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  Congress: Closing Marshall Space Flight Center

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Author Topic:   Congress: Closing Marshall Space Flight Center
Robert Pearlman
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From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 07-17-2013 10:06 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Space News reports that Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.) is expected to introduce an amendment to the NASA authorization bill calling for a commission to consider closing Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.
The amendment would establish a Center Realignment and Closure Commission that would be given six months to evaluate "[c]onsolidating all rocket development and test activities of the Marshall Space Flight Center and Stennis Space Center in one location" and recommend a location promising the greatest cost savings.

The commission would also be asked to look at "[r]elocating all operations of the Marshall Space Flight Center to both the Stennis Space Center and Johnson Space Center."

GoesTo11
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From: Denver, CO USA
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posted 07-17-2013 11:57 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for GoesTo11   Click Here to Email GoesTo11     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
At the risk of being flamed into cinder, I actually think this is worth serious consideration. In the current budget environment, how many independent centers can NASA really afford?

Can the agency still operate a dedicated research facility like Marshall that's operationally isolated from the places where we actually assemble and launch rockets?

I don't have an argumentative agenda here... I just think that given the budgetary challenges NASA now faces, their management may now have to confront and explore the prospect of consolidating different facilities' missions to an extent that has previously been institutionally unacceptable.

cspg
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posted 07-18-2013 04:43 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for cspg   Click Here to Email cspg     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I don't know if NASA has too many centers or not and how much would be saved if one was shut down, and again the US financial difficulties won't be resolved by shutting down a NASA center. Two remarks though:
  • Some should be careful at which door they decide to close (or open). Such a move could easily lead to more shut downs and one day someone will claim, NASA costs too much, let's shut it down completely.

  • And second, ironically, some folks in Congress want to protect the Apollo landing sites on the Moon while others want to shut down a center that precisely allowed for such landings to occur...
Maybe one day politicians will stop micro-managing the issues and tackle what's fundamentally wrong (that's valid for France as well- depressingly or reassuringly enough).

Fra Mauro
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posted 07-18-2013 07:12 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Fra Mauro   Click Here to Email Fra Mauro     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I don' think it's a good idea at all and I agree with Chris (cspg) on that one. How about Congress reform the Postal Service first, which is bleeding money every month?

Robert Pearlman
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From: Houston, TX
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posted 07-18-2013 07:21 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Fra Mauro:
How about Congress reform the Postal Service first, which is bleeding money every month?
The postal service is not a federal agency, and even if the federal funds provided to the USPS were reduced, it would not result in a larger budget for NASA.

I don't know if closing a center — or specifically closing Marshall — is the right answer, but presumably what Rep. Edwards is trying to do is address the $1 billion cut NASA is potentially facing from the House appropriations bill without further delaying the Space Launch System or Commercial Crew.

Hopefully, the Senate version of the appropriations bill will win out, and this will become a moot issue.

Greggy_D
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posted 07-18-2013 07:50 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Greggy_D   Click Here to Email Greggy_D     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Reel in entitlements and closures of this nature would not be necessary.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 07-18-2013 08:08 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Saving money from one pot of money does not equate to increasing another. Congress does not work that way.

When other programs are cut, NASA does not automatically, or even necessarily, benefit. (The reverse is also true, which is why the argument that cutting NASA will help solve the world's terrestrial problems is equally false.)

NASA's budgetary problems are not because other programs and agencies receive more money, but because NASA is not viewed as a priority. It is a "nice-to-have" rather than a "need-to-have."

A proposal to shutter a center might force a discussion about NASA in the light of the jobs it provides, which for Congress is a much more tangible reason to fund the space agency than any future missions to the moon, Mars or an asteroid...

tfrielin
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From: Athens, GA
Registered: Feb 2007

posted 07-18-2013 09:02 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for tfrielin   Click Here to Email tfrielin     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I have to see Goes To 11's heretical stance and raise him one better:

After Marshall and Stennis are consolidated, then consolidate JSC and KSC.

