Congress, NASA, Other

Briefly noted: Bolden, Griffith, and “too big to fail”

NASA administrator Charles Bolden, in an op-ed in today’s Houston Chronicle, says that even before he was approached last year to run the agency “it was obvious to me we had serious problems in balancing our priorities” under Constellation and that “it would take courageous action on the part of the president and NASA leadership to realize our dream of sending people beyond low-Earth orbit.” In a defense of the agency’s new plan, he warns, “If we flounder, it is unlikely we will have a similar opportunity in our lifetimes. America will lose its leadership in technological innovation and human spaceflight.” Bolden is in Houston today and will give an all-hands address to NASA employees at noon EDT.

Rep. Parker Griffith (R-AL) tells the Decatur Daily that he believes the Augustine Committee was a “setup” to give cover to an administration desire to kill Constellation. “Why would you have a commission study something you’ve been doing 4 1/2 years and for billions of dollars?” he asks. “I met with Augustine and the principals, and realized this was a setup.” He is also opposed to turning to the commercial sector for launching crews, even if it benefits United Launch Alliance, which builds its rockets in Decatur. “What do you think would happen to United Launch Alliance, to Orbital Sciences or SpaceX, if there was a Columbia accident on their nickel? We are done. The country is done. That company is done,” he told the paper. “We can’t take that chance. It’s not a good idea to privatize a country’s conscience, a country’s pride.”

Another opponent of commercial crew, Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), has been occupied recently with another topic: financial report. During that time he has spoken out against the concept of “too big to fail” that has been used to justify bailouts of troubled financial companies. “The message should be, unambiguously, that nothing’s too big to fail,” he said Sunday on “Meet the Press”. Now, the Space Frontier Foundation is turning his words against him: in a message posted on RLV and Space Transport News, the Foundation lists the long record of troubled or failed projects associated with the Marshall Space Flight Center, from elements of the shuttle program through various canceled launch systems to Ares 1 and 5. Shelby, the Foundation statement concludes, “should explain why MSFC has long been too big too fail and been bailed out repeatedly at the cost of many tens of billions of dollars.”

117 comments to Briefly noted: Bolden, Griffith, and “too big to fail”

  • red

    Griffith: “Why would you have a commission study something you’ve been doing 4 1/2 years and for billions of dollars?”

    That’s one way to take an independent look under the hood. You need to do that when you see all sorts of smoke and fire coming out.

    Griffith: “I met with Augustine and the principals, and realized this was a setup.”

    When did he meet with them? Why didn’t he say anything then? Could he expand on how it was a setup? All of those well-known space experts and the people that set up the Committee were in on a secret setup?

    It was pretty clear to me when the Augustine Committee charter was released, and it covered real content that the VSE was about (fitting the budget, sustainable, innovative, affordable, complementary robotic activity, international participation, actually reaching the Moon and other destinations, stimulating commercial space, supporting the ISS, etc) that Constellation was doomed. Constellation can’t win in a review that’s about content rather than, say, how big a rocket is or what powerpoint slides claim. That’s not a setup, its just reality.

    Griffith: “What do you think would happen to United Launch Alliance, to Orbital Sciences or SpaceX, if there was a Columbia accident on their nickel? We are done. The country is done. That company is done,”

    I thought the opponents were saying commercial crew is on the government’s nickel. Now it’s on the commercial provider’s nickel?

    Why would it be ok for NASA to have a Columbia accident, and not a commercial company?

    I would say that if a commercial crew accident happens – and it will eventually happen with either commercial or government systems – there will be a safety investigation, and the results will depend on how the company is judged by the investigation. Was it just an accident, or an unforseen circumstance, or was it the result of cutting corners or negligence? As with any such investigation, we will have to keep in mind that hindsight is 20-20. Insurance will step in. Assuming the company acted reasonably leading up to the accident, they should then fix the problems if they can be fixed and move on. I don’t see this as being qualitatively different from an airline accident, exept that space is still much more difficult and dangerous.

    Griffith: “We can’t take that chance. It’s not a good idea to privatize a country’s conscience, a country’s pride.”

    This is really getting over the top. How is letting NASA have a Columbia accident a country’s conscience or pride? Why would the country be proud of something like Constellation, which is wasting tens of billions of dollars and slipping schedule by the decade? Does Griffith think we should be proud if NASA’s HSF efforts never get turned over to private interests, starting with LEO and gradually expanding as NASA goes farther — and we just get stuck doing the same thing and the same expense?

    HSF should be about accomplishing useful things, not “a country’s conscience”.

  • …“We can’t take that chance. It’s not a good idea to privatize a country’s conscience, a country’s pride.”…

    The blatant cognitive hypocrisy and the smell of pork burning is nauseating.

    Gawd.

  • Mark R. Whittington

    Of course Obamaspace would not get us back to the Moon–ever. Also this business about “funding for other critical national priorities” suggests that the real reason for canceling Constellation is that it is being used as a cash cow to fund programs within NASA that the Obama administration finds more important than space exploration. Obama could have funded both; it is not as if he is shy about spending money on other areas. But he is not that interested in exploring space.

  • amightywind

    “it would take courageous action on the part of the president and NASA leadership to realize our dream of sending people beyond low-Earth orbit.”

    Desperation time for Bolden who has revealed himself to be nothing more than an Obama shill. There is nothing courageous about destroying the nation’s only practical means of space launch while prattling about ‘going to Mars’ in the next century of so. America needs a Shuttle replacement. Ares I/Orion/Ares V fill the bill.

    “The Augustine Committee was a setup”

    Ya think? The Augustine committee teed up Constellation the way Obama’s deficit committee will seek to ratchet up taxes. These are old political tricks barely worth comment.

  • Vladislaw

    “There is nothing courageous about destroying the nation’s only practical means of space launch”

    Ares I is it? there is absolutely no other way to launch crew into space? NASA has cornered the market on practical?

  • Justin Kugler

    General Bolden is a member of the President’s administration. It is his job to execute the President’s directives. If he is unwilling to do so, then he needs to quit. Given that he is pressing on, despite the public and personal attacks on him and his staff by Senators and blogosphere pundits alike, I would venture to guess that he really does believe this is the best thing for NASA and the country.

    I met the new NASA Chief Technologist, Dr. Bobby Braun, last night and he was unequivocal that the agency got the plus-up it did to invest in scientific research and technology development that had atrophied under Constellation. The agency was not going to be able to just hold its hand out for more money and ask everyone else to go away so we could do our own thing.

    NASA is a federal agency in the Executive Branch and steward of the taxpayers’ money. If it was not going to pursue the President’s overarching strategy for advancing science and technology for the benefit of the nation, it was going to get cut.

    Someone needs to remind Rep. Griffith about Future Combat Systems. It was an Army program three times the size of Constellation that was rather unceremoniously canceled because of requirements and scope creep and cost overruns. The Army is now resetting the bit to develop mission-based systems in parallel, instead of one monolithic program vulnerable to political and financial strain.

    Dr. Braun made the case last night that NASA will be healthier and less politicized under such a model. If the Army can do it, NASA certainly can.

  • amightywind

    Vladislaw wrote:

    “Ares I is it? there is absolutely no other way to launch crew into space? NASA has cornered the market on practical?”

    I am all for allowing SpaceX to perform on their ISS resupply contract. They are behind schedule and over budget on that. The idea of them taking on more now, while NASA sits on its hands makes no sense. What other alternatives are there that can be ready in less than 5 years?

  • G Clark

    Not Ares I/Orion. 2017, remember? That’s not “less than 5 years.”

    That also doesn’t include that Ares V and the Landers etc. wouldn’t be for over another decade.

    If NASA is supposed to be a good steward of the taxpayers’ money, Constellation wasn’t a very good example of that.

    Neither is STS extension. $$$.

  • The space shuttle stack — 2 RSRM, ET & SSME – is an existing proven means of reaching LEO. Retire the Orbiter but keep the stack, either as sidemount or inline, depending on neutral objective trade studies.

    It is not “either / or”

    We can scrap Constellation (Ares 1 & Ares V) without returning entirely to the drawing board.

  • amightywind

    Bill White wrote

    “The space shuttle stack — 2 RSRM, ET & SSME – is an existing proven means of reaching LEO.”

    I would be willing at this point to pitch Ares I in favor of Direct if consensus could be reached. There is a lot of shuttle commonality there, and it is more launch capacity than Ares I. Direct is no substitute for Ares V, however.

  • Rep. Parker Griffith bloviated:

    What do you think would happen to United Launch Alliance, to Orbital Sciences or SpaceX, if there was a Columbia accident on their nickel?

    What about the fourteen Shuttle deaths caused by failure of an SRB and an ET that were the responsibility of the space center in your district?

    I just find it so laughable that these Republicans who claim to believe in the invisible hand of the capitalist market are so hypocritical when it comes to allowing the private sector to compete with a sclerotic federal agency.

  • amightywind, SpaceX is neither behind schedule, nor over “budget” on COTS. Neither is Orbital Sciences. What are you talking about?

  • Justin Kugler wrote:

    met the new NASA Chief Technologist, Dr. Bobby Braun, last night and he was unequivocal that the agency got the plus-up it did to invest in scientific research and technology development that had atrophied under Constellation.

    I posted a blog entry yesterday on SpaceKSC.com where I looked at the public reaction in the wake of President Bush’s January 14, 2004 cancellation of Shuttle and proposal of what we now know as Constellation. Even then, it was acknowledged that billions would have to be siphoned from other NASA programs such as robotic missions and climate research to pay for Constellation. There were warnings even then that we couldn’t pay for it, that it would grow the federal deficit, and that it would cause the loss of thousands of jobs once Shuttle retired.

    Funny, there was barely a peep from the Republicans back then.

    I will give credit to Republican senator Mike DeWine of Ohio who said at the time (quoting Florida Today):

    It’s highly unlikely Congress is going to appropriate this kind of money, considering the budget situation today,” said Sen. Mike DeWine, R-Ohio, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

    DeWine and others said that with so much pressure on the federal budget, space exploration will have to take a back seat.

  • amightywind wrote @ April 28th, 2010 at 9:22 am

    Our agreement is welcome but irrelevant. ;-)

    Where shall Congress and NASA compromise? That is the question.

    = = =

    That said, there are good arguments that space exploration should take a back seat to other priorities. (See Senator DeWine’s quote, above)

    I do not necessarily agree with those arguments, however we should be candid about the consequences of a decision to fund non-HSF NASA activities by reducing the HSF budget.

  • Ben Joshua

    Griffith: “Why would you have a commission study something you’ve been doing 4 1/2 years and for billions of dollars?”

    Does the fallacy of sunk costs apply here?

  • pr

    While we’re on the topic of rhetorical tricks:

    “America will lose its leadership in technological innovation and human spaceflight.”

    That may be true, but there’s no relationship between the two. Human spaceflight has become so risk averse there’s no technical innovation allowed within 100 miles.

  • amightywind

    Trent Waddington wrote @ April 28th, 2010 at 9:40 am

    “amightywind, SpaceX is neither behind schedule, nor over “budget” on COTS. Neither is Orbital Sciences. What are you talking about?”

    I am talking about this statement published on this forum a few days ago.

    http://shelby.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=PressRoom.NewsReleases&ContentRecord_id=25f3ad2e-802a-23ad-4960-f512b9e205d2

    “The Falcon 9 – the very vehicle the President touted a week ago as the future for NASA – is 2 years behind schedule… and counting. Yet the President’s budget rewards the commercial space industry with an additional $312 million bailout to deliver on already signed contracts in the hope that they will actually be able to deliver something some day. This equals a 60 percent cost overrun for an unproven commodity.”

    Do you Elon Musk fanbois release what a high stakes launch Falcon 9 is in just 2 weeks? If it crashes spectacularly Obamaspace is toast.

  • Bennett

    ““The Falcon 9 – the very vehicle the President touted a week ago as the future for NASA – is 2 years behind schedule… and counting. Yet the President’s budget rewards the commercial space industry with an additional $312 million bailout to deliver on already signed contracts in the hope that they will actually be able to deliver something some day. This equals a 60 percent cost overrun for an unproven commodity.”

    Please show where SpaceX set a target date for launching Falcon 9 in 2008.

    Shelby is wrong, again.

    Ha! $312 million in the FY2011 budget for commercial space is all going to SpaceX because of over runs?

    Shelby is wrong, again, and YOU believe him. Fool.

  • Vladislaw

    “What other alternatives are there that can be ready in less than 5 years?”

    Gosh, I don’t know, you know American’s are to stupid to tie their own shoes unless the government shows them how. It would be impossible for the Nation’s aerospace engineers and workers to come up with anything. Hell it is absolutely beyond our technical competence to even come up with a 60′s era soyuz. I mean come on! Americans as competent as the Russians? Our aerospace engineers would be lucky if they could build a 4th of July bottle rocket much less a REAL rocket.

    It is totally irresponsible and impractical for the Nation to have a dual string for space access. Better to do an all in one system like Ares1 and V. I mean nothing could ever go wrong on a government system and if there is an accident you can bet those dirty evil liberals were the cause of it. Just let NASA stand down all human space flight for 2-3 years while the NASA guys figure out what the liberals did to the rocket this time.

  • Ben Joshua

    “Human spaceflight has become so risk averse there’s no technical innovation allowed within 100 miles.”

    Query to pr: On your hit parade of technical innovations, what two or three would represent major steps forward?

    In the political context of HSF, what innovations do you favor that may represent less of a risk, more of an incremental advance perhaps, but might be politically feasible?

    After all, there may be some legislative staffers or executive advisers out there who could use a pointer or two on the right questions to put forward when their bosses actually discuss this stuff at mark-up time.

  • amightywind

    “What other alternatives are there that can be ready in less than 5 years?”

    I guess that is (an emotional), none, which is why Obamaspace must be denied.

  • wintermuted

    I won’t get into the schedule debate since that is just a huge can of worms, although I hope most people understand developing a brand new launch vehicle from scratch is kind of difficult and I’d be surprised if any such program *ever* didn’t miss some part of the originally planned schedule.

    However it’s impossible for OSC or SpaceX to go over budget on the (government funded part) of the COTS program – it’s a *fixed price contract* for a service. That’s the whole point. Commercial providers spend their own money to provide a service. The entire cost of the COTS program (which includes OSC & SpaceX fixed price contracts) is a small fraction of the cost to just *develop* Ares. The COTS program guarantees results for a fixed price. If the commercial guys can’t deliver than the tax payers don’t pay.

  • Al Fansome

    The SFF notes the following performance of the big Marshall Spaceflight Center:

    * Shuttle Solid Rocket Boosters w/ leaky field joints
    * Shuttle External Tank that sheds foam on ascent
    * Advanced Solid Rocket Motor (cancelled)
    * Shuttle II (cancelled)
    * Advanced Launch System (cancelled)
    * National Launch System (cancelled)
    * Spacelifter (cancelled)
    * X-33 (over budget, never flew)
    * X-34 (never flew, but not really MSFC’s fault)
    * X-37 (before being fixed by DOD)
    * Space Launch Initiative (no flyable hardware)
    * Orbital Space Plane (no flyable hardware)
    * Ares 1
    * Ares 5

    Before Sen. Shelby starts claiming that the COTS teams are being bailed out for being late, which in fact doesn’t cost NASA since the fixed-price payments are milestone dependent, he should explain why MSFC has long been too big too fail and been bailed out repeatedly at the cost of many tens of billions of dollars.

    The Space Frontier Foundation missed a few.

    * Bantam LV program (cancelled)
    * Space Launch Initiative (cancelled)
    * 2nd Generation RLV program (cancelled)
    * OMV (cancelled)

    In addition, the X-34 was cancelled because MSFC insisted that the X-34 fly the FASTRAC engine, which was a real dog (overweight, behind schedule). Orbital wanted to fly an NK-39, I recall, but MSFC refused.

    FWIW,

    - Al

  • And then to cap it off, Marshall claimed afterward that FasTrac was never intended to be an operational engine at an STA breakfast. After which the OSC people walked out of the room.

  • “It’s not a good idea to privatize a country’s conscience, a country’s pride.”

    Why not? We are doing it mercenaries.

  • Derrick

    Mark R. Whittington wrote @ April 28th, 2010 at 8:22 am …

    “Obama could have funded both; it is not as if he is shy about spending money on other areas. But he is not that interested in exploring space.”

    Yes, blame it all on Obama, and ignore the fact that most of congress puts space exploration low on the totem pole too. From my observations, the only people in Washington that care are the people trying to save jobs in their districts. Only people I’ve noticed that seem to be sticking to their ideals are Dana Rohrabacher (pro-commercialization) and Alan Grayson (anti-commercialization).

    The reality is that no one cares. Not unless there’s jobs–>votes to save in their district, that’s all it seems the republicans you keep putting on a pedestal are doing. I think the same thing goes for most other issues in congress–they all are good at making great soundbites, they all talk about cutting the deficit or making sacrifices–and are willing to do so as long as it’s not in their district/state. So nothing gets done.

    What’s your opinion on Dana Rohrabacher, Whittington? He’s a republican congressman who once had Glenn Beck clips on his website, and is fully supporting the plan:

    http://rohrabacher.house.gov/News/DocumentSingle.aspx?DocumentID=181249

  • Derrick

    Mark R. Whittington wrote @ April 28th, 2010 at 8:22 am …

    “Of course Obamaspace ….”

    You could also call it RohraSpace.

  • MrEarl

    Al,
    The Space Frontier Foundation has been a little biased against NASA for a long time. I would take anything they say with a big grain of salt.
    Fast Trac or NK-39, both were tested successfully but never launched. It should be obvious that Marshall would want to use an in house US design over a Russian design. Try to tell SpaceX not to use the Merlin engine on the Falcon vehicles and see what kind of push back you get.

  • Or NewtSpace. Not to be confused with New Space.

    (“Why, she turned my space program into a newt.” …??? “Well, it got better…”)

  • It should be obvious that Marshall would want to use an in house US design over a Russian design. Try to tell SpaceX not to use the Merlin engine on the Falcon vehicles and see what kind of push back you get.

    One of these things is not like the other.

  • MrEarl

    .p.s
    Both SpaceX and Orbital are approx. 2 years behind their announced schedules and if they are not being bailed out then why do the need an extra 300 million bucks?

  • MrEarl

    Ok, Rand, why is it not like the other?

  • Robert G. Oler

    Mark R. Whittington wrote @ April 28th, 2010 at 8:22 am

    Of course Obamaspace would not get us back to the Moon–ever. ..

    the irony for your theories on political governance is that “Bushspace” (to use your phrases) was going to require one bailout after another.

    to get a few NASA astronauts to the Moon doing not much more then they are doing on ISS right now, it was going to cost between 100-150 billion dollars and about 20 years worth of work.

    And that is right now. NASA human spaceflight has never met a budget it could not burst…and it is quite likely that the project would do what it has done since it was announced under Bush underperform, spent money like a hog, and had timetables pushed “further” into the future.

    President and Congress cycle after cycle would have to fund that effort which has so far only gone the wrong way.

    And to do what? Stop the chinese from invading the Moon?

    get a life

    Robert G. Oler

  • SpaceX developed both their rockets and their engines, in house, mostly with their own money. OSC was being forced to use an engine that Marshall promised, but didn’t deliver.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Rep. Parker Griffith (R-AL) tells the Decatur Daily that he believes the Augustine Committee was a “setup” to give cover to an administration desire to kill Constellation. “

    Yes this is the not so eloquent equivelent of the French Gendarme’s being alarmed that there was gambling going on in the Casino right before he is handed his winnings.

