Leaked cost estimates published in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal for NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) heavy lift rocket have triggered a joint statement from the senior Texas and Florida Senators on a “Campaign to Undermine America’s Manned Space Program.” Commentary out of former NASA officials now working in Huntsville, Alabama – one of the cities that would play a key role in SLS -- includes “Administration ‘spin’“ and “obviously another attempt... to leak data to make the program look bad,” reports the Huntsville Times.
In the September 8 press release, Senate Commerce Committee members Senators Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) and Bill Nelson (D-FL) said the Obama Administration’s budget office has kept an independent cost assessment of SLS under wraps.
“Instead, a wildly inflated set of NASA cost numbers was invented, based on an imaginary ‘acceleration’ of SLS development,” the release says. “Under these contrived numbers, which were leaked in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, development costs were forecast to increase to $57 billion – nearly double the amount that NASA and Booz Allen Hamilton (News - Alert) agreed would be needed in the independent cost assessment.”
The statement goes on to say, “No one has proposed to accelerate development... Accelerated development is a convenient myth” and the White House “should proceed immediately according to the reasonable, achievable development timetable embedded in federal law, and preserve America’s pre-eminence in space.”
Down in Huntsville, Steve Cook, director of Space Technologies at Dynetics and formerly involved in NASA heavy lift rocket projects, told the Huntsville Times, “This is obviously another attempt by the foes of SLS to leak data to make the program look bad.”
Former NASA Administrator Michael Griffin, who recently launched his own PR campaign against Obama Administration space policy, is quoted as saying “What you are seeing is administration ‘spin,’ an attempt to make NASA look old, tired, and bloated.”
What isn’t clear from all the sound and fury is what will happen next. With budget cuts looming and the U.S. Post Office threatening to shut down, space policy isn’t cracking the front page on media outlets since the space shuttle program has shut down. NASA doesn’t even merit a mention in the recent rounds of Republican president debates, with candidates more focused on bashing “ObamaCare,” offering job creation plans, and Social Security “a Ponzi scheme.”
To date, Congressional efforts to force SLS movement have been unsuccessful while NASA and the White House are standing firm on making an announcement committing NASA to start building SLS.
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Doug Mohney is a contributing editor for TMCnet and a 20-year veteran of the ICT space. To read more of his articles, please visit columnist page.
Edited by Jennifer Russell