Congress, NASA

A “daisy’s chance on the moon”

That’s the Orlando Sentinel’s assessment of the odds that Congressman Dave Weldon’s shuttle life extension proposal will be enacted in an editorial published Wednesday. The Sentinel finds faults with Weldon’s proposal in terms of both money and priorities. Getting that money—Weldon estimates that the total cost would be about $10 billion, assuming the shuttle can be operated for a fraction of current costs—is no easy feat in the current Congressional environment, the editorial notes. “Even if all those extra dollars were to fall like meteors from space, the shuttle would not be the best place for NASA to put them,” the editorial continues, saying the money would be better spent on accelerating Constellation. “Investing billions more now [on the shuttle] would be like busting the family’s bank account to put a new engine in a 30-year-old car.”

19 comments to A “daisy’s chance on the moon”

  • COTS Supporter

    Investing billions more now would be like busting the family’s bank account to put a new engine in a 30-year-old car.

    In more rational times in America, one would think they were referring to putting a J2X on an Ares upper stage, and then tossing it into the ocean.

  • Norm

    Was that a zing COTS Supporter?

    LOL

  • MarkWhittington

    All kidding aside, it is illuminating when one of the local papers finds Rep Weldon’s proposal just a little much. The article does give some good advice about how Weldon should instead join an effort to get more monev for Orion/Ares development. Ma,ing sure that the COTS shortfall is made up would be useful as well.

  • Cheers to the Orlando Sentinel editorial staff for not endorsing Weldon’s underbudgeted and needlessly expensive and dangerous Shuttle extension plan.

    Minor jeers to the Orlando Sentinel editorial staff for supporting an additional Shuttle flight for AMS in the absence of any consideration of alternatives.

    Major jeers to the Orlando Sentinel editorial staff for supporting more Ares I/Orion funding to suppossedly shorten the gap, when the recent GAO report makes clear that there are multiple threats to the Ares I schedule that are highly likely move it in the other direction, and in the absence of any consideration of cheaper and faster alternatives for shortening the gap.

    With the GAO report and its very plain language now out, the non-technical press needs to start waking up to all the problems on Ares I. And even the technical press makes other Constellation problems pretty accessible. This article, for example, points out the massive payload shortfall (one-third or 2,000 kg) on the first design iteration of the Altair LSAM (add http://www):

    .flightglobal.com/articles/2007/12/19/220436/payload-short-fall-triggers-nasa-lunar-lander-redesign.html

    It’s pathetic that the lunar architecture is this far from closing this early.

    This insider’s blog provides more details on some of the rather silly dictates from NASA senior management that are driving the shortfall, as well as noting that the lander actually has more than 2,000 kg in payload mass to make up because all redundancy has been removed from the design (add http://):

    rocketsandsuch.blogspot.com/2007/12/sacrificing-at-altair.html

    Again, it’s great that the Orlando Sentinel took a good stand on Weldon’s Shuttle extension proposal, but they and other press need to start taking a critical look at Ares I, Orion, and Constellation’s lunar elements. Between the GAO report, leaked NASA documents, and technical press articles, the sources are more available than ever.

    My 2 cents… FWIW…

  • Im curious – is anyone else going to post over at the OS’s website, in the comments section (Or has someone else done so, and I just missed it)?

    Everyone who wishes that papers like the OS would talk about something other than Orion vs Shuttle should make their thoughts known there

  • Mike Fazah

    I’m curious – is anyone else going to post over at the OS’s website…?

    What is “OS”? The uninformed want to know.

  • MarkWhittington

    “Im curious – is anyone else going to post over at the OS’s website, in the comments section (Or has someone else done so, and I just missed it)?

    Everyone who wishes that papers like the OS would talk about something other than Orion vs Shuttle should make their thoughts known there”

    This I would like to see. “Don’t go to the Moon you’re way! Go to the moon our way!” I’m certain that view will get the airing it deserves.

  • “This I would like to see. “Don’t go to the Moon you’re [sic] way! Go to the moon our way!” I’m certain that view will get the airing it deserves.”

    It’s not a matter of whose “way” it is. It’s a matter of whether the vehicles and architecture have a snowball’s chance in hell of being flyable on the schedules and for the budget stated, whether they can fly safely, and whether there are more rapidly fielded, less costly, and safer alternatives.

    Ad hominem arguments don’t advance the debate. Detailed analysis of the pros and cons of various options does.

    FWIW…

  • MarkWhittington

    “Ad hominem arguments don’t advance the debate. Detailed analysis of the pros and cons of various options does.”

