Campaign '08, Other

A structural shift in space policy?

Are the key participants in the national space policy debate, and the tools they use, undergoing change? That’s at the core of an article by Kathleen Connell in this week’s issue of The Space Review. Connell sees three “structural shifts” taking place that could reshape—for better or worse—the relative importance of space policy and the size and nature of NASA’s budget: the emergence of a new class of “space consumers” thanks to personal spaceflight companies, the use of new online tools to loosely organize “virtual crowds” on topics of interest or concern, and a growing appreciation of the role of space to study and even mitigate climate change. “Those would-be space leaders who understand the dynamic intersection of empowered public will, interactive technology, space consumption, and global warming will best be able to guide NASA into the second decade of the 21st century,” she concludes. “Should they also embrace these facets of the future, a future that has already arrived, they will find themselves with the credibility to also make the case for increasing budgets and increasingly robust space exploration initiatives as well.”

So how powerful and imminent are those structural shifts? It will probably take some time for the first to emerge, and even then the population of “space consumers” will remain very small relative to the overall population. The second is clearly taking place now in politics in general, although it has yet to take root effectively in space politics. And as for the third, one need only look at Hillary Clinton’s proposed space policy and the comments by others, like John Edwards, for a “balanced” space program to see that earth sciences, including climate change, will take on a larger role in the ’08 election and beyond.

15 comments to A structural shift in space policy?

  • Al Fansome

    On the “space consumer” having a major political impact — it has already happened. In September of this year, it happened in Israel.

    http://muqata.blogspot.com/2007/10/israel-yes-satellite-tv-interference.html

    Frustrated viewers have inundated their cable and satellite providers complaining that the onscreen images constantly flicker and freeze. Analysts on both sides of the border suspect covert military activity but, like any good Middle Eastern story, theories abound as to who is the culprit.

    Huge numbers of Israeli citizens bombarded their national leaders with complaints about the interference — probably from a national security source — with their digital satellite TV. The politicians were forced to to do something about it. Although nobody has fessed up that it was caused by Israel’s national security apparatus, it is strongly suspected as the interference started about the time that Israel bombed Syria.

    The onset of the problems coincided with a Sept. 6 Israeli air raid on Syria. Television signals began to deteriorate shortly afterward and on Sept. 12, Lebanon’s Telecommunications Minister Marwan Hamadeh told local daily An Nahar that interference had “started with the aggressive Israeli infiltration on Syria.”

    The interference was eliminated — as Israel’s citizens demanded it be fixed — even though nobody is fessing up about what (or who) caused it.

    LESSON: National security trumps almost everything, except people’s satellite TV. ;-D

    - Al

  • S. Consumer

    NASA will need a complete De-Bushification first. Griffin’s resignation would be a good start. The New Year’s Eve release of the aviation safety study is the last straw. The man has to go. The sooner the better.

  • Mike Fazah

    I agree with S. Consumer and others. It is certainly high time for Griffin to vamoose. At one time I thought his management shortcomings would be offset by his technical strengths. Unfortunately, it has become increasingly evident that he is weak on all fronts. Griffin has severely weakened the agency and alienated some of its important stakeholders, all for the sake of ramrodding a hopelessly flawed pet project through the system.

  • “It is certainly high time for Griffin to vamoose. At one time I thought his management shortcomings would be offset by his technical strengths. Unfortunately, it has become increasingly evident that he is weak on all fronts.”

    Seconded. I was once impressed as anyone else with Griffin’s arms-length list of degrees, but all that training has only led NASA done a technical dead-end for a Shuttle replacement and lunar transport. For example, at nasaspaceflight.com/content/?cid=5321:

    “Kranz’s address was directly aimed at the Constellation workforce, working on a vehicle (Ares I) that has several major challenges, including ‘red’ issues for functionality on five out of six subsystems,

    Sigh…

  • “The New Year’s Eve release of the aviation safety study is the last straw. The man has to go. The sooner the better.”

    Jim Hall, former NTSB chair, said it best in the Washington Post article on aviation safety study release:

    “Jim Hall, a former chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, also criticized the way NASA released its database. ‘When a government agency is not transparent with the American people, particularly on an issue like safety, they are not fulfilling their responsibilities and earning their pay,’ Hall said.”

    Full article at washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/12/31/AR2007123101689.html?hpid=sec-business.

    Aside from a stubborn personality, one wonders why Griffin is being so obstinate and obfuscating on this study. The study doesn’t pass judgement on any NASA programs. NASA has no dog in this fight. House members are already calling for hearings. The more Griffin drags his feet on this study, the more it hurts him and the agency.

    FWIW…

  • Chuck2200

    I agree with all the above posters about it being time for Griffin to go, and with the need to de-Bushify, not only the space agency, but the entire federal apparatus. When Mike Griffin was first appointed I was thrilled that we would have a man at the top that was an actual rocket scientist. Was I wrong! I now know that what is needed instead is a good “administrator” who will actually listen to the “rocket scientists” in the agency and formulate his or her approach based on the advice of those people who actually do that stuff for a living.

    The Ares design, his personal pet favorite, which he has pushed thru is proving to be extremely deficient and even if he succeeds in getting it to work, will, imho leave us stuck in LEO for another 30 years, because I don’t believe that the Congress, after seeing what an absolute mess he has made of this entire effort, will be willing to pony up the money to fund his building still another companion rocket to go side by side with it. He has championed a launch system that will end up crippling the American manned space effort for years to come unless it is replace with something that actually works, quickly.

    He needs to go, and the sooner the better. And he needs to be replaced by someone more dedicated to the VSE than to his or her personal pet project.

  • Chuck2200

    One more thought to add. Mike Griffin’s comments about the Air Safety report is just another example of why he needs to go. The man obviously, imo, doesn’t give a sweet tinkers da*m about you and me. Air traffic safety, to him, is a waste of time and you and I should not bother our little selves thinking about such things. Not to worry. Mommy has everything well in hand. IMHO, the man is arrogant, snooty, aloof, nasty, uncaring and elitist. In Bush Sr’s original campaign way back when, he was asked (I am told) about the domestic situation. His response was that he had nothing against domestics and believed that everybody should have one. Mike Griffin’s grasp of reality is even lower than that.

  • Context LLC

    Resign? Please spare us. If you think that any of these bad actors, Michael Griffin and his band of prima donna astronauts and incompetent engineers, Conrad Lautenbacher and his band of incompetent generals, John Marburger, and his, well, it’s just him, or Dick Cheney or even George W. Bush, if you think any of these horsemen of the American Apocalypse have any intention of resigning in the light of glaring incompetence and failure, you’re deluded.

    If anything, it’s going to be a continuation of their scorched Earth policies right up until the end, and beyond. That’s generally how these things work out.

  • Chuck2200: When Mike Griffin was first appointed I was thrilled that we would have a man at the top that was an actual rocket scientist. Was I wrong! I now know that what is needed instead is a good “administrator” who will actually listen to the “rocket scientists” in the agency and formulate his or her approach based on the advice of those people who actually do that stuff for a living.

    This is only part of the requirement. I agree that the last thing NASA needs at the top is a “rocket scientist.” What NASA really needs is a consummate politician with a good understanding of the history of the development of commerce on difficult new frontiers. Dr. Griffin has, on occasion, tried, but he has let his temper get in the way too often, and when he does act on the political front, he is has proven, frankly, incompetent.

    The saddest thing about this whole sorry experience is that the one single policy where the Bush Administration got it right — the VSE — was, in the end, bungled like everything else, partly because of the budgetary requirements of an insane war, partly through appointing the wrong person as Administrator, and partly through lack of attention. Were the VSE to succeed, history in the long term would forget all the rest of the Administration’s many disasters. Unfortunately, it looks like there will be no such distraction.

