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McCain and Obama talk space on Orlando TV

Central Florida News 13, a cable news channel serving Orlando and surrounding areas, took advantage of visits this week by presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama to speak at the VFW convention there to interview them, including asking them about space policy. (The McCain interview was even performed with a Mercury capsule replica in the background).

The McCain interview saves the space question for the very end, asking him for “your definite whatever people need to know” about where he stands on space:

I stand for not cutting any of the NASA budget, which Senator Obama proposed and then reversed himself, as he has on a number of things. I think we have to give a national priority to our efforts on the Moon, the International Space Shuttle [sic], and Mars. Americans are excited about these. We can excite them again. And it is a national security issue, when you look at the competition from both Russia and China. Space still is the last frontier. We have to continue to lead.

The Obama interview took up space earlier, and was apparently important enough to the station that they provided the transcript of that portion of the interview, discussing why he reversed his earlier decision to delay Constellation:

I’m not going to make a proposal unless I know how to pay for it, and in one of our earlier proposals, we had looked at extending the Constellation program longer, and stretching it out so that we could take some of that money to pay for education programs.

In consultation with space community here in Orlando and around the country, my conclusion is that we have to have that in place to have a transition from the space shuttle to the next generation of space exploration.

81 comments to McCain and Obama talk space on Orlando TV

  • Aremis Asling

    So, he stands for not cutting the NASA budget. Does that mean he supports keeping it capped below inflation rates? It would seem so given his previous statements on the Commerce committee. I recall something about additional funding for NASA being pork barrel spending and needing to cut it in order to fund education programs. Now where have I heard that before? Oh yeah, from Obama.

    Kettle: Hey pot, you’re black

    Aremis

  • Adrian

    did he really say ‘International Space Shuttle’?

    man, McCain is OLD.

    McCain is so old, when scientists debate past life on Mars, he actually knows the answer from experience.

    McCain is so old, John Glenn hangs out with him to feel young again.

    If John McCain were a NASA mission he would be Voyager – after it reaches Proxima Centauri.

    God im freakin nerd.

  • spectator

    Exactly how many states did BO say we had a few months ago….57?
    I’d hate to spew the words those two guys do every day with mikes and cameras capturing it all.

    McCain is so old he still says “hello, hello” on his cell before dialing just to make sure its not a party line.

  • Jack Burton

    Some of you must have gotten out of school early today.
    Grow up some.

    Raise your hand if you think Obama would have flip flopped on this if Florida was a solid red state and worth 4 electoral votes.

  • Jack: Raise your hand if you think Obama would have flip flopped on this if Florida was a solid red state and worth 4 electoral votes.

    I couldn’t care less. Mr. Kennidy, Mr. Clinton, and Mr. Bush all got religion much later in life and politics than Mr. Obama, and rarely for reasons having much to do with a positive pre-existing spaceflight vision. Arguably, the only Presidential level politicians to start with space visions were Lyndon Johnson and Al Gore. Like sausage, you enjoy the result and don’t look to closely at where it came from.

    We have both candidates most likely pretending to be far more pro-space than they really are. Like Kennedy, they might eventually have to live up to some of their rhetoric. I, for one, find this a very attractive turn of events.

    – Donald

  • spectator

    Jack “Grow up some” Burton:
    So you have some specific qualifications to offer this advice?

    Imagine the ennui of the space interest groups if BO and JM didn’t address these issues. Like has happened for most of the past 30 years.
    Given both of their recent statements, manned space particularly has risen up the national security ladder. Russkie behavior has done the heavy lifting.
    I see no evidence that Russian or Chinese behavior will lesson the “national security” value of Nasa’s business over the next few administrations.

  • Jack Burton

    I offer the advice that cracking adolescent jokes serves your cause no good.

    McCain supported VSE before there even was a VSE years ago.

    Obama did a 180 and starting supporting VSE last week.

    Draw your own conclusions.

  • Adrian

    “grow up” – loosen up. if you cant try and laugh at the ridiculous nature of politics every once in awhile you’ll go crazy. or worse, become a politician.

    McCain having supported VSE for years now (and im not sure that’s the case, can anyone pull up his voting record on Mikulski’s miracle attempts? or by supporting did you mean going along with the bare-bones Bush-level budget?) does NOT improve his standing in my eyes for space policy. most everyone here seems in agreement on that. additionally, my biggest issue spacewise – and it SHOULD be everyone’s biggest issue – is the weaponization of space. McCain gives every indication of wanting to pursue that route, and our country does NOT need that now.

    Obama is definitively against space weaponization. couldnt care a less if he just recently decided to throw some money towards NASA and the moon-shot. just as long as he doesnt want star wars 2010.

  • We have both candidates most likely pretending to be far more pro-space than they really are.

    Perhaps, but at least McCain actually has some experience, having been chairman of a relevant committee.

    …my biggest issue spacewise – and it SHOULD be everyone’s biggest issue – is the weaponization of space.

    That’s a utopian dream. There’s no way to prevent that, nor should it even be a goal. You can’t come up with a verifiable treaty against it.

    In fact, people who oppose missile defense objectively in favor of making space a sanctuary for weapons, as long as they’re only passing through…

  • Adrian

    “That’s a utopian dream. There’s no way to prevent that, nor should it even be a goal. You can’t come up with a verifiable treaty against it.”

    – I must respectfully disagree. While I admit, like any and all multilateral treaties, particularly those that exist via the severely constrained U.N. (http://www.unoosa.org/oosa/en/COPUOS/copuos.html), inspection and enforcement of the treaty protocols, no matter the exact details of the treaty, are nearly impossible. the same goes with any international organization. it’s give and take. all parties must come to accept that it is in their best interest individually to keep space civilian in nature. commerce, science, and human spaceflight are all endangered by the threat of satellite warfare, of ballistic missile intercepts in LEO, and likely resulting space debris on a scale that very well may limit or even destroy our modern way of life. there is nothing UTOPIAN about wanting to prevent escalation, security tension, and international conflict. and i seriously doubt that anyone on this forum is so experienced a diplomatic statesmen that they may offhandedly dismiss the feasibility of any multilateral resolution.

    it is this pervasive and wholly cynical defeatism in our electorate that limits our nation, and that is keeping human beings on Earth struggling for limited resources and destroying our planet, when we have the potential to do so much more….

  • SpaceMan

    Rand,

    Is there ever a time when you actually use your mouth instead of the orifice at the other end ?

    Just curious.

  • Jack, first, VSE is dead. What McCain has supported is a failed policy (and I agree, I’d like to see his recent voting record) in the form of ESAS.

    2nd, when was it decided that a nuanced view, that could be re-examined when more people and more data was had, become a bad quality to have in a president?

  • VisitSpace Expensively

    I offer the advice that cracking adolescent jokes serves your cause no good.

    Since we appear to be impotent in our abilities to stop the train wreck that is the VSE and Ares I, I suppose that is our only recourse here.

    McCain supported VSE before there even was a VSE years ago.

    That would be a neat trick. What was it called back then, SEI?

    We all know what happend to that. It was a failure.

    VSE and Ares I are failures.

    Draw you own conclusions.

  • Aremis Asling

    “McCain supported VSE before there even was a VSE years ago.

    That would be a neat trick. What was it called back then, SEI?

    No, the first space program he supported involved engineers throwing rocks upward as hard as they could. I’m sorry, I couldn’t resist.

    “Jack, first, VSE is dead. What McCain has supported is a failed policy (and I agree, I’d like to see his recent voting record) in the form of ESAS.

    2nd, when was it decided that a nuanced view, that could be re-examined when more people and more data was had, become a bad quality to have in a president?

    Unfortunately, like every other Spruce Goose NASA has funded VSE is far from dead. The only manned programs NASA terminates are the successful ones. Fortunately we have Space Act agreements that allow others to pick those up so their blueprints don’t all get turned into billion dollar scratch paper. NASA will keep VSE on life support so long as there is a standing presidential mandate and I don’t think either of our nominees are going to take the steps to salvage what may work and can the rest.

    Honestly I think NASA will make the fundamental hardware for VSE work, albeit with duct tape and bondo like the STS. The program will happen, it’ll just be several years late, a few billion over budget, and flawed from an engineering standpoint. That’s not to say I’d do any better given my record with model rockets.

  • Aremis Asling

    “Some of you must have gotten out of school early today.
    Grow up some.”

    So we crack some jokes and we’re immature? Laughter in a tough situation is one of the best defense mechanisms we’ve got as human beings. Why do you think they hire so many comedians for the USO? The situation sucks and a chuckle might just boost morale.

  • Aremis – the reason I say VSE is dead is because its been superseded by Orion/Constellation/ESAS, which it has. I don’t remember who said it exactly, but someone recently commented that we should stop referring to it as “The Vision” – it has a name.

    So, yes, the VSE is dead – its been replaced by Constellation.

  • Al Fansome

    My interpretation of McCain’s latest statements are:

    1) When he says “I will not cut NASA’s budget”, he means that he still plans to put a freeze on NASA’s budget, as well as every other discretionary program.

    2) He is clearly focused on a way to eliminate the gap in human spaceflight. The only way to do that — while also being fiscally responsible (Fiscal responsibility being THE KEY FILTER) is to:

    A) Put your money in COTS D, and/or

    B) Put your money into a capsule on top of an EELV.

    NOTE: Boeing did both during the latest COTS competition, when Boeing bid a capsule (that could carry humans) on an EELV.

    I have talked to knowledgeable sources who say that Lockheed could launch an Orion on an EELV to orbit by 2012.

    A capsule on an Atlas V is good enough for Bigelow. Why isn’t it good enough for NASA?

    SUMMARY: There are many options to solving the “gap” problem that don’t require throwing billions of dollars at Ares 1.

    I expect that people from both Boeing, Lockheed, ULA and elsewhere will be talking to McCain soon. (No matter how much Griffin & company scream at them.)

    I expect that Craig Steidle and possibly even Sean O’Keefe will talk to McCain soon too.

    FWIW,

    - Al

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

  • sc220

    Al,

    Excellent synopsis of the impending environment. It’s becoming obvious to many outside the Agency that the best way of closing the gap is to scrap Ares I and implement a COTS or EELV-based system. In the grand scheme of things, maintaining crewed access to orbit is a more immediate concern than the rest of VSE.

    The fact that the McCain camp is asking questions is a very good sign. It is likely that they will be prepared to make the needed management changes more quickly than an Obama Administration. This is ironic, since it’s basically the same party that would be in control.

  • Jack Burton

    Some of you really have a loose hold on the facts….

    McCain sponsored the “NASA Reauthorization Act” of June 17, 2004, The foundation for 2005 budget, which of course included VSE.

    http://www.aip.org/fyi/2004/104.html

    “The bill (S. 2541), introduced by Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee Chair John McCain (R-AZ) and Science, Technology and Space Subcommittee Chair Sam Brownback (R-KS) on June 17″

    “In addition to authorizing funding levels, the bill would amend the National Aeronautics and Space Act by adding “Title V – Solar System Exploration,” authorizing a program “to implement a sustained and affordable human and robotic exploration of the solar system and beyond” and “to extend human presence across the solar system.” The program would include technology development, promotion of international and commercial participation, and a human return to the Moon by 2020. To achieve these goals, the bill calls for returning the shuttle safely to flight, retiring it once space station assembly is complete, and developing a new crewed exploration vehicle that would be ready to “conduct its first human mission no later than 2014.”

    And calling Ares a “failure” is simply beyond logic.

  • Aremis – the reason I say VSE is dead is because its been superseded by Orion/Constellation/ESAS, which it has.

    No, that’s not true. The Vision is the Vision. ESAS is NASA’s current planned means of implementing it. One did not become the other. VSE remains alive, until someone generates a new policy to replace it.

  • McCain sponsored the “NASA Reauthorization Act” of June 17, 2004, The foundation for 2005 budget, which of course included VSE.

    So? What’s your point? That was then, this is now.

    And calling Ares a “failure” is simply beyond logic.

    Well, it may be slightly premature, but it’s only that.

  • Al Fansome

    JACK BURTON: And calling Ares a “failure” is simply beyond logic.

    Jack,

    So, when can we call Ares 1 a “failure”?

    When it has failed to shorten the gap? (The date for first flight has slipped to the right 4 years in the last 3.)

    When it has failed the strategic political test, several years in a row, to acquire the necessary large increase in NASA’s budget to “shorten the gap”?

    When it has been cancelled? (and is added to the large list that currently includes X-34, X-38, CRV, SLI, CTV, NLS, ASRM, STAS I, STAS II, STAS III, 2nd Gen RLV, ISS Propulsion Module, FASTRAC)?

    Isn’t it time to learn from the past, and learn how to see when a failure is coming?

    When will we learn enough from the many failures to date — see list above — and stop whistling in the dark when it is clear that another program is failing?

    The longer the it takes to learn — and to adjust for the coming train wreck — the more expensive the failure will be.

    FWIW,

    - Al

  • Anon

    Al,

    “A capsule on an Atlas V is good enough for Bigelow. Why isn’t it good enough for NASA?”

    Because the engines of the Atlas V are made in Russia, so NASA is still dependent on the Russians making nice…

  • Al Fansome

    FANSOME: “A capsule on an Atlas V is good enough for Bigelow. Why isn’t it good enough for NASA?”

    ANON: Because the engines of the Atlas V are made in Russia, so NASA is still dependent on the Russians making nice…

    Anon,

    On the surface, this looks like a good point. However, the problem is being solved.

    The DoD is dependent on those same rocket engines. Because of this obvious “risk”, the USAF has already committed to developing a replacement for those Russian engines, which will eliminate the risk to both DoD as well as NASA.

    FWIW,

    - Al

  • Crusader

    And calling Ares a “failure” is simply beyond logic.

    You’re right, ‘insane’ is a much better word for it.

    Ares, that is.

  • Jack Burton

    “So, when can we call Ares 1 a “failure”?”

    I would suggest a radical approach, wait until after Ares 1-X launch before declaring defeat.

  • Adrian

    Supposing the majority opinion on this forum wins out (majority meaning the prevailing opinion week-by-week, not this post exclusively) and EELV is implemented in place of Ares 1. what becomes of Ares V? is its development inextricably tied to the success of Ares 1? because no matter what the Vision or actual means of implementing it call for, the U.S. needs and will continue to have domestically-produced heavy lift requirements. yes, foreign launch systems may be capable of satisfying a commercial heavy-lift requirement, but there are many missions now and in the future which demand a bit more… discretion and nationalism.

  • Because the engines of the Atlas V are made in Russia, so NASA is still dependent on the Russians making nice…

    LM has a three-year supply of engines. In that time P&W can have a production line up, albeit at higher cost…

    no matter what the Vision or actual means of implementing it call for, the U.S. needs and will continue to have domestically-produced heavy lift requirements.

    Complete nonsense. What this nation needs is low-cost launch, and on-orbit infrastructure for fueling and assembly, because one can always come up with a singular (and outrageously expensive) mission that requires a bigger launcher.

  • sc220

    I would suggest a radical approach, wait until after Ares 1-X launch before declaring defeat.

    Ares I-X will prove absolutely nothing relevant for an operational Ares I, except perhaps that you can launch a solid rocket. The real reason for Ares I-X is to put on a “show of progress.” It’s basically an Admiral’s Test, and nothing more.

  • I think that “Potemkin Rocket” is a better characterization.

  • Aremis Asling

    So, yes, the VSE is dead – its been replaced by Constellation.

    You fundamentally misunderstand the entire situation. The VSE is the grand ‘Moon, Mars, and Beyond’ plan complete with 2020 manned moon mission as well as the administration’s vision for general science goals.

    The Constellation program is, as was said earlier, a means to an end. It’s a hardware system and nothing more. We are building Constellation to the specs of the VSE, but ultimately it is a program in and of itself.

    THe real kicker that suggests that you miss the whole point is that both programs are 100% alive and well at this point. We’re still go for a moon, mars and beyond plan on the timetable Bush suggested. And Constellation, engineering problems in tow, is also progressing. Whether or not either of these two plans are good ideas, that’s a matter of debate. I’m a VSE fan. I’m not a Constellation fan, at least not at the moment.

  • Al Fansome

    JACK BURTON: I would suggest a radical approach, wait until after Ares 1-X launch before declaring defeat.

    I am in total agreement with other posters. The Ares 1-X proves **NOTHING**. It does not reduce any of the major significant risks of the Ares 1 program. Ares 1-X is a stunt.

    Jack, if you disagree, then you should be able to clearly describe the risk-reduction value of the Ares 1-X.

    Please do. Go ahead. At least try.

    - Al

  • Adrian: what becomes of Ares V?

    Excellent question. As I’ve argued before, I think it is not clear that the heavy lift route is a good idea in the long term. Keeping things small has a large number of potential advantages:

    1). It encourages “living of the land” — you’re not tempted to take, say, your O2 with you and you have to learn how to dig it up and process it.

    2). It encourages you to, well, keep things small.

    3). It encourages you to figure out what you really need to have and to separate that from what’s nice to have. I always travel with a single rucksack and nothing else – whether I am visiting New York for a day or the Shetland Islands for six weeks. The next time you fly somewhere, try it; it’s an interesting exercise.

    4). We’ve just spent $100 billion dollars learning how to build large things in space from small payloads, and it went almost perfectly. The problems were all related to the Space Shuttle; it’s unreliability and it’s expense. If SpaceX and the EELVs were launching the bits of our giant lunar ship, it would be far more reliable, more redundant, and infinitely cheaper.

    5). You get economies of scale — once you’re on a roll, it may well be cheaper to launch a small rocket two-hundred times than to launch one ten times larger ten times (taking into account that you lose structural efficiency when you get smaller).

    6). You get the extra reliability of doing something many times, rather than a few times. Many argue this increases risk since you’re conducting more operations, but the history of technology suggests to me that you’re better off doing something over and over, rather than once or twice.

    7). Modular spacecraft are inherently safer than monolithic spacecraft or habitats. All other things being equal, the ISS is far more secure than Skylab, since a module or three can go wrong and you’ve still got a usable structure (cf. Mir); if the Skylab module goes wrong you’re dead in orbit.

    8). Once you’ve learned to keep things small and modular and live off the land, you’ve got the set of skills you need to truly colonize the Solar System. If you send everything from Earth on giant spacecraft, you’re only visiting, no matter how much money you spend or “save.”

    – Donald

  • Oh, yes, I forgot to state the most important reason of all, you spend your time and money doing rather than developing. Take near off-the-shell EELVs, launch near off-the-shelf modules, dock them to upper stages, send them to the moon. The only things you need to develop more-or-less from scratch are the capsule and the lander. We don’t re-invent the ship every time we introduce a new model; we evolve something from what has gone on before. We should do the same thing in space.

    If we’d gone for a two or three person capsule, launched it on an EELV, sized upper stages and lunar modules to the rockets available rather than the other way around, we’d be on the moon right now because we’d be doing. Today, we’re developing. Worse, we’re re-developing something that already exists.

    – Donald

  • Crusader

    THe real kicker that suggests that you miss the whole point is that both programs are 100% alive and well at this point.

    And they are failures. Just as the X-Planes where neither faster, better nor cheaper, the VSE and Constellation are neither safer, sooner nor simpler.

    That’s failure. The war in Iraq is going great right? We can continue this war for years, even decades, right? Just like the national debt, the Vision for Space Exploration and Constellation will continue to gnaw at the heart and soul of America until the final and irreversible collapse. It’s a failed policy.

    You really need to go back to the beginning and relearn arithmetic.

    The rockets are a joke, the laughing stock of the world.

  • Oh yes, again. With EELVs you can also amortize operating your existing rocket over a larger number of users — space scientists, applications satellites, and human missions using the same set of vehicles means that they are launched more often, which increases reliability and decreases costs for each group. With Ares, we get to maintain an extra set of launch vehicles, while reducing the potential flight rates of the ones we have — which is guaranteed to increase costs.

    – Donald

  • The war in Iraq is going great right?

    It is, actually, not that it’s not a completely spurious analogy.

  • Crusader

    The war in Iraq is going great right?

    It is, actually, not that it’s not a completely spurious analogy.

    Then we need to start two new wars right away!

    Just like we need to start two new rockets right away!

    Who needs to be worried about things like this :

    http://www.brillig.com/debt_clock/

    when we’ve got Survivor and Dancing With Stars and Glenn Beck on TV, to exlain to us the workings of the ‘real world’. Americans simply can’t be trusted with their future, that’s why they elect presidents to ‘lead them’ and that’s why the president sets space policy and appoints the administrator.

    And of course, that’s why we have congress to keep the mess in check.

    And of course, that’s why we get attacked on our homeland, and that’s why the entire world is watching with great glee, our flailings with big rockets, and building many small, very efficient and capable rockets of their own.

  • [...] Space Politics » McCain and Obama talk space on Orlando TV [...]

  • Mark

    “If SpaceX and the EELVs were launching the bits of our giant lunar ship, it would be far more reliable, more redundant, and infinitely cheaper.”

    I think you forgot to factor in the 100% failure rate of the SpaceX rocket when calculating the reliability and cost. It would take a long time to build a ship when the pieces keep exploding.

    “And they are failures. Just as the X-Planes where neither faster, better nor cheaper”

    What are you talking about? the X-plane program has provided huge advancements in the field of aeronautics. Every single commercial airliner uses technology developed by the x-planes. But I guess you feel developing things like digital fly by wire systems, increased efficiency, and understanding supersonics are useless failures.

  • Mark: I think you forgot to factor in the 100% failure rate of the SpaceX rocket when calculating the reliability and cost. It would take a long time to build a ship when the pieces keep exploding.

    Mark, I fully agree, and I actually hesitated before writing that. However, I think SpaceX eventually succeed. Even if it doesn’t, my point still stands: the EELVs would be cheaper if they were amortized over more users — after all, they (and especially the Delta-IV) were designed for high flight rates.

    Somebody else must have said that about the X-planes. I fully agree with your response.

    – Donald

  • The reference to “X-planes” was presumably X-33 and X-34.

  • Adrian

    “4). We’ve just spent $100 billion dollars learning how to build large things in space from small payloads, and it went almost perfectly. The problems were all related to the Space Shuttle; it’s unreliability and it’s expense. If SpaceX and the EELVs were launching the bits of our giant lunar ship, it would be far more reliable, more redundant, and infinitely cheaper.”

    Very good points you make Donald. and these discussions are really shaping my viewpoints.

    while I agree wholeheartedly that EELV is the way to go right now to shrink the gap and SpaceX/NewSpace in general can make space access affordable, I still cant help but wonder if there wont be some situations, either for explorative purposes or defense/security issues, where the United States will have a need for a domestically designed and produced heavy lift launch vehicle. I love concepts of modularity, efficiencies of scale and competition, those are all good things. but the question must be asked – are we as a space-advocacy community willing to drop all support for homegrown heavy lift? is it responsible to advocate against such a capability, given the uncertainty of commercial launch field, given the uncertainty of access to Russian options (or other state’s), given the potential uncertainties of the security climate in the future?

  • Adrian: I don’t have answers to most of your questions. However, what we could do is use what we’ve got and put the heavy lift question on indefinite hold until a clear requirement arises. The trick with the “one rucksack” method of traveling is to enforce the one rucksack rule on yourself. The minute you relax and check some luggage, you’ve lost, and it’s very hard to go back to living within your packing means.

    Also, both Boeing and Lockheed have plans to increase the lift capacity of their respective EELVs as needed. We don’t need to jump directly to a heavy lift capacity.

    BTW, I don’t put all the blame for the current situation on the government. Boeing, especially, is not even trying to effectively market their EELV.

    – Donald

    – Donald

  • Al Fansome

    ADRIAN: I love concepts of modularity, efficiencies of scale and competition, those are all good things. but the question must be asked – are we as a space-advocacy community willing to drop all support for homegrown heavy lift?

    Adrian,

    Other than Bob Zubrin (e.g., the Mars Society), I don’t know of any space advocacy organizations who have made super-heavy-lift a priority. The only reason that super-heavy-lift is a priority now is because Mike Griffin came in and made a command decision. He already knew the answer — ESAS was a facade to justify the decision he had already made.

    Let me try to give you a serious response to your question.

    Have you thought about how all the truly GREAT engineering projects on this planet have been built?

    Let me list a few obvious ones.

    - The Pyramids
    - The Great Wall
    - The Empire State Building
    - The Hoover Dam (or pick your favorite dam)
    - The Eiffel Tower
    - The Kremlin
    - The U.S. Capitol Building
    - The Statue of Liberty
    - The Golden Gate Bridge

    They all have at least ONE thing in common. The pieces of each & every one of these great engineering projects were transported to the final site in pieces, and then assembled on site.

    Great engineering in enabled by low-cost transportation and the ability to assemble the technology on site.

    We are KILLING ourselves by not taking the same approach to space.

    Next — think about standard home construction.

    1) There are estimated to be more than 100 million homes in America.

    http://www.census.gov/prod/1/pop/p25-1129.pdf+Number+of+houses+in+United+States&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=2&gl=us

    Of that number, the estimated number of mobile homes is ~9 million
    http://www.census.gov/Press-Release/www/releases/archives/census_2000/001543.html

    In other words, well over 90%, or over 90 million, of American “homes” (whether in single family dwelling, apartments, condos, etc.) are assembled by the same method that is used to assemble the great engineering projects. This choice is obviously driven by economics (nobody mandated this result.)

    SUMMARY: The large majority of Western and Eastern civilization has been built using the approach of cheaply transporting the pieces of the construction project to the site, and then final assembly at that site.

    So, why are we ignoring the dominant traditional approach that is used over the entire planet?

    Why are we not assuming that the right way to build our space economy, and to develop the space frontier, is to develop & use reusable launch vehicles to transport things to space at very low costs, and then assemble the pieces on-site.

    Mike Griffin gave a speech a couple years ago talking about constructing the great cathedrals in Europe. Well, those cathedrals were transported to the final site in millions of pieces, and then assembled.

    FWIW,

    - Al

  • Chuck2200

    You know, it occurs to me that the entire notion of making space affordable is a red hearing. It only has applicability to any civilian access to space, not military and certainly not government. That’s like asking the military to be “affordable”. It ain’t gonna happen folks – sorry. That’s an unpleasant notion but a true one. When it come to defense, NOBODY asks if it’s affordable or not, they just do it, and using the word “affordable” in the context of “government” is a joke.

    NASA is a government agency, and just like every other government agency, affordability is not part of the equation except insofar as their annual budget, which is paltry by comparison to other government agencies. We fool ourselves with this false notion of affordability for a government space program; we really do, because it will never happen.

    Now when you are talking about any other access to space, then affordability becomes an integral part of the equation. For industry access, newspace access, civilian access, etc, etc, etc, that word is front and center. But it has no place, unfortunately, in the government space program run by NASA, and, again unfortunately, never will. Government just does NOT operate that way and never will.

  • Al Fansome

    Jeff,

    I have repeatedly tried to post a comment here, but it disappears into the ether. I know that the system has received it in some form because it once responded that I had sent a duplicate posting. Still, nothing shows up.

    Can you help?

    - Al

  • When it come to defense, NOBODY asks if it’s affordable or not, they just do it, and using the word “affordable” in the context of “government” is a joke.

    Of course they do. The Pentagon doesn’t have carte blanche to purchase anything it wants, at any price, nor does NASA. If access were less costly, both of them could do a lot of things in space that they can’t currently afford to.

  • CATS friend

    CHUCK 2200: You know, it occurs to me that the entire notion of making space affordable is a red hearing. It only has applicability to any civilian access to space, not military and certainly not government.

    Chuck,

    You are correct that the DOD really does not care about lowering launch costs for existing systems. They are happy with the EELV, and most of the cost is in the satellite systems.

    But your point misses the real issue — they do care about developing new capabilities and benefits that are enabled by systems that are inherently lower cost (and higher flight rate).

    I have the charts from public USAF presentations stating an official long-term DOD requirement for spacelift that is 10X lower cost, 10X higher reliability, and 50-100′s missions per year.

    The AFRL has official programs — one of them is “Future responsive Access to Space Technology (FAST)” — in support of this official USAF requirement. The FAST program is the 3rd largest program in the AFRL.

    The USAF Strategic Master Plan states a military need for things like “Sortie Military Missions”, “Regeneration and Augmentation of Satellites”, “Robust and Responsive Spacelift”, and “Terrestrial Point-to-Terrestrial-Point Transport Through Space”. Please note that these are all capabilities that are enabled by very low cost space access.

    National security commissions have repeatedly stated and re-emphasized the national security need for the ability to rapidly replace & augment satellites in orbit — to eliminate our vulnerability to a Space Pearl Harbor. From the report by the “Commission to Assess United States National Security Space Management and Organization” in January 2001, to the very recent Allard Commission.

    http://www.space.com/spacenews/spacenews_summary.html#BM_3
    “The panel cited a growing threat of a so-called “Space Pearl Harbor,” evidenced by the January 2007 Chinese anti-satellite test”

    - CATS Friend

  • Jeff Foust

    Administrative Note: If you’re experiencing a problem with posting (as Mr. Fansome mentioned above; his comment has been restored) please contact me directly rather than leave a comment here.

    Thanks,
    The Management

  • Jeff, it would be a lot easier to do that if there was contact info somewhere on the page…

    You could put up an email address in a graphic that wouldn’t get grabbed by spambots (at least not this year).

    I’m guessing that the spam filter was blocking Al’s post due to the number of links.

  • Al: Excellent analysis with which I fully agree. (However, the cathedrals took even longer than the ISS to build, and by any measure were far from commercially successful at creating new industries, so I’m not sure we want to use them as our model!)

  • Jeff Foust

    Um, Rand? See that mail icon in the top-left corner?

  • Both dumb & dumber (demolicans) on the U.S. political scene will have to face whoever comes to power SALT 2 and the issue of strategic parity on the ground and in space, SDI is still an option. Personally it should be non-nuke (explosive & offensive) but no matter which brand of space you like military or civilian.

    Space technology is still a necessity no matter what politicians might bark in public.

  • Um, Rand? See that mail icon in the top-left corner?

    No, Jeff. I don’t. Or at least I don’t see it as an email link.

    Sorry, but I don’t see icons. Or if I see them, I don’t necessarily know what they mean.

    I see words (one of the several reasons that I never succumbed to the Mac cult).

    As someone iconically challenged, I always thought that the invention of the alphabet was a great advance over Egyptian glyphs.

    And while we’re on the topic, it would be nice if you’d make your home-page image a link to the site, rather than having to click on that tiny non-obvious icon… ;-)

  • Al Fansome

    DONALD:However, the cathedrals took even longer than the ISS to build, and by any measure were far from commercially successful at creating new industries, so I’m not sure we want to use them as our model!)

    Donald,

    Sorry, I guess I was being too smart by half. I mentioned cathedrals as a construction object because Mike Griffin based a speech, and an entire space policy argument, on the subject of cathedrals in January 2007. See:

    http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewsr.html?pid=23738

    FWIW,

    - Al

  • Chuck2200

    Perhaps I tried to get too detailed with my thought about affordability and got my tongue all twisted up. What I’m driving at is, regardless of details (thanks for those btw), there is a LOT of rhetoric about making space “more affordable” before we can ever do anything substantial in space. I simply don’t see that as being the case with a government sponsored space program.

    Yes, we do want to get the best bang for our buck that we can, and yes we should be looking for ways to lower cost, but in federally funded projects of any kind, that simply doesn’t have the priority that it has in commercially sponsored projects. So many otherwise informed people are chanting affordability as if there were no difference in the way governments and commercial entities view finances, as if it was going to be the death knell of manned spaceflight if we don’t get the cost down. My point was that in terms of any “government sponsored” project I just don’t see that as being that important, because to date it never has been.

    The question in government sponsored projects has never been “is this the most affordable way to do this?”, but rather “can we afford this?”. The answer has ALWAYS been “if there’s enough money in the treasury then we can afford this” without considering first if it’s the MOST affordable way, which I have never seen in any government program. I just don’t see the space program as being any different.

    Yes, there will be attempts to contain costs, but there will not be any attempt to design the program around keeping it “affordable”. Government projects do not, and never have, functioned that way.

    “More Affordable” has its application to commercial space, where the NGO’s have to answer to stockholders and such, but not to government agencies, who have never been subject to such strict financial oversight. They get a project approved and the Congress funds it. There are always HUGE cost overruns and the Congress pays them. It’s always been that way and always will.

    Government projects (dams, submarines, highways, spacecraft, etc) just don’t revolve around the “most affordable” mantra; they never have. That was my point.

  • Al Fansome

    CHUCK: Government projects (dams, submarines, highways, spacecraft, etc) just don’t revolve around the “most affordable” mantra; they never have.

    Chuck,

    On that we agree 100%.

    I have never proposed a “government project” to achieve affordable access to space. In fact, I (and many others) have proposed something much different.

    - Al

  • Chuck, you are, of course, correct. I have argued that, to be a market, all the ISS (or anything else) needs is someone to be willing to pay for it. That is the only requirement, and the ISS (for now) clearly passes that test. Hense the promise of COTS. If COTS succeeds, this is a model we should look to in the future — especially since it has worked well in the past.

    For more on this arguement, see my articles here,

    http://www.donaldfrobertson.com/sfmodel.pdf

    http://www.donaldfrobertson.com/oxygen_road.html

    All that said, the Space Shuttle is so expensive that abandoning it is a prerequisite for even the government paying for renewed human deep space exploration.

    – Donald

  • Aremis Asling

    I know it’s a response to an old post but

    “And they are failures. Just as the X-Planes where neither faster, better nor cheaper, the VSE and Constellation are neither safer, sooner nor simpler.”

    Again, I’m not saying they’re not complete and utter failures. I think they are, at least the way they’ve been implemented. But my point is that they are very much alive and well. We’re still putting money, resources, and a lot of engineering manpower into developing constellation with the goal of VSE. I don’t care if the idea sucks, we’re still doing it. The programs are alive whether we like it or not. And it still doesn’t address the fact that Constellation is in no way a predecessor of VSE.

  • Aremis Asling

    You know, as much as I tout SpaceX and their efforts and as much faith as I have in private space I really wonder sometimes if the current run is just another series of vaporware rockets. I do think private space is the key to the future of manned spaceflight. It doesn’t take much imagination to believe that to be the case. Governments simply have too many priorities to make a niche technological realm a central priority unless it’s a ‘my rocket’s bigger than yours’ thing.

    But the question is when. Will the current newspace crowd actually pull it off? They certainly have some serious resources behind them this time around, which is new. But all we have to do is look at N1 or the Buran to realize that resources alone do not make a rocket fly.

    So why do I place so much hope on SpaceX, repurposed EELV, etc? Because frankly I think they stand the best chance of reversing the trend of big, expensive throwaway rockets that the government orgs crank out within the next decade. If they fail? I think private space will still pull through in the long run and deliver on the promise, I just don’t want to have to sit through ten more years of government waste before that happens.

    Frankly no one, government, commercial, or otherwise is truly knocking my socks off right now. But I’m still betting on the private horse because I’ve already seen what NASA is capable of absent the cold war.

    I’ve always been a bit of adherent to pandorean hope.

  • Vladislaw

    “Have you thought about how all the truly GREAT engineering projects on this planet have been built?

    Let me list a few obvious ones.

    - The Pyramids
    - The Great Wall
    - The Empire State Building
    - The Hoover Dam (or pick your favorite dam)
    - The Eiffel Tower
    - The Kremlin
    - The U.S. Capitol Building
    - The Statue of Liberty
    - The Golden Gate Bridge

    They all have at least ONE thing in common. The pieces of each & every one of these great engineering projects were transported to the final site in pieces, and then assembled on site.

    “Sorry, I guess I was being too smart by half.”

    You have it backwards. If the logic of your arguement was sound, cranes would still be small, they only get bigger because it is more effiecient to move a single big piece then thousands of small pieces. Dump trucks? Only bigger. Earth Movers? Only bigger. Using your logic, Saturn V SHOULD HAVE been built start to finish on the pad because there was no machine in existance that could move it. But did we? No, we simply built a BIGGER machine to move it. THAT is the TRUE history of engineering. HOW can I move, lift, a BIGGER single piece rather then thousands of small pieces.

    History has shown that when the pieces get bigger, we simply build bigger more efficient machines to move those pieces.

    You mention the pyramids, the great pyramid has SINGLE “pieces” weighing 70+ tons. How do you put a single 70 ton piece into space without heavy lift.
    The temple of baalbec has stones in the 1000-1200 ton range, the romans did not consider cutting them up, they simply made BIGGER cranes, and bigger ropes.

    There are times when it is just more practical to build a big dumb machine to do the heavy lifting and keep the machines for moving people from here to there safe and small.

  • There are times when it is just more practical to build a big dumb machine to do the heavy lifting and keep the machines for moving people from here to there safe and small.

    There are. Those times are when there are a lot of objects that need heavy lifting, and/or it can’t be done any other way. This is not one of those times.

  • Vladislaw

    actually, the drive to build bigger machines is usually not based on having to move or lift thousands of objects, but to move or lift just a single element of a total project, that can only be done with the help of the new machine.

    The Baalbec example I mentioned, just three stones out of the hundred thousand for the temple. The great pyramid, just a few 70 ton stones out of the millions. The cables on the golden gate bridge. The crane used for only laying the deck on an aircraft carrier. Once the big machine is used for the single use of the project it then generally moves into regular commerical activity and sometimes becomes the new standard for that machine until the next bigger one is built.

    If it was easier to goto the moon with 10 tons of lift I just wonder why the russians didnt do it in the past.

  • If it was easier to goto the moon with 10 tons of lift I just wonder why the russians didnt do it in the past.

    We did it with a heavy lifter because it was faster to do it that way, and we were in a race. It wasn’t cheaper, and over the long haul it proved to be unaffordable. The same will be true of Ares V even in the unlikely event it ever gets built.

  • Mark

    I agree with Vladislaw, The only reason to build something in lots of small pieces is because you lack the capability of handling the big pieces. The less pieces you have for assembly, the faster it will go.

    I dont have any sound numbers, but I would venture a guess that it is cheaper to have a big expensive rocket lift a big piece of something assembled here on earth, then have a bunch of astronauts assemble a whole bunch of pieces in space carried by smaller cheaper rockets. I know its not the best example, but Skylab cost roughly $97 billion less than the ISS

  • I dont have any sound numbers, but I would venture a guess that it is cheaper to have a big expensive rocket lift a big piece of something assembled here on earth, then have a bunch of astronauts assemble a whole bunch of pieces in space carried by smaller cheaper rockets.

    Yes, you would guess that because you don’t have any sound numbers.

  • Mark

    “Yes, you would guess that because you don’t have any sound numbers.”

    As opposed to all the sound numbers you have been citing? My logic is that we have the manufacturing infrastructure already here on earth, its a lot cheaper to support workers here on earth, and you don’t have to specifically design the hardware for manufacturability in space.

  • My logic is that we have the manufacturing infrastructure already here on earth, its a lot cheaper to support workers here on earth, and you don’t have to specifically design the hardware for manufacturability in space.

    And my logic is that it’s much more cost effective to develop and field a small vehicle that flies a lot than a huge one that rarely flies. Once access to space is affordable, the infrastructure for assembly can be attained easily. ISS showed the way–the only problem with it was that Shuttle flew so rarely and cost so much.

  • For once, Rand and I are in one-hundred precent agreement!

    – Donald

  • Vladislaw

    “And my logic is that it’s much more cost effective to develop and field a small vehicle that flies a lot than a huge one that rarely flies”

    The obvious flaw in your logic is that “the space shuttle was a heavy lift vehicle, the space shuttle flew rarely, THEREFORE ALL heavy lift vehicles WILL fly rarely” Failed logic there Rand.

    secondly, no matter HOW you try and stretch a pick up you are not going to haul a mobile home with it and no matter how often you fly a SMALL vehicle into space the trunk space is still the same. SMALL.

    I am all for small reusables for moving humans into LEO and back but we need space semi trucks, space trains, space container ships for moving construction materials to LEO.

    Look at the last one hundred years in trucks, from the first 5 ton ford model A to the standard of today, 40 tons. With your logic there was never a need for more then a five ton truck, all we had to do was build more of them and drive them more often. Sorry, it doesnt work that way. Now look at what is happening with trucks:

    “LCV types include:

    Triples: Three 28.5-foot (8.7 m) trailers; maximum weight up to 129,000 pounds (58.5 t).
    Turnpike Doubles: Two 48-foot (14.6 m) trailers; maximum weight up to 147,000 pounds (66.7 t)
    Rocky Mountain Doubles: One 40-foot (12.2 m) trailer and one 28.5-foot (8.7 m) trailer (known as a “pup”); maximum weight up to 129,000 pounds (58.5 t) ”

    Gosh semi trucks are only getting bigger, why not just build MORE small trucks and just drive them more.

    Look at the last century with planes, why not just use piper cubs to move people around, just build more of them and fly them more often.

    Look at container ships over the last century, look at oil tankers the 50 years. Look at cranes, look at drag cranes for mining, look at dump trucks.

    In EVERY means of transportation, land, sea, and air. ALL bigger and getting BIGGER as material science and engineering improves.

    Now you are saying that space is SOMEHOW the exception to the rule? A semi truck drops off 40 tons for a space launch and we need TWO plus launches to put that up? When you are talking about transporting MILLIONS of pounds we need BIG machines. You do not use 500 pick up trucks making 500 trips. You use a BIG RIG that can move 60 tons at a time and get it done with.

  • In EVERY means of transportation, land, sea, and air. ALL bigger and getting BIGGER as material science and engineering improves.

    Now you are saying that space is SOMEHOW the exception to the rule?

    No. You’re the one who violated the rule. The first cost effective space vehicles will be small, because that’s what will be affordable (and if you think we’re going to do anything worthwhile at current launch costs, you’re living in a dreamworld). When there is enough activity to justify larger vehicles, they will be built.

    The first successful airliner was the DC-3, not the 747. There’s a reason for that.

  • And, there was a long chain of smaller private and government efforts, most of which were not commercially successful, before the DC-3.

    – Donald

  • I should add:

    The obvious flaw in your logic is that “the space shuttle was a heavy lift vehicle, the space shuttle flew rarely, THEREFORE ALL heavy lift vehicles WILL fly rarely” Failed logic there Rand.

    I never made that argument. Great attempt (OK, it was a pathetic attempt) at a straw man, though.

    There are many reasons why, with current technology and budget constraints, that heavy-lift vehicles will be low flight rate, that have nothing to do with Shuttle.

  • Vladislaw

    “The first successful airliner was the DC-3, not the 747. There’s a reason for that.”

    You are correct, we didnt start with the 747 but the DC-3 but that is not a correct comparison. The DC-3 was designed in 1935 and was a propeller driven plane. The 747 was a jet liner so to make that comparison for rockets you would need a new type of propulsion for a new heavy lift in the same way from prop engines to jet engines. From a standard rocket to a nuclear powered rocket. I am not talking about a new breakthrough in propulsion.

    The military built 10000 DC-3′s and literally THOUSANDS were converted over to civilian use after the war so their long life was helped by that fact.
    One of the precursors to the 747 was the 707.
    The DC3 could move 21-32 passengers, the 707 could move 140 passengers. The 707 was in the air 2 years after the project started.

    “The 707 was based on an aircraft known as the 367-80. The “Dash 80″ took less than two years from project launch in 1952 to rollout on 14 May 1954.”

    So from the time of the DC3 to the 707 you had over a 6 fold increase in passenger size. In less then 20 years we went from 20 to 140 passengers.

    Well I am not talking about building the 747 of heavy lift, but I would submit that we ALREADY BUILT the DC-3 of heavy lift and that was the Saturn V. It successfully flew everytime. So to SOMEHOW suggest that a heavy lift vehicle would be coming straight out of no where with NO DEVELOPMENT CHAIN and totally new technologies would be needed is, to use YOUR WORDS “it was a pathetic attempt”

    We DO have 40 years of development in material sciences, computer science, avionics and rocket propulsion SINCE first flying the Saturn V.

  • Aremis Asling

    “We DO have 40 years of development in material sciences, computer science, avionics and rocket propulsion SINCE first flying the Saturn V.”

    Except we’ve lost a lot of the documentation on Saturn V and most of the engineers are long gone. As an illustration one of the major issues we’re having is that we no longer know how to make the Apollo era heat shields. I hate to break it to you, but it’s not like riding a bike. We just don’t have the balance we used to with HLV’s.

    The systems in place in the saturn V are largely incompatable with the current technologies and, as a programmer who has had to update other people’s code, reusing much beyond the conceptual is little more than a nightmare. They’re talking even with the shuttle of passing an engineering point of no return within months if the breakes aren’t put in on the shuttle shut down. And you expect we’ll simply resurrect the Saturn V (or a modernized version of it), strap some new tech on it and fire it up? That’s just dillusional.

    I’ll also remind you we have 40 years worth of reduced budgets, increased long-term demands from science programs (the more voyagers we have, the more we spend to keep tracking them), and bureaucratic bloat as well, which pretty much nixes the chances of the blueprint to pad effectiveness of the Apollo era. NASA simply is not that agency and space is simply not the priority it once was.

    So we have a lack of understanding of our old work, less in the way of funding, more priorities, and a lower rank on the list of national priorities. We may be able to do an HLV, but it’s not just a matter of calling von Braun for the bluprints and firing up the production line. Essentially we have little choice but to reinvent the wheel with Ares.

    Aremis

  • Well I am not talking about building the 747 of heavy lift, but I would submit that we ALREADY BUILT the DC-3 of heavy lift and that was the Saturn V.

    That’s a laughable claim. The DC-3 allowed millions of people to fly affordably. The Saturn V allowed a dozen or so.

    You don’t even seem to understand what we’re talking about.

  • Vladislaw

    “That’s a laughable claim. The DC-3 allowed millions of people to fly affordably. The Saturn V allowed a dozen or so.

    You don’t even seem to understand what we’re talking about.”

    Rand, it is obvious YOU do not understand, i am talking about heavy lift for CARGO building materials, NOT passenger travel. Can you please stay ON TRACK! You are comparing apples and oranges. I already said to keep PASSENGER vehicles, SMALL AND SAFE and reusable. So do not try and somehow do a bait and switch and say I am talking about heavy lift PASSENGER launch vehicles, I WAS NOT.

    I used the comparison of the DC3 NOT as an example of cargo heavy lift but as an answer to your question on developement chains and that the Saturn V represented the start of the chain for heavy lift development.

  • Rand, it is obvious YOU do not understand, i am talking about heavy lift for CARGO building materials, NOT passenger travel.

    Completely irrelevant to the point, which is market size, and the ability to justify the high costs of development and low flight rate of an oversized vehicle for it in its infancy.

  • Vladislaw

    man you just can not stop trying to spin. It is a GOVERNMENT development not a commerical venture. Since when is market size relavant. Where are the market studies that were conducted for the saturn V? Where are all the market studies that were conducted BEFORE they built the shuttle? Since when does the government do MARKET STUDIES BEFORE they pay to have something built. The Government IS the market.

  • man you just can not stop trying to spin. It is a GOVERNMENT development not a commerical venture. Since when is market size relavant.

    It is relevant to making it affordable. If the GOVERNMENT doesn’t want to do enough in space to make it affordable, that doesn’t mean that it makes sense to build a ridiculously huge vehicle. Regardless of whether it’s being done by the GOVERNMENT or the private sector, the sensible way to open up space is with small vehicles, until there’s enough demand to economically justify a large one. And putting words in ALL CAPS doesn’t make them less nonsensical than does using lots of exclamation marks.

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