    Translation:

    “Let’s make the various options a political football to kick around for the next few years.”

    It was a method that worked really well for the space station, after all, with politicians who thought they were aerospace engineers mandating design changes.

  • Mark, we all know your probably a little sore after your trip to the woodshed in the last thread, but the fact is that the Sentinel has pitched the idea that we have 2 options – Constellation as is, or follow Wheldon over the cliff with this “keep the shuttle flying”mantra.

    Both ideas suck. Its like being told that you’re getting a $2000 christmas bonus, but you either have to burn the money, or throw it in the dumpster.

    Further, I would argue that YOU know its not as simple as you claim, since your a staunch supporter of COTS. And this brings me to the larger point – it isn’t so much arguing the merits of Direct vs Orion vs EELV derivatives – its arguing that there is a different method, coming from the private sector, that will fundementally change how spaceflight happens, that needs to be talked about, and isn’t.

    When people talk about the idea of “the gap”, the implication is that the only space vehicle flying from the US will be whatever particular craft Nasa has choosen (whatever that vehicle is – whether its Orion, or VentureStar, NASP, EELV, Direct – whatever). That is a false and bad assumption, and will put us on track for more of the same, even if Orion flies as well as you claim.

    You talk about political interference in the station – interfernce from multiple corners has caused problems for spaceflight throughout history. It was political interference that forced the use of LOR for Apollo, which made it an unsustainable crash program, rather than an expanding sustainable program. Yet quite a lot got done

    Or we can look at the shuttle, which got pressure from both the politicians, but just as well the military.

    But for the first time, we have the oppurtunity for something different, instead of being forced down a path that only produces pork for select politicians.

    So, yes, if you care about space, you should be presenting all these alternatives to papers like the Orlando Sentinel.

  • Actually, I just had a thought, and I think everyone (well, almost everyone) will like it – Mark, you seem to be of the opinion that the best thing to happen would be if we shut up with our arguments, so that work could get done – I think its a great idea, and think that we should test out your suggestions using you – how about it? Why don’t you not post for a while, and see if I come around to your way of thinking :D

  • anonymous.space

    “Translation:

    ‘Let’s make the various options a political football to kick around for the next few years.’”

    Ugh… will you please stop putting words in other poster’s mouths… especially mine?

    If you can’t argue the points a poster made without making up what they said, then please don’t bother responding. You’re debating yourself, not the other poster.

    “It was a method that worked really well for the space station, after all, with politicians”

    No one in this forum is a federal politician (at least to my knowledge).

    “who thought they were aerospace engineers mandating design changes.”

    ISS was never reduced to single-string avionics or missing one-third of its payload capacity.

    FWIW…

  • anonymous.space

    “Let’s make the various options a political football to kick around for the next few years.”

    More to the point… when hasn’t ESAS, Constellation, and the Shuttle transition not been a political football?

    ESAS compromised numerous figures and analysis — from EELV blackout periods to EELV costs to safety figures for Shuttle heritage systems — to make the case for an architecture that maximized Shuttle employment in certain Congressional districts and states. How is that not politicization of the design process?

    The Bush II White House has failed to live up to its funding commitments in the VSE for Constellation. How are those political decisions about different budget priorities not affecting the development process?

    Despite giving numerous plus-ups to other programs, the Democrat-controlled Congress flat-funded Constellation in the FY 2007 continuing resolution and cut Constellation in the pending FY 2008 omnibus bill. How are those political decisions about different budget priorities not affecting the development process?

    And now Griffin’s poorly justified arguments about the “gap” are backfiring on him and various Congressmen, from Weldon to Nelson to Hutchison, are putting forth their own plans to extend Shuttle operations in order to keep the Shuttle workforce employed at Constellation’s expense. How do these new options for the “gap” not turn Constellation into a political football?

    Anyone who thinks the ESAS and Constellation decision process hasn’t been heavily influenced by political decisions up to this point is fooling themselves. Anyone who continues empty cheerleading for Constellation/Ares I/Orion in the face of GAO reports and NASA documents showing just how compromised these designs have become because of these political considerations is whistling past the graveyard. It’s far past time to take the blinders off and start a serious, independent, and unpoliticized review of alternatives.

    My 2 cents… FWIW.

  • COTS Proposals

    It’s far past time to take the blinders off and start a serious, independent, and unpoliticized review of alternatives.

    We just did. It was called NASA JSC-COTS-2. I notice you did not submit.

