Campaign Promises

Other/Miscellaneous -> Independent Organizations -> NASA

ItemIndependent Organizations
The Promise: "...supports congressional efforts to add at least one additional Space Shuttle flight to fly a valuable mission and to keep the workforce engaged."
When/Where: Obama Plan: "Advancing the Frontiers of Space Exploration" dated 08/15/08.
Status:Although the additional mission was signed into law under the Bush Administration, credit is given to the Obama Administration for funding it in NASA's FY2010 budget of $18.7B on top of the $1B provided for NASA under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

Among the budget highlights: "an additional flight may be conducted if it can safely and affordably be flown by the end of 2010". Space Shuttle "Discovery" was rolled out on 09/20/10 for its 39th and final flight to the International Space Station (ISS). This 11-day STS-133 mission was targeted to lift off at the Kennedy Space Center on 11/01/10 but faced delays until 02/24/11 due to technical problems. The mission transported several items to the space station, including the Permanent Multipurpose Module "Leonardo" which was left permanently docked to one of the station's ports. The shuttle also carried the third of four ExPRESS Logistics Carriers to the ISS, as well as a humanoid robot called Robonaut.

After technical delays, a second additional flight (STS-134) by the shuttle "Endeavour" lifted off on 05/16/11 for a 16-day mission to the ISS, carrying a $2B Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer particle detector and spare parts. "Endeavour's" last mission successfully ended on 06/01/11.

On 10/21/10, NASA announced that a third additional shuttle flight (STS-135) was necessary to stock the ISS with food, water and other supplies needed to sustain a crew of six for one year. STS-135, flown by the shuttle "Atlantis," lifted off for a final 14-day shuttle mission to the ISS on 07/08/11. When "Atlantis" came back to planet Earth on 07/21/11, it was retired and shuttle missions to the ISS ended.

While the promise to add one additional shuttle flight was fulfilled, the other part of this promise ("to keep the workforce engaged") was not. Retirement of the shuttle program during President Obama's first term in office has cost the loss of 9,000 government and contractor jobs in Florida and at least 4,000 in Texas and other states. The Constellation program, had it not been cancelled by President Obama, could have mitigated these job losses.

With 50% of this promise fulfilled, the grade assigned is consistent at 50%.
The Promise: "Will enlist other federal agencies, industry and academia to develop innovative scientific and technological research projects on the International Space Station."
When/Where: Obama Plan: "Advancing the Frontiers of Space Exploration" dated 08/15/08.
Status:On 08/06/09, NASA issued a Request for Proposal (RFP) NNH09CAO003O entitled "Opportunity for the Use of the International Space Station (ISS) by Domestic Entities Other than U.S. Federal Government Agencies" with expiration date 12/31/14.

The RFP proposes to provide access to the ISS to "U.S. federal, state and local government entities, and to U.S. private entities (including, but not limited to commercial firms, non-profit entities, and academic institutions)...".

It may be sometime in 2015 before an RFP respondent is "enlisted" to conduct of basic and applied research, technology development and industrial processing on the ISS -- at no cost to the U.S. taxpayer.

The RFP issuance by NASA was a huge step in the right direction toward promise fulfillment, but President Obama is not 100% there yet, as an invitation to respond to the RFP does not constitute enlistment of the entities identified in the original promise.

Nonetheless, tangible progress has been made toward promise fulfillment.
The Promise: "Will stimulate efforts within the private sector to develop and demonstrate spaceflight capabilities."
When/Where: Obama Plan: "Advancing the Frontiers of Space Exploration" dated 08/15/08.
Status:NASA's Commercial Crew and Cargo Program was launched on 08/04/09 by the issuance of solicitation JSC-CCDev-1.

As of mid-CY2010, at least five contracts had been awarded against the above solicitation "to stimulate effort within the private sector to develop and demonstrate human spaceflight capabilities. This effort is intended to foster entrepreneurial activity leading to job growth in engineering, analysis, design, and research, and to economic growth as capabilities for new markets are created."

The Space Exploration Technologies Corporation (SpaceX) received Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approval for the 12/08/10 launch to low-earth orbit and recovery of a reusable "Dragon" capsule powered by an 18-story "Falcon 9" rocket. The ultimate objective of that extremely successful debut test flight was to someday transport cargo and astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) and beyond. That goal came to fruition on 05/22/12 when SpaceX launched it first trial mission carrying 1,000 lbs of equipment and supplies to the ISS.

