“Acts of Congress” Indeed

So the text of the Senate bill is out, finally. Also down the pipe this week is a comparable House proposal. What does Congress seem to agree on? Yep: cutting commercial crew.

I’ve talked about this before. The Senate commercial crew cuts were opposed by Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, and the R&D cuts were opposed by Senator Barbara Boxer of California. I’m reading through the text now to see if their amendments passed (doesn’t look good: of the ~$4 billion set for “Exploration”, it seems that more than half of it is going to the civil launch system and capsule. Of what’s left, ~$600 million is set for commercial crew and cargo. Still, better than the House bill [see below]).

But the House bill is pretty clear: cut it to the quick! What I initially read as ~$4.5 billion for commercial crew–which I’d been excited about, as the Obama plan talks about $6 billion over five years–is really for “Exploration” in 2011, of which only ~$50 million or so is for commercial crew, at least for the first year.

And then there’s this. Depressing, a bit, especially so soon after celebrating the 41st anniversary of Apollo 11. Really? 41 years? What the hell, guys? I’m part of the generation your generation was supposed to make the world a better place for. Sure, you ended the Cold War, but what’s with this?

Okay, so here’s what they say about us:

United States

The U.S. remains the clear global leader, but the county’s position has eroded in each of the past three years. The formulation of a new national space policy is a step in the right direction, but as Futron CEO Joe Fuller notes, ‘To retain its leadership position, the U.S. must leverage its secret space weapon—American industry—and align it with strategy, policy, and budget.'”

Yep. So, why aren’t we doing that? Oh yeah, because nobody’s paying for it. Good job, Congress. Instead we get political pandering and home-state dollar-winning–except for Nelson, for some reason. Oh sure, mitigating the job loss at KSC and elsewhere is good for Florida, but is it as good as it could be? The Commercial Spaceflight Federation doesn’t think so.

So just when I was starting to like the Obama plan, Congress goes and screws with it. And then the White House praises the Senate legislation as a compromise bill? Okay, it is a compromise, and it does hit all the salient points that Obama wanted, but it doesn’t do what needs to be done: fostering a vibrant American commercial space industry, fleshing out all the wasted R&D years (finally), and putting us somewhere significant and permanent in space (which, admittedly, nobody is doing right now).

So I’m dejected, just a bit. I’m not sure what to think since all the legislation has to run through appropriations and markups and this and that and nothing’s really definite right now…

More waiting, I guess. If the end result is much like the initial efforts, I doubt I’ll like it.

Postscript: Actually, after reviewing the original FY 2011 proposal by the White House, it seems that commercial crew and cargo would get a combined $812 million for the first year under the proposed plan. Not that bad for the Senate, then, if I’m parsing that right. House still sucks, though. What got cut in the Senate, I wonder…

It goes on: ~$250 million for FY2011 from the Senate for “Exploration Technology Development”, which might be the same as the $559 million set aside for “Heavy-Lift and Propulsion R&D” in the original Obama plan, although the difference error is smaller in 2012 ($437 million Senate vs $594 million Obama).

I’m confused, then. So what, really, got cut? A couple hundred million here and there–a lot, sure, but compare to the House! Where’s all this money for the Space Launch System coming from? Granted, I’m not reading the entire bill, but the Senate one, at least, seems…tolerable. Maybe. With, as the CSF says, some work.

Although, if Congress would spend maybe a little of the time they usually spend messing around with silly things and put it towards making nice, more easily-followed documents like the Obama plan’s, I’d be more willing to slog through all the details and numbers at almost 1 o’clock in the morning.

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