Congress, NASA

It’s hard to let go

As the 2010 retirement date for the space shuttle looms, it’s not surprising that some people want to keep the shuttle flying for at least a little bit longer. The Orlando Sentinel reports today that some members of Congress are prepared to take legislative steps to extend the shuttle’s life. A group of Texas members of Congress, led by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, are preparing legislation that would require NASA to add another shuttle mission to launch the AMS. According to the article, 32 members of Texas’ congressional delegation—all but two of its members—signed a letter sent to President Bush last month asking him support their cause; the members also met with NASA Administrator Mike Griffin to try and convince him to add the AMS to the shuttle manifest. “We didn’t leave with everyone jumping up and down and cheering,” admitted Rep. Nick Lampson (D-TX). “We think that he’s under a good bit of pressure to not fly the shuttle after 2010. There’s a lot of money involved.” (Indeed.)

Also, Rep. Dave Weldon (R-FL) is proposing legislation that would require NASA to keep the shuttle flying until a replacement system is ready to fly—a move that would require a huge increase in the NASA budget, and also raise questions about the safety of the aging shuttle fleet. “We just don’t believe there should be a gap,” Weldon’s spokesman, Jeremy Steffens, told the Sentinel, adding that Weldon’s legislation would address safety issues and recertification of the shuttle fleet, a recommendation made by the Columbia Accident Investigation Board if the shuttle was to continue flying after 2010.

Not surprisingly, Griffin isn’t fond of any proposals to extend the shuttle’s life. “If you keep flying the shuttle… you will never finish [Constellation] on the money that we have,” he told the paper. From a technical standpoint, he added, “It is difficult to envision flying much past 2010.” Some in Congress, though, appear willing to try.

58 comments to It’s hard to let go

  • Charles in Houston

    Fellow Space Enthusiasts -

    We are between a rock and a hard place here, continue to fly the Shuttle and when to go on to the next system? Do we rely on partners for access to the Station (which we have spent billions on)??

    We do know that the Shuttle retirement date was arbitrarily picked – so it should be reviewed and a realistic one should be selected. A realistic retirement date based on Station logistics having a plan to get up to Station, a date based on availability of alternate launchers, and a date based on real needs to retire the Shuttle hardware.

    Years ago the Congress was solemnly assured that we needed a fleet of no less than four Shuttles, now we are “safe” with a fleet of three… So the actual Shuttle hardware wearout date remains to be established. Maybe we could safely fly with a “fleet” of two?

    We need a real space policy, not a vague promise to go back to the Moon, to Mars, to wherever – in some future Administration. We have a flying Shuttle, we have a Space Station, maybe we could craft a space policy around using what we have and developing the next system???

    When the next system is available, maybe we could then decide where to go with it??

    Charles

  • Kevin Parkin

    Mike is right, we need to move beyond the shuttle.

    A quarter century to build and launch a pressure vessel — the columbus module of the space station — indicates that we have totally the wrong approach to the logistics of making things happen in space.

  • Rick

    We (the nation) seem to have been able to scrape up enough funding to perpetuate the “war” in Iraq. Upon cessation, that would seem to leave a large amouont of $$$ available. …should be enough for the space program, adequate energy research with leftovers! I wonder where it will really go?

  • MarkWhittington

    The idea of keeping the shuttle flying until 2015 (which I guess is one of the proposals on the table) is pretty crazy. If the Congress can’t cough up the extra two or so billion to “narroiw the gap” by just two years, how is it expected that Congress will instead cough up two to three billion extra a year to keep the orbiters flying, even leaving aside the risk of losing another one and her crew. Take it out of Orion? Well, that of course defers Orion to the indefinate future.

  • Al Fansome

    Great reporting Jeff.

    It is programmatically very easy to add one extra Shuttle flight to the manifest for the AMS-02 — even if the external tank (ET) assembly line is shut down — because NASA has 1 or 2 back up ETs. (I know there is at least one, and I have seen references to two extra ETs.)

    However, the cost of extending the entire Shuttle program by ~3 months is quite significant, as you really do need to apply full cost of all the Shuttle overhead to this decision. You can not fool yourself by saying “the marginal cost of a Shuttle flight is $X”. This means this is a BILLON-dollar space policy decision for AMS-02.

    In this context, I believe that this congressional activity on AMS-02 will give NASA HQ (and the White House) a much larger incentive to find a lower cost alternative to delivering AMS-02 to the ISS.

    This is an interesting space policy issue that encapsulates a bunch of conflicts that policy makers must choose among, including “Do you spend NASA’s limited budget on STS or Constellation?”, “Choose: Important science at ISS vs backup ISS infrastructure?”, “Do you trust emerging commercial (and Japanese) ISS alternatives enough to depend just a little more on them?” and “What is the data on “mean time between failures” at ISS currently showing?”

    - Al

    PS — BTW, I am constantly amazed by the inability of some to let go of the Shuttle, and their amazing ability to ignore the reality that saving STS will consign NASA to LEO. The first posting above by “Charles in Houston” is a perfect example — he blindly assumes that because we are “Space Enthusiasts” that we support extending the Shuttle forever.

    Instead, it is because I am a space enthusiast that I want to retire the Shuttle sooner, rather than later.

  • Charles in Houston

    Fellow Space Enthusiasts -

    While trying to avoid a two-sided discussion, I would like to return to the original intent of Jeff’s reporting and make sure that we are discussing what I hope it is.

    Seriously, does “It Is Hard To Let Go” really refer to strictly the Shuttle, or to an American ability to launch people into space? Unfortunately, the two are the same right now. Though hopefully in the future that will not be true.

    As an example, Al F says:

    “PS — BTW, I am constantly amazed by the inability of some to let go of the Shuttle, and their amazing ability to ignore the reality that saving STS will consign NASA to LEO. The first posting above by “Charles in Houston” is a perfect example — he blindly assumes that because we are “Space Enthusiasts” that we support extending the Shuttle forever.

    Instead, it is because I am a space enthusiast that I want to retire the Shuttle sooner, rather than later.”

    Picking a technically supportable retirement date for any system (the Shuttle is our example here) is the way to do it, not to arbitrarily pick one based on a date, or the number of hours that a campaign has been running (to reflect back on the effort to remove the Iraqi Army from Kuwait).

    Unfortunately, our best path forward is to retain our ability to get into LEO (or any EO) while we still can. The Orion is an unknown and risks, launch dates, etc etc are all predictions.

    The Shuttle is “old” but so are many of our frontline aircraft that we ask our Air Force to fly – the B-52, the KC-135, the T-38, … If we fly any system within it’s limitations we can continue to fly it safely.

    The Orion is going to be a space launch system and any such system will be a large, dangerous, risky, endeavor. Flying in space is risky! Not as dangerous as driving on your local highway, of course.

    Hopefully all Space Enthusiasts will support American access to space and not support depending on Russian launch vehicles.