Whereas, it seems consolidation of Marshall and Stennis could go either way I suppose facility-wise, the logic of consolidating JSC and KSC forces the decision — close JSC and move its operations to KSC because you sure can't move KSC to Texas.

So why not consolidate all manned spaceflight operations to where you launch them. It's not 1963 anymore.

onesmallstep
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From: Staten Island, New York USA
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posted 07-18-2013 09:48 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for onesmallstep   Click Here to Email onesmallstep     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I wonder what Ms. Edwards would say if someone in Congress was considering closing Goddard Space Flight Center?

p51
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posted 07-18-2013 12:26 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for p51   Click Here to Email p51     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Two factors that immediately come to mind if this comes to pass:
  1. They'll have to build a new ISS mission control center somewhere else. My understanding is that it's at Huntsville to double up against a storm hitting either there or Houston (both of which are possible).

  2. If they did this, I wonder if the visitor center and Space Camp would also vanish? I shudder at that thought!

tfrielin
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From: Athens, GA
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posted 07-18-2013 12:35 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for tfrielin   Click Here to Email tfrielin     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by p51:
They'll have to build a new ISS mission control center somewhere else.
How can NASA justify a new ISS control center when in another decade it will be at the end of its service life with no replacement in sight?

It will never happen.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 07-18-2013 12:46 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
ISS mission control is at Johnson Space Center. Marshall hosts the Payload Operations Center, which coordinates U.S. scientific and commercial experiments on the station.

The POC can also double as a mission control for the space station if Johnson's MCC is unavailable, though there are other, mobile options.

Moving the POC to JSC would probably be among the less challenging aspects of closing Marshall.

SkyMan1958
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posted 07-18-2013 01:56 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for SkyMan1958   Click Here to Email SkyMan1958     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I strongly suspect this will be like closing a military base. Essentially the odds are quite low that this will happen. Too many other politicians have federal facilities in their districts and realize the facilities could get the chop, so they will play the "you scratch my back..." game.

mikej
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From: Germantown, WI USA
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posted 07-18-2013 05:55 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for mikej   Click Here to Email mikej     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Well, that (thankfully) didn't last long: Congresswoman Withdraws Proposal to Consider Closing Marshall Space Flight Center.
The ranking Democrat on the Space Subcommittee has withdrawn her amendment that would have created a committee to review Marshall Space Flight Center operations and possibly consolidate operations with other space centers.

The proposal was from U.S. Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Maryland). She introduced the proposal just after 3:30 p.m. and then announced she was withdrawing it. The decision was met with no opposition from the Republican-dominated subcommittee.

SpaceKSCBlog
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posted 08-04-2013 07:25 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for SpaceKSCBlog   Click Here to Email SpaceKSCBlog     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Rep. Edwards' proposal was a slap at Rep. Mo Brooks (who represents Huntsville) in retaliation for a rant in the last hearing. Brooks blamed people on welfare for the need to cut NASA's budget. Edwards retaliated with the proposal to close Marshall, but as noted she dropped it.

Generally speaking, NASA's system of space centers is obsolete. It's due to NASA's origin in 1958. The agency was a merger of NACA and various other aerospace research entities across the nation. For example, NACA was at Langley in Virginia, Lewis in Cleveland and Muroc (later Edwards) in California. Huntsville was the Army Ballistic Missile Agency. And so on.

Over the years, the members of Congress representing those districts found their way onto the authorization and appropriations committees to protect their pork. So those space centers continue to exist, and their representatives protect them from being closed or efficiences that would reduce jobs.

The private sector would never operate like that. SpaceX, for example, makes most of their parts in-house at the Hawthorne plant. It keeps costs down and improves efficiency.

That is why it's inevitable that NewSpace will win. But OldSpace is fighting tooth and nail, backed by key members of Congress.

