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Eye Opener: Paying to put men back on the Moon

By Ed O'Keefe

Some lawmakers really want President Obama to fund trips back to the Moon -- and beyond.

Eye Opener

Happy Tuesday! On a day when President Obama spent some time discussing the importance of math and science education, a bipartisan group of lawmakers urged him on Monday to adopt the recent recommendations of a blue-ribbon panel that studied the future of NASA. The nation's economy and national security depends on future human space flight, according to the lawmakers.

The NASA House Action Team, co-chaired by Reps. Suzanne Kosmas (D-Fla.) and Ken Calvert (R-Calif.), most especially want Obama to give NASA a $3 billion annual budget increase, as recommended by the so-called Augustine panel. Obama established the group earlier this year to study the future of Space exploration.

"Congress will continue to fight to maintain America's leadership in space exploration in order to inspire this and future generations to imagine, innovate, and create new science and technology for the 21st century and beyond," Kosmas said in a statement.

The Post's Joel Achenbach recently wrote that the whither-NASA issue was supposed to have been decided already:

Under a new NASA administrator [during the Bush administration], the agency put together the Constellation program, which called for two new rockets, a new crew capsule, a lunar lander and a lunar habitat. Crew and cargo would no longer ride to orbit together in a huge space truck such as the shuttle. Instead, NASA would return to an Apollo-style architecture, with astronauts in a capsule on top of a rocket.

But considering the nation's economic climate and priorities, the plan is a bit too ambitious for some, and President Obama hasn't spoken publicly about NASA in quite awhile. Hence the lawmaker's outreach:

"If we allow a gap in human space flight our nation will have lost valuable skills that will be costly and difficult to replace," their letter said. "In addition, we also will have given up on our hard-won space preeminence over other nations, including Russia and China, who will surely step in to fill the void."

It should come as no surprise that the House NASA coalition's members come from states (Alabama, California, Florida, Maryland, Ohio and Texas) that house most NASA facilities and factories owned and operated by major Space or defense industry companies. But many would argue they have a valid point: NASA has served as one of the government's leading innovators and as a source of national pride. The Chinese, Russians and others could very well surpass American Space capabilities in the near future. Plus, if you want to discuss the benefits of a math and science education, look no further than NASA, which uses both all day long.

But even still -- is human space flight still worth the hefty price tag?

Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

Chat with The Eye!: At 11 a.m. ET during Tuesday's Post Politics Hour.

Cabinet and Staff News: Obama told his Cabinet on Monday to get a little bit of rest this week, "particularly the people who have been traveling around the globe for day in and day out and don't know what time zone they're in," he said following the meeting. Regardless, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke -- recently back from meetings in Asia -- visits Philadelphia today to promote the 2010 Census. Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal and Ambassador Karl W. Eikenberry told to prepare to testify about Obama's Afghanistan war strategy. Is Ambassador Tim Roemer key to the U.S.-India relationship? We should find out today who's on the Obama's first state dinner guest list.

FBI announces charges against terror recruiters: The charges include providing financial support to those who sought to fight with al-Shabaab, or "The Youth," which the State Department listed as a terrorist group in early 2008.

New helos for W.H. may make comeback: The Pentagon could launch another effort to build new presidential helicopters by next spring, the military’s top acquisition chief told reporters Monday.

FAA to require de-icing systems on commuter planes: The proposed rule would apply to airplanes weighing less than 60,000 pounds at takeoff -- essentially small turboprops and some regional jets.

600,000 dropside baby cribs are recalled: They're being voluntarily recalled because of the risk of entrapment and suffocation to infants and toddlers, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Postal Service employees will receive pay raise in December: The increase is part of a 2006 agreement with unions, which also includes cost-of-living adjustments subject to economic conditions.

GSA evicting labor officials from Chicago federal building: The local NFFE chapter has occupied space in the basement of the Dirksen Federal Courthouse in downtown Chicago for 25 years, but agency officials said they thought the office was vacant and recently found a new tenant.

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By Ed O'Keefe  | November 24, 2009; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  Eye Opener  
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The new Orion lifter and capsule/lander system will not happen because NASA piddled the money away...