    We need to look at our systems and pick any retirement dates based on needs, sound engineering, available replacements, etc – and NOT on a nice round calendar date.

    Charles

  • Al Fansome

    CHARLES IN HOUSTON: The Orion is going to be a space launch system and any such system will be a large, dangerous, risky, endeavor. Flying in space is risky! Not as dangerous as driving on your local highway, of course.

    Hopefully all Space Enthusiasts will support American access to space and not support depending on Russian launch vehicles.

    This is a completely false choice.

    There is more than one way to achieve the objective of “support American access to space and not support depending on Russian launch vehicles” while diversifying the risk of depending on Orion’s success.

    1) “Charles in Houston” (and Mr. Weldon of Florida) would have us ongoingly spend $4 Billion a year in taxpayer funds on the Shuttle program — a 1970s system — on what even “Charles in Houston” admits is “old”. This is an investment in the “past” — and will deliver ZERO benefits to opening the space frontier.

    BOTTOM LINE: Not only does this choice throw money away, it kills the VSE.

    2) Alternatively, we can achieve the same objective by spending that $4 Billion per year on “systems of the future”. If we don’t trust that Orion/Ares 1 will not show up (at all) — which is a reasonable position to take — the backup solution IS not to go invest in the past. The solution is to increase our investments in “future oriented” alternatives to the Orion/Ares 1.

    For $4 Billion per year — NASA could hold a new $500 million COTS competition every 6 weeks. (This is an exaggeration to make a point — investing in additional COTS systems delivers a LOT better value for the dollar than continued investments in the Shuttle.)

    Every dollar spent on COTS has at least a possibility of producing a breakthrough for America’s space agenda — it would be a truly exciting program that had a real future, and which might result in a true revolution and renaissance in American human spaceflight. You can’t say the same for investing those dollars in the Shuttle.

    Now, obviously, COTS does not need $4 Billion per year to provide reasonably high confidence that it will deliver breakthrough results — it obviously can provide some additional risk diversification at much smaller levels of funding. Another $500-1000M would go a long way in another COTS round. This level of funding would provide “risk mitigation” while also clearly allow the Constellation program to proceed.

    Another side point — the biggest risk in the Constellation program is NOT the Orion — as “Charles in Houston” states. We have done space capsules for 40 years — there is no question we can do another capsule. The real technical risk is the Ares 1 — and the obvious solution to the Ares 1 problems is to go to the EELVs.

    I believe “Charles in Houston” intentionally said the problem was “Orion” (instead of Ares 1) for a reason — he knows that going to Orion/EELV is a credible and easy solution to reducing the gap in “U.S. Government human spaceflight”, and that doing so undercuts his Shuttle-hugger argument.

    - Al

  • Enthralled Spectator

    he knows that going to Orion/EELV is a credible and easy solution to reducing the gap in “U.S. Government human spaceflight”, and that doing so undercuts his Shuttle-hugger argument.

    The problem is Orion and Ares I and VSE and ESAS and Michael Griffin and George W. Bush and the idiot Americans who voted for him twice, and still support his idiotic policies. This has been so much fun these last few years watching Michael Griffin squirm, and just think, we have front row seats at a billion dollars a ticket, for another whole year of watching Michael Griffin and his beloved launch vehicle architecture crash and burn into a rathole.

    The ‘Stick’ ain’t got nuthin on the shuttle. Not a damn thing.

    When an animal is mortally wounded, we know the humane thing to do is to put it out of its misery. The shuttle is not the mortally wounded thing here.

  • Excellent points, Al. Charles, the date chosen was not in fact arbitrary. The Shuttle orbiters must be re-certified for flight in 2010, a hugely expensive proposition. And, that is in addition to the $5 billion a year it would take to continue flying.

    It’s as hard for me as anyone else to give up on the Shuttle dream. But the Shuttle dream has turned into a nightmare and it really is past time to move on.

    That said, it should surprise nobody that many in Congress would fight this, some for parochial interests and some because they confuse the Shuttle and human spaceflight as being synonymous. Fortunately, they have very few options and I would guess that they are politically very unlikely to succeed.

    – Donald

  • The only thing I find sad in this is that the ISS will not be complete in the way it was supposed to be. I know, it never real was going to be. But I hate to find such a research module not sent up.

    Realistically, if we are determined to put this module up, let’s spend the money to revamp it as an unmanned add-on, instead of having to rely on the shuttle to send it there. Yes, that’ll cost a lot of money. But it wouldn’t be all spent at one time, and could be done without holding up Constellation. Yes, it would require some more funding for NASA, but it would be millions a year, instead of the $1+ billion to keep the shuttle for just 3 months…

  • “We do know that the Shuttle retirement date was arbitrarily picked”

    The VSE did not pick a date. It set a deadline of no later than 2010. NASA (under O’Keefe or Griffin) had the flexibility to declare ISS complete at an earlier point in the assembly sequence and shut down the Shuttle program at that point. Griffin even received an internal study that gave him the option of ending ISS assembly shortly after he came on board, provided the international partners were reimbursed to the tune of about $8 billion in cash, ISS research on the U.S. elements, flying astronauts, or other trades. It’s a big amount, but $8 billion is cheap versus the $25 billion or so that will be spent on Shuttle operations between Griffin’s start as Administrator and Shuttle retirement in 2010. (Imagine what $17 billion in net savings through 2010 could have done in other areas of NASA.) This blog entry is the only public description I’ve seen of the study (add http://):

    rocketsandsuch.blogspot.com/2007/09/white-elephant.html

    It’s a shame Griffin didn’t pursue that option, or the central recommendation of his own Planetary Society study, which also argued for an immediate Shuttle shutdown.

    “A realistic retirement date based on Station logistics having a plan to get up to Station”

    Assembly, not logistics, is the issue. And that’s just a question of how NASA meets it foreign commitments and when assembly complete is declared — there are several good stopping points in the assembly sequence. Once ISS assembly is complete, there’s no need for Shuttle. There are already four foreign vehicles (Progress, Soyuz, ATV, HTV) existing or in line that are more than capable of handling all ISS logistics, and even if NASA had to pay their whole bill (which, of course, it doesn’t), these foreign vehicles can do so for a fraction of Shuttle’s annual costs. And then there’s COTS. And then there’s EELVs if Griffin wasn’t so worried about the comparison to Ares I. There’s backup after backup after backup for ISS logistics. The key is to declare ISS assembly complete as early as possible, get off Shuttle, and free up those resources for better options. And there’s actually another good stopping point next year after Kibo is delivered, which would free up two years of Shuttle dollars to accelerate vehicles to replace Shuttle. It’s not too late.

    “If the Congress can’t cough up the extra two or so billion to “narroiw the gap” by just two years”

    Read Griffin’s testimony. The $2 billion is only through 2010. Additional billions will be needed in 2011, 2012, and 2013 to maintain Ares I/Orion for a 2013 operations start.

    And even then, it would still be a three-year gap to 2013, not two-year to 2012.

    And all that assumes that none of the multiple schedule problems highlighted in the GAO report come to pass.

    Or the fact that Ares I/Orion already have a 1-in-3 chance of not meeting their 2015 operational start date based on the ESAS plan and budget.

    Or that the ongoing 2008 continuing resolution doesn’t push out Ares I/Orion by another year.

    Anyone who thinks Ares I/Orion will be operational in 2015, nevertheless that these systems can be accelerated to 2013, is willfully ignoring reality and whistling past the graveyard.

    “Unfortunately, our best path forward is to retain our ability to get into LEO (or any EO) while we still can. The Orion is an unknown and risks, launch dates, etc etc are all predictions.”

    NASA’s top-line budget, for all intents and purposes, is fixed. NASA supporters in Congress has failed two years in a row to get an extra $1 billion to pay back the Shuttle and ISS programs for and Katrina cleanup. They’re never going to obtain another $4-5 billion per year to extend Shuttle operations.

    Griffin is right on this. Every dollar spend on Shuttle and every month that Shuttle operations are extended is one less dollar spent on Ares I/Orion (or their alternatives) and one more month added to the start of Ares I/Orion operations. We can have one or the other, but not both. It’s just an unfortunate and harsh budgetary reality. It’s far past time to stop hoping and wishing for better and just deal as effectively and efficiently with the NASA budget we’ve got.

    I also have to say that it boggles my mind that any politician or federal manager, for the sake of their careers and finances, would support continued, nevertheless extended, Shuttle operations. Risking astronaut lives, limited orbiters, and, worse, damage to uninvolved bystanders in the landing flight path with a system carrying 1-in-60 or so LOM/LOC numbers and the same unresolved foam/TPS defect that brought down Columbia risks major, major lawsuits. On the defects that brought down Challenger and Columbia, at least those in charge could claim that they didn’t know any better (and the Challenger defect was fixable). But if there’s another Columbia accident, those in charge won’t be able to claim such. I’m no Griffin fan, but for his family’s sake, I hope he’s carrying a ton of executive insurance.

    With respect to AMS, to prevent this from becoming a total political football that brings down Shuttle replacement with it, several things should happen:

    1) NASA’s Program Analysis and Evaluation (PA&E) office should conduct an Analysis of Alternatives (AoA) to get an apples-to-apples comparison of the costs, schedules, and risks associated with various options for deploying AMS (Shuttle to ISS via additional Shuttle flight, Shuttle to ISS via off-loaded manifest, other vehicles to ISS, and dedicated spacecraft).

    2) Those options and costs should be presented to the relevant science community to see if they’re willing to defer other activities and cough up the dollars to see AMS deployed. (I suspect not.)

    3) If the science community finds AMS valuable enough to spend what is likely hundreds of millions to low billions of dollars in impacts to other science programs to get it deployed, only then should the NASA Administrator pursue such options, whether they involve Shuttle or not, with the White House and Congress.

    Right now, Congress totally putting the horse before the cart in a thinly veiled attempt to extend Shuttle operations at taxpayer expense for the sake of NASA workforce voters. NASA needs to stand its ground and do the programmatic and scientific due diligence necessary to properly inform this decision.

    FWIW…

  • Erik and Anonymous: It would undoubtedly be scientifically cool to fly the AMS. However, a centrifuge to study the biological effects of variable gravity would be of far more use to the future. Therefore, I still think if we are going to fly any more modules to the Station, the Japanese centrifuge module should have the highest priority.

    – Donald

  • “Erik and Anonymous: It would undoubtedly be scientifically cool to fly the AMS. However, a centrifuge to study the biological effects of variable gravity would be of far more use to the future. Therefore, I still think if we are going to fly any more modules to the Station, the Japanese centrifuge module should have the highest priority.”

    Apples and oranges from different communities, who should each decide for themselves whether the costs of obtaining those additional research capabilities (whether on extra Shuttle flights to ISS or via alternative means) is worth the hit they’ll take to their other priorities within NASA’s budget. Unless we assume that both capabilities can only be obtained by flying those facilities as-is on a Shuttle, the remaining Shuttle flights are capped, and there’s only room for one in the remaining manifest, they’re not going to compete against each other. Per my earlier comments, the logical thing to do is an AoA study of options, costs, schedules, and risks, and then have the respective communities decide whether there’s an option in that mix that worth deferring other activities.

    For the centrifuge, for example, instead of trying to fix its remaining technical problems and afford an additional Shuttle flight, maybe the microgravity research and human space flight communities are better off with a different set of non-Shuttle (ELV- or COTS-launched) or even non-ISS experiments, smallsats, free-flyers, Bigelow modules, etc. that get after the same research questions as the centrifuge.

    FWIW…

  • “It would undoubtedly be scientifically cool to fly the AMS. However, a centrifuge to study the biological effects of variable gravity would be of far more use to the future.”

    It just seems odd to me that Bush and company would push using the ISS for the VSE program, and then take out a module that would do obvious progress for research into living on the moon for 6+ months. However, it’s probably not critical. As you say, it would be cool. But it’s nothing we won’t figure out for ourselves in the next 20 years anyway…

  • D. Messier

    Rick wrote @ December 6th, 2007 at 10:57 am

    We (the nation) seem to have been able to scrape up enough funding to perpetuate the “war” in Iraq. Upon cessation, that would seem to leave a large amouont of $$$ available. …should be enough for the space program, adequate energy research with leftovers! I wonder where it will really go?

    Ummmm….no. We probably won’t have a lot of $$$ available. Bush has run up the national debt massively. And there are continuing budget deficits. And the economy seems to be going a bit south on us, which is likely make both problems worse by reducing tax revenues.

    His tax policies seem designed to starve the government of revenues so that it will have to cut back on non-defense related discretionary spending. Which describes NASA perfectly. Especially expensive lunar missions. In the meantime, he’s expand the agency’s mandate while not giving it enough money to actually do these programs.

    Bush has also skewed NASA’s spending priorities in favor of human spaceflight and away from Earth sciences. With the planet, at least by most acounts, warming rapidly, Earth sciences are pretty darned important. It’s unlikely these sort of budget policies can be continued much longer.

    So, it’s like that there’s a big retrenchment coming. It will be interesting to see what NASA can salvage out of this.

  • Al Fansome

    Anon,

    I agree with most everything you say — but I want to question one point you make:

    3) If the science community finds AMS valuable enough to spend what is likely hundreds of millions to low billions of dollars in impacts to other science programs to get it deployed, only then should the NASA Administrator pursue such options, whether they involve Shuttle or not, with the White House and Congress.

    The science community has already spent $1.5 Billion based on a commitment from NASA’s SOMD (under its previous name Code M) to deliver it to ISS. Therefore, I think it is legitimate for the science community to take the position that “delivery” is on obligation on the books of SOMD (nee Code M). “We had a deal and we did our part … NASA broke the deal … we should not have to pay extra for NASA breaking the deal.”

