NASA

Take that, Mike

On Friday NASA deputy administrator Lori Garver spoke at NASA Ames. Her prepared remarks aren’t on the NASA web site, but highlights of the speech and answers to questions were live-tweeted by one attendee, Matthew F. Reyes. Some of those highlights include praising NASA’s COTS program for doing “a good job letting private enterprise learn from mistakes”, saying that funding R&D work on low technology readiness level (TRL) is a “critical priority” for NASA, and suggesting that NASA “has not sold a return to the Moon” as an important mission.

One comment in particular by Garver stuck out to me, though: “OMB controlling NASA & being responsible for the Agency’s problems is a myth.” That comment seemed aimed directly at former administrator Mike Griffin, who has complained about the . As you may recall, Griffin complained about the OMB in his Goddard Memorial Dinner speech in April, saying that the office had taken out billions of dollars of money intended for carrying out the Vision for Space Exploration over the last several years. Current NASA leadership apparently sees things differently.

80 comments to Take that, Mike

  • sc220

    Three cheers to Lori. She and Charlie are doing a great job. It’s becoming more and more obvious that the last four years for NASA have been an abysmal failure and an absolute waste of national resources. Thank goodness that NASA leadership is finally clearing house. Steve Cook announced his departure on Thursday. I bet you’ll see more of the CxP and ESMD leadership doing the same over the upcoming weeks, if not days.

    Goodbye VSE, ESAS and Apollo on Steroids. Hello intelligent exploration that takes advantage of the strengths of both human and robotic space flight.

  • John Kavanagh

    “Goodbye VSE … takes advantage of the strengths of both human and robotic space flight.”

    Did I miss something from the Augustine Committee hearings?

    From what I watched, the consensus of the Committee was more in line with the spirit of the Vision for Space Exploration and Aldridge Commission than Griffin’s ESAS ever was. Pay as you go. Leverage commercial space. Next move, Obama.

  • Doug Lassiter

    I have a lot of respect for Lori, but I find her dig at Mike Griffin a bit odd. As I understand it, Mike was promised a ramp-up of NASA funding to support the Vision for Space Exploration in order to meet an ambitious schedule for return to the Moon. He didn’t get that ramp-up, and it was precisely OMB that didn’t give it to him. Now, it is certainly also the case that elements of Constellation came in so far over budget that even such a ramp-up would never have kept things on schedule anyway. So I guess Lori is right that OMB can’t be blamed for all of the agency problems, but it is hardly believable that the White House was totally innocent about what transpired. By my reading, Griffins’s opinions expressed at the Goddard Dinner were largely justified.

  • Mark R. Whittington

    “suggesting that NASA “has not sold a return to the Moon” as an important mission.”
    One winders what Garver means by that, RTTM has been endorsed by Presidents and Congresses of both parties and enjoys comfortable public support. My only conjecture is that Garver is in favor of junking RTTM for the foolish Look but Don’t Touch Deep Space option that doesn’t actually do anything.

  • Dave Huntsman

    The problem is, both Lori and Mike are ‘right’, in a way.

    OMB can’t shirk it’s responsibility for the White House agreeing to programs and missions and then refusing to fund them, year after year. Everyone – Congress, White House, Republicans, Democrats – knew that we had a disconnect between policy and funds, and everyone shouted that someone should do something about it. In that sense, Mike was right.

    However, it was MIke who decided to deep-six research, NEO protection that was required by Congress, in short, everything else we’re required to do, in favor of what he clearly considered ‘his’ program – knowing full well he still wouldn’t be able to get the curves to meet, even then. And he didn’t do anything significant in the way of NASA internal reforms, which is where a lot of money is wasted. (For example: we have way too much wheelbase in the Agency, in just about everything, for our budgets and programs; yet he made no serious attempt at structural reforms).

    In terms of what we really need to do in the Agency, NASA’s main problem is not money – it’s attitude. From top to bottom, at all levels. I’m hopeful that will start to change in the next 12 months.

  • Mike was promised a ramp-up of NASA funding to support the Vision for Space Exploration in order to meet an ambitious schedule for return to the Moon.

    Dr. Griffin was also supposed to actually follow the guidance of the VSE in implementing the plan. When he went off the reservation, the money went away. Marbuger said this indirectly in his 2006 Goddard speech.

    People that said that heavy lift was unsustainable and unaffordable were exiled or fired. The ESAS architecture was dead the day it was begun. This is a national tragedy of the highest order. I do think that Lori is one of the right people in the right place to help correct this.

  • Tony Rusi

    We have got to stop pointing fingers and get something done. Russia is willing to set up a joint program to finish the space station, go to the moon, and go to mars by 2030. They want other nations to join in too. Brazil is just fine economywise, why? They achieved energy independence 16 years ago. That should be our first goal in the USA.

  • sc220

    My only conjecture is that Garver is in favor of junking RTTM for the foolish Look but Don’t Touch Deep Space option that doesn’t actually do anything.

    If use of telerobotics to perform in-situ scientific investigations is foolish, then someone better tell DOD, NSF and other entities right away. Aviation is moving more and more to UAVs and use of real-time telerobotics. Oceanography and commercial ocean endeavors have been using them for years, and are developing new systems all the time.

    The argument that ‘unless human hands pick up the rocks, it doesn’t count’ is backward and counterproductive. The Deep Space option gives us a real chance of getting humans out of Earth orbit, and augmenting our ability to conduct exploration. It doesn’t break the bank, and does not impede the progress of human space flight with the early development of man-rated landers, ascent vehicles, surface habitats and all the other infrastructure needed to keep people alive in a very risk averse program.

  • Mark R. Whittington

    “The Deep Space option gives us a real chance of getting humans out of Earth orbit, and augmenting our ability to conduct exploration. It doesn’t break the bank, and does not impede the progress of human space flight with the early development of man-rated landers, ascent vehicles, surface habitats and all the other infrastructure needed to keep people alive in a very risk averse program.”

    In other words, it doesn’t do anything, doesn’t go anywhere, but it is cheap.

  • Terry S

    The idea of using telerobotics on the surface with humans within light-milliseconds to do realtime manipulation is the way of the future no doubt, but humans do have this thing about reaching out and touching the environment.

    Sad to say the bucks aren’t there for the personal touch. Maybe some day, or maybe those telerobots will get sensory feedback from the recent developments in robotic prostheses and virtual reality. Either way is better than being stuck in LEO with no human presence at all.

  • In other words, it doesn’t do anything, doesn’t go anywhere, but it is cheap.

    It does lots of things, and it goes lots of places, and it provides a foundation for going more places, in an affordable manner. To mischaracterize it as “look but don’t touch” continues to be blinkered and foolish.

  • Chance

    “The argument that ‘unless human hands pick up the rocks, it doesn’t count’ is backward and counterproductive.”

    Very true. I’ve seen very passionate arguments that there are tasks that robots just can’t do for us in exploration, but it seems to me that argument tends to understate both the state of the art (robots seem to be doing some new, highly complex tasks every time I read the news), and to overstate what a human could do for the same cost.

  • Anonymous

    Whittington “My only conjecture is that Garver is in favor of junking RTTM for the foolish Look but Don’t Touch Deep Space option that doesn’t actually do anything”

    The only “deep space” option I saw in the public meetings was not labeled “look but don’t touch”. Intead the one I saw, compared to Constellation constrained to the same budget, got a human visit to a NEO five years before constrained Cx returned to the moon, and human lunar return one year before constrained Cx returned to the moon.

    What is wrong with a plan which, in ADDITION to visiting places, builds up our capability for longer and longer space missions in preparation for going to Mars?

  • Major Tom

    “As I understand it, Mike was promised a ramp-up of NASA funding to support the Vision for Space Exploration in order to meet an ambitious schedule for return to the Moon. He didn’t get that ramp-up, and it was precisely OMB that didn’t give it to him.”

    Not true. From FY 2004 to FY 2009, the White House (including OMB) and Congress actually provided NASA’s Exploration Systems Mission Directorate with $2.5 billion MORE than what was promised in the original FY 2004 VSE budget runout.

    Here’s what was promised in the FY 2004 budget runout:

    FY 2004 $1,646.0M
    FY 2005 $1,782.0M
    FY 2006 $2,579.0M
    FY 2007 $2,941.0M
    FY 2008 $2,809.0M
    FY 2009 $3,313.0M

    Total $15,070.0M

    And here’s what ESMD actually received in each fiscal year:

    FY 2004 $2684.5M
    FY 2005 $2209.3M
    FY 2006 $3050.1M
    FY 2007 $2869.8M
    FY 2008 $3299.4M
    FY 2009 $3505.5M

    Total $17,618.6M

    The total difference is $2,458.6 million. So the Bush II Administration and prior Congresses provided almost $2.5 billion more for ESMD than what the Bush II Administration promised to develop systems and technologies to return to the Moon. This doesn’t include the $400 million that ESMD received in the Recovery Act (passed after the Bush II Administration), which would increase the total difference to nearly $3 billion.

    Not only did Griffin receive his ramp-up, he got billions more than he was promised. The only things OMB (or the Bush II White House) is guilty of are poor management oversight and allowing Griffin to raid good agency programs to throw billions more taxpayer dollars down the Constellation drain.

    “Now, it is certainly also the case that elements of Constellation came in so far over budget that even such a ramp-up would never have kept things on schedule anyway.”

    True. An independent CBO report from earlier this year noted (on page 17) that NASA’s cost estimate for Constellation through first lunar landing has risen from $40-57 billion to $92 billion:

    http://www.cbo.gov/ftpdocs/100xx/doc10051/04-15-NASA.pdf

    CBO estimates the Constellation figure will more likely be $110 billion through first lunar landing.

    You’re right that, even after letting Griffin raid good NASA programs for a few billion more dollars, OMB couldn’t keep up with an ESMD budget that was hemorraging tens of billions of dollars in cost growth.

    “it is hardly believable that the White House was totally innocent about what transpired.”

    Agreed, but not because the Bush II White House didn’t provide adequate funding. Again, the only things the Bush II White House is guilty of are poor management oversight and allowing Griffin to raid good agency programs to throw billions of taxpayer dollars down the Constellation drain.

    “By my reading, Griffins’s opinions expressed at the Goddard Dinner were largely justified.”

    They’re not. Factually, the numbers simply don’t support Griffin’s case. Even if they did, Griffin shouldn’t blame OMB civil servants for budget shortfalls when Griffin, as NASA Administrator and political appointee, has the right and ability during the White House budget process to go over their heads to the White House, VPOTUS, and POTUS. It wasn’t budget shortfalls that led to Constellation’s demise, and even if it was, it’s Griffin’s fault for not making his case better. If you can get rolled by mid-level civil servant budgeteers, you have no right being head of any federal department or agency.

    FWIW…

  • Major Tom

    “the foolish Look but Don’t Touch Deep Space option”

    You do understand that the Deep Space option includes landings on asteroids on the moons of Mars, correct? You do realize that astronaut bootprints on asteroids and the moons of Mars constitutes “touching”, right?

    “that doesn’t actually do anything”

    How is doing field research on objects like near-Earth asteroids that may one day threaten civilization not doing “anything”?

    How is servicing successors to the Hubble Space Telescope (like JWST) at Lagrange points not doing “anything”?

    Ugh… how ignorant… do you homework or don’t bother posting.

    Jeez…

  • Major Tom

    “The idea of using telerobotics on the surface with humans within light-milliseconds to do realtime manipulation is the way of the future no doubt, but humans do have this thing about reaching out and touching the environment.”

    Depending on how the evidence for life-bearing environments and extant life on Mars plays out, telerobotics from Mars orbit may actually be the best and only exploration option for that planet. It would suck not to be able to put boots on Mars over the long-term, but if there are bugs near the surface, we can’t risk back-contamination and won’t have the necessary understanding of Martian life to prevent back-contamination for probably at least several decades to come.

    FWIW…

  • Doug Lassiter

    Dr. Griffin was also supposed to actually follow the guidance of the VSE in implementing the plan. When he went off the reservation, the money went away. Marbuger said this indirectly in his 2006 Goddard speech.

    That’s exactly right, and I had overlooked that in Marburger’s speech. Griffin’s vision was more his own than that of the White House. Broadly consistent, but not serving the spirit of what he was handed. The fact that the agency at least implicitly dismissed the Aldridge commission report, which was chartered by the WH specifically to develop an implementation plan for VSE, was the first signal that things were going seriously off the rail, policy-wise.

    The points raised about needing human hands to pick up rocks as being backward and counterproductive are good ones. Telerobotics is indeed achieving remarkable things here on Earth as well as in space. For science, for construction, for prospecting — that’s likely to be the most effective way to go. It’s well understood that for undersea exploration, for example, telerobotics has pretty much taken over for in situ human involvement. Human staffed control centers in surface ships controlling ocean floor vehicles offer the same productive low latency control and sensory richness that we’d get on the Martian surface with a base in orbit, perhaps on Phobos.

    So for the purpose of science, construction, and prospecting, putting human hands on rocks has questionable value with modern technology at our side. But the one thing that telerobotics can’t do is put human hands on rocks for the purpose of putting human hands on rocks. What needs to be admitted is that culturally there is more to exploration than science, construction, and prospecting. But we haven’t quite succeeded in coming up with a value equation for human space exploration that has looking and touching with human flesh more fulfilling than looking and touching with telepresence..

    “Look but don’t touch” is indeed a mischaracterization of what’s being talked about.

  • Brian Koester

    Mike Griffin for all his foibles, in my opinion, played the cards dealt to him in the best way he could have. I believe Dr. Griffin really thought the shuttle and the ISS were white elephants and I think he was mostly correct, but there was no way to kill them – as you will never get a consensus from all stakeholders and congress would never allow you to do anything to take $ or jobs out of their districts…

    OMB did effectively stop the $ from coming, but probably only because of the Iraq war and the money needed for that and President Bush of course had to make that a priority.

    @Dennis Wingo I have tremendous respect for your tireless efforts to boost the moon as a viable practical and commercial area of focus however I respectfully disagree with your opposition to Heavy lift. No doubt you are right that medium lift could get things done (perhaps with an orbiting fuel depot), however for the money being spent by the US Govt on space Heavy lift should be first and foremost. Period.

    Retire the shuttle as planned (extend it 2 years if you must..) Give the ISS to the worldPut the ISS on a starvation diet

    Because of the recent financial turmoil and incredible *trillions* debt that has been taken on by the current President and congress, I grow more and more convinced that the role of the private sector will soon eclipse US government efforts – and maybe it should.

    Medium lift will probably rule the day and we will see economies of scale should this be handled exclusively by entrepreneurs but **do we not deserve a Heavy Lift Capability** for The Moon, Mars, NEO Missions, Outer Planet Missions (New Horizons II maybe :-) Lagrange point missions etc…??

    Here is a spaceflightnow link that is topical to this discussion;

    http://spaceflightnow.com/news/n0908/29mediumlift/

  • Mark R. Whittington

    It is certainly not clear that Look But Don’t Touch involves landing on anything. Sure, an Orion will rendeavouz with a rock, admire it, remote sense it, maybe even send some robots to touch the surface. But it will teach us nothing on what it takes to live permenently on another world.

    The main appeal to Look But Don’t Touch is (a) not the current plan and (b) it’s cheap (or so we’re told.)

  • **do we not deserve a Heavy Lift Capability** for The Moon, Mars, NEO Missions, Outer Planet Missions (New Horizons II maybe :-) Lagrange point missions etc…??

    We never “deserve” or need a “Heavy Lift Capability” for any of those things.

    It is certainly not clear that Look But Don’t Touch involves landing on anything.

    Mark, we don’t know what you’re talking about (and apparently neither do you) because there is no plan to “Look But Don’t Touch.” Can you point us to the planet on which some alternate Augustine panel came up with that option?

  • Major Tom

    “It is certainly not clear that Look But Don’t Touch involves landing on anything. Sure, an Orion will rendeavouz with a rock…”

    First, it’s “rendezvous”, not “rendeavouz”. (Sigh…)

    Second, you do realize that, for small bodies like asteroids and Mars’ moons, that a rendezvous is the same as a landing, right? That in a low-g environment, the crew capsule can orbit close enough to the object that the astronauts can get to the object’s surface by simply leaving the capsule and floating down to the surface during a spacewalk, right?

    Third, you have bothered to at least read an article or two about the Augustine Committee’s deliberations, where members of the Augustine Committee talk, for example, about “touching down on Mars’s moon Phobos”.

    http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20327204.000-asteroid-visits-could-lead-humans-to-mars.html

    Fourth, you have bothered to read the source material on the Augustine Committee website and understand that the Deep Space option includes, as a costing ground rule and assumption, budget for a commerical lunar lander to access the surface of the Moon, right? See page 5 in Sally Ride’s Affordability Analysis presentation at:

    http://www.nasa.gov/offices/hsf/related_documents/index.html

    “But it will teach us nothing on what it takes to live permenently on another world.”

    Yeah, besides countermeasures for dealing with cosmic ray radiation that threatens to kill or give anyone taking a trip to Mars or a multi-month stay on the Moon cancer; telerobotic research on whether there are bugs on Mars that could back-contaminate the Earth if we ever sent someone to the surface; affordable techniques for moving resources from a deep gravity well to other locations in the solar system so they can actually support economic activities, etc., etc. — no, servicing telescopes at Lagrange points, visiting asteroids, putting boots on Martian moons won’t tell us anything about what it takes to settle another world. [rolls eyes]

    And besides how do you know that space colonization, if it ever happens, won’t take place via space stations, inside asteroids, on Mars cyclers, etc. instead of on the surfaces of large moons and planets?

    Lawdy, your posts are ignorant. Again, please, please do your homework before you post. If you can’t or won’t, then please don’t bother posting.

    Ugh…

  • Dave Salt

    Rand,

    I think Mr Whittington is quoting from the forthcoming sequel to his seminal work ‘Children of Apollo’; the alternate history of Man’s return to the Moon, which is to be entitled ‘Bastards of Constellation’.

  • Jim Hillhouse

    MajorTom,

    Your numbers are correct and yet they don’t tell a true story, primarily because you obfuscate by not putting NASA’s expenditures during the FY 04-09 in perspective.

    After the Feb. 1, 2003 Columbia disaster, NASA spent billions collectively on:

    Paying for the CAIB.
    Modifying the Space Shuttle.
    Modifying the External Tank.
    Researching ways to handle a break in the RCC panels on the nose and LE.
    Creating new ways to patch lost tiles on the Shuttle’s underbelly.
    Build-up and expand the launch tracking and imaging network.
    Repair damage to Michoud and Stennis from Katrina.
    Repair damage to KSC buildings and infrastructure from Frances.

    …and the list goes on, the cost of which were never paid for through Congressional appropriations.

    Reading Cowing and Sietzen’s book, “New Moon Rising”, one quickly comes to the conclusion that the White House staff more or less created VSE, figured-out its funding requirements, and then presented this to NASA, which only had a brief time to revise the data, including budget projections, before it was brought before the President.

    When the Dem’s took over the House and Senate in 2006, they forewent the requested NASA budget for FY 2007 and passed instead a Continuing Resolution, which kept NASA at 2006 spending levels, though eventually Congress did give NASA a bit extra. You don’t seem to reflect that reality in your appropriations numbers for FY 2007.

    Interestingly, even the White House figured out that programs don’t always follow your cost projectsions–duh!–from an AIAA analysis of the :

    2006 FY NASA:
    ESMD $3,200M
    Constellation $1,100M

    And according to NASA FY 2009 Budget, Table 792, the 2007-2008 appropriations for ESMD and Constellation were:

    2007 2008
    ESMD $2,869.8M $3,143.1M
    Constellation $2,114.7M $2,471.9M

    This is also backed up by NASA FY 2010 Budget on page EXP-2.

    I would have liked to see what the numbers for Constellation were, not ESMD since the Directorate has many other obligations beyond Constellation.

    It’s sad that, unlike the case when Webb, who knew a thing or two about budgets and their inevitable growth and who revised NASA’s estimates for Apollo by doubling it from the original $12B (Project Apollo: The Tough Decisions, Robert Seamans, p. 29) to $20B, the WH staff working VSE allowed for very little margin even though something like VSE had not been done in 40 years. Certainly, the White House never took the original estimate of VSE’s cost and added an “Executive 60″, as Webb called it, just as Webb had done to the Apollo budget estimates.

    If measured against its original estimated cost of $12B, then Apollo was a failure, having a cost of $19.4B, an overrun of over 60%.

    Deputy Administrator Garver’s tit-for-tat against Mike Griffin, ergo, “OMB controlling NASA & being responsible for the Agency’s problems is a myth.” is, firstly, historically insouciantly misleading to OMB’s role in managing the budgets of various government agencies. If not in the driver’s seat, then OMB has certainly been riding shotgun on NASA’s budget since the Eisenhower Administration. Kennedy depended heavily upon David Bell, his Budget director, as the White House dealt with NASA over Apollo budget projections, even in the debate of LOR vs. EOR. OMB’s effects on NASA a myth? I think not.

    Deputy Administrator Garver’s comments, directed as they are at a former Administrator, are unbecoming, churlish really, of a person in her position. There’s a reason you don’t hear any other deputy Agency heads commenting critically about their predecessors–it’s petty and only reflects ill upon the commenter and not their subject.

    In closing, perhaps when D.A. Garver isn’t producing creative commentary she can focus her efforts on reversing the Administration planned cuts of NASA’s budget in 2011 and beyond? I know that is something we can all get behind.

  • If measured against its original estimated cost of $12B, then Apollo was a failure, having a cost of $19.4B, an overrun of over 60%.