The real joker in the deck is that the Billions and Billions of dollars being spent to develop a NEW heavy lifter, and NEW space capsules, and NEW landers, all at the same time... When we have a heavy lifter standing up at Marshall Space Center in Alabama, the Saturn V, which technology is already bought and paid for..

The maker of that rocket and the maker of those mighty engines are still in business and could have tooled up and produced Saturn V lifters (which can lift a quarter million pounds into Lunar orbit) while the Billions were being spent on developing newer capsules and landers (which we do need)... Had they done it in that fashion we WOULD be on the moon this very day and now developing a bigger lifter to go to Mars...

But because of the mindset of NASA/government that we have to do everything is the most expensive fashion possible, we are still on the ground, we have to beg rides to the Space Station from the Russians (who continue to use their OLD technology to go right past us) and we are losing our space capabilities, not expanding them... The old Tortise and Hare scenario all over...

dr. o

Posted by: ad4hk2004 | November 24, 2009 7:39 AM | Report abuse

The trickle-down/inspirational education effects of a well funded space program is dollar for dollar better and more effective than just putting new textbooks and other shiny things in front of disinterested kids.

Posted by: kolbkl | November 24, 2009 7:45 AM | Report abuse

I think it is worth it. Americans have a frontier spirit, and you're right, NASA is a source of national pride. I think we must stay ahead of Russian, the EU, China, and potentially even India.

Posted by: DPoniatowski | November 24, 2009 7:58 AM | Report abuse

Space exploration and space science have played a crucial role in advancing our knowledge of the universe we live in and pushing the development of critically important technologies in the US. Investments in NASA are a superb way to encourage the civilian high tech/aerospace sector of the economy. This has been and will continue to be a crucial sector of the US economy. We talk a good game about science and technology education but we fail to support the programs to let individuals with those credentials work outside the defense industries. The money NASA needs will ensure that America has the rockets and spacecraft to enable us to go beyond low earth orbit and return to the Moon and travel to the asteroids and perhaps to Mars. This is money is comparatively small change to a government that spends hundreds of billions of dollars on defense programs -- much of which is wasted. It is an investment that can ensure American preeminence in critical technologies and capabilities in the century ahead. Failure to make this investment will only reinforce the growing perception around the world of a continuing decline in American power and capabilities.

Posted by: bob7e | November 24, 2009 8:01 AM | Report abuse

Rather than second-guessing NASA on the cheapest and fastest way to get to the moon, I think we need to defer to the experts. The Augustine panel noted that the project will be stretched out if we don't increase funding. 3 billion is a lot of money, but not in comparison to a trillion dollar budget. Science is an investment - I think the payoff could be huge if we find resources we could exploit on the moon. The benefit of inspiring young people to study math and science is also probably worth more than the $3b.

Posted by: will4567 | November 24, 2009 8:14 AM | Report abuse

"Hefty price tag?" $3 Billion is nothing to sneeze at, but let's remember that that amount of money is equal to a small weapons program for DOD, or a couple of months (weeks?) in Iraq/Afghanistan.

Let's spend money on human space flight, which furthers human progress and creates positive feelings about our country, instead of more bombs to kill more middle easterners.

Posted by: bkriner | November 24, 2009 8:15 AM | Report abuse

This is money well spent. We need a permanent moon base.

It'd be nice if we could convert some of our nuclear warheads to nuclear fuel for space use too.

Posted by: Nymous | November 24, 2009 8:47 AM | Report abuse

So what if other countries "surpass" us in space? This isn't the sixties--we're not in a "space race" for "national survival" to impress the "nonaligned nations" any more. Our government may not even be able to pay its own debts in a few years. Idealistic programs with vague, trickle-down benefits should not be a priority. It's like someone with huge credit-card debts going out and buying a big-screen plasma TV to excite the kids at Christmas.

Posted by: swmuva | November 24, 2009 9:05 AM | Report abuse

Again, if we would stop supporting the world with our military we might have some funds to support health care and space exploration. We have got to start putting America first before anything else.

Posted by: sesit | November 24, 2009 4:06 PM | Report abuse

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