Campaign '08

Obama: cut Constellation to pay for education

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama released today the education plan he would enact if elected. The full 15-page plan includes a variety of proposals, including reforming early education programs. The last section of the plan, titled “A Commitment to Fiscal Responsibility” explains how he would pay for these initiatives. The passage of relevance here: “The early education plan will be paid for by delaying the NASA Constellation Program for five years,” among other steps. According to MSNBC, Obama would leave in place $500 million/year for Constellation’s “manufacturing and technology base”, but would otherwise transfer the funding to the education effort. None of the campaign’s official statements or other media reports indicate any alternative measures the campaign would take to address what, on its face, would appear to be a five-year delay in the introduction of Ares 1, Orion, and the other main components of NASA’s current exploration architecture.

(A potentially ironic item, depending on your opinion on the importance of Constellation: one other section of the Obama education plan is titled “Make Math and Science Education a National Priority”.)

The Republican National Committee has criticized the move to delay Constellation, The Hill reports, quoting RNC spokesman Danny Diaz: “It is ironic that Barack Obama’s plan to help our children reach for the stars is financed in part by slashing a program that helps us learn about those very same stars.”

112 comments to Obama: cut Constellation to pay for education

  • I’m horrified. Can you imagine not flying Orion until 2020? Congress and the public are freaking out because there’s going to be a 5 year gap, and this guy wants to double it? I seriously doubt this would pass…

  • kert

    taking some significant money away from NASA would perhaps finally kick some sense into their management.
    If you dont have the money, you cannot puruse the most expensive way to go about implementing VSE. Current budget leaves enough so their ESAS plans dont sound entirely ridiculous, but it would be interesting to see what Griffin & Co would do if they lost another couple billion a year.

    This is not an endorsement to Obama or his plans in any way, but i have often thought that if NASA was forcibly denied the opportunity to throw the money down the ratholes, maybe they would indeed finally stop doing it.

  • anonymous.space

    At first, I thought that either the article or the Obama campaign misspoke — that the Obama campaign only intended to defer the lunar elements of Constellation (Ares V/EDS/LSAM). But according to the campaign factsheet that Mr. Foust linked to above, the Obama campaign wants to invest $10 billion more per year in education. To do that, the Obama campaign would have to zero out Constellation and then find additional offsets or spending elsewhere in the federal budget. So it would appear that the Obama campaign really is serious about deferring not only a human lunar return, but a Space Shuttle replacement for ISS servicing as well. This is such a radical proposition that my gut still tells me that some details got lost in the translation (i.e., only defer lunar elements, fly Shuttle longer, etc.) or that the Obama campaign doesn’t understand the implications of its position (i.e., no Shuttle replacement for ISS servicing for a decade or more). But the numbers are of such a magnitude that the Obama position has to be taken seriously.

    Although he still lags nationally, Obama became the leading Democratic candidate in Iowa according to the polls just last night. Regardless of the details of the Obama plan, for a human space flight supporter, it is worrisome that a leading campaign sees the program as a source of funds, rather than as something worth investing in. If one were voting on this issue alone, one would have to go with Clinton over Obama. She at least would preserve a Shuttle replacement, if not the human lunar return. (This would get really interesting if a leading Republican candidate weighed in substantively on NASA.)

    I take no pleasure in this “I told you so,” but some of us have been predicting on this forum for over a year now that the biggest weakness of the ESAS implementation plan for the VSE was that it wasted a once-in-a-generation window of opportunity under the Bush II Administration to get actual human space exploration hardware under development and instead focused on reinventing the ETO wheel with Ares I. With this pronouncement from the Obama campaign, it now appears that there’s a decent chance that NASA will lose not only the lunar hardware, but the ETO hardware as well. It’s ironic that had O’Keefe and Steidle stayed on and Griffin and ESAS not come along, that wouldn’t even be a possibility, as NASA would have flown a boilerplate CEV on top of an EELV by now.

    Such are the vagaries of history… FWIW…

  • MarkWhittington

    Well, this makes two leading Democrats running for President who are hostile to space. And for those of you who think that this wouldn’t happen if some other architecture had been choosen, I can only say that you’re dreaming. Politicians don’t care about architecture. Obama wants to use Orion as a cash cow for his education scheme. Hillary wants to use it as a cash cow for pork elsewhere within NASA. Neither seem to be very keen on commercial space.

    Now, I don’t think that there is much chance of Obama becoming President and increasingly Hillary’s chances look pretty dim.

  • MarkWhittington

    BTW, this won’t play very well in Florida especially (Texas neither, but a Dem has a slight chance of picking up Florida.)

  • Chance

    Trust me when I say the public is far from “freaking out”. I don’t see any protests in front of the Congress or the White House, nor a deluge of letters to the editor of most editorial pages I read. This doesn’t even make most people’s top ten.

    Good for Obama. I say cut NASA until it bleeds to death.

  • John Malkin

    Well, I wonder if Clinton or Obama will win the back peddling race on education. Since taking money from NASA rarely raises the eyebrow of the average American, I think Clinton will win with her “idea” which received incredible uproar. However Obama seems to use stronger language so I think he will be fighting hard to waste Federal money including NASA money on education. Personally I think the Federal government should stay out of Preschool-12th grade.

  • anon

    This is wonderful news.

    As more and more candidates come out against the NASA bloatocracy, there will be increased pressure on NASA budgets. I have personally watched NASA burn billions in waste by driving work into their own centers.

  • xraydog

    To all those in favor:

    You do realize this will eliminate American crewed spaceflight right? Justifying that thought with “SpaceX will takeover” is foolish. Crewed Dragon isn’t going to fly for a long time. A 10 year gap will be a disaster.

  • Chance

    Yes, I realize. I’ve just not convinced a 10 year gap will really cause the sky to fall. Exactly how will this be a disaster?

  • MarkWhittington

    “Trust me when I say the public is far from “freaking out”. I don’t see any protests in front of the Congress or the White House, nor a deluge of letters to the editor of most editorial pages I read. This doesn’t even make most people’s top ten.”

    Nor would you since the story just came out today.

  • “Well, this makes two leading Democrats running for President who are hostile to space.”

    A incorrect overgeneralization.

    Based on today’s news, the Obama campaign is arguably “hostile” to human space flight, but not “space” activities in general. We have no insight into what would happen to other NASA activities, or other government space activities, under Obama.

    And while the Clinton campaign was initially “hostile” to a human lunar return, Clinton has made a big deal about getting a Shuttle replacement fielded ASAP and evidences a lot of personal childhood connections to the old Apollo program. Moreover, the Clinton campaign recently reversed itself on the human lunar return, and wants to leave the door open to pursuing it.

    “And for those of you who think that this wouldn’t happen if some other architecture had been choosen, I can only say that you’re dreaming. Politicians don’t care about architecture.”

    Also incorrect. It has nothing to do with “architecture [sic]” and everything to do with program timing relative to the election. If O’Keefe and Steidle had stayed around and Griffin and ESAS not come along, a boilerplate CEV would have flown on an EELV earlier this year. Unlike Ares I/Orion, which doesn’t start test flights until 2009, Obama could not defer an EELV/CEV for five more years, because they would already be flying.

    “Hillary wants to use it as a cash cow for pork elsewhere within NASA.”

    How can all of NASA’s aeronautical research, space science, and Earth science be defined as “pork”? Are you arguing that human space flight is the only useful thing that NASA does?

    “Neither seem to be very keen on commercial space.”

    Actually, if Constellation was restricted to $500 million per year, they’d have little choice but to go the commercial route, either more COTS or a small CEV on top of a minimally modified human-rated EELV, if NASA wanted to fly astronauts under an Obama White House. If you’re a strong supporter of commercial human space flight, then Obama is arguably your candidate.

    “Now, I don’t think that there is much chance of Obama becoming President”

    Obama lags Clinton nationally, but has taken the lead in the Iowa polls.

    “and increasingly Hillary’s chances look pretty dim.”

    Clinton still leads the pack nationally.

    FWIW…

  • Chance

    Fine, I’ll give it a week or two. When I see throngs of constellation supporters being held back by Capitol Police, or Obama taking a 5 point dive in the polls due to thisI’ll take back what I said. I won’t hold my breath.

  • MarkWhittington

    Anonymous, where do I begin?

    “Moreover, the Clinton campaign recently reversed itself on the human lunar return, and wants to leave the door open to pursuing it.”

    Not really. There is no commitment from the Clinton campaign to due the return to the Moon at all, especially in a timely fashion. She still seems intent on using VSE as a cash cow to pay for other things (ie pork, IMHO) elsewhere in the NASA budget.

