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Did three astronauts miss the point?

Yesterday, the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s famous speech calling for a human mission to the Moon by the end of the 1960s, was an opportunity for a variety of retrospectives, not to mention comparisons to the current era of human spaceflight. One particular example of the latter was an op-ed in USA Today by former astronauts Neil Armstrong, Jim Lovell, and Gene Cernan, who lamented the lack of vision they see from the current administration on human space exploration. It’s not the first time they have voice such arguments, and the op-ed is a more a restatement of their case that, in their words, “America’s leadership in space is slipping.”

However, perhaps the most interesting paragraph in their piece, one that points at a more fundamental problem than the state of current policy, is this:

The [Constellation] program enjoyed near-unanimous support, being approved and endorsed by the Bush administration and by both Democratic and Republican Congresses. However, due to its congressionally authorized funding falling victim to Office of Management and Budget cuts, earmarks and other unexpected financial diversions, Constellation fell behind schedule. An administration-appointed review committee concluded the Constellation program was “not viable” due to inadequate funding.

The first sentence is correct in that it refers to the endorsement of the Vision for Space Exploration and NASA’s implementation of it in authorization acts passed by Congress with little opposition in 2005 and 2008. The second sentence is also correct: funding originally projected for carrying out the Vision didn’t materialize either in presidential budget requests in later years of the Bush Administration or in the appropriations bills passed by Congress. Yet, they also contradict each other to some degree: if there really was “near-unanimous support” for Constellation, then fully funding it shouldn’t have been a problem, right?

What Armstrong, Lovell, and Cernan miss in their op-ed is the current muddled situation regarding human spaceflight is not itself the problem, but instead a symptom of a deeper issue: space simply doesn’t have the same priority as it did 50 years ago, when it served as a proxy battlefield for the Cold War. It’s easy to “support” a program by passing authorization legislation that provides policy direction but doesn’t include funding; backing up that policy with the funding needed to implement has been much more difficult, as recent years have demonstrated. Moreover, it’s not likely to get any easier in the years to come as members of Congress seek to cut federal spending. The challenge today is either to come up with a new compelling rationale for human spaceflight that makes it a higher priority and thus wins support for additional funding, or to find new ways to make do with less.

66 comments to Did three astronauts miss the point?

  • The editorial is a shameful spin of disinformation that distorts the history behind how President Kennedy came to propose the Moon program, falsely claims that all was well with Constellation until it “fell behind schedule” due to “congressionally authorized funding falling victim to Office of Management and Budget cuts, earmarks and other unexpected financial diversions,” and overlooks that Congress approved cancellation of Constellation, as no President has the authority to cancel a program mandated by Congress.

    They claim:

    Obama’s advisers, in searching for a new and different NASA strategy with which the president could be favorably identified, ignored NASA’s operational mandate and strayed widely from President Kennedy’s vision and the will of the American people.

    Goodness.

    Obviously the three have never read the National Aeronautics and Space Act, “NASA’s operational mandate” as they call it. Nowhere does the Act require NASA to fly people in space, to explore other worlds or even to own its rockets.

    They claim that Obama “strayed widely from President Kennedy’s vision.” So what?! Kennedy’s “vision” was to put a man on the Moon by the end of the 1960s and return him safely to the Earth. Mission accomplished. Why should we be shackled to an obsolete “vision” that has no relevance in the modern era where we collaborate with our former Russian rivals?

    And as for “the will of the American people,” time and again polls have shown that national “will” is quite tepid for a government human space flight program, with many preferring it be privatized.

    I’m grateful to these three astronauts for their service to our country. But such lies and distortions only tarnish their legacy in my mind.

    And on the subject of “Kennedy’s vision” … The JFK Library released a new tape yesterday of a September 1963 meeting between Kennedy and NASA Administrator James Webb. Kennedy admitted Apollo was a “stunt” — his words, twice — and floated the idea of converting Apollo into a *military* program to bolster waning public and political support!

    This was two days before Kennedy appeared before the U.N. to propose that the U.S. and USSR combine their space programs.

    It’s very clear that JFK was looking for an exit strategy. Three times in 1963, he ordered reviews of the program asking if it could still be justified. If he hadn’t been murdered two months later, it’s quite possible that Apollo would have been cancelled or allowed to wither away after he was re-elected in 1964.

  • amightywind

    space simply doesn’t have the same priority as it did 50 years ago, when it served as a proxy battlefield for the Cold War.

    What a foolish, biased statement! Constellation was trunking along without controversy before a small minority of academic gadflies suddenly came to political power. They upended the solid, long term plan and handed it to Elon Musk. Space is the same foreign policy instrument it has been since Apollo Soyuz. Despite 2 accidents, the fact that NASA has thrived for 30 years suggests America’s backing of HSF has not wavered. Neil, Gene, and Jim are wise to call the radicals who are ruining our space program to task.

  • I wonder how many times the draft was passed back and forth between the astronauts and its likely author, Mike Griffin.

  • Constellation was trunking along without controversy before a small minority of academic gadflies suddenly came to political power. They upended the solid, long term plan and handed it to Elon Musk.

    abreakingwind, from what planet do you post this insanity? Because it’s not this one.

  • Dennis Berube

    In a time of funding cuts for various programs, I notice that the politicians are still up for their autonomous raises this year! With them it is cut everyone elses throat, but leave mine alone. Im on social security with no raises in sight for apparently some time to come. I am for an avid space program and see a nation stumbling as it tries to decde what it wants to do! Whatever direction we take, whether it be an asteroid mission or lunar base, or a Mars bound manned flight, it will indeed be an extension of the space exploration thatKennedy started. It will have to be done within a tighter budget, but I think if NASA gets a handle on it, a viable program will emerge. Perhaps a new NASA administrator is needed to iron the wrinkles out, and that will come at some point. Congress is stll giving alot of money to human spaceflight, so I dontsee it ending. I do a stuggle until until NASA decides what lift vehicle it wants to utilize to put Orion into space. With thespeed commercial is going, I dont see any manned flights much before Orion is to fly. Dragon and CST-100 have how many flights before they are manned?

  • > It’s very clear that JFK was looking for an exit strategy. Three times in 1963, he ordered reviews of the program asking if it could still be justified. If he hadn’t been murdered two months later, it’s quite possible that Apollo would have been cancelled or allowed to wither away after he was re-elected in 1964.

    And if he had… where would be we today?

    Is there a science fiction author in the house?

  • amightywind

    abreakingwind, from what planet do you post this insanity? Because it’s not this one.

    Armstrong’s is the same opinion, less colorfully stated. A majority of the electorate believes this..

  • Dennis Berube

    Well in science fiction, we will either be invaded by aliens, or killed off by a giant asteroid or comet hit. Oh yes, there also is the biological warfare threat too. Nuclear, seems to have faded in fiction circles. If Kennedy ended the Moon project, the Soviets would stll have invested in space, perhaps purely from a military advantage. No doubt the space station idea would have manifested sooner rather than later. People would still have been going into space, if only for military reasons! Perhaps the Moon would have been seen as having a military advantage, and thusly pushed mankind toward that end anyway. It just would have been later rather than sooner. The science certainly would have taken second place to military options!

  • A majority of the electorate believes this.

    A majority of the electorate pays little attention to space policy. They certainly don’t share your nutty beliefs.

  • amightywind

    A majority of the electorate pays little attention to space policy. They certainly don’t share your nutty beliefs.

    No, they expect the space program to be there, to be competently run, and to be the best in the world. They expect to see large rockets with USA painted on the side rising with a flag in the foreground. They will listen to Neil Armstrong. It is you adventurers that are out of the main stream. It is clear you are being paid to defend the newspace position. I am unpaid and speak honestly for the great silent majority.

  • Dennis Berube

    Even today Fincke on the station said it would be very exciting to go to Mars. It doesnt sound like a neg. with regards to future space plans. The Orion is not an old idea, but is totally new, insde and out! The shape is about all with regards to its resemblance to Apollo. It is made in that shape for high speed skip glide re-entries. I support it. Now as to what will finally launch it, still remains to be seen. If the Falcon heavy can loft the Orion, at a super savings GREAT, but lets get on with. All this anticipation with regards Space X is withering my old bones. Okay so with the last shuttle due to lift off later this year, and Space X claiming both a Dragon flight and the first flight of its heavy vehicle, it should be some exciting times coming up. Also the following year a Delta is supposed to launch the boiler plate Orion on test flight. Lets get on with it.

  • The core of the problem is that tax payers have been spending several billion dollars every year for the past 40 years having NASA going in circles around the Earth. Obama’s plan was to continue spending several billion a year going in circles around the Earth for another decade or two while also letting private commercial rocket companies provide the tax service for this exciting endeavor!

    Some of us, however, would rather spend those billions of dollars establishing a permanent presence on the lunar surface so that both government and private industry can begin to exploit the natural resources of the Moon and the rest of the solar system for our economic benefit and to begin the expansion of our species permanently beyond the Earth.

    On the other hand, if Columbus, the Spanish and the rest of Europe had returned from the America’s and decided to just travel around in circles around the Mediterranean we wouldn’t have to worry about Americans settling the Moon:-)

  • marvin holley

    I believe that one side of this debate over newspace vs. the program of record has been grossly under-reported and perhaps unfairly so. That being just about everyone on The Augustine commission were involved to some degree on the newspace side of the coin including Sally Ride and Leroy Chiao. Hardly a balanced panel. Augustine himself stated Constellation was well managed if underfunded and he recently re-iterated that Nasa still should have it’s budget increased by $3billion a year, coincidently the same number required to get Constellation back on track to begin with. Imagine that! It also is interesting to note that the “zombie” program has yielded the Mpcv and ATK’s Liberty rocket (which ATK intends to complete on their own dime) and now with the congressionally mandated sls we have Constellation in all but name. We should have listened to the moonwalkers and threw Gen Bolden and company under the bus for the incompetent lot we saw them to be at the hearings.

  • E.P. Grondine

    “The challenge today is either to come up with a new compelling rationale for human spaceflight that makes it a higher priority and thus wins support for additional funding, or to find new ways to make do with less.”

    Exactly, Jeff.

    Now if manned flight to Mars is not seen as a compelling rationale by more than 51% of the voters, then what happens?

  • That being just about everyone on The Augustine commission were involved to some degree on the newspace side of the coin including Sally Ride and Leroy Chiao.

    Nonsense. Of the ten members, only Jeff Greason and Leroy Chiao are involved in entrepreneurial space.

    ATK’s Liberty rocket (which ATK intends to complete on their own dime)

    If you believe that, I have a rocket to nowhere to sell you.

  • common sense

    @ marvin holley wrote @ May 26th, 2011 at 2:41 pm

    “Imagine that! It also is interesting to note that the “zombie” program has yielded the Mpcv and ATK’s Liberty rocket (which ATK intends to complete on their own dime) and now with the congressionally mandated sls we have Constellation in all but name. ”

    Where is the Kool-Aid? But the gem really is “ATK’s Liberty rocket (which ATK intends to complete on their own dime)”. Do you really believe that a company like ATK will actually build a multi hundred million dollar rocket on their own dime???

    Funny. I am mean really. Funny.

    “Zombie” is right though.

  • Mark R. Whittington

    As to whether or not Constellation was “controversial” one has to ask, how many people do the online ranters I have dubbed “The Internet Rocketeer Club” represent anyway? One suspects that the answer is–almost no one.

    And certainly Constellation’s cancellation has proven very controversial.

  • Major Tom

    Mr. Foust: “… funding originally projected for carrying out the Vision didn’t materialize either in presidential budget requests in later years of the Bush Administration or in the appropriations bills passed by Congress.”

    Although it has been promulgated elsewhere, including the Augustine Committee, this statement is not true. The truth is the exact opposite — NASA’s Exploration Systems Mission Directorate received $2.4 billion (17%) more than what was promised in the FY 2005 VSE budget.

    Here’s the FY 2005 runout for Exploration Systems when the VSE was released:

    FY05 $ 1,782M
    FY06 $ 2,579M
    FY07 $ 2,941M
    FY08 $ 2,809M
    FY09 $ 3,313M

    Total $13,424M

    And here’s what was actually approved for Exploration Systems in the operating plan for each fiscal year, plus Recovery Act funding in FY10:

    FY05 $ 2,685M
    FY06 $ 3,050M
    FY07 $ 2,870M
    FY08 $ 3,299M
    FY09 $ 3,506M
    Rec. $ 400M

    Total $15,810M

    When you subtract the latter from the former, Exploration Systems received the following increases over the FY 2005 VSE budget:

    FY05 $ 903M
    FY06 $ 471M
    FY07 $ -71M
    FY08 $ 490M
    FY09 $ 193M
    Rec. $ 400M

    Total $2,386M

    In every fiscal year with the exception of FY07, Exploration Systems received hundreds of millions of dollars more than what was promised in the FY 2005 VSE budget.

    In total, Exploration Systems received nearly $2.4 billion more than what was promised in the FY 2005 VSE budget.

    It is simply not true that Exploration Systems failed to develop Ares I, Orion, and the rest of Constellation on time due to budget cutbacks. The opposite is the truth — Ares I, Orion, and Constellation failed despite a 17% increase in the Exploration Systems budget.

    Here’s the links in case anyone wants to check the numbers for themselves:

    FY05 Budget Baseline –>nasa.gov/pdf/55385main_01%20Front%20page%20Total%20Summary%20Table.pdf

    FY05 Op Plan in FY06 Budget –> nasa.gov/pdf/107493main_FY_06_budget_summ.pdf

    FY06 Actual in FY08 Budget –> nasa.gov/pdf/168652main_NASA_FY08_Budget_Request.pdf

    FY07 Actual in FY09 Budget –>
    nasa.gov/pdf/210020main_NASA_FY09_Budget_Estimates_Summary.pdf

    FY08 Actual in FY10 Budget –>
    nasa.gov/pdf/344612main_Agency_Summary_Final_updates_5_6_09_R2.pdf

    FY09 Actual in FY11 Budget –>
    nasa.gov/pdf/420990main_FY_201_%20Budget_Overview_1_Feb_2010.pdf

    FWIW…

  • Vladislaw

    Tom,

    I have read on many occasions that Dr. Griffin also took funds from other accounts like earth sciences etc.

    Do the numbers you provide also take into account those shifts in priorities that took place during this time period?

  • Robert G. Oler

    Mark R. Whittington wrote @ May 26th, 2011 at 3:39 pm

    “As to whether or not Constellation was “controversial” one has to ask, how many people do the online ranters I have dubbed “The Internet Rocketeer Club” represent anyway? One suspects that the answer is–almost no one.

    And certainly Constellation’s cancellation has proven very controversial.”

    this from a person who thought Paul Ryan’s plan was gaining acceptance…goofy

    Constellations cancellation has only proven controversial among those who are in the words of NASA “stakeholders”.

    Other then those the rest of the US could barely give a fig about the US going back to the Moon, much less NASA doing it in 2 decades.

    Ask the people in NY 26 if they would rather have medicare or a lunar program?

    Robert G. Oler

  • Paul Snyder

    The sky is falling, the sky is falling….hmmm, not compelling enough I guess. Oh well, someone smarter than me is going to have to come up with that compelling reasoning for space exploration. For me, I am just plain disappointed about the lack of drive within our government to move forward in a united direction.

  • yea_right

    Marcel F. Williams wrote:
    “establishing a permanent presence on the lunar surface so that both government and private industry can begin to exploit the natural resources of the Moon and the rest of the solar system for our economic benefit and to begin the expansion of our species permanently beyond the Earth”

    I LOVE THIS… I want to go to the moon and mine all of the resources…
    you know, I am talking there will be nothing left but some marble
    sized rock that you wouldn’t even be able to stand, much less land
    something on.

    Gee, I bet the earth and all who live here, will absolutely love it when
    the moon is gone.

    The most important thing living in space will teach you is that you
    really really wish like he** you had a nice rock with clean air
    and water to walk around and live on instead of living in
    some artifical pod with arms the size of a mouse and a brain that
    is so radiated that.. well, you get my point.

    Yes, I do work for the “space” business and hope to for a long time.

    for your economic benifit.

  • Coastal Ron

    Mark R. Whittington wrote @ May 26th, 2011 at 3:39 pm

    And certainly Constellation’s cancellation has proven very controversial.

    Oh yes, so controversial that there were no protests outside of the capital building, and no real debate on the floor of either the House or the Senate.

    Constellation went down without even a whimper – it’s the jobs programs that everyone is fighting over, not meaningful exploration.

    Meanwhile commercial space keeps building up their capabilities…

  • Major Tom

    “Tom,

    I have read on many occasions that Dr. Griffin also took funds from other accounts like earth sciences etc.

    Do the numbers you provide also take into account those shifts in priorities that took place during this time period?”

    Yes.

    There are two ways to increase the budget for Exploration Systems (or any other program) from the FY05 (or any other) baseline:

    1) Get the White House to request and Congress to appropriate more funding in subsequent fiscal years than what was in the baseline for the program.

    2) After a new fiscal year is appropriated, get OMB and congressional appropriations staff to approve changes in the operating plan for that fiscal year to shift funds from other programs to the program in question.

    The numbers in my prior post incorporate both because they’re taken from the actual spending for the fiscal year in question two years after that fiscal year was over. So it doesn’t matter whether the increase came from a larger appropriations for the program or an operating plan shift — both get reflected in the actual spending totals.

    I think there’s a lot of confusion over whether NASA as a whole got as much funding as was promised in the VSE versus whether Exploration Systems got as much funding as was promised in the VSE. There’s no doubt that the Bush II White House and both Democrat- and Republican-controlled Congresses failed to meet the promises made for NASA’s overall budget in the VSE. However, if you dive in and and check the details underneath the agency total, it’s also clear that Exploration Systems got $2.4 billion (17%) more than what was promised in the VSE. Given who was Administrator during this time (Mike Griffin) and his top priorities (Ares/Orion/Constellation), this is not surprising.

    To your point, because the overall NASA budget wasn’t keeping up with VSE promises (i.e., no new money was being added to the NASA topline), this $2.4 billion increase for Exploration Systems came largely at the expense of other NASA programs. (The one exception is the $400 million that Exploration Systems received from the Recovery Act in FY10.) This resulted in a one-two punch to other NASA programs. Not only did their budgets have to be reduced so that the total NASA budget could come down from the VSE profile, the budgets for these other programs had to be cut even further to provide for the $2 billion increase in Exploration Systems. I don’t recall all the hits during this time, but off the top of my head: the Mars Exploration Program was cut in half, aeronautics was nearly cut in half, life and microgravity sciences was eliminated except for research supporting astronauts, and nuclear power and propulsion was practically eliminated, among other things. I know Earth Science hit a nadir during this time, but I don’t know the percentages.

    Hope this helps… FWIW.

  • Coastal Ron

    marvin holley wrote @ May 26th, 2011 at 2:41 pm

    It also is interesting to note that the “zombie” program has yielded the Mpcv and ATK’s Liberty rocket (which ATK intends to complete on their own dime)…

    The MPCV was wanted by the current administration too, so that it ended up being funded is not too much of a surprise. However it still lacks a defined purpose.

    The ATK/Astrium Liberty launcher has not been funded, and the program is no more than a paper proposal. You may remember that ATK put in a bid for CCDev2 money, but despite having a competent proposal, was turned down because 1) NASA was not funding launchers in this round, and more importantly 2) ATK couldn’t show that anyone was interested in actually USING the Liberty for NASA-related programs (a key for getting NASA money).

    It was hard to see why ATK/Astrium would go forward with the Liberty as long as Ariane 5 and Delta IV Heavy customers were happy. And now that the Falcon Heavy is planned to fly in the 2013 timeframe, and will likely cost far less than Liberty (and carry 2-3X more), there is no business case for the poor thing.

    What, pray tell, are it’s market differentiators? What are it’s competitive advantages? What are it’s barriers to entry? What economic benefits do it’s customers get by using the Liberty over every other launcher on the market?

    It was a dead zombie before ATK tried to revive it – and it’s still dead.

  • nom de plume

    My heroes Armstrong, Lovell, and Cernan seem to have the opinion shared by some on this blog that “laments” the “lack of vision they see from the current administration on human space exploration.” I don’t think it is a lack of vision, but it is differences of opinion about the recent decisions to end the Space Shuttle Program and CxP. Schedules and costs did not come close to meeting expectations. I have a problem with the attitude that NASA can only do it over many years, with multi$billions$, and a huge government civil service and contractor workforce spread out over many congressional districts. Yes, that is the USGov way and there have been many successes and failures at great expense. The people involved with Shuttle and CxP were angry and hurt by the termination of the programs. Could parts be salvaged and applied to future systems? Sure, but I think the prevailing view of the Administration was that there was too much costly baggage (bureaucracy, large workforce, infrastructure). Yes, politically obtuse.

    Plans are underway to reorganize and restructure NASA. After the last Shuttle flight and final layoffs occur, maybe they can start with a relatively clean slate and lean/mean workforce. Not likely if Congress and the aerospace lobbyists have their way. Can NASA become efficient and effective? I hope so, but if the same old NASA-government ways of doing business are still here a few years from now, then I may still have my job at KSC, but it will be déjà vu all over again. It is a privilege to be part of the KSC Team that successfully sees the last Shuttle launched and landed. But this book needs to be closed and a new one opened. I’m sure my heroes are as excited as I am about the successes of commercial ventures and the promise of more to come. Let’s hope for less political meddling, a revitalized NASA, and continued commercial success.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Dennis Berube wrote @ May 26th, 2011 at 10:24 am

    “In a time of funding cuts for various programs, I notice that the politicians are still up for their autonomous raises this year! With them it is cut everyone elses throat, but leave mine alone. Im on social security with no raises in sight for apparently some time to come. I am for an avid space program and see a nation stumbling as it tries to decde what it wants to do!”

    the problem is that nationally the same stumbling is going on that is going on in the space effort, or national defense. or whatever.

    The years of deficit spending (excepting Clinton we have deficit spent since the Ronaldus the Great years) have infected the nation with “its my money and I want it now” mentality except replace “money” with “program”. There were no hard choices. Want to give Seniors a prescription drug benefit? Heck no problem just come up with some rhetoric about how it “saves money” and there we are. Want to invade Iraq? It pays for itself and when it doesnt then no one who was for the darn thing wants to pay for it.

    Want to go to the Moon? Its only a tiny portion of the federal budget so no need to worry about the spending.

    Along the way “how” things were done didnt seem to matter at all, since we were not spending real tax dollars on them. It is hard for me to imagine the folks who put together the S-V sitting around for the years that Ares and Cx stumbled on ….and get NOTHING done…I mean nothing visible. Nothing space qualified.

    Couple this with the GOP determination to have the excess spending go almost directly to the corporations of The Republic…and we have a situation where now cutting down deficit spending is almost impossible. Without a lot of pain.

    In the midst of this are three old dudes talking about reliving the glory years of Apollo…the years when Federal budgets were far more in balance then they are now…and you try and sort out the relevance of the op ed.

    When we do fix deficit spending (and I have hope that we are about to start doing that) it is going to prove amazingly simple in its execution. Tax at Clinton rates, particularly for the over 200,000 group, end a lot of corporate subsidies (and this is where space spending comes in) masquerading as projects, and end the darn foreign wars.

    Then we get on to exploration Robert G. Oler

  • Coastal Ron

    Marcel F. Williams wrote @ May 26th, 2011 at 2:14 pm

    Some of us, however, would rather spend those billions of dollars establishing a permanent presence on the lunar surface…

    The basic “problem”, if you want to call it that, is that there is a plethora of places we all want to go. You want the Moon first, Zubrin wants Mars first, others want asteroids first, and so on. But there is no National Imperative to go to any of them.

    What is the desire from the public at large? None of the above. Not because they have a different destination in mind, but that it really doesn’t matter to them. They’re never going to be able to go, so it’s like talking about the Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous – it’s entertaining in a visceral way, but it doesn’t directly affect their normal lives. It’s just another channel of entertainment so to speak.

    For me it boils down to either trudging through the brush all the time, or spending the time to build roads so you don’t have to trudge through brush. Right now NASA is in the position that it can “give the man a fish” at the rate of $18B/year going forward, but that’s all the space activity they will get. Instead if they “teach the man to fish”, then the $18B/year NASA spends will be joined by others. A multiplier effect.

    The challenge with these two choices is that the later takes more time to put in place. I grant you that. So if you’re the impatient type (and there are lots on this blog), then you want to go to your favorite destination NOW, regardless the cost, regardless the long-term effects to how we go to other places, and regardless of the “need” (whatever that happens to be).

    I’m not going to make it to the Moon in my lifetime, even if Constellation had survived and thrived (same with asteroids and Mars), so I would rather have MY tax dollars spent making EVERYWHERE a lot easier to get to, and not just one destination.

    My $0.02

  • Major Tom

    “Constellation was trunking along without controversy…”

    Nope, no controversy in 2007:

    “With only seven months left before NASA moves forward with a program to develop the launch vehicle meant to send Americans back to the moon — and, eventually, to Mars — Congress’ watchdog agency has expressed concerns about the program… GAO determined that while NASA made sound business decisions early in the program, the agency still has major knowledge gaps about requirements, costs, technology, design and product feasibility.”

    govexec.com/dailyfed/1207/120307e1.htm

    Or in 2008:

    “NASA’s Constellation program — the successor to the aging space shuttle — faces critical problems and might never work as intended, according to a congressional report set for release today.”

    articles.orlandosentinel.com/2008-04-03/news/nasa03_1_space-shuttle-constellation-program-constellation-project

    Or in 2009:

    “Nearly six years after President George W. Bush launched the program, NASA’s Constellation program still lacks a sound business case, a defined schedule, and clear cost estimates. So says the Government Accountability Office in a new report titled, ‘Constellation Program Cost and Schedule Will Remain Uncertain Until a Sound Business Case Is Established.’”

    parabolicarc.com/2009/09/26/gao-constellations-cost-schedule-remain-uncertain/

    Can you not comprehend what you read?

    Do you have a long-term memory disorder?

    Seriously, what is your major malfunction?

    “before a small minority of academic gadflies suddenly came to political power.”

    Charlie Bolden, NASA Administrator –> Former astronaut and Marine Corps major general, highest degree attained is a master of science

    Lori Garver, NASA Deputy Administrator –> Former Executive Director of the National Space Society and Vice President at DFI Corporate Services, highest degree attained is a master’s in science, technology, and public policy

    Norm Augustine, Chair of the Review of United States Human Space Flight Plans Committee –> former CEO of Lockheed Martin and Under Secretary of the Army, highest degree attained is a master’s of science in engineering

    Yeah, three real ivory tower types right three.

    Do you have dyslexia when it comes to big words like “academic”?

    Do you have a long-term memory disorder?

    Seriously, what is wrong with you?

    Of course, the President’s science advisor, John Holdren, holds advanced degrees in such useless topics as aeronautics, astronautics, and plasma physics. Like those degrees have any technical relevance to the space program.

    [rolls eyes]

    Let’s see, which former NASA official has no less than seven degrees from six different universities and is a practicing academic to boot? Oh yeah, Mike Griffin, Eminent Scholar at the University of Alabama at Huntsville.

    Do you think at all before you post this idiotic hypocrisy?

    “They upended the solid, long term plan…”

    Yeah, three negative independent reviews in as many years in which Congress’s own Government Accountability Office couldn’t get cost or schedule estimates out of NASA for basic Constellation elements.

    That program was just brimming with solidity.

    Don’t make up and spread lies.

    “and handed it to Elon Musk.”

    How? By traveling back in time and using mind control to force the second Bush Administration to award SpaceX a $278 million COTS contract?

    Again, do you have a long-term memory disorder?

    Seriously, what is wrong with you?

    “Space is the same foreign policy instrument it has been since Apollo Soyuz.”

    If that’s true, then why didn’t Griffin invite the Russians to partner on Constellation?

    Again, do you think at all before you post such unmitigated idiocy?

    “No, they expect the space program to be there, to be competently run…”

    Yeah, three negative independent reviews in as many years in which Congress’s own Government Accountability Office couldn’t get a solid cost or schedule estimates out of NASA for basic Constellation elements.

    That program was just brimming with competence.

    Don’t make up and spread lies.

    “They expect to see large rockets with USA painted on the side rising with a flag in the foreground.”

    Yeah, there’s no American flags prominently displayed on, say, Falcon 9:

    spaceref.com/news/viewsr.html?pid=30236

    Or on Dragon:

    neil.fraser.name/news/2008/dragon_capsule.jpg

    Are you blind?

    Seriously, what is your major malfunction?

    “It is you adventurers that are out of the main stream.”

    Heaven forbid that we have “adventurers” in the nation’s civil human space flight program.

    [rolls eyes]

    “It is clear you are being paid to defend the newspace position.”

    Based on what? Your utter lack of evidence for any of your false statements?

    “I am unpaid”

    Boy, I would hope no one’s paying you for such poorly supported lies.

    “… and speak honestly for the great silent majority.”

    Evidence? Reference? Poll figures?

    Don’t make stuff up.

    Cripes…

  • ok then

    An embarrassing and highly partisan blame shifting effort. No mention of the politics of sinking ISS (or the costs of keeping it), No mention of the failure of Congress to increase NASA funding. No mention of the plan to travel to an asteroid or NASA’s effort to develop the plan for such an effort. Just a talk radio style smear with a curious omission of many facts.

    Do they really imagine that Republicans would back a large increase in NASA funding right now? Really? It’s like they were just awakened from cryo-sleep and haven’t read a newspaper since 72.

  • wappledoo

    Why is it that Constellation defenders are so quick to accuse its detractors of being paid by “newspace” or of representing a minority viewpoint? I work completely outside the space sector, have no financial stake in the success of any “newspace” company, but it just seems patently clear to me that the bloated cost-plus jobs program that NASA had become was incapable of inspiring the next generation, and we needed to find a better way.

    Will these naysayers ever admit they’re wrong? What about when there’s a thriving private sector with multiple outposts on the Moon and NEOs? The looming budgetary crisis shows just how unlikely it is that any heavy-spending space program has any shot at surviving the inevitable cuts and eventual austerity measures.

  • DCSCA

    “What Armstrong, Lovell, and Cernan miss in their op-ed is the current muddled situation regarding human spaceflight is not itself the problem, but instead a symptom of a deeper issue: space simply doesn’t have the same priority as it did 50 years ago, when it served as a proxy battlefield for the Cold War.”

    Well said. And, as you note, it’s easy to pass supportive legislation w/o funding to back it up. As Tom Wolfe rightly noted: “No bucks, no Buck Rogers.”

    Its not that these three aviators “miss it.” They see past it and they’re witnessing the half-century of infrastructure they helped establish evaporating before their eyes. If they were men of 19th century Britain, they would recognize the ‘symptoms’ as well. It would take the PRC launching a manned circumlunar flight to re-kindle the kind of competition Armstrong, Lovell and Cernan know is missing. Until then, saving Medicare is more important to Americans than returning to the moon.

    The justification for HSF remains a nebulously unanswered question in terms of national policy for the United States. There is no American lunar base to service; ‘Moon. American. Floyd– Haywood R.,” remains fiction. There is no human civilization in cislunar space a la Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey to cultivate. On the other hand, the Russians made a decision decades ago to keep HSF as an integral part of their national agenda– and sustained it through a period of massive change in their own land. The PRC is placing HSF high on their agenda as a symbolic element of an ascending society. Clearly that is not presently the case with the USA.

    This op-ed is classic Cernan and he most likely cajoled his colleagues into signing on to it. He has always been willing to engage with the public in a pro-HSF fashion but often at times disregarding the economic and political realities of the times. His ABC News days of color commentrary on shuttle flights was often glossy hype with little critical analysis of substance– even in the face of glaring truths. But they are all three late to the game- particularly Armstrong. If Neil had spent more time over the past 40 years cultivating the public through various venues rather than becoming a recluse his perspective today might carry more weight with the current generation facing a much different agenda of challenges than JFK did. Still, even Lindbergh made an effort to bolster public support for aviation in his time. Lovell is known today more for the film depicting his failed Apollo 13 moon mission than what was the most daring and historic moon flight next to Apollo 11: Apollo 8.

    This takes nothing away from these men who put their lives on the line, rose to the JFK challenge; rode the rockets and expanded the human presence out into space. But times– and priorities have drastically changed.

    This writer was reviewing recently some old video from the 20th anniversary of Apollo 11. Same questions we hear today about NASA’s competence, (or incompetence) risk aversion, lack of direction and ‘muddled’ priorities peppered the 11 crew at their May 26th presser. Armstrong reitereated the need for government space programs when responding to a question about commercialization– still in its infancy then as now, noting even in 1989 that space projects of scale are beyond the capacity of private firms to initiate and manage on their own. Of more interest were the musings of key Apollo era managers, most of whom are now retired or deceased. Their engineering protocol was much more disciplined; they worked well in the era of large government funded and managed space projects. They embraced multiple testing; they worked well with contractors; and they knew how to manage resources. They also saw that the NASA of 1989 was not a NASA they recognized.

    Regardless, the U.S. is positioning itself again as reactive rather than proactive in space activities. Attention PRC… start your countdown to the moon.

  • “As to whether or not Constellation was “controversial” one has to ask, how many people do the online ranters I have dubbed “The Internet Rocketeer Club” represent anyway?”
    Definition of Internet Rocketeer Club: Those persons unwilling to accept Whittington’s misinformation because they a) care enough enough to check background sources thoroughly to realize his claims are baloney and b) not simply accept his statements at face value on faith even when he says what they would like to believe.

    Case in point, in this article on Yahoo! News we have a classic Whittington misdirection:
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ac/20110521/us_ac/8506305_senate_demands_documentation_from_nasa_regarding_heavy_life_vehicle_orion_space_craft
    “Under the George W. Bush policy commercial space would take over routine Earth to low Earth orbit transportation, while NASA would concentrate on cutting edge science, technology, and exploration.”
    While the VSE under the Bush Administration did incourage both Commercial Cargo and Commercial Crew, under that same administration Griffin only implemented Commercial Cargo. In effect Griffin ignored the Commercial Crew in favor of Ares I. Something Whittington conveniently ignores.

  • Monte Davis

    Berube: People would still have been going into space, if only for military reasons!

    Still waiting to hear those reasons. There wasn’t a compelling case for military HSF when Dyna-Soar and MOL were canceled, or when DoD decided ELVs would meet its needs better than STS — and there still isn’t. Surveillance, comm, and GPS satellites are of great military value, but they don’t need crews, maintenance, or the overhead of re-entry capability. Military Moon bases were a silly idea in 1947 and remain silly today. Every few years some space-struck colonel does another PowerPoint arguing that we could have the capability to put a SEAL team or platoon anywhere on earth in 45 minutes, for no more than the cost of a couple dozen carrier groups, but somehow the idea never catches on.

    Anemptywind: I am unpaid and speak honestly for the great silent majority.

    And the lurkers support you in email. One leading early proponent of the “silent majority” meme resigned facing criminal charges, the other resigned facing impeachment. As for being unpaid: good value for the money.

  • In above I should have written more succinctly. Instead of”
    “In effect Griffin ignored the Commercial Crew in favor of Ares I. ”
    Should be:
    “In effect Griffin ignored the Commercial Crew in favor of Ares I for crew transport to ISS.”

  • @OK then
    “No mention of the plan to travel to an asteroid or NASA’s effort to develop the plan for such an effort. Just a talk radio style smear with a curious omission of many facts.”
    You evidently read this comment in this thread:
    Major Tom wrote @ May 26th, 2011 at 3:40 pm

    Look at all earlier comments before you post.

  • @OK then
    Instead of saying:
    “You evidently read this comment in this thread:”

    IMeant to say “You evidently didn’ t read this thread”

    As for my comment:
    “Look at all earlier comments before you post.”
    That was snarky, inconsiderate and I shouldn’t have said it. Sorry.

  • Dennis Berube

    According to the newest book just released on Area 51, the United States constant overflights with recon planes, forced the Soviets into their space program and the desire to be the first to place an object into orbit. Once done, the idea was to orbit a man, and military observation posts (early Salyuts). Only after the US started with the Moon idea, did the Soviets venture to do it first. If Korolev had survived, I think they would have been first, landing one cosmonaut on the Moon as opposed to two astronauts as we did. Certainly would have been a lonely trip down! In any event, orbital military outpost would have continued even without the Moon program emerging as a target. Once the Soviets realized the race was lost they immediately went back to orbital outpost.

  • Dennis Berube

    It seems that when it comes to lifting bodies, like the old project Dyna-Soar, short for dynamic soaring, and the newer X-33, it was realized the inherent dangers and cost, involved when compared to capsule types of spacecraft. Lets face it, they are harder to manage. Just like the shuttle, the re-usable issue always enters into it, and a larger staff is needed to keep it going. I wonder what the maintainence issues are on commercial airliners, and or military planes? Ive heard that if the same amount of care was put into our everyday automobile, they would last a lifetime. That shows a tremendous overhead with utilizing reusable vehicles, such as aircraft. With a craft like the shuttle it should come as no surprize the upkeep needed to keep it flying..

  • Dennis Berube

    Isnt Orion supposed to at least in part be reused? The maintenance due to its capsule shape should be much much easier than the shuttle! Im not sure what parts are going to be reused, but maybe that still has to be sorted out!

  • Dennis Berube

    I wonder if the Soviets had indeed beat us to the Moon, if they would have continued with their program and put a base there? Any insights?

  • Robert G. Oler

    Dennis Berube wrote @ May 27th, 2011 at 11:10 am

    ” Just like the shuttle, the re-usable issue always enters into it, and a larger staff is needed to keep it going. I wonder what the maintainence issues are on commercial airliners, and or military planes? Ive heard that if the same amount of care was put into our everyday automobile, they would last a lifetime. ”

    interesting question.

    The ability to “reuse” a vehicle has almost nothing to do with what the “vehicle does”…it is more in line with the components of it. Sorry this is probably a long post.

    What the shuttle turned into was not “reuseability” but “servicability”…meaning that instead of manufactoring the parts new for each vehicle, like they did with Saturn/apollo for instances…they could take the parts that flew and then “service” them for the next flight.

    Imagine for instance that (using the car analogy) everytime you went on a trip from Texas to CA and then back; (California being to Texas…another world…sorry a modest joke) you took the car completely apart serviced it and brought all parts up to “new”. Some parts would be reused, but everything would be inspected and refurbished if necessary and then the vehicle put back together. The vehicle after the trip would be “as good as new”. This is the shuttles. None of this however fixes design flaws or operational limitations that the design has.

    Instead what most people do after such a trip is “have their car serviced” which mostly consist of changing the fluids and examining parts like tires to see if they need changing. If on your trip the car kept breaking down; most people would get a new car after the effort.

    Once the shuttle orbiter and other “reused” components dropped into “servicing” the cost numbers on the shuttle flew out the window. It simply is never cheaper to have to disassemble a vehicle, service all the parts then put it back together.

    There is almost no other vehicle operated by the federal government which is operated like the shuttle…test airplanes and ships MAYBE but they are far from “operational” or at least in the shuttle’s case used in operational roles.

    This was the second big mistake of the shuttle program. When it became clear that the notions which were the foundation of the shuttle would not work…ie the vehicle was not reusable but had to be “serviced” and rebuilt, what we did with the vehicle, what we expected it to do only modestly changed. It dropped from being the “do all” vehicle but NASA was allowed to keep it as “its operational vehicle” to do operational things. They dont like to use that word “operational” but how they are using the vehicle is in an operational mode.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    amightywind wrote @ May 26th, 2011 at 1:11 pm

    “No, they expect the space program to be there, to be competently run, and to be the best in the world.”

    which must cause them great sadness with the current NASA effort.

    ” They expect to see large rockets with USA painted on the side rising with a flag in the foreground.”

    these are the same people who on Sarah Palin’s facebook page are very sad to learn that the Soviet Union won the space race. Why? Because she said that.

    ” They will listen to Neil Armstrong. It is you adventurers that are out of the main stream.”

    To most Americans Neil Armstrong is “neil who”?

    “I am unpaid and speak honestly for the great silent majority.”

    wow did we miss the coronation of your position? Sorry

    a goofy post Wind…really

    I am curious…do you think Palin will run? (I wish she would but dont think she will) Who are YOU supporting for POTUS?

    Robert G. Oler

  • Coastal Ron

    Dennis Berube wrote @ May 27th, 2011 at 11:10 am

    With a craft like the shuttle it should come as no surprize the upkeep needed to keep it flying.

    Part of it is the incentive model used in it’s operation. Since the government was paying the bills, the contractors and suppliers had no real incentive to lower costs dramatically, especially without any competition for major cost drivers.

    If the Shuttle had been a commercial project from the start, with the government guaranteeing X amount of flights over Y number of years, then the vehicle would likely have evolved much quicker, as well have been designed differently from the start.

    Now we’ll just have to wait and see if the Senate is going to make the same mistake with the SLS.

  • FWIW, I have a response to the astro-editorial over at the Washington Examiner. And Holdren/Bolden have responded in a letter to the editor at USA Today.

  • Constellation was never feasible because it had no strategic goal that could justify its cost, which was vastly underestimated. In the 60′s the wealthy paid taxes at rates as high as 90% and the budget was balanced despite Apollo (peaking at 4% of the total federal budget, a similar fraction today would be $150 billion per year) and Vietnam. Unfortunately the three astronauts seem to have no idea why they were paid to go to the moon in the first place, why Apollo was cancelled by Nixon, or why the world is different today. Going to the moon again will make sense only when it can be done at a much lower cost. The new technology needed to lower that cost is in fully reusable launch vehicles and spacecraft, not utilization of lunar resources.

    Shuttle was a radical new design with no real flying prototypes. All the hazard and cost analysis was done by the magic of systems engineering. Consequently many problems were missed, and maintenance and operating costs and hazards were much higher than predicted. This was understood, at some level, in the 90′s. The RLV program was intended to get actual flight data on various design concepts for the next generation of reusable shuttlecraft.

    Although there were USA people who wasted time and money, there were many more who did an excellent job within the limitations of the system. As one tiny example, one of the many time-consuming maintenance tasks that had not been appreciated in the original design was changing the desiccator cartridges that dried the air which was vented into the space between the windshield panes. Changing the cartridges required at least 40 man-hours since some lines above them also had to be removed and reinstalled. So a procedure was developed by which the cartridges could be regenerated in place by heating them with a resistive blanket, with a thermal probe to record the temperature curve to ensure they were properly dried. Thousands of improvements like this were made, and although they were limited by the basic design, which could not evolve, operating costs were significantly reduced over the years. Obviously many of these problems could be avoided in a new design. The high cost of rebuilding SRBs was not understood; an all-liquid-propellant design would be much cheaper in the long run.

    The Shuttle was our first-ever attempt to build a reusable spacecraft. Its high cost of operation was due to the many unanticipated maintenance and operations problems. Some efficiencies could have been achieved by incentives, but they were limited by design decisions made before it ever flew. It was not reusability that made the Shuttle expensive, indeed the logic that drove us to a reusable system 30 years ago still holds today.

  • DCSCA

    @Rand Simberg wrote @ May 27th, 2011 at 4:18 pm

    “The Augustine Committee judged the 9 year old Constellation program to be so behind schedule, underfunded and over budget that meeting any of its goals would not be possible.” So you are either inaccurate or a myth maker yourself. Constellation was underfunded from the get-go and poorly managed– particularly with respect to Ares. Griffin’s bird was a lousy rocket.

    What radical conservatives associated with lobbying groups fail to grasp is that space projects of scale cannot be properly funded and sustained by the private sector they blindly embrace– or seek to get subsidized by the government, there by socializing the high risks on the many taxpayers to profit the few.

    “… what saddens [Simberg] the most, is [Armstrong, Cernan and Lovell's] distortion of the plans for creating a vibrant commercial human spaceflight industry, and their seeming lack of faith in American free enterprise and business..”

    To infer that Cold War warriors Lovell, Cernan and Armstrong are some how ‘anti-entrepreneur’ is just absurd. It’s the kind of mind set only Joe McCarthy would embrace and given the far right lobbyists associated with some commercial space lobbying efforts, not surprising. In fact, given the experience and successes of those three aviator/astronauts in HSF operations, they are, in fact, realists. Commerical space entrapreneurs are not– (see Elon Musk’s assertions to retire on Mars for details.) “But they (Armstrong, Cernan, Lovell) need to understand their own history better…” — which is hilarious given your own failings in history. You may disagree with their experienced perspective but they certainly know their own history better than you do: “in fact we now know that Kennedy was getting cold feet himself about the program before he was assassinated in 1963, calling it “a stunt,” and likely would have started to defund it in the mid sixties, as Congress and President Johnson did.”

    Cold feet? You apparently have not listened much to tapes of presidents asking questions and probing for answers, have you– particularly JFK’s. This ‘devil’s advocate’ pattern is not unlike his probings revealed in the tapes of ExCom meetings during the Cuban Missile Crisis. In fact, what JFK was doing in September, 1963 while questioning Webb was asking the same critical questions he knew were being asked by his conservative critics in Congress as Mercury ended and the ’64 campaign was looming- particularly as there was a ‘gap’ looming in launch scheduling between Mercury and Gemini. Webb’s response was immediate, decisive and affirmative to the lunar landing proposal to JFK as he logically pondered the politics of a landing which may not have occurred in his second term, ending January 20, 1969–(of more amusement was ABC News’ reportage on 5/25/11 of these tapes, noting a new astronaut in their voiceover, named “Scott Cooper.” So much for good research.)

    And, of course, given the bell curve of funding for good R&D projects, a decrease in initial funding was expected as programs ramped up. came online and facilities transferred from developmental to operational budgets- but your implication is that LBJ and the Congress of the mid-sixties was destined to cancel the Apollo program when, in fact, the Nixon Administation did in the early 70s. Just as the Obama Administration reaffirmed the Bush administration’s decision to end shuttle. They could easily have reversed the decision and pressed for funding, just as Reagan did with Carter’s cancellation of the B-1, but there was no sound economic rationale to keep flying shuttle past 2010/11 w/o extensive recertification per the recommendations in the CAIB report.

    Commercial space has not shown itself capable of launching orbiting and returning anybody safely. And nobody is stopping them- or has stopped them from the start. Meanwhile, NASA has been flying crews for over fifty years. That’s why governments do it- and will continue to do it for decades to come. Americans want their rockets and spacecraft emblazoned with USA and their astronauts wearing American flags on their shoulders, not corporate logos.

    Nothing is stopping commercial space entrepreneurs from soaring except the very parameters of the free market they seek to service. Every time opportunity presented itself, the private sector balked. Witness Goddard, etc., etc. Today they beg for government subsidies which makes them redundant to existing space operations, both civilian and military. They can’t convince private capital markets that the risk is worth the gain. That’s why governments do it. The largess of capital requirements coupled with the high risk/low return on investment keeps private investors wary. That’s why governments, in various guises and for various motives (chiefly political or military in nature) have fronted, funded and pushed the relatively young technologies of rocketry and space travel over the past 80-plus years.

    It’s not that space heroes are “stuck in the past” — a highly successful past, BTW– but that commercial HSF has consistently failed to live up to its own often over-hyped potential. It has not yet earned a seat at the table. It’s a false equivalency they seek. Only Branson appears to be on the right track, planning to loft paying passengers on suborbital flights next year and it is the next logical step in commerical HSF. When folks like Aunt Bee and Barney and Simberg start earning astronaut wings ridibng Virgin Galactic, orbital flight is the next logical hurdle. But in the broader sense, if commercial HSF wants some respect, then take the risk and get some skin in the game. Fly somebody. Reap the rewards -or suffer the failure and press on. Get somebody up around and down safely. Tick-tock, tick-tock.

  • Rand Simberg wrote:

    FWIW, I have a response to the astro-editorial over at the Washington Examiner. And Holdren/Bolden have responded in a letter to the editor at USA Today.

    Good response, Rand.

    If it weren’t for the fact these three were mythological icons, their rant would carry no weight. They were test pilots but not politicians and have had no involvement with the inside politics of NASA over the last decade, nor are they responsible for begging for budget scraps in an era of trillion-dollar annual deficits.

    At its height in the mid-1960s, NASA was over 4% of the annual federal budget. If that were true today, NASA’s annual budget would be over $150 billion per year! Do they really think Congress is going to give NASA a $130 billion+ budget increase just to go get more Moon rocks?! Much less Obama ask for it.

    Constellation was a boondoggle from Day One. Members of Congress from both parties called it out. And let’s not forget that we were going to pay for Constellation by deactivating the ISS in 2015, as well as cutting almost everything else NASA does. Ares I wasn’t going to ready until 2017, and was being built to go to ISS, so if ISS wasn’t going to be there then why were we building Ares I?! It was a pork program that had no real purpose other than to perpetuate government jobs.

    Hopefully one day someone can make the three understand this. Right now they look like fools to me. That they would smear and lie about the President shows me they have no integrity.

