Congress, NASA

Augustine and Griffin from the archives

As expected, the White House has ordered an independent review of Constellation to be chaired by Norm Augustine and be completed by August. That exploration architecture is at the heart of Mike Griffin’s legacy at NASA administrator. So it was interesting that someone reminded me that both Augustine and Griffin were witnesses at the same hearing of the House Science Committee back in March 2004, when the committee was taking an initial look at the Vision for Space Exploration announced two months earlier. Augustine appeared in his role as former chairman of the “Committee on the Future of the U.S. Space Program” (aka the Augustine Commission) in 1990, while Griffin spoke as president of In-Q-Tel and incoming head of the Space Department at APL (the hearing took place almost exactly one year before Griffin was nominated to become NASA administrator).

Given that one of the major criticisms of Constellation has been its cost (in addition to technical and schedule issues, which also affect its cost), it was interesting to see some of their comments in the prepared testimony. Augustine had this to say about spending:

[I]t would be a grave mistake to try to pursue a space program “on the cheap”. To do so is in my opinion an invitation to disaster. There is a tendency in any “can-do” organization to believe that it can operate with almost any budget that is made available. The fact is that trying to do so is a mistake—particularly when safety is a major consideration. I am not arguing for profligacy; rather, I am simply pointing out that space activity is expensive and that it is difficult. One might even say that it is rocket science!

Griffin, meanwhile, addressed costs in greater detail in his remarks, suggesting that the initial estimates of the cost of developing the infrastructure needed to return to the Moon might, if anything, be “somewhat high”. He adds:

Additional perspective can be gained by noting that the cost of the entire Apollo program was about $130 B in today’s dollars. This included massive technology and infrastructure development, as well as the operational cost of eleven manned missions, including six lunar landings. It does not seem reasonable that 40% or more of this figure should be required to execute a single mission of a similar class today.

For advocates of spaceflight, including myself, more money is always better, and is certainly preferable to less money! But I would submit that our first order of business is to examine our culture, the aerospace culture, and ourselves, to understand why we believe it costs so very much more to operate in space than to perform almost any other human activity.

According to a committee press release, Griffin, when asked by Congressman Dana Rohrabacher about the costs of going to the Moon and Mars, said, “I believe that the first expeditions to Mars should be accomplishable within an amount of funding approximately equal to what we spent on Apollo…in today’s dollars, about $130 billion. Certainly that would envelope it. I believe that it should be possible to return to the moon for in the neighborhood of $30 billion in today’s dollars. And those are both fairly comfortable amounts.”

With the costs of returning to the Moon now significantly higher than what Griffin personally estimated five years ago, a key question for Augustine and his new panel is whether current plans are simply expensive and difficult, or profligate.

45 comments to Augustine and Griffin from the archives

  • Major Tom

    If Griffin really believed that a human lunar return could be accomplished for $52 billion (40% of Apollo’s $130 billion), then why did he select a Constellation architecture that will cost $92 billion, by NASA’s own estimates, through first lunar landing?

    If Griffin really believed that a human Mars mission could be accomplished for the same $130 billion spent on Apollo, then why did he select a Constellation lunar architecture that will cost $110 billion, by CBO’s estimates, through first lunar landing?

    Did Griffin just make a bad choice? Or was he constrained by political pressures surrounding the Shuttle workforce to make a non-optimal choice? Were he unconstrained, what would Griffin’s ideal architecture have been? ESAS/Constellation? Or something else?

    FWIW…

  • Mark R. Whittington

    “Were he unconstrained, what would Griffin’s ideal architecture have been? ESAS/Constellation? Or something else?”

    If we were to imagine a cloud coo coo land where politics don’t exist, how about the original Orion? You know, the one designed to be propelled with nuclear bombs. Just solve the pesky emp and fallout problem and the Solar System is pretty much ours.

    Alas, Griffin had to work in the real world and not the utopia some people seem to dwell in.

  • common sense

    Someone posted this on NASAWatch: “Maybe we really don’t want to go anywhere. We don’t want risk, we just want “jobs”.”

    My response:

    Yep. Maybe. See Shuttle extension for example, or why the Constellation protagonists are the same as Shuttle’s… Otherwise we would choose something that makes sense from the start. Settling the Solar System and beyond is going to require so much more cash than anyone can think that I don’t think anyone really knows how to do it – politically I mean. This is a societal concern not that of the current, former or future WH. Without public (not only the excentric blog posters) support you can forget it.

