NASA

A look back at NASA’s Goldin age

Former NASA administrator Dan Goldin doesn’t speak much publicly about his tenure as NASA administration from 1992 to 2001, nor about space policy issues today. So it was a bit of a surprise to see him speak last week at a symposium last week on the 50th anniversary of NASA’s astrobiology efforts in the Washington DC area. While he was careful to keep his comments focused on his work as NASA administrator to develop astrobiology research efforts, such as the agency’s Origins program and Astrobiology Institute, he did offer some subtle comments that reflect upon the agency’s current situation.

Goldin, at point in his talk, recalled the unpopular “zero-based review” of the agency that took place while he was administrator. “But the fact of the matter is, the President of the United States said, ‘This is what you gotta do,’” Goldin said. “So every time a NASA administrator gets skewered in the press, think about the fact that that person is being a loyal American and listening to the President of the United States.” He continued: “The administrator, if they’re good, does what the President asks him, what the Congress asks. You can argue, but when the argument is over, say yes and do yes, or say no and leave. There’s nothing in-between. And I say this because I see the frustration, as I read the newspapers, across NASA.”

Goldin also commented on how NASA traditionally has not done a good job communicating what it does to the public. Ask the general public what NASA does “and the first words out of their mouth will be shuttle or Apollo”, he said. “Then ask them about the search for life: you will watch their eyes will light up, because they aren’t really aware that NASA really cares about the search for life.” That, he said, was a reason why NASA’s small SETI program was cancelled by Congress the year Goldin became administrator. “SETI went down because NASA did not explain to the American people why they were doing it. They viewed it as an entitlement.”

“The American people pay for the space program; they love the space program,” he added, “but they want to know that NASA actually cares about them and is willing to take the time to explain to them, not to talk down to them, but to talk in two- and three-syllable words and explain, concisely, why they’re doing what they’re doing.” He picked up that theme a little later in his talk, recalling the town hall meetings he held as NASA administrator in the early 1990s. “The American people really passionately care about the space program, but they don’t think we communicate with them. We take for them for granted… They need to understand what NASA is doing.”

122 comments to A look back at NASA’s Goldin age

  • Anne Spudis

    “……They need to understand what NASA is doing.”

    Does NASA even know?

  • Keith Cowing over at NASA Watch is constantly going on about how bad NASA’s PAO is about getting good news out, when there happens to be some.

    So yes, I’d say that NASA takes the tax-paying public for granted.

  • CharlesHouston

    Many leaders do what I think Dan Goldin tried to do – imagine the world as they think it should be and relentlessly drive to that.

    Dan came up with Better Cheaper Faster – which many pundits instantly added “Take Any Two” as the second half of the mantra. Didn’t he also come up with the “observation” that NASA and the government were too Pale Male and Stale? The facts are that a lot of the old moldy guys have enormous corporate knowledge and we marginalize them at great risk. We need to transfer that knowledge to the new generation but we can’t just jettison the experience and figure that it was not important after all.

  • The facts are that a lot of the old moldy guys have enormous corporate knowledge and we marginalize them at great risk.

    They can still explain things to the public, can they not?

    Not unless NASA’s doing top secret stuff, which should be under military domain anyway.

    Plus NASA’s mainstream technology is seventy-four years old, so why shouldn’t they be more open to the public?

  • Sorry, eighty-four years old. Goddard’s rocket went up in 1926.

  • John G

    …Goldin also commented on how NASA traditionally has not done a good job communicating what it does to the public. Ask the general public what NASA does “and the first words out of their mouth will be shuttle or Apollo…

    I can tell you for sure that everyone would notice if NASA initiated a mars program like the one Bob Zubrin has proposed. Then the first words out or their mouth will be “mars settlement” .

    John G

  • Ferris Valyn

    John G – I am not certain that actually would be the response. I suspect that, for a good many people, the response would be “for what reason?”

  • John G

    Anne Spudis wrote @ October 20th, 2010 at 8:51 am

    ”Does NASA even know?“…

    Nope – and that’s one of the major reasons why NASA should focus on one big mission – HSF to Mars, with the long term goal of settlement and colonization.

    If you look at nasa.gov and count all current missions – you’ll find 87 missions lined up. Focus? Don’t think so.

    John G

  • John G

    Ferris Valyn wrote @ October 20th, 2010 at 11:23 am

    “…the response would be “for what reason?”

    That would be easy to explain for the public. It would also be a mission (the only mission) worth the risk of HSF.

    John G

  • Polls show that the public thinks that we’re spending nearly a quarter of the Federal budget on NASA. That comes out to more than $875 billion a year. Of course, NASA actually spends less than $20 billion dollars a year with less than $9 billion of that directly related to manned spaceflight.

    So informing the public as to just how little NASA spends annually would be a good start as far as communicating with the public.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Psycho Dan was probably the last chance for the agency to get off the Apollo bandwagon and try and come into the new realities of how it should operate.

    His legacy will be that he got the space station deployed…which given the failure rate of human spaceflight programs is pretty impressive.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Major Tom

    “It would also be a mission (the only mission) worth the risk of HSF.”

    That begs the question of why conduct human space flight, or spend taxpayer money on human space flight, at all.

    It’s like saying that the reason that you and I should make a cross-country trip is so that we can drive a car. But driving the car doesn’t explain why we’re making the trip, or spending all that time and money (e.g., gas) driving a car. Are we visiting family? Are we conducting a business trip? Are we relocating permanently? Etc.

    Human space flight (or driving a car) are means to an end; they’re not ends unto themselves. These activities still have to be justified, especially if taxpayer funding is involved, which may or may not have anything to do with the destination. Have we discovered something on Mars (e.g., microbial fossils) that warrants the expense of sending astronauts? Is there some economic wealth at Mars that could greatly enrich our nation? Are we in a competition with another nation in which completing a human Mars mission would provide a demonstrable win? Is there something at Mars that threatens our world and needs to be better understood? Etc.

    I’m not trying to be combative in raising the points above. I would just caution against a Moon versus Mars discussion. Destinations and methods are secondary. Rationales (or the lack thereof) are the key issue in justifying government human space flight programs today. I sincerely hope we can find some good ones.

    FWIW…

  • Major Tom

    “with less than $9 billion of that directly related to manned spaceflight.”

    A nit but an important one. NASA’s human space flight budget, including both the Exploration Systems and Space Operations accounts, is actually over $10 billion, and that doesn’t include NASA civil servant costs and overhead, which would make it even higher.

    FWIW…

  • John G

    Marcel F. Williams wrote @ October 20th, 2010 at 11:55 am

    “So informing the public as to just how little NASA spends annually would be a good start as far as communicating with the public.”

    I’m pretty sure that “the public” isn’t perceptive to information about budget figures.

    It’s better to initiate a space program (i.e. HSF to Mars) that gives bang for the bucks. “The Public” will then, sooner or later, realize that we can go to Mars on a sustainable mission program for settlement with less than 50 billion in 10 years. That will sure be a surprise for many.

    John G

  • Anne Spudis

    John G wrote @ October 20th, 2010 at 11:29 am

    I agree with you that when NASA is doing something interesting they ARE noticed. My choice, Moon.

    That’s why all this effort ($$$$) budgeted to “excite” students and the public is pretty much money down the drain (but some people are employed).

    When NASA was doing exciting things, kids were clamoring for posters and anything the could get their hands on and NASA didn’t have to stop and wonder how to be noticed. It would have been a laughable situation.

  • Bennett

    … we can go to Mars on a sustainable mission program for settlement with less than 50 billion in 10 years.

    I’d love to see the detailed plan for this. Link?

  • Coastal Ron

    John G wrote @ October 20th, 2010 at 12:35 pm

    “The Public” will then, sooner or later, realize that we can go to Mars on a sustainable mission program for settlement with less than 50 billion in 10 years. That will sure be a surprise for many.

    That would be a great surprise for everyone, especially considering that going to the Moon was going to be more than twice that cost & years, and all for just a few short trips.

    If NASA were to state something like what you suggest, it would lose all credibility…

    My $0.02

  • John G

    Major Tom wrote @ October 20th, 2010 at 12:23 pm

    “It’s like saying that the reason that you and I should make a cross-country trip is so that we can drive a car. But driving the car doesn’t explain why we’re making the trip, or spending all that time and money (e.g., gas) driving a car. Are we visiting family? Are we conducting a business trip? Are we relocating permanently? Etc.”

    The reason for going to Mars is of course not for the purpose of testing the rocket engineering. The reason for HSF to Mars is the same as when Columbus took the trip over the Atlantic. He didn’t do that because he wanted to test his ships – he wanted something more. The same goes with true space exploration – to take humans to new worlds.

    Ever since Apollo was shut down our HSF has been a joke. I would laugh at it if it wouldn’t for the tragic of 14 killed astronauts that has died for nothing.

    John G

  • Mark R. Whittington

    It is a bitter irony that “Psycho Dan” was brought in to fix the old Space Exploration Initiative by Bush the Elder and wound up managing another lost decade for NASA. Goldin does deserve some compliments for fixing robotic space exploration with his “better, faster, cheaper” approach. But he was hampered by his political masters in any attempt he made to get human space flight in any working order. His frustration often showed in public.

  • John G

    Bennett wrote @ October 20th, 2010 at 12:51 pm

    “I’d love to see the detailed plan for this. Link?”

    Sorry Bennett, I don’t have a link, but read the book by Dr Zubrin: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Case_for_Mars
    and you’ll get convinced about the reasons and the cost effectiveness.

    John G

  • Major Tom

    “The reason for HSF to Mars is the same as when Columbus took the trip over the Atlantic.”

    Columbus was trying to pathfind a new trade route to the East Indies. There is obviously no one to trade with at Mars, and I know of no Martian economic equivalent to the East Indies trade.

    I’m not saying that we shouldn’t try to articulate a rationale for human Mars missions. But the Columbus analogy isn’t it.

    “The same goes with true space exploration – to take humans to new worlds.”

    But why? Why spend hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars “to take humans to new worlds”?

    I think you’re still wrapped around the axle of the “what” (human space flight), when the justification is lacking a concrete “why” (scientific, economic, security, etc.). Again, I hope we can find a good one.

    My 2 cents… FWIW.

  • byeman

    “HSF to Mars, with the long term goal of settlement and colonization. ”

    Not the job of NASA nor the US gov’t. It is a multinational or NGO task.

  • John G

    Major Tom wrote @ October 20th, 2010 at 1:14 pm

    “But why? Why spend hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars “to take humans to new worlds”?”

    There are a lot of reasons why we should go to Mars. The one that is enough for me is the argument of having the humanity (and life as general) sited on two planets.

    Instead of typing a long post about all the arguments – listen to one of the sharpest brains in our Solar System – Stephen Hawking. In the link below he explains “Why We must colonize space in order to survive” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HZkyRl5IreM

    John G

  • byeman

    NASA’s task is the 87 missions and not the HSF to Mars folly

  • common sense

    @ Major Tom wrote @ October 20th, 2010 at 1:14 pm

    I am afraid a lot of HSF supporters have a very Sci-Fi view of life. Star-Trek sorta. And it is why they cannot (neither can I) come up with a real good reason for going anywhere HSF. They are more in the “if you build it they’ll come” mindset. The problem is that what NASA does, the mundane work is far from glamorous. The real exciting stuff is very difficult to explain. Someone like Neil deGrasse Tyson has a lot of what it takes to do the job but how many like him? How many scientists of any kind would be willing to take the time to educate the public? How many PBS show do we need? How many people would actually be watching for it to be effective?

    For NASA to become relevant to the public NASA MUST affect their daily, DAILY, lives. Unfortunately NASA’s job is not conducive to daily effects. It takes a lot of time to do anything.

    There is a ray of hope though: Suborbital flights. Yes they are expensive, still. But the day when the public will be able to experience suborbital flights then NASA will become a lot more mainstream and will affect the passengers lives if not daily at least a lot more often than now. And since most people associate NASA with HSF it will be a win-win for NASA.

    Until then we will debate 1 way trip to Mars, HLV with no payload, and the likes.

  • That would be easy to explain for the public.

    Only for that infinitesimal fraction of the public that is as monomaniacal on the subject as you are.

  • byeman

    “Why We must colonize space in order to survive”

    So what? That doesn’t mean NASA or the US Gov’t should do it. The job of NASA and the US Gov’t is to ensure that the USA survives and not humanity. Off planet colonization does nothing for the USA.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Mark R. Whittington wrote @ October 20th, 2010 at 12:53 pm

    It is a bitter irony that “Psycho Dan” was brought in to fix the old Space Exploration Initiative by Bush the Elder and wound up managing another lost decade for NASA….

    well I guess it all depends on if ones metric is that after 8 years of Clinton we were better off then after 8 years of Bush the last.

    The SEI by Bush the elder was like the Cx plan of his son, going nowhere and doing nothing but spending money on a pretty useless attempt at doing something that is not really feasible.

    Clinton managed (with Psycho Dan) to get the space station going and we will have the space station for a very long time.

    Robert G. Oler

  • John G

    byeman wrote @ October 20th, 2010 at 1:29 pm

    “Not the job of NASA nor the US gov’t. It is a multinational or NGO task.”

    Why should a mission to Mars be a multinational task? Why do you think that it would cost less for the US taxpayers to involve other nations in the task?

    By definition, if we as a nation join a collaborative effort with another nation, we lose control of the project. Just look at the difficulties for our own politicians to take decisions – imagine if we had to rely on the political insecurities from Europe, Japan and Russia as well.

    John G

  • Justin Kugler

    As the country’s civilian space agency, NASA would almost certainly play a role in such a multinational effort, byeman.

    The Space Act does, in fact, say that it is US policy that activities in space should be for the benefit of all mankind. Sec. 102(d)(7) also explicitly directs NASA to “contribute materially” to the country’s partnerships in space with other nations and groups of nations.

  • Mark R. Whittington

    “Clinton managed (with Psycho Dan) to get the space station going and we will have the space station for a very long time.”

    You forgot to mention that Clinton wanted to cancel the space station, but backed down after Congressional outrage. Mind, his bringing in the Russians was a diplomatic and political coup (opposition to the space station died almost overnight.) Technically things are mixed. Having the Soyuz available during shuttle down time was certainly a project saver, but Russia has been pretty much a drag, contributing to delays in getting the thing done.

    Mind, I would have gone another direction in 1993 than Clinton did.

  • Robert G. Oler

    John G wrote @ October 20th, 2010 at 12:53 pm

    “The reason for HSF to Mars is the same as when Columbus took the trip over the Atlantic. ”

    if that were accurate, we would already be there…it is not.

    Mars is more like the bottom of the Pacific Ocean then the “undiscovered country”

    Robert G. Oler

  • Marcel F. Williams wrote:

    Polls show that the public thinks that we’re spending nearly a quarter of the Federal budget on NASA.

    Source? Link, please.

  • Ferris Valyn

    John G – you still haven’t actually demonstrated why its so vital to colonize another planet. Yes, having 2 planet species is nice. But why should a single mother making minimum wage in the inner-city care about having a 2 planet species? Whats in it for her?

    Or a farmer, who is trying to make mortgage payments on his farm – why should he care about having a 2 planet species?

    Or a small town small-business owner (and when I say small business, we are talking about 25 employees or less). How is he benefited by a 2 planet species?

    What makes any of these people give a rats-@$$ about having a 2 planet species?

  • John G

    byeman wrote @ October 20th, 2010 at 1:45 pm

    “So what? That doesn’t mean NASA or the US Gov’t should do it. The job of NASA and the US Gov’t is to ensure that the USA survives and not humanity.”

    I’ll give you some news Byeman – the US is sited on the planet Earth.
    If something happens that globally affects Earths biosphere, we will go under with it. Therefore it is in the US interest to secure the future of humanity – at least the citizens of the US.

    John G

  • Robert G. Oler

    Mark R. Whittington wrote @ October 20th, 2010 at 1:59 pm

    You forgot to mention that Clinton wanted to cancel the space station, but backed down after Congressional outrage.

    you forget to mention that the Congress wanted to cancel the station as well, and came within one vote of doing it.

    All incoming administrations face the UXB left behind by their predecessor and the station was certainly one. It had done the typical NASA shuffle, gone well over budget and shrunk to the point of near irrelevance.

    The decision any administration had to make was going to be to fix the program (and in the process find some reason for it to exist) or simply cancel it and try and fix the agency which had screwed it up. The notion of coupling it to some effort with the Russians, while I oppossed it, clearly saved it…from a purpose standpoint…

    and Goldin was able to use his leadership to cut through the NASA BS and get the station moving…that is something for instance Mike Griffin could not do.

    I would have gone another way as well…as the piece I wrote (and you signed on to) for The Weekly Standard illustrated…but all that aside; it is clear that Psycho did what he was hired to do…

    and that is an impressive feat

    Robert G. Oler

  • common sense

    @John G wrote @ October 20th, 2010 at 2:05 pm

    “If something happens that globally affects Earths biosphere, we will go under with it. Therefore it is in the US interest to secure the future of humanity – at least the citizens of the US.”

    Out of curiosity, how long will it take to make Mars an Earth like planet? Or at the very least make Mars able to support human life? What is the likelihood of an asteroid impact with extinction possibility? What is the likelihood of Earth’s biosphere become unlivable because of say global warming? Something else? And just for “fun” what is the cost of making Mars a welcoming planet for human life? You define “welcoming” the way you like.

    Oh well…

  • Vladislaw

    Anne Spudis wrote:

    “When NASA was doing exciting things, kids were clamoring for posters and anything the could get their hands on”

    What is always left out of what Apollo mean’t was that average americans thought THEY were going next not more NASA astronauts and ONLY NASA astronauts. NASA was only going to be the path finders in space, much like Lewis and Clark. Our astronauts would go there, find out what is there over the course of a COUPLE years and then it would be pushed into the commercial sphere and be opened up for anyone with a big enough checkbook. Pan Am and Hilton sure thought that was the route that America was going to be take. Look at television commercials, movies, and books from that era. It was all about “Americans” going to space, not just a tiny tiny select few.

    Once Americans realized NASA was going to protect space and keep it as a monolopy for themselves the Nation got bored with it because they saw it as a dead end for them ever going to space. The reason professional sports are so popular and retain such a high level of spectator interest is because an incrediblely high number of spectators were active participants in those games. Athough they never made it to the “pros” they actually got to have their hand in the game. If high numbers of people had been given the opportunity to participate in going to LEO watching the “pros” going to Luna an asteroid or mars would have created higher levels of spectators.

  • Why should a mission to Mars be a multinational task? Why do you think that it would cost less for the US taxpayers to involve other nations in the task?

    And what makes you think the American tax-payer would be willing to foot the entire bill? Appeal to patriotism? “Defeat the evil Red Chinese?”

    Hell, the “Red” Chinese are better capitalists than we are thanks to the multi-national corporations.

    It isn’t working now and it ain’t gonna work in the future. Mars, and Moon explorations (human) for that matter are going to be trail-blazed by robots, then international and then private industry IMHO. The days of going it alone are done. Clinton and Goldin showed the way with the ISS.

  • Major Tom

    “You forgot to mention that Clinton wanted to cancel the space station, but backed down after Congressional outrage… (opposition to the space station died almost overnight.)”

    This statement is illogical. Either Congress had “outrage” over space station cancellation or there was a lot of “opposition to the space station”. We can’t have it both ways.

  • Anne Spudis

    Vladislaw wrote @ October 20th, 2010 at 2:15 pm

    Remember the Hubble repair? Viewers couldn’t get enough watching the astronauts work. They were rooting for man to fix machine.

  • byeman

    “Why should a mission to Mars be a multinational task? ”

    Because the US Gov’t can not afford

    “If something happens that globally affects Earths biosphere’

    It whould be the USA gov’t’s task to fix the biosphere and not escape. because once citizens leave the Earth, they will no longer be bound to the USA.”

    “As the country’s civilian space agency, NASA would almost certainly play a role in such a multinational effort, ”

    Not if is a NGO managing the effort.

  • John G

    Ferris Valyn wrote @ October 20th, 2010 at 2:04 pm

    “But why should a single mother making minimum wage in the inner-city care about having a 2 planet species? Whats in it for her?”

    There are so many examples both you and I can give on national and international projects that don’t give any immediately benefits to the “single mother”. I don’t think the “single mother” appreciate the ISS, basic research on our universities, The Hubble telescope, Global warming, Voyager 1 or research on fusion nuclear power etc etc etc

    However, that mothers children or her grand-grand children will thank our generation if we pave the way for their expansion, security and technological development. Tomorrow’s success rests on the shoulders of today’s achievements

    I refuse to believe that we in general (the public) are so near-sighted that we can’t have a better future perspective.

    John G

  • Robert G. Oler

    Vladislaw wrote @ October 20th, 2010 at 2:15 pm

    excellent comments Robert G. Oler

  • John G

    byeman wrote @ October 20th, 2010 at 2:25 pm

    “Because the US Gov’t can not afford”

    We wouldn’t spend more in annual budget than we spend today.

    John G

  • Robert G. Oler

    John G wrote @ October 20th, 2010 at 2:26 pm

    “I refuse to believe that we in general (the public) are so near-sighted that we can’t have a better future perspective.”

    it is hard for people who are worried about their basic lives and livelyhood to be excited over the prospects of colonizing another planet in a time span that they will never be a part of, and at a cost which just seems stupid to them.

    The problem for space junkies is that the Apollo era was an era “out of synch” it artificially created something that could not survive on its own…and now some people seem to think that “wow we could colonize (insert some body here)”.

    Robert

  • Robert G. Oler

    http://spacecoalition.com/blog/private-space-travel-taking-incremental-steps

    this is the future (or part of it) not some silly effort to send a few NASA astronauts back to the Moon…

    Robert G. Oler

  • Justin Kugler

    I think that NASA would be much more relevant to the American public if it was more actively developing commercial activities in space and the utilization of space resources for national priorities.

    For example, consider Ben Bova’s proposal to have NASA do a space power beaming tech demonstrator on the ISS and, then, license the technology out to commercial developers backed by low-interest loans.

    If we were doing more things like that in space, the exploration and science would be more palatable.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Justin Kugler wrote @ October 20th, 2010 at 2:40 pm

    I think that NASA would be much more relevant to the American public if it was more actively developing commercial activities in space and the utilization of space resources for national priorities. ..;

    what in my view would make NASA HSF relevant to America and American society is if it were actually doing things that had relevance to space in terms of developing technology and doing technological experiments there.

    The Aeronautics side does this all the time. The Dreamliner and its electric systems trace their origin to experiments that NASA did at both Langley and Lewis in terms of aircraft systems. The B757 (and before it the 737) did far more for American technology development, then the shuttle ever did.

    That the X-37 is a USAF gig…speaks volumes.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Vladislaw

    Anne Spudis wrote:

    “Remember the Hubble repair? Viewers couldn’t get enough watching the astronauts work. They were rooting for man to fix machine.”

    How many viewers? NASA has no clue how many are watching NASA TV because they do not subscribe to Neilson ratings. All they know is their website gets a bump when the shuttle launches.

    And if you are going to try and argue that space will have more viewers with a NASA monopoly versus a more commercial space access program that includes more americans I believe you will be sadly disappointed.

  • John G

    common sense wrote @ October 20th, 2010 at 2:14 pm

    “Out of curiosity, how long will it take to make Mars an Earth like planet? Or at the very least make Mars able to support human life? What is the likelihood of an asteroid impact with extinction possibility? What is the likelihood of Earth’s biosphere become unlivable because of say global warming? Something else? And just for “fun” what is the cost of making Mars a welcoming planet for human life? You define “welcoming” the way you like.”

    It would with today’s technology take about 1000 years. However, I believe that with our technological progress we will solve the problem within 100-200 years.

    The likelihood of impact is high enough to make NASA engage seriously in the topic http://impact.arc.nasa.gov/intro.cfm

    John G

  • John G

    Robert G. Oler wrote @ October 20th, 2010 at 2:33 pm
    “it is hard for people who are worried about their basic lives and livelihood to be excited over the prospects of colonizing another planet in a time span that they will never be a part of, and at a cost which just seems stupid to them.”

    You are probably correct in your statement that people in general are more worried about their basic lives and livelihood than colonizing Mars. But name any of the 87 missions that NASA is running currently that you think that people in general are engaged in.
    ————————
    Robert G. Oler wrote @ October 20th, 2010 at 2:48 pm
    “what in my view would make NASA HSF relevant to America and American society is if it were actually doing things that had relevance to space in terms of developing technology and doing technological experiments there.”

    And why in heaven should people in general that are worried about their basic lives and livelihood care about NASA doing development of technology and doing technological experiments?

    John G

  • Anne Spudis

    Vladislaw wrote @ October 20th, 2010 at 2:48 pm

    I was remembering how much in the news the Hubble repair was.
    I was making no comment re NASA vs commercial. They both will be closely followed, especially manned programs.

  • Major Tom

    “The one that is enough for me is the argument of having the humanity (and life as general) sited on two planets.”

    Fair enough. But I would point out several things:

    1) Humanity (homo sapiens) and other species of Earth life as we know them are not going to be able to settle Mars. The radiation environment will induce fatal cancers in adults in as little as a few years, and both the low gravity and radiation environments will induce a high rate of crippling or abortifacent abnormalities during fetal development. Our species may be able to visit Mars for periods of a couple to a few years (and I hope we do). But unless we’re willing to accept major changes to our genome or physiology that effectively or actually create a new species (something I think is okay but others may not), our species and other Earth species can’t live on Mars for decades or safely reproduce there over multiple generations. If your rationale for a human Mars mission is preserving humanity and the biosphere that supports it, the only place you can really do that is Earth.

    2) Historically, settlement isn’t conducted as a taxpayer-funded government program by government employees according to decisions made by government leaders. Voyages of discovery (Columbus, Lewis and Clarke, etc.) are historically initiated by governments, but actual settlement (Jamestown, Plymouth Rock, Mormon Utah, etc.) is historically carried out by individuals who are making individual decisions to put their individual capital, families, and lives at risk, usually to escape poverty or religious/political persecution. If your rationale for a human Mars mission is space settlement, then trying to convince government leaders to send a handful of government employees there at taxpayer expense is probably the wrong way to go about it.

    3) The kinds of technologies needed to enable actual Mars settlement — cheap/reliable space transport for thousands of individuals, major genetic engineering and/or cyberization of the human body, possibly even terraforming — are radically different from the “Apollo plus nuclear ISRU” kinds of technologies on display in today’s human Mars mission concepts. If your rationale for a human Mars mission is space settlement, then you’re probably better off spending the tens to hundreds of billions of dollars needed to mount such a mission on a very different and much more advanced set of technology investments.

    4) Mars may harbor extant or extinct native lifeforms. It may be the only place we can study non-Earth life up close, and if extant, that life may be very dangerous to Earth life. If we find what we hope to find there, Mars in the future may more closely resemble a wildlife preserve only investigated telerobotically by astronauts in Mars orbit, rather than a frontier for human settlement.

    None of the above means that human space flight can’t be a worthwhile endeavour, but I think it’s important to keep a few realities in mind when justifying today’s human space flight programs. The kinds of obstacles, technologies, motivations, and social norms that an actual Mars (or other space) settlement effort would need to overcome or leverage are very different — by decades or centuries — from the kinds of obstacles, technologies, motivations, and social norms that support or are addressed by today’s human space flight programs.

    Again, my 2 cents… FWIW.

  • Vladislaw

    John G wrote:

    “And why in heaven should people in general that are worried about their basic lives and livelihood care about NASA doing development of technology and doing technological experiments?”

    Because if it was predicated on the idea that NASA would then SHOVE that technology into the private sector where production could be ramped up it could potentially mean two things, a new job or a new consumer product. I would call that a win – win.

  • Major Tom

    “The likelihood of impact is high enough to make NASA engage seriously in the topic…”

    That NASA website is about detecting and deflecting NEOs, not settling Mars.

    It’s orders of magnitude easier and cheaper to detect and deflect a dangerous NEO than settle another planet.

    FWIW…

  • John G

    Major Tom wrote @ October 20th, 2010 at 3:18 pm
    “That NASA website is about detecting and deflecting NEOs, not settling Mars.”

    Major Tom – read my post again. I wasn’t talking about settling Mars – I was answering Common Sence question about the likelihood of an asteroid impact with extinction possibility.

    John G

  • common sense

    “That NASA website is about detecting and deflecting NEOs, not settling Mars.

    It’s orders of magnitude easier and cheaper to detect and deflect a dangerous NEO than settle another planet.”

    AND: Detecting is very, very difficult on its own but I will agree that the budget is way too low. Deflecting… Oh well… If we cannot detect on time deflecting becomes quickly moot. And indeed all of the above remains orders of magnitude lower than terraforming Mars (the only real option for humans to actually live and prosper) or even “settling” (you’d have to define “settling”) Mars…

  • Major Tom

    “Major Tom – read my post again. I wasn’t talking about settling Mars”

    Yes, you were. In that post, you quoted CS’s questions:

    “common sense wrote @ October 20th, 2010 at 2:14 pm

    “Out of curiosity, how long will it take to make Mars an Earth like planet? Or at the very least make Mars able to support human life?”

    And then you replied:

    “It would with today’s technology take about 1000 years. However, I believe that with our technological progress we will solve the problem within 100-200 years.”

    FWIW…

  • John G

    Major Tom wrote @ October 20th, 2010 at 3:15 pm

    1) About radiation hazards: The authoritative National Academy of Sciences – National Research Council study known as the Biological Effect o Ionizing Radiation (BEIR) report estimated the statistical probability of fatal cancer within thirty years induced by chronic doses of radiation totaling 100 rem in individuals over the age of ten. According to BEIR estimate, the likelihood of fatal cancer is 1.8 percent within thirty years for every 100 rem received. So if a female astronaut gets a dose of 50 rem over the course of a two-and-one-half-year Mars mission, and after her return lives thirty years until she dies of old age, the chance of her getting a fatal cancer due to that exposure would be 50/100×1,81%=0,905%. (The chance of her getting a fatal cancer within one year would be 1/30th this amount, or 0,03 percent. The risk of radiation-induced cancer occurring during the mission itself is almost negligible).

    2) The opening of the settlement would need governmental support. But as the base is established – private tourism and privately funded settlers will continue.

    3) There is no need for any future unknown technologies to settle Mars. You can do it with the technology of today within the present annual NASA budget.

    4) This is the most ridiculous argument for not going to Mars. In the first place, if there are or ever were organisms on or near the Martian surface, then the Earth has already been, and continuous to be, exposed to them. The reason for this is that over the past billion of years, millions of tons of Martian surface material have been blasted off the surface of the Red Planet by meter strikes, and a considerable amount of the material has traveled through space to land on Earth. Second – there is a reason why a human do not catch Dutch elm disease, and trees do not catch colds. An organism (bacteria or virus) that has not evolved to breach our defenses and survive in the microcosmic free-fire zone that constitutes our interiors will have no chance of successfully attacking us. The bacteria and virus that harms us have had billions of years to adapt to life in the environment of the human body interior of that of a closely related species, such as another mammal. Heck – even diseases between different mammals are unusual. It would be ridiculous to state that Martian virus would affect us.

    John G

  • John G

    Major Tom wrote @ October 20th, 2010 at 4:11 pm
    “Yes, you were. In that post, you quoted CS’s questions:”

    Dear Tom, don’t mix the cards. I quoted common sense, but I quoted him on his question about asteroid impact with extinction possibility. Not anything about Mars settlement.

    Go back and read again…

    “The likelihood of impact is high enough to make NASA engage seriously in the topic…”

    John G

  • Coastal Ron

    Anne Spudis wrote @ October 20th, 2010 at 3:14 pm

    I was remembering how much in the news the Hubble repair was.

    You may think that a couple of guys turning wrenches in a dangerous environment is news worthy, but after the audience sees no drama (i.e. everyone survives), it just becomes another example of normal life.

    I watch NASA TV occasionally, but it’s less interesting than watching Ice Road Truckers. If NASA wants to get people buzzing about space, then they should sign Mark Burnett to produce a reality show on the ISS. Otherwise, the normal daily work life of people in space does not contain enough drama to sustain constant attention in the popular media – and it really shouldn’t, since that would probably mean life & death type stuff, and that’s what good aerospace engineers try to avoid.

    Nielson ratings should not be the reason we do something in space…

  • Robert G. Oler

    John G wrote @ October 20th, 2010 at 3:05 pm ]

    to answer both your comments.

    First I dont think that the “people” caring about what NASA does is all that important…its PR gimmicks that have been the foundation of the program for a long time (“we are docking at 17500 mph” bs)…it is the results that change our lives and our economy that matter and they should speak for themselves.

    Second, Major Tom hit a lot of the high points, but in my view we are decades maybe half a century (or more) from any real effort at a sustained presence on the planets or any other body given the state of the economy and technology. To even try now would require a cost for results that would be literally astronomical…and in our present economy probably suicidal.

    If we cannot find a functioning economic system in LEO (or GEO) that pays for the effort, it is absurd to think we are going to invent one on the Moon or Mars or anywhere.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    Coastal Ron wrote @ October 20th, 2010 at 4:24 pm

    I did get a hoot over the 30 minutes it took one astronaut on the space station to get instructions to transfer something from a hard drive to a flash drive.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Coastal Ron

    John G wrote @ October 20th, 2010 at 4:17 pm

    2) The opening of the settlement would need governmental support. But as the base is established – private tourism and privately funded settlers will continue.

    The “need governmental support” is the killer right now. How much? If Constellation is any guide, far more than what NASA can provide without killing off all the other things it does.

    Regarding “private tourism”, that market is still TBD, and many people argue that it’s not even there for LEO, much less BEO. A year-long trip is not tourism anyways, it’s an expedition, and the number of people that can afford the time and money for such an expedition is not enough to hang a business plan on.

    3) There is no need for any future unknown technologies to settle Mars. You can do it with the technology of today within the present annual NASA budget.

    To a certain degree, I agree with you. However, we don’t know how to assemble the current technologies in a way that is needed for a Mars mission. Knowing how to combine them, and figuring out what’s needed and what’s not, is what’s going to take quite a few years.

    For instance, you couldn’t go to Mars with today’s spacecraft, because we don’t have versions designed for deep space survival, or for landing large landers on Mars. Maybe we have the technology available today that will eventually be used, but we don’t know that until we try, and we don’t have funding to try.

    However, your implying that getting us to Mars is cheaper than what Constellation was going to cost getting us to the Moon, is unbelievable without details.

    4) This is the most ridiculous argument for not going to Mars.

    You skipped over the other part of Major Tom mentioned, which is whether we’ll even inhabit Mars, or treat it kind of like the Antarctic. My favorite science fiction story about Mars is the Red/Green/Blue Mars series by Kim Stanley Robinson, where a major plot-line was the disagreement on how pristine to keep Mars, or how much to terraform it.

    I have no doubt that the same issues will come up when people start traveling to Mars, so who knows if living there will be an option. Explore yes, but I don’t think we’ve determined if it’s “Earth 2″, or just another outpost in our expansion into space.

  • common sense

    @ Robert G. Oler wrote @ October 20th, 2010 at 4:37 pm

    “To even try now would require a cost for results that would be literally astronomical…and in our present economy probably suicidal.”

    I just would like to add this. The US go-it-alone in Space is gone, at least today. There is a glimmer of hope if other nations get involved, and I mean for crewed deep space exploration. That is, possibly for species survival, trying and explore, colonize (?), other locations in space. The timeline would be huge. The political will almost inexistent today. But in that particular case China would be of great help but again considering all the animosity in the US wrt China it probably won’t happen.

    People need to grow up and away from Sci-Fi models to real economic models and geopolitics even if they don’t have to become experts.

    And I am only addressing the “government” part of it. A real smart effort would combine commercial as well. And here you see how difficult it is even within the US to get anything going. In the world?…

    Anyhow, dream on!

  • Scott Bass

    I actually thought alot of Golden and admired his enthusiasm for the space program and exploration in general. Someone like him is what our program needs right now. If Obama fires Bolden after the election perhaps Golden could be asked to serve again.

  • Alex

    “If we find what we hope to find there, Mars in the future may more closely resemble a wildlife preserve only investigated telerobotically by astronauts in Mars orbit, rather than a frontier for human settlement.”

    Even this scenario does much to advance the cause of human continuity. Advances in telerobotics will lead to advances in AI, consciousness transfer, memory retention, nanotech, etc.

    These developments will then form the basis of the tech tree required for true colonization: Exploring other solar systems.

  • Wodun

    PR and communication are problems for NASA. We only have to look at how the cancellation of Constellation was rolled out to see how inept they and the current administration are at communication.

    Goldin said. “So every time a NASA administrator gets skewered in the press, think about the fact that that person is being a loyal American and listening to the President of the United States.” He continued: “The administrator, if they’re good, does what the President asks him, what the Congress asks. You can argue, but when the argument is over, say yes and do yes, or say no and leave. There’s nothing in-between. And I say this because I see the frustration, as I read the newspapers, across NASA.”

    This is why I think Bolden is acting under orders from Obama with his Muslim and Chinese outreach. If Bolden’s mission is important to Obama’s foreign policy, then Obama should be communicating the value of the mission to the American public instead of disavowing Bolden and throwing him under the bus. (How big is Obama’s bus anyway?)

    I have a hard time seeing NASA communicate the benefits of medical research if they can’t even manage the PR of canceling Constellation or Bolden’s trip.

    Perhaps the people who read this blog are better informed but NASA’s intended audience should be regular people.

  • @Stephen C. Smith

    “Polls show that the public thinks that we’re spending nearly a quarter of the Federal budget on NASA.

    Source? Link, please.”

    Sustaining exploration: communications, relevance, and value

    http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1000/1

    Average American Guess: NASA Gets One-Fourth of US Budget

    http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2007/11/average-america/

    NASA’s budget … as far as Americans think

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2007/11/21/nasas-budget-as-far-as-americans-think/

  • Mary Lynne Dittmar

    NASA is not a corporation and should not be expected to communicate like one. What NASA is required to do is inform/educate the public about NASA activities – and, unfortunately, to continue leveraging the myth that the Race To The Moon inspired huge numbers of people to enter STEM fields (it may well have – probably did – but there is not a shred of empirical evidence supporting that assertion.)

    Contrary to what is stupidly called “conventional wisdom” (invoked frequently in these types of discussions by people who have no clue what is actually involved in developing a coherent communications plan and then implementing it), NASA has adopted “industry best practices” over the last few years re: communications and is continuing to tighten up that approach – not an easy thing to do with 11 centers, each of whom has its own set of stakeholders and constituents in addition to being a part of the larger organization. This is particularly challenging when NASA’s efforts in communications and PA are watched with hawk-like focus by some legislators and executive branch staffers lest the agency slip over the line into “marketing”.

    Putting together “one-offs” – the use of a given technology or set of them to do “outreach” to specific groups…or sponsoring events with a big “cool factor”…while these tend to create some buzz and generate cheerleading on the part of pundits, they will not inform and educate the public as to NASA’s activities over the long run. And (as is rightly pointed out by many here) the dynamic nature of the agency’s direction makes the problem MUCH tougher. But a strategic communication effort takes time (years) and tremendous effort to coordinate across an agency as large, geographically dispersed and organizationally complex as NASA. It is an evolution. It requires a commitment to developing an integrated communications framework and planting _that methodology_ firmly into the agency-as-a-whole – a tremendous challenge when appointees and direction are susceptible to turnover on a relatively frequent basis, relative to a corporate model.

    Nonetheless, there are good, competent people at NASA who are engaged in just that type of effort. It may come as a shock but the agency has actually hired some folks who have professional expertise in communications. They know what kind of challenge they are up against and they understand the the stakes and the organizational dynamics which make the task terribly difficult. Yet they persist, and they are creative and committed folks. It will be interesting to watch over the next few years to see what outcomes may accrue. IT WILL TAKE THAT LONG.

    As long as I’m rolling… the words “regular people” have absolutely no meaning from a communications perspective. Neither does “the public”. Any discussion that bandies those terms about while asserting what NASA should and should not do is so ill-informed that one hardly knows where to start in response. A good friend (and PR professional) is fond of pointing out that communications is like training. Anyone who has ever been trained thinks they know how to do it. Ditto communications.

    Maybe – just maybe – that isn’t entirely true.

    With regard to citing poll results – please provide links and take the time to read the constraints on interpretation of the results, keeping in mind that a single poll is useless in characterizing what the “public” does or does not think. The “public thinks 25% of the US budget is spent on NASA” is a misrepresentation/misinterpretation/distortion of a finding I reported 4 years ago, taken totally out of context. Further, any poll is a snapshot in time and is useful only when used as (a) just that, and no more, and/or (b) part of a series of measurements that may establish the presence or absence of a trend over time.

    Finally, as regards “relevance”. There have been some follow up studies which show that people respond strongly to learning that NASA activities have positive impacts on the lives of individuals – particularly when the examples used link technologies and/or economic impacts easily “related to” ( understood) by respondents (like, advanced NASA imaging techniques are now used in early detection of breast cancer)

    Well, duh. That result is not specific to NASA. Only one series of studies ever addressed relevance and its impact on attitudes about NASA directly and it was in a very limited context – but again, the actual research and its implications does not seem to matter to those people who apparently feel quite comfortable asserting what NASA needs to do re: relevance. I’ll pay good money to anyone here who can give me a an operational definition of “relevance” that fits the statistical models and lends itself to application within a strategic communication framework – and that means that the definition has to be usable in the formulation of communications objectives and the construction of meaningful, valid metrics by which to assess outcomes.

    A little respect, please. ;)

    (End of Rant)

  • Artemus

    Polls show that the public thinks that we’re spending nearly a quarter of the Federal budget on NASA.

    But you have to take into account that many Americans, God love ‘em, don’t know a quarter and 25% are the same thing, or that there are four quarters in a whole, or that a billion is a thousand times bigger than a million…

  • Mary Lynne Dittmar

    A follow up (I should’ve just done a blog – sorry folks) – I appreciate the fact that Mr. Williams took the time to look up the articles citing research. But the citation of my article (The Space Review article – thanks again to Jeff Foust), and the folks who went on to take the “24%” number from my one paragraph referring to it, missed the point of that article and ignored the 2nd “chapter” a week later – which really got into the meat of what I was saying. “Relevance” as used in the general discussion about NASA and communications is empty of useful meaning. It is the actual value and perception of value of NASA’s activities that is the issue. To quote myself as rebuttal to the citation of myself above (?!):

    “However, we never intended to suggest that larger questions about our national commitment to space exploration could or should be answered solely by implementing a strategic communications program or a well-crafted marketing effort. Those who focus the discussion about public perception of NASA’s relevance in those terms alone have, in effect, hijacked a growing body of research while failing to understand its complexities. They have failed to move beyond tactics to the tougher issues. Effective communication is an absolutely necessary condition—but not a sufficient one—for coming to terms with the value of NASA and space exploration for the nation and the larger global community.”

    In other words, as soon as the discussion defaults to “the problem is, we’ve never been effective in telling “the public”what we do” – a la Goldin – as though we’d (obviously) end up with all kinds of support for NASA if we just TOLD THE STORY BETTER – we are missing the point. (And there is no data to support that assertion, either.)

    Also, it should be noted, that in a subsequent bit of research we failed to replicate the 24% number – which we dutifully reported. That finding (predictably) was not picked up by the same media outlets that touted the original result. Finally – that study was done 3 years ago. It’s outlived its shelf life. I’m the last person who would assert that the public thinks 24% of the US budget goes to NASA – and it’s my study! :)

  • Bennett

    Mary Lynne Dittmar wrote…

    Wow, thank you for taking the time. Your comments illuminate both the challenge and (the ongoing) solution. Please keep up the great work.

  • Beancounter from Downunder

    Mary Lynne Dittmar wrote @ October 20th, 2010 at 9:26 pm

    Well that’s quite a bit to digest. If your consider yourself a ‘communicator’, could you perhaps work a bit on the length of your communication. A more concise approach would be appreciated.

  • Major Tom

    “So if a female astronaut gets a dose of 50 rem over the course of a two-and-one-half-year Mars mission…”

    But we’re weren’t discussing a three year Mars mission. We were discussing Mars settlement, i.e., going to Mars permanently, living there for decades, and reproducing in that environment.

    I don’t deny that human missions in the deep space environment that are three years long involve manageable radiation risks.

    But the radiation risks involved in, say, a 30-year stay in a deep space environment will exceed the safety limits in the National Academies study several times over.

    Again, the technical hurdles of today’s short human space flight missions are radically different from and much easier to address than the technical hurdles involved in an actual Mars (or other space) settlement effort. It’s the difference between sending sailors on a year-long military submarine mission and trying to raise a family in the abyssal depths of an ocean over a period of decades . The former is a cakewalk compared to the latter.

    “The opening of the settlement would need governmental support.”

    Why? Historically, examples like Jamestown, Plymouth Rock, and the Mormon settlement of Utah didn’t need government support. In fact, the latter two efforts were the result of governments that were antagonistic towards the settlers.

    “But as the base is established – private tourism and privately funded settlers will continue.”

    Why? What is going to drive individuals to undertake the expense and risks involved, not only to them, but to their families as well?

    I’m not saying some individuals and families might not undertake those expenses and risks in the future. But we shouldn’t take such motivations as a given.

    “There is no need for any future unknown technologies to settle Mars. You can do it with the technology of today within the present annual NASA budget.”

    We support only a handful of astronauts onboard the ISS using about a third of NASA’s budget (and even then we need the help of the Russian space program). Assuming we threw all of NASA’s budget at human space flight, we’re talking 15-20 astronauts in LEO. Without radical and probably unforeseeable changes in technology and approach, there’s no way hundreds or thousands of settlers could be supported at Mars within the resources of NASA’s budget.

    “The reason for this is that over the past billion of years, millions of tons of Martian surface material have been blasted off the surface of the Red Planet by meter strikes, and a considerable amount of the material has traveled through space to land on Earth.”

    Inert material, yes. Active organisms, no.

    “The bacteria and virus that harms us have had billions of years to adapt to life in the environment of the human body interior of that of a closely related species, such as another mammal. Heck – even diseases between different mammals are unusual.”

    This is a patently false statement. HIV likely originated in certain species of monkeys. The swine flu that we all got shots for last winter obviously originated with pigs. The avian flu remains a major worry. Innumerable tropical diseases are transmitted by mosquitos. Heck, the black plague was transmitted from rodents to fleas to humans.

    I’m sorry, but it’s an outright lie (or extremely ignorant) to claim that diseases do not commonly cross species’ boundaries, even species that are as radically different from each other as mammals, birds, reptiles, and insects.

    “there is a reason why a human do not catch Dutch elm disease, and trees do not catch colds. An organism (bacteria or virus) that has not evolved to breach our defenses and survive in the microcosmic free-fire zone that constitutes our interiors will have no chance of successfully attacking us.”

    Infectious diseases are only one major concern. Invasive species are another. The Martian equivalent of bacterial kudzu would upset the foundations of multiple (or all) Earth ecosystems. Environmental poisons created by biological processes are yet another worry. The Martian equivalent of prions could make mad cow symptoms look benign.

    “It would be ridiculous to state that Martian virus would affect us.”

    No, it wouldn’t. See above.

    “I quoted common sense, but I quoted him on his question about asteroid impact with extinction possibility. Not anything about Mars settlement.”

    No, CS’s questions included multiple questions about Mars. Here they are (from your post) again:

    “’Out of curiosity, how long will it take to make Mars an Earth like planet? Or at the very least make Mars able to support human life?… And just for “fun” what is the cost of making Mars a welcoming planet for human life? You define “welcoming” the way you like.’”

    And you answered those Mars questions with:

    “It would with today’s technology take about 1000 years. However, I believe that with our technological progress we will solve the problem within 100-200 years.”

    FWIW…

  • Robert G. Oler

    common sense wrote @ October 20th, 2010 at 4:53 pm

    “I just would like to add this. The US go-it-alone in Space is gone, at least today. There is a glimmer of hope if other nations get involved, and I mean for crewed deep space exploration. ”

    My thinking has changed a bit. I think that we are coming to the end of the road for large government space programs even as a partnership in international efforts.

    The space station program has done nothing but driven national space programs to the brink of insolvency ie the projects have gotten so expensive that they are almost unaffordable.

    My theory is that we are going to spend some time letting private industry properly regulated bring the cost down…and then I dont think it will be all that expensive.

    Robert G. Oler

  • @ Mary Lynne Dittmar

    It cannot be underestimated how much money plays a role in the public’s positive or negative perception of NASA. There’s no doubt in my mind that most of the public perceives NASA as a very expensive program that makes up a significant portion of Federal public expenditures. I just heard a woman on a local talk radio station complaining about Obama spending too much money on space during these hard economic times.

    Of course, Federal expenditures on our space program are relatively insignificant compared to the rest of the Federal budget. Even if you totally eliminated NASA and its budget, it would only reduce Federal expenditures by less than 0.6%.

    But beyond the budgetary expenditures, the best way to promote NASA is to allow it to be the manned pioneering space program that it use to be back during the days of Apollo. Put a permanent base on the Moon and our kids and grand kids can look up at the sky almost every night and know that humans live there! And then they can go on the internet to see what the astronauts and robots are doing at the lunar base on the live cam:-)

  • Robert G. Oler

    Marcel F. Williams wrote @ October 20th, 2010 at 11:48 pm

    But beyond the budgetary expenditures, the best way to promote NASA is to allow it to be the manned pioneering space program that it use to be back during the days of Apollo. Put a permanent base on the Moon and our kids and grand kids can look up at the sky almost every night and know that humans live there! And then they can go on the internet to see what the astronauts and robots are doing at the lunar base on the live cam:-)..

    why doesnt that work on the space station?

    Robert G. Oler

  • John G

    Major Tom wrote @ October 20th, 2010 at 11:21 pm

    Major Tom, I understand by reading you post that you don’t have the education and knowledge about biology and biological processes – nor in general or within radiation in specific.

    My post would be too long to explain the basics in biology and why for example a mosquito is not affected by the parasite (i.e. it is not the mosquito that has been affected by the disease – they just transport it).

    Regarding my answer on the question from Common Sense – I know that you are ignorant – but be a good boy now and go back and read that post again.

    John G

  • Robert G. Oler

    John G wrote @ October 21st, 2010 at 12:44 am

    so…
    you think that it is possible that the human body can adapt to the very different conditions in gravity etc on the Moon and Mars?

    Robert G. Oler

  • common sense

    Robert G. Oler wrote @ October 20th, 2010 at 11:33 pm

    “My theory is that we are going to spend some time letting private industry properly regulated bring the cost down…and then I dont think it will be all that expensive.”

    I hope too because to me it is the road to salvation for HSF. But I was trying to address any potential government(s) run program(s). My dream was to have private take care of the “mundane” LEO access and NASA the BEO. But considering what they are asked to do (HEFT+HLV) I don’t think NASA will make it, not alone anyway. Hence my remark about China. Here what I see:
    . HLV+HEFT = failure
    . Commercial LEO crew: high risk
    The sum is at best high risk…

  • mr. mark

    And as we continue the debare, Spacex is set to launch in just about 2 1/2 weeks, November 8th. The future moves forward whether you like it to or not. KEEP ARGUING! :p

  • John G

    Robert G. Oler wrote @ October 21st, 2010 at 12:07 am
    “why doesnt that work on the space station?”

    Because the space station has nothing to offer in terms of exploration (just soap bubbles). It’s not a new world to discover – it’s just a man made facility flying just 400 kilometers above our heads (and that would sink if we didn’t actively kept it in orbit). A base on the Moon or Mars would give the feeling of expansion and curiousness of these new worlds.

    John G

  • John G

    Robert G. Oler wrote @ October 21st, 2010 at 12:53 am
    “so…
    you think that it is possible that the human body can adapt to the very different conditions in gravity etc on the Moon and Mars?”

    Yes, I do believe that low gravity and low rate radiation can be adapted by humans and other organisms.

    NASA’s Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center opened a facility, the NASA Space Radiation Laboratory, at Brookhaven National Laboratory that employs particle accelerators to simulate space radiation. The facility is studying its effects on living organisms along with shielding techniques. There is some evidence that this kind of low level, chronic radiation is not quite as dangerous as once thought; and that radiation hormesis occurs (the hypothesis that chronic low doses of ionizing radiation, in addition to the natural background doses, are beneficial, stimulating hypothetical reserve repair mechanisms that protect against disease, but are not activated in absence of additional ionizing radiation).

    The consensus among those that have studied the issues is that radiation levels that would be experienced at a long stay on the surface of Mars, and whilst journeying there, are certainly a concern, but are not thought to prevent a trip from being made with current technology or

    When terraforming Mars, the atmosphere would be more thick and hence give us an even better shield from radiation.

    John G

  • John G

    Space Cadet wrote @ October 21st, 2010 at 1:51 am
    “….real reasons” vs “acceptable reasons….”

    Thank you Space Cadet for articulating a post that gives words to my thoughts.

    Br,
    John G

  • Ferris Valyn

    The problem with “real reasons” is that they don’t pay the bills.

    What many space cadets seem to forget is that a large percentage of this world don’t have time for dreams and imagination, because they are trying to survive. Look at the state of our nation – how many people are out of jobs, or are struggling to put food on the table. And if you want to expand that world wide, some estimates I’ve seen suggest that, if we took the NASA HSF budget, we could provide clean water for at least half of the worlds population. And I am sorry if that offends you, but in the world we live in, with people dying of starvation, of abject poverty – that should be offensive too.

    Now, that said, this doesn’t meant that my post has suddenly turned into a round of “we need to solve the worlds problems first, before we do space” – I don’t buy that for 1 simple reason

    I believe that we NEED space and the resources of space to solve the worlds problems. In short, I believe that its possible to merge exploration & development, and do so in a way that is sustainable, measurable, and will bring people into seeing the possibilities of space – ie you need to merge your “real reasons” with “acceptable reasons”

    A space cadets need to stop jumping right to an architect & destination they think is pretty and exciting, and start looking at what is needed to become spacefaring.

  • Aggelos

    “People need to grow up and away from Sci-Fi models to real economic models and geopolitics even if they don’t have to become experts. ”

    alot of Sci-fi of the Past,,are todays reality,,maybe with different ways but,,reality..

    settlement and colonies of our Solar system will be no big..there will be mainly bases and mines all over the solar system..

    but actual colonisation will happen with big earth like planets in other solar systems..

    like Pandora.. which is scientifically plausible,,because we now search for planets in alpha centauri..

  • John G

    Ferris Valyn wrote @ October 21st, 2010 at 2:46 am
    “The problem with “real reasons” is that they don’t pay the bills. “

    I think that you are wrong here Ferris, they do pay the bills – in the long run. Just as basic research are profitable in the long run and is needed to find new unknown applications.

    What is needed is leadership that can explain and lead the nation beyond the near-sighted public. We all have things that worry us that is more about our basic lives and livelihood – but we also need to have a long-term-sight. It is essential for our culture.

    John G

  • red

    How can we get NASA’s HSF to become relevant to the public?

    It’s tough to do this with missions to the surface of the Moon or Mars, or to NEOs, in a way that gets us there after decades and still is extremely expensive. Such missions could have benefits for the public (e.g.: lunar ISRU used in economically useful ways, science, etc), but to be relevant enough to the public to justify their expense, they need to be achieved faster, achieved more affordably, and/or achieved by using stepping stones that themselves are more immediately relevant to the public.

    Some different approaches that can be relevant to the public:

    - satellite servicing: I mean this broadly, including inspection, refueling, instrument replacement, mission assembly, and so on. It can give benefits to the public in the areas where satellites already give benefits: national security, environment monitoring, day-to-day services, science, etc. It could be done in a stepping-stone way: start in LEO, and then branch out to GEO, E-M Lagrange points, lunar orbit, etc … and can make exploration mission assembly easier (i.e. it gets us closer to those rocky world HSF exploration missions that some here want). We need to find ways to make it more affordable, though (e.g.: lower-cost space access, multiple satellites serviced per mission, eventual use of space resources like propellant, shifting much of the responsibility to commercial providers or operational government agencies, use of robotics, making the satellites themselves more easily serviced, etc).

    - deliberate spin-offs: By this I mean conduct your HSF exploration program in a dual-use way that provides up-front benefits to the public. For example, the FY2011 flagship exploration technology demonstration missions included technologies like SEP, inflatable modules, a space tug, ECLSS, and refueling. These technologies can be used for exploration, but they can also be used for national security, economic, environment monitoring, and other “application-oriented” missions that give immediate benefits to the public. Of course these are just examples; there are many others.

    - space stations: I mean this broadly, too. They could be human-tended or permanently occupied. They could have different uses. They could be in different locations: LEO, GEO, lunar orbit, Lagrange points, etc … allowing them to feed into the rocky world exploration goals of many here. They could be quite small and specialized. We could also add capbilities to the ISS. Stations can provide various more near-term benefits to the public: science, health/medicine, all of the benefits I mentioned for satellite servicing (a station could play a role in that job), economic benefits (e.g.: commercial stations), etc. We will have to see what we can learn from the ISS as we use it. We also need to get the cost down to develop and operate stations for them to be worthwhile.

  • Ferris Valyn

    John G – I think that its possible, to make them pay the bills, if you merge them. Because I do see some similarities to basic research. The problem is, space isn’t positioned to be treated like basic research, the way we practice it, right now. NASA development & growth needs to be measurable, granular, and if possible, predictable. I know that last is hard to do, but the chance of NASA getting funding or having its budget protected over a long period of time is dependent upon that.

  • Mary Lynne Dittmar wrote:

    Also, it should be noted, that in a subsequent bit of research we failed to replicate the 24% number – which we dutifully reported. That finding (predictably) was not picked up by the same media outlets that touted the original result. Finally – that study was done 3 years ago. It’s outlived its shelf life. I’m the last person who would assert that the public thinks 24% of the US budget goes to NASA – and it’s my study!

    Thanks for the clarification. I was just looking at your site trying to find the original research cited in the article, what was the methodology, the population sampled, etc. Is that information available online anywhere?

    I’m particularly interested because most polls I’ve seen show that although the majority of American support space exploration, they want less government spending on it and more private sector spending. Your original result would suggest the desire for less government spending could be a mistaken belief that a huge part of the budget goes to NASA, but as you indicate you were unable to replicate that result.

    You can e-mail me at wordsmithfl@gmail.com if you wish to take the discussion off-line. Thanks in advance.

  • Robert G. Oler

    John G wrote @ October 21st, 2010 at 1:34 am


    Because the space station has nothing to offer in terms of exploration (just soap bubbles). It’s not a new world to discover –

    so why did the viewership for the Apollo landings fall off “quickly”?

    as for the radiation.

    I dont pretend to know the answers to this, but I can predict with some certainty based on the experience of the space station; that it is going to be a long slog in terms of mastering low g and the radiation in terms of convincing massive numbers of people to “colonize” another world.

    there is a reason we dont have cities on the sea bed…and they are kind of the same reasons we are a long way from having cities in space.

    Robert G. Oler

  • John G

    Ferris Valyn wrote @ October 21st, 2010 at 9:21 am

    I buy your argument and agree with you.

    John G

  • John G

    Robert G. Oler wrote @ October 21st, 2010 at 11:04 am
    “so why did the viewership for the Apollo landings fall off “quickly”?”

    Easy answer on that question – nothing sustainably was made on the Moon. Nothing was built. Nothing was accumulated. And the Moon is (compared to Mars) not a world we will be able to live on.

    John G

  • @Robert G. Oler

    “why doesnt that work on the space station?”

    1. Kind of difficult for kids to spot the space station in the sky. And its not that impressive if you see it. Very easy to spot the Earth’s Moon, however!

    2. The Moon has been part of human culture since before human civilization. So humans living and working on a world that’s so intimately involved in human culture should be of great interest to most people.

    3. The ISS is really not a place that’s healthy for humans to stay. Microgravity environments are inherently deleterious to human health. Additionally, the ISS is not shielded enough to protect humans who want to permanently live in space. The Moon, however, has plenty of regolith for appropriate radiation shielding and has a significant amount of gravity (whether its enough to prevent the deleterious effects seen in a microgravity environment, we don’t know. But it might be beneficial to find out!).

    4. However, large artificial gravity space stations at cis-lunar Langrange points that are properly shielded with lunar or asteroid material might be of great interest to the public, IMO. For some reason, I find producing artificial gravity in space very interesting. I guess I watched 2001: A Space Odyssey too many times at the theater when I was a kid:-)

  • Major Tom

    “Major Tom, I understand by reading you post that you don’t have the education and knowledge about biology and biological processes – nor in general…”

    And your credentials and background are…?

    “… or within radiation in specific.”

    The radiation issue is very straightforward. We agree that the radiation doses during a human deep space mission that is a couple or few years long are manageable. But that has no bearing on exposures over decades or a lifetime, which the kinds of timeframes that a human would be exposed to space radiation if they were trying to colonize (i.e., live and reproduce at) a deep space location.

    Just to take one example, in lab tests, female primates start going infertile when they’re exposed to radiation in doses as low as 0.05 Sv. But the annual radiation dose at the surface of Mars ranges between 0.08 Sv and 0.33 Sv (depending on the solar cycle). So even if we could snap our fingers and instantly transport a bunch of healthy human women of childbearing age to the surface of Mars, many of them would start losing their fertility in the first year, and all of them certainly would be infertile within a couple or few years. (And the reality is that the radiation doses during the multi-month trip to Mars may have made some of these women infertile even before they arrive.) Colonization requires children. We can’t colonize Mars or any other deep space location if going there rapidly makes us infertile and prevents us from having children. That’s not colonization — that’s just a really expensive sterilization vacation.

    There are many other examples like this one. The point is that we can visit, but we can’t colonize, space with the bodies we currently have. We shouldn’t confuse multi-month ISS stays or multi-year Mars missions with the multi-decade requirements of settlement and colonization. They’re not the same thing, not by a long shot.

    “My post would be too long to explain the basics in biology and why for example a mosquito is not affected by the parasite (i.e. it is not the mosquito that has been affected by the disease – they just transport it).”

    So? The result is sick or dead humans regardless of whether a pathogen is airborne, food-borne, or transmitted via a vector like mosquitos. The point is that your statement about diseases not crossing or rarely crossing species boundaries is false. Even if you want to set aside all the mosquito, flea, and other vector-borne diseases, I noted multiple other diseases, like HIV, swine flu, and avian flu, that are regularly transmitted between and affect both humans and other animals, often radically different animals.

    “Regarding my answer on the question from Common Sense – I know that you are ignorant – but be a good boy now”

    Why are you resorting to namecalling and insults? I havn’t called you a name or thrown ad hominem insults at you.

    “and go back and read that post again.”

    I have, at least twice. And as I’ve quoted, twice already, CS is asking questions and you’re answering questions about Mars. Here are the relevant quotes again:

    CS: “’Out of curiosity, how long will it take to make Mars an Earth like planet? Or at the very least make Mars able to support human life?… And just for “fun” what is the cost of making Mars a welcoming planet for human life? You define “welcoming” the way you like.’”

    JG: “It would with today’s technology take about 1000 years. However, I believe that with our technological progress we will solve the problem within 100-200 years.”

    “It’s not a new world to discover – it’s just a man made facility flying just 400 kilometers above our heads (and that would sink if we didn’t actively kept it in orbit).”

    Any space “base”, whether in orbit like the ISS or on a planetary surface like the Moon or Mars, will quickly become inoperable and unrecoverable if it’s not sufficiently supplied from Earth. It doesn’t matter whether its propellant for station-keeping or advanced electronics for communications and control, any base in space is going to be dependent on Earth for decades to come.

    “A base on the Moon or Mars would give the feeling of expansion and curiousness of these new worlds.”

    And how much should taxpayers or investors pay for a “feeling”?

    FWIW…

  • Major Tom

    “Griffin was at least honest about the real reasons behind the BS offered about “improving life on Earth”, i.e. It IS about exploration for exploration’s sake. Everest “because it was there”. The Poles.”

    I also think Griffin’s terminology was useful, but the argument was flawed. Exploration examples like mountain climbing and polar expeditions are very cheap compared to human space flight, and many of the first were conducted without government sponsors.

    It’s one thing to say that I’m going to go for a Sunday drive, because I like driving for driving’s sake. It’s another thing to say that I’m going to undertake a multi-month trip to drive the entire length of the Pan-American Highway because I like driving for driving’s sake. The former is easy and something I can do within my discretionary time and funds. The latter is difficult and requires the consent of my family, boss, etc. to expend the necessary time and money. Mountaineering/polar exploration is the former when compared to human space exploration, which is much more like the latter, at least with our current and foreseeable technology.

    “Because we need the support (or at least lack of determined opposition) of folks who think profit is the sole justification for anything.”

    It doesn’t have to be a profit measured in terms of dollars, but the justification for something as expensive as human space flight must be concrete and discrete, especially when taxpayer dollars are involved.

    For example, vague terms like “international competition” or “national pride” are not enough. There has to be a concrete rationale and discrete goal. This was the case with Apollo, where Kennedy’s reason for starting the effort was to demonstrably beat the Soviets in space. We can’t measure the value of beating the Soviets in space in dollar terms, but it’s a concrete rationale and a discrete goal, not a justification based on vague terminology.

    FWIW…

  • common sense

    @John G wrote @ October 21st, 2010 at 5:10 am

    “What is needed is leadership that can explain and lead the nation beyond the near-sighted public. We all have things that worry us that is more about our basic lives and livelihood – but we also need to have a long-term-sight. It is essential for our culture.”

    See I have a problem with this attitude. Basically the public ought to foot the bill but they are near sighted? You have an arrogant way about what you want. “You” know better than the public and how successful have you been so far? When a family has to feed their children, worry about their health and jobs, you really think that any one in their right mind will convince them on a trip to Mars? What reality do you live in? I mean seriously.

    Oh well…

  • Space Cadet

    @ Ferris

    The problem with “real reasons” is that they don’t pay the bills. What many space cadets seem to forget is that a large percentage of this world don’t have time for dreams and imagination, because they are trying to survive. Look at the state of our nation – how many people are out of jobs, or are struggling to put food on the table. And if you want to expand that world wide, some estimates I’ve seen suggest that, if we took the NASA HSF budget, we could provide clean water for at least half of the worlds population. And I am sorry if that offends you, but in the world we live in, with people dying of starvation, of abject poverty – that should be offensive too.

    This is the same argument made against all forms of art, sport, entertainment, and non-applied sciences; that we should not devote any efforts to these until there is not one person on the Earth without enough food to eat. But the fact is that even applying NASA’s entire budget to ‘feeding the world’ would not make a dent in the problem. First, NASA’s budget is paid by US taxpayers, not the world. In the US the fraction of the population suffering from starvation is small. The US CAN afford to spend 0.5 % of the federal budget (an even smaller fraction of the GDP) on exploration for exploration’s sake. Look at what the US spends on movies alone, the NASA budget is dwarfed by this.

    Even if the US took on responsibility for feeding the world, again NASA’s HSF budget would not make a significant difference. If we cancelled NASA’s entire HSF program we could give each person $1.43 .

    Spinoffs are not the real reason for human space exploration, they are just the acceptable reason, because if economic return is the goal then the money would always be more efficient if applied directly to that goal, (e.g. repairing our infrastructure, applied R&D, loans for business start ups, etc). The real reasons are not to ‘close the business case and provide shareholder return within five years’.

    For the launch of Apollo 11, one million people traveled to Titusville to watch in person, and one billion watched on live TV. Everyone here: raise your hands if you think they were doing that because they were thinking “Great! Now I’d going to get a big dividend from my shares in McDonnell Douglas”. Ridiculous!

  • common sense

    @ Space Cadet wrote @ October 21st, 2010 at 12:08 pm

    “This is the same argument made against all forms of art, sport, entertainment, and non-applied sciences; that we should not devote any efforts to these until there is not one person on the Earth without enough food to eat.”

    This is total nonsense. We are giving about $19B to NASA of which about $10G go to HSF. What are you talking about? What we are saying (I am including Ferris, so feel free to disagree Ferris) is that we cannot justify a much larger increase for NASA let alone HSF. Especially for a futile trip to Mars! What is it so hard to understand? And so until and only until you and the other cadets, me included, can come up with a real good reason. Until then…

    “But the fact is that even applying NASA’s entire budget to ‘feeding the world’ would not make a dent in the problem. First, NASA’s budget is paid by US taxpayers, not the world. In the US the fraction of the population suffering from starvation is small. The US CAN afford to spend 0.5 % of the federal budget (an even smaller fraction of the GDP) on exploration for exploration’s sake. Look at what the US spends on movies alone, the NASA budget is dwarfed by this.”

    Blahblahblah. People pay to go to the movies and they get entertained. People pay for a space station and they get what?

    Please first come back to Earth where we’ll get ready for a trip to someplace you like.

  • Coastal Ron

    Marcel F. Williams wrote @ October 21st, 2010 at 11:30 am

    “why doesnt that work on the space station?”

    1. Kind of difficult for kids to spot the space station in the sky. And its not that impressive if you see it. Very easy to spot the Earth’s Moon, however!

    And I can see Russia from my backyard, but that doesn’t mean I can see what’s going on there, or get excited about what I see.

    I’m sorry, but that has to be the most laughable reason for going to the Moon.

    Assuming you can get someone outside on a night where they can see the Moon, what are they going to see?

    Marcel: Look kids, we’re mining on the Moon!
    Kids: Where, I can’t see them?
    Marcel: Well you need a powerful telescope to actually see them, but just imagine them using equipment just like we have on Earth to do mining just like we do on Earth.
    Kids: Uh, OK. Can we go back inside now?

    And really, why is that “exciting”? Is it exciting enough for it’s own channel on prime time TV? Or maybe just it’s own show on Cable?

    You’re definitely reaching there…

  • Space Cadet

    @ common sense

    “People pay to go to the movies and they get entertained.”

    For the launch of Apollo 11, one million people traveled to Titusville to watch in person, and one billion watched on live TV. So you’d have us believe these people were thinking, “Gee this is really boring, I’d rather be watching a movie,” and “What I really want out of NASA is a bigger dividend on my shares in McDonnell Douglas.”

    I suppose they really should have “come back to Earth” as you suggest, and stayed there until they became so utterly devoid of spirit that they realize that the only acceptable reason for exploration is ‘shareholder return on investment’?

    @ Major Tom

    A single human spaceflight mission is more expensive than a single mountain climbing expedition, I agree. But the $ per person spent on art, entertainment, tourism, sports, and education in subjects with no practical application is vastly higher than that spent on NASA. Arguments that the only acceptable valuation of space exploration is $ earned, or that no $ should be spent on space exploration because people are starving make no more sense than arguing that art, entertainment, tourism, and sports are not worth pursuing because they have no practical value or that these impractical activities should not be pursued until no one on the planet is starving.

    The hypocrisy is staggering. Holding the value of space exploration up to this preposterous standard of ‘worthiness’ while exempting almost everything else that humans pursue from that standard.

  • John G

    Major Tom wrote @ October 21st, 2010 at 11:31 am

    M Tom, I’m getting tired of throwing this issue back and forth.
    I’m therefore pasting my posting exactly as it was written. As you can see I was answering 2 questions from Common Sense. The question that you are pestering about was the one about likelihood of impact. Read my posting again below:
    xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
    John G wrote @ October 20th, 2010 at 2:51 pm

    common sense wrote @ October 20th, 2010 at 2:14 pm
    “Out of curiosity, how long will it take to make Mars an Earth like planet?
    Or at the very least make Mars able to support human life? What is the likelihood of an asteroid impact with extinction possibility? What is the likelihood of Earth’s biosphere become unlivable because of say global warming? Something else? And just for “fun” what is the cost of making Mars a welcoming planet for human life? You define “welcoming” the way you like.”

    It would with today’s technology take about 1000 years. However, I believe that with our technological progress we will solve the problem within 100-200 years.

    The likelihood of impact is high enough to make NASA engage seriously in the topic http://impact.arc.nasa.gov/intro.cfm

    John G
    xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

    As answer to you about my level of education in biology – I have a bachelor of biology from the Stockholm University in Sweden (yes I do speak a little Swedish).

    John G

  • Vladislaw

    Space Cadet wrote:

    “For the launch of Apollo 11, one million people traveled to Titusville to watch in person, and one billion watched on live TV.”

    And how many watched the next one? And how many where watching the third one? When the networks stopped covering it. It wasnt until the accident that the networks started covering it again.

  • Space Cadet

    Vladislaw,

    Absolutely right. As soon as we started repeating ourselves, people lost interest. Which is why the WH plan for NASA was a good one; had it not been torpedoed by Congressional defenders of the pork, it would have provided a continuous string of “firsts” at the rate of about one per year, exactly the sort of thing NASA should be doing; while leaving the routine, repetitive LEO launches to industry.

  • common sense

    @Space Cadet wrote @ October 22nd, 2010 at 2:03 am

    “For the launch of Apollo 11, one million people traveled to Titusville to watch in person, and one billion watched on live TV. So you’d have us believe these people were thinking, “Gee this is really boring, I’d rather be watching a movie,” and “What I really want out of NASA is a bigger dividend on my shares in McDonnell Douglas.””

    Ah come on! You are re-living the 60s! I never said Apollo was boring or not worthwhile. But it was then and this is now. There is no incentive to go to the Moon or anywhere for that matter and the public knows that. You believe it or not does not make a difference whatsoever. But if you’re so passionate about this I would recommend: 1. Work in this business area and/or 2. Make your advocacy based on things that touch the public today! Not the people who watched Apollo then!

    “I suppose they really should have “come back to Earth” as you suggest, and stayed there until they became so utterly devoid of spirit that they realize that the only acceptable reason for exploration is ‘shareholder return on investment’?”

    You unfortunately do not seem to understand the way the world spins these days. There is no cold war, there is no prestige to gain from a BEO mission for the USA. There is however some national prestige sought after by China and that could be of help for our own HSF goals. BUT the way you (seem to) go about it has failed for the pas 40 years! Hence “come back to Earth”! Get it?

  • common sense

    “A single human spaceflight mission is more expensive than a single mountain climbing expedition, I agree. But the $ per person spent on art, entertainment, tourism, sports, and education in subjects with no practical application is vastly higher than that spent on NASA. Arguments that the only acceptable valuation of space exploration is $ earned, or that no $ should be spent on space exploration because people are starving make no more sense than arguing that art, entertainment, tourism, and sports are not worth pursuing because they have no practical value or that these impractical activities should not be pursued until no one on the planet is starving.”

    When I read your post here it clearly shows you do not, not really, understand what you are talking about. You keep repeating ad nauseam the $ return. So assume for the sake of argument that there is no $ return. Then please describe the actual return of a Moon mission for the taxpayer. What is it they get for sending a few humans to the Moon? I mean what is it that makes their lives any better? If you can articulate an argument about this I am with you all the way.

    “The hypocrisy is staggering. Holding the value of space exploration up to this preposterous standard of ‘worthiness’ while exempting almost everything else that humans pursue from that standard.””

    It is not your say what is or not worthy of pursuing. If I want to spend $1 on NASA per year and $100 on movies per year it is my prerogative. Not your problem. Again, provide a worthwhile argument instead of belittling those who do not care about HSF.

  • Major Tom

    “But the $ per person spent on art, entertainment, tourism, sports, and education in subjects with no practical application is vastly higher than that spent on NASA.”

    So taxpayers should spend even more on government human space flight programs because human space flight, like all these other activities, has “no practical application”?

    That’s a very weak and illogical argument. Just because an alcoholic is spending 10x more than me on beer doesn’t mean that I should increase my spending on beer by 10x. You can’t justify wasteful spending in one area by pointing to wasteful spending in another.

    Spending on government programs is justified on the merits of those programs alone, not on the basis of what other government programs are receiving or what society is spending in other areas.

    Instead of insulting taxpayers (as Griffin routinely did) by telling them that they’re spending too much of their money on gum, pizza, or movies, we space cadets need to tell them what they’re going to get for an extra dollar invested in the civil human space flight program. What is spending hundreds of billions of dollars to send a handful of astronauts to Mars (or an asteroid or the Moon) going to provide the nation that the tens of billions of dollars spent and the handful of astronauts on the ISS don’t already provide the nation?

    “Arguments that the only acceptable valuation of space exploration is $ earned”

    I agree. I didn’t make that argument. Reread my prior post. You’re confusing me with other posters.

    The justification for human space flight doesn’t have to be articulated in terms of dollars and cents. But the rationale must be concrete. Again, what convinced Kennedy to fund a human lunar landing wasn’t vague notions of national prestige and international competition. It was the very objective goal of beating the Soviets in space.

    “or that no $ should be spent on space exploration because people are starving”

    Again, I agree. I didn’t make that argument. You’re confusing me with other posters.

    FWIW…

  • Major Tom

    “As you can see I was answering 2 questions from Common Sense. The question that you are pestering about was the one about likelihood of impact.”

    It’s irrelevant, but I was “pestering about” CS’s Mars questions, which were the questions you answered.

    “As answer to you about my level of education in biology – I have a bachelor of biology”

    Okay. I guess I’m surprised you’re not aware of the many pathogens that inhabit and infect multiple species.

    “from the Stockholm University in Sweden (yes I do speak a little Swedish).

    If you received your degree from Stockholm U., I hope you speak more than a “little” Swedish!

    (Jag kan tala svenska, ocksa, FWIW…)

  • John G

    Well Major, it’s not as impressive as it sounds. The education was held in English.

    But trust me when I say that I have 100% control over the basics in biology and so called patogenous alien bacteria (that doesn’t exist).

    The question I answered was about the likelihood of impact.

    John G

  • John G

    Major Tom 3 hrs, 25 mins ago

    “(Jag kan tala svenska, ocksa, FWIW…)”

    A correct sentence should be: “jag kan också tala svenska”

    John G

  • Major Tom

    “The education was held in English.

    But trust me when I say that I have 100% control over the basics in biology and so called [sic] patogenous [sic] alien bacteria”

    First, it’s “pathogenic” in English, or “patogenos” in certain Romance languages. There is no such word as “patogenous”.

    Second, contrary to what you’ve stated, the National Academies has identified pathogenic diseases as the primary risk of Mars missions to humanity and the Earth’s ecosystems. From a 2009 report:

    “The committee concurs with the basic conclusion of the NRC’s 1997 Mars study that the potential risks of large-scale effects arising from the intentional return of martian materials to Earth are primarily those associated with replicating biological entities, rather than toxic effects attributed to microbes, their cellular structures, or extracellular products. Therefore, the focus of attention should be placed on the potential for pathogenic-infectious diseases, or negative ecological effects on Earth’s environments.”

    nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=12576

    FWIW…

  • Major Tom

    “A correct sentence should be: ‘jag kan också tala svenska’”

    It’s not important for this forum, but in English, Swedish, and most other Germanic languages, it doesn’t matter whether the word “also” comes before the verb or after the object.

    I didn’t bother trying to find the ring diacritic on my keyboard.

    FWIW…

  • Space Cadet

    You keep insisting that I explain how HSF improves people’s prosperity, thereby proving Griffin’s point that this is the “acceptable reason”. I’m not going to explain how HSF make people more prosperous, because I don’t accept your premise that this is the standard by which exploration should be valued in the first place. That’s my point. (And Griffin’s in the speech I was referring to).

    Valuing exploration for it’s own sake rather than solely as a means to some other end such as prosperity or national prestige was not an aberration of of the 60′s or any other particular time. Humankind had been exploring for centuries before the 1960′s. I see no reason to think this aspect of human nature has recently vanished, nor that it should.

    Most of the billion people watching Apollo 11 were not Americans, so I find it difficult to believe rooting for their country vs the Soviet Union was the reason they were so inspired. Even to the extent that national prestige was involved, prestige is not “making their lives better”, which lends weight to Griffin’s argument that the “real reasons” for HSF are the intangibles rather than material comforts.

    My point about the money people spend on art, sport, entertainment, tourism, and scholarship in fields of no practical applications, was not that these efforts are examples of waste; just the opposite, the point is that people (once their immediate and basic needs are met) do in fact value intangibles.

    Exploration for exploration’s sake is valued in intangibles, just as as art, sport, entertainment, tourism, and curiosity-driven inquiry (areas to which people voluntarily devote much larger resources than we do to exploration) are valued. It expands the range of human exploration, it inspires, it lifts the spirit. This is why a billion people watched Apollo 11. This is why most people think the question of whether life has evolved elsewhere in the universe is one worthy of pursuing. This is why the WH proposed budget, which would have had NASA pursue a continuous stream of “firsts” (at the rate of approximately one per year) while leaving the routine taxi flights to industry, was a good plan (before it was gutted by the porkers).

  • Space Cadet

    @ common sense

    “But if you’re so passionate about this I would recommend: 1. Work in this business area ”

    What basis do you you have for your assumption that I don’t?

  • common sense

    @Space Cadet wrote @ October 23rd, 2010 at 1:45 pm

    “You keep insisting that I explain how HSF improves people’s prosperity, thereby proving Griffin’s point that this is the “acceptable reason”. I’m not going to explain how HSF make people more prosperous, because I don’t accept your premise that this is the standard by which exploration should be valued in the first place. That’s my point. (And Griffin’s in the speech I was referring to).”

    You are the only one talking “prosperity”. For example, let’s assume that exploration finds some exotic material on the Moon and said material reduces the cost of some medical device hereby allowing more people to get some treatment. I would say that is a significant return. It does not necessarily make people more prosperous.

    “Valuing exploration for it’s own sake rather than solely as a means to some other end such as prosperity or national prestige was not an aberration of of the 60′s or any other particular time. Humankind had been exploring for centuries before the 1960′s. I see no reason to think this aspect of human nature has recently vanished, nor that it should.”

    Humankind explored to get some return, be it wealth or a more expeditious route to somewhere else. People did not explore for the sake of it. Sorry. Or please give me an example.

    “Most of the billion people watching Apollo 11 were not Americans, so I find it difficult to believe rooting for their country vs the Soviet Union was the reason they were so inspired. Even to the extent that national prestige was involved, prestige is not “making their lives better”, which lends weight to Griffin’s argument that the “real reasons” for HSF are the intangibles rather than material comforts.”

    Billions did indeed watch Apollo XI but that was it. And yes probably because they could see one of their own kind on a different world. When all was said and done nobody was watching any longer, so?

    “My point about the money people spend on art, sport, entertainment, tourism, and scholarship in fields of no practical applications, was not that these efforts are examples of waste; just the opposite, the point is that people (once their immediate and basic needs are met) do in fact value intangibles.”

    Yes as you say *people* do those things. They do not pay others to do it for them! Get them a ticket to space and I am sure a lot will go. Griffin’s exploration is NOT about that. It was about building a mega rocket, ill conceived at that.

    *Exploration for exploration’s sake is valued in intangibles, just as as art, sport, entertainment, tourism, and curiosity-driven inquiry (areas to which people voluntarily devote much larger resources than we do to exploration) are valued. It expands the range of human exploration, it inspires, it lifts the spirit. This is why a billion people watched Apollo 11. This is why most people think the question of whether life has evolved elsewhere in the universe is one worthy of pursuing. This is why the WH proposed budget, which would have had NASA pursue a continuous stream of “firsts” (at the rate of approximately one per year) while leaving the routine taxi flights to industry, was a good plan (before it was gutted by the porkers).”

    I am sorry but this is total fantasy. I am not saying it is not a good kind of fantasy but it is an expensive one and people are not willing to pay for someone else to set foot on another world.

    @Space Cadet wrote @ October 23rd, 2010 at 1:58 pm

    “What basis do you you have for your assumption that I don’t?”

    A hunch. Do you?

  • Space Cadet

    @Space Cadet wrote @ October 23rd, 2010 at 1:45 pm

    “You keep insisting that I explain how HSF improves people’s prosperity, thereby proving Griffin’s point that this is the “acceptable reason”. I’m not going to explain how HSF make people more prosperous, because I don’t accept your premise that this is the standard by which exploration should be valued in the first place. That’s my point. (And Griffin’s in the speech I was referring to).”

    You are the only one talking “prosperity”. For example, let’s assume that exploration finds some exotic material on the Moon and said material reduces the cost of some medical device hereby allowing more people to get some treatment. I would say that is a significant return. It does not necessarily make people more prosperous.

    * So we can add “health” to “prosperity” in your narrow list of “acceptable reasons” for anything? It still remains hypocritical to argue that HSF is not worth pursuing because it contributes to neither prosperity nor health, without applying the same standard to art, sport, entertainment, tourism, and scholarship.

    “Valuing exploration for it’s own sake rather than solely as a means to some other end such as prosperity or national prestige was not an aberration of of the 60′s or any other particular time. Humankind had been exploring for centuries before the 1960′s. I see no reason to think this aspect of human nature has recently vanished, nor that it should.”

    Humankind explored to get some return, be it wealth or a more expeditious route to somewhere else. People did not explore for the sake of it. Sorry. Or please give me an example.

    Hillary, Amundsen, I could go on but you get the idea. Christoforo Columbo is an excellent example of Griffin’s thesis: His “real reasons” for exploring was for its own sake, but he knew well enough what the “acceptable reasons” were to sell the idea to Isabella with the BS about a trade route to India. By the standard of the “acceptable reason” he used to get funding he was a complete failure.

    “Most of the billion people watching Apollo 11 were not Americans, so I find it difficult to believe rooting for their country vs the Soviet Union was the reason they were so inspired. Even to the extent that national prestige was involved, prestige is not “making their lives better”, which lends weight to Griffin’s argument that the “real reasons” for HSF are the intangibles rather than material comforts.”

    Billions did indeed watch Apollo XI but that was it. And yes probably because they could see one of their own kind on a different world. When all was said and done nobody was watching any longer, so?

    * Exactly. Few people are interested in repetitions of the same accomplishment. As Obama noted, we’ve been there an done that. Which is why his plan for NASA, which would have pursued a continuous string of ‘firsts’ while leaving the routine taxi flights to industry, was a good one. Too bad that plan was scuttled by a few members of Congress defending their pork.

    “My point about the money people spend on art, sport, entertainment, tourism, and scholarship in fields of no practical applications, was not that these efforts are examples of waste; just the opposite, the point is that people (once their immediate and basic needs are met) do in fact value intangibles.”

    Yes as you say *people* do those things. They do not pay others to do it for them!

    * People pay to watch sports, not just to participate. Pay to view and buy art, not just to create it. Pay for travel books and travel TV shows, not just for to travel in person.

    Get them a ticket to space and I am sure a lot will go.

    * Obama’s budget would have advanced us further towards personal space travel than either the House or Senate versions.

    Griffin’s exploration is NOT about that. It was about building a mega rocket, ill conceived at that.

    *The fact that Griffin’s Constellation program was a disaster has no bearing on the correctness of his point about “real reasons” vs “acceptable reasons”, which as I said was one of his few admirable points.

    “Exploration for exploration’s sake is valued in intangibles, just as as art, sport, entertainment, tourism, and curiosity-driven inquiry (areas to which people voluntarily devote much larger resources than we do to exploration) are valued. It expands the range of human exploration, it inspires, it lifts the spirit. This is why a billion people watched Apollo 11. This is why most people think the question of whether life has evolved elsewhere in the universe is one worthy of pursuing. This is why the WH proposed budget, which would have had NASA pursue a continuous stream of “firsts” (at the rate of approximately one per year) while leaving the routine taxi flights to industry, was a good plan (before it was gutted by the porkers).”

    I am sorry but this is total fantasy. I am not saying it is not a good kind of fantasy but it is an expensive one and people are not willing to pay for someone else to set foot on another world.

    *People *did* pay for someone else to set foot on another world. Apollo. History – not fantasy.

    @Space Cadet wrote @ October 23rd, 2010 at 1:58 pm

    “What basis do you you have for your assumption that I don’t?”

    A hunch. Do you?

    * So you have no basis. You’re just grasping for an ad hominem attack.

    Do you?

    * Sorry, but anonymous posters have no standing to criticize others for anonymity. Try addressing the post rather than making baseless assumptions about poster.

  • common sense

    @ Space Cadet wrote @ October 25th, 2010 at 3:27 am

    Hmm. Ad hominem attacks? Like what? When did I criticize your anonimity? I was merely asking whether you are in this business. I am. And I am anonymous, so?

    As for the rest of the post. You think what you want. Most of your views seem to be those of the past and they have led us to the current debacle. Not Obama, not Augustine. But yes Obama’s original plan is the way to go but we’ll have to go for an HLV instead because people want to “explore” or so they say. Which follows your line of argumentation. Anyway.

  • Wodun

    Mary Lynne Dittmar wrote @ October 20th, 2010 at 9:02 pm

    NASA is not a corporation and should not be expected to communicate like one. What NASA is required to do is inform/educate the public about NASA activities

    If NASA’s job is to educate, then there was major failure when the budget was rolled out. Maybe the current administration is to blame for that but NASA hasn’t been very effective in defending, informing, or educating about the changes.

    Contrary to what is stupidly called “conventional wisdom” (invoked frequently in these types of discussions by people who have no clue what is actually involved in developing a coherent communications plan and then implementing it), NASA has adopted “industry best practices”

    Industry best practices as compared to what? Other governments space exploration institution’s PR and communications? Depending on how you define the industry, NASA is by itself and that does not help with adopting best practices from other similar organizations.

    It seems that NASA’s “best practices” have been some of the things causing problems.

    As long as I’m rolling… the words “regular people” have absolutely no meaning from a communications perspective. Neither does “the public”. Any discussion that bandies those terms about while asserting what NASA should and should not do is so ill-informed that one hardly knows where to start in response.

    I agree that “regular people” or “the public” are not very specific, neither is the term stakeholder. But if you want to get more specific, then drill down to to define the target audience when people say “the public”. Finding the target audience is the most important part of any PR. IMO, NASA hasn’t been targeting the right audience for its PR or effectively utilizing communication channels.

    When writing a communications plan a person would use the generic term stakeholder then go on to identify which stakeholders they would like to reach and how they would like to reach them. Just substitute “the public” for stakeholder and then carry out the same process.

    You shouldn’t expect an entire communications plan in the comments section of a web site. There are limitations to any medium.

    I know there is one part of “the public” which likes to be informed on all of the big issues. They read online, in print, and watch TV. It shouldn’t take a rocket scientist to identify channels in those three mediums to reach a larger audience. They key thing is, these people want to know more and are not getting the information.

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