NASA, Other

Are spaceships like farm subsidies?

In a related story to the previous post about Sen. Marco Rubio’s (R-FL) op-ed on human spaceflight, the Daily Caller reports on similar comments made by George LeMieux, the Florida Republican planning to run for the Senate against incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson. (LeMieux served in the Senate in 2009 and 2010, filling out the remainder of Sen. Mel Martinez’s term after he retired; that seat is now held by Rubio.) According to the report, LeMieux talked to reporters Tuesday about the importance of cutting spending—except when it comes to spaceflight:

“There are very few things the federal government should be doing,” LeMieux said during a conference call with reporters Tuesday. “But one of the few things the federal government can only do is space exploration. We are seeing good private sector folks that are trying to go into low-Earth orbit and that’s great and we should encourage them, but the only folks that are going to go to an asteroid or go to Mars is going to be NASA.”

The article added that LeMieux called cuts to NASA “criminal”. The Daily Caller sees a “real dilemma” for Florida Republicans on this issue. “You see, space ships are to the Sunshine State what farm subsidies are to Iowa,” the article claims: efforts politicians back even if they may clash with broader ideological principles. “Almost all potential Florida up-and-comers looking to make waves on the national scene must defend NASA to make it anywhere beyond Tallahassee.” This could also be true for a few places outside Florida, like Houston, Huntsville, and northern Utah, which all have significant local economic stakes in government human spaceflight efforts in particular; note Rep. Mo Brooks’ (R-AL) comments earlier this week.

And the irony of all this is that while LeMieux said that only NASA can go to asteroids and Mars, Elon Musk is claiming he can send people to Mars in 10-20 years.

162 comments to Are spaceships like farm subsidies?

  • amightywind

    And the irony of all this is that while LeMieux said that only NASA can go to asteroids and Mars, Elon Musk is claiming he can send people to Mars in 10-20 years.

    Not irony. Delusion. Let’s take stock. Musk wants to provide manned and unmanned transportation to ISS, he wants to loft Air Force and NRO payloads (on a Rube Goldberg rocket with 54 thrust chambers!), and he wants to send people to Mars. Meanwhile his primary launcher has had 2 problematic flights in a year and done nothing of value. This carnival barker never learned the idea of ‘under promise, over deliver’.

  • Dennis Berube

    When is the next Dragon flight schedualed? When will the CST-100 lift off, or for that matter any other spacecraft after the last shuttles. I truly hope we are not being led down a dark alley, and that Mr. Musk, can get us to Mars in that time frame. If his Falcon heavy proves itself, the maybe it is possible. It will all boil down to the CASH flow, as usual.

  • Dennis Berube

    Hey heres a thought: Replace Bolden with Elon Musk as head of NASA! The leaner meaner NASA!

  • CharlesHouston

    One thing we should think about – “redundancy” and “corporate goals”. If the chief of the MPCV/Orion program retires – the program goes on. If the chief of the CST-100 retires – the program goes on. Both of those teams have a corporate goal of flying the vehicle. What about SpaceX? If Elon is distracted – will SpaceX continue? Will Dragon fly (always wanted to work that in somehow)? That is one reason that we should weight the efforts of larger, more bureaucratic organizations differently – they do not move as fast (which can be a good thing as well as a bad thing).
    Elon Musk says they are going to do things in 20 years – is he still going to be here, directing those efforts?

  • CharlesHouston

    Ok, second comment to distinguish it from the first.
    Tobacco subsidies are spent on consumer goods and so boost the economy some – though the product causes increased government costs at some point. Subsidies for ethanol production are spent on consumer goods but increase the costs of food, fuel, etc. So those subsidies are not good for the country as a whole. They do not inspire students or motivate new technologies.
    A space program does produce new industries and capabilities – geosynch communication satellites, etc. It does inspire students.
    So there is a measureable difference between those two types of expenditures.

  • Ferris Valyn

    CharlesHouston – But by that same token, NASA has been trying for 20 years to get a shuttle replacement, and failing.

    I don’t view that as a track record that is particularly good

  • What about SpaceX? If Elon is distracted – will SpaceX continue?

    This is a silly question. SpaceX has a management team, including a president. It is not Elon Musk.

  • Coastal Ron

    CharlesHouston wrote @ April 27th, 2011 at 9:53 am

    What about SpaceX? If Elon is distracted – will SpaceX continue? Will Dragon fly

    A reasonable question. At what point does a company become big enough to sustain the loss of it’s leader?

    For SpaceX, they now number over 1,200 employees and their President (Shotwell) and engine designer/Director (Markusic) have been there from the start, so it’s apparent that Musk doesn’t do everything. Musk is also CEO of Tesla, and does spend a significant amount of time there, so SpaceX should be used to not seeing Musk around every day, or maybe not even every week, though he would keep in touch on a daily basis.

    They have also been filling high level positions with ex-NASA astronauts like Bowersox and Reisman, so they are clearly focusing on the future.

    That is one reason that we should weight the efforts of larger, more bureaucratic organizations differently – they do not move as fast (which can be a good thing as well as a bad thing).

    Believe of not, but the same question can be asked about companies like Boeing and Lockheed Martin, since CEO’s set a lot of the tone for the company, and bringing in a new one can instigate large changes that aren’t always good.

    But that’s why you should evaluate companies based on the company as a whole, and not just the person who represents them.

  • nom de plume

    I think the dilemma for Florida politicians is that after Shuttle ends, most of NASA’s new programs and budget will be spent at the other NASA Centers and their associated contractors and University partners. End of Shuttle equals large cuts to KSC’s launch and base operation budgets, hence down-sizing the workforce by several thousands. Necessary to clean house and reduce future launch costs, but still painful to those who love their role in the space program but won’t be part of future programs. Maybe KSC will receive several hundred million for launch facility improvement projects, but unlikely that current workforce has the necessary skill set.

    Have the politicians from AL, TX, UT, and CA been more effective than FL’s lately at steering funds and new programs, for the benefit of their constituents and contributors? FL political acumen in the House seems sort of bush league lately (sorry Jeb & W).

    As for Musk and SpaceX, I hope they can deliver the vehicles on-time, within budget, and without mishaps. From what I’ve seen on the web and in documentaries about some commercial space companies, they are hiring real talent, hardworking, efficient and frugal. Now if they can also avoid the bureaucratic entanglements, lower launch costs may soon become reality.

  • amightywind

    Will Dragon fly (always wanted to work that in somehow)? That is one reason that we should weight the efforts of larger, more bureaucratic organizations differently – they do not move as fast (which can be a good thing as well as a bad thing).

    Very interesting point. Despite Simberg’s denial, Musk personifies SpaceX and clearly to revels in the role. It earned him a following among the Newspace progressive set, and enemies in the GOP. What can you say about a non-engineer who assigns himself the role of CTO? It has harmed SpaceX’s prospects. SpaceX is not Apple. Elon Musk is not Steve Jobs.

  • Coastal Ron

    CharlesHouston wrote @ April 27th, 2011 at 9:59 am

    A space program does produce new industries and capabilities – geosynch communication satellites, etc.

    Maybe back in the 60′s we got a boost in technical innovation from the space program, but over the past 40 years it’s been a myth that the space program contributes anything proportionally bigger than what any other industry does.

    Your example kind of proves the point.

    The consumer and military markets drive far more innovation, and produce far more spin-off industries than the space program. Try coming up with a list of “industries and capabilities” that prove your point, and apply a $$ amount to it. I don’t think you’ll be able to prove your point with facts.

    As far as the “It does inspire students” part, maybe for the few that are entertained by that stuff, but what most students want is a career path they can get excited about – the place, the work being done, their future career path, the “buzz” behind the company, and even the pay scale. 300 million U.S. citizens can’t work for the handful of space related companies, so let’s not make it the cornerstone of our educational system.

  • E.P. Grondine

    “We are seeing good private sector folks that are trying to go into low-Earth orbit and that’s great and we should encourage them, but the only folks that are going to go to an asteroid or go to Mars is going to be NASA.”

    This reminds me of Nixon prattling on about Quemoy and Matsu in the 1960′s elections.

    No one gave a sh*t.

    Get with the times.
    What only NASA can do is find the next impactor before it hits.
    Planetary protection from impact is rightly a government responsibility,
    and NASA is the correct part of the government to handle that task.

    In the end, all launchers are built by the private sector.
    ATK failed to deliver a cost effective launcher to LEO,
    and that happened under W.
    There’s no point in letting the rest of the US space industry suffer.
    Its time to move on.

  • Gary Anderson

    This conservative Republican just read up on ‘Project Morpheus’ at NASA’s TX Johnson Space Center. A ‘green space project’ in TX? I love the irony.

    ISS stays, $100 billion is not going to be ‘wasted’. (I would have preferred the Reagan Freedom concept over the Clinton/Bush scale down ISS, but it is what it is.)

    To tie into the above, so whomever, NASA or commercial ‘newspace’, goes to Mars ‘first’, it will be because of new technologies such as Morpheus that ‘must’ be developed.

    “…It is extremely cheap and safe to operate and test, and performs better – much more so than hypergols, another type of fuel often used in spaceflight.

    In addition, the methane can also be made from ice on the moon or Mars. In fact, about 1,000 pounds of methane are produced on International Space Station and dumped overboard as waste gas every year – enough to entirely fill the Morpheus lander….”

    http://morpheuslander.jsc.nasa.gov/

    Now as a conservative Republican, I hate taxpayer money being wasted. Years ago, I was disapointed in the selection of a capsule vs lifting body for Constellation, but I rallied behind it because, it was something. As a space enthusiast, I just wanted once, just once, Republicans and democrats to come together and stick to a decision and a direction. Well as we long now know, that desire didn’t materialize, and I’m afraid likely never will.

    I submit, the Republican Bush administration in charge then, chose wrong on Constellation, (right for the financial reasons at the time from their vantage point). I have freely stated here, the Obama NASA administration has chosen correctly in funding commercial (albeit started thankfully by pro-commercial Republican values), although the way forward has been too fuzzy for my like.

    I’m a firm believer in Moon first, I don’t care how, but ISS is a starting point, then maybe then to a stable gravity point, just build a darn thing that can go back and forth from LEO to Lunar orbit then back again ‘back and forth back and forth’, it seems to be a simple concept, and I’m sure the math wizzes can come up with an algorithim to make a future spaceship work.

    Dream Chaser (newspace) riding on ULA rocket (oldspace) to LEO ISS can’t we all get along? J2X (old space) to lunar w/ Armadillo (newspace) riding along to land can’t we all get along?

    FWIW I affix my name. ;)

  • Robert G. Oler

    common sense wrote @ April 27th, 2011 at 12:32 am

    @Robert G. Oler wrote @ April 26th, 2011 at 9:51 pm

    “The right wing and the tea party in general never cease to amaze me about the
    dumb dullards that lead them…really fascinating”

    You replied:
    “You mean scary right? Can you imagine one of them “leading” the country??? Then again it might be Trump. I wonder when the GOP will be serious again about its leaders”

    The GOP will not have serious leaders until the leaders start appealing to serious people with serious issues. Lee Atwater started the notion of appealing to a base and anchoring is election theories on a base that is not really “solid” but swayed a lot by its preconceived notions and rhetoric. This is the “soft on defense” line Windy used on the last thread…and now it is the AMerican exceptionalism. The GOP right now is stuck defining themselves to a base that is not very sophisticated. On the Huckabee facebook page people are suggesting that the Senate/House pass a bill requiring the SCOTUS to take up the Obama health care plan on Cert (that is not in The Constitution)…even Eric Cantor thought if the House passed something twice it was law..

    This is the notion of constituency pander (which is here and on the last thread…here with a Dem) taken to its ultimate limit and on a national scale. It is no longer enough to simply disagree with X or Y…now if the base of the GOP disagrees with you the leaders urge things like “You are for the terrorist” or “You are not an American” (which is there stick on Obama) .

    It will be interesting to see where this takes the party…the townhall meetings where the Ryan budget (not withstanding Whittington’s wishful thinking) is encountering a lot of head winds may be the first sign that the rhetoric is wearing thin.

    The problem of course in space politics and policy is that it is caught up all in jobs with the shuttle and the shuttle workforce ITSELF thinking that they are entitled. Most of them buy the link between NASA and defense because 1) they need to feel important and 2) it justifies them taking a government paycheck when they are as a group mostly oppossed to government handouts.

    Many years ago when I was on the School board we instituted a policy of trying to help children from low economic levels particpate in things like band and drill team and cheerleading, things that do require some disposable income from the parents and these kids didnt have that.

    One astronaut came to the school board meeting and complained pretty hard (his daughter had missed one of the drill team selections) about “people who live on a government check” (his word for welfare) and my reply was “you live on a government check as well, what makes you different?”

    The NASA HSF Folks live in an entitlement world. If you want the latest example go read the proposals at NASAspaceflight.com for a Block 1 shuttle heavy lift that spends about 18 billion developing a shuttle C from shuttle knockoff parts and flies EXACTLY FOUR OF THEM.

    Thats just goofy

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    amightywind wrote @ April 27th, 2011 at 10:40 am

    “Very interesting point. Despite Simberg’s denial, Musk personifies SpaceX and clearly to revels in the role. It earned him a following among the Newspace progressive set, and enemies in the GOP. What can you say about a non-engineer who assigns himself the role of CTO? ”

    Simberg is more right on his wrong days then you are on your right days…and this is one example of it.

    You folks try and find any little problem to dump on new space with…now it is who is heading it.

    In the end what you cannot argue with is results. Oh you can try and BS and do all the things you do…but in the end Falcon 9 has flown twice. Ares had a suborbital test flight of a non standard design, spent 10 billion dollars and the test flight cost more then SpaceX has spent on success.

    And you claim to be for small government seesh…you and Whittington (are you him?)

    Robert G. Oler

  • MrEarl

    I have no doubt that under the right conditions, SpaceX could do a “Boots and Flags” mission to Mars in the 10 to 20 year time frame Musk talks about. Realistically it would require heavy government funding and the assumption of risks far greater than those faced by Apollo and the results would be much the same thing as the Apollo missions, and that is leaving markers for those who will get on with the real business of moving man’s presence into the solar system.
    While Simberg is technically correct, as that video link that Jeff references shows, it’s Musk that is the driving force behind SpaceX and it is a legitimate question to ask what would happen if, for whatever reason, he was not as heavily involved as he is now.
    Mr. LeMieux is correct when he states that only the federal government can do space exploration at this time. Only the federal government can afford the sustained and expensive funding required for space exploration and to move our presence further into the solar system. The whole farm subsidies is a little out there though.
    What is really disappointing is that in 2004, with the announcement of the Vision for Space Exploration, we had a plan to begin human space exploration in a reasonable and sustained manner. That plan started to go off course with Griffen’s obsession with the Mar’s ships Aries I &V and was crushed outright by this administration. As long as we have no clear direction and purpose for manned spaceflight, other than the platitudes we’re being fed now, we’ll have to continue to suffer the disarray and confusion that passes today as “space policy”.

  • common sense

    @ CharlesHouston wrote @ April 27th, 2011 at 9:53 am

    Ah for once legitimate questions. I think they are not silly, Rand. You can see an example with Apple’s Jobs. Yes SpaceX has a management structure but most everything is held by Elon. Most choices are done or sanctioned by Elon, technical, financial and otherwise.

    Now in just the same way Apple would survive if Jobs were to retire, I think SpaceX will do as well. It goes beyond management. It is associated with the people who are in the company. You get a type of person who will work and are imaginative and the company will keep on. They are all on the same ship and might disagree about some things but overall are pushing toward the same goal.

    Another example: Ferrari did not disappear when Enzo passed. It actually got even better. Fiat was smart enough to not try and put their own bureaucrats with Fiat mentality at the helm. Rather they put passionate people in charge. Passionate and competent.

    As for SpaceX I would be more worried when/if they go public. Whether Elon keeps majority or not. I think he will but market is market and market decides. Never forget for one second that Elon loves space but also is a savvy businessman. Never forget it. He is rather ruthless in that respect.

  • common sense

    As for tobacco. They boost the economy but also ruin our health care system… If you see what I mean. Same thing with farm subsidies. Corn products also have a detrimental effects on our health. I won’t post links but run a little search and you’ll see.

  • common sense

    @ Gary Anderson wrote @ April 27th, 2011 at 11:30 am

    Thanks for a well balanced comment. Remember that the JSC engineers include a fair number of youth. Today’s youth is concerned with our Earth whatever their party affiliation, save for a few extremists. So it is refreshing to see JSC doing something “crazy”, kind of DFRC with the bath-tubs. It is also showing that some people have guts down there as they might risk their careers with games like those. Good for them!

    There are too many conflicting politics at play to ever get a Dems-GOP solution to anything NASA. Unless we face a major threat, such as an impact (…).

    The commercial space is a good idea no matter how we look at it. So why would this WH drop the idea on the basis it was initiated under a GOP WH? We all strive to see D.C. do something good for us all and this time at least this WH did. Not the Congress mind you. Congress will, eventually, kicking and screaming without a choice. But they have to drag their feet. Such is our political system.

    And yes we’ll see NewSpace fly with OldSpace if OldSpace finds the strength, e.g. Boeing CST-100. Never forget that in all these companies you have enthusiastic engineers and managers trying to do the right thing. It is just easier in NewSpace than in OldSpace. Now for the sake of argument. Imagine that CST-100 is successful. Imagine that the market expends. How about a Boeing Commercial Space company? How about Boeing corporate creating a new company within? A company a la Skunk Works of old. How about that? Impossible? I don’t know, you tell me.

  • common sense

    @ Robert G. Oler wrote @ April 27th, 2011 at 11:30 am

    See I think the GOP value of fiscal conservatism and small government has a lot to it. I think it is a fundamental reason why the US are what they are. This appeals to the freedom hungry. It is one reason why so many come to the US. When you become a US citizen you espouse all those principles based on freedom.

    The GOPers do not need fear mongering, saber rattling stupidity to get the US going. Strong defense is a given but is the level we put in the DoD really appropriate? Do we really need to field F-22s, F-35s and whatever Cold War weaponry to defeat the upcoming conflicts? Could they for once apply their so-called conservatism to their bread and butter constituents? The problem is that they do not have a strong and charismatic figure to carry the message. They have those show business people. Look at Romney’s attitude on health care when the WH plan was (somewhat) inspired by what he did. Romney stands no chance thereby. Trump is trying to out-Palin Palin. They all appeal to the moronic base instead of trying to get a real debate. Swift boat and the likes is the signature of the GOP. How sad. Global warming is not talked about seriously.

    Of course the whole circus (Dems and GOPers) is the reason why people do not vote in the numbers they ought to. People vote against their own interests because they are uninformed and respond to the rhetoric.

    You say you are optimistic that the Republic eventually does the right thing. And somehow it did with this WH. It was the right thing. Regardless of its accomplishments to date. Try and remember how you and millions of us felt when Obama came center stage that night. Not because it was Obama but because the country did the right thing. We need more of that and less of the birth certificate questioning stupidity. But it is “hard work” as someone famous would have said. So 2012 is coming. What will it be? Can we again?

  • vulture4

    Engineering degrees prove little. Musk has a clear vision of what he wants his company to accomplish. His decision to do all significant work in-house and avoid most NASA requirements was a master stroke; interfaces between companies and between contractors and NASA are a major cost for existing programs. His grasp of launch vehicle reliability, although instinctive, is much closer to the long tradition of aviation safety than the endless paper analysis that NASA requires. I would say that at the moment Musk is the smartest guy in the room.

  • You say you are optimistic that the Republic eventually does the right thing. And somehow it did with this WH. It was the right thing. Regardless of its accomplishments to date. Try and remember how you and millions of us felt when Obama came center stage that night. Not because it was Obama but because the country did the right thing.

    What are you talking about? What was the “right thing” the country did?

  • common sense

    @ MrEarl wrote @ April 27th, 2011 at 11:57 am

    “Mr. LeMieux is correct when he states that only the federal government can do space exploration at this time. Only the federal government can afford the sustained and expensive funding required for space exploration and to move our presence further into the solar system.”

    Nope I am afraid not. The federal government can no longer do it. It does have the means if it really wanted but not the will. This is why I, and I suspect others, want to see space activities for HSF transition from NASA to commercials. Now I will never say that it is an immutable solution. It is the solution today. The transition ought to be smooth and will include partnership. When in the future someone has come up with a New NASA then maybe, possibly, probably NASA will explore again. But I am afraid it is a future that lies way in the future.

    “The whole farm subsidies is a little out there though.”

    The way Congress goes about it is not that different.

    “What is really disappointing is that in 2004, with the announcement of the Vision for Space Exploration, we had a plan to begin human space exploration in a reasonable and sustained manner. That plan started to go off course with Griffen’s obsession with the Mar’s ships Aries I &V and was crushed outright by this administration. As long as we have no clear direction and purpose for manned spaceflight, other than the platitudes we’re being fed now, we’ll have to continue to suffer the disarray and confusion that passes today as “space policy”.”

    We are where we are because for once in decades NASA was given a direction, the VSE. NASA, Congress and the then WH showed they could not work together to make it happen. Griffin is mostly responsible for the failure, being the head. Yet I am sure he was only trying to navigate the powers in Congress such as Shelby. And he may have thought, wrongly, that ATK had to be a player. He was wrong. Very wrong. He did not correctly run the business plan of his Constellation. Spiral was much better but slower. As a manager he should have known better than to dream an increase in budget: There was no good reason for the increase. There is no need to blame this WH. They tried to recover a train wreck. Congress opposed the plan and slowly will come to the realization that it was the right plan. SLS and MPCV are a masquerade.

  • If determined, I think that Musk could pull off a minimal manned Mars mission by, realistically, 2030 if he got together with a large number of billionaire friends and they pooled their resources. However, once they planted their corporate logos in Martian sand and returned, that would be it. They would all be very famous and very … broke.

    No matter now you slice it, sending a small handful of men to Mars is going to cost many billions of dollars per year. Over the next century there will not be ANY financial return, let alone profit margin, on the enormous costs.

    Yes, LEO tourism may become profitable withing the next 25 years. Yes, someday in the DISTANT future, Mars will be a thriving, self-sufficient colony. Currently, however, only a few nations could afford sustained BEO manned space exploration.

    Eurpean Union: 15.2 Trillion GDP
    US: 14.6 Trillion GDP
    China: 10 Trillion GDP
    Japan: 4.3 Trillion
    Inida: 4.0 Trillion
    Germany: 2.9 Trillion
    Russia: 2.2 Trillion
    UK: 2.2 Trillion
    Brazil: 2.1 Trillion
    France: 2.1 Trillion

    NASA budget: 0.0185 Trillion
    SpaceX projected revenue: 0.002 Trillion ?

  • Das Boese

    common sense wrote @ April 27th, 2011 at 12:05 pm

    As for SpaceX I would be more worried when/if they go public. Whether Elon keeps majority or not. I think he will but market is market and market decides. Never forget for one second that Elon loves space but also is a savvy businessman. Never forget it. He is rather ruthless in that respect.

    Musk is on record (I think it was at the FH press conference) saying something to the effect that he will not go public unless he can keep control of the company, because SpaceX has “certain philantropic goals” that a different leadership, interested primarily in profit, might not support.

  • Gross Domestic Product, Billions
    (market value of all produced goods and services ~ Income)
    EU: 15,200
    US: 14,600
    China: 10,000
    Japan: 4,300
    India: 4,000

    NASA Budget: 18.5
    SpaceX Revenue: 2 (10 F9 + 10 FH + x F1)
    SpaceX Income: 0.25 ???

  • @ common sense wrote @ April 27th, 2011 at 12:36 pm

    Much wisdom there, as such, “common sense.” ;)

  • Michael Kent

    common sense wrote:

    How about a Boeing Commercial Space company?

    They already have that. It used to be Hughes Space and Communications. There was a time not long ago that they had built more commercial GEO comsats than all other companies combined. Their market share has slipped lately (ITAR), but it might still be true.

    How about Boeing corporate creating a new company within? A company a la Skunk Works of old.

    They already have that too. It’s called PhantomWorks. It’s responsible for things like the X-36, X-45, X-51, Phantom Ray, Phantom Eye, etc.

    FYI,
    Mike

  • Rhyolite

    Michael Kent wrote @ April 27th, 2011 at 2:11 pm

    “Boeing Commercial Space company”

    “They already have that. It used to be Hughes Space and Communications. There was a time not long ago that they had built more commercial GEO comsats than all other companies combined.”

    There actually is a Boeing Commercial Space Company (BCSC) under just that name that goes back to 1987, well before the Hughes acquisition. It was responsible for ventures such as SeaLaunch, Resouce 21, DigitalXpress, and Boeing’s participation in Teledesic. The former Hughes operations are in a different part of the company. I am not sure if BCSC is still active but the point is that Boeing, including heritage Boeing, is no stranger to commercial space ventures.

  • However, once they planted their corporate logos in Martian sand and returned, that would be it. They would all be very famous and very … broke.

    Once again, you demonstrate a profound ignorance of Elon Musk and his motivations. But not surprising, given your level of ignorance on so many other issues.

  • Vladislaw

    Nelson wrote:

    “Over the next century there will not be ANY financial return”

    That is just wrong. It may not produce an overall profit but you could get returns from a Mars trip on many levels.

    moon dust sell for 2.2 million

    When you can get 2million a gram for moon dust I believe you could do even better with mars sample returns.

    All they need to do is bring home a bucket of rocks that sparkle, call them mars ‘diamonds’.

    Have you ever heard of a elastic and inelastic demand? There is a couple anomolies in elastic demand called Veblen and Giffin goods.

    Veblen good

    “In economics, Veblen goods are a group of commodities for which people’s preference for buying them increases as a direct function of their price, as greater price confers greater status, instead of decreasing according to the law of demand. A Veblen good is often also a positional good. The Veblen effect is named after economist Thorstein Veblen, who first pointed out the concepts of conspicuous consumption and status-seeking.”

    Those billionaire investors will want a token of the efforts and Mars gemstones certainly fit the bill.

    As I have often beat the dead horse of Lunar gemstones being a cornerstone for Lunar exploration it is the same for mars. High value to weight ratio and gemstones fit that bill.

    “but honey, Bill Gates bought HIS wife a lunar diamond!”

  • common sense

    @ Rand Simberg wrote @ April 27th, 2011 at 12:56 pm

    “What are you talking about? What was the “right thing” the country did?”

    President Obama was running on “hope” and unification of the country. He was the first African-American to be elected by the US going against all the cliches outside the country and inside that it would never happen. He was a re-conciliator. He was not running on fear.

    He was the right choice. The US did the right thing. Period.

  • Mark R. Whittington

    With due respect to Elon Musk, his idea that he will send humans to Mars is more evidence of incepient megalomania than it is that some day he will do it.

  • common sense

    No there is not such a company. The Phantom Works are inside Boeing overall and work throughout. They are not (really) a dedicated sector. Nothing like the Skunks.

    Unless you can point me towards a link or something showing the Boeing Commercial Space exists I will stick to my point.

    Sorry.

  • “But one of the few things the federal government can only do is space exploration. We are seeing good private sector folks that are trying to go into low-Earth orbit and that’s great and we should encourage them, but the only folks that are going to go to an asteroid or go to Mars is going to be NASA.”

    I entirely agree with LeMieux. If a Mars mission requires 600 mT in LEO, as recently stated by Doug Cook, that comes to 12 (or more) Falcon Heavy launches. At $100 M per launch, that is more than $1.2 B, just to get an equivalent mass of ballast in LEO, without paying for real departure and return stages, landers, closed-loop environmental systems, let alone the design, development, and testing expenses for that space hardware.

    For Musk to say that he or SpaceX will or even could put a man on Mars in the immediate future is misleading and unrealistic. He could propose that NASA pay for SpaceX to put some or all of a Mars mission in LEO. He could propose that Dragon could be used as a component of that mission.

    But SpaceX, assuming it will be financially successful, which appears to be the case, will not have sufficient income over the next 2 decades to finance significant BEO exploratoin missions. (And by significant, I do not count non-stop lunar flyby tourism.)

    If anyone is aware of a source of commercial revenue that could pay for manned space exploration, as Suze Orman says, SHOW ME THE NUMBERS!

  • Coastal Ron

    Gary Anderson wrote @ April 27th, 2011 at 11:30 am

    To tie into the above, so whomever, NASA or commercial ‘newspace’, goes to Mars ‘first’, it will be because of new technologies such as Morpheus that ‘must’ be developed.

    With all the chest beating demanding NASA focus on sending people to space, I think what is overlooked is NASA’s strength at bringing new technologies forward, like project Morpheus. To me the goal isn’t that NASA can go someplace, but to make it easy enough so that American companies can do it. That’s how we expand economically, and that is how we innovate quickly.

    just build a darn thing that can go back and forth from LEO to Lunar orbit then back again ‘back and forth back and forth’

    Agreed. And that is one of the reasons I was not enthusiastic about Constellation when announced, since it was all disposable hardware. It’s also why I’m not too enthusiastic about the MPCV, since I would rather be putting the $Billions we’re spending on it and instead build a shuttle that does the LEO-L1 roundtrip – that would enable us to get to the Moon and beyond far faster than spending money on limited-function capsule.

  • He was the right choice. The US did the right thing. Period.

    We’ll see how many agree with you next year. I think it was a disaster.

  • “I think what is overlooked is NASA’s strength at bringing new technologies forward, like project Morpheus.”

    Morpheus is not NASA-developed technology. A small group at NASA went out and bought a stock quad lander from Armadillo Aerospace, which was developed as part of the NASA lunar lander challenge. And what is specifically new about it? Use of liquid methane rather than the hypergolic fuels used on the Apollo LEM?

    ” I’m not too enthusiastic about the MPCV, since I would rather be putting the $Billions we’re spending on it and instead build a shuttle that does the LEO-L1 roundtrip – that would enable us to get to the Moon and beyond far faster than spending money on limited-function capsule.”

    I might agree with you if you said “an LEO-lunar orbit shuttle would enable us to lower the long-term cost of regular access to the Moon.” However, you will have to fill in quite a few blanks to convince most people that it would be faster than an single-use Apollo-style hardware.

  • Vladislaw

    Nelson wrote:

    “If a Mars mission requires 600 mT in LEO, as recently stated by Doug Cook, that comes to 12 (or more) Falcon Heavy launches. At $100 M per launch, that is more than $1.2 B,”

    First, you are assuming only Cook’s method is the ONLY way to Mars. Second you are assuming 100mil for a Falcon Heavy, that is what the retail cost of the launch is. SpaceX would launch them at cost, 80 million? 60 million?

    If you launched your methane powered ERS empty to mars and had it process the methane there it would be ready for a return trip when you got there. You would not have to push your return fuel with you on a trip to mars lowering the amount of mass you have to move on the trip there.

  • Coastal Ron

    amightywind wrote @ April 27th, 2011 at 10:40 am

    What can you say about a non-engineer who assigns himself the role of CTO?

    Musk has a B.S. in Economics and B.A. Physics from University of Pennsylvania, so it’s not like he doesn’t have relevant education. In fact in looking at what he has created with SpaceX, it’s a perfect blending of economics and physics.

    And since you asked, Wikipedia also lists the following for Musk:

    He is a trustee of the X Prize Foundation, promoting renewable energy technologies. He sits on the boards of The Space Foundation, The National Academies Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board, The Planetary Society, and Stanford Engineering Advisory Board. Musk is also a member of the board of trustees of the California Institute of Technology (Caltech).

    Honestly Windy, sometimes I think you are just jealous. ;-)

    SpaceX is not Apple. Elon Musk is not Steve Jobs.

    Neither are you, but we don’t hold that against you.

    What Jobs and Musk share is the ability to create and share a compelling vision, and the skills to build a successful company around it. Both are serial entrepreneurs, and considering how much revenue they have created between the two of them, you would think you would be celebrating their successes instead of trying to denigrate them…

  • Vladislaw

    If SpaceX brought back 100 pounds of Mars samples and it was market valued at the lunar dust price of 2.2 million per gram that would be over 6 billion. How many universities and governments across the planet would like a few pounds of that?

    How much would a rock that sparkles be worth per carat? The record for a terrestial gem stone is in the 150,000.00 dollars+ per carat, how much would a Martian gem be worth per carat? Talk about a status symbol!

    I don’t think there would be much of a problem making a few bucks from a Mars trip. Again, I don’t know if it would make a profit but there would certainly be revenues.

    Sponser Advertising.
    Pay per view.
    Depositing a business card ect on mars.
    Sample Returns.
    Advertising revenue from Website traffic.
    Book deals.
    DVD sales.

    That is just off the top of my head, I am sure there are a lot more that be exploited to help offset the costs.

  • E.P. Grondine

    Hello Jeff, everyone –

    From the remarks above, I notice that many people here are still fixated on manned flight to Mars, and view Musk’s launcher company SpaceX solely or largely in those terms.

    While I am most definitely not in personal contact with Musk,
    I can tell you you are WRONG.

    Get with the times, people. Its not the 1950s or 1960s anymore.

    From Musk’s Newsweek interview:

    NW: Did the disaster in Japan speed up your mission to foster life in outer space?

    Musk: What happened in Japan was very, very mild [compared] to what will happen in the future. This is just a shot across the bow from Mother Nature.

    What do hell do you people here at spacepolitics think Musk was talking about? Flying a few people to Mars to act as a lifeboat for the human species?

    As DB pointed out:
    “Musk is on record (I think it was at the FH press conference) saying something to the effect that he will not go public unless he can keep control of the company, because SpaceX has “certain philanthropic goals” that a different leadership, interested primarily in profit, might not support.”

    People, (even multi-millionaires), spend their money on what is important in their eyes. In other words, while it might not make sense to you, it does to them. They are also capable of forming plans for reaching those goals, plans which might not make sense to you, but do to them.

    Another thing before I close this post. Multiple posters here try to fish for details on the depths of Musk’s pockets, or other items as to his engineering team and operations, for reasons which are best known to them.

    I think I can help answer those questions for them. Musk has several friends who are multi-millionaires. He has an excellent engineering team. He is a skilled businessman, and has experts at hand in business operations as well.

    As far as more information goes, Musk is like Jobs at Apple, and he’ll say what he wants to about SpaceX when he wants to say it. Except in Musk’s case, SpaceX is a private company, and he does not have any responsibility to release information to investors and/or competitors.

    Please keep in mind that there’s more to the space sector than manned Moon or Mars flight.

    Musk intends to make money with SpaceX.
    How he spends that money is up to him.

    In the end, in my opinion, responsibility for defense against impact must lie with the federal government, and NASA is that part of the federal government most suited to perform some major roles in that task.

    What an individual does is up to them.

    From my view, at a minimum Musk’s launchers lower the cost of putting in space impactor detection satellites.

    Perhaps this may clear things up for you, or perhaps not.

    E.P. Grondine
    Man and Impact in the Americas

  • “It may not produce an overall profit but you could get returns from a Mars trip on many levels.”

    If someone offered genuine Mars or Moon rocks, I am sure that there are many geologists who would be able to pay millions for them. However, the cost to return a Kg of rocks from the Moon, let alone Mars, would be in the millions, which would put it out of reach of mere mortals.

    http://www.interorbital.com/Lunar%20Sample%20Return_1.htm

    Furthermore, searching for elusive gemstones on the Moon or Mars would be significantly more challenging and expensive. In addition, I suspect that the geology of Mars, and especially of the Moon might not have been conducive to the formation of some minerals.

  • amightywind

    What Jobs and Musk share is the ability to create and share a compelling vision, and the skills to build a successful company around it.

    I don’t dispute that at all. His company. His vision. But what I said is correct. He should not pass himself off as a rocket engineer. He employs them. It is like a guy with a BS posing as a doctor.

    With due respect to Elon Musk, his idea that he will send humans to Mars is more evidence of incepient megalomania than it is that some day he will do it.

    My sentiments exactly. It is not at all clear that is rocket is as competitive in cost and capability as he proclaims.

  • Coastal Ron

    Mark R. Whittington wrote @ April 27th, 2011 at 2:57 pm

    With due respect to Elon Musk, his idea that he will send humans to Mars is more evidence of incepient megalomania than it is that some day he will do it.

    You don’t post much (luckily), but when you do you’re pretty funny.

    Musk is a businessman, not a politician or ruler of his own country. For him, you either buy his products or services, or you don’t. If he doesn’t please his customers, then he doesn’t succeed.

    Regarding his goals, are you rooting against them? Don’t you want someone to step forward and get us to another planet? Are you jealous that he could possibly do it before NASA?

    Why aren’t you rooting for a person that puts his own money behind his goals, instead of politicians who use OPM (other peoples money) to reward their benefactors?

    It’s your motives that need to be examined.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Nelson Bridwell wrote @ April 27th, 2011 at 3:12 pm

    “I entirely agree with LeMieux. If a Mars mission requires 600 mT in LEO, as recently stated by Doug Cook, that comes to 12 (or more) Falcon Heavy launches. At $100 M per launch, that is more than $1.2 B, just to get an equivalent mass of ballast in LEO, without paying for real departure and return stages, landers, closed-loop environmental systems, let alone the design, development, and testing expenses for that space hardware.”

    that of course is a bargin compared to what it would cost, with the kindest estimates possible a NASA designed and operated heavy lifter.

    Doug Cook’s method of getting to Mars has just a tad more validity then the ideas tossed out by my nephew and his excuse is that he is 14. Cook is a product of the old school who thinks in terms of a big government effort that is single focused on a “go there do some trivial stuff and come back”…the sort of stuff that has made Apollo a fairly minor blip on the historical time scale as oppossed to say Syncom which truly changed the course of mankind.

    I dont know how we get to Mars, but I do know how we cant and that is the “NASA way” those turkeys couldnt design a rocket if you had a pistol to there or their heads.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    Mark R. Whittington wrote @ April 27th, 2011 at 2:57 pm

    “With due respect to Elon Musk, his idea that he will send humans to Mars is more evidence of incepient megalomania than it is that some day he will do it.”

    same thing more or less Glen Curtiss said about the Wright Brothers. Mark try and regain the conservatism you once had.

    Robert G. Oler

  • “If you launched your methane powered ERS empty to mars and had it process the methane there it would be ready for a return trip when you got there. You would not have to push your return fuel with you on a trip to mars lowering the amount of mass you have to move on the trip there.”

    And to generate the needed methane on Mars, you would need a lander that contained a portable nuclear powerplant and lots of cyrogenically-cooled H2. No problem. I’ll just run across the street to Mars Depot and pick one up!

  • Robert G. Oler

    common sense wrote @ April 27th, 2011 at 12:36 pm

    The rest of your fine post merits discussion but I am working pretty hard to get the new homestead ready for the bull dozers to level it…and have to get back to the task…so more comment tonight but I would add this about the election.

    you said something like “we did the right thing”.

    We must have, we are a Republic and when the people’s choice for POTUS is elected (ie the one the majority of people vote for, even when it is in the 50 states and a product of the EC) and sworn in, thats the right choice. I thought before he was elected and nothing changed my mind in his 8 years that Bush the last was the worst possible choice for POTUS, but when the American people speak, that is how we are set up.

    And anyone who wont say that, is unpatriotic.

    What is entertaining to me, is that whoever took over “the deck” on 20 Jan took over a nation that in all respects was in trouble, very bad trouble after 8 years of one bad decision after another.

    Cx illustrates that. I mocked the notion at the time it was announced and many of the folks now who are against it were well “its just you hate Bush”…which is typical “cant debate the issues” approach. Cx illustrated an administration that could not think in terms of a new reality (terrorism for instances had to have a big military response, Bush had to have his JFK effort) and relied on imprinting the future with the notions and actions of the past.

    Nelson illustrates this, his post “However, you will have to fill in quite a few blanks to convince most people that it would be faster than an single-use Apollo-style hardware.” it is simply thinking from the past.

    Apollo at any price or at any speed is useless…it couldnt “stay” the hardware was to limited and there was no real infrastructure to support whatever it was trying to do…so there is no business or reason to repeat it.

    Obama seemed, for whatever reason to grasp this in space politics and policy…and has to paraphrase Paul Ryan (a real idiot) “broken with the politics of the past” in his new space policy…and those like Nelson and Whittington and Wind cant get out of the politics of the past. They have to see this or that danger or this or that example of American “power” …and all they are doing is not thinking but reacting.

    I wish Obama had “more broken” with the past and had moved in much of his other issues more like he has in space politics. If commercial fails (and it wont) then we are no worse off because Cx and all the junk the idiots at NASA were doing HAD FAILED…and was only spending money to do nothing…to have a program.

    when it succeeds it will be seen as the start of the first golden era in human spaceflight…and you will find people like Whittington trying desperatly to associate it with Bush.

    What we did on election day was the right thing, the people voted and the one who got the most votes won. Am I happy with what Obama has done? its about 50/50…things have not gotten worse but I dont think that they are getting better on the whole. Do I think McNasty (who I supported) would have done better?

    No..
    McNasty is lost in another world in another time with old answers. The McCain of 00 was different, today’s McCain is well…lost.
    Robert G. Oler

  • Coastal Ron

    E.P. Grondine wrote @ April 27th, 2011 at 3:58 pm

    Except in Musk’s case, SpaceX is a private company, and he does not have any responsibility to release information to investors and/or competitors.

    It’s a common misconception that public companies have to release detailed financial data. If that were true, then being a public company would be a hinderance to competition, since you couldn’t keep any proprietary information from your competitors. For instance, stockholders don’t know how much it costs Boeing to make a 737-900, and they don’t know what the profit margins are either. That’s proprietary.

    Outside of the overhead and reporting issues with going public, as long as Musk is clear about the direction of the company, and the risks involved, then it’s up to the public to decide whether it’s worth investing in them. It’s surprises that investors don’t like, not risk taking.

  • “Sponser Advertising
    Pay per view
    Depositing a business card ect on mars
    Sample Returns
    Advertising revenue from Website traffic
    Book deals
    DVD sales”

    Based upon waning public interest in the last Apollo missions, I do not thing that these revenue sources will be very substantial.

    Let’s be optimistic and assume that we can do a sustained Mars mission for $3 billion per year.

    As a standard of comparison, look at the total revenue from the Harry Potter franchise years 2001-2007 combined: $4.1 Billion.

    Let’s say that you get very luck and manage to gross 1% of that. That would be $40 million.

    So your expenses are going to be $3 billion per year, and you revenue will be $40 million. That will be an annual loss of $2.96 billion.

    As Suzy says, “You are DENIED!”

  • I think that Musk could make a real profit before 2020 from LEO tourism, once he gets enough launches of the F9 and the crewed Dragon becomes operational.

    Yes, these are just guess.

    Lets assume he takes up 5 tourists on each launch, with 2 pilots.
    Lets assume that he charges $20m per tourist.
    Lets assume that the Falcon 9 cost is $50M, and that Dragon depreciation is $5 M per flight.
    Let’s assume that at this price, the market demand would be about 20 tourists/year, 4 launches.

    His costs could be less than $55M. His sales could be $100M.

    As Suzy says, “You are so APPROVED!”

    At this prices, he would be putting into orbit about the name number of people as NASA does, although they would be ultra wealthy tycoons and celeberties rather than test pilots or scientists.

  • DCSCA

    @Coastal Ron wrote @ April 27th, 2011 at 10:31 am

    “Musk is also CEO of Tesla, and does spend a significant amount of time there”

    Which doesn’t say much. Tesla remains an unprofitable firm.

    http://finance.yahoo.com/news/Tesla-Races-Higher-On-Morgan-indie-3281637213.html?x=0

    “They [SpaceX] have also been filling high level positions with ex-NASA astronauts like Bowersox and Reisman, so they are clearly focusing on the future.”

    Uh-huh, with window-dressing astro-pitchmen who had no future at NASA. Dragon will never fly them, or other crews to orbit and return them safely to Earth.

  • Justin Kugler

    I have it on good authority that Musk is actually involved in the technical decision-making at SpaceX where it is required for him to participate and that he is every bit smart enough to do so.

    So, the usual suspects continue to speak from ignorance.

  • Vladislaw

    you are going to try and compare the marketing/promotional abilities of NASA with private enterprise?

    Go look at NASA watch and see what Keith Cowling thinks of NASA’s ability for self promotion.

    You were the one that stated there would be absolutely NO financial return for 100 years.

    “Over the next century there will not be ANY financial return”

    Who said anything about “substantial”? I predicated my statement on that I did not know if a trip would be profitable but that there could be revenue. Even 40 million would pay for one Falcon 9 launch.

    So you must be ready to concede that your first statement was more of your gross exaggerations that you constantly make and not based on any reality. You have just shown that revenue can be generated.

    Custer only had to see one little gold nugget and the rush was on. I do not know what the future holds but do know what history has taught us about resource exploitation.

  • Vladislaw

    Nelson wrote:

    “However, the cost to return a Kg of rocks from the Moon, let alone Mars, would be in the millions, which would put it out of reach of mere mortals.”

    Once again we hear the fallacy of returning assets. If bringing home gemstones, which would have a huge weight to value ratio you go on and on about bring back water from the moon?

    It is not about bringing things back, the real problem is the right to ownership.

    If you have a pound of gold in your local bank or a pound of gold in a bank England it doesn’t matter. It also will not matter if you have a pound of gold sitting on Luna or Mars, as long as Nations recognize your ownship it is an asset. You can sell the ownership of the gold to whoever you want. It never has to actually physically change hands. You can use that as collateral for a loan. You can log it into your books as an asset because ownership rights are established.

    As long as I bring home a nugget or gemstone and it is certified that I have the ownership to it and more of them at the mine I have value of the assets.

    In california, during the gold rush, some miners were faced with the problem if trying to ship gold back east. Some got around that by mearly hanging up a sign BANK and then simply used letters of credit. It will be no different on other bodies in space. You can conduct all your business electronically and the only thing that will change is who has ownership rights over the minerals and gemstones. You will never have to ship gold back to earth only change the name of the owner.

  • common sense

    @ Rand Simberg wrote @ April 27th, 2011 at 3:28 pm

    “We’ll see how many agree with you next year. I think it was a disaster.”

    I know you do disagree. And you may be right about next year. Back in 2007/8 Obama was the right choice. The McCain/Palin ticket was not worth more than ridiculous pundit talkshows. The McCain of 2007/8 is a far cry from that of 2000. He was swift boated twice by his own party. Tough luck.

    2012 will be interesting somehow. I truly hope the GOP comes up with a real candidate. So far for whatever it is worth it looks like Trump is ahead. May be it is what you like but regardless of his real estate accomplishments I see little value of he being the next POTUS. I’d rather have Arnold if it is all it takes.

  • common sense

    @Robert G. Oler wrote @ April 27th, 2011 at 4:19 pm

    “We must have, we are a Republic and when the people’s choice for POTUS is elected (ie the one the majority of people vote for, even when it is in the 50 states and a product of the EC) and sworn in, thats the right choice. I thought before he was elected and nothing changed my mind in his 8 years that Bush the last was the worst possible choice for POTUS, but when the American people speak, that is how we are set up.”

    I think I understand what you mean but in my view GWB was elected for the wrong reasons then. Even I at the time thought it would not be that much different from Gore… How wrong I was! The US elected him for the wrong reason in 2000, in reaction to whatever Clinton did with his aide, and worse in 2004 for reasons related to the 9/11 attack. The GOP then played the war/terror mongering full blast and people believed it. Why would not they? They were misled and thus did the wrong thing.

    “And anyone who wont say that, is unpatriotic.”

    Nah, you say that just because you’re being emotional ;)

    “I mocked the notion at the time it was announced and many of the folks now who are against it were well “its just you hate Bush”…which is typical “cant debate the issues” approach. Cx illustrated an administration that could not think in terms of a new reality (terrorism for instances had to have a big military response, Bush had to have his JFK effort) and relied on imprinting the future with the notions and actions of the past.”

    In my case I welcomed the VSE like a breeze of fresh air. How naive was I. Yet for anyone who wants to work the field and suddenly some one says “oh btw work to get us to the Moon” well it sounded pretty cool. I was not well aware of the space politics as I am today. Or in denial, whatever. I can tell you that much: People around me said we were going this way because they thought it was the only way we knew how to it, at least with respect to the budget. I think they lost their ways with ESAS. I think Admiral Steidle had the right approach and we’d be flying now and there would have been no Augustine Committee. But someone thought a big rocket was a must for whatever reason. And that is the emphasis why the USG cannot do this kind of thing anymore: Politics.

    “Obama seemed, for whatever reason to grasp this in space politics and policy…and has to paraphrase Paul Ryan (a real idiot) “broken with the politics of the past” in his new space policy…and those like Nelson and Whittington and Wind cant get out of the politics of the past. They have to see this or that danger or this or that example of American “power” …and all they are doing is not thinking but reacting.”

    I think Obama despite appearance is doing the best he can right now. On election night I believe he told us, the US people, that we needed to keep his feet to the fire as to what he needed to do. There is a lot of blame going his way but very little looking at ourselves and our own complacency to not do what he asked. On the other hand it could be seen as a failure of leadership.

    “I wish Obama had “more broken” with the past and had moved in much of his other issues more like he has in space politics. If commercial fails (and it wont) then we are no worse off because Cx and all the junk the idiots at NASA were doing HAD FAILED…and was only spending money to do nothing…to have a program.”

    He did that with the space program because it has little value to the US public that does not care and therefore has less scrutiny. It was easier to do the right thing. Obama is not a socialist unlike what is said by morons. He is a pragmatist. He will do what is best for the US or try. Commercial space is one thing. Single payer health carte ought to be another one. He knows that his own party is against it so he cannot take a straight line to get there. We’ll see how it ends soon.

    “What we did on election day was the right thing, the people voted and the one who got the most votes won. Am I happy with what Obama has done? its about 50/50…things have not gotten worse but I dont think that they are getting better on the whole. Do I think McNasty (who I supported) would have done better?

    No..
    McNasty is lost in another world in another time with old answers. The McCain of 00 was different, today’s McCain is well…lost.”

    I am with you I believe. When Obama vote it felt like a huge burden was lofted, an illusion? Yes and No. Of course the expectations are so high that we can all feel let down. But let’s think of the alternative back then… Or not.

  • common sense

    @ Justin Kugler wrote @ April 27th, 2011 at 5:07 pm

    “I have it on good authority that Musk is actually involved in the technical decision-making at SpaceX where it is required for him to participate and that he is every bit smart enough to do so.”

    Yep. Precisely what I said. Technical AND otherwise.

  • “You will never have to ship gold back to earth only change the name of the owner.”

    That line of argument is fundamentally flawed, like any real diamond.

    For the forseeable future, any mining will be for local use (ISRU), rather than for markets on Earth. The only exception that I am aware of would be lunar Helium 3, the market for which is contingent upon development of commercial fusion technology.

    This is because of the astronomical transportation costs, which would be far greater than the terrestrial market value.

    On the other hand, for a human outpost on the Moon or Mars, for exactly the same reason, the market value of a liter of water would be astronomical, wheras the demand for, and value of diamons or gold would be essentially zero.

  • I am obviously not a SpaceX owner, but if I was, I would have prefered for Musk to suggested that NASA consider using the Falcon Heavy for lunar missions, and instead accelerate development of the MPCV and Altair.

    Altair, at 45 mT, could be put into LEO by a Falcon Heavy.

    At 21 mT, the Orion capsule and service module could also be placed into LEO by a Falcon Heavy, with another 29mT to spare!

    In addition, NASA could have the funds to proceed directly with selecting and funding at least one ISS crew provider, instead of just waiting around for another additional year.

  • So far for whatever it is worth it looks like Trump is ahead.

    It is currently worth nothing, fortunately.

    May be it is what you like but regardless of his real estate accomplishments I see little value of he being the next POTUS.

    I think that Donald Trump is a clown, politically.

  • “Apollo at any price or at any speed is useless…it couldnt “stay” the hardware was to limited and there was no real infrastructure to support whatever it was trying to do…so there is no business or reason to repeat it.”

    You can certainly argue the disadvantages of expendable architectures like Apollo. I was faulting your use of the word FASTER. In your enthuiasm to put forward a possibly valid point, you have a tendancy to bundle in other claims that might not be entirely true.

    Space exploration is a finely nuanced undertaking. Just about every approach has plusses and minuses. I recommend staying away from the bottles of snake oil that claim to cure all ailments.

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

  • reader

    Where is Andy Beal when you need him ? Now would be a good time to resurrect either BA-1 or BA-2

  • Vladislaw

    Nelson Bridwell wrote:

    ” “You will never have to ship gold back to earth only change the name of the owner.”

    That line of argument is fundamentally flawed, like any real diamond.

    For the forseeable future, any mining will be for local use (ISRU), rather than for markets on Earth. The only exception that I am aware of would be lunar Helium 3, the market for which is contingent upon development of commercial fusion technology.

    This is because of the astronomical transportation costs, which would be far greater than the terrestrial market value.”

    Once again you missed the point entirely.

    IF you have the asset on the moon, you just transfer ownership of the asset. You do not have to ship that asset back to earth.

    I believe Ex Administrator, Dr. Griffin, said it would be about 20,000 dollars/k or about $10,000 a pound to land something on Luna. gold is about 24.000 a pound. You simple exchange the ownership of the asset, your pound of gold, electronically, to pay for your two pounds of delivered food. Most gold that enters a vault never gets moved. It is just an asset on someone’s books.

    The asset value of a mine is not how much you have pulled out, but how much is still there. First you have to have the ownership rights to that asset though before you can use it for a financial instrument.

    You do not have to do the water processing if you can pay for delivered goods with the returns from prospecting, which presupposes you can be granted ownership of the land or mineral rights for whatever you find.

  • Coastal Ron

    Nelson Bridwell wrote @ April 27th, 2011 at 7:30 pm

    I am obviously not a SpaceX owner, but if I was, I would have prefered for Musk to suggested that NASA consider using the Falcon Heavy for lunar missions, and instead accelerate development of the MPCV and Altair.

    You keep forgetting – Congress cancelled the Moon program.

    Besides, Musk knows that Falcon Heavy will be added to the NLS II contract, and NASA can order one anytime they want for any thing they want. $125M gets them to the Moon or Mars – such a deal!

    Altair, at 45 mT, could be put into LEO by a Falcon Heavy.

    At 21 mT, the Orion capsule and service module could also be placed into LEO by a Falcon Heavy, with another 29mT to spare!

    One of the major battles of WWII was defined by the quote “a bridget too far”, in that the operation was too over-reaching. So it is, I believe, with going to the Moon in a sustainable fashion – we’re close, but not there yet.

    And we’re not just missing landers, but the infrastructure (transportation & otherwise) to bridge the gap between Earth and the Moon. When we do go back to the Moon, I hope it’s to stay, not just visit, and that means we need an ability to move mass both back and forth on a regular basis. And we’re not there yet.

    The Constellation program should have told you this already, since the Ares I/Orion problems we’re just the tip of the iceberg. We can’t afford the Moon yet. Soon I hope, but not yet.

  • DCSCA

    Rand Simberg wrote @ April 27th, 2011 at 3:28 pm
    I think it was a disaster.

    You give yourself too much credit for thinking. Fortunately, the majority of the people KNOW it was a triumph– particularly given the retro-alternative: the angry old man with his fist in the air and his head in the sand who has had a government job all his life.

  • common sense

    @Rand Simberg wrote @ April 27th, 2011 at 7:44 pm

    “It is currently worth nothing, fortunately.”

    Maybe, maybe not. We’ll see.

    “I think that Donald Trump is a clown, politically.”

    Are we finding common ground? The effect still is bad rep for the GOP, in my view anyway. Why is it that this kind of candidate always seem to be from the GOP? Is it an atmosphere inside the party that fosters this attitude. If I were in the leading circle of the GOP I would be alarmed. Then again they had McCain/Palin in 2008.

    In any case, let’s see what they come up with, I guess this summer.

  • tu8ca

    amightywind wrote … “What can you say about a non-engineer who assigns himself the role of CTO?”

    Musk has degrees in business and physics, which explains a lot.

  • tu8ca

    common sense wrote … “So far for whatever it is worth it looks like Trump is ahead.”

    Trump’s entire ‘campaign’ so far has been based on character assassination instead of policy. That will only get him so far. I wonder if his platform, should he ever get around to formulating it, will be as hysterical as his birther baiting.

    Trump’s strategy has been to make baseless charges against Obama and then demand Obama prove his innocence. If Obama does so, then that opens the door to a flood of new ridiculous claims and demands that Obama prove those false too. First was the birth certificate, now Obama’s scholastic record (Obama graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law School).

  • E.P. Grondine

    Hi RGO –

    “I dont know how we get to Mars, but I do know how we cant and that is the “NASA way” those turkeys couldnt design a rocket if you had a pistol to there or their heads.”

    RGO, you are over-generalizing based on NASA’s recent past performance.
    There are a lot of good engineers and scientists within NASA.
    They know the problems, and have some excellent ideas as to solutions.

    IMO, the key to changing NASA management and freeing them up
    is replacing Ed Weiler.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Nelson Bridwell wrote @ April 27th, 2011 at 8:20 pm

    “You can certainly argue the disadvantages of expendable architectures like Apollo. I was faulting your use of the word FASTER. In your enthuiasm to put forward a possibly valid point, you have a tendancy to bundle in other claims that might not be entirely true.”

    two points. First I didnt bundle in other claims that might not be “entirely true” (or accurate is probably the word y ou were looking for) because in this case there is no doubt that the government program is going nowhere.

    By any metric Cx was a failure. The shuttle system had at LEAST four technical challenges that Apollo legacy hardware and technologies could not answer. Nevertheless the folks who built the shuttle managed to do it in about 9 years and for around 15 billion or so in today dollars.

    Cx never even got close to the technical challenges of Ares V the big one, it was stymied on Ares 1 and to some extent Orion…and there IS NOT A SINGLE massive technology breakthrough that the rocket needed. It wasnt going to reduce the number of people needed to launch the vehicle, it wasnt creating new technologies, it wasnt doing a fracken thing but “evolving” shuttle hardware…and it was not doing that at any reasonable rate. To get to flight hardware was going to cost more then the shuttle took and take far longer.

    If this rate of development continued for Ares V and the lander etc all the things needed to get to the Moon, we were talking tens of billions (maybe hundreds) and at least two maybe three decades.

    So dont feed me some line of babble that 1) you are holding Musk to some time frame, you dont get to do that unless you apply the same metrics to the much more financed government program and 2) you can come up with some metrics that say Musk is as far behind as Cx was….

    ADD TO THAT the goofiness that is now passing for thought on a new HLV…and well you are starting to sound like Wind.

    Robert G. Oler

  • “By any metric Cx was a failure. The shuttle system had at LEAST four technical challenges that Apollo legacy hardware and technologies could not answer. Nevertheless the folks who built the shuttle managed to do it in about 9 years and for around 15 billion or so in today dollars.”

    The four significant hurdles for Constellation, were financial:

    (1) According to Wayne Hale, the initial budget projection for VSE was unrealistically small.

    (2) Cost overruns and a 2 year (2004-2006) delay in the shuttle return to flight, which required shuttle operation for 2 years (2009-2001) longer than originally planned, siphoned away perhaps 4 billion from the Constellation budget.

    (3) The ObamaSpace proposal to push out the agreed-upon 2015 ISS retirement date by 5 years, in order to create a demand for commercial crew that would not otherwise exist, would siphon away perhaps an additional 10 billion from Constellation. (ISS completion delays could have justified a 2 year retiremement delay.)

    (4) Because of the 2008 recession, initial projected NASA budget increases up to a stable 20 billion per year did not, and will not, materialize.

    You are entirely correct in pointing out that Cx, unlike the shuttle program, did not have major technical hurdles. Wayne Hale has recently pointed out that it would have worked. SLS will work. There are several other NASA programs that also would have worked. In almost all cases (X-33 was an exception) they were canceled for political reasons, not because they would not fly.

  • pathfinder_01

    Nelson:

    “I am obviously not a SpaceX owner, but if I was, I would have prefered for Musk to suggested that NASA consider using the Falcon Heavy for lunar missions, and instead accelerate development of the MPCV and Altair.”

    Ah Congress or at least the space states want SLS becuase it shuttle derived. It saves the maxims amount of jobs even if it does not make any sense for exploration. Hacth won’t like it because FH does not use ATK solids built in Utah. Shelby won’t like it becuase FH isn’t built in Alabama. Nelson won’t be crazy about it because FH would use fewer Florida employees than SLS.

    “Altair, at 45 mT, could be put into LEO by a Falcon Heavy.

    At 21 mT, the Orion capsule and service module could also be placed into LEO by a Falcon Heavy, with another 29mT to spare!”

    Come luke, come over to the dark side.

    “In addition, NASA could have the funds to proceed directly with selecting and funding at least one ISS crew provider, instead of just waiting around for another additional year.”

    Current law prevents them from selecting an provider this year and frankly doing so would be dumb. It would be locking yourself in too early. It is like those folks who run to the dealer the moment their old car breaks down for good(or even worse the dealer located at the place where you tried to fix it).Big decisions are better made when not rushed. Heck with Apollo they spent a year debating how they planed to go to the moon. NASA should take its time instead of instantly selecting Boeing for all flights(and locking in a higher cost than Space X) or Space X(and finding out they can’t design an acceptable escape system). Lets see how the companies progress a bit more then select.

  • “And we’re not just missing landers, but the infrastructure (transportation & otherwise) to bridge the gap between Earth and the Moon. When we do go back to the Moon, I hope it’s to stay, not just visit, and that means we need an ability to move mass both back and forth on a regular basis. And we’re not there yet.”

    I think you could possibly be suffering from your “Bridge Too Far” syndrome. We might agree that returning to the Moon is the right thing to do. However, I see it as something that is going to be VERY expensive for the next several decades. People like Musk can possibly do things to significantly reduce some of the costs, but it will still be far too expensive for commercial enterprise until, perhaps, there is a Helium 3 market in perhaps 50 years.

    Until then, I think we want to do lots of exploration, making use of lots of robots and a handful of lunar scientists/engineers, funded by governments. The goals should be:
    (1) Learn as much as possible about lunar geology and history.
    (2) Pioneer development of ISRU technologies that will be needed for current and future settlements.
    (3) Test out the long-term effects of exposure to 1/6 g on humans.
    (4) Construct a small research station where this research can be conducted.

    If you are proposing a reusable earth-moon shuttle, I see that as something that could possibly be a worthwhile outrgowth of current SLS/MPCV efforts. But mostly, what we need is significant upmass capability to the Moon. Significant downmass to Earth from the Moon, beyond crew and limited scientific samples will probably not be needed for many decades.

  • DCSCA

    @MrEarl wrote @ April 27th, 2011 at 11:57 am

    I have no doubt that under the right conditions, SpaceX could do a “Boots and Flags” mission to Mars in the 10 to 20 year time frame Musk talks about. It’s absurd. SpaceX has flown nobody.

    “Elon Musk is claiming he can send people to Mars in 10-20 years.”
    The only place this fella will be sending people to is Mars, PA– by Greyhound bus. His firm has flown nobody. And notice the WSJ interview says ‘I’, not ‘SpaceX.’ It’s all ego and press releases for government subsidies with this guy as capital markets continue to balk. The scent of desperation is real and he is starting do do damage to the commercial HSF community. He’s akin to Trump. Barnum would be proud.

  • Ron

    DCSCA wrote @ April 27th, 2011 at 10:54 pm

    You give yourself too much credit for thinking. Fortunately, the majority of the people KNOW it was a triumph–

    Unfortunately a good portion of that majority is presently experiencing buyer’s remorse.

  • …Although downmass of ISRU propellant from the lunar surface to lunar orbit, GEO, or Lagrange points could prove quite useful at some time in the future.

    I would think that the most expedient step in this direcotin would be with a 100% reusable lander that can refuel at an ISRU depot on the lunar surface.

  • Robert G. Oler

    E.P. Grondine wrote @ April 28th, 2011 at 12:30 am
    .

    “IMO, the key to changing NASA management and freeing them up
    is replacing Ed Weiler.”

    it is going to take far more then that…a Cleansing down to the GS-14 level will be needed. Robert G. Oler

  • Coastal Ron

    Nelson Bridwell wrote @ April 28th, 2011 at 3:33 am

    (3) The ObamaSpace proposal to push out the agreed-upon 2015 ISS retirement date by 5 years, in order to create a demand for commercial crew that would not otherwise exist…

    Nice try at revisionist history, but the facts don’t support this silly statement. Since the main reason for dumping the brand new ISS was because Constellation needed it’s funding, after Congress decided to cancel Constellation, there was no reason to dump the ISS anymore. Hence the need for crew services after 2015.

    Are you ignorant of the facts?

    SLS will work.

    Of course it can, given unlimited funding all the mega-launchers (Ares 1/V and SLS) could be made to fly.

    The question has always been why? Even you can’t identify a funded need for the SLS.

    The answer for why a few in Congress push for the SLS is that it supports jobs, not that it supports any defined exploration program or programs. And in fact, the SLS requires NASA to spend a sizable portion of their budget on NON-EXPLORATION things like SLS operations.

    Congress needs to decide if NASA is supposed to:

    A. “Pioneer the future in space exploration, scientific discovery and aeronautics research.” (NASA’s self-described mission statement)

    B. Be a transportation company

    With a budget of $18B/year, they can’t do both.

  • Coastal Ron

    Nelson Bridwell wrote @ April 28th, 2011 at 3:58 am

    So let me get this straight. First you say:

    If you are proposing a reusable earth-moon shuttle, I see that as something that could possibly be a worthwhile outrgowth of current SLS/MPCV efforts.

    Which means that you would use a launcher that way too big to launch a capsule that only has a mission endurance of 21.1 days, and use that as the primary method of getting people to/from the orbit of the Moon?

    But then you say:

    I would think that the most expedient step in this direcotin would be with a 100% reusable lander that can refuel at an ISRU depot on the lunar surface.

    So working on a 100% reusable lunar lander is more important than a 100% reusable way of actually GETTING TO the Moon?

    You don’t see that as bassackwards? No wonder you “Moon First” types don’t have a clue.

  • Ed and I happened to be at NU at the same time, but I do not recall him at all, even though I had a number of friends in the Astronomy Department…

    http://www.weinberg.northwestern.edu/alumni/crosscurrents/2007-2008-fall-winter/articles/weiler.html

  • “Elon Musk is claiming he can send people to Mars in 10-20 years.”
    The only place this fella will be sending people to is Mars, PA– by Greyhound bus.”

    The problem with Musk is not underestimating his determination and capabilities, while at the same time not buying into 100% of his over-optimistic promises. He manages to deliver on something like 50% of what he initially claims, which in this field (Shuttle, X-33, …) really isn’t too bad.

    My personal guess is that if it was REALLY important to him, the odds that he could put someone on Mars by 2031 is about 50%. My guess as to the odds the he WILL actually put someone on Mars by 2031 is perhaps 1%.

  • common sense

    @ E.P. Grondine wrote @ April 28th, 2011 at 12:30 am

    “RGO, you are over-generalizing based on NASA’s recent past performance.
    There are a lot of good engineers and scientists within NASA.
    They know the problems, and have some excellent ideas as to solutions.”

    You clearly don’t understand the problem within NASA. As your comment below shows which is one of the stupidest I’ve read so far from you, sorry. You keep saying this as if Ed Weiler is responsible for the inability of NASA to accomplish anything. This is ludicrous. The problem is not any one individual’s fault. See not even Griffin. There is a engrained problem with the way NASA operates within the government, in particular with Congress. One day maybe you will understand that any one provider is subservient to their customer. Yes even NASA. NASA’s customers are the US public which is represented by Congress. Congress as such decides where to put the money as we saw with the CRs. Not NASA, not you, not I, not Ed Weiler, not even the President. CONGRESS. So instead of taking your venom to Ed Weiler you may be more effective in making a real case for impact which you don’t, only doom and gloom, and put Congress feet to the fire. See your animosity towards any individual whose hands are tied by definition is not helping.

    “IMO, the key to changing NASA management and freeing them up
    is replacing Ed Weiler”

    Idiotic.

    As for Robert’s remark. GS-14? Nah it would take a lot more than that. It is an institutionalized problem. The only real way to do it would be to disband NASA for a few years and have an interim agency or two or three. Try to make these agencies as little reliant on Congress largess as much as possible. Then when all is said and done we could have NewNASA come out of its ashes. Will it happen? Probably not, not that quickly anyway. Extreme? For sure. But replacing the GS-14s would be the GS-13s and so on so forth and Congress liability would not go away.

  • Das Boese

    Nelson, EP and the others:

    If you want a comprehensive, realistic and sustainable plan for lunar return and BEO exploration… go ask the Russians.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Nelson Bridwell wrote @ April 28th, 2011 at 3:33 am

    “You are entirely correct in pointing out that Cx, unlike the shuttle program, did not have major technical hurdles.”

    then why had it consumed almost as much money as the shuttle which did face technical challenges…and was about 10-20 billion away from flying?

    Can you answer that or are you just going to keep spouting the quotes of other people?

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    common sense wrote @ April 28th, 2011 at 12:30 pm

    “As for Robert’s remark. GS-14? Nah it would take a lot more than that. It is an institutionalized problem.”

    it is and if I was given the “task” I would be prepared to cleanse down to the 13 or 12 level…but it should be able to be done by some severe cleansing at the 14 level with a clear understanding “why” the cleansing is occurring…and then some outside selection of “new people” followed by some selective 13 decaps for problem people.

    Most people will “shape up” and fly right (grin) if the notion of “flying right” is defined correctly and the results of “flying wrong” are clear. What one has to break is the incest chain of management that clearly is in place at least at JSC.

    For instance…if Hanley had been fired, (OK hard to do with civil servants) but fired as one can fire a civil servant, meaning his next assignment was some shit job that he simply couldnt tolerate and would retire from…then the word would get out that performance like that was not acceptable. Instead what is he now doing? Offering his services to the Webb telescope? And we wonder why it stinks.

    There is a great scene from 12 O Clock High…The Leper Colony..what you need is a “leper colony” at JSC that gets all the duds and life there is so grim, leaving is an option.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Coastal Ron

    Nelson Bridwell wrote @ April 28th, 2011 at 12:25 pm

    My personal guess is that if it was REALLY important to him, the odds that he could put someone on Mars by 2031 is about 50%. My guess as to the odds the he WILL actually put someone on Mars by 2031 is perhaps 1%.

    Considering that the Constellation program was only on track to reach the Moon in the mid-2030′s, that’s saying a lot for SpaceX.

    Also, maybe you haven’t realized this yet, but the same systems that will allow Dragon to have an integrated pusher LAS, also work as propulsive landing rockets for Earth, the Moon and Mars. Here’s the video:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6p6EruPdoXY&

    Now whether they decide to actually go to Mars or not in 10-20 years I think will be more a factor of when a capable Earth-Mars transporter is developed, but it’s clear that SpaceX could send an unmanned Dragon to Mars shortly after Falcon Heavy becomes operational.

    Or take their technology and modify it so you can land 20,000 lb rovers on the Moon or Mars. What could you do with that capability?

    NASA could start ISRU on the Moon with a fleet of rovers, and the transportation costs would be far less than what it will take to build just one MPCV. THAT is why focusing on cost is the best enabler for space exploration, not bigger rockets.

  • E.P. Grondine

    Hi CS –

    Why is relieving Ed Weiler so important?

    Because then you get the ONLY CORRECT answer to the “WHY?’ question.
    Then NASA’s engineers can the work on the “HOW?” part, and some of them are very very good at that.

    You don’t understand the obstacle Ed Weiler represents. While Weiler has done fine work in interception technologies, and target characterization, the first step is detection, and Weiler has refused to step up to the plate on detection, despite direct instructions from the Congress to do so. Their instructions to do so are still in the NASA charter.

    Weiler does not understand the hazard, which is not asteroid impact, but comet and comet fragment impact. Further, with every survey even the asteroid impact hazard just gets worse and worse.

    Once you understand the severity of the hazard and its nature, then the necessary detection measures become clear. And I do mean necessary.

    And once you have the Moon with CAPS, then perhaps manned Mars may follow cheaply.

    Please remember that the tax paying public as a whole are only interested in paying for what benefits them.

    Hi Mark –

    As far as Musk suffering from megalomania, SpaceX’s future goals will depend on the success of its products and the cash flow generated by them.

    As I’ve told you before, many times, many people are obsessed with manned flight to Mars.

    Hi DB –

    “If you want a comprehensive, realistic and sustainable plan for lunar return and BEO exploration… go ask the Russians.”

    Ask around, and maybe someone will provide you with copies of the volumes of my “History of Cosmonautics”, which was not too bad a work for the time when it was done.

    E.P. Grondine
    Man and Impact in the Americas

  • “it’s clear that SpaceX could send an unmanned Dragon to Mars shortly after Falcon Heavy becomes operational…Or take their technology and modify it so you can land 20,000 lb rovers on the Moon or Mars. What could you do with that capability?…NASA could start ISRU on the Moon with a fleet of rovers, and the transportation costs would be far less than what it will take to build just one MPCV. THAT is why focusing on cost is the best enabler for space exploration, not bigger rockets.”

    I somewhat agree with you. There are lots of productive and useful things that we could do with rovers. Especially on the Moon where we can remote-control in near-real-time. And the Falcon Heavy could be a practical way to get them there.

    However, although we might be able to limp along with small rockets for manned missions, long-term, I believe that a true HLV, which we will continue to need over the next 50 years, will be easily worth the 10 billion investment.

    Yes, you could transport kids to school with a fleet of VW beetles, but if you are serious you go out and buy an honest-to-goodness school bus.

  • Bennett

    “I believe that a true HLV, which we will continue to need over the next 50 years, will be easily worth the 10 billion investment.”

    Has anyone at NASA stated, for the record, that there is a proposal on the table from a major aerospace contractor to build a “true HLV” (whatever that means) for any amount of funding (up to) 10 billion dollars?

    Please provide a link to whatever you think supports this contention.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Nelson Bridwell wrote @ April 28th, 2011 at 2:14 pm

    “However, although we might be able to limp along with small rockets for manned missions, long-term, I believe that a true HLV, which we will continue to need over the next 50 years, will be easily worth the 10 billion investment.”

    goofy. NASA JSC thinks that taking the shuttle leftover parts, developing 4 yes FOUR SDHLV’s would cost over 11 billion more like 18 billion are the internal estimates…and then they stop flying them…

    NASA couldnt build an HLV for 10 billion dollars if you had a weapon to all their heads.

    “Yes, you could transport kids to school with a fleet of VW beetles, but if you are serious you go out and buy an honest-to-goodness school bus.”

    oh please stop the silly comparisons.

    Answer my question…why did Cx cost so darn much?

    Robert G. Oler

  • Coastal Ron

    Nelson Bridwell wrote @ April 28th, 2011 at 2:14 pm

    Yes, you could transport kids to school with a fleet of VW beetles, but if you are serious you go out and buy an honest-to-goodness school bus.

    Your analogy doesn’t fit. Here’s a better one:

    MPCV = a Rolls-Royce Phantom ($$$/seat)
    CST-100/Dragon/B.O. CV = Minivans ($/seat)

    Considering how many people we need in space during the next decade, 7-seaters will be fine. If we need more, that’s what competition takes care of.

    Regarding cargo, here’s the way I see it:

    Ariane 5/Proton + all versions of Delta IV/Atlas V = Tractor-trailers
    Falcon Heavy = Tractor-trailer towing a full-trailer

    These are the workhorses, and they can haul any payload the current space industry factories can produce. There are NO funded payloads they can’t handle. Whereas:

    SLS = Oversize load carrier

    This is a specialty vehicle that doesn’t have a defined need yet. All of NASA’s official plans, like HEFT and Nautilus-X, can fit on existing or near-term commercial launchers.

    Even building massive modular structures in space like the ISS (919,960 lb) don’t require the SLS. And with dedicated EDS boosters put into LEO by existing launchers, all BEO missions can be assembled in LEO and L1/L2, and boosted out on their way when ready. In fact modular construction actually INCREASES the size of the spacecraft you want to use, since you aren’t limited by the capacity of one rocket launch.

    Bottom line (again), is that the SLS, despite “conventional wisdom”, STILL doesn’t have a defined or funded set of missions or payloads that it is supposed to support.

  • Yes, you could transport kids to school with a fleet of VW beetles, but if you are serious you go out and buy an honest-to-goodness school bus.

    Only if school buses are being manufactured at a reasonable price.

  • pathfinder_01

    Nelson

    “Yes, you could transport kids to school with a fleet of VW beetles, but if you are serious you go out and buy an honest-to-goodness school bus.”

    Yes but the government does not have to own the school bus fleet. I live in Chicago and schools are built in such a fashion as to reduce driving/ school bus usage (i.e. Many children walk to school since we have sidewalks and some of the elementary schools are small and located short distances away from each other). And Chicago Public Schools does not run the busses, they contract it out. High school students are transported via the CTA (i.e. the same busses that help people get to work and around town do this work).

    How does this relate to spaceflight? NASA will get more from its budget if it does not build SLS. If you need a 50, 70, or 130 ton rocket leave it to industry. It is a much better use of resources. The same buses that transport kids to school can be used by the school bus companies for other purposes(like employee outings, church trips, ect.) and the same busses and trains that provide public transportation to high school students also provide transit to office workers, handicapped. A NASA owned transportation system can only serve NASA’s need at such great cost that it eats exploration budget. What good is a HLV if you can’t afford the spacecraft to go with it and you need more than Orion for any serious deep space work.

    If we develop technology we can reduce the need of the HLV. A SEP tug is a great example. Imagine if resupplying a moon base was done by Falcon 9 instead of Falcon Heavy. You would have 31- 69 million more left over for exploration.

    If we contract it out then (and prop depots are one way of doing this) then you don’t need to bear 100% of the cost. CPS and Private schools both use the same school bus companies. NASA does not need to pay 100% of the upkeep of an HLV if the HLV can find other users and other users in a different form and yes it may mean that NASA learns to do moon missions in chunks smaller than 70 or 130MT.

    Another intresting thing about school buses is their size. They are not sized to take all the children from a school in one fell swoop. How does this relate to an HLV? There may be a size of HLV that is so impractical that it is not worth it. Sending a 2nd or 3rd school bus is just fine. In fact depending on the model a school bus only transports 90 people. Most schools have more than 90 children.

  • DCSCA

    @Robert G. Oler wrote @ April 28th, 2011 at 1:11 pm
    You’ve got a lot to learn about modern management techniques for the 21st Century. Here’s a tip for you: strip away the ‘military veneer’ of the film you reference, “12 O’Clock High,” and you’ll discover it is an excellent study in now obsolete American business management techniques- circa 1945-1980. None of which are applicable to the NASA of the 21st Century. While employed at a Japanese firm some 35 years ago, it was required viewing for ALL employee orientation, both Japanese and American BTW, in an era when Japanese firms emulated then successful American management styles from the post-war period. That era is long gone. Today, it characterizes what not to do. Old film, old ideas, not fit for the new era of the Age of Austerity. As old as the Apollo era management NewSpace advocates regularly diss– management like Gene Kranz, who made no secret of the fact he modelled his style after Peck’s character, ‘General Savage.’

  • “Only if school buses are being manufactured at a reasonable price.”

    I am not going to argue against reasonable prices. However, cost alone cannot be the only, or even the deciding factor. Safety and capability are equally significant.

    That is why I think that the Falcon Heavy capability, combined with it’s promised economics, is something worth serious consideration. The Falcon 9, in comparision, even if it offered the same cost per pound, would not be a serious contender because of the absurdly large number of launches (~60) requried for a 600mT Mars mission.

  • “That era is long gone. Today, it characterizes what not to do. Old film, old ideas, not fit for the new era of the Age of Austerity.”

    FYI: Actually, “12 O’Clock High” was required viewing, today, for management training at Intel. Not everyone marches to exactly the same beat as your drummer…

  • Vladislaw

    “Yes, you could transport kids to school with a fleet of VW beetles, but if you are serious you go out and buy an honest-to-goodness school bus.”

    With the Falcon heavy, you could launch a shuttle type craft with no cargo hold. 3 rows of 8 seats per row plus a pilot/copilot. 24 passengers at 10 million per seat would generate 240 million. That is a better fit for your buying a school bus to haul a lot of people at once.

    A NASA built heavy lift would not be used to haul dozens of people to space, only 4, so no school bus.

  • Joe

    Vladislaw wrote @ April 28th, 2011 at 7:49 pm
    “With the Falcon heavy, you could launch a shuttle type craft with no cargo hold. 3 rows of 8 seats per row plus a pilot/copilot.”

    That is very detailed, have you got a source for it?

  • Coastal Ron

    Nelson Bridwell wrote @ April 28th, 2011 at 6:42 pm

    Safety and capability are equally significant.

    See this is where people like you are really confusing.

    NASA lost 40% of it’s transportation fleet to accidents, and you’re OK with that. But for commercial companies, which uses market forces to eliminate companies that don’t deliver, you insist upon a “perfection only” standard.

    Regarding capability, show us where the current launch fleet is deficient? What funded payloads can’t they put into orbit?

    [crickets chirping]

  • Coastal Ron

    Joe wrote @ April 28th, 2011 at 8:25 pm

    That is very detailed, have you got a source for it?

    Ooh, almost. Irony is a tough one for you, isn’t it Joe? ;-)

  • Rhyolite

    SpaceX is up with a COTS video on their web site talking about the pusher LAS. Among other things, it shows Dragon making a propulsive landing, which they have discussed before. However, the interesting thing about the video is that they show Dragon making a propulsive landing on Mars.

    Take a look at 1:05 into the video:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6p6EruPdoXY

  • Rhyolite

    “requried for a 600mT Mars mission.”

    Missions as low as 200mT have been proposed by using ISRU. That’s 4 Falcon Heavies.

  • E.P. Grondine

    Hi CS –

    “NASA’s customers are the US public which is represented by Congress. Congress as such decides where to put the money as we saw with the CRs. Not NASA, not you, not I, not Ed Weiler, not even the President. CONGRESS.”

    Yes, The Congress passed the George Brown Amendment to NASA’s charter, and Griffin and Weiler ignored their direct instructions.

    “So instead of taking your venom to Ed Weiler”

    Excuse me, but given Weiler’s role in Griffin’s contempt of Congress in failing to address an immediate hazard to the people of this nation, I’m being very polite. I’m also pretty sure Weiler does not beat his dog or wife, and have a pretty good idea why he believes he took the correct course of action, even though he did not.

    Bur understanding how a crime took place in no way relieves it, though it does have bearing in the penalty phase.The Congress could have cited him and Griffin at the time, and did not, because of extenuating circumstances.

    “You may be more effective in making a real case for impact which you don’t, only doom and gloom, and put Congress feet to the fire.”

    The Congress does not need to have its feet held to the fire. The Congress issued their instructions, Griffin and Weiler failed to carry them out, and did so with contempt.

    While perhaps you are unable to understand the impact hazard, there
    are many people who are able to understand it. See above.

    My observation is that though the political process is often rough, in general “less than gifted” representatives and senators do not last that long in office.

    My current estimate is that the milieu in which space policy decisions are made will undergo significant change later this year.

  • “NASA lost 40% of it’s transportation fleet to accidents, and you’re OK with that.”

    No, as a matter of fact, I am not OK with the shuttle LOC figures, which are greater than 1 in 100. I sure hope that Mark Kelly makes it back, safe and sounds, after tomorrow’s launch.

    As I said, safety is an important consideration. That was one of the stronger points of the Ares I design, and one reason why Giffords was a strong proponent in the House of Constellation.

  • “With the Falcon heavy, you could launch a shuttle type craft with no cargo hold. 3 rows of 8 seats per row plus a pilot/copilot. 24 passengers at 10 million per seat would generate 240 million. That is a better fit for your buying a school bus to haul a lot of people at once.”

    A Falcon Heavy is a much more realistic candidate for BEO manned space missions than a Falcon 9, and from a number of standpoints (not cost), a 130 mT SLS heavy lift would be even better, especially for the largest missions, such as Mars.

