Campaign '08

Getting candidates to care about space exploration

Using the lackluster response to a question about human Mars exploration in a recent Republican debate as a springboard, Daniel Handlin asks why candidates aren’t more proactive about space exploration policy issues in an article in this week’s issue of The Space Review. Noting Mike Huckabee’s statement that “Whether we ought to go to Mars is not a decision that I would want to make”, Handlin writes:

However, despite Hucakbee’s exceedingly poor choice of words, the reason Huckabee made his statement was obviously not because he has a fear of making decisions. His answer is, of course, code for “I would decide not to support a Mars mission by failing to support one actively,” which for space exploration is tantamount to actively deciding against supporting spaceflight. For the President to hold NASA’s budget flat for a few years would be enough to nix a Mars mission for another 10 or 15 years. But why does this escape attention in the media?

The root cause, Handlin argues, is not one of lack of public interest, but one of poor outreach by space advocates to the public, focusing on minutiae like choice of launch vehicles and propulsion systems than an overall vision of humanity in space:

In the end, the public—those who set the agenda by voting—doesn’t care whether the Ares 1 uses J-2Xs or SSME derivatives, or what kind of propellant the CEV uses. Most people have never heard of either of these vehicles. They care about the emotional impact of space exploration—the excitement of doing something new and wonderful—and that is what needs to be presented to the public.

So how should advocates present “the excitement of doing something new and wonderful”? And how effective would that strategy be in influencing presidential politics?

111 comments to Getting candidates to care about space exploration

  • reader

    “the excitement of doing something new and wonderful”

    Everything old is new again. The answers are obvious, to anyone who remembers Collier’s space series. They communicated in pictures mostly, but the message was clear enough: humanity will expand to space, conquer it ( at least the nearby parts ), will have a real new frontier, exploit its resources, live there in numbers and provide benefits back to earth. Some benefits were speculated about, like space solar power or abundance of precious minerals, but the vast appeal was the yet unknown potential.

    Sadly, none of this is in the cards for U.S. official space policy right now. If the official policy remains dead set on putting a few government employees up for decades to come, the public interest is guaranteed to remain weak.

  • Chance

    “The root cause, Handlin argues, is not one of lack of public interest, but one of poor outreach by space advocates to the public,”

    I disagree. The best outreach in the world isn’t going to convince:

    A: Security moms to become space moms
    B: Fiscal conservatives to support big NASA budget increases
    C. Liberals that the funds are better spent in space rather than social programs

    The article talks about the NSF polls: “In 2001, 55 percent of those polled by the NSF considered themselves very well or moderately well informed about space exploration, compared with 58 percent for “international and foreign policy issues” and 63 percent for “military and defense policy” ”

    Walk around and talk to people on the street. It may not be scientific, but you’ll quickly get the impression that significantly less than 58% of the population are informed on international issues, moderately or otherwise. Even if true, the poll asks the wrong question in my opinion. Almost everybody likes to say they support space travel, but if I gave these people of 100 issues facing the country, where would most people put support to space travel on the list, if not given prodding? I submit to you way, way down the list. Maybe in the top 50, but not in the top ten, or even top 20.

  • reader

    Thespacereview piece .. is grossly inconsistent :)

    The space enthusiast community needs to stop bickering over funding choices or engine selections and band together to convince the public at large that taking the very first step on this journey—a mission to Mars—is indeed very cool stuff.

    Ok, so we need to stop bickering about technology, and everybody needs to agree that becoming a spacefaring civilization starts with sending a handful of NASA astronauts to Mars ? Well, it seems to be that this would be the most significant point for the “bickering”.

    Again, someone who proposes means, not the end. The “end” being becoming a spacefaring civilizations, means being “going to mars”.

    Lots of space enthusiasts agree about the end, only a few agree about how to get there.

  • How does Handlin get from

    the proportion of the US public that considers themselves “very well informed” or “moderately well informed” about spaceflight is comparable to those informed about those issues considered more mainstream, like national defense

    to the conclusion that space is not a fringe issue? First, the self-assessment is weak (polling professionals consider it almost worthless without follow-up). Second, level of information is not an indicator of concern or willingness to see tax money spent. I’m well-informed about some things that I acknowledge are my idiosyncratic hobbies; I’m well-informed about some public activities that are perking along adequately and don’t need either more money or more attention from presidential candidates.

  • MarkWhittington

    Space becomes a major issue only when politicians start losing or gaining measurable votes based on their positions on the subject.

  • Al Fansome

    MarkWhittington: Space becomes a major issue only when politicians start losing or gaining measurable votes based on their positions on the subject.

    Mark,

    I completely agree.

    The key is to tie “funding for space” to some “vote gaining issue”.

    It is easy to say — and hard to do. It requires that you ask first “What do politicians want?” and then ask your self “How can I give them more of what they want via space?” (Marketing Approach)

    AS OPPOSED TO:

    “I have this rocket (or “Mars program” or insert favorite space project here) that I want to sell … what can I say to persuade the politicians to buy my pet rocket?” (Sales Approach)

    This is particularly hard to do if you are a very smart engineer who wants to build your pet rocket, and have planning to do so for 10 or 20 years, and you have already made up your mind that you will build this pet rocket when you become NASA Administrator.

    It is really hard for that engineer to step back, shelve his pet rocket project, and say “What do the politicians really want to buy, let’s start with that first, and then I will figure out how to give it to them.”

    Politics is not rocket science. Which is why it is really hard for rocket scientists to understand it.

    - Al

  • Al: Politics is not rocket science. Which is why it is really hard for rocket scientists to understand it.

    Exactly, though I would add that I don’t think many space advocates understand it very well either. There are two key questions that we need to answer. 1). How do we get Grandma’s Factor to invest her retirement money into our goals. 2). How do we restrain ourselves and not over-sell what can be achieved in any given period of time. Both answers will be very hard to produce — far, far harder than the fun stuff like chasing water on Mars or sending a few astronauts back to Earth’s moon. That’s why people would rather dabble in the science and engineering than take on the economics and social organization that will be required. (It’s worth noting that Apollo was as much a social achievement (getting agreement to spend that much of the Federal budget and organizing diverse teams all over the nation to create a machine of unprecedented complexity) as an engineering one. I’ve made a few stabs at thinking about what we need to do today to get from where we are now to where we want our children to be, but I’m afraid that most people would rather believe that one economic theory or technology, or another, will solve everything than really think about and prepare for the long, hard slog we have ahead.

    – Donald

  • Jerry

    I would like to see more of the economic benefits, explained to the public. Can someone give some talking points on this?

    “What do politicians want?” A: Talking points to gain most favor from the most voters in key voting areas. As the candidates move from state to state different voting areas and issues are their concern. We need to pave the road so to speak for them by outlining the benefits that aerospace “dominance” and all the associated technologies that support this effort are.

    How many jobs in those areas that the candidates are campaigning in depend on aerospace research?

    What is the dollar in dollars out benefit of the space program today? Let’s outline some specific benefit talk points to having an aggressive manned space program. Advances in fuel cell technology come to mind.

    “How can I give them more of what they want via space?”
    A: Oil is close to $100 a barrel we need a leap in the technologies that space exploration advances. Areas like environment management, waste processing, agriculture, medicine, energy, and the list goes on.

    Critics will point to NASA’s failures, but as few as they may be the advances in safety policies and procedures are a direct result of NASA research. When combined with the direct economic benefits’, national security interests (do you want your next moon rock to come from China?), this makes for easy to support public policies. Just what the candidates look for.

    I hope we can inspire someone to “really” change the rhetoric. I don’t think anyone will disagree that a trillion dollars spent on manned space exploration is more beneficial than it being spent on bad political polices.

    -Jerry

  • Ray

    From the article: “Thus, the real problem is fundamentally one of outreach. The interest is there, but NASA and other advocates for spaceflight are not doing a sufficiently strong job of convincing the public that, yes, manned exploration of Mars is worth undertaking; no, space exploration is not a fringe issue.”

    I don’t agree that the essential problem is outreach. There are advocates for space competing with advocates for various other areas, and apparently the space advocates are not able to convince enough politicians, members of the public, and other potential space advocates to help their cause. Is that because the space advocates are lazier than advocates for other areas, or less skilled?

    I think that the real problem is that the goal that the space advocates are trying to sell is not what the customer wants at the price they’re trying to sell it. I’m going to assume that Handlin is specifically talking about NASA’s manned space exploration program, since he talks about space exploration and a manned mission to Mars. Based on what we’ve seen so far with funding for a manned mission to Mars, the current funding problems with NASA’s implementation of a manned Moon base (for the most part not being worked on except to get transportation to the existing space station), and statements made by various Presidential candidates, it seems like the politicians and public aren’t interested in lavishly funding manned exploration programs, although they might given them modest funding. This is in spite of the best outreach efforts by NASA and various space advocate organizations.

    If outreach efforts and local space interest politics only gets politicians interested at level x, and you want to take it to higher level y, what do you do? Look at what the politicians and their constituents ARE interested in. What programs are the candidates talking about funding more? What programs already get nice budgets? Huckabee’s point about how GPS improves our lives is right and to the point, even if GPS wasn’t made primarily by NASA and wasn’t a spinoff but was rather the main point of a specific effort. How can NASA’s program (manned Mars mission, ESAS, VSE, space station, whatever) improve our lives here, in the short to middle term? More to the point, how can you convince non-space politicians and constituents that the NASA program will improve their lives? The public and politicians don’t seem to be buying NASA’s “1001 benefits of a lunar base”.

    If you can bring one or more of these other constituencies on board as strong advocates of your NASA program, you’ll be in much better shape selling it. I’m not saying necessarily convert all of NASA to some non-space constituency focus – but possibly make a very significant transformational level change to NASA to work with one or more of these consituencies much more than it currently does

  • Ray

    Continuing my rather long post:

    For example:

    Education (see Obama’s proposal for a warning here) – Can you imagine a NASA program that gets education advocates fully on your side? Picture Teachers in Space, greatly expanded student competitions from K-12 to Lunar X PRIZE levels, expanded engineering/math/science scholarships and graduate assistantships, greatly expanded university research opportunities, greatly expanded student access (in person on via experiments) to suborbital rocket rides, Zero-G rides, research aircraft, Space Station, Bigelow stations, high-altitude balloons, high-intensity involvement by more academic disciplines (not just math/science/engineering), greatly expanded student access to powerful telescopes, museums, space-related software, and other space-related equipment, etc.

    Energy (see Kucinich’s comments) – Could NASA contribute to more fuel-efficient airplanes, or more efficient air traffic systems, more than it does now? What about power relay satellites, or a demo SPS? What about making a strong effort to improve NASA satellite or station energy subsystems (nuclear, solar, etc), with the objective of feeding some of the improvements back to Earth-based energy, too? Are there more Space Station experiments that could be done focused on energy (I’ll bet most of these have been cancelled for the Moon program)? Can any NASA solar observation program help with fusion work? What about space weather satellites to help warn about problems that may interfere with power grids?

    War on Terror – In this area, it seems that NASA would be able to help by focusing on Earth observation satellites (so the related operational agencies share industry costs), using EELVs or helping cheaper COTS launchers along (so military and spy satellites get cheaper launches), and developing space infrastructure (tugs, refueling, satellite components, etc) that can be helpful to military satellites or commercial comsats (used in disaster relief/response and warfare). It’s also possible that NASA emphasis on aeronautics, commercial (dual use) suborbital rockets, and X planes would be valuable in the War on Terror.

    Economy – What can NASA do to make other agencies more efficient (cheaper launchers, cheaper satellites, better agricultural monitoring, better monitoring of forests, better urban planning, better coastal monitoring, etc)? What can NASA do to help start new businesses or entire industries that can more or less sustain themselves and improve the economy?

    I’ll be brief now since I think you get the idea …

    Disaster Response (Katrina, California fires, tsunami, etc) – See War on Terror; it all applies here, too.

    Environment – See above (Earth observation satellites, suborbital Earth observations, GPS, probes of other planets for comparitive study, airplane sensor platforms, etc)

    Health Care –

    Fill in the Blank – ???

    I’ll propose that the manned mission to Mars, and NASA’s ESAS, have apparently not made the case to the public, Presidential candidates, or constituencies with these non-space, Earth-centric interests. In fact, I think ESAS in particular has alienated some of these other interests by cutting back on the NASA programs that help them. Furthermore I’ll propose that ESAS and the manned Mars concept need to be adjusted or replaced so that they actually do help at least some of these interests substantially enough that the NASA program has one (or more) big-time interest groups going to bat for it. Finally, I’ll also suggest that, compared to ESAS or manned Mars missions, a lot of these areas can be addressed quite cheaply, so if you play your cards right you can get multiple big players on your side, get a lot done in solving problems here on Earth, and in the process make some important steps towards real exploration-enabling space infrastructure.

  • MarkWhittington

    The interesting thing is that the Vision for Space Exploration has the tacit support of most of the GOP candidates (except Tancreado and–of course–Ron Paul.) The problem, at least on the Presidential level, is with the Dems.

  • “The interesting thing is that the Vision for Space Exploration has the tacit support of most of the GOP candidates”

    Based on what evidence? No Republican candidate has endorsed the VSE, in part or whole. Only Clinton has offered limited support, at least for a rapid Shuttle replacement, and she’s a Democrat.

    “The problem, at least on the Presidential level, is with the Dems.”

    Again, based on what evidence? Aside from Obama, who views some of the programs underlying the VSE as a funding source for non-NASA activities, no Democratic candidate has projected or said anything negative about the VSE, in part or whole.

    These sorts of unsubstantiated, blanket, partisan statements do nothing to advance the conversation. Debate the specific platforms and statements of the candidates. Slinging mud at entire parties is not a useful argument.

  • ProfRaze

    Right now the most important thing NASA could do would be to launch DSCOVR to the Lagrange point to measure the Earth’s albedo, thus accurately measuring the solar effect on Global Warming. Foolish visions of expensively going to the Moon so we can expensively go to Mars to look at rocks in person that robots can look at just as well and much cheaper get exactly the public response they deserve: It’s a waste of money. The public gets that impression from two primary sources, remembering the last Apollo missions, and seeing the total waste of time and money the ISS is.

    Long, long term we need to leave the nest. Short term we need to get as much real science as we can from the science dollars we spend, so we can one day leave the nest. Wasting money on the folly of manned missions when the price tag is easily ten times the cost of sending unmanned missions that can accomplish the same science goals is bad policy, plain and simple. The presidential candidates know it, the public knows it. All that’s left to understand is why you guys don’t know it….

    You want more funding for space exploration? Push ideas that are smart, rather than naive visions of glory.

  • Mike Fazah

    The interesting thing is that the Vision for Space Exploration has the tacit support of most of the GOP candidates…

    No, I think the most interesting thing is that the President, Father of this whole VSE business, could care less about the whole venture. Recall the response he gave earlier this year in Cleveland, OH. When asked about VSE, he meandered about the need for launch sites on the moon, at least enough to demonstrate that he hadn’t given any thought to VSE since his speech in Jan 2004.

    As has been mentioned often in this forum, the only politicians who support VSE are those with NASA centers as their constituents. As long as their constituents receive a decent portion of the pie, they could care less about what NASA does.

  • MarkWhittington

    Actually, Anonymous Space, they have. Romney has even said that he sees “no reason to change it.” It being VSE.

  • ProfRaze – Most of us here would disagree with your argument that manned flight has to be expensive. While it is true that manned flight will probably be more expensive than unmanned flight, 1. They serve 2 very different purposes, and 2. Spaceflight, as a whole, can be a lot cheaper – both on the manned side, and on the unmanned side.

    Yes, if you look solely at how Nasa, the implication is that spaceflight must be very expensive. But if you start looking at whats happening with companies like SpaceX, XCOR, Masten, just to name a few, there is plenty of evidence that spaceflight can be done much cheaper, to allow more manned spaceflight and more unmanned space science.

    Which brings me to my final point – you mentioned DISCOVR, and dealing with global warming – well, IM a liberal Democrat, and one of my biggest issues is global warming. However, the fact is that we can’t deal with the issues of global warming without embracing off-planet resources, unless we are prepared for irreconcilable damage to the earth. (Note to everyone else – this is not a forum to debate Global Warming – don’t start)

    Mark – The problem isn’t whether the candidate embraces VSE, or not. Embracing and pushing VSE is about like embracing and pushing World Peace – its simply mom and apple pie statements that mean nothing.

    The larger issue is what is the real world funding plans, and technical designs, that will be used pushed. As Fazah pointed out – this administration has done basically nothing to really advance manned spaceflight. When there was a proposal to try and provide more money for Nasa, to help ESAS, it went nowhere.

    Being for VSE isn’t doesn’t amount to anything, because you don’t have to anything to advance it. I have no real intention of getting into a debate with you about the viablity of ESAS, because its like trying to argue with a drunk he isn’t an alcoholic.

    But to proclaim that being for or against VSE clearly shows support for manned spaceflight, well, thats crap. VSE is empty rhetoric, and you need to stop claiming otherwise.

  • ISS vet

    It’s time for the space community to do something really radical – ask the public what they want and then actually give it to them. Naturally, there needs to be a constant flow of information and debate on what the choices and consequences might be, but the values need to come from the public.

    Until now, most factions of the space community have assumed that advocacy means nothing more than trying to fool the politicians or the public into funding the factions’ pet projects. The common aerospace term “Joe Sixpack” richly expresses the space community’s contempt for the general public. It’s part of that contempt to assume the public won’t notice they’re being patronized. Small wonder that no one gets very excited about the pet projects.

    Marketing is a better term for what we need. As Ray suggests above, we should go where where we can make a difference in what matters to people. First and foremost, that means energy. The NSSO study on space solar power reports that space solar power, followed by planetary protection, are what people want most from a space program. Going to the Moon and Mars were also-rans. One survey with expanded, but still limited, choices is slim evidence, but it tells us we need to start listening a lot harder.

  • Off topic but calling something “empty rhetoric” with no additional details or explanations when clearly opposing the rhetoric is both a rhetorical and logical tautology and thus truly empty rhetoric in itself.

    Which in turn gives me a vision of reiterative rhetorical and logical tautologies running like a stream over the edge into the abyss and that just can’t be a good thing no matter who you are or what your point is because whatever it was it’s now floating down that stream…

    ^_^

    p.s. Yes we all do it occasionally, and no we really shouldn’t.

  • “Romney has even said that he sees “no reason to change it.” It being VSE.”

    Reference?

    Even with a reference, again, a remark from one candidate does not make a party platform.

  • MarkWhittington

    “Mark – The problem isn’t whether the candidate embraces VSE, or not. Embracing and pushing VSE is about like embracing and pushing World Peace – its simply mom and apple pie statements that mean nothing. ”

    Does that mean that Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are–in effect–against world peace?

    “The larger issue is what is the real world funding plans, and technical designs, that will be used pushed. As Fazah pointed out – this administration has done basically nothing to really advance manned spaceflight. When there was a proposal to try and provide more money for Nasa, to help ESAS, it went nowhere.”

    Well, VSE would certainly advance manned space flight beyond Low Earth Orbit. And you forget about COTS, which doing more than any government initiative toi advance commercial space flight.

    The proposal to add a billion or so dollars was designed not so much to “help ESAS” than to help close the so called “space flight gap.” That may be desirable, but its likely failure is not a show stopper. Besides, COTS may well close that gap in any case.

    “Being for VSE isn’t doesn’t amount to anything, because you don’t have to anything to advance it. I have no real intention of getting into a debate with you about the viablity of ESAS, because its like trying to argue with a drunk he isn’t an alcoholic. ”

    Of course you don’t intend to debate that. You would certainly lose.

    “But to proclaim that being for or against VSE clearly shows support for manned spaceflight, well, thats crap. VSE is empty rhetoric, and you need to stop claiming otherwise.”

    Actually VSE is an actual program with actual dollars and actual hardware. What you just said is nonsense and wide of reality.

  • Jeff Foust

    Anonymous:

    Romney’s endorsement of the Vision, such as it is, was made in August:

    http://www.spacepolitics.com/2007/08/07/romney-stay-the-course-on-the-vision/

    Some might consider “I have no reason to change that at this point” somewhat less than wholehearted, unconditional support, though.

  • Ray: I think that the real problem is that the goal that the space advocates are trying to sell is not what the customer wants at the price they’re trying to sell it.

    ISS vet: It’s time for the space community to do something really radical – ask the public what they want and then actually give it to them.

    Careful, guys — you’re verging on heresy.To ground space advocacy in a realistic assessment of public interests, instead of “how can we make it 1961 again?”, would be tantamount to acknowledging that most advocacy over the last four decades has been ineffective navel-gazing. Please get back on the bus and take your meds.

  • “Romney’s endorsement of the Vision, such as it is, was made in August”

    Thanks, Mr. Foust.

    “Some might consider “I have no reason to change that at this point” somewhat less than wholehearted, unconditional support, though.”

    Especially when it’s preceded by a statement from Romney that “he hadn’t decided if the current plan was the one he would continue to pursue as president.”

    Thanks again.

  • VSE is a mission statement, Mark – when you talk about congress “endorsing it”, it was a 1 time vote, and there WAS NO MONEY ACTUALLY ALLOCATED.

    The real battle, as everyone knows, is during the budget discussions. VSE didn’t allocate any money for COTS, any money for Centenial Challenges, or any money for ANYTHING.

