Review of United States Human Space Flight Plans Committee

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The Review of United States Human Space Flight Plans Committee (also known as the HSF Committee, Augustine Commission or Augustine Committee) was a group reviewing the human spaceflight plans of the United States. Their goal was to ensure the nation is on "a vigorous and sustainable path to achieving its boldest aspirations in space."[1] The review was announced by the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) on May 7, 2009. It covered human spaceflight options after the time NASA had planned to retire the Space Shuttle.[1][2][3] A summary report[4] was provided to the OSTP Director John Holdren, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), and NASA Administrator on September 8, 2009.[5] The estimated cost associated with the review was expected to be US$3 million. The committee was scheduled to be active for 180 days.[6] The report was released on October 22, 2009.[7]

Findings[edit]

The Committee has concluded that, "the ultimate goal of human exploration is to chart a path for human expansion into the solar system." It also observed that "destinations should derive from goals," and "human spaceflight objectives should broadly align with key national objectives." Destinations beyond low Earth orbit that were considered by the Committee include the Moon, Mars, and near-Earth objects as well as the moons of Mars, Phobos and Deimos. Among these, the Committee felt that "Mars stands prominently above all other opportunities for exploration" because "if humans are ever to live for long periods on another planetary surface, it is likely to be on Mars."

The Committee did not explain why it thought that human expansion into the solar system must involve a planetary surface. Others have proposed, for example, building free-floating space habitats and colonization of the asteroids. The Committee's final report does mention the possibility of evaluating near-Earth objects for "their utility as sites for mining of in-situ resources."

The Committee judged the 9-year old Constellation program to be so behind schedule, underfunded and over budget that meeting any of its goals would not be possible. President Obama removed the program from the 2010 budget effectively canceling the program. One component of the program, the Orion crew capsule was added back to plans but as a rescue vehicle to complement the Russian Soyuz in returning Station crews to Earth in the event of an emergency.[8]

The proposed "ultimate goal" for human space flight would appear to require two basic objectives: (1) physical sustainability and (2) economic sustainability. The Committee adds a third objective: to meet key national objectives. These might include international cooperation, developing new industries, energy independence, reducing climate change, national prestige, etc. Therefore, the ideal destination should contain resources such as water to sustain life (also providing oxygen for breathing, and hydrogen to combine with oxygen for rocket fuel), and precious and industrial metals and other resources that may be of value for space construction and perhaps in some cases worth returning to Earth (e.g., see asteroid mining).

Some of these resources are available on Mars, and perhaps on the Moon, but the Committee report noted the cost and difficulty of "travel into the deep gravity wells of the lunar and Martian surface." It did not emphasize options such as asteroid mining (other than the one mention noted above) or space-based solar power that could involve the private sector and the development of new space-based industries, and meet key national objectives such as energy independence and reducing climate change. The Committee report did favor strengthening the private space launch industry, and increased international collaboration.

In its final report, the Committee proposed three basic options for exploration beyond low Earth orbit, and appeared to favor the third option:

  • Mars First, with a Mars landing, perhaps after a brief test of equipment and procedures on the Moon.
  • Moon First, with lunar surface exploration focused on developing the capability to explore Mars.
  • A Flexible Path to inner solar system locations, such as lunar orbit, Lagrange points, near-Earth objects and the moons of Mars, followed by exploration of the lunar surface and/or Martian surface, optionally involving the development of a propellant depot.[9]

Objectives[edit]

The review was commissioned to take into account several objectives. These included support for the International Space Station, development of missions beyond low Earth orbit (including the Moon, Mars and Near-Earth objects) and use of commercial space industry. These objectives must fit within a defined budget profile.[6]

Among the parameters that were considered in the course of the review were "crew and mission safety, life-cycle costs, development time, national space industrial base impacts, potential to spur innovation and encourage competition, and the implications and impacts of transitioning from current human space flight systems". The review considered the appropriate amounts of research and development and "complementary robotic activity necessary to support various human space flight activities". It was tasked to also "explore options for extending International Space Station operations beyond 2016".[10]

Budget limits[edit]

The Statement of Task defines the fiscal year 2010–2014 budget profile (in millions of US$) for NASA's Exploration program as:[11]

Year 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014
Budget 3,963.1 6,092.9 6,077.4 6,047.7 6,274.6

The fiscal year 2009 budget projection for Exploration had been:[12]

Year 2010 2011 2012 2013
Budget 3,737.7 7,048.2 7,116.8 7,666.8

A subcommittee in the House of Representatives has announced a plan to cut the 2010 budget from 3,963.1 to 3,293.2 ($US million), a cut of $669.9 million or 16.9%.[13][14] Chairman Alan Mollohan stated the cut was a "pause" and "time-out" caused by the review of human space flight.[15]

Future of the U.S. Program[edit]

The review aims to "examine ongoing and planned National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) development activities, as well as potential alternatives, and present options for advancing a safe, innovative, affordable, and sustainable human space flight program in the years following Space Shuttle retirement". The panel will "work closely with NASA and will seek input" from the United States Congress, "the White House, the public, industry, and international partners as it develops its options". "It is to present its results in time to support an Administration decision on the way forward by August 2009."[1]

