Is NASA "Stimulus" Worthy?

Last Updated Sep 16, 2009 7:12 AM EDT

As part of his scrub of Federal spending President Obama established a panel headed up by well known former defense contract executive and Defense Department official Norman Augustine to review NASA's plans and status. The panel conducted interviews and reviews of where NASA is and where it should be going.

About a week ago it put out the preliminary results of what it had found and they were not positive for the space agency's current proposals. THe gist of the report was that the United States is not adequately funding the current plans for NASA to return to the Moon and develop a heavy lifting vehicle to replace the space shuttle. This new system the ARES rocket and Constellation modules are a return to using systems like the Saturn V and Apollo that went to the Moon in the Sixties and Seventies.

The Commission didn't feel that the current program is funded properly as well as being behind scheduled and that NASA should re-think returning to the Moon and perhaps do other missions. The Shuttle life should be extended to support the International Space Station (ISS). The Committee was not directly supportive of continuing ARES or Constellation due to the current schedule and cost.

There are some in Congress and NASA who are pushing back. The senior Republican, Ralph Hall (R-TX) , of the subcommittee dealing with this issue made the simple statement that use money to increase the funding for ARES and Constellation and keep them going. It is estimated that to keep the Shuttle going would cost a further $2.5 billion a year. This money could be channeled to the new programs as well.

This is similar to the situation with the VH-71 New Presidential Helicopter. There is an argument that the money required to keep the systems being replaced going is just as expensive as fully funding the program to get back on schedule. There is still a requirement for a new system that must be met. Why not take advantage of the money already sunk into it? Congress may continue some funding for the VH-71 over Obama's objections for this reason.

There is also an argument that some of the $1.5 trillion in new spending for TARP and "Stimulus" could be funneled to NASA. There would certainly be some stimulating effect on parts of the country's economy if this money was spent. Three or four billion a year for ten years is a small part of the total budget. That is one of the major criticisms of the bill. Perhaps there should be money from the bill sent to NASA or DoD to carry out their core missions with the idea that might create jobs.

  • Matthew Potter

    Matthew Potter is a resident of Huntsville, Ala., where he works supporting U.S. Army aviation programs. After serving in the U.S. Navy, he began work as a defense contractor in Washington D.C. specializing in program management and budget development and execution. In the last 15 years Matthew has worked for several companies, large and small, involved in all aspects of government contracting and procurement. He holds two degrees in history as well as studying at the Defense Acquisition University. He has written for Seeking Alpha and at his own website,