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"Where is the US Leadership in space if we don't have a heavy lifter soon?"

Where indeed:

"We can fly Orion in 2013", says John Karas, the VP and General Manager of Human Space Flight for Lockheed Martin. Lockheed is the prime contractor for NASA's Orion capsule.

"There is no doubt in my mind we can do this. And Orion is very safe". He strenuously repeated this statement to me several times with absolutely no doubt in his mind during a wide ranging interview. I spoke at length with Karas today (Feb. 6) at the NASA Press Center shortly before the scheduled Feb. 7 launch of shuttle Endeavour on the STS 130 mission to the ISS.
Lockheed Martin has issued an official statement saying, "We are keenly disappointed in the Administration's budget proposal for NASA that would cancel Project Orion as part of an elimination of NASA's Constellation Program. Orion's maturity is evident in its readiness for a first test flight in a matter of weeks. In fact, Orion can be ready for crewed flights to low Earth orbit and other exploration missions as early as 2013, thus narrowing the gap in U.S. human space flight capability when the shuttle is retired later this year".

Karas decried the complete lack of vision and realism by the Obama Administration and NASA in deciding to terminate Project Constellation, which includes the new Orion Capsule, the Ares 1 booster rocket for Orion and the Ares 5 Heavy Lift booster required to reach the Moon, Mars and beyond. "I was very surprised by the cancellation. We expected and felt that a middle ground with some changes to Constellation was reasonable. We did not expect to be left with nothing".

"Where is the US Leadership in space if we don't have a heavy lifter soon ?

"Russia, China and India will all have Heavy Lift boosters better than the US. Why would anyone have an incentive to work with us if they have already developed their own Heavy Lifter. The nations of the world will look elsewhere, not to the US", Karas told me emphatically.

"We will not maintain Space leadership if the US will only be spending money on technology development under the new proposals by the Obama Administration, and not on an actual rocket program that builds, tests and launches flight hardware."

"For now, I told the team that Job 1 is to stay calm and keep focused. We are not terminated yet. We are continuing the Constellation program according to our contracts with NASA. By law, the Congress must still have its say. The program cannot be terminated without congressional approval. We have some hope there and are working with Senators and members of the House of Representatives."



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Comments (13)

Since Orion delivers benefi... (Below threshold)

Since Orion delivers benefits after November 2012, it cannot possibly help Obama get himself re-elected.

Ipso fatso, it is unimportant.

Look Barry-boy, our Mooosli... (Below threshold)

Look Barry-boy, our Moooslim in Chief is very UNCOMFORTABLE with the very idea of the USA leading the world in anything - except sending out more WELFARE for his people of color, around the world.

The man is cutting defense spending (real weapons, I know he has slightly increased DoD "HR" related, social programs within DoD) and he is cutting back NASA because simply, he needs that money to "spread the wealth" to his favored constituents.

What about that is difficult to understand?

This is almost the only goo... (Below threshold)
Jeff Medcalf:

This is almost the only good decision I've seen Obama make. It's time -- well past time -- to stop dumping money into this failing program. Let's let private industry give it a go, because NASA cannot fix its internal problems to the poin of repeating the 1960's, never mind actually building a sustainable space infrastructure.

Lockheed Martin, that's not... (Below threshold)
Mr Evilwrench:

Lockheed Martin, that's not private industry enough for you? NASA doesn't do much of the "doing" and never really has, but how is "private industry" supposed to pony up that kind of money without a serious prospect of big profits to follow up, and pretty damn quickly? Yet, the whole budget for NASA is tiny compared to what's lost to waste in the rest of the fed, but it gives us the coolest stuff. I do question whether there's anything out there we need to send actual people to go see, but I'm not ready for us to go the way of France and England, former powers that are now irrelevant. I think that's what makes the French so unpleasant.

No, no, no, Mr Medcalf. You... (Below threshold)
Bruce Henry:

No, no, no, Mr Medcalf. You've got it all wrong.

The Wizbang community is FOR spending if the President opposes it, and AGAINST spending if the President is for it. It's really quite simple.

There is no deviation. You MUST oppose anything Obama is for, and you MUST support anything he's opposed to.

While I am normally loathe ... (Below threshold)

While I am normally loathe to see the federal government spending huge sums of money there are some cases where it is warranted and this is one of them. Investing in activities likes this maintains our leadership in crucial areas - namely technology and science. It creates scores of really good jobs in engineering and manufacturing and goals like this stimulate the interest of our nation's young people. It gives them exciting things to dream about and goals to strive for. I think JFK and LBJ were right to pursue those goals back in the early 1960s and I think we saw a good return on our investment both in terms of the spin-off technologies that spawned new industries and the sheer global prestige from getting to the moon first. We also did it in a way where the rest of the world could watch and feel as though they were almost participating. Unlike the old Soviet space program, it was not a secret project.

It pains me to see Obama flush this program down the toilet while we piss away hundreds of dollars on wasteful entitlement programs, pork barrel spending payoffs to his political supporters and things like high speed rail projects that will only end up being government-subsidized money pits because they cannot pay their own way. For those who say let the private sector do it I don't think that would happen. Private companies are more than capable of building the hardware that will get us back there (they did it the first time after all) but the government needs to be the entity that sanctions the risk because space flight will always be a hazardous endeavor. Private industry will probably not take that on themselves. This is far more ambitious than packing some tourists into a privately-made spacecraft and sending them on a short duration suborbital flight. Deep space missions are far more ambitious and far more dangerous and risky.

If anything needed to be cu... (Below threshold)

If anything needed to be cut is the Ares I booster. Its so underpowered/over weight that Orion has had to make deep cuts in its capabilities in order to fly on it. Restore some of those things: being able to land on dry land, 6 person capable instead of 3-4, and not having to worry about be shaken like a milkshake on launch by putting it on an Atlas or Delta rocket that are flying now.

I meant to say in the last ... (Below threshold)

I meant to say in the last post that we were pissing away hundreds of BILLIONS of dollars. Or is it trillions? It is hard to keep track nowadays...

And to people like Bruce Henry who thinks some of us are only supporting this program because Obama is shutting it down - GET OVER YOURSELF!!! I will give Obama credit when he does something to deserve it. I don't want the guy to fail but the policies he is pursuing are guaranteed that WE as a nation will fail. He clearly is not paying attention to the turning tide and he seems hell bent in doubling down on stupid so where does that leave us? Obama is not interested in any Republican health care reform ideas which actually would lower costs so people like you need to stick a sock in it when you say we are against things like health care reform. Real solutions are bring offered and they are ignored because they are more interested in making sure their political donors (the trial lawyers) are taken care of than improving our health care system.

bh "The Wizbang commu... (Below threshold)

bh "The Wizbang community is FOR spending if the President opposes it, and AGAINST spending if the President is for it. It's really quite simple."

Maybe, but more likely many think obama is simply wrong in this decision.

NASA's programs over the last 50 years has inspired hundreds of thousands of students to pursue science if not for careers, for its general knowledge value to everyday life.

obama claims education is important, wants to spend billions on it [as if THAT hasn't been done and failed already] yet aside from gov sponsored medical research that provides education oppotunities wants to cut a space program that provides inspiration for science education and a vehicle for wide ranging applications of that education.

And need I mention he desires to use NSA/NASA satellites for the study of ...retch... global warming?

"The nations of the worl... (Below threshold)
P. Bunyan:

"The nations of the world will look elsewhere, not to the US"

This is the goal of the "fundamental transformation" Obama promised.

I think that ending NASA's ... (Below threshold)
jim m:

I think that ending NASA's monopoly on Space flight and exploration is possibly the best hing that could happen in those areas.

However, I doubt that Obama's cutting spending in that area reflects anything more than simply grabbing the money from there to use elsewhere in the government.

Since Obama comes at everything from a statist viewpoint, I would expect o see crushing regulation as soon as any commercial venture shows the slightest amount of success. Obama is not giving up the government monopoly, he is merely cutting his R&D budget.

Just watch. Should anyone make a significant advance in the next 3 years Obama will regulate them out of existence.

I think the question of "Where is the US Leadership in space if we don't have a heavy lifter soon ?" is answered "nowhere".

Obama has already shown that the only thing he is interested the US leading in is apologies.

"I think that ending NASA's... (Below threshold)

"I think that ending NASA's monopoly on Space flight and exploration is possibly the best hing that could happen in those areas."

Agreed. But watch for USA/NASA reaction in opposition.

The Moon Landing/Deep Space Charade must be maintained, radioactivity or no radioactivity!

"The Wizbang commu... (Below threshold)
Mac Lorry:
"The Wizbang community is FOR spending if the President opposes it, and AGAINST spending if the President is for it. It's really quite simple."

That's because Obama is consistently wrong. In fact, the budget for NASA is going up, just no money for the very thing NASA was founded to do. Obama wants to put more money into propping up the faltering Global Warming scam so that he can pass cap and trade legislation at some point. What Obama didn't count on was the American electorate wising up to his shtick so quickly.






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