Congress, NASA

Editorials go begging for NASA money

Houston has a big interest in the fortunes of NASA, given the presence of the Johnson Space Center. The Hampton Roads area of Virginia also has a similar interest because of the Langley Research Center. So it’s not surprising that newspapers in both areas are pleading for more money for NASA—although taking somewhat different angles on the issue.

In Monday’s Houston Chronicle, an editorial claims that it is “unfortunate that our nation’s leaders have allowed a vital program essential to our national security to reach such an impasse”. The Chronicle is not referring to Space Radar or FIA or other milspace programs usually associated with “national security”, but rather NASA’s manned spaceflight capabilities. The Chronicle is concerned about the “humiliating prospect” of purchasing Soyuz rides from Russia as well as the specter of China getting to the Moon before NASA.

“With national resolve, it is possible to prevent an irreversible slide into U.S. space mediocrity,” the editorial offers, saying that COTS could provide a “shortcut” while pressing for more money to accelerate the development of Constellation. “Congress should heed U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, and other lawmakers who are pressing for an additional $2 billion to speed up the construction of the Orion vehicle.”

The Hampton Roads Daily Press is also concerned about NASA’s funding, but is concerned about too much of an emphasis on the Vision for Space Exploration, rather than too little. While the editorial does note the “setback in prestige, capacity and security” caused by the impending gap, it complains that NASA’s focus on “manned missions to the moon and Mars” has hurt other NASA programs, like the aeronautics work at Langley, since the Vision’s unveiling in 2004. “The president hasn’t pushed the Mars idea since then, or fully funded it, but billions have been spent. And the initiative may be shunted to the back burner by the next president. Because it is expensive. And it’s not popular with either the public or those scientists who think unmanned exploration makes more sense.”

The editorial leads off with the lament that “Virginia doesn’t have anyone on the House of Representatives subcommittee that oversees funding for NASA” who could champion additional funding for the center. It hopes in conclusion, though, that Virginia’s Congressional delegation can “restore the rationality and the investment in pragmatic goals that the Bush NASA budget lacks.”

38 comments to Editorials go begging for NASA money

  • realist

    What I hear over and over again is that when it comes to Space exploration, the USA shouldn’t repeat China’s “mistake” to not sail the world’s oceans, leaving them instead to European nations to explore, exploit, and ultimately grow powerful from the bounty thereby gained. These newspaper editors are speaking from the same ideological position, which I believe is wrong.

    Michael Griffin, you won’t like the rest of this…

    Once you leave the Earth’s biosphere behind and climb out of Earth’s fairly deep gravity well, with all the supporting technology that requires, the China analogy breaks down completely. Unmanned spacecraft expand our Nation’s influence into Space much more effectively, distantly, and interestingly than the manned variety have, with no end in sight. The launch vehicle that is used for getting to Space makes little difference once a robotic spacecraft is there, although it is generally nice not to ship our dollars overseas to foreign interests.

    Unlike the New World’s unexplored and richly endowed wilds of 500 years ago, space is vast, desolate, and for the most part, economically worthless (unless you are a starry-eyed geek dreaming of getting moondust in your space-socks). Returning mineral resources from various asteroids to our planet’s surface makes little sense when the energy requirements are factored in, so until we need to colonize the libration points, staking claim to space resources is a game for rich fools who will soon be parted from their money.

    Of course, Robert Bigelow might be on to something new and exciting, but only for the very, very rich, at least as far as I see into the future. After the first few flights, the trendiness will be gone, and I have to wonder if there will really be a long term demand to ride a big controlled bomb, just to play inside a not-so-big, smelly, uncomfortable, temporarily-inflated McPlayground with a nice view? In any case, it’s his money at stake, not mine.

    Wise expenditures of our Nation’s wealth on sustainability and quality of life on Earth makes sense, as does working cooperatively with the rest of the nations of the world on exploring space with unmanned probes. Unilateral, man-in-the-can stunts drain the Treasury and fortify destructive nationalistic tendencies.

    Not that I’m for it, but putting weapons platofrms in Space, as we have done in the deepest, darkest, most hostile parts of the world’s oceans, now that’s a whole ‘nother story…

  • You know, repeating flawed arguments that we’ve all seen before, many times, doesn’t make them any more compelling upon repetition.

  • canttellya

    Wise expenditures of our Nation’s wealth on sustainability and quality of life on Earth makes sense, as does working cooperatively with the rest of the nations of the world on exploring space with unmanned probes. Unilateral, man-in-the-can stunts drain the Treasury and fortify destructive nationalistic tendencies.

    I totally agree with this.

  • anonymous.space

    “What I hear over and over again is that when it comes to Space exploration, the USA shouldn’t repeat China’s “mistake” to not sail the world’s oceans, leaving them instead to European nations to explore, exploit, and ultimately grow powerful from the bounty thereby gained. These newspaper editors are speaking from the same ideological position, which I believe is wrong.”

    I don’t necessarily agree with the ideological points made, but I do agree that the analogy and argument are pretty flawed, for a few reasons:

    1) It confuses cause and effect. The recall of the Chinese fleet was a symptom, not cause, of waning Chinese power. It’s like saying that the Soviet Union fell apart because of drawdowns in its navy. While related, the cause arrow for the two events is pointed in the wrong direction.

    2) The value of the Chinese fleet lay in the exchange of ideas and technologies with other peoples and in the trade of high-value goods. That has limited applicability to a space exploration effort, where there are no existing societies at the target destination to talk to or trade with. There are better terrestrial exploration and settlement analogies.

    3) There are plenty of counterexamples where nations supported significant investments in naval exploration technologies and fleets (Portugal, Spain, etc.), but failed to become or remain great powers or even capitalize substantially on their investments.

    FWIW…

  • Actually, the Chinese quit because they were destroying, not creating wealth. The treasure in the treasure ships made a one-way trip. Their primary purpose was to impress the rest of the world how mighty the Chinese were, not to trade. I’ve written about this spacer myth before.

  • anonymous.space

    “Actually, the Chinese quit because they were destroying, not creating wealth. The treasure in the treasure ships made a one-way trip. Their primary purpose was to impress the rest of the world how mighty the Chinese were, not to trade. I’ve written about this spacer myth before.”

    Good article. I recall references to the Chinese fleet trading precious commodities for exotic animals to put in an imperial zoo. I don’t know if that was representative of all their transactions, but it certainly was a trade geared more towards dynastic prestige than building economic wealth. Thanks for sharing.

    FWIW…

  • canttellya

    Actually, the Chinese quit because they were destroying, not creating wealth. The treasure in the treasure ships made a one-way trip.

    That sounds like a pretty good description of government human spaceflight efforts. We spend billions of dollars on stuff that ends up on the bottom of the Atlantic.

  • NASA Guy

    anonymous.space: 3) There are plenty of counterexamples where nations supported significant investments in naval exploration technologies and fleets (Portugal, Spain, etc.), but failed to become or remain great powers or even capitalize substantially on their investments.

    You see this throughout history in areas besides exploration. Very rarely do the ones who make the initial investment reap the rewards. In fact, this point would support holding back and letting another country lead the way into space. If something is discovered, then make the investment on exploiting it more cost effectively, not on getting there first.

  • Charles Phillips

    Ladies and Gentlemen -

    Actually, a bit of humiliation might do wonders for our various programs. When we appear to sit as undisputed titans of space (etc) we try to divide up the spoils (maybe the Chinese fell victim to this?) rather than innovating.

    And it does make me grit my teeth when people equate manned space launches with national security.

    Still, people on this web site know that my feelings are favorable towards our Shuttle. Sigh.

    Charles

  • Al Fansome

    NASA GUY: In fact, this point would support holding back and letting another country lead the way into space. If something is discovered, then make the investment on exploiting it more cost effectively, not on getting there first.

    Hmmm. This is kind what happened with the New World. Portugal invested in nautical technology; while the Spanish Queen funded Columbus.

    But it was the fast followers (England and France) came to dominate North America. Spain and Portugal split South America, which was less valuable.

    This strategy can work.

    The key here is “cost effectiveness”.

    I see two key thrusts to making sure that America is much more cost-effective in space — helping make sure that America is the leading commercial space industry in the world, and reusable launch vehicles. If we had these two pillars, we could quickly & easily leap-frog any other nation in space.

    CHARLES PHILLIPS: And it does make me grit my teeth when people equate manned space launches with national security.

    Charles,

    The DOD is responsible for national security, and has no existing requirement for “manned space launches”, let alone the Shuttle.

    However, the DOD does have existing long-term requirements that support the development of truly reusable launch vehicles. If NASA wants to tap into the large political support for national security, they should partner with the DOD on development of RLVs.

    FWIW,

    - Al

  • Matt, Chicago

    The contention that the Chinese stopped their overseas trade because they found nothing of value is flawed and based on the Ming Dynasty’s own dubious rationale for it’s actions. Traditionally ancient Chinese sources felt compelled to characterize all outside cultures and societies as barbarians unfit to speak with, let alone do business with. China’s initial round of overseas trade was wildly successful; the Chinese hit the fabulously rich ports of India and the Persian gulf. These same places helped make The Netherlands rich beyond their wildest dreams 150 years later, and there’s no reason to believe that the commercial prospects were any less enticing to the Chinese. Ultimately the Chinese lost out on their massive overseas trade empire because China’s maritime capabilities were controlled solely by the Imperial government, and the imperial government was distracted by other projects: notably the 1411 renovation of the Grand Canal and a series of Mongol invasions.
    Later Ming governments held more closely to traditional Confucian ethics, which dictated that children should not travel far from home while their parents yet lived. This, in combination with a generally xenophobic view of overseas states led the Govt. to order all large ships destroyed around 1430.
    I see plenty of valid analogues there. Actually, I think the most poignant one is the danger of leaving exploration solely in the hands of the government. The Dutch and later the British succeeded in establishing overseas empires because their operations were run by (insanely ruthless) multinational corporations. Countries that established government monopolies on overseas trade, like China, Spain and Portugal, were eventually swept aside by their more ambitious (and militarily powerful and most importantly, greedy) corporate counterparts. Government exploration is fine for identifying markets and resources but in order to truly exploit them it takes widespread private investment.

  • realist

    If Space has economically ripe fruit to pick, then private concerns such as Bigelow will step up and prosper, given time enough to do so, and there will be excitement to go along with the exploitation that will ensue. There might even be a fortune or two to be made out there. But lest we forget how ruthlessly the commons can be savaged by soulless corporations, the resource of debris-free orbits must be preserved by sufficient regulation of the generation of space debris. NASA would not be the logical governmental agency for that effort–more likely the EPA or the DOT would get that responsibility.

    I went over to the Hampton Roads Daily Press and took a closer look at the original article, and scanned the readers’ comments, and surprisingly, there wasn’t a lot of support for the editor’s plea for more NASA funding at Langley. More folks were for using the funds for more earthbound goals. But my strong preference is to fully fund NASA’s Earth science missions, with the ultimate goal of giving us and our political leadership better data, to help decisionmakers better manage the global commons, as the race between education and catastrophe speeds ever faster.

  • NASA Guy

    realist: my strong preference is to fully fund NASA’s Earth science missions, with the ultimate goal of giving us and our political leadership better data, to help decisionmakers better manage the global commons, as the race between education and catastrophe speeds ever faster.

    I fully agree that Earth science needs to be brought back as a priority. However, ambitious scientific exploration of the solar system and now our interstellar neighborhood can greatly improve our understanding of Earth’s history and future. Studying something within a broader context invariably yields new insights and perspectives. A reinvigorated Mars and planetary science program, along with a renewed emphasis on stellar and extrasolar planet observation would go far towards doing this.

  • realist

    NASA Guy: Studying something within a broader context invariably yields new insights and perspectives. A reinvigorated Mars and planetary science program, along with a renewed emphasis on stellar and extrasolar planet observation would go far towards doing this [understanding the Earth].