    Apollo was a complete success, having achieved its stated objective of landing a man on the moon by the end of the decade and returning him safely to earth. Kennedy didn’t append that part of the speech with “…for twelve billion dollars…”

    Shuttle was a failure because its goals were economic, so costing too much did in fact constitute a failure to achieve the objectives.

    Deputy Administrator Garver’s comments, directed as they are at a former Administrator, are unbecoming, churlish really, of a person in her position.

    If she had actually done that, you might have a point. While I don’t have a transcript of what she said, Jeff seems to be inferring that, which doesn’t mean that it was “directed” at Griffin.

    …perhaps when D.A. Garver isn’t producing creative commentary she can focus her efforts on reversing the Administration planned cuts of NASA’s budget in 2011 and beyond? I know that is something we can all get behind.

    I can only get behind that if I have some sense that the money won’t be as malspent as most human spaceflight funds have been for decades. Show me the plan first, and then I’ll decide if it’s worth more money.

  • Just noticed this:

    We never “deserve” or need a “Heavy Lift Capability” for any of those things.

    That was supposed to be “neither,” not “never.”

  • mike shupp

    On balance, Mark Whitington wins the debate here; his opponents are … overly something-or-other.

    The rationale for the Augustine commission’s “Deep Space” option is that (a) the US ought to push along technology for long term space flight, but that (b) the US cannot afford or does not know to how to build the rockets necessary for landing people on the moon or Mars and returning them. Thus the idea that people might visit locations of interest which can be reached without large rockets — lunar orbit, for example, or a convenient asteroid coming near the earth, or the earth-lunar L4/L5 points, or maybe the moons of Mars. The salient point is that conventional rocket technology might allow such missions, even if landing people on the Moon and Mars and retrieving them is beyound our capability.

    Whittington calls this “Look But Don’t Touch,” and for some reason the phrase has driven his opponents nuts. They argue that landing on an asteroid IS “touching,” that planting a flag and footsteps on Phobos IS “touching”, and that anyhow these are preparatory steps, that teleoperating robots from space and sprinkling sensors about in orbit is a significant step towards more ambitious programs, that eventually more ambitious programs might occur, and that anyway the various drafts of the Augustine Commission report have not use Whittington’s ugly phrase.

    I find this assurance … touching.

    We’ve learned over the years that there is a great gap between demonstrating a capability to performing routinely, and we ought to ask just which capabilities in the Deep Space option might be routinely exercised. Flying around the Moon, perhaps. Apollo 8 did that in 1968; it’s not unreasonable to aspire to repeating that in 2018; perhaps between then and say 2030 we could orbit the moon 3 or 4 times? Not to land, of course, but certainly we could claim to be equaling the accomplishments of Apollo.

    A flight to a nearby asteroid? I can imagine that, if the asteroid is no futher away than say the moon; we could drop off a couple of instrument packs for planetary scientists, do a flyby or two, then rendevouz with a specially dispatched fuel tank (“a propellant depot”!”) and return to earth. We could do that … twice maybe before folks on ground got bored? Fortunately, such nearby asteroids aren’t that common.

    A flight to L4 or L5. Sounds like an asteroid rendevouz, but without an asteroid. Wonderful for building / demonstrating capability, to be sure, but how often would we need to demonstrate such a capability? Every other month? Every other year? Every other decade? This isn’t something that would be done “routinely” I suiggest.

    A visit to the hurtling moons of Barsoom. Yeah, likely we could do this with limited propulsion capabilities. Send a rocket out, kill off escape velocity, plant the flag and a few footsteps, then zip back to earth while rendevouzing with some carefully pre-positioned fuel and food storage caches (more depots!). And how often would it make sense to do this? Every year or every other year, while we built up a permanently manned Phobos Base and built up supplies for the Great Martian Expeditionary Force? I skep somehow. I can’t explain why, but I’m just skeptical. I think we’d go to Phobos, plant some flags and instruments, drop a couple of robot surveryors onto the surface, and call it quits. After one flight, not sixteen.

    And that would be our “Deep Space” manned space flight option. Half a dozen missions to different objectives, each qualifying as something reasonably “noteworthy” (and thus large, cumbersome, and expensive); none of which would be “routine” for all the fact that or spaceflight cabability was being extended. And at the end of, thirty years hence, let’s say, we would be as far from routinely landing humans on the moon or Mars and building colonies in those places as we are now.

    “Look But Don’t Touch” seems a reasonable label to me.

  • sc220

    @mike shupp

    What debate? Mark Whitington didn’t provide an argument. He merely made a single statement that showed a lack of understanding of the entire concept.

    The people who cling to the need to send humans immediately to the surface of either the Moon or Mars (e.g., you, Mark, Bob Zubrin, Mike Griffin) fail to see how out of date this whole philosophy is. The public doesn’t buy it, and many in the space community no longer believe in it.

    A lot of things have changed since the early days of the space age. Mars and the rest of the Solar System have been shown to be very stark, inhospitable places. There appears to be nothing there that would lure anyone to these places to seek riches and/or a better life. This is important because, apart from scientific curiosity, these goals have been the driving force for exploration in the past.

    The classical human exploration zealots can talk all they want about mining Helium-3 and using the Moon as a low-g motherlode for industrial materials, etc. But until anyone, besides the government, puts some skin in the game, it belongs in the annals of sci-fi and popular fiction. And it certainly doesn’t belong as an extra burden on the taxpayers!

    That said, there is a very strong justification to move human space flight beyond Earth orbit. If it can improve on the current successful techniques we use to explore space (i.e., autonomous robotics), then let’s press on, and the Deep Space approach represents that option.

  • Doug Lassiter

    A flight to L4 or L5. Sounds like an asteroid rendevouz, but without an asteroid. Wonderful for building / demonstrating capability, to be sure, but how often would we need to demonstrate such a capability? Every other month? Every other year? Every other decade? This isn’t something that would be done “routinely” I suiggest.

    Nobody is talking about going to Earth-Sun L4 or L5. Wherever do you get that? But we have lots of good scientific reasons for going to Earth-Sun L1 and L2, and trips to service, and perhaps even build facilities there are ones that will have regular value. Even more so, trips to Earth-Moon L1 and L2 may also offer such servicing and construction rationale, with the added benefit that such sites can be enormously useful for lunar exploration depoting. The idea that because there isn’t a rock at these places makes them uninteresting is astonishingly naive. There aren’t any rocks in LEO, but we do a whole lot of good stuff there, including an outpost.

    In fact, such Lagrange points are understood to be important staging areas for human travel well beyond the Earth. Movement between such points in the solar system (especially for cargo, which can endure long travel time) is propulsion-cheap. Why in the world would we not want to develop and exercise our capabilities for going to these places?

    It has not been highlighted as well as it should be, but if a telepresence outpost on a Martian moon is a high priority for developing knowledge about Mars that would allow people to live there, then proxops around a NEO would be quite useful. Rendezvous and “landing” on such a low gravity object would have strong dynamical and environmental similarities to doing that with Phobos. NEOs and Phobos are vastly more similar for such “practice” than are the lunar surface and Mars.

    And at the end of, thirty years hence, let’s say, we would be as far from routinely landing humans on the moon or Mars and building colonies in those places as we are now.

    For the reasons I gave above, I beg to differ.

  • sc220

    And at the end of, thirty years hence, let’s say, we would be as far from routinely landing humans on the moon or Mars and building colonies in those places as we are now.

    The Deep Space option has several offramps for crew sorties to the surfaces of the Moon and Mars, if it was so desired.

    For instance, lunar orbital missions with an Orion + Upper Stage could be followed eventually by deployment of a crew lander/ascent system into lunar orbit. I personally think that the resources for this should come from a commercial venture. In any event, The Orion could rendezvous and dock with the system in lunar orbit and then take a few crew down to and back from the surface.

    If you were really wanted to get serious about this, how about launching and robotically establishing/activating an in-situ propellant depot on the lunar surface. Use this to refuel a pre-deployed lander/ascent system. This could be used in that same way to ferry people to/from the surface.

    Again, Deep Space does not rule out human excursions to the surfaces of large planetary bodies. It concentrates on the in-space part, and gets us away from this ‘all or nothing’ mentality that has doomed ambitious human exploration in the past.

  • Whittington calls this “Look But Don’t Touch,” and for some reason the phrase has driven his opponents nuts.

    Umm…no.

    It hasn’t “driven us nuts,” and you fail to make the case that it has. We’ve simply pointed out that his mischaracterization is nuts. And we’ve described why.

  • red

    Mike Shupp: “On balance, Mark Whitington wins the debate here; his opponents are … overly something-or-other.”

    overly factually correct?

    “Whittington calls this “Look But Don’t Touch,” and for some reason the phrase has driven his opponents nuts.”

    I suspect that’s because the Deep Space option described by the HSF Committee involves literally touching asteroids and Mars moons, and potentially the lunar surface as a mid-term goal (depending on decisions of some future Administration and Congress) whereas the program that Mark usually defends (the anti-VSE ESAS/Constellation/Ares approach) has from day 1 essentially been “Don’t Look, and Don’t Touch Either – but do spend a lot of money” because of the numerous political, schedule, financial, managerial, and technical problems with that approach that prevent it from actually reaching the Moon. The HSF Committee is only making the problems with that approach painfully obvious even to the general media.

    Personally, I think a Moon-first program has a lot of merits if done in a reasonable way – but so does the Deep Space option. I suspect/hope the HSF Committee will present attractive options in both categories.

    “there is a great gap between demonstrating a capability to performing routinely”

    I agree with this.

    “…. which capabilities in the Deep Space option might be routinely exercised.”

    I’d suggest that the capabilities to reach all of the Deep Space destinations have commonalities, with harder ones being built on easier ones. Thus all of them help make each other routine. Not only that, but the ISS (and possible future commercial Earth orbiting space stations) can help in this regard, too. In some respects the ISS is a lot more relevant to Deep Space than the surface missions.

    “Flying around the Moon, perhaps … 3 or 4 times” [from 2018 to 2030]

    Note that the ESAS plans only involved ~2 missions per year at most, and they would start (dramatically?) later than this. I could see Moon orbit or Earth-Moon Lagrangian point missions being fairly regular, since they’re easier than some of the other Deep Space missions. The E-M missions could involve “satellite” servicing of E-S observatories (that move to E-M). A lot of serviceable observatories could be established over time. Perhaps a permanent servicing node could be maintained at an E-M point. Also note that similar satellite servicing operations in Earth orbit could leverage the capabilities of these missions. These have the potential of becoming routine, and thus helping to make the more distant but similar missions routine as well. (Also, if your interest is simply “beyond LEO”, there are numerous satellites in GEO, and servicing capability could be added there, too). I could even see the potential satellite servicing capability enabled by these missions as being a big selling point to the Obama Administration in terms of the budget it’s willing to dedicate to exploration if it’s pointed out that such capabilities can be applied to Earth observation missions (or if that budget is used to make some Earth observation satellites or satellite prototypes serviceable as a first, pre-exploration step).

