to ULA and its members, a small fragment of the public, and certain members of Congress. With the exception of the immediate aftermath of accidents, the public has remained largely uninterested in the Shuttle. Hell, the public is even largely uninterested in other missions, Opportunity and Spirit; MRO, LRO, Phoenix, Cassini, et al, and those are wildly successful missions. One of the more hobbling constraints on NASA is that they can’t advertise re: their successes and what they do. They’re stuck relying on a fickle press. The military can advertise, but NASA can’t. It makes no sense.

    Unfortunately, right now we can’t get around the term limited planning for NASA. Congress has made it so. No matter what Obama chooses to do, the plan will likely change when the next President comes ’round or when Congress changes hands.

    FWIW, I think Obama’s plan was/is the better plan. Picking dates does nothing, as so ably proven by the Constellation program. There are a lot of problems to be solved, and those solutions aren’t changed by picking deadlines. They’re hard problems–radiation hardening, crew survival in radiation hostile environments, and so on–with no ready solutions. Also, there’s certainly nothing that will be done in terms of manned exploration beyond LEO, over the course of one president’s time in office. Constellation certainly wasn’t on such a path. As for Obama’s commitment to manned space exploration, I don’t think it’s any less than any president we’ve had for a while. Let’s face it, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush Sr., and Clinton did nothing to extend manned exploration beyond LEO. Obama’s done no worse. In reality, the president’s don’t really do anything for space policy except add rhetoric. It’s Congress that controls the purse strings. As such, I think the blame for our current state can be laid completely at the feet of all of our Congresspeople, past and present.

    I don’t think we can reasonably expect any return to Mercury/Gemini/Apollo-like timelines/funding/support. Let’s face it: the public will isn’t there, and we don’t have anything like the Cold War propaganda game going on. If there’d been no Cold War, Apollo would never have happened as it did. That is something that is often not considered when we’re talking about what Neil Armstrong or Buzz Aldrin thinks.

    As an aside, isn’t amazingly ironic that the first two men on the Moon, crew mates, have such wildly differing views on what NASA should be doing now?

  82. As an aside, isn’t amazingly ironic that the first two men on the Moon, crew mates, have such wildly differing views on what NASA should be doing now?

    But then they’ve always been polar opposites. Frankly, it always kind of pissed me off the way Armstrong clammed up after Apollo 11 and wouldn’t say much publicly about it. He could have had a huge promotional effect on exploration, science, the whole deal.

  83. JohnW

    @ Robin S (79)

    I agree with you on the Shuttle. While I have a nostalgic soft spot for it, it needs to go.

    All I’m pointing out is that Phil is misrepresenting her argument, which is that we should not retire the Shuttle until we find a definite replacement. In which case, there would be no gap to blame on anyone!

  84. Jim

    There may be a lot of politics involved… okay, there is a lot of politics involved, but this isn’t a simple case of a Republican dissing a Democrat.

    Stop flying the shuttle and NASA’s KSC will feel a big hurt. Cancel Constellation and NASA’s JSC will feel a big hurt.

    The Administration has already promised $15million to help transition the KSC employees who stand to lose their jobs. To date, no funds have been earmarked for the JSC employees who will lose theirs.

    KSC is in a state with a Democratic Senator and a possibility to vote Democratic in 2012. JSC is in a state with two Republican Senators, a Republican Governor with eyes on the WH, and no chance of going Dem in 2012.

    Yup, lots of politics.

  85. George Martin

    Joe @77 says:

    It’s really too bad you don’t focus more on science and less on politics, Phil. It’s getting to the point that about half of your posts are railing on some cause or another…

    A few people seem to say this. I just went through the last two weeks of Phil’s posts and I don’t see Joe’s complaint being anywhere near the fact. If I did my arithmetic correctly, there were 68 posts including four after this one. I counted twelve which could be said to be related somewhat to politics, including this one. Some were just whimsy, and one about skeptic meetings.

    It is my impression that the ratio above is pretty consistent in the longer term. Below I post all of the last two weeks titles, with the ones which I consider to have possible political comment flagged
    this way: “# Andrew Wakefield, martyr”

    Apologies for bad typing.

    George

    May 24th
    What is the Air Force doing with spacee?
    Lunar boulder hits a hole in one!
    # Andrew Wakefield, martyr
    Nearby planetary system is seriously screwed up
    Did Phoenix lose a wing?
    Cripes. Another rambling interview.

    May 25th
    Crazyviolent explosion shoots out two cosmic bullets
    Which world?
    Atlantis set to launch Wednesday morning at 08:48 EDT
    Munster Galaxy
    # Royal Ontario museum dips deep(ak)ly into nonsense

    May 26th
    Two solar ISS transits!
    Robot Wil Wheaton takes over the Universe
    Space X plans to launch the Falcom 9 this week!
    # Measles comes back, McCarthy’s revisionist history

    May 27th
    # When a biologist teaches creationism
    Two skeptics meetings in Europe this fall (and one in the US)
    # The new arithmetic endorsed by the Texas Board of Education
    Followup: Scramjet test a success

    May 28th
    Amateur astronomer spies on spy statllites
    # UVa will fight climate change attack
    A little weekend Saturn awesomeness
    Great airplane-mounted telescope sees first light!

    May 29th
    # BREAKING: Third time’s a charm, Congress passes science act
    Carnival of Space 155

    May 30th
    Amazing shot of ISS and Jupiter… during daytime!

    May 31st
    # Pray for the First Amendment

    June 1st
    Claire de lune
    # Wakefield’s walk of shame
    At least it wasn’t a Boulder
    What science is, from a freshly-minted scientist
    Is Betelgeuse about to blow?

    June 2nd
    # Climate Denial Crock of the Week
    Take a moment to just soak in a beautiful spiral
    Two upcoming spacecraft encounters
    # Followup: Rep. Ralph Hall’s unbelievable statement on science funding bill

    June 3rd:
    O no!
    Area astronomer interviewed in The Onion
    Jupiter gives us a taste of Armageddon
    Geek^infinity
    BREAKING: Another Jupiter impact?

    June 4th
    Space X to launch Falcon 9 at 15:00 UT today
    Folowup: Jupiter impact video, and a color picture!

    June 5th
    Atlantis schools Colbert
    Oh, those Falcon UFOs!
    Followup: Falcon 9 spiral light video

    June 6th
    Strained carrots is a dish best served cold

    June 7th
    # Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Tex) disses private space
    Three Quarks Daily writing contest
    Very Large Moonset… but not why you think
    Has life on Titan been discovered? No.
    Hard to port! Eject Goose, eject!

  86. Tyler Durden

    Two words: Pork barrel.

    Senators like this dimwit receive campaign contributions so they’ll continue to vote for bloated contracts to support the government-run space program. Seeing private enterprise succeed means fewer dollars submitted in bribes (err, I mean, campaign contributions) so naturally he’s upset.

  87. Perhaps what’s saddest is that Congress seems to have it in for NASA, and NASA is actually a fairly low rent government department when you compare it to – I dunno – fighting strange wars in foreign lands. 1 trillion dollars burned up in Iraq, it only cost 150 billion to put guys on the Moon (and that number is adjusted for inflation).

    NASA could be helping these people try to build their rockets if the government would only let them.

  88. melior

    Excellent analysis, your points are absolutely correct. But there’s really no mystery here:
    Follow the money, same as it ever was.