    At the same time, I think that NASA is going to:

    1) Take the position you suggest — and say that DOE should pay (which is really weak) … which is why they will …

    2) Take the position of “White House, you forced us to kick AMS-02 off the Shuttle — you fix it. You give us more money, or give DOE the money to pay us for this delivery.”

    “Who is going to pay?” may be the core of the discussion taking place right now at the White House. In fact, the entity that pays probably should have a major influence among the alternatives that are judged technically sufficient.

    FWIW,

    - Al

  • Dennis Wingo

    The VSE did not pick a date. It set a deadline of no later than 2010. NASA (under O’Keefe or Griffin) had the flexibility to declare ISS complete at an earlier point in the assembly sequence and shut down the Shuttle program at that point. Griffin even received an internal study that gave him the option of ending ISS assembly shortly after he came on board, provided the international partners were reimbursed to the tune of about $8 billion in cash, ISS research on the U.S. elements, flying astronauts, or other trades. It’s a big amount, but $8 billion is cheap versus the $25 billion or so that will be spent on Shuttle operations between Griffin’s start as Administrator and Shuttle retirement in 2010. (Imagine what $17 billion in net savings through 2010 could have done in other areas of NASA.) This blog entry is the only public description I’ve seen of the study (add http://):

    rocketsandsuch.blogspot.com/2007/09/white-elephant.html

    It’s a shame Griffin didn’t pursue that option, or the central recommendation of his own Planetary Society study, which also argued for an immediate Shuttle shutdown.

    This was never a realistic option. I was spending a lot of time in Europe around industry and ESA executives when this was being discussed and as soon as it came out ESA top brass as well as EU ministerial people told the White House that to do this would end any cooperation in civil space between Europe and the USA. They still feel that they got screwed on the Spacelab deal and then to turn around and do this took them way over the top.

    With that out of the way, then the only option was to finish ISS. The problem today, is that with Mike basically ignoring ISS (although it is clear from looking at the Ares manifest that ISS support will be there through 2020) congress is looking skeptically at the new Moon mission, especially with only vaguely thought out rational that basically ignores what the president said and what John Marburger tried to tell them in his Goddard speech last year.

    NASA’s budget is fixed because NASA is not a priority. In 1972 NASA was not funded as we had a deficit and yet we found tens of billions of dollars to fund other efforts. In the 1990′s there was a budget deficit and NASA was not a priority but they found hundreds of billions of dollars to bail out the savings and loans.

    In the early 2000′s NASA was not given any more money (and Goldin had spent years stripping NASA of capability through Mr. Gore’s efforts) because of other priorities and yet we have found a trillion dollars for wars and new social programs.

    Until space becomes a priority, space will not be a priority. Space, and space beyond just NASA needs to be a priority but here we are and still we don’t have a plan that justifies making NASA and the wider development of space a national priority. For whatever reason, the public still sees NASA as the vanguard of USA space development, therefore it is up to NASA and especially the administrator to articulate a strategy that leads to the unfolding of the vision for space exploration in a manner that adds to the economic and security interests of the nation. Until that happens, NASA will continue in its spiral of irrelevancy.

  • ESA top brass as well as EU ministerial people told the White House that to do this would end any cooperation in civil space between Europe and the USA.

    Gee, and wouldn’t that have been a shame (not)?

  • reader

    Griffinyou will never finish [Constellation] on the money that we have,”

    Well, believing that they will finish Constellation with the money they have anyway indicates that somebody’s head needs to be examined. Safe, simple, soon, anyone ?

  • Reader2

    In the early 2000’s NASA was not given any more money (and Goldin had spent years stripping NASA of capability through Mr. Gore’s efforts) because of other priorities and yet we have found a trillion dollars for wars and new social programs.

    Ah yes, those evil social programs. Those evil liberal climate scientists.

    Your vain and facile attempts at political revisionism will undoubtedly be as successful as your previously imcompetent attempts at scientific revisionism.

  • “The science community has already spent $1.5 Billion based on a commitment from NASA’s SOMD (under its previous name Code M) to deliver it to ISS. Therefore, I think it is legitimate for the science community to take the position that “delivery” is on obligation on the books of SOMD (nee Code M). “We had a deal and we did our part … NASA broke the deal … we should not have to pay extra for NASA breaking the deal.”

    That’s a fair critique, and I don’t have a solution to the conundrum.

    Certain Senators are just after another Shuttle flight. One way that the argument for another Shuttle flight could be refuted is to identify lower-cost alternatives via an AoA study.

    But even if a good alternative is identified (and especially if not), somewhere there has to be a honest, independent, expert assessment of the scientific priority of AMS to validate or refute the Senators’ push to get it flown. My gut tells me that if it costs the science community even a few hundred million more dollars to fly AMS, AMS is not a high enough priority and that would (theoretically) end the debate. But unless it’s their budget that’s actually at stake, the science community won’t come to that conclusion.

    Absent putting science budget at risk, we’re still stuck with a human space flight community that rates AMS a low priority versus other human space flight activities. That’s not surprising, given that the comparison mixes cats and dogs (human space flight versus science). In that case, it’s a pure policy call on the benefits of this particular science instrument versus whatever the hit is to human space flight, a decision that would have to be made by the Administrator, White House, or Congress.

    Even if the prioritization ball can’t be handed to the science community (where it belongs) due to prior budget agreements, NASA still needs to push back with at least an AoA study. The VSE and NASA human space exploration is suffering enough with Ares I/Orion. It would be a real shame if a Shuttle extension got it’s nose under the tent via AMS. There’d arguably be nothing left of the VSE at that point. All of its plans and principles would have been surrendered to parochial politics and maintenance of the Shuttle workforce.

    FWIW…

  • “This was never a realistic option. I was spending a lot of time in Europe around industry and ESA executives when this was being discussed and as soon as it came out ESA top brass as well as EU ministerial people told the White House that to do this would end any cooperation in civil space between Europe and the USA. They still feel that they got screwed on the Spacelab deal and then to turn around and do this took them way over the top.”

    I’d argue that it’s always been a realistic option. It’s just a question of what level the European (and Japanese) governments are engaged at. Of course, their space agencies and the ministers overseeing them are going to balk at such an option. But I think we’d get a very different answer at a higher level, if their S&T heads and the folks that control the purse strings in their treasuries were engaged. They’d probably be happy to be relieved of the ISS burden.

    And per the rocketsandsuch blog, even at the space agency level, there may be trade-offs that would make sense to foreign partners.

    “it is up to NASA and especially the administrator to articulate a strategy that leads to the unfolding of the vision for space exploration in a manner that adds to the economic and security interests of the nation. Until that happens, NASA will continue in its spiral of irrelevancy.”

    Agreed.

    FWIW…

  • jml

    Someone please get Griffin and the congress critters a good dose of common sense so that we can start down a realistic path to a shuttle successor. Otherwise it’ll be the No Astronaut Space Administration for the foreseeable future (all the pork at all the space centers, all dedicated to zero results).

    As has been mentioned many times on the Direct discussion at NSF, AMS and every other grounded ISS module could easily be launched on cargo versions of the Direct Jupiter-120 in a simple cargo cradle the shape and size of the shuttle payload bay.

    Cost: about $120 million in variable costs per J-120 flight for each ISS module, on top of the DDT&E and annual fixed costs required to get the J-120 and Orion up and running for both crewed and cargo flights.

    If NASA made this decision now, the J-120 could be operational in 2012, and the full slate of grounded ISS modules could be launched soon after. This makes far more sense than either extending the Shuttle’s life or continuing down the Ares I forced death march path to nowhere.

    Atlas V, Delta IV or maybe even Falcon 9 could also theoretically lift these modules with some work on engineering a suitable cargo cradle/fairing, likely in a scheme using a Progress or ATV as an orbital tug.

    Ares I, on the other hand, is having difficulty enough lifting itself, let alone ISS modules.

  • ...

    Yeah, it’s one or the other. No other options allowed unless ATK can get a sole source contract out of it.

  • CynicalStudent

    “We (the nation) seem to have been able to scrape up enough funding to perpetuate the “war” in Iraq. Upon cessation, that would seem to leave a large amouont of $$$ available. …should be enough for the space program, adequate energy research with leftovers! I wonder where it will really go?”

    ah yes, the disgruntled anti-war citizen. personally, i like war. makes for great television (at least when we’re winning), great video games, and great pork spending initiatives. just don’t ask me to fight and die. wouldn’t want somebody to actually make a call for national service, would we?

    seriously though, the issues of Iraq and of a bloated DoD are distractions from the issue in question here: retire the shuttle or move on. it’s a whole lot easier to find funding for security measures, however illusory their justifications, than it is for space measures, which have been and will for the immediate future carry a certain sci-fi buck rogers connotation the average individual cant get around.

    my $.02 – find a way to EELV up the AMS and centrifuge projects, and if not, drop the Hubble mission. so sorry, but ive got enough damn pictures of spiral galaxies for my desktop already; James Webb and GLAST are on their way, we’ve got Spitzer and Chandra already, i just dont know what new science Hubble can create, if somebody can enlighten me please do. oh, and maybe how about a COTS-type program to find the next NASA administrator, eh?

  • I was reading this article (add http://www):

    orlandosentinel.com/news/space/orl-shuttle0607dec06,0,25309.story

    and was just rather appalled at the short memory of the Texas lawmakers:

    “Texas lawmakers led by Republican U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas are drafting legislation to force the agency to fly at least one more mission to launch a $1.5 billion antimatter experiment that NASA grounded because of other priorities… Last month, 32 members of the Texas congressional delegation sent a letter to President Bush asking him to support a mission for a $1.5 billion experiment that NASA has said it has no room for on its remaining shuttle missions… Members of the Texas delegation met with Griffin to press the issue.”

    Excuse my bluntness, but don’t these idiots remember what happened over the skies of East Texas a half-decade ago?!?!

    These Senators and their staffs desperately need to reread p. 44-47 of volume 1 of the CAIB report. To refresh our memories, at least 84,000 pieces of found debris representing about a third of Columbia’s dry mass fell over 2.3 million acres. Some of the debris included highly toxic compounds and explosive components like monomethyl hydrazine, nitrogen tetroxide, concentrated ammonia, and pyrotechnic releases. Among the close calls were 600- and 800-pound pieces of the main engines that dug holes in and nearby a golf course, hot debris that landed in a space a few feet wide between two highly explosive natural gas tanks, a woman who almost lost control of her car when debris hit her windshield, and a fisherman who saw debris land in the water he was fishing. FEMA spent $305 million on clean-up, and that doesn’t include NASA’s costs. Six searchers lost their lives in a subsequent helicopter accident.

    Lest we also forget, the fundamental Shuttle ET foam/orbiter TPS safety issue that led to Columbia’s breakup has not been (and cannot be) fixed.

    It’s one thing for Senators to put astronaut lives at risk for a science instrument like AMS or for Shuttle jobs at JSC. But it’s entirely another thing to risk the lives of thousands of uninvolved innocents and their property on the ground, especially when they’re from the same state as the Senators!

    And if they’re too lazy or blind to do the research themselves, I sincerely hope these Senators and their staff at least take the advice of the CAIB and other experts, as also quoted in the article:

    “”Congress is flirting with fate,” said former Columbia investigation board member John M. Logsdon, currently director of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University. The panel, he said, found that the shuttle was a risky system that would only become riskier with age.

    “Since so much of the future depends on completing the shuttle manifest without another accident, each new flight tempts fate,” Logsdon said. “Adding more flights over time will only increase that risk.”

    The danger also is recognized by NASA’s most respected scientists.

    “We have to have a new manned capability to replace the shuttle, which is old — really old — and obviously now pretty dangerous, no matter how hard you work on it. It’s something we cross our fingers about every time,” said John Mather, NASA senior astrophysicist and Nobel laureate.

    In a report last month titled “NASA’s Most Serious Management and Performance Challenges,” the agency’s inspector general said the public would accept the danger of flying until 2010 to complete the space station as long as the missions were successful. But if tragedy struck again, it added, “the merits of manned spaceflight to the moon and Mars would likely be re-evaluated.”"

    Honestly, even with international commitments, I don’t know why we’re still risking these kinds of accidents (and spending billions that could go to Shuttle’s replacement instead) to complete the ISS. But for the sake of one science instrument, however expensive? Or to “close” a “gap” that can’t be closed?

    Man, if I lived in the flight path, I’d be voting these bozos out of office at the earliest opportunity.

    Apologies for the venting but, argh…

  • reader2

    Man, if I lived in the flight path, I’d be voting these bozos out of office at the earliest opportunity.

    There are many reasons to vote our representatives out of office, but one trick paranoid ponies and shuttles falling out of the sky aren’t real high on most American’s priority lists right now. Gigantic jetliners fly right over your house every day, are you paranoid of those falling out of the sky? I lived on final approach for decades, and never once did a one trick pony hit me. But if a one trick pony does hit me some day, I’ll be sure to blame congress for it.

  • Benigno Muniz Jr.

    anonymous.space wrote:

    “1) NASA’s Program Analysis and Evaluation (PA&E) office should conduct an Analysis of Alternatives (AoA) to get an apples-to-apples comparison of the costs, schedules, and risks associated with various options for deploying AMS…”

    My apologies for ignoring netiquette, but I’m reposting here my comment in the “Evaluating the worth of the AMS” thread:

    Benigno Muniz Jr. wrote @ December 7th, 2007 at 8:35 am

    Prior to early 2007, launch options for AMS-02 were still open from a technical perspective. After the TIM in Jan 2007, the AMS-02 Program Office was given the direction to proceed with integration for STS launch even though the mission had already formally been removed from the manifest prior. This decision increased the cost for any ELV launch option (overstated in a post above) since AMS-02 h/w would now have to be modified for launch.