    The lunar orbit or E-M destinations could also be built up with additional space infrastructure capabilities (not just satellite servicing, but also space station, tug, depot, or others). In addition, teleoperation of lunar surface robots and lunar observation could be done again and again with different or more advanced robots and instruments. If we do go to the lunar surface, it would be to our benefit to have a very serious, thorough, and well-demonstrated robotic lunar science, resource, and engineering program beforehand.

    The Earth-Sun Lagrangian point destinations could become routine for similar reasons to the ones I just mentioned.

    “A flight to a nearby asteroid? I can imagine that, if the asteroid is no futher away than say the moon; we could drop off a couple of instrument packs for planetary scientists, do a flyby or two, then rendevouz with a specially dispatched fuel tank (”a propellant depot”!”) and return to earth. We could do that … twice maybe before folks on ground got bored? Fortunately, such nearby asteroids aren’t that common.”

    This one would not be routine since it depends on the orbits of the NEOs. I’d say the part about the asteroid being no farther away than the Moon isn’t really the point – it’s not the distance but rather the difficulty of the orbital mechanics dance needed to land on the particular asteroid.

    Would the public get bored with NEOs after 2 missions? Who knows. I think if we have a good set of robotic precursor missions to NEOs doing advanced science, resource demos, and so on, we could get some good work done with the astronaut missions. That would help with public interest. Each asteroid is unique, and the population is diverse, so we may find each mission has new and interesting discoveries and advances. I’m not sure NEOs are any more prone to public boredom than lunar surface missions – it probably depends on what we do when we get there. Are we just planting flags and footsteps, or are we doing serious work?

    “I think we’d go to Phobos, plant some flags and instruments, drop a couple of robot surveryors onto the surface, and call it quits. After one flight, not sixteen.”

    First of all, there are 2 moons of Mars, so we have that much more to investigate there. Also, I would imagine that if we go to the trouble of getting astronauts to Mars orbit, we would have more than a couple of robotic surveyors on the surface of Mars for them to teleoperate. They’d probably be in the Mars atmosphere for teleoperation as well. There could be a sample return or 2 meeting the astronauts – certainly a long-desired goal of the Mars community. I’d also expect all sorts of instruments and equipment to be on the Mars moon(s) waiting for the astronauts if we’re going to go to the trouble to get there. Finally, the HSF Committee made it clear that they think the long-term exploration goal should be astronauts on the surface of Mars. The capabilities of the Mars orbit/Mars moon type of missions are a prerequisite for Mars surface missions (whether or not you package them as separate missions), so any such later surface missions would be part of making the orbit missions routine.

    Now, we haven’t yet discussed Venus orbit teleoperations, or main belt asteroids …

    I think the main point to get across with the Deep Space option is that it breaks the space exploration problem into chunks that are digestible using politically realistic timeframes and budgets. Each step builds on earlier steps. It’s a “Flexible Path” because it allows future politicians to make a lot of choices about destinations. They aren’t locked into either continuing a specific program or starting over. Now a lunar surface program could be designed in such a way, too – by building reusable space infrastructure with other uses, for example.

  • mike shupp

    Doug Lassiter –

    My bad. I meant Earth-Moon L4/L5 Lagrange points, those being the ones that were of interest to the space community in my long past youth. Sorry if it wasn’t clear. Otherwise, you sound like a sensible man trying to figure out how a solar civilization might be implemented. Believe me,
    I am not trying to kick YOUR shins.

    sc220 –

    We aren’t in agreement about much. Here’s the dirty little secret: I don’t think spaceflight is going to be cheap and easy for a looooooooooonng time to come. I think it’s going to take immense sums of money to make the moon and Mars, etc., habitable, and quite long periods of time. I don’t think there’s a chance in hell that money is going to come from sane capitalistic businessmen. Ultimately, I do think we’ll be able to colonize the moon, the planets, and maybe even the stars; and eventually it will seem silly to have ever doubted this, but we aren’t there yet. Which means those expensive, time consuming dreams are going to require government funding.

    Which I gather, lights no candles for you.

    Fine. Obama is about to give you a moral victory over folks like me. Enjoy it. I’ll settle back and root for the Chinese. They at least have long viewpoints, and a tradition of prevailing over barbarians.

  • I’ll settle back and root for the Chinese.

    Good luck with that. At their current rate, they’ll be on the moon some time a couple decades from now, and will have a whopping base of four or five people, with two or three flights a year, at best, at horrific costs. Sort of like what Mike Griffin had in mind. Your hopes would be better placed on people who want to do it affordably, and sooner (i.e., people spending their own money, and non-governments).

  • mike shupp

    red –

    Time for my George Kennedy impersonations : “What we have here is a failure to communicate.”

    I want to pick up a newspaper someday, not too far off, and see a headline like “FIRST GIRL BORN ON MOON! About time, says Luna City mayor, after three boys.” You want me to pick up a newspaper (or click on a website) with a headline like “Astonauts successfully re-orient L2 extra-aolar observatory, will be back in Earth orbit by Friday”.

    These aren’t equivalent. A future in which the moon is colonized probably leads to a future in which astronauts bounce around to all corners of the solar system. A future in which astronauts bounce to corners of the solar system for various worthy reasons doesn’t necessarily lead to a future in which people build cities on planets. A future in which astonauts bounce around the solar system on very limited budgets while proclaiming their liberation from the dogmas of the ancient 20th century past is almost certainly not one that will see human civilization spread across the planets.

    Whittington thinks that last possible future is the likely outcome of the Augustine Commission’s “Deep Space” option, and he doesn’t like it. I’m inclined to agree with him. I’m old fashioned.

  • sc220

    Fine. Obama is about to give you a moral victory over folks like me. Enjoy it. I’ll settle back and root for the Chinese. They at least have long viewpoints, and a tradition of prevailing over barbarians.

    As Rand pointed out, the Chinese haven’t been lighting things afire with their manned program lately. I can’t say that for other things. We have much more to worry about on the economic front with them.

    And even if they were going to the Moon pedal-to-the-metal, how would us trying to beat them Rocky Balboa-style impress anyone? If anything, we need to raise the bar, and put the 20th Century Von Braun paradigm behind us.

  • Major Tom

    “MajorTom,

    Your numbers are correct and yet they don’t tell a true story, primarily because you obfuscate by not putting NASA’s expenditures during the FY 04-09 in perspective.

    After the Feb. 1, 2003 Columbia disaster, NASA spent billions collectively on:

    Paying for the CAIB.
    Modifying the Space Shuttle.
    Modifying the External Tank.
    Researching ways to handle a break in the RCC panels on the nose and LE.
    Creating new ways to patch lost tiles on the Shuttle’s underbelly.
    Repair damage to Michoud and Stennis from Katrina.
    Repair damage to KSC buildings and infrastructure from Frances.”

    It’s a true but irrelevant point. All those items were paid out of the SOMD budget. None of those items were paid for by the ESMD or Constellation budgets. The ESMD figures provided earlier were fully available to ESMD to execute the ESAS plan.

    “Reading Cowing and Sietzen’s book, “New Moon Rising”, one quickly comes to the conclusion that the White House staff more or less created VSE, figured-out its funding requirements,”

    I havn’t read the book, but if that’s what it says, it’s wrong. White House staff negotiated some of the details of the exploration options under consideration and the final VSE language with NASA. But it was NASA Comptroller staff working for O’Keefe that held the pen on the VSE, worked the exploration scenarios, and developed the accompanying budgets. The White House simply isn’t staffed for such an undertaking. They don’t have aerospace costing models or experts, for example.

    “Interestingly, even the White House figured out that programs don’t always follow your cost projectsions–duh!–from an AIAA analysis of the :

    2006 FY NASA:
    ESMD $3,200M
    Constellation $1,100M”

    That AIAA analysis is of the President’s FY 2006 budget request for NASA. It’s what the White House asked for at the beginning of the appropriations process. It’s not what was actually passed by the Congress or what NASA actually received in its operating plan. My figures are the latter, which represent the budget that ESMD actually received.

    “And according to NASA FY 2009 Budget, Table 792, the 2007-2008 appropriations for ESMD and Constellation were:

    2007 2008
    ESMD $2,869.8M”

    Your FY 2007 ESMD figure agrees with mine. Your point?

    “$3,143.1M”

    To get the FY 2008 ESMD final operating plan figure, you have to go to the FY 2010 budget request. It’s not in the FY 2009 budget, because the operating plan is usually not final only one year after the passage of appropriations. The correct figure is $3299.4M.

    “since the Directorate has many other obligations beyond Constellation”

    Not really. The ESMD budget outside Constellation is small, and it goes towards a technology program and ISS research to support Constellation.

    “It’s sad that, unlike the case when Webb… who revised NASA’s estimates for Apollo by doubling it from the original $12B (Project Apollo: The Tough Decisions, Robert Seamans, p. 29) to $20B”

    $24 billion, not $20 billion, is double $12 billion.

    And NASA’s estimate to Congress for Apollo was $22.7 billion, not a round $20 billion.

    “the WH staff working VSE allowed for very little margin”

    Again, the VSE budget originated with the NASA Comptroller’s office under O’Keefe, not the White House. The White House had to approve it, but the White House can’t develop cost estimates for aerospace programs — it doesn’t have the necessary manpower or resources.

    “even though something like VSE had not been done in 40 years.”

    If anything, the VSE budget should have been smaller than Apollo after decades of aerospace development. This is not the 1960s when rockets had to be designed from scratch using sliderules.

    “Certainly, the White House never took the original estimate of VSE’s cost and added an ‘Executive 60′, as Webb called it, just as Webb had done to the Apollo budget estimates.”

    The exploration wedges in the VSE budget are based on the Apollo budget, stretched to account for a longer development under a flatter total NASA budget and adjusted for inflation. There’s no need to add anything, because the VSE budget was already based on the final Apollo figures.

    “If measured against its original estimated cost of $12B, then Apollo was a failure, having a cost of $19.4B, an overrun of over 60%.”

    Apollo’s total cost in then-year dollars is estimated at $25.4 billion, not $19.4 billion.

    “Deputy Administrator Garver’s tit-for-tat against Mike Griffin, ergo… is, firstly, historically insouciantly misleading”

    You do understand that “insouciant” means “nonchalant”, right? So you think that Garver’s criticism is “historically, nonchalantly, misleading”? You realize that’s a nonsensical sentence, right?

    “Deputy Administrator Garver’s comments, directed as they are at a former Administrator, are unbecoming, churlish really, of a person in her position. There’s a reason you don’t hear any other deputy Agency heads commenting critically about their predecessors–it’s petty and only reflects ill upon the commenter and not their subject.”

