Original written, 09 June 2009
Sen. Richard Shelby (R. - Ala.) is unhappy because NASA Administrator Christopher Scolese intends to use $150 million of the $400 million NASA received as part of the stimulus package to support the development of commercial space transportation for delivering cargo and personnel to the space station.
His rationale reveals an astounding lack of historical perspective.
During a May 21st hearing of the Senate Appropriations Commerce, Justice, and Science Subcommittee hearing, the Senator stated, "I believe that manned spaceflight is something that is still in the realm of government, because despite their best efforts, some truly private enterprises have not been able to deliver on plans of launching vehicles."
I guess he missed the successful launch of Space Exploration Technologies' (SpaceX) Falcon 1 rocket on Sept. 28, 2008.
And that's just recent history. Sherman, set the Wayback Machine to 1960:
"On 28 July 1960, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) announced a new manned spaceflight program. Called Apollo, its aim was to put three astronauts into sustained earth orbit, or into a flight around the moon. The timing of the announcement was not auspicious. The next day, NASA's first Mercury-Atlas (MA-1) disintegrated and fell into the ocean 58 seconds after takeoff from Cape Canaveral. This disaster ushered in a bleak four months during which the test rocket Little Joe 5 joined the MA-1 in the ocean, and the first Mercury-Redstone lifted a fraction fo an inch and settled back on its launch pad." (Source: "Moonport: A History of Apollo Launch Facilities and Operations," NASA SP-4204, p. xv)
I understand the Senator's need and desire to to protect the jobs of his constituents at NASA's Marshall Spaceflight Center, but attempting to force an either/or choice between Federal and commercial space transportation is not the answer. That's as false a choice as Moon vs. Mars and manned vs. robotic space exploration. Both NASA and NewSpace have valid and valuable roles to play, so let's please not waste time and energy creating a schism where one need not exist.