On April 15, 2010, President Obama spoke at the Kennedy Space Center announcing the administration's plans for NASA. None of the 3 plans outlined in the Committees final report were completely selected.[9] The President rejected immediate plans to return to the Moon on the premise that the current plan had become nonviable. He instead promised $6 billion in additional funding and called for development of a new heavy lift rocket program to be ready for construction by 2015 with manned missions to Mars orbit by the mid-2030s.[16]

Members[edit]

Subgroups[edit]

The committee formed four work subgroups to examine different aspects of the committee's charter which each providing progress reports by July 2, 2009.[18]

General Lyles, who also serves as Chairman of the National Academies Committee on the "Rationale and Goals of the U.S. Civil Space Program", led the International and Interagency Integration subgroup. Lyles .[19] That committee expects to release its final report July 31, 2009.[20] The Shuttle and International Space Station subgroup was led by Dr. Ride. Mr. Bejmuk led the Access to Low Earth Orbit subgroup. And Professor Crawley leads the Exploration Beyond Low Earth Orbit subgroup.

In the committee's summary report[9] provided to Whitehouse and NASA on September 8, 2009, the panel concluded that human exploration beyond low-Earth orbit was not viable under the FY 2010 budget guideline.

Meetings[edit]

Date Type Location
June 16, 2009 Preparatory Meeting, Non-Public Washington, D.C.
June 17, 2009 Public Meeting Carnegie Institution for Science, Washington, D.C.[21]
June 18, 2009 Site Visit, Non-Public Dulles, Virginia
June 24–25, 2009 Site Visit, Non-Public Huntsville and Decatur, Alabama, and Michoud, Louisiana
July 8–9, 2009 Site Visit, Fact Finding Meetings, Non-Public Hawthorne, Canoga Park and Sacramento, California
July 21–23, 2009 Fact Finding Meetings, Non-Public Ogden, Utah and Las Vegas, Nevada
July 28, 2009 Public Meeting League City, Texas
July 29, 2009 Public Meeting Huntsville, Alabama
July 30, 2009 Public Meeting Cocoa Beach, Florida
August 5, 2009 Public Meeting Washington, D.C.
August 12, 2009 Public Meeting Washington, D.C.
October 8, 2009 Public Teleconference

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "U.S. Announces Review of Human Space Flight Plans" (PDF). Office of Science and Technology Policy. May 7, 2009. Retrieved September 9, 2009. 
  2. ^ "NASA launches another Web site". United Press International. June 8, 2009. Retrieved September 9, 2009. 
  3. ^ Bonilla, Dennis (September 8, 2009). "Review of U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee". NASA. Retrieved September 9, 2009. 
  4. ^ "Summary Report" (PDF). NASA. September 7, 2009. Retrieved September 9, 2009. 
  5. ^ Bonilla, Dennis (September 8, 2009). "See What the Committee Is Doing". NASA. Retrieved September 9, 2009. 
  6. ^ a b Bonilla, Dennis (September 8, 2009). "Charter of the Review of U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee". NASA. Retrieved September 9, 2009. 
  7. ^ Sciencemag – No to NASA
  8. ^ Stencel, Mark (April 15, 2010). "NASA's Flight Plan Gets Small Course Corrections". NPR. Retrieved April 15, 2010. 
  9. ^ a b c Review of U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee; Augustine, Austin, Chyba, Kennel, Bejmuk, Crawley, Lyles, Chiao, Greason, Ride. "Seeking A Human Spaceflight Program Worthy of A Great Nation". Final Report. NASA. Retrieved April 15, 2010. 
  10. ^ http://www.ostp.gov/galleries/press_release_files/NASA%20Review.pdf
  11. ^ NASA (June 5, 2009). "Review of U.S. Human Space Flight Plans – Statement of Task". NASA. 
  12. ^ NASA (May 7, 2009). "FY 2010 Budget Estimate by Section – Exploration Systems". NASA. 
  13. ^ Amy Klamper (June 8, 2009). "Lawmakers Slash $670 Million From NASA Budget Request". Space.com. 
  14. ^ Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (June 4, 2009). "Subcommittee Recommendation – Summary Table". House of Representatives. 
  15. ^ Mollohan, Alan (June 4, 2009). "Opening Statement of Chairman Mollohan". House.gov. House of Representatives. 
  16. ^ President Barack Obama on Space Exploration in the 21st Century
  17. ^ "Report of the Advisory Committee on the Future of the U.S. Space Program". NASA.gov. December 17, 1990. 
  18. ^ "Committee Subgroup Progress Reports". NASA. July 2, 2009. 
  19. ^ "Committee: Rationale and Goals of the U.S. Civil Space Program". United States National Academies. 
  20. ^ "Project: Rationale and Goals of the U.S. Civil Space Program". United States National Academies. 
  21. ^ "Federal Register Vol. 74, No. 103". NARA. June 1, 2009. 

External links[edit]