    Just for the record, here is the lineup as far as I can see it, if Mr. Griffin’s quote of eight proposers is indeed correct :

    1) SpaceDev – DreamChaser, EELV

    United Launch Alliance (ULA).

    2) SpaceHab – ARCTUS, EELV

    Lockheed Martin, United Launch Alliance (ULA), Cimarron and Odyssey Space Research.

    3) PlanetSpace – Modular Cargo Carrier, Proprietary ATK Booster

    Lockheed Martin, Alliant Techsystems (ATK), Bank of Montreal, Space Florida, United Launch Alliance (ULA), Wyle Laboratories, Paragon Space, and MEHTA Engineering.

    4) Loral – 1300/LEO Express, EELV

    Space Systems/Loral, Constellation Services International (CSI), United Launch Alliance (ULA).

    5) t/Space – CXV, Proprietary Air Launch, EELV

    6) Andrews Space – Pressurized and Unpressurized Cargo Modules – Proprietary Hercules Launch Vehicle (kerosene core and upper stage?)

    MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates (MDA), Alliant Techsystems (ATK), Reynolds Smith and Hills (RS&H), Draper Laboratory, Odyssey Space Research, Aerojet, Irvin Aerospace, and ILC Dover.

    7) Orbital – Proprietary Taurus I/II Launch Vehicles

    8) TLE/Formation Inc. – SSME SSTO core with Nose Cone Aero Shield Reentry Vehicle, launch assisted with SpaceX boosters only if necessary.

    USA*, ULA*, Pratt and Whitney/Rocketdyne* (P&W*), Boeing*, Orbital Technologies* (Orbitec*), Orion Propulsion*, Space Exploration Technologies* (SpaceX*), Bigelow Aerospace*, Space Florida*, Wisconsin Aerospace Authority*.

    * The terms ‘contractor’ and ‘partner’ are interchangeable in this proposal, and may change during the execution of the proposed contract. There will be no foreign participation in this proposal or contract.

    * Contractors and partners listed in this proposal are for guidance only. No participation, partnerships, contracts or agreements of any kind are implied with any of the corporations or the individuals listed.

  • anonymous.space

    “We just did. It was called NASA JSC-COTS-2.”

    I’m all for COTS, both restoring and boosting funding for it.

    But COTS only addresses ISS. If we care about other human space flight goals, especially exploration, there still needs to a solid analysis of alternatives to the ESAS lunar architecture, as it doesn’t even close.

    Of course, the next White House may (is even likely) not to care about human space exploration goals. But that’s another thread…

    “I notice you did not submit.”

    ?

    “TLE/Formation Inc.”

    I detect an Elifritz, but hopefully a well-manned one this time around.

    FWIW…

  • I detect an Elifritz, but hopefully a well-manned one this time around.

    That never happens.

  • COTS Supporter

    I detect an Elifritz, but hopefully a well-manned one this time around.

    That never happens.

    The fact that Mr. Elifritz took the time in his busy schedule to perform a two year ESAS and put together and submit a 30 day COTS proposal, representative of a large fraction of the US Aerospace infrastructure and a broad Midwest space activist and research & development community, is a pretty good demonstration that he is very ‘well manned’.

    But COTS only addresses ISS. If we care about other human space flight goals, especially exploration, there still needs to a solid analysis of alternatives to the ESAS lunar architecture, as it doesn’t even close.

    Indeed, and it appears that Mr. Elifritz’s proposal is the smallest launch vehicle out of the vast hierarchy of heavy lift launch vehicles studied by his working group, in their two year quest for science and reason in launch vehicle architecture. There is no shortage of Frankenlaunchers, the problem rather, is how to make them sustainable and cost effective in the long run.

    The particular architecture was chosen precisely because it does scale physically and technologically in a reasonable and straightforward manner.

  • D. Messier

    The Sentinel is probably right here. Weldon’s idea seems half baked, but unfortunately a sign of how sad the U.S. position has become. Unless COTS or something else comes through, we’re looking at a potentially long gap in human spaceflight capability.

    It’s odd to read some of the complaints about Weldon emanating from certain quarters. NASA and the Bushies got us into this situation. You would think the criticism would be more directed at them. But, as with the delay in the Mars mission, some people are more comfortable spewing bile at third parties than holding those who are actually in charge responsible for their mistakes. (Not that the little elves in this administration ever actually take much responsibility for what they do. They usually deny access to anyone who points out their errors – which is often an effective deterrent.)

    And on that note, I close by wishing a good night, a Merry Christmas and a happy New Year to everyone here on the good Earth.

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