Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Bolden denies violating FY2010 directives

Mark Matthews
The Write Stuff
Orlando Sentinel

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden bluntly told Congress in a letter sent Friday that the agency has kept within the law as it prepares to dismantle the Constellation moon rocket program — despite accusations to the contrary from nearly 30 U.S. House members.

The three-page letter was in response to warning sent by the lawmakers on Feb. 12 that reminded the new NASA chief that he could not shut down Constellation this year without prior approval from Congress. They said NASA has begun pulling the plug in violation of a law passed last year.

Bolden disagreed. He said NASA has started studying what it would take to cancel the $9 billion Constellation program but has not actually killed anything. And Bolden vehemently denied claims that NASA leaders were given verbal instructions to immediately axe pieces of Constellation.

“While you may have received reports that NASA managers have instructed members of our teams to begin closeout activities on the Constellation program, I have directed no such actions and have found no evidence that Constellation managers have issued such directions,” he wrote.

But Bolden insisted that he must take steps to ensure an “orderly transition” if Congress agrees to terminate Constellation, as proposed by President Barack Obama. To that end, Bolden said that he has asked contractors to provide “their best estimates” on how much it would to turn off the program’s Ares rockets and Orion capsule, which were aimed at returning American astronauts to the moon.

“I believe this to be both a prudent and necessary step for our planning; we cannot be assured that we can be compliant with the law without accurate information from our contractors,” he said.

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