    “Unlike Ares I/Orion, which doesn’t start test flights until 2009, Obama could not defer an EELV/CEV for five more years, because they would already be flying.”

    You have no proof of that. Indeed, even if an EELV derived launcher could be made ready by then–a doubtful at best proposition–Orion would certainly not be ready.

    “How can all of NASA’s aeronautical research, space science, and Earth science be defined as “pork”?”

    It would swiftly become that as Congress carves up the extra money, provided it even went along with the idea.

    “Actually, if Constellation was restricted to $500 million per year, they’d have little choice but to go the commercial route, either more COTS or a small CEV on top of a minimally modified human-rated EELV, if NASA wanted to fly astronauts under an Obama White House. If you’re a strong supporter of commercial human space flight, then Obama is arguably your candidate.”

    According to the MSNBC story, the half billion a year would be used to maintain the “manufacturing and technology base” for Orion. None would be available for supporting commercial space. There is no evidence that Obama is even aware of commercial space, not to speak of supportive of it. Indeed, his tax increases and openess to regulation would likely not be very helpful to commercial space.

  • MarkWhittington

    “Fine, I’ll give it a week or two. When I see throngs of constellation supporters being held back by Capitol Police, or Obama taking a 5 point dive in the polls due to thisI’ll take back what I said. I won’t hold my breath.”

    The reaction is going to be a little less dramatic than that. I expect Hillary is already gleefull for being handed more proof that Obama lacks experience. I can’t see Obama winning the Florida primary with something like this, for example. And he would get creamed there in the general, on the off chance that he got the nomination.

  • reader

    People have long been crying that NASA shouldnt be developing launch vehicles. If what Obama proposes happens, then they simply wont have any resources left to do that. Maybe only small-budget X-plane type research programs.
    This, to me, sounds exactly what lots of people want. Not anyone on BoLoMart, ATK or KSC payroll of course, but lots of people nonetheless.

  • reader

    Another point: what Griffin promoted as shuttle workforce retention program, will die an abrupt death and become a massive layoff program. You can blame Obama but its Griffins and Horowitz legacy.

  • Obama can say all he wants now, but it won’t happen even if he gets elected for exactly the reason Reader pointed out immediately above. Now, he might replace Constellation with something else, but he is unlikely to want to be responsible for massive Federal layoffs.

    Anonymous, you’re welcome to say “I told you so” as far as I’m concerned. We’ve agreed on this ever since the “stick” was first proposed to near universal acclaim in this venue and I was the lonely voice here arguing for EELVs!

    – Donald

  • “Moreover, the Clinton campaign recently reversed itself on the human lunar return, and wants to leave the door open to pursuing it.”

    “Not really.”

    Again, not true. Read the quote below from Space News where the Clinton campaign is very clearly propping the door open for human lunar return:

    “CLINTON ENDORSES SWIFT SHIFT FROM SHUTTLE TO NEW ROCKET(SpaceNews-Nov. 9,2007)

    Democratic White House hopeful Sen. Hillary Clinton (N.Y.) has pledged to pursue ‘a successful and speedy transition’ from the soon-to-be retired U.S. space shuttle fleet to ‘a next-generation space transportation system that can take us back to the Moon and beyond.’

    The statement, provided by Clinton campaign staff in response to a query from Space News, is the presidential candidate’s first specific mention of NASA’s planned human lunar expeditions.

    Clinton was silent on NASA’s lunar ambitions when she delivered a science policy speech Oct. 4 that promised, among other things, ‘an ambitious 21st century space exploration program.’”

    Again, the Clinton campaign is now leaving the door open to human lunar return. It’s not a matter of degree (i.e., “not really”). They clearly and explicitly are.

    “She still seems intent on using VSE as a cash cow to pay for other things (ie pork, IMHO) elsewhere in the NASA budget.”

    So, just to be clear, everything besides human space flight in the NASA budget — aeronautical research, space science, Earth science — is pork, in your humble opinion?

    I’m not intending to debate that opinion — I just want to clarify what it is.

    “You have no proof of that.”

    Sure we do. The old CE&R studies. The high-level briefings are publicly available here (add http://www):

    nasa.gov/missions/solarsystem/vision_concepts.html

    Thumbing through the presentations, some various identify a “CEV Suborbital Demo” or its equivalent at the end of 2007, and a “Human Rated CEV Orbital Flight” or its equivalent in 2011. Under ESAS/Constellation, the equivalent Ares I/Orion flights don’t occur until 2009 and 2013 (and those are slipping).

    “Indeed, even if an EELV derived launcher could be made ready by then–a doubtful at best proposition–Orion would certainly not be ready.”

    They weren’t pursuing the oversized Orion. They were pursuing a different, smaller capsule.

    More to the point, they weren’t going to waste two years resetting the clock to zero with ESAS. And they weren’t going to waste more time with schedule delays trying to fix Ares I/Orion designs with unflyable chug/rigidity issues and unworkable mass/performance margins driving unsafe design changes.

    “According to the MSNBC story, the half billion a year would be used to maintain the “manufacturing and technology base” for Orion.

    Again, that’s incorrect. Per Mr. Foust’s original post, it’s not “for Orion”, it’s for “Constellation”. Under an Obama Administration, NASA would have to decide what parts of Constellation would be preserved within a $500 million per year budget. Ares I, Orion, and COTS are all parts of Constellation. Given Ares I and Orion’s $20 billion-plus total develpment costs, if NASA wanted to fly astronauts under an Obama White House, NASA would have little choice but to invest more in COTS, give up Ares I, and maybe (big maybe) shrink Orion to fit an EELV.

    “Indeed, his tax increases and openess to regulation would likely not be very helpful to commercial space.”

    Where has the Obama campaign stated that it wants to tax or more heavily regulate commercial space activities?

    FWIW…

  • MarkWhittington

    Anon – You are forgetting the interview with the NY Times in whyich Hillary Clinton specifically states that she intends to slow down VSE to pay for other items in NASA. She could have been lying or could be flip flopping, but the statement was made.

    As for a CEV launching on an EELV (or a EELV derived vehicle) all you can offer is a study as proof. There are studies out there that will proove just about anything, depending on assumptions. One of them, which you admit, is a shrunken Orion. I love it when EELV advocates suggest that we should shrink the size and scale of the lunar expeditions to accomodate their vision.

    If you think that every aspect of Orion was going to be shut down to pay for commercial space, you must know nothing about how NASA operates. It would be both a real world and a politically impossible move. On the latter, just imagine what the Congress would do with any proposal.

    Finally, Obama would raise taxes in general, which would fall heaviest on small, entrepeneurial companies. And I suspect that he would at least not stop an Oberstar effort to impose draconian regulations on commercial space.

  • Keith Cowing

    Whittington: “Well, this makes two leading Democrats running for President who are hostile to space.”

    Gee Mark, who is the “other” hostile Democrat? And please explain why that person is also “hostile”.

  • Keith – he is refering to hillary – don’t go down that path – it dead ends into a shouting match

  • MarkWhittington

    Keith, as I mentioned before and I think in fact you have on NASA Watch, Hillary Clinton wants to “slow down” VSE to pay for other, smaller accounts in the NASA budget. Since space exploration is the core mission of NASA, I conclude that makes her anti space, albeit slightly less than Obama.

  • Keith Cowing

    Mark says “Keith, as I mentioned before and I think in fact you have on NASA Watch, Hillary Clinton wants to “slow down” VSE to pay for other, smaller accounts in the NASA budget. Since space exploration is the core mission of NASA, I conclude that makes her anti space, albeit slightly less than Obama.”

    So that is what “hostile” means? Read NASA’s charter – it has lots of things it is supposed to do …

    I find it curious how someone who has said more words in one speech about the value of space than George Bush has uttered in his entire lifetime is “anti-space” – especially give how Bush walked away from the fiscal support of his “vision” leaving it floundering…

  • mike shupp

    Gotta admit though, there’s nothing like laying off ten thousand or so aerospace engineers and technicians with a stroke of a Presidential pen for impressing American kids with the with the _real_ importance of science and engineering careers in the modern world…..

    -ms

  • kevin parkin

    I am fine with cutting NASAs budget just as long as it is accompanied by a series of measures to eliminate government waste.

    That means working with congress to set strong incentives to change the balance between performance and compliance.

  • Chance

    “There’s nothing like laying off ten thousand or so aerospace engineers and technicians with a stroke of a Presidential pen for impressing American kids with the with the _real_ importance of science and engineering careers in the modern world…..”

    Why should the federal government have thousands of Aerospace engineers on the payroll anyway? Once they are laid off and flood the market, the smaller private aerospace companies will have access to a wealth of cheap brainpower and experience.

