NASA

Bob Barr: high-tech NASA or none at all

In an op-ed piece in today’s Atlanta Journal-Constitution, former Congressman Bob Barr sounds off on the current state of NASA. In short, he’s not too happy:

The glorious space dreams of the 1960s have become penny-pinching exercises in bureaucracy in the 21st century. Bureaucracy and budget cuts have held back needed funding for new programs, but something even greater has been hampering the space program – absence of vision. In the 1960s we had a clear vision to accomplish a goal, used the proper resources and did the job right. The program today appears to have become a bureaucratic stepchild on life support.

He goes on about the agency’s perceived reliance on “duct tape, Elmer’s glue and Scotchgard”:

The space program needs to be on the front end of technology as it once was. The benefits to society of an efficient space program are numerous. If the program cannot be the best, with the best technology, the best manpower and the best resources, then perhaps our country should forgo it altogether. [Emphasis added] Why should we subject ourselves to the embarrassment of repairing 35-year-old technology with pliers and a hacksaw?

Barr goes on to say he is generally supportive of the Vision for Space Exploration, but warns that the “‘culture’ of space exploration needs to be changed to prevent future projects from being employed past the point of antiquity.” Not surprisingly, Barr also advocates privatization of “a significant portion” of NASA, although he doesn’t identify which programs should be transferred to the private sector.

76 comments to Bob Barr: high-tech NASA or none at all

  • I am surprised to find myself half agreeing with Bob Barr, who I thought of as a specimen of Homo neanderthalis politicus. It must be because he left Congress.

    But I only half agree. Barr is completely right that if NASA cannot do better than the shuttle, it should just quit. But he is wrong that pliers and hacksaws are the problem, or that they reflect poorly on America. What really make America strong is unpretentious, practical solutions. If plier and duct tape are the right tools for the job, then pliers and duct tape it should be. In business it’s called “no frills”, which is the philosophy of Southwest Airlines and Walmart, for example. It doesn’t always look like the source of success only because thousands of unpretentious good ideas add up to an awesome total.

    The fundamental problem with the space shuttle is that it was a pretentious leap into the far future. Now that we live in the future that the shuttle leaped into, it’s no good. So it goes with many grand visions. Hence the wisdom of William Gerstner’s comment when became head of IBM: “The last thing that this company needs is a vision.” The whole country should take heed.

  • David Davenport

    [The fundamental problem with the space shuttle is that it was a pretentious leap into the far future.]

    Wrong. The fundamental problem with the Space Shuttle is that it was a compromised, insufficiently futuristic half leap. The Space transportation System should been a fully reuseable system.

    [ Now that we live in the future that the shuttle leaped into, it's no good.]

    Perhaps because the Shuttle wasn’t been futuristic enough and America hasn’t been bold enough to continue going to the Moon.

    [ So it goes with many grand visions. ]

    Such as the bogus visions of querulous, carping late 20th century liberals.

    [ Hence the wisdom of William Gerstner's comment when became head of IBM: "The last thing that this company needs is a vision." The whole country should take heed. ]

    And IBM, having sold its manufacturing to China, is no role model. IBM is a corporation in decline.
    Gerstner — who is he? Another forgetable and largely forgotten corporate empty suit.

  • David Davenport

    What future do I recommend?

    Among other things, a future without an Apollo capsule atop a Solid Rocket Booster first stage –the worst sort of retrograde, our-space-future-is the-past-ism.

    I that don’t think that launch system stack will ever actuallty be built anyway, regardless of my personal tastes. This present set of NASA roadmaps to its space future remind me of the Space Launch Initiative from the first Bush Jr. administration, as well as all the stuff from the Daniel Goldin years that never got off the ground.

  • David: “Such as the bogus visions of querulous, carping late 20th century liberals.”

    Granted, you don’t seem to like the Apollo model, but I must point out that it was the “bogus visions of querulous carping late Twentieth Century liberals” who got us to the moon. I can’t think of many Republican space initiatives that succeeded in achieving their goals as well as Johnson and Kennedy’s Apollo initiative. (The possible exception? GPS, which, in its way was just as visionary.)

    Also, your comment above is no less “querulous and carping” than anyone elses herein!

    – Donald

  • Edward Wright

    > it was the “bogus visions of querulous carping late Twentieth Century liberals”
    > who got us to the moon.

    Who is “we”? I haven’t been to the Moon, and I’m pretty sure “Donald Robertson” hasn’t, either.

    > I can’t think of many Republican space initiatives that succeeded
    > in achieving their goals as well as Johnson and Kennedy’s Apollo initiative.

    Mercury? Shuttle? ISS? If you define success as just doing something in space, regardless of the cost, they were all successes — and Shuttle was a success much more often than Apollo.

    If you define success as Kennedy did — to impress mankind by being very expensive — then Shuttle and ISS met that goal, also.

  • Bob Barr: “The glorious space dreams of the 1960s have become penny-pinching exercises in bureaucracy in the 21st century”.

    “The space program needs to be on the front end of technology as it once was. The benefits to society of an efficient space program are numerous. If the program cannot be the best, with the best technology, the best manpower and the best resources, then perhaps our country should forgo it altogether”

    I couldn’t agree more!

    Condsider this: It is said around Caltech that the men and women of JPL constitute a greater and deeper intellectual capital than all the rest of NASA combined. And I’ve heard similar things said of LLNL.

    To attain the best minds and the best technology, NASA must find a way to emulate the success of these labs, or otherwise expand the scope of these successful labs to include manned spaceflight.

    It’s certainly not going to happen while MSFC & friends have their own little political cage for the NASA administrator and can evidently bend his decisions to their will, distorting all of NASA’s long-term policy. If the Challenger commission had had their way, MSFC & friends would have been shut down politically and on the ground a long time ago…

  • Kevin Parkin is right about JPL. But unlike Bob Barr, JPL still respects duct tape.

    And maybe the fact that human spaceflight isn’t part of the scope of JPL also has something to do with its success. Even many advocates of human spaceflight have complained about the undue influence of astronauts at NASA.

  • David Davenport

    You guys don’t agree that the space program’s going around and around in low orbit because of liberalism? Maybe so. I could be wrong. Keith Cowing’s web site indicates that I was wrong to predict another Shuttle launch this fall:

    Shuttle Planning Update

    Editor’s note: As reported here last week according to NASA sources, NASA is working toward a March 2006 launch for STS-121 using Discovery. Plans are also being formulated for a May 2006 launch for STS-115 using Atlantis. Planning for missions STS-116, STS-117, and STS-118 is more or less on hold with staff told to “do no negative work.” This topic will be discussed at the PRCB on Friday.

    Posted by kcowing at 06:08 PM | Permalink

    http://www.nasawatch.com/

    However, with this additional Shuttle delay in mind, I’m doubling down on my prediction that Congress and the public will not go for an American space future built with Shuttle-derived hardware, most notably the solid boosters.

  • Sorry, that should have been Louis Gerstner. When he arrived at IBM in 1993, its stock price (divided by future splits) was about 10. A lot of people thought that IBM was going to fall apart, like AT&T did. Now IBM sells for 81, about the same as when Gerstner retired. So no, people in the know won’t soon forget Gerstner.

    Nor are the space shuttle and space station the only recent follies of American grand vision. There was Time-Warner’s merger with AOL. In space, there was Iridium. And there was the invasion of Iraq, the biggest grand vision of all in the past 30 years.

  • David Davenport

    Gre, let’s make a deal and not talk about the Iraq war here in SpacePolitics, OK?

    Let’s try to stay on the topic of space.

  • David Davenport

    [ Not surprisingly, Barr also advocates privatization of "a significant portion" of NASA, although he doesn't identify which programs should be transferred to the private sector. ]

    But the private sector, in this case Lockheed Martin, has been doing such a wonderful job with the External Tank.

  • David: All right. Even so, Gerstner’s quote would be good advice for NASA.

  • Sam Hoffman

    Okay, here’s a thought: let’s try for a discussion that could, perhaps, bring some light, rather than simply heat.

    Questions:
    A) Does the United States have a national interest in space?
    B) If so, how should that interest be furthered?

    Here are my answers.

    A: Space is a vital national interest for the U.S. (and, by extension, the other industrial nations). Today, those interests are most clear in cislunar space (ie, LEO, MEO, and GEO) but I also expect they will become increasingly important in this century in the lunar and translunar (ie, interplanetary) realms.

    The strategic importance of cislunar space to any nation in terms of intelligence, reconnaissance, early warning, communications, navigation, meteorology, and resource survey is self-evident. Likewise, maintaining cislunar space as it is today, an accessible – and safe – arena for the space-capable powers, rather than an arena of armed conflict, is also self-evident.

    The advantages today of space-based research into the sciences of astronomy, planetology, cosmology, etc., seems obvious; the potential advantages of microgravity to physics, chemistry, and other scientific research seems longer term, but the potentialities are certainly recognizable.

    The economic advantages of space tourism, space-based manufacturing and resource exploitation, and eventual settlement remain to be demonstrated – but there are certainly possibilities.

    B) Given the facts above, which were not all understood in the first two decades of the Space Age (roughly 1945-65), the question of how the United States should further its national interests in space is worth considering; from a clean sheet of paper, would anyone design the current military, civil, and commercial structure(s)?

    Rather than DoD, NRO, NASA, FAA, FCC, etc. at the national level, supporting (and, in exchange, being supported by) the existing “Big Aerospace” industrial/economic sector, a smaller “Big Science” university/FFRL sector, and an even smaller and – to be truthful – fairly poorly capitalized “entrepreneurial business” sector, I believe a significantly more effective structure could be created.

    Realistically, given that the US Government (and ultimately, the US taxpayer) is the major customer in every area of the space economy other than communications (and even that is probabaly arguable, given the USG’s needs for communications capability in times of crisis), and that space is most definitely a “national frontier” in the classic sense, a federal role in space is a given.

    At the same time, such a federal structure could act as an incubator, protector, and regulator of non-governmental efforts in that same frontier, whether commercial or not, in the same way the federal government has acted in past “frontier” eras, and as it acts today in the arenas of aviation and maritime safety and law enforcement.

    I think creating a Cabinet-level aerospace department, with oversight responsibilities for space-based reconnaissance/meteorology (now split between the DOD-NRO and NOAA), communications (DOD-IC/FCC), traffic control/safety (DOD/FAA), leading edge aeronautical and astronautical engineering research (DOD-DARPA/NACA-NASA), and space operations (DOD-NASA) would offer real advantages in terms of efficiency, force multipliers, and focus over the present multi-agency approach.

    Altogether, such a department would be a civilian-run institution (like the DoD), but with a uniformed military/paramilitary element on the operational side – again, not unlike the DoD. (or, for that matter, the historic Treasury/USRCS, DOJ/USMS, or Treasury/Transportation/DHSCoast Guard relationships.)

    The opinions of others will, undoubtedly, differ.

    Thoughts? Responses? Reasoned, I hope.

  • “from a clean sheet of paper, would anyone design the current military, civil, and commercial structure(s)?”

    Or another way of looking at it: If you had wanted to sabotage the space program but keep it looking like a space program on the surface of things, what would you have done differently?

  • David Davenport

    Well, we’ll have to see if IBM’s strategy of outsourcing manufacturing to China is a long term winner, or not.

    Actually, IBM for years had been outsourcing most manufacturing. I have a three year old ( I think ) IBM ESXS SCSI drive — it’s got a label stuck on it that says IBM this and that — which I think Hitachi actually made.

    I cannot understand why IBM thought it smart to stop offering pc’s with the IBM logo/name plate stuck on. I thought one of IBM’s strengths was to be a total solutions provider to institutional customers.

    My space road map?

    (1) Only seven or eight more manned Shuttle launches to the ISS amd one Hubble mission. Three more manned trips apiece for the “fleet” of three Orbiters.

    (2) Maybe some additional UNMANNED Shuttle/ISS missions.

    (3) Perhaps some ISS cargo deliveries via Atlas or Delta heavy EELV. Perhaps.

    (4) Push the very heavy, 100 tons to low orbit launcher into the future, and adapt one of the EELV’s for lunar manned missions. Such missions may require two or more launches that will rendez-vous in orbit before proceeding to the Moon.

    (5) One load being the crew vehicle and lunar lander, the other load comprising a third stage and service module. Dr. Griffin wants six astronatus at a time in the lunar vehicle. iI’d opt for only three at a time, although this time all three would descend to lunar surface.

    A Moon shack and Moon dune buggies would be sent to the Moon ahead of the astronauts.

    (6) The lunar crew vehicle would be a lifting body, that would deploy a steerable parachute to land at Edwards. Pretty similar to the Goldin era X-38.

    (7) I’d hope that this narrow aspect ratio craft would eventually span a variant with more wingspan and with wheels.

    More later.

  • billg

    The missing vison Barr justifiably laments is due much less to NASA bureaucracy than it is to 3 decades of not very benign neglect by American leaders, i.e., those people in the White House.

    Like any other federal agency, NASA’s broad goals and objectives are set by the White House. If those goals are short-sighted, limited, uninspiring and purposeless, then no amount of internal spirit and no level of funding will be enough to raise NASA, or any agency, out of a humdrum morass of ordinariness. Purposeless missions executed brilliantly are still purposeless.

    After Kennedy and Apollo, we’ve seen a succession of presidents unveil their own allegedly bold space initiiatives. (Clearly hoping that some of the Kennedy aura would settle on them, they forgot that Apollo inspired the public largely because the public found Kennedy to be inspirational. Who can imagine Nixon inspiring anyone in a speech commiting the nation to put people on the Moon?)

    But, none of these presidents commited any political capital to their proposals. No one is flying a National Space Plane. No one traveled to Mars recently via George Bush’s Mars project. No quick political payoff appeared, so those president’s wahed their hands of their “bold” initiatives and let them wither and die.

    The current president’s VSE is better than nothing, but only marginally. He announced it in the manner of a corporate executive announcing an objective. He’ll see no need to address it publicly until he wants to cancel it.

    I’m sure Griffin , et al, will do a credible job using their limited budget and their repurposed Shuttle parts. But it won’t be terribly exciting and it will certainly have a strong deja vu feel to it.

    It is not within NASA’s power to change that. If Barr’s wishes are to be fulfilled, and they should be, we need to look to the White House.

  • Dfens

    Wow, Kevin. People at Caltech think they are the greatest in the world. Now there’s a news flash. Didn’t JPL give us the high gain antenna that didn’t unfurl? The people I’ve worked with at JPL were extraordinarily bright, but obviously not perfect. They were also very disillusioned with what was going on there, and left a short time later to work for Disney Imagineering. For the most part, everyone I have worked with at all the major NASA centers have been fantastic, but we are still saddled with the shuttle.

    We used to have an aerospace industry that was the envy of the world. Now it is largely a joke. Doing less with more seems to be their motto. I agree with Barr, it is a duct tape and bailing wire industry now. Working in aerospace, I can tell you first hand, if you come up with an idea that seems the least bit cool, it is DOA. If it doesn’t look clunky, “it’s too risky”.

    The thing that disappoints me with Barr’s article, however, is the fact that he recognizes we used to have a great aerospace capability, and that we currently do not, but he never draws the rather logical conclusion that perhaps we should go back to doing things the way we did back then. Now I’m not talking about getting rid of computers and going back to slide rules, but if I had a nickel for every time I’d heard someone talk about “reinventing aerospace” I’d own Boeing by now.

    I mean, how obvious does it have to be? We used to do a good job, now we don’t. Sooooo… add a cabinet level aerospace department – NO! No soup for you.

  • Edward Wright

    > But, none of these presidents commited any political capital
    > to their proposals. No one is flying a National Space Plane.

    Bill, you need to do some research. Ronald Reagan committed a lot of political capital to the NASP aka “Gipper Clipper.” The amount of money spent on it may still be classified.

    The reason no one is flying a National Aero Space Plane is the laws of physics. Reagan’s advisors sold him something that could not be done.

    Kennedy committed the nation to the Moon to distract attention from the Bay of Pigs, where he had abandoned men to die on the beach. His popularity at that point was quite low. Kennedy (unlike Reagan) had little personal interest in space.

  • I like David Davinport’s strategy (though I’d skip No. 2 to avoid the development costs). It’s pretty much what I’m advocating. Quick and Dirty and Soon. I’d only add that the early, small, primitive EELV-launched lunar crews should concentrate on developing local resources and live-off-the-land techniques to reduce future uplift requirements.

    Dfens also makes a good point. I had a friend in the computer industry who alwasys said, “Americans high-tech everything to death.” I agree. We could learn a lot of the Russians and build boiler-plate modules and boiler plate rockets to launch them on and actually get somewhere. I’m still afraid _any_ launch vehicle development project will kill VSE far more efficiently than any amount of Presidential disinterest. Back to David’s plan. . . .

    – Donald

  • Dfens

    Billg, we reinvented the aerospace industry every which way possible during the mid ’80s to early ’90s. I’d say just the opposite from what you’d said. I think there was too much management. They should have left the damn thing alone. Of course, it was also quite popular during the same time period to vilify those of us who worked in the industry, especially among liberals. Seems to go along with what Kevin said about sabotage, or maybe I’ve just seen too many episodes of X-files.

  • Sam Hoffman

    “going back to the way we used to be” means what, exactly?

    Trying to recreate a more competitive industry?
    Does that means using antitrust laws to forcibly break up Boeing to re-create a second US commercial airline manufacturer – with the 717 as its only product? Or doing the same to United Technologies/Pratt & Whitney to disgorge Rocketdyne so as to provide a second liquid rocket engine manufacturer?

    Or does it means allowing separate USG agencies (DoD/AUS/USAF/USN, NRO/USAF/NASA, NACA/ARPA/DARPA) to throw money at (take your pick): manned bombers, land-based strategic missiles, submarine-launched strategic missiles, airborne nuclear propulsion, MOL/Corona/Rhyolite, etc etc?

    At least with a Cabinet level department/post, the political accountability to the current Presidential Administration (whoever it might be) would be higher than with the current mix of uniformed general and flag officers, GS-umpteen types, and administrator-appointees…

  • A lot of what made the “good ‘ol days” good may have been the diversity of projects and companies involved. We’re beginning to see some of that come back, which I think is an unalloyed good thing. We don’t have just one rocket company. Besides P&W / Rocketdyne, Aerojet’s still around and my stock is doing okay, we just might be stupid enough to continue launching people on Thiokol’s product, SpaceX did their own rockets, and let’s not forget all the Space Prize contendors, one or more of whom may evolve into a successful business and most of whom are building their own rockets.

    – Donald

  • Dfens

    I’m sure a more competitive industry would be a good thing. So what is the DoD and NASA doing instead? They are encouraging “consolidation”. They are encouraging their favorites to use their ample profits to buy up smaller companies and merge with equals. Is that smart?

    So what’s the answer, Sam? Another level of bureaucracy? Perhaps I’m being reactionary, but I’ve never seen the addition of another level of bureaucracy do anything besides create more waste. Perhaps you have some examples to share of when this hasn’t been true.

    The X-prize companies are a good thing, but they are companies that exist because NASA has failed, not because of NASA’s successes. They are essentially competing with a publicly funded space program, and they are doing so because they saw the existing program as being so screwed up they could compete.

    Primarily, what I’m advocating is that the government stop subsidizing failure. They need to do business in a way that makes sense. They need to provide profit incentives for success instead of failure.

  • billg

    Nuts, Edward. Your objections are irrelevant.

    Reagan’s lack of any fundamental vision for this country’s future in space is self-evident. Whether or not the laws of physics worked against the NASP, the project withered and died. Reagan did not follow through with an alternative. That is ample evidence that his reasons for proposing NASP were confined to that project, that he had no fundamental interest in or commitment to American exploration and exploitation of space. (No president has ever had that commitment, frankly, and there’s no reason to believe Reagan was any different.) If Reagan was so bloody commited, why didn’t he keep going when NASP died? Doesn’t commitment mean persevering in the face of failure?

    Having been around at the time Kennedy made his commitment, I’m rather sure his proposal was not focused on diverting attention from the Bay of Pigs. You’re use of the phrase “where he had abandoned men to die on the beach” is just one more piece of evidence illustrating how you view the world through ideological blinders.

  • billg

    Dfens, I don’t believe i said anything about management. I said NASA suffers from 3 decades of inept or absent Presidential leadership. NASA’s objectives — Apollo, Shuttle, VSE, whatever — are set by the White House. If the White House commits NASA to some dead-end project, there’s little NASA can do about that. Like every other executive agency, NASA lives or dies by politics. If the president doesn’t provide the political ladership NASA needs, it will inevitably wander in a wildreness.

  • Dfens

    I didn’t think of it that way, leadership vs. management. I think you’re right regarding the lack of leadership. It’s kind of ironic that it was manifest through over management.

  • Paul Dietz

    If enough people display lack of ‘leadership’, maybe the problem isn’t a stunningly bad run of luck in choosing leaders, but rather a problem with the common element — NASA itself. NASA was unable to present to the policymakers any truly compelling reason for them to strongly support it. Even today, I doubt that it has done so. VSE smells more of deck chair shuffling to preserve the pork.

  • Paul: I strongly agree, although I would place the blame on NASA’s mandate and not on the nuts and bolts of NASA. When the mandate is to fit a square peg in a round hole, the project is inevitably and chronically plagued by “bad management”. Or “bad leadership”, which is not really all that different.

    But not all of NASA’s mandate is bad. It’s only when NASA is asked to either invent new rockets or launch astronauts that “bad management” and “bad leadership” rear their ugly heads. At least since 1970. And not just NASA, but all government space agencies all over the world. But when space agencies launch unmanned assets of any kind (not just science missions) using market launch vehicles, then the results are often good and sometimes excellent.

  • If Reagan was so bloody commited, why didn’t he keep going when NASP died?

    Maybe because he was no longer president? And Alzheimers was setting in?

    Geez.

  • Ronald Reagan was the more committed than any other president in history to fantasy space projects. The space shuttle was “routine and economical”. The space station was to lead to “quantum leaps” in research in science, communications, metallurgy, and medicine. An “Orient Express” in space was to fly from Washington to Tokyo in two hours. (That one became the “National Space Plane”.) And “the same transforming technology” would make a security shield that would “render nuclear weapons obsolete”.

    I am familiar with the explanation that when Reagan said each of these things, his best advisors did not know better. But it is not true. On each occassion, some of Reagan’s advisors vehemently denounced the fantasies that Reagan repeated and believed. But each time, Reagan preferred to listen to other advisors.

  • Sam Hoffman

    One more time, with feeling…

    The only significant “customer” for space in at the moment, other than communications satellites (and even that is arguable) are national governments; given that, the need for a “national” space operations capability for the Unitd States is self-evident.

    As an aside, national goverments are the only entities CURRENTLY willing to put any truly significant of capital into space-related activities; as an example, between NASA’s $15 billion annual budget (for both space and non-space activities, of course) and the DoD’s $20 billion+ annually on space-related missions, the US taxpayer spends (conservatively) $30 billion a year on space…that is more funding than anyone else has available, by orders of magnitude.

    The question is whether that level of investment IN, and required capability ON, a frontier is best provided to the United States by a military, civil (as in USG civil service), or commercial entity or entities.

    I believe a civil entity, at the Cabinet level (for the accountability and focus inherent in such a department) but with a uniformed operational element, would provide the most efficient, effective, and reliable approach – analogies from American history would include the operations of the Army’s Corps of Discovery and Corps of Topographical Engineers, the Coast and Geodetic Survey, the Navy’s Exploring Expedition(s) and hydrographic research organization, the Revenue Cutter Service and Coast Guard, the US Marshal’s Service, etc.

    Combining the existing national defense and intelligence missions in space (DOD, IC, NRO, etc.) with the existing civil space missions (NASA, NOAA, FCC, FAA), all under one roof would provide for significant opportunities for operational and developmental efficiencies (as in, do four entirely different federally-funded launch vehicle families capable of GEO missions really strike anyone as efficient?), the reduction of overhead, and a much tighter relationship between the various US space missions.

    As a historical example, the creation of the DoD in 1947 has, over the past five decades, led to much closer coordination between the services on both roles and missions and procurement; everything from missions like CSAR and strategic airlift to the procurement of small arms and combat aircraft was duplicated in the past; much more could be done, of course, but certainly one Cabinet level department is better than two, when it comes to the national defense.

    Those our my ideas for a structure; what are yours?

  • …do four entirely different federally-funded launch vehicle families capable of GEO missions really strike anyone as efficient?

    You’re going to have to make up your mind, Sam. First you were complaining about overconsolidation, and now you seem to be complaining about a variety of approaches and competition. Which do you want?

  • Dfens

    I don’t see VSE that way. It’s pretty much the same goals we have always had. Space station, go to the Moon, go to Mars, go somewhere else after that. It’s really just a restating of the Von Braun vision, prior to the Moon race. I don’t like the idea of the “vision” being use to justify more NASA funding. I don’t think they’ve shown themselves worthy of more, quite frankly. I see the pork aspect of NASA being a symptom of the same problems the DoD is having, the main difference being that we need a national defense, but we don’t need NASA. They should remember that! I think the Air Force could take over manned space flight, and do a better job. I’ve had both as customers. The USAF is much better organized and they have more than a passing familiarity with the chain-of-command concept.

  • Dfens

    Wow, lots of post. I was referring to Paul’s post with my previous remarks.

    Oh, I see better what your point is now, Sam. Even with 4 agencies going to space, it really just comes down to 2 programs, one manned, the other unmanned. As I said, I might just be reactionary in my opinion on adding another cabinet level post. Of course, I felt pretty much the same way about this Intelligence Czar thing.

  • Paul Dietz

    If the VSE is more of the old Von Braun vision, then, no, it isn’t truly compelling (to the policymakers) now, any more than it was truly compelling then.

    I find it revealing that the plan is to do this without changing NASA’s budget. This tells me the goal was to justify NASA’s budget, not achieve some separate compelling goal. In the latter case, the budget would have been modified according to the goal.

  • There seems to be this weird myth that the amount of money that NASA receives is about the right amount, politically, so they simply come up with programs that fit the profile, and consider that the road to “affordability.” Which is in fact what all of the architecture studies (including the internal one that NASA has been doing) have done. I militated against this thinking within Boeing, to no avail. I in fact think this is nutty, and I’ll probably be writing something about it in the near future.

  • Paul: Or was it as much to repackage NASA’s budget to help justify the presidency?

  • David Davenport

    Dr. Griffin and a couple other NASA potentates had a press conference today from noon to 12:30 Eastern Time. It was available on NASA Web TV.

    In response to reporters’ questions, Dr. Griffin said he wants to retire the Shuttles within five years.

    He told another reporter he still hopes to have a Hubbble servicing mission.

    Questioned about ISS plans, Mike G. also said he wanted to “finish the job” and “… Use the Shuttle to complete the Space Station.” He sounded rather emphatic about finishing the ISS job.

    Unfortunately, none of the reporters asked him to define ISS completion.

    My suspicion is that the real plan is to have lots more Shuttle missions going on beyond the year 2010, if the External Tank can be fixed.

  • Edward Wright

    > Reagan’s lack of any fundamental vision for this country’s future
    > in space is self-evident.

    Only to Reagan-haters.

    > Whether or not the laws of physics worked against the NASP, the project
    > withered and died. Reagan did not follow through with an alternative.

    Hardly surprising, since Clinton was President by then.

    > That is ample evidence that his reasons for proposing NASP were confined
    > to that project, that he had no fundamental interest in or commitment to
    > American exploration and exploitation of space.

    What “evidence”? Reagan often met with astronauts and space entrepreneurs (yes, even in the 1980′s). His reasons for proposing NASP were quite clear –he thought it would be a spur to US industry, increase international trade, and open the space frontier for exploration and exploitation by the American people — the “Real America” as he liked to say. He was wrong in that believe, but his motives for doing it were genuine and laudable.

    He wasn’t interested in in a Kennedy-esque program that would just enable a few government employees to go. If you think that means he had no vision, you’re the one with blinders, Bill.

    > No president has ever had that commitment, frankly, and there’s no
    > reason to believe Reagan was any different.

    Except for the facts. :-)

    > If Reagan was so bloody commited, why didn’t he keep going when NASP
    > died? Doesn’t commitment mean persevering in the face of failure?

    The Constitution prevented him from going beyond two terms.

    > You’re use of the phrase “where he had abandoned men to die on
    > the beach” is just one more piece of evidence illustrating how you view
    > the world through ideological blinders.

    You don’t believe Kennedy abandoned men to die at the Bay of Pigs?

    Do you think the Moon landings were faked, too?

  • billg

    Dfens: Management, as usually practiced in the U.S. these days, is decidedly not leadership.

    Paul: Agree that NASA hasn’t presented a compelling reason for the President to invest money and political capital. I expect NASA is quite capable of that, but after they got burned with their post-Apollo proposals, I don’t think NASA will ever propose anything that requires a significant increase, or decrease, to its budget. Lkewise, until we have a Sputnik-like scare, no president will see any political reason to risk proposing a significant bdget increase for NASA. As with foreign aid, most of the electorate doesn’t have a clue what’s really spent on NASA, or foreign aid, or DoD, etc. Ir’s all just big scary numbers to them.

    Greg: Reagan, like all other presidents, made their own space proposals for reasons that were specific to that time and place and that project. That is, they weren’t motivated by the prospect of ensuring American space exploration and exploitation. They were motivated by political needs they believed their proposals could address. Whether Reagan’s were from the land of fantasy or not, they were still attempts to use space to reach non-space objectives. That’s why no president has pressed on with space when his proposals withered and died. The political circumstances had changed, and the commitment to space was never there in the first place.

    Edward: Been listeing to your radio again, eh? You’re still responding to things I didn’t say. In any case, you continue to argue that the motivation for space exploration ought to be to allow people like you to take joyrides, to “go”. I’ve no problem with that, but I don’t think enabling tourists to buy space tickets has much at all to do with space exploration and exploitation. As for Reagan’s motivation’s for NASP, I don’t believe his public statements anymore than I believe any other president’s, including Kennedy or Eisenhower. They all made their proposals to serve their own political interests and what they believed to be the near-term interests of the U.S., not to build a foundation for long-term exploration.

  • Ed: But you skipped over Reagan’s stated reason for NASP, which he called “Orient Express”. Namely, to fly from Dulles to Tokyo in two hours.

    I imagine that this motive was genuine. But was it laudable? To a lot of people, including some of Reagan’s ignored advisors, it was completely gullible.

  • Billg: I agree with your first point (which doesn’t mean I disagree with the others!). However, while China’s human spaceflight exploits have not had the dramatic impact the Sputnik did, I do expect them to have a not-so-subtle impact. Until a couple of years ago, it was always possible that the United States would walk away from human spaceflight as a waste of time and money. Today, the geopolitical reality is that the United States will not abandon human spaceflight under any conditions. You can see this in Congressional debates. There is no talk any more of a robot-only space program. There has been a not-so-subtle movement or resources and attention from robotic space projects to the human side of the house, and the debate has become how long a gap to leave between the Shuttle and whatever comes next, rather than whether we should have a human spacecraft at all. Part of this change is simply time – people are used to spaceflight now and it doesn’t seem so new or unlikely; part of the reason is an ideological backlash against the anti-expansionist sentiment of the latter half of the Twentieth Century; but I think a lot of it is also a largely unacknowledged (even subconscious) fear on the part of those who worry about geopolitical power politics of where China may be going in space.

    Greg. One of the things I think might come out of the X-Prize contenders, if they can get prices down far enough, is global same-day package delivery to coastal areas by suborbital rocket. Trying to do that in the atmosphere is stupid when you only need to double your altitude to do it cheap. . . .

    – Donald

  • Cecil Trotter

    Mr Kuperberg loves to go on about how President Reagan mistakenly thought the shuttle was a good thing during it’s first 8 years of operation, funny how he never says anything about how Clinton did nothing to replace it when it was approaching 20 years in operation. If Reagan should have known better in 1988 surely Clinton, being the genius he was, would know it was well past its day in 1998.

    Oh but wait, there I go expecting honest non-partisan discourse from Kuperberg.

  • Edward Wright

    > Been listeing to your radio again, eh? You’re still responding to things I didn’t say.

    No, I’ve been responding to things you wrote. I didn’t even know you had a radio program.

    > you continue to argue that the motivation for space exploration
    > ought to be to allow people like you to take joyrides, to “go”.

    Yes, just as allowing people to go was the motivation for opening the Western frontier in the 19th Century and the air in the 20th. The freedom to travel has always been an important part of the American way.

    That freedom is much more important than merely financing junkets.

    > I’ve no problem with that, but I don’t think enabling tourists to buy
    > space tickets has much at all to do with space exploration and exploitation.

    We’ve been through that before. The dictionary says exploration is “travel for purposes of discovery.” Denigrating it as “joyriding” or “space tourism” does not make it any less worthy.

    > As for Reagan’s motivation’s for NASP, I don’t believe his public statements
    > anymore than I believe any other president’s, including Kennedy or Eisenhower.

    That’s what Reagan’s opponents thought and why he drive them crazy. :-) Professional cynics couldn’t imagine that someone could possibly believe things that were so “naive.” But Reagan was the anti-Clinton. He meant what he said and said what he meant. The American recognized that, which is why they kept electing him.

  • Cecil: In this thread, people asked about Reagan, so I talked about Reagan. Since you ask about Clinton, you have a fair point. If Reagan showed the most enthusiasm for space fantasies of any President in history, Clinton could be in second place.

    For example, I found this speech by Clinton in which he slobbered all over the vapid Eileen Collins. A speech like that would be completely out of character for George W. Bush. The money quote: “When it comes to exploring space and the unknown, the word ‘impossible’ is not in our vocabulary.” That’s almost exactly the same as Tom Clancy’s characterization of Americans as “the people who don’t know or don’t care what the word ‘impossible’ means.”

    So maybe Clinton didn’t much know or didn’t much care what’s impossible in space, just like Reagan (and Clancy). The only asterisk to that is Clinton’s enthusiasm sometimes had an insincere streak. Sometimes he didn’t let on everything that he knew. Reagan’s word was completely credulous.

  • OK, to recap and answer a number of points:

    - Reagan truly believed in technology; no president since has. Let us not forget that his SDIO produced the current NASA administrator, and his successor at SDIO (Pete Worden) created DC-X and Clementine; feats which Goldin unsuccessfully tried to emulate with Faster Better Cheaper.

    - I agree that the Air Force could take over manned space flight and do a better job. That said, the Air Force has an internal conflict of interest and its management of space has been questionable of late. A separate space service would be ideal. Please also note that JPL accumulated much of its expertise because it is a civilian agency and many very smart people joined because they don’t like to work on classified or military projects.

    - Nothing here changes that VSE is a good thing. Some people have short memories and forget how bad NASA was without a vision, and how it was clear to everyone that NASA needed one.

    - The real question is, are we going about funding and undertaking VSE in the right way? Though NASA have rhetorically tried to make the Shuttle and Space Station the first step on this path, the truth is both of these are a pointless 5 year diver$ion. Furthermore, it is unclear that VSE can be anything other than a vision while certain congressional jobs rackets are tolerated by the other members. Congress will one day have to choose between a jobs program and a space program that makes progress – as NASA is presently structured the two ARE mutually exclusive and have been since before I was born.

    - Sam H. is thinking necessary thoughts about how military and civil space is divided and managed. Earlier policies to consolidate the commercial aerospace companies created a huge problem that DOD and NASA must now remedy. It’s time to think anti-monopoly thoughts and deeds. As for NASA and DOD: NASA has a conflict of interest (and budget) between manned spaceflight and unmanned, and AF has a conflict of interest (and management attention more than budget) between the media of air and space. And in all that internal conflict basic things like resolving the launch bottleneck and having a coherent vision were let slide. Although they were and are fundamentally important issues, they are not the most pressing.

    - When I said “Or another way of looking at it: If you had wanted to sabotage the space program but keep it looking like a space program on the surface of things, what would you have done differently?” I meant it not as a conspiracy theory, but as a reference by which to measure what remains of the space program. If someone had really wanted to destroy the space program, it wouldn’t have been enough to turn the field centers into congressionally-protected jobs programs, discourage the bright students from entering engineering, force NASA to use the Shuttle for 20 years and give MSFC soul power over any new launchers, replace the NASA administrator with an accountant, and consolodate all the aerospace companies into self-serving monopolies. All this could be achieved through benign neglect afterall. No, they would have had to actively subvert VSE, and alt.space, and all the other small but significant ways out of this mess – that’s the difference.

  • Kevin: SDIO did not produce the current NASA Administrator. Credit for that should go to Mr. and Mrs. Griffin in 1949. It is true that Griffin worked for SDIO. Many people did, both good and bad. It’s not yet clear whether Griffin is good or bad, only that he is better than Sean O’Keefe.

    What SDIO most definitely did not do was “render nuclear weapons obsolete”. That was what Reagan promised. And I don’t doubt that he truly believed it. He truly believed a lot of things that weren’t true.

    I am not sure exactly what credit is wanted or due for DC-X, given that it crashed and burned (literally). But I will grant you that SDIO led to Clementine. If SDIO never rendered nuclear weapons obsolete, at least it got some great moon data.

  • Dfens

    Paul, aren’t you forgetting what Griffin said about the last 16 years of budget is roughly equal to that of the first 16 years? Now tell me one GOOD reason why we shouldn’t be able to go to the Moon for considerably less now than we did the first time? I must say, I agree with Kevin, having VSE beats the heck out of being stuck in low Earth orbit.

    As for Reagan, he was a president with great vision, but I also recall quite acutely that much of the degradation of the aerospace industry occurred on both his, and the first Bush’s watch. Those outside the industry probably didn’t see it, but those of us inside sure did.

    Kevin, overall the USAF has the same problems NASA has with respect to running a good program. They too subsidize failure, and fail to look out for their own interests and those of the US taxpayer due to, as you say, their internal conflict of interest. They would lose their jobs if they held the contractor accountable, so they don’t. That being said, they are still a lot better to work with. NASA centers are too much like college campuses. They don’t have the discipline required to make a big program work. If the USAF bought the space vehicle for NASA to operate, things would go much better.

    Which brings me back to Sam’s earlier question, which I read as, “how would I change things to make them better?” The first thing I would do is move NASA back to a matrix style organization structure. Many of you have probably read this Space Flight Now article already. Here’s one excerpt:

    “A general attitude within the space shuttle program seems to be that best-effort is a satisfactory substitute for meeting specific technical requirements; often requirements were not even documented to avoid the chance they could not be met. However, best-effort is a very poor substitute for a thorough understanding of the technical situation. Parts of the agency seem to have forgone their traditional engineering rigor in favor of ‘when you have done your best effort, you are good to go.’ This is not an appropriate philosophy for a high-performance organization that routinely puts the lives of its employees into high-risk situations.”

    This is the result of having all the engineers working for the shuttle program manager. They all get their raises based not on their technical expertise, but instead based on telling the program manager exactly what he wants to hear. And what he wants to hear is, “all systems are go.”

    In the old matrix organization, you could buck the program manager because your functional organization would back you up. Now you either go along with the party line, or you get labeled as a trouble maker and as someone who is “not a team player.” There is no such thing as an independent engineering analysis as long as everyone gets their pay raise from the program manager. So everyone “gives it their best effort” to avoid ever having to say, “you can’t launch, we’re not finished.”

    The next thing I would do is stop paying profit for development. Paying profit on money spent for development is basically asking the program managers to drag the program out as long as humanly possible. There is no risk, and the more problems you have, and the longer you drag things out, the more money you make.

    Finally, I would put an end to this requirements explosion called a NASA contract. A vehicle specification should state expected performance, a few important attributes (manned vs. unmanned and stuff like that), government furnished or specified equipment to be used, and some critical physical and electronic interfaces to the launch pad. That’s it. The whole document shouldn’t be over 50 pages – and it shouldn’t reference 10,000 other documents with 10,000 more requirements each.

    You can’t require a contractor to do a good job. You can’t require an engineer to be creative. You can offer them positive incentives to do those things, and you can offer them negative incentives to prevent them from jerking you around, but you cannot cannot cannot require someone to do a good job! It just doesn’t work.

  • Dfens: What about both? What if you have the VSE and astronauts are stuck in low Earth orbit?

  • Dfens

    Greg, you’re such a ray of sunshine – even by my standards! Given NASA’s history, it could happen. There is still a little flicker of hope left in me that it won’t.