  • Joe

    Coastal Ron wrote @ April 28th, 2011 at 10:21 pm
    Joe wrote @ April 28th, 2011 at 8:25 pm
    “That is very detailed, have you got a source for it?”
    “Ooh, almost. Irony is a tough one for you, isn’t it Joe?”

    No irony is a very tough one for you that was a question addressed to Vladislaw.

    Since you also seem to have trouble telling the difference in who is being addressed, I will try to make it easier.

    I wasn’t talking to you.

  • Coastal Ron

    Joe wrote @ April 29th, 2011 at 8:48 am

    Oh the joys of public blogs – try email if you want a private conversation. However I keep hoping that you’ll actually ADD something to a conversation, instead of subtracting…

  • Joe

    Coastal Ron wrote @ April 29th, 2011 at 9:48 am
    “Oh the joys of public blogs – try email if you want a private conversation. However I keep hoping that you’ll actually ADD something to a conversation, instead of subtracting…”

    Yes of course, you have your blog given right to butt in any place you want with off topic nonsensical comments.

    And, of course, you somehow think that “ADD”s to the conversation.

    Have a nice day.

    By the way Vladislaw (Coastal Ron’s fantasies not withstanding) if you have a link to the source of the vehicle you were describing I really would like to see it.

  • pathfinder_01

    “A Falcon Heavy is a much more realistic candidate for BEO manned space missions than a Falcon 9, and from a number of standpoints (not cost), a 130 mT SLS heavy lift would be even better, especially for the largest missions, such as Mars.”

    If cost is not a stand point then you will never be able to afford the mission. Trust me a 130MT lifter by NASA will never launch a mars mission. It will simoply eat the budget.

  • Vladislaw

    joe, it wasn’t from a source, I just looked at the HL – 42 and extrapolated. I was simply ballparking because a NASA heavy lift would never be used for mass transit and if we were looking for mass transit to space the Falcon Heavy could probably do it cheaper and provide more access than a NASA vehicle.

  • pathfinder_01

    “And to generate the needed methane on Mars, you would need a lander that contained a portable nuclear powerplant and lots of cyrogenically-cooled H2. No problem. I’ll just run across the street to Mars Depot and pick one up!”

    Or if you didn’t spend billions on an HLV we don’t need we could do R/D into what we do need. Anyway you don’t need cryogenically cooled H2 to make methane, you could create the hydrogen by landing near a source of water ice. Mars has ice located in spots around its equater. In terms of portable nuclear power plants well reactors have been sent into space before. In addition if you choose to go with hydrogen powered prop depots, you will develop the technology needed to store hydrogen for months.

    In addition the propellant combination of carbon monoxide and oxygen can be made anywhere on mars.

    Or you can send the propellant you need to return ahead and note solar powered electric propulsion could be great at this since who cares if it takes 1.5 years for your propellant/supplies to get to mars, so long as they arrive before you leave all is fine.

    Another trick is to use SEP to move the elements of your mars craft from low earth orbit to high earth orbit say L1/L2. This will greatly reduce the amount of propellant needed to leave earth orbit.

  • common sense

    @ E.P. Grondine wrote @ April 29th, 2011 at 12:02 am

    “While perhaps you are unable to understand the impact hazard, there
    are many people who are able to understand it. ”

    When was CAPS done? How far along are you with your plan?

    Maybe “many” but yet not many enough… Be smart and make a case. You haven’t and you have no budget. Reality is a tough mistress.

    Oh well…

  • Joe

    Vladislaw wrote @ April 29th, 2011 at 2:04 pm
    “joe, it wasn’t from a source, I just looked at the HL – 42 and extrapolated. I was simply ballparking because a NASA heavy lift would never be used for mass transit and if we were looking for mass transit to space the Falcon Heavy could probably do it cheaper and provide more access than a NASA vehicle.”

    Understood. If I can make a friendly suggestion, scaling a specific design over a significant range is not a good idea. So you will (hopefully) know this is a friendly suggestion I will give you an example I think you will like.

    The CEV (Orion) design for Constellation was taken to be a scaled up Apollo CM (actually flew and worked very well). But that kind of scaling gives you the same lift/drag ratio, with a much higher mass. Many people assume that the weight problems for the Orion CM were caused by lack of payload capability from the now defunct (and I am not trying to refight that argument, so please let’s not go there) Ares I. The real problem was the loads on the main parachute lines when the mains deployed. The Orion CM had approximately the same negative vertical velocity but a significantly higher mass. A lifting body like the HL-42 would not have the same scaling problems, but you can be sure there would be others.

  • “If cost is not a stand point then you will never be able to afford the mission. Trust me a 130MT lifter by NASA will never launch a mars mission. It will simoply eat the budget.”

    With an annual budget of $18+ billion and a reasonable amount of patience, NASA can easily afford a 10 billion development effort, as long as it is allowed to become operational, rather than being aborted, mid-term.

    It will also be important that anti-space-exploration anarchists do not succeed in using voodoo accounting to mislead the press that each HLV flight costs billions of dollars, when the marginal cost of each spacecraft will cost hundreds of millions.

  • pathfinder_01

    “It will also be important that anti-space-exploration anarchists do not succeed in using voodoo accounting to mislead the press that each HLV flight costs billions of dollars, when the marginal cost of each spacecraft will cost hundreds of millions.”

    LOL… like $800 million a flight no spacecraft inculded if you mean two flights a year at shuttle rates…..

  • “Or if you didn’t spend billions on an HLV we don’t need we could do R/D into what we do need. Anyway you don’t need cryogenically cooled H2 to make methane, you could create the hydrogen by landing near a source of water ice. Mars has ice located in spots around its equater. In terms of portable nuclear power plants well reactors have been sent into space before. In addition if you choose to go with hydrogen powered prop depots, you will develop the technology needed to store hydrogen for months.”

    Interesting proposal to make use of insitu H2O for methane generation. The Mars Direct plan included 5+ Kg of H2 for propellant generation, but with recent discoveries of sub-surface water-ice, that might not be needed.

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

    The question is what type of power source would be needed for propellant generation, and, presumably, for surface exploration. Mars Direct assumed a small RTG source, which does not tend to put out much power, but is very simple and reliable.

    For a Moon base, NASA was looking at a more conventional 20KW powerplant that employed the thermodynamics of liquids and gasses to convert the heat into significantly more electric power.

    http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2008/sep/HQ_08-227_Moon_Power.html

    Again, not something that grows on trees, nor off-the-shelf parts.

  • Correction: That was 5,000+ Kg = 5 mT of H2 for propellant generation…

  • It is not “voodoo accounting” to point out that a vehicle that costs twelve billion to develop and will only fly four times will cost three billion per flight.

  • Vladislaw

    Joe, I understand the point you are making.

    Around the time the HL-42 was being talked about I recall one paper where the number of people it could carry was discussed. It presented numbers in the 12-14 range, but there wasn’t any seating arrangment illustrations and the NASA one that was released only showed cargo configurations. The gross weight of that was 63,000 pounds or about 32 tons, so with an excess of 20 extra tons of throw weight for the Falcon Heavy I thought it was at least in the ballpark.

    I have an image of a British design but couldn’t find the link. That was a shuttle stack based design and it is in the 50 passenger range.

    What would be your best guess on how many potential passengers could be lofted on a Falcon Heavy?

  • Coastal Ron

    Nelson Bridwell wrote @ April 29th, 2011 at 4:39 pm

    With an annual budget of $18+ billion and a reasonable amount of patience, NASA can easily afford a 10 billion development effort…

    The Constellation program was on track to cost NASA $100B, so I hope you’re not implying that we can get to Mars for $10B. Heck, the JWST was estimated back in 2005 to cost $3.5B, and that doesn’t carry anyone.

    Until NASA can learn how do exploration in a cost-effective manner, we (all of us taxpayers) won’t go far if we have to depend on just NASA.

  • Coastal Ron

    Joe wrote @ April 29th, 2011 at 4:01 pm

    The real problem…

    Interesting to hear of the other issues that were impacting cost & schedule.

    You would think that someone would use these types of lessons to improve “the system” NASA uses for making big decisions. Although that would only work with non-political decisions…

  • Martijn Meijering

    anti-space-exploration anarchists

    Those are a figment of your imagination. Why do you resort to outright lies and fabrications? It suggests that you know you are wrong. How can that be ethical?

  • Martijn Meijering

    A Falcon Heavy is a much more realistic candidate for BEO manned space missions than a Falcon 9, and from a number of standpoints (not cost), a 130 mT SLS heavy lift would be even better, especially for the largest missions, such as Mars.

    Utter nonsense. Skyscrapers are built from parts of less than 20mT. Cost/kg is what matters, not size. Aircraft models have production runs of hundreds of aircraft, each of which will make thousands of flights. It is utter lunacy to develop an unneeded launch vehicle at the pitiful flight rates we’ve seen to date. Then again, lunacy seems to be right up your alley.

  • Major Tom

    “With an annual budget of $18+ billion and a reasonable amount of patience, NASA can easily afford a 10 billion development effort…”

    SLS will _not_ be a $10 billion development. The 2010 NASA Authorization Act authorized $6.9 billion for SLS development from FY11-FY13 and directs that the SLS be operational by 2016. The 2011 year-end CR bumped that figure up to $7.1 billion. The costs of SLS development will have a Gaussian distribution like practically every other development project, so to meet 2016, SLS will need as much in FY14-FY16 as it does in FY11-13 — another $7.1 billion or $14.2 billion total through FY16. On top of that, NASA has already sent a report Congress stating that NASA can’t build SLS within that $14 billion budget, assuming a Shuttle-derived SLS.

    images.spaceref.com/news/2011/Sec.309.Report.pdf

    So, at a minimum, SLS is already north — probably billions of dollars north — of $14.2 billion. That’s a far cry from $10 billion. And that’s before the program has even started and the underestimates and overruns kick in.

    Ares I alone was in the neighborhood of $20 billion, and SLS will be bigger and more complex using the same technical base, workforce, and infrastructure. We’re looking at $30-40 billion easy for SLS.

    “It will also be important that anti-space-exploration anarchists…”

    Being critical of SLS or HLVs in general is not the same thing as being “anti-space-exploration [sic]“. (Or an “anarchist”, whatever that means.) There are multiple, viable architectures for conducting human space exploration without SLS or an HLV. Here’s two, the first one from the same guy who led the ESAS study:

    images.spaceref.com/news/2011/F9Prop.Depot.pdf

    ulalaunch.com/site/docs/publications/AffordableExplorationArchitecture2009.pdf

    In fact, because they don’t sink several tens of billions into building an HLV, architectures that use existing LVs are able to begin actual human space exploration missions years, sometimes decades, sooner than exploration architectures based on HLVs. Being anti-SLS or anti-HLV is actually pro space exploration.

    Do you want to build a really big rocket? Or do you want to explore space?

    With the exception of unusual geopolitical circumstances that led to the outsized Saturn V/Apollo budgets, HLVs have never been affordable. N-1, Energia, various Shuttle C-type variants, ALS, NLS, and now Ares V have all been terminated during design/development or after a couple flights. Even Saturn V was terminated because its costs were not sustainable. Repeated attempts to build HLVs at great cost, instead of just getting on with actual space exploration, are holding back human space exploration, not enabling it.

    “do not succeed in using voodoo accounting to mislead the press that each HLV flight costs billions of dollars, when the marginal cost of each spacecraft will cost hundreds of millions.”

    That’s simply a lie.

    The _marginal_ cost of a Saturn V flight is over $2.5 billion in today’s dollars.

    http://selenianboondocks.com/2006/11/the-myth-of-the-low-cost-hlv/

    There’s no reason to believe that the marginal cost of a new HLV is going to be a factor of five less than Saturn V. That’s goofy.

    Moreover, average costs, not marginal costs, are what matter at the beginning of a program. If the development costs are still in front of you, you have to amortize them and factor them into your decisionmaking to make a rational decision.

    Otherwise, you’re just lying to yourself…

  • Well of course the marginal cost of a Shuttle flight is not billions either, in fact in the rare cases where a Shuttle flight was simply added to the exiting schedule the cost was under $100M. But now that Shuttle has been killed off the entire cost of maintaining the SRB infrastructure must be born by Constellation, or as it is now called, HLV/MPCV. That makes its cost much higher than the Falcon/Dragon.

    I remain confused as to what the “vision for space exploration” was, if not a massive fraud. There is no conceivable way we can afford human spaceflight with expendable launch vehicles, and the taxpayers would not in their wildest dreams pay for another Apollo with no practical benefit. Even Bush, who started the program, refused to pay for it.

    Cancellation of the Shuttle, and indeed the abandonment of the entire concept of fully reusable spaceflight, will be recognized in the future as a tragic mistake. Reusability is the only way to practicality.

  • “It is not “voodoo accounting” to point out that a vehicle that costs twelve billion to develop and will only fly four times will cost three billion per flight.”

    It is voodoo accounting to prematurely cancel a space vehicle after only a few flights, that costs you less than $200M per flight, once development has been completed, because the public incorrectly assumes from deceptive propaganda that every single launch costs $1.5B.

  • Joe

    Coastal Ron wrote @ April 29th, 2011 at 6:48 pm
    Joe wrote @ April 29th, 2011 at 4:01 pm
    “The real problem…”

    Now there is a short quote.

    Do you have any idea what the whole statement meant? Rhetorical question.

    The problems caused by the mistake of assuming that the Apollo CM could be simply scaled up were well on their way to being solved before the administration pulled the plug. Nevertheless it would have been easier if they had been noted during the ESAS review, which was the meaning of the conversation with Vladislaw.

    “Interesting to hear of the other issues that were impacting cost & schedule.”

    If you did not already know that it is because you only pay attention to certain points of view that fit your prejudices (such as discussions that obsess only on booster design).

    “You would think that someone would use these types of lessons to improve “the system” NASA uses for making big decisions. Although that would only work with non-political decisions…”

    Unfortunately “non-political decisions” only happen where no government money is involved, get back to me with all your pomposity when Space X et. al. stop taking any government money at all.

    Until then you are still just Trolling in other people’s conversations.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Nelson Bridwell wrote @ April 29th, 2011 at 4:39 pm

    “It will also be important that anti-space-exploration anarchists do not succeed in using voodoo accounting to mislead the press that each HLV flight costs billions of dollars, when the marginal cost of each spacecraft will cost hundreds of millions”

    that is your most “wind like” post yet…”anarchist”? goofy

    But I am curious, what do you define the cost of a vehicle as if it cost 12 billion to develop and it flies four times? And we have not even gotten to the “marginal cost”.

    why wont you answer those questions instead of throwing around goofy words?

    are you becoming a troll?

    Robert G. Oler

  • “anti-space-exploration anarchists: Those are a figment of your imagination. Why do you resort to outright lies and fabrications? It suggests that you know you are wrong. How can that be ethical?”

    I take it that you might possibly take offense to describing anti-NASA activists as anarchists, and for suggesting that they are actually anti-space-exploration.

    Well, maybe there might be a more accurate description, but if you think about it, it really isn’t very far off:

    —From Wikipedia:
    Anarchism is a political philosophy which considers the state undesirable, unnecessary, and harmful, and instead promotes a stateless society, or anarchy. Anarchists seek to diminish or even abolish authority in the conduct of human relations, but widely disagree on what additional criteria are essential to anarchism. According to The Oxford Companion to Philosophy, “there is no single defining position that all anarchists hold, and those considered anarchists at best share a certain family resemblance.”

    There are people who are against space exploration because they feel that it is wrong to spend any money on space as long as there is one social injustice or underpriviledged person on earth. (It is my impression that people like that do not tend to read spacepolitics.com.)

    There are other people who are anti-NASA because they think that NASA, never mind Apollo, can never do anything right. They view the lack of progress over the past 30 years as the result of fundamental incompetence on the part of NASA. (Many of these people are not engineers.)

    There are other people who are anti-NASA because they feel that space exploration could be done for much less money than NASA, and that if outer space was liberated from the claws of NASA then private enterprise can at last step in and begin to settle the solar system within only a few years. (Many of these people have no business experience.)

    Many of these people say that they are for space development, never mind exploration, but if you look at the actual result of their actions, it is the stagnation and uncertainly that we have been experiencing over the past few years. Jeff Greason said it so correctly when he recently commented at a conference that “If we don’t hang together (NASA, New Space, Old Space) then we will certainly all hang apart.”

  • Coastal Ron

    Dan Woodard wrote @ April 29th, 2011 at 7:13 pm

    Well of course the marginal cost of a Shuttle flight is not billions either, in fact in the rare cases where a Shuttle flight was simply added to the exiting schedule the cost was under $100M.

    I don’t know where this fiction keeps coming from. Here is a study that was done recently about the total Shuttle program costs:

    http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v472/n7341/full/472038d.html

    I just posted the following on the 4/28 Space Politics blog topic for Nelson, so you can look there for the backup and details:

    The Shuttle ET costs $173M and the SRM sets cost $69M/set, so that’s $242M right there, and that is for 4-segment SRM’s and non-extended ET’s. Those costs are also for flight rates averaging around 3-4 per year after they have been flying the same design for years, so the SLS costs (i.e. modified design, lower flight rate, etc.) are going to be much higher.

