Congress, NASA, White House

Budget battles looming

When it comes to NASA’s budget, administrator Charles Bolden is trying to sound optimistic. In an interview with the Charleston (SC) Post & Courier, Bolden said he didn’t know what the impact of possible spending cuts would be on NASA. “It may be that the Congress decides that they really think exploration is really important … and we’ll find the level of funding is OK,” he said.

However, the House is expected to vote next week on a resolution to cut discretionary spending back to 2008 levels, a move that, if backed up by later appropriations legislation, would cut NASA spending from the $18.7 billion in FY2010 (and $19 billion in the FY11 proposal) to $17.4 billion. An AP article suggests that the White House is warning of dire consequences to agencies like NASA should those spending cuts be enacted:

Republicans in Texas, Florida and Alabama – where NASA facilities mean thousands of jobs – are sure to fight against cuts to the space agency, which could have to abandon the International Space Station, the White House warns.

The source of that warning about abandoning the ISS isn’t mentioned in the AP article, but that outcome seems unlikely. Instead, it appears to be more like a version of “Washington Monument Syndrome”, where a popular or important program is threatened with closure in response to proposed budget cuts.

88 comments to Budget battles looming

  • GeeSpace

    To cut or not to cut is the question. The basic point is that exploration, including HUMAN exploration and space resource development, is very important to our future. The real question is whether the Obama Administration and administrator Charles Bolden will present a well thought out space program and aggressively lobby for it. And developing new technology to test and perhaps using this technology to patch together some type of space system for use in 15-20 years probably will not fly.

  • The source of that warning about abandoning the ISS isn’t mentioned in the AP article, but it seems unlikely. Instead, is appears to be more like a version of “Washington Monument Syndrome”, where a popular or important program is threatened with closure in response to proposed budget cuts.

    Hmm..interesting.

    Perhaps a threat of reducing the ISS crew to 3 or shutting down of certain modules, or not paying the Russians to transport international astronauts..?

    Would Gen. Bolden have the gravitas to threaten the above to a more hostile Congress in order to get the full $19B funding?

  • amightywind

    NASA’s budget will be cut. The question remains if the GOP has the guts to eliminate funding for non-core tasks and bolster HSF. I am hopeful.

    The real question is whether the Obama Administration and administrator Charles Bolden will present a well thought out space program and aggressively lobby for it.

    If the answer were yes, chaos would currently not reign supreme at NASA. Obama’s problem is that he delegated NASA policy making to radical insiders (Holdren, Garver) who were neither capable of producing a coherent policy nor were they politically connected well enough to sell it. The question in 2011 is will a triangulating Obama kick them to the curb.

  • A_M_Swallow

    Have a backup plan ready in which SLS development is dropped and other LV are used to get people to orbit with say 5 years. Work out where they can go. What inspace vehicles and what landers can be produced and/or needed? Price limit the new machines.

  • Robert G. Oler

    GeeSpace wrote @ January 19th, 2011 at 8:03 am

    To cut or not to cut is the question. The basic point is that exploration, including HUMAN exploration and space resource development, is very important to our future. ..

    that of course is the point of argument. You think it is, but clearly the American people dont…and I have not heard people like you who do make a coherent argument for it

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    What surprises me a tad (and it goes along with the political stupidity of this administration in terms of dealing with the REpublicans) is why they are at all raising the “Washington Monument Defense”.

    If the folks running the HOR want to propose their reduction in discretionary spending, a reduction that doesnt have a chance of fixing the budget issues facing The Republic in my view the Administration would be wise politically to “let them try”.

    In the end what is going to happen across the discretionary board is that GOP House members whose districts get clobbered by the spending will be the ones yelling the loudest.

    If NASA pops down to 17 and change see how Pete Olsen or all the other deficit hawks like it…

    The banner of the GOP right now is that they can fix the nations financial situation and since the GOP caused it then and was unwilling to particpate in the fixes that Obama proposed…well lets see how the nation likes the fixes that the GOP proposes.

    It will be good for the Dems to let the GOP have a effort and doing it and good for the folks like Whittington and Wind and others here who think that the GOP is really going to save their version of space exploration.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Doug Lassiter

    Human space exploration and space resource development are NOT conspicuously very important to our future, at least in the eyes of the taxpayer. The public sees human space flight as a symbol of soft power. Not as a credible route to material richness or improved quality of life. Human space flight may be important to species preservation, but that’s a (hopefully) long term international issue, and not one that the U.S. should be independently responsible for. These arguments, which aim at the very long term, are not solid ones for propping up near term spending.

    It’s not as if we’re not doing human space flight. So if it takes 15-20 years to get us outside of LEO, the public won’t have any trouble with that. We’ll ask the Chinese to take pictures of our footprints on the Moon!

    As noted, the main arguments for fully funding human space flight will be about shoveling money into powerful districts.

  • I just finished reading a biography of Wernher von Braun. (Book review here.)

    The main lesson I took from the book is that the only times humanity has invested huge sums in money to advance rocketry have been when it was justified by a military necessity. Von Braun never would have raised the money to build the V-2 if not for Nazi Germany seeking a weapon to circumvent the WW1 Armistice, and later for a weapon to attack England once they lost control of the skies in the later years of WW2.

    Von Braun got lucky again thanks to the Cold War. He and his German colleagues toiled in military rocket research for years under the U.S. Army. It was only after Sputnik I suggested the Soviets were ahead of us in intercontinental ballistic missile technology that he had his opportunity to put a satellite in orbit. He became a national hero, and when Congress decided to create a civilian space agency (to show the world our intents in space were peaceful unlike those nasty Commies) he was in the right place at the right time to build his Moon rocket.

    But once NASA fulfilled Kennedy’s proposal to put a man on the Moon and return his safely, the mission was accomplished and the government pulled the plug on the spending.

    Since then, the political will has never been there to resume robust spending on space exploration. Why? The lack of a legitimate national security threat. And to be honest, the USSR going to the Moon was never really a security threat. The whole thing was a publicity stunt, nothing more.

    I can’t speak for von Braun, but I think that if he were alive today he’d be all for commercial space. His legacy was that he’d take funding whereever he could find it. Government funding is declining, but commercial space is on the uptick, so my guess is today he’d cast his lot with the private sector where he wouldn’t be subjected to the whims of politics. I think he and Elon Musk would be working together.

  • R.G. Oler said:

    It will be good for the Dems to let the GOP have a effort and doing it and good for the folks like Whittington and Wind and others here who think that the GOP is really going to save their version of space exploration.

    That would be good theater and I for one will enjoy the entertainment, LOL! :D

  • Doug Lassiter said:

    As noted, the main arguments for fully funding human space flight will be about shoveling money into powerful districts.

    That unfortunately is true and probably the only reason NASA could receive any funding.

    Unfortunately the GOPer controlled House might see to it that all NASA will receive is the pork going to the NASA districts (or the traditional major contractors) in Utah, Alabama, Louisiana, Florida, Ohio and Texas to the exclusion of all else.

  • Dennis Berube

    Well, abandon the ISS? If they did that, would they de-orbit her, or should they sell her to the highest bidder? All that money spent and to waste it? The ISS is the real first foothold on space that we have. To abandon it would be the most fool hardy thing that mankind has ever done, save making nukes! If our leaders want to abandon her, put her up for bid on E-bay, at least that way she would still be flying! Hey you might get some surprize bids from the private sectors, and or other countries! Maybe China would be interested in buying her! At least then it would help pay off all that loan money we are borrowing fromChina. Where oh where have our true leaders gone?

  • Major Tom

    “Obama’s problem is that he delegated NASA policy making to radical insiders (Holdren, Garver)…”

    No, the White House commissioned a blue-ribbon panel of independent experts (the Augustine Committee) to formulate program options for NASA’s human space flight activities in the wake of mounting Constellation cost growth and schedule slippage.

    Don’t make stuff up.

  • Major Tom

    “If they did that, would they de-orbit her, or should they sell her to the highest bidder?”

    When the ISS is deorbited, there would be nothing to sell — it will burn up in the atmosphere.

    FWIW…

  • CharlesHouston

    Major Tom said (though he regrets it by now) in response to Dennis Berube:

    “If they did that, would they de-orbit her, or should they sell her to the highest bidder?”

    When the ISS is deorbited, there would be nothing to sell — it will burn up in the atmosphere.

    FWIW…

    Ever heard of Skylab? A far, far, less massive space station?? Large parts of it survived re-entry to land in Austrailia. The ISS is so massive that very large parts would survive re-entry. Of course there is no safe way to direct it into the South Pacific dumping ground (it is so large that a Progress would not be able to control it) and certainly large parts might easily hit populated landmasses.

    It might cost someone (yet to be determined) a lot of money if their part hit a populated area.

    Major, do some more research.

  • amightywind

    When the ISS is deorbited, there would be nothing to sell — it will burn up in the atmosphere.

    Chunks of Skylab that rained on Australia were quite valuable at the time. ISS is 5x as large. Think! Perhaps the taxpayers only chance of recovering value from ISS is to sell its scraps on EBay.

    In cutting NASA’s budget, lets hope the GOP starts here.

    http://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2011/01/028164.php

  • Dennis Berube wrote:

    Well, abandon the ISS? If they did that, would they de-orbit her, or should they sell her to the highest bidder?

    The ISS is owned by a consortium that includes the U.S., Russia, ESA, Canada and Japan. The U.S. could simply stop participating, but the other nations could still operate the rest of it. I don’t think anyone really knows what would happen if Congress pulled the plug on U.S. participation in ISS. The United States would certainly look like an untrustworthy business partner.

  • Robert G. Oler

    CharlesHouston wrote @ January 19th, 2011 at 10:29 am

    nonsense…NASA has a multi year tens of billions of dollar plan to deconstruct and deorbit the space station….its on line somewhere. There probably is even the approved commentary for the PAO’s.

    I am sure they have hundreds of people planning it…you never can plan to much at NASA HSF…

    Robert G. Oler

  • Major Tom

    “The ISS is so massive that very large parts would survive re-entry.”

    I miswrote. ISS will “burn” on reentry, not “burn up” (all the way). About 20% of ISS’s mass will reach the Earth’s surface in a highly charred form:

    http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=9794&page=28

    The point I was trying to make in response to the earlier poster remains — the ISS will be disposed via a controlled burn in the atmosphere, not recovered for museums and collectors.

    “Of course there is no safe way to direct it into the South Pacific dumping ground”

    This is simply not true. The ATV or a dedicated propulsion module can do the job:

    http://www.flightglobal.com/articles/2007/07/03/215291/nasa-may-buy-esas-atv-to-de-orbit-iss-at-end-of-life.html

    http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=9794&page=28

    “Major, do some more research.”

    Pot, kettle, black.

  • Major Tom

    “Chunks of Skylab that rained on Australia were quite valuable…”

    No, Skylab debris goes for low hundreds of dollars:

    http://www.icollector.com/auctionprint.aspx?as=14674

    http://64.60.141.198/php/chap_auc.php?site=1&lang=1&sale=56&chapter=72&page=1

    High quality, scale Skylab models go for 10x as much.

    “ISS is 5x as large. Think!”

    Woo-hoo. Five times a hundred bucks. Wow.

  • Robert G. Oler

    This is why space “advocates” flounder as they try and churn up a return to the Moon

    http://www.space.com/10634-moon-base-lunar-outpost-technology.html

    this is by a space.com senior writer…

    and this is one of the first paragraphs
    “Suffice it to say that any future operation would look very different than past lunar missions. After all, the first humans to walk on the moon — Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin — spent only 21 hours on the lunar surface in July 1969. The last people on the moon — Apollo 17’s Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmidt — stayed for just over three hours in 1972.”

    and it goes downhill from there.

    sigh

    Robert G. Oler

  • amightywind

    No, Skylab debris goes for low hundreds of dollars:

    Yeah, if packaged individually. There must be 10′s of thousands of such souvenirs! Your argument is refuted by your own data. I love it!

    I don’t think anyone really knows what would happen if Congress pulled the plug on U.S. participation in ISS. The United States would certainly look like an untrustworthy business partner.

    Justification for ISS will come down to a national guilt trip, then? I’m glad you no longer dare to defend its scientific value. This will be the strategy used for any budget line item that is cut. Get ready. ISS isn’t a business, its a boondoggle. An untrustworthy boondoggle partner? I can live with that.

  • GeeSpace

    Robert Oler said:
    that of course is the point of argument. You think it is, but clearly the American people dont…and I have not heard people like you who do make a coherent argument for it’

    Do you want a coherent argument based on history, sociology aspects, technical/engineering, cost (with some people call affordability), or some other significant (from your viewpoint) factor? My guess is that a coherent, objective argument based on all the factors listed above would not satisfy you.
    I believe that if you lived in the 1830’s or 1840’s you would not be involved in the western movement of people across the United States. And, that’s fine a lot of people in the 30’s and 40’s lived on the Eastern coast. But lots and lots of people did get involved in the western movement that did benefit all the people in the United States including the stay-at-homes.

  • Major Tom

    “There must be 10′s of thousands of such souvenirs!”

    Based on the number of Skylab debris items coming up on the collectibles websites, there’s likely only hundreds of such items, not thousands or tens of thousands.

    “Your argument is refuted by your own data.”

    I did not argue that there “must be 10′s of thousands of such souvenirs”.

    You did.

    Please seek professional help for your multiple personalities.

    Sigh…

  • Justin Kugler

    The ISS is the only asset HSF has once Shuttle retires. Abandoning that asset when it is just starting to come into its own would be foolish. Up until now, its primary usefulness has been simply learning how to build, work, and live in space.

    Now, it is poised to serve as both an exploration technology development platform and the only National Laboratory with long-duration exposure to microgravity and the space environment. We’re going to be testing new, lighter, regenerative atmospheric scrubbers in an operational setting. We’re going to demonstrate optical communications and telepresence testbeds from orbit. AMS has paved the way, so we’re now getting interest for other fundamental physics payloads.

    Commercial implementation partners, like Nanoracks, are figuring out ways to use the available accommodations in novel ways that are actually making money for their customers on the ground. As long as they meet safety and interface requirements, we don’t get in their way.

    Boondoggle? That’s the name of a favorite JSC hangout, but it is not an accurate characterization of the work we’re doing to get the most use out of Station.

  • common sense

    @ amightywind wrote @ January 19th, 2011 at 11:34 am

    “Yeah, if packaged individually. There must be 10′s of thousands of such souvenirs! Your argument is refuted by your own data. I love it!”

    Wow just wow! We will de-orbit the ISS to make cash on its debris?

    “Justification for ISS will come down to a national guilt trip, then?”

    Any idea how our “allies” like us nowadays? Any ideas who our “allies” really are today? And you would just like to spit at their face just like that? Why don’t you go somehere write some neocon neo-revisionism (his)story.

  • amightywind

    The ISS is the only asset HSF has once Shuttle retires. Abandoning that asset when it is just starting to come into its own would be foolish.

    Government has never been good at cutting its losses because it doesn’t feel the immediate sting that mal-investment brings to private business.

    Your version of ‘coming into its own means’ and the $3B we are spending annually are wildly out of line. The items you list are trivial compared to the cost number. There has never been a more expensive scientific project that has returned less value for what was spent. Meritorious projects are starved because of this thing. A post shuttle future is being denied.

    I don’t deny that you space station folks are smart and hard working. But your mission is moronic, and we’d all be better off if your talents were deployed elsewhere in the economy, or even elsewhere in NASA.

  • Vladislaw

    Stephen C. Smith wrote:

    “But once NASA fulfilled Kennedy’s proposal to put a man on the Moon and return his safely, the mission was accomplished and the government pulled the plug on the spending.”

    Good post Stephen. One of Rand’s best outlines of the failure to tie Apollo to actual economic advancement and bringing space into our economic sphere of activity:

    http://www.thenewatlantis.com/publications/in-search-of-a-conservative-space-policy

  • Vladislaw

    “I believe that if you lived in the 1830’s or 1840’s you would not be involved in the western movement of people across the United States. And, that’s fine a lot of people in the 30’s and 40’s lived on the Eastern coast. But lots and lots of people did get involved in the western movement “

    It was a drive towards free land and the free resources that fueled that movement. The reason you see commercial satellite operations is because “land rights” have been settled in LEO to GEO. You can obtain an orbital slot that is protected. Even the Satellite industry refers to it as real estate:

    Hot Orbital Slots: Is There Anything Left?