Under a $1.6B contract with NASA, SpaceX then launched the first of 12 regularly scheduled supply missions to the ISS on 10/07/12. The second successful "Dragon" mission splashed down in the Pacific Ocean on 03/26/12.

Meanwhile, operating under a $1.9 billion contract for eight resupply flights to the ISS, Orbital Sciences Corp. of Dulles, VA plans to launched its first Antares rocket test flight in 04/13 from NASA's Wallops, VA facility. Orbital then launched its first cargo delivery "Orb-1" Cygnus spacecraft to the ISS on 01/09/14.

Given SpaceX's and Orbital Sciences Corporation's steady progress toward filling the void left by the cessation of shuttle flights to the ISS, private sector efforts have evidently been stimulated and this promise is being fulfilled.
The Promise: "...will use the ISS for fundamental biological and physical research to understand the effects of long-term space travel on human health and to test emerging technologies to enable such travel."
When/Where: Obama Plan: "Advancing the Frontiers of Space Exploration" dated 08/15/08.
Status:In 05/09, President Obama established the "Review of U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee" to assess planned human spaceflight activities so that the nation can achieve "its boldest aspirations in space."

A Government Accountability Office (GAO) report dated 11/09 states that full research utilization of the International Space Station (ISS) will be impeded by (1) the Administration's plans to halt Space Shuttle activities in the CY2010/11 timeframe, (2) high cost for launches and developing research hardware and the absence of a reliable funding stream for research on the ISS, and (3) limited crew time available for research due to fixed crew size (only 6) and the need to conduct other maintenance and safety activities. The limited payload of alternate international shuttle capabilities also exacerbates this dilemna.

To ensure the best return on the American taxpayer's investment of $49B for ISS design, development and assembly over a 25-year period, the President's Human Space Flight Plans Committee advised him that it would be unwise to de-orbit the ISS in CY2015 after only 5 years of full operations after its final assembly. In response, President Obama announced on 04/15/10 that he would seek extended funding for the ISS through CY2020. For FY2011, he obtained $2.7B for ISS operations, an amount increased to $2.8B in FY2012. The President's request is $3.0B for FY2013.

The next NASA manned spaceship, the "Orion," will not be ready for human-crewed deep-space flight until CY2017. That spacecraft was delivered to the NASA Kennedy Space Center in 07/12 for its initial Exploration Flight Test (EFT-1).

The long-term goal of months long space travel to Mars and beyond appears to be on track and it also appears that funding will be provided to make the uninterrupted ISS-based biological and physical research possible through CY2020.

This promise has been fulfilled.
The Promise: "Will consider options to extend International Space Station (ISS) operations beyond 2016."
When/Where: Obama Plan: "Advancing the Frontiers of Space Exploration" dated 08/15/08.
Status:Original plans were for NASA to deorbit the ISS in the first quarter of 2016. The Summary Report of the Review of U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee dated 09/08/09 and issued by the Augustine Committee recommended "that the return on investment of ISS to both the United States and the international partners would be significantly enhanced by an extension of ISS life to 2020..."

President Obama apparently listened to this advice, as his FY2011 budget proposal states in part: "...provides funds to extend operations of the Space Station past its previously planned retirement date of 2016." Promise fulfilled.
The Promise: "Will endorse the goal of sending human missions to the Moon by 2020, as a precursor in an orderly progression to missions to more distant destinations, including Mars."
When/Where: Obama Plan: "Advancing the Frontiers of Space Exploration" dated 08/15/08.
Status:On 02/01/10, President Obama announced his decision to cancel the Constellation Program (CxP) effective with the FY2011 NASA budget. Although NASA had already spent about $10B on this project, he stated his preference to dedicate research and development dollars toward new technologies for an eventual mission to Mars and beyond.

On 07/15/10, while considering the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act of 2010, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation unanimously agreed to cancel the $150B return-to-the-moon program by cancelling the Ares I rocket in favor of a larger heavy-lift rocket to be developed starting in CY2011 for more distant missions after CY2015.

Meanwhile, NASA continued to spend precious taxpayer dollars on the Constellation program to the tune of $215M in 10/10 and 11/10 alone.

