NASA, Other

NASA in Palin’s new book

Earlier this week America by Heart, the latest book by former Alaska governor and 2008 Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin, hit store shelves. The book, as it turns out, spends a little over a page talking about space policy—or, more accurately, contrasting the policies of the 1960s with what she considers the diminished horizons of today.

“I wasn’t yet born when John F. Kennedy pledged in 1961 to land a man on the moon within the decade,” begins the passage in question, on page 163. (If you haven’t purchased or borrowed a copy, the easiest way to access this section is to use Amazon’s “Search Inside This Book” feature for “NASA”, then scroll up a page to catch the beginning of the relevant section.) She then describes watching the Apollo 11 landing on a black-and-white TV set. “As with Theodore Roosevelt, JFK’s ambition to put a man on the moon perfectly captured a nation that feared neither hard work nor failure.”

Today’s “national leaders”, though, she claims, lack “Kennedy’s confidence and brio”. “Instead of announcing ambitious new goals for the space program, we have the head of NASA telling Arab television that his agency’s ‘foremost’ goal, according to President Obama’s instruction, is ‘to find a way to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with dominantly Muslim nations to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science and math and engineering.'” That’s a reference, of course, to NASA administrator Charles Bolden’s now-infamous interview with al-Jazeera.

The passage, though, doesn’t mention that the administration later said that Bolden misspoke and that such outreach was not NASA’s primary mission. It’s also unclear, from Palin’s claim that the administration hasn’t declared “ambitious new goals for the space program”, whether she is unaware of NASA’s new direction, including the goals announced by President Obama in his April 15th speech at the Kennedy Space Center, or if she doesn’t consider them sufficiently ambitious.

She continues:

Hearing this new rationale for our space program had us scratching our heads. What? Holding hands and singing “Kumbaya” with Muslim countries? What does that have to do with our once proud and pioneering space program? One of my kids heard the NASA change in direction and shook her head. “It’s like that Sesame Street song, Mom,” she said. “One of these things is not like the others, one of these things just doesn’t belong. Can you guess which thing doesn’t go with the others…?”

This may well be the first time Sesame Street has been invoked in the ongoing debate about NASA.

“How condescending to Muslims. How sad for America,” she concludes. “And how unsurprising coming from a man who is himself one of the leading exemplars of the new culture of self-esteem.”

164 comments to NASA in Palin’s new book

  • Vladislaw

    Does Palin explain where NASA would get the funding that it recieved under Kennedy and LBJ? It is easy to express what she did but once again the devil is in the details and here, as always with Palin, she only provides the sound bites, never the finer details about funding.

  • Mark R. Whittington

    I’m pretty sure that Governor Palin is perfectally aware of Obama’s April 15th speech and regards the “ambitious goals”, as d many people, as mere eyewash. Bolden was thrown under the bus when the “mission to the Muslims” turned out to be so controversial. He only “mispoke” by being too blunt about White House policy.

    In any event, she is including Obamaspace as part of the bill of particulars against the President, which is interesting in and of itself.

  • Major Tom

    “she only provides the sound bites, never the finer details about funding”

    Forget funding details. How about just a plan? Or even a couple objectives?

    If she wants “ambitious new goals for the space program”, then what are hers?

    Does she just want to repeat Kennedy’s “pledge to land a man on the moon within the decade”? If that’s the extent of her vision, that’s not very “ambitious”. It’s not even a “new goal”. It’s just recycling an accomplishment from 40 years ago.

    And if it’s not an Apollo repeat, then what?

    Pundits criticize. Leaders plan.

  • Why would someone bother to put such an incident in a book about anything? The whole was fuss was dumb and people latched on to it for the wrong reasons. Not logical.

  • Major Tom

    “I’m pretty sure that Governor Palin is perfectally aware of Obama’s April 15th speech”

    Based on what? She (or her ghost writer) didn’t reference it.

    “He only ‘mispoke’ by being too blunt about White House policy.”

    Bolden’s quote was taken out of context. He was speaking about the priorities of NASA’s international outreach programs, not the entire agency. That priority doesn’t appear in any White House space policy or any overall NASA policy.

    “she is including Obamaspace as part of the bill of particulars against the President”

    No, she’s not. All she’s done is repeat an out-of-context quote, a point that other conservative outlets made months ago. There’s nothing in the text that demonstrates any knowledge of the Augustine Committee report, NASA’s FY11 budget request, the President’s KSC speech, the 2010 NASA Authorization Act, or anything else that describes the fundamental policy and programmatic changes affecting NASA’s human space flight programs.

    She (or her ghost writer) might know. But it’s not on display in this book (or anywhere else I’m aware of). She’s talking about one quote on international outreach, when real space policy change is taking place in multiple White House and Congressional documents.

  • Jim Jenkins

    She’s right in her overall context, this administration doesn’t care squat about NASA, sooner they’re gone the better.

  • Criticism without leadership…

    On the other hand if she can inspire conservative leaders to effectively fund NASA I welcome her voice to the debate. (gulp)

  • Is it true that Palin can see Star City from her house?

  • Anne Spudis

    It makes perfect sense to me. As I’m sure it does to a majority of voters.

    When an administration, that most agree tends way left of center, starts “acting” on behalf of private industry, one does scratch one’s head and remark, “One of these things is not like the others, one of these things just doesn’t belong.”

    If you consider money paid to NASA contractors “pork,” you can’t spin that same money around, put lipstick on it and call it “seed money for commercial start-ups” and not expect that people will rightly recognize it for what it is.

  • Is it true that Palin can see Star City from her house?

    It seems very telling that people are making fun of Sarah Palin for something she never said.

  • Major Tom

    “this administration doesn’t care squat about NASA”

    If this Administration didn’t “care squat about NASA”, then it wouldn’t have provided $1 billion in additional FY 2010 funding to NASA through the Recovery Act.

    If this Administration didn’t “care squat about NASA”, then it wouldn’t have undertaken the Augustine review to assess Constellation and present options for fixing this broken program.

    If this Administration didn’t “care squat about NASA”, then the White House’s FY 2011 budget request for NASA wouldn’t have proposed a $6 billion increase over five years.

    If this Administration didn’t “care squat about NASA”, then the President would not have given a speech at KSC.

    This President wasn’t my first pick for the office, either. But there’s no evidence that this Administration “doesn’t care squat about NASA”.

  • Doug Lassiter

    “Today’s “national leaders”, though, she claims, lack “Kennedy’s confidence and brio”.”

    Eh, man up, will ya NASA? As noted above, confidence and brio is expensive. Very expensive.

    “JFK’s ambition to put a man on the moon perfectly captured a nation that feared neither hard work nor failure.”

    But we do fear spending money. We really fear spending money. We especially fear spending money in places other than Texas, Alabama, and Florida.

    She’d probably reach out internationally, and look to stand with our North Korean allies on space exploration. Can you put an Orion on an Unha, I wonder?

  • Mark R. Whittington

    I can see that the Internet Rocketeer Club is rapidly being infected with Palin Derangement Syndrome. To “Major Tom” a specific plan would have to wait until at least a Presidential campaign, if not the Presidency itself. Besides, returning people to the Moon would certainly be more ambitous and useful than Obamaspace.

  • And people want someone this vacuous as President? Seriously? I’m actually a right-leaning libertarian, but it seems like the Republican party has actively been trying to get me to vote Democrat ever since I was old enough to vote. They haven’t succeeded yet, but they’re definitely trying.

    ~Jon

  • Egad

    > an administration, that most agree tends way left of center

    Most of whom? The Republican base and/or the Tea Party?

    If you were to replace “way” with “somewhat” or “a bit”, you might get more into that “most.”

  • Mark R. Whittington

    Rand has nailed it, for once.

    On the other hand, unlike some people, Sarah Palin can see the Moon from her house.

  • Anne Spudis

    Egad wrote @ November 26th, 2010 at 3:30 pm [Most of whom? The Republican base and/or the Tea Party?]

    I understand your confusion, as many on the extreme far left don’t think this administration has moved far enough into their camp.

  • Ferris Valyn

    Anne – you better check the polls you put so much faith in – when you look at actual policy objectives, this country is a left of center. The media industry has been convinced and convinced people that its right of center, but that doesn’t match up with actual policy objectives.

  • Egad

    > many on the extreme far left don’t think this administration has moved far enough into their camp.

    That’s certainly true, but what does it have to do with the question? To repeat, who thinks that Obama is “way left of center”, with the emphasis on “way”? Is he as way left of center as, say, Nixon was way right of center? While both had/have their good and bad points, I don’t see either as occupying the way-out territories of their respective political wings.

    I’m not sure whether this is getting away from the space part of spacepolitics, but perhaps Ye Moderator will give guidance.

  • Anne Spudis

    Ferris Valyn wrote @ November 26th, 2010 at 4:43 pm

    Ferris – All I have to do is look at the election results to know where the American electorate falls, and it isn’t left of center.

  • Sarah Palin is lyin’ and distortin’ again.

    Bolden was talking about outreach activities when he spoke to Al-Jazeera. He also mentioned STEM education (a big priority of the Administration) and cooperative outreach to the broader world in space (another priority of Obama).

    Bolden expressed himself poorly, but anyone who actually listens to the remarks and looks at the wider context of his interview and the Administration’s broader policies should come to the clear conclusion that his remarks were taken out of context and blown out of proportion for political reasons.

    I wish more people in the NewSpace community would fight against these distortions. The Administration has tried to give that community everything its been asking for over the past decades. Its distressing to hear silence on this matter.

    To me, there’s little to reconcile between Kennedy’s and Obama’s policies. Each is perfectly appropriate for the times and the circumstances that the United States found itself. A focus on international cooperation and commercial operations is apt for where things are now and the direction in which space is heading over the next decade.

    The international nature of space is something the NewSpace community has yet to fully grasp and internalize. This is deeply embedded in most of our other industries — especially in Internet and computers. It has great benefits but also substantial challenges and downsides. Sarah Palin’s lamestream rhetorical excesses add nothing to this discussion.

  • Mark R. Whittington

    Ferris, you mean people really want state control of healh care, the suppression of the coal, oil, and gas industries, and all the rest of the far left agenda? I rather think not.

  • Das Boese

    The current administration of the USA isn’t considered “left of center” by anyone but Americans.

    The popularity of Palin is just plain scary.

  • Anne Spudis

    Anne Spudis wrote @ November 26th, 2010 at 5:15 pm

    Ferris Valyn wrote @ November 26th, 2010 at 4:43 pm

    Ferris – All I have to do is look at the election results to know where the American electorate falls, and it isn’t RIGHT of center.

  • Major Tom

    “I can see that the Internet Rocketeer Club”

    Isn’t an “internet rocketeer” an amateur with no professional or informed background on space policy or aerospace engineering who routinely makes false and ignorant statements on the web about space policy and aerospace engineering?

    Isn’t that you?

    Why are you clumsily trying to insult others with a term that defines a group for which you should be the president, chairman, and founding member?

    Weirdly recursive…

    “a specific plan would have to wait until at least a Presidential campaign”

    I didn’t ask for a “specific plan”. I even wrote “forget funding details”.

    I asked for “just a plan” or “even a couple objectives”.

    Look, if Palin wants to run for the US presidency and establish her space policy or R&D policy credentials before that run, that 304-page book gave her a golden opportunity. But instead of engaging in a substantive discussion of actual space policy objectives and how she would change them, she repeats a quote from the NASA Administrator that was taken out of context months ago by other conservative outlets. It’s as vapid a response on space policy as when an Obama education advisor recommended deferring Constellation for five years during that campaign.

    If I want a transcript from an old talk radio show, I’ll ask for one. But if I’m going to be convinced to vote for a potential presidential candidate on the basis of their civil space policy, then they need to demonstrate at least a limited understanding of existing policy direction and articulate whether they agree with it, and if not, how they would change it. Despite a page of text, Palin (or her ghost writer) fail to do so in that book. And I don’t know of any other forum where she’s done so.

    Any pundit can repeat what they heard in a Fox News (or MSNBC) commentary. A leader-in-waiting has to comprehend the world as it exists outside the partisan echo chambers and convey how they intend to improve it.

    Again, she’s the one calling for “ambitious goals”. Where are hers?

    It’s not enough to talk the talk. She has to walk the walk.

    “returning people to the Moon would certainly be more ambitous”

    How is repeating a 1960s-era accomplishment 40 years later “ambitious” at all?

    Do you need a cartoon to help you understand this?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A4J9uvhJQM0.

    “and useful than Obamaspace.”

    How is transitioning routine Earth to orbit transport to the private sector so NASA can focus its human space flight activities beyond Earth orbit not “useful”?

    How is accelerating HLV development by decades so that human lunar and other missions can actually be executed not “useful”?

    How is conducting precursor missions to understand resources and test out their use at the Moon and other locations not “useful”?

    How is investing in technologies so that human crews can visit multiple locations, not just the Moon, cost-effectively not “ambitious” or “useful”?

    How is setting human space exploration goals beyond the Moon like NEOs and Mars not “ambitious”?

    If these steps aren’t “useful” or “ambitious”, then what is? What would you have Palin replace them with?

    Do you have any more cogent an argument than “derangement syndrome”?

    “On the other hand, unlike some people, Sarah Palin can see the Moon from her house.”

    Why, after disowning it, are you perpetuating a myth, as already pointed out by Mr. Simberg?

    Moreover, did you even bother to read Palin’s book, or at least the passage Mr. Foust referenced above? Her book doesn’t endorse the Moon as a goal for NASA. It only endorses “ambitious goals” and then references the Moon as an example of such from the 1960s. Palin (or her ghost writer) provide no “ambitious goals” of her own.

    Read, comprehend, and think before you post.

    Sigh…

  • Major Tom

    “If you consider money paid to NASA contractors ‘pork,’ you can’t spin that same money around, put lipstick on it and call it ‘seed money for commercial start-ups’ and not expect that people will rightly recognize it for what it is.”

    Neither is pork, but they’re not the same. The COTS and CCDev efforts require industry (both start-ups and established players) to put hundreds of millions of dollars of their own investment into these systems. Traditional contracting efforts like Constellation do not. Painting both efforts with the same braod brush is an ignorant lie at best and purposeful misdirection at worst.

    The wife of a planetary scientist should know better. Take your industry slime-slinging elsewhere.

    Ugh…

  • Anne Spudis

    Well, now there I go trying to think and watch grandchildren. Ha!

    First answer was the correct one. The election showed Americans pulling back from the social spending that’s killing us.

  • Jeff Foust

    I’m not sure whether this is getting away from the space part of spacepolitics, but perhaps Ye Moderator will give guidance.

    “Ye Moderator” humbly reminds everyone to stay on topic; general discussion of how liberal or how conservative the American electorate is does not qualify. Thanks again for your cooperation.

  • DCSCA

    “Instead of announcing ambitious new goals for the space program, we have the head of NASA telling Arab television that his agency’s ‘foremost’ goal, according to President Obama’s instruction, is ‘to find a way to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with dominantly Muslim nations to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science and math and engineering.’”

    1. Ms. Palin would do well to review President Obama’s ‘ambitious new goals’ proposed for future NASA activities. Whether you agree with them or not, they most definitely favor the anti-big goverrnment, pro-business minded and are intended to draw in more private sector investment in future space projects.

    2. Curious, too, that Ms. Palin would embrace the progressive thinking of President Kennedy and his Project Apollo commitment, (which was actually maintained and funded through the auspices of the equally progressive Johnson Administration) as it was a massive government program spending taxpayer funds roughly equal to $170 BILLION in 2005 dollars on a space project alone- more than double the recent stimulus package intended for more down to earth, broader based elements of the American economy. A stimulus package she criticizes. [Yet the recently cancelled Constellation program– ‘Apollo on Steroids’ as it was dubbed, was projected to cost $97 billion (in 2008 dollars) Ms. Palin.]

    3. Ms. Palin’s attempts channel Ronald Reagan appears to have spotty reception as well. She’d do well to learn something about his administration and its own ‘outreach’ efforts to the Muslim world– especially as it orbited one around our planet for a week. In June, 1985, (in the midst of Reagan’s two-terms no less) STS-51D carried Salman au-Saud, a Muslim Saudi Prince, into space aboard Discovery.

    4. Odd as well that Ms. Palin would attempt an analogy using a children’s TV program aired on the government funded Public Broadcasting System– (a kid’s show initially proposed and rejected by the three commerical TV networks of the era BTW), a production on air for over 30 years underwritten in part with taxpayer dollars as well- on a ‘lame stream media’ outlet toward which she has voiced hostility. Still, Ms. Palin knows her audience- for books and broadcast alike: down market and to the right. Simple-minded folk; the followers, not the leaders of a great nation.

  • DCSCA

    @Anne Spudis wrote @ November 26th, 2010 at 5:33 pm
    Well, now there I go trying to think and watch grandchildren. Ha!
    “First answer was the correct one. The election showed Americans pulling back from the social spending that’s killing us.”

    Government funded space projects are ‘social spending’ as well– especially when the United States Government has to borrow 40 cents of every dollar it spands.

    You’re gonna have a tough time convincing granny to accept deep cuts in Social Security and Medicare to keep esoteric space projects flush. Projects that satisfy the curiosities of an elite few at the cost of services and programs which benefit the many BTW. It’s high time space advocates from all points of the compass start scaling their dreams and desires to match the available resources at hand for the next few decades or so. Judging from the content of many of the postings on this blog, the realities of the Age of Austerity have yet to sink in.

  • Vladislaw

    Major Tom wrote:

    “Do you need a cartoon to help you understand this?”

    I want to do Apollo again

    That was hilarious and so on the mark for what we witness here. That stock answer of:

    “I don’t care”

    To every statement or question posed on why we don’t need heavy lift at this point in time that is the answer the bigger is better crowd gives.

    Doesn’t matter what points you make it just doesn’t matter to them. They want a huge heavy lift, that will cost 35-50 billion to develop and build, that requires a massive infrastructure and a standing army to launch and with the lowest flight rate possible or we can not do anything beyond LEO.

    Thanks again for the link I am facebooking it now to all the space pages.

  • Fred Willett

    @Anne Spudis

    Pork is spending $10B on Ares 1 and producing nothing but a rocket made out of an existing 4 segment SRB with a fake fifth segment and a dummy 2nd stage.
    Seed money is spending $278M on producing completed Falcon 1, Falcon 9 and Dragon spacecraft.
    The difference between pork and seed money is a ratio of 35:1.

  • John

    Obama changed his tune after the uproar over Bolden’s comments. Its called the flip-flop. I agree completely that Bolden was thrown under the bus and then burned at the stake by the administration for leaking his bizarre diversity mission for Muslim’s. The administrations attempt to cover their ass was pathetic at best.

  • President Obama’s NASA policies has left himself open to nutcases like Palin. How Democrats can allow Republicans to use John F. Kennedy as their icon for a real space program just boggles the mind.

    Of course, there have always been those in the Democratic Party who hated Kennedy’s Apollo program and really don’t see why the government should be involved with manned space travel at all when that money could be better spent on social programs:-)

  • Bennett

    John wrote @ November 26th, 2010 at 7:59 pm

    Oh Lord, is it time for light beer and crispy pig skins again?

    By the way, the “I Want To Do Apollo Again” video was put together by Mr. Simberg. Spot on.

  • Major Tom

    “Obama changed his tune after the uproar over Bolden’s comments. Its called the flip-flop. I agree completely that Bolden was… for leaking his bizarre diversity mission for Muslim’s.”

    How can Obama “flip-flop” on a “diversity mission” if the “diversity mission” came from Bolden? Changing your own position is not the same as clarifying a subordinate’s statement.

    Think before you post.

  • Major Tom

    “That was hilarious and so on the mark for what we witness here.”

    You should thank Mr. Simberg for creating the video.

    “Thanks again for the link I am facebooking it now to all the space pages.”

    It deserves to be spread.

    FWIW…

  • Robert G. Oler

    This is the kind of rhetoric that takes Sarah Palin out of being a serious contender in the process of thinking through America’s problems…helped seal McCain’s fate in 08, and is just red meat to the folks who dont think things through.

    No matter what you like or dont like about Obama’s direction for NASA (and I admit I like it, Mark Whittington, Rich Kolker and I had a piece published in The Weekly Standard that more or less advocated all pieces of his policy in July 1996)… it is a canard and a bone thrown to the right wing red meat crowd to say that the foremost goal of NASA’s mission is

    “‘to find a way to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with dominantly Muslim nations to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science and math and engineering.’”

    thats goofy in all respects particularly coming from a person who despite several briefing papers on the Bush doctrine had no idea of what it was when asked her views on it by a well known (male) national TV reporter (Charlie Gibson).

    One can argue the notion of Apollo like goals and why and if they should be part of the national dialogue today; but Palin wont do that nor does she in the space segments of her book. She admits to having no clue as to why there was a Korean war, and has in her public statements shown little understanding of the cold war…so she has no real clue how Apollo fit into that, and seems unable to say how it would fit into any great national movement of todays era.

    Palin is a perfect example of the notions of taking complex issues and boiling them down to sound bites which while feeding a particular political bent; have no real basis in reality.

    and if you want to understand how badly her rhetoric flounders…try and watch her babbling on about the issues in the current “fuss up” (her words) with North and South Korea.

    It is clear why she is a darling of the tea party movement…

    Robert G. Oler

  • Rob Miller

    Ahh. She’s even right on NASA. Already sending her money, won’t stop anytime soon. Space, and the country for that matter, is too important to leave in the hands of the current leadership.