  • Fact Checka

    Whittington wrote: “You are forgetting the interview with the NY Times in whyich Hillary Clinton specifically states that she intends to slow down VSE to pay for other items in NASA. She could have been lying or could be flip flopping, but the statement was made.”

    But was it really? Here’s the relevant passage from the NYT story:

    “But in a telephone interview afterward, she said that in the short term she would subordinate Bush administration proposals for human exploration of the Moon and Mars to restoring cuts in aeronautics research and space-based studies of climate change and other earth science issues.

    “Travel to the Moon or Mars ‘excites people,’ she said, ‘but I am more focused on nearer-term goals I think are achievable.’”

    So what was the full context of Clinton’s comments to the Times? We don’t know because all we’ve got to go on is a paraphrase and partial quote.

    If I were trying to assess Clinton’s position, I’d pay more attention to the written statement given to Space News.

  • Mike Fazan

    Good for Obama. I say cut NASA until it bleeds to death.

    Amen Brother. Although I’d prefer that it was done quickly and less painfully. Double Hooray for Barak! I was on the fence with this guy before, but this dose of realism has won me over. He is truly a candidate for the 21st Century.

  • Mike Fazan

    MarkWhittington: Now, I don’t think that there is much chance of Obama becoming President and increasingly Hillary’s chances look pretty dim.

    I don’t mean this disrespectfully, but what weed hath thou been smoking? If anything, the polls and trending data is indicating something entirely different.

  • Mike Fazah

    Donald Robertson: Obama can say all he wants now, but it won’t happen even if he gets elected for exactly the reason Reader pointed out immediately above. Now, he might replace Constellation with something else, but he is unlikely to want to be responsible for massive Federal layoffs.

    Any layoffs would be relatively minor compared to the ramp up in other programs…at least on a national scale. For example if BRAC II continues, many of the excessed workers at Marshall could be transferred to the Redstone side, which is severely short-handed.

    Besides, a national initiative on alternative energy, which it appears that most of the candidates want, could make use of a lot of NASA talent and expertise. This is something of far greater national importance than government-owned human spaceflight.

  • Ray

    Much as I don’t like the ESAS path, I disagree with simply whacking Constellation and leaving us with an ISS problem to fund somehow, without restoring any other part of NASA.

    However, I could be convinced if some relatively cheap adjustments were made to the plan.

    Instead of spending all of that Constellation money on generic Federal education initiatives, why not concentrate them, or a lot of them, on things related to math and science (and, since it’s the area that would be cut, space)?

    For example, fund Teachers in Space:

    http://www.teachersinspace.org/

    If passenger safety for early passenger vehicles is considered to be an issue, at least send experiments designed by teachers and students on these vehicles.

    I’d suggest a sweeping education-related program covering K-12, undergraduates, graduate students, and early government areospace employees that makes space accessible to students. This would include anything from Zero-G flights, to existing suborbital rockets, to high-altitude balloon flights, to future NewSpace suborbital rockets. For the best, smallsat access, experiments on commercial space stations or ISS, or personal rides would be included.

    I’d also suggest ramping up student competitions like the Cansat and Team America Rocketry Challenge, to name a couple.

    On top of that I’d suggest a big boost to Centennial Challenges, which can be a good incentive to student teams. The Centennial Challenges also often are associated with related student challenges and other education initiatives.

    Everything I’ve suggested, even if done in a big way, would not cost much compared to Constellation, and would help education (as well as commercial space).

    However, I wouldn’t just concentrate on education. It would be an obvious message to students of all ages if NASA were simply raided for education programs that math and science careers aren’t wise. I’d make sure that ISS support continued with a super-charged COTS program. This STILL wouldn’t be too expensive given all the Constellation money available. However, Obama’s plan says nothing about that, which I have to interpret in a bad way. I’d also make sure other NASA areas (lunar robotics and ISRU experiments, Earth science satellites, planetary science probes, aeronautics, X planes) were at least partially restored. If I wanted lots of money left to go to generic education, I’d at least fund some modest missions in these areas over current plans. Again, with no such plan mentioned in Obama’s proposal, I have to assume that such a plan doesn’t exist, which I consider a big problem with the plan.

  • I’m somewhat torn. On the one hand, I think that the federal government shouldn’t be involved in education at all, let alone be giving it an extra $10B a year. That said, I think that there could be a lot of good accomplished by not continuing to give the NASA human spaceflight program huge amounts of money for what in the end is really mediocre results.

    One of the key problems with the human spaceflight program is that it has such a huge standing army, and keeping that standing army well fed seems to be more important to the relative senators than actually doing anything useful or relevant to the taxpayers. Basically that part of NASA is little better than a massive jobs program, and the reality is that until someone takes that albatross off of NASA’s shoulders, they’re never going to go anywhere. Quite frankly, NASA and everyone else would be a lot better off if NASA spent more money trying to help enhance the capabilities of commercial launch systems than trying to build and operate their own in-house systems.

    ~Jon

  • al Fansome

    The truth is that “space” is not the deciding — get my vote — issue for the vast majority (99.9+%) of Americans. Many (maybe even most) people who read this blog — including Mr. Whittington — will not let a candidates “space position” determine their vote.

    For example, I would bet a dollar that IF the Democratic candidate had a better space policy position than the Republican that Mr. Whittington would still vote for the Republican.

    Mr. Wittington can tell me now if I am wrong.

    What does this mean? That whining about Obama’s position is not going to amount to a Hill of beans. I do think may be an inflection point in NASA’s future — where the instinctual political decisions a very small number of people who don’t know much about space could have a huge impact on federal space policy.

    The fact that Obama specifically called out the VSE, means that at least one national politician smells weakness in the air at NASA. (I have to say “I said so too” along with Donald and Anon.)

    The inflection point here is whether other politicians will decide to join in on the feeding frenzy.

    The primary thing saving NASA from a spiraling death (IMO) from presidential politics is that fact that Florida is a key battleground state. Some-number-of-thousands of people in Florida will change their vote based on a candidate’s space position — and as been proven, that could be the whole ball game.

    The calculus is whether you can generate enough additional votes elsewhere to make a difference.

    ONE OTHER FACTOR — A couple decades ago, NASA’s brand/image would have easily saved the day, as it just felt “unAmerican” to be against NASA. It was like being “against progress” or “against a hopeful future”. But NASA’s brand has been getting tarnished lately. It is unclear how valuable that brand still is.

    - Al

  • Jeff – this inspired a DK post by yours truly
    click here and read it.

    Ultimately, I feel like we are left with more questions than answers when it comes to Obama’s proposed space policy.

  • “Anon – You are forgetting the interview with the NY Times in whyich Hillary Clinton specifically states that she intends to slow down VSE to pay for other items in NASA”

    No I’m not. The information in the NY Times article is outdated by more than a month. The NY Times article ran on October 5th. The Space News article ran on November 9th. The Space News article represents the latest information we have from the Clinton campaign regarding their position on NASA’s human space flight programs and a human lunar return, in particular.

    Please bother to at least get the chronological sequence of your evidence straight before throwing it into a debate. If you’re so lazy in your argument that you’re not even going to bother to check dates, then don’t waste your time participating in the debate. It’s certainly a waste of my time to have to repeatedly correct your information so that it matches reality.

    “As for a CEV launching on an EELV (or a EELV derived vehicle) all you can offer is a study as proof.”

    Wrong yet again. The webpage that I included in my earlier post provides links to the summary presentations from multiple, independent, industry studies.

    Again, please bother to at least read the evidence provided by another poster before responding to it. If you’re so lazy in your argument that you’re not even going to bother to click on a link provided by another poster, then don’t waste your time participating in the debate. It’s certainly a waste of my time to have to repeatedly point out the same information to you.

    “There are studies out there that will proove just about anything,”

    And what is support of Ares I/Orion based on? ESAS? One rushed, internally biased, and unchecked NASA study?

    Logic dictates that we should trust multiple, independent, year-long industry studies pointing towards common solutions over one, 60-day, internal NASA study with no independent validation.

    And even if we disregard the CE&R studies, multiple COTS proposals (Benson, Boeing, CSI, LockMart, SpaceHab), including many of the finalists, also used EELVs for cargo and human launch. IIRC, only one proposal, from Andrews, used Ares I.

    And even if we disregard the COTS proposals, NASA’s own work on the Space Launch Initiative prior to Columbia used nothing but EELVs for cargo and human launch.

    And even if we disregard SLI, common sense should tell us that modifying an existing, operational launch vehicle like an EELV will take less time and cost less money than building a new launch vehicle like Ares I and making it operational.

    “depending on assumptions.”

    Yes, let’s talk about assumptions. Here’s some of the unjustified and erroneous assumptions used in ESAS to support the supposition that NASA needed to build Ares I, versus utilizing existing boosters:

    – There is a requirement for CEV (Orion) to transport four crew to the lunar surface and an entire six-person crew to ISS, even though Apollo got by with two crew to the lunar surface, and the Russians will send their crewmembers on Soyuz.

    – EELV blackout zones cannot be closed, at least not without great cost, even though prior SLI work showed that they could be closed at little or no cost.

    – Ares I deserves better LOC/LOM figures because of its Shuttle heritage ssytems, even though those systems have little in common with actual Shuttle systems.

    “One of them, which you admit, is a shrunken Orion.”

    I hate to be the one to break it to you, but Orion has already shrunk substantially, in terms of both volume and mass, to accommodate Ares I underperformance. She’s now arguably small enough to fly on an EELV. Constellation has spent the past three years proving that ESAS was wrong to begin with.

    “I love it when EELV advocates”

    I’m not an “EELV advocate”. I do not pretend to know what the best option is for replacing Ares I/Orion, because I do not know who is going to win the Presidency and what their civil human space flight objectives will be.

    Please don’t label other posters based on your assumptions about them. If you can’t post without debating the poster, rather than his post, then don’t waste your time participating in the debate. Argue the logic and evidence, not the poster.

    I will reiterate that the vehicles in the O’Keefe/Steidle plan that existed prior to Griffin/ESAS would have been flying years before Ares I/Orion, even without post-ESAS schedule delays. If you cared about getting a Shuttle replacement capability flying for ISS and LEO transport before the end of the Bush II White House, and before someone like Obama could come along and cancel it, then you should have supported the O’Keefe/Steidle plan, not the Griffin/ESAS plan. It doesn’t matter that the O’Keefe/Steidle plan used EELVs. It matters that it got flying before Bush was out of office.

    “suggest that we should shrink the size and scale of the lunar expeditions to accomodate their vision.”

    Where did I state such? Please provide the quote.

    To be clear, I was making the point that prior to Griffin/ESAS, the O’Keefe/Steidle plan would have been flying a human ISS/LEO transport system years before Ares I/Orion. I made no statement with respect to what NASA would use to support lunar missions, whether an independent Shuttle-derived heavy lifter like DIRECT, heavier EELVs, multiple EELV launches in combination with in-space propellant provisioning, or some clean-sheet solution.

    Please don’t put words in my mouth. If you can’t put forth an argument without putting words in the other poster’s mouth or erecting paper tigers, then don’t waste your time participating in the debate. It’s certainly a waste of my time to correct you when you do put words in my mouth.

    “If you think that every aspect of Orion”

    For the second time, as Mr. Foust’s original post points out, Obama would reduce “Constellation”, not “Orion” (which is just a part of Constellation) to $500 million year. Please, please get your terminology right for once.

    “was going to be shut down to pay for commercial space,”

    Again, for the second time, “commercial space”, in the form of COTS, is already a part of Constellation. Under a $500 million Obama budget, it’s not a question of whether NASA shuts down all of Constellation in favor of “commercial space”. It’s a question of what elements of Constellation get shut down in favor of other Constellation elements. And if NASA wants to keep flying astronauts under an Obama White House, then NASA has no choice but to terminate the Ares I/Orion elements because they cost too much ($20 billion) and rely instead on the much less costly COTS element, maybe (big maybe) augmented by EELVs.

    “you must know nothing about how NASA operates.”

    It’s not a matter of what I know or don’t know about how NASA operates. It’s a statement of fact. Based on a $500 million per year budget, if NASA wants to keep flying astronauts under an Obama White House, then NASA has no choice but to terminate the Ares I/Orion elements of Constellation because they cost too much ($20 billion) and rely instead on the much less costly COTS element of Constellation, maybe (big maybe) augmented by EELVs.

    “On the latter, just imagine what the Congress would do with any proposal.”

    Huh?

    Yes, it boggles the imagination what “Congress would do with any proposal.”

    [Rolls eyes...]

    “Finally, Obama would raise taxes in general,”

    Wrong yet again. Obama’s campaign advertises an $80 billion tax cut for low-income workers, for example.

    I’m not necessarily an Obama supporter, but please, please get your facts straight for once.

    “And I suspect that he would at least not stop an Oberstar effort to impose draconian regulations on commercial space.”

    Besides your suspicions, where’s the evidence for such?

    Ugh… FWIW…

  • Anonymous.space – you do realize that facts won’t change Mark’s mind? He’s already made his mind up

    Still, I always find your posts enlightening, and insightful.

  • there’s nothing like laying off ten thousand or so aerospace engineers and technicians… for impressing American kids with the _real_ importance of science and engineering careers…

    And there’s no one like a space fan for mistaking the very specialized and atypical niche of aerospace for all of science and engineering.

  • Monte,
    Or more to the point, Griffin has already said that there isn’t a real place in Constellation for new engineers. This isn’t a program for the young ‘uns. They want them grizzled steely-eyed missile men. Quite frankly, cutting Constellation might actually be sending a signal that Obama doesn’t want to waste money on a dead-end retro program that isn’t going to excite anybody into taking extra math or science classes….

    Not that I think that the whole using NASA to promote math and science education makes any sense, or that the federal government should be involved with education. I’m just sayin.

    ~Jon

  • reader

    while organizations like NSS, SFF etc. periodically put out press releases in support or opposition of this or that thing that NASA does or does not do, it would be interesting to see if any of them has the balls to put out an official endorsement of any of the candidates announced policy towards NASA.

    Another point, space policy and NASA policy are not the same thing. Someone up in the thread wondered whether Obama has a clue about a commercial space. As long as he knows where his GPS gets positioning data, understands where weather forecasters get their satellite images, has used google maps or listened to XM radio, i guess he does have a clue.

    So far we have heard mostly about NASA policies from candidates, it would be useful if anyone asked them about space policies as well, and draw the distinction.

  • Reader, while I am sure he is aware of those things, most people tend to view them through the lens that they are designed for sole usage of the earth. Something that is truly a part of space policy wont’ have its end user on Earth, and GPS and XM and everything else you cited is end used on earth.

    The real moment when something enters the “Space policy” is when its end user is in space (thus, the reason for something like The Commercal Space Amendments Act of 2004 is true space policy – its focused on having end users that aren’t on the planet).

    Until we see th industry start flying customers from US soil, it will all be considered a part of Nasa, I suspect.

  • reader

    one more thing: handwringing about 10-year US manned spaceflight gap problem actually shows lack of understanding. There are a few other organizations ( Jon might want to chime in on this ), apart from NASA working on the same problem, and even by the most pessimistic timetables its a relatively safe bet to say that in 10 years, at least one of them will be flying humans to space from US soil ( If not, we might as well pack our bags and go home, we dont belong in space )

  • Brad

    Obama is just being true to the ‘democratic wing’ of the democratic party. That is the wing which has always believed all manned spaceflight was a waste of money.

  • Brad, you are so full of bullshit

    But we thank you for trying.

  • Brad

    Transfering manned spaceflight spending over to social welfare spending perfectly fits the ideology of ‘money wasted on space’ while ‘children are starving on Earth’ of bleeding-heart liberalism. And is not Obama one of the most liberal of the U.S. Senators?

    And btw Ferris, you are projecting. Next time keep it to yourself.

  • Paul F. Dietz

    All those shaking their heads about the realism of NASA getting cut are whistling past the graveyard. NASA is vulnerable, and the US economic position in the world has turned decidedly downward recently. The deficits are finally coming home to roost. Very hard choices lie ahead.

    I am reminded of this usenet post I made four and half years ago, shortly after the loss of Columbia.

  • Mike Fazah

    Brad: Transfering manned spaceflight spending over to social welfare spending perfectly fits the ideology of ‘money wasted on space’ while ‘children are starving on Earth’ of bleeding-heart liberalism. And is not Obama one of the most liberal of the U.S. Senators?

    Using government funds to keep engineers and managers employed is also a form of social welfare. It could be justified if it is contributing to the national interests. Unfortunately it is not, because the current ESAS-based actually competes with commercial interests and represents no value added.

  • Please don’t label other posters based on your assumptions about them. If you can’t post without debating the poster, rather than his post, then don’t waste your time participating in the debate. Argue the logic and evidence, not the poster….Please don’t put words in my mouth. If you can’t put forth an argument without putting words in the other poster’s mouth or erecting paper tigers, then don’t waste your time participating in the debate. It’s certainly a waste of my time to correct you when you do put words in my mouth….Please, please get your terminology right for once…please, please get your facts straight for once.

