Congress, NASA

Utah members concerned NASA “circumventing the law” on heavy lift

To hear members of Utah’s congressional delegation, the soundtrack on the ninth floor of NASA Headquarters these days is a certain Judas Priest song. “NASA has signaled an interest recently in possibly circumventing the law,” Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) said in a statement after a meeting Thursday with NASA administrator Charles Bolden and deputy administrator Lori Garver. The law in question is the NASA Authorization Act of 2010, in particular the provision in Section 302 about the development of a “Space Launch System”, a heavy-lift launch vehicle. Hatch and other members of the state’s congressional delegation (most of whom also met with Bolden and Garver) are concerned that NASA might move in a direction that would cut out ATK, which manufactures solid rocket motors in the state.

What triggered this meeting isn’t clear, but one possibility is the award earlier this month of a number of heavy-lift studies “for evaluating heavy-lift launch vehicle system concepts, propulsion technologies, and affordability,” according to the NASA announcement of the awards. ATK received one of those contracts, but so did 12 other companies, including United Launch Alliance and SpaceX. “The studies will include heritage systems from shuttle and Ares, as well as alternative architectures and identify propulsion technology gaps including main propulsion elements, propellant tanks and rocket health management systems,” the release noted.

The idea of alternatives to shuttle- and Ares-derived concepts, both of which used solid rocket motors, is anathema to the Utah senators and congressmen. “I join my colleagues in admonishing NASA to strictly adhere to the law and use solid rocket motors in the development of the new Space Launch System,” Sen. Bob Bennett (R-UT) said in the statement. “Today’s meeting confirms that we are in a long-term fight over the future of NASA’s manned space flight program,” added Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT). “I remain very concerned that NASA continues to delay the transition from Constellation systems toward the new heavy-lift program while they needlessly explore private start-up technologies that remain unproven, require more money and are unfit for human-rated space travel.”

Just how NASA is “circumventing the law”, though, either with these studies or other work, isn’t clear. While report language that accompanies the bill specifically described their idea of an HLV, the law itself is vague and gives NASA some leeway. The law states that NASA “shall, to the extent practicable, extend or modify existing vehicle development and associated contracts… including contracts for ground testing of solid rocket motors, if necessary, to ensure their availability for development of the Space Launch System.” [emphasis added] Later in the same section: “The Administrator shall ensure critical skills and capabilities are retained, modified, and developed, as appropriate, in areas related to solid and liquid engines, large diameter fuel tanks, rocket propulsion, and other ground test capabilities for an effective transition to the follow-on Space Launch System.” [emphasis added] Phrases like “to the extent practicable”, “if necessary”, and “as appropriate” give NASA leeway to go in different directions if they determine something as specific as outlined in the legislation’s report language is not practicable, necessary, and/or appropriate.

Hatch acknowledges in Thursday’s statement that the act “does not require the new heavy-lift rocket to use solid rocket motors.” However, it adds, “delegation members say the Utah experts they consulted say the legislation’s requirements for the heavy-lift rocket can only be realistically met by using solid rocket motors.” Hatch did not sound like he was assured by what Bolden and Garver told him at Thursday’s meeting: “Though they assured us that NASA would comply with the law, some of their answers reaffirmed my suspicions that we need to keep a very close watch on the agency. I will continue with other delegation members to ensure the agency abides by the law and protects this industry that is so vitally important to our national security and northern Utah’s economy.”

142 comments to Utah members concerned NASA “circumventing the law” on heavy lift

  • amightywind

    Elections have consequences. The democrats no longer have a functional congressional majority. Because of the threats to democrat Senators in the 2012 elections, they really don’t even have a nominal one. To survive they will have to tack right from Obama. It is clear that the GOP and right leaning democrats do not trust the NASA leadership to carry out their directives. It is no way to run the agency. Holdren, Bolden, Garver made a bold gambit to subvert NASA HSF plans and move the agency in a radical direction. Those plans failed miserably at the hands of a friendly congress. Now the congress isn’t as friendly. It is hard to imagine these politically damaged leaders surviving in their current role.

    It is pretty obvious that the next HLV will use the Space Shuttle’s stage-and-a-half design, with an LH2/LO2 core Utah built SRBs. If Bolden has other ideas he needs to reveal them honestly and immediately, so congress can take corrective action.

  • Martijn Meijering

    “I will continue with other delegation members to ensure the agency abides by the law and protects this industry that is so vitally important to our national security and northern Utah’s economy.”

    If it were important to national security you’d hear the DoD and members of the Armed Services Committee about it. This is pork, pure and simple.

  • Paul Bryan

    What amazes me about this story and all those others like it, is just how blatantly, such congressmen state their rationales as being to defend jobs in their own voting constituencies – Sen Orrin Hatch “I will continue with other delegation members to ensure the agency … protects this industry that is so vitally important to ….northern Utah’s economy.”

    We are talking about a political environment in which Senators feel they can say these things without reproach as if protecting a local private company is a legitimate role for government.

    Well Mr Hatch, it is not legitimate and the fact that you feel so emboldened to make such bald claims suggests there is something deeply wrong with the political system. It is high time that a spotlight was thrown on people like you who believe that national policy should be determined by local concerns and local private sector financed lobbying. We shall be watching you over the long term, even when you are out of office to see what relationship and what commercial transactions occur between you and Utah-based private sector space manufacturers. And if and when you take that consultancy or that board position, we’ll be there to shed a light on that too.

  • Mark R. Whittington

    I am personally shocked, shocked that there is politics going on in the development of heavy lift launch systems. Having opened the door by canceling Constellation solely for political reasons, the administration should not be surprised that members of Congress will play that game as well.

    It will take a strong leader to set things right and to bring politics back to a minimum. Sadly that leader neither resides in the West Wing of the White House nor on the 9th Floor of NASA Headquarters.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Is this the best ORin can do?

    Claude Rains in Casablanca did it with so much more style and panache…but then again he was a real actor and Hatch only plays at one…

    goofy

    Robert G. Oler

  • Justin Kugler

    Initial HLV studies done by NASA indicate that a hydrocarbon HLV would have the lowest lifecycle costs and comparable development costs. If the analysis in the end shows that NASA should move away from solids, the agency should have the freedom to make the best technical and programmatic decision. Utah’s congressional delegation should not be able to hold the rest of the space program hostage to one corporation’s interests.

  • John Malkin

    I have two questions for ATK:
    1) How many Utah jobs are directly related to SRB development and operations for HSF?
    2) How much money has ATK invested in political campaigns?

  • Martijn Meijering

    A hydrocarbon HLV would be an improvement but there shouldn’t be an HLV or a NASA LV at all. It’s still wrong, just less so. It would be better than J-120 which would be better than J-130 which would be better than DIRECT which would be better than Ares V which would be better than Ares I + Ares V. It would be worse than EELV Phase 2 which would be worse than EELV Phase 1 which would be worse than current EELVs. Whichever you pick is arbitrary. It would be a matter of personal preference or of wanting to please a specific group of stakeholders. The reasonable thing to do would be not to pick a vehicle, but to procure launch services, not launch vehicles and to use multiple simultaneous, competing suppliers.

  • Coastal Ron

    Hatch is blustering, since he knows that there is not much he can do if the studies NASA commissioned show that a hydrocarbon HLV is better overall.

    Like they say, the best defense is a good offense, and this is Hatch going on the offense, laying the moral groundwork for his outrage if ATK doesn’t get their “fair share” of NASA work. He has to show that he is fighting for Utah jobs since he’s up for re-election in 2012. Politics at it best/worst.

  • Justin Kugler

    I agree, Martijn. I was just speaking in terms of the HLV tradespace itself.

  • Allen Thomson

    > to one corporation’s interests.

    Speaking of such things, this interesting item just showed up. I assume the contractor alluded to in the last paragraph is Lockheed Martin.

    =================

    http://www.fas.org/irp/congress/2010_cr/bond-exit.html

    [Congressional Record: November 17, 2010 (Senate)]
    [Page S7934-S7938]

    Intelligence Perspectives

    Mr. BOND. Mr. President, I have had the distinct privilege over the past 8 years of serving on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, serving as the committee’s vice chairman for the past 4 years.

    [snip]

    One of the intelligence community’s greatest failures was its complete waste of billions of dollars spent to develop satellites that never took a single picture. Senator Feinstein and I have strongly voiced our abiding concern to all four DNIs that the Intelligence Community is still spending far too much money on imagery satellites that are too big, too few, and too costly. We have put forth solid alternatives that would produce more satellites at far less cost, be less fragile, and perform as well or better than the unaffordable plan in the President’s budget.

    Just this month, an independent analysis by some of the country’s very best astrophysicists confirmed that such an alternative, based on a combination of commercial and classified technologies, was essentially as capable, but about half as expensive as the administration’s program. Sadly, our ideas have met with “NIH” resistance–“not invented here.”

    Even worse, it appears that this resistance has been based in part on the NRO’s unhealthy reliance upon, and apparent subordination to, the contractor that builds these incredibly expensive satellites. In spite of this resistance, Congress saw fit to appropriate over $200 million to explore a better path forward, and I urge my colleagues in both Houses of Congress to sustain that effort. I also urge the new DNI, in the strongest terms, to reconsider this issue afresh, and with an open mind. Our committee recommended his confirmation on the hope and expectation that he would do so.

  • Bennett

    Having opened the door by canceling Constellation solely for political reasons…

    Wow. Do you really believe that, Mark?

    The fact that it was going to cost 30-50B dollars more (just for ARES development) and take 20 more years before we had a shot at a lunar mission had nothing at all to do with the decision?

    You seem to be slightly confused.

  • Ralph Hightower

    Geez, can’t Congress butt out and let the rocket scientists at NASA design an HLV rocket?

    Is Orrin Hatch a rocket scientist? No way!

  • amightywind

    Initial HLV studies done by NASA indicate that a hydrocarbon HLV would have the lowest lifecycle costs and comparable development costs.

    A grandiose claim. Can you post a link? This isn’t 2009. Vapor rockets, green unicorns, and billionaire hobbyists are out. We have wasted two years on them. There is no way (politically or practically) NASA will undertake major kerolox launch vehicle development. It is now about modifying and assembling the excellent shuttle hardware we already have, rapidly.

  • Jeff in Space

    amightywind wrote: Holdren, Bolden, Garver made a bold gambit to subvert NASA HSF plans and move the agency in a radical direction. Those plans failed miserably at the hands of a friendly congress. Now the congress isn’t as friendly.

    Do you think the new congress is going to halt or delay Shuttle retirement?
    Jeff

  • Hydrocarbon fuels are not only greenhouse gas polluters but would also make NASA more dependent on fossil fuels and foreign fuels.

    You could easily meet the Congressional requirements for an HLV without SRBs by just using three shuttle derived core vehicles instead of a SD-core vehicle plus 2 SRBs. But since we’ve already invested a lot of money in SRB development, we might as well use them for the next heavy lift vehicle.

    But that doesn’t mean that private industry couldn’t still use a three core shuttle derived LOX/LH2 vehicle for private heavy lift launches to deploy large private commercial space stations and geosynchronous solar power satellites.

  • Well, if there’s no FY2011 omnibus appropriations bill, the vaunted SLS will not be funded and ATK will be left in the cold with that revenue stream anyway.

    Yeah, yeah, there’s the CR thing and possible “anomalies” thereof, but the slippage in funding and schedule issue stands.

    And in spite of Windy’s reich-wing rhetoric, the Tea-Partying GOPer Congress isn’t going to come and save the day.

  • What else would we expect from a pig but a grunt. As usual, the Senator is only interested in pork for his state, not in what’s best for the U.S. space program.

  • Martijn Meijering

    I agree, Martijn. I was just speaking in terms of the HLV tradespace itself.

    I know and I know you’re one of the good guys. ;-) Just wanted to make sure people didn’t misinterpret your remarks.

  • Martijn Meijering

    Hydrocarbon fuels are not only greenhouse gas polluters but would also make NASA more dependent on fossil fuels and foreign fuels.

    Like Canada? And why do you keep repeating this canard? You have repeatedly been proven wrong on this, and by real experts no less, not just by enthusiasts like me. Hydrogen currently comes from fossil fuels. In future it may come from nuclear power, but so could hydrocarbons (think Mars ISRU or algae). Unfortunately we are unlikely to see the kind of traffic for which the choice of propellant could make any significant impact. Hydrogen is more expensive to buy and to handle than hydrocarbons and this will only get worse as helium prices go up due to the helium shortage. Hydrocarbons are also technically superior as first stage propellant.

  • Major Tom

    “It is clear that the GOP and right leaning democrats do not trust the NASA leadership to carry out their directives.”

    There was no “directive” to use SRBs in the 2010 NASA Authorization Act. The Act authorizes NASA to build an SLS that must be capable of launching a 70-ton payload by 2016. The Act states a preference for using the Shuttle workforce to build and operate the SLS. But as Mr. Foust pointed out repeatedly in the original post, use of the SRBs in the SLS isn’t mandated in the Act and even the Shuttle preferences are repeatedly conditioned with “to the extent practicable… if necessary… as appropriate” language.

    Hatch and the rest of the Utah delegation can try to bully the agency and beat their chests about their SRB “intent” all they want, but the reality is that the law that these geniuses voted for doesn’t tie NASA’s hands with respect to using SRBs, or any other Shuttle element, workforce, or contract, at all. If the Utah delegation really wanted SRBs or an SDLV, then they should have mandated such in the legislation.

    Since they didn’t mandate SRBs in legislation, it’s hard to see the current grandstanding as little more than trying to look good to companies and constituents back home. As long as it looks like Hatch and the rest are fighting for Utah, the votes and political donations will probably keep coming, even if in reality they totally botched their ability to get what they want in the 2010 NASA Authorization Act.

    Alternately, Hatch and the rest may understand that NASA likely has to go down a different path and gave NASA the legislative flexiblity to do so. But they still need to look like they’re fighting for companies and constituents back home and hence the current grandstanding in the local paper.

    “Holdren, Bolden, Garver made a bold gambit to subvert NASA HSF plans and move the agency in a radical direction.”

    There’s nothing “bold” or “radical” about transitioning NASA’s human space flight ETO needs to private sector providers. That effort was started under the prior White House and Administration as an essential element of the VSE after the Columbia accident.

    There’s nothing “bold” or “radical” about terminating LV developments and an architecture that an independent, blue-ribbon committee, GAO, and CBO all found to be billions of dollars per year out of bed with their budget constraints and years behind schedule.

    There’s nothing “bold” or “radical” about making investmentments so that NASA human space exploration isn’t bound by complex, expensive, 30- and 40-year old systems that only NASA uses and that have made breaking out of LEO unaffordable and unpalatable to White Houses and Congresses for decades now.

    These are necessary things that had to be done. The alternative was to stand by while Constellation continued to slip year-for-year, send NASA astronauts up on Soyuzes ad infinitum, and wait for a Soyuz accident to eliminate all U.S. civil human space flight access.

    “Those plans failed miserably at the hands of a friendly congress.”

    It’s hard to see how the Administration’s plan “failed miserably” in Congress when the FY 2010 NASA Authorization Act kills Ares I, funds commercial crew, extends ISS, forces NASA to develop an affordable HLV sooner than later, and makes other technology investments in human space exploration. Those were all the basic elements of the Administration’s FY 2010 budget request for NASA.

    “It is hard to imagine these politically damaged leaders surviving in their current role.”

    The NASA Administrator and Deputy Administrator and the President’s Science Advisor all serve at the pleasure of the President. They’ll only get the boot if the White House wants them out.

    “It is pretty obvious that the next HLV will use the Space Shuttle’s stage-and-a-half design, with an LH2/LO2 core Utah built SRBs.”

    Based on what?

    That “stage-and-a-half design” suffers from fuel tank insulation cracking, gaseous hydrogen leaks around the liquid engines, and solid motor casings that are often damaged on recovery (among other problems), even after nearly 30 years of manufacture and operations. Forget cost, it’s hard to see how a modest, multi-launch exploration mission or campaign could be sustained with equipment that regularly suffers multi-week and -month launch delays. Even Constellation had to put two elements together in LEO within days of each other to mount a mission.

    On top of that, the enormous workforce and infrastructure for that “stage-and-a-half design” has no other customers, forcing NASA to pay all the freight and leaving little or no funding for actual, in-space, exploration hardware.

    There are many jobs at risk and that’s unfortunate. But it’s just programmatic and budgetary insanity to baseline LV elements with these kinds of technical and cost issues into a new vehicle or architecture, especially when the nation has access to existing military and commercial LVs without these problems.

    “If Bolden has other ideas he needs to reveal them honestly and immediately, so congress can take corrective action.”

    Unlike Griffin, Bolden is not forcing his preconceived HLV “ideas” on the agency and industry. Instead, he’s allowing open competition to determine the best technical path forward within the resources and schedule available. See ESMD’s HLV BAA studies referenced earlier in Mr. Foust’s original post.

    Sigh…

  • Major Tom

    “Having opened the door by canceling Constellation solely for political reasons…”

    The White House didn’t terminate Constellation for political reasons. There are independent GAO and CBO reports going back years warning about how far out of bed Constellation was with its budget and about the program’s numerous technical problems, several of which were showstoppers. And any idiot could also see that the program’s schedule had also been slipping year-for-year for years. These alone were reason enough for termination, but the White House went the extra step of convening a blue-ribbon committee before making its decision. When that committee fundamentally confirmed what had already been independently reported and what had been obvious for years, the White House had little choice but to terminate Constellation. The Administration would have been accussed of gross mismanagement if they had done otherwise.

    Don’t make stuff up.

    Moreover, what political gain is there for the White House in laying off thousands of workers around the country?

    Think before you post.

    Lawdy…

  • Mark R. Whittington

    “The fact that it was going to cost 30-50B dollars more (just for ARES development) and take 20 more years before we had a shot at a lunar mission had nothing at all to do with the decision?”

    Of course President Obama has found the perfect way to save all that money, which is to not go to the Moon (or really, anywhere else, despite airy talk of asteroids.)

  • byeman

    “Hydrocarbon fuels are not only greenhouse gas polluters but would also make NASA more dependent on fossil fuels and foreign fuels. ”

    And an H2 fueled vehicle would be even worse of a polluter. LH2 production is hydrocarbon based and is not going to change for decades. There are no nuclear plants being licensed in the US. So your point has nothing to stand one.

    An SRB pollutes more that any equivalent hydrocarbon engine.
    If NASA were to develop a three core shuttle derived LOX/LH2 vehicle, it could not be used for private industry due to unfair practices.

    Williams, quit posting lies.

  • Major Tom

    “A grandiose claim. Can you post a link?”

    Read the Augustine report. It rates an EELV-derived HLV architecture as the least costly of the alternatives.

    “Vapor rockets, green unicorns, and billionaire hobbyists…”

    EELVs and now the F9 have more ETO launch history than Ares I ever did. Look in the mirror before you launch your “vapor rockets” through your glass house.

    Companies that win multi-hundred million dollar commercial launch contracts, including the largest such contract in history, are not “hobbies”. Think before you post.

    “There is no way (politically or practically) NASA will undertake major kerolox launch vehicle development”

    Based on what? The 2010 NASA Authorization Act gives NASA the flexibility to do so. To have a hope of meeting the reduced budget for the SLS, NASA has to leverage a military or commercial LV infrastructure and workforce with other customers. And historically, a big kerolox HLV is MSFC’s preference.

    “It is now about modifying and assembling the excellent shuttle hardware”

    Yes, multiple propellant insulation cracks, gaseous hydrogen leaks, and multi-week delays are just the very definition of “excellent… hardware”.

    Oy vey…

  • MichaelC

    “-requirements for the heavy-lift rocket can only be realistically met by using solid rocket motors”

    Nothing else puts out 7.2 million pounds of thrust from 2 nozzles. Period. The statement is accurate.

  • Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT)
    Sen. Bob Bennett (R-UT)
    Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT)

    Funny how these Republicans continue to push for a technology that is obsolete, that is not wanted by NASA (DOD does want them), drains funds from more useful investments, ultimately is mostly pork barrel spending, and yet they fight the most fiscally responsible choices put before them, the genius of innovative American industry.

    No moral high-ground among this group on fiscal issues.

  • The Utah contingent has every right to be mistrustful of Bolden, Garver, and the WH, after Obama’s Feb proposal that gave NASA no beyond LEO manned destinations and would have scrapped all the design and development work that has been accomplished over the past 4 years, incurring massive ($2.5+ billion) closeout costs.

    For exactly the same reason, the Senate has schedule a meeting to ensure that NASA will be in full compliance with the law.

    Garver, on the other hand, will do her very best to exercise every single loophole in order to divert as much of your taxpayer dollars into the needy pockets of Elon Musk and his associates, so that a small handfull of people with incomes in excess of $100,000,000.00 will have the opportunity to play in LEO.

  • byeman

    “-requirements for the heavy-lift rocket can only be realistically met by using solid rocket motors””Nothing else puts out 7.2 million pounds of thrust from 2 nozzles. Period. The statement is accurate.”

    The last statement is not proof of the first statement. The fact is that both are wrong.

    Just another idiotic post that shows no intelligence or spaceflight knowledge
    Where is the requirement for an HLV that states it needs 7.2 million pounds of thrust much less from 2 nozzles.

  • byeman

    Another idiotic post. Anyone with half a brain does not equate Obama’s Feb proposal with “divert as much of your taxpayer dollars into the needy pockets of Elon Musk and his associate”

    ULA, Boeing, OSC and LM are set to get more money from Obama’s Feb proposal or the current budget than Spacex.

    Plus the “design and development work that has been accomplished over the past 4 years” was a waste in the first place.

  • Major Tom

    “Nothing else puts out 7.2 million pounds of thrust from 2 nozzles. Period. The statement is accurate.”

    No, it’s not an accurate statement. Each SRB puts out only 2.65 million pounds of thrust at sea level. See:

    nasa.gov/returntoflight/system/system_SRB.html

    This peaks at 3.1 million pounds not long after liftoff. So the thrust from two SRBs ranges from 5.3 to 6.2 million pounds, not 7.2 million pounds.

    Please confirm your facts and check your math before you post.

  • Justin Kugler

    Easily.

    http://tinyurl.com/36php3e

    You’ll find that the RP family has the lowest number of launches to support a Mars mission, comparable IMLEO performance to the other options, better safety estimates than Shuttle-derived or Ares V, a shorter initial flight schedule than Ares V, less DDT&E cost than Cx and some SD options, less cost to initial human flight than Cx and equivalent to Sidemount, and less cost per lb to LEO (with cost per lb to TLI equivalent to Ares V).

    Assuming the analysis in this initial study is accurate, hydrocarbon boosters are an incredibly reasonable proposition, especially when you consider life cycle costs.

  • Major Tom

    “that is not wanted by NASA (DOD does want them)”

    Actually, DOD does _not_ employ any large, segmented, solid rocket motors like those used in the Shuttle SRBs. Nor does anyone else, which is a big reason why the SRBs are so expensive compared to ICBM or EELV boosters.

    If you want to help preserve the DOD solid rocket motor industrial base, then you have to invest in ICBM-sized and smaller motor infrastructure. The SRB infrastructure is way oversized and technically wrong for those applications.

    FWIW…

  • amightywind

    Jeff in Space wrote

    Do you think the new congress is going to halt or delay Shuttle retirement? Jeff

    I don’t see how they can. It has been almost 8 years since Columbia. We all know the shuttle has to be replaced. Can you imagine the chaos if their was another loss of an orbiter? I would have liked to see a few unmanned resupply missions to ISS just to prove the capability, perhaps as a precursor to a side mounted HLV. Other than that it is time to move on. Ares I/Orion was an excellent follow on. Hopefully the GOP can resurrect the program.

    Nelson Bridwell wrote:

    The Utah contingent has every right to be mistrustful of Bolden, Garver, and the WH,

    I am amazed the Whitehouse doesn’t see what a liability the NASA leadership is. Wait until the hearings start next year. But then again, this same Whitehouse still have confidence in Eric Holder.

  • Ben Russell-Gough

    Just a quick point on development.

    In its own way, Atlas-V Phase 2 is as much ‘direct’ as DIRECT itself. It uses a re-engineered core tank (Delta-IV instead of Shuttle ET), an existing engine (RD-180 rather than SSME) and needs an upper stage development program to be BEO-capable. FWIW, in both cases I suspect that the latter can be short-circuited by re-engineering the Ares-I upper stage. The upper stage engine can be the DoD RL-10 replacement if cash is not available for J-2X or if J-2X’s performance estimates continue to fall off.

    Its approximate performance is:

    Singe stick – 20-30t IMLEO (Good enough for Orion/MPCV to ISS)
    Three-core heavy – 70-80t IMLEO (meeting the Senate’s performance requirements)
    Five-core super-heavy – ~105t IMLEO

    The good thing about this is that you don’t really need to deploy the heavy and super-heavy forms if there are no payloads for them. You can use the single stick to launch crew and cargo to LEO and wait until you have BEO missions ready to launch.

    The comparison isn’t precise but it is still possible to use the DIRECT philosophy of developing from what you’ve got rather than going for clean sheet designs using EELV heritage. You can also get a fairly robust multi-role launch system out of it too.

  • Major Tom

    “Obama’s Feb proposal that gave NASA no beyond LEO manned destinations”

    That’s simply not true. The “Moon, Mars and its moons, Lagrange points and nearby asteroids” all appear as destinations in the FY11 budget release.

    Don’t make stuff up.

    “incurring massive ($2.5+ billion) closeout costs”

    The alternative was to spend another $3 to 5 billion _per year_ just to maintain Constellation’s already multi-year delayed schedule.

    It doesn’t take a genius to figure out which was less costly.

    “Garver, on the other hand, will do her very best to exercise every single loophole in order to divert as much of your taxpayer dollars into the needy pockets of Elon Musk and his associates”

    First, SpaceX hasn’t been awarded a single extra dime since Garver took office. SpaceX won its COTS award under the previous Bush II Administration and Griffin.

    Second, SpaceX isn’t “needy”. They’ve won the largest commercial launch contract in history and have a commercial launch manifest extending out to 2017. Even Dragon has two non-COTS/CRS flights booked. NASA could disappear tomorrow, and SpaceX/Falcon 9/Dragon would all continue on their current path.

    Third, since when is legislation granting an agency the flexibility to make intelligent technical decisions a “loophole”?

    “so that a small handfull of people with incomes in excess of $100,000,000.00 will have the opportunity to play in LEO.”

    You only need $20 million (or thereabouts) to buy a Soyuz seat today. Dragon will have to beat that price in the commercial human space flight market. There’s no $100 million requirement, annual income or otherwise.

    And if people in space is your metric (more = better), there’s way, way more individuals with that kind of wealth in the U.S. (or the world) then there are NASA or other government astronauts.

    FWIW…

  • For those who do not remember, or do not wish to remember, Obama’s Feb 2nd proposal for NASA had no specific proposal for NASA to send crews anywhere beyond LEO, anytime. It was purely an undirected “research” program with no destinations or deadlines.

    It did not define ANY specific missions to the Moon. It did not define ANY specific mission to Langrange points. It did not define ANY specific missions to NEOs. It did not define ANY specific missions to Mars.

    When quetioned what is the destination of NASA, Bolden replied “Well, I suppose it is Mars, eventually,” although Bolden stated that he didn’t have the foggiest idea how it could be accomplished.

    “I suppose” is not a plan.

  • DCSCA

    The Teaparty folks have teatoattler Orrin targeted for dismissal in 2012. Bloviating the virtues of SRB technology for booster propulsion in human spaceflight planning is a dead issue. Orrin should know that by now. But the cloak of ‘national security’ works well with SRB use in military proposals. All the more reason for NASA to cease being a separate, independent agency, vulnerable to criticism and cuts, and tucked under the safer wing of the DoD where the rationale of ‘national security’ carries more clout. As for Orrin’s future as a GOP senator, it may very well follow the fate of the space shuttle program– retired as a tired relic of the Cold War..

  • “You only need $20 million (or thereabouts) to buy a Soyuz seat today.”

    According to the census bureau, the 2006 average American family of 3.14 people had an income $50,233 and spent about $1,600 a year on vacations.

    If they were to instead save this up, it would take them 39,250 years to be able to reach LEO.

    But let’s be wildly optimistic like Elon Musk and assume that they put aside 10% of their income, and competition lowers the cost by 10X.
    It would take them only 12,502 years, assuming that they are able to continue working beyond 65, and cheat death by a factor of 173X.

  • MichaelC

    “No, it’s not an accurate statement. Each SRB puts out only 2.65 million pounds of thrust at sea level. See:”

    5 segment SRB puts out 3.6 million pounds of thrust each.

    And “only” 2.65 is funny when considering no liquid fuel engine comes close.

  • Major Tom

    “It was purely an undirected ‘research’ program with no destinations…”

    This is another false statement. The “Moon, Mars and its moons, Lagrange points and nearby asteroids” all appear as destinations in the FY11 budget release.

    Stop repeating the same ignorant lies.

    “It did not define ANY specific missions to the Moon. It did not define ANY specific mission to Langrange points. It did not define ANY specific missions to NEOs. It did not define ANY specific missions to Mars.”

    Neither did Kennedy’s human lunar pronouncement. The Saturn V and Apollo architecture didn’t come together for a couple more years and the likely dates for the first Apollo missions weren’t certain for years after that.

    Neither did the Bush II rollout of the VSE. The Ares I/V and Constellation architecture (such as it was) didn’t come along until more than a year later. And the Constellation schedule slipped year-for-year. We never knew when even the first Ares I/Orion LEO missions were going to take place, forget BEO missions.

    You’re setting ridiculously goofy standards for the President (or any President). The White House does not design human space missions.

    “Bolden replied ‘Well, I suppose it is Mars, eventually,’ although Bolden stated that he didn’t have the foggiest idea how it could be accomplished.”

    Where’s this quote from? Reference? Link?

    Bolden’s written testimony to Congress repeatedly makes statements like “sustainable, beyond-LEO exploration, with more capable expeditions in lunar space, and unprecedented human missions to near-Earth asteroids, Lagrange points, and, ultimately, Mars” and “requirements and technologies required for future human spaceflight missions to many destinations, including Mars.”

    nasa.gov/pdf/446868main_FY%202011%20NASA%20Budget%20Request%20Testimony_SAC-CJS%204-22-10%20final.pdf

    nasa.gov/pdf/458710main_Bolden_Testimony_for_HSTC_Hearing_5-26-10.pdf

    There’s no “suppose” with respect to Mars or any other human exploration destination in Bolden’s written testimony.

    Enough with the ignorant lies. If you can’t state anything truthfully or aren’t going to check sources easily available on the web, then don’t bother posting.

    Cripes…

  • Justin Kugler

    It would have been irresponsible to propose specific destinations and deadlines when the objective clearly was to build an in-space transportation infrastructure that would allow NASA to explore destinations of its choice within existing future budgets.

    That is completely inaccurate to say that the FY2011 budget proposal was “undirected.” It may not have been the direction you wanted, but it was obvious if you took the time to read the documentation. I remember talking about that very subject with Dave Masten earlier this year. It was pretty clear to him that the goal was to enable us to go anywhere in the solar system we want.

    I think such a goal is arguably more audacious than “Apollo on steroids.”

  • Nelson Bridwell wrote:

    For those who do not remember, or do not wish to remember, Obama’s Feb 2nd proposal for NASA had no specific proposal for NASA to send crews anywhere beyond LEO, anytime. It was purely an undirected “research” program with no destinations or deadlines.

    Nothing in the National Aeronautics or Space Act requires NASA to fly humans into space, to explore other worlds or even to own rockets. It does require NASA to prioritize commercial access to space.

    NASA is supposed to be a research agency, not a space taxi service.

  • Martijn Meijering

    So what’s your plan, should we continue to send a select group of civil servants on paid joyrides? I understand the view is breathtaking:

    http://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/videogallery/index.html?media_id=29666501

  • Bennett

    “But let’s be wildly optimistic like Elon Musk”

    What is it about Elon Musk that has your panties all bunched up? He has a business launching satellites, and has plans to launch people. What is it about his business that you find so disturbing?

    As Major Tom pointed out, SpaceX hasn’t gotten any preferential treatment from NASA, has a lot of “skin” in the game, and is employing more and more people each year (important in today’s economy).

    What’s your beef with SpaceX?

  • Justin Kugler

    You’re changing the goalposts, Nelson.

    There are approximately 95,000 ultra-high net worth individuals (HNWIs) in the world, with 61,600 residing in the United States or Europe. There haven’t even been 1000 people in space yet, so Tom’s assessment is accurate.

  • Ben Russell-Gough

    @ Nelson Bridwell,

    Don’t forget that air travel was out of the reach of ordinary citizens at one time. Only a few computer were considered to be needed in the entire world. History does suggest that things can get cheaper and that, in the fullness of time, what was once the exclusive preseve of the rich will eventually become commonplace.

    Unfortunately for us space cadets, we are currently in the “exclusive preserve of the rich” phase. However, that is simply our bad luck.

  • amightywind

    DCSCA wrote:

    As for Orrin’s future as a GOP senator, it may very well follow the fate of the space shuttle program– retired as a tired relic of the Cold War.

    After the hyper-political acid trip of the last 2 years, I think the good people of Utah will be thankful the stodgy leadership that Senator Hatch provides. The SRB survives because it is a powerful, ready solution to first stage flight, inconvenient as that may be for some.

  • common sense

    I am amazed at the reading and comprehension difficulties of posters, especially those who support Constellation. Talk about bad faith! I wish some who actually have something substantial to support Constellation and/or SRB would be around but they just do not seem to exist.

    It must be something else to be a politician and to have to talk with some of those people…

    Oh well…

  • common sense

    “The SRB survives because it is a powerful, ready solution to first stage flight, inconvenient as that may be for some.”

    I hope you are not designing LVs or RVs especially for humans because so much nonsense is unbelivable. Powerful, ready? Show us where it sits and I am sure a lot of us will support it… In the meantime…

  • Major Tom

    “According to the census bureau, the 2006 average American family of 3.14 people had an income $50,233 and spent about $1,600 a year on vacations.

    If they were to instead save this up, it would take them 39,250 years to be able to reach LEO.”

    So what? No family, no matter what their income or net worth, is going to “reach LEO” without commercial human space flight capabilities. No government space agency, NASA or otherwise, flies families. None, zero, nada, zilch.

    Every year, about 3,000 new American households cross the $20 million net worth threshold.

    finance.yahoo.com/banking-budgeting/article/103815/Where-Do-You-Stand-on-America’s-Wealth-Spectrum

    If our goal is to get more people flying in space each year, then some fraction of a population that’s growing at a rate of 3,000 households _per year_ is much better than a fraction of the static, 100-odd person NASA astronaut corps.

    For better or worse, this is how new transportation systems begin and grow. The steam locomotive, the automobile, and the airline were all originally the preserve of wealthy. But their tickets and purchases allowed investments to be made in new technologies that brought costs down and capabilities up to the point that larger and larger segments of the population could afford a trip. Our egalitarian senses may not like it, but it’s how technology diffusion in a capitalist economic system works. (If you’d rather try the medieval or Soviet method of technology diffusion, be my guest. Just stop using your airport, your hospital, your car, your medicine, your air conditioning, your microwave, your refrigerator, your laptop, your smartphone, etc. because some rich people got to buy and use those devices and services first.)

    Moreover, why should we care if NASA uses a commercially owned and operated system to get government astronauts up and down that also happens to take private citizens up and down on their own dime? If that commercial system is more cost effective for NASA than the government-owned and -operated alternative, that means we pay fewer taxes for the same astronaut transport. Or, NASA is able to buy more astronaut transport or additional astronaut activities — like BEO exploration — for the same tax dollars.

    C’mon people, let’s think before we post. Enough with the knee-jerk reactions.

    Lawdy…

  • Major Tom

    “All the more reason for NASA to cease being a separate, independent agency, vulnerable to criticism and cuts, and tucked under the safer wing of the DoD where the rationale of ‘national security’ carries more clout.”

    The “clout” of national security isn’t going to save anyone from cuts in the years ahead. Six of the ten largest budget cuts in the recent deficit commission proposal came from DOD. See:

    money.cnn.com/2010/11/11/news/economy/commission_top_10/index.htm

    Even the Secretary of Defense is trying to whack DOD’s budget by $100 billion over the next five years.

    washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/09/14/AR2010091406909.html

    Moreover, DOD already has multiple military space R&D agencies (USAF, NRO, DARPA, etc.). It doesn’t need or want and won’t accept another.

    And NASA’s charter legislation requires it to be a civil agency in any event. Congress and the President would have to go back and fundamentally alter the agency’s purpose in the law to transfer NASA to DOD.

  • Robert Horning

    “I have two questions for ATK:
    1) How many Utah jobs are directly related to SRB development and operations for HSF?
    2) How much money has ATK invested in political campaigns?”

    As far as the number of jobs in Utah directly related to the SRB development, it is in the thousands. More significantly for Rob Bishop (R-1st District Utah), it is also his core supporters and literally his next door neighbors including the constituents of his former district in the Utah State Legislature. Rob Bishop used to be the Speaker of the House for the Utah House of Representatives. For him, it isn’t lobbyists but rather campaign contributions from the individual employees who work on the line at ATK who are influencing the politics in this manner. In this case, it is Rob Bishop himself that might as well be considered a lobbyist for ATK in a more direct capacity, other than he is more knowledgeable about defense issues (as incoming chair of the House Armed Services Committee) and education (being a former high school teacher).

    Still, ATK has been quite active in terms of providing “technical support” for the Utah delegation and put themselves in a position of essentially being unpaid staff to the Utah delegation in terms of answering questions related to spaceflight. They don’t even need to give campaign contributions (which also are considerable) simply by being the gatekeepers to the information they are receiving. It is sort of depressing.

    BTW, don’t go slamming the “Tea Party” on this issue and certainly don’t consider Orrin Hatch to be in cozy with the Tea Party groups in Utah either. He is nearly universally despised and considered to be the next major casualty of the Tea Party movement, with a very strong chance that his seat is going to be taken by Jason Chaffetz (R-3rd District, Utah), who is a “Tea Party darling”. Regardless, it is going to be a tough fight for Orrin Hatch to get re-elected in this next round, perhaps the hardest of his entire political career. Bob Bennett is already kicked out of the door, but in terms of space politics the new senator, Mike Lee, isn’t expected to be all that different in terms of space policy.

    For Utah politics, space is pretty much a non-issue and isn’t really on the political radar except for jobs in northern Utah alone. I wish it was something different and I’ve tried to speak up and raise the issue, but even bringing up the fact that it is big government vs. small government with ATK representing big government doesn’t seem to have any traction at all. By none I mean I get almost zero replies in forums where other issues are discussed when the topic of spaceflight is brought up.

    As for the lone Democrat in the Utah delegation, he might as well be a member of the same political party as far as this issue is concerned. Jim Matheson (D-2nd District, Utah) is also a strong supporter of ATK and a re-funding of Constellation if it were possible. He has also received a fairly healthy campaign contribution from ATK and suffers from the same kinds of problems that the rest of the Utah delegation has. This is not a partisan issue at all and it is disingenuous to suggest otherwise.

  • Robert Horning

    “Moreover, why should we care if NASA uses a commercially owned and operated system to get government astronauts up and down that also happens to take private citizens up and down on their own dime? If that commercial system is more cost effective for NASA than the government-owned and -operated alternative, that means we pay fewer taxes for the same astronaut transport. Or, NASA is able to buy more astronaut transport or additional astronaut activities — like BEO exploration — for the same tax dollars.

    C’mon people, let’s think before we post. Enough with the knee-jerk reactions.”

    What I’m worried about is that NASA is going to set up a situation similar to the early days of the Shuttle program where commercial service was heavily subsidized by the government program, at least on paper. It certainly was structured in such a way that other commercial projects like the Conestoga rockets simply couldn’t make a profit and commercial spaceflight simply wasn’t permitted.

    I hope those days are in the past. I think they are and I am hopeful that commercial spaceflight models that use a fixed price cost model are going to be much more prevalent than the cost-plus rocketry of the past, at least for launches to LEO. There are luddites who want the old ways to continue, and it has been fun to watch… fun at least if you love to see political powers thump chests and battle with each other.

    The concern is over who is deciding the future of American spaceflight. That is the nature of politics at its most basic core.

  • “If our goal is to get more people flying in space each year, then some fraction of a population that’s growing at a rate of 3,000 households _per year_ is much better than a fraction of the static, 100-odd person NASA astronaut corps.”

    I can see the scientific and technical value of spending millions to put Steven Bowen into oribt.

    http://www.jsc.nasa.gov/Bios/htmlbios/bowen-sg.html

    I cannot, however, see the ROI of investing billions of our tax money in order to put a few clowns in orbit.

    http://i.space.com/images/090928-space-clown-02.jpg

  • Syck of the Hype

    Sad that a handful of representatives from two states (AL and UT) should be able to dictate requirements and providers for a mission we don’t even have plans for yet. ATK’s rockets are certainly proven but their cost is too high.

  • “There are approximately 95,000 ultra-high net worth individuals (HNWIs) in the world, with 61,600 residing in the United States or Europe.”

    So why, if they are so wealthy, should NON-ultra-high-networth individuals be paying extra taxes in order to subsidize their vacations?

  • Vladislaw

    There is only one way forward, America has to build the biggest phallic symbol, without the symbol what does it matter if America can pay the taxes for the lowest cost government joyrides?

    Come on people .. think… without a 500 foot phallic symbol no other country will believe america is ahead in the space frontier. It wouldn’t matter if America was launching 10,000 people per year into LEO at only 1 mil a pop. Do you honestly think that would matter to china or russia if our phallic symbol was only 200 foot tall? They would laugh at our “little” rockets. We have to builld the “tallest” phallic symbol the planet has ever seen or America will be laughed at and be called “shorty”.

  • Martijn Meijering

    So why, if they are so wealthy, should NON-ultra-high-networth individuals be paying extra taxes in order to subsidize their vacations?

    You’ve got to start somewhere. The point is not to subsidise wealthy tourists but to open up space. And the synergy goes both ways. Every wealthy tourist that goes up brings in some money for manned spaceflight. As flight rates go up, cost can come down and vice versa. Robert Bigelow is planning to set prices for tickets to his planned private stations at levels that are profitable but otherwise designed to grow the number of passengers as fast as possible.

    And now that were asking questions: why are you so eager to preserve the Shuttle workforce and supply chain instead having a free and fair competitive procurement process? Why are you shilling for NASA launchers?

  • Martijn Meijering

    I cannot, however, see the ROI of investing billions of our tax money in order to put a few clowns in orbit.

    The clown paid his own way, using excess capacity that would otherwise go unused. I don’t think anyone here is advocating we should spend extra money to subsidise private spaceflight, just that we should not spend extra money to keep out private individuals or private sector employees. Both would be misuse of taxpayers’ money.

  • DCSCA

    @Major Tom wrote @ November 19th, 2010 at 4:52 pm- NASA’s charter can be changed with the stroke of a pen and multiple military space operations- the black ops crowd, etc., – can be consolidated to save even more. The Age of Austerity is here. The people of the United States cannot support a government that continues to borrow 40 cents of every dollar it spends. One space program, fine. Two, three, four… forget it. We can’t afford it any more.

    The point is the ‘cloak’ of national security adds another layer of protection to longer term space projects which require steady funding rather than yearly fights. And, of course, ‘cuts’ are not ‘eliminations’ and the might sword of ‘national security’ works wonders. There simply is no readon to maintain this Cold war relic. The IG list as noted on another thread is a pathetic effort to rationalize keeping this agency around as a separate, independent agency. There just isnt any and the Age of Austerity makes it appear all the more an extravagance and luxury the United States can no longer afford, especially when it it borrowing 40 cents of every dollar it spends. NASA, as a ‘civilian’ space entity, represents a duplication of facilities, personnel, contractors and the inevitable budget overruns that come along with it. The agency is ripe for dissolution and to save any of it, tucking it under the wing of the DoD may be a wise move to preserve any sembmence of an infrastructure for longer term space projects on the drawing boards. . It’s chief raison d’etre in the eyes of the taxpayer, human spaceflight, is ending when the shuttle program is terminated. There is no immediate spacecraft in the pipeline to come on line and no definitive goal/direction at all. The Age of Austerity, the ending of shuttle operations, the ‘gap’; the desperate groping by the IG for any rationale for purpose and direction… and the deficits facing the U.S. are all converging. The agency is teed up to be dissolved in its current existence. It’s just not needed any longer. It is a 1960s relic of the Cold War which has little purpose in 2010.

  • DCSCA

    @Nelson Bridwell wrote @ November 19th, 2010 at 5:45 pm
    “If our goal is to get more people flying in space each year, then some fraction of a population that’s growing at a rate of 3,000 households _per year_ is much better than a fraction of the static, 100-odd person NASA astronaut corps.”

    Their immediate goal now is keep the lights on.

  • For Utah politics, space is pretty much a non-issue and isn’t really on the political radar except for jobs in northern Utah alone. I wish it was something different and I’ve tried to speak up and raise the issue, but even bringing up the fact that it is big government vs. small government with ATK representing big government doesn’t seem to have any traction at all. By none I mean I get almost zero replies in forums where other issues are discussed when the topic of spaceflight is brought up.

    Maybe someone should write an essay about the history of the settlement of Utah, in which people moved beyond government control for religious freedom, and relate it to space. And then get it printed some place like the Salt Lake City Tribune, or Deseret News.

    Hmmmmm…

  • DCSCA

    @amightywind wrote @ November 19th, 2010 at 4:09 pm

    We are through the looking glass, Windy. The U.S. is borrowing 40 cents of every dollar it spends. And in the Age of Austerity, there is simply no sound rationale to spend borrowed monies on the luxury of a civilian space program which duplicates personnel, operations and facilities existing in other agencies, such as DoD. Consolidating space operations under protective wing of the DoD with the added protection of ‘national security’ is the only real chance of saving any of these long term space projects in this era. NASA’s reason to exist is increasingly difficult to rationalize. It’s a relic of the 1960s and Cold war thinking. Mark it ‘Mission accomplished, well done.’ The Cold War ended 20 years ago.

  • DCSCA

    NASA can’t even launch a shuttle on time in 2010 and they’ve had thirty years to try to get it right. Hydrogen leaks and cracks in ETs at this point only demostrates that a high degree of incompetence at NASA still exists. The civilian space agency as presently structured is an antique from the Cold War. Even the Berlin Wall was eventualy broken up and sold off in pieces. It’s time to put this turkey out of its misery and start thinking about how to save any semblence of a long term space program beyond NASA. It’s simply has outlived its purpose.

  • “government joyrides”

    Definition Joyride: joyride – a ride taken for pleasure in a car, esp in a stolen car driven recklessly

    Stolen…kind of sounds to me like “NewSpace”.

    From: spaceflight.nasa.gov/spacenews/factsheets/pdfs/living_in_space.pdf

    Space Shuttle and Space Station crews put in a lot of overtime
    when they are in space. The average workday for an astronaut
    in space is 16 hours, and they are on call 24 hours a day.

    The Space Shuttle crew’s activities include conducting
    experiments, assembling the Space Station and maintaining the
    Shuttle while in space. The Space Shuttle crews also conduct
    missions that involve the release, capture or repair of satellites.
    The Space Shuttle’s average flight time is two and a half weeks,
    a short time in comparison to the six to nine months Expedition
    crews spend on the Space Station.

    The Space Station crew’s main purpose is to conduct research,
    take part in medical experiments and maintain the Space
    Station. Each Expedition crew has its hands full with new and
    continuing experiments in two labs: the U.S. Destiny
    Laboratory Module and the Zvezda Service Module. Two other
    experiment modules will be added: the Japanese Experiment
    Model and the European Columbus Laboratory Module. Each
    lab module houses several experiments researching
    bioastronautics, spaceflight, physical and earth sciences, space
    biology, and space product development.

    Astronauts also conduct ongoing experiments on themselves.
    Monitoring the stresses of extended microgravity and its effects,
    the Space Station crews will help predict and prevent any
    adverse, long-term effects that would harm future crews on
    deep space missions to Mars and beyond.

  • Bennett

    Nelson Bridwell wrote @ November 19th, 2010 at 5:45 pm

    Nothing you pen is a valid (or comprehensible) reason why you resent the (relatively minuscule) tax dollars spent to help develop lower priced HSF (than Soyuz) commercial transport to LEO for our NASA astronauts, when those dollars will be recouped not only in per flight savings, but in jobs for American SpaceTech workers instead of Russian SpaceTech workers.

    Do you need a graph or a really slow moving video to get the reality that having ULA or SpaceX deliver our astronauts to the ISS is a better deal for everyone?

    Why are you being so obtuse about this?

  • Major Tom

    “I can see the scientific and technical value of spending millions to put Steven Bowen into oribt.”

    Not to knock this particular astronaut, but what “scientific value” are you talking about? Per the bio you linked to, Bowen has performed no research on “oribt [sic]“.

    “I cannot, however, see the ROI of investing billions of our tax money in order to put a few clowns in orbit.”

    That “clown” has actually performed scientific research on orbit. Unlike Bowen, Tito conducted experiments during his flight.

    “So why, if they are so wealthy, should NON-ultra-high-networth individuals be paying extra taxes in order to subsidize their vacations?”

    We’re not. We’re paying for a capability and service (human ETO transport) that NASA needs to get off Soyuz. The service just happens to utilize vehicles that will also be available to other customers. Just because the military sometimes transports soldiers on commercial airlines doesn’t mean that our taxes are subsidizing millionaires flying first class.

    In fact, we taxpayers will be paying many billions of dollars less for this capability and service via commercial launch vehicles and capsules than we would have via the government-owned and -operated alternative (Ares I/Orion). The millionaires are subsidizing the government (including Musk’s stake, SpaceX has raised nearly $200 million in private financing), not the other way around.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Nelson Bridwell wrote @ November 19th, 2010 at 5:45 pm

    I can see the scientific and technical value of spending millions to put Steven Bowen into oribt……………

    really? What value did we get for the hundreds of millions Steve’s ride cost?

    Robert G. Oler

  • Nelson,
    Your arguments are amusing. By this time next year, NASA will have no way to send crews to a $100B space station other than a single-string foreign supplier. At best, in a world where all the money from commercial crew was given to SLS/MPCV, NASA might have the capability back 7 years from now, and only three years from when that $100B asset is planned to be retired. Between now and then we are literally a single Soyuz failure from losing the capability of using the ISS, possibly permanently (if the downtime is long enough). Commercial crew is the only realistic way of filling that gap and providing some redundancy.

    NASA wants at least redundancy of access to their station, if possible a way to keep the Russians honest, and at best a commercial system that has enough non-NASA demand to reduce their costs. But somehow, in your weird world, paying to help develop service they desperately need to send their own astronauts to their own station, at a cost far less than they could do internally, and on a much faster time schedule is somehow a subsidy to the super rich?

    Your taxpayer dollars will be spent developing a capability that NASA needs for its own astronauts. Those wealthy tourists you despise so much will be paying their own way, and thus making it cheaper for NASA to fly its own astronauts, and provide you with your edutainment.

    ~Jon

  • DCSCA

    @Byeman wrote @ November 19th, 2010 at 11:53 pm

    Which is not a coherent response presenting a position for justifying it remain in existence as an independent agency as was labelling it a ‘sacred cow.’ You present an emotional response, not a rational approach.

    Per Joan Johnson-Freese’s op-ed, from another thread,” Compared with other areas of government funding, including health care, roads, education, defense and social welfare programs, where would you prioritize human space exploration? Unfortunately enthusiasm wanes in such a prioritization. Americans like and want a human space exploration program, they just see it as more expendable than other government programs.”

    Present an argument for keeping NASA an independent agency when the government has to borrow 40 cents of every dollar it spends. Present an argument that maintains duplications of personnel, facilities, projects and research program along with the cost overruns that go with them.

    It’s tough selling a luxury when the nation wants necessities in the Age of Austerity. So justify the reason to keep the Cold War relic of an agency around in 2010. Explain why DoD, NOAA, FAA cannot do significant elements of R&D what NASA does- or may already be doing in parellel capacities costing taxpayers for duplicate work product. There’s little difference if a payload is lofted via NASA or the military as long as it gets on orbit and beomes operational. Defend why its better for NASA to do it and not the DoD when the DoD has the same facilities deemed ‘vital’ to ‘national security.’ NASA is in deep, deep trouble. Justify it to the people of the United States beyond that goofy list on another thread worked up by the IG. Defend it. Because as noted in Ms. Johnson-Freese’s op-ed, the current generation of Americans have it marked as an expendible luxury in the Age of Austerity.

  • Justin Kugler

    I couldn’t have said it better, Jon.

  • Martijn Meijering

    Stolen…kind of sounds to me like “NewSpace”.

    In what way does “NewSpace” remind you of stealing???

  • NASA Fan

    There is no need for HSF at NASA anymore. End it. Shift the Robotic Space Science to the NSF; earth science to NOAA. Expand those agencies missions appropriately to absorb these pieces of NASA. Shift the Aero work to FAA.

    Let Commercial Space have at it. If easy access for the masses is ever going to happen, it will be commercial space that does it, not government space.

  • Robert G. Oler

    DCSCA wrote @ November 20th, 2010 at 1:13 am

    Present an argument for keeping NASA an independent agency when the government has to borrow 40 cents of every dollar it spends….

    you have in my view just stated the major irony for those who oppose Obama’s rethink of NASA’s mission…

    In the end human exploration of space is a luxury in a time when the government has to borrow 40 cents of every dollar it spends, no matter what percent of that dollar NASA takes…because the return on what is done is so bad….particularly compared with the cost per dollar of uncrewed vehicles and their bang for the buck.

    The R&D aspects of a NASA which creates technology rather then consumes it, which multiplies the “pennies” spent rather then negates them…that is a NASA which can justify its funding as money grows tight.

    In the end what we are going to see is serious cost cutting and more taxes. It cannot be done otherwise.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Byeman

    “Shift the Robotic Space Science to the NSF; earth science to NOAA.”

    Nonsense. Neither have any experience in space system engineering and operations. Splitting them up is not feasible. JPL also does earth and space science, just as GSFC does planetary missions. Neither procures launch vehicles.

  • Allen Thomson

    Major Tom noted, “Moreover, DOD already has multiple military space R&D agencies (USAF, NRO, DARPA, etc.). It doesn’t need or want and won’t accept another.”

    And, it should be further noted, DOD space programs haven’t uniformly been exemplars of success and efficiency. See the quote from Senator Bond upthread that characterizes the current spysat program as an “unaffordable plan.”

  • GuessWho

    I have to agree with NASA Fan – There is no need for HSF at NASA. Jon Goff makes a reasoned and passionate argument for Commercial Space as an alternative mode of NASA sending astronauts to the ISS. But that argument is based on the false premise that their is value in doing so. To date their has been nearly non-existent scientific value from the ISS, there has been no economic value (other than in the actual construction of the ISS), and their is no military strategic value. The posters here continue to argue whether the USG should fund USG organizations or commercial organizations to perform a task/service that returns nothing on the US taxpayer’s investment. The real argument is what value is there in doing so. And from my POV, BEO doesn’t cut it.

    ISS funding (by the USG) should be terminated. If our international partners choose to continue flying/supporting/paying for the ISS, let them. Write the ISS development funds off as a bad investment and move on. If there is truly a commercial market for sending people to the ISS or other LEO destinations, let private capital sources of money invest and take that risk.

  • Byeman

    “Explain why DoD, NOAA, FAA cannot do significant elements of R&D what NASA does-”

    NOAA does not design, construct nor launch spacecraft nor do they never oversee contractors that do. They don’t have the people with the experience to do such. FAA does not do basic aero research, they are a regulatory agency which also applied to spaceflight. The DOD does not care about planetary or space science.

    Show me which of this missions would be of interest to the DOD, NOAA or FAA?

    Cassini
    Chandra
    CHIPS
    Dawn
    Deep Impact
    FAST
    GALEX
    GEMS
    Geotail
    GLORY
    GRACE
    GRAIL
    HETE-2
    Hubble Space Telescope (HST)
    IBEX
    IMAGE
    IRIS
    Juno
    JWST
    LADEE
    LRO
    Mars Exploration
    Mars Odyssey
    MRO
    Mars Science Laboratory
    MAVEN
    MESSENGER
    Magnetospheric Multiscale mission
    New Horizons Pluto-
    NuSTAR
    RBSP
    SDO
    Spitzer Space Telescope
    STEREO
    Swift
    TERRIERS
    THEMIS
    WISE
    WMAP

  • vulture4

    “We all know the shuttle has to be replaced. Can you imagine the chaos if their was another loss of an orbiter?”

    This is simply not true. The reliability of any launch vehicle depends primarily on the amount of experience we have with it. The most dangerous Shuttle flight was STS-1, the safest will always be the next. The problems that caused the loss of Challenger and Columbia have been corrected. If the Shuttle is unsafe than STS-133 must, and would, be canceled. The CAIB report said the Shuttle could fly safely until a replacement was operational, and said that any replacement should be designed solely for access to LEO.

    Chaos has resulted because Bush ordered the Shuttle scrapped five years before any replacement would be ready. Bush ordered the ISS scrapped as well, though this has been revered. Under his plan we would have had no human spaceflight as well. Unfortunately so much of the shuttle supply chain was scrapped and tooling destroyed that it cannot now be extended. But is was an incredibly bad decision.

    As for competence, FAA, NOAA and DOD have all be slammed for budget debacles; there’s nothing special about NASA.

    As to the HLV, the Utah delegation are clearly putting wasteful pork ahead of progress. NASA does not currently need an HLV, but it might be a useful program to jump-start a bigger booster that could be needed for the next generation of commercial satellites. But using SRBs is absurd; their processing costs and hazards are far higher than lox-kerosene boosters. If the Shuttle is canceled, the SRB should be abandoned.

  • Rob H

    “delegation members say the Utah experts they consulted say the legislation’s requirements for the heavy-lift rocket can only be realistically met by using solid rocket motors.”

    Really? Did these experts not look further back than 1981 for inspiration? The Saturn V, the rocket that took us to the moon, was all liquid.

  • Robert G. Oler

    vulture4 wrote @ November 20th, 2010 at 10:41 am

    “This is simply not true. The reliability of any launch vehicle depends primarily on the amount of experience we have with it”

    that is simply not accurate.

    It is one of those simplistic statements that sounds great but has no rigor to it. And from your post it is clear that you are confusing “reliability” with “safety”. those are two different metrics. Being reliable is not being safe, and being safe does not imply reliability.

    I’ll address safety, because from the rest of your post, thats what I think you are banging on.

    The safety of any vehicle or more correctly process depends on the structure in which the vehicle or process is operated and how well that structure is understood.

    A Segeway is pretty “safe” as long as it is operated within its design limitations and the stated methods of operation. Drive it off a cliff or a high piece of ground, and I dont care if you invented the darn thing, it will kill you.

    What caused the loss of Challenger and Columbia was not a mechanical defect.

    What caused the loss of both Challenger and Columbia was flying the vehicle with a known mechanical defect, in conditions where the defect got worse and in the case of Columbia ignoring a known problem…what caused the loss of both vehicles was faulty management and management decisions.

    There is no hint that this has been fixed. Indeed the entire excersize of the cracks on the intertank region of the ET seem to indicate that sloppy and inept management continues. See if this sounds familiar.

    A known defect that is out of design specs is and has been for sometime, if one reads the current stories been accepted. Cracks in the intertank region of the ET apparently are common and are at the factory and the VAB routinely fixed with a doubler system. Instead of redesigning the system so that the cracks do not occur under any set of circumstances…they are flying with cracks that they are routinely “doubling”.

    Now on this tank they found some under conditions which they have never found them before. The answer is to fix them, then cover them with foam…with no assurance that the doublers themselves are not cracking under load…and no way to find that out after they apply the foam….

    and here is the kool thing about that…its applying more foam under conditions which that much foam has never been applied before…and I assume hoping the foam doesnt come off.

    The most dangerous flight for the shuttle system was not STS1.

    That was the flight with the most potential for unknowns and that was the flight that gathered the most hard engineering data.

    The most dangerous flight for NASA is the next shuttle flight whatever that is. Any management that accepts flying with cracks in Aluminum that they feel the need to “double” but which they have never tested the doublers to see how they ultimately perform…is inept.

    Robert G. Oler

  • E.P. Grondine

    “Maybe someone should write an essay about the history of the settlement of Utah, in which people moved beyond government control for religious freedom, and relate it to space. And then get it printed some place like the Salt Lake City Tribune, or Deseret News.

    Hmmmmm…”

    uhh, Rand, while someone may try to write that, that is not quite accurate:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Smith,_Jr

    It appears that Joseph Smith had several “personal failings” as my Mormon acquaintances put it. There were financial irregularities in Ohio, and the Mormons were burned out by their neighbors in Nauvoo, Illinois, for suppressing freedom of speech.

    Aside from its factual errors, the analogy you mention, while held by some, does not hold either. Horses were about as plentiful as cars today, and that was all the transportation needed. It was affordable by an individual, while a launcher is not. Even Musk needed investors.

    More importantly, the Mormons arrived in a region where Native Americans
    had been living for millenia, not a cold, radiation soaked chunk of rock where the atmosphere is close to a vacuum.

  • while someone may try to write that, that is not quite accurate

    You wrote nothing to indicate that what I wrote was “inaccurate.”

  • E.P. Grondine

    “The DOD does not care about planetary or space science.”

    Byeman, while broadly correct, that is not entirely true. I would list some examples for you, but you aren’t really interested in hearing them.

    Now back to my earlier post, which was removed because someone didn’t want to hear it:

    Anyone interested in ATK’s clout may examine the careers of those involved in this research:

    http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg13117854.400
    http://www.space-travel.com/reports/Rocket_Launches_May_Need_Regulation_To_Prevent_Ozone_Depletion_999.html

    Or look at what happened to TOMS.
    (notice TOMS is not on your list, byeman)

  • DCSCA

    @Byeman wrote @ November 20th, 2010 at 10:29 am

    Very nice. But none of those existing projects are necessities.

    Any of these agencies can acquite ‘experienced’ people transferred from assets of a disbanded NASA for research deemed worth saving. But your list is chiefly existing programs begun before the Age of Austerity. Not much of an argument. Of course DoD could make the pitch using ‘national security’ as a lifeline if NASA was safely tucked under the DoD wing as a division but it’s thin for most of them. And any of the other agencies can operate remaining projects if essential personnel are transferred but in the Age of austerity, none of them truly are.

    You list luxuries, not necessities. Listing programs and current/past projects is not a coherent argument. And past initiatives begun before the Age of Austerity are hardly a justification to maintain NASA as an independent agency. And to struggling, middle-class Americans trying to save their homes, their jobs and get some kind of healthcare coverage, it’s just a list of make work projects for a bunch of eggheads that produces nothing. In other words, you propose expenditures that benefit the few, not the many in the Age of Austerity. Won’t wash. Any research worth saving can be transferred to other agencies or a consortium of universities, etc., if affordable for managment– or simply terminated when the money runs out. Now that the United States government is borrowing 40 cents of every dollar it spends, justify why ANY new space initiatives are even necessary from NASA. Other nations have space programs. Let them carry the costs.

    It’s a hard sell to a nation that’s going broke, isn’t it.

  • E.P. Grondine

    Hi Rand –

    The premise that the Mormons moved beyond government control for religious reasons is false.

    They had been living in states in government control. It was not government harassment that led to their moves. In Ohio, it was “financial irregularities”. In Illinois, they burned down a local paper, and the local citizens then acted in response.

    Moving on with the analogy, there are two misconceptions promoted by manned Mars flight enthusiasts. One is that the transportation is cheap.

    This is not so for space transportation, where the transportation systems have always been costly enough to require government funding. That’s why manned Mars flight enthusiast Werhner von Braun decided to work for the Nazi’s.

    The other misconception is that Mars is like the Earth.

    It’s not. There were already people living in the areas that the colonists stole from them. My grandmother’s people among them.

    The possibility of a privately financed manned Mars flight ended with the collapse of the Energia storage shed. Even then, while a multi-billionaire could have done a Mars orbital flight, Mars landing would have been out of reach, unless it were one way, with death inevitable.

    Having studied the impact hazard in depth, manned Mars flight is not exactly high on my space priority list.

  • DCSCA

    @Robert G. Oler wrote @ November 20th, 2010 at 9:44 am

    “The R&D aspects of a NASA which creates technology rather then consumes it, which multiplies the “pennies” spent rather then negates them…that is a NASA which can justify its funding as money grows tight.”

    That’s vague and thin. NASA’s been trying to pitch the ‘spinoff’ bit since the early 1970′s. They still can’t shake the perception that they invented ‘Tang’ or ‘velcro’ with the American public. And, of course, in the private sector in the U.S., , the first areas cutback in economic downturns is R&D. No, won’t wash. Trying to pitch an independent NASA as a government funded R&D organization, with or without a HSF component, when R&D facilities exist in varying degrees of size and interests in the private sector is not a justification for spending 40 cents of every dollar borrowed on ‘government space research.’ Tucked under the DoD wing with the ribbon of ‘national security’ wrapped around it might give it a chance of survival, but there’s really no longer a coherent justification for keeping NASA around as an independent government agency. The ‘IG’s’ desperate list spoke volumes. It’s a Cold War relic. The Berlin Wall was broken up and its pieces sold off to interested parties. So too can NASA.

  • DCSCA

    @Allen Thomson wrote @ November 20th, 2010 at 10:24 am
    Major Tom noted, “Moreover, DOD already has multiple military space R&D agencies (USAF, NRO, DARPA, etc.). It doesn’t need or want and won’t accept another.”

    All the more reason for consolidation of space operations. And what the military says it ‘needs’ or ‘wants’ is not really the issue. If/when the civilian authority instructs it to do something, beit purchase Ospreys or absorb assets from a disbanded NASA and consolidate space operations to save money in the Age of Austerity, they’re supposed to salute and follow orders.

  • DCSCA

    NASA has been flying shuttles for three decades. Hydrogen leaks and cracks in ET hardware surfacing days or hours before launches scheduled months earlier are unacceptable and indicate sloppy managment. At this point in flight operations, nearly thirty years after STS-1, these kind of ‘problems’ should have been put to bed years ago. The quicker this program is shuttered now, the better. It’s simply wasting money now and putting lives at risk.

    It’s Bolden’s administrative responsibility to be on top of this and make some hard decisions. As usual, he’s not up to the task.

  • E.P. Grondine

    DCSCA wrote:

    “the Age of Austerity”

    Gee, DC, an “Age of Austerity”? The billionaires have more money than ever.

    IMHO, there is nothing conservative in paying for a war with tax cuts for billionaires.

    NASA does have a key role which can not be preformed by other agencies, though few realize it yet.

    It’s dealing with the impact hazard.

    While some have suggested the Air Force handle this, that is not really their task, which I don’t think they should be diverted from.

  • DCSCA

    @GuessWho wrote @ November 20th, 2010 at 10:25 am
    “I have to agree with NASA Fan – There is no need for HSF at NASA.”

    There’s no ‘need’ for NASA in the Age of Austerity, period. Unless you buy into that pathetic IG list on another thread.

  • DCSCA

    @E.P. Grondine wrote @ November 20th, 2010 at 3:55 pm

    “NASA does have a key role which can not be preformed by other agencies, though few realize it yet. It’s dealing with the impact hazard.”

    That’s a weak rationalization for a program a government, which borrows 40 cents of every dollar spends, to fund. It really hasnt presented a major problem for 65 million years to planet Earth nor over the past 50 years to the United States, which pays for NASA. Funding global threats lays with the UN or related global organizations, or with individual nations themselves. Other nations fund space agencies which can handle this kind of luxurious research… or, as it presents a ‘national security’ concern, let the DoD fund it. NASA? Not so much. But it certainly makes for better bullet point on the IG’s list than ‘Human Capital.’

    As for the Air Force, they’re supposed to do as their told by civilian authority. Before NASA existed, missile R&D was couched in the military- chiefly the Army (Von Braun’s province at the time) and the Navy. The Air Force was conducting high altitude research as well including the famed X-series and proposals for militarization of space and war plans in same were on the drawing boards at the time. Transferring relevent assets from a dissolved NASA to DoD and the appropriate service is a natural fit with some adaptations made.

    And yes, billionaires have a lot of ‘money’… but more to the point, they control a lot of assets… but is the reserve currency they’re using going to be worth anything in years to come… time will tell where the ‘buck’ stops on that.

  • DCSCA

    @E.P. Grondine wrote @ November 20th, 2010 at 3:55

    Oh yes, and don’t forget the Air Force clung to the MOL program, which wasn’t a cheap operation, until it was cancelled when funding got tight and satellites could do the job cheaper. Civilian space activities at that time were still getting preference. Not so much anymore. .

  • William Mellberg

    Major Tom wrote:

    “For better or worse, this is how new transportation systems begin and grow. The steam locomotive, the automobile, and the airline were all originally the preserve of wealthy. But their tickets and purchases allowed investments to be made in new technologies that brought costs down and capabilities up to the point that larger and larger segments of the population could afford a trip.”

    Major Tom, the fallacy of this argument lies in the fact that railways and airlines were able to bring down their costs because they were serving MASS markets. With the rapid settlement of the West, a transportation system was NEEDED to bring supplies to those regions and to take products out (food, cattle, etc.). The mass movement of goods is what brought down the ticket price for people traveling on trains. Moreover, the railways kept the fares low to attract more settlers to the land on either side of the tracks (which the railways owned). The more settlers, the more commerce. Railways are still in the business of mass movement of goods because trains are such an economically viable means of doing so.

    Airplanes had to compete with trains and oceanliners in the early days of air travel. They could never carry goods (cargo) for less than those established forms of transportation. But they could carry people for less once they reached the point where size (payload), safety and reliability made air travel profitable. That point was marginally reached with the Douglas DC-3. But it wasn’t until the real arrival of the Jet Age during the 1960s that air travel on a mass scale became economically viable. Speed was a major factor, as were the reductions in seat/mile costs that resulted from the use of turbine engines. The arrival of the Jumbo Jets in the 1970s further reduced the ticket cost by further reducing the seat/mile costs through greatly increased capacity (i.e., more seats and less cost per seat). But the thing to remember is that air travel fulfilled a NEED and a demand. There was a MASS market for air travel just waiting to be tapped when the airplane evolved enough to be safe, reliable and economical. People NEED to get from one place to another, and speed has always been a selling point for transport systems throughout history. But only so far as NEED and demand are served.

    While a few billionaires and many space enthusiasts might WANT to fly into space to enjoy the experience, there is no mass NEED or DEMAND for human spaceflight today. There is no viable market. There may well be one some day in the future. In fact, I’m confident that day will come. But space is a harsh environment, rockets (liquid or solid) are inherently dangerous, and there are no commercial resources (corn, cattle, coal) to be tapped in Low Earth Orbit. The economic case for “commercial” human spaceflight simply doesn’t exist at this time. That situation could be rapidly altered IF government-sponsored trailblazers can make the case for mining resources such as Helium-3 on the Moon for use in fusion power plants here on Earth. “Government-sponsored” includes the Chinese and Indian governments as the demand for new sources of energy in their countries is growing with their economies.

    One other point about air travel in its infancy …

    The wealthy flew because they could write off the expense on their tax returns. They flew because “Time is Money” and flying saved time. So air travel was justifiable from a business (economic) perspective, and most air travelers were businessmen until the advent of the Jumbo Jets. Which is why airliners were so much more comfortable (and the service so much better) back in the 50s and 60s.

    I do wish enterprises such as SpaceX and Bigelow and Virgin Galactic all the best (using their own dimes). But it is difficult to see how the marketplace can support their efforts over the long-term. Commercial space is a vastly different beast from commercial aviation.

    A better comparison would be the deep ocean. How many people are going down to visit the Titanic? And how many industries are working miles below the surface? (BP had a recent problem in that environment, as you’ll recall.) Yet, given the need for energy, there is a far greater demand for commercial access to the deep sea than there is to low Earth orbit.

    Economics is about resources and services. Resources made the railways viable (despite the tremendous infrastructure costs), and services made the airlines viable. But I see the market for resources and services in low Earth orbit as neglible at best. At least businesspersons could write off the cost of their tickets aboard Concorde because Concorde took them from Point A to Point B. Space tourism is another matter.

    About 30 years ago, I was helping to sell a regional jet that was about 25 years ahead of its time (the VFW 614). We sold a handful of aircraft, and the program was finally terminated after the company had lost millions of dollars in design and development. Most of the aircraft that had entered service were bought back so that the company wouldn’t have to support them (which would have been very costly). The VFW 614 was a good idea. But its time hadn’t come yet. The marketplace (regional air carriers) couldn’t afford to fly the plane because the demand wasn’t great enough at that time to justify the cost.

    Likewise, I think “commercial” space is a great idea. But some aspects of it are simply too far ahead of their time … and too far ahead of the marketplace. And given the limited funds available to NASA, I’d rather see that money spent on space exploration rather than falsely propping up space tourism which will be affordable only to the Ultra Rich (who’ll have a little less money to spend on perks such as multi-million dollar space flights if President Obama and his supporters in Congress get their way on tax hikes).

    William Mellberg

  • GuessWho

    DCSCA – “There’s no ‘need’ for NASA in the Age of Austerity, period. Unless you buy into that pathetic IG list on another thread.”

    I am willing to support the robotic science missions of NASA. I do not expect nor require a direct economic or strategic gain these types of missions. A gain in knowledge about our solar system, galaxy, universe is sufficient return for the relatively minor investment involved. That doesn’t excuse poor management as evidenced by the MSL and James Webb projects. But I do support the Explorer, Discovery, Scout, and New Frontiers programs. Their general success is, I believe, a function of the competitive selection process and a consistent approach within the space science community to define scientific goals via the related decadal studies. HSF missions are not competed (not to say the technology isn’t) nor is there a rigorous process involved for choosing HSF missions based on a set of agreed upon or prioritized goals across the US HSF community. In this respect, neither Cx nor Commercial Manned Space have succeeded. Both are NASA mandated missions. Even in the robotic arena, mandated missions tend to be budget busters (MSL, Webb telescope). Yes, necessary mission budgets are going to be different between robotic and manned missions, but the process for selecting and executing those missions should be similar. The onus on HSF is to return a value to the taxpayer for missions that are far more expensive to execute. Large investments dictate large returns. HSF has not delivered.

  • DCSCA

    @GuessWho wrote @ November 20th, 2010 at 5:08 pm
    “I am willing to support the robotic science missions of NASA. I do not expect nor require a direct economic or strategic gain these types of missions.”

    That’s fine, however you’re proposing spending other people’s money on something that satisfies a personal want. Majority rules in a democracy and borrowing 40 cents of every dollar the government spends demands some serious considerations as to how those dwindling and costly resources are allocated. Are you prepared to pay significantly higher taxes to satisfy your desires? The GOP wants to cut taxes and add $700 billion to the deficit yet refuses to fund unemployment extentions to desperate Americans as the holidays approach. And you propose funding esoteric space probes. Why do you feel the kind of space projects you embrace must be funded by the taxpayers of the United States? Other nations have space agencies which can carry the burden of funding these kind of space projects which, for all intents and purposes, satisfy the few, not the many. It’s a hard sell telling granny her Social Security and Medicare must take deep cuts but funding for space probes, which employ and satisfy the curiosity of an elite few, will remain flush.

    These are hard times which demand hard choices be made.

    Unfortunately for space advocates from all points of the compass, exploring the cosmos is far down the list of priorities these days for Americans. It’s time for space advocates to start calibrating their dreams to match the resources on hand. Which means shelving cislunar space concepts, manned moon/Mars projects, expensive space telescopes and other projects destined for cost overruns for the next few dacades– at least those from the U.S. The United States government simply cannot afford it when it is borrowing 40 cents of every dollar it spends to operate.

  • DCSCA

    @William Mellberg wrote @ November 20th, 2010 at 5:06 pm

    Watch Branson. He’s on the right track and has calibrated the incremental expectations of his ‘business plan’ to meet a market he believes he knows. That’s most likely where ‘commercial’ HSF will finally take root.

  • William Mellberg

    DCSCA wrote:

    “These are hard times which demand hard choices be made. Unfortunately for space advocates from all points of the compass, exploring the cosmos is far down the list of priorities these days for Americans.”

    That really is the bottomline, isn’t it? Indeed, it’s why Congress never embraced Wernher von Braun’s grand, integrated space plan 40 years ago. The national will (i.e., the political support and tax dollars) simply weren’t there. Nor is the private sector willing to underwrite costly projects with uncertain (or unlikely) returns on investment.

    The American pioneer spirit might be gone, as well. People are no longer quite as curious to learn what’s over the next hill or around the next bend. They’d rather be watching NFL football or Jerry Springer.

    In any case, you make a good point … in particular, your comment about this reality impacting space advocates from all points of the compass.

  • E.P. Grondine

    Hi DCSCA –

    EP:
    “NASA does have a key role which can not be preformed by other agencies, though few realize it yet. It’s dealing with the impact hazard.”

    DC:
    “That’s a weak rationalization for a program a government, which borrows 40 cents of every dollar spends, to fund. It really hasnt presented a major problem for 65 million years to planet Earth”

    Unfortunately, yes it has. About once every million years or so during the last 6 million years mankind nearly went extinct due to impact. To get a handle on that, imagine the value of the entire future of mankind discounted to a present value.

    “nor over the past 50 years to the United States,”

    Once again unfortunately, impacts nearly triggered accidental WMD exchanges several times, and they affected the use of reconnaissance systems several times during their development, resulting in several tens of millions of dollars in expenditures.

    “Funding global threats lays with the UN or related global organizations, or with individual nations themselves.”

    We definitely have a free rider problem, but the hazard appears large enough to justify a go it alone approach if need be.

    “Other nations fund space agencies which can handle this kind of luxurious research… or, as it presents a ‘national security’ concern, let the DoD fund it.”

    While impact is a national security concern, and affects defense operations, it is not a defense concern, in the sense of involving another nation or terrorist group, per se.

  • red

    “It’s chief raison d’etre in the eyes of the taxpayer, human spaceflight, is ending when the shuttle program is terminated.”

    No, the ISS is still there, and so are human research, exploration technology, robotic precursors to scout for HSF like LRO/LCROSS, and new development for commercial crew, SLS, and MPCV.

    Also, I’m not convinced that the taxpayer thinks modern NASA is chiefly about HSF. I hear more about Mars rovers and Hubble from “non-space” people.

    “There is no immediate spacecraft in the pipeline to come on line”

    If you mean a spacecraft for astronauts, yes, it’s unseemly that Constellation put us in that situation, but there have been other such gaps. The COTS cargo approach looks like a good, affordable way to solve NASA’s crew spacecraft problem.

    “and no definitive goal/direction at all.”

    I see a goal and direction, even though it’s being thwarted to some extent by SLS and MPCV.

    “The agency is teed up to be dissolved in its current existence. It’s just not needed any longer.”

    I don’t see a need to dissolve NASA, even if we suppose we’re heading for a time of difficult budgets and a taxpayer demand for practical benefits. We just need to focus NASA a bit more. If you look at NASA part by part:

    Aeronautics – this is all about practical benefits to the taxpayer (commercial aviation, military applications, etc)

    Earth observations – again, this is all about practical benefits to the taxpayer (monitoring the environment, managing natural resources, detecting natural disasters, developing technology and maintaining industrial base for NRO/DoD/NOAA satellites, etc)

    Heliophysics – the story is similar here (e.g.: understanding space weather and its effects on power and satellite infrastructure)

    Planetary Science and robotic precursors – much of this can be justified in the same way as Earth observations and Heliophysics (e.g.: understanding our Earth by comparing to other planets, satellite industrial base, developing robotic technologies that can be used by DoD, etc). We can also justify sending missions to HSF destinations if they’re scouting for resources of potential economic value, etc, even if the payoff isn’t immediate. We just need to manage it better (i.e. nip budget disasters like MSL in the bud) and focus it more on the benefits I’ve described (i.e. perhaps less focus on gas giants, etc).

    Astrophysics – again, nip the JWST problems in the bud, give more focus to practical uses (e.g.: demonstrating technology with other applications while doing astrophysics), but no need to discard the whole thing

    ISS – I don’t see a problem with ISS in the current national situation. I wouldn’t start ISS in this situation, but it’s there now, we have international partners, and it’s not so expensive to maintain. We can accomplish quite a bit with it now. Also, with ISS, commercial cargo, commercial crew, and the remaining Shuttle flights are also justified.

    general space technology – This area by definition applies space technology to multiple areas (for example, commercial space needs, NASA science needs, NASA HSF needs, other agency needs). We can rely on it to give practical benefits to multiple areas.

    Exploration technology (+ human research) – Maybe in the current national situation we can’t justify immediately sending astronauts to Mars or anything wild like that, but we can justify an ambitious exploration technology program as long as it’s done in a way that provides useful results (in addition to technology for exploration). For example, the original flagship exploration technology demonstration mission proposals included FTD1 (SEP mission) which demonstrated DARPA space technology, FTD2 which demonstrated depot technology that would be useful for a variety of commercial and government reasons, and FTD3 (inflatable hab and ECLSS) which would be useful for commercial space (commercial station) and environment (ECLSS) reasons. These also demonstrated a space tug that could have many non-exploration uses.

    Now when we start talking about Ares I, Ares V, Orion, SLS, MPCV … I really can’t think of a justification for any of those in the budgetary situation facing us. Those are too expensive to develop and operate (including SLS and MPCV if we assume they are done as the Utah crew seem to want), and I don’t see what the benefit is to the taxpayer. However, even if NASA loses MPCV and Hatch-style SLS, I don’t see NASA as becoming irrelevant … actually quite the opposite.

    Even in our tough budget environment, I could see NASA exploration happening with astronauts eventually using international and commercial participation, ISS and robotic precursor knowledge, and more affordable technology. If NASA doesn’t evolve to meet the budget challenges … then I suppose that won’t happen.

    In addition to the more affordable exploration approaches I just mentioned, I think HSF exploration advocates need look for more affordable and achievable goals in the first place. Getting to the lunar or Martian surface or to NEOs seems way too expensive at this time. If I took any exploration step, I’d concentrate on reaching E-M Lagrange points, GEO, and lunar orbit with astronauts, and make the most out of those destinations (satellite servicing, BEO mini space station, future exploration assembly node, lunar observations, etc). I’d only try even those destinations once the affordable building blocks are there (i.e. commercial cargo and crew, exploration technology successes, international partnerships, etc).

  • Vladislaw

    William Mellberg wrote:

    “The American pioneer spirit might be gone, as well. People are no longer quite as curious to learn what’s over the next hill or around the next bend. “

    When that pioneering american learned what was over the next hill, if they liked it they could settle it and own all the resources. Same with the bend in the river, if they liked it, the land and resources could be aquired and exploited. Until space pioneers can actually own the resources they are exploring and than exploit them, it is pointless to keep using that anology when they are apples and oranges.

  • Rhyolite

    William Mellberg wrote @ November 20th, 2010 at 9:06 pm

    “The American pioneer spirit might be gone, as well. People are no longer quite as curious to learn what’s over the next hill or around the next bend.”

    That’s a completely silly and unsupportable statment.

    What percentage of Noble prizes in physics, chemistry and medicine are won my Americans? What percentage of patents globally are filed by Americans? What percentage of researchers on Antarctica are American? What percentage of exploration missions operating BEO today are American? You will find that America leads or is near the top in all of these categories.

    The physical frontier may be gone hear on Earth but Americans have channeled their pioneering spirit into science and invention where we are leaders in the world.

  • GuessWho

    DCSCA – “That’s fine, however you’re proposing spending other people’s money on something that satisfies a personal want.”

    It is not a personal want, reread my post. I stated that I was willing to accept that expenditure of my tax dollars even though it does not return a economic or strategic benefit. There are some endeavors that just have intrinsic value.

    “Majority rules in a democracy and borrowing 40 cents of every dollar the government spends demands some serious considerations as to how those dwindling and costly resources are allocated.”

    Fortunately the US is not governed by mob rule (i.e., democracy) although we are fast approaching that state. The US is now at a point where greater than 50% of its citizens pay no income taxes yet have the power, through their vote and in concert with an Administration that is all to willing to feed the class warfare troll, to force the minority to pay for their every need. Witness Obamacare.

    “Are you prepared to pay significantly higher taxes to satisfy your desires? The GOP wants to cut taxes and add $700 billion to the deficit yet refuses to fund unemployment extentions to desperate Americans as the holidays approach.”

    This is getting way off topic for this site although I would love to debate this topic further. Your statement above is rich in potential for discussion on the benefits of allowing people to retain more of what they earn to increase the overall wealth of the nation. But I will add this comment relative to unemployment; as one of the minority paying the majority of the taxes, I think 99 weeks of unemployment benefits is a perfect example of how far down the welfare state path this nation has traveled. Perhaps if that money had been left in the hands of the small business owners (the “rich people”), many of those unemployed would be working today.

  • GuessWho

    DCSCA – As a follow-up to my previous post, if you haven’t already, I suggest you read “Atlas Shrugged”. The similarities between Ayn Rand’s fictional world and our current predicament are scary.

  • Coastal Ron

    William Mellberg wrote @ November 20th, 2010 at 5:06 pm

    Major Tom, the fallacy of this argument lies in the fact that railways and airlines were able to bring down their costs because they were serving MASS markets.

    And railways and airlines started with customer #1. You have to start somewhere, and we are at the very beginning of this market, so comparing space travel to a mature railway & airline industry is pretty silly. Besides, the time vs energy equation (i.e. overall cost) is different for getting to/from space than it is for terrestrial transportation.

    The mass movement of goods is what brought down the ticket price for people traveling on trains.

    Increasing volume is good for any market, regardless if it’s “mass” or not. You seem to have this weird standard that space travel has to meet, in that it has to be high-volume in order to be successful. It doesn’t. Which brings us to:

    While a few billionaires and many space enthusiasts might WANT to fly into space to enjoy the experience, there is no mass NEED or DEMAND for human spaceflight today. There is no viable market.

    Don’t drink the “tourism” kool aid. There is a known market for crew to LEO, and that is the ISS. The demand for service opens up for new entrants in 2016, and runs until at least 2020. Who will provide that service? The choice is simple: 1. Buy more rides on Soyuz, or 2. Develop a domestic service.

    If all we wanted to do is create a domestic replacement for Soyuz, then SpaceX could do it for the same amount of money as Soyuz over the 2016-20 time period, and that would even be with paying them $300M to human-rate Dragon. For the American taxpayer, that would be a deal, since the money would be spent in the U.S., and not out of the country.

    But the real question is whether the U.S. wants a commercial crew transportation industry (more than one provider). With one, people could create new businesses that utilize crew transportation, such as Bigelow is planning. Who knows if Bigelow has the right product and pricing to succeed, but he would never have the chance to find out if we did not have a domestic capability.

    But keep the eye on the ball here. NASA is the one that has a need, and the question is whether we create a crew delivery service that can expand to other markets, or that only services NASA. I choose the former.

  • Martijn Meijering

    @William Mellberg:

    It is undeniably true that there is no mass market for orbital tourism, but that is a result of high launch prices. If prices were reduced by an order of magnitude (and that’s believed to be possible), then there would no doubt be a substantial market. The problem is that a large market needs low prices first and low prices require large demand first – a chicken and egg situation.

    Various schemes have been proposed to break the deadlock and the one that seems most promising to me is a government funded exploration program leading to large demand for launch services. It is how HLV proponents want to finance an HLV (albeit directly through the government) and it is how some advocates of commercial manned spaceflight want to finance a true RLV.

    In any event tourism seems like a much more viable market than He3, given that we have seen limited orbital tourism already whereas we don’t even have He3 reactors running on terrestrially produced He3.

  • There are some endeavors that just have intrinsic value.

    No, there aren’t. There is no such thing as intrinsic value.

  • William Mellberg

    Martijn Meijering wrote:

    “It is undeniably true that there is no mass market for orbital tourism, but that is a result of high launch prices. If prices were reduced by an order of magnitude (and that’s believed to be possible), then there would no doubt be a substantial market. The problem is that a large market needs low prices first and low prices require large demand first – a chicken and egg situation … In any event tourism seems like a much more viable market than He3, given that we have seen limited orbital tourism already whereas we don’t even have He3 reactors running on terrestrially produced He3.”

    Martijn, I do not disagree. It seems both orbital tourism and lunar resources (He-3) suffer from that “chicken and egg” (or “Catch-22″) situation. My view on He-3 is that IF government can demonstrate the viability of extracting and transporting He-3 from the lunar regolith — and IF the fusion technology can be developed at this end — the private sector (energy industry) will follow en masse. But I acknowledge the big ‘IFs’ in my argument. At the same time, I also foresee the enormous economic potential of He-3 fusion power if those ‘IFs’ come to pass. The first step is to return to the Moon to assess the real potential of mining He-3.

    I’m also pleased to see that some people are acknowledging the fact that designing and building new spacecraft to serve the International Space Station has a down side — namely, the ISS will be coming down sooner or later. Designing and building MULTIPLE new spacecraft would be very uneconomic given the very limited market. Which is why it would make more sense in my mind to pick the best design (based on some set of NASA requirements) and go with a contract. But, of course, the idea behind commercial spacecraft is to serve some undefined follow-on market … Bigelow stations, perhaps? That could be where orbital tourism comes into play. However, I do not see operational costs (i.e., ticket prices) coming down to any reasonable level when only a handful of passengers can be carried. This was the problem with early airliners. The seat/mile costs were exeedingly high and made it impossible to break-even flying passengers alone (which is where Air Mail came into the equation). Until we have a spacecraft that can carry 50-100 passengers, I don’t see any economies of scale coming into play.

    That said, Sir Richard is making a major contribution by pioneering space tourism. It will be interesting to see what happens with Virgin Galactic. As with airlines, safety will be a very big concern in attracting people — even very wealthy people.

    In any case, you raise some good points, as usual.

  • William Mellberg

    Rand Simberg wrote:

    “There is no such thing as intrinsic value.”

    Mr. Simberg, apparently you weren’t a marketing major.

    There IS such a thing as intrinsic value. It’s an intangible asset, like goodwill. You can’t assign a specific value to it. But it’s there, and people are willing to pay for it.

    Let’s take a restaurant sale, for example. The owner is likely to include ‘goodwill’ in his/her selling price. Tangible assets include the kitchen equipment, the tables and chairs, the cups and saucers. Intangible assets include the ‘goodwill’ of established customers and the ‘reputation’ of the restaurant (i.e., its drawing power). Those are worth something if they’re good, and that “something” is determined by the owner in his/her selling price. The buyer has to determine whether or not those intangible assets are really worth what the seller says they are. But that’s guesswork to some degree (although based on revenues and receipts).

    Likewise, people see an “intrinsic value” in space exploration, even if it does not impact their lives directly. It simply seems like a good idea because of the potential increase in knowledge (i.e., learning about the Cosmos) or the potential economic benefit down the road from spin-offs such as personal computers and Teflon pans.

    In selling regional jets, intrinsic value was a big factor. They are more costly to operate than turboprop aircraft. But our selling point was that pure jets would draw more passengers and grow markets because people look at props as old-fashioned and jets as new and safe. Over time, that proved to be the case — despite the superior economics of turboprop aircraft. Passengers see an intrinsic value in flying pure jets. That’s where psychology enters the equation (and why people buy brand name products at a higher price over generic products at a lower price).

    If there wasn’t such a thing as intrinsic value, you’d be hard-pressed to convince any investors that commercial space has much of a future.

    William Mellberg

  • Martijn Meijering

    @William:

    You may well be right that commercial crew taxis alone will not be enough to lead to self sustaining commercial or even semi-commercial (NASA/ESA to ISS + foreign governments to Bigelow stations) manned spaceflight in LEO. In fact, I think that’s probably the case, but I don’t entirely rule out Bigelow will be able to carry out his plans. I also agree that a moon program may be the key to commercialisation and He3 can be part of it. I don’t think He3 is the most promising application, but every little bit helps. Lunar geology is another promising application. But the moon is not necessarily the only thing that could do the trick, asteroid missions could work too, even if they’re unmanned. And whatever the mission to the moon is, part of that mission should be to reduce the costs of every subsequent mission by reducing both launch prices (RLVs) and IMLEO (ISRU, different propellants, aerobraking, perhaps SEP or nuclear propulsion).

  • DCSCA

    GuessWho wrote @ November 21st, 2010 at 9:45 am
    Perhaps you should reassess my posting. What you are proposing is to fund a ‘luxury’ in an era when ‘necessities’ are at the top of the list. And yes, your proposal are a personal desire, not a national need. Nothing wrong with that as long as they can generate broad support for funding in a democracy.

    Referencing Ayn Rand’s fiction is a bit off the mark, although her views were very much in Greenspan’s thinking which has created the environment in which your proposals seek budgets and funding. But bring it back to basics. The U.S. has to spend 40 cents of every dollar it spends and you propose spending it on esoteric space probes which employ and benefit an elite few, not the many. It bears repeating to you: explain how you can persuade granny that her social security and medicare must accept deep cuts but your space projects remain flush? Because that’s what it is really all coming down to in this era.

    There are far to many areas of ‘necessity’- infrastructure, etc., long neglected, now competing for the costly and dwindling discretionary funds available. and space probes are most decidely a luxury. And whether you like it or not, the proposed tax cut adding $700 billion addition to the deficit while denying unemployment to desperate Americans DOES affect the attitudes and perceptions by voters who must weigh the value of other government programs in their lives– including funding the obvious luxury of a civilian space agency created for the Cold War in the 1960s, in the post-Cold War world of 2010.

    It’s disasterous for space activists to try to isolate space project proposals from the rest of the problems facing the fiscal nightmare facing the U.S. Read through some of the postings by these people and the grandiose thinking and plans, while admirable in intent, are grossly disconnected from the realities of our times. If you want to maintain some kind of midterm-long term space infrastructure in this era, the way to try to save it is to dissolve the civilian space agency, NASA, and move any remaining assets under the protective wing of the DoD as a NASA/DoD division and cloak the projects with some kind of national security moniker. At least they’d have a chance of surviving into the middle of the century. But as it stands now, NASA appears doomed. There’s just no reason to keep it around as an independent civilian agency in this era.If you can pitch one, fine. Hopefully one better than the IG’s list. But in the Age of Austerity, it’s a luxury, not a necessity. Hard times call for hard choices to be made.

  • DCSCA

    ^ the U.S. has to borrow 40 cents of every dollar it spends. Typo.

  • Mr. Simberg, apparently you weren’t a marketing major.

    No, I wasn’t. But I understand economics, and the reality that value is subjective, and cannot be “instrinsic,” because that implies an independent objective one. Goodwill is not “intrinsic value. There is no such thing.

  • DCSCA

    @red wrote @ November 20th, 2010 at 10:59 pm

    ISS is clean up work. They were ready to de-orbit it in the mid-teens for goodness sake and to the vast majority of Americans, its the only turkey they’ve ever seen fly. Nobody knows what the heck they’ve been doing up there for years. For all intents and purposes to most Americans, when shuttle ends, America’s space program ends. Why do you think the ‘gap’ terrifies so many ol’NASA hands.

  • DCSCA

    @William Mellberg wrote @ November 20th, 2010 at 9:06 pm
    DCSCA wrote:“These are hard times which demand hard choices be made. Unfortunately for space advocates from all points of the compass, exploring the cosmos is far down the list of priorities these days for Americans.” That really is the bottomline, isn’t it? Indeed, it’s why Congress never embraced Wernher von Braun’s grand, integrated space plan 40 years ago.”

    Precisely. Even Tom Wolfe noted back in ’86 that NASA’s only real ‘philosopher’ with a vision for space travel was Von Braun. And you can go down the list of administrators after Webb– Paine, etc., who’ve tried but they really never ignited a similar passion or sparked the same kind of vision. Griffin was certainly no Von Braun but he may heve seen himself as one in his mirror. Von Braun also cultivated the ‘market’ for decades with the public and was relentlessly patient and determine on that front– to his credit– and when the stars lined up he was ready to go and had the public support. But then he knew how to do it given his similar experiences in Germany. That all evaporated after 1970. Support and initiative has to come from the WH. That’s been lacking since LBJ left.

    “The national will (i.e., the political support and tax dollars) simply weren’t there. Nor is the private sector willing to underwrite costly projects with uncertain (or unlikely) returns on investment.”

    Exactly. Was reviewing some old video tapes from 1981, 1986 and 1988. STS-1, STS-25 and STS-26 material specificly, and the same lament was being voiced then. A quarte century and more ago. This loss of direction has been going on for so long, it has become generationally embedded. Even the old Apollo hands can’t spark the same kind of interest and when the young see ol’Buzz on TV making a fool of himself, it doesn’t help. It’s probably time to consolidate NASA into the DoD and save whatever space projects that can be salvaged under the wing of the DoD with ‘national security’ as an added shield. Otherwise, don’t see how NASA can survive. Branson is probably on the right course for estsblishing a viable commerical HSF operation for this era.

  • Beancounter from Downunder

    Couple of comments DCSCA.
    Branson although expressing some interest recently in LEO is only currently in the sub-orbital tourism business. No one knows what he intends as yet.
    Bigelow has a business plan and is firmly oriented on HSF in LEO with BEO also in his sights.
    Both SpaceX and Boeing are interested in HSF along with ten I think other commercial entities who have put their hands up for CCDev Rd 2 funding. Commercial is investing in HSF even if NASA is withdrawing, downsizing, call it what you like.

  • Coastal Ron

    William Mellberg wrote @ November 21st, 2010 at 2:56 pm

    My view on He-3 is that IF government can demonstrate the viability of extracting and transporting He-3 from the lunar regolith…

    There is so much wrong with that statement. First of all, the government is not responsible for determining the economic viability of a market – the market is. Secondly, HE3 is one of many potential fuels, but until fusion power plants become a reality, the need for it is theoretical, not chicken-and-egg.

    Designing and building MULTIPLE new spacecraft would be very uneconomic given the very limited market.

    Possibly so, if the you are only satisfying a static market. I’ll come back to this.

    Regarding the ISS demand, the U.S. has already relied on a single source transportation system (the Shuttle), and I think we would all agree that it had it’s downsides. The question for the U.S. now is whether it wants to repeat that mistake with the next crew system – rely on a single source design. So the funding of more than one crew transportation system should be looked at as insurance.

    If NASA does fund two (or more) crew transportation systems for their ISS needs, that should create two byproducts: 1. Excess supply, and 2. a commercial marketplace. With both of those, non-ISS customers can try out the viability of businesses that require transportation to/from LEO. Now the market is not static.

    All of this could happen within the context of NASA creating a redundant crew transportation system for their needs, and not spending money to specifically create a crew transportation marketplace.

    My $0.02

  • William Mellberg

    “… but I don’t entirely rule out Bigelow will be able to carry out his plans.”

    Martijn, I actually think Bigelow has some marketable ideas — especially in the post-ISS era. At least he would provide some useful destinations. A commercial space station (or series of stations) does grab my attention and could be used for a variety of purposes from orbital tourism to research and manufacturing. So I wish Bigelow well.

  • Ben Russell-Gough

    @ Beancounter,

    As far as I know, Virgin Galactic’s two current development plans, other than sub-orbital pleasure flights are:

    1) Air-launching small satellites (probably in the 100kg mass range) using an expendable rocket slung under WK2;

    2) A WK3/SS3 that will be able to carry significant numbers of passengers on long-haul scheduled flights.

  • Martijn Meijering

    So I wish Bigelow well.

    So do I, but I’m worried. If there were a sensible program to reduce launch prices I’m confident he’d be successful. It’s possible that foreign governments may provide enough demand and EELV/Falcon economies of scale will yield enough efficiency to have at least a semi-commercial space station, but it’s hardly certain. If JWST ends up taking out SLS as I hope that leaves only Orion as a source of funding that could be redirected to something more useful.

  • NASA Fan

    What distinguishes a ‘gap’ of human space flight from the NASA point of view, is that on either side of the gap, there is NASA human space flight. If you take away NASA human space flight from either side of the gap, there is no gap.

    Indeed, after the last Shuttle flies, there will be no more NASA human space flight that follows. …ergo, there is no gap.

    The party is over folks.

    Its up to the Merchant 7 to put humans in orbit, and on their own nickel.

  • William Mellberg

    Coastal Ron wrote:

    “First of all, the government is not responsible for determining the economic viability of a market – the market is.”

    Well, I’d certainly agree with that in most cases. But there is historical precedent for the government opening new frontiers. Lewis & Clark come to mind, as does the U.S. Army Corps of Topographical Engineers (including Fremont and Emory) who explored the American West and its resources prior to the Civil War. All of which paved the way for the transcontinental railroads after the war, and the settlers and enterprises that followed. Of course, the government has already opened the New Frontier, thanks to President Kennedy. Whether or not the Moon and its potential resources is seen as a worthwhile target for further exploration (similar to the Army Corps of Topographical Engineers) is up to our political leaders and the taxpayers who they represent.

    “Secondly, HE3 is one of many potential fuels, but until fusion power plants become a reality, the need for it is theoretical, not chicken-and-egg.”

    The problem with He-3 as a fuel for fusion power plants is that it does not exist in large enough quantities on Earth to be considered for use by most fusion power researchers. (Gerry Kulcinski at UW-Madison and George Miley at UI-Urbana/Champaign are among the few people in the United States who have taken a serious look at He-3 for fusion reactors.) Yet, there appears to be a plentiful supply of He-3 on the Moon. But until the viability of extracting lunar He-3 and returning it to Earth has been demonstrated, the private sector will probably ignore its potential. In that respect, it IS a chicken-and-egg situation. However, the attraction of He-3 is that unlike other fuels, it would generate minimal radiation and radioactive waste (none, if He-3 is fused with itself). That said, the fusion technology at this end hasn’t been demonstrated as of yet (as you suggest), and the rush to mine He-3 on the Moon won’t take place until it does. If not a chicken-and-egg situation, it is a bit of a Catch-22.

    “Regarding the ISS demand, the U.S. has already relied on a single source transportation system (the Shuttle), and I think we would all agree that it had it’s downsides. The question for the U.S. now is whether it wants to repeat that mistake with the next crew system – rely on a single source design.”

    I certainly would agree that our single source reliance on the Shuttle had its downsides. But the question is can we afford multiple sources? The success of Southwest Airlines is the result, in part, of its reliance on a single type of aircraft — the Boeing 737. (Actually, they’ve flown several versions of the 737, but the basic type is the only aircraft Southwest has ever flown.) Imagine the impact on Southwest if the 737 were grounded following an accident as happened with the McDonnell-Douglas DC-10 in 1979? We already know the impact on NASA’s space activities when the Space Shuttle was grounded (twice). That said, we (ISS partners) wouldn’t have a single source if, for example, Dragon has a back-up in Soyuz … or Shenzhou.

    But I’m also reminded of what happened when Lockheed and McDonnell Douglas produced two nearly identical tri-jet aircraft — the L-1011 and DC-10 (“nearly identical” in terms of performance). The market was limited, and both firms lost money on designing and building two aircraft instead of one (as the Europeans did with their twin-engine A300).

  • Martijn Meijering

    But the question is can we afford multiple sources?

    That’s a good question. When it comes to launchers the answer is definitely yes. For crew capsules (or more generally crew vehicles) it probably is also true, unless you believe Orion and Dragon cannot both survive. Not that those are the only two choices. At the very least NASA should use a vehicle that 1) is compatible with at least two different launchers and preferably more and 2) is available for semi-commercial use, which includes foreign governments and excess Soyuz capacity to the ISS.

  • DCSCA

    @Beancounter from Downunder wrote @ November 21st, 2010 at 9:25 pm

    “Branson although expressing some interest recently in LEO is only currently in the sub-orbital tourism business. No one knows what he intends as yet.”

    And why should you? It’s a private enterpeised operation which owes reporting its ‘intentions’ to investors, not the general public. However, Branson has be very public about his incrimental plans, suborbital first, then orbital operations and eventually travel to an orbiting hotel. He spoke of this recently on the MSNBC/Dylan Radigan Show.

  • Ben

    NASA should use the most efficient design, end of story. These Congressmen are fools (how unusual!).

  • Frank

    And the politics continues …

    The reason there are any solid rocket boosters manufactured in Utah at all is the result of pure political muscle at the beginning of the shuttle program. It can be argued that Challenger is a direct result of these political manipulations.

    Initial designs for the solids called for a monolithic casing, in other words, no joints between segments to fail. Aerojet put forth a proposal to manufacture such a design at their Florida Everglades manufacturing facility – abandoned in the 80′s – allowing them to ship the one-piece boosters by barge up Florida’s Intracoastal waterway.

    However, with the political maneuverings of the senior Senator from Utah, Chairman of the Senate Space Committee , the contract was steered to Thiokol of Utah. Unfortunately, to accommodate the shipment of the booster to KSC required a rail transport mode and that necessitated segmenting the booster, creating a failure mode at the joints.

    Simplicity and a safer booster were not to be tolerated with a political hack to be assuaged.

    Where would things be today without the Challenger disaster?

  • Coastal Ron

    William Mellberg wrote @ November 22nd, 2010 at 12:42 pm

    But there is historical precedent for the government opening new frontiers. Lewis & Clark come to mind…

    This analogy has been used before, but it doesn’t translate. Lewis & Clark were essentially map making – identifying the boundaries so to speak. People would have migrated west in any case, but Lewis & Clark provided feedback to the U.S. government so that they could understand the new frontier better. For space, we’re already there, in that we understand the local boundaries enough for the next step…

    All of which paved the way for the transcontinental railroads after the war

    …which is where we are today. Basic transportation. In this case, the U.S. has to decide if it wants to build a limited transportation system for the ISS only, or one that can easily expand past the ISS.

    That said, we (ISS partners) wouldn’t have a single source if, for example, Dragon has a back-up in Soyuz … or Shenzhou.

    If you want to rely on foreign sources of transportation for U.S. needs. I don’t.

    …the L-1011 and DC-10 (“nearly identical” in terms of performance). The market was limited, and both firms lost money on designing and building two aircraft instead of one (as the Europeans did with their twin-engine A300).

    The A300 family used the same class of engine as the L-1011 & DC-10, but only used two, versus the tri-jets three. The issue wasn’t market size, it was cost, because the airlines found that the A300 would use 30% less fuel. Lockheed and McDonnell Douglas did not build the right product for their market, and that is why they did not do well in the market.

    In space transportation, the same rules would apply with competition. If the U.S. develops commercial crew transportation, the prices for Soyuz would most likely drop back down, or they would not be able to compete in the market with their smaller capsule.

    This whole issue boils down to whether the U.S. wants a competitive crew transportation marketplace, and whether they would be willing to support the creation of that market with their ISS needs.

  • byeman

    “Aerojet put forth a proposal to manufacture such a design at their Florida Everglades manufacturing facility – abandoned in the 80′s – allowing them to ship the one-piece boosters by barge up Florida’s Intracoastal waterway. ”

    Which was found to be technically infeasible.

  • Vigilant

    NASA is reviewing multiple technologies for use in the space program. They are bidding with multiple companies to be able to review a wide range of propulsion sources and weigh the benefits, costs and risks of all these bids.

    That is how contracting is supposed to work! You are not supposed to favor one company over another, or make space policy based on a commercial companies interests. In fact, forcing NASA to only use on type of propulsion source rather than the best available is completely ridiculous. The space program is supposed to push the boundaries of current technology, it supposed to promote the creation of new technologies. Restricting them to one technology is a step backwards.

    This is blatant and shameful politics. Placing the needs of one company, no matter how important to your state’s economy, over the entire space program, and indeed the continued progress of the nation’s technological future is a terrible precedent.

    NASA is doing exactly what it should be doing. The best it can for our nation!

  • William Mellberg

    Coastal Ron wrote:

    “This analogy has been used before, but it doesn’t translate. Lewis & Clark were essentially map making – identifying the boundaries so to speak. People would have migrated west in any case, but Lewis & Clark provided feedback to the U.S. government so that they could understand the new frontier better. For space, we’re already there, in that we understand the local boundaries enough for the next step …”

    Yes, but I was really thinking more in terms of the other example that I cited (U.S. Army Corps of Topographical Engineers) which was assessing the resource potential of the western United States, as well as making maps. And I was applying this to our understanding of the Moon and its resources. The Apollo missions were more akin to Lewis & Clark. A return to the Moon would be more like what the Army Corps of Topographical Engineers (John Fremont and others) were doing. But I get your point with regard to LEO.

    “…which is where we are today. Basic transportation. In this case, the U.S. has to decide if it wants to build a limited transportation system for the ISS only, or one that can easily expand past the ISS.”

    Well, it should certainly be something that can easily expand well past the ISS as the ISS has a very limited future. It should be adaptable for trips to the Moon and to NEOs.

    “If you want to rely on foreign sources of transportation for U.S. needs. I don’t.”

    Neither do I, when it comes right down to it. Not China and Russia at any rate. But I wouldn’t mind relying on an ESA or Japanese backup should they decide to design and build their own transport. I’m still sorry ESA never went ahead with Hermes years ago. It would have helped us get through the Shuttle’s problems a lot easier.

    “The A300 family used the same class of engine as the L-1011 & DC-10, but only used two, versus the tri-jets three. The issue wasn’t market size, it was cost, because the airlines found that the A300 would use 30% less fuel. Lockheed and McDonnell Douglas did not build the right product for their market, and that is why they did not do well in the market.”

    Engines are always sold separately from airframes. Lockheed’s problems stemmed in large part from their decision to design the TriStar around a single powerplant (the Rolls-Royce RB.211, which had many teething problems). Airbus built the A300 around all three types (General Electric, Pratt & Whitney and Rolls-Royce). The DC-10 and L-1011 were both designed and built around the requirements of a handful of key customers (American, United, Delta, Eastern, TWA) who did not want a wide-aisle aircraft (jumbo jet) with only two engines. Thus, both designs emerged as tri-jets. AIrbus had a very hard time finding customers for its twin-jet early on, and the A300 almost withered on the vine … until Frank Borman ordered the type for Eastern, which got the sales ball finally rolling. It didn’t take Boeing long to respond with the 767.

    But my real point with the Airbus analogy was that the European aircraft industry pooled its resources to build a single type, rather than building multiple aircraft, none of which would have reached the break-even mark in sales. Indeed, British Aircraft Corporation was very keen on building its BAC Three-Eleven, which would have been very similar to the Airbus A300. In the end, the Airbus consortium proved its worth, and the basic A300 has since evolved into the highly-successful A310, A330 and A340.

    Should this be the approach commercial space follows, as well? Do multiple entries provide competition in a very limited market? Or do they guarantee the failure of all (or most)? Would they be better off pooling some of their ideas and resources to come up with the best approach — one that would provide the sort of growth capability to extend well beyond ISS operations?

    And wasn’t that the idea behind Orion?

    “In space transportation, the same rules would apply with competition. If the U.S. develops commercial crew transportation, the prices for Soyuz would most likely drop back down, or they would not be able to compete in the market with their smaller capsule.”

    I can’t argue that point. And that is where competition does come into play!

    “This whole issue boils down to whether the U.S. wants a competitive crew transportation marketplace, and whether they would be willing to support the creation of that market with their ISS needs.”

    I think you need to expand that market well beyond the ISS. The future of the ISS is very limited, and a costly design and development effort built around the needs of the ISS could not pay off. But IF people like Musk were to spend more time talking to people like Bigelow in an effort to establish an overall plan (i.e., commercial transports to serve commercial space stations), then I think the overall effort would be more appealing. At the moment, “commercial” space seems to lack any coordinated goals and integrated plans (unlike Airbus, where multiple firms took responsibility for various aspects of the porgram).

  • William Mellberg

    Martijn Meijering wrote:

    (But the question is can we afford multiple sources?) … “That’s a good question. When it comes to launchers the answer is definitely yes. For crew capsules (or more generally crew vehicles) it probably is also true, unless you believe Orion and Dragon cannot both survive. Not that those are the only two choices. At the very least NASA should use a vehicle that 1) is compatible with at least two different launchers and preferably more and 2) is available for semi-commercial use, which includes foreign governments and excess Soyuz capacity to the ISS.

    Martijn,

    I must say that I have enjoyed these exchanges. They have provided some good food for thought. I certainly agree with your points above. They make good sense — especially with respect to designing spacecraft for use atop different launchers.

    In any case, the comments posted here have certainly helped me to view the status of human spaceflight from several points of view, and I’ve seen merits in each of them — especially as we take stock of the new political and economic realities of space.

    We (humankind) really are at a crossroads in the New Frontier, and there are clearly several forks we (humankind) can take. What’s not so clear is which is the right one? Or is there a ‘right’ one? Perhaps several different paths will lead us to the same destination. But what is that destination? And how much will it cost to get there? These are questions worth discussion and debate.

    In short, I appreciate contributions like yours (and others) which are not rude or sarcastic. Instead, you make valid points and thought-provoking suggestions. That’s the sort of argument which I find persuasive … or, at the very least, which makes me stop to think about different points of view. Others throughout history have had similar exchanges, I’m sure.

    I guess the one thing everyone here has in common is a keen interest in the future. And that’s a good thing … even when they don’t agree!

    William Mellberg

  • But IF people like Musk were to spend more time talking to people like Bigelow in an effort to establish an overall plan (i.e., commercial transports to serve commercial space stations), then I think the overall effort would be more appealing.

    What in the world makes you think that he has not been doing, so, for many years?

  • Martijn Meijering

    @William:

    Same here. It’s a pleasure to have a rational, open discussion, especially with someone who knows so much about aerospace history as yourself. I took the liberty of googling you to find out why it is you know so much about aerospace history. :-)

  • the messenger

    it does not give NASA leeway, it gives the lawmaker leeway, don’t be naive

  • William Mellberg

    Rand Simberg wrote:

    “What in the world makes you think that he has not been doing, so, for many years?”

    Because I don’t see any major public relations effort demonstrating that they’ve put together an integrated master plan that might truly capture the public imagination. They all come across as individual, uncoordinated efforts.

    Likewise, NASA totally failed to ‘sell’ the Constellation Program to the public (including the people on Capitol Hill who allocated the funding). You can have the greatest ideas in the world. But if you don’t market them properly, you’ll get nowhere. And that certainly was the case when the Obama Administration rolled out its new space policy in February.

    It’s also why so few average taxpayers have any idea what’s happening on the International Space Station, or what purpose it serves.

    Mr. Simberg, you might do well to take a course in public relations yourself. Your sarcastic approach does little to persuade … and much to annoy. To be perfectly frank, you come across as arrogant, rude and unprofessional. If you really want to ‘sell’ your ideas to skeptics (like myself), I suggest you try a little friendly persuasion rather than the smug approach. I’ve learned very little from your snide retorts. But I have learned a great deal reading some of the other comments that other people have posted here — comments intended to explain, not to belittle. Their remarks have made me stop to think. Your remarks, by and large, have turned me off (e.g., “What in the world makes you think …?”).

    Well, what in the world makes YOU think that such an attitude will edify or enlighten me? Your choice of words is combative, not persuasive. If you really want to ‘sell’ your ideas, try a little tenderness.

  • William Mellberg

    Martijn Meijering wrote:

    @William:

    “Same here. It’s a pleasure to have a rational, open discussion, especially with someone who knows so much about aerospace history as yourself. I took the liberty of googling you to find out why it is you know so much about aerospace history.”

    Martijn,

    Many thanks for your kind remarks — and for your thought-provoking ideas.

    One of the best things about working for Fokker in my younger years was that firm’s international character. Since Fokker sold airplanes around the globe, we had employees from around the globe. My colleagues included people from the Netherlands (naturally), Germany, Canada, Britain, Australia, France, Argentina, the United States and several other countries. Which taught me to view things from multiple perspectives. In addition, I worked with people whose backgrounds went all the way back to the early age of flight. My boss was a flight engineer aboard Pan Am’s “Clipper” flying boats. His boss worked on the de Havilland Comet (during the time when they were falling out of the sky owing to unforeseen metal fatigue). My office mates came from Douglas Aircraft, KLM and TWA. Lots and lots of experience there for me to learn from. And lots and lots of different ideas from which we looked for common ground and general consensus as we plotted our own course.

    As an author and historian, I’ve had the opportunity to meet and interview many more “movers and shakers” from the aerospace industry — including some of the key participants in the Apollo Program. It’s been fun sharing some of their experiences and ideas with my readers in various aerospace publications, as well as in three books. And it’s enlightening sharing thoughts and ideas with you, as well — all the more so since your focus is clearly on the future.

    Best regards,

    Bill

  • Because I don’t see any major public relations effort demonstrating that they’ve put together an integrated master plan that might truly capture the public imagination. They all come across as individual, uncoordinated efforts.

    It makes no sense to conclude from the fact that they haven’t issued joint press releases that they haven’t been coordinating. They have been, for years. SpaceX was Bigelow’s original planned launch provider.

  • William Mellberg

    @Martijn:

    Given our previous exchange about Ernst Stuhlinger, you might be interested in the following:

    http://www.montesano60s.com/mellberg.htm

    This short essay is a draft of a feature article that was later published in Sky & Telescope magazine. Monte Sano is a mountain just east of Huntsville where many members of the von Braun rocket team built their homes, including Ernst Stuhlinger. The “Monte Sano 60s Kids” is a group of their children (now adults) who grew up on Monte Sano in the 1960s. I talked with one of the “kids” who was a friend of Christoph Stuhlinger (Ernst’s younger son) at that time. He remembers Dr. Stuhlinger as “Coach” Stuhlinger. Ernst coached their ‘Little League’ baseball team. He also remembers Dr. Stuhlinger’s “fascinating lectures about astronomy and space exploration.” It must have been great being a Monte Sano 60s kid!

  • Martijn Meijering

    Great stuff, thanks!

  • DCSCA

    @William Mellberg wrote @ November 24th, 2010 at 3:57 pm
    “Because I don’t see any major public relations effort demonstrating that they’ve put together an integrated master plan that might truly capture the public imagination. They all come across as individual, uncoordinated efforts.”

    If memory serves, NASA was never very adept at marketing itself and was prohibited from employing some basic elements of ‘consumer’ marketing by law back in the early days. Initially, managment did not embrace live televised coverage of their activities either and the press was kept at arms length as well, with reporters learing of impending missile launches over drinks with technicians at Cocoa Beach bars. Even as Mercury caught on, then they tried to control the message. Powers with dubbed ‘the 8th astronaut’ and did all PR work. Believe Glenn’s voice was even delayed before released to the press during his orbital flight. Same on through Apollo 8. Professionally, this writer has worked in marketing and dealt with engineers from time to time in the process. More times than not it became a matter of translating things into ‘earth english’ not unlike what Cronkite use to do. It’s not axiomatic, but more often then not engineers tend to be brilliant in a narrow field of expertise and get exasperated- or ae just inept– at pitching technical matters in lay terms to sell the concepts, chiefly due to a devotion to exactitudes. NASA’s best pitchman who was also an engineer was, of course, Von Braun. Kraft was fairly good at it as well but its uncommon to find someone comfortable in both marketing and engineering venues. But without fellas like Neal, Cronkite and Bergman, or print reports like JNWilford, the public would have been lost during the Apollo era.

    “Likewise, NASA totally failed to ‘sell’ the Constellation Program to the public (including the people on Capitol Hill who allocated the funding). You can have the greatest ideas in the world. But if you don’t market them properly, you’ll get nowhere. And that certainly was the case when the Obama Administration rolled out its new space policy in February.”

    Again, they just don’t know how to do it internally without it appearing forced or self-serving– and at this point, if they try, the effort is usually transparent and poorly executed. They probably feel they’re doing fine because they have a website.

    “It’s also why so few average taxpayers have any idea what’s happening on the International Space Station, or what purpose it serves.”

    Indifference reigns supreme. Once made a pitch to the news division while employed at one of the networks to make use of the last 30/45 seconds or so at the end of only the Friday night network news broadcast– and have the weekly credits roll over images from Hubble or downlink B-roll from the ISS or some NASA select footage to reinforce/highlight some of the NASA activities. Fell on deaf ears- more trouble than it was worth to the news division. Before DBS systems proliferated, local cable systems carried NASA Select but eventually it was bumped for more lucrative revenue streams- home shopping channels– which make money for cable carriers on each sale made. Carrying NASA Select did not earn them a cent.

    “Mr. Simberg, you might do well to take a course in public relations yourself. Your sarcastic approach does little to persuade … and much to annoy. To be perfectly frank, you come across as arrogant, rude and unprofessional.”

    It betrays insecurity. Or fear. Often comes across as a pitchman for SpaceX. And Musk isn’t necessarily the future of HSF although you’d get an argument. Most Americans are quiksodic and don’t linger long on past achievements be it baseball or moon landings. The civilian space agency is where HSF happens for them and if it could shutdown tomorrow and they’d wonder what it had been doing for several years anyway. Most have never seen a moon rock and know it best for a great movie, ‘Apollo 13′ … which celebrated a failure. Speaks volumes.

  • William Mellberg

    @DCSCA

    I certainly agree with you about NASA’s failure to “sell” the program … whatever program we’re talking about (from the Apollo era to the present). In fact, I had a feature story published in United Airlines’ inflight magazine some years back called “No Apollogies” which made that very point. NASA did a great job of sending men to the Moon and back. But they weren’t so good at explaining what it was all about (apart from beating the Soviet Union). That’s why public interest in the Moon plummeted after Apollo 11, never to return.

    I, too, used to ‘translate’ engineering-speak into plain English when I was working with Fokker Aircraft. My job was to take what the sales engineers put together and present it in a ‘dog and pony’ show that airline executives could understand (presidents and senior vice presidents, not all of whom were well-versed in technical matters). Which is where I learned that patience is a virtue in explaining things to people.

    You’re certainly right about Walter Cronkite and Jules Bergman and Roy Neal and Jay Barbree. NASA did have some good public affairs officers back then, even if they didn’t “sell” the program themselves. However, they provided reams of material to Cronkite and Bergman and the others — who, in turn, digested it and regurgitated it in language that the public could understand. Under the Bolden/Garver regime, there seems to be a fortress mentality surrounding NASA HQ. Of course, given the number of gaffes they’ve made (Bolden, in particular), one can understand why. However, their ineptness in public relations doesn’t serve NASA or the country well. Rather than inspiring America and the world, NASA is now held up for ridicule as the gang that can’t shoot straight. They (Bolden and Garver) are both public relations disasters.

    As for Elon Musk …

    He impressed the bejeepers out of me the first time I heard him speak quite a few years ago. But he shouldn’t stick his nose into partisan politics. Political power can shift very quickly in Washington. Musk needs to impress BOTH sides of the aisle with his vision and capabilities. Taking sides is risky business (and bad business).

    Of course, no one can match the late Wernher von Braun for vision and capabilities. As Ernst Stuhlinger put it, “He was a multiple genius.” Von Braun had a keen engineering mind. He was a superb manager. And he was an outstanding salesman. Rarely does one person possess all of those talents. I only met him twice (briefly). But I was certainly impressed by his charisma. We could sure use another von Braun today. However, he was one-of-a-kind.

    We could also use another Walter Cronkite. He was another one of NASA’s best sales reps … and another one-of-a-kind journalist.

    You’re also right about the “Apollo 13″ film celebrating a failure. But it also celebrated the triumph of the human spirit … which was the same thing we saw when those miners were rescued in Chile last month. Both stories captured the public imagination and tugged at the heartstrings.

    And that is what is missing in today’s space program … or, at least, in the media coverage of today’s space program.

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