in Houston, Texas
Despite political push back, manned space trips from South Padre Island explored
Wednesday, Apr 11, 2012, 02:05PM CST
By Mark Lisheron
rockets

For those of you unpatriotic sorts who wonder why it has been almost 40 years since we last put a man on the moon, we offer a story we call “SpaceX and the Texas Senator.”

SpaceX is a private aerospace company in California developing what they hope will someday be craft for manned space trips.

To that end, the company this week filed its intention to do an environmental impact statement for the Federal Aviation Administration to pave the way to build a rocket launching site on the Gulf Coast, five miles south of South Padre Island, according to a Houston Chronicle blog.

The impact statement says the company is bringing economic development to the area, building a hangar, a launch pad, a full workshop, warehouse and a fuel storage area. From there the company intends to make 12 launches over the Gulf of rockets carrying commercial, satellite and experimental payloads, the statement says.

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison has long thought manned flights into deep space are a great idea, as long as the government is launching them from a taxpayer-financed space center with a name like Johnson somewhere in her home state.

The ranking member of the Commerce Science and Transportation Committee and Appropriations Committee has, however, presided over the atrophy of her beloved National Aeronautics and Space Administration and its manned space programs.

The 2011 NASA budget of $18.4 billion, is expected to shrink to $17.7 billion this year and is estimated to be $17.7 billion in 2013.

In 1966, three years before Apollo 11 put the first man on the moon, the United States spent 4.4 percent of its entire budget on the space program. This year it is expected to dip to .48 percent.

The recession of NASA’s manned space ambitions has given rise to space entrepreneurs like SpaceX, flamboyant Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic and plucky little Armadillo Aerospace near Dallas.

The Texas Space Alliance formed to bring space transportation and its economic benefit to the state in a private rather than public way.

Rather than be left behind, NASA has formed partnerships, helping sponsor the X Prize, a competition providing millions of dollars in prize money to private aerospace developers.

Last April NASA awarded $269 million to four companies with a goal of manned commercial space travel by 2015. Boeing received $92 million; Sierra Nevada Corp., $80 million; and Blue Origin, $22 million.

SpaceX, the fourth company, got $75 million from Hutchison’s pet federal project. Hutchison, the Chronicle blog says, continues to worry private companies are siphoning too much money from NASA.

The entire $269 million in grants represents 1.46 percent of the NASA budget. The SpaceX grant alone is .41 percent of the budget.

***
Contact Mark Lisheron at 512-299-2318 or mark@texaswatchdog.org or on Twitter at @marktxwatchdog.

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Photo 'ATREX - sounding rockets' by flickr user NASA Goddard Photo and Video, used via a Creative Commons license.

Comments
Stan Burton
Wednesday, 04/11/2012 - 02:54PM

Mark, there is a much bigger issue and it is one of the things that none of the liberal elite like to talk about. in plain english, nobody will go to the moon on a private rocket, or do asteroid mining or any of the other things that you would expect private enterprise to be jumping at the chance to do because of a treaty signed int he 60's with the UN. it is the UN Treaty on Outer Space which almost every major country on the planet signed. in plain language, that treaty made it illegal for any country or private individual/entity to make any territorial or mineral rights claims on any heavenly body. it puts asteroids and the moon and mars on the same legal footing as Antarctica. Therefore there is no financial incentive to go because you can't own or profit from anything you might find there. that is why everyone focuses on tourism, despite the fact that it is literally "raining soup" in space. Did you know that there are OCEANS of LNG on the surface of Titan? that 60% of all the nickel ever mined on this planet came from an ancient asteroid impact crater in Sudbury Canada? Just ONE impact crater! There is enough He3 on the moon in the regolith to make commercial fusion power not only possible but affordable enough to replace ALL of the fossil fuels used on this planet. Unless and until we withdraw from that treaty, private space flight will NEVER be able to justify it's cost.

Mark Lisheron
Wednesday, 04/11/2012 - 03:09PM

Stan,

Thank you for one of the most thoughtful responses I have ever received for something I have written.

Regrettably, that bigger, compelling story is just a little outside my usual orbit, so to speak. I wonder why we aren't questioning an agency with an $18 billion budget and no real mission and hostility to private efforts. Then again, I write about government and its ways with a dollar all the time.

Thanks again,

Mark

Stan Burton
Wednesday, 04/11/2012 - 03:36PM

Mark, my point was that until other market opportunities are opened up through deregulation the only real markets available to private entities are satellite launches and subcontractors to NASA. United Launch Alliance and it's individual partners pretty much have most of the satellite launch business in the bag already. That leaves supplying the ISS as the only real market for SpaceX. and NASA needs that for it's purpose for existence. NASA needs a purpose for it's continued existence and it is grasping at every little straw to justify itself.

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