    The political posturing by Hutchison is a targeted show of support for JSC employees and their support contractors, who are powerful constituents of hers. She really could not care less about SpaceX. Likewise, Shelby is simply pandering to show his support for MSFC-dependent voters he desperately needs.

    Both JSC and MSFC communities retain some levels of fear, uncertainty, and denial about the loss of the Shuttle and Constellation programs, and want to continue to portray the decision as a mistake. It would be a violation of the GOoPer 11th Commandment for Kay Bailey Chucklehead to acknowledge that Bush made the decision, so she lies and blames President Obama. She really could not care less whether what she’s saying is the truth.

    Nelson and Kosma represent KSC, who under Obama’s new Space Plan get to manage the $5.8 billion commercial space flight contract for crewmember flights to the ISS, so they are quite happy to come out in support of SpaceX. KSC also gets almost $2B more to add additional commercial launch capability to their ground facilities.

  89. melior
  90. tony ostinato

    falcon 9 is a cool rocket.

    government rockets are getting to be too piecemeal, shuttle is bad that way and ares was getting worse. design by committee makes it hard to come up with a cool rocket.

    having a guy like von braun that everyone rallies around helps, but who is that guy now?

    and the problem with the gorvernment is the problem with the people, its easier to believe things the way you think they are. most people on the street when asked about space exploration will say the money should be spent here on earth.

    the most american thing i can think of is a guy who will do anything it takes with an “ill show them!” attitude that turns that public attitude around.

    (cue patriotic music)

    perhaps the saddest thing in the political debates is when people get so focused on being democratic or republican that they don’t recognize someone being american.

    (cue humorous music)

    and can anyone imagine running a government designed OS on their computer?

  91. Messier Tidy Upper

    there will be a four to five year gap, at least, between the Shuttle retirement and any new NASA heavy-lift rocket, no matter what Obama does.

    Ah, but what if Obama were to say (as, frankly, I think he should) :

    “Come what may, we will keep the Shuttles flying. We’ll give NASA however much it needs to do so and just keep flying the Atlantis, Endeavour and the Discovery until their replacement is ready. We just will not accept any delay longer than six months in our manned spaceflight program. However long that takes, the shuttle’s will fly until their replacement craft are ready to take over immediately. Meanwhile, we’ll pour money into its replacement program as well and do everything we can to speed that replacement program up – but we are NOT, repeat NOT going to give up on the US manned space program and we’re not going to be begging for charity or putting our astronauts careers and lives at the mercy of Russia or the commercial space agencies. We will not allow there to be *any* gap when we do not fly American astronauts on American NASA craft. Period.”

    I think that is what Obama should’ve done.

    If need be building another couple of new shuttles and maybe a revised “mark II” Shuttle to fill the gap. Plus he should’ve funded Constellation properly and insisted it be built as well – and got the money somewhere else.

    The human spaceflight program is too important to lose.

    The USA has its future and its pride on the line.

    I think Obama has got it totally wrong space-wise and I feel very betrayed by – and disappointed in – him in this critical area. :-(

  92. Robin S

    @ Messier Tidy Upper (94): Uhm, for the vast majority of its life, Constellation’s funding had nothing to do with Obama as he wasn’t president then. Even given that, funding was in the hands of Congress.

    With production lines shut down (pre-Obama), people laid off (pre-Obama), and critical spares in short supply, where would the money come from to get the Shuttle program going again? There is no money to run the Shuttle AND develop “heavy lift”. It’s a simple fact. The Aldridge commission said as much. The budget shows as much.

    Obama can say what he wants, but that means nothing when it comes to Congress approving funding for NASA. NASA has traditionally been under funded. Hell, expense was becoming a hot potato before Apollo was cancelled.

    A “Mark II shuttle?” Are you serious? That would require giving up going beyond LEO. I’ll say it again: the Shuttle has been an overly expensive, overly complex vehicle/system for its missions. It has been a huge money pit for NASA, taking away resources that could have been used to develop other systems that were more efficient, more cost effective.

    The human spaceflight program is not being “lost.” Not at all. In fact, there’s not a single objective piece of evidence that indicates that it is being lost.

    USA’s “future and pride on the line?” Oh, please. That’s something like what KBH or Sen. Shelby would say: complete political nonsense.

    It’s statements like those last two regarding “pride”, “future,” and human spaceflight being “lost” that render the whole debate as useless. It’s such statements that have prevented the program from moving forward in the past and will prevent it from moving forward in the future.

    Please, leave the hyperbole at the front door if you’re interested in having a serious discussion re: the future of the US space program.

  93. Messier Tidy Upper

    @ 86. George Martin Says:

    [Long list of BA blog posts for the past week]

    My top twelve personal faves there would have to be :

    1.Nearby planetary system is seriously screwed up
    2. Is Betelgeuse about to blow?
    3. Take a moment to just soak in a beautiful spiral
    4. Robot Wil Wheaton takes over the Universe
    5. Hard to port! Eject Goose, eject!
    6.Has life on Titan been discovered? No.
    7.Followup: Falcon 9 spiral light video
    8.Lunar boulder hits a hole in one!
    9.BREAKING: Another Jupiter impact?
    10.A little weekend Saturn awesomeness
    11. Great airplane-mounted telescope sees first light!
    12. O no!

    Which, of course, is entirely subjective & just me but there you go .. :-)

  94. Ian

    My favorite part of the SpaceX PR is where they point out that they developed Falcon-9 and Dragon and did the launch for less than the cost of the steel launch tower for Ares-1.

    That right there is all you need to know.

    SpaceX FTW
    NASA FTL

    Hypocrite politicians: weak sauce.

  95. Messier Tidy Upper

    @95. Robin S Says:

    @ Messier Tidy Upper (94): Uhm, for the vast majority of its life, Constellation’s funding had nothing to do with Obama as he wasn’t president then. Even given that, funding was in the hands of Congress.

    Obama is the individual who has decided to cancel Constellation and abandon the US plans to return to the Moon. At present, (&, yes, I sure *hope* this changes) Obama will go down in history as the President who killed off the US human presence in space – which is a huge disgraceful blot against Obama’s name and a massive betrayal of America and the whole Western world. Sorry but there’s no escaping that sad fact.

    In my view, Bush Jr was worse than Obama in many respects – but like it or not – & as it happens I don’t – when it comes to NASA and space policy I’m afraid the Lesser Bush is Astronomical Units ahead of the current administration. :-(

    With production lines shut down (pre-Obama), people laid off (pre-Obama), and critical spares in short supply, where would the money come from to get the Shuttle program going again? There is no money to run the Shuttle AND develop “heavy lift”. It’s a simple fact. The Aldridge commission said as much. The budget shows as much.

    We find the money. Somewhere. Anywhere. If its a priority – and it should be, then that’s what we do.

    Obama can say what he wants, but that means nothing when it comes to Congress approving funding for NASA. NASA has traditionally been under funded. Hell, expense was becoming a hot potato before Apollo was cancelled.

    So Obama needs to say that NASA has been underfunded and correct the situation – right?

    A “Mark II shuttle?” Are you serious?

    Yes.

    That would require giving up going beyond LEO.

    No it wouldn’t. It would mean doing & funding *both* – it isn’t either /or.

