05/19/09 00:00:00    

By Michael Mealling

(In case you're not a UNIX geek, the title of this article is the search and replace function in VI)

The official action that creates something like the Augustine Commission is the publication of a notice in the Federal Register. That happened yesterday and can be found here. The stated objectives for the commission are: bq. The identification and characterization of these options should address the following objectives: (a) Expediting a new U.S. capability to support utilization of the International Space Station (ISS); (b) supporting missions to the Moon and other destinations beyond low Earth orbit (LEO); © stimulating commercial space flight capability; and (d) fitting within the current budget profile for NASA exploration activities.

Now, if you are remotely familiar with US space policy, these objectives will seem very familiar. From President Bush's Vision for Space Exploration we have the following goals and objectives: bq.

  • Implement a sustained and affordable human and robotic program to explore the solar system and beyond;
  • Extend human presence across the solar system, starting with a human return to the Moon by the year 2020, in preparation for human exploration of Mars and other destinations;
  • Develop the innovative technologies, knowledge, and infrastructures both to explore and to support decisions about the destinations for human exploration; and
  • Promote international and commercial participation in exploration to further U.S. scientific, security, and economic interests.
  • The only real differences are that the new Commission is asked to look at ISS directly and commercialization and sustainability are given more prominence. These were mentioned in Bush's VSE document but weren't given the same prominence. Just as Bush did, Obama has created a Commission to figure out the details. Bush created the President's Commission on Moon, Mars and Beyond which produced A Journey to Inspire, Innovate and Discover. In that report it outlines the charter objectives for the Commission as: bq. 1. a science research agenda to be conducted on the Moon and other destinations as well as human and robotic science activities that advance our capacity to achieve the policy; 2. the exploration of technologies, demonstrations, and strategies, including the use of lunar and other in situ natural resources, that could be used for sustainable human and robotic exploration; 3. criteria that could be used to select future destinations for human exploration; 4. long-term organization options for managing implementation of space exploration activities; 5. the most appropriate and effective roles for potential private-sector and international participants in implementing the policy; 6. methods for optimizing space exploration activities to encourage the interest of America’s youth in studying and pursuing careers in mathematics, science, and engineering; and 7. management of the implementation of the policy within available resources.

    So what's the difference between then and now? The main one seems to be that Griffin chose to ignore much of that original Commission's recommendations. He threw sustainability out the window and completely ignored that “Go as you can pay” finding. Given all of that, one would think that, sans a new section on closing the gap and recovering from the Whitehouse's lack of oversight of Griffin, you should be able to load the Aldridge Commission report do a few search and replace operations with names and dates, and republish it as is. There are some things in the Aldridge Commission report that I didn't agree with such as its assumption that manned space is still NASA's purview. But all of this brings me back to 1) why was the Aldridge Commission report ignored and 2) what makes anyone think that Augustine's report won't also be ignored? What is different this time?

    Until someone figures out how to route around Congress and the “standing army” issue nothing is going to change. If Augustine's report is anything like the Aldridge Commission's then it too will be ignored and NASA will keep going down the rat hole of bureaucratic institutionalization.

    h2. Hmm… Route around the problemWhat a great idea!

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