I worked at Thiokol (now ATK) for 31 years as an engineer and went through many ups and downs. When I read the Sunday's Viewpoint article by Senator Bennett, "Obama Wrong on NASA," I thought, "He's always blaming somebody else." Instead, Bennett should point the finger at himself and Congress for this mess, because they approve NASA's budget as well as the appointment of its chief. Bennett has been in Congress for 18 years. Where is his leadership to protect our capability and workforce?
He is pandering for votes by writing this article with talking points very likely written by ATK. The space industry is undergoing tremendous hardship with continual layoffs. Senator Bennett should be providing the vision about a national space policy so all aerospace employees would have some stability.
Frankly, I think the problem is with Washington leaders. They know how to point fingers when something goes wrong, stuff their pockets with money from lobbyists, cater to the Wall Street fat cats, and say whatever it takes to get elected.
Bennett should have informed us about how this situation developed. In 1990, former Lockheed Martin CEO, Norm Augustine, considered a national leader in aerospace, led a panel of experts to study the entire U.S. space program. The panel recommended NASA make science its top priority. The panel then endorsed President George H. W. Bush's space exploration initiative, a plan to return astronauts to the moon in preparation for mission to Mars. The initiative failed to gain traction in Congress and was abandoned.
The exploration goal resurrected in 2003 when Columbia exploded, was endorsed by Congress, and later by Obama during the 2008 presidential campaign. On Jan. 14, 2004 Bush announced a major overhaul of the space exploration strategy and the retirement of the shuttle by 2010. NASA's execution plan was controversial and budget projections raised further doubts about its viability. Bush turned to Augustine again for answers.
On Oct. 22, 2009 the Augustine Commission of nine prestigious members made several recommendations. One was to keep Constellation going but recognize it would not be ready for regular use until 2017 rather than the predicted 2012. The panel also said that an option would be to scrap the Ares I booster and use other cheaper rockets instead.
Washington leaders must have vision to make things better for all of us, and that requires collaboration and thinking outside of the box. The way to get out of the cyclical mess in our space program is to remove politics. The head of NASA should not be a political appointee.
There are many talented people in the country who could lead NASA and maintain our capability. Washington needs to establish a national space policy which, once approved by Congress, won't be subjected to change for an extended period of time. A complete upheaval every time we have a new president sets us up for the debacle we are going through today.
Bennett's last sentence, "The future of our space program should be based on solid facts and grounded in reality, not hope and change" is so true.
Alas, he is not giving us the solid facts and is clueless about how to offer practical ideas to prevent this from happening again.
Kulkarni lives in Perry.