    A blind person could see that the AC was only because Constellation was in trouble. Robert G. Oler

  • Bennett

    Waste (why beat yourself up?) wrote @ April 28th, 2010 at 2:56 pm

    Interesting. But they’re not 2 years off schedule until September.

    So Shelby is wrong, yet again.

  • Robert G. Oler

    MrEarl wrote @ April 28th, 2010 at 3:22 pm

    Al,
    The Space Frontier Foundation has been a little biased against NASA for a long time…

    I am not a member of SFF and have disagreed with some of their goals and methods over the last “lots” of years…but your statement is in my view not very fair or an accurate description of SFF’s position.

    If there is any word to use to describe SFF’s (and my) feelings about NASA human spaceflight (and these comments only relate to that) it is “disappointment”.

    Since the end of Apollo while there is always an argument for “more” money it is hard for any really serious observer to state that NASA has not been given ENOUGH money to open human spaceflight past the small club that it exist inside of now. Ie a few government astronauts supported by a massive contingent of both federal and contractor employees doing almost nothing which on its face alone justifies the effort.

    Neither you nor Mark Whittington, nor the “big wing” guy here nor even John Shannon or any of the thunderheads who run the shuttle/station program can, in 30 seconds or even a 2000 page work state a single thing that the shuttle/station program has done to justify itself. IE one thing that if we had not had the shuttle/station program our society would be different. They nor you can not name an aggregate of things..

    If I were to ask “Why do we have the FAA” a single sentence answer would be “to keep airtransportation operating” and that would be on its face demonstratably accurate. Why the CDC? It keeps us safe against epidemics…Why the US Marshals office? …the list goes on, NASA human spaceflight cannot after 30 years of trying define why it exist and why it is worth the billions spent on it; unless the effort is done in terms so vague as to be meaningless. That is why the proponents of the POR use words like “Leadership”” and all those other things which can be defined any way or no way at all.

    Why I think this is accurate (and without putting words in SFF’s mouth I think that they do) is that at every step of the way NASA in hsf has sought to preserve “the NASA way” not to try and integrate itself or its technology into the American way.

    Now we are at “Constellation”. When it was proposed I agree that it involved the notion at least of changing how NASA did business. But one reason I oppossed it (go check the archieves of this forum) then even with that hope is that experience had taught that this was not going to happen and before long the program would morph to what it is today…The NASA jobs protection act.

    What is tragic is that the NASA jobs protection system has gotten more and more caught up with the “We dont like Obama” efforts of people who are space junkies and also quite right wing.

    One reason I am for the Obama change…is that in my view we have gotten to a point in NASA programs where no program is better then the Constellation effort. If we go along with the POR all we are going to do is be on a “death march” of about two decades where year after year the effort goes over budget, the time line gets pushed back and maybe one day a few NASA astronauts who are now still “children” will one day return to the Moon and do not a lot of value.

    Why do you support that? I’ve asked Mark Whittington and a few others here and never get a straight answer. Come on give it a try.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Well, Geez Oler, why not just shut NASA down?
    Crist on a crutch, we didn’t need the technological advances and benefits that NASA manned spaceflight program generated. What the heck, let’s simpy shut the works down and let the private sector take over manned space flight. Good, deal, for arrogant bums like Musk it certainly would be. Can commercial space flight take over from NASA? Sure, in some distant future, they can match the safety ratings necessary to protect humans, but then commercial companies have never really given a rats ass about safety when profits are affected. Jaysus, look at the wonderful airlines. They took over from the Army flying the mail and then people, just like Elon and his merry band of twits will do if we turn the programs over to his ilk. Oh wait, the airlines have the crappiest records for service, schedules, and oh yes maintenance in the entire world of commercial enterprise. So, what the hell, let’s just turn our national space program over to them, not a problem. Hell we can even buy tickets for the Astronauts using PAYPAL!

    Give it a rest. If you despise NASA so much, all your smarmy protestations aside, then be honest and preach about shutting the entire agency down. That is Obama’s deal. Sucking up to an old senile codger like Buzz Aldrin to give himself a space voyager cover? Rats on that stuff.
    The real astronauts made their voices clear and on point. But heck, according to you and SFF, they MUST have some ulterior motive?

    Gad, you people make me sad for our nation and our national space program. I have a lot of respect for Orbital but none whatsoever for Elon Musk and his pissy little company.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Harvey wrote @ April 28th, 2010 at 5:07 pm

    Well, Geez Oler, why not just shut NASA down?….

    why not do it? You yourself give the reason to shut NASA human spaceflight down. You write:

    “we didn’t need the technological advances and benefits that NASA manned spaceflight program generated.”

    name a single solitary technological advance or benefit that NASA human spaceflight has given The Republic that has come even close to justifying the expenditure in it.

    Give it a try.

    The nation spent in todays money probably billions perfecting the turbojet engine through a lot of military projects and yet we have gotten our money back for that. Where the military use to drive turbojet development, NOW the military takes advantage of turbojet development that is done strictly for commercial means.

    you write:

    “but then commercial companies have never really given a rats ass about safety when profits are affected. Jaysus, look at the wonderful airlines. They took over from the Army flying the mail and then people, just like Elon and his merry band of twits will do if we turn the programs over to his ilk”

    what a load of crap. The commercial providers took over from the Army (which had a dismal safety record) AND CREATED THE INDUSTRY THAT IS TODAY THE SAFEST FORM OF TRANSPORTATION IN THE WORLD.

    that is in my view exactly what will happen if we do the samething in commercial human spaceflight.

    Instead of “astronauts” we will simply have people who go into space and do things for the betterment of themselves and humanity…not just people who spend their entire lives doing nothing that changes anything.

    I dont like what NASA has become. People like Hanley and Shannon and all the other thunderheads protecting their phoney baloney jobs which in the end dont change the course of The Republic at all.

    NASA human spaceflight has done something unique for American transportation nodes. It has made human spaceflight more expensive as the years have gone by.

    But lets start here.

    Name me one technological advance that has occurred because of human spaceflight since Apollo…that has changed the course of history or technology.

    just one

    Robert G. Oler

  • Derrick

    Robert G. Oler wrote @ April 28th, 2010 at 5:17 pm …

    Hubble.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Derrick wrote @ April 28th, 2010 at 5:32 pm

    Robert G. Oler wrote @ April 28th, 2010 at 5:17 pm …

    Hubble…

    OK I dont know that I would call Hubble a technical advance…but

    do you really think Hubble has changed the course of history?

    The curious thing about Hubble is the cost. For what it cost to run Hubble every year (not including the shuttle missions to fix it) we could build a KECK in every state, every year.

    I would suggest that very little of Hubble has changed history.

    (I think that ISS assembly has changed history more for instance)

    Robert G. Oler

  • Derrick

    Rand Simberg wrote @ April 28th, 2010 at 3:22 pm …

    Or perhaps everyone is just self-serving and only wants MySpace.

  • Robert Horning

    One technological advancement that has occurred since Apollo?

    I would certainly cite the development of the ion thrusters used on the Dawn mission to the asteroids as something worthy of checking out, and something that in the long run will be incredibly useful in terms of actual data points for future manned and unmanned spacecraft in the future.

    Another huge project that I would cite as legitimate technology under development is the nearly 200 kilowatt power generator at the International Space Station, where some real numbers and figures can be created in terms of what the costs and construction requirements might be for building future solar power satellites. Unfortunately almost nobody who is even remotely thinking of building a power sat even considers this functioning power sat that is in current use. Then again, it is hard to convince investors to buy into a $100 billion power sat that costs $50k per watt of generator capacity.

    BTW, I do think you can build a power sat much cheaper, but at least this is one you can point to, and it is something that has changed the course of history…. for good or ill. Then again, the first impulse at NASA is to simply take this whole boondoggle of a project and splash it into the Pacific Ocean as yesterday’s news. There simply is no money to keep the ISS going and at the same time build Constellation. Please, for those defenders of Constellation, I’d love to see it explained how you can have your cake and eat it too with the ISS?

    Yet another significant technology tested and developed by NASA? The satellite tethers that were tested on the Space Shuttle. While it certainly had some problems and it turned out that some of the theories were actually quite off from what the actual results from that experimentation, it was something done by NASA and did show some significant promise and application in a whole bunch of areas that would be useful in the future. Unfortunately, the technology didn’t have any significant follow-up research.

    Robert Oler, I happen to agree with much of what you wrote above, so don’t take this too personally. I’ll also be one to openly admit that the technology developed by NASA in the post-Apollo era has been quite dismal compared to some real significant breakthroughs that were developed in the 1960′s that have had a huge impact on all of mankind by this point in time. You have to cherry pick some of the breakthroughs to come up with something that shows it is worth the expense, and even that is arguable in terms of something that might have been done more efficiently in terms of bang for the buck. Most space research is gilding the lily in some form or another, and not really research but rather demonstrations. I said most, and you certainly can find exceptions, but unfortunately they do turn out to be exceptions when real research happens.

  • Derrick

    Robert G. Oler wrote @ April 28th, 2010 at 5:40 pm…

    “OK I dont know that I would call Hubble a technical advance…but”

    I would.

    “do you really think Hubble has changed the course of history?”

    Sure. Increased knowledge of the universe and the planets, inspiring images, etc. The deep field and ultra deep field images–doubt it would have been possible to capture those from the ground.

    “The curious thing about Hubble is the cost. For what it cost to run Hubble every year (not including the shuttle missions to fix it) we could build a KECK in every state, every year.”

    Source please.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Robert Horning wrote @ April 28th, 2010 at 5:53 pm

    nice post.

    how I have evolved in my thinking over the 1980-today period is to realize that it is impossible for human spaceflight to change the direction of technology in terms of human spaceflight as long as things are done as a “program mentality”. In other words as long there is nothing produced from the effort that has life as a product standing alone…then the ability for technological innovation of such a project to change the course of The Republic is very very limited.

    there has never been a single NASA developed booster…that has had a life outside of NASA…not a one

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    Derrick wrote @ April 28th, 2010 at 6:04 pm

    put at what point did history vary because of some information from Hubble?

    For instance…the Dash 80 flew and after that…history is different then had it not.

    As for the cost. It is a NSF statement I used it in an op ed a few years ago. It is not hard to go dig up the figures for the keck and the cost of Hubble…and check it out.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Oh, there’s no doubt that SpaceX are behind in their own schedule… but we’re talking about the COTS schedule of milestones. Neither SpaceX, nor Orbital Sciences have missed a single milestone. As for any extra money.. the only money I’m aware of is the already granted CRS contracts.

  • I’ve said this many times, but nobody seems to be willing to it, yet I’ll try again.

    Here is the link to the National Aeronautics and Space Act. It is the law that governs what NASA is supposed to do.

    There is nothing in it that mandates NASA fly human missions.

    There is nothing about destinations or deadlines or providing government jobs when not required.

    And right in Section 102(c), the fourth paragraph in the document, it states:

    The Congress declares that the general welfare of the United States requires that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (as established by title II of this Act) seek and encourage, to the maximum extent possible, the fullest commercial use of space. (Emphasis added)

    I really wish Obama, Bolden and Garver would quote back to these Congressional bloviators what it is that NASA is supposed to be doing, because it’s clear they don’t have a clue — and probably don’t care so long as pork is delivered to their districts.

  • It was pretty obvious from the start that the Augustine Commission was hostile to the idea of returning to the Moon and almost immediately started presenting alternate destinations.

    Ironically, while they argued that NASA should focus its resources on manned beyond LEO missions, they also wanted to continue NASA’s ultimate mission to LEO program, the ISS, requiring NASA to use much of its precious beyond LEO resources to pay private industry to continue this LEO on steroids government program.

  • Vladislaw

    Stephen C. Smith wrote:

    “Here is the link to the National Aeronautics and Space Act. It is the law that governs what NASA is supposed to do.”

    Here is one that strikes home also, number two, describing NASA’s role to the commercial sector.

    “(d) The aeronautical and space activities of the United States shall be conducted so as to contribute materially to one or more of the following objectives:

    (2) The improvement of the usefulness, performance, speed, safety, and efficiency of aeronautical and space vehicles”
    —————-

    It is clear, what NASA does for airplanes and atmospheric flight, they are also supposed to do with commercial companies trying to do spaceflight. Make it as EASY as possible for them to achieve THEIR goals in space access. Instead of hamstringing them at every turn and being petty, like not acknowledging tito as an astronaut. Glen goes up for 4 hours he is an astronaut, tito goes up 8 days and he is a “participant”.

  • MrEarl

    I think the Shuttle is a huge step forward in many areas. Just the fact that you can take 7 to 8 people and over 20 tons of cargo to LEO, fly it back to land just like a aircraft then do it again and again is game changing technology. If it was allowed evolve who knows where that technology would be now.
    Construction of the ISS is a game changing event. The fact that it was put together in blocks not over 20 tons gives you plenty of ammunition against my argument that we need heavy lift. We were going to spend 10 years building it than use it for only 5. What a waist that would have been.
    We should be supporting commercial human space flight. But that should be done to free up NASA to put together and build a real program to go beyond LEO and the moon is an important step. I don’t see this as an either/or situation.
    Obama’s budget is, in my opinion, an abandonment of beyond LEO. Tom will come back quoting demonstrator projects and making snide remarks but what Obama said on the 15th told me he either doesn’t care about beyond LEO or doesn’t understand it. When referring to the moon he said, we’ve already been there. As if it’s tourist destination. If he had taken any interest at all he would know why many people think the moon is an important step tword exploration of the solar system and addressed why he didn’t.
    No, all I see are proposals for R&D projects that will fade away and we’ll be stuck in LEO capsules for the next 40 years.

  • Bennett

    MrEarl wrote @ April 28th, 2010 at 7:44 pm

    “No, all I see are proposals for R&D projects…”

    I’ve posted this link before, but here it is again. These materials were at the 4/15 event in Florida and do a heck of a job at getting across what, why, and when.

    Space Presentations

    No snide remarks, just a desire to see that information is disseminated.

  • Robert G. Oler

    MrEarl wrote @ April 28th, 2010 at 7:44 pm ..

    the problem is that all the people who want to go to the Moon cannot seem to come up with a valid reason to do so.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    Stephen C. Smith wrote @ April 28th, 2010 at 6:18 pm

    the problem here is Apollo and a movie called 2001 A Space Odyssey.

    While the American people quickly tired of the notion of a human space presence space groupies grew up sort of seeing Apollo as the lever to create the Moon infrastructure that 2001 talked about.

    So they have rather blindly supported things such as shuttle/ISS/and now Constellation in some vain hope that somehow NASA will either get religion or will come through with a miracle that changes the dynamics.

    The reality is that Apollo was exactly the wrong lesson about exploration and its relation to opening a space frontier. The only thing it did was to allow NASA to develop a program mentality that to this day is more important then what the program does.

    Robert G. Oler

  • NASA has the religion, what they need is a President, administration and Congress with the religion.

  • Al Fansome

    McEarl: I think the Shuttle is a huge step forward in many areas.

    The Shuttle was sold by NASA as providing the nation cheap access to space. NASA specifically told the Nixon White House that the marginal cost per flight would be $10 million per mission, and that it would fly 50 times per year.

    The Shuttle was anything but “cheap access”. It is more than order of magnitude more expensive than promised, and it flies an order of magnitude less often.

    It does not stop there. In response to NASA’s promises, the White House and Congress STOPPED all other developments in American space transportation for the next 15 years, until Challenger. They ordered that all commercial satellites would fly on Shuttle. They ordered that all science satellites would fly on Shuttle. As a result of the Shuttle, America went from a market share of 100% of the commercial space transportation market, to less than 10% today.

    In hindsight, it is easy to see that the decision to charter a government agency to develop, own and operate a “national spacelines” was a policy disaster. History will record this “experiment” as a failure, which President Obama (following in the footsteps began by President Reagan in the 1980s) finally corrected.

    We would be so much further ahead today as a nation if NASA had been given some other mission, and required to buy commercial space transportation services from U.S. firms.

    FWIW,

    - Al

    F

  • Al Fansome

    MrEarl: Fast Trac or NK-39, both were tested successfully but never launched. It should be obvious that Marshall would want to use an in house US design over a Russian design. Try to tell SpaceX not to use the Merlin engine on the Falcon vehicles and see what kind of push back you get.

    The point here being that the MSFC messed up the X-34 program, which you do not refute. The X-34 was a very good concept as an x-vehicle, but MSFC made an extremely poor choice in managing the program.

    X-programs are high risk by their very nature. The X-34s primary purpose was to test and demonstrate RLV technologies. We did not need a new engine, as tested NK-39s were available from Aerojot, but MSFC insisted in throwing a new engine development into the mix too.

    Neither NASA HQ, nor Orbital, wanted this. Both NASA HQ and Orbital saw adding a brand new engine as unnecessary risk. It just added another “If” on all the other “Ifs” of an x-vehicle. It did so unnecessarily.

    But MSFC was “in control”. MSFC did not care what NASA HQ or Orbital wanted.

    The FASTRAC was overweight, and behind schedule. It also has a much lower ISP than an NK-39.

    The decision to insert an unnecessary engine development project, into the X-34 RLV program, was 100% MSFC’s decision.

    Another MSFC management decision was to gave the engine project to a hand-picked small Huntsville company that had never built a rocket engine before.

    The failure is X-34 is MSFC’s failure. (There were “proximate” causes at the end of the day, but the core cause of the failure was MSFC management.)

    The fact that they eventually “tested” the FASTRAC, is irrelevant to the core issue of MSFC’s long track record of failures.

    FWIW,

    – Al

  • Al Fansome

    AMIGHTWIND: I would be willing at this point to pitch Ares I in favor of Direct if consensus could be reached. There is a lot of shuttle commonality there, and it is more launch capacity than Ares I. Direct is no substitute for Ares V, however.

    Do you understand, that at the core, that changing “launch concepts” is not the core problem?

    Would you be willing to allow MSFC to lead the project?

    Given MSFC’s track record (see list below), what gives you confidence that they will not mess up Direct?

    * Shuttle Solid Rocket Boosters w/ leaky field joints

    * Shuttle External Tank that sheds foam on ascent

    * Advanced Solid Rocket Motor (cancelled)

    * Shuttle II (cancelled)

    * Advanced Launch System (cancelled)

    * National Launch System (cancelled)

    * Spacelifter (cancelled)

    * X-33 (over budget, never flew, cancelled)

    * X-34 (never flew, cancelled)

    * X-37 (was cancelled, before being take over & fixed by DOD)

    * Space Launch Initiative (cancelled, no flyable hardware)

    * Orbital Space Plane (cancelled, no flyable hardware)

    * Bantam LV program (cancelled)

    * 2nd Generation RLV program (cancelled)
    * OMV (cancelled)

    How many more failures, in a long list of failures, are you willing to allow MSFC before you are willing to try something different?

    SENATOR SHELBY: “The message should be, unambiguously, that nothing’s too big to fail,”

    FWIW,

    – Al

  • MrEarl

    First Al…
    Lets get the facts straight. I never said that Marshall messed up the X34 program. You mistake silence for acceptance, lot of people on this blog make the same mistake. I have a different point to make at the time but so there is no mistake, I feel that both parties made equal contributions to the programs demise.
    To clarify another point you are not well versed on, the White House congress did NOT stop developments in American space transportation in the 15 years prior to the Challenger explosion. Early on the decision was made to bring in the DoD as a full partner in the shuttle. To justify the DoD participation it was mandated that all military launches would be launched on the shuttle only. The Titans and Delta IIs were still available for commercial satellites. Why didn’t those companies do their own development during that time? I’ll tell you why, it wasn’t profitable and still isn’t without government picking up a huge amount of the bill.
    That’s why without NASA pushing out beyond LEO commercial space just won’t do it on heir own. There’s no profit in it.

