President Can’t Cut Constellation Without Congressional Approval

With all the speculation currently making the rounds about Obama axing the Constellation program and ending the possibilities of humans returning to the Moon anytime soon, it was brought to our attention by a reader that under the 2010 Consolidated Appropriations Act, H.R. 3288, passed on September 17, 2009, Congress inserted a clause in the language of the FY2010 NASA funding bill that would prevent President Obama from terminating the Constellation program without Congressional approval. Senator Bill Nelson of Florida and Senator Richard Shelby from Alabama — two states that have a huge stake in NASA’s future — were the main sponsors of the clause in the Senate version. So, it doesn’t appear that Obama can just cut Constellation, not without a fight, anyway.

Also while we’re on the subject of NASA’s future, Administrator Charlie Bolden spoke in Israel yesterday, and journalist Avi Blizovsky from the online publication Hayadan shared with Universe Today some interesting comments Bolden made about NASA’s direction.

Bolden apparently confirmed that an agreement had been reached between NASA and its international partners to continue operations of the International Space Station until 2020. (Another Russian report said that NASA has suggested keeping the station operational until 2028).

Charlie Bolden in Israel. Credit: Avi Blizovsky

Bolden was in Israel at the Ilan Ramon International Space Conference to help announce that two new Israeli astronauts will be named.

Bolden said there will be dramatic changes to the human spaceflight program. “We are going to have to adapt to change, and the President’s decision is the beginning of the debate,” Bolden said. Without offering specific detail he added, “Based on what I know today is this is the best thing for the nation and for the family of space fairing nations.”

He said the current budgetary situation does not allow NASA to go to the Moon, but he emphasized the importance of international partnerships returning to the Moon and going to Mars. “Flying in space is expensive and risky and requires a broad set of capabilities that it is difficult for one nation to do it,” he said. “I think what President Obama wants me to do is work more closely with international partners.”

But he also stressed how commercial space companies will extremely important to the future of space exploration.

“As we phase the space shuttle out, we have got to find another way to get humans to space. What we’re going to focus on, … is facilitating the success of, I like to use the term ‘entrepreneurial interests’,” he said, saying that NASA has always used commercial companies to build and maintain the shuttle and other vehicles. “What’s going to change, I think, is that instead of NASA buying a vehicle and then taking over its primary operations, we will buy a service.”

So, back to speculating:

Also, remember the news that broke shortly after Obama and Bolden met at the White House in December: a White House insider reported that Obama is going cut Ares, but still ask Congress to fund a new heavy-lift launcher to take humans to the moon, asteroids, and the moons of Mars. The news in December said NASA would receive an additional $1 billion in 2011 (now reports are saying $1.8 billion) to get the new launcher on track and to bolster the agency’s fleet of robotic Earth-monitoring spacecraft.

So don’t count out returning to the Moon just yet.

Hat tip to UT reader Craigboy and the Daily Kos

26 Replies to “President Can’t Cut Constellation Without Congressional Approval”

  1. Nancy:

    Great article!

    What many of us find particularly disturbing about this announcement is that the very same day when the Obama quietly attempts to kill off Constellation, supposedly because there is not enough money to continue this program, he staneously announces plans to give away billions to a passenger train business on Florida, and giving away even more billions to several private aerospace companies so that their investors will not have to pay their development expenses.

    One also has to wonder if this has anything to do with the fact that killiing Constellation will primarily damage the economies of states that consistently voted against Obama, Kerry, Gore, and other Democratic candidates.


  2. I never was a big fan of the Ares rocket. Sure it will keep Morton Thiokol in biz and is a major concession to Sen. Orin Hatch (R). Read BIG lobby? But I for one was totally under-impressed with the demo flight. The first and second stages quite nearly collided, then the main chute assembly malfunctioned. This demonstrated that there are still a lot of bugs to work out even after all the hooplah and money spent for the demo? Why?

    We can do better!

  3. The relevant section of H.R. 3288 seems to be this one (in Title III under “Exploration”):

    “That notwithstanding section 505 of this Act, none of the funds provided herein and from prior years that remain available for obligation during fiscal year 2010 shall be available for the termination or elimination of any program, project or activity of the architecture for the Constellation program nor shall such funds be available to create or initiate a new program, project or activity, unless such program termination, elimination, creation, or initiation is provided in subsequent appropriations Acts.”

