Congress, NASA

Mikulski on the importance of safety and astronaut destinations

While her subcommittee’s hearing on the NASA budget last week as postponed, Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) did get an opportunity to speak briefly about the agency’s new direction at the end of an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union” program yesterday. Asked by host Candy Crowley about the president’s decision “to end all funding for manned missions to the moon”, Mikulski reiterated previous statements that her top concern was astronaut safety. She also said that “we need a lot more fact finding” about the plan, including the apparent lack of a destination for space exploration.

The relevant excerpt of the interview is below:

CROWLEY: Senator Mikulski, I want — because we are so running out of time here, and I wanted to get to a question that’s specific to a responsibility that you have in the U.S. Senate. And that is, the president’s decision to stop funding, to end all funding for manned missions to the moon. Do you support that?

MIKULSKI: Well, I support astronaut safety. The No. 1 concern I have is wherever we go, whatever means is astronaut safety.

The other is, I think it is very confusing now, because we don’t know what our space destination is, and, therefore, our space mission. I think we need a lot more fact finding. We need to know a lot more from the administration. But one thing we know, we will always do everything to keep our astronauts safe, whatever is the mode of transportation.

69 comments to Mikulski on the importance of safety and astronaut destinations

  • It is a safe bet that as long as astronaut safety is our “Number one concern,” we will not take the risks required to achieve anything meaningful in space. Likewise, if we spend the majority of our budget attempting to achieve unrealistic levels of safety (you can spend infinite money on less-than-infinite safety) will we be unable to afford meaningful exploration.

    To explore the Solar System, we have to take risks. If we take risks, people will die. We should not be reckless, but safety should never be our only or primary concern any more than it is in running the national surface transportation systems (based on the number of deaths per kilometer travelled, it’s hard to conceive of anything less safe than private automobiles on freeways), or deep sea shipping (many hundreds killed every year as a matter of course), or, indeed air travel (wouldn’t, say, blimps be a lot safer?).

    In all cases, we balance convenience and time and achieving the end goal against safety. We need to do the same in space. Safety by itself is no way to choose what architecture we will use. If, for example, one of the COTS-D contenders proves a lot cheaper and slightly less safe than, say, Orion on an Ares-1, all other issues aside, safety alone is not a reason to pick the Ares-1 over an alternative.

    – Donald

  • So after Obama gives his big speech next month to the bleating sheeple and declares Mars the ultimate destination (as Bolden already has) I assume people like this will stop moaning that there isn’t a destination right? Oh yeah, they want a date too.. maybe Obama will come up with one of them as well.

  • Bab’s is in my district- I sent her a personal, hand-written letter of concern over the Obama budget of doom, her office sent back a form letter telling me that “the FY2009 budget was her top concern” Yes- they sent me a reply that was two years old… Babs is right on top of it, yes sir… two years late but she is right on top of it. She must have a really outstanding staff to do the fact finding… we can all trust her, now can’t we? Our space program is in good hands.

  • Dave C.

    This reminds me of the cows on the Chick fil-A billboards telling us to “Eat More Chik’n”. The Goddard scientists via Milulski are so concerned about astronaut safety that they are willing to sacrifice their robots to Moon, Mars and NEOs missions to gather the science. It just isn’t safe to send the spaceman or spacewoman…and in a way they are right. Robotic precursor missions to remote destinations make a lot of sense. We have a lot more robotic technology these days. Let’s see what we can do with it.

  • Doug Lassiter

    When you don’t have a real goal, one that you can stand by in front of the American taxpayer as one of great national need, risk comes to have paramount importance. If we lose astronauts on a space mission, is the loss going to be considered “worth it”? I suspect Sen. Mikulski doesn’t believe we have such a goal, and fears that she could not justify such a loss to the American people. What we do is fine and good, she feels, but not something that is worth risking people. Send them to Afghanistan instead, I guess.

    I agree completely that if astronaut safety is our “Number one concern,” we will not take the risks required to achieve anything meaningful in space, at least with regard to human space flight. Looks to me that “meaningful in space” to her simply means people coming back alive.

  • googaw

    Astronauts for the sake of astronauts. Is having politicians like Mikulski as their main customer the future of the NewSpace companies?

  • Bill White

    Astronauts for the sake of astronauts. Is having politicians like Mikulski as their main customer the future of the NewSpace companies?

    NewSpace seems to think NASA will be their “anchor tenant”

  • CharlesHouston

    It would be illuminating to ask the good Senator: who are “our” astronauts? Does that include people (not necessarily US citizens) launched into space from US locations? Would non-US citizens launched by Virgin Galactic, from California, be defined as “our” astronauts?

    The direction that human space travel is going – we could well see mainly employees of commercial companies as capsule flight crews. We might lift a few US government employees to ISS…

    The good Senator, like many of her colleagues, is not well informed on this topic.

  • Just more evidence that Senator Mikulski (like many other politicians) doesn’t think that space is of any importance.

  • Mark R. Whittington

    Isn’t it interesting that some of the same people who sneer at the idea of “safety” are also the first to scream when someone dies on a space flight? Mind, I think Babs is using the issue as a means to exert control, which is something Senators tend to take great store in. In that sense Rand Simberg is wrong; she does regard space of great importance indeed.

  • The Mars extremists are ruining deep spaceflight! All these stupendous, amazing new technologies that these NASA officials say that they’re going to develop: What makes them so sure that killing a major project is going to bring them any closer to inventing something?? By the same token: Why don’t these same NASA people say that we have to shut down the ISS, for the sake of getting started with all this brand new, never-before-seen stuff?? No, they don’t say that we gotta shut down the ISS, because the ISS is in LEO—and clearly doesn’t bother them as a place to send astronauts. No, they’ll never move to kill the ISS, because: (1) It gives NASA a bare-minimum thing to do, just so they could boast, “Look, we’re in space!” (Without actually doing much;) and (2): A permanently staffed station in LEO never bothered the Mars zealot. These Mars-or-else people will simply purport that there’s still loads of zero g research that needs to be made. But watch the howls of outrage, if the Moon is even brought up as a possible training/ proving ground! Bingo! These people hate the Moon so much as a destination, that they are willing to sacrifice the next two decades flying circles in LEO, just so NASA never goes there—ever again. I see clearly through this irrational hatred of the Moon. Notice how their eyes light up with wonder, if it was an asteroid or a Martian satellite we were talking about going to?! This anywhere-but-the-Moon hysteria has just got to end!! It’s very detrimental & damaging to the future of spaceflight, period. All this Mars-versus-the Moon in-fighting is counter-productive, and brings all of our dreams to a grinding halt. Why can’t we have the best of BOTH worlds, instead? We simply deal with one world before the other. (The closer, three-days-away one.) I’d be willing to call a truce, between our two camps, right now! I say our long-run agenda goes like this: Constellation Phase One: the Lunar venture; then a decade later: Phase Two: the Mars venture (with the additional option of an asteroidal mission, prior). Let’s go into deep space on a more united front! I call on all Mars-moderates to come forward and together we could save Constellation, Phases 1 & 2.

  • [...] Space Politics » Mikulski on the importance of safety and … [...]

  • Bill White

    Accepting micro-management from people such as Barbara Mikulski shall be an unavoidable part of the deal if NewSpace desires NASA to be their “anchor tenant”

  • Al Fansome

    BILL WHITE: Accepting micro-management from people such as Barbara Mikulski shall be an unavoidable part of the deal if NewSpace desires NASA to be their “anchor tenant”

    Bill,

    The leaders of NewSpace understands this. There is a more fundamental problem.

    The real problem is that ATK is willing to put the entire human spaceflight program at risk in order to get THEIR program. Deep down, they know that the Ares 1 program is not affordable, and does not serve the public purpose, but they don’t care.

    Sen. Mikulski is a smart woman, so I hope she comes to understand ATK’s motivation and thinking on this issue, and that the potential unintended consequences of what ATK is doing behind the scenes are huge.

    First, the only way to totally assure safety is to NOT fly. NASA understands this. The human spaceflight community understands this. I hope Sen. Mikulski comes to understand this. But let’s be clear — ATK does not care if they place human spaceflight at risk for this outcome in order to make their case for the Ares 1.

    Second, in focusing too much attention on safety, you can guarantee that an outcome that is unaffordable, and which collapses because it is unaffordable. I hope Sen. Mikulski comes to understand this. But let’s be clear — ATK is willing to accept this risk too.

    Now, NASA will almost certainly be responsive to Sen. Mikulski’s request to answer her questions on safety, and will explain to Sen. Mikulski how they plan to assure that the commercial crew systems meet NASA’s safety standards. (I just hope those standards/requirements are “reasonable”, and do not drive costs through the roof.)

    More importantly, I hope those fighting for human spaceflight (beyond ATK) understand the potential unintended consequences of promoting the “it must be safe” line of attack, and pause to think a little before continuing (and/or accepting) this line of attack.

    There are people of good intent on all sides of this debate. I urge all advocates of human spaceflight, whatever your position in this debate, to pause for a moment and think about the potential consequences of pushing the “safety above all” policy position.

    The potential unintended consequences are huge.

    Please think about this.

    FWIW,

    – Al

  • Technically, Obama did not “end all funding for manned missions to the moon.” He proposes to cancel Constellation and direct the funding into other projects, including new heavy-lifter and other technology that could take us to the Moon and other worlds.

    What if, instead of putting everything into one giant Saturn V rocket, we launch the crew, lunar module, and fuel on separate launches into LEO, assemble them in LEO, and then launch them from there to the Moon? Much safer and probably cheaper too.

    Crowley didn’t say that. She went for a sound bite.

  • I live in Maryland and have some knowledge of Senator Mikulski’s positions regarding space. First, Senator Mikulski is a strong supporter of space in general. She is quite clearly a liberal Democrat of a certain age. She was born during the Depression and almost certainly has childhood memories of WW II. She is very committed to helping ordinary citizens with their lives. For her, this means supporting all sorts of government activity — including space exploration.

    I may have an opportunity to inquire further about her stands regarding space. If I do so, I will openly report what I learn.

  • Bill White

    Al, I agree with you about the dangers of over-stating “safety concerns” and I also agree that Ares 1 needs to be canceled.

    On the other hand, this episode demonstrates that Congress has the ability to extract revenge if Obama shoves through the FY2011 NASA budget without establishing genuine compromise with members of Congress.

    By seeking an anchor tenant that pays with tax dollars, NewSpace could very easily suffer death by micro-management.

  • MrEarl

    I think that safety in space flight is a perception and relative to where you are going and what you are doing.
    Many things came together after the loss of the Columbia but one thing that came out of this was that if we were going to risk lives in space make it worth the risk. That’s why there was the Vision for Space Exploration not the Vision for Hanging Out in Space.
    I believe in peoples minds LEO is “safer” and “routine” while trips beyond LEO are more risky. So a flight by “new Space” to the ISS that ends badly will cause much more of an uproar that say one that ends badly on the way to Mars.
    That’s why we hear statements like the one from Mikulski and others.

  • Isn’t it interesting that some of the same people who sneer at the idea of “safety” are also the first to scream when someone dies on a space flight?

    It might be interesting if you could actually provide a real-world example of such a person.

  • ThatNASAEngineer@KSC

    I would counter, Donald F. Robertson, that a safety emphasis (or as you say “unrealistic levels of safety”) do not have to run against the ability to Explore per se. It’s just that the topic never stands on it’s own independent of other things unsaid. For one, real safety improvements are ultimately reliability improvements, and in any industry where reliability has increased faster than costs there have occurred wholly new capabilities and industries. Air travel matured and became accessible to a wide economic range of people (i.e., the middle class) when reliability advanced far faster than cost. For getting passengers on airplanes in the millions every day, this meant both safety and operational costs that formed a viable business case.

    We’ll continue to take risks as we move out in new frontiers, but the previous risks must be retired. It will not be possible to get further and further out, taking more risk, without having made the prior steps more mundane. The result of not retiring a risk to low Earth orbit is to make exploration beyond low earth orbit in this sense unsustainable. The unsustainable comes from the factors of cost, safety and reliability (which are also cost). Lack of safety costs money, as any attempt to inspect in, or mitigate (redundancy, process, etc) what is not inherent is inefficient. Immature hardware can not be sustained (costs too much to make, then to operate) nor could a program that is unsafe form the basis of a nations sustained exploration (loss of a crew every X years would stop the program) and poor reliability hardware also reduces value added (benefit drops as flights per year decline).

    So I would not offhand say “safety” is something that you can never get enough of, as access to space, if it is to grow, even were it to remain a high-tech industry that only certain centers around the world can tackle, must ultimately become more boring as far as low Earth orbit in the near term.

    To CharlesHouston, an excellent observation – is “astronaut” safety to be used to get in the way of growing our private citizens access to space? If astronauts are just private citizens, who’s to say what’s safe enough in a world where people are free to take risks like climbing Mt. Everest, rock climbing, or flying home made experimental aircraft? The intriguing discussion here will be what makes this different? If all that can be said, and I hate to see this is where this may go, is that a Scaled Composites / Branson or a SpaceX / Elon reflect on the US and tourist’s dying in launch will not be tolerated, then we are in a sad state indeed. The real question becomes more about repeatability, vs. recklessness, as even Mt. Everest like statistics (2% death rate for trying) should be of no concern to the Government assuming no other’s are endangered.

  • common sense

    This whole safety buzz nonsense is just that nonsense:

    There is safety in the following sense: There are known issues and problems with space travel or any other means of transportation (ask Toyota). The REAL safety is to not ignore the safety issues that we know and understand in designing a vehicle. In parallel it is very important that studies go along in order to uncover the “next” safety issue that no one thought about. So one, the safety study, will always be ahead of the other one, the design. The problem is when you try to carry all you find from the study into the design at the same time you actually do the design!!! So. The commercial companies (or even NASA) are building vehicles, say capsules, according to what is already known about the safety issues associated with such design. NASA MUST ensure that said companies understand the issues and have implemented a safe design accordingly. NASA, along with those companies (TBD how), at the same time MUST explore whether we can improve the known safety. And that is it. No more no less.

    The current debate about safety is so ludicrous that if one follows this logic then the safest, as Al Fansome pointed out, is to not fly.

    So let’s end this nonsense and get going. Somewhere. Somewhen.

  • googaw

    Bill, you’re quite right, but asking companies who think their focus should be HSF to ignore 99% of their “market”, i.e. government space agencies who launch astronauts for the sake of astronauts, is a pretty hard sell.

    Al Fansome:
    in focusing too much attention on safety, you can guarantee that an outcome that is unaffordable, and which collapses because it is unaffordable.

    Most of the fans who write letters in support of astronaut-for-the-sake-of-astronaut extravaganzas love their heroes so much they’d much rather spend a billion saving the life of an astronaut than a million to save the life of a normal earth-bound human. Meanwhile, astronauts are as useless as they have ever been: real space exploration and real space development go on without them. Big governments can generously fund many economic fantasies, but the astronaut fans are severely testing even those limits. They have painted themselves into a financial corner.

  • googaw

    BTW, this obsession with astronaut safety bears some similarity to the bureaucratic evolution of the Department of Energy. Originally the DOE was out to make nuclear weapons, and then to sell nuclear energy, and that kept them busy and well paid enough that they didn’t worry so much about the radiation. More recently, they’ve discovered that people are obsessed with radioactive threats, so now they spend their time wringing their hands about their own pollution and paying out billions to clean up the messes that they made. Now that the Cold War is over and nuclear power hasn’t revolutionized the world, obsessing over radioactive waste keeps the DOE bucks rolling in. Bureaucrats and government contractors don’t care what politicians put them to doing as long as it sounds important and we pay them well and keep their jobs unnaturally secure.

    At NASA, originally sending astronauts to the Moon and building the Shuttle kept them busy. However, the bureaucrats and contractors have discovered that people are willing to pay the big bucks just to keep their heavenfairing heroes safe. Beyond their dramatic (but very safety-conscious) blastoffs to LEO, our astronauts have to fly somewhere interesting only in fancy viewgraphs and animations. Promises of sci-fi to come and an obsession with safety in the here and now have been enough to keep the taxpayers’ money rolling in to fund astronauts for the sake of astronauts (and for the sake of many cozy jobs).

    Bureaucrats and government contractors don’t care what you put them to doing as long as it sounds important and you pay them well. Fear-mongering and safety obsessions have always been great ways of keeping themselves looking important.

  • common sense

    Sometime, often, googaw your comments are way over the top… Did you get funding cuts on your robotic job?

    Oh well…

  • googaw

    way over the top

    Really? Just what did I say that’s “way over the top”? I can see how it could seem to emanate from another galaxy for an astronaut fan, who thinks space exploration and space development revolve around their otherwise useless NASA Channel and sci-fi heroes, but for normal people what I said is pretty straightforward common sense.

  • There is one thing well worth considering in a discussion about astronaut safety. The Columbia investigation showed a culture where people further up the hierarchy did not listen to those more familiar with the problems. This kind of culture also tends to suppress new ideas. That’s why CAIB could honestly describe NASA as not a learning agency. Reforming this culture could not only make operations safer but could also allow people with new ideas the freedom to bring them to fruition.

  • common sense

    @ googaw wrote @ March 30th, 2010 at 4:29 pm :

    It is one thing to have a strong opinion about “space”. But using a condescending approach to qualify all who are interested in human space flight and putting them in the same basket so to speak is not “smart”. Same with your views on the market: Your Super-COTS or whatever is so vastly superior to anything else that we should use Your ideas. Come on.

    You’ve shown a lot more interesting thoughts in the past than this rant against HSF. Show us again. We need constructive ideas and not the usual senseless bs we hear from people who just like to rant.

    As of today, HSF will go for the near future anyway. Safety for better or worse is an issue. What would YOU do? Save for robotics…

  • googaw

    to qualify all who are interested in human space flight

    I’m not criticizing people merely because they have an interest in HSF. After, I too have an interest in HSF. Which makes me far more of an astronaut fan than most of the voters this country. I am criticizing people whose minds live in such a distant sci-fi galaxy that they things like this:

    It is a safe bet that as long as astronaut safety is our “Number one concern,” we will not take the risks required to achieve anything meaningful in space.

    Back in our part of the universe tons of meaningful things in space — in fact nearly all meaningful things in space — are done without astronauts. But many space activists have the astronaut obsession so deeply ingrained that they automatically blot out the realities of space exploration and space development that go on without astronauts. These crucial activities live in a galaxy that their minds do not inhabit.

  • Doug Lassiter

    It occurs to me that politicians may bow at the altar of safety because, and precisely because, they don’t trust NASA to do that. Why would that be? That is, the Senator could say “OK, we’re going to go proudly forth and do this, that, and the other, and of course in doing so, we trust NASA to do it safely.” But that’s not what she’s saying. She’s saying that safety comes first, in whatever we do. She’s saying that NASA has to be told that Congress is, above all, concerned about the safety of the astronauts. Got that, NASA? Our eagle eyes are on you to ensure that you don’t screw up and kill someone, whatever you want to do.

    Now, it could be that whether NASA goes anywhere or not with human spaceflight, this is a way that Congress can always declare success. That is, it isn’t about going somewhere interesting, or even going new places, It’s about what we DON’T do (as in, killing people). Hey, if our human spaceflight program stops, whether temporarily or permanently, Senator Mikulski can derive gratification that her main goal was achieved.

  • googaw

    Sorry, that was badly formatted and probably unreadable. Try again:

    using a condescending approach to qualify all who are interested in human space flight and putting them in the same basket

    I’m not criticizing people merely because they have an interest in HSF. After, I too have an interest in HSF. Which makes me far more of an astronaut fan than most of the voters this country. I am criticizing people whose minds live in such a distant sci-fi galaxy that they things like this:

    (quoting a different poster)
    It is a safe bet that as long as astronaut safety is our “Number one concern,” we will not take the risks required to achieve anything meaningful in space.

