Chapter 5: The Battle to Save SEI
his personal commitment to the American space program, which he believed to be
of vital importance to the nation’s future. He contended that space leadership was
crucial to maintaining national leadership in the high tech world—in particular,
he lauded the launch of the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) aboard the Shuttle
Discovery in late April as an example of U.S. accomplishments in space science.
He further argued that there were real and tangible benefits derived from invest-
ments in the national space program, including revolutions in communications and
computerization, advances in industrial materials and medical knowledge, the cre-
ation of millions of high-tech jobs, and inspiring future generations of scientists and
engineers. President Bush then appealed for congressional support for his increase
in civil space spending—which he asserted would put the nation on the path of
recovery from many years of underinvestment in space. He made the case that Mis-
sion to Planet Earth and SEI embodied what the space program was all about—to
use space to examine Earth from above and to push outward to new frontiers. In
conclusion to his remarks, Bush acknowledged that Congress was concerned about
the proposed investment in the Moon-Mars initiative. To address these issues, he
turned the meeting over to Vice President Quayle.
Vice President Quayle began by emphasizing the Space Council’s priorities,
including: a balanced mix of human and robotic, scientific and exploratory mis-
sions; pursuit of challenging initiatives; and pushing space innovation designed to
ensure national leadership in cutting edge technology. He then launched into a
defense of SEI. Stating that the Council had dedicated significant effort to creating
a strategy for SEI, Quayle argued that it was fundamentally in the national interest
to implement a new round of exploration that would produce countless direct and
indirect benefits. He told the attendees that the council’s approach for SEI was to
begin a multi-year technology research effort. The administration was asking Con-
gress for the funding ($188 million in FY 1991) and the time to examine alternative
ways for better, faster, cheaper, safer ways of reaching the Moon and Mars. Quayle
made clear to the assembled congressional leaders that this should not be considered
a new program start, but an opportunity to investigate what was involved in achiev-
ing the initiative and ultimately to save money. He was adamant on this point,
stating unequivocally that the White House was not asking Congress to commit to
a new program. Quayle argued, however, that it was important to start the technol-
ogy research needed to initiate the program immediately, rather than waiting for the
program to get bogged down in bipartisan politics during an election year. He also
suggested that SEI offered an exceptional opportunity to showcase U.S. leadership
during a time of rapid political change around the globe.
Talking Points for the President, Congressional Leadership Meeting on Space, 27 April 1990,
Bush Presidential Records, George Bush Presidential Library.
in the strategy was to hold a “space summit” at the White House. While President
Bush met weekly with the senior Congressional leadership to discuss selected sub-
jects, this meeting was notable because it was the first time in American history
that space policy would be the sole topic on the agenda.
According to an internal
White House memorandum, the primary purpose of the summit was for Bush to
show support for the FY 1991 space budget. Secondarily, the gathering provided
an opportunity to discuss SEI. Not since the initiation of the Apollo program had
a president given such high priority to the space program. During the intervening
period, space activities were kept alive by a select group of congressional appropria-
tors and top-level NASA officials. The belief within the administration was that
this traditional coalition would not be able to deliver on President Bush’s ambitious
request for a 24% increase in funding for the space agency or obtain approval to
implement SEI. Senator Barbara Mikulski and Senator Jake Garn (chair and rank-
ing member of the Appropriation Subcommittee on VA, HUD, and Independent
Agencies) had confirmed this opinion, warning the White House that the Moon-
Mars initiative was particularly vulnerable in the current budgetary environment,
absent strong intervention by the White House. Based on this advice, the White
House plan was to have President Bush actively promote the initiative, both pub-
licly and with top congressional powerbrokers.
On 1 May, after being delayed in mid-April by the death of Senator Spark Mat-
the summit took place at the Old Executive Office Building. The
event was attended by sixteen congressional participants
and nearly twenty mem-
bers of the White House staff.
President Bush opened the meeting by affirming
Andrew Lawler, “Space Summit Set for May: Bush, Quayle Invite Members of Congress to Talk
Space,” Space News (23 April 1990), p. 1.
