Congress

August lobbying push

The member organizations of the Space Exploration Alliance, including such activist groups such as the National Space Society and the Mars Society, kicked off this week an effort to organize visits to Congressional district offices during the August recess. The primary purpose, according to NSS and Mars Society documents, is to urge their support for the Vision for Space Exploration. In particular, a talking points document calls for full funding for the VSE, acceleration of the development of the CEV, support for NASA’s launch vehicle plans, and passage of an amendment for the Iran Nonproliferation Act to permit NASA to purchase ISS services from Russia. (It’s noteworthy that the document states that “NASA’s plans for human and cargo launch vehicles are on the right course” even though those plans have not been disclosed except in the broadest brush strokes and rumors.)

It’s also interesting that the Alliance member organizations waited until the middle of the month, a couple of weeks after the recess started, to start publicizing this lobbying effort. Congress returns right after Labor Day, so there’s not much time for interested space activists to schedule those meetings.

Speaking of August recess, I’m going on a break of my own over the next week. I don’t plan on posting much if anything until the week of August 29.

60 comments to August lobbying push

  • Have a good vacation!

    – Donadl

  • David Davenport

    [ passage of an amendment for the Iran Nonproliferation Act to permit NASA to purchase ISS services from Russia. ... ]

    To Hell with that.

    Patriotic American taxpayers should outsource ZERO engineering work to foreigners.

  • David Davenport

    From Keith Cowing’s http://www.nasawatch.com:

    What is an “essentially complete” Space Station?
    How NASA Plans to Retire the Shuttle, (letter from Mike Griffin) NY Times

    “We have carefully reconsidered the station assembly sequence, and if we use the shuttle fleet in a disciplined, measured fashion over the next five years, we can essentially complete that assembly. We can meet our obligations to our international partners and effect a transition to the shuttle’s successor in a planned, orderly fashion.”

    Editor’s note: “essentially complete” ?

    Good question, Keith. My guesstimate is that Mike G. wants five more years x four more launches/ year = about twenty (20) more Shuttle/ISS round trips. Lotsa luck on that.

  • Bob

    “passage of an amendment for the Iran Nonproliferation Act to permit NASA to purchase ISS services from Russia. ..”

    I thought that that act was only to prevent NASA from buying certain space related services from Russia. However, I read in the NSS’s magazine Ad Astra that it also prevents American businesses from doing the same thing. Is that true? I’m not sure since that act prevents NASA from buying a flight on Soyuz, yet it doesn’t seem to prevent Space Adventure from buying a flight on Soyuz for its 3rd Space Station tourist.

  • Bob

    David Davenport wrote “Good question, Keith. My guesstimate is that Mike G. wants five more years x four more launches/ year = about twenty (20) more Shuttle/ISS round trips. Lotsa luck on that.”

    Or maybe “essentially complete” simply means whenever the year 2010 arrives, regardless of the state of the station?

  • Rob

    Hey have you seen this report that Griffin’s right hand man has blabbed about the final decision on shuttle derived?

    http://www.flightinternational.com/Articles/2005/08/23/201125/+NASA+picks+rocket+for+return+to+Moon++.html

  • Bob is right and David Davenport is wrong. Griffin still hates the space shuttle and wants to reduce flights as much as he can. And he has said that 20 future flights is not realistic. But he also has to play along with Bush’s promise to “complete” the space station by 2010. Which is not so hard; it only requires Griffin to be as insincere as the VSE itself.

  • Cecil Trotter

    Kuperberg: “…it only requires Griffin to be as insincere as the VSE itself.”

    I’ll quote Dfens:

    “It would seem to me there is plenty of interesting subject matter at hand. The inflammatory rhetoric only serves to censure that discussion.”

    And with that I’ve decided your not worth my time professor.

  • David Davenport

    [ Or maybe "essentially complete" simply means whenever the year 2010 arrives, regardless of the state of the station? ]

    So why doesn’t Dr. Griffin announce 2010 as a firm termnination date? And why doesn’t he endorse the “core complete” option, meaning seven or eight more Shuttle/ISS missions? “Essentially complete” sounds like more than “core complete” to me. “Core complete” is a NASA phrase. Dr. Griffin probably knows what it means.

    Seems that Mr. Griffin will not announce a firm retirement date for the Shuttle system. He’ll take as many more Shuttle/ISS missions as he can get.

    VSE = SLI from the early 2000′s. It’s just talk that’s not likely to happen. We’re gonna have Mike Griffin until the winter of 2008-2009. All that will happpen from now until then, and maybe after, is more Shuttle launches and more talk about returning to the Moon.

    Sorry guys.

  • David Davenport

    By the way, have you-all seen the pictures of a new mini-Shuttleski the Russians are showing around, supposedly a cooperative project with France to be launched from Koru?

    Question: if capsules are cool and winged spaceships are proven failures, why do the Rooskies want a mini-Shuttle at this point in time?

  • Edward Wright

    > Question: if capsules are cool and winged spaceships are proven
    > failures, why do the Rooskies want a mini-Shuttle at this point
    > in time?

    For the same reason the Russians keep building airplanes, even though airplanes have crashed in the past. They aren’t dumb enough to extrapolate from a single data point (the crash of one winged vehicle) to a sweeping condemnation of all winged vehicles.

  • Great point, Edward, and probably the first time I wholeheartedly agree with you. It’s easy to forget: the Shuttle was a first-generation vehicle that was pushed too far. Just because it did not achieve all the objectives that were promised for it does not mean that it was a bad idea or even the wrong strategy. We won’t know that until winged spacecraft have the same kind of successful development and deployment history that winged aircraft have behind them, or a similar unsuccessful history.

    When the nth generation winged spacecraft fails to achieve a significant advance on expendable vehicles, then I will listen to the idea that winged spacecraft are a uniformly bad idea.

    – Donald

  • David Davenport

    “… We have carefully reconsidered the station assembly sequence, and if we use the shuttle fleet in a disciplined, measured fashion over the next five years, we can essentially complete that assembly. We can meet our obligations to our international partners … ”

    “Meet our obligations to our international partners” sounds like more than so-called core complete to me.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2005/08/21/opinion/l21nasa.html

    How NASA Plans to Retire the Shuttle

    Re “Mismanaging the Shuttle Fixes” (editorial, Aug. 19):

    Terminating the shuttle program abruptly, while attractive from some points of view, carries with it grave consequences for the United States’ pre-eminence in space and would be devastating to the work force necessary to conduct any future human spaceflight program.

