Congress, NASA, White House

“Unconvinced that there is a guiding vision”

That’s part of a quote from a member of Congress who met with NASA administrator Charles Bolden Wednesday and came away with that sense of uncertainty about the future of NASA’s human spaceflight program. “I left the meeting unconvinced that there is a guiding vision for the future of manned spaceflight in the United States,” Rep. Adam Putnam (R-FL) told the Orlando Sentinel. “I don’t mean to imply that he [Bolden] is being evasive; I just don’t think he knows.” That uncertainty, though, isn’t necessarily surprising: the administration is likely still evaluating options, and while Bolden can make suggestions and recommendations, the decision presumably isn’t his to make.

The report also claims that Bolden, perhaps stung by the pushback against the Augustine committee options from members of Congress last week, is considering one alternative to keep Ares 1 as a “technology demonstrator” to support later development of the larger Ares 5. How exactly that would work—including what alternative launch options would be developed and how much such a scenario would cost—aren’t specified, although one unnamed NASA official attending the meeting said it was based on the “fantasy” that the agency would get a $3-billion-a-year increase.

82 comments to “Unconvinced that there is a guiding vision”

  • Major Tom

    Taking Ares I out of the crew critical path would be a great move, but single stick Ares I tests should not be carried as demos for Ares V — the acoustic environment is totally different, there’s no reason to develop dedicated Ares I avionics, etc., etc. Either pursue a Shuttle-derived heavy lift program or don’t. But don’t bog it down and make it nonsensical with such a massive diversion to appease a few congressmen. Per Sally Ride’s charts, heavy lift will be by far the most expensive element of the restructured human space flight program (which should more than satisfy the relevant AL, FL, TX congressmen), and even with an unlikely extra $3B, it will be barely affordable.

    Personally, given its huge cost commitment, I’d defer the heavy lift decision as long as possible. Retire the Shuttle infrastructure so NASA no longer bears those costs alone, merge requirements with commercial and military capabilities to the extent practical, push in-space propellent as far as possible for near-term exploration goals, and only bite on an EELV-derived heavy lift vehicle when necessary for later exploration goals. The former head of ESMD’s requirements division makes similar arguments here:

    http://spacenews.com/commentaries/human-spaceflight-myth-busting.html

    FWIW…

  • MrEarl

    Evolution!!
    That is how NASA is going to get on with the business of exploration. The Aries 1 and V are, for all intents and purposes, brand new vehicles. We already have a heavy lift vehicle. It consists of two SRB’s an external tank and 3 SSME’s that can lift over 100 tons to LEO. The first evolution would be a sidemout carrier for cargo and the Orion capsule. This directly leverages all of our experience and investment with the present system while still allowing the present system (shuttle) to fly. Orion’s biggest problem has been a launcher that was underpowered. Using the sidemount configuration we can add back a crew capacity of 6 and land recoveries with airbags. The next evolution would be the 5 segment SRB’s for more lift. With this configuration we could start exploration of the moon and other nearby objects. The big change would be to an in-line stack. This would provide greater lift but would not preclude the assembly of the sidemount tanks. Using this strategy we retain an experienced workforce and have little to no gap in the ability to launch humans into space.
    In the background would be the evolution of the SSME from reusable to expendable making them far cheaper to manufacture, development of the J-2 engine for lunar missions and the VASIMER for exploration beyond the moon.
    This provides a clear, unbroken path from where we are now, LEO, to where we want to be, a truly space-faring people.

  • Robert Oler

    What “I” think is the salient feature here is the statement by the Congressman. ““I left the meeting unconvinced that there is a guiding vision for the future of manned spaceflight in the United States,” ”

    Vehicles aside…I do not think that there is any reason past “save our jobs” (at least Boeing is being honest with its C-17 campaign…to do “exploration” with humans. I do not think that anyone can explain to the American people in a coherent fashion why we should send people to the Moon or go to Mars…and that includes the hand waving alarmist “the Chinese are going” to the science folks who are arguing to give them something to do.

    Water on the Moon doesnt change that. It argues for a very strong robotic program to answer various questions all of which Ares could have already paid for.

    But we are left with “what is the role of humans in space” and I think before we spend a lot of money we ought to answer that. I think that the answer to that is to open up space to the full length and breadth of the American economy…and that is not going back to the Moon or going to Mars

    If one is going to argue for “exploration” at least be honest, it is a jobs program

    Robert G. Oler

  • Major Tom

    “I do not think that there is any reason past ‘save our jobs’…to do “exploration” with humans. I do not think that anyone can explain to the American people in a coherent fashion why we should send people to the Moon or go to Mars…”

    Agreed that there is currently no compelling rationale for civil human space flight, and there probably won’t be until some unpredictable, external event (political, economic, scientific, etc.) provides adequate justification, as happened during the Cold War rivalry with the Soviets.

    That said, we’re going to have a civil human space flight program for the foreseeable decades. For better or worse, the vagaries of history have bequeathed human space flight as an integral part of the U.S. national identity. We may not be able to articulate coherently why we spend these many taxpayer dollars on this particular activity, but it’s part of what we do, we’d miss it if it were gone, and it’s not politically possible for a future President or Congress to cancel it.

    So to me (at least), the question is not so much “why?”, but “how effective?”. There’s no overarching, driving rationale for our civil human space flight program, but if we’ve got one, we might as well make it as effective as possible, both in its own right (how far crew is sent, number of crew, cost per unit activity, etc.) and in terms of how it can benefit external activities (science, business, defense, etc.), even if indirectly/secondarily.

    So my 2 cent advice is to give up on trying to find a justification/rationale for the civil human space flight program for now, and instead focuse on how to productively utilize the $10B/yr. that the U.S. is likely to spend on it for the foreseeable future.

    FWIW…

  • Doug Lassiter

    So to me (at least), the question is not so much “why?”, but “how effective?”.

    But from a strategic planning perspective, if you don’t know the “why”, however do you evaluate the “how effective”? That just doesn’t make sense. How effectively we can throw bodies into space and bring them back alive? How effectively we can send people somewhere to do something? How effectively can we excite the American public?

    I don’t buy the idea that we give up trying to find a justification, and just work on spending money. THAT is jobs program, and one that is entirely self-defined.

    Remember the Presidents Management Agenda, back in 2002? That document formalized the importance of strategic planning by the OMB (thanks, Sean O’Keefe!), and specifically calls on agencies to focus on results. “Vague goals lead to perpetual programs achieving poor results.”

    What it takes is some leadership. Someone to stand up and say THIS is what it’s all about. That’s what Bush tried to do in the Vision, and had he actually done followthrough with leadership on that Vision, we might not be where we are now.

  • steve kelsey

    NASA needs a rethink. It is after all one of the last Cold War institutions to survive more or less unchanged into the 21st century. The organisation is having to justify it’s existence and is doing so by clinging onto grand visions and the budgets that they demand. Perhaps it is time to shrink NASA to a size that is consistent with what it can and should do-fund and direct research. The New World was not rediscovered and exploited by a great mission, it was a punt by an entrepreneur who got funding from the government of the day on the highly speculative promise of large returns. Columbus used existing commercial ships and crew. So did those that followed him spurred on by the potential for self advancement and the chance of great rewards
    Leave space development to the Space X’s, the Bigelows and the rest and let the capabilities develop naturally. Europe and Japan have achieved the potentials for manned space flight and LEO exploitation on far smaller budgets than NASA and are doing so in a modular upgradeable way. It is slow,it isn’t sexy, no one holds their breath waiting for the next Ariane launch- but it’s affordable.
    I have wanted to go into Space since I was seven years old when I first learnt those magical words Sputnik and Vostok. Looks like my only chance will be delivered by a bearded ex-hippie and the magnificent Mr Burt Rutan. Maybe that’s the right way to go.

  • Maintaining the Ares-1 as a “demonstrator” strikes me as the most expensive of all possible options, especially when measured against useful results.

    I’m going to refrain from arguing again for human spaceflight. You all know my arguments and I am very confident that history will prove me correct and advocates for purely automated projects wrong, but none of us will know for many decades, at best.

    I could live with continuing the current plan if it were paid for, or for a true Shuttle-derived vehicle, or an EELV-based plan (in inverse order of my preference), as long as a lunar base remains the ultimate goal — for the reasons outlined in my Space News Op Ed this week.

    – Donald

  • Steve: Europe and Japan have achieved the potentials for manned space flight and LEO exploitation on far smaller budgets than NASA and are doing so in a modular upgradeable way.

    You raise a valid point, but part of this is because they’re riding on our money. We designed the Space Station and paid for much of its technology, than essentially paid the Europeans and Russians, and to a lesser extent the Japanese, to build and commercialize large parts of it. When Boeing built the first ISS modules, before we farmed the work out to the Italians, why aren’t Boeing and American engineers building the shell for Orbital’s COTS contender? Why did they need to go to the Italians? Answer that question, and you will answer a lot of what’s wrong with American aerospace companies.

    I’m all for International cooperation. But we US taxpayers paying for developments that get commercialized in Europe is not the way to go about it if we want to have a US commercial space industry.

    I blame American companies far more than our government. I just read an article in AvWeek about Lockheed Martin laying off engineers while whining that there is less government work and they don’t have much of a position in commercial launch vehicles and satellites. Well, whose fault is that? ITAR is part of the problem, certainly, but most of the reason is that European primes and governments are willing to invest in commercial launch vehicles and satellites, while the two largest American primes would rather suckle at mother government’s breast. Well, the breast is drying up and it’s time for Lockheed and Boeing to grow up and be real companies selling real space products that somebody wants to buy.

    – Donald

  • Robert Oler

    Major Tom…you wrote:

    So my 2 cent advice is to give up on trying to find a justification/rationale for the civil human space flight program for now, and instead focuse on how to productively utilize the $10B/yr. that the U.S. is likely to spend on it for the foreseeable future….

    you are one of the bright lights here…but with all due respect does not “doing” that by itself define what the justification/rationale for the civil human spaceflight program is?

    This is where I think that the “vision” falls down, and why I suspect Obama’s folks are ready to ditch it…say that the Administration puts up with a program that returns people to the Moon AFTER it has left office in a theoretical two term administration (I think that is still the current time line)…say that it is done.

    Then what does the “next administration” do for an encore?

    Or more likely say that the cost keep ballooning along the way and 3 billion more a year isnt enough…how much is to much?

    My suggestion to the Administration (or any administration) would be “figure out some use for NASA that can be accomplished in “you’re 8 years (and I guess hope that one gets two terms)”… That is really not Ares 1or V. What the rationale has to be is something that can be “pointed to” as an accomplishment of the administration.

    There are a couple. HEavy lift is one. I dont know why it is needed but if one wanted a national heavy lift capability, then that is the project to put NASA on.

    Another is to do the heavy lifting on “The Simberg Platform” (an honor I give to Rand S who has pushed in orbit tank farms).

    In other words unless NASA can find a “vision” which gets “boots on the ground” by 2016 I suspect that what is done is going to be more technology then anything else…

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert Oler

    Donald…could you send me a copy of your op ed? SpaceNews has not caught up with the change of address? Orbitjet(at)hotmail.com

    The problem with todays major aerospace companies is that they are (as you note) to fat…Orbital is going to the Italians because the Italians can do the job a lot cheaper then Boeing or Lockmart can.

    we will see how long that last if SpaceX or Orbital or someone else starts sending people to the station…and or if large platforms start being launched and assembled at either the ISS or a Bigelow low inclination space station.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert: unless NASA can find a “vision” which gets “boots on the ground” by 2016

    I agree, strongly. How about:

    1. Adapt a reduced weight, half sized Space Station module for lunar orbit surrounded by empty water and fuel tanks.

    2. Adapt a service module from any number of existing vehicles, e.g., the spy satellite module NASA once considered adapting to Space Station.

    3. Place the two in lunar orbit with separate, uprated (if necessary) Delta-iVs, then dock them together. Use a third Delta-IV to fly fuel and water to fill the empty tanks and provide radiation shielding.

    4. Build a quick-and-dirty Gemini-class capsule for two people, and use an Delta-IV to send it to your “instant” lunar outpost.

    Next Administration:

    5. Build out the orbital station to be a node for sending small landers to the surface, slowly building up surface infrastructure.

    6. Explore, do science, and practice “living off the land” to a limited degree, eventually “exporting” oxygen and water to the orbital post and ultimately back to Earth orbit.

    Advantages: relatively fast results, relatively cheap, maximum use of existing resources and little investment in new and untried machines, Early geology far more capable than anything that could be automated, the earliest possible establishment of the beginnings of trade and commerce, which, as we know from history, and drive explosive expansion once it gets started.

    – Donald

  • Robert Oler

    Donald….of course I am not the person advocating “an exploration” motiff…but…

    If I were and I had General Bolden’s ear…

    I would argue for:

    1) a robust lunar uncrewed exploration effort to really answer the lunar water issue…where, how much, what kind, how hard to get to…

    all the while develop some sort of “lunar space station” (or L2 station something like that) and from that station (with some propellent depot things stage some “lunar EVA’s without setting up a lunar station but checking various sites, doing some field work there and complimenting the uncrewed vehicles.

    It would in my viewpoint be ridiculous to build “a lunar station” even a cheap and quick one, until one had done a relative good survey setup and figured out where “the place for one” was.

    the service module you are thinking of is the ICM…I know Space X is interested in it as well.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert, I can’t send you the Op Ed while Space News is still on the market, and it does not appear to be on their Web site. I’ll send it to you next week.

    – Donald

  • Bob Mahoney

    Donald, I can’t believe that you see a moon base as the ‘ultimate’ goal. You meant an enabling interim goal toward solar system exploration and exploitation, didn’t you? A lunar World Series would be a lot of fun, but I can’t see it being the be-all end-all of human spaceflight.

    On other point above:
    As for a guiding vision, it’s been there since 2004…NASA and Congress just haven’t followed it since 2005.

    As for actually killing US HSF, the possibility is only too real in light of some of the other drastic moves this Administration has made (or has indicated intent toward) thus far. While it seems an unlikely path on the surface, I would not rule it out completely. Who would have thought even ten years ago that a presidential administration would dismiss the CEO of a private car manufacturing company and install someone of their own choosing in his place? Sometimes the unthinkable DOES come to pass.

  • Robert, I won’t argue with you now about the value, or otherwise, of robots to geology, but one key advantage of a low-cost, high risk human program similar to my outline is that you could afford to do both.

    – Donald

  • Bob: I misspoke. I meant the ultimate goal for the immediate post-ISS construction future. As I argue in the Op Ed, I believe, based on our ISS experience among other things, that building a lunar base is the quickest route to a start to trade and commerce in the inner Solar System. Entreprenurial launch to LEO got precisely nowhere until a base requiring supply was built in LEO to create a market; I predict that commercial transport to deep space will get nowhere until there is a base to provide a market. Earth’s moon is the easiest place to establish an early base.

    I explored similar ideas, albeit a long time ago, here,

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

    – Donald

  • Lockheed Martin laying off engineers while whining that there is less government work and they don’t have much of a position in commercial launch vehicles and satellites. Well, whose fault is that?

    Well, it’s partly the Air Force’s fault, since they forced them to divest to ULA.

  • Robert Oler

    Donald…yeah having been published in Space News…I know that (grin)

    Robert G. Oler

  • Bob: I also agree with Major Tom. Today, complete abandonment of human spaceflight is not in the cards; Congress would not stand for it. However, I do believe that _effective_ abandonment of HSF is possible by never getting beyond supporting the ISS. However again, even that is something since it would provide an on-going market to commercial launch. Once that is firmly established, and if it is not in the control of the likes of Boeing and LM, and since LEO is famously “half way to anywhere” in the Universe, that just may be enough to let entrepreneurs go to near Earth asteroids and / or the moon and / or service Langrangian telescopes from there. Maybe, but that’s a stretch and it would be better if the government provided early deep-space markets.

    – Donald

  • Rand: since they forced them to divest to ULA

    Huh? My reading of the history is that Boeing and LM were driving this, and the government reluctantly agreed. Am I wrong?

    – Donald

  • The Ares 1/V just cost too much and takes too long to take us permanently back to the Moon!

    NASA’s Sidemount-HLV could get us back to the Moon faster and cheaper while also providing us with a much safer replacement for the current space shuttle. The Sidemount-HLV will also allow us to use a full sized Orion vehicle capable of landing on land or in the sea. Just one Orion-SD-HLV could also be used as a rescue vehicle for mishaps in lunar orbit while it would take two launches (Ares1 & Ares V) in order to rescue crew members trapped in lunar orbit aboard a malfunctioning Orion vehicle in lunar orbit.

    If the NASA budget is raised by $3billion annually, the SD-HLV development should also allows us to continue to fly the space shuttle until the SD-HLV is ready for manned flight with the least amount of disruption of the current launch infrastructure.

  • common sense

    @Major Tom:

    “So my 2 cent advice is to give up on trying to find a justification/rationale for the civil human space flight program for now, and instead focuse on how to productively utilize the $10B/yr. that the U.S. is likely to spend on it for the foreseeable future.”

    Here is a justification/rationale: We do HSF just because we can do it.

    This being said the day and time when we do relate it to national interests will be the day and time when we don’t have to worry so much about panels of any kinds. Furthermore, if some people can show there is money to be made then we will never have to worry about funding it ever again, period. So yes let’s focus on what we can do with what we have. Let’s try to give a chance to the private sector and see what happens.

    Only two things can then happen: HSF goes on or dies on. It’s called “evolution”.

  • Robert Oler

    Donald…see I think that the future of human operations is in LEO…and that a premature “break” to the Moon or whatever just kills us for whatever period of time we do that until we stop.

    I am persuaded by Jim Oberg that we really lack the technology to go to the Moon and stay.

    We are barely holding on at ISS…

    its stopped raining off to work on the barn…

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert Oler

    Marcel…what you cannot grasp is that the same people/managed structure would be assigned to your side mount SDV and they would screw that up.

    the shuttle infrastructure is hosed

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert: We are barely holding on at ISS

    How so? We have managed this incredible construction project (and incredible it was, whatever you think about whether it should have been done this way or whether it should have been done at all) with no deaths and few serious problems (knock on wood). That was a truly amazing accomplishment. The fact that we all write it off as a non-event speaks much more to how well it went than to what was achieved.

    We have freighters from two countries (counting “Europe” as a “country”) supplying it, and two commercial vehicles in the wings, while the government supply line is still one year (officially; two years, realistically) from retirement. Just what does it take, in your mind, to create a secure foothold in LEO? ? ? ?

    I would argue that an awful lot could go wrong with the ISS and still have a viable base, far more so than Mir, which hung on with amazing tenacity.

    As for the future in LEO, it depends on how fast we want humanity to expand. “Safe” in LEO, we can achieve a lot, but there is nothing like the operational experience of actually operating in deep space and on the moon. Look at how fast we went from Apollo-11 to Apollos-15 through 17, albeit at enormous risk. Practice makes perfect, while studying makes paper.

    Good luck on the barn.

    – Donald

  • Oops, that’s freighters from three countries. How could I have forgotten the Progress? !

    – Donald

  • My reading of the history is that Boeing and LM were driving this, and the government reluctantly agreed. Am I wrong?

    My dim recollection is that Boeing wanted to get out of the business, and spread its production costs in Decatur, and it persuaded the Air Force that the merger was a good idea. Lockmart went along, but was not as eager, as they were doing pretty well with the Atlas on their own.

  • Even if you’re reading is correct, Rand, Boeing still has no one but themselves to blame. They won the majority of the early EELV launches. If they had done that without cheating, the Delta-IV might now have the economies of scale to make a go of it in the commercial market.

    Both EELVs were sold to us taxpayers as being so efficient they would take the commercial market by storm and cut costs for the government. Yet the vehicles we got cannot even compete with the Europeans. We was lied to.

    Now we are subsidizing EELV operations — and we still don’t play in the commercial market. As all to often, the United States manages to be more socialist than the countries that actually claim to be socialist. . . .

    – Donald

  • @Robert Oler

    I don’t believe NASA screwed up the Ares1/Ares V project. They’re just being asked by the politicians to do too many things at once with very little money. The politicians want them to replace the space shuttle while also continuing to operate the current space shuttle. They also want them to continue funding the ISS. And then they want them to develop the vehicles to return to the Moon to establish a permanent presence. All on a $10 billion dollar a year manned space program budget that is probably about three times less than NASA got back during the 1960′s in today’s dollars which was mostly used only for going to the Moon. That’s about 10 days occupying Iraq! We spend $30 to $70 billion a year protecting the Persian Gulf oil routes for a fuel that could put most of our coastline’s underwater.

    There’s no public or private space program in the world that could accomplish as much as NASA has for the money spent. But I still prefer the Sidemount over the Ares1/V because it will get us back to the Moon much much faster!

  • Robert Oler

    Marcel

    There’s no public or private space program in the world that could accomplish as much as NASA has for the money spent..

    you are entitled to you’re viewpoints but I dont agree with them.

    NASA has mismanaged Ares and the politicans have little or nothing to do with it.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert Oler

    Donald.

    All the worlds space agencies are spending almost all their “money” on keeping ISS afloat (when it comes to human spaceops)…NASA is spending a large chunk of its cash to do just that as well.

    The Japanese for instance just launched one of those H2 transfer vehicles. They can at present resources build exactly 1 per year.

    Very little is reused on ISS or recycled…

    A lunar base is going to be worse. The folks who are saying “we can live off the land” need to go see how difficult the EVA’s were for the Apollo astronauts…there are for instance no machines capable today of extracting anything from the lunar soil…that are known to work in lunar conditions.

    Jim Oberg has convinced me that we barely made it through Apollo…that I think Krantz was correct after 11…we should have just stopped. There was concern that the spacesuits on 17 were not going to last through the last EVA…they did but they were shot. We dont have suits that are known to be reusable on the Moon.

    We are in spacevehicles (human) about where the Vikings were in terms of settling “the new world”. They didnt have the technology and couldnt stay hence the effort was completly wasted.

    Going anywhere other then LEO until a separate commercial space industry that is what is driving the improvements in human spaceflight is in my view just a waste.

    If Lake Texhoma was on the Moon in frozen form…all easy to get to…our technology is to primitive to use it. and I bet extracting the water is going to be much harder then that.

    Wait until we have the mechanical equivalent of “chickens”…when we do then we are ready to go somewhere.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert: We are in space vehicles (human) about where the Vikings were in terms of settling “the new world”. They didn’t have the technology and couldn’t stay hence the effort was completely wasted.

    I find your views amazingly (and, it must be said, wonderfully) contradictory. I agree with you that the Vikings were a complete waste as far as the question they were designed to answer is concerned, but we did learn significant items about Mars. Probably not enough to justify their cost, but that is not at the same as stating that we learned nothing at all.

    Conversely, if we had quit at Apollo-11, the effort really would have been a “complete waste.” We would have got none of the scientific results, and none of the operational experience. By your own example, we would not know today how difficult the dust environment on the moon is. Today, because we continued Apollo, we do know, and we can design and plan accordingly.

    You keep stressing the Apollo was risky and if we had continued flying, we would have lost crew. You’ll get no debate from me on that, but the idea that we can explore the Solar System in absolute safety is absurd beyond belief. Right now, today, we loose several hundred people every year to seagoing “accidents.” Do we then say we should give up human activities on the extraordinarily dangerous surface of the world’s oceans? No. We accept the price and continue our trade, commerce, science, resource extraction, and everything else that humans do. We should have continued Apollo, accepted the losses, and learned. Today, we should resume where we left off.

    Going into space with any other attitude invites unrealistic expectations, _unnecessary_ losses as when you send crews without a background of operational experience, and you waste all your money on trying for unrealistic levels of safety — which really is a waste, because you still lose crews but get far less science (or whatever you are after) for the expense.

    Ironically, we _have_ treated Shuttle operations as we should have (and did) treat the Apollo flights. When we loose a crew, we figure out what went wrong, find a fix (often a quick-and-dirty one like visual examinations of the belly from the ISS), and resume flying. (For the record, I do not think we should have continued flying after Columbia, but that is because I think it was time to move on to complete the ISS with EELVs or some other cheaper option, not to protect the crew.)

    It is far past time for Americans to grow up, recall that we did not get to, colonize, develop, and industrialize this continent without loss of life. We are not going to tackle the far more difficult job of doing the same on Earth’s moon without paying at least as high a price, in every sense. If we are not prepared to pay that price, than yes, we should give up right now on the dream of space colonization, waste our money pretending we can answer our questions with robots, and figuratively go back to an African rift valley to go quietly extinct in the probably not too distant future.

    If it is true that humanity (or at least Americans) have come to that, than that is exactly what we deserve.

    – Donald

  • Robert Oler

    Donald

    three points

    First “the Vikings” I talked about were the “Vikings” who tried to settle the North American continent sometime before Columbus…their technology was to primitive to attempt the effort..

    But the “Vikings” that landed on Mars were in my view money well spent. …considering that a crewed mission is impossible now and that the money was not all that much.

    Second.Apollo. Technology has limits and prudent societies know them. Particularly technologies that are for one of special kinds of efforts that have no supportive structure in the rest of society. Apollo was a single purpose technology which was designed “to land a man on the Moon and return him safely” and that was pretty much it. NASA rejected some “technologies” (or structures) that were far more primitive then Apollo (the Langley lander comes to mind…I built a scratch scale model of it…and as it turns out they were correct to do it.

    Technology has to be paced with 1) the ability to do the mission and 2) the ability to give a prudent chance of survival to any humans involved in it. We even do that in wartime so in less aggressive efforts it is quite prudent.

    I use to think (and have some models of them) that Apollo Applications (lunar shelters etc with longer stay times) had some merit and should have been attempted. however maturity (and Jim Oberg among some) have convinced me that this was where we were going to get into serious trouble…and I dont think what would have been learned was worth it.

    ASide from that the nature of risk. Risk is not an excuse for foolhardy or reckless. Risk is a measured criteria which at its heart gives one a valid measure of the ability to complete the mission…it has to be understood and then mission 1) balanced against it or 2) the resources alloted to it (with the expected force depletion understood).

    Spruance at Midway had no choice, he had to toss everything he had including obsolete torpedo bombers because his back was up against the wall…still he did it as prudently as possible both to accomplish the mission and give the folks a decent chance of survival.

    Risk never is acceptable in Challenger and Columbia scenarios…thats simply reckless.

    But there is risk associated with rewards. When the first Oler’s came west from VA (to what was then Norte Mexico) as best I can tell about 22 started the trip. 14 made it to what is now Fort Davis. Predictably it was the old and the very young who fell the hardest.

    In my view the technology is to primitive for a lunar effort and the expense in a single purpose effort to make it “acceptable” is to expensive. AS LEO space develops the Moon will still be there and our technology will get better. Think the South Pole after WW2.

    Robert G. Oler

  • @Robert Oler

    NASA hasn’t mismanaged the Ares V nor the Altair because they simply don’t have any money right now to develop them. The X-33 was supposed to replace the shuttle. Bush canceled it.

    NASA got overly ambitious when they decided to go the Ares1/V route with very little money deciding that they could fund the programs by canceling the shuttle program in 2010 and the ISS in 2015 which is something the politicians are finding pretty difficult to do.

    If NASA had gone the Shuttle-C route back in the late 1980s, we’d probably be back on the Moon already.

    NASA put the first communications satellite into orbit which helped to create a $100 billion dollar a year global telecommunications industry. NASA built the first manned space plane. NASA has had two space station programs. The Hubble telescope is a huge scientific and popular success. NASA was the first to land vehicles on the surface of Mars. NASA space probes have traveled past Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune and sent us spectacular pictures of these distant worlds and their moons. And, of course, NASA is the only space organization ever to land men on the surface of the Moon and return them safely to the Earth. NASA has much to be proud of!

  • Robert:

    Point 1: The Vikings did just fine until the climate changed on them. That is always a risk. It had nothing to do with the level of technology they had versus the challenge when they started.

    Point 2: The money was circa $5 billion, some $15 billion in today’s dollars. That’s rather a lot for a negative result and not much geology. That $15 billion would have bought you something like ten Apollo flights at an incremental cost of around a half-billion 1970 era dollars. Which expendature would have bought you more geology and more knowledge of the Solar System?

    Point 3: Prudent societies may know the limits of their technology, but they are not the ones that advance frontiers — as your ancestors (and mine, probably) demonstrated quite well. Prudent societies would have, and probably did, stay in Africa, where most of humanity did in fact stay (there is more genetic diversity among Africans today than among all the rest of humanity). I _strongly_ disagree with your whole argument here.

    – Donald

  • In this debtor nation ?? A guiding vision for human space flight? LOL !

    You got to be kidding me. OMG!! If they had found 1/2 of the Earth’s volume of water frozen under the lunar soil. If they had found 24 caret gold chunks on the lunar surface the crazy people in today’s NASA wouldn’t know how to get to the moon to bring back the gold or how to make a glass of water on the moon.

    It’s funny how at the time of the Apollo program Americans were a nation of producers and knew how to grow a savings account.

  • Robert Oler

    Donald…

    I dont agree with you about the “people” Vikings…Dale Gray (or Grey cant remember which) was (or still is dont know) a state historian for one of the Western states…and his books on the westward movement of European civilization (and our chats on the old Compuserve forum space policy as well as the Space Frontier foundations BBS) completely convinced me that the stand I held, much like yours was wrong.

    But even if it was right and it was climate…that shows their technology was not robust enough. Technology determines things. The “west” past San Antonio in Texas was almost unsettleable until the “lever gun” came in…the only thing that kept it marginally in check pre civil war was Union Cav and when they left as Texas left the Union, there were indian raids in Bul Verde near San Antonio.. It was federal cav with the Rangers and good weapons who wiped the Indians out aka technology.

    “The money was circa $5 billion, some $15 billion in today’s dollars. That’s rather a lot for a negative result and not much geology. That $15 billion would have bought you something like ten Apollo flights”

    not so sure of your numbers. Apollo didnt have the built hardware for ten more flights so the money would be out of the margin quickly…and 17 had about pushed the limits of what could be done without something like a lunar shelter…which meant more launches or hardware.

    At anyrate Viking did the “Ology” on Mars where Apollo couldnt go. So if it was to be done, that is how it had to be done.

    As to prudent societies. I admit that there is a fine balance between societies which are rash and extinguish themselves and those that are timid and have the same result.

    I think that really The REpublic has a nice balance now. After 9/11 a President convinced us that we had to go to the Mideast and spend trillions of dollars…and lots of lives…and we did. Didnt bat an eye doing it. 4000 plus Americans to the flames. The only reason that the effort lost political altitude is that the reasons we were told we had to go turned out to be (in the words of Howard Dean) “Not true” and the entire event was done badly. The American people wont tolerate either of those, much less both.

    Americans will tolerate a lot of death and destruction but there has to be a reason and it has to be something that really matters in their lives. The American people blew circuit breakers on Challenger and Columbia because the effort was done badly and the reasons for the deaths were just shoddy management.

    I dont see a reason that Americans would tolerate the cost or the loss of life going to the Moon…they (nor I) see the reason for it.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert Oler

    Marcel I see you are a fan of NASA and thats fine…we just disagree on the current competency there… Fourteen dead astronauts through incompetence is a good indicator to me.

    But you have some factual things wrong and I want to correct one of them

    “NASA put the first communications satellite into orbit which helped to create a $100 billion dollar a year global telecommunications industry. ”

    Not really.

    The statement is wrong on a lot of counts. The “first communications” satellite was SCORE and it was an Army show…but you are probably referring to Syncom.

    The history of Syncom is pretty long and is somewhat intertwined in the Army’s “Advent” program (which was way to much for its time)..but if anyone did the “heavy technical lifting” in Syncom it was not NASA…it was Hughes and inside of Hughes it was a pretty determined group of engineers who pushed the satellite and literally designed it…from the RF subcomponents to the unique method of controlling its attitude.

    NASA managed the Thor Delta launch, and provided key support (including some tracking ships) but the key parts of the program were Hughes.

    your statement is an overstatement.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Technically you’re correct. But the military is still a– government program. NASA had been created just a few months before Score was launched. But Telstar was the first active, direct relay communications satellite. And it was launched by NASA and funded by private industry.

    I tend to view the anti-NASA criticism as really just a part of the general right wing anti government agenda: folks that believe the Federal government is the problem (except for the trillion dollar a year military industrial complex) and that laissez faire capitalism is the solution to everything.

  • Bob Mahoney

    Marcel:

    And in viewing all criticism of NASA as part of a general right-wing anti-govt agenda you err, embarrassingly so.

    The world is more nuanced than you apparently see it; one can be critical of certain aspects of govt-run space activities but not be opposed to the principle of the govt having a role to play in space exploration and development.

  • I tend to view the anti-NASA criticism as really just a part of the general right wing anti government agenda

    Funny, I tend to view views like that as deranged.

  • Loki

    Here’s a link to another article on the technology demonstrator idea:
    http://callcenterinfo.tmcnet.com/news/2009/09/23/4387757.htm

    “…while Bolden can make suggestions and recommendations, the decision presumably isn’t his to make.”
    and see also this quote from the above article:

    “Senior administration officials also cautioned against reading too much into Bolden’s comments, saying the NASA chief is still trying on ideas and weighing options.

    They stressed the White House, not NASA, will choose America’s space-exploration strategy, and the hardware to be used, after it receives the final report of the Review of U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee later this month.”

    Question: Why isn’t it his decision to make? As far as I know there are no aerospace engineers or rocket scientists in Obama’s inner circle, so why are they making decisions about NASA’s “exploration strategy, and the hardware to be used” and not the NASA administrator? Sounds like there could be political d&*!@ measuring contest brewing between Bolden and Obama’s science advisor, John Holdren. Whatever comes out of this Holdren will be to blame; he’s the one who has Obama’s ear, not Bolden.

    BTW, I also love the part in the article referenced above about how an extra $3 billion/ year is “fantasy” and highly unlikely. Gives me a warm fuzzy feeling all over (being sarcastic). Guess we can forget about going beyond LEO anytime soon.

  • Robert Oler

    Marcel…

    nope.

    Telstar came from AT&T labs….NASA was just a launch provider to AT&T to put numbers 1 and 2 in orbit. Telstar was “so weak” that really NASA did not even have the receiving facilities for it.

    The two satellites you are looking for are called Relay and Echo. These were totally NASA projects and did what NASA did in those days, which was technology demonstrators.

    Echo looked very hard at “passive” communications. RElay was an active satellite in low orbit (it had some differences from Telstar but they were both “LEO’s.

    Neither Relay, Telstar, or Echo spawned an industry…they were possible ways to proceed, at that time in technology low temperature transistors were a thing of the future and hence “low altitude” was thought to be necessary for a two way com link.

    However Syncom and its little 2 watts was “just” possible and the folks at Hughes (a guy named Rosen) are who are responsible for the communications industry we have today.

    as to the general right wing agenda…

    next post

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert Oler

    Marcel you wrote

    “I tend to view the anti-NASA criticism as really just a part of the general right wing anti government agenda: folks that believe the Federal government is the problem (except for the trillion dollar a year military industrial complex) and that laissez faire capitalism is the solution to everything……:

    I am tempted to say “nope” again.

    But there are those in the “right wing anti government” crowd who do have the views you label them with of government…but the odd thing for your statement is that one of the most “right wingers” on this board…Mark Whittington is all for the “vision”.

    Rand is not (in my view) quite as right wing although he would in my view (go read his web site) qualify as right wing…and I would say it is a fair statement that he is opposed to “the vision”.

    Me? Whittington and Simberg would probably class me as a “lefty” although middle of the road is far more a description. I believe in a single payer system of health care (or at the very least think that there needs to be a public option), would have never gone into Iraq or Afland, thought Bush a complete dremel tool for how he dealt with 9/11…believe in a strong federal government (including the fact that the 14th essentially repealed the 10th…) supported the outcome however of Bush V Gore although I knew that Bush was going to be at best “mediocre” (who knew he was just going to be a complete thud?), …the 2nd amendment (heck all of the amendments including the ones Dick Cheney violated on a day by day basis to keep us “safe from the evil doers” he imagined) think that anyone who questions Obama’s citizenship is not playing with a full deck. support the elimination of the “missile shield” in Europe as a smart move all the way around… all the Iran hysteria is mostly right wing babble….want me to go on?…..

    and I dont think NASA could get back to the Moon in its current setup for 100 billion dollars.

    NASA has demonstrated in the last 40 years an ability to mis or inefficiently handle almost every task it has been assigned in human spaceflght. Where I fell off the “love NASA” bandwagon is that I actually read the Rogers REport on the Challenger accident (you should as well including the CAIB findings) and was simply aghast at the gross incompetence that the agency was riddled with. That level of incompetence and cronyism is a hallmark of a dysfunctional group.

    Government has a role to play in almost every level of American society and that includes spaceflight. The role NASA has played so far has got us to the place we are today despite the expenditure of billions of dollars

    Robert G. Oler

  • Loki

    Just to throw my 2 cents into the general discussion regarding whether or not we have the technology to make lunar exploration feasible:

    I think some of the issues that Robert has pointed have are valid points. Dust mitigation is/ will be a major problem for any crews attempting to work on the lunar surface. Also, the live off the land approach is highly theoretical, and the technology required to do any kind of ISRU does not exist today. However, those and other issues are really just engineering problems that can be solved with time and ingenuity.

    The bigger problem is procuring the funding. I think we could have, if we had been willing to spend the cash in the ’70s, solved those issues and continued lunar exploration, with a permanent shelter (base) set up and we could have figured out how to get around the dust contamination problems etc, etc. The problem was that in the early 70′s we were in a very expensive war (Vietnam) and had other economic woes (inflation, debt, the gas “shortage”, etc). So the Nixon admin and congress decided to shelve it indefinately and create the shuttle program instead.

    Fast forward to present day. We’re in an expnsive war (Iraq, Afganistan, the whole War on Terror in general), and we have economic woes galore. Sounds familiar doesn’t it? My guess is we can forget about NASA actually getting any additional funding and we can forget about doing anything beyond LEO for at least the next 2 decades if ever. Maybe I’m just cynical though and everything will magically work out and we’ll all live happily in a big candy house on gumdrop lane.

  • As far as I know there are no aerospace engineers or rocket scientists in Obama’s inner circle, so why are they making decisions about NASA’s “exploration strategy, and the hardware to be used” and not the NASA administrator?

    This is a policy decision, not a technical one. No “rocket scientists” (there’s no such thing) need apply. Until the White House decides what it wants to do in space, there’s no point in Bolden and NASA wasting time figuring out how to do it.

  • Jeff Foust

    Loki: the article you linked to is the same Orlando Sentinel article I mentioned in the original post. Nothing new there.

    As to why this is not a NASA decision: it involves national policy (potentially changing the national space exploration policy of 2004) so it’s going to involve the White House. Also, any decisions regarding additional spending will involve OMB.

    And the “fantasy” reference to getting an extra $3B/year? Well, just look at the previous history of efforts to get even a fraction of that money for NASA as a one-time increase…

  • common sense

    I am sorry people but Vikings? How did we get there? Can you imagine debating this in front of Congress? How would it look? The history debate is fine but how does this relate to the subject at hand? If we can’t focus on the current discussion forget about asking for cash! Is this the way you go to your banker to ask for a loan? You make a history case?

    Oh well…

  • Loki

    Rand/ Jeff
    Point taken; afterall it’s not like any past NASA administrators were involved in setting policy either, that’s the job of the politicians (Obama) and their advisors (Holdren et al).

    Perhaps I should rephrase: Shouldn’t Bolden at least be consulted on the technical merits before a policy course is decided upon? What if they pick a new direction that is not technically feasible? I guess you could say I’m expressing my doubts about the competency of Obama’s science advisors when it comes to space.

  • common sense

    @Loki:

    “Shouldn’t Bolden at least be consulted on the technical merits before a policy course is decided upon? ”

    How do you know he is not consulted?

    “I’m expressing my doubts about the competency of Obama’s science advisors when it comes to space.”

    Your expecatuions must be pretty high because when I read this resume http://www.whrc.org/about_us/whos_who/CV/jholdren.htm I think the guy is pretty good. Then again I only compare myself to him. Loki, your resume is so much better than that? And he is only the OSTP. I assume some of his colleagues of course have even weaker resumes…

  • Loki

    Other then a brief 2 year stint at Lockheed Missiles and Space company from 1965-’67 it looks to me like he’s mainly an environmental scientist, not an aerospace engineer with a wealth of experience in the design and operation of space vehicles.

    As for myself, I don’t have a Ph.D from Stanford or an MS from MIT. I do have a BS in Aerospace Engineering from Embry Riddle Aeronautical University, which many people may have never heard of but it was ranked as the #1 undergraduate Aerospace Engineering program by US News & World Reports.

    http://www.erau.edu/er/newsmedia/newsreleases/2009/usnews.html

    Might not be as prestigous in some peoples eyes as MIT, but pretty good nonetheless. Further, I have 8 years in the aerospace industry; on the shuttle program, a top sectret satellite program, the Atlas 5, and now the Orion project.

    I’m not saying he’s not smart and I’m sure he can talk circles around me any day on environmental issues, but specific aerospace experience designing, building, and operating space vehicles? I’m not that impressed.

    BTW, none of this matters, congress/ politicians (including Obama) will do what they’ve always done, NASA will do what it’s always done, and in the end we’ll all just be left with a giant crap sandwich anyway. The whole world and everyone in it sucks.

  • Robert Oler

    Loki…

    “Shouldn’t Bolden at least be consulted on the technical merits before a policy course is decided upon? What if they pick a new direction that is not technically feasible? I guess you could say I’m expressing my doubts about the competency of Obama’s science advisors when it comes to space.”

    What none of us know, and I bet Garver doesnt even know it, is what deals General Bolden cut just to walk on the deck.

    Bolden is no dummy, he has played this scenario before (organization in trouble because of serious mismanagement) and played it well. In many respects people should go back and look what got Bolden to “sidestep” his military track (where he was rapidly climbing the ladder…could have had a shot at Commandant)…to go to the USNA and clean up a badly running organization.

    And he did just that as the “XO” (that is the highest command billet at Canoe U that Marines can hold)

    Bolden has expressed opinions “way back” (indeed at one point Bush the last considered him for NASA administrator) that NASA needed a reorg…and my guess is that before he took the job he had a conversation withsomeone about where the agency was going to go under his tenure.

    What we are seeing here is the politics involved in “killing” what was and going in some other direction. I am not sure what that direction is…but it is clear to me based on some recent moves by SpaceX and others that there is another direction coming.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert Oler

    Loki…Embry is a good school..

    Robert G. Oler

  • common_sense: If we can’t learn from history. . . . I strongly disagree with you on the value of historical models. One of the reasons I support building bases with current technology first, then using them to provide political and economic justification for better transportation, is because that is what has worked in the past. Space advocates’ ideas that we can build better commercial launch vehicles to reduce the costs of access to space first, before there is any reason to build them, is not the way things have tended to work historically, so why should we expect it to work now? And, indeed, I think the ISS / COTS experience is slowly beginning to prove me correct.

    If we are not going to look at what worked in the past to design ideas about opening a new frontier, albeit one more difficult than most models used by space advocates today, how _are_ we going to narrow options for what might work in the future?

    – Donald

  • Robert Oler

    common sense where historical models are “entertaining” for intellectual debate is that they can give us clues as to where current events can go.

    (and I admit it is for intellectual debate not the swill that passes for debate in front of The Congress…really can you imagine a nominee for the Supreme Court saying “I have not thought much about (insert hot button issue)” with any credibility but they do that all the time…)

    No one knows the debate that went on in “Viking” quarters as the various long boats got ready to sail “west” but at somepoint someone must have thought and said “why are we doing this?”

    And that question alone needs an answer…and when the answers dont come or are ignored or sidetracked with patriotic babble then all of our thought processes need to be checked out.

    I constantly ask people who say “we have to go back to the Moon” (or go to Mars) “why”, “what do we get from it” and Donald has coherent (although I dont agree with them) answers but most of the rest of them, even from Zubrin are kind of “if you are not for us you are against us” answers…

    “preserve humanity” (against what?), “stop the Chinese” (wow are they going? what makes u think that)….”we are going to do something anyway” (the science argument)…etc

    none of them are good answers..

    To mimic the Tom Cruise character in “A few Good Men” …

    we need better answers

    Robert G. Oler

  • common sense

    @Loki:

    I am always hmm annoyed when people start attacking one’s competency just because they don’t like the choice said people make, especially when the choice is contrary to that who start the attack. I am not necessarily talking about the school but what the guy has done. Come on let’s be a little realistic here. Holdren was interested in space stuff from the get go then he chose to evolve in different fields obviously. Does that make him “incompetent”? You chose a very strong qualifier: incompetent! So my remark still stands. How would you go about choosing an OSTP? Just because he “knows” spacecraft design? Anyway. Where do you rank NASA and HSF in the current world of Sciene and Technology issues?

    @Robert Oler:

    “What we are seeing here is the politics involved in “killing” what was and going in some other direction. ”

    Maybe, maybe not. It will be very difficult to kill the status quo as we all saw when someone in Alabama removed most of the funding for CCDev.

    —-

    Re: Vikings. I am not sure you can make an argument in front of Congress that they will listen to that way. Right or wrong does not matter. What matters is to have the debate that Congress wants to have and it usually has nothing to do with history, science, technology or exploration for that matter. This only is nice glazing on what really matters: If I support this or that, will I be re-elected? Only the answer to that question really matters. So it has nothing to do about the why of anything. The only thing that can “twist” the arm of Congress is whether an activity, any activity, is worth funding because of national interests that they would look foolish going against (not that it has prevented them in the past…). So history and all that does not matter, sorry. If history did matter we would not be engaged into 2 wars that are impossible to “win” (ask any military person with any sense if you don’t believe me).

  • common_sense: Again, I believe that you are quite wrong. History may not inform Congress (though I think you underestimate at least some Congressfolks), but it should inform us. Congress will do what Congress does, but we can use what Congress does to influence what we do, informed by history.

    Thus, I believe those advocates for commercial space transportation who attacked and almost succeeded in killing the ISS project were shooting themselves in the foot; they were attempting to destroy their only realistic large market before it even appeared, largely for ideological reasons that had nothing to do with reality. Had they studied a little of the actual history of exploration, they might have had a more realistic view of how to achieve their goals. Fortunately, they were unsuccessful, and the market they need now exists.

    Exploration rarely happens for straightforward, logical reasons (e.g., the beginnings of the Spanish conquest of the Americas, which were logical enough, but proved wrong, yet nonetheless ultimately succeeded; Apollo; or even the ISS). But when the stars do happen to line up to create a lever (the ISS in our case), if you have a realistic plan informed by historic models that have worked, you can use that lever to achieve an unrelated goal — the beginnings of a truly commercial space transportation industry. If you are entirely driven by ideology and spit on your lever, which is what far too many space transportation entrepreneurs did, you can and will achieve nothing — which is exactly the history of entrepreneurial space transportation companies for the last several decades.

    – Donald

  • Loki

    @ common sense:
    Allow me to refresh your memory, what I said was :
    “…you could say I’m expressing my doubts about the competency of Obama’s science advisors when it comes to space.”

    Technically I never said the word “incompetent”. I also get annoyed when people try to put words in my mouth. Questioning someones competency and saying they’re incompetent are two very different things.

    As for how would I pick an OSTP chief? Hell if I know, I’m not the president nor am I a politician, so it doesn’t matter one bit. Which is probably a good thing since I have little stomach for political crap.

    I know that I personally put space higher on the priority list than most people, Obama included. In fact I think this is pretty close to the bottom of his list of priorities as evidenced by the fact that
    1) he took several months to pick Bolden. It’s probably safe to say that if NASA was a higher priority he would have picked a new admin sooner.
    2) it’s unlikely that he will use any political capital to fight for increased NASA funding, as seems to be implied in the Orlando Sentinal article linked to by this article. Again, if it was a higher priority he might be more willing to fight the congressional appropriators for increased funding (I’m already assuming that congress won’t actually allocate any more funds for NASA than the baseline 2010 budget proposal).

  • Marcel, I would suggest you hold off on cheerleading along with mainstream media that these anti-gov’t types are just Neanderthals looking for caves to crawl under.

    Byelections are around the corner…

  • common sense

    @Donald F. Robertson:

    “Again, I believe that you are quite wrong. History may not inform Congress (though I think you underestimate at least some Congressfolks), but it should inform us. Congress will do what Congress does, but we can use what Congress does to influence what we do, informed by history.”

    Well, we’ll see soon I guess. “My” history taught me that many times reason has nothing to do with political choices: Again Iraq and Afghanistan wars for example. Congress is made of people driven by emotion and not much more, just like you (?) and I. Do you seriously believe that any congress person will go with the reasonable path if it will instantly kills his/her career? If so, I think you are very naive.

    All this historical references we all make all the time are there to try and justify something that cannot be easily explained and related to the current national interests. What if Colombus never came here? What if?… What is somebody else made it here years/centuries later? Anyway. I’d like to be proven wrong. So far I am still waiting.

  • Loki

    oh, let’s see if I can guess the counter points to what I just posted and head them off at the pass:

    Obama just took his time picking Bolden to make sure he would have the right man for the job – Yeah right, I’m not even gonna bother.

    How do you know he won’t fight for more funding? – OK technically I don’t since I’m not a mind reader, but it doesn’t matter anyway because even if he wanted to get more money for NASA he spent all of his political capital trying to get healthcare reform passed this summer.

  • common sense

    @Loki:

    Okay then I used “incompetency” you said “doubts about the competency”. Nice playing words with you..

    Why would HSF be a higher priority than it is now? If you can find a good reason than make sure you send it to the WH. Sorry to be blunt but what we, space enthusiasts, care about does not even make up a glitch on the national priority list today. So again, why would HSF be so high on that list? Even so does that mean that people looking at it are not that competent. Also how do you define “competent”? Was the former NASA Admin competent? Is the current Admin competent? What does “competent” mean to you?

  • Major Tom

    “But from a strategic planning perspective, if you don’t know the ‘why’, however do you evaluate the ‘how effective’?” [Mr. Lassiter]

    In general, I agree. It would be better, both for the program and for the taxpayer, if we could identify a driving rationale or justification for our $10 billion annual investment in the civil human space flight program.

    But the reality is that we have inherited a program whose driving rationale ended in the 1960s. Nonetheless, the program is going to continue because it’s so embedded in the American identity, and, to a lesser extent, entrenched in local politics and bureaucracy.

    My argument is that it’s a fruitless endeavour to search for a solid policy justification for civil human space flight — we’ve been trying for several decades now and as Apollo showed, it’s probably going to be an unpredictable accident of history if such a justification emerges again in the future. Perfection being the enemy of good enough, I would just accept that we’ll probably spend $10 billion in taxpayer dollars on this activity annually for the foreseeable future and make the most of it that we can. The costs of human space flight can’t be justified on the basis of science, defense, or the economy, but in our programmatic decisions, let’s make it as useful to each as possible. Let’s also pursue a program that regularly makes new, significant accomplishments in its own right, instead of just proving that the government can run a space trucking and habitation business very expensively. Given the current program is so far from this “good enough” state, personally, I’m more than willing to give up on a perfect policy rationale for some actual progress.

    Of course, it costs almost nothing for folks to keep trying to articulate a solid policy justification for civil human space flight, and I’m not trying to cut off debate here. Just saying that my 2 cents is that the effort is better spent just trying to define and argue for a reasonably better, even minimally relevant and advancing, program.

    FWIW…

  • Major Tom

    “does not “doing” that by itself define what the justification/rationale for the civil human spaceflight program is?” [Mr. Oler]

    Yes, you’re right. I’m admitting that there is no solid policy justification/rationale for the civil human space flight program. We continue to throw $10 billion in taxpayer money at the activity annually out of a sense of that it’s just part of who we are and out of parochial politics — not because it clearly serves an important national policy purpose, certainly not one that’s anywhere close to justifying that level of spending.

    I’m admitting defeat in that battle — it hasn’t been won in several decades — and moving on to just making the best of what we have. I don’t think we’re going to come up with grand arguments that will earn billions of dollars more than what’s already being spent. I think the best we can do is spend what we’re spending more wisely. But given how unwisely it’s currently being spent, there’s lots of room for improvement.

    FWIW…

  • Loki

    competent: –adjective 1. having suitable or sufficient skill, knowledge, experience, etc., for some purpose; properly qualified

    As for whether Holdren fits that definition I remembered hearing about this a little while back…

    http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2009/04/08/tech/main4930539.shtml

    “…shooting pollution particles into the upper atmosphere to reflect the sun’s rays.”

    Really??? I don’t want to start a debate about global warming because this isn’t the place for that, but seriously. That’s the most batshit crazy thing I’ve seen in a long time.

  • Major Tom

    “I don’t believe NASA screwed up the Ares1/Ares V project. They’re just being asked by the politicians to do too many things at once with very little money.”

    No, the Ares (and to a lesser extent Orion) projects are “screwed up” independent of their funding level.

    Ares I’s lift capabilities are still shrinking, further reducing Orion’s margins, and keeping elements of the design, like its parachute design and volume allocation, up in the air. See:

    http://www.nasaspaceflight.com/2009/09/constellation-outlines-parachute-upgrades-orion/

    There are also multiple USAF and NASA analyses warning that Ares I deflagration will likely destroy Orion and kill the crew in the event of a launch failure or termination. See:

    http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/local/breakingnews/orl-ares-rocket-not-safe-091409,0,5934002.story

    GAO also reminded us today, that despite $8 billion spent so far (I think it’s closer to $10 billion plus obligated), that Ares I is still suffering from thrust oscillation and launch drift issues and that Orion is still suffering from mass issues (see parachutes above for an example). Moreover, Constellation estimates that Ares I and Orion still have another $41 billion in spending to go, eating up half of the human lunar return program’s $97 billion cost estimate just getting back to LEO, and doesn’t know with any certainty how much Ares I and Orion will cost in the end. See:

    http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewsr.html?pid=32457

    Finally, even the Ares I-X test is likely to be delayed again, as the vehicle lacks rigidity for rollout. See:

    http://rocketsandsuch.blogspot.com/2009/09/stick-in-mud.html

    Whether you blame the original ESAS analysis or ESMD execution since then, none of these issues are due to budget constraints. They’re all technical in origin.

    FWIW…

  • common sense

    @Loki:

    Hmm there you go again. You said that Holdren is an environmental scientist and that you are not. Yet, based on a CBS News report you question his argument. Now I am not going to defend the argument since I am not an environmental scientist nor did I read anything about what you mention which makes me incompetent to talk about it. But a competent scientist would read actual science papers related to the subject (whatever it is) and then form an opinion. Not read CBS News and form an opinion about a scientifc issue. See what I mean?

    As to the definition of competent, thanks. So Holdren needs to be a competent OSTP, his job. Not a competent NASA Admin nor a competent HSF lead. Read the requirements for OSTP (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Office_of_Science_and_Technology_Policy) and show me he is not competent then I’ll believe it. Until then this is going nowhere…

  • Loki

    Yep, going nowhere and I’m sick of this shit.

  • Robert Oler

    Major Tom

    “. I’m admitting that there is no solid policy justification/rationale for the civil human space flight program.”

    see I think that there is a justification for the 10 billion or so…

    To me what justifies an effort in expenditure of tax dollars is the oppurtunities it enables for private citizens. I think that this is true for welfare/WIC…almost all domestic spending and that includes spaceflight.

    The trick is to spend the money on things that enable in some fashion private citizens to be empowered to do things that they were not able to do before the expenditure.

    Why I am so oppossed (and have been for sometime) to the “vision” is that despite the groanings of the right wing…there is NOTHING in it for true private enterprise.

    As an aside I think that the shuttle could have been “infrastructure” as well…and I am certian that the space station can become that.

    The problem is that over the last 40 years NASA has been effective in guarding its turf not as infrastructure but as bureacracy. Time after time as the various “private gambits” would come up…NASA would with its political keepers keep private interfacing with the infrastructure at bay. Now it appears as if the end has finally come…ie NASA finally put together a program so expensive that it is unaffordable.

    This is made even more “possible” by the political situation today. One maxim in politics is to do to the other parties “programs” what they claim that they want you to do to the programs that “you” support.

    IE the GOP right wing has a field day talking about “dont socialize medicine”…and yet most of them seem quite fine with a socialized space effort.

    interesting times we live in

    Robert G. Oler

  • common sense

    “Yep, going nowhere and I’m sick of this shit.”

    Yep. Pretty sad but it is not this WH that created this mess…

  • Exploration, and national security…if you can’t wrap your head around those two terms then go back to the muck of your primordial existence and wait to die. Or a least get out of the way so those that have the balls and understanding can get-r-done.

    Exploration and national security is why we send humans out into space. No need to justify or sugar coat it just tell it like it is plain and simple. We have the technology to go to the moon already in place all we lack is the will to do it. Exploration is just one of many things a healthy well balanced society should be engage in. It’s a very simple concept the moon or mars are the destination or goal which provides the focus. Don’t try to complicate it its really very simple.

  • Robert Oler

    Doug…exploration has almost nothing to do with national security

    Robert G. Oler

  • @Robert Oler

    What do you mean just the provider? You can build as many satellites as you want, but if you can’t transport them into space, they’re pretty much useless:-)

  • @ Major Tom

    Trying to put humans on top of a solid fuel rocket has never been done before. But NASA, for some reason, thought it would be easy. Its not! But should they have tried?

