NASA

And then there were… none?

Of the four people on the previously-announced “shortlist” for the NASA administrator job, we know now that Steve Isakowitz is remaining at the Department of Energy and Scott Gration has been tapped to be a special envoy to Sudan. That would seem to leave two candidates: Charles Bolden and Lester Lyles. Or does it? The Orlando Sentinel reports that neither person is likely to be named to the job soon: Lyles does not appear that interested in the job, preferring the better renumeration of work in the private sector after a long military career (which is similar to what Space News reported in its print edition last week) and the administration is not interested in Bolden, the favorite of Sen. Bill Nelson. Even “people close to Nelson”, the Sentinel reports, are resigning themselves to that fact.

So it would seem that the shortlist is now empty (unless one takes seriously the reports that former astronaut Mae Jemison is under consideration, which, it appears, many people aren’t). If the administration is starting over in its NASA administrator search, it suggests that it may be well into summer before a permanent administrator is in place, given the delay between when a nomination is announced (not before next month, according to the Sentinel) and confirmation by the Senate. One possibility, the Sentinel reports: acting administrator Chris Scolese might be asked to become the permanent administrator. He would still have to go through the nomination process, but presumably could take on duties beyond his current “caretaker” role after being nominated.

39 comments to And then there were… none?

  • Peter J. Brown

    Now that he has demonstrated both his unbridled enthusiam and ability to mobilize widespread popular support for space-related causes even in the toughest economic times, Steven Colbert should be added to this list. No doubt, he would leave his distinctive mark on the American space program.

  • My sense is that Scolese has acting as a caretaker, careful to keep the architectural options open for his successor, waiting for some political direction before making any decisions to continue with Ares 1 or switch to something else. I wonder what he personally thinks about the program he has inherited from Mike, and what changes, if any, he would make if given the reins?

  • stargazer

    Perhaps we should take another look at Griffin. Although he rubbed many people the wrong way, I think over-all he was a good administrator. His biggest problem was Bush’s failure to provide his vision with sufficient funding. My guess is that Obama will fund whatever program he ultimately approves.

  • His biggest problem was Bush’s failure to provide his vision with sufficient funding.

    No, his biggest problem is that he chose an unaffordable, unsustainable architecture.

  • stargazer

    “No, his biggest problem is that he chose an unaffordable, unsustainable architecture.”

    Your opinion — clearly wrong.

  • John Kavanagh

    “Bush’s failure to provide his vision with sufficient funding.”

    Bush’s policy was for NASA to live with in its budgetary means and the Aldridge Commission opened the door for NASA to leverage an open, affordable exploration architecture. NASA’s leadership stuck to business as usual.

  • Neil H.

    Hm… I wonder if the delay makes it politically more tenable to appoint somebody from the transition committee, like Lori Garver.

  • Ferris Valyn

    “No, his biggest problem is that he chose an unaffordable, unsustainable architecture.”

    Your opinion — clearly wrong.

    More than a few people, people with good credentials, agree with Rand. And its not like Rand’s arguements can be ignored either.

    I am sorry to here that Lyles doesn’t want it – I think he would be very good.

    I guess I’ll go back to rooting for Lennard Fisk

  • MarkWhittington

    Ferris, more than a few people with even better credentials also think Rand and the other Internet Rocketeers are all wet. I suspect that this latest Obama SNUFU proves, if anything, that they gave Mike Griffin the boot too quickly.

  • Brian Koester

    Has anyone else happened to notice that Dr. Alan Stern’s Wikipedia Biography page has recently be updated???? Not only does it now show his “Private Sector” space activities (Blue Origin & Odyssey Moon) but also now says:

    “In early 2009 Dr. Stern’s name has been mentioned as a potential candidate for position of NASA administrator under President Obama’s Administration.”

  • Major Tom

    “Ferris, more than a few people with even better credentials”

    Who besides Griffin and his obviously conflicted ESAS/Constellation leads?

    Numerous, independent (arguably the most important credential) reviews by the GAO and the CBO certainly don’t bear this out. As Mr. Muncy and Mr. Fansome pointed out in a different thread, the cost estimates for Ares I/Orion development now range near $40 billion.

    http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d09306sp.pdf

    If NASA continues down the Ares I/Orion path, NASA will have to dedicate three to four years of its entire annual budget just to develop a domestic system capable of transporting astronauts to ISS. That’s certainly not affordable if there’s going to be enough budgetary resources left over to design, develop, and test human lunar systems before 2020, and it’s arguably not politically sustainable given other demands on NASA’s budget.

    And even if one lacks the credentials to compare budget figures, just being able to tell time and compare schedules shows how unaffordable and unsustainable Ares I/Orion really are. After already experiencing a year-and-a-half of schedule slippage, the continued mismatch between Ares I/Orion costs and the available budget is now threatening to push the first operational flight of Ares I/Orion to the ISS into 2017:

    http://www.nasaspaceflight.com/2009/03/ares-i-x-delayed-atlantis-rollover-dual-pad-option/

    That’s a seven-year gap, and a year after ISS’s potential decommissioning. (It was also the target year for the first human _lunar_ mission before Griffin came onboard.) Forget about affordable and sustainable — how about timely and relevant?

    “also think Rand and the other Internet Rocketeers are all wet.”

    I believe Mr. Simberg is a practicing, professional aerospace systems engineer. Besides posting here, what relevant credentials do you possess that would make you something other than an “Internet Rocketeer”?

    Stones, glass houses, and all that…

    “they gave Mike Griffin the boot too quickly.”

    No one gave Griffin the boot. Like all Presidential appointees, he resigned effective the day that the new Administration came into power.

    Even if the White House decided to bring him back, Griffin’s antics towards the end of his term burned too many bridges with Congress (and maybe with his other potential employers as he has yet to pick up a job with anyone besides his wife).

    FWIW…

  • I believe Mr. Simberg is a practicing, professional aerospace systems engineer.

    Sadly, while I was in recovery for a while, having fallen off the wagon a few years ago, I cannot deny it. Sad but true. ;-)

    Besides posting here, what relevant credentials do you possess that would make you something other than an “Internet Rocketeer”?

    Didn’t you know? He has a history degree. And a blog. On Blogspot, no less.

    I have to say that I’m gratified that Mark has finally unveiled one of the members of the mysterious Internet Rocketeers Club. Heretofore the membership of this shadowy organization had been a closely kept secret, known only to himself. I have to say, though, that this long-awaited revelation seems to be mistaken, as I’ve never gotten either a membership card or a secret decoder ring. And I’m aware of no other members.

    Well, I take that back. I’m compelled to believe that Mark remains the only member.

  • Major Tom

    “Has anyone else happened to notice that Dr. Alan Stern’s Wikipedia Biography page has recently be updated???? Not only does it now show his “Private Sector” space activities (Blue Origin & Odyssey Moon) but also now says:

    ‘In early 2009 Dr. Stern’s name has been mentioned as a potential candidate for position of NASA administrator under President Obama’s Administration.’”

    Yes, you pointed that out in another thread, but it’s a throwaway reference. The three sources for that passage in the Wikipedia article are all out of date by more than two months. The White House has gone through several candidates since then, and there’s no indication that Stern was anywhere in the running.

    Given his willingness to throw away his AA position over a few million dollars extra for extended MERS operations, I would have serious doubts about Stern’s decisionmaking abilities and management judgement. It’s one thing to throw one’s badge on the table for an inexcusable multi-billion overrun on a poorly justified mission. But it’s arguably a little looney to resign over taking a drop out the science bucket to keep one of the most scientifically and technically successful and popular space missions of all time operating and generating a return on the taxpayer’s multi-hundred million dollar investment a while longer.

    And while Stern’s professed interests in commercial activities and cost controls are very laudable, he arguably did not practice what he preached as PI on the New Horizons mission to Pluto. IIRC, the cost overrun since New Horizons’ selection/confirmation is in the 30-40% range — something Stern has failed to mention in his many editorials on this topic. We’ve all seen much worse overruns, but a NASA Administrator can’t (or at least shouldn’t) play personal favorites.

    FWIW…

  • Levi Mossberg

    “I believe Mr. Simberg is a practicing, professional aerospace systems engineer.”

    He also has compared Obama to Hitler, refers to his supporters as “Brown Shirts,” and has called the Obama administration and NASA “fascist.”

    Why should we take him seriously on anything he writes?

  • Ferris Valyn

    Levi Mossberg,

    Because on this, I, an affirmed liberal, who posts on The Great Orange Satan, no less, agrees with him.

    More to the point, his arguements stand up on there own, actually.

  • Ferris Valyn

    I should add..

    his arguments as they relate to the current Constellation plan.

  • Thank you, Ferris. I’d like to think that ad hominem arguments have no place here, but then again, I’d like to think that Tom Elifritz has no place here.

  • Thank you, Ferris. I’d like to think that ad hominem arguments have no place here, but then again, I’d like to think that Tom Elifritz has no place here.

    He also has compared Obama to Hitler,

    There are many ways to compare someone to Hitler (e.g., “that guy is nothing like Hitler!”)

    What is your point?

  • Sorry for the sort of repeat post, Jeff…

  • Doug Lassiter

    Did any one watch the conversation that Obama had with the ISS astronauts this morning? Really remarkable. He could have done an ISS tagup most anytime. He spent almost 45 minutes with them (this wasn’t a brief “how ya doin” visit), and was attended by congressional leaders and Chris Scolese. He’s got space flight on his mind, and he probably also ended up having a good long chat with these congressional leaders and Chris Scolese. Wonder what he was chatting about …

  • Good point, Doug. I wonder, too.

  • [...] the space program the way we also follow baseball, have wondered why The One (Incompetent) has taken so long in an attempt to nominate a new Administrator for NASA.  Now we know why the process has been such a trauma for [...]

  • Dennis Wingo

    Did any one watch the conversation that Obama had with the ISS astronauts this morning? Really remarkable. He could have done an ISS tagup most anytime. He spent almost 45 minutes with them (this wasn’t a brief “how ya doin” visit), and was attended by congressional leaders and Chris Scolese. He’s got space flight on his mind, and he probably also ended up having a good long chat with these congressional leaders and Chris Scolese. Wonder what he was chatting about …

    There are many indications that Obama is far more interested in space than one might think. I think that this is part of the reason for the delay in selecting the administrator. They really want to get one that will do a good job.

    I don’t think that much of our new president in many areas but in this one I am still very hopeful.

  • Brian Koester

    ~~~~~GROUND CONTROL TO MAJOR TOM!!~~~~~~~

    Where are you getting the erroneous info that New Horizons was over budget by 30%. This is plain wrong. Are you relying on this December 2005 Link from Space.com?:

    http://www.space.com/spacenews/businessmonday_051212.html

    The reason this article is incorrect is below;

    New Horizons was originally capped at $500M FY01 dollars, or using NASA’s published inflation schedule, about $590M real-year dollars. NH has cost about $100M more than that– a 17% rise

    The final cost of the Atlas 5 rocket launch was $205 Million, an increase from the initial contractor price. As this was beyond the control of Dr. Stern as PI of the mission and of his team, I think it disingenuous to ascribe this to any mismanagement by the team.

    The mission cost, including launch and more than 10 years of operations including the launch price of $205 Million is $675 million. So actually **$470** Million for the fastest traveling probe ever, with an RTG plutonium supply (of only 182 Watts) going into the deepest part of our solar system seems like good value to me.

    Also, although you are right that the links in the

    Wikipedia references are up to 3 months old, I would point out the media in general and the blogosphere in particular have been either been putting out rumors or relying on very weak sources (Attention “Editior” Keith Cowing – Nasawatch…) such as floating the name Mae Jemison…nuff said

    “….This is Ground Control to Major Tom
    You’ve really (NOT) made the grade
    And the papers want to know whose shirts you wear
    Now it’s time to leave the capsule if you dare….”

    (Great posting name – I love Bowie also…) :-)

  • Major Tom

    “Where are you getting the erroneous info that New Horizons was over budget by 30%.”

    From memory. And my recollection was 30-40% (not 30%).

    “This is plain wrong.”

    It’s not. NASA’s annual budget documents confirm a 39% cost increase, within the range that I remembered. They’re available at:

    http://www.nasa.gov/offices/ocfo/budget/budget_docs.html

    “Are you relying on this December 2005 Link from Space.com?”

    No. The last annual NASA budget that provides a separate budget estimate for New Horizons is the FY07 budget. In that budget, New Horizons’ total cost estimate had risen to $696.9 million, a $196.9 million or 39% increase over the $500 million cost estimate at mission selection/confirmation.

    This is confirmed by the New Horizons website, which puts the total cost of the mission at “roughly $700 million”.

    http://pluto.jhuapl.edu/mission/missionFAQs.php

    “New Horizons was originally capped at $500M FY01 dollars, or using NASA’s published inflation schedule, about $590M real-year dollars.”

    Only a small part of that $500M estimate is in 2001 dollars. Like any mission with multi-year development and operations phases, the budget is spread over many years. So the $500M is directly comparable to the $675M in the Space News article, the $696.9M in the NASA FY07 budget, or the $700M on the New Horizons website. Adjusting the total for inflation would be in error.

    “The final cost of the Atlas 5 rocket launch was $205 Million, an increase from the initial contractor price. As this was beyond the control of Dr. Stern as PI of the mission and of his team,”

    Evidence? More often than not (especially with one-of-a-kind NASA missions), increases in launch costs are due to changes in requirements and other requests from the customer (i.e., Stern’s team or NASA management), not price increases from the launch provider.

    You also don’t say how much of an increase in launch costs the $205M figure represents.

    “So actually **$470** Million for the fastest traveling probe ever, with an RTG plutonium supply (of only 182 Watts) going into the deepest part of our solar system seems like good value to me.”

    Meh. $700 million for the few weeks of Pluto flyby data that will actually be better than what we already get from HST isn’t exactly the highest return on the nation’s solar system exploration dollars. There’s arguably higher priority planetary science at Mars, Europa/Ganymede/Callisto, Titan/Enceladus, Ceres, and exoplanetary systems that’s going undone.

    The one interesting thing about the deep outer solar system is understanding the KBO population for clues about models of early solar system formation processes. But for that you wouldn’t want to visit an oddball like Pluto. Rather, you’d want a telescopic inventory followed by a mission with visits to multiple KBOs (New Horizons will only visit one) to understand the population’s baseline.

    “Wikipedia references are up to 3 months old, I would point out the media in general and the blogosphere in particular have been either been putting out rumors or relying on very weak sources (Attention “Editior” Keith Cowing – Nasawatch…) such as floating the name Mae Jemison…nuff said”

    The point is not the strength of the leak, but it’s timeliness. In the context of the rapidly changing NASA Administrator name game, a three-month old leak is outdated and no longer relevant. I wouldn’t get my hopes up.

    “Great posting name – I love Bowie also”

    Thanks for noticing.

    FWIW…

  • Alan Stern

    Major Tom–

    Why don’t you check the AO for the Pluto-Kuiper Belt mission? The $500M number is given there “in FY01 dollars.” Check it, it’s easily Googled. Koester has done his homework– you need to do yours– and carefully, because your 39% cost increase number on New Horizons mixes apples and oranges to produce a bogus result. This is simple fact.

    New Horizons broke the mold on outer planets missions, producing the first outer solar system mission substantially <$1B since Pioneer 10/11. And we–the sixth Pluto mission to be considered–were the first to stay close enough to original cost to not get canceled and to actually get launched.

    By the way, our priority as listed in the National; Academy’s Decadal Survey was #1 for medium class missions. Again, check your facts– Pluto-Kuiper Belt was the #1 rec: nothing was higher. Read the report. You can choose to disagree with it, but the report stands as the planetary community’s consensus view. for planning this decade’s exploration

    Now back to our cost increase on NH: Yes, we went over–as I have many times said in print and in public (e.g., check the New York Times OpEd I wrote in November). We went over by about $100M (or 20%)–but this is primarily due to the fact that my award letter on New Horizons, dated 29 Nov 2001, delayed the launch from Dec ’04 to Jan ’06 , which caused us to have to carry the team 13 months that was not in our proposal. Check the record– the AO called for a Dec ’04 launch. Check the NASA press release on our selection pressing us to an ’06 launch.

    Neither I nor anyone on New Horizons had any recourse in this. Although the spacecraft and instrument teams mostly ate the difference by adjusting, the launch vehicle, which NASA purchased and for which I as PI was not even allowed to be on the selection panel for, rose in cost by about $75M. So yes, we went over, no question– but not as you describe above in this stream.

    And while we’re at it, let’s get something else on the record: My good faith attempt as SMD AA to harness rampant, 100%, 200%, and 300% cost overruns in SMD was at its heart trying to get the most out of SMD’s limited budget for its many competing communities.

    You seem to be claiming that because New Horizons failed to come within 20% of its cost, my attempts to control 10x bigger cost increases in other missions was illegitimate and somehow disingenuous. Well, it’s certainly your prerogative–anybody’s prerogative– to think that, but the bottom line is the same: SMD needs to get control of its rampant cost increases–roughly $5B over the past 5 years, If not, the next decade will see a repeat of the current one, in which only a small fraction of the Decadal Survey goals for each major discipline are accomplished.

    One more fact: I did not quit over MER; in fact, I wasn’t the person who tried to cut MER–though I know that individual well and they are still at NASA HQ.

    I quit when my boss effectively told me he was taking over SMD to fund MSL no matter how much damage it did to the rest of SMD. Now, a year later, you can see that damage as canceled SMEX missions, long delayed New Frontiers and Discovery AOs, the effective end of MSR, and an outer planets flagship that is 3+ years later now than when I left, just 12 months ago.

    I am quite comfortable with my decision to leave, rather than eviscerate innocent SMD missions that should have proceeded apace, instead of coddling MSL’s flagrant mismanagement.

    If you want to assail that decision of mine, go ahead. But don’t confuse my decision on MSL with the attempt on MER– that’s a convenient fiction that was hatched as I left to serve some people’s interests in obfuscating my team’s analysis that MSL would not make its 2009.LRD and would cost nearly half a billion dollars to try despite a blue ribbon panel reporting it simply was too long a shot to risk. Both turned out to be exactly what happened, you will note.

    -Alan Stern

    ps. I like your handle too, but as I have clearly stated for 6 months, including to those who made the list last fall of those to be considered for this important position: I am not a candidate for NASA Administrator. Period. I have a son and daughter to raise and it is there turn to come first,.

  • Brian Koester

    @Major Tom

    Alert! Your Oxygen Mixture is too rich!! (Thanks for the feedback Tom!)

    I’ve reviewed the links you cited and think our disagreement hinges on the increases in costs for New Horizons from it’s Mission Selection date in November 2001 until now.

    While NASA “selected” the mission based on the NRC’s (National Research Council) suggested cap of $500 million in 2001, NASA did not actually start funding it until 2003. This likely affected the costs and is a factor the PI and his team should not be blamed for.

    NASA’s 2007 budget pages 49-52 do indeed show a budget of $696.9 Million AND also indicate that of 14 Technical/Schedule Baseline specifications, New Horizons has exactly “NONE” that require any changes.
    (isn’t that refreshing)

    The total mission cost (LifeCycle Cost Elements) breaks down as follows:

    Spacecraft: $196M (includes S/C bus & I&T, RTG)
    Launch Vehicle: $218M
    Instruments: $62M
    Other: $220.9M

    This space.com Article from Dec 2005 provides some context;

    http://www.space.com/spacenews/archive05/Horizon_121205.html

    According to NASA, the cost growth is mostly due to additional work that had to be done preparing the spacecraft’s compact nuclear power source and higher than expected launch costs..

    Budgets from previous years dating back to 2003 2005 show $619 Million Dollars as the forecast costs for the mission.

    I do not how much the launch cost went up from the 2001 estimate but you may not have been aware that New Horizons had to contend with a few vexing problems such as damage to a booster from Hurricane Wilma in 2005, & cracks were detected in several trusty Atlas rockets late in 2005, therefore the Atlas rocket that was attached to New Horizons also had to be tested.

    It is also a fact that in 2004-05, the delivery of NH’s RTG’s Russian-made plutonium 238 pellets was delayed by a security-related work stoppage at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, where they were being processed. I believe that instead of having an RTG based on 280 grams of this element they had to use 180 grams.

    I suggest the above are all factors that in addition to inflation were beyond the team’s control. They are in fact to be commended for keeping costs in line as well as they did and I believe your opinion of a 30-40% cost overun to be incorrect and that as a result Dr. Alan Stern is indeed a good candidate for the Next NASA admin, based on his a record of delivering “the goods”.

    With regards to your objection to the overall benefits of the NH mission “you wouldn’t want to visit an oddball like Pluto. Rather, you’d want a telescopic inventory” I would point out that, while helpful the Hubble cannot resolve Pluto/Charon or Kuiper belt Objects sufficiently to provide the kind of info a probe can, especially as it regards to atmosphere.

    I would also point out that due to the highly accurate injection onto its Jupiter course, NH’s spacecraft fuel supply available for mission
    science at Pluto and to explore KBOs is almost twice as large as nominal preflight predictions and it is likely that NH will be able to observe 2 Kuiper Belt objects in the 30-50 Km range. This is in addition to the valuable Jupiter Observations it has already done in it’s flyby.

    I also note the the New Horizons website your cited says that the mission costs can be thought of as: “20 Cents per person, per year for a mission of over ten years”…

    Excellent Science & Excellent Value.

    PS Did you know the NH carries a piece of SpaceShipOne?

  • Brian Koester

    @Dr.Stern

    Thanks for your reply on the matter, I have been posting here & elsewhere to encourage others to consider you as a candidate for NASA admin, I was unaware you were not interested and are focusing on your family, a decision I think we can all respect ( I have a 3 yr old son and another on the way)

    I shall curtail my enthusiasm… Best wishes and thank you for your continuing service to the space science community.

    Brian Koester

  • Alan Stern

    Brian- Peace.

    Alan

  • Major Tom

    “Why don’t you check the AO for the Pluto-Kuiper Belt mission? The $500M number is given there “in FY01 dollars.” Check it, it’s easily Googled.”

    I did, and we’re both wrong. It was $500M in FY00 dollars, at least according to this press release on the AO:

    http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2000/00-201.txt

    “By the way, our priority as listed in the National; Academy’s Decadal Survey was #1 for medium class missions.”

    Wrong. MSL, at least the $650 million version, was also ranked as a #1 medium class mission.

    “Again, check your facts– Pluto-Kuiper Belt was the #1 rec: nothing was higher.”

    Wrong again. The decadal survey made six program recommendations with #1 rankings: the Discovery Program, a Kuiper Belt-Pluto Explorer, a Europa Geophysical Explorer, the Mars Scout line, a Mars Science Laboratory, and a Mars Sample Return mission.

    See p. 5 in the PDF link here:

    http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=10432

    “Now back to our cost increase on NH: Yes, we went over–as I have many times said in print and in public (e.g., check the New York Times OpEd I wrote in November).”

    There is no mention of New Horizons (in reference to cost growth or anything else) in that editorial:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/24/opinion/24stern.html?_r=1

    “You seem to be claiming that because New Horizons failed to come within 20% of its cost, my attempts to control 10x bigger cost increases in other missions was illegitimate and somehow disingenuous.”

    That was not my argument. Any AA (or other NASA manager) owes the taxpayer the best possible stewardship of NASA’s budget, regardless of cost performance in prior projects.

    What is hypocritical are editorials in major news outlets calling out other missions for overruns with no acknowledgement of the overrun on New Horizons. The use of certain cost baselines in those editorials is also very disingenuous. (But I’m not stating anything that you havn’t already heard from others.)

    I’m all for reigning in mission cost growth, but we need to take the high ground and acknowledge all of our failings, not cherry pick our cases and evidence.

    “Neither I nor anyone on New Horizons had any recourse in this.”

    There’s always a recourse, up to and including project termination.

    I’m apologize for the tone, but these kinds of lame excuses are naseatingly common in this business. There’s a couple summary articles at Mr. Foust’s other website that make the same kind of “no recourse from above” arguments (HQ redirected MSL funding to Phoenix, HQ limited inter-year budget flexibility, etc.) with regard to MSL’s overrun.

    http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1318/1

    The magnitude of the overruns may be different, but the essential excuses for the overruns on the New Horizons and MSL projects — HQ made us do it — are the same.

    We _all_ can and need to do better.

    “I did not quit over MER… I quit when my boss effectively told me he was taking over SMD to fund MSL no matter how much damage it did to the rest of SMD.”

    I take your word for it. Other reports, including on this site, indicated otherwise:

    http://www.spacepolitics.com/2008/03/26/stern-resigns/

    “I like your handle too, but as I have clearly stated for 6 months,… I am not a candidate for NASA Administrator. Period.”

    I was arguing against your candidancy, not for it.

    “I have a son and daughter to raise and it is there [sic] turn to come first,.”

    The best of luck with the budget on that project.

    FWIW…

  • anon

    Well, Dr Stern may not want to campaign for the job of
    NASA administrator, but, our country sure does need him
    or an equally qualified candidate running things.

    Major Tom raises the issue of the science value of a pluto flyby
    and it’s true, it’s only a few weeks of data, but considering how little
    close data we have, and that Voyager made an irreversible choice
    30 years ago on wether to go to pluto, it’s not a choice we can
    easily undo. Investing 400 Million to get a pioneer or ranger class
    mission off is in my mind worth it, and NH has a real chance to
    push on to a couple of other KBO’s while it’s out there.

  • Brian Koester

    @MajorTom Thanks again for your reply!

    Tom… What are we debating here? I respectfully suggest “we” are missing the forest for the trees…

    New Horizons came in at a reasonable cost for an outer planet mission(Under $700 Million), had effective budget control for what was under the purvey of the PI (Principal Investigator) & his team, and will provide essential info about the outer solar system & the Kuiper Belt.

    With it’s Jupiter gravity assist & fly-by (which captured the giant plume from Io’s Tvashtar volcano) and it’s long range reconnaissance imaging of Neptune’s moon Triton, to it’s mission to Pluto, Charon & possibly 2 Kuiper Belt Objects —- —- This mission has to date and will continue to be quite a success.

    The question/discrepancy(?) about the AO (which for all you Acronym Haters out there – stands for “Announcement of Opportunity” – essentially NASA’s version of a letter of Intent.

    You point out the AO was for FY (Financial Year) 2000 instead of 2001, –but if you think about –this it actually supports the inflation change from $500 Million to $590 when fully “costed”. I also suggest that the budget is prepared in advance so therefore the 2001 Budget is prepared in the prior year, in this case the year 2000.

    The AO link clearly shows that there was to be *TWO* finalists and that the decision would not be made until August of 2001. You will note that Dr. Stern did not get his Award letter until November of 2001.

    Sorry Tom, I believe you are incorrect about there being no mention by Dr. Stern about his own experience with cost overruns in the NY Times while he may not have mentioned NHs specifically, it is fair to say that in he has been completely transparent on this matter, both here & elsewhere:

    “As a scientist in charge of space sensors and entire space missions before I was at NASA, I myself was involved in projects that overran.”

    Your statement that any “…AA (PI?) (or other NASA manager) owes the taxpayer the best possible stewardship of NASA’s budget… ” is well taken and reasonable.

    Your interpretation that this is an example of the best stewardship not occurring is not reasonable. In my judgment and in the minds of others (and I am sure Dr. Sterns peers), NH was a good example of a well run mission.

    However as Dr. Stern points out, it is your prerogative to disagree, however I think it is fair that the facts be accurately reflected in your responses.

    When a mission is 20% or $100 Million over which consists of a launch vehicle that is $75 Million of that difference along with 13 months of unexpected salary costs, then I think a majority of people would not see that as a hypocrisy nor poor management, quite the opposite.

    I take issue with your tone as I think such a loose use of the term “hypocritical” is totally uncalled for and deserving of a posting under something other than an anonymous name…

    I might add sir, that taking someone’s word for it usually doesn’t usually involve citing websites whose 2nd or 3rd hand sources are very likely less accurate than a principal involved in the story. Like the professional that he is Jeff Foust notes that any links to Dr. Sterns resignation and the MER’s are “Speculation”…. which given Dr. Sterns above statement and the passage of time I think we can see was precisely accurate (Thank you Jeff).

    Please keep in mind that Dr. Stern’s concern with the SMD’s 5 Billion budget busting wasn’t just based on money but how the whole process works. That means we need those SMEX and discovery class missions and other so that PI’s can get more experience. It means not having so many eggs in one basket with multiple state of the art systems. You could say we need more 10 yard downs that Hail Mary passes for better space science….

    You have are clearly of person who cares about space science and I appreciate & respect that Tom and I can agree to disagree on a lot of things, but I know that given your passion you will be with me paying close attention July 2015 to see what surprises Pluto has in store for us…

    Sincerely,

    Brian Koester

  • Brian Koester

    @MajorTom

    I couldn’t resist checking the link you cited for NRC’S (National Research Council) Decadal Survey from 2003 on Space exploration for the period of 2003-2013.

    In the 15 mb free pdf download,the page 5 you refer to is page 22 in an acrobat reader and it seems to be the page you are referring to but your interpretation that Dr. Stern is “Wrong Again” is way off base and incorrect.

    To say that there were SIX missions rated as #1 could be seen as a bit confusing as the priorities are split into Mars & NON MARS missions:

    Small Mission =Less than $350 Million (2 options – Discovery was #1)

    Medium Mission=Less than $650 Million (5 options Pluto/Kuiper was #1)

    Large Mission =More than $650 Million (1 choice-Europa Geophy/Expl)

    There are 3 Mars Missions on page 22, but Page 21 clearly qualifies this by stating:

    “…since the Mars Exploration Program line is already successfully
    established as a separate entity within NASA, its missions are prioritized separately in this report.”

    Page 21 of the Report also clearly states that the NRC:

    “Recommended Solar System Flight Missions (non-Mars)

    Europa Geophysical Explorer
    Kuiper Belt/Pluto Explorer
    South Pole-Aitken Basin Sample Return”

    Since the Europa mission was budgeted at more than $650 Million it was considered as a large Mission (and would likely today be in the Billions given NASA’s recent decision to partner with the ESA outer solar system exploration) — this means that New Horizons mission was indeed #1 for non-mars exploration missions budgeted for Medium Missions under $650 Million.

    I just felt this deserved some clarification. If anyone wants to have a Direct link to the Decadal survey, go here:

    http://cart.nap.edu/cart/deliver.cgi?&record_id=10432

    (or use Tom’s link and click on free download)

    You stand corrected Dude :-)

  • Major Tom

    “@MajorTom Thanks again for your reply!”

    My reply was to Dr. Stern, not to you, Mr. Koester.

    “I take issue with your tone as I think such a loose use of the term ‘hypocritical’ is totally uncalled for”

    A spade is a spade. You can take issue all you want, but it’s the very definition of hypocritical to criticize cost growth on certain projects — in editorials in major newspapers nonetheless — when one’s own project is also guilty of cost growth, and especially when said project goes unmentioned in said editorial. It’s even worse when the excuses used here for said project’s cost growth (HQ directives forced cost growth on my project for which I had no recourse) are the same as the excuses used by the projects one is criticizing.

    “and deserving of a posting under something other than an anonymous name…”

    Mr. Foust welcomes anonymous comments in this forum. Our arguments stand on their logic and the evidence behind them. It doesn’t matter who makes the argument.

    If you’re uncomfortable debating an anonymous poster, then don’t respond to posts from anonymous posters, especially those that are not directed at you.

    “I might add sir, that taking someone’s word for it usually doesn’t usually involve citing websites…”

    You’re confused here. I was taking Dr. Stern’s word, not the websites’.

    “To say that there were SIX missions rated as #1 could be seen as a bit confusing as the priorities are split into Mars & NON MARS missions”

    It doesn’t matter how the priorities are grouped. The fact remains that decadal review assigned six missions and programs #1 rankings.

    I don’t know if Dr. Stern didn’t learn these priorities or was being deliberately disingenuous. But regardless of how one groups the #1 ranked priorities in the survey, his statement that “Pluto-Kuiper Belt was the #1 rec: nothing was higher” is false and misleading.

    “this means that New Horizons mission was indeed #1 for non-mars exploration missions budgeted for Medium Missions”

    So what? Dr. Stern’s arguments was that “our priority as listed in the National; Academy’s Decadal Survey was #1 for medium class missions”, not #1 for non-Mars medium missions. Again, I don’t know if Dr. Stern didn’t learn these priorities or was being deliberately disingenuous. But regardless, his statement is again false and misleading.

    FWIW…

  • Major Tom

    “Perhaps we should take another look at Griffin… His biggest problem was Bush’s failure to provide his vision with sufficient funding.”

    No, even if we disregard the fact that Ares I/Orion were so expensive that Griffin had to cancel most ISS research, Project Prometheus (nuclear power/propulsion development), and most other exploration technology development from the get-go, technical issues and poor systems engineering, not budget, have been driving Constellation’s schedule problems for about a year now. The program is now looking down an 18-month slip from the first operational Ares I/Orion flight in 2016 due to “‘serious disconnects’ between related departments, such as Orion, Ground Ops and Ares” and “issues such as Thrust Oscillation and vehicle performance have come at a price for both schedule and costings”. See:

    http://www.nasaspaceflight.com/2009/03/aresorion-slipping-18-months-shuttle-extension-upper-hand/

    With the “program reporting they are at ‘zero percent confidence’ for keeping to [schedule]… confidence [that schedule savings] can be achieved without a major boost to Constellation funding is classed as low… with the worst case cost estimate coming in at around $7 billion.” There is now a “’9th Floor’ NASA HQ effort already taking place to evaluate the viability of cancelling Ares I, and replacing the launch vehicle with an EELV (Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle) – such as an Atlas V Heavy or a Delta IV Heavy”. Of course, now “shuttle extension” is also “building up a head of steam”, with all the attendant budget and schedule impacts to Orion, whatever its launch vehicle.

    FWIW…

  • Brian Koester

    @Major Tom – Is this what they call a “flame war”? :-)

    If so I shall try to focus on the facts & not in any personal insults and my comments are to you and any one who may wish to comment or add their 2 cents.

    Before we change the topic to Dr. Griffin & Constellation

    I first would like to agree with you that “Our arguments stand on their logic and the evidence behind them” and the corresponding parallel to that is that when we have been shown to be incorrect, we acknowledge it and move forward.

    I have enjoyed debating you Tom, and I have learned a lot about space science in reading the entire NAS (National Academy for Sciences) SSES (Solar System Exploration Survey) Decadal survey (thanks to Dr. Stern for pointing out it’s relevance), and I would recommend it to anyone with a real passion on this topic.

    http://cart.nap.edu/cart/deliver.cgi?&record_id=10432

    Your assertion that perhaps somehow Dr. Stern was being “deliberately disingenuous” or even “false & misleading” is a deliberately misinformed opinion, as is your assertion that New Horizons was actually only one of 6 missions rated “number one”.

    This is NOT a logical conclusion if you read the entire survey and it is a completely unsupportable assertion and is not constructive in the least.

    The Decadal survey is clear as are pages 21 & 22 in that IT QUALIFIES THE PRIORITIES & the differences between missions of different scope and costs:

    “Because resources are finite, the SSE Survey prioritized all new flight missions within each category along with any associated activities”

    Yes there were other missions rated #1, *in their class*, but none had as much detailed explanation of their merits and how they related to questions of a scientific paramount as did a Pluto/KBO mission.

    For clarification the survey states (pg 19) that Discovery class missions are to launched ideally every 18 months at a targeted cost of less than$325 Million.

    New Frontier Class missions are to be launched ideally every 2-3 years at twice the cost of Discovery Missions at less than $650 Million.

