Talkin’ ’bout a Revolution…

This is basically a brief update on the NASA Authorization Act of 2010 that left committee earlier this week (which some like, and others don’t). Specifically, the Boxer and Warner Amendments. The summaries below are from the NSS and are not my words.

Warner Amendment:

“This amendment proposed by Senator Warner of Virginia would close the gap by fully reversing cuts to commercial crew development funding and by removing arbitrary restrictions preventing a commercial crew competition from beginning in 2011. The amendment would boost commercial crew funding to the level recommended by the President, adding $2.1 billion over three years, a nearly threefold boost. This will close the gap and ensure U.S. access to the International Space Station.”

Bam! That’s half the battle right there! Restoring one of the best parts of the FY2011 budget by getting funding back to commercial crew. The only way to make space really mainstream is to let people make some freakin’ money off of it!

Boxer Amendment:

“This amendment proposed by Senator Barbara Boxer of California would restore cuts to robotic precursor missions, advanced technologies like fuel depots, in-space propulsion, and radiation shielding, and university research. In FY11, the amendment boosts Robotic Precursors by 130%, Exploration Technology Demonstrations by 230%, and the Space Technology Program by 55%, for a total of $356 million more for technology and robotics in FY11.”

Now, I’m not sure how much this reverses the cuts proposed by Senator Nelson, but any level of reversal is desirable over no level of reversal. Critics are completely correct in saying that the lack of R&D at NASA over the past few decades is terrible. We should be going farther, faster, cheaper, and instead we’re going nowhere (choice of destinations aside).

There’s also the Udall Amendment, which is mostly about commercial suborbital science funding. While certainly useful, it does not really fall under my purview, which is more HSF-oriented.

So the main reason I’m waiting for the full text is to determine whether or not the first two amendments–Warner’s and Boxer’s–have been adopted. If so, the proposed bill will likely get my stamp of approval. If not, well

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2 Responses to Talkin’ ’bout a Revolution…

  1. mike shupp says:

    I gather the Udall and Boxer amendments made it into the Senate authorization bill, but not the Warner amendment. Warner might get in in the Senate appropriation bill (unlikely as I understand things) or in the House-Senate conference process.

    Possibly you’ve overlooked that the Udall amendment is to provide for flights by students and researchers and their experiments on commercial suborbital flights. I doubt we’ll see student researchers with boxes of electronics on “ordinary” Virgin Space launches, but I can easily imagine NASA leasing a dedicated vehicle from Scaled Composites or Xcor for flights every few months. Technically, this would be “research” rather than an open subsidy for the operators, but the effect would be about the same. So, depending on what you think of space tourism and its prospects, this could be seen as a tenuous link to human space flight.

    • Possibly, but I still see its main purpose as being primarily research-based, which is great–science, of course, is extremely useful–but as a stepping-stone to more permanent space expansion it is possibly less effective. Although, if it’s flown on commercial suborbital enterprises such as SS2, the added revenue could allow for more development and expansion of space tourism–especially lowering prices–which could have a very good net positive effect.

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