    Besides its not like we’re going beyond LEO now. :roll:

    I’ll say it again: the Shuttle has been an overly expensive, overly complex vehicle/system for its missions. It has been a huge money pit for NASA, taking away resources that could have been used to develop other systems that were more efficient, more cost effective.

    It is also one of if not *the* most remarkable creations Humanity has ever built and has taken more people into space than any other launch vehicle. Plus Hubble for which astronomers are always in its debt – plus the Magllan and Galileo spaceprobes to name just two of the more significant payloads the Shuttle has carried and launched onwards.

    The human spaceflight program is not being “lost.” Not at all. In fact, there’s not a single objective piece of evidence that indicates that it is being lost.

    Hmm .. So Obama cancels the manned return to the Moon and retires the Shuttle and there’s only very vague “hot air” talk of future trips to Mars the likes of which we’ve heard millions of times before with no detailed dates or concrete vehicles or deadlines a la JFK and that’s not evidence of something worrying to you? Really? :roll:

    If Obama had said “We will land Americans on Mars before this decade is out & here’s the program to do it” – *then* I’d be happier with him and accept that he was genuinely serious about planning to do it. As it is, not so much.

    USA’s “future and pride on the line?” Oh, please. That’s something like what KBH or Sen. Shelby would say: complete political nonsense.

    Political undoubtedly.
    Nonsense? If only ..

    Just because a Republican says it doesn’t mean its NOT true. :-(

    I very much *do* see the US future and US pride as being on the line. I don’t think its hyperbole to say so.

    It’s statements like those last two regarding “pride”, “future,” and human spaceflight being “lost” that render the whole debate as useless. It’s such statements that have prevented the program from moving forward in the past and will prevent it from moving forward in the future.

    Um .. what!? I’m not following you here at all.

    That sort of rhetoric is similar to what JFK said and has very much been a driving force behind the US space program methinks.

    Please, leave the hyperbole at the front door if you’re interested in having a serious discussion re: the future of the US space program.

    I don’t think what I’ve said is hyperbole & I am interested in a serious discussion about this.

  96. Messier Tidy Upper

    @97. Ian Says:

    My favorite part of the SpaceX PR is where they point out that they developed Falcon-9 and Dragon and did the launch for less than the cost of the steel launch tower for Ares-1. That right there is all you need to know.
    SpaceX FTW
    NASA FTL

    FTL = Faster Than Light!

    I presume that’s not your intended meaning? But then what is? ;-) :-P

    BTW. You do know NASA subsidised and funded SpaceX, Ian – right? Right?

    Corporations have been *talking* about going into space (esp. with people) for many decades.

    NASA has been *doing* going into space (esp. with people) for many decades.

    Go figure.

  97. Paul D.

    FTL = “For The Loss” (opposite of “For The Win”).

    NASA has a contract with SpaceX, but they developed their launchers on their own dime.

    NASA has indeed been doing space for many decades, at such horrendous expense they’ve reached a practical dead end. As Musk points out, economically efficient commercial providers are the only way NASA can move forward. Otherwise, NASA human spaceflight is “dead program walking”.

  98. Anton P. Nym

    @Messier: “when it comes to NASA and space policy I’m afraid the Lesser Bush is Astronomical Units ahead of the current administration. ”

    Only in rhetoric, and talk is cheap. The Bush administration consistantly underfunded NASA’s manned space program while giving them lofty goals and a bunch of spectacular but cheap photo ops. (The irony being that in one act, TARP, Bush laid out more money than was spent on the entire decade of Apollo; Mr. Potter won out over Moon-lassoing Bill Bailey there.)

    In that light, it’s amazing how much the unmanned program has accomplished under the same toxic conditions. “Faster, Lighter, Cheaper” paid off for them, admittedly at a cost of mission failures that would’ve been completely unacceptable had there been crews aboard.

    — Steve

  99. jfb

    @55 Anton:

    The problem is that any post-Constellation heavy lift project will be plagued by the same problems that ultimately killed Constellation; you must use these contractors in these districts, you must satisfy these egos, actual engineering considerations be damned.

    The manned program is a mess because *there is no justification for it*. Nobody’s explained why we *need* a manned space program. We don’t need it for basic exploration or scientific investigation; we’ve been doing that with unmanned probes for a while now, for far less money and far more time on site than what the manned program could accomplish (we’ve been exploring the ground on opposite sides of Mars concurrently for the last six years; there’s no way that would have happened with a manned mission). There’s no economic basis for it; there’s nothing out there that’s remotely worth the money to bring back, and again, it’s likely that we could do it far more cheaply with unmanned systems than with manned missions. Colonization is an economic enterprise; nobody’s going to set up permanent settlements on the moon or Mars unless they can make gobs of money doing so (and by “gobs”, I mean amounts that would make Bill Gates look like a minimum wage burger flipper). That leaves nationalism, and frankly, that’s a poor excuse for it. BFRs as phallic symbols and nothing more.

    *Why* send people past LEO? What sort of missions *require* a manned presence? What cannot be accomplished by unmanned systems *in principle*? And how *vital* will such missions be (scientifically, economically, politically)? Until these questions can be answered, there’s no reason to have a manned program in the first place. It just pisses away resources that can be better used elsewhere, both within and without NASA. I’m old enough to remember the Apollo landings, and I’d love to see the manned program get its act together, but the realist in me just keeps asking, “why?” What’s the point? What would the manned program give us that the unmanned program couldn’t?

  100. tony ostinato

    i saw ares as trying to replace one dangerous rocket with an even more dangerous rocket.

    i hope we never know how dangerous ares really was.

    nothing hurts the space program more than when people get needlessly killed by bad hardware.

    but the above messages about sinking tons of money into nasa and OMG building a new shuttle are so fantasy based you might as well make jessica alba the pilot too.

    the public is not gonna support nasa, the publics unanimous cry is that we shouldnt be wasting money we need at home on space exploration , and thats final.

    nothing nasa proposes at this point is gonna be wowzy enough to change that public opinion, not going to the moon again, not going to mars, not going to asteroids.

    in order to catch the eye of the post 2000 american public you would need to contact aliens who only live to serve free beer, or have weight loss pills, or have oil….

    its just not the same audience now, kids. in ’69 we had stuff like the beatles and led zeppelin and you could even have instrumentals as hits on the radio. attention spans were simply longer. whens the last time an instrumental was a hit?? people need instant and easy to get gratifiction they dont wanna wait 10 years to get to some planet to watch 2 guys pick up rocks.

    so blame bush all i want, blame obama all you want, its a waste of time. its purely the american public who is at fault. if they got behind a space plan then of course government would kiss the public ass and follow suit right away and wed be goin to space.

    if only space travel was as popular and interesting to people as football eh?

    private companies like spacex are the only way now, and if anything obama will be in history as understanding that.

    seriously go walk down the block and ask people how much funding nasa should get for manned space. nobody wants it.

    so if you thought ares had any chance of seein the moon under ANY administration your deluded. the public NEVER wouldve gone for the cost even if everything went perfectly and no lives were lost.

  101. Anton P. Nym

    @jfb: I can think of one driving justification for manned exploration beyond LEO: the itch of the ambiguous results from the Viking life sciences experiments back in 1976. On-scene presence would’ve been better able to note what was going on, and perhaps even have been able to repeat the experiment on-site. That, or a sample-return mission which is a bit dodgy when looking for signs of life…

    — Steve

  102. Robin S

    @ Messier (98): I guess I didn’t realize that arguments could be based on flights of fancy and didn’t have to be realistic, logical, or even remotely feasible.

