On Monday, the Space Frontier Foundation was prepared to release a statement on the proposed NASA budget, declaring it a futile compromise to nowhere. However, after seeing the various Congressional reactions to the proposed budget, the Foundation decided that these responses provided an opportunity for a teachable moment. It started with Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, who said…
“Despite repeated assurances from NASA and White House officials that the SLS and Orion are ‘key elements of our future strategy for human space exploration’, vehicle development for the heavy lift SLS rocket and the Orion capsule is cut by hundreds of millions of dollars”
After hearing her comment, the Foundation is left pondering what budget Senator Hutchison is reading. The actual budget numbers include:
- A budget of $1.88 billion for the unaffordable Senate Launch System (including a $28.2 million budget increase)
- A budget of over $1 billion for Orion, which won’t fly people using SLS until 2021 (at best)
- Resulting in a total budget of nearly $3 billion for the combined Senate Launch System and MPCV and ground systems.
And none of this money gets the United States exploring. Spending money on big rockets is not exploring!! Multiple options have been promoted to begin exploration with existing rockets. Even former administrator Mike Griffin said that a return to the moon could be achieved with four Delta IV Heavy rockets. In short, America will be able to explore when SLS is canceled, not when it is completed.
Fortunately, Senator Hutchison isn’t the only voice on Capitol Hill. Congressman Dana Rohrbacher was highly critical of “continued pursuit of the SLS Titanic”. He then continued,
“If I had someone come to me and say they wanted to spend well over a hundred billion dollars when they knew the task could be done more quickly and less expensively, I’d say, ‘You’re fired,’”
The United States does NOT need big, unaffordable rockets, like SLS, to explore. What it needs is innovative thinking, a willingness to try new ways of doing business, and realizing that humanity shouldn’t pursue space exploration merely because it’s exciting. Human exploration of the cosmos serves a larger purpose – to expand humanity permanently beyond the surface of the earth.
“Projects like the Senate Launch System do not serve the American Taxpayer,” said Space Frontier Foundation Executive Director William Watson. “And it is important to understand the reason it does not serve our purpose. Space is not a program existing only to create a specific number of jobs in certain special districts. Space is a place, for us to explore, to develop, and to settle. SLS and programs like it do not serve the cause of exploration, development and settlement. They only serve the cause of pork — resulting in wasted money and lost dreams. The Space Frontier Foundation really wishes more elected officials were serving the cause of space settlement.”