    “Since NASA has already acknowledged (in public) that the AMS-02 can be delivered by an ELV…”

    Indeed. But the time for serious consideration of *all* ELV options was last fall/winter. The train has since left the station, and AMS-02 advocates are now left with the only path of trying to get the mission squeezed onto the STS manifest somehow.

  • D. Messier

    I hate to disagree with some of you, but we haven’t so much “scraped together” $1 trillion for wars so much as put most of it on the credit card. The payments and interests from all this are very high.

    As for the wars, Aghanistan was seen as a justified response to go after the people who had attacked us. Bush promoted Iraq as a matter of national survival (mushroom clouds and the life). And the Medicare prescription drug plan….that was probably as much about Bush’s political survival (second term) as anything else.

    Lunar and Mars exploration….not quite the same urgency. You can point to space as being a solution to any number of things. However, there are always other options to pursue. You start doing cost-benefit analyses and the space options don’t always come out on top.

  • Dennis Wingo

    Lunar and Mars exploration….not quite the same urgency. You can point to space as being a solution to any number of things. However, there are always other options to pursue. You start doing cost-benefit analyses and the space options don’t always come out on top.

    This is not because of the intrinsic lack of value of space to our future, but because of the inability of space advocates to argue the true merits of space to solve our greater national problems.

    This is where the disconnect lies.

  • reader22

    This is not because of the intrinsic lack of value of space to our future, but because of the inability of space advocates to argue the true merits of space to solve our greater national problems.

    Oh, you mean like global warming and the national debt, right?

    This is where the disconnect lies.

    Heckava job there, Dennis.

  • “There are many reasons to vote our representatives out of office, but one trick paranoid ponies and shuttles falling out of the sky aren’t real high on most American’s priority lists right now.”

    I agree this isn’t the most pressing issue facing the nation right now. Practically nothing related to NASA is.

    But there’s a huge difference between being paranoid about an event with a very low and well understood probability of occurence and consequences, and being concerned about an event with unbounded and unknown probabilities of occurence and consequences.

    A potential repeat of Columbia, whether caused by the ET foam/orbiter TPS or any of the hundreds of unknowns lurking in the aging and complex Shuttle system, is the latter, not the former.

    “Gigantic jetliners fly right over your house every day, are you paranoid of those falling out of the sky?”

    No. The probability is incredibly low and well-understood and so are the consequences.

    There’s an enormous difference between a flight system with an accident rate of 1 in 15 million flights and a flight system with an accident rate of 1 in 60 flights. There’s an enormous difference between an aircraft that sprays debris over one or two buildings, and a spacecraft that sprays debris from just east of Sacramento, California to western Louisiana.

    The Shuttle is the latter, not the former. The risks and consequences involved with the latter are much, much higher than the former.

    “I lived on final approach for decades, and never once did a one trick pony hit me.”

    A nit, but this is a misuse of the term “one trick pony”. A one trick pony can only do one trick (like fly). A one trick pony does not do something once (like crash).

    “But if a one trick pony does hit me some day, I’ll be sure to blame congress for it.”

    Our taxes do not fund, and our legislators do not control, the airlines (at least not directly). Our taxes do fund, and our legislators do control, the Shuttle program.

    Congress will be directly responsible for any decision to extend the Shuttle program and the risks and consequences entailed therein.

    FWIW…

  • “Indeed. But the time for serious consideration of *all* ELV options was last fall/winter. The train has since left the station, and AMS-02 advocates are now left with the only path of trying to get the mission squeezed onto the STS manifest somehow.”

    Thanks for the education, Mr. Muniz. Per the statement in your earlier post here:

    “This decision increased the cost for any ELV launch option since AMS-02 h/w would now have to be modified for launch.”

    Assuming there are no technical showstoppers that prevent reversing AMS from Shuttle to ELV launch, the key question is how much the cost for the ELV option has increased since the decision to proceed with Shuttle integration. Although it sucks for the AMS team, the costs of reversing course and launching on an ELV may still compare well with the costs of obtaining another Shuttle flight. And if the ELV option were fully funded, at least the AMS team would finally have the fate of their launch access under their own control.

    FWIW…

  • reader32

    Congress will be directly responsible for any decision to extend the Shuttle program and the risks and consequences entailed therein.

    Which, considering the many intractable problems this nation faces, and compared to the money wasted already on the dysfunctional launch vehicle architecture designed to replace it, are minimal, if not non-existent.

    You are one terrified housewife. Now, tell us how many stock Delta IV Mediums NASA could have bought with the money they’ve blown (and will never recover) on VSE, ESAS and Constellation? And that volume discount!

    Don’t worry, anything is possible with a good credit card. I’d be thrilled if STS was still flying when its unmanned SSME powered replacement comes on line in 2012. Without VSE, ESAS and Constellation, nothing is impossible.

    The stick, quite frankly, is impossible. The shuttle flies tomorrow, maybe.

  • “Which, considering the many intractable problems this nation faces,”

    An absurd argument. There’s always something harder, tougher, and more important than the risk and subject at hand. That’s not a reason to take stupid risks at great cost and for little benefit with NASA’s human space flight program or uninvolved persons and property.

    “and compared to the money wasted already on the dysfunctional launch vehicle architecture designed to replace it, are minimal, if not non-existent.”

    As dysfunctional as Ares I/Orion is, it doesn’t pose the same reentry threat as Shuttle. The reentry mass is lower and the flight path does not have the same debris threat.

    “You are one terrified housewife.”

    Please don’t throw insults around and make personal attacks. I’ve made no such personal attack or thrown any insults at you.

    You’ve offered no information or logic to back up your argument. If you can’t enter a debate without attacking other posters, then please don’t bother.

    “Now, tell us how many stock Delta IV Mediums NASA could have bought with the money they’ve blown (and will never recover) on VSE, ESAS and Constellation? And that volume discount!”

    I agree. So what?

    “I’d be thrilled if STS was still flying when its unmanned SSME powered replacement comes on line in 2012.”

    This is non-sensical. There is no “unmanned SSME powered replacement” to the Shuttle, coming online in 2012 or otherwise.

    “The stick, quite frankly, is impossible.”

    Nearly so. Agreed. Your point?

    “The shuttle flies tomorrow, maybe.”

    Right. So?

  • weeping

    There’s always something harder, tougher, and more important than the risk and subject at hand. That’s not a reason to take stupid risks at great cost and for little benefit with NASA’s human space flight program or uninvolved persons and property.

    Like saving the biosphere for instance. One has to expect a few casualties.

    Is your obsession over shuttle debris an attempt to break out of your obsession with the VSE and ESAS fraud paradigm? That’s old news now.

    There is no “unmanned SSME powered replacement” to the Shuttle, coming online in 2012 or otherwise.

    The Delta IV Medium is close enough as a manned replacement. And guess what, the shuttle is cheaper to fly than the Constellation is to develop or fly, and it flies tomorrow, maybe. Read my lips : The stick will never fly. Ever.