    If a candidate, any candidate, were to offer up a policy that commits money and funding for spaceflight, then you have a case to make about where that person stands on spaceflight. But simply being for VSE or not doesn’t amount to anything. Its empty rhetoric, much like the “support the troops” crap we consistently get – if you really want to support them, then you need to provide good health care, good benefits, make care packages, live more responsibly so they don’t have to be in harms way – simply putting a bumper sticker on your car doesn’t mean you actually are supporting the troops.

    Finally, concerning debating Ares and ESAS – I stand by my statement – you can’t convert a true believer (or a denied drunk)

    And, as anonymous and Jeff pointed out, some would question whether Romney’s support of VSE is really full force.

  • I’d say the best approach is to stop trying to sell our tiny-minority vision to the White House and Capitol Hill and try instead to sell it on main street and Wall Street. If individual people can invest in a space development NGO, space development public companies, space development endowments (such as an earmark at major space development universities) and start being able to do space as opposed to talk about it, we might get somewhere.

  • ProfRaze

    Ferris Valyn – at the risk of banging my head against the wall, let me just comment on two points. Cheap spaceflight isn’t going to get us to Mars, and off planet resources are a HUGE net loss. It isn’t just that there are better ways to spend our paltry science budget than manned space flight, that’s a no-brainer; it’s that in *not* funding manned missions now, in the long term we actually bring the potential reality of space colonization to reality sooner. Conversely, it is a sad fact that just announcing Bush’s vision for manned space flight was enough to sideline many other important projects at NASA without any concomitant gain. That’s simply science lost, including science that could have brought manned space flight closer to happening someday. I can’t believe that any of you are so obsessed that you don’t see that reality.

    You guys are shooting yourselves in the foot by not realizing that all basic science contributes to the future of space exploration. We have a lot more foundation to build before we’re ready to start exploiting space as a resource, or living off-world is anything other than a biological experiment. And a lot more problems to fix at home too. Well managed, this planet could provide all our resources for many many generations to come. If we can’t even pull off that feat, we’re certainly not going to be exploiting space anytime soon. This ferver and energy should be spent on more realistic goals with a greater net gain, IMO. But everyone has their bubble I suppose.

  • ProfRaze- How do you get there from here? Seriously? The biggest issue involved in any spaceflight, no matter who you ask, is launch price. I won’t say its the silver bullet for off-planet development, but the avenues of revenue and profit that open up if we have cheap spaceflight will allow the private sector to take a majority stake in manned spaceflight. Look at all the development of companies like Scaled Composites, Masten Space Systems, Armadillo Aerospace, SpaceX, just to name a few. Already Virgin Galactic has sold 31 million dollars worth of tickets. Exactly how is that a net loss? Cheap access will allow the zero-g manufacturing to begin in earnest, and many people have talked about Space based solar power, to name a few. How exactly is this a net loss?

    Further more, why must spaceflight come only from Nasa and science? Nothing else in our society is done JUST using science – yes science plays a big role, but so does business, and legalities. The biggest (and best way IMHO) that the government could help push space colonization is through large use of the private Newspace sector (and encourage investment in those companies). Thats not necassarily something that comes out of the science budget, and would be a great thing to do.

    In addition, what exactly do you claim that we need to learn before we can begin colonization? Humanity knew less about America when people started coming over here, and still managed to survive just fine.

    As to your claimthat this planet could provide all our resources for many generations to come – the simple fact is it will never be well managed enough again to allow for that. Humanity is by and large an expanding creature, and there are too many entrenched interests that would rather see this planet murdered than sacrifice for the rest of the world. Its that simple – we use too much energy, have too many kids, and are too wasteful, to expect to change in the time required, before we face ecological collapse.

    Further, you said “If we can’t even pull off that feat, we’re certainly not going to be exploiting space anytime soon.” Do you know the number of cultures that were not particularly well managed (by our standards), and still were able to expand in the time frames we are talking about?

  • reader

    Cheap spaceflight isn’t going to get us to Mars, and off planet resources are a HUGE net loss.
    I’d be interested to review the analysis that went into these well thought out statements.

  • ProfRaze

    Ferris – Now I know I’m banging my head against a wall.

    “Already Virgin Galactic has sold 31 million dollars worth of tickets. Exactly how is that a net loss?”

    How is that a gain? And how it is on topic? Please don’t tell me that you are actually ignorant of the fact that making room for manned exploration at NASA has delayed or killed several other projects that would have advanced scientific knowledge. I’m fine with private manned exploration, more power to them. I hope they build a space hotel and Paris Hilton moves there. What I’m not fine with is our limited tax dollars spent on science being used to continue the biological experiment of putting humans into space, especially when every dollar spent on that is one less dollar spent on something more worthy.

    “In addition, what exactly do you claim that we need to learn before we can begin colonization? Humanity knew less about America when people started coming over here, and still managed to survive just fine.”

    Wow. Do I really need to point out that off-planet environments are lethal? That the resources needed to put us upright chimps into that environment will exceed any potential gain for generations to come? Talk about apples and oranges. What we need to learn is how to launch and travel through space using far fewer resources. BTW, those resources necessary to launch and travel all come from this planet of ours, a planet which you admit has limited and dwindling resources. Premature manned space exploration will only reduce those resources more. It wouldn’t even be economical to live in Antarctica given our current technology, how can off-planet be better?

    “As to your claimthat this planet could provide all our resources for many generations to come – the simple fact is it will never be well managed enough again to allow for that.”

    This surprises me. Fundamentally a vision of manned space exploration is based on hope. Yet this statement belies a fundamental cynicism and defeatism. I can’t see any controversy in the statement that managing our resources here is a more easily accomplished goal than exploiting off-planet resources in a net gain.

    “Do you know the number of cultures that were not particularly well managed (by our standards), and still were able to expand in the time frames we are talking about?”

    Yes, usually at the expense of another culture, and they caused tremendous waste. Why push for a wasteful agenda? This is not westward expansion we are talking about here. There is no god’s land out there. God’s land is right where you are sitting. And on that topic, I am amazed that you are more concerned with Huckabee’s statement on manned exploration than you are about his rejection of evolution. The Luddites are winning the culture war, you know, if only because they breed so much faster. Science education K-12 would go a long way towards achieving the goals of managed resources and space exploration. I think ultimately you have to look at a bigger picture, and a more pragmatic one, than trying reach for things that are currently unattainable without tremendous loss of resources and scientific advancement. The costs of government sponsored manned exploration are simply too great, the gains too few, and the collateral damage to other scientific programs too unforgiveable to support such a policy.

  • ProfRaze

    >Cheap spaceflight isn’t going to get us to Mars, and off planet resources are a HUGE net loss.
    “I’d be interested to review the analysis that went into these well thought out statements.”

    Well I suppose the term “cheap spaceflight” is relative. I was using the term as Farris was, talking about things like SpaceX. Suborbital and orbital off the shelf technologies don’t equate to plantary exploration. As for off-planet resources being a HUGE net loss, just what resources do you think you are going to find on Mars or any other planetary body that we can bring back here and exploit at a profit? I’d want to see the numbers on orbital solar before judging it, but even there I can’t imagine how it would be better than simply solarizing every rooftop in the sunbelt, thus taking those homes off the grid. No launch vehicles needed. Heck, a good tax subsidy would accomplish the goal.

  • ProfRaz: I’m fine with private manned exploration, more power to them. I hope they build a space hotel and Paris Hilton moves there. What I’m not fine with is our limited tax dollars spent on science being used to continue the biological experiment of putting humans into space, especially when every dollar spent on that is one less dollar spent on something more worthy.

    Three points: First, since when is “science” the only, or even the highest, reason to conduct spaceflight. We accept that as an axiom, but is it true? Since when is the science budget being spent on human spaceflight; you could make a strong case that, in the absence of the human part of NASA, the money now spent on automated planetary spacecraft, having to compete on equal terms with other areas of science, would decline, and probably by a lot.

    Second, the cost of both automated and human spaceflight are far beyond any direct, measurable benefits. (Compare, say, what we spend exploring the Solar System with automated spacecraft to what we spend on all the rest of science in the NSF budget.) So, why should one be a public service and not the other? The benefits of both are essentially identical — the inspiration of knowing, and building knowledge and capabilities that will be needed in the future — and you can’t fairly question the value of human spaceflight without also questioning the value of at least the scientific portions of automated spaceflight. Looked at from the other side, both are such small portions of the Federal budget that the cost of doing them is essentially comparable. We can choose to do either one, or both, with small change.

    Third, I’ve argued this ad nausea so I won’t repeat most of it here except to raise the issue: it is far from clear to a (admittedly small) number of people that the cost per unit science of, say, exploring the moon with astronauts is enormously more than the cost of doing it with robots. The latter are cheap, but very limited in their capabilities; the former are expensive, but can casually do tasks that no robot is going to do in any of our lifetimes. Consider that the only absolute dates for any planet-sized surface in the Solar System, on which all the relative dates throughout the rest of our star system are based, are a product of Apollo which have yet to be duplicated anywhere else. Or, consider what it would take to find a chunk of an early terrestrial continent, with evidence of the earliest development of life, buried somewhere on the moon. Such samples are almost certainly there and the discovery of just one such sample would revolutionize many fields of science — yet they will only be found by detailed “Lewis and Clark” class long-distance traverses over rugged terrain, able to take multiple cores, and equipped for a lot of on-site analysis. These are characteristics that are enormously difficult to automate.

    I’ll stop here. You can find further arguments in the archives here or in Op Ed pieces from Space News on my Web site, http://www.DonaldFRobertson.com.

    – Donald

  • ProfRaze

    “First, since when is “science” the only, or even the highest, reason to conduct spaceflight. We accept that as an axiom, but is it true?”

    I suppose I could assert the obvious that if it’s from the science budget, then the goal should be scientific in nature. If the purpose of manned space flight is energy independance, then perhaps it should come from the energy budget? ;)

    Though in all honesty, what other purpose could there be for a manned mission to Mars other than the acquisition of scientific knowledge? And it’s really that specific project that I’m against, though by extension manned missions to the Moon are also suspect. Launching the shuttle to fix some orbital satellite is fine. Experimenting with solar orbital energy is fine too, if the numbers make sense.

    As to your second point, I wouldn’t mind living in a country where the trillions we will spend on Iraq instead went into manned space missions, but that’s not the way things work. Given the fact that the GOP contenders are currently in a race with each other over who is going to cut the federal budget the most, asking for expensive programs is probably not the best approach right now. Hard realities have to take precedence at some point.

    On the third point, sure the ephemera that is “scientific advancement” is hard to measure in zots, and I suppose that allows one to argue that you can’t compare the gains versus costs from different projects. But that doesn’t change the fact that you can get more ultimate work product per dollar from less expensive projects than manned missions, simply because of the excessive cost burden of manned missions. Given the fact that the Arctic ice cap recently dropped to half its median size, I think there are much more pressing concerns right here on Earth, and some of those concerns can be addressed through space science, such as the previously mentioned DISCOVR. I guess I’m just really against the idea of pushing for a hugely expensive project when much more needed and inexpensive projects are being sidelined, at least partially as a result.

  • ProfRaze

    And in case my “hard realities” wasn’t obvious enough, it is certain that advancement of any one NASA project will come at the expense of others. You’re not going to get the dream outcome of everything being funded.

  • Joe Smith

    ProfRaze: NASA is not a science agency. It is an agency that does science, among other things. Big difference.

  • Joe – you hit the point – Despite belief to the contrary, Nasa is NOT a science agency – it is a space agency that does science.

    ProfRaze – I think Joe Smith hit on a point that we probably missed, and its worth noting – Nasa is indeed NOT a science agency. It is a Space agency, that does science. Remember that

    How is that a gain? And how it is on topic? Please don’t tell me that you are actually ignorant of the fact that making room for manned exploration at NASA has delayed or killed several other projects that would have advanced scientific knowledge. I’m fine with private manned exploration, more power to them. I hope they build a space hotel and Paris Hilton moves there. What I’m not fine with is our limited tax dollars spent on science being used to continue the biological experiment of putting humans into space, especially when every dollar spent on that is one less dollar spent on something more worthy.

    Its a gain because that is part of the creation of new off-planet industries. Nasa is a space agency. That means it that as part of its job, it needs to be encouraging the development of off-planet commerce and off planet industries. You don’t complain about something like the Small business administration pulling money from science, or FEMA, or HHS pulling money from science, because their primary mission isn’t about science. Yes, people who support science will have issues in general with the federal budget, but there isn’t complaint about those agencies in particular, again, because their job isn’t about scientific exploration.

    Nasa job isn’t about scientific exploration either – NASA was given the job, effectively, of being in charge of everything associated with space. They were seen as the “de facto” government of space, within the US. Now, yes, there is a lot of science done by Nasa, but nasa doesn’t begin and end with science.

    So, as to how its a net gain, and its relevance – its net gain is that its helping a new industry, and its relevance is that Nasa isn’t just a science agency.

    In your response to Donald, you say that it is entirely funded out of the science budget – if memory serves me correctly, in actual fact that part of the budget also deals with the budget for law enforcement (I know that the committee that oversees that part of the budget also oversees law enforcement). The point is, I would love to see Nasa move away from being just funded through the “science” budget (although I question exactly where and how that “science budget” is defined). In fact, with regards to doing Earth science, I’d much rather Nasa not do that, and have that funding go to a different agency (IE move the mission to planet earth stuff into, say, NOAA, or the EPA, or a new agency).

    You asked what other purpose of a manned mission to mars could there be? Well, Elon Musk thinks that there is a market for people who want to move to Mars. Again, this is part of pushing for the development of off-planet industry.

    Wow. Do I really need to point out that off-planet environments are lethal?
    No, but my point is that historically there are many instances where the enviroment was thought to be dangerous and lethal, and that didn’t stop us. Does that mean we shouldn’t try and minimize deaths, and maximize safety? Of course not, but that doesn’t mean we need to wait for star trek’s force fields to make us safe to begin colonization.

    That the resources needed to put us upright chimps into that environment will exceed any potential gain for generations to come?

    Based on what? I think you are just thinking of hard resources, like minerals, but there are soft resources, that are about the expansion of economic spheres of influence – this can be seen in the resource that is space for space tourism. These soft resources will be important, because they can help to off-set economic losses faced by the elimination of jobs that hurt the enviroment. There is also the resource of zero-G, useful for manufacturing. And you talk about those resources right now half to come from the earth, but thats not necassarily the case. I remember a recent discussion about doing SPS that would be built by using the resoruces of dead satellites and spent fuel stages that are in orbit – yes, originally they came from earth, but at this point, this is trash that is in space, and so I woudl argue is a resource that comes from space.

    This surprises me. Fundamentally a vision of manned space exploration is based on hope. Yet this statement belies a fundamental cynicism and defeatism. I can’t see any controversy in the statement that managing our resources here is a more easily accomplished goal than exploiting off-planet resources in a net gain.

    It shouldn’t surprise you, and I can see controversy in that statement. If you say we must be focus on managing our society on the limited resources of earth, you force society into a zero-sum game, becaused of resource limitation. Historically, societies that attempt to function in a zero-sum game situation, result in stagnation, and decline. There is a great quote from Deng Xiaoping (yes, I know, great humanitarian) where is said “I can either spread poverty, or wealth”. Because of its nature, a zero-sum game forces the spreading of poverty.

    Our society is built on the idea of a positive sum game, and to change that, and change society, to accept the idea of a zero-sum game, would require more time than we have to save the world.

    If you want a demonstration of this, look at the controversy that has come up over bee colony collapse. When it first became apparent, there was some thought that it was caused by cell phones. Now, the loss of bees is a serious issue, no matter how you look at it. But when asked, more people were willing to face the risks raised by the loss of bees than were willing to give up their cell phones.

    You talk about pragmatism, but tell me how you are going to get the status quo to change dramatically in the time frame you need, such that the earth can be saved. The head of the UN said yesterday (I believe it was yesterday) that we will soon be forced to choose between a comprehensive solution, and oblivion.

    The evidence is there – right now, we seem more likely to choose oblivion, and its not due to the fault of the few people arguing for manned spaceflight.

    Even if you had everyone in the spaceflight community backing you, you’d still have the auto companies, the oil companies, the industrial farms, and of course Bush to deal with.

  • reader

    i’d want to see the numbers on orbital solar before judging it,
    Um.. you just posted a judgement in the thread above, let me quote again:
    off planet resources are a HUGE net loss.

    And now you admit that you havent even done or seen the numbers ? Would you like to be called an authority, expert or consultant on these matters ?

  • Ferris, I could not have put it better myself, subscribe me to everything you said!

    ProfRaze, humanity did not spend ten-thousand years learning to travel easily over Earth’s oceans and colonize the continents with science as the only motivation. Nor, will we explore and eventually colonize the Solar System driven by science — there have to be other motivations. Those motivations don’t need to make sense (read Space Station) and they often don’t, but they are powerful and they aren’t science. Call it a religion, but if science were the only reason NASA were funded, the well would quickly run dry. NASA gets funded because we are a people that, rightly or wrongly, believes the frontier myth, and some science gets funded on the side. Take away the myth — take away the human element of human beings directly exploring a new environment — and you take away the source for everything that drives us to spend the outrageous sums of money we spend on space science.

    To put it another way, you can have a “wasteful” human space program and a lot of expensive space science on the side. Or, you can have a “non-wasteful” program of pure science that is a shrunken shell of what we have today. Human exploration and space science go hand-in-hand — as they should.

    – Donald

  • Al Fansome

    PROFRAZE: Wow. Do I really need to point out that off-planet environments are lethal?

    FERRIS: No, but my point is that historically there are many instances where the enviroment was thought to be dangerous and lethal, and that didn’t stop us.

    Ferris,

    I just pictured a cartoon with two fish – with one fish getting ready to crawl up on land and the other fish saying “Wow. Do I really need to point out that out-of-water environments are lethal?”

    ProfRaze does not get it. Nothing you can say will make him get it.

    The permanent expansion of humanity into space is extremely important, and will be remembered as a seminal event many thousands and millions of years from now. Other comparable seminal events include:

    1) Fish first left the sea to move on to land,

    2) Apes left the trees to walk upright.

    NOTE: Christopher Columbus crossing the ocean to find a new world is small in comparison, and will be forgotten long before we forget about when humans permanently settled the space frontier.

    However, it appears that Professor Raze does not care much about permanent human expansion into the universe. He may even now tell us all why this is all an impossible thing to accomplish.

    Again, think about the cartoon.

    Which fish was more relevant to life on Earth? You tell me.

    - Al

  • Al, I completely agree with the thrust of your argument, but one quibble.

    1) Fish first left the sea to move on to land,

    2) Apes left the trees to walk upright.

    I think the fish might object to this. Somehow, one species learning a different kind of locamotion does not seem comparable to life at large learning to colonize dry land. I would suggest that the development of tool use (by several species, not just humanity), by ultimately making terrestrial life capable of interplanetary travel, is much more comparable.

    – Donald

  • ProfRaze

    Apparently I’m needed here.

    “Nasa job isn’t about scientific exploration either”

    I think you guys know a lot less about NASA then you should.

    NASA’s mission statement was only recently amended to include “to pioneer the future in space exploration…” and to drop “to understand and protect our home planet.” That’s Bush policy of course, a legacy of errors. Not that I disagree with the addition, but I think it was already included in the statement, “To advance and communicate scientific knowledge and understanding of the earth, the solar system, and the universe.” That statement, by the way, sure sounds like their job is about scientific exploration to me.

    “Elon Musk thinks that there is a market for people who want to move to Mars.”

    Elon Musk is smoking crack. That’s like saying there is a market for people who want to move to Antarctica, at 1,000,000 times the cost.

    “No, but my point is that historically there are many instances where the enviroment was thought to be dangerous and lethal, and that didn’t stop us.”

    I think you missed my point. It’s not that people might die during space exploration, that’s always a given. It’s claiming that space exploration is just as profitable as westward explansion was. The “it’s a lethal enviroment” comment had to do with the extreme costs of negotiating that environment, a cost that will not be recaptured, unlike the exploitation and colonization of the Americas. Space tourism notwithstanding, that’s not going to pay for a manned mission to Mars. Nor is it going to save us from the fallout from Global Warming. If anything, it would accelerate it.

    As for zero-G manufacturing, whatever benefits it might concievably give would be massively offset by the high costs of transport. Even using space waste would still require uneconomical transactional costs, namely going up there in the first place. And I do remember the old Salvage TV show. ;)

    “If you say we must be focus on managing our society on the limited resources of earth, you force society into a zero-sum game, becaused of resource limitation.”

    The space exploration budget is a zero sum game too you know. Paying for manned missions means not paying for many other projects. And trying to farm space resources at this time is a net negative, you spend more resources than you could ever possible recapture. That’s worse than zero sum, that’s zero sum plus you throw out a few percentage points of what you have already.

    “Our society is built on the idea of a positive sum game, and to change that, and change society, to accept the idea of a zero-sum game, would require more time than we have to save the world.”

    Our society is built on a fallacy that it is quickly going to wake up from. I think you’d be surprised at just how quickly we’ll adapt once we hit a brick wall or two, which unfortunately for the polar bear will happen far too late for them.

    It’s unfortunate that public policy only responds to the fire burning their britches, but once that fire is lit it will respond. But more to the point, it will take far far longer for offworld resource usage to be a net gain that it will to rebalance this planet. In other words, offworld resource exploitation is not a solution to our problems. Our problems are too immediate, and space exploitation too nascent. It’s just a pipedream for the next few generations.