    I am not a scientist, but I think you are probably right about the benefit of looking at other planets and the Moon. Of course, once you decide to do scientific studies of other planets, then you will find reasons for human exploration of those bodies!

  • NASA Guy

    realist: Of course, once you decide to do scientific studies of other planets, then you will find reasons for human exploration of those bodies!

    Exactly. And there is still so much work that can be done more affordably using robotic systems.

  • Vladislaw

    how clear crystals form is partly a function of gravity, the lower the gravity well the better they form, experiments in LEO has shown this to be true.
    Diamonds on earth are mined down ancient volcanoe lava tubes. So ancient volcanoes, which have been found on the moon and mars SHOULD have diamonds or their equivelant and on average should be clearer. Now lets say some enterprising astronaut at the moon or mars brings back 100 pounds of diamonds and other gemstones in the rough. Lets further say that 100 hundred pounds produces 2000 high quality, cut and finished gemstones. If they are diamonds from mars or the moon they will ALSO have an added value factor, their rarity.

    What will happen to the value of terrestial gems that are the equivalant of mars gem? Well the simple fact is earth diamonds, caret for caret, will be LESS valuable then moon and mars gems. What would a DeBeers do for instance if their entire holdings were suddenly devalued as the cascading effect of falling terrestial gems prices worked through all the gem stone markets? It doesnt matter that only a relative handful of mars gems were brought back, the MARKETS operate on PERCEPTIONS, and all the market would see is that the mars gems have higher value and demand and terrestrial stones would have the PERCEPTION of losing their luster. Holdings of gemstones would now HAVE to add non terrestirial gemstones to their holdings or watch their holdings value depreciate.

    What we need is astronaut G. A. Custer to goto the black hills of shackelton crater and shout ” DIAMONDS”

  • NASA Guy

    Diamonds are not a good example. Their formation requires tremendous pressures and heat, which do occur under the large hydrostatic pressures and tectonically heated environments deep within the Earth’s crust. So far, there is no evidence that the Moon or Mars are tectonically active, and we know that their interior pressures are probably much less than Earth.

    But even if this were not the case, the high cost of space transportation would make any recovery of gems or precious metals uneconomical. Even Donald Robertson, an avid proponent of human spaceflight on this blog, recognizes this and sees the economics as becoming favorable when the resources are used in space, not returned to Earth.

  • Vladislaw

    “If Space has economically ripe fruit to pick, then private concerns such as Bigelow will step up and prosper, given time enough to do so,”

    Well I have said for a year on this site, you can not do that until you establish property rights. The reason bigelow can succeed in LEO is because LEO property rights have already been established. Bush stated in that last space treaty about america’s right for “peaceful use” of space and would enforce it, peaceful use means american business.
    I do not think someone is going to plunk down 100 billion for the infrastructure to a lunar diamond mine unless they OWN the property rights, mineral rights and enviromental rights.

    Does it make you wonder why the senate republicans choose to honor Dennis Hope.
    “US congress finally recognizes Lunar Embassy as valid. Grants awards and more”
    http://www.lunarlandowner.com/news.htm

    “We want to congratulate Dennis Hope, founder of the Lunar Embassy, for the wonderful acknowledgement he has received from the Congress of the United States. Dennis Hope has been named co-chairman of the Republican Congressional Business Advisory Council. He has also been issued the highest honor the National Republican Congressional Committee has, the prestigious Republican Gold Medal. ”

    Now why would a guy who has been selling lunar land deeds to ex presidents be honored by congress?

  • Vladislaw

    “But even if this were not the case, the high cost of space transportation would make any recovery of gems or precious metals uneconomical. ”

    Why does everyone ALWAYS drag this MYTH out about the high cost of bringing stuff back to earth? The value of a diamond mine is NOT how many diamonds you have ALREADY dug out. The mineral rights and value are determined by how many you have in the GROUND! If there are NONE in the ground the mine is WORTHLESS!
    So if I am given the PROPERTY RIGHTS, to an ANCIENT extinct volcanoe and I send one person there with a pick and he finds ONE diamond and ESTIMATES the FUTURE diamond production POTENTIAL the VALUE of my mineral rights are determined by the MARKET, I am now free to SELL my ownships rights to that mine or use them as an asset to take out LOANS against for actual mineral production.

