Sunday, May 03, 2009

Budget coming this week won't shorten gap

Editor's Note: This is the second week for John Kelly's new space column. It runs Monday in the newspaper, but you'll be able to see it here early on Sunday afternoons. If you want to go back and read last week's column, you can click here to find it. Thanks, and please click comment below to weigh in or e-mail John at jkelly@floridatoday.com.

The White House is not going to stop the shutdown of the space shuttle program.

People are getting laid off. Equipment will be dismantled. Already-tenuous supply lines will be closed off.

If you're waiting for this week's release of the NASA budget and hoping for a stay of execution, move on. It's not coming.

The White House will make public, as early as Thursday, a detailed funding proposal for the space agency. Do not expect anything that deviates from the budget blueprint we were shown a few weeks ago. A quick review of what NASA folks are saying and doing provides all the clues needed to figure out what President Barack Obama plans to do about the shuttles' retirement, the return-to-the-moon program, and the thousands of jobs hanging in the balance.

Here's what to expect in the 2010 NASA budget:

Funding for one additional space shuttle mission, bringing the total number of remaining launches to nine. Obama's blueprint said NASA must prove it can fly an extra mission safely and before the end of 2010, extending the program's life by three months. There's political talk about flying shuttles through 2011 or even 2015, but it's just talk unless Congress backs it with extra money. It would cost up to $4 billion more per year to keep flying shuttle while also staying on track with developing a new system, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

More money, and unprecedented emphasis, will be given to space-based missions to study the Earth. In particular, expect the administration to beef up research about climate change. For this new administration, climate-change research is listed in every public document as first among NASA's priorities, ahead of human space flight, robotic deep-space probes and aeronautics. That's no surprise. As a candidate, the president said he would re-examine the value of the human missions compared to robotic spacecraft and Earth science.

Funding and support for a return to the moon, but with caveats about the scale of the missions and the timeline. The outline released so far indicates the administration continues to aim for a moon landing by 2020, but there are few details. Acting NASA Administrator Christopher Scolese told Congress last week that NASA may scale back its ambitions. The missions might be more like the short visits achieved four decades ago by Apollo astronauts, and not the longer stays necessary for engineers and astronauts to figure out how to make trips to Mars.

What does that mean for Kennedy Space Center? The gap between the shuttles' retirement around 2010 and the first flights of a new space transportation system around 2015 is not going to get shorter, despite pledges by both candidates for president last fall that they would shorten the hiatus. That's a campaign trail promise that will not be kept. The area will lose at least 3,500 space jobs by 2015, plus thousands more non-space jobs outside the spaceport gates.

The nearly $19 billion budget President Obama proposes for NASA is several billion dollars short of the amount needed to extend the shuttle program and develop new rockets and spacecraft. So, the five-year gap that was planned as part of President Bush's space strategy is almost upon KSC and it might drag on for more than five years.

31 comments:

Anonymous said...

Sigh. The story trumpets new missions (to study the Earth, to return to the Moon) but does not mention the sad history of Administrations promising new stuff and failing to deliver.

Now that we face an unprecedented federal deficit - far larger than any before - the NASA budget is far more likely to fall than to rise.

In the meantime, the cost of Constellation continues to go up fast. Recently from 36 to 44 billion.

When we retire the Shuttle we will be sending millions to Russia in hopes that they will fly us to the Space Station.

And in five years, when the Orion is still years from flight, and the crew size has dropped to three, people will ask why we are going to the Moon to get some more rocks? When we have (as always) so many concerns on Earth?

When the Shuttle retires - we may very well see the end of American manned space flight.

Anonymous said...

Milk it baby, milk it!

Mike said...

The scientists missed the mark on Globull Warming.

What they should have predicted is that "man made" climate change would destroy the livelihoods of tens of thousands of workers, wreck the economy of towns where those workers live, and contribute to the demise of America as the preeminent space power.

Oh well, maybe us loyal space workers can get in line behind the big campaign donors for a economic bail out.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, all you KSC union robots who voted for Comrade Obama. Your money is going to the Marxist agenda instead of space.
Welcome the People's Republic Of Amerika

Anonymous said...

What a surprise, Barack Hussein Obama now decides that the shuttle program will die on schedule. I guess there aren’t enough union workers there to give NASA a bail out. Now he could use that money to help his fellow Muslims out in Kena.

One
Big
A—
Mistake
Amarica

Anonymous said...

It's not easy to predict doom like that, but it could be true. People seem to support the general idea that space is important but they don't know what we do and don't support specific programs. They just want America to do something. With a high price tag - and the worries about the economy - there may not be a lot of support for building a new manned vehicle.

Anonymous said...

No money for education, Detroit auto industry fading fast and now tack on the end of the shuttle program.

We may very well be seeing the end of the American way.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Obama, you lie like a rug.

Anonymous said...

If Congress can hand out hundreds of billions in 'bailout' money to the very entities that caused this recession (aka banks, insurance companies, Wall St. wizards, etc.) I see no reason why they can't add to the NASA budget to keep thousands of people working as well as keeping them in their homes.

Anonymous said...

To the right wing sheeple Obama bashers, where do you get off?

Obama won McCain lost get over it. Every business has taken an economic hit, is NASA uneffected by that?
Read this you hacks:
http://spaceflightnow.com/news/n0902/26budget/

Anonymous said...

you are boring

Big Daddy G said...

Does everyone forget that it was George W who decided to retire Shuttle? Obama is raked across the coals because he won't extend the life of Shuttle but no one has anything to say about Bush's decision to end it. I work @ KSC and I agree it's time to retire the Shuttle. It's time to move on responsibly to a new program and in time I'm sure we will. Times are tough all over and it's going to get tough here in Brevard as well. The people who have been @ KSC and taking advantage of the gravy train all these years are just going to have to face the music.

Anonymous said...

I think we should all write to our Senator's and Congress rep's and explain to them EXACTLY HOW MANY PEOPLE IN FLORIDA WILL BE AFFECTED!!!!!! They obviously don't understand the seriousness of the situation!!!!!! Stand up and get some guts...

Anonymous said...

NASA should be doing what the U.S. government was designed to do and that is to create the infrastructure in which commerce may partake.

For instance connecting the east cost to the west cost via railroads in the 1800s and creating the interstate highways in the 1950s.

This enabled an infrastructure in which the free market could prosper and grow… to create commerce and wealth..

I think NASA should create the infrastructure to space and beyond allowing commerce to utilize this infrastructure and prosper.

SpaceX and COTS is just that and well on it’s way to becoming a highway to the stars.

NASA built the International Space Station to enable science and is encouraging breakthroughs by these free markets, such as medical and material sciences.

NASA should also establish a highway to the Moon and should also establish permanent bases there encouraging private industry to utilize these new recourses.

Once there are highways to space the people will most definitely use them!

Just my opinion…

Wayne

Anonymous said...

The shuttle is NOT a jobs program; it is impractical killing machine that MUST be retired. The 5 year gap is less than we had between Apollo and the Shuttle - get over it.

Good for BO sticking to The Plan with the shuttle.

Bad on BO for elevating global warming as a national concern - this will bankrupt the country based on hoax 'science'.

Anonymous said...

This shutdown has been coming for a long time ... if your head wasn't stuck in your posterior you might have heeded the warnings instead of waiting till now and complaining about the economic loss ... NASA is not a jobs program for Florida even though the Space Center workers, as well as others, seem to think so. Regardless of how many people believe that global climate change is not happening it should be studied and should have some priority. Face it ... there is going to be lag time between the time the shuttle is shut down till the time Constellation (or whatever) is mission ready. Instead of complaining use your imagination and make it work for you.

Anonymous said...

They take away the funding that is needed for NASA to continue, Brevard County will be nothing more than swamp. Housing will bottom out. The retail industry will collapse, and Florida will never be the paradise it once was. So, all you Obama supporters that live in the state of Florida....get ready to take it up the wazoo along with everyone else. Obama won't care you either.

Anonymous said...

I just noticed ... comments will be visible after approval ... looks to me like FT is only going to allow comments they approve of.

Anonymous said...

Hey, don't waste your time trying to convince your Senator's or Congress Rep's. The one you need to convince is the Pelosi's, Dodd's, Reid's, and the Frank's. They are the ones that are running this country. Our government does not care about "We the people"! They forget who it is they are suppose to represent! A 92 year old man in Michigan froze to death in his own bed, because he did not have the money to pay his power bill. He had most of it laying on the table on top of the bill. His power was shut off. Our government is more concerned with throwing trillions at the very people who put us in this financial mess. Money, "WE the people", will be held responsible for paying back. But, I guess as long as Reid get his train ride from his hometown to Disney World...All is good in the world. Our government is a JOKE. Pathetic!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

It is time to retire the Shuttle - it is a 70s design and has far outlived it's planned life. Bt continually patching via piecemeal upgrades, you are setting the country up for anohter disaster which surely will be the end of the program. It is always hard to weather change but for NASA- it is long overdue.

John Kelly said...

In response to the comment at 12:51 p.m., actually, we do review the comments. Sadly, because people can't seem to control themselves when it comes to expletives and the like, we moderate comments. I'm sure a thorough review of comments on the site will show that we don't shy away from allowing through comments that criticize us or challenge what we've written. We will eliminate comments that are profane or that personally attack individuals. We're aiming for a civil debate here, not name-calling or inappropriate language. So far, we rarely have to reject a comment. Whether we agree with what a person is posting is NOT one of the standards we apply in allowing through comments.

Anonymous said...

When the shuttle program is no longer, When your home is onlt worth pennies on the dollar, When all the retail stores, food chains, banks, and every other business that thrived on the space industry starts closing up in preperation of relocating, do you honestly believe that "Ringmasterobama" and his "Clowns", will give a damn about you? Remember this.......

"A government big enough to give you all you want is strong enough to take all you have."

Thomas Jefferson

Anonymous said...

The Shuttle program could have been used to supply the station on a limited basis until .But the current administration does not want to be bothered with Space . I think McCain might have kept one program going until the other was ready .
Sadly with China and India ramping up all the coal fired plants in the world ,if global Warming is going to kill us ,it still will ,we are worried about paying an Al Gore Carbon Tax increase on the electric bill and and making that unachievable goal a nationl priority .
Its not just the jobs ,its a talented group of people at the vehicle level we will lose ,just like Apollo ,what a shame . .
Now Harry Reid gets a multi-billion tram to LA and the US gives up its manned lead in space . Forever.

Anonymous said...

Actually the number will be 8,050 laid off. For every KSC worker there is 2.3 people outside the gate which are employeed by them. Go to BrevardJoblink if you don't beleive the numbers. Brevard will be hurt - Jobs and property values.

Anonymous said...

So funny, bash Obama cause he won't stop the shutdown when 90% of the people working at KSC voted for McCain. Face it, you lose. Bush shut it down, Obama is letting it ride off into the sunset.

Anonymous said...

I honestly think that McCain would have kept the Shuttle flying longer, to help shorten the cap (or even eliminate it). Also, just because Bush was not a good President doesn't excuse Obama's decision to gut the Shuttle. After all, he's all about change, isn't he?

Warren Platts said...

What I don't get is that there's supposed to be all this economic "stimulus" going on. I thought the idea was to try to temporarily reduce the unemployment rate through extra government expenditures that contribute to the GDP. Thus keeping the shuttle going until the next system is in place would be right along that alley.

But I guess not. Bankers with million dollar bonuses deserve the deficit spending more than trained engineers. But it's the same story everywhere. E.g., the National Guard is too big, so the ARNG is actually laying off people in a time of massive recession while there's 3 or 4 wars going on.

Make sense to you?

mike329 said...

I am over McCain loosing.
But with the new Marxist NOBama, we are no NOT allowed to speak up on anything, or we are unpatiotic. Especially now spending us ito oblivian. In 60 days he spent more money than all 43 presidents combined!And the left wingers complained daily about the 450 Billion dollar Bush deficit...Pretty quiet on that side about the current deficit...hhhhmmmmm

Oh, almost forgot.....Bush and Regan also lost,..GET OVER IT!!!

Anonymous said...

Unions voteing for McCain....ARE YOU CRAZY?????
THE MARXIST UNIONS MAKE THEM VOTE DEMOCRAT. YOU KNOW, KIND OF LIKE THE TEACHERS UNION....OR DID THEY VOTE FOR McCAIN TOO????

Anonymous said...

It is time to say to hell with going to moon or Mars and build a real spaceship in space that is capable of traveling within our solar system in months insteaad of years! Get that nuculer engine out of the closet and lets get some real science done! Stop thinking small!

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