    Therefore, as far as NASA is concerned I seriously doubt it, even if Russia, China, India or Monaco put men on the Moon or Mars. The current foreseen technology will not let us do it in a sustainable way. The required technology does not (really) exist and I see NO intent from anyone to develop it in any serious way.

    In my view the (not so long term) future is the likes of COTS. If one can make a business case for exploration and make it happen, then settlements will follow. And if this does not work…

    I hope I am wrong but I don’t think so.

  • Michael

    common sense….

    I agree with you regarding COTS. If money can be made then we shall go where no man has gone before. If not, well….

    Study English history

    Regarding Constellation, I expect that following all the committee meetings the end of the day Ares I will be judged “all Bushes” fault and quietly abandoned. Hopefully this will happen before Ares 1-X!

  • common sense

    @Michael:

    “Study English history” ???

  • TANSTAAFL

    MAJOR TOM: If Griffin really believed that a human lunar return could be accomplished for $52 billion (40% of Apollo’s $130 billion), then why did he select a Constellation architecture that will cost $92 billion, by NASA’s own estimates, through first lunar landing?

    Perhaps this statement by Griffin is the equivalent of NASA’s quote to the White House for what it would cost to build a Space Station.

    If you recall, NASA told the White House it would cost $8 Billion.

    FWIW,

    - TANSTAAFL

  • Seer

    Can anyone explain where all this money is meant to be spent?
    From what I’ve heard and read, the cost should be about $50bn.
    Ares 1 = $10bn
    Orion = $5bn
    Altair = $5bn
    Ares 5 = $10 bn
    There’s also launch pads, some test flights, overhead, which shouldn’t be much more than $20bn altogether. I don’t see where the other $50bn goes.

  • Kevin Parkin

    Meetings, paperwork, neither of which are broken out in any budget.

  • Doug Lassiter

    If you want to look back at Augustine archives, his 2006 “Gathering Storm” report is worth paying some attention to. This is what he’s writing about, doing Congressional tesimony about, and giving invited talks about these days, and for which he has a lot of credibility on the Hill. My guess is that this report will strongly inform the decisions his team makes. No, “Gathering Storm” doesn’t dictate specific space exploration architecture, but it can provide strong guidelines on the management and infrastructure for the architecture program they recommend. It links tightly into NASA workforce issues which, for a sustained program, is critical for any such recommended program. I think Augustine (and OSTP as well) understand that what is at issue here is a lot more than just architecture.

  • Kevin Parkin

    Just read Gathering Storm as suggested. I’m inclined to agree with the findings and will keep an open mind for the upcoming study.

    They don’t have much time, so my guess is the scope won’t be much beyond “are we throwing good money after bad relative to the alternatives?”

    Finally, I make the standard point about the alternatives, which is that if somebody came up with a promising new method of space launch tomorrow, NASA wouldn’t pursue it seriously unless it was pitched as a megaproject (NASP, X33). They don’t/can’t nuture seedling ideas to small projects (MXER, gun, laser) and the small projects die (DC-X) or are never started (DC-Y). That this has been the case for decades means we now make a sad choice between ARES, Shuttle and EELV, none of which will result in the kind of space program most people are/were hoping for.

  • Dennis Wingo

    With the costs of returning to the Moon now significantly higher than what Griffin personally estimated five years ago, a key question for Augustine and his new panel is whether current plans are simply expensive and difficult, or profligate.

    The current plan (ESAS) is simply not going to be funded. If you look at what aerospace professionals (like Woodcock) have been saying for years, the ESAS architecture was going to cost several times the rosy projections of the study and this is already being revealed to be the case. John Makins lost his job at NASA because he had the temerity to say this as well.

    There were some really good architectures that were developed by NASA in the late 90′s that did not require the ESAS heavy lifter and they need to be looked at. The OASIS (Orbital Agreggation Space Infrastructure System) developed by John Connolly and others at NASA makes a lot of sense and should be part of the Augustine review. Jeff I have a copy of this if you want to put it up.

    No architecture is going to be sustainable that relies solely on what can be launched from the Earth and we need to just bite the bullet and do what is necessary to start to develop in-situ capabilities. Without this, we will NEVER have an architecture that can survive budgetary constraints.

