Thursday, February 17, 2011

Bolden: Commercial crew good for NASA, KSC

NASA must make development of commercial crew and cargo transportation a priority to get the most out of the International Space Station, Administrator Charlie Bolden told Florida Today's editorial board today.

The Obama administration's proposed 2012 budget for NASA would commit $850 million toward development of commercial vehicles while spending $2.8 billion -- less than was authorized -- on development of a heavy-lift rocket and capsule for exploration.

"I can pay the Russians forever; I can pay them until 2020," said Bolden said, alluding to the fact that American astronauts will ride Russian spacecraft to the station after the shuttle until a new U.S. vehicle is developed. "I don't think that's prudent, I don't think that's what this nation wants to do. I think we want as quickly as possible to have a domestic capability for taking humans to the International Space Station."

Bolden said transitioning to commercially operated space taxis would help reduce infrastructure costs, noting that it now "costs us $2 billion a year to keep Kennedy Space Center going whether we're flying the shuttle or not."

Bolden said a program office overseeing the commercial crew initiative would be established soon at KSC.

"It's critical to Kennedy," Bolden said, for "employees there to know that, OK, I am now the home of this particular piece of pie."

Bolden wouldn't hint at whether the Space Coast was a strong contender to win a retired orbiter for public display. He said he hoped to make an announcement in early spring.

Regarding recent reports that an orbiter could be headed to the National Museum of the Air Force in Dayton, Ohio, Bolden said no decisions had been made.

"There is a process in place and that process will bring the decision to me," he said. "I'll make the decision, not the secretary of the Air Force, not even the president, to be quite honest. We have briefed everybody -- Congress, the White House, people around the president, and everyone agrees that I will make the decision. The process is in place, and I've asked them to try to bring me a recommendation on which I can decide by early spring."

Bolden addressed KSC employees today and will participate in Friday's Flight Readiness Review for Discovery's targeted Feb. 24 launch to the station on its final flight.

No comments: