Washington, D.C: This week’s issue of Space News displays strong support for the Commercial Crew Program. In an editorial titled, “Milking Commercial Crew Is the Wrong Answer,” Space News editors respond to recent hearings by addressing questions about competition in the program and the budget feasibility of Commercial Crew. The article also acknowledges the importance of funding the program as stating, “[w]hat’s difficult to dispute with any credibility is that commercial crew services will not be available on the current schedule if the program’s 2013 budget is milked.”
Also in this week’s issue, the Commentary section featured a letter from ten industry leaders in education and research voicing support for not only Commercial Crew, but science as well. The letter explains that the programs are complementary, as cheaper access to ISS enables more research to be done.
Commercial Crew: Science’s Friend, Not Enemy
Recent congressional hearings on the NASA fiscal year 2013 budget request have revealed a flawed and dangerous hypothesis by some members of Congress — that NASA’s Commercial Crew Program has robbed funding from its planetary exploration efforts.
This conclusion is factually flawed. This can be seen from the fact that the fiscal 2013 budget request for commercial crew is no higher than the 2013 request made last year as a part of the Obama administration’s fiscal 2012 five-year NASA budget projection — before this year’s significant and misguided cuts to planetary exploration.
What’s worse in this hypothesis and suggestions of cuts to the Commercial Crew Program is that commercial crew is a friend of science. Why? Because it enables more international space station (ISS) research, because it reduces the cost of ISS access (thereby removing a threat to NASA’s other science budgets), and because it opens a budget wedge for human exploration of asteroids, the Moon and Mars that will have tremendous positive value to planetary exploration.
We hope that congressional appropriators — both members and staffers — will come to agree with us that cuts to commercial crew would be damaging to both science and human exploration at NASA, and would be the wrong way to restore NASA’s planetary exploration budget.Dr. S. Alan Stern Planetary Scientist Former NASA Associate Administrator for Science Dr. Steven Collicott Microgravity Researcher, Purdue University Dr. Daniel Durda Planetary Scientist, Southwest Research Institute Dr. Louis Friedman Former Executive Director, The Planetary Society Dr. Owen Garriott Former NASA Skylab Space Station and Shuttle Astronaut Mr. Gerald D. Griffin Former Director, NASA Johnson Space Center Former Deputy Director, NASA Kennedy Space Center Mr. Dale Ketcham Director, Spaceport Research & Technology Institute Dr. Howard G. Levine President, American Society for Gravitational and Space Biology Dr. John Logsdon Founder, Space Policy Institute, George Washington University Dr. John Pojman Microgravity Researcher, Louisiana State University