    Flagship missions are to be developed and flown at a rate of about one per decade for a budget greater than$650 million.

    Perhaps (?) you haven’t yet had a chance to read the entire report and the the conclusions in Chapter 7: Priority Questions for Solar System Exploration,
    2003-2013:

    On Pages 192 -198 the report is crystal clear on the need and benefits of a Pluto/Kuiper Belt Object mission under the New Frontiers program. This is shown by including two Charts (7.1 & 7.2) showing the merits of different missions and what questions they address.

    Chapter 8, page 207 uses the *strongest possible language* that a report like this is likely to ever use to support a Pluto/Kuiper belt Object mission in BOLD FONT no less:

    ************************************************************************

    ..”the SSE Survey strongly endorses the New Frontiers initiative. These spacecraft should be competitively procured and should have flights every 2 or3 years, with the total cost capped at approximately twice that of a Discovery mission. Target selection should be guided by the list in this report.”

    ************************************************************************

    (The list mentioned is on page 22 (acrobat #) where it is Numero Uno.

    The key words here are “Strongly endorses” and they are only used once in the entire report.

    So, there was no false or misleading statements, none.

    New Horizons became the New Frontier mission that this report “Strongly” endorsed. It will give us key info on primitive bodies in the solar system, the outer solar system & understand planet formation better. It is & will continue to be a great success for a great price!

    With regards to your point of budget overuns, 20% representing $100 Million for this kind of mission which has a Nuclear power source (RTG) and is destined for deep space pales in significance to the overall problem of NASA’s SMD (Science Mission Directorate) $5 Billion overun.

    What concrete & proactive solutions do you propose to address this?

  • Major Tom

    “@Major Tom – Is this what they call a ‘flame war’?”

    No, this is a fairly civil discussion.

    “your assertion that New Horizons was actually only one of 6 missions rated ‘number one’.”

    It is not an assertion. It’s a fact printed and repeated in black and white throughout the NRC report that the planetary decadal survey assigned six mission and program recommendations #1 rankings.

    “This is NOT a logical conclusion if you read the entire survey and it is a completely unsupportable assertion and is not constructive in the least.”

    You keep saying that, but you have yet to provide any evidence that supports such a statement.

    “Chapter 8, page 207 uses the *strongest possible language* that a report like this is likely to ever use to support a Pluto/Kuiper belt Object mission in BOLD FONT no less:

    ‘the SSE Survey strongly endorses the New Frontiers initiative. These spacecraft should be competitively procured and should have flights every 2 or3 years, with the total cost capped at approximately twice that of a Discovery mission. Target selection should be guided by the list in this report.’”

    Reread the passage you’re quoting. You’re confusing New Frontiers (a program consisting of a series of missions) with New Horizons (a single mission). In that passage, the survey used its “strongest possible language” and “BOLD FONT” to support the former (New Frontiers), not the latter (New Horizons).

    (In fact, the survey never refers to the New Horizons mission at all, only a generic mission to Pluto and the Kuiper Belt.)

    Again, the evidence you’re quoting does not support the argument you’re making. Please read more carefully.

    “So, there was no false or misleading statements, none.”

    Wrong, Dr. Stern made two false and misleading statements earlier in this thread.

    The first statement was:

    “our priority as listed in the National; [sic] Academy’s Decadal Survey was #1 for medium class missions”

    This is a false and misleading statement because the survey assigned #1 rankings to two medium mission priorities, not one.

    The second statement was:

    “Pluto-Kuiper Belt was the #1 rec: nothing was higher.”

    This is a false and misleading statement because the survey assigned #1 rankings to six mission and program priorities in total.

    I don’t know how to explain it any more plainly than that.

    I don’t know why Dr. Stern made these false and misleading statements. I don’t know if it was out of ignorance or a deliberate attempt to be disingenous — I can’t read his mind. But the fact remains that the statements were made and that they are at odds with the facts as printed in the decadal survey.

    Look, I think it’s great that you’re a devoted fan of the New Horizons mission, but that doesn’t change the planetary science community’s priorities as written in the decadal survey. It’s also nice to see a researcher earn a devoted fan, but your grasping attempts to defend patently hypocritical, false, and misleading statements from said researcher is at odds with what is written in black and white and is honestly bordering on the creepy. I’d urge you to take off the rose-tinted glasses and accept the facts as they stand in print. And if you can’t do that, then you should probably stop wasting your and my time with this conversation, because you’re never going to be convinced otherwise.

    “With regards to your point of budget overuns, 20% representing $100 Million for this kind of mission… What concrete & proactive solutions do you propose to address this?”

    At this point, the only solution to reduce New Horizon’s prior cost growth is to terminate the mission. Its cost growth is big enough for a Nunn-McCurdy breach. Although drastic, maybe such a measure should be considered. As Dr. Stern argued in his editorial, sunk costs are sunk costs, after all.

    FWIW…

  • [...] top choice to run the agency), it’s not surprising that he isn’t taking the job, since it was clear over a month ago that he didn’t appear that interested because of financial concerns. And so the search goes [...]

  • Brian Koester

    Yeah Cancel a 700 Million dollar mission half way through….

    Logic isn’t really a strong point for ya is it Tom….

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