The proposed budget has welcomed increases in the

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Unformatted text preview: r NASA in Congress and within the broader spaceflight community that has marked the past several months. "It really is pretty unprecedented," says Roger Launius, a spaceflight historian and curator of the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum in Washington. "Most of the time, people lock arms and agree that they're going to pursue a particular path," he says. When disagreements have arisen, they've tended to be modest and around the edges. "That's not true anymore," Dr. Launius says. The debate essentially pits so-called "new space" advocates and entrepreneurs against some long-established aerospace interests. Ironically, the situation finds some key Republican lawmakers supporting a (relatively) large government-only approach to human spaceflight instead of supporting a budding and increasingly competent privatesector approach, as the Democratic president has proposed. In February, President Obama proposed a significant change in direction for the agency, based largely on the counsel of an advisory panel the White House appointed last summer to present options for the human spaceflight program's future. In essence, the White House argued that its plan would place NASA's human-spaceflight emphasis on exploration beyond low-Earth orbit instead of on building a rocket as part of what had become a fiscally unsustainable program to provide regular cargo and crew service to the International Space Station. To accomplish that, the president's proposed budget aimed to beef-up efforts to nurture the commercial launch sector, for instance, and strengthen research into new technologies , including rocket motors, that would reduce the launch costs of a new heavy-lift rocket and support direct human exploration of the solar system. Both houses of Congress have had little trouble agreeing to meet the president's overall request to authorize $19 billion for the agency for fiscal 2011. Not so with the direction for NASA's human-spaceflight portfolio. In early August, the Senate passed an authorization bill that bears some resemblance to the President's original blueprint - but with scaled back support for the commerciallaunch sector and an accelerated timetable for building a rocket powerful enough to loft people and hardware beyond low-Earth orbit. That rocket, the Senate said, should be based on space-shuttle-derived components. The House has yet to pass its NASA authorization bill, but it looks significantly different much more like the Constellation program the president's plan aimed to replace. Constellation included two rockets - one for astronauts, one for cargo - a manned capsule, and a development program for hardware that would be used for an outpost on the moon. The House plan spends less on technology development than even the Senate's reduced amount for R&D, and it cuts out money for robotic "scout" missions to the objects astronauts would eventually explore. Fourteen Nobel laureates in the sciences signed a letter in late August critical of the House measure for its impact on R&D, efforts to nurture the commercial sector, and other elements of the bill. T...
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This note was uploaded on 01/14/2013 for the course POL 090 taught by Professor Framer during the Spring '13 term at Shimer.

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