Campaign '12

Gingrich and Pawlenty debate space policy in New Hampshire

Space policy made a cameo appearance in Monday night’s Republican presidential debate in New Hampshire, with former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich arguing for greater privatization of the space program while former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty said that the space program should be “refocused” but not eliminated.

The discussion was kicked off by a question about the impending retirement of the space shuttle and that, in the words of WMUR-TV’s Jean Mackin, “President Obama effectively killed government-run spaceflight to the International Space Station and wants to turn it over to private companies.” Thus, she asked, “what role should the government play in future space exploration?”

Gingrich, to whom the question was directed, responded:

Well, sadly—and I say this sadly because I’m a big fan of going into space, and I actually worked to get the shuttle program to survive at one point—NASA has become an absolute case study in why bureaucracy can’t innovate. If you take all the money we spent at NASA since we landed on the Moon, and you apply that money for incentives for the private sector, we would today probably have a permanent station on the Moon, three or four permanent stations in space, a new generation of lift vehicles, and instead, what we’ve had is bureaucracy after bureaucracy after bureaucracy, and failure after failure. I think it’s a tragedy, because younger Americans ought to have the excitement of thinking that they, too, could be part of reaching out to a new frontier.

You know, you had asked earlier, John [King, the moderator], about this idea of limits because we’re a developed country. We’re not a developed country. The scientific future is going to open up and we’re at the beginning of a whole new cycle of extraordinary opportunities, and unfortunately NASA is standing in the way of it, when NASA ought to be getting out of the way and encouraging the private sector.

CNN’s King then asked if any of the other candidates wanted to weigh in with a different opinion about NASA’s future, someone who wanted “the government to stay in the lead here when it comes to manned spaceflight.” After a brief pause, Pawlenty stepped in with, “I think the space program has played a vital role for the United States of America.” “Can we afford it going forward?” asked King. Pawlenty’s answer:

In the context of our budget challenges it can be refocused and reprioritized, but I don’t think we should be eliminating the space program. We can partner with private providers to get more economies of scale, and scale it back, but I don’t think we should eliminate the space program.

That comment prompted a rebuttal from a vexed Gingrich:

John, you mischaracterized me. I didn’t say end the space program. We built the transcontinental railroads without a national department of railroads. I said you can get into space faster, better, more effectively, more creatively, if you decentralized it, got out of Washington, and cut out the bureaucracy. It’s not about getting rid of the space program, it’s about getting to a real space program that works.

Just before the debate moved on, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney weighed in with a comment tangentially related, at best, to the question:

I think fundamentally there are some people—and most of them are Democrats, but not all—who really believe that the government knows how to do things better than the private sector.

For those who have been following Gingrich, his comments are not that surprising: he has been supportive of private sector ventures over big government programs in the past, most notably when, last February, he and former congressman Bob Walker praised the White House for its “brave reboot” of NASA. Romney’s comment didn’t add much to the discussion, although he already has a track record from the 2008 campaign, where he said he supported the Vision for Space Exploration but declined to promise additional funding for NASA until he studied the issue more; he dropped out of the campaign before he could elaborate on that. Pawlenty, though, had been more of a blank slate on space topics before the debate. His comments suggested a willingness to support public-private partnerships in space, although not to the same degree as Gingrich.

The video of that portion of the debate (except for Romney’s concluding comment) is below:

145 comments to Gingrich and Pawlenty debate space policy in New Hampshire

  • I’m not sure there’s any actual distance between what Gingrich and Pawlenty said, given that the question was based on a false premise (that the proposal is to “eliminate” the space program), and Pawlenty probably isn’t that up to speed on the issue (nor are any of the other candidates, given how unimportant it is in the context of all of the weightier ones).

  • Robert G. Oler

    I am still ploughing through the debate…have to give it up for tonight but will get back to it and see the space parts

    “I think fundamentally there are some people—and most of them are Democrats, but not all—who really believe that the government knows how to do things better than the private sector. ”

    this fits Mark Whittington and Wind and a few other’s position to a tee…

    more later. RGO

  • Bennett

    Rand, Still, Newt said more in fewer words than any national candidate ever has. He articulated what many of us have been advocating, and directly challenged the notion that the US space program has been canceled.

    As usual, the candidate that peaks the truth has no chance of winning the election.

    If he ends up on the ballot it’s an easy pick, on this one issue alone. Any and every president is going to mess up a lot of things, but at least Newt knows what’s important about HSF, and which business models tend to produce results.

    To me that’s an important point. For most other folks? Not so much. But I don’t hold their ignorance against them, they probably don’t vote.

  • Mark R, Whittington

    Gingrich was not specific in the debate. However the last time he was specific he was in favor of greatly downsizing NASA to a technology research organization and doing space exploration through massively funded prizes (i.e. the $20 billion Mars prize.)

    All in all, a disappointing exchange from all concerned. Though what Newt says is likely not important as he is not going to win the nomination.

  • Dex

    Gingrich invited Robert Zubrin (Founder of the Mars Society) to dinner (summer of 1994) to discuss “Mars Direct” and said “I want to support this with legislation … in a more free-enterprise kind of way than just gearing up the NASA budget to go to Mars.” Case for Mars pg 282-291 goes over what Zubrin calls “The Gingrich Approach.”

    I doubt any other candidates (except maybe the President) have given us much time or thought to Space Policy as Mr. Gingrich.

  • DCSCA

    “House Speaker Newt Gingrich said on Saturday that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration should have been disbanded after the Apollo moon program ended in the 1970′s.” -source NYT- February 6, 1995

    ‘Nuff said.

    Rand Simberg wrote @ June 13th, 2011 at 11:32 pm

    Important enough to have been brought up at a globally telecast “debate’ or more accurately, a Q&A.

  • I was pleasantly surprised by Mr. Newt’s answer to the question. But his rebuttal to Pawlenty was better. Maybe I heard it wrong, but the original question didn’t say eliminate. That was brought into the debate by Pawlenty.

    The model espoused by Gingrich needs to adopted by NASA if America is to grow its leadership in space.

    It will be interesting to see how candidates respond and grow upon the framework laid down by Gingrich. Its a good first, baby step.

    Respectfully,
    Andrew Gasser
    TEA Party in Space

  • Gingrich is pretty much talking about eliminating NASA and subsidizing private space industry with tax payer money just after the Republicans there claimed that they were against subsidies for private industry:-)

  • DCSCA

    “Well, sadly—and I say this sadly because I’m a big fan of going into space, and I actually worked to get the shuttle program to survive at one point—NASA has become an absolute case study in why bureaucracy can’t innovate. If you take all the money we spent at NASA since we landed on the Moon, and you apply that money for incentives for the private sector, we would today probably have a permanent station on the Moon, three or four permanent stations in space, a new generation of lift vehicles, and instead, what we’ve had is bureaucracy after bureaucracy after bureaucracy, and failure after failure.”- Newt Gingrich

    So the conservative Mr. Gingrich, who proposed ending NASA in early 1995 as reported by the NYT, now says he ‘worked to get the shuttle program to survive’ then states NASA has had ‘failure after failure’. Explain why you saved ‘failure after failure,’ Newt. Then he states he supports the overt socialism of government subsidizing for private enterprised space project. He’s as big a loon as Walker. Or now endorsing State Capitalism.

    Gingrich can do the math and easily calculate that if ‘all’ the funding spent on NASA– funding contracted with private sector firms- we’d not be any further along- chiefly due to the high risk and low ROI which motivates free market private sector firms.

    Of greater interest was when John King asked the assembled ‘candidates’ if they supported government taking the lead in HSF and only Michelle Bachmann appeared to raise her hand just before Pawlwenty prattled on. Romney’s rant was just silly, particularly with respect to space as we all know over the history of rocketry and spaceflight of the failure of the private sector to step up and lead the way as opposed to letting the government absorb the risk take the lead in rockety and

    So, based on tonight’s introduction, if ya wanna kill American leadership in HSF, vote GOP because they clearly were not really prepared to discuss it… or could care less about it.

  • Is it good or bad for NASA to become an issue in a presidential election this early? Properly sold, a much stronger nation-wide base of support could reveal itself and press the House leadership for something…more?

  • Terence Clark

    I’m pleased to see that the republican presidential field recognizes the importance of private space flight providers over big government rockets. I wonder if they missed the memo congressional republicans got?

    Supporting private enterprise has been a centerpiece of American conservatism. I disagree with nearly every social agenda and a good deal of the fiscal agenda of the right wing, but at least if they quit touting big government aerospace the space politics world would make some sense again.

  • Politicians rarely define their terms.. leaving us to do it for them.

    Space Program. (n) government agencies engaged in activities related to outer space and space exploration.

    Space Industry. (n) the particular form or branch of economic or commercial activity related to outer space and space exploration.

    Under these definitions I would consider it Gingrich’s goal to reduce the former to enhance the latter. And I salute him for saying it.

  • SpaceColonizer

    Glad to see it even brought up. Wish more people weighed in… John King really changed topics quick.

    It probably won’t get brought up again. I’d be surprised if mainstream media started talking about space more all of the sudden because of this.

  • sftommy wrote:

    Is it good or bad for NASA to become an issue in a presidential election this early? Properly sold, a much stronger nation-wide base of support could reveal itself and press the House leadership for something…more?

    I was floored that the question was even asked. When was the last time a question about NASA was asked in a presidential debate, other than maybe some local event in Florida or Houston?

    Newt failed to mention that he and Walker had endorsed Obama’s CCDev proposal. I would have been more impressed with him if he’d had the guts to say, “I support the President on this one.”

    The rest of the candidates were obviously clueless.

    In any case, we’ve been wanting a national debate on government space flight and hopefully this question will come up a lot more in the next eighteen months.

  • DCSCA

    SpaceColonizer wrote @ June 14th, 2011 at 3:25 am

    It was brought up as a reminder of another symbol of the “American Century” is soon to be ‘gone with the wind.”

    @Oler- “I think fundamentally there are some people—and most of them are Democrats, but not all—who really believe that the government knows how to do things better than the private sector.” -Mitt Romney. In fact, in many aspects of American life, they do, including human spaceflight. Spalding knows better, since commerical firms have yet to launch, orbit and safley return anybody while governments have for 50 years.. Republicans in general and conservatives in particular won’t accept that that space exploitation is not space exploration. Successful businesses are run by autocrats; whose traits works well in commerce but not in democratic government.

  • Frank Glover

    Expect another uptick during/after the last Shuttle flight. Though how much truly constructive debate and discussion will come of that, I couldn’t say…

  • Mark R, Whittington

    While Gingrich did suggest in his book “Renewing American Civilization” that NASA should have been abolished after Apollo, he later recanted. In any case, were he actually to turn out to be a threat to win the nomination, that sort of thing is a treasure trove for oppo research. His analysis is very simplistic and does not take into account the policy failures of people whose paygrade is higher than that of NASA administrator,

  • Dennis Berube

    Gingrich is an old politician, and certainly would never get my vote. Sadly there is a political move against all NASA represents, from both Repubs and Demos. This is not good. If they cut, or even kill NASA and all it represents, where will that money go? Oh yes into THEIR pockets!!!! Presently counting on commercial all the way is not the path to deep space. I never thought Id see the day when people would actually plan the demise of NASA. If the drive into space is given up, in the future if there is a need for it once again, we will have to start over again, costing us more time and money in the long run..

  • Major Tom

    It’s interesting that all three candidates responding to the question expressed a preference, in varying levels of detail, for the civil space program to make greater use of private sector capabilities. Based on that snapshot, and the direction the Obama Administration is pursuing, it would appear that the election will have little impact on NASA’s (or at least the human space flight program’s) current path. At least between Romney, Pawlenty, Gingrich, and Obama, no matter who wins, they will maintain or accelerate the transfer of civil human space flight responsibilities to privately owned and operated vehicles.

    FWIW…

  • Robert G. Oler

    This morning while having morning coffee I got to the part on the debate about space…and then got through (mercilessly) the rest of the debate.

    Other then seeing Whittington turn on Gingrich and embrace big government AND the long awaited “tradtional NASA” effort that folks like WIND favor going ignored…. most here have covered the range of comments…but I would add this.

    Missing from the GOP debate, other then the usual GOP mantra of “cut taxes”, “cut regulation” and then everything will be fine…the reality was that no one really talked about any real government focus on creating a new “reality” (as the phrase goes) that would restart the US economy which is clearly (or at least it seems to me) running out of steam in our modern economic era.

    The GOP right wing generally cannot talk about (other then its mantra on taxes and regulation) what and how government should behave in terms of creating a new economic model in a world with free trade etc…because they simply are locked in the notion of a cold war industry with a no government interference model.

    Hence none of the candidates (including Newt who is a turd but whose notions of space policy are right on …and the people here now beating up on him use to love him) was unable to link an enlightened space policy with CREATING a new economic model.

    SpaceX, that group hated by all folks who use to be free market capitalist has just signed deals to bring at least TWO GEO launches back to US shores. The most recent one (not for sure about the other sorry its early) IS AN ALL AMERICAN SHOW…OSC builds the bird and SpaceX is doing the launch. That is a direct result of enlightened government policy which is encouraging start up space companies. There is no zero gee tax or anything else; it is just good old fashion government policy.

    Newt (or anyone else) could have pointed up the notion of how this policy alone is creating at least some (and the potential is for more) jobs in the US BUILDING things in the US for people outside the US.

    That we do not do enough of this is one of the crux of our economic troubles…and yet none of the candidates either knew enough or cared to push the issue of how space politics and policy is doing this…but that is to be expected I guess in an era when none of them really pushed the notion of how to create jobs…real jobs.

    A modest note on the debate. All were lackluster Bachman (who will not be President) was the most charismatic, TPAL or whatever Tim P is going by fell flat and the rest were just dull. RGO

  • Robert G. Oler

    Major Tom wrote @ June 14th, 2011 at 7:54 am


    It’s interesting that all three candidates responding to the question expressed a preference, in varying levels of detail, for the civil space program to make greater use of private sector capabilities”:

    yeah it is pretty clear that the notions of another big government race to anywhere in HSF is pretty dead. Obama has fundamentally changed the nature of human spaceflight. There was/is no great enthusiasm for the shuttle program or even NASA in the political world…and this shows it RGO

  • @Whittington
    “All in all, a disappointing exchange from all concerned.”
    Yeah, I guess from your standpoint it would be. No more massively government centralized launcher development In the sixties we changed NASA’s model to that of a Soviet style design bureau due to panic because of the Russians early successes and perceived huge lead. Fight fire with fire, as it were. However, now the clock is ticking on the Senate Launch System. The Republicans are moving away from the hypocrisy of saying they support competition and free enterprise, but turning a blind eye to its prior nonexistance in space policy. You will end up being one of the last of the hold outs with the contradictory political position of free enterprise for everything but space. It now appears that, no matter who wins the presidency, that weird Alice In Wonderland paradoxical attidude will be history.

  • Note: there should be a period after the phrase “centralized launcher development” in the above post.

  • John Marshall

    NASA and manned space flight are the most critical programs the US has, as far as our advancement and survival as a species. Private companys dont have the money and resources a country has, and cant absorb the risk . Whats happining is politicians on both sides see money freed up. And their taking advantage of the general populations ignorance to do it. If this happens Russia and China will leave us in the dust and the US begging for scrapes. How much is that little “not a war” in Libya costing and whats the return on the investment? I could find alot of questionable expenditures overseas not in our national interest that would more than fund NASA. And I think that should be addressed long before any disscussion of cutting off NASA. This is a large consideration in who I’d vote for.

