Space policy roundup – Jan.18.14

Science fiction writer and webcaster Doug Turnbull writes about the importance of a cost-effective, sustainable human spaceflight program to maintain support for unmanned space exploration: Will Robots or Astronauts be the Future of Interplanetary Research? –

The famous line from the movie “The Right Stuff,” which tells the story of America’s early space program, “No bucks, no Buck Rogers,” could easily be reversed to state: “No Buck Rogers, no bucks.” Human spaceflight is sexier than robot missions and thus an easier sell to hard-strapped taxpayers.

Unfortunately, the SLS/Orion boondoggle will only undermine that support:

The causes of the problem are programs like the SLS and the Orion spacecraft, both of which are monumentally expensive projects that will duplicate — granted, in slightly larger form — hardware that has already been created in the private sector. As noted space science and policy writer John Strickland stated in a Nov. 30, 2013, interview on Mars Pirate Radio: “SLS/Orion is a leech on the space program … that takes money away from more deserving and useful projects.”

Stewart Money notes the underfunding of and constraints on the commercial crew program in the 2014 budget just passed and wonders what NASA will do with regard to the next step in the program: Commercial Crew Still Under Fire –

What also is not going to be mentioned apparently,  is any similar stipulation that the far more expensive SLS/MPCV programs undergo a cost benefit analysis, or even a cost analysis for that matter. Or even asked to explain what it’s mission is.

Instead, coming in to what should be a definitive year for the Commercial Crew program, culminating in the selection of which company or companies are moving into the final phase, NASA faces a choice; whether to further throttle the entire program as it jumps through the hoops Congress has placed in front of it, or to keep its current schedule with a decision late this year, and necessarily down select to a single winner.

More space policy/politics links: