Monday, October 05, 2009

Time running out to lobby for space

Local politicians are asking us to write letters to President Barack Obama, pleading with him to save the space program, in part by delaying the space shuttles' retirement.

They're asking people on the Space Coast to speak with a unified voice, to urge the president to keep the promises he made in Titusville last year to protect the space program and minimize space job losses. Hopefully, it's not too late.

The plea makes me wonder whether local leaders have been paying attention to years of repeated warnings that this day was coming -- and coming fast.

Community leaders have met and talked, met and talked, met and talked, but it's not clear they've done more than acknowledge the threat ahead.

Now, we're late in the fourth quarter of the big game to save Brevard's economic engine, and the plan is to heave a wobbly pass into the end zone and hope our team comes out of the scrum with the ball.

I'm not saying you should not participate. Please do write to Obama. I'll do my part. When I do, I'll share my letter with you.

I won't be using one of the form letters provided at the Web site, although it's a nice resource for time-crunched people who want to help out.

I'm more concerned that the men and women we've elected to go to Washington on our behalf are not lobbying more vociferously for the space program.

This potential crisis did not sneak up on anyone.

It was five years ago that President George W. Bush announced that the United States would retire the space shuttles in 2010 without a ready replacement.

It was five years ago that then-Kennedy Space Center Director Jim Kennedy guessed job losses of at least 5,000, if not more, upon shuttle retirement.

NASA made it clear that one goal of the new program was to reduce the number of workers needed to prepare the new spaceship for launch. Translation: shrink the standing army at KSC.

That was the plan from the start.

Budget cuts, technical problems and cost overruns on the new spaceship development program have just made the jobs picture worse (7,000 or more KSC jobs at stake).

The men and women we sent to Congress (Mr.'s Nelson, Martinez, Weldon and Feeney) all voted for the plan. They voted for it twice in revisions of the so-called "authorization" acts that outline NASA's duties.

Some of them voted for it four more times in spending bills, including deep cuts in future-year spending that have helped extend the gap between shuttle retirement and availability of a replacement to 8 to10 years.

To be fair, our current U.S. Reps. -- Democrat Suzanne Kosmas and Republican Bill Posey -- cast no such votes.

However, since joining Congress, they've had no real impact on the Washington debate about the future of NASA and the Florida spaceport. As rookies, they're unlikely to have much influence.

Some did work hard on this problem.

The economic development folks here landed assembly work on the new Orion spaceship and are working on more non-launch work to replace lost shuttle jobs.

Local officials are collaborating with KSC on retraining endangering shuttle workers.

Too many did not take the threat seriously early on. Now, we've all got to do our part in the game's final play.

We've got to make sure President Obama hears from us before he makes the final decision.


Anonymous said...

North Brevard is going to dry up and blow away very soon. When was the last time you heard Obama even mention NASA or spaceflights? He's focused on inner city. The Russians will ferry us to the ISS and the Japanese will supply it. Besides Russia just wants it for a hotel for the ultra rich.Sorry folks but Uncle Sams teet has dried up.

Anonymous said...

Who could have seen this coming? !

Paul Pritchard said...

John Kelly is absolutly right. I would go even further and set some of the blame on NASA. The moment the first shuttle landed they knew that it was set for a definite time frame, and should have started working on the next generation of human space flight. The lack of vision is extraordinary. The same goes for lobbying efforts surrounding this whole subject. This is a problem that affects every sector of activity in Florida, and its residents. Either no one saw the white elephant in the room, or there was an (unexplainable) acceptance that there was nothing that could be done. That is why when I became aware of this disconnect I founded the and have been pushing for a change of attitude in lobbying efforts for almost a year now!

Anonymous said...

Most of everyone out at the Space Center is a Republican.
Under their regime every common need such as Education,Health Care and the Space Program went right down the drain.

The end of the American Space Program is a reflection of the short sighted selfish nature of the GOP.

Anonymous said...

Paul - Good Luck. This train is coming fast and none of our politicians who had the pull did anything to stop it.

Time to move out of the way and wait for the wreck!

Anonymous said...

John Kelly is correct about the timeline and how this should have been no surprise.

However, I disagree that the space program equals a jobs program. Given 5 years' warning, anyone in the program should have carefully considered moving on before it was too late.
It is not the US taxpayers' responsibility to secure the jobs at KSC, in order to fly a spacecraft with no clear mission. ISS construction is nearly done. It's time to move on to Ares, which requires far fewer people to manage.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Kelly has said nothing we didn't already read, again and again. What is killing the entire SPACE program is the years and years of bad managers that found a big cushion at KSC, zero accountability for their mistakes. Contactors horewhipping the workers, no job related training except for OSHA mandated. And you didn't think Mr. Obama wasn't briefed by the departing administration? I only hope Charley Bolden has his ear and the fix, cause this mess is way bigger than the money issue.

jaxdodger said...

KSC workers are now in the real world of supply and demand. The Govt. sponsored, outdated, ineffecient, NASA programs are over. If NASA had turned its management over to competent private entrepenuers instead of their good ol' boy buddys the transition would be smoother and less painful. Sorry but that's the way it is in the real world. Ex astronauts are America's heros and we are proud of them but their only role in the Space program should have been advisory and training only. They do not have the business skills or management acumen for most of the positions they fill. The waste in the system has caused it to be discontinued.

Anonymous said...

jaxdodger - I agree, the problem is that NASA management/employees will not be afffected by these cutbacks. not a single NASA GS job will be cut....

Anonymous said...

I like what Jaxdodger said and allot of it is true. However, as time grows closer to 2010 and the retirement, I believe Uncle Sam will step in and show them the money, they always have in the past.

Anonymous said...

If the space program was regular commercial business more people would have bailed by now. Most people stay because they like the space program and have a sense of ownership of what they do. I think many of the engineers would actually learn more if they worked somewhere else.

Anonymous said...

Not sure what the picture is in terms of hardware suppliers being able to support the Shuttle after 2011. Would assume most of them have been turned off. In my mind project extension decisions should have been made years ago so as to keep the criitcal hardware contractors onboard. As for the comment regarding astronauts taking program management jobs, would agree that their true business/engineering skills are limited. Seems to be lots of retired NASA engineers as well as former astronauts working in the high ranks of Boeing and USA. Think this has to do with the mind set of the Shuttle being more or less an operational vehicle. Unfortunately, occasionally there are surprises where might have been better to have engineers at the helm.

Anonymous said...

There are pleanty of OBAMA stickers at KSC. Don't fool yourself...HERE COMES CHANGE - UNEMPLOYMENT FOR EVERYONE IN BREVARD COUNTY.

Anonymous said...

John, I agree that everyone in Brevard should write to the President about NASA funding, but it is not enough to ask him to "save our jobs." We must also suggest to him a reasonable and affordable course for future U.S. manned space exploration.

The single most practical course of action now is to retire the shuttles as scheduled; take the money saved and spend it on speeding up Constellation and training KSC people to carry out that well-conceived program -- all as part of a permanent
return to the Moon, fifty years after the end of Apollo.

The Obama / Bolden space legacy can be the mustering of a true worldwide partnership of spacefaring nations (probably adding China, India and Brazil to the existing ISS coalition) to go back to the Moon together for science, for good -- along the lines of the Antarctica model.

Let the U.S. do the heavy lifting it does best -- with Ares I and Ares V -- as well as the assembling, testing and launching of all the major missions right here at KSC. Let other nations build the automated cargo carriers, transfer vehicles, lunar habitats, observatories and labs. Everyone contributes. Everyone participates. Everyone is happy.

This approach enhances international cooperation, sets the stage for future multinational missions to the planets, and insures mankind's return to space to stay. Most important, it assures America an inspiring, and meaningful manned space program THAT IT CAN ACTUALLY AFFORD.

Sell it, Brevard. Sell it!

RSS / Cocoa

Anonymous said...

Commerical space programs will only do launches for a profit unlike NASA. If there is not a profit, then there is no space program. NASA is very under funded for decades. You can't blame them for running a space program on a shoe string budget. You should try CONGRESS. That is why they have corn bread and beans for their launches and not steak.

BigCarlos said...

We keep on doing the same we have been doing with our commitment to space exploration and all we are going to end up with, is an album full of memories and pretty space pictures while the moon goes from green cheese to yellow fried rice and red beef tatar. People wake up, the Russians, the Chinese and the rest will NOT place their footprints for the benefit of ALL mankind and share like the US did. We will be excluded and that high ground will be theirs soon if we keep doing the same same. Don't tell me we are going to have to import some new Germans? I know the US can do this and much more on their own, we just need the support of the population and a bunch of hard work coupled with American ingenuity.

Anonymous said...

Economic Impact On Brevard Report. :(

Anonymous said...

@4:21 Anonymous,

You are correct that commercial space programs will only do launches for profit. That's the reason for exist for any private company (to make a profit).

However, that doesnt mean we shouldnt rely on commercial launch services. NASA should not be in the business of designing and building LEO launch vehicles and spacecraft. They should let private industry do that. The best example would be SpaceX and it's support to NASA though the Commercial Resupply Contract, where they pay a firm fixed price for a batch of launches.

To ensure safety, a set of regulations could be put in place just as is done today for commercial airliners via the FAA. In fact, the FAA already has implemented regulations for private space flight. After such regulations have been established, NASA could stop sticking it's nose where it doesnt belong, discontinue their expensive requirements creep, and focus on achieving a mission rather than doing design and manufacturing.

Unfortunately, while I believe the commercial industry is ready for firm fixed service contracts to LEO, I don't feel they are ready for BEO. This is where NASA must continue to utilize cost plus contracts and a large oversight role. Note: The key word there is 'oversight'. In house design such as Marshall Spaceflight Center should be eliminated entirely. MSFC has proven time and time again that they cannot successfully develop a new launch vehicle, whereas the contractors have (Atlas V, Delta IV, etc.)

Anonymous said...

The base has to be 90% Republican. I am a Democrate and feel pretty alone. The politics are very odd here as the Republicans talk about too much government but we are all basically government employees. The contractor employees are just civil servants who are easier to layoff. Most people on the base don't understand what it is like to work in a true commercial operation. Many of the people are old enough that they are just planning to retire and others seem to be in denial that the program is ending. When the teacher's health insurance stuff was being discussed this forum was hopping. Look how slow the comments on this article are. No comments in 3 hours. Other than just complaining about Obama, many on the base don't seem to be able to elucidate why they think the manned space program is a good idea. Doing something really exciting seems to cost more money than we want to spend. Even if Ares I keeps going we don't launch with crew until 2017. It's pretty frustrating.

Pete said...

Florida Unemployment Trends - August 2009

Florida Unemployment Situation in Heat Map form:
here is a map of Florida Unemployment in August 2009 (BLS data)

versus Florida Unemployment Levels 1 year ago

Anonymous said...

I work at the Michoud Assembly Plant in NOLA. Mr. Boulden spoke to the employees here and has no intrest in low earth orbit spaceflight(i.e. THE SHUTTLE). We also are going to lose many jobs. There is also Stennis Test in Mississippi, Houston Command in Texas, Marshall Spaceflight in Alabama and all the vendors who supply all of these places that are most likely going to lose at least some jobs. Given the job loses across the country one would assume that the government would try and save these jobs.

Anonymous said...

Costing less than 'Cash for Clunkers' - and FAR LESS than the AIG bailout - I can't help but wonder what John F. Kennedy would think about our current situation. At the time of his speach to a joint session of congress - the price tag was 9 Billion (in 1960's dollars). Congress stepped up to the plate. The benefits were largely unknown - and now our daily lives are affected in a variety of ways. 3 billion to move forward seems almost trivial. Mr. Kelly is right - we have to make sure President Obama hears from us!