  • Vladislaw

    Gosh, maybe you could just do what they did in california and the high cost of transportation they faced in 49′ just toss all your gold and gems into a vault and start a bank. Oh wait, you can’t buy a lot to build your bank, you do not have property rights there. Titanium deposits are mined at 3%, 12-18 is great, apollo astronauts found deposits of 41%. I wonder if I OWNED 50000 acres of that, I wonder how much of a loan I could get? I wonder what kind of ships I could have rutan build for me if I gave him 10 billion? I wonder how much WILD SPECULATION of LAND DEEDS and IPO’s could be sold off?

  • Vladislaw

    There is a vast bulk of gold and gemstones that just sit in vaults in banks, you have to stop your 20th century thinking, money is transfered electronically, it doesnt matter if your gold is sitting in a bank in switzerland, newyork, or the moon. Land ownership is an asset, the cheaper you can get that asset for the better. The market determines future resource production potential value, as soon as that determination is made, it’s monetary value becomes an electronic asset and commodity.

  • Spain and Portugal split South America, which was less valuable.

    In what way was South America intrinsically less valuable? North America became more valuable by the nature of the Anglospherians who settled it. South America still suffers under the burden of the feudalistic economies created by the Spanish.

    …the Chinese hit the fabulously rich ports of India and the Persian gulf.

    The claims is not that the Chinese trade couldn’t have been valuable, but rather, that it simply wasn’t, because of their attitudes.

    And yes, their attitude was very similar to that of people who advocate a large NASA manned space program. It’s for prestige (and pork), not for profit.

  • In this, I fully agree with Rand.

    I find the arguments in this thread very sad. You could search-and-replace human ocean exploration and transportation everywhere human space exploration and transportation is used in the arguments above and they would be just as true. There are few resources that a neolithic individual would have recognized as valuable that benefit from traveling over the deep oceans. There are few places you can get useful resources like fresh water along the way. Yet, somehow, starting with neolithic civilizations, humanity did manage to find reasons to establish trade routes over the oceans, solve the problems of supply, build deep-sea capable ships, and find worthwhile resources to pay for it all — often centuries after the process was started.

    (I’m in the process of reading “Master and Commander,” a wonderful novel that outlines in detail the sheer difficulty of running a sailing ship in the 1700s. The physics and mathematics involved in operating a large sailing ship capable of global travel was, simply, amazing. I recommend the novel: it puts in perspective the difficulty of what our ancestors achieved, and makes the difficulty of what we face seem a little less daunting in comparison.)

    Our job, as I see it, is to learn how our ancestors acomplished the task of learning to travel confidently over the world’s oceans — economically, technically, and politically — and try to duplicate that in a task of similar complexity and difficulty. But, rather than do that, many space advocates would rather come up with infinite variations of, there’s no reason to do it, it can’t be paid for, it’s politically impossible, the political and / or economic ideology of the moment says it is impossible, clockwork robots can do the job. . . . All of these statements (except, ironically, the last) are true in and of themselves. But the lesson of humanity’s mastery of the increadibly difficult task of learning to travel confidently over the world’s oceans says that the task can somehow be accomplished, although that lesson also indicates that it will probably be far more difficult and take far longer than most of us would hope today.

    But, please, let us have a little more discussion of how it _might_ be done, while recognizing all of the difficulty — political, economic, and technical — rather than just concentrating on the infinite number of reasons we can dream up that we cannot explore the Solar System in person.

    If we truly believe that, or even just state it often enough, that alone absolutely guarantees we will not do it.

    – Donald

  • Vladislaw

    “But, please, let us have a little more discussion of how it _might_ be done, while recognizing all of the difficulty — political, economic, and technical — rather than just concentrating on the infinite number of reasons we can dream up that we cannot explore the Solar System in person.” Donald

    how about this?

    yearly US budget 2.3 trillion

    Phase I – 24 months
    36 teams get 500 million each for a 12 meter core 150 ton big dumb boosters, 4 launches per year is the goal… cost 18 billion

    Phase II – 24 months
    24 winning teams get 750 million each , cost 18 billion

    Phase III – 24 months
    12 winning teams get 1.5 billion

    after six years, America has 12 companies able to launch 150 ton payloads or 48 launches per year of 150 tons.
    total cost 54 billion… US budget over 6 years 14.4 trillion

    Nuclear propulsion

    Phase I
    12 teams get 3 billion each
    Phase II
    6 teams get 5 billion each
    Phase III
    2 teams get 10 billion each

    total cost 86 billion over 6 years plus 54 billion for boosters, 140 billion over 6 years.

    booster launch cost est for 150 tons, 425 million to 700 million per launch

    48 launches per year 20.4 billion to 33.6 billion per year
    payload hardware cost per launch 475 million – 1.8 billion per launch
    22.8 billion – 86.4 billion per year

    140 billion for developement
    43.2 billion per year to 120 billion per year. for launches and hardware.

    would this allow for building ROBUST systems to goto mars? and not have to worry about doing 10 studies on which paper cups the astronauts will use ” well we did 4 studies on cup A and they weigh 1.348345 grams per dozen versus paper cup B which weigh 1.348399 grams per dozen BUT they are 50% stronger then paper cup A.”

  • Al Fansome

    FANSOME: Spain and Portugal split South America, which was less valuable.

    SIMBERG: In what way was South America intrinsically less valuable? North America became more valuable by the nature of the Anglospherians who settled it. South America still suffers under the burden of the feudalistic economies created by the Spanish.

    Rand,

    I agree with this, and concede the point.

    I actually think there is a bigger picture & story here that we have touched upon, and you point out. I can’t recall anybody writing on the fact that Portugal and Spain were the “leaders”, but England’s strategic approach was different — not only was it a “fast follower”, but its culture, approach & attitude to settling the New World was also different, and that made all the difference.

    Can anybody point to something written about this, in any great detail, in the past? (I have to think that somebody has.)

    - Al

  • Vladislaw: Great! Now, how about some equal speculation on how you sell that kind of budget to the government, or get it privately funded without a near term market? Technical success is only one-third of the issue and not even the most important; you also need political and economic success.

    My perferred thoughts (which is in no way meant to belittle yours if you can make them work in all three realms) is to figure out ways to move forward within current budgets, using infrastructure already in orbit, and hardware already developed, using institutions that already exist — as that is the path of least resistance in all three realms and thus the most likely to be adapted. It’s also the way things have typically been done in the past. Spain, Portugal, and Britain did not invent whole new seagoing technologies before they set out; they adapted and improved and upgraded existing technologies as required to achieve their immediate goals.

    Al, regarding why Britain succeeded over the long haul (until shortly after WW-II) while so many others came and went, I think the widespread adaption of the “Government chartered company” (e.g., the British East India company, the Hudson Bay Company, et al) was key. This combined the key strenths of government resources, and private industry and inventiveness, into a uniquely successful whole. (Apollo was a different take on the same task, where the government managed private companies to achieve a goal far greater than they could achieve on their own; the US Highway and Freeway systems are another example.)

    This is why I think COTS with the Space Station as an initial market is so important as an all too tiny step in the right direction. I would like to see our government try chartering some government backed companies for the new frontier (we essentially do that for the military today with outfits like Lockheed Martin and Northrop Gummund that could in no way survive without the government teet), and I suspect that the first government to do so will have the greatest success and staying power.

    – Donald

  • One clarification, I mean government chartered companies with the specific charter to open some part of the Solar System (to obtain, say, oxygen for use in LEO), not a military-dependent company whose first and primary charter is to develop weapons. . . .

    – Donald

  • Can anybody point to something written about this, in any great detail, in the past?

