Access Update #140 6/1/15
Copyright 2015 by Space Access Society
Our 2015 Space Access conference was a success – a really excellent cast of speakers (thanks, all!) and good attendance with a lot of new young faces, something we think important for the long run health of this field. We managed to bring enough in, between registrations and donations, to make the exercise fiscally sustainable. And I was able to delegate enough of the work involved (thanks especially to Gerry Nordley and Tim Kyger who helped keep the sessions rolling) that I came out the far side not needing to collapse in a mindless heap for more than a few days.
Which, on a personal note, was just as well, because shortly after the conference I got the word I'd been dreading these last couple years, that my father had at most a few days left. Albert Rudkin Vanderbilt, “Peter” to his wife and kin and friends, “Daddy” to his seven children, a man who spent his life quietly, patiently, intelligently doing the right thing, died in his sleep the morning of Monday May 11th 2015, a few weeks short of his 91st birthday. May you rest in light, Daddy.
Space Access 2016
We are looking at two possible dates for our conference next year: Thursday March 31st through Saturday April 2nd, and Thursday April 7th through Saturday April 9th. The final choice will depend in part on what sort of hotel deal we can get - the earlier dates are preferable, but may overlap too closely with MLB Spring Training in metro Phoenix to be affordable. We will as always strive to keeps the cost of attending down, appropriate we think for an industry that's not (yet) rolling in cashflow.
Information on potential date conflicts we may have missed is, as always, appreciated. More when we know more.
Urgent Political Priority: Commercial Crew Funding
Back in mid-March we wrote that full funding for NASA's Commercial Crew program is our top political priority for the year, followed closely by extending the FAA AST commercial human spaceflight regulations “learning period”.
The learning period extension is in good shape – the Senate wants to extend the moratorium on prematurely detailed industry regulation for five years, the House ten, so we suspect we'll be able to live with whatever compromise they reach.
Commercial Crew funding for next year, on the other hand, is in trouble. The House committee that handles NASA appropriations (the Commerce, Justice, Science or CJS Appropriations Subcommittee) increased Space Launch System funding by a half-billion over NASA's request. They took a quarter billion of that from Commercial Crew.
The House CJS Subcommittee's version of next year's CJS Appropriations bill cuts NASA's 2016 Commercial Crew request from $1.244 billion to a billion even. NASA is on record that such a reduction will both push back Commercial Crew initial flights from late 2017, and also require NASA to renegotiate their current contracts with SpaceX and Boeing. Our analysis supports this position.
It's not at all clear what an extra half-billion for SLS will accomplish – NASA is on record that increasing funding at this point won't help get it to first flight any sooner. Taking a quarter-billion from Commercial crew, on the other hand, will almost certainly cost NASA a half-billion in 2018 for another year's worth of Soyuz rides to Station.
The subcommittee version of this bill is scheduled to go to the full House for consideration this week, possibly as early as Tuesday. If you agree with us that cutting Commercial Crew funding is a bad idea, you can do something about it: Let your Representative in Congress know.
There's no guarantee we'll see any result this week, mind. In fact the odds are against it. But this is not the last step in the process, and the more support we can build now, the better our chances of getting a good result at some point before things are finalized.
Phone or email your Representative's DC office as soon as possible - Monday night, or as early as possible Tuesday - and ask them to support full funding for NASA's Commercial Crew program.
Getting Contact Info
Congress has made it more of a PITA to contact them than it used to be. DC office phone numbers are still relatively easy to get, but public email addresses now tend to be unavailable. You have to email them via forms on their individual websites, and you may need to dodge "sign up for our mailing list" offers then enter an address and zip code in their district to get to the form.
(This is probably due to their inboxes being flooded by mass automated email campaigns. The good news is, if you do manually navigate the gauntlet, your message is now far more likely to be seen and noted.)
Look up who your Representative is by entering your home zip code at http://act.commoncause.org/site/PageServer?pagename=sunlight_advocacy_list_page. (You may need your zip+4, or your home address, if your zip code covers more than one district.)
This should give you their name, DC office phone number, and links to their website and directly to their Contact Page.
Give their office a call (preferred) or write them a message. Calling or writing, don't try to go into depth or detail. Keep it simple and top-level. Most incoming email won't get read beyond the first few lines anyway. Get the key points your first two sentences.
The heart of the message: "I'm [your name] from [your town in that Representative's district.] I'm calling to ask Representative [their last name] to support full funding for NASA's Commercial Crew program." Add a sentence in your own words about the bad effects of the cuts: They'll cause program delay and disruption, they'll prolong dependence on Russian launches, they'll force NASA to spend more on additional Russian launches than the cuts save - pick an aspect of the problem and describe it briefly.
If you're emailing, you're pretty much done. You can provide more supporting material if you like, but it's not essential and there's a good chance it won't be more than glanced at.
If you call and get a live answer, ask for whoever handles NASA appropriations. If you then get that staffer live, tell them who you are and where you're from, give them your message briefly and politely, answer any questions they have as best you can, thank them for their time, and ring off. If you get shunted to voicemail (as seems most likely, especially tonight) state the message, briefly and politely, then ring off.
Space Access Society's sole purpose is to promote radical reductions in the cost of space transportation. You may redistribute this Update in any medium you choose, as long as you do it unedited in its entirety. You may reproduce selected portions of this Update if you credit this Space Access Update as the source and include a pointer to our website.
Space Access Society
"Reach low orbit and you're halfway to anywhere in the Solar System"
- Robert A. Heinlein