    “The head of the UN said yesterday (I believe it was yesterday) that we will soon be forced to choose between a comprehensive solution, and oblivion.”

    Oblivion for some, not for all, but realize that by including the word “soon” he’s agreeing with me, and by comprehensive solution he means managing what we have wisely. That aside, the Earth isn’t going to end. It will still be here, it will still support life. It just won’t support quite so much life at such a high level of resource usage. This was predicted centuries ago you know. Malthus was correct, he just got the date wrong. At any rate, wasting resources on manned space exploration could only serve to make that date sooner, not later. Though in all honesty the effect is probably trivial.

    “And now you admit that you havent even done or seen the numbers ? ”

    In all honesty, I don’t have to see the numbers to know they don’t compete with residential solar. They can’t possibly. Just like I know without looking at the numbers that mining space rocks isn’t going to be a net gain over the cost of getting there and back. If space tourism is the only economic use of space, that’s not going to save the earth, it’s just going to make a few companies a little more money while they generate tons of greenhouse gases to exploit that space tourism. What is the carbon footprint of a launch vehicle, do you suppose?

    “ProfRaze, humanity did not spend ten-thousand years learning to travel easily over Earth’s oceans and colonize the continents with science as the only motivation.”

    In fact science was not their motivation at all. Living in the lush greenery was. Please show me the lush greenery off world. I’d love to see it. The Virgin Atlantic space hotel is not going to create a new resource. In fact, like any resource poor island, it will require constant resources from the “mainland.” As will any space colony.

    “To put it another way, you can have a “wasteful” human space program and a lot of expensive space science on the side. Or, you can have a “non-wasteful” program of pure science that is a shrunken shell of what we have today.”

    I reject your premise, again. You don’t get both manned space flight and other programs, you get one or the other. You can’t have your cake and eat it too. What you keep failing to realize is that those other programs that get jettisoned to make room for manned space flight would lay the foundation for future exploration, and increase our knowledge of the Universe, which btw is also a religion. People do want to fully understand God’s creation, like the old naturalists, and that’s exploitable through basic science. Hubble is a hit not because some jock in a vacuum suit is stomping around on it but because it brings the Universe to our livingrooms, in a way no manned expedition could.

    All of the examples posted by the many humorous members here all fail to see the obvious: exploration that results in a net gain is good. Of course it is. However, there is no net gain to manned space exploration that is significantly greater than robotic exploration. You’re not going to find dilithium crystals out there, you know. Any currently exploitable resource that can be provided offworld can be provided on world for less money, and the science can be pursued robotically.

    But in all honesty, I suppose the debate is unneeded. I win by default, because I know the manned mission to Mars isn’t going to get funded. Given the economic forecasts, we’ll be lucky to have anything getting funded at NASA here shortly.

  • ProfRaze

    And let me just add that I’m sure some folk here have a livelihood that hinges on manned space exploration or some other personal agenda. But think about this, criticizing humanity for being wasteful of resources, and then promoting a program that is wasteful of resources rather than promoting programs to save resources and possibly rebalance the Earth’s resources makes you part of the problem, not part of the solution. A manned mission to Mars isn’t going to end global warming, nor will it provide resources our planet needs anytime soon. Certainly not soon enough to prevent the “oblivion” the UN Secretary General is speaking about. Talking to you guys is like talking to the makers of the UniMog. You really just don’t get it. If you want humanity to be inspired by a vision of hope, work on saving the planet from its immediate threats, not trying to bail out on it a thousand years from now.

  • Ray

    Ferris: “In fact, with regards to doing Earth science, I’d much rather Nasa not do that, and have that funding go to a different agency (IE move the mission to planet earth stuff into, say, NOAA, or the EPA, or a new agency).”

    I’d rather not disrupt the Earth science NASA folks (or the aeronautics folks, or planetary science), since it seems to me that they’re doing ok, especially compared to the ESAS, Shuttle, or even many robotic programs in other Federal agencies like NPOESS.

    Why not move the NASA manned program into NOAA instead? It’s the manned program that’s had so many problems, raids the budget of so many other parts of NASA, and for decades has offered little return compared to the expense for the taxpayer. It seems that a move like that would protect the budgets of the other areas from raids and the threat of forced use of NASA launch vehicles made for manned programs. The move might also cause enough of a stir in the manned program – that the Columbia accident, CAIB, Aldridge Commission, and VSE apparently were not able to stir enough – to reform it.

    Let’s suppose (I’m not looking up the numbers; they’re my rough impression) ISS needs $2B/year, and there’s $8B/year left currently assigned to Constellation and Shuttle. Leave the ISS with NASA at $2B/year for maintenance, use, and if anything is left, expansion or commercial station use. Give NASA science/aeronautics back $1B/year to bring these areas back to health. Leave NASA with $2B/year to figure out some way to get some kind of ISS resupply and crew rotation going – development and operations. This lower funding would encourage them to resupply ISS in a cost-effective way – perhaps COTS, EELV use, etc. ESAS would be too expensive to contemplate.

    Starting with what’s left over (~$1B/year), hand over the rest of the manned program (ie the “what do we do after Shuttle”? question) to NOAA. They get the $1B, with the restriction that it has to be spent on manned space, and it has to be used to help NOAA’s mission. When Shuttle retires, NOAA would get a total of $5/B per year for this purpose. They could spend it on in-house rockets, something like COTS, commercial buys, using ISS as an Earth weather platform, using Bigelow modules to monitor space weather, making big robotic satellites that need occasional manned servicing in the Hubble sense, suborbital rockets with Earth imaging and atmospheric sampling abilities … whatever.

    It’s a bizarre idea, and it comes with some assumptions that aren’t really how things work in government, but the current debacle calls for shaking up with bizarre ideas. I suspect that the change would do the manned program some good, get them to produce something useful to people on Earth, and because it’s useful to a major constituency (while at the same time doing things that the manned space constituency likes better than nothing, if not as much as Moon/Mars) it should get better funding than it currently does.

    What I’m getting at goes back to my earlier post that claimed that the manned Mars program apparently doesn’t offer the taxpayers what they want, and the Moon program doesn’t seem to be making the sales pitch to them either (although I think it has a better shot if done better than ESAS). The manned program needs to solve problems major constituencies want solved if it wants better funding. If it does this it may even get to take some steps that get us closer to the Moon and/or Mars in the process.

    I’d say that the argument of giving NASA’s manned program to NOAA would work equally well with other agencies, or combinations of agencies. Give it to the military, or the Department of Energy, or Education, etc … with similar restrictions. I’d bet in any of these cases you’d see a better manned space program, since it would have to solve Earth-based problems. (Of course take away the restriction that the money has to be spent on manned space, and these agencies might use it for their traditional programs …).

  • Ferris Valyn

    First of all, that part of the mission statement was added under Clinton – contrary to what you want to claim, this is not something that goes all the way back to the original National Aeronautic and Space Amendments Act, of 1958.

    If you insist on citing that, then lets look at the actual act National Aeronautical and Space Act of 1958 (NASA’s charter). In the Declaration of policy and purpose, it says (d) The aeronautical and space activities of the United States shall be conducted so as to contribute materially to one or more of the following objectives:
    (1) The expansion of human knowledge of the Earth and of phenomena in the atmosphere and space;
    (2) The improvement of the usefulness, performance, speed, safety, and efficiency of aeronautical and space vehicles;
    (3) The development and operation of vehicles capable of carrying instruments, equipment, supplies, and living organisms through space;
    (4) The establishment of long-range studies of the potential benefits to be gained from, the opportunities for, and the problems involved in the utilization of aeronautical and space activities for peaceful and scientific purposes;
    (5) The preservation of the role of the United States as a leader in aeronautical and space science and technology and in the application thereof to the conduct of peaceful activities within and outside the atmosphere;
    (6) The making available to agencies directly concerned with national defense of discoveries that have military value or significance, and the furnishing by such agencies, to the civilian agency established to direct and control nonmilitary aeronautical and space activities, of information as to discoveries which have value or significance to that agency;
    (7) Cooperation by the United States with other nations and groups of nations in work done pursuant to this Act and in the peaceful application of the results thereof;
    (8) The most effective utilization of the scientific and engineering resources of the United States, with close cooperation among all interested agencies of the United States in order to avoid unnecessary duplication of effort, facilities, and equipment; and
    (9) The preservation of the United States preeminent position in aeronautics and space through research and technology development related to associated manufacturing processes.

    (I hope the formating works out – if it doesn’t, feel free to go to the link provided)

    Or, if you prefer, you can look at the functions, section, which says similiar things (feel free to go to http://www.nasa.gov/offices/ogc/about/space_act1.html to see the full text)

    Nasa is a space agency, that does science. It is not a science agency that opperates in space. The proof of this can be found in the original charter.

    Moving on

    Elon Musk is smoking crack. That’s like saying there is a market for people who want to move to Antarctica, at 1,000,000 times the cost.

    Well, thats certainly adding to the discussion, isn’t it? Personal attacks are not needed. As for the issue of price and cost, well, I’ll come back to that in a few seconds.

    I think you missed my point. It’s not that people might die during space exploration, that’s always a given. It’s claiming that space exploration is just as profitable as westward explansion was. The “it’s a lethal enviroment” comment had to do with the extreme costs of negotiating that environment, a cost that will not be recaptured, unlike the exploitation and colonization of the Americas. Space tourism notwithstanding, that’s not going to pay for a manned mission to Mars. Nor is it going to save us from the fallout from Global Warming. If anything, it would accelerate it.

    What proof do you have that it can’t pay for itself? Have we ever really tried it? You’ve dismissed tourism, but I can count multiple revenue streams (beyond just the tourism) that many of the companies are pursuing .

    In particular, the line about costs not being able to be recaptured – based on what? We’ve never really tried to get an ROI on spaceflight. The emergance of private spaceflight, in the form of tourism, space sports, K-12 science experimentation, just to name a few, could easily and will finance spaceflight within private companies.

    As for zero-G manufacturing, whatever benefits it might concievably give would be massively offset by the high costs of transport. Even using space waste would still require uneconomical transactional costs, namely going up there in the first place. And I do remember the old Salvage TV show.

    Its quite clear that you dont’ think we can see cheap spaceflight, espcially from this comment. But why are you so dismissive of everyone working on dramatically lowering the cost of spaceflight? Multiple people have shown there is nothing fundementally requiring spaceflight to cost so much, at least when operating. Yes, it does have something of a large up front cost, but not impossible. But look at the work that Musk is doing, the guys from Armadillo, XCOR, Masten, just to name a few – we will see a dramatic reduction in price to orbit sometime next decade. If you want to believe otherwise, well, your free to stick your head in the sand, but the vehicles and equipment that is being built and flown by the various companies, and the interest that they are recieving from the investment community, proves you wrong.

    The space exploration budget is a zero sum game too you know. Paying for manned missions means not paying for many other projects. And trying to farm space resources at this time is a net negative, you spend more resources than you could ever possible recapture. That’s worse than zero sum, that’s zero sum plus you throw out a few percentage points of what you have already.

    Ok, first of all, stop with the exploration – if you want to use that word, then I would argue that manned spaceflight falls in that catigory – exploration does NOT necassarily mean science. I want to do space exploration that consists of putting a muscian on the moon, and having him/her write something inspired by that moment. Yes, that is exploration. It is not scientific exploration, but it is exploration nontheless. Exploration takes many forms, but is not limited to science.

    If we decide to replace exploration with science, as was shown above, nasa is not purely a science agency. It is a space agency, that does science.

    Our society is built on a fallacy that it is quickly going to wake up from. I think you’d be surprised at just how quickly we’ll adapt once we hit a brick wall or two, which unfortunately for the polar bear will happen far too late for them.

    And by the time we adapt, the ecology will be so thoroughly destroyed that the planet will be unsustanable for human survival. In essence, we will be looking at extinction. Ecological collapse will not be pretty.

    It’s unfortunate that public policy only responds to the fire burning their britches, but once that fire is lit it will respond. But more to the point, it will take far far longer for offworld resource usage to be a net gain that it will to rebalance this planet. In other words, offworld resource exploitation is not a solution to our problems. Our problems are too immediate, and space exploitation too nascent. It’s just a pipedream for the next few generations.

    Do you want me to count the number of times we didn’t respond to situations? As for saying that space exploitation is too nascent, well, I suspect the reason you are saying that is because of the transportation costs are too high. But you don’t seem to really want to aknowledge all the work that has been done and is being done to significantly lower the cost to orbit. If you don’t want to see it, fine, but then you are limiting us to the situation of the zero-sum game that I have stated, and we will become extinct.

    Oblivion for some, not for all, but realize that by including the word “soon” he’s agreeing with me, and by comprehensive solution he means managing what we have wisely. That aside, the Earth isn’t going to end. It will still be here, it will still support life. It just won’t support quite so much life at such a high level of resource usage. This was predicted centuries ago you know. Malthus was correct, he just got the date wrong. At any rate, wasting resources on manned space exploration could only serve to make that date sooner, not later. Though in all honesty the effect is probably trivial.

    well, actually, by including the word soon, he agrees with both of us (have I at any point claimed we aren’t facing an ecological crisis?). As for managing what we have wisely – thats so open ended as to mean nothing. We could manage it by realizing that we need to invest in off-planet resource utlization. As for Oblivion for some, not all – on that I fundementally disagree – we are looking at ruining the planet to the point that we will go extinct.

    In all honesty, I don’t have to see the numbers to know they don’t compete with residential solar.

    What happened to basing our plans on sound science? If the numbers don’t pan out, then I will admit I was wrong. However, I do think that the numbers will pan out, and am more than willing to see the numbers. But I think the best answer is found by actually looking at the numbers. Of course, if you want to look at numbers, you’ll have to start aknowledging that we can do spaceflight cheaply, but I don’t know if your willing to aknowledge that.

    They can’t possibly. Just like I know without looking at the numbers that mining space rocks isn’t going to be a net gain over the cost of getting there and back.

    Again, we are in the realm of belief and religion. There were plenty of people who KNEW that it would be more expensive to import stuff from China. There were people who KNEW that operating a green business couldn’t be profitable.

    The only way you get there is to actually run the numbers.

    If space tourism is the only economic use of space, that’s not going to save the earth, it’s just going to make a few companies a little more money while they generate tons of greenhouse gases to exploit that space tourism. What is the carbon footprint of a launch vehicle, do you suppose?

    Well, actually, to answer your question, it (unsurprizingly) depends on the vehicle. If the vehicle uses crappy fuel, like the SRBs, its not good. On the other hand, if you look at what SS2 is doing, or XCOR, its acutally quite good. The SS2 uses tree rubber as the base for its fuel, and XCOR I believe is using methane. Now, admitadly, the larger question is how and where is the fuel produced, and what energy is used to get the fuel, but that can be dealt with by using SPS.

    In fact science was not their motivation at all. Living in the lush greenery was. Please show me the lush greenery off world. I’d love to see it. The Virgin Atlantic space hotel is not going to create a new resource. In fact, like any resource poor island, it will require constant resources from the “mainland.” As will any space colony.

    No, actually living in lush greenery was not their motivation. Their motivation range, but was primarily driven by economic self-interest (the 2nd most common was political self-interest ie religious reffugees). They were not lovers of the land who embraced harmony of life, but people who wanted to make a buck. The line about the “Virgin Atlantic Space hotel” is particularly telling, because it tells me you don’t know much about the industry. If you did, you would know that 1 – Its Virgin Galactic, 2) they are flying a spaceplane, that goes out of the atmosphere for a few minutes (which can’t even come close to a hotel) and 3) the only people who are really working on something that can be a hotel is Bigelow.

    If your going to attack the industry, you’d do better to know about it.

    I reject your premise, again. You don’t get both manned space flight and other programs, you get one or the other. You can’t have your cake and eat it too.

    Why do you reject it? What Donald is saying is that, if the manned program was to go away, the remaining money wouldn’t all go into unmanned robotics – it would get used in pork projects, like bridges to noowhere, and wasteful wars. There would undoubtably still be some money left over, but most of it would be used for things like HHS, DOD, and other NON-space NON-science agencies. That is the honest truth. Basic science research does not provide that many jobs, and providing jobs is generally seen by people (espcially those in elected office) as the most important thing

    What you keep failing to realize is that those other programs that get jettisoned to make room for manned space flight would lay the foundation for future exploration, and increase our knowledge of the Universe, which btw is also a religion. People do want to fully understand God’s creation, like the old naturalists, and that’s exploitable through basic science. Hubble is a hit not because some jock in a vacuum suit is stomping around on it but because it brings the Universe to our livingrooms, in a way no manned expedition could.

    That is by and large a load of crap. I am reminded of a line from the TV show Judging Amy “Why is it so damned important to spend money on learning whether there is water on Mars or not when there are people without basic health care here on earth?” (or it was something close to that). She wasn’t talking about manned missions – she was talking about Pathfinder.

    As for the claim that people don’t care about spaceflight, well, I can point to countless examples of people thinking manned flight is endlessly fascinating (and yes they do think space science is fascinating). But just because somethign is interesting, doesn’t mean they are prepared to spend a lot of money on it. Yes, people do wonder, but they wonder much more about putting food on the table than they do about the rotation period of stars and galaxies.

    But in all honesty, I suppose the debate is unneeded. I win by default, because I know the manned mission to Mars isn’t going to get funded. Given the economic forecasts, we’ll be lucky to have anything getting funded at NASA here shortly.

    Wow, thats just awe inspiring – all my points melt away in the awe of that statement *rolls eyes*

  • Ray – I think it would be a bad idea to put it in NOAA, since the ideas of manned flight fall outside of its charter. Same for DOE, or DOD.

    Nasa is linked historically with manned flight, and thats why I would argue that it should retain the manned flight regime, and the unmanned be handed off to a different agency.

    If you think it really would help to get manned flight out of the agency, then I would argue you’d be better doing something totally knew.

    The thing is, I don’t believe either of these things will really help to reform Nasa’s manned flight – the biggest part of the problem is that the current manned flight program is too linked to Congressional districts.

    I do agree with you that what is needed is something of a shakeup. However, I think that will come from (and really can only come from) what is going on in the private sector. Even allowing that NOAA or DOE could come up with something to do, there will be plenty of argument to put the various current centers in that agency, (like NOA) who have a history of mismanagement (again, this goes back to the issue of Nasa and congressional districts).

    The difference with the situation with the private sector is that it operates outside of the congressional district situation, which means that it answers to a different constituancy. THis will allow for the development of truly cheap spaceflight, and then when they show their numbers (and have actual demonstrations that prove its significantly cheaper) the disruption will happen, because many people will say “Why are wasting money this way”

    This will be the disruption that will require a total rethink of what and how we utlize Nasa in space.

  • reader

    In all honesty, I don’t have to see the numbers to know they don’t compete with residential solar. They can’t possibly. Just like I know without looking at the numbers that mining space rocks isn’t going to be a net gain over the cost of getting there and back.
    Thats makes the entire argument with you pointless. How could facts or data change your mind if you already made your mind up ?
    Thats arguing against faith and we all know how well this works.

    Im not even going to go through the rest of the thread, and i dont understand why others bother.

  • reader – sometimes I admit I just have a thing for pain. I should probably find another outlet for that (or lots of counseling) :D

  • ProfRaze

    “In particular, the line about costs not being able to be recaptured – based on what? We’ve never really tried to get an ROI on spaceflight. The emergance of private spaceflight, in the form of tourism, space sports, K-12 science experimentation, just to name a few, could easily and will finance spaceflight within private companies.
    /
    Its quite clear that you dont’ think we can see cheap spaceflight, espcially from this comment. But why are you so dismissive of everyone working on dramatically lowering the cost of spaceflight?”

    It’s really quite simple. You will never lower the cost of spaceflight for it to be able to compete with on planet programs that achieve the same listed goals. The goal of tourism is to entertain the rich, something that can be accomplished without the tremendous greenhouse emissions of launch vehicles. Sports already deliver just fine here on Earth. K-12 has far more important uses for their money, like updated textbooks, than wasting it on space programs.

    And back to the earlier claims of all this manned exploration somehow saving the Earth by opening up off planet resources, just what off planet resources do you think are going to be economically exploitable in the near future? Space Tourism isn’t a resource, it’s just money changing hands in the most wasteful way imaginable.

    I keep coming back to science for one simple reason: It is the only legitimate use of tax dollar resources in space. I don’t want my tax dollars being used to entertain Paris Hilton. I don’t want my tax dollars contributing to a wasteful industry that is acclerating Global Warming. Again I ask, what is the carbon footprint of a launch vehicle? Remember, it’s more than just the fuel to launch it, it’s all the energy that went into building and transporting it. How is the emission of all those greenhouse gases benefiting people here on Earth? When I say space programs need to get the most bang for their buck in science advancement, I mean it. Because scientific advancement is the only resource that space programs can give us that will in any way help our current problems. And we can get that scientific advancement from robotics and telescopes just as easily and much cheaper than manned missions.

    “And by the time we adapt, the ecology will be so thoroughly destroyed that the planet will be unsustanable for human survival. In essence, we will be looking at extinction. Ecological collapse will not be pretty. ” And by the time we can live on Mars, we’ll all be dead anyway. What’s your point?

    All this pie in the sky one day we’ll be living on Mars nonsense is like a religion. It is based on faith rather than reason and evidence. I would think that people with a science background would know better. Reading you guys is like reading a huckster trying to sell a perpetual motion machine. “You put in some starter energy, then it produces energy forever!” Well, guess what? It doesn’t work that way. You put in energy, you get a reduced amount back due to friction and inefficiencies. Then you repeat that process again and again. The so-called “exploitation of space” would be the same thing. You invest resources, and then get back a reduced amount, resulting in a net loss, over and over again. There is no profitable resource in space that we can currently exploit given our technology level. In the meantime, Global Warming is going to cause mass famines and concomitant conflict and war. Anyone with half a brain can see that. Well, I haven’t the time to respond to the rest, so all I have to say in conclusion is this:

    Get green or get out.

  • reader

    There is no profitable resource in space that we can currently exploit given our technology level.
    Its amusing how you keep repeating your articles of faith without any rational argumentation or analysis, and then keep hyping science and deriding others for having a mars religion.

    Like i pointed out before, your arguments are arguments of faith.

  • ProfRaze

    Well, I have time for one last clarification:

    “No, actually living in lush greenery was not their motivation. Their motivation range, but was primarily driven by economic self-interest”

    That’s the same thing. Exploiting the lush greenery is economic self-interest. Nowhere did I mention living in harmony with nature, and that certainly is not what happened historically.

  • ProfRaze

    >There is no profitable resource in space that we can currently exploit given our technology level.
    “Its amusing how you keep repeating your articles of faith without any rational argumentation or analysis, and then keep hyping science and deriding others for having a mars religion.”

    And Reader, feel free to prove me wrong. The burden is on you to show that manned space exploration is a good use of resources.

  • It’s really quite simple. You will never lower the cost of spaceflight for it to be able to compete with on planet programs that achieve the same listed goals.

    You wanna back that up with any sort of actual data, rather than blanket statements of faith?

    Sports already deliver just fine here on Earth.

    Well, that depends on the sport – baseball, yes. Rocket Racing, or spacediving, well, not so much.

    K-12 has far more important uses for their money, like updated textbooks, than wasting it on space programs.

    Actually, if you look at the market research, and for the prices being talked about, the K-12 market for space research which can be used for science fair projects is quite promising. But then, you’d have to look at the data, rather than make blanket statements of faith.

    And back to the earlier claims of all this manned exploration somehow saving the Earth by opening up off planet resources, just what off planet resources do you think are going to be economically exploitable in the near future?

    I’ve stated them many times. Just go back and read my previous posts. Space based solar power, zero-g manufacturing systems, an expension of the economic development zone – just to name a few.

    Space Tourism isn’t a resource, it’s just money changing hands in the most wasteful way imaginable.

    If you want to believe that, then I guess I can’t change your mind. However, most people realize that economic development, and knowledge base, are resources. They just aren’t tangible, like minerals. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t a resource (just look at the fear of China buying our currency)

    As for everything else – reader is right – you want to argue your faith, because if you get asked to produce or provide any numbers, you “don’t need them.” You claim spaceflight must have a horrible carbon footprint, but ignore what people like Richard Branson and other people are doing to minimize the carbon footprint, and use alternative energy for initial production.

    As for Mars – How much of what I’ve actually said was about mars? I’ve cited 1 example, and you “dismissed” it with a waive of the hand.

    As for insulting my scientific background – well, your dismissal and refusal to look or talk about numbers is akin to a creationist, or a global warming denier.

    In fact, your arguments sound more like that of a Luddite/naturalist, who desperately wants to get rid of all technology, and return us to the “idyllic agrarian society that our forefathers had”

    Reader is right – you are arguing faith.

  • reader

    The burden is on you to show that manned space exploration is a good use of resources.
    Not really, i didnt make any claims regarding use of resources. You made the statements, like:
    off planet resources are a HUGE net loss.
    If someone goes out and makes bold claims, the burden of proof is upon them.
    You see, no science magazine would publish a paper concluding anything like that, without having some proof or analysis in it. And you like scientific methods, right ?

  • ProfRaze

    No, I’m arguing presumption. These are my presumptions, based on a common understand of the world. I’ll include a couple of non-space based ones for clarity.

    1. Space exploration is expensive, and produces a large amount of greenhouse gases.
    2. Driving under the influence of alcohol is dangerous.
    3a. There are no off planet resources that will help the current human condition, other than scientific advance (and possibly space based solar).
    3b. Space based solar would be more expensive than residential solar.
    4. Neither scientific advance nor space based solar require manned expeditions to the Moon or Mars.
    5a. Living on the Moon or Mars will require more resources than living anywhere on planet Earth, including Antarctica.
    5b. Those resources will not be recaptured by living there.
    6. Mars contains no resources that we don’t already have here, other than scientific knowledge related to Mars.
    7. Scientific knowledge related to Mars can be acquired through robotic missions.
    8. One manned mission to Mars would be shorter, cost more, and achieve less total scientific advancement of our knowledge of Mars than a half dozen unmanned missions to Mars.
    9, Our planet is in serious trouble. Or more accurately our continued existence on this planet is in serious trouble.
    10. Using resources to prevent or reduce the impact of Global Warming will benefit mankind.
    11. Manned missions to the Moon or Mars is not “using resources to prevent or reduce the impact of Global Warming.” In fact, it’s quite the opposite.
    12. Doing anything is space is more expensive than doing it here on Earth, whether it be running a hotel, playing sports, mining minerals, manufacturing car parts, or engaging in K-12 education.

    Now, those presumptions are all based on common sense, but are also all rebuttable, and I encourage you to try to do so. However, claiming that zero-g manufacturing systems or an expansion of the economic development zone are in any way going to help conditions here on Earth truly is faith-based reasoning. If economic growth could curtail Global Warming and its affects, we wouldn’t have anything to worry about. Economic growth is something we do well already. More to the point, space based devolopment is not necessary for economic growth.

    Finally, I just don’t see how we could possibly develop off world technology fast enough to “leave the Earth” and live somewhere else prior to the ecological collapse that we all know is coming present trends continuing. More to the point, I don’t see any location in our solar system that would be more amenable to human habitation than our own planet, even *after* said ecological collapse. Why not try to stave off the ecological collapse instead?

  • ProfRaze

    Also, do realize that as far as audiences are concerned, I’m much more inclined to your positions than the average American. If you can’t convince me manned missions are a good thing, there’s no way you are going to convince them.

  • It’s really quite simple.

    Well, no, apparently it’s not. You may be, but it isn’t.

    You will never lower the cost of spaceflight for it to be able to compete with on planet programs that achieve the same listed goals.

    An article of faith, as others have pointed out.

    “There is no market for more than six computers in the world.”

    The goal of tourism is to entertain the rich, something that can be accomplished without the tremendous greenhouse emissions of launch vehicles.

    No, the goal of space tourism is to allow people to experience visiting space. This isn’t something that can be done on earth. And your notion that space tourism is going to result in “tremendous greenhouse emissions” is nonsensical. Surely you’ll show us some numbers to support this absurd thesis.

    Oh, right. I forgot. You don’t need no stinkin’ math.

  • ProfRaze

    You will never lower the cost of spaceflight for it to be able to compete with on planet programs that achieve the same listed goals.

    “An article of faith, as others have pointed out.”

    No, it’s really just common sense. Any space based program will require energy to leave the planet. Planet bound systems do not. That extra energy requires extra resources and cost, thus placing it at a competetive disadvantage. For you to be oblivious to such an obvious truth means you are living in a bubble, like the neocons. Fortunately the manned mission camp doesn’t appear to be taken seriously anywhere that matters.

    “And your notion that space tourism is going to result in “tremendous greenhouse emissions” is nonsensical.”

    Show me the launch vehicle that does not result in greenhouse gas emissions. Oh that’s right, it doesn’t exist. Unless like John Carpenter you’re just going to wish yourself to Mars.

    Five seconds worth of Googling came up with this:

    http://www.madsci.org/posts/archives/2000-10/973014746.Es.r.html

    >one space shuttle launch is equivalent to about two minutes
    of gasoline consumption in the United States.

    Your failure to face obvious realities makes this conversation useless. Peace.

  • No, it’s really just common sense.

    Only to ignorant commoners, unfamiliar with the reasons for the current costs of launch. We’re still awaiting actual arguments, backed by numbers, as opposed to pompous but obviously ignorant assertions.

    Show me the launch vehicle that does not result in greenhouse gas emissions.

    “Show me the airliner that does not result in greenhouse gas emissions.”

    “Show me the car that does not result in greenhouse gas emissions.”

    “Show me the human being that does not result in greenhouse gas emissions.”

    Do you have any idea how idiotic and pathetic your non-quantitative “arguments” are?

  • Apparently I’m needed here.

    Don’t worry, there are plenty here who believe as you do, or something similar.

    “To advance and communicate scientific knowledge and understanding of the earth, the solar system, and the universe.” That statement, by the way, sure sounds like their job is about scientific exploration to me.

    However, that statement does not say anything about how you do that job. And, no one who has studied much of the history of science, or understands just how vast and complex the Solar System is, is going to think you’ll advance much understanding sending a few clockwork robots to do a bit of reconnaissance. Real understanding is going to require scientists on site and equipped for extended stays with lots of experiments.

    It’s claiming that space exploration is just as profitable as westward explansion was.

    I don’t actually claim that. I think learning to travel over the oceans is a much better model. It took us 10,000 years and uncounted lost lives to do it, but we did do it. Next you’ll argue, why not wait until it’s easy, but if we do we’ll never go. We need to do what we can today. I agree that Mars is beyond our current reach, but Earth’s moon is not. We can do the kind of detailed geology and exploration that cannot effectively be automated on the moon, today, with relative ease, so we should. That experience will prepare us for Mars and other destinations.

    In your economic analysis of manufacturing in space, you commit a common falacy that something must pay for itself to be economic. No, somebody must be willing to pay for it, which is not the same thing.

    For an example, read my article, here,

    http://www.donaldfrobertson.com/oxygen_road.html

    offworld resource exploitation is not a solution to our problems. Our problems are too immediate, and space exploitation too nascent. It’s just a pipedream for the next few generations.

    I actually agree with this, but I disagree with your solution. It will remain a pipedream unless we get started somewhere, and there is no better time like the present. Sure, space exploration contributes to greenhouse gasses, but it’s negligible – you’d do far better to tackle, say, the personal automobile. Whether we lay the groundwork for eventual exploration and use of the Solar System will have no impact either way on whether we learn to make our everyday lives more efficient, which is the way to address our immediate problems. We can – and in fact must – do both. There is no point in addressing our immediate problems if we consign humanity to death in the medium future in the next asteroid impact or large-scale volcanic activity or major climate change, whether natural or human generated.

    Actually, your comment on residential solar illuminates my point nicely. Residential solar is a great technology to make residential life more efficient. You aren’t going to smelt a lot of metal or move a lot of cars around with it. You will always need more concentrated forms of energy and storage, and here space solar power may (or may not) have a future role. We’ll never know if we don’t find out. . . .

    Living in the lush greenery was.

    Like in Arizona? Or, Las Vegas? Let’s think that one through again. . . .

    You don’t get both manned space flight and other programs, you get one or the other.

    Ah, isn’t that what we have? I think the problem is that both sides want the other’s resources, not that we can’t do both. Actually, I think the current balance isn’t that far off where it should be.

    What you keep failing to realize is that those other programs that get jettisoned to make room for manned space flight would lay the foundation for future exploration,

    No, learning to do operations in space lays the foundation for future exploration. Reconnaissance is necessary too, but it is not sufficient in and of itself.

    and increase our knowledge of the Universe, which btw is also a religion.

    Exactly

    Hubble is a hit not because some jock in a vacuum suit is stomping around on it but because it brings the Universe to our livingrooms, in a way no manned expedition could.

    Ah, Hubble is part of the human space program, and it’s products should be listed in that account, not the automated program.

    exploration that results in a net gain is good

    How is it that, say, Cassini’s results at Saturn are a net good while, say, Apollo’s far more comprehensive results at the lunar surface are not?

    A manned mission to Mars isn’t going to end global warming, nor will it provide resources our planet needs anytime soon.

    Neither does a mission to Saturn. Why are you willing to waste fewer billions on that? If sending Apollo to learn about the moon was a waste, than so is sending Cassini to learn about Saturn. You can fairly make arguments about efficiency of various methods, and I could contest them, but the argument you are making is not valid.

    – Donald

  • I am not going to respond to you statements point by point, because I don’t have the energy for it (I’ve got a cold).

    Space exploration is expensive, and produces a large amount of greenhouse gases.

    With regard to the issue of expensive – I’ve dealt with this, as have other people. Specifically, people like Elon Musk, Jeff Greason, John Carmack, Jon Goff, and everyone else in the Newspace community. They are showing spaceflight can be cheap.

    With regard to the the issue of greenhouse gases

    1) As I said before (which I am wondering if you bothered reading) it depends on the rocket. Yes, the SRBs on the shuttle are bad rockets, and terrible polluters. No one disputes that. But there are other rockets that are very eco friendly – like the Methane Lox stuff that is coming out of XCOR, or the alcohol rockets from Masten, or the tree-rubber rockets for SS2.

    2) As for the issue of overal carbon footprint, well, I’d like to talk about the electric car – a lot of enviromentalists talk about how great it is, but is the electric car good for the enviroment if you have to plug it into a coal based power plant? OF course not. But the good thing about them is that they can be charged using clean technology as well.

    The same thing applies rockets and spacecraft – Can they, in themselves, be made so that they opperate in an enviromentally responsible way? Yes – again, look at the alcohol rockets, the methane, and on and on. Can you produce the fuel using envirnmentally friendly methods? Indeed you can.

    Doing anything is space is more expensive than doing it here on Earth, whether it be running a hotel, playing sports, mining minerals, manufacturing car parts, or engaging in K-12 education.

    The question isn’t whether its more expensive – the question is, is there something that only space can provide, that can’t be provided for on the ground. Much in the same way if you want fish, you go to the water instead of a prarie, you go to space if you want/need something with zero-g. Or to talk about solar power – to make terrestrial solar viable for the ultra large scale production required to maintain western lifestyle is not practical, and our power usage is not going to decrease. Space offers a lot more power for us.

    Lets move onto your paragraph

    However, claiming that zero-g manufacturing systems or an expansion of the economic development zone are in any way going to help conditions here on Earth truly is faith-based reasoning. If economic growth could curtail Global Warming and its affects, we wouldn’t have anything to worry about. Economic growth is something we do well already. More to the point, space based devolopment is not necessary for economic growth.

    Ok, well, I can’t believe I have to go through this with someone who is environmentally aware, but here goes – First and foremost, despite what some people believe, Adam Smith is not going to go away. Money and jobs and financial markets will be around for a good long time, unless humanity as a whole dies off.

    With that stated, its important to understand that not all economic development is equal, when it comes to the issue of its impact on the enviroment. Consider 2 power planets, that employee equal number of people – one is a coal power plant, the other is a wind power plant. Both add to the economic growth of the country. The question is, which one does damage the environment? (wind obviously)

    The point I am trying to make here is that we need economic growth that won’t damage the environment. Because space is not in the atmosphere, we won’t damage it with pollution as we build and make products up there. Yes, rockets will release gas into the atmosphere when they fly. On the other hand, by using clean fuels, like hydrogen and Oxygen, or alcohol, or countless other clean fuels (which I have talked about), rockets add to the green house gases.

    Finally, I just don’t see how we could possibly develop off world technology fast enough to “leave the Earth” and live somewhere else prior to the ecological collapse that we all know is coming present trends continuing.

    Nowhere, and noone here has actually argued that we should leave earth. What I (and I suspect other people, but they can speak for themselves if they wish to clarify) are talking about is the expansion of the economic sphere, to move beyond simply the earths surface. An economic sphere that has a lot of people off-planet will not be polluting nearly as much as if they remain on planet.

    Why not try to stave off the ecological collapse instead?

    Thats what I am trying to do. As I see it, humanity has 3 options. The first option is ecological collapse – obviously we want to avoid that. The second option is to come together in the spirit of harmony, and work to clean up our mess. As beautiful as that sounds, it will require a monumental shift in humanity’s beliefs and atitudes, and, given the time constrants we are facing, by the time it happens, it will be too late. More people would rather destroy the planet by driving their Hummers than buy walking, because they don’t want to be inconvienced by walking. I don’t know if you heard it or not, but the radio show marketplace (along with other PRI shows) did series of stories about consumerism and sustainablity. In it, they interviewed a number of people, and talked about a number of things. In this one particular episode, they intereviewed this family who lives a fairly simple life – they have 1 car, the only use occasionally, the mother works out of the home, the father used mass transit. They didn’t eat out much – in other words, they were really trying to be enviromentally aware. There is this one online resource that can allow you to calculate how many earth planets would be required if everyone lived like you do – this family, who as I said, tried to live a simple life, and not pollute, and not be wasteful – required THREE earths.

    This is why I say that more people would rather destroy the earth tomorrow rather than face some inconviences today.

    That leaves the idea of expanding our economic sphere into space, and utlization of off-planet resources (again, through things like solar power, zero-g manufacturing, etc), while maintaining the earth. If we can get those people who don’t want to help to contribute to cleaning up the planet – if we can get them to opperate somewhere where it won’t damage the planet, we can begin to clean up the mess. Or we can bribe them by showing how they can make more money by doing business someplace where it won’t destroy the environment.

    Also, do realize that as far as audiences are concerned, I’m much more inclined to your positions than the average American. If you can’t convince me manned missions are a good thing, there’s no way you are going to convince them.

    Not necassarily – elitism can come in many forms, and for a long time, scientists are, to use a cliche, at the top of the food chain, when it comes to doing things in space. When the discussion about the proposed moonbase was had on Dianne Rehms’ show, the main people they talked to were scientists.

    Many other places, scientists are much lower on the totem pole, else where in life. Look at the constant funding issues many scientists, archelogists, palenatologies face, as compared to say, land developers, and factory builders. Scientists have such stature in space, and its not surprising some of them don’t want to give up that stature as many more people go into space.

  • I feel I should add that there are a lot of scientists who actually do look at numbers and data, and will aknowledge that space can and should play a role (look at how multiple scientists support SPS, as one example).\, and while they may not want to entirely give up their status with regards to space, will understand the necessity of it, and will oblige.

    Of course, there are a few “scientists” who would will insist on being elitist.

  • ProfRaze

    “With that stated, its important to understand that not all economic development is equal, when it comes to the issue of its impact on the environment.”

    Interesting because I was about to raise the same issue. Which use of resources is greener, investing in residential solar or launching a mission to the Moon? I would think it’s a no-brainer, personally. Comparing a methane rocket to the shuttle isn’t the correct comparison when you’re looking at overall impact. The question quickly becomes: Given the situation created by Global Warming, can we afford any rockets of any type at all?

    Now, I happen to think the answer to that question is yes, because I think the scientific advancement is worth some emissions. But not all projects are equal in that regard. It’s a lot easier to sell a Cassini, which is doing tremendous science btw, than to sell a return to the Moon. Our technological ability to exploit space *will* improve over time without manned missions, as a function of overall technological development.

    As an aside, residential solar does indirectly power manufacturing. By taking houses off the grid, it frees up energy for manufacturing uses. Making homes to low energy requirement specifications would have a huge impact also. Well designed, every house in the Sunbelt would become a small power generator, which could power an electric car to boot. Added up they would provide a large amount of power to the grid. Think of the movie the Matrix. Why I’m not hearing ideas like this from the mouths of the candidates is anyone’s guess.

    “The point I am trying to make here is that we need economic growth that won’t damage the environment. Because space is not in the atmosphere, we won’t damage it with pollution as we build and make products up there. Yes, rockets will release gas into the atmosphere when they fly.”

    I’m just not convinced that space manufacturing ends up as less emission creating than planet bound manufacturing, at current or near future technology levels. Everything we put into space has to be built here, and launched from here. There is no Von Neumann technology yet.

    “Nowhere, and noone here has actually argued that we should leave earth.”

    Well, I interpret some of their statements differently than you do.

    “An economic sphere that has a lot of people off-planet will not be polluting nearly as much as if they remain on planet.”

    *If* those off planet activities do not require support in the form of manufacturing or launches from the Earth. That’s a pretty big if. I used the island analogy previously, because I think it is apt. In space you’re only going to have what you bring with you. The infrastructure necessary to be able to expand or even maintain a vacuum sealed colony will require generations of investment, and a huge initial investment. Shouldn’t we get our ducks in a row here first? If we can’t even properly manage the resources on Colony Earth, how will we manage them on Colony Moon?

    “As I see it, humanity has 3 options. The first option is ecological collapse – obviously we want to avoid that. The second option is to come together in the spirit of harmony, and work to clean up our mess. As beautiful as that sounds, it will require a monumental shift in humanity’s beliefs and atitudes, and, given the time constrants we are facing, by the time it happens, it will be too late.”

    Now, I’m actually not all that doom and gloom about our prospects here on Earth. I think our current administration is criminally retarded, but they are out in a little over a year, at which point the U.S. will take action along with a pleading Europe to cap emissions and start reversing Global Warming. Europe was ready years ago to take action, we’re the ones preventing global emission caps, and an environmental impact tax would go a long way towards forcing compliance internally. Even if we act immediately we’re going to take some hits, to be sure, since we waited way too long to hit the brakes, but we’ll survive it. Still, you’re talking about 10 – 20 years at least of responding to one predicted or unpredicted crisis after another, stronger hurricanes, droughts, resource conflicts leading to wars, etc. Is this really the right time to be making a huge investment in off-world development? And in all honesty, couldn’t we develop the same technology with an Antarctica colony, relatively cheap? To me the first step in off-world exploitation is proving right here on Earth that it can be done, not experimenting on the Moon where mistakes are final.

    Economic models of expanding spheres look good on paper, but if the reality is that they require continual energy and materials support from the planet, then space exploitation is no better than building a bunch of coal plants.

    “Of course, there are a few “scientists” who would will insist on being elitist.”

    When did I ever say I was a scientist? I’m a professor of law and policy. The space program is “policy.” So is everything else we do.

    A good discussion overall. I’m still not convinced that manned Lunar or Martian exploration survives a cost/benefit analysis at this time, particularly when the goals can be achieved through much cheaper means (robotics, Antarctica colony), and it seems to me we’d be much better served pursuing those projects first to lay the foundation for future manned exploration, but I can see some of these other projects perhaps being useful.

  • ProfRaze

    And one I missed, if a low impact family of three requires three Earths to maintain their lifestyle, how many Earths does an Astronaut require?

  • Chance

    “…can we afford any rockets of any type at all? Now, I happen to think the answer to that question is yes, because I think the scientific advancement is worth some emissions. But not all projects are equal in that regard. It’s a lot easier to sell a Cassini, which is doing tremendous science btw, than to sell a return to the Moon.”

    Wait a minute, going back to the moon will probably be a huge waste of resources, but at least it could concievably lead to advances that teach us to exploit resources without requiring a life line from Earth. For example, learning if we can extract oxygen to breathe from soil, mine or gather raw materials to build habitats, etc. I don’t see how you can make the argument “pure science” missions like Cassini are worth the emissions cost, but a moon mission isn’t, even though that mission could concievably do much more to reduce emissions in the long run. After all, if we are launching rockets built and fueled from the moon (maybe possible, maybe not, hopefully some scientists will chime in) then the rocket emissions drops to near zero, except for the relatively light humans you’re sending up.

  • Ray

    ProfRaze: “I keep coming back to science for one simple reason: It is the only legitimate use of tax dollar resources in space. … When I say space programs need to get the most bang for their buck in science advancement, I mean it. Because scientific advancement is the only resource that space programs can give us that will in any way help our current problems. And we can get that scientific advancement from robotics and telescopes just as easily and much cheaper than manned missions.”

    Also: “Right now the most important thing NASA could do would be to launch DSCOVR to the Lagrange point to measure the Earth’s albedo, thus accurately measuring the solar effect on Global Warming. Foolish visions of expensively going to the Moon so we can expensively go to Mars to look at rocks in person that robots can look at just as well and much cheaper get exactly the public response they deserve: It’s a waste of money. The public gets that impression from two primary sources, remembering the last Apollo missions, and seeing the total waste of time and money the ISS is.”

    Before offering a somewhat different viewpoint I should start by saying I’m in favor of shifting NASA spending on manned programs (Shuttle/ISS/ESAS) to robotics, and I think science should be a higher priority at NASA than it is today. I’m for launching DISCOVR, in spite of my annoyance at it when it was originally conceived before it had science instruments because at that time it was a political probe to be launched on the Shuttle … and even then I wanted Shuttle replaced.

    I agree that NASA’s current Moon (with Mars wishes) plan is wasteful, but not because of the goal, but how they’re going about attempting to achieve the goal. If returning to the Moon to NASA means building 2 incredibly expensive in-house rockets for 15 years, possibly raiding science missions all the while, I’d rather have them do something else less ambitious and expensive with their manned program, and while they’re at it, listen to some non-space constituencies. From your posts I think you’d have them listen to the environmental constituency if you had to keep them around at all, which I could go for. I could also go for other constituencies – energy, military, science, disaster response, etc.

    I don’t, however, agree that science is the only useful objective for space programs, either robotic or manned. Lunar or asteroid mining, colonies, Mars tourists, and so on are probably not imminent, especially with the ESAS approach, so a modest, cautious effort in that direction (science and ISRU robotics on these bodies, manned field tests on Earth like the Mars Society does, ISS research, encouragement of commercial manned space) could very well be more appropriate for NASA. However, there are a lot of other useful things space programs – including manned programs! – could do:

    - send useful non-science data to users (businesses, etc) on Earth, such as weather data, location of fish, “space weather” data, location/timing (GPS) data, etc. A lot of this could overlap with Earth observation science data, but a lot could also be considered strictly operational.

    - expand or share costs with industry capabilities, such as launch vehicles, satellite buses and instruments, etc. Instead of building a NASA-specific rocket, use an existing one or encourage a new (and hopefully better/cheaper) one. This would indirectly help space-based science missions, but would also help a lot of other areas, like the communications satellite industry, the military, etc.

    - improve space infrastructure by creating new capabilities like in-space refueling, space tugs, and so on, which would be useful to the (manned?) program, but also could be useful for science missions or other users on Earth.

    In the meantime, I’d encourage the commercial space entrepreneurs, whether manned or robotic, and whether suborbital or orbital. They have a shot at making the whole space field – science and all – take off if they can just make their businesses work by more efficiency, more routine flights, and so on. Some of them may be making capabilities for tourists, but it’s a great opportunity for NASA to use the same platforms for science. Even the suborbital vehicles could be great for taking Earth science imagery, calibration of Earth observation satellites, atmospheric sampling, testing orbit-bound satellite sensors, training engineers and project managers before letting them loose on big missions, and perhaps even launching small science probes.

  • ProfRaze: Our technological ability to exploit space *will* improve over time without manned missions, as a function of overall technological development.

    There is no way to prove it, but that statement may well be wrong. When China retreated from global exploration to concentrate of problems at home, they lost the capacity until they regained it from the West. When the West gave up science for the dark ages, and the Muslem world continued, it took huge amounts of effort (and the Muslim world shooting themselves in the foot) to regain our lead.

    In the more immediate question, we happen to be benefiting now from an accident of nature. Since it takes close to the same amount of rocket power to reach geosynchronous “Clarke” orbit (we should rededicate that name now that the inventor of the idea of the geosynchronous comsat is having is ninetieth birthday!) as it does to reach the moon and other deep space destinations, the heavy comsat industry has helped us retain the technological capability for deep space exploration after Apollo. Without that industry, we probably would not have kept large, deep-space capable rockets, and it would be much harder to return to the moon today — and we might well not be exploring Saturn!

    Chance:

    Wait a minute, going back to the moon will probably be a huge waste of resources,

    but at least it could concievably lead to advances that teach us to exploit resources without requiring a life line from Earth. For example, learning if we can extract oxygen to breathe from soil, mine or gather raw materials to build habitats, etc.

    Aren’t these mutually exclusive statements? If you figure out how to obtain in space the single heaviest item, needed in the largest quantity, to do anything in space, isn’t that worth rather a lot of up-front investment?

  • ProfRaze

    Donald: “There is no way to prove it, but that statement may well be wrong.”

    No, we don’t live in the pre-technology era anymore. Just look at computers, and all the technological advantages NASA has gotten from their advance. Same with materials science. These technologies have non-space utility, and so will continue to develop even in the total absence of a space program. We don’t need to be in space to develop space faring technology. It has plenty of utility here on Earth.

    Ray – I don’t strongly disagree with anything you said. I am much more skeptical of the merit of non-science NASA programs. We can encourage space entrepreneurship without government sponsored manned missions, and the rest seems to already be satisfied with existing satellite technology. Plus, I have yet to see the ISS generate anything of worth, and it’s been up there for what, ten years now? In fact, the ISS is a perfect example of how manned space based projects are islands in need of constant resources. Throw in the fact that they are in a constant state of deterioration due to radiation and micro-meteors (currently blamed for a malfunctioning solar array joint) and it’s hard to imagine manned space programs being anything but a cost for many generations to come. Some may be a cost worth bearing, but that’s going to be decided on a project by project basis most likely, not as part of an overarching plan to build the infrastructure of space exploitation. We have bridges collapsing here on Earth; our infrastructure investment is more needed here, and will provide a much greater ROI.

    As far as extracting oxygen from an off-planet environment, I keep thinking of the hydrogen fuel cell. It takes a lot of energy to extract chemicals from the environment, more than you get back from them, that’s for sure, unless you’re talking about fossil fuels. So, whatever energy needs you have off-world are going to be fully dependant on solar or the fuel you brought with you, including the extraction or manufacture of oxygen, water, and food. I think the goals are worthy, I don’t think the time for them has come yet.

  • reader

    ” So, whatever energy needs you have off-world are going to be fully dependant on solar”
    So ? Its a good practically indefinite power source that can be capitalized upon.
    I recommend you look up the ISRU solar cell production plans. An abstract can be found here:
    “A. Ignatiev, A. Freundlich, Space Vacuum Epitaxy Center, University of Houston”
    Production of Solar Cells on the Moon from Lunar Regolith

    How is that a net loss for anything ?

  • Comparing a methane rocket to the shuttle isn’t the correct comparison when you’re looking at overall impact. The question quickly becomes: Given the situation created by Global Warming, can we afford any rockets of any type at all?

    Now, I happen to think the answer to that question is yes, because I think the scientific advancement is worth some emissions.

    No, the methane rocket vs the shuttle is absolutely the correct comparrison. Becaused you have acknowledge that there is some benefit in space activities. While it is true that you can ask that question, its rather pointless. I am sure you yourself would rather we fly rockets that are enviromentally friendly, rather than things like the SRB, or the hypergolic rockets.

    But not all projects are equal in that regard. It’s a lot easier to sell a Cassini, which is doing tremendous science btw, than to sell a return to the Moon. Our technological ability to exploit space *will* improve over time without manned missions, as a function of overall technological development.

    Donald dealt with a lot of this, so I wil only add one thing – the ease or difficulty in making that sell of spaceflight directly depends on whether we can produce useful products or services. Science is of course one such product/service, but it is not the only one.

    As an aside, residential solar does indirectly power manufacturing. By taking houses off the grid, it frees up energy for manufacturing uses. Making homes to low energy requirement specifications would have a huge impact also. Well designed, every house in the Sunbelt would become a small power generator, which could power an electric car to boot. Added up they would provide a large amount of power to the grid. Think of the movie the Matrix. Why I’m not hearing ideas like this from the mouths of the candidates is anyone’s guess.

    I can answer that last point for you – you aren’t hearing about it because, as I’ve said, it causes too much disruption, without providing a big enough payout to everyone who has a vested interest in retaining the status quo such that they’ll switch over. These vested interests aren’t just in the form of the heads of a few companies – large parts of society don’t want to give up things that they see as their rights ie the right to waste energy.

    I’ve proposed what I think is a gas tax idea that could go a long way towards helping deal with the auto issue – the URL is http://www.dailykos.com/story/2006/1/7/182942/7587/155/176813

    And yet, by and large, people at Dkos (who you would expect would be most likely to support it) said it wouldn’t work, and that it was a non-starter. I still think its a good idea, and one that could really work well, but you can see the responses.

    I’m just not convinced that space manufacturing ends up as less emission creating than planet bound manufacturing, at current or near future technology levels. Everything we put into space has to be built here, and launched from here. There is no Von Neumann technology yet.

    You’re not convinced of it, but I am. Look at the discussions that Spacehab has had about using ISS and other stations for (I think) protein crystal production – not for research, but for actual usage. Perhaps the most important point, however, is that if we are entirely honest, we don’t really have any data points about space manufacturing – the transportation issue has always precluded any sort of large scale usage of space for manufactuings sake.

    Today, we stand at the forefront of cheap spaceflight – not cheaper, but cheap. How that will impact society and the marketplace I think is open for debate (although evidence would point to it being majorly disruptive).

    *If* those off planet activities do not require support in the form of manufacturing or launches from the Earth. That’s a pretty big if. I used the island analogy previously, because I think it is apt. In space you’re only going to have what you bring with you. The infrastructure necessary to be able to expand or even maintain a vacuum sealed colony will require generations of investment, and a huge initial investment. Shouldn’t we get our ducks in a row here first? If we can’t even properly manage the resources on Colony Earth, how will we manage them on Colony Moon?

    Not necassarily. Rockets can be made to use fuels that are enviromentally friendly (I’ve stated numerous examples). The question is, can we provide the power needed to produce those fuels, in an enviromentally friendly way? The answer is, yes – through using things like SPS.

    As for the issue of “only having what you bring with you”, well, thats not the case now, nor does it have to be the case in space. Today we talk about globalization – well what about (for lack of a better term) cis-lunarization? Or solar systemization? Capital exchange and transporation, espcially within the earth-lunar space, isn’t too bad. Further out, to the realm of mars, yes, its more likely to be the case. However, its worth pointing out that people are looking at being able to tap local resources, when outside the cis-lunar space – look at Zubrian’s proposal for Mars travel and colonization.

    Now, I’m actually not all that doom and gloom about our prospects here on Earth. I think our current administration is criminally retarded, but they are out in a little over a year, at which point the U.S. will take action along with a pleading Europe to cap emissions and start reversing Global Warming. Europe was ready years ago to take action, we’re the ones preventing global emission caps, and an environmental impact tax would go a long way towards forcing compliance internally.

    The naysayers aren’t going away, and thats not the only problem. You talk about using tax compliance – many in congress (those with an R after their names) shit bricks over the idea of new taxes, and I am very concerned the the Dems are too afraid of the DFH label to actually do the necassary things, like using gas taxes and the like.

    It is not just the Bush administration, despite what you want to believe. Yes, they are a major impediment, but the Kyoto protocol was passed during the Clinton administration. Only it wasn’t ever submitted to congress – why? Because it would never have been ratified.

    Even if we act immediately we’re going to take some hits, to be sure, since we waited way too long to hit the brakes, but we’ll survive it.

    I am far from convinced of that. we need to be going in a completely opposite direction than we are currently going, and we have moved, maybe, a half a degree. How long will it take for us to move that additional 179.5 degrees?

    Still, you’re talking about 10 – 20 years at least of responding to one predicted or unpredicted crisis after another, stronger hurricanes, droughts, resource conflicts leading to wars, etc. Is this really the right time to be making a huge investment in off-world development?

    I don’t claim we should put all our eggs in one basket. I believe the real solution will come from multiple sources, however, one of the big helpful points will come from space. Further, I disagree with your 10-20 years timeframe for space development. Disruptive technlogies tend to radically change the economic landscape. A great example of this is the internet, and computers. Once wall street and the private sector really understood and appriciated all that computers (and even better the internet), the amoulnt of money invested came pouring in.

    The same thing will happen with spaceflight. When you look at the work going on in the NewSpace companies, with the technology that can lower the cost of spaceflight (and by a serious amount), in the next 3-5 years, the price to orbit will fall through the floor. At that point, we’ll see the investment community rush in, much like they did during the tech boom of the 90s.

    And in all honesty, couldn’t we develop the same technology with an Antarctica colony, relatively cheap? To me the first step in off-world exploitation is proving right here on Earth that it can be done, not experimenting on the Moon where mistakes are final.

    No, actually, we can’t, for a couple of reasons
    1. Antartica still has gravity. Its the zero-g that makes space special.
    2. Antartica is still on the earth – being off earth provides perspectives that very few people have seen
    3. I would argue that Antartica does have a small coloney on it. It could be further developed, by opening it up to extraction and minig industries, but we’ve decided against that (for better or worse).

    Economic models of expanding spheres look good on paper, but if the reality is that they require continual energy and materials support from the planet, then space exploitation is no better than building a bunch of coal plants.

    But that isn’t the reality. The reality is that space does require things that, right now, it can’t self-sustain (like food), but it can provide things that can’t be had on earth (things like SPS, and high quality protien crystals). In other words, what we are looking at is trade.

    When did I ever say I was a scientist? I’m a professor of law and policy. The space program is “policy.” So is everything else we do.

    Well, you constantly fell back on the issue of science, so I assumed you were a scientist. I apologize.

    As for the issue of policy, well I would argue that the development of new spheres of economic development, that won’t harm the enviroment is good for us, policywise.

    I’m still not convinced that manned Lunar or Martian exploration survives a cost/benefit analysis at this time, particularly when the goals can be achieved through much cheaper means (robotics, Antarctica colony), and it seems to me we’d be much better served pursuing those projects first to lay the foundation for future manned exploration, but I can see some of these other projects perhaps being useful.

    The important thing to remember is that, while you might not see a use for spaceflight (or any item under discussion) doesn’t mean there isn’t a use for it. The ultimate arbitor at this point is the marketplace. Thats the real issue.

    And one I missed, if a low impact family of three requires three Earths to maintain their lifestyle, how many Earths does an Astronaut require? Well now, since the astronaut and others are utilizing off-planet resources, that isn’t quite the proper frame of reference, is it? The proper frame of reference is lies beyond earth, to include access to off-planet resources.

  • What I find interesting in the above discussion is how quickly some of us combatants here have buried our respective axes and united in the face of an outside threat to our basic axioms. Suddenly, our endless ESAS versus EELV, expendable versus spaceplane debates seem a little less important when faced with someone who questions the basic goals we all have in common. I’m sure there’s a lesson for us here somewhere. . . .

    – Donald

  • ProfRaze

    Ferris – “Rockets can be made to use fuels that are enviromentally friendly”

    Well, friendlier. And there’s still manufacture to consider, both of the fuels and the components. Sure, you can use wind power to green up the manufacturing process, but you could use that same wind power energy to make solar panels or power agriculture. To rewrite an old saying: There’s no such thing as a green launch. But I’ll concede you can make a launch that’s worth doing, given the expected gain to science. By that of course I’m still referring to robotic missions.

    “Today we talk about globalization – well what about (for lack of a better term) cis-lunarization? Or solar systemization? Capital exchange and transporation, espcially within the earth-lunar space, isn’t too bad.”

    Who do you plan on trading with? Let’s take the emotional content of space travel out of the equation. Let’s say instead what you are proposing is colonizing Antarctica. What benefit do you see from it? How is it ever going to be a net gain? The USSR tried to populate Eastern Siberia, and it ended up being nothing but a resource drain. They could never get the area to actually produce anything relative to its support costs. That’s right here on Earth. Granted, the Soviets weren’t exactly the brightest bulbs when it came to economics, but back to the Antarctica analogy, when do you think such a colony would become self-supportive? Ever? It’s a far easier environment to negotiate than anything off-world, it’s warmer, and it has a tremendous amount of oxygen and water. It even has food present. Yet I see no big plans to colonize it, despite our shrinking land resources. Maybe that’s because it could never support itself.

    A brief aside on Global Warming.

    “It is not just the Bush administration, despite what you want to believe. Yes, they are a major impediment, but the Kyoto protocol was passed during the Clinton administration. Only it wasn’t ever submitted to congress – why? Because it would never have been ratified.”

    Two words, Newt Gingrich. But the Republicans are not controlling Congress now, and I don’t see them regaining it in 08. Best case scenario, and most likely, we get Dems in power for 4 years, White House and Congress, during which time they can finally take action on Global Warming, and after which green policies will hopefully seem “normal” so we don’t go back to our wasteful past. The American people are by and large ready to go green, or at least greener, they just need guidance. Of course, all of our hopes could be dashed, but let’s wait and see.

    Back to space flight.

    “Disruptive technlogies tend to radically change the economic landscape. A great example of this is the internet, and computers.”

    Well, back in the 80′s the information economy was already strongly predicted, and all computers do is let people do what they already do more efficiently. The tech boom of the nineties was due to the extreme utility of faster computers, much like the automobile changed America. There is no concomitant resource or utility coming from space. Comparing manned expeditions to the Internet is like comparing mountain climbing to the cotton gin. We may have a mountain climbing industry now, but it’s trivial. Textiles, on the other hand, is major.

    And that’s about where I see manned space expeditions. It’s like climbing a mountain. Neat to say you can do it, no real benefit to it other than pride and some tourism. But I don’t know that using tax dollars to make some sort of space based reality show is really the best use of resources.

    I’ve noticed that you keep mentioning the space manufacture of protein crystals, as if it’s some sort of gold mine. This was long ago debunked. The Council of the American Society for Cell Biology called for cancellation of the space-grown protein crystal program back in 1998 (I did a little homework). They didn’t win, but after many more years of experiments on the ISS there still hasn’t been a single unique scientific result. To date no serious contribution has been made to the knowledge of protein structure or drug development by space based protein crystallization. Space grown crystals can be distinguished only by their cost.

    As for SPS, by which I assume you mean space (produced?) solar, at best it’s an untried process that may very well fail abysmally. High energy beams aimed at the planet just sound like a bad idea to me. So, we’re back to “where’s the resource that’s worth the investment? Besides, SPS doesn’t require much in the way of manned missions, other than it’s initial install, and I’m fine with manned orbital missions to install and repair otherwise automated projects. Nobody is claiming that satellites are a bad idea.

    “What I find interesting in the above discussion is how quickly some of us combatants here have buried our respective axes and united in the face of an outside threat to our basic axioms. Suddenly, our endless ESAS versus EELV, expendable versus spaceplane debates seem a little less important when faced with someone who questions the basic goals we all have in common. I’m sure there’s a lesson for us here somewhere. . . . ”

    Donald, are you trying to say I’m your 9/11? I’m just a codgy professor. ;)

  • Well, friendlier. And there’s still manufacture to consider, both of the fuels and the components. Sure, you can use wind power to green up the manufacturing process, but you could use that same wind power energy to make solar panels or power agriculture. To rewrite an old saying: There’s no such thing as a green launch.