    I wouldn’t have gone that route. It felt intuitively wrong to me. That’s why I was against the Ares 1 program right from the start.

    But NASA is also an aerospace R&D program. And NASA thought they could do it at a reasonable cost. Sometimes you have to try new things. But I think its pretty clear now that the Ares 1 program should be canceled in favor of the Sidemount-HLV.

    Sure we wasted a few billion dollars. But we learned something. And it certainly doesn’t mean that the 5-segment solid rocket booster won’t eventually be developed sometime in the future for other purposes.

    We wasted nearly $700 billion dollars in an unnecessary war in Iraq which has cost hundreds of thousands of lives and millions of refugees. So I’m not going to get too excited about the money wasted on the Ares 1 program– as long as they eventually terminate the program in favor of the SD-HLV.

  • Robert Oler

    Marcel F. Williams wrote

    “What do you mean just the provider? You can build as many satellites as you want, but if you can’t transport them into space, they’re pretty much useless:-)”

    that is the role of a “launch provider”.

    what actually accomplishes a task once in orbit is the satellite. What creates the industry is “the satellite”.

    your claim was that NASA spawned a 100 million or something communications industry.

    They didnt…they managed the launch of the vehicle that did. The vehicle that did was built lock stock and barrel by Hughes.

    The point being that it took the interface with private industry to make the geosat business blossom.

    Go look at the history of Advent and Syncom and you will see.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert Oler

    Marcel

    “We wasted nearly $700 billion dollars in an unnecessary war in Iraq which has cost hundreds of thousands of lives and millions of refugees. So I’m not going to get too excited about the money wasted on the Ares 1 program– as long as they eventually terminate the program in favor of the SD-HLV.”

    its more then 700 billion. When I stopped counting the money ticker had gone well over 1 trillion and its more considering that the dremel tools who were in power in the Bush administration refused to pay for the equipment worn out.

    However waste is waste. And it all is relative. NASA is wasting almost all of the money set aside for human spaceflight on a design (a solid first stage) which they were warned well before hand by the folks who flew the Posideons etc about the various problems.

    The only reason that there is a solid first stage is the “vision” really has a slogan of “No contractor left behind”…and ATK had to build the solid.

    Waste is waste and should not be tolerated.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Major Tom

    “competent: –adjective…

    As for whether Holdren fits that definition I remembered hearing about this a little while back…

    ‘…shooting pollution particles into the upper atmosphere to reflect the sun’s rays.’

    Really??? I don’t want to start a debate about global warming because this isn’t the place for that, but seriously. That’s the most batshit crazy thing I’ve seen in a long time.”

    Two points:

    1) Whatever one thinks about Holdren’s global warming policy positions, on the topic of this forum (space policy), his technical background is very relevant, holding a bachelor’s in aeronautical and astronautical engineering from MIT and a PhD in aeronautics and astronautics and theoretical plasma physics from Stanford.

    2) Holdren’s comments on geoengineering concepts like seeding the atmosphere with reflective particles are not his alone. They reflect where the larger science community is headed these days. For example, the National Academy of Science held workshops on these topics and solicited written input on them this past summer:

    http://americasclimatechoices.org/geoinput.shtml

    FWIW…

  • Robert Horning

    I love this debate, particularly when it delves into why the Vikings didn’t take hold of North America in the 10th/11th Century and instead Europeans had to wait until the 16th Century before some serious inroad happened.

    Yes, I’ll concede that navigational technologies did improve in the intervening centuries and that craft capable of making trans-oceanic voyages became much more reliable with better construction techniques as well. But that wasn’t the whole problem.

    The major issue facing the Vikings was that the territory that they encountered in Newfoundland and Nova Scotia (not to mention parts further south from there) is that it was already inhabited. If we had to build a Mars landing vessel that would also have to evade stinger missiles and hostile natives, I don’t think the tone of this conversation on this thread would be quite the same. Sending in Marines to occupy territory on another planet is a very different task than sending somebody to explore previously uninhabited territory.

    When the HMS Bounty finally made it to Pitcairn Island, it was a vastly different experience landing somewhere uninhabited than if somebody had been there first (yes, I know the island had people there earlier, but they had all left/died before they got there).

    Putting this into more modern context, we have had advances in spaceflight technologies over the past 40 years that more than rivals the differences between the Viking longboats and the 16th/17th century sailing vessels that crossed the oceans. Advances in metallurgy, composite vehicle construction, electrical miniaturization, navigational systems like the GPS constellation, and other significant manufacturing and even propulsion technologies that have been developed to make genuinely new and original spacecraft of today to be significantly different from what happened in the past. A legitimate debate can be waged in terms of if this has been enough, but I’d also argue that one of the reasons why companies like Armadillo Aerospace, Blue Origin, and SpaceX are able to do what they do is precisely because these advances in basic spacecraft technologies has lowered the threshold costs sufficient for private individuals to be able to access spaceflight.

    I’ll even go so far as to thank NASA for the decades in basic research they have done on these problems, even if NASA seems to fall flat on their face when confronted to turn that research into something tangible. The DC-X is almost classic NASA, as it was an impressive program that was ultimately scuttled just when results started to come forth. Ares I, arguably, is following a similar path in terms of its development.

    NASA does an excellent job of making “proof of concept” projects and to simply push the envelope of technology when nobody else is willing to take that risk. A legitimate risk that can cost billions of dollars and sink the private fortunes of most individuals. Even Elon Musk put it appropriately: “Spaceflight is a good way to make multi-millionaires into mere millionaires”.

    Vehicles like the Dawn and New Horizons spacecraft do what NASA does best: they come up with prototype vehicles that explore not only the Solar System, but also new vehicle technologies as well. Every Apollo flight was pushing new technology and doing something different and unique. Indeed, after every flight there were always some modifications to later flights based on the new experience.

    Yes, stuff like that sort of happens with the shuttle, but firsts there are things like the first married couple in space together and the first astronaut from New Guinea. NASA is stuck in the nautical equivalents of the Horse latitudes. The question now is how to get them out of it.

  • Paul

    That said, we’re going to have a civil human space flight program for the foreseeable decades.
    I would not be so sure about that. If the ongoing fiscal train wreck becomes as bad as I fear it might, the space program (and many more popular programs) will be thrown under the bus.

    Now is not a good time to have a career in an industry that depends on federal funds. Get into an industry that will make goods or services that the US will be exporting after the dollar collapses.

  • common sense

    @Loki:

    BTW: It seems that Charles Bolden is in the loop, unlike what you seemed to believe in earlier posts…

    Oh well…

    http://www.nasa.gov/offices/hsf/related_documents/what-the-committee-is-doing.html

    09.08.2009 – A summary of the report from the Review of U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee was provided to the Director, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), and NASA Administrator on Tuesday, September 8. The summary’s text is consistent with presentations made during the committee’s final public meeting on Aug. 12. The summary has been posted on this website for the public.

    The full Final Report is still being prepared and will be released when complete. NASA is working with the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and other representatives of the Executive Office of the President to plan the next steps leading to a decision by the President about future U.S. human space flight policy.

  • Loki

    I already knew that Bolden was sent a copy of the Augustine Committee’s summary report, point of fact I’ve read the summary report. It’s on the website you linked to above, so that’s not really news to me.

    What I was trying to comment about was the Orlando Sentinel article that stated in part “the White House, not NASA, will choose America’s space-exploration strategy, and the hardware to be used”. I was trying to get the point across that perhaps the NASA administrator should at least be included in the policy decision that he will ultimately have responsibility for carrying out, and the article made it sound like he wasn’t. If in fact he is, then yippie, who cares anymore, I know I don’t.

    Recall I also said earlier “none of this matters, congress/ politicians (including Obama) will do what they’ve always done, NASA will do what it’s always done, and in the end we’ll all just be left with a giant crap sandwich anyway.” I wasn’t just saying that to be “edgy” or for some half assed attempt at dark humor. That’s pretty much how I feel about the entire political system at this point.
    _|__

  • common sense

    @Loki:

    I believe I understand how you feel. My only point was to try and be critical about what the Sentinel is reporting. They do have a vested interest in this matter. Yet I would not just take their words, I know I don’t. So let’s assume that “they” are doing the right thing for once. We’ll know pretty soon anyway.

    Good luck!

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