    You’re all sob story with no ideas or solutions at all. Read it and weep :

    http://webpages.charter.net/tsiolkovsky/proposal/IPO.doc

    America is in great shape in terms of space assets, as long as we put a stop to the madness. Flying out the shuttles, developing COTS solutions, and then subsequently flying out the SSMEs, is not part of that madness.

    It’s part of the solution. VSE and ESAS and NASA are the ‘problem at hand’. Rushing headlong into a shuttle retirement deadline with a huge task in the making, is only going to cause the accident that you so dread, not that it would compare at all with the accident we have endured these last 7 years.

  • “Read it and weep”

    Ah… no wonder your posts made no sense… Elifritz again.

    Good luck with your proposal. Just remember to take your meds before the briefing.

    Ugh…

  • Floor Sweeper

    Good luck with your proposal.

    One can only presume that as opposed to ESAS, the CCC directorate will actually read the competing proposals, before actually selecting one.

  • Benigno Muniz Jr.

    anonymous.space wrote:
    Assuming there are no technical showstoppers that prevent reversing AMS from Shuttle to ELV launch, the key question is how much the cost for the ELV option has increased since the decision to proceed with Shuttle integration. Although it sucks for the AMS team, the costs of reversing course and launching on an ELV may still compare well with the costs of obtaining another Shuttle flight.

    Back in ’06, I performed a rudimentary assessment of issues like induced launch environments, and found no technical show-stoppers at the very top level for ELV launch. With my admittedly limited knowledge of the state of the hardware today, I still do not think there would be “technical showstoppers that prevent reversing AMS from Shuttle to ELV launch.”

    Programmatic showstoppers are another story. Given that ELV launch was cheaper back then and NASA still went ahead with STS integration, I do not see NASA now reversing course and paying even $0.01 “extra” to allow ELV launch. I believe NASA deliberately set out back then on a “OK, we’ll close down the Washington Monument” strategy WRT AMS-02. IMHO, of course, but statement above that “A group of Texas members of Congress, led by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, are preparing legislation that would require NASA to add another shuttle mission to launch the AMS” would seem to bear that out.

    And if the ELV option were fully funded, at least the AMS team would finally have the fate of their launch access under their own control.

    The door was open, and the AMS team and their supporters had their chance to walk through it. But that door closed, and I don’t see it re-opening.

  • Dennis Wingo

    Oh, you mean like global warming and the national debt, right?

    This is where the disconnect lies.

    Heckava job there, Dennis.

    Ah Thomas, I can always detect your drug addled responses. For once in a blue Moon you are correct. Space should make a tangible connection to solving global level problems. Now if your pet hobby horse is anthropogenic global warming (if it is not anthropogenic then there is not a damn thing we can do about it, which is probably the case) then the acquisition of off planet resources will make a huge dent in the problem as the mining and refining of 3 ppm platinum resources (or germanium, gallium, gold, titanium) are extremely polluting and power hungry enterprises that contribute as much to the atmospheric carbon dioxide load as transportation, while contributing tremendously to other toxic byproducts.

    The national debt? Yes creating a true spacefaring civilization, where in the first step we enable ubiquitous space operations in cislunar space we will dramatically contribute to reversing the current account deficit. Only congress can fix the national debt and have used this as a stick for decades to beat space advocates with and giving them the scraps off the table while serving up multi-trillion dollar feasts to their own special interest groups.

    These are first steps but as long as we continue with phallic dreams of the perfect launch vehicle none of this will come to pass.

  • COTSman

    Ah Thomas, I can always detect your drug addled responses.

    Smearing the messenger always works better than addressing the issues.

    Now if your pet hobby horse is anthropogenic global warming (if it is not anthropogenic then there is not a damn thing we can do about it, which is probably the case)

    I see you haven’t learned a thing from the beating you took from the climate scientists at RealClimate. In that case Mike Huckabee is the man for you. Huck and Michael Griffin can lead the world in a prayer for climate change, and maybe the laws of physics will miraculously change overnight.

    Only congress can fix the national debt

    When all else fails, blame congress.

    These are first steps but as long as we continue with phallic dreams of the perfect launch vehicle none of this will come to pass.

    None of this will come to pass because there is no longer any money for launch vehicles, even the ones that exist right now, primarily because of Americans just like you, living in your neoconservative fantasy worlds.

    If you think I’m going to let up on you guys even for a second, think again.

    You have pissed off the wrong person one too many times now.

  • Dennis Wingo

    I see you haven’t learned a thing from the beating you took from the climate scientists at RealClimate. In that case Mike Huckabee is the man for you. Huck and Michael Griffin can lead the world in a prayer for climate change, and maybe the laws of physics will miraculously change overnight.

    Yea, real climate where when you actually post anything that disagrees with them they cut it and allow nutcases like you free reign because you agree with them.

    The interesting part about space is that whether or not anthropogenic warming is your hobby horse, space is the answer. This is something that we should be pressing as space advocates.

  • realman

    real climate where when you actually post anything that disagrees with them they cut it and allow nutcases like you free reign because you agree with them.

    Their disagreement Dennis, was with your ALGEBRA. But I guess your algebra is different from everyone else’s algebra. If a nutcase’s algebra is correct, then the result is correct, no matter how nutty it is. All you can do is sit back and call people nuts, because you have no nuts of your own to offer, and your nuts, frankly, are cracked wide open and exposed for everyone to see. Do I have to dredge up a link to show that?

    The interesting part about space is that whether or not anthropogenic warming is your hobby horse, space is the answer.

    No, space is the only answer because the problems caused by man on this planet are far more severe than the nuts realize. Algebra is like that.

  • Dennis Wingo

    Here is an article about how Al Gore and many in the climate change circles raise money and recruit people to the cause:

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/news/news.html?in_article_id=500586&in_page_id=1766&ito=1490

    Space Advocates could learn from this. Some progress has been made but from what I understand the latest space enterprise symposium was somewhat disappointing.

  • D. Messier

    Dennis:

    Sadly, I must agree with you. Space advocates haven’t been able to make a good case for 50 years now. Go back and read what von Braun was talking about. People have been making the same arguments for 50 years. Or variations of the same. They haven’t really worked very well.

    There’s been a basic problem. The cost of doing anything up there remains enormous. Not just getting there but actually setting up a big enough infrastructure to support a large enough group to do anything productive. You’re talking about a large upfront investment in something with potential benefits down the road.

    When you talk to most space advocates about infrastructure, they think almost entirely of launch vehicles and transportation. They don’t give much thought to the rest of it. That’s natural because most people are from developed countries where the basic infrastructure has always been there. And aside from communication, it hasn’t changed all that much in recent decades. Roads, sewers, electric grid, trains, planes, automobiles….. Nearly forty years ago, Boeing introduced the 747. This year, Airbus introduced a super 747 for a compete upper deck.

