Congress

Time to declare an emergency for NASA?

This week’s print edition of Space News reported that Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), speaking at a Maryland Space Business Roundtable luncheon last week, suggested that the solution to NASA’s budget woes might be for Congress to approve $2 billion in “emergency” supplemental funding . Such a move, which Mikulski said she planned to discuss with the President at a White House meeting this week, would get around existing spending limits. The increase would also fund NASA above the level authorized in last year’s authorization bill, but because of the “emergency” nature of the funding, those limits also would not apply.

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, speaking at CSIS earlier this week, said she favored some kind of addition to the NASA budget. “I think that increasing even one-tenth of one percent would add to the research capabilities” of NASA, she said. (It was later explained that this 0.1% increase was not relative to NASA’s overall budget, which would be a pittance, but rather 0.1% of the entire federal budget, or over $2 billion.) She added that “there might come a time when we are not in a war on terror, in the next few years” which might free up money for NASA and other efforts—although in that case many might want to reduce spending to close the budget deficit.

Advocates of such a measure notes that NASA has absorbed the cost of recovering from the Columbia accident largely within its existing budget, while NASA received additional money after the Challenger accident. “So we’ve had to forage [out of] NASA’s regular programs to do what Challenger got as an emergency chunk of bucks,” Mikulski said last week. The difference then is that much of that “emergency chunk of bucks” was used to pay for a replacement orbiter, Endeavour, while no new orbiter is being built to replace Columbia. However, back then NASA wasn’t trying to develop new launch vehicles and manned spacecraft in preparation for a return to the Moon.

53 comments to Time to declare an emergency for NASA?

  • Wow, in America, we REWARD failure.

    I just love this country.

  • changehappens

    Rewarding failure? How about America acknowledging that humans in space is hard to do and expensive when its done. Lets ask all the other players with a manned program how they do it for cheap. Lets ask the Russians, the Chinese, the Indians, the Germans, the French, the Italians, the English, the Japanese, the Canadians. Oh. wait. Only two other countries have managed it since 1960.
    The only failure I see occurring is political. Asking NASA to do Shuttle recovery, ISS construction, designing and building the ESAS hardware within a very inadequate budget. Kind of like the failure back in the 1970′s when the Shuttle was built for cheap.

  • Oh bullshit, George W. Bush demands that NASA do these things, Sean O’Keeke claims it can be done, and know we find out it can’t be done as claimed.

    The American people, as usual for this administration, have nothing to say about it.

    They pranged a shuttle, remember? We went to the moon in 1969, remember? Or weren’t you even born yet? If space is so hard to do, then why are we blowing 100 billion on a trip back to the moon?

    They claimed they could do it all, without affecting space science. They can’t. They lied.

    So what else is new?

  • changehappens

    Bush lied, O’Keefe lied, Griffin lied, who else on your conspiracy list? Grow up. Getting into space ain’t easy nor cheap. If it bugs you so much, why not find something else to focus your energies?

  • They lied about the shuttle 25 years ago, and now you are complaining about it 25 years later. They lied about VSE and ESAS just yesterday, and I am complaining about it today, before they continue to waste more money on it. I happen to think that is a more effective use of my energies than your apologizing for administrative incompetence.

  • As might be expected, I agree with changehappens. Spaceflight is hard. It costs money. If we’re going to do it, we need to pay the bills.

    (Which is not intended to let Mr. Bush, et al, off the hook. Their disastrous management of the Federal budget is a major part of what made money so hard to come by. This is especially unfortunate at one of those rare moments when there does seem to be a national consensus in support of human deep spaceflight. . . .)

    – Donald

  • Spaceflight is hard. It costs money. If we’re going to do it, we need to pay the bills.

    Recreating an event that occurred 35 years ago with technology that was developed 35 years ago is not a bill that I feel like paying.

    But what the hell, we are recreating the Vietnam war and the civil rights movement, we need to go the distance for the good old days.

  • However, back then NASA wasn’t trying to develop new launch vehicles and manned spacecraft in preparation for a return to the Moon.

    What is it about ‘Return to the Moon’ that you are having troubles with, the spelling of ‘Return to the Moon’, the pronounciation of ‘Return to the Moon’, or the meaning of ‘Return to the Moon’. VSE and ESAS have never been about Mars, ever. You were sold a bill of goods, by liars.

  • If we’re going to do it, we need to pay the bills.”

    Ahh, and therein lies the real question that no one is willing to ask:

    WHY do we need to do it?

    ISS was sold on a bill of goods by Goldin to Congress, based on a fundamental falsehood that was later proven out (the commercial demand for ISS and the 30% of costs that industry would cover). And yet, we persist in building and wasting money on an underresourced, underpowered, undermanned, essentially worthless piece of hardware in LEO. Which becomes the rationale for why we must keep flying shuttle, and then develop a command- module on steroids to get more astronauts to our overpriced tourist destination. (all 4 of them).

    So WHY do we need to do it? And please spare me the grandiose rhetoric of exploration, man’s need for discovery, blah blah.

    In the old days, a frontier did have that sense of romance and value for society. In our world, though, you’d be hard pressed to find an average citizen who knows virtually anything about our current space program, or gives a rats’ ass.

  • Oh they’ll give a rat’s ass once you price it properly. Our current way of doing things is like trying to sell a $100,000 sports car to a 5 year old kid who can only afford to drive a Big Wheel. He’ll oooo and aaah over the sports car but he’ll still only buy the Big Wheel.

  • I think the real emergency within NASA is occuring within its science base – these are the most capable people at NASA and constitute its true wealth, but they are about to be decimated. If this goverment is serious about its science base and industrial competitiveness, then this is where the emergency $2Bn will go.

  • Oh they’ll give a rat’s ass once you price it properly. Our current way of doing things is like trying to sell a $100,000 sports car to a 5 year old kid who can only afford to drive a Big Wheel.

    Umm… a big wheel is made of plastic – a sports car is an actual complicated piece of engineering. Which is why you can buy the former at Toys R Us and the latter at the Porsche dealership.

    What, praytell, is the “big wheel” in the space business that we all are going to buy? I mean, one that exists, that is.

    Otherwise, you’re simply talking about selling a Porsche at the price of a big wheel – which is fine for the buyers but will only result in the manufacturer going out of business (unless you are a subscriber to the “lose money on each sale but make it up on volume” school of flawed economic reasoning).

  • It depends on the market segment you’re going to go after. Some have evidence that high net worth individuals are willing to pay for a suborbital trip into space if you get the price around a couple hundred thousand or lower.

    Others (like Masten Space Systems who I work for) have evidence that there is a market for small suborbital science payloads. For $129 we can send a soda can sized payload into space and back. There are hundreds of thousands of customers out there that can afford that and have a desire to fly.

    The other methods are to figure out a way to spread the cost over extremely large numbers of customers with repeat business. That’s what you’re doing with AstroVision. Its what David Gump was trying to do with small, cheap lunar rovers and pay-per-play teleoperation. There are other techniques such as Sam Dinkin’s SpaceShot for replacing cost with game playing skill by aggregating players to buy a more expensive product.

    So if you can’t sell a sports car to someone with a Big Wheel budget, figure out other business models that get around that issue.

  • For $129 we can send a soda can sized payload into space and back. There are hundreds of thousands of customers out there that can afford that and have a desire to fly.

    If i write you a check for $129 + tax this week, can i send up a payload next week? I’m happy to pay cash or use Visa (frequent flyer miles ;-) if a check is a problem.

  • Kirby Runyon

    I’m appalled at what many of you are saying. I, for one, am excited at America’s prospects of going back to the Moon (as I was only born in 1985), and if Mikulski and Huthchison can cough up $2 billion more for NASA, I’ll be thrilled. It would be an end (at least for this year) of the science cutback woes and it would lessen the fears of not fielding the CEV in a timely fashion. I honestly can’t see why many of you cynics even read this blog.

  • If i write you a check for $129 + tax this week, can i send up a payload next week? I’m happy to pay cash or use Visa (frequent flyer miles ;-) if a check is a problem.

    We take Paypal which means we take Visa, MC and a check. You can also send it to us directly. See the website for details. Unfortunately we can not launch next week. Although, from what I can gather from astrovisionaustralia.com, our projected launch date looks identical to yours….

    So if I send you a check today can I buy an image from your satellite for next week as well?
    ;-)

  • I honestly can’t see why many of you cynics even read this blog.

    Because we were around in 1973, and in 1963, too. It’s old stuff. The only thing good that will come out of all of this is a possible big ass launcher. If it’s a big ass launcher that can deliver large spaceships and residual fuel to equatorial orbit 12 times a year, then I can live with that for a while.

    Screw the moon, man, we want to go to Phobos. We’re in to for the long run.

    One word : propulsion.

  • Kirby,

    Back in 1994 I used to read the sci.space newsgroups and wondered to myself whether I could possibly become as cynical as the engineers on there about NASA and space exploration.

    Having studied and become involved in space exploration since then, I can honestly say that this cynicism exists because there is a vast misdirection of funds being enacted in the name of space exploration. Without it, we would have a functioning space station, and we might already have been back to the Moon a decade ago.

    Please understand that most of the money you think is furthering space exploration is actually furthering the quality of life in less technical constituencies elsewhere. Last week’s theft of the RLEP program from California to Alabama is a case in point, and perhaps one of the most blatant examples of this in recent memory.

    Rarely is there a clearer case of the most proficient team having their project given to the least. And rarely is NASA HQ forced to lie so obviously in their directives (see NASAWatch for details). Don’t take my word for it, I encourage you to figure out how it really works for yourself.

    This situation exists because we (the taxpayers) allow it to. One solution is to tell everyone about it, the other is to work with it and try to make something out of the crumbs. For the most part I think the perpetrators realize they must not kill the goose that lays the Golden Egg (VSE). Last week I think they either miscalculated, or concluded that VSE’s days were numbered anyway.

    Either way, NASA’s science base is in peril and I think in the present environment it is possible to force a good fraction of that $2Bn into doing some good and supporting NASA’s scientists. These scientists are about to be decimated, and either they will find a voice or not.

  • See the website for details. Unfortunately we can not launch next week. Although, from what I can gather from astrovisionaustralia.com, our projected launch date looks identical to yours….

    So if I send you a check today can I buy an image from your satellite for next week as well?

    No, but then we aren’t taking money from people today for pictures yet. We *are* pre-selling future content to corporate partners and government, on a “pay us when we deliver” basis.
    :-)

  • I see. Ours is only slightly different. In our sales contract if we don’t deliver your launch by June 2008 you get a 100% refund. Until then the money is escrowed.

    We’re using pre-sales to limit customers to US citizens only in order to stay out of ITAR trouble. If you pay now you get access to the payload manual development process and you get to have input on payload interface development.

    -MM

  • Edward Wright

    >Lets ask all the other players with a manned program how they do it for cheap.

    No need to ask. Burt Rutan has been quite vocal in telling people how it was done.

    > Lets ask the Russians, the Chinese, the Indians, the Germans, the French, the Italians, the English, the Japanese,
    > the Canadians.

    Why not ask the Americans? Don’t we count?

    > Oh. wait. Only two other countries have managed it since 1960.

    Since 2004, private enterprise has done it. Spaceflight does not require an entire country.

    You don’t have to work for NASA to be an American, you know..

    > Kind of like the failure back in the 1970′s when the Shuttle was built for cheap.

    Shuttle was not built on the cheap. Shuttle was built on the very, very expensive.

  • Edward Wright

    > As might be expected, I agree with changehappens. Spaceflight is hard. It costs money.
    > If we’re going to do it, we need to pay the bills.

    Yes, Donald, it is hard, and it costs money — but it doesn’t have to be as hard or cost as much money as you guys think. DC-X proved that, Clementine proved that, and most recently, SpaceShip One proved that,

    Spaceflight doesn’t have to be prohibitively expensive, if the goal is to get humans into space rather than creating makework jobs to buy votes. Change really *does* happen. The fact that you’d rather keeping building ELVs and space capsules for the next 40 years speaks volumes.

    > (Which is not intended to let Mr. Bush, et al, off the hook.

    Of coure not. Bush is Satan, even when he gives you exactly what you wanted. :-)

    That’s the irony of the Bush administration. To buy votes, they shut out their free-market, fiacally conservative supporters and gave liberal Dems huge budget increases in every social program (including NASA), but liberal Dems won’t vote for a Republican even when he agrees to fund their entire agenda. :-)

  • changehappens

    Ed Wright, I think Rutan and Allen are pathfinders for private space flight. But their suborbital flight no way compares to space flight lasting more than 90 minutes. I hope they and Virgin Atlantic and many others figure out how to go orbital for a fraction of current day costs.

    Its a pity that NASA didn’t give Rutan some funding to come up with his own ESAS report. But I give Griffin some credit, he has asked Rutan affiliated t/Space, Andrews and others to come up with their own ideas for getting to the ISS. Maybe they can embarrass Boeing, Lockmart and NASA with a very affordable, safe and robust launcher. I hope they do.

    Right now though, the CEV is only NASA project that is in production right now, with real hardware on order that will push the boundaries and get Americans out of Earth orbit. In a few years we’ll see what the others have to say.

  • real hardware on order that will push the boundaries and get Americans out of Earth orbit.

    And into orbit around the moon, which happens to orbit the earth, which happens to orbit the sun, which we happened to already have accomplished back in the 60′s, with remarkably similar hardware.

    America’s going retro! Hey, we need a good war too!

    http://cosmic.lifeform.org

  • So, in essence, not only does America reward failure, we relive it, over and over again, in the future!

  • Edward Wright

    > I think Rutan and Allen are pathfinders for private space flight. But their suborbital flight no way
    >compares to space flight lasting more than 90 minutes.

    Just as the first airplanes were not comparable to the 747, and the first microcomputers were not comparable to existing mainframes. Technological progress always begins at the low end.

    Where do you think aviation would be if the government had decided the first biplanes were a waste of time and and instead of passing the Air Mail Act, it spent the equivalent of a small war building a giant expendable airship? An airship that served no useful purpose, except to carry small groups of NACA aeronauts on trips to Tokyo, Honh Kong, and Beyond?

    > the CEV is only NASA project that is in production right now,

    You’re confused. CEV isn’t in production or even close. The only thing currently on order is powerpoint presentations.

    > with real hardware on order that will push the boundaries and get Americans out of Earth orbit. In
    > a few years we’ll see what the others have to say.

    All Americans? Or only a token few? How many Americans do you think ESAS will “get out of Earth orbit”? Millions? Thousands? Hundreds?

    Dozens?

    According to NASA planning charts, ESAS will get only 12 astronauts a year into space. Scarcely more than Apollo and far fewer than the Shuttle. What is the point of spending more money to send fewer people into space?

    Even if you think the Moon is a cooler destination than Earth orbit, what is the point of spending $17 billion just so a few government employees can get cool trips, while no one else gets to go?

    Why should US space policy focus solely on getting a few Americans out of Earth orbit and ignore all those who would like to just get into orbit? Or even suborbit? The satellite operators who would like to be able to refuel and repair their birds? The scientists who would like to go into space to do experiments? The millions of private citizens who would like to go just for the view? The US Air Force, which would like to be able to quickly put a PGM on target anywhere on Earth? The USMC, which would like to able to deliver an assault team anywhere on Earth within 45 minutes? Aren’t they Americans, too? Shouldn’t US space policy consider their needs and wishes?

  • Satellite operators are in commercial business and should not get subsidies. Space tourist should not be subsidized either. The military gets far too much money in my opinion.

    But I do agree with you about the scientists. I think it is very important to send real research scientists straight out of the lab to the Moon to do noble prize class research. The current proposals for 4 people at a time on the moon practically guarantee that won’t happen.

  • Kirby Runyon

    >Even if you think the Moon is a cooler destination than Earth orbit, what is the point of spending $17 billion just so a few government employees can get cool trips, while no one else gets to go?

    Edward,
    This is the same fallacious argument Burt Rutan uses against NASA. NASA is NOT a travel agent. We would send astronauts to the Moon to do better science than robotic probes could do. I recently read somewhere that “[Space] exploration without science is just tourism.” Let Space Adventures and Virgin Galactic send people to the Moon (sub-orbit, LEO, whatever)purely on pleasure.

    Additionally, wouldn’t anyone agree that if human spaceflight is to stall out that the Moon is a better place to get stuck than boring old LEO??

  • Shubber Ali: First, it is my understanding that the Space Station was proposed by Mr. Reagan. It is my belief that all Administrations since have had a hand in creating its final form.

    Second, as I have argued before, we need the Space Station for essentially two reasons (neither of which necessarily justify the cost and mismanagement resulting in this particular design): First, as the only large market for new commercial launch vehicles (e.g., COTS); second, simply by building it, we have gained a great deal of positive experience on how to do construction in space, skills we will need in the future. Until you have actually done it, building something in space is just talk — but now we’ve done it. Nobody is likely to argue that the Space Station was designed and paid for as efficiently as it could have been. But now it is up there. It’s far cheaper to maintain than it would be right now to build something new from scratch (hopefully, that won’t be true even a few years from now, but it is today). To throw it away now when it can continue to be a marketable destination and a place to gain real practical experience about the kinds of things we want to do in the future would be a far more irresponsible waste of the taxpayer’s money than was the project’s sorry past. (All that said, we should be retiring the Shuttle today and either using the Station as is or launching what we can on other vehicles. Here and now, we are spending far more on the Station than we need to in order to sustain it.)

    Kevin: If we spend the emergency $2 billion the way you advocate, we may know a bit more about the Solar System and we’ll fly a couple more clockwork spacecraft, but it will contribute very close to nothing toward a real future in space. To get the latter, you need trade and commerce, in addition to science, and to get trade and commerce you need a place to trade with. You need early bases, like the Space Station and a lunar base.

    Karen: The current proposals for 4 people at a time on the moon practically guarantee that won’t happen.

    So, just what is wrong with one pilot and three scientists? Or even a pilot, co-pilot and engineer, and two scientists. Much of the most productive exploration on Earth has been done with worse ratios than that.

    Kirby: wouldn’t anyone agree that if human spaceflight is to stall out that the Moon is a better place to get stuck than boring old LEO??

    Very well put. Thank you.

    – Donald

  • wouldn’t anyone agree that if human spaceflight is to stall out that the Moon is a better place to get stuck than boring old LEO?

    Right, weightlessness, with a great view of the planet Earth, and a relatively easy escape strategy, involving large powerful and reusable cryogenic booster stages, refabbed into condos, essentially trivializing all further future NEO spaceflight and inner solar system exploration.

    Very boring. So sad.

  • Donald -

    First, it is my understanding that the Space Station was proposed by Mr. Reagan. It is my belief that all Administrations since have had a hand in creating its final form.

    Yes, he did propose SS Freedom. However, if you look at what actually happened – the Congress was seriously about to cancel the at that point still unconstructed station in the early 1990s and Dan Goldin made a plea to keep it going, promising, amongst other things, that industry was lined up to use it and would cover 30% of the costs. Which costs (operating, capital, etc) were never really spelled out, which is a good thing, considering how much the costs blew out of control.

    Second, as I have argued before, we need the Space Station for essentially two reasons (neither of which necessarily justify the cost and mismanagement resulting in this particular design): First, as the only large market for new commercial launch vehicles (e.g., COTS);

    I see…. so we need to build station so we have a place to send big rockets to? It’s so simple, i never even would have considered it.

    Why do we have rockets? to send things to ISS.

    Why do we have ISS? so we need rockets.

    second, simply by building it, we have gained a great deal of positive experience on how to do construction in space, skills we will need in the future. Until you have actually done it, building something in space is just talk.

    Shh. Dont’ tell that to the Space Solar Power and Lunar Mining people. They’re convinced that it’s just a simple engineering problem.

    — but now we’ve done it.

    And the Soviets already had done it before.

    Nobody is likely to argue that the Space Station was designed and paid for as efficiently as it could have been. But now it is up there. It’s far cheaper to maintain than it would be right now to build something new from scratch.

    Can’t say i agree with that. ISS requires billions a year to maintain – and there are many in the alt.space sector who would tell you that they could put up a private station for much less than that.

    To throw it away now when it can continue to be a marketable destination

    for who? a few tourists every couple of years? THAT is a waste of the taxpayers’ money – subsidizing a hotel for a few rich people.

    and a place to gain real practical experience about the kinds of things we want to do in the future name three things that CAN be done on ISS as it stands right now (with the crew capabililtes as well as science labs that it currently has) that fit this “practical experience” definition you have.

    (All that said, we should be retiring the Shuttle today and either using the Station as is or launching what we can on other vehicles. Here and now, we are spending far more on the Station than we need to in order to sustain it.)

    Amen.

  • HalfEmpty

    It’s time for KOOOOOOKs in Space! Riding the cool Silo Rocket into LEO our hero arrives at a quandry and dodges the bullet, a coincidence? BusHitler! Tune in next week, and find out if the Prosaic arrives in the SSTO, will a life begotten? Stay tuned!

  • Edward Wright

    > NASA is NOT a travel agent. We would send astronauts to the Moon
    > to do better science than robotic probes could do.

    If you “send astronauts to the Moon,” it sounds like you are a travel agent — or at least an airline. But I don’t see NASA sending any astronauts to the Moon. If you “would send” astronauts instead of robots, why don’t you?

    NASA-Goddard is spending $540 million to build one robotic probe. For around $100 million, you can buy a Soyuz and an upper stage and send astronauts around the Moon. For a few hundred million, you could add a Russian lunar lander to send astronauts to the lunar surface.

    As Burt Rutan said, “If NASA just wants to send capsules to the Moon, why don’t they do it next Thursday?” Why drag the schedule out for 12 years and increase the cost by $100 billion?

    > I recently read somewhere that “[Space] exploration without science
    > is just tourism.”

    Namecalling from Ed Weiler, a long-time member of the “unmanned space” lobby — definitely not someone who would send astronauts instead of robots.

    Do you think science is the only reason humans should explore?

    The dictionary says exploration is “travel for purposes of discovery.” It doesn’t limit the definition to scientific discovery. Do you think commercial, economic, military, artistic, historical, philosphical, religious, and personal discovery are unimportant?

    > Let Space Adventures and Virgin Galactic send people to the Moon (sub-orbit,
    > LEO, whatever) purely on pleasure.

    Yes, and for science — and a lot of other reasons that you leave out. Do you really think all travel can be divided into “science” or “pleasure”? (I wouldn’t try telling a group of Marines that they’re going on a pleasure cruise, if I were you. :-)

    Why should the US government operate an airline to send scientists to the Moon (sub-orbit,
    LEO, Las Vegas, whatever)? Operating an airline is not science, it’s operations. So, if you want NASA to be nothing but a science agency…

    On the other hand, NASA’s charter does not say it is solely a science agency. NASA is required by law to “seek and promote, to the fullest extent possible, the commercial use of outer space.” Unfortunately, NASA picks which parts of the charter it wants to obey and which to ignore.

    > Additionally, wouldn’t anyone agree that if human spaceflight is to stall out
    > that the Moon is a better place to get stuck than boring old LEO??

    Someone might. I wouldn’t. If human spaceflight is going to “stall out,” it’s best to do so immediately, without doing any further damage to the taxpayers.

    I don’t agree that spaceflight is going to stall out, however. I shudder to think where we would be today if aviation policy had been based on such gloomy, defeatist assumptions.

  • Shubber: I see…. so we need to build station so we have a place to send big rockets to? It’s so simple, i never even would have considered it.

    Exactly! How else do you propose to get into space? How do you think most frontiers got started? It is almost never cost effective or justifiable at first. It’s done because a bunch of ideologues, such as ourselves, want to do it enough to convince some larger group to pay for it; or for military reasons; or for the greater glory of some empire. Once you have an established destination, and someone willing to pay to get there (for whatever reason, justifiable or not), then and only then can you get trade and commerce and make it justifiable on a spreadsheet.

    And the Soviets already had done it before.

    Yes and no. The Soviets did not attempt construction in the sense that we are; they docked complete spacecraft together. As useful as the latter skill is, it will be extremely limiting in the future if that is all you can do.

    To throw it away now when it can continue to be a marketable destination. . . for who? a few tourists every couple of years?

    A market is a market. It doesn’t matter (to us) why someone wants to pay for the launch vehicles to get to a space station, only that someone does. Meanwhile, actually going to a destination will lower costs, hopefully dramatically, to make it relevant for thee and me.

    The three items:

    1. Building the Space Station
    2. Logistics: getting stuff to the space station, managing it there, and returning it.
    3. Survival: keeping people and equipment alive and working reasonably happy in microgravity; repairing equipment; medical maintenance; handling emergencies; etc, etc.

    I’m quite serious. If you are ever going to mine an asteroid, build a space colony, or travel to Mars, you need to do every one of these things. Before the Space Station, we didn’t know how to do a single one of them for any length of time. If you don’t start learning how to do them on the Space Station, where are you going to learn how to do them?

    – Donald

  • How else do you propose to get into space? How do you think most frontiers got started? It is almost never cost effective or justifiable at first. It’s done because a bunch of ideologues, such as ourselves, want to do it enough to convince some larger group to pay for it; or for military reasons; or for the greater glory of some empire.

    Oh, please – not the myth of the frontier again.

    Three words: air, water, soil.

    Much easier for joe blow and his mule to go set up a land claim when he doesn’t have to bring those three key items with him.

    Kool-aid. The only question i have for you is: which flavour do you prefer?

  • Silo Rocket into LEO

    Er … no … I believe the ‘prosaic’ solution I offered was a NASA funded and built ten (10) meter ET sent to equatorial low earth orbit using seven (7) post STS retirement SSMEs (SRB assisted if you are really paranoid, but the general idea is to demonstrate SSTO).

    I mean, what are they gonna do, send the SSMEs to the Smithsonian, or mothball them in argon, so that we can dig them up in 50 years, and build another retro launcher?

    Either you wanna go to space or you don’t. I’ve got a solution, but apparently you aren’t interested. What was it that Rutan said about the status quo again?

  • While I agree the space station is the only hope for a near term commercial space destination. A commercial destination subsided to the tune of billions of dollars a year is just a make work program. All commercial activity related to the station would stop as soon as funding did.

    While sending 2 scientist on every mission would be great but that leaves no room for mining engineers, doctors, congressmen or any one else. Long term we need to send more people at a time to the Moon. To date we have sent 11 pilots and 1 scientist who trained for years to become a co-pilot to the Moon.

    >Shh. Donít tell that to the Space Solar Power >and Lunar Mining people. They’re convinced that >it’s just a simple engineering problem.

    That is what my father says about solar system sized machines.

    >> I recently read somewhere that “[Space]
    >> exploration without science is just tourism.”

    >Name calling from Ed Weiler, a long-time member >of the “unmanned space” lobby — definitely not >someone who would send astronauts instead of >robots.

    Maybe real scientist would be less critical if some of them would actually get to go without giving up there research careers.

    >Do you think science is the only reason humans >should explore?

    >The dictionary says exploration is “travel for >purposes of discovery.” It doesn’t limit the >definition to scientific discovery. Do you >think commercial, economic, military, artistic, >historical, philosophical, religious, and >personal discovery are unimportant?

    Commercial and economic purposes need scientific data. Military is not NASA job. Artistic, philosophical, religious and personal discovery should be done on your own time. Historical, I am unaware of any need for historical research in space. We know what is up there, we put it there not to long ago.

  • “While I agree the space station is the only hope for a near term commercial space destination.”

    Really?

    “Bigelow Aerospace of North Las Vegas, Nevada is readying a test prototype of the firm’s expandable habitat design and looking to launch the hardware in the first quarter of 2006″

    http://www.space.com/businesstechnology/05097_bigelow_prep.html

  • Kevin: When Biglow has a destination or destinations in space, ones that requires as many supplies as the Space Station, my loyalty will change. Until then, it’s only promises and nobody is going to build a rocket to launch to a promise. The Space Station is here and now.

    Regarding the $2 billion subsidy. San Francisco started out as a military base entirely paid for by the (Spanish) government. Come visit and look at the city that is here today. The model can work.

    Shubber: Oh, please – not the myth of the frontier again. Three words: air, water, soil.

    On the moon (because it’s harder than Mars): Oxygen is readily available in the soil, and that is the heavier fraction of both air and water. Soil is easily manufactured from lunar regolith and added biological metarials. Worst case, the only things that need to be imported are hydrogen and trace minerals. If we are lucky, we won’t have to import the hydrogen.

    Arizona and parts of California cannot be colonized without imported water and fertilizer. Somehow we managed to do it, and eventually we even made it pay.

    – Donald

  • Kevin said
    >Bigelow Aerospace of North Las Vegas, Nevada is readying a test prototype of the firm’s expandable habitat design and looking to launch the hardware in the first quarter of 2006″

    Well the first quarter of 2006 is over. Where is it?

    once they have successfully launched it, are occupying it and are aceepting delivers from competing launch companies let me know.

  • Edward Wright

    > While sending 2 scientist on every mission would be great but that
    > leaves no room for mining engineers, doctors, congressmen or any one else.

    It leaves no room *if* we hobble ourselves with an antiquated Apollo architecture.

    It leaves plenty of room if we develop highly operable, low-cost spacecraft. Every mission does not have to be accomplished with a single flight. If there aren’t enough seats for all the scientists who want to go, just increase the flight rate.

    > Long term we need to send more people at a time to the Moon. To date
    > we have sent 11 pilots and 1 scientist who trained for years to become
    > a co-pilot to the Moon.

    And if we try to repeat Project Apollo, we may be able to send a similar number of humans, at an enormous cost. Will that allow NASA to send more humans “in the long term”?

    The people who ran the original Apollo program thought so. They were wrong. Even if they were right, as Lord Keynes said, “In the long run, we’re all dead.” Even if Apollo II led to a significant number of people on the Moon in 50 or 100 years, most of us would not live to see it.

    We don’t need to wait for the fabled “long run.” Large numbers of people can go to the Moon in *our* lifetimes, if we reduce the cost of access to space.

    > Maybe real scientist would be less critical if some of them would actually
    > get to go without giving up there research careers.

    They will get to go, when spaceflight becomes affordable. Assuming they want to go. If they do, then supporting Apollo on Steroids is counterproductive.

    >Commercial and economic purposes need scientific data.

    Yes, that’s why industry hires scientists and funds university research grants. We need to reduce the cost of access to space so industry can send many researchers in space (and to the Moon).

    > Military is not NASA job.

    I didn’t say it was. Congress has a duty to fund things besides NASA, Karen.

    You want to cut the military budget so NASA can build great big rockets that will make space travel even more expensive. Sorry, but I don’t want to sacrifice the security of the United States for the sake of bread and circuses.

    > Artistic, philosophical, religious and personal discovery should
    > be done on your own time.

    Should we get rid of all the professional artists, philosophers, priests, rabbis, etc.? I’m constantly amazed by the way you devalue any profession besides scientists, Karen.

    Space travel isn’t a zero-sum game. Excluding non-scientists doesn’t mean more scientists get to go. It means space travel remains so expensive that almost no one gets to go. The only way a significantly number of scientists will *ever* get to go is if we reduce the cost of space transportation for *everyone*.

    > Historical, I am unaware of any need for historical research in space.

    I know several historians who would disagree with you.

    Do you think government should only be concerned with your needs, Karen? You devalue the military, private enterprise, religion, history, art — 99% of all potential voters.

    If that wasn’t bad enough, I go to your lunar development blog and find sick comments about wanting to “shoot to kill” Mexicans for the “crime” of living in the United States. Comments that would apall nearly all the scientists you claim to represent.

    Do you think that’s the way to gain political support for your program?

  • Pete Lynn

    Unfortunately the government built ISS only serves to justify the development of very large and expensive government built launch vehicles like the Shuttle. If the objective is to help justify COTS type launch vehicles by a space station, (which I think is an almost necessary combined development approach), then the space station needs to be assembled from COTS sized payloads at COTS scale costs. The various new space low cost capsules in the works infer to me that such a station is far from an impossible task. Such a station could start out very small, but it could quickly grow to be very, very big Ė much larger than the ISS if so desired.

    A $100 billion dollar space station forces a launcher design to match. Assuming COTS, (as many do), ISS is not worth the maintenance or design compliance costs – it should be mothballed. Even ignoring sunk costs, ongoing ISS costs are far greater than those of a COTS style space station.

  • On the moon (because it’s harder than Mars): Oxygen is readily available in the soil, and that is the heavier fraction of both air and water. Soil is easily manufactured from lunar regolith and added biological metarials. Worst case, the only things that need to be imported are hydrogen and trace minerals. If we are lucky, we won’t have to import the hydrogen.

    Arizona and parts of California cannot be colonized without imported water and fertilizer. Somehow we managed to do it, and eventually we even made it pay.

    Funny – i thought plenty of things were growing in the land that is now known as California for thousands of years before humans showed up and colonised it. Who is this mythical “we” that fertilised and watered the land so that life sprung up on a barren, airless, waterless, dead bit of terra firma that was somehow attached to an otherwise living north america?

    As for extracting needed materials from the lunar regolith to live, thrive, and survive – i think you need to stop reading “farmer in the sky” and rejoin us in the year 2006.

  • Ed,

    The millitary gets quite enough money. Private enterprise should pay its own way if it is private enterprise. I do think that general research that aids commerce should be funded.

    Art and religon are not NASA’s Mission. Religon should not be funded by the government.

    Tell me what historical research is there to do in space? Besides geology.

    As for my post on immigration. I suggested that we defend against those illegally crossing our borders by allowing defenders to shoot to kill. It was very effective at slowing unauthorized border crossings in Berlin.

    Those allready in the country should simply be made to feel unwelcome as posible.

    I have given up on politics and politicans because they seem to have given up on the greatness of the US. We are the most powerful country in the history of the world, we CAN do anything any previous government has done. The question is SHOULD we. But I am sick of hearing we can’t get rid of the illegals and we have no right to defend our borders.

    If we let too many uneducated people from backward countries in, soon the US will just be another backward country and we will never get into space.

  • Shubber, if you cannot be bothered to offer up a constructive reply with some thought behind it, I see no reason to respond.

    Karen, rule of thumb: historically, societies that are open to outside ideas and influences and with large “alien” populations do well; those that close their borders do not. I see no reason to think that has changed today, and it is no less vital for us to get new ideas from outside sources. Also, if you throw out all the illegal aliens, who do you think is going to work in the fields, sweep the streets, and clean your house? Most Americans (including, to be honest, this one) think they are too good for this kind of work. Yet, somebody has to do it.

    – Donald

  • I think we have quite a suffient alien population with those legally here to provide new ideas and diversity. As for working the field the US has only 1% employment in agriculture, much of it is mechanized more of it could be if labor wasn’t so cheap. The inner cities are full of under employeed people who could be bused out to work fields. Higher food prices wouldn’t hurt us fat americans any.

    Sweep the streets, In DC we do it by machine or members of the under class. And I clean my own house.

    If a job has to be done someone will pay someone enough so they are willing to do it.

    Do you know that a steam engine was used to open temple doors at during the roman empire. It never was put into wide spread use because of cheap slave labor.

    The renaisance was created by the labor shortages caused by the black plague. Cheap labor is very bad for technological development and advancement.

  • Shubber, if you cannot be bothered to offer up a constructive reply with some thought behind it, I see no reason to respond.

    When there’s something that shows thought worth responding to, then I will give it the response it is due.

    The punch is ready.

  • Edward Wright

    > The millitary gets quite enough money.

    That statement speaks volumes about your priorities.

    In the next few years, the USAF will retire half of its B-52 bombers, all of its F-117 stealth fighters, and all of its U-2 spy planes. Not because they aren’t needed — the US bomber is already at the smallest size it has been since the Great Depression — but to save money.

    The total annual savings from all of these sacrifices would pay for just one Saturn V or Shuttle-derived Heavy Lifter.

    The US military is being asked to sacrifice a huge part of its combat capability. Yet, you demand that NASA must not only return to the Moon, but must do so in the most costly manner possible?

    > Private enterprise should pay its own way if
    > it is private enterprise. I do think that general research that aids commerce should be funded.

    I agree. Private enterprise should pay its own way — and that includes Karen Shea Cramer. You have no more right to demand subsidies and handouts than anyone else.

    If Congress wants to stop funding civilian space programs, that’s fine with me — but as long as Congress continues to spend taxpayer dollars on civil space, they have an obligation to do something useful with those dollars.

    Building giant rockets that increase the cost of space transportation is not useful, and it will not aid commerce.

    Tax incentives, purchases of commercial launch services, and prizes for technical demonstrations would aid commerce.

    > As for my post on immigration. I suggested that we defend against those illegally crossing
    > our borders by allowing defenders to shoot to kill. It was very effective at slowing unauthorized
    > border crossings in Berlin.

    You think East Berlin is the model for good government???

    No one is attacking our borders, Karen. Murdering men, women, and children is not “defense.” And no, murdering people at the Berlin Wall was not effective. Not in the long run.

    By oppressing people, the Communists were merely sowing the seeds of their own destruction. We must not allow those same seeds to be sown on our continent.

    > If we let too many uneducated people from backward countries in, soon the US will just
    > be another backward country and we will never get into space.

    Uneducated? Within one generation, immigrant groups are often better educated than those born in America. Often with advanced degrees in science and technology.

  • Edward: You think East Berlin is the model for good government??? No one is attacking our borders, Karen. Murdering men, women, and children is not “defense.” And no, murdering people at the Berlin Wall was not effective. Not in the long run. By oppressing people, the Communists were merely sowing the seeds of their own destruction. We must not allow those same seeds to be sown on our continent.

    We may not agree on much, Edward, but from the absolute opposite side of the political spectrum, I think this is very, very well put. I agree with this without reservation.

    – Donald

  • May I point out in east Berlin they were keeping them in not out.

    I highly object to equating securing our borders to oppressing people. By international law we have the right to secure our borders. No one has the right to cross without permission. This is not opression.

    I also highly object to our border guards being pelted with stones and unable to defend themselves. I highly object to our millitary being deployed on the border without even the right to detain people. (The millitary should not be deployed on any defense mission without the right to act with force.) I also highly object to the free flow of illegal drugs and posibly terrorist across our borders.

    We have large groups of criminals waving foriegn flags while protesting in our streets. We are being invaded.

    The reason the millitary is broke because of the Iraq blunder, which we should have never gotten into and if Bush insisted, we should have invaded with overwhelming force. Now we are in a vietnam situation with no gracefull way out.

    Also the cold war is over we don’t need a massive fleet of bombers. We should start minding our own business and stop invading others.

  • Edward Wright

    > which we should have never gotten into and if Bush insisted, we should have invaded with overwhelming force.

    Karen, I don’t know where you get your news from, but we did invade with overwhelming force.

    As for “minding our own business,” you should ask someone what happened on September 11, 2001. You clearly have no idea what’s going on in the world and who’s behind it. No, it is not Mexican terrorists.

    Freedom is worth defending. That is why the US military exists. Racism is not.

    By the way, it’s funny you say you don’t want “uneducated” people in America, while your blog prases the so-called “Minutemen” and other “militia” groups. If there’s one high-school diploma in that entire sorry mob, I’d be shocked.

    Such ideas won’t win you many friends in the space movement, Karen, or in Congress. It’s funny that you say you don’t want uneducated people in America, but your blog praises the so-called “Minute Men” (sic) and other “militia” groups. If there’s one high school diploma in that whole sorry mob of military rejects, I’d be surprised. You certainly won’t find any “real scientists.”

  • The Management

    Discussion of immigration policy is off-topic for this blog. Please take their conversation on this issue offline. Thanks for keeping the discussion here focused on space policy.

  • As for “minding our own business,” you should ask someone what happened on September 11, 2001. You clearly have no idea what’s going on in the world and who’s behind it. No, it is not Mexican terrorists.

    Freedom is worth defending. That is why the US military exists. Racism is not.

    Ed, get your facts straight – Iraq was not behind 9/11. Bush went there because “he tried to kill my daddy”.

    The US is about freedom to MAKE MONEY. don’t kid yourself that it stands for anything else. You should look at 80 years of US foreign policy, including such notable examples as overthrowing democratically elected governments around the globe when they weren’t voting the way we liked and installing/propping up dictators, before you spout of jingoistic rhetoric.

    Now back to space discussion ;-)