    – Donald

  • Vladislaw

    “The Ares design, his personal pet favorite, which he has pushed thru is proving to be extremely deficient and even if he succeeds in getting it to work, will, imho leave us stuck in LEO for another 30 years,”

    This current design seems like a major departure from what he first proposed with the FLO concept from 1992:

    http://www.astronautix.com/craft/firtpost.htm

    The “COMET” would use a total of 12 engines, core-5 F1s and two on each of the two strap on boosters, ( interesting note: NON Solid strap ons even after the SRBs had been on the shuttle for 10 years + ) and three J2S for the upper stage.

    So I wonder if this design was “suggested” to be his pet favorite?

  • Vladislaw

    Sorry I forgot to ask, does anyone know what a ballpark figure would be for the 12 engines currently OFF THE SHELF that you could put together in this configuration and their cost, seems like a lot of engines to be throwing away, and what kind of lift capacity?

  • Habitat Hermit

    Great conclusion Al ^_^

    It felt like a somewhat over-optimistic article to me and I’m worried that a lot of people would/do tend to advocate mostly based on a single “holy grail”. That makes for a single point of failure.

    To me the greatest argument for both automated and human space exploration is all the things we do not currently know we will discover (provided we go) and benefit from both as pure knowledge and practical solutions. I.e. instead of betting on this or that possible ace of spades (or not, it might be a joker or even a blank card with this deck) we can get the whole deck of cards as long as we go to stay and keep at it.

    The Space Review continues to provide interesting articles from regular contributers and others alike and I hope we’ll see more from Kathleen Connell too.

    On the off-topic discussion; why does it make sense to replace Griffin as fast as possible? Isn’t it far too late for that? Isn’t it better to wait under a year to let whomever is elected the new President decide? That way one gets a NASA administrator at least initially supported by a White House administration.

    Indeed letting the ESAS approach bury itself deeply into the ground even in the eyes of Dr. Griffin and all other ESAS-supporters would be huge benefit for whomever takes over next. Nothing ends a failed approach with a minimum of unhelpful could-have-beens and what-ifs like a big smoking crater. As it seems incredibly likely this will happen during the next year why not let it play out? Rescuing NASA from itself right now will prove to do it and everyone else an immense disservice in my opinion and only allow NASA –from top to bottom and back up again– to pretend it wasn’t their own fault!

    A new administrator before the election is probably not going to happen anyway as I doubt all that many would be interested in the job for a small interim period of less than a year, perhaps even as little as half a year when taking into account the acting interim Administrators.

    I think some of you commenters might be in space already ^_^;

  • D. Messier

    Bush could fire him for poor performance (the way his father fired Richard Truly). Since that will probably not happen, sure, why not make Griffin administrator for life?

    Congress asked Justice to investigate the destruction of the IG meeting record. Anyone know what happened with that? Is there any likelihood that Justice will indict the IG (and Griffin with him)?

  • D. Messier

    Correction: Congress asked Justice to investigate NASA general counsel over the DVD destruction.

  • Chuck2200

    “On the off-topic discussion; why does it make sense to replace Griffin as fast as possible? Isn’t it far too late for that? Isn’t it better to wait under a year to let whomever is elected the new President decide? That way one gets a NASA administrator at least initially supported by a White House administration.”

    The VSE, on the whole, is a good program, and has actually gotten thru Congress and stamped as the way forward. But Griffin’s implementation of it threatens to take the entire thing down. If that happens, it is unlikely that Congress will be predisposed to fund another “grand scheme of things” for a very long tome.

    If Griffin is quickly replaced, at least there is still time to replace his pet launchers with something that actually works, thereby saving the VSE itself. After being stuck in LEO for more than 30 years, it would be a shame to loose this opportunity to move beyond it solely because of the incompetence of the one man.

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