  • Paul Dietz

    Paul, aren’t you forgetting what Griffin said about the last 16 years of budget is roughly equal to that of the first 16 years? Now tell me one GOOD reason why we shouldn’t be able to go to the Moon for considerably less now than we did the first time? I must say, I agree with Kevin, having VSE beats the heck out of being stuck in low Earth orbit.

    Oh, I didn’t say that the budget wasn’t adequate, in some respects, particularly if you stretch the schedule, for going to the moon, for some limited sense of ‘going’. It’s just quite interesting that the budget is constant. If going to the moon is such a compelling goal, wouldn’t increasing the budget have been a reasonable response, particularly if that would let you do it sooner/better?

    ISS has beens stretched for years, and done poorly, because it was more about getting dollars to constituents than it was about doing anything of value. VSE is appearing to me to be similar.

  • Dfens

    I can tell you first hand, space station was stretched because the contractors were making money every time they succeeded in dragging out the development. You wouldn’t have seen that if NASA had stopped paying profit on development. When stupidity pays better than success, companies learn stupidity.

  • You wouldn’t have seen that if NASA had stopped paying profit on development.

    No, instead you would have seen no contractors willing to bid, or work on it.

  • Dfens

    Right. And the X-Prize never happened. Wake up and smell the coffee.

  • Bill White

    With the possible exception of tele-com satellites, has anyone in any outer-space related business business ever generated substantial revenue that was not ultimately funded from tax revenue or wealthy angels willing to spend $20 million to win $10 million?

  • Bill White

    Other than media and marketing are there any sources of substantial revenue that are not ultimately funded from tax revenue?

    That said, I personally believe billions of dollars of 100% private sector annual revenue could be generated from well crafted media, marketing and brand identity campaigns.

    Sir Richard Branson simply WILL make more net profit by selling ads to Volvo, 7-UP and the candy companies than he will by selling tickets on SpaceShipTwo. It’s still chicekn-egg however as SpaceShipTwo must actually fly to sell the ads.

    Break even (or even lose a little) on the ticket prices/flight costs and make money on the marketing.

    The sooner we embrace this paradigm, the sooner we will have genuine private sector spaceflight.

  • David Davenport

    [ no contractors willing to bid ]

    None at all? Why not? Please explain.

  • David Davenport

    How to make money in space?

    I suggest:

    (a) More imaging of Earth from orbit, including real time images to be sold to news organizations and to military customers. The market for this is not at all saturated, in my opinion.

    (b) There is a big potential market for direct-to-sat cell phone service, if the service can be made much more affordable than Iridium.

  • Dfens

    It’s not like I’m saying don’t pay the contractors anything to develop the rockets, just don’t pay them 15% profit on the development costs. The contractor could get profit when they deliver something that works. It wouldn’t even have to be limited to the final flight vehicle. NASA could pay profit for working avionics models, working prototype hardware, working engines, successful test completions, working prototypes, and finally working vehicles, but no profit for development. Paying profit for development is paying for failure. It has been ever since the ’80s. It is a failed experiment. Terminate it!

  • It’s not like I’m saying don’t pay the contractors anything to develop the rockets, just don’t pay them 15% profit on the development costs.

    Who has ever proposed that they should? Typical fee is more like seven percent.

    The contractor could get profit when they deliver something that works.

    And if they don’t, they’re out the money spent, or do they at least get reimbursed for costs?

    There might be some contractors that would operate like that, but don’t expect a large publicly-held corporation to do so. They tend, for good reason, to be quite risk averse.

  • Sorry, I screwed up the tags on that last comment. Dfens’ words are third graf from the bottom–mine are the last two.

  • Dfens

    David, did you see this? Scroll down and look at the abstract, which seems to be the only part in English. I wonder if platinum showes up well in the near ultra-violet range? That would give commercial space a kick!

  • Monte Davis

    “There is a big potential market for direct-to-sat cell phone service, if the service can be made much more affordable than Iridium.”

    As Sam Dinkin points out, a large percentage of the population is now in reach of terrestrial cell — and a *very* large percentage of those in a position to pay for telecomm at all. Combine that with the overhang of dark fiber from the late-90s boom (which means providers can beef up capacity at tiny marginal cost for years to come), and either (1) you’re looking at maritime users only, or (2) sat-to-cell has to become not just “more affordable than Iridium,” but really, really, *really* cheap.

  • billg

    Edward:

    The point about the radio reference is that you respond to my posts, and those of others, by ignoring the substance and pruning out little out-of-contxt snippets to rant about. That’s the classic modus operandi of political talk radio, of either side of the spectrum.

    Beyond that, I really don’t know how to respond to your comments. The substance of what I’ve said in this, and other exchanges, is that I support private space enterprise but don’t expect it to progress as rapidly as some others forecast; that I think there is a continuing role for NASA or a successor organization because the private sector can only do those things that are profitable; that the Shuttle is a compromised and flawed vehicle; that the ISS serves no real exploratory or exploitative purpose; and that the primary thing wrong with this country’s space effort is, and always has been, the consistent absence of strong and sustained presidential leadership.

    I also think that the Shuttle is a dead fish. Only the burial date remains in doubt, so arguing about it is approaching inanity. And, that some folks seeking more private space enterprise just really want to get a chance to suck on NASA’s money hose. More power to them, but winning contracts from NASA is not the same thing as opening space to the rest of us.

    Among the other illogical charges you’ve tossed out in response, you’ve seen me disagree with your interpretation of a single aspect of Reagan’s presidency and, without justification, labeled me a Reagan hater.

    In another boggling dance of illogic, you’ve attacked Kennedy for failing to invade Cuba and, incomprehensibly, linked that to the Apollo program.

    As for your wish (and mine) to travel in space: Surely even you can recognize the difference between exploration of territory previously untouched by humans and a single human’s first visit to ell-explored territory. I’ve never been to Spain, but it is hardly unexplored territory. I’m all for selling tickets to space, but I am much more interested in getting the first humans where we’ve not been yet.

    Remember, you can’t have travelers until explorers open up the country,

  • Dfens: It is perfectly reasonable to study resources on the moon at the level of scientific research. Provided, that is, that you accept bad news along with the good, and provided that you don’t go off on wild tangents about commercial exploitation just because someone is doing a study. In Russian this is called “dividing the bear skin before the bear has been caught.” Or, in this case, before you even know that there is a bear.

    The STScI group proposes to study the moon exactly the way that it should be studied first: with existing instruments. You should always do that before sending unmanned probes, which are quite expensive for their one-off missions even though they are Wal-Mart bargains compared to astronauts. Only the abstract engages in the poisonous hype that is bad for NASA and bad for America. But it is also understandable, because snatching at the ribbons of a political bandwagon is a way to get your proposal funded.

  • …winning contracts from NASA is not the same thing as opening space to the rest of us.

    That depends on the nature of the contract, and how well it’s executed.

