NASA’s Constellation program has come under recent criticism/scrutiny.  Now, it looks like nepotism and cronyism is rearing its ugly head.

In April, the Obama administration rolled out a new plan to replace Constellation with strong investment in new space exploration technologies and commercial crew transportation capabilities that would make exploration more affordable and sustainable.  This initiative met strong resistance from aerospace contractors working on Constellation projects and several members of Congress in whose districts the work is being performed. 

House and Senate committees tasked with oversight and funding of NASA took very different approaches to future space exploration in their NASA authorization bills.  On August 5, 2010, the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee reported out S. 3729, which offers a compromise that includes elements of Constellation and the White House’s proposal, but abandons the Ares 1 program.  On July 28, 2010, the House Science and Technology Committee reported out H.R. 5781, which attempts to restore Ares 1 as the centerpiece of NASA’s human spaceflight program. 

CAGW published a full report on Constellation here.

Citizens are used to the old fashioned political patronage and nepotism with the old “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch your back” way of doing business.  An article in National Review Online tells of a bizarre new twist as it  relates to a NASA Authorization bill slated for the House of Representatives this week:

The space subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D., Ariz.), tried unsuccessfully to ram this bill through the House in August. Next week, her committee will try again. Why are they doing this?

It would appear to be a combination of nepotism and pork.

Representative Giffords happens to be married to Mark Kelly, an astronaut who has been assigned to the next (and possibly last) space-shuttle mission this fall. Kelly also worked on the old NASA program (not the Ares rocket, but a related part) and has been an outspoken advocate for that unsustainable approach. Yet Representative Giffords has not recused herself on this issue, let alone declined the committee chairmanship, despite the clear conflict of interest.Failure to launch a new strategy for NASA would be bad policy and a waste of tax dollars.

Failure to launch a new strategy at NASA is a waste of time and money.