    In the same way, the decision to build the International Space Station with its present partnership arrangements was made more than a decade ago, and that decision, too, carries with it major consequences and obligations not lightly dismissed.

    Accordingly, to fly out the shuttle program in a disciplined fashion, we should use the remaining flights for the purpose that the shuttle is most suited to: completing the International Space Station. We also hope to conduct a final Hubble servicing mission, if that proves feasible.

    This is the best NASA can do for the country, given where we are today. But we will no longer adhere to a plan requiring a fixed number of shuttle flights. We are executing a program that proceeds with all deliberate speed toward retirement of the fleet in 2010.

    ( But he doesn’t quite specify 2010 to be a date certain. )

    We have carefully reconsidered the station assembly sequence, and if we use the shuttle fleet in a disciplined, measured fashion over the next five years, we can essentially complete that assembly. We can meet our obligations to our international partners and effect a transition to the shuttle’s successor in a planned, orderly fashion.

    With the shuttle’s replacement, we can begin using the station more fully than in the years in which it was being assembled and can then focus on building the additional systems needed for America’s return to the Moon.

    Michael Griffin
    NASA Administrator
    Washington, Aug. 19, 2005

    http://www.nytimes.com/2005/08/21/opinion/l21nasa.html

    How NASA Plans to Retire the Shuttle, (letter from Mike Griffin) NY Times

    http://www.nasawatch.com/

    Also at nasawatch:

    Rollout Plan for Griffin’s Architecture Stumbles

    Editor’s note: Multiple sources point to a delay in the rollout of Mike Griffin’s new exploration architecture. It won’t be rolled out in early September. It would seem that multiple offices in the executive branch simply do not agree on key elements of what Griffin wants to do – and have serious problems with certain aspects – finances being the most important point of disagreement. Stay tuned.

    Posted by kcowing at 02:26 PM | Permalink

  • Paul Dietz

    Just because it did not achieve all the objectives that were promised for it does not mean that it was a bad idea or even the wrong strategy.

    However, when competent and honest observers at the time knew it would not come close to achieving its primary objective, it’s hard to see how it could be described otherwise (except perhaps in even strong terms, as a deliberate fraud.)

  • Competant and honest observers at the time also thought that Apollo was “utter bunk” and that the X-Prize had zero chance of success. These are matters of opinion. Sometimes the opinions are correct, often they are not. The only way to tell the difference is through experience, i.e., experiments (i.e., the “scientific method”). The Shuttle was an experiment. It was partially successful. I would argue that it was sufficiently successful to warrant another try. Other opinions, far more competent than mine, will obviously argue otherwise. Fortunately for me, making the decision is far above my pay scale.

    – Donald

  • I don’t see anything “competent” about the opinion that the X-Prize had no chance of success. After all, the government did it decades ago, so why wouldn’t Rutan or whoever be able to re-enact it? I have to admit that many of the X-Prize teams didn’t look like they had a real clue. But Rutan does know and care what the word “impossible” means, even if he doesn’t always admit it. Maybe even Rutan beat worse than even odds, but it was never “no chance”.

    Apollo may have looked more far-fetched. At the time, people didn’t really know how hard human spaceflight was. It turned out to be easier than some people thought. But now we know a lot more about it. Now expert odds are a lot more credible.

    Besides, the skeptics weren’t far wrong about Apollo. The moon was only barely within reach of astronauts. Apollo was lucky to avoid the same safety crisis that now paralyzes the space shuttle. (As Rand Simberg likes to point out, it’s as much a political crisis as a practical one. But it’s still real.)

  • To all of your statements above, Greg, the only possible answer has to be, so what? Learning to travel easily and confidently over Earth’s oceans wasn’t easy either. It took thousands of years. Many people died. The early success rate was probably far, far lower than Apollo’s, let alone’s the Shuttle’s. Right now, we lose more people to deep sea accidents each year than have been lost in the entire history of spaceflight. Learning to fly was relatively easy, but still took several generations and uncounted lives. To this date, neither of these activities are frequently done without pilots (or their equivellant). Most “automated” operations is not really automated at all, but teleoperated, which only puts the human pilot at a distance. Nobody with an ounce of romance or history or true perspective about the real likely capabilities of robotics thinks real space science (e.g., finding out the history and extent of any life on Mars) can or should be automated. Finding that out will take generations, it may take thousands of years, and it will certainly take untold human lives. It will not be found out if we sit safely at home and pretend that clockwork toys are going to find it out for us.

    (Don’t get me wrong. I just sent an E-mail to many of my friends with the link to Space Daily’s story about Spirit attaining Husband’s summit after circa 1.5 years of climbing. I labeled it, “one of the great achievements of our lifetimes.” It was, but that doesn’t make it science; at best it’s reconnaisance with a tiny bit of science on the side. We have a lot of pretty pictures, we know the area had a violent past, and we know that there was once standing water on Mars. That’s all very exciting, but if it takes us 1.5 years and nearly a billion dollars to find that out, it will be a long, long time before we know anything very significant about Mars.)

    The problem is, like too many of us, you’re in too big a hurry and you’re afraid to take the kinds of risks that real exploration requires. If we are no longer capable of taking those risks, let us hope that some other society is. Because if nobody is, there’s not much long-term hope for humanity, is there?

    – Donald

  • I personally don’t care either if astronauts get killed. It’s their business, not mine. That’s not my point at all.

    The fact remains that it’s a political crisis when it happens, because they are celebrities by the nature of human spaceflight programs. Of course three of the Apollo astronauts were killed. Politically speaking, NASA dodged a bullet right then and there. Because if it had happened when they were off the ground, it would have cast much more doubt on the real mission. Then NASA dodged another bullet of the same kind with Apollo 13. And it tempted fate yet more when landing on the moon and in risking a solar flare during transit.

    What advocates don’t want to admit is that human spaceflight is more Evel Knievel than it is Lewis and Clark. I think that Evel Knievel was ludicrous; I never would have cared if he had gotten killed. But he was sustained by public interest, and so are astronauts. If he had died in a bus crash on the way to a stunt, someone else would have taken his place. But if he had died in the middle of a jump, it would have been a show stopper. Americans don’t want to see kamikaze spectacles.

  • Greg: “But if he had died in the middle of a jump, it would have been a show stopper.”

    Here, especially, I think you’re wrong, or at least you should be. We’ve lost two Shuttle crews “in the middle of a jump.” It is to our great credit as a culture that in neither case was it a “show stopper,” and certainly not for the reasons you’re giving.