    Heck, apparently all we have to do is just make the money appear. Who knew? Golly, that was simple.

    You’ve got the political speech down. You could be Kay Bailey Hutchison’s speech writer or campaign manager.

  103. Robin S

    @tony ostinato (103): You are right about public interest in space flight, right now, but I don’t think it necessarily has anything to do with differences in attention span or summat between the ’60′s and now. Public interest in the Apollo program waned really quickly. The problem has several roots: NASA can’t advertise, so it’s difficult for them to sell what they do; NASA’s PAO has always been dysfunctional or lackluster, at best; science/math/tech education in the US is bad and frankly holds little interest for the majority of the population, so things scientific get little traction in public interest; the reality of space exploration doesn’t match the “wow” of Hollywood space adventures.

    In terms of funding, NASA is never going to be a big ticket line in the budget, at least judging by history. I’d love for NASA to get a huge budget increase, but neither the public nor Congress has any interest in that. As such, NASA needs to become more lean and focused. Part of doing that is COTS and expanding/opening a role for private industry in LEO operations. Part of doing that is shutting down bloated fiascos like Constellation. Part of that is finding solutions for space travel that are innovative and cost effective. Pat of of that is NASA learning how to parlay technological and mission success into more dollars, learning how to play the publicity game.

  104. TheBlackCat

    So Obama needs to say that NASA has been underfunded and correct the situation – right?

    How, exactly? You do realize that the budget is decided by congress, not be the president, right?

  105. jfb

    @Anton:

    Which is largely the impetus behind the design of the Mars Science Laboratory. It will perform pretty much the kind of analysis you’re talking about (once it gets there; yes, it’s behind schedule and over budget, quelle surprise, and EDL will be trickier than anything sent so far, but I do have some confidence it will land safely and perform at least as well as the MERs).

    Again, this kind of thing doesn’t *require* a manned presence, just a capability to perform multiple tests, which can be commanded from Earth just as easily as on site.

    @Robin:

    Well, in a sense, the money *can* be made to appear; imagine what reallocating 5% of the defense budget (~$30 billion as of FY 2010) would buy. Of course, the chances of that happening are effectively nil. Cutting defense spending during wartime is nigh impossible, and even if it could happen, there are plenty of other programs that would likely get the money long before NASA was even considered (or, even better, *just not spend it in the first place*). But, in principle, the money could be found to do the sorts of things Messier is talking about. It’s mostly a matter of political will.

    I would rather kill the manned program outright, though.

  106. TheBlackCat

    Well, in a sense, the money *can* be made to appear; imagine what reallocating 5% of the defense budget (~$30 billion as of FY 2010) would buy. Of course, the chances of that happening are effectively nil. Cutting defense spending during wartime is nigh impossible, and even if it could happen, there are plenty of other programs that would likely get the money long before NASA was even considered (or, even better, *just not spend it in the first place*). But, in principle, the money could be found to do the sorts of things Messier is talking about. It’s mostly a matter of political will.

    First, you are right this is not going to happen, but even more this is not within Obama’s power to change. He has the power to shift some of that money around within the military, but he cannot take money intended for one branch of government and send it to another. That is just not within the executive branch’s authority. Nor is it within the executive branch’s authority to spend more for a given department than congress has allotted it.

  107. Anton P. Nym

    Regarding public interest and budgeting, I wonder how the American public would absorb the CVN-76, the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, costing over $4 billion to construct. That’s just to get the ship out of the shipyard, and doesn’t buying the roughly 100 aircraft that make up her complement (one F/A-18E naval fighter-bomber aircraft costs about $12 million… not all aircraft will cost that much, but the electronic warfare birds cost vastly more so let’s take that as an average) for another billion-plus bucks. And then there’s the costs of crewing her and operating those planes…

    Almost all surveys show the US public thinking that NASA and foreign aid receive vastly more money than they actually do, and badly underestimating how much is spent on the military. (Military spending consumed roughly 23% of the FY2009 US federal budget. NASA’s funding is, by comparison, within a rounding error of 0%.) If NASA could actually address that public misconception effectively, they might not be so badly short-changed when they finally present a compelling case for manned voyages beyond LEO.

    — Steve

  108. jfb

    @TheBlackCat:

    Oh, absolutely, that’s something Congress would have to do. I didn’t intend to leave the impression that this was something Obama could do by fiat. Just that the numbers were there, if anyone wanted to do the jiggling.

  109. vince charles

    Paul D.:

    “NASA has a contract with SpaceX, but they developed their launchers on their own dime.”

    PWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAA!!!!!!!!

    The SpaceX engine was taken from TRW and MSFC designs.

  110. TheBlackCat

    Today’s Abstruse Goose has some relevance to this subject:

    WARNING_just_reading_this_comic_could_make_you_stupider

  111. Messier Tidy Upper

    @86. George Martin Says:

    A few people seem to say this. I just went through the last two weeks of Phil’s posts and I don’t see Joe’s complaint being anywhere near the fact. If I did my arithmetic correctly, there were 68 posts including four after this one. I counted twelve which could be said to be related somewhat to politics, including this one. Some were just whimsy, and one about skeptic meetings.

    Another measure of these posts is which ones I’ve forwarded on to other friends online :

    Of those 68 posts (almost all of which I’ve enjoyed btw) I’ve sent folks links to these ones :

    1. Is Betelgeuse about to blow?
    2.Nearby planetary system is seriously screwed up
    3. Robot Wil Wheaton takes over the Universe
    4. Has life on Titan been discovered? No.
    5. A little weekend Saturn awesomeness

    &

    6. O no!

    Again, this is just a personal & totally subjective measure of which BA Blog posts I wish to forward on.

    Discussing politics reminds me of wrestling with a pig – it could be entertaining and fun but it’s a bit of a silly thing to do and you’re likely to end up hot and covered in filth rather than really getting anywhere pleasant! ;-)

    (Actually that analogy probably make politics sound more fun than it usually is doesn’t it? ;-) )

    Politics (esp. in the USA but in general worldwide) seems to degenerate very quickly and tends to get extremely polarising and unproductive. Rationality and politics don’t appear to mix well if at all.

  112. Richard Woods

    Phil, have you forgotten that early in 2009 several leading Republicans flatly stated that they wanted Obama to fail? They didn’t wish for his programs to save the country. They wished for him to fail, regardless of the effect on the country.

    Ken in #76 has it right.

    Senator Hutchison’s statement is simply an example of how Republicans are determined to portray every event as an Obama failure, regardless of whether that makes them seem hypocritical. Perception of Obama failure is more important than perception of GOP self-consistency.

    Republican strategists view their party’s political power as more important than whether Democratic policies benefit this country, because they are so convinced that their conservative worldview is the _only_ correct worldview.

  113. Woody Tanaka

    “So, Woody, would you continue to exempt the capitalistic contractors (Boeing, Lockheed-Martin etc.) who have been building and operating NASA’s launch systems for the past fifty years?”

    @65 Ad Hominid, If it were up to me, I would make the same requirement of existing contractors.

  114. I suspect the diffference is that the KSC will make Florida important to the space industry for several decades to come – but that a sensibly run business based space programme will look at the factories and facilities scattered across the southern states and say, “Screw that! We don’t need you guys!”