    Back in our part of the universe tons of meaningful things in space — in fact nearly all important things in space — are done without astronauts. But many space activists have the astronaut obsession so deeply ingrained that they automatically blot out the realities of space exploration and space development that go on without astronauts. These crucial activities live in a galaxy that their minds do not inhabit.

  • common sense

    “I am criticizing people whose minds live in such a distant sci-fi galaxy that they things like this:

    It is a safe bet that as long as astronaut safety is our “Number one concern,” we will not take the risks required to achieve anything meaningful in space.”

    Well it is the first time I read here a “qualifyer” of what you call the astronaut fans.

    In my mind we really need to build a bridge between the robot fans and the astronaut fans. The VSE had such an attempt only to be thwarted by the ESAS implementation of Constellation. And one must somehow disconnect science from exploration. Even though they stem from the same basic curiosity.

    Now I would like to see a lot of robotic precursors to human exploration which would address at least one safety issue. It is indeed obviously much safer to send a probe out there. In particular if there is no immediate need for a human being.

    So to be able to perform meaningful exploration I think we have to have humans in space or we may lose the knowledge and ability to put them up there. It could be LEO for a little while longer and maybe we ought to think of new stations. Would it help to have one station on the Moon? Lagrange? I don’t know yet. One way to know is to send the precursors do their preliminary investigation. In any case. Concurrent exploration is the only way to go. I think Flex-Path is aabout such an exploration and to try to go back to where we were prior ESAS.

    Also safety is an issue because the NASA programs are well government programs and a failure is a failure of the government, to its people and to the world at large: One perception that commercial “exploration” may be able to fix. It does not mean either we put people ontop of rockets without making sure they are “safe” at least according to what we know today.

    This is an iterative program: robots – humans – robots -humans etc.

    The “safety” propaganda was started by Constellation/ESAS/ATK fans. Remember that Ares I is the safest rocket ever. Rigth? Well yes it is, it is a paper rocket and will never fly so it is the safest rocket…

  • googaw

    we really need to build a bridge between the robot fans and the astronaut fans.

    I’ve never met anybody who is a robot fan in the sense that astronaut fans are, i.e. in favor of launching robots for the sake of launching robots. (Some such people might exist in the NASA or contractor community as a matter of governmental incentives, but hardly any among the general public, as it just doesn’t have the religious staying power of the heavenly pilgrimages of human heroes). So a better description of the first group is people who want to do useful things in space for reasonable amounts of money.

    In other words, astronaut fans may try to build bridges to the following which can get along quite well without astronauts:

    * All real space commerce
    * Practically all military use of space
    * All planetary science
    * All economical space exploration beyond LEO

    But since astronaut fans have spent so much time building bridges to nowhere, and their daydreams and propaganda have become so extremely divorced from economic reality, I’m pessimistic about their ability to make their way back to our galaxy. But I look forward to efforts to try.

    I would like to see a lot of robotic precursors to human exploration which would address at least one safety issue.

    Robots-for-the-sake-of-astronauts isn’t going to build bridges any better than astronauts-for-the-sake-of-astronauts.

    I suggest instead some degree of financial humility that doesn’t treat astronauts as the centerpiece of the NASA or as the centerpiece of our space future. Can you think about some important possible future directions for NASA and space commerce that don’t involve astronauts? Can you work out an “Exploration” (i.e. Astronaut) Directorate budget of $3 billion per year and learn to live within it? I realize some astronauts fans particularly in the NewSpace community have already been working to reduce costs as their top priority and I greatly applaud this. But it’s still a long, long way from astronaut fan daydreams to the economic realities of our own universe and era.

  • common sense

    “So a better description of the first group is people who want to do useful things in space for reasonable amounts of money.”

    See again this prejudices. There are people, like you it seems to me, who favor robots above anything. Some even stated (can’t find the link) that we ought to have a monument of sort, a holiday?, for robots as we have for humans who died for the exploration of space. To me such statements belong to robot fans. So?

    “But since astronaut fans have spent so much time building bridges to nowhere, and their daydreams and propaganda have become so extremely divorced from economic reality, I’m pessimistic about their ability to make their way back to our galaxy. But I look forward to efforts to try.”

    See here again, very condescending. Money talks right? What is the budget for robotic exploration? For human exploration? You may want HSF to somehow bow to robotics or make the efforts BUT if you were part of this galaxy you mention you’d see that the robot fans at least now need to appeal to the astronaut fans. Not the other way around. It may change, but just not yet.

    “I realize some astronauts fans particularly in the NewSpace community have already been working to reduce costs as their top priority and I greatly applaud this. But it’s still a long, long way from astronaut fan daydreams to the economic realities of our own universe and era.”

    Well then you should support those who actually try to build the bridges and make sure you do not include them in the same category as those who don’t. And I have seen very little from you on that side.

  • googaw

    “Exploration” to try to characterize what astronauts do that other space activities supposedly don’t is pure euphemism. There is a basic distinction between exploration that serves pure science (or science for its own sake) and exploration that serves useful applications. Some examples of practical exploration:

    * Columbus, Magellan, et. al. searching for a new route to China.

    * Missions to asteroids to better characterize their orbits in order to better characterize and ultimately reduce the risks of them hitting earth.

    * Prospecting for minerals to mine from asteroids.

    * A solar forecasting service so that various companies on earth effected by various kinds of solar storms — communications, electric utilities. pipelines, etc. — can get warning.

    One might categorize solar forecasting or the wide variety of very useful activities that study our own planet as something besides exploration, because they have become regularized, or because they are physically close to home. Personally I don’t find such distinctions too important. Salt to taste.

    This allows us to see that astronauts are no better suited to practical exploration than they are to pure science missions. The “Exploration” Directorate is a complete misnomer in this regard and this terminology may create confusion that discourages more practical exploration beyond LEO. Since we can’t afford to do it with astronauts many neglect that we can do plenty of it without them.

  • googaw

    See again this prejudices.

    Prejudice is judging before having observed the facts. I am judging after having long observed them.

  • common sense

    As I was saying. Money talks. And so far HSF has the cash. So you can either fight them or try and make friends. Or a little of both. But if I hold the cash and you call me an astronaut fan the way you do, how much cash do you think you’ll see? In this universe psychology 101 is useful too.

  • googaw

    BTW, since machines in space do useful things for people, which motivates people to pay for them regardless of their boring unmanned status, and astronauts are simply launched for the sake of flying astronauts, I find it hard to imagine any scenario outside of the typical pathological squabbling over the NASA budget where “robot fans” (if any exist) would have to compromise with astronaut fans in order to fly their machines. To stop the dreaded machines astronaut fans would have to resort to some extreme measures even the old Luddites never resorted to, like shooting their heroes on kamikaze missions to take out weather satellites.

    BTW, the monuments should be to the engineers who designed the satellites, such as Rudy Kompfner of Bell Labs who invented the traveling wave tube transponder, a key technology for communications satellites.

  • @Donald F. Robertson

    You’re comments are exactly right. The safest place for astronauts would be to not fly. Then none would be lost in space. Obviously we should strive for all of the safety that is reasonable. But if one abandons the Space Shuttle based on safety one is just not prepared to take the risks involved in space exploration. How could one ever consider a crewed Mars mission if on finds a Shuttle flight too risky? Now if she is speaking of what is safe for the success of the space program that is completely different issue.

  • Bennett

    googaw wrote @ March 30th, 2010 at 6:27 pm

    I understand the debate, but as a “fan” of all forms of space “experience” (vs “exploration”) I need to offer a different reason why folks are willing to pay for HSF. It’s the species survival thing. If we don’t get good at moving humans through space, ultimately creating self sustaining settlements, we fail as a species.

    Moon, Mars, Asteroids, Lagrange Points, as far as I’m concerned all are worthy of sending habitats and supply ships to keep humans alive in a place other than Earth.

    It’s obvious that robots provide long duration science experience (Cassini) far better than a manned ship, and that won’t ever change, but there are other concerns that need to be addressed, eventually.

  • Dave C.

    I used to be a pro human in a can for all space endeavors, because science happens faster when a human is involved…but for deep space, we simply have not overcome the radiation factor. And the humans are expensive…making a human deep space environment is much more expensive than making a robot deep space environment. Even the military has turned to using drones for reconnaissance.

    We could sit on the ground until we figure out how to protect our astronauts from the slow fryer, or we could send state of the art robots the likes of ATHLETE on precursor missions, while we figure out how to protect human tissue. And frankly, if you had ATHLETE on the same stage as Joe Astronaut, I’m pretty sure I know who would get the most attention…and it is no longer Joe.

  • @ Chris Castro

    While I oppose the unnecessarily expensive Ares I/V architecture (Sidemount or DIRECT would be substantially cheaper), I agree with you about the silliness of the Mars First advocates and their hatred for the Moon.

    Ironically, a Moon base is an essential key to establishing permanent bases on the surface of Mars:

    1. The same habitat modules used for a lunar base would probably also be used on the Martian surface, so we’d learn a lot about maintaining a Mars base from a lunar base and we would have already developed the habitats to do it.

    2. Manned launches to Mars utilizing lightsails or nuclear rockets will probably take place from Langrange points. So we’re going to need to have heavy lift capability in order to get the launch infrastructure there. We’d already have it if a heavy lift vehicle were already developed for a Moon base program

    3. A Moon base would enable us to discover if a 1/6 gravity is inherently deleterious to human health. If its not, then adjusting to the 4/10 gravity of Mars should be a cinch.

    4. A Moon base program would probably increase the likelihood that the first manned missions to Mars would not be Apollo redux (go there, plant a flag, bring back some rocks) but would be a permanent Mars base program. That would mean that our first missions to Mars would be to go there to stay! Yes!

    So the fastest way to establish a permanent human presence on Mars is by first establishing a permanent human presence on the Moon.

  • Dave C.

    Bennett;
    In terms of human species survival…I used to be caught up in that one until I realized that we live on a planet where people toss caustic pollutants in the air, burry radioactive contaminants in the ground, and spill all kinds of chemicals into our seas. Not to mention all of the species we have killed off. We have the technology today to overcome much of this, but it affects the company’s bottom line, so when no one is looking company’s dump…and then there are the accidental spills. Many Americans don’t believe in global warming, or care about a population that is becoming unsustainable. If we don’t want to save our own planet, why should we propagate elsewhere?

  • I find it ironic that people who believe that the space shuttle is too dangerous to fly still advocate putting astronauts on rockets developed by private rocket clubs:-)

    Spaceflight is dangerous! But certainly not unacceptably dangerous.

    The Space Shuttle was a first of a kind architecture. So you would expect some problems. But two fatal accidents over nearly 30 years of flying is not that bad, IMO. The Space Shuttle’s not simply traveling to Cicero, Illinois. Its flying into the vacuum of space!

    And in the history of our species, pioneering new frontiers has always been dangerous. But that never stopped us!

  • Bennett

    Dave,

    That 99% of our species is short sighted, ignorant, and self-destructive doesn’t mean that this chance development of self aware creative beings should throw in the towel. HSF should be about giving the future Stephen Hawkings a place to live and work.

    With most of the easy resources depleted, our planet might not support re-emergence from an ELE. It’s best we plan an alternate nursery.

  • googaw

    It’s the species survival thing.

    I’m a huge fan of this too.

    If we don’t get good at moving humans through space, ultimately creating self sustaining settlements, we fail as a species.

    Launching astronauts today will not get us to truly self-sufficient space settlements a nanosecond sooner. Rather we have a very long road of developing space industries ahead of us. Centuries of progressive development are required. And real space development has been and will continue to be for many decades into the future unmanned.

  • To Stephen C. Smith: Hello!! The Constellation Lunar program DOES call for the scheme of launching separately the big, heavy cargo on one heavy-lift booster (the Aries 5), and then launching the crew on board a smaller, more conventional rocket (the Aries 1). This was devised in the aftermath of the Columbia accident. If you put all the mission elements on one rocket there’s always the danger of the entire massive launcher exploding at or near the launchpad. Interestingly, the Orion spacecraft crews will have an added safety, of a launch-escape system, located at the top of the capsule, just like the old Apollo crews did. (The Space Shuttle Challenger, sadly enough, lacked this feature. And hence, was susceptible to a soon-after-launch fuel tank explosion. Also being launched in a sideways position, hooked next to the giant rocket, did not help things.) So the Constellation mode of launching the main crew module (the Orion craft), and the lunar lander (the Altair craft, or L-SAM) on different rockets, with separate launches, certainly bodes for increased astronaut safety; compared to the current Space Shuttle system. Plus this new program is capable of Lunar flights—either flyby, orbital, or landings—it gives us the Moon, again. After so many decades of NASA having to settle for nothing more than LEO. This Project will bring to the fore enormous potential for exploiting extraterrestrial resources, and resuming some fantastic scientific investigations on Luna firma. “Flexible Path” gives us NOTHING!!! The silly avoidance of deep gravity wells, implies that we will ultimately get very inferior spacecraft (only capable of LEO flight), and NO other-planetary orbiters NOR landers. The requirements for a near-earth asteroidal mission, calls for many of the SAME capabilities that are needed for a lunar mission. (The two lunar spacecraft could simply be modified & adjusted for a far-deep space rendezvous with whatever asteroid NASA would have in mind). Unfortunately, the people who agitate the most, about NASA doing an asteroid mission, are the same people agitating for ignoring & skipping the Moon,—as preposterous as that all sounds! So, if the Mars zealots get President Obama to successfully kill Constellation, and all its elements, they will also succeed in stranding NASA in LEO for a couple of decades longer,—no doubt about it! This is a to-be or not-to-be moment in spaceflight history.

  • Doug Lassiter

    “There is a basic distinction between exploration that serves pure science (or science for its own sake) and exploration that serves useful applications.”

    Cough, splutter. Huh? “Pure science” is the basis for just about all of our “useful applications”. The main distinction is footprints. Now, footprints are valuable in their own way, but drawing a line between science and “useful applications” is just naive.

    But I agree with you entirely that “exploration” is a word that NASA doesn’t understand how to use. It means different things to different people. NASA hides behind that word when it tries to justify missions.

    No, we don’t need to disconnect science and human exploration. We need to just acknowledge that the goals aren’t necessarily the same for both. Sometimes they overlap, and sometimes they don’t. Mind you, if you do this disconnection, then the onus is on HSF to come up with a reason for itself. That reason, outside of species expansion and survival, is sure not self-evident. But species survival is something that NASA isn’t chartered to do, and something our leaders never refer to. Well, I guess Senator Mikulski is concerned with survival, but just for a couple of people!

    As to whether science happens faster when a human is involved, hah! Beyond the Moon, science has happened vastly faster BECAUSE humans were not involved. Comparing the speed of human exploration of Mars versus robotic exploration of Mars, for example, is ludicrous. When and if we put humans on Mars, that might change, but that’s a long ways off. But if you’re going to suggest that humans on Mars are faster than robots on Mars, I get to suggest that those robots on Mars are vastly more capable than the robots we now have there. Just look at the record.

  • I find it ironic that people who believe that the space shuttle is too dangerous to fly still advocate putting astronauts on rockets developed by private rocket clubs.

    On what planet is this occurring? Can you provide an example of such people? Can you provide an example of a “private rocket club”? Is United Launch Alliance a “private rocket club”? Is SpaceX?

    Do you ever think before you post comments?

  • common sense

    Re: Survival of the Species.

    This is all fine and dandy but it is NOT NASA’s charter. No it is not. If you want it to be then you will have to change the law. Period. Lawmakers believe it or not write the laws and then they hide behind all possible giberish to get elected. Said lawmakers never wrote that NASA is about survival of the species, or about NASA being “numero uno” in space whatever that means.

    The safest place to be for human beings in the Universe we know is Earth. And that’s it. Indeed taking care of the Earth would improve our chances of survival a lot more than establishing a station on the Moon, Mars or anywhere. As I already said, unless there is an immediate danger to Earth that we know about this is not going to be the primay goal for NASA, ever! Check when last the amended the Space Act and what the mods were.

  • common sense

    Re: Shuttle safety:

    Wow people! Shuttle is NOT safe. Never was. Never will be. It has become a good example about what not to do for safety. We know (some of) the most glaring issues and we cannot solve them, not for a decent amount of money. And I would speculate further that to fix all the problems we know with Shuttle we might as well design a new one. BUT again provide requirements! There is none, save for the runway landing on wheels nonsense. Oh yes here is a good one: It looks good. Great! Shuttle MUST go and it is going away now. And that is that. No matter how great a vehicle design it was then in the 60s and 70s.

  • googaw: In other words, astronaut fans may try to build bridges to the following which can get along quite well without astronauts:

    * All real space commerce
    * Practically all military use of space
    * All planetary science
    * All economical space exploration beyond LEO

    Mostly nonsense.

    Outside of comsats, the only “real space commerce” today is the market for delivering cargo to the ISS, a human space project. Even including comsats, the ISS demand will dominate the mass-to-orbit market.

    To this date, the only absolute dates of any surface off Earth in the Solar System are on Earth’s moon and a product of Apollo. Since all dates everywhere else in the Solar System are relative to these, the absolute dates are the single most important product of planetary science to date.

    The automated space program, however great its achievements, has yet to make a measurement of such all-consuming significance.

    More importantly, obtaining these dates was most effectively done with geologists on site. Nothing is more important to geology than absolute date markers, and if it were easy or inexpensive to automate, someone would have done it by now.

    Since there has been very little exploration beyond LEO — mostly, it’s been reconnaissance — it is impossible to measure the cost effectiveness of trying to automate exploration (e.g., getting absolute dates from many sites on a planetary-type surface) at this time.

    – Donald

  • Doug Lassiter

    “Re: Survival of the Species. This is all fine and dandy but it is NOT NASA’s charter. No it is not …”

    Well said. Worth pondering. No one is saying that survival of the species isn’t important, and many justifiably consider that human space flight is eventually going to be insurance for the species. In fact, I believe that such insurance probably has to be the main goal of human space flight. You can’t insure the survival of the species robotically! But the problem is, if that’s the case, then the main goal of human space flight is NOT part of NASA’s charter. It is NOT an established goal of our space agency. What’s more, I don’t think you ever hear the administration or legislators talking about a national obligation to ensure survival of the species, so it isn’t likely to ever become part of the charter for federally funded U.S. human space flight. There’s the dilemma.

    Why isn’t it something our leaders want to talk about? Well, it’s a very long range goal, that’s for sure. But also the survival of the species may not be the obligation of one nation. An insurance policy isn’t a unilateral one. There’s another dilemma. The best reason for human space flight is one that political types won’t touch with a ten foot pole.

    To get back on topic here, it’s interesting that we’re all talking about protection, but Senator Mikulski is worried about some astronauts. She might cast her net more widely, and talk about the species as a whole. But I can’t see a politician standing up and talking about preserving the species. That’s not a strong talking point for reelection prospects.

  • Doug: Senator Mikulski is worried about some astronauts. She might cast her net more widely, and talk about the species as a whole.

    Excellent point,

    I can’t see a politician standing up and talking about preserving the species

    How about, “Preserving US Citizens and the American Way of Life in the event of an asteroid strike,” et cetera.

    Although preserving the current American way of life, adapted to current conditions in North American, in an environment as alien as space is impossible, it is the kind of message the many politicians could find attractive.

    – Donald

  • googaw

    “real space commerce” today is the market for delivering cargo to the ISS, a human space project.

    Something paid for 100% by one government customer is neither a “market” nor “commerce”, any more than taxpayers are “customers” of the IRS. Indeed the ISS is an economic fantasy that real commerce would never get within light-years of. But thank you for playing the bureaucratic euphemism game and obscuring the crucial distinctions that we need to make in our society.

  • googaw: Something paid for 100% by one government customer is neither a “market” nor “commerce”,

    In that case, the vast majority of the aerospace industry writ large is “neither a ‘market’ nor ‘commerce’.”

    – Donald

  • googaw

    In that case, the vast majority of the aerospace industry writ large is “neither a ‘market’ nor ‘commerce’.”

    If you are referring to defense and NASA contracting, they are indeed neither real commerce nor markets as economists use the term. But government contracting is not “the vast majority” of the aerospace industry. The very large airline and cargo transport industries are in fact largely free enterprise operations with many suppliers and many customers — i.e. actual markets as economists use the term, and real commerce according to the non-euphemistic meaning of that term. And there are a variety of real commercial applications of space, where a variety of customers exist. You and your NASA contractor buddies are playing a pathetic language game with the effect of destroying the crucial distinctions between government-run industries and private enterprise, and between real competitive markets and economic fantasies drummed up by political activism.

  • common sense

    @Donald F. Robertson wrote @ March 31st, 2010 at 3:56 pm:

    “How about, “Preserving US Citizens and the American Way of Life in the event of an asteroid strike,” et cetera.”

    How much leverage do you think you’d get with this? The citizen of this country today are concerned with their jobs and healthcare today on this planet. Right? What is going to happen to any politician trying to sell something as remote as this to the public??? What is the likelihood of an asteroid strike? What is the likelihood of losing your job? Your health(care)?

    Please a little perspective will do a lot of good.

  • googaw

    Lacking any real use for astronauts in our present era, the promoters of our heavenly heroes are now stretching into highly unlikely sci-fi scenarios to try to make their sale to the voters. Good luck with that!

    BTW, unmanned spacecraft are perfectly capable of characterizing and diverting the orbits of asteroids. In an emergency astronauts would be a potentially catastrophic distraction. I know that in the Sci-Fi galaxy, as opposed to the Milky Way normal people live in, you gotta use astronauts in order to have a hero for the story. But sci-fi fans should stop to observe the planet we actually live on once it a while, especially if you are trying to use its inhabitants’ tax money to pursue your Collier’s daydreams.

    You know, if they turn off the NASA Channel it is very easy to use your remote control to switch over to the Sci-Fi channel. Astronomically easier than try to convert the masses to your economic fantasies.

  • Doug Lassiter

    “How about, “Preserving US Citizens and the American Way of Life in the event of an asteroid strike,” et cetera.”

    That’s getting to where one wants to be. It is, in fact, a national security issue.

    Now, true, there are things facing this nation that seem vastly more important than security for the species. Jobs and healthcare are certainly among those, and the risk of losing ones job or being seriously ill is certainly higher than the risk of species demise because of an asteroid strike. But, as you say, a little perspective would help. That is, we’re talking about totally different amounts of money.

    Legislators could get away with saying that human spaceflight is, in some respect, species insurance. The risks aren’t huge, so the price isn’t that high. But you get insurance because you know that bad things can happen, knowing that they probably won’t. To put a unilateral spin on it, it’s insurance for our American way of life. In the interest of that American way of life, development of human spaceflight is the responsible, and perhaps even the patriotic thing to do. Do you suppose that’s the subtext of the “flags” part of “flags and footprints”?

    Take a step back. That’s what it’s all about. Preserving us.

    Now, whether legislators can mouth these words is arguable, though we’ve heard a lot about Armageddon and the end of America from them in the last month or two.

  • common sense

    “But, as you say, a little perspective would help. That is, we’re talking about totally different amounts of money.”

    As you know money “does not matter”. When and where money is needed money is found: Banks, automobile industry, healthcare. If money was not a problem Constellation might go on, regardless of management performance (you can always replace management).

    “Legislators could get away with saying that human spaceflight is, in some respect, species insurance. The risks aren’t huge, so the price isn’t that high. But you get insurance because you know that bad things can happen, knowing that they probably won’t. ”

    Nope: KATRINA. They knew, it was not expensive yet KATRINA. Need I say more?

    “To put a unilateral spin on it, it’s insurance for our American way of life. In the interest of that American way of life, development of human spaceflight is the responsible, and perhaps even the patriotic thing to do.”

    This is a luxury we cannot afford today and will be perceived as such by the vast majority of people.

    “Now, whether legislators can mouth these words is arguable, though we’ve heard a lot about Armageddon and the end of America from them in the last month or two.”

    Absoultely agree about Armageddon but it was on things that were supposed to impact (so to speak) the public immediately! It was really urgent OR Armageddon. You cannot make such a case with an asteroid, may be a movie but that is as far as you will go. And I already showed you that NEO obseravtion budget had been zeroed out at NASA (see below). What does that tell you about NASA priorities? Where does NEO rank? And that from a WH that favors science over exploration…

    http://neo.jpl.nasa.gov/risk/

    http://planetarydefense.blogspot.com/2010/03/update-on-nasa-fy2011-budget-and-neo.html

    “As you may recall when the NASA FY2011 Budget was released there seemed to be an increase in the funding for NEO specific work, from the approximately US$4M to about US$16M.”

  • Doug Lassiter

    “Money does not matter” ?? Oh, lovely. Let’s try to envision Congressional leaders saying that. That’ll get them reelected in November!

    “When and where money is needed money is found: Banks, automobile industry, healthcare”

    Umm, that was wholesale rescue, not insurance.

    I have no idea what point you’re trying to make about Katrina. It was a bad thing that happened. The City of New Orleans had no insurance. They should have. Leadership failure. Sure, say more if you have something to say.

    If human spaceflight in the interest of insurance is considered an “unaffordable” luxury, what do we make of human spaceflight as “inspiration”? What do we make of it as “soft power”? What would we make of it as entertainment?

    “And that from a WH that favors science over exploration…”

    It does seem to favor science over human space flight. Because like many of us, they really don’t have a clue what “exploration” is, and why humans have to be putting their rear ends on a rocket to do it. At least we know what science is. I like human space flight, but I’m not sure what it has to do with “exploration”, especially these days.

    Your point (?) about NASA expenditures on NEOs also doesn’t make any sense. Study money aimed at NEOs was indeed bumped up, so we know more about them. Pan-STARRS and WISE will tell us a lot about them. NEO funding certainly wasn’t “zeroed out”. It tells me that NASA has made understanding NEOs a (small) priority. Good for them.

  • common sense

    @ Doug Lassiter wrote @ March 31st, 2010 at 6:59 pm:

    “I have no idea what point you’re trying to make about Katrina. ”

    The point about Katrina is that the Administration and Congress knew then the risks of not upgrading the protection around New Orleans. They thought cost was prohibitive I assume. Then Katrina happened, the rest is history. I mean that even with the knowledge of an impending disaster they did nothing. What do you think they should do without the knowledge of an impending disaster? And who is paying for the cost of the damages? New Orleans? The federal government?

    “If human spaceflight in the interest of insurance is considered an “unaffordable” luxury, what do we make of human spaceflight as “inspiration”? ”

    Well you know the answer to that question do you not? “Soft power” is the last resort to get any form of justification save for the nonsensical national security argument.

