Congress, NASA

Debating space in Alabama

Last week the two major candidates for Alabama’s 5th Congressional District, Republican Mo Brooks and Democrat Steve Raby, participated in a debate hosted by the AIAA in Huntsville. The two are vying to win the seat held by Democrat-turned-Republican Parker Griffith, who lost in the Republican primary to Brooks. Not surprisingly given the district and the debate sponsor, the two tried to demonstrate their space policy bona fides. However, based on a media report about the debate, both candidates have some issues with this issue.

Brooks, for example, claimed that if elected “he believes he’ll be named to at least two key Congressional Committees that would have a major say in steering funding toward NASA.” It’s not clear what committees he’s referring to, but the only committee that “steers funding” to NASA is the House Appropriations Committee—and, typically, its members do not sit on any other committees. (There is the separate issue of the limited influence a freshman member, even one in the majority party, would have on the committee.)

Raby, meanwhile, argues that what NASA workers “need and want” are “new missions”, although he isn’t specific about what kind of new mission (Brooks, according to the article, advocates for a return to the Moon as a prelude to human missions to Mars.) Raby said he would support extending the shuttle program while NASA worked on an HLV. He doesn’t explain how the shuttle would be extended at this late date without a significant gap in launches, nor how shuttle and HLV work could both be fit into NASA’s budget without either an increase in the agency’s overall budget or cuts elsewhere. Raby said he’s also concerned about a “BRAC for NASA”, a reference to the Base Realignment and Closure process used to close Defense Department facilities. However, the new NASA authorization act prevents any reductions in force of NASA’s civil servant workforce—which presumably would be one element of a BRAC process—through the end of FY2013.

On his campaign web site, Brooks doesn’t directly discuss space policy issues, although on a section where he takes a rare pro-earmark stance, he states, “Mo Brooks will not defer total control over America’s defense, NASA or any other part of the budget to President Barack Obama.” Raby does have a section about NASA on the “issues” page of his site. “NASA’s role should be first and foremost in manned space flight with a definite mission to the moon, Mars, and beyond,” he states there. However, he also states, “The proposal to eliminate the Constellation program must be defeated and I’ll do all I can to protect this program.” It may be a bit late for that.

Most election analysts have the district strongly leaning towards Brooks: the New York Times’ FiveThirtyEight gives Brooks nearly a 95-percent chance of winning a week from today.

70 comments to Debating space in Alabama

  • amightywind

    The Alabama 5th district is a safe GOP seat. Raby’s views are irrelevant. Interesting that Brooks associates NASA with national defense. This is a predominant view in the country (though maybe not on this forum).

  • byeman

    “This is a predominant view in the country”

    It doesn’t mean it is right.
    Brooks views are just as irrelevant just as yours.

    Brook will have little to no influence as a freshman.

  • Aggelos

    a question,,when they will take out the constellation program from Nasa site?

    its dead in law now..
    when they will put the next program with official information..?
    in 2011 maybe?

  • amightywind

    a question,,when they will take out the constellation program from Nasa site?

    There is a good chance it will be resurrected. NASA is now going through the same system engineering process that Mike Griffin and Co. went through in 2005. The requirements haven’t changed. The Senate’s SDHV will almost surely be up-sized to 10m to align with exploration requirements. The LEO/ISS mission seems to be left for a Direct-like vehicle, which designers will realize is overkill. The logical conclusion is to build Ares I and Ares V sized vehicles.

  • Luke Skypoker

    Constellation is not “Dead in law now.” In fact the bill that was passed does not kill the program- rather it largely stands silent. Constellation under the CR is still very much the law of the land until the appropriations bill is passed and the CR is voided.

  • David Davenport

    It doesn’t mean it is right.
    Brooks views are just as irrelevant just as yours.

    I sense liberal/progressive/peacenik sentiments in that statement.

    Some marketing advice for friends of NASA who are liberal/progressive/peaceniks:

    Much, perhaps most, of the American public has the impression that NASA supports and enables American military space power, and much of the American electorate wants NASA to support American mil. space.

    At least one Democratic US Rep. I have talked to thinks NASA rockets launch DoD satellites.

    Marketing NASA as the Democrat peaceniks’ space agency is not a clever marketing strategy for NASA.

  • The logical insane conclusion is to build Ares I and Ares V sized vehicles.

    FTFY.

  • Ferris Valyn

    Much, perhaps most, of the American public has the impression that NASA supports and enables American military space power, and much of the American electorate wants NASA to support American mil. space.

    Back that up with evidence, and maybe we’ll take you seriously.

  • Mark R. Whittington

    AV Leak is suggesting that we now have “Constellation to an asteroid” rather than “Constellation to the Moon”, with enough flexibility to go to other places, including the Moon, as political whims change.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Mark R. Whittington wrote @ October 26th, 2010 at 12:09 pm


    AV Leak is suggesting that we now have “Constellation to an asteroid” rather than “Constellation to the Moon”..

    there wont be Constellation to anywhere…no money

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    Ferris Valyn wrote @ October 26th, 2010 at 11:26 am

    Ferris…I dont agree with the conclusion in the quote but I do agree that a lot of Americans believe that NASA has some role in national defense…

    Look, the perception of what humans do in space and how they do it is in the process of going to change.

    With the end of the shuttle system the notion of flying in space by humans is about to disappear from the national radar (baring a disaster on the Soyuz or the station)…the station barely makes the news and it only makes it when the shuttle goes to it…

    what is going to replace the “NASA viewpoint” is things like Virgin and SpaceX and other upstarts cranking up and doing things which really do capture the American spirit…and that will grow.

    As it becomes clear to the American people that Virgin/SpaceX are the legacy of our national heritage interest (such as it is in human spaceflight) will turn toward them. The era of the NASA astronaut defining us (the US) in space…is ending for a bit.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Coastal Ron

    Mark R. Whittington wrote @ October 26th, 2010 at 12:09 pm

    AV Leak is suggesting that we now have “Constellation to an asteroid” rather than “Constellation to the Moon”, with enough flexibility to go to other places, including the Moon, as political whims change.

    Orion, or the MPCV, is just a CRV, and as such would be the equivalent of “spam in a can” for astronauts. Sure we can stuff organic material into a small space and launch it into deep space – but what does that prove?

    What we really need to be working on is how to survive continuously in deep space, not just survive a mission. For that we will need a new class of space-only vehicles & stations, which use MPCV’s as lifeboats and transportation to & from space.

    My $0.02

  • amightywind

    Mark R. Whittington wrote:

    AV Leak is suggesting that we now have “Constellation to an asteroid” rather than “Constellation to the Moon”, with enough flexibility to go to other places, including the Moon, as political whims change.

    The physics of the mission to a NEO proposed by our esteemed President are unalterable. Perhaps the 2 dozen coordinated Falcon 9 flights required to accomplish it aren’t appealing to those planning the mission. In the past few weeks I have noticed the SDLV renderings in AW have grown significantly.

  • Justin Kugler

    NASA and DoD collaborate where it makes sense to do so. However, the Space Act is explicitly clear that NASA is to serve as the primary agency for civilian space activities and contribute materially to the peaceful use thereof.

    It’s not about “marketing,” David, it’s about the law. NASA does not directly support US military space power, nor should it. In fact, NASA science missions use rockets originally developed for DoD applications. The Congressman you spoke with is misinformed.

  • Robert G. Oler

    amightywind wrote @ October 26th, 2010 at 1:45 pm

    The physics of the mission to a NEO proposed by our esteemed President are unalterable. Perhaps the 2 dozen coordinated Falcon 9 flights required to accomplish it aren’t appealing to those planning the mission.

    LOL

    you are confusing physics with logistics.

    Robert G. Oler

  • byeman

    “I sense liberal/progressive/peacenik sentiments in that statement.”

    I am none of those and actually to the right of center, I was just speaking the truth. I don’t let partisan politics cloud my judgment like Windy’s.

    “There is a good chance it will be resurrected”
    No, it is dead and the elections are not going to change that.

    “NASA is now going through the same system engineering process that Mike Griffin and Co. went through in 2005″

    Wrong, there was no system engineering process in 2005. It was just the opposite. Launch vehicles were preselected and an architecture was tried to be formed around them, which has failed.

    “The requirements haven’t changed.”

    Yes, they have. They are much less mass to orbit.

    “The Senate’s SDHV will almost surely be up-sized to 10m to align with exploration requirements.”

    If that were true, then the vehicle will never be built because it will be unaffordable just like Ares V. If an SDLV is to survive, it must be 8.4 meters.

    The LEO/ISS mission seems to be left for a Direct-like vehicle, which designers will realize is overkill. The logical conclusion is to put Orion on a Delta IV.

  • Ferris Valyn

    Wrong, there was no system engineering process in 2005. It was just the opposite. Launch vehicles were preselected and an architecture was tried to be formed around them, which has failed.

    I am afraid Congress is trying to force NASA to do this again,

  • Ferris,

    The last time Congress let NASA choose what to build, NASA chose Ares 1 & Ares V. More Congressional oversight then would have been a good thing.

  • amightywind

    I am none of those and actually to the right of center, I was just speaking the truth. I don’t let partisan politics cloud my judgment like Windy’s.

    I protest! By any political measure, I am an open minded moderate.

    Wrong, there was no system engineering process in 2005.

    You’re right. But one wonders if the congressional conference process is the right one for designing a launch vehicle.

    If an SDLV is to survive, it must be 8.4 meters.

    How silly. NASA has successfully flown 10m tanks. The SDHLV (aka Ares V) already has 2 5 segment SRBs. One imagines they will go all the way.

  • Justin Kugler

    Wait… you just conceded that there was no effective systems engineering process in 2005, but still stick behind the architectural decision?

    That makes no sense.

  • DCSCA

    @amightywind wrote @ October 26th, 2010 at 10:32 am <- Get over it. Ares is a lousy rocket.

  • Beats me why people are still arguing endlessly over programs long dead (Shuttle) or recently dead (Constellation).

    The FY 2011 budget bill contained the blueprint for NASA’s future. The appropriations bill will decide if it’s funded. The appropriations bill cannot fund a program not authorized by the budget bill.

    The new Congress, regardless of partisan majorities, is not going to rewrite the FY11 budget bill. Over and done with. Within a month or two of taking office, they will start work on the FY12 budget bill.

    We’re not going back to Shuttle, to Constellation, or to fill in your favorite blank.

    Elsewhere …

    As a docent in training at the Space and Missile Museum at Cape Canaveral, I sought out the location where the first rocket was launched. That was Bumper 8, a V-2/WAC Corporal combination, launched from Launch Complex 3 on July 24, 1950.

    I shot some photos and wrote a blog about it. For those interested:

    http://spaceksc.blogspot.com/2010/10/before-future-began.html

    Standing on the remains of the ring pad, it seemed so small and humble compared to what was to come in the years ahead. Nineteen years later (almost to the day) and a few miles up the road, Apollo 11 launched at LC 39-A.

    Standing there reminded me how we can’t just simply doing the same thing. We can’t fly Shuttle forever. We can’t recycle Apollo. We need to be doing new things and advancing spacefaring technology.

    If you drive up that road towards 39-A, to get there you have to pass SpaceX at LC-40. The metaphor is that the road to the future passes through commercial access and technological advancement.

    If Bumper 8 flew today, we’d have space worker unions and government contractors lobbying to keep everything the way it is, with no viable hope for the future. America’s space program has always been about change and evolution — despite the best efforts by some to keep change from happening.

    It was sad to see LC-3 abandoned, rusting and overgrown. But there’s a reason why. We moved on, we moved forward. LC-3 represents the past. The FY11 budget represents the future, even though it may be an imperfect vision.

    Time to move on.

  • Paul

    You guys need to realize all of this is just shuffling deck chairs on the Titanic. The ongoing fiscal disintegration of the US government will not allow any HSF program to survive.

  • Ferris Valyn

    Robert Oler

    Concerning national defense & NASA

    I suspect the perception of NASA falls into 1 of 2 categories. There is a sizeable chunk of the populace who believe NASA has helped put active weapons systems space (and sadly, I’d suspect that number is around 5-15% of the populace). For those people, lasers were installed on the shuttle, and there isn’t much arguing with them.

    However, most of the remaining people view NASA as being important to national Security, as opposed to national defense. And there is an important difference between security vs defense – one is largely about deployed weapons systems (national defense), while the other is more of a mis-mash of how to ensure America remains viable and strong (security). A great example – a viable dollar is important for national security, which impacts national defense, but is not a direct contributor). And because of space being tied with geo-political soft power, I suspect most Americans do see it being part of national security, because its part of national prestige.

    What I don’t buy is the idea (which IMHO Mr. Davenport was saying) that most people view NASA as another branch of the military. Yea, there are some.

    There are also some people who believe they’ve had Elvis’s baby in the last 5 years.

  • Beancounter from Downunder

    I understand that the Republican stance is significant reduction of the U.S. debt levels and they, or at least a proportion of them consider Obama a socialist due to health policies and the like.
    Various commentaries I’ve heard indicate a very close race in the mid-term elections but likely to go to the Republicans. If that happens, what happens to NASA which I understand still has to have an appropriation bill passed? Are they going to end up with a lot less than expected or something else?
    Comments?

  • Ben Russell-Gough

    I would say that the ignorance of the actual facts demonstrated by the candidates quoted in Jeff’s article bodes ill for NASA if they get into any position of influence.

    It leaves us with the possibility of a Dilbert-esque situation where Congress may give NASA an impossible directive and tell them that making it work is their job, or it will cost them their jobs if they fail. You then get decades of NASA slipping into irrelevance in HSF, still trying to make Ares-I work by 2020 after Commercial Crew has been flying for five years.

    Still money would be pouring into Alabama and Utah to try to fix the train-wreck and that would keep the politicos happy.

  • Dennis Berube

    WOW Paul, you believe there will be no human space flight program of any kind?

  • Constellation is cancelled. There are no plans to revive it (Ares 1 and V). Many of the people (contractors) are gone, the Program is being dismantled and people already reassigned, and a new Program is in the planning stages.

  • Paul

    Dennis B.: I don’t think you yet realize how dire the future of the US is at this point. Abandoning HSF is going to be the least of the pain you’ll be facing.

  • NASA Fan

    @ Space Blagher : Cx Canceled , people already reassigned.

    Indeed, Jeff Hanely has surfaced at GSFC and is now working on the troubled JWST robotic mission.

  • Ben Russell-Gough

    @ Dennis Berube,

    If I understood him corrently, none directly managed or fully-funded by the US government. In that scenario, USG might buy flights from other providers, if required, but it won’t have an ‘in-house’ provider. As with the military, these commercial providers may develop new capabilities if the government requires them (BEO access, for example) but the government would only be conducting non-operational ‘bleeding edge’ research of its own, DARPA-style.

  • Are they going to end up with a lot less than expected or something else?

    Essentially, yes.

    IMHO, I don’t see a reduction from the $19B/year, but I don’t see any increases coming either.

    In other words, a flat budget, which can be interpreted as budget cuts.

    I see just enough money going to Michoud, MSFC, Utah, et al, to keep jobs going barely on the SLS, maybe Orion too.

    Don’t count on that 2016 finish date.

  • Aggelos

    yep..

    Cancellation of Constellation..
    sai it 3 times fast,and you get the meaning..

  • Beancounter from Downunder wrote:

    Various commentaries I’ve heard indicate a very close race in the mid-term elections but likely to go to the Republicans. If that happens, what happens to NASA which I understand still has to have an appropriation bill passed? Are they going to end up with a lot less than expected or something else?

    If the Republicans take over both houses of Congress (unlikely), it’ll be more of the same. They had the White House for eight years last decade and control of Congress for most of the same period. They ran up most of the deficit by handing out unfunded tax cuts, unfunded Medicare benefits, and starting an unjustified war in Iraq.

    As we saw with this year’s budget cycle, the porkers will be lining up just as they always do.

    The extremists in the GOP want to do things like close the Departments of Education and Energy, privatize Social Security and Veterans Affairs, and give more tax cuts to the rich. NASA simply isn’t on their radar. Even if they managed to get both houses to approve all this — which they won’t — Obama would veto it and 2/3 of both houses would have to vote to override. It won’t happen.

    Ben Russell-Gough wrote:

    It leaves us with the possibility of a Dilbert-esque situation where Congress may give NASA an impossible directive and tell them that making it work is their job, or it will cost them their jobs if they fail.

    All the more reason for commercial space.

    In my opinion, the more pork flushed down the toilet by Congressional porkers, the more opportunity for commercial space to show they can get things faster and cheaper.

    Five years from, commercial space will be the default option for LEO and NASA will have returned to doing research as required by the National Aeronautics and Space Act, simply because Congress will have assured NASA has accomplished nothing in terms of building new rockets.

  • amightywind

    the Program is being dismantled and people already reassigned, and a new Program is in the planning stages.

    http://www.aviationweek.com/aw/generic/story_channel.jsp?channel=space&id=news/awx/2010/10/22/awx_10_22_2010_p0-264465.xml&headline=Constellation%20Is%20Dead,%20But%20Pieces%20Live%20On

    The new program has most of the same requirements of the old. The baseline ‘Plymouth Rock’ mission profile requires heavy lift. Since we can rule out Obama’s Unicorns at this point, and SpaceX is vexed by delays, that leaves us with a shuttle derived infrastructure. It is down to quibbling about whether to launch 2 or more elements of the same size (Direct), or one smaller manned element and a larger unmanned element (Ares). A shuttle-derived launcher is mandated by the bill.

  • Aggelos

    even the Augustine commission said that the 2 rocket strategy is not affordable.. so the one rocket solution(like Direct or a kerolox) was their approach …

    NASA cannot afford two separate launch vehicles..
    only one…

  • The baseline ‘Plymouth Rock’ mission profile requires heavy lift.

    Plymouth Rock is not the baseline, and it doesn’t require heavy lift.

  • Aggelos wrote:

    NASA cannot afford two separate launch vehicles..
    only one…

    But they can afford to buy missions from the private sector, e.g. Atlas V and Delta IV.

    Those really seem the simplest way to go. It’s what was done in the 1960s at the dawn of the Space Age. Existing military rockets were adapted to fly human crew.

    All we need to do is build a capsule to fit atop one of those rockets, human-rate the final design, and light the candle. And since there are multiple commercial vendors out there designing capsules, NASA might not even have to do that.

    We just need to get the porkers out of the way who pass legislation keeping NASA from buying commercial services.

  • Major Tom

    “The new program has most of the same requirements of the old. The baseline ‘Plymouth Rock’ mission profile requires heavy lift.”

    Plymouth Rock is one unsolicited study by one contractor. It’s not the baseline for anything.

    “SpaceX is vexed by delays”

    The Dragon test has been delayed a few weeks by the usual Cape issues that affect every launcher scheduled down there.

    “that leaves us with a shuttle derived infrastructure.”

    Even if we take a Falcon X or XX off the table, that doesn’t take existing EELVs or future EELV-derived HLVs off the table, which LockMart has utilized in Plymouth Rock papers.

    “It is down to quibbling about whether to launch 2 or more elements of the same size (Direct), or one smaller manned element and a larger unmanned element (Ares).”

    The latter option is ruled out by NASA’s 2010 Authorization Act. Unless you count commercial crew, there is no funding for a smaller, Ares I-type launch vehicle. The Act’s initial payload tonnage and readiness requirements for SLS also drive SLS away from a super-HLV like Ares V. And the SLS budget is smaller than the budget for Ares I/V.

    “A shuttle-derived launcher is mandated by the bill.”

    No, it’s not. NASA’s 2010 Authorization Act only requests that NASA utilize Shuttle _as practicable_ in SLS.

    FWIW…

  • Major Tom

    “I would say that the ignorance of the actual facts demonstrated by the candidates quoted in Jeff’s article bodes ill for NASA if they get into any position of influence.”

    They would both be freshmen representatives, and thus unlikely to be in a “position of influence” like authorization chairmanships or appropriations memberships.

    FWIW…

  • beruba

    “…. there was no system engineering process in 2005.

    You’re right…. But one wonders if the congressional conference process is the right one for designing a launch vehicle.”

    The entire Constellation program, architecture, organizational structure and the management that led the failed effort was a disaster. It is time that NASA put some professionalism and honesty in their management processes and in personnel and contractor selections. NASA lost a lot of credibility over the last 6 years; NASA and human space flight might never recover.

  • amightywind

    No, it’s not. NASA’s 2010 Authorization Act only requests that NASA utilize Shuttle _as practicable_ in SLS.

    I suppose you can read anything into the bill then, since you are interpreting it in bad faith. Fortunately, your weaselly interpretation carries little weight.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Stephen C. Smith wrote @ October 26th, 2010 at 8:41 pm

    nice post and nice blog

    Robert G. Oler

  • @amightywind-

    I am aware of the AW article that discusses J-2X and 5-stage SRB work continuing. I wrote a blog entry on that one a few days ago.

    That stuff is still not evidence of CxP continuing. It’s just pieces. CxP is being dismantled and HLV is replacing it at a different location, different people, different requirements, etc.

    Ares 1 haters can relax. It has already been wrapped and put away.

  • Major Tom

    “I suppose you can read anything into the bill then,”

    No, you can’t read “anything” into the act (not bill) because there are some things it doesn’t authorize funding for. For example, the act doesn’t authorize funding for a smaller Ares I-like crew launcher outside of commercial crew.

    “since you are interpreting it in bad faith.”

    I’m not “interpreting” anything. The act states what it states. It states a preference for an SLS that maximizes use of the Shuttle workforce, elements, and contracts. But per the act, if a Shuttle-derived design can’t meet the SLS payload and readiness requirements spelled out in the act, or is otherwise not “practicable”, then NASA has the latitude to pursue a different technical path.

    No doubt there will be much bellyaching among certain members of congress if/when NASA chooses to do so, but there’s nothing in the act or other law that prevents NASA from going down a non-Shuttle path for SLS.

    “Fortunately, your weaselly interpretation carries little weight.”

    If you think the act’s language is “weaselly [sic]“, then blame congress. They are the ones who granted NASA these flexibilities, not me.

    FWIW…

  • Justin Kugler

    amightywind, the “as practicable” interpretation is what I heard from staffers who helped write the bill. They deliberately put that language in there as an out for NASA to make the best technical decisions.

  • Coastal Ron

    amightywind wrote @ October 27th, 2010 at 12:50 pm

    I suppose you can read anything into the bill then, since you are interpreting it in bad faith.

    It’s not a matter of “interpretation”, it clearly states:

    SEC. 304. UTILIZATION OF EXISTING WORKFORCE AND ASSETS IN DEVELOPMENT OF SPACE LAUNCH SYSTEM AND MULTI- PURPOSE CREW VEHICLE.

    (a) IN GENERAL.—In developing the Space Launch System pursuant to section 302 and the multi-purpose crew vehicle pursuant to section 303, the Administrator shall, to the extent practicable utilize—

    (1) existing contracts, investments, workforce, industrial base, and capabilities from the Space Shuttle and Orion and Ares 1 projects, including—

    (A) space-suit development activities for application to….; and

    (B) Space Shuttle-derived components and Ares 1 components that use existing United States propulsion systems, including liquid fuel engines, external tank or tank- related capability, and solid rocket motor engines; and

    (2) associated testing facilities, either in being or under construction as of the date of enactment of this Act.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Ferris Valyn wrote @ October 27th, 2010 at 12:58 am

    I dont disagree with anything you wrote…I guess that my main point would be that NASA HSF is so ill defined in reality that it can turn out to be just about anything that anyone wants to define it as.

    particularly in terms of budgets and missions…

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    amightywind wrote @ October 27th, 2010 at 12:50 pm


    I suppose you can read anything into the bill then, since you are interpreting it in bad faith.

    what one can interpret is that there were insufficient votes to save the Cx program, particularly Ares.

    The language that was put in, with the various outs was an attempt to try and salvage mostly the politics of it…it is like the LON…when it doesnt happen everyone can say “this is what we meant dont blame us”.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert Horning

    “The entire Constellation program, architecture, organizational structure and the management that led the failed effort was a disaster. It is time that NASA put some professionalism and honesty in their management processes and in personnel and contractor selections. NASA lost a lot of credibility over the last 6 years; NASA and human space flight might never recover.”

    The real disaster is the fact that since the early 1970′s (perhaps arguably since the late 1960′s depending on when you want to say the concept of the Space Shuttle originated) there has been a singular lack of ability for any manned spaceflight vehicle to be developed. Constellation is merely the last in a whole series of vehicle development failures that have either lacked the political will to see them through to completion or to even get them beyond the early prototyping stage. Essentially the same culture that gave us the Space Shuttle is trying to go at it again for a second try. They want to be bold, do something different, yet not so far off the reservation that it won’t be done. At the same time they want to do it all, to be the “space transportation system” for America.

    That part of NASA still is in play, and they don’t want to go away quietly. The sad thing is that the spaceflight industry is quickly leaving that part of NASA behind rapidly, so they may soon be a government bureau (however you want to describe these guys at NASA) without a job to do. I’m not crying for them too hard either.

  • Martijn Meijering

    The baseline ‘Plymouth Rock’ mission profile requires heavy lift.

    Amightywind, how long are you going to repeat this falsehood? You know it to be false, since we’ve pointed it out to you many times, and you have never been able to show why the proposed approaches wouldn’t work.

  • Doug Lassiter

    The real disaster is the fact that since the early 1970′s there has been a singular lack of ability to come up with any federally compelling rationale for manned spaceflight.

    I’m not saying there isn’t any. But we’ve done a horrible job marketing that need to Congress and the American public. That Congress is unwilling to enthusiastically pay what it costs to develop a modern, capable, manned space flight architecture is the price that we’ve paid for that failure.

    Whether that was a job for NASA or for the various administrations that were entrusted by us to carry the ball is beyond me. As we wait, right now, that job has, in fact, been entrusted to NASA, via HEFT, which is supposed to come up with some compelling plan for shooting people into space.

    Let’s get it straight. The disaster isn’t engineering or technological. That there is a fiscal disaster for human space flight is secondary. The primary disaster is the failure to come up with compelling rationale.

  • Mike Snyder

    Coastal Ron wrote @ October 27th, 2010 at 2:39 pm

    Ron,

    It seems to me that some actually hope all this is just one big smokescreen and everybody and everyone associated with writing the bill actually had something else in mind entirely. That “loopholes” were just one big “wink-wink” intended to pull the wool over everyone’s eyes.

    To me, that seems a bit extreme.

    I believe the intent behind that language was to use the existing workforce and contracts as a vehicle. Clearly, not every contract, etc will be necessary or necessarily the “right” vehicle, hence the practicality terminology.

    I also believe this likely would apply to the workforce. Clearly everyone who works within the greater programs today (from engineering to a lot of administrative tasks), will be necessary for what is to come tomorrow. No one reasonalbe ever assumed there would be a direct 1:1 transition.

  • Mike Snyder

    Since there is no “edit” function here, I realize I left out a few key words as I was quickly typing……

    I also believe this likely would apply to the workforce. Clearly everyone who works within the greater programs today (FROM SOME engineering to a lot of administrative tasks, ETC), will NOT be necessary for what is to come tomorrow. No one reasonalbe ever assumed there would be a direct 1:1 transition.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Mike Snyder wrote @ October 27th, 2010 at 7:31 pm


    I believe the intent behind that language was to use the existing workforce and contracts as a vehicle.

    Thats fair…but not very sophisticated. The intent was to make people think that the authorizers wanted NASA to build a SDV…when in reality the authorizers had language that would have forced a SDV and chose not to use it, because they 1) couldnt get support for it and 2) knew the money wasnt there.

    Nelson “KNEW” how to do this. Remember some months back when he was babbling on about (to paraphrase) “1 billion for a flight test of the solid rocket boosters”? I want to say he was babbling this after talking with Kent Conrad chairman of the budget committee…

    Nelson was pretty sure he had found some extra money and then could pull some money from the standard NASA spending…and get about 1 billion for Ares(something)…problem is that the money wasnt a) enough and b) wasnt there. Kay B. H’s theory after losing the Texas Gov primary was to try and get “3″ more flights…and both Nelson and KBH had kind of a synergy to make that happen…problem was that the dollars simply were not there.

    How to “freeze” a program that the Administration does not want is well known on capital hill (the B-1 was such a program) …and none of the templates were followed simply because the thing just cost to much.

    The language was put in there so people like Olsen can express shock over what actually is going to happen, even though they are pretty aware of where things are going.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    Doug Lassiter wrote @ October 27th, 2010 at 6:02 pm


    The real disaster is the fact that since the early 1970′s there has been a singular lack of ability to come up with any federally compelling rationale for manned spaceflight.

    when the shuttle consumes 200 million a month just sitting there the reasons are hard to come by

    Robert G. Oler

  • Bennett

    Doug Lassiter wrote @ October 27th, 2010 at 6:02 pm

    The primary disaster is the failure to come up with compelling rationale.

    Yet the truth of the matter is that the more we look, the more we find.

    Anyone who follows the various robotic missions currently under way can’t help but be fascinated by the level of discovery we’re achieving. From Hubble to Cassini, LCROSS to MRO, never has there been more imagery and “wow” to what our missions send back.

    That this could be similar for HSF if we stop dithering around with developing “new” transportation, and get on with developing the infrastructure to make HSF as interesting and compelling as our robotic missions have become.

    Want to go to the moon? Use what we have (Atlas, Delta, Falcon) and start building. If you insist on waiting until your Daddy ponies up for a Ferrari, you’ll never get there.

  • Coastal Ron

    Mike Snyder wrote @ October 27th, 2010 at 7:31 pm

    I believe the intent behind that language was to use the existing workforce and contracts as a vehicle.

    I agree. However there was enough room in the language to allow a lot of latitude. The question becomes, what is NASA going to do?

    Will NASA follow the clear intent of some in Congress, which includes the use of Shuttle and/or Constellation hardware and contractors (and their associated workers/voters) in building the MPCV and STS.

    Or will NASA take this opportunity to use those “to the extent practicable” provisions that others in Congress clearly meant to add, and build something that goes a different direction from Shuttle & Constellation hardware and architecture?

    Short-term jobs are definitely an issue here (as well as contractor revenue), and being the economy that it is, I don’t like to see good people without good paying jobs. But being outside of the aerospace community, I tend to take the “long-view”, and I would rather that NASA take this opportunity to build something with long-term use rather than short-term political need.

    Guess we’ll have to wait and see which way they go.

    My $0.02

  • Doug Lassiter

    “The baseline ‘Plymouth Rock’ mission profile requires heavy lift.”

    There is a semantic point here. The LMCO Plymouth Rock concept study used a 45 mt-to-TLI launcher (for the second Orion plus EDS), and an ELV-H for the single Orion. So the former is indeed a considerably heavier lift than we currently have. It’s not quite an Ares V, but the study managers properly use the term “heavy lift” in describing it.

    The Plymouth Rock team acknowledges that a launch approach with smaller, existing rockets may also be feasible using multiple propellant tankers or a propellant depot to fuel an Earth Departure Stage. But that wasn’t the baseline Plymouth Rock concept. The “baseline” we’re talking about is the notional design that was actually studied in depth by the LMCO team.

    So no, you don’t need an Ares V to do the baseline Plymouth Rock, but the launch methodology that was studied does, in fact require what LMCO itself calls “heavy lift”.

    That being said, the Plymouth Rock MISSION PROFILE can be carried out in a number of ways, which, as they say, may be possible with conventional launch vehicles.

  • Rhyolite

    Mike Snyder wrote @ October 27th, 2010 at 7:31 pm

    “I believe the intent behind that language was…”

    Congress is 535 individuals who don’t have one common intent. In fact, even the supports of a given bill may have opposing intentions.

    That seems to be the case here. Some senators and house representatives just wanting to keep the funds flowing, as reflected in the existing contracts language, while others do not wanting to be boxed into an expensive dead end, as reflected in the ‘practicable’ language. Neither group could move a bill without the other so they compromised.

    The interpretation now rests with the administration, which has relatively wide latitude given the language.

  • James L

    “the primary disaster Is the disaster to come up with compelling rationale”

    I think you are partly right. There is no shortage of rationale. There are plenty of reasons. Some could be made to be seen as compelling. The art is in developing and telling the story. The failure has been and is the inability to clearly and loudly articulate the rationale.

  • Anne Spudis

    June 5, 2009

    Changing our Approach to Space Flight

    [Excerpt] The “long pole” in the tent is getting started. Right now, the architecture for lunar return has no requirement or provision for resource utilization. NASA’s efforts to date have focused on rocket-building and planning for scientific sortie missions. Yet learning how to gather, process and use the resources of the Moon is major goal of the Vision for Space Exploration. The idea is to use what we find in space to create new capabilities. This goal has the promise of freeing us from the “tyranny of the rocket equation” – we would no longer be mass and power-limited in space.

    The key to bootstrapping this capability is the judicious use of robotic precursor missions. Robotic spacecraft are now orbiting the Moon, mapping the distribution of elements such as hydrogen and ascertaining the nature of the environment near the poles. The next steps are to measure the composition and physical properties of the polar deposits from the surface; this requires soft-landers capable of landing payloads on the order of a few to tens of kilograms. Small surface rovers would be able to map out the elemental concentration of volatiles and determine the best places to mine.

    After the prospects are mapped, we must experiment with different techniques for harvesting and processing. Again, this work can be done by modestly sized robotic missions, landing small excavators and trucks (Mars rover-sized) and using laboratory bench-scale processing equipment. Landing and experimentation with this equipment will allow us to find out which techniques are most effective, what processing methods use the least amounts of energy and have the highest yields, and determine where the choke-points are in the processing and production stream.

    These small initial steps allow us to begin extracting and storing resources immediately. Over time, we can increase these capabilities such that when people finally return to the Moon, they have at their disposal a cached accumulation of consumables, including air, water and rocket propellant. In effect, we are creating the initial phases of self-sufficiency even before human arrival through the emplacement and use of automated, robotic infrastructure.

    No one knows if lunar resources can be extracted and used in the manner described here. But that’s why we’re going to the Moon in the first place – to answer these questions. We are using the Moon as a laboratory to learn how to live and work productively on other worlds. The skills and technologies developed here will serve us well wherever else we go in the Solar System. And the sooner we get started on this path, the sooner we will develop a true spacefaring infrastructure. [End Excerpt]

    http://blogs.airspacemag.com/moon/2009/06/05/lunar-resources-%E2%80%93-part-2-changing-our-approach-to-spaceflight/

  • Paul

    The failure has been and is the inability to clearly and loudly articulate the rationale.

    Sometimes, when advertising fails, the reason is simply that the target audience doesn’t like the product.

    In this case, space just isn’t compelling to most voters (or investors). The excuse that the real, compelling case just hasn’t been made adequately gets old after half a century of “communication failure”.

  • Bryan R

    “the reason is simply that the target audience doesn’t like the product.”

    The target audience likes the program just fine, or so polls reflect, but only likes it to a spending level of about a 1/2% of the total federal budget.

    Polls also reflect that few people realize that is all that is being spent, or what the program is doing with this amount of money.

    The story is not being told well. And, thee has to be a story to tell. Constellation’s story was Apollo redux, but the spending level was on steroids. Not compelling.

  • Mike Snyder

    Robert G. Oler wrote @ October 27th, 2010 at 9:28 pm

    I believe it is more than fair, it is accurate. As for the “unsophisticated” comment, that is of course your opinion, which seems to count for little.

    What is not opinion, is the legitimacy of asking for proof for your claim above. Again, you use very concrete and absolute language as if you know for a fact, by either being in people’s head, or have some sort of documentation to back-up such boasts.

    So, show it. Again, put the money where the mouth is. Yet given your track record of never doing such, which is also not very sophisticated, I doubt we will see anything more from you.

  • Paul

    The target audience likes the program just fine, or so polls reflect,

    Polls have consistently placed space below almost all other classes of federal expenditures, even farm subsidies.

  • Coastal Ron

    Anne Spudis wrote @ October 28th, 2010 at 5:49 am

    Anne, was that another of your random reposts of your husbands articles? Did you want to provide any original content of your own, by perhaps connecting it to the current conversation? Weird

  • Robert G. Oler

    Mike Snyder wrote @ October 28th, 2010 at 9:37 am


    What is not opinion, is the legitimacy of asking for proof for your claim above.

    so far I have not in this space political season called a single thing wrong.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Anne Spudis

    Coastal Ron wrote @ October 28th, 2010 at 10:38 am

    Hi Ron.

    My post was aimed at earlier posters wishing for a compelling case for a space program.

    I really don’t understand your continued chiding comments to me.

  • Mike Snyder

    Robert G. Oler wrote @ October 28th, 2010 at 12:11 pm

    Ahh, I see. But of course, nothing has really happened substantially this “space political season” either. Everything is still very much in flux.

    So anyway, where is that proof again? For anything concrete and absolute that you have said?

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