  • David Davenport

    Augustine had this to say about spending:

    [I]t would be a grave mistake to try to pursue a space program “on the cheap”. To do so is in my opinion an invitation to disaster. There is a tendency in any “can-do” organization to believe that it can operate with almost any budget that is made available. The fact is that trying to do so is a mistake—particularly when safety is a major consideration. I am not arguing for profligacy; rather, I am simply pointing out that space activity is expensive

    Burt Rutan disagrees.

    Rutan: “NASA is just not set up to do things economically.”

  • [...] CEO )  is a veteran of a number of space-related committees, including (as Space Politics‘ excellent post notes) a March 2004 hearing of the House Science Committee on the then-freshly-minted Vision for [...]

  • Chris

    There are tragic times in history when one can remember where they were upon hearing the news. The Space Shuttle Challenger accident of January 28th, 1986, is one of those cases. A crew of seven astronauts, one a beloved schoolteacher, was instantly killed when Challenger exploded upon take off. Allan McDonald was on the launch pad that day as an engineer and director for Thiokol, a company that made the defective parts for the shuttle. McDonald warned against the launch and soon found himself before the Presidential Commission committee testifying against his own company. Caught in the middle of litigation and controversy, McDonald miraculously kept his job thanks to pressure from Congress, using the time to chronicle the fallout. Truth, Lies, and O-rings is the story of the man who had an inside view of every step of the Challenger controversy. To order this book please visit http://upf.com/book.asp?id=MCDON001.

  • [...] Augustine and Griffin from the archives – Space Politics [...]

  • Jim Muncy

    To Common Sense

    I don’t know why Michael suggested reading English history, but in fact that history is full of joint public/private exploration and development all over the globe. Of course, now much of that is derided as evil colonialism, but the benefit of space is that there don’t appear to be
    many complex life forms to disturb.

    In fact, the history of exploration of the New World by England and Spain offer a great empirical argument for a commercially-focused strategy for space. England began at the end of the 16th century with the failed Roanoke colony, didn’t find gold (until 250 years later), but used a decentralized, entreprenurial approach. Spain began at the end of the 15th century (100 years head start), exploited others’ gold/silver finds, and used a centralized military heirarchical approach to settlement.

    Today, over 400 years later, I believe we can tell which one was better based on the flow of human migration.

  • common sense

    @Jim Muncy:

    I think Michael facetiously suggested that if everything was to fail we would be left only reading English history… I posted before I re-read. Oh well.

    I am with you, I think, on the public/private exploration. And I think the problem is fairly simple. If we assume the public has its say (using elections for example) as to what the government spends then Space is prettly low on their prioirity (today and tomorrow – yesterday the fear of the great red bear was driving but not anymore) as they cannot see the return on investement for several years after we would have gone to space. And it is not enough for us to tell the public they are just wrong. As to the colonialism cliche we can only blame it to ourselves. The attitude of the space community generally is very arrogant when it comes to explain Space to the public – which is a reflection to the fact there is no good argument. Allow me the parallel: A good professor in school is not about all he/she knows but rather how he/she will explain what he/she knows to the students. There is NO good professor of Space in charge anywhere. A lot of ego yes but that’s about it.

    Another side of the problem is how NASA is currently being run. NASA is subject to political pressures to keep jobs around and not necessarily to accomplish anything – in terms of human space flight.

    A successful COTS like program means the end of NASA human space flight as it is run today. Not very many people enjoy such an outcome.

    This is the reason why NASA needs to re-assess its strategy. Re-doing what has been accomplished before will not lend NASA any credibility especially considering that Constellation is going bankrupt so to speak. This is also the reason why I think that the earlier O’Keefe “spiral” development approach was better suited. Step by step you increase capabilities and goals – along you bring the private sector to sustain the development.

    Shuttle should be retired very soon and Constellation seriously revisited. If nobody, NOBODY, can come up with a plan that makes sense then it’ll be over for NASA human space flight: Constellation will run out of money and at best Shuttle WILL retire, or at worst…

  • Artful Dodger

    To Jim Muncy’s point, I’d agree – but “success” all depends on your objectives; the commerce-minded English speaking nations generally turned out to be developed economies with democratic institutions and the rule of law. The Spanish wanted the resources of the new world too – but they also prioritized converting heathens to Roman Catholocism as an equally important priority. Looking at Latin America, its record relative to prosperity, democracy and the rule of law is decidedly mixed – but its still solidly Roman Catholic!

