Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Bush to Congress: Stop Messin’ With My Stuff

Bush’s Office of Management and Budget just yesterday released a report that slammed the intentions of HR 6063, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act of 2008. It seems that this bill impedes the implementation of Bush’s “Vision for Space Exploration”. Bush’s 2004 vision of the future of space exploration.

That vision had two deadlines that are at issue today. One is the 2010 deadline for completion of the International Space Station. Concurrently the space shuttle fleet would be retired, due to age and the fact that their mission had been completed with completion of the ISS. Then, by 2014 the new Orion CEV would take over the task of crew exchanges, accompanied by an Ares V Cargo Module.

But HR 6063 specifically requires at least 3 more flights of the space shuttle after the September 2010 retirement date, and this, the OMB report says, will not do, not at all:

“The Space Shuttle must be retired by the end of 2010, and the NASA Administrator’s authority to make the final determination on Shuttle flights based on safety considerations must be preserved. In addition, any increased cost of an additional Shuttle flight must be satisfactorily accommodated within the President’s proposed discretionary spending total.”
And further, the bill provides for coordination among the “spacefaring nations” to prevent radio frequency interference, let alone physical interference (giving a nod to that time-honored scientific maxim that no two objects can occupy the same space at the same time). The OMB objects most strenuously to this:

“This provision directly infringes upon the President’s authority to conduct foreign affairs. The United States already actively promotes international cooperation to enhance spaceflight safety and supports consideration of voluntary transparency and confidence building measures in appropriate venues under the leadership of the Department of State, with appropriate assistance from the Department of Defense. These provisions accordingly should be removed”.
Congress, it seems, is muddling about in the President’s personal playground. One that will no longer be his on January 21st 2009. But that last bit really is an interesting one. Bush’s OMB people believe that only the president or his surrogates should conduct foreign affairs – of any kind. I suppose this includes air traffic controllers, customs inspectors and international bankers. NASA clearly isn’t part of that diverse group. Oh, wait, it is, isn’t it?

The fact is, Bush is opening up and practically handing over the ISS to Russia and its Soyuz spacecraft for four years. Bush’s people cite safety issues with an aging shuttle fleet that must be retired on schedule, ignoring small details such as the age of some of Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft as well as the remarkably inept capsule re-entry and landing of this past April which placed American astronauts in serious danger as it brought astronauts back to Earth hundreds of miles away from the landing site.

It makes one shake one’s head in wonder at the remarkable hypocrisy resident in this report. As this bill, HR 6063, backed by a large bipartisan majority, makes its way to a vote on the House floor very soon now, get ready for another veto fight.

This time it’s serious. We’re talking about messin’ with W’s stuff now.

No comments: