The Review of United States Human Space Flight Plans Committee, better known as the HSF Committee, Augustine Commission, or Augustine Committee, was a group convened by NASA at the request of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), to review the nation's human spaceflight plans to ensure "a vigorous and sustainable path to achieving its boldest aspirations in space." The review was announced by the OSTP on May 7, 2009. It covered human spaceflight options after the time NASA had planned to retire the Space Shuttle. A summary report was provided to the OSTP Director John Holdren, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), and NASA Administrator on September 8, 2009. The estimated cost associated with the review was expected to be US$3 million. The committee was scheduled to be active for 180 days; the report was released on October 22, 2009.
The review was commissioned to take into account several objectives. These included support for the International Space Station, development of missions beyond low Earth orbit (including the Moon, Mars and Near-Earth objects) and use of commercial space industry. These objectives must fit within a defined budget profile.
Among the parameters that were considered in the course of the review were "crew and mission safety, life-cycle costs, development time, national space industrial base impacts, potential to spur innovation and encourage competition, and the implications and impacts of transitioning from current human space flight systems". The review considered the appropriate amounts of research and development and "complementary robotic activity necessary to support various human space flight activities". It was tasked to also "explore options for extending International Space Station operations beyond 2016".
The Statement of Task defines the fiscal year 2010–2014 budget profile (in millions of US$) for NASA's Exploration program as:
The fiscal year 2009 budget projection for Exploration had been:
A subcommittee in the House of Representatives has announced a plan to cut the 2010 budget from US3,963.1 million to $3,293.2 million, a cut of $669.9 million or 16.9%. Chairman Alan Mollohan stated the cut was a "pause" and "time-out" caused by the review of human space flight.
The Committee has concluded that, "the ultimate goal of human exploration is to chart a path for human expansion into the solar system." It also observed that "destinations should derive from goals," and "human spaceflight objectives should broadly align with key national objectives." Destinations beyond low Earth orbit that were considered by the Committee include the Moon, Mars, and near-Earth objects as well as the moons of Mars, Phobos and Deimos. Among these, the Committee felt that "Mars stands prominently above all other opportunities for exploration" because "if humans are ever to live for long periods on another planetary surface, it is likely to be on Mars."
The Committee's final report mentions the possibility of evaluating near-Earth objects for "their utility as sites for mining of in-situ resources."
The Committee judged the 9-year old Constellation program to be so behind schedule, underfunded and over budget that meeting any of its goals would not be possible. President Obama removed the program from the 2010 budget effectively canceling the program. One component of the program, the Orion crew capsule was added back to plans but as a rescue vehicle to complement the Russian Soyuz in returning Station crews to Earth in the event of an emergency.
The proposed "ultimate goal" for human space flight would appear to require two basic objectives: (1) physical sustainability and (2) economic sustainability. The Committee adds a third objective: to meet key national objectives. These might include international cooperation, developing new industries, energy independence, reducing climate change, national prestige, etc. Therefore, the ideal destination should contain resources such as water to sustain life (also providing oxygen for breathing, and hydrogen to combine with oxygen for rocket fuel), and precious and industrial metals and other resources that may be of value for space construction and perhaps in some cases worth returning to Earth (e.g., see asteroid mining).
Some of these resources are available on Mars, and perhaps on the Moon, but the Committee report noted the cost and difficulty of "travel into the deep gravity wells of the lunar and Martian surface." It did not emphasize options such as asteroid mining (other than the one mention noted above) or space-based solar power. The Committee report did favor strengthening the private space launch industry, and increased international collaboration.
In its final report, the Committee proposed three basic options for exploration beyond low Earth orbit, and appeared to favor the third option:
The review aimed to "examine ongoing and planned National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) development activities, as well as potential alternatives, and present options for advancing a safe, innovative, affordable, and sustainable human space flight program in the years following Space Shuttle retirement". The panel was to "work closely with NASA and will seek input" from the United States Congress, "the White House, the public, industry, and international partners as it develops its options". "It is to present its results in time to support an Administration decision on the way forward by August 2009."
On April 15, 2010, President Obama spoke at the Kennedy Space Center announcing the administration's plans for NASA. None of the three plans outlined in the Committees final report were completely selected. The President promised:
Obama specifically rejected going back to the Moon, saying "frankly, we've been there." Instead a set a series of ever-more-challenging goals to drive technological development.
The committee formed four work subgroups to examine different aspects of the committee's charter with each providing progress reports by July 2, 2009.
General Lyles, who also serves as Chairman of the National Academies Committee on the "Rationale and Goals of the U.S. Civil Space Program", led the International and Interagency Integration subgroup. That committee expected to release its final report July 31, 2009. The Shuttle and International Space Station subgroup was led by Dr. Ride. Mr. Bejmuk led the Access to Low Earth Orbit subgroup. And Professor Crawley leads the Exploration Beyond Low Earth Orbit subgroup.
In the committee's summary report provided to the White House and NASA on September 8, 2009, the panel concluded that human exploration beyond low-Earth orbit was not viable under the FY 2010 budget guideline.
|June 16, 2009||Preparatory Meeting, Non-Public||Washington, D.C.|
|June 17, 2009||Public Meeting||Carnegie Institution for Science, Washington, D.C.|
|June 18, 2009||Site Visit, Non-Public||Dulles, Virginia|
|June 24–25, 2009||Site Visit, Non-Public||Huntsville and Decatur, Alabama, and Michoud, Louisiana|
|July 8–9, 2009||Site Visit, Fact Finding Meetings, Non-Public||Hawthorne, Canoga Park and Sacramento, California|
|July 21–23, 2009||Fact Finding Meetings, Non-Public||Ogden, Utah and Las Vegas, Nevada|
|July 28, 2009||Public Meeting||League City, Texas|
|July 29, 2009||Public Meeting||Huntsville, Alabama|
|July 30, 2009||Public Meeting||Cocoa Beach, Florida|
|August 5, 2009||Public Meeting||Washington, D.C.|
|August 12, 2009||Public Meeting||Washington, D.C.|
|October 8, 2009||Public Teleconference|
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rely on commercial cargo and crew vehicles to keep the ISS operating at least until 2020