    NASA took a lot of risk with Apollo, no debate, and things could have turned out much worse than Apollo-13. Again, so what. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t worth doing. Even though the project wasn’t oriented toward science it achieved a lot more science than has been achieved on the moon before or since, or will be achieved before the next human expedition whenever that happens. As I have argued before, it probably achieved more science per unit dollar than comparable automated efforts of the same era. If we go for weeks at a time, it _will_ be every bit of Lewis and Clark.

    If — when — we do it, people will die. That is the price of exploration and knowledge. However much you and others pretend otherwise, it cannot, and probably should not, be done any other way. If we are not prepared to risk our lives for knowledge, we don’t deserve knowledge. _You_ don’t deserve knowledge.

    – Donald

  • Donald: The question that you raised in your first post of today (“Competent and honest observers at the time…”) was not whether any of these things were “worth doing”. It was whether they were achievable. I responded with the point that the skeptics of Apollo were not far wrong, because Apollo was at great risk of a safety crisis. The same safety crisis that twice grounded the shuttle for more than two years, and that might yet kill the shuttle and the station. I agree that the safety crisis is illogical; it’s really a crisis of public relations. But still, it’s a real crisis.

    As for the science bit, I have said many times that science isn’t and shouldn’t be the only purpose of spaceflight. Once again, you don’t understand my point. My point is that science, usually bad science, is the only end justification of human spaceflight that NASA has held onto. All of the other potentially valid justifications — commercialization, defense, symbolism — have slipped through their fingers after a while. Why? Because actually none of the justifications make sense for NASA’s illogical human spaceflight plans. Science gets the short straw, because if it’s science, they can still pretend.

    If anything, what proves the real superiority of unmanned spaceflight (for the forseeable future) is that it isn’t dominated by science missions.

  • Okay, you claim that NASA’s human spaceflight plans are illogical human spaceflight plans. There may be truth in that. So, then, what are the logical human spaceflight plans that you propose instead?

    – Donald

  • First, I hope that when you describe my views in the future, you can stick to what I said in the last post, especially the second paragraph.

    I think that any truly private human spaceflight is defensible. (That does not include wild posturing by blowhards and cheats.) It may be no more than Evel Knievel stunts, but it’s their business.

    Beyond that, I do not think that human spaceflight at the present time is like Lewis and Clark or like Christopher Columbus. It is more like the doomed Viking site in Newfoundland, or even more, like the ephemeral Amundsen and Scott expeditions to the South Pole. It doesn’t stick. The logical path is to wait for practical transportation, which in the case of the South Pole was good airplanes, then make outposts.

  • Well, that is not a satisfactory answer, either to me, or I think to most Americans.

    First of all, transportation won’t just happen. It either requires a pre-existing “impractical” destination (as the Presido in my San Francisco model) to “justify” the development of more efficient transportation (the transcontinental rail road to supply the growing town surrounding the “impractical” base in San Francisco.)

    Alternatively, the airplanes that made south polar transportation relatively easy (as opposed to extremely difficult but not impossible) were rush-developed during World War II. I don’t think either of us would wish to repeat that model right now.

    I agree, it is very likely that our first attempt to place a permanent base on Mars will go the way of the Vikings in Newfoundland. What you’re missing is that it took many tries and one succeeded. If no one tried, no one would have succeeded.

    We were lucky that Apollo succeeded in its first try. Maybe we will give up like the Vikings did if our second try does not succeed. But, hopefully, the Russians or Chinese or Indians or Japanese will be there to try again and maybe succeed.

    If we wait until it is “safe,” it will never happen. If we wait until “good spaceships” somehow magically appear, then yes, we won’t replicate the Vikings — they at least tried — we’ll replicate the Chinese who watched and stagnated while everyone else opened the new world.

    I don’t disagree with you about the likely difficulty or risks; in fact, I have written before that I think most advocates _vastly_ underestimate both how difficult colonizing the Solar System will be and how long it will take. But I profoundly disagree with you about both strategy and the time to start. Both involve getting human expeditions at least as far as the lunar surface and possibly the Martian moons or an Earth-approaching asteroid within the next few decades. Those are achievable goals so they are the right goals.

    – Donald

  • Certainly you are distorting the history of airplane development and Antarctic exploration. There were already millions of airline passengers by 1938. Airplanes did improve during World War II, but they would have improved anyway. So it’s just not true that the Antarctic explorers needed any kind of world crisis or Apollo-type project to make progress. They just needed to wait until the right technology appeared.

    Richard Byrd flew over the Pole in 1928. After that, no one went to the South Pole for 30 years. Humanity didn’t lose anything by waiting until it was practical.

  • kert

    “After that, no one went to the South Pole for 30 years. Humanity didn’t lose anything by waiting until it was practical.”

    Actually, the whole continent is pretty much lost to humanity as of June, 23th, 1961
    If they would not have waited thirty years after Byrd, perhaps US would have no problems with cheap oil supplies at present ?

  • “Airplanes did improve during World War II, but they would have improved anyway.”

    I should have said WW-I and WW-II, my mistake.

    Yes, airplanes would have improved anyway, but it would not have happened anywhere near as fast. The Boeing-747 that opened up the world to thee and me is a heavy WW-II bomber several generations on. The R&D that made heavy passenger aircraft possible was in fact rush-developed during WW-II. There is a big difference between early passenger planes and the heavy bomber derivitives that to this date supply South polar bases. My wider point stands. Transportation will not “just happen” unless someone makes it happen.

    “After that, no one went to the South Pole for 30 years. Humanity didn’t lose anything by waiting until it was practical.”

    It’s more than thirty years on since the last Apollo flight. We’ve waited long enough.

    Kert, no treaty has lost the South Pole. If it were in the United States’ interests to go there in a big way, no administration, and certainly not the current one, would let a mere treaty stand in the way. We’d either renegotiate the treaty (most administrations) or simply ignore it while pretending otherwise (the current one). The day oil is found and new technology makes it relatively easily accessible under the ice, South polar treaties will not last any longer than our own treaty with ourselves not to develop most of Alaska for oil drilling. Whether that decision is right or wrong is beyond the scope of this discussion, but the battle and its ultimate outcome is most relevant.

    – Donald

  • Greg, I can’t seem to contact you off-line at the E-mail address linked to your Sig.

    I would like to propose an article based on our discussion of the last couple of days. I think that our philosophical differences are important and would be of interest to a wider audience. If you agree, please contact me off-line at donaldfr@speakeasy.net

    Thanks!

    – Donald

  • Many Americans have learned a distorted history of aviation that jumps from the Wrights to World War I. What really happened was that Britain, Germany, and especially France were far more prepared to build an aviation industry than the United States. In fact, the Wrights were a millstone for the US, because they sued anybody else with a commercial interest in aviation. When World War I began, the French had already been building superior airplanes for four years.

    In fact, one of the main effects of World War I on aviation in the United States was to end the maximalist intellectual property quest of the Wrights. After the war, Glenn Curtiss, who they regarded as just an idea thief, bought them out.

    Although airplanes were important in World War I, aviation advanced much more from 1919 to 1939 than it did from 1914 to 1918. Humanity does not require wars and Apollo programs to move forward. If anything, grand national efforts end up eating the seed corn of broader R&D. Richard Feynman has made exactly that point about the Manhattan project. He said that thousands of talented engineers and scientists were funnelled into just a few problems, to the detriment of everything else they had been doing.

    The big lesson of the South Pole is that the vehicle of choice was, in the end, cross-adapted. Airplanes made polar exploration practical, but polar exploratoin did not lead to airplanes. That is also the right lesson for human spaceflight. The obvious other place to borrow from is unmanned spaceflight, which is already practical.

  • Okay, although I still have my doubts I will accept your apparently superior knowledge of aviation history and the implication that I and a lot of other people have been mislead.

    You state: “The obvious other place to borrow from is unmanned spaceflight, which is already practical.”

    No debate, and we have already done that. It is an interesting and lucky cooincidence that the energy required to get to geostationary orbit is very close to that required to get to the lunar surface or the Martian moons. Long after we unwisely got rid of the Apollo infrastructure, the comsat industry and the military have kept us skilled at the rocketry required for interplanetary flight.

    That is why I have argued for using the EELVs and against Mr. Griffin’s plans to spend a lot of money developing new Shuttle-derived vehicles. The EELVs — developed for military and commercial reasons — already exist; somebody else is paying the bills to keep them in business; using them more often would lower costs for everyone, automated science, commerce, and interplanetary travel alike; and you can get somewhere soon.

    In fact, you have just advocated for a less “irrational” NASA human space program. It’s not the most efficient way to go; its certainly not the safest; but it is the easiest, which is what we need right now.

    We need to use a double-handful of EELVs to launch a multi-week, few hundred kilometer “Louis and Clarke” expedition to Earth’s moon that will do fantastic science, need not cost a whole lot more than the dozens of ultra-reliable and improbably capable automated rovers that would be required to do the same job, and have a better-than-even chance of success.

    You are one-hundred percent correct. We should use the transportation that was developed for another purpose; transportation that will be a mature technology by the time we’re ready to actually launch the expedition.

    We should start the project tomorrow.

    – Donald

  • Dfens

    Donald makes a good point regarding the autonomy of current unmanned vehicles. They rely heavily on ground controllers to fix the things that go wrong enroute. I remember talking to the JPL engineers regarding Galileo, and they were convinced they could recover from any failure except one. Ironically, that one was failure of the high gain antenna to unfurl. When it didn’t, I thought they were done, but communications technology improved and they were somehow able to keep in touch via, I guess, the medium gain antenna, and send down some good pictures, etc.

    This brings me back to a point I have made in the past, which is the engineering approach of, how does a person buy his way onto the vehicle? What do people bring to a mission that cannot be done by a machine? Primarily it is creativity and adaptability. Regardless of the safety aspect, if you need those qualities in order to successfully complete the mission, you are going to need a person on board. Most likely, because of the high profile nature of space flight, again regardless of the risk, you’ll probably have some well qualified volunteers for the job.

    If you’re going to build a colony on the Moon, you have to send people. No machine will be capable of making the required decisions. If you’re launching to LEO to see what happens to ants that hatch in zero-g, do it with an unmanned vehicle outfitted with a 100 Watt bulb and a video camera. Unfortunately most shuttle missions were more the latter than the former.

    Maybe it’s the engineer in me, but I don’t see why it has to be more esoteric than that. The problem most people have with the shuttle is not that astronauts die, but that they die for nothing. They die as a result of known problems on missions that seldom require the unique skills of people, and even when they do it is more rare they have any significant benefit to humanity. At half a billion per launch, it looks and smells like a boon doggle. Though the US taxpayer seems to give us nerdy types a lot of rope, we seem to be running to the end of it lately.

  • Dfens, I don’t think the Shuttle started as a boondoggle. It was an experiment that was unwisely pushed way too far, and, through the actions of many well-meaning people, became a boondoggle. I agree that it is past time to quit.

    I have a simple test for whether people are required, especially if it’s an exploration mission out of Earth orbit. Ask yourself, is this mission reconnaissance? Are you taking photos; collecting radiation (in every sense of the word); doing passive observational science; taking a limited or random set of samples, taking easily automated measurements that could figure out whether, say, there was standing water in this valley? Or, are you trying to fix some unanticipated problem with a complex machine? If you can say yes to any or all of those questions, then, while people along would be increasingly helpful as you go up the complexity tree, you can probably get by with automation, or more accurately, teleoperation.

    Are you trying to do science beyond simple reconnaissance? Are you trying to gather a carefully-selected wide-ranging set of samples to return to Earth? Are you trying to get absolute dates for stratigraphy over a wide, continental-sized area? Are you doing geochemical analysis on a grid over a wide area? Are you trying to find and prove the one grain of sand that might contain a microscopic fossil? Are you trying to learn something about the distribution of those fossils over a wide area? While you might just be able to automate the first item and do a half-assed job of it, it is extremely improbable that any robot in any of our lifetimes will be able to do any of the rest at all, let alone at reasonable cost.

    We spend all of this money trying to automate relatively simple tasks (docking two spacecraft, repair Hubble) with remarkably low success rates. What if that same money were invested instead in better spacesuits and relatively cheap Gemini-class spacecraft to put the engineers that could casually do the job where they need to be? That would certainly be more effective; would it be less expensive? No one knows, but I’d bet money on the answer.

    But all of that is irrelevant. We don’t go to Mars to watch it on TV or over the Internet. We go to Mars to, well, go to Mars. The only reason the public coughs up the money for Mars rovers is because they either don’t know or care how much its really costing or they think it’s creating the path for their children to go there themselves. Ask the public if they’ll fund rovers forever with no prospect of people, and, again, I’ll bet money at what the answer will be.