Brooks and Edwards are OldSpace fighting over the scraps.

rgarner
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posted 08-04-2013 08:45 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for rgarner   Click Here to Email rgarner     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Consolidation, much as in business, is only beneficial if the funds are relocated within the organisation and not sent elsewhere. If closing the centre will allow for those funds to be redirected to other space centres and space projects then I can see the benefit, otherwise it is a sad day.

cspg
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From: Geneva, Switzerland
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posted 08-04-2013 11:00 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for cspg   Click Here to Email cspg     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by SpaceKSCBlog:
The private sector would never operate like that. SpaceX, for example, makes most of their parts in-house at the Hawthorne plant. It keeps costs down and improves efficiency.

That is why it's inevitable that NewSpace will win.


Still trying to understand what's to be won here, except juicy OldSpace contracts. As for placing SpaceX and others who have yet to show anything, on the same playing field as NASA is rather insulting to NASA. And if I were to follow your logic about the greatness of NewSpace, suppose ATK/Astrium wins the CCDeV contract (ha-ha, see, OldSpace's got the bucks), will SRBs be manufactured and tested in Florida? Moving them from Utah sounds like a big fat waste of money. Maybe they'll move to French Guiana.

Maybe NASA's organizational structure is obsolete (or could be made more efficient since the money is running dry, except for things like the next aircraft carrier at $9-14 billion a piece every 4-5 years) and will eventually disapper into thin air, at least as we know it (ESA structure is no better) but that day will come when someone will point a gun to your forehead- the US seems to be more reactive than active. Until then, everything will remain the same. And you can extend this to all governments, worldwide.

Robert Pearlman
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Posts: 27455
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 08-04-2013 11:25 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by cspg:
...suppose ATK/Astrium wins the CCDeV contract
I realize you were just making an example Chris, but ATK/Astrium are no longer in the running for NASA's commercial crew — only Boeing and Sierra Nevada using ULA's Atlas V and SpaceX with its Falcon and Dragon.

But that aside, the New/Old Space labels are an oversimplification and really should be dropped. The term NewSpace served its purpose in Rotary Rocket's day, but even SpaceX doesn't fit their mold. And NASA is not the competitor, it is the customer.

dabolton
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From: Round Lake, IL, US
Registered: Jan 2009

posted 08-04-2013 12:57 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for dabolton   Click Here to Email dabolton     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The government is like a cogged gear; once you advance it forward, it cant go backwards. My favorite rant to get on is we have too many states with repetitive government departments. As an example, do we really need a North and South Dakota? Two governors, two state houses, two motor vehicle departments, etc. Texas manages a territory far exceeding many of the New England states and how many full state governments are there.

Jay Chladek
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posted 08-06-2013 11:35 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jay Chladek   Click Here to Email Jay Chladek     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Robert Pearlman:
Moving the POC to JSC would probably be among the less challenging aspects of closing Marshall.

I don't know about that. The POC was born out of a need to house payload operations for space missions (starting with Spacelab) separate from Mission Control in Houston. In the early days, Payload operations took place at JSC, but it became a real logistical nightmare to house several independent principle investigators and scientists monitoring their own experiments at JSC's facilities. Another problem involved the computers needed to support monitoring of the science on the ground as those old computers in the early PC days could generate A LOT of excess heat and it could really strain already overtaxed air conditioning units.

So after a couple years of JSC doing it on the first handful of Shuttle Spacelab flights (which were relatively short duration compared to the open ended science of the ISS) while Marshall wanted a bigger piece of the pie, eventually NASA decided to put payload operations in Huntsville so Mission Control could focus on other areas of space missions that they were better suited to monitor (i.e. command and control of the spacecraft itself).

Robert Pearlman
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From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 08-07-2013 02:12 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Jay Chladek:
I don't know about that.
My comment was intended to be relative to the other facilities at Marshall, based on current use rather than historical precedent.

For what the POC is used for today, how it is equipped and what logistics would be involved in moving it, compared to, say, moving engine test stand equipment to another center, transitioning the POC to Johnson Space Center would be relatively easier.

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