    I’m not sure how much protection that provides.

  4. Great propaganda piece.

    So every cloud does have a silver lining – even though the news is clearly not very good.

    Barbara Ehrenreich in her recent book “Smile or Die: How Positive Thinking Fooled America & the World” surmises the psychology well. Really. No amount of “positive thinking” is going to get you out of the economic mess currently embracing the U.S. Optimism might be one solution, but this is really delusional. Pretending you have bottomless dollars of cash to fund everything when the money is already so heavily borrowed only highlights the truth of the whole delusion.

    Continuing to narrowly think the future is exclusively based on the “American Dream” is so wrong. The whole exploration of space should be an international effort whose contributions are no exclusive to America (nor doing it “on behalf of humankind”) but a worldwide endeavour for the benefit of everyone.

  5. As much as I would like to see a base on the Moon, it can wait. I would hate to see the ISS retired when it has life yet to go and if the cost of extending it’s life is waiting to go to Moon, let’s pay that price.

    Maybe when we go back to the Moon, it will be a truly World effort, all nations united.

  6. Its the unfortunate reality that what goes on in space is being decided by politicians who care only for naval gazing. What doesn’t get them votes or donations rarely manages to grab their attention.

    Whats interesting is, after hearing how they wont spend on NASA, looking at what they will happily spend it on.
    They can find ten times the needed sums for a moon program to spend on a single military aircraft… I don’t see why we should accept them putting space exploration off another day.

  7. Its time to end the extremely wasteful ISS program in order to focus on building a Moon base. There was no logical reason for a titanic microgravity space station that can only house 6 people. Heavy lift launched Skylab-like space stations are much cheaper.

    And there’s no way we’re getting $2 billion a year worth of science out of the ISS. No way! Spending $20 for the ISS over the next 10 years would be a huge waste of money that could be better spent on other research projects.

    Marcel F. Williams

  8. Sally Crumb… I’m with you. I’m tired of my taxes being increased to pay for the worlds gain.

    Call your representative and say you want to help with the space prgoram, and everyone in Australia should have their taxes raised to help pay for it. In fact, Australia should host the next space port! Let their outstanding universities pump out talent to find technology.
    LOLOL What am I saying?

  9. We need to send out a clear message that we are tired of NASA being treated like the cable bill (the thing you cut when times are tight),

    Obama has no long term vision. He worries only about fixing things today, and f*** the future generations.

    If America neuters its space program to save a few bucks, then what would Russia and China do? One of two things:

    1. Use their space advantage for political gains (“if you want your astronauts back from the ISS, you must do X for us.)

    2. Realize that there is no real competition from NASA anymore, and decide that they need to save money as well and kill off their space programs, effectively grounding humanity.

    Private industry could make a lot of money by placing satellites in LEO, but they are not ready yet. I certainly don’t think that they are ready for moon shots.

    This is simply piss-poor politically motivated planning.

    As for NASA’s budget:
    NASA should do what NASCAR does. Rent the hull space of the rockets/boosters to private corporations and let them slap company logos (Pepsi, Frito-Lay, McDonalds, etc.) Charge outrageous prices for it, then provide TV coverage so that viewers will be tempted to buy from them.

    Yes, it’s whoaring, but if that’s what it takes to get back to the moon, then I’m for it.

  10. I didn’t know Obama was worried about fixing anything…
    I believed he just wanted to push his own agenda through, spend money foolishly, sell the country to China, outsource to other countries, loan money to businesses who pad their executives with huge bonuses, sidestep his campaign promisses, and attempt to bring the olympics to his home town.
    For anyone wanting a to know how to win a Nobel Prize… take note!

    I do like DG’s ideas. Let’s have the Frito Lay launch facility, and the Trojan Booster Rocket (heh).
    Why not the Canada Dry Manuverable arm? Make the liquid fuel tank look like a soda can. Rename Johnson Space Center to Ross Perot Space Control. Line the fence around KSC where the civilian bleachers are with advertisements like a AAA ball park. Dell would probably go for sponsoring a maintenance facility or two. I’m sure we could find a spot or two for a bitten apple. Even bring Tang back to life!
    Why not sell an area in the corner of every photo released? Canon would jump on putting a little water mark logo in one corner.

