Although Obama and NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden have tried since January 2010 to push Obama’s Power Point plan as America’s new Human Space Flight Program, calling the matter “settled”, seven months later it is far from settled and a Civil War has broken out within NASA being led by the folks at Johnson Space Center and Marshall Space Flight Center.
There are basically two sides to this civil war: Obama, NASA Senior Administration officials, and a few “Obamanauts” who wish to kill America’s Human Space Flight Program vs many mid-level NASA managers, employees, and contractors who are fighting for Constellation and our Human Space Flight Program. As with all civil wars, this war is going to be more damaging in the long run compared to other wars.
Congress, during the last year, had passed a requirement that NASA had to get approval from Congress before canceling Constellation. There were fears that though Obama had promised during the election campaign he would support our Human Space Flight Program and our setting up a base on the Moon by 2020, he might be lying and would try to cancel Constellation and our Human Space Flight Program. For once, Congress did something very forward thinking and prudent though Obama and NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden don’t seem to be that concerned about the law unless it’s in their favor.
On May 27th, Jeff Hanley, Constellation’s Project Manager was removed from his job by Charlie Bolden for doing his job in promoting Constellation! Charlie Bolden felt that Mr. Hanley needed to lose his job because he “was “conflicted” and had become a lightening rod for controversy,” per the Huntsville Times. Funny, since Constellation is still on the books as America’s official Human Space Flight Program and Obama’s plan has not yet been approved by Congress, who is the “lightening rod for controversy” Mr. Bolden?
Senator Richard Shelby and other lawmakers felt this firing of Mr. Hanley was NASA senior administration’s way of bypassing Congress and getting rid of Constellation by getting rid of their effective personnel in the program. “NASA leadership removed a capable program manager in its continuing efforts to suppress internal voices of dissent to their visionless space exploration plan,” Shelby said this afternoon. “This action furthers an atmosphere where NASA’s leadership team has become a key impediment to space exploration moving forward.”
In possible retaliation for Senator Shelby’s criticism of the NASA administration and Obama, the Citizens Against Government Waste (at Obama’s prodding?) named Senator Shelby the “Porker of the Month” for wanting to save Constellation. Congressman Bill Posey rose to Senator Shelby’s defense and pointed out, “The real waste is canceling a program that’s near completion after investing $9 Billion into it.”
But Obama and NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden weren’t done yet. Charlie Bolden and his legal team dug up a 140 year old law (Yes I said a 140 year old law created before Jules Verne had written his fictional account of man going to the Moon) called the Anti-Deficiency Act. The Anti-Deficiency Act requires money to be set aside to cover termination costs in case a government contract is cancelled. Bolden wanted to use this 140-year-old law to force the contractors working on Constellation to lay off the workers and use the funds to prepare to shut down Constellation and America’s Human Space Flight Program. “NASA told Congress this week it intends to start shutting down its moon program despite legislation prohibiting the agency from terminating Project Constellation without the approval of lawmakers in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.” “It also comes despite rulings by both the U.S. Supreme Court and the U.S. Court of Appeals that places all termination liability on the government rather than contractors.”
Stonewalling Congress is another tactic being used to kill Constellation. Congress has been getting frustrated with Obama’s plan lacking any detail and has ordered NASA to hand over data and material that would explain the plan better. But, “Word has it that the White House views this request as a matter of Executive privilege. As such it is unlikely that NASA will be allowed to provide much of what the House members are demanding to see.” – NasaWatch article titled “House Gets Firm With NASA Over Data Request.”
NASA officials did throw a bone to the people wanting to return to live on the Moon by announcing a new video game (part of Obama’s new space program?) called Moonbase Alpha. Instead of us really going back to the Moon to live and work, we would do it online in a video game. Oh the genius of this!
Moonbase Alpha is a game with single and multiplayer options where
players step into the role of an exploration team member in a
futuristic 3-D lunar settlement. Their mission is to restore critical
systems and oxygen flow after a nearby meteor strike cripples a solar
array and life support equipment. “
NASA’s senior administration also went on the offensive to try to explain why people didn’t “understand” Obama’s new plan. In the article titled Malice, Mischief and Misconceptions in the Smithsonian’s Air and Space online edition, the writer discussed this attempt; “The latest attempt to explain NASA’s new direction is an article published in Space.com by Clara Moskowitz. She tries to “correct” some alleged “misunderstandings” about the Obama administration’s new direction and budget for NASA. Her article quotes several space luminaries, who opine that the new path is simply “not understood” by a few petulant detractors who stubbornly refuse to accept Flexible Path as advertised.” In other words, we are too stupid to understand Obama’s plan, including the tens of thousands engineers, technicians, aerospace professionals, Congressmen, Senators, and nearly all of the retired astronauts that are free to speak up including Neil Armstrong, and Gene Cernan.
Personally, I think the Cartoon series called South Park does a fine job explaining Obama and NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden’s new “plan.” ***Language Warning***
But, the Pro-American Human Space Flight people haven’t been idle. Mr. Dale Thomas, who replaced Jeff Hanley as the Constellation Project manager, continues the fight. “Dale Thomas has simply picked up where Jeff Hanley left off and has told his staff that this is what he is doing. Nothing has changed and JSC still operates in open defiance of NASA Headquarters – starting with its center director.”
Though Charlie Bolden is trying to use the 140-year-old law, The Anti-Deficiency Act, to shut off funding for Constellation, various NASA centers and mid-level managers are still obeying the Congressional directive and 2010 budget requirements and fund Constellation work. “…Mr. Bolden in recent weeks issued directives intended to immediately halt or sharply curtail funding for continued work on some big-ticket projects. They include the family of Ares rockets being developed by Alliant Techsystems Inc. However, midlevel NASA contracting officials in the past few days released more than $160 million to Alliant. Andrew Hunter, a NASA budget official, said Wednesday the action was intended to prevent Alliant from being forced to abruptly stop all Ares work and lay off employees. Lockheed Martin Corp. also got the green light to receive $80 million for other work related to a crew capsule.” Wall Street Journal (6/24)
Even Mr. Bolden’s press spokesman defended this defiance of Obama and Mr. Bolden in a recent article titled Obama Space Plan Under Continuous Assault. “Asked about providing continued funds for Ares work, Bob Jacobs, a press spokesman for Mr. Bolden, said Tuesday: “Whether or not it fits the priorities” previously mandated by Mr. Bolden “is kind of up for interpretation.” The spokesman said “a commitment was made” by NASA earlier to provide the money.”
The most potent weapon that is starting to be used in this civil war is the political awakening of the Human Space Flight workforce. Most aerospace workers didn’t give a hoot about politics, but they now realize that their dreams of Human Space Flight and their jobs are dependent upon a politician’s whim and they don’t like it. They now understand that elections do have consequences and when you elect a man that has never managed a McDonalds, how can he manage a country let alone Human Space Flight?
This large body of tens of thousands of Human Space Flight workers, a sleeping giant so to speak, has awakened and they are ticked off. They are calling their representatives in Washington, showing up at town hall meetings when the democrats are actually brave enough to hold one, and becoming politically active. The first politicians that will feel their wrath this November and November of 2012 are the ones that sold them out and supported Obama killing America’s Human Space Flight Program. Politicians such as Senator Bill Nelson, Congresswoman Suzanne Kosmas, and Congressman Allan Grayson, all from Florida.