    Anon, based on long experience, you ask far too much of Mr. Whittington. Never gonna happen.

  • Chance

    Hey, I’ll take anybody over Thomas Lee Elifritz any day. I haven’t seen his bile in a while, was he finally banned? I hope so.

  • kT

    Of course he was banned. Nobody is interested in rationality any more.

    That’s why we have this HUGE problem with ESAS, remember?

  • Lucius Vorenus

    In general, I don’t think that government should exist in the first place, and, if it absolutely has to exist, then it shouldn’t be in the business of subsidizing any one group of people over any other group of people – frankly it shouldn’t be in the business of subsidizing anyone or anything at all.

    Nevertheless, the idea that we should subsidize the [utterly fraudulent] “education” of low-IQ children [who, quite frankly, are uneducable to begin with] at the expense of the subsidization of the careers of high-IQ aerospace, chemical & electrical engineers, is a recipe for national disaster.

    The IQ Wars are upon us, folks: There are more of “them” than there are of “us”, and things are only going to get worse, until it all ends in disaster.

    PS: Setting aside all questions about the coming war which low-IQ “Americans” [tens of millions of whom aren't actually American citizens in the first place] are about to launch against high-IQ Americans, the defunding of all of our research into next-generation launch vehicles [ergo the dismantling of a large portion of our engineering base] is going to have profound national security implications, and is only going to further jeopardize our position vis-a-vis the “Communist” [really fascist] Chinese and their desire to defeat us in the Space Wars of the 21st Century.

    Not that the Democrats give a rat’s ass about our national security, our engineering base, or angering their Communist Chinese masters [Mochtar Riady, John Riady, The Lippo Group, John Huang, Maria Hsia, Charlie Trie, the Buddhist Nuns, Loral, Bernard L Schwartz, Norman Hsu, etc etc etc].

  • Brad: Transfering manned spaceflight spending over to social welfare spending perfectly fits the ideology of ‘money wasted on space’ while ‘children are starving on Earth’ of bleeding-heart liberalism.

    I suggest you read “The Heavans and the Earth: a political history of the space age” (written by a relatively conservative history professor) before you make wild comments about the Democrats and spaceflight. Apollo may or may not have been a good idea, and it existed for strategic reasons, but it was proposed by a Democrat, pushed through to completion (and when was the last time that happened?) by Democratic Administrations, and killed by a Republican Administration before we had the chance to gain much scientific or industrial benefit from the project. More to the point, the primary reason Johnson wanted the project was nothing less than a vast social welfare project to industrialize the south and reduce the chances of another Civil War. It worked.

    – Donald

  • Bill White

    I guess they call it the Johnson Space Center for a reason.

  • Lucius Vorenus

    There isn’t a dime’s worth of difference between Lyndon Johnson’s politics [gargantuan increases in social spending at home, aggressive foreign policy abroad] and Dubyah’s politics.

    Which only goes to show how far and how quickly the DEM’s have fallen.

    These are the IQ Wars we are entering, folks.

    You can kiss your fundamental research the hell goodbye.

    After that, they’ll be coming for your mansions, your stock certificates, and your bank accounts.

  • Well, Lucius, why shouldn’t they? If you abandon the principles of approximately equal education and equal opportunity, export all the “low-IQ” (to use your terminology) jobs, and leave everyone who can’t compete as a scientist, engineer, or stock broker to starve on the street — what do you expect them to do? It’s as inevitable as the rain.

    – Donald

  • anonymous 5

    Cool, now he can’t blame some butterfly ballot when he loses Florida…

  • Apollo may or may not have been a good idea, and it existed for strategic reasons, but it was proposed by a Democrat, pushed through to completion (and when was the last time that happened?) by Democratic Administrations, and killed by a Republican Administration before we had the chance to gain much scientific or industrial benefit from the project.

    Donald, this has been gone over many times. The Nixon administration didn’t kill Apollo–Johnson did. The decision was made in 1967. At worst, Nixon is guilty of not resurrecting it, or providing a more visionary follow-on than Shuttle. Lousy space policy was and is a bi-partisan problem.

  • Yes folks, Lucius is absolutely right – the evil Communists, in the form of the Democratic party, is coming to get you. [rolls eyes]

  • Low IQ Guy

    the defunding of all of our research into next-generation launch vehicles

    The Ares I/V are hardly next generation launch vehicles, and I don’t think he said he was going to defund next generation launch vehicle research, just delay the one that apparently won’t work very well, if it even works at all.

  • Mike Fazah

    A delay in a Shuttle replacement would give plenty of time to reassess the options. It is very likely that the new NASA Administrator will not have so much personal capital invested in any one concept, and that we will get a more honest solution. Therefore, I see such a delay as a very very good thing.

    With that little extra time, COTS may very well turn out to be the best approach.

  • Reader,

    You cannot ask IRS 501c3 not for profit charities like SFF and NSS to endorse or attack the campaign policy positions of a candidate running for federal office. They would lose their tax status and their donor base.

    Keith,

    As you may have heard, I was quite positive about Hillary’s plan in my speech to SEDS a couple weeks ago. That said, she has not said more about the value of space in one document than GWB uttered in his entire life. I agree with your criticizing Bush about follow-thru, but I am actually more concerned with the lack of continuing “adult supervision” rather than the lack of resources.

    Others,

    To be linguistically precise, Obama has not issued a “space policy”. He has issued an education policy, and his plan for paying for this education policy IMPLIES some elements of that space policy. One opportunity of this announcement is that folks should DEMAND the details on space.

    That said, despite how little data we have from most of the candidates — including an embarrassing 100% default by the GOP ones — at least we have an EFFORT by one candidate to lay out a plan, however imperfect some of us may view that plan. Hillary’s plan beats no plan or a really bad plan.

    P.S. And to my fellow radical commercialization allies… I would love for a cut to $500 million to imply a focus on low-cost entrepreneurial approaches. But Mr. Obama’s spokesperson clarified the cut as preserving “the technical base” for Constellation. That tells me
    the NASA centers involved in Constellation would be funded, but not much else. (I have to admit I haven’t read the details of the FY08 NASA budget, but under full cost accounting the programs have to fund the personnel. Given how many FTEs at JSC and MSFC and GRC and, increasingly, at KSC, are going to be allocated to Constellation, I’d say $500m doesn’t leave much for contract dollars, either for SpaceX or Lockheed Martin.)

  • Keith Cowing

    Muncy: That said, she has not said more about the value of space in one document than GWB uttered in his entire life.

    Then please show me all of the other words Bush has uttered about space – I cannot seem to find them.

  • …please show me all of the other words Bush has uttered about space – I cannot seem to find them.

    Geez, Keith. I though that you and Seitzen wrote an entire book about that.

  • Lucius Vorenus

    Ferris Valyn: Yes folks, Lucius is absolutely right – the evil Communists, in the form of the Democratic party, is coming to get you. [rolls eyes]

    You can roll your eyes from now until the cows come home, but it won’t change the facts on the ground.

    These are the opening salvos in the IQ Wars, and this is your future:

    Zimbabwe’s last white farmers face final push
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/10/01/wzim101.xml

    Zimbabwe runs out of bread
    Harare admits land reform has failed as the deadline passes for the last white farmers to leave their land
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/zimbabwe/article/0,,2181086,00.html

  • J

    As an Obama supporter I’m really disapointed he is planning on cutting the Constallation program. I advise other Obama supporters to send him off a letter. If enough of us share our concerns, it might make a difference. If he’s the peoples candidate like he sells himself to be, this should at least give him the options to reconsider.

  • Gary

    Jim: Your point about using Obama’s statement as an opportunity to demand details on space policy is on target. Such demands should be made of all candidates.

    As it stands now, Obama’s proposed raid on the Constellation budget calls his fitness to run a government into question. Your analysis of the effects of a $500m budget shows that it’s far worse than canceling Constellation outright. The keep-alive money both prevents investment in commercial alternatives and prevents NASA from actually accomplishing anything. What kind of people would be left in the program after 5 years of marching in place? This kind of stretch out wastes money, accomplishes little or nothing, and demoralizes everyone involved.

    Al’s comments above point to a problem/opportunity. NASA may be vulnerable like never before. The public interest poll in NSSO’s Space Based Solar Power report points to a possible reorientation for NASA if its political support fails, or even if it doesn’t. Space solar power polled first at 35%, with protecting Earth from asteroids or comets second at 17%. Building a lunar base came in eighth at 4%! NASA’s priorities seem to be seriously out of touch.

  • Keith Cowing

    Rand says “Geez, Keith. I though that you and Seitzen wrote an entire book about that.”

    Well, Geez Rand then wouldn’t you think that I might just know something about what he actually said – or did not say? Bush did very little heavy lifting – that was done by others.

  • Mike Fazah

    The public interest poll in NSSO’s Space Based Solar Power report points to a possible reorientation for NASA if its political support fails, or even if it doesn’t. Space solar power polled first at 35%, with protecting Earth from asteroids or comets second at 17%…

    What poll is this? Please post a site where we can access it. Thanks.

  • Mike Fazah

    TWhat poll is this? Please post a site where we can access it. Thanks.

    Never mind. I see that it is embedded in the NSSO report.

  • Lucius Vorenus

    j: As an Obama supporter I’m really disapointed he is planning on cutting the Constallation program. I advise other Obama supporters to send him off a letter. If enough of us share our concerns, it might make a difference. If he’s the peoples candidate like he sells himself to be, this should at least give him the options to reconsider.

    Sigh.

    Let’s try this one more time: Obama IS the people’s candidate.

    You just don’t understand who the people have become, over the course of the last 40 years.

    This ain’t 1967, folks, and we ain’t going back to the moon.

    Wake up and smell the coffee.

  • Lucius – do you actually believe the crap your saying?

    If so, then I think you don’t realize what group you belong to.

  • “You can roll your eyes from now until the cows come home, but it won’t change the facts on the ground.

    These are the opening salvos in the IQ Wars, and this is your future:

    Zimbabwe’s last white farmers face final push”

    Are you claiming or implying that white people have higher IQs than black people (or vice-versa)?

    If so, it’s a very rascist position, with no basis in fact as decades of scientific research have repeatedly disproven eugenics claims.

    It’s your choice to express your opinion and exercise your right to free speech, but I’d urge you to take such off-topic and incendiary statements elsewhere. They have no place on a forum about the politics of space programs.

  • Are you claiming or implying that white people have higher IQs than black people (or vice-versa)?

    If so, it’s a very rascist position, with no basis in fact as decades of scientific research have repeatedly disproven eugenics claims.

    Actually, the jury’s still out on that, at least as far as averages go, but you’re right–it’s certainly a discussion that has no place here.

  • Paul F. Dietz

    If so, it’s a very rascist position, with no basis in fact as decades of scientific research have repeatedly disproven eugenics claims.

    In actuality, there’s a great deal of scientific evidence linking a good deal (around 50%, IIRC) of IQ variation to genetics. The left’s reaction (typified by your blatant misrepresentation of the state of the science) to this ideological inconvenience is the mirror image of the right’s reaction to global warming science.

  • “Actually, the jury’s still out on that, at least as far as averages go,”

    Not really. A racial basis for I.Q. differences is a hypothesis held by a very small number of researchers. The vast majority of the science community has come down on the other side, arguing that no such conclusion can be drawn based on the available evidence; that the evidence actually points mostly to social influences; or that “race” itself is a useless, artificial, non-biological construct that natural selection does not recognize:

    http://www.aaanet.org/stmts/race.htm
    http://www.gifted.uconn.edu/siegle/research/Correlation/Intelligence.pdf
    http://www.udel.edu/educ/gottfredson/reprints/1997mainstream.pdf
    http://www-personal.umich.edu/~nisbett/racegen.pdf

    Worse, many of the researchers in the minority receive funding from agenda-driven organizations (in the mode of tobacco corporation-funded health research):

    http://www.fair.org/index.php?page=1271

    I did read the Slate article, but it’s drawn from a very small number of sources. My guess is that a broader reading would have resulted in a different (or no) article.

    My own personal take is that the question fundamentally confuses cause and effect. Both race (or skin coloration and other physical features) and the genetic component of I.Q. (or other measures of the brain’s capabilities) are expressions of the genetic code, not influences on it. Race does not determine I.Q. and neither does I.Q. determine race. It’s the genetic code that’s the cause of both, which itself is the product of tens or hundreds of thousands of years of evolution under different environments and influences. Until we can tease out what specific DNA sequences determine the genetic component of I.Q., eugenics will continue to be a pseudoscience relying on artifical constructs to create apparent correlations that have no cause-and-effect basis in reality.

    Mr. Simberg did not make this argument, but to Mr. Vorenus’s point (or at least the point I think he was trying to make), to construct social policy with the intent of changing the characteristics of a population (such as I.Q.), when we don’t yet understand the mechanistic causes of those characteristics (i.e., the underlying genetic code) and, even worse, rely on artificial constructs that nature does not recognize (such as race), is so utterly misguided as to be ridiculous.

    My 2 cents… FWIW…

  • Note for Mr. Foust…

    My response to Mr. Simberg and Mr. Dietz was swallowed by the screening software. Could you retrieve and post here?

    Thanks much.

  • Jeff Foust

    Mr./Ms. Space: your comment has been recovered.

    Jeff

  • “Mr./Ms. Space: your comment has been recovered.”

    Thanks much, Mr. Foust.

  • “In actuality, there’s a great deal of scientific evidence linking a good deal (around 50%, IIRC) of IQ variation to genetics.”

    There is _some_ scientific evidence that about half of our I.Q. comes from our genetic code. But there are also many, equally valid studies showing that anywhere from zero to 100% of various intelligence factors are heritable. As the various scientific societies state in the links above, it is impossible to make such a statement on the basis of the evidence and the state of the research at this time.

    And, again, we have to avoid confusing cause with effect. Genetic code is not the same thing as race. Our genetic code probably does determine some amount of our intelligence, and it certainly determines our race. But because our race is only one effect of our genetic code — and not a cause of it — it will never be an accurate determinant of the genetic component of our I.Q. We have to delve much deeper than artificial constructs made of surface features unrecognized by nature and natural selection to understand the genetic component of intelligence.

    “The left’s reaction”

    How do you know that I’m on the “left”, Mr. Dietz? Where have I ever stated that I’m a liberal, Democrat, socialist communist pinko, etc.?

    If you can’t enter into an argument without bringing the other poster’s intent into question, then please don’t bother. Argue the facts and logic, not the poster.

    “typified by your blatant misrepresentation of the state of the science”

    One, I never created a “mispresentation of the state of the science”. Based on state of the science, no such conclusion can be drawn based on the available evidence, the evidence actually points to social influences, or “race” itself is a non-biological construct that natural selection does not recognize. In fact, I would argue that by conflating genetics with race and confusing cause and effect, you are the one that is mispresenting the science.

    Two, even if it was a misrepresentation, how do you know that it was intentional and “blatant” on my part (or on the part of any other poster)?

    If you can’t enter into an argument without bringing the other poster’s intent into question, then please don’t bother. Argue the facts and logic, not the poster.

    Finally, to anyone wants to take this up further, I’d suggest we find a different forum. I’m also available at anonymous.space@yahoo.com. Again, discussions about race, intelligence, and genetics don’t belong on a forum about space policy and risk uselessly incendiary reactions on this valuable forum.

    Thank you…

  • Roger

    One does wonder how the NASA budget can appear such a huge pot of gold. I mean the US spends about $10 billion a year on bottled water! Compared to the $16 billion NASA budget. Hell, the military can lose $12 billion in cash in Iraq and not blink an eye. But NASA is always on the chopping block as a way to cut government spending. That is like a coke-head cutting the tic-tac budget to save money while still buying cocaine.

  • “I mean the US spends about $10 billion a year on bottled water!”

    These kinds of comparisons, while interesting, are just not relevant to NASA budget arguments. When going to the grocery store or stopping by the 7-11, the American consumer/taxpayer is never confronted with a question about whether to shell out a few bucks for bottled water versus contributing to NASA. It’s a false choice, because we’re never presented with it. NASA’s dollars come from our tax returns, of course, and we have little and very indirect choice (through our representatives) about how much we contribute to tax dollars and where those tax dollars go.

    “Compared to the $16 billion NASA budget. Hell, the military can lose $12 billion in cash in Iraq and not blink an eye.”

    Again, due to the nature of the federal budget process, this is largely another false choice because defense spending is handled separate from other, non-defense discretionary spending (which is where NASA competes for dollars). Different parts of the White House and different Congressional committees deal with defense discretionary and non-defense discretionary budgets. Only at a macro-level, such as the “peace dividend” that did benefit non-defense discretionary spending in the pre-9/11 post-Cold War years, are such tradeoffs ever made. They’re almost never made at the DoD versus NASA (or any other department/agency) level. (The exception would be very specific programs of overlapping defense/non-defense interest/roles, such as nuke research or certain types of aeronautics research.)

    “But NASA is always on the chopping block as a way to cut government spending.”