    When I was younger, I, personally, did the kind of exploration I am advocating. I did not watch television, or a movie, or send a robot toy. I repeatedly hiked in the highlands of Scotland — desceptively rugged, empty countryside with instant zero visibility fogs and magnetic mountains where you cannot trust a compass — with the sound of the wind fluting through the tubing of my backpack for company. Once I misread a map at dusk with a rising North Sea storm on the side of a canyon with no shelter. For a few hours I really thought I might die.

    Stupid you say, and it was. But today I _know_ Scotland in a way that no one who hasn’t done this ever will. Having done so, I know how to survive in the instant drenching freezing storms, and even at my current advanced age, could do so better than a teenager who has only watched television. The only way I learned how to survive there was by doing it. I know Scotland in a way that Greg will never know Mars, but maybe one of our children will.

    Was it worth it? Even if I had died that night? Without question, yes. Scotland, probably like Mars, has a subtle lighting that no camera can possibly capture. I describe it to my friends as a farie-tale beauty that no one would believe could really exist without having seen it themselves with their own eyes.

    That is what we are missing if we don’t fly those EELVs to the moon . . . and beyond. We are missing the purpose of the whole exercise, which is not “science,” but knowledge, which are similar and with a lot of overlap but not at all the same thing.

    – Donald

  • David Davenport

    [ Airplanes made polar exploration practical, but polar exploratoin did not lead to airplanes. ]

    Airplanes? What about dogs pulling sleds?

    [What do people bring to a mission that cannot be done by a machine? Primarily it is creativity and adaptability. ]

    The ability to do what automated devices cannot do yet. Example: Hubble servicing mission.

    [ The problem most people have with the shuttle is not that astronauts die, but that they die for nothing. ]

    Yes, but I’m not sure that the tax-paying general public realizes that.

  • Oops, I copied this to the wrong paragraph: obviously, it belongs in the second list. “Or, are you trying to fix some unanticipated problem with a complex machine?”

    – Donald

  • Mike Puckett

    “I describe it to my friends as a farie-tale beauty that no one would believe could really exist without having seen it themselves with their own eyes.”

    I thought that was supposed to be New Zealand?

  • It certainly wasn’t this or this, or even this.

  • But some of it did look rather remarkably like a more rugged version of this,

    http://www.spacedaily.com/images/mars-mera-sol581-husband-summit-desk-1024.jpg

    I did not say it would be easy. Neither was learning to travel confidently over the world’s oceans. Nor was colonizing places like the Shetland islands, which was done tens of thousands of years ago, the instant the ice departed, by neolithic tribes.

    http://www.speakeasy.org/~elet/Travel/Shetland/Yell%20Voe%20with%20Pinks.jpg

    This photo was taken by my partner a couple of years ago at a place not that far below the arctic circle.

    Or here,

    http://photobucket.com/albums/v197/Ranunculus/Ranch/Shetland/?action=view&current=LookingSouth.jpg

    – Donald

  • For some reason the last link above did not work correctly. Here’s another try.

    http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v197/Ranunculus/Ranch/Shetland/LookingSouth.jpg

  • Dfens

    While there is certainly a poetic aspect to exploration of any kind, there are also practical aspects. They key to being able to produce an effective unmanned spacecraft is the ability to hypothesize what the vehicle might encounter. That and the journey there become the driving constraints on the design. The reason for sending human explorers becomes the fact that you reach the point of diminishing returns on sensors and experiments. You need to send a person to learn what the next question to ask is. Additionally, the person or explorer, being adaptable and creative as we are, goes through a continuous process of both thinking up new questions to ask, while answering questions previously raised in their own mind. A machine cannot do this.

    In addition to the innovation demonstrated in the process of discovery, the person builds a mental model of the location they have explored. That mental model becomes an invaluable resource to the designers of future missions – manned or unmanned. When I was working on space station, two of the most valuable people I worked with were ex-Skylab astronauts. It was not that I couldn’t have read the things they told me in books or researched it through some Skylab database, but they had a mental model of what it was like for they themselves to live and work in space. It shaped their perspective in a way that was extremely valuable to all of us because it decreased the amount of research we had to do, and disabused us of many misconceptions. One of their contributions to the current station was an “up” direction. Who would have thought having an “up” was valuable in zero-g?

    David refers to the Hubble servicing mission, which I think is a good example of how humans can be valuable in space missions. No one ever anticipated such a repair would be necessary on-orbit, so none of the hardware was designed with that in mind. The Earth bound modeling capability was inadequate to reliably predict every aspect of the repair, as anyone who has ever fixed anything the least bit complex would expect. The astronaut was the perfect candidate for the job. And yes, I think the average American, many of whom were hired specifically for those same valuable attributes, understand the difference between a life wasted on a boondoggle and one regrettably lost in a justifiable quest for knowledge.

  • Dfens: “the person builds a mental model of the location they have explored. That mental model becomes an invaluable resource to the designers of future missions – manned or unmanned. When I was working on space station, two of the most valuable people I worked with were ex-Skylab astronauts. It was not that I couldn’t have read the things they told me in books or researched it through some Skylab database, BUT THEY HAD A MENTAL MODEL OF WHAT IT WAS LIKE FOR THEY THEMSELVES TO LIVE AND WORK IN SPACE. It shaped their perspective in a way that was extremely valuable to all of us because it decreased the amount of research we had to do, and disabused us of many misconceptions.”

    I think you have hit the nail squarely on the head, here, or actually two nails.

    First, the model of the real universe that we build in our heads with remarkably little information is one of our most valuable traits. Anybody who has tried to understand a foreign city or rural trail from a map has experienced this. It is far, far easier to walk around the real place with a map and your eyes, than to study it from afar. Our brains have a fantastic ability to map out spatial relationships from the movements of our bodies, to do it instinctively, and to do it quickly. This lets us find our way around everything from an alien landscape to an unknown machine while attempting repair.

    More important, though, is your other nail, and that is why the Space Station (and Mir and Skylab and Salyut and all the rest) are so valuable even if they were to accomplish no science whatsoever. They are real life experience. If we are to learn to successfully navigate between the planets with ease, that experience is vital. What opponents miss is that it is the Space Station itself that is making what Greg calls “impractical” practical.
    As we all know, the astronauts are building the Space Station from parts delivered on the Space Shuttle, and it is decidedly not “plug and play,” but think about that that means for a moment. This is the first time that has really been done. While I can conceive of a human mission to Mars without being able to do complex assembly in microgravity, we will never _operate_ at Mars in the sense that we do in Antarctica without that knowledge. That is what the Space Station is giving us. Yes, we should have done it smarter and cheaper, but that does not mean that we should not have done it.