    NASA was deliberately spread out so much to give it political support in congress. This makes it really hard to cancel the US Space Programme – but also really hard to change it as well, since all the various senitors and congresspeople don’t want to loose their share of the pie. This is why things like the DC-X and X-33 get knocked down. If they worked, a huge chunk of people would suddenly become unemployed.

    The Falccon 9 doesn’t need the Johnson space centre, any more than a communication satellite in GSO needs a crew of 100 to man the switchboards and replace the vacuum tubes. It’s useful in the short term, but only as long as NASA insists on it being so. And if NASA becomes less important then…

  115. Messier Tidy Upper

    @105. Robin S Says:

    @ Messier (98): I guess I didn’t realize that arguments could be based on flights of fancy and didn’t have to be realistic, logical, or even remotely feasible.Heck, apparently all we have to do is just make the money appear. Who knew? Golly, that was simple.You’ve got the political speech down. You could be Kay Bailey Hutchison’s speech writer or campaign manager.

    Cool – could I quote you as my reference for her then – I could use some more work right now! ;-)

    Actually, I rather doubt she’d employ an Australian and someone who disagrees with a lot of the Republican party’s policies at that.

    As for “flights of fancies” – remember Apollo and remember how we built the Endeavour orbiter to replace the lost Challenger.

    I really think that we *do* have the technology and the knowledge, we have the capability to build new shuttles and to build their replacements and successors as well. All that is lacking is the funding and the political will.

    Obama is – at least part – of the reason for both those problems.

    Obama lacks the will to fund NASA enough to do these things. Period. :-(

    Yes Congress plays an important role too.

    Yes Bush II may have been more rhetoric than action – but, in fairness to him (& I’m no great fan of his), he came up a Lunar return plan where Obama is just cancelling that plan & does NOT seem to be putting forward a real plan to go to Mars – just talk. Besides Bush is history – he isn’t the issue here or especially relevant to this debate any more.

    The buck does now stop with the current President Of The United States who is the one in a position to get things done – or not – and that individual is Barack Obama. It is up to him – and, to a lesser degree, Congress too. (I won’t pretend to be a huge expert on the US political system which isn’t mine but the US president can over-ride Congress and can direct and set a leading example directing it – no?)

    A lot of money is spent on other things, for example, funding arts and sports, subsidising farms and giving aid to nations like China and India and Israel that could be put to better use. If we really have to find the money for something (eg. War on Terror) then we find it.

    Well, I think we *do* have to do this & we have to get the funds for it. It should be a priority – we should fund the space program like we did in the Apollo days.

    What we’ve done before – with lesser technology available than we have now – we can do again better. Can’t we? If not, then why not?

    Why exactly is my suggestion of keeping the Shuttles flying longer a “flight of fancy” given we’ve already got them and know how to fly and maintain them and even build more of them?

    If we could build Apollo and Saturn V‘s back in the 1960′s (programs which also suffered severe criticism and teething troubles at the time btw)then why the blazes is it “unfeasible” or “unrealistic” to suggest we can build Ares and Constellation today?

  116. Pi-needles

    @79. Robn S.

    Alas, my opinion is just my own.

    Well at least its’s nobody elses! ;-)

    [Braveheart voice on] They can take my life but they can never take … My Opinion! [/Braveheart voice off.]

  117. TheBlackCat

    Obama is – at least part – of the reason for both those problems.

    Obama lacks the will to fund NASA enough to do these things. Period. :-(

    You aren’t listening. Obama does not have the power to fund anything. That is congress’s decision. He can only move the funds around a little.

    Yes Bush II may have been more rhetoric than action – but, in fairness to him (& I’m no great fan of his), he came up a Lunar return plan where Obama is just cancelling that plan & does NOT seem to be putting forward a real plan to go to Mars – just talk.

    There is a big difference: Bush expected NASA to do twice the work with less money, while Obama is cutting projects to get enough money to get what he wants done.

    I won’t pretend to be a huge expert on the US political system which isn’t mine but the US president can over-ride Congress and can direct and set a leading example directing it – no?

    Absolutely not. The president can most definitely NOT do this. We have something called the separation of powers, Congress has certain powers and the President has others. The president cannot override congress. If you don’t have any clue what you are talking about then perhaps you should either shut up before you starting talking with such confidence on the subject.

    A lot of money is spent on other things, for example, funding arts and sports, subsidising farms and giving aid to nations like China and India and Israel that could be put to better use.

    Great, tell congress. The president cannot redirect those funds. As I keep saying, but you keep totally ignoring, it is totally outside the powers of the executive branch to move funds from U.S. department to another.

    Why exactly is my suggestion of keeping the Shuttles flying longer a “flight of fancy” given we’ve already got them and know how to fly and maintain them and even build more of them?

    We can’t without money. If you want the money convince congress to give it.

  118. jfb

    If we could build Apollo and Saturn V’s back in the 1960’s (programs which also suffered severe criticism and teething troubles at the time btw)then why the blazes is it “unfeasible” or “unrealistic” to suggest we can build Ares and Constellation today?

    Apollo was new and shiny and cost didn’t matter. 40 years later, manned spaceflight is old hat and cost *definitely* matters, especially after the Shuttle and the ISS.

    The problem isn’t technology. The manned program has proven time and again that it *cannot* control (or even estimate) costs. It always oversells capability, it always lowballs cost and effort, and it allows political considerations to interefere with or outright trump engineering decisions.

    Part of that’s the nature of the beast; no congresscritter worth his or her salary is going to vote to allocate billions of dollars without making sure some of those dollars wind up back in his or her district. There are always going to be demands that NASA use this contractor, or develop components in that state, do the integration somewhere else, etc. But beyond that, the manned program is simply a mess. It always has been.

    Frankly, I doubt that NASA, as it is currently organized, can get people out of LEO ever again.

  119. Messier Tidy Upper

    Far as the BA’s posts go I will just add that I did find the “Climate crock” videoclips linked (& that I first found about from here) very interesting and informative and they have changed my views on that issue somewhat. I haven’t forwarded them on to anyone & I don’t know that they’d quite count as my “favourites” exactly but still ..

    @ 121. jfb :

    Frankly, I doubt that NASA, as it is currently organized, can get people out of LEO ever again.

    Yikes!

    I really, *really* hope you are wrong about that. :-(

    @120. TheBlackCat :

    Great, tell congress. The president cannot redirect those funds.

    But isn’t telling – & convincing – Congress the President’s job after all?

    I very much doubt *I* could tell or convince Congress of anything, I’m just an Aussie layperson – but the POTUS Obama, OTOH …

    If *he* wanted it to happen I reckon he could make it happen. Surely?

  120. Messier Tidy Upper

    If a President cannot get Congress to do what he wishes them to do then what use is he anyhow? :-(

  121. TheBlackCat

    But isn’t telling – & convincing Congress the President’s job after all?

    No, the President’s job is to execute the laws passed by congress, hence the name “executive branch”. It is part of our checks and balances, congress passes laws, executive branch carries them out. Basically the only power the president has over laws is to veto them, and congress can overturn his veto.

