Congress, NASA

Senators press NASA for details on implementing authorization act

I have not had a chance to review yesterday’s Senate Commerce Committee hearing on “Contributions of Space to National Imperatives” (I’m on travel this week at the International Space Development Conference in Huntsville). However, there is at least one newsworthy item of interest to come out of the hearing. In his opening testimony, committee chairman Sen. Jay Rockefeller IV (D-WV) said that he and other committee members have sent a letter to NASA administrator Charles Bolden asking, in effect, for proof that NASA is implementing provisions of the NASA authorization act passed last year:

More than seven months after President Obama signed this [authorization] bill into law, I am concerned NASA is not moving forward with implementing it with the urgency it requires. I’m worried that NASA’s inaction and indecision in making this transition could hurt America’s space leadership—something that would cost us billions of dollars and years to repair.

It is for this reason that I’m prepared to step up the Committee’s oversight today.

This morning I, along with members of this Committee, sent a letter to Administrator Bolden. The letter outlines steps NASA should to take to help this Committee determine whether it is fully implementing the law. As I’ve said before, implementation of the law is a priority for me, and for this Committee. We simply can’t afford to get it wrong.

Space News provides some more details about the contents of the letter, which isn’t posted on the committee’s web site. The committee is asking for “bi-monthly briefings and detailed information” on the agency’s implementation plans, starting at the end of this month. The documentation includes a variety of reports on heavy-lift launch vehicle development and transition of Orion to the Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, studies assessing demand for commercial crew transportation (including a controversial Aerospace Corporation study that suggested the business case for commercial crew didn’t close), effects on the the country’s propulsion industrial base of a new heavy-lift vehicle, and lists of contract modifications and transitions, among other documents. It’s the latest sign of frustration that has been building among some members of Congress for months about the lack of information they’ve received from NASA about their plans. NASA, though, blames the fact that a final FY11 spending measure wasn’t passed until last month; the long series of continuing resolutions and uncertainty during that time hindered their planning, they argue.

97 comments to Senators press NASA for details on implementing authorization act

  • amightywind

    It’s the latest sign of frustration that has been building among some members of Congress for months about the lack of information they’ve received from NASA about their plans.

    We are all frustrated. The Senate compromise essentially called for Orion/Direct. Where are the designs? Where are the plans, the timelines? The NASA facilities are free now. Why not a test flight next year? It is pretty obvious that the current NASA leadership is more comfortable marketing grandiose plans where ‘someone else’ is held accountable . The call for change at the top of NASA will surely grow.

  • Scott Bass

    Exactly what are the consequences of Bolden not obeying the law…. There does not appear to be any especially since he is pursueing inaction instead of action…. Seriously, other than rhetoric what could congress really do?

  • Major Tom

    This is premature given that Congress passed FY11 appropriations more than half a year late. NASA’s first operating plan for FY11 isn’t even on the Hill yet. If the Senate authorizers want to be sure that NASA spending is following their Act, then they should work with the appropriators in the review of the operating plan, not request a bunch of briefings and paperwork (and personal emails?) after the fact that have no direct bearing on how NASA expends funds.

    FWIW…

  • amightywind

    This is premature given that Congress passed FY11 appropriations more than half a year late.

    On the one side of their mouth newspace shills howl about the slow speed of development for old NASA, on the other they make excuses for the current stonewalling, incompetent NASA leadership. Do you understand why your arguments are not credible?

  • Robert G. Oler

    Scott Bass wrote @ May 19th, 2011 at 9:18 am

    “Exactly what are the consequences of Bolden not obeying the law”

    As TR would say “and this is the beauty of the thing”…Congress can toss harsh words but there is little that they can do if they are unhappy. IF Congress had wanted something to actually happen they would have put into the law a mandate for an actual “effort”…as it is the whole notion is just an excersize in wasting money RGO

  • common sense

    @ amightywind wrote @ May 19th, 2011 at 9:13 am

    “Where are the designs? Where are the plans, the timelines? The NASA facilities are free now. Why not a test flight next year? ”

    Where is the cash? Answer that and then you might understand the issue. In the mean time you can ask questions for sure.

  • Major Tom

    “On the one side of their mouth newspace shills… ”

    No one has called you a name in this thread. Why are you resorting to namecalling in your second post?

    If you can’t participate in a debate without engaging to ad hominem arguments (especially right off the bat), then you shouldn’t be posting here. Take your angry ugliness elsewhere and seek therapy.

    “… howl about the slow speed of development for old NASA,”

    One has nothing to do with the other. There’s an enormous difference between:

    - Being given $10+ billion in taxpayer dollars over more than a half decade and producing little more than an unrecoverable, bent four-segment SRB and a crushed crew capsule abort test article, and

    - Being provided no funding over six months and expected to deliver detailed plans and redirected procurements for the space agency’s largest investment over the next decade within a projected budget and schedule that is a fraction of what the prior effort provided with greater requirements and the same contracts.

    Learn the difference between apples and oranges and think before you post.

    “… on the other they make excuses for the current stonewalling,”

    What “stonewalling”? NASA found out how much funding it was going to get for MPCV and SLS for the remainder of FY11 only a month ago. Per Congress’s own rules about continuing resolutions — no new starts unless other specified — MPCV and SLS were not approved, appropriated programs until then. What did you expect NASA managers to do — fund multi-million dollar studies and pay dozens of COTRs to negotiate contract mods out of their own pockets? Go to jail for redirecting FY10 funds to FY11 activities that havn’t been appropriated yet? Given the lack of appropriated funds for MPCV and SLS, it was rather unbureaucratic of NASA to produce any report, interim or otherwise, at all on SLS. NASA has hardly been dragging its feet.

    “… incompetent NASA leadership.”

    How is getting an interim report to Congress on SLS despite the fact that Congress hadn’t appropriated any funding for SLS or officially approved the project “incompetent”?

    How is not jumping to point solutions with multi-ten billion dollar
    implications for NASA and the taxpayer on SLS and MPCV designs in less than a month “incompetent”?

    If this is in “incompetence”, then I wish Griffin had been a lot more “incompetent”.

    “Do you understand why your arguments are not credible?”

    Pot, kettle, black.

    Stones, houses, glass.

    You, mirror.

    Oy vey…

  • Szebeheley

    Well, there had been questions as to whether the House or Senate Authorization Committees would be willing to perform the necessary oversight given what is gushing in about Garver’s office slow-rolling SLS and MPCV. But twice monthly meetings? OMG, now that’s oversight!

    I’m not sure a quote by good Ol’ TR is appropriate here since the legal world has changed a great deal since, and Presidents much less powerful than in, the early 20th Century. As Dick Cheney learned while trying to kill the V-22 program as Sec. Def., there is a lot Congress can do today. Let’s start with contempt of Congress. Oh, and then there’s misappropriation of funds, which nearly caused the good Sec. Def. to employ the services of a defense legal team. Yeah, Major Tom, did you know that Congress can not only tell you how not to spend money, but also how to spend money? Turns out, Congress’ authorization and appropriations powers are very broad indeed. In the end, Cheney was broken and V-22 flies today.

    The Authorization bill was signed last October. Negotiations with the White House over the Authirization Act began with the Senate in the Summer. To say that NASA hasn’t had enough tine is to either have a misunderstanding that an Authorization Act’s legal standing. Though not as powerful legally as an Approriations Act, is none-the-less legally binding. Bolden and Garver should actually be thankful for the letter from the Space Senate 4, as working with Congress will likely prevent their needing to spend money on defense counsel.

  • Senator Rockefeller bloviated:

    I am concerned NASA is not moving forward with implementing it with the urgency it requires.

    Translation — Where’s our pork?!

    I’m worried that NASA’s inaction and indecision in making this transition could hurt America’s space leadership—something that would cost us billions of dollars and years to repair.

    These bloviating politicians throw around this phrase “space leadership” but just once I’d like to see them actually define it. More importantly, I’d like to see them follow through with the funding to actually make it happen instead of making ridiculous demands that NASA meet impossible deadlines.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Szebeheley wrote @ May 19th, 2011 at 1:15 pm

    “I’m not sure a quote by good Ol’ TR is appropriate here since the legal world has changed a great deal since, and Presidents much less powerful than in, the early 20th Century. As Dick Cheney learned while trying to kill the V-22 program as Sec. Def., there is a lot Congress can do today”

    IF Congress had wanted to save a SDV and IF CONGRESS or a significant amount support for a SDV then they would h ave moved to either a V-22 move or a B-1 move. As it is they did not and the reason that they could not is that there was no support for doing what they wanted to do (a Nelson “demonstration rocket”) among members of the Congress passed the space luminatee.

    Hence Charlie has no real difficulties ahead. Congress is not going to hold him in contempt of Congress nor do any real thing (like zero out his budget) …all they are going to do is harsh words and some goofy meetings and then complain…but in the end how Charlie wants to do it, Charlie can.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Major Tom

    “Yeah, Major Tom, did you know that Congress can not only tell you how not to spend money, but also how to spend money?”

    Where did I say that Congress can’t or doesn’t tell departments and agencies where and how to spend the budgets provided by Congress? Where have I argued that Congress is toothless?

    Don’t put words in my mouth. If you can’t enter in a discussion without making up false statements about what the other participants have said, then don’t bother. You’re wasting your time and mine.

    What I wrote in my first post was:

    “If the Senate authorizers want to be sure that NASA spending is following their Act, then they should work with the appropriators in the review of the operating plan, not request a bunch of briefings and paperwork (and personal emails?) after the fact that have no direct bearing on how NASA expends funds.”

    Congress and even these authorizers are not toothless. But NASA management is not going to tip their hand, either. If they want to have influence, the authorizers have to put themselves in the approval loop for the spending plans (called operating plans) that NASA is required to send to the appropriators. Having a bunch of briefings and requesting a bunch of documents will only tell the authorizers what NASA has done after it’s too late to have any influence over those events. It’s not going to give the authorizers any control over whether NASA implements the 2010 NASA Authorization Act in terms of actual spending.

    “The Authorization bill was signed last October…To say that NASA hasn’t had enough tine is to either have a misunderstanding that an Authorization Act’s legal standing.”

    The second sentence above is incoherent, but I assume you meant to say that NASA has had plenty of time to understand the intent of the 2010 NASA Authorization Act. I disagree, for several reasons:

    1) For SLS, the Act in unclear about SLS payload requirements and timeframe. Part of the language indicates that some in Congress want NASA to go straight to the development of a 130-ton SLS. Public statements by Sen. Hatch and others confirm this. Other parts of the language indicate that some in Congress want NASA to build a 70-ton SLS by 2016, and a 130-ton SLS later on. Congress has yet to clarify where it stands as a body on this.

    2) But even if we assume (as Bolden appears to have) that Congress wants a 70-ton SLS by 2016, Congress only last month provided the appropriations funding and approval required to undertake the studies necessary to answer the Act’s language on SLS and MPCV. And studies take time. (ESAS was originally billed as a 90-day study and it took more like 150 days, and even then, it was chock full of bad assumptions and blindered analysis.) Even if the intent of the language signed last October is clear, there has been no funding to implement it until very recently and the implementation (i.e., studies) is going to take at least a few months.

    “Bolden and Garver should actually be thankful for the letter from the Space Senate 4, as working with Congress will likely prevent their needing to spend money on defense counsel.”

    The only thing Bolden and Garver could go to jail for is spending appropriated funds on SLS and MPCV before funds were actually appropriated for these two projects. Reporting requirements in suthorization and appropriations acts get ignored all the time by the executive branch and no one goes to jail.

    FWIW…

  • DCSCA

    “I have not had a chance to review yesterday’s Senate Commerce Committee hearing on “Contributions of Space to National Imperatives” (I’m on travel this week at the International Space Development Conference in Huntsville).”

    Saw it on CSPAN. It really didn’t reveal anything new. The pols patted themselves on the back for passing a good piece of legislation and as you noted, displayed a growing sense of ‘frustration’ w/NASA on the pace of change; Nelson blathered on about ‘flexible path,’ NASA’s contributions- (yes, Ron, cable TV & GPS).. of a station as long as a football field you can see.. (he avoids mentioning it cost $100+ billion so far); one of the speakers lifted a list of ‘spinoffs’ from a NASA piece available on their website last updated in 2008 and implied space had a lot to do w/getting Bin Laden. Some of it was a stretch. Hutchinson cranked on a bout losing shuttle workforce; Culberson waxed philosophically about the cooperation between nations, ease of assembly and what he saw from the ISS on 9/11… and so on. (Had to chuckle when he noted 12 people were at the ISS…. yet nobody knows what the heck they’re doing– or what’s been accomplished since 2000.) He calls it a ‘national asset’ yet rather than read out his assembled list of ISS contributions by that ‘asset,’ ,Culbertson just had it placed into the record– a foolish decision, given how little people know what has been done up there since it has been crewed for 11 years.

    The testimony basically layed out where the country is at; how both Bush’s failed to secure adequate funding for their space initiatives; how Constellation was underfunded although had some good elements – the Altair lander was particularly praised; how to fund future programs, NASA had to repeatedly decide between flying w/existing hardware or build new architecture as they could not do both- hence testimony again noted planning 24 months ago to splash the ISS by 2016 to fund Constellation as an example.

    Proponents for LEO reiterated it as the only affordable path in the short term as ‘back fill’ for NASA to allow them to focus on BEO planning and dissed the Apollo model chiefly on cost; the AIA rep wisely reitereated the value of stable, steady, flat funding over time and criticized the cut from last year’s budgeting already. Students excelling in ‘STEM’ balking at aerospace careers – the blame being no big NASA project to look to. Hutchinson was skeptical of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 cost development projections compared w/NASA for a similar LV and reitereated the need for back-ups for HSF safety.

    The whole exercise layed bare that the space agency repeatedly falls short in the area of funding aka Congressional support– and in the grand scheme of things by a few billion/yr isn’t that much, given the U.S. spends $1.5 billion a week in Afghanistan and just today proposed an additional $2 billion in ‘investment’ aka ‘aid’ to Egypt.

    The bottom line is the way you measure a ‘national priority’ is how big its budget is– and by that ‘metric’ (a term used a great deal in this hearing) war[s], the DoD, SS, Medicare, Medicaid… even aid to Egypt is valued more in this era than the what the space agency is up to. It is just not the ‘national priority’ it was in the past.

    Jeff- While you’re at the conference perhaps you should stress to any ears the necessity for ISS people to start publicizing what they’re doing up there. Nobody knows. It seldom makes the news channels or is lead news in the press.

  • DCSCA

    @Robert G. Oler wrote @ May 19th, 2011 at 2:17 pm

    “Hence Charlie has no real difficulties ahead.”

    Of course not– Bolden turns 65 in August; will grab all those pensions while they’re still flush and retire. ‘Charlie’ is irrelevent to the future of the agency.

  • Bolden still hasn’t told Congress what missions they will use the new launch vehicle for in the near future within cis-lunar space, also as directed by Congress. That’s probably because the Obama administration really doesn’t want NASA to have its own manned spaceflight capability– even beyond LEO– even though the Obama administration won’t even be in power once this vehicle is developed and becomes operational.

    Unfortunately this means that Congress needs to become even more assertive on this matter and should place even more pressure on the administration by strongly endorsing the Posey bill for NASA to return to the Moon by 2022.

    Why the Obama administration continues to be foolish enough to play politics with an extremely important swing state like Florida over our space program is beyond stupid! Obama needs to stop listening to Holdren and his buddy Elon or else he might actually end up losing that swing state and possibly the election in 2012.

  • DCSCA

    Marcel F. Williams wrote @ May 19th, 2011 at 5:32 pm

    “Why the Obama administration continues to be foolish enough to play politics with an extremely important swing state like Florida over our space program is beyond stupid!”

    They’ve moat likely already calculated that Floridians will focus on the GOP’s targeting to privatize and end Medicare as their hook- not space activities. Lost of retirees and near retirees in Florida. The space coast folks have known shuttle was ending now for nearly a decade. Florida will swing on the fate of Medicare, not the space program.

  • John Malkin

    @Marcel F. Williams

    The problem is congress (Democrat/GOP/Tea Party…) are talking about cutting NOT increasing NASA’s budget.

    The moon program (Constellation) according to Michael D. Griffin would need $7B+ per year in 2011 and outlying. I think Flexible Path is cheaper and works to a more realistic budget and I think we can get back to the Earth moon or even BEO to a Mars moon with budget and time.

    My question is where is the money going to come to fund a “moon” program? Also
    Which needs more development and therefore a bigger head start, an HLV or an Interplanetary Vehicle (BEO Vehicle)? Why have an HLV sitting on the ground waiting for payloads? Spend time to develop a government HLV (if you must have it) that is cheaper to operate in the long run.

    It will take us longer to develop an Interplanetary stage than a HLV. An HLV requires less new technology.

    You can talk about destinations all you want but you need the equipment and skills to get there. ISS and advance development programs can get us the technology and skills within budget.

  • Bolden still hasn’t told Congress what missions they will use the new launch vehicle for in the near future within cis-lunar space, also as directed by Congress.

    Why should he? How would he know? Congress designed the vehicle — Congress will have to design the missions for it as well. NASA will start designing missions when NASA gets the freedom to do so without Congress telling it how to design launch vehicles.

  • guest

    I think that Congress’ frustration is felt by the workers in the space program. After all we are losing one very mature program, and there is another program no one ever felt good about except for a handful of people ‘leading’ Constellation; and we have no idea what comes next. There is no vision; there is no concept; no one really knows what kind of use an Orion MPCV or an HLV has, given that the programmatic goals are not defined. We have an ISS which will now be dependent on others – Russians, Japanese, Europeans – and not on us. An Orion MPCV and an HLV do not fix that situation. Given that newspace commercial interests are pursuing both of those capabilities, I don’t think any of us are too excited about Orion and an HLV being on the back burners; they probably will not be needed. Based on recent performance, demonstrated in Constellation and ISS, I don’t think any of us believe NASA has the ability to bring anything on line in a reasonable time frame or cost. The managers who have shown inability are still the ones in charge so I don’t think we will see any improvement. You can talk all you want about politics and pork, but when we have no feeling or knowledge of what the future might be about, then there will not be a positive outlook.

  • Doug Lassiter

    “Culberson waxed philosophically …”

    Actually, the hearing witness was Frank Culbertson (with a “t”). Not to be confused with John Culberson (TX-7), who is passionate about space science and human space flight, though he’s slightly off his rocker some of the time in doing so. Culberson’s recent disdain for the Chinese, with regard to space exploration, was notable. He’s smarter than Wolf with regard to space policy, but got dragged in on that one.

    I was pleased with the cogent explanation that Chris Chyba gave on the flexible path strategy. This was in response to Nelson’s question about “rockets to nowhere”, and Chyba’s insistence, echoing what the Augustine committee said, that it was about goals, not destinations. Nelson was happy to hear that sentiment placed on the record. Chyba made it clear that a near term lunar return could be accommodated in flexible path, assuming the funds were available, and if it were really understood to be a priority. I think it was understood by everyone there that no funds would be available to do that for a long time, however. So passionate advocates for a lunar return are just spitting into the wind, and somehow delighted at having their faces wet.

  • I think it was understood by everyone there that no funds would be available to do that for a long time, however. So passionate advocates for a lunar return are just spitting into the wind, and somehow delighted at having their faces wet.

    There are plenty of funds to do so, as long as they don’t try to do it with Altair.

  • Coastal Ron

    guest wrote @ May 19th, 2011 at 6:12 pm

    We have an ISS which will now be dependent on others – Russians, Japanese, Europeans – and not on us.

    Where do you get the “now” description? We have ALWAYS been dependent on “others”.

    For instance, without the Russian Soyuz all we would be able to do is visit the ISS for short periods of time. The Soyuz has given us the ability to keep the ISS occupied continuously since November 2000. Even after the Columbia accident, Russia kept the ISS occupied and running.

    And even though the CRS program will provide a good amount of supplies, we’ll still need supplies from the Russian Progress, ESA ATV, and JAXA HTV.

    We have always depended on other countries participation, which I think is a good thing.

  • josh

    oh my, what a mess. i hope bolden keeps up the obstruction as long as he can and makes sure as much shuttle infrastructure is dismantled and as many shuttle workers are laid off as possible by the time he is forced to make a decision. keep stone-walling charlie, you’re doing the right thing.

    i really look forward to the day that nasa’s effort to develop launchers (at about 50 times the cost of private industry) is gutted for good.

    btw: does anyone seriously believe that nasa would do any better if they focussed just on in space transportation? i for one don’t. i think most of the people working for nasa (managers but also engineers) are simply not as capable as the pros working at places like spacex. you can’t explain all these fuck-ups over the years by political mismanagement.
    nasa should just dole out money and let private industry do what nasa can’t.

  • amightywind

    I was pleased with the cogent explanation that Chris Chyba gave on the flexible path strategy.

    Please help me understand how the words of a guy, whose scientific claim to fame is running the SETI institute, carry any weight in deciding human spaceflight engineering architecture? He was an Augustine Committee member which was stacked with lefties and whose results were preordained. This week, it seems, the Newspace cabal is making a coordinated push as evidenced by Chyba and Buzz Aldrin. Chyba has no evidence that SpaceX is credible or even relevant, unless you call clinking wine glasses in the liberal salons with Elon Musk evidence. Let us hope the heavyweights of manned space flight respond forcefully.

  • common sense

    @Rand Simberg wrote @ May 19th, 2011 at 6:06 pm

    “Why should he?”

    Just because! Come on…

    “How would he know? Congress designed the vehicle — Congress will have to design the missions for it as well.”

    Now you’re talking business. And I can’t wait to see the deep space exploration pork scheme they come up with. And not just that but also the budget they will associate with those schemes. I think scheme is a better name than mission.

    “NASA will start designing missions when NASA gets the freedom to do so without Congress telling it how to design launch vehicles.”

    Unfortunately thanks to Congress, NASA will most likely not design anything in the foreseeable future. They will certainly try to save their skin but that’s about it.

    Oh well…

  • DCSCA

    @Doug Lassiter wrote @ May 19th, 2011 at 6:23 pm

    “Chyba’s insistence, echoing what the Augustine committee said, that it was about goals, not destinations.”

    Of course the context of the Augustine Committee’s reference to that surrounded the persistent underfunding for 40 years of space activities. In fact, Chyba’s comment was absurdly hilarious– and utterly obtuse– particularly when he stated that if you select a ‘destination’ you then find yourself in trying to justify methods and reasons to go to it– which is just silly, but it was twisted enough to support is personal position, which is what he clarified he was speaking to. Maybe that’s how he rationalizes booking a weekend trip to Vegas to his wife.

  • @DCSCA wrote @ May 19th, 2011 at 5:53 pm

    “Florida will swing on the fate of Medicare, not the space program.”

    I think Florida will be very close and that every vote will matter whether its about Medicare, high speed rail, Cuba policy, off-shore drilling, or the Florida space industry. We saw what happened with Al Gore there several years ago. Obama will need every vote he can get from Florida.

  • @John Malkin

    Getting one expensive vehicle developed means not having to spend enormous amounts of money all at once we decide our beyond LEO destinations. And there’s plenty of money to develop a single stage extraterrestrial lander that could be used to land manned and unmanned payloads on the Moon, the asteroids, and on the moons of Mars if we terminated the $3 billion a year ISS program in 2016. Such a LOX/LH2 single stage reusable lander using existing RL-10 rocket engines shouldn’t cost more than 6 to 8 billion to develop which is less than three years of funding for the ISS program. Even if we had to develop an EDS stage at the same time, that wouldn’t increase development cost by more than around $3 billion.

    But there’s plenty of things you can use an HLV for even before a landing vehicle and EDS stage is developed. You can launch huge space depots into orbit cheaper than smaller rockets could deliver. Using ACES technology, we could travel to lunar orbit and to the Lagrange points without the need of an EDS stage. And we are supposed to be developing space depot technology. We can launch the largest Bigelow 70 to 100 tonne Bigelow Space stations into orbit for NASA use as simple way stations to house astronauts. We can launch water into orbit to test solar powered hydrogen and oxygen manufacturing and cryogenics through electrolysis.

  • Mark R. Whittington

    This latest news demonstrates not only how Obama’s space policy is politically unsustainable but also exposes the inconsistancy of some of its supporters. The same people who are complaining about the Senate telling NASA how to design the heavy lifter were not shy about giving NASA unsolicited engineering advice when the Ares 1/Ares 5 system was still in development.

  • reader

    >>Jeff- While you’re at the conference perhaps you should stress to any ears the necessity for ISS people to start publicizing what they’re doing up there.

    Um .. maybe they should better keep quiet about it, and for a good reason. The activities on ISS are well documented of course, but drawing attention to any of it may not be wise.

  • Coastal Ron

    Marcel F. Williams wrote @ May 19th, 2011 at 11:46 pm

    But there’s plenty of things you can use an HLV for even before a landing vehicle and EDS stage is developed.

    None of which are funded, which means they won’t appear for, what, a decade or more?

    You can launch huge space depots into orbit cheaper than smaller rockets could deliver.

    I’m all for making fuel depots ready for use, but one of the wonderful things about fuel depots is that you don’t need “huge” versions until there is a “huge” demonstrated (i.e. funded) need. There is none. You keep spending fictitious money before it’s even printed!

    Using ACES technology, we could travel to lunar orbit and to the Lagrange points without the need of an EDS stage.

    And without an HLV – you keep leaving that part out. ULA’s study outlines lunar mission using their ACES technology, and doing it using EXISTING launchers, and nothing larger. NO HLV’s needed.

    We can launch the largest Bigelow 70 to 100 tonne Bigelow Space stations into orbit for NASA use as simple way stations to house astronauts.

    Of course BA-2100 Bigelow stations is only a concept, just like the HLV’s that will carry them. And at best you would be swapping out a fully paid for space station (and more capable) for one that you’d have to pay $Billions to build and deploy – how does that make sense?

    Everything you talk about sounds wonderful, except that in order to do it, the U.S. will have to abandon it’s Human Space Flight program for at least a decade. That means stopping all the research that is going on to figure out how to live and work in space, and cede the high ground to others (like China).

    Congress doesn’t agree, and the earliest they will review the ISS is in two years, so I suggest you spend that time in coming up with some prices for your space toys.

  • Beancounter from Downunder

    Marcel F. Williams wrote @ May 19th, 2011 at 11:46 pm
    But there’s plenty of things …

    Justification for these statements. Studies etc. You know you can do all this with the existing vehicles. You could even include FH that would increase capability for a fraction of the proposed NASA vehicles. You don’t need a costly HLV built by NASA and sucking up all the funding for the next 10 years. Exhibit A – James Webb Telescope.

  • pbryan

    Marcel F. Williams wrote @ May 19th, 2011 at 5:32 pm

    “Why the Obama administration continues to be foolish enough to play politics with an extremely important swing state like Florida over our space program is beyond stupid!”

    Marcel unwittingly gives the game away here as to his motivation. It seems it’s not America’s space program anymore. No, it belongs to Florida. So reading between the lines, you see government space dollars as your entitlement. In your eyes space programs are less about improving our understanding of the universe and more about the jobs you need to pay off your mortgages and your SUV car loans.

    Sad really.

  • DCSCA

    #reader wrote @ May 20th, 2011 at 1:11 am

    They’ve spent $100-plus billion on it and Culbertson proudly touted a dozen people were there now and it has been crewed since 2000. $100 billion roughly the price tag of 14 Nimitz class aircraft carriers– or ,if you like, about 100 space shuttle missions. The folks paying the tab for the ISS have paid to know what they’re getting for their money so far… and any silence speaks volumes.

  • Manny Bergstrom

    I don’t think it is frustration as much as its disillusionment with NASA and NASA’s management. None of NASA’s management seem like leaders at all. They do not seem to have any idea of what NASA could or should be doing. They do not appear to have laid out a plan for moving forward. Consequently, Congress and lots of others seem to be coming forward with cockimamee ideas that seem to make little sense. But the real issue starts with our supposed NASA expert leadership, who appear to have no expertise and no leadership ability. What is the plan????

    I’ve heard some of my coworkers say that “Bolden ought to resign in protest; if he would resign he might be seen as a hero.” Yes, Bolden is one of those who appear not to know where the agency ought to be going, but with little or no expertise behind him, it wouldn’t make a difference if he resigned. There does not seem to be anyone at any level who has shown any better idea of what to do.

  • Doug Lassiter

    DCSCA wrote @ May 19th, 2011 at 10:33 pm
    “Of course the context of the Augustine Committee’s reference to that surrounded the persistent underfunding for 40 years of space activities. In fact, Chyba’s comment was absurdly hilarious– and utterly obtuse– particularly when he stated that if you select a ‘destination’ you then find yourself in trying to justify methods and reasons to go to it– which is just silly, but it was twisted enough to support is personal position, which is what he clarified he was speaking to.”

    I would respond to that in detail, but will need translation into English. I can’t make much sense out of this probably well-intentioned paragraph.

    It’s pretty simple. In many people’s view on human space exploration, destinations come first, and rationale and goals come second. This is especially true for Congress, which has never stated explicitly WHY we need to be sending humans into space, and making for human presence throughout the solar system. I’m not saying there isn’t such rationale, but just that this rationale needs to be front and center. Is it about species survival? Is it about soft power? Is it because we can’t figure out a better way to advance technology? It’s up to Congress to lay it on the line. They’ve asked the NRC to do an assessment of that rationale for them, since Congress has been incapable of coming up with it. They’re sort of throwing up their hands! But I suspect that the NRC will have a hard time doing it in a way that really engages all the stakeholders.

    I’ll ignore the less well-intentioned comments by the self-declared oldspace cabal.

  • Windy —

    Congress did NOT mandate Direct. It said, over and over again in the Act, that NASA should attempt to develop an SLS *to the extent practicable*.

    The only way that NASA has found to do that within the budget is to fly FOUR test launches of a Direct-like rocket at THREE BILLION EACH. They couldn’t fit SSME replacement into the runout, so they just quit after they run out. But they get 4 launches of a 70 MT vehicle (theoretically) between 2016 and 2020.

    And those 4 missions don’t even send Orion around the Moon and back… Oh no, we need to spend $3Billion to defray a Soyuz flight to ISS.

    Of course, many inside NASA and every disinterested party with a brain stem realizes how incredibly stupid this is.

    You can launch Orion as soon as it is ready with a Delta IV. You don’t need a $3billion/copy SLS.

  • Windy —

    Congress did NOT mandate Direct. It said, over and over again in the Act, that NASA should attempt to develop an SLS *to the extent practicable*.

    The only way that NASA has found to do that within the budget is to fly FOUR test launches of a Direct-like rocket at THREE BILLION EACH. They couldn’t fit SSME replacement into the runout, so they just quit after they run out. But they get 4 launches of a 70 MT vehicle (theoretically) between 2016 and 2020.

    Oh, and Marcel… those 4 missions don’t even send Orion around the Moon and back or to a libration point… Oh no, we need to spend $3Billion to defray a Soyuz flight to ISS.

    Of course, many inside NASA and every disinterested party with a brain stem realizes how incredibly stupid this is.

    You can launch Orion as soon as it is ready with a Delta IV. You don’t need a $3billion/copy SLS. And Lockheed Martin’s Steppingstones brochure shows they can do 4 years of BEO exploration with Orion before a heavy lift launcher is “validated”, as well as backstopping Commercial Crew.

    And finally, to Szebehely… Lori is not the Administrator. She is the Deputy. The people in charge of SLS are Charlie Bolden, Doug Cooke, Bill Gerstenmaier, and Dan Dumbacher. Marshall has been running the process, not the Deputy Administrator. Please stop throwing around accusations until you know basic facts.

    – Jim

  • The same people who are complaining about the Senate telling NASA how to design the heavy lifter were not shy about giving NASA unsolicited engineering advice when the Ares 1/Ares 5 system was still in development.

    I see no inconsistency here. I don’t believe that the Senate is competent to design or critique launch systems. I do believe that I am.

  • John Malkin

    Those in favor of dumping ISS into the ocean, please provide a reference to anyone in Congress or the White House currently advocating such destruction? Also I would think it more likely we would sell our share of the ISS to Russia, Europe, Japan, or China. Neither are going to happen.

    Since the cost of the space station is in the order of 100B+ (The actual costs are nearly impossible to determine) including money from other countries. The US didn’t fund or build space station alone. How is NASA going to build a permanent moon base with less money using SLS and no help from our international partners? IF our partners were going to be part of it, shouldn’t we have designed it with them at the beginning?

  • Robert G. Oler

    Mark R. Whittington wrote @ May 20th, 2011 at 1:02 am

    ” The same people who are complaining about the Senate telling NASA how to design the heavy lifter were not shy about giving NASA unsolicited engineering advice when the Ares 1/Ares 5 system was still in development.”

    correct.

    The Senate is not filled with engineers capable of designing a launch vehicle. At best their efforts are a committee designing a horse based on making sure parts of it are made in their districts and coming up with a camel (or a turkey).

    What most people are critiquing is that process and before you became a defender of the Bush administration you use to do exactly that as well. I have op ed instances of you doing that, particularly in reference to the Clinton administration and the space station.

    The product is certainly on its merits indefensible. YOu are stuck defending a process that is flawed and has developed at vehicle which will cost 3-5 billion A PIECE to build and launch and then is no longer replicable…ie they simply fly until they run out of parts.

    As for NASA and Cx…what made the effort worthy or criticism was the results. 12 billion dollars (twice more then was spent on Gemini the entire program, more then was spent on shuttle development including the test vehicle Enterprise…) got NOTHING that was space qualified. And you defend not only that but the process that was going to require 20-30 billion more just to get a vehicle to go to ISS.

    NASA spent on Cx about what it has taken to develop the next generation of CVN’s and build the first ship.

    And got nothing…and you defend that.

    What happened to the old Mark Whittington?

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    Manny Bergstrom wrote @ May 20th, 2011 at 8:43 am
    “I’ve heard some of my coworkers say that “Bolden ought to resign in protest; if he would resign he might be seen as a hero.” Yes, Bolden is one of those who appear not to know where the agency ought to be going, but with little or no expertise behind him, it wouldn’t make a difference if he resigned.”

    Charlie is one of the few people who actually know where the agency is going…it is just that most of the people at NASA and the contractors do not like that direction because it does not protect their “phoney baloney jobs.”

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    Marcel wrote:

    I think Florida will be very close and that every vote will matter …;

    there is no way to know that right now.

    If one were to look at the current state of the GOP opposition; with the “big tent of Reagan” being reduced to the “pup tent” of those who support the destruction of medicare/medicaid…the odds are good that Obama will have a cake walk to reelection.

    But that is now…a year from now will tell the tale RGO

  • @Beancounter from Downunder

    “Justification for these statements. Studies etc. You know you can do all this with the existing vehicles. You could even include FH that would increase capability for a fraction of the proposed NASA vehicles. You don’t need a costly HLV built by NASA and sucking up all the funding for the next 10 years. Exhibit A – James Webb Telescope.”

    I think we do need an HLV since it will enable us to place heavy objects with large volumes into orbit and beyond LEO. But more importantly, the US Congress thinks we need an HLV. So if we’re going to have heavy lift vehicle, we might as well use it!

    NASA doesn’t build rockets by the way. Their major vendors, Boeing and Lockheed offer rocket concepts for NASA and build rockets for them. And Boeing has been one of the strongest advocates for building a new heavy lift vehicle even though they’re part owners of the ULA which, of course, has its EELV rockets.

    And no we don’t have any currently man-rated vehicles that can take us into orbit. Nor do we currently have any capsules or aerospace planes that can take us into orbit.

  • @ pbryan wrote @ May 20th, 2011 at 6:34 am

    “Marcel unwittingly gives the game away here as to his motivation. It seems it’s not America’s space program anymore. No, it belongs to Florida. So reading between the lines, you see government space dollars as your entitlement. In your eyes space programs are less about improving our understanding of the universe and more about the jobs you need to pay off your mortgages and your SUV car loans.

    Sad really.”

    If you don’t realize that jobs are extremely important to average Americans and that space jobs are important for the Florida economy then what can I say:-)

    Plus, government investment in aerospace technology has been quite beneficial to American technological progress and to the economy as a whole.

  • @John Malkin

    “Those in favor of dumping ISS into the ocean, please provide a reference to anyone in Congress or the White House currently advocating such destruction? Also I would think it more likely we would sell our share of the ISS to Russia, Europe, Japan, or China. Neither are going to happen.

    Since the cost of the space station is in the order of 100B+ (The actual costs are nearly impossible to determine) including money from other countries. The US didn’t fund or build space station alone. How is NASA going to build a permanent moon base with less money using SLS and no help from our international partners? IF our partners were going to be part of it, shouldn’t we have designed it with them at the beginning?”

    Griffin, of course, wanted to terminate the ISS after 2015 in order to provide more funds for beyond LEO missions. But the ISS love fest and return to the Moon hate-fest suddenly started with the Augustin Commission. And Obama offered the continuation of the ISS program to Congress as a piece of pork that no Congressman could refuse. The ISS was so costly because we were using a heavy lift vehicle (the space shuttle) to launch a mere 25 tonnes into orbit per launch. But reconfiguring our heavy lift architecture will finally allow us to lift 70 to 120 tonnes into orbit.

    A Moon base program shouldn’t cost more that what NASA was spending on manned space flight just a few years ago when we were spending $3 billion a year for the shuttle program, $2 billion a year for the ISS program, and $3.4 billion a year for the Constellation program. So I do believe that $8.4 billion a year is enough for a sustainable lunar base program, especially if we utilized lunar resources for air, water, energy, and fuel.

  • John Malkin

    @Marcel F. Williams who wrote @ May 20th, 2011 at 12:51 pm

    I’m talking now. Griffin has no power to make that decision or recommendation now. Also I think we would need to work with our partners if we terminated our involvement.

    Why do you think $8.4 billion is enough. Constellation was already over budget so you think it was going get cheaper? Well maybe if we use FH and fuel depots. BTW, How much of the hardware on ISS is American built? 50%, 40%, 20%…

  • Robert G. Oler

    Marcel F. Williams wrote @ May 20th, 2011 at 12:30 pm

    “If you don’t realize that jobs are extremely important to average Americans and that space jobs are important for the Florida economy then what can I say:-) ”

    jobs are important to the “average American” but after that your statement breaks down.

    Jobs are important to average Americans but one thing that is different today is that the job that is important to the American people are THEIR JOB…and when they look at people who are in a job where the cost per job are enormous, ie if all you did was break down the total program cost and divide it by the number of jobs shuttle jobs are very very expensive…and the “thing” that those jobs do is not all that important…then the argument becomes less.

    Worse for the argument you make, Obama has no votes that he can lose in the space industry. The bulk of space districts in FL for instance went to McCain…and did so in part based on the space program but in part based on other issues.

    Where Obama would have a lot of votes to lose, if space politics were important was in Texas. Texas is slowly but surely trending purple as the cities grow and the population in rural areas lessens…in the voting districts at the JSC Obama broke even with McCain…so in theory Obama would have a lot of votes to lose there…

    except that the argument to keep government financed jobs while other jobs go away is not playing for Pete O (TX-22). Pete has been at townhall meetings (that I have been at) where he tried to talk about saving JSC jobs and got a firestorm from people who wondered why he was working harder to save those jobs then the jobs that will be lost in the CAL/UAL merger.

    The point you make sounds good but it is rhetoric, it has little behind it

    RGO

  • Coastal Ron

    Marcel F. Williams wrote @ May 20th, 2011 at 12:51 pm

    But the ISS love fest and return to the Moon hate-fest suddenly started with the Augustin Commission.

    No, the GAO was the first government organization to point out that the Constellation program didn’t have a business case (i.e. it wasn’t doing a good job of getting us to the Moon). All the Augustine Commission did was validate that by comparing Constellation to other alternatives. Oh and maybe you missed it, but Congress agreed.

    The ISS was so costly because we were using a heavy lift vehicle (the space shuttle) to launch a mere 25 tonnes into orbit per launch.

    Since heavy-lift by definition is 20,000 kg to 50,000 kg to LEO, that’s not an issue.

    The 27 Shuttle missions that took hardware to the ISS cost us around $40B, but the Shuttle did other things on those missions too, so it’s not an apples-to-apples comparison. To replace the Shuttle in building the ISS, we would have needed a special “construction shack” type vehicle, plus we would have needed more frequent crew transportation to LEO. No easy solution there.

    I think Titan IV was running around $500M/launch in 2000, but it would have needed a special fairing to carry up the 15ft diameter ISS modules, so using the Shuttle obviated the need for building a new launch system. Not optimal, but considering the likelihood of NASA getting the concurrent funding for a new heavy-lift launch vehicle to use for the ISS, and having it ready in time, no other options were available.

    In short, even though it wasn’t optimal, using the Shuttle to build the ISS was the solution that allowed for the fastest rate of construction and support.

    The key metric will be what it will cost to build something of comparable size and complexity in the future. Using low cost transportation like Falcon Heavy, and reusing the 15ft diameter tooling for hard-sided modules (not everything will be inflatables), costs should come down dramatically.

    And there is STILL no forecasted need or budget for HLV payloads. Everything can be done using existing or near-term rockets.

    A Moon base program shouldn’t cost more that what NASA was spending on manned space flight just a few years ago…

    I’m a numbers type of guy, so when someone throws around the word “shouldn’t” when talking about multi-decade programs, I get the feeling they don’t have a clue what things really cost.

    Maybe you would be more convincing if you provided actual estimates of costs for some of the things you’re talking about, since right now you seem to imply that complex space vehicles will magically appear and only need recurring budgets to keep running. Where are the development cost estimates for all this magical hardware?

  • Dennis Berube

    Heres the basic question: Should man venture beyond Earth orbit? Should we simply use NEO for such things as military and communications projects? Look at the money we would save! Should we even be searching forlife on Mars? Should the Mars Science Lab mission even be sent now? What of James Webb, should it still go or be banished to the scrap heap for all eternity?

  • Dennis Berube

    Didnt Gorby, when in charge of Russia, offer Reagan a joint mission to Mars. The offer should have been taken!

  • Vladislaw

    The offer was for an unmanned mission to Mars.

  • Me

    “Of course not– Bolden turns 65 in August”
    What does that have to do with anything. There is nothing significant about that age for gov’t appointees.

  • Coastal Ron

    Dennis Berube wrote @ May 20th, 2011 at 2:35 pm

    Didnt Gorby, when in charge of Russia, offer Reagan a joint mission to Mars. The offer should have been taken!

    You have this romantic idea that we can magically afford to do everything proposed. We can’t.

    Regarding Russia, they could barely afford to participate in the ISS, and in fact at one point they were short on funds. The same is true of the U.S., since NASA only gets around $18B/year.

    The issue with humans in space is that it is expensive, and right now the money being spent is an investment in the future, but otherwise doesn’t provide a payoff in the near term. As long as people want to invest in the idea that we should expand into space, then money will flow. But the payback, measured in economic ROI’s, is decades down the road, maybe longer.

  • John Malkin

    Marcel F. Williams wrote @ May 20th, 2011 at 12:51 pm

    “But the ISS love fest and return to the Moon hate-fest suddenly started with the Augustine Commission.”

    Have you told this to your congress members? What was their response?

  • DCSCA

    @Dennis Berube wrote @ May 20th, 2011 at 2:35 pm
    JFK & NK flirted w/joint space projects as well. The politics of it opped the balloon within a day or two.

  • @ John Malkin

    “I’m talking now. Griffin has no power to make that decision or recommendation now. Also I think we would need to work with our partners if we terminated our involvement.

    Why do you think $8.4 billion is enough. Constellation was already over budget so you think it was going get cheaper? Well maybe if we use FH and fuel depots. BTW, How much of the hardware on ISS is American built? 50%, 40%, 20%…”

    I was a strong opponent of the Constellation architecture. I was also strongly critical of the fact that Griffin allowed a Moon base program to turn into an Apollo Redux program. And NASA’s own studies clearly showed that Griffin’s Constellation architecture was far more expensive than much cheaper alternate architectures such as DIRECT or the Sidemount Shuttle. Also, a single stage lunar landing vehicle would be substantially cheaper than a two stage vehicle (Altair) since in the latter you have to develop two space craft: a LOX/LH2 descent stage plus a hypergolic ascent stage. A single stage lunar lander could also be reusable. Plus a two stage lunar lander wouldn’t be able to take advantage of lunar fuel resources.

  • DCSCA

    @Doug Lassiter wrote @ May 20th, 2011 at 8:44 am
    “In many people’s view on human space exploration, destinations come first, and rationale and goals come second.”

    This is absurd. The ‘goal’ of Human Space Exploration is human space EXPLORATION. Pretty self-evident– expanding the human presence out into the solar system. Chyba’s comment was absurdly hilarious– and utterly obtuse– particularly when he stated that if you select a ‘destination’ you then try to justify methods and reasons to go to it– which is just silly. That’s probably how he rationalizes a trip to Vegas to his disapproving wife.

  • @Robert Oler

    “The bulk of space districts in FL for instance went to McCain…and did so in part based on the space program but in part based on other issues. ”

    Electoral votes in Florida are not won by district. They are won by winning the majority of votes in the entire state Florida. Your argument might have some validity if Obama had lost every single vote in space districts, but that clearly didn’t happen. And those votes that he did receive in the space districts helped him to win Florida. But he might receive a lot fewer of them this time around.

  • @Coastal Ron

    “No, the GAO was the first government organization to point out that the Constellation program didn’t have a business case (i.e. it wasn’t doing a good job of getting us to the Moon). All the Augustine Commission did was validate that by comparing Constellation to other alternatives. Oh and maybe you missed it, but Congress agreed.”

    @Coastal Ron: You didn’t need the GAO to tell you that the Constellation architecture was too expensive. The Augustine Commission was supposed to find alternate solutions to achieving the goal of returning to the Moon. Instead, they seemed to have their own agenda.

    “The ISS was so costly because we were using a heavy lift vehicle (the space shuttle) to launch a mere 25 tonnes into orbit per launch.”

    “The 27 Shuttle missions that took hardware to the ISS cost us around $40B, but the Shuttle did other things on those missions too, so it’s not an apples-to-apples comparison. To replace the Shuttle in building the ISS, we would have needed a special “construction shack” type vehicle, plus we would have needed more frequent crew transportation to LEO. No easy solution there.”

    @Coastal Ron: There was no logical reason for a super titanic centralized microgravity space station. That money should have been spent on developing a heavy lift vehicle so that we could launch huge cheap space stations with a single launch.

    “Maybe you would be more convincing if you provided actual estimates of costs for some of the things you’re talking about, since right now you seem to imply that complex space vehicles will magically appear and only need recurring budgets to keep running. Where are the development cost estimates for all this magical hardware?”

    @Coastal Ron: If you’ve actually read the numerous NASA heavy lift studies about the Sidemount and other heavy lift concepts then you’d know what the development cost are. Recurring cost, of course are going to strongly depend on how frequently the hardware is utilized by NASA, the military, and private industry over the next 20 to 30 years.

    But you could always visit my blog at http://newpapyrusmagazine.blogspot.com/ and read some of the articles that I’ve written on this subject which have tons of references and links to NASA and other research study pdfs on the subject of cost.

  • John Malkin wrote @ May 20th, 2011 at 4:44 pm

    Marcel F. Williams wrote @ May 20th, 2011 at 12:51 pm

    “But the ISS love fest and return to the Moon hate-fest suddenly started with the Augustine Commission.”

    Have you told this to your congress members? What was their response?

    Actually, I did contact Dianne Feinstein on this matter. But she pretty much defended the old Obama plan.

    But its not too surprising that its sometimes difficult to end a big government program. Its probably going to take the launch of the first large and cheap Bigelow Space stations to finally show what a hyper expensive turkey the ISS program really is. Then NASA will have to endure another round of being blamed for wasting tax payer dollars– when it was the politician’s idea all along!

  • red

    Jim Muncy: “They couldn’t fit SSME replacement into the runout, so they just quit after they run out. But they get 4 launches of a 70 MT vehicle (theoretically) between 2016 and 2020.”

    Does that meet the requirements of the law?

    “(D) The capability to serve as a backup system for supplying and supporting ISS cargo requirements or crew delivery requirements not otherwise met by available commercial or partner-supplied vehicles.”

    If we assume that commercial crew and cargo etc need a backup from 2016 to 2020, are 4 Orion launches (minus any test flights using the SLS) enough to support ISS requirements during that time as the law specifies? If not, hopefully they will go back to the drawing board, and in the meantime spend the money on something useful.

  • reader

    >> The ‘goal’ of Human Space Exploration is human space EXPLORATION. Pretty self-evident– expanding the human presence out into the solar system

    Just so we don’t get all confused about it, exploration implies brief visits here and there, it does not mean permanent presence anywhere, neither short or long term.

    As said before, exploration and settlement are very different goals, and routes to go about both are often highly different.

    Lots of confusion coming from the fact that people get these two mixed up ..

  • Coastal Ron

    Marcel F. Williams wrote @ May 20th, 2011 at 5:43 pm

    That money should have been spent on developing a heavy lift vehicle so that we could launch huge cheap space stations with a single launch.

    The ISS weighs 417,289 kg (919,960 lb). I wasn’t aware that anyone had plans for an HLV that size. Or maybe you think that everything we’ll be building in space will be 130 tons or less in size, which was the mass of the MIR space station?

    Why are HLV proponents so against modular assembly? Is it because you know that it obviates the need for new HLV’s? Don’t you think we’ll ever need space stations bigger than what one launcher can loft to LEO? What a limited imagination you have. Maybe you should look around and see how we build things here on planet Earth…

    Recurring cost, of course are going to strongly depend on how frequently the hardware is utilized by NASA, the military, and private industry over the next 20 to 30 years.

    Yes, there is that pesky “demand” issue. How many funded payloads are there for new HLV’s? Oh, that’s right, none.

    Heck, SpaceX doesn’t even have any customers that require a Falcon Heavy, but it’s so cheap that customers can launch it less than half full and still save money. Can’t do that with one of your proposed HLV’s.

    And I’m sure there are lots of unfunded ideas bouncing around, but if you look at what the cost would be to build the HLV-only payloads, I suspect you would find out there wouldn’t be any money left over to actually USE an HLV since they are so expensive.

    Again it boils down to money, and so far no one has been able to show that HLV’s are cost effective. You know, use real math to show us where it costs less to use an HLV than an existing launcher? Could you be the first?

  • But you could always visit my blog at http://newpapyrusmagazine.blogspot.com/ and read some of the articles that I’ve written on this subject which have tons of references and links to NASA and other research study pdfs on the subject of cost.

    Most of us have lives. If the quality of your blog postings is similar to your comments here, why would we waste our time?

  • Coastal Ron

    Marcel F. Williams wrote @ May 20th, 2011 at 5:43 pm

    Recurring cost, of course are going to strongly depend on how frequently the hardware is utilized by NASA, the military, and private industry over the next 20 to 30 years.

    Some further thoughts on your “build it and they will come” theory.

    If you have surveyed the commercial market at all, you will find that no one is using the full capabilities of existing Heavy-lift launchers like Ariane 5 or Delta IV Heavy. And Atlas V Heavy has not been made operation yet because of a lack orders, although it is just 3 years away from becoming operational.

    So as of today there is no market demand for payloads over 50,000 lbs (22,500 kg).

    So why is SpaceX creating their Falcon Heavy if there is no market demand for 117,000 lbs to LEO? I think their strategy relies partly on taking away business from other providers, like Ariane 5 and Delta IV Heavy. Even if you only use a fraction of Falcon Heavy potential capacity, it’s still a bargain at $80-125M. That’s around $1,100/lb ($2,400/kg), compared to prices 4-7X higher for other launchers.

    What cheap lift like Falcon Heavy also does is allows companies to experiment with larger payloads without a lot of monetary risk. For payloads that are constrained by weight and must use exotic materials or designs to keep their weight in within launch limits, those constraints go away. Now designers can either build lower cost payloads, or they can take the savings and use it to build larger payloads. But they won’t do that for more expensive launchers like your proposed HLV’s.

    Of course the most important part about this is that SpaceX takes all the risk, not the U.S. Taxpayer. So if their market strategy doesn’t work, no big deal. Can’t say that about your government HLV’s.

    The other issue for your HLV’s is pricing & competition. If the U.S. Government is the owner, then how do you price it’s service to non-government customers? And why do you want the government competing with the private market?

    If there was a known requirement for large payloads, then competing out the work to private industry would result in the lowest possible $/lb to LEO. But there is nothing to compete – NO DEMAND. So any talk of needing HLV’s is just that – talk, not need.

    Show us the money, and then we’ll talk. Otherwise, don’t waste our time.

  • pathfinder_01

    “A Moon base program shouldn’t cost more that what NASA was spending on manned space flight just a few years ago when we were spending $3 billion a year for the shuttle program, $2 billion a year for the ISS program, and $3.4 billion a year for the Constellation program. So I do believe that $8.4 billion a year is enough for a sustainable lunar base program, especially if we utilized lunar resources for air, water, energy, and fuel.”

    Only if you move the moon to LEO will this be true.

    I love the whole let’s turn the shuttle into an HLV…the HLV will cost the same as the shuttle. NOT!

    There is this bad logic that the shuttle orbiter consumes most of the cost of the shuttle program and if you just get rid of it then things will cost the same. I just found this link out:
    http://hosted.ap.org/specials/interactives/_documents/nasa_transition_report0308.pdf

    In short in fy2008 there were about 8,000 people (or jobs) working on the shuttle in KSC., but the total elsewhere Marshall, Johnson, Michould is about 10,500. And these centers would still be needed Orbiter or no Orbiter if you are doing something shuttle derived. If CXP had not been cancelled Marshall would have grown from 2,700 to 5,800. KSC would have lost the most at 4,800. Johnson would have only lost 100. Michould would have lost 800. The total number of shuttle employees would have decreased from 21,000 to 17,000 not much difference considering the “costly orbiter” being shed by FY2013. In fact you wind up neededing about 1,700 people just for Orion and CXP which is why they only go down to 17,000 and not around 15,000.

    To compare, ULA has a total of around 3,000 employees who make both Atlas and Delta.

    In addition the shuttle’s main engines are the most expensive rocket engine in production( they are meant to be reused), the shuttle itself is a payload(i.e. you don’t have to buy another capsule after each launch). These factors suggest that a BEO program using shuttle hardware is likely to be more expensive than the Shuttle Program.

    You need about the same number of people but you wind up launching less frequently due to needing to spend more on Payloads (Orion plus habs, landers, supply ships, technology development). With the shuttle the shuttle and anything in its payload bay was returned for reuse. This makes lunar exploration so unattractive esp. if you use SDHLV.

    The ISS or any space station in LEO on the other hand can use exsiting rockects ( No rocket development costs to build just use the Shuttle, Soyuz, and Proton to build) that have others uses(Falcon 9, Soyuz, Proton, Taurus II, Ariene, HIIB and even the shuttle have other uses and in the case of all but the Shuttle commercial users).

    This also means the cost of the ISS is shared and support is shared. Your shuttle derived HLV goes boom, and we will have to abandon the moon base until the cause of the mishap is understood since we will not be able to rotate crew any other way. Columbia broke up and we still could access the ISS via Soyuz. Once commercial comes different spacecraft can use different rockets. If Falcon 9 goes boom, we can still supply via Taurus II and Cygnus. And if a crew craft is lost there is the other one we can use.

  • pathfinder_01

    Anyway the shuttle usually took more than 2 billion a year. It was winding down in 2008.Normal cost would be 3 billion. ISS costs are likewise going to drop as we shift from construction to support.

    CXP needed both budgets to turn the current program which is capable of putting 3 people on the ISS for years into one with no one could go anywhere but LEO in a small capsule till 2020 10 years due to no rocket and dumping the ISS, then you couldn’t land till 2030 due to no lander and when you landed all you got was 4 people on the moon for two weeks, twice a year! Moonbases were dropped because of cost.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Marcel F. Williams wrote @ May 20th, 2011 at 5:22 pm
    “. Your argument might have some validity if Obama had lost every single vote in space districts, but that clearly didn’t happen.”

    LOL

    If McCain had gotten EVERY SINGLE VOTE that Obama got in the “Space districts” McCain still would not have carried Florida.

    For the conclusion you draw to be valid, one has to assume that to the res of Florida, the non space districts the people who voted for Obama will care about the space issues (they dont) and that “something else” wont override any concerns that they have about space issues.

    Heck…in some parts of space districts the “elderly” are likely to be more concerned with Medicare/Caid then they are space issues…

    Sorry, the notion you are pushing makes no political sense

    RGO

  • @Coastal Ron

    “The ISS weighs 417,289 kg (919,960 lb). I wasn’t aware that anyone had plans for an HLV that size. Or maybe you think that everything we’ll be building in space will be 130 tons or less in size, which was the mass of the MIR space station?”

    @Coastal Ron: The largest Bigelow space station would weigh about 100 tonnes but would have a volume twice as large as the ISS. So its both lighter and larger.

    “Why are HLV proponents so against modular assembly? Is it because you know that it obviates the need for new HLV’s? Don’t you think we’ll ever need space stations bigger than what one launcher can loft to LEO? What a limited imagination you have. Maybe you should look around and see how we build things here on planet Earth…”

    @Coastal Ron: That’s because its cheaper to launch a single large space station than a modular space stations which requires multiple launches. Its also cheaper to deploy large objects on the lunar surface with an HLV than with small rockets.

    “Heck, SpaceX doesn’t even have any customers that require a Falcon Heavy, but it’s so cheap that customers can launch it less than half full and still save money. Can’t do that with one of your proposed HLV’s.”

    @Coastal Ron: How many humans has Space X successfully launched into orbit and returned safely to the Earth? And how much tax payer supported infrastructure will be used to support his personal space program and how long will the tax payer’s be required to continue funding the $3 billion a year ISS program as a make-work program for the emerging private spaceflight companies?

    “Again it boils down to money, and so far no one has been able to show that HLV’s are cost effective. You know, use real math to show us where it costs less to use an HLV than an existing launcher? Could you be the first?”

    The Shuttle cost NASA about $450 million to launch (not including development cost) 25 tonnes to LEO and I believe the extremely low demand for the Delta IV heavy has now raised its cost to over $400 million per launch from the original estimates of about $230 million. Although I have heard some estimates that the Delta IV heavy really cost about $700 million per launch without US military subsidies.

    NASA has estimated that privatized recurring cost for a sidemount shuttle launch consisting of 6 launches per year would cost about $450 per launch to place 73 metric tons into orbit. NASA has also estimated that an inline version (what we’re currently supposed to be working on) would cost about 10% more per launch but would place about 118 tonnes into orbit.

    (Deep Space Operations Enabled By
    A Heavy Lift Launch Vehicle

    William J. Rothschild.1 and Theodore A. Talay 2
    John Frassanito & Associates, Inc.
    1350 NASA Parkway, Suite 214, Houston, TX 77058
    Email: wjrothschild@yahoo.com
    Telephone: 713-248-2882

    Edward M. Henderson 3
    NASA Johnson Space Center, TX

    Submitted for the
    AIAA Space Opearations 2010 Conference
    Huntsville, AL April 25-30, 2010 )

  • Robert G. Oler wrote @ May 21st, 2011 at 12:26 pm

    Marcel F. Williams wrote @ May 20th, 2011 at 5:22 pm
    “. Your argument might have some validity if Obama had lost every single vote in space districts, but that clearly didn’t happen.”

    LOL

    If McCain had gotten EVERY SINGLE VOTE that Obama got in the “Space districts” McCain still would not have carried Florida.

    For the conclusion you draw to be valid, one has to assume that to the res of Florida, the non space districts the people who voted for Obama will care about the space issues (they dont) and that “something else” wont override any concerns that they have about space issues.

    Heck…in some parts of space districts the “elderly” are likely to be more concerned with Medicare/Caid then they are space issues…

    Sorry, the notion you are pushing makes no political sense

    RGO

    @Oler

    “If McCain had gotten EVERY SINGLE VOTE that Obama got in the “Space districts” McCain still would not have carried Florida.”

    But I’m not talking about Obama’s landslide victory in 2008. I’m talking about a probable close election in 2012. McCain was still under the shadow of the horrible George Bush legacy. And even some Republicans in 2008 had the sanity not to place a nut-case like Sarah Palin a heartbeat away from controlling nuclear weapons.

    But this election won’t be about the George Bush legacy. And something tells me that Republicans won’t be putting any nut-cases on the presidential ticket next year. On the other hand, sometimes you never know when it comes to Republicans:-)

  • @pathfinder_01 wrote @ May 21st, 2011 at 1:15 am

    “Anyway the shuttle usually took more than 2 billion a year. It was winding down in 2008.Normal cost would be 3 billion. ISS costs are likewise going to drop as we shift from construction to support.”

    No there not. Obama’s original NASA budget projected steady increases for the ISS program: $2,983.6 in 2012, $3,129.4 in 2013 , $3,221.9 in 2014, and $3,182.8 in 2015.

    Current space shuttle main engines are expensive because of the high cost of refurbishment. The space shuttle manager, John Shannon, even called reusable space shuttle main engines– a myth– in front of the Augustine Commission. Future RS-25 engines will be disposable and if demand is high will finally benefit from economies of serial production.

  • tps

    red:
    If we assume that commercial crew and cargo etc need a backup from 2016 to 2020, are 4 Orion launches (minus any test flights using the SLS) enough to support ISS requirements during that time as the law specifies? If not, hopefully they will go back to the drawing board, and in the meantime spend the money on something useful.

    I almost think that the senate porkers could care less if their creation actually launched. You could build it, assemble it, move it out to the pad, fuel it, and then get the dozers out to grind it into scrap and they would be happy. Money has been spent in their states/districts, right palms have been greased, all is right with the world.

  • That’s because its cheaper to launch a single large space station than a modular space stations which requires multiple launches. Its also cheaper to deploy large objects on the lunar surface with an HLV than with small rockets.

    Repetition of unsubstantiated nonsense doesn’t render it true.

  • Coastal Ron

    Marcel F. Williams wrote @ May 21st, 2011 at 1:16 pm

    The largest Bigelow space station would weigh about 100 tonnes but would have a volume twice as large as the ISS. So its both lighter and larger.

    And fairly empty. If you think you’ll be able to replicate the function and ability of the ISS with one BA-2100, you are sorely mistaken (but that wouldn’t be surprising).

    That’s because its cheaper to launch a single large space station than a modular space stations which requires multiple launches.

    Can you cite any authoritative studies that show that?

    Building massive payloads and launching them to space seems like a simple solution, but it ignores a whole lot of costs in the background that get ignored. For instance larger diameter payloads require new transportation systems to get the payloads to the launch site, or new factories must be built near the launch sites. Sounds simple, but then that locks you into a lot of overhead and non-competitive situations.

    It also ignores the fact that larger assemblies take longer to build, are harder to test and check out, and are less flexible once in orbit. You are probably unaware of the fact that the ISS has been reconfigured by just moving around modules. You give that up with single large modules that, according to you, won’t ever be docked with other modules.

    And how much tax payer supported infrastructure will be used to support his [meaning SpaceX] personal space program

    Like all companies that use government property, SpaceX pays the government to lease their three launch sites. I guess this is something else that you’re ignorant of, and it’s just like what Lockheed Martin has to do to use the Michoud government-owned manufacturing facility (Shuttle ET’s, Orion, etc.). ATK would have to do the same if they want to launch their Liberty rocket, since it requires an extensive amount of Shuttle and Constellation infrastructure.

    how long will the tax payer’s be required to continue funding the $3 billion a year ISS program as a make-work program for the emerging private spaceflight companies?

    It’s amazing how much you don’t know about our space program. Congress designated the ISS as a National Laboratory back under the Bush Administration, and various Congressional laws have stated that commercial transportation is to be used to the fullest extent practical. Let me know if you are still having a hard time understanding these simple facts…

    The Shuttle cost NASA about $450 million to launch

    You keep lying about this, even though authoritative studies have found otherwise. The average cost per launch was $1.2B, and that rises to $1.5B if you add in the development costs. Here is the source:

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

    NASA has estimated that privatized recurring cost for a sidemount shuttle launch

    Oh please, NASA doesn’t have a clue what “privatized recurring costs” would be. Have they ever been right, or close, about any costs they have ever estimated, government or commercial? NO

    Come on Marcel, use some critical thinking instead of drinking the koolaid…

  • Vladislaw

    Coastal Ron wrote:

    “What cheap lift like Falcon Heavy also does is allows companies to experiment with larger payloads without a lot of monetary risk. For payloads that are constrained by weight and must use exotic materials or designs to keep their weight in within launch limits, those constraints go away. Now designers can either build lower cost payloads, or they can take the savings and use it to build larger payloads.”

    Isn’t two of the main constraints for sats more power (bigger solar arrays) and fuel? That is where I thought the FH could prove useful.

    pathfinder_01 wrote:

    “Your shuttle derived HLV goes boom, and we will have to abandon the moon base until the cause of the mishap is understood since we will not be able to rotate crew any other way. Columbia broke up and we still could access the ISS via Soyuz.”

    That is the one thing I could never understand about the anti-commercial and the idea only NASA should be doing spaceflight. Once again NASA was going to build a single string fault system. ANYTHING goes wrong with the Ares I or V and it would be years.. AGAIN where the entire Nation’s space access ability is crippled and shut down while an army goes over every nut and bolt.

    You hear the drumbeat of “if a commercial provider has an accident spaceflight is over”. No you have multiple providers and you just choose a different one. The Nation should never allow politicians to put up us in that position again. Not after 50 years of spaceflight.

    Marcel wrote:

    Obama’s original NASA budget projected steady increases for the ISS program: $2,983.6 in 2012, $3,129.4 in 2013 , $3,221.9 in 2014, and $3,182.8 in 2015″

    It was my understanding those increases where not related to construction or support of the ISS but for actually trying to conduct some science there. We built the lab, it is one launch away from completion now lets do some technology tests and science there.

  • Coastal Ron

    Vladislaw wrote @ May 21st, 2011 at 6:41 pm

    Isn’t two of the main constraints for sats more power (bigger solar arrays) and fuel? That is where I thought the FH could prove useful.

    I don’t know what the true constraints are, but those sound reasonable, especially since they ultimately relate to cost.

    The price of the Falcon Heavy is around what ULA charges for the Atlas V series, so there are a number of ways to utilize the far larger capacity you get with Falcon Heavy. Where Atlas V can put 4,750-8,900 kg into GEO, Falcon Heavy will be able to put around 19,500 kg.

    The trade-off between more power or more service life will probably be iterative, since this is a HUGE increase in value we’re talking about here, and it will take the market a little time to adjust. First they have to get comfortable with the reliability of Falcon Heavy, then they have to figure out how much to depend on it exclusively, since there won’t be any economic alternatives.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if satellite manufacturers come out with Falcon Heavy specific options, such as an enlarged bus (the Service-Propulsion module).

    Exciting times.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Marcel F. Williams wrote @ May 21st, 2011 at 1:37 pm

    “But I’m not talking about Obama’s landslide victory in 2008. I’m talking about a probable close election in 2012. ”

    but you are talking about something that is impossible to quantify. There are scenarios where the election is not even close…at this point in Reagan’s first term the folks gearing up with Mondale were already dividing the jobs up…

    You have no idea what the dynamics of a 2012 election are…and the conjecture you toss out is more wishing then anything

    Robert G. oler

  • Martijn Meijering

    I wouldn’t be surprised if satellite manufacturers come out with Falcon Heavy specific options, such as an enlarged bus (the Service-Propulsion module).

    I would be, unless SpaceX can achieve its price targets. After all, there are no payloads that max out Ariane 5.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Marcel F. Williams wrote @ May 21st, 2011 at 1:16 pm

    “NASA has estimated that privatized recurring cost ”

    and you place ANY value in that estimate? Yikes RGO

  • Coastal Ron

    Martijn Meijering wrote @ May 22nd, 2011 at 6:20 am

    I would be, unless SpaceX can achieve its price targets.

    That’s the assumption, but even if their prices go up 10-20% they are still significantly less expensive than the next lowest competitor. Truly market disruptive.

    After all, there are no payloads that max out Ariane 5.

    Right, but since most payloads are dual launches on Ariane 5, you are constrained on weight and size. If you wanted to grow in weight or size, you would have to find a passenger payload that is smaller, which is tough to plan years in advance.

    For around the same price, or way less if doing dual payload launches, you are far less constrained on weight and size when using Falcon Heavy.

    But how this affects satellite designs is unknown, since manufacturers won’t want to commit to a larger capacity until it’s proven and they understand what their customers want to use the extra capacity for. That’s why I think it will be a number years until the market settles on how to utilize this new capability, whether it’s a new class of larger satellites (both the bus and payloads), or they stick with the current designs and book the savings on launch costs.

    And so far we’re discussing what happens when you introduce larger capacity AND lower prices. When people talk about new HLV’s, they are not talking about lower prices, just larger payloads, and I don’t see where the market will want to jump in until they understand the economics – and even then not until they know they can depend on the new transportation systems (same with Falcon Heavy).

    That’s why any justification for new HLV’s that depend on the commercial marketplace are ignorant of how skittish and conservative the marketplace is. You have to address their needs from a monetary standpoint, and telling them to spend more without a significant increase in profit is just silly.

  • Coastal Ron

    On my previous post, instead of “passenger payload”, it should have said “companion payload”, since it would be part of a dual launch. Didn’t want you to think I meant people.