    NASA is always on the chopping block as a way to decrease non-defense, discretionary spending or (more often) to fund other, discretionary programs. That’s the arena that NASA competes for funding in and there are plenty of other, very worthwhile programs, agencies, and departments that spend equivalent amounts of money on goals that are arguably more relevant to the U.S. taxpayer. Take, for example, the budget for the National Cancer Institute, which in 2007, was almost $5 billion. That’s roughly equivalent to the Space Shuttle budget. What’s more important? Funding hundreds of research projects to find cures for or mitigate various cancers that afflict millions? Or flying a few dozen astronauts every year? Even when Shuttle support for ISS is included, does the return from all ISS research even begin to match the return from all federally sponsored cancer research?

    It’s an extreme example, but that’s the kind of competition that NASA is up against in the budget arena (non-defense discretionary) that NASA competes in.

    I’m a space advocate and am not trying to start an argument over any of the above. I’m just trying to illustrate the cold, hard realities of where and how decisions about the NASA budget are made.

    FWIW…

  • Paul F. Dietz

    There is _some_ scientific evidence that about half of our I.Q. comes from our genetic code. But there are also many, equally valid studies showing that anywhere from zero to 100% of various intelligence factors are heritable.

    Well, I disagree with your depiction of the balance of scientific evidence. I will also note that the position that intelligence is 0% heritable is effectively a form of creationism: if genetics doesn’t affect intelligence, how could intelligence have evolved? There would be nothing to selection to act on.

    Also, the quote there seems to indicate you agree your original statement:

    If so, it’s a very rascist position, with no basis in fact as decades of scientific research have repeatedly disproven eugenics claims.

    was false (I assume you are the same anonymous poster).

  • “Well, I disagree with your depiction of the balance of scientific evidence.”

    You’re free to disagree, but you should understand that it’s not my depiction that you’re disagreeing with. Investigate the links. You’re disagreeing with gobs of contradictory research and the viewpoints of professional societies representing thousands of scientists.

    “I will also note that the position that intelligence is 0% heritable is effectively a form of creationism: if genetics doesn’t affect intelligence, how could intelligence have evolved?”

    There’s a big difference between an all-encompassing definition of “intelligence” and select “intelligence factors”. As studies of abandoned and so-called “wild” children (among other research) show, some aspects of intelligence are not inherited or instinctual and will only develop after interaction with other humans, indicating that they are largely or purely societal in origin.

    “Also, the quote there seems to indicate you agree your original statement was false (I assume you are the same anonymous poster).”

    No it doesn’t. You’re conflating eugenics — a pseudoscience that confuses cause with effect and that investigates relationships that are artifical constructs with no basis in biology and that are unrecognized by natural selection — with legitimate genetics research –which does get at actual causes and rests on biological mechanisms that are acted on by natural selection. The two not the same thing, not by a long shot.

    Again, this topic really doesn’t belong on this forum. If you want to pursue it, I’d suggest that we take it to another forum or exchange emails. I’m available at anonymous.space@yahoo.com.

    FWIW…

  • thejournalist

    Thx Roger, I was beginning to think the stranglehold of the military industrial complex would go overlooked. Anonymous is so far off topic already, I’m not going to address his bigotry.
    650 billion a year for the def budget, come on…seriously come the f on. Do we really need the USS Bush penis? Ballistic Missile Boats that can now destroy the world 4 times over instead of one (quad load launch tubes) The cost of the new generation of fighters is insane 130 mill per, I’m sorry but the F-15 has never been shot down @ 30 mill per. Iraq, omg, I’ll put it this way if NASA had the Iraq war budget the results would be absolutely amazing. Expanding our understanding and technical manipulation of the universe in ways we cannot even begin to imagine. The real question is do you want our country to be a leader in science and tech or death dealing. NASA with its tiny 18 bill a year budget is the largest non military use of cutting edge tech. The power of the wow factor cannot be overstated. So many of the top scientists in the world attribute their love of science to the Apollo program and the space race.
    I like Obama, but he’s too young. He wont be the dem. candidate because Hillary stands the best chance at beating the republican. Sorry Oprah. As far as her stand on NASA, or anything else, it is just to early. Many things can change, and with Russia and China ramping up their space programs…..maybe race to Mars?
    I agree the space program is not exactly a big topic for politicians, I’m working on changing that. Those who are like minded, are doing the same, this debate and others like it are getting better and more frequent as people form opinions and learn.

  • “Anonymous is so far off topic already, I’m not going to address his bigotry.”

    Whoa there buddy. What the heck have I said anything that represents “bigotry”? I’ve argued a position that’s 180 degrees opposed to anything that even smacks of racial comparisons. I’ve repeatedly stated that the state of the science does not support any conclusion about relationships between race and intelligence. Please back up your unsubstantiated allegation with a quote from my earlier posts.

    I do agree that the race/intelligence topic is off-topic and potentially incendiary. But I didn’t start it, and I’ve been arguing that it should be taken off-line. If you want to continue throwing unsubstantiated accusations of bigotry at me, please feel free to email me at anonymous.space@yahoo.com.

    “I was beginning to think the stranglehold of the military industrial complex would go overlooked… 650 billion a year for the def budget, come on…seriously come the f on.”

    If my response to Roger’s post is what has you ticked off, then you misread that post as well. I did not argue that spending levels on defense (or anything else) are at the right or wrong levels. (In fact, I personally agree with you that DoD’s budget is riddled with wasteful spending.)

    What I did argue is that, within the constraints of our economic and political systems, these kinds of comparisons are false. Although the numbers are interesting, we’re not confronted with these spending decisions on an individual basis and our political system largely doesn’t confront these spending options either. That doesn’t mean that we shoudn’t argue for better. But it’s a reality that largely renders these kinds of spending comparisons useless, and we space cadets need to be aware of it when we make our arguments.

    FWIW…

  • thejournalist

    my apology then, I am late to the party, it was a lot to read. Here is a question for thought. Is the militarization of space inevitable? How does this affect opinion?

  • Considering it happened about 50 years ago it’s pretty much inevitable, yeah…

    You really live up to your name thejournalist ^_^

  • [...] | Everyday Goddess | Terrestrial Musings | The Pink Flamingo | Twixel.net | Space Politics | DailyKos | Nature [...]

  • Lucius Vorenus

    For anyone who is still lurking here, there’s a new thread over at Slashdot today:

    Subcommittee Stops Human Mars Mission Spending
    http://science.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=07/06/21/1926222

    It’s based on a press release from June of this year, issued by the office of Alan B. Mollohan (D-WV):

    http://appropriations.house.gov/pdf/Mollohan%20SubC%202008.pdf
    [PDF FILE]

    I scrolled through the June archives, but I didn’t see anything about it.

  • Jeff Foust

    Lucius,

    The new thread of relevance on Slashdot is actually this one:
    http://science.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=07/12/05/145241

    (the one linked to above is from June.) The anti-Mars provision has been mentioned here several times, starting in June, including:
    http://www.spacepolitics.com/2007/06/13/a-step-forward-on-the-nasa-budget/
    http://www.spacepolitics.com/2007/06/21/mars-is-under-attack/
    http://www.spacepolitics.com/2007/06/28/mars-society-continues-its-counterattack/

    among others.

  • spaceresources4earth

    I am curious to know what the technical credentials of the posters to this site are ?. It sounds like a lot of complaining without a lot of analytical support presented.

    Human and Robotic Space exploration will be exactly like the activities of Columbus, Lewis & Clark and all the other brave people who opened our world. We will find resources and develop technologies along the way whose benefits will far outweight the costs. Simply put, this country is strong enough to have BOTH a vigorous space program AND a sound educational system. We will eventually have commercial venture providing transporation to and from LEO, the moon, and Mars thanks to the pioneering work that is now being cast aside as irrelevant.

  • JT

    Clear thinking…take away from science and research to give back to education???… Wait even better yet, take away research and development infrastructure and jobs, lose the experience level of the workers over the next ten years, then try establish a viable program with new grads…because all the current engineers and technicians have nothing better to do then wait ten years for congress to get a clue.

    So much for space superiority and maintaining the high ground.
    Well I guess we can always rely on other countries (ESA and Russia) to protect and accomplish our interests in space, while our kids can just sit back playing WII, Playstation, and Xbox. And we will barely pass them in their classes, cause Johny needs to play in the Friday night football GAME. Because…a huh a huh…parents don’t have to stress education in our communities, we’ll just throw more money at it, hoping it will get better.

    The desire to learn comes within.

  • [...] appears to be a reference to delaying the Constellation program for five years, a stance he clarified recently by saying he supported continued development of Ares 1 and [...]