    Two points:

    One, Garver didn’t direct anything at Griffin. Mr. Foust interpreted it as such, but Garver didn’t mention Griffin, directly or indirectly.

    Two, Griffin blamed OMB civil servant staff in Goddard Dinner speeches for Constellation’s cost problems, and sent emails to senior NASA managers claiming that White House staff were on a jihad. If it’s unbecoming for an agency head to criticize one of their predecessors, then it’s really bad for a political appointee to go after civil servants in public speeches or to liken White House staff to Islamic extremists.

    “In closing, perhaps when D.A. Garver isn’t producing creative commentary she can focus her efforts on reversing the Administration planned cuts of NASA’s budget in 2011 and beyond?”

    There are no cuts in the President’s FY 2010 budget request for NASA. It projects NASA’s topline growing from $17.8 billion in FY 2009 to $18.6 billion in FY 2014.

    FWIW…

  • Major Tom

    “Whittington calls this ‘Look But Don’t Touch,’… landing on an asteroid IS ‘touching,’… planting a flag and footsteps on Phobos IS ‘touching’”

    Well, if it’s not “touching”, what else is it? Fondling?

    The phrase “don’t touch” is just factually incorrect. Astronauts will be touching other bodies in the solar system under the Deep Space option. You even pointed out how factually incorrect the phrase is by reiterating which bodies the astronauts will be touching.

    Are you really defending an inaccurate and unfactual phrase like “don’t touch” by arguing the definition of “touch”? What is this, Clinton at the Watergate trial?

    Goofy…

    “And that would be our ‘Deep Space’ manned space flight option…
    we would be as far from routinely landing humans on the moon or Mars and building colonies in those places as we are now.”

    This is also factually incorrect. The Deep Space option includes, as a costing ground rule and assumption, budget for a commerical lander to access the surface of the Moon, as well as a government-furnished ascent stage. See the bottom of page 5 in Sally Ride’s Affordability Analysis presentation at:

    http://www.nasa.gov/offices/hsf/related_documents/index.html

    The budget for the Deep Space option provides for a lunar lander to land humans on the Moon, and arguably more routinely than the other options since the lander would be commercially procured. Your argument is based on a false premise.

    Doesn’t anyone bother to actually look at source documents, read articles, and think before they post anymore?

    Geez…

  • mike shupp

    sc220 “And even if they were going to the Moon pedal-to-the-metal, how would us trying to beat them Rocky Balboa-style impress anyone? If anything, we need to raise the bar, and put the 20th Century Von Braun paradigm behind us.”

    I have no idea of what you are trying to say.

  • cthulhu

    Mike Shupp – the line (from “Cool Hand Luke”) that you’re quoting was spoken by Strother Martin’s character, not George Kennedy.

    I know it’s one mistake among many in your posts, but figured I’d tackle the low-hanging fruit first :-/

  • mike shupp

    Major Tom — same reference.

    Slide 20 (Dash out of LEO) “Lunar surface program moved to future.”
    Slide 22. “Dash out of LEO … isn’t….. No lunar surface systems.”
    Slide 24 (Deep Space -Dual Ares V) “Defer lunar lander and surface systems”
    Slide 26 (Deep Space – Directly Shutlle-Derived) “Defer lunar lander and surface systems”
    Slide 28 (Deep Space – Commercial Hydrocarbon Booster) “Defer lunar lander and surface systems.”
    Slide 31 (Lunar Global – Ares V) “Changes surface exploration approach”
    Slide 33 (Use Shuttle Systems) “Lunar Sortie/Outpost”

    I don’t think these slides support the point you thought you were making. What they tell me is initially Sally Ride and her people had the idea that a commercially obtained vehicle could move people from earth (or ISS) to the moon and back, and the idea had to be pitched because it couldn’t be fitted into any reasonable budget.

    In other word: Look But Don’t Touch.

    And that’s the document YOU picked to argue the contrary case.

  • mike shupp

    cthulhu -

    MiGod, you’re right. I’m clearly doomed.

  • sc220

    c220 “And even if they were going to the Moon pedal-to-the-metal, how would us trying to beat them Rocky Balboa-style impress anyone? If anything, we need to raise the bar, and put the 20th Century Von Braun paradigm behind us.”

    I have no idea of what you are trying to say.

    OK. I was invoking the metaphor of the aged, former boxer to describe our paranoia of someone else equaling our accomplishments from the past. Pretty sad if we’re looking at something 40 years after the fact.

    I’m sure you’re familiar with the expression, “raising the bar.” The “Von Braun paradigm” refers to the strategy that has dominated discussion of human exploration, that is jumping from one large gravity well (Earth) to another (Moon), and then another (Mars).

  • I want to pick up a newspaper someday, not too far off, and see a headline like “FIRST GIRL BORN ON MOON! About time, says Luna City mayor, after three boys.”

    So would I. The Deep Space option provides a much higher probability of that occurring than Constellation ever did.

  • Doug Lassiter

    These aren’t equivalent. A future in which the moon is colonized probably leads to a future in which astronauts bounce around to all corners of the solar system. A future in which astronauts bounce to corners of the solar system for various worthy reasons doesn’t necessarily lead to a future in which people build cities on planets.

    OK, I’ll call you on that one.

    Why is the birth of the first girl on the Moon more of a “worthy reason” than the birth of the first girl at L2? Either way, this leans to what what Scott Pace has wisely derided as “faith based” rationale for space exploration. As least when you service a space observatory, you get something out of it, satisfying curiosity that drives national accomplishment. I’d like to pick up a newspaper someday, not too far off, and see a headline like “DARK ENERGY HARNESSED!” The first birth of a girl in Antarctica or on the ocean floor would be amusing too, and girls have probably been born deep in the Sahara desert as well, though the DC Post has not seemed that interested in them.

    As we struggle to get out of LEO, I find national policy decisions that are made on the basis of building cities on planets to colonize them somewhat hilarious. Fair to dream about, but as a policy driver? Nope.

  • Major Tom

    “Major Tom — same reference.”

    The point stands. Your argument that “we would be as far from routinely landing humans on the moon… as we are now” under the Deep Space option is based on a false premise — that there would be no lunar system development under that option when in fact Ride’s Deep Space budget provides for such. It may be deferred relative to the lunar options and/or commercial-based, but it’s there.

    So exactly what are we whining about again?

    FWIW…

  • Your argument that “we would be as far from routinely landing humans on the moon… as we are now” under the Deep Space option is based on a false premise — that there would be no lunar system development under that option when in fact Ride’s Deep Space budget provides for such.

    Even if there were no lunar system development under that option, there’s essentially none now, so it’s nonsensical to say that we would be as far, when at least (unlike now) we’d at least be beyond LEO. Do these people even read what they write before hitting “Submit”?

  • Ferris Valyn

    Mike shupp – Believe it or not, I suspect most of the people here want to see large scale colonization. I suspect this is true even about red. Here is the question, which I haven’t seen you answer – let us assume that you are right that te primary amount of funding will have to come from the government – what is a viable plan, utilizing the current or slighty increased budget, that is largely the traditional command & control style of operations NASA has used for space operations, that successfully transitions us into a spacefaring society?

  • Patrick

    What scares me is, regardless of what the facts actually are, “Look but Don’t Touch” is a perfect phrase that any dumb journalist can put to good use. And they will.

  • Yes, it could be a problem if it gets picked up by “journalists” as clueless as Mark.

  • kert

    what is a viable plan, utilizing the current or slighty increased budget, that is largely the traditional command & control style of operations NASA has used for space operations, that successfully transitions us into a spacefaring society?
    ive found out that its not worth asking that. youll get a dozen versions of which “shuttle successors” need to be built, what as to be inline and wh needs to sidemount, and also why bootprints on mars neexd to be done b humans by some arbitrary date.
    and then they’ll argue the merits of each item til blue in te face, drag you down to their level, flood you with irrelevant tangents like how NASA spun off velcro, and in this entire discussion it never occurs to them that maybe the entire system is wrong, that we started off on a wrong foot.
    its like trying to explain a concept of a sphere to a two-dimensional being.

  • common sense

    “ive found out that its not worth asking that. youll get a dozen versions of which “shuttle successors” need to be built, what as to be inline and wh needs to sidemount, and also why bootprints on mars neexd to be done b humans by some arbitrary date.
    and then they’ll argue the merits of each item til blue in te face, drag you down to their level, flood you with irrelevant tangents like how NASA spun off velcro, and in this entire discussion it never occurs to them that maybe the entire system is wrong, that we started off on a wrong foot.
    its like trying to explain a concept of a sphere to a two-dimensional being.”

    There is a simple reason to that: They just don’t understand how it must be done. The carriage before the horse and all that kind of thigs…

    What I do wonder though is how much influence they actually have. By the current status of Constellation I’d say that sometimes they do get quite a bit of influence… Makes the challenge even better for those who are actually trying to make it happen now, does it not?

    Good times…

  • mike shupp

    Ferris Valyn — “what is a viable plan, utilizing the current or slighty increased budget, that is largely the traditional command & control style of operations NASA has used for space operations, that successfully transitions us into a spacefaring society?”

    What a lovely question. I don’t have an answer, and I don’t think anyone else here has an answer either, which probably explains why there’s so much arm-swinging and hollering about the magic that will come about from letting free enterprise dominate space. The sad truth is that no one has much of an idea about moving from exploration to colonization; it isn’t even a topic that gets much coverage in science fiction.

    My suggestion: (a) let NASA build a moon base (say with three short-term four-man crews building living space, setting up automated air and water “factories” and laying out hydoponics “gardens.” (b) build up to a dozen man/woman “permanent” operating crew (using “permanent” in the sense that ISS is “permanently” occupied), with some of those people working full time at extending the base, adding food and air supplies, etc. (c) add a dozen non-NASA scientists and engineers, to work on exploiting local resources. (d) add a dozen non-NASA scientists and engineers to work on planetary science and astronomy. (e) add a dozen non-NASA non-tech personnel to deal with plumbing, farming, and other background issues. (f) keep expanding, as local support capabilities increase, up to two or three hundred people.

    This gives you Antarctica-style conditions, basically. (g) Now, encourage people to free lance. There are probably a couple of barbers and massage therapists in your population; there is probably someone who will fix you a better burger than the microwaved version that comes with Meal Plan 6Q32, and will do so for a couple of bucks or an IOU. Maybe management will look the other way while a couple of entrepneurs make use excavating equipment on off-hours and dredge out improved (well larger) living quarters for those willing to pay in some medium. (h) Start a bank, which deals with lunar colonists only. Let it charge stiff interest rates. (i) Start a local currency, ideally pegged to some hard currency on earth. Encourage use of the local currency. Make bank loans in that local currency. Encourage local entrpreneurs to sell stock in their enterprises. Granted this is a micky mouse version of a real economy, but it is a start.

