NASA, White House

Bolden on policy, science, and international cooperation

NASA administrator Charles Bolden didn’t make any major policy pronouncements in his speech Tuesday at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Washington, DC, although one wouldn’t expect him to in this “quiet period” before the FY11 budget release and any White House announcement about a chance in policy. “I’m sure all of you would like to know what direction President Obama will choose for the future of the space program,” he told a large audience of astronomers. “All I can say for now is that NASA is working closely with the Executive Office of the President in helping him determine the best path forward.”

He did, though, seek to assure the audience that there would be a future for NASA’s human spaceflight program, and that NASA’s science programs wouldn’t be made to pay for it. “The future of human spaceflight will not be paid for out of the hide of the science program,” he said, triggering a round of applause and cheers. Later, in response to a question about what kind of gap in human spaceflight there might be once the shuttle is retired, Bolden said, “I don’t know what the President’s decision is going to be. However, having been around him and talking to him and having watched him when he’s interfaced with astronauts and kids and everybody else, I do not see this President being the President who presides over the end of human spaceflight. I don’t see that.” (As for the gap, he said that if we don’t have some American-made option of putting crews in orbit by 2020, “we’re in big trouble, to be be quite honest.”)

Bolden also played up the need for enhanced international cooperation. “We must develop a stronger partnership with the international community,” he said. “The cost and complexity of space programs require that both the achievements and the costs be shared among many nations, for no one nation can carry this burden alone.” He cited as examples of potential international cooperation human space exploration, Mars sample returns, and future large space telescopes. He emphasized both in his speech and in the Q&A session that followed the need to make international partners “true” partners, “which means they sit at the table when you’re planning”, as opposed to offering them pieces of a specific architecture once it’s put together. As an example, he talked about how he encouraged the Japanese to develop versions of its HTV cargo vehicle that could return cargo, and from there a human-rated version that could transfer crews to and from the ISS.

He also indicated, though, that international cooperation would not be restricted to major flagship missions but also to smaller projects, and smaller “nontraditional” countries. He noted that he met with the head of Nigeria’s fledgling space agency at the IAC conference in South Korea in October. “They don’t do very much, but they want to be a part” of bigger programs. He added that he met with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton just this morning to talk about “how could we enhance or expand our international collaboration, involve some small, nontraditional partners in what we do.”

78 comments to Bolden on policy, science, and international cooperation

  • I’m glad Bolden made this point:

    “He emphasized both in his speech and in the Q&A session that followed the need to make international partners “true” partners, “which means they sit at the table when you’re planning”, as opposed to offering them pieces of a specific architecture once it’s put together.”

    I just hope that commercial space is also provided a place at the table. Don Miguel de Griffo’s approach seemed to be coming up with his master plan and leaving scraps for everyone else, and then acting surprised when they aren’t enthusiastic about it.

    ~Jon

  • Mark R. Whittington

    I find the idea of having maybe five or six government space bureaucracies involved in planning space ventures instead of just one a little disquieting. That is a prescription for political gridlock and wrangling. Consultation with stake holders is a good idea, however. I’m pretty sure that giving other countries veto power on space craft design taking the fetish of international cooperation just a little too far.

    By the way, Jon, what you are describing is leadership. The real stakeholders of Constellation liked it just fine. In fact, I will not be surprised if Obama’s new plan, being formulated in secret (not even Bolden seems to know what it is) will more resemble it than not. Otherwise, pass the popcorn and watch while Congress goes through it like Tamberlain through Damascus.

  • common sense

    “He also indicated, though, that international cooperation would not be restricted to major flagship missions but also to smaller projects, and smaller “nontraditional” countries. He noted that he met with the head of Nigeria’s fledgling space agency at the IAC conference in South Korea in October. “They don’t do very much, but they want to be a part” of bigger programs.”

    Finally something really really interesting which I have supported in the past! This is a very smart thing to do. I hope they can make it happen.

  • Mark,
    Of course the “real stakeholders” (aka a few members of Congress) were happy with it–it got lots of jobs in their district at the expense of the rest of the country which was footing the bill. I’m not sure why this is something you’re proud of.

    That said, what I’m a fan of is international (and commercial and international commercial) participation in the form of an open architecture. You design a system that different people can interface in that is able to change directions based on changing technologies. Mike’s world was a closed architecture that supposed a government planning committee could realistically plan the next 20-30 years worth of US manned spaceflight needs, where new and innovative solutions and international involvement was only painfully able to make any impact at all on the Program of Record. At least the Soviets were only dumb enough to try 5 year plans.

    ~Jon

  • Mark, this is why something like this cannot be done with just a bunch of bilateral agreements and really shouldn’t be done with ad-hoc multilateral agreements for each mission. There needs to be a serious intergovernmental space organization that coordinates these ventures. Each participant needs to be able to give input in a fair way, but these types of missions need clear leadership and a formalized way to decide what to do and then to actually do it. Otherwise, too much time and money gets wasted.

    Of course that is easier said than done.

    Ari Litwin
    (http://www.space-issues.com)

  • NASA Fan

    International cooperation is a good idea, yes. And, every different organizational interface you have to deal with costs money. Just ask anyone working on the ISS if things went slower because of all the partner relationships; and we all know the slower things move, the more time the army spends marching, and the more costly it is.

    Space X on the other hand is minimizing the organizational boundaries so as to produce a quick and cheap and effective rocket.

    International cooperation is a sure sign of ‘I don’t have enough money’, vs. bringing diverse ideas to the table. Don’t get me wrong. A lot of good can come from International Cooperation, but not bringing down the over all cost of a mission.

    Look for Obama to surprise folks with his new direction for NASA; remember – he doesn’t want to be viewed like any other politician that ever lived…so his decisions will have that trademark.

  • Human space flight is really not that expensive. NASA is currently only spending about $10 billion dollars a year on its manned space program. And NASA programs create more wealth than they consume.

    We’re currently spending about $120 billion a year in our misguided adventure in Iraq. Iraq has already cost US tax payers over $715 billion so far!

    We spend $30 to $70 billion a year protecting the Persian Gulf oil routes for a fuel that results in Americans sending between $300 to $700 billion dollars a year of our national wealth to foreign countries and a fuel that’s causing sea level rise and could eventually put coastlines around the world underwater.

    Americans also spend over $35 billion a year on tobacco products which cost us over $50 billion a year in direct medical cost and a total cost of $97 billion in health care cost and loss of productivity.

    So a mere $10 billion a year to help humans expand our civilization beyond the Earth in order to create new wealth in the New Frontier and enhance the survival of our species is really not a lot!

  • Jon,

    Here are some excerpt from a speech Michael Griffin gave at the Lunar Lander Challenge ceremony over a year ago:

    Those of us in the government side of the space business must recognize a fundamental truth. If our experiment in expanding human presence beyond Earth is to be sustainable in the long run, it must ultimately yield profitable results, or there must be profit to be made by supplying the needs of those who explore to fulfill other objectives. Think about the California gold rush, and Levi Strauss.

    Space exploration today is primarily a government activity, but that will not always be so. In fact, we should work to see that it is not. We should reach out to those individuals and companies who share our interest in space exploration and are willing to take risks to spur its development. In that vein, I especially want to recognize the sponsors of the Google Lunar X Prize for their formulation of a difficult but eminently worthy prize competition for robotic landing and roving on the moon.

    Commercial interests might have different motivations than the government for wishing to explore space, but we can respect those differences while capitalizing on our common interests. For example, while NASA is not in the business of space tourism, we should encourage those who are. A successful space tourism industry would offer many synergistic opportunities for private-public partnerships. As a matter of national policy to promote the growth of space enterprise generally, we should encourage such partnerships. Government agencies can and should turn to the private sector to meet their needs for goods and services that are not core governmental functions – a definition that can change with time. We have seen that transition in information technology. We will see it in other fields in the years to come, including micro-gravity parabolic flight services, suborbital launches, and cargo resupply to and from the International Space Station.

    …As many of you know, we hope to award our ISS Commercial Resupply Services contract later this month, just prior to Christmas. We hope that this will help to evolve our nation’s low Earth orbit transportation industry to one that is more cost-effective, and as reliable, as what we have today. When we retire the three Space Shuttle orbiters from service, we will need other means to meet ISS logistics needs. And while we must do whatever is necessary to sustain and capitalize upon our investment in ISS, I would much rather be spending taxpayer funds on U.S. commercial providers than otherwise.

    NASA’s COTS partners are making great strides. In late September SpaceX’s Falcon 1 rocket flew successfully, and on November 22nd they conducted their first full duration static test of all nine Falcon 9 rocket engines. Orbital Sciences recently completed Preliminary Design Reviews for their Cargo Modules and designs for their launch facilities at Wallops Island, and design of their Taurus II launch vehicle is underway.

    I’ve been asked on many occasions for my opinion on commercial crew transportation to ISS. We’ve made an initial $500 million dollar bet on commercial cargo service capability to ISS. That is actually the more critical need, and while I certainly wish that I had more money to invest in developing COTS crew capability – and many other things – I think it unwise to raid other accounts to increase our bet on COTS crew capability.

    For those who claim that NASA’s systems, the Orion crew vehicle and Ares 1 launcher, will compete with commercial providers, I will again remind everyone that, in our plan, commercial systems are “primary” for ISS logistics. Orion and Ares are the backstop if U.S. commercial providers are not successful in developing such capability. They are sized for missions beyond low-Earth orbit, and will not be as cost-effective as commercial systems built specifically for ISS transport. We should not yield to the temptation to build yet another government system solely for access to LEO. As a matter of fiscal responsibility, we should not design systems like Orion and Ares for low-Earth orbit operations, and then redesign them later for missions to the moon, the near-Earth asteroids, and Mars. And as a matter of strategic policy, the Earth-to-LEO market niche should be left to commercial providers, if they can fill it, and to government systems only if they cannot.

    “…Companies large and small are finding ways to support NASA’s exploration needs. For example, Armadillo Aerospace, today’s winner of the $350,000 Lunar Lander Challenge, is also working with us on a LOX/methane rocket engine to be tested in an altitude chamber at White Sands. Jen Allred, the project manager in the Propulsion Test Office at White Sands, describes this partnership as “a great demonstration of how two organizations who generally function in very different manners are able to approach a common goal: to get to the moon. Both NASA and Armadillo know their business very well, and are eager to share their technical knowledge and resources to achieve mutual success.” This is exactly the type of relationship that we want to establish with the emerging commercial space community.

    We need to maintain this perspective as we consider the larger context of the proper role of government in spurring innovation and leveraging commercial capabilities. The development of space simply cannot be all government, all the time, if we want to create a truly spacefaring civilization. Everything we have learned from history tells us that this is so, and we must plan our future with these lessons firmly in mind.

    These sentiments were expressed by Michael Griffin more than once on numerous occasions. Dr. Griffin requested increased funding for COTS related programs on a number of occasions. His actions followed his words.

    Dr. Griffin no more had the ability to change US policy than any other person associated with the space program. The President and Congress set US space policy. There was a time in history when human spaceflight held a high priority and consequently NASA was given the funding to meet the policy objectives set before it by President Kennedy and later President Johnson. Unfortunately, President Bush and Congress set a mandate before NASA without providing adequate funding. The Augustine report as much said this in the opening paragraph of the executive summary.

  • Al Fansome

    MILES: Dr. Griffin requested increased funding for COTS related programs on a number of occasions.

    He did?

    You say “a number of occasions”, but I bet you can’t name one occasion that NASA, under Griffin, requested INCREASED funding for “COTS related” programs, and provide the factual (e.g., budget request) to back it up.

    Griffin started at NASA in 2005, after the Bush Administration created the Commercial Crew Cargo program (e.g., COTS) in 2004.

    Wait. Zero is a number, so you might say “a number of occasions” is accurate in that sense.

    FWIW,

    – Al

    PS — If you want to give Griffin credit, you could say “Griffin cancelled or reduced funding for dozens of other programs inside NASA, but he did not cancel or reduce the funding for the COTS program”

  • Robert G. Oler

    Gary Miles those are nice words by Griffin but as most of his stuff goes…it is nonsense.

    Words are important but actions are far more so…they put words into being and everything Griffin did was to favor a “government solution” and starve the commercial one.

    Ignore the fact that his “system” had not a chance of doing what it actually promised (be Apollo on steroids)…despite the wishful thinking of Bush toadys (like Whittington) the reality of it was that the “system” Griffin dreamed up to go back to the Moon was the most expensive system that one could imagine, and the one which least used the dollars (and it was going to require a lot of them) to lever any sort of space effort.

    People are always saying (there is one this thread) “compared to other things NASA doesnt spend that much money”…but it SPENDS EVERY NICKLE Thtat the US government puts into human spaceflight. EVERY FRACKEN NICKLE…And when the bulk, maybe all of them are spent on a government system that has absolutely no value to a commercial system (ie no technology break through no spin offs no nothing)…and there is almost nothing in comparison for commercial lift, much less crew lift…it is clear that the entire event to do nothing but perpetuate the NASA that Griffin came to know and LOVE.

    At some point all the Ares huggers need to at least come to grips with a basic reality…they like big government space programs that do nothing but perpetuate big government.

    It is that simple

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    Mark R. Whittington wrote @ January 5th, 2010 at 6:07 pm

    p. The real stakeholders of Constellation liked it just fine…

    the real stakeholders? Who would that be?

    Well in Whittington’s world they are 1) big government and 2) politicians who support big government.

    And there was a time when you were for capitalism…

    to bad for you

    as for Congress…well I love the humor in your post. LOL

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    Marcel F. Williams wrote @ January 5th, 2010 at 8:57 pm

    Human space flight is really not that expensive. NASA is currently only spending about $10 billion dollars a year on its manned space program. And NASA programs create more wealth than they consume. ..

    no matter how many times you say it, it wont be true. Human spaceflight does not create more wealth then it consumes.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Al Fansome,

    Here are a couple of links to check out:

    The case for a suborbital COTS program

    NASA Chief: Space Agency Will Abide by New COTS Restrictions

    Here is an excerpt from 2nd link:

    We will, of course, comply with the laws that are passed, but we certainly will redress this issue with Congress,” Griffin said Dec. 20 in a written response to a query from Space News. “NASA will fight for this program, which is critically important to America’s future as a space-faring nation. COTS is intended to help spur the development of commercial space capability, particularly transportation services to and from the International Space Station, which would enhance strategic U.S. access to Earth orbit and ultimately provide substantial savings to taxpayers.

    Even Jon Goff acknowledges that Dr. Griffin was the driving force behind implementation of COTS: Good For Dr. Griffin

  • Gary,
    I actually appreciate that Griffin did say some nice things about commercial space, propellant depots, etc. But then he ramrodded through an exploration architecture that did very little for encouraging the growth of commercial space, and endorsed government owned rocket systems that would be actively competing on a subsidized basis with commercial systems (Ares-I/Orion). Maybe his hands really were tied, and maybe his heart really was in the right place, but the end result wasn’t very impressive from a commercial space standpoint.

    ~Jon

  • NASA Fan

    Marcel F. Williams wrote @ January 5th, 2010 at 8:57 pm

    “Human space flight is really not that expensive. NASA is currently only spending about $10 billion dollars a year on its manned space program. And NASA programs create more wealth than they consume. ..”

    Marcel, ask any PI who ever flew an experiment NOT on a manned rated vehicle, or to a manned tended station, who then DID fly same said experiment in a manned environment, if they think it is EXPENSIVE to deal with HSF.

    I’ve seen over and over and over science folks who build experiments, and have a choice in the matter, avoid HSF like the plague…..because it ratchets up their costs. Dr/ Weiler may have launched his career through the HST program, but he does not like getting SMD involved in HSF.

    The HSF culture probably thinks they don’t get enough money. That I will agree with. Tis Expensive indeed.

  • Al Fansome

    MILES said: NASA Chief: Space Agency Will Abide by New COTS Restrictions

    Here is an excerpt from 2nd link:

    Gary,

    This story supports my point, which is that Griffin was willing to defend the existing funding for COTS. But it does not support the point you previously made, which was:

    Dr. Griffin requested increased funding for COTS related programs on a number of occasions.

    He never requested increased funding for COTS. He easily could have, but he did not.

    While I join Jon Goff in giving Griffin credit for defending COTS from those who wanted to kill it, and there were many, it is not accurate to state that Griffin asked for more money for COTS.

    In addition, the $500M total budget for COTS was less than 5% of the total budget for Ares 1.

    FWIW,

    – Al

  • Major Tom

    “Dr. Griffin was the driving force behind implementation of COTS…”

    The program that was later named COTS was formulated under O’Keefe/Steidle, not Griffin/Horowitz. And O’Keefe/Steidle programmed $1B for the SAAs, while Griffin allowed the ESAS exercise to cut that amount in half to help get Ares I/Orion out of the starting blocks.

    Griffin made several STA speeches that explained his thinking on COTS, but the program did not originate with him or his managers and would have received more support and funding under the prior agency leadership. At most, Griffin deserves credit for allowing COTS to survive the change in leadership. But he was hardly “the driving force” for the program.

    FWIW…

  • Robert G. Oler

    “no matter how many times you say it, it wont be true. Human spaceflight does not create more wealth then it consumes.”

    It its true:

    http://thespaceadvocate.blogspot.com/2009/12/you-want-economic-impact-you-cant.html

    Originally published in Nature Magazine.

    And let me also note that one of the emerging technologies to deal with the energy crisis is the plasma torch pyrolysis of of biowaste which converts garbage into syngas. And this renewable energy source can be used to power electric generators or can be converted into methanol, gasoline, diesel fuel, or jet fuel. And this was a technology invented by NASA to test re-entry vehicles– a technology that probably every community in the world will someday be utilizing to produce electricity and carbon neutral synfuels. In fact, since 80% of the carbon dioxide in the process is not utilized, if you added hydrogen from hydroelectric or nuclear power plants to the process, the US would become completely independent of petroleum and would actually produce enough synfuels to allow the US to become a major exporter, keeping $300 billion to $700 billion a year right here in the US economy.

    http://www.peat.com/plasma_torches.html
    http://www.slideshare.net/jenniferpratt03/TorchPresentation
    http://www.dailykos.com/story/2008/4/30/192930/202/858/499516

    And, of course, our long term investment in manned space travel could give us access the practically unlimited natural resources of the asteroids. If you only divided the total platinum resources of the asteroids between Mars and Jupiter amongst every human on Earth, each individual’s share would come out to be nearly $100 billion. Of course, the exploitation of the asteroid materials could also allow us to manufacture our own worlds in space as Gerard O’Neill testified before the US Senate about way back in the 1970s.

    So $10 billion a year for manned space travel is as darn good investment– especially if its utilized to enhance space colonization, commercialization, and industrialization.

  • @NASA Fan

    If you’re talking purely about space– exploration– then robots are obviously less expensive than humans. But the manned space program should not be focused on space exploration. The manned component of our space program should be focused on space colonization, commercialization, and industrialization. Its been 48 years since Americans first launched humans yet we still don’t know if:

    1. Humans can survive long term under a simulated gravity environment
    2. Humans can survive long term under a hypogravity environment such as the 1/6 gravity of the Moon.
    3. Whether mass shielding from in situ resources can truly protect us from radiation, micrometerites, and thermal extremes
    4. We can efficiently raise animals and grow crops in space or on the surfaces of other planets
    5. Its really true that 7% of the wealthy in America would be willing to pay the $20 million plus to travel into space? There are nearly 40,000 individuals in the US with a net worth over $30 million, nearly 100,000 on the entire planet. That’s 7000 individuals who would be willing to spend their own money to travel into space. If we assume that only 10% of that group would travel into space every year, with just 4 passenger seats for a commercial rocket, that would be 175 manned space launches per year– more than 30 times more manned space flights than NASA had last year! Of course at that rate, the cost of traveling into space would fall dramatically due to the falling cost of the rockets themselves due to economies of mass production which should attract even more customers.

    http://www.zogby.com/news/readnews.cfm?ID=577

  • Tom D

    I don’t think that Griffin really had anything against COTS, but it doesn’t appear to have been very close to his heart. It appears to me that he had his heart set on a really, really big shuttle-derived launch vehicle (Ares V) to explore space. To get that vehicle he and the NASA bureaucracy (which had similar desires) set up the gargantuan and all too interlocked Constellation program in the hope that if everyone was marching in the same direction it would be too big to cancel or even change much. What could possibly go wrong?

    His main gamble seems to have been that Ares 1/Orion could be developed fairly smoothly, quickly, and cheaply. That has not proven to be the case. To be fair, most of the problems appear to be with Ares 1, not Orion. Orion’s gold-plated requirements are not without their challenges, but its biggest problem seems to be that it must fly on Ares 1 with its rough environment and ever-shrinking payload capacity.

    When the chips were down and everything was taking longer and costing more to develop, then Griffin started cutting almost everything to keep Constellation moving. I think he does deserve some credit for not cutting COTS more.

    Griffins main demerit in my mind was setting up a monster program that develops so little actual hardware for so much money in such a long time. In my more cynical moments I wonder if he wasn’t setting up a program just to keep the “NASA” dinosaurs busy while the “commercial” mammals took over. At any rate, I sure hope that commercial human spaceflight finally takes off soon!

  • Robert G. Oler

    Marcel F. Williams all you’re post shows is that you dont understand generational societal investments anymore then most of the folks who are in DC.

    To have “value” for its cost collective spending by any groups of society has to have 1) short term results that make the effort worthwhile to the folks who are paying the bills… and 2) long term results that make the next generation better then the current one. This is the seesaw upon which any spending should be made.

    The less the spending is either in total or in proportion to the entire effort he more slanted to “the long term” that it can be…ie the study of the “Pioneer” phenomena (and this is just an example)…whatever dollars are spent on it is more or less meaningless to our society in terms of returning value…but it might have a lot for future folks. There are lots of examples of this…after they raised the USS Maine in Havana harbor…the government authorized a (for that time) expensive effort to document the hull damage with very good (for that era) photography. The effort paid off in the 50’s when Admiral Rickover, with WW2 battle damage knowledge fresh in hand figured out that the Spanish had not caused the internal explosion.

    But the scale tips quickly and the more one is spending or the more total cost that is being spent on something the more the results need to be 1) very obvious and 2) have some real value to the people who are paying the bills. The interstate highways system, the “air mail act”, the TVA, the dams in the 1930’s…all meet that test easily.

    No where does human spaceflight meet that criteria. All the things you have posted are all related to human spaceflight, but could have been done far cheaper (and probably would have) in pursuit of some other effort that had nothing to do with human spaceflight.

    NASA human spaceflight produces NOTHING directly which comes anywhere near to justifying the cost. There are some modest indications that some folks are knocking on the door to do this…ie some of the bio research being done on the station seems interesting….and hopefully in the future the goal will be to maximize the search for such efforts.

    But to go to the Moon and say “wow from that we got Tang and battery power tools” is an insult to the taxpayers who paid for the effort.

    The “Vision” of Bush on space was an example of “nothing” that even remotely came close to justifying the cost in terms of what it would return. Even you defend it by saying “well it is only 1 month of Iraq” as if that is suppose to make us all feel better.

    Indeed your example is strange as well. If Iraq stabilizes (and a lot of people worked hard to do just that) it is quite conceivable that “in the long run” something good will come out of it…just as say taking the various Spanish territories in the Pacific during the SAW paid some value in the 1940’s..that was cold comfort to the thousands who died in the effort and the money that was spent by “that generation” the one who did it. They got almost nothing from it.

    This is why Bush “lied” about the WMD or the threat from Saddam, he knew that the American people wouldnt move on a “do this and 50 years things are better” approach…and this is why Ares Drumbangers like Whittington keep saying “The Chinese are racing us to the Moon” or “they will make us show passports when they get there” or some other such nonesense to show that there is an urgent threat that makes doing it have some reason for the generation who has to do it.

    You at least at some point proffer some reasons to go to the Moon (the “human extinction” theory) but that while entertaining is thin indeed.

    Sorry no soap

    Robert G. Oler

  • Major Tom,

    The program that was later named COTS was formulated under O’Keefe/Steidle, not Griffin/Horowitz. And O’Keefe/Steidle programmed $1B for the SAAs, while Griffin allowed the ESAS exercise to cut that amount in half to help get Ares I/Orion out of the starting blocks.

    I have researched this claim and I cannot find any information online which attributes the origins of COTS or any predecessor program to Sean O’Keefe. Furthermore, Sean O’Keefe was a well-known government bureaucrat whose background was primarily academia with little experience in commercial space industry whereas Michael Griffin had extensive experience working in the commercial sector. So your claim appears to be spurious at this point. If you can provide links to support this claim that would be appreciated.

    However, all materials that I have accessed and read regarding COTS attributes the development and implementation of COTS to Dr. Griffin or NASA while Griffin was administrator. COTS was announced on January 18, 2006. Griffin had been officially Administrator for nearly 10 months at that point, but he was working behind the scenes at NASA long before his confirmation. Even Jon Goff has acknowledged Griffin’s role behind COTS in more than a few comments on his blog and elsewhere. So I find Al Fansome and your denial of credit to Griffin for COTS more than a little puzzling.

    @Al Fansome,

    The $500 million was far the demonstration phase of the COTS program. Then along came Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contract, which was a direct outgrowth of COTS, worth $3.5 billion. $1.9 billion was awarded to Orbital Sciences for 8 flights of Taurus II/Cygnus cargo launch system and $1.6 billion went to SpaceX for Falcon 9/Dragon cargo launch system. All of which was requested by Griffin. Congress balked several times along the way both on COTS and CRS. Griffin had to subsequently request those funds again.

  • Doug Lassiter

    “But the manned space program should not be focused on space exploration.”

    That is a stunningly sensible comment. Stunningly, because that focus on space exploration is precisely what the manned space program has always been presumed to do. Sensible because indeed, in many respects, we learn vastly more about space without using in situ human flesh than we do with it. The astronomy community that Bolden was addressing understands this very well. The future value of human space flight to space science really needs to be evaluated with some care. As well said earlier, human space flight (at least the way we do it) is awesomely expensive.

    Now, I’m not sure if commercialization and industrialization really need in situ human flesh either, but you sure can’t do space colonization without it.

    But …

    is it established that space colonization is a national need? Is it an identified national priority? Is it something that NASA is chartered to perform? No, no, and no. One can argue that it should be, but as long as it isn’t there is no rational space policy that pertains. It’s an argument that has no legs.

  • common sense

    @Doug Lassiter:

    Most of what you’re saying supports why we need things like COTS and COTS-D. If we can somehow move the cost of HSF to the private sector then HSF may be saved in the long run: If the private sector finds a way to make a profit in space, on the Moon or wherever that needs humans in space then there will never be the need for such a debate. Or at the very least HSF will have a real substantive justification.

  • Major Tom

    “I have researched this claim and I cannot find any information online which attributes the origins of COTS or any predecessor program to Sean O’Keefe.”

    I didn’t say that the program originated with O’Keefe himself. Reread my earlier post.

    “So your claim appears to be spurious at this point.”

    Read the VSE. It directs NASA to “pursue commercial opportunities… including the acquisition of cargo and crew transportation… to and from the International Space Station.” The VSE was developed during O’Keefe’s tenure (but certainly not solely by him), not during Griffin’s tenure. There’s also a budget graph in the VSE that includes a wedge dedicated to ISS Transport separate from CEV.

    Griffin cut that budget in half to help pay for Ares I/Orion and only pursued the acquisition of cargo, not crew, transporation, contrary to the direction given to him in the VSE.

    “So I find Al Fansome and your denial of credit to Griffin for COTS more than a little puzzling.”

    Since his early STA speeches, Griffin has derided and dismissed commercial services for ISS cargo and crew. For example:

    http://blogs.orlandosentinel.com/news_space_thewritestuff/2009/09/exnasa-chief-griffin-calls-augustine-panel-irresponsible.html

    http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewsr.rss.html?pid=32351

    Again, does Griffin deserve credit for letting the program survive in reduced form during his tenure? Sure. But was he “the driving force” behind the program, in terms of its origins, funding, or long-term support? Hardly.

    FWIW…

  • Major Tom,

    The program that was later named COTS was formulated under O’Keefe/Steidle, not Griffin/Horowitz.

    This was your original statement. Maybe I am confused, but it appears to me that you are attributing COTS to O’Keefe’s administration of NASA.

    As far as the Vision for Space Exploration, yes I have read it. And the document provides that NASA should encourage the development of the US commercial space sector for cargo and crew services. Yet, neither O’Keefe nor his top management at the time proposed any formal program to meet this requirement of the VSE. But later, Griffin did. You claim that COTS was reduced because of Griffin, but you ignore the reality of submitting budget requests to Congress for a program that fund risky commercial ventures, something that many legislator are loathe to do unless there are tangible benefits for their constituents. That $500 million was all that Congressional legislators would agree to and even then a number of them attempted to cut even that amount.

    The two links you provided are to the same story essentially. One for the Orlando Sentinel story about Griffin’s email response to the Augustine report and the other link was for NASA Watch post citing the same Orlando Sentinel story. In either case, Griffin was not attacking or deriding the commercial sector per se. He was criticizing the Augustine report’s overreliance on the underdevoloped commercial space sector to provide crewed spaceflight to LEO. Griffin gave a frank assessment of the current US commercial crew spaceflight capability which is to say that it does not exist. He rightly pointed out that the US could contract with commercial provider Arianspace, but that this would come at the expense of US independent space access. He also said that with an ‘enlightened US policy’, the commercial sector could develop profitable crew launch systems. Clearly he is not opposed to commercial spaceflight, but instead to the Augustine proposed option to build a space program based on a commercial space industry that has not reach maturity.

  • Doug Lassiter

    “If we can somehow move the cost of HSF to the private sector then HSF may be saved in the long run: If the private sector finds a way to make a profit in space, on the Moon or wherever that needs humans in space then there will never be the need for such a debate. Or at the very least HSF will have a real substantive justification.”

    I’ll buy that. But let’s carry this out.

    The bottom line of HSF for NASA is multidimensional. National pride, inspiration, challenge, jobs, economic advantage, etc. Maybe someday colonization! The bottom line for the COTs folks is one dimensional. It’s precisely profit. So let’s suppose that COTs can make HSF cheaper than NASA can manage. Fine. But let’s understand that it’s about making profit. If that profit is to be made, say, by commercialization, industrialization, and harvesting of resources, then what counts as “substantive justification” is whether HSF does this stuff more cheaply than any other way. Why wouldn’t say, SpaceX, decide to develop telerobotics it could launch that would make it competitive in harvesting lunar helium-3 if that’s the cheapest way to do it?

    We’ll see.

  • Major Tom

    “This was your original statement.”

    Yes, exactly. I wrote “formulated under O’Keefe/Steidle”. I did not attribute the origins to O’Keefe himself (your post).

    “As far as the Vision for Space Exploration, yes I have read it. And the document provides that NASA should encourage the development of the US commercial space sector for cargo and crew services.”

    The VSE does not “encourage the developement of the US commercial space sector”. It specifically directs NASA to “acquire cargo transportation…[and] crew transportation to and from
    the International Space Station.” Griffin ignored the latter and redirected the accompanying budget provided in the VSE to Ares I/Orion.

    “Yet, neither O’Keefe nor his top management at the time proposed any formal program to meet this requirement of the VSE.”

    I didn’t write that the program was formally proposed during O’Keefe’s tenure. I wrote that the program was formulated (i.e., plans and procurements drawn up but not released) during O’Keefe’s tenure. O’Keefe took his LSU job before the program went to Congress.

    But regardless, the origins of the COTS program, in terms of both policy direction and budget, lie in the VSE, which was written during O’Keefe’s tenure. The program did not originate with Griffin or during Griffin’s tenure.

    (In fact, the origins of COTS can be traced back even further to the old ISS Alternate Access program during Goldin’s tenure in the last years of the Clinton Administration, but that’s another post.)

    “Griffin was not attacking or deriding the commercial sector per se”

    This is not relevant to the point I was making. Again, Griffin cannot be “the driving force” behind the COTS program if he’s making negative statements like these about commercial space transportation. Griffin may be a fair-weather friend of COTS when it suits him, but when COTS threatened Ares I/Orion in the Augustine Committee’s report, Griffin pulled his support for commercial space transportation. Part-time support does not deliver a “driving force” for anything.

    In your earlier post(s), you portrayed Griffin as “the driving force” for COTS. That’s clearly not the case given that:

    1) Griffin ignored VSE direction regarding commercial crew transport;
    2) Griffin reduced the VSE budget for commercial ISS transport to help pay for Ares I/Orion;
    3) The program later labeled COTS did not originate with Griffin or his managers; and
    4) Griffin has written negative statements about commercial space transportation.

    I’ll gladly concede that Griffin gave several speeches that included support for COTS during his tenure — it’s a fact. But that doesn’t mean he was the “driving force” for the program. The actions above greatly outweigh those few speeches.

    Fair enough?

    FWIW…

  • common sense

    “The bottom line of HSF for NASA is multidimensional. National pride, inspiration, challenge, jobs, economic advantage, etc. Maybe someday colonization! ”

    Absolutely. The bottom lime of the US Air Force say is to defend the country (and all of the above), yet they do not build aircraft do they?

    “The bottom line for the COTs folks is one dimensional. ”

    Hmm. I disagree here. It is not true. You would not have said of Mr. Boeing, Loughead, Douglas, Northrop, etc… Of course cash is important BUT you can make a lot more cash in other than space industry. A lot more.

    “Why wouldn’t say, SpaceX, decide to develop telerobotics it could launch that would make it competitive in harvesting lunar helium-3 if that’s the cheapest way to do it?”

    Good question. Well here is an answer: Maybe the CEO is interested in human exploration of space. Maybe he thinks that humans are better explorers than machines. Maybe… In any case, if he pays his dream with his cash it is his problem not “our” problem, unlike NASA that pays with our cash. So my point still holds.

    What should have happened over the years since the early stages of the space program is a transfer of technology toward the private sector. In such a way that today’s NASA would not have to reinvent materials created over 40 years ago and that it would take them several years for example. In such a way that NASA would focus on the “difficult” aspect of HSF. So far “we” have gone to the Moon. To some a voyage to Mars is just as easy. Well it is not, far from it. But today NASA has to learn again how to go to the Moon. And it may not even happen because today NASA has no cash for it. Again, if the private sector had been able to build on the then advanced technology NASA would be able to do a much better job. Today NASA faces a dramatic restructuring or a status quo that will end HSF for years to come. But what is done is done. What is really sad is that knowing all that some people in and outside NASA still fight against the commercialization of HSF. It is not about NASA OR commercial, it is about NASA AND commercial building on each other’s strength in order to go forward farther, dare I say boldly!

  • Doug Lassiter

    “Of course cash is important BUT you can make a lot more cash in other than space industry.”

    Really? In the short term certainly, but in the expansive dreams of the colonization folks, I suspect that the CEO who can represent the next generation of human space transportation thinks about this as an eventual enormous gold mine.

    “Well here is an answer: Maybe the CEO is interested in human exploration of space. Maybe he thinks that humans are better explorers than machines.”

    That’s quite correct, but at the root, it’s about a business case, and loving human space flight isn’t in itself a credible business case. As I said, the evidence to date is that humans are not necessarily better explorers than machines in a cost-value picture. I love human expeditions, and wish it were otherwise, but …

    “In any case, if he pays his dream with his cash it is his problem not “our” problem, unlike NASA that pays with our cash. ”

    It’s our problem if his dream isn’t our dream. If his dream is making money for himself, then we might have such a problem.

  • Gary Miles —

    Look at the original “sand chart” that came out with the Vision. There was a huge budget wedge called “ISS Transport”. SOMD was going to buy demonstrations then services for cargo delivery. It was a delayed follow-on to the original Alternate Access to Station program from 2000. There was a huge industry conference at JSC. As the VP for Gov’t Affairs of a company in the thick of the AAS and ISS cargo delivery issue for 7 years, I can tell you there was a LOT going on before March of 2005. There were problems, and it didn’t move quickly enough, but there was a lot of money laid out by O’Keefe and his comptroller, Steve Isakowitz in the FY2005 budget that came out with the Vision.

    On top of that, Craig Steidle identified an opportunity for a “non traditional” (i.e. commercial) approach to enabling crew access to LEO, and planned to spend at least $400m on this. This was based on the CE&R work by T-Space, and other companies talking to NASA. All of that was in the fall of 2004 thru spring of 2005.

    When Mike Griffin arrived, he decided two things: (1) crew was too hard, and should follow cargo, and (2) SOMD was taking too long to do cargo, so he gave $500 million to ESMD for COTS A-C.

    Certainly Mike — and his deputy Shana Dale & his director of Strategic Investments Chris Shank — deserve credit for COTS. And Mike did other pro-commercial things.

    But Mike also made many strategic decisions which were fundamentally anti-commercial, most notably his choice of architecture (see Mr. Goff’s comment above).

    – Jim Muncy

  • common sense

    “Really? In the short term certainly, but in the expansive dreams of the colonization folks, I suspect that the CEO who can represent the next generation of human space transportation thinks about this as an eventual enormous gold mine.”

    For sure, but reallistically, when do you think this colonization will happen? Do you think that a guy like Musk is a day dreamer? I seriously believe that colonization at the scale you (seem to) think of is not going to happen any time soon, despite what some think. Again we barely made it to the Moon 40 years ago. And out of a sudden we’ll be colonizing space? I doubt it.

    “It’s our problem if his dream isn’t our dream. If his dream is making money for himself, then we might have such a problem.”

    In what way is it our problem? If you/I don’t pay for it why is it any of your/my business? He already made tons of cash and he could do more in other business: As far as I know Buffet and Gates are not in the space business and they make a fortune doing what they do. Same goes for Jobs… A lot more cash than being in the space business. Now of course there is a business case. If SpaceX is able to deliver what they promise then there will be tons of cash more. But not because of colonization or exploration but simply because they will eat up all the LV market.

    My point is that you and I pay for NASA and we (should) have our say as to what they do. You and I do not pay for SpaceX in as much as you don’t pay for GM (okay a bit of humor here) or Apple. So long that private space does not break the law in my eyes they do whatever they want with their cash.

  • @Robert G. Oler

    1. Spending over $700 billion to occupy a nation that had already been defeated and contained during the first gulf war and whose dictator was hostile to Al-Queda is probably one of the biggest waste of public funds in US history. And we’re still not completely out! While we still have to fight– the real war– against terrorism in Afghanistan and Pakistan. And if George W. was seriously interested in ending Dictatorships in the Middle-East then maybe he should have been talking to his buddies in Saudi Arabia.

    2. You never put all of your eggs in one basket. And to continue to confine human civilization solely to our world of evolutionary origin would be extremely foolish especially with new nuclear powers emerging on the surface of our planet and especially since our paleontologist continue to warn us about previous global catastrophes in our geologic past.

    3. As I pointed out before, the energy and natural resources in the New Frontier dwarf anything that could be safely exploit on the surface of the Earth. Human civilization will make far more money in the New Frontier than they ever made being confined on the surface of the Earth

    4. Our meager R&D expenditures on our manned space program already looks like it will probably be a key component in solving our energy crisis and global warming.

  • @ Doug Lassiter

    The Augustine Commission curiously argued that NASA’s long term priority should be to explore and colonize Mars. That’s why they were so enthusiastic about the so called ‘Flexible Path’. I find that a bit romantic and rather confining since it seems to suggest that humans should just by pass the Moon, ignore the development of large rotating space stations with simulated gravities, and ignore the exploitation of asteroid resources. Why?

    The politicians seem to want to use the manned space program as a source of national prestige and public entertainment! Since most politicians are former lawyers, I’m really not too surprised by this. Remember how many folks felt that NASA had failed because the space vehicle impact at the lunar pole turned out to be visually disappointing! Of course, the scientific results ended up telling us that the south pole contain not only ice but probably also hydrocarbons. A major discovery at least for those of us who wish to colonize and exploit the natural resources of the Moon without the need to import hydrogen, carbon, and oxygen resources from the Earth.

  • Doug Lassiter

    “I seriously believe that colonization at the scale you (seem to) think of is not going to happen any time soon, despite what some think.”

    Well, of course, but even on a Musk scale of gold mines, you don’t have to launch a big fraction of civilization to get rich. Yes, I suspect Musk believe that in his lifetime he could see enough people wanting to be in space to make a pile of dough.

    “In what way is it our problem? If you/I don’t pay for it why is it any of your/my business?”

    Very true, but what I meant by a problem for us was simply that there is no assurance that his goals align with our goals. That’s probably less a “problem” for us than it is a “non solution” for us. He can do whatever he wants, but it may just be reckless to assume that this will turn out to be what we want. For example, if he can make more money shooting people up on suborbital trajectories than into LEO or deep space, we’re unlikely to reap capabilities in the latter.

  • common sense

    Well I guess it is a risky business in many more ways than one. But the de facto HSF “company” just showed us they failed with so-to-speak unlimited budget (at least when compared with the private enterprises’).

    The required restructuring of NASA, change of leadership and mentality, will takes years if not more to implement. So what do we do? Especially when there may be a less expensive proposition out there. Considering the risk I say give them a try. So what if they fail, it’ll occur much sooner than a NASA failure and the whole thing can be rebooted again. And again, and again… Not true for NASA: Challenger was supposed to reboot it, it did not work. Columbia, it did not work. VSE was an overall reboot, it did not work. So what now? Flex-Path? If there is nothing new in the approach to Flex-Path as there was to VSE/Constellation you can rest assured it’ll go nowehere, which in essence is part of a flexible path.

    And here are the symptoms: Shuttle derived hardware! Why is it that we have to use Shuttle derived anything???? Does it not depend on the mission we are going for what kind of hardware we ought to use? Since when does the hardware dictate the requirements? The whole approach is “corrupt” and this approach as correctly emphasized in the Augustine report is to somehow save the workforce… No one it seems can come up with a plan for recycling the workforce. Even though we may not need those solid boosters we may have to build them until chaos comes. Well chaos has just arrived…

    Anyway. As you and I have said, we shall see.

  • Jim Muncy,

    Thank you for providing more information on Alternate Access to Station, t/Space, and Craig Steidle. I do recall AAS from 2001 and that the program went nowhere. Seem to me that the program languish for nearly 5 years before VSE was announced and as you pointed out NASA SOMD was still taking a great deal of time trying to hammer out the specifics of workable cargo and crew demonstration program. I do remember reading about t/Space as well. I am reading more about the different commercial architectures that were offered by not only t/Space but also Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Orbital Sciences, and Raytheon as well. I seem to recall that one of Griffin’s reasons for rejecting the adoption of a commercial architecture was the inadequancy of the heavy lift launch vehicles proposed or completely absent in these competing architecture plans. Even the Augustine panel has acknowledged that heavy lift is necessary for human missions beyond LEO to the Moon and Mars.

    He also argued that the ISS had a stronger need for cargo services to meet resupply quotas to support the six person crew aboard ISS. He pointed out that NASA would already be purchasing commercial crew launch services from RKK Energia via Roscosmos.

    I am actually dastardly tired tonight, so I will have call it a night, but would like to discuss this subject further tomorrow if you and others are willing…

    Thanks,

    Gary Miles

  • Robert G. Oler

    common sense wrote @ January 7th, 2010 at 2:38 pm
    But not because of colonization or exploration but simply because they will eat up all the LV market…

    wow…a little common sense (grin sorry couldnt resist)…

    Musk is in the launcher business maybe because he is wantabee explorer…but he is in the launcher business to make money and everything he is doing is being done to make money.

    Humans going to LEO (or GEO or wherever) might eventually earn him some cash, but flying humans or cargo to ISS earns him something else very quickly and that is credibility in the launcher business to launch the “very expensive” payloads that both private and the US government have. If he can make his cost to LEO or GTO or wherever coupled with a safety record that is good…then he makes a ton of cash as he more or less either puts lockmart/boeing out of business or causes them to figure out how cheaply they can launch the same payloads.

    That is a good thing because if Musk makes money then he will continue to invest some of that money into launcher improvements and perhaps “other” things which will continue to crack the door of human spaceflight a little bit more wide open at a time.

    What most space activist cannot figure out is that more or less the time since Apollo has been “the dead years”. there will certianly be things done that in the long run are useful, but in the scheme of things we are not making the same progress in terms of passenger carry (or space tourism or whatever) because 1) space is not like aviation…aviation only had to figure out how to take people from NY to LAX, there was already a market for people to go that route (and others) and 2) nothing in human spaceflight so far has done a darn thing to help a private space launch/operations system take off. In fact almost everything that has been done has been done badly

    But as soon as space advocates (and I am not including you in this) get the word that space is not the American West or Aviation or any other frontier (except maybe the bottom of Earths ocean) and that alone explains why so little progress has been made toward getting people off world. they will have at last found some common sense

    LOL

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    Marcel F. Williams

    a few points.

    THE ABSOLUTE LAST THING ON THIS EARTH you are going to get me to do is to defend Bush the last abysmal administration. Aside from him leaving (and the joy of seeing the metaphor of Dick Cheney pushed around in a wheel chair during the inaguration…this will excite the nuts on the right wing…but it was joy …a semi tough who cant even walk)…I found nothing in the last administration to recommend it.

    My opposition to Bush the last and Iraq in particular is long, on the record and so you wont see me even trying to defend it. As my boss use to say about Rumsfeld, “they better bury him in a watertight box, because I am going to piss on his grave”. (I will hold his coat).

    For 9/11 my answer would have been “Kill Ossama Son of Ladin”, tell anyone else who tried anything like 9/11 “you end up the same way”, rebuild the towers 200 feet higher and call it even. TErrorism is a tactic not a conflict. “Morning JOe” totaled up the dollars that Bush wasted and it rolls up to about 4.5 trillion (Obama is hard on his heels however at 2.5 trillion) trying to solve all the nations ills.

    dont confuse me with Whittington. He is all amped up over one enemy after the next from his cozy Houston house.

    so your point here was?

    As for the rest of it.

    the other three points you make…well they get a D minus (sorry they do).

    There maybe enormous potential (and I think there is) in the “New Frontier” but that is like saying there is great potential in Fusion reactors…but we are no where near to tapping that potential (I guess) and we are even farther away from having the knowledge, skill, extra resources, or even the infrastructure to do all the things you seem to hold out for space flight.

    There comes a time in the history of mankind when what was dreamed about becomes an actual vision…all the things I mentioned above have to mesh…and then you can have a tunnel under the English Channel. Until then, all you have is drawings.

    We are at that stage for your items 2-4.

    I am about as worried on “Earth extinction” or “global warming” as I am Ossama son of Ladin putting a nuke on an American city…meaning not at all.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Major Tom

    ” I am reading more about the different commercial architectures that were offered by not only t/Space but also Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Orbital Sciences, and Raytheon as well.”

    None of the contractors you named advocated “commercial architectures” with COTS-like agreements. Of the 11 CER contractors, only Andrews and t/Space addressed this issue.

    “I seem to recall that one of Griffin’s reasons for rejecting the adoption of a commercial architecture was the inadequancy of the heavy lift launch vehicles proposed or completely absent in these competing architecture plans.”

    Your “recall” is completely wrong. The Boeing study looked at HLVs up to 100mT+, LockMart settled on 70mT, NG looked at 55mT and 130mT and settled on the former after finding the latter unaffordable, OSC settled on a STS-derived 80mT HLV, etc.

    Moreover, Griffin’s architecture decisions were justified based on ESAS. The CER studies were Steidle’s studies. ESAS was Griffin’s study.

    “He also argued that the ISS had a stronger need for cargo services to meet resupply quotas to support the six person crew aboard ISS. ”

    That’s true — as long as Shuttle is flying and Soyuz doesn’t have a bad day. But if Soyuz has a bad day after Shuttle retirement and there is no alternate way to keep ISS manned, the probability of losing ISS to a failure mode that requires intervention by onboard astronauts goes way up.

    Even setting aside issues like relying on foreign countries for crew access, RSA having NASA over the barrel when it comes to Soyuz prices, or maintaining US industry expertise in crew launch operations, there are very strong engineering justifications for getting commercial crew transport going ASAP.

    “He pointed out that NASA would already be purchasing commercial crew launch services from RKK Energia via Roscosmos.”

    If Griffin said such, he was wrong. NASA does not obtain Soyuz flights via commercially modeled procurements (or procurements of any kind). It’s a “sole-sourced” government-to-government agreement.

    FWIW…

  • Doug Lassiter

    “The Augustine Commission curiously argued that NASA’s long term priority should be to explore and colonize Mars.”

    No, I don’t believe they did, but that’s an interesting point. They did say …

    “If humans are ever to live for long periods with intention of extended settlement on another planetary surface, it is likely to be on Mars.”

    Which is certainly true, but just as certainly not an argument about colonization being a NASA priority.

    They also referred several times to the establishment “colonies of habitats” on Mars, in the interest of exploration, much like the habitats at the South Pole. But those efforts at the South Pole are hardly an effort at colonization. Colonies of habitats aren’t the same as colonization.

    Can you point to an even implicit statement from the Augustine panel that NASA’s long term priority should be colonization of Mars? I sure didn’t see it.

    They did also say …

    “The nation is facing important decisions on the future of human spaceflight. Will we leave the close proximity of low-Earth orbit, where astronauts have circled since 1972, and explore the solar system, charting a path for the eventual expansion of human civilization into space?”

    and

    “There was a strong consensus within the Committee that human exploration also should advance us as a civilization towards our ultimate goal: charting a path for human expansion into the solar system.”

    I guess I don’t equate human expansion with colonization any more than I believe that Apollo was the beginning of human colonization of the Moon or colonies of habitats in Antarctica represent the first steps in colonization of that continent.

    But I would welcome such a statement from the White House about such an ultimate goal — of human expansion into the solar system or even colonization of the solar system, in that it would at least solidify the case for human space flight. See, “exploration” doesn’t provide that solidity.

  • common sense

    @Robert Oler:

    What I find discouraging is the overall approach to HSF of so many people here and elsewhere. Not necessarily you Doug. There seems to be a clause of exclusion of sort. For so many it must be either/or not and. Well when someone has a great idea to advance space access then we should welcome it. A great idea is not necessarily about exotic materials or propulsion or reentry systems. In the case of SpaceX (and others for sure)the great idea is about lowering the cost. If successful (and it is a major if), lowering the cost will help democratize access to space (you Robert sure have to like democratize ;) ). It does not mean that all must be done by the private sector. NASA would in the mean time develop the next technologies for ISRU on the Moon, Mars, Pluto (!) or transfer ships to the same destinations, you name it! NASA has the cash to do that but does not have the flexibility to deliver soon a new set of vehicles. The problem with “soon vs. late” is cash and NASA does not have the cash any more. All those crying and whining for more cash for NASA are just day dreaming. Even if we were to get NASA $3B or say $20B the problem is structural, intrinsic to NASA. It is just a huge bureaucracy. As such we should use it the best we can: Long term technological development and pass whatever was validated on to the people who can exploit such resources quickly. Again neither the Air Force nor the Navy build any aircraft, carriers, battleships and I don’t believe they even design them. They are part of the process and they ought to be since they are the customers but that’s it. Let’s try something different or Constellation and its follow up(s) will be like X-33 and its predecessors. Then we’ll loose all we know about HSF due to workforce attrition and that’ll be it. And don’t believe for a minute that the expertise is still there. It’s almost all gone from the Apollo/Shuttle era. I am not talking ops I am talking design/development. Today one of the major underestimated challenge of Constellation was the ability to re-educate the workforce and despite all the documents and people available from past programs it is very very difficult to do. What about tomorrow?

    Oh well…

  • Monte Davis

    Can you point to an even implicit statement from the Augustine panel that NASA’s long term priority should be colonization of Mars? I sure didn’t see it.

    “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). Plenty of space fans believe that endless rapid expansion of HSF was “the plan” in 1961-1969, that it was technically and economically and politically feasible, and that the private sector was then, and remains, eager to get involved — despite the absence of supporting evidence and the abundance of contradictory evidence.

    For people who can believe that for decades, a little creative reinterpretation of the Augustine report is a snap.

  • Major Tom,

    I am reading the CE&R of many of these 11 companies and most of these plans provide for an open commercial architecture just as comprehensive as t/Space or Andrews. Here is the link if you do not have it: Taking the Vision to the Next Step.

    As for heavy lift, I did not say that these companies did not propose heavy lift vehicles as part of their CE&R. I said that Griffin had argued that none of these companies offered affordable heavy lift concepts over 100 mT that was adequate for a lunar architecture within the time frame and budget proposed by VSE. So my recall is just fine. You might recall that the Augustine panel also found that for heavy lift below 100 mT would require an additional refueling stop in orbit would be necessary to make concept feasible for lunar spaceflight. Such an extra step would potentially drive up its cost.

    But let’s look just at the t/Space and Andrews CE&R. In order for their lunar architecture plans to be feasible and commercially viable, a market beyond LEO would have to exist that provides a stream of revenue for these companies. No such market exist. The only market for human space travel is in LEO. It is difficult to envision how any open commercial lunar architecture could succeed with the government as its sole customer.

    Additionally, NASA had identified a strong demand for pressurized cargo resupply for ISS operations. They had already secured crew transport services from RSA. Had they funded an COTS-like program based on open commercial architecture, the bulk of that funding would have gone to development of crew launch vehicle, a considerably more complex and expensive development, and not cargo resupply, leaving NASA without a means to provide critical supplies and equipment to maintain a full 6-person crew on ISS. Thanks to COTS, NASA should be able to launch cargo resupply missions beginning in 2011 just shortly after the shuttle is retired.

    According to Jim Muncy in his comment above, NASA management under O’Keefe, specifically NASA Associate Administrator Craig Steidle, was planning on offering $400 million dollars for the AAS follow-on program to promote commercial architecture. Griffin narrowed the focus of the program to a readily identifiable existing market where there was a pronouced demand for services, cargo resupply for ISS. Considering that none of these companies had any operational crew launch vehicle or had very limited experience in developing crew launch vehicles, setting up and implementing COTS appears to be a smart move.

  • Momentum Space

    Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).

    Oh Christ. You wanna know what ‘believe’? I believe your ‘faith’ and your ‘holey quotes’ are crap. From a perspective of engineering science, if I would treat your faith with the respect it deserves, I would quickly stomp your beliefs and your archaic scripts down into the mud with my construction boots and kick it aside into the ditch, acoompanied with some language that would shock your grandparents. Constellation is a ‘faith based space program’ designed to solve a delusional belief by a bunch of Alabama faith based creationists is that Mars could be visited and colonized with capsules and heavy lift launch vehicles. The solution to the ‘Constellation problem’, which is now the real problem and not the original problem that existed well before Constellation became a problem, was fully in place well over four years ago – evolved expendable launch vehicles.

    I will neither appease you, accomodate you, nor apologize for your idiotic beliefs.

    It’s not science, and it certainly isn’t engineering science.

  • Major Tom,

    That’s true — as long as Shuttle is flying and Soyuz doesn’t have a bad day. But if Soyuz has a bad day after Shuttle retirement and there is no alternate way to keep ISS manned, the probability of losing ISS to a failure mode that requires intervention by onboard astronauts goes way up.

    Considering that the Russian space agency has a enviable record of safe human spaceflight on their Soyuz spacecraft over the last 30 years, especially compared to the space shuttle, I find this comment amusing. I can just imagine some Russian blogger complaining that the failure of the Space Shuttle Columbia put an excessive burden on the RSA to keep the ISS in orbit. But RSA came through.

    The situation of the ‘gap’ is not RSA’s fault. That responsibility lies with US policymakers, namely the President and Congress over the last 3 decades. As to whether RSA will raise prices on providing spaceflight services to NASA, that is a possibility. But consider the fact that RSA has a rather limited budget and it cannot afford to run the ISS without US/NASA assistance. So raising prices could have a very negative effect on US-Russia relations as well as on RSA.

  • Doug Lassiter,

    I agree that the VSE made a mistake to tie human space travel with space exploration. The Augustine panel report further propounded this mistake. Human space travel is nor more necessary to space exploration as is aviation necessary to Earth exploration. The purpose of both transportation systems is to provide a conduit for the transportation of goods and people between existing markets. In the case of space travel, no market exist beyond LEO.

    I agree with you that Augustine report should have clarified the meaning of human expansion into space. Does this mean establishing permanent facilities to develop local resources and establishing new markets beyond LEO. Does this mean attempting to establish new human colonies? It would help if the administration would clarify its position on these issues. That should hopefully come fairly soon.

  • Robert G. Oler

    common sense

    as an aside (grin) I dont really believe much in “democratize” as long as it is defined as the right wing does (indeed I dont believe in much of what they say). I think “generically” that freedom comes as a gift individually from the creator…but I believe that societal wise it comes as a right earned by the populace (the societal metric) and defined by exclusively by them (the “more perfect union” theory of the US Constitution). The only time a people (nation state) have the right to define a course that another society should take is when the society in question tries to destroy a nation by armed conflict and fails. We (the US) were enlightened in how we dealt with Germany and Japan after WW2. I think that the US committed a bad “thing” when it took upon itself the “liberation” of Iraq from a government that was no threat to us. There is no book in “nature” that says one form of government is better then another….except I believe in how nation states deal with other nation states. A bully is a bully.

    anyway fun shot at the right wing aside.

    I dont think much of the “aerospace” industrial complex that exist right now. I dont think much of the entire military industrial complex that exist right now…I dont think that there is any value in saving either.

    With Americans dying in Iraq from IED’s the MIC was unable moving as fast as it could to procure a vehicle that met the challenges of Iraq. We have gone from a complex which could design and build the B 29 which was a technological marvel of its day slightly over budget but on time and it met performance….. to one which cannot under wartime conditions field comparably complex (for our technology) weapon systems in under a decade and they usually do not met most of the performance goals.

    This is a true statement all across the board of US military/aerospace procurement. The X33 failed not because the expertise was not there but because the system it was procured in is no longer capable of doing such projects (or even operational ones like the F35) in any realistic period of time.

    There are LOTS of reasons for all this, and nothing specific is to blame…to paraphrase our current President it is a “systemic failure” of the requirements/design/procurement system of our government.

    What made the P 51 unique is that it was procured by the Brits almost outside of the complex that existed then. Musk is almost doing the same thing.

    The Falcon series of vehicles is the “Cougar land vehicle” of spaceflight or the P51 of it…

    Musk is doing what he is doing in a system which has as a key factor the requirement that 1) it meet performance goals (he has to have that to turn a profit) and 2) it is affordable (he has to have that to turn a profit). The rest?

    I really dont care if NASA and its human spaceflight “projects” just completly die. Ares/Constellation/whatever. There is no real need for them (no matter what right wing troglodytes say about the Chinese) and all they are doing is perpetuating a system that has gotten so bloated that it cannot survive without continued infusions of federal dollars from a government that through deficit spending has become “rich” beyond its means.

    As for the expertise? We are not in cave times. What was still exist even if on paper…and can be learned again. Musk seems to be doing OK.

    The MIC, the AIC (aerospace industrial complex), the SIC (social industrial complex) have now with the additions (thanks to Bush) of the big banks etc are just about to choke The Republic with demands for cash and production of almost nothing. What is being squeezed out is the entire theory of The Republic’s economy “build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door”.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    Gary Miles ..

    I concur there is nothing wrong with our “friends” figuring out how we have hosed ourselves and trying to hook up to the money spigot.

    The Saudis did just that as they ran the oil prices up to bring the greenbacks into the coffers of The Kingdom.

    Robert G. Oler

  • common sense

    “As for the expertise? We are not in cave times. What was still exist even if on paper…and can be learned again. Musk seems to be doing OK.”

    True, but (very) difficult. See it’s not only about knowkledge per se but about know-how and HSF is built on a lot of know-how. Remember my earlier post about AVCOAT the TPS material that flew on Apollo. Well NASA knew the ingredients (essentially) but not the recipe, how to make it. The recipe called for such and such materials but someone had to know how much and when to say turn down the heat on the stove and this had been lost. This is only one example of something that might have been a showstopper. The problem is that if this is lost then it is lost to everyone including SpaceX and the likes. Yes things can be learned again but it comes at a cost, timewise and cashwise.

    Government has a role to play in our society. It is not all about private vs. government. The societies that realized that are moving forward, we on the other hand, are now moving backward. Caves are not that far away in the future as we keep moving backward. Right, Left, everyone. A party from the right that “believes” things will be fixed with some help above and one from the left that does not stand up to anything at all are all at fault. Status quo is another form of decay.

  • Robert G. Oler

    common sense

    I am very “pro government” particularly the Federal (US) government. It defiantly has a role to play in our society. Unlike the troglodytes of the far right I am quite certain that the rise of the US as a global power coincided with the rise of the federal government in “unifying” the actions of the several states.

    the problem is that over the last oh say 20 years (since 1988) the administration that have been in power have allowed the federal government to spin completely out of control in terms of HOW IT ACCOMPLISHES task. There has become more and more no accountability for failure.

    There is a fine line in dealing with “failure” in government.

    When Pearl Harbor happened there actually was a great deal of discussion of what should happen to Admiral Kimmel. It really was not “Kim” Kimmels fault that he lost his battle fleet either as a long term runup or events of that day. And after the attack he immediately started reasonable offensive actions (including planning to re leave Wake) with what he had left. (It is probably fortunate that the expedition did not engage the IJN..that doomed the Marines on Wake, but even though the Task Force that was being sent was equal on paper to its IJN opponent, it was probably not equal in terms of ability and we might have lost some flattops.however just as the USMC held off the “Japs” at Wake, it would have been fascinating to see how a successful engagement…which was possible…could have changed things..). FDR re leaved Kimmel mostly because FDR needed a change in moral which was bad at Pearl.

    Contrast that with Columbia. Clear mistakes were made by senior people at NASA, there was clear incompetence over both the long term in letting the agency drift back into a Challenger type operation and over the short term of the flight…. Her explanations are childish “none of us meant to do it”… and yet Linda Ham is still there and in a fairly senior job Why?

    Project after project in the federal government now comes up short (‘incomplete success” or “success that hasnt happened yet” from Fran Townsend trying to explain why OBL is still alive) and yet few get the axe. Hence the word goes out loud and clear…incompetence is not penalized.

    We desperately need in The Republic “a new way”…a new method of how The Government works…that isnt a “right or left” thing…it is just a new way.

    Robert G. Oler

  • common sense

    “Contrast that with Columbia.”

    At least O’Keefe had the honor to leave. “Too bad” for us this one man seemed to know honor though.

    “and yet Linda Ham is still there and in a fairly senior job Why?”

    Well it is a symptom of how things are being handled in big government/companies/bureaucracies. Keyword is “big”. It matters more who your friend(s) is(are) than your actual responsibility/accountability. Human nature I assume. But why whould she be “the” scapegoat? She is part of a system of failures, only her mistake(s) may have been more visible than others’. And had she gone down most likely more would have followed. This is true in the private sector as well, don’t fool yourself.

    “We desperately need in The Republic “a new way”…a new method of how The Government works…that isnt a “right or left” thing…it is just a new way. ”

    A.B.S.O.L.U.T.E.L.Y. I was (still am but a little disillusioned) hoping that this current WH might be it but so far… Okay only 1 year so I’ll check again inext year if they survive 2010. But again, this WH better be getting its act together or it will be its first and only term. Not because suddenly the Republicans are that much more attractive (still the same crowd mostly as under GWB) but mainly because those who went to vote for the current WH may just watch a re-run of Star Trek that night instead.

  • “Can you point to an even implicit statement from the Augustine panel that NASA’s long term priority should be colonization of Mars? I sure didn’t see it.”

    I posted one the Augustine posters about this on my blog last August at:

    http://newpapyrusmagazine.blogspot.com/2009/08/augustine-commission-recommends-that.html

  • Robert G. Oler

    common sense

    Ham staying only surprises me in that it shows a bureaucracy in the absolute last stage of becoming effectively a corpse in terms of being able to accomplish anything. IE the bureaucracy doesnt even bother throwing a sacrificial lamb over the side when there is a major catastrophe…it just plows on saying “we really didnt mean to do it”. Because it knows that there is no real force for “change” (change period or change you can believe in or even just change that is possible!)

    this is how fouled up things are. AIG, Citi, whatever…they take Billions of dollars to stay afloat and yet no one really gets the chop or even a real reduction in bonus or anything…

    The old joke about the right wing is that the welfare moms would go into the welfare office pregnant with yet another child barely able to take care of the ones that they have…you still see this nonesense on like Sarah Palin’s facebook page.

    But it is really obvious with all the “wealthy” for whom the endless tax cuts and tax bennies was suppose to be the rising tide that lifted us all.

    The failure at NASA is the same as the failure in the country…there are no longer any serious consequences of it. At the start of the Great Depression at the very least most of the people who got us into the mess had the sense to either shrink away from business or sadly tossed themselves out of windows. The folks who got us into this mess are the good friends of the Bush and Obama administration and instead of “checking out” have “hooked up” to the federal trough. These are the people who the right wing argues for more tax cuts for.

    At NASA it is not possible for their to be success when the same people who have failed at almost everything else are the ones who now (to quote a senior JSC official to Rich Kolker and myself) “get it that things have changed”. the only thing that has changed is the program. Linda Ham now has a rather good sized role in Constellation.

    Success is imminent.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    common sense

    This is true in the private sector as well, don’t fool yourself.

    ONLY when there are no consequences for failure…if failure is possible the private sector will fire people fast if they are dragging the company down.

    So will government if things are “important”. As Cap W. told the folks managing the AEGIS project in the 80’s “I need this system, if you cannot make it work, I can find people who will”.

    Robert G. Oler

  • anonymousNASA

    I just wanted to correct a couple small, but important points in Jim Muncy’s post from an insider’s viewpoint who was there at the time:

    “When Mike Griffin arrived, he decided two things: (1) crew was too hard, and should follow cargo, and (2) SOMD was taking too long to do cargo, so he gave $500 million to ESMD for COTS A-C.”

    The AAS money in SOMD had been moved under Craig Steidle/EMSD before Mike Griffin arrived. Steidle had a billion dollars available for a commercial crew AND cargo effort. Griffin cut that in half (along with Prometheus and human/robotic technology) when Doug Stanley couldn’t get ESAS to hit its delivery dates within the existing Constellation budget.

    “Certainly Mike — and his deputy Shana Dale & his director of Strategic Investments Chris Shank — deserve credit for COTS. And Mike did other pro-commercial things.”

    Shana Dale and Chris Shank had nothing to do with COTS. They weren’t even in the meeting when the program was briefed to Griffin. It was GS-level HQ staff leftover from Steidle and Steve Isakowitz who fought to retain at least the $500 million for cargo, developed the program plan, wrote the procurements with legal, and worked with Gerst to get a program manager at JSC. I think it was one of Isakowitz’s old staff, Brian Spoonburg, who came up with the COTS name and pushed the procurement through Griffin, for example.

  • anonymousNASA

    One other sad but funny tidbit… when Spoonburg and crew briefed Griffin, Scott Horowitz sat in as the newly minted ESMD AA. His only question was whether ATK could compete for COTS.

  • Doug Lassiter

    “Can you point to an even implicit statement from the Augustine panel that NASA’s long term priority should be colonization of Mars? I sure didn’t see it.”

    “I posted one the Augustine posters about this on my blog last August”

    Thanks. You were looking at the words I was looking at, but as was pointed out by Gary Miles, it isn’t entirely clear what those words mean. Extension of civilization into the solar system doesn’t imply wholesale colonization to me. We’ve extended civilization to the Moon, though that civilization it doesn’t happen to still be there at the moment. We’ve expanded civilization to Antarctica, but no one is raising families there.

    What is needed is a clear explanation from the administration of what those words mean, if those words are intended to be a binding national goal. No, even VSE didn’t talk about colonization. In fact, NSPD49 (which is the formal statement of VSE space policy) simply says in this regard

    “Implement and sustain an innovative human and robotic exploration program with the objective of extending human presence across the solar system.”

    Extending human presence, eh? Well, I’d say that Spirit and Opportunity are doing that on Mars, no? They are certainly extending our senses onto the Martian surface.

    So look. What Obama has to say is that human space flight is about expansion, and tell us if expansion is about making homes for people on other worlds, perhaps with the goal of providing safe havens for civilization. THAT is the only solid justification for human space flight.

    But can he really say this?

    Is that a goal that could be a national need, or is it really an international need? Why in the world is it the singular obligation of the American taxpayer to save civilization?

    Let’s also understand that while the Augustine committee seems convinced that such extension of such civilization is important, that’s not a conclusion that Obama needs to to hear from a bunch of aerospace engineers, scientists, and astronauts. That wasn’t their job to provide such guidance. The importance of extending civilization into the solar system is something that should be coming from much broader perspectives. Economists? Sociologists? Lawyers? Health professionals? Military people? Industrialists?

    No, I don’t think it is clear that the Augustine committee was recommending colonization of the solar system, and it surely isn’t clear that the administration is either.

  • common sense

    “Let’s also understand that while the Augustine committee seems convinced that such extension of such civilization is important, that’s not a conclusion that Obama needs to to hear from a bunch of aerospace engineers, scientists, and astronauts. That wasn’t their job to provide such guidance. The importance of extending civilization into the solar system is something that should be coming from much broader perspectives. Economists? Sociologists? Lawyers? Health professionals? Military people? Industrialists?”

    “Sad” but absolutely true. Of course as a space professional I’d like to (see us) go to other worlds. But how many of us in the public are there wishing so? A tiny fraction of the population. How many of this tiny fraction even think it is possible? An even tinier fraction. There is a lot of work to do before it becomes an issue of national, let alone international, importance. An issue that would require an enormous budget. Yes E.N.O.R.M.O.U.S. But I would go beyond what Doug is saying. In order for it to happen the public at large, here and elsewhere, would have to demand it. And so far, since the public is totally disconnected with HSF, it will most likely not happen, not seriously anyway. Not the way we go about it.

  • Doug Lassiter

    “And so far, since the public is totally disconnected with HSF, it will most likely not happen, not seriously anyway. Not the way we go about it.”

    The simple lesson from this is that if we want to extend civilization throughout the solar system, there are a lot of things we need to do before we get too serious about the space transportation technologies that would start us on this path. Convincing the public that this expansion is something we actually need to do is the most important of these. For something that depends on federal funding, at least, it isn’t a deal where the masses will reflexively follow a visionary leader. The masses have to demand it.

  • Major Tom

    “I am reading the CE&R [sic] of many of these 11 companies and most of these plans provide for an open commercial architecture just as comprehensive as t/Space or Andrews.”

    First, you’re not reading the CER reports or even final presentations. That link is to some interim presentations.

    Second, your evidence disproves your statement. The Boeing interim presentation makes only two vague references to “enable commercial/private participation” and “commercial and international resupply”. Draper Labs makes only two passing references to “technology commercialization” and “commercialize space products and services.” LockMart and OSC only refer to commercial activities in the context of lunar surface ISRU. Raytheon only makes two vague references to “international and commercial participation”. Unless I missed it, the word “commercial” doesn’t even appear in the SAIC presentation. Etc.

    These interim presentations don’t begin to approach the comprehensive commercial architecture reflected in the Andrews and t/Space interim presentations regarding topics like “commercial service providers”, “commercial customers”, “general public customers”, “commercial transport”, “commerce”, “commercial missions”, “commercial free-flyers”, “commercial mini-stations”, “commercial LEO business park”, “commercial L1/lunar travel”, “commercial market(s)”, “private ownership”, “commercial ownership”, “competition-based architecture”, “open architecture”, etc.

    This is not a knock against any of these old proposals, or advocacy for the t/Space and Andrews proposals. I’m just stating facts based on the interim presentations you pointed to.

    “As for heavy lift, I did not say that these companies did not propose heavy lift vehicles as part of their CE&R.”

    Yes, you did. You wrote “I seem to recall that one of Griffin’s reasons for rejecting the adoption of a commercial architecture was the inadequancy of the heavy lift launch vehicles proposed or COMPLETELY ABSENT [emphasis added] in these competing architecture plans.”

    “I said that Griffin had argued that none of these companies offered affordable heavy lift concepts over 100 mT that was adequate for a lunar architecture within the time frame [sic] and budget proposed by VSE.”

    No, you did not write anything about 100mT, timeframes, or budget.

    Moreover, you’ve provided no evidence that Griffin ever made such a statement. Or if he did, that the final CER reports did not contain or recommend such a solution.

    “You might recall that the Augustine panel [sic] also found that for heavy lift below 100 mT would require an additional refueling stop in orbit would be necessary to make concept feasible for lunar spaceflight.”

    That’s not what that passage from the Augustine Committee’s final report states. The report states that if you want to keep the ETO launches for human lunar missions (especially missions using the Committee’s assumed requirements) to under three, then you need a 100mT+ launcher or in-space fueling.

    The report does not state that “lunar spaceflight” is only “feasible” with 100 mT+ launchers or in-space fueling. That would be a patently false statement.

    “In order for their lunar architecture plans to be feasible and commercially viable, a market beyond LEO would have to exist that provides a stream of revenue for these companies. No such market exist. The only market for human space travel is in LEO… In the case of space travel, no market exist beyond LEO.”

    Simply not true. There is commercial market interest in lunar missions. Bigelow is interested in sending crewed spacecraft employing their inflatable modules both around and to the surface of the Moon. Space Adventures has expressed the same using modified Soyuzes. Google Lunar X-Prize contenders are interested in lunar markets. Etc.

    “Considering that none of these companies had any operational crew launch vehicle”

    Boeing and LockMart are 50/50 partners in USA, which is responsible for STS operations.

    “or had very limited experience in developing crew launch vehicles”

    You do realize that Boeing, LockMart, NG, and Raytheon have all been involved in the development of crewed vehicles, right?

    “Considering that the Russian space agency has a enviable record of safe human spaceflight on their Soyuz spacecraft over the last 30 years, especially compared to the space shuttle, I find this comment amusing.”

    In point of fact, Soyuz does not have a 30-year record of safe missions. The Soyuz 11 crew died in 1971.

    Moreover, the program has a long history of close calls. Soyuz 23 landed in a frozen lake and almost killed its crew. Soyuz T-10 almost killed its crew in a pad explosion. Soyuz TM-17 collided with Mir. There are multiple other failed dockings.

    Some failures and accidents are very recent. In 1997, Soyuz TM-25 collided with and punctured Mir. In 2008, Soyuz TMA-11’s guidance system failed on reentry.

    None of the above is a knock against the Soyuz program, which I agree has arguably the safest record of any human space flight program to date. But that doesn’t mean that the program hasn’t had bad days in the past (including the near-past) and won’t have them again in the future.

    The difference going forward is that after Shuttle retires, ISS is dependent on Soyuz to stay crewed. Unfortunately, ISS was designed with multiple failure modes that require a crew on board to fix. If Soyuz is grounded for an extended period of time for any reason after Shuttle retirement and there is no alternative and the ISS has to fly uncrewed, the ISS partnership runs the risk of losing ISS. It’s important to note that Soyuz doesn’t have to kill crew to be grounded. A close call like the ones noted above — or even just the failure of a common component on a Progress flight — could ground the Soyuz program and imperil ISS in the absence of any backup.

    This is very serious stuff with very serious implications for ISS. There’s nothing to be “amused” about. We should have learned from the Columbia experience how critically important it is to have alternate means of transporting crew to the ISS (or any other vehicle that requires crew to avoid failure modes). O’Keefe/Steidle did, and as Mr. Muncy points out, they were pursuing a commercial alternative to CEV. But Griffin didn’t (or didn’t want to) learn this lesson, and, as AnonymousNASA points out, decided instead to redirect that funding to Ares I/Orion. Griffin’s mistake has been compounded by his mistakes with the ever-slipping Ares I/Orion schedule.

    We’ve lost several critical years to develop a commercial crew transport alternative (or any crew transport alternative), and need one ASAP now that Ares I/Orion is going to force at least a 7-9+ year gap. Since Columbia, there has never been a good reason to delay commercial crew transport, and that’s even more true today.

    (Unless you think the civil human space flight program is better off without ISS, which is another thread.)

    “The situation of the ‘gap’ is not RSA’s fault.”

    Who said it was? That’s a goofy statement. Don’t put words in other posters’ mouths.

    “Asto [sic] whether RSA will raise prices on providing spaceflight services to NASA, that is a possibility.”

    It’s not a possibility. It’s a certainty. RSA has raised Soyuz prices in recents years, for both NASA and private customers.

    Soyuz will always be a bargain compared to STS. But it’s stupendously stupid and bad policy to keep sending increasing amounts of US taxpayer dollars overseas, while spending nothing (the small amount of recent CCDev spending excepted) on US industry to develop alternatives. And it was stupendously hypocritical of Griffin to do so, when he also made statements to Congress about how “unseemly” it was going to be for the US to rely on Russia for human space flight during the gap.

    “Human space travel is nor more necessary to space exploration as is aviation necessary to Earth exploration.”

    The second part of this statement is factually wrong. For example, Antarctic exploration today relies critically on air transport.

    FWIW…

  • anonymousNASA,

    “One other sad but funny tidbit… when Spoonburg and crew briefed Griffin, Scott Horowitz sat in as the newly minted ESMD AA. His only question was whether ATK could compete for COTS.”

    Wow. Just plain wow. At least he had his priorities clear…

    ~Jon

  • spaceadvocate

    *shrug* I don’t have a problem if the ISS depends on the Soyuz. It works ok and is comparatively cheap. That’s the whole point of globalization isn’t it? We as a nation funnel over 300bil per year to China for their toxic crap. If a US company does ISS delivery better then the Soyuz and develop that on their own dime (which would exclude SpaceX since they depend on the guaranteed governement money) – sure switch to that.

  • Major Tom

    “*shrug* I don’t have a problem if the ISS depends on the Soyuz.”

    The key point is not dependence on Soyuz. The key point is dependence on any single crew delivery system.

    FWIW…

  • Robert G. Oler

    “Human space travel is nor more necessary to space exploration as is aviation necessary to Earth exploration.”

    the comparison is totally flawed. But it does illustrate how badly off track human spaceflight is.

    Aviation has become an enabler of goals, not a goal in itself. Human spaceflight is still (at least in NASA) a goal all alone.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Freddo

    “I think it was one of Isakowitz’s old staff, Brian Spoonburg, who came up with the COTS name and pushed the procurement through Griffin, for example.”

    You mean Brant Sponberg, right? Or someone else?

  • AnonymousNASA-2

    anonymousNASA said: “The AAS money in SOMD had been moved under Craig Steidle/EMSD before Mike Griffin arrived. Steidle had a billion dollars available for a commercial crew AND cargo effort. Griffin cut that in half (along with Prometheus and human/robotic technology) when Doug Stanley couldn’t get ESAS to hit its delivery dates within the existing Constellation budget.”

    While the money was in ESMD, SOMD was still in charge of commercial cargo until Griffin arrived.

    About a month after Griffin arrived in Spring 2005, Chris Shank had a meeting with SOMD (with a large group led by Poniatowski) in which he informed SOMD that Griffin was transferring the Commercial Crew Cargo program responsibility from SOMD to ESMD because of SOMD’s lack of responsiveness in setting up the program.

    Brant Sponberg was given the lead responsibility for Commercial Crew Cargo within ESMD by the Griffin team.

    anonymousNASA said: “Shana Dale and Chris Shank had nothing to do with COTS. They weren’t even in the meeting when the program was briefed to Griffin. It was GS-level HQ staff leftover from Steidle and Steve Isakowitz who fought to retain at least the $500 million for cargo, developed the program plan, wrote the procurements with legal, and worked with Gerst to get a program manager at JSC. I think it was one of Isakowitz’s old staff, Brian Spoonburg, who came up with the COTS name and pushed the procurement through Griffin, for example.

    You may be correct about a single meeting, but that does not mean that you can extrapolate that single data point to assert “Shana Dale and Chris Shank had nothing to do with COTS.” To the contrary, although it may be not be public knowledge, Dale and Shank played ongoing key roles in supporting/defending COTS within the Griffin administration over a multi-year period. Without their leadership, it is doubtful that COTS would have survived.

    Also, the name is Brant Sponberg, not “Brian Spoonburg”. If you are going to assert that you are an anonymous expert inside NASA, at least get the names of the key NASA employees right.

    Also, it was Alan Lindenmoyer, from JSC, who actually came up with the COTS name. Sponberg approved it as the level 1 program executive, but Lindenmoyer came up with it.

    FWIW,

    – AnonymousNASA-2

  • @ Doug Lassiter

    “There was consensus among the subgroup that the underlying reason why we do human spaceflight is the extension of human civilization beyond Earth and that this will first occur on Mars” Augustine subcommittee

    Again, I have no problem with this general idea. But I do have a problem with their conclusion that the extension of human civilization beyond Earth will– first occur on Mars! Its a lot more expensive to colonize Mars than the Moon. Plus the Moon is much more likely than Mars to help grow the US economy: lunar tourism, lunar burials, satellite manufacturing and launching.

    The Flexible Path is a ‘stealth program’ for Mars when right now we need a real program for the Moon. For the Mars romantics, the fastest way to colonize Mars is to begin colonizing the Moon first.

  • Al Fansome

    MARCEL: But I do have a problem with their conclusion that the extension of human civilization beyond Earth will– first occur on Mars!

    This is factually incorrect.

    Nowhere in the Augustine Commision report does it say that human expansion of human civilization will occur first on Mars.

    The report does say that they think human expansion to Mars is the *ultimate* goal. But they make it pretty clear they think we could get there through multiple routes, and that we should not (nor need to) make the decision now about which route to take (thus the flexible path), that we may choose to go to the Moon first before going to Mars, and that we should not make that decision now.

    FWIW,

    – Al

  • Doug Lassiter

    ““There was consensus among the subgroup that the underlying reason why we do human spaceflight is the extension of human civilization beyond Earth and that this will first occur on Mars” Augustine subcommittee.

    Again, I have no problem with this general idea. But I do have a problem with their conclusion that the extension of human civilization beyond Earth will– first occur on Mars! Its a lot more expensive to colonize Mars than the Moon.”

    You’re still confusing “extension of human civilization” with “colonization”. As I said, we’ve extended human civilization to Antarctica, but no one would say we have a “colony” there. We extended it to the Moon too, but then we decided to leave for a while.

    I’ll say it one more time. There is NO national mandate, either from the White House or from the Augustine Committee to colonize anything. So until they tell us that there is, it’s odd to keep harping on it.

    “For the Mars romantics, the fastest way to colonize Mars is to begin colonizing the Moon first.”

    And for the rest of us, flexible path provides a measured, strategically sustainable, and sensible way to get to many places.

  • Major Tom,

    So let us look at my statement here yet again. Without your emphasis.

    My statement:

    I seem to recall that one of Griffin’s reasons for rejecting the adoption of a commercial architecture was the inadequancy of the heavy lift launch vehicles proposed or completely absent in these competing architecture plans.

    Your repsonse:

    Your “recall” is completely wrong. The Boeing study looked at HLVs up to 100mT+, LockMart settled on 70mT, NG looked at 55mT and 130mT and settled on the former after finding the latter unaffordable, OSC settled on a STS-derived 80mT HLV, etc.

    Your response implies that I was saying these companies came up with no heavy lift concept for their CE&R. Where in this statement did I state that none of these companies had developed a heavy lift concept for their CE&R? My comment was to state that Dr. Griffin argued against a commercial architecture, specifically in the context of lunar architecture and not ISS crew and cargo. In my statement the specific reasons for Griffin’s argument were got given, just that the heavy lift concepts offered by the CE&R were inadequate or absent. By the definition of what the Augustine, a heavy lift vehicle necessary for Earth Departure Stage for flights to the Moon would require a minimum LEO lift capability of 65-70 mT. So by that critieria, some of these CE&R do not have the heavy lift system required. Also, you take this statement too literally. This is a paraphrase of many of Dr. Griffin’s speeches and comments and not a direct quote.

    My statement:

    I said that Griffin had argued that none of these companies offered affordable heavy lift concepts over 100 mT that was adequate for a lunar architecture within the time frame and budget proposed by VSE.

    This statement was a rephrasing of the first comment adding additional details for clarification, instead of simply quoting my original comment.

    Here is a direct quote from Dr. Griffin in his testimony before a Congressional hearing just this last September:


    An architectural approach based upon the use of numerous smaller vehicles to stock a fuel depot is inevitably more expensive than putting the necessary payload up in larger pieces. Further, a fuel depot requires a presently non‐existent technology – the ability to maintain cryogenic fuels in the necessary thermodynamic state for very long periods in space. This technology is a holy grail of deep‐space exploration, because it is necessary for both chemical‐ and nuclear‐powered upper stages. To embrace an architecture based upon a non‐existent technology at the very beginning of beyond‐LEO operations is
    unwise.

    Here is the link for reference: http://legislative.nasa.gov/hearings/9-15-09%20Griffin.pdf

    The above quote is particular apt because it directly deals with the many of the CE&Rs whose heavy lift concepts involved fuel depot system with t/Space among them. This is just one of his arguments. He made a number of arguments against an open commercial lunar architecture for many reasons. He did advocate for ISS crew and cargo commercial architecture as a starting point for commercial spaceflight. He also advocated for a fuel depot system, but not as the initial push beyond LEO, especially since the fuel depot technology is as yet undeveloped.

    You state that I was looking at preliminary CE&R from an older link. So provide me with a link to the final CE&R reports. I assume since you are giving me this info that you have access to the final reports. BTW, the heavy lift information you gave me about various companies’ CE&R are also listed in those ‘preliminary’ CE&Rs.

  • Major Tom,

    Here is the relevant section for heavy lift in terms of spaceflight beyond LEO found in Augustine report:

    Using a launch system with more than three critical launches
    begins to cause unacceptably low mission launch reliability.
    Therefore a prudent strategy would be to use launch vehicles
    that allow the completion of a lunar mission with no more
    than three launches without refueling. This would imply a
    launch mass to low-Earth orbit of at least 65 to 70 mt based
    on current NASA lunar plans. Vehicles in the range up to
    about 100 mt will require in-space refueling for more demanding
    missions. Vehicle above this launch capability will
    be enhanced by in-space refueling, but will not require it.
    When in-space refueling is developed, any of these launchers
    will become more capable.

    I will assume you have the link to the Augustine II report. 3 launches of a 65-70 mT launch mass vehicle in order for lunar mission to become feasible. For more demanding missions, which one could infer a number of lunar missions will be more demanding such as establishing a permanent lunar facility, a launcher of less than 100mT will require inspace refueling or above 100 mT without refueling.

    My comment:

    Considering that none of these companies had any operational crew launch vehicle or had very limited experience in developing crew launch vehicles.

    You do realize that Boeing and LockMart do not own the space shuttle? The space shuttle was a government designed and developed vehicle. Yes these companies helped developed and build it. And NASA contracted out launch services to these companies. But these companies do not have any independent human spaceflight capabilities or any indepedent operational crew vehicle. Lockheed Martin attempted to develop a SSTO vehicle the VentureStar, putting up a great deal of its own capital, and failed miserably after almost billion dollars were invested into its development. So yes their experience in developing and operating a commercial crew launch vehicle is nonexistent and limited.

    My comment:

    The situation of the ‘gap’ is not RSA’s fault.

    I did not attribute this comment to you or to anyone else, so I am not sure how I am putting words poster’s mouths. My comment is a respose to your comment:

    Even setting aside issues like relying on foreign countries for crew access, RSA having NASA over the barrel when it comes to Soyuz prices, or maintaining US industry expertise in crew launch operations, there are very strong engineering justifications for getting commercial crew transport going ASAP.

    RSA having NASA over a barrel? This is why I was amused, over your comments, not the situation of the ISS which is serious. Please don’t put words in my mouth. When the space shuttle Columbia was destroyed, RSA stepped up and kept the ISS alive and operational for nearly two years through its Soyuz and Progress flights placing a considerable burden on RSA and its prime contractor RKK Energia. Yes, RSA has been raising prices on Soyuz flights on both private and government flights. Hardly surprising, since the Russian economy has been growing and they have the only human spaceflight game in town.

    Next time I will make sure not to round my numbers and instead be more precise, so instead of 30 years, I will say 38 years, 6 months of safe operational record without loss of human life. Yes, that is right, the Soyuz accident that caused 3 deaths, happened more than 30 years ago on June 30, 1971. And yes, just like any other launch system, Soyuz has its close calls.

    I believe the ISS is crucial to the development of commercial spaceflight which is why I support extending station past 2020. Michael Griffin is also on record saying that he supports extending ISS. In that link to his testimony I provided above, he commented that there was never any intention on the part of NASA to ax ISS after 2015, just that the funding for ISS only kept it operational until 2015. He had fully expected that the President and Congress would want to continue ISS operations past 2015.

    My comment:

    Human space travel is nor more necessary to space exploration as is aviation necessary to Earth exploration.

    Your response:

    The second part of this statement is factually wrong. For example, Antarctic exploration today relies critically on air transport.

    Again, you completely misuderstand my comment. I did not say that that aviation could not be utilized for Earth exploration, I said that it was no more necessary to Earth exploration. Yes, airflight plays a critical role to Antarctic research, but that is a secondary role. Aviation main role is to provide transport of goods/equipment and people over long distances in short amounts of time. Are there other ways Antarctica could be explored without airplanes? Yes there are. Perhaps not as convenient with greater danger, but still possible. Also, there is a perment facility in Antarctica so there is a market and demand for air transport services. Sorry, but my comment is not factually wrong.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Gary

    I find the “discussion” you and Major Tom are having entertaining…and was content to read along until this

    “You do realize that Boeing and LockMart do not own the space shuttle? The space shuttle was a government designed and developed vehicle. Yes these companies helped developed and build it. And NASA contracted out launch services to these companies. But these companies do not have any independent human spaceflight capabilities or any indepedent operational crew vehicle”

    your last sentence is irrelevant.

    Lets put it this way.

    If either the contractors or NASA were to “walk out on strike”…while it would be a fair statement that with either gone the shuttle could not fly…it is also a fair statement that with the contractors gone NASA would simply be unable to even attempt to fly the shuttle…and yet the reverse is not accurate. USA has the expertise easily to fly the shuttle (and make it ready for flight) without NASA being in the picture.

    Every really bad decision about the shuttle (ie the ones that cost lives) was made not by contractors but by NASA folks.

    Boeing and Lockmart could easily operate a crewed vehicle. They would find the people to assemble it, launch it, control it and even fly it. NASA couldnt assemble a rocket by itself if it had to.

    Sorry but that is reality

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert Oeler,

    Boeing and LockMart, a.k.a. United Space Alliance, may have the expertise to launch the space shuttle, but they would not have the money or funding to do so. This is the essential point of being commercial. These companies have never operated a commercial human spaceflight program. Nor have Boeing and LockMart put any substantial investments into developing commercial human spaceflight despite the fact that they had developed launchers on which to base such a program. Furthermore, these two companies were unwilling to invest capital without NASA funding first. Contrast this to companies like SpaceX and Scaled Composites who put developed their vehicles from private funding. SpaceX eventually won the COTS contract and the even larger CRS contract because Elon Musk invested nearly $100 million dollars into his company which successfully developed Falcon 1. Scaled Composites has never accepted government funds for the development of suborbital spacecraft SpaceShipOne. I have far more confidence in SpaceX and Scaled Composites developing and operating profitable commercial spaceflight programs than in companies like Boeing, LockMart, and their subsidiary United Launch Alliance.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Gary Miles ..

    there is a big difference between “can”, “will” and “has the money”.

    There is no doubt in my mind that Lockmart/Boeing have the technical capability to come up with commercial access to space…and I believe that they have the money as well. (although I am less sure of the later).

    The “will” is an issue..but that is not a technical problem.

    When SWA appeared on the scene Braniff was the dominate carrier in Texas and around Dallas…slowly but surely Braniff faded because they 1) did not understand that the ground had shifted under them and 2) although they had the “parts” to compete with SWA, they never had anyone like Kelleher who could put it all together in their own “way”. All that BI could do is try and “copy” the SWA model and they failed.

    That is not uncommon. I had “some amount” of influence in a company called Western Pacific. This was an attempt by the guy who founded AmWest to try and yet again “redo” SWA by more or less (in my view) copying SWA.

    Musk has started from day one, in my view assuming three things. 1) that the ground was or would shift in the American launcher industry, 2) he has designed a low cost (in terms of people) product to compete and 3) has put the resources (mostly his) into the project in what I see as a very smart way.

    If he can succeed (and that has yet to be determined) it will be because 1) the ground did shift and 2) he can make the low cost part work. If neither of those things is accurate…then he will fail.

    Boeing and Lockmart are like BI. They are in many respects hoping 1) the ground doesnt shift (and are using their political clout to try and stop it from doing so) and 2) Musk is wrong, that he cannot meet those cost numbers.

    If Musk succeeds the trick will be to see if Lockmart/Boeing can find the management expertise to drive a shift in their product. BI could have survived had it been able to shift in a way that drove the market instead of just trying to mimic SWA.

    Boeing and Lockmart have a tremendous advantage (in my view). They have proven launch vehicles. But that might not be enough.

    Aside from all this. NASA is almost irrelevant. Corporate NASA has done nothing (other then bark at its political friends) to try and preserve human spaceflight in this country. Indeed it has been the thing that has almost smoothered it.

    Robert G. Oler

  • […] such as ESA’s recently launched Herschel and Planck observatories.) He also made clear that science programs would not be raided to pay for human spaceflight. However, later in his talk he dropped a hint that these good times may be difficult to sustain in […]

  • […] Completing and Enhancing the International Space Station (pp. 2-3): Obama proposed greater utilization of the ISS and enhanced cooperation in this section. One aspect of this, “consider options to extend ISS operations beyond 2016″, seems increasingly likely to be part of the new policy, and does have some support in Congress. An interesting provision is to “use the ISS as a strategic tool in diplomatic relations with non traditional partners”; that hasn’t happened yet, but there does seem to be growing interest within NASA in general about engaging non-traditional partners, as administrator Bolden said earlier this month. […]

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