Listening in from Frankfurt airport’s gate B31 yesterday this blogger wondered what would result from the morning’s surprise media telecon announcement that had the inspiring title of NASA Announces Future Work Assignments for Field Centers - and bar a few nuggets of info about the 15 April space summit what was left unsaid was more interesting
One wonders if the telecon was called simply to rebuff NASAWatch and others latest claims about what is going on behind closed doors. Certainly one US journalist got to ask about those NASAWatch Shuttle lives-on claims and NASA administrator Charles Bolden was happy to shoot down those theories. Theories about a future that members of Congress intend to shape themselves, so the outcome is anyone’s guess
Or was it called to put into the public domain a bit of background for the forthcoming 15 April space summit that president Barack Obama will attend? This mystery event, which had one space state politician putting a letter asking for any info on the summit into the public domain, is going to see discussion groups apparently – with politicians, academics, scientists, industry executives. Has no one at the White House watched the Congressional hearings?
The politicians will attack Bolden’s Plan A, the academics and scientists will argue over what the priorities will be, and probably attack Plan A as well, and the discussion will come to no outcome whatsoever. Why should it when Plan A has actually managed to achieve the one notable thing the Obama administration has singularly failed too, create a bi-partisan legislative effort?
It will be interesting to see what reaction Bolden gets at the next Congressional hearing to his comments yesterday that “in terms of NASA planning, as a programme, Constellation is dead”We now know Obama will give a speech on his space vision. A fantastic orator Obama’s speech will no doubt sound good but all the rhetoric in the world will not change the fact that a space programme with no future anchor date and no set destination will whither in the fierce appropriations process crucible
But what of those NASA work assignments? Anyone with a basic knowledge of the space agency could have guessed what each of its centers were going to get, so like any press conference what was not said becomes the subject of analysis, or is that wild speculation?
What are these robotic precursor missons that were mentioned by Bolden, when will they fly and where to, what have the six flexible path destination tiger teams found so far? Could the testing in the Earth’s atmosphere mean use of a future Ares I-X type vehicle, what does it mean when Orion is said to be a good candidate for the commercial crew programme - That is a hell of an advantage for Lockheed Martin? Or is the intellectual property all NASA owned and so available to all?
Ultimately, unless the Congressional opposition to Plan A is just a paper tiger unable to resist the full force of Democratic Congressional party organisation, everything Bolden had to say for the telecon is as meaningful as stardust