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The Dog Days of Augustine? Panel Delivers Grim Outlook on Constellation Budgeting August 13, 2009

Posted by Nick Azer in Augustine Panel, economy, NASA, Obama.

The Obama-initiated, Norm Augustine-led Human Space Flight review panel has delivered a sobering, pessimistic take on the future of Constellation budgeting:

“The money available has declined considerably since the program began…On the other hand, the Constellation program has proven to be more difficult than it was thought to be. It will be difficult with the current budget to do anything that’s terribly inspiring in the human spaceflight area.” -Norm Augustine (as reported by the Orlando Sentinel)

The panel has concluded that at least an additional $3 billion a year would be needed for NASA to return to the Moon by 2030.

“We are on a path right now, for a system that requires [roughly] double the current budget just to operate. If Santa Claus brought us this [Constellation] system tomorrow, fully developed, and the budget didn’t change, our next action would have to be to cancel it.”- Panel member Jeff Greason (as reported by the Orlando Sentinel)

Considering the economic climate, $3 billion more a year seems extremely unlikely to me (and others), so it looks like reform to Constellation will be on the way, if not outright cancellation or replacement.

If not Constellation’s current path…what, then?

“As president, Barack Obama will establish a robust and balanced civilian space program… In achieving this vision, Obama will reach out to include international partners and to engage the private sector to amplify NASA’s reach. Obama believes that a revitalized NASA can help America maintain its innovation edge and contribute to American economic growth.” –Barack Obama’s campaign space plan

Going back to the economic climate, and Obama’s obvious personal and political motivations to have the recession turn around during his first term, having NASA “contribute to American economic growth” instead of leeching an additional $3 billion a year out of it may direct his next moves regarding the organization’s “revitalization”. (Which now seems like it could be a more dramatic change than was imagined before—with Obama certainly no stranger to the idea of change.)

Recent developments, such as the ISS contracts given in January and the awarding of stimulus funds towards private space, could be steps in a stronger private ‘amplification’ direction than was anticipated before. Amplifying NASA with private space is the option that helps the economy the most (or at all), and with Obama’s future tied to the economy, it seems logical to me that we could be seeing even more along that path, now that Constellation has been rather grimly assessed by Obama’s review panel…



1. brobof - August 13, 2009

Dog’s Dinner for NASA!
NLS; Shuttle-C; X-30(NASP); X-33(VentureStar); X-38(OSP) and my favorite; DC-X; now joined by Ares ‘ex’-I. If I were an American taxpayer I would be asking for my money back!

My take on it will be to Internationalise HSF Beyond LEO playing to International Partner strengths. A Public-Private Partnership of the best SDHLV and a severely ‘trimmed’ NASA. The commercial sector gets to compete with Soyuz for Cheap access to LEO. More Hyperbole and Handwaving at my link.

“Interesting Times” ahead for NASA!

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