  • Proposer

    Here is an article about how Al Gore and many in the climate change circles raise money and recruit people to the cause:

    Here is an article on how many scientists, including planetary and climate scientists, raise money and recruit people to their cause :

    http://www.nsf.gov/pubs/gpg/nsf04_23/3.jsp

    There are many euphemisms which describe people like you, who attempt to refute established science with faulty reasoning and incorrect algebra.

    You argue like a spoiled child. Americans have become spoiled children.

  • Dennis Wingo

    You argue like a spoiled child. Americans have become spoiled children.

    And you sir are a nutjob, one who does not even have the integrity to post his own name even though everyone knows who you are.

  • nutjob

    And you sir are a nutjob, one who does not even have the integrity to post his own name

    You’re right, Dennis, I’m a nutjob who happens to read and understand consensus planetary science, and I have done enough planetary science of my own so as to understand the proper procedures for the challenging of consensus planetary science, and indeed, I am nutjob who has published a COTS proposal, in order to begin to begin the process of solving some of the problems implied by the consensus planetary science of this planet.

    I’m also a nutjob who is intimately familiar with open source software.

    If you don’t like the neighbors, I suggest you put up a better fence.

  • Chance

    I thought TLE was banned? Every thread he enters becomes a shouting match. Nice.

  • Dennis Wingo

    Doug

    I think that Jeff has picked up the baton on this one. I will have an article out today on it as well.

    Dennis

  • Dennis Wingo

    TLE is on my ignore list (wish we had that here).

  • concerned citizen

    TLE is on my ignore list

    You can save yourself a lot of critical thinking troubles if you just continue to ignore global warming, the national debt, the failure of VSE, ESAS and Constellation, and even the necessity of critical thinking altogether. That appears to be the new American way of life.

    Here is a link to your astute critical thinking skills, where you get your a@@ handed to you by real scientists almost the second after you open your mouth :

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2007/02/aerosols-the-last-frontier/#comment-26625

  • Dennis Wingo

    Ok, I will take the bait.

    First, no one knows CO2′s effect on climate to 10%, no one. First mistake of RC. Second, there have been some interesting discussions related to the ionosphere/troposphere electrical conduit that bears on solar influence on climate. I cannot help if RC only lets nutjobs like you post there because of your slavish devotion to anthropogenic global warming. Third, you did not see my replies on that site as they keep any real discussion from happening. Fourth, RC is the laughingstock of the climate world and there are actual contests to see who gets booted the quickest by questioning their religion.

  • “I thought TLE was banned? Every thread he enters becomes a shouting match. Nice.”

    I second the motion. Although the climate debate is off-topic, I would actually support Elifritz’s comments about realclimate.org. But his incendiary and bombastic comments to Mr. Wingo are deplorable. Moreover, Elifritz’s threat to use “open source software” against his “neighbors” is just way over the line. Along with “I’m not going to let up on you guys even for one second” and “you’ve pissed off the wrong person one too many times,” it’s the latest and most brazen in a long line of threats in this thread. These come on top of Elifritz’s repeated (and usually inaccurate) personal insults, borderline obscene references (“phallic rocket”), and usual trolling (multiple posts before revealing his identity and attack).

    There’s no excuse for putting up with threats, personal insults and attacks, bordeline obscenity, and trolling on what should be a minimally respectful policy debate forum. Mr. Foust should ban Elifritz as harshly and permanently as the software allows.

  • CVSlurker

    Elifritz’s threat to use “open source software” against his “neighbors” is just way over the line.

    Man, you are one paranoid housewife. You’re worried a space shuttle is going to crash into your neighborhood, and you’re worried somebody is going to give away free software. One doesn’t use open source software against their neighbors, one gives open source software to their neighbors, for free!

    Mr. Foust should ban Elifritz as harshly and permanently as the software allows.

    WordPress is open source software. I know of nobody yet who has hacked the delete function built into the software, which Mr. Foust is free to use at any time. Perhaps if he took an interest in the subject of his blog here.

    As far as Dennis’ crackpot evangelical views on global warming, nobody with any superficial scientific training at all cares one whit what Dennis Wingo thinks about planetary physics. FYI, you can get the inside scoop on John Marburger’s apologetic stance on this administrations actions on the problem over there right now. As long as people like Dennis Wingo and John Marburger influence space and science policy in America, we’re screwed, and most all of you know it. You are just unable to admit it.

    Now get out there and campaign for Huckabee, he’s the man.

  • Getting back to the original topic of the thread, here’s a couple other eye-opening references about how many unsafe unknowns are still lurking in the complex and aging Shuttle system.

    From an Aviation Week article that quotes directly from Wayne Hale (Shuttle program manager) emails about the ECO issue that has been stalling the current mission:

    “It [the ECO system] is designed to protect against an oxygen rich engine shutdown that would cause a catastrophic explosion.

    Hale cites past flight data that indicates that could be very risky and that it is “likely that this system has been unreliable all along.”

    He also says in the emails that “post flight reconstructions point to a few flights where it is possible that we were close” to using the ECO system.

    “It seems to me likely that we have been flying the entire history of the program with a false sense of security and that we have never had reliable protection from LH2 (liquid hydrogen) low level cutoff,” says Hale. “That is a really sobering thought,” he says.

    Hale adds at the end of his email that he is considering ordering other major reviews of space shuttle safety systems that could be subject to “smart failures” missed earlier by engineering reviews.”"

    The article is on SpaceRef at (add http://www):

    .spaceref.com/news/viewnews.html?id=1255

    The Orlando Sentinal also discusses a Boeing study to understand the life remaining in various Shuttle materials:

    “But not every red flag is clearly visible or well-understood. In another study, Boeing M&P Engineering examined 1,000 “soft” — or nonmetallic –materials used in the shuttle, including critical seals and wire insulation. It found that a fifth of the materials were safe to fly for 40 years, while 10 percent had specific life spans and are replaced when needed. As for the remaining 70 percent, “we don’t have enough data to know whether we could fly them forever,” Russell said. “We think we’re good, but we need to do more,”"

    70 percent of 1,000 is 700 materials with unknown lifetimes. Most probably can be flown through 2010 or 2015. But it would only take a very small fraction of these materials to reach the end of their unknown lifetimes before 2010 or 2015 to create failure modes, some of which may be catastrophic.

    The article is at (add http://www):

    .orlandosentinel.com/news/space/orl-shuttle0607dec06,0,25309.story

    It just still boggles my mind that with these huge unknowns and catastrophic risks embedded in the system that any congressman or staffer would support flying the Shuttle through 2010 to build out a woefully underutilized space station, nevertheless propose legislation to ensure Shuttle flights through 2015 just to avoid buying a handful of more cheap Soyuz/Progress flights. The rewards do not seem commensurate with the risks of a third Shuttle accident (or Shuttle’s annual $4-5 billion cost), not in the least.

    FWIW…

  • Jeff Foust

    Comments have been closed for this post.