Other

Why can’t the US and China cooperate in space?

There has been a renewed effort by the US government to reach out to China and find ways to cooperate in space, including a brief mention of cooperation in space exploration last year when Presidents Obama and Hu met, as well as NASA administrator Bolden’s visit to China in October. Yet, those discussions have yet to result in any concrete steps for joint projects or other cooperative ventures between the two countries, apparently to the surprise and disappointment of some within the administration. One expert believes that it’s because China doesn’t need to cooperate with the US as much as American officials think it does.

At a space security forum Wednesday organized by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) in Washington, Gregory Kulacki, senior analyst and China project manager for UCS, said China’s current space efforts were motivated by a single event: President Reagan’s 1983 SDI speech. That speech, he said, was a “Sputnik moment” for China, in particular scientists who convinced the leadership that this demonstrated the importance of space. “The United States was going to make another Kennedy-sized investment in this whole area of technology and China just could not be left behind,” he said. If China didn’t invest in space, “in the way the scientists put it in their letter to Deng Xiaoping, [it] ‘would make us a second-rate power again.’” China’s space capabilities, therefore, are tied closely to their national prestige and status, he said.

The growth of Chinese space capabilities during time, Kulacki said, means that cooperation with the US is simply not a high priority now. “As far as the technical community, there’s no real incentives. They don’t need anything” from the US, he said. He added that Chinese space professionals aren’t interested in cooperation with the US because it’s “nothing but problems”, interfering with their current efforts. Any push for cooperation would have to come from the political side, but space is not a high priority there, he noted.

“We need to get past the idea that the Chinese need us more than we need them,” Kulacki said. “We have to find something of value to bring to China if China is going to be enthusiastic about our efforts to engage them on this.” That’s a challenge, he said, since the administration in the US right now is more interested in taking small steps that are of little interest to the Chinese. “The United States doesn’t want to bring anything major to the table, but the Chinese need something major on the table in order for cooperation to ge started.” What could that “major” thing be? He suggested some kind of unspecified civil space project: “Somewhere to go together, something to do together, something to build; an actual, important project.”

177 comments to Why can’t the US and China cooperate in space?

  • Anne Spudis

    http://www.ucsusa.org/news/experts/gregory-kulacki.html

    Gregory Kulacki
    Senior Analyst, China Project Manager
    Expertise
    Nuclear Weapons & Global Security-US-China Relations
    Profile
    Gregory Kulacki is a senior analyst and China project manager in the Global Security Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). He is a respected expert on international educational exchanges with the People’s Republic of China. Dr. Kulacki lived and worked in China for more than twelve years developing and administering a wide variety of exchange programs between China and the United States. Prior to joining UCS in 2002 he served as the director of Academic Programs in China for the Council on International Educational Exchange, as an associate professor and the director of the Sino-American Center for Environmental Education at Green Mountain College, and most recently as the director of External Studies for Pitzer College, where he established a ground-breaking program in Chinese Media Studies in cooperation with Peking University.

    Gregory holds a Ph.D. in Government and Politics from the University of Maryland, College Park where the focus of his dissertation was the cross-cultural development of political theory in modern China.

  • Robert G. Oler

    ““We need to get past the idea that the Chinese need us more than we need them,” Kulacki said. “We have to find something of value to bring to China if China is going to be enthusiastic about our efforts to engage them on this.”

    this sort of thinking is the goofiness that has been a part of US/PRC relations since Nixon/Kissinger and has lead to the US virtually disintegrating its industrial base so (to quote the Leslie Nelson character in Police Squad) “the Chinese will be nice”.

    Why on the creators Earth do we need to bind something that gets the Chinese interested in doing something that doesnt really do anything for “US” just gets them involved in something that we are already involved in?

    The PRC would if it wanted to and found some domestic or other value be knocking on the door themselves to be part of ISS…if they dont want to be, why invite them to be?

    So they would become (and here are the excuses used since Nixon) “Helpful on foreign policy” (meaning do things against their self interest), “become a Democracy” (the line of almost every administration since Reagan) or “buy more of our debt” (the line since Bush the First…) or take your pick.

    Every year we are told by some group who is trying to make money in China that national honor and policy must be sacrificed on the alter of enriching some group which does nothing to make our country stronger.

    When someone can explain to me why it is in OUR best interest to have the PRC involved in the Space Station then we will have something to talk about…as it is the logic this person uses is what has destroyed the US manufactoring base.

    goofy

    Robert G. Oler

  • Mark R. Whittington

    I pretty much agree wth Oler. I’m not sure how to act.

  • Perhaps the best example of US-China space cooperatoin was the Clinton WH decision to allow China to launch Hughes/Loral satellites, containg sensitive electronic components on their Long March boosters.

    Well, surprise, the Long March booster blew up, and Hughes showed them how to perform a detailed technical analysis to understand and eliminate this type of problem. Now we can be sure that their ICBMs are more likely to reach their ultimate destinations in the US.

  • Doug Lassiter

    This is all pretty sensible Yes, it sure is goofy to think that there is a need to cooperate with China in space, unless we just see space simply as a diplomatic tool and venue as we did with Russia. If we do see it as a diplomatic tool then, at least with regard to civil space, we shouldn’t believe that our current “small steps” posture would be of any great interest to them. If the PRC is after national prestige and status, being the n’th partner with us on an aging ISS, getting rides on a retiring Shuttle, and accepting vague promises about carrying out “visions” with them sure isn’t going to get them that power and prestige.

    Let’s not forget that to the extent that SSI was a “Sputnik moment” for them, they’re thinking national defense at least as much as national prestige. Not “exploration”. With regard to milspace we’ve made, and continue to make, huge steps, and we have no reason to want to partner with them on that.

  • Nelson Bridwell wrote:

    Now we can be sure that their ICBMs are more likely to reach their ultimate destinations in the US.

    And the reason China would want to destroy a nation in debt to them for trillions of dollars is …?

    This Red Menace paranoia is truly daffy.

  • China is a fascist state under the control of an elite ruling plutocratic oligarchy (the so called communist party) that pockets most of China’s wealth. Why would we want to cooperate with them?

  • Ralph Schiano

    We cooperated with the Russians on the ISS and have been supporting their program with our dollars instead of strengthening our own technological base. We must not make this mistake again.

    America must not fritter away one of its few remaining technological edges. We stand at the beginning of humanity’s expansion into the solar system. America must lead the way. We must invest in our future. The benefits dwarf any expense. Failure guarantees our continued trajectory to the second-rate.

  • Ralph Schiano wrote:

    America must lead the way.

    Why?!

    No one seems to ask that question.

    And here’s another question … What are your valid measurements of “leadership”?

    Some people seem to think spending $150 billion in current dollars back in the 1960s to collect Moon rocks made us a “leader” but only in blowing the federal budget on a publicity stunt.

    I agree we “stand at the beginning of humanity’s expansion into the solar system.” But insisting that only one nation can do it is silly, and inevtiably a waste of time. We can’t stop other nations from accessing space any more than Spain could stop England, France, Portugal or any other nation from exploring the New World.

    The *smart* thing is for humanity as a species to go out into the solar system. Earlier this year, Russian President Medvedev informally suggested a global summit to plot a common strategy for humanity going out into the solar system. I think that’s an excellent idea, something a “leader” would do. Too bad he didn’t follow up on it. The fact that no one else did either shows it’s not a priority right now for most of humanity as a species.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Nelson Bridwell wrote @ December 16th, 2010 at 1:42 pm

    Well, surprise, the Long March booster blew up, and Hughes showed them how to perform a detailed technical analysis to understand and eliminate this type of problem. Now we can be sure that their ICBMs are more likely to reach their ultimate destinations in the US….

    the cold war paranoia is quite bizarre.

    Most of what you say is simply not accurate. The Chinese got little or nothing from the technology on the satellites that Loral wanted launched…and “hughes showed them how to perform a detailed technical analysis to understand and elminate this type of problem” is silly.

    If the Chinese learned anything about how to do major aerospace projects and the “technical analysis” goes along with it (at least Western Technical analysis) it was when the then in power administration (you can guess which one) allowed McDee to build parts of the MD series of airplane in China…including building an entire airplane.

    After that The Chinese (who can always copy a mouse trap) started getting quite good at various aerospace projects including some home grown military efforts…which doubtless included their ICBM force.

    Having said that “oh cares” at least from a MAD or deterrence standpoint.

    The Chinese nuclear “arsenal” is (to paraphrase another person in another time concerning the French nuclear force) a “nuclear farce”. It is far to small to be either a first strike or even a counterforce option to a US SLBM effort much less a full blown US “special” strike.

    Couple with that the notion that the Chinese would be fools to try by military means what they are achieving by economic ones (the dismantling of the US as a super power) and we are all left wondering what Paranoia world you live on.

    The Cold war is long gone. It was a singular example of MAD force doctrine which we are unlikely to ever see again, much less in the first half of this century. To continue to try and fit things today into a cold war model is well goofy

    One final point. I suspect that the vast majority of the PRC nuclear “farce” is not targeted at the US…while doubtless like all modern nuclear arsenals it is “targetable” in a short time…If I would want to bet it would be that their missiles are targeted in the following order…India, Russia and then the US.

    One of the things that keeps an Indian version of General Turgidson from acting out his Hindu version of Dr. Strangelove is the notion that while they might eliminate the Paki weapons (and most of them wont work anyway) in “one fast swoop” what would “get their hair musted a bit” is that the PRC would probably feel the need to do a little “tat” for Indian “tit”.

    Robert G. Oler

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    sorry this is Nathan’s quote

    “Well, surprise, the Long March booster blew up, and Hughes showed them how to perform a detailed technical analysis to understand and eliminate this type of problem. Now we can be sure that their ICBMs are more likely to reach their ultimate destinations in the US….”

    that I responded to

    Robert G. Oler

  • The most technologically advanced organization on the face of this Earth is the US Pentagon (DoD) and the Chinese know it.

    Of course they don’t want the table scraps we’re offering to them, they consider themselves equals.

    So anything we have to offer could not be anything less than a joint manned mission to Mars, or anything else of equal value.

  • Dave Huntsman

    ” Gregory Kulacki……… said China’s current space efforts were motivated by a single event: President Reagan’s 1983 SDI speech. That speech, he said, was a “Sputnik moment” for China, in particular scientists who convinced the leadership that this demonstrated the importance of space.’

    That may be true, but I’m wondering if he has any specific citations, speeches, etc. from them that show that?

    “Why would we want to cooperate with them (China)?”

    Because it’s in our long-term national interest.

    “America must not fritter away one of its few remaining technological edges. ……America must lead the way. We must invest in our future. The benefits dwarf any expense. Failure guarantees our continued trajectory to the second-rate.”

    You imply that any cooperation with China is automatically anti- all of that. It isn’t either/or; in fact, pushing China away reduces our leverage – and our insight – into what they are doing. I’d rather follow Michael Corleone’s advice (in this case, anyway!): and keep them ‘closer’ rather than ‘farther’.

    Additionally, banning them from cooperation with the US will drive our other international partners to them even faster. It’s in our interests to find easy ways to keep them close, folks. There is minimal danger, for example, in starting off by giving them maybe some small role in ISS so we can feel each other out with something real to focus on.

    America’s space competitiveness is being helped by things like COTS and the commercial crew joint venture; it is massively hurt by giving hundreds of billions in tax breaks to the wealthy, adding to the debt without paying for it, and under-funding our educational and infrastructure systems while China forges ahead full speed. If you are truly concerned about American, my consul is to focus on the massive mismanagement by our government domestically, where are real weakness lies.

    Dave Huntsman
    Bay Village, Ohio
    my opinion only

  • Ralph Schiano

    Leadership means cooperation that does not compromise our own technological capabilities. We need to pioneer and develop technology and infrastructure so that our own industry reaps then benefits. “Stunts” and cutting edge missions for the sake of exploration are important but the long-term plan should be to pursue a continued deliberate expansion resulting in a permanent human presence on many worlds.

    China is an oppressive, brutal regime. Why should we cooperate with them? They are already moving toward technological and financial dominance and this world and others will be the worse for it if they achieve it. Americans are in danger of one day reaching the planets in the second class section of a spaceship stamped Made in China.

  • CharlesHouston

    Certainly China is a repressive, corrupt, regime – not too much different from Saudi Arabia for example. So any reasoning that we cannot cooperate with that authoritarian regime is faulty.

    However, the reason that we should be reluctant to bring them in on the ISS (or other project) is logistical. A partner would require enormous translation (language as well as methodology), travel, negotiation, study, etc. It imposes a lot of cost on projects. Cooperation with Europe and Japan has been well exercised, and they bring a lot to the table. They are allies from way back.

    Cooperation with Russia has brought enormous expense, risk, delay, and has caused us to foolishly retire the Shuttle and depend on Soyuz.

    If we could give China a solid Interface Control Document (so unlike most of our other ICDs!) and have them give us experiments that would plug into existing resources – that would be worth the trouble. But we might slip into allowing them to over promise and under deliver, and put them in the critical path. That would be a huge mistake, as large as the one we made when we allowed Russia to be a part of the critical path.

  • John Malkin

    China has spending money. In the last 3 years they have bought over 500 billion in Treasure Securities surpassing Japan in ownership of US debt. In 2007 they owned more than the UK.

    China is also important to controlling counties like North Korea. We can complain about their government but it’s better than many other governments.

    Loosing jobs to China is economical and it’s the same reason we loose jobs to Mexico. We don’t provide enough incentives to keep American companies from exporting jobs.

    The US has the most advance military but so we did in Vietnam and we got our back side kicked. Politics trumps everything including technology.

    What if Chinese investors invested 5 billion into commercial space instead of Treasury securities. We need to use our capitalist skills to better benefit this country.

  • common sense

    @Robert G. Oler wrote @ December 16th, 2010 at 1:09 pm

    ““We need to get past the idea that the Chinese need us more than we need them,” Kulacki said. “We have to find something of value to bring to China if China is going to be enthusiastic about our efforts to engage them on this.”

    Robert, I think you (may have) misread this. What I read is 1) that we need to get past the idea the Chinese need us more than we need them. And 2) if we really want China part of our effort then we have to bring something of value to them.

    This does not sound like some one suggesting something but rather simple common sense. It does not say that we want them in our effort. Now I personally believe they ought to be part of it, how? Not sure. Especially if our commercial effort are successful. BUT if for the foreseeable future we have BEO run by NASA then it may make sense to use China’s banks to help us. It may be worth having a look at it. I don’t have all the elements in hand to make such a statement but my gut feeling tells me that real BEO will be done with China one way or another. We (hopefully) shall see.

    Oh well…

  • Robert G. Oler wrote:

    I suspect that the vast majority of the PRC nuclear “farce” is not targeted at the US…while doubtless like all modern nuclear arsenals it is “targetable” in a short time…If I would want to bet it would be that their missiles are targeted in the following order…India, Russia and then the US.

    (cough) Taiwan (cough) …

  • Ralph Schiano wrote:

    Americans are in danger of one day reaching the planets in the second class section of a spaceship stamped Made in China.

    Meanwhile, in the reality-based universe, China has no program to go to any other planet, much less the Moon — which we explored 40 years ago.

    Honestly, the silly rhetoric some people spew …

  • Dave Huntsman

    “What if Chinese investors invested 5 billion into commercial space instead of Treasury securities. We need to use our capitalist skills to better benefit this country.”

    While I don’t agree with all of John’s statement, this last part is worth considering. So far when people around the world have wanted to invest in commercial space, they bring their monies (of whatever domination) to the US. Branson came to the US; he ended up bringing along Persian Gulf dollars; Kistler had significant Asian funding; etc. We shouldn’t set up arbitrary roadblocks to this.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Dave Huntsman wrote @ December 16th, 2010 at 3:49 pm

    the phrase “hold your friends close your enemies closer” is actually Arabic in origin and it loses something in the translation.

    It REALLY is trying to communicate that one should hold ones enemies closer only if you think that there is something to be gained from that effort for YOU…if not, keep them far away.

    The argument that endless administrations (both GOP and Dem) have used about the PRC is that “holding them close” allows US the us (grin) a lot of positive things…and somehow it is suppose to change the Chinese. None of that has happened.

    the only benefit that we as a nation have gotten are cheap appliances from Walmart and Home Depot and the full scale killing of the nations industrial base. Where once everyone was kind of snickering over washing machines going to Shanghi…now it is literally Boeing aircraft being produced in China…and China is in the process of making its own knockoff of the 737….

    That was great as long as the average American and American bank were going into endless debt so that they could afford all those cheap drills…but really that has ended.

    From a technological standpoint there is NOTHING that the Chinese have to offer the US to either be greedy over or afraid of. The only reason that they make things cheaper then us is that instead of Bill and Mary being paid a decent middle class wage, Ho and Jo are paid in comparison what we pay WAlmart greeters and love it…

    Their technology is nothing to be worried about…

    what is worrisome, in fact it may be the end of our country as we know it…is that they are starting to make every darn thing we use…except military stuff.

    I dont see any reason to have the PRC on the station. why do you think it is worthwhile? What will it change?

    Robert G. Oler

  • common sense

    @ Stephen C. Smith wrote @ December 16th, 2010 at 5:41 pm

    “Robert G. Oler wrote:

    I suspect that the vast majority of the PRC nuclear “farce” is not targeted at the US…while doubtless like all modern nuclear arsenals it is “targetable” in a short time…If I would want to bet it would be that their missiles are targeted in the following order…India, Russia and then the US.

    (cough) Taiwan (cough) …”

    I don’t think China needs nukes targeted at Taiwan, unless Taiwan has nukes or the US would retaliate with nukes. Chinese are patient and they are necessarily go over a conflict to get Taiwan back, e.g. Hong Kong. I tend to agree with Robert and I would add Japan for historical reasons and forever mistrust…

  • common sense

    Edit: Chinese are patient and they will not necessarily go over a conflict to get Taiwan back, e.g. Hong Kong.

  • DCSCA

    “Why can’t the US and China cooperate in space?”

    Because they’re COMMUNISTS! For God’s sake, Red China is still RED. To believe and/or trust in anything else about them is utter foolishness.

  • Regarding some who want to belive in the benolent intentions of China, you might pay slightly closer attention what their generals are saying:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2005/07/15/international/asia/15china.html

    And as far as the wishful claim that Hughes/Loral/Lockheed did nothing for China’s military capability, all three later paid massive fines for illegal exports of advanced missile technology to China. Hughes paid the largest fine after being charged with 123 counts of national security violations. Loral eventually had to declare bankruptcy in part due to the China-gate scandal.

    No doubt, there are some in China who are men of reason. However, as was proven in Tiananmen Square, they are not the ones who are running that country.

  • Why can’t the US and China cooperate in space?

    Because China reverse engineers every technology they can get their hands on and then uses it against the developer or anyone else if it’s a significant enough advantage.

    Russia learned that back in the ’90s when they were about to sell a couple hundred jet-aircraft and allowed China to take two on early delivery. China reverse-engineered those two planes, canceled the order, but then couldn’t quite make their finished version fly. Trade-marks, copyrights, patents, are all paper trash to the Chinese government if they’re in the way of something they can take for free. There’s a paranoid regime that is constantly for every defensive advantage just short of shooting war.

    China will use our space-technology to dominate the world if we give it to them unfettered (as in a joint space-program).

    Good Time for caution!

  • CharlesHouston

    DCSCA wrote (though he should have just sat down until the fever passed):
    Because they’re COMMUNISTS! For God’s sake, Red China is still RED. To believe and/or trust in anything else about them is utter foolishness.

    which tells us that he has never read The Communist Manifesto! China is an standard authoritarian, corrupt, dictatorship that likes to wrap itself in the cliches of Communism. They are no more Communist than Russia is, no more than Iran is, no more than many countries that we have ties to. The are not socialist, they are not intrinsically more hostile to us than Syria or Indonesia.

    We should deal with them, we should trade with them, we just should not let them complicate our already expensive space program!!!

  • Robert G. Oler

    common sense wrote @ December 16th, 2010 at 5:40 pm

    I appreciate your post and as always it is thoughtful and “common sensical” (sorry) but perhaps I should be clearer.

    First off I really do think that the PRC needs ISS more then ISS needs them…and second almost EVERYTIME we negotiate with the Chinese…from when Nixon and Kissinger started it, in my view we negotiate with the notion of we need them, more then they need us.

    I dont see ANYTHING that the PRC has to offer ISS. Nothing.

    Their technology is knock off Soviet, its not all that innovative a knock off of the Soviet technology and as best I can tell it doesnt work all that impressively either.

    Compare their government funded and government run effort to SpaceX…

    On not a lot of money SpaceX has put together a rocket and capsule combination that had a person been on board it, at least that person would not have returned with blood pouring from every orifice of their face much as the first Chinese guy did. The REds rendezvous technology is untried and probably just a Soviet knock off…nothing near as advanced as the Europeans are doing (or spaceX is going to do)…Their vehicle is not all that capable and their flight rate is pretty thin.

    If people are looking at them for “money” I wouldnt count on that. The PRC doesnt have a history of spending money on other people’s (nations) projects…as it stands now in things like Pirates in the Spratelys although they have a considerable contigent of their Navy there…they are happy to let the USN do the heavy lifting.

    I just dont see much that they bring to the table…

    Hence I dont see why we need to be enticing them…which is what we always do in negotiations.

    It is in my view about time that some US administration told them to simply pound sand.

    Thats a long bomb because both political parties are so wrapped up in the corporate mega companies who dont give a darn about the future of the US short of keeping taxes low and letting them ship all the jobs that they want overseas…and these are the people who are simultaneously Bush’s (and the GOP’s) base and fell in love with Obama as a symbol of how progressive they are because of his race and personal story.

    I really dont think that the Reds have any real goals in human spaceflight other then to use it as a multiplier for the industrial complex…and to keep the EAST IS RED as a theme song that their TV stations can play on the evening news.

    The Chinese are going through a period where the joys of nationhood are the bandaid that covers a lot of internal ills…and having Yang or Wo or whoever the female taikionaut’s name is going to be…up waving the red banner goes along with that.

    Robert G. Oler

  • NASA Fan

    The Chinese have nothing to offer us from a technological point of view. Nothing.

    What they have to offer is cash. And right now they are holding our debt.

    We need them to keep making all the stuff we buy from them….and keep financing our country ruining debt.

    I suspect they see us needing them, more than they need us. They are relating to us as 2nd class already.

    When NASA runs out of its own money, it goes ‘international cooperation’. (See ISS, future Mars Missions) We didn’t need the Soviet, er Russian technology , but Clinton pulled them in for other reasons.

    Look for Obama to do the same here.

  • DCSCA

    @CharlesHouston wrote @ December 16th, 2010 at 7:22 pm
    It’s clear you haven’t or you’re under 40. Nor have you ‘read’ Chairman Mao’s ‘Little Red Book’- (sold to us for 25 cents a copy in English) at Speaker’s Corner in Hyde Park. It’s foolish to believe working with China benefits any one by China– and further degrades American power on, off and above the Earth. As you tally up America’s debt to China, keep these phrases in mind, because the powers that be in Communinst China do, even as they take a Marxist-styled one step back (to modernize) and take two steps forward:

    “The surest way to destroy a nation is to debauch its currency.”
    “The Capitalists will sell us the rope with which we will hang them.” — Vladimir Lenin

  • DCSCA

    @Robert G. Oler wrote @ December 16th, 2010 at 7:37 pm
    “Their technology is knock off Soviet, its not all that innovative a knock off of the Soviet technology and as best I can tell it doesnt work all that impressively either.”

    The PRC purchased the base-block design for the Soyuz from Russia. Hardly a ‘knockoff.’ And, of course, the Soyuz continues to be one of the most successful series of spacecraft ever designed by humans, having been in service now since the late 1960′s. .

  • common sense

    @ Robert G. Oler wrote @ December 16th, 2010 at 7:37 pm

    I don’t necessarily agree with all you say but in essence I believe like you even though I might not use the same words ;) that:
    “I really dont think that the Reds have any real goals in human spaceflight other then to use it as a multiplier for the industrial complex…and to keep the EAST IS RED as a theme song that their TV stations can play on the evening news.”

    I also think that people make way too much about their space program/ambition. Especially people who say that the US should respond with NASA. I have no doubt that our DoD is perfectly able to take care of any threat from China, if any, and that we do not need NASA, a civilian agency, to do anything about China. If China on the Moon were to be a threat to our well being I am sure the US Space Command or whatever it is called today or whatever DoD organization would be plenty able to take care of it. There is a military association in the chinese program but so what. Is there anything in China that has “strategic” value and that is not military controlled or party controlled? The point would be to see whether they intend their space program, the HSF part of it, to have any military value, which I doubt since our owns essentially answered that question decades ago. Further, if we need a human military response to whatever China is doing the work will not be public and Groom Lake or wherever is probably on it. If there is a conflict in space NASA as such will not be party to it. They cannot.

    I also believe that if there is anything of value on the Moon it will be exploited by the industry. That if the likes of SpaceX are successful the said industry will be on the Moon long before anyone else. Where there is cash to make there is will.

    So I do not see why we cannot collaborate with China on space. We do on other things that cost a lot more.

  • Coastal Ron

    Nelson Bridwell wrote @ December 16th, 2010 at 7:11 pm

    Loral eventually had to declare bankruptcy in part due to the China-gate scandal.

    Nope. They settled with the government, and Loral was never indicted. They shed assets, but that is the normal course of events in defense firms. And for the sell-off’s, their failure of Globalstar probably contributed as much to that as anything.

  • Dennis Berube

    Mr. Oler, your comments on the first chinese astronaut bleeding on his return, must have not made the local news. I have heard nothing of that. Is that instead much like the gossip of early Russians being lost in space, prior to Gargarins first flight?

  • NASA Fan wrote:

    When NASA runs out of its own money, it goes ‘international cooperation’. (See ISS, future Mars Missions) We didn’t need the Soviet, er Russian technology , but Clinton pulled them in for other reasons.

    The Joint Statement on Cooperation in Space between the U.S. and Russia was June 1992 under the first President Bush. That agreement committed U.S. Shuttle flights to Mir and U.S. astronauts staying at Mir.

    Since the Russians had a lot more experience with space stations than we did, it made sense to bring them into the partnership along with Europe, Canada and Japan. It also added a safety layer of redundancy to the process, having a second nation that could deliver crew and supplies to the station.

  • Anne Spudis

    “…..Yet, those discussions have yet to result in any concrete steps for joint projects or other cooperative ventures between the two countries, apparently to the surprise and disappointment of some within the administration. ….”
    According to Robert Sanders, Media Relations, University of California — Berkeley – October 27, 2010:

    “…….ARTEMIS will work in tandem with current missions, such as NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, LADEE (Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer) and Grail (Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory), and Chang’e 2, a Chinese unmanned probe, to prepare the ground for increased robotic exploration of the moon by future U.S. missions, including the international lunar network.”

    http://berkeley.edu/news/media/releases/2010/10/27_artemis_moon_mission.shtml

  • amightywind

    Well, surprise, the Long March booster blew up, and Hughes showed them how to perform a detailed technical analysis to understand and eliminate this type of problem. Now we can be sure that their ICBMs are more likely to reach their ultimate destinations in the US.

    I was at HSC at the time. Not only did the rockets blow up. The Chinese celebrated a successful launch and blamed the the crash on the satellite payload. They were in pathologic denial. Cooperation in space with China will be politically impossible for the next 2 years at least, regardless of the naive aspirations of the administration.

  • @Smith:

    Ralph Schiano wrote:

    America must lead the way.

    Why?!

    To secure freedom of space.

  • Scott Bass

    The main thing China has that we no longer have is a strong national pride, except for a relatively small pool of us. They could literally cancel NASA tomorrow and the outcry would not come from the American people except those directly impacted by jobs and pork.
    Last night was Larry Kings final show and Katie Couric wrote a long poem to pay tribute, if I heard it right , one of the lines was “you made NASA interesting , which is hard to do” not really sure to what she was referring but it pretty much sums up in the attitude in this country.
    when China has a manned launch, the whole country stops in awe. The Iss maybe a great technological achievement but For what ever reason it fails as an inspiration to our people. Perhaps if it had remained Space Station Freedom as originally conceived it would have made a difference in our pride. personally I believe in the 2001 space odyssey wheel design, it would probably only be a quarter of the wAy done by now but a space station as a hub to refuel for trips to the moon, mars and beyond where 100s of people work, live and vacation would have the private sector well on board by now.

    Anyway…Science fantasy vs Science fact….. The wagon wheel design though was genius. Built with a never ending lifetime.

  • Das Boese

    “We didn’t need the Soviet, er Russian technology , but Clinton pulled them in for other reasons.”

    Stop kidding yourself, without the Russians we’d never have (had?) a working space station.

  • Presley Cannady wrote:

    To secure freedom of space.

    You must be joking.

    In case you haven’t noticed, space is really, really big to quote Douglas Adams.

    Until someone builds a Death Star, I think we can all go to sleep at night secure in the knowledge that no one has the technology to conquer the universe.

  • Doug Lassiter

    Anne Spudis wrote @ December 17th, 2010 at 8:09 am

    Re ARTEMIS and Chang’e 2, I think the point of working “in tandem” is that the results of the two missions are scientifically complementary, and not that this tandemness represents “formal concrete steps for joint projects or other cooperative ventures”.

    For example, I don’t believe that PRC is formally part of the NASA-proposed International Lunar Network, though lunar scientists from China have briefed the international lunar community about their plans.

    Scott Bass wrote @ December 17th, 2010 at 9:14 am

    Re Katie Couric saying that Larry King made NASA exciting, what she really said was that he made NAFTA exciting. Of course, if you don’t have a soft spot for the space agency, you might have heard it differently …

  • I have no doubt that our DoD is perfectly able to take care of any threat from China, if any, and that we do not need NASA, a civilian agency, to do anything about China.

    Actually, the DoD has no way to defend its satellites from Chinese ASATs. All we have right now is the threat of asymmetrical retaliation.

  • Robert G. Oler

    .

    Dennis Berube wrote @ December 17th, 2010 at 5:26 am

    “Mr. Oler, your comments on the first chinese astronaut bleeding on his return, must have not made the local news.”

    no Dennis they probably did not make the local news but someone who wants to be informed on space politics and policy goes a little farther. I have some actual pictures and links to them on my home computer…but you can go to Wiki and get this:

    ” Yang left the capsule about 15 minutes after landing, and was congratulated by Premier Wen Jiabao. But the astronaut’s bleeding lips seen in the official images broadcasted [2] sparked rumours of a hard landing confirmed by accounts of personnel present at the landing site.”

    He was bleeding from his lips, nose and ears…there was reportedly some pretty good eye damage from excessive Plus g’s as well.

    A Free Republic demands an informed citizenry.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    DCSCA wrote @ December 16th, 2010 at 10:12 pm

    “The PRC purchased the base-block design for the Soyuz from Russia. Hardly a ‘knockoff.’”

    nope, its a knock off…and it is what the Reds do…mostly. They dont invent mouse traps but they are good at copying them…it is when they modify them that they have problems.

    The Chinese version of Soyuz has some interesting “mods” but with all knockoffs one has to be careful. The Soviets did a knock off of the shuttle but when they changed the CG by not having the SSME’s on the vehicle the entire notion of how the FBW worked changed….the PRC has tried a AWACS knockoff of a 737/900 that they bought from the Europeans and yet anyone who knows how the actual 707 platform AWACS works can see the problems just from looking at the entire endeavor…(they got the notion from the IDF who has been somewhat careless with our Hawkeye’s that they got)…

    Knockoffs can be tricky. More then one homebuilder has tried to recreate the P51 and been somewhat dissapointed with the performance because they dont understand that in the 51 (with the Merlin) what separates excellent performance from drag is the position of the radiator and thats critical to a couple of inches (have to read the NACA wind tunnel data).

    What the Reds have done in their spacecraft is no where near as impressive as what SpaceX has done. SpaceX is a knockoff of Discoverer but all in the good direction…they did their homework.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    Scott Bass wrote @ December 17th, 2010 at 9:14 am

    “The main thing China has that we no longer have is a strong national pride, except for a relatively small pool of us. They could literally cancel NASA tomorrow and the outcry would not come from the American people except those directly impacted by jobs and pork.”

    Why do you think that is?

    ASide from that…I agree completely with your first sentence.

    It has fascinating historical and political significance.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    common sense wrote @ December 17th, 2010 at 1:34 am

    “So I do not see why we cannot collaborate with China on space. We do on other things that cost a lot more.”

    I would stop almost all levels of collaboration with the Chinese and no matter what the consequences I would make importing Chinese products into the US much much more expensive.

    History is important here.

    Both GB and France were on their way out as major powers after WW2…their systems of wealth depended on their colonies and those were busily going away after WW2…

    but the end of their military and political power came at the hands of the US in the Suez Crisis…without the US firing a shot.

    When the Brits and French got messed up with the Israelis in the 1956 Suez “fight”…IKe didnt like any of that. He tried a few things to shut it down and then found a much happier way to do it.

    The US was holding after WW2 a lot of French and British currency and debt. He just started selling it off a fireside prices driving their currency into dispair.

    Despite winning on the battlefield against the hapless Egyptians…the French British and Israelis were forced to back down.

    It is a little more tricky between US and the Reds because a lot of their economy depends on US buying of Red goods.

    But with the impact that corporate lobbyiest have on US policy, how long do you think it would take if the Reds didnt like our foreign policy and started to internally put the squeeze on say Walmart production (or say Boeing) of goods …for their lobbiest to get in their Gulfstreams and fly to DC and say “Stop”. And our bought politicians to listen?

    The REds read history, and all one has to do is read their professional journals to see where they are going.

    Robert G. Oler

  • common sense

    @Rand Simberg wrote @ December 17th, 2010 at 10:42 am

    “Actually, the DoD has no way to defend its satellites from Chinese ASATs. All we have right now is the threat of asymmetrical retaliation.”

    Well, it (“asymmetrical retaliation”) remains a defense mechanism.

    Further, the DoD may not have a way to defend its satellites but 1) I hardly HSF playing a role there and 2) the cost to build those “defenses” may not be justified (yet).

    Again threats have priority so if they don’t have this (whatever “this” is) satellite defense it may be because they assumed they don’t need it. There are more salient threats today than a fantasy attack from China on our satellites.

    Oh well…

  • Scott Bass

    thanks for the correction on the couric speech….could have sworn she said Nasa instead of nafta.

  • common sense

    @ Robert G. Oler wrote @ December 17th, 2010 at 12:22 pm

    “I would stop almost all levels of collaboration with the Chinese and no matter what the consequences I would make importing Chinese products into the US much much more expensive.”

    Too late isn’t it? The US public demands cheap goods. They were made to believe it was more important than increased wages… China is here (the USA) to stay. No return.

    “But with the impact that corporate lobbyiest have on US policy, how long do you think it would take if the Reds didnt like our foreign policy and started to internally put the squeeze on say Walmart production (or say Boeing) of goods …for their lobbiest to get in their Gulfstreams and fly to DC and say “Stop”. And our bought politicians to listen?”

    Well yeah. That’s right. So you want to be friends with them, don’t you? And the rest of your email just demonstrate the Chinese do not need a military conflict to win a “war” with us. I even believe that they already won the “war”, the economic war that is. They do not need to enter a military conflict to cause immense troubles to us if they so wanted. But why in heck would they damage one of their primary market, one of their primary source of wealth? For Taiwan? For North Korea? Not a chance. Yes they read history and they are far from stupid. They can just wait and see us obliterate our way of life into stupidity, e.g. Irak, Afghanistan and if we listen to some here the Moon. We most likely have a vastly superior military technically speaking than them but what good did that do to us in recent conflicts? Wars are the means of the idiots when they lack imagination. All China has to do is turn off the knob of cash just a little to put us in great embarrassment.

    Now if I were Chinese and I want to become real wealthy I would do my best to encourage the US and other wester countries to become more wealthy so they can buy my goods and therefore make me ever more wealthy. There is no need for a war. The thing is that it depends how fast or slow they want their people to become wealthy as ours. They may or not need “our” technology to do so but not necessarily so.

    Again in my view China is here to stay, in the west. They will even expand more as we recover from this economic failure because we will buy even more “stuff” from them. There will be no conflict unless some crazy idiot in either camp tries something with Taiwan or North Korea or possibly some nations in Africa or to limit their sources of energy. The trick will be to strike the right balance so that they develop but not so fast as to require all the resources on this planet. Same goes for us but our growth is quite a bit slower. And then there is India and the other asian nations on the up.

    And btw the more we cooperate the more we know about them and the better off we are just in case. Not the other way around.

    Moon war?

  • Scott Bass

    If one were to believe that the United States in on the road to not being the superpower it is today economically as well as technologically then it would be wise to pay attention to what our politicians and the business community has been doing for decades. ie building as many bridges to China as possible, that no doubt will eventually include space. China will not always be the regime it is now, When they get someone running the country with more capitalistic visions, things will change rapidly…………Smart Business people know this and they are doing everything they can to get their foot in the door to be part of it. Billions of people ripe to buy and make their products. Commercial space will be no different, once the space x or whatever company comes up with the first space model T, Those assembly lines will most likely be made in China too. My visions of NASA and the way things will be in the future has changed alot over the past year.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Scott Bass wrote @ December 17th, 2010 at 1:22 pm

    “If one were to believe that the United States in on the road to not being the superpower it is today economically as well as technologically then it would be wise to pay attention to what our politicians and the business community has been doing for decades. ie building as many bridges to China as possible, that no doubt will eventually include space. China will not always be the regime it is now, When they get someone running the country with more capitalistic visions, things will change rapidly……”

    nonsense.

    THE THEORY that American diplomacy has operated under with the PRC is that the more that they become commercialized THEN the more they will democratize.

    That mantra is spread by both the folks on the left and the folks on the right…but thats nonsense. The Reds recognize that capitalism does NOT require democracy to prosper…in fact democracy is sort of the antithesis of capitalism. What the Chinese envision is a sort of “Rollerball” world (the one with James Caan…has there been a remake) where decisions are made “for the good of the company” which in their case means the good of the state….because the state has a large input in anything that any of the so called “companies” do in China.

    Despite a KFC or McDee or a Walmart or whatever growing up on every Chinese block there is no ZERO movement toward any sort of democracy where that is defined as the citizens having rights that transcend the needs of the state.

    To believe that the Reds will ever evolve into something that resembles the US government system of say the late 70′s is foolish. Indeed we are slowly evolving in our democracy to something that more and more resembles a Chinese system…where there are some super well off, a worker class…and a manager class that is slightly better off then the worker class. Sort of the Walmart model.

    I’ve spent time in the PRC (I gave flight training to their Air Force Pilots who fly “the leader:” around and several of their airlines) and have done “hand holding” with the pilots who drive Walmarts folks around. There is not a lot of difference between how Bentonville AR and the town that houses the Chinese human spaceflight program…in terms of the social strata or who is really running the town. Its been 10 years plus since I was in the PRC but I doubt little has changed…it certianly has not in Bentonville.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    common sense wrote @ December 17th, 2010 at 1:03 pm

    if it is “to late” then we are only measuring the time to the end of the US as a superpower or frankly any power at all. And being friends with them is like being friends with the short guy who had the mustache…it is all on their terms.

    The US can if it gets competent leadership and can somehow throw off the yoke of a two party system where idiots have captured the bases of both parties…can restructure itself into a modern 21st century country that has the DOI as its foundation. A proper leader (and the last person we had as President who even pretended to be one is Clinton) can summon that courage for us…but it will take some sacrifice and effort.

    Frankly I think its possible. WE might be in the frog boiling slowly mode where tolerating the upcoming end gets easier until the lights go out…but I sense that the vast majority of the country is starting to sense that things might not only be worse for our kids if current trends continue…but worse for them.

    This next election in my view is going to be very important.

    Robert G. Oler

  • common sense

    @ Scott Bass wrote @ December 17th, 2010 at 1:22 pm

    Yes and the change already started quite a while ago towards some form of capitalism. Not our kind of capitalism and it will probably never will be but still. However, I would not count too much on regime change any time soon. For example look at Singapore. A lot can be done and is done for the people over there yet I would not qualify Singapore as a free democratic capitalist nation not according to our standards anyway. Now try and find out who are the people in charge there, their origins. You may want to look at Malaysia as well. See we do not hold the “truth” about freedom and capitalism and free economy. This model works for us despite our diversity because it is what we want for ourselves. Check the old Europe systems. In theory they are not as “free” as ours yet people don’t feel they are “not” free. Some people don’t like the way we operate in the US. The same goes for China. They have their own way. It is not ours. But we can cohabit, no need for military conflicts. No need to involve NASA in military dominance (it is not their role). What we need to do is try and be smart and set up fail safe for our economy and the well being of our citizens so they can keep enjoying the US “way of life” and all that in relative harmony with the rest of the world.

  • common sense

    @Robert G. Oler wrote @ December 17th, 2010 at 2:55 pm

    “if it is “to late” then we are only measuring the time to the end of the US as a superpower or frankly any power at all. ”

    That is a good question. Superpower will take and is taking a different sense. It used to be associated with military power. We just saw the limits of this model in Iraq and Afghanistan. Yes we can obliterate to oblivion any one but then what? The remainders of MAD no longer help. We need to look forward. The emerging superpower are living off of our economy, a little like parasites. We grow and they grow but they don’t go. Usually the main body goes down bringing the parasites down with it at some point. So how do we get the parasitic economies turned into full blown economies themselves? So that we can live together. I don’t know for sure. But we must be careful. Sometimes also getting rid of the parasites kills the main body because the parasites are so well integrated…

    “And being friends with them is like being friends with the short guy who had the mustache…it is all on their terms.”

    No, why? You and I have friends but our relationships are not based on “their” terms.

    “The US can if it gets competent leadership and can somehow throw off the yoke of a two party system where idiots have captured the bases of both parties…can restructure itself into a modern 21st century country that has the DOI as its foundation. A proper leader (and the last person we had as President who even pretended to be one is Clinton) can summon that courage for us…but it will take some sacrifice and effort.”

    Well that is a lot of if. I and others thought the leader and the time had come back in 2008. And it may just be the case if he gets a 2nd term. Unfortunately in all our naivete we “forgot” the shenanigans of Congress of his own people mind you. Democrats who need to look tough, financially responsible well… like Republicans. Idiots with no to little guts. Instead of helping their leaders they shot him down. Why is it the Democrats cannot do what the Republicans can in terms of being a team?

    “Frankly I think its possible. WE might be in the frog boiling slowly mode where tolerating the upcoming end gets easier until the lights go out…but I sense that the vast majority of the country is starting to sense that things might not only be worse for our kids if current trends continue…but worse for them.”

    Possibly so but we have had such a long history of a corrupt, so to speak, system where most people in Congress spend most of their time raising funds for elections that the notion they serve the people is lost and instead they serve their own elections. More afraid of losing than doing good for the people.

    “This next election in my view is going to be very important.”

    Well the last one was supposed to be too and the one before that. What is the difference? Prove me wrong. Please.

  • Scott Bass

    I don’t think anyone should say China will never become a democracy, a new generation is growing up and as much as the PRC tries to censor I think their is an awareness that is growing, I just happen to think it will happen through generations instead of some revolution, although revolution is not out if the question, the PRC has shown they are adept at stopping any uprisings. Anyway knowledge is key, just reading and participating in groups like this has an enlightening effect. Teenagers with any access to a computer will find ways around the censorship.

  • Robert G. Oler

    common sense wrote @ December 17th, 2010 at 2:55 pm

    nice post

    The last election is bittersweet for me. As Rich Kolker (and a modest search on google) will show, I never had much hope for Obama turning out to be the game changer he promised he was…and one reason I supported McCain is that I hoped that he was the game changer he was in 00…as it turned out McCain had become a right wing pander bear in 08, Sarah Palin went nuts…and Obama was the “great hope” that anyone who wanted to believe could believe in …and really is almost nothing. (as an aside I cannot figure out if Obama is really a status quo person…meaning has no deep seated beliefs or is just a complete “tool” when it comes to the notion of leaders…there is evidence for both).

    Probably the one “we missed” in 08 was HRC…

    The American people usually do what is right and good but only after they have exhausted almost every easy option. We are now going to get a shot at seeing how easy the GOP Tea party can make change…and when that flounders (and it will) hopefully someone will come along who has a solid plan and more importantly some notion of leadership. I have several candidates from H. Barbour in MS to Howard Dean from VT…

    (as you can see ideology isnt that big a deal with me…ideology is mostly paplum for the idiots).

    As an aside while the GOP has in the last congress been in my view not very patriotic or helpful in the national discord…it is the Dems and Obama who deserve the most scorn. They simply have been unable to lead on the issues, and that is Obama’s fault.

    AS for China.

    The Chinese are like the Borg…or Walmart…differences are good as long as they are within what is “good for the company” (or the state) as defined by the leaders of the state. Their system of government and culture is something that I would find personally unaceptable and is not compatible with the notions expressed in the DOI…

    its fine for their people and culture…but to the extent that we have to change to be friends with them, that is to far for me to go. The Chinese respect strength that is thoughtfully applied.

    So far we seem incapable of that. Superpower in the fifty years from 1950-to the end of the century was mostly about military power. That is of course still important, but thanks to the end of the cold war…being a superpower is much much more then that. Clinton understood that and sort of acted inside those notions. Bush was clueless.

    Obama…simply out of his league.

    As are the people who argue for a cold war space program. SpaceX, Virgin and others are where the “power” is for a space future. A return to the Moon even to do lunar resources is just a waste right now. It is essentially the same as sending our military to Afland…a waste.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    Scott Bass wrote @ December 17th, 2010 at 3:29 pm

    nah. you are seeing the Chinese through western eyes.

    Who knows what happens over a lot of generations but for the time period that some reasonable assumptions can be made…say the next 50…there is as much chance as the Chinese becoming a progressive democratized country as there is Walmart becoming a responsible corporate citizen.

    None

    Robert G. Oler

  • common sense

    @ Scott Bass wrote @ December 17th, 2010 at 3:29 pm

    I think you got it right. I also believe that a chinese teenager in China with a computer has probably more points in common with a US teenager than a grown up US adult with a US teenager. Even more so today than say 20 years ago.

    BTW there is something similar going on in Iran with the youth.

  • common sense

    @ Robert G. Oler wrote @ December 17th, 2010 at 4:10 pm

    “but to the extent that we have to change to be friends with them, that is to far for me to go.”

    Nope not “change” not really. We are who we are and if we hold and uphold our values and I mean really not through some pundit oneliner soundbite then there is no reason to change. The “enemy” always expect you to not stick to your values. A good example is 9/11. Bin Laden actually won in large part despite “Mission Accomplished” and other nonsense. We have actually let go of some of our freedom and civili rights and our economy tanked. And all that with paper cutters. Talk about high tech war! Our response? Afghanistan but above all Iraq, how well did that go? Yeah we crushed Saddam’s military. What a surprise for our military ready to fight the former USSR, right? And then. Then what? How many years later are we still in the ditch? Bin Laden and others probably counted on our big stupidity, big words, big weapons, big wars, with no or little results to improve our safety and well being and way of life.

    So be optimistic all you want as to the coming of a new leader, I am not. I do not think HRC would have been that much better than Obama or anyone else for that matter. On the other hand I believe that McCain’08 would have been much worse, as to Palin… I also hope that Obama gets a second term and finally does what is right since he will have nothing to loose, the least being his “friends” in Congress. But if that still does not make it then we haven’t seen the bottom just yet.

  • William Mellberg

    Stephen C. Smith wrote:

    “Why [must America lead the way]?! No one seems to ask that question.”

    President Kennedy answered that question at Rice University in 1962:

    This generation does not intend to founder in the backwash of the coming age of space. We mean to be a part of it — we mean to lead it. For the eyes of the world now look into space, to the moon and to the planets beyond, and we have vowed that we shall not see it governed by a hostile flag of conquest, but by a banner of freedom and peace … In short, our leadership in science and in industry, our hopes for peace and security, our obligations to ourselves as well as others, all require us to make this effort, to solve these mysteries, to solve them for the good of all men, and to become the world’s leading space-faring nation. We set sail on this new sea because there is new knowledge to be gained, and new rights to be won, and they must be won and used for the progress of all people. For space science, like nuclear science and all technology, has no conscience of its own. Whether it will become a force for good or ill depends on man, and only if the United States occupies a position of pre-eminence can we help decide whether this new ocean will be a sea of peace or a new terrifying theater of war … It is for these reasons that I regard the decision last year to shift our efforts in space from low to high gear as among the most important decisions that will be made during my incumbency in the office of the Presidency.

    In a word, the answer is … freedom.

    Freedom means a lot more to people who don’t have it than to those who seemingly take it for granted. Freedom is a precious commodity — bought and paid for with the blood, toil, tears and sweat of millions of Americans. Indeed, freedom-loving people around the globe have paid the price and made those sacrifices so that we can freely express ourselves here and elsewhere. But freedom isn’t free; and free speech is the most precious commodity of all. Which is why The Founders placed it first in the Bill of Rights (otherwise known as the first ten amendments to the Constitution of the United States).

    Since Apollo 8 flew to the Moon 42 years ago, and Apollo 11 planted the flag on the Moon 41 years ago, and Apollo 17 left humankind’s last footprints on the Moon 38 years ago … America’s space program has been a powerful symbol of what free men and women can achieve.

    That is why some people are willing to pay the price for America to continue to “lead the way” into space.

    But I suppose such symbolism — and such notions as freedom and leadership — are regarded as terribly passé in today’s politically correct culture. Otherwise, the question “Why must America lead the way?” wouldn’t even be asked.

  • Robert G. Oler

    common sense wrote @ December 17th, 2010 at 4:19 pm

    “I think you got it right. I also believe that a chinese teenager in China with a computer has probably more points in common with a US teenager than a grown up US adult with a US teenager. Even more so today than say 20 years ago.”

    I have not been to the PRC for over 10 years…yet I know people who go there on a regular basis and talk frequently to them…and I do not believe what you are saying is accurate.

    A Chinese teenager today who has access (such as the PRC will let them have) the world wide web, may see all the things that you and I see…but they have one very big difference from the teenagers of America today.

    The Chinese teenagers see parents and grandparents and probably great grandparents who have prospered under the Communist system. All things are relative but if you were alive in China in 49 when the Reds took over…and still alive today (and there might be some issues with that) what (for the most part) you have seen is not only the nation become more prosperous and successful each year…but you have seen your family do that as well…

    Teenagers are not stupid they see what works and after some going back and forth they want to be successful as adults and start in the later teen years to mimic the things that make that success.

    One problem we have in the US is that we are starting to see “waves” of teenagers not just from families in poverty but from the middle class which are looking at the lives of their parents and seeing that those lives are either leveling off…or getting worse and worse, see that the prospects for “their” lives in adult hood are bad.

    That coupled with the notion that the US has done nothing but get weaker for at least the last 10 years…

    it is not a pretty picture and at least in the US nothing the political system is doing is making it better. In China that is not correct…and the Chinese teenagers are seeing this as well…and you will find I believe no great longing for the culture of the west…the things of the west yes, but no great longing for how we do business here.

    I was in the PRC during one of the annniversaries of the uprising and had some, for them frank talks with then 20 something Chinese airline pilots…ok they are not the average Ho and Jo but they are not military either…they refer to it as “the period of confusion” when some Chinese forgot “‘what had made our nation great”.

    Anyone who thinks that there is more then a smattering of longing for western democracy by the Chinese, that there is some growing movement among the young to ditch what has gotten there nation from where it could not even feed itself to being courted by almost every other nation…anyone who thinks that there is some great uprising in the future based on “lets be western” ….doesnt understand China or is trying to sell the American people things on behalf of Walmart.

    This is one reason the Reds have their human spaceflight program…and in my view probably the only reason. Most people are not very discriminating…it doesnt matter that the Reds go up and dont go to a space station and ours do…all it matters to the locals is that the nation sends people up, it looks great on TV and it fits their notions of nationhood…just like Glenn fit ours.

    The Chinese view the entire world as a basket for their political ideas…not so much them as a basket for ours. Bush believed that about the mideast and he was terminally stupid.

    Robert G. Oler

  • common sense

    @ William Mellberg wrote @ December 17th, 2010 at 5:13 pm

    “But I suppose such symbolism — and such notions as freedom and leadership — are regarded as terribly passé in today’s politically correct culture. Otherwise, the question “Why must America lead the way?” wouldn’t even be asked.”

    No I am sorry but you are wrong.

    You are dismissing everyone else but those who hold the same dream as yours. Freedom today means among other things that we can chat on the Internet with whomever we want. That we can instantly communicate with people at the other end of the globe. Even in terrible areas of the world. Not that we can go to space.

    Yes, Apollo was definitely, no question, a part of it. It was an enabler the demonstration of what free people could do. But we now all know that, why repeat it? We will go to the Moon when the time will come and when it makes economic sense. If we do it for no other reason then it will again go away like Apollo did. Symbolism is nice but it does not feed starving families. And btw there is no cash for NASA to go to the Moon then again you are free to believe there is cash. Just remember Constellation.

    No reason to be stuck between 1957 and 1972. Go forward.

  • common sense

    @ Robert G. Oler wrote @ December 17th, 2010 at 5:23 pm

    I don’t think we disagree about the teenagers in China. Not easy to communicate via blogs I guess. ;) I believe I wrote that they are not longing for western democracy above as well.

    All I am saying is like you said they can see what we do or not and pick and choose their future. What works for them or not according to them. And it is not necessarily our DOI or Constitution or anything US. BUT the ability to see is very very important and to communicate.

    All in all we are in agreement about China. Except I think they will have their own way to a “democratic” future. Re-read what I said about Singapore. Chinese have a lot of real-life labs like Singapore, Hong-Kong, Malaysia… They can try all they want, choose and pick at their leisure which is not ours.

  • common sense

    “For space science, like nuclear science and all technology, has no conscience of its own. Whether it will become a force for good or ill depends on man, and only if the United States occupies a position of pre-eminence can we help decide whether this new ocean will be a sea of peace or a new terrifying theater of war …”

    I believe there are still quite a few Japanese who would disagree with your notions of the US being pre-eminent in terms of peaceful use of nuclear power… Then again they were the enemy so what bad would 1 or 2 nukes would do. Right?

  • common sense

    I think if Apollo was a symbol of the US that the Outpost was a symbol of Apollo. What happened?

  • Ferris Valyn

    William Mellberg,

    Are you running for elected office or something? Because, to be honest, I saw a lot of fluff in what you wrote, rather than substance. It certainly sounds nice, but it ignores a lot of realities that most of us think aren’t worth ignoring.

    And no, its not about political correctness, despite what you may want to claim.

  • William Melberg wrote:

    President Kennedy answered that question at Rice University in 1962 …

    Okay, reality check here.

    JFK’s true motivation behind the Moon program is one of the misunderstood myths of his Administration.

    As I documented last May, JFK’s sole interest was to show the world that U.S. technology was better than that of the USSR. He made it very clear in private meetings that were recorded and released a few years ago by the JFK presidential library.

    JFK said he was “not that interested in space” and feared that “we’ve wrecked our budget.” The Moon program was, in his mind, no more than a very expensive publicity stunt.

    The Cold War is long since over. No other nation has an active interest in sending humans to the Moon. It’s the height of daffiness to think that spending hundreds of billions of dollars to go get more Moon rocks will somehow protect “freedom.”

  • vluture4

    “… that person would not have returned with blood pouring from every orifice of their face much as the first Chinese guy did.”

    A bit of an exaggeration. The Shenzou landed on land with a modification of the Soyuz system and Yang bit his lower lip when it hit the ground. Hardly a major injury.
    http://www.sc.xinhuanet.com/content/2007-09/29/xinsrc_04309042916001501715764.jpg

    It’s time to face facts. Right now we are borrowing the entire NASA budget and more from China because, unlike the 60′s, Americans will not pay the higher taxes needed for a meaningful human spaceflight program. We have abandoned our only major technological lead in reusable launch systems; under Constellation we fell backward to the Soyuz/Shenzou architecture.. Americans don’t even have the foresight to finance higher education for our students; in Shanghai 90% of graduating high school seniors go on to college. The Chinese are not stealing their advantage from the US, they’re simply working harder.

    The ISS needs a new partner with sufficient funding to keep the project moving forward. China is now the world’s second largest economy, and may well pass the US within our lifetimes. We cannot afford to fight China, so we had darn well better learn to work together and realize that cooperation means a better future for both countries than conflict.. The ISS can provide an opportunity to build the trust, understanding and mutual respect the US and China need if the world is to survive into the future.

  • Robert G. Oler

    vluture4 wrote @ December 17th, 2010 at 6:24 pm

    yeah thats the PRC explanation but it doesnt jibe with radar tracking data which indicated a heavy ballistic reentry AND the rest of the facial condition. The vehicle pulled a lot of g’s on the way down, consistent with a Soyuz backup ballistic reentry.

    “The ISS needs a new partner with sufficient funding to keep the project moving forward.”

    so what would you suggest the US, which is the largest single partner on the station give the Chinese to get them to give more money?

    ISS doesnt need a new partner, it needs 1) lower cost ops and 2) something done on it which justifies its effort.

    The notion that having gone into debt to the Chinese that the US needs to do something to get them to spend that money on something that interest “us” is well in my view as unrealistic as our general Chinese policy.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Coastal Ron

    William Mellberg wrote @ December 17th, 2010 at 5:13 pm

    That is why some people are willing to pay the price for America to continue to “lead the way” into space.

    But I suppose such symbolism — and such notions as freedom and leadership — are regarded as terribly passé in today’s politically correct culture. Otherwise, the question “Why must America lead the way?” wouldn’t even be asked.

    You make it seem like you’re more patriotic that most other people, and certainly more patriotic than those that aren’t “Moon First”. Balderdash.

    There is no lack of desire or will to go explore the solar system, but a lack of money. If space flight were cheap, then we’d be on Mars already, but it’s not. If that offends your patriot sensibilities, then so be it, but the American Taxpayer is not willing to fund your Moon fantasies.

    If anything, what you propose is to drive us deeper into debt, which means we’ll be even more beholden to foreign interests. How ironic.

  • Robert G. Oler

    William Mellberg wrote @ December 17th, 2010 at 5:13 pm

    those are interesting words, they sound good and are good…but…

    I’ve spent a lot of time in the Mideast and have my passport stamped from a lot of countries that we dont consider “free”…and have interacted with a lot of the population (or at least more then most Americans).

    The notion that somehow everyone in the world is yearning to have American freedom is as misplaced as is the notion that all Americans agree on what “freedom” is. The right wing of the GOP thinks that they own the word “patriot” and there isnt a one of them that doesnt seem to get all misty eyed in “I am proud to be an American cause at least I know I am free” (a really smaltzy line and ignorant of American history if you ask me…)but in the end ask them if gays should be free to marry and they all of a sudden have found limits on freedom.

    Those limits frequently get more severe the more one departs from the social norm of any particular group….but even more so as the group becomes less diverse and more “homogeneous”. thats true in the US and its also true elsewhere. And it doesnt even discuss cultural differences.

    The US won the race to the Moon for a variety of reasons and while some of them might have to do with our particular brand of “freedom”…the reality is that we had an excellent industrial base still evolving from WW2, WW2 had taught the US the essence of modern engineering, and unlimited funds.

    We are floundering in our human spaceflight efforts not because of a lack of freedom, but primarily because the industrial base has atrophyed, NASA no longer has a clue how to deal with modern engineering problems and there are no longer unlimited funds.

    If the Reds wanted to go to the Moon I have no doubt that they could send humans there…all the indications from their program outline…is that they dont.

    One more point about “freedom”. It is not something that one person can give another; unless it is generational because in the end we all have to decide an important test in our lives…what is worth sacrificing yourself for….because ultimately the only freedom we all have is to decide to stand for what we believe in to whatever cost or value we think it is worth.

    Robert G. Oler

  • I am all in favor of America leading the way in space. That’s why I’ve been so opposed to the failed policies for the past half century. We have to be more innovative, and have a space program more in consonance with traditional American values of individualism and free enterprise. A state-socialist pork-fed program isn’t.

  • Here’s a “patriotic” idea.

    Let’s take the $250 billion it would take to do a proper human lunar program, and use it instead to reduce our debt to the Chinese. That way, we’re all the sooner free of our obligations to our so-called “enemy.”

    As a bonus, we keep inflated the value of Moon rocks already on Earth because we don’t flood the market with more Moon rocks from Apollo 2.0.

    And we don’t risk any human lives.

  • vulture4 wrote:

    It’s time to face facts. Right now we are borrowing the entire NASA budget and more from China because, unlike the 60′s, Americans will not pay the higher taxes needed for a meaningful human spaceflight program. We have abandoned our only major technological lead in reusable launch systems; under Constellation we fell backward to the Soyuz/Shenzou architecture.. Americans don’t even have the foresight to finance higher education for our students; in Shanghai 90% of graduating high school seniors go on to college. The Chinese are not stealing their advantage from the US, they’re simply working harder.

    Roger that.

    The only way to keep our so-called “leadership” is to turn loose American ingenuity by freeing our space program from its sclerotic government bureaucracy.

    As Obama and others in his administration as noted, we need to advance our space technology to lower the cost, decrease travel time, and shield passengers from radiation on long-range trips. If we do that, we will be the only nation on the planet with that technology.

    It’s rather obvious that any spacefaring nation can now do a Mercury or Gemini. They could do an Apollo too if so inclined, but no one is because the cost can’t be justified. It’s so easy that a private company just did it at a fraction of the cost that NASA tried to do it again.

    To borrow a phrase from our supposed “enemy”, it’s time for a Great Leap Forward in space technology. Let NASA do what it was originally intended to do under the National Aeronautics and Space Act — cutting-edge research. Let the private sector be the space taxi.

    That’s what will make us a “leader” again, not flushing hundreds of billions of dollars into a rerun of Apollo just to get more Moon rocks.

  • William Mellberg

    Stephen C. Smith wrote:

    “It’s the height of daffiness to think that spending hundreds of billions of dollars to go get more Moon rocks will somehow protect ‘freedom.’”

    I didn’t say that it would. What I said was:

    “Since Apollo … America’s space program has been a powerful symbol of what free men and women can achieve.”

    “Since Apollo” includes everything that has happened during the past four decades — from Skylab to the International Space Station with plenty of other achievements in between (Viking, Voyager, Magellan, Galileo, Cassini, Hubble, Space Shuttle, etc.). All of these successes have captured the world’s imagination and inspired millions of people around the globe — including a South African youngster named Elon Musk.

  • William Mellberg

    Stephen C. Smith wrote:

    “JFK’s sole interest was to show the world that U.S. technology was better than that of the USSR.”

    You’ve made my point … and Kennedy’s, too.

    It was the Soviet objective, under Khrushchev and Brezhnev, to prove just the opposite — that “Socialist technology” (their term) was superior. They failed. But the real irony is that the United States will soon be dependent on that very technology to send our astronauts into space.

  • William Mellberg

    Rand Simberg wrote:

    “I am all in favor of America leading the way in space. That’s why I’ve been so opposed to the failed policies for the past half century. We have to be more innovative, and have a space program more in consonance with traditional American values of individualism and free enterprise. A state-socialist pork-fed program isn’t”

    But some markets aren’t sufficiently developed or suitably large to sustain private sector enterprises. Which is why we have Amtrak and countless commuter rail and local bus services across the country. None of them can turn a profit because it is impossible to operate those systems in the black while providing “essential services” to specific communities and population groups (e.g., senior citizens who ride public transit during non-rush hours). The problem with mass transit districts is that they have two peak travel periods which don’t fall into an 8-hour work day. Thus, personnel costs are excessively high and can not be sustained by private enterprise at affordable fares. I suspect “commercial” space will require similar government support for a long time to come.

    As for the “failed policies of the past half century” … do you really think the private sector would have (could have) gone to the Moon, built the Space Shuttle and assembled the International Space Station — not to mention all of the unmanned planetary probes and the Hubble Space Telescope? Or did the Space Age begin with SpaceX? Mind you, I have the greatest admiration for Elon Musk and Space X. But SpaceX wouldn’t be enjoying its great success if it hadn’t been for the NASA programs that paved the way … and the taxpayer dollars that are helping to pay the way for “commercial” space. Musk acknowledges that fact. Why don’t you? Has NASA rally been a total failure during the past 50 years? I suspect you mistake “failure” for “learning curves.”

    Again, there are some things only government can do — or which government does best. You can’t fool the laws of economics any more than you can fool the laws of physics.

  • common sense

    Having a real commercial space sector for HSF is leading the way. It is leading the way the American way. No one else has it. And no one else may have it for decades to come.

  • DCSCA

    @William Mellberg wrote @ December 17th, 2010 at 5:13 pm
    “Since Apollo 8 flew to the Moon 42 years ago, and Apollo 11 planted the flag on the Moon 41 years ago, and Apollo 17 left humankind’s last footprints on the Moon 38 years ago … America’s space program has been a powerful symbol of what free men and women can achieve.”

    And what ‘budgetless financing’ can buy.

    @Robert G. Oler wrote @ December 17th, 2010 at 11:57 am
    “What the Reds have done in their spacecraft is no where near as impressive as what SpaceX has done.”

    Utter nonsense. The “Reds’ have orbited crew. SpaceX has flown NOBODY.

  • Anne Spudis

    Mark R. Whittington wrote @ December 16th, 2010 at 1:23 pm
    Nelson Bridwell wrote @ December 16th, 2010 at 1:42 pm
    Doug Lassiter wrote @ December 16th, 2010 at 1:44 pm
    Marcel F. Williams wrote @ December 16th, 2010 at 2:31 pm
    Ralph Schiano wrote @ December 16th, 2010 at 3:55 pm
    CharlesHouston wrote @ December 16th, 2010 at 5:08 pm
    DCSCA wrote @ December 16th, 2010 at 6:42 pm
    sftommy wrote @ December 16th, 2010 at 7:13 pm
    Presley Cannady wrote @ December 17th, 2010 at 9:13 am
    William Mellberg wrote @ December 17th, 2010 at 5:13 pm
    Rand Simberg wrote @ December 17th, 2010 at 8:28 pm

    Dittos! (Dittos too to those who didn’t post but wanted to)

    Stephen C. Smith wrote @ December 16th, 2010 at 2:26 pm
    Dave Huntsman wrote @ December 16th, 2010 at 3:49 pm
    John Malkin wrote @ December 16th, 2010 at 5:27 pm
    common sense wrote @ December 16th, 2010 at 5:40 pm
    CharlesHouston wrote @ December 16th, 2010 at 7:22 pm
    NASA Fan wrote @ December 16th, 2010 at 9:06 pm
    Das Boese wrote @ December 17th, 2010 at 9:15 am
    Ferris Valyn wrote @ December 17th, 2010 at 6:00 pm

    To my “can’t we all just get along” friends on Space Politics please learn from history and remove your rose colored glasses from time to time.

  • DCSCA

    @Rand Simberg wrote @ December 17th, 2010 at 8:28 pm
    “I am all in favor of America leading the way in space. That’s why I’ve been so opposed to the failed policies for the past half century.”

    If you’re going to pass yourself off as an ‘educator’ you best educate yourself on the past fifty years and how to discern the difference between a success and a failure. America’s space program, manned and unmanned has been a stellar success both technically and politically, including six manned lunar landings, complete with flags and footprints. Try telling a group American patrons at your local watering hole their space program was a failure for half a century.

  • DCSCA

    Stephen C. Smith wrote @ December 16th, 2010 at 2:26 pm

    “This Red Menace paranoia is truly daffy.” More daffy is to ignore it. You’d do well to read up on Mao, on Chinese history, particularly with respect to dealings with the West in past decades/centuries, the U.S., the Russians; their philosophy of patience and their dedication to perpetuating the ‘Communist party line.’ There is no winning scenario for an always quicksodic, impatient U.S. dealing with China economically or in space cooporation– unless they’d accept nulling out all American debt for our piece of the ISS.

  • Question. What’s so bad about major power competition over space?

  • Doug Lassiter

    “To my “can’t we all just get along” friends on Space Politics please learn from history and remove your rose colored glasses from time to time.”

    Rose colored glasses come in many shades (and they’re probably lead-tinted and produced in China anyway!)

    Many of us are saying that Kulacki’s point wasn’t that we should be cooperating with China, but just that we shouldn’t be deluded into thinking that they want to cooperate with us, or that such cooperation buys either country anything. Nothing rosy about that.

    If one wants to cast China as a devious, aggressive, menacing nation that needs to be put in their place, civil space is hardly the venue in which to do that. Signe Wilkinson had a nice editorial cartoon the other day. Sarah Palin is holding a smoking gun while proudly stating “America is exceptional!”, while a grim Uncle Sam is looking at a “world report card” that compares the educational performance of the two nations, and is sadly concluding “Except in math, science, and reading”.

  • Ferris Valyn

    Presley Cannady

    There isn’t necessarily anything bad about that, depending on the situation.

    The problem is that we AREN’T in a major power competition over space, and are unlikely to be in one for quite a while. (At least as it applies to HSF exploration)

  • Again, there are some things only government can do — or which government does best.

    The issue isn’t about whether the government does it. It’s about how.

  • Robert G. Oler

    William Mellberg wrote @ December 17th, 2010 at 9:37 pm

    Stephen C. Smith wrote:

    “JFK’s sole interest was to show the world that U.S. technology was better than that of the USSR.”

    You’ve made my point … and Kennedy’s, too.

    It was the Soviet objective, under Khrushchev and Brezhnev, to prove just the opposite — that “Socialist technology” (their term) was superior. They failed. But the real irony is that the United States will soon be dependent on that very technology to send our astronauts into space…

    No really no. I dont think that Stephen is saying what you are interpreting…but there was in my view very little ideological notions attached to Apollo and the Soviet effort other then the rhetoric…

    History is a difficult thing. It was Sam Elliot Morrison ADM USN who wrote the history on the US Navy’s involvement in WW2 (the Two Ocean WAr) who noted that “to people looking at history in the current frame of mind, just about all the people in history seem insane”.

    It is tempting for us today to see the Moon effort in the 60′s as a sort of Max Schmeling effort…ie to become a poster child for the entire notion of the state…particularly the ideology that underpineed it…

    But that is not very accurate. What JFK’s lunar effort was designed to do was no different then what the Iranians are doing with their nuclear program or Saddam did with his non existant WMD’s or ….whatever it was designed to diplomatically and politically address perceived issues both foreign and domestic that normally were addressed by some form of military effort.

    Kennedy was trying to address a percieved political problem in the US (and abroad) that centered around a perception that US technology; particularly in things military had not kept pace with Soviet technology. This might have been wrapped in ideology but really had nothing to do with it…it was all a bluff run to assuage political forces both at home and abroad.

    If you want to know where the entire notion of Soviet technological superiority got its “traction”…part of it was Sputnik…but politically the entire effort started with the interchange between Then VP Richard Nixon with the hero of Stalingrad (Nikita Khrushchev) in the so called “kitchen debate”.

    Apollo traces its origin to that more then anything…the perception that in the debate Nixon seemed to play down American military technology while emphasizing domestic technology and give homage to Soviet military technology. I am not saying Nixon underperformed, but from then on the debate was on in the US about where US technological effort was going.

    It had nothing to do other then in rhetoric with systems of government.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    Presley Cannady wrote @ December 18th, 2010 at 10:57 am

    Question. What’s so bad about major power competition over space?..

    it is wasteful

    Robert G. Oler

  • Has NASA rally been a total failure during the past 50 years?

    In terms of opening up the frontier of space, absolutely.

  • Anne Spudis

    Robert G. Oler wrote @ December 18th, 2010 at 12:50 pm [But that is not very accurate. What JFK’s lunar effort was designed to do was no different then what the Iranians are doing with their nuclear program or Saddam did with his non existant WMD’s or ….whatever it was designed to diplomatically and politically address perceived issues both foreign and domestic that normally were addressed by some form of military effort.]

    Robert, I really must protest. JFK did not call for the total destruction of another country and then proceed to build a bomb. JFK didn’t gas his own people and kill, among thousands of others, family members. BTW ask Hillary and Kerry about their speeches on the Senate floor about WMDs.

  • William Mellberg

    Rand Simberg wrote:

    “Has NASA really been a total failure during the past 50 years? In terms of opening up the frontier of space, absolutely.”

    Then I’m sure you would agree that the Wright brothers didn’t launch the Age of Flight because their Flyers weren’t completely practical. (Wing warping was not the way to go.)

    Your inordinate criticism of NASA’s pioneering efforts comes across as petty in the extreme. I doubt if you’d find very many people across the country — or around the world — who would describe NASA’s achievements over the past 50 years as “failures” … or who’d buy into your assertion that NASA didn’t open up the frontier of space. Negativity for negativity’s sake. Which doesn’t help to “sell” your more valid ideas.

  • William Mellberg

    Anne Spudis wrote:

    “Robert, I really must protest. JFK did not call for the total destruction of another country and then proceed to build a bomb. JFK didn’t gas his own people and kill, among thousands of others, family members. BTW ask Hillary and Kerry about their speeches on the Senate floor about WMDs.”

    Anne, I agree wholeheartedly! And, as I wrote earlier, some people really seem to take freedom for granted — or have no idea what real freedom is all about. I wish they could meet a friend of mine who escaped from Hungary as a boy in 1956 with Communist troops shooting at his back as he fled. I wish they could have known a late friend of mine who survived the Bataan Death March only to spend the rest of the war in a hellhole of a prison in Tokyo — watching several of his comrades (including one of the Doolittle Raiders) being beheaded. Only when they’ve lost their freedom do some people understand what it is. Only when they’ve regained their freedom do some people know how truly precious it is. To compare John Kennedy and the Apollo Program to Saddam Hussein and his evil regime is a travesty. But it speaks volumes about the fuzzy thinking and moral relativism of those who would even suggest such a comparison.

  • Ferris Valyn

    William Mellberg

    Then I’m sure you would agree that the Wright brothers didn’t launch the Age of Flight because their Flyers weren’t completely practical. (Wing warping was not the way to go.)

    The issue isn’t whether their first plane made it possible for everyone to fly cheaply and effectively. What they succeeded with for their first flight was proving that, from a technical perspective, powered flight was possible. And that was enough. Did that in itself open up cheap flight? No.

    To put it bluntly – the age of flight is defined as to when powered flight actually happens. To put it another way – the Soviet Union initiated the start of HSF.

    Thats not the same as opening space up for everyone.

    Your inordinate criticism of NASA’s pioneering efforts comes across as petty in the extreme. I doubt if you’d find very many people across the country — or around the world — who would describe NASA’s achievements over the past 50 years as “failures” … or who’d buy into your assertion that NASA didn’t open up the frontier of space. Negativity for negativity’s sake. Which doesn’t help to “sell” your more valid ideas.

    Please learn to be able to differentiate between argument that a program had a particular failure, vs declearing all of NASA a failure.

    That is what is going on here.

    NASA has done some great science. I am sure Rand would agree that things like Cassini & Spirit & Opportunity have done great science.

    Thats not opening space up.

    The shuttle, although it was a failure in terms of providing cheap access, did do some very useful things.

    Thats not opening space up.

    We can go down the list – the point is, Space is not open for the common person. And to claim that NASA has done that, has succeeded in that, is just disregarding the facts

  • Robert G. Oler wrote:

    Kennedy was trying to address a percieved political problem in the US (and abroad) that centered around a perception that US technology; particularly in things military had not kept pace with Soviet technology. This might have been wrapped in ideology but really had nothing to do with it…it was all a bluff run to assuage political forces both at home and abroad.

    Yep.

    People need to look at the context.

    The first “Moon speech” which was delivered to Congress — click here for the text of the speech — was primarily a long boring speech about various stimulus program he proposed to deal with a mild recession. There was some rhetoric in there too about standing tall against the Soviets, but it was in the context of creating jobs.

    The Moon program was mentioned in a couple paragraphs near the end of the speech. It was by no means the focus of the speech nor did it take up any significant period of time. In fact, if you look at the paragraph that came after his Moon proposal, it read:

    Secondly, an additional 23 million dollars, together with 7 million dollars already available, will accelerate development of the Rover nuclear rocket. This gives promise of some day providing a means for even more exciting and ambitious exploration of space, perhaps beyond the moon, perhaps to the very end of the solar system itself.

    That never happened, did it.

    Let’s also remember that the speech came one month after the failed Bay of Pigs, so JFK needed something bold to distract the country from what had happened.

    The other famous Moon speech was at Rice University. That was in September 1962. Again, people miss the context. It was the mid-term Congressional election. JFK was giving a stump speech to help Democratic Rep. Albert Thomas who represented the district, and also happened to be chair of the House Appropriations subcommittee in charge of the NASA budget. He needed Thomas’ support for the Moon program, so the speech was designed to give Thomas political cover in his re-election effort.

    But it was in late November 1962 that JFK recorded himself having a meeting with NASA Administrator James Webb and underlings. Kennedy can be heard telling Webb, “I’m not that interested in space.” He specifically expressed concern that the Moon program was going to “wreck the budget.” He made it clear his sole motivation was to show the world that U.S. technology was superior to that of the Soviet Union.

    End of story.

    We are not in a Cold War today, we are not in a Space Race, and we don’t have to prove anything to anybody. If we were to blow 3%-4% of today’s federal budget on a Moon program like they did with Apollo in the 1960s, the rest of the world would think we’re nuts. And they’d be right. We did it 40 years ago and have nothing to prove.

  • William Mellberg

    Ferris Valyn wrote:

    “Space is not open for the common person.”

    And it won’t be for a very long time. That isn’t NASA’s fault. It’s pure economics. Trashing NASA for its so-called “failure” to “open space” is, quite frankly, absurd. I’ve been accused here of having fantasies (and worse). But believing that space will be open to the proletariat any time soon is a real fantasy. “Cheap” access to space is in the distant future, although I suppose it depends on your definition of “cheap” … I’d define it as somewhere between the cost of a JetBlue ticket between Chicago and Los Angeles and a Concorde ticket between New York and Paris. How soon do you think we’ll see flights into LEO for $1,000 per seat?

    A $20 million seat for a multi-billionaire space tourist … that’s not opening space, either.

  • William Mellberg

    Ferris Valyn wrote:

    “Please learn to be able to differentiate between argument that a program had a particular failure, vs declearing all of NASA a failure.”

    I can’t read Rand’s mind … just his words.

  • common sense

    @ William Mellberg wrote @ December 18th, 2010 at 6:29 pm

    So according to you there will be available flight for private citizens only when the price drops to $1,000? By what magic is that supposed to happen from $20M (early Soyuz) to $1K? If you do not open competition how do we go from here to there?

  • Vladislaw

    William Mellberg wrote:

    “Rand Simberg wrote:
    “Has NASA really been a total failure during the past 50 years? In terms of opening up the frontier of space, absolutely.”

    Then I’m sure you would agree that the Wright brothers didn’t launch the Age of Flight because their Flyers weren’t completely practical. (Wing warping was not the way to go.)

    Your inordinate criticism of NASA’s pioneering efforts comes across as petty in the extreme. I doubt if you’d find very many people across the country — or around the world — who would describe NASA’s achievements over the past 50 years as “failures” … or who’d buy into your assertion that NASA didn’t open up the frontier of space.”

    You are commiting a couple fallacies of logic here.

    Rand did not use the word “failures” but used “failure”. He predicated his statement on the failure of NASA to one single specific, the opening up of the frontier of space. You then assigned to him that he used the word failures and assigned Rand to condeming multiple acheivments when he was specifically refering to one.

    You then try to paint NASA as a single private sector entrepreneurial company like the Wright brothers.

    NASA is a monopoly and as such has never truely tried to open up human spaceflight to the commercial sector. If you wanted to compare the Wright Brothers then you would have to say that the brothers were heading a federal agency in charge of airflight and they insisted that the commercial sector could not get licensed to fly planes with other roadblocks put in place and it would all be done by the government and wing warping was the way they were going forward and no amount of lobbying would change it.

    Do you think under those circumstances the Wright brothers would have opened up airflight? You have to make the correct comparison.

  • Doug Lassiter

    Not to defend a really inappropriate comparison of JFK to Saddam Hussein, but to use that to reject an insightful point about the political motivations of JFK in starting a Moon program is just a cop-out. Furthermore, lecturing people about how they don’t understand what freedom is is similarly inappropriate. You don’t know who you’re talking to. As per my comment from several weeks ago, you need to adjust to how these blog comments work. It isn’t about who you are, but what you say.

    That the Apollo program was politically motivated hardly makes it less important as an accomplishment of JFK.

    No, NASA never opened up the frontier of space for the taxpayers, at least in terms of transporting them places. But that’s not their job! C’mon. Read the Space Act, which defines the agency. This nation has NO mandate to open up the frontier of space as destinations for taxpayers.
    To the extent it’s a problem to you that they don’t, it isn’t NASA’s problem. NASA has actually succeeded awesomely in doing what the Space Act says it’s supposed to have done. To the extent that Congress decides to amend the Space Act to make it NASA’s responsibility to open up the frontier of space by making it cheap and easy for the taxpayer to cruise around the cosmos, then we can feel free to criticize the performance of the agency. Congress, in their wisdom, has never decided to do that.

  • William Mellberg

    Vladislaw wrote:

    “NASA is a monopoly and as such has never truely tried to open up human spaceflight to the commercial sector.”

    NASA is a government agency, not a “monopoly.” It has never been its role to “open up human spaceflight” to “common persons.” Yet, it certainly did pave the way for the commercial satellite industry. And who is it that is funding COTS? NASA, that’s who. And what does the ‘C’ stand for in COTS? Commercial, that’s what.

    The problem is some people have an entitlement mentality and believe it’s the federal government’s responsibility to give wannabe astronauts joy rides into space. Or so it would seem by some of the comments posted here.

  • William Mellberg

    Vladislaw wrote:

    “Rand …”

    I asked Rand, “Has NASA really been a total failure during the past 50 years?”

    Rand replied, “In terms of opening up the frontier of space, absolutely.”

    I do not take “opening up the frontier of space” to mean “sending common persons into LEO.”

    I take “opening up the frontier of space” to mean exploring the Moon and planets with humans and robots, pioneering the use of weather and communications satellites, studying the Cosmos with space telescopes, learning to live and work in space aboard Skylab, Spacelab and the ISS, etc.

    Rand’s reply would evoke laughter from the average citizen, and so would yours. It is as ridiculous to suggest that NASA hasn’t opened the frontier of space as it would be to say that the Wright brothers didn’t open the Age of Flight. My question had nothing to do with space tourism. Nor does space tourism come to the fore of most peoples’ minds when they think of NASA. Most people believe NASA has been remarkably successful at opening the frontier of space.

  • William Mellberg

    Common Sense wrote:

    “So according to you there will be available flight for private citizens only when the price drops to $1,000? By what magic is that supposed to happen from $20M (early Soyuz) to $1K?”

    You tell me.

    I was responding to Ferris Valyn’s assertion that space “is not open for the common person.” Does the average “common person” have $20M to hitch a ride into LEO? Most “common persons” I know would have a hard time shelling out the $1,000 ticket price I suggested. Most “common persons” I know never flew on Concorde.

    I see NO WAY that ticket prices for “common person” spaceflights will drop to an affordable price anytime in the foreseeable future (i.e., our lifetimes). And, as I pointed out, that’s the fault of economics and physics — not NASA.

    Like Concorde, private spaceflight will be stuck in the realm of the “privileged few” for a long time to come. “Common persons” can only dream about going into space. They won’t be able to buy a ticket.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Anne Spudis wrote @ December 18th, 2010 at 4:13 pm

    Robert, I really must protest. JFK did not call for the total destruction of another country and then proceed to build a bomb. JFK didn’t gas his own people and kill, among thousands of others, family members. BTW ask Hillary and Kerry about their speeches on the Senate floor about WMDs.

    those who do not know history are destined to not interpret it correctly.

    Jack Kennedy was far more civilized then either Saddam or President “Tom” of Iran AND he did not live in an Arab culture either so there are differences…but there are similarities and there are certainly similarities between Bush the last and the politics of say President “Tom” in iran. (Bush actually invaded a couple of countries).

    Under Kennedy’s watch the US built a lot of WMD, we invaded another country (Cuba) with no real cause (OK we let some cuban nationals do it, but we planned it executed it and armed it and had it been even remotely successful were prepared to follow it up with troops as a trumped up response to the call from Freedom fighters…only total failure caused it to be aborted)…and sadly the US history of inter group killings outdoes anything in a given time period that Saddam did…in Kennedy’s time the folks who are now the backbone of the GOP were members of the Klan and routinely lynching Blacks.

    so your outrage is ill placed and based on ideology and a wishful thinking of history.

    All nations and their leaders bluster to make both domestic and foreign policy points; the trick is knowing when other nations and their leaders are doing the “child act”. Where nations and leaders get into trouble is when they start believing their own BS. (this happened under the last administration).

    It was as much the Bay of Pigs fiasco and the political miscalculations (on both sides)that pushed the Cuban missile crisis , as it was the Royal Family (and Haliburton) cross drilling from Kuwaiti territory into the Iraqi oil fields and the political miscalculations on both sides that set off the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.

    And if you get right down to it, Saddam had far more reasons to invade Kuwait then Bush the last had to invade Iraq…and no just Saddam having WMD was not a cause celeb unless you are willing to give Saddam the same yank in terms of what the Kuwaitis were doing.

    The point of the matter here is that what Kennedy did with his unilateral challenge to land a man on the Moon (and return them safely) was a political move that had nothing to do about space and really nothing to do about ideology. It was an attempt to recover some political capital after the Bay of Pigs, shift the national focus, and in large measure to demonstrate what most of his military knew anyway…that US nuclear weapons (Particularly the missiles) were a deterrent that actually worked.

    You and to some extent others have tried to drum up a rationale for going back to the Moon which is in large part mostly rhetoric…ie that the Chinese are going to take it over. There is as much data to support that as the claim that we would go to sleep at night under a “Soviet Moon”…but back then the rhetoric worked…today it doesnt.

    Robert G. Oler

    The Soviets were not really “racing” to put a person on the Moon before the speech and from a historical analysis of events its pretty clear that they did not throw as much of their total “military industrial complex” spending into the effort as we did…

  • Robert G. Oler

    Doug Lassiter wrote @ December 18th, 2010 at 7:41 pm

    Not to defend a really inappropriate comparison of JFK to Saddam Hussein, ..

    I did not compare Saddam to JFK, I compared their use of political charges and politics…and that comparison is quite appropriate.

    How do you think they talked their way into the Bay of Pigs.

    Robert G. Oler

  • William Mellberg

    Robert G. Oler wrote:

    “The Soviets were not really ‘racing’ to put a person on the Moon before the speech and from a historical analysis of events its pretty clear that they did not throw as much of their total ‘military industrial complex’ spending into the effort as we did …”

    The Soviets designed and built the N-1 Moon Rocket and the enormous infrastructure at Baikonur to support it. They built and tested the LOK Orbiter (Soyuz derivative) and the LK lunar lander. They nearly beat Apollo 8 around the Moon with Zond/Proton. And they were training crews for lunar landing missions, as Alexei Leonov has described in detail. If it hadn’t been for the multiple failures of the N-1, the Soviets might have put a man on the Moon. And if the United States had stumbled along the way (e.g., if Apollo 13 had happened during Apollo 10), they might have done it first. While Brezhnev failed to allocate sufficient funds to static test the N-1, the Politburo certainly supported the effort to beat the Americans to the Moon — up to, and including, their failed attempt to return soil samples (Luna-15) a few days ahead of Apollo 11. In short, the race was real. Read Sergei Khrushchev’s excellent account of it (“Nikita Khrushchev and the Creation of a Superpower”). Sergei Khrushchev (Nikita’s son) was an engineer at Chelomei’s design bureau during that era, and he believes the USSR would have won the race had Chelomei — not Korolev — been given the assignment to put a cosmonaut on the Moon.

  • Robert G. Oler wrote:

    It was an attempt to recover some political capital after the Bay of Pigs, shift the national focus, and in large measure to demonstrate what most of his military knew anyway…that US nuclear weapons (Particularly the missiles) were a deterrent that actually worked.

    This is another historical context that you’re right about too.

    During his 1958 Senate re-election campaign, Kennedy accused the Eisenhower administration of creating a “missile gap” in which Soviets supposedly had more and better rockets than the U.S. It played on the public perception created after Sputnik I flew. Eisenhower knew, correctly, that the little beep-beep satellite posed no threat but a hysterical public chose to ignorantly believe otherwise.

    Kennedy repeated the accusation during the 1960 election campaign against Ike’s vice-president, Richard Nixon, who was running on the GOP ticket. JFK was shown classified Defense Department documents which proved the allegation was false, but he wouldn’t renounce it as he knew Nixon couldn’t use the classified evidence.

    When he made the first Moon speech, he knew we were ahead of the Soviets in everything except space publicity stunts. But he was trapped by his own rhetoric.

    You raise an interesting subtext that hadn’t occurred to me before. Because he knew the “missile gap” was a fallacy, perhaps he figured the U.S. had a better chance of reaching the Moon before the USSR because we had more and better ICBMs.

    For what it’s worth, the missile gap is discussed on Wikipedia at:

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

  • Doug Lassiter

    Robert G. Oler wrote @ December 18th, 2010 at 8:25 pm
    “I did not compare Saddam to JFK, I compared their use of political charges and politics…and that comparison is quite appropriate.”

    You said

    “What JFK’s lunar effort was designed to do was no different then what the Iranians are doing with their nuclear program or Saddam did with his non existant WMD’s”

    Yes, it actually was QUITE different. You can compare the political motivations, and there are some parallels, but the security ramifications and the extent to which the posture was intentionally aggressive are very different. So what was inappropriate was the “no different”.

    But your point about the political parallels is a good one!

    And Mr. Mellberg, you’re right about the economy of human space flight not being affordable to the average taxpayer for a long time. But my point is that the fault is more than economics and physics. It’s the fault of the Space Act as well, and what NASA is not obligated to do.

  • Martijn Meijering

    I see NO WAY that ticket prices for “common person” spaceflights will drop to an affordable price anytime in the foreseeable future (i.e., our lifetimes).

    Do we really disagree on that? It seems like a fairly uncontroversial statement. But how long will it take? No one really knows, but we can guess at some resonable bounds.

    As an upper bound, it doesn’t seem that far-fetched that one hundred years from now many thousands of individuals (perhaps much more than that) will be able to afford to go into space each year.

    A lower bound depends strongly on whatever NASA does. We’ve already seen the beginnings of both suborbital and orbital tourism and if NASA seeks maximum synergy with commercial space (in accordance with its Space Act mandate to “seek and encourage, to the maximum extent possible, the fullest commercial use of space”), then we might have substantial LEO tourism ten to twenty years from now.

    If NASA had started on that path 25 years ago, we might have had substantial LEO tourism today. That is what people mean when they criticise NASA for not opening up space, not that they can’t go into space themselves. At least, that’s how it seems to me.

  • Vladislaw

    LEGAL ASPECTS OF THE COMMERCIALIZATION OF SPACE TRANSPORTATION SYSTEMS
    http://www.law.berkeley.edu/journals/btlj/articles/vol3/fought.html

    In addition, the new National Space Policy announced a fifteen-point Commercial Space Initiative to promote a “vigorous U.S. commercial presence in Earth orbit and beyond.” [FN10] Specifically in the area of space transportation, a major objective of the Space Policy is “assuring a highway to space.”[FN11] In an attempt to promote the development of private launch service companies the Space Policy requires that all federal agencies purchase expendable launch services from the private sector to the “fullest extent feasible.” [FN12]

    The remainder of the initiative regarding the commercialization of space transportation is the Reagan Administration’s proposals for the future, including placing limits on liability which might result from a commercial launch accident, [FN13] consulting with the private sector on the potential construction and use by the Federal Government of a commercial launch range separate from federal facilities, [FN14] and providing government vouchers to research payload owners scheduled on a shuttle flight which could be used to purchase a one time launch on an alternative U.S. commercial launch service vehicle. [FN15]

    With this new national space policy, the Reagan Administration hoped to encourage private sector investment and involvement in space activities. [FN16] In the past, volatility in government policy has created an uncertain climate for both the direct involvement of private industry and private investment in space-related activities. As was often pointed out, ” what company wants to commit millions of dollars to develop products or technologies that can become useless overnight because of yet another shift in government policy?” [FN17] This new policy is a long overdue step toward creating a favorable environment for the development of the nascent private space transportation industry, a step which is even more significant in light of recent failures in the government-sponsored space program. [FN18]

    The new Space Policy follows on the heels of previous attempts by the Reagan Administration to encourage the development of a private sector space transportation industry. [FN19] However, it was not until the space shuttle Challenger disaster focused national attention on the United States’ space policy that the importance of commercialization became apparent, and policies began to be adopted to break down the near insurmountable barriers to the entry of private enterprise into this market. “

    This has been on the books for decades. Was the FAA every slowed down in creating the lic. regime for private spaceflight?

    Was the Dept. of Transportation ever slowed down my certain members of congress to protect NASA’s monopoly on spaceflight?

    Have employees of NASA ever complained about being sidelined or marginalized for not toeing the NASA only line?

    Today are the usual suspects in congress still trying to hamper what President Reagan advocated DECADES ago?

    President Reagan refered to NASA having a monopoly, if you have trouble with it, your bone to pick is with him. President Reagan talked about those insurmountable barriers that had been erected and called for them to be pulled down.

    When the Space Act was amended during Reagan’s presidency, it added:

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

    What other government agency has ever launched a human crew? Oh wait, only NASA has been allowed to do that. What American firm has NASA seeked out, in the last two decades, ever been “encouraged” to get a launch lic. for a crewed flight? Oh wait, the FAA didn’t have that written up.

    Where did NASA publish all the “human ratings” in a easy to follow guide so a commercial company could get certified? Oh wait …… everyone is STILL waiting for NASA to publish that, after two decades, and as Wayne Hale has already blogged about, it sure is going to be user friendly when it finally ever does get completed. (sarcasm)

    The idea that NASA being under attack for foot dragging on commercial is this sudden new space thing, is patently ridiculas. It has been going on for decades.

    Where has NASA been for the last two decades in seeking out and encouraging the creation of President Reagan’s highway to space and using those commercial services to the maximum extent possible. For the price of ONE shuttle flight 20 years ago this would not even be a part of the conversation today.

  • William Mellberg

    Stephen C. Smith wrote:

    “During his 1958 Senate re-election campaign, Kennedy accused the Eisenhower administration of creating a “missile gap” in which Soviets supposedly had more and better rockets than the U.S. It played on the public perception created after Sputnik I flew. Eisenhower knew, correctly, that the little beep-beep satellite posed no threat but a hysterical public chose to ignorantly believe otherwise.”

    The bigger “beep-beep” from Sputnik III (launched in May 1958) was the greater concern. Its mass made it clear that the Soviet Union was able to send nuclear warheads to any target in the United States. What wasn’t clear was the quantity of R-7s the USSR had available, and where else they might be deployed other than Baikonur. The R-7 design was a closely guarded state secret for much of the next decade, its configuration finally being revealed at the Paris Air Show in 1965. The success of the R-7 had an immediate impact on the aviation industry here in the United States, as well as in Canada where the Avro Canada CF-105 Arrow was cancelled in early 1959. Manned bombers and interceptors were deemed obsolete because of Soviet ICBMs. And, as Sergei Khrushchev confirms in his book, Nikita Khrushchev decided to put most of the Soviet ‘eggs’ into the ICBM ‘basket’ (so to speak). Khrushchev viewed ICBMs as less expensive and more effective than manned bombers.

    The American Atlas didn’t even come close to matching the payload capability of Korolev’s R-7, although we didn’t need that capability given the weight of our warheads. So in that sense, the “missile gap” was overstated. But the missile threat was very real.

    During those first few years of the Space Age, the Soviet Union scored one propaganda coup after another: the first Earth satellite, the first animal in space, the first spacecraft to reach the Moon, the first images of the Moon’s far side and the first man in space. The Soviets appeared to have a technological lead over the United States, and Khrushchev boasted that the “capitalist countries will have to catch up with us now.” Yuri Gagarin praised “the Party” and the “glorious socialist system” for the success of his trailblazing flight. It was socialism vs. capitalism, and the world was watching. Which system was superior? Which system would prevail? A repressive Soviet regime, or the United States?

    There was much more to Kennedy’s decision than the bungled Bay of Pigs invasion. It was the Soviet record of the previous decade that led him to conclude that the United States must be seen as the leader in the Space Race — even if he wasn’t all that thrilled about space himself (although there are indications that he became increasingly interested in what he had put in motion during 1963 as he toured NASA facilities).

  • And it won’t be for a very long time. That isn’t NASA’s fault.

    No, it’s not NASA’s fault, per se. It’s the nation’s fault, because it was never an important national priority.

    But many of us who did want to see space opened up were sold a bill of goods, and have been told for decades that it was NASA’s responsibility to do so. My goal is to have a real debate about space policy, and figure out if that’s important, or not. If not, NASA is getting too damned much money, at least in terms of the way it’s been spending it.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Doug Lassiter wrote @ December 18th, 2010 at 9:46 pm

    “Yes, it actually was QUITE different. You can compare the political motivations, and there are some parallels, but the security ramifications and the extent to which the posture was intentionally aggressive are very different. So what was inappropriate was the “no different”. ”

    I was refering (as I think was clear by context) to the politics of the various efforts…but I am uncomfortable with the perspective you draw.

    The world exist by either a system of laws or it exist by the rule of force. Since Saddam is gone, lets look at the Iranians. In my view the Iranians have as much right to develop atomic weapons as any one else does or does not and since a lot of countries have developed nuclear weapons and to date since WW2 no shots have been fired in anger. What sparked the almost universal (in my view) support inside Iran for their nuclear program was Mr. Bush’s invasion of Iraq. The desire of any country to be invaded and occupied by another country is mostly “less” (and that includes Iraq and Iran) …and no sooner had the words dropped on the axis of evil speech then a prudent decision maker in iran in my view would have said “How do we stop the US from invading us”…and nukes are one answer.

    There is nothing in the book of the world that makes our actions “correct” particularly when we violate our own premise of what the rule of law means. IE we cannot say “everyone must follow the rule of law…except us when we feel threatened”.

    What Saddam was doing with his WMD…was in fact playing his own version of MAD with the Iranians. What the iranians are doing with their special program is 1) a great deal of national pride and 2) their own version of MAD with us.

    You may think that how evil Saddam was is unique, but he was not all that unusual for the region and that includes our good friends the House of Saud. We had had no problem with him invading Iran…when it help us nuetralize them, we had had no problem with him gassing the Kurds (we helped him) and we stood pretty silent while the Kuwaitis were stealing (with Haliburton helping) his oil. He had a pretty tight reign on the terror that kept him in power, but what his “Republican Guard” did the Saudi “National Guard” do equally. And yes while Uday and Qusay were a piece of work, the Saudi royal family has its bad boys…they just are more effective covering it up.

    Jack Kennedy’s administration although enlightened in my view and over all a very good administration had its flirtation with the joys of power. He was in some way involved in either tacit or direct consent to the assasination of a President who was our ally …and he did sanction the invasion of Cuba, when Cuba was not a real threat to the US…

    His lunar effort was completely a cover for that…and some other (as I have discussed) political ills that at the time were threatening the political basis of his administration. For all the people who endlessly quote his Rice speech or champion his goal as some sort of thing to imitate…all they are showing is their ignorance of history and the context in which some historical decisions were made.

    Space policy needs to be made on more then just political eyewash…it needs to have some direct benefit for the nation. Some “lunar goal” that is nothing more then a chest beating excersize to chase a non existant Chinese enemy…is nuts.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    Stephen C. Smith wrote @ December 18th, 2010 at 9:39 pm

    “You raise an interesting subtext that hadn’t occurred to me before. Because he knew the “missile gap” was a fallacy, perhaps he figured the U.S. had a better chance of reaching the Moon before the USSR because we had more and better ICBMs.”

    I think that Jack kennedy knew that the technology gap was a joke (even though he had to some extent as you note used it)…knew that we had a far more advanced industrial complex then the Soviets did…and knew that given enough time and money we could do just about whatever we wanted to do.

    Jack Kennedy came from a pretty special breed…the 20 somethings that had been in actual combat in the WW2. Most of them came from a very non military background, but yet the vast majority of them became very very competent in the tools of war and that included the technology of war. They had all seen the nation go from almost no industrial output to a simply staggering amount…the entire nation had been mobilized along a cause and while there was some allied help (oddly enough the Soviets mostly)…in the end it was a US victory. US naval, air and ground forces took on and stood at least equal and mostly superior to the “war making powers” of the world.

    Those people came to believe for the most part something almost foreign today..that the US in a common cause could do almost anything. and that a common cause was important.

    Read (or listened to) carefully this is the theme that goes through JFK’s speeches from civil rights to his lunar speech at Rice…

    and I have no doubt that he figured the “end of the decade” was a timespan given enough cash…that it could be done. The atomic bomb, the B-29, the multi thousand ship Navy…had all been done in less and mostly all by people who had no inkling of what they were doing…before they did it.

    What has always surprised me is that the folks in the USSR did not come up with some clever (and I can think of several) ways to wish the US “Good luck” and politely decline to race….and to a large extent “soft shoe” the entire thing.

    As it is I have never thought that the triumph bought us as a nation all that much in terms of world opinion or really even soft power…But it bought Jack Kennedy a lot…the entire effort (I am thinking here of the picture of Jack Kennedy with VB, JFK wearing the sun glasses) became a pretty good symbol of “the new frontier”…

    We sadly will never know how a two term JFK would have played out…

    Robert G. Oler

  • common sense

    @ William Mellberg wrote @ December 18th, 2010 at 8:23 pm

    “You tell me.”

    I cannot tell you. I do not have a crystal ball. What I know is that if you do not ever open up the market to anyone then it is sure that the price will never dropped. The comparison with Concorde somehow is not fair. Try and remember that Concorde was initially aimed at “mass” transport. It is only after the US, its largest anticipated market, dropped the ball that Concorde eventually became the jet of the wealthy. But it is not a fair comparison. Airlines were long established when Concorde came to the market. We are talking of a totally different thing.

    “I was responding to Ferris Valyn’s assertion that space “is not open for the common person.” Does the average “common person” have $20M to hitch a ride into LEO? Most “common persons” I know would have a hard time shelling out the $1,000 ticket price I suggested. Most “common persons” I know never flew on Concorde.”

    Now why is it a problem if only a few thousand “ordinary” citizen can pay their way to space as opposed to a few tens of highly selected civil servants?

    “I see NO WAY that ticket prices for “common person” spaceflights will drop to an affordable price anytime in the foreseeable future (i.e., our lifetimes).”

    The “our lifetime” argument does not make sense to me. So what if it is our (grand) children who can commute to space?

    “And, as I pointed out, that’s the fault of economics and physics — not NASA.”

    See, here is another problem. I don’t think NASA means all the civil servants inside NASA. NASA lives within a system, highly politicized. Whatever “NASA” wants to do does not really matter. They do what they are told by the WH and by Congress. What is important is where the cash goes. You once asked of my experience. It is in space program(s) including Constellation, first hand. NASA has a charter to make use as much as possible of commercial companies. Most of us opponents to Constellation are not because of NASA but rather because of the cost-plus model for contract. Such model does not incentivize companies, or NASA, to provide a final product but rather to keep people working at whatever they do for as long as possible. There is a nuance.

    “Like Concorde, private spaceflight will be stuck in the realm of the “privileged few” for a long time to come. “Common persons” can only dream about going into space. They won’t be able to buy a ticket.”

    Again so what? And for how long? VG is asking $250K or so for a suborbital hop. What was the price before that? Was there a price? Who can afford $250K? Can you? Can I? Maybe not but it still is a lot less than $20M. It’s only a start.

    You may refuse to consider this but if the commercials you (seem to) dislike so much actually fail this time around there will be no, NO, HSF at NASA for decades to come, save for the Soyuz/Shengzhou rides. That is my crystal ball so you may argue but we shall see pretty soon.

    Oh well…

  • DCSCA

    @Rand Simberg wrote @ December 18th, 2010 at 2:24 pm

    “Has NASA rally been a total failure during the past 50 years?
    In terms of opening up the frontier of space, absolutely.”

    Compared to what? the centuries of earthbound human toil? Good grief. If you’re going to pass yourself off as an educator you best get familiar with just how the doors have been cracked open on frontiers throughout the history of the human experiece. To state NASA has ‘failed’ at opening up the space frontier is myopic if not just plain infantile.

  • pathfinder_01

    William, Air travel was not affordable to the average tax payer until the 1950ies and even then it was still expensive. The cost of the first airline tickets (in the early 10s- 20ies) would cost twice as much as concord.
    Like air travel, the driver of cost of space travel isn’t physics.

    It is technology and economics. Instead of sending a select few to the moon (or other location) for great sum of money what can be done is for the government to create incentives to drive the cost down as well as increase capability. This is what has been lacking in spaceflight and will remain lacking so long as manned spaceflight is solely the property of the government.

    The problem in spaceflight is that we are at a point before the Ford Trimoter or DC3. Passenger travel by air could not be profitable until an airplane that can carry enough passengers can be built. By offering airmail, the government created an incentive to increase the size and rage of aircraft until air craft capability became sufficient to carry passengers alone.

    Right now the government could build and operate its own spacecraft and launchers and we would be stuck with those same spacecraft and launchers little changed until the government builds more. A process that can take a very long time. In the case of the shuttle it is approaching 30 years. In the case of Soyuz 40. Imagine how far airline travel would have gotten if people were still flying Boeing model 40ies in 1955! That is the tragedy of government owned spaceflight.

    People like me favor commercialization as a means to drive innovation and as a means to bring space travel to humanity. It does not mean that the first space travel tickets will be cheap. $16,000 in today’s money is more than what most people can spend on transportation for a trip. If you have a process were say commercial crew is up for bid every five years and a process where others can purchase said service then it becomes advantageous for companies perusing those contracts to find ways to lower prices.

    I favor commercial crew as a means for bringing new capital into spaceflight (investors) with government money. I favor propellant depots as a way of lowering the cost of BEO spaceflight by creating a market for a BEO necessity that can be access using today’s technology.
    NASA will never be able to afford to go to the moon at Apollo prices but if for instance you had commercial crew and cargo up to a space station at EML1, then NASA could focus on just building the Lander and perhaps a moon base.

    Anne and amightywind think that fear of the reds might drive the US to go back to the moon. The problem is that militarily the moon is useless. Heck Antarctica could be a better military objective and so far there is little development on that continent.

    When I read your posts I see a longing for a past time. A time when this country sent a few brave men to the moon. However that longing is not enough to make returning to the moon possible nor is this country’s sending of a few brave souls to the moon a practice thing at today’s technology level and NASA’s budget level. Four guys on the moon for two weeks at a time twice a year does not a continued presence on the moon make. Nor will it ever evolve much past that point if you need congressional funding to upgrade or replace your spacecraft.

  • Coastal Ron

    Scott Bass wrote @ December 17th, 2010 at 9:14 am

    The main thing China has that we no longer have is a strong national pride, except for a relatively small pool of us. They could literally cancel NASA tomorrow and the outcry would not come from the American people except those directly impacted by jobs and pork.

    I tend to think that people that question other peoples national pride are being un-American.

    Just because people aren’t supporting a government program the way you want them to, doesn’t mean that they don’t have pride in their country. Honestly, step outside into reality…

    Would you say the same thing about the funding for the National Institutes of Health? Or the Department of Energy, which is the single largest Federal government supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the U.S.?

    If you’re decrying that the electorate is not engaged enough, that’s one thing. But if you’re crying because the electorate is not interested enough in space, then I think that YOU are not doing a good enough job explaining the benefits of our activities in space.

    But just keep in mind that we have done a good job making space “just another place to go to work”. My neighbor is a professional rebreather diver (deeper than scuba), and my nephew is a radioman in the Army deployed to Afghanistan – there are plenty of exciting/dangerous professions here on Earth to compete with what going on in space. Space has been conquered, and now we have to do the more pedestrian job of expanding our occupation of it.

  • Vladislaw

    “Presidential Directive on National Space Policy,” February 11, 1988.

    COMMERCIAL SPACE SECTOR GUIDELINES

    The directive states that NASA, and the Departments of Commerce, Defense, and Transportation will work cooperatively to develop and implement specific measures to foster the growth of private sector commercial use of space. A high-level focus for commercial space issues has been created through establishment of a Commercial Space Working Group of the Economic Policy Council. SIG (Space) will continue to coordinate the development and implementation of national space policy.
    [7] To stimulate private sector investment, ownership, and operation of space assets, and directive provides that the United States Government will facilitate private sector access to appropriate U.S. space-related hardware and facilities, and encourage the private sector to undertake commercial space ventures. The directive states that Governmental Space Sectors shall, without providing direct Federal subsidies:
    Utilize commercially available goods and services to the fullest extent feasible, and avoid actions that may preclude or deter commercial space sector activities except as required by national security or public safety. A space good or service is “commercially available” if it is currently offered commercially, or if it could be supplied commercially in response to a government service procurement request. “Feasible” means that such goods or services meet mission requirements in a cost-effective manner.
    Enter into appropriate cooperative agreements to encourage and advance private sector basic research, development, and operations while protecting the commercial value of the intellectual property developed;
    Provide for the use of appropriate Government facilities on a reimbursable basis;
    Identify, and eliminate or propose for elimination, applicable portions of United States laws and regulations that unnecessarily impede commercial space sector activities;
    Encourage free trade in commercial space activities. The United States Trade Representative will consult, or, as appropriate, negotiate with other countries to encourage free trade in commercial space activities. In entering into space-related technology development and transfer agreements with other countries, Executive Departments and agencies will take into consideration whether such countries practice and encourage free and fair trade in commercial space activities.
    Provide for the timely transfer of Government-developed space technology to the private sector in such a manner as to protect its commercial value, consistent with national security.”

    (boldface mine)
    http://www.hq.nasa.gov/office/pao/History/policy88.html

    Again, these directives have been passed and even mandated into law, until COTS finally got funding but the COTS – D got chopped, the idea that NASA has been actively seeking and encouraging commercial human space flight and space ventures, or that the usual suspects in congress have been working towards this is silly. Yes, NASA has really worked at creating President Reagan’s highway to space that he put forward decades ago.

  • @Smith:

    In case you haven’t noticed, space is really, really big to quote Douglas Adams.

    What does the size of space have to do with freedom to navigate through it?

    Until someone builds a Death Star, I think we can all go to sleep at night secure in the knowledge that no one has the technology to conquer the universe.

    Don’t need a Death Star, just the willingness to deploy junk into dangerous orbits.

    @Oler:

    it is wasteful

    Compared to what? International cooperation brought Americans the lion’s share of a $100 billion test tube with a bunch of blinking lights.

    @Ferris:

    There isn’t necessarily anything bad about that, depending on the situation.

    Well yeah, being on the losing side sucks. Beyond that, can’t really see the down side.

    The problem is that we AREN’T in a major power competition over space, and are unlikely to be in one for quite a while. (At least as it applies to HSF exploration)

    Because we’re not doing HSF exploration. We’re just pulling a bunch of we-are-the-world, HSF stunts.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Presley Cannady wrote @ December 19th, 2010 at 10:56 am

    A few key strokes will reveal my opposition to the space station program, the international nature of it…that opposition is valuless now other then to continually point out that the entire effort is over priced and non performing…but built so we have to find a way to use it.

    Robert G. Oler

  • DCSCA

    @Vladislaw wrote @ December 19th, 2010 at 10:52 am
    Posting space policy conceived in the Reagan era has virtually no bearing on the economic and political realities of today. It’s as dead as Reagan himself.

  • DCSCA

    @pathfinder_01 wrote @ December 19th, 2010 at 3:00 am

    Instead of sending a select few to the moon (or other location) for great sum of money what can be done is for the government to create incentives to drive the cost down as well as increase capability. This is what has been lacking in spaceflight and will remain lacking so long as manned spaceflight is solely the property of the government.

    Rubbish. Nothing has prevented the private sector from exploiting opportunities in space except the very free market it operates in. History has shown the private sector never steps up to the plate and here we are, over 40 years after Apollo 11, and still no ‘private’ concern is flying to and from the moon. Governments do these kind of projects because private enterprise cannot– they cannot turn a profit on it. There’s a limited reurn on investment and the costs are enormous– beyond the capacity of any private corporation to absorb and still turn a profit. There’s no demand for it. And in the case of the moon race, the government had to do it because the private sector kept fumbling the ball.

  • Doug Lassiter

    Vladislaw wrote @ December 19th, 2010 at 10:52 am

    “The directive states that NASA, and the Departments of Commerce, Defense, and Transportation will work cooperatively to develop and implement specific measures to foster the growth of private sector commercial use of space.”

    It’s really hard to argue that these specific measures were all about human space flight. It’s pretty simplistic to equate private sector commercial human use of space with COTs-like stuff. In fact, with regard to many commercial activities involving space, such as commercial space reconaissance/imaging and communication, which have contributed ENORMOUSLY to the economy, the technology developments that NASA helped pioneer, and the understanding of the physical conditions that such facilities would have to contend with have been pretty crucial. So I would say that in these respects, NASA has lived up to the 1988 Space Policy Directive.

  • Vladislaw

    DCSCA wrote:

    “Posting space policy conceived in the Reagan era has virtually no bearing on the economic and political realities of today. It’s as dead as Reagan himself.”

    Who killed the Nation’s mandated commercial space policy? NASA?

  • William Mellberg

    It seems we have two very different views of what NASA’s role ought to be:

    1) to explore … to “boldly go where no one (or no robot) has gone before”

    2) to underwrite the development of human spaceflight for the private sector

    I suspect most American taxpayers see exploration as NASA’s primary role.

    And when it comes right down to it, NASA is not a “monopoly” that’s been banning private enterprise from space. It’s a government agency that does what it’s told to do by the United States Congress (i.e., by the elected representatives of “We the People”).

    Thus, to those who blame NASA for not doing more to underwrite human spaceflight for the private sector, I say, “Tell it to your Congressman and Senators.” America’s space policy has been set on Capitol Hill for the past half century — not at NASA Headquarters.

    But I suspect most Congressmen and Senators during the past 50 years also saw NASA’s role as one of exploration, not exploitation. Their thinking reflects the thinking of their constituents to a large extent. And let’s face it … there was no clamoring by the public during the last half century for NASA (i.e., the taxpayers) to help fund human spaceflight in the private sector. But there has been support for the exploration of space (although that support has always hovered somewhere around 50% as we have always had people who believe that money spent on space is money that should be spent on social services).

    The fact of the matter is that no one has banned or barred the private sector from developing and operating manned spacecraft. The only thing stopping such development is the lack of a market large enough to support the cost of sending humans into space. And no matter what approach engineers take to rocket and spacecraft design, it’s always going to be very expensive (and dangerous) to soar into space and back. If that weren’t the case, wouldn’t some enterprising entrepreneurs have raised the capital long ago to do what some of you suggest NASA should have been doing? If there were profits to be made in private sector human spaceflight, why hasn’t someone gone after them?

    And why must it be an American enterprise? NASA has no authority to ban or bar entrepreneurs in other countries from developing private spaceliners. Why haven’t the Japanese done it? Or the Europeans? Why hasn’t Arianespace branched into human spaceflight?

    I’ll tell you why … it costs too much money, and the market (demand) is too small. In fact, there is no real NEED for private sector human spaceflight at all.

    Which is where the comparisons with the commercial aviation industry end. Because right from the start, commercial aviation had an existing mass market to exploit. People wanted (and needed) to travel from Point A to Point B. All the airlines had to do was to provide a service that was superior to the existing modes of transportation (sea and rail). But no such mass market exists for human spaceflight. Nor is there anything in the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution which suggests that the federal government ought to create one — or that the American taxpayers ought to fund it.

    I do agree, however, that one important way to “open” space (using the definition some of you have used) is to lower the cost of sending payloads into space. And the private sector is responding to that call, as SpaceX demonstrated last week. In the long run, lowering launch costs will pave the way to achieve both of the roles (goals) listed above (1 and 2). But let’s be honest … SpaceX wouldn’t have flown that mission last week if Uncle Sam wasn’t the primary “customer.” Moreover, Dragon is not exactly a “spaceliner” of the sort that would “open” space to a mass market. It is, in effect, “Soyuz on steroids.”

    Ironically, the one thing that might reduce the cost of a seat into space for the average multi-billionaire is the soon-to-be-retired Space Shuttle. A passenger module accommodating 50-60 “common” billionaires could possibly lower the ticket price to $10M per seat. The quickest way to lower ticket prices is by adding more seats. That’s true of almost any mode of passenger transportation. Alas, Dragon doesn’t provide a lot of seats.

    In any case, NASA has done what NASA has done over the past 50 years because that’s what the American people have wanted it to do (as expressed through the votes of their elected representatives. Your quarrels (those of you who disagree) is with the American taxpayer … not with NASA or even yours truly. And your problem is the lack of a genuine market … one that would have attracted more private entrepreneurs and investors over the years. If that weren’t the case, why didn’t we see spaceliners being built and operated by some other nation if NASA had been operating a “monopoly” in the United States?

  • Martijn Meijering

    I suspect most American taxpayers see exploration as NASA’s primary role.

    There is no inherent contradiction between the two, and commercial development of space can be a natural side effect of government funded exploration. But that requires NASA to follow its Space Act mandate to “seek and encourage, tot he maximum extent possible, the fullest commercial use of space” and for past 25 years it has come close to doing the exact opposite.

    And when it comes right down to it, NASA is not a “monopoly” that’s been banning private enterprise from space.

    The United Space Alliance and its subcontractors have been monopoly suppliers to NASA however. And NASA has monopolised use of the launchers that were developed with taxpayers’ money.

    SpaceX wouldn’t have flown that mission last week if Uncle Sam wasn’t the primary “customer.”

    Exactly, but that could have happened 25 years ago if NASA hadn’t insisted on continuing to use the Shuttle, instead of buying launch services on the open market from multiple sources.

    That’s all we’re asking for, for NASA to procure as much as it can commercially, so that as many systems as possible are available to potential commercial clients and so that there is a business case for developing cheap lift. It’s not NASA’s problem if commercial development of space will take a long time. It is its responsibility to seek any synergy between that and its own exploration efforts. These synergies could be huge, but NASA (egged on by special interests in Congress) has steadfastly tried to keep the money flowing to a sheltered clique of companies and contractors.

  • Martijn Meijering

    Alas, Dragon doesn’t provide a lot of seats.

    Seven seats actually, and that means it is much more cost effective than the Shuttle could ever be. There is no market for hundreds to thousands of paying passenger at $10M a seat. The Shuttle has been the biggest obstacle to commercial development of space for the past 25 years. Its main mission was to reduce launch prices by an order of magnitude and it quite simply failed in that mission. A magnificent spaceplane, but an utter failure at its main mission nonetheless. Sad but true. And by sucking up all funding it has prevented others from having a go, except with their own money.

  • It seems we have two very different views of what NASA’s role ought to be:

    1) to explore … to “boldly go where no one (or no robot) has gone before”

    2) to underwrite the development of human spaceflight for the private sector

    I don’t see them as different view at all. Why is it either/or? It should do the latter to make the former much more affordable for itself. More exploration, easier on the taxpayer. I don’t understand why this is so difficult for you to understand.

    But let’s be honest … SpaceX wouldn’t have flown that mission last week if Uncle Sam wasn’t the primary “customer.”

    Yes, it might not have flown last week. It might have taken another year or two, until they’d developed enough revenue from their commercial cargo business to fund it themselves. But they would have done it eventually.

  • DCSCA

    William Mellberg wrote @ December 19th, 2010 at 5:52 pm
    NASA’s role is/was fairly self-eviden until it was poisoned in the Reagan era with the simplistic folly of turning a R&D organization into a profit center. It’s the same goofy thinking from the people who brought you the failed theory of trickle down economics.

    Purge NASA of that silliness, give it a $25 billion annual budget for a decade, direct it toward the moon and leave it alone to let it do it for a decade and see how far it gets in ten years. If it’s still contracting and desiging paper spaceships and not landing crews on the Ocean of Storms by then– dissolve the agency.

  • Robert G. Oler

    DCSCA wrote @ December 19th, 2010 at 3:07 pm

    ” Nothing has prevented the private sector from exploiting opportunities in space except the very free market it operates in.”

    thats a fairly simplistic statement…and in my view not very helpful.

    The issue in a country whose economic backbone is regulated capitalism (or at least that is the theory) should be what jobs should be done by the government in the name of the people who are the soverign because the issue is not the cost of the product, but the availability of the product….and what jobs that the government needs done should be done by private industry because in a society whose economic lifeblood is well regulated capitalism the economy is the engine that preserves the nation from one generation to another.

    That mix is not as simple nor clear cut as you would seem to indicate.

    The US Navy contracts out the operation of most of its supply ships simply because thats more efficient…it doesnt feed or fuel or incentive a market its just good for the government.

    The US keeps a system (social security) functional because it allows all the folks who compose the sovereign to have a minimium retirement ability no matter what…we (the majority of people) have deemed that as a good thing. LIkewise the vast majority of our military is not mercs (there sadly are some Blackwater…but thats a new thing and more a Bush invention then anything else).

    Aside from apparantly just your viewpoint however that government should run human lift to space…you cannot argue that it has gotten more efficient nor that it has branched out…I can argue that with the Cx program it has essentially stopped working.

    I can also argue that there is no good reason right now…that we have a government only human spaceflight program…

    In a free society where the economic system is regulated capitalism; we should in fact tend to bias our federal dollars to creating private infrastructure that can at some point if a market develops branch out.

    you are free to argue otherwise, but not with simplistic statements.

    Robert G. Oler

  • common sense

    @ William Mellberg wrote @ December 19th, 2010 at 5:52 pm

    “It seems we have two very different views of what NASA’s role ought to be:

    1) to explore … to “boldly go where no one (or no robot) has gone before”

    2) to underwrite the development of human spaceflight for the private sector”

    Nope. NASA is not mandated to “explore” but according to your statements above it is more clearly mandated to help if not underwrite the commercial development of space to the full extent possible whether it includes human space flight or not. Check the 1958 Space Act. If you think NASA is mandated to explore space please point to us where it is in the Space Act, especially explore with humans. If you find it in NASA’s charter to actually explore space with humans I will fully change my mind as to lowering the cost to LEO or anything like that.

    http://history.nasa.gov/spaceact.html

    FUNCTIONS OF THE ADMINISTRATION
    Sec. 203. (a) The Administration, in order to carry out the purpose of this Act, shall–

    (1) plan, direct, and conduct aeronautical and space activities;
    (2) arrange for participation by the scientific community in planning scientific measurements and observations to be made through use of aeronautical and space vehicles, and conduct or arrange for the conduct of such measurements and observations;
    (3) provide for the widest practicable and appropriate dissemination of information concerning its activities and the results thereof;
    (4) seek and encourage, to the maximum extent possible, the fullest commercial use of space; and
    (5) encourage and provide for Federal Government use of commercially provided space services and hardware, consistent with the requirements of the Federal Government.

    I will even help you with this below. But no HSF whatsoever is mandated in the Space Act.

    Sec. 103. As used in this Act–
    (1) the term “aeronautical and space activities” means
    (A) research into, and the solution of, problems of flight within and outside the Earth’s atmosphere,
    (B) the development, construction, testing, and operation for research purposes of aeronautical and space vehicles,
    (C) the operation of a space transportation system including the Space Shuttle, upper stages, space platforms, and related equipment, and
    (D) such other activities as may be required for the exploration of space; and

  • DCSCA

    Robert G. Oler wrote @ December 18th, 2010 at 8:24 pm

    “The Soviets were not really “racing” to put a person on the Moon before the speech and from a historical analysis of events its pretty clear that they did not throw as much of their total “military industrial complex” spending into the effort as we did…”

    Inaccurate. The ‘race’ was real, per the very people who participated; Leonov, etc., And they fought internally for larger budgets and threw as much as they could afford to. When the N-1 failed, that all but killed their program. But as late as ’68, they were trying for the moon and tried to scoop Apollo 11 with a scoop of moondust but Luna 15 crashed. This writer visited Soviet Russia in 1971 and it was quite clear then it was economically doomed. Plenty of tanks and lots of uniformed sorts throughout Moscow, which literally bristled with monuments to their space efforts, but when you see piles of footware stacked on ping-pong tables which buyers had to sort themselves into size and color as the Shoe dept. in the GUM Dept. store (their Macy’s) on Red Square literally across from the Kremlin it was obvious where their future was headed.

  • DCSCA

    @Stephen C. Smith wrote @ December 18th, 2010 at 9:39 pm

    RE- the ‘missile gap.’ It’s really a matter of interpretation. Soviet LVs of the period were designed to lift heavier payloads because their warheads were heavier and less sophisticated than those in the West. Hence the West did not design or see a need for heavy lift LVs at the time. But the engineering was capable of of carrying a manned vehicle and the Soviets took advantage of that.

  • DCSCA

    @Robert G. Oler wrote @ December 19th, 2010 at 7:46 pm

    ” Nothing has prevented the private sector from exploiting opportunities in space except the very free market it operates in.” “thats a fairly simplistic statement…and in my view not very helpful.”

    Your view is not very helpful at all– indeed. But the truth is very helpful– enlightening, too– and hardly simplistic, but you choose to try to dismiss it which is both simplistic and unhelpful as well. Suggest you revist the 80 plus year history of rocket development in which progress was chiefly funded by the efforts of governments in many guises (Fascist/Socialist/Communist) not the private sector of wealthy, democratic Western powers, which failed repeatedly to invest as they saw little or no profit in it. Witness Goddard’s subsistence depending on philanthropic handouts for reseasch while in the same era, Von Braun’s research was well funded by Hitler’s government. And it was the socialist/communist government of Societ Russia that lofted Sputnik and Gararin, not the wealthy West. You’ll discover capitalists have never led the way in this field but have always been a follow-along and reactive, trying to cashing in where it could. Free market capitalism has never led the way into the cosmos over the history of rocket development and won’t for decades to come as long as the risks remain high, the ROI low and the initial investment cost requirements from capital markets prohibitive. That’s why governments do it. But then you can enjoy private enterprised capitalists pushing governments aside and conqueoring the cosmos all you want if you watch Destination Moon. It’s actually a pretty good business plan for 1950. And it’s fiction.

    Capitalism will NEVER lead the way into the cosmos.

  • Doug Lassiter

    “You’ll discover capitalists have never led the way in this field but have always been a follow-along and reactive, trying to cashing in where it could.”

    You’ll discover that the field has never led to any significant level of “cashing in” so, in that sense, the capitalists have so far been right. Capitalism may also well never lead the way into the cosmos if it turns out there is no economic value to be derived in going into the cosmos.

  • Robert G. Oler

    DCSCA wrote @ December 19th, 2010 at 7:59 pm

    nope the race was real among the Soviet space program but Ivan and his leadership never really threw down into it…the N1 was plagued by lack of funds (ie it was getting about half what it needed) and the Soviet leadership didnt really care to toss the rubles there…

    worse..you wrote

    “It’s really a matter of interpretation. Soviet LVs of the period were designed to lift heavier payloads because their warheads were heavier and less sophisticated than those in the West. Hence the West did not design or see a need for heavy lift LVs at the time. But the engineering was capable of of carrying a manned vehicle and the Soviets took advantage of that.”

    not really.

    our first true ICBM was Atlas. the same sophistication that made our weapons smaller also made our spacecraft smaller…and we took advantage of it.

    I take it you are not really familiar with Soviet electronics…sigh

    Robert G. Oler

  • common sense

    @ DCSCA wrote @ December 19th, 2010 at 8:27 pm

    “Capitalism will NEVER lead the way into the cosmos.”

    Are you now preaching “socialism” in the US now? Fascism? Communism? Good luck with that. Nonetheless most argument you hold about space are unforutnately (?) baseless. Is your idea for our society based on the socialist/fascist/communist model so that we can travel to space? How do you think people perceive what you are saying? How much following do you think you can get along these lines?

    Also if someone was leading the way into space for us all to disappear that would be fine with you? So long that someone leads you to space?

    You know I’d love to see an argument from you, one that actually makes sense, one that does not call for triviality so that we can actually discuss the point of private vs. state. But all you keep saying ad nauseam is the same old slogan. Please try something we all can talk about. Something that shows us that you actually have a good grasp of the programs such as Constellation or COTS or CCDev or CRS or something. I assure you that if you can articulate an argument without resorting to simple cliches people of various political inclination, reasonable people of course, will try and make a constructive conversation.

    The reason why you and others are being dismissed is because of the lack of substance of your argumentation. Only grandiose statements about pride, nation, leaders, unrelated past accomplishments and stuff that do not really count.

  • common sense

    Oh and by the way, it is not private vs. state. It is private AND state. I almost got caught at your game.

    Oh well…

  • pathfinder_01

    William, I too view NASA’s role as exploration but that exploration has to be done in an economically sustainable way. There are two ways to the moon. Pray congress grants more money or work at lowering costs.

    Commercial crew and cargo frees resources so that NASA can do more exploring. The same Atlas rocket that launches satellites can also launch people. This is a better use of money than building a NASA only rocket that has no other users. Prop depots likewise harness more minds to work at the problem of lowering the cost of exploration than NASA can employ.

    As for commercial aviation having a waiting market of people wanting to go from point to point, not really. Thoose people were not waiting for an airliner; they were taking the train and other means of travel. The first successful airliner had to do more than simply fly.

    A Wright flyer is not an airliner. The first aircraft were limited in size, range, and speed. A plane like the Benoist XIV might be the word’s first airliner but it is not practical and it too flew it’s single passenger with government subsidy.

    The reason why planes like the Ford trimoter and DC3 are acclaimed is because they are the first planes that could make a profit just caring passengers. Other airliners like the Boeing model 40 had to carry air mail (a government subsidy) in order to make a profit.

    Even things like WWI and WWII could be seen as subsidies to the airlines in a sense. WWI dumped lots of aircraft on the market after the war making purchasing an aircraft cheaper. WWII built lots of runways around the world which made flying boars obsolete.

    Limburg’s flight and the wright’s flights even the Apollo 11 landing is all very inspirational. However they are not practical. None of thoose flights carried passengers nor profit generating cargo. Could an Apollo lander land a scientific team of five on the moon, no. All it could do is land two trained pilots.

    Until the gap between inspirational and practical is bridged all one can do is long for a time when this country sent men to the moon instead of make some progress ourselves at enabling true exploration and exploitation of space.

    Commercial crew and cargo is a way to do this. Dragon for instance would hold seven. If four of them are ISS astronauts and one of them is a pilot that leaves two seats that could be sold. The Boeing CST100 likewise holds 7 leaving 2 seats that can be sold. If Boeing or Dragon finds a way to lower its operational cost just a tad it can lower the seat cost and attempt to lure more passengers from the other. NASA would then benefit from the lower seat prices.

    Likewise if they find that the two seats are always sold, it would create an incentive to try to add capacity in order to increase profits. So say a Dragon MarkII or a Boeing CST150 with a capacity of nine comes out. And note they don’t need congressional approval to build these craft. Now there are nine people to divide the cost over.

    Finally with Dragon or Boeing CST100 in existence it becomes possible for others to book the service. For instance there is a planned Soyuz flight of 3 Google executives. The possibility of being able to buy a spaceflight helps ease they way for non NASA space stations. Canada for instance wants to send another astronaut to the ISS but can’t use NASA because its agreement is up. They are looking into purchasing a flight on Soyuz!

    It isn’t a question of why should you subsidize private industry. You already are. Trust me Lockheed Martin isn’t building Orion out of the kindness of its heart. It is a question of should these subsidies be targeted to work in ways that are beneficial to NASA and others in the long run.

  • William Mellberg

    Again I ask … if there were healthy profits to be made in private sector human spaceflight, why didn’t far-sighted entrepreneurs go after them long ago? If the market was so promising, they wouldn’t have needed NASA’s help or taxpayer dollars to do it. They could have raised capital the old-fashioned way — with a business plan that attracts investors. And why must it be an American enterprise? NASA has no authority to ban or bar entrepreneurs in other countries from developing private spaceliners. Why haven’t the Japanese done it? Or the Europeans? Why hasn’t Arianespace branched into human spaceflight? Why didn’t ESA proceed with Hermes? (Not a commercial venture, but a new manned spacecraft.

    Is it really fair to condemn NASA for not doing what nobody else has done?

    Actually, NASA has supported the development of commercial space. I used to walk by the COMSAT Headquarters/Control Center every day … and that was 35 years ago.

    BTW, Dragon is not a seven-seater. It is, of course. But seven seats won’t be available for passengers. I assume there would be at least two crew members. I know I’m nitpicking. However, I go back to my point that it’s pretty hard to bring down the cost of sending humans into space when so few seats are available to spread the developmental and operational costs. Dragon is no spaceliner. It is Soyuz on Steroids.

    That said, I applaud the success of SpaceX, and I look forward to next year’s missions, as well as to the first manned missions a few years from now — the sooner the better. I don’t mean to belittle SpaceX or Dragon in any way. In fact, I think it’s all very exciting stuff … and a big advance over Soyuz. If I were a multi-billionaire, I’d be signing up for a ticket to ride myself. But it isn’t “opening space” to “common persons” as some here demand as a birth right — not even close.

    As for the goals of “commercial” space (lower cost access to space) and space exploration (“boldly” going) coming together …

    I hope they do, and I think they will. In some areas, we might not be as far apart in our thinking as some of you might believe. It’s just that I still think the taxpayers in the United States, Europe, Japan, Canada and Russia (but mostly the United States) will be paying most of the bills for “commercial” space for a long time to come. To the extent that “commercial” space can (will) lower those bills, I’m all for it. But whether or not “commercial” space can stand on its own (i.e., zero taxpayer help) … I don’t see that happening any time soon. In that respect, some of the promises being made by “commercial” space today are as much hype as the promises made by NASA about the Space Shuttle nearly 40 years ago. However, if Elon Musk winds up retiring on Mars as he says he will … I’ll eat these words (if I’m still around).

  • DCSCA

    @Robert G. Oler wrote @ December 19th, 2010 at 11:12 pm
    “the race was real among the Soviet space program but Ivan and his leadership never really threw down into it…” Inaccurate. They ‘threw down into it’ as best as they could afford. “…the N1 was plagued by lack of funds (ie it was getting about half what it needed)…” Inaccurate- it’s chief flaw lay in that it was a weak design and financing was what their economy could withstand in that period. And ‘Ivan’ is a bit pejorative if not condescending . Bear in mind the Russian space program has managed a number of accomplishments, not the least of which is carrying American astronauts of late aboard their Soyuz which have been flying successfully since the late 60′s. Re missile gap/heavy lift- Yes, really. Facts are stubborn things.

    @common sense wrote @ December 19th, 2010 at 11:57 pm

    You have it backwards. Face facts. It’s the history of the technology and how it developed whether you like it or not. Goddard got the cold shoulder and Von Braun got the Reichmarks. Spaceflight today is a reality in part due to the toils of slave laborers in the Mittelwerk at Nordhausen– a bitter pill to swallow be sure. Absolutely is stopping private enterprise from investing billions and soaring into the cosmos except the very limitations that free market has on it– it’s a limited market with uncertain ROI. Go ahead and change the trajectory of history– side-step the government, assemble private capital, build rockets and fly to the moon. Go for it.. Your business plan is already available in Technicolor, circa 1950- Destination Moon, It literally shows you how to do it. But if you want a more current champion scaled to the economics of our times, follow Branson. He knows his target market and is moving in incremental steps. And unlike Musk, Branson plans to fly abord his own craft. You’re bogged down in preserving and/or planning programs which cannot possibly get adequate funding for out years in this era. Constellation as known is dead. Orion is NASA’s only hope to stay in the HSF game. Build it and fly it on existing LVs through the Age of Austerity. You do understand that discretionary spending has to be cut next year. Did you see 60 Minutes Sunday night? State governments are the next economic train wreck which will need bailing out. And ‘by the way’– in the Age of Austerity, its most definitely private vs. state. We know why private capital remains skittish– same reason it has for half a century. And the ‘state’ has to borrow 41 cents of every dollar it spends.

  • DCSCA

    @Doug Lassiter wrote @ December 19th, 2010 at 9:12 pm

    That’s why governments do it.

  • Coastal Ron

    William Mellberg wrote @ December 19th, 2010 at 5:52 pm

    Ironically, the one thing that might reduce the cost of a seat into space for the average multi-billionaire is the soon-to-be-retired Space Shuttle. A passenger module accommodating 50-60 “common” billionaires could possibly lower the ticket price to $10M per seat. The quickest way to lower ticket prices is by adding more seats. That’s true of almost any mode of passenger transportation.

    The Shuttle does not reduce the cost to do anything, especially when you’re talking about tourism. And unfortunately you’re not understanding the point about the Shuttle being a state-run monopoly.

    But that’s OK, because the Shuttle is soon to be gone, and everything will become a lot clearer. Once the realization sinks in that the only route to space is through Russia, Congress will finally fund American alternatives. They might even fully fund commercial crew, but any attempt at funding MPCV will just delay the inevitable, which is commercial crew.

    And once commercial crew is established, then “common” millionaires will be able to afford space travel, and not just your billionaires. That is when companies will start sponsoring their own rides, as well as the previously non-space capable countries. 2016 is going to be a very exciting year…

    Alas, Dragon doesn’t provide a lot of seats.

    Compared to what? Soyuz, which carries three people? Orion, which was only being designed to carry 4 or maybe 6 people? Or the Shuttle orbiter, which normally only carries seven people (8 max)? Dragon and CST-100 both accommodate 7 people. What is your basis of comparison?

    But remembering what I said about the Shuttle above, let’s do a quick math problem.

    The Shuttle has been averaging about $750M/flight over it’s last decade. If SpaceX was paid the same money to deliver crew to the ISS, they could send a total of 21 people (3 flights) up versus the max eight people for the Shuttle. And that is with paying $300M to upgrade Falcon 9/Dragon for crew, and paying $140M/flight ($20M/seat X 7 seats). With the next $750M, since they don’t have to pay for crew upgrades, they could send 35 people to LEO.

    I don’t know about you, but that sure seems like a deal to me. Heck, even CST-100 is going to be a deal compared to Shuttle. Yep, 2016 is going to be a very exciting year…

  • William Mellberg

    Rand Simberg wrote:

    “Why is it either/or? It should do the latter to make the former much more affordable for itself. More exploration, easier on the taxpayer. I don’t understand why this is so difficult for you to understand.”

    I thought I made myself quite clear:

    “I do agree, however, that one important way to ‘open’ space (using the definition some of you have used) is to lower the cost of sending payloads into space. And the private sector is responding to that call, as SpaceX demonstrated last week. In the long run, lowering launch costs will pave the way to achieve both of the roles (goals) listed above.”

    I don’t understand why you didn’t understand that statement. It’s basically the same thing you just wrote. But it seems you enjoy disagreeing with me even when I’m agreeing with you.

  • William Mellberg

    Coastal Ron wrote:

    “What is your basis of comparison?”

    For starters, what about a 28-seat Douglas DC-3, the first commercial transport to break-even carrying passengers? Or how about a Boeing 747, which made air travel truly affordable to the masses because its large capacity reduced the seat/mile costs to a rate even “common persons” could pay?

    But even those comparisons are irrelevant because there was an existing mass market for transportation which both of those airliners tapped into. There is no such mass market for space travel. Not even a niche market (Concorde size).

    As for my comments about the Space Shuttle being used for tourism …

    You obviously missed my point. I wasn’t suggesting that the Space Shuttles be sold to Sir Richard Branson for Virgin Galactic’s use (as he wanted to buy the Concordes for Virgin Atlantic’s use). What I was saying is that it will take a vehicle capable of carrying 50-100 passengers into space to make the ticket price anything like “affordable” to more than an Elite Few — although even those 50-100 passengers would have to be pretty wealthy as the ticket price would still be in the millions of dollars if the operation were to break-even. Despite the daydreams of some people, the proletariat won’t be flying into space in our lifetimes.

    If space travel were so attractive and so “affordable” … why haven’t some of the world’s major air carriers (other than Virgin) gone into the space biz? Years ago, Pan Am took “reservations” for the its first flights to the Moon. But Pan Am couldn’t stay in business just flying around our own planet, much less traveling to another world (despite what was seen in a famous film).

    I have no qualms about “commercial” space providing lower cost launch and delivery services to NASA and a handful of other potential government, corporate and academic customers — sending people and supplies to the ISS and whatever Bigelow stations might actually become available. But space tourism for the masses? Get real.

  • William Mellberg

    Space Tourists …

    I should clarify one thing. Despite some of my rhetoric regarding space tourism, my point has been that it will not be available to the masses anytime soon (‘soon’ being 50-100 years). I have no doubt that there will be ‘Space Hiltons’ in LEO and even tourism on the Moon — some day. And I will concede that everything has to start someplace and somewhere with somebody.

    In fact, I have publicly praised Dennis Tito, Mark Shuttleworth, Greg Olsen, Anousheh Ansari, Charles Simonyi and Richard Garriott. They were pioneers in their own right, much like the people who flew with the Wright brothers and Glenn Curtiss early. I admire them and I applaud them. (I envy them a bit, too!) However, they are a privileged few — much like the ‘professional’ astronauts who have flown into space.

    But I will also tell you this …

    I was appalled by former NASA Administrator Dan Goldin’s bungled attempt to ban Dennis Tito from visiting the International Space Station. And I found it ironic that the first paying space passengers were launched from the former Soviet Union.

    My point isn’t to denigrate millionaires or billionaires. They often lead the way in bringing about change in our world (e.g., Elon Musk and Sir Richard Branson).

    I simply question the economic viability of commercial space in terms of the tourist market. But I don’t in any way wish to mock those daunting pioneers who were among the first to take a ride into space by paying for their seats.

    While I question the viability of the space tourism market today, I’m confident it will exist tomorrow — just as Orville Wright foresaw the future airline industry in a magazine article he penned 100 years ago.

    I might also mention that I was greatly impressed by the first flight of Dragon, and I hope the program is a total success. We obviously need that capability to bring people and supplies to the ISS.

    In short, as I suggested earlier, I might agree with some of you more than you might think. But past experience has taught me to match my enthusiasm with a healthy dose of skepticism (reality).

    Some of the claims I read here regarding the future of commercial space sound very much like the claims made for the Space Shuttle 30+ years ago (claims I fully accepted at the time). And that is what I find a bit disturbing.

  • I don’t understand why you didn’t understand that statement.

    I do understand that statement. What I don’t understand is how to reconcile it with your continuing complaints about “NASA underwriting private enterprise.”

  • Coastal Ron

    William Mellberg wrote @ December 20th, 2010 at 6:42 am

    I simply question the economic viability of commercial space in terms of the tourist market.

    Well I question that too, but that’s not the market most of us see opening up with commercial crew. “Tourism” in space is a straw man a lot of people use to argue against Congress funding commercial crew.

    To me, space tourism will be an offshoot of existing transportation options, not the reason for them. And Virgin Galactic is not even part of this discussion, because they are really just giving thrill rides to people, not performing a transportation function.

    The financial basis I use to advocate for commercial crew does not include tourism, because that is an unpredictable market. Cargo and crew transportation to the ISS is predictable (i.e. has demand), and it has a price attached to it, so we can easily tell what the options and trade-offs are.

    After commercial crew is established to supply the ISS, the most likely market expansion will be for either ISS partners that want to expand their presence on the ISS above their basic commitments, or for supplying Bigelow research stations for corporate or country clients. Tourism will never be a major component of demand.

  • Coastal Ron

    William Mellberg wrote @ December 20th, 2010 at 4:27 am

    “What is your basis of comparison?”

    For starters, what about a 28-seat Douglas DC-3, the first commercial transport to break-even carrying passengers? Or how about a Boeing 747…

    Maybe the problem here is that you’re trying to find direct market comparisons for how the space transportation market will evolve. As Mark Twain said, “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme”. Instead of comparing the space transportation market to early air travel, you would find more similarities in the history of underwater travel.

    With air travel, people were typically traveling between two already inhabited places, whereas space travel right now only has one permanent destination – the ISS. The demand for space transportation depends on the number of destinations, and the carrying capacity of them. Until we expand those numbers, the demand is going to stay relatively flat.

    The big debate right now is how to lower the cost of supplying the existing demand. Because of that, we could see the space capsule equivalent of the DC-3 in the Dragon or CST-100, where they would be basic, dependable, and affordable transportation for the market. Keep in mind that affordable is a relative term which in this case is compared to existing alternatives like the Shuttle and Soyuz.

    And until the demand expands, transportation options like the Dragon and CST-100 will actually offer excess capacity, and not be the limitation we have with Shuttle and Soyuz today.

  • Vladislaw

    “Again I ask … if there were healthy profits to be made in private sector human spaceflight, why didn’t far-sighted entrepreneurs go after them long ago? If the market was so promising, they wouldn’t have needed NASA’s help or taxpayer dollars to do it.”

    Again I ask … if there were healthy profits to be made in a private sector transcontinantal railroad, why didn’t far-sighted entrepreneurs go after it, if the maket was so promising they would have not needed land grants.

    Again I say, what transportation system has not gotten help from government in one form or another?

    From roads, to oil companies, to mineral rights give aways, to land give aways, to airports, to shipping ports, et cetera, et cetera. The government has helped every single form of transportation the Nation has ever enjoyed and still helps with tax breaks, loans and bailouts. To try and deny this is silly at best. So to argue that somehow THIS form of transportation is somehow special and should be hands off and keep the status quo as a NASA only propostition, should be relegated to the dust bin. It is false, the government has invested in every single from of commercial transportation we use, hell we even support bike paths!

    So get off your soapbox on that issue, the federal government believes it is in the best interests of the nation when they help out transportation they always have and the ominbus spending bill confirms it that is still in effect today.

    Either NASA is simply a puppet to it’s congressional puppet masters or they can exercise their own brand of foot dragging, red tape, pressure on employees to toe a company line, or push back to congress.

    Which is it?

    NASA is mandated to seek out commercial opportunities, they are not supposed to be passive, but actively seek out and that means not waiting for a private citizen or company to finally fund something like the X prize.

    Where was NASA?

    You say commercial could do something anything they wanted. The FAA had the regs? Dept of Transportation had the regs? Military had green lighted it? NASA had the man rating system in place? NASA has been actively fighting to get a commercial regiment in place? For Decades?

    Where has NASA been fighting for commercial because they knew it would be a cost savings to the normal costs NASA has been suffering under for HSF?

    why don’t you provide all these examples were NASA has fought for the maximum extent possible use of commercial space. All the budget fights they have had, all the committee meeting where they have fought for turning over launch services to cheaper commercial options. I don’t mean in the last few years either when they have basically had a gun to their head because of shuttle losses. But for the last few decades.

    When you have the NASA Adminstrator going before congress and saying that commercial can’t do it and so he won’t put any funds towards it, that is NASA exercising the last word on it and being the final arbitrator. Not the seeker, not the encourager, but the Monopolist.

  • Martijn Meijering

    Tourism will never be a major component of demand.

    I sure hope it will be. And a hundred years from now I’m confident it will be.

  • Martijn Meijering

    While I question the viability of the space tourism market today, I’m confident it will exist tomorrow — just as Orville Wright foresaw the future airline industry in a magazine article he penned 100 years ago.

    Don’t we all agree on this? At least when it comes to large scale tourism? We’ve already seen a very small amount of tourism on the ISS.

  • William Mellberg

    Coastal Ron wrote:

    “With air travel, people were typically traveling between two already inhabited places, whereas space travel right now only has one permanent destination – the ISS. The demand for space transportation depends on the number of destinations, and the carrying capacity of them. Until we expand those numbers, the demand is going to stay relatively flat.”

    Which is precisely the point I’ve been making. Air travel replaced existing forms of transportation to existing markets. Airlines did not have to develop markets — just the means to serve them. But there is no sizable existing market for human spaceflight because there are no real destinations for most people to travel to. And while I agree with Martijin that there will be 100 years from now, that’s a long ways off.

    So it’s not that I’m against space tourism or millionaire space tourists. I’m just saying that some people are being overly optimistic in suggesting that “common persons” will be flying into space anytime soon, and overly pessimistic in claiming that NASA should be ashamed of themselves for not focusing on that goal up until now. Their hype sounds remarkably like some of the exaggerated promises made by Space Shuttle proponents 35 years ago (two-week system turnarounds, 50 flights per year, 100 flights per Orbiter, etc.). The Space Shuttle was supposed to be the “DC-3 of the Space Age.” It wasn’t. Not in terms of lowering costs and generating revenues. But I see some of the same excessive expectations coming from commercial space advocates today.

  • William Mellberg

    Vladislaw wrote:

    “Again I say, what transportation system has not gotten help from government in one form or another?”

    But the examples you cite all fall under the Commerce Clause of the Constitution of the United States — promoting interstate commerce and postal services. Space travel does not.

    “hell we even support bike paths!”

    Because there is a taxpayer demand (and willingness) that we do so. No such public clamor exists for private sector human spaceflight. And no provision for supporting private sector human spaceflight exists in the Constitution (which gives the federal government its spending authority). The land grants given to the railroads were designed, in part, to develop the mass settlement of the newly-acquired Western lands and to serve existing markets (mining, ranching, etc.). But there will be no mass settlement of LEO, nor are there any existing mass transportation markets in space which could apply to the Commerce Clause.

    “You say commercial could do something anything they wanted. The FAA had the regs? Dept of Transportation had the regs? Military had green lighted it? NASA had the man rating system in place? NASA has been actively fighting to get a commercial regiment in place? For Decades?”

    So why haven’t the Europeans or Japanese pursued private sector human spaceflight? Or anyone else, other than the Russians? Answer that very simple question, please.

    “Why don’t you provide all these examples were NASA has fought for the maximum extent possible use of commercial space.”

    I have. The communications satellite industry. It’s thriving. It’s huge. And it got its start by having NASA lead the way. NASA has also led the way in human spaceflight. But without a realistic profit potential, the private sector hasn’t followed … not even in other countries where NASA doesn’t have any so-called “monopoly” on human spaceflight.

    As I keep repeating, it isn’t NASA that has barred the private sector from human spaceflight. It’s economics. Although I will admit that NASA under Dan Goldin foolishly attempted to ban Dennis Tito from entering the International Space Station. That sent a very bad message. In the end, of course, Goldin backed down and Tito went up.

  • Martijn Meijering

    I’m just saying that some people are being overly optimistic in suggesting that “common persons” will be flying into space anytime soon, and overly pessimistic in claiming that NASA should be ashamed of themselves for not focusing on that goal up until now.

    To the degree that people are saying the former they are probably wrong, but I’m not seeing anyone here who does. Many, myself included, would say the latter. Economic development of space will take a long time, but can be accelerated greatly at no additional cost to NASA by explicitly seeking synergy. That is why it is important to start as early as possible, because the sooner you start, the sooner you will finish. This is why NASA (and the political leadership influencing it) deserves a lot of criticism for wasting at least the past 25 years.

  • Doug Lassiter

    DCSCA wrote @ December 20th, 2010 at 2:36 am
    @Doug Lassiter wrote @ December 19th, 2010 at 9:12 pm

    “That’s why governments do it.”

    I think you miss my point. You’re saying that governments do it because there is no financial return yet. I’m saying that governments maybe shouldn’t do it if there is no indication that there ever will be financial return. The history of our human space program is completely the latter.

  • Coastal Ron

    William Mellberg wrote @ December 20th, 2010 at 3:05 pm

    But there is no sizable existing market for human spaceflight because there are no real destinations for most people to travel to.

    I don’t know where you come up with these fake arguments.

    The only demand for human space travel as of today is to support the ISS. That’s it. The whole discussion concerning commercial crew is to satisfy that demand, which, as a side effect, would potentially create an excess of supply (excess capacity) and availability that companies, countries and even individuals would be able to utilize. But that extra demand has not solidified, so the only known demand is for crew transportation to the ISS.

    So let’s stick to the basics – what do we put in place to support our crew transportation needs to the ISS?

    So it’s not that I’m against space tourism or millionaire space tourists.

    Again, space tourism will be a side effect of excess transportation capacity, but won’t drive the creation of that capability. Focus on the real problem, which is how to support the needs of the ISS. Until that determined, the other demand won’t become real.

    Just like the proverb “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush”, focus on the real ISS needs, not the imaginary tourists.

  • William Mellberg

    Martijn Meijering wrote:

    “This is why NASA (and the political leadership influencing it) deserves a lot of criticism for wasting at least the past 25 years.”

    Martijn, part of your criticism on this point is with the Constitution of the United States and its so-called Commerce Clause (Article I, Section 8). Much of the past support for various transportation modes and networks has fallen under the provision “to establish Post Offices and post Roads” as well as “to regulate Commerce … among the several States.” But that clause doesn’t apply to underwriting non-existing markets with taxpayer dollars. That is solely the realm of private capital and individual investors. And they’re the people who have failed to develop private sector human spaceflight thus far.

    Can anyone tell me why the Europeans or the Japanese haven’t gone ahead on their own and developed private sector human spaceflight if he business model for it is so promising? They haven’t been stopped by NASA roadblocks … just economic hurdles.

  • William Mellberg

    Coastal Ron wrote:

    “I don’t know where you come up with these fake arguments.”

    From the people who post them here together with their complaints that NASA has “failed” to “open space” to “common persons.”

  • William Mellberg

    Coastal Ron wrote:

    “The only demand for human space travel as of today is to support the ISS. That’s it.”

    Exactly my point. And that isn’t much of a demand in terms of a “commercial” market, is it? How long do you expect the ISS to last? And how much time do you think the ISS crews will spend on science vs. maintenance the older it gets (or, for that mater, right now)?

    This is not a “commercial” proposition any more than returning to the Moon would be. Where are the revenues being generated by the ISS? And the only profits will be for the service providers … paid for with taxpayer dollars. How is that commercial?

  • Coastal Ron

    Martijn Meijering wrote @ December 20th, 2010 at 1:15 pm

    I sure hope it [space tourism] will be. And a hundred years from now I’m confident it will be.

    Today travel & tourism represent 10% of the global GDP, and is one of the largest single sectors. So from that standpoint, yes I think if the global tourism trend makes it’s way out into space, then it would be a major part of the space economy.

    I just think it’s going to take a significant amount of time to get to that 10% figure, especially because doing anything in space is so hardware and logistics dependent. Here on Earth you can travel by multiple modes of transportation, and many places afford you the ability to sleep in the most basic of accommodations. No such luck in space.

    Don’t get me wrong – I look forward to the day I might be able to travel to space. But talk of space tourism masks the real demand we have for space transportation, and it provides cover for those in Congress that don’t want to “subsidize space tourists” as an excuse to fund their local pork.

    Successful entrepreneurs recognize the need to plainly describe the pain that they are offering the solution to. The same is true with commercial crew, where we have to make sure the need for it is clear, and the economic benefits understandable. That the solution works of other applications is a byproduct, but not the reason for funding it.

  • Martijn Meijering

    But that clause doesn’t apply to underwriting non-existing markets with taxpayer dollars.

    Of course not, nor have I seen anyone here claim otherwise. As long as NASA engages in manned spaceflight, it will need lanch services, especially if it wants to do exploration. I believe that procuring those services commercially would enormously accelerate commercial development of space by reducing commercial launch prices by an order of magnitude – as STS was intended to do. Maybe you disagree with that conditional prediction, but many here believe it to be true. If for the past 25 years NASA had spent the money it spends each year on Shuttle fixed costs on commercial launches instead, we might have had cheap lift by now. That’s not a minor issue.

  • DCSCA

    @Doug Lassiter wrote @ December 20th, 2010 at 3:44 pm

    The point is governments have to do it in this era given sheer largess of and scales both in costs and operations of the projects and supporting elements necessary and the state of the technology at this point in human history. This doesn’t mean fellas like Branson and Musk shouldn’t be disuaded from pressing on but when you’re talking about lunar bases and Martian landings it’s simply beyond the resources of private concerns in this era. Unless, of course, you suspend reality and follow the business plan set forth in Destination Moon. All kidding aside, strip away the entertainment elemenets and it actually presents a reasonable proposal of private enterprised space ventures, but their has to be a profit motive someplace in the mix and in the case of the film, it was uranium. Of late, the chatter of water at the lunar polls makes some kind of return to the moon project more economically attractive in terms of base elements for life support and propulsion. But the economics of our current times pretty much ‘pours water’ over exploring it much beyond the planning stages for government.

  • Martijn Meijering

    That the solution works of other applications is a byproduct, but not the reason for funding it.

    Of course, but it is a reason for caring about it. Not that I think there is actually a reasonable justification for spending taxpayers’ money on manned spaceflight to begin with.

  • Coastal Ron

    William Mellberg wrote @ December 20th, 2010

    And that [the ISS] isn’t much of a demand in terms of a “commercial” market, is it? How long do you expect the ISS to last?

    This gets down to perception and reality, and keeping the two clear.

    The reality is that the ISS is going to be a source of demand for cargo and crew services through 2020. There are still some partner funding issues that need to be resolved in the partner countries, but everyone seems to be fine with this.

    Because of this, there is a funded need for cargo and crew services from 2016-20 that does not have designated suppliers. You perceive this as not much demand, but in the world of contract services, a firm demand is an opportunity for business.

    When NASA puts out the RFQ to meet their cargo and crew supply requirements for 2016-20, they will have no shortage of responses. The real question is what they will have to pay for that service, and if they go with more than one supplier for both cargo and crew.

    Regarding the definition of “commercial”, I think you will agree that the Shuttle was not a commercial venture – NASA did not operate it for hire, and did not have a need to cover it’s costs. For the CRS contract, both suppliers could be defined as commercial, in part because they won competitive contracts, and their services are also available for hire on the open market. So it will likely be for commercial crew.

    Regarding how long the ISS will be maintained, who knows. The ISS partners have stated that it should be easily maintained until at least 2028, but I personally think it will morph over time, and that the components in space today will not stay together over their ultimate lifetimes. That’s the beauty of modular construction.

    This is not a “commercial” proposition any more than returning to the Moon would be. Where are the revenues being generated by the ISS? And the only profits will be for the service providers … paid for with taxpayer dollars. How is that commercial?

    Where do you get the idea that people are saying the ISS is a commercial venture? The ISS is a multi-government funded laboratory in space. Like any government facility, it requires support, and that support is a combination of government and commercial services.

    What is about to happen is that the U.S. government support for cargo is ending (the Shuttle), and now NASA will be relying on a mixture of ISS partner government plus commercial cargo. For crew, like it always has been, we rely on the Russian government, but NASA has the opportunity to add commercial crew services.

    You worked in the commercial aircraft industry, so I’m not sure why you don’t understand how commercial cargo and crew will be different than government provided ones. Although you also don’t seem to understand how the Shuttle provided no incentives for a commercial crew market to emerge, so that could be part of it. It pretty much boils down to capitalism, and how capitalism cannot compete with the government, since the government has no need to make a profit on a product or task – they don’t operate according to the rules of supply and demand.

    I think I’ve covered all the bases on this topic, so I’ll let you have the last word, and I’ll bow out of further comments.

  • Coastal Ron

    Martijn Meijering wrote @ December 20th, 2010 at 4:42 pm

    Of course, but it is a reason for caring about it.

    Yes, but since our Congress has attention deficit disorder, I don’t want mixed messages. Tourism is a distraction to them.

    Not that I think there is actually a reasonable justification for spending taxpayers’ money on manned spaceflight to begin with.

    OK. I do, but I’m OK with the level of funding that NASA currently has. But that’s also why I advocate for lowering the cost to access space, because otherwise NASA’s money won’t have as many tangible results. But certainly at this point, our investment in space won’t pay off for quite a long time.

  • @Coastal Ron:

    I’m just saying that some people are being overly optimistic in suggesting that “common persons” will be flying into space anytime soon, and overly pessimistic in claiming that NASA should be ashamed of themselves for not focusing on that goal up until now.

    1. No one’s being overly optimistic about the chances the general public will have access to space in the near future, largely because we’ve been dumping $20 billion a year dicking around LEO, putting up expensive ornaments for the ivory tower crowd, and pretending it’s important to put a Belgian or two in space.

    2. NASA should be ashamed of herself. She’s spent the past two decades wasting time with the ISS instead of taking the next step to open up the Earth sphere–the permanently expanding expedition to the Moon.

  • William Mellberg

    Martijn and Ron,

    I think we’ve found some common ground. I tend to agree with most of what you wrote in your last posts.

    In fact, while some of my colleagues think I’m wasting my time with these exchanges … such is not the case. Intelligent exchanges (ideas, not insults) can be very persuasive, and I don’t mind admitting that you (and others) have persuaded me on several points. (So did the recent success scored by SpaceX.)

    There is no denying the logic of lower launch costs as provided by new “commercial” enterprises such as SpaceX and others — operating without a laundry list of federal regulations that have driven up the cost of accessing space rather than bringing it down. And there is no question that providing lower cost launch services will pave the way toward more exciting exploits beyond Earth orbit.

    I guess the fact of the matter is that no one can accurately forecast the future. Only Time will tell who is right and who is wrong. I suspect we’ll all win some and lose some.

    As I get older, my starry-eyed youthful enthusiasm has been dimmed just a tad by a touch of skepticism — the result, I suppose, of real world experience. Yet, I still retain much of that enthusiasm, which is why a fellow like Elon Musk and his SpaceX team can still fire my imagination. (I first heard Musk being interviewed by Charlie Rose on PBS quite a few years ago, and he’s been firing my imagination ever since).

    I also recognize that every great journey begins with a single step.

    Some (most) of the space entrepreneurs will probably stumble and fall for some of the reasons I’ve mentioned in our exchanges. Many already have. But a few will go the distance and achieve great things. And they (like the others who have tried) have my respect and admiration … and gratitude.

    Looking back at the history of commercial aviation, there were some remarkable visionaries — Juan Trippe, C.R. Smith, Bill Patterson and Howard Hughes, among them. We see some of those same types today — Elon Musk being just one of several.

    Perhaps all of us are a bit frustrated by the slow rate of progress. And maybe that is the source of a few of our more heated exchanges. But most of us, I think, are all focused on the same thing: space … the final frontier.

    To those who have given me food for thought with your civil exchanges and mature comments, I say “Thank You.” Intelligent people can disagree without being disagreeable. (Sometimes they can even change a few minds.)

    And to ALL of you, I say … Happy Holidays and Best Wishes for the New Year.

    Sincerely,

    Bill Mellberg

  • Vladislaw

    The topic keeps moving towards space tourism, I don’t know if that is coming from my advocating for a dual use, commercial space access system for the Nation. If you look at my posts, I have rarely used space tourism as the main point for creating dual use systems.

    From what I read and listen to coming from Bigelow Aerospace he does not want to be in the commercial hotel business and he reasserts this in every conversation. He wants to be in the wholesale leasing business for destinations. It is my understanding you could not just buy a ticket and fly to a BA space station. You would have to have a predetermined and leased space available for you when you get there.

    That means a company like Space Adventures would have to first lease a spot on the station and outfit it to be a hotel for tourists.

    I have said before and will state my position again, I believe commercial space will still be mainly a governments only game. What Bigelow offers more that anything is a lowcost way for potential 2nd and 3rd tier (50-60) countries to have a full up space program. I believe the six MOU’s that BA has already signed ( none for a tourist) with other countries is going to be expanded on a lot faster than a stricly space tourism line.

    As most of the private astronauts to the ISS have shown is they want to not only travel to space but also have it financed by others. Garriot and others did experiements, websites, books and I believe a lot of the first “tourists” will actually be trying to make a buck while they are doing it to try and offset costs.

    Once the reality that there is a easily accesible commercial destination in space and there is a the same for passenger service I believe people are going to be absolutely AMAZED at the creativeness of American entrepreneurs about how to get their trip paid for. From reality TV, to endorsements, product testing, commercials, games etc etc etc.

    If there is a way to make a buck in space, to help pay for the ride, I have total faith in our inventiveness in finding a way to get it creatively financed, including installment plans.

  • William Mellberg

    Incidentally, if you’re wondering why I’ve grown a bit skeptical in recent years, this depressing article about the Boeing 787 Dreamliner’s mounting pile of problems (and financial losses) will give you some idea. The Dreamliner’s proponents keep touting it as the greatest thing since sliced bread while the skeptics keep noticing the production difficulties, delivery delays, penalty payments and customer cancellations. Not all programs work out quite as planned …

    http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/businesstechnology/2013713745_dreamliner19.html

  • Coastal Ron

    Presley Cannady wrote @ December 20th, 2010 at 5:44 pm

    @Coastal Ron:

    You were really responding to William Mellberg, not me.

  • common sense

    @ DCSCA wrote @ December 20th, 2010 at 2:34 am

    “Constellation as known is dead. Orion is NASA’s only hope to stay in the HSF game. Build it and fly it on existing LVs through the Age of Austerity. You do understand that discretionary spending has to be cut next year. Did you see 60 Minutes Sunday night? State governments are the next economic train wreck which will need bailing out. And ‘by the way’– in the Age of Austerity, its most definitely private vs. state. We know why private capital remains skittish– same reason it has for half a century. And the ‘state’ has to borrow 41 cents of every dollar it spends.”

    See I tell you: Orion will NOT fly, Dragon just took it off the picture, and here comes some savings. As for the rest… Usual slogan.

  • DCSCA

    @common sense wrote @ December 21st, 2010 at 1:50 am

    Nonsense. Dragon has flown nobody and is hardly a viable alternative to a GP spacecraft. But you’re welcome to believe otherwise. Branson will be flying crewed craft before Dragon carries anybody.

  • Vladislaw

    In the coming age of austerity, don’t look for lower cost, fixed price, private enterprise solutions, instead work towards a big government, cost plus, no milestones based, contracts with escalator clauses that will take you right to the moon.

  • common sense

    @DCSCA wrote @ December 21st, 2010 at 4:23 am

    “Nonsense. Dragon has flown nobody and is hardly a viable alternative to a GP spacecraft. But you’re welcome to believe otherwise.”

    Same to you.

    “Branson will be flying crewed craft before Dragon carries anybody.”

    Are you making up something? They may or not. I wish them the best of luck too. See you seem to have an axe to grind with SpaceX. I don’t care. What is important is that the transition to the commercial sector actually happens soon. VG, SpaceX, SN, who cares? I mean save for those working for these companies.

  • DCSCA

    @common sense wrote @ December 22nd, 2010 at 1:05 am
    There will be no transition to the commerical sector on a scale necessary to make it worth the costs because it has a mimimal return on investment. That’s why governments do it.

Leave a Reply

  

  

  

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>