  • Vladislaw

    Dennis Berube wrote:

    “Sadly there is a political move against all NASA represents”

    I do not consider it sad at all, are you sad that there is a move to end NASA’s cost plus, non competitive bidding? Are you sad that there is a move to end the cycle of every launch is a political football over funding it? Are you sad about NASA’s history of long schedule delays and budget over runs?

    About the only thing to be sad about is it has taken the Nation 30 years to finally figure out that the strength of our country is not soviet socialist style big government programs but in our free markets, capitalism and our enterpreneurialism. Time for NASA to get out of the launch business and be what it should always have been, the enabler, the pump primer.

    NASA should be working on the technology and shoveling it into the private sector as fast as possible.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Rick Boozer wrote @ June 14th, 2011 at 8:48 am

    lol RGO

  • Manny Louis

    “NASA and manned space flight are the most critical programs the US has, as far as our advancement and survival as a species.”

    You might be right! But no one knows. Its another example of a message that NASA has failed to get out.

  • Thanks for posting the link to the video. I missed the debate.

    One could easily get the impression that Newt might suggest euthanizing the family pets to save a few dollars, anytime that funds are tight. Sorry Lassie!

  • Dennis Berube

    Mr. Vladislaw, NASA could and should be aligned so as to end budgetary over runs. However and how quickly we forget the miracles of modern science that the agency has given to us. As to delays, already SpaceX has had delays. Do you really believe that with commercial spaceflight, there will be no delays? Delays can appear from many angles, so to blame NASA for its delays is nonsense. I am also for NASA helping commercial gain a space foothold if you will, but at the same time, NASA should continue with its deep space Orion program. If we do not harness the opportunities that space offers, we will go the way of the dinosaus.

  • Coastal Ron

    I see the takeaway from the debate as:

    1. Only Newt Gingrich has thought much about space from a policy standpoint, which means that “space” in general is, as most of us have always known, not a central concern in presidential politics.

    2. Of the few comments that were made, none expressed a desire for increasing the size of NASA, which seems to doom any hope for those that want massive government exploration programs. It looks like the ISS and Shuttle could be the end of such programs for quite a while.

    3. The common theme in those few candidates comments supported commercial space development, not government-built, government-run programs like the Senate Launch System (SLS).

    Too early to tell if any of this will mean anything, but it’s a trend to watch.

  • Vladislaw

    Dennis wrote:

    “As to delays, already SpaceX has had delays. Do you really believe that with commercial spaceflight, there will be no delays?”

    The question is what drives the delays? Politics is what is behind a lot of what’s wrong with NASA. Every part they have manufactured has to be fought over who’s district gets to build it. Well hell, let’s just have a 2 or 3 NASA centers work on it, that way you butter the bread of more members of congress.

    How many business models are created were they try and seperate every phase of the operation and divide it into as many states as possible? Where a part has to travel to several centers to work on it. Do commercial companies have delays? Yes and in the commercial world there are consequences for that, people actually get fired when they screw up. Not NASA, they get a promotion and more millions to “fix” it. In Russia a failed launch cost two high ranking officials to be fired and now they may be brought up on criminal charges for the screw up. You never see this as NASA, no matter how big the screw up or how long the delay, all they do is shuffle the deck chairs, give the project a new name and a new “start from zero” budget and they pretend all the previous funding never occured.

    Time to take regional politics out of the equation and go with commercial operations, just like we do for ALL other forms of transportation. If a government agency, like NASA, is the best way to do transportation then it is time the government builds all planes, trains, ships, cars, motorcycles, bikes, go carts, golf carts, et cetera, et cetera.

    Obviously if a big government program is the best way to do transportation then it is time we have big government programs for ALL froms of transportation.

  • Stephen Metschan

    I don’t see how it’s possible to push an activity into the private sector that receives about 80% of its sales from the Federal Government? The simple fact is if you want public money you are going to have to go through the same process and oversight that goes with ‘all’ other public money programs, Space is no different. Space will only be dominated by the private sector when the primary customer of Space access and development is the private sector. Simply switching up from time to time which for profit business we send the Federal Government work too is not privatization.

  • Do you really believe that with commercial spaceflight, there will be no delays?

    No one believes that there will be no delays with commercial spaceflight. There is ample evidence to believe that they will be much shorter than delays with government programs, and cost far less, while providing competition to further drive down costs. One would think that you don’t actually read much of anything people actually write.

  • polargrid

    “the strength of our country is not soviet socialist style big government programs but in our free markets, capitalism and our enterpreneurialism.”

    That’s just silly political talk. It’s not a zero-sum game. Public-private partnerships are what win the game in real life.

  • amightywind

    Gingrich is a political dead man. He committed hari-kari 2 weeks ago when he came out against Paul Ryan’s popular Medicare plan. His words carry as much weight as Buzz Aldrin or Christopher Chyba.

    In other news congress is getting impatient with Bolden’s stonewalling.

  • DCSCA

    @Rand Simberg wrote @ June 14th, 2011 at 12:49 pm

    “There is ample evidence to believe that they will be much shorter than delays with government programs..” ROFLMAOPIP are you serious? Over the half century of government funded and managed human spaceflight program, moon landing et al, commercial space has yet to launch orbit and safely return anybody yet. NBC News reported last month SpaceX wont attempt orbiting a crewed Dragon for 3 or 4 YEARS. Tick-tock, tick, tock, fella. nobody cares what Nat’l Review has to say about space. conservatism has never been a friend to HSF since the days of JFK.

  • Aremis Asling

    “That’s just silly political talk. It’s not a zero-sum game. Public-private partnerships are what win the game in real life.”

    Unfortunately, as one article I read recently discussed, NASA doesn’t have the budget to field a big government rocket program AND adequately boost commercial space flight. So yes, it is a zero sum game unless we want both to fail and give us a negative sum game.

    In regards to the public-private partnership approach, I agree. And COTS/CCDev are not entirely dissimilar from such a partnership. However, the post you quoted very specifically was about monolithic government space programs, which are distinctly NOT public-private partnerships. Traditional US space vehicle developments may be built by commercial companies, but ultimately they are managed, directed, and controlled in the halls of congress and the bureaucracy of NASA, with commercial engineers essentially filling in the details (not at all to diminish the tremendous contribution those engineers give to the process. They do an excellent and irreplaceable job of building a spacecraft within often ludicrous specs (see STS)).

  • amightywind

    Tick-tock, tick, tock, fella. nobody cares what Nat’l Review has to say about space. conservatism has never been a friend to HSF since the days of JFK.

    You can plainly see the attempt by newspace to attach to the conservative ascendancy now underway, like a Remora hitching a ride on the butt of a shark. You see it in Simberg and that moron who posts for ‘The Tea Party for Space’. The Tea Party movement is a macro fiscal movement concerned with reforming the budget, period. Mainstream conservative canon, healthy funding levels, still apply to military spending and NASA, which are close akin. As a conservative candidate you violate this at your peril.

    Like DCSCA I am puzzled by the nimble rhetoric and glacial execution of SpaceX. Project Mercury moved much faster.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Stephen Metschan wrote @ June 14th, 2011 at 12:38 pm

    “I don’t see how it’s possible to push an activity into the private sector that receives about 80% of its sales from the Federal Government? ”

    Stephen. It is not that difficult a puzzle to solve, actually it is done every day.

    The issue is the Federal government becoming, except on rare exceptions a customer, rather then private industry being a customer of the federal government; in this case NASA.

    We have, with the Senate Launch System reached the ultimate end of the absurdity scale of the course that NASA has been on for sometime. For decades NASA HSF hsa more or less used its “real people of genius” to design “the mold lines” of various hsf vehicles andthen found “contractors” who would glue together the parts inside those lines…

    Now with the SLS what we have, since there are no payloads or missions that they thing actually has to accomplish; the “stakeholders” which include the various shuttle contractors trying to keep their “jobs”…designing a rocket that tries to satisfy everyones need for a job.

    What you and the rest of the devotees (or “evangelist”) of DIRECT want IS YOUR LAUNCH SYSTEM to be the mold lines. And this is of course why the cost estimates you push out are meaningless. Once the mold lines are done (sort of like the Paris peace talks at the end of WW1) then the contractors and NASA would go to work on any “vehicle” trying to fill it in, and running up the cost.

    We have now reached the notion of designing a vehicle not to payloads or what it must do (as they say on NSF.com “the payloads will come later”…well we have some of that here) but what “51D” thinks will keep all the Senate folks happy.

    If NASA were to reverse itself and start acting like a customer, then they would simply put out requirements; let various private contractors figure out how to meet those requirements and what the cost are; then on a fixed price chose one of the contractors and if they did not meet the metrics; fire them.

    That happens in the federal government on a routine basis for things large and small. I own a flight training business that does a LOT of business with the federal government on “large transport category” airplanes. Every so often they bid out various airplanes that they want training in (from the Presidential flight to the new Navy Patrol plane) and various companies large and small (FlightSafety to mine) put in bids as to how best to accomplish that training. The notices rarely say “how much sim” or FBS or whatever; just what the end goals are…and the bids go in. If the pilots dont come out well trained; the contracts are yanked.

    This is quite easy to do on Space station recrew and resuply as there is some notion of “how” those things are to be done. I suspect it could be done with anything AS LONG AS SOMEONE IN NASA HAS SOME IDEA OF WHAT REQUIREMENTS THAT THEY WANT MET.

    Obviously a “heavy” right now would be hard since 51D and the clowns in the Senate are fixated on saving the shuttle work force…there is only so much maneuvering room there in terms of cost (all high).

    The government USE to do this sort of contracting on a regular basis. The F-4 for instance was an industry proposal unsolicited in fact that the company put its own money into…where it falls down is in two ways. The first is when the requirements are unknown or keep changing and/or the task to be performed is not well understood.

    In the 1960′s it would have in my view been impossible to “bid out” the lunar lander…no one knew what landing on the Moon looked like. Now, not so much.

    One reason the Ford CVN stayed pretty much on track (and is a model of procurement in a sea of dysfunctional efforts) is that the Navy needed the boat so it kept a pretty tight reign on all the people who wanted to build “the super ship” that had all the geewiz features in it that would drive up cost.

