Press Release

Griffith Continues to Press Administration on Ares Program – Congressman stands firm on commitment to Constellation

By SpaceRef Editor
August 12, 2009
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Griffith Continues to Press Administration on Ares Program – Congressman stands firm on commitment to Constellation

WASHINGTON – Congressman Parker Griffith today continued to fight for the continuation of Constellation and Ares programs as NASA takes the next step in human space exploration. North Alabama’s Congressman urged both the White House as well as the Augustine Commission to proceed as planned with the development of Ares-I as the official architecture for future manned spaceflight.

“When considering the final report of the Augustine Commission, I believe that it is critical for our nation’s policymakers to recognize that today’s current space transportation architecture is capable of achieving our human space flight objectives in a safe, innovative, affordable and sustainable manner,” Griffith said.

Ares-I has continued to make progress in building, testing and the design of a crew launch vehicle capable of reaching NASA’s goal of returning man to the moon by 2020. Congressman Parker Griffith has remained a vocal proponent of Constellation, Ares and Marshall Space Flight Center during his first term in office.

“The tradition of responsible and ambitious management at Marshall has always proved to be a strong foundation for the success of our space program,” Griffith added. “A well funded and full supported Ares program is the only option to bring us to the level of success that is synonymous with the NASA name.”

The letter, in its entirety, is attached.

July 31, 2009

President Barack Obama
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
Dear President Obama:

I would first like to take this opportunity to express my sincere appreciation for your support of space exploration as demonstrated by your Fiscal Year 2010 budget submission for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). I believe that your proposed budget increase for NASA has the support of the American people, and I look forward to working with you to secure approval in the Congressional appropriations process for this necessary funding.

I am writing you today in regard to the U.S. human space exploration policy. As you know, it was our great Nation and NASA’s Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs, driven by President John. F. Kennedy’s inspirational challenge, which led human civilization’s first pioneering voyage beyond low-Earth orbit and into the unknowns of space. The benefits of this historic adventure to our Nation and to our world, though unpredictable at the time, were immense. It is regrettable that in the succeeding decades the US. government cancelled the Apollo program, and our Nation’s space program gave up much of the gains in space exploration capability that had been secured along one of America’s greatest journeys.

On February 1,2003, we lost seven brave explorers in the Space Shuttle Columbia tragedy, and our nation vowed that the cause for which they died should continue. The Space Shuttle stands as one of the greatest and most complex engineering feats in history. To this day I believe that no workforce is more dedicated to mission success than the employees ofNASA and its contractors that designed, developed and tested the Shuttle and sustain its operations. However, the Columbia Accident Investigation Board (CAIB) concluded that the Nation had mischaracterized the Space Shuttle as operational rather than developmental, and recommended that prior to operating the Shuttle beyond 2010, a vehicle recertification program should be developed and conducted. The Board recognized the failings of a “haphazard policy process,” characterized by a pattern of “optimistic pronouncements about a revolutionary Shuttle replacement followed by insufficient government investment, and then program cancellation due to technical difficulties.”

Our Nation responded to this tragedy in a bipartisan way and adopted the goal of establishing a sustained human presence in space, through the utilization of the Moon as a stepping stone to the planet Mars. In the summer of 2005, NASA’s leadership executed the Exploration Systems Architecture Study (ESAS), a 90-day effort to assess various options and select the best space transportation architecture for achieving our Nation’s human space flight objectives. The ESAS effort included more than 20 core team members co-located at NASA Headquarters and hundreds of employees from across the agency involved in detailed design, analysis, planning, and costing activities. The ESAS results, and further technical refinements, are reflected in today’s development of the Ares I and Ares V launch vehicles, and the Orion crew exploration vehicle. Today’s architecture has received the approval of both chambers of Congress, in the appropriations and the authorization processes, and on both sides of the aisle.

You have recently established the Review of the U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee, also known as the Augustine Commission. Its charter is “to conduct an independent review of ongoing U.S. human space flight plans and programs, as well as alternatives, to ensure the Nation is pursuing the best trajectory for the future of human space flight – one that is safe, innovative, affordable and sustainable.” The establishment of this committee in the context of the many high-priority challenges faced by our nation demonstrates that human space exploration policy is important to your Administration. I share your desire for a human space flight architecture that is safe, innovative, affordable, and sustainable.

When considering the final report of the Augustine Commission, I believe that it is critical for our nation’s policy makers to recognize that today’s current space transportation architecture is capable of achieving our human space flight objectives in a safe, innovative, affordable and sustainable manner. While the current architecture is certainly not perfect, I am sure that you would agree that perfection is not an objective to which even the most accomplished project director can be reasonably expected to manage within the constraints of limited resources.

The Ares I project continues to make progress in designing, building, and testing the Ares I crew launch vehicle. Ares I has successfully passed three major project reviews and has been in the detailed design phase since the fall of 2.007. Among other accomplishments, the Ares I team has developed test motors for the First Stage; successfully welded the first Manufacturing Demonstration Article full-scale tank dome in the Friction Weld Facility at Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama; and performed “power-pack” testing on the Upper Stage J-2X engine. In addition, all hardware for the first development test flight of the Ares I, known as the Ares I-X, has been delivered to Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where stacking has begun. NASA also has made progress with ground testing, having performed approximately 70 percent of the total wind tunnel testing needed to complete the design. Through the end of June 2009, the United States had invested about $3 billion in the designing, building, and testing of Ares I. NASA continues to plan for achieving the initial operational capability for Ares I and Orion by March 201 5.

In September 2008, Ares I completed a key milestone with its Preliminary Design Review (PDR). PDR is the final step of the initial design process, and thereby a crucial milestone, during which the overall project verifies that the preliminary design can meet all requirements within acceptable risk limits and within cost and schedule constraints, and identifies technical and management challenges and addresses approaches for eliminating or mitigating them. Current plans call for Ares I to progress to the point of obtaining Agency approval by early 2010 to proceed to Critical Design Review.

Therefore, after thoughtful consideration, I strongly and respectfully urge you to keep our nation’s space program on track to meet our human space flight objectives by utilizing the general space transportation architecture adopted after intense study by the ESAS team of experts. Since the completion of the ESAS study, this architecture has been revised and modified as necessary under the leadership and guidance of the NASA Administrator and based on the exhaustive and thoughtful analyses by experts from across the agency. I urge you to allow current NASA Administrator Charles Bolden to utilize his authority, as delegated by you, combined with his managerial skills and the technical excellence from within the agency, to determine and implement any further modifications that may be needed as a matter of the normal execution of a cutting-edge S&T acquisition program.

We must not throw away the substantial investments made by the U.S. taxpayers in the current architecture, nor can we ignore the significant progress that has been made by the NASA team in the development of the Ares and Orion vehicles. We must finally put an end to the disastrous pattern of a “haphazard policy process” of program terminations, as identified by the CAIB, in developing a replacement for the Space Shuttle.

Finally, I strongly urge you to ensure that NASA and its field centers, including the Marshall Space Flight Center which I am proud to represent, have sufficient technical capability and budget authority to ensure that the U.S. space transportation policy is being implemented effectively, efficiently, timely and in the best interests of our nation.

I would like to thank you for your commitment to maintaining a healthy and robust civil space program, and I look forward to working with you to ensure that our nation’s human space flight objectives are achieved and that the U.S. aerospace workforce remains second to none. I look forward to hearing from you on this issue and would be honored to host you for a visit to NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center so that you can witness first-hand the essential work occurring at this facility and the progress being made towards our Nation’s human space flight objectives.


Parker Griffith, M.D.
Member of Congress

SpaceRef staff editor.