  • Paul F. Dietz

    If we were to imagine a cloud coo coo land where politics don’t exist, how about the original Orion? You know, the one designed to be propelled with nuclear bombs. Just solve the pesky emp and fallout problem and the Solar System is pretty much ours.

    Technical issues with the impossibility of adequately testing the concept (short of a horrifically expensive series of test launches) would be enough to scuttle it, even in CCCL.

    IMO, nuclear pulse propulsion vehicles could only ever be developed when they could be tested in space, where failure doesn’t smear the test article across the landscape (even if the fallout issue is ignored).

  • Kevin Parkin

    “A successful COTS like program means the end of NASA human space flight as it is run today. Not very many people enjoy such an outcome.”

    When put in exactly that wording, I’d be interested to see what a poll on that says.

  • common sense

    @Kevin Parkin:

    I would love to see polls bear any significance. But they usually don’t. The space community is so divided as to what human space flight ought to be that it is not even funny. VSE was designed to reconcile all those diverse interests and was not implemented as such. Divide and rule is much MUCH easier. The result is status quo, no risk, no progress, nothing…

    If COTS and eventually COTS-D are successful the CURRENT NASA exploration will retire. If COTS-D were not a threat to the current status quo and considering its budget, then why is it COTS-D is not given a real chance to be successful? It looks like it is somewhat changing but time will tell. Some of the key players do not understand that a successful COTS-D will save NASA and makes it look much better than it does by the implied fact that the public at large may eventually be part of it. Suffice to look at the history sailing and aviation. But I understand it’s a tough call for many to let go.

    As for the poll. Who do you poll? The public? The aerospace industry? Private space? NASA Aero? NASA Science? NASA Exploration?… All of the above? It’s been done multiple times. Who has the most influence where it is needed (i.e. WH and Congress)? What do you think? There is an Augustine commission set up already, so we’ll know the results by summers’end. In the meantime…

  • @common sense

    If COTS and eventually COTS-D are successful the CURRENT NASA exploration will retire.

    Though I often agree with you, I disagree with your comment here. COTS and COT D does not concern exploration architecture, those programs concern transportation architecture. The real threat of successful Space X Falcon 1 and 9 program is to big aerospace companies like Lockheed Martin and Boeing who will be effectively knocked out of the low to medium range launch market. COTS D is currently not funded in large part because there is only one real competitor for that funding and that of course is SpaceX. Chris Scolese himself said this. NASA wants to see if SpaceX has a successful Falcon 9 launch first. That is the crucial test before Congress and NASA will agree to funding COTS D.

  • TANSTAAFL

    GARY MILES: “COTS and COT D does not concern exploration architecture, those programs concern transportation architecture.”

    I agree and disagree.

    I agree with your point that COTS and COTS D are not threats to NASA’s exploration mission. In fact, the exact opposite is true. NASA’s exploration mission — which is about focusing on the FAR frontier — needs the ability to hand-off the near-frontier to competitive private industry, who can do the routine and boring things much cheaper than government can.

    This is critical for multiple reasons.

    1) NASA needs to focus its limited resources on the far frontier. Letting go of the near frontier allows more of the resources to be focused on the far frontier.

    Which is something we all want to happen.

    2) NASA needs to be focused on the exciting missions. 30 years of doing routine operations in LEO, going around in circles, is slowly killing the American people’s passion for NASA.

    President Obama has made it very clear — repeatedly saying (paraphrase) that “since Apollo, NASA is no longer inspirational.”

    SUMMARY: COTS and COTS-D are strategically linked with NASA’s ability to succeed at human exploration beyond Earth (in a positive way.)

    GARY MILES: “The real threat of successful Space X Falcon 1 and 9 program is to big aerospace companies like Lockheed Martin and Boeing who will be effectively knocked out of the low to medium range launch market.”

    True. But we need to acknowledge that Lockheed and Boeing have already been totally knocked out of the *commercial* “low to medium range launch market”.

    Since Boeing and Lockheed have already failed in the commercial launch market, it should not be news to anybody that we need to do something different.

    The only thing they have left to sell is “reliability”. That is critical, but it will only go so far (as we are seeing with the Delta II.)

    GARY MILES: “COTS D is currently not funded in large part because there is only one real competitor for that funding and that of course is SpaceX. “

    It is true that this is how Congress relates to COTS-D. SpaceX clearly over-reached with their lobbying campaign on Capitol Hill in the last year. I believe that Elon’s large ego is getting in the way — going up on the Hill and (in effect) saying “Just give me the money and I will eliminate the gap” was not an effective message strategy.

    Not even the advocates of COTS-D want to just hand Elon the market. He gave the opponents ammunition, and lost many of his allies. It was an ill-advised strategy.

    If Elon had lobbied, instead, for a COTS-D initiative that would fund many competitors, it probably would have had a different result.

    In reality, there are multiple “real” competitors. Boeing bid COTS-D in the last competition. SpaceDev (now owned by Sierra Nevada) has a COTS-D concept. There is at least one serious, credible (and well funded) COTS-D competitor that is not publicly known. Under the right circumstances, even tSpace and Rocketplane Kistler could re-emerge if NASA seriously funded COTS-D.

    IMO, if this nation is serious about substantially reducing “The Gap”, we could (and should) have a COTS-D competition with 4-5 winners. This nation should adopt a portfolio investment approach to diversify risk, and to increase competition and innovation.

    If the Ares 1 costs $44 Billion, why can’t we take $2-3 Billion of the savings, and apply that to COTS-D? That amount of money would get us 4-5 well-funded competitors. That would be an exciting competition.

    You want to inspire the next generation? Think commercial human spaceflight.

    FWIW,

    - TANSTAAFL

  • Jim Muncy

    That does it.

    TANSTAAFL for NASA Administrator.

  • Martijn Meijering

    @Dennis Wingo:

    “There were some really good architectures that were developed by NASA in the late 90’s that did not require the ESAS heavy lifter and they need to be looked at. The OASIS (Orbital Agreggation Space Infrastructure System) developed by John Connolly and others at NASA makes a lot of sense and should be part of the Augustine review.”

    OASIS is indeed a very interesting architecture, but also very ambitious. The key to achieving it might be to come up with an incremental plan that leads to it. Maybe that was the intention of the OASIS team, but for whatever reason the project was cancelled before such an incremental plan was developed. And by incremental I don’t mean developing all the elements of the architecture one by one, but by developing and then upgrading judiciously chosen precursor systems in such a way that the first step would give immediate beyond-LEO capability and each subsequent step would allow immediate improvement in beyond-LEO capability, such as reduced cost, more distant destinations, larger numbers of crew etc. In this way much of the time and schedule pressure goes away.

    It looks as if you have given up on nasaspaceflight.com, which is a pity. I’d love to hear your ideas on this.

  • Bill White

    IMO, if this nation is serious about substantially reducing “The Gap”, we could (and should) have a COTS-D competition with 4-5 winners. This nation should adopt a portfolio investment approach to diversify risk, and to increase competition and innovation.

    The need for access to the International Space Station doesn’t generate sufficient demand for launch services to justify or support 4 or 5 COTS-D winners.

    However a non-NASA space station that routinely rotated tourists (every 7 days, 10 days or 14 days) would generate ample demand for private sector launch services for both crew and logistics. Also, consider permanently affixing an ESA ATV or a spare MLPM or open volume Bigelow habitat to that private facility and seek a WWE contract for televised and sponsored zero gravity wrestling — winners stay on orbit and face future challengers. Losers fly home.

    THAT would require and support far more NewSpace Earth to LEO flights than COTS-D for ISS and a NASA-centric propellant depot combined.

    Think MirCorp on steroids (except steroids are illegal in the WWE, right?)

    Keeping this NASA-centric won’t shatter those paradigms that need to be shattered.

  • Martijn Meijering

    @Bill White:

    We meet again :-)

    “The need for access to the International Space Station doesn’t generate sufficient demand for launch services to justify or support 4 or 5 COTS-D winners.”

    Good point and that’s an unfortunate problem. Jon Goff has suggested that COTS-D would be a good way to generate extra demand for commercial launchers. The capability to launch passengers generates more demand for cargo than the ability to launch cargo generates demand for passenger flights. So it’s a chicken and egg thing.

  • Bill White

    @ TANSTAAFL

    You want to inspire the next generation? Think commercial human spaceflight.

    A) True, but

    B) COTS-D to support ISS remains a NASA-centric government funded program. Is COTS-D a good idea? Absolutely, but it isn’t commercial human spaceflight. We need commercial destinations for that.

    C) I believe the Obama Administration would be open to re-visiting the political decisions that sank MirCorp.

    And since many of those decisions are processed through the State Department maybe someone should ask Lori Garver to give a copy of the “Orphans of Apollo” DVD to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

  • TANSTAAFL

    Bill,

    The follow-on market is private human spaceflight.

    Lots of private citizens going to orbit, paying for it out of their own pockets, on privately-provided space transportation services is paradigm shattering.

    NASA can legitimately play the “air mail” role with COTS-D and by purchasing its needs for humans-to-orbit services from commercial providers.

    Of course NASA could mess it up (and they might do so if industry is asleep.) So we need to watch NASA like a hawk, and let then know immediately if we see problems. The earlier we communicate, the easier it is to fix the problem.

    FWIW,

    - TANSTAAFL

  • common sense

    @Gary Miles:

    I stand by my comments.

    Currently NASA relies on the the major Defense contractors to build up Constellation. The price tag of COTS-D vs Constellation is quite different. The technological leap from LEO to Moon is not that high. NASA does NOT want COTS-D OR it would have been funded back in the early days of Constellation to a level such that it’d be up and running by NOW. However, it is the US Space policy, namely the VSE, and the Space Act to promote commercial space, see below. Therefore NASA really has NO choice but to provide some money for COTS like programs.

    FUNCTIONS OF THE ADMINISTRATION
    Sec. 203. (a) The Administration, in order to carry out the purpose of this Act, shall–

    (4) seek and encourage, to the maximum extent possible, the fullest commercial use of space; and
    (5) encourage and provide for Federal Government use of commercially provided space services and hardware, consistent with the requirements of the Federal Government.

  • common sense

    @TANSTAAFL:

    “1) NASA needs to focus its limited resources on the far frontier. Letting go of the near frontier allows more of the resources to be focused on the far frontier.”

    YES, YES, YES. BUT NASA IS NOT DOING IT. It’s focusing on ISS access. The VSE was calling for Moon on the way to Mars with possible secondary capabilities to ISS. TODAY, the Moon is being revisited and possibly abandonned, as to Mars or beyond… Constellation is NOT sustainable as it stands (see all Major Tom’s posts here and elsewhere). NASA IS NOT EVEN LOOKING AT THE REQUIRED TECHNOLOGY TO GO TO MARS. Arrgghh. It really hurts to see NASA wasting its talent.

    NASA MUST REACH WAY BEYOND LEO. At the same time NASA MUST promote COTS-D and a COTS-like program to the Moon. The technology exists and MUST be given to the private sector. I don’t care how many companies, the mere the merrier. NASA IS NOT DOING IT. Period.

    Also: “There is at least one serious, credible (and well funded) COTS-D competitor that is not publicly known” How can that be? I thought NASA money was public money? Is this a “classified” program. NASA should change the way it does business because this may hurt NASA very much.

  • common sense

    To All:

    Please note that I actually said “CURRENT” in “If COTS and eventually COTS-D are successful the CURRENT NASA exploration will retire.”

    Please also note that the Augustine commission may even retire it as it stands today no matter what, solely based on performance.

  • kert

    Posted this over at transterrestrial but here goes as well, for an interesting thought experiment. If you established another completely new civilian space agency now and took one billion from NASA budget and gave it to this another one.
    You are free to pick its new administrator, establish the structure etc.
    What mandate would you give it ?

  • common sense

    @kert:

    I don’t think we really need another space agency. We need to make this one, NASA, work properly.

  • @common sense

    Please note that I actually said “CURRENT” in “If COTS and eventually COTS-D are successful the CURRENT NASA exploration will retire.”

    CURRENT was not the issue here. EXPLORATION was what caused the confusion. The term is rather broadended and vague which could encompass all of NASA’s exploration programs. From your later comments, obviously you are referring to specifically the ESAS and the Constellation program.

    The technological leap from LEO to Moon is not that high.

    I would posit that the leap from LEO to the Moon is a far greater technological leap than launching from the Earth to LEO. For one, we are dealing with the problem of three-bodies particularly in relations to gravitational waves. Recall that the Mercury program did not require onboard guidance computers. OGCs were first introduced in the Gemini programs to test in preparation for Apollo. The Apollo OGC was a fairly advanced computer for its time. Traveling also requires a set of translunar and cislunar injections which in themselves are a fairly complex set of task. I think a few guys from flight dynamics might pick a fight with you over that comment.