    (j) Keep bringing in those engineers and scientists, of all ages and sexes. Keep expanding the air and food capabilties. Work on becoming self sufficient in as many areas as possible. Remember — HIGH LAUNCH COSTS ARE YOUR FRIEND! You can see a dozen tomatoes for a hundred bucks each if the only alternative is one earth-grown tomatoe per month delivered for ten thousand bucks. And why aren’t you manufacturing furniture? You’ve got time on your hands! (k) Figure out how to keep people around for a few days or weeks or months or years after their nominal Return-to-Earth date. (l) Bring up people who have no connection to NASA and no interest in Proper Scientific Research. Get advice on siting apartment complexes from real real estate authorities! (m) Tourism, tourism, tourism! (n) The Brits have a moon base now, but no authority on air conditioning, and the place smells. We’ve got an expert looking for extra work ….

    (o) OH! Repeat on Mars.

    So. Was it as good for you as it was for me?

  • Ferris Valyn

    So. Was it as good for you as it was for me?

    No, it sucked, 100%. Here is the problem

    You remember that chart, from the final Augustine Briefing? You know, the one where they showed what the program of record would do with the current budget, and how long it would take?

    To get to the level you are talking about, utilizing the current budgets under discussion? You are looking at a 50-100 year project, and I am not even certain it works in that time frame. If you want that in a 30 year timeframe, you would need a lot more money (And thus I am reminded of Greason’s comment about going to Mars for a billion dollars a footprint). If you really think that is the best we can hope for, then I would suggest we put all of our money in to tech R&D, for various systems, rather than actually trying to going places.

    As for your idea of trying to utilize high launch costs as your friend – the problem is that they have to be low enough to do that ie there is a minimum threshold for that to work – much like other comments made by Augustine committee members (I can’t remember who) there is some minimum threshold for NASA budget, at which point you can’t do space exploration

    We aren’t to that point yet. When people talk about lowering the launching price point, its to get it to the level that what you are talking about becomes practical.

    As for the “arm-swinging and hollering about the magic that will come about from letting free enterprise dominate space” – the simple fact is that the free market will, in some fashion, play a role – whether its in the form of contractors, or in a more market friendly format. Here is the question – why does NASA need its own independent market, that can’t align with any other market?

    Markets will be around for a long time to come, and they are a powerful tool. There are countless examples that demonstrate their power, include demonstrations of moving a product/idea/cultural item to the mass audience. And a market situation is ideally suited for exactly what you are describing, much more so than a command & control situation. And if you are going market there, you’d be much better going market elsewhere.

    About the only point I would agree with is the lack of coverage of moving from exploration to colonization.

  • mike shupp

    Ferris Valyn –

    Well, yes, alas, this isn’t the sort of thing sitting on NASA’s plate, for various reasons, the main one being that the US government isn’t particularly interested in colonizing the planets. Too bad.

    Additional reading: Neil Ruzic’s WHERE THE WINDS SLEEP.

  • kert

    (a) let NASA build a moon base
    (b) build up to a dozen man/woman
    (i) Start a local currency
    (o) OH! Repeat on Mars.

    sigh. Told you so, its not worth asking such questions. Without having an answer, they’ll provide a bad one. Again without thinking, that maybe the entire framework is wrong.

  • Ferris Valyn

    mike – you need to consider answers to the other questions I asked, as well. In fact, I would really like to see why you would argue for doing these grand visitation projects, as opposed to pure large scale R&D projects? What is the benefit of putting a few people at incredible expense, vs just attempting to do large scale tech development

    Also, consider the following 2 points

    1. We have been fighting over the creation major reforms with health insurance funding for a long time. We have been fighting over other major expenditures/tax cuts/social security for a long time. This is stuff that brings people to the streets – if we can’t move forward on this, why do you think this is/should be in the cards for NASA? In other words, if the public doesn’t support a huge budget increase for NASA, why should we expect it?

    2. what evidence do you have that China, OR ANY OTHER COUNTRY is even considering putting that kind money and resource behind it?

  • Sigh. I go away for a few days and I miss a very interesting discussion. Yes, I have a real life.

    Dave Huntsman is absolutely right when he says NASA from top to bottom needs a major attitude adjustment. The same thing can be said for some people in the space interest community.

    NASA was organized as a top down, fairly authoritarian bureaucracy to win a battle in the Cold War — the Apollo landing of a Man on the Moon. Unfortunately, this model has real problems when trying to develop new technologies, incorporate ones that other people have developed, and, in general, working with other people.

    This kind of culture has negative impacts even at fairly low levels of the bureaucracy. For example, when I worked at Goddard, I heard very low level bureaucrats blame other people for projects of theirs that were failing.

    I will also make an odd comment about one of Mike Griffin’s offhand comments during his Goddard speech in April. At one point he talked about working 18 hours a day, 7 days a week. Some people hear things like that and think “Wow, that man is really dedicated!” I hear things like that and think “That’s really foolish.” Humans need rest — lots of it. 18 hours/day, 7 days/week does not allow nearly enough time for rest and the other things that humans need. OK, there may be a few people who can work like that — but they are so much the exception that, when others say someone is making bad mistakes, I will blame said mistakes on that person’s exhaustion.

    Oh — from what I gather Bolden and Garver are making some important changes. The simple fact that they have publicly said that it is OK to be emotional is a plus.

    Now it is time to go back to real life.

  • mike shupp

    Ferris Valyn -

    “A grand visitation project”? I thought the question was How do we get from Antartica-style bases to self supporting planetary colonies, and my idea was that we could gradually build up local economies. Okay, that’s not your concern.

    Okay, I’m old. Build your future without me.

  • Ferris Valyn

    Mike – what you are missing is that we aren’t at Antarctica style bases yet. My original question

    what is a viable plan, utilizing the current or slightly increased budget, that is largely the traditional command & control style of operations NASA has used for space operations, that successfully transitions us into a spacefaring society?

    We don’t have a base yet on the moon – hell, we don’t even have vehicles that can get us out of LEO right now. We have the shuttle (aging, in need of retirement), the Space Station (not yet totally complete, but close, and some other pieces that MIGHT be able to be assembled into a working vehicle system, given enough time and budget. Orion is not yet in the flight stages, neither is Ares (and given what we are hearing, it may not be able to be put in the flight ready stages). Ares V, Altair, and the EDS are in the EARLY conceptual stages. You have to start here, not where we could be in 20-30 years, assuming massive budget increases. Thats not enough, because you have to start HERE.

    The point I am getting at – you seem to be complaining that the US isn’t spending more money on space – given that we’ve never seen major action interest in space as a dinner table issue, thats not going to change. You also seem to want us to become spacefaring. And yet, you also seem to think that we are better off actually trying to go with when we can’t afford to waste any amount. Which brings us back to my question – why do you think its better to be trying to build a lunar lander when we don’t have have the funding for it?

    Also, and here is an important second point- I am at least willing to acknowledge that the majority of the market/funding is government based, but do you think its at all possible to attract funding from other sources?

    Oh, and as for my concerns about local economies? This and this should easily address it.

  • mike shupp

    Ferris Valyn —

    All right, my fault. I think I’ve a fairly decent notion as to how all this neat stuff might happen, but I’ve never managed to fit in all into one spot, so I can’t carp at your failing to understand my wisdom.

    Point 1. What NASA is currently set up to, or pretends it is set up to do, is to build an “outpost.” Which at absolutely best seems likely to be something an antarctic base with less gravity, fewer amenities, and never any fresh tomatoes — we’ll ship people to the moon for a couple of months, feed ‘em canned food, and probably ship up their air and water as well. This will be (a) expensive, (b) pointless.

    It will, however, cheer up the State Dept, because as long as the US is on the Moon, without claiming the Moon, other nations which might reach the Moon might be dissuaded from claiming the Moon themselves, which could eventually create problems for the State Dept years downstream.
    (Consider this a satiric side comment, not a prophecy.)

    Point 2. Without a serious committent of money, manpower, and imagination, I don’t think NASA is going to get past the antarctic base stage. Money, manpower, and imagination are going to be in short supply for space programs for some time to come; likely we’re going to need a long stretch of economic growth — 30 years or so, at 3 to 4% growth per capita per year — to make space spending palatable to American politicians. Fortunately or unfortunately, the existing economy is such that most politicians can see that growth is desirable.

    Point 3. The “payoff” for colonizing the Moon is unclear. Maybe there’s enough Helium-3 to create a viable market, maybe enough platinum and other rare materials, but we’ll have to see. (I foresee all sorts of difficulties if there are such riches, to be honest — the world is filled with folks who really don’t admire Yanqui capitalists exploiting local resources and they have votes in the UN). In the 60′s, an argument could be made that manufacturing on the Moon would be a bonanza for industrialists; I’m skeptical of that notion today (basically, I think the microchip and nanotech are leading us to a world with very little connection to present day manufacturing techniques.) This leaves science as a primary employer (radio telescopes? risky biology?), tourism, mining and manufacturing for local consumption, maybe banking, maybe storage for some high valve items (museums?), maybe housing for the elderly affluent.

    Point 4. This doesn’t matter if we keep to the notion that The Moon Must Support The Moon. We need (the settlers/residents/whatever) to grow food on the Moon, we need to extract air from rocks, we need to find water or get really clever at recycling it, we need to make vehicles and rocket fuel and clothing and just about everything else from lunar material. Do that — make the Moon self supporting, and you can add as many as you want, simply for the cost of transporting them from earth. I provide no time table. OTOH, I don’t think anyone here needs convincing that steps toward self-sufficiency are a good thing.

    Point 5. I don’t think anyone really wants a command economy on the Moon, certainly not for years and years. The faster we get away from that the better, both for morale and more efficient use of resources. And we eventually want people on the Moon who don’t rely on NASA paychecks; a locally supported population needs a local economy. I think we can create such an economy.

    Point 6. I’ve never thought this would be quick, easy, or cheap. I do think it within the capability of an ambitious modern state, by say the end of this century American, Chinese, European, whatever — after another century the people on the Moon and Mars won’t use such labels for themselves.

    (And yes, I do think it would take a “state” to found planetary colonies. We’ve had spaceflight for half a century now, and we’ve got broadcasting and GPS and Landsat and weather satellites and military intelligence satellites up the wazoo, and this has probably been good for the economy as a whole, but it has never transformed into anything which facilititates colonization. Thirty years ago science fiction writers could dream up corporations which built factories on asteroids and space-based entrepreneurs who leaped from one empire building scheme to another; they haven’t materialized and I doubt they will.)

  • Ferris Valyn

    Mike – Mike shupp

    Your points – those are steps 10-20 for colonization. We are at step 2. Give me steps 2-10. Those are what we need right now

    Second – NASA may or may not be well suited to run an Antarctic base size outpost, and without a serious commitment of money, it won’t move past that. Fine, for the sake of argument, lets say I agree. Here is the problem – right now, NASA doesn’t have the funding to even send 1 human to the moon, for a short excursion. How do you address that?

    In short, how do you propose we get the political & public support to GET a base on the moon? And yes, this has to apply to all countries, not just the US, because no other country is actively looking at having people visiting the moon before the middle of next century.

  • common sense

    @Ferris Valyn:

    “NASA doesn’t have the funding to even send 1 human to the moon, for a short excursion. ”

    Hah come onnnnn! NASA has plenty of cash to send 1 human to the Moon. The question is rather whether it has the cash to send the human alive to the Moon and to bring said human back to Earth and I mean again alive you know, like in not dead, you know.

    Ferris, you are way too fatalist, you know?

  • mike shupp

    Ferris -

    1. Call Norm Augustine and ask him to form a commission
    2-10. Mere implementation details!

    Seriously, your’e asking a lot and I’m going to be away from a computer
    for several hours. Maybe later tonight.

    I’ll give you step 5 or 6 right now however. Absolutely plaster some medium sized crater near the lunar south pole with supplies and building materials dispatched by really cheap stupid unmanned expendable rockets.

  • Ferris Valyn wrote @ August 31st, 2009 at 11:27 am”what is a viable plan, utilizing the current or slightly increased budget, that is largely the traditional command & control style of operations NASA has used for space operations, that successfully transitions us into a spacefaring society?”Ooh a challenge. Whilst waiting for Nichole and Danny to desaturate…PreambleThis SpaceFleet Cadet has pontificated on such a topic here (an extended exposition of my answers to the “Plan For Exploration Beyond LEO Responses”: – David Lermit Response (pdf, 56k) http://www.nasa.gov/offices/hsf/related_documents/index.htmlBut having followed NASA since the days of Ranger and Gemini, I have come to the conclusion that NASA *as is* must be deconstructed. Just as the global MIC should be. There are more pressing issues that incidentally would have been solved already if we were a space faring society! But we are where we are.However a synthesis of the above, that maintains the current structure of NASA? TRICKY. How about this as a thought experiment. What if the various parts of the Deep Space Architecture are farmed out to the various centres. And partnered with IP’s to boot! Thus NASA builds centres of trust and international outreach at the same time as building the new skill set for the new space paradigm: Let the Bots do it! Using the OASIS architecture as a baseline, NASA and IPs should ‘divvy up’ its component parts: LEO Node(s); Earth-Moon L1 “Nearside” Node; LLO Node; Lander (Reusable); SEP Tugs; E-ML2 “Farside” Node;… and the associated technological developments to the centres. With NASA HQ acting as coordinator. Then with a robust -and largely autonomous-delivery system in place bombard the Moon with Bots.(One Bot per School?)OK I hear you ask – just as Danny and Nichole float out of Quest – “Where is the SpaceFaring Society in all this?” – well the glib answer is that it is already here! In the short term, the various Nodes will require Crew tending, mending and NASA micro-management whilst the Bots: tele-operated by everyone from pre-schoolers to silver surfers build your Tranquillity Base out of Mooncrete, Lunar Glass and Aluminium. Eventually the KIDS (cos you are gonna be too old) will settle to do what the Bots cannot do : emote, choose the curtains and fix the Bots!”Phobos First: Mars is just another Well!

  • @Vacuum.Head

    Does your computer not possess a return key?

  • mike shupp

    Ferris Valyn -

    Step 0. NASA should tune down the rhetoric. Serious people ought to talk seriously, despite the temptations of the internet, etc. There should be an absolute ban on terms such as “new”, “exciting”, “unprecedented”, “unique” etc. All future dates and budget predictions are to be flagged as “Tentative.” Lists of proposed accomplishments shall be terminated with the phrase “AND A PONY.” There will be a NASA webpage which explains that NASA has a goal of establishing a self-sustaining lunar settlement by some date at no more than some (inflation adjusted) cost; there will be a list of subtasks along the way and their expected completion dates; there will be a prominent graphic making it embarassingly clear if NASA is off schedule or off budget. No misleading promises will be made. Astronauts may read statements at approved press conferences and scientific meetings; they will not Twitter (not on government websites anyhow). Schoolchildren will not be encouraged to name spacecraft. There will be no helpful lecture notes for teachers. The astronauts will not sing carols. Webcams are permitted but blogging from orbit is strongly discouraged. No one from NASA will appear on The Tonight Show, however messy their divorce situation may be. This will leave NASA in relative obscurity from most Americans’ point of view, which is greatly to be desired.

    More seriously, NASA shouldn’t overpromise, and it should do its ding dong damndest to avoid being quoted or pointed at in embarassing way.
    If this means being forgotten by most folks, that’s just fine. You and Keith Cowling may disagree, and that’s fine of course. But you’re wrong.

    (More after a cigarette break)

  • Ferris Valyn

    If this means being forgotten by most folks, that’s just fine. You and Keith Cowling may disagree, and that’s fine of course. But you’re wrong.

    Whether you like public exposure or not, the simple fact is this you are spending the public’s money – don’t you think they’ll want a say in how its getting spent?

    Again, may I cite the health care debate?

  • mike shupp

    Ferris –

    Step 1. NASA’s well-publicised problems with Ares I and Ares V likely have put a permanent kibosh on developing new big rockets. Which is unfortunate, since NASA used to have an actual SuperHeavy Booster named Saturn V, and drawing board plans for a SuperDooperHeavy Booster named Nova, or perhaps Saturn 9, and why Mike Griffin couldn’t blow the dust off them when he was hyperventilating about Apollo On Steroids totally escapes me. But here we are, and the only realistic options now seem to be Atlas 5 and Delta 4. Possibly after some minor upgrading (at say $3 billion each, comparable to what has already been spent on Ares I) these could boost a capsule of some sort (we’ll call it Orion) to the International Space Station. A few billion more might give us heavy lift versions of those boosters, or at least an “Extended Fairing” version which would allow uplift of awkwardly sized unmanned payloads.
    Versions of Atlas or Delta which would duplicate the performance sought for Ares V are probably not achievable. This means any lunar mission has to be based on what an Atlas or Delta can put into earth orbit. Which is a tad … limiting. OTOH, I never much cared for basing lunar rockets on solid propellants anyhow. So I’m weeping with dry eyes, if you get my drift. I’m not going into greater detail — everyone in the alt.space has a preferred Atlas/Delta configuration which slices, which dices, which carves vegetables into works of art for $14.95, so let’s assume this can be done and move on.

    Step 3. We will need additional rockets to get to the Moon, but they’ll have to be smaller and cheaper and developed on comparative shoestrings. I see a need for three. Tentatively, I refer to them as Slingshot, Hauler, and Federal Express, but no doubt sexier names will emerge (I also think of them as Paper, Rock, and Scissors, but I’m not sure which rocket gets each of those names).

    Slingshot would be a very simple system, maybe about the size of a strap-on-the-back personal helicopter — suitcase sized. Slingshot would basically consist of straps which could be fastened about some two or three ton object, a simple guidance computer (maybe with some televiewing and teleoperation capability) and enough propellant to kick those two or three tons from NEO off to the moon. Maybe there’d be a little nub of a thruster at the front to slow things down while Slingshot and its payload dropped toward the lunar surface. As I envision things, Slingshot’s rocket fuel would come in a can or module maybe the size of Volkswagon Beetle; this is possibly generous. Slingshot should be versatile enough to push five or six ton cargos outward if two or three fuel cans are attached to it. Attaching things to Slingshot ought to take one astronaut, at most, even if the astronaut is deprived of sleep, oxygen, and sobriety. It should be reliable, the software should be idiot proof, and making the necessary connections within the intellectual ability of the average ten year old. Slingshot wouldn’t necesssarily provide a fast flight from earth to the moon; the essential thing is that it should be very very reliable. And it ought to be dead cheap — meaning in the range of ten thousand bucks.

    (more coming)

  • Ferris Valyn

    Mike Shupp – 1. You are missing step 2

    Second, you’re giving me a technical plan, that involves vehicles and the like – I also need the political & sociological plan, that will get the funding needed to put those technical plans on the path of actually happening. Because, right now, with the current NASA budget, NASA won’t have step 3 done until 2030, at the earliest

  • mike shupp

    Ferris —

    A considerable step above Slingshot would be Hauler — which some of us might dimly recall as the Upper Stage that was supposed to be built with Shuttle (and wasn’t, and metamorphized into an Interim Upper Stage, or IUS, which also wasn’t built). Hauler would be a kind of manned Slingshot, with probably one crewman. I think of Hauler as something like a Sikorsky Flying Crane — basically just a girder with engines attached and a set of straps for latching onto cargo. Hauler would grab onto things possibly as big as a railroad boxcar, move them from point a to point b, and release them, presumably in a prespecified direction with a prespecified velocity. Which is to say, Haulers would provide the Prime Movers that moved manned spacecraft thoughout the solar system.

    Like Slingshot, Hauler would make use of standardized fuel modules (maybe burning O2-kerosine, to simplify development), with a capability of mounting different numbers of modules for different missions. And like Slingshot, setting up Hauler for a mission ought to be idiot-proof….nay, even astronaut proof! Let’s give Hauler a 2-week life support cabability; we can upgrade them is the future. (And I see a great future for Hauler). Hauler missions would cost a few millions of dollars in my guesstimation — mostly for fuel, but this might be eclipsed by the costs of boosting them to orbit on Extended Deltas or whatever. Haulers would be reused; given sensible maintenance one can imagine them lasting for fifty years or more.

    Finally, one has the actual “flight vehicle” or “Federal Express Parcel” or whatever, housing two to six astronauts in conditions comparable to Russian serfs in the days of Ivan IV Vasileyevich. This would comprise modules lifted by a Delta or an Atlas; I speculate two or four would be sufficient, with food, water, air, and supplies boosted about another two EEVs, and mission-related hardware on yet another two EEV’s. (see what happens when you rule out Saturns?). The FEP would be carried to lunar orbit by a Hauler. It would be fuelless initially to save weight, but on arriving at the Moon, fuel packages placed in orbit by Slingshots should be available, to allow the FEP to disengage from the Hauler and descend to the surface. (If the fuel packages can’t be found, or can’t be successfully attached to the FEB, then the mission is aborted, and that astronauts saill back to earth in Apollo XIII- fashion.)

    FEPs should carry two astronauts as a rule, with capability for seating four in a pinch. FEPs will be viewed as expendable, not because they are incapable of reuse, but because they are generally broken down to components at a landing site and incorporated in the growing community. FEPs are inevitably going to be expensive.

    (more after more thought)

  • mike shupp

    Ferris —

    Step 3 (yeah, I blew my numbering scheme, I see)

    My guess is that Slingshot, Hauler, and Federal Express could be developed for aound 12-15 billion bucks (it ought to be much less, but I’ve developed some cynicism about budgets over the years). Much of that would be for developing the standarized fuel/material packages, and getting people accustomed to using standardized packages (for example, if it takes more than than one fuel module to boost a parcel to the moon via Slingshot, then Slingshot should use two fuel modules PERIOD, FINAL, NO MORE NO LESS GODDAMMIT, even if the 2nd fuel module is mostly
    unused at the end of the voyage; we do NOT need to build and test a Slightly-Bigger-Than-Standard-But-Surely-More-Efficient fuel module).

