NASA

Bolden’s intriguing comments

While the rumors, speculation, and debate about NASA’s future direction has exploded in the last few days, NASA administrator Charles Bolden has been out of the country, attending the Ilan Ramon International Space Conference in Israel and holding other meetings there. He did speak with the press there and provided some interesting comments about the future direction of the agency in a 10-minute video provided by Arutz Sheva.

“There are dramatic changes that are about to take place in our human spaceflight program,” Bolden said, apparently in response to a question about flying an Israeli astronaut. “The number one change will be the end of the space shuttle era,” he said, and talked about the impending retirement of the shuttle and the loss of its capabilities. The last shuttle flight, he said, “will be the last time in the history of mankind—unless we change our minds, you know, which I don’t think is going to happen—that you’ll see a vehicle of its capability leave this planet and go into low Earth orbit.”

Bolden suggested that the gap between the shuttle and its successor will give ammunition to some that NASA should, of all things, scrap its astronaut corps. “I can guarantee you that there will be debate as to whether NASA needs to have astronauts,” he said. “I can just see it coming in the United States, you know. I wish it were not going to come up, but it will come up: ‘You don’t have a space shuttle, you’re not flying a vehicle, so why do you need astronauts?’ I get asked those kinds of questions all the time.”

So what will replace the shuttle? Bolden’s comments indicated, as has been reported in the last few days, that the emphasis will be on commercial providers. “What we’re going to focus on, what NASA will focus on, is… facilitating the success of I like to use the term ‘entrepreneurial interests’,” he said. He used that specific term in order to make clear that NASA has used various products and personnel from contractors over the years. “We have been involved in commercial space exploration since I came to NASA, and we will continue to be involved. What’s going to change, I think, is that instead of NASA buying a vehicle and then taking over its primary operations we will buy a service” based on who can provide the best price for transportation to the ISS.

Bolden also said that any exploration of the Moon—whenever that may be—will be by necessity an international program. “No matter what the president—no matter what his vision is, or no matter what he tells us, whenever humans go back to the Moon it will be, I believe, an international effort.”

“My dream is to go to Mars,” he said later. “I won’t make it, probably.” Like going to the Moon, he said, human Mars missions would be an international venture, but before we can “responsibly” send such missions to Mars, we need to first tackle the issues of propulsion and radiation exposure. “For people who get excited about whatever they see come out of President Obama’s vision, and people who want to say, ‘Well, we’re not going to Mars,” we didn’t say that. We said we’re going to Mars one of these days. People will leave this planet, I think, and go to Mars, but when we do it, it’s going to be done responsibly, ethically, and we’re going to do is such that they survive and come home.”

Bolden also paid some attention to the issue of near Earth objects, something that got notice recently with the release of an National Research Council report on NEO surveys and mitigation. “One of my jobs as the NASA administrator—I didn’t realize it when I took the job—is to work in coordination with the Secretary of Defense for protection of the planet, and it means trying to locate and identify things that threaten the planet, be they asteroids or big rocks or what,” he said. Bolden said that NASA has not done a “very good job” looking for NEOs. The impact last summer of an object with Jupiter, witnessed by Hubble among other telescopes, got a lot of attention in NASA and the White House, he said. “That got everybody’s attention, up to President Obama,” Bolden said. “I think you will see us devote a little bit more time—I don’t know how, I can’t state definitively right now how much more money, how much more time, or anything, but you’re going to see one of the things that we do is devote more time and energy to understanding near Earth objects and things that threaten the planet from outside.”

“We’re going to have to adapt to change,” Bolden said near the end of the video. He reminded the audience that the budget proposal and policy changes are only the beginning of the process of changing the space agency. “The president’s decision is the beginning of the debate,” he said. “I think what we’re going to do, based on what I know today, is the best thing for the nation and the best thing for the family of spacefaring nations.”

47 comments to Bolden’s intriguing comments

  • Robert G. Oler

    I dont think we need “astronauts”…we dont have “South Pole nauts”

    Robert G. Oler

  • Fascinating interview of Mr. Bolden! Absolutely fascinating!

  • Snark

    Wow. What a terrible attempt to put a brave face on on a horrible future:

    “There are dramatic changes that are about to take place”

    “The last shuttle flight, he said, “will be the last time in the history of mankind—unless we change our minds, you know, which I don’t think is going to happen—that you’ll see a vehicle of its capability leave this planet and go into low Earth orbit.”

    “why do you need astronauts?’

    “we will buy a service”

    “I won’t make it, probably.”

    “we’re going to Mars one of these days.”

    “I think you will see us devote a little bit more time—I don’t know how”

    “We’re going to have to adapt to change”

    America is toast.

  • NASA Fan

    @ Snark: American has been toast for some time; Obama is just making more toast.

    At some point I do see Space X, once it feels the full brunt of the Human Rated Certification process, led by disgruntled JSC employees, arguing to hire and train its own astronauts rather than put up with the Human Rated Certification process.

    Again, who better to dismantle the manned space program than an astronaut: Bolden.

    Upon his selection by Obama, I knew we’d see this day.

  • Sheridan

    This is the beginning of the end for Human Space Flight.

    Removing the Moon and the Mars aspects of this to go to big meteorites every so often and go visit empty lagrange points is just ridiculous. There is no point in spending billions of tax payers money during a recession in order to do that. None at all.

    The Moon is the logical stepping stone to Mars. The right program can be developed for the Moon with an eye to Mars Forward technology and procedures. The public can see progress and capabilities continually increasing, with real target locations.

    But this new program is too “wooly”. It lacks definition or destination. Without a clear set of goals, it will get very little public support and that means it will get canceled quite quickly.

    This is a mistake.

  • CharlesHouston

    This is the beginning of the end of the US human space flight. Russia will still fly their people, so will China and probably India. By the time that the Orion is about ready to fly – having survived various Over Budget scares and Under Performance scares, people will have adapted and will ask: “why not just other countries fly, and get their results??” The budget will be cut and we’ll watch other countries go to the Moon. We will always have DisneyLand, we can flip burgers for foreign tourists. Sigh. When the NASA Administrator looks forward to the day when he has to defend having astronauts – instead of showing his pride at what they have accomplished – we have crossed into a new world.

  • GoAtlasGoCentaur!

    This is not the end – this is the beginning of a new era in Space:

    Commercial Space
    Commercial Astronaut Corp’s

    This is exciting as commercial competitive edge will develop new ideas in space.

  • Major Tom

    “Removing the Moon and the Mars aspects of this…”

    Bolden made no such statement. Reread Mr. Foust’s post:

    “… before we can ‘responsibly’ send such missions to Mars, we need to first tackle the issues of propulsion and radiation exposure.”

    “… and people who want to say, ‘Well, we’re not going to Mars,’ we didn’t say that.”

    “… when we do it, it’s going to be done responsibly, ethically, and we’re going to do is such that they survive and come home.’”

    Read and comprehend before you post.

    “The Moon is the logical stepping stone to Mars. The right program can be developed for the Moon with an eye to Mars Forward technology and procedures.”

    Like what? The thermal environment, gravity, atmosphere, radiation, chemical hazards, solar input, regolith, mission duration, time lag, etc. are all different — in some cases radically so. Given all these differences, what lunar hardware is going to be reused at Mars? Given all these differences, what command, communications, and life support procedures are going to be reused at Mars?

    I’m all for a useful human lunar return, but it (or any other expensive activity on the taxpayer dime) shouldn’t be justified using feed-forward myths.

    FWIW…

  • Major Tom

    “This is the beginning of the end of the US human space flight… The budget will be cut…”

    What is with people’s reading comprehension tonight?

    Two sources in Mr. Foust’s top post in the prior thread both claim that NASA is getting a budget increase of $1.3B per year for the next five year. That’s the opposite of a budget cut.

    “When the NASA Administrator looks forward to the day when he has to defend having astronauts…”

    According to Mr. Foust’s post, Bolden said nothing of the sort. In fact, he said the opposite, that he’s not looking forward to that day:

    “I wish it were not going to come up…”

    Please, read, comprehend, and think before you post.

    Oy vey…

  • David Davenport


    This is exciting as commercial competitive edge will develop new ideas in space.

    Oh yeah? How will the commercial competitive edge implement new space ideas without Gooberment contracts ultimately paid for by US taxpayers?

  • Robert G. Oler

    CharlesHouston wrote @ January 27th, 2010 at 9:47 pm

    This is the beginning of the end of the US human space flight. Russia will still fly their people, so will China and probably India. By the time that the Orion is about ready to fly

    Orion will never fly…and Americans will fly in space soon, this time on commercial vehicles.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Commander Keen

    Commercial enterprises will be free to sell tourist seats. This is the beginning of fully orbital tourism. Which will itself provide a market for the various space hotel proposals.

    NASA will not be the only customer and with luck an orbital fuel depot system will emerge. All of this will reduce flight costs to NASAs benefit if it comes off.

  • CharlesHouston

    A few notes, for Major Tom first. The Major must have just woken up from a long coma – the US government space effort has been underfunded for years. Did you ever hear of the Augustine Commission? They said that we needed to increase the budget by 3 billion per year, and now we are offered the President pushing for 1.3 billion? Commercial space booster will be safer and somewhat more efficient, but short term the costs are going to be very similar. So the President proposes a 1.3 billion increase per year – does he now appropriate money? No, have you heard of the Congress? He has to stick to his guns (not something he is good at) and push Congress to even get that amount.
    1.3 billion per year is about what Barbara Mikulski was proposing a few years ago, and it has been shown to be too little.
    And “I wish it were not going to come up” means that the barbarians are at the city gate – not far away looking at our borders. The Major is the guy who hears Up and thinks he heard Down. The NASA Administrator should be so confident that he would not take a question asking if we should have government astronauts, except the question is a serious one now.
    And Robert Oler – what commercial company is working on (or even has any indication of working on) a manned capsule to go on top of the commercial orbital booster? No one. Even Virgin Galactic is only ready to test a suborbital vehicle. We have lots of experience with Atlas and Delta – but absolutely no experience with any capsules. Can we buy some Soyuz vehicles on eBay or something?? Almaz? The only capsule we have is the NASA/Constellation Orion.
    And there has been no mention anywhere of commercializing that. Read a newspaper sometime!

  • Mark R. Whittington

    The commercial space venture would be great if it gets funded. As for the rest, noting this administration record of duplicity, I should regard vague promises of heavy lifters and human missions beyond LEO in the ill defined future with considerable skepticism.

  • Robert G. Oler

    CharlesHouston wrote @ January 28th, 2010 at 12:32 am

    A few notes, for Major Tom first. The Major must have just woken up from a long coma – the US government space effort has been underfunded for years. ..

    that is a serious misrepresentation.

    NASA has not been underfunded for years, it has over the years continued to badly spend the money it gets.

    Take booster development.

    ARES of all variants is at best a cobble together of either already tested engines, derivative shuttle hardware or Apollo legacy hardware. I stick to the booster setup but “Orion” is essentially “Apollo”.

    NASA has consumed already about 9 billion dollars on Ares, it spent 1/2 billion dollars on a test flight of hardware that in no real way was representative of the actual vehicle.

    SpaceX has, lets look at the highest possible cost about 1 and 1/2 billion dollars and has successfully flown Falcon 1 (including three test hops that were full up but failures) and is on the verge of flying Falcon 9 which is an Ares 1 equivelent.

    If NASA could do with ARes or say consume about twice what SpaceX did with FAlcon so say 3 billion dollars and be on the verge of going to orbit…

    They would still hold on to the program.

    What words like yours really mean is “we should fund NASA and their rocket programs AT WHATEVER THEY CLAIM is needed to do the job.”

    How do you defend Ares 1 being where it is for what it has cost…and still needing until 2017 to actually go to orbit?

    “And Robert Oler – what commercial company is working on (or even has any indication of working on) a manned capsule to go on top of the commercial orbital booster? …………. The only capsule we have is the NASA/Constellation Orion.”

    SpaceX is well along with Dragon. We dont have Orion. It is no where near ready to fly…and it is simply a redo of Apollo. It is taking NASA longer to put together Apollo 2 then the entire orbital life of Apollo 1.

    How do you defend that?

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    Mark R. Whittington wrote @ January 28th, 2010 at 12:34 am

    The commercial space venture would be great if it gets funded. ..

    it will.

    as for human missions beyond LEO…or what I guess you are referring to exploration by humans of other worlds…Who cares? and why should it be done?

    To stop the Chinese? TO map out Whittingtonville?

    Robert G. Oler

  • Brad

    CharlesHouston

    You are on the right track, but it’s even worse than you think. The 1.3 billion increase isn’t per year, it’s over the course of FIVE years, which is closer to a 250 million increase per year compared to the Augustine recommendation of 3 billion.

    Robert G. Oler

    As fine a development as the Falcon 9 is, it is not in the same payload class as the Ares I corn dog rocket. If maybe, someday, a three CCB Falcon 9 heavy flies, THAT vehicle would be comparable to the Ares I. Fair is fair.

  • Brad

    With no significant increase in NASA budget, I don’t see how NASA gets closer to beyond LEO manned space exploration. Whether it’s HLV, fuel depots, advanced propulsion or some other scheme, the money isn’t there.

    But, with all the talk of international cooperation being a necessity for manned space exploration, it makes me wonder. Maybe there will be a HLV after all, except it will be the Russian Energia instead!

  • Peter Lykke

    Robert G. Oler wrote @ January 28th, 2010 at 12:56 am

    “NASA has consumed already about 9 billion dollars on Ares, it spent 1/2 billion dollars on a test flight of hardware that in no real way was representative of the actual vehicle”

    Forgive me for a stupid question: Why has it taken so much money to develop Ares I? Even Augustine states that the program is managed well, so apparantly there isn’t much waste. But what are all the billions used for?

    Peter

  • NASA Fan

    @Bolden: … before we can ‘responsibly’ send such missions to Mars, we need to first tackle the issues of propulsion and radiation exposure.”

    “… and people who want to say, ‘Well, we’re not going to Mars,’ we didn’t say that.”

    “… when we do it, it’s going to be done responsibly, ethically, and we’re going to do is such that they survive and come home.’”

    The above statements are political speak for :”Not in my life time or your childrens childrens lifetime”. This is called ‘punting it down the road’.

    Yes, leave the door open, but there will be no ‘schedule’, no firm ‘goal’, nothing. Study Study Study. There will be R&D towards this; perhaps that will help the republic.

  • guest

    Peter-
    “Why has it taken so much money to develop Ares I? Even Augustine states that the program is managed well, so apparantly there isn’t much waste. But what are all the billions used for?”

    Where did you hear or see that Augustine ever said that Constellation is “well managed” ?

    I think this is deliberate misinformation spread by the Constellation Managers.

    Peter – you appear to have answered with your own question: Why has it taken so much money [and time] to develop Ares I and Constellation ? What are all the billions used for ?

    The Constellation managers cannot get past the observed fact that with 5 years and 10 billion dollars they were unable to complete even a preliminary design of their concept.

  • Major Tom

    “A few notes, for Major Tom first. The Major must have just woken up from a long coma – the US government space effort has been underfunded for years.”

    NASA’s budget is more than that of all foreign civil space agencies combined. NASA doesn’t have a problem with underfunding. NASA has a problem with spending its funding efficiently.

    “Did you ever hear of the Augustine Commission?”

    It’s the Augustine Committee, not Commission. If you are going to claim that other posters don’t know about X, you should at least get the name of X right.

    Do your homework before you post next time. Don’t waste other posters’ time with your lack of knowledge.

    “They said that we needed to increase the budget by 3 billion per year, and now we are offered the President pushing for 1.3 billion?”

    You wrote that the NASA budget was being “cut” when it’s clearly being increased. Admit your mistake or don’t post. Don’t waste other posters’ time with idiotic backtracking on your prior statements.

    Read, comprehend, and think before you post and you won’t have to backtrack.

    “Commercial space booster will be safer and somewhat more efficient, but short term the costs are going to be very similar.”

    False. The taxpayer’s investment in Falcon 9 development through COTS is $278 million (with an “m”). Ares I was at least a $12 billion-plus (with a “b”) developmet for the taxpayer (and that doesn’t include its ground facilities). Their costs are different by orders of magnitude.

    Don’t make up facts and spread lies.

    “So the President proposes a 1.3 billion increase per year – does he now appropriate money? No, have you heard of the Congress?”

    When has Congress not followed the President on major, funded changes in the direction of NASA’s human space flight programs? Apollo? Shuttle? Freedom/ISS? VSE?

    Learn some history before you waste other posters’ time with your lack of knowledge.

    “And ‘I wish it were not going to come up’ means that the barbarians are at the city gate – not far away looking at our borders. The Major is the guy who hears Up and thinks he heard Down.”

    These sentences are incoherent and unintelligible. Is English even your first language?

    “The NASA Administrator should be so confident that he would not take a question asking if we should have government astronauts, except the question is a serious one now.”

    The NASA Administrator should refuse to answer reporters’ questions? What are you smoking?

    Geez…

  • Monte Davis

    “The commercial space venture would be great if it gets funded.”

    “It will.”

    This is SO EXCITING. At last the mighty engine of free enterprise will be unleashed, free of the dead hand of government bureaucracy. And all it needs is… how much taxpayer money, again? For how long — y’know, just until it hits its stride — ?

    The “pump priming” argument is older than the corporation. Whether it’s valid or bogus depends on a realistic quantitative assessment of how long and how steep the road is from “subsidize us” to “lower our taxes.” Space fandom has been marked by the absence of such assessment: In the 1960s, it projected the Sputnik->Apollo pace out to 2001; today, it looks to VirginSpaceX instead of Pan Am, Bigelow OmniContinental instead of the orbital Hilton.

    What makes the road to a spacefaring civilization long and steep is primarily physics, engineering, and the constraints they impose on economics — any economics, whether the economics of NASA budget vs. perceived public benefit or the economics of private ROI. Whether it’s a public thoroughfare or a privatized toll road (and how it might morph from one to the other) is far less significant than you’d think from the amount of attention it receives in the space blogosphere. Either way, the mountain is still there.

  • Major Tom

    “As for the rest, noting this administration record of duplicity…”

    And the prior Administration wasn’t duplicitious about its budget commitments to the VSE? And you’re not commenting on that because…?

    Holy hypocrisy, Batman…

  • Major Tom

    “Even Augustine states that the program is managed well…”

    There is no such statement in the final report of the Augustine Committee. In fact, the report is full of Constellation concerns:
    On Ares I, the report states “The ability of Ares I to meet these [NASA's safety] requirements will not be known until it has an established flight record…” On Orion, the report states “… the Orion development schedule is ‘back-end loaded,’ such that designing test articles, conducting tests and producing flight hardware run in parallel, thus creating an extremely high schedule risk.” On Ares I and Orion, the report states that “[budget and] technical problems that have been encountered on the Ares I and Orion programs, have produced the most significant overall impacts to
    the execution of the Constellation Program.”

    Etc, etc…

  • ralph

    I have never been so hopeful about human space exploration in my life. Finally NASA will get out of the way of entrepreneurs. Finally NASA will spend public money doing things that have never been done before.

    Facilitate private space. I said it, bolden said it, it’s going to happen, the future is bright.

  • Loki

    “with 5 years and 10 billion dollars they were unable to complete even a preliminary design of their concept.”

    In the interest of fairness, both Ares 1 and Orion have been through PDR (Preliminary Design Review), so yes, they have completed preliminary designs.

    As for Spacex et al, I wish them the best, really. But I’m not really prepared to jump for joy just yet, and I’m not just saying that because my current employment depends on Orion continuing; I’m sure there will be other jobs eventually. I say that because Falcon 9/ Dragon has not flown even once yet. Neither has OSC’s Taurus 2/ Cygnus combination. Just because Falcon 1 has had 2 successful flights doesn’t mean much for Falcon 9. I hope they succeed, but I’d feel a lot more comfortable if they had designed their respective COTS capsules to be compatible with EELVs as well as their own rockets. That way if something goes wrong on the first few F-9 flights, like it did on the first 3 F-1 flights, there would at least be a backup plan. Seems like an awful lot is riding on a couple of unproven rockets.

    Again, in the interest of fairness, you could same the same thing about Ares1/ Orion, which is why I’ve always believed it would have been better to plan on launching on EELV heavies (which, btw, was LMs original proposal way back before ESAS). Go figure, it’s almost like maybe they knew what they were doing (unlike NASAs managers).

  • CharlesTheSpaceGuy

    Trying to stick to facts and not react to baiting…

    First let’s tackle the commercial launch option. Several people here have written that the commercial option would allow astronauts to go into orbit. I wrote, summarizing, that we would still need Orion. I did not mention SpaceX (or Virgin Galactic) even though I am quite enthusiastic about SpaceX. Looking at the probable performance of the various vehicles you can see that Atlas 5 will probably deliver up to 29,000 kg to low earth orbit. Ares 1 was proposed to deliver 25,000 kg to LEO. The current version of Falcon 9 is proposed to deliver less than half of that – 10,000 kg. Ares 1 was undersized for what we needed. For now I discount Falcon 9 since Atlas/Delta have vastly more flight experience and lift over twice as much to orbit. Of course we might yet see a budget that only counts on Falcon/Dragon – but the rumors are all that we will go with Atlas/Delta.

    So “commercial” means Atlas/Delta to get something into orbit. SpaceX is working on Dragon, but not to integrate it with those two boosters.

    The source of my numbers is years of experience doing real time space operations – but you could check them on Wikipedia, etc.

    I did say that NASA has been underfunded and can only point to years of reports, commissions, committees, etc. that say that, for what it has been asked to do – NASA is woefully underfunded.

    Major Tom points out that the NASA budget is far larger than other budgets but (since he woke up from his coma only recently) he did not realize that NASA is asked to do far more than anyone else. NASA does sustaining engineering for ISS, does interplanetary missions, currently it flies the Shuttle which is far larger and more capable than the Soyuz. For it’s tasking – for instance the Program of Record for Constellation – NASA has been underfunded since the days of the Sand Chart. If they spend it well or not is a separate discussion.

    I said that the budget would be cut and Major Tom again locked onto that statement since it is one of the few that he could understand. The President has made a throw away mention that he was gonna ask for more money (far too little to do any good) just as George Bush did when his version of NASA released the Sand Chart. What happened to the money promised in the Chart? Hmmm. Sometimes the Congress does not automatically follow the President? Especially in days of crushing Federal deficits? By the way the Congress has found billions for Florida high speed rail – so tourists can come see Disneyland. But a billion for space? Sorry. When that 1.3 billion is on an appropriations bill we can seriously consider it.

    One final note – the Oracle (wikipedia) does refer to the Augustine Commission as what the Augustine Committee was a part of. Semantics are not the heart of this posting, however.

    Several people here are enthusiastic but need to compare promises to reality.

    Major Tom appears to be a spokeperson for the President, but President Obama could do better. There is no point to putting up strawman arguments which are too easily dismissed.

  • Loki

    Minor correction: LM’s orignal pre-ESAS proposal was a smaller, lighter capsule than Orion has turned out to be that could be launched on Atlas 5 MLVs, not EELV heavies; I mis-typed slightly before.

  • “And Robert Oler – what commercial company is working on (or even has any indication of working on) a manned capsule to go on top of the commercial orbital booster? No one. Even Virgin Galactic is only ready to test a suborbital vehicle. We have lots of experience with Atlas and Delta – but absolutely no experience with any capsules. Can we buy some Soyuz vehicles on eBay or something?? Almaz? The only capsule we have is the NASA/Constellation Orion.”

    Funny you should mention Almaz. There’s a company called Excalibur Almaz that has already purchased and begun refitting the Almaz vehicles for commercial use. I’m skeptical of their target dates of 2014, but they are a real company with real hardware that has actually attained orbit.

    As for the others, Bigelow is still talking Orion Lite on a commercial booster, possibly even Falcon 9 Heavy. It’s based off of engineering test articles already built by NASA, so it won’t be canned when Orion disappears. Interorbital Systems is claiming a 2012 launch date for the Neptune capsule (which I also have serious doubts on, but it’s there and they also have hardware with flight experience). Orbital Sciences has already expressed interest and done some basic blueprints in turning their ISS resupply module into a manned system given government interest.

    And finally, I’m curious how you managed to miss SpaceX Dragon. They have a capsule and the rocket needed to carry it. The rocket is, in fact, headed to the pad in Florida as we speak, complete with a non-flight test module of the Dragon. Further test flights with a flight-ready Dragon are slotted for later this year. Their presentation to Augustine, et al, specifically went over their express interest in manned flight and gave a 2-3 year timeline on manned flight on Dragon. They’ve even made some mentions of lunar flights complete with possible pricetag.

    And that’s assuming LockMart and Boeing won’t act on their own plans for commercial launch on vehicles they already have. They’ve already explored the options and made proposals in the past. And now that Constellation is dead, they need a new space project to focus on.

    This is a seriously bold change of direction. I have a lot of faith in commercial space, but it’s a risk and I really hope it pays off. This could re-write US space for the better.

  • Because of the dangers of radiation, Bolden pretty much said that any Flexible path destination beyond the Moon is currently beyond our current technological ability. So this pretty much makes any flights to asteroids or to the moons of Mars, pure fantasy.

    He also seem to suggest that the Obama administrations proposals for the future will also depend on what the Congress thinks of those proposals. The fact that Obama has said very little about our space program suggest to me that he’s really not in the mood to fight Congress over the future of a program with such a– tiny budget– when he has much more serious financial problems to deal with like the astronomical cost of Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Brad wrote @ January 28th, 2010 at 3:49 am

    As fine a development as the Falcon 9 is, it is not in the same payload class as the Ares I corn dog rocket..

    the size is irrelevant.

    it is the process.

    Go look at the development/certification times for a transport category airplane and they are “about” the same assuming that there are no development show stoppers. And those show stoppers are irrelevant of size.

    The reality is that making the Ares 1 work should BE FAR EASIER then making Falcon 9 core or even FAlcon 1 work.

    There is no real “new” development in the system. OK there has to be a SRB slightly different…but not all that much…the second stage is using an engine that has flown.

    But to account for size…I gave Ares twice the amount of money that FAlcon has used…they still have spent more but accomplished less.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    Peter Lykke wrote @ January 28th, 2010 at 5:20 am

    Forgive me for a stupid question: Why has it taken so much money to develop Ares I? ..

    As for the well managed I think that this was being kind.

    Why has it taken so long?

    For the same reason the F-35 project has taken so long…or (insert this project) is flailing ..and the USMC had to go outside the normal procurement chain to get the “Cougar” vehicle even while Americans were dying of IED’s.

    The “biggest” problem with current NASA projects (in my view) is two fold. The first is that all the current contractors have to be used…and the second is that really there is no one who can say “these are the goals everything else is not very important”.

    Or in the current scheme of things “this is good enough”

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    CharlesTheSpaceGuy

    vehicles in the commercial world are sized to deal with projected markets. if the needed size grows larger…the vehicles tend to grow as well.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    ralph wrote @ January 28th, 2010 at 10:55 am

    I have never been so hopeful about human space exploration in my life. Finally NASA will get out of the way of entrepreneurs. Finally NASA will spend public money doing things that have never been done before.

    yes Robert G. Oler

  • common sense

    @Loki:

    ” I say that because Falcon 9/ Dragon has not flown even once yet. ”

    Come on please, has Ares/Orion flown yet? What is it that makes you so comfortable with them? Because you work on them?

    And again the LMT CEV proposal for Phase 1 was a lifting body not a capsule. I guess you weren’t there then. There was no proposal after Phase 1, the design was dictated by NASA.

  • Ferris Valyn

    Loki

    I’d feel a lot more comfortable if they had designed their respective COTS capsules to be compatible with EELVs as well as their own rockets. That way if something goes wrong on the first few F-9 flights, like it did on the first 3 F-1 flights, there would at least be a backup plan. Seems like an awful lot is riding on a couple of unproven rockets.

    How do you know they won’t (at least as it pertains to human flight, since we have multiple cargo options)? We have yet to see how commercial crew will be implimented. And why is it the assumption that only OSC and SpaceX will compete for commercial crew?

    CharlesTheSpaceGuy – Okay, first, the only Atlas V that can loft 29,000 kg is the Heavy version, which has not flown. And that has about the same lift capacity of the Falcon 9 Heavy (which I also admit, has not flown). Of the various Atlas versions considered for manned use, the Atlas V 402, talked about during A-com, lifts 12,500 kg (same as the Falcon 9). The Atlas V 431 has been mentioned as a possible lifter for the Dreamchaser, as well (Don’t know what the payload is to LEO, but obviosuly it is slightly more).

    Concerning the Dragon integrating with either of the other boosters – again, how would you know? Have the reqs been written?

    aremisasling – Orion-lite would be launched on an Atlas V MLV (I suspect either the 401 or 402, but I don’t know for sure), which would mean that it could move to a Falcon 9, theoretically, and not need the Heavy

  • Patrick

    “As fine a development as the Falcon 9 is, it is not in the same payload class as the Ares I corn dog rocket. If maybe, someday, a three CCB Falcon 9 heavy flies, THAT vehicle would be comparable to the Ares I. Fair is fair.”

    Why does Dragon have be as big as Orion? Why does the entry vehicle have to comprise all the living and working space of an interplanetary spacecraft? Wouldn’t a Dragon with beefed-up TPS, docked to a Bigelow module and a separately delivered upper stage, work even better than cramming a bunch of people into a bathroom for a year? This arrangement would require multiple launches of existing boosters and perhaps a fuel depot–both lowering purchase prices for boosters, and establishing infrastructure that we need. Far better than eating up most of NASA’s budget for a couple of decades, to get a little more capability than we had in 1969.

  • “With no significant increase in NASA budget, I don’t see how NASA gets closer to beyond LEO manned space exploration. Whether it’s HLV, fuel depots, advanced propulsion or some other scheme, the money isn’t there.”