    The president, like everyone else in the country, is allowed to propose laws to congress (budgets are basically a special type of law), but once he does he is totally out of the loop, he has no power whatsoever to impact whether the law actually gets passed (except for the power everyone else in the country has to ask members of congress to pass it). The president has more clout than the average american so congress is more likely to listen to him, but he has no power whatsoever to make congress do anything it doesn’t want to do (except perhaps call a special session, I don’t recall for sure).

    And no president is going to propose a law or budget that he knows has zero chance of congress agreeing to, which is the case with your proposal.

    If *he* wanted it to happen I reckon he could make it happen. Surely?

    No, in fact the entire U.S. system of government was explicitly designed so the President could not “make it happen”. He can say what he thinks should happen, but he has no power whatsoever to “make it happen”. And even if he wanted to double NASA’s budget so they could do twice the amount of work, there is no way congress would ever approve that, especially not when the Republican party has said flat-out they would do their best to block anything he tries to do.

    Let me explain this one last time: the president has no power whatsoever to determine how much money a department in the U.S. government gets, or how money is distributed amongst the departments in the government. The U.S. system of government was explicitly designed to prevent the President from having that sort of power.

    Please, please, please learn at least a little bit about the subject before you go spouting this sort of nonsense. Making a mistake up front is one thing, but to continue making the mistake after being carefully and repeatedly corrected smacks of willful ignorance.

  122. TheBlackCat

    I should add, there is a name for a system of government where the head of the executive branch can just “make it happen”. It is called a “dictatorship”.

  123. jfb

    @122 Messier:

    Congress does not answer to the President. He cannot *make* Congress do anything. He can encourage, cajole, beg, plead, trade political favors, etc., but that’s the extent of it. He can veto a bill he doesn’t like, but Congress can override that veto with enough votes.

    As originally envisioned by the founding fathers, Congress is supposed to run the show, not the President (well, okay, they run the show *together*, but there’s a reason Article I of the Consititution is devoted to the Legislative branch and not the Executive). The U.S. government was *designed* to be slow and inefficient in order to prevent any one individual from wreaking too much havoc. The Consititution can be amended, and Congress can award additional powers to the President through legislation, but until that happens (and it will, eventually, because we are stupid) Congress is still in charge.

    So, no, the President could not make anything of this magnitude happen if Congress was opposed to it. Under most circumstances, that’s a *good* thing.

    And no, I do not believe NASA will ever get people out of LEO unless *radical* changes happen both within and without the program. The manned program is paralyzed by politics. Engineering decisions are secondary to political considerations. It makes no sense to spread programs across all fifty states, except that’s the only way to get various congresscritters to not cut your budget. It makes no sense to use a solid booster as the first stage for your manned launcher, except that’s how you keep a bunch of people on the payroll.

    It’s always been a mess, it’s just that during the Apollo program we were willing to live with it. Not anymore.

  124. Messier Tidy Upper

    Hmm… I thought the President had a lot more power than that. :-(

    That the President could decide policy directions and essentially lead the US (& lets face it the rest of the “Free /Western world as well!) as he so chooses – with a few exceptions and a few checks & balances (eg. Constitution, Courts, Congress) but otherwise pretty much in total charge.

    Okay, maybe I don’t understand the US system as well as I thought I did – but that’s how I *thought* the system essentially worked and where, ultimately, the power was vested.

    (Aside from the People – voters anyhow – in choosing the President via the Electoral court which is another story again I know – or think I have an idea of anyhow! ;-) )

    So doesn’t the President lead the US, isn’t *that* his role???

    Isn’t that what he is elected for as the chosen representative of the US populace? To run the country together with but effectively above the Congress on the behalf of its citizens?

    I thought the POTUS was the head of the Executive branch of government with Congress acting as a means through which he worked and also in part as a check on his power but with the other branches being the Judicial (ie. Supreme Court) & then the administrative – the Public Service, the clarks, lawyers, advisors, secretaries, department and agency heads, police, public school principles, etc .. who do the mundane work of drafting and enforcing laws and policies but don’t decide the policies or make the decisions themselves.

    You make the POTUS sound so powerless & unable to actually effect anything – more a symbolic figurehead like our Australian Governor general as opposed to our Aussie Prime Minister – which doesn’t seem to be the case.

    If there’s a clash between the Congress and the President as there was in the Clinton years doesn’t the President “out-rank” Congress or its individual top dog. (Speaker?) If it comes down to the crunch in the power struggle – can’t the President overcome Congress usually unless its an impeachment and even there – that hasn’t ever happened and only been a threat?

    I don’t want or advocate dictatorship but the system has to be one that works with somebody ultimately in charge and responsible for seeing things happen (or not as the case may be.) That guy is supposed to be the President with Congress acting as a check on his power – right? Or wrong still?

    I’m confused by this I must admit. :-(

  125. Messier Tidy Upper

    @125. TheBlackCat Says:

    I should add, there is a name for a system of government where the head of the executive branch can just “make it happen”. It is called a “dictatorship”.

    *Elections.*

    My understanding is that makes the difference between the sort of representative democracy where you elect a President (or, in my case, the Aussie Prime Minister) and a dictatorship.

    In a dictatorship, you have a single man or party or general or somebody – ruling without needing the consent of the people and without holding free and fair elections.

    In the USA voters (in purest distillated essence) vote to choose a President (& /via Congressmen and a whole melee of side mechanisms eg. electoral court) along with your Congress – but power is ultimately vested in the President through the will of the People (or at least voting citizens) and thus he *is* the one chosen to make things happen and run the nation.

    There are “checks and balances” (of which Congress is one) and some restrictions – but in the end, the President Of The United States is the person /office where the buck finally stops and who has to make the final decisions on what happens or doesn’t. Right?

    Similarly, in Australia we elect our Prime Minister via our local parliament and its representatives – Senators and Members of Parliament (MPs) – and thePM is effectively theman in charge. Again, there are checks like parliament and the Courts and the Constitution but, in essence, the PM is the one in charge. Until he gets voted out at the pleasure of us citizens and replaced by the opposition party’s leader. Or, alternatively overthrown and replaced from within his own party. (BTW. Both strong possiblities for us at the moment as our current PM, Kevin Rudd, is highly unpopular & facing a possible election loss later this year & also many in his party are calling for his replacement by his deputy.)

    Contrastingly in a dictatorship the people are either totally ignored and repressed with no say in the government at all or the vote is rigged (eg. Iran) or restricted (eg. one name on the ballot, no secret ballot, etc .. explaining why, eg., Saddam Hussein got nearly 100% of the “vote”) so that this is effectively the case and there is no free political choice.

    Contrasting also there are nations where is essentially is no government where the nation is occupied or in civil war or a state of anarchy (Somalia, some other third world hellholes, Afghanistan throughout much of its history) which wrecks theplace -somebody does need tobe incharge of things and running tehshow to provide at minimum law and order and foreign policy plus ideally education, helath etc .. )

    So the Presient as Iunderstood was teh one who could just make it happen & yet is NOTa dicttor because he was , inessence elected “king” and restricted by afew things suchas teh Cionstititon and elections yet still able to decide most things outside those limits. Incl., specifically, NASA and the future space exploration & development policy.

    Is this picture wrong somewhere and, if so, where?

  126. Messier Tidy Upper

    Sorry about the typos – ran out of editing time. :-(

    Hope you get my meaning regardless.

    If Congress clashes with the President – who usually wins?

    I’ll also confess there’s a certain amount of passionate frustration in my earlier comments (eg. # 122) too.

