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Obama statement on Indian lunar launch

Late yesterday India launched its first lunar mission, Chandrayaan-1. In response to that milestone, the Barack Obama campaign issued the following statement from the candidate that ties that launch into his space policy:

With India’s launch of its first unmanned lunar spacecraft following closely on the heels of China’s first spacewalk, we are reminded just how urgently the United States must revitalize its space program if we are to remain the undisputed leader in space, science, and technology.

My comprehensive plan to revitalize the space program and close the gap between the Space Shuttle’s retirement and its next-generation replacement includes $2 billion more for NASA – but more money alone is not enough. We must not only retain our space workforce so that we don’t let other countries surpass our technical capabilities; we must train new scientists and engineers for the next generation. My comprehensive space policy focuses on reaching new frontiers through human space exploration, tapping the ingenuity of our commercial space entrepreneurs, fostering a broad research agenda to break new ground on the world’s leading scientific discoveries, and engaging students through educational programs that excite them about space and science.

As a child, I remember sitting on my grandfather’s shoulders and watching the Apollo astronauts return from a splashdown to Hickam Air Force Base, dreaming of where they had been. It inspired my imagination and gave me confidence in what we as Americans could achieve. It’s time for a space program that inspires our children again. As President, I will lead our space program boldly into the 21st Century – so when my daughters, and all our children, look up to the skies, they see Americans leading the way into the deepest reaches of our solar system.

22 comments to Obama statement on Indian lunar launch

  • Charles in Houston

    It would be wonderful if any of these candidates would tell us where the money is going to come from! Are they gonna have a giant bake sale?

  • Andy Motherway

    I’ll bring the paper plates!

    Or, we could use some of the money being spent on wasteful pork (imo, ‘wasteful’ does not imply ‘space’) and redirect them to the things that will better our country, like space related activities–activities I still believe to be inspirational.

  • Keith Cowing

    Politicians don’t mention space and space advocates complain.

    Politicians DO mention space and space advocates complain.

  • I still think the whole “workforce retention” albatross is fundamentally contradictory to the other goals mentioned. A lot of the Shuttle workforce has specialized skills that really aren’t relevant to other non-Shuttle vehicles or non-launch vehicle applications. And we have a commercial launch industry that has a trained workforce as well. Not to mention a lot of the Shuttle workforce is up for retirement soon. There are some of the Shuttle people who’s skills are unique and worth retaining, but the best way to do that would be by creating a thriving commercial manned launch industry and market, and transitioning those people over to the market side of things where their skills could best be used.

    But the reality is that this *isn’t* about unique and irreplaceable skills. It’s about politicians wanting to keep high paying jobs in their districts. While I think the politicians buy into the logic, I bet you they wouldn’t really care if those high paying jobs were doing automotive stuff, or working at an Air Force maintenance depot. This isn’t about the health of the nation’s space industry or it’s space capabilities.

    If NASA wanted to make sure that the nation’s space capabilities were as competitive and capable as possible, it wouldn’t be pursuing Shuttle workforce retention. But so long as those jobs are in a key battleground state, I doubt we’ll see much rationality on the subject.

    ~Jon

  • MarkWhittington

    Jon, I think, forgets that a lot of the shuttle work force is close to or even at retirement age in any case. Thus, when people say “workforce retention”, they really mean that VSE (and presumably the nascent commercial space sector) generates jobs that would replace the shuttle jobs that are going away, not necessarily that the shuttle folks are going to fill them.

  • SpaceMan

    For starters a ~30% decrease in the DoD budget would do wonders for the federal budget, NASA, DoD not to mention the rest of the humans sharing this planet with us.

    Also making corporations actually pay their fair share of taxes would help a lot.

    Of course I`m not suggesting this is actually going to occur even though the children posting here will assume that is what I am suggesting.

  • Andy Motherway

    “For starters a ~30% decrease in the DoD budget would do wonders for the federal budget, NASA, DoD not to mention the rest of the humans sharing this planet with us.”

    Even though your not actually suggesting it, you even bolded to emphasize that… do you think the defense budget is the first place to look for wasteful spending projects? Also what wonders would a thirty percent decrease in the Department of Defense budget do for the Department of Defense?

    Too bad you can’t go back and edit that confusing post.

  • Mark,
    Jon, I think, forgets that a lot of the shuttle work force is close to or even at retirement age in any case.

    Um…I mentioned their retirement in my comment. Demonstrating your reading comprehension skills again?

    Thus, when people say “workforce retention”, they really mean that VSE (and presumably the nascent commercial space sector) generates jobs that would replace the shuttle jobs that are going away, not necessarily that the shuttle folks are going to fill them.

    While I agree that there is focus on keeping the same number of people employed by VSE, I think you’re the only one that thinks NASA means growing the “nascent commercial space sector” when it talks about workforce retention. But it all comes back to the fundamental point–they don’t care about the end output really, just how many people are used to produce that output.

    I agree that if NASA was focused on developing a thriving commercial space sector, that the end result would be more jobs over all, but that is not at all what NASA means when it talks about workforce retention. And I’m pretty sure you know that.

    By workforce retention, they mean keeping a similar number of people employed on the Space Coast, Huntsville, Houston and a couple of other locales, by providing a government make-work program for them. Now, of course they have all sorts of rationales for why such spending is absolutely essential. But the reality is that if Ares-1 is only “essential” because it is seen as providing thousands of jobs for potential voters in an important battleground state (Florida).

    ~Jon

  • Al Fansome

    The part I reallly like about this statement is:

    My comprehensive space policy focuses on reaching new frontiers through human space exploration, tapping the ingenuity of our commercial space entrepreneurs, …

    JON GOFF: I agree that if NASA was focused on developing a thriving commercial space sector, that the end result would be more jobs over all,

    Obama’s latest mini-policy statement, as well as his 6-page policy position, directly addresses the desire of commercial space.

    In other words, the Democrat’s policy is better than Republican’s, at this time, on the issues that I care about — commercial space.

    I never would have guessed this 12 months ago.

    – Al

  • MarkWhittington

    “But the reality is that if Ares-1 is only “essential” because it is seen as providing thousands of jobs for potential voters in an important battleground state (Florida).”

    I guess Mike Griffin was right about bloggers ascribing evil motives to disagreements over engineering.

  • […] Obama couldn’t resist taking note and making a policy comment […]

  • anonymous.space

    “‘But the reality is that if Ares-1 is only “essential” because it is seen as providing thousands of jobs for potential voters in an important battleground state (Florida).’

    I guess Mike Griffin was right about bloggers ascribing evil motives to disagreements over engineering.”

    Multi-billion dollar decisions to develop new launch vehicles, even all-government vehicles like Ares 1, are based on business case analyses, even poorly done analyses like ESAS. They involve a lot more than engineering — choices about requirements, affordability, timeline, rate of return, policy goals, and more all play key roles — engineering is just the calculator that feeds these variables. A disagreement about whether a new launch vehicle development is essential or not is a disagreement about a lot more than just engineering. To portray it as a simple difference of opinion over interpretations of engineering data does a disservice to the real decisions involved.

    FWIW…

  • Mark,
    I guess Mike Griffin was right about bloggers ascribing evil motives to disagreements over engineering.

    Um…as soon as you start talking about “political realities” and “workforce retention”, isn’t it pretty obvious that you’re no longer talking about a purely engineering problem? Most of the problem actually is more with the incentives Congress provides they’re the ones that are trying to get reelected–NASA’s just reacting to pressures and incentives from them.

    But pointing out that those political pressures are totally distorting the engineering and driving a suboptimal, government-centric architecture doesn’t mean I’m “ascribing evil motives” to anyone. Stupid motives, maybe. Evil? Spare us the hyperbole, please.

    ~Jon

  • Charles in Houston

    Andy Motherway said, in response to a post by SpaceMan:

    “For starters a ~30% decrease in the DoD budget would do wonders for the federal budget, NASA, DoD not to mention the rest of the humans sharing this planet with us.”

    Even though your not actually suggesting it, you even bolded to emphasize that… do you think the defense budget is the first place to look for wasteful spending projects? Also what wonders would a thirty percent decrease in the Department of Defense budget do for the Department of Defense?

    Too bad you can’t go back and edit that confusing post.

    The DoD budget is not the first place to look for wasteful spending, but it does provide a target rich environment!

    Start with the Missile Defense Agency – which is building a defense against a threat which might develop one day. And when it does develop, probably the interceptor missile system will be obsolete and will not address the threat.

    Look at the F-35 fighter, which is so expensive that we can’t buy enough to actually use them. We can’t risk one since we will quickly run out.

    We should buy additional F-15E fighters instead, the F-15 is still in production.

    Who is this remark coming from – some flaming liberal military hater? Hardly! I am a retired AF LtCol who has read lots about the increasing cost and complexity of aircraft. The B-2 is so expensive and rare that we can scarcely risk it in combat. We should have just bought more B-1s instead.

    And we should all know that you build a defense system concurrently with the threat – let’s not deploy the world’s best cavalry against an emplaced enemy with machine guns (remember WW1??) and let’s not build a giant Maginot Line (remember WW2?). Not everyone that questions military spending is some wild military hater, some of us are more the Billy Mitchell types.

  • SpaceMan

    Let me claify my post for those w/o much real world experience.

    Some background :

    1) I have worn a uniform of the US armed forces.

    2) I have worked, as a civilian, supporting the military mission (command and control systems at the theatre level).

    The DoD, as is true of ALL large bureaucracies, has a significant amount of embedded corruption; do some honest research and be honest with yourself about the evidence. Beyond this, as Charles pointed out (thanks !), there are (at least) several weapons systems that are a waste of resources & need to be cancelled. Big savings could be made freeing up money to be redeployed elsewhere to areas of the federal budget that are “more deserving” (maybe NASA maybe not, that`s a different discussion).

    Other “target rich” environments in the federal budget are the Department of Housing & Urban Development, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Health & Human Services to mention just the more obvious ones. Do some real research and learn something about where all that money goes. I`ll pass on focusing on such boondoggles as the “War on Drugs” (not saying there isn`t a “drug problem”, just that the type of activity we have seen so far isn`t the proper approach) etc.

    I`ll all for reasonable government operations, just not so much corruption & graft.

  • SpaceMan

    Sorry about the typos, there needs to be a preview function here.

    Please !

  • BSR

    Call me skeptical; if India and China can do moon shots (probably at a fraction of our budget/costs), doesn’t it suggest that space exploration has reached fairly “commodity” status and hence should be left to commercial operators who can run it at best efficiency. If US carriers can buy aircraft from abroad, why shouldn’t NASA subcontract out space work to China/India (along with Russia, who seem to be NASA’s sole external source).

  • reader

    I love far out thought excercises : what do you think, lets say the entire shuttle army is kept on the payroll ( ergo, the budget chunk will remain the same size ) in the overall scheme of things, what would be more useful, to have this workforce doing absolutely nothing, or maybe browsing the web, throwing darts and building paper planes, than trying to design and build an unworkable rocket ?
    I mean, it seems to me that the whole pretense of building yet another unworkable space launch system does more harm than good, like by NASA’s claims X-33 somehow “proved” that SSTOs can’t be done..

  • Chuck2200

    Jon Goff said: If NASA wanted to make sure that the nation’s space capabilities were as competitive and capable as possible, it wouldn’t be pursuing Shuttle workforce retention. But so long as those jobs are in a key battleground state, I doubt we’ll see much rationality on the subject.

    Jon;
    NASA isn’t pursuing Workforce retention; the Congress is.
    To his credit, Griffin prefers to reduce the workforce.
    I agree with the rest of your statement, because ultimately it’s a political necessity, not a technical one. But it’s a requirement that the 2005 Appropriations Act laid on NASA and it’s what they have to live to.

    The only saving grace in the whole thing is that if the lunar program ever really gets off the ground, the workforce needed to support that will actually be larger than the current STS workforce, so retaining as many of them now as is possible provides a base for the future needs.

    But it’s politics. It’s always been about the politics.

  • […] kan man följa på bloggen Space Politics, som till exempel Barack Obamas löfte om ett 2 miljarder tillskott till NASA just för att minska glappet mellan rymdfärjorna och den nya tidens […]

  • Tpeshwer

    Well,i am a teenage student living in India and i must say that i’m very proud that my country has successfully launched Chandrayaan but i’m more impressed with the cost that ISRO managed it at .Chandrayaan costed only $76 million,this is the cheapest moon orbiter ever to be sent to moon .Closest to it is China’s Chang’e 1 at $187 million(source :spacedaily.com).
    But both China and India managed much lower costs than NASA ever would have managed .In my opinion ISRO did a marvel,sending an orbiter at $76 million is a great job.Even the next Chandrayaan mission planned in 2010 which would include a landing rover along with an orbiter would cost about $100 million or less .So by my opinion this is great job ,what you people think……?

  • […] mission to Moon has truely created a buzz and everyone seems to be too impressed with the ISRO (see Obama’s reactions). I have read many articles saying that Chandrayaan-1 has inspired many Indian space scientists […]

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