    NASA is simply not capable of that. Orion or whatever it is called now is an example of that…and by its very nature of design SLS is as well.

    But it can be done. RGO

  • Robert G. Oler

    amightywind wrote @ June 14th, 2011 at 2:59 pm

    “Like DCSCA I am puzzled by the nimble rhetoric and glacial execution of SpaceX. Project Mercury moved much faster.”

    how is all that Tea Party support for the “traditional NASA” working for you LOL

    Project Mercury did not have to build the booster, had a lot of money (almost 3 billion in today’s dollars) and in comparison to Dragon was a simple vehicle. I dont know how much the USAF spent on doing the heavy lifting with Atlas…but it was a lot.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Major Tom

    “NBC News reported last month SpaceX wont attempt orbiting a crewed Dragon for 3 or 4 YEARS. Tick-tock, tick, tock, fella.”

    And Orion/SLS won’t make such an attempt for another 5-6 years, at least.

    If you want ETO crew transport ASAP, then you’re riding the wrong horse.

    “I am puzzled by the nimble rhetoric and glacial execution of SpaceX.”

    Falcon Heavy is targeted for 2013-14, while SLS won’t show up until 2016, at the earliest. If SpaceX execution is “glacial”, then Shuttle-derived alternatives are geological.

    “… and that moron who posts for ‘The Tea Party for Space’.”

    Take the slimy namecalling elsewhere.

    Ugh…

  • Project Mercury moved much faster.

    Project Mercury had an unlimited call on the taxpayers’ wallet.

  • Aremis Asling

    “NBC News reported last month SpaceX wont attempt orbiting a crewed Dragon for 3 or 4 YEARS. ”

    Meanwhile the government rocket that has yet to even have a 10,000 ft spec drafted isn’t meant to fly until 2016 assuming it has no similar delays. Indeed I remember the heady days of the mid-2000′s when congress was debating budgets that could fly Ares 1/Orion by 2012 or even 2011 to close the ‘gap’. In 2009, the first unmanned flight was as far over the horizon, indeed farther, as it was when it was first selected a half decade prior. I also recal numerous ill-fated attempts to replace shuttle after Challenger, all that went nowhere.

    Apollo was an anomaly. I know we’re capable of it again, and I’d love to see it once more. But never since the late 60′s has any program, private or public, developed rockets at such a pace with such dramatic incremental gains year after year. And no program of its time, even the Russians, matched it either. We should all be proud of the NASA of that decade, but to paraphrase a quote I’m too lazy to look up the attribution for, it was as if Kennedy had taken a slice of the mid-21st century and placed it squarely within the 20th.

    STS, in comparison, was taken up formally (after decades of hemming and hawing in NACA/NASA) by Nixon in 1969. First flight was in 1981. That’s 12 years. Even if we go all the way back to SpaceX’s foundation in 2002 and ignore the fact that Dragon was not yet announced, a launch date of 2014 is precisely on schedule with STS. And that’s neglecting the fact that, unlike STS, Dragon already has an orbital flight under its belt and is set to have ISS deliveries by the end of the year. That’s 9 years. If we go from Dragon’s announcement in 2005, they had a capsule flown and returned in a half decade; less time than it took NASA to get a dummy shuttle mock-up to piggy back on a 747. And they are expected to have a manned version in 9 years, about the time it took to get STS to unpowered atmospheric drop tests.

    And since then they have yet to fly a single new manned spacecraft despite several start and stop programs. Commercial space began taking an honest crack at it perhaps in the 1990′s, a few years after NASA started bandying about the idea of a post-challenger replacement. And again, measuring from a conservative commercial start point of 1990 to 2014, it’s still better performance than 1987 to 2016+ whether you talk Constellation or SLS.

    By no measure has US government space beat commercial, whether grand view or vehicle specific, since 1969. And SpaceX has a 2 year engineering buffer to keep that record.

    I’m sorry, but NASA post 1969 could in no way be accurately described as a pinnacle of rapid development. It’s a stretch to even describe their timelines as modest.

  • kayawanee

    Rand Simberg wrote @ June 14th, 2011 at 3:19 pm

    Project Mercury had an unlimited call on the taxpayers’ wallet.

    And from what I understand, it also had a proven Atlas launcher, which existed almost three years prior to Project Mercury’s first manned orbital mission. I think it was first launched in early to mid-1959.

  • amightywind

    how is all that Tea Party support for the “traditional NASA” working for you

    Judging by this year’s SLS appropriation, pretty well. When you compare to the heady days of last April, I’d say Newspace has fallen fast and far.

    And Orion/SLS won’t make such an attempt for another 5-6 years, at least.

    This speaks more for the effectiveness of Newspace sabotage rather than any shortcoming of Ares/Orion. I’ll remind you we are 2.5 years into the Age of Obama and NASA has never been in worse shape.

    and in comparison to Dragon was a simple vehicle.

    It is 50 years later. We were led to expect more from the geniuses at SpaceX.

  • You can plainly see the attempt by newspace to attach to the conservative ascendancy now underway, like a Remora hitching a ride on the butt of a shark. You see it in Simberg and that moron who posts for ‘The Tea Party for Space’. The Tea Party movement is a macro fiscal movement concerned with reforming the budget, period. Mainstream conservative canon, healthy funding levels, still apply to military spending and NASA, which are close akin. As a conservative candidate you violate this at your peril.

    Another biproduct of the field surrounding you that warps your perception of reality. If that same field was equally adept at warping space and we could harness it, it would revolutionize space travel. :)

    Calling someone else a moron, when you have difficulty distinguishing between unpublished pre-existing conditions and technical specifications (as you demonstrated in the previously discussed issue of the Challenger disaster) is wonderfully ironic. Conservative politicians have always at least given lip service to the superiority of free market forces to government centralized ones, employing the latter only when there is no other way to accomplish what was needed (as in the moon race where cost was secondary to the goal of getting to the moon in the fastest way possible, not caring whether or not going back regularly in the future was economically sustainable after success). It was also the latter method that the Soviet Union based its whole economy on, leading to it’s ultimate bankrupcy through cost inefficiency. That same syndrome via such fiascos as Ares I has led NASA to similar impotency with SLS being the last futile gasp of the old system.

    What is needed is not only NASA or solely newspace, but a different paradigm where they complement rather than oppose each other. That is what the new direction is all about. As always, you are clueless and you will refuse to acknowlege its validity for absolutely as long as you can (just the way you did when Falcon 9 first achieved orbit) and the final reality is a totally finished fait accompli rubbed in your face.

  • Coastal Ron

    amightywind wrote @ June 14th, 2011 at 2:59 pm

    Project Mercury moved much faster.

    Well sure, if throw enough money at something, things can get done quickly – that’s government-funded programs 101.

    But Project Mercury cost about $2.9B in 2010 dollars, whereas SpaceX has spent less than $500M for their Dragon capsule (less than $1B for all their development).

    Private industry is much better at the efficient use of capital than government is, which if you were a real conservative you would be concerned about. Unfortunately you’re just a CINO (Conservative In Name Only), and as you have made it exceedingly clear, you prefer to pork out at the government-funded trough (Ares and now SLS).

  • DCSCA

    @amightywind wrote @ June 14th, 2011 at 2:59 pm

    Keep in mind, the AF began planning for what became Mercury in the mid 1950s before it was transferred to NASA and Ike gave the presidential directive for NASA to put people into space. The ‘Man In Space Soonest’ thinking forced the adaptation of existing military missiles as LV- Redstone and Atlas. As Kraft stated in his memoirs, the reliability factor of missile technology was roughly 60% when they flew Shepard in ’61. Hard to see a commercial firm like SpaceX taking that kind of risk with ‘company assets.’ That’s why governments do it.

  • Coastal Ron

    Stephen Metschan wrote @ June 14th, 2011 at 12:38 pm

    I don’t see how it’s possible to push an activity into the private sector that receives about 80% of its sales from the Federal Government?

    A couple of thoughts:

    A. That is one of the reasons why the government should contract for something that already exists in the marketplace, so they don’t have to pay the premium that unique/sole-sourced contracting brings.

    B. Regarding crew transportation to LEO, it is true that the only known demand for crew transportation is to support the ISS. However it is also known that at least one company (Bigelow Aerospace) wants to create demand for LEO crew services once two or more providers are established. It’s sort of a chicken & egg situation, where someone has to move first – and NASA is doing that with commercial crew.

    C. The MPCV and SLS are unique to NASA, and can’t be used in the commercial marketplace. The MPCV exceeds the capabilities of LEO commercial capsules, but the SLS, no matter what design is used, duplicates existing capabilities that could be used. For instance, the MPCV fits on the Delta IV Heavy, and other upcoming launchers, so the SLS is not needed to launch it, and there is no budget for exploration missions and hardware that would be SLS-size only, so the SLS is not needed at all at this point. Existing commercial alternatives can do what the government needs (see A above).

  • Dennis Berube

    If America doesnt get its own methods for flying people into space before another 5 or 6 years (be they commercial or otherwise), I just wonder how long it will be, before the politicians decide they dont want to pay Russia for anymore trips to the ISS. At what 60 something mil a seat, that will probably grow old quickly.

  • Aremis Asling

    “Judging by this year’s SLS appropriation, pretty well. When you compare to the heady days of last April, I’d say Newspace has fallen fast and far.”

    “This speaks more for the effectiveness of Newspace sabotage rather than any shortcoming of Ares/Orion. I’ll remind you we are 2.5 years into the Age of Obama and NASA has never been in worse shape.”

    First they have fallen far since last year and SLS is doing well, then SLS is far behind only because of the effectiveness of private space? That’s just about the fastest flip to flop rate I’ve yet seen. If private space fell fast and far (and it didn’t, their budget is smaller, but not dramatically so, and SLS is more well-defined, but not substantially larger in budget or sooner in timescale than in Obama’s plan), how is it, again, they’ve been able to so effectively derail SLS? How was it that before any president had offered anything more than chump change (COTS) to commercial, did commercial space sabotage the Ares/Orion program to make it so far behind schedule that the goal posts were as far away as they had been 5 years previously? I’m waiting anxiously for the verbal and political acrobatics that can explain away that cognitive dissonance.

