Campaign '08

Stay the course – or else

“Because of the 2008 presidential election, our nation’s human spaceflight program is at a perilous crossroad,” claims Douglas MacKinnon in an op-ed Sunday in the Houston Chronicle. MacKinnon, a former White House and Pentagon official who is now director of federal affairs and communications for a K Street law firm, believes none of the three remaining major candidates is sufficiently committed to carrying out current national space exploration policy (aka the Vision for Space Exploration), although he singles out Barack Obama for particular attention. (A quibble: MacKinnon writes that “Obama went on record as saying he planned to pay for his $18 billion education plan by taking it out of the hide of NASA”; rather, Obama said he would pay for his education plan in part by delaying Constellation by five years. He also did not specifically mention Ares and Orion in the statement, contrary to what MacKinnon writes, although the campaign has been vague about what exactly they meant, especially since they have not issued a formal space policy statement to date.)

MacKinnon believes that the next president, whomever he or she is, needs to “stay the course” and continue the program. Drawing parallels to JFK, who said in a 1962 speech that “Our leadership in science and in industry, our hopes for peace and security, our obligations to ourselves as well as others, all require us to become the world’s leading spacefaring nation,” MacKinnon writes: “No matter who is our next president, he or she is either going to have to buy in completely to the premise of that young president, or stand aside and watch as other nations lay claim to the promise of space. There is no middle ground.”

If that rhetoric isn’t strong enough for you, MacKinnon has more: “Should the next president decide to delay or cancel our next generation spacecraft and rockets for partisan reasons, he or she will be condemning the United States to second-class status in space for decades to come.” Second class in space? For decades? That is strong stuff.

Unfortunately, it’s not clear that it is all that attached to reality. MacKinnon doesn’t explain how not developing Ares and Orion would affect issues like national security and commercial space, which are not directly tied to Constellation yet arguably are just as important, if not more so, to US “status in space” than the ability of putting humans in space (it’s just that the latter is far more visible to the public than launching reconnaissance or communications satellites.) The ability to “lay claim to the promise of space” is not dependent solely, or even primarily, on developing Ares and Orion.

Essays like MacKinnon’s though, appear part of a theme that has emerged over the last several months: rather than selling the current space exploration policy on what it can do for the nation, sell it instead on the perceived dire consequences if it is altered or cancelled. But does fearmongering make for good space policy?

37 comments to Stay the course – or else

  • Charles in Houston

    Space Enthusiasts -

    Is this possibly the current Administration hoping to influence potential replacement administrations?

    Hopefully the American people will see that the “national space program” is not synonymous with manned space or with NASA. As much as I respect the manned space program we have at the moment – I know that it is changing and hopefully for the better.

    If we develop a new national space launch vehicle (to replace the Shuttle?) it will have to compete with foreign launch vehicles and hopefully domestically produced (such as Burt Rutan’s designs) vehicles. But the current designs are not our last great hope or anything like that. We are free to innovate – accepting delays as necessary, etc.

    I hope we continue to do wonderful things in space – but I know that our national space program is a lot larger than the Shuttle or Constellation.

    A more reasonable concern is that the US should NOT continue to put obstacles in the way of commercial launch programs – allow them to use launch sites equitably, allow them to launch cargo to the Station, etc. Or the foreign launch vehicles will have a open field with less competition.

    Charles

  • anonymous.space

    As pointed out in the comments section of the Chronicle’s website for MacKinnon’s article, MacKinnon is the Director of Federal Affairs and Communications for Sullivan & Worcester, a DC law firm with significant aerospace and defense business, including Raytheon. The Chronicle should have aired this potential conflict-of-interest in MacKinnon’s bio at the end of the article.

    It’s also strange that the bio tauts MacKinnon’s White House experience while MacKinnon demonstrates an apparent misunderstanding of the White House budget process and OMB’s role in this passage:

    “For instance, this president and Congress have directed that the space shuttle fleet fly until 2010 and that the International Space Station be completed. Unfortunately, some at OMB saw it differently and did not allocate the money needed to finish those jobs. Additionally, OMB has taken $3 billion away from the president’s space budget. Why? On who’s orders?”

    OMB is part of the White House and does not send the President’s budget requests to Congress without Presidential approval and the agreement of the department/agency head in question (in this case, the NASA Administrator). The answer to the question, “On who’s orders?” is “The President’s with the agreement of the NASA Administrator.” If MacKinnon worked at the White House for any length of time and paid attention while he was there, he should know this.

    After reading MacKinnon’s full bio, it appears that he was a writer in the Reagan and Bush I White Houses, a communications special assistant at BMDO, and a communications advisor to then-Senator Barbara Dole. Not to discount the importance of good writing, but it’s also not clear what expertise or experience a writer/communications consultant brings to the realm of civil space policy and program planning.

    So, even setting aside the tautologies and factual errors that Mr. Foust already pointed out in MacKinnon’s editorial, one must take the article with a large grain of salt, given the potential agenda at work, the contradiction between the author’s claimed White House background and his apparent lack of knowledge about offices and processes at the White House, and the relevance of the author’s background to the subject at hand.

    FWIW…

  • Al Fansome

    Jeff & Anon,

    I was struck by many of the same issues as each of you were, and considering the logical fallacies, I too looked at the website of MacKinnon’s company to who was paying him to write this op-ed.

    My first reaction was that Raytheon does not care enough about NASA’s budget to ask him to write this. If somebody could share me where Raytheon’s special interest in this lies, I would easily change my mind.

    I am thinking it is more likely that some “friend” of his in the Houston community (maybe a current or retired NASA employee friend?) persuaded him to write this op-ed, and he did so without truly understanding the logical fallacies of his thinking.

    The reason he wrote it does not really matter — his logic is fundamentally flawed as already mentioned.

    FWIW,

    - Al

    “Politics is not rocket science, which is why rocket scientists do not understand politics”

  • MarkWhittington

    Just a slight quibble. When Anonymous Space is trashing someone for what he sees as a lackof knowledge about offices and processes at the White House, he might strengthen his/her case by getting Elizabeth Dole’s name right.

  • MarkWhittington

    Addendum: It appears that MacKinnon, according to is biop on Townhall.Com, was Press Secretary to Bob Dole, not Elizabeth, or “Barbara.”

  • anonymous.space

    “When Anonymous Space is trashing someone for what he sees as a lackof knowledge about offices and processes at the White House”

    Where was I “trashing” MacKinnon?

    There’s just a factual contradiction between MacKinnon’s bio and his editorial. MacKinnon (or at least his bio) claims White House experience, but his article (or whoever wrote it) does not demonstrate said experience.

    How does pointing out said contradiction constitute “trashing”? These are just the facts. If you have evidence to contrary, please share it.

    “he might strengthen his/her case by getting Elizabeth Dole’s name right”

    The typo stands corrected, but what does a typo have to do with MacKinnon’s White House experience and knowledge (or lack thereof)?

    “Addendum: It appears that MacKinnon, according to is biop on Townhall.Com, was Press Secretary to Bob Dole, not Elizabeth,”

    MacKinnon worked for both Bob and Elizabeth Dole. From his bio at Sullivan & Worcester:

    “Prior to joining as Director of Federal Affairs and Communications, Mr. MacKinnon spent the last five years as Bob Dole’s director of communications… Mr. MacKinnon also served as a senior communications adviser to Elizabeth Dole., both for her presidential campaign and for her successful senatorial campaign.”

    See (add http:\\www.):

    sandw.com/professionals-114.html

    FWIW…

  • Anon

    Here we have someone write a strong editorial calling for a strong American presence in space and all space advocates are able to do it trash him, nitpick him and look for some hidden agenda. No wonder many in Washington, especially in Congress, who support space see space advocates and so called “space policy experts” as the biggest threat to American leadership in space. Thank goodness they were not around during the Apollo years.

    If you are not able to say something in support of a strong space program, or get you own pet projects promoted in regular news media, at least don’t trash him for doing so. This is not some high school debating class although many, (anonymous.space…) treat it that way, its the real world where perception is really and the squeaking wheel gets the grease. As for promoting fear, its did wonders for NASA budgets in the 1960′s when NASA actually accomplished something in space. And look what its doing for global warming…

  • anonymous.space

    “Here we have someone write a strong editorial calling for a strong American presence in space and all space advocates are able to do it trash him”

    Mr. Foust pointed out the factual inaccuracies and the logical leaps of faith in MacKinnon’s editorial — from MacKinnon’s multiple misportrayals of Presidential candidates’ statements to MacKinnon’s conflation of Ares I/Orion with all U.S. space activities. I pointed out further factual contradictions — that MacKinnon’s bio claims experience that is not evident in other factually incorrect statements made in his editorial.

    How do any of those arguments of fact and logic about the evidence and professional background presented by MacKinnon “trash” MacKinnon?

    C’mon, from the tone of these comments, you’d think we were dredging up some ugly fact from the guy’s personal life.

    “look for some hidden agenda.”

    How is pointing out that the Houston Chronicle, as a matter of good editorial policy, needs to disclose the current positions of its guest editorialists, a hunt for “some hidden agenda”?

    The point is that we shouldn’t have to look up an editorialist’s current job at all to know where he or she is coming from. It should be disclosed in the editorial bio.

    “No wonder many in Washington, especially in Congress, who support space see space advocates and so called “space policy experts” as the biggest threat to American leadership in space.”

    Evidence? Who in Congress has said that “space advocates” and “space policy experts” (whatever those are) are the “biggest threat to American leadership in space”? When and where did they say it?

    “If you are not able to say something in support of a strong space program, or get you own pet projects promoted in regular news media, at least don’t trash him for doing so.”

    You have to be kidding. We should squelch legitimate debate about bad facts and logic just because someone managed to get something positive published about agency X or program Y in a local newspaper?

    I don’t mean to pick a fight, but this smacks of censorship for all the wrong reasons.

    C’mon, we’re not working for the Maoist regime on China’s space program.

    “This is not some high school debating class although many, (anonymous.space…) treat it that way”

    Huh? How could I (or anyone else) “treat” the

    “its the real world where perception is really and the squeaking wheel gets the grease”

    And who in a position of power is reading this blog or its comments?