    I would imagine Hernando de Soto has. It’s also almost certainly discussed in Jim Bennett’s book The Anglosphere Challenge. The latter, by the way, is highly recommended to space enthusiasts, though it’s about much more than that.

  • NASA Guy

    Al: Can anybody point to something written about this, in any great detail, in the past? (I have to think that somebody has.)

    I can’t point to a specific reference off hand. However, I recall that this issue is covered in many books and tracts on Mercantilism and the rise of Capitalism.

  • A quick-and-dirty Internet search came up with nothing, but at the (no doubt great) risk of being laughed at or not taken seriously, I’ll suggest that Poul Anderson’s science fiction influenced some of my early thinking on the role of government chartered companies on new frontiers.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poul_Anderson

    While he wrote pot-boiler adventure stories for boys with politically conservative themes, and even at the time I had trouble with some of his social theories, his stories were always acurately based on the astronomy of their time. In the sense that he had a far better understanding of just how vast space is (even if you did have some kind of faster than light drive) than any of his contemporaries, in his extended “future history,” I think he came closer than anyone else in the 1950s and 1960s to immagining in a big-picture sort of way how a solar-system wide, and later interstallar, culture might grow, evolve, and function. If you can stand the 1950s boy’s book writing style, his ideas are worth checking out. . . .

    – Donald

  • Vladislaw

    “Now, how about some equal speculation on how you sell that kind of budget to the government, or get it privately funded without a near term market? Technical success is only one-third of the issue and not even the most important; you also need political and economic success.”

    Well that was what my main point was, the only thing stopping america from going to mars was political will AND money NOT technology. I stated in another thread and predicated these statements to dovetail with those is when we go, do we go in a canoe or a carrack. People have crossed the atlantic with modern 30′ boats and equipment, and even smaller. They WEIGH EVERYTHING down to the ounce. Every piece of equipment of the most lightest, strongest and technical advanced materials. If we go to mars with the same mindset, I see it as a stunt, the same as sailing across the atlantic in a 16′ boat, You can do it, but you can not do much when you get there and cant bring nothing back. Versus using 50-80 ton carracks.

    Okay with that point settled the second was I predicated my statement on that fact it would be a “manhatten project” historicaly, doesnt matter if it building the great wall, the pyramids, railroads from sea to shining sea these manhatten style projects take place REGARDLESS of cost. If you ask how many support NASA 90%, how many want to support NASA with their POCKET BOOK? “whoa! You want to spend HOW MUCH to goto mars?”
    suddenly that support falls away. Why? Because it is in no one’s ECONOMIC interest to support it. There is only ONE WAY you can make it an individual’s economic interest to goto the moon or mars, as mentioned above the land grants and corporate charters is what convienced people to goto the new world, William Penn got a country sized chunk of land and immediately started selling it off to finance his ventures. If someone got 10 MILLION acres to land on the moon you HONESTLY believe a group of billionaires would not make a play for it?

    So we can do it technically, we can afford to do it, so it is the politial will and the economics of it. My state of North Dakota has 800 years of coal deposits, mineral mining rights attached to the land have been selling for over 100 years here. There are tracts of land with coal deposits have been bought and sold for 100 years and not ONE TON of coal has ever been mined from it. One company adds a tract to their portfolio, hold it for 20 years sell it to another company, etc. this happens all over the planet for gold, silver, copper, titanium, etc etc etc etc. Mineral rights claims that get bought and sold over and over without ever being mined.

    That is what will happen on the moon FIRST, that speculation stage and asset determination. Land claims with be bought and sold electonically as as any other commodity. So just by SELLING off the moon and mars you AUTOMATICALLY include them into the economy and economic activity IMMEDIATALLY takes place. If some astronaut lands 1 mile away from my claim, finds a rock that sparkles brings it home and sells it on EBAY for 5 million what would happen to MY land claim? On the margin, I am sure mine would increase in value. And with each successive landing ANYWHERE on the moon, land values would change, some increase some decrease, BUT it would ECONOMIC activity. Asset valuations would allow loans and IPO’s to take place ( IPO Intial public offering) how much could a lunar diamond raise? 100 billion like google? Or would the market go speculation crazy and 10-20 companies financed as everyone trys to grab the richest resource land plots available?