    “With satellite operators around the world looking to gain an edge in terms of offering new services, access to real estate is vital. However, with most of the so-called hot orbital slots taken, what opportunities remain for satellite operators to develop new positions or make better use of the existing slots?”

    Article: The World’s Hottest Real Estate: Orbital Slots Are Prime Property.

    “What is the world’s most valuable orbital slot? DirecTV’s 101 degrees W appears to be at the top of the list, bringing in more than $4 billion a year from three satellites located at the position over the United States and generating more revenue than any other.

    Trailing behind is a pair of slots, 119 degrees and 110 degrees W, shared by Echostar and DirecTV. Together they brought in $2.7 billion for Echostar in 2000. And, while DirecTV also has satellites at that location generating revenue, they are not DirecTV’s core money-producing spacecraft. Next in line is SES Astra’s 19.2 degrees E position, where seven satellites reside, generating the majority of SES’ $735 million in revenue last year. Other runners-up for the short list of the world’s most valuable orbital real estate are Eutelsat’s 13 degrees E slot, the company’s premier Hot Bird position, holding five satellites and bringing in $263 million in revenue in 2000, and Intelsat’s 335.5 degrees E, a historically valuable slot in use since the mid 1960s that generated $111 million in 2000.

    Each of the operators controlling the most valuable pieces of orbital real estate has used a unique strategy to create a premier slot, but several common themes still arise in slot development”

    If you want to see the kind of movement you invision the issue of property rights has to finally be taken on and formalized.

  • James T

    Proposed FY2011 NASA Budget: $19 Billion
    Amount Attributed to SLS: $1.631 Billion
    FY2008 NASA Budget: $17.4 Billion
    The hypocrisy of Republican principles Vs. Republican pork: Priceless

    The SLS seems to me the perfect target for the ire of Republicans. Having already been estimated to exceed the budget and timetable proposed for it, and with no clearly defined mission in place to utilize it, cutting it entirely would represent exactly the budget reduction the party is looking for. Add to that the attractive conservative rhetoric of a preference for commercial entrepreneurialism over government bureaucracy. The Republican leadership really needs to jump on this and stop supporting the pork mongers within their ranks.

    And honestly, I say why stop there? Orion is sucking up another $1.1 Billion as pretty much just an escape pod. Those funds can be redistributed to CCDev and R&D into technologies needed for BEO and further robotic exploration. Shifting NASA’s focus from a launch operator to a launch customer provides a large chunk of the demand that the private sector needs to drive down costs. Shifting funds to work on useful payloads gives that industry even more business to compete for, especially with the kind of guaranteed business that something like refueling a refueling station would provide. As private sector costs are driven down, the service becomes more and more affordable for non-launch private entities, increasing the pool of potential customers, hopefully driving down costs even further (there has to be a “floor” somewhere).

    END the SLS, END the Pork, END the Hypocrisy, START building for a more sustainable launch infrastructure that will lead to a lucrative space economy.

  • common sense

    @GeeSpace wrote @ January 19th, 2011 at 11:43 am

    “Do you want a coherent argument based on history, sociology aspects, technical/engineering, cost (with some people call affordability), or some other significant (from your viewpoint) factor? My guess is that a coherent, objective argument based on all the factors listed above would not satisfy you.”

    I am not Robert but I will try what you don’t seem to understand: A coherent argument that appeals to the public. This is what is needed.

    Basically a return on investement argument. Define, exactly, what we will get with the money we invest. The public understands as a whole how money works, it is the definition of this country, the USA, so to speak. They do not and will not care about history, sociology, engineering and other things that do not show them what they get in return. The analogies to the railroad, Colombus, etc, however flawed they are, only satisfy our navel gazing community.

    Bluntly, when I put some money for investment I want to know what and when I will get back. Period. Try such an argument for once and see how it goes.

  • vluture4

    The Republicans who so intensely dislike Obama that they blame him for canceling the Shuttle are now protesting the prospect of cutting NASA’s budget from the higher level proposed by Obama back to where it was under Bush. At the same time they force NASA to continue spending money for parts of Bush’s program it doesn’t want.

  • Robert G. Oler

    GeeSpace wrote @ January 19th, 2011 at 11:43 am

    I believe that if you lived in the 1830’s or 1840’s you would not be involved in the western movement of people across the United States….

    we will never know …my relatives on the “Oler” side and all my relatives on the two family sides that made up my Great Grandmother and Grandmother all were first or second generation transplants from the old world. (ie in the case of my great grandmother she was the first generation of her family born in the US and my Grandmother was the second.

    The problem is that if my Great Grandmother’s family was alive today, they could no more go into space then my Great Grandmothers, Great Grandson can. And that is not because people dont want to, it is because 1) we have not the technology for mass movement into space of people, 2) we dont have anything that they can do in space to be self supportive and 3). the cost to keep them in space is more then anything that they can do in space to earn money.

    It was comparatively easy for my Great Grandmother (and my Great GRandfather’s) family (ies) to move out west. They didnt have to bring almost every essence of life with them, the technology that they did need was affordable and once they got to “Texas” they could find something to do that would make them nearly self sufficient….and all on their efforts.

    As it was at least half of my Great Grandfather’s family died on the way out to Texas and then when they got to what is now Fort STockton…they met the Comanches and barely hung on until technology gave the TExas Rangers repeating rifles.

    None of that is possible today in spaceflight and none of that can be made possible through human exploration of space with a government only program.

    We cannot just go to space and survive without almost 100 percent technology…and..the cost ofthe technology is enormous and unless things are found to be done in space that, like oil rigs out in the ocean, justify a human presence…then no one or nation is going to invest the money to have human settlements there.

    That is true for the US and true for any power on the Earth.

    Occasionally you read the science fiction papers of “sell everything you have and go to Mars”…and do what that generates the 99 percent rest of the dollars one needs to stay alive. No one ever says.

    YOu cannot name one thing on the Moon that a “colony” could do to justify its existence in terms of the cost to keep it there. And that is why Fort Stockton Texas was built and so far a lunar base has not.

    Robert G. Oler

  • There has never been a more expensive scientific project that has returned less value for what was spent.

    That’s because we shut down Constellation before it could make ISS look like a piker in that regard.

  • Major Tom

    “Proposed FY2011 NASA Budget: $19 Billion
    Amount Attributed to SLS: $1.631 Billion
    FY2008 NASA Budget: $17.4 Billion”

    Good observation and argument.

    FWIW…

  • Martijn Meijering

    There has never been a more expensive scientific project that has returned less value for what was spent.

    Or as Churchill might have said it: Never in the field of science has so little been owed by so few to so many.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Martijn Meijering wrote @ January 19th, 2011 at 3:50 pm

    “Or as Churchill might have said it: Never in the field of science has so little been owed by so few to so many….”

    or “never in the field of science has so much been spent by so many for so little”

    lots of ways.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    Justin Kugler wrote @ January 19th, 2011 at 12:02 pm

    “The ISS is the only asset HSF has once Shuttle retires. Abandoning that asset when it is just starting to come into its own would be foolish.”

    you are correct and I say that as someone who opposed ISS even after the FGB was launched…

    I have had a life long interest/passion in amateur radio. When I was 8 I got my ticket and saved up and bought with my parents help a Swan radio. Still have it, but at 8 I had had it about a week when of course I started longing for some of the really wonderful radios featured in QST. I was hinting around at that when my Saintly Father told me something that has rang in my ears ever since. “When you can use what you have as hard as it can be used, we will talk about something else”.

    And over the next 10 years I found that I could use that Swan harder and harder and more efficient…and in the process racked up 200 countries and a lot of DX on the Oscar satellites. My Swan still warms the ether down in Santa Fe.

    ISS is what we have…and we have to use it as hard as possible to bridge the future.

    Robert G. Oler WB5MZO

  • DCSCA

    @common sense wrote @ January 19th, 2011 at 2:49 pm

    “Basically a return on investement argument.”

    There is no ROI worthy of a high level of private sector investment. That’s why governments do it and will continue to do it for the forseeable future.