    Based on what? The rockets themselves use green fuels, and are reusable, and many can be made using eco-friendly manufacturing techniques (look at the work that, say Armadillo does to make its rockets – none of that is particularly unusual manufacturing processes)

    The issue isn’t anything fundamental with rockets (as opposed to, say, coal power planets) – They can use eco-friendly fuel (I’ve noted this multiple times), the manufacturing process are typically pretty standard for what industry does (and industry has developed many alternatives to bad practices), and electrical power is, well, electrical power. AT the end of the day, in terms of needing electricity, the tools and devices don’t care whether its from coal, oil, wind, solar, or magic – we care, but our tools don’t.

    The real issue is whether you can get industry to use the green technologies or not. But this is something that you’ll face with any industry. But there is no fundamental reason why you can’t make a carbon neutral rocket.

    Something I am a little afraid to ask – would you outlaw private manned flights, if you were in charge, or would you let Musk and Bezos and the rest continue working?

    But I’ll concede you can make a launch that’s worth doing, given the expected gain to science. By that of course I’m still referring to robotic missions.

    Again, you insist that rockets must be horrible polluters, but have no basis in fact. I suppose its best to just move on.

    Who do you plan on trading with? Anybody who wants to trade. Despite its ease, there are many things that aren’t traded in a straight line.

    Let’s take the emotional content of space travel out of the equation. Let’s say instead what you are proposing is colonizing Antarctica. What benefit do you see from it? How is it ever going to be a net gain?

    First, as I said before, I would argue that it is colonized. However, allowing for your point, I would argue its not as simple as a positive or a negative. The decision to limit the number of people down there was done by disallowing of mining to happen there. If we opened it up, I am quite sure that speculators would come in, followed by developers, and would attempt to mine the minerals in Antarctica.

    The downside of this is that there is a decent chance that the unique enviroment that is Antarctica would be damaged. The same cannot be said about space.

    Of course, mining in space is probably further down the road than other processes in space, but thats not the point.

    The real point is that market forces abhor a vacuum, and thats why black markets (and the stuff on them, like drugs, and prostitution) thrive. Only when there is legislation do market forces not take over (and, as stated, even then it doesn’t work)

    The decision of whether or not to colonize and further develop Antartica is different than the decision as to whether to develop and colonize space, and do manned missions.

    The USSR tried to populate Eastern Siberia, and it ended up being nothing but a resource drain. They could never get the area to actually produce anything relative to its support costs. That’s right here on Earth. Granted, the Soviets weren’t exactly the brightest bulbs when it came to economics, but back to the Antarctica analogy, when do you think such a colony would become self-supportive? The flip side to that is of course the oil fields of Alaska, the northern European countries (like Norway), and Canada – many of these places have made themselves economically self-sufficient (and thats the only form of self-sufficiey you need in today’s global economy)

    As for the Russians – the level of command and control they tried to impose was fundamentally at odds with human nature. Thats not to say there isn’t a need for some level of command and control, but what the Soviets and Russians have had was more than could be expected.

    It’s a far easier environment to negotiate than anything off-world, it’s warmer, and it has a tremendous amount of oxygen and water. It even has food present. Yet I see no big plans to colonize it, despite our shrinking land resources. Maybe that’s because it could never support itself.

    Open Antarctica up to mining, and other industries – I guarantee that there would be a tremendous interest, and pursuit of moving people down there to take advantage of it. Open it up to things like military manuvers, and I guarantee you even more people would become interested.

    Lets go into the issue of global warming

    Two words, Newt Gingrich. But the Republicans are not controlling Congress now, and I don’t see them regaining it in 08. Best case scenario, and most likely, we get Dems in power for 4 years, White House and Congress, during which time they can finally take action on Global Warming, and after which green policies will hopefully seem “normal” so we don’t go back to our wasteful past. The American people are by and large ready to go green, or at least greener, they just need guidance. Of course, all of our hopes could be dashed, but let’s wait and see.

    1 word – Bullshit. Contrary to what we’d like to imagine, the R’s are indeed controlling what is going on in this Congress, because of their effective use of parlmintary proceedure. Look at Fisa, look at the Mukassey nomination, look at the US attornies scandal, look the energy bill – how many other examples of failed policy do you need to realize that right now, the Democratic leadership lives in fear of the 20% that think Bush is God’s gift to the earth, that liberal is the equivelent of bad, and that any physical sacrifice is a display of weakness?

    Even assuming the dems get the WH (which I think is likely and am hoping for), there is a MUCH larger issue – yes, Americans are willing to go green – to A POINT. However, to go green enough to deal with the dangers of ecological collapse would require a level of decline in their living standards, and a level of command and control, that by and large, America historically has rejected. Case in point – cars. There are many who say we need to move towards greater use of mass transit. The problem is that America is wedded to the idea that owning and driving a car is part of our idea of freedom – freedom to travel wherever and whenever you want.

    There are countless other examples.

    Back to space flight.

    Probably a good idea – this isn’t a blog dedicated to cynicism about the potential of humanity to deal with global warming.

    Well, back in the 80’s the information economy was already strongly predicted, and all computers do is let people do what they already do more efficiently. The tech boom of the nineties was due to the extreme utility of faster computers, much like the automobile changed America.
    The information economy is NOT the same thing as the internet and the internet economy. Yes, to a degree, you’re right, the complete and total integration of computers was predicted, but it wasn’t really understood how and where the integration would come from, and how the economy would be impacted.

    Nobody expect the growth of the internet to be over 10,000% in one year.

    There is no concomitant resource or utility coming from space. Comparing manned expeditions to the Internet is like comparing mountain climbing to the cotton gin. We may have a mountain climbing industry now, but it’s trivial. Textiles, on the other hand, is major.

    Says you, but you are hardly the final authority, or all knowing. I’ve pointed out multiple examples, and you dismiss them with a wave of the hand.

    I’ve noticed that you keep mentioning the space manufacture of protein crystals, as if it’s some sort of gold mine. This was long ago debunked. The Council of the American Society for Cell Biology called for cancellation of the space-grown protein crystal program back in 1998 (I did a little homework). They didn’t win, but after many more years of experiments on the ISS there still hasn’t been a single unique scientific result. To date no serious contribution has been made to the knowledge of protein structure or drug development by space based protein crystallization. Space grown crystals can be distinguished only by their cost.

    Actually, thats not true. I keep mention space manufacturing, and in my last post, I gave ONE example as protein crystal growth. There are multiple others. Space’s unique zero-g environment offers some excellent properties – to borrow from wikipedia (yes, I know – wikipedia has its problems, but here its okay)
    1. The microgravity environment allows control of convection in liquids or gasses, and the elimination of sedimentation. Diffusion becomes the primary means of material mixing, allowing otherwise immiscible materials to be intermixed. The environment allows enhanced growth of larger, higher-quality crystals in solution.
    2. The ultraclean vacuum of space allows the creation of very pure materials and objects. The use of vapor deposition can be used to build up materials layer by layer, free from defects.
    3. Surface tension causes liquids in microgravity to form perfectly round spheres. This can cause problems when trying to pump liquids through a conduit, but it is very useful when perfect spheres of consistent size are needed for an application.
    4. Space can provide readily available extremes of heat and cold. Sunlight can be focused to concentrate enough heat to melt the materials, while objects kept in perpetual shade are exposed to temperatures close to absolute zero. The temperature gradient can be exploited to produce strong, glassy materials.

    This lends itself to some incredible material processing development (for example, better ball bearings, improved semiconductor wafers, composite material production). Will all of these things make money? Probably not, but that doesn’t mean none of them will. Because of the transportation costs, the simple fact is we don’t have enough data points, by any strech of the imagination.

    The primary issue, as I said, is the transporation cost. Now, yes, I know you don’t believe that you can make spaceflight cheap. However, there are also people who don’t think global warming is an issue.

    As for SPS, by which I assume you mean space (produced?) solar, at best it’s an untried process that may very well fail abysmally. High energy beams aimed at the planet just sound like a bad idea to me. So, we’re back to “where’s the resource that’s worth the investment? Besides, SPS doesn’t require much in the way of manned missions, other than it’s initial install, and I’m fine with manned orbital missions to install and repair otherwise automated projects. Nobody is claiming that satellites are a bad idea.

    I’d put better odds on SPS succeeding, compared to the idea that we can get everyone to cut their energy usage to the point that we don’t destroy humanity.

    As for the issue of repair and maintenance – well, for multiple times now you have denigrated the idea of humans in space, period, with no expectation carved out for repair and installation.

    Further, you imply that it must be cheaper and a better use of resources sending people up and down, for repairs – do we have any numbers to back this up? Not to my knowledge.

    A few final points, and questions that need answering.

    1. You keep coming back to this idea of “Lets keep robotics missions going, and we when we’ve learned enough, we can spread through to the stars”, or some variation on that. How then, do you propose we learn about how human beings can deal with and utlize weightlessness, if we don’t interact with it? We’ll need to do that, if we truly want to colonize space – or will we have gravity modification technology? This isn’t just limited to the effects on the human body, but on how society interacts in a weightless situation.

    2. Lets say tomorrow, Nasa canceled all of its manned programs – how much money would actually stay in Nasa, do you suppose?

    3. I know its not really a good debating tactic, but I feel its worth noting that Mr. Global Warming himself, Al Gore, is very supportive of space development, and very enthusiastic of space commercialization – http://cosmiclog.msnbc.msn.com/archive/2006/10/23/8349.aspx – note the update near the end. While I am more optimistic than he is when it comes to the issue of time frame, his core point remains.

    4. While I apolgozie for assuming you were a scientist, I do dispute that you are much more likely to be inclined to support us than the average american. First, as a rule, I tend to discount the “average American” because its very hard to make a true “average American” out of a country this large. Second, how in the world do you figure your more likely to be inclined? Someone who truly approaches the issue of policy should always be looking at numbers, and more than once, you’ve claimed “I don’t need to see the numbers”

    5. While I probably will look at your response, the simple fact is I have run out of time, energy, and patience to keep debating this with you right now. Undoubtably it will come up again, and if you post at DailyKos, you’ll come into my diary and want to continue. Whether I feel up to it will depend on my energy level.

  • Chance20_m

    “Aren’t these mutually exclusive statements? If you figure out how to obtain in space the single heaviest item, needed in the largest quantity, to do anything in space, isn’t that worth rather a lot of up-front investment?”

    They aren’t mutually exclusive because of my weasel words “probably” and “conceivably”. If you took those out, yeah they’d be mutually exclusive I suppose.

    I think I’m actually closer to the profraze position than most on this board, but I just find the arguments he’s using unconvincing. You and Ferris are making a much stronger case I think.

  • Vladislaw

    If you want to get the public fired up, then NASA should play those cool little movies they made about the new space ships and going to the moon during commericals of AMERICAN IDOL, desperate housewives, et cetera, et cetera, You NEVER EVER see ANYTHING about nasa during regular commerical television. How about NASA fund a study, they spend 100 million on advertising for ONE year, then analyze the number of extra hits they are getting on their website, and how many space search hits EXTRA are recorded on yahoo and google. IF nasa actually ADVERTISED what they are planning to the GENERAL population during the GENERAL populations play time on televisison you would be actually amazed how much interest going to the moon could generate!

    It NEVER fails to amaze me when out at the bar, or a baseball game I will casually mention that nasa is planning a return to the moon and I hear “Really? When are they going to do that?” .. NO ONE and I do mean NO ONE I run into knows this unless they are at the very least a moderate space junkie.

  • ProfRaze

    Ferris – “Something I am a little afraid to ask – would you outlaw private manned flights, if you were in charge, or would you let Musk and Bezos and the rest continue working?”

    Well, not that it matters since I’m unlikely to be in charge anytime soon, but I would at least slap a healthy carbon tax on them to ensure their launches truly are carbon neutral. Of course, it wouldn’t be just them who got slapped with such a tax….

    “The downside of this is that there is a decent chance that the unique enviroment that is Antarctica would be damaged. The same cannot be said about space.”

    Alright, so we “open up” space to any speculators that care to invest their money, and carbon tax them to make sure they aren’t contributing to current planetside problems. Why does NASA have to be involved? If there truly is a market in space, then let it develop privately. The Alaska gold rush didn’t require a huge investment in prior infrastructure. If it’s truly worth it, there is no reason to lobby for government funding or manned missions. If the market requires government to pick up the tab, then it’s non-economical.

    And actually there is an environment worth protecting in space. As it is there is already a non-negligible chance of being struck by high speed waste from previous missions. Put industry up there and it would quickly become a danger zone that would make launching projects difficult. If our planet gets surrounded by a haze of waste objects traveling at high speeds, it may actually prevent future exploration.

    “The flip side to that is of course the oil fields of Alaska”

    Right, but where is the oil reserve is space? *Maybe* solar, but that doesn’t require going to the Moon.

    “Contrary to what we’d like to imagine, the R’s are indeed controlling what is going on in this Congress”

    Well, they can block, but remember there is such a thing as Executive Order…. Our entire national park system was created sua sponte by Teddy Roosevelt. Not everything requires legislation, and all agencies are technically under the White House, which means regulation. Regulations can be reversed by legislation but only with the power to pass laws, not block them. And seriously, if we can make a launch vehicle green, we can certainly make cars green. Have a little faith. ;)

    “Will all of these things make money? Probably not, but that doesn’t mean none of them will.”

    So far it does. No one has come up with a process that’s worth pursuing yet. So far it’s all speculation. In fact, of the four examples posted, exactly none of them have resulted in an economically viable use of microgravity. Theoretical manufacturing applications are useless, you need a real one. They’ve had 10 years on ISS to come up with one, and have so far failed miserably. This is exactly what I referring to earlier as faith-based reasoning. You have faith that one of these applications will make microgravity manufacturing profitable, but until you come up with a concrete example it’s just a hope. You don’t invest billions of dollars into something on the slim possibility that it might be worthwhile, that’s bad policy.

    “Now, yes, I know you don’t believe that you can make spaceflight cheap. However, there are also people who don’t think global warming is an issue.”

    Funny. You can’t make space manufacturing as cheap as on planet manufacturing. It’s too resource intensive. For space manufacturing to be worth it, you have to have a product that can only be made there and is extremely valuable. There is ZERO evidence that such a product exists. In the absence of evidence, this is a fallacious goal. You may as well be saying you’re going into space to milk space dragons.

    “I’d put better odds on SPS succeeding, compared to the idea that we can get everyone to cut their energy usage to the point that we don’t destroy humanity.”

    Do realize SPS is no panacea. If people keep pumping CO2 into the atmosphere, it won’t matter how much energy SPS generates, we’re still facing ecological collapse. As for whether it’s cheaper to send a repair mission that to man a station on the Moon, well I would think that falls under the category of “obvious.” I don’t have numbers for the cost of making a Toyota versus making a Mars colony, but I know the Toyota is cheaper. I suspect Googling “mission costs Hubble repair” and “mission costs Lunar colony” would give you some comparisons if you are really curious. I’m not.

    On to your questions:

    1. “How then, do you propose we learn about how human beings can deal with and utlize weightlessness?”

    What more is there to know? It causes upper body pressure imbalance, correctable by spinning and reduceable by certain exercises. It’s not a great mystery.

    2. “Lets say tomorrow, Nasa canceled all of its manned programs – how much money would actually stay in Nasa, do you suppose?”

    All of it. Of course the head of NASA would be fired and replaced with another Bush crony who would then reverse the decision.

    3. >No question asked

    Stating the space needs to be commercialized is fine, in fact that was already addressed above. There is no logical relationship between a manned Lunar or Martian mission and the commercialization of orbital space.

    4. “how in the world do you figure your more likely to be inclined?”

    Polls on people’s primary concerns do not include space. As another poster stated way above, it most likely wouldn’t even make the top 20. Most polls on voter issues don’t even include space as an option. In my own discussions in class, manned missions get eye rolls. People get Hubble, but think a Lunar mission is a waste of money. I understand the need a bit more, though I’m still inclined to say “let’s wait until the technology is better.” I don’t need to see the numbers on costs because they are obvious, like the Toyota example above. It is a truism that doing something in space is more expensive than doing it here on Earth. And when I bothered to look up the numbers on launch CO2 it was far worse than I had assumed. You guys aren’t impressing me with your mostly fallacious assumptions, especially since you haven’t come up with any numbers whatsoever yourself. I’m also not impressed with the total failure to acknowledge reality in regards to space grown protein crystals. Your earlier pitches for it come off as hucksterism and cost you a lot of credibility. Not that you likely care, but if I spotted it, others will too.

    5. (I’m done)

    Well, considering the topic is how do we get the candidates to care about space policy, if you don’t even have the energy to go a few rounds with a single professor of policy, you’re done on the national stage. From a policy perspective, I don’t see any reason for the candidates you give your issues airtime, they don’t deserve it. Solar orbital, maybe, but certainly not manned missions to the Moon and Mars.

  • But I’ll concede you can make a launch that’s worth doing, given the expected gain to science.

    I think that it’s pointless to have a discussion about space policy with you, since you seem to have a rock-hard religious belief that the only purpose of spending government money on space is for science.

  • ProfRaze

    I’ll answer the questioned posed as my last statement.

    “So how should advocates present “the excitement of doing something new and wonderful”? And how effective would that strategy be in influencing presidential politics?”

    I think they should present pragmatic and cost-effective uses of space that have a bearing on current problems, like Space based solar. They should actively avoid plugging manned missions to the Moon and Mars which at present are both impractical and would result in loss of other more worthy projects. They should also avoid promises they can’t deliver or that have already been debunked like zero-g manufacturing. A “win” in the form of space based solar would carry momentum into the future for bolder projects.

  • If people keep pumping CO2 into the atmosphere, it won’t matter how much energy SPS generates, we’re still facing ecological collapse.

    Ah, another religious belief.

  • Paul D.

    Well, not that it matters since I’m unlikely to be in charge anytime soon, but I would at least slap a healthy carbon tax on them to ensure their launches truly are carbon neutral. Of course, it wouldn’t be just them who got slapped with such a tax….

    A carbon tax at any sane level would leave the cost of launching into space almost unaffected. Coal begins to be replaced at a CO2 tax in the neighborhood of 50 dollars a ton. At a propellant:payload ratio of 20:1, and assuming half the exhaust is CO2, then this would be about $.25/lb of payload — utterly insignificant.

    What this show is that if controlling CO2 emissions is important, then space launch is the last place you’d look to limit it. It would be more important if the goal were to make a show of empty gestures, rather than actual reductions, since launches do still have a high spectacle level.

  • Dennis Wingo

    Lets do take these one at a time.

    1. Space exploration is expensive, and produces a large amount of greenhouse gases.

    This depends on your definition of expensive. There is a cost/benefit ratio involved here. I will readily admit that the ESAS architecture is a high cost/low benefit program but it is going to die soon and it can be replaced with something that is workable and brings a large return on investment. However, a lunar effort that is heavy on ISRU almost immediately removes the need for the heavy lifter toward RLV’s.

    Second, it is space research that is showing that CO2 has not had the effect on climate that is claimed. Refer to Dr. John Christy who actually looks at the data, rather than waving arms. This may save the world tens of trillions of dollars that would otherwise be wasted on a problem that does not exist. Scientific satellites are of no use unless you actually have the moral courage to believe their results.

    2. Driving under the influence of alcohol is dangerous.

    Ok

    3a. There are no off planet resources that will help the current human condition, other than scientific advance (and possibly space based solar).

    Incorrect. As I have shown in my book “Moonrush” and Dr. John Lewis has shown in his book “Mining the Sky” the amount of material resources avaiable just in near earth space is measured in the hundreds of trillions of dollars, including precious metals that are crucial to building the hydrogen economy, that will be needed. This can be done without strip mining the best farmland in southern africa. Just the carbon offsets from mining 10,000 kg of platinum per year on the Moon and returning it will offset the entire carbon load of the space program if that is your concern. These platinum resources are available on the Moon as well. The metal byproducts are such as to provide enough resources to provide a baseline for lunar industrialization, which will provide materials for GEO SPS systems so that there is no need to fly thousands of rockets from the Earth’s surface to build them.

    3b. Space based solar would be more expensive than residential solar.

    Agreed, if the resources are coming from the Earth. If they are coming from space, they will actually help to lower the cost of residential solar as the Gallium, indium, and other exotic metals in short supply on the Earth are available in space and will provide enough resource base so as to allow for a dramatic increase in the supply of 38% efficient solar cells instead of 20% efficient silicon that have a lifetime twice that of silicon cells.

    There is also the added environmental benefit that the mining of these metals in grams per ton quantities is a hugely polluting process to refine the ore and obtain the metals that you need. This would be eliminated in obtaining the extraterrestrial resources providing a net decrease in carbon load, if that is your hobby horse.

    4. Neither scientific advance nor space based solar require manned expeditions to the Moon or Mars.

    Actually if you want the benefits that I just outlined, you must have humans involved. Robotic technology is not up to doing this alone.

    5a. Living on the Moon or Mars will require more resources than living anywhere on planet Earth, including Antarctica.

    Only initially, within just a short time, if the development program is geared toward this end, it will be a net positive to the Earth.

    5b. Those resources will not be recaptured by living there.

    This is just wrong, see the above. I also recommend a 1965 book called “The Case for the Moon” by Neil Ruzic, a very good book on lunar development.

