Election 2008

Chris Greenberg/AP
Rep. Nick Lampson, D-Texas

NASA Loses Three Supporters in Election

November 06, 2008 07:29 AM
by Josh Katz
The new House will be without three champions of the space program at a time when several recent events have challenged NASA’s primacy.

NASA Loses Three Backers from Congress

Three staunch NASA advocates—Reps. Nick Lampson (D-Texas), Tom Feeney (R-Fla.), and Mark Udall (D-Colo.)—will not be in the House come January, a Space.com article appearing on MSNBC reports.

Udall currently serves as chairman of the House Science committee’s subcommittee on space and aeronautics, but he will move to the Senate following his campaign victory yesterday. Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., the University of Colorado’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics, and the National Weather Service's Space Weather Prediction Center are all located in Udall’s district of Boulder, Colo. Democrat Jared Polis, “a technology entrepreneur and philanthropist,” will serve the region under the new House.

Lampson would have replaced Udall as chairman of the subcommittee had he held onto his job. But Republican Pete Olson emerged the winner on Tuesday night, carrying about 53 percent of the vote, “in former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay’s heavily Republican district,” according to Space.com.

Democrat Suzanne Kosmas defeated Feeney in the Florida district near the Kennedy Space Center. Kosmas attacked Feeney on his relationship to scandal-tainted lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Background: Is the American space program in trouble?

The loss of the three NASA supporters comes at a time when the U.S. space program is confronting a number of obstacles.

NASA's Shuttle Quandary

NASA’s fleet of space shuttles is slated for retirement in 2010, thanks in part to recommendations from the Columbia Accident Investigation Board. However, the new Ares/Orion vehicle won’t be operational until 2015 at the earliest. Therefore, NASA is confronting the possibility that there will only be Russian crewmembers on the International Space Station for that period of time.

An August 15 email from NASA chief Michael Griffin recently leaked to the press in which he expressed frustration over the policies of the Bush administration and worry that the space program is facing a major predicament.

Griffin also wrote in the email, “The rational approach didn’t happen, primarily because for OSTP (Office of Science and Technology Policy) and OMB (Office of Management and Budget), retiring the shuttle is a jihad rather than an engineering and program management decision,” according to InformationWeek. Furthermore, he wrote that the White House does “not want the [International Space Station] to be sustained, and have done everything possible to ensure that it would not be.”
Griffin retreated from his comments in the e-mail soon after, expressing his support for the policies of the Bush administration.

China's Advancing Space Program

In late September, a Chinese space expedition successfully returned to earth. The country is the third—after the United States and Russia—to have had their astronauts walk in space. The taikonauts, or Chinese astronauts, landed in an Inner Monglian field on Sunday evening. Like the recent Beijing Olympics, the space mission is an indication of China’s ascendance as a major power on the international stage.

The Chinese space program is quickly advancing, and Michael D. Griffin warned that China could reach the moon before the United States returns there by 2020. The goal of the Chinese space program is to establish a space station.

Reference: Astronomy


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