  • Robert G. Oler

    DCSCA wrote @ January 19th, 2011 at 4:52 pm

    “There is no ROI worthy of a high level of private sector investment. That’s why governments do it and will continue to do it for the forseeable future.”

    the question is “how” that they will do it.

    Does one want a NASA centered NASA controlled effort where there is enormous redundancy of and confusion of effort…or does one want a private enterprise centered effort.

    There is a reason that both SpaceX with the Falcon and North American aviation with the P-51 were able to do what they did and NASA/ATK did what they did

    when you learn the reasons, you have learnedsomething

    Robert G. Oler

  • DCSCA

    Stephen C. Smith wrote @ January 19th, 2011 at 9:26 am
    “I just finished reading a biography of Wernher von Braun. (Book review here.) The main lesson I took from the book is that the only times humanity has invested huge sums in money to advance rocketry have been when it was justified by a military necessity.”

    Duh. Been telling you that for months. Von Braun had been peddling his space philosophy virtually from the days he and his team arrived in New Mexico. Collier’s, Disney… any place that would give him a platform. He along with other space advocates of the era were pushing the idea long before Sputnik left the pad.

    “It was only after Sputnik I suggested the Soviets were ahead of us in intercontinental ballistic missile technology that he had his opportunity to put a satellite in orbit.” In accurate. The capability existed in the U.S. earlier than the Sputnik launch but his Army team was ‘denied’ by inter-service politiking rivalries. It’s pretty well documented. And, bear in mind, many of Von Braun’s ‘team’ were eventually peppered through the aerospace industry in key management positions at the ready as Apollo ramped up.

    “He became a national hero, and when Congress decided to create a civilian space agency (to show the world our intents in space were peaceful unlike those nasty Commies) he was in the right place at the right time to build his Moon rocket.”

    Von Braun had a rare mix of savvy marketing skills with sound engineering skills. Making a Faustian bargain allowed to take advantage of being in the’right place at the right time’ as well. Tom Lehrer’s little song on Von Braun sums him up perfectly. Of course, when NASA was created, Von Braun was initially opposed to working with it- believing the Army was a better source of funding. He later changed his mind and relented, ending up at Huntsvillle. He was considered to run the entire civilian agency, but it was not to be– his war record a part of the decision leave him at Huntsville.

    “His legacy was that he’d take funding whereever he could find it. Government funding is declining, but commercial space is on the uptick, so my guess is today he’d cast his lot with the private sector where he wouldn’t be subjected to the whims of politics. I think he and Elon Musk would be working together.”

    Rubbish. If anything, Von Braun would regard Musk as an irritant, syphoning precious government funding from larger, more comprehensive projects. If anything, he’d show how Musk is doing nothing new and repeating what he’d already accomplished half a century ago. Von Braun did little to embrace any private enterprised space efforts while he was alive– and he had the opportunity to do so as he and his Germans were moved out of NASA, post-Apollo. He focused his energies on government activities where the big money was for visionary projects– even working for Fairchild Industries, a contractor, toward the end of his life. And had he lived, he might well have found himself facing severe public scrutiny and revisionist criticisms similar to that experienced by one of his most trusted and life long rocket team members from the German days- Arthur Rudolph. You will never see a U.S. postage stamp with Von Braun’s face on it.

  • Its pretty easy to cut a ‘mission to nowhere’. And Obama pretty much set NASA up for this.

    But cutting NASA’s relatively tiny budget will have no impact on reducing the deficit. But it will have an impact on creating jobs, wealth, and technological advancement: a negative impact!

  • DCSCA

    YOu cannot name one thing on the Moon that a “colony” could do to justify its existence in terms of the cost to keep it there. And that is why Fort Stockton Texas was built and so far a lunar base has not.

    Fort Stockton is hardly an apt analogy to a lunar base. Try base camps at Antarctica. Still, suggest people for and against building a lunar base visit some websites and peruse the imagery from Apollo and reacquaint yourselves on, from the persepective of 2011, how utterly primative and sparse the first lunar excursions were- the full Hasselblad magazines make for interesting viewing, if only to see just how challenging constructing a lunar base will be in terms of just getting the resources there. The closest ER and Home Depot would be 240,000 miles away.

    http://www.apolloarchive.com/apollo_gallery.htm

  • @Oler

    NASA has sent several hundred people into space. They even put people on the Moon. In fact, NASA sent humans into orbit just 4 years after its creation. Space X has been around for nearly a decade, so how many people has Space X sent into orbit?

    And the idea that Space X has done wonderful things with absolutely no help from the US government in addition to the US government’s massive investment in space technology over the past 50 years is simply silly!

  • Justin Kugler

    I don’t disagree that the Station has cost more than it should have. That doesn’t change the fact that it’s all we’ve got to bridge the gap, nor does it change the fact that we don’t yet know what the ultimate return will really be. Einstein is attributed as saying that it wouldn’t be called “research” if we knew what we were doing beforehand. We’re learning as we go with Station, both in terms of operational capabilities and the scientific investigations.

    I think that putting the ISS in the Pacific Ocean before we fully utilize it and before we have a tangible exploration program actually doing things in space has an enormous risk of opening the NASA HSF enterprise, as a whole, to being shut down. That’s precisely the road we were headed down under Constellation.

  • common sense

    @ DCSCA wrote @ January 19th, 2011 at 4:52 pm

    “There is no ROI worthy of a high level of private sector investment.”

    No you are wrong. You cannot formulate one is the issue not that there is none. I’ll give you an example: SpaceX (start to like this?) is a new company hiring a lot of youth much more so than the usual defense contractors to work on space program(s). But they don’t just do this, they have interns as well in the pipeline. You have 20 somethings in charge of entire systems. And guess what I am going to say? They actually flew, successfully, rockets to orbit and returned a capsule on its first flight. This is the argument “give jobs to our youth” and keep technology going. SpaceX offers stocks and when/if they go public they will offer more wealth to their investors because they will sweep the market away from every one else in the business. You keep repeating the same inane story because you do not do any due diligence research. They are what the Boeings of the world were at their beginnings. And they are addressing several market including NASA’s. Let me remind you that they have a contract with NASA. Why do you think that is? Any idea? Want to venture one just for fun?

    “That’s why governments do it and will continue to do it for the forseeable future.”

    No this is not true. Governments do it for historical reasons including and in particular the Cold War. NASA HSF is a relique of the Cold War with a mix of call to higher powers for why we should “explore”. Another proof of the Cold War idiotic mentality is what is going oin at JPL (http://nasawatch.com/archives/2011/01/supreme-court-o.html). NASA is dragging their feet to let the entrepreneurs do what they do best. They fear for their jobs and rightfully so for some. It does not remove all due respect for NASA and their past accomplishments but that’s about it. NASA has not flown any new design in over 40 years. Those who designed Apollo are almost all gone, and those who designed Shuttle are either retired or gone as well since it was essentially the crew in the pipeline after Apollo. Government does this because that’s the way it’s been forever, no other reason. All you claim is past glory and nothing else. Glory however does not help design.

  • DCSCA

    Robert G. Oler wrote @ January 19th, 2011 at 5:04 pm
    The first ‘how’ for NASA is to survive through the Age of Austerity. It’s future lay as a civilian department/division of the DoD. In it’s current configuration, it’s doomed to a death by a thousand budget cuts.

  • Beancounter from Downunder

    ‘Robert G. Oler wrote @ January 19th, 2011 at 4:08 pm
    ‘Martijn Meijering wrote @ January 19th, 2011 at 3:50 pm

    “Or as Churchill might have said it: Never in the field of science has so little been owed by so few to so many….”

    or “never in the field of science has so much been spent by so many for so little”

    Love the Churchillian quotes. Quite made my day. Thanks.