Mark Albrecht to Fred Mcclure, 16 April 1990, Bush Presidential Records, George Bush
Presidential Library; Jim Cicconi to President Bush, 30 April 1990, Bush Presidential Records, George
Bush Presidential Library.
In 1986, Senator Matsunaga wrote 周e Mars Project, Journey Beyond the Cold War, an unabashed
call for a wide-variety of joint space missions with the Soviet Union and other nations. Matsunaga was
one of the U.S. Senate’s most outspoken proponents of outer space development.
周e congressional participants included: Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole (R-KS), Senator
Robert Byrd (D-WV), Senator Mark Hatﬁeld (R-OR), Senator John Danforth (R-MO), Senator
Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Senator Jake Garn (R-UT), Senator Howell Heﬂin (D-AL), House
Speaker 周omas Foley (D-WA), House Majority Leader Richard Gephardt (D-MO), House Minority
Whip Newt Gingrich (R-GA), Representative Silvio Conte (R-MA), Representative Robert Traxler
(D-MI), Representative Bill Green (R-NY), Representative Robert Roe (D-NJ), and Representative
Robert Walker (R-PA).
周e White House participants included: Chief of Staﬀ John Sununu, National Security
Advisor Brent Scowcroft, Deputy Chief of Staﬀ Andrew Card, Deputy Chief of Staﬀ Jim Cicconi,
Communications Director David Demarest, Press Secretary Marlin Fitzwater, NSC Executive Secretary
Mark Albrecht, and Chief of Staﬀ to the Vice President Bill Kristol.
Chapter 5: The Battle to Save SEI
answered critics that argued he lacked the vision of a great president.
As he had
done ten months earlier, he did not speak to the cost of achieving these lofty goals.
When asked by reporters as he boarded Air Force One where the money would
come from to fund the initiative he simply said, “Thirty years is a long time.”
Coming in the wake of months of strategizing within the Space Council regarding
how to get SEI back on it feet, this answer was most unsatisfying. It left the impres-
sion that either Bush was not fully engaged in the decisions that were being made
with regard to space policy, or that the White House simply couldn’t produce a good
answer to this fundamental question.
As had been the case with his speech announcing SEI the previous summer,
the reaction to President Bush’s commencement address was not entirely positive.
The New York Times complained he “did not give any estimate…of how much the
program would cost. Nor did he discuss whether the mission would be mounted
alone or with international partners.”
The Washington Post quoted Senator Al Gore
saying, “before the President sets out on his mission to Mars, he should embark on a
mission to reality by giving us some even faint indication of where the $500 billion
is going to come from.”
Dick Malow actually felt that setting a 30-year timeframe
weakened the initiative on Capitol Hill. It was the “antithesis of the whole Apollo
idea. How do you spread an initiative like this over so many presidential adminis-
These reactions from key Democratic leaders pointed to the difficult
position the administration still found itself in due to the expensive policy alterna-
tive generated within the 90-Day Study. Even some NASA officials felt that setting
a timetable for the initiative was a mistake, believing it would drive costs up whereas
a ‘go-as-you-pay’ program would have had a significantly reduced budgetary impact
on an annual basis.
Outside the Capitol Beltway, the speech seemed to play even worse. The edito-
rial page of Salem, Oregon’s Statesman Journal contended, “A rocket trip to Mars
begins on a foundation of common purpose and sound finances at home. A nation
Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States, 11 May 1990, Remarks at the Texas A&I
University Commencement Ceremony in Kingsville, Texas, http://bushlibrary.tamu.edu/papers/ (accessed
2 January 2003).
Janet Cawley, “Bush Goal: Man on Mars by 2020,” 周e Chicago Tribune (12 May 1990); James
Gerstenzang, “Bush Sets 2019 for Mars Landing,” 周e Philadelphia Inquirer (12 May 1990).
John Noble Wilford, “Bush Sets Target For Mars Landing: He Seeks to Send Astronauts to
Planet by Year 2020,” 周e New York Times (12 May 1990).