  • MrEarl

    Thanks Bennett, I saw those before but it’s all just PowerPoint.

  • Ferris Valyn

    Thanks Bennett, I saw those before but it’s all just PowerPoint.

    Kinda like Ares V and Altair

    Also, why is all discussion about Earth to LEO setup as Falcon 9 vs Ares I?

    Why isn’t Atlas V, or Delta IV on the table as well?

  • MrEarl

    “the problem is that all the people who want to go to the Moon cannot seem to come up with a valid reason to do so.

    Robert G. Oler”

    There are plenty of reasons to go back to the moon that directly relate to exploration. There would be learning ISRU, habitat construction, testing equipment like tools and space suits. There will be differences between the Moon and Mars but considering we’re not doing these things at all, learning to do them 3days from home as opposed to 8 weeks or maybe a year from home seems like the better bet.
    Once we get started exploring a laboratory on the moon would be the perfect place to carry out experiments on the treasures we bring back without the chance of contaminating the samples or more importantly, Earth’s environment. Accidents happen.
    Then there is the purely scientific reasons like study of the regolith and geology of the moon. Constriction of a receiving dish on the radio “dark” side of the moon to explore the galaxy in the radio spectrum.
    A base on the moon would also be a natural for commercial services for supply and one day crew transportation.
    It all depends on who is the arbitor of “valid”.

  • Bennett

    Al,

    Great comments, your insight into MSFC’s project track record are fascinating. Senator Shelby’s obvious hypocricy is almost amusing, Thanks for that!

    MrEarl,

    I see Flexible Path accomplishing on the Moon all that you lay out, and I applaud your goals as valid, and I’d love to see it. Just not as a single mission for 100 billion dollars. I’m beginning to think that there are three basic opinions going around about Flexible Path (among people who comment on space web sites:

    1) I want Constellation or Shuttle extension and everything else sucks because it’s impacting me or my family in some manner ($).

    2) I don’t trust President Obama to set things up so that things get done (landing on the moon) and I’m willing to accept a false dream of a Moon Mission some day, some day, rather than accept the fact that NASA’s Constellation Program was dysfunctional and costing WAY too much money, for way too little capacity.

    3) I hate all democrats, especially socialist muslim types.

    4) I get it, I love it, and I think it’s the smartest proposed direction that I have ever seen.

    Have I left anyone out?

    P.S. Robert G. Oler,

    Goddammit Robert, please stop using the word “then” when you mean “than”. As in “more than” “less than” “better than” “worse than” or perhaps “is more important then than what the program does.”

    This is driving me bonkers

    “then” is a time/step progression type of word. “Do this, then do that” or I’m going there, then to the other place” or “Cut the piece, then glue it to the wall”

    Sorry man, I don’t buy the old dog, no new tricks line. ;-)

  • Bennett

    Actually that’s four types, but I forgot the fifth:

    5) Obama is killing NASA and our hopes, dream,s and national pride INTENTIONALLY because he is the anti-NASA ,or anti-Christ (take your pick).

    Me?

  • Robert G. Oler

    MrEarl wrote @ April 28th, 2010 at 11:14 pm

    which one of those reasons do you think will get the American people to pony up the tens of billions such an effort will require? Robert G. Oler

  • Rob, I thought the guys with guns and the nice crisp uniforms were all you needed to get the American people to pony up tens of billions (and then some). Getting the politicians (most of whom are Americans but few you’d call “people”) to advocate and allocate is another story.. mostly darker than Grimm’s.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Trent Waddington wrote @ April 29th, 2010 at 3:24 am

    good morning ( up with baby)

    I enjoyed the read on S/M…and I agree with it…I just am not impressed with the engineering management that decided a 1/2 billion dollar (give or take a million) was worth what they got.

    “Rob, I thought the guys with guns and the nice crisp uniforms were all you needed to get the American people to pony up tens of billions (and then some).”

    usually you need an enemy as well…some boggy man (Saddam worked) that you can label Hitler or worse, say it is easy and will pay for itself and then you have “the splendid little war”

    Robert G. Oler

  • red

    Mark: “Of course Obamaspace”

    That’s a weird name for the new NASA approach. I don’t see people calling Constellation “Bushspace”. Maybe that’s because Constellation betrayed just about everything in Bush’s Vision for Space Exploration.

    Mark: “would not get us back to the Moon–ever.”

    That’s wrong. See the Augustine Flexible Path. Also realize that the current approach involves technology demonstrations, a Lunar Quest science program, commercial space development, and robotic precursors that help us a lot in getting to the Moon, regardless of what the current or future Administrations decide. It also involves beyond-LEO test flights at or shortly after 2020 – a decade and a half before Constellation would start missions – that will get us most of the way to the Moon.

    Mark: “the real reason for canceling Constellation is that it is being used as a cash cow to fund programs within NASA that the Obama administration finds more important than space exploration.”

    You have to realize that NASA is, or should be, about more than building huge rockets. Constellation devestated the other areas of NASA – ISS, Earth observations, aeronautics, space science, general space technology development, exploration technology development, technology demonstration missions, etc. Constellation took funds from those areas. Now those funds are being put back. A lot of those areas are “bread and butter” immediately practical areas that should be funded first. At any rate, the budgets for those areas don’t come close to being enough to feed the Constellation budgetary black hole.

    The good thing is that the current approach restores those various other areas of NASA while at the same time accelerating exploration, which was going nowhere under Constellation.

  • red

    amightywind: “There is nothing courageous about destroying the nation’s only practical means of space launch”

    You can’t be talking about Ares I or Ares V here. That would be too outrageous. If you’re talking about the Shuttle, the decision to shut it down was made years ago by Bush. He realized that over the long term the Shuttle was too dangerous and expensive to keep running forever.

    Meanwhile, we’re shifting away from the impractical and unaffordable Ares I and V to practical means of space launch (EELVs, and soon Falcon 9 and Taurus II, as well as other rockets).

    “while prattling about ‘going to Mars’ in the next century of so.”

    Personally I don’t put too much weight on the ‘Mars in 3 or so decades’ goal. That just sets a long-term goal to guide earlier work that will be done in the timeframe of interest to us. The important thing, as far as exploration is concerned, is that we are going beyond LEO in 10 years under the new plan (initial beyond-LEO flights to very useful destinations), and to asteroids shortly after that. Those missions aren’t all that far from now, especially compared to the decades of nothing we were faced with in Constellation.

    “America needs a Shuttle replacement. Ares I/Orion/Ares V fill the bill.”

    No, they just drain the wallet.

    “I am all for allowing SpaceX to perform on their ISS resupply contract. They are behind schedule and over budget on that.”

    Huh? How can SpaceX be over budget on a fixed-price contract? Forget about historical accuracy – that doesn’t even make sense.

    “The idea of them taking on more now, while NASA sits on its hands makes no sense.”

    First of all, the commercial crew effort is not set aside for SpaceX. Second, why wouldn’t they be able to take on more if they won some commercial crew business? They’d have more funding in that case, and would be able to do more.

    “What other alternatives are there that can be ready in less than 5 years?”

    There are a lot of those, given that the EELVs already exist. However, let’s be skeptical of commercial space like Augustine was. Even then Augustine figured 2016 at the latest for commercial crew. That was with less funding than NASA is budgeting, without the KSC modernization that commercial crew might use, and without the ease on requirements Orion super-lite CRV will give to commercial crew. Things are looking pretty good for commercial crew in the new plan.

    Anway, where did this 5 year deadline come from? Per Augustine, Ares I would be ready by 1019 most likely. Commercial crew beats that schedule by years and years, is much cheaper to develop, much cheaper to operate, and most importantly opens up important new markets for the U.S.

    “I would be willing at this point to pitch Ares I in favor of Direct if consensus could be reached.”

    Why? Ares I is too dangerous, too expensive to develop, to expensive to operate, and duplicates EELVs. What a waste.

    “Direct is no substitute for Ares V, however.”

    Why? Because Ares V launches are even more expensive than Direct? Because Ares V would be built in 2028 or so – way after Direct would probably start producing?

    “Do you Elon Musk fanbois release what a high stakes launch Falcon 9 is in just 2 weeks? If it crashes spectacularly Obamaspace is toast.”

    The high stakes are just in the minds of Constellation supporters that I suppose want us to fly Soyuz for the next decade. Everyone else realizes that this is the first Falcon 9 launch, and as with all new expendable rockets, there’s a great chance it won’t reach orbit. Maybe the next one won’t either. They will get there, though, and they will do it many years before Ares I could. See Falcon 1.

    Meanwhile, I find myself having to repeat that commercial crew is not the same as SpaceX. Even limited to the “Merchant 7″ (and we aren’t limited to them), we also have Orbital, Boeing, ULA, Sierra Nevada, Blue Origin, and Paragon. Not only that, but even if the commercial crew effort failed completely — i.e. every single one of the commercial crew vendors failed, the new approach still has so many other advantages that it would easily be better than Constellation.

    amightywind (quoting Shelby, of all people): “Yet the President’s budget rewards the commercial space industry with an additional $312 million bailout to deliver on already signed contracts in the hope that they will actually be able to deliver something some day. This equals a 60 percent cost overrun for an unproven commodity.”

    This is not true. It’s not a bailout. It’s not a cost overrun. NASA wants new commercial cargo work (new tests, new capabilities – the budget suggests a number of possibilities) that weren’t in the original commercial cargo plan. That’s because the original plan was lightly funded – presumably because Griffin didn’t care much whether or not commercial cargo worked given that his plan was to dump the ISS by 2016 anyway. Now that ISS will be kept to 2020+, will have capabilities added to it, will be actually used, will be a hub for some of the new technology demonstrations, and has Shuttle funding to finish it, NASA wants to put more emphasis on commercial cargo.

    It’s a bit bizarre to suggest that SpaceX and Orbital need to be bailed out when SpaceX is doing fine and Orbital even just bought General Dynamics’ satellite division.

  • It’s a bit bizarre to suggest that SpaceX and Orbital need to be bailed out when SpaceX is doing fine and Orbital even just bought General Dynamics’ satellite division.

    Maybe, but they are still getting their programs operating using TAXPAYER money rather than their own R&D funds.

    The fact that Orbital bought GD’s Satellite division does not impress anyone. Firms are buying and selling all the time, Orbital’s purchase was intelligent because Satellites are it’s major line of business.

    As for SpaceX, they are still a bunch of space hobbists, Oler and the other Musk groupies aside.

    The facts are, Obama lied, he lied to the people of the United States, he lied to Senator Nelson and he has done so before. While he was the better of the two options in the election, having to choose the better of the worst is a crappy way to have a government. But then, that’s how it has always been.

    I do not deign to respond to Oler’s crappy statements about the technology improvements for this nation, if he has not the intellect or intelligence to recognize that, then too bad.

    As for me? I have been a manned space program groupie since the day I met the Magnificent Seven and my friend was the recovery officer for NASA’s early space launches.

    Oler and the rest of the NASA denigrators can kiss my old, ancient butt on that score.

    The fact is that Obama’s plan will not only hurt the nation, it will vitrually hamstring the advent of Small Business in the space programs. Orbital, SpaceX and the rest will not “play nice” with small businesses if there is no contractual mandate to do so. IF the manned space program is outsourced to these private companies totally, then the smaller companies will most likely wind up going out of business. Most of them have dedicated their entire company lives to the space program.

    Perhaps Mr. Oler really doesn’t give a crap about the livelihoods of the millions of people who work for these companies, but most decent Americans would.

  • MrEarl

    which one of those reasons do you think will get the American people to pony up the tens of billions such an effort will require? Robert G. Oler

    Now you’re changing the question. I originally stated that I didn’t think Obama was serious about exploration because he was flippant in addressing the moon. Then in response to your accusations that no one has given a good reason to go back to the moon, I gave you four good reasons to go back to the moon as it relates to exploration. Those four examples, ISRU, habitat construction, tools and techniques and laboratories, are the “cost of doing business” if you are serious about exploration of the solar system.
    If you or the Prez. think the bill is too high to do exploration, that is a legitimate argument, but don’t pi$$ on my head and tell me it’s raining, which is what the FY’11 budget is doing.

  • Curtis Quick

    MrEarl, I don’t think those four examples (ISRU, habitat construction, tools and techniques and laboratories) are going to be motivation enough for the American taxpayer. They are splendid goals in the process of making a market profitable (although I don’t view them as critical for exploration), but they are not in themselves going to benefit the nation or the people directly.

    Having said that, I do think that commercial space is going to do those things in the years to come, and far faster than would happen if Constellation was the path forward. Again, if there is a profit to be made, it will open wide the door to a wider commercial space industry that will change the lives of the Americvan taxpayer in a profound and exciting way.

    With Constellation we would pay through the nose to give a select few the opportunity for a short thrill ride a couple of times a year (in much the same manner as we have done in the past). At best all we get are pretty pictures. With commercial, we may give the average Joe a shot at experiencing what life is like “up there” as jobs start to open up in the skies above and beyond. And I don’t only mean in the far decades to come. With commercial, my 7-year-old son may even have a shot when he grows up to work off-planet.

    FWIW

    Curtis Quick

  • Vladislaw

    “Oler and the rest of the NASA denigrators can kiss my old, ancient butt on that score.”

    Why does not wanting NASA to do the Constellation program mean a person hates and denigrats NASA?

    NASA does a lot of things well, and others not so well. Trying to reduce costs and make systems simplier is impossible for NASA because whatever system they choose has to employ an army. So there is no such animal at NASA, as simple and soon.

  • As for SpaceX, they are still a bunch of space hobbists.

    Did you mean “hobbyists”? If so, you’ve obviously never been to their facilities. Not many people spend hundreds of millions on their “hobby,” or have a thousand employees engaged in it.

  • Al Fansome

    MrEarl said:

    To clarify another point you are not well versed on, the White House congress did NOT stop developments in American space transportation in the 15 years prior to the Challenger explosion. Early on the decision was made to bring in the DoD as a full partner in the shuttle. To justify the DoD participation it was mandated that all military launches would be launched on the shuttle only. The Titans and Delta IIs were still available for commercial satellites. Why didn’t those companies do their own development during that time? I’ll tell you why, it wasn’t profitable and still isn’t without government picking up a huge amount of the bill.

    Mr. Earl, you are the one not well versed on this subject.

    While you are correct that it anybody who wanted to could start a commercial space transportation company, and offer “commercial services”, as several entrepreneurs did — in reality, the Titan and Delta were not available for this purpose.

    SOME FACTS:

    1) It was White House national space policy to fly commercial satellites on the Shuttle. This became policy in order to justify the multi-tens-of-billions-of-dollars investment in the Shuttle. It needed to aggregate a high flight rate to justify the investment.

    Space Launch Vehicles: Government Activities, Commercial Competition, and Satellite Exports
    CRS Issue Brief for Congress, Updated March 20, 2006

    “In 1972, President Nixon approved NASA’s plan to build the first reusable launch vehicle, called the space shuttle, and directed that it become the nation’s primary launch vehicle, replacing all the ELVs except Scout (later discontinued for unrelated reasons). This would have made NASA and DOD dependent on a single launch vehicle, but the resulting high launch rate was expected to reduce the cost per flight significantly. The shuttle was first launched in 1981, and was declared operational in 1982. The phase-out of the ELVs began, but in 1984 the Air Force successfully argued that it needed a “complementary” ELV as a backup to the shuttle for “assured access to space” and initiated what is now known as the Titan IV program. Production lines for the Delta and Atlas began to close down, and it was expected that only the shuttle, Scouts, and Titan IVs would be in use by the mid-1980s.”

    2) NASA was a powerful and passionate defender of this policy. NASA even fought President Reagan’s decision to take commercial satellites off the Shuttle after Challenger.

    3) NASA also provided launches to commercial satellite providers at “marginal cost”, which was estimated to be quite low in the early-mid 1980s.

    4) Martin did not own all the Titan tooling and IP, nor did they did have permission or authority to start selling Titans on the commercial market. Same goes with McDac and the Delta. In fact, one of the policy options explicitly being considered by Congress in 1986 was allowing NASA to sell expendable LV services for commercial satellites (see CBO October 1986 study report on space transportation policy reference below.)

    In conclusion:

    Somebody who does not understand the aerospace industry might imagine a “Martin/McDac” executive suggesting to senior Martin/McDac management that they go into business and compete with NASA’s Space Shuttle, and one of their major customers, ask the White House to change national policy to allow them to do so, and deal with attacks from Congress which was very pro-NASA and pro-Shuttle. That person would have been transferred, if not fired, for being insane or stupid, or both. That was the reality of the 1970s and 1980s.

    If you want know a little more about this subject, a couple more suggested readings:

    Congressional Budget Office, October 1986, “Setting Space Transportation Policy for the 1990s”
    http://www.cbo.gov/ftpdocs/59xx/doc5935/doc24c-Entire.pdf

    Commercial Satellite Launch Opens New Era In Space Program
    http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1891&dat=19890827&id=N2kfAAAAIBAJ&sjid=9dQEAAAAIBAJ&pg=1393,3503122

    FWIW,

    - Al

  • [...] Space Politics » Briefly noted: Bolden, Griffith, and “too big to fail” [...]

  • Al Fansome

    MrEarl said:

    Lets get the facts straight. I never said that Marshall messed up the X34 program. You mistake silence for acceptance, lot of people on this blog make the same mistake. I have a different point to make at the time but so there is no mistake, I feel that both parties made equal contributions to the programs demise.

    Mr. Earl,

    Interesting choice of the word “feel”.

    Do you have something other than FEELINGS to base your opinion on that MSFC was not the principle culprit behind the X-34′s demise?

    Some facts, perhaps?

    More relevantly, to the original topic, do you care to offer a defense of MSFC’s space transportation management abilities?

    DOES ANYBODY HERE CARE TO OFFER A DEFENSE OF MSFC’S MANAGEMENT OF SPACE TRANSPORTATION IN THE LAST 20 YEARS?

    FWIW,

    – Al

  • MrEarl

    Curtis,
    All the things I mentioned ARE necessary to explore Mars and beyond. None of that stuff is sexy but it’s needed. The sizzle you sell is the exploration for life on Mars.
    With JUST commercial, your son will not work off planet. With JUST NASA, your son will not work off planet. The two HAVE to work in concert for that to happen. For too long US human space flight meant NASA only. Now with the ISS we have a way for commercial to become involved with human space flight relatively inexpensively. But without NASA actively involved with human space exploration beyond LEO, commercial HSF ends with LEO to the ISS. When the ISS is de-orbited, 2020, 25,or 28, that’s the end of commercial HSF too. These company’s have to make a profit and there is nothing to indicate tourism or anything else alone can be profitable without the ISS.
    With NASA actively perusing exploration and developing bases on the moon things start to change. Those bases need supplys and a taxi service and that’s the next step for commercial space.
    Obama’s FY’11 budget of R&D and small demonstration projects for US HSF is not a viable path forward to exploration beyond Earth orbit. One example of this is putting off the decision on Heavy Lift until 2015. By that time he will be either A) voted out in 2012 and it’s some else’s problem or B) past his re-election and the midterm elections so that any fall out from his decision to kill the HLV, which I believe he will, is not his problem politically.

  • MrEarl

    So Al:
    How long ago were you fired from NASA?

  • Vladislaw

    “With JUST commercial, your son will not work off planet. With JUST NASA, your son will not work off planet. The two HAVE to work in concert for that to happen. For too long US human space flight meant NASA only. Now with the ISS we have a way for commercial to become involved with human space flight relatively inexpensively. But without NASA actively involved with human space exploration beyond LEO, commercial HSF ends with LEO to the ISS. When the ISS is de-orbited, 2020, 25,or 28, that’s the end of commercial HSF too. These company’s have to make a profit and there is nothing to indicate tourism or anything else alone can be profitable without the ISS.”

    Where does Bigelow Aerospace figure in this scheme you outlined? They have already said they will need three people performing maintaince on their facility when it is completed. Those will be commercial jobs, working in space. Why would commercial space be limited to LEO? If commercial interests decided to build a LEO2GEO space vehicle parked at a Bigelow facility, why couldn’t they start offering to visiting an geo space platform for sateliites.

  • MrEarl

    It’s price Vlad. How much will Bigelow have to charge per night for those rooms with a fantastic view? I’m thinking round trip one week stay would be $50 million. How many will be able to afford it?

  • Robert G. Oler

    Harvey wrote @ April 29th, 2010 at 8:27 am

    As for SpaceX, they are still a bunch of space hobbists, Oler and the other Musk groupies aside…

    It is hard to take you seriously when you make a statement like that.

    It simply doesnt make sense.

    The essence of American capitalism is some person coming up with “a better idea” putting their capital or finding people who will put their capital at risk and then trying to produce and market that “better idea”.

    To say that Musk, who clearly has met all that criteria is a “hobbyist” is simply to mock the American capital system.

    Boeing, Douglas, Cessna, Grumman…none of these companies started out as much more in their time then Musk has with SpaceX…but they all had a better idea (or so they thought) and then put their fortunes at risk to try and make it happen. I cannot imagine that Musk is doing this for the money. He has assets that even if doubled or tripled would still not really change his lifestyle…on the other hand, he could lose a lot of money if the entire thing goes bonkers.

    What he is trying to do is do what has made the American free enterprise system great…change The Republic through that system.

    You are not alone in this stupidity. Mark Whittington who use to be a free market person, is now so angry in his opposition to Obama that he is morphing the entire notion of free enterprise to be something bad.

    I dont get you people. You cannot name one thing that Constellation is going to give The Republic one new product, one new capability, one new anything…and yet you have no embarrassment about attacking the nature of our economic system “Free enterprise”.

    So I really dont care to respond to your other statements. As I note, anyone who says “Musk is a hobbyist” is clearly from some other reality.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    MrEarl wrote @ April 29th, 2010 at 4:00 pm

    I dont know, but I dont think Bigelow’s market is a “tourist” market. He may pick up some spare change there but he is aiming for a far larger effort.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert G. Oler wrote @ April 29th, 2010 at 5:09 pm

    I dont know, but I dont think Bigelow’s market is a “tourist” market. He may pick up some spare change there but he is aiming for a far larger effort.

    US taxpayers? Or foreign taxpayers? Or both?

  • Bennett

    Bill White wrote @ April 29th, 2010 at 5:31 pm

    From the looks of it, a larger effort indeed! I’d love to see it happen.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Bill White wrote @ April 29th, 2010 at 5:31 pm

    my belief (AND I’ll just leave it at that..so opinions are like anatomical parts everyone has one) is that we are on the cusp of a major change in how satellites are put together to operate in both NEarth space but mostly in geo synch.

    I think that this will happen first in US government programs but eventuallyit will spread to other operators. In that we are on the brink of seeing satellites being human “assembled” in LEO and then human serviced in GEO (or polar).

    So far it is the only thing humans do in space which even remotely comes close to giving value to the cost. If the cost of ops can be driven down (and I think it can) I predict that the start of human assembled and human serviced satellites is less then 10 years away…and I think that this is Beal’s major customer.

    Beal is putting together vehicles that can be “crewed” but then spend time as “uncrewed” Platforms…and this is exactly what one would need if one is going to assemble (say over the time interval of two or three weeks) a series of modules launched. Then the notion of using something like an ion drive for transfer (which is reusable) makes a lot of sense.

    to me this scenario fits a whole lot of the parts that are happening now…from the X37 to the Vasimer to Bigelow

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    Bennett wrote @ April 28th, 2010 at 11:36 pm

    then/than I have flashcards posted on the screen…thanks for the gentle reminder

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    Bennett wrote @ April 29th, 2010 at 5:49 pm

    this is precisely the type of effort that should be encouraged. The cost in the “government return to the Moon” theory is first heavy lift and then it is NASA trying to put together all the parts.

    We will in my theory go back to the Moon when all the parts are there being used for something else THEN they can be modified into somethat use rather THAN just developing them from scracth

    (pun part of the serious effort)

    Robert G. Oler

  • Bennett

    Robert G. Oler wrote @ April 29th, 2010 at 6:00 pm

    You’re very welcome. If I didn’t value your commentary I wouldn’t have mentioned it.

    I see Bigelow as a serious player in the years ahead. A SpaceX-Bigelow-(one of the VTOL players) effort resulting in a permanent Lunar base would get things kick-started, AND make a mockery of folks like Shelby.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Bennett wrote @ April 29th, 2010 at 7:08 pm

    I did appreciate the reminder…I am careless about that but will be more careful.

    I suspect that Bigelow is going to be one of the bigger players…but that only occurs if (to continue the sport metaphor) the game changes. That is in my view the key to Obama’s new plan.

    But I think that there are some forces building which are ready, should the game change to move us into a completely new era. That is why I think my today 1 month old daughter has an excellent chance if she wants it to go into space

    Robert G. Oler

  • amightywind

    Bennett wrote:

    “I see Bigelow as a serious player in the years ahead. A SpaceX-Bigelow-(one of the VTOL players) effort resulting in a permanent Lunar base would get things kick-started, AND make a mockery of folks like Shelby.”

    Lunar base? LMAO! A tad ambitious for a company with a 75% failure rate (SpaceX, with small rockets at that!), and another (Bigelow) that has never launched any space structure at all! These are not ‘serious players’. They are Obama toadies who have their hand in the NASA money bag.

  • Robert G. Oler

    amightywind wrote @ April 29th, 2010 at 7:44 pm and another (Bigelow) that has never launched any space structure at all! ..

    knowledge is power and you should get some.

    But it fits with the tone of most of your post and why I dont respond most of thetime.

    Bigelow has launched and is operating two prototype versions of its inflatables…what is surprising about your post, and shows how careless you are…is that the link on the lunar base has “clicks” on the two vehicles.

    learn some facts

    Robert G. Oler

  • amightywind

    Mine is the same tone these hobbiests are met with by any competent reviewer, derision. One has only to look at the totality of response to Obamaspace and compare.

  • Bennett

    Robert, he’s a really ignorant troll. That he gets 75% from 2 out of 5 speaks volumes.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Bennett wrote @ April 29th, 2010 at 9:53 pm

    Robert, he’s a really ignorant troll. That he gets 75% from 2 out of 5 speaks volumes…

    I usually dont respond but when something comes out that is completely nuts then one has to at least say “no”.

    It is as they say “A world gone mad”

    Robert G. Oler

  • Bennett

    “when something comes out that is completely nuts then one has to at least say “no”.”

    Agreed.

  • derrick

    I cannot believe this facebook group exists:

    http://www.facebook.com/search/?flt=1&q=bigelow&o=65&sid=13917989.3835548159..1&s=10#!/pages/Space-Gigolos-For-Bob-Bigelow/354356165032?ref=search&sid=13917989.3903729298..1

  • There’s a Facebook group for everything. I think it relates to Andy Warhol’s dictum about fifteen minutes of fame…

  • Robert G. Oler

    Rand Simberg wrote @ April 30th, 2010 at 1:11 am

    someone should get one that says “1 million people who like Constellation” or something like that…I would be curious to see how it works out

    Robert G. Oler

  • amightywind, why can’t you spell hobbyist? Why would anyone take your opinion as worthwhile if you can’t even spell? Go back to grade school.

  • googaw

    Bigelow is fond of funding wonderful fantasies:

    The agreement between Bigelow Aerospace Advanced Space Studies (BAASS) and MUFON sets up a “Star Team Impact Project” (SIP), with an initial funding period from five months to a year, with the option to renew for a second year. Investigations will be limited to cases where physical effects of a UFO are reported or where “living beings” are allegedly sighted or where “reality transformation” is said to occur.

    http://www.csicop.org/si/show/bigelows_aerospace_and_saucer_emporium/

  • red

    Harvey: “Maybe, but they are still getting their programs operating using TAXPAYER money rather than their own R&D funds.”

    They won a competitive NASA contract, just like any other NASA contract winners (except sole-source ones, which we should try to avoid). Their contracts have the advantages (from the taxpayer point of view) that they only get paid when they meet milestones, and they pitch in some of the funding for the effort because not only NASA and the taxpayer, but also the company, stand to benefit from the work. What’s wrong with that? I don’t see any problem with NASA getting its ISS cargo needs met with this kind of contract rather than a cost-plus contract. In fact I’d like to see cost-plus contracts used less often. Cost-plus is appropriate in cases with high risk and little commercial potential, but not as a near-default approach.

    Harvey: “The fact that Orbital bought GD’s Satellite division does not impress anyone.”

    The point wasn’t to impress anyone, it was to point out another way that Shelby’s bailout characterization is wrong. Orbital apparently doesn’t need a bailout, since they’re on a buying spree. I see no evidence that the $312M addition for COTS cargo is a bailout. It’s straight out of the Augustine Committee. It’s for NASA’s self-interest now that the ISS has become more important to NASA (now that the ISS isn’t going to be dumped in the ocean in 2016 as was the plan under Constellation), and now that the ISS is going to actually be used and even enhanced. The details of that funding aren’t clear yet, but the budget suggests a number of things like adding tests to the original contracts, or adding capabilities to the cargo systems. It doesn’t suggest anything like a bailout (i.e. giving more money for the contractors without expecting corresponding new results).

    Harvey: “As for SpaceX, they are still a bunch of space hobbists, Oler and the other Musk groupies aside.”

    I don’t see any evidence that SpaceX is a bunch of space hobbyists.

    Harvey: “IF the manned space program is outsourced to these private companies totally”

    I don’t see any indication that the manned space program is going use commercial services across the board. The commercial crew budget is $5.8B out of something close to $100B in NASA’s budget projected for the next 5 years. NASA will be using commercial services for LEO access, just like it already does for science missions, and just like everyone else in the U.S. does for all space access. NASA will have ISS, exploration technology development and demonstrations, heavy lift and propulsion R&D, human research, robotic HSF precursors, Orion CRV, beyond-LEO exploration, etc. NASA will still have it’s science, aeronautics, education, and general space technology areas, too. Some of these will involve commercial participation too, but they always have, and they should. Most of the NASA areas that I mentioned are actually new or are getting big budget boosts with the new approach.

    Harvey: “then the smaller companies will most likely wind up going out of business.”

    I don’t see any evidence for this. Commercial crew is only 1 small part of NASA’s budget proposal. How can it have such a huge influence? Smaller companies can bid for commercial crew work. According to NASA’s budget proposal, NASA is looking for a diverse portfolio of commercial crew investments, for large to small, so some smaller businesses may very well win (and large ones too). Also, whoever the winners are, they will use small businesses whose services meet their needs.

    Meanwhile, the rest of the budget has lots of other opportunities for small businesses that weren’t available under Constellation. For example, the new “venture-class” Earth observation missions that get more funding in the budget offer a possible inroad for small or medium sized businesses. NASA will be using commercial suborbital vehicle services, and small businesses can offer these RLV services. They can also compete to offer payloads or other related services in that field. NASA’s Centennial Challenge prizes are increased in the budget proposal. NASA’s Small Business Innovative Research and Small Business Technology Transfer Research (SBIR/STTR) funding is increased significantly. NASA’s Space Technology Rearch Grants can include small businesses. NASA’s Space Technology area funds new small satellite subsystem technology development and in-space demonstration efforts. These will likely offer new opportunities for small businesses. NASA will also be working to make secondary payloads more available, which might help small businesses get access to space. There are other new opportunities for small businesses in the budget, but you get the idea.

  • Al Fansome

    MrEarl said:

    “So Al:
    How long ago were you fired from NASA?”

    Mr. Earl,

    You responded to my original fact-based space policy argument with argument saying you “feel” a position.

    I responded by presenting another fact-dense argument, this time with multiple referenced sources, and asked you to respond to my argument and facts.

    Instead of responding to the issue, this time you changed the subject, and instead made it into a personal attack.

    I must conclude, and other objective readers must conclude, that you are conceding the policy argument (which is the only reason to change the subject and make personal attacks.)

    Since you have implicitly conceded the policy issue, which will be decided on facts and logic …

    Would ANYBODY ELSE here like to make an AFFIRMATIVE argument that MSFC has the track record and capability to manage an important national space transportation project, whether it be Ares 1, Ares V, Direct, or any version of super heavy-lift?

    If not, that is telling.</b)

    FWIW,

    - Al

  • Bennett

    googaw wrote @ April 30th, 2010 at 4:28 am

    Yeah, that’s quirky. When you’re a billionaire, you can do all sorts of stuff.

  • MrEarl

    Al:
    So you were fired. Your posts reveal your deep seeded resentment.

  • Vladislaw

    “I’m thinking round trip one week stay would be $50 million. How many will be able to afford it?”

    The last numbers I saw on cost for a Bigelow stay was 15-20 million for the launch fee and 1 month stay. 3 million a month after that.

    The cost of leasing a BA 330 was 88 million per year, 1/2 of a module was 54 million a year.

  • Your posts reveal your deep seeded resentment.

    “Deep seeded”? Hilarious.

    No, his posts reveal his grasp of facts and logic. Yours reveal your lack of such.

    Are you now going to accuse me of “being fired from NASA,” too?

  • Space Cadet

    The only thing more bizzare than the stunning level of hypocrisy of the right wingers on this blog defending a government monopoly on human space flight, is the way the word “commercial” is being misused. If one uses Harrison Schmidt’s very narrow definition “commercial” means industry without the government as a customer. By that definition the entire aerospace industry, the highway construction industry, etc. don’t qualify as “commercial” and neither would ULA or ATK or any of the COTS providers. If one uses a broader definition of “commercial” that simply means industry getting the $ and doing the work, then both Ares and COTS are commercial.

    Everyone on here is missing the important distinction between Ares and COTS: It’s not that one is “commercial” and the other is “government”, the difference is only in the WAY the contractor gets paid. Shuttle and Ares pay cost plus, so the incentive to the contractor drives costs upwards and we get Ares at $ 1.5 billion per launch. COTS pays for achievement of milestones, so the incentive to the contractor drives costs down.

    How anyone here who claims to be a supporter of space can miss the importance of bringing the cost of space access down is, well … just as ridiculous as the people who claim to be right wing arguing for a government monopoly on space flight …

  • I don’t know very many people who “claim to be right wing.” That’s generally a phrase applied externally (and often misapplied).

  • common sense

    @ Rand Simberg wrote @ April 30th, 2010 at 11:59 am

    “just as ridiculous as the people who claim to be right wing arguing for a government monopoly on space flight …”

    “I don’t know very many people who “claim to be right wing.” That’s generally a phrase applied externally (and often misapplied).”

    I think he meant free market enthusiastic Republicans ;)

  • googaw

    Space Cadet, a government monopsony is just as bad as a government monopoly, and nearly as bad as the normal HSF combination of the two. Real markets, such as the airline industry, dominated by private sector customers as well as by private sector suppliers, are radically different from government monopsonies which can pursue arbitrary economic fantasies without being accountable to real markets.

  • GK

    “NASA does a lot of things well, and others not so well. Trying to reduce costs and make systems simplier is impossible for NASA because whatever system they choose has to employ an army. So there is no such animal at NASA, as simple and soon.”

    Not completely true.

    Within NASA, well established and highly visible organizations, projects and programs that get a lot of attention are the ones that go after big dollars, and therefore employ an army to justify their spending.

    On Phase A-D ISS, prior to the selection of the prime contractors, from about 1984-87, the total manpower working (what became) ISS was quite small. From the standpoint of the entire configuration of modules, nodes, cupola, international standard racks – the entire interior architecture was established by a handful of people. What NASA established during those years is essentially what the contractors bid and what flies today.

    A second example: NASA-Mir had a fairly small budget and was not even initially recognized as a program. The entire effort, over the course of about 6 years, was carried out by about 110 contractor and about 5 CS working the Russian side, which included international process definition, contract definition, process and contract formalization, architecture definition, hardware development, safety and international certification, payload integration, training, mission support at TSUP and MCC, and post-flight de-integration and turnaround. The US had the Russians significantly modify their module, we redesigned the interior, established the architecture, and designed, built, tested, certified, integrated and flew all of the hardware for the interior which included mechanical systems, electrical systems, payload systems, and computer systems and software; and then we integrated payloads coming from every NASA center, Canada and ESA.

    All of the flight and training hardware we began on in 1993 flew by early 1996. Some flight hardware started as late as mid-1995 (the COSS computer system was the result of feedback from the first US Mir crewman), flew by early 1996. Most hardware went from concept to certification and preparation for flight within less than a year. COSS went from concept to flight in 6 months.

    Fewer than 50 people did the hardware and integration and about the other half of the group did round-the clock mission support.

    None of these numbers include the Spacehab module (commercially owned, developed and operated) and launch integration contract, which employed another 130 people and which covered all aspects of cargo logistics on the Shuttle side. At its height, while the first modules were still being designed constructed and certified for flight, the total number of Spacehab employees, which includes their contractor, McDac, reached about 180 people plus about 4 NASA CS for oversight.

    Now of course if you want to establish a large program/project office, then it means that responsibilities become very nebulous, interfaces far more complex, and the effort required goes up asymptotically. Its very easy to get out of control and make little progress.

    Within NASA this seems to be the result of empire building, and newcomers who think that in order to accomplish a lot they need huge teams spending lots of money.

    All three of the efforts mentioned above had a few experienced people leading the effort and the remainder of the team in each case were frequently fresh-out of college.

    Interestingly, almost none of the people who were responsible for the success of any of the aforementioned projects were permitted to participate in the development of flight programs, all of which involved similar or analogous efforts, over the last decade.

  • Robert

    I think “amightywind” was aware of the fact that Bigelow Airspace has two operational spacecraft in orbit. He just chose to lie. He is a liar. There is no point in arguing with a liar.

  • Martijn Meijering

    a government monopsony is just as bad as a government monopoly

    Why?

  • Fred Cink

    Hey Rand…start a list and put me at the top as (maybe) the first person you know of who considers myself a right winger. Just not in the same way as Oler and Major Tom (et al) might define the term.(and DEFINITELY NOT as abreakingwind demonstates) As one, I have to ask WHY Obama sees (as do I)(supposedly) the withdrawl of the government and substitution of free market capitalism in the crew/cargo launch area as the answer to reducing costs. But he advocates just the opposite for health care, student loans, social sec, medicare and medicaid. For me Atlas V/dreamchaser is the shortest most cost effective answer to commercial crew launch and needs to be the #1 short term priority. I can’t wait (not really)for live coverage of WWF grudgematches or maybe Buzz in a reprise of (Zero G) dancing with the stars from a Bigelow module. I have no problem with robotic precursors so lets get a lunar polar rover or the Osiris Rex proposal funded. I have to ask why the President (and his cheerleaders) tout ISRU and then bypass the one place it could be done cause “we’ve been there.” Why he TALKS about “deep space missions” and dumps Orion for a derated lifeboat. What I would REALLY LIKE TO SEE is the results of a pole on cuts/maintain/increases for NASA funding broken down by Rebublican/Democrat/Independant AFTER they are told of the actual percent of the buget involved. I think the Obama Cheerleaders here (and elsewhere) might spill their koolaid on those nice white sweaters.

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