    Currently NASA relies on the the major Defense contractors to build up Constellation.

    I find this statement somewhat baffling. Yes, it is true that Boeing, ATK, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, and Honeywell have big defense business, but they also have big commercial sectors as well outside of the military. Boeing builds commercial jets. ATK does considerable amount manufacturing of composite materials for construction and aerospace. Lockheed Martin and Raytheon build climate monitoring satellites. Why should being defense contractors preclude them from offering competitive concepts for COTS or COTS D? Did you know that SpaceX now has a defense contract with the US Air Force? As long as the concepts have economic merit and are technologically feasible, and are not part of a government patronage system, then any of these companies should be able to offer bids.

    @TANSTAAFL

    Thank you for expanding on the subject.

  • @TANSTAAFL

    When I referred to the low and medium range launch market, I was meaning the Delta II, only remaining Boeing launcher that has been in that market. You are right that Boeing and Lockheed are essentially already out of that market. But if Falcon 9 proves successful, then those companies will be completely locked out and must rely on their heavy lifters like the EELVs. Which is why I find it curious that EELVs are getting talked up so much as possible replacements for Ares I even though they are clearly a very expensive launch system that have yet to be human-rated.

  • Which is why I find it curious that EELVs are getting talked up so much as possible replacements for Ares I even though they are clearly a very expensive launch system that have yet to be human-rated.

    They’d have to get a lot more expensive to be as expensive as Ares I. And Ares I isn’t human rated, either, yet. It doesn’t even exist.

  • kert

    I don’t think we really need another space agency. We need to make this one, NASA, work properly.
    You didnt really get what im suggesting. Its fairly obvious it is politically very difficult or impossible to make this one work properly. Entrenched bureacuracies, constituencies, interest groups, and so on.

    Starting afresh from a clean sheet with lean organization and tight focus may make things move, and leave the original agency in a dust.

  • common sense

    @Gary Miles:

    “OGCs were first introduced in the Gemini programs to test in preparation for Apollo … I think a few guys from flight dynamics might pick a fight with you over that comment.”

    Well as I said earlier the technology to go to the Moon is not that much of a leap from LEO. Not necessarily the know-how which is currently lost to anyone. Said technology does exist today and is mostly available. And YES ESAS, Constellation (and Shutlle) will retire which makes the CURRENT human space exploration at NASA eventually retired. I did not mean anything else since I understood the thread is about that.

    “Did you know that SpaceX now has a defense contract with the US Air Force? As long as the concepts have economic merit and are technologically feasible, and are not part of a government patronage system, then any of these companies should be able to offer bids.”

    You are just adding to my point ;-) The problem with the current set up of using the major Defense contractors is that they are NOT paid for performance – cost-plus. COTS pays for performance. In addition overhead at the Defense contractors is giganormous not at a small business.

  • common sense

    @kert:

    I did get it. What makes you think that another agency would not be “Entrenched bureacuracies, constituencies, interest groups, and so on.”?

    How can another agency be not politcal? Especially considering the budget. As a governement agency $1B will not do it to go to space. Take Shuttle + Constellation as a 1st order approximation for your budget.

  • kert

    Of course it would be political, but without decades of accumulated baggage. And without a standing army to take care of. A government agency can do a lot with $1B budget, including flying americans to space. The simplest approach : pull SpaceShipOne out of Smitshonian and hire Mike Melville.

  • common sense

    @ kert:

    I will only assume that your example of SS-1 is here to make a point that private space is the way to go which I totally endorse.

    On the other hand if you think that SS-1 represents any orbital capability then you are completely mistaken.

    $1B will get you so far. How far do you think? Any idea how many people you can get for how long? Then there is building leases, equipment, computers, experimental facilities…

    It does not matter it is a new agency if it is populated with the same people, eventually you’ll get back where you started from. And if it is not the same people then where do you get them from?

  • Dennis Wingo

    It looks as if you have given up on nasaspaceflight.com, which is a pity. I’d love to hear your ideas on this.

    I did not give up on them, they gave up on me. My password quit working and I emailed Chris Bergin multiple times with no answer so I quit worrying about them.

  • [...] Federal stimulus funds from commercial aeronautic development to the costly public development of a questionable stopgap program is bitter. If Shelby disagrees with the Augustine Commission’s report and recommendation, uses [...]

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