Blitz results, Storm planning

I had not heard too much about the results of the recent “Space Blitz” by the Space Exploration Alliance (SEA) earlier this month, where members of the SEA’s organzations briefed Congressional offices about NASA funding and associated issues. The SEA, through the Mars Society, did issue a press release last week, which I’ve reprinted below (it doesn’t appear on the SEA or Mars Society sites), that summarizes their meetings.

A reminder that ProSpace is ramping up preparations for March Storm 2008 on March 9-12. This year’s agenda features two major themes, developing space resources and developing a commercial space infrastructure.

Space Exploration Alliance Members Press Congress For Full Authorized Levels of NASA Funding

Monday, February 18, 2008 – Concerned citizens from around the country met with over 120 congressional offices early last week in an effort to ensure that the billion shortfall in the proposed FY09 NASA budget is addressed by Congress. The event marks the start of the Space Exploration Alliance’s 2008 Budget Campaign, a year-long push to educate Congress on space policy matters.

“One person really can have an impact on space policy, and together we can make a difference,” said SEA Steering Committee member Chris Carberry. “We’ve already seen results with this year’s presidential election, where space policy issues have received more attention than they have in decades. Now we’re hoping to be able to do the same thing with Congress.”

In addition to emphasizing the difference in funding levels between President Bush’s proposed budget and the level specified in the NASA Authorization Act of 2005, last Monday and Tuesday’s meetings – which covered over 120 Congressional offices – sought to raise awareness of a number of issues, such as the five-year gap currently projected between the retirement of the Space Shuttle and the first flights of the new Constellation program.

“Due to the budgetary constraints NASA has been operating under for the last several years, America is facing an extended period of time where we will have no capacity to send humans into space,” said Rick Zucker, SEA Chairman for the meetings. “NASA will have to pay the Russians for American astronauts to fly on the Soyuz during that gap, which will only get longer if funding levels stay below authorized amounts.”

As justification for increased funding, SEA members were able to point out many recent success stories from NASA, such as the continued progress of the Mars rovers and this week’s International Space Station mission, which is installing the European Space Agency’s Columbus module. Another promising NASA initiative highlighted was the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program, which is using performance-based contracts to help private companies in the U.S. develop the ability to send humans and cargo to the International Space Station, hopefully shrinking or closing the gap. SpaceX, the primary COTS participant to date, announced last Tuesday that it had completed its second major design review under the program (http://www.spacex.com/press.php?page=36).

Other issues discussed during the meetings included continued support for NASA’s robotic science missions and the integral role that space exploration plays in solving Earth’s pressing energy and environmental needs. Several Congressional offices explicitly requested more details about the National Security Space Office’s recent study of space-based solar power solutions, which noted that “[a] single kilometer-wide band of geosynchronous earth orbit experiences enough solar flux in one year to nearly equal the amount of energy contained within all known recoverable conventional oil reserves on Earth today.” (http://www.nss.org/settlement/ssp/library/nsso.htm)

“This week’s visit to the Hill was an excellent way to kick off this year’s political outreach efforts,” said Carberry. “We are already planning a number of follow-ups, including meetings with NASA headquarters and a campaign to encourage all of our members to write their Congressional offices in support of the NASA budget.”

The Space Exploration Alliance is an unprecedented partnership of the nation’s premier non-profit space organizations, with a combined membership of more than 700,000 people throughout the United States and a goal of communicating to the American public and elected officials that NASA’s bold and substantial mandate for human and robotic exploration of the solar system is a compelling national priority that is technically and fiscally achievable, will inspire the nation’s youth and the public, reinvigorate the traditional aerospace workforce and industrial base, and foster job-creating entrepreneurial activity across the entire economy.

For more information, please contact Chris Carberry or Rick Zucker, or visit http://www.spaceexplorationalliance.org/.

25 comments to Blitz results, Storm planning

  • Bill White

    I participated in this event and our #1 talking point was the idea that $17.6 billion (as proposed by President Bush) was insufficient funding for NASA to accomplish its mandates.

    The Democratic staffers I talked to were rather consistent. “Yes, we know but the President is inflexible on his number.” Also, there were many predictions that NO budget deal would emerge and we will only see continuing resolutions until after November.

    Republican staffers I talked to were far less supportive of increasing NASA’s budget beyond the $17.6 billion.

    Supporters of NASA (and especially ESAS) need to mobilize and rally Congress because November and December and January 2009 could be critical months for the future of ESAS. Especially if there only are continuing resolutions prior to the election.

    If its Obama, those in Congress supportive of ESAS (D & R) will need a united front to seek and maintain the necessary funding. A united bi-partisan Florida House delegation would be one place to start and therefore cross-aisle relationships need to be worked on NOW.

    If its McCain or Clinton and we do not wish to stop at Ares 1 & a heavy Orion but little money for the Moon, NASA will also need more money than $17.6 billion and the same logic applies.

  • I had a participant of the event leave a detailed comment that sheds more light on the event.

  • ESAS doesn’t equal VSE or USSEP or INAH (Insert New Acronym Here).

    VSE by any name (past, present or future) is the product of yes or no answer to two fundamental questions.

    1) Should the United States we have manned space exploration program? Yes or No.

    2) If you answered yes to question 1, should the United States set its manned exploration objectives beyond LEO? Yes or No.

    The only VSE authorization requirement that doesn’t revolve around a Yes answer to both of these questions is the requirement that NASA’s replacement system should maximize the utilization of the current STS infrastructure and workforce. Pretty much a no brainier requirement from the current political support base for manned space exploration.

    On this requirement the ESAS implementation of VSE fails utterly and the all EELV approach cannot adhere to this requirement by definition.

    The leaves DIRECT as the best way out of this mess that still adheres to the objectives and authorization requirements of the VSE.

    I really don’t understand what is so hard to understand about this.

  • Thanks for the reminder! The SEA page is now updated and includes our press release.

  • Little Big Man

    The leaves DIRECT as the best way out of this mess that still adheres to the objectives and authorization requirements of the VSE.

    I really don’t understand what is so hard to understand about this.

    Because your vision is too narrow. Until you develop some peripheral vision, you will never understand. That’s your problem, not anyone else’s.

    See an eye doctor.

  • Charles in Houston

    Fellow Budgeteers –

    It seems that we will have to live within the budgets that we have seen recently, and perhaps with a little less.

    And we MUST continue to support Station – that or use a lot of Navy missiles to break it into small pieces.

    So what can we do while living within our limitations? Probably continue to fly something to Station. EELV does seem to be a good option but can’t bring up Control Moment Gyros, etc.

    It appears we need to move beyond Shuttle, get something (almost anything!) flying and then see what we could do with the assets we have.

    This does not sound as exciting as going to Mars, but this seems to be our option.


  • Bob Mahoney

    Is there any irrefutable evidence that this sort of effort accomplishes much? If so, how much? How does it compare (in terms of measurable impact) with letter-writing campaigns? E-mail campaigns? Jon B. on his blog indicates that this sort of activity has “the largest impact”? By what criteria?

    Given that the pro-space community is indeed a relatively small fish alongside many well-funded sharks all fighting for the same meal in a very big ocean, we must carefully measure the relative contribution of every investment we make toward our goals (time, money, etc) and, armed with that info, target the most effective opportunities with the largest percentage of our capital. And let’s not forget that some efforts might have negative impact.

    Has any elected leader ever admitted to changing his or her vote on behalf of higher NASA funding from a negative to a positive based on a visit to the Hill by pro-space activists?

    I dearly hope that we’re not fooling ourselves into believing that our efforts to “raise awareness”, which at least makes us feel good, automatically translates into higher funding or smarter spending by our elected leaders.

    Does “space” have a lapel ribbon color yet? Is royal blue taken?

  • GM

    “EELV does seem to be a good option but can’t bring up Control Moment Gyros, etc.”

    Where is this stated? They can bring them up. Returning is the issue

  • Bill White

    On this requirement the ESAS implementation of VSE fails utterly and the all EELV approach cannot adhere to this requirement by definition.