Kathy Sawyer, “Bush Urges Mars Landing By 2019: Democrats Point to Money Problems,” 周e
Washington Post (12 May 1990).
Mark Albrecht remembered the congressional position during the summit
“hadn’t changed much, it pretty much remained the same—highly skeptical.” The
participants indicated that while they were willing to provide money for studies,
they did not believe there was enough justification for a major new program start.
Instead, they wanted to see more detail regarding what the actual initiative would
look like before they got fully behind the program.
One senior congressional aide
recalled, “By this time, Chairman Traxler was carrying the message around that ‘we
can’t afford this given our allocation. We can’t do it.’ He was already negative about
it, so coming out of there I don’t think he was convinced differently. Congress had
already pretty much made up its mind.’”
SEI Hits the Road
In early May, with congressional support still very much in doubt, the Space
Council staff began preparing for President Bush to make a major space policy
speech. The intention was that this address would provide some much needed focus
for the program, and at the same time allay Congressional fears that Bush was com-
mitted to a $400 billion, crash program. Mark Albrecht recalled that by this time
NASA had “leaked their numbers out to everybody on the Hill, attempting the
crib death of this whole initiative. We still didn’t have the full support of the space
agency, I don’t believe even at this time NASA was embracing it. I think they were
more worried about the space station than they were interested in setting a new
course.” To combat this behind the scenes attack, the White House decided that a
presidential rebuttal was needed to make it clear that the Administration was not
talking about a crash program
On 11 May, ten days after the space summit, President Bush delivered the com-
mencement address at Texas A&I University. He utilized this speech as an opportu-
nity to discuss the role the national space program would play in America’s future.
Bush told the assembled graduates that SEI formed the cornerstone of his far-reach-
ing plan for investing in America’s future, saying, “Thirty years ago, NASA was
founded, and the space race began. And 30 years from now I believe man will stand
on another planet. And so, I am pleased to return to Texas today to announce a new
Age of Exploration, with not only a goal but also a timetable: I believe that before
Apollo celebrates the 50th anniversary of its landing on the Moon, the American
flag should be planted on Mars.” With this speech, Bush set a timetable for SEI and
Ibid.; Albrecht interview.
Senior Congressional Aide interview via electronic mail, Washington, DC, 15 December 2004.
Chapter 5: The Battle to Save SEI
In early June, at the fourth Case for Mars conference, an alternative emerged that
would captivate Mars enthusiasts for years to come—and would work its way into
NASA planning years later. The most talked about presentation of the symposium
was delivered by Martin Marietta aerospace engineers Robert Zubrin and David
Baker. Named ‘Mars Direct,’ their system architecture included several key elements
designed to reduce mission costs and increase scientific return, including:
• Direct flight to and from the Martian surface (which eliminated the need
to use Space Station Freedom)
• No earth orbit or lunar orbit rendezvous (which eliminated the need for
• Fueling of the Earth Return Vehicle using propellant generated on Mars
from the atmosphere
• Extended operations on the Martian surface (up to 555 days)
Although this approach was considered a high risk alternative to the TSG architec-
ture highlighted in the 90-Day Study, Zubrin and Baker argued Mars Direct would
only cost $20 billion—approximately one-twentieth the price tag associated with
the space agency plan. Because it was based on existing technologies packaged in an
innovative system architecture, many in the space policy community viewed this as
an option worth serious consideration.
In mid-June, the Bush administration set in motion a flurry of events intended to
garner public support for SEI. These activities were commenced largely in response
to a House Appropriations subcommittee vote to eliminate all spending associated
with the initiative.
This lobbying effort began with a series of meetings to brief key
actors within the space policy community. Held at the White House, the presenta-
tions were tailored to the corresponding audiences in a coordinated effort—with
Vice President Quayle and Admiral Truly as the featured speakers. The message
conveyed to a group of congressional staffers was that a failure to provide funding
for SEI would create the impression that the United States lacked the political will to
take risks to expand humanity’s reach into the solar system. Reporters that regularly
Exploration Initiative Outreach Program,” National Aeronautics and Space Administration, 31
May 1990, National Aeronautics and Space Administration Historical Archives; “Chronology of the
President’s Space Exploration Initiative,” National Space Council, Bush Presidential Records, George
Bush Presidential Library.
J. Sebastian Sinisi, “Forum Delegates Conﬁdent,” Denver Post (11 June 1990), sec.4B.
James Gerstenzang, “Bush Denounces NASA Fund Cuts,” 周e Los Angeles Times (21 June 1990),
that doesn’t know how to balance its budget, reduce a $3 trillion deficit, and fight
the decay of its citizens through the effects of drugs, disrupted families and crippled
schools will never find the money and willpower to visit the heavens. Bush has given
us an empty challenge. We should ask him to return to Texas and repeat the same
speech. This time let him add a page at the beginning, one that spells out how this
country can first get its feet back on the ground. Then we can head for Mars.”
response was no better in The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, where the opening line of an
opinion editorial read, “Heigh-ho, heigh-ho, it’s off to space we go!”
A letter the
White House received from a local official in Kittery, Maine (just south of President
Bush’s vacation home in Kennebunkport) suggested, “American pride will best be
shown by meeting the needs of all the people here on Earth. $500 billion would
make a good start.”
Once again, this was not the reaction the administration was
hoping to elicit from a presidential address on the importance of space exploration.
A few weeks later, Vice President Quayle met briefly with the person the Space
Council hoped would be able to build confidence in SEI—Lieutenant General Tom
Stafford (USAF-retired). Stafford was a former astronaut who commanded Apollo
10, the ‘dress rehearsal’ for the first lunar landing mission, and the U.S. portion of
the 1975 Apollo-Soyuz Test Project. He had recently agreed to head the Explora-
tion Outreach Program, which had been created by NASA in response to the Space
Council request that the agency seek out new technical approaches that might reduce
SEI’s implementation costs. Under this outreach effort, the space agency expected
to obtain wide-ranging ideas through public solicitations, which would be evaluated
by the RAND Corporation—a California-based think tank. The most promising
of these proposals, and others directly from NASA, DOD, and DOE, would then
go to a “Synthesis Group” headed by General Stafford. This group’s recommenda-
tions would be reviewed by the NRC and reported directly to the Space Council in
early 1991. At the meeting with Stafford, Vice President Quayle expressed his belief
that the Synthesis Group would serve as a vehicle for generating enthusiasm and
support for SEI. He concluded the meeting by conveying his hope that the group
would identify at least two fundamentally different approaches to carrying out the
Editorial Board, “Empty Rhetoric Fuels Mars Talk,” 周e Statesman Journal (16 May 1990).
Henry Gay, “Reaching For Stars, Er, Mars,” 周e Seattle Post-Intelligencer (24 May 1990), sec.A15.
Maria S. Barth to President George Bush, 24 May 1990, Bush Presidential Records, George
Bush Presidential Library.
Mark Albrecht to Vice President Dan Quayle, “Meeting with Lt. General Tom Staﬀord,”
31 May 1990, Bush Presidential Records, George Bush Presidential Library; Fact Sheet, “Space
Chapter 5: The Battle to Save SEI
Following the press confer-
ence, the President took the
stage before a crowd of 4,000
Bush opened his remarks by
recalling his campaign speech
at MSFC two and a half years
earlier, during which he had
vowed to launch a dynamic
new program of exploration.
“I’m pleased to return to Mar-
shall to report that we have
made good on these prom-
ises,” Bush said, “and we’ve
done it the old-fashioned way,
done it the American way—
step by step, program by program, all adding up to the most ambitious and far-
reaching effort since Marshall and Apollo took America to the Moon.” He criticized
House Democrats for voting to deny funding for SEI-related concept and technol-
ogy development, stating that partisan politics had led his opponents to turn their
backs on progress. He compared them to naysayers in the Court of Queen Isabella
who argued against Columbus’ voyage that discovered the New World. President
Bush stated that during the Apollo era, significant funding for the space program
had fostered a golden age of technology and advancement—one that he hoped
would be equaled by a permanent return to the Moon and crewed missions to Mars.
