Congress fighting privatization – Commercial spacecraft pose too many risks
Moskowitz 11 (Clara Moskowitz, SPACE.com Senior Writer, NASA Chief Defends Space Budget Proposal to Congress, 02 March 2011 Time: 03:02 PM ET; Accessed 6/30/11, AH)
Some lawmakers object to the new privatization push because they don't trust commercially built spacecraft to be as safe as vehicles owned and operated by NASA. "Trying to stimulate commercial competition is a worthy goal that I support, but not at the expense of ensuring the safest or most robust systems for our astronauts," Hall said. "There are simply too many risks at the present time not to have a viable fallback option." Bolden disagreed that private spacecraft are any less safe than NASA's, which have traditionally always been built, and operated, through commercial contractors anyway. The new model, he said, was mainly a different acquisition format. "Safety of our crew is always my priority," Bolden said. "The best, most efficient, perhaps fastest way to do that is by relying on the commercial entities. Anyone who would try to convince you that American industry cannot produce is just not being factual." Commercial spaceflight did have some backers in Congress today, including Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), who introduced a letter signed by over 55 space leaders promoting the private space industry. "These credentialed experts are urging that NASA fully fund the use of commercial companies to carry crew to the station because it is a strategy that is critical for the nation's success in our space efforts," Rohrabacher said. He compared having the government manage, operate and build all the space transportation vehicles today to people who wanted the government to manage all aircraft 20 or 30 years ago. The debate comes as Congress is trying to settle on a budget for the 2011 fiscal year. So far, NASA and the rest of the federal government have been operating with 2010 funding levels under the current continuing resolution. Today the Senate passed a House resolution that would extend funding another two weeks to buy them a little more time, but the outlook for a longer-term budget is not yet decided. While some in Congress are aiming to make drastic cuts to many federal programs, others are seeking to protect funding for NASA. Obama's 2012 budget request would keep NASA at 2010 funding levels. "It's extraordinary that you're defending the president's budget," Johnson told Bolden. "I think it's grossly inadequate and I hope that we can help a little bit."
No push for asteroid mission politically in the Status Quo. Opposed to private investors.
Watson in 2010 [Traci, USA Today Staff Writer, “Landing on an asteroid: Not quite like the movies” USA Today; 6/21/2010 PN]
Almost 50 years after President Kennedy proposed sending a man to the moon "before this decade is out," Obama has set an equally improbable goal. He has proposed a 2025 date for NASA to land humans on an asteroid, a ball of rock hurtling around the sun. The moon is 240,000 miles away. A trip to an asteroid would be 5 million miles -- at a minimum. Why go? If the mission ever gets launched, it would mark a milestone just as significant as Neil Armstrong's "small step" on the moon, experts say. To go to an asteroid, humans would have to venture for the first time into "deep space," where the sun, not the Earth, is the main player. An asteroid trip "would really be our first step as a species outside the Earth-moon system," says planetary scientist Andy Rivkin of the Applied Physics Laboratory. "This would be taking off the training wheels." Asteroids have always been passed over as a destination for human explorers. Then-president George H.W. Bush wanted NASA to go to Mars, while his son, George W. Bush, chose the moon. During the past six years, NASA spent $9 billion building a spaceship, rocket and other gear to help reach the second Bush's goal of returning humans to the lunar surface by 2020. In February, Obama took steps toward killing Bush's moon program, which was beset by technical troubles and money woes. Two months later, in a speech at Cape Canaveral, Obama announced that the astronauts' next stop is an asteroid. So far, the Obama administration has been quiet on the need for a major sum of money to accomplish his goal. And unlike Kennedy, who used Sputnik to promote the moon mission, Obama doesn't have a geopolitical imperative to justify the goal. Congress is resisting Obama's change of direction, which could delay investment in the program. If Obama wants to bolster his cause, there's a rationale he could cite: An asteroid could wipe out as many human lives as a nuclear bomb. The dominant scientific theory posits that dinosaurs went extinct because of a direct hit from an asteroid as wide as San Francisco. A space rock big enough to kill thousands slams into Earth every 30,000 years, according to a January report from the National Research Council. That scenario provided the rationale for asteroid missions in various Hollywood movies, including Armageddon. The 1998 film, which starred Bruce Willis, grossed more than $200 million at box office in the U.S. and more than $500 million worldwide. It went on to be a staple on cable television. But if Americans think they have an understanding of the challenge of going to an asteroid, they're wrong. "I loved the movie," says Laurie Leshin, a top NASA official who is involved in the early planning stages of an asteroid mission, although "it was completely inaccurate." Obama's plans for NASA have drawn many opponents, including Armstrong, but their criticism centers on the administration's reliance on private space companies to ferry astronauts to orbit. The goal of an asteroid hasn't been questioned as much.