    Think of the advertising return you would have received if you could have bought space on the Mars rovers which were only suppose to last 90 days? Too bad Duracell didn’t think about that, eh?

    The list is finite, but many.

  11. Unfortunately, the majority of us on these boards are the minority in America. Most citizens don’t care about the continuation of the space program, even though most modern technological advances were born out of NASA.

    Not to get on a soap box, but an uneducated democracy, coupled with corrupt politicians (and the lack of a Cold-War-esque enemy), is a perfect storm. I think NASA’s days are dwindling. And perhaps even Man’s chance at space.

  12. I apologize for a double post, but just a quick more-on-topic comment,

    I don’t think Ares is the solution, but as long as NASA is working on something to take humans to extraterrestrial bodies, it is better than the alternative of nothing. Keep funding Ares if that secures our future in manned spaceflight.

  13. Aodhhan said; January 29th, 2010 at 4:51 am

    “Sal Crumb… I’m with you. I’m tired of my taxes being increased to pay for the worlds gain.
    Call your representative and say you want to help with the space prgoram, and everyone in Australia should have their taxes raised to help pay for it. In fact, Australia should host the next space port! Let their outstanding universities pump out talent to find technology.
    LOLOL What am I saying?

    Australia already contributes much to space technology and supports some of NASA goals. However, with 8% of the US population and an equally smaller tax base, supporting a fully fledged space program is probably well out of the question.

    Yet if places like Australia (and other countries) could contribute and the Americans shelved the gross nationalism and decided to space exploration on as a truly global effort; there would no end to what could be achieved.

    Obama at the moment has one huge problem though. He has to juggle supporting the grand scheme of research and still provide the continuance of social services. ‘Constellation’ might have to be delayed for a while (just like the decade delay when the space shuttle was first formulated between about 1973 and 1982.) The question remains…


    I.e. When it comes to issues like climate change, infant mortality or life expectancy influencing the whole US population, which is the more important issue?

    It is interesting who actually started the current GFC and NASA’s possible budgetary crisis – the gross abuse by the U.S. free enterprise to cut corners all for the sake of profit. Here the USA suffers by the current economic downturn, and the rest of the foreign non-US markets have little choice but to follow.
    It seems almost inconsequential that others beyond the US borders have also had their economies broken and their citizenry having to also tighten their own belts.

    Yes others totally have the right to discuss US policy and their programs openly – because their own economies are heavily latched to the global economy lead by the US markets. Yet the average American joe thinks exclusivity – and that their own aspirations warrant anyone else to simply curtailing any honest open criticisms. Such atypical narrow mindedness, however, is what we come to expect.


    This presumes that money not spent on space will go to important social programs… which is incorrect.

    Money not spent on space is more likely to go for another military weapon or war as it is to feed starving children in Haiti.
    The politicians who’s lack of perspective cuts us off from the next big frontier for mankinds development? They didn’t gain any when a big pool of free money was found in an election year.
    Its gonna go strait to pork, which translates to votes, which buys them another term.

    Everyone wonders about fermi’s paradox, but I understand why it exists.
    Its because civilizations get so big they think they are the most important thing around… until something bigger and finally more important slams into their planet.

  15. Really Maxwell, what has to “feed starving children in Haiti.* ” have to do with it?

    We are talking about the U.S. DOMESTIC Social program. It is your average domestic infant mortality or life expectancy that is the problem!

    Listen to your own nightly news. People out if work who can’t afford to send their kids to school, those who have lost their now reposed homes now surviving on charity, those surviving without any adequate health care because they cannot afford it. Then President Obama talks about America just missing out of falling into a depression – and still people here are debating about stopping or delaying the laudable goal of wanting to return to the Moon!

    However, what shocks me far more regarding Maxwell’s response is the seeming oblivious understanding regarding the financial problems and the length of time the whole US economy will take to recover. The problem is the US is currently not awash with a “a big pool of free money” – hence Obama’s real need to cut back on NASA projects and other such programs.

    I say. Get the whole US economy back on track, then worry about all the “exploration stuff.” Those domestically currently hurting will thank you for it, and those beyond your shores will have also have a stable and viable future. Just closing your eyes will not make the problems go away!

    * The whole contribution and assistance to the Haitian people by the American (and support from the TV networks) IMO was nothing less than magnificent. America may have its various faults, but it decent compassion towards others beyond its borders is certainly not one of them!

  16. I knew and predicted HoeBama would try and trash the NASA budget. Let’s all hope he is a single term A**hole.
    Only a bunch of complete a**holes would build something as expensive AND cutting edge as the ISS and then throw it away long before it has delivered all the science it can. The ISS should be used as long as possible.
    NASA has almost always gotten many more years than planned out of the projects they complete – why would they trash something so important before it needed to be?
    That would be like ending the Mars Rover mission right at 90 days with out trying to get FIVE MORE YEARS out of them. Idiots!!!!!

  17. Oh and by the way…
    You can’t ignore the long term goals of any kind of national growth (exploration and space ventures included) due to today’s weather. If we did, we would never get anything accomplished. That’s like not having children until you can afford them. You can’t really EVER afford them, but you manage to get them taken care of.
    I agree, we need to take care of our people first. BUT – I think we should step back from helping the entire world as soon IF it interferes with our progress and goals as a nation. There are plenty of other countries that can and should step up.

    We cannot afford to miss out on this race to the moon. That would be an insult to all of our scientists, astronomers, cosmologists, ect who have dedicated their lives for the past 60 years. Think about the scientists who just got one step closer to nuclear fusion power recently.

    WAKE UP!!

  18. I think serendipitous discoveries are more likely to occur when someone is THERE! Science has finally begun on the ISS! Come on serendipity!

  19. rudeyd said;

    I agree, we need to take care of our people first. BUT – I think we should step back from helping the entire world as soon IF it interferes with our progress and goals as a nation.

    Compassion for one’s fellow man never looked so awful.

    “Our way or the highway” is such a great foreign policy, eh?

    Clearly Imperialism is also not one of the goals of the American Republic. To quote your John Quincy Adams in 1921 who said of America in his famous speech “Warning Against the Search for “Monsters to Destroy,”;

    Wherever the standard of freedom and Independence has been or shall be unfurled, there will her heart, her benedictions and her prayers be. But she goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own. She will commend the general cause by the countenance of her voice, and the benignant sympathy of her example. She well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy, and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the standard of freedom. The fundamental maxims of her policy would insensibly change from liberty to force…. She might become the dictatress of the world. She would be no longer the ruler of her own spirit….

    Helping others should be a virtue and NOT a condition. Surely the very core tenet of the ugly American.

    I stand by my earlier statement;

    The whole exploration of space should be an international effort whose contributions are no exclusive to America (nor doing it “on behalf of humankind”) but a worldwide endeavour for the benefit of everyone.

  20. I think NASA should invest more in aneutronic propulsion. Aneutronic reactor concept potentially applicable to space propulsion exist, hence returning to the Moon and going to Mars can be more affordable.

  21. I think as a country we should do everything we can to help advance the cause of space.

    “I say. Get the whole US economy back on track, then worry about all the “exploration stuff.”
    -Hon. Salacious B. Crumb

    Crumb, you suffer from a lack of imagination: renewed interest in space will help CREATE JOBS, in addition to this it will open up whole new oppurtunities in all kinds of fields, meaning lots of room for innovation and commerce. If we begin taking on this defeatist attitude we might as well shelve the whole thing forever, because there will always be unemployment, there will always be poverty. These things have gone on for millennia but they’ve never stopped us from exploring or taking risks before. Why should they now?
    As for the whole “global endeavor” idea, it would be better if the USA went at it alone, or with a few close partners. That way other large nations (Russia, China) will have the meaningful competition needed to push themselves into space, in productive ‘cold-war era’ space races. Get private sector involved and soon there will be a flourishing competitive space enviroment needed to spur on true progress.

    Mr. Man

  22. Mr. Man

    Boy, could you take anything more out of context.

    The central problem of the US economy is that your government is already up to its eyeballs in debt. The current federal debt is $3.4 trillion (37,000 billion) 12.3% of GDP!, yet the revenue from taxes is merely $1.06 trillion.

    Making up the interest let alone reducing the US federal debt is another. Only two ways seems feasible – increase taxes or reduce federal spend on projects.

    For NASA, the continuance of the workforce and maintaining job is unlikely to be slashed (actually increase). However, NEW programmes (like going to the Moon) must be on hold to the economy recovers sufficiently.

    Americans have few choices but to have their taxes raised, or other programmes slash, replanted into the new moon missions.

    I’m a realist, and don’t suffer from any “lack of imagination.”

    If you don’t have surplus money to throw around, and your people are hurting or have trouble ‘paying the bills’, austerity for the short-term is the only option. The average Joe in the street now has to do it, why not the economy?

    Sorry. Your seemingly rousing words actually ring very hollow – following the usual puppet master’s empty rhetoric. Obama at least hears the clarion calls of potential economic disaster. Perhaps he and Congress might be smart enough to listen and getting the economy back on the rails. If they don’t, things will be getting worst not better.

    So what if the US returns to the Moon in 2030 or 2040. It will still be there, and not owned by anyone. Dream, on little buddy!

  23. You’re right…

    American is way over its head in debt. America needs to quit feeding and sponsoring the entire world. We pay more than our fair share to the United Nations, and I’m tired of our troops doing peace keeping missions, when it isn’t trained to do this.

    Our people are too willing to give to others when they are in need, and not willing to do enough for their own. People can dial a number on their phone and raise 50 million in one weekend for Haiti, yet raise their nose to families in shelters. Is this wrong…? Not necessarily.

    Perhaps we should do what we did after World War I. Sit back, and take care of only our own. No longer allow foreigners to attend our universities, and allow another dictator like Hitler take over the rest of the world. Will Australians step up and take care of the rest of the world, and allow their debt to increase? No way… they have problems putting out fires at home; let alone deal with the problems of others. Canada probably could, however they don’t have or never will have the tax base.

    The problem with Obama’s economic policies, is that they are short term fixes to long term problems. Not only are they short term, but they are far too expensive. You don’t buy Gucci when a paper sack will do the job.

    Cutting back a NASA program which will not only create new technology, but will also employthousands of workers is obviously short-sighted. Out sourcing jobs to other countries when his own country is at 10% unemployment is increasingly short-sided. His administration is now being investigated for awarding a contract (to a political contributor) without a bidding process and paying too much. Especially troublesome, when this is another campaign promise he has broken.

    It is easy to bash the United States; because they are everywhere and have to be in everything. Yet, if your country will step up and start paying for the majority of the bill… we will happily allow your debt to pile up and allow us to take a break.

    Heck… I would be happy if your country would even match our funds given to the UN every year.

  24. @ Aodhhan

    “Will Australians step up and take care of the rest of the world, and allow their debt to increase? No way… they have problems putting out fires at home; let alone deal with the problems of others.”

    Not quite true. The tsunami of December 2004 was (and is) well supported by Australians, and aid is also in the regions. The US was supported in both Iraq and still Afghanistan. However, we have about 8% of the population (and about 8% tax base.) Making us out as out and out selfish bastards is a bit of a long bow,

    As to; “It is easy to bash the United States…” I’ve done no such thing, and it is usual argument when others disagree with you. The priorities of any nation is towards its economy and its people, so the egalitarian principles throughout it of its society can achieve. As the world economy is hitched on the American economy, it is important that its own strength is maintained. A lower and damaged American economy hits others beyond its shores, hitting other in the hip pocket too.

    Saying “we will happily allow your debt to pile up and allow us to take a break.” is poor economics at best and rather irresponsible.

    No one has questioning here the contributions the US is or has been making. What is questionable is the economic policies and the disregard (blindness, actually) with its long term goals.
    Going back to the moon is a wonderful and laudable goal, but IMO, you should be especially looking at the health care and its growing infant mortality. (probably fixed in a short time if the populous has the will to do so.) Get the economy is order must be the priority.

    As I’ve say; “So what if the US returns to the Moon in 2030 or 2040. It will still be there, and not owned by anyone.” It now seems Obama already agrees.

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