He concluded his remarks with a challenge for Congress “to step forth with the will
that the moment requires. Don’t postpone greatness. History tells us what happens
to nations that forget how to dream. The American people want us in space. So, let
us continue the dream for our students, for ourselves, and for all humankind.”
The day after President Bush spoke at MSFC, the administration coordinated a
full day of events aimed at further building support for SEI. Newspapers through-
out the nation contained opinion editorials written by supporters of the initiative,
including: Representative Tom Lewis (R-FL) in the Orlando Sentinel; former astro-
Mark Albrecht to Jim Cicconi, “Background Materials, June 20 Marshall Space Flight Center
Event,” 19 June 1990, Bush Presidential Records, George Bush Presidential Library.
Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States, 20 June 1990, Remarks to Employees of the
George C. Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, http://bushlibrary.tamu.edu /papers/
(accessed 2 January 2003).
President Bush at MSFC
(NASA History Division, Folder 12601)
covered NASA were told that SEI would produce significant economic, technical,
and educational benefits for the nation. Finally, industry and academic leaders were
informed that SEI would be part of an overarching administration strategy designed
to foster innovation by permanently extending the research and experimentation tax
credit and reducing regulatory burdens on corporations.
These briefings were immediately followed by a major presidential address on
space policy at the Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) in Huntsville, Alabama.
After attending a fundraising luncheon for Governor Guy Hunt, President Bush
arrived at the center for a tour. This included a visit to the Hubble Space Tele-
scope (HST) Orbital Verification Engineering Control Room, where a NASA team
was coordinating the adjustment and final checkout of the groundbreaking orbital
Bush then conducted a full press conference on the center grounds.
Despite the setting, the majority of the event was spent detailing the American
response to ongoing unrest in the Middle East. However, Bush was asked a few
questions regarding the national space program, among them one directed at SEI:
Q: A question about space. How serious are you about this lunar base and
Mars mission proposal? Would you go so far as to veto the bill that con-
tains NASA appropriations if Congress decides to delete all the money?
A: I haven’t even contemplated any veto strategy. I’d like to get what I
want. I think it’s in the national interest. I think that the United States
must remain way out front on science and technology; and this broad pro-
gram that I’ve outlined, seed money that I’ve asked for, should be sup-
ported. But I think it’s way too early to discuss a veto strategy. We took
one on the chops in a House committee the other day, and I’ve got to turn
around now and fight for what I believe.
Brieﬁng, “White House Brieﬁngs on the Space Exploration Initiative,” 8 May 1990, Bush
Presidential Records, George Bush Presidential Library; Charles Bacarisse and Sihan Siv to Fred
McClure, “Brieﬁng for Key Congressional Staﬀ on NASA’s Space Exploration Initiative,” 10 May
1990, Bush Presidential Records, George Bush Presidential Library; Charles Bacarisse to Bob Grady,
“Brieﬁngs for Key Constituent Groups on the Space Exploration Initiative,” 5 June 1990, Bush
Presidential Records, George Bush Presidential Library; Charles Bacarisse and Sichan Siv to Cece
Kramer, 23 May 1990, Bush Presidential Records, George Bush Presidential Library.
“Tour of Hubble Space Telescope Orbital Veriﬁcation Engineering Control Center,” Ede Holiday,
20 June 1990, Bush Presidential Records, George Bush Presidential Library.
Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States, 20 June 1990, 周e President’s News Conference
in Huntsville, Alabama, http://bushlibrary.tamu.edu/papers/ (accessed 2 January 2003).
Chapter 5: The Battle to Save SEI
Two days after the HST revelation, NASA was forced to ground the entire space
shuttle fleet because the Columbia and Atlantis had developed deadly hydrogen
leaks. NASA was forced to admit that they did not know the cause of the leaks,
although one possibility was a misalignment between the external tank and the
orbiter vehicles. Program managers announced that expert teams of engineers were
working feverishly to solve the problem before at least two missions were postponed
to make way for the upcoming launch of the Ulysses spacecraft—a probe designed
to study the sun. Coming on the heels of the HST announcement, this effectively
killed any energy generated by recent administration activities designed to garner
support for SEI.
