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Compelling reasons, or lack thereof

When I mentioned in an earlier post that the discovery of lunar water wasn’t a reason itself for human exploration of the Moon but improved the prospects if advocates could establish a “compelling case” for doing so, it raised a debate in the comments on what would constitute such a rationale. For a government-funded (or at least a government-led), what would convince the White House and Congress to invest more in NASA’s human spaceflight program, given that the Augustine committee concluded that current funding was insufficient for human missions beyond LEO on anything like the current timescales?

I asked that question in an essay in Monday’s issue of The Space Review and found the current arguments lacking. National security, technological innovation, spinoffs, and education, among others, don’t seem strong enough separately or even in aggregate to support the billions of dollars a year of additional funding the Augustine committee claimed it needed. That compelling case—if it does exist—is still out there waiting to be found.

I noticed earlier this week the unveiling of GoBoldlyNASA.org, a web site that intends to explain “how space exploration is important to you, the nation, and our future”. (While not explicitly stated there, the site is apparently a project of the Young Professionals branch of the Citizens for Space Exploration.) The site, though, just rehashes many of the old arguments, the ones that have not proven compelling in the past. The site includes a letter you can sign to send to your representatives, but the call to action is weak: “I urge you to provide adequate investment in our nation’s space program.” What may be one person’s “adequate investment” may be another’s wholly inadequate—or simply unaffordable.

47 comments to Compelling reasons, or lack thereof

  • Anon

    For government funding of NASA the only compelling reason is so the United States isn’t seen as a second rate power or as a super power on the way down. That was why NASA was created after Sputnik and it was justification enough for Apollo.

    In terms of congress critters the justification is jobs in their districts. That is why Johnson spread the pork around during Apollo and the only reason NASA has continued to have HSF after Apollo proved American superiority to the world.

    For commercial space the only compelling reason is profits, very high profits to offset the high risks. The lack of any successful lunar business shows how far that argument has gone.

    So its either make a case to race China and India back to the moon to prove we are still a vibrant super power and in the process show how it will create lots of jobs in key congressional districts. Or give it up and live within NASA’s legacy budget as any other argument will just fall on the deaf ears of the power elite in Washington.

  • The value of intellectual property (IP) exceeds the value of all real property in the US!! Half of the world’s revenue from IP licensing flows to the US.

    This video outlines the fact that much of the wealth of the US precipitated from the technologies developed for the Apollo mission to the moon boldly instituted by JFK.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=92dK_yxaKvk

    This video also offers a glimpse of continued investments that extend and leverage the space race investments.

  • Jeff Greason

    While human space exploration has many benefits both tangible and intangible, and those benefits are important factors in any cost/benefit calculation, it is my personal opinion that it has one central, driving REASON. The permanent expansion of human civilization beyond Earth. Settlement.

    With all we have learned since the dawn of space exploration, we know that there are still things we need to learn, and technologies we need to mature, to complete such an endeavor. But in the last few months, I have become more confident that we are finally ready to BEGIN.

    If, as a society, we do not view the expansion of our civilization beyond Earth, thus ensuring its growth and its survival, as a worthy goal, then none of the other reasons will justify the endeavor. Meaningful pursuit of such a goal will require relatively modest resources, but a sustained effort over a long time. Conversely, if we DO choose to pursue that goal, it will organize our efforts, and we will obtain all the other benefits, tangible and intangible, of human space exploration.

  • Robert Oler

    “This video outlines the fact that much of the wealth of the US precipitated from the technologies developed for the Apollo mission to the moon boldly instituted by JFK.”

    that is a bogus belief

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert Oler

    All this is (the web page) is a slightly more clever approach then Boeings effort on the C-17 which is blatant “save American high tech jobs”…meaning we are a welfare program.

    All the reasons this web page puts out are either old or bogus…they are a blatant appeal to save jobs which have really only cost to the Republic and almost no value.

    Notice that no where on the web page does it talk about the involvement of free enterprise in human space flight.

    This is the amazing thing to me. NASA has been successful since the early shuttle days i resisting the involvement of private enterprise in almost everything it did…it still wages a valiant effort to protect its microgravity operation in airplanes when there is a commercial equivelent…

    and what is even more amazing is that the folks who claim to love free enterprise…cheer them on.

    41 billion (10 billion spent so far) to develop Ares 1/Constellation.

    and nothing not a thing of significance to show for it.

    As Rich Kolker said sometime ago in a joint op ed “save our phoney baloney jobs”.

    who wants to justify the cost of Ares1?

    Robert G. Oler

  • The reason to invest in space is that the human population continues to grow while space on Earth, and resources on Earth do not and that population will have to go somewhere. The catch is that this needs to reach acute crisis levels for politicians to act.

    We should be moving out into space slowly, and spending money now to learn what we need to learn, to plan for this eventuality, but we won’t really push ourselves until were staring resource depletion in the face.

    Ari

  • mike shupp

    I don’t think you’ll ever find a “compelling” reason for manned space flight, if you mean some sort of reason which convinces everyone. That’s ultimately in the domain of philosophy or religion rather than science or economics, and to what extent philiosophy or religion should influence public policy is a very open issue.

    Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Pretty much, we’ve all come to the conclusion in this country that a wide variety of civil rights (voting, property holding, bus seating, employment, etc.) should be available for all citizens regardless of skin color. Ultimately this was a moral decision, rather than an economic one — and it would be difficult to find anyone who would argue that this was a mistake, that we should have determined the financial impact on American business before extending civil rights.

    Which suggests to me that “compelling” reasons for space flight in terms of immediate economic payoff or long range human survival cannot be found, and perhaps should not be argued. We can live, after all, without manned space programs — the British do without them; also the French, the Germans, the Italians, the Brazilians, the Nigerians, the Indonesians, the Fiji Islanders, etc.

    Still, the USA is a country build by explorers and pioneers; they are an important part of our self image; it seems good and proper that we continue their tradition into the future. The way to do this is with a continuing manned space program which feaures exploration and successful settlement. Independent of financial concerns, that’s a praiseworthy goal and we will be a better people if we master the courage and resolution to attempt such a task.

  • @Jeff Foust

    Perhaps if you would provide a defined set of criteria for what is a compelling argument for human space exploration in your opinion, then a ‘convincing’ argument might be easier put forth.

    But I wonder if perhaps the American public has already been ‘convinced’ of the necessity of human spaceflight. In several polls that were conducted on Daily Kos, one poll asked if people believed that human species would eventually emigrate into out space and three quarters of the respondents, which numbered over 100, said yes. A second question asked several months later if human exploration and colonization of space was a species imperative and two thirds of the respondents, which numbered over 300, voted yes. Daily Kos is a website dedicated political and social issues and not specifically to human spaceflight, so the results are fairly encouraging. Not only that, a weekly tracking poll conducted on Daily Kos showed that an average of 90% of the respondents favored increasing NASA’s budget to 1 – 4+% of the federal budget with an average 75% favoring and increase to 2 – 4+% of federal budget. These poll results remained fairly consistent each week over a 26 week period.

    Thus, the results suggest that perhaps the hurdle to stronger support for the space program is not the American public but the federal government. The lack of leadership on the part of the President and on part of Congress is what is truly hurting space exploration efforts. The real question that should be asked is what is the level of necessity for the space program? Apparently that level is too low for any real progress at this point in the eyes of our government. When will this level of necessity rise high enough to merit greater support and leadership? When Earth’s begins to run out of material resources which it is consuming at a logarithmically increasing rate ? When an asteroid is identified that has a collision course with Earth? When a potentially devastating conflict occurs? Do we wait until some irreparable harm occurs to our planet or people before we finally realize that our very survival could be at stake?

    More importantly who will lead that outward migration into space? Do we want a nation like China to be at the front door of spaceflight. Russia? European Union? India? Global corporations? As Augustine panel suggested in the summary of their report, if the United States wants to lead space exploration and have a greater influence over the direction the human species takes in space then the government is going to have to throw greater support and funding behind the space program.

    What is the compelling case to be made here? The one where we recognized the potential risks in the future and prepare for them by utilizing all the resources we have at our disposal including human spaceflight to minimize the impacts of those possible risks? Or do we wait until something happens and we have little choice and perhaps not enough resources leaving us helpless?

  • doogle

    The compelling reason for human space exploration is human life in space.

    Eating and drinking and sleeping and shopping and working and playing.

    The end

  • Doug Lassiter

    “But I wonder if perhaps the American public has already been ‘convinced’ of the necessity of human spaceflight.”

    The polls you refer to point to likely eventualities, not necessities. You don’t aim appropriations at things that the American public believes will eventually happen. You don’t score any points for making things happen that people think will happen. You score points for making things happen that people want to happen. Forty years ago, our American pubic firmly believed that we’d have colonized the Moon by now. That wasn’t a necessity, and it didn’t happen.

    Are we eventually going to have a life expectancy of a hundred years? Sure! Is it a necessity? Well, maybe not.

    Are we going to have transportation systems that will get us coast to coat in an hour? Sure! Is it a necessity? Well, maybe not.

    I think there have been polls asking if the American public wants to pay a lot for this stuff. The results have been somewhat mixed. As to “species imperatives”, sure, but that’s just saying that someday we have to do it. Not saying that we have to do it now.

  • Mark R. Whittington

    Not compelling? But to whom are the arguments compelling and to whom are they compelling?

    Actually, from a cost/benefit analysis, the arguments Jeff found “not compelling” work rather well. But if one needs something further, perhaps the following will do:

    The exploration of space and the subsequent settlement of space is necessary and vital not only to the long term prosperity of humankind, but for its very survival. The remaining a one planet species is to keep all of our eggs in one basket, which is never a good idea.

  • Mark R. Whittington

    That should have read, of course, “and to who are they not compelling?”

  • Mark R. Whittington

    BTW, I’ve been reading Frank Luntz’s new book on What Americans Really Want. He has a few things to say about space, along with some enlightening stuff about marketing that people who want to sell things need to understand. I’ll have more about this anon, but the takeaway about
    selling” a publicly funded space program is not to be too obsessed about what *you* find compelling, but what the customers feel are compelling.

    Also, I think Gary Miles has hit on something. While I wouldn’t call the people who read the Daily Kos the most informed in the world, his numbers about what people believe that civil space program costs are illuminating.

    The trick may not be to sell the current effort as “Apollo on steroids”, but rather as “Apollo on a diet.” People, according to Luntz, want a lot of stuff, but don’t want to pay a lot for it. The slogan for a “marketing campaign” might be, “We’re going back to the Moon, and this time smarter, cheaper, and better than we did the last time.”

  • Robert Oler

    Gary Miles

    not so much.

    Support for spaceflight is high (and even increasing the budget) until the rub comes down to a series of choices.

    Increase NASA budget, increase taxes to pay for it…nope

    Increase NASA budget cut (this ir or that program)…nope

    Most people wont even go for increasing the NASA budget and deficit spend (which is not a good idea) except I Notice that the right wing in utter desperation has started saying “it wouldnt increase it much” or something like that.

    One cannot legitimatly ask a question about increased spending for anything…and not ask how to pay for it…particularly in a nation that is running record deficits

    Everyone was for the Iraq war the day we had boots on the ground (or at least most people) no one wanted to pay for it…including the administration that started it…

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert Oler

    Doug L in another thread you wrote:

    “The vision is the different future, not the thing that enables it”

    nope not at all.

    The vision in an effort is believing that a different (and better) tomorrow can come from what you do today. (or as my Grandmother wrote in a song that is sung in our church “Tomorrow will be better”)

    Otherwise there would be no point in anything that did not yield instant results and could be completly apraised before accomplished. A better tomorrow is why our armed forces die on the field of battle (and why we should be careful where we send them), why it was worth three astronauts dying in Apollo1 and why neither Challenger or Columbia was worth it.

    It is the link and the gift… from one generation to another. People came to America in the first place so that not only their lives, but most importantly their children would have a better life. That is why we sacrifice (or should anyway) for our children, our country and what we believe in.

    The American people spent the money on the B-52 because they were hoping for a world without nuclear war (that was the vision the plane was built to fullfill) and for decades it has done just that.

    The “vision” for federal spending should be that it makes the soverigns lives (ie the people’s lives) better both today and tomorrow because of the collective power of that spending. Ike may have envisioned mobility for the American people (actually not…he envisioned mobility for Armed forces)…but one reason that the roads were/are free and not toll roads is that he envisioned (and this is in the record) that the “genius of private enterprise” would find “enterprising ways to use the roads”…

    If it is welfare or space or the airtraffic control system unless the spending allows “the people” either as individuals or in aggregate to ON THEIR OWN through the power of their industry and the free enterprise system make their own lives better….there is no vision. It is just pork.

    I agree with you (I think you believe this) that there has to be a immediate justification for doing things BUT if it is something of vision, then there has to be a hope that the future turns out differently from it.

    As the reporter told “Capt Woodrow S. Call” in the movie Lonesome Dove “That you are a man of vision who sees a future unlike today”

    The reason going back to the Moon is going to die, is that the American people see no reason for it. (and neither does the current administration).

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert Oler

    Mark Whittington wrote

    “The trick may not be to sell the current effort as “Apollo on steroids”, but rather as “Apollo on a diet.” People, according to Luntz, want a lot of stuff, but don’t want to pay a lot for it. The slogan for a “marketing campaign” might be, “We’re going back to the Moon, and this time smarter, cheaper, and better than we did the last time.””

    there are at least three problems with that theory

    1. Is NASA capable of doing it “smarter, cheaper, better”? 9 billion on Ares with nothing to show for it seems to indicate that they are not. This is of course one reason I oppossed this “vision” as soon as it was cranked up.

    2. The major problem with the effort started under Bush the last, doesnt seem to be the public clamoring at the gates to shut it down, it seems to be that one study after another finds that it is being done incompetently (sound familiar? Like almost everything of the last administration) with people in charge who seem unable to do much of anything correct. I realize this has something in common with “number 1″ but it is a different problem…

    3 what makes you think that the American people want to go back to the Moon?

    Robert G. Oler

  • Doug Lassiter

    “The vision in an effort is believing that a different (and better) tomorrow can come from what you do today. (or as my Grandmother wrote in a song that is sung in our church “Tomorrow will be better”)”

    I think I generally agree with what you say here, but that’s not what our disagreement was about. That disagreement was whether a “vision” can be expressed as the building of an object. You say yes. I say no. I want to avoid degenerating into semantics, but this is actually pretty important. I will be unimpressed if Obama’s vision is what he wants to build, rather than what he wants to accomplish.

    Constellation (for better or worse) ain’t a vision. Neither is shuttle or ISS.

  • Gerald R. Everett

    We have become a profoundly discouraged nation. We lack confidence in our ability to bring to a successful conclusion any great public work. We have become a country in which the nihilist left and the radical individualist right have combined in a death wish pretending to be a country. The maned space program is a challenge to the ordinary citizen to think and work for something bigger and better than we have been before. Not some mellifluous ideology of a frightened and discouraged people, but the work of common hands to make something truly new and admirable in the world. A new great work of the American community in testiment to what a free people can achieve.

  • Robert Oler

    Doug Lassiter The odd thing is that I dont think Obama has a space vision any more then I thought Bush the last (or the old) had one, or RWR or JFK…to them space (human flight) is not really on the radar.

    Anyone who gets elected to The Presidency has a vision for where they want to take The Republic and they generally include big ticket items and that doesnt include human spaceflight.

    But the people who they hire to run the FAA or (insert agency here) do generally have a vision and try to get it to morph into what other prevailing conditions are going on in the administration.

    That is where Goldin came in and where Griffin really faltered…Psycho Dan is actually growing in my estimation (although I think my Space News piece that called for his resignation was still well timed)… When it became clear that Freedom was toast, Goldin morphed the station to fit the politics of the time…and got it built.

    Griffin seems to have been morphed by the agency and was unable to morph the politics of the administration in terms of actually accomplishing something.

    Building something alone isnt vision…and I think I have repeatedly said that. IT IS WHAT YOU DO WITH WHAT YOU BUILD that allows a future different then the present.

    So for instance…the shuttle (or even returning to the Moon) could have been a future changer…but in this country with domestic government spending in large amounts the future is only summoned when private enterprise is mixed into the equation and does what private enterprise in this country does…put capital at risk on wild ideas that either flop or pay off dramatically.

    What is flawed in the vision, and why it would have never amounted to much …is that Griffin put together a program which had not a drop of free enterprise…hence it would flounder just as the shuttle program did.

    As for whats going to happen with Obama…I think that the Augustine commission has pointed the way…and my impression is that Obama and Bolden will run with that….and that has the markings of vision on it.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert Oler

    Gerald R. Everett we are in trouble because the idiotic left and the nutty right are who define our political parties these days.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Major Tom

    “In several polls… on Daily Kos, one poll asked if [the] human species would eventually emigrate into out space and three quarters of the respondents, which numbered over 100, said yes. A second question asked… if human exploration and colonization of space was a species imperative and two thirds of the respondents, which numbered over 300, voted yes.”

    Several points:

    1) These are not statistically significant samples. Professional polls typically acquire at least 1,000 responses.

    2) These are self-selecting internet polls. Of course people interested enough in space activities to answer a poll about space activities are going to be positive about space activities.

    3) Even if these were statistically significant, professionally conducted polls, they don’t pose any choices about priorities to the respondents, which is how federal spending on NASA (or any other department, agency, or program) is actually decided in the real world.

    For example, this professional poll asked respondents what government programs they would cut to reduce the deficit, and the overwhelming number one response — and the only majority response — was space at 51%. The next highest response was welfare, at 28%.

    http://www.harrisinteractive.com/harris_poll/index.asp?PID=746

    “The lack of leadership on the part of the President… is truly hurting space exploration efforts.”

    This is such a goofy myth that a book of ten scholarly essays called “Spaceflight and the Myth of Presidential Leadership” has been written by some of the best White House and NASA historians. See:

    http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1218/1

    “When Earth’s begins to run out of material resources which it is consuming at a logarithmically increasing rate?”

    False. For example, see…

    Energy: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:World_Energy_consumption.png

    Gold: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Gold_-_world_production_trend.svg

    Silver: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Silver_-_world_production_trend.svg

    “Do we want a nation like China to be at the front door of spaceflight.”

    China can’t dock two human spacecraft together, only recently broke ground on an EELV-class launch facility after years of delays, is lucky to pull off one manned mission a year, and hopes to maybe have a permanent space station circa 2020. They’re not going anywhere fast.

    “Russia?”

    Russia can barely afford a civil space program even with NASA, European space agencies, and the occasional bazillionaire buying Soyuz rides. They’ve been promising to develop significant new capabilities like Kliper for a decade and a half now, and nothing has come of it.

    “European Union?”

    In its nearly 35 years of existence (over 45 years if we include its predecessor organizations), ESA has failed to field an independent human space flight capability. There’s no indication that’s going to change.

    “India?”

    India can’t get a lunar satellite to complete its mission and will have to rely on Russian expertise for any robotic lander follow-on. There’s no reason to believe that they can field a human space flight capability, nevertheless one that exceeds that of the current spacefaring nations, anytime soon.

    “Global corporations?”

    Companies like GE have had decades to express an interest, nevertheless actually execute, a corporate-sponsored space program. It’s never happened and there’s no indication it will in the future.

    “When an asteroid is identified that has a collision course with Earth?”

    Then we’ll move or destroy the asteroid, which will be infinitely easier than establishing a self-sufficient human civilization on another world.

    “Do we wait until some irreparable harm occurs to our planet or people before we finally realize that our very survival could be at stake?”

    Given the high radiation, low gravity, and toxic environments involved, not to mention supporting microorganisms, the human species as we currently know it will probably never colonize space. Visit, yes. But establish permanent, reproducing settlements? Highly unlikely. Maybe our AI or genetically engineered inheritors will, but probably not homo sapiens. Unfortunately, billions of years of evolution adapted our forms to the Earth, not other worlds or deep space.

    “What is the compelling case to be made here?”

    I wish it were otherwise, but there currently isn’t one for civil human space flight. It’s a legacy of the Cold War, and no one has articulated a rationale since Apollo. Just as the U.S./Soviet competition, a future justification will probably require an exogenous event and become another accident of history.

    FWIW…

  • Major Tom

    “But to whom are the arguments compelling and to whom are they compelling?”

    Ugh, if you can’t write an intelligible argument, then don’t post here.

    “While I wouldn’t call the people who read the Daily Kos the most informed in the world…”

    Lordy, if you can’t enter a conversation without slandering a website’s entire readership, then don’t post here.

    Take your unprovoked ugliness elsewhere.

    “People, according to Luntz, want a lot of stuff, but don’t want to pay a lot for it.”

    Whoa… now there’s a brilliant insight!

    [rolls eyes]

    Please spare us the late-night marketing for dummies pyramid scheme.

    Sheesh…

  • Robert Oler

    Mark Whittington wrote:

    ““We’re going back to the Moon, and this time smarter, cheaper, and better than we did the last time.””

    I assume by “last time” you mean Apollo.

    That is really unfair in my view to the folks who did Apollo and to the entire effort. It was done amazingly “smart”, fairly “cheap” (meaning it came in at its cost estimate) and was obviously”better” then what the competition tried.

    Apollo (the entire program) was almost a tour de force in engineering and program management. The goal was single focused “sending a man to the moon and returning him safely before this decade is out ” (thats pretty close anyway)…very quickly after some heated debate the “method” of doing that LOR was chosen, the technologies to master were laid out and Gemini put on the deck to master them (or most of them anyway)…the Apollo test flights did the rest and they made it happen on the first effort that they tried.

    OK there was the Apollo 1 fire; and that was horrible, but it was in all respects different from the Challenger/Columbia fiasco’s and indeed the problems in the CM were really fixed…not just papered over (although I guess the solid joints are really fixed)…

    By contrast look at the “return to the Moon” project that you are such a supporter of.

    Not only has the agency eschewed current boosters (unlike say Gemini fixing the problems with Titan) but it is hard to imagine a more ineptly done project then the Ares 1. You keep cheerleading for it on your web site…this is from your site…


    Mind, the tiresome arguments about Ares 1 should have been laid to rest now that the folks on the Augustine Committee have concluded that there are no insurmountable technical challenges.”

    which I guess is technically true, almost any technical challenge can be surmounted…but the trick is how much money does one want to throw at it…when there are “cheaper”, “smarter” and “better” solutions available both already flying and/or about to fly.

    Everything and I mean everything in Apollo was done by scratch, there were even “real” scientist who thought that the lunar dust would swallow a spacecraft…and yet the folks putting Apollo together knocked those problems down…

    the current crowd (again which you cheelead for) seem to be intent on making their own problems..

    It is hard for me to understand how you could make the statement that you did after 9 billion dollars and the effort needs a lot lot more dollars when Falcon 9 a private concern or the Atlas/Delta combination are available for a lot lot less.

    Of course it is possible I misread the thing.

    maybe you meant “better, Cheaper, smarter” then “the vision”…if so I concur…almost nothing could be worse

    Robert G. Oler

  • Loki

    “…what would convince the White House and Congress to invest more in NASA’s human spaceflight program”?

    As touched upon by others, probably nothing. Unfortunately, with the exception of certain congress-people from Florida and Texas whose districts include KSC or JSC, many congress-people who want to boost their fiscal responsiblity creds come election time will not think twice about cutting NASA’s budget by a few hundren million. Don’t look too closely at the amount of pork for their home districts they’ve added to other appropriations bills, though.

    In a larger sense that’s one of the reasons why I’m hopeful that a true commercial space industry will come into existence eventually. Commercial companies don’t have to worry about the D.C. political games that NASA has to deal with. Not to mention the lack of overbearing beaurocracy (sp?). I’m hopeful, but not optimistic.

  • Loki

    Not to go too far off-topic, but I think we’ll ultimately see one of 3 scenarios come out of this whole debate. Keep in mind these are just opinions of what I think is most likely to happen, listed in order of most to least likely (again, IMO).

    1) The current budget profile is kept, ISS is extended to 2020 (there’s probably enough public/ political support for that), and the constellation project limps along at a snail’s pace.
    Pros: None that I see
    Cons: Extending ISS to 2020 without increased money after 2015 will “steal” more resources away from constellation after 2015, slowing the pace even more.
    The pace will be so slow (first Ares 1/ Orion launch to ISS in 2017 at earliest, no return to the moon for an excursion mission until the late 2020′s, and no lunar base until well into the 2030′s, based on the Augustine summary report) that public support may wither and the whole endeavor will be abandoned before even landing on the moon.

    2) Ares 1 will be canned and NASA will be forced whether they like it or not to go commercial for ISS cargo and crew, and Soyuz in the short term for crew. ISS extended to 2020. Constellation continues for lunar (Ares 5, Altair, re-designed Orion to launch on Delta IV-H or other commercial rocket, and lunar surface systems).
    Pros: Would spur the development of a commercial space transportation industry, which is good for the reasons I stated in my previous comment. Also the development of an entire new sector to the economy that doesn’t exist at present is almost always a good thing (see internet boom of the ’90s).
    May free up some budget to start early development work on Ares 5/ Altair or free up money to jump start COTS-D. Without a budget increase I doubt they could do both at the same time.
    Will force NASA to change how they do business whether the beaurocracy wants to or not.
    Cons: Can’t think of any other than the usual “shuttle workers will lose their jobs” argument, which doesn’t carry much weight with me.

    3) NASA will get its extra $3 billion/ year, ISS extended to 2020, and constellation continued pretty much as is.
    Pros: NASA gets its increased money for constellation as we know it, which is really only a pro if you support Ares 1.
    Would at least allow for beyond LEO exploration.
    Cons: No more support for commercial space than the current situation (which is only a con if you like commercial space).
    If constellation’s costs continue to grow even more than predicted or further delays come about it could wind up leading more people to lose interest and/ or call for the termination of the whole program.

    I think scenario 1 is the most likely because I’m generally pessimistic about the odds for changing the status quo. While some members of congress may be in support of NASA recieving more money, the silence from the actual appopriations committee members who control the purse strings has been deafening. That fact combined with NASA’s usual problems with getting even a one time increase of $1 billion dollars makes scenarion 3 pretty unlikely in my mind. I put scenario 2 second because it would require such a major change to the status quo that I don’t think it’s very feasible to expect. Also, my pros and cons for each is just what I can think of off the top of my head, there’s probably several more for each. And like I said, this is just based on my own rather cynical opinion of the odds of government in general and NASA in particular actually changing anything once the status quo has been established.

  • Robert Oler

    Loki.

    I think “#2″ is most likely, soley based on the politics of it.

    1. There is no real love lost for Bush’s programs in this administration or the rest of The Republic. The Glenn Beck crowd might miss them but thats a small group. President Obama has shown repeatdly that he is not afraid to ditch the last administrations efforts (no more war on terror!) and he wont be afraid to here.

    2. The current program is not fixable. To many bad decisions, to many incompetent leaders…to freeze the program puts Bolden in an impossible position…there is no real way, even given more money (and that isnt going to happen no many how many letters are written) that it can be fixed in any acceptable political time frame.

    3. Any opposition in Congress is trivial. The space based politicians care, but few others do and there wont be this hue and cry in the nation “Oh my creator we are not going back to the Moon, I liked Bush’s effort”…there will be some moaning and groaning. But the Dems in the Congress will salute smartly (most of them anyway) and move on. The GOP is going to toss bricks no matter what is done.

    4. The “new” effort will have a few sweetners. I wouldnt be surprised if the shuttle stays flying until there is new lift (actually that might not be a bad idea)…some sort of “new exploration” will come; probably the Jim Oberg theory…. It will be enough to keep the toadies happy and not enough to keep all the deadwood going.

    5. Obama will put all this out in some speech that will steal a lot of GOP rhetoric about a “new economy”, “private sector jobs” etc etc. That wont stop the GOP from throwing bats but it will make them sound like sour grapes. If Musk has a good effort with his Falcon9 watch the new policy to come out soon after that with Obama making the speech out in “zounds” Caalifornia (sorry cant do Arnold well) or McGregor Texas (that would be a hoot right in Bush the last old back yard).

    6. I’ll bet you dollars that this was part of the deal Bolden struck to come on the deck. I dont care for Lori Garver’s politics but she is no dummy…she is indicating where the wind is blowing from (that is what her position is for).

    FWIW…

    Off to finish “gentling” a two and one half year old stallion.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Major Tom

    Although it’s doubtful it will garner billions more U.S. taxpayer dollars, cooperation (rather than competition) with China may become a driving rationale for NASA’s civil human space flight program, if the U.S. delegation to China mentioned in this AvWeek article is a harbinger of things to come:

    http://www.aviationweek.com/aw/generic/story.jsp?id=news/china092809.xml&headline=China%20Shows%20U.S.%20Delegation%20Next%20Spacecraft&channel=awst

    There is obviously a precedent given how post-Cold War Russian participation in the ISS helped sustain that program, both legislatively and logistically.

    FWIW…

  • common sense

    “cooperation (rather than competition) with China may become a driving rationale for NASA’s civil human space flight program”

    Exactly what I suggested in several posts here and elsewhere. Finally people are coming to their senses!

  • Paul

    “Do we wait until some irreparable harm occurs to our planet or people before we finally realize that our very survival could be at stake?”

    So, what are you imagining we’re going to do to Earth that will make it less habitable than space already is?

  • Loki

    Robert:
    You do raise an interesting point above in #1. The strong lack of love, some might say hatred, of all things Bush might add to the justification to kill the constellation program.

    Also add to that a speech Obama gave back in ’07 (November I think) in which he stated that he wanted to cancel constellation and put that money towards K-12 education. I’ve always believed that to know what a politician really wants you need to look at what they said/ did before the general election. Then the Augustine sommittee’s findings that without an extra $3 billion “space exploration cannot continue in any meaningful way”, and getting that extra money is highly unlikely.

    Those 3 things could add up to make a strong case that constellation is going to be killed. That would explain why I’ve seen other reports that Orbital is now considering creating a man rated version of their Cygnus spacecraft (up to now it’s been billed purely as a disposable cargo hauler under COTS), Boeing is even considering getting into the game with a commercial manned spacecraft, and I think I remember a few weeks ago seeing something about ESA looking at creating a manned version of the ATV. Perhaps they know something we don’t, or they’re just reading the writing on the wall too.

    I still believe my scenario 1 from before is slightly more likely simply because there’s too much institutional momentum behind constellation. I think it would require a significant expenditure of political capital to get any major change, and I doubt Obama feels strongly enough to make it happen. But that’s just my gut feeling.

  • Loki

    Cooperation with the Chinese is interesting. Another example of the soft power of space exploration by fostering an atmosphere of cooperation with a nation once considered an potential enemy, much like we with Russia on the ISS. The way I understand ITAR it would have to be revamped if not repealed outright before anything more than talk could happen. That also would be a good thing since I think most people familiar with the space industry would agree that ITAR has done more harm than good.

  • red

    Loki: “Then the Augustine sommittee’s findings that without an extra $3 billion “space exploration cannot continue in any meaningful way”, and getting that extra money is highly unlikely.

    Those 3 things could add up to make a strong case that constellation is going to be killed.”

    I’d say that, with the way the ESAS-based approach has devolved, it has to be cancelled or have similar major changes.

    Let’s look at the budget possibilities. I’m not going to look up exact durations, amounts, and so on – this is a very rough estimate. I welcome any corrections or fine-tuning.

    Assume there’s $81 billion available over the next decade for NASA human spaceflight.

    Following the recent GAO report, assume Ares 1/Orion will cost $49B, with $40B yet to be spent, over this time (i.e. assume Ares 1/Orion are completed before the decade after the next decade starts). That leaves $41B.

    - Assume ISS support and use costs $3B per year. Even former NASA Administrator Mike Griffin states (in testimony to the House): “In my opinion, any discussion of decommissioning and deorbiting the ISS is
    irrelevant to the consideration of serious programmatic options. … it has never been and is not now realistic to consider decommissioning it in 2015 … It has long been known that some $3+ billion per year will be required to sustain ISS operations past 2015. … sustained funding of the ISS as long as it continues to return value – certainly to 2020 and quite likely beyond – should have been established by the Commission as a nonnegotiable point of departure for all other discussions.”

    That’s $30B or more over the time span I’m addressing, leaving $11B for the rest of human spaceflight.

    We’ve already gone from $81B to $11B. It doesn’t look like we’re going to get very far at this rate with the ESAS approach and ISS support at the same time.

    We still need technology development. The Augustine Committee uses $1.5B/year as a minimal amount, with half of that outside the ISS effort – so we are down to $11B – $7.5B = $3.5B.

    We need a serious, vigorous robotic precursor program for this whole effort to be of any use. If the destination is the lunar surface, we need robotic ISRU demos, resource prospectors, engineering demos, etc etc etc. If the approach is “Flexible Path”, we need satellite servicing in robotic spacecraft, asteroid and Mars Moon precursors, and a serious emphasis on the robotic probes that would be operated telerobotically on the Moon and Mars by the astronauts. Let’s say a minimal amount here (in addition to NASA Science contributions) is $1B/year. We are now short $6.5B, and we haven’t even started with heavy lift, lunar landers, deep space capability, space suits, surface rovers and habitats, or anything else featured in the various scenarios, as applicable.

    I also haven’t counted the remaining costs to fly and retire the Shuttle.

    You can see why, even with the unlikely $3B/year increase, the ESAS rockets are too expensive to fit the budget. You can also see why the “Deep Space” option is getting so much attention. The potential savings with commercial and international participation also appear to be essential with numbers like these. Minimizing, eliminating, or postponing the huge HLV development costs may be required. Focusing human spaceflight as much as possible on national needs (security, education, economy, science/technology innovation, health, agriculture, energy, environment, disaster warning/relief, etc) also appears to be essential so that some reasonable fraction of that $3B/year can be budgeted and sustained.

  • red

    Jeff (in the Space Review article): “It’s a question of childlike simplicity but can be difficult to answer. It can also be summarized in a single word: why? As in, why should the US have a human spaceflight program?”

    I think the “Deep Space”/”Flexible Path” options may offer some help in the “Why” question that Jeff asks.

    One of the possibilities of these options is HSF servicing of Lagrange point observatories. We know that such servicing has been useful for the HST and other satellites, but it was expensive. Can this be done in an economically useful way? Can it be done in such a way that similar satellite servicing capabilities can be operated in Earth orbit? Can it be done commercially? Can such a satellite servicing capability be self-sustaining?

    If the answers to these questions tend to be yes (perhaps enabled by the NASA HSF exploration program and its technology development of Lagrange point servicing), then HSF can be made relevant to various national needs:

    - economic health: commercial services provided to the worldwide satellite community, enabling a new industry and helping the existing satellite industry

    - security: satellite servicing of military, intelligence, disaster warning, and disaster relief satellites

    - environment: satellite servicing of environment monitoring satellites

    etc

    While this happens we would at the same time be developing the space infrastructure and capabilities needed for exploration and development.

    I should note that the “Deep Space”/”Flexible Path” options also offer other ways besides Lagrange point observatory servicing to make the NASA Science and Human Spaceflight communities mutually supporting, rather than adversaries. These options encourage precursor robotics, which are crucial as we’ve seen so many times. These robots can address the goals of NASA HSF and Science at the same time. These options also make considerable use of ISS science. In the past, a large part of NASA’s justification has been based on science. To the extent that such a justification will work in the future, it may make sense to make the most of it and use this sort of mutually-beneficial approach between NASA HSF and robotic Science.

    Essentially what I’m trying to do is to make the question “why should the US have a human spaceflight program” identical to the question “why should the US have a space program”. It seems like the second question will be easier to answer than the first one.

  • Loki

    I think some of the examples you listed for robotic precursurs such as ISRU demos & engineering demos would go under technology development, or perhaps overlap with both categories, but no matter.

    I think the bottom line is that even with the very unlikely infusion of $3 billion/ year over current projections it’s likely that NASA will still have to go back to congress in a few years and say “Please sir, may have some more.” At which point they’ll once again be asked “Why?” At which point they better have a good answer or they can forget about any more money.

  • @Major Tom

    I agree that the Dkos polls were certainly not scientific or professional. But keep in mind that the site is generally a liberal website that focuses on issues such as healthcare, human rights, and environment. There is little traffic for space issues on this site. I mentioned these polls because they would seem to indicate support for the space program and increased funding which is why I specifically said “I wondered if the American public needs convincing”. Certainly a poll conducted by a professional firm would be better indicative of the American public’s attitudes toward the space program.

    It puzzles me that you slam the space programs of other nations. They have made fairly significant progress. Your disparagement is unwarranted. Do you realize that the US launched a robotic probe to orbit the Moon only 5 years before Apollo 11 landed? US certainly had its share of failures in the early years in launching robotic probes and rockets. While India is nowhere close to landing humans on the Moon soon, they are certainly capable of accomplishing that feat within 2 decades if they focused on such a program. So can China which is further along than India. And I love your attitude toward the Russians, especially considering they are the ones who will be our ride up to the ISS for the next several years at least.

    Humans currently live in some of the most extreme environments on Earth from the Canadian Arctic to the Sahara Desert. In fact in some ways terran climate is far harsher and more dynamic than space. The ISS would never have stood up to the bonechilling winters of the Antartica. Humans have proven fairly adaptable and I suspect that with technological progress they will be able to make a home in space, on the Moon, and perhaps someday Mars.

    What I have noticed from your postings is that you seem to be a rather negative person who tends to ridicule others rather than simply argue your point of view and offer solutions. Paul Spudis and I disagree but Paul reponds to my comments with at least respect and goodwill.

    @Paul

    I am by no means someone who subscribes to an apocalypsean vision of the future, but on the other hand it is possible to see that there are problems looming in our future. Such as our energy demand will eventually outstrip available resourses. Even the most optimistic forecast for our crude oil supply has it running out by 2050 if not sooner. Earth’s global population continues to rise. And I have to go…

  • @Gary Miles

    I’ve conducted similar polls on the Daily Kos with similar positive results as far as support for the space program and increasing the NASA budget. However, I tend to believe that such polls are skewed by the disproportionate participation by males who tend to be more interested and more supportive of science and technology than women are.

    You can see some of my poll results at:

    http://www.dailykos.com/user/newpapyrus

  • False Data

    Broadly speaking, there seem to be two groups in this issue, those who subscribe to a broad vision, and those who don’t (who I’ll call the “pragmatists”, for lack of a better term). To convince the pragmatists, you either need to communicate the vision to them in a way they’ll accept, or you need to show them tangible short-term benefits.

    Other comments have addressed the “communicate a vision” approach. Here are some thoughts on the approach of showing tangible short-term benefits.

    Governments have historically had a role of fostering primary research, which suggests that, if we had a thriving commercial space industry, NASA could show tangible short-term benefits if it took the role of driving primary research and feeding the results to the space industry. Exploration, human and robotic, would be a natural part of that role.

    That leaves us with two challenges: changing the culture at NASA and bootstrapping a thriving commercial space industry.

    Changing the culture at NASA would probably require the same things that drive intentional culture change in most organizations: a crisis and/or strong, coordinated leadership.

    To bootstrap a thriving commercial space industry, we probably need commercial benefits that could attract private money. There’s already a start with space tourism, which seems to fit a similar niche to early air mail ventures that sold postcards or pieces of cloth at high prices as souvenirs because they’d been shipped by air. Private satellite launches look promising as the next big thing, especially for providing wireless network services to terrestrial users (assuming companies like SpaceX and Virgin Galactic can control launch costs and the telecom folks can drive capacity per satellite high enough).

    I realize this is all very much down in the weeds, but realize that, relative to this issue, that’s where a lot of the voters are. If we can’t reach them with a grand motivational vision, then down in the weeds we must go.

  • Major Tom

    “@Major Tom

    I agree that the Dkos polls were certainly not scientific or professional.”

    If you knew that, then why did you use them as evidence that “perhaps the American public has already been ‘convinced’” of something or state that “the results are fairly encouraging”?

    Stop trolling with junk polls and wasting your time or other posters’ time on arguments supported by flawed statistics. Garbage in, garbage out.

    “It puzzles me that you slam the space programs of other nations…

    I didn’t. You stated that we should fear any of these countries getting in the “front door of space flight” as an argument for increased U.S. civil human space flight funding. I pointed out in detail that this is an ignorant argument because those countries that don’t have an independent civil human space flight program (Europe, India) are unlikely to have one anytime soon, and those countries that do have independent civil human space flight programs (Russia, China) are making no or very slow progress and are likely to continue in that vein for the foreseeable future.

    Correcting an ignorant post about the realities of various foreign space programs is not the same thing as criticizing those programs. Learn the difference and think before you post next time.

    “Your disparagement is unwarranted.”

    I’m not the one disparaging these nations. You are. You’re the one who wrote “Do we want a nation like [insert China, Russia, European Union, India, global corporations] to be at the front door of spaceflight?” You wrote that, not me.

    What’s wrong with any of these nations — especially the European Union or a corporation for Pete’s sake — having a human space flight program or being at the forefront of human space flight? What prejudices do you have against them?

    Turn off the hypocrisy and think before you post next time.

    “Do you realize that the US launched a robotic probe to orbit the Moon only 5 years before Apollo 11 landed?”

    Oh really? I had no idea!

    [rolls eyes]

    Do you realize that it’s been over 35 years since the Soviet Union sent a robotic mission to the Moon, and they’ve never launched a manned lunar mission, nevertheless landed an cosmonaut on the Moon?

    Just because one nation did X at some point in history doesn’t mean that other nations will do X at some point in the future. That’s incredibly fallacious logic. Think before you post next time.

    “While India is nowhere close to landing humans on the Moon soon, they are certainly capable of accomplishing that feat within 2 decades.. So can China which is further along than India.”

    Based on what evidence? India’s one incomplete lunar robotic orbiter mission? China’s one successful lunar robotic orbiter mission? The desperate poverty of the great majority of either nation’s population?

    When the Apollo effort was gearing up, the U.S. was testing heavy lift rockets, lunar reentry profiles, human-scale landers, etc. and on a rapid pace. There’s no evidence that either of these nations is pursuing any of those things or will anytime soon.

    Educate yourself before you post next time.

    “And I love your attitude toward the Russians, especially considering they are the ones who will be our ride up to the ISS for the next several years at least.”

    Well, if you love Mother Russia so much, then why do you not “want a nation like Russia to be at the front door of spaceflight”?

    Again, stop making hypocritical statements and think before you post next time.

    “Humans currently live in some of the most extreme environments on Earth from the Canadian Arctic to the Sahara Desert.”

    So what? There’s one g of gravity, one bar of atmosphere, plentiful oxygen, natural water and food supplies, supporting microorganisms, and protection from solar storms and cosmic radiation in both the Arctic and Sahara.

    Except maybe for underwater or certain deep subterranean environments, which the human species has also not settled or colonized, it’s goofy to use Earth environments as proof that humans as we currently know them can live out their entire lifetimes, nevertheless reproduce over multiple generations and become independent of Earth’s resources, in any known space environment. The scale of the challenges involved are vastly, vastly different.

    “Humans have proven fairly adaptable and I suspect that with technological progress they will be able to make a home in space, on the Moon, and perhaps someday Mars.”

    If by “technological progress”, you mean engineering of the human genome or downloading our intelligence into silicon brains and plastic bodies, then theoretically, yes, it’s possible. But given the radiation hazards alone, it’s far from clear that homo sapiens will ever be able to live out entire lifetimes in a space environment without dying very premature deaths from cancer (forget successfully reproducing) unless they spend the vast majority of their time in thick metal boxes or surrounded by ridiculously powerful magnetic fields.

    Even for a simple human exploration mission to Mars, experts are already talking about “genetic sensitivity screening” to radiation in order to make the trips medically feasible in the near-term (i.e., those in the astronaut corps who are relatively more sensitive to radiation could not go) and “bioengineering” to increase radiation resistance over the long-term. See Joan Vernikos’s third point in the article below:

    http://commercialspacegateway.com/item/34382-future-outposts-beyond-leo-require-r-d

    That’s just to visit Mars (or otherwise spend a couple years beyond the Van Allen Belts). Forget settlement or colonization.

    Will homo sapiens continue to visit space and other worlds in our solar system? Yes, obviously.

    Will homo sapiens as we currently know the species settle or colonize space or other worlds in our solar system? Far from clear, and probably unlikely.

    “What I have noticed from your postings is that you seem to be a rather negative person who tends to ridicule others”

    There are plenty of posts on this forum where I’ve agreed with others, commended them on their arguments, and/or tried to provide helpful information. (In fact, there’s one of the latter in this very thread.)

    But I am politely and consistently critical when a poster repeatedly makes false claims, uses garbage statistics, espouses ignorance and hypocrisy, and/or writes incoherent arguments. I do correct a poster’s facts when they’re wrong or their logic when it’s flawed.

    And when that poster reacts to that criticism by getting personal and throwing insults — claiming that I have a “negative” personality or that I’m pulling facts “out of my ass” — then yes, I do ridicule their posts. That sort of thin-skinned behavior, name-calling, personlization, and trolling has no place here. Argue the posts, not the poster.

    Either grow up, educate yourself on the relevant topics, use a grammar and spell checker once in a while, think before you post, and stop personalizing your arguments, or go away.

    “rather than simply argue your point of view”

    I tried that in my last exchange with you and was told that I was pulling facts “out of my ass”. I tried it again in this latest exchange and you told me that I’m too “negative”.

    Argue the posts, not the poster. If you’re incapable of doing so, then go away.

    “Paul Spudis and I disagree”

    If a known poster with substantial credentials is also disagreeing with you, then maybe you need to take a hint and educate yourself before posting again instead wasting other folks’ time correcting your posts.

    “but Paul reponds to my comments with at least respect and goodwill.”

    I’d encourage you to comment on the good Dr. Spudis’s personality or tell him that he’s that pulling facts out of one of his orificies and see how he reacts.

    Ugh…

  • Dave Salt

    Major Tom wrote: Will homo sapiens as we currently know the species settle or colonize space or other worlds in our solar system? Far from clear, and probably unlikely.

    I assume O’Neil type colonies are included in your assessment (i.e. unlikely)?

    I know such developments would require significant commitment/investment and are unlikely to happen any time soon, but their ability to house “normal” people in a 1g environment with significant radiation attenuation always seemed to me the more likely route to a permanent human presence off-Earth.

  • Major Tom

    “I assume O’Neil type colonies are included in your assessment (i.e. unlikely)?”

    Yes and no.

    You’re right that, by definition, a space habitat of that scale will have enough atmosphere and structure to effectively take care of the radiation issue that I highlighted. And with the possible exception of getting the supporting ecology (especially microbiology) right, these kinds of habitats usually take care of all the other human factors issues (gravity, atmosphere, etc.) as well.

    That said, the scale of these habitats is so incredible that it’s hard to consider them seriously in any foreseeable future. Even with automated regolith collection, lunar mass drivers, mass catchers, and lithography, turning all that raw material into the shaped metal, glass, and plastic components needed to build such a habitat is a ridiculously enormous undertaking. Cities (~100K+ inhabitants) naturally take decades to grow, at a minimum. Creating such a city out of whole cloth on a shorter, predetermined schedule would be difficult enough on Earth. Doing so in space boggles the mind (or at least my mind). It would probably require levels of automation (maybe AI) and materials processing (maybe structures “grown” via bio/nanotech) whose execution simply isn’t conceivable yet. There’s just a huge chasm between the basic physics proving that these habitats are possible and the meaty engineering needed to actually pull them off. With Mir and the ISS, we’ve proven that we can build a house in space in a decade or two. Although I’m sure we can do better — hopefully inflatable, Bigelow-type neighborhoods well before the middle of the century — it’s hard to see how we get to towns, nevertheless cities.

    It’s such a hard problem that my 2 cents is that we’ll see tinkering with the human genome to better adapt the human form to space environments, effectively creating new subspecies, if not species, before we’ll see a space habitat the size of a Stanford torus. Or we’ll see the human mind mapped and artificial alternatives created that can project our consciousness into space before we’re building a Bernal sphere. It’s too bad for us space enthusiasts, but the reality is that its much easier to move bits and nucleotides around than it is to move large, physical objects off of planets and around in space. Even with a perfectly rational space program, the growth in genome understanding and manipulation or the growth in information processing and exchange would still far outstrip the growth in anything we could do that’s still tied to the rocket equation. See Moore’s Law for an example of what we’re up against.

    Finally, even if the technology were in hand, it’s hard to see where the impetus for such an undertaking would come from. Exploration and settlement is historically driven either by fear (running away from political/religious persecution, poor conditions/poverty, or the threat of war at home) or greed (the promise of new routes and/or resources). Greed-wise, I’ve never really understood (maybe you’ll inform me) what a city in space would do that could justify such an incredible investment. And fear-wise, if our future on Earth is so dystopian that it could motivate such a fantastic undertaking, we’ll probably no longer have the economic or intellectual resources necessary to pull it off anyway.

    If a space habitat of this scale is ever built, it will probably occur naturally as hundreds and then thousands of humans make individual decisions guided by natural and economic forces to congregate at some location in space — in which case, the habitat won’t resemble a pre-planned torus, sphere, or cylinder. I’m personally a little incredulous that there would ever be a single decision by a government or other collective to undertake such an enormous, pre-planned, engineering endeavour.

    “I know such developments would require significant commitment/investment and are unlikely to happen any time soon,”

    I think we’re in violent agreement, here.

    “but their ability to house ‘normal’ people in a 1g environment with significant radiation attenuation always seemed to me the more likely route to a permanent human presence off-Earth.”

    If you want those humans to remain a healthy, breeding population of homo sapiens as we know them, you’re probably right. Not to knock O’Neill and his ilk — we need more original thinkers like them. But it’s just very hard to see how pre-planned habitats on that scale would get built.

    FWIW… this is mostly my 2 cents and your mileage may vary. I’m only pointing out the extreme limits on settlement/colonization imposed by how ill-adapted the human body is to the very harsh conditions of space, and how fast genetic and IT progress is growing/accelerating compared to aerospace. Aside from those obvious observations, this is all pretty speculative.

  • Dave Salt

    Unfortunately, Major Tom, I can only agree with what you say.

    I was seduced by the Kubrick’s view of the future that could have been… except for annoying real-world constraints, like funding and political consensus. Nevertheless, having seen what mankind can make out of desert – think Las Vegas or Dubai – I also believe such things may be possible off-Earth, one day.

    However, the last few decades have seen the development of technologies that could make human development veer-off in directions totally alien to the current homosapien paradigm. That this could happen within our lifetime (i.e. singularity) makes predictions about the future even more uncertain and suggests that our traditional concept of space settlement may have little if any relevance to future “generations”.

  • [...] important findings of the committee, he believes, is the discussion of why to do human spaceflight, something of considerable discussion here. Science and international relations benefit from human spaceflight, but can’t alone justify [...]

  • @Major Tom

    “More importantly who will lead that outward migration into space? Do we want a nation like China to be at the front door of spaceflight. Russia? European Union? India? Global corporations?”

    This was the original question that I posed in my comment to Jeff Foust? Where in here do I disparage theses nations or invoke fear of these nations? India and European Union have been our allies and trade partners. China is our largest trade partner. Russia are our ISS partners and we are on good terms with Russia the last I checked. I point these nations out because they have developed significant space programs that are viable and competitive. They have the ability to begin a new era of human exploration beyond LEO. So are Americans willing to accept that? Or do they want their nation to lead human space exploration efforts? These are questions being asked not answers being offered. You have made assumptions based on your own personal biases.

    Moreover, I offer that human space development provides an avenue to solutions to resolving some of our dillemmas that currently exist or potientially exist in the future. I offer that space development could lead to greater industrialization and commercialization of space just as commercial aviation did providing a wealth of jobs and exciting path for young people to pursue.

    My original post was addressed to Jeff Foust. It is you who is being a troll. Here are the comments you made about India and China. Does this sound like a balanced assessment?

    “India can’t get a lunar satellite to complete its mission and will have to rely on Russian expertise for any robotic lander follow-on. There’s no reason to believe that they can field a human space flight capability, nevertheless one that exceeds that of the current spacefaring nations, anytime soon.

    China can’t dock two human spacecraft together, only recently broke ground on an EELV-class launch facility after years of delays, is lucky to pull off one manned mission a year, and hopes to maybe have a permanent space station circa 2020. They’re not going anywhere fast.

    Here are comments that you have posted toward me and others:

    “Ugh, if you can’t write an intelligible argument, then don’t post here.

    Please spare us the late-night marketing for dummies pyramid scheme.

    Sheesh…

    Oh really? I had no idea!

    [rolls eyes]

    This is your idea of politeness? Courtesy? Your nastiness ill serves you and your arguments. I do not call other people idiots or tell them not to post. Whether I think sthat or not. It is their legitimate right post. You need to quit being a troll and stop putting words into other people’s comments.

    @Marcell

    I have read your poll’s too. And yes I realize the results could be skewed. But you might get a few words from LaFeminista about guys being the only ones interested in spaceflight. ;)

  • Major Tom

    “This was the original question that I posed in my comment to Jeff Foust?”

    You’re asking me? Don’t you know what you wrote? Can’t you read your own posts?

    Unbelievable…

    “Where in here do I disparage theses nations or invoke fear of these nations?”

    When you wrote “Do we want a nation like China [or Russia, EU, India, or corporations]…” Your protestations to the contrary, you wrote a sentence that demonstrates disdain for these foreign nations. Whether the sentence reflects your actual opinion of these nations or was poorly stated, I don’t know. But you wrote what you wrote. So stop with the hypocrisy and either stick to what you wrote or admit you were wrong to write such and move on. But don’t waste your time and mine claiming that you didn’t write what you wrote.

    “I point these nations out because they have developed significant space programs that are viable and competitive.”

    So what? There’s a huge difference between a viable and competitive space program and an independent human space exploration program. A program that hasn’t successfully completed it’s first robotic mission beyond Earth orbit (India) is in no position to carry out an independent human space exploration program anytime soon. A program that can’t afford a replacement for a 30-year old LEO crew launch vehicle (Russia) is in no position to carry out an independent human space exploration program anytime soon. A program that has been dominated by robotic missions for decades and piggybacks one space station module and the occasional astronaut on U.S. and Russian vehicles (Europe) is in no position to carry out an independent human space exploration program anytime soon. A program that has launched a total of six humans into orbit, is proceeding at the glacial pace of about one LEO crew vehicle launch per year (China), and doesn’t plan to return a lunar sample robotically until 2017 at the earliest is in no position to carry out an independent human space exploration program anytime soon.

    “Does this sound like a balanced assessment?”

    Whether you think the statements are balanced or not doesn’t matter. What matters is that they’re factual. You argued that U.S. civil human space flight funding should be increased because these foreign space programs are in a position to overtake the U.S. in civil human space exploration. I argued that these foreign civil space programs are in no position to carry out an independent human space exploration program at all and won’t be for the foreseeable future. I backed that up with factual statements about their history, current space capabilities, pace of progress, and fiscal situations. You’ve offered no facts to the contrary.

    It’s a fact that “India can’t get a lunar satellite to complete its mission” and plans to “rely on Russian expertise for any robotic lander follow-on.” Based on that, it’s hard to see how “they can field a human space flight capability, nevertheless one that exceeds that of the current spacefaring nations, anytime soon.”

    It’s a fact that “China can’t dock two human spacecraft together, only recently broke ground on an EELV-class launch facility after years of delays, is lucky to pull off one manned mission a year” and plans “to maybe have a permanent space station circa 2020.” Based on that, it’s hard to see them “going anywhere fast.”

    These are not unbalanced or disparaging statements. They’re the facts as they exist and the reasonable conclusions to be drawn from them. The facts may not fit your argument that the U.S. needs to increase its civil human space flight funding because these countries are overtaking U.S. human exploration, but that doesn’t mean that the statements are unbalanced or disparaging.

    You may not like to use them, but facts are facts.

    “I offer that human space development provides an avenue to solutions to resolving some of our dillemmas that currently exist…”

    Goody for you. Your point? What does this have to do with the preceding conversation?

    Moreover, your evidence? What does putting people in space have to do with Al Queda in AfPak, Iranian nukes, the economy, climate change, etc.

    And it’s spelled “dilemmas”, not “dillemmas”.

    And it’s “potentially”, not “potientially”.

    “I offer that space development could lead to greater industrialization and commercialization of space just as commercial aviation did providing a wealth of jobs and exciting path for young people to pursue.”

    Goody for you. So does pretty much every other poster on this forum. Your point?

    “My original post was addressed to Jeff Foust. It is you who is being a troll.”

    In case you didn’t know, this is a public website, and Mr. Foust has no restrictions about who can reply to what posts. If you post here, anyone has the ability and permission to critique your arguments, regardless of whom you address them to. Critiquing an argument is not trolling.

    Posting polls and statistics that you know are junk to get a reaction from other posters and waste their time — that’s trolling.

    If you don’t like your arguments being open to criticism from any potential poster, then don’t post here.

    If you get your jollies by wasting other people’s time on junk data, then don’t post here.

    “This is your idea of politeness? Courtesy?”

    No, those statements ridicule very poor arguments, which, as I told you in my prior post, I do resort to when posters react to legitimate criticism of the facts and logic in their posts by throwing personal attacks and insults.

    The other poster insulted the readership of an entire website. That’s uncalled for. You personalized your reply to my critique by calling me “negative”. That’s uncalled for.

    If you want to be treated like an adult, then act like one and argue the posts, not the posters. If you can’t, then leave.

    “Your nastiness…”

    Nastiness? Who used the term “pulled out of your ass” on this website?

    Here’s a hint — their screen name rhymes with Larry Stiles.

    “I do not call other people idiots…”

    Neither do I. That would be personalizing an argument. I may point out that an argument or statement is effectively idiotic, but I’ve never called anyone an “idiot” on this website.

    You and the other poster, however, do personalize arguments and throw insults. You may not have called anyone an idiot (yet), but you have no problem calling them “negative”, and the other poster has no problem painting the entire readership of a website as “uninformed”. Again, personalized statements and insults like those are uncalled for.

    And again, if you want to be treated like an adult, then act like one and argue the posts, not the posters. If you can’t, then leave.

    “It is their legitimate right post.”

    First, this isn’t a complete sentence (again).

    Second, if you’re so high on everyone’s “legitimate right [to] post”, then why did you just argue (in the same post!) that I should not have critiqued the argument from your first post in this thread?!?!

    Pot, meet kettle…

    I don’t know if you’re purposefully being hypocritical and trolling for a reaction, or if you’re honestly incapable of thinking about what you’ve written before you hit the “submit” button. But either way, stop it. If you can’t, then don’t post here.

    Lawdy…

  • Grammar Cop

    Lawdy…

    That’s not even a word, nor a sentence. It is evidence however, of your propensity for colloquial dogmatism.

    “I offer that human space development provides an avenue to solutions to resolving some of our dilemmas that currently exist…”

    Goody for you. Your point? What does this have to do with the preceding conversation?

    It has everything to do with the subject of this post, which you have so deftly avoided in your spelling and grammar diatribe.

  • Major Tom

    “That’s not even a word…”

    Lawdy me! Don’t you check your references before you post?

    It’s the first word in the title of a American R&B song that was the biggest R&B hit in its year and that’s been subsequently recorded by the Beatles, Elvis, Fats Domino, Led Zeppelin, and Travis Tritt (among others). See:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lawdy_Miss_Clawdy

    The word is also used repeatedly in the classic American novel “Gone With the Wind” and the script for the famous movie based on the novel. See:

    http://www.meredy.com/gwtw/gwtwsounds.htm

    It’s also used in the lyrics of various versions of the famous American folk song “John Henry”. See:

    http://www.ibiblio.org/john_henry/other.html

    If you want to play amateur grammar cop, at least check your references before you post.

    Lawd, lawdy!

    “It is evidence however, of your propensity for colloquial dogmatism.”

    Lawdy me! Don’t you think about what you’ve written before you post?

    That sentence doesn’t make any sense in the context of your previous one. If I was colloquially dogmatic, why would I use a word that doesn’t exist?

    Lawd, lawdy!

    “It has everything to do with the subject of this post, which you have so deftly avoided…”

    Lawdy me! Don’t you read what others have written before you reply to them?

    I didn’t avoid the subject. If you had bothered to read the next line, you would see that I wrote:

    “Moreover, your evidence? What does putting people in space have to do with Al Queda in AfPak, Iranian nukes, the economy, climate change, etc.”

    If you or the other poster actually have an answer to this question, I’d be glad to read it. But if not, don’t throw around false claims that I didn’t address a topic when in fact I did.

    Lawd, lawdy!

    “in your spelling and grammar diatribe.”

    Lawdy me, your post exaggerates so!

    How is using 18 words in a 1,200 word post to point out two misspellings and one incomplete sentence a “spelling and grammar diatribe”?

    Lawd, lawdy!

    [rolling eyes repeatedly]

    Sigh…

  • @Major Tom

    Why is it necessary to attack my comment about what the compelling reason there is for human spaceflight? The discussion here is about what are the compelling reasons for human spaceflight? So why not put forth your own compelling reasons or reasons why human spaceflight is not necessary. Why the need to attack or be overly critical of others in this discussion? You have literally taken each and every sentence written in each comment posted by me and others like Loki and made rather verbose antagonistic reponses. Worse, you engage in pedantric silly behavior correcting my typos or occasional mispellings. Thus, your posts are simply distracting from the real subject at hand. Yes, you are certainly free to post and make comments, but your actions resemble the hecklers at town hall meetings who would rather scream and yell nonsense than have any productive discussion of the issue.

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