The Texas Empire Strikes Back

Well, I made a prediction here yesterday:

It will be interesting to see how those in Congress who have been demanding that NASA build a heavy-lift vehicle for which there is no mission with insufficient funding, while starving Commercial Crew, will respond. Judging by history, it will be with non sequiturs, and bashing of American enterprise by supposed conservatives and Republicans, such as Senator Shelby of Alabama (the senator from NASA Marshall Space Flight Center), Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas (the senator from Johnson Space Center), and Orrin Hatch of Utah (the senator from ATK, manufacturer of the giant Shuttle solid boosters that the Congress insists be used in the new launcher), or Science Committee Chairman (from Johnson Space Center) Ralph Hall.

Emphasis mine. As reported over at Space Politics, Senator Hutchison indeed responded, right on cue:

“As we have already seen with the multi-year delay with commercial providers of cargo to the space station, the country would greatly benefit from the timely implementation of the NASA Authorization Act of 2010 and development of the Space Launch System (SLS) as a back-up system,” Hutchison said in the statement, which was more about the SLS and the summary of the independent cost assessment of the program than it was about the Progress failure.

Note that developing the Space Launch System (aka the Senate Launch System) will do absolutely nothing to reduce our dependence on Russia for access to the International Space Station.  Leaving aside that she mischaracterized the independent report on NASA SLS costs, all it does is confirm that the program is unaffordable (almost forty billion to get to first flight, which won’t occur until next decade, when ISS may have been decommissioned), and it is grossly oversized for a crew mission, while likely costing over a billion per launch, even ignoring amortization of the development costs. Her only mention of the commercial cargo program is to criticize it for delays, ignoring the fact that both contractors are scheduled to fly within the next six months. The Commercial Crew program that Congressman Rohrabacher discussed in his own press release isn’t mentioned at all, even though all milestones are being hit on schedule and budget, and it is the only way to quickly get domestic capability to access space for humans.

Apparently, she simply used an event in space as a news hook to promote her own hobby horse (or perhaps, given the porkish nature of the program, hobby pig). There is seemingly no event in the senator’s mind that cannot justify that NASA immediately embark on this wasteful program. Over at YouTube, the space-policy teddy bears have a further discussion of Senator Hutchison’s off-the-wall antics.