The Washington Post opined, “the failure of the telescope, which
two months ago rode into space amid great fanfare in the hold of a Space Shuttle,
led more than a few Americans to wonder whether their country can get anything
right anymore. The questioning became even more poignant…when the National
Aeronautics and Space Administration announced that the shuttles, too, would be
grounded indefinitely because of vexing and dangerous fuel leakages. [These prob-
lems] may foster beliefs that the United States is a sunset power, incapable of repeat-
ing its technological feats of the past.”
On Capitol Hill, Dick Malow recalled
thinking that these problems greatly hampered the administration’s ability to make
a case for SEI. “There were a lot of other things on NASA’s plate and that hiccup
certainly was a detractor. Given the budget environment, Hubble became the focus
and SEI tended to get pushed back” on the congressional agenda.
During this same period, the House Appropriations Committee released its
mark-up of NASA’s budget. Although the space agency would receive a significant
overall increase of $2.1 billion ($800 million less than the president’s request), the
entire budget for SEI was eliminated. Fears that had been raised during budget
hearings in April were confirmed. The committee had surgically removed all new
monies associated with the initiative (see Table on next page).
Instrument in Space is Crippled by Flaw in a Mirror,” 周e New York Times (27 June 1990), sec.A1;
Bob Davis, “NASA Finds Hubble Mirror is Defective,” 周e Wall Street Journal (28 June 1990).
Joyce Price, “Chief Calls NASA Funding ‘Crucial for U.S. Survival,” 周e Washington Times (3
John Burgess, “Can U.S. Get 周ings Right Anymore? Hubble Telescope, Space Shuttle Problems
Raise Questions About American Technology,” 周e Washington Post (3 July 1990).
naut Buzz Aldrin in the Los Angeles Times; Dartmouth University Professor Robert
Jastrow in the Baltimore Sun; and former astronaut Eugene Cernan in the Hous-
On Capitol Hill, Representatives Bob Walker and Newt Gingrich
hosted a press conference praising Bush for his leadership with regard to the Ameri-
can space program. On the Senate floor, Senator Jake Garn formally introduced
the program and Senators Bob Dole, Phil Gramm, and Malcolm Wallop spoke
on SEI’s behalf. In the late afternoon Vice President Quayle appeared in a series
of satellite interviews in targeted states, including California, Florida, Texas, and
Virginia. Finally, the Republican National Committee released radio actualities in
key districts around the country.
By mid-June, there was a feeling that “SEI was
Losing Faith in NASA
Despite any progress that may have been made during mid-June, the emergence
of a series of crises at the end of the month halted any momentum the administra-
tion had gained. On 26 June, NASA held a press conference to reveal that its engi-
neers had discovered a crippling flaw in the main light gathering mirrors of the $1.5
billion HST. The space agency reported that this defect would mean the largest and
most complex civilian orbiting observatory ever launched would not be able to view
the depths of space until a permanent correction could be made—which would
likely have to wait two to three years for an astronaut visit with newly manufactured
parts. Although many of the instruments aboard the HST would still be functional,
the impacted wide-field and planetary camera would be inoperable (reducing by
40% the planned scientific work of the platform). Project managers announced they
suspected the problem was in one of two precisely ground mirrors, although they
were not sure which one. The two mirrors had tested perfectly on Earth, but once in
orbit, they failed to perform together as expected—they were not tested together on
the ground because of the huge potential expense and inability to replicate a zero-g
environment. Associate Administrator for Space Science Dr. Lennard Fisk disclosed
that the agency was forming a review board to investigate the problem.
Earlier in the week, Roll Call had dedicated an entire issue to the space program, with opposing
views expressed on SEI from Senator Jake Garn (pro) and Senator Al Gore (con).
A radio actuality is a group of sound bites sent out to radio stations to be used in news reports.
