Briefly: little love for SLS; lobbying change at SpaceX

For Orlando Sentinel columnist Mike Thomas, it's a question of what's the lesser evil: "We can either go billions over budget on mismanaged science projects, or we can go billions over budget on even more mismanaged manned-spaceflight programs," he writes in a column today. Thomas, who has been a critic of human spaceflight activities in the past, unsurprisingly chooses the former, in part because of the money already spent on the James Webb Space Telescope, as well as the scientific and other benefits it can yield: "It would be a big in-your-face to the Chinese, who could never build such a technical marvel, at least not until they've downloaded the plans from the NASA computers." He doesn't apply similar arguments to the Space Launch System (SLS) and Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV), and is skeptical of the cost estimates reported last month. "Factoring in the usual NASA cost overruns and delays, this rocket will cost $200 billion and go up in the year 2525." (If man is still alive…) The advocacy group Tea Party in Space (TPIS) sees last week's Soyuz launch failure as proof Congress should fully fund NASA's Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) program in order to ensure American access to the ISS, the conservative news site NewsMax reports. CCDev would be faster and cheaper than SLS, the organization argues; a TPIS official called congressional support for SLS "a pretty warped sense of priorities". "Tea Party in Space officials see NASA's cost overruns as a microcosm of the larger bureaucratic snafus that plague the federal government generally," the report adds. Back in July, SpaceX hired Mark Bitterman, who had spent nearly 20 years at rival Orbital Sciences Corporation, most recently as vice president of government affairs, as its new senior vice president of government affairs. But Space News reported this week that, after less than two months on the job, Bitterman has resigned; a company spokesperson said "family obligations" require more of his time than the job would allow. (The version of the press release announcing his hiring is no longer listed on the SpaceX web site, although in addition to the Business Wire version listed above, there's a cached version from earlier this week.)

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