  • Anne Spudis

    Fred Willett wrote @ November 26th, 2010 at 7:43 pm

    So, now that we’ve established what they are, you claim that their price changes …..what?

  • Anne Spudis

    DCSCA wrote @ November 26th, 2010 at 6:33 pm

    There is big difference: One is mandated spending while the other, continually shrinking one, is discretionary.

    Commercial space access is the ultimate goal. Unfortunately, by government making them another tax funded dependent, commercial is now in the position of being cut once it “fails” or the money dries up. After NASA HSF has been irretrievably crippled and public money for commercial is cut (because mandated spending squeezes them out) then you are left with a nicely orchestrated execution of the U.S. human space flight program and American exceptionalism. If that happens it will be a huge nail being hammered into our collective coffin. Americans will lose faith in the strength of our country, in how we dream and innovate. I don’t see how we’ll be able to apply the brakes on an emotional and technological decline like that, once it happens.

  • For the record, the entire Charlie Bolden interview with Al-Jazeera is on YouTube at:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e857ZcuIfnI

    When you watch it in context, there was nothing wrong or unusual about what he said.

  • Robert G. Oler wrote:

    … It is a canard and a bone thrown to the right wing red meat crowd to say that the foremost goal of NASA’s mission is

    “‘to find a way to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with dominantly Muslim nations to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science and math and engineering.’”

    When watched in context (at the link I posted above), with his statements just before and just after, it makes perfect sense.

    Bolden is a breath of fresh air, as far as I’m concerned. He doesn’t play the D.C. insider game nor is his objective to funnel pork to the districts of those on the space subcommittees. He wants to do what’s best for this nation’s space program and our role as a world leader.

    I find it hypocritical that those complaining about Bolden’s interview with Al-Jazeera suddenly go mute when confronted with the reality that the Reagan administration flew a Saudi prince on the Shuttle in 1985 Reagan did “Muslim outreach” but apparently that’s okay when it’s a Republican in the White House.

  • amightywind

    Wise words from Momma Grizzly. She calls out Obama’s laughable space program for what it is.

  • And I’ll also point out this article posted last July on The Space Review by our fearless leader, Jeff Foust:

    http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1666/1

    Jeff wrote:

    … Bolden’s statements did catch fire primarily among conservative commentators, who expressed varying degrees of outrage about Bolden’s comments. However, they typically did little else, like digging into the issue to see if NASA’s actions, beyond the administrator’s comments, matched their rhetoric. If they had, they might have found that such outreach — and controversy — wasn’t new: in a February speech Bolden talked about reaching out to “non-traditional” partners, including “dominantly Muslim countries”, although not as the agency’s “foremost” mission. (And lest one think that such outreach is limited to the current administration, recall that a quarter-century ago a Saudi prince flew as a payload specialist on a shuttle flight.) Moreover, NASA’s budget proposals and other actions provide scant evidence that the agency is reorienting to make outreach to Muslim nations a major priority, let alone its “foremost” one.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Anne Spudis wrote @ November 27th, 2010 at 5:16 am

    Commercial space access is the ultimate goal. Unfortunately, by government making them another tax funded dependent, commercial is now in the position of being cut once it “fails” or the money dries up….

    no. the problem with your viewpoint is that we have tried the “big government” spending route for almost 50 years…and it never came close to giving us commercial space.

    this is Palin’s line on Apollo (from the thread)…

    ““As with Theodore Roosevelt, JFK’s ambition to put a man on the moon perfectly captured a nation that feared neither hard work nor failure.””

    the problem is is that once the government money ran out…the program had no other reason to sustain itself.

    On a general thread. Palin and most of the folks who like her yearn for an era in history that they have redefined themselves as some magical time…and with their knowledge of history that is easy to do. The problem is that a nation nor person can either go back in history..or time.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    Marcel F. Williams wrote @ November 26th, 2010 at 9:51 pm

    President Obama’s NASA policies has left himself open to nutcases like Palin. How Democrats can allow Republicans to use John F. Kennedy as their icon for a real space program just boggles the mind. ..

    because Republicans particularly the tea party right are so ignorant of history that they are pleased to grab on to things JFK did in his term that have little or no relevance to today.

    For instance those who support tax cuts for the very wealthy, the ones who are suppose to create a rising tide that lifts all boats…say JFK cut taxes for the uber rich, ignoring the difference in tax rates that prompted him to do it.

    Those who advocate Apollo like adventures for NASA ignore the backdrop of the cold war, which is the field on which Apollo was born and sustained in, claiming that JFK had some grand vision of space exploration etc, when JFK himself says otherwise.

    Palin has mangled JFK’s “bear any price” phrase and yet doesnt quite seem to understand how that sort of thinking lead us into essentially a civil war in Southeast Asia which all but the GOP right concede was a mistake (and years later was a similar background for our ill thought out involvements in the Mideast).

    Politicians who have no coherent vision of their own (such as Palin) harken frequently back to those politicians who did, trying to morph it into “theirs”…all such efforts do is “refudiate” (sorry couldnt resist) the own intellectual leanings of the people who do it.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Justin Kugler

    Tom and Jon nailed this one. This was not a substantive statement on space policy from Palin. It was just more ill-informed partisan rhetoric from someone who has no other play in the book than to attack.

    Someone should show Palin and her staff the Gingrich-Walker op-ed on the original FY2011 NASA proposal to illustrate what an honest analysis from conservatives looks like.

  • Gregori

    “Way left of centre”? What????

    That’s an utterly bizarre claim. What Obama actually did was to propose the privatization of transport services to Space instead of a government designed launcher. That’s hardly left of centre. The right should be cheering!!!!

    Bringing up the comparison to Kennedy is really absurd. We’re not in the middle of a cold war where we can even try to justify these expenditures. Its not the personality of the president that is at fault, its political realities of our time. No one is going to be cool with spending billions and billions more on NASA when the public is already far more concerned about real problems that effect their lives. If Obama proposed such funding….. the Republicans would be the first to try scuttle the effort and criticize it as “too much big government spending” etc etc

    If the current plan for NASA is allowed to succeed, I think Obama will be seen as having a legacy greater than Kennedy. Kennedy only allowed for a few stunts to the Moon and back, Obama’s plan is to open it up to do greater things and allow commerce.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Anne Spudis wrote @ November 26th, 2010 at 12:43 pm

    “If you consider money paid to NASA contractors “pork,” you can’t spin that same money around, put lipstick on it and call it “seed money for commercial start-ups” and not expect that people will rightly recognize it for what it is.”

    only if you dont know understand what “pork” is.

    The rise of the American people as a great and powerful people and Nation is directly traced to both individual industry and national cohesion to accomplish things…things which allow individual industry to triumph and succeed.

    There doubtless is “pork” in (for instance) the spending on the air traffic control system…but overall the money spent collectively by the American people creates an infrastructure which has allowed (over the decades) more and more people to participate in air travel, until today when it is common place. This can be said, for the most part for almost all the spending put into civil aviation by the federal government…it has as a rule allowed the benefits of aviation to be used by “ordinary” people in their daily lives, as the record air travel this Thanksgiving season must illustrate.

    There is no hint that this has happened in human spaceflight…it has happened in spaceflight; the government “investments” in Syncom for instance have revolutionized our lives and our leisure and our economy…

    but the hundreds of billions spent in human spaceflight, and the hundreds more billions needed by people such as yourselves that want more big government programs to flourish…have in the main served the American public poorly.

    The “investment” that the government has in the commercial ops in human spaceflight across the board (from tax dollars building the New Mexico Space Port to the investment in commercial lift) is not only a fraction of what the grand schemes people like you want, but it has the advantage of creating infrastructure whose success or failure is not only a set goal, but a set series of economics.

    you may not see the value in that, a lot of people who are tacit supporters of big government spending usually dont…but having tried it the way you, your husband, Whittington and a lot of other people argue for, for the last half century…any change would be good.

    Robert G. Oler

  • DCSCA

    @Anne Spudis wrote @ November 27th, 2010 at 5:16 am

    There is big difference: One is mandated spending while the other, continually shrinking one, is discretionary.

    =blink= Ultimately, there is no difference; the funding is sourced from the same revenue pool. You overlook the fact that both require the United States government to borrow 41 cents of every dollar it spends, discretionary or mandatory. And regardless of mandatory or discretionary spending dictates, which can be altered legislatively, the source continues to be an expanding sea of red ink representing borrowed funds. It is unsustainable and hard times call for hard choices to be made. Social services for an increasingly impoverished population are clearly a necessity to stem an increasing breakdown in a decaying society repeatedly signalling a need for refurbishment in some of the most basic areas, like infrastructure, quite literally from the ground up. Spaceflight is not one of them. Esoteric, government funded space projects as well as government subsidized ‘commercial’ space ventures, which satisfy the curiosity and/or needs of an elite few at the expense of the many, are clearly a questionable, expensive luxury in the Age of Austerity. Space advocates from all points of the compass best begin to scale their dreams to match the resources available for the next decade or two.

  • DCSCA

    @Anne Spudis wrote @ November 27th, 2010 at 5:16 am

    “American exceptionalism.” There is no such thing.

  • DCSCA

    @Robert G. Oler wrote @ November 27th, 2010 at 12:43 pm

    “…tax dollars building the New Mexico Space Port…”

    It is worth noting that these are voter approved state and county revenue streams by the people of New Mexico, not Federal dollars.

  • Wodun

    Many of the people who are criticizing Palin for taking things out of context or mis-characterizations often do the same thing to Palin. I would encourage those who hate Palin so much to read her response http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=463364218434

    Why is it that Palin is held to a higher standard than the current President?

    There are people here who like Obama’s plan for NASA but do you really like the way he rolled it out? Sure he commissioned a study but he took a year to make a decision and by that time some of his options had expired. He could of ended the gap by reversing Bush’s decision and kept the shuttles flying but he took so long to make the decision that the choice was no longer an option.

    This is the same President that commissioned a report on whether or not to give his hand picked generals what they wanted in Afghanistan. It took him 6 months to decide to listen to McCrystal and during those 6 months he didn’t even talk to his general in the field. Much like he didn’t even talk to the BP ceo for a month.

    Obama is a smart guy but he wasn’t ready to be President and he hasn’t been very good at learning on the job. He certainly doesn’t deserve the messianic treatment he gets from his followers.

    Palin certainly isn’t an expert on space policy and neither is Obama. Defenders of Obama’s plan have to project their own desires and motives into it in order to defend it. This is because Obama failed at creating an effective vision for what he was trying to accomplish (it is ambiguous and lacks focus). And this is really where Palin’s comments have merit.

    In the provided quote she contrasts Kennedy’s ability to create a vision with Obama’s. Kennedy > Obama. Why shouldn’t she compare Obama to Kennedy? The successes, failures, and reasons for both are constantly part of the debate on this blog.

    Palin might be out of her sphere of expertise when talking about space policy but she isn’t when talking about leadership and that is really what her comments where about.

  • Robert G. Oler

    DCSCA wrote @ November 27th, 2010 at 3:46 pm

    It is worth noting that these are voter approved state and county revenue streams by the people of New Mexico, not Federal dollars…

    a point which is not relevant to the larger issue I was addressing. The notion of tax dollars building infrastructure where Americans individual dreams and aspirations can find fruit is not dependent on what level the taxing authority is.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    Wodun wrote @ November 27th, 2010 at 6:15 pm


    Why is it that Palin is held to a higher standard than the current President?

    I would make three points.

    First Palin is held to about the lowest standard possible by her supporters. Most of her supporters somewhere in the description of why they like her (particularly the males) talk about how “hot” she is…the vast majority of her supporters dont seem to mind that she makes up words, gets North/South Korea (or Iran and Iraq) confused and has no idea past the rhetoric level of the great issues of our time.

    Palin’s sole requirement is that she say things that her base (her fans) are predisposed to like. That these things have any basis in reality or even possibilities is not important to her fans.

    Her space notes on this thread are illustrative. To her fans “recreating” the glory of Apollo is a part of their notion of The US and its place in the world. They (and she) use phrases from other people, including “American exceptionalism” and have no idea what context the phrase was used in. It sounds good she says it, they like it.

    Second “Defenders of Obama’s plan have to project their own desires and motives into it in order to defend it. This is because Obama failed at creating an effective vision for what he was trying to accomplish (it is ambiguous and lacks focus).”

    that is a broad brush and in my case it is certainly WRONG. The plan speaks for itself and in my view, a view long held (see my Weekly Standard piece in 1999). The plan is not ambiguous UNLESS you believe in the notion that all government programs and plans have to do is state an objective and toss money at it until that objective is achieved. ENOUGH money would have gotten Cx to the Moon, but for what? A few NASA astronauts playing golf and making bad jokes while they stick to an idiotic time line?

    Ronalus the Great had a firm plan, with a goal (the space station) and most of the people who like Cx dont like that firm goal (which we have nearly accomplished).

    Obama’s plan depends on the genius of American free enterprise; people trying to invent a better mousetrap to make a buck and in the process create jobs.

    That might not be important to you; but it is to me.

    Finally “Obama is a smart guy but he wasn’t ready to be President and he hasn’t been very good at learning on the job. ” and “Palin might be out of her sphere of expertise when talking about space policy but she isn’t when talking about leadership ”

    I agree that Obama is not doing a good job at President or learning on the job, but so far as a former Gov, neither has Palin. She consistently polls badly among anyone but her base…she has shown any inability to stretch out her approval ratings past those who already watch and love her on Fox News…

    A metric of failure of a Presidency is when you start to lose public support…thats happening to Obama and one reason in my view he shows “first term rot”…but Palin has it worse…she peaked in public approval at her GOP convention speech and it has been downhill ever since.

    Oddly enough on space policy Obama has shown leadership…he got his plan through the Congress with very modest modifications.

    What metric are you using to define her success as a leader?

    Robert G. Oler

  • DCSCA

    Robert G. Oler wrote @ November 27th, 2010 at 7:10 pm
    Yes, it is, as the funding is not being sourced from the Federal government, but from state and local governments voted on by the citizens of New Mexico. Your routine ranting about the evils of big government spending on the Federal level, reiterating your silly notion of wasted resources for decades on HSF. New Mexico’s spaceport is not.

    “The notion of tax dollars building infrastructure where Americans individual dreams and aspirations can find fruit is not dependent on what level the taxing authority is.” It’s extremely dependent on the level of taxing authoirity. Especially when the Federal government is borrowing 41 cents of every dollar it spends. The proper source for funding ‘American individual dreams and aspirations’ is the private sector capital markets, not the government.

  • DCSCA

    @Robert G. Oler wrote @ November 27th, 2010 at 11:59 am

    “no. the problem with your viewpoint is that we have tried the “big government” spending route for almost 50 years…and it never came close to giving us commercial space.”

    And it’s not supposed to. Commerical space ventures have been trying to get off the ground for 30 of those 50 years. Suggest you ask youself why they have not gotten anyplace and you’ll finally comprehend why governments do it- or have done it in various guises for 80 years. It’s a limited market which, be it selling space services or ice cubes to Eskimos, indicates limited ROV to quarterly driven, profit-oriented companies.

  • Robert G. Oler

    DCSCA wrote @ November 27th, 2010 at 8:26 pm
    Suggest you ask youself why they have not gotten anyplace …

    that is why I support the space initiatives of The President…what has stillborn any commercial human ops in space is the space shuttle system

    Robert G. Oler

  • DCSCA, yep.. that’s sounds exactly what’s happened – assuming you don’t actually have any knowledge or understanding of how Congress, NASA and other government interference has been poisoning the industry since Apollo.

  • Bennett

    you’ll finally comprehend why governments do it- or have done it in various guises for 80 years. It’s a limited market which, be it selling space services or ice cubes to Eskimos, indicates limited ROV to quarterly driven, profit-oriented companies.

    I suggest you’ve got it wrong, and backwards. It may have been a limited market 20 years ago, but it isn’t one in 2010. With ever increasing need for satellite constellations for cell phone and high speed satellite internet, the market is growing faster than LVs can loft the birds. Thus the launch manifest for orbital, ULA, SpaceX and other launch providers, through 2020.

    As far as the question of “why governments do it”, you are mistaking the chicken for the egg. If they hadn’t provided subsidized launch services, the private sector (commercial companies) would have been able to sell their launch services for a profit (far below what it actually cost the taxpayer in the end) and we would have a vibrant LEO/BEO industry by now.

  • DCSCA

    A metric of failure of a Presidency is when you start to lose public support… ROFLMAO Suggest you revisit Reagan’s numbers in the first term. By your ‘metric’ he should have been a one-termer and a failed presidency. Not so on both counts, whether you agree with his politics or not.

  • Wodun

    Robert G. Oler wrote @ November 27th, 2010 at 7:22 pm

    …the vast majority of her supporters dont seem to mind that she makes up words, gets North/South Korea (or Iran and Iraq) confused and has no idea past the rhetoric level of the great issues of our time.

    Obama is hailed as the smartest President of all time and yet has made worse gaffes than Palin and she is portrayed as the dumbest person to walk the planet. If Obama made up a word by accident, he would be hailed as a genius bringing change to the English language at a time when it needs it most.

    Did you even hear her North/South Korea comments? Read Palin’s facebook response and think about the gaffes Obama has made and how the media would handle them if Palin had said the same things.

    Even though you don’t like Palin, surely you can see the double standard.

    Palin is held accountable for her gaffes, Obama not so much. You might not like that her supporters know about Palin’s gaffes and still like her. Obama supporters don’t even get that chance because his gaffes don’t make the news.It must be nice to have a media that covers for you and mercilessly attacks your political opponents or as Obama calls them, “the enemy”.

    Kinda strange how Obama uses his harshest rhetoric for domestic political opponents while our actual foreign enemies receive flowery prose.

    Obama’s plan depends on the genius of American free enterprise; people trying to invent a better mousetrap to make a buck and in the process create jobs.

    Here you are projecting what you like about the plan and relating it to the entire thing. Other people think success will come from other aspects. When it means so many different things to different people, it is ambiguous. This is regardless of how much or little someone might like it.

    The plan is not ambiguous UNLESS you believe in the notion that all government programs and plans have to do is state an objective and toss money at it until that objective is achieved.

    I believe there are more choices than the ones you offer.

    Oddly enough on space policy Obama has shown leadership…he got his plan through the Congress with very modest modifications.

    You can’t with a straight face tell me the way Obama’s plan was revealed to the public was good leadership. Giving a speech at NASA and not letting workers be present, also not good leadership. Throwing Bolden under the bus for following orders, not good leadership. I am not certain he played a major role in the negotiations in Congress.

    What metric are you using to define her success as a leader?

    Prior to the 2008 election, she was a successful politician by anyone’s standards. There are only 57 governors after all and very few people are ever nominated to run for VP. Post 2008 we have this media circus which Palin can either choose to engage with or be destroyed by.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Wodun wrote @ November 28th, 2010 at 5:08 am

    start here

    “You can’t with a straight face tell me the way Obama’s plan was revealed to the public was good leadership”

    if you want a plan of Obama’s that was badly rolled out, then you should invoke the health care plan or whatever we are doing in Afland…the former was bungled on almost every avenue and the last one is mostly incoherent (but to be fair Bush’s policy in Afland was also incoherent).

    “to the public”, space policy is meaningless. you might be interested in it, I certainly am, but for Obama to waste any public rollout on a human spaceflight policy would have told me that his policy shop is in total disarray (I think it is anyway).

    Outside of the space junkies and the folks who are involved in human spaceflight as a pay check, go stop on the streets in Natchez MS or Kansas City MO (two places I have been recently) and they just dont give a darn. They really havent since the unique synergy of the cold war and Apollo and probably wont for a very long time…most space junkies thing Apollo was or should be the norm, it was the exception (or as Palin has put it “the unique exception”). And it was an exception that was losing steam even before Apollo made it to the Moon.

    You are correct, there is more then one way for policy, but that rarely exist except in the halls of academia and certainly did not in the space debate.

    There were really only two choices…the first was some policy that kept the 15000 or so people and multiple contractors employed…doing what really didnt matter…but the problem with that policy was that there was not enough money for the jobs and to actually do anything in human spaceflight….

    to do something in space and keep all the people employed required a lot more money and that money is not there.

    the other path is to sharply reduce the number of people and then use the money to actually build things and do stuff. A bonus for me of Obama’s plan is that it actually does stimulate the private sector creating jobs that have value and value past the tax payer dole, and offer breakout potential that the “government only” club never had.

    You may think that it is very important that the US have government programs that signal to the world “We are number 1″ in sort of a macho sort of thing…I dont. That sort of thinking lead us to respond to the actions of 19 people with box cutters…by getting bogged down in the middle east in goofy adventures.

    Obama’s plan has (in my view) some flaws, but for the most part it realigns human spaceflight expenditures with the historical notion of how new technologies are developed and prosper in the US. It is possible that there is no “there there” in terms of hsf affecting/effecting our economy; I dont think that is the case. But we will never know as long as government dole jobs are the most important accomplishment that the program(s) have.

    As for Palin.

    It wont take to many keystrokes with my name (it is my real one) to find that on the McCain blog about two days after the FL primary; I wrote the “daily blog” where I went through the five potential folks who I thought should be the VP choice and Palin was one of them. She was not my first choice but she was the one who I thought for the politics of it, McCain should pick. I have been following her long before most of her adoring fans knew she existed. Political campaigns dont let just anyone have the blog feature of the day…so that alone should tell you something.

    The Palin who was Gov of Alaska is not the Palin who is today the celebrity of the right wing. Steve Schmidt is a sort of friend and I knew other folks in the McCain campaign (one of which Mark Whittington and Rich Kolker who hang out on this blog have met) and I take their analysis of Palin’s transformation from serious Gov to right wing groupie as sort of Gospel.

    Instead of taking the great chance she had been given and working hard to master the intricacies of national politics she has instead become the master of the sound bite and “red meat” toss all designed to keep the folks who are naturally attracted to her because of her personal story, (and looks) in love with her. The lines “domestic terrorist” played well with the right wing, but it cost McCain/Palin votes in the middle where Presidential elections are won.

    Gaffes are a part of politicians lives. I have run for and won a couple of minor offices and in one debate on the school board I gave a two minute answer where I got a program priced in the millions punched up to the billions. My opponent tried to make a lot of it and that didnt help him much. So the notion of 57 states or her confusing North South Korea doesnt bother me that much…but “domestic terrorist” did. It was a red meat line that was meant to incite not communicate.

    What worried me about Palin (and I said it in the blog) was that there was no idea how she would handle the basic questions of the campaign. It did alarm me that she didnt have a clue about the Bush doctrine (even more so because I helped write a short two graph briefing paper on the subject for Steve who told me that it was in the package for her). It did alarm me that she couldnt speak to what newspapers she read. Sunni/Shia is a tough thing to understand but in her comments today she still doesnt seem to have a good grasp on something that is as important to the Mideast as the “north/south” division was in 1860 America. (and it is far more then just a difference in religion).

    If she trivially gaffs under the pressure of a friendly show like Beck, well its hard to see how she stands up to President “Tom” in Iraq or Iran or whevever he is (sorry a cheap shot).

    Every day since the loss, she has gotten sloppier. The right wing likes to hear that we should “rebuild the 600 ship Navy” but thats a goofy notion and so is expanding a missile defense that has never been proven to work.

    Her comments on space politics/policy seem to echo that (at least in her book). First off there is simply the red meat throw out line about the reachout to Muslims. Fear of Muslims and Islam is pervasive in the right wing; this is the new Soviet Union to people who need a good enemy …read her facebook page or that of any of the right wingers and the vast majority are always expressing how we are in danger of being conquered (a goofy notion) by the Jihad.

    Then after the Muslim baiting there is the “return to the glory days of yesteryear” mention of Apollo…there is not much innovative or very thoughtful in this.

    I was a big supporter of Ronaldus the Great. I cut my political teeth on his 1976 campaign. For his era Reagan was the answer to almost every ill that faced this country, but all Palin is now trying to do, is make herself a Reagan in high heels…with no clue really of what made Reagan a great man and an “Rushmore” President.

    In the end Palin cant expand her base outside of the Jihad right…that is not leadership. She likes that base…it is in many respects like Obama’s left base…easy to satisfy.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    DCSCA wrote @ November 28th, 2010 at 1:22 am

    naw. Ronaldus the Greats poll slippage in the 82-83 era was quite different from Obama’s.

    Obama’s right now seem to parallel both Bush the old and Carter’s mid term numbers…whereas Clinton’s and Reagan’s have more in common.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Ferris Valyn

    Wodun – go actually look at a liberal/leftist website, like Dailykos – its hardly a ringing endorsement of Obama, everywhere you go.

  • DCSCA

    @Robert G. Oler wrote @ November 28th, 2010 at 11:14 am- Yes, Reagans were worse by percentage of population as was his popularity. But he survived and flourished for two terms. To keep it ‘space’ related, a little less Spock and a little more Kirk would be welcomed from Obama ’bout now. But the fact his opposition has all but rejected his space initiative, chiefly because his administration proposed it; an initative they’d naturally gravitate toward, says it all. They want him to fail.

  • Coastal Ron

    Wodun wrote @ November 27th, 2010 at 6:15 pm

    Obama is a smart guy but he wasn’t ready to be President and he hasn’t been very good at learning on the job.

    You seem to think that future presidents are like diamonds – they exist, and just need to be uncovered.

    I think successful presidents are a combination of natural talents (communications, focus, ability to get things done, etc.) and the teams around them. Bush 43 was certainly overshadowed by Bush 41 by many measures (experience, foreign policy knowledge, etc.), yet Bush 41 won two elections because of his organizations ability to create compelling messages and stick to them.

    Regarding Obama, his management style is definitely low key – i.e. No Drama Obama. A policy wonk in the Clinton style, but without Clinton’s communications skills. Still, Obama is more like Bush 41 than Bush 43 in many ways (definitely intellectually), and I myself would rather have someone that just gets the job done, than someone who is trying to build a legacy.

    Palin is an interesting study. A recent magazine article detailed the team behind Palin, and they have done a great job so far in keeping Palin relevant long after the 2008 elections. But her downside has been when she tries to justify criticism of an opponent with the “vision” she has – her vision isn’t usually very compelling to most people.

    Regarding space issues, I don’t think her comment on Obama’s space policy was anything more than just another venue to A) criticize Obama, and B) reinforce her image as a person of “bold” vision.

    Her vision was like most things Palin – long on rhetoric, but short on specifics. She may indeed have the best vision on space, but until she starts getting into specifics, no one will know. I guess we’ll see how much she really cares about space as a destination, or if it’s really just a political punchline.

  • amightywind

    “How condescending to Muslims. How sad for America,” she concludes. “And how unsurprising coming from a man who is himself one of the leading exemplars of the new culture of self-esteem.”

    This is the first time in Presidential politics that a challenger has used the President’s handling of NASA as a successful wedge issue. A totally unforced error by Obama. Wouldn’t it have made more sense for him to build some consensus for his wacky ideasin a friendly congress before he rolled out his new age garbage? The issue is there for the taking. Give Palin credit for being the first of the contenders to exploit it.

  • This is the first time in Presidential politics that a challenger has used the President’s handling of NASA as a successful wedge issue.

    In what way was it “successful”? A half page in a book? Who cares?

  • Coastal Ron

    amightywind wrote @ November 28th, 2010 at 7:14 pm

    Give Palin credit for being the first of the contenders to exploit it.

    You’re assuming that what she said actually resonates with potential voters in a positive way. So far it hasn’t.

    Unless Palin can overcome her natural ability to repel as well as attract (her negatives are the highest among potential Republican presidential contenders), then she won’t be able to win national elections.

    Since the discourse on NASA in her book did not reveal any astounding depth or propose a specific plan, it is unlikely to sway the broad middle of unaffiliated voters. In fact it could be viewed as just more of the same partisan ramblings from her. What a big surprise…

  • William Mellberg

    Major Tom wrote:

    “How is repeating a 1960s-era accomplishment 40 years later ‘ambitious’ at all?”

    I guess I might ask, how is repeating a 1960s-era accomplishment 50 years later ‘ambitious’ at all? Next year marks the 50th anniversary of the first orbital flights by Yuri Gagarin and Gherman Titov. It also marks the 50th anniversary of the first sub-orbital flights by Alan Shepard and Gus Grissom. It seems the “New Space” proponents are excited about repeating old space achievements — sending people on sub-orbital joy rides or putting them into Low Earth Orbit and going around and around and around.

    The challenge John Kennedy offered the American people a few weeks after Shepard’s flight was one which truly captured the imagination. In fact, it captured the imagination of the entire world — not just the American people. And people from around the world participated in Apollo. Germans helped design and build the rockets. Canadians helped design and build the spacecraft (although they don’t get the same attention as the von Braun team). Tracking stations in Spain and Australia helped to make communications possible between Earth and the Moon. And in just eight years, a centuries old dream was accomplished without the problems that seem to plague human spaceflight these days. The Soviets nearly duplicated America’s lunar landings, and we might have a permanently-manned research station on the Moon today if they had. Sending men to the Moon was a bold goal, and it brought people together around the globe in a common cause.

    Thus far, ObamaSpace hasn’t come even close to doing that, and this is what Governor Palin was pointing out.

    As for going back to the Moon …

    I was very disappointed when I heard the President say (in effect), “been there, done that.”

    As recent discoveries have suggested, there is still much to learn about the Moon and its origins. And learning about the Moon’s origins teaches us about the rest of the Solar System — including Earth. The Moon is something of a cosmic Rosetta Stone, preserving in its battered surface and ancient rocks the geologic history of the past 4.6 billion years. The Moon is also a natural “space station” that would be the perfect place for optical and radio telescopes, as well as for testing the hardware and equipment (habitation modules, for instance) that would be needed for the exploration of Mars and NEOs (asteroids). In his Congressional testimony earlier this year, Neil Armstrong spelled out some of the reasons for going back to the Moon. And they weren’t to repeat his mission or to recapture the glory of Apollo. As Mr. Armstrong suggested, the Nixon Administration dropped the ball when it killed Apollo (perhaps because Apollo was so closely associated with Kennedy and Johnson). It’s time that another generation pick up the ball and continue the exploration of the Moon in preparation for even greater journeys beyond. But, as Governor Palin has suggested, President Obama dropped the ball again. “ObamaSpace” has failed to inspire. And when General Bolden misspoke in the Middle East last summer, the Obama Administration threw him under the bus and has kept him muzzled ever since.

    Sarah Palin suffers from some of the same problems as Dan Quayle — partly her own fault, and partly the result of the media. But in this instance she has accurately stated the obvious … “ObamaSpace” is a bust. Despite whatever merits it might have (and there are parts of the new policy that I can embrace), the perception is that it failed from the day it was rolled out. And the President’s speech at the Kennedy Space Center on April 15th certainly was no match for John Kennedy’s address to Congress and the Nation in May 1961

    That said, no president has said or done anything quite like what John Kennedy did nearly 50 years ago. Perhaps it’s because you can only conquer the Moon once. At the time of Kennedy’s speech, scientists didn’t know whether the lunar surface was hard or soft. No lunar rock had ever been seen — not even with the most powerful telescopes. The Moon still had an aura of mystery around it, as did Venus and Mars and the rest of the Cosmos. Apollo changed all that, as did the unmanned exploration of the Solar System. The pre-Apollo mindset can never be repeated. Thus, the “glories” of the Apollo era can never be repeated.

    But what we CAN do is to continue the exploration of space … “boldly going where no one has gone before” (and that includes 99.9% of the lunar surface).

    The question is (as it has always been) … do we (humankind) have the will to do it? Or are we going to be stuck on this little blue planet forever, squabbling among ourselves and failing to heed the call of the New Frontier?

    I think what Governor Palin was calling for was something bold … not something bland. I think she was calling on us to raise our sights … not to lower them. When America raised its sights 50 years ago, we did what many thought was impossible. John Kennedy probably didn’t care about the Moon one way or another. (The record suggests that his decision was all about Cold War politics — not space exploration.) But he did know how to inspire … as did Nikita Khrushchev.

    But again, those times were different. And they can’t be repeated. Which is probably why Sarah Palin didn’t suggest what her goals would be for America’s space program. And which is why NASA is lost in space (i.e., there is no consensus about what our goals ought to be).

    How the mighty have fallen.

  • DCSCA

    @amightywind wrote @ November 28th, 2010 at 7:14 pm
    “This is the first time in Presidential politics that a challenger has used the President’s handling of NASA as a successful wedge issue.” Are you kidding? Suggest you revisit the attacks on costs by candidates in the Apollo era or better still, bone up on the infamous banter ’bout the bogus ‘missile gap’ between the Nixon and JFK camps in the 1960 election.

  • Vladislaw

    amightywind wrote:

    “Wouldn’t it have made more sense for him to build some consensus for his wacky ideasin a friendly congress before he rolled out his new age garbage?”

    A “friendly” congress? 300 filibusters, shattering the record by three times the amount President Bush Jr. and President Clinton recieved?

    The party of no is friendly? It would not have mattered what course President Obama charted it would have not been well received by the republicans . They have clearly laid out their position, in that they want the President to fail. They want every policy he presents to be his “waterloo” and as the Senate Minority leader has stated, the number one priority of the republican party is to see that the President fails and is limited to one term.

    So to say that the NASA policy could have been rolled out and been well received by republicans is nonsense.

    —————————-

    William Mellberg wrote:

    “Next year marks the 50th anniversary of the first orbital flights by Yuri Gagarin and Gherman Titov. It also marks the 50th anniversary of the first sub-orbital flights by Alan Shepard and Gus Grissom. It seems the “New Space” proponents are excited about repeating old space achievements — sending people on sub-orbital joy rides or putting them into Low Earth Orbit and going around and around and around.”

    An American has a better chance at becoming a professional sports player, race car driver, a member of congress, an actor et cetera. Than to be become an astronaut. NASA, as 50 years has shown, has never been interested in making human spaceflight a common occurance. Just look if NASA has pursued 30 year old technology how cheap, relative to what they have traditionaly spent on HSF how many more americans could have become an astronaut.

    To think that commercial is interested in breaking new technical ground and surpass NASA is just about the silliest arguement you could make. They are first and foremost being funded to try and bring spaceflight to as many people as possible, something NASA has consistantly worked to not accomplish.

    The idea that commercial firms are “sending” people around and around is another silly arguement. They are going to provide a service to people who WANT to go around and around and are willing to pay for that experience, an experience that has been denied to them by policies meant to keep the status quo.

    We are going to see, in our lifetimes, the number of people reaching suborbital and orbital flight EXPLODE. More people will fly in a single year than have flown in the previous 50 years combined.

    The way you try to minimize that achievement tells alot about your mindset.

  • It seems the “New Space” proponents are excited about repeating old space achievements — sending people on sub-orbital joy rides or putting them into Low Earth Orbit and going around and around and around.

    Yes, because we got off on the wrong foot fifty years ago, it is necessary to recapitulate all of those achievements in a way that’s actually affordable and sustainable, and will open them up to markets far beyond a few civil servants.

  • Robert G. Oler

    William Mellberg wrote @ November 29th, 2010 at 12:43 am

    the problem is William is that your enthusiasm for another Apollo “call to duty” (sorry I like that show) is shared by very small numbers of people in the US and I suspect an even smaller number in the world.

    The enthusiasm that Apollo generated was not for the Moon alone but was intermixed in a clever sea of national and international politics. The odd thing about Apollo particularly in the discussion of politics is that most of the folks (including Sadly Palin who is a political dunce) miss the entire notion of the Jack Kennedy campaign of 60 which was “get America moving again” after two terms of a good but lackluster GOP President.

    The entire “atmosphere” of the Presidency of JFK was to modernize America…from Jackie’s wardrobe to well Apollo.

    That is a bad fit today in a country where the basic functioning of our basic institutions is in question.

    As for redoing 50 years later something…you obviously do not fly on airliners.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Coastal Ron

    William Mellberg wrote @ November 29th, 2010 at 12:43 am

    The challenge John Kennedy offered the American people a few weeks after Shepard’s flight was one which truly captured the imagination.

    What Kennedy challenged the nation to do was this:

    I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth.

    And so we did that. In fact we did it far more times than Kennedy stated, so we have “been there, done that”. But his goal was not an open-ended commitment, so don’t read more into what Kennedy wanted than what Kennedy actually said.

    I guess I might ask, how is repeating a 1960s-era accomplishment 50 years later ‘ambitious’ at all?

    The ambitious part is in being able to do it for a lower cost, and changing it from a congressionally-funded program into a commercially available service.

    It’s funny, but you don’t see the irony of your statement, especially since you drive around in wheeled vehicles introduced in the 1800’s, and fly in vehicles introduced in the early 1900’s. It doesn’t matter when the first time something is done, it only matters if you can continue to keep doing it.

    For instance, we wouldn’t be flying coast-to-coast if the airlines and airplane manufacturers had not focused on driving down cost while increasing speed and capacity, all with higher safety.

    Space transportation has to do the same, and capsules are really an indication of the lowest cost approach to getting people to/from space. Once the market and technologies mature, then more sophisticated methods of transportation will appear, just like metal replacing wooden fuselages, and jet engines taking over from the propeller-driven piston engines.

    For me, the exciting part is the replacement of Congress with the free-market. That is how we will expand into space, with the space equivalents of Southwest Airlines, not the yearly begging of taxpayer dollars from distracted representatives.

    As recent discoveries have suggested, there is still much to learn about the Moon and its origins.

    OK, now you’re starting to sound like a “Moon First” cultist. The lack of knowledge about something does not justify the need to spend money, and the Moon (as well as the Universe) will be with us for a very long time, so there is no rush to get there.

    The question is (as it has always been) … do we (humankind) have the will to do it?

    We have always had the will to do it. There is no shortage of people that are willing to risk their lives to do exciting things. What we have always lacked is the money to do it.

    Which gets us to your comment ““ObamaSpace” is a bust.“.

    If creating lower-cost transportation infrastructure is boring to you, then so be it. But we are not getting off this blue ball without spending lots of money, and maybe you have heard that the U.S. has run up this huge deficit?

    If you want to spend OPM (Other Peoples Money) to go explore the Moon, then you better show the American public how you’re going to do it in the least expensive way – and that is what ObamaSpace is trying to put in place.

    If you want to get there quicker, then I suggest you do what Musk and Branson have done, and start your own company to attain your goals. If there is as much interest as you think there is, then the money should flow. If not, well, then you’ll have your answer there too.

  • Vladislaw

    Another great post Ron, I especially liked this:

    “It’s funny, but you don’t see the irony of your statement, especially since you drive around in wheeled vehicles introduced in the 1800′s, and fly in vehicles introduced in the early 1900′s. It doesn’t matter when the first time something is done, it only matters if you can continue to keep doing it.”

    A key to both the affordabilty of transportation systems and it’s widespread use was the support infrastructure.

    From planes, trains, and automobiles to even water transport was the gas/service stations spaced across the nation to refuel and service them. Hell even horse transportation has livery stables and blacksmith shops. Space transportation will be no exception to the two centuries of what history has taught us to make transportation systems affordable.

    We will never build rockets big enough to do one off launches for the moon, mars and beyond and have it sustainable. Tossing away billions in hardware would be the death nell to any transportation system and it was the death nell of Apollo and Constellation.

    The sooner we start funding LEO infrastructure like fuel stations/depots and space based, reusable, earth departure stages the sooner we can get on with exploration beyond earth orbit.

    William Mellberg wrote:

    “It’s time that another generation pick up the ball and continue the exploration of the Moon in preparation for even greater journeys beyond. “

    It is not time for another generation to suffer the effects of Apollo, an unsustainable throw away system that retarded our efforts in space for decades.

    It is time for this generation of entreprenuers to reap the fruits of yesterday’s government funded exploration. Just like the Lewis and Clark expedition did, they returned and said “this is what we found” so to did Apollo, they returned and said “this is what we found”. After L&C the federal government enacted policies that allowed commercial private enterprises to reap those resources.

    Until the Federal government moves to change the outer space treaty and allow for private ownership by earthlings and private enterprise it will be hard to exploit resources.

    NASA will never be in a position to do this, allow commercial firms deal with those routine duties and let NASA work on the technology commercial firms need for tomorrow.

  • DCSCA

    Rand Simberg wrote @ November 29th, 2010 at 10:24 am

    “Yes, because we got off on the wrong foot fifty years ago…”

    No. Private industry had ample opportunity over the history of rocket development to lead the way but balked because of the immense costs involved and limited return on investment, particularly to quarterly driven firms. That’s why governments did it and still do it. You didn’t see Opel or Junkers building rockets on their own in Germany for profit and privat ventures; it was in response to government desires. Messersmitt didn’t build Penemunde, the government did; it was the communist/socialist Soviet government which invested in rocket development in the 50s and orbited satellites and humans first, not the rich, capitalist countries in the West, chiefly because private industry saw no financial profit from it. But the political profit was clear and the U.S. government picked up the ball and ran, playing catch-up. Enterain and educate yourself– pick up a copy of ‘Destination:Moon.’ The then ‘ficticious’ business plan in it might look familiar to you today.

  • Vladislaw

    DCSCA wrote:

    “it was the communist/socialist Soviet government which invested in rocket development in the 50s and orbited satellites and humans first, not the rich, capitalist countries in the West, chiefly because private industry saw no financial profit from it. “

    You are exactly right, the government led the way, BUT (there is always a but) what happened once the rich capitalist country, that is America, saw there was a profit to be made in space based communications?

    Was/is is the old Soviet Union/Russia that led the way? Was it even our own federal government? It was the priming of the pump that gave us cell phones and satellite t.v. by commercial firms.

    It is the same for space, we can not even imagine what will happen once we have THOUSANDS of those dreamers going to space. In 50 years around 500 people have traveled to space. Soon it will 500 per year.

    What will be the thinking of a child who grows up never knowing a time we didn’t have commercial rides to space?

    My children have never not known computers, they were playing on them as soon as they could type- LOAD, 8, * -to load a program on the commodore 64, they can not imagine a day they were not commonplace. They didn’t have the internet or cell phones but their children do. We can not begin to understand what those effects are to the thinking of the next generation that see space travel as so common it does not merit a second thought. They will see it as a natural given and will base their thinking on it as a given and will dream the dreams of tomorrow we do not even consider today.

  • William Mellberg

    Vladislaw wrote:

    “The idea that commercial firms are “sending” people around and around is another silly arguement. They are going to provide a service to people who WANT to go around and around and are willing to pay for that experience, an experience that has been denied to them by policies meant to keep the status quo.”

    I’ve got nothing against millionaires going around and around the Earth if they want to ,,, with THEIR dollars, not mine. What will I get out of their experience, other than part of the bill? Space exploration, on the other hand, benefits all humankind by pushing into the New Frontier and advancing the cause of science and technolgy. Which, in turn, can contribute to the growth of the overall economy. At the very least, it captures the imaginations of people around the globe — people who will NEVER be able to afford a ticket into space themselves, but who can certainly appreciate the exploration of space by professional astronauts and unmanned probes and telescopes.

    “A key to both the affordabilty of transportation systems and it’s widespread use was the support infrastructure.”

    No. The key to the affordability of transportation systems are mass markets and real needs. The airline industry didn’t grow because people wanted to take a joy ride into the stratosphere. It grew because the safety, reliability and seat/mile costs of airliners made them economically superior to long-distance passenger trains and oceanliners. Airplanes served the NEEDS of a MASS market. There will be no mass market for human spaceflight anytime soon because there is no overwhelming economic need to send humans into space.

    “It is time for this generation of entreprenuers to reap the fruits of yesterday’s government funded exploration. Just like the Lewis and Clark expedition did, they returned and said ‘this is what we found’ so to(o) did Apollo, they returned and said ‘this is what we found’. After L&C the federal government enacted policies that allowed commercial private enterprises to reap those resources.”

    Not exactly. The private sector didn’t head into the Frontier as soon as Lewis and Clark returned from the Pacific Northwest. First, the U.S. Army Corps of Topographical Engineers (John Fremont and others) spent many years prior to the Civil War further mapping the Frontier, and assessing its resources. With few exceptions, there was no mass migration into the Great Plains until well after the Civil War and the laying of the transcontinental railroads. However, those railroads DID serve an existing need for mass transport — not only linking the two coasts, but also serving the cattle and mining activities that had started to grow once the Army Corps of Topographical Engineers had identified land that was good for grazing and mining. The Apollo astronauts were the Lewis and Clarks of the Space Age. But we still need an “Army Corps of Topographical Engineers to return to the Moon to further explore the its vast surface, and to assess its potential resources. As Neil Armstrong put it in his testimony on Capitol Hill:

    Some question why America should return to the moon. “After all”, they say, “we have already been there.” I find that mystifying. It would be as if 16th Century monarchs proclaimed that “we need not go to the New World, we have already been there.” Or as if President Thomas Jefferson announced in 1808 that Americans “need not go west of the Mississippi, the Lewis and Clark expedition has already been there.” Americans have visited and examined six locations on Luna, varying in size from a suburban lot to a small township. That leaves more than 14 million square miles yet to explore. There is much to be learned on Luna — learning to survive in the lunar environment, investigating many science opportunities, determining the practicality of extracting Helium 3 from the lunar regolith, prospecting for palladium group metals, and meeting challenges not yet identified.

    Spoken like a true explorer.

    Robert G. Oler wrote:

    “As for redoing 50 years later something … you obviously do not fly on airliners.”

    No, Mr. Oler. I only sold jet airliners for a living (with Fokker Aircraft). And I’ve only been a contributing editor with Airliners magazine for the past 20+ years (not to mention authoring two books on the subject). But I “obviously do not fly on airliners.” Your sarcasm aside, I have no idea what that statement is supposed to mean. But again, you cannot compare commercial aviation to commercial space. Commercial aviation filled an existing need for mass transport (i.e., paying passengers). Commercial space does not. Nor was commercial aviation built on tourism. It was built on the firm foundation of business travellers, who dominated air traffic for half a century — until the advent of the Jumbo Jets which provided a huge decrease in seat/mile costs and generated a huge increase in discretionary travel.

    The only way commercial space is going to ever make space tourism affordable to large numbers of people is to come up with Jumbo Spaceliners able to carry hundreds of passengers into orbit so that the seat/mile costs come down to something in the order of thens of thousands of dollars. That won’t happen anytome soon. And there is no way that commercial “spaceliners” will even match Concorde’s economics. How many “average” people were able to afford to fly supersonically? There were plenty of “average” people in the UK and France who resented the use of their tax dollars to support SST travel for the wealthy elite. But that is exactly what you are asking American taxpayers to do if your focus for commercial space is on tourism.

    That said, I share the dream of orbital hotels and honeymoons on the Moon. But I think some people are putting their carts in front of their horses, and their daydreams in front of economic reality. The New Frontier is not like the Old West. There are no cattle ranges, wheat fields or gold mines in Earth orbit. However, there MIGHT be some mining opportunities on the Moon. Which is why I’d like to see a new generation of explorers return to its surface — not to plant the Flag, pick up some rocks and snap a few pictures … but to genuinely explore.

    That was the thrust of Neil Armstrong’s remarks on Capitol Hill. And that is the position I espouse.

  • Coastal Ron

    Vladislaw wrote @ November 29th, 2010 at 3:54 pm

    A key to both the affordabilty of transportation systems and it’s widespread use was the support infrastructure.

    An important point, and one that some consider “uninspired”.

    However, once they start having a hard time finding an open gas station or food store on their next trip to the boondocks, they’ll soon come to appreciate the logistics infrastructure that it takes to survive even here on Earth, much less an outpost in space. That’s what Constellation neglected to include, and what Obama’s proposed NASA plan wanted to focus on.

    At this point we need space infrastructure, without which “inspiration” is only an unaffordable dream.

  • I’ve got nothing against millionaires going around and around the Earth if they want to ,,, with THEIR dollars, not mine. What will I get out of their experience, other than part of the bill? Space exploration, on the other hand, benefits all humankind by pushing into the New Frontier and advancing the cause of science and technolgy.

    Why do you continue to fail to understand that the new policy will dramatically reduce the cost to the taxpayer of human space exploration, even for NASA? The fact that millionaires will be able to buy rides is simply a useful side effect (useful because it will generate a new export industry for the US). Not to mention ending the bleeding of taxpayer dollars to Russia.

  • Ferris Valyn

    William Mellberg

    Space exploration, on the other hand, benefits all humankind by pushing into the New Frontier and advancing the cause of science and technolgy.

    Actually, space development does that much better. Space exploration has only limited tech advancement, and the dollar per science is much better for doing unmanned.

    At the very least, it captures the imaginations of people around the globe — people who will NEVER be able to afford a ticket into space themselves, but who can certainly appreciate the exploration of space by professional astronauts and unmanned probes and telescopes.

    That sounds nice and pretty, but lets have some reality. Most of the world wants clean water – the amount of money we spend on HSF could cover about half the cost of clean water. You wanna tell me that most people in the world wouldn’t prefer that to a few people gallivanting across the moon.

    Further, lets consider this for a moment. Why am I suppose to be inspired, and not offended that we are spending money on something that I’ll never get to take part in, because there is no chance I’ll ever be an astronaut for NASA. How is it any different than a tax break that only a few people will feel?

    Additionally,

    There will be no mass market for human spaceflight anytime soon because there is no overwhelming economic need to send humans into space.

    How do you know? There was no “need” for cheap cell phones, and yet they are everywhere. What makes you so sure there isn’t a mass market out there? To borrow a quote from someone I’d rather not “absence of evidence is not the same as evidence of absence”

    You’ve put everything on the basis of tourism, and ignored other market possibilities.

    And if you are going to apply that same figure of merit to the rest of space, its pretty clear that exploration really doesn’t begin and end at the moon.

  • DCSCA

    Vladislaw wrote @ November 29th, 2010 at 4:17 pm
    Space exploitation is not space exploration.

  • Vladislaw

    “What will I get out of their experience, other than part of the bill? “

    You will get economic growth in the aerospace industry, more tax paying jobs and more aerospace service companies paying more taxes into the US treasury and lower prices for both Nasa astronuats (leaving NASA more funding to spend on other space projects) and commercial passengers.

    Actually, Americans were settling lands in the louisana territory before L&C ever left.

    “By early 1801 American whites made up more than half of the population in upper Louisiana. In 1802 the first migration of Americans west of the Mississippi River begun and by now the Americans looked to wrest the Louisiana Territory away from the Spanish.”

    http://www.freeessays.cc/db/1/auj121.shtml

    “The Preemption Act of 1841, also known as the “Distributive Preemption Act” (27 Cong. Ch. 16; 5 Stat. 453) was a United States federal law approved by the U.S. Congress on September 4, 1841, to “appropriate the proceeds of the sales of the public lands, and to grant pre-emption rights.” Specifically, it permitted squatters on government land who were heads of households, widows, or single men over 21; who were citizens of the United States, or intended to become naturalized; and who had lived there for at least 14 months to purchase up to 160 acres (65 hectares) at a very low price”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Preemption_Act_of_1841

    “The Homestead Act was intended to liberalize the homesteading requirements of the Preemption Act of 1841. The “yeoman farmer” ideal was powerful in American political history, and plans for expanding their numbers through a homestead act were rooted in the 1850s”

    The homestead act was passed in 1861.

    You are making the wrong comparison saying:

    “Or as if President Thomas Jefferson announced in 1808 that Americans “need not go west of the Mississippi, the Lewis and Clark expedition has already been there.” “

    The L&C expedition cost 2% of the federal budget. It would have been more like if President Jefferson had said “we are going to fund a L&C expedition every year” or in 1808 Jefferson would have said he wanted funding for another L&C mission to the Louisana Purchase.

    You are mixing federal funding for a federal program with private interests. The Railroads received one square mile of free land alternating on each side of track they laid. It was the railroads who sold the free land they received and a ride to that land that moved people there.

    Settlers were already pushing the government to open up territory by 1817, which started the treaty making with native americans. The indian removal act of 1830 was also a means of westward expansion.

  • someguy

    William Mellberg wrote @ November 29th, 2010 at 6:34 pm

    The Apollo astronauts were the Lewis and Clarks of the Space Age.

    No, they weren’t. They were not really explorers, even though that’s what the Apollo myth says. What they really were were the most visible soldiers in a large non-military army involved in an effort that substituted for a hot war with the Soviets.

    Once the “war” was over (we reached the moon), the war was over, which means there was really no more to do. Especially not anything that justified the billions of dollars to keep the effort alive.

  • William Mellberg

    The one thing I find missing from the arguments put forth by “commercial” space advocates any modicum of real world experience in commercial aviation — even though many are fond of relating “commercial” space to commercial aviation. I’m not talking about pilots or mechanics (as important as their roles are). I’m talking about the economics of air travel and the myriad of factors which determine what it costs per seat to fly an airliner — and how that breakdown of costs relates to the ticket price per seat (for a given trip) and the break-even results of the operator. This is the kind of work I was involved with in selling jet airliners — route analyses, economic analyses, financial analyses, etc. The margins were slim, which is why I would never advise anyone to buy airline stocks (other than Southwest, perhaps)! Yet, the cost of operating jet airliners is miniscule compared to the costs involved with sending rockets and humans into space.

    For one thing, even the early airlines had an existing market — replacing trains and oceanliners. Most business travellers (who represented the greater majority of airline passengers through the mid-1970s) weren’t flying for the “experience” or the thrill. They were flying for the speed and the convenience. Time is money, as the old saying goes. Thus, even though flying cost more in its early days than taking a train, air travel made more productive use of a businessperson’s time. Which is why it made sense to fly. By the mid-1950s, the Douglas DC-7 and Lockheed Super Constellation had reduced the coast-to-coast flying time down to 10 hours versus three days by train. THAT is what made the airlines successful — providing a better means to fill an existing need for long-distance transportation. In other words … a mass market.

    When airline executives are pondering the purchase of new aircraft, they must consider more than just the cost of the fuel and crew for any given flight. They have to consider the financing charges, the depreciation, the minimum spares supply, the maintenance and servicing requirements, etc. They also have to think about the ticket agents, baggage handlers and ground facilities (system infrastructure) that are needed at each destination (airport) to fill the planes and keep them flying. There are a myriad of direct and indirect costs which all come into play — many of which have no connection to the actual aircraft other than their impact on the overall operating expenses.

    Likewise, the airframe manufacturer has many costs to consider in setting the price of an airliner — not only the engineering team and production workers, but also the countless other personnel who keep a huge plant operating. Then there are the direct costs of the materials used and the equipment installed. The overall cost is further determined by the number of aircraft the firm expects to sell as that number impacts unit cost and the break-even price. The higher the production run, the more the costs can be spread out; and the lower the price tag per aircraft.

    Likewise, engine manufacturers have all sorts of factors to consider when setting the price for their products. (Airframes and engines are sold separately for most airliners.) If their powerplant can be used on several different aircraft, they need to consider the total estimated aircraft sales (e.g., Airbus + Boeing) to determine the unit cost for their engines. As with the airframe manufacturers, their design and development costs are very high and must be factored into their pricing.

    It is this sort of detailed analysis that I (and others) find missing from “commercial” space because there is no existing market or accurate forecasts of future markets to determine what sort of Return On Investment can be expected from the design, development and service entry of their vehicles — nor any actual operating experience. Basing the market on the “need” to service the International Space Station represents a limited future at best. Likewise, basing costs on “deposits” that are not firm contracts is not a solid foundation for building financial success.

    Most new airliners will enjoy service lives of 30 years or more. Thus, their initial acquisition costs can be spread out over long and productive service careers. The same applies to modern-day locomotives and luxury liners such as the RMS Queen Mary 2. Cunard can expect 30+ years of service from that ship. But how many flights can Branson expect out of SpaceShipTwo? And what about Dragon?

    While my comments have been described by some here as “silly” and “stupid,” may I politely suggest that most of the people who have tossed those insults seem to have very little experience with (or understanding of) transportation economics. Most pilots and mechanics have very little idea of what costs are actually involved in setting ticket prices and turning profits. I admire their skills greatly. But I also know that it takes many different people and skills to create modern jetliners and to operate today’s air carriers — not the least of which are economists and bean counters. The most important people in determining an air carrier’s financial success are the ones who most accurately evaluate overall costs and revenues — not the folks who fly and maintain the fleet.

    At least I am willing to admit that my desire to see human explorers get out of Low Earth Orbit wouldn’t be a money-maker for many decades to come — and can only be paid for with tax dollars. Which is why there is no rush to go.

    But the same is true for “commercial” space. There simply won’t be a viable market for decades to come because there won’t be any economically viable space vehicles for decades to some.

    That said, I admire the vision and enthusiasm of “commercial” space proponents. I guess one could argue that a start has to be made some time. But I don’t believe this is the time. And anyone who thinks that 500 space tourists a year will be going into orbit anytime soon isn’t dealing with economic reality.

    That’s my opinion based on relevant professional experience. But please don’t call me “stupid” or “dumb” or “silly” because I have a different point if view. Such remarks are both rude and annoying. They contribute nothing to an intelligent exchange of ideas.

    Frankly, as I’ve noted previously, I’ve learned some things from some of the more serious people posting their ideas here — people who are more keen on persuading others rather than insulting them. If you really want to “sell” New Space, you might try civil dialogues rather than rude diatribes.

  • William Mellberg

    Incidentally, while I don’t see any vehicles that will make space tourism viable anytime soon, I do see some advantages in letting the private sector take over more of the responsibility for human spaceflight in Low Earth Orbit. But the “competition” will be limited, at best. The so-called “market” simply isn’t big enough to support multiple entrants. Most will surely fail, although some will surely succeed. In any event, Martijn’s recent comment about having manned spacecraft that are able to utilize two or more launch vehicles makes a lot of sense given our past experience. The same goes for spacecraft. Relying solely on the Space Shuttle was an obvious problem. We wouldn’t be in our current fix if NASA had developed a smaller transport ship to supplement the Space Shuttle years ago. But the money wasn’t there to build it … nor were the funds available to proceed with ESA’s Hermes spacecraft. Hermes would have been very nice to have at the moment. It certainly would have been a step up from Soyuz.

  • Ferris Valyn

    Yet, the cost of operating jet airliners is miniscule compared to the costs involved with sending rockets and humans into space.

    Why is that? That is a question that no one has really attempted to answer. Is it a technical issue, that requires something on par with space elevators, or is it that we are operating spacecraft so on the margins of efficiency that we end up with rockets and spacecrafts that are insanely expensive to fly and operate?

    I fully agree with your point about the level of detail needed to make something operational & profitable. But again, I come back – the question is is this a technical issue, or an operations issue? Because we can make a car that can only be used one time, that has to use super expensive fuels, and the like, but we don’t.

    So, the question is (and I’d like to see you provide some evidence) that the cost we see in spaceflight is intrinsic, and not due to bad operations.

    As for the detailed market analysis, (limiting this discussion to orbital – suborbital is much easier, but lets stick to orbital), we have at a minimum, 3 markets that can provide the basis for at least SOME commercial spaceflights.
    1. Satellite launch (yes, not human, but the rockets are the same, and the rockets are going to be a big tent pole)
    2. US government astronauts & other countries astronauts (and yes, even if you ignore Bigelow’s MOUs, note that other countries are paying to send their astronauts up)
    3. Private astronauts – at this point, we don’t have good data on why they are going up, so I would ask that we not treat this a just a “tourist” market.

    Both of the first 2 have clear data points. The 3rd is the unknown. OTOH, if only a little bit extra results in cost savings for NASA, (as the Augustine report suggests) I don’t see this as a bad thing.

    Finally, you haven’t addressed my points (and I point out I haven’t called you silly or stupid) – why shouldn’t I be offended in spending money on something just to inspire a limited segment of people?

  • William Mellberg

    Ferris Valyn wrote:

    (Yet, the cost of operating jet airliners is miniscule compared to the costs involved with sending rockets and humans into space.)

    “Why is that? That is a question that no one has really attempted to answer. Is it a technical issue, that requires something on par with space elevators, or is it that we are operating spacecraft so on the margins of efficiency that we end up with rockets and spacecrafts that are insanely expensive to fly and operate?”

    Ferris, the simple answer is that the forces and environmental issues that we’re dealing with in putting a spacecraft into orbit and keeping the crew alive are significantly greater and more dangerous than flying people in a pressurized jetliner — even at 40,000 feet. The ascent is dangerous, the re-entry is dangerous, and the vacuum of space is far more hostile than the environment in the stratosphere. So, yes. I see it as largely a technical problem. And the technical challenges are very costly to meet.

    “As for the detailed market analysis, (limiting this discussion to orbital – suborbital is much easier, but lets stick to orbital), we have at a minimum, 3 markets that can provide the basis for at least SOME commercial spaceflights.
    1. Satellite launch (yes, not human, but the rockets are the same, and the rockets are going to be a big tent pole)
    2. US government astronauts & other countries astronauts (and yes, even if you ignore Bigelow’s MOUs, note that other countries are paying to send their astronauts up)
    3. Private astronauts – at this point, we don’t have good data on why they are going up, so I would ask that we not treat this a just a “tourist” market.”

    Leave out Number 3 (the “tourist market”) as you suggest, and I take “commercial” space far more seriously. Although I discount Bigelow’s MOUs, I don’t ignore the potential of his stations for researchers from government, industry and academia. I think he’s pointed in the right direction. But I see no profit potential for space tourism anytime soon. However, I can see the usefulness of “commercial” space for the first two markets you’ve listed (thanks, in part, to persuasive arguments such as yours).

    “Finally, you haven’t addressed my points (and I point out I haven’t called you silly or stupid) – why shouldn’t I be offended in spending money on something just to inspire a limited segment of people?”

    I guess I didn’t address that earlier point, did I? So here goes …

    I’m not sure “offended” is the right word as I hope you recognize some of the technological spinoffs that resulted from the Apollo Program. In this respect, that effort touched a wide segment of the population around the globe. But I’m not so sure we’d see as many “spinoffs” from a return to the Moon — not in the short-term, at least. It would be pure science, initially. And if that offends you, then I suppose you are also offended by the taxpayer dollars that go into astronomical observatories (both ground and space-based), particle colliders, undersea exploration and other research that is geared strictly toward the advancement of knowledge — including our research stations in Antarctica. I don’t suppose too many people are inspired by the work done at Fermi Lab near me. Most Chicagoans probably aren’t even aware of its existence. And even if they are, they probably don’t understand what’s being done there. So is it worth it?

    That’s up to “We the People” to decide through our elected representaives in Congress. There was a time when those politicians thought going to the Moon was worth the money. And roughly half the population agreed. Ditto for Mars. But times have clearly changed, and it’s not just the result of the current economy.

    NASA used to rely on the “dazzle” factor … people would embrace expensive exploration programs because they were dazzled by astronauts on the Moon, rovers on Mars, Space Shuttle launches and the rest. Unfortunately, those things have become commonplace, and public interest (support) has waned. I suspect the same is true in Russia, as well.

    That said, I go back to my argument about Helium-3 on the Moon. It has the potential to revolutionize the energy industry on Earth. But I’ll grant you that it’s a hard sell, and the potential is far from certain as the fusion technology at this end has yet to be proven (never mind the mining operations on the Moon). It isn’t easy to “sell” an idea when the return from that idea could be 50 years away. In that respect, I have the same problem as the space tourism advocates. It’s a “hard sell.”

    In any event, there is no question that the commercial satellite business has been around for a long time, and that “commercial” contractors can contribute to human spaceflight in Low Earth Orbit in so far as providing ‘routine’ services at lower costs is involved. I haven’t badmouthed SpaceX or Bigelow or Orbital Sciences and the others (even if I don’t buy all their hype).

    In short, these exchanges have influenced my thinking somewhat … in particular, with respect to the first two “markets” you identified. But those “markets:” are still more akin to what we’re doing in Antarctica rather than what happened across the Great Plains when the transcontinental railways were built. I just don’t see that much of a “commercial” market in Earth orbit anytime soon. No wheat fields, cattle ranges or coal mines. That said, I think Bigelow has the best shot at producing new markets by providing new destinations.

    I hope that answers your question … or, at least, gives you my take on the subject.

  • William Mellberg

    @Ferris Valyn:

    Incidentally, I really appreciate comments and questions such as yours. They make me stop to think. In the above case, you’ve driven home the point that the “dazzle” factor hasn’t been working at NASA for a long time. And those of us who advocate a return to the Moon really need to sharpen our pencils if we’re to convince the public that it’s a good idea. Those who press for “Mars Now!” have an even bigger challenge. We’re all in the marketplace of ideas, and it’s a very competitive market these days — especially since the general public doesn’t seem to be particularly interested in any of them.

  • DCSCA

    Rand Simberg wrote @ November 29th, 2010 at 8:04 pm

    Why do you continue to fail to understand that the new policy will dramatically reduce the cost to the taxpayer of human space exploration.

    Then you should have no problem assuming the financial risk and pitching it to the private sector for investment to service a limited market. But a government that has to borrow 41 cents of every dollar it spends cannot afford to subsidize a luxury which benefits a few at the expense of the many in this era.

  • Ferris Valyn

    Mr. Mellberg,

    I am generally just getting the one or two sentences, so as not to use too much room.

    So, yes. I see it as largely a technical problem. And the technical challenges are very costly to meet.

    See, the thing is, a good number of us who promote commercial space don’t believe this is a technical issue. Yes, the technical issues are hard, but I submit that we don’t have the data to demonstrate whether its a technical issue, or an efficiency/operations issue. And that I believe is why Commercial crew is so important. (And thats not to say that the technical issues aren’t unimportant, but that the costs involved are driven more by unresponsive & inefficient operations)

    Second – I wasn’t saying leave out the tourist market. I said that Private astronauts shouldn’t be just treated as a tourist market. IMHO, the private astronaut market includes researchers from industry and academia, as well as “space tourist.” That whole segment is the unknown. I submit that it is non-zero, and that if you can develop vehicles that can address all 3 markets I identified (and not limit your vehicle to just 1 market), then there is real commercial potential.
    Just to make this very clear – US government astronauts & other country’s astronauts are NASA astronauts, or JAXA, or ESA, or whoever the space agency is. This market, IMHO, has clear numbers (as does comm sat – its the private astronaut market that includes industry researchers, academia researchers, on-orbit operations providers, and space tourist) that lack hard numbers.

    The key point is making vehicles that can go across the various markets (and look for new market opportunities, like the Dragonlab from SpaceX, and I see others), and not limit yourself to just the “tourist market”

    I’m not sure “offended” is the right word as I hope you recognize some of the technological spinoffs that resulted from the Apollo Program.

    Offended is the right word. Regarding the spinoffs – frankly, I think the evidence is that, for the money we spent, the value of the “spinoffs” was much lower than most space advocates claim it as. Additionally, I find the spinoffs argument lacking, because it ignores the major point – if you want the technologies that we get via spinoffs, just invest directly in the technologies – you’ll probably get there faster and cheaper. In short, using spinoffs as an argument for human spaceflight is a lot like trying to plan your retirement based on winning the lottery – it could happen, but you are more likely to end up living as a destitute than living like a millionare.

    It would be pure science, initially.

    Except that, we get much more bang for our buck for science if we go the unmanned route. If its truly about science, then realistically, we should not be using humans. Look at things like Hubble, or Spirit & Opportunity, Pathfinder, Magellan – we got a LOT more science per buck from those than we do from humans being onsite. The point is – I, and I suspect my attitude is not all that radical – doing science is great. But we need to make every dollar go as far as possible, and science via unmanned probes allows dollars to go much further.

    And to bring that back to your earlier post – that leaves “inspiration” – thats the argument I find most offensive. If we can afford $9 Billion for inspiration for you, I think we should have at least $3 Billion for the National Endowment for the Arts (since that also provides inspiration)

    That said, I go back to my argument about Helium-3 on the Moon.

    The point of disagreement, at least IMHO, isn’t the potential of this destination vs that destination. IMHO, the problem we have to deal with is the transportation system, and developing it in a way that allows for sustainability, that encourages new players to become involved, that lowers price over time – that is the issue needed, before we start talking about what destination. I think the moon is one possible destination that lends itself to doing this (I also think the Deep Space Option is better, and I actually think there is a way to merge the two).

    The point being – if we can develop an infrastructure system that does those things – is sustainable, encourages new players, and lowers price over time – we get the moon, and mars and space in general. Show me how you do that with Constellation, or whatever system your proposing, and I suspect you’ll find a lot of converts.

    But those “markets:” are still more akin to what we’re doing in Antarctica rather than what happened across the Great Plains when the transcontinental railways were built.

    If we could bring LEO up to that level, of Antarctica, I think that would be a hell of an improvement, particularly when you consider the size of McMurdo station (1,258 residents is possible at McMurdo, compared to 6 at ISS).

    Additionally – as I said, I haven’t address commercial suborbital. And that I think has potential to be gamechanger, at least in regard to transportation prices. But that won’t happen without the government learning to embrace commercial providers (as opposed to commercial contractors – there is a huge difference) in a manner that makes sense.

    One last point – you discuss moon first vs mars first. As I said, IMHO, the discussion isn’t, and shouldn’t be about destination. Most of the time I identify myself as a Deep Space proponent. But the real destination is, and should be, across the whole solar system. And if that is your goal, then you shouldn’t start by picking a first destination. Because that ties you into an idealized transportation system, that doesn’t allow for some of the points I raised. That is exactly what happened with Constellation. And we can’t afford it happening again, if we want to see human spaceflight go forward.

  • Coastal Ron

    William Mellberg wrote @ November 30th, 2010 at 5:54 am

    Leave out Number 3 (the “tourist market”) as you suggest, and I take “commercial” space far more seriously. Although I discount Bigelow’s MOUs, I don’t ignore the potential of his stations for researchers from government, industry and academia. I think he’s pointed in the right direction. But I see no profit potential for space tourism anytime soon. However, I can see the usefulness of “commercial” space for the first two markets you’ve listed

    As Rand has pointed out, non-NASA commercial crew is a side-effect of having commercial ISS transportation, but is not enough of a reason on it’s own for anyone to invest in it.

    But the economics of crew transportation are becoming clearer. We already know what Soyuz costs, and Elon Musk has already provided a lot of financial information for their proposed Dragon crew service, both in stating a prospective price ($20M/seat – most likely for full capsules only), and how much would be needed to add the missing crew-related feature to Dragon ($300M for LAS, life support, etc.).

    From this, it’s easy to see what the potential savings would be if NASA chose SpaceX over Soyuz (same cost over 5 years, but bigger tax benefits spending in U.S. rather than Russia).

    The market for non-NASA customers will likely not appear until the true $/seat are finally set. Until companies know what the costs will be for doing things in space, new entrants will not be able to make serious plans. For instance, until the transportation costs and total lease costs for a Bigelow habitat are defined, then prospective countries cannot budget for their use.

    It is certainly a chicken & egg scenario, but the bottom line is that NASA needs to get crew to/from the ISS after 2015, and if they decide to use two or more commercial providers, then the market will understand the costs, and respond accordingly.

    Despite my enthusiasm for commercial crew, I do think the market demand will develop slowly. However, if Bigelow gets his business into space, and has customers, then that could be the inflection point increasing spending, as well as increased investment. At this point, it all depends on what NASA does to satisfy their crew needs for 2016 and beyond – that will determine how the market will develop, or not.

  • DCSCA

    Coastal Ron wrote @ November 30th, 2010 at 1:40

    “…and Elon Musk has already provided a lot of financial information for their proposed Dragon crew service…”
    Not really. And, as the article below notes, there’s no definitive plan. It’s all a guesstimate.

    http://techcrunch.com/2010/11/09/50-million-spacex/

  • Coastal Ron

    DCSCA wrote @ November 30th, 2010 at 2:53 pm

    Not really. And, as the article below notes, there’s no definitive plan. It’s all a guesstimate.

    The TechCrunch article doesn’t address what I’m talking about. The question I was addressing was whether there was enough information available to determine pricing and choice.

    SpaceX has stated that they would need $300M to add crew-specific improvements to Dragon, and that they would then charge $20M/seat to LEO. From that, anyone (including you) could compare the money NASA would be spending to use Soyuz from 2016-20 (assuming the price doesn’t go up) versus using SpaceX over the same time period.

    You may not believe that they can do all of that for what they quoted, but that wasn’t what I was addressing (I think they can).

    What is usually lacking in the debate about what we should do is the discussion about how much the alternatives cost. Ares I was being defended because it was “Simple, Safer, Soon”, but no one was looking at the economics of the choice – Delta IV Heavy would have been far less expensive, even when Ares I was first priced out with a 4-segment SRB. That’s why I tend to dig up pricing information and make it public – we must lower the costs to access space, or we’ll be stuck doing uninspiring things for a long time.

    Regarding the TechCrunch article, all it really states is the obvious:

    There is no proven business model in space other than government contracts and low-earth-orbit satellite launches.

    There was no business model for smart phones with paid apps until Apple introduced them, and there was no market for gasoline engined cars until the fuel became more available and the costs of the vehicles came down. There is a beginning for everything, and the absence of a proven model does not mean that there can never be one. Time will tell.

    Concerning the $50M follow-on investment, I think since SpaceX has announced that they plan on pursuing an IPO in 2012, the added investment might be because the investors have confidence in Musk and his plans, and they view the added investment as increasing their payout from the IPO. Musk led IPO’s have done very well in the past, and they probably feel that they will do well again. Time will tell on this to…

  • Vladislaw

    “The point being – if we can develop an infrastructure system that does those things – is sustainable, encourages new players, and lowers price over time – we get the moon, and mars and space in general. Show me how you do that with Constellation, or whatever system your proposing, and I suspect you’ll find a lot of converts.”

    I agree about infrastructure versus destination, especially Luna. If you can’t even consistantly drive to the store (leo) it is pointless talking about a cross country drive. (luna) Especially if you don’t have the gas stations in place.

  • Anne Spudis

    Vladislaw wrote @ November 30th, 2010 at 8:41 pm [I agree about infrastructure versus destination, especially Luna. If you can’t even consistantly drive to the store (leo) it is pointless talking about a cross country drive. (luna) Especially if you don’t have the gas stations in place.]

    This was the point of the VSE: to build the infrastructure using lunar resources. We must learn how to use off-planet resources (inc abundant water-ice) to enable travel to destinations beyond. So the idea of panning the Moon (close, resource rich, telerobotics favorable) as a destination, tosses off too the infrastructure the Moon can provide.

  • Ferris Valyn

    Ms. Spudis – except that noone has panned the moon so that we aren’ doing anything. And there is still the fact that you seem to be ignoring a destination that is closer to the moon that can provide some of the resources.

  • Vladislaw

    Anne Spudis wrote:

    “This was the point of the VSE: to build the infrastructure using lunar resources.”

    No Anne, that wasn’t the point of the VSE or the point I made which you are totally ignoring. I said if we can not fly 200 miles to LEO consistantly is it silly to worry about flying 230,000 miles aways. Especially if we don’t even have a gas station in LEO. If we can not do fuel handling 200 miles away why bother trying fuel handling 230,000 miles away.

    As per the VSE:

    C. Space Transportation Capabilities Supporting Exploration
    • Separate to the maximum practical extent crew from cargo transportation to the International Space Station and for launching exploration missions beyond low Earth orbit;
    « Acquire cargo transportation as soon as practical and affordable to support missions to and from the International Space Station; and
    « Acquire crew transportation to and from the International Space Station, as required, after the Space Shuttle is retired from service.

    D. International and Commercial Participation
    • Pursue commercial opportunities for providing transportation and other services supporting the International Space Station and exploration missions beyond low Earth orbit.”

    See Anne here are infrastructure that is named in the VSE that has more to do with local infrastructure BEFORE we do the Lunar infrastructure. You consistantly ignore this.

    Also in the VSE:

    “For future, sustainable exploration programs, NASA requires cost-effective vehicles that may be reused, have systems that could be applied to more than one destination, and are highly reliable and need only small ground crews. NASA plans to invest in a number of new approaches to exploration, such as robotic networks, modular systems, pre-positioned propellants, advanced power and propulsion, and in-space assembly, that could enable these kinds of vehicles. These technologies will be demonstrated on the ground, at the Space Station and other locations in Earth orbit,”

    Again, you always tend to ignore this infrastructure development before worry about the moon.

    Advanced power and propulsion, modular systems and in space assembly, fuel depots.

    This is what we need now, not manned ISRU on Luna, and worrying about building infrastructure on Luna. Let’s worry about the infrastructure and technologies we need for 200 miles away before we worry about 230,000 miles away.

    I just wish you would spend your time advocating to get commercial crew transportation going, as named in the VSE, and fuel depots, as named in the VSE, instead of wasting your efforts on Lunar infrastructure.

  • Coastal Ron

    Anne Spudis wrote @ December 1st, 2010 at 6:35 am

    This was the point of the VSE: to build the infrastructure using lunar resources.

    The only part of the Goals & Objectives section of the VSE that mentions the Moon is the following:

    Extend human presence across the solar system, starting with a human return to the Moon by the year 2020, in preparation for human exploration of Mars and other destinations

    You are implying more than what is stated.

    Besides, you can’t get to the Moon to build infrastructure, until you have the infrastructure in place here on Earth and LEO to get you to the Moon. As the old saying goes, “you can’t get there from here”.

  • William Mellberg

    Anne Spudis wrote:

    “This was the point of the VSE: to build the infrastructure using lunar resources. We must learn how to use off-planet resources (inc abundant water-ice) to enable travel to destinations beyond. So the idea of panning the Moon (close, resource rich, telerobotics favorable) as a destination, tosses off too the infrastructure the Moon can provide.”

    Ms. Spudis, one of the biggest problems lunar advocates (myself among them) have to contend with is the fact that many space enthusiasts have little formal understanding of astronomy, much less planetary or lunar science. I include President Obama in that group based on his saying (in so many words) “been there, done that” with respect to the Moon. They believe lunar proponents simply want to relive the “glory days” of Apollo. But they fail to recognize that our real goal is to pick up where Apollo left off in the exploration of the Moon and beyond. Part of the problem is that NASA failed to fully explain the science results that came from Apollo. Putting lunar rocks on display might dazzle people a bit … but it doesn’t explain the significance of those rocks: what they tell us about the Solar System’s past, and how they can contribute to the future exploration of Mars. I hear many people say (including the President), “Let’s go to an asteroid. We haven’t done that before.” But they don’t understand that the Moon is a more interesting and potentially useful destination — even if we’ve been there before. Not that asteroids aren’t interesting. But asteroids present their own share of problems in terms of human exploration if they were to be visted ahead of an outpost on the Moon.

    The infrastructure required to sustain a lunar outpost would be totally relevant to exploring Near Earth Asteroids … and Mars. The Moon, as you’ve pointed out, is where we can get a foot in the door to the rest of the Solar System. They really need to read Harrison Schmitt’s “Return to the Moon.” Jack lays out the case in detail — including how the private sector might get involved.

    Although Bill Nye (and some people here) think Neil Armstrong is senile, they missed (in my opinion) some of Mr. Armstrong’s key points during his testimony on Capitol Hill earlier this year. This excerpt is worth another look:

    “Americans have visited and examined six locations on Luna, varying in size from a suburban lot to a small township. That leaves more than 14 million square miles yet to explore. There is much to be learned on Luna, learning to survive in the lunar environment, investigating many science opportunities, determining the practicality of extracting Helium 3 from the lunar regolith, prospecting for palladium group metals, and meeting challenges not yet identified. The lunar vicinity is an exceptional location to learn about traveling to more distant places. Largely removed from Earth gravity, and Earth’s magnetosphere, it provides many of the challenges of flying far from Earth. But communication delays with Earth are less than 2 seconds permitting Mission Control on Earth to play an important and timely role in flight operations. In the case of a severe emergency, such as Jim Lovell’s Apollo 13, Earth is only three days travel time away. Learning how to fly to, and remain at, Earth-Moon Lagrangian points would be a superb precursor to flying to and remaining at, the much farther distant Earth-Sun Lagrangian points. And flying to further away destinations from lunar orbit or Lunar Lagrangian points could have substantial advantages in flight time and/or propellant requirements as compared with departures from Earth orbit. And flying in the lunar vicinity would typically provide lower radiation exposures than those expected in interplanetary flight. The long communication delays to destinations beyond the moon mandate new techniques and procedures for spacecraft operations. Mission Control cannot provide a Mars crew their normal helpful advice if the landing trajectory is nine minutes long but the time delay of the radar, communication and telemetry back to Earth is 19 minutes. Flight experience at lunar distance can provide valuable insights into practical solutions for handling such challenges. I am persuaded that a return to the moon would be the most productive path to expanding the human presence in the Solar System.”

    Amen!

    William Mellberg

  • Ferris Valyn

    What Mr. Armstrong failed to provide was how you get that return to the moon without a transportation system that is affordable.

    Without that, we “won’t be picking up where we left off”

  • Coastal Ron

    William Mellberg wrote @ December 1st, 2010 at 12:37 pm

    one of the biggest problems lunar advocates (myself among them) have to contend with is the fact that many space enthusiasts have little formal understanding of astronomy

    If that is the requirement for appreciating lunar exploration, then you are doomed to failure. In order to build support for anything, you have to get the voting public to understand the need for spending the money.

    So it is in fact the astronomers (and other lunar specialists) that have to do a better job in explaining to a non-technical audience why vast sums of money should be expended. So far they haven’t made the case.

    But they fail to recognize that our real goal is to pick up where Apollo left off in the exploration of the Moon and beyond.

    No, we do realize that, and that is on our “to do” list too. However, many of us see lunar exploration as happening organically as humanity expands out from the Earth, whereas people like yourselves think that it should be done first. It’s a matter of sequence, not desire.

    Part of the problem is that NASA failed to fully explain the science results that came from Apollo.”

    To recap from an earlier post – what Kennedy challenged the nation to do was this:

    I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth.

    We did that – 6 times. Been there, done that.

    The science part of it was a by-product, but not the prime motivation for going. And really, if the science results were not compelling enough by themselves, why is that NASA’s problem? What have YOU done to make the lunar science more compelling for the American Taxpayer?

    This all boils down to a poor selling job by “Moon First” advocates. If your message was more compelling, then Congress would not have cancelled Constellation, or they would have at least kept the Moon on the “Do First” list. Look in the mirror – you have no one to blame but yourselves…

  • Anne Spudis

    William Mellberg wrote @ December 1st, 2010 at 12:37 pm

    Mr. Mellberg,

    Thank you for your comments. I’ve learned much about aviation economics from reading your posts. Your remarks are interesting and well written. I very much appreciate your contributions to the debate and always look forward to reading your posts. It’s obvious you get your information from informed sources, along with your own career experience.

    I’ll echo part of the Neil Armstrong quote you’ve shared, “I am persuaded that a return to the moon would be the most productive path to expanding the human presence in the Solar System.”

    Anne Spudis

  • Anne Spudis

    Vladislaw wrote @ December 1st, 2010 at 10:55 am [Again, you always tend to ignore this infrastructure development before worry about the moon.]

    Thank you for the laundry list. I know about the need for the things you highlighted. However, if we don’t know where we’re going, we won’t know how to proceed.

    We return to the Moon to learn how to mine and use off planet resources to construct a sustainable transportation infrastructure.

    I am not a rocket scientist and will leave those details to those who are.

  • Vladislaw

    William Mellberg wrote:

    “prospecting for palladium group metals”

    Since when did it become the responsiblity of a federal agency to prospect for gold, silver and platinum? If you think it is NASA’s job to prospect for gold, why don’t you advocate NASA doing that on earth also? I mean if NASA is better suited to prospect for gold than mining companies they should be doing it here also.

    “But they fail to recognize that our real goal is to pick up where Apollo left off in the exploration of the Moon and beyond.”

    Who is “they” and who is “our”?

    Who is defining “our” goal?

    What is the goal of “they”?

    Why is the “our” goal better and more important than the “they” goal?

    If tossing away every single bit of the hardware after every flight of Apollo made it to expensive and unsustainable, how will a repeat of Apollo where, once again, you toss away all the expensive hardware going to be sustainable and “pick up where Apollo left off”?

    As I pointed out, the VSE, first and foremost, stressed sustainablity and doing things a different way which included a multi destination (flexible path) space based, modular, assembled and fueled in space, reusable vehicle with commercial crew and cargo to LEO.

    Let’s get THAT part of the Vision for Space Exploration completed first then worry about the destination.

  • Vladislaw

    Anne Spudis wrote:

    “However, if we don’t know where we’re going”

    We do know where we are going, AFTER we have the infrastructure in place, anyplace we want to in the inner solar system. We would have the infrastructure in place to hit multiple destinations.

    The problem with picking Luna as THEE destination invaribly the architecture would be absolutely maximized for Luna ONLY. That is what needs to be broken. Again as the VSE states:

    “For future, sustainable exploration programs, NASA requires cost-effective vehicles that may be reused, have systems that could be applied to more than one destination,”

    You do not need to define a single destination. Cars are not designed for a single destination, boats, planes, trains, et cetera. No other transportation system is designed for a single place. Even commercial space systems for HSF will be designed for multiple destinations like the ISS and a Bigelow Station.

    Let’s get the infrastructure in place, and a space based vehicle, then we can fly to various destinations INCLUDING Luna.

  • Coastal Ron

    Vladislaw wrote @ December 1st, 2010 at 4:13 pm

    We do know where we are going…

    You took the words right out of my mouth. It’s amazing that “Moon First” groups continue to ignore that fact.

    Commercial crew infrastructure does not care where the passengers are ultimately destined for – it moves people from sea level to LEO.

    Fuel depots don’t care if you need supplies for LEO or trips to the Moon or NEO’s.

    Launchers (of any size) don’t care where their payload is going.

    Reusable infrastructure that continues to drive down the cost of moving mass is absolutely necessary for going anywhere, and does not limit the number of places we can go, and in fact will increase the number of place we can go with fixed budgets.

    The other thing that a robust transportation infrastructure provides, is the ability to mount new expeditions quicker, because the basic transportation needs are already in place, and their costs are understood.

    Any expedition to the Moon today would have the same challenges as Constellation, where each segment of transportation (Earth to LEO, LEO to TLI, LO to lunar surface) has to be funded, designed, built, tested and put into operation. As we saw with Constellation, that is too much effort to do all at one time, especially without a national imperative to drive it forward.

    That is why creating a commercial crew industry to serve the ISS needs can be expanded to support future needs, including future lunar programs. Those future lunar programs will only need to budget GSA Schedule prices for the Earth to LEO transportation, and not have to worry about budgeting & building their own rockets and capsules – so much easier.

  • Anne Spudis

    Vladislaw wrote @ December 1st, 2010 at 4:13 pm [Let’s get the infrastructure in place, and a space based vehicle, then we can fly to various destinations INCLUDING Luna.]

    That’s all well and good but the key will be affordability….sustainability….marketability.

    The Moon and cislunar space is the where and the why for bootstrapping your transportation infrastructure using lunar resources.

  • Martijn Meijering

    Let’s get the infrastructure in place, and a space based vehicle, then we can fly to various destinations INCLUDING Luna.

    The trick with infrastructure as with so many things is to develop it incrementally. If you build too much infrastructure at once you risk running into funding/cancellation problems. If you build only the minimal amount of infrastructure you need to take a small step ahead, then you can make progress or make money frequently. This is the strategy Scaled Composites/Virgin Galactic, Masten and XCOR are following. It is the strategy Steidle and O’Keefe had in mind for NASA before Michael Griffin came along and put NASA on its present disastrous course.

    So what is the minimum amount of infrastructure? It’s the space based vehicle and little to nothing else. And the space based vehicle can be something as simple as an OMV / space tug or an unmanned transfer stage. Except for capsules a manned space based vehicle would almost inevitably have to be refuelable in orbit in order to be useful. And once it is refuelable it provides a market for commercial launchers and thus R&D on cheaper lift. This works better the more propellant it uses while still yielding enough science/exploration/other societal returns to obtain funding.

    We can do this essentially now. The sooner we do it, the sooner we open up space for mankind. It’s time. It’s been time for more than thirty years.

    The Moon and cislunar space is the where and the why for bootstrapping your transportation infrastructure using lunar resources.

    Use of lunar resources would be wonderful but it is unnecessary for bootstrapping the required infrastructure. The moon is certainly good enough, but there’s no need to make everything dependent on a moon base any more than on HLVs, NTR or cryogenic depots. If you want those (and there are reasons to want them, stronger for some of these, weaker for others), you are going to have to make a separate case for them. I would argue that opening up space is more important than all of these, and requires none of them, but you may disagree. With a limited and shrinking budget it’s time to make choices however.

  • Vladislaw

    There is absolutely no way you can have affordablity when you put Luna in the critical path BEFORE you have the local infrastructure Anne… no way. You are talking about 2 BILLION dollars per lunar mission if NASA does it in an apollo way.

    You have to have the service infrastructure first Anne, there is no way around that. That means routine commercial cargo and crew to LEO, testing reusable EDS, inflatable habitat, aerocapture return capability and a fuel depot.

    Once you have that infrastructure and start lunar excursions you can then have the market determine if it is cheaper to launch from earth for water, O2 and fuel or start setting up lunar operations.

    If it takes 50 billion to set up a lunar outpost and ISRU ( I am using the cost of the ISS here, which does not include launch costs) How many launches for fuel and other cargo would that 50 billion fund? That will be the future trade off to be made.

  • William Mellberg

    Anne Spudis wrote:

    “Thank you for your comments. I’ve learned much about aviation economics from reading your posts. Your remarks are interesting and well written. I very much appreciate your contributions to the debate and always look forward to reading your posts. It’s obvious you get your information from informed sources, along with your own career experience.”

    Anne, thank you for your kind words. Needless to say, I appreciate your comments, too. As far as ‘informed sources’ is concerned, I think we have some mutual friends — one of whom wrote the Foreword to my 1997 book, Moon Missions.

    Vladislaw wrote

    “You do not need to define a single destination. Cars are not designed for a single destination, boats, planes, trains, et cetera. No other transportation system is designed for a single place.”

    Vladislaw, you are quite wrong about that. Airliners are designed for specific markets: short, medium- and long-range. You would not use an Airbus A380 to fly from Peoria to Moline, or a Saab 340 to fly from Chicago to Tokyo. Likewise, ships are designed for specific purposes. The popular cruise ships can’t handle the trans-Atlantic run like the Queen Mary 2. They have neither the speed nor the hull strength to sail the North Atlantic. Locomotives are likewise designed for specific missions: long-haul freight, long-haul passenger, short-haul freight, commuter rail, etc. You cannot build a transportation system where one size fits all — not economically, at any rate. But you can build some core systems that can be expanded. As I’ve pointed out previously, the basic Airbus A300 airframe was paired with new wings and longer or shorter fuselages to produce the A310, A330 and A340 (plus the outsized Beluga). Some of the same infrastructure used to support a lunar outpost could also be adapted for missions beyond. But it makes a good deal of sense to prove those systems between Earth and the Moon first.

    As for who “our” and “they” are … that should have been clear from my message directed to Anne Spudis. “Our” referred to she and me (lunar proponents). “They” referred to you (“commercial” proponents). Nothing sinister was meant by it. I was simply pointing to the different sides in this debate.

    As to whose goal is “better” … I’ve already referred to the marketplace of ideas. Everyone has a right to his or her opinion and to espouse his or her own goals. Naturally, we each feel our goals are better (or best). Otherwise, we wouldn’t be making the case for them. That’s what debates are all about.

    Coastal Ron wrote:

    “What have YOU done to make the lunar science more compelling for the American Taxpayer?”

    Well, for starters, I wrote a popular book called Moon Missions which attempted to explain the scientific results of lunar exploration in plain English. I’ve also written articles about the subject in magazines such as Sky & Telescope, as well as in several inflight publications which reached a mass audience. I’ve written newspaper articles. I’ve written letters to the editor in Aviation Week. I’ve given lectures and book signings. I’ve done television interviews on PBS. And I’ve done radio interviews across the country … all espousing my point of view.

    “This all boils down to a poor selling job by “Moon First” advocates. If your message was more compelling, then Congress would not have cancelled Constellation, or they would have at least kept the Moon on the “Do First” list. Look in the mirror – you have no one to blame but yourselves.”

    I’ve already admitted that we (lunar advocates) have our work cut out for us, and that we haven’t made the case yet. But I don’t see much public enthusiasm for NewSpace, either. I might add that Congress didn’t overwhelmingly reject Constellation, and we might see the Moon reappear as a national goal when a new president occupies the White House some day. It’s been on and of the agenda several times over the past 40 years.

  • Coastal Ron

    Anne Spudis wrote @ December 1st, 2010 at 4:57 pm

    The Moon and cislunar space is the where and the why for bootstrapping your transportation infrastructure using lunar resources.

    I don’t think you understand what “bootstrapping” means. I think what you really mean is that by having ongoing inhabited operations on the Moon, that there would be a need for various transportation services, thus creating economic opportunities for commercial crew & cargo.

    But the problem with that is WHO is paying for those transportation services, HOW are you getting everything to the Moon in the first place (to create the demand for the transportation services), and WHO is paying for everything? This is where your “bootstrapping” analogy falls apart, because you expect the U.S. Taxpayer to pay for all of that, not the mining industries that would ultimately run the ISRU operations.

    If minerals on the Moon are so valuable, bootstrap it yourself.

  • Coastal Ron

    William Mellberg wrote @ December 1st, 2010 at 6:34 pm

    But I don’t see much public enthusiasm for NewSpace, either.

    And that would be because things like commercial crew are economic choices rather than pure spending programs.

    For example, NASA has a need for getting personnel to & from the ISS (a funded program). NASA is currently spending $55.8M/seat on Soyuz from 2013-14. If NASA wanted an American alternative, then the SpaceX proposal ($300M + $20M/seat) would work out to be the same cost over the 2016-20 period. Considering the tax benefits of spending that money in the U.S. instead of shipping it to Russia, this would be a better economic choice.

    The CST-100/Atlas V proposal may be more expensive, and that would boil down to how much is it worth to NASA to have more than one domestic crew transportation option. Essentially an economic choice.

    Missions to the Moon are purely discretionary at this point. They are missions of knowledge & discovery, but otherwise we don’t need to do them. And because they are discretionary, and very expensive, they require public support for expenditure of the massive amounts of funds that will be needed.

    Oh, and regarding your various publication, good for you. I wish you well, and hope that you’re making some money off of them.

    But I think what you’re seeing is that regardless of how well you write, and regardless of how compelling the Moon is to you and others, it is not really that compelling to the American Taxpayer as a whole. Don’t take it personally, but if people have a choice on where their tax money, they would rather pay less taxes, or at least have the money go into things they can touch or see in their daily lives.

    Mining resources on the Moon is going to have to wait for the time where it becomes an economic choice. Just like commercial crew.

  • Vladislaw

    Vladislaw, you are quite wrong about that. Airliners are designed for specific markets: short, medium- and long-range.

    You are making an incorrect comparision, range is not a destination it is a distance. The moon is a single destination with a single distance. Short, med and long range are not single destinations but ranges. It would be like building an airplane that would fly between fargo and minneapolis ONLY and then never using that airplane for ANY OTHER short ranged destination, regardless if that plane only flew twice per year. If you optimize for Luna only you are not going to be using it for any other destination.

  • Coastal Ron

    William Mellberg wrote @ December 1st, 2010 at 6:34 pm

    Airliners are designed for specific markets: short, medium- and long-range.

    Aircraft like the A380 are examples of many evolutionary cycles, but are still fairly flexible. For instance, the A380 can be modified to carry a variety of densities of passengers, or it can be adapted for cargo only. And though their typical use is for specific routes, they are designed to land at any runway that can fit them. And don’t forget that you could buy one of your own, and transport whatever you want (one VIP version has been sold already).

    So in Vladislaw’s defense, aircraft are designed for generic use – pour fuel into them, and you can take off and land on any airstrip that can accommodate them. It’s the aircraft customers that define how they are used, which in the case of the airlines, is on the routes that provide the most profitability.

    Concerning Vladislaw’s point about building transportation systems, our air transportation system is a good example of how our eventual space system will likely work. There will be some spacecraft that specialize in the mass transit of people, and there will be some that specialize in cargo. For both of these types, there will be many sizes and capabilities, based on age, and economics.

    If you think about it, we already have a wide variety of spacecraft that service just the ISS – Shuttle, Soyuz, Progress, ATV and HTV, and soon Dragon (Cargo) and Cygnus. In the next ten years, we could see Dragon (Crew), NASA’s MPCV, CST-100, and maybe even Dream Chaser. All of these are designed for LEO, but BEO will likely see the same level of diversity.

    And like the beginning of any transportation system, the vehicles themselves will likely be somewhat generic until it makes economic sense to evolve types that are more optimized. We’ve seen this before, many times, and space transportation will not be any different.

  • Martijn Meijering

    “Our” referred to she and me (lunar proponents). “They” referred to you (“commercial” proponents).

    There is no inherent contradiction between the goals, they are fundamentally compatible, indeed synergetic. It is possible to stimulate commercial spaceflight enormously without delaying a lunar base by one bit, assuming there is funding for a moon base. If there’s not, then the commercial route may be the only way to ever get to the moon, it’s just going to take a lot longer than with a large government exploration budget.

    Personally I’m strongly in favour of a lunar program (but only if there is to be a manned spaceflight program at all), but pretty much any exploration program, manned or unmanned, large or small, can be made synergetic with commercial manned spaceflight. Different people will have different priorities and that will shape the choices they will advocate. We’re unlikely to resolve such differences in an online discussion, but at least we can hope to avoid unnecessary struggles over compatible goals.

  • William Mellberg

    Coastal Ron wrote:

    “Missions to the Moon are purely discretionary at this point. They are missions of knowledge & discovery, but otherwise we don’t need to do them. And because they are discretionary, and very expensive, they require public support for expenditure of the massive amounts of funds that will be needed.”

    That goes without saying, although you said it succinctly. And I could say exactly the same thing about the International Space Station if I were a cynic. There is no NEED for human spaceflight — commercial or otherwise. Nor is there a need to explore the Solar System with robots or telescopes. But it’s part of the American character to explore … at least it used to be.

    “Oh, and regarding your various publications, good for you. I wish you well, and I hope that you’re making some money off of them.”

    Many thanks. I appreciate your good wishes.

    “Don’t take it personally, but if people have a choice on where their tax money, they would rather pay less taxes, or at least have the money go into things they can touch or see in their daily lives.”

    Absolutely true. And that applies to “commercial” space as well as to lunar exploration because average taxpayers can’t touch or see either in their daily lives. Walter Cunningham (Apollo 7) wrote an op-ed piece in the Houston Chronicle earlier this year in which he wondered (in print) whether or not the American people still have the “will” to do great things — like sending humans to Mars.

    I wonder, too.

  • Ferris Valyn

    William Mellberg,

    But I don’t see much public enthusiasm for NewSpace, either.

    Fundamentally, thats wrong. There is real proof of that in the number of people who went out to see SpaceShipOne fly in 04. Yes, its arguable how much we’ve seen since then, but there was a HUGE turnout for that, remember.

    I think the public is interested in it, at least tacitly. But we can’t really count on hero worship to keep us going to develop space. We’ll need something else.

    Second, I am very curious – lets presuppose that Obama came to you, and said “I want you to come up with a sustainable human spaceflight program, with the largest number of stakeholders as possible (and ideally put us on a path to becoming spacefaring) – you aren’t getting any funding increases (and be prepared for the possibility of a funding decrease), but you can do whatever else you want (within reason – ie we aren’t going to war or something like that).

    What would you propose? Not just a destination, but the whole system.

    (BTW, I was surprised you didn’t respond after my last few comments – did you have nothing to add to the previous parts?)

  • Anne Spudis

    Vladislaw wrote @ December 1st, 2010 at 6:05 pm [There is absolutely no way you can have affordablity when you put Luna in the critical path BEFORE you have the local infrastructure Anne… no way. You are talking about 2 BILLION dollars per lunar mission if NASA does it in an apollo way. ]

    You sound like lunar advocates want to land people on the Moon up front and before anything else. Why is that your refrain? This isn’t an Apollo style architecture. This isn’t a sorties flags and footprints exercise. What is so difficult about that to understand?

    A lunar return begins with reconnaissance, communications and telerobotics with reuseablility and multiple purpose application a key consideration.

  • William Mellberg

    Vladislaw wrote:

    “You are making an incorrect comparision, range is not a destination it is a distance. The moon is a single destination with a single distance … if you optimize for Luna only you are not going to be using it for any other destination.”

    That’s because you can’t make a direct comparison between air transport and space. So range is a good substitute in terms of talking about generic destinations. The Moon is a “short haul” flight (relatively speaking). Near Earth Asteroids would be medium-range flights. And Mars would be long-distance. Europa would be ultra long-distance.

    Coastal Ron wrote:

    “So in Vladislaw’s defense, aircraft are designed for generic use – pour fuel into them, and you can take off and land on any airstrip that can accommodate them. It’s the aircraft customers that define how they are used, which in the case of the airlines, is on the routes that provide the most profitability.”

    Well, yes and no. While you can pour the fuel in and go into any airfield that can handle a particular type, they aren’t all that generic. Why would an airline choose an A320 over a 737? Or an ATR72 over a Bombardier (de Havilland Canada) Q400? The performance of some aircraft can be very close to the performance of other aircraft. But each one will have an ‘edge’ on a particular airline’s route system — depending on average stage lengths and average passenger loads (among other factors). The performance edge can make the difference in aircraft sales (although so can intangibles — like the president of the airline thinks the Boeing guys are nicer). The Boeing 720 had an edge over the Convair 880 simply because of the width of its fuselage. In any case, each aircraft fills a particular niche, and spacecraft will be the same — depending on their mission. Otherwise, wouldn’t all unmanned spacecraft (planetary probes) be pretty much the same? That said, the vehicles used to support lunar operations should be adaptable for other missions (e.g., asteroids).

    Oh, yes. My long-term ideas with respect to Helium-3 would require an infrastructure quite unlike Constellation. You’d need a cargo ship operating between Earth orbit and lunar orbit to carry supplies in one direction and He-3 in the other direction. At this end, you’d need a Space Shuttle type winged vehicle to bring the liquified He-3 to the ground (since wings can support a lot more weight at landing than parachutes). Thus, I do agree that an overall infrastructure is required in Earth orbit to support missions to the Moon and beyond. And I also agree that we need to design and build spacecraft that are more economical to operate. Which is why building a better Soyuz is not the answer. What we really need is a winged, reuseable booster of the sort first envisioned for the Space Shuttle — until budget cuts forced the use of solid boosters. From that perspective, I appreciate the funding for R&D in the new NASA budget. And I don’t think much of “capsules” using parachutes. They can’t carry any payload home.

  • William Mellberg

    Martijn Meijering wrote:

    “There is no inherent contradiction between the goals, they are fundamentally compatible, indeed synergetic. It is possible to stimulate commercial spaceflight enormously without delaying a lunar base by one bit, assuming there is funding for a moon base. If there’s not, then the commercial route may be the only way to ever get to the moon, it’s just going to take a lot longer than with a large government exploration budget. Personally I’m strongly in favour of a lunar program (but only if there is to be a manned spaceflight program at all), but pretty much any exploration program, manned or unmanned, large or small, can be made synergetic with commercial manned spaceflight. Different people will have different priorities and that will shape the choices they will advocate. We’re unlikely to resolve such differences in an online discussion, but at least we can hope to avoid unnecessary struggles over compatible goals.”

    Martijn, once again you are the voice of reason. You should be working at NASA HQ. I think your comments above hit the nail squarely on the head. And they reflect what I’ve been looking for since February … the common ground between space advocates of all stripes. Thank you for your common sense!

  • Anne Spudis

    William Mellberg wrote @ December 1st, 2010 at 6:34 pm

    It would seem the prospect of lunar return is a thorn in the side of some, while we see it as having the potential to break the logjam of space access.

    Hopefully, you’ll be writing another book about the Moon and how it changed space fight and opened up the Solar System.

    Please keep adding your sensible 2cents. I find it quite valuable and always interesting.

  • William Mellberg

    Ferris Valyn wrote

    “But we can’t really count on hero worship to keep us going to develop space. We’ll need something else.”

    I already addressed that same point in my references to NASA relying on what I call the “dazzle” factor — which is pretty much the same as your hero worship idea. How many average citizens can name any current astronauts? Not many.

    As for being offended that NASA astronauts are an elite bunch getting joy rides into space at the expense of taxpayers, I guess my response would be … why shouldn’t I be offended that I can’t play football in the NFL? Alright, that’s not a government-supported profession. But why can’t I fly Harrier jump jets for the Marines? I’d really like to. However, I recognize that there are some professions that require qualifications I don’t have. NASA astronauts are professionals. There aren’t many openings for the job. Like the Marines, they’re looking for the “Few.” Not everybody gets to go … not even in the old Soviet Union where everyone was equal, or in China where everyone is equal (although some people are more equal than others). There is no “right” for people to fly into space.

    “Second, I am very curious – lets presuppose that Obama came to you, and said “I want you to come up with a sustainable human spaceflight program, with the largest number of stakeholders as possible (and ideally put us on a path to becoming spacefaring) – you aren’t getting any funding increases (and be prepared for the possibility of a funding decrease), but you can do whatever else you want (within reason – ie we aren’t going to war or something like that).
    What would you propose? Not just a destination, but the whole system.”

    Well, I don’t have the time or space here to lay it all out. But I would start by telling the President that the biggest problem with the manned space program from the beginning is that there has never been an overall master plan of the sort Wernher von Braun advocated. What we really need are some of the very things some of you have been talking about. Yes, we need Earth orbiting space stations. Yes, we need more affordable launch vehicles. Yes, we need spacecraft that are less expensive to operate (much of the cost being determined by their launch vehicles). And we need a step-by-step, building block approach to the Moon (where systems, hardware and operations can be tested and proven), Near Earth Asteroids and Mars. But we need more than rhetoric. We need schedules and goals (short-term and long-term).

    When the Swedish Air Force wanted a cutting edge, multi-role aircraft in the late mid-1960s, they sought the fabulous Saab 37 Viggen. But the development costs of the Viggen began to rise astronomically. There was some thought to ordering McDonnell F-4 Phantoms. However, starting in the late 1930s, the Swedes had stuck to a long-range plan to create and support their own aircraft industry — and to replace their aircraft at least every ten years. In the end, the way to keep the Viggen was to cut the total procurement and stretch the delivery dates.

    The economic realities of today force us to show some similar restraint in terms of our individuals dreams. But we can afford to stretch things out a bit if need be — quite a bit, in fact, if we must. The idea that Constellation wasn’t going to reach the Moon by 2020 didn’t upset me. A five-year slip wasn’t all that critical if the overall plan for creating the infrastructure was adopted more slowly. In any case, Obama has killed Constellation, and we can start with a clean slate. So I would tell the President that I’d like to hear from all parties concerned — old astronauts, young entrepreneurs and everyone in between who has an interest in our future (engineers, scientists, educators, taxpayers). And I would call on him to have a REAL “space summit” — not a staged one-day affair like the sham at the Cape last April. I’d bring in the best and the brightest, and I’d let them thrash out their differences as we’ve been doing here.

    And then I’d ask Martijn Meijering, “What do YOU think? What’s the best way to capitalize on the best ideas from all sides?”

    I have a feeling he’d come up with a pretty good plan. I like his positive attitude, his common sense and his realism. So I guess I’d tell the President, in short, “Get rid of Bolden. Sack Garver. And bring in Meijering.” (Martijn has obviously made a good impression on me.)

    “(BTW, I was surprised you didn’t respond after my last few comments – did you have nothing to add to the previous parts?)”

    Sorry. But I’ve got to earn a living, and I can’t spend all of my time here. I’ve probably spent too much time here already, although it has been a learning experience and is worthwhile from that point of view. Indeed, it’s the opposing points of view that have held my interest. They’ve made me think. And despite the differences of opinion, I am pleased to see the quality of the debate improve. It’s a lot more interesting when people offer good ideas, challenging questions and unique perspectives rather than taunts, insults and rants.

    Too bad our politicians don’t act that way anymore. I remember sitting in the Senate Gallery as a kid and listening to Everett Dirksen debate Hubert Humphrey. “Where can we find the common ground that serves the common good?” Senator Dirksen asked. And Senator Humphrey replied, “I don’t know. But I’m willing to search for it with you.” Perhaps it’s the influence of talk radio and cable television — both of which thrive on confrontation — which prevents that sort of civilized debate today. But serious problems require serious thought. And I’m glad to see some serious exchanges here as of late.

  • William Mellberg

    Anne Spudis wrote:

    “It would seem the prospect of lunar return is a thorn in the side of some, while we see it as having the potential to break the logjam of space access.”

    Yes, there are many people who grimace at the thought of going back to the Moon, including veteran astronauts like Rusty Schweickart and more than a few scientists (not to mention some folks in this forum). That’s alright. Everyone is entitled to his/her own opinion and vision. But I’m reminded that it sometimes pays to be open-minded. Wernher von Braun was opposed to John Houbolt’s Lunar Orbit Rendezvous plan at first. However, once he gave the concept some more thought, he had no problem setting aside his preconceived ideas and embracing a good alternative. Von Braun always set his focus on the Big Picture.

    “Hopefully, you’ll be writing another book about the Moon and how it changed space flight and opened up the Solar System.”

    Well, I hope to see another one from you and Paul, as well!

    “Please keep adding your sensible 2cents. I find it quite valuable and always interesting.”

    Thank you. And the same applies to your excellent contributions. It’s nice to have at least a few allies! But I enjoy a good exchange of ideas, even when I’m in the minority.

    Someone here quoted Will Rogers, who is one of my lifelong heroes. Rogers once noted, “Everyone is ignorant, only on different subjects.” Which is why an exchange of differing views can often be enlightening — as long as it remains civilized and focused.

  • Anne Spudis

    William Mellberg wrote @ December 2nd, 2010 at 7:16 am

    Agreed!

  • Yes, there are many people who grimace at the thought of going back to the Moon, including veteran astronauts like Rusty Schweickart and more than a few scientists (not to mention some folks in this forum).

    Can you name one?

  • Coastal Ron

    William Mellberg wrote @ December 2nd, 2010 at 4:43 am

    Well, yes and no. While you can pour the fuel in and go into any airfield that can handle a particular type, they aren’t all that generic.

    For moving people they are, as well as most types of cargo. What you’re pointing out is the business limitations of an aircraft type (i.e. ability to profit within a specific market), whereas we have been discussing the functional aspects of vehicles.

    With limited trade routes in space, the pricing methodologies are going to have to take a while to get worked out. In the mean time, the pricing will likely mirror the hazardous-duty environments that exist on Earth, such as Antarctica, Afghanistan and such.

    And I don’t think much of “capsules” using parachutes. They can’t carry any payload home.

    I would agree that capsules are the most basic form of transportation for landing back on Earth, but at this point they are the easiest technology solution we know of.

    Oh, and you should read up before making absolute statements about capsules – Soyuz certainly has small payload return abilities, but Dragon has 3,000 kg (6,614 lbs) payload down-mass capabilities.

  • Justin Kugler

    Ron is right. After Shuttle retirement, Dragon will be the primary method for bringing payloads back to Earth from the Station.

  • Vladislaw

    Anne Spudis wrote:

    “It would seem the prospect of lunar return is a thorn in the side of some, while we see it as having the potential to break the logjam of space access.”

    My apologies Anne if I have been totally off track for what you are advocating as a return to the moon. My assumption has always been on the human spaceflight aspect of it. If you’re advocating for a lunar return that is all robotic, I have never had problem with that, if that is your position. I have always thought we were discussing the merits of the human aspect of a Lunar return. When I said putting Luna in the criticial path I was not refering to any robotic aspects, only as it refered to how we approach going foreward with the ‘manned’ part of a return.

    William Mellberg wrote:

    “biggest problem with the manned space program from the beginning is that there has never been an overall master plan of the sort Wernher von Braun advocated.”

    I believe we may differ a bit in how we see going forward. For me space is a place not a program. When you talk about a “master plan” for me that sounds like we have a command economy, like the old Soviet Union, rather that a market economy. I do not want NASA in charge of a master plan, other than an enabler “pump primer” master plan. I want NASA developing technology that commercial space needs and shoveling it as fast as they can into the private sector for utilization.

    I do not want NASA in the launch business at all. I would rather see NASA buying ‘turn key, off the shelf’ systems. Like if NASA were to buy a WK2 and SS2 and started using it, but perferably they would just buy the seats rather than the system if that gets them more bang for the buck.

    With an S10 pickup truck I can put in a gallon of gas and drive to the store, 5 gallons and drive to neighboring towns, 22 gallons and drive to adjoining states or throw on a saddlebag tank or a 100 gallon tank in the bed and drive it cross country. The vehicle has not been designed and built with any single destination in mind nor even ranges because it is a function of the configuration of fuel tanks I choose to utilize and how much fuel is added and if and where you plan to refuel along the way.

    I know this is a very simplistic illustration but in space, from architectures I have read about and others more knowledgable have expressed, space destinations is going to be a function of the fuel tankage strapped on when you start. The habitat part of a spacecraft (the seats and steering wheel if you will using the auto illustration) will be the same going from LEO2GEO, LEO2EMLagrange points, ESLagrange points, NEO’s. Only when extending out to Mars will larger habitats be desirable. ( driving cross country in a pickup versus a winibago, you can sleep in your pickup cab but it gets old fast).

    I would perfer to see NASA work towards getting the pump priming infrastructure ( and utilizing commercial as much as possible for EVERY foot on the way) to create a space faring economy. Rather than NASA be the torch bearer of a space faring “space program”.

  • William Mellberg

    Coastal Ron wrote:

    “Oh, and you should read up before making absolute statements about capsules – Soyuz certainly has small payload return abilities, but Dragon has 3,000 kg (6,614 lbs) payload down-mass capabilities.”

    I was well aware of that figure. But 3,000 kg isn’t a whole heck of a lot if you’re talking about “commercial” activities in space. It’s why, as I suggested in my proposal about a Hubble servicing mission, you wouldn’t be able to bring back many (if any) of the changed out components. Plus, how much VOLUME is available? Cargo isn’t measured by weight (or mass) alone. Think about some of the small Regional Jets and the problems they have carrying outsized baggage. Space manufacturing will require craft that can carry weight up AND down. Which means wings, not parachutes. But I’ll grant you that at least Dragon can bring something down — unlike Progress.

  • William Mellberg

    Justin Kugler wrote:

    “Ron is right. After Shuttle retirement, Dragon will be the primary method for bringing payloads back to Earth from the Station.”

    Yes, but it’s a rather poor replacement for the Space Shuttle in that respect. The cargo bay on the Orbiter can return payloads with a lot of weight and volume. If memory serves me right, it can take something like 65,000 pounds up and at least 30,000 pounds down. I don’t have my Jane’s handy at the moment, but I recall Spacelab weighing in at around 35,000 pounds — it’s weight being determined by what the Shuttle could bring back. (I was slightly involved with Spacelab many years ago.)

  • William Mellberg

    Vladislaw wrote:

    “When you talk about a “master plan” for me that sounds like we have a command economy, like the old Soviet Union, rather that a market economy.”

    No, that’s not what I meant. Perhaps I should have said “grand strategy” or something along those lines. “Business plan” doesn’t seem to fit for a program of scientific exploration. But again, I would refer you to the plans von Braun put forward calling for a shuttle, a space station, a base on the Moon and expeditions to Mars — a step-by-step approach, but each step utilizing some common hardware and equipment as part of an integrated plan rather than as a hodgepodge of ideas and projects.

    As it stands without such a grand strategy, we’re losing the Space “Shuttle” just as we’re finishing the space station. Talk about bad timing. This is also why I bemoan ESA’s failure to proceed with Hermes long ago. It would have complemented the Shuttle’s capabilities quite nicely — providing a lower cost method of sending crews to and from the ISS while using the Shuttle for heavier and larger payloads. But without an integrated plan, we’re left where we now find ourselves.

  • Justin Kugler

    William, I work in the ISS Payloads Office. I don’t see a compelling need for that much return capability. In terms of mass and volume, Dragon is more than sufficient for sustaining ISS operations.

    To stretch the transportation analogy further, I borrowed a big truck and trailer to move into my house, but my Civic and my wife’s Vibe meet all of our needs for daily life.

  • Coastal Ron

    William Mellberg wrote @ December 2nd, 2010 at 2:36 pm

    Plus, how much VOLUME is available [for Dragon]?

    SpaceX states on their website – Payload Volume: 10 m3 (245 ft3) pressurized.

    But 3,000 kg isn’t a whole heck of a lot if you’re talking about “commercial” activities in space.

    Don’t confuse the term “commercial”. Commercial crew is where NASA purchases transportation services from private industry. Commercial activities represent possible future business, but not a current one. As Justin points out, Dragon will be fine for the currently funded needs of the ISS.

    But lets talk about future needs for a second. Certainly any space-based business would have to utilize existing transportation initially, and would likely be constrained by the infrastructure built and maintained by others. This could be a limitation in our expansion into space, but it also creates economic opportunity (demand) that can drive the development of new solutions (supply). Economic activity in space is going to proceed rather slowly for the first 20 years or so – that’s my prediction. But I still see economic opportunity in commercial space. We just need to calibrate our expectations.

    Yes, but it’s a rather poor replacement for the Space Shuttle in that respect.

    Maybe, but don’t blame SpaceX for the failures of NASA to come up with a Shuttle replacement after 30 years of flight. In fact, SpaceX funded Dragon internally for years before NASA announced the need for CRS. SpaceX doesn’t have an unlimited bank account like NASA, so they are building what’s known as a Minimum Viable Product (MVP). It gets you up and back for the least practical cost. And really, no one can afford anything more expensive right now anyways.

    As it stands without such a grand strategy, we’re losing the Space “Shuttle” just as we’re finishing the space station. Talk about bad timing.

    You would rather we lost it before the ISS was finished? Ending Shuttle after the ISS was finished does make sense, since the Shuttle isn’t needed after the ISS is complete. It costs $200M/month to run the Shuttle program, regardless if you’re flying or not – that’s a lot of money for not doing much. It all boils down to choices – what would you have done, and how would you have paid for it?

  • Ferris Valyn

    why shouldn’t I be offended that I can’t play football in the NFL? Alright, that’s not a government-supported profession. But why can’t I fly Harrier jump jets for the Marines?

    The difference is that the Marines are there for National defense & security. They are there for when people start shooting. The astronaut corp (the way its being used) is there largely for hero creation, and it doesn’t do that at all good. I’ll grant there is no “right” to go to space, but then why is it ok to spend money on something that is purely about hero creation, and nothing else?

    the manned space program from the beginning is that there has never been an overall master plan of the sort Wernher von Braun advocated.

    Well, the good news is that, at least for technology development, they are actively working on something like this. I’d like to see the idea developed further, but they have started at least some of this

    We need schedules and goals (short-term and long-term).

    Ironically, we had this under Obama’s original proposal.

    The economic realities of today force us to show some similar restraint in terms of our individuals dreams. But we can afford to stretch things out a bit if need be — quite a bit, in fact, if we must. The idea that Constellation wasn’t going to reach the Moon by 2020 didn’t upset me. A five-year slip wasn’t all that critical if the overall plan for creating the infrastructure was adopted more slowly.

    Actually, no, I don’t believe NASA can afford a gap nearly as large as you claim. At somepoint, people are gonna start asking “why the hell are we funding this agency that isn’t producing anything?” You wanna talk about facing budget realities, if NASA doesn’t deliver, and is talking about long-term delays, someone is gonna cancel it.

    Second, Constellation was never going to deliver an infrastructure that was cost effective, or anything like that.

    So I would tell the President that I’d like to hear from all parties concerned — old astronauts, young entrepreneurs and everyone in between who has an interest in our future (engineers, scientists, educators, taxpayers). And I would call on him to have a REAL “space summit” — not a staged one-day affair like the sham at the Cape last April. I’d bring in the best and the brightest, and I’d let them thrash out their differences as we’ve been doing here.

    And we did that in 2009 – it was called the Augustine committee. The original 2011 budget proposal was built around the findings of the Augustine committee, and was about 90% based on the Commercial HLV/Deep Space Option (I don’t remember what number that was – its in the report).

  • William Mellberg

    Justin Kugler wrote:

    “William, I work in the ISS Payloads Office. I don’t see a compelling need for that much return capability. In terms of mass and volume, Dragon is more than sufficient for sustaining ISS operations. To stretch the transportation analogy further, I borrowed a big truck and trailer to move into my house, but my Civic and my wife’s Vibe meet all of our needs for daily life.”

    Justin, your analogy is a good one. But I was thinking beyond ISS operations to the sort of genuinely commercial activities that people have talked about for decades (specialized manufacturing, satellite return and repair, etc.). My suggested Hubble servicing mission is a case in point. We might need a few more trucks (or pick-ups) in the coming decade — not just a Civic. On the other hand, I cannot disagree with the fact that keeping the Shuttle fleet operational for one or two ISS supply missions per year would not be cost effective.

    BTW, if the only purpose of Dragon is to carry cargo and crews to the ISS, how is that commercial rather than just another government contract? How does that bring the private sector into playing a bigger role independently (i.e., activities beyond the ISS)?

    I might add that I was sorry that NASA didn’t proceed with Shuttle-C decades ago … and a smaller manned shuttle along the lines of Hermes for transporting crews. My guess is that ISS could have been assembled quicker and cheaper that way. But what’s done is done.

  • William Mellberg

    Ferris Valyn wrote:

    “And we did that in 2009 – it was called the Augustine committee.”

    That didn’t exactly strike me as a lively exchange of opposing points of views and differing ideas. The conclusions seemed foregone at the outset. But that’s just my opinion. Still, there’s nothing new about a president (or a governor or a mayor) putting together a “blue ribbon” panel to justify controversial decisions. In any event, after the botched roll-out of “ObamaSpace” in February, the President did not assuage the members of Congress who disagreed with the new policy — including members from his own party. The staged affair in April didn’t help — especially when Mr. Obama left the Cape to hurry down to a political fundraiser in Miami. That didn’t make a good impression, either. From touchdown to take-off, Air Force One spent about an hour at the Kennedy Space Center. Which didn’t suggest that space is much of a priority for this president. Impressions matter.

  • Ferris Valyn

    William Mellberg
    Lets look at the schedules for the public meetings

    First meeting in DC
    9:00 am – Introduction and Opening Remarks
    9:20 am – Summary of Past Studies
    9:30 am – Constellation Program
    10:00 am – ISS Partner Discussions (European Space Agency and Roscosmos)
    11:00 am – Authorization Bills—Congressional Perspective
    12:00 noon – Public comment period #1
    12:30 pm – Lunch Break
    1:00 pm – Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle Considerations
    2:00 pm – Other Commercial Launch Capabilities
    NASA Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) Program
    SpaceX COTS Program Status
    Orbital COTS Program Status
    International Space Station Commercial Resupply Services Process and Status
    3:30 pm – Alternative Architectures
    DIRECT
    Shuttle Side-mount Options
    4:30 pm – Public Comment #2

    Meeting at JSC
    10:00am – 10:30am Chairman Introduction and Comments (Norm Augustine)
    10:30am – 11:00am Johnson Space Center Perspective (Mike Coats)
    11:00am – 12noon Congressional Perspective (Multiple Presenters)
    12noon – 12:30pm Lunch
    12:30pm – 1:30pm NASA Constellation Projects
    1:30pm – 3:30pm ISS/Shuttle Subgroup Briefing and Deliberations (Sally Ride)
    3:30pm – 4:00pm Public Comment Period

    Meeting at MSFC
    8:00am – 8:30am Marshall Space Flight Center Perspective (Robert Lightfoot)
    8:30am – 10:00am LEO Access Subgroup Briefing and Deliberations (Bo Bejmuk)
    10:00am – 11:00am NASA Constellation Projects
    11am – 12noon Congressional Perspective (Multiple Presenters)
    12noon – 1:00pm Lunch
    1:00pm – 2:00pm NASA Constellation Projects
    2:00pm – 3:30pm Integration Subgroup Briefing and Deliberations (Les Lyles)
    3:30pm – 4:00pm Public Comment Period

    KSC Meeting
    8:00am – 8:30am Kennedy Space Center Perspective (Bob Cabana)
    8:30am – 11:00am Exploration Beyond LEO Subgroup Briefing and Deliberations (Ed Crawley)
    11am – 12noon Congressional Perspective (Multiple Presenters)
    12noon – 1:00pm Lunch
    1:00pm – 2:30pm NASA Constellation Projects
    2:30pm – 3:00pm Public Comment Period
    3:00pm – 4:00pm Committee Deliberations

    DC Meeting #2
    8-8:30 – Vision for Space Exploration Background (John Marburger)
    8:30-9 – Mars Society Views on US Human Space Flight (Robert Zubrin)
    9-10:30 Science-Related Briefings
    Bilogical & Physical Sciences (Elizabeth Cantwell)
    Earth Science (Anthony Janetos)
    Astronomy & Astrophysics (Marcia Rieke)
    Planetary Science (Steve Squyres)
    10:30-10:45 – Arianespace Briefing (Jean-Yves Le Gall)
    10:45-11:00 – EADS Briefing (Mark Kinnersley)
    11:00-11:15 Public Comment Period
    11:15+ Committee Deliberations

    DC Meeting #3
    Committee Deliberations

    So, we’ve got people representing Mars, Constellation, EELV, Commercial, International Partners, Astronauts, NASA in general, Congressional input, and even public comments. And on the committee we have
    2 former astronauts
    3 scientists
    1 retired air force general
    4 people from industry (including one who was chair of the Constellation program standing review board)

    Additionally, I suggest you re-watch the last meeting. If that doesn’t include at least some level of lively debate, then I have to ask what you would need to consider a real exchange of opposing viewpoints.

    Finally, lets look at the report itself. You have 2 (sorta 3) destinations that the report suggests are perfectly acceptable (Moon, Deep Space, and Station by itself, sorta), each with their own positives & negatives. You had 3 choices of heavy lift that were presented as viable (Ares V/Ares V-lite, Shuttle Derived, EELV derived), all with their own positives & negatives.

    So explain to me why it

    didn’t exactly strike me as a lively exchange of opposing points of views and differing ideas.

    What more do you want?

    As for the problems with the roll-out – I don’t deny it had some serious problems. I won’t argue with you on that. But thats not the point – the point was, you said we should’ve had a real discussion & debate. And I wanna know why you don’t think that the Augustine committee was a fair discussion & debate?

  • Justin Kugler

    William,
    For NASA, it ultimately really is all about the differences in the contracting mechanism. The agency’s goal through CRS and CCDev is to obtain launch, resupply, and (eventually) crew exchange services for less than it would cost the government to do on its own.

    Because the system developer owns both the launch vehicle and the orbital vehicle in this contracting mechanism, they have the ability to use that hardware to provide services to other customers as they are able. Thus, NASA serves as a kind of anchor tenant, if you will, that encourages the growth of the market.

    With regards to the need for a “big truck,” I think the nanosat field is about to explode in a huge way precisely because the technology is advanced enough now that you can get pretty powerful capabilities in small packages, which means cheaper launch.

    In that case, I think it would be incumbent on those of us that work human space flight to plan around building larger systems on-orbit and use the launch capabilities that exist. “Living off the land” isn’t just about in-situ technology development.

  • Coastal Ron

    William Mellberg wrote @ December 2nd, 2010 at 10:43 pm

    But I was thinking beyond ISS operations to the sort of genuinely commercial activities that people have talked about for decades (specialized manufacturing, satellite return and repair, etc.).

    So you’re blaming the NASA and the aerospace industry for not living up to your space fantasies? Why should we be building hardware we don’t need yet? Weird.

    We might need a few more trucks (or pick-ups) in the coming decade — not just a Civic.

    This is where the natural economic forces in the commercial side of things come to play – if there is demand for a capability, then the supply side will rise to match it. But sometimes the demand needs to be great enough to overcome high barriers on the supply side (i.e. initial cost vs initial demand).

    BTW, if the only purpose of Dragon is to carry cargo and crews to the ISS, how is that commercial rather than just another government contract?

    SpaceX was developing Dragon well before the ISS CRS competition was announced – what makes you think they are limiting themselves to only one customer? For someone who worked in the aircraft industry, that’s an odd assumption…

  • BTW, if the only purpose of Dragon is to carry cargo and crews to the ISS

    Why do you think that’s the only purpose of the Dragon? Have you not heard of DragonLab? Or Bigelow?

  • William Mellberg

    Coastal Ron wrote:

    “SpaceX was developing Dragon well before the ISS CRS competition was announced – what makes you think they are limiting themselves to only one customer? For someone who worked in the aircraft industry, that’s an odd assumption …”

    Yes, I’m aware of the history behind SpaceX. But as someone who was directly involved in commercial aircraft sales, I’m also aware that commercial aircraft manufacturers don’t bet the ranch without plenty of firm orders in hand before proceeding with costly new programs. That’s because they usually don’t receive government contracts to fund their development. And those who tailor their designs too closely to one customer — or proceed with production on the basis of just a few orders — often get burned.

    If NASA weren’t the “anchor tenant” (as Justin Kugler mentioned above), what do you think are the chances that the private sector (i.e., the financial community) would be underwriting commercial space? Likewise, where will any non-governmental customers get the money to get into space? When you’re talking “commercial” it isn’t just the manufacturer that has to come up with the money. Customers face the same challenge — especially if they’re a start-up. In one case I was involved with, my firm turned down a lucrative sale because we were afraid the new carrier didn’t have the resources to become profitable. We didn’t want their failure to be associated with our aircraft. The airline went elsewhere for aircraft … and they did go “belly up.”

    I certainly recognize the flies in the ointment with respect to Helium-3. But it seems few “commercial” space advocates are willing to concede that they’re involved with a risky business that could — as Charles Bolden is alleged to have told Gene Cernan — wind up in a huge taxpayer bailout.

    Another question …

    What happens if SpaceX (or any other commercial operator) loses a launch vehicle and/or spacecraft? What happens if they have an explosion during ascent (like Challenger), or a pressure loss on orbit or during re-entry (like Soyuz-11 and Columbia)? How about a failure with a Bigelow station (fire, pressure loss, etc.)? Does anyone seriously believe that “commercial” space won’t suffer accidents? And does anyone remember what happened to the de Havilland Comet, the Lockheed Electra and the McDonnell Douglas DC-10? A few well-publicized accidents (the result of design or maintenance errors) had severe impacts on the commercial business at each of those firms. And passengers shied away from airlines that flew those airplanes. The Comet 1 accidents erased de Havilland’s tremendous lead in the marketplace. The Electra accidents (the wings tore off two aircraft inflight) ended commercial sales of the type. And the DC-10 and its successor, the MD-11, likewise suffered from bad publicity.

    I see ZERO discussion of what happens to commercial space if there is an accident with the loss of crew. This is what Gene Cernan was referring to when he said, “They don’t know what they don’t know.” De Havilland didn’t know about metal fatigue resulting from continuously pressurizing and depressurizing the Comet’s fuselage. Lockheed didn’t know they had a problem with “whirl mode” on the Electra’s outboard engine mounts. And Douglas had multiple problems which cropped up on the DC-10.

    I did mention Virgin Galactic a while back when someone pointed to all of the “deposits” Branson is holding. Lose a spacecraft early in the program, and the whole thing will fold. Lose a spacecraft later on, and the same thing could happen. Concorde never really recovered from the Air France crash at Paris.

    These are the sorts of considerations that are taken very seriously in the commercial airline industry. I’m not suggesting that commercial space is ignoring safety. I’m just wondering what happens to commercial space if one or more major accidents should occur? And how would the financial industry react?

  • Justin Kugler

    William,
    I was at the Commercial Space Transportation Conference in DC last year. What you’re talking about was a very hot topic and the panel discussion included risk experts, communications strategy experts, a couple of lawyers, etc.

    My understanding is that the FAA requires these companies have a certain amount of insurance to operate, though they do also get a certain amount of leeway in terms of protection by the government. I’ll have to go find my notes from February to recall the exact legal term.

    From what I’ve been told, the companies that obtained private investment had to have an incredibly solid business case because NASA has such a reputation for killing commercial initiatives in their infancy. Those that couldn’t make their business case, like Kistler, didn’t get the money.

  • I certainly recognize the flies in the ointment with respect to Helium-3. But it seems few “commercial” space advocates are willing to concede that they’re involved with a risky business that could — as Charles Bolden is alleged to have told Gene Cernan — wind up in a huge taxpayer bailout.

    Why isn’t it a “huge taxpayer bailout” when NASA pays for overruns on cost-plus contracts?

  • William Mellberg

    Justin Kugler wrote

    “I was at the Commercial Space Transportation Conference in DC last year. What you’re talking about was a very hot topic and the panel discussion included risk experts, communications strategy experts, a couple of lawyers, etc. My understanding is that the FAA requires these companies have a certain amount of insurance to operate, though they do also get a certain amount of leeway in terms of protection by the government. I’ll have to go find my notes from February to recall the exact legal term.”

    Justin, that must have been an interesting conference. My former boss from Fokker retired not too long ago as the head of the Flight Safety Foundation, which is comprised of airframe manufacturers and air carriers from around the globe. He had started his long aerospace career working at de Havilland Aircraft on the ill-fated Comet 1. So he knew about safety as an issue from the outset.

    My comments extend beyond the legal ramifications, however. As Stuart Matthews (my former boss) could tell you, it’s the psychological factors which also accompany accidents — especially when they result from unforeseen design problems (as happened with the Comet, the Electra and the DC-10). The public reaction can kill a program, as can the reaction from within the financial community. So it isn’t just a matter of being insured or having one’s tail covered legally … it’s a matter of public faith.

    Years ago (before my time), whenever there was an airliner crash, the carrier that operated the plane would often send workers to the crash site to paint over the airline’s name if it was still showing on the wreckage. The idea was to make sure the name didn’t show up in any press photos — generating more bad publicity! (I kid you not!)

    One crash can do in an airline. Pan Am never recovered from the 747 that was blown up over Scotland. And TWA never recovered from the 747 (Flight 880) that blew up off Long Island. Both carriers had many other problems that contributed to their demise. But TWA had been posting profits again … until that crash and the daily onslaught of negative publicity on the nightly news.

    Although I hate to imagine it, I do wonder how SpaceX and Elon Musk would handle a similar problem (i.e., the loss of a crew atop a Falcon or aboard a Dragon)? The fans might wish to avoid thinking about this subject. But it is a very real possibility. What would be the public reaction to the “cheaper” commercial route should it result in tragedy? And what would be the political fall-out? We saw the fall-out following Apollo 1, Challenger and Columbia … greatly increased costs. The same applied to Concorde after the Paris crash.

    Again, both Neil Armstrong and Gene Cernan were touching upon this subject in their Congressional testimonies this year. And they were touching upon it based on their many years of engineering and flight ops experience — NOT because they’re old and senile as some would suggest.

    My old boss would echo their concerns based on his dealing with hundreds of aircraft accidents over the years as president of the Flight Safety Foundation.

  • William Mellberg

    William Mellberg wrote:

    “And TWA never recovered from the 747 (Flight 880) that blew up off Long Island.”

    Typo. It was TWA Flight 800.

  • Coastal Ron

    William Mellberg wrote @ December 4th, 2010 at 4:55 am

    I’m also aware that commercial aircraft manufacturers don’t bet the ranch without plenty of firm orders in hand before proceeding with costly new programs.

    As I’ve mentioned, SpaceX was working on Dragon well before the ISS CRS contract, so they felt it was a product/service that they wanted to pursue. Since they were already building a low cost medium launcher, adding a no-frills capsule makes a lot of sense. It was only after the COTS/CRS contract award that they really picked up steam on Dragon, so all NASA is doing is accelerating their development program.

    If NASA weren’t the “anchor tenant” (as Justin Kugler mentioned above), what do you think are the chances that the private sector (i.e., the financial community) would be underwriting commercial space?

    I guess you don’t realize it, but the financial community is already “underwriting” commercial space.

    The existing companies in aerospace are mostly all listed on the public stock market – Lockheed Martin (LMT), Boeing (BA), Orbital Sciences (ORB), Alliant Techsystems Inc. (ATK) and many others. Space related business may not be their prime market, but it is part of their portfolio.

    For SpaceX, they were initially funded by their founder (Musk) and Silicon Valley venture capitalists (VC’s). In Silicon Valley, one of the axioms is “VC’s would rather invest in a great team with a mediocre idea, than a mediocre team with a great idea”. Musk had a good track record from Paypal and prior, so “the financial community” stepped forward and invested – more than once.

    Now you may be asking “why can’t I invest in SpaceX?”. It all boils down to two things – equity formulas and SEC rules. There are SEC rules for protecting “the little guy”, which pretty much means that no investor likes to take small amounts of money from many investor unless they really need to – SpaceX doesn’t. For the equity part, VC’s don’t like their equity diluted too much, so they pretty much like to limit other investors unless absolutely necessary. Musk knows all of this.

    However, for SpaceX investors the payoff could be coming soon, because SpaceX has recently stated that they plan an IPO in 2012 – we’ll see if they do IPO, and if so, how well the offering does. I know I’ll put in a buy order for a small amount (worked well for me on AAPL 12 years ago, so why not).

    On the lower end of things, you have the Mastens and Carmacks of the world, who are focused on a more organic growth plan, mostly self funded.

    Bottom line is that the “financial community” is already involved in commercial space, and will continue. Just like any investor, they will look at the team and the business model, and decide if the risks merit the potential reward – no different than investing in any new business.

  • Coastal Ron

    William Mellberg wrote @ December 4th, 2010 at 4:55 am

    What happens if SpaceX (or any other commercial operator) loses a launch vehicle and/or spacecraft?

    It will happen – it’s only a matter of time. And people will lose their lives going to, or returning from space. Guaranteed.

    Just like any industry, in order for there to be robustness, there needs to be more than one company providing the product/service. That is why I say we need a redundant commercial crew industry – more than one provider, and hopefully more than two.

    When the de Havilland Comet had it’s problems, there were alternative ways to get around, so air travel did not come to a stop. The same needs to be true for commercial crew.

    Soon there will only be Soyuz to rely upon, but I think the U.S. should fund two U.S. alternatives, which would likely be Dragon and CST-100. Dragon by itself would actually save money vs Soyuz through 2020, but adding CST-100 should be looked at as providing insurance (i.e. robustness).

    If CST-100/Atlas V were to fail on a flight, Boeing and ULA would survive, but I’m sure their business model would be re-evaluated. If SpaceX suffered a failure, I think they have enough financial robustness to survive financially, and I think they will keep pushing ahead after they address all the inevitable internal and external (i.e. U.S. Government) reviews. During that downtime, it would be nice to have a second provider to pick up the slack…

    Remember though, that CST-100 and Dragon will be more inherently safe than Shuttle currently is, so I don’t see NASA backing down on the capsule concept.

    I see ZERO discussion of what happens to commercial space if there is an accident with the loss of crew.

    You’re not the only one that has mentioned it, but without an actual commercial crew service, it’s kind of hard to discuss and debate. I have no doubt that any company getting into the crew business has evaluated the risks, and put plans in place. We’ll see how well they do.

    This is what Gene Cernan was referring to when he said, “They don’t know what they don’t know.”

    YOU don’t know what you don’t know, but that doesn’t make you any better or worse. That saying has lost it meaning from poor use.

    I did mention Virgin Galactic a while back

    VG is the most susceptible to failure since they are purely discretionary spending. Commercial crew is a service that will be relied upon for maintaining the ISS. Big difference.

  • Das Boese

    William,

    You make a fair point, but just as with aviation, one of the biggest strengths of commercial cargo/crew is redundancy. If one commercial launch system has an accident, even with crew loss, that launcher might be grounded, several failures might even put that company out of business, but the overall launch capability is preserved.
    A space program that relies purely on its own launchers cannot do that, because you can only afford one at a time and something is wrong with it, everything grinds to a halt.

    The aircraft analogy is great, actually.
    Plane crashes can have severe consequences for airlines and aircraft makers, it may even put them out of business… but air travel itself goes on. People choose an airline with a better safety record or a different type of plane and just keep on flying.

  • Justin Kugler

    I agree that it’s a valid concern, William. I don’t know the details of what their response would be, but I am under the impression that at least the companies represented at that conference have such contingency plans in place.

  • Vladislaw

    William Mellberg wrote:

    “One crash can do in an airline.”

    If an airline gets done in, what happens then? Do all the airplanes get destroyed and never fly again? Do the workers of that airline immediately switch to a totally new industry? Does all airtravel end forever?

    Does a more efficient airline buy up the planes and hire the workers and repaint the planes with the new logo and keep flying them? Does airtravel continue with basically no more than a blip to the total air passengers? Does life continue to move on?

  • William Mellberg

    Vladislaw wrote:

    “If an airline gets done in, what happens then? Do all the airplanes get destroyed and never fly again?”

    In the case of the Comet 1, yes. The surviving aircraft never flew again (with the exception of two aircraft owned by the RCAF which were put out of service for several years while undergoing extensive and expensive modifications.

    But space travel is not as routine as air travel, and it won’t be for a very long time. Of course, I do like the idea of having back-up capability. But is the market large enough to keep multiple space operators viable? Again, there is no mass market for human spaceflight.

  • Das Boese

    “William Mellberg wrote @ December 5th, 2010 at 3:48 pm

    But space travel is not as routine as air travel, and it won’t be for a very long time. Of course, I do like the idea of having back-up capability. But is the market large enough to keep multiple space operators viable? Again, there is no mass market for human spaceflight.”

    Unmanned spaceflight is very much routine these days, the launch market sustains a lot of competitors and will sustain a lot more, especially if they’re able to offer lower prices than the Russians.

    You really need to let go of the idea that human spaceflight is somehow special, mutually exclusive or incompatible to unmanned spaceflight. Decades of government HSF have reinforced that notion, but in a commercial environment it’s no longer valid. Companies can’t afford to treat HSF as anything special precisely because the market for HSF is very small at the moment. They need maximum commonality between manned and unmanned systems to keep the costs down.
    The Russians have been doing it for years with Soyuz, so successfully that Arianespace is now buying rockets from them.

  • William Mellberg

    Das Boese wrote:

    “You make a fair point, but just as with aviation, one of the biggest strengths of commercial cargo/crew is redundancy. If one commercial launch system has an accident, even with crew loss, that launcher might be grounded, several failures might even put that company out of business, but the overall launch capability is preserved.”

    Yes, but is the market big enough to sustain multiple providers? Air travel is a mass market, which is why multiple carriers can thrive and survive. Space travel is not a mass market. And, as I’ve repeatedly said before, there are no cattle ranges, wheat fields or coal mines in LEO to create a mass market. The key to the viability of air travel is the size of the market and the very large demand for transportation from Point A to Point B (‘A’ and ‘B’ being hundreds of city pairs worldwide).

    “A space program that relies purely on its own launchers cannot do that, because you can only afford one at a time and something is wrong with it, everything grinds to a halt.”

    That’s a fair point, too … and one that troubles me. We saw not only what happened following the Apollo 1, Challenger and Columbia accidents, but we’ve also seen what happened following the Soyuz-1 and Soyuz-11 accidents. The Soviet program ground to a halt, as well. Which is why I’ve repeatedly said that I wish ESA had gone ahead with Hermes to provide an alternative to the Space Shuttle for sending crews to he ISS. (I believe Hermes/Ariane V would have become the primary means of shuttling crews to the ISS if they had.) Of course, Hermes would have been an ESA spacecraft — not commercial. And I still wonder if the private sector can sustain itself with multiple providers given the limited market?

    “Plane crashes can have severe consequences for airlines and aircraft makers, it may even put them out of business… but air travel itself goes on. People choose an airline with a better safety record or a different type of plane and just keep on flying.”

    Very true. But, again, that’s because of the mass market … which does not exist AT THIS TIME for space travel. It’s also true because of the overall safety record of the airline industry over many millions of hours flown and passengers carried each year. It’ll be a l-o-n-g time before commercial space establishes that sort of record for safety and reliability.

  • Vladislaw

    No you see this is what would happen with commercial space.

    “The Comet had to be withdrawn and extensively tested to discover the cause; the first incident had been incorrectly identified as having been caused by an onboard fire. Several contributory factors, such as window installation methodology, were also identified as exacerbating the problem. The Comet was extensively redesigned to eliminate this design flaw. Rival manufacturers meanwhile developed their own aircraft and heeded the lessons learnt from the Comet.

    Although sales never fully recovered, the redesigned Comet 4 series subsequently enjoyed a long and productive career of over 30 years.”

    ONLY the comet was redesigned and started flying again the nation’s total airline system did not grind to a halt because one plane of one company had an accident. Competitors learned from the mistakes. That will NEVER happen with a NASA monopoly.

    I said did ALL the airplanes get destoryed, meaning did airtravel for the entire nation stop? When something happens at NASA the entire nations space access stops and it ALWAYS WILL as long as NASA holds a monopoly on space access.

  • Coastal Ron

    William Mellberg wrote @ December 5th, 2010 at 5:12 pm

    Yes, but is the market big enough to sustain multiple providers?

    At this point, with only the ISS providing demand for crew services, that question can only be answered by the ISS partners. For them, they have to decide if they want two or more alternatives for supporting their crew on the ISS.

    If the ISS partners want more than Soyuz and one American provider, then they will have to be willing to pay for it. Call it insurance. Or call it an investment in the future. I see it as both.

    Air travel is a mass market

    Airlines have been around for over 100 years, so you’re analogy doesn’t work.

    It’ll be a l-o-n-g time before commercial space establishes that sort of record [current airlines] for safety and reliability.

    Again, you’re trying to compare the maturity of a 100 year old market to a new one. At this point, we can only compare the proposed commercial crew services with the current and past services – will they be better than what we have, or have had? You’ll have to check back in 100 years to find out if you’re right…

  • William Mellberg

    Vladislaw,

    Regarding the Comet and its successors, please see my article in the 100th Anniversary of Flight supplement t Mechanical Engineering magazine (December 2003). If you go to the index at the bottom of the story, you will find several other excellent articles regarding the past and future of aerospace:

    http://www.memagazine.org/supparch/flight03/transrev/transrev.html

    I might also note that the Comet is still flying as the RAF’s Nimrod .. and in its new, highly-modified form, it will be doing so for many years to come. Not bad for a design that first flew more than 60 years ago.

    I had the privilege of welcoming the last Comet into the United States some years back — an RAF aircraft assigned to RAE Farnborough for test purposes. It was completing a final round-the-world flight. Sadly, that aircraft was scrapped upon its return to the UK. But one last Comet 4C (the RAF’s “Canopus”) remains in airworthy condition, although it hasn’t flown in quite some time. About 30 years ago, I was contacted by a group hat wanted to restore a Comet 4C (ex-Mexicana) to flight. It had been abandoned at O’Hare Iternational Airport by its last owner — a fellow who owned a nudist resort in Indiana. Getting that aircraft flightworthy proved to be impossible. But I enjoyed spending some time inside of the old Comet, going through its various systems. Despite the sad fate of the Comet 1, the Comet 4 did fly the first trans-Atlantic jet service.

    An even sadder story is that of the Avro Canada C102 “Jetliner” which I also describe in the above article, and which I have had a close connection with myself through its designer, Jim Floyd. It should have taken the world by storm. But politics killed the project in the cradle.

  • Vladislaw

    Good article, thanks for the link, I have read about half the articles now. I have always loved this quote from Von Braun that was in one of them:

    “Wernher von Braun once observed: “Our two greatest problems are gravity and paperwork. We can lick gravity, but sometimes the paperwork is overwhelming.” “

  • William Mellberg

    Vladislaw wrote:

    “Wernher von Braun once observed: ‘Our two greatest problems are gravity and paperwork. We can lick gravity, but sometimes the paperwork is overwhelming.'”

    Yes, I love that quote, too!

    As an aside, I attended a luncheon in Washington at which von Braun was a speaker. He began his remarks, as he sometimes liked to do, with this line:

    “Some of you might have noticed that I have an accent. That’s because I lived in Alabama for twenty years and picked up a Southern d-r-a-w-l.”

    That sort of self-effacing humor was part of his charisma. But so were his insightful comments about the future … AND paperwork!

    I’m glad you went to that Mechanical Engineering link. It was an excellent issue marking the 100th Anniversary of Flight. The Wright brothers were pretty sharp fellows … followed by many other pretty sharp people during the past century.

  • William Mellberg

    Vladislaw wrote:

    “Good article, thanks for the link …”

    Thanks for reading it. Unfortunately, we had limited space, and my original manuscript had to be trimmed a bit. The editor decided to cut my section on the Tupolev Tu-104 which followed the Comet into service and preceded the 707. Although it didn’t operate with any Western carriers, it did give yeoman service with Aeroflot (and CSA) for many years. Removing my single paragraph describing the Tu-104 was the easiest way to make the article fit the printed page. Remarkably, no one ever said anything to me or my editor about the omission, although I’m sure some readers must have asked themselves, “Where’s the Tu-104?”

  • … isn’t “brio” the name of a Swedish train toy company? Is that a typo, or is Palin claiming Obama lacks Kennedy’s confidence and wooden train sets?

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