Campaign '08

Giuliani: NASA human spaceflight gap is “not acceptable”

Rudy Giuliani wrapped up his space policy roundtable Friday afternoon on Florida’s Space Coast with this goal, according to the AP: to “narrow and possibly even eliminate” the shuttle-Constellation gap. “A strong NASA and a revitalized space program will be a priority for a Giuliani Administration from day one,” he said, calling the gap “not acceptable”. The officials Giuliani met with called the problem a “money issue”: “You just can’t lay out a vision like President Bush laid out, and not fund it,” said Mike McCulley, former president and CEO of United Space Alliance. Giuliani didn’t specify any other space policy goals, such as continuing the Vision for Space Exploration or other initiatives for military or commercial space, according to the reports by the AP and Florida Today.

Giuliani is hardly the first to endorse the concept of reducing the gap in some fashion. Unfortunately, it’s his bad luck to speak about it the same day NASA confirms that it’s grappling with a serious “thrust oscillation” issue with the Ares 1 as well as word that Ares/Orion test flights will be delayed because of budget shortfalls. So, good luck, Rudy, closing that gap…

24 comments to Giuliani: NASA human spaceflight gap is “not acceptable”

  • From the Miami Herald link:
    “Former shuttle astronaut Mike McCulley said “it’s a money issue.””

    Sigh.

    Oh well at least the other article from Florida Today shows they got his attention, I’ll just have to hope and pray Giuliani and the other candidates get briefed on other alternatives like Direct v2.0 and EELVs.

    Extremely pleased that SpaceX was present and active, at least the candidate and his campaign have now heard of them and what they’re doing. I hope it sticks.

    A transcript of the meeting would be interesting, I wonder if any was made.

  • While at the same time “people” are already meeting to toss the VSE and come up with “something else”.

    I remember being at a conference just after ESAS came out and asking someone who was involved with formulating the VSE why all of the Aldridge Commission recommendations were being ignored. The response was that by putting something in play fast enough the next President couldn’t afford not to keep it going. Well that’s apparently not the case since it looks like we’re in for nothing but brownian motion for the next couple of years.

  • MarkWhittington

    On cannot expect Giuliani to get into a political fight about hardware when he’s not an engineer and not yet President. That decision, if it is taken at all, would be for whomever he would pick as NASA administrator.

  • The People

    No surprises here. Many of us could see this coming over a year ago. I am amazed that the oscillation problem was not recognized earlier by NASA. It actually was by those outside the Agency, most notably by Prof. Gary Flandro of UTSI.

    It’s too bad that we’ll probably have to endure another year or two of ESAS inertia until a new Administrator is appointed. I doubt that Griffin will change course in favor of EELV or any another alternative. In the words of fellow obsessive, Capt. Ahab:

    “I’ll follow him around the Horn, and around the Norway maelstrom, and around perdition’s flames before I give him up.”

  • D. Messier

    Yeah, I heard about the oscillation problems at some point last year. Probably a good five to six months ago. Someone told me they had to a major redesign avoid killing the crew. I remember thinking, holy s***. What a mess.

    It’s amazing it’s taken this long for the media to sniff out this information. I guess we can thank the AP for filing a FOIA request. Seems to be the only way to get any meaningful information out of NASA these days. Of course, if they had denied the request, there would have been hell to pay after the air safety debacle.

    The next thing everyone will realize is that the architecture is completely unaffordable. I guess the Stanford conference next month is a step in the right direction. But, would a series of asteroid missions be that much cheaper? Yeah, you’d save money on the lunar surface architecture, but how much. Anyone have any ideas on that?

  • “On cannot expect Giuliani to get into a political fight about hardware when he’s not an engineer and not yet President.”

    If Giuliani is serious when he says that the gap is “unacceptable”, then he has no choice but to debate alternate roadmaps and architectures. The next President could throw all the money he or she wants at ESAS, but due to the J-2X long pole in the Constellation tent, the earliest that Ares I/Orion can possibly be operational is 2013. If Guiliani really wants to “eliminate” the gap, then he has to extend Shuttle operations, shift money to COTS, and/or fly a smaller CEV on an EELV (or something else entirely).

    This is just my opinion, but I don’t think Guiliani is serious about closing the gap or understands the implications of what he’s saying. The fact that McCulley, former head of the prime contractor for Shuttle operations, was feeding Guiliani lines indicates that it was probably the latter. I seriously doubt McCulley was cautioning Guiliani about, say, the costs and risks of extending Shuttle operations.

    Guiliani has to win Florida to remain a viable candidate, so he’s going to say whatever sounds like it will earn Florida votes. That’s not a knock against Guiliani. Any candidate, Democrat or Republican, would do the same if their Presidential fortunes were riding on this particular state.

    FWIW…

  • “While at the same time ‘people’ are already meeting to toss the VSE and come up with ‘something else’.”

    I really have to applaud this effort. Several of these names represent the best, most experienced, biggest picture, and most inventive thinkers in the ex-NASA community, some with proven track records of rebuilding broken programs. And the questions they’re asking — what options can we present to the next President for a more efficient and ambitious human space exploration program so we don’t lose all the money from a lunar return effort that has devolved into a suborbital mess — are exactly what needs to be asked right now. (Actually, if NASA had a semblence of corporate planning, a formal effort like this would have started a year ago.)

    It’s also great to see some of the original VSE content and concepts from the old Decadal Planning Team and NASA Exploration Team getting into play again (add http://)

    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Decadal_Planning_Team

    God speed…

  • Giuliani has started something wonderful. He has set a early precedent for these roundtable discussions that all of the candidates will have time to accept after completing tomorrow’s primaries clear up their calendar a bit. It is up to us to put the pressure on the other candidates to follow Giuliani’s lead.

    http://www.actionforspace.com has links to all of the candidates email addresses as well as their phone numbers.

    Go to http://www.actionforspace.com and contact the candidates in grassroots fashion with high numbers to get more support for a Moon and Mars mission!

  • MarkWhittington

    Anonymous Space is, as usual, posting nonsense. The last thing people should want is to through hardware issues into the political process. Stopping Ares in 2009 and going with something else would likely lengthen the space flight gap considerably, not narrow it.

    I suspect Giuliani will support the following:

    Increasing funding for VSE to bring forward the Orion/Ares to 2013. Increasing funding for COTS to make sure that a commercial alternative is available in 2011. It is not only smart politics, but smart policy.

    Anonymous Space should also remember that neither Clinton nor Obama’s space policy proposals are designed to please Florida’s aerospace workers, for reasons that have been discussed before.

  • “Anonymous Space is, as usual, posting nonsense.”

    Please, no personal attacks. I’ve made none against you.

    “The last thing people should want is to through hardware issues into the political process.”

    Where did I argue that it was desireable? Please do not put words in my mouth.

    I argued that, based on Guiliani’s statements about completely closing the gap, it’s not possible to avoid such a discussion.

    “I suspect Giuliani will support the following:”

    Evidence?

    “It is not only smart politics, but smart policy.”

    It would not be “smart policy” to adopt a vehicle with crippling technical problems, slipping schedules, and multi-hundred million dollar overruns. Ares I has all three (add http://www.):

    chron.com/disp/story.mpl/space/5467711.html

    nasaspaceflight.com/content/?cid=5335

    gao.gov/new.items/d0851.pdf

    rocketsandsuch.blogspot.com/2007/12/yikes-indeed.html

    In fact, it would be rather stupid. (And I’ve criticized Obama’s campaign for doing so in a different thread.)

    “Anonymous Space should also remember that neither Clinton nor Obama’s space policy proposals are designed to please Florida’s aerospace workers,”

    You have to be kidding. Obama explicitely endorsed Ares I/Orion and Clinton made a big deal about bringing a Shuttle successor online as soon as possible, either of which plays to the votes of Kennedy workers.

    “for reasons that have been discussed before.”

    And those are?

    Oy vey…

  • chuck2200

    Mark Whittington said “Stopping Ares in 2009 and going with something else would likely lengthen the space flight gap considerably, not narrow it “. If what we are hearing around the beltway now about the severe oscillation problems in the basic design of the Ares-I turns out to be correct, there may be no alternative. There comes a point in time when it’s necessary to acknowledge that continuing to beat the dead horse will not bring it back to life again. Now what? Time for Plan B. Anybody know what Griffin’s Plan-B might actually be? Hopefully he has one.

  • Ray

    On the meeting that Michael mentioned, personally I don’t have preferences for destinations, whether it’s the Moon, Lagrangian points, asteroids, or Mars. They all have their advantages and disadvantages in terms of what kind of science can be done, what kinds of commerce can be done, and how difficult it is to get there and stay there. I do see some positive sides in this preliminary look at the plans of the meeting, though.

    One positive side is the apparent emphasis on commercial participation. This is how the VSE was supposed to be, but ESAS has postponed commercial participation to 2020 or whatever decade the ESAS plan would be ready, if NASA happens to have a big change of heart upon reaching the moon, for commercial input. There’s very little commerce in the current ESAS plan up to that point. The preliminary look at the meeting seems to indicate there would be much earlier commercial participation. For example, they mention using Bigelow-style commercial modules in L-point and asteroid missions. The details aren’t clear, but it seems like, unlike ESAS, this would be part of the initial transportation architecture or “base”.

    As Michael mentions in another post, the difficult thing may be keeping the commercial emphasis in the plan after NASA and Congress get their priorities put in it. However, maybe the fact that Ares I/Orion would be used would satisfy enough of the NASA-in-house constituency, and commerce could be added to that base? Or, maybe there’s some way for the plan to be “inherently” commercially-enabled?

    Another possible positive step is that, although the meeting seems to still be based on the Ares I/V architecture, it seems that the conclusion could result in earlier productivity. For example, it seems likely that Ares 1/Orion could, with some commercial help rather than Ares V (i.e. another launch, a Bigelow module, in-space refueling, tug? I don’t know what architecture they’d come up with) do useful jobs at L points earlier than Ares V/LSAM would be able to reach the lunar surface. Hubble-style servicing of astronomical and solar observatories comes to mind.

    The article also mentions an emphasis on Earth environment monitoring. It’s not clear from the article, but given the context of the rest of the discussion, it seems likely that part of what they’re talking about includes astronaut servicing of environment satelllites, again following the Hubble servicing concept. This could probably also produce results much sooner than the ESAS lunar base, possibly keeping the whole effort alive, depending on the priority the next couple Presidents place on the Earth’s environment and technology that can be used for national security as well as GIS or Google Earth style commercial applications. The satellite part of the environmental monitoring emphasis also has all sorts of commercial potential that can come on-line much earlier than the current lunar base plan, such as launch of the sats, satellite instruments and buses, fuel or tug support, and testing of instruments on suborbital rockets.

    The other positive side that I see is that the plan could possibly divert Ares I/Orion from ISS resupply, giving the COTS vendors a chance to supply cargo and transport crew to the ISS without political attacks from Ares. Ares would have plenty to do at L points for things like astronomy missions, and maintaining satellites in LEO and GEO. Ares could also be a backup for ISS should a problem develop with a COTS system.

    Now … the parts about asteroids and Mars moons … these all sound just as interesting to me as lunar surface missions. They also sound just as far-off in the future … perhaps also requiring Ares V even? I guess I’d have to wait to see what the meeting produces – that’s just my gut feeling. However, it seems they’ve started with some more achievable and useful intermediate goals than the single “productive” intermediate goal of the current plan (which is to duplicate existing launchers and planned COTS systems for ISS support), so already they’d be in better shape than ESAS, even though also using the ESAS Ares I/Orion. Having produced COTS/ISS, Ares I/Orion, and commercially-enabled satellite/observatory support in LEO/GEO/L-points, they should be in much better shape whatever the next step is, whether it’s the lunar surface, asteroids, Mars moons, a lunar orbiting station, or whatever.

    On the political side, I’d hazard a guess that the goals of their plan are pretty likely to be more appealing to the next President than those of ESAS, mainly because of the intermediate steps that could produce results within the self-interested part of the planning horizon of a Presidential administration. The Ares/Orion political interests would be satisfied, too. The science and commercial communities, and related states and NASA centers, be quite interested, too. The current battle to the end between robotic and human NASA sides would, it seems, be set aside since they’d be mutually supportive, just as the VSE was supposed to be.

    Anyway, that’s my initial impression based on a small amount of data. It’s not what I would come up with (just like 2 years ago, I’d can ESAS altogether), but it at least has some interesting potential. It will be fun to see what they come up with, and how the politics unfolds.

  • Mitt Romney has accepted the same invitation from the Florida EDC to attend the same type of event on Monday that Giuliani made this statement at. If we push hard, we can expect a similar statement from Romney. Huckabee has not yet accepted, but it is a strong possibility. Especially since we will all contact Huckabee and tell him that he needs to.

    http://www.actionforspace.com explains in detail the most effective way to exploit this situation to promote spaceflight in the debates and in the next president.

    Romney is the next domino to fall in the chain reaction to get humans on their way to Mars and the Moon.

    go to http://www.actionforspace.com and do your part!

  • Jeff Foust

    Regarding the meeting on a VSE alternative that Aviation Week reports: this appears to be part of the same effort, or else closely related to it, that Farquhar discussed in a talk at APL in late 2006 that I reported about in The Space Review. Farquhar said at that time that the goal was to complete the study in 2008, in advance of the presidential election, so that the next administration and NASA would have “several options” on how to proceed in 2009 and beyond.

  • MarkWhittington

    Looks like Mitt Romney will have his own space policy round table on Monday. Space has actually become an issue for this year’s election.

  • [...] Rudy Giuliani have both pointed out the shuttle-Constellation gap. Giuliani believes it’s a ‘money issue’; Martinez wants to extend the working life of the space shuttle. But, 2013, at the minimum, is a [...]

  • Joe Smith

    “Increasing funding for VSE to bring forward the Orion/Ares to 2013.”

    By FY10 (the next president’s first budget) it may be too late to bring IOC up to 2013 regardless of the extra money added.

    “Increasing funding for COTS to make sure that a commercial alternative is available in 2011.”

    Adding money in FY10 is probably too late to get anything online in 2011.

    Face it: the gap makes for a nice issue that allows for some righteous indignation by the candidates, if they so choose, but there’s little they can do to actually shorten it. Those decision must be made, or should have been made, by the current president and Congress.

  • Joe Smith

    “Giuliani has started something wonderful. He has set a early precedent for these roundtable discussions that all of the candidates will have time to accept after completing tomorrow’s primaries clear up their calendar a bit.”

    If you look at the primary calendar, you’ll see that the schedule is not lightening up. Tsunami Tuesday is just a week after Florida, and Republican candidates will have to decide just how many resources they want to devote to Florida versus all the other states the following week. Even if they do spend time in Florida, space is a minor issue outside the Space Coast.

    Also, don’t forget that the Democrats are effectively bypassing Florida to censure the state for moving up its primary. In any case, they have to focus on South Carolina first: it’s a must-win now for Obama and especially Edwards after Nevada.

  • reader

    Giuliani : the gap is not acceptable !
    So, what are you going to do about it ?
    Giuliani: um .. not accept it ?

    Although there are claims that behind the curtains, STS life is already being stretched beyond 2010 september deadline .. Nevertheless, if everything continues on course throughout 2008, theres practically nothing that a next president can do to completely eliminate the “gap”.

    Of course, these people need to be reminded that the “gap” only exists for orbital, government-run manned spaceflight in US. Other forms of spaceflight will still continue and likely expand throughout these years.

  • Tom

    The alternate destinations discussion is a good one, I think. The next president will need to distance themselves from the current president, and the amount they’ll want to do so will be directly dependent on the letter in parenthesis after their name (R) or (D). Changing or re-ordering destinations in the VSE would be a relatively painless way to do so: maintaining jobs while changing the window dressings. I’ll be curious to see what comes out of it.

  • Michael: While at the same time “people” are already meeting to toss the VSE and come up with “something else”.

    If this refers to the story in AvWeek, unfortunately, it looks like they are “tossing” the VSE goal, but not the unwise technological choices. That said, I rather like the idea of going to an asteroid, since it may have many of the resources the moon has (oxygen) plus water and carbon, but also provides more of the experience and skills necessary for deep space exploration.

    – Donald

  • “If this refers to the story in AvWeek, unfortunately, it looks like they are “tossing” the VSE goal,”

    Before Griffin and ESAS, the VSE’s goals involved more targets than the Moon, were substantially broader in nature, and made a more serious attempt to better tie exploration efforts to science needs. One could argue that this group is reasserting the original intent of the VSE.

    “but not the unwise technological choices.”

    Actually, what they’re doing is articulating an argument that says there are still scientifically desireably human exploration missions that NASA can execute (servicing of observatories at libration points, near-Earth asteroid rendezvous) on behalf of the next Administration even in the absence of lunar hardware (e.g., Altair/LSAM lander, Ares V heavy lift). Since it’s increasingly likely that all we’ll get out of the Griffin years and ESAS is an oversized Orion capsule, a broken and unflyable Ares I launcher, and no money for lunar elements in the next Administration, this is arguably a good exercise to go through. Fly Orion on EELVs, augment its capabilities at low-cost commercially (e.g., Bigelow habs and in-space fueling), and do what exploration missions we can.

    I’d also note that the libration point architectures this group is advocating enable all-lunar access and often at better mass fractions than competing architectures. If, for example, a follow-on automated lander/rover mission to LRO confirms the existence of lunar polar ice in usable form, these kinds of architectures can accommodate a human lunar lander with little pain, if there’s a later decision to fund its development.

    And who knows, maybe the Dawn mission will tell us that the best source of low-g ice is under the surface of the asteroid Ceres, not locked in the Moon’s poles…

    FWIW…

  • Ray

    It’s possible (maybe likely) that Ares 1 will fail, but the idea to start with Lagrangian point missions strikes me as being compatible with the ESAS plan, so supporters of that plan could be in favor of it. It gives Ares I/Orion something to do in the near future – perhaps in a timeframe the next President will care about. Thus it enhances the political chances for Ares I/Orion. It encourages Ares I/Orion to get augmented in the near term with commercial services, which should help it politically, too. It gives Ares I/Orion something to do besides ISS support. This allows it to back up ISS COTS support (assuming COTS gets to human transportation) without wiping out COTS and while still keeping the jobs aspect going. It also gets a lot of scientists on the Ares I/Orion bandwagon. It helps Ares I/Orion all these ways, and Ares I/Orion is a big portion of the ESAS plan.

    Having gotten Ares I/Orion built and servicing telescopes (and perhaps environment satellites – I can’t tell by the Av Week article), there’s nothing to preclude continuing down the current ESAS path or the asteroid path. We’d be in about the same position either way. It may seem like we’d be using too much money servicing telescopes to pull off the lunar ESAS part, but if Ares needs ISS support to keep the job program going, COTS will fail (IMHO) and Ares ISS support will be using up lots of money there instead. It could be a wash.

    Of course we could also decide to go the asteroid route. That decision should be left to a later time when we’re at the point of actually working on the lunar or asteroid program.

    We could also find out along the way that Ares I fails and we need to scrap ESAS altogether. At that point, we’ll be glad if we have a well-developed alternate plan in place.

    All of this is just my opinion based on limited information from the Av Week article, the Space Review article Jeff pointed to above, and a quick skim of Farquhar’s big paper referenced in the Space Review article. I also listened to the Space Show interview of Dr. Farquhar on Dec. 26. In that interview, he discussed the Lagrangian point plan, and how it could lead to asteroids and Mars. He didn’t talk much about commercial involvement in the mission, which was surprising, since I’d have expected him to emphasize that aspect in a business-oriented forum like the Space Show. I guess we’ll have to wait and see how much commercial participation there really is in the plan, and whether or not the commercial participation is built firmly enough in the plan to overcome contractor politics. I’d personally rate commercial participation in a way that allows more useful commercial services unrelated to the NASA human missions to develop in the relatively near future as more important than the particular destination(s), so that will be a big factor in how I judge the plan.

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