  • Dfens

    Wow, Greg, “the abstract engages in poisonous hype”? What did you expect them to say, “we probably won’t find anything but a bunch of worthless rock, but we should give it a try because it is the right thing to do?” Ok, obviously you don’t. What I want to know is, are you now going to give credit for this Hubble mission to the Vision for Space Exploration?

    And yes, I am quite enjoying myself.

  • David Davenport

    [ ... either (1) you're looking at maritime users only, or (2) sat-to-cell has to become not just "more affordable than Iridium," but really, really, *really* cheap. ... ]

    The DOD is the real customer:

    “July 19, 2005: All the American generals and admirals want more satellite communications, as well as faster throughput. So the Department of Defense has come up with TSAT (Transformational Communications Satellite System). This is basically a satellite based military Internet. It will be optimized for speed. Right now, it takes about two minutes to get a UAV image to another user via satellite. TSAT would do that in a second or two. This kind of speed is needed if all the air, land and sea weapons are linked together, to act as observers and shooters for each other. The only drawbacks with TSAT is that such a system will cost nearly $20 billion, and take over a decade, to build. While this has many of the brass ready to sign on, others are casting about for cheaper and faster solutions, using existing technology to work up to the TSAT “gold standard” year by year.”

    http://www.strategypage.com//fyeo/howtomakewar/default.asp?target=HTSPACE.HTM

    ///////////////////////////

    What about the NASA press conference yesterday, in which Dr. Griffin said that “We should complete the ISS”?

    He did not define ISS completion.

  • Dfens: The irresponsible hype is the part about “sustained human exploration” and “implementation of the President’s Vision for Space Exploration”. All they are doing is more accurately measuring the moon’s composition. They shouldn’t speculate as to how it will be useful or whether it will be useful at all. But the research plan itself is very reasonable.

    Does the VSE deserve credit for this research proposal? It’s like giving SDIO credit for Clementine. Technically, yes, but it’s missing the swamp for one nice tree.

  • Maybe “complete the ISS” is a poor choice of words. If Griffin switched to saying “finish the ISS”, it would leave the door open to Kevorkian solutions.

  • Maybe “complete the ISS” is a poor choice of words. If Griffin switched to saying “finish the ISS”, it would leave the door open to Kevorkian solutions.

  • Dfens

    “Does the VSE deserve credit for this research proposal?” “Technically, yes, but it’s missing the swamp for one nice tree.”

    Actually I think it’s usually supposed to be “forest” rather than “swamp”, but it might be a Russian thing. Chickens are a lot less scary than bears too. Anyway, see everyone, I think he’s coming around on that whole VSE thing. At this rate he’ll be driving around in an SUV with a W sticker in the back window by the end of the year.

  • David Davenport

    [ If Griffin switched to saying "finish the ISS", it would leave the door open to Kevorkian solutions. ]

    I got the opposite impression, which is that Mike Griffin wants a good many more Shuttle/ISS missions. He was answering a question about, “Is it time to retire the Shuttle? The reporter should have stated the question in a more specific, quantitative way.

    Griffin said he wanted to retire the Shuttles within the five year time frame, by 2010. Then he also said he wanted to finish the job of completing the Space Station. The reporter did not compel Mike G. to reconcile the two thoughts.

    Dr. G. also said he still would like a Hubble mission.

  • Dfens: I have to say that I like your sense of humor. And your honesty. I think that you should lose your anonymity — why not show courage — and I also don’t agree with you that America’s standards are crashing to the ground (except in Washington). But I’ll set that aside today and emphasize the positive.

    Yes, I know it’s usually the forest and the trees. Doesn’t a swamp count as a kind of forest?

  • Edward Wright

    > The point about the radio reference is that you respond to my posts,
    > and those of others, by ignoring the substance and pruning out little
    > out-of-contxt snippets to rant about. That’s the classic modus operandi
    > of political talk radio, of either side of the spectrum.

    Please control your paranoia. Every word of your prose is still visible for those who care to read it. I’m not going to copy and paste every single word of your posts into every reply — especially when those words are mostly just personal attacks and name calling like “talk radio.”

    > The substance of what I’ve said in this, and other exchanges, is that I
    > support private space enterprise but don’t expect it to progress as
    > rapidly as some others forecast;

    Yes, you’ve stated that over and over again. The fact that you don’t expect something doesn’t mean it can’t happen.

    > that I think there is a continuing role for NASA or a successor organization
    > because the private sector can only do those things that are profitable;

    No one here has said there will not be a continuing role for NASA. There are many possible roles for NASA other than remaining in 60′s mode forever.

    Nor have you proved that space exploration can’t be profitable. You just assert it and expect agreement.

    > In another boggling dance of illogic, you’ve attacked Kennedy for failing
    > to invade Cuba and, incomprehensibly, linked that to the Apollo program.

    No, Bill, I did not “attack Kennedy for failing to invade Cuba” — I said that he abandoned men to die on the beach at the Bay of Pigs, which is a historical fact. When you denied that, you were engaged in historical revisionism, and now you’re misquoting my statements.

    As for the link between the Bay of Pigs and Apollo, I suggest you consult the NASA history office:

    http://www.hq.nasa.gov/office/pao/History/Apollomon/Apollo.html

    > As for your wish (and mine) to travel in space: Surely even you
    > can recognize the difference between exploration of territory
    > previously untouched by humans and a single human’s first visit to
    > ell-explored territory.

    Yes, I recognize a difference. Recognizing the difference does not require me to believe that only the former has of any value. Lewis and Clark never visited any territory untouched by human hands. That doesn’t make their explorations any less valuable.

    > I’ve never been to Spain, but it is hardly unexplored territory. I’m all
    > for selling tickets to space, but I am much more interested in getting
    > the first humans where we’ve not been yet.

    Why is the first human more important than the first hundred? Or thousand? Or ten thousand?

    What would be the point of sending one American explorer to Spain, at a cost of tens of billions of dollars, if no other American ever got to go there?

    If space exploration is important, why should it be limited to a trivial number of people?

    > Remember, you can’t have travelers until explorers open up the country,

    No one said there shouldn’t be explorers. The disagreement is with your notion that only NASA employees can be explorers.

  • Dfens

    Ok, Greg, I am a big coward. I admit it. Sure, the company I work for can only fire me, but if that were to happen my wife can do much, much more, and she is both willing and able. I learned long ago the fact that she is cute and little is only a ruse.

    Despite the well earned, bitter edge to my cynicism, I do not actually think it is America’s standards that are crashing. The problems with NASA, and aerospace in general, are due to some poor choices made in the way business is conducted, starting in the ’80s through the mid ’90s. I join Kevin in that I don’t really think there were any conspiracies involved. It was mainly well intentioned people making changes that seemed good at the time.

    Unfortunately the legacy of these changes has been tragic. The kids I see coming into aerospace are as bright as any ever, maybe brighter. I think it is the responsibility of those of us who have been around for a while to at least try to fix this business model so they can have a chance to do great things.

    And yes, I’ll give you the swamp thing.