Subject: FW: NASA News -- from Charlie Precourt, former Deputy Director of the International Space Station and Chief of the Astronaut Office
From: "Charlie Precourt" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Sat, 20 Feb 2010 21:45:31
Subject: NASA News
Dear friends and family,
For many of you it has been a long time since last contact, so I hope this note finds everyone well!
I am not one to provide mass e-mail ordinarily; however, a very unusual circumstance regarding NASA's future has been unfolding that I felt compelled to share. The President's budget request for fiscal year 2011 (beginning in October) calls for the cancellation of NASA's Constellation program. Specifically, the budget calls for the outsourcing of all human spaceflight services to an unproven private sector. What this means to our space program is deeply disturbing. The Space Shuttle will be retired this year, after its final flight (4 to go) and with the proposed cancellation of Constellation, which was intended to replace Shuttle with ever more capable spacecraft, there will be no US capability to transport American astronauts to the space station or other future destinations.
Constellation was envisioned to provide far safer and more capable access to space, including plans to return to the moon, asteroids or one day Mars. However, the President's budget would outsource human spaceflight access for our nation to private companies who seek to develop other markets such as space tourism. This market is a fantasy that remains in our distant future. Our astronaut program as we know it would evolve to private corporate space fliers, and our access to the International Space Station will be via Russian launchers. We are ceding our leadership in space. Worse, when the Shuttle program ends and Constellation is terminated there will be 25,000 high tech jobs in our workforce that will be in limbo as there will be no existing government contracts in place to actively and productively engage this workforce.
Many of you know that I have had the personal privilege of being the general manager at ATK for the development of the Ares rocket under Constellation... and we achieved our first flight in October, earning with it Time magazine's invention of the year award for 2009. Ares was designed to be 10 times safer that Shuttle, achieving the objective of drastically reducing the risk of another Challenger or Columbia accident... Ares would be terminated under Constellation, in spite of this success.
Obama's budget for NASA takes the agency back years and cedes our leadership in space to China, Russia and other nations who see the value in a robust program. What is most disturbing however is the PROCESS. Administration political appointees to the NASA agency have disenfranchised the ENTIRE leadership team in the agency who are our nation's brain trust on how to execute our space program....Hubble, Mars Rovers, International Space Station, Shuttle to name a few would not exist without these incredible folks.... and the Administration has put forth a budget proposal that no one in the agency's technical ranks has the foggiest idea how they can support or execute. The proposal to cancel Constellation puts 25,000 high tech jobs on the street with the enactment of the bill at the end of this year.
So given this very strange and disturbing set of circumstances, I thought I would share links to three web sites, where you can register for a petition to the President, and find further information on how to contact your Congressional representatives and the President by fax or mail. The links to these web sites are below. Please feel free to forward this note and information widely... The Congressional process to review, alter and approve the budget is just beginning, so now is the time to write if you are so inclined.
This last web site in particular has additional background information on the program.
The important messages to communicate are:
NASA's Constellation program must not be cancelled. Constellation systems must continue to be developed so that we maintain our world leadership in space, motivate our youth to pursue careers in science and math, provide for safer access to our International Space Station and ever greater destinations in space, and continue to reap the benefits created by NASA's high tech workforce.
The change that is needed to the President's budget is simply one of balance. We cannot put all our eggs in one basket and hope that the private sector can provide for NASA's space mission needs. Funding needs to be restored to the Constellation program (interestingly NASA's budget did not go down with this cancellation, the funds were just vectored to purchasing services from this undefined private sector). Constellation development and a rational amount of stimulus to spin off NASA space flight technologies to the private sector are both achievable within the President's budget request. Prior to this budget NASA was investing $4B to stimulate private sector space activities. With this budget proposal, NASA's own Constellation Program and its promising future will be canceled to underwrite an additional $6B to this undefined private sector activity.
Thanks for reading... don't hesitate to pass this along.