NASA has also been working on versions of a humanoid robot (Robonaut). Such a robot ("Robonaut 2") was delivered to the International Space Station in early 11/10 to help with housekeeping chores and, eventually, spacewalks. Sending an upgraded "Project M" Robonaut to the moon could be accomplished, according to NASA, at a cost of about $500M, which could be largely defrayed with innovative corporate sponsorship/advertising.

Despite the progress reflected above, the promise to endorse a human mission to the moon by CY2020 has not been fulfilled.
The Promise: "Will enlist international partners to provide International Space Station (ISS) cargo re-supply and eventually alternate means for sending crews to the ISS."
When/Where: Obama Plan: "Advancing the Frontiers of Space Exploration" dated 08/15/08.
Status:The introductory portion of President Obama's FY2011 budget proposal ("Laying a New Foundation for Economic Growth") talks about reinvigorating space science and exploration by forging "international partnerships." However, the President's budget proposal for NASA itself appears to contradict this goal.

President Obama's FY2011 budget proposal for NASA includes the statement: "The Budget funds NASA to contract with industry to provide astronaut transportation to the International Space Station as soon as possible, reducing the risk of relying solely on foreign crew transports for years to come."

Thus, as of early-CY2013, NASA still appears to be relying solely on Russia for its transport of human cargo to the ISS. The fact that no less than five (5) of Russia's launched, space-destined missions crashed in CY2011 alone is no confidence builder in this sole source of transport to/from the ISS.

Enlisting new "international partners" since the original Space Station Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) was signed on 01/28/98 with Russia, Japan, Canada and the members states of the European Space Agency has not happened. Brazil once partnered with NASA to provide ISS hardware, but cancelled that contract due to cost issues. Chinese participation is opposed by U.S. lawmakers.

This promise has not been fulfilled.
The Promise: "...will support a robust research and technology development program that addresses the long-term needs for future human and robotic missions. He supports a funding goal that maintains at least 10 percent of the total exploration systems budget for research and development."
When/Where: Obama Plan: "Advancing the Frontiers of Space Exploration" dated 08/15/08.
Status:Since assuming the presidency, President Obama's budget requests have been supportive of NASA's exploration objectives but have fallen short of the 10% goal for exploration R&D.

In FY2011, the total NASA budget for exploration purposes was $3.821B, of which $232M was earmarked for "Exploration Research and Development," or about 5.3% of the total exploration budget. For FY2012, the budget for exploration was down to $3.712B, of which $299M or about 8.1% was planned for exploration R&D. The President's request for NASA's exploration budget line item is $3.932B, of which $333M or 8.5% is to be earmarked for exploration R&D.

Since "at least 10 percent of the total explorations systems budget" was to be for exploration R&D, this promise has not been fulfilled.
The Promise: "Will support increased investment in research, data analysis, and technology development across the full suite of exploration missions including the Mars Sample Return mission and future missions to the Moon, asteroids, Lagrange points, the outer Solar System and other destinations"
When/Where: Obama Plan: "Advancing the Frontiers of Space Exploration" dated 08/15/08.
Status:This promise is not to be confused with space exploration by humans and does not contradict the President's cancellation of the Constellation program for a return to the Moon by humans.

Rather, the President's FY2011 budget proposal clearly stated that he supported and wanted to provide $1B annually through FY2015 for "space science research grants and dozens of operating missions and telescopes currently studying the planets and stars as well as many more in development - including a telescope to succeed the Hubble Space Telescope, missions to study the Moon, and two Mars exploration missions."

Supportive of this goal, President Obama in 04/10 reversed an earlier decision to cancel the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle in which the U.S. Taxpayer had invested $4.8B as of end-CY2010. In response, NASA's Human Exploration Framework Team (HEFT) recommended that NASA begin immediately to develop a heavy lift rocket, derived from the space shuttle, and capable of transporting 100 metric tons into orbit.

On 09/30/10, Congress passed the 2010 NASA Authorization Act, clearing the way for the $6.9B development of a heavy-lift space launch system (SLS) capable of carrying 70-100 metric tons (and later 130 metric tons) into low Earth orbit, as well as a $3.92B Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV). Congress also set a 12/31/16 deadline for NASA to reach an "operational capability" for these new systems. A separate Senate appropriations report proposed that funding for the SLS be capped at $11.5B through FY2017, and the MPCV be capped at $5.5B. NASA publicly acknowedged that these funding limits were insufficient to reach the mandated operational targets.