    If we really think that the comments section of a blog (nevertheless one factually wrong and poorly constructed Houston Chronicle editorial) is going to influence billions of dollars worth of Congressional decisions on the NASA budget, then our egos need a serious downsizing.

    Moreover, even if these comments were having an influence where it mattered, do we really want our space policy and program plans based on editorials written by communications consultants that are chock full of bad facts and poor logic?

    C’mon…

    “As for promoting fear, its did wonders for NASA budgets in the 1960’s”

    And was that fear-based program was sustainable when the threat subsided?

    “And look what its doing for global warming…”

    Huh? Relevance?

    FWIW…

  • Al Fansome

    ANON: If you are not able to say something in support of a strong space program,

    Anon,

    You really don’t get it do you? But I don’t blame you. You are inside the 9 dots.

    It is not about “THE space PROGRAM”.

    The people you criticize here really do not care about THE space PROGRAM. (Every time I hear the phrase “THE PROGRAM” you should think “the space welfare program”.) The entire concept of a “program” locks us into bureaucratic welfare-style thinking.

    However, we do care about an American space agenda that gets the American people into space, and opens up the space frontier to the same.

    Two centuries ago America did not have a “western PROGRAM”, nor did we have a “National Western Administration”. We had a western frontier, that open & freely available to the American people.

    Rand has more detailed thoughts about the high-school-level logic in this op-ed, most of which I agree with, over at:
    http://www.transterrestrial.com/archives/2008/03/why_space_polic.html

    FWIW,

    - Al

    “Politics is not rocket science, which is why rocket scientists do not understand politics.”

  • I shredded this nonsense extensively yesterday.

    I had some choice comments about Mr. Whittington’s (as usual) inability to comprehend, or clearly and accurately express himself in, written English.

  • My summary:

    Shorter Doug McKinnon: The president’s space policy is not only wonderful, but it is our only chance to lead in space, and anyone who opposes it, for any reason, partisan or otherwise, is dooming Americans to toil in the Chinese rice paddies. So get with the program.

  • Is this possibly the current Administration hoping to influence potential replacement administrations?

    If so, this is a pretty stupid and ham-handed way to do it.

  • OMB is part of the White House and does not send the President’s budget requests to Congress without Presidential approval and the agreement of the department/agency head in question (in this case, the NASA Administrator).

    One would certainly like that to be the case, but given how little control this White House seems able to exercise over its own bureaucracy, from the State Department, to the CIA, to the Justice Department (which often seem to be at war with it), one wonders whether it’s really the case. This particular case flabbergasted me:

    Clement’s brief was the result of an internal Justice Department clash, claiming the attorneys in the Justice Department’s Criminal Division oppose the individual gun right argument, while the Office of Legal Counsel is firmly for the right to bear arms.

    What’s more, Novak claims that the White House was completely blindsided by Clement’s position, and that Attorney General Michael Mukasey was unaware of the battle raging between the Criminal Division and the OLC under his command.

    So one wonders how much the White House really is on top of the OMB input, particularly given how out of step Griffin’s current plans are with the original VSE and the Aldridge recommendations, to apparentl White House indifference.

  • Sorry, Al, hadn’t seen your post with the link when I put mine up. I think that you are too generous with the level of the logic. It’s barely elementary school.

  • Here we have someone write a strong editorial calling for a strong American presence in space and all space advocates are able to do it trash him, nitpick him and look for some hidden agenda.

    With “friends” like this logic-and-fact-challenged individual, the “space program” doesn’t need any enemies. It’s exactly this kind of mindless boosterism and fear mongering that destroys the credibility of space activists.

  • Vladislaw

    “We had a western frontier, that open & freely available to the American people.”

    By “We had” I am assuming you mean the AMERICAN GOVERNMENT “had” the ownership and PROPERTY RIGHTS to a “western frontier”, a body of land that the people, through their government, decided to give away through the homestead act. Any american traveling west could claim ownership to FREE LAND and be entitled to the LEGAL RIGHTS to the timber, water, and minerals on that land.

    “However, we do care about an American space agenda that gets the American people into space, and opens up the space frontier to the same.”

    ANY american space “agenda” that does not try to resolve lunar property rights will NOT put american people in space to “open up the space frontier”. People do what is in their own self interest. Funding billions for celebrity astronauts to do photo ops or science RARELY excites individuals to call their congressperson to spend more money on space. It is more likely to have the opposite affect, outraged tax payers screaming about the waste.

  • anonymous.space

    “One would certainly like that to be the case, but given how little control this White House seems able to exercise over its own bureaucracy, from the State Department, to the CIA, to the Justice Department (which often seem to be at war with it), one wonders whether it’s really the case. This particular case flabbergasted me…”

    I have no insight into DoJ/WH procedures, but I would just caution:

    1) The analogy is not perfect. Although OMB and DoJ obviously both belong to the executive branch, OMB is much closer to the President (an actual part of the White House) while DoJ is more removed from the President (a cabinet-level agency that is not part of the White House).

    2) OMB prepares the President’s annual federal government budget request to Congress. As such, the President has to sign off on the decisions being made — it’s his budget. Moreover, departments and agencies are informed of and can appeal OMB decisions all the way up to the President. So not only does the President sign off, so does the NASA Administrator (or other department/agency head).

    Again, I have no clue if similar procedures exist for DoJ legal opinions, and how well they’re being followed (or not). But just the nature of OMB’s proximity to the President and the annual budget process makes it very unlikely that OMB could make billions disappear from the President’s budget request for NASA without higher-level White House (and NASA) knowledge and agreement.

    “So one wonders how much the White House really is on top of the OMB input, particularly given how out of step Griffin’s current plans are with the original VSE and the Aldridge recommendations, to apparentl White House indifference.”

    As a non-cabinet agency, NASA is even more removed from the President than DoJ and much more removed than OMB. The question should really be why OMB, as the arm of the White House with the budget stick and management oversight responsibilities, isn’t more on top of NASA’s poor-performing implementation of the VSE?

    To answer my own question, I’d speculate that OMB is somewhat hamstrung by the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and Marburger. My impression is that after O’Keefe left, Marburger reasserted himself and apparently handpicked Griffin for the NASA Administrator post. To the extent that the President is deferring to Marburger on NASA oversight, and Marburger has put his trust in Griffin, Griffin can fend off a certain OMB attempts to reign in and reform Constellation.

    But that’s just my impression… there are also just limits to how many battles OMB can wage (staff may care, but the politicos aren’t spending their remaining capital on NASA problems) or OMB could just be asleep at the wheel… FWIW…

  • Vladislaw

    The most GLARING example MacKinnon makes of false and downright ignorant logic is when he cites Kennedy as the reason we should be doing a “apollo on steriods” almost FIFTY YEARS after Kennedy made the first clarion call to goto the moon.

    The absolute LAST THING kenndy would have thought is that America would STILL be even CONSIDERING chemical propulsion for “the moon mars and beyond” in 2008.

    Kennedy gave a speech in Dec 1962 http://www.jfklink.com/speeches/jfk/publicpapers/1962/jfk546_62.html

    and did a question and answer session after:

    Q. Mr. President, after your trip to Los Alamos Laboratory, New Mexico, is it your intention to ask for more money to speed up Project Rover, or for nuclear propulsion in space?

    THE PRESIDENT. We’re going to let these tests go on, of the reactor. These tests should be completed by July. If they are successful, then we will put more money into the program, which would involve the Nerva and Rift, both the engine and the regular machine. We will wait until July, however, to see if these tests are successful. It should be understood that the nuclear rocket, even under the most favorable circumstances, would not play a role in any first lunar landing. This will not come into play until 1970 or ’71. It would be useful for further trips to the moon or trips to Mars. But we have a good many areas competing for our available space dollars, and we have to try to channel it into those programs which will bring us a result, first, on our moon landing, and then to consider Mars.

    President Kennedy ASSUMED we would be going to the moon with NUCLEAR powered IN SPACE ships BY 1970-71 and on to a mars (flyby) in 1973 and Mars landing 1975. Apollo was mearly the in space systems checkout until the NERVA program completed the new engines.

    Now MacKinnon tries to somehow suggest Kennedy was in favor of an apollo on steriods program almost 40 years AFTER kennedy thought we would ALREADY HAVE nuclear in space propulsion? Come on, Kennedy is laughing in his grave at this notion.

  • GuessWho

    “Not to discount the importance of good writing, but it’s also not clear what expertise or experience a writer/communications consultant brings to the realm of civil space policy and program planning.”

    Sounds like a slam to me.

    Not all “White House Experience” would directly imply a strong working knowledge of OMB even given the close ties between OMB and the Executive Branch as you point out. Being buried in a very small slice of what goes on in the White House and oblivious to much of what else goes on around him wouldn’t come as much of a surprise to me.

    Finally, just because he is not a public space wonk doesn’t mean he can’t bring good ideas to the table. Having said that, it isn’t clear that he, in fact, does that in this case.

  • anonymous.space

    “Sounds like a slam to me… just because he is not a public space wonk doesn’t mean he can’t bring good ideas to the table.”

    Please reread the sentence that you quoted from my earlier post (and the post itself). I simply stated that “it’s not clear” what expertise or experience MacKinnon brings to the subject at hand given his background. I did not claim that MacKinnon has nothing to offer, just that what he offers should be taken with a grain of salt. The Houston Chronicle bio implies that MacKinnon has relevant White House and Pentagon experience, when in fact he does not (or at least his professional bio does not reveal such).

    “Not all “White House Experience” would directly imply a strong working knowledge of OMB even given the close ties between OMB and the Executive Branch as you point out.”

    MacKinnon’s professional bio claims that he worked as a White House writer/communications professional during both the Reagan and Bush I Administrations. It’s possible that he was there for only a short period during the transition between the two. But given that those two administrations covered 12 years, it’s more likely MacKinnon was there for at least several, if not many, years. Maybe I’m too much the skeptic, but I find it hard to believe that any multi-year professional White House staffer would not become familiar with at least the basics of the annual White House budget process during their time there. Either MacKinnon knows better and is using OMB as a means to criticize the President’s decisions without directly criticizing the President, or he is genuinely ignorant and his knowledge and commentary should be taken with a very large grain of salt.

    “Having said that, it isn’t clear that he, in fact, does that in this case.”

    Agreed. FWIW…

  • To answer my own question, I’d speculate that OMB is somewhat hamstrung by the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and Marburger. My impression is that after O’Keefe left, Marburger reasserted himself and apparently handpicked Griffin for the NASA Administrator post. To the extent that the President is deferring to Marburger on NASA oversight, and Marburger has put his trust in Griffin, Griffin can fend off a certain OMB attempts to reign in and reform Constellation.

    That impression doesn’t seem to jibe very well with how out of synch NASA’s plans are with Marburger’s rhetoric. How is building ESAS going to bring the solar system within the economic sphere of humanity?

  • Larry Randle

    “Not all ‘White House Experience’ would directly imply a strong working knowledge of OMB even given the close ties between OMB and the Executive Branch as you point out.”

    One does not require intimate knowledge of how OMB works in the Executive Branch in order to know that what MacKinnon says is wrong–simply put, there is no way that “OMB civil servants” can chop $3 billion out of NASA’s budget without the political appointees in OMB knowing about it. That’s not the way the system works–the top line budgets for _all_ agencies are established by the political appointees.

    What is actually going on here is that MacKinnon is a partisan Republican who is defending the Bush administration (evident in his mention of Obama and his argument that “stay the course” is the only sane policy). Rather than criticize Bush’s administration for not giving NASA the money it requires (in his opinion), he has decided to resort to a traditional Republican tactic and blame anonymous “bureaucrats.” Now even if you agree with his _opinion_, it is impossible to accept his facts, because OMB simply does not produce budgets that the president (and his people) disagree with, because they are _his_ budgets.

  • …a traditional Republican tactic…

    A what?

    Why can’t we comment on these things in a non-partisan manner?

  • Larry Randle

    “particularly given how out of step Griffin’s current plans are with the original VSE and the Aldridge recommendations, to apparent White House indifference.”

    I do not understand why certain segments of the space blogosphere are still obsessed with the Aldridge report. It is clear that the report sank without a stone the moment it was released–nobody in power, and I mean _nobody_, took this thing seriously, not the White House or the Congress. Go back and look at media accounts from that time and the silence from the White House when the report was released was deafening. The White House did not even issue a press release indicating that they were planning on implementing the report’s recommendations. One gets the sense that Aldridge was thanked for his work and then the copy of the report he delivered was tossed into a wastebasket. (If my memory serves, Congress was going to hold a hearing on the report and then canceled it. Why? Did the White House tell them not to bother?)

    Note that this happened under O’Keefe, and it was the White House (not NASA) that clearly indicated that the report was being ignored.

    Now why did that happen? My own suspicion is that O’Keefe never wanted the Aldridge Commission in the first place and perhaps he went over to the White House before its release and talked to some people (like Cheney) and asked that they ignore it, and he got his wish. Alternatively, maybe Aldridge crossed some people during the deliberations and therefore the reception the report got was preordained. But no matter what, the report was truly dead on arrival. I’d love to know why, but probably only a few people (like Aldridge and O’Keefe) know why, and they have not talked.

    All of that said, it’s also not a very good report. Lots of people in the space blogosphere like some of its conclusions, but they never bother to look at the report as a whole and see that it has some flaws,they only pick out what they like and then bemoan the fact that those things have been ignored.

    For starters, one of its problems is that it makes recommendations that it never really explains all that well. That’s a classic mistake for advisory committees: they like to issue directives from on high, but fail to understand that they’re not king and are required to _explain_ why their recommendations are good ideas.

    Take one of their biggest recommendations: converting NASA’s field centers to Federally Funded Research and Development Centers. It is easy to know where this idea came from–Aldridge himself (who used to head The Aerospace Corporation, an FFRDC). This is actually a major recommendation, because it calls for firing large numbers of federal employees (thousands of them) and turning federal assets over to private organizations (most likely universities). At the very least that would require legislation, and it would be incredibly difficult to do. But the report proposes this very major action without providing much explanation as to a) why it is a good idea, and b) why it will work, and c) how the White House should go about it. That indicates to me a seriously flawed report. It looks to me like instead of a commission, the report reflects the opinions of its chairman, unsupported by evidence. And perhaps that is why the report sank so quickly–maybe the people who received it determined that the commission did not do a very good job.

  • Larry Randle

    “Why can’t we comment on these things in a non-partisan manner?”

    How is MacKinnon’s op-ed non-partisan? He is a Republican. He has staked out a position that the Bush policy is the correct one. And he is attacking “bureaucrats” for creating problems by undercutting the Bush administration policy. It is traditionally a Republican complaint that faceless, nameless bureaucrats create problems. Republicans, after all, claim to oppose big government, and big government is made up of bureaucrats.

    Indeed, haven’t you done the same thing, attacking the bureaucrats who work for the State Department, the CIA, and the Department of Justice, for being insufficiently loyal to the administration?

  • All of that said, it’s also not a very good report. Lots of people in the space blogosphere like some of its conclusions, but they never bother to look at the report as a whole and see that it has some flaws

    How do you know that? What clairvoyant powers do you have to know how much of the report I read, and how much I agreed with?

    they only pick out what they like and then bemoan the fact that those things have been ignored.

    I’ve never claimed that the Aldridge Report was immaculate. Obviously the FFRDCs were problematic, and probably politically impossible. So what?

    But that doesn’t mean that there was nothing of value in it. Certainly integrating the VSE with the commercial sector and national security seemed (and seems) like a common-sense suggestion. It is one that, for whatever reason, NASA has seen fit to ignore (despite clear words even recently from Marburger that imply that it’s still a good idea).

    How is MacKinnon’s op-ed non-partisan? He is a Republican.

    So? He’s a white man, too. He’s also of Celtic descent. Should we therefore make gratuitous bashes at white people and Scotsmen in the course of discussion?

    Why is it a “typical Republican tactic”? Isn’t it possible that it’s a typical politician’s tactic?

    To me, it’s much less important that he’s a Republican than that he’s ignorant of the space program, and unable to deploy logic. We’re supposed to be discussing space policy here, not how evil Republicans (or Democrats) are.

    …haven’t you done the same thing, attacking the bureaucrats who work for the State Department, the CIA, and the Department of Justice, for being insufficiently loyal to the administration?

    Yes, though not being a Republican, I don’t know how this is relevant to what Republicans typically do. I was simply making an observation. If it were happening in a Democrat administration (as it no doubt occasionally does, bureaucracies and civil service being what they are), the same observation would apply.

  • “That impression doesn’t seem to jibe very well with how out of synch NASA’s plans are with Marburger’s rhetoric. How is building ESAS going to bring the solar system within the economic sphere of humanity?”

    Agreed. My impression is that the President deferred to Marburger after O’Keefe left, and Marburger put his faith in the man he himself apparently handpicked, Griffin. The rest is history — for Marburger to recognize the disconnect between his speeches and ESAS, Marburger would have to admit that he picked the wrong guy for the NASA Administrator slot. Denial just ain’t a river in Egypt — it probably exists at OSTP just like it does on the 9th floor at NASA HQ.

    My 2 bit interpretion… FWIW…

  • Space should transcend politics. NASA challenges our workforce and our country. We are discoverers. We are scientist. Our quest is for knowledge. Manned spaceflight and unmanned spaceflight is a challenge. It’s expensive. It’s a necessity.

    What country on Earth ever folded due to spending too much on exploration and research? The opposite holds true. What country on Earth ever failed by keeping challenges grand? The oppostie holds true.

    NASA’s budget is a joke. It’s a joke. Two months in Iraq will give you more than enough for NASA’s Yearly budget! What if we spent 100 Million on NASA – challenging the youth of America to step up. What could be done. It’s PROVEN that for every dollar spent at NASA – 8 returns to the community. That’s money well spent. It’s win/win for everyone. Anyone thinking NASA should be privatized is years off of this actually happening. Go ask Branson how easy it is to launch ONE person without a payload. If NASA had a larger budget – instead of a JOKE budget – we could foster such ideas.

    The picture should be big – not narrowly focused. A country that spends less than 1% on it’s space budget – then bitches about it – is a country that should be ashamed…..

  • Al Fansome

    ANONYMOUS: Denial just ain’t a river in Egypt — it probably exists at OSTP just like it does on the 9th floor at NASA HQ.

    You got at least one LOL for that one!

    I agree with everything that Rand said about the Aldridge Commission report. The FFRDC recommendation was problematic (actually, this has been a pet idea of Bob Walker’s for some time … as a member of the commission he almost certainly pushed it). But there is a strong consensus with the Aldridge Commission’s recommendations related to national security and commerce. Even Marburger, since he repeatedly trumpets the importance of benefits to commerce and national security.

    QUESTION: If we are going to incorporate the solar system into Earth’s economic sphere, how in heck are we going to do so without the U.S. Government (i.e., NASA) transforming its relationship to the private sector?

    ANSWER: It is not going to happen.

    QUESTION: The Aldridge Commission called on NASA to develop a sustainable & affordable strategy. What is it about the current ESAS is sustainable and affordable?

    ANSWER: Nothing

    - Al

    “Politics is not rocket science, which is why rocket scientists do not understand politics.”

  • Al Fansome

    JASON F: Space should transcend politics. NASA challenges our workforce and our country. We are discoverers. We are scientist. Our quest is for knowledge. Manned spaceflight and unmanned spaceflight is a challenge. It’s expensive. It’s a necessity.

    Pulleeeasse.

    I know this is what you are really thinking, so my apologies for beating up on you, but you really are not in touch with reality. This naivete is quite common, so let me talk to the engineers (and rocket scientists) who read this blog and were thinking the same thing.

    No federal agency is above, or transcends politics, nor has this ever been the case. Politics is the process by which a democracy (or any other form of government short of a total dictatorship) works out its priorities.

    Even a marriage, which is a group of two people, has politics to work out the priorities between wife and husband (that is, unless one of them is a total dictator.)

    Name me a single federal agency that transcends politics.

    More specifically to NASA:

    1) The creation of NASA was a political act, in response to Sputnik, which was a Soviet global political statement.

    2) Apollo was a political act by Kennedy in response to Gagarin, Sputnik, and the claim by the Soviets that they were going to bury us.

    3) Shuttle was a political act by Nixon to give NASA something to do, and to assuage the political powers that cared.

    4) The ISS was a political act by Clinton to do something with our new friends from Russia (part of the former Soviet Union.

    5) The VSE was a political act in response to the Columbia accident. If it had not been for this national tragedy, which captured the entire nation’s attention for an extended period of time, there is little to no chance that President Bush would have given space policy more than 5 minutes thought (war or not.)

    The engineer who asks “why can’t NASA transcend politics?” is the equivalent to the liberal arts major who asks “When do we get warp drive?”

    Neither one are in touch with reality.

    This is partly what I mean when I say “Politics is not rocket science, which is why rocket scientists do not understand politics.”

    FWIW,

    - Al

  • Vladislaw

    “That impression doesn’t seem to jibe very well with how out of synch NASA’s plans are with Marburger’s rhetoric. How is building ESAS going to bring the solar system within the economic sphere of humanity?” Rand

    I read what Marburger wrote a couple years ago on HOW the VSE brings the solar system within the economic sphere of humanity. According to Marburger from the time of JFk NASA has operated with a litmus test as it regards spending, it was a two pronged test. Science, National security. If the proposed spending did nothing to advance either of those two, then the proposed funding was a non starter. When president Bush outlined the VSE he ADDED on item to that litmus test, that in the history of NASA had never been their before. The absolute GENUIS of Bush’s vison, according to Marburger was that Bush added “economics” to past two litmus test items, so now ANY proposed spending that NASA makes it has to either: Advance science, provide for national security, OR add an economic activity to America. So in Marburger’s thinking the ESAS passes that somehow.

  • Al Fansome

    VLADISLAW: So in Marburger’s thinking the ESAS passes that somehow

    What direct evidence do you have for the opinion that Marburger thinks that ESAS meets his stated criteria?

    It is possible that Marburger thinks that ESAS does not meet his criteria, but he is powerless to do anything about it. The problem is that if Marburger publicly said as much, then he would have to do something about it, such as:

    1) Get Griffin fired (which may not be possible, since the President has higher priorities than dealing with NASA, and Marburger would be making a technical argument to the President that his technical judgement was better than Griffin’s judgement.)

    2) Force Griffin to cancel ESAS (which may not be possible, if Marburger can’t threaten Griffin with being fired.)

    3) Admit that Griffin is ignoring White House policy with ESAS, and that he made a bad decision in picking Griffin as NASA Administrator (which does nothing, and probably gets Marburger in trouble for airing WH dirty laundry in public.)

    None of these are “good options” from the perspective of Marburger.

    - Al

  • Habitat Hermit

    Larry Randle said:
    “I do not understand why certain segments of the space blogosphere are still obsessed with the Aldridge report.”

    I’m one of those and for me the reason is how the Aldridge commission’s report (from here on ACR) got something fundamentally right: the “why” of it all as it applies right now. It also did it in a way that continues to be inclusive rather than exclusive (and not just politically but philosophically). Then it went further and outlined sound general principles of “how” in a way consistent with the “why”.

    It’s not so much the specific details of the ACR (or the VSE for that matter) on their own that makes me enthusiastic but rather the general approach embraced. I believe this holds true for most that support it as should be clear if you notice the diversity of opinion represented by them on specifics, even only here on this website. The opinions I’ve noticed as absolutely opposed to the VSE/ACR combination have been those that are categorically against any other approach except for their own specific one.

    The VSE/ACR combo also broke with a very stale yet persistent idea: more government money as the only solution. That old meme is a self-defeating one even for pure science: as one tries to build an increasingly vast structure of activity on top of such a “single block foundation” it is destined to either topple or stagnate by necessity .

    Based upon the spirit of the VSE and together with it as a supplement the ACR did something wonderful; it opened up the possibility of NASA as a significant enabler to vigorously open up space with increased expansion of activity and a very broad level of non-NASA participation.

    Instead one got ESAS which quickly turned into the opposite of most if not all of the aforementioned and then in addition makes matters worse by pitting just about everybody against each other. If I thought it was intentional I would be absolutely rabid but since I don’t I’m only frustrated and saddened .

    It’s not that one can’t do without NASA but that the VSE/ACR could speed things up in a very efficient manner that no one but the US are currently capable of while ensuring that all the good work NASA has done doesn’t become redundant by atrophy. That said the VSE/ACR strategy isn’t the one and only way to attempt a more robust and inclusive human presence in space (in person and by robotic proxy) but it’s not over yet; the VSE and ACR or at least the approach they advocate can still be saved and most likely by a combination of Direct or Direct+EELV&NewSpace lobbying together with the next President. and White House.

  • Vladislaw

    “What direct evidence do you have for the opinion that Marburger thinks that ESAS meets his stated criteria?” – Al Fansome

    “The current space vision sets no date on a return to Mars, although it does acknowledge Mars as an eventual destination for human presence. It is a logical destination, but much of what I read about how and when we can get there is unrealistic. The current policy emphasizes a step-by-step approach, and advances the concept that deep space exploration is necessarily “a journey, not a race.” – Marburger
    http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewsr.html?pid=27253

    You have to first seperate VSE from ESAS, which Marburger plainly does. He says the “current space vision” in that he is clearly refering to the VSE as President Bush outlined it, which is America’s CURRENT space vision. Policy is seperate from the “Vision”, policy is those actions that will FULFILL that vision. Here again Marburger is making a clear distinction between the two. He next states that “the CURRENT POLICY”, “emphasizes a step-by-step approach, and advances the concept that deep space exploration is necessarily “a journey, not a race.” Current space POLICY is the ESAS, He is acknowledging that YES there are OTHER PLANS out there but they are OBVIOUSLY FLAWED because they do not emphasize CURRENT POLICY’S step by step approach.

    If the “current policy” was wrong would he not have said “the current policy should” or “the current policy doesn’t” or ANY SORT of nueanced word that politians use to show disfavor while outwardly acting like they are signing on?

    Marburger goes on to say:

    “As we think about the future of the space exploration enterprise, we need to keep in mind how unusual its early history was. I think we are psychologically conditioned to want to model national policy on the highly successful Apollo program, starting with its huge budget. But the Apollo program was a unique response to a singular set of events at the height of the cold war. I cannot prove it except by pointing to the history, but it seems that the pace and scale of the Apollo program was unsustainable. In any case it was not sustained, and its rapid demise created serious long term difficulties for NASA management. We definitely need stable budgets that grow with inflation in order to avoid costly interruptions of multi-year programs and construction schedules.”

    The apollo program was NEVER DESIGNED to be sustainable. It was ONLY the precurser missions to test IN SPACE systems UNTIL the new nerva engines were completed and the NOVA program was started.

    Kennedy gave a speech in Dec 1962 http://www.jfklink.com/speeches/jfk/publicpapers/1962/jfk546_62.html

    and did a question and answer session after:

    Q. Mr. President, after your trip to Los Alamos Laboratory, New Mexico, is it your intention to ask for more money to speed up Project Rover, or for nuclear propulsion in space?

    THE PRESIDENT. We’re going to let these tests go on, of the reactor. These tests should be completed by July. If they are successful, then we will put more money into the program, which would involve the Nerva and Rift, both the engine and the regular machine. We will wait until July, however, to see if these tests are successful. It should be understood that the nuclear rocket, even under the most favorable circumstances, would not play a role in any first lunar landing. This will not come into play until 1970 or ‘71. It would be useful for further trips to the moon or trips to Mars. But we have a good many areas competing for our available space dollars, and we have to try to channel it into those programs which will bring us a result, first, on our moon landing, and then to consider Mars.

    President Kennedy ASSUMED we would be going to the moon with NUCLEAR powered IN SPACE ships BY 1970-71 and on to a mars (flyby) in 1973 and Mars landing 1975 with the NOVA program which would have REPLACED the apollo program. Apollo was NEVER MEAN’T to be SUSTAINABLE!

    If you look here: http://www.astronautix.com/lvfam/nova.htm
    You can see the Nova program suggested vehicles that Martian, Douglas, Nasa, were planning on for the FOLLOW ON to the Apollo program.

    But when kennedy announced that the the RIFT test would get funded and would be the foot in the door for the NOVA program ELEMENTS in congress acted immediately to shut it down. Congressman Karth, told one reporter that he was “absolutely astounded,” especially in view of repeated congressional warnings against “new starts. Very bluntly he said, “a manned mission to Mars or Venus by 1975 or 1977 is now and always has been out of the question-and anyone who persists in this kind of misallocation of resources at this time is going to be stopped.”

    So the SECOND phase AFTER apollo ENDED was clearly advanced nuclear propulsion for use in going to the “moon mars and beyond” .

  • Al Fansome

    Vladislaw,

    I read what you posted just above, and you provided no real evidence that Marburger supports ESAS. BTW, when Marburger says “policy”, he almost certainly is talking about White House policy, which is where he works.

    Marburger has given two major public speeches, and nothing in those speeches directly confirms that he supports ESAS.

    - Al

  • [...] a counterpoint to the recent Houston Chronicle op-ed about the need to “stay the course” on the exploration pr… or else lose out to the Chinese, among other recent statements that have suggested that the US is [...]

  • Dennis Wingo

    I read what you posted just above, and you provided no real evidence that Marburger supports ESAS. BTW, when Marburger says “policy”, he almost certainly is talking about White House policy, which is where he works.

    Al

    Right on. In fact Marburger in writing, speaking, and in deeds has indicated that he does not support the ESAS architecture. In his 2006 speech, after going into some detail that the economic development of the solar system is the priority for space, stated that NASA is “not perceived to contribute to the economic and security interests of the nation” and that this is why both the NSF and DOE are getting big budget increases and NASA is not.

    I simply cannot fathom why this message has not gotten through to NASA management across the board. Actually I can, as economic development is foreign to NASA and has always been, even though that is ranked just as high as science and education as their core values in the NASA Authorization act.

Leave a Reply

  

  

  

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>