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Guest: Marcia Smith; Topics: NASA and space policy FY 2019 proposed NASA budget with line items, previous NASA budgets, FH launch, SLS, national interest versus commercial interest and more. Please direct all comments and questions regarding specific Space Show programs & guest(s) to the Space Show blog which is part of archived program on our website, www.thespaceshow.com. Comments and questions should be relevant to the specific Space Show program. Written Transcripts of Space Show programs are a violation of our copyright and are not permitted without prior written consent, even if for your own use. We do not permit the commercial use of Space Show programs or any part thereof, nor do we permit editing, YouTube clips, or clips placed on other private channels & websites. Space Show programs can be quoted, but the quote must be cited or referenced using the proper citation format. Contact The Space Show for further information. In addition, please remember that your Amazon purchases can help support The Space Show/OGLF. See www.onegiantleapfoundation.org/amazon.htm.
We welcomed back Marcia Smith for a comprehensive two segment 90 minute discussion regarding NASA budgets, policies, congress and space, SLS, commercial launchers, national interest as compared to a commercial interest and much more. Please note that during the second segment Marcia's cell phone dropped our call three times. We apologize for the inconvenience but assure you no content was lost during the interruptions. We started our discussion by asking our guest what was new and what stood out in the NASA FY proposed 2019 budget. We talked about the fact that we were still on a CR from the NASA 2016 budget that there was hope that later in March Congress would sign off on the FY 2017 budget which would then take over funding of NASA for the balance of the fiscal year.
Another first segment topic addressed flagship missions with a recommendation for cancellation. This included the WFIRST mission. The Europa lander was a different type of flagship mission but as you will hear, Congress does not have to go along with the budget recommendations and there are efforts underway to make sure WFIRST is not cancelled. Yet another topic was the future of the ISS and possibly getting the private sector involved. Marcia cleared up some confusion in this area by suggesting the administration and NASA were interested in commercializing LEO and trying to find a way to see if the ISS past 2024 could be used by the private sector in that effort.
Several listener questions addressed SLS with most wanting the project to be cancelled. Marcia talked about cancellation and why she did not see that as a looming possibility. She also talked about doing a rocket for national interest objectives which were different from those of a private company such as SpaceX. She talked about how the commercial company can change its mind about its projects and used SpaceX with BFR objectives that have changed from year to year as an example. She also said that there was much overselling by both the government and the private sector. She noted that the private sector had not yet proven its case to congress that it is reliable and consistent. This was an interesting part of our discussion that you do not want to miss.
Much of the first segment was focused on NASA doing too much with too little in the way of resources. Our guest said this was a common year to year thing with NASA but the fact was that NASA does not have the funding to do all that it says it is going to do so programs need to be cut back or eliminated as it would be unlikely for NASA to get significantly more funding. Marcia noted the return to the Moon with people project as an example. This resource problem shows up by having timelines extended, projects like WFIRST cancelled as examples. Marcia talked about this issue extensively during both segments of the program. It was a very important part of our discussion so don’t miss it.
Listener Jack in Tucson suggested the NASA budget process was complicated and confusing. He wanted to know what the NASA core mission was. This brought a noticeable laugh to our guest because of confusion around the core mission which related back to what our guest had been talking about regarding trying or wanting to do much with too little resources. She did talk about existing NASA core values and listed them in order of priority. For example, the first priority was science which dated back to 1958. Congress or the White House can change a core value. Our guest was then asked about space settlement as a core value. Marcia said this subject had been discussed for the past 20-25 years and was not a new issue. She said if Congress or the White House wanted to make it a priority NASA value, they could do it but that has never been done.
Before the first segment ended, our guest talked about barter agreements with our international partners and the exemptions Russia has with space projects and partnerships. Listener Tony got a question in about the Plasma Magnet Drive which prompted Marcia to talk about the abolishment of the NASA Technology Directorate. Don't miss what she had to say about NASA, technology, and some restructuring for the organization. John from Billings got the final word in the initial segment with an email asking about the FH launch with the Tesla roadster, crossing Mars orbits, in or out of the plane, and possible planetary protection issues prior to the launch. Don't miss what our guest had to say about planetary protection and the FH launch.
Starting the second segment, we talked about NASA Earth Science and the budget. We went over certain projects facing reduction or elimination, but again Congress could restore the projects if they wanted to do that. Dr. Doug sent in a series of emails asking first if President Trump would deliver a speech articulating our space policy. His second email asked if V.P. Pence would do the same. Don't miss Marcia's response to Doug.
Flagship missions and cutbacks were brought up again, focusing on WFIRST and Europa, though Europa was not put in the same category as WFIRST. Our guest also spent time talking about basic Europa research and information gathering before attempting a landing so she saw logic in the way a Europa mission was unfolding. More was said about SLS and the budget plus the BFR and SpaceX. A question came in about SLS problems and delays. Here, our guest said all launch vehicles had problems and she pointed out that the time timelines for the SLS and BFR were not that different from one another. We then turned our attention to the commercial side of launch and Marcia raised important questions about the reality of a market for a big rocket such as SLS, the BFR or the New Glenn. She questioned the market and said much about markets for these huge rockets was unknown at this time. I got in a question regarding advanced propulsion and nuclear power. Our guest said there was some work going on re nuclear and that there was $30 million allocated in the budget for nuclear power research.
The Deep Space Gateway came up and we learned the name had been changed. The new name is the Lunar Orbiter Platform-Gateway. Before we ended the program, Marcia was asked about the position of the NASA Administrator and the nomination of Cong. Jim Bridenstine. Acting Administrator Robert Lightfoot was discussed as well. Dave Huntsman was our last caller. He noted the announced retirement of Dr. George Nield as Director of FAA AST.
Please post your comments/questions on TSS blog for this show. You can reach our guest at www.spacepolicyonline.com or through me.