    Spread over much a decade, this is a bearable number. There will be enough progress to report to please the people who follow this kind of thing; the cost will be low enough to avoid aggrevating the folks who are aggrevated by space programs of almost any size; the awards of contracts to this company and that company and that other company should molify those who are annoyed by NASA insistance on Doing It All Ourselves; the point can legitimately be made that Slingshot, Hauler, and Federal Express have future applications beyond lunar colonization.

    Will it actually “sell” the lunar program to people determined not to like space programs? No, but I doubt if much can. NASA has spent forty years now hanging around low earth orbit; that’s what it’s good for in most people’s eyes. That’s the space program that the people who run the US decided to run in the early 1970′s. It would be …undemocratic .. to argue with the collective wisdom of Richard Nixon, the New York Times, and the National Science Foundation, wouldn’t it? So NASA should just keep its damned mouth shut through the 2010′s and just keep repeating, when pressed, that it has a goal of building a self-sustaining lunar colony at such and such a date, for such and such money, and that its progress
    is visible at such and such a web site. Progress excuses lots of political incorrectitude.

    This doesn’t make you happy, perhaps, and it doesn’t make me happy, certainly, but we’re a big rich powerful country that can do all sorts of things, and does do all sorts of things, even if not everyone is pleased all the time by everything observable. NASA really doesn’t need to be at the top of the national Hit Parade, as long as it keeps accomplishing stuff, and as long as it accomplishing stuff, it’ll probably have a license to continue. Really, we can live with this.

  • Martijn Meijering

    @Mike:

    Existing EELVs and existing fairing sizes would be good enough and Delta IV could have 6.5mx25.9m fairings or so says the Delta IV Payload Planners Guide. But since you need an EDS anyway and an existing upper stage is the best place to start, why not build the new common upper stage for Atlas and Delta that would give you EELV Phase 1? It consolidates two upper stage production facilities which should lead to somewhat lower recurring costs.

    You wouldn’t even need propellant transfer for moon missions, although that would be highly desirable. Hypergolic in-flight refueling would be more than enough and a pretty decent solution. This would allow even Mars missions. Cryogenic depots could make things even better, either as a replacement or as an addition.

  • mike shupp

    Ferris–

    Step 4. It should be clear that my “Federal Express Package” is not an Orion. It’s two (or more likely four) clam-shell pieces that are bolted together in orbit, after being boosted by an Extended Fairing Atlas or whatever, and probably stuffed (at the front) with a Bigelow Genesis X module to provide life support, and at the back with what amounts to a machine shop. Food and air for 2 astronauts for a period of several weeks will be provided — this should suffice for a lunar mission, but the FEP should be capable to housing 4-6 astronauts for several months in other circumstances. The FEP might weigh about ten tons; life support and fuel modules could potentially double that. My guess is a FEP might be about as big as a railroad car, but considerably uglier.

    A FEP would be transported to lunar orbit by a Hauler. It would not carry a full complement of fuel/food/air modules. These would be provided by modules already in orbit, thanks to Slingshots. If the FEP was not able to link up with those supply modules, the mission would be aborted, and the FEP and Hauler would return to their original launch point (presumably at the international space station or some successor station).

    Step 5 (as promised). The landing point for the FEP ought to be blanketed with food and fuel and air modules to replenish the FEP and to permit construction of an interim moon base. These modules would have been dropped from Slingshots, likely with minimal braking. A reasonable guess is that modules are encased in styrofoam or bubble packaging to cope with hard landing on the Moon. If this isn’t univerally successfully … we’ll be sending lots of spares.

    Step 6. The two FEP astronauts will quickly construct an interim lunar base– likely something like a quonset hut buried under lunar regolith, lined inside with yet another Bigelow module. Something quick and dirty could be built in a few days. Later on, proper vaults might be constructed, using sintered regolith as a structural material. Several structures are desirable — we’d like one for a living place, with earthlike humidty and air composition, one for a garden/hydroponics site with a high CO2 atmosphere, several for machining and manufacturing.

    These are details to be developed as our knowledge matures; Jerry Pournelle sketched them out thirty years ago, and nobody’s come along to sell a better idea ever since.

    Step 6. Likely the original FEP will have been cannibalized to build living space, leaving the astronauts with a certain amount of concern (hopefully, there wil be lots of water, air, and food in the supply modules that survived landing on the Moon). After a month or so, a second FEP might
    be dispatched to the same site. After unloading its cargo (more machine shop equipment, hydroponics gear, etc.), the first crew could join the second crew and return to lunar orbit together, to be brought back to earth orbit by the original Hauler or one of its stable mates. The lunar astronauts would return to earth via an Orion capsule.

    Step 7. End of story basically. With a lunar base in existence, sending new astronauts would be a straightforward proposition. The base could be enlarged, its capability for feeding people expanded, etc. This would all be rather straightforward, and I see no great need to amplify the political considerations that probably have occurred to most people.

    We can create a lunar base, it seems to me, even with the many balls and chains we have afastened to ourselves over the last few decades; it can be affordable. Whether it would be loved and adored by conservatives and liberals, by old folks and young, by rich and poor, escapes me.

    Sorry, Ferris. You’re the politically oriented guy here, I tried to solve your technical problems, you’ll have to the rest of heavy lifting.

    Try to make me happy too while you’re at it.

  • mike shupp

    Martin Meijering –

    Thank you for the comment; I’m going to reread it a couple times after I get a good nights sleep and give it more thought. Bear in mind, I haven’t been presenting any really well developed ideas; I’ve just been winging it like an old SF writer should since Ferris egged me into this today.

  • Ferris Valyn

    Mike Shupp – and while the development of these wonderful crafts are going on, is NASA going to do anything with the items its developed? Is shuttle going to be continued to be used, while we wait for this Orion craft? Are we going to actually do science at ISS, or merely do station keep? And what are the operational cost of all of these vehicles?

    All of this adds to the budget, and significantly – remember Jeff Greason’s comment “If Santa Claus delivered us a working Constellation program tomorrow, we’d have to cancel it the next day, because the operational costs are double the current budget” You have to be looking at operation cost, more than development costs in fact.

    One other issue that is worth pointing out –
    NASA has spent forty years now hanging around low earth orbit; that’s what it’s good for in most people’s eyes. That’s the space program that the people who run the US decided to run in the early 1970’s. It would be …undemocratic .. to argue with the collective wisdom of Richard Nixon, the New York Times, and the National Science Foundation, wouldn’t it? So NASA should just keep its damned mouth shut through the 2010’s and just keep repeating, when pressed, that it has a goal of building a self-sustaining lunar colony at such and such a date, for such and such money, and that its progress
    is visible at such and such a web site. Progress excuses lots of political incorrectitude.

    First, that assume that they will make great, measurable, and observable (yes, it has to be observable, otherwise, it becomes ripe for being canceled) progress (something more than a few people are concerned about, since NASA has a bad history of not delivering progress), and second, that the reason NASA has stayed in LEO because of Societal fiat – NASA has stayed in LEO because they didn’t have the budget to go beyond LEO. Shuttle and Station made it impossible to consider doing beyond LEO operations, becasue there was no budget to develop beyond LEO vehicles. In point of fact, there wasn’t budget available to even develop a shuttle replacement (and we have needed a shuttle replacement since the early 90s, IMHO)

    You are right, NASA needs to be accomplishing stuff, but with its current budget, I don’t see it accomplishing those steps (particularly your 3 vehicles) before 2030, being optimistic (and more realistic 2040).

    As for making me happy – no, it doesn’t, but not because it takes time – it makes me unhappy because I see it as unsustainable, politically and financially, and I never see the transitioning happening, without vast improvements in technology. In short, we’ll see a worse situation than we do right now.

  • Ferris Valyn

    Sorry, Ferris. You’re the politically oriented guy here, I tried to solve your technical problems, you’ll have to the rest of heavy lifting.

    I am going to borrow (and slightly alter) a comment by Pat Bahn – amateurs talk technical, professionals talk politics (and the truely wise merge the 2). Thats why I asked for a sociological plan, political, and financial plan, that can move us towards becoming spacefaring, rather than a technical plan. Because you can offer all the glorious technology you want, but unless there is good reason to both develop and use that tech, the plan will never see the light of day.

    Is there a solution to this, one that actually moves us foward? Yes. Will it deliver measurable, observable, results? Yes. Can it work with where we are right now, both techwise, financial wise, and political wise? Probably

    Can it utilize the status quo as is? No

  • mike shupp

    Ferris — “and while the development of these wonderful crafts are going on, is NASA going to do anything with the items its developed? Is shuttle going to be continued to be used, while we wait for this Orion craft? Are we going to actually do science at ISS, or merely do station keep? And what are the operational cost of all of these vehicles?”

    Shuttle is dead as of late 2010, early 2011. It isn’t likley to be extended, not for the billions that would cost for a few more missions. As for what we do with the ISS, God only knows. It didn’t strike me as within my purview, which was moon/planetary colonization. Let’s leave a few things for Charles Bolden to deal with!

    As for the operational costs of all my vehicles, who can say? My guess is that they would be cheaper than the Ares V system, because I was trying to come up with something more akin to camping with a backpack than a Winnebago. But I might be wrong — Winnebagos have their good points.

    But as for the “sociological plan, political, and financial plan, that can move us towards becoming spacefaring, rather than a technical plan” … you’re asking too much. You’re asking for a new religion or a new vision of society, on a par with FDR’s liberalism or Ronald Reagan’s conservatism, and I’m not so convinced of my wisdom that I’m going to start spouting off. Besides, all the arguments for spaceflight have been made, many many times. They convince some people; they fail to convince others; and such is life. We have to live with it. We aren’t going to get the space progam we’ve always wanted, not all at once, but maybe we can get a start and build on it.

    That’s all the philosophy I can really offer. Sorry.

  • the Upper Stage that was supposed to be built with Shuttle (and wasn’t, and metamorphized into an Interim Upper Stage, or IUS, which also wasn’t built).

    It wasn’t built? Who knew?

  • Apologies @Rand Simberg and everyone else with the perseverance to read my somewhat breathless post. To answer your question: Yes! However the post was formatted with s and as HTML parses a treat. Unfortunately…
    Well we live and learn :)

  • mike shupp

    Rand Simberg –

    Okay, I will open my mouth once more, insert a foot, and start chewing.
    … Discovery; Old shoe leather tastes like dead crow. How humiliating.

    NASA did build an “interim upper stage” which got used 20 or more times. It just wasn’t the same thing as what I recall being called the
    IUS back when it was becoming clear that the original Upper Stage (aka “Space Bus”) would never be built.

    Still, you win the point. Mea culpa.

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