    The leaves DIRECT as the best way out of this mess that still adheres to the objectives and authorization requirements of the VSE.

    Somehow, the Direct supporters (and I favor Direct 2.0 to ESAS) need to penetrate this message through to the decision makers above Dr. Griffin.

    The White House? Nah. President Bush is already a lame duck.

    Obama, McCain, Clinton? Nah. Why would any of them wish to stick their necks out on something like DIRECT, even if you could reach someone high enough up to give you more than 10 minutes of attention?

    The Florida members of Congress? IMHO that is where the Direct Team needs to direct its political action. Also Michoud and Houston.

    If ESAS proves too expensive to be properly funded and if an Atlas V (or equivalent) smaller-Orion crew taxi is chosen to close the ISS access gap, the temptation to slash NASA’s human spaceflight budget from ~$8 billion to ~$3 billion will be substantial, which will mean:

    “No Moon, Mo Mars and many fewer jobs in Florida”

    = = =

    DIRECT needs a mission to Tallahassee and to the state representatives, county board officials and local mayors who a terrific point of access to members of the US House of Representatives

    As I pointed out above, if the Florida Congressional delegation fails to rally around an STS-derived launcher (in a bi-partisan manner) who will?

    And chronic underfunding of ESAS is about the worse sort of support there could be.

  • Bill, well underway and hitting on all the key areas you suggested.

    Little Big Man, could you please point out in our 131 page paper, that takes us from today to manned Mars surface missions, where our vision was too narrow? Keeping in mind that your broader vision needs to work within the VSE authorization act.

    Unless you don’t like that as well. Then my only advice to you is to get elected President or be in Congress for about two terms and then maybe just maybe you can help direct about 10% of official US space policy. Democracies can be dang inconvenient at times.

    Politics is the art of the possible not the perfect.

  • Little Big Man

    I haven’t read your 131 page paper, nor do I intend to. Quoting the esteemed Mr. Cowing there are how many planets in the solar system?

    eight, nine, ten, hundreds? How many moons around these planets?

    It gets even better, how many asteroids and dead comets do we have?

    How many rockets do we have right now in order to discover these objects?

    Now please to tell us, how many of these planets and moons and the numerous asteroids and dead comets are we dependent upon for life?

    Now, think this through, you can do it, how many planets and moons and asteroids in the universe?

    Now, it gets even better, what planet do we live on right now, what planet do we utterly and completely depend upon for our human work force and materials to build rockets so that we can identify, characterize and explore, in order to build even more rockets, in order to explore even more rocks?

    Now tell us Mr. Mensch, what is so special about Mars and your rocket?

    In a word, nothing. Now here’s the clincher, how much space is there?

    Space in which we can safely build large spacecraft to fly to these rocks.

    In a sentence, a couple of hundred miles of it, surrounding a blue planet.

    A space which is easily attainable with the rockets we already have.

    Even I don’t go that far promoting the rocket I have proposed.

  • RayGun

    I wonder what Elon Musk could do with 17 billion dollars? Ares is going to be way to expensive and probably way late. Direct seems like a reasonable approach. Use existing technology, existing rocket engines, existing work force. “Safer, Simpler, Sooner”
    The Army doesn’t build their own tanks and NASA shouldn’t be
    building their own rockets.

  • GM

    “The Army doesn’t build their own tanks and NASA shouldn’t be
    building their own rockets.”

    Your analogy is incorrect and just the opposite.. NASA doesn’t build isn’t own rockets, it pays contractors to do it. For Ares, NASA did do some preliminary design before turning it over to the contractors, much like the Army does with tanks. I think what you are trying to say, it: The Army has to do the inhouse work since there is no commercial variant of a tank, unlike NASA, which can and does buy commercial launch vehicles. All NASA needs to do is define the requirements and put them out there for the market to satisfy.