    As always, TNSTAAFL

  • “Cancellation of the Shuttle, and indeed the abandonment of the entire concept of fully reusable spaceflight, will be recognized in the future as a tragic mistake. Reusability is the only way to practicality.”

    What you say does not sound 100% unreasonable. However, in a recent The Space Show, Wayne Hale, former shuttle program manger, commented that reusables only tend to work if you have very high flight rates, and that in most cases a more practical approach is to lower the manufacturing cost of expendable technology. (Surprised me.)

    http://www.thespaceshow.com/detail.asp?q=1544

    Also, there were fundamental flaws in the space shuttle concept, such as the very low payload mass to orbiter ratio, the need to risk crew to launch unmanned shuttles, the lack of a launch abort system, the major safety issues with the TPS…

  • correction: …the need to risk crew to put simple payloads into orbit …

  • Rhyolite

    “Cancellation of the Shuttle, and indeed the abandonment of the entire concept of fully reusable spaceflight, will be recognized in the future as a tragic mistake. Reusability is the only way to practicality.”

    Who’s given up on reusability? Dream Chaser, CST-100, and Dragon are all designed to be reusable. Blue Origin is working on a reusable launch vehicle. SpaceX is working on making the Falcon 9 core reusable. The Air Force is operating reusable X-37s and studying fly-back boosters.

    Only NASA appears to have given up on reusability. And that is only because congress want’s it run as a jobs program rather than as a space program. Actual technical advancement would break some cherished rice bowls.

  • Coastal Ron

    Nelson Bridwell wrote @ April 29th, 2011 at 7:39 pm

    It is voodoo accounting to prematurely cancel a space vehicle after only a few flights, that costs you less than $200M per flight…

    I’m not going to debate 40 year old conspiracy theories, but it is apparent Nelson that you use “voodoo accounting” to try and make HLV’s look affordable. You throw around incredibly low cost numbers with no relevant backup.

    Where are your facts?

    Or even more telling, do you care about facts?

  • Coastal Ron

    Joe wrote @ April 29th, 2011 at 7:49 pm

    Now there is a short quote.

    There was a lot of text before and after that, so I picked what I thought was your most important point. Since I quoted you as the source, and noted the timestamp, I figured others could easily go back and read in context what you wrote.

    Not familiar with such blog posting techniques? Rhetorical question.

    The problems caused by…

    Apparently you think I was somehow questioning what you wrote, but I wasn’t. I enjoy reading facts, and what you presented appeared to be inside knowledge (or perspective) from the Orion portion of Constellation. Notice I didn’t ask you for validation, since I took what you said at face value. Just like with all anonymous facts, I filter it internally and weigh it, but since I have nothing to compare it to, I also had no reason to debate it.

    If you did not already know that it is because you only pay attention to certain points of view that fit your prejudices (such as discussions that obsess only on booster design).

    I wasn’t aware that there was a definitive analysis of all the failings of the Constellation program. Maybe you can point me to the book link on Amazon? Rhetorical question.

    Continuing, I think most people are aware that some of the issues with Orion’s budget overrun were because of the lack of a definitive design for Ares I. I have always like this family picture of it’s design evolution:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Ares_I_Evolution.jpg

    But your inside view of the Orion program adds perspective to the debate about the MPCV.

    Regarding “prejudices” for boosters, I post comments on boosters and payloads, so maybe you’re the one that is being selective. It’s just that the SLS is the biggest new dollar item being pushed by Congress, and many of us don’t see the Taxpayer value for it. If obsessing over waste is a bad thing for you, then so be it, but that doesn’t mean others can’t be concerned about the future of the U.S. space program.

    And my obsessions tend to be surrounded by facts and figures, since it is true that I’m not a rocket scientist, but I think my manufacturing background brings a relevant perspective to the space program, and facts tend be to scarce sometimes when they shouldn’t be.

    I don’t know who you are, a paper pusher, a systems engineer, or maybe a fruit seller – and it doesn’t matter, especially since we both post anonymously. As I’ve said before, I come here to discuss, debate and learn, so I appreciate those that do the same. Is that you? That was a rhetorical question… ;-)

  • Major Tom

    “It is voodoo accounting to prematurely cancel a space vehicle after only a few flights, that costs you less than $200M per flight, once development has been completed, because the public incorrectly assumes from deceptive propaganda that every single launch costs $1.5B.”

    If you’re referring to Shuttle, this is completely misleading. If it’s not in shutdown mode, the annual budget to maintain the Shuttle standing army and infrastructure is about $5 billion per year. You can’t buy another Shuttle flight at a marginal cost of $200 million if you’ve havn’t paid that $5 billion run rate first. So even if you’re not amortizing development costs from the 1970s, a few Shuttle flights per year are still going to cost the taxpayer about $1-1.5 billion per flight, not $200 million per flight.

    Don’t make stuff up.

    This is a fundamental problem with the old Apollo/Shuttle technical base — it has huge fixed costs just to maintain the ability to do any launches. The key is not necessarily expendable, reusable, etc. — it’s low fixed costs and scalability.

  • Major Tom

    “I’m not going to debate 40 year old conspiracy theories, but it is apparent Nelson that you use “voodoo accounting” to try and make HLV’s look affordable. You throw around incredibly low cost numbers with no relevant backup.

    Where are your facts?

    Or even more telling, do you care about facts?”

    Forget facts. How about just common sense and basic math skills. If the taxpayer really could buy Shuttle flights for $200 million each, then at a rate of a few to a handful of flights per year, the Shuttle budget should never have exceeded $1-1.5 billion. But the annual Shuttle budget was $4-5 billion per year, not $1-1.5 billion.

    FWIW…

  • common sense

    Re: Reusability and Expendability

    Reusability is not the panacea people want to make of it. As with anything it depends on your requirements. One of which maybe the flight rate. Soyuz are being built kind of on a chain and are inexpensive. Costs have amortized long ago. If we were to have airline like ops then it becomes self evident you don’t want to throw away everything after each flight. Orion was to be reusable for about 10 flights. It was not clear what reusable meant then. Only that people wanted to save money and not throw away everything. But bear in mind that reuse means re-qualify a (sub)system. For example, would you re-use the AVCOAT TPS base heatshield? Probably not. PICA? Unlikely. The early Orion scenario was to drop the heatshield before landing and use retro-rockets/airbags. In the end the mass was too high, whether it was putting too much stress on the chutes or not is irrelevant in that matter. The point was you need requirements. Requirements are dictated by cost and safety, mostly. “Imposing” reusability for the sake of it will not save you money just on and of itself.

    Hope this helps.

  • Martijn Meijering

    I take it that you might possibly take offense to describing anti-NASA activists as anarchists, and for suggesting that they are actually anti-space-exploration.

    I disagree with the term anti-NASA activists too. I think I’m included in the group of people you’re trying to describe and the label doesn’t fit. As a space enthusiast I’m not opposed to there being a NASA, even though as a proponent of limited government I think it cannot be justified and is probably unconstitutional too. That said it is not at the top of my list of priorities when it comes to limited government. Especially as I’m not a US citizen…

    I observe that special interests are using words inaccurately to suggest their goals are less parochial and selfish than they really are and to suggest support for their position is broader than it really is.

    For instance people say NASA is under threat when it would be more accurate to say NASA HSF is under threat and more accurate still to say that Constellation or the Shuttle industrial complex is under threat – and that is as it should be.

    NASA > NASA HSF > the Shuttle industrial complex > Constellation.
    HSF >
    Congress > the US Senate > special interests in the US Senate > Senators Shelby and Hatch
    HLV > SDHLV > Ares / DIRECT / Shuttle -C

    You are doing the same thing by suggesting people are opposed to NASA. I think there is hardly anyone here who is emotionally opposed to the existence of a NASA, even though some will admit it probably cannot be rationally justified. I think everybody here wants NASA to succeed, but that means NASA in the broadest sense of the word, which does not necessarily include maintaining the current workforce or contractor base. It could be something like the O’Keefe / Steidle vision of an exploration / R&D agency that procures most of its services commercially and competitively and has the goal of advancing the cause of development of space.

    Many of these people say that they are for space development, never mind exploration, but if you look at the actual result of their actions, it is the stagnation and uncertainly that we have been experiencing over the past few years.

    You are free to analyse this as you wish, but I see things differently. I see forty years of stagnation, not just two and half (the time I’ve been following the issues).

    If Steidle had been allowed to pursue the path he wanted we could have had exploration missions by now as well as frequent commercial propellant launches. In that case we’d probably have multiple companies developing small orbital RLVs with commercial funding, instead of just one as we do now. That would have given us real prospects for significant space tourisms (tens of private individuals a year). If Obama had changed course the day after his inauguration (never a realistic prospect of course), then we might have been a year to a year and a half away from the first commercial propellant flights.

    The stagnation of the last couple of years was caused by entrenched special interests, cheered on and defended by people like you. Much like the stagnation of the past forty years.

    As for being opposed to exploration or advocating things would would have a negative effect on it, that’s not true either. I have repeatedly sketched a scenario that would allow exploration faster than with an HLV and that is still centered around providing a large and fiercely competitive propellant launch market as soon as possible. I care more about the latter than about the former since I think it is the latter that will open up space for mankind, but the goals are perfectly synergistic.

    You are the one who is insisting we should have a single, privileged launch vehicle and the onus is on you to prove it is necessary. And you can’t do that because it isn’t. That’s not an opinion, it is an easily verified fact.

    You may disagree as to the likely effect of proposed policies (and I’ll confess I don’t believe you are approaching this with an open mind and confess I believe you have a “hidden” agenda), but the passion in favour of commercial manned spaceflight comes precisely from a burning desire to see commercial development of space and from nothing else. I’ll further confess that I don’t believe you are motivated by a passion for exploration, manned spaceflight, or commercial development of space, but by a passion for big rockets, NASA rockets or perhaps ulterior motives.

  • Joe

    Coastal Ron wrote @ April 29th, 2011 at 11:04 pm
    Joe wrote @ April 29th, 2011 at 7:49 pm
    “Apparently you think I was somehow questioning what you wrote, but I wasn’t. I enjoy reading facts, and what you presented appeared to be inside knowledge (or perspective) from the Orion portion of Constellation. Notice I didn’t ask you for validation, since I took what you said at face value. Just like with all anonymous facts, I filter it internally and weigh it, but since I have nothing to compare it to, I also had no reason to debate it.”

    While I was involved in some of the activities surrounding resolution of the CM weight issues, nothing I said was “inside knowledge” (if that is meant in the sense that a secret was given away). The CM issues have been openly discussed in various open technical forums/journals.

    “I wasn’t aware that there was a definitive analysis of all the failings of the Constellation program. Maybe you can point me to the book link on Amazon? Rhetorical question.”

    It’s a little early for a book detailing (as you would have it) “all the failings of the Constellation program”, but if you are really interested you could search the literature and find information on the CM. Who knows maybe someday it will even reach Wikipedia.

    “But your inside view of the Orion program adds perspective to the debate about the MPCV.”

    My “inside view” of what is public knowledge should tell you that any new vehicle will experience similar growing pains and thus the work already done on Orion should be used for the MPCV (saving time, money and reducing risk). Being the neutral and objective analyst you are, I am sure that is what you meant.

    “I don’t know who you are, a paper pusher, a systems engineer, or maybe a fruit seller – and it doesn’t matter, especially since we both post anonymously. As I’ve said before, I come here to discuss, debate and learn, so I appreciate those that do the same. Is that you? That was a rhetorical question…”
    If I was a “fruit seller” I would have more sense than to involve myself in conversations like this.

    Have a nice day.

  • E.P. Grondine

    Hi MM

    “You are doing the same thing by suggesting people are opposed to NASA. I think there is hardly anyone here who is emotionally opposed to the existence of a NASA, even though some will admit it probably cannot be rationally justified. I think everybody here wants NASA to succeed, but that means NASA in the broadest sense of the word, which does not necessarily include maintaining the current workforce or contractor base. It could be something like the O’Keefe / Steidle vision of an exploration / R&D agency that procures most of its services commercially and competitively and has the goal of advancing the cause of development of space.”

    Again and again with the “EXPLORATION word. I think you’re right, everyone who participates here is an “EXPLORATION” fan, including Jeff, and are just figuring out how to get it done.

    But not myself, nor the bulk of the public. (That situation does not hold in China, where they are focused on the development of the Moon.)

    Here in the US, most people are more concerned about space finding us, rather than what we’ll find in space.

    Get with the times, folks.

  • Coastal Ron

    Joe wrote @ April 30th, 2011 at 10:02 am

    nothing I said was “inside knowledge”

    OK. And in-artful description on my part.

    The CM issues have been openly discussed in various open technical forums/journals.

    Which I don’t read, so your description was likely the first I had heard (thus appreciated).

    Being the neutral and objective analyst you are, I am sure that is what you meant.

    My assumption is that they can get the MPCV to fly safely given enough time and money. My main issue with the MPCV is that the decision to evolve it from the Moon program shortcuts the question of whether a capsule is the right vehicle for general exploration.

    I think all sides looked at the MPCV as a jobs issue first, and assumed it would be usable for exploration. If there hadn’t been such a scramble after the decision to cancel Constellation, then maybe there could have been a review of our future needs. But that didn’t happen so, I think we’re in for some “non-optimal” times concerning our ability to do cutting edge exploration. Just my $0.02

    Thanks for the conversation.

  • E.P. Grondine

    Hi Nelson –

    I’ve not followed your technical thinking closely, but the following from you is not a bad summary of the political situation, and it certainly describes the activities of many.

    As space “enthusiasts” to tend to stand around in a circle and shoot each other, it is important to understand “Why?” they do that.

    In my opinion your analysis leaves out impact, though, and that is the game changer, though many here disagree, as they have their emotions invested in “exploration”.

    For me, it is a complete mistake to spend any time here trying to explain the severity of the impact hazard to people focused on “exploration”.

    As it now sits we have USA, ULA, and SpaceX all offering 70 ton HLV alternatives. For some reason I am satisfied with that final disposition for this year.

    I expect that the perception of the environment in which final down selection decision are made will be fundamentally different, say by October of this year.

    In any case, Musk will proceed unless obstructed. As to his chances of technical success, I expect they are pretty good, but we’ll see.

    ULA will be working on its technical problems,
    and USA knows things have to change from the old model.

    EP

    “There are people who are against space exploration because they feel that it is wrong to spend any money on space as long as there is one social injustice or underpriviledged person on earth. (It is my impression that people like that do not tend to read spacepolitics.com.)

    “There are other people who are anti-NASA because they think that NASA, never mind Apollo, can never do anything right. They view the lack of progress over the past 30 years as the result of fundamental incompetence on the part of NASA. (Many of these people are not engineers.)

    “There are other people who are anti-NASA because they feel that space exploration could be done for much less money than NASA, and that if outer space was liberated from the claws of NASA then private enterprise can at last step in and begin to settle the solar system within only a few years. (Many of these people have no business experience.)

    “Many of these people say that they are for space development, never mind exploration, but if you look at the actual result of their actions, it is the stagnation and uncertainly that we have been experiencing over the past few years. Jeff Greason said it so correctly when he recently commented at a conference that “If we don’t hang together (NASA, New Space, Old Space) then we will certainly all hang apart.”

  • Martijn Meijering

    Again and again with the “EXPLORATION word. I think you’re right, everyone who participates here is an “EXPLORATION” fan, including Jeff, and are just figuring out how to get it done.

    I am a fan of exploration only in the sense that I’d certainly like to see it happen, not in that I want to subordinate other things to it. I’m more interested in development of space than in exploration, but as it happens exploration with competing commercial launchers might be the best way to develop small commercially available RLVs and those small RLVs in turn can reciprocate the favour by being the best way to reduce the cost of exploration dramatically. Commercial development of space and exploration would go hand in hand, but I’d be in it for the commercial development of space, not the exploration.

    But not myself, nor the bulk of the public. (That situation does not hold in China, where they are focused on the development of the Moon.)

    The general public doesn’t care about space very much.

    Here in the US, most people are more concerned about space finding us, rather than what we’ll find in space.

    I’d be very surprised if that were true. I think you are confusing your own opinion with that of the general public. My money is on the general public not giving a damn.

  • Coastal Ron

    E.P. Grondine wrote @ April 30th, 2011 at 1:59 pm

    Again and again with the “EXPLORATION word. I think you’re right, everyone who participates here is an “EXPLORATION” fan, including Jeff, and are just figuring out how to get it done.

    NASA’s self-described mission statement is to “pioneer the future in space exploration, scientific discovery and aeronautics research”, so those of us on this blog are not the only ones that are exploration fans. In fact, that’s probably one of the few things that we have in common, although we don’t agree on the when, where & how. You seem to be in the minority, not that that’s a bad thing, just an observation.

    But not myself, nor the bulk of the public.

    Define “public”. No one that I talk to has ever raised the subject of “space finding us” (i.e. impacts on Earth) as a concern, or even as a topic of conversation. Is it in the news? The mass media? Who in our government is fretting about this publicly?

    That situation does not hold in China, where they are focused on the development of the Moon.

    Right now China’s next big goal is a space station in LEO by 2020 that is 1/8 the size of the ISS. Other than that they have aspirations for the Moon just like everyone else does, but just like everyone else, has not committed the huge sums necessary to make it happen. Let’s keep some perspective on this.

    Here in the US, most people are more concerned about space finding us, rather than what we’ll find in space.

    Maybe if you ask them in a survey, but then they back to their normal lives and live oblivious to the “problem”. If a Rep. from the House isn’t banging the drum on this, then I doubt the public is concerned.

    Get with the times, folks.

    While I don’t share your enthusiasm for the topic, I do think it should be part of our expansion into space to set up a monitoring system so we can forecast potential planetary dangers. I don’t see this as exclusive to exploration and commercial efforts, as lowering the cost to access space makes it even easier to set up a monitoring system (costs less, gets done faster, etc.).

    Lastly though, if this nation is going to implement a warning system, then we need the Department of Defense to be in charge of our defense efforts, which means a formal organization to plan and coordinate defense strategies with our planetary neighbors. NASA will be part of the team, but I don’t see them as leading it.

  • “If you’re referring to Shuttle, this is completely misleading”

    No, i was being hypothetical, although the numbers were guided by Bolden’s claims in front of Congress that each Ares I launch would cost well over a billion. That was rebutted a few days later by Doug Cook who put the marginal cost at $178 million.

    We need to look at the REAL costs, including all the incidentals, such as the payroll for the dedicated maintenance crews, etc. That includes range fees for commercial vehicles launched from Cape Caneveral, as well at the massive shuttle maintenance labor force.

    My concern is that anything that NASA does, no matter how fiscally responsible, will be made to appear scandalously overexpensive by dividing the development budget by a tiny number of launches. A small sounding rocket could appear to cost a billion dollars per launch, when in fact the manufacturing cost of each vehicle might be less than 1 million.

    For the same reason, because NASA does have large overhead costs, it is important that:

    (1) They should only work on spacecraft that others (commercial) will not come up with in the near future. SpaceX would be hard-pressed to find one commercial customer for a 130mT HLV or an Altair lander.

    (2) It is vital that major development programs that NASA undertake (ISS, SLS, etc), are not cancelled prematurely, and that the resulting spacecraft are used over and over again, for decades into the future.

    (3) Whenever NASA spends large amouts of money on technology development, it should be tied in with specific future missions. There will be always be a need for basic research to see if a concept will work at all, but the really expensive programs need to be directed to real needs, not just fun and games in the lab. VASIMR is an example where the lack of a practical low-mass nuclear reactor makes it totally impractical for the next few decades, so as cool as it might be, this is something that NASA should not be funding. Maybe they need to fund development of low-mass nuclear powerplants for general space usage.

  • “If the taxpayer really could buy Shuttle flights for $200 million each, then at a rate of a few to a handful of flights per year, the Shuttle budget should never have exceeded $1-1.5 billion. But the annual Shuttle budget was $4-5 billion per year, not $1-1.5 billion.”

    Actually, your numbers are high. The numbers for 2008-10 were 3.3B, 3.0B, and 3.3B…I am not saying that the Shuttle was a bargain… It was somewhere in between. We did not need to buy a new set of SSMEs and orbiter with each flight, but the labor man-hours for the TPS and engine overhauls was murder…

    http://www.nasa.gov/pdf/344612main_Agency_Summary_Final_updates_5_6_09_R2.pdf

  • “You may disagree as to the likely effect of proposed policies (and I’ll confess I don’t believe you are approaching this with an open mind and confess I believe you have a “hidden” agenda), but the passion in favour of commercial manned spaceflight comes precisely from a burning desire to see commercial development of space and from nothing else.”

    I entirley belive you…Just as I belived all the Star Trek fans who wrote in to insist that the very first shuttle should be named Enterprise, even though it would never reach space, or those who sicerely believed that the shuttle was the beginning of a whole new chapter in space exploration, or those who claimed that the ISS will result in major breakthroughs in medicine and wonder materials, or those who belived that there would be a big EELV market, driver by satellite phone demand. (The jury is still out on the ISS. Wayne Hale says that there have been some very recent ISS zero-g discoveries that look like they could lead to new vaccines, possibly even for AIDS.)

    I do not fault your intentions. I do, however, take issue with the accuracy of some of your expectations:

    There will not be any major new, booming commercial space markets over the next 20 years. Satellites are and will continue to be stangant.

    There will be a very small (20/year) LEO tourism market for the next decade.

    There will not be any commercial market for BEO space, other than perhaps one or two round-the-moon tourist flights.

  • “If Obama had changed course the day after his inauguration (never a realistic prospect of course), then we might have been a year to a year and a half away from the first commercial propellant flights.”

    The problem that space depo enthuiasts overlook is that either way, you still need to get the needed mass up in oribt. For a real manned Mars mission you need 600mT in LEO. If your $100 M EELV puts up 20 mT you need 30 launches, which comes to a whopping $3B, not to mention the delays, logistical nightmares, and on-orbit assembly associated with those 30 launches. In theory, yes, you could do BEO missions with just 20mT launchers, but in reality, it would be totally impractical. Much more knowledgable people like Wayne Hale (who now carries the commercial space banner) also point out that getting the launch windows right for use of LEO fuel depot would be VERY challenging.

  • “If Steidle had been allowed to pursue the path he wanted we could have had exploration missions by now as well as frequent commercial propellant launches. In that case we’d probably have multiple companies developing small orbital RLVs with commercial funding, instead of just one as we do now.”

    The biggest problem with NASA is that we keep re-fighting the same battles, over and over, without anything ever being resolved. It is almost like that episode of Star Trek where an alien lifeform of pure energy transported Klingons onto the Enterprise, and kept everyone in a constant state of battle until the commanders finally got wise to what is happening ;-(

  • pathfinder_01

    “My assumption is that they can get the MPCV to fly safely given enough time and money. My main issue with the MPCV is that the decision to evolve it from the Moon program shortcuts the question of whether a capsule is the right vehicle for general exploration.”

    Well the exploration needed was not well defined to begin with. Congress basically want something general purpose that can do LEO and deep space exploration. Think the shuttle but for deep space. The problem is capsules really are not general purpose crafts. They are good at transporting people to and from a station or to and from say lunar orbit. They are crew transfer vehicles. Anyway if you look at the HEFT report NASA wishes to build a deep space habitat for those missions as well as an in space craft called a space exploration vehicle that is sorta like the work bee on star trek. Orion, hab, and SEV would do the mission.

    Anyway a capsule is perfect for transport esp. deep space. It could be from the earth to a space station or larger space craft.

    In theory you could do without a capsule say for the LEO to L1(or other location) leg but having one allows you to abort to earth if needed. Lets say a crew member gets ill. If your spacecraft needs to dock with another spacecraft to send you back to earth there is going to be delay(and possible complications). If your spacecraft has the ability to renter and land you can land somewhere(it just may be a matter of getting a rescue team to the location). Also the Earth or LEO to L1/L2 leg is short enough that being in a capsule is not a huge problem(i.e. 6 days or so).

    One way to handle this leg would be a spacecraft like Orion and then evolve from there. Say a mark II that is partially or fully reusable(or replace with dragon) and then if you can get cheap propellant up and get it cheaply out to l1 then evolve again into say an LEO to L1 transfer craft with built in abort capability.

    One of Orion’s problems is that lunar/deep space requirements tend to drive the amount of mass the mission needs up while ares 1 was unable to lift much and top it off with trying to create an Apollo 2.0 that was very different in use than Apollo 1.0. I think it is worth saving but yes it is a mess.

  • Coastal Ron

    pathfinder_01 wrote @ April 30th, 2011 at 10:28 pm

    Anyway a capsule is perfect for transport esp. deep space. It could be from the earth to a space station or larger space craft.

    I think a capsule is a serviceable way to travel for a few days, but rather limiting. And for exploration, NASA wants to build the Nautilus-X, so crew capsules will be relegated to lifeboat/CRV status.

    With the MPCV you’re pretty much limited to out and back, and then the capsule portion could be refurbished for another trip. However each trip is throwing away 10,000 kg of spacecraft (SM & LAS), and the MPCV only carries four people.

    I would think a better combination would be commercial crew to LEO, and then transfer to a dedicated shuttle that goes between LEO & L1. Depending on fuel availability issues and technology developments, the shuttle could use either propulsive slowing or aerocapture to re-enter LEO. The shuttle could be a crew cabin along the lines of Tranquility/Node 3 on the ISS, with a service module for power & propulsion, and fueled by tankers from Earth (or later the Moon). Something like this would cost a lot less that the MPCV after just a couple of flights.

  • Coastal Ron

    Nelson Bridwell wrote @ April 30th, 2011 at 6:05 pm

    My, from all the posts I see, someone must have loaded up on a lot of caffeine… ;-)

    My concern is that anything that NASA does, no matter how fiscally responsible…

    Fiscal responsibility, I think, can be determined by looking at what you paid compared to the alternatives, and whether something was truly needed or was a “nice to have”.

    …will be made to appear scandalously overexpensive by dividing the development budget by a tiny number of launches.

    Until you define a need for something, then building a small number is going to incur the full R&D and startup costs. There is no way to get around that Nelson, unless you’re cooking the books. Where else can you assign the costs?

    The solution is to either; A) accept that you will have high costs, or B) increase the amount of units you’re going to need.

    But if we’re talking about the SLS, then so far it has ZERO defined need. ZERO. When will Congress finally fund a mission or payload for the SLS, and how many will it need? That’s the real problem you’re having, isn’t it?

  • Coastal Ron

    Nelson Bridwell wrote @ April 30th, 2011 at 7:33 pm

    I do not fault your intentions. I do, however, take issue with the accuracy of some of your expectations:

    And yet you drink the kool-aid of those that say HLV’s are necessary for exploration, when many have shown you that they aren’t. You can’t even predict when HLV sized payloads will be funded by Congress, or when they will fly. Who has foolish expectations?

    Certainly you can look back in time and see predictions that were not met, but I think if you examine those predictions:

    1) They were made by people that were not stakeholders for the events they were predicting, and;

    2) They were repeated and believed without being questioned.

    As Reagan used to like to say, “trust, but verify”. Or to make it relevant to you, check the kool-aid before you drink it…

  • Coastal Ron

    Nelson Bridwell wrote @ April 30th, 2011 at 7:48 pm

    For a real manned Mars mission you need 600mT in LEO.

    You keep quoting this number, but do you have any idea where it came from, or what it represents? And how would you assumptions change if this number was only 300mt?

    If your $100 M EELV puts up 20 mT you need 30 launches, which comes to a whopping $3B

    Two points:

    1. If you buy 30 launches, you get a BIG discount, not to mention you’ll likely be spreading around the launches to more than one provider.

    2. Just to keep things in perspective, “a whopping $3B” is less than the price of finishing the MPCV, and about the cost of two Shuttle flights (only 45mt). Doesn’t sound so big anymore, huh.

  • Martijn Meijering

    @Nelson:

    I agree with your three numbered points above and I observe they are entirely compatible with my preferred policy and do not require an HLV.

    There will not be any major new, booming commercial space markets over the next 20 years. Satellites are and will continue to be stangant.

    Probably, but you never know what lower launch prices will do. Then again, the typical payload costs a lot more than the launch, so the effect of lower launch costs even if it did materialise might not be very strong.

    There will be a very small (20/year) LEO tourism market for the next decade.

    I’ll be thrilled if this happens. I’ll be happy if Bigelow manages to launch that many foreign government funded space tourists, excuse me, I mean astronauts. But with cheap lift we could have hundreds of people going to space each year with their own money.

    There will not be any commercial market for BEO space, other than perhaps one or two round-the-moon tourist flights.

    With cheap lift I think we would see several. Even without cryogenic depots, although I think it is unlikely there would be a period in which we already had RLVs but no cryogenic depots and certainly not a long period.

    The problem that space depo enthuiasts overlook is that either way, you still need to get the needed mass up in oribt. For a real manned Mars mission you need 600mT in LEO.

    No, they don’t overlook this at all. 600mT every three years is well within the capacity of existing EELVs. Both were designed for 20-30 launches a year. The reason we don’t have that many launches is not that the launch vehicles are incapable of supporting them, but that there aren’t enough payloads. An exploration program could change all that.

    If your $100 M EELV puts up 20 mT you need 30 launches, which comes to a whopping $3B,

    So cost/kg is what matters (including amortisation of R&D costs), which is something that is best left to the market. If ULA determines they can offer lower cost/kg with a larger vehicle, gain a larger market share and make enough money doing that to recoup the necessary investment, then they could proceed with EELV Phase 1 and/or 2. If you are wrong about the cost-efficiency of an HLV, then the market would find that out too. And remember that RLVs promise a reduction of launch costs (and with competition also prices) by a factor of 10 or more.

    not to mention the delays, logistical nightmares, and on-orbit assembly associated with those 30 launches. In theory, yes, you could do BEO missions with just 20mT launchers, but in reality, it would be totally impractical.

    Unsupported rhetoric. Just ISS support (and Salyut/Mir support before that) proves you wrong. But more importantly, terrestrial logistics proves you wrong. Skyscrapers are built out of pieces smaller than 20mT. An EELV fairing is much larger than a standard international shipping container.

    Much more knowledgable people like Wayne Hale (who now carries the commercial space banner) also point out that getting the launch windows right for use of LEO fuel depot would be VERY challenging.

    1. Wayne Hale isn’t one of the good guys. For decades he and his colleagues obstructed progress. Now that the Shuttle program is ending, now that his pension is safe, now that commercial crew is finally getting funding and might have a need for consultancy or at least the PR advantage of consultancy from old NASA hands, he is jumping ship.
    2. He is utterly wrong about the launch windows as I explained at length in a different post. And he cannot plead ignorance since there are NASA studies that prove him wrong.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Nelson Bridwell wrote @ April 30th, 2011 at 8:12 pm

    “The biggest problem with NASA is that we keep re-fighting the same battles, over and over, without anything ever being resolved.”

    nope the biggest problem with NASA right now is that it cannot execute a single program on time or on budget or even close. It is a dysfunctional group that is bordering on incompetence.

    See the latest space shuttle launch attempt.

    Robert G. Oler

  • pathfinder_01

    Nelson there is so much wrong with your post that even I did not think you would stoop so low.

    “VASIMR is an example where the lack of a practical low-mass nuclear reactor makes it totally impractical for the next few decades, so as cool as it might be, this is something that NASA should not be funding. Maybe they need to fund development of low-mass nuclear powerplants for general space usage.”

    Solar power can be used for lunar cargo tugs that can increase the amount delivered to LLO by 65%, mars cargo tugs, manned NEO mission. You really only need nuclear if you are planning a manned mission to mars and you are using it as the primary means of propulsion otherwise nuclear is not needed.

    “Actually, your numbers are high. The numbers for 2008-10 were 3.3B, 3.0B, and 3.3B…I am not saying that the Shuttle was a bargain… It was somewhere in between. We did not need to buy a new set of SSMEs and orbiter with each flight, but the labor man-hours for the TPS and engine overhauls was murder”

    In 2008 the shuttle program was beginning to shut down hence the lower numbers. In 2009 no new tanks were started as building the ET has a 2 year lead time. Real number were 4-5 billion in 2006 or 2007.
    “There will be a very small (20/year) LEO tourism market for the next decade.”

    Do you mean 20 flights a year (which would double the US launch rate) or 20 tourist a year(which would be a heck of an improvement over the zero tourist a year that launch from Florida). Heck 20 people who are tourist into space would be great? To put 20 people up would require 3 flights of Dragon, CST100, or Dreamchaser and if they shared flights with ISS crew it would take 5.

    “enthuiasts overlook is that either way, you still need to get the needed mass up in oribt. For a real manned Mars mission you need 600mT in LEO. If your $100 M EELV puts up 20 mT you need 30 launches, which comes to a whopping $3B, not to mention the delays, logistical nightmares, and on-orbit assembly associated with those 30 launches. In theory, yes, you could do BEO missions with just 20mT launchers, but in reality, it would be totally impractical.”

    What logistics nightmare? If most of that mass is propellant and we seem to be able to deliver propellant to the shuttle and most rockets on time. I have yet to see a launch scrubed due to lack of propellant. We launched 15 flights last year in the US as it stands the Russia launched 31.

    Lets say you need 600MT for mars(and that is debateable because there are lots of ways to reduce that with some development). Lets say you need 30 flights. If you mars mission only departs once every 2 years (due to launch windows) then that comes to 15 flights a year or about 1.25 launches a month. The US and Russia in past years have launched more than that and note unlike the ISS and the shuttle the propellant does not need to be on the same system(i.e. Atlas, Delta, and Falcon 9) can all launch the propellant.

  • pathfinder_01

    Heck, Japan,ESA, and Russia could likewise contribute propellant if needed.

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