The White House’s spending plan for manned space exploration seeks to avoid last year’s confrontation between Congress and President Barack Obama, according to government and industry officials.
America’s Space Odyssey
This time, these officials said, the agency’s request is likely to track major elements of a bipartisan compromise Congress eventually approved last year.
That package restricted funding for commercial-space efforts but identified about $11 billion over five years—substantially more than the White House requested—to accelerate government development of heavy-lift rockets able to reach deeper into space.
Days later, Rep. Frank Wolf, the Virginia Republican who heads the House appropriations subcommittee with authority over NASA, said the agency was “just wallowing” and lawmakers have been “concerned about the administration’s hostility toward manned spaceflight.”
But with House Republican leaders looking for deeper NASA cuts, and some of them targeting agency initiatives to assess climate-change, U.S. space programs could continue to be buffeted by conflicting budget signals.
In a recent letter to the White House, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid warned that “any digression from the hard fought compromise” hammered out in 2010 “would likely result in another year of turmoil for an already battered community.”
Last year. NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and White House aides were sharply criticized by all sides for failing to lay the political groundwork for the budget submission. As a result, this year they appear to be paying more attention to alerting interest groups about the thrust of the proposals.
There are signs that the White House is tempering its advocacy for commercial space. Jim Kohlenberger, chief of staff in the White House science office, last week announced his decision to leave the post. Mr. Kohlenberger was one of the initial architect’s of NASA’s controversial policy shift toward private space ventures.
On Monday, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden is expected to announce that he is consolidating certain offices overseeing shuttle and international space station operations with others responsible for developing next-generation space vehicles.
In other ways, the upcoming retirement of the space shuttle fleet could force unprecedented changes to NASA’s internal organization. Some high-level agency managers, for instance, are considering partnerships with companies or foreign governments that want to use the Johnson Space Center’s Mission Control facilities in Houston to plan, train or oversee their own manned missions.
Write to Andy Pasztor at firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright 2011 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved