NASA

The shrinking gap?

One of the leading rationales for increasing NASA’s budget, such as the proposed $1-billion increase the Senate approved earlier this month, has been to try and shorten the gap in US government human spaceflight access between the end of the shuttle program and the beginning of Orion flights. Earlier this year NASA administrator Mike Griffin said that the year-long continuing resolution that funded NASA in FY07 at FY06 levels created a six-month delay in Orion, pushing its introduction to service to as late as early 2015. Want to shorten the gap? Then increase funding for Ares 1 and Orion.

Or not. Florida Today reported Tuesday that NASA is planning on the first manned Orion flight in September 2013, with the ISS as the mission’s destination, although the first “operational” flight (however that’s defined) would still not be until 2015, after two more manned test flights. The article’s tone suggests that this is a change from previous plans, but that’s not entirely clear; also uncertain is the level of funding required to make this happen (such as whether this has factored in the extra billion dollars or if, as noted near the end of the article, it’s based on existing, relatively flat budget projections.)

54 comments to The shrinking gap?

  • Nothing has really changed. NASA’s program date for “full” operational capability is still March 2015. That’s the date that management says they have a 65% confidence level in achieving. Before then the Ares I and Orion test program will have flown three crews to checkout the system and also to deliver two LIDS adapters to the ISS. The internal date for the first test flight with crew is September 2013, it should have been at least six months earlier if the program had been fully funded, it may still be possible to make it earlier given sufficient funding. As time passes the cost of speeding up the program increases rapidly.

  • Charles in Houston

    So far, 2015 is a year that the new system should be “operational” though we hope that the optomistic way that Shuttle was declared operational will not be used for the Orion!

    And those internal milestones assume no new hurricanes, incidents, etc etc etc. NASA has a 65% chance of making them, as long as the rest of the world keeps ticking on like a Swiss clock. Of course there will be no other interruptions – there can’t be, right?

    And the Mikulski billion, if approved, would mostly go to science stuff from Goddard (it appears). It would not go very far towards accelerating Orion/Constellation development. We need many additional billion dollars, from our generous budget surplus no doubt, to speed up Orion.

    Sigh.

    Charles

  • anonymous.space

    The key to the Florida Today article the confirmation that some 5,000 pounds has to be cut from Orion’s mass before a December review to match Ares I performance. (See the second-to-last paragraph.) It remains to be seen whether such a large percentage of Orion’s total mass can be cut without making Orion unsafe and/or inoperable (or whether such a high percentage can be cut at all). Until that December review, any Ares I/Orion schedule really isn’t worth the paper that it’s printed on. The fact remains that the program is in a month-for-month slip right now until these design issues are resolved one way or the other. The rest of the Florida Today article would appear to be a reiteration of the earlier schedule (no new news) — a 2015 IOC for which there is only a 65 percent probability of success and which will likely change sometime after December.

    And then there’s the question of what happens to Constellation funding in the FY 2008 budget after the President vetoes NASA’s current appropriations bill. Even if Constellation gets fully funded, it appears that passage is going to come months late, leading to further delays.

    “We need many additional billion dollars, from our generous budget surplus no doubt, to speed up Orion.”

    Agreed.

    FWIW…

  • vanilla

    Using L2 rendezvous will cut a whole lot more than 5000 lbs out of Orion.

  • CynicalStudent

    heh, maybe they could use carbon-fiber seats.

  • Interesting, because on August 24th NASA published a document at an All-Hands meeting chaired by Constellation Program Manager Jeff Hanley, where it said they only had 65% confidence of achieving a March 2015 date for Ares-I/Orion’s first manned flight.

    You can download a copy of the full 79 page presentation and the three accompanying videos from the L2 “members section” of NASASpaceFlight.com if you wish.

    I would have assumed that a radical breakthrough which allows CxP to accelerate the Ares-I by this much would have been big news to those of us following the program as closely as we do. But no such miracle has yet to be revealed.

    Certainly from every CxP engineer I’ve spoken to, they all confirm March 2015 is still the target date each of their departments continues working towards on internal documentation.

    I guess all will be revealed whenever the next All Hands documentation hits NSF…

    Ross.

  • anonymous.space

    A tangentially relevant article…

    http://space.newscientist.com/article/dn12836-bigelow-aerospace-to-offer-760-million-for-new-spaceship.html

    If Bigelow’s $760 million LEO transport contract does materialize and they still shoot for ~2010 ready date, we could see something like a Falcon 9/Dragon or Atlas V/CTV flying years before Ares I/Orion. Even with NASA jobs at stake, it will be very difficult for the White House and Congress to maintain taxpayer funding for Ares I/Orion in the face of existing and less costly private sector alternatives, especially if the new White House has also deferred the human lunar return goal (per the Clinton campaign) and stopped funding Constellation lunar hardware (Ares V/EDS/LSAM). Other than ISS, one wonders what NASA’s human space flight program will have to do in such a scenario.

    FWIW…

  • Anonymous I would agree. Yet one more reason why NASA next launch system must have capabilities beyond what either the Ares-I or EELV’s can do today. Something more along the lines of Ares-II.

  • Amerigo

    Something more along the lines of Ares-II.

    An SSME on a stretched Ares/Orion upper stage comes to mind.

    With the COTS money that is a total of nearly a billion dollars on the table.

    A billion here and a billion there, and pretty soon you’re talking real money.

    I could easily throw another launch vehicle architecture into the mix with that.

  • Ray

    Rather than being afraid of the Bigelow transportation possibility, I think NASA should go all out to encourage it. In other words, they should call up Bigelow, if they haven’t already, and try to come up with a set of crew transportation requirements that they both share for Bigelow habitat and ISS crew transportation. If they can work out enough compatible requirements (they don’t have to be identical, since a crew transport supplier could have offer somewhat different versions) NASA could pitch in another round of COTS funding, this time for crew transportation. They could make their offer depend on Bigelow’s offer (ie they can make sure they don’t get left all alone). This would make it a lot more likely that the needs of both Bigelow and NASA are met.

    If a cheap, safe crew transportation service results from this (I’ll make no predictions one way or the other), NASA will look very good for having backed it. If the schedule is anything like what Bigelow wants, the ISS gap would also be partly or fully addressed (assuming NASA gets its fair share of the services). Again that’s a big plus for NASA. A NASA budget boost might look like a wise investment to the non-NASA district Congresspeople. As for the Shuttle workforce, this would be a great victory, since they would be free to concentrate on more ambitious missions, like heavy lift for the Moon or some similar big goal. The alternative is for the Shuttle workforce to stick with the Ares 1/Orion ISS mission, which as we know is stuck making all sorts of enemies within NASA interests (science, etc), which would always have the “threat” of commercial crew transportation developing, which expires when ISS is abandoned, and which has the unpleasant “gap” schedule pressure. I’d say that with the current situation, the Shuttle workforce is at its most vulnerable (let’s say when Presidential and/or NASA administrations change). On the other hand, if they could redirect their efforts to HLV for the lunar mission (in a way that’s flexible enough to probably be useful to whatever big plans are near and dear to the next President’s heart, be it big climate monitoring satellites, Mars, astronomy, or whatever) and get rid of the internal NASA funding battles, the ISS deadlines and expiration, the view that they’re competing with commercial interests, and other related issues, they could be in great shape for decades.

    Note that $760M is a lot of money, and the article compares that to the COTS $500M. However, they aren’t comparable. COTS is divided among 2 (or more – we will see what happens next) companies. On the other hand, Bigelow’s $760M sounds like it, or most of it, would likely be awarded upon delivery of crew transportation services, whereas COTS goes into developing the services. Of course the existing COTS contracts aren’t for crew transport, anyway.

    One other point. Notice that Bigelow is careful to offer a somewhat long-term business in its proposal. NASA would do well to offer a similar guarantee of long-term ISS crew transportation business if (I want to say when) it presents the COTS D option. I’d say the same for the current COTS cargo round. They just need to stipulate up-front what technical and business requirements must be met before the business is offered. They should leave room for more business if other launchers appear – but they should give some guaranteed business incentive to a company that goes to the years of trouble of meeting the COTS need.

  • D. Messier

    Who knows what to believe. I think the key gap is the one between now and the end of the Bush Administration (less than 15 months). A few months later, I imagine the new administration and Congress will have to figure out where the program actually is and what options exist for moving forward. In the meantime, I can’t see anyone really dealing with this effectively.

    This could change. There could be a second catastrophic accident during this administration that certainly force close scrutiny of the shuttle successor. Or the media and/or its self-appointed watchdog might actually investigate the story and reveal what’s going on.

    I doubt NASA is going to be very forthcoming. Griffin’s USA Today Op-Ed piece was very interesting. He said NASA was dedicated to openness – not withstanding the the bipartisan Congressional request for a criminal investigation of NASA’s GC for destruction of records. Or his own flip response to that potentially criminal action (“we’ve got plenty of CDs”). Or the agency’s order for contractors to purge all their records in the airline safety case. Or the administration’s efforts to silence government officials from speaking candidly global change (rewriting reports, editing testimony, etc. etc.)

    The other interesting aspect was Griffin’s not-so-subtle effort to blame the AP for asking for the data. Yes, he says, NASA’s response was poorly worded, he said, but it’s really all the media’s fault for asked for too much. A typical shoot the messenger first and hope they stop asking.

  • Amerigo

    Keith Cowing : If the powers that be reject Ares – they will reject any Shuttle-derived architecture.

    OK, I’ll file this SSME based COTS proposal in the circular file right now.

    Perhaps he meant they will reject any SRB based architecture.

    America : soundly asleep while great new ships approach its shores.

  • D. Messier

    The administration has show remarkable resilience in sticking with decisions no matter how badly things are going, tightly controlling information, and shooting messengers. (Or cutting off their access off entirely, as we saw with the recent FEMA “news conference”.) NASA seems to be on the same path with human spaceflight.

    It seems to be a somewhat effective strategy. It tends to render debate about their politicies academic – never a good thing in a democracy. Any alternative ideas get summarily dismissed and their proponents attacked for even debating them.

    I guess it works from an administration standpoint, and in terms of the media outlets preserving their access to information and sources. But it seems to backfire in terms of producing effective policies.

  • D. Messier, name *any* other space project, commercial or government, that has released as much detailed technical information about its strategy, plans, requirements, specifications, organization and technology as Ares I and Orion. The lack of debate on this subject is solely due to the media’s agenda of ignoring any success of policy and choosing only to report criticisms of the administration interspersed with celebrity promotions. Yes censorship by the media is a bad thing in a democracy.

  • Amerigo Vespucci

    name *any* other space project, commercial or government, that has released as much detailed technical information about its strategy, plans, requirements, specifications, organization and technology as Ares I and Orion.

    There is no way they can’t release the data, because this is an era where we all have multiple networked supercomputers siting around, instant access to all human knowledge, open source code on all aspects of physics and engineering, and a very accurate graphics oriented space simulator.

    They can’t possibly fool anyone, anymore. The data that they have withheld is precisely the data we need to catch them, but it’s far worse than that, the architecture itself is fundamentally flawed at the top level.

    The bottom line is, NASA can no longer compete in the real world.

    They’ve got the brawn, but they no longer have the brains.

    They’re brute force launch architecture will fail.

  • Amerigo Vespucci

    Ok, make that they are a brute force agency. It will fail. Spectacularly.

    It already has.

  • spector

    Multiple networked supercomputers and simulators don’t bend no metal.

  • Amerigo Vespucci

    Multiple networked supercomputers and simulators don’t bend no metal.

    True, but architects do occasional build their own homes in remote locations, and then proceed to entertain guests there. Where I come from, they taught TIG welding and tool and die making in the first grade.

    Sputnik did it.

    The truth of the matter is, the mission is the wrong mission, and the Stick has failed the right mission. We need a liquid solution, and remarkably, it already exists. You can read the proposal for yourself on November 22.

    The Stick is the new sputnik.

  • D. Messier

    I don’t know, Clclops. The key question is why the EELV option was rejected. So, you tell us: why was that done? Was it a complete explanation? Have their projections proven accurate?

  • I can’t speak for Clclops, but my understanding of the situation was that then NASA Administrator Sean O’Keefe was asked to leave NASA specifically because he promoted an EELV solution to replace STS and not an SDLV option. The “Shuttle Standing Army” has an awful lot of political support in its lobbying corner and Mike Griffin was brought in explicitly because his plans did retain an SDLV solution. You can even go read his Planetary Society paper done with Owen Garriott and it reads almost like a blueprint for the current architecture. He pushed an SDLV solution before he ever became Administrator – and that’s why he was brought in.

    Now, things *might* have changed in the intervening two-and-a-half years, but the political figures who levered O’Keefe out haven’t just gone away. I think it’s going to be a much harder sell for the EELV guys than they think.

    Ross.

  • anonymous.space

    “I can’t speak for Clclops, but my understanding of the situation was that then NASA Administrator Sean O’Keefe was asked to leave NASA specifically because he promoted an EELV solution to replace STS and not an SDLV option.”

    I’m not necessarily an O’Keefe defender, but O’Keefe wasn’t forced out. He left of his own volition to take the LSU chancellorship. It was a dream job (O’Keefe came from and wanted to return to academia), it was in his home state, and he had kids (three, IIRC) getting to the age where he needed to start thinking about going back to the private sector to afford their college educations. O’Keefe was way too connected in both the White House (former Cheney staffer, former deputy at OMB) and Congress (former Stevens staffer for approps) to be forced out. Moreover, no one at the White House who would have theoretically asked O’Keefe to leave was a Shuttle-derived advocate. If anything, staff at the NSC, OSTP, and OMB preferred better utilization of the existing EELV fleet, hence the heavy commercial tilt of the VSE.

    Just because Steidle under O’Keefe was going the multiple-launch EELV route and just because Griffin came to be a Shuttle-derived (sort of) advocate doesn’t mean that O’Keefe was asked to leave over these architecture choices. We’re drawing causal connections that don’t exist, especially in the absence of other evidence. O’Keefe left for reasons external to NASA, and the new Administrator just happened to prefer a different, Shuttle-derived (sort of) architecture.

    It’s possible that Griffin went the Shuttle-derived route as part of the price he paid for his confirmation with Senators Hutchison and Nelson. But I have no evidence for such, and it obviously had nothing to do with LSU picking O’Keefe to be their new chancellor.

    Of course, Griffin did clean house of any Shuttle-derived opponents (like Steidle) once he was installed. But again, that obviously had nothing to do with LSU picking O’Keefe to be their new chancellor.

    “I think it’s going to be a much harder sell for the EELV guys than they think.”

    For now, I’d argue that everything, except maybe a human lunar return and actual human lunar hardware, is going to be on the table.

    Between the lack of stiffness in the standalone SRB stack, the interstage vulnerability, and TVC twang issues, there’s a decent chance that Ares I simply can’t fly technically or will suffer crippling failures during testing. Then with the loss of redundant systems, radiation shielding, ground landings, or some combination thereof after the Orion ZBR, there’s a decent chance that the post-Griffin NASA leadership won’t want to fly Ares I/Orion, even if the combination can technically make it to orbit. And even if the new NASA leadership still wants to continue down the Ares I/Orion path, a new White House may balk at the long development timeline and high development and operational prices of those vehicles, especially given the availability of less time- and budget-consuming alternatives and especially if they’ve deferred a human lunar return goal (as the Clinton campaign has decided) and any synergy with Ares V.

    With such a likely null set in Constellation, I can’t imagine that any stone will go unturned in trying find a solution. A lot will depend on the goals that the new White House sets and on what happens between now and then. If the new White House retains the Bush II 2020 human lunar goal, then a rapidly deployed, Shuttle-derived heavy lifter like DIRECT will be attractive. But if the next White House drops the human lunar return goal, and EELVs still need more rides and/or Falcon 9 has flown, then we may see a shift away from the enormously expensive Shuttle infrastructure. I’ve seen legitimate arguments on nasaspaceflight.com that the politics surrounding the Shuttle workforce and military support for ATK’s solid rocket infrastructure demand a Shuttle-derived solution. But there’s arguably logic that’s just as legitimate for freeing up the Shuttle budget to pay for higher political priorities elsewhere in NASA (per the Clinton campaign) and the federal government and for military support for the EELV infrastructure.

    The bottom-line for me is that there’s still just too many variables and forces still at play to predict with even a modicum of accuracy what is going to replace Ares I/Orion. And of course, just like with Griffin, the personalities of the new leadership will play a big and even more unpredictable part in the equation. I probably wouldn’t place any bets until I knew who the players were going to be.

    Keep up the good work on DIRECT and nasaspaceflight.com. NASA is going to need options like DIRECT in the next 2-4 years. It’s too bad that options like DIRECT are not being formally reviewed in an independent study now to prepare for that day. It would be nice for NASA to do its homework for once instead of leaping to conclusions on the basis of limited and unreviewed 60-day studies about multi-ten billion investments in space transportation infrastructure that will determine the course of U.S. civil human space flight for decades to come.

    My 2 cents… FWIW.

  • Anonymous: Assuming that you (and, apparently, most people on this forum including myself) think the ESAS architecture unsupportable, would you care to speculate on why Dr. Griffin proposed it in the first place and why he has been so determined to stick to it. Likewise, why did the Administration go along, especially since they had made all the right decisions when they first proposed the VSE?

    military support for ATK’s solid rocket infrastructure demand a Shuttle-derived solution

    I thought the military wanted NASA to use the EELVs to increase their flight rate and that NASA had to negotiate an agreement to give up the Delta-II competition to the EELVs in order to go Shuttle-derived. Is this incorrect or an over-simplification?

    It’s possible that Griffin went the Shuttle-derived route as part of the price he paid for his confirmation with Senators Hutchison and Nelson.

    Since Dr. Griffin proposed something like the ESAS architecture before he was aware that he would become NASA Administrator, this strikes me as unlikely. The other way around seems more likely to me.

    – Donald

  • D. Messier

    For what this is worth, the “politics surrounding the shuttle work force” was apparently a key factor in Griffin’s decision. There also didn’t seem to be any real sound technical reasons not to go with some version of the Atlas, whose development was largely paid for already. At least that’s what I’ve heard from someone close enough to know.

    I think Donald is looking for rationality out of a government that has often seemed to not have much. Rationally, it shouldn’t have taken six years and a Democratic takeover of Congress to get rid of Rummy. He could easily have been fired after the first term. But, he wasn’t. I could cite other examples, but this is probably not the place to discuss them.

  • anonymous.space

    “would you care to speculate on why Dr. Griffin proposed it in the first place”

    Some folks point to missed vehicle configurations (e.g., like the Jupiter-series in DIRECT), bad data (e.g., EELV blackout zones), and questionable assumptions (e.g., value of heritage systems to LOC/LOM or costs of human-rating EELVs and shutting down the Shuttle infrastructure) in ESAS as evidence that Griffin “had” the answer when he came in as Administrator and ESAS was just a quick and dirty study designed to rubber stamp Griffin’s own conclusions. It’s certainly possible, but from my limited interactions with Griffin before he became Administrator and with the ESAS study lead before he led it, I think both individuals have too much integrity to sign up for a purposefully flawed study.

    For example, those in the know at ULA point out that ESAS never contacted them about EELV blackout zones and used erroneous NASA data instead, even when prior NASA work on STAS and OSP showed how EELV blackout zones could be safely and relatively easily closed. I guess that could have been part of a “conspiracy” (for lack of a better term) to produce the answer Griffin wanted, but I think it was more due to the limited time and bodies available with which ESAS could reach outside the agency to industry, get the necessary proprietary disclosures written up and signed, get the data from industry, and reconcile it with NASA’s.

    So my personal take is that ESAS was just a rushed study conducted by a limited number of people who collectively did not have the time or capabilities necessary to fully understand the advantage and disadvantages of the various architectures and vehicles, nevertheless ferret out all of the detailed technical problems that have emerged with Ares I/Orion in the years since. There’s only so many design characteristics that any team can detail in a couple months, and there’s just no way the ESAS team could have predicted some of Ares I’s structural and stability problems or the shortfall in Ares I performance vice Orion’s mass. It’s not surprising, at least to me, that a 60-day study that never conducted any requirements sensitivity analysis, that relied on a lot of assumptions about the capabilities of certain Shuttle-derived (sort of) hardware configurations that had never been built, and that was never independently checked is not standing the test of time.

    The right way to make design choices about these kinds of low-margin, highly-interlinked systems is iteratively over a considerably longer period of time (six months to two years) — ideally through competition and with independent checks — before committing to an architecture or configuration. That’s what the more successful aerospace development programs have done, including examples like Apollo, JSF, and some space science missions. Although I would critique O’Keefe and Steidle on other points, I would argue that they were at least taking the right engineering management approach to developing the next generation of U.S. civil human space flight systems by going this route.

    So if it wasn’t to rubberstamp his preferences and conclusions, why did Griffin sign up for a 60-day study? Because that’s what he was used to, especially in the realm of human space flight. Recall that Griffin ran the old exploration systems division (Code X at the old NASA HQ) that came out of SEI, itself the result of a 90-day study that was arguably more of a shopping list than a body of analysis and that contributed to SEI’s early demise. Also recall that Griffin served under the commission that redesigned the space station at the outset of the Clinton Administration, another rapid-fire study that saddled NASA with today’s ISS configuration, minus the Ruskie elements. (Although Griffin deserves credit for backing what was the best option to come out of that study, even if Clinton did not pick it.)

    In the end, I don’t think ESAS was the result of a “conspiracy” (for the lack of a better term) on Griffin’s part to produce a predetermined answer. I think it was just the approach to making big human space flight systems decisions that Griffin had the most experience with and knew the best, flawed as it was.

    “and why he has been so determined to stick to it.”

    I can only guess as to Griffin’s mindset and mental workings, so take the following with a large grain of salt.

    That said, I’d ascribe part of Griffin’s continued adherence to ESAS/Ares I/Orion to political naievete and/or weakness. At the outset of ESAS, Griffin clearly believed that identifying an architecture and vehicle configuration was critical to securing political support. He probably still believes that today. He’d probably make the argument to us that shifting gears to a different architecture or set of vehicles would collapse his political support.

    I’d argue that’s absolutely the wrong approach — that the White House and Congress care foremost about national goals and budgets (mainly the White House) and jobs (mainly Congress), not the arcane technical details of architectures and vehicle configurations. Much more political damage is going to be done to NASA’s human space flight programs when a new White House and the Congress inherit an Ares I/Orion program so troubled that national civil space goals, the NASA budget, and NASA jobs are put at serious risk. Much better to admit the shortcomings of the current architecture and vehicles and make the necessary changes so that the nation’s goals are still achievable within reasonable budgets and timeframes and a minimal number of NASA jobs are put at risk.

    Of course, like any human being, Griffin’s decisions are also partly a reflection of his personality. No one is perfect and no one likes to acknowledge that they are wrong, and that’s arguably especially true in Griffin’s case. Although I would hope that I or someone else would better suppress our egos and make the tough choices, we have not walked in the NASA Administrator’s shoes and might do just as badly or worse.

    “Likewise, why did the Administration go along, especially since they had made all the right decisions when they first proposed the VSE?”

    My understanding is that there was some limited resistance from White House staff to ESAS findings — that NSC, OSTP, and OMB staff largely preferred a solution that made better use of EELVs and put up a bit of a fight to releasing ESAS until some of the EELV assumptions could be revisited. Unfortunately, they got rolled — there’s only so much that a half-dozen professional White House staff can do in the face of an agency-backed study, especially when their political masters are reluctant to engage (or are actively endorsing in the case of OSTP Director Marburger) the new NASA Administrator.

    Since then, a new window for White House staff to re-engage NASA on these issues has not opened up. NASA is just too low a priority given everything else this White House is facing. But as I’ve mentioned before, White House staff should at least be forcing NASA to undertake an independent study in parallel with ongoing Constellation work, and probably setting aside the outyear budget for Constellation pending Ares I/Orion program performance and future decisions. OMB’s annual budget passback to NASA would be the place to do this, and it would be justified to do so given all the problems with the program.

    “I thought the military wanted NASA to use the EELVs to increase their flight rate”

    Yes, parts of the Pentagon would absolutely prefer that NASA make more use of EELVs, especially if the related human-rating changes were reasonable. But the Pentagon can’t dictate human-rating standards to NASA, and the kinds of human-rating changes assumed in ESAS were pretty extreme and would have represented a major disruption of the EELV program, leading the Pentagon to leave ESAS to its preferred solution.

    Some folks over at nasaspaceflight.com have also made the argument that other parts of the Pentagon would prefer to have NASA keep using SRBs and thereby subsidize ATK’s munitions business, thus dictating a Shuttle-derived solution. I tend to doubt that because the SRB work is only a fraction of ATK’s munitions business ($4-600 million vice $1.2-1.5 billion annually) and a low-margin/low-growth one at that. (And that says nothing of ATK’s mission systems business, which boosts ATK’s total annual revenue into the $3-5 billion range.) SRBs also have little in common at the detailed technical level with ATK’s smaller, solid rockets and missiles. Although Utah jobs would certainly be involved, I doubt ATK corporate would mind losing the low-margin/low-growth SRB business so they could refocus the best of that workforce and resources on their higher-margin/higher-growth munitions and mission systems businesses and divest the rest. And I would guess that the Pentagon would agree. But in a bureaucracy as big as the Pentagon, who knows — there may be another faction fighting for continued SRB use at NASA. But if there is such a faction, to my knowledge, it has not played into ESAS decisions. (I’d certainly be interested in any evidence that it has, though.)

    Moreover, it’s just very bad policy. The SRB “tail” should not be wagging the entire civil human space flight “dog”, even if the Pentagon has an interest in that “tail”. Even if ATK could require subsidies to let the SRB revenue go, such subsidies would be pennies in the Pentagon budget and likely a fraction of the subsidies going to EELV now (some small fraction representing the profit that ATK realizes from $4-600 million in annual SRB revenue versus the $500 million or so that the Pentagon provides in annual subsidies to EELV).

    “NASA had to negotiate an agreement to give up the Delta-II competition to the EELVs in order to go Shuttle-derived”

    I’m not aware of any connection between Delta II/EELV and ESAS. The Pentagon let NASA know that its was discontinuing Delta II use for GPS launches, NASA was unwilling to subsidize practically the entire Delta II production for its relatively smaller number of science missions, and the only alternative (until Falcon or some other domestic supplier comes along) is EELV. Again, I’d be interested in any evidence to the contrary, but the shift from Delta II to EELV was just a matter of a certain class of NASA science missions being left with no other launch alternatives, not back-room dealmaking.

    “Since Dr. Griffin proposed something like the ESAS architecture before he was aware that he would become NASA Administrator, this strikes me as unlikely. The other way around seems more likely to me.”

    If you read the Planetary Society report, the SRB option for crew launch is just one among many vehicle options described at a high level of detail in the report. The report also details EELV options for crew launch, for example, and there is no specific recommendation for one vehicle or set of vehicles over another. The report’s main thrust is that there are multiple ways for NASA to finish and supply ISS and move on to actual human space exploration, so NASA should get off the expensive and unsafe Shuttle ASAP. It’s a whole other thread, but for whatever reason, Griffin did not follow his report’s main recommendation and continued Shuttle operations through 2010 rather than shutting Shuttle down earlier and either curtailing ISS assembly or shifting to other vehicles. (Recall that the VSE only set a deadline, not a target, of 2010 for Shuttle’s shutdown.)

    Of course, although I wish he had been more aggressive with Shuttle’s shutdown date, I would give Griffin credit for being more realistic about Shuttle’s flight rate during its remaining years than O’Keefe and eliminating the ISS utilization flights from the manifest. At least NASA currently has a modest prayer of finishing ISS assembly before 2010. Had those utilization flights remained, there’d be no hope of such now.

    Hope this helps… FWIW.

  • anonymous.space

    “name *any* other space project, commercial or government, that has released as much detailed technical information about its strategy, plans, requirements, specifications, organization and technology as Ares I and Orion.”

    Actually, very little has been formally released to the press by NASA. After the first dust-up over Ares I/Orion performance/mass issues, Horowitz, for example, promised monthly press briefings/telecons, none of which ever materialized. Aside from fleeting quotes from managers, most of what has been “released” is actually non-ITAR leaks from program personnel and digging by a couple of the more investigatively oriented industry journalists.

    Moreover, debating which vehicle development program has more data out there ignores the very real problems on Ares I/Orion. Just because NASA has (or actually has not) released a lot of information about Ares I/Orion doesn’t mean that the program is not in real technical trouble. It’s not a matter of what’s “fair” with respect to government programs that live in fishbowls versus private programs that do not. It’s a matter of whether tens of billions of taxpayer dollars are being spent usefully and effectively or not.

    “The lack of debate on this subject is solely due to the media’s agenda of ignoring any success of policy”

    Maybe I lack imagination, but I don’t see how negative mass margins to ISS and/or the Moon; major reductions in systems that contribute to safety, redundancy, and operability; a more than doubling in the post-Shuttle civil human space flight gap; and the planned rollback of this Administration’s human lunar goals by what is arguably the current leading Presidential campaign could be portrayed by any modestly informed and objective aerospace media as policy “success”.

    “and choosing only to report criticisms of the administration interspersed with celebrity promotions.”

    Again, maybe I lack imagination, but I fail to see how we can connect aerospace industry reporting to world affairs or celebrity journalism. That’s a pretty far-fetched conspiracy.

    “Yes censorship by the media is a bad thing in a democracy.”

    Off-topic, but this is a misuse of the censorship term. The media does not censor the government. The media gets censored by the government.

    The government or a faction thereof may not like what the media is reporting about it. But the media does not tell the government what the government can or cannot say. And practically speaking, there are always other outlets.

    FWIW…

  • Thanks, Anonymous, for your usual thoughtful and even-handed reply, which I have read far more carefully than I do most posts. It did occur to me while reading that this may have a silver lining if the mess with Ares-1 (if that is in fact the ultimate outcome) forces whatever new Administration we get to make spaceflight a high priority and give serious thought to where we go from here. Of course, we may well not like the answer we get. . . .

    – Donald

  • D. Messier

    Any new administration is likely to be in a financial hole as a result of Bush’s policies. They may have little manueverng room when trying to boost non-defense discretionary spending like civilian spaceflight.

  • Thomas Matula

    And meanwhile, while America is grounded because of the Gap, China is moving forward with its manned lunar program, with both a new spaceport and new launch vehicles.

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21558074/

    China to build new space rockets
    Long March 5 will carry communication satellites, lunar probes

    [[[They will be launched from a new launch center based in the tropical island province of Hainan.

    Because of the weight of the rockets, they will be transported by sea, rather than the conventional route overland, the paper said. The new generation of rockets will not be launchable until 2013, the China Daily said.]]]

    But I am sure anonymous.space this is still not evidence of a manned lunar program…

  • al Fansome

    Dr. Matula,

    If you want to be taken seriously, you need to start producing serious policy analysis. The article clearly says it is focused on comsats and lunar probes. It says nothing about a “manned lunar program”.

    Is the existence of the Ariane 5, and a launch base out of Kourou, evidence that Europe has a “manned lunar program”? I think not.

    I know you can do better than this.

    - Al

  • anonymous.space

    “But I am sure anonymous.space this is still not evidence of a manned lunar program…”

    You’re right. The article makes no mention of China’s human space flight program, nevertheless any Chinese human lunar effort.

    What the article does describe, the new Long March 5 launch vehicle and its associated launch site, will only be equivalent to the existing U.S. EELV fleet even at its most capable. It’s a launch vehicle and launch site designed to support satellites and space probes, not heavy lift for human lunar missions.

    Even the title of the article makes it clear:

    “China to Build New Space Rockets: Long March 5 Will Carry Communication Satellites, Lunar Probes”

    For better information, there are two relevant presentations from the latest FAA COMSTAC meeting. Links here:

    http://www.faa.gov/about/office_org/headquarters_offices/ast/industry/advisory_committee/meeting_news/

    The Wortzel presentation is a broad overview of China’s space activities. It makes no mention of a Chinese human lunar effort, and focuses instead on Chinese military space capabilities and thinking.

    The Logsdon presentation is an update of all international launch vehicle developments. It has more information on Long March 5 capabilities and intent. Again, the focus is on satellites, not human lunar missions.

    It’s also worthwhile to note that China’s human space flight program is running slower and slower and appears to be reorienting itself towards commercial human space flight, somewhat in the Ruskie model. For example, the following article mentions that China’s next manned Shenzhou mission is being delayed from 2008 to 2010, and that the Chinese government is considering legislation that would privatize Shenzhou and its launch site.

    http://www.flightglobal.com/articles/2007/10/29/218964/comment-chinas-great-leap-for-commercial-space.html

    FWIW…

  • anonymous.space

    Note for Mr. Foust, a post of mine just bounced, probably due to a couple links to other Chinese space articles. Could you delete this post and repost the original?

    Thanks much for your help.

  • Al, while I agree with you one-hundred percent in your response to Dr. Matula, I have one qualification. While Europe has no human lunar program at present, the existence of the Ariane-5 (and some of their other capabilities, e.g., the testing project for high-energy restartable engines and the module production capacity we’ve encouraged them to develop) gives them a significant part of the capability for a human lunar program. That is important, and I would argue more important than most here seem to feel.

    Thus, while I would agree with Anonymous that if the Chinese have a human lunar program, it probably has not gone very far, they are clearly developing a lot of the generic technologies that would allow them to undertake one relatively quickly at some future date. And, that could prove very important in the future.

    – Donald

  • Thomas Matula

    Al,

    The key difference, other then the Ariane V is a commercial launch system, is that ESA has no plans to send humans to the Moon or even develop a manned spacecraft.. But China is moving in that direction as noted in this article here.

    http://www.nature.com/news/2007/071031/full/450012a.html

    China blasts off on lunar exploration
    Chang’e mission heads for the Moon.

    [[[the orbiter is a small step in an ambitious, and not yet official, plan to send astronauts to the Moon sometime after 2020.]]]

    So while the ESA programs drifts with robotic only missions, China’s program does have a focus, the Moon. Also China has something ESA doesn’t and the U.S. only has on the drawing board, an operating manned spacecraft that could easily be upgraded to perform the orbital portion of a manned lunar mission.

    So while folks like you analyze policy to death (paralysis by analysis) the Chinese are simply moving forward.

    And note the Chinese are much further along the road to a lunar landing then we were 13 years before Apollo 11.

  • Thomas Matula

    Al,

    Below are links to a couple more articles on the topic.

    The first is an editorial from the China Daily, the Chinese version of Pravada during the Soviet era. It supplies the motive.

    http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2007-11/01/content_6221495.htm
    China rocketing ahead in space program

    [[[The 17th National Congress of the Communist Party of China has just ended. Publicizing the launching of Chang'e I at home and abroad is likely aimed at displaying the prestige of the Chinese government and the Party. ]]]

    And

    [[[Some observers say that in the near future China will become one of the world's leading nations in the field of space development, equivalent to the United States and Russia.]]]

    While Jim Oberg has a detailed analysis of the implications of the new launch site.

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21546012/
    China’s space effort undergoing a sea change
    Beijing makes plans for new rockets, island spaceport, barge transport
    By James Oberg

    [[[But China's planned Long March 5 rocket is different. Designed to triple China’s current launch performance, and to match the power of the European Ariane 5 or Russia's Proton, the booster will also use a totally new combination of rocket propellants. And its tank structure is being completely redesigned — making it much wider than any previous space booster component built in China. Announced designs specify a diameter of almost 18 feet (5.4 meters) — clearly too large for long-distance surface transportation.]]]

    and

    [[[So the connections between the new Long March 5, the new Hainan Island space base and the new requirement for transporting much wider rocket stages than ever before make perfect sense. The booster, Chinese space officials have stated, will be commercially justified as a carrier for Chinese-built communications satellites that already are being offered on the world market. It will carry the planned Chinese small Mir-class space station, and the planned robot moon rovers and sampler missions planned for the middle of the next decade. It will also open the path for Chinese astronaut missions to the vicinity of the moon or even other more interesting locations far from Earth.

    The barge system, meanwhile, will inaugurate a space booster infrastructure design that will allow even larger rockets to reliably be moved from factory to launch pad. If and when China decides to build a Long March 6 — the equivalent of the Saturn 5 moon rocket that would be needed to land its astronauts on the lunar surface in a time frame competitive with U.S. plans — the first thousand miles of that vehicle’s travel will be by humble barge.]]]

    anonymous.space argues that China was showing no evidence of building the infrastructure needed for a lunar effort. Well, here is evidence they are, and their motive for doing so. As for the official announcement, knowing the Chinese that will probably come in the 5 year plan that actually includes the landing, not before. But like the Tortoise China is moving slowly but surely towards a human presence on the Moon. But I have one dispute I have with Jim Oberg. It doesn’t take a Saturn V to get humans to the Moon. Just review the various plans for lunar mission that Pete Conrad developed for

  • Thomas Matula

    Jeff,

    Looks like it ate one of mine as well. Please place it here.

    Tom

  • Mike Fazan

    So while folks like you analyze policy to death (paralysis by analysis) the Chinese are simply moving forward. And note the Chinese are much further along the road to a lunar landing then we were 13 years before Apollo 11.

    You chicken littles and fear mongers should review a little history first before making such outlandish claims. The Chinese began their current manned program (yes, there was one before) in 1992. This Shenzhou program had four unmanned test flights in 1999, 2001 and 2002. The first actual manned flight was in 2003, followed by the second in 2005. My understanding is that two more Shenzhou missions are planned, with multiple crew members, space walks, and dockings.

    This is hardly what I call a breakneck pace. It took us 11.5 years to get from Explorer to Apollo 11. The Chinese hadn’t even achieved their first crewed spaceflight within that time period.

    Until you see a dramatic increase in flight rate or funding for their program, the horn-blowing for a Sino-American race to the Moon is a lot of empty rhetoric.

  • al Fansome

    MATULA: So while the ESA programs drifts with robotic only missions, China’s program does have a focus, the Moon. Also China has something ESA doesn’t and the U.S. only has on the drawing board, an operating manned spacecraft that could easily be upgraded to perform the orbital portion of a manned lunar mission.

    Dr. Matula,

    An unsubstantiated assertion in the magazine “Nature” that there is an unoffiicial Chinese program to send humans to the Moon is not a fact. It is speculation that is designed to generate an emotional response.

    If I took your analytical approach, I could easily make the case that Europe has unofficial plan to go to the Moon. Mr. Robertson provides some data. There is much more out there about European interest in humans to the Moon.

    Making assertions about either Europe or China having a program for humans on the Moon both would have about the same amount of hard facts behind them.

    Does Europe and China each have champions for sending humans to the Moon? Obviously. Are they making noise to promote their views? Of course. But I would prefer to have HARD facts about official intentions, budgets, and programs rather than participate in unsubstantiated speculation.

    I could also make a case that China was pursuing other strategic objectives in space.

    I come to this website to hear HARD facts, and to read the sometimes professional-level (and informative) space policy & political analysis, and informed debate … that a number of people contribute at this site (often anonymously).

    Increasing the signal to noise ratio is something we all should value, and unsubstantiated speculation, spin, and fear-mongering is noise.

    “In God we trust; all others must bring data.” — W. Edwards Deming,

    - Al

  • Thomas Matula

    Al,

    Let’s see if this gets by Jeff’s censor system. Just add http://www to the links below.

    Hard fact one – China’s motive for going to the Moon.

    chinadaily.com.cn/china/2007-11/01/content_6221495.htm

    China rocketing ahead in space program
    (China Daily)
    2007-11-01 07:21

    [[[The 17th National Congress of the Communist Party of China has just ended. Publicizing the launching of Chang'e I at home and abroad is likely aimed at displaying the prestige of the Chinese government and the Party.]]]

    And

    [[[Some observers say that in the near future China will become one of the world's leading nations in the field of space development, equivalent to the United States and Russia.]]]

    And in case you are not aware the China Daily is to China, what Pravada used to be to the old Soviet Union.

    Hard fact number 2 – China’s new spaceport and heavy lift vehicle:

    msnbc.msn.com/id/21546012/

    China’s space effort undergoing a sea change
    Beijing makes plans for new rockets, island spaceport, barge transport

    By James Oberg
    NBC News space analyst
    Special to MSNBC
    updated 1:02 p.m. PT, Wed., Oct. 31, 2007

    [[[All these comments overlooked the most important advantage of the island launch site — its "reachability" from other places in China. Big new rockets, the kind that will be critical to any future expansion of Chinese space launch capabilities, can be transported from their factories to the new site without having to pass through tight railway tunnels. They can be made as long and wide as desired, then transported to the pad by barge.]]]

    and about the Long Match 5 will the new spaceport is being built to support.

    [[[It will carry the planned Chinese small Mir-class space station, and the planned robot moon rovers and sampler missions planned for the middle of the next decade. It will also open the path for Chinese astronaut missions to the vicinity of the moon or even other more interesting locations far from Earth.]]]

    As for the implications of the new facility.

    [[[Chinese space experts publicly mentioned the barge concept for the first time on Wednesday morning, with the official announcement of government approval for the next-generation launch vehicle.]]]

    and

    [[[The barge system, meanwhile, will inaugurate a space booster infrastructure design that will allow even larger rockets to reliably be moved from factory to launch pad. If and when China decides to build a Long March 6 — the equivalent of the Saturn 5 moon rocket that would be needed to land its astronauts on the lunar surface in a time frame competitive with U.S. plans — the first thousand miles of that vehicle’s travel will be by humble barge.]]]

    Basically China is starting work on its equivalent of Kennedy Space Center. For the same purpose as we build KSC in the 1960’s. And for the same reason, national prestige. Is that hard enough data for you?

    As for ESA, last I looked they no longer had any plans for even a manned spacecraft. Nor any reason to go to the Moon like China has.

    Also, in your time line note that China skipped both the Mercury stage and Gemini stage going straight to the Apollo CSM.

    The only useful function of a statistician is to make predictions, and thus to provide a basis for action.

    —William Edwards Deming (1900–1993)

  • anonymous.space

    “But I am sure anonymous.space this is still not evidence of a manned lunar program…”

    Correct. There is nothing in the AP article about China’s human space flight program, nevertheless a Chinese human lunar program.

    What the article does talk about is China’s new Long March 5 launch vehicle, which, at its most capable, will only match half of the existing U.S. EELV fleet and which is designed to launch satellites and space probes. The Long March 5 and its Hainan island launch facility are not designed to support human space flight missions, and the Long March 5 will not be powerful enough by a factor of several to provide the heavy lift necessary to support human lunar missions.

    Even title of the article makes clear the purpose of the Long March 5 and its Hainan island launch facility:

    “China to Build New Space Rockets
    Long March 5 will carry communication satellites, lunar probes”

    Don’t get me wrong — this development is new and interesting news. Before Chang’e and this week’s announcement, Long March 5 was still lying unfunded on the drawing boards and no ground had been dug on the Hainan facility.

    But China’s decision to finally move ahead on Long March 5 and Hainan is not a decision to pursue a human lunar shot. It’s like saying that the Clinton Administration’s decision to start the EELV program back in the 1990s was evidence that the Clinton White House had also decided to start a human lunar return program. Just because an article appears about some aspect of China’s (or any country’s) space program does not mean that there is evidence of a Chinese (or any nationality’s) human lunar program.

    “Hard fact one – China’s motive for going to the Moon.

    chinadaily.com.cn/china/2007-11/01/content_6221495.htm”

    Again, just like with the AP article, there is nothing in the China Daily article about any Chinese human lunar goal or program. The article talks generally about how Chang’e is helping China and its communist government in terms of national and regional prestige, and there’s some communist party chest-thumping about how someday China’s space capabilities may come to rival the U.S. or the Ruskies. But there’s nothing about a human lunar effort. And, the actual “hard facts” in the article stop well short of a human lunar effort, focusing instead on a lunar robotic sample return mission to follow Chang’e next decade and reiterating China’s desire to join the ISS partnership.

    “Hard fact number 2 – China’s new spaceport and heavy lift vehicle:

    msnbc.msn.com/id/21546012/”

    Again, there’s no “hard facts” in the Oberg article that would support the contention that China has decided to pursue a human lunar shot. The “heavy lift vehicle” referenced is the Long March 5, which, again, at its most capable, will only be equivalent to the Atlas V or Delta IV fleet. And with all due respect to Mr. Oberg, his reference to a hypothetical Long March 6 that might (or might not) be as capable as a Saturn V is pure speculation. He clearly states that it’s an “if and when” situation whether China ever decides to pursue such a vehicle and even admits that there may be insurmountable obstacles to such a hypothetical vehicle (e.g., barge transport through the contested Taiwan Straits).

    If we really want to deal in detailed facts about Long March 5 and China’s space capabilities — and not generic business articles or communist party propaganda pieces or editorial hypotheticals — I’d suggest the following sources.

    There are links to two relevant presentations at October’s FAA COMSTAC meeting here. (I’m stealing Mr. Matula’s linking method.)

    faa.gov/about/office_org/headquarters_offices/ast/industry/advisory_committee/meeting_news/

    The Wortzel presentation on “China’s Space Activities” is a broad overview. There is no mention of a Chinese human lunar effort. In fact, in terms of threats, the presentation mainly identifies Chinese military space capabilities and PLA doctrines that are existing or under development.

    The Logsdon presentation on “International Developments in Space Transportation” spends several slides on Long March 5. Again, there is no mention of a Chinese human lunar effort. Details on the vehicle’s capabilities are provided, and like the AP article, the presentation makes clear Long March 5′s intended use as a satellite and space probe launcher.

    Finally, the following aerospace industry commentary also makes important points about the slowing tempo of China’s human space flight program and recent proposals in the Chinese legislature to privatize Shenzhou and its launch site:

    flightglobal.com/articles/2007/10/29/218964/comment-chinas-great-leap-for-commercial-space.html

    The deferrel of the next Shenzhou flight from 2008 to 2010, as well as moves afoot to garner private revenue sources for China’s human space flight program in the model of the Ruskies, do not bode well for the prospects of any near-future (e.g. pre-2020 start) Chinese human lunar effort.

    FWIW…

  • anonymous.space

    Another tangentially related article to another Bigelow effort to develop private human ETO transport:

    biz.yahoo.com/bw/071101/20071101006246.html?.v=1

    Unlike Bigelow’s planned $760 million procurement, this proposed $100 million partnership with the state of Florida appears to be softer and only in the talking stages. But again, if Bigelow follows through and these efforts bear fruit even relatively close to the timeframe Bigelow wants, Ares I/Orion IOC is going to be a couple to several years late to the post-Shuttle human ETO party. Even with NASA jobs on the line, it will be hard to maintain taxpayer support for Ares I/Orion against such a backdrop, especially if Ares V and a human lunar return have also been deferred by the next White House (per the Clinton campaign). Aside from manning ISS, it’s not clear what the goals and purpose of NASA’s human space flight programs would be in such a scenario.

    FWIW…

  • Karl Hallowell

    anonymous, I see several problems with your claims about the Chinese space program. The key one is that they won’t officially state intentions more than a few years into the future, the deployment of the CZ-5 and perhaps a couple of lunar probes past that (lunar sample return?) are the most distant missions that they have officially annouced. Some things they don’t even announce till a few months ahead of time (like the Chang’e-1).

    Instead their modus operandi seems to be to announce unofficially such things. That way the political leadership maintains deniability and public response can be gauged. I believe the public statements by officials and scientists (whose speech would be expected to be tightly controlled) are at least an indication that their space agency is pushing heavily for manned lunar missions.

    It’s entirely possible that the Chinese have already decided to go to the Moon, but that we won’t hear about it till shortly before they begin the build up to a manned lunar mission. Compare it to the current Shen Zhou missions. It appears to me after a bit of googling (I have little clue here) that they didn’t announce their current manned plans till mid 1999, shortly before they launched the first Shen Zhou capsule, yet the current manned program had been in existence since 1992.

    Second, from my reading of Chinese news stories and official government announcements, they both are remarkably undescriptive. I expect them to drop details like whether the CZ-5 will be used for manned missions especially since that information might generate some post-2013 expectations.

    Your final point about slipping deadlines is quite relevant. That’s not a sign of a manned program on track to get to the Moon. Frankly, the timidness of the Chinese government and the slow pace of their manned program are the main reasons I don’t take their Lunar program, such as it may be, seriously. When they start launching manned vehicles frequently and mapping their program out 20 years with concrete deadlines through the timeline, then I’ll take them more seriously.

  • Thomas Matula

    anonymous.space

    You need to understand how the Chinese operate. Like the old Soviets they work on five-year plans. The next one 2011-2016 appears to be to bring the Long March V online at the new facility, conduct a lunar rover mission and launch a small space station for long duration flights. Then the next five year plan 2016-2020 will see their astronauts do a lunar orbital mission and development start on a larger vehicle. And the next one, the 14th, 2021-2026 after that will likely be the human lunar landing.

    So if you are waiting for an official announcement you won’t get an official announcement until the 13th five year plan and most likely not until the 14th. Remember, the Chinese don’t like to lose face, especially given to what happened to those planners (“traitors to the revolution”) that offered optimistic estimates in the early 5 year plans in the 1950’s. So they won’t make an official announcement until they are very sure of success.

    But again the arrows of China’s space efforts are pointing in one direction. And they will move slow but sure in that direction without any official announcements least they run into a road block and lose face. That is how China works. Dr. Griffin likely recognizes that which is the basis of his statement on China beating the U.S. to a human lunar return. But if you are expecting an official announcement from China, well, just save your breath, as that won’t come for many years in the future when the official planners have a high level of confidence they will succeed.

  • anonymous.space

    “The key one is that they won’t officially state intentions more than a few years into the future”

    I think Mr. Hallowell’s statement here is generally correct. The lack of transparency in China’s human spaceflight program, due to its military nature, makes long-term predictions difficult. It’s remote but possible that China is secretly pursuing a human lunar program.

    That said, a human lunar program — the development of a heavy lift booster and associated rocket engines and launch site, reentry testing, lunar lander testing, erection of communications infrastructure, etc. — is an extremely hard thing to hide, especially in the Google Earth era. And, at least for now, there’s no reported physical evidence, at least in the public domain and that I’m aware of, that would support the contention that China is pursuing a human lunar program.

    “I believe the public statements by officials and scientists (whose speech would be expected to be tightly controlled) are at least an indication that their space agency is pushing heavily for manned lunar missions.”

    There are definitely quotes out there from Chinese space program managers about their involvement in various human lunar planning studies. But that doesn’t mean that China’s government or even its space agency heads have decided to start a human lunar program. In fact, the head of China’s space agency was on the record just a few weeks ago that no decision to pursue a human lunar mission has been made in China. And China’s official planning documents state that no decision to pursue a human lunar mission will be made until 2020, at the earliest.

    Like I said in another thread, there are also quotes out there from NASA managers about their involvement in various advanced and planning studies associated with a wide range of targets. But just because someone at NASA is talking about interstellar probes, for example, doesn’t mean that NASA is pursuing or building an interstellar probe. Same goes for China (or any other nation) and a human lunar shot (or any other objective).

    “Your final point about slipping deadlines is quite relevant. That’s not a sign of a manned program on track to get to the Moon. Frankly, the timidness of the Chinese government and the slow pace of their manned program are the main reasons I don’t take their Lunar program, such as it may be, seriously. When they start launching manned vehicles frequently and mapping their program out 20 years with concrete deadlines through the timeline, then I’ll take them more seriously.”

    Agreed. To me, the declining Shenzhou flight rate, the lack of physical evidence supporting a human lunar program in China, and statements from top Chinese officials and planning documents that no human lunar decision has been made and won’t be made for over another decade all clearly points to a non-existant Chinese human lunar program.

    Could it all just be smoke and mirrors on the part of the Chinese? Possible, but highly unlikely given all of the above. Worse, the focus that Griffin and a few NASA field center congressmen place on a non-existent Chinese human lunar program in an outdated, Cold War, missile gap-type effort to prop up Constellation distracts us from the real threats and opportunities that China poses, both in space activities and in other realms. When it comes to China, I’d rather that NASA and our nation’s leadership focus on reality, rather than spinning self-serving myths.

    Apologies for the soapbox at the end… my 2 cents… FWIW…

  • anonymous.space

    “You need to understand how the Chinese operate.”

    Please drop the condescending tone. We don’t to tell another poster that they “need to understand” China’s five-year plans in order to mention or describe China’s five-year plans to them.

    “Like the old Soviets they work on five-year plans.”

    While it’s absolutely true that China utilizes five-year planning cycles, China’s five-year plans include important goals beyond the five-year cycle. For example, the current (11th) plan references the Chang’e 2 mission (a lunar robotic rover in 2012, during the 12th cycle) and the Chang’e 3 mission(a lunar robotic sample return in 2017, during the 13th cycle). See:

    nasaspaceflight.com/content/?cid=5102

    But there is still no decision in any of China’s planning documents about a human lunar mission.

    “The next one 2011-2016 appears to be to bring the Long March V online at the new facility, conduct a lunar rover mission and launch a small space station for long duration flights.”

    It’s worthwhile to note that the space station was originally intended to take place during the current (11th, pre-2010) cycle, but has been delayed to the next (12th, post-2010) cycle.

    “Then the next five year plan 2016-2020 will see their astronauts do a lunar orbital mission and development start on a larger vehicle.”

    Incorrect. The projection for the 13th plan (2016-2020) is for a lunar robotic sample return mission (Chang’e 3). No Apollo 8-style circumlunar mission is on the books. If it ever takes place, that would be in a post-2020 planning cycle.

    “And the next one, the 14th, 2021-2026 after that will likely be the human lunar landing… Dr. Griffin likely recognizes that which is the basis of his statement on China beating the U.S. to a human lunar return.”

    This is the central problem I have with Griffin’s statement about China’s non-existant human lunar program. If we believe that NASA and Constellation will meet their 2019 goal to put U.S. astronauts, then there is no basis for a statement that China will beat the U.S. back to the Moon. There is no projection out there — even Mr. Matula’s aggressive 2021-26 projection above — that China will land taikonauts on the Moon until the 2020+ timeframe, years after NASA lands astronauts in 2019. So does Griffin not have confidence in his own program? Or is he just fear-mongering using outdated and false Cold War, missile-gap type tactics to drum up budgetary support for Constellation?

    Instead of using China as a foil to prop up budgetary support for a failing program, I wish Griffin was focused instead on where there are real opportunities to usefully engage the Chinese space program and where there are real threats that NASA technology could be critical to overcoming.

    “But if you are expecting an official announcement from China”

    I agree that we shouldn’t rely solely on official statements and documents to gauge progress in China’s space programs. We need to rate those statement and documents against the physical evidence for or against Chinese development of human lunar (or other) capabilities. And currently there is no physical evidence that China is pursuing a human lunar program.

    FWIW…

  • Easy way to narrow the Gap: Use 1-2 “contingency” STS missions to extend shuttle operations into 2011. One of these missions could deliver Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer to ISS, which will please Europeans to no end. At the rate ISS schedule is slipping, Shuttle missions past 2010 will be required anyway.

  • anonymous.space

    “Easy way to narrow the Gap: Use 1-2 “contingency” STS missions to extend shuttle operations into 2011.”

    Unless more money is added to the NASA topline, extending Shuttle operations would only defer, not shorten, the gap. Ares I/Orion rely on the Shuttle program’s shutdown and the consequent freeing up of the Shuttle budget to get over their development hump. If NASA is still flying Shuttle in 2011, that money is not available to Ares I/Orion and their IOC just gets bumped out another year into the future.

    “One of these missions could deliver Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer to ISS, which will please Europeans to no end.”

    I thought AMS was an MIT-led, all-U.S. project. Did ESA contribute? As expensive as that sucker is and as little as it needs from ISS, it should have just been turned into an unmanned Explorer mission a long time ago.

    “At the rate ISS schedule is slipping, Shuttle missions past 2010 will be required anyway.”

    That may become true if Griffin or his successor insist on finishing the ISS assembly sequence as currently planned. My 2 cents is that the U.S. should have just bought off the Europeans and Japanese after Columbia, called ISS complete at that point, and put all those years of Shuttle money into something more useful. Even now, ISS assembly could still be terminated after the Japanese module is up in 2008, saving two-plus years of Shuttle costs. Although the VSE set a deadline for Shuttle retirement of 2010, there was nothing in the VSE that would have prevented NASA from shutting Shuttle down earlier.

    There are several, good, editorial-style posts at rocketsandsuch.blogspot.com about how Griffin/NASA is really gambling with astronaut lives and the future of the human space flight program by continuing to fly Shuttle rather than cut ISS assembly short. I tend to agree — it is a little insane to continue flying people on and building such a huge and expensive infrastructure around a vehicle with a 1-in-60 or so demonstrated LOC/LOM.

    FWIW…

  • Anonymous: 2 cents is that the U.S. should have just bought off the Europeans and Japanese after Columbia, called ISS complete at that point, and put all those years of Shuttle money into something more useful.

    You took the words right out of my mouth — in fact I think you did take these words right out of my mouth! In any case, I fully agree. In my view, the principle values of the Space Station will prove to be learning how to construct things in orbit and to provide a market for COTS-like efforts. Both of those objectives could have been adequately served by calling the Space Station complete after the loss of Columbia. Alternatively, for what it’s cost to keep the Shuttle program running, we could have rebuilt all the elements to fly on EELVs and had money left over. (However, that ignores the political realities that are keeping the Shuttle in business. . . .)

    Even now, ISS assembly could still be terminated after the Japanese module is up in 2008, saving two-plus years of Shuttle costs.

    Great idea, but unfortunately this too ignores the southern Congressional deligations.

    L. Riofrio: One of these missions could deliver Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer to ISS,

    If we were going to expand the Space Station further, a far better addition would be the Japanese large centrifuge, which could have been used for learning things you need to know to get to Mars.

    – Donald

  • Ray

    Going back to anonymous.space’s Oct 25 comment above on Bigelow giving incentives for LEO transport, and my subsequent post in favor of NASA partnering with the Bigelow effort as a way to shrink the gap, see the following about Bigelow and Space Florida considering a Florida-based public-private orbital space transportation investment fund:

    http://www.hobbyspace.com/nucleus/index.php?itemid=4850

    Since this is presented as just being in the concept stages, we don’t know whether Florida will determine it’s in its interests to invest, or if they do, how much the investment will be. However, at this point it seems like it would be in NASA’s interests (in terms of the ISS crew and cargo gap and other space access needs) to encourage this partnership. A new round of COTS funding, sized in proportion to the urgency of shrinking the gap, would make sense. The award this round of COTS funding could be made contingent on the awardee(s) having an attractive amount of financial backing such as what you could expect from the Bigelow/Florida deal. NASA could even protect its money by mandating that the COTS winner doesn’t dip into the COTS funds (or much of them) until using more funds from other investors and achieving more technical milestones. Of course NASA’s technical ISS space transportation requirements would have to blend with Bigelow’s requirements for this to work. Flexibility is needed.

    Similarly, the NASA COTS investment should make the Bigelow/Florida investment more attractive by increasing the chances that the Florida LEO transportation would be realized (assuming the COTS winner was supported by the Bigelow/Florida investment). Florida would have an incentive to step up to the plate in a significant way, since NASA would not award this round of COTS without major financial backing from other investors.

    If this worked, it also could relieve some of the Florida/Shuttle workforce political pressure of the gap. From the Presidential political point of view, the Florida part of the Shuttle workforce is the most crucial part, if recent Presidential elections are a guide. The COTS effort would only remove pressure from the Shuttle follow-on; it wouldn’t replace it. The Shuttle follow-on would be able to focus on lunar transportation (or whatever ambitous effort the next President has), with ISS support only in a backup role.

    Of course there are other interests that need space access that should be supportive of efforts like this. For example, the DOD should be interested in supporting solutions that involve shared use of EELVs, or solutions that have a credible chance of resulting in improved space access (ie cheaper, more reliable, etc). Even a small investment by DOD standards could result in big long-term rewards when directed to this critical area (space access) and when magnified by investments by like-minded partners like NASA, Bigelow, and Space Florida. I’m not sure when having too many partners gets unmanageable, but it should be workable as long as the interests of all of the parties align.

  • anonymous.space

    “see the following about Bigelow and Space Florida considering a Florida-based public-private orbital space transportation investment fund”

    I’m glad Ray was able to successfully post that link. Mine bounced.

    As Ray said, it’s a nascent effort. But if either the $100 million Florida partnership or the $760 million Bigelow space transport services contract pay off in the timeframe Bigelow desires (circa 2010) or even a few years thereafter, either in combination with or separate from COTS, it will really beg the question of why NASA is spending taxpayer dollars on Ares I/Orion. Even more so if the next White House (a la Clinton) has deferred the human lunar return effort and there is no cost-sharing with Ares V.
    That will leave NASA’s human space flight program with just ISS. And even that may be hard to support from the taxpayer’s perspective if Bigelow’s modular space stations take off.

    I’m not saying it will happen, but were I the NASA Administrator and interested in saving the nation’s human space flight program, I would be much more interested in leveraging these developing private capabilities to do the things that the private sector is not doing (such as heavy lift, in-space propellant provisioning, actual exploration), rather than duplicating their capabilities (with more ETO transport and continued ISS build-out). The former is the proper government role. The government won’t be able to successfully compete with the latter over the long-term.

    FWIW…

  • Thomas Matula

    anonymous.space

    [[[there may be insurmountable obstacles to such a hypothetical vehicle (e.g., barge transport through the contested Taiwan Straits).]]]

    Thousands of cargo ships, including PRC and Taiwanese, travel the straits every year. Why would Taiwan want to start a war by seizing a barge with a booster? It would make about as much sense as Cuba grabbing one of the Saturn V’s off of south Florida in the 1960’s… And if there is a war between China and Taiwan there will be more to worry about the safety of a barge with a rocket on it. Sounds like you are grasping at straws to defend your view.

    Also you are assuming they will use a LOR model like we did. The presence of their space station makes a EOR model far more likely. And greatly reduces the need for a Saturn V class booster. Again review some of the proposals for Lunar Gemini.

    [[[Please drop the condescending tone. We don’t to tell another poster that they “need to understand” China’s five-year plans in order to mention or describe China’s five-year plans to them.]]]

    Not knowing your background or experience I felt it is critical to make sure your understood this since you seem hung up that there is no official announcement. As pointed out, under their planning system there will not be any for many years, not until discussion of the appropriate 5 year plan begins. Since your knowledge of China and its tech capability seems outdated based on assumptions in your posts I felt it was important you understood that China is built around 5 year plans. BTW China is not the technology back water you think from your posts, its become a location of cutting edge research, especially for U.S. firms. Here is just one recent example from the auto industry.

    upi.com/NewsTrack/Business/2007/10/29/gm_to_set_up_250m_china_research_center/1157/

    GM to set up $250M China research center
    Published: Oct. 29, 2007 at 10:27 AM

    [[[BEIJING, Oct. 29 (UPI) -- General Motors Corp. said Monday it would set up a $250 million alternative-fuel research center in Shanghai, China's largest city.

    "China has the potential to become a leader in the adoption of alternative propulsion systems," Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Rick Wagoner said at a Beijing news conference.]]]

    and

    [[[GM will also establish a China Automotive Energy Research Center with Beijing's Tsinghua University and GM’s strategic partner in China, Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp. Group, the U.S. automaker said.]]]

    Also your statement [[[And currently there is no physical evidence that China is pursuing a human lunar program.]]] is based on a red herring, that they would be doing every step now, not when its needed to be done. So let’s deal with it.

    As for the re-entry tests, why would China be doing those now for a mission a decade away. They will come when they get closer to launch. And their announced goal for a lunar sample return indicates they will be done. Just a docking in lunar orbit after a launch from the surface will be demonstrated as part of that mission. See the quotes from the 5 year plan at the bottom.

    And if they decide to go with a Saturn V class launcher it will also appear, but not util after the Long March 5 is flying. The key is to see the long lead time elements are emerging. And their new spaceport, one suitable for lunar mission with a logistic infrastructure capable of supporting large rockets, is one of the long lead time items you would expect in a lunar plan.

    And as for the global communication infrastructure, that will also be developed closer to launch when its needed. However here is evidence China is already creating the diplomatic foundation for building that communication infrastructure by establishing partnerships with strategic countries. Tracking and communication stations in Venezuela and Nigeria would easily provide them with the equivalent of the NASA’s Deep Space Network. Add http://www

    nytimes.com/2007/05/24/world/asia/24satellite.html

    Snubbed by U.S., China Finds New Space Partners

    By JIM YARDLEY
    Published: May 24, 2007

    [[[Not only did China design, build and launch the satellite for Nigeria, but it also provided a huge loan to help pay the bill. China has also signed a satellite contract with another big oil supplier, Venezuela. It is developing an earth observation satellite system with Bangladesh, Indonesia, Iran, Mongolia, Pakistan, Peru and Thailand. And it has organized a satellite association in Asia.]]]

    And again, points out a motive for a lunar goal. Prestige in space for other developing nations that have been “exploited” by the west with resources China needs. I wonder how many barrels of Venezuelan oil an Venezuelan astronaut walking on the Moon would be worth to China, especially if it allows Venezuela to remark about how the U.S. hasn’t been to the Moon in over 50 years :-)

    BTW, just so everyone here is clear on what the official China plan is here are a couple of links provided by one of my MBA students from China who is interested in space. Add http://www

    cnsa.gov.cn/n615709/n620682/n639462/94761.html

    Eleventh-Five-Year-plan of the Science Space Program” issued by COSTIND
    Date 2007-03-19

    [[[During the “eleventh five years”, it’s also expected to further promote the manned space flight and moon exploration project, HXMT and returnable air space scientific experiment satellite programs.

    The manned space flight project is required to obtain key technology for astronauts’ extravehicular activity and space vehicle coupling, develop short-term unattended, or long-term autonomous flight space laboratory as well as research on microgravity& space life science, space astronomy and space physics, etc, Carrying out subsequent research on manned space flight.

    The lunar exploration project is expected to conduct lunar orbit exploration in 2007, with its purpose of obtaining 3D surface images to analyze surface element content and physical distribution of the moon, and also probe into the soil characteristics and earth-moon space environment. At about 2012, soft landing and automatic walk-through on the moon are possibly achieved, followed by automatic sample recycling up to 2017.]]]

    And again, the motive…

    [[[As a global frontier discipline, the space science is a forum showcasing the scientific strength of various countries, and also an important engine for scientific development. Therefore, space science research and exploration play a crucial role in promoting our space technology development in an all round way. (Zhangtao)]]]

    Oh, and in case you missed it here is what China’s former deputy chief of the nation’s Manned Space Flight Project, Hu Shixiang, had to say on China 5 year space plan. (just http:// NO www

    english.peopledaily.com.cn/200603/07/eng20060307_248674.html
    [[[China will continue to make breakthroughs in the technology of manned space flight project. Space walks, as well as rendezvous and spacecraft docking will be carried out in the next five years. China has made some achievements in the two technologies, which are the key to establish space labs and space stations, according to Hu.]]]

    and

    [[[According to Hu, China will send its first lunar probe satellite in 2007. There are three stages for China's moon probing, that is, orbiting, docking and returning.

    In the first stage, orbiting, there will be three-dimensioned graphs of the lunar surface. Researches will be focused on the content and distribution of elements on the moon surface, detection of the depth of the lunar soil and space environment between the earth and the moon.

    Researches for the second stage, docking, include the launch of a docking vehicle to land on the moon.

    For the third stage, returning, in addition to moon surface investigation, sample collections from the moon and returning to the earth will be carried out.]]]

    Interesting, testing docking technology in lunar orbit as part of their sample return mission, isn’t it? Actually their entire lunar agenda is interesting if its only for science, wouldn’t you say?

    But I know nothing will budge you from your views. And since I have much work to do in my day job of teaching global business and marketing I will just leave this board to you to use for your soapbox that China should not be a factor in U.S. space planning. Adios

  • anonymous.space

    “And if there is a war between China and Taiwan there will be more to worry about the safety of a barge with a rocket on it.”

    I agree.

    But its was you that provided Oberg’s editorial as evidence of an existing Chinese human lunar program. I simply pointed out that:

    1) The editorial doesn’t provide any actual evidence of such (only speculation about a hypothetical future program), and

    2) The editorial actually raises points against the possibility of a future Chinese human lunar program.

    If you don’t believe the statements in your own source material, then you shouldn’t present that source material as evidence to buttress your logic.

    “Sounds like you are grasping at straws to defend your view.”

    Again, I’m referencing a source you provided (the Oberg editorial). Don’t blame or criticize me for pointing out that your sources throw up strawmen that contradict your own arguments.

    “Also you are assuming they will use a LOR model like we did… Saturn V class booster.”

    I made no such assumption. In fact, I repeatedly pointed out the lack of physical evidence for Chinese human lunar activities unrelated to heavy lift here:

    “That said, a human lunar program — the development of… reentry testing, lunar lander testing, erection of communications infrastructure, etc. — is an extremely hard thing to hide, especially in the Google Earth era. And, at least for now, there’s no reported physical evidence, at least in the public domain and that I’m aware of, that would support the contention that China is pursuing a human lunar program.”

    There is no physical evidence for a Chinese human lunar program, with or without a heavy lift launch vehicle.

    “The presence of their space station makes a EOR model far more likely… Again review some of the proposals for Lunar Gemini.””

    Several points here:

    First, China has no space station. China only has a projection in their current five-year plan to maybe pursue a space station in the next five-year plan. At best, we can say that there is a plan to get to a plan for a future Chinese space station. And even then, China is still making noise about joining the ISS partnership.

    Second, even the designs that have been floated for China’s space station cannot support a lunar architecture. There is no in-space propellant provisioning capability in those designs, certainly not on the scale necessary to fuel an EDS. In fact, China’s space station is likely to consist of little more than the temporary docking of two modified Shenzhou in the Apollo-Soyuz model.

    Third, the various Gemini-based lunar architectures did not involve any space stations. None existed at the time. The Gemini circumlunar, lunar landing, and lunar rescue architectures all involved EOR and/or LOR between modified Gemini capsules, Centaur upper stages or Titan transstages, and open cockpit lunar landers.

    “Not knowing your background or experience I felt it is critical to make sure your understood this since you seem hung up that there is no official announcement.”

    Again, please drop the condescending tone and please don’t make assumptions about what you imagine another poster knows and what his hang-ups are. There’s no need to impugn and insult other posters. Stick to the logic and facts, not the other poster’s “background or experience” or what they “seem hung up” on. Argue the post, not the poster.

    Furthermore, I’m not “hung up” on an “official announcement”. I readily acknowledged that we cannot rely on documents and quotes here:

    “I agree that we shouldn’t rely solely on official statements and documents to gauge progress in China’s space programs. We need to rate those statement and documents against the physical evidence for or against Chinese development of human lunar (or other) capabilities.”

    And, of course, no such physical evidence for a Chinese human lunar program exists.

    “As pointed out, under their planning system there will not be any for many years, not until discussion of the appropriate 5 year plan begins.”

    This is just flat-out false. Each five-year plan incorporates projections for activities that fall in future five-year plans, including lunar exploration activities, as I previously showed here:

    “China’s five-year plans include important goals beyond the five-year cycle. For example, the current (11th) plan references the Chang’e 2 mission (a lunar robotic rover in 2012, during the 12th cycle) and the Chang’e 3 mission(a lunar robotic sample return in 2017, during the 13th cycle).”

    And, of course, none of these projections include any human lunar plans or goals.

    “Since your knowledge of China and its tech capability seems outdated based on assumptions in your posts I felt it was important you understood that China is built around 5 year plans.”

    For the umpeenth time, please drop the condescending tone and please don’t make assumptions about what you imagine that another poster knows or doesn’t know. There’s no need to impugn and insult other posters. Please stick to the logic and facts and drop the ad hominem insinuations and attacks. Argue the post, not the poster.

    “BTW China is not the technology back water you think from your posts,”

    I never wrote (and actually disagree with the statement) that China is a “technology [sic] back water [sic]“. Please show where I stated such.

    “its become a location of cutting edge research, especially for U.S. firms. Here is just one recent example from the auto industry.”

    Huh? What does the U.S. auto industry have to do with the price of tea (or the state of government aerospace programs) in China?

    Please stay on topic. Quoting at random from unrelated articles that turn up in Google searches for “China” and “technology” does not advance a very specific discussion about the existence or non-existence of a Chinese human lunar program.

    “And their announced goal for a lunar sample return indicates they will be done.”

    No they won’t. Bringing lunar rocks back through the Earth’s atmosphere intact, and bringing taikonauts back through the Earth’s atmosphere alive, are two very different technical challenges — in terms of mass, scale, thermal limits, allowable g-loads, etc. The former does little to prepare for the latter. China will still need to conduct tests for human reentry from a lunar trajectory.

    “Just a docking in lunar orbit after a launch from the surface will be demonstrated as part of that mission.”

    This assumes that China will not send its lunar sample back to Earth directly from the lunar surface. Even if China pursues a LOR sample return architecture, rendezvous and capture of a small, likely passive, sample cache is a very different technical challenge from the rendezvous and docking of two, human-sized, likely active spacecraft. The former does little to prepare for the latter.

    “However here is evidence China is already creating the diplomatic foundation for building that communication infrastructure by establishing partnerships with strategic countries. Tracking and communication stations in Venezuela and Nigeria would easily provide them with the equivalent of the NASA’s Deep Space Network.”

    You have to be kidding. You really think that China has engaged Venezuela and Nigeria for the purposes of building a deep space tracking and communications network, and not to buy oil?

    I know we’re all space cadets here and the world sometimes seems to revolve around its space programs, but this is a ridiculously fantastical proposition.

    “I wonder how many barrels of Venezuelan oil an Venezuelan astronaut walking on the Moon would be worth to China”

    Why would Venezuela (or any other nation) wait a couple decades or more for China to put one of their nationals on the Moon when they can buy Soyuz seats today? The question we should be asking is how much oil Venezuela would be willing to pay for a seat to LEO. And figuring out Venezuela’s upper limit is pretty simple, given that the Russian competition offers seats on Soyuz for something like $20-25 million.

    And that amount of oil ain’t gonna put even a dent in China’s oil consumption.

    “BTW, just so everyone here is clear on what the official China plan is here are a couple of links provided by one of my MBA students from China who is interested in space… The lunar exploration project is expected to conduct lunar orbit exploration in 2007, with its purpose of obtaining 3D surface images to analyze surface element content and physical distribution of the moon, and also probe into the soil characteristics and earth-moon space environment. At about 2012, soft landing and automatic walk-through on the moon are possibly achieved, followed by automatic sample recycling up to 2017.”

    Congratulations. Your Chinese student pointed you to the same five-year plan, with the same projections for Chinese lunar robotic missions, that I already laid out here:

    “China’s five-year plans include important goals beyond the five-year cycle. For example, the current (11th) plan references the Chang’e 2 mission (a lunar robotic rover in 2012, during the 12th cycle) and the Chang’e 3 mission(a lunar robotic sample return in 2017, during the 13th cycle).”

    Read and comprehend other folks’ posts before reflexively responding, please.

    “Oh, and in case you missed it here is what China’s former deputy chief of the nation’s Manned Space Flight Project, Hu Shixiang, had to say on China 5 year space plan… According to Hu, China will send its first lunar probe satellite in 2007. There are three stages for China’s moon probing, that is, orbiting, docking and returning.

    In the first stage, orbiting, there will be three-dimensioned graphs of the lunar surface. Researches will be focused on the content and distribution of elements on the moon surface, detection of the depth of the lunar soil and space environment between the earth and the moon.

    Researches for the second stage, docking, include the launch of a docking vehicle to land on the moon.

    For the third stage, returning, in addition to moon surface investigation, sample collections from the moon and returning to the earth will be carried out.”

    Again, congratulations. You once again managed to repeat the projection for lunar robotic exploration contained in China’s current five-year plan, which I already laid out here:

    “China’s five-year plans include important goals beyond the five-year cycle. For example, the current (11th) plan references the Chang’e 2 mission (a lunar robotic rover in 2012, during the 12th cycle) and the Chang’e 3 mission(a lunar robotic sample return in 2017, during the 13th cycle).”

    Read and comprehend other folks’ posts before reflexively responding, please.

    “Interesting, testing docking technology in lunar orbit as part of their sample return mission, isn’t it?”

    The quote doesn’t say that China will be “docking” in lunar orbit. It says that they will be docking on the lunar surface, i.e., a lander and rover.

    “Actually their entire lunar agenda is interesting if its only for science, wouldn’t you say?”

    Well, I’m a space cadet, so I’d say, yes, a lunar exploration program from China or any nation “is interesting if its [sic] only for science”.

    What’s your point?

    “But I know nothing will budge you from your views.”

    That’s wrong on two counts:

    1) It’s not a “view” that I or anyone else possesses. There’s no opinion involved. Either China does or does not have a human lunar program. And they clearly do not. No such program or goal appears in any of the projections in China’s five-year plans. Those projections do not anticipate a decision to start such a program until after 2020. The head of China’s space agency says that no such decision has been made. And there is no physical evidence in what would be a highly visible program that China is pursuing such a program currently.

    2) A change in any of the conditions above, or an announcement by China’s premier or another national leader above the space agency head, would demonstrate evidence for the existence of a Chinese human lunar program. In such an event, I would readily admit that China either appears to be, or is in fact, pursuing a human lunar program.

    Don’t mistake lack of evidence for opinion. They’re not the same thing.

    “And since I have much work to do in my day job of teaching global business and marketing”

    Yes, I’m sure that teaching assistantship is of world-shaking importance. (Rolling my eyes…)

    “I will just leave this board to you to use for your soapbox that China should not be a factor in U.S. space planning.”

    I never made such a statement. In fact, I repeatedly stated that China should be a factor in U.S. civil space plans here:

    “Worse, the focus that Griffin and a few NASA field center congressmen place on a non-existent Chinese human lunar program in an outdated, Cold War, missile gap-type effort to prop up Constellation distracts us from the real threats and opportunities that China poses, both in space activities and in other realms. When it comes to China, I’d rather that NASA and our nation’s leadership focus on reality, rather than spinning self-serving myths.”

    And here:

    “Instead of using China as a foil to prop up budgetary support for a failing program, I wish Griffin was focused instead on where there are real opportunities to usefully engage the Chinese space program and where there are real threats that NASA technology could be critical to overcoming.”

    Just because China doesn’t have a human lunar program doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t accord real Chinese space activities (e.g., anti-satellite testing) a high degree of attention.

    “Adios”

    Ci. (That’s pinyin mandarin for “Adios”.)

  • al Fansome

    Anonymous,

    My apologies for skipping over your very long post. I acquire value from contributions, but this exceeded by available time.

    Mr. Matula made one assertion, that has some relevance, but he misses the point (me thinks).

    MATULA: But again the arrows of China’s space efforts are pointing in one direction. And they will move slow but sure in that direction without any official announcements least they run into a road block and lose face. That is how China works.

    Mr. Matula,

    I agree that the arrrows of China’s space efforts are clearly pointing to an increasingly capabile Chinese space program.

    I also agree with you that Chinese prestige will play some role.

    However …

    1) The long-term goal & objectives of the Chinese space program are unclear — as Chinese leadership has made no statements on this issue.

    You have been challenged to provide data. What you have provided is weak at best, and clearly not definitive.

    2) There are MANY long-term goals that China could pursue in the long-term that would be supported by their existing development plans. Putting humans on the Moon is only one of many possible long-term goals.

    Considering these two points — I have to ask myself “Why would you leap to the conclusion (and it is a leap, unsupported by the facts) that China currently has a plan to put humans on the Moon in the next several decades?

    I can only conclude that you are hoping to recreate a space race.

    I don’t blame you for trying, but I think it will fail until there is hard proof that China is racing us to the Moon.

    Everything we see suggests China is not even racing to develop a space station in Earth orbit — they are moving at a slow methodical pace.

    - Al

  • al Fansome

    ANONYMOUS: I thought AMS was an MIT-led, all-U.S. project. Did ESA contribute? As expensive as that sucker is and as little as it needs from ISS, it should have just been turned into an unmanned Explorer mission a long time ago.

    Anon,

    The AMS-2 project is indeed by Dr. Sam Ting of MIT (a Nobel Prize winner of Physics). However, the AMS-02 is an international collaboration of at least 16 countries. My sources say that Dr. Ting’s ability to create this international collaboration is one of the reasons that it is still alive today.

    Of interest to this community — unless Dr. Ting has changed strategies recently — Dr. Ting has been attempting to get back on the Shuttle manifest. There are letters online documenting his attempts. For example see the following document which reports on a November 2005 contact by Ting of Mike Griffi:
    http://www.nasa.gov/pdf/172130main_AMS_ELV.pdf

    The AMS team just held a TIM at JSC from October 22-24.
    http://ams.cern.ch/AMS/Meetings/Meetings07/Oct22_24.html

    The CERN site has a good amount of information on the AMS-02 status at
    http://ams.cern.ch/

    You can also find a lot AMS-02 information at the NASA JSC website at
    http://ams-02project.jsc.nasa.gov/

    - Al

  • anonymous.space

    Per some earlier posts in this thread, the post-Shuttle U.S. civil human space flight gap is threatening to widen again (not shorten) due to the FY08 budget veto situation (more continuing resolutions like in FY07):

    (Add http://www.) flightglobal.com/articles/2007/11/05/219100/nasa-funding-problem-threatens-orions-march-2015-launch.html

    It’s too bad that Ares I/Orion requirements and technical content weren’t designed with adequate budget and schedule margin from the get-go to better absorb these kinds of past and likely future funding hiccups. This problem will haunt NASA, possibly even on an annual basis, until Ares I/Orion is fundamentally rescoped or replaced.

    “However, the AMS-02 is an international collaboration of at least 16 countries.”

    Thanks Mr. Fansome.

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