  • Martijn Meijering

    If you wanted to grow in weight or size, you would have to find a passenger payload that is smaller, which is tough to plan years in advance.

    Or you would have to use a whole launch yourself, but AFAIK nobody has done that so far. That suggests that at current price levels no one is interested in larger satellites. I think it’s really about price, not about size.

    That’s why I think it will be a number years until the market settles on how to utilize this new capability, whether it’s a new class of larger satellites (both the bus and payloads), or they stick with the current designs and book the savings on launch costs.

    ESA had to subsidise development of a larger bus, and that too doesn’t point in the direction of larger launchers. The only reason ESA is currently considering a slightly larger Ariane 5 is not because the existing one is too small for individual payloads, but because it is getting too small for carrying two at the same time. Ariane 5 is too large as it is, but if they can make it roughly twice as large as necessary (not say 1.5 times) it can be moderately economical. Plans for Ariane 6 call for a much smaller launcher.

  • Doug Lassiter

    DCSCA wrote @ May 20th, 2011 at 5:12 pm

    @Doug Lassiter wrote @ May 20th, 2011 at 8:44 am
    “In many people’s view on human space exploration, destinations come first, and rationale and goals come second.”

    “This is absurd. The ‘goal’ of Human Space Exploration is human space EXPLORATION. Pretty self-evident– expanding the human presence out into the solar system.”

    No, I don’t think anyone understands what that “exploration” word means. Everyone thinks they do, but everyone understands it differently. With regard to space it’s a word we hide behind when we can’t think of any other rationale. Human space exploration most certainly can’t be justified in a historical exploration context. With the technological capabilities of our age, human space exploration has little in common with Lewis and Clark or Magellan.

    It’s actually simplistic reasoning like this, and assertions of self-evidence, that is the hallmark of the way we look at space exploration. It’s so obvious that we needn’t even bother to think about it, you seem to be saying. So we don’t. Our human space flight policy shows pretty clearly that we haven’t thought about it.

    In particular, with regard to human expansion into the solar system, Congress has never voiced a cogent reason for doing it, though they are happy to run the “exploration” word up the flagpole and wave it frantically.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Doug Lassiter wrote @ May 22nd, 2011 at 5:47 pm

    “No, I don’t think anyone understands what that “exploration” word means. Everyone thinks they do, but everyone understands it differently. With regard to space it’s a word we hide behind when we can’t think of any other rationale. ”

    if “exploration” of other words in space were the goal then we would go about it very differently then what we are. If one assumes that hte shuttle has consumed about 200 billion dollars (in retrospect that is more money then Apollo in current dollars…150 billion) for a fraction of that we could have “explored” our solar system and have answered not only some of the fundamental questions about other planets, but also vastly increased our knowledge of them.

    That is not the goal of human spaceflight right now. What the goal is, is to employ humans in space to do things which are really not justifiable given the cost all on the “majesty” of the effort itself.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Coastal Ron

    Martijn Meijering wrote @ May 22nd, 2011 at 5:23 pm

    That suggests that at current price levels no one is interested in larger satellites. I think it’s really about price, not about size.

    I think I’m agreeing with you, but maybe describing the situation in different terms.

    The example that I keep thinking about is if the satellite customer wants a larger satellite, then they either need to pay for the whole launch, or partner up with a smaller companion payload. For the whole launcher, the price would be prohibitive unless they are getting more than double the value out of the larger satellite, and leaps like that are risky.

    The effect that Falcon Heavy will have on the launch market will be profound, but I think it’s going to take a couple of years before we see significant changes in the size of satellites. Until that point, I think Falcon Heavy will launch multiple satellites, and satellite operators will take the savings to their bottom line.

    The challenge in addressing a market is deciding if you want to compete by lowering prices or adding more features. Falcon Heavy prices and capability allow the ability to do either, or even both, compared to it’s competitors.

    2015-16 is shaping up to be an exciting time for commercial space, and definitely for SpaceX.

  • DCSCA

    “Human space exploration most certainly can’t be justified in a historical exploration context. With the technological capabilities of our age, human space exploration has little in common with Lewis and Clark or Magellan.”

    In fact, it has a great deal in common with it– at the most basic level..

  • DCSCA

    @Rand Simberg wrote @ May 21st, 2011 at 2:36 pm
    “Repetition of unsubstantiated nonsense doesn’t render it true.”

    LOL Indeed, all the more reason for you to accept that the Nixon Administration cancelled the Apollo program, not the Johnson Administration.

  • Major Tom

    “… the Nixon Administration cancelled the Apollo program, not the Johnson Administration.”

    No, the budget for the Apollo Program (and NASA overall) started falling in 1967, during the Johnson Administration. The Johnson White House had to submit that budget to Congress in early 1966 and finalized it internally in late 1965. So the Johnson Administration made the decision to put Apollo on a path to termination about two years after Kennedy’s assassination.

    NASA cancelled Apollo 18-20 during the early days of the Nixon Administration, but that was NASA’s decision, driven by the Johnson budget cuts. It was not a decision that originated with the Nixon White House. Cap Weinberger, Nixon’s OMB chief, flirted with cancelling Apollo 16-17, but the Nixon White House never took such an action.

    The Nixon Administration certainly allowed the Apollo Program die and developed its successor (the Space Shuttle). But the decision to kill Apollo after a few missions was made by the Johnson Administration. Saying that the Nixon Administration killed Apollo is like saying that the Obama Administration killed the Space Shuttle. In both cases, earlier Administrations (Johnson in the case of Apollo and Bush II in the case of Shuttle) actually made the decision to wield the budget axe. The Nixon and Obama White Houses simply chose not to reverse those decisions.

    FWIW…

  • Doug Lassiter

    “Human space exploration most certainly can’t be justified in a historical exploration context. With the technological capabilities of our age, human space exploration has little in common with Lewis and Clark or Magellan.”

    and then … DCSCA wrote @ May 23rd, 2011 at 6:39 pm,
    “In fact, it has a great deal in common with it– at the most basic level..”

    I’m listening! It this one of those “obvious” things, that are too obvious to articulate? Or too obvious to devote any thought to? Your brevity is revealing.

    Most basic level? You mean curiosity, perhaps? Hey, we’re curious about a whole lot of stuff. Like Newton was curious? Like Einstein was curious? We never launched them into space. Or maybe it’s about wanting to find things? Geez. We’re finding things on Titan and Mercury right now. Don’t need no people there. Those explorers in armchairs in Pasadena find a whole lot of stuff. They do it because of technology that historical explorers never had.

    Or maybe it’s about asserting power? Magellan was certainly after that. Lewis and Clark weren’t. In fact, it’s noteworthy that the Lewis and Clark expedition was largely forgotten about for almost a century. After they handed their books over to Thomas Jefferson, the country pretty much ignored them. No power conveyed there.

    Or maybe it’s about resource development. Gotta get those picks and shovels out and start “exploring”, I guess.

    Or maybe it’s just being brave. With all due respect to the “explorers” on ISS, what makes them explorers except that they once lit a fuse underneath them, and they’re spending time in a dangerous place? That exploration is supposed to be what inspires kids to succeed in STEM education, right? Ha.

    I’m not saying that human spaceflight is worthless. I’m just saying that the damned word “exploration” and it’s many pathetic contemporary meanings is keeping us from facing up to what human spaceflight is really worth. I don’t have a simple answer, but “exploration” sure isn’t it. That word is a crutch for justifying an endeavor that people love, but largely don’t understand.

  • DCSCA

    @Major Tom wrote @ May 23rd, 2011 at 10:35 pm

    Inaccurate. You don’t read very well. “the Nixon Administration cancelled the Apollo program, not the Johnson Administration.” <- This is accurate.

    You've been schooled on this topic before as well. And know better.

  • DCSCA

    @Doug Lassiter wrote @ May 23rd, 2011 at 10:43 pm
    Brevity… revealing, indeed: “People have always gone where they have been able to go. It’s that simple.”– Michael Collins, CMP, Apollo 11. Insightful, too.

  • Major Tom

    “Inaccurate.”

    Based on what? Your imagination?

    “You don’t read very well.”

    I could read at a 2nd-grade level, and it still wouldn’t change the facts.

    “the Nixon Administration cancelled the Apollo program, not the Johnson Administration.” <- This is accurate."

    Evidence? Reference?

    Stating false facts, even repeatedly, doesn't make them true.

    "You've been schooled on this topic before as well."

    When? Where? Link?

    Don't make stuff up.

    FWIW…

  • Me

    “I wouldn’t be surprised if satellite manufacturers come out with Falcon Heavy specific options, such as an enlarged bus (the Service-Propulsion module).”

    Not really. They aren’t going to make a spacecraft that is unique to one launch vehicle. Current spacecraft can fly on multiple vehicles. The FH will not change this.

  • Doug Lassiter

    DCSCA wrote @ May 24th, 2011 at 6:46 am
    “Brevity… revealing, indeed: “People have always gone where they have been able to go. It’s that simple.”– Michael Collins, CMP, Apollo 11. Insightful, too.”

    LOL. The problem is, those folks doing the “exploring” these days are being paid for on my dime. Another fallacy we get of historical exploration. Let people go wherever they’re able to go. Just don’t make me pay for their vacations. Elon’s going to go where he’s able to go. I’m going to send people where they’ll make a difference to me.

  • Coastal Ron

    Me wrote @ May 24th, 2011 at 12:41 pm

    Not really. They aren’t going to make a spacecraft that is unique to one launch vehicle. Current spacecraft can fly on multiple vehicles. The FH will not change this.

    Oh I agree that they won’t until they have decided they can depend on it, and that’s when I think an option would be made to make an incremental change like a longer-lasting bus, as opposed to a combination larger satellite that can only be launched on Falcon Heavy.

    But it’s going to be a while before that happens – 2016 at the earliest.

  • DCSCA

    Major Tom wrote @ May 24th, 2011 at 10:59 am
    “Stating false facts, even repeatedly, doesn’t make them true.” Yes, so it’s high time you learned: The Nixon administration cancelled the Apollo program, not the Johnson Administration. Falisfying history does little to enhance the credibility of desperate commercial space advocates.

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