  • Bob Mahoney

    Gee, Jeff, why bother with having specific topic headings at all? Almost invariably, within 4 posts after each of your opening comments, the discussion threads shift to ESAS vs DIRECT vs EELV, global warming real or imagined, “socialist spaceflight” vs “greedy capitalism”, or a who’s-the-better-supporter-of-space-exploration Republican vs Democrat razz-off.

    Wasn’t this discussion about space activism & lobbying? And I ask again, is there any hard data available to show which approaches yield the biggest payoff? Hill Blitzing? Letters? E-mails? Shouting out at campaign rallies?

    I suspect this ongoing verbal volleyball between folks who’ll never agree ranks pretty low on the merit/payoff scale.

  • Back to topic alert.

    While these get out the support/vote efforts are nice they are pretty much either preaching to the converted or unconvincing to those who could care less. Yes believe it or not most people could give a flip about space exploration. Outside of a Sputnik moment like the Chinese dragging the Apollo-11 flag back and replace it with theirs I really don’t see how this dynamic significantly changes in the foreseeable future.

    Where we are messing up right now is that the people who do care and that should know better are wasting the resources (or protecting those that do i.e. “hope for the best” – Buzz Aldrin) we do get from the political process. A political process that will continue to provide the resources we already get due largely from NASA district/Contractor iron rice bowl politics 101. We the converted (collectively) only have ourselves to blame for the gross inefficiency of our current approach at implementing one of the best space policies since the Space Age began.

    As far as I’m concerned our elected representatives finally did their part and got us out the LEO forever space policy rut of the last thirty years with a super majority bipartisan VSE authorization. Yes, we would all like more public support and the money that goes with it, who wouldn’t? Frankly with more money right now we would only be able to prove beyond all doubt how bad the current approach is that much quicker.

    What we need is an engineering solution that acknowledges our budget limitations in concert with the political importance of not hacking up the very workforce, hardware, integration and launch infrastructure we need to get us out of LEO in the first place.

    Engineering success and political support are not decoupled but serve to aid one another.

    Our elected representatives did their job in the VSE authorization and I’m sure they will keep trying to get more money but we (engineers) need to a better job as well.

    There Bob does that provide a context as to why space engineer matters when it comes to space politics?

  • Bob Mahoney


    I had no intention of implying that space engineer (sic) didn’t matter in issues of space politics; certainly I tried to make the criticality of this connection perfectly clear in my recent essay with which you indicated your agreement.

    My point is about wasted energy & effort; just because it makes people feel good to lob jabs at one another (or push their own architecture ideas ad nauseum) here in the space blogs doesn’t mean we’re advancing toward achieving our collective goal to see further exploration and exploitation of the greater solar system.

    All the back and forth here over these issues reminds me of the political arguments I had with my friends during my first year in college: we never got any closer to convincing each other of our positions, and all we had to show for it was lost sleep.

    If one believes that the architecture NASA is currently pursuing is wrong for achieving the goals of the VSE, how does arguing about it here with people who remain unconvinced achieve any good? If DIRECT (or any other architecture) is supported by such a compelling politico-engineering case, why aren’t their relative merits being debated in the halls of power? What lobbying (or other) techniques will best enable such debates (and others) to take place in forums where they will count for more than useless emotional venting?

    Which gets back to my question that no one has offered to answer yet: Is there any MEASURABLE data that indicates that blitzing the Hill accomplishes anything positive for space exploration? What about e-mailing (with attached descriptions of architectures as desired)…to whom? Hand-written letters versus typed ones? Phone calls? Staged demonstrations or rallies on the Capitol steps?

    If we don’t ascertain the most effective means of pursuing our agenda(s) with tools that pack the most leverage and then employ them, all the electrons exchanged here and elsewhere won’t amount to much at all. I tip my hat to Jon Benac and his actionforspace; it’s a start. But is it the best start? What does the data (if any) show? And if there IS no data, perhaps we should start defining some so that our feedback control loops (there’s some engineering for you) serve to create measurable progress instead of mere heat.

  • Bob, I agree with you 100%.