  • Dennis Berube

    Mr. Smith I dont think 3 national heros are fools, and Im sure they realize the cost of spaceflight! Just because you do not agree with the direction the president has set, doesnt make you a fool nor a liar! Their desire to continue deep space exploration, does not justify them being called names. The President while running for office supported the space program, and of course once in, did an about face, as most of them do. So who is the liar here? I can understand people expecting NASA to follow a budget, and it indeed should. These constant overruns, should and must stop. If you really believe in the long run that commercial will save the day, then you are living in fantasy land. Commercial is in it to make money, and the day they cannot, they will get out of the business, as several have already indicated. The deep space effort should be tackled with everyone involved! Governments, and commercial should all work together toward the explortation and EXPLOTATION of deep space, not just one group by themselves. The govenments must however lead the way. Personally I would like to see mankind get a permanent foothold on the Moon. A 20 man,and woman of course, lunar base of operations, which would also allow commercial on board, and to land there, would go along ways toward extablishing a human presents beyond Earth. While a Mars flight. or asteroid misson would be exciting, it would not give us a permanent presence that a lunar base would!

  • DCSCA

    @Stephen C. Smith wrote @ May 28th, 2011 at 5:53 am
    “Do they really think Congress is going to give NASA a $130 billion+ budget increase just to go get more Moon rocks?!” Do you?? You think this is about gathering moon rocks? Talk about someone looking like a fool- put down the mirror. Commercial HSF has consistently failed to live up to its own over-hyped potential.

  • Dennis Berube

    Again sorry for the wrongly spelled words. I think faster than I can type. The cost of everything is going up, and if gas prices rise as everyone is indicating it will, everything from groceries through the space program will indeed suffer. It will never get low cost. If the government raises the debt ceiling, as they are talking as well, prices will go up, no two ways about. As long as the dollar continues its plunge, prices will go up. No way around it. Space travel cost will continually go up too! No cheap ticket is available nor will ever be!

  • DCSCA

    On July 29, 1958, The National Aeronautic and Space Act of 1958 was signed into a law by President Eisenhower.- (source, Public Law 85-568, 85th Congress, H.R. 12575, subject: National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958, July 29, 1958.)

    In August, 1958, President Eisenhower assigned the responsibility for the development and execution of a manned space flight program to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. (However, NASA did not become operational until October 1, 1958 per the above mentioned legislation.) source- (House Rpt. 671, 87th Cong., 1st Sess., p. 8.)

    “… the development and execution of a manned space flight program” –this is called an ‘operational mandate’– a directive from the President of the United States. NASA was assigned the responsibility to ‘fly people into space’ by the President and has been doing so successfully for half a century. It wasn’t assigned to the DoD, the Treasury Department, the Dept. of Agriculture or the Post Office Department– nor left to the ‘private sector’ which, as history has shown, lacked the initiative and motivation to lead in this field.

    50 years later, commercial HSF has yet to successfully launch, orbit and return any crewed capsule safely. There’s not enough ROI to justify the massive capital investments needed from private sector investment in orbital HSF. That’s why governments do it in this era and will for decades to come. And that’s why desperate commercial space firms seek government subsidies to socilaize the risks on the backs of the many to benefit a few.

  • Coastal Ron

    Dennis Berube wrote @ May 28th, 2011 at 10:34 am

    Their desire to continue deep space exploration, does not justify them being called names.

    As the “hired talent” of space exploration, they have a perspective to provide, but the issues most prevalent today are the costs involved in doing future exploration, and that’s where they are out of their depths.

    Oh, and if you don’t think what they are saying is insulting to some, then you’re not paying attention. Let’s not be naive here.

    Now, on this next topic you bring up, first you say:

    President while running for office supported the space program, and of course once in, did an about face…

    Then:

    I can understand people expecting NASA to follow a budget, and it indeed should. These constant overruns, should and must stop.

    So when the President sets up a commission to do an outside review of a program that is vastly over-schedule and over-budget, and the commission finds that the program is not meeting it’s goals, I would think you would agree that one of the possible courses of action was to cancel the program.

    I know Congress agreed with that course of action (and cancelled the Constellation program), but somehow you perceive that as not supporting the space program. You also ignore that the President’s proposed NASA budget INCREASED NASA’s budget. Kind of a weird way to not support something, wanting to increase it’s budget and all.

    Dennis, you are not non-partisan, so don’t pretend you are.

    If you really believe in the long run that commercial will save the day…

    From a budget standpoint, comparing what it would cost for NASA to do routine tasks compared to what the commercial industry can do, then yes I think commercial can save NASA a lot of dollars. If that equals “saving the day”, then fine.

  • Coastal Ron

    Dennis Berube wrote @ May 28th, 2011 at 1:50 pm

    It will never get low cost.

    If you believe that, and if you understand that NASA’s budget will not go up in the future, then what you’re saying is that you recognize that NASA will be doing less and less in the future.

    That’s if what you say is true.

    I don’t believe that, and since I’m a numbers type of guy, I could spend time showing your that the cost of doing many space-related tasks have been decreasing over time, and even more are set to decrease in the future. But I’ve already provided those numbers, many times, so I’ll let you research that info.

    Suffice it to say that I think we’ll be able to do more exploration in the future, specifically because the costs to do things are going down.

    We’ll see who’s right.

  • vulture4

    Either commercial or government-led programs can succeed (or fail) based on leadership and vision. But Musk is unusually well prepared. The US government will probably pay for most human spaceflight and about half of SpaceX cargo launches, but SpaceX is likely to win back a significant part of the commercial satellite market, which the US shamefully lost to Ariane, Russia, China and India over the past 20 years.

    Real reduction in HSF cost, to a point where a viable commercial market is even possible, will require government support, but of course this was why NACA was created in 1915. Long-term development of fully reusable boosters and spacecraft is essential, and CCDev, with its short-term ELV/capsule strategy will provide little that is useful in the long run beyond keeping some new companies in the game.

    As to the three astronauts, they did not even consider cost, practical value, why Apollo was cancelled by Nixon, the changes in the world since the 60′s, or the changes in US tax policy. They went to the moon but do not understand why they were sent. Their appear to believe that Bush could somehow have magically created the money for a new Apollo while cutting taxes and balancing the budget.

    The real elephant in the room today is the fact the Orion and HLLV continue to consume billions, more of the budget than all the commercial programs, although they have no credible mission. Neither Ares I nor Orion was intended for ISS support; Bush insisted that ISS would be supported only by Soyuz or terminated. Orion morphed instantly into the role of ISS support only when it was clear that ISS would not be scrapped and there was no money to build the Altair. Orion is inappropriate for this mission as it has little or no cargo capacity and the massive service module is unneeded in LEO.

    When there are so many useful things we could be doing if we had just a few dollars for technology development, why are we continuing to burn billions on a huge government program with no customers? It is time for NASA to stop trying to relive the past and return to its original mission, providing practical benefits for our nation and our world.

  • why Apollo was cancelled by Nixon

    Nixon canceled the last two flights, but not the program itself. That happened before he became president.

  • DCSCA

    @Rand Simberg wrote @ May 29th, 2011 at 2:07 pm
    Inaccurate revisionism. Doesn’t enhance the credibility of commercial space advocates.

  • pathfinder_01

    “@Rand Simberg wrote @ May 29th, 2011 at 2:07 pm
    Inaccurate revisionism. Doesn’t enhance the credibility of commercial space advocates.”

    Actually true. Congress did not approve a 2nd round of Saturn V’s in 1968 leaving NASA with a space program that was running out of rockets(only 15 Saturn V’s were built and. All Apollo application projects were canceled with the execption of Skylab. One moon flight had to be canceled to allow Skylab a rocket to get to Orbit. Remaining lunar flights were delayed.

    Nixon would cancel more lunar flights.

  • DCSCA

    2pathfinder_01 wrote @ May 31st, 2011 at 1:03 am

    Inaccuate. The ixon Administration definitatively cancelled/terminated/ended/killed/dismantled the Apollo Program. And with glee, given his attitude toward all things Kennedy.

  • Martijn Meijering

    It is time for NASA to stop trying to relive the past and return to its original mission, providing practical benefits for our nation and our world.