  • Jim

    Its so sad to see the U.S. decline from a superpower alowing China to take its place. Just think in 100yrs people will be reading about how China came to be the only superpower and how its monopoly on helium 3 couldve been in the U.S. hans……….lol

  • Dejah Thoris

    And so… we’ve poured billions into education for years… and this is the result we get… an ignorant politician threatening to take away technology money (a drop in the bucket compared to what’s been spent) to pour into education so we can educate kids to do … what? work in a service economy? That’s all we’ll have if space funding gets cut.

    I suspect Obama is in for a rude awakening.

  • Marsh

    Obama’s view of NASA’s programs is beyond simplistic. You can’t simply defund a program then expect it to immediately pickup where they were before. People wit the specialized skills will leave, and may not return, or at the very least be difficult to convince to return. More, NASA will be forced to cancel or suspend contracts, the cost of which can easily consume much of the $500m Obama proposes to give Constellation. This is not to mention the negative impact on local communities and the small businesses that depend on the presence of NASA employees and their families in their cities and towns.

    However, it is doubtful that Obama will be able to get his cuts through Congress without a significant fight, as jobs in local communities is a major political issue.

    The broader question is what other areas would Obama have to cut to fund his programs? Defense?

  • While I agree that cutting the budget for NASA is ridiculous and believe the budget should in fact be tripled I am curious just what plans the other candidate for the White House’s plans for NASA are, no not Hillary, I am speaking of John McCain. Does anyone know what he plans to do with NASA if elected?

  • Jeff Foust

    Jeff: McCain’s space policy, which is relatively short on details, was published a little more than a month ago and covered here.

  • [...] to pay for his $18 billion education plan by taking it out of the hide of NASA”; rather, Obama said he would pay for his education plan in part by delaying Constellation by five years. He also did not specifically mention Ares and Orion in the statement, contrary to what MacKinnon [...]

  • kelster mcgil

    educating children is more important than returning to the moon… been there, done that… NASA can continue to use the shuttles for commerce… I hope that educated scientists and contractors can see that childrens’ educations should come first.

  • Tim

    He’s short-sighted but then again NASA budget has always been the ‘sacrificial lamb’ during congressional budget cuts. For once I wish they’d audit and then cut HUD or some other departments whose budgets are a big chunk out of the national budget pie and have a hell of a lot more waste percentage-wise than NASA could ever dream of doing.

  • [...] this be yet another case where Obama’s good sense trumps Republican insanity? Signs point to yes … No Comments so far Leave a comment RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI [...]

  • Adam

    this is outrageous… how can he support early childhood education and not the space program? granted the many issues that we are beginning to experience on the earth these days, the future of mankind won’t weigh itself on a few extra years of education. rather, it will weigh itself on the deep confines of space, as the vision to explore planets will yield an imperative opportunity to expand and improve the way in which we live.

  • Chris

    The problem with early education is NOT solved by cutting NASA funding. Here’s the problem. Let’s assign an arbitrary number to public school funding (not a correct number, so don’t blast me for that), say…$10,000 a year per student. Something proposed by a couple of Republicans at one point – the “voucher system”, which as I understand has been instituted in a few school districts in the country already. The problems teachers face is over-crowding. Teachers are forced to try and teach a class-room of 40 students, and cannot provide the individual attention that some children need. It’s not a question of minority, special needs, etc. Some kids just don’t respond well to the class curriculum, and have trouble learning in that environment. So, how can we give them better attention? Well, some (Obama) have suggested cutting funding elsewhere (NASA) to help fund such education programs. This is NOT a good solution. Cut Aerospace jobs (remember, NASA also contributes heavily to the Aerospace & Materials Research & Development field)? No….bad move. Why not a voucher system? The concept of vouchers works to give parents the alternative of private schooling, with a voucher from the existing public school funding. But, here’s the catch….remember I assigned an arbitrary (and not accurate) amount of $10,000 in funding for public schools per student. The public school in which the aforementioned child would be zoned for will still get $6,000, and the child’s parents will be given a $4,000 voucher toward private school education. Win-win. The public school system still gets 60% of funding for that child, subtracts one less student from the classroom, and the child gets a better education at a private school. But see…that’s too complicated. Plus, the school system’s administrators do NOT want to part with that remaining 40%, even if it makes sense. So…they continue to line Obama’s pockets and he decides instead, to cut jobs from NASA. Not a good idea, if you ask me…

  • Chris

    Tim wrote: For once I wish they’d audit and then cut HUD or some other departments whose budgets are a big chunk out of the national budget pie[...]I could NOT agree more. My grandparents ran several apartment complexes for years, including a couple of low-income housing developments. HUD was by far the biggest joke…they would come in, inspect the apartments and damage (caused by tenants, including one unit where carpet had been destroyed because the tenant was housing a goat…yes, a goat), and give a list of repairs that MUST be done by a certain date. After 3-5 years of trying, my grandparents finally were able to rid themselves of that money sinkhole…HUD would frequently send them new and more exciting ways of reporting to them, including a stand-a-lone dial-up service that functioned like e-mail. So, let’s see….a dedicated dial-up service, custom database program….I’m sure that was a necessary software package to report a series of numbers to them every month. Ridiculous….

  • Joe Donofiro

    The shuttle is retired. So as a nation we go no where. The Russians laugh at us. Chinas’ laugh at us. So does the rest of the world.

    Now, we have no access to space or direct access to the space station that was mostly funded by the U.S. unless we start to use catapults. Now the russians start rising the fee for access to the space station for whatever reason want even though we subtainal fund theirspace program. Now we wait for five years to restart the Apollo program and another three to five after that to send us back to the moon.

    Now tell me if that not a waste of money. We as a nation should have been camping out on the moon in 80′s and exploring Mars in 90′s.

    Presently, their no is reason why we shoudn’t have a more aggressive human space flight program and at the same time we should be teaming with other space faring nations to cut cost and share expensive because it is going to happen some day.

    As far as Obama eduction policy goes I believe in the old saying “you can lead a horse to water but can you make him drink it ?”.

    As I see it science, space exploration and eduction all need to work together hand in hand to realize our dreams. We need to invest sound monies in our children futures and their dreams, but if we take those visions and dreams away we as a nation are going to suffer greaterly far into the future. One of the problems being is that we shouldn’t be robbing Peter to pay Paul. Basicilly, we need to stop stealing budget robbing one program to pay for another. That what is driving the S & S System into failure right now.

    Speak of wasting money, I am 55 yrs old and so far I lived through the Korean, Vietnam, Granada, Crotia conflict, Iraq 1 and 2 wars, other actions that equals about 1 war/action ever eight to ten years which each costed hundreds of million if not billions of dollars. An each was no threat directly to the US—since we do have the biggest bombs on the planet.

    In summary eduction, space exploration and science need to work together to succeed. On the same hand we need to protect each program for their values and benefits. But let us not forget we are only a speck in this universe and we need to have a back door off this planet for the human race to survive. How would like it if a world changing event occurs and their no escape off home base ( natural or manmade). Yes, It may only ever a couple of 100 millions of years but hasn’t it been a that long since the last event? JXD

  • i am an obama supporter, but on this issue i have the greatest problem with him. there is absolutely no reason to be delaying constellation. for a progressive candidate it’s unacceptable to be slashing funding for such an important undertaking. i cannot believe i agree with conservatives on this issue. i thought it was a fundamentally liberal idea to explore space, and i am sorely dissappointed with obama on this.

  • [...] Were those our greatest moments as a nation and as a species? I truly hope not. The one federal program most important to the survival of our species is NASA. Because of my dedication to space and our future, I fear Barack Obama’s election. Like every other topic, Obama has bounced back and forth like a sugared up four year old. The most concrete thing I can find about his lack of dedication to our future in space comes from Space Politics: [...]

  • john

    are you rediculous. Space exploiration is more important than education obama. I do agree that education is important but space exploration and figuring out whats out there is what we really need to do. WE HAVE BEEN WAITING FOR THIS MOMENT!

  • [...] this proposal may sound a little familiar: it’s something the Obama campaign floated in November 2007 as almost an afterthought to an education policy white paper; the five-year Constellation delay [...]

  • Jmart

    Nasa only has half of one percent of the US budget, what the fuck is with people on here saying they have too much money? We spend more money in a fucking week in Iraq than Nasa’s entire yearly budget. Space exploration IS important. Education is important too, but taking away the little money Nasa actually has is NOT the way to do it.

  • Jenibee

    Figures. Obama will cut anything but what he really needs to cut. Like the parasites that feed off of hard working folks wages.
    We need to establish ourselves on the moon instead of showing how weak our leaders have become. Now China will go up there and build a defense base. I’m sure he’ll just apologize for it and then him, Pelosi and Reid will fly all over the world touting there new budget.

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