    Why I read these forums in the first place has nothing to do with convincing people in these forums. If a few are convinced or have their minds opened up a little that’s great but it’s not my objective. I’ve had my mind opened up as well and you really never understand a problem until you can switch ‘sides’ if you will and debate the merits of each solution to that problem convincingly.

    My objective is to first understand all the myriad of view points, issues, ideas etc out there in an attempt to find some thread that will bind all the good/compatible ideas together into a cohesive effort that works with the limits of politics, engineering and budget.

    The second objective is to put into a public forum alternative approaches and field the counter arguments to see where the holes in logic may be so we can fix them before prime time. You play like you train.

    An additional side benefit is that there are number of powerful/knowledgeable people in these blogs that have been able to contact us anonymously, direct email, phone and then face to face that have been indispensable in helping to steer us around the rocks.

    Prime time is in the process of happening right now and we have the benefit of the collective wisdom and viewpoint at this point of hundreds of subject matter experts for all fields critical to pulling this off.

    What we are doing behind the scenes is the implementing the process that should have happened but didn’t because Mike already had the solution and didn’t want any new ideas or counter arguments to his approach. The fact that he now has a huge bubble around him nearly impervious to the truth about the serious problems with the current approach or new ideas that may solve these problems is why we are on this train head for a cliff right now.

    The sooner we can get off this train and circle the wagons before the upcoming political shift the better.

  • Amerkan Injin

    The sooner we can get off this train and circle the wagons before the upcoming political shift the better.

    General Custer said the very same thing.

    There are a lot of very angy voters out there that are going to overrun your’s and Michael Griffin’s positions as if you weren’t even there. You’re irrelevant.

  • The People

    There are a lot of very angy voters out there that are going to overrun your’s and Michael Griffin’s positions as if you weren’t even there. You’re irrelevant.

    You couldn’t be more right about this. In two years, “Exploration” will be referred to as the “E” word.

  • SSP Fan

    Back to the original topic.

    The ProSpace March Storm will be promoting Space Solar Power (SSP)

    If you want to take specific action to promote & support SSP, you can sign up here:

    – SSP Fan

  • Bill White

    I disagree with “The People”.

    Any POTUS who terminated human spaceflight would take a huge political hit and even “extreme” lefty sites such as Daily Kos have a great many human spaceflight enthusiasts.

    I participated in the SEA lobbying event and out of 14 visits to 14 different offices, 14 staffers told me that their boss was firmly committed to NOT slash NASA’s funding. Obtaining more money would be tough, especially when the President expressed a firm position that his ~$17.6 billion proposal not be exceeded but ending NASA? No way will that happen.

    In my visits, Democrats were more supportive of modest increases (add a billion or two to the $17.6 billion) than Republicans and leading Democrats have been saying for years that NASA has not been getting enough money to fulfill its mandates.

    Obama’s background is not one where NASA support would come naturally however he is a very smart politician and the benefits to him of terminating American spaceflight would be greatly outweighed by the political damage he would suffer.

  • canttellya

    By all means, promote space solar power. It can be added to the long list of fantasy energy policies promoted by the Democratic candidates.

  • canttellya

    I agree with “The People”.

    Terminate government-funded manned spaceflight and most of the country wouldn’t even notice. That’s the basic problem with what the government is doing in manned spaceflight.

    “The People” is also right about the “E” word. Like the “N” word (nuclear) and “single-stage-to-orbit” it will soon be a discredited concept. Which is unfortunate.

  • SSTO guy


    The early Atlas rocket is an expendable SSTO by some definitions. It is a “stage-and-a-half” rocket, jettisoning two of its three engines during ascent but retaining its fuel tanks and other structural elements. However, by modern standards the engines ran at low pressure and thus not particularly high specific impulse and were not especially lightweight; using engines operating with a higher specific impulse would have eliminated the need to drop engines in the first place.

    The first stage of the Titan II had the mass ratio required for single-stage-to-orbit capability with a small payload. A rocket stage is not a complete launch vehicle, but this demonstrates that an expendable SSTO was probably achievable with 1962 technology.

    You could consider educating yourself, if you weren’t ineducable.

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