    However, I believe you are wrong about Hubble. A lot of it _was_ designed to be repaired, and the instruments changed out, by astronauts in orbit. That is why the apparent difficulty of automating these tasks is so remarkable. If we can’t even automate the repair of a well-understood object with known interfaces designed to be changed by a spacesuited hand, what makes anyone think we can automate the complex tasks necessary to find life on an alien, completely non-understood landscape full of odd shapes and with no interfaces whatsoever? People are not thinking this through.

    (Before anyone objects, I do understand that astronauts have executed tasks at the Space Telescope that were not designed for astronaut changeout. That is another reason why we need them on site at the next large and expensive space telescope facility.)

    – Donald

  • Cecil Trotter

    Kuperberg: “aviation advanced much more from 1919 to 1939 than it did from 1914 to 1918.”

    LOL.

    I can’t let this one go, especially since no one else seems to have noticed the silliness in that statement.

    Mr. Math Professor, are you saying that aviation advanced more in a 20 year period than it did in a 4 year period? Wow, what a revelation.

  • Cecil: You said that I wasn’t worth your time. Why can’t you keep your word?

  • Cecil Trotter

    Kuperberg: “You said that I wasn’t worth your time. Why can’t you keep your word?”

    Because that was funny!

    I love it when the math you use to support your argument fails; like here and the time you posted a graphic to prove how huge NASA’s budget was when going to the moon but it actually showed a per year average comparable to the 80’s and 90’s. It’s so ironic that a math professor can’t interpret mathematical data correctly. But I suspect it isn’t that you can’t interpret the date correctly; but rather you choose to skew the data to support your otherwise unsupportable “theories”.

  • Dfens

    Donald, one thing about the value of these experiences is they decay with age (don’t I know that) and most of the benefit can be lost in less than half a century. It makes the way we do things now, with programs taking 15 to 25 years, seem even more ridiculous.

  • Donald: You’re missing a crucial side of the past and planned Hubble repairs. The Hubble repairs are the tale of the plumber who came in a Rolls Royce to fix a soda cart with silver wrenches. It was a very nice soda cart after that, but it would have been faster, better, and cheaper to get a new soda cart. Except in that the same plumber demanded that soda carts be delivered by Rolls Royce too.

    It is faster, better, and cheaper to launch expendable space telescopes to orbits in which they can’t be repaired. That is what astronomers want. They don’t want to do it the Hubble way ever again. (Not for the forseeable future, anyway.) NASA doesn’t want to do again either. Everyone understands that the last planned Hubble repair is the lesser of two stupidities. Moreover, it is only worth it if NASA has independently decided to keep flying the shuttle.

  • Greg, the body of your argument and your second-to-the-last sentence cannot simultaneously be true. Either it is worth spending $700 million to launch the Rolls Royce to repair a telescope that, all told, cost several billion dollars, or it isn’t. Astronomers want a free lunch with HST — they want to argue against human spaceflight while simultaneously accepting the advantages. That is only human, but, as Cecil would remind us, it is also not honest.

    That said, I don’t necessarily disagree with the effective truth of the body of your argument. Given that the Shuttle ended up costing a lot more than anyone expected (partly because of unrealistic safety requirements), you are unfortunately correct in your basic argument. However, the equation changes a bit if you’re launching your repair crew on a Geminii-class vehicle rather than the Shuttle . . . which is what I argued for above.

    Astronomers do not want a human tended telescope on the lunar farside or in the NGST orbit because they have come to believe their own propaganda that this is impossible or more expensive than building a series of $4.5 billion dollar telescopes (that latest price I’ve heard for the NGST). HST has been repaired, what, three times now? After the initial test flights and infrastructure have been built for other purposes, would it really cost $13.5 billion dollars to send a repair crew a bit further around Earth’s own orbit?

    It is remotely possible that astronomers are right, but that is one of the things we are supposed to find out with the VSE. If the VSE succeeds — and I grant, we have no idea whether it will; we won’t know that until we’ve tried it — I think astronomers will be just as happy to have a facility-class repairable NGST as they are to argue for HST repair missions while simultaneously arguing that they would cost more than a new telescope.

    BTW, I understand that a group has proposed a new telescope for under the $700 million the HST repair mission is expected to cost (part of which is deorbit costs which, if the VSE succeeds, should never be needed since it will then be possible to repair HST indefinitely). If so, well, gee, who would be against having _two_ facility-class HSTs in orbit and doubling the observation time?

    The problem with astronomers, dare I say it, is a distinct lack of imagination. . . .

    – Donald

  • If the Rolls Royce is rented anyway, and if the plumber vetoes plans to replace the soda cart, then it’s worth it. Otherwise it isn’t.

    In other words, if NASA is so eager to keep flying the shuttle, they might as well service Hubble. And that’s largely because NASA committed to it long ago. If they had planned an alternative, no one would want another Hubble mission. Or if they want to cancel the shuttle, then Hubble shouldn’t be serviced.

    As a group, astronomers have no lack of imagination whatsoever. You could not be more wrong than to suppose that you know their profession better than they do.

  • Cecil Trotter

    Donald:”The problem with astronomers, dare I say it, is a distinct lack of imagination. . . .”

    True, plus most seemingly have no end to their selfcenteredness. IE if it doesn’t fit in their world of astronomy it isn’t important. Of course they’re not the only ones in the space exploration realm with that attitude.

  • You’re an astronomer? You know them better than I do, who regularly report on their work? Maybe so, maybe not, but I don’t think you have any better claim than any other non-astronomer.

    “Or if they want to cancel the shuttle, then Hubble shouldn’t be serviced.”

    I think you need a little more than the bald statement to back this up, like a logical argument. Let us say, for the sake of arguement, that a Hubble replacement could be had for, say, $700 million. (I don’t believe it for an instant, but let’s go ahead and state it.) Now, suppose a Geminii-class capsule developed for other purposes could be launched with tools and one or more of the replacement instruments on an EELV for, say, $700 million, which might be a fairly reasonable guess. Is it automatically true that the former is better than the latter? Probably. But, let’s use more realistic numbers, say $2 billion for the telescope and $1 billion for the Geminii. Maybe it’s not so clean-cut a decision. And maybe that $700 million for an “impractical” Space Shuttle flight doesn’t seem so outragious, especially if you’re willing to accept the same kind of risk for the astronauts that, say, deep sea divers take every day.

    Just because you and astronomers state that automation and $4.5 billion throw-away telescopes are more cost-effective than human tended facilities does not automatically make it so.