    6. Mars contains no resources that we don’t already have here, other than scientific knowledge related to Mars.

    Actually this is incorrect. Both Mars rovers have already found several metal meteorites and where there is as many as they have found in such a small area, that is a LOT of meteoric iron, nickel, cobalt, germanium, gallium, and platinum group metals. I do think that they will be used there to begin to build a second outpost of mankind and not sent back here. Martian ice cores can also help to blow the socks off of the current fad of anthropogenic global warming.

    7. Scientific knowledge related to Mars can be acquired through robotic missions. One Apollo mission found out more about the Moon than all of the Mars rovers put together has found out about Mars.

    8. One manned mission to Mars would be shorter, cost more, and achieve less total scientific advancement of our knowledge of Mars than a half dozen unmanned missions to Mars.

    In the current planned scenarios I would not completely disagree though our Apollo experience is that human productivity is far higher than the robotic kind. Also, a human mission should stay long enough to get something useful done toward setting up a semi self sufficient human colony there.

    9, Our planet is in serious trouble. Or more accurately our continued existence on this planet is in serious trouble.

    Not really, if you look on the geologic scale. Even if the worst case scenarios of anthropogenic global warming play out and mankind ceased to exist tomorrow, the paleographic record is that the “planet” recovers within 10-20 million years. Even our continued existence here is not seriously threatened. We are more threatened by people who claim that freedom is incompatible with life on a resource limited planet.

    10. Using resources to prevent or reduce the impact of Global Warming will benefit mankind.

    Why? History shows that warmer climates have always been beneficial to life. Do you want to hasten another ice age, which is where we are headed whether you like it or not?

    11. Manned missions to the Moon or Mars is not “using resources to prevent or reduce the impact of Global Warming.” In fact, it’s quite the opposite.

    This is your opinion, and as you describe yourself as a lawyer, I would be careful in making such definitive statements. In your profession you would scoff at a physicist telling you how to run your legal argument in court, I would submit that you need to rely on expert witnesses, such as myself and others here rather than on your own limited view.

    12. Doing anything is space is more expensive than doing it here on Earth, whether it be running a hotel, playing sports, mining minerals, manufacturing car parts, or engaging in K-12 education.

    Please describe, in detail the technical analysis that you used to come to this conclusion? You want mine? Read Moonrush and Mining the Sky. You have no idea about what you are talking about in this area.

  • Ray

    There are some comments on the SEA thread that seem pertinent to this one too. For example (and sorry my cut-and-paste lost the special characters before “salesmen”):

    Rand “If they had a good product to sell, they wouldn’t have to be good shillssalesmen. Spending a hundred billion dollars to redo Apollo is a waste of money, even if they succeed, which seems doubtful.”

    This is more or less what I was trying to say in my Dec 10 posts in this thread. Or, as ProfRaze says:

    “I think they should present pragmatic and cost-effective uses of space that have a bearing on current problems, like Space based solar. They should actively avoid plugging manned missions to the Moon and Mars which at present are both impractical and would result in loss of other more worthy projects.”

    If “choosing pragmatic and cost-effective uses of space that have a bearing on current problems” means sticking with robotics, that’s fine with me. If it means manned missions continue, but are “stuck” orbiting Earth (SPS demo construction, power relay satellite demo construction, manned infrastructure in support of unmanned missions, science aboard Bigelow space stations as well as continued use of ISS … whatever …) that’s fine with me too, as long as they don’t stomp commercial efforts to do the same thing. Even though manned Moon or Mars missions would be “cool”, they’re quite difficult and expensive, and the taxpayer has a right to expect a better return on their investment than NASA’s ESAS implementation of the Moon mission is able to deliver. The Moon and Mars mission folks still should be fairly happy, since this would in itself advance their causes indirectly, and there would still be the opportunity for modest precursor robotic science and technology demonstrations at their favorite destinations … much better than they could have expected a few years ago.

    I also think that NASA could have implemented the VSE in such a way that the Moon missions would have been productive, cost effective, and worth doing in the sense that Rand, ProfRaze, and I said above. Some of the ways they could have done this:

    - use of a launch architecture that is useful in and of itself, and not just for the manned NASA program. For example, if they had used existing launchers and thus sidestepped the huge launcher development cost, they could have also shared fixed operations costs with other programs like commercial, DOD, and NOAA satellite programs, thereby indirectly helping various productive efforts. A similar case could be made for a lunar launch architecture based on new and presumably more cost-effective commercial launchers.

    - a lunar transport architecture that used in-space refueling could have made the launch architecture easier (whether in-house, EELV, or commercial), and at the same time could have allowed much more payload to reach the lunar surface. This would have greatly increased the productivity (scientific and otherwise) of the lunar program, while presenting a market for cheap, efficient launchers to supply fuel. The refueling capability could also have been used by future Earth-facing programs (environmental satellites, comsats, etc).

    - a lunar plan that went easy on lunar transportation costs in favor of precursor robotic missions could have returned results that were useful early in the program, and clarified whether or not, and if so how, we would want to undertake the full manned program. For example, a few robotic missions to demonstrate Earth science from the Moon or orbiting it (total irradiance at Earth, etc), solar science, lunar science, and so on, combined with some work to look for lunar resources, would have given us (and the public) a better idea what we can really expect with a full-up manned lunar program.

    - a lunar plan that was pay-as-you-go – i.e. that didn’t raid the science mission budget – would have at least “caused no harm”. This might have been accomplished by a relaxed schedule, less payload to the Moon, refueling, EELV or COTS launch architecture, including foreign partners in the launch architecture to share costs … and possibly other approaches.

    Unfortunately none of these virtues describes NASA’s manned lunar plan.
    The VSE’s “security, economics, and science” have been forgotten, as have the recommendations for “commercial and international participation”, at least for now. As a result, unless it changes I’d have to classify the manned lunar effort underway as a waste and inferior to many other options, such as using the funds for traditional robotic science, LEO manned missions, NSF, budget balancing, or many other uses.

  • Cheap Amurkan

    If people keep pumping CO2 into the atmosphere, it won’t matter how much energy SPS generates, we’re still facing ecological collapse.

    Ah, another religious belief.

    Second, it is space research that is showing that CO2 has not had the effect on climate that is claimed. Refer to Dr. John Christy who actually looks at the data, rather than waving arms.

    Americans are no longer the brightest bulbs in the room. In fact, Americans have clearly become quite dim, from the looks of it.

    “If you (the US) are not willing to take the lead, get out of the way!”

    A delegate from Papua New Guinea

  • ProfRaze

    Dennis – Of all the places to find global warming deniers, I am shocked to find them here. Although it’s hardly worth going over, here are some rather obvious points to debunk your opinion on global warming:

    > Yes, the climate has changed in the past. However, it’s currently changing at between 100 and 1000 times as fast. That’s not natural, that’s manmade.

    > If CO2 isn’t heating up the atmosphere, what is? In the past when the planet got hot, guess what? It was volcanic CO2. Now it’s manmade CO2. And although a hot planet is great for tropical life, it would be devastating to the crops and animals we currently rely on. There is a reason the temperate zone is the most productive, and the tropics are largely third world or tourist only, tropical soil is poor and the diseases in the tropics prevent the economic gains made in the temperate zone. Besides, the planet isn’t just going to get hotter, it’s going to undergo desertification.

    > As for Dr. John Christy, this is what he has to say about global warming: “It is scientifically inconceivable that after changing forests into cities, turning millions of acres into irrigated farmland, putting massive quantities of soot and dust into the air, and putting extra greenhouse gases into the air, that the natural course of climate has not changed in some way.” This from a southern baptist with a degree in divinity. He’s a critic of the catastrophic predictions, not of the cause of global warming.

    At this point, your credibility is the same as any other global warming denier, namely zero. But it’s still worth addressing the other points you made.

    1. “This depends on your definition of expensive. There is a cost/benefit ratio involved here.”

    Something can be expensive and still be worth it. However, my original statement stands: Space exploration is expensive, and produces a large amount of greenhouse gases. Now, in the future, we may very well be able to eliminate the second part of that sentance. Of course, global warming deniers would see no reason to.

    3a. Seriously, mining platinum? How are you figuring that will offset the extra costs of mining in a vacuum, and the cost of a lunar base, especially when nobody seems to know how much those things cost? Astronauts spend most of their resources just trying to stay alive, leaving very little else for productivity. I finally got curious and looked around for cost estimates, and found this gem:

    “You ask what things will cost, I don’t know yet,” said NASA Administrator Michael Griffin, a detail-oriented engineer. “We just rolled out a very preliminary architecture.”

    Great. Remember, the ISS was predicted to cost $17 billion, but actually cost around $50 billion. And lets not forget NASA tried to justify the ISS by claiming commercial uses would offset its costs. So far, no commercial uses have appeared. Now you’re going to claim the same thing for a lunar base? I suspect the exact same thing would happen to a Lunar base, lots of wishful thinking, lots of money, no actual uses at the end of the day. As for using it to help a Mars expedition, it would cost less to simply launch the needed resources directly to Mars than to try to manufacture them on the Moon. Of course I can’t show you numbers because nobody seems to have them yet.

    3b. There is no proof that minerals can be mined off planet for less money (including shifted costs like environment impact) than on planet. Comparing lunar mining to strip mining is a false comparison, you can green up mining too with far less investment than going to the Moon.

    4. Since I don’t believe your benefits will come to fruition, I still prefer relatively low cost robotics.

    5a and b. Again, astronauts spend the majority of their resources just surviving the environment, a resource drain that does not occur on the Earth as we can live here just fine without vacuum suits and recycled water. Simply manufacturing oxygen to breathe would be very resource intensive. As complex parts break down, they would have to be replaced by manufacturing facilities on Earth. You can’t duplicate the entire aerospace industry on the Moon. I’m beginning to understand where the term “Looney” comes from.

    6. The fact that Mars also has minerals does not disprove my statement that those minerals already exist here on Earth. And nothing is going to “blow the socks off” anthropogenic global warming. It’s a truism now.

    7. I simply dispute your assertion, though as indicated several posts above it’s hard to reduce scientific advance to zots for comparison.

    9. And may I just point out that having the planet recover from us 10 million years from now doesn’t exactly help our kids, does it?

    10. Already addressed.

    11. I don’t consider you an expert. In fact, I would get you disqualified rather quickly due to your global warming denial. The standard for experts includes having opinions that are generally accepted by the scientific community, and yours are not. Besides, engineers and the scientific community are not experts on policy. ;)

    12. It is a truism that working in a vacuum is more expensive that working on the Earth. If you want to pretend that isn’t true, fine. You can even write books about it. There are books on crystal healing too, you know, lots of them. Doesn’t mean it works.

    Ray – sounds good, though I’m dubious of “pay as you go” since you can place the situation in crisis mode that requires bailing out. Remember, the Iraq occupation was actually sold as a “pay as you go” project, that would ultimately pay for itself in oil. Original estimates were six months to completion, at a cost of $2 billion, costs defrayed by oil production to the point where it could pay for itself. We’re at an estimate of $3 trillion now for the Iraq occupation, no end in sight. Now I *know* it’s unfair to compare space exploration with war, but just realize the same pitches have been used on the same taxpayers before. Plus, even with “pay as you go” that’s money not being spent on more efficient uses of space.

  • Real PhD

    Besides, engineers and the scientific community are not experts on policy.

    And now you understand the real reason for the mess at NASA and other agencies in Washington. Its the replacement of decision makers who actually understand the science, economics and technology with “policy experts” trained by clowns like this one. Many I run into in my consulting in Washington actually seem proud of not knowing enough about science or technology to form their own opinions. Since they could never pass a test in DE let alone calculate a spacecraft’s orbital they just take refuge in accepting the opinions that are “generally” accepted by the scientific community.

    Real engineers and scientists know how often the generally accepted opinions of the science community turn out to be wrong. That is why they are trained to check the “facts” and form their own expert opinions based on them.

    This clown is just another classic example of “science policy” experts like anonymous.space who are trained in their social science classes to talk a good game and debate but haven’t a clue of what really takes place in science or engineering because they couldn’t pass enough math to understand it. The question for space advocates is how to we go about purging these NEO-McNamaras out of the space policy loop and replace them with real engineers and scientists who actually have a clue about how rockets work.

  • Vladislaw: It NEVER fails to amaze me when out at the bar, or a baseball game I will casually mention that nasa is planning a return to the moon and I hear “Really? When are they going to do that?” .. NO ONE and I do mean NO ONE I run into knows this unless they are at the very least a moderate space junkie.

    I have to agree. I was recently amazed to discover that almost no one in the technology department of my company had any clue that NASA was planning a return to Earth’s moon.

    ProfRaz: Alright, so we “open up” space to any speculators that care to invest their money, and carbon tax them to make sure they aren’t contributing to current planetside problems. Why does NASA have to be involved? If there truly is a market in space, then let it develop privately. The Alaska gold rush didn’t require a huge investment in prior infrastructure. If it’s truly worth it, there is no reason to lobby for government funding or manned missions. If the market requires government to pick up the tab, then it’s non-economical.

    I answered most of these questions in this article, http://www.donaldfrobertson.com/sfmodel.pdf. The unfortunate fact is, no recent frontier – including Alaska with her infamous “bridges to nowhere,” has been truly opened to commerce without a lot of public investment and encouragement.

    ProfRaz: If people keep pumping CO2 into the atmosphere, it won’t matter how much energy SPS generates, we’re still facing ecological collapse.

    Do you drive? Do you choose to live in a place you don’t need to drive (e.g., New York or San Francisco?). If yes and if not, then with respect, I don’t want to hear it. I live the life I advocate: I don’t drive and much my money, such as it is, is invested in spaceflight and renewable technologies. Unless you can say the same – you don’t drive and your money is invested in environmental technologies – you are the problem you’re accusing everyone else of being.

    1. “How then, do you propose we learn about how human beings can deal with and utlize weightlessness?”
    What more is there to know?

    That answer reflects such a profound ignorance of they way science works and should work, I am surprised you feel qualified to comment at all. It is no argument against human spaceflight to admit up front that our ignorance of the biological affects of spaceflight is profound. (There was an article in Spaceflight a year or so ago about the decades long projects it took the Russians and Americans to learn how to grow plants in space, with repeated failures before success. It wasn’t easy, but they did it. I suggest you read that article before making comments like the above.

    . In my own discussions in class, manned missions get eye rolls. People get Hubble,

    This might be because you are telling an untruth. As I stated before, Hubble’s results are a part of the human space program. Had Hubble been an automated mission, it would have been a complete and utter failure from the word go. Certainly, anything discovered after the solar array replacement, or the second gyroscope replacement, or the respective instrument changeouts, had nothing whatsoever to do with automated spaceflight.

    Well, considering the topic is how do we get the candidates to care about space policy, if you don’t even have the energy to go a few rounds with a single professor of policy, you’re done on the national stage.

    This I fully agree with, which is part of the reason I’m still here.

    So far, no commercial uses have appeared.

    While the thrust of your argument in this case may well be true at the moment, this statement is dead wrong. Several organizations are making a lot of money selling tourist flights to the Space Station (and maybe, soon, around the moon). By any reasonable measure, that is a commercial use of the Space Station.

    The standard for experts includes having opinions that are generally accepted by the scientific community, and yours are not.

    While I happen to be on your side regarding anthropocentric global warming, be very careful making statements like this. The very nature of science requires that unpopular opinions be seriously considered. While I think they are wrong, opinions like Mr. Wingos may well turn out to be correct. The question for policy makers is not to determine whether anthropocentric global warming is or is not fully correct and harmful – they, like the scientists, cannot know the answer in any absolute sense – their job is to determine whether the risk that it is correct, and sufficiently harmful, justifies action, and at what pace and price. I happen to agree with you and Mr. Gore on this issue, but you do our argument no favors by denying the possibility that the opposition may be correct, or denying them their day in court.

  • However, my original statement stands: Space exploration is expensive, and produces a large amount of greenhouse gases.

    Your original statement remains nonsense, and a demonstration of apparent innumeracy. If you draw up a global (or even national) pie chart of the sources of greenhouse gases, you couldn’t sharpen your pencil fine enough to draw the line that space exploration would represent, particularly at current activity levels.

  • ProfRaze

    Real – “And now you understand the real reason for the mess at NASA and other agencies in Washington.”

    You mean the fact that it’s become a Space-Industrial Complex that’s only purpose is self-perpetuation? Engineers who want to build rockets with public money without any concern as to whether or not the public actually needs them is *exactly* why policy analysts exist.

    “Since they could never pass a test in DE let alone calculate a spacecraft’s orbital they just take refuge in accepting the opinions that are “generally” accepted by the scientific community.”

    Yes, because it’s the loopy fringe that is always worth listening to instead. I think in the long run you guys do yourselves more harm than good. You should let other people do your advocacy for you.

    Donald – Referring to your linked article (and yes, I’ve been reading all links), you’re making the same primary mistake that’s been made throughout the discussion: The assumption of a gold mine in space. The Transcontinental Railroad was built knowing full well that there were economically exploitable resources to be had. It wasn’t a guess, it was a known. What the ISS has proven after $50 billion and 10 years is that currently there is no economically viable use of space. Micro-gravity production is a bust. The ISS can’t function as a base for other operations, it can’t even support itself. The ISS is not San Francisco; it’s a boat in the harbor that needs constant bailing to stay afloat. *Very expensive* bailing.

    (From article) “There is no reason to believe that any of this will be different in space.”

    The analogy of people coming in to colonize without benefit doesn’t fit given the high cost of supporting anyone in space. Humans are a resource *cost* off planet, not a resource gain. Imagine if 100 people “volunteered” to go to the ISS, and you’ll see the point.

    “But, history strongly suggests that, until it is more-or-less complete, the Space Station should remain the world’s highest priority in space – no matter how much it costs.”

    And you wonder why more people aren’t on your bandwagon? Blank checks are horrible policy.

    “Do you drive?”

    An amateurish and fallacious argument. My students don’t even make mistakes like that. In fact I do live pretty green, but even if I didn’t, it wouldn’t change the fact that CO2 emissions need to be reduced. It is a fundamental flaw in the reasoning of the typically untrained mind that a statement’s veracity has any relationship to the person making it. Credibility is only important if you need to rely on a person’s judgment, not when the statement is a rather obvious statement of fact. For example, I could be blind and say, “The sky is blue.” The fact that I am blind does not diminish the veracity of the statement. This is precisely why scientists and engineers make such horrible policy analysts; they can’t separate their motivations from their perceptions.

    “It is no argument against human spaceflight to admit up front that our ignorance of the biological affects of spaceflight is profound.”

    Well, it actually is if the only purpose of human spaceflight is to learn about the effects of human spaceflight. That’s circular reasoning. If there is no need for humans to go into space, then there is no need to know of its effects on humans. But more to the point, what do we *not* know about the effects of space on humans? We’ve been in space for decades now.

    “There was an article in Spaceflight a year or so ago about the decades long projects it took the Russians and Americans to learn how to grow plants in space, with repeated failures before success. It wasn’t easy, but they did it”

    And is the world a better place because of it? Gosh, the flippant responses just flow naturally: “And then they realized it was a total waste of time and money,” “and the plants continue to cost $1 billion/year to support,” etc., but I understand that growing plants in space could potentially be useful, eventually. Certainly not soon.

    “Several organizations are making a lot of money selling tourist flights to the Space Station”

    That’s called “sucker money.” For that matter, a guy in Europe is making a lot of money selling the EPFX. Does that mean my tax dollars should support it? More to the point, has the money collected on future space flights that may or may not even happen paid back the $50 billion we spent on the ISS? No, of course not.

    If all you’ve got in your economic development hand is the single card of space tourism, you’re DOA.

    “I happen to agree with you and Mr. Gore on this issue, but you do our argument no favors by denying the possibility that the opposition may be correct, or denying them their day in court.”

    If it were legitimate science I would agree with you, but we both know it’s just oil interests paying whores who will say anything for money. It’s just like when Big Tobacco tried to claim cigarette smoking didn’t cause cancer, or more accurately that the connection was “contested.” It’s junk science, and it should be relegated to the trash bin of crackpot testimony.

    Rand – “If you draw up a global (or even national) pie chart of the sources of greenhouse gases, you couldn’t sharpen your pencil fine enough to draw the line that space exploration would represent, particularly at current activity levels.”

    I actually agree, but every little bit counts. I also stated that some things were worth the emissions, including some spaceflight, so you are really just punching at a shadow here. The important part of that sentence, and one that is not in rational dispute, is “Space exploration is expensive….” That’s the hurdle that has to be overcome, and it will have to be overcome on a project by project basis. Not every space project is worth pursuing.

  • What the ISS has proven after $50 billion and 10 years is that currently there is no economically viable use of space.

    This is a monumentally illogical statement. It’s as dumb as saying that Shuttle proved that reusable vehicles aren’t possible or economical.

    “If you draw up a global (or even national) pie chart of the sources of greenhouse gases, you couldn’t sharpen your pencil fine enough to draw the line that space exploration would represent, particularly at current activity levels.”

    I actually agree, but every little bit counts.

    Then you don’t actually agree. “Every little bit” doesn’t count, when it comes to rational policy. And yet you want to put a carbon tax on a fledgling industry that would have no discernible effect on global warming, even if the worst fears of the hystericists are true.

