Congress, NASA

Inhofe’s not a fan of NASA’s new plan

One of the VIPs at Saturday’s QuikTrip Air and Rocket Racing Show in Tulsa, Oklahoma, was Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK). (He was more than a guest, though: he flew one of the planes at the show.) When he wasn’t flying, he was talking up the prospects of Tulsa getting one of the shuttle orbiters once the fleet is retired. He could also be seen having an involved discussion with another VIP in attendance, Buzz Aldrin, about space exploration.

After he completed that discussion, I asked Inhofe his thoughts about the new plans for NASA as described in the FY11 budget proposed and President Obama’s speech earlier this month. “Well, I don’t think the president has done many things right—I can’t think of anything—and certainly cutting back on the space program, which is what he’s doing… His priorities are social engineering, they’re not the military, they’re not infrastructure, they’re certainly not the space program,” he said. “I often say to people that we’re going to change the House and the Senate in November, and a lot of these things that he’s done we can undo, and I plan to do that.”

His comments appeared to be in contrast with those of a number of other special guests at the event, including Aldrin, Peter Diamandis, and Richard Garriott, among others, who talked up throughout the day the prospects of the commercial sector taking over transportation of astronauts to low Earth orbit. So I asked Inhofe: do you support that aspect of the plan? His ambiguity-free response: “No, I do not.”

36 comments to Inhofe’s not a fan of NASA’s new plan

  • amightywind

    “His priorities are social engineering, they’re not the military, they’re not infrastructure, they’re certainly not the space program”

    And there you have it. I have offered on this forum that Obama is a bizarre decision maker. Most of his decisions are contrary to logic. Gitmo, KSM trial, porkulus, Iran… But a few examples of decisions that leave one shaking one’s head in disbelief. He proposes going to Mars led by a millionaire hobbiest armed with 1960′s technology and a horrendous track record. He flippantly jettesons 50 years of sterling achievement at NASA where they launch perfect 2000 ton space shuttles with graceful regularity. All the best to Senator Inhofe, my former representative in OK, vangard against the global warming hysterics.

  • abreakingwind wrote:

    He proposes going to Mars led by a millionaire hobbiest armed with 1960’s technology and a horrendous track record.

    No, he doesn’t.

    He flippantly jettesons 50 years of sterling achievement at NASA where they launch perfect 2000 ton space shuttles with graceful regularity.

    “Perfect”? “With graceful regularity”?

    Are you including those two program shutdowns of almost three years each, due to less than “perfect” missions?

    From what brain-flatulent planet are you posting this? Or are you just trolling?

  • Ferris Valyn

    Rand, I am disappointed in you

    From what brain-flatulent planet are you posting this? Or are you just trolling?

    Haven’t we had this discussion? Why does it have to be an either/or situation? why can’t it be both?

  • CharlesHouston

    Thank goodness that loser doesn’t represent me! As a moderate, and a non-Obama fan, I can see that Sen Inhofe lacks the ability to read a budget submission. Certainly Obama proposes spending more money on both defense and space – sounds like he supports both in that area. I disagree with President Obama’s direction but at least I don’t say things (as Sen Inhofe does) that directly contradict the facts. A reasonable point would be to say what Sen Imhofe would do, were he is the President’s place – not to just mis-characterize the budget that the President has submitted.

  • Senator Inhofe bloviated:

    I don’t think the president has done many things right—I can’t think of anything …

    Stopping another Great Depression comes to mind …

    Not to mention all the good economic news recently about the “bailouts,” which were really loans for the most part. The banks are paying back the money, GM is on the comeback and the government will make a profit once it sells its stake as the stock value rises.

    It amazes me how people think we should have let the banks fail. Apparently they’ve never read about the causes of the 1930s Great Depression. The Hoover administration failing to keep the banks from collapsing was a major cause.

    I’ve contended from the beginning that the government will in the long run make a profit off the “bailouts,” and we’re seeing evidence of that now. If we’d listened to those who wanted the banks and other industries to fail, unemployment would be over 20% and we’d back to bread lines.

  • GM and the banks still operate on the same doomed budget that got us into this mess in the first place. All the bailout accomplished was delaying the inevitable…kicking the can at the cost of astronomically increasing our national debt. Our government and many of our businesses like GM are living way beyond there means. GM is still a very sick company strangled by its union promises and culture its products remain the worst in the industry. Any comeback will be short lived. As for the space industry we currently have two choices bad and badder. Flex hands NASA over to Elon’s early 1960′s vision of a space program, splash down capsules and big dumb cold war era booster. No vision beyond servicing the ISS in LEO and fattening his wallet in the process. Even worse Elon has not demo’d that he can even deliver toliet paper to the ISS and we are about to trust him with our national manned space program…OMG!

  • Stopping another Great Depression comes to mind …

    This is OT, but how do we know he did that? How do we know that he didn’t make things worse than they would have been otherwise? It’s not like he’s a brilliant economic prognosticator — after all, he told us that if we didn’t past Porkulus, unemployment would have risen above eight percent. I guess what he didn’t tell us was how much worse it would get if we did…

    It amazes me how people think we should have let the banks fail.

    TARP was passed under Bush, not Obama.

  • *Sigh* It makes me so sad and frustrated when people mischaracterize situations from their own emotional reactivity.

    People have already commented on the senator’s mischaracterization. Doug continues it with his comment:

    “Flex hands NASA over to Elon’s early 1960’s vision of a space program, splash down capsules and big dumb cold war era booster. No vision beyond servicing the ISS in LEO and fattening his wallet in the process. Even worse Elon has not demo’d that he can even deliver toliet paper to the ISS and we are about to trust him with our national manned space program…OMG!”

    First of all, the commercial option of space taxis to low earth orbit are NOT limited to SpaceX. I actually think that SpaceX has done an amazing job developing new rockets for a fraction of what has been spent in the past, and I am confident that they will eventually have great rockets flying consistently.

    However, the commercial option would most likely include the ULA using the Atlas V. This rocket has a better track record than any other rocket of its size in the US. It’s very reliable and is trusted to launch our most valuable payloads, including the upcoming multi-billion dollar James Webb space telescope and many classified military satellites. SpaceX will obviously try to prove themselves and provide that service, but we are so definitely NOT limited to them. It’s only fear mongering when people mischaracterize the situation that way.

    The Atlas V has a proven reliability record that the new Ares 1 will not have for a very long time. The Atlas V is actually the safer option. It would also take much less money to “man-rate” than to finish building Ares 1, and it would be significantly cheaper to fly.

    By the way, Doug, another option on the table is using an Atlas V to launch the Dreamchaser mini-shuttle, which would land on a runway instead of splashing down in the sea. Ironically, the Orion capsule launched on the Ares 1 is intended to splash down in the sea. This is the better option that you are in favor of?

    I say to let all of the commercial companies that can prove that they can safely deliver astronauts to low earth orbit (LEO) do so. It would save money, and it would open up a whole new commercial enterprise there. This would include not just rich people taking joyrides. It would also include sending people to Bigelow’s private space stations for research and technology development. NASA would never use its rockets to take people there, so that would block the development of that new industry.

    Once LEO becomes affordable and routine, NASA will have more money and resources available to do its charter: to explore beyond low earth orbit! That’s exciting!

  • Rand Simberg wrote:

    This is OT, but how do we know he did that?

    Based on the history of the Great Depression.

    Suggesting it won’t happen again is like saying we don’t know another Shuttle will explode just because we launch it with a leaky O-ring.

    TARP was passed under Bush, not Obama.

    Yes, but if you read Game Change Obama was an important part of that. McCain called for an economic summit, blind-siding the White House. They went along, inviting McCain and Obama. According to the book, Obama basically took charge of the meeting while McCain sat there like a lump. Several observers at the meeting commented that Obama acted like a President. He was frequently on the phone with Bush’s economic advisors as the plan was crafted, and assured them he would support it on the campaign trail.

    Furthermore, his administration has managed the program since he took office in January 2009 and assured that those loans are being paid back.

    When TARP passed, a lot of people thought it was just another big giveaway, that there were no controls to assure the money would be repaid eventually. The Obama administration is making sure that it is, and is advancing legislation to try to keep it from happening again.

  • Based on the history of the Great Depression.

    [laughing]

    There are a lot of missing steps in your chain of logic. Beyond bank failures the depression was caused by tariffs, money too tight, and a refusal on the part of Hoover to allow the labor markets to work. Roosevelt made the depression Great by tinkering endlessly and whimsically with the economy ( (See The Forgotten Man, by Shlaes). It only ended when he got distracted by the war, and then died. I have zero faith in the president’s economic wisdom. Fortunately, most of the rest of the nation has come to share my lack, judging by polls. And as for Obama’s role in that meeting, other accounts are less flattering to the president than Heileman’s and Ambinder’s.

  • Bennett

    Stefan wrote @ April 25th, 2010 at 5:39 pm

    Really, REALLY well said. Thanks for that.

  • BTW, Musk’s vision of space exploration is a hell of a lot more interesting than Obama’s. You might like to look it up sometime.

  • It’s also a lot more interesting than Mike Griffin’s.

  • Later this month, when kibbles and bits of the first Falcon 9 are still fluttering from the sky, Mr. Musk will not be so popular.

    But, the real focus of all of you arm wavers should be on the Congress- that is if you want to slip back into reality (which I doubt). If the Congress says- we get more Ares I and Ares I-X flights, that is what we’ll get. If the Congress says to morph that into a SD-HLV, that is what we’ll get. Anyone watch (actually watch) last week’s hearings? How many times did Ares I come up? And NOT ONCE with the word “dead” attached. I have some really bad news for you Ares I phobics- that is the direction that the Congress is going in. And for all of you who say that Ares I is “a dead man walking” I have news for you- the Ares I is only in trouble here in the blog universe and in the Obama budget. In fact the only real “dead man walking” is the Obama NASA budget.

    Please- continue to spew venom here and on other sites- your rants are meaningless. The Congress has this one now and the direction they are going will likely involve 1 or 2 or perhaps more Ares I-X style launches. Feel free now to further make fools of yourselves.

  • Bennett

    “1 or 2 or perhaps more Ares I-X style launches”

    Which will prove nothing as the Ares 1-X was a fraud, a photo shoot, a media event that left kibbles and bits fluttering from the sky.

    Oh well.

  • Fred Cink

    A PARTIAL malfunction of (I believe) 1 out of 3 BRAND NEW parachutes (bigger than their predescessors with higher loads) causing damage to (I believe) 1 out of 2 boosters doesnt really constitute “kibbles and bits fluttering from the sky” but some pretty good test data. Was the 1-X test a desperate shot to show the program had SOMETHING flyable to show for the billions (now squandered). Ya, probably. Was most of it boiler plate, yep, did we learn that the whole concept could fly when mature, Yes. Is the stretch SRB and escape system now ready, Yes.Would I prefer dreamchaser on a atlas 5 (for crew transport) YES! Bigger question is “where’s the “”BEEF”” of a “deep space” exploration vehicle needed for our fearless leaders plan? “Orion ultra lite” aint it, and is a total waste.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Max Peck wrote @ April 25th, 2010 at 10:03 pm ..

    you are good for your own opinion but I suspect Ares has made its last stand…even the videos are now headed for a shuttle side mount…which is also quite dead.

    doomed

    Robert G. Oler

  • Bennett, as you think Ares I-X was a fraud, perhaps you could name the people who perpetrated this terrible crime. I mean, I know you wouldn’t just cast around accusations like that without having the evidence to back it up.

  • wha

    do any americans reading this think their country has a hope to survive long with half the people in it acting as retarded as the man reported on here?

  • Robert G. Oler

    Trent Waddington wrote @ April 26th, 2010 at 3:52 am

    Bennett, as you think Ares I-X was a fraud, perhaps you could name the people who perpetrated this terrible crime…

    at best Ares 1X was poor engineering judgment…but that is nothing most of the program is.

    A key line in any engineering effort, particularly one which is designed to produce something operational is value for cost.

    At NASA in human spaceflight they no longer really know what the term means.

    AT BEST Ares 1X was a half billion (give or take a million or so) experiment to prove “the shape works” and works under a fairly limited subset of limitations. After that there is not a lot of value for the cost. The guidance system was from something else, the rocket itself was no where near what the flight config for Ares 1 is/was, the upper stage was a mass correct hunk of metal (and no one can be happy with the separation)…

    all for 1/2 a billion dollars.

    The problem with Ares (and this is not NASA’s fault) is that the major design features (a big solid with a big second stage) were all set out not as an engineering criteria but as a political one to get buy in from the various political powers (or who the hell knows why it was done Griffin is at best incoherent on the subject).

    Even in a world where Atlas and Delta dont exist (and they do) it is really hard to believe that this configuration has any real value…but that has prompted the enormous cost of the system.

    EVERYTHING on Ares cost a chunk of change.

    and yet the question remains “why”?

    Ares 1X is either the result of incompetent engineering analysis of people who have no basis of what things cost (and dont care) or it is an attempt to prove something works without using the real thing. Or both…all at a lot of cost.

    No one really ever explains to me why Ares 1 so far has cost more then Atlas and Delta (and probably the falcon(s) …

    and is not all that better a performer

    Robert G. Oler

  • Bennett

    Fred Cink wrote @ April 26th, 2010 at 1:24 am

    You are right of course, it wasn’t the ultimate kibbles and bits situation (I was being sarcastic in response to using that description for the upcoming Falcon 9 launch), that distinction goes to this Delta 4 Heavy launch. Yet we now view the Delta 4 as a safe LV with a solid track record. We should keep this in mind when we are evaluating SpaceX’s Falcon 9 performance.

    But, the Ares 1-X launch was a fraud because all it proved was was that a rocket shaped rocket would indeed go up into the sky when the booster was lit.

    We learned nothing about how a 5 segment SRB would (or would not) perform. So the test was basically meaningless.

    Who do I point a finger at for perpetrating this fraud? Mike Griffin of course.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Bennett wrote @ April 26th, 2010 at 8:16 am

    the link you provided is not of a Delta IV heavy.

    The Delta 2 numbering system can be a little entertaining…but I think this is a 7925 (doubtless someone will correct me) used for GPS launching…the explosion was quite spectacular and cost a lot of people their cars. It is not a Delta IV heavy

    the Delta III fiasco was quite exciting.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Bennett

    Thanks for the correction, Robert. I was looking through the Atlas 5 and Delta launches, and I should have caught my own mistake.

  • “Flex hands NASA over to Elon’s early 1960’s vision of a space program, splash down capsules and big dumb cold war era booster.”

    So a system crafted 90+% from components we designed during the cold war in order to lauch a dumb capsule is cutting edge, but a from-scratch rocket system which is new design down to the welding techniques (which NASA just figured out hwo to do) is outdated cold-war era tech? Cx had a mission profile nearly identical to the Apollo program down to the duration of surface stays, and it was built using shuttle parts. Musk’s designs thus far didn’t even exist 10 years ago. You can predict all you want about whether or not it will fly, but don’t stand it next to Cx and call Falcon the cold-war era design.

    “No vision beyond servicing the ISS in LEO and fattening his wallet in the process.”

    He has stated on a number of occasions that he has plans in the works for lunar access with or without NASA. And yes, he’s planning on fattening his wallet in the process, a goal only achievable if he can help build a market and at the same time keep costs down. NASA’s flight rate won’t make his company a success, it’ll only keep him above water. He needs private customers to call it a success. So which do you have an issue with, lowering the cost to space or developing a private space industry? And even if all he does is get back to the ISS, if he does it before 2017 it’ll still be before Ares would have gotten there, and for less money to boot. The only way Falcon 9 falls short of Ares I is if it is a complete and total failure, which is not likely.

    “Even worse Elon has not demo’d that he can even deliver toliet paper to the ISS and we are about to trust him with our national manned space program…OMG!”

    Again, neither has Lockheed Martin, but we’ve already signed multiple checks over to them for Orion. I like LockMart (a point I feel I need to make when I state things like the above), but they are no more qualified for ISS service than SpaceX, Sierra Nevada, or even Interorbital Systems on the basis of actual docking. They’ve made some great missiles, which is nice if we’re aiming to blow it up, but docking? Supply? Not so much.

  • richardb

    By the way, what happened to the needed “game changing” technology? Is that still part of the 2015 decision matrix that Obama is now promising? Can we really do “game changing” between now and 2015 to support a decision if we’ll do HLV? With Bolden’s amphorous Feb declaration that he hoped for a HLV by 2020-2030 but wasn’t going to commit to it, at least “game changing” made some sense since it was obviously going to be time consuming to “game change”. Now though we only have essentially 4 years at most to “game change”.

    Being cynical about Obama, is it possible that Obama’s new date for a decision is just a feint to throw off the opposition? Just as the R&D for “game changing” was a feint to buy off the opposition? Just like the revived Orion is a feint to buy off the opposition? In keeping with the Nebraska kickback, the Louisiana Purchase and Gator Aid of this administration’s recent past?

  • Bennett

    richardb wrote @ April 26th, 2010 at 3:50 pm

    As many others have speculated, putting off making the decision may allow us to avoid spending money on something that we don’t really need. If a Delta 4 Heavy can lift 28 tons to LEO or 10 tons to GTO, and Falcon 9 Heavy can lift 35 tons and 20 tons respectively, do we really need an LV that can boost twice that?

    Does the cost of development and production of a NASA HLV become overwhelmingly prohibitive when weighed against multiple launches with commercial HLVs?

  • Can we really do “game changing” between now and 2015 to support a decision if we’ll do HLV?

    Yes, there’s plenty of time to do orbital demonstrations of propellant storage and transfer. ULA and Boeing both have proposals laid out to do this.

  • Robert, or Ares 1-X was flown for reasons that you don’t understand. I know it’s hard to comprehend, but you don’t know all! Are you interested in why Ares 1-X was flown or do you just want to find a reason to bash it? Cause, ya know, it’s pretty well documented why they built it, what they were trying to achieve, etc.

    I think they’re idiots because their reasons are overengineering nightmares with little industry experience to back them up (we’re NASA, we *invent* industry practice), but at least I know what their reasons were.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Trent Waddington wrote @ April 27th, 2010 at 12:52 am

    I am pretty well versed on what their theories were…that is why I have concentrated on the cost more then anything else…but I would love to hear what you think that the main objectives were…and if you think those were worth the cost…

    Robert G. Oler

  • Fred Cink

    Please forgive my rant and tell me where I’m wrong. Three key points of the “flexible path” are a “deep space” manned craft to accomplish the stated asteroid/mars’ moons/mars missions, propellant depots/transfers and ISRU. Orion ultra lite is a total waste to duplicate (poorly) the Soyuz. What is needed is an Orion (“Special”?) tailored to those stated missions. Any long duration deep space mission (mars/asteroids) is going to require a (at least) module similar to one on ISS mated with an Orion “special” and an EDS. None of those three requirements are funded or even mentioned. The only place for ISRU anywhere near, (delta vee and mission duration wise) is the lunar poles, which have been abandoned, (at least in the 1-2 decade “near term”). Hauling the requisite fuel to depots at LEO/GEO/L points is going to take either ALOT of EELVs launched or an HLV. Furthermore, boil off of cryogens is going to negate the advantage of Isp for those fuels. The plan sounds really good, I want to do all those things but it just doesn’t work.

  • Ok. it’s what I call the S&M treatment.. that’s simulation and modeling. You take a team of double-domes and give them a supercomputer or ten and tell them to model a vehicle and simulate every possible flaw or failure and then ask The Wiz if the vehicle is safe. Once you’ve gotten the answer you wanted (isn’t science great!?) you can say “let’s build it!” then put humans on the first flight and everything will be awesome.

    Ares I-X was a step in that process.. it wasn’t a test flight.. the double-domes modeled the Ares I-X and simulated a flight path, then took all the data they collected from actually flying that flight path and compared it to what the computer predicted. The result of the flight was proof, 100% accurate, no more tests required, that the S&M treatment is working and now they can go back into the cubicle farm and design The Perfect Rocket, to be known as Ares I.

    I clearly don’t think it was worth the cost… The whole concept is sickening. Rather than bend actual metal, fly it, let reality determine whether or not it works, and prove out the reliability with a flight test program, they want to trust The Wiz. It would be an acceptable risk for a massive cost reduction, but it doesn’t deliver a massive cost reduction.. in fact it costs more and you get less. Of course, when you bring this up they think you’re demanding they trade cost for safety, when actually you’re trying to suggest the exact opposite. The S&M treatment results in a more expensive program, with greater risk. The shuttle is the proof of that.. but apparently now we have a better Wiz.

  • Fred, what are you talking about? Obviously the FY11 budget is not going to have anything in it for a mission in the mid 2020s.

  • [...] Space Politics » Inhofe’s not a fan of NASA’s new plan [...]

  • Fred Cink

    Trent, I am talking about the disconnect between the stated intentions of… manned deep space explroration while derating orion, …using ISRU while bypassing the moon, …refueling at depots that haven’t even been rendered in an artist’s drawing… all predicated on an earth departure stage… being launched by an HLV… both of which were just cancelled with constellation. (OK, he did fund ANOTHER FRICKIN’ HLV STUDY.) Announcing the start of a specific precursor mission (Osiris Rex is already being designed) or outfitting of a spare MPLM for closed loop life support studies could have instilled belief in the plan. Call me jaded but I am skeptical at best of his true support and intentions.

  • refueling at depots that haven’t even been rendered in an artist’s drawing

    You must not get out much. United Launch Alliance has designs for them, ready to build and test, based on Centaur.

  • Fred Cink

    Rand, thanks for the link, missed that issue of AW&ST, the ULA sight was VERY educational. Seems like it might be faster better cheaper(!?!) to adopt Apollo style EOR and just launch one or more fully fueled Centaurs (or future larger Earth Departure Stages) and dock with the separately launched payload modules/spacecraft as opposed to trying to transfer LOX/LH2 in microgravity. Just think of the commercial space market stimulation.

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