    I know its hard but surely it’s something that could be tried if the President cared strongly enough to do so. Surely he’s somebody whose input (unlike mine! ;-) ) really matters!

  127. Messier Tidy Upper

    Finally, if Obama can get his healthcare reform through Congress despite enormous opposition then why not this proposed future space exploration policy?

    If he cares enough and fights hard enough then he should be able to get it through – shouldn’t he?

  128. TheBlackCat

    That the President could decide policy directions and essentially lead the US (& lets face it the rest of the “Free /Western world as well!) as he so chooses – with a few exceptions and a few checks & balances (eg. Constitution, Courts, Congress) but otherwise pretty much in total charge.

    Completely and totally wrong. Try reading the U.S. constitution, it is pretty clear on the matter.

    Okay, maybe I don’t understand the US system as well as I thought I did – but that’s how I *thought* the system essentially worked and where, ultimately, the power was vested.

    You thought wrong.

    So doesn’t the President lead the US, isn’t *that* his role???

    There is different meanings of lead. Being able to decide how the laws are carried out gives the president a lot of power. He also is the head of all the government agencies. So congress decides their funding, but he decides what they do with it within the bounds set by congress. Also, the president is the head of the military (but he isn’t supposed to be able to start a conflict without congress’s approval). Further, he popularity gives him power, because if members of congress agree with a popular president it can increase their popularity. But that is only because it will help them get re-elected, so they obviously aren’t going to help the president do something unpopular with the everyday people. The president’s power when it comes to enacting laws is more his power to make deals and use his popularity and role as the head and most public figure of his party to his advantage, rather than any enumerated powers set forth under the constitution. I practice this seems to give him a lot more power than the founding fathers apparently intended, although the President’s power has increased substantially lately.

    Isn’t that what he is elected for as the chosen representative of the US populace? To run the country together with but effectively above the Congress on the behalf of its citizens?

    No.

    I thought the POTUS was the head of the Executive branch of government with Congress acting as a means through which he worked and also in part as a check on his power but…

    Completely and totally wrong.

    You make the POTUS sound so powerless & unable to actually effect anything – more a symbolic figurehead like our Australian Governor general as opposed to our Aussie Prime Minister – which doesn’t seem to be the case.

    Prime ministers have a LOT more power than presidents because their is no separation between legislative and executive branches, but they are also much more vulnerable for the same reason. Presidential systems of government are totally different than parliamentary systems for that reason.

    If there’s a clash between the Congress and the President as there was in the Clinton years doesn’t the President “out-rank” Congress or its individual top dog. (Speaker?) If it comes down to the crunch in the power struggle – can’t the President overcome Congress usually unless its an impeachment and even there – that hasn’t ever happened and only been a threat?

    No, quite the opposite. When there is a clash between the President and congress the president becomes totally powerless, unable to get anything done. That is what happened during the Clinton years and that is what is happening now.

    I don’t want or advocate dictatorship but the system has to be one that works with somebody ultimately in charge and responsible for seeing things happen (or not as the case may be.) That guy is supposed to be the President with Congress acting as a check on his power – right? Or wrong still?

    Your ideas have absolutely no similarity to reality in any way whatsoever.

    Please at least read the U.S. constitution, it is not very long and the powers are pretty clearly outlined there. You don’t even need to get into the amendments, just read the initial portion.

    My understanding is that makes the difference between the sort of representative democracy where you elect a President (or, in my case, the Aussie Prime Minister) and a dictatorship.

    In a dictatorship, you have a single man or party or general or somebody – ruling without needing the consent of the people and without holding free and fair elections.

    In the USA voters (in purest distillated essence) vote to choose a President (& /via Congressmen and a whole melee of side mechanisms eg. electoral court) along with your Congress – but power is ultimately vested in the President through the will of the People (or at least voting citizens) and thus he *is* the one chosen to make things happen and run the nation.

    Ignoring your totally wrong ideas about how the U.S. system of government works, the problem is that if the President has the powers you describe, he can easily turn it into a dictatorship. For instance he can choose supreme court justices that will rule him dictator, he can set laws that will allow him to manipulate elections, he can end all funding to congress so they can’t do any work, or use the federal police or military to block them from entering. A president with no checks on his power like you describe can in a very short period of time turn the U.S. into an effective dictatorship.

    Similarly, in Australia we elect our Prime Minister via our local parliament and its representatives – Senators and Members of Parliament (MPs) – and thePM is effectively theman in charge. Again, there are checks like parliament and the Courts and the Constitution but, in essence, the PM is the one in charge. Until he gets voted out at the pleasure of us citizens and replaced by the opposition party’s leader. Or, alternatively overthrown and replaced from within his own party. (BTW. Both strong possiblities for us at the moment as our current PM, Kevin Rudd, is highly unpopular & facing a possible election loss later this year & also many in his party are calling for his replacement by his deputy.)

    The fact that parliament can remove the executive from power at any time for any reason means it is a lot safer to give the executive power over congress. Our system makes it very hard to remove the president from power, and even that is only supposed to be used for “high crimes and misdemeanors”, not political differences (although that has been what it was used for the two instances where it has been tried, it has never once succeeded).

    So the Presient as Iunderstood was teh one who could just make it happen & yet is NOTa dicttor because he was , inessence elected “king” and restricted by afew things suchas teh Cionstititon and elections yet still able to decide most things outside those limits. Incl., specifically, NASA and the future space exploration & development policy.

    Completely and totally wrong.

    Is this picture wrong somewhere and, if so, where?

    Yes, your picture is wrong everywhere and in every way. It does not bear even the slightest resemblance to how things work.

    If Congress clashes with the President – who usually wins?

    Depends on who is trying to get things done. If the president wants to get things done, then congress wins 100% of the time. If congress wants to get things done, that depends on whether they have a 2/3 majority agreeing on the issue. If they don’t, which is usually the case, then the president can veto the bill. If they do, then they can overcome the veto. But usually of things don’t get done it is blamed on the president rather than congress (even though it is congress’s responsibility), so stonewalling is usually more advantageous for congress.

    I know its hard but surely it’s something that could be tried if the President cared strongly enough to do so. Surely he’s somebody whose input (unlike mine! ;-) ) really matters!

    You still say this? No, he can’t. Period, end of story. IT CANNOT BE DONE!

  129. jfb

    So doesn’t the President lead the US, isn’t *that* his role???

    Not as originally envisioned, no. The *perception* of the President’s role has changed, especially since the advent of television, and Congress has been deferring power to the Executive since the Cold War. Congress still basically runs the show, though.

    You make the POTUS sound so powerless & unable to actually effect anything – more a symbolic figurehead like our Australian Governor general as opposed to our Aussie Prime Minister – which doesn’t seem to be the case.

    Not at all; the POTUS *does* have real power in many areas. The Executive’s role is to enforce the laws passed by the Legislature, and to that end he has quite a bit of authority. He’s the CinC of all the armed forces during wartime; he has extensive law enforcement powers (through the Justice department); he appoints judges, ambassadors, and other federal officers (with Congressional approval required for some of them); he plays a significant role in foreign policy (again, though, some things require Congressional approval). He can direct policy in those departments under his control (Justice, Housing, EPA, etc.), which has a significant effect on the daily lives of most Americans. And the biggie is that he can decide whether a bill becomes law or not (although Congress can override a veto with enough votes). The President cannot dictate what goes into the budget, but he can control whether the budget becomes law, which gives him *some* leverage over what programs get funded.

