While reasonable people can disagree, even before I rolled out our proposed FY2011 budget, the battle lines had been drawn between two groups that I refer to as ideologues � The first, those who believe that only by handing over development and operation of our human space launch enterprise to the commercial sector can we move into the future in an efficient and productive manner. The second, those who believe that only the government can be trusted with launching humans into space. Those in these two extreme camps seem unwilling to agree on anything. To the first � any remnant of the Constellation Program of Record left standing will spell the end of any hope for the development and success of a commercial space launch industry. To the second � any near-term move toward dependence on the commercial sector as the primary provider of access to LEO will certainly end in disaster and spell the end of human space flight in the US.
The problem is that most critics, such as myself, of Obamaspace are little more nuanced than that. Most of the critics are pretty comfortable with turning over things like Earth to LEO transportation to the private sector. There is disagreement on how and at what pace. And there are concerns that the Obama approach is not, strictly speaking, commercial as it relies on heavy government subsidies and the government as sole customer.
Critics of Obamaspace are absolutely appalled at the abandonment of space exploration as a goal for NASA, vague promises of asteroids and Mars some time in the distant future notwithstanding. We were astonished and insulted at the President's ignorant and arrogant dismissal of the Moon as an initial destination.
The Bolden gets positively Nixonian in his blaming of the media.
For my friends in the media � and I think you all know that I mean that in all sincerity � our NASA team cannot be successful in telling our incredible story without your cooperation and assistance. I will always attempt to be responsive to your requests for access, within reason. But you are not a friend of the space program when you misrepresent the statements or actions of our dedicated, loyal workforce for the sake of a headline-winning story. Again, please don�t take this as an attempt to blame the messenger for NASA�s problems. That is not the case nor my intent.
Yeah, right. Mr. Bolden should recognize that we in the media do not work for him or for NASA. Some of us, myself in particular, are enthusiastic supporters of space exploration and of commercial space. Speaking for myself, that is one reason my analysis of Obamaspace has been harsh. It just does not do as advertised. I suspect Charlie Bolden knows it, simply because the strain of having to defend the indefensible is starting to tell. It may be time for him to resign in order to keep his soul and the last shreds of his integrity intact.
Addendum. Bolden's question and answer session was even more bizarre than the speech. Two points stick out.
“Ares I…and some of you have not gotten the word, Ares I competes with commercial entities. Understand where we are. Ares I is an incredible rocket; an incredible rocket. But Ares I is a NASA-developed rocket and it competes with commercial entities and ever since the space act of 1988…it has said NASA will promote to the greatest extent possible the development of commercial space enterprise. Now you can argue with me all day long, I am not going to purposely promote something that is going to keep commercial entities from being competitive on the international market."
The problem is that the Constellation plan was that if commercial solutions arose to address the Earth to LEO market, the Ares 1/Orion system would have been taken out of the ISS servicing operation and would have dedicated solely for Moon and beyond. Bolden is either being deceptive or he is confused.
Then there is this.
“If we are not talking to each other and arguing about what the best way forward is then we are missing the boat. This is pre-decisional time and we need to be debating. But, but – an important ‘but,’ OK, …Our heritage says once the pre-decisional discussion has been conducted …once we have been herded to a vote and said this is the way we are going forward, that’s not arbitrary. That’s a decision and that’s the way we are going forward. And I sit with the president and I argue with the president because he allows people to argue with him. He asks for dissent. That’s why I love him because he asks for dissent. But when he says, ‘OK, I got it. Let me think about it.’ And he comes back and he says, ‘OK, here’s the direction we’re going.’ Guess what? He’s my boss. And I’m going in the direction he says to go. Because I am PFC Bennatz and I have walked the point and I have given him the benefit of my best wisdom and he has weighed what I say with what the Defense Dept. says, and what the intelligence organizations say with what the Secretary of State says. There are a lot people other than NASA …"
The problem here is that the decision to cancel Constellation and commercialize Earth to LEO transportation was conducted in secret, with zero input from the outside, especially the Congress, as well as other stakeholders. To say that the decision has been made and now we must move forward with no more debate is high handed at best, absolutely dictatorial at worse.