    So the techology is there, the money is there, but no political will to order a manhatten style project and no bottom up economic support because it is not in your individual economic best interest to invest in it because there isnt any PROPERTY RIGHTS.

    If the USA and the planet as a whole said the moon is open for business you would NOW see HARD CORE LOBBYING from groups pursueing their OWN economic self interests by arm bending politians to jump on the band wagon and start a manhatten project.

    Here is a site that details alot of the chinese navy http://www.1421.tv/
    lots of good maps too.

  • Vladislaw

    when england started colonizing the new world the VAST BULK of economic activity related to the new world was not happening IN the new world, and it wasnt because of ANYTHING brought BACK from the new world, it was the buying and selling of LAND CLAIMS back in england. The first boats going back and forth were not bringing back cargos stuffed with goods. It was mainly just people going there and exploring THEIR OWN land holdings and doing ASSET assessments because PROPERTY RIGHTS were settled and that unleashed a mountain of economic activity in england from people buying and selling land from the new world with no intention of EVER going to the new world.

  • d garcia

    nasa employees need to suck it up. We are at war, a recession. Many are losing their damn homes. People are paying over $3.00 for a gallon of gas. And all you nasa folks can do is whine about more money.

    Suck it up for a while and do with what you have. This nation is hurting. The last thing we need is a bunch of snot nosed whining titty babies suckin off the tit of the government wanting more milk.

    Shut up and get back to work.

  • thejournalist

    I can’t resist,

    this “$3.00 for a gallon of gas”
    and
    this “We are at war,”
    are related, and if we had spent
    this “We are at war,” money on
    this “nasa employees” we would not have
    this “, a recession.” or
    this “losing their damn homes.” because more people would be doing
    this “Shut up and get back to work.” so while you do
    this “Shut up” and
    this “suck it up.” we will get back to
    this “do with what you have.” and try for
    this “more money.”

  • Mike Fazan

    Suck it up for a while and do with what you have. This nation is hurting. The last thing we need is a bunch of snot nosed whining titty babies suckin off the tit of the government wanting more milk.

    Better yet, be happy with 1/2 of your current budget, because that’s what it’s going to be in another 2-3 years.

    Face it, you’re a dinosaur clinging to a paradigm conceived by a German rocket promoter from the middle part of the last century. Time to move on, folks, and get with the national priorities.

  • Trillions

    Suck it up for a while and do with what you have. This nation is hurting. The last thing we need is a bunch of snot nosed whining titty babies suckin off the tit of the government wanting more milk.

    Otherwise known as United States service men and woman, soldiers and ‘troops’, sucking the US treasury dry, destroying our wold class reputation.

    Frag em if they can’t take a Dick Cheney joke.

  • Vadislaw, thanks for taking on my challenge! I completely agree with your first point — it’s why we should have gone with the EELVs and a two person lunar crew.

    The rest is an interesting argument that I’m not ready to sign on to yet, but certainly deserves thought. I’m more inclined to look at developing a trade in oxygen, which I think is the mostly likely early resource to be used on, and later exported from, the moon. However, this resource probably is widely spread over much of the surface, so it’s hard to see how trading land grants would work. That said, the volcanic glass beads found in a lava flow by Apollo-17 are rich in oxygen, which could probably be extracted with simple heating, leaving another useful resource, glass. This _may_ be both concentrated and rare — nobody knows today — so I could see that being a resource that could encourage trading of land grants in advance — and also strategic competition.

    But, we need at least a theoretical market for oxygen, first, and someone willing to consider the moon as a source. I think the Space Station (or whatever replaces it) is that market, but only after there are firm is regular transportation to the moon (or firm plans) that an investor could count on over the long haul.

    – Donald

  • gm

    a better, safer, smarter, cheaper, simpler, lighter, shorter Ares-1 design:
    http://www.ghostnasa.com/posts/026ares1a.html

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