    If there’s a clash between the Congress and the President as there was in the Clinton years doesn’t the President “out-rank” Congress or its individual top dog. (Speaker?) If it comes down to the crunch in the power struggle – can’t the President overcome Congress usually unless its an impeachment and even there – that hasn’t ever happened and only been a threat?

    In terms of *defined* power, Congress wins. Congress has the power to remove a sitting President (for “high crimes and misdemeanors”, a frustratingly vague and elusive term), but the President cannot remove any member of Congress (not directly, anyway). *Politically* speaking, it can go either way; back in the mid-90s, Congressional Republicans clashed with President Clinton over the budget and demanded cuts the President wasn’t willing to make, causing parts of the government to shut down for lack of funds (again, Congress determines the budget, but the President has to sign it into law for it to take effect). The idea was that Clinton would be blamed for the shutdown and suffer politically, but the tactic backfired spectacularly. Clinton wound up being re-elected, and the Speaker (Newt Gingrich) lost his seat.

    So why doesn’t Obama use that leverage to double NASA’s budget for the manned program? We’re fighting two wars, the economy is still struggling, the national debt is in the trillions, and the manned program is a *money pit*. It’s a drop in the bucket in the overall budget, but we’re still talking about tens of billions-with-a-b of dollars for a *very* visible program with no visible payoff. When it comes to basic science, the unmanned program absolutely spanks the manned program; the entire Mars exploration program has proven that you really don’t need boots on the ground to perform amazing and valuable scientific research. Until someone can articulate *why* we need to send people back to the Moon or to Mars (beyond the usual lame “because it’s there” or “human need to explore” excuses), there’s no reason for the manned program to exist.

  130. Messier Tidy Upper

    @ 131. TheBlackCat & 132. jfb :

    Okay. That’s a mind*** for me. Thanks for that explanation I guess. :-)

    It turns everything I used to think about US politics pretty much on its head!

    The president’s power when it comes to enacting laws is more his power to make deals and use his popularity and role as the head and most public figure of his party to his advantage, rather than any enumerated powers set forth under the constitution. – The Black Cat

    That’s it … that’s all? .. Yegods!! It seems pathetic really if you don’t mind me saying so. That’s .. whew, it’ll take me awhile to get my head around that. :-(

    Prime ministers have a LOT more power than presidents because their is no separation between legislative and executive branches, but they are also much more vulnerable for the same reason. Presidential systems of government are totally different than parliamentary systems for that reason.

    I’m used to the parliamentary system where the PM usually – not always coz he still has to deal with parliament & his own party but generally has a majority – gets his wayand can dictate what tehpolicies and agendas are going to be.

    I had thought – okay wrongly I get *that* much now – that your system was fairly similar (a western Representative democracy along the British~ish lines) to ours except witha much *more* – not LESS – powerful “Chief”. Looks like our national systems are very much more different than I thought.

    If the president wants to get things done, then congress wins 100% of the time. … No, he can’t. Period, end of story. IT CANNOT BE DONE! – The Black Cat

    Goshdurnnit that sucks!! :-(

    That really sucks. :-(

    How the blazes do you manage to run *anything* like that!?!

    I mena I know you do, somehow it just .. it’s just .. whoah that sounds like a messed up way of running things to me. :-(

    [Shakes head, knows its true but *still* has trouble reallybelieving the President is *that* powerless vs Congress.]

  131. Messier Tidy Upper

    But ..but .. how does the President ever get anything done like the healthcare reforms he passed just recently?

    How was JFK effectively able to get momentum going for Apollo then .. ?

    Wow. :-(

    (Yes, yes, I’ll try and research more & read your constitution if I can find it somewhere.)

  132. TheBlackCat

    How the blazes do you manage to run *anything* like that!?!

    The whole point of the system is to make it as difficult as possible to get anything done. The people who designed our government were very distrustful of government so they went out of their way to limit it. Making the various branches of government have to fight each other was one of the ways they made sure that no one branch could gain too much power or get stuff done too easily. It makes it hard for them to do stupid stuff, which is good, but it also makes it hard to do necessary stuff, which is bad. Parliamentary systems make it much easier to do necessary stuff, but also much easier to do stupid stuff. It is a trade-off, by making it easier to respond to serious problems you also make abuse easier, by making abuse harder you also make it harder to respond to serious problems.

    But ..but .. how does the President ever get anything done like the healthcare reforms he passed just recently?

    Because he was able to convince enough members of congress to go along with it. That is why it took so long, it was extremely hard for him to convince enough people to vote for it, especially when the republican party refused to vote for it under any circumstances for political reasons. It took months and months of deal-making, modification, and compromise before he could get enough members of congress to agree to vote for it. He was totally at the mercy of congress, he could do nothing whatsoever without their approval.

    How was JFK effectively able to get momentum going for Apollo then .. ?

    See previous, but he didn’t have to deal with one party stonewalling the process and there was overwhelming public support thanks to the cold war so it wasn’t as hard.

  133. jfb

    But ..but .. how does the President ever get anything done like the healthcare reforms he passed just recently?

    It’s all about politics; either trading political favors (I’ll vote for this bill if you give me X) or applying political pressure (vote for this bill or we’ll support a challenger in the next primary). Presidents like LBJ managed to collect long strings of markers throughout their political careers that they called in once they were in office.

    Sometimes it’s a matter of making your case clearly and forcefully. Sometimes it’s a matter of compromise. Sometimes it’s threatening political Armageddon. Sometimes it’s making your case directly to the American people and have them harass their representatives (this was a major factor in the HCR battle last year). Sometimes it’s gaming the press. Sometimes it’s all of the above.

  134. jfb

    BTW, the Apollo program was an *easy* sell, relatively speaking; we were competing with the Soviet Union, after all, and at that point we were woefully behind. The space race was a proxy for the entire cold war; nothing like waving a BFR at your enemies to show what you could do if they got frisky.

    Make no mistake, the Apollo program had dick-all to do with science or exploration; it was *all* about demonstrating technical superiority over a hated enemy. That we managed to get something useful out of it was a secondary consideration.

    As far as the Constitution itself, here’s one online version, with some commentary. It’s helpful to remember that this is a document drafted in the late 18th century, so the language as well as the intent behind it is a little archaic. One of the more fun arguments happening in American legal circles (for suitably small value of “fun”) is how much weight should be given to the literal text of the Constitution vs. the intent of the authors, and how that affects its interpretation in the modern day.

  135. Norris Hall

    After years of harping about how government can’t do anything right and if you want to get anything done you have to turn to the private industry, Republicans are in an embarrassing spot
    President Obama is proposing to do exactly what they’ve been preaching…turn space exploration over to private companies.
    And Republicans are crying foul.
    Republican Congressmen are gearing up to defend fight against privatization of space.

    It’s pretty pathetic given they’ve made it a party platform to trash government at every turn. Now they’ve got a president who is saying: Let’s let the private sector do this.

    And they don’t like it.

  136. Messier Tidy Upper

    @137. jfb :

    As far as the Constitution itself, here’s one online version, with some commentary. It’s helpful to remember that this is a document drafted in the late 18th century, so the language as well as the intent behind it is a little archaic.

    Thanks. :-)

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