Briefly: Augustine, Cernan, and Florida's missing $40 million

A few space policy items from the last few days you might have missed given the other news: Nearly two years after being named to lead a committee to study the nation's human spaceflight plans, Norm Augustine remains concerned about the funding allocated to those now-revised efforts. "I think with regard to this year's budget, the match is reasonable," he said in an interview with MSNBC. "But if we're to have a program of the type that we described as attractive in the report that we put out, there's not enough money in the out years to do it." If that additional funding, on the order of $3 billion a year, is added, Augustine says the agency's current effort is "the right program, in my judgment." Augustine added that he's optimistic about the prospects of commercial spaceflight, saying "we will eventually have widespread tourism into orbit". He also appears to advocate for propellant depots, saying the government should provide contracts to commercial firms to transport those propellants into orbit in a manner analogous to the airmail contracts of the 1920s. As for NASA's ongoing commercial crew efforts, Augustine said that is progressing "better than I expected". Augustine acknowledges that some space veterans "and some of my most admired friends" don't agree with that plan, citing in particular Neil Armstrong. Another would likely be Gene Cernan, who told the Houston Chronicle that, unlike Augustine, he doesn't "have a lot of confidence" in some elements of the commercial sector to take over transporting astronauts to LEO. While some companies, he says, are "highly qualified", others are "young entrepreneurs with a lot of money, and for them it's kind of like a hobby", an apparent reference to SpaceX in particular (who he does not mention by name.) He adds that he thinks that "there are wiser heads in Congress and I believe they will prevail", apparently through making sure NASA develops the heavy-lift vehicle included in the NASA authorization act last year. On Sunday, Florida Today examined what happened to the $40 million in economic aid promised to the Space Coast to help mitigate the effects of the end of the shuttle program. That funding was promised by President Obama in a speech at the Kennedy Space Center last year, but last week the newspaper reported the funding was not included in the final FY11 continuing resolution that Congress passed last month. The funding was to come from NASA's Cross-Agency Support account, but when funding for that was cut by $83 million over 2010 levels, the workforce funding bore the brunt of the cut. The article goes on to curiously note that the workforce funding was not included in either the agency's 2012 budget proposal or in the House budget resolution. However, there would be no reason to include it in the 2012 budget request since the $40 million was a one-time item to be funded only for 2011 (and FY11 spending levels were not finalized for about two months after the FY12 proposal was released), and the House budget resolution, which also came out before FY11 was wrapped up, did not go into that level of detail.

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