  • Major Tom

    “Judging by this year’s SLS appropriation, pretty well…

    This speaks more for the effectiveness of Newspace sabotage rather than any shortcoming of Ares/Orion. I’ll remind you we are 2.5 years into the Age of Obama and NASA has never been in worse shape.”

    These statements are contradictory. Either Orion/SLS are adequately funded or not. Make up your mind.

    Regardless, COTS and CCDev development awards to SpaceX for Falcon 9 and Orion total $358 million. SpaceX is underwriting all Falcon Heavy development.

    SLS funding alone in the 2010 authorization exceeds $6 billion through FY 2013 and will blow past $12 billion before 2016. Orion will push it north of $20 billion.

    Even if your “Newspace sabotage” conspiracy theory was true, that’s not an excuse for Orion/SLS to deliver years later than SpaceX with 50x the taxpayer funding.

    Pathetic…

  • Robert G. Oler

    DCSCA wrote @ June 14th, 2011 at 4:07 pm

    ” As Kraft stated in his memoirs, the reliability factor of missile technology was roughly 60% when they flew Shepard in ’61.”

    I have not done a lot of actual research on this, but I bet that this number is low. And was not even thought of being that low even then.

    GE has forever, well since 1955 evaluated weapon systems in the TRIAD for reliability stats in terms of MAD…and while recent figures are classified the deterrence numbers for the Atlas and Titan 1 and 2 were never that low. Indeed (and I am working this for memory but it is pretty solid) the Atlas was scored in 62 as having a 7something percent of putting its WEAPON within the CEP required for target nullification. Since a certain number of failures would occur after warhead sep that has to mean that the boost phase had a MORE then 60 percent chance of being successful.

    Even if one counts the Atlas Agena launches of Gemini the Atlas had a higher percentage then 60. Just thinking it out I want to say that there was only one boost phase failure for a Gemini rendezvous (number 6 I think )…and I bet that the cumulative balloon skin Atlas record is somewhere in the 90ish percent.

    In any event with Mercury the success rate was 100.

    So I dont have a clue why you think that the 60 stat is at all important and keep repeating it RGO

  • Ferris Valyn

    Sorry Coastal Ron, you are wrong

    B. Regarding crew transportation to LEO, it is true that the only known demand for crew transportation is to support the ISS. However it is also known that at least one company (Bigelow Aerospace) wants to create demand for LEO crew services once two or more providers are established. It’s sort of a chicken & egg situation, where someone has to move first – and NASA is doing that with commercial crew.

    There is more than one company that is creating a demand for LEO crew services.

    You forget Space Adventures.

  • Coastal Ron

    Ferris Valyn wrote @ June 14th, 2011 at 4:44 pm

    There is more than one company that is creating a demand for LEO crew services.

    You forget Space Adventures.

    Oh I didn’t forget them, but until a contract is signed then I’m not counting them. Who knows what the Russians will do when U.S. commercial providers get going (give up, drop prices, etc.), so I don’t know what Space Adventures will do.

    In any case, I’m obviously a commercial fan, but I don’t want to be counting my capsules before they are launched… ;-)

  • Coastal Ron

    DCSCA wrote @ June 14th, 2011 at 4:07 pm

    Hard to see a commercial firm like SpaceX taking that kind of risk with ‘company assets.’ That’s why governments do it.

    So you’re saying that private companies never take risk?

    I know you hardly get your nose out of your 60′s era space books, but a simple reading of history books will tell you that business people are always taking risks – that’s the nature of business. If they only did “safe” things, then we wouldn’t have the innovations we have in life.

    Does anyone think that Elon Musk and his investors were making a “safe” bet with the $200M they invested in SpaceX? How could an internet wiz compete with the giants of the space launch industry? How could they compete with the giants of the aerospace industry?

    Even Orbital Sciences, Blue Origin and Sierra Nevada Corp. are making risky bets with the COTS and CCDev programs, since they are risking their own money alongside that from NASA.

    America was built on risk-taking, so it’s obvious that you’re not a business owner or entrepreneur. That’s OK, but maybe you should learn a little about how the real world works, and then you won’t be so surprised by all the and innovation around you… ;-)

  • Project Mercury attracted the best minds in the country.
    Project Constellation attracted the worst bureaucrats.

  • Stephen Metschan

    Costal Ron: “The MPCV and SLS are unique to NASA, and can’t be used in the commercial marketplace.”

    That’s were you are wrong. There is no reason that the for profit companies operating the MPCV and SLS shouldn’t be ‘allowed’ by the Federal Government to offer them ‘at cost’ for ‘commercial’ missions. At cost as in the incremental cost to launch that doesn’t include the fixed cost of having the capability in first place (a strategic national decision). This would drop the price per kg to orbit to about $1,000 for the private utilization of said national system. I’m guessing with the higher diameter, volume and mass margins (ie lower spacecraft cost) a few more ‘commercial’ business cases would close.

    http://csis.org/publication/national-security-and-commercial-space-sector

    I think this is a more level headed approach as compared to the current wishful thinking of personality cults on one hand and/or undefined technological leaps on the other. With one stroke of the policy pen this price to orbit could be made available to the commercial space development industry. If this lower cost did spur the wider ‘commercial’ development of space the additional payroll