    I also stated that some things were worth the emissions, including some spaceflight, so you are really just punching at a shadow here. The important part of that sentence, and one that is not in rational dispute, is “Space exploration is expensive….”

    Yes, it is currently expensive. What is in rational dispute is that it need be (as you seem to imply). Different approaches could make it much less expensive.

  • Laura

    Why worry about whether or not America’s government support space exploration or not? Plenty of other countries will do it and you can save your cash. It is a global issue afterall.

  • Dennis Wingo

    Note to Jeff Foust

    I operate on many other blogs and sites and they manage to get rid of disruptive assholes.

    It would behoove you do figure out how to do the same. Until you do, I am not really interested in posting here anymore.

    When people want to have reasoned discussions that are pertinent to the subject then I am there. Otherwise, see ya.

  • ProfRaz: you’re making the same primary mistake that’s been made throughout the discussion: The assumption of a gold mine in space. The Transcontinental Railroad was built knowing full well that there were economically exploitable resources to be had. It wasn’t a guess, it was a known. What the ISS has proven after $50 billion and 10 years is that currently there is no economically viable use of space.

    No, the point you’re missing is that San Francisco was here, and northern California being explored, for almost a century before gold was discovered, which justified the trans-continental rail road. What you’re arguing is that, if the gold isn’t discovered in the first ten years, give up the whole endeavor, even while as Mr. Wingo has pointed out, we know the gold is out there we just need to get better at getting at it.

    The ISS can’t function as a base for other operations, it can’t even support itself.

    And, how do you know that. It isn’t even completely built yet. Tell me that in fifteen or twenty years, and I might take you a bit more seriously.

    It is a fundamental flaw in the reasoning of the typically untrained mind that a statement’s veracity has any relationship to the person making it.

    I’m glad that your students are so smart (though I have to say that the training of your mind has not particularly impressed me). The quote above may be true, but a person’s veracity, or at least their credibility, is, and should be, measured by how willing they are to take the advice they give to others. It’s fine for you to sit in an ivory tower and tell others how to live their lives in order to “save the world,” but I have every right not to take you seriously if you don’t do what you would require of others.

    The fact that I am blind does not diminish the veracity of the statement.

    Actually, it does, unless you state a source who can see or a convincing argument.

    if the only purpose of human spaceflight is to learn about the effects of human spaceflight

    I don’t think anybody here but you has argued this. What I and others have argued is that understanding the effects of the space environment on the human organism (and others) is essential to a human future in space.

    what do we *not* know about the effects of space on humans? We’ve been in space for decades now.

    The second phrase is true, but we still have a very small and selected sample who have spent short periods. The first phrase is another example of profound ignorance of the subject. Except for a few quick dashes to Earth’s moon, where we relied on luck and short flight times to succeed, we have stuck to the shoals within Earth’s protective magnetic field. What we don’t know about human physiology in LEO is far, far greater than what we do; we know essentially nothing about survival further from home. We will not learn if we do not go.

    And is the world a better place because of it?

    Sigh. Is the world a better place for flying to Saturn, which you seem to support? Is the world a better place because, at great expense, we
    ve learned a tiny bit about the physics that goes on in a black hole? Is the world a better place because somebody invested time and money into learning how to sail across the ocean long before it made any economic sense? My own flippant answer is, “Grow up!”

    That’s called “sucker money.”

    So, is it “sucker money” rather than an industry when people pay to travel (over government-financed infrastructure taht cost far more than the activity in question) go play at an amusement park or watch a film or go to Europe?

    Does that mean my tax dollars should support it?

    I don’t know. Should my tax dollars support the “right” of somebody to pay a dollar a gallon to move a multi-tonne chunk of metal over government-financed roads that don’t come close to covering their costs to buy a cabbage? I suggest we address the trillions spent on that stupidity before we worry about the tiny amounts possibly wasted on the Space Station.

    More to the point, has the money collected on future space flights that may or may not even happen paid back the $50 billion we spent on the ISS?

    See above.

    If all you’ve got in your economic development hand is the single card of space tourism, you’re DOA.

    Indeed. To those of us less well-informed than you, tourism trades with telecommunications the position of the world’s largest industry. Just what industry do you propose we address?

    If it were legitimate science I would agree with you, but we both know it’s just oil interests paying whores who will say anything for money.

    Being generous, this vastly over-states your case, and points the finger in the wrong direction. I happen to agree that a lot of the supposed science combating anthropogenic global warming is personal self-interest mascerading as science (“I don’t want to give up my car so it’s just got to be false”). The oil interests have their money because you and I gave it to them. Don’t hide behind the “it’s somebody lying to me that is forcing me to do something I know is not right” justification.

    but every little bit counts

    Well, let’s start with the big sources that can actually make a difference. . . .

    – Donald

  • I operate on many other blogs and sites and they manage to get rid of disruptive assholes.

    Dennis, Jeff is right. One has two choices on blogs. To allow comments, or to disallow disruptive a**holes.. I’ve been very lucky in that I’ve managed to stride a narrow line, but Jeff should not be criticized because he has not always been able to do so (as have I not). It all depends on the readership. I will say no more.

  • BTW, Donald, with regard to your most recent post, (FWIW. and I hope that you’re sitting down), regardless of our other political differences, I completely agree with you.

  • ProfRaze

    Rand – >What the ISS has proven after $50 billion and 10 years is that currently there is no economically viable use of space.

    “This is a monumentally illogical statement. It’s as dumb as saying that Shuttle proved that reusable vehicles aren’t possible or economical.”

    Feel free to disprove the statement. You certainly haven’t yet.

    “Then you don’t actually agree. “Every little bit” doesn’t count, when it comes to rational policy. And yet you want to put a carbon tax on a fledgling industry”

    I want to put a carbon tax on everybody, even the military. And when a single shuttle launch is equal to 2 minutes of automobile output by the entire United States, it’s only trivial if those shuttle launches are rare. Develop the kind of programs you are wishing for and it will no longer be trivial. The model T had a trivial impact on global warming too, but now cars are a major concern.

    “Different approaches could make it much less expensive.”

    Less expensive is still expensive. The cost of even a cheap launch could help an awful lot of homeless children. It had better be worth it.

    Donald – “for almost a century before gold was discovered, which justified the trans-continental rail road”

    Don’t get hung up on my use of the word “gold” there. It’s simply a quick way of expressing “profitable enterprise.” There were plenty of “profitable enterprises” in San Francisco before the gold rush. It was also a nice place to live. Still is.

    What Mr. Wingo has pointed out is that in some fantasy future we can all trade baseball cards on a Moon base. There is no utilized Earth environment that is expensive just to exist in as space or other bodies in the solar system. You can’t use fertile lands on Earth and say, “well we went there, so we can go to the Moon too.” Even Nevada has rivers. Show me the arable land on the Moon. You’re going to have to make it, or bring it with you. Everything you need you are going to have to bring with you. All you get is solar radiation and rocks, maybe some frozen oxygen. In space all you get is solar radiation. So, at the orbital level you get the long established satellite business, going strong on its own now, solar power, and space tourism that doesn’t pay for itself. At the lunar level you get much greater distances, and rocks. And at the end of the day, what will the average American get out a Moon base? Probably nothing but some pictures.

    “And, how do you know that. It isn’t even completely built yet. Tell me that in fifteen or twenty years, and I might take you a bit more seriously.”

    And yet when the ISS was being promoted, it was going to be a panacea of zero g manufacturing. Well, that turned out to be a bust, so what is it going to be good for now? If you have to keep changing your justifications, well it’s just like Iraq isn’t it? You didn’t have a good reason to start.

    >The fact that I am blind does not diminish the veracity of the statement.
    “Actually, it does, unless you state a source who can see or a convincing argument.”
    Really? You would require a blind man to prove the statement “the sky is blue” but accept it as a truism from another? See, that’s daft. If you know the statement is true, you should just accept it. I’ve been relying on truisms throughout the discussion, whereas you guys have been making some rather grandiose statements without any support whatsoever. Some guy wrote a book about it, big deal. It was grandiose statement without any support in the book too. How do you plan to overcome the costs involved in just existing in a hostile space environment and still manage to turn a profit? No one has answered that question. They’ve assumed it’s possible, nothing more. In the meantime, the ISS is a hemorrhage, it’s bleeding money, and making the entire manned mission concept look bad.
    “we know essentially nothing about survival further from home. We will not learn if we do not go.”
    Thanks for proving my point about circular reasoning.
    “travel (over government-financed infrastructure taht cost far more than the activity in question)”
    Show me the example of government-financed infrastructure here on Earth that hasn’t paid back a dividend, other than Alaska’s bridge to nowhere which is conceded as bad policy.
    “Should my tax dollars support the “right” of somebody to pay a dollar a gallon to move a multi-tonne chunk of metal over government-financed roads that don’t come close to covering their costs to buy a cabbage?”
    Your example would mean something if that were the only use it was put to. But it’s not, so it doesn’t. That same road is used for UPS trucks and let’s face it practically the entire US economy. Not so for the ISS.
    “To those of us less well-informed than you, tourism trades with telecommunications the position of the world’s largest industry. Just what industry do you propose we address?”
    I’m not against telecom satellites. What has that got to do with the ISS and a Lunar base?
    “Being generous, this vastly over-states your case, and points the finger in the wrong direction.”
    No, actually it’s pretty well documented that the oil industry pays for shills. Those shills slow policy that would have otherwise long since been enacted.

    Well, I’ve certainly gotten enough material to have fun with this in class. You guys are a riot.

  • Ray

    ProfRaze: “Ray – sounds good, though I’m dubious of “pay as you go” since you can place the situation in crisis mode that requires bailing out. … even with “pay as you go” that’s money not being spent on more efficient uses of space.”

    I agree with this – what I had in mind was that the ESAS implementation of the manned lunar part of the VSE has already violated the “pay as you go” restriction that was supposed to be part of the original program. In effect it’s already raided the science and aeronautics. It couldn’t even meet this minimal restriction, which might have made it acceptable (given that previous NASA manned missions in recent years weren’t otherwise particularly worse).

    By the way, I think ProfRaze should check out the “Space Cynics” site …

    Somewhat off-topic, but one thing occurs to me about ProzRaze’s Carbon Tax, or Ferris’s gas tax. By themselves my gut reaction is “I pay too much tax already”. However, if you could tie them (in reality, and in the public mind) to a corresponding (or slightly larger) tax cut that offsets the economic harm, they might be interesting. For example – gas tax pays to eliminate tolls or something like that. Or, whack off a big part of the Social Security tax. Ferris has an idea about helping pay for fuel-efficient cars, but I’d also want to see tax offsets. In this general topic, I wonder what folks think about Zubrin’s “Energy Victory” book?

    On-topic again …

    On ProzRaze’s points about ISS, I’m pretty much in agreement that it hasn’t lived up to expections. I do agree with Donald that now that it’s almost ready to have a huge increase in science lab space and equipment, and now that it’s almost ready to have a crew size that can actually do experiments instead of just maintaining the ISS, it’s probably a good time to just let it try to prove itself. I still think it’s somewhat hopeless unless launch costs go down, frequency of access for experiment turnaround goes up,and red tape goes down. I’d like to see Bigelow modules try to pull this off, since they may be able to solve the problems ISS can’t (perhaps because of political reasons, perhaps because it’s just not a good business …). I’d rather see NASA buying services from Bigelow or other commercial stations (as they should have from the beginning) than mess with ISS if that were a choice, but I’d rather have them see ISS through than practically abandon it and go to the Moon without budget restraints or use of commercial launchers.

  • Rand – >What the ISS has proven after $50 billion and 10 years is that currently there is no economically viable use of space.

    “This is a monumentally illogical statement. It’s as dumb as saying that Shuttle proved that reusable vehicles aren’t possible or economical.”

    Feel free to disprove the statement. You certainly haven’t yet.

    You want me to disprove a statement that is fallacious on its face?

    You’re the one who is a laugh riot. If any of my kids had you for a prof, I’d want my tuition refunded.

    It may be true that there is no economically viable use of space (it’s not actually–for instance, just ask the comsat people), but to think that the Shuttle somehow proves the proposition is nutty. Have you ever had a class in logic?

  • Sorry, that third line should have been italicized as well.

  • kert

    Prof Raze, you ARE a riot. Just for the heck of it:

    “What the ISS has proven after $50 billion and 10 years is that currently there is no economically viable use of space.”
    Yes, you hear that Thuraya ? Sirius ? All the commercial satellites, whatever purpose you might happen to serve, whether its imaging, communications, positioning or god knows what else, get the hell down from there, its not economical.

    “Less expensive is still expensive. The cost of even a cheap launch could help an awful lot of homeless children. It had better be worth it.”
    Yes, all the african starving children. They could use some of the resources wasted on this next space launch. Kerosene and LOX are best breakfast, after all. It doesnt really make a good ammunition for their AK-47s which i hear they prefer over food packages often, but still..

    “Show me the arable land on the Moon. You’re going to have to make it, or bring it with you. Everything you need you are going to have to bring with you.”
    Yes, why use any of anything that is readily available on the moon, abundant oxygen, lots of metals and strong solar power to process them ? Of course bring everything from earth ! Who cares if 3D manufacturing using raw material feedstocks is already a reality today, on hobbyists desks ? We would never have sense to utilize something like that in space applications.

    “And at the end of the day, what will the average American get out a Moon base? Probably nothing but some pictures.”
    Right, because Hubble and MER probes provide Kelloggs and Fritos for an average American.

    “you guys have been making some rather grandiose statements without any support whatsoever.”
    Of course actual research and demonstration projects, decades worth of studies by various government and nongovernment organizations and a fat array of literature on these subjects does not consitute a support for any of this. Because they include numbers there, you know. Anyone with half a clue knows that supporting an argument does not involve numbers or research data, but reiterating “truisms” and faith as loudly as possible.

    “The model T had a trivial impact on global warming too, but now cars are a major concern.”
    That goddamn model T. We would be so much better off without it. I try to be a good citizen and poop on the picture of Ford Model T every single evening. Or a Wright Flyer, or a DC-3.

    I have come to be a big fan of Elon Musk, certaninly a man with a vision. He has put electric cars back on the map with his Tesla Motors, and its joint venture with SolarCity solar roof charging. About the greenest thing anyone can do ( apart from inventing the internet ) . Coincidentally, he is also building big freaking rockets that those african children would so much like to eat. It would be amusing to see someone like “prof.” Raze have an argument about whether or not he should keep doing it.

  • I wrote: It may be true that there is no economically viable use of space (it’s not actually–for instance, just ask the comsat people), but to think that the Shuttle somehow proves the proposition is nutty.

    That should have been “…the ISS somehow proves the proposition…”

  • Rand, thank you. And, see my comment above about a common enemy bringing us together.

    ProfRaz: Okay, I give up, not because I don’t want to debate, but because we’re not debating, we’re talking past each other.

    Well, I’ve certainly gotten enough material to have fun with this in class. You guys are a riot.

    Laughing at other people is easy. Proposing solutions to difficult problems is hard. On the basis of your own words, I think I’d much rather hang out with the characters here, insane as some of us may be, than in your class. I feel sorry for your students, for they clearly are not getting an education that will serve them well in the future.

    – Donald

  • Chance

    You know, Raze did bring up some good points though.

  • Chance, I agree, and he probably did all of us some good. It’s too bad he could not respect his opponents. That is rule one in winning any conflict, whether debate or war — respect, and learn from, your opponent. I hope we have done that, or at least tried to. He, clearly, did not even try.

    – Donald

  • You know, Raze did bring up some good points though.

    As the old saying goes, the good points he brought up aren’t new, and the new points he brought up weren’t good.

  • ProfRaze

    The Space Cynics site was interesting. They seem to think the DOD is going to take over SSPS, thus taking it out of the scientific NASA budget. Sounds good to me, even if it does mean the beam of energy might not always be used for energy purposes. I mean, we trust them with nukes after all.

    They also talked about NASA’s genesis statute, their mandate from Congress. Looking over it, I found this gem: “The most effective utilization of the scientific and engineering resources of the United States….”

    I like that mandate alot – Most Effective Utilization. I suspect I’m going to be coming back to that.

    A few criticisms of space economics by the LA Times, which I’m sure you’ve heard before:

    “John Mankins, chief operating officer of Managed Energy Technologies in Virginia, was seeking support for an idea to create a network of space-based solar power satellites that could supply consumers on Earth.

    A power-receiving station on the ground, covering “an area the size of Long Beach Airport . . . could supply gigawatts to the city of Los Angeles,” he said.

    Such blue-sky imaginings drove investor Shubber Ali crazy.

    “They’re smoking crack,” said Ali, a director of Dallas-based George Group Consulting.

    He mentioned one popular idea in the space community, to mine an asteroid for its resources, specifically platinum.

    Even if it could be done, “when you increase supply, the price drops through the floor,” Ali said. “There’s no such thing as a trillion-dollar asteroid.”

    Those who talked about building cheaper rockets to launch satellites were likewise off-base. Satellite factories are already underutilized, he said.”

    And only hinted at in that article, the idea that space toursim might just be a fad. “Even though Virgin Galactic has collected millions of dollars from tourists wanting to fly into space aboard their SpaceShipTwo, the big-money guys want to know if it’s only a “one-shot deal,” Valentine said.”

    Anyway, back to the converted. Though I’m not going to get into taxes, that’s a whole topic unto itself. Of course we need a complete overhaul.

    Ray – government contract out the ISS? Hmmm, interesting idea. I’m not sure I could stomach a launch vehicle with the word “Halliburton” printed on it though. ;)

    Rand – “It may be true that there is no economically viable use of space (it’s not actually–for instance, just ask the comsat people), but to think that the Shuttle somehow proves the proposition is nutty. Have you ever had a class in logic?”

    You’e a bit confused. The topic is exploitation of manned space, like space stations and off world bases. Obviously communication satellites are useful, that’s why we have them. Try to stay on topic. Always read and follow the directions on psychopharmaceuticals.

    Kert – Same advice. Plus:

    “Yes, all the african starving children.”

    When did I reference African starving children? Oh, I see, you are totally ignorant of the fact that there are homeless children right here in the US. You see, the space program uses US tax dollars. Social programs do too. The democrats are likely to take power in 2009. That means, the space program is going to have to compete for dollars with social programs that have been starved to death under Bush.
    - In 2006, poverty rate for minors in the United States was 21.9% – highest child poverty rate in the developed world.

    You don’t live in Camelot. And poor people are American too.

    “Who cares if 3D manufacturing using raw material feedstocks is already a reality today, on hobbyists desks ?”

    Yes, because a hobbyist’s desk is months away in the vacuum of space. That was sarcasm.

    “Right, because Hubble and MER probes provide Kelloggs and Fritos for an average American.”

    What they provide is a better understanding of the Cosmos, something we’ve desired since the Stone Age. Why not a Lunar Base then? Less science per dollar, plus the justification is economic develoment, hence a need to prove economic viability. No such proof is required for Hubble, a purely scientific endeavor.

    Donald – I respect some of you, certainly not all of you. Respect is earned. I’m not the one cussing on this forum.

  • I think I’d much rather hang out with the characters here, insane as some of us may be, than in your class.

    Not sure about that, Donald. I have to say that I’d take the professor, logical fallacies and all, over Elifritz.

  • You’e a bit confused. The topic is exploitation of manned space, like space stations and off world bases. Obviously communication satellites are useful, that’s why we have them. Try to stay on topic. Always read and follow the directions on psychopharmaceuticals.

    And you completely miss the point.

    I repeat the question. Have you ever taken a course in logic? If so, did you pass? Many of your comments in this thread would indicate that if so, you cheated. They also indicate that you have never done anything requiring an actual quantitative analysis.

    I gave you the link once, but I’ll do it again, with a bunch of them, because maybe you don’t understand how the Intertubes work.

    Google “fallacy of hasty generalization.”

  • Sorry, Prof, I just realized that those sites may be too complicated for you. I’ll just give an example. It’s what we in the logic and argumentation business call an “analogy” of your “argument” (such as it was).

    “ProfRaze’s comments in this thread prove that all professors are unfamiliar with logic, and innumerate.”

    I’ll leave it to the students to point out the flaw in my argument, even if ProfRaze doesn’t get it.

  • Americo Vespuchi

    I have to say that I’d take the professor, logical fallacies and all, over Elifritz.

    You’d better take something, Rand, because you have nothing of your own.

  • One more point. I wrote:

    “ProfRaze’s comments in this thread prove that all professors are unfamiliar with logic, and innumerate.”

    I demand that you disprove that statement, ProfRaze.

  • Dennis Wingo

    Dennis, Jeff is right. One has two choices on blogs. To allow comments, or to disallow disruptive a**holes.. I’ve been very lucky in that I’ve managed to stride a narrow line, but Jeff should not be criticized because he has not always been able to do so (as have I not). It all depends on the readership. I will say no more.

    Uh huh, this policy has really increased the quality of the posts in this thread hasn’t it.

  • kert

    mine an asteroid for its resources, specifically platinum.
    Even if it could be done, “when you increase supply, the price drops through the floor,” Ali said. “There’s no such thing as a trillion-dollar asteroid.”

    Yes, because for one-dimensional thinkers like we are, it would never occur to us to capitalize on products enabled by cheap abundant platinum group metals.
    What was it again .. increasing the availabilty of precious resources on earth .. no .. never pays off. Negative consequences. I mean, who would use cheap hydrogen fuel cells or anything like that ?

Leave a Reply

  

  

  

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>