On the plus side, NASA successfully launched its "Juno" mission to Jupiter on 08/05/11, a voyage that will take five years. The objective of this mission is to investigate Jupiter's magnetic field, learn how the planet was formed and evolved, whether it has a solid core, and whether it has or had water.

On the minus side, insufficiency of funding was evident in NASA's acknowledgement on 01/02/11 that it would need an additional $82M in CY2011 to complete testing of the $2.5B "Curiosity" NextGen Mars rover. Funds were found and "Curiosity" was lauched on its 8.5 month, 354M-mile mission to Mars on 11/26/11. The rover safely landed on Mars on 08/05/12.

Because of reduced funding for planetary exploration from $1.5B in FY2012 to $1.2B in FY2013, NASA cancelled the start of its Mars Sample Return program, and delayed the launching of probes to distant planets and the launching of Discovery-class explorer missions.

The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) to be launched in 10/18 to replace the Hubble Telescope was also in jeopardy. In 11/11, Congress decided not to cancel the JWST but limited funding to complete the project to $8B.

Despite perturbations in funding authorizations addressed above, the Orion project was successfully launched on its initial test flight on 12/5/14, landing in the Pacific Ocean 4.5 hours after its launch. Among several long-term goals, Orion could put a human on the surface of Mars after CY2030.

Under President Obama, investments have been sufficient to permit progress in exploration missions. Promise fulfilled.
The Promise: "Will stimulate the commercial use of space and private sector utilization of the International Space Station. He will establish new processes and procurement goals to promote the use of government facilities."
When/Where: Obama Plan: "Advancing the Frontiers of Space Exploration" dated 08/15/08.
Status:In President Obama's FY2011 budget proposal for NASA, a section entitled "Supports Promising Commercial Space Transportation" specifies that "A strengthened U.S. commercial space launch industry will bring needed competition, act as a catalyst for the development of other new businesses capitalizing on affordable access to space, help create thousands of jobs, and help reduce the cost of human access to space." The key word in this promise was to "stimulate" commercial participation in the space program. Promise fulfilled.
The Promise: "...will work to launch "without further delay" the Global Precipitation Measurement mission, an international effort to improve climate, weather, and hydrological predictions through more accurate and more frequent precipitation measurements."
When/Where: Obama Plan: "Advancing the Frontiers of Space Exploration" dated 08/15/08.
Status:On 12/02/09, NASA approved the Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) mission to proceed to its implementation phase with its primary collaborator, the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). The mission: study global rain, snow and ice to better understand our climate, weather, and hydrometeorological processes.

On 05/10/10, NASA awarded a $48.5M contract to Bell Aerospace and Technology Corporation for the GPM Microwave Imager Instrument Flight Unit 2 which was to be identical to the Flight Unit 1.

As of end-CY2011, the GPM Core Observatory (Flight Unit 1) was scheduled for launch in 07/13 from JAXA's Tanegashima launch site. This launch has been delayed to at least 02/14. Funding for Flight Unit 2, referred to as a "Low Inclination Orbiter," was cancelled by Congress under the FY2012 budget.

The CY2008 promise to launch GPM capabilities "without further delay" (interpreted to mean during President Obama's four-year first term in office) has not been fulfilled.
The Promise: "...will expand the use of prizes for revolutionary technical achievements that can benefit society, and funds for joint industry/government rapid-to-the-consumer technology advances."
When/Where: Obama Plan: "Advancing the Frontiers of Space Exploration" dated 08/15/08.
Status:Since CY2005, NASA has awarded $4.5M to 13 different teams responding to 19 competitions for creative solutions to problems that NASA seeks to resolve. Its "Centennial Challenges" program has produced solutions from students, "citizen inventors", and entrepreneurial firms for technologies ranging from lunar landers, space elevators, fuel-efficient aircraft to astronaut gloves.

In CY2009 alone, five competition events were held with winners declared in four of them, winning $3.65M in prizes.

To further solidify President Obama commitment to fulfilling this promise, his Administration's policy to "increase the use of prizes and challenges as tools for promoting open government, innovation, and other national priorities" was released by the Office of Management of Management and Budget (OMB) on 03/08/10.

This promise is being fulfilled.