    So what are you proposing? Giving NASA money to try to develop a cost-effective RLV? They’ve tried that several times and failed. A rerun of SLI or (gasp) STS is unlikely to be more successful than previous attempts. Government bureaucracies are incapable of achieving cost efficiency. NASA should limit itself to exploration and consequently indirectly providing demand for launch services. Most of the workforce should be disbanded as it is consuming value instead of adding it. They would contribute more to the space program by paying taxes instead of living off them. NASA HSF is a disgrace.

  • DCSCA

    “It is time for NASA to stop trying to relive the past and return to its original mission, providing practical benefits for our nation and our world.”

    Huh?? RE: NASA’s original mission:

    On July 29, 1958, The National Aeronautic and Space Act of 1958 was signed into a law by President Eisenhower.- (source, Public Law 85-568, 85th Congress, H.R. 12575, subject: National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958, July 29, 1958.)

    In August, 1958, President Eisenhower assigned the responsibility for the development and execution of a manned space flight program to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. (However, NASA did not become operational until October 1, 1958 per the above mentioned legislation.) source- (House Rpt. 671, 87th Cong., 1st Sess., p. 8.)

    “… the development and execution of a manned space flight program” –this is called an ‘operational mandate’– a directive from the President of the United States.

  • vulture4

    DCSCA wrote @ Huh?? RE: NASA’s original mission:

    While NASA was created in 1958 (I remember it well) the agency really began in 1915, with the formation of the National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics, only a dozen years after the first powered flight. NACA was created because even then we were losing the race to conquer the air. It’s mission was to support the nascent US aviation industry, and for forty years every project, whether theoretical or applied, wa intended to be of practical value to aeronautics. This era is well documented in Hansen’s book Engineer in Charge

    The moon race was the aberation

    Martijn Meijering wrote “So what are you proposing? Giving NASA money to try to develop a cost-effective RLV? They’ve tried that several times and failed. A rerun of SLI or (gasp) STS is unlikely to be more successful than previous attempts. ”

    SLI was not an RLV program. The Shuttle was remarkably successful considering it was the first attempt ever to build a reusable spacecraft. It was saddled with high overhead and numerous programs that it was forced to fund, which inflated average cost, but the actual marginal cost of adding an additional Shuttle mission to the schedule, the few times it was done, was under $100M.

    The other NASA RLV programs were cancelled mainly because the Bush administration did not understand their goal. Since Bush also canceled the Shuttle it can be assumed he had little understanding of why we cannot afford to throw away billion dollar launch vehicles after just one flight.

    But the logic remains. A market for more than one or two seats a year requires that the cost to orbit be reduced to at most $1M per seat. The cost of all the fuel that puts the Shuttle in orbit is essentially nothing. LH2 is 98 cents a gallon, LOX is 60 cents. The cost is in the parts of the vehicle that must be built, or rebuilt. So the answer is the same as it was in 1973; only way to reduce cost is reuse.

    There are certainly contractors that could do the job, and even some people at NASA that could lead it. The vehicle analysis branch at Langely put together a sensible TSTO RLV plan a few years ago. They just could not sell it to the political management.

  • Coastal Ron

    vulture4 wrote @ June 4th, 2011 at 9:43 pm

    but the actual marginal cost of adding an additional Shuttle mission to the schedule, the few times it was done, was under $100M.

    I don’t know what time period you are referencing, but during it’s last decade the External Tank (ET) cost $173M/ea and SRM’s $68.6M/set – that equals $241.5M just for those two items.

    Also, the term “marginal cost” with regards to low-event government programs (only fly a few times a year) is kind of misleading, since that would make some flights more expensive than others, regardless if they are exactly the same. I don’t think GAAP would agree with that.

    The real cost is the total cost divided by the number of flights, which means that if the budget stays the same, then the per flight cost will average down with more flights since there are overhead and infrastructure costs that don’t change. But I think the “fixed” costs do vary based on more work, as there would be more overtime, consumables and such.

    I think the Shuttle was a worthy experiment, but I’m glad we’re ending it. The ISS is the last major program where we should need a vehicle with the abilities that the Shuttle had, and there are no more major projects funded at this point for the Shuttle to support. Let’s throw a big party, congratulate all that were involved, and concentrate on what’s next.

  • “The ISS is the last major program where we should need a vehicle with the abilities that the Shuttle had.”

    If we cannot find a way to continue, sustain and expand our operations in LEO, whether from taxpayer dollars, tourism, or satellite servicing, it is difficult to see how we could possibly finance human spaceflight BEO. What would be the practical return to the taxpayers, in a time when we cannot even get them to pay for the current budget? Moreover the Orion/HLLV would have to maintain the same high-overhead Apollo-era facilities as the Shuttle, and at a lower flight rate. The decision to continue or scrap a program should not be based on what it cost to develop and build (i.e. sunk cost) but on what it you would save by scrapping it now.

    Throughout the Station program (until 2004 and the “Vision for Space Exploration”) the plan presented by NASA was to keep the Shuttle and Station working together, in fact the term “Space Transportation System” was coined to refer to the Shuttle, Station, and the planned Orbital Transfer Vehicle. Although it was assumed that new generations of launch vehicle and space station might replace the current ones, there was never a point where we would shut either down without a replacement in place.

    I am not saying we need to keep the Shuttle itself flying indefinitely. I am saying that only a fully reusable launch system provides any hope of making human spaceflight cheap enough to produce any sort of return, to allow a person in space to produce work equal in value to what it costs to keep him there. If we are going to build a future shuttle, it would make sense to keep together the people who figured out painfully and over 30 years how to keep the current one flying. They might have some lessons to teach.

    As to the costs, those you quote may include include overhead, R&D etc. When the reflight of the tethered satellite was added, the budget was only increased $77M. As you point out, the majority of the marginal cost is in the parts that either have to be built (ET) or salvaged, totally disassembled and rebuilt (SRBs). This is further evidence that a fully reusable system is the only way to reduce these costs.

    “Let’s throw a big party, congratulate all that were involved, and concentrate on what’s next.” Who will pay for it? As your neighbors if they are willing to chip in $100B. Without a more practical approach to human spaceflight, there is no next.

  • DCSCA

    @vulture4 wrote @ June 4th, 2011 at 9:43 pm
    Uh, no, NASA ‘really began’ on October 1, 1958. And the presidential directive for NASA to manage “… the development and execution of a manned space flight program” is called an ‘operational mandate’– a directive from the President of the United States, was given to the agency before it legislatively existed- so HSF has been a policy directive for it from the get-go.

  • Coastal Ron

    vulture4 wrote @ June 5th, 2011 at 2:15 pm

    If we cannot find a way to continue, sustain and expand our operations in LEO, whether from taxpayer dollars, tourism, or satellite servicing, it is difficult to see how we could possibly finance human spaceflight BEO.

    Agreed.

    the plan presented by NASA was to keep the Shuttle and Station working together…

    Well of course they would say that, because that was the vehicle they had operating. But we could have built the ISS without the Shuttle, although it would have required new space hardware. Though building the ISS with the Shuttle probably was probably a great use of it’s abilities, we certainly don’t need the Shuttle to maintain the ISS now, or even to expand it later.

    If we are going to build a future shuttle, it would make sense to keep together the people who figured out painfully and over 30 years how to keep the current one flying. They might have some lessons to teach.

    That only works if we’re actively working on a Shuttle replacement, but we’re not. All NASA is getting funding for is to build commercial transportation to LEO, and a short duration exploration capsule.

    Regarding transferring existing knowledge, you would hope that all current parts, processes and procedures have been documented, and I see that USA states that: “USA Quality Management System (QMS) is the business operating system for producing products and services. The USA QMS is certified to both the ISO 9001 and the AS9100 International Standards.” That plus NASA’s own documentation processes should retain the as-is knowledge.

    For the “why did we do it that way” type stuff, all I can say is who knows when their knowledge will be needed, if ever. Just like with aircraft today, lots of legacy systems are being replaced with different ones (like hydraulics replaced with electric motors), so the challenges of tomorrow may not need all of the knowledge from yesteryear.

    Of course some Shuttle workers will get new jobs in their fields of expertise, so we’re not really losing their knowledge. What percentage of “lost knowledge” is not just migrating to other employers?

    As to the costs, those you quote may include include overhead, R&D etc. When the reflight of the tethered satellite was added, the budget was only increased $77M.

    No, I quoted actual contract costs that NASA pays for the ET & SRM’s. Here is the info:

    http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewpr.html?pid=24363
    http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewpr.html?pid=8785

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