Rep. Wolf Continues Opposition to Obama Plan; Space News DoesToo

Rep. Wolf Continues Opposition to Obama Plan; Space News DoesToo

Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) continues his criticism of President Obama’s new plan for NASA in an op-ed in today’s Space News (subscription required to access some content). Rep. Wolf is the ranking member of the House Appropriations Commerce-Justice-Science subcommittee, which funds NASA. He also represents the congressional district that is home to Orbital Sciences Corp., which could benefit from the new plan if it decides to pursue the “commercial crew” option. Orbital is one of the two COTS (Commercial Orbital Transportation Services) companies already developing a system to take cargo to the International Space Station; SpaceX is the other.

Rep. Wolf was sharply critical of the Obama plan to cancel the Constellation program and turn crew transport over to the private sector at a recent subcommittee hearing and has published on his website a number of letters from space program luminaries opposing the plan. In his op-ed piece, “Don’t Forsake U.S. Leadership in Space,” he highlights comments by Chinese and Russian officials boasting of their plans for human spaceflight in contrast to what he sees as the U.S. abandoning its leadership position.

“Manned spaceflight and exploration are one of the last remaining fields in which the United States maintains an undeniable competitive advantage over other nations. To walk away is shortsighted and irresponsible.”

Space News itself editorializes that the somewhat revised version of the plan announced by President Obama on April 15 “still falls short.” While praising the President for retaining the Orion spacecraft even if in a reduced capacity, the newspaper argues that there is no need to wait until 2015 to decide on a design for a new heavy lift launch vehicle and spend billions instead on research.

“Rocket science has proved remarkably static in the last 50 years in spite of untold billions of dollars of investment. A far more likely prospect is that the money will be spread across a host of propulsion concerns that at best yield marginal improvements to current capabilities.”

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