    – Donald

  • Paul Dietz

    The hypothetical about the capsule to service Hubble doesn’t have a lot to do with reality, since it’s unlikely such a capsule (and attached module to grapple with HST for servicing) would be available before HST fails and becomes unservicable.

    If you are complaining that astronomers are too conservative and don’t share your optimism that, in the future, repair will be more practical on other space telescopes, then, well, can you really blame them? They know full well the tragicomedy that the shuttle has evolved into, and that grandious predictions, plus $3.75, will get you a mocha grande at Starbucks.

  • Bob

    Donald wrote: “If the VSE succeeds — and I grant, we have no idea whether it will”

    Don’t count me in the “we”. I have an idea that the VSE will fail.

  • Bob

    Donald wrote: “I think you need a little more than the bald statement to back this up.”

    Yeah, let’s bring on the hairy statements instead!

  • Paul Dietz

    I’m concerned that the VSE’s goals are so poorly defined, it won’t even fail.

  • Well, Paul, the Shuttle did in fact repair the Space Telescope, and it may do so again. Until the Bush Administration, almost two-thirds of NASA’s budget was spent on automated spacecraft, and even now I believe it’s well over half. As it is, space scientists get far more money than any comparable science.

    The idea that eliminating human spaceflight would give astronomers more money is a political absurdity. Closer to reality is that they are riding the coat-tails of the human space program; eliminate the former and much of their funding would disappear with it. Frankly, I don’t think space scientists have a whole lot to complain about.

    Bob, I don’t disagree with you, especially with the current plans for new launch vehicles. I was arguing what could be done, not necessarily what will be. The failings of the Shuttle program and NASA’s management do not automatically mean that building several 4.5 billion dollar telescopes is cheaper than building one repairable telescope combined with a human transportation system a bit more “low-end” than the Shuttle.

    What’s wrong with using, say, a Soyuz and the European space tug?

    – Donald

  • Paul Dietz

    Well, Paul, the Shuttle did in fact repair the Space Telescope, and it may do so again.

    That’s nice, if one has to have the shuttle. But it by itself did not justify building the shuttle, and cannot justify continuing to operate the shuttle.

    The idea that eliminating human spaceflight would give astronomers more money is a political absurdity.

    But that’s not what I said, or even suggested. I’ve previously said even space science should be competing head-to-head with science down here on Earth; I suspect it would not do terribly well if the competition for funds were on an even playing field.

    he failings of the Shuttle program and NASA’s management do not automatically mean that building several 4.5 billion dollar telescopes…

    Where did that figure come from? Also realize that much of the cost of building a space telescope is in the engineering; the second, third, etc. units will be considerably cheaper than the first.

  • I agree that while space science is useful, space scientists don’t have much to complain about. It is one of the best-funded areas of science. It does, to some extent, ride on the coattails of the human spaceflight program at NASA. However, NASA does more than just space science and human spaceflight, so it is wrong to reason that if less than half of NASA’s budget is human spaceflight, more than half is therefore space science. In particular, the unmanned satellites pointed back towards Earth do both earth science and commercial geography.

    The real issue not a financial tug-of-war between space science and human spaceflight. Rather the issue is the effect of human spaceflight on all American science, not just space science. Not just its funding, but, more insidiously, its protections from patronage and its reputation. Because claims that human spaceflight are separate from science are not politically realistic. NASA, Congress, the White House, and the public all conflate human spaceflight with science. They will continue to conflate human spaceflight with science. NASA worked very hard at other excuses for human spaceflight, but even Washington saw through them in the end, so science gets the short straw.

    The protests from Donald (and others) that human spaceflight is not about science are like the alcoholic who protests that his liquor is not about nutrition. It may be very bad nutrition, but it still passes for nutrition. Nor can the alcoholic even convince himself of his claim. He may tell his nutritionist a thousand times that his liquor is not nutrition, but, come dinner time, he drinks a lot of vodka and eats less food. So, to extend the analogy, every time the space station runs over budget, guess where the money comes from. To extend the analogy another way, the Mars Society is as adamant as anyone that spaceflight is not just about science. Nonetheless, when they play Mars on Devon Island, they fill time with science field rehearsals.

    Finally, as I said before, I am absolutely not saying that science is the only useful purpose of spaceflight. One way to tell that unmanned spaceflight is genuinely practical is that most of it isn’t lumped together with science.

  • Actually, if you ran the numbers, I suspect that most of NASA’s automated budget _is_ space science, broadly defined. The Earth-centric budget is relatively small, and almost none of it is in any sense commercial. Paul, the $4.5 figure is the latest guess at what the NGST will cost.

    I think my larger arguments are getting lost in the detail, so let me remind Greg and everyone else what they are.

    First, I agree that the Space Station should not have been justified as a scientific facility. By extension, neither should the Space Shuttle. Both are infrastructure. You wouldn’t say that a highway is a scientific instrument and try to justify at such, but that doesn’t mean that ground transportation is not essential to the scientific enterprise. It took many generations and a lot of money to get from horse-drawn carts to today’s superhighways. The Space Station — gold-plated and overly complex as it is — and the wider, global effort to develop human spaceflight — are laying the groundwork for science of the future. To put it another way, if you do not spend lots of time and mony trying to conduct complex operations and build things in space then you will not learn to do these things and you will never be able to send real scientific expeditions to (in the relatively near future) Earth’s moon and Mars. Or as Dfens pointed out, experience counts and experience is what the very limited human spaceflight we do today is giving us.

    While the Space Station should not have been marketed as a scientific facility, and certainly not only as one, it is not entirely NASA’s fault that it was. Scientists have been complicit in the development over the last half-century of this national myth that the only way to justify space projects is through science.

    Secondly, the idea that automated spacecraft could do more than the most superficial studies of Mars or any other planet is absurd. Even in strictly financial terms, it is absurd. We have just spent something on the order of a billion dollars and several years (including development) discovering that there was standing water on Mars and getting elemental measurements in a few isolated spots, work that a human expedition could do in an afternoon. We are proposing to spend circa five billion dollars (the last estimate I recall, although it is several years out-of-date) to return a handful of soil from Mars — very exciting no doubt but not very effective when measured in cost per likely scientific answer. Just how much meaningful science has been done on the Soviet lunar samples? They are simply too limited in both quantity and context to be useful, and much the same will be true of any automated Mars sample return.