    “It does seem to favor science over human space flight. Because like many of us, they really don’t have a clue what “exploration” is, and why humans have to be putting their rear ends on a rocket to do it. At least we know what science is. I like human space flight, but I’m not sure what it has to do with “exploration”, especially these days. ”

    All right then. We agree on what is happening to HSF.

    “It tells me that NASA has made understanding NEOs a (small) priority. ”

    Okay I’ll try again. NASA budget ~ $17B, NASA HSF ~ $10B, NASA NEO ~ $16M. What else do you need to see how much of a priority it is to NASA? To Congress and the WH? Unless you feel comfortable there is enough cash dedicated to help mitigate an asteroid impact if one was to come?

  • googaw: This view that the government’s demand services is not a market is absurd, and I do not believe it is widely shared by economists. When you pay the gas tax so that the government can build the freeways you drive on, that whole process creates and is a market when you utilize every time you buy a car. (In fact, the “private” car market would not exist in anything like its present size form without a lot of government intervention. Nor would the “private” airline industry. In fact, the only transportation industry that comes close to sustaining itself on income alone is the freight railroads.)

    When the government buys an airplane flight to supply a research station in Antarctica (that has and never will make money), that is a market. When the government buys a launch from Boeing or Lockheed or SpaceX or Orbital to supply a research base in orbit, that too is a market. Remember that it is people that we elected who are creating these markets. By electing these people, you and I have created the demand for the transportation services being provided.

    A quick look at the way history has actually played out, rather than the way current ideology would like it to have played, should show that the fastest way to create a deep space transportation industry will be to create a deep space destination (e.g., on Earth’s moon or one of the Martian moons, the potentially reachable destinations today) that needs supply, and than hiring commercial suppliers to provide that market.

    – Donald

  • googaw

    Remember that it is people that we elected who are creating these markets…the fastest way to create a deep space transportation industry will be to create a deep space destination

    Is this gobbledygook supposed to mean something?

  • Doug Lassiter

    “Okay I’ll try again. NASA budget ~ $17B, NASA HSF ~ $10B, NASA NEO ~ $16M. What else do you need to see how much of a priority it is to NASA? To Congress and the WH? Unless you feel comfortable there is enough cash dedicated to help mitigate an asteroid impact if one was to come?”

    Ah, I see what you’re saying, and it’s a good point. One can hardly believe that NASA could consider insurance for the species important, when it’s spending miniscule amounts on NEO tracking. I was confused when you said it was zeroed out, which it was not.

    Re Katrina, that was just poor leadership. Poor leadership, as with major hurricanes, just happens.

    Please understand, I like human space flight, but I think the only firm long range justification for it is species survival. That Congress and the Administration have to admit that is the dilemma because I, as you, can’t imagine they will. I’d like to come up with words I could see them using, but I sure can’t think of any. Now, NASA can’t be charged with saving the species, but it could well be given that as an ultimate reason for doing human space flight. That might well be part of a “vision” for putting humans in space.

  • common sense

    @Doug Lassiter wrote @ March 31st, 2010 at 10:51 pm:

    “Please understand, I like human space flight, but I think the only firm long range justification for it is species survival.”

    I am not saying your reasoning is not valid. Personally I like exploration for the sake of it shall I say but it’s a different story. The problem we as a community face is that our justification for HSF is way too weak. I never saw any one or any administration of any kind make “insurance” their first priority.

    “That Congress and the Administration have to admit that is the dilemma because I, as you, can’t imagine they will. I’d like to come up with words I could see them using, but I sure can’t think of any. Now, NASA can’t be charged with saving the species, but it could well be given that as an ultimate reason for doing human space flight. That might well be part of a “vision” for putting humans in space.”

    So the right thing to do, I still believe is to ammend the space act. It can be done I am sure with very little fanfare (unlike what is happening right now) and it would then become part of NASA’s charter. But I suspect that like the commercial charter NASA has it will take time to see it implemented. BUT once it is law then there is no (?) way back. I have no problem against this at all. But we need someone to change the space act. We do not need Congress persons to give us the senseless rethoric we read and hear everyday.

  • Doug Lassiter

    “So the right thing to do, I still believe is to ammend the space act.”

    Sure, but that’s what you do *after* Congress and the Administration admit that species preservation is a key goal of human space flight. The dilemma isn’t how you implement it, but how you get them to admit it.

  • common sense

    “The dilemma isn’t how you implement it, but how you get them to admit it.”

    Chicken and egg I think. I would first wait until all the current gesticulation comes to a halt: April 15 2010? I guess not. Sometime in 2011 then maybe. I would hope that the NASC has then been revived. The NASC would be able to explore such issues and make recommendation to the WH. If not it probably is a lost battle as I hardly see any one in Congress in the current environment willing to think “outside the box”. The WH possibly but first things first: 2011 budget. Then there may be an opportunity to sway them.

  • @ Marcell F. Williams. THANK YOU for your vote of confidence! Without question, a Mars expedition & eventual base program there, would be fantastic, down the road in the future. But I see ABSOLUTELY NO REASON, at all, for skipping & avoiding the Moon!! This is actually the Planetary Society’s position!! That is why I strongly dislike that group, and would never join them. If we can futz around in low earth orbit for forty-plus years, —and it’ll be fifty years before anything seriously changes, barring any Chinese Circumlunar Flight, to get America’s competition drives going;— if we can do nothing but go around in circles for that many years—and only devote a mere four years to dealing with cislunar space (1968-1972), then what is the gargantuan problem with us eventually returning to Luna??—even if it was just to revisit one of the Apollo landing sites for pure nostalgia’s sake?? The summary: Why doesn’t all this “We’ve been there already” jazz ever apply to LEO?? Isn’t it funny how we can repeat over & over again that flight plan, for four decades straight, but that as soon as the destination becomes the Moon, we get all these howls of outrage for us to not even get started with it?! Meanwhile these same Anywhere-but-the-Moon advocates are agitating for trips to visit asteroids & Martian moons, and even the emplacement of fuel depots and such there. Places which are all very Moon-like, anyway. (Airless, rocky, & crater marked). This anti-Moon hysteria is absolutely behind “Flexible Path.” This “plan”….if you can call it that….seeks only to prevent NASA from getting back to the Moon. How come this “Let’s avoid deep gravity wells”; and “Let’s instead spend billions of federal budget dollars on game-changing new technologies”; ….how come all this jazz is coming out now; when NASA was finally well on the way to doing something major (& breaking with the LEO status quo). Apparently some segment of the space interest community detested the new Lunar-bound direction for NASA, and seeked to find a way to pull the plug. Nevermind that it could lead to NASA staying in LEO for another twenty years….they really didn’t care about that….that really didn’t make a difference to them. All these zealots wanted was the end of the Lunar program. And President Obama was ignorant, naive, & gullible enough to go along with it!!

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