Senators to NASA chief: Go somewhere specific
Posted by Xeno on February 25, 2010
NASA needs to go somewhere specific, not just talk about it, skeptical U.S. senators told the space agency chief Wednesday.
President Barack Obama’s proposed budget kills the previous administration’s return-to-the-moon mission, sometimes nicknamed “Apollo on steroids.” That leaves the space agency adrift without a goal or destination, senators and outside experts said at a Senate Commerce science and space subcommittee hearing, the first since Obama unveiled his new space plan this month.
On top of that the nation’s space shuttle fleet is only months away from long-planned retirement, an issue for senators from Florida, where NASA is a major employer. And while the new NASA plan includes extra money — $6 billion over five years — for private spaceships and developing new rocket technology, NASA shouldn’t be just about spending, the senators said. It should be about John F. Kennedy-like vision.
“Resources without vision is a waste of time and money,” Sen. David Vitter, R-La., said, calling the Obama space plan a “radical change of vision and approach.” He vowed to fight the plan “with every ounce of energy I have.”
And former chief astronaut Robert “Hoot” Gibson said the new plan “has no clear path, no destination, no milestones and no program focus.”
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said after the hearing that critics were confusing the lack of a specific destination or timetable with the lack of a goal.
NASA has a goal, a big one, Bolden said. It’s going to Mars. But Bolden added that getting astronauts to Mars is more than a decade away and NASA needs to upgrade its technology or else it never will get there.
“We want to go to Mars,” Bolden said. “We can’t get there right now because we don’t have the technology to do it.”
That is why he said the new NASA plan invests in developing in-orbit fuel depots, inflatable spaceship parts, new types of propulsion and other technology.