    Third, dividing the space budget more-or-less in half to fund current scientific efforts and on the kinds of investments you need to make to be able to do real geology on the other planets in another couple of generations is not an unreasonable division of resources. If you skimp on the latter to spend all your money on the former, you spend lots of billions of dollars getting tiny bits of information, and never get to the point where geologists on site can do real science.

    The cold fact that no one wants to admit is that we have gone about as far as makes scientific or financial sense sending automated spacecraft to Mars. Let’s not forget the lesson of Viking where we attempted to automate science and failed to really answer our question. Rather than attempt to automate the kinds of creative, experimental science that cannot be automated, we should limit future automated missions to Mars to finding out the specific pieces of information you need to know for human crews to survive there — and save the science for scientists. We need good orbital resource maps, and probably a bit more detail about the soil chemistry, maybe a little more about atmospheric structure if you’re going to do aerobraking, but I think that’s about it.

    These opinions are not widely held. It is certainly possible to reasonably disagree with them. But I believe that they are reasonable positions based on the history of science and of spaceflight. These ideas are certainly as valid as the more widely held view that we should continue to spend trying to automate science and trying to justify multi-billion dollar missions that, at best, will address one or two tighly focused questions with no guarantee of useful answers.

    – Donald

  • David Davenport

    [ The Space Station -- gold-plated and overly complex as it is -- and the wider, global effort to develop human spaceflight -- are laying the groundwork for science of the future.]

    Do you have any proof for that assertion?

    [ To put it another way, if you do not spend lots of time and mony trying to conduct complex operations and build things in space then you will not learn to do these things ... ]

    I.e., the ISS exists in order to learn how to build ISS’s. Nice and circular, that argument.

    [... and you will never be able to send real scientific expeditions to (in the relatively near future) Earth's moon and Mars. ]

    Several human expeditions have made it to the Moon and back with stopping at a space station.

    [ Secondly, the idea that automated spacecraft could do more than the most superficial studies of Mars or any other planet is absurd.]

    Why is this idea absurd?

    [ Even in strictly financial terms, it is absurd. We have just spent something on the order of a billion dollars and several years (including development) discovering that there was standing water on Mars and getting elemental measurements in a few isolated spots, ... ]

    Yes, and how much is it going to cost to send humans to Mars and back?

    [... work that a human expedition could do in an afternoon. ]

    One afternoon? Really?

    [ Let's not forget the lesson of Viking where we attempted to automate science and failed to really answer our question.]

    Did Vkiking fail because this early unmanned probe failed to answer all questions about Mars? I think not.

    [ Rather than attempt to automate the kinds of creative, experimental science that cannot be automated, ...]

    You do not know what can or canot be automated.

    [... we should limit future automated missions to Mars to finding out the specific pieces of information you need to know for human crews to survive there -- and save the science for scientists. ]

    That statement is wrong, absurdly wrong.

    – David Davenport

  • Well, David, you’re entitled to your opinion, as I’m entitled to mine. A few responses:

    “the ISS exists in order to learn how to build ISS’s. Nice and circular, that argument.” Not quite. The ISS exists _partially_ (but also probably most significantly) to learn how to build other large structures and conduct complex operations in space. Yes, we sent three-day-long expeditions to Earth’s moon without using the Space Station, but we flew a lot of Gemini flights at fairly great cost specifically to learn how to do docking and relatively long-duration flight, things that were needed to get to the moon. We can probably do “Luis and Clark” class missions on Earth’s moon without knowing how to do complex assembly and logistical operations in Earth orbit if we want to develop a sufficiently large launch vehicle (though I have argued before that spending our money on launch vehicles is one of the best way to guaratee we never get there). However, “Luis and Clark” class expeditions to Mars or an Earth-approaching asteroid, let alone the industrial operations that many still want to try in space, are very unlikely without these skills.

    The Space Station was probably a decade or two before its time, doing it with the Shuttle proved far too expensive (in retrospect), and we probably should have built something a lot more like Mir, but none of that means that what we did was a useless exercise or that what we’re learning will not prove of value.

    “the idea that automated spacecraft could do more than the most superficial studies of Mars or any other planet is absurd.] Why is this idea absurd?” And, “Yes, and how much is it going to cost to send humans to Mars and back?”

    I think somewhere between $50 billion and $500 billion (depending on who is doing it, the kind of expedition, and how much safety you’re willing to pay for) are reasonable guesses for the first expedition, and less thereafter. But, in the same way that the Apollo expeiditions easily achieved more than five-hundred times the science that the comparable automated Soviet effort of the same era, I think it very likely that you would get far more science for your dollar. (Or, five thousand times the science for that matter; remember that the only hard dates for the relative cratering records used throughout the Solar System to this date come from Apollo; all those automated missions would be a lot less useful if Apollo, with its vast collection of well-sorted and in-context samples hadn’t happened.) Certainly, it would be better science.

    I think it fair to argue that Viking did fail. Viking was designed to ask a specific scientific question, and we do not know the answer to that question to date. Viking is the best example of the kind of science that cannot be automated and that we shouldn’t try. The rovers on the other hand are a harder choice. They are “reconnaissance” plus a little science, and they largely fall under my example of things that can, and to some degree should be, automated.

    But, if you are going to send billion dollar missions to go survey ten miles over a multi-year period, you quickly reach the point of diminishing returns. If we are ever going to send people to Mars, yes, I do not believe there is much value in sending a whole lot more rovers. Rather than spend a fifth of the cost of a bare-bones human mission sending ten (or twenty or thirty) more rovers, it makes much more financial sense to prepare for and send the human mission and survey many tens or hundreds or thousands of kilometers. (Remember that Apollo has already demonstrated tens of kilometers in three days, gathering tons of samples in detailed context. We should be able to at least duplicate that, and hopefully do a lot better.)

    I grant that you can make a case either way, here, but I do think my case is a valid one and it should be taken more seriously than it is.

    – Donald

  • Oh yes, let’s not forget that, in today’s dollars, Viking did not cost $1, but probably something on the order of $15 billion . . . while failing to answer it’s singular question. Now, put that in context of a $50 – 500 billion human mission that would be far more likely to cough up an answer. It is not unambiguously clear that doing the former again would be scientifically or financially more effective than doing the latter, especially if, over the decades, the latter eventually resulting in Antarctica-class facilities and possible attempts at colonization.

    Keep in mind that I am _not_ arguing against automated spaceflight. I am arguing that it should remain in context with its likely returns compared with human expeditions, that we keep them cheap, and that we do that by focusing on areas that are easy to automate — basic reconnaisance — and leave the science to the scientists.

    – Donald

  • Cecil Trotter

    Good points Donald, very good points.