    I’ll tell you how. It will be a results based pay-as-you-go development situation. Each commercial company will not be paid for the next level unless NASA decides that they have met mandated requirements (including safety) for the previously specified goal. Unlike Ares I where contractors continued to get paid regardless of whether goals had been reached or not. Given this fact alone, it won’t take as much money to make the same amount of progress because contractors won’t think ,”It doesn’t matter what I do, since they’ll pay me whatever amount I say I need to continue”.

  • Loki

    @ common sense

    “Come on please, has Ares/Orion flown yet?”

    No, they haven’t. I’m pretty sure I pointed out that fact in my previous post where I said “in the interest of fairness, you could same the same thing [that they haven't flown yet] about Ares1/ Orion”

    “What is it that makes you so comfortable with them? Because you work on them?”

    Technically I never said I was comfortable with them. Also, I hate the fact that my current employment situation is dependant on a line item in a federal budget proposal. That’s the biggest problem with the aerospace industry in general to tell the truth. Every job I’ve had I’ve either been laid off or at some point threatened to be laid off because of program cancellations, federal budget cuts, etc.

    But as I said in another thread, paraphrasing Luke Skywalker from Star Wars “It’s not that I love the [constellation program] I hate it, there’s just nothing I can do about it.”

    @ Ferris

    “How do you know they won’t (at least as it pertains to human flight, since we have multiple cargo options)? We have yet to see how commercial crew will be implimented. And why is it the assumption that only OSC and SpaceX will compete for commercial crew?”

    Point taken, technically I don’t know that Dragon or OSC’s Cygnus won’t be compatible with EELVs. It’s entirely possible they will, but I hadn’t heard anything about that, so I assumed they won’t be.

    I mainly just used OSC and Spacex because they’re the 2 who are involved in COTS. Depending on how commercial crew will be done it’s entirely possible other companies could compete as well. Fair enough?

  • Loki

    ”It doesn’t matter what I do, since they’ll pay me whatever amount I say I need to continue”.

    Probably one of the best descriptions of the cost plus contracting mindset I’ve ever seen…

  • Ferris Valyn

    Loki – Fair enough, but this goes to the larger point of “there is nothing I can do about it” – In point of fact there are viable options out there, and if we pushed for them, I think we can finally get them.

    With regard to other companies for commercial crew
    1. Its worth noting that, in the case of the COTS 1b bid (Which OSC won) Boeing made a serious bid for it
    2. In the original COTS bid, Spacedev’s Dreamchaser is generally assumed to be the 3rd place finisher, and so must be considered a viable option (since SNC is still quite active). And we know one of the serious options under consideration was the Atlas V 432
    3. The Orion-lite vehicle would probably end up being a joint project of Bigelow, Lockheed Martin, and Boeing.

    Anyway, this isn’t to beat you over the head about this, but when we consider commercial crew, we really need to be looking at the larger situation

  • Major Tom

    “Because of the dangers of radiation, Bolden pretty much said that any Flexible path destination beyond the Moon is currently beyond our current technological ability.”

    No, he didn’t. Bolden stated that the radiation risks associated with a human Mars mission have to be dealt with honestly. He didn’t say anything about radiation risks for missions to other targets.

    Don’t make stuff up.

    “So this pretty much makes any flights to asteroids or to the moons of Mars, pure fantasy.”

    No, it doesn’t. Radiation risk is largely a function of time spent in space. Missions to Lagrange observatories or NEOs are much shorter than Mars missions and don’t expose the crew to nearly as much radiation.

    FWIW…

  • Ferris

    “CharlesTheSpaceGuy – Okay, first, the only Atlas V that can loft 29,000 kg is the Heavy version, which has not flown. And that has about the same lift capacity of the Falcon 9 Heavy (which I also admit, has not flown). Of the various Atlas versions considered for manned use, the Atlas V 402, talked about during A-com, lifts 12,500 kg (same as the Falcon 9). The Atlas V 431 has been mentioned as a possible lifter for the Dreamchaser, as well (Don’t know what the payload is to LEO, but obviosuly it is slightly more). ”

    Excellent points. And as a matter of comparison, see:

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

    and

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

    You’ll note that the Falcon 9 Heavy at completion is slotted to have the highest LEO lift capability of any rocket in production or planned. It would come after only N!, the Saturn family and the doomed Ares V. Granted it would fall WAY behind any of those four vehicles, but the point stands.

    I suspect if Falcon 9 Mark 1 makes a few successful flights and gets crew up on the Dragon capsule we’ll see F9 Heavy shortly thereafter. That is, of course, provided there is a market, which has nothing to do with SpaceX’s capabilities.

  • Major Tom

    “First let’s tackle the commercial launch option. Several people here have written that the commercial option would allow astronauts to go into orbit. I wrote, summarizing, that we would still need Orion.”

    For getting astronauts into orbit, no, we wouldn’t. Just like Orion, Dragon is designed to take six crew to LEO and dock with another vehicle.

    “Looking at the probable performance of the various vehicles you can see that Atlas 5 will probably deliver up to 29,000 kg to low earth orbit.”

    Wrong. Depending on the variant, Atlas V delivers from 12,500kg (the 401) to 25,000kg (the 5H2) to LEO.

    “The source of my numbers is years of experience doing real time space operations – but you could check them on Wikipedia, etc.”

    I wouldn’t claim “years of experience” when I can’t quote launch vehicle lift capacity accurately to within thousands of kilograms.

    I don’t know why you’re relying on wikipedia, but the numbers above are consistent with the wikipedia entry for Atlas V.

    “Ares 1 was proposed to deliver 25,000 kg to LEO. The current version of Falcon 9 is proposed to deliver less than half of that – 10,000 kg.”

    Your point? So what if Falcon 9/Dragon delivers six crew to orbit using less than half the throw weight of Ares I/Orion?

    “So ‘commercial’ means Atlas/Delta to get something into orbit.”

    No it doesn’t. Ariane, Atlas, Delta, Falcon, Pegasus, Proton, SeaLaunch, and Soyuz can all get “something” into orbit on a commercial basis.

    “SpaceX is working on Dragon, but not to integrate it with those two boosters.”

    Why would they need to? Dragon can deliver six crew to orbit and dock with another vehicle without launching on an Atlas or Delta.

    LockMart has their own crew capsule design, the Crew Transport Vehicle or CTV, that can launch on a smaller Atlas V. They don’t need Orion or a big EELV to get astronauts to orbit, either.

    “I did say that NASA has been underfunded and can only point to years of reports, commissions, committees, etc. that say that, for what it has been asked to do – NASA is woefully underfunded.”

    And that’s different how from all the years of commission and committee reports on the various foreign space agencies? Or any other government department or agency?

    Everything is always underfunded, especially in government. It’s a question of what you do with the funding you have.

    “Major Tom points out that the NASA budget is far larger than other budgets”

    No I didn’t. I pointed out that NASA’s budget is larger than the budgets of all the foreign space agencies combined.

    “(since he woke up from his coma only recently)”

    You have to be kidding. You can’t transcribe simple numbers from wikipedia accurately or tell the difference between a budget going up and a budget going down, yet you claim that I’m in a “coma”?

    If I’m in a “coma”, then what’s your condition? Brain dead?

    “For it’s tasking – for instance the Program of Record for Constellation – NASA has been underfunded since the days of the Sand Chart.”

    False. NASA overall budget didn’t meet the VSE projections, but Constellation actually received more funding that what was promised in the VSE.

    “I said that the budget would be cut and Major Tom again locked onto that statement since it is one of the few that he could understand.”

    I didn’t “lock in” on anything. Your statement was false, I corrected it, you tried to backtrack, and I called you on it.

    Why is it so hard to admit that your statement was wrong?

    “The President has made a throw away mention that he was gonna ask for more money”

    The President has done no such thing. Former astronaut and Augustine Committee member Sally Ride and a couple Administration and NASA officials told reporters on a telecon that next week’s White House budget request would include a $1.3 billion annual budget increase for NASA.

    “(far too little to do any good)”

    How do you know? Do you know what the programmatic content is? Do you work at the White House? Have you seen the budget?

    Moreover, an annual increase of $1.3 billion is more than what the Augustine Committee claimed NASA needed ($1 billion in the first year rising to $3 billion at the fifth year) to implement the Committee’s various exploration program options.

    “Sometimes the Congress does not automatically follow the President?”

    Are you asking or stating?

    On big changes in direction for NASA’s human space flight programs, Congress does follow the President historically — from Apollo to Shuttle to Freedom to the ISS to the VSE.

    “…the Oracle (wikipedia) does refer to the Augustine Commission as what the Augustine Committee was a part of.”

    Why are you relying on Wikipedia? Don’t you realize that there’s a webpage for the Augustine Committee?

    “There is no point to putting up strawman arguments which are too easily dismissed.”

    How is correcting the multiple errors in your posts “putting up strawman arguments”?

    “Major Tom appears to be a spokeperson for the President”

    Because I’ve criticized the White House’s decision to pursue a heavy lift vehicle in several threads here?

    Goofy…

  • mike shupp

    Major Tom –

    I think you misread something. An “annual budget increase of 1.3 billion” means adding 1.3 B to the baseline NASA budget (about 18 B) one year, 2.6 B the next year, 3.8 B the following year and so on. Which was the Augustine recommendation — beef NASA up to 21 B and keep it there.

    What’s actually being described seems like a an increase from 18 to 19.3B, held constant at that level (except for inflation) for the next 5 years, followed by reversion to 18 B.

    These aren’t the same thing, in other words.

  • Major Tom

    “These aren’t the same thing, in other words.”

    The exact language from some of the articles is:

    “hike NASA’s budget by an average of $1.3 billion annually over the next five years”

    To me, that sounds like a compounded (“hike… annually”) increase. But I don’t pretend that either I (or the journalist) couldn’t have misinterpreted. We’ll find out next week.

    More important than a $1.3B increase (compounded or not) is how much of the $5.5B+ annual Constellation budget is redirected and towards what. Again, we’ll find out next week.

    FWIW…

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