“Moon/Mars Initiative,” 19 June 1990, Bush Presidential Records, George Bush Presidential
Warren E. Leary, “Hubble Telescope Loses Large Part of Optical Ability: Most Complex
Chapter 5: The Battle to Save SEI
seemed to be grounded all the time with fuel leaks; the mirror on the Hubble tele-
scope couldn’t focus; and the agency was pushing a space station design that was so
overblown it looked as if we were asking to launch a big white elephant. The mood
at the Space Council was grim…. I was searching for a solution for NASA.”
11 July, Vice President Quayle invited a group of space experts (including Tom
Paine, Gene Cernan, Dr. Bruce Murray from the California Institute of Technology,
and Dr. Hans Mark of the University of Texas) aboard Air Force Two for a meeting
to discuss the systemic problems with NASA. He asked for opinions regarding the
appropriate actions, if any, the administration should take. During the meeting,
an idea emerged to establish a task force to examine how the space program could
be restructured to better support an era of sustained long-term space operations.
Quayle liked the idea.
Six days later, Vice President Quayle hosted a second meeting at the White House
with senior administration officials Bill Kristol, Mark Albrecht, Admiral Truly, and
Chief of Staff Sununu to discuss procedures to create such a panel. Quayle recalled
in his memoirs:
I wanted [the study] to get NASA moving again. If that was going to
happen, then the commission had to have the authority to look into every
aspect of the space agency. 周e result was a long negotiation about the
commission’s scope. Truly’s original position was that it should look only
at the future management structure of NASA—that is, what would come
after the space station was built. “No,” I said, “it will look at the current
management situation.” Truly next tried to exempt programs from review,
and I said “No, programs will be reviewed as well.” He asked that the space
station be “oﬀ the table” and said that we would all be better served if both
it and the Moon-Mars missions were oﬀ limits to the commission. In other
words, the commission shouldn’t pay attention to all the most important
things we were trying to do during the next couple of decades. “I’m sorry,”
I said to Truly, “but everything is on the table, and let the chips fall where
they may….” I tried to soothe Truly’s feelings by making the commission
report through him to me.
By the end of the meeting, Quayle had directed Truly to put together an outside
task force to consider the future long-term direction of the space program. That
same afternoon the White House announced the creation of the board. On 25
Quayle, Standing Firm, p. 184.
Space Station (advanced programs)
Advanced Launch System
Exploration Mission Studies
Civil Space Technology Initiative
The budget report indicated that the Space Shuttle and Space Station programs
should remain NASA’s top priorities. It stated that even if additional funds became
available in the future, they should be directed toward these important programs
rather than being targeted at SEI.
Chairman Traxler was quoted in the Washing-
ton Post saying, “We didn’t have the money.”
The Senate Commerce Commit-
tee promptly followed suit with the release of an authorization bill that similarly
eliminated funding for SEI. Senator Al Gore, who authored the legislation, said he
feared that funding the initiative would endanger on-going efforts, in particular the
Mission to Planet Earth.
By early July, NASA was clearly reeling from this series of setbacks—with SEI
a clear casualty, and in some respects a cause, of the outspoken criticism focused
on the agency. The view within the White House was that the space program had
been terribly crippled.
In his memoirs, Vice President Quayle wrote, “The Shuttle
U.S. House of Representatives, 101st Congress, 2d sess., “Report 101-556: Departments of
Veterans Aﬀairs and Housing and Urban Development, and Independent Agencies Appropriations
Bill, 1991,” 26 June 1990; U.S. House of Representatives, 101st Congress, 2d sess., “H.R. 5158,” 26
Dan Morgan, “Panel Boosts NASA Funds 17 Percent: Moon-Mars Mission Cut $300 Million,
Higher-Priority Items Backed,” 周e Washington Post (27 June 1990), sec.A4.
James W. Brosnan, “Senate Panel Cuts Funds for Mars Trip From NASA Budget,” 周e Commercial
Appeal (28 June 1990), sec.A12.
SEI Budget Cuts
Documents you may be interested
Documents you may be interested