  • Old Fart

    This has been a good discussion; I would like to add my 2 cents, for what it’s worth. Having been in the space industry for over 35+ years, serving & working primarily at KSC, VAFB, MSFC , and numerous other sites (down range) I had the privilege to meet and spend time with a lot of the real “old timers” {charter members if you will}. My view is the genesis of NASA came, in large part, as a political response to have a “Civilian” entity to respond to a direct military threat by the Soviets, to enable the administration to have a “technology venue” that is not viewed by the world as fueling an arms race and , more importantly , not detract the DOD from its core mission. The infamous Kennedy Challenge to go to the moon and return safely by the end of the decade was more about getting the Soviets to commit their limited resources to that goal and not expanding their ICBM capabilities any further than they were. As one charter member told me over dinner, “ we needed to find a way to draw them into a dead end and buy us time to get our act together” Going to the moon did that in a Macro way. The USSR did use and lose a lot of resources in their attempt, in-fact, they lost some very key technical leaders in a Pad accident in 1967 I believe, and never recovered. To repeat the Golf analogy the old man shared with me… “Eisenhower teed it up, Kennedy drove it down the fairway, and Regan tapped it in….” We simply outspent them with our wonderful free-market capitalist society that permitted access to large revenue stream while their deep rooted cultural inferiority complex left over from centuries and cultural pride in part pulled them into the challenge never realizing they were being diverted from the primary goal. I’ve been told Kennedy didn’t believe we would be able to do it and didn’t care, (well he cared, but it wasn’t an imperative) what was imperative, was that we publicly show the world and pressure the soviets to believe , we were “superior” to them. The folks of NASA did just that, God love them. I apologize for the wandering note, but I said all that to say this: I believe that it’s time to review the real purpose of NASA in the world we live in today and act accordingly. I would suggest that a strong argument could be made to reintegrate NASA back into something like DARPA, and any number of commercial options in the free market we enjoy today. How ironic that as of this writing we have NASA and DOD in some cases competing for limited resources and in many cases duplicating them within a mile or two of each other and in NASA’s case they don’t have a real goal other than survival…. If I didn’t know better id say this was part of a devious master plan by someone to divide us… but it’s not… its part of the cycle of life in an open free society . It’s clear, to me at least, that the recent administrations (pick a party) are unable to find a use for NASA in the way in which it was designed and NASA has become a victim to the good old boy pork spending and local jobs maker in over 10+ regions. The people of NASA I knew/ know deserved better than this fate, let it go…. Give them a real challenge or let them go.
    Respectfully, an Old Fart…

  • Bennett

    “Von Braun would regard Musk as an irritant, syphoning precious government funding from larger, more comprehensive projects.”

    Hah! So you’d paint the man as idiotic and narrow minded as DCSCA?

    How DARE you? ;-)

    And what is a “more comprehensive project” than a launch vehicle production facility that creates jobs and inspires a generation of young engineers?

    By the way, where is NASAs new LV?

    tick tock tick tock…..

  • Coastal Ron

    Marcel F. Williams wrote @ January 19th, 2011 at 5:46 pm

    Space X has been around for nearly a decade, so how many people has Space X sent into orbit?

    You do a poor imitation of DCSCA, which is not something you want to be known for…

  • Das Boese

    It’ll be interesting to see what your politicians come up with.
    Ending participation in ISS isn’t a realistic possibility, true, but funding cuts to the rest of the active space missions could have quite dire consequences, I’m thinking of the Mars orbiters and rovers specifically. Then there’s MSL which needs to be fully funded lest it is in danger of missing its launch window.

    I wonder how they would react if they were told that a budget cut to operations will force NASA to abandon the iconic Voyager probes?

  • red

    “Now, it is poised to serve as both an exploration technology development platform and the only National Laboratory with long-duration exposure to microgravity and the space environment. We’re going to be testing new, lighter, regenerative atmospheric scrubbers in an operational setting. We’re going to demonstrate optical communications and telepresence testbeds from orbit. AMS has paved the way, so we’re now getting interest for other fundamental physics payloads.”

    Yes, now that it’s up let’s make the most of it: super-charge the commercial cargo effort, jump-start commercial crew, try micro reentry vehicle services, try tug services, demonstrate inflatable habitats, demonstrate those scrubbers and much more along those lines, expand human research efforts, do other technology demos like the ones you mentioned and more, open up the science/research floodgates, add to the ISS capabilities, perhaps start thinking about creating and accessing a new, specialized, human-tended mini BEO ISS, etc.

    Get the JSC Congressional delegation on board. Supporting this sort of work will be a lot better for them than supporting SLS and MPCV, which have so many foes.

    We can lose SLS and MPCV to the budget cuts if a good chunk of their funding can be kept to super-charge this kind of ISS work and support.

  • James T

    Marcel F. Williams wrote @ January 19th, 2011 at 5:46 pm
    “NASA has sent several hundred people into space. They even put people on the Moon. In fact, NASA sent humans into orbit just 4 years after its creation. Space X has been around for nearly a decade, so how many people has Space X sent into orbit?”

    Just because SpaceX hasn’t done it yet doesn’t mean they never can. And the fact that NASA did it so quickly speaks more to the political climate of the time than to their efficiency as a program. The only thing NASA really proved was that you can accomplish things very rapidly with enough money and motivation.

    NASA had political motivations rushing its progress. They did it in 3 years with a budget of about $8 billion in today’s dollars, and even that wasn’t enough to beat the Russians. Deadlines are a great motivator, especially when there is plenty of funding to back it up. Yes, this was an amazing accomplishment, but don’t lose sight of the fact that the program was heavily funded and a very high political priority.

    SpaceX on the other hand has gotten as far as it has with a much smaller amount of initial investment. I couldn’t find exact figures for their entire investment history, but from what I could gather it looks looks less then a billion, and that’s including the COTS money. This is the investment capital only, not revenue they are being promised from contracts. As for the motivation of deadlines… they are right on track to meet the deadline for cargo transportation to the ISS, a deadline set by NASA’s shuttle retirement. Congressional forces are currently demanding a SLS by the end of 2016. In a way commercial can consider this its crew deadline, and they are already making the push to meet it.

    It’s only a matter of time before the first commercially launched human reaches orbit. It’s wrong to write off the private sector just because they didn’t do it as fast as NASA did during a very unique moment in history. The promise of commercial launch services has never been “as soon as possible with as much money as is needed.” The promise of commercial launch services is “as inexpensive as possible on reasonable timetable.”

  • Robert G. Oler

    DCSCA wrote @ January 19th, 2011 at 5:40 pm

    Fort Stockton is hardly an apt analogy to a lunar base. …

    Well…The post was addressing some persons notion of space being a frontier “like the west”…and explaining why that is not a good analogy.

    I agree with you that any lunar base will at its best for the foreseeable future be like research stations at the south pole.

    hung how. (sorry Chinese is bad but in honor of Premier insert name here being in the US)

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    Das Boese wrote @ January 19th, 2011 at 10:35 pm

    “I wonder how they would react if they were told that a budget cut to operations will force NASA to abandon the iconic Voyager probes?”

    NASA has turned off lots of probes/stations or starved them to death.

    Viking 1 lander at least was starved to death…the staff was reduced so far that they probably sent a wrong antenna pointing command and that well silenced the lander. To save 1 million or so a year they shut down the lunar stations left behind by Apollo…The early Pioneer probes are mostly still working but just beeping along out there…They shut down the IMP platforms to save money during shuttle.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    Old Fart wrote @ January 19th, 2011 at 9:27 pm

    that is a good synoposis and I find little to disagree with….

    as for the future I would say this. The fight between the US and the PRC in the next 20 years is going to be a battle over whose economic system works best. The Chinese have read the history of the cold war and understand how the US took Ivan down, and in no small measure due to American stupidity are reversing the theory on us…the US right now.

    There are several emerging pockets of economic engines around the world that are starting to influence events. I noticed that not widely covered in the US press was a pretty massive economic and social summit between the leaders of South Africa and India…two of the emerging powers.

    The issue is wheather or not Western style liberalism in our economy can work….and so far as the results are not all that pretty…or advantegous to the West.

    NASA”s role in the new reality should be a high tech space version of its predecessor NACA…and that is precisely where the current President is trying to put it.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Old Fart wrote:

    My view is the genesis of NASA came, in large part, as a political response to have a “Civilian” entity to respond to a direct military threat by the Soviets, to enable the administration to have a “technology venue” that is not viewed by the world as fueling an arms race and , more importantly , not detract the DOD from its core mission.

    That last part about not detracting from DOD is a factor mentioned in the books I’ve read recently (about Vanguard and Von Braun). When the U.S. opted to participate in the International Geophysical Year, one reason the Eisenhower White House went with Vanguard and not von Braun’s Project Orbiter is that they didn’t want this peaceful scientific effort to distract from ballistic missile development, which was considered to be a national priority for military purposes. The Vanguard people were told they couldn’t interfere with Cape operations, and were not a priority.

    Nobody involved saw Vanguard or the IGY as a “space race.” The goal was to launch a satellite sometime within the IGY. Vanguard had no military use.

    Von Braun and others understood what the public reaction might be if the Soviets launched first, but the White House just didn’t get it.

    I’m almost done with Paul Dickson’s book, Sputnik: The Shock of the Century, which is a great read on the subject.

    Having read these books, I can see why JFK concluded a massive publicity stunt was necessary. The American public thought a little metallic ball going beep-beep was a threat to national security, because it implied the Soviets had the technology to attack us from space. So if we built a really big rocket that could send someone to the Moon, our rockets must be better, right? Of course, rocket scientists and military experts knew better, but the hysteria in the late 1950s fueled by the press led the public to believe otherwise. JFK himself used the so-called “missile gap” in the 1960 election to get elected. So he rather trapped himself into that corner with his rhetoric.

    Another reason the Moon became JFK’s target had to do with some of the earliest hysteria after Sputnik I launched. Dickson’s book quotes some of the news reports and opinion articles. There were reports that the Soviets would send a man to the Moon within a week, or hit the Moon with a nuclear missile. One report even suggested the Soviets would hit the Moon with a giant payload of red dye that could be seen from the Earth! The public was obsessed that the Soviets would go after the Moon — with no evidence to suggest they had that capability — so JFK proposed the Moon as the public feared the Soviets would be there any day.

  • William Mellberg

    Stephen C. Smith wrote:

    “I can’t speak for von Braun, but I think that if he were alive today he’d be all for commercial space. His legacy was that he’d take funding wherever he could find it. Government funding is declining, but commercial space is on the uptick, so my guess is today he’d cast his lot with the private sector where he wouldn’t be subjected to the whims of politics. I think he and Elon Musk would be working together.”

    I can’t speak for Wernher von Braun, either, although I did meet him twice. And I was a friend of his close friend, professional colleague and biographer … Ernst Stuhlinger. Dr. Stuhlinger and I discussed the space program and von Braun’s vision at great length. Von Braun would have appreciated what Elon Musk and SpaceX are doing. But he wouldn’t have pinned his hopes and dreams on “commercial” space — or “Soyuz on Steroids.” Von Braun wanted to see a colony on the Moon (yes, he was a “Moon Firster”, to use that silly term) and a base on Mars. He knew the cost of such objectives would be beyond the capability of the private sector to support — at least in their initial phases (25-50 years). That is why throughout most of his career, Wernher von Braun worked for government agencies — even though some of his more prominent associates from Peenemunde took better paying jobs in the aerospace industry (e.g., Walter Dornberger at Bell Aircraft and Krafft Ehricke at General Dynamics). It was only when it became clear that the Nixon Administration wasn’t going to support a program of human space exploration beyond Earth orbit that von Braun accepted the offer of his old friend Ed Uhl to work for Fairchild. It was a convenient offer given the proximity of Fairchild’s headquarters to von Braun’s last home in suburban Washington. That was in the twilight of his career, although von Braun was genuinely interested in promoting Fairchild’s ATS satellites.

    I also knew Konrad Dannenberg, who worked on the A-4 (V-2) propulsion system and served as deputy manager for the Saturn Program. Like von Braun and Stuhlinger, he was bitterly disappointed that America dropped the ball and abandoned the Moon. That said, he also served as a consultant to Burt Rutan and was very happy to be at Mojave to see SpaceShipOne make history. But that was no substitute in his mind for going back to the Moon and on to Mars.

    I suspect that had they been alive last Spring … von Braun, Stuhlinger and Dannenberg would have been supporting their friends Neil Armstrong, Gene Cernan, Harrison Schmitt, George Mueller, Chris Kraft, Gene Kranz and all of the others who so vigorously opposed (and still oppose) ObamaSpace. It was not their vision to see the American space program stuck in Low Earth Orbit. Their dream was to explore the Moon and Mars. If you don’t believe me, pick up a copy of von Braun’s “The Mars Project” … or Ernst Stuhlinger’s outstanding biography, “Wernher von Braun: Crusader for Space.”

    Von Braun would have undoubtedly admired Musk. He probably would have encouraged him, as well. But NOT at the expense of government programs to go back to the Moon and on to Mars. I suspect Dr. von Braun would have been very frustrated by NASA’s new direction.

    DCSCA wrote:

    “Tom Lehrer’s little song on Von Braun sums him up perfectly.”

    No it didn’t. Tom Lehrer’s song was an insult to a great American. And, yes. Wernher von Braun was an American. As Ernst Stuhlinger told me on his 90th birthday, “I have been an American far longer than I was a German. And I am very proud to be an American.” So was von Braun. Anyone who suggests otherwise never met the man.

  • Justin Kugler

    red, all of those projects you mention are either under evaluation or in the pipeline. We’re actually standing up a new team in the Payloads Office just to handle all the exploration research & technology development that’s coming our way.

    William, thank you for bringing your first-hand experience to the conversation. From what I’ve read, I would tend to agree that von Braun and his colleagues would still be pushing for a robust NASA exploration program, even as they cheered companies like SpaceX, Orbital, and Virgin Galactic on.

  • byeman

    “Orbiter is that they didn’t want this peaceful scientific effort to distract from ballistic missile development”

    No, Ike wanted a civilian program to demonstrate the free passage of space, so that reconsats could overflight other countries. And in the end, Sputnik did it for him.

  • Old Fart

    Mr. Oler & Smith; and other posters
    I drug out the old original 1958 NASA SA and re-read it the other night and them compared it to the current version on line and it provides some interesting insight as to how the role of NASA has evolved, or some would say become unfocused. I would like to ask the forum , if i may , what they view as the “Sputnik” of today in 2011?? Some may say energy independence, or medical costs. Most of my neighbors/ freinds today dont lament the fact that we are lacking a cohesive HSF initiative,( although i certainly do!) instead I hear about how much gas costs or that their meds are going up again, etc. ohhh for another “moon shot” speech by a leader that says ” we will elimate the need for foreign oil by 2020.. or elimate cancer by 2030.. or soemthing like that that folks relate to and then, using the 1958 NASA SA as a model, establish another team and fund it , to go tackle that issue and get our young bright engineers enaged in that goal. That is what engineers want is a meaningful problem to solve, Lord knows we have many to choose from…as some one said just pick one.. any one please… so what is our “Sputnik” today that a team ala NASA 1958 could be tasked to go solve?
    thank you

  • Ferris Valyn

    Old Fart – the problem is you won’t find a sputnik moment these days, because a key aspect of that situation was the need of a crash program (which the moonshot program was) that was largely built around having enough engineers working on a single project.

    Short version – we are too politically/culturally diverse to find a sputnik moment

  • Ferris Valyn

    Mr. Mellberg – Actually, the original FY2011 proposal did the necessary work needed to to make the original Collier’s articles a reality.

    So the fundmenetal question when asking whether von Braun could understand the need for advance technology (he did push the idea of fuel depots very very hard), or would he have been more interested in just hearing people say we were going back to the moon?

  • Young Art

    them a real challenge or let them go

    George Bush did that, it was called the Vision for Space Exploration.

    They failed – absolutely, completely and miserably. After a long string of previous failures – X-planes, Space Launch Initiative and Orbital Space Plane.

    And now you want to give them yet another chance. Sure. Uh-huh. They can’t even get to LEO on their own anymore, let alone to the ISS.

  • Dennis Berube

    Today, I dont think there is the urgency of a Sputnik moment. I think the only thing that could reallly bring that about, would be what Reagon said: “A threat from out there!”.

  • Coastal Ron

    William Mellberg wrote @ January 20th, 2011 at 7:09 am

    Von Braun wanted to see a colony on the Moon (yes, he was a “Moon Firster”, to use that silly term) and a base on Mars.

    Not that I have the trademark on the term “Moon First”, but I use it for those that want to go to the Moon first, both without the proper infrastructure support, and to the exclusion of other worthwhile missions (Lagrange, NEO’s, etc.). The term is only relevant for today’s discussion, not the aspirations of those 40 years ago.

    Von Braun would have appreciated what Elon Musk and SpaceX are doing.

    I think what he would have appreciated most is that SpaceX is getting things done in a capital efficient manner, whereas NASA has degraded to the point where it can’t manage large programs within a budget or schedule anymore. As someone who was used to building and launching rockets, you wouldn’t expect him to be rooting against SpaceX, would you?

    It was not their vision to see the American space program stuck in Low Earth Orbit.

    You keep confusing the idea of the Constellation program with the reality of the failing program Constellation actually was. That’s why you qualify as a “Moon First” person. When someone starts saying “I don’t care how much money it costs, I want to go there”, that’s when a program should be restructured or cancelled. Congress saw the light and agreed to cancel the program – when will you finally accept that?

    The lesson you should take from this is that there needs to be a national will to spend the money needed to go back to the Moon, and according to Congress it’s not there. Your time would be better spent in creating that desire, instead of moaning about the 99% of the population that doesn’t get why they should be shelling out $Billions for your lunar dreams.

  • Vladislaw

    “4 years after its creation. Space X has been around for nearly a decade, so how many people has Space X sent into orbit?” “

    A very bad comparison as NASA had one hell of lot more resources.

    “The Mercury program cost approximately $384 million,[3] the equivalent of about $2.9 billion in 2010 dollars.”
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_Mercury

    SpaceX has spent less than a billion, why not have the government give SpaceX 300 million and see if he can launch a crew seven times larger than mercury for about 1.1 billion in total.

  • Martijn Meijering

    without the proper infrastructure support

    A very good way to develop the necessary infrastructure is to go beyond LEO as soon as possible (not necessarily all the way to the moon, not necessarily manned) before you have it and leave it up to industry to develop the necessary infrastructure on their own dime (in other words: out of retained profits). Missions are for NASA, infrastructure is something for industry. That includes launch vehicles obviously, so either your spacecraft or your EDS (or both) will have to be refuelable. The former is easier and development of the latter falls under the category of infrastructure, and should be left to industry.

  • Ferris Valyn

    Coastal Ron

    You keep confusing the idea of the Constellation program with the reality of the failing program Constellation actually was. That’s why you qualify as a “Moon First” person. When someone starts saying “I don’t care how much money it costs, I want to go there”, that’s when a program should be restructured or cancelled. Congress saw the light and agreed to cancel the program – when will you finally accept that?

    If you don’t mind me jumping in here…

    I would not characterize Mr. Mellberg as a Moon firster. IMHO, a moon firster is someone who believes that as humanity progresses out, the first big focus should be on the moon, but who understands the need for new tech, for things like cheap LEO access, and who can see an integrated approach that allows for doing the moon while also developing other parts of space. Most importantly, a moon firster can look at what is enabled by a plan, and not have to have it spelled out, and realize that a plan that is destination neutral can still help them. People like Mike Mealling and Dennis Ray Wingo are great examples of a moon firster.

    People like Mr. Mellberg I would submit are Moon Worshipers or Moon fetishers, because they want a detailed plan that will get them to the moon by such and such date, and don’t look at the surrounding issues, cannot consider a plan that is destination neutral as beneficial, and don’t consider how things like
    cheap LEO access helps develop the moon.

    In short, merely having a politican say we are going to the moon is more worthwhile than developing the systems to develop space & visiting places like the moon. IE they want Apollo back. Thats why they can’t integrate commercial space into BEO space exploration.

  • DCSCA

    @William Mellberg wrote @ January 20th, 2011 at 7:09 am
    Re- Tom Lehrer. Yes it did, whether you like it or not, so won’t waste time arguing with you. Read it/sing it ,word for word, and it captures his persona to a tee. The lyrics are available on line:

    http://www.guntheranderson.com/v/data/wernherv.htm

    Spent a few days w/Von Braun myself in ’74– met the man and he resided across the corridor from me for the length of the seminar. Still have a signed book in my library. Lehrer sumed him up perfectly. Even at that late stage in his life his confidence (if not arrogance) was astonishingly strong and vivid in candid conversations. Of course, in that setting, he was trying to light young minds. He was clearly not a reflective sort. Bear in mind, this takes nothing away from any admiration as to his accomplishments as a space pioneer, marketer and engineer, but the truth behind his dealings in Germany, mostly hidden from the American public during his lifetime and only recently surfacing after his passing is not a pretty tale. Having lived in London for several years near a site where one of his ‘creations’ landed, his past is not a some abstract fact in a history book. There’s little doubt had he lived, he’d have experienced some caustic scrutiny similar to that experienced by one of his trusted and lifelong colleagues from the German rocket days at Dora and Nordhausen, Arthur Rudolph. Von Braun’s background was overlooked and he allowed to become a ‘naturalized’ American chiefly because of his skill set, not the content of his character. The Faustian bargain got people off the planet in this era of human history- but at great human cost. And unlike other great ‘American’ engineets and scientists, there will be no U.S. postage stamp issued for Wernher Von Braun.

    Von Braun was not a ‘moon firster’ either. He held visions of space travellers heading to Mars but adjusted his goal accordingly when the moon became the focus of interest to the eyes of deep-pocketed governments of the era. Still, any moon base in the future of human space exporation will have the characteristics of a research facility at Antarctica. Again, reacquaint yourself with some of the Apollo surface imagery (the full Hasselblad magazines give it the proper perspective) and you’ll see that securing any foothold in that sparse, barren locale is going to take a huge amount of resources- both technological and financial– to establish and maintain. Which makes all the ‘chatter’ of manned trips to Mars with some planning to ‘retire’ there all the more unrealistic if not silly in the Age of Austerity. A thought reinforced by my morning paper which says Congress wants a 8% budget cut for NASA. Goodbye, voyages to Mars, hello, vacations to Mars, Pennsylvania.

  • William Mellberg

    Ferris Valyn wrote:

    “People like Mr. Mellberg I would submit are Moon Worshipers or Moon fetishers …”

    There you go again with your insults and name-calling. I’ve already told you why the “fetish” term is insulting and insensitive. And I worship God, not the Moon.

    So much for the President’s call for civility in debates and discussions.

    Why am I not surprised, Mr. Valyn?

  • DCSCA

    @common sense wrote @ January 19th, 2011 at 6:40 pm

    Inaccurate. The 80-plus year history of rocketry demonstrates otherwise. Governments funds rocket/space projects- exploration or military- because of the huge costs involved and the geopolitical/strategic benefits derived. Substantial financial ROI is simply not there for the private sector. The very parameters of the free market in this era dictate the limitations of any ROI for private enterprised space ventures. Nothing is stopping the private enterprise from soaring to the stars except the very limitations of the free market they wish to service. That’s the way it is in this era.

    @William Mellberg wrote @ January 20th, 2011 at 7:09 am

    “I suspect that had they been alive last Spring … von Braun, Stuhlinger and Dannenberg would have been supporting their friends Neil Armstrong, Gene Cernan, Harrison Schmitt, George Mueller, Chris Kraft, Gene Kranz and all of the others who so vigorously opposed (and still oppose) ObamaSpace. It was not their vision to see the American space program stuck in Low Earth Orbit. Their dream was to explore the Moon and Mars. If you don’t believe me, pick up a copy of von Braun’s “The Mars Project” … or Ernst Stuhlinger’s outstanding biography, “Wernher von Braun: Crusader for Space.” Von Braun would have undoubtedly admired Musk. He probably would have encouraged him, as well. But NOT at the expense of government programs to go back to the Moon and on to Mars. I suspect Dr. von Braun would have been very frustrated by NASA’s new direction.”

    ^Well said. VB would have ‘admired’ Musk’s enterprise but regarded him as an irritant and fought any effort to syphon off gov’t funding. Although VB was ‘frustrated’ by ‘NASA’s new direction’ as early as ’73, when all the ‘Germans’ were being moved out of NASA management positions. Joining Fairchild Industries was the first private sector job he’d ever accepted.

  • Coastal Ron

    Ferris Valyn wrote @ January 20th, 2011 at 2:26 pm

    MHO, a moon firster is someone who believes that as humanity progresses out, the first big focus should be on the moon, but who understands the need for new tech, for things like cheap LEO access, and who can see an integrated approach that allows for doing the moon while also developing other parts of space.

    OK, I was not not familiar with that group, nor the people you identified. I would probably identify them differently, but I’m open to whichever definition is more widely known.

    Moon Worshipers

    OK, but I guess I’ve wanted to try and use terms that were more descriptive than emotion laden, so that the conversation doesn’t get sidetracked too early.

    In general, William Mellberg and his like-minded friends see the starting point for our outward expansion as the Moon. My view has been that the Moon is one of the many resources we’ll depend upon as we expand into space, but that it’s not truly needed yet. Explore the heck out of it with robotic assets, yes, but it’s not time to commit our space program to it’s occupation.

    My $0.02

  • Ferris Valyn

    Mr. Mellberg – fetish is not insulting an insensitive. Its an accurate description of the situation. And i’ve provided definitions for WHY its accurate. (and for those who care, I’ll repost them)

    fetish definition

    1. an object regarded with awe as being the embodiment or habitation of a potent spirit or as having magical potency.
    2. any object, idea, etc., eliciting unquestioning reverence, respect, or devotion: to make a fetish of high grades.

    Your problem is you only assume the psychological definition for the word fetish. And there are other definitions. And so I deny that there is any lack of civility.

    You, and some other people here, want to get to the moon primarily by recreating Apollo, and ignore anything else. And, to a degree, you don’t even need to re-create Apollo – you just need someone to say they are re-creating Apollo. And thats good enough.

    If you prefer, I’ll use the term Moon obsessionist. Because you aren’t a moon-firster. People like Mike Mealling and Dennis wingo are moon-firsters. IMHO, the Augustine report did a good job of discussing moon-firsters (which is a fair, and reasonable viewpoint).

  • Ferris Valyn

    whoops, bad formatting on my part – that 2nd quote is suppose to be me

  • William Mellberg

    Ferris Valyn wrote @ January 20th, 2011 at 5:32 pm

    “Mr. Mellberg – fetish is not insulting an insensitive. Its an accurate description of the situation.”

    As I said … so much for civility.

    But I’m not surprised. Just disappointed that you repeatedly employ name calling and ad hominem attacks to make your case. Do the words “polite” or “respect” or “maturity” or “good manners” mean anything to you?

  • DCSCA

    The way forward was layed out pretty well by that op-ed penned by Chris Kraft some months ago. Whether it is an American effort remains to be seen, but expending limited resources planning manned trips to Mars in the Age of Austerity is a waste.

  • Jeff Foust

    May I recommend that Messrs. Mellberg and Valyn take their discussion about language and civility offline? Thanks for your cooperation in keeping the discussions here on-topic and, um, civil.

  • common sense

    @ DCSCA wrote @ January 20th, 2011 at 4:48 pm

    “Inaccurate. The 80-plus year history of rocketry demonstrates otherwise.”

    I did not know that rocketry was 80 years old. Since when?

    “Governments funds rocket/space projects- exploration or military- because of the huge costs involved and the geopolitical/strategic benefits derived.”

    You mix up everything. Please tell us ALL the rocket/space projects that have geopolitical/strategic benefits. Especially those done under the auspices of NASA.

    “Substantial financial ROI is simply not there for the private sector. The very parameters of the free market in this era dictate the limitations of any ROI for private enterprised space ventures.”

    And you know that because?

    “Nothing is stopping the private enterprise from soaring to the stars except the very limitations of the free market they wish to service. That’s the way it is in this era.”

    As you say “nothing” is stopping them and just showed it to you recently with SpaceX, a little while ago with VG, another time with X-Cor and Armadillo and so on and so forth. And some of these people are either contracted by NASA or have strong ties with NASA. So?

  • common sense

    I never met von Braun. I never read his biography either. Nope. Wait I did not meet his neighbors, his cousins nor his dogs if he had any. I could not say whether he’d support Elon Musk or Senator Shelby or both. And whatever he’d think I am not sure that would be reason enough to follow him today. Von Braun despite all his controversy was an improbable man that helped put people on the Moon for a few hours, 40 years ago. He is also someone who participated in the genocide of other people lest we forget. I don’t think his viewpoint would adequately represents today’s geopolitical context and people.

    So I am glad to just ignore whatever some people are putting forth he might have thought and said, or not. I might as well consult a palm reader to make such statements. This only is a form of sensationalism. Sorry.

  • William Mellberg

    common sense wrote @ January 21st, 2011 at 1:06 am

    “I did not know that rocketry was 80 years old. Since when?”

    Perhaps you should read von Braun’s biography (which you say you didn’t read). Or better yet, Milton Lehman’s classic biography of Robert Goddard. He launched the world’s first liquid fuel rocket in 1926. That was 84 years ago. Which answers your question, “Since when?”

  • common sense

    @ William Mellberg wrote @ January 21st, 2011 at 9:16 am

    Maybe you should read history… See how far back “rocketry” goes…

    Oh well…

  • William Mellberg

    common sense wrote @ January 21st, 2011 at 11:27 am

    “Maybe you should read history… See how far back ‘rocketry’ goes …”

    The Chinese and Congreve weren’t aiming for space. Goddard was. Which is why his 1919 paper was entitled, “A Method of Reaching Extreme Altitudes” — the final chapter of which described how rockets could be used to reach the Moon. Moreover, Goddard built and flew the first ‘modern’ rockets. The basic design of his New Mexico liquid fuel rockets wasn’t all that different from von Braun’s V-2. Which is why von Braun testified on Esther Goddard’s behalf in her patent infringement case (even though the Peenemunde team had come up with the same ideas quite independently). And unlike Tsiolkovsky who was a theorist, Goddard actually built and flew his rockets.

    Oh, well …

  • common sense

    @ William Mellberg wrote @ January 21st, 2011 at 3:54 pm

    I see. So rocketry is about aiming for “space”? Maybe you want to check what a rocket really is? For example: http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&client=safari&rls=en&defl=en&q=define:rocketry&sa=X&ei=Tgk6TaWYF4SasAOk67WhAw&ved=0CBcQkAE

    You and others turn and twist history and technology (that you do not understand) until it fits your goals. The problem is that it does not work, eventually.

    So the reality actually is this http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rocket
    I guess we are almost going full circle. Yep. China again? Can you believe this? Life is hard work…

    Oh well…

  • DCSCA

    @common sense wrote @ January 21st, 2011 at 1:06 am
    common sense wrote @ January 21st, 2011 at 11:27 am
    Modern rocketry, if you’ve been following the narrative. Maybe you should keep up with the narrative. But then, Jupiter has a dense atmosphere, too. ‘Oh well’ indeed… deep subject for you.

  • DCSCA

    common sense wrote @ January 21st, 2011 at 1:20 am
    “I never met von Braun. I never read his biography either.” Uh-huh. Well, ignorance is bliss, no doubt, however, it pretty much nullifies your viewpoints on the subject. Yes, the commerical space side of the argument is where you belong.

  • common sense

    @ DCSCA wrote @ January 22nd, 2011 at 6:04 am

    Your post below. Where did you write “modern”? I know it is difficult for you to understand what “you” write let alone what others write. But try your life will be a-changing.

    DCSCA wrote @ January 20th, 2011 at 4:48 pm
    @common sense wrote @ January 19th, 2011 at 6:40 pm

    Inaccurate. The 80-plus year history of rocketry demonstrates otherwise. Governments funds rocket/space projects- exploration or military- because of the huge costs involved and the geopolitical/strategic benefits derived. Substantial financial ROI is simply not there for the private sector. The very parameters of the free market in this era dictate the limitations of any ROI for private enterprised space ventures. Nothing is stopping the private enterprise from soaring to the stars except the very limitations of the free market they wish to service. That’s the way it is in this era.

  • common sense

    @DCSCA wrote @ January 22nd, 2011 at 6:09 am

    “Uh-huh. Well, ignorance is bliss, no doubt, however, it pretty much nullifies your viewpoints on the subject.”

    I see. And you know so much more than I do, right? NASA under DoD right?

    “Yes, the commerical space side of the argument is where you belong.”

    Commerical? How about spelling lessons? It explains though why you have such a hard time with others’ posts.

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