Earlier this week, I pointed out how Congress seems determined to keep us dependent on the Russians for access to space indefinitely:
…despite the desperate need and warning from the administrator, just before the most recent Russian failures, in a vote on June 3rd, the House once again cut the NASA 2016 request for Commercial Crew by about 20%, from $1.243B to an even billion dollars, while once again increasing the SLS budget by almost half a billion, an increase of over a third from the request of $1.365B.
It’s gotten worse. Yesterday, the Senate appropriations committee marked up their own bill, and cut the Commercial Crew budget by an additional hundred million dollars, a reduction from the request of over a quarter, despite the fact that they gave more money to NASA overall.
The reduced funding for commercial crew prompted a strong response from NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, who said in a June 10 statement he was “deeply disappointed” by the Senate’s decision.“By gutting this program and turning our backs on U.S. industry, NASA will be forced to continue to rely on Russia to get its astronauts to space – and continue to invest hundreds of millions of dollars into the Russian economy rather than our own,” he stated.Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) also criticized the commercial crew funding cut in a June 10 speech on the Senate floor. “If that cut in the subcommittee is sustained,” he said, “it’s going to delay us from being able to launch Americans on American rockets.”
Frustratingly, this happened on a party-line vote. It lies solely at the feet of the Republicans, but the primary mover was the chairman of the subcommittee that oversees NASA’s budget, Richard Shelby of Alabama. At this point, the only hope to fix it is on the Senate floor. The best that could be hoped for in a conference would be the lesser cut by the House. Over at my Kickstarter (which is currently stalled at about two thirds of the goal, with four days to go), I wrote a righteous rant last night about it:
…it’s gone beyond simply wasting tax dollars for pork in Huntsville (and Michoud, and Promontory, and…). It’s to the point that this is keeping us dependent on the Russians, into the indefinite future. Simply put, Dick Shelby doesn’t give a damn about that. He is Vlad’s BFF.
Beyond that, he doesn’t give a damn about our future in space. He doesn’t give a damn about taxpayer dollars, as long as they can be deployed to get him re-elected.
He has nothing resembling political principles, other than the importance of Dick Shelby keeping his Senate seat.
He’s not a Democrat. He’s not a Republican. He’s the one and only member of the Dick Shelby Party… But sadly, because he caucuses with them, and he’s got seniority, too many Republicans go along with this treachery against the nation and against our future in space.
I’ve actually toned down that quote a bit, so you’ll have to go read the whole thing to get the full flavor, but I really don’t think that’s too strong a word. Russia has been violating the Iran/North Korea/Syria Non-Proliferation Act for years, by helping the Iranians develop nuclear weapons and missiles. We never hold them to account for it because every time NASA needs to purchase more Soyuz rides from them, Congress has to waive the law so they can do the deal. Putin is rampaging through the Ukraine, yet Shelby and the committee Republicans are happy to continue handing hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars over to his corrupt kleptocracy, just so they can keep the pork flowing into Alabama, Utah, Mississippi and other places.
As a taxpayer, as an American citizen, and as a space enthusiast, I am infuriated. The title of my update/rant last night was “Screw Dick Shelby And The Lobbyists He Rode In On,” and I’m thinking about renaming my Kickstarter project to that:
Senator Shelby just gave you more reasons to support [this project]. If you can afford more, please up your donation. If you can spread the word, please do so. Don’t let him get away with this.
That was a message to current project supporters, but I hope I can get some support from Ricochetti as well.
Look, I get that most people don’t follow or understand (or even care about) space policy, including most Ricochettis. But is it really too much to expect people to actually read the post, and what is in the post, instead of changing the topic from how we should be spending government money on human spaceflight to whether we should, before they dip their oar into comments?
I am happy to engage in that latter discussion somewhere else, and you might be surprised at my answer, but it is completely irrelevant to this post, given that Dick Shelby loves to spend money (ostensibly) on that. He just wants to make sure that it is spent in his state, and he does not give a damn whether it actually contributes to human spaceflight, and he does not give a damn whether or not it helps Vladimir Putin’s Russia.
Can we just discuss that, please?