NASA craft may ride on Pentagon rockets

Obama will tear down walls between NASA and the Defense Dept, scrapping the Ares rocket in favor of Pentagon rocket power.
Written by Richard Koman, Contributor
President-elect Obama seems intent on burning down the house of cards that is NASA, presumably to replace it with an agency that can actually design worthwhile missions without wholesale wasting of taxpayer dollars. First, we learned that the transition team has been circling around NASA's Constellation program.

Now, today I read that Obama is basically going to outsource a good bit of NASA engineering to the Defense Department. Bloomberg reports that Obama may force NASA to use DOD rockets, which will be cheaper and ready sooner than NASA's planned Ares (right), which isn't slated until 2015.

And this is all in the context of China's rapidly advancing space program, which definitely has Pentagon eyebrows raised.

China's military carried out a spacewalk in 2008, plans to land a robot on the moon in 2012 and a man on the moon thereafter. Meanwhile, the US will be hitching rides with Russia between 2010 when the shuttle is scrapped and 2015 (at the soonest) when Orion is to be launched.

It's no secret Obama's team wants to scrap NASA's Ares rocket. The Pentagon's Delta IV and Atlas V rockets are "basically developed," says John Logsdon of the National Air and Space Museum. "You don't have to build them from scratch."

Don't build from scratch? That is surely not the NASA way.

In any case, China's moon landing work has clear military implications.

“An automated rendezvous does all sorts of things for your missile accuracy and anti-satellite programs,” said John Sheldon, a visiting professor of advanced air and space studies at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama. “The manned effort is about prestige, but it’s also a good way of testing technologies that have defense applications.” China’s investments in anti-satellite warfare and in “cyberwarfare,” ballistic missiles and other weaponry “could threaten the United States’ primary means to project its power and help its allies in the Pacific: bases, air and sea assets, and the networks that support them,” Defense Secretary Gates wrote in the current issue of Foreign Affairs magazine.

Editorial standards