Augustine Tells NAC White House Agrees to Flexibility on Mandate; Shuttle Future Still Open

Augustine Tells NAC White House Agrees to Flexibility on Mandate; Shuttle Future Still Open

During a telecon with the NASA Advisory Council (NAC) today, Norman Augustine said that the White House has given his panel on the future of the U.S. human space flight program flexibility to go beyond the formal statement of task.

The panel’s official charter includes a number of constraints. Among them is that the panel is to provide options that stay within the budgetary bounds of the FY2010 budget request and its projections for NASA’s exploration program. Also, the panel was directed to develop options for human spaceflight beyond the current planned termination of the space shuttle, which is after the completion of seven more flights.

Mr. Augustine told NAC that compromise was reached where the panel may provide options that exceed current budgetary guidance if they “make sense,” and adhering to the current shuttle termination plan is also flexible. NAC member and former shuttle commander Eileen Collins noted that when she gives public talks, people are surprised to learn the shuttle is about to be retired. Mr. Augustine said that he gets the same reaction. He also noted that some members of Congress are critical of the impending situation where the United States will be dependent on Russia to get crews to the International Space Station. He added, however, that it all comes down to a matter of money. As it currently stands, he said, if NASA wants to do something new it has to pay for it by canceling an existing program like the shuttle.

The panel has not yet reached its conclusions, and Mr. Augustine encouraged NAC members to send him emails with their own suggestions. He emphasized that the panel is seeking input from the public as well, and said that he has already gotten more than 1,000 emails himself. The public is welcome to send comments to the panel via the panel’s website:

User Comments has the right (but not the obligation) to monitor the comments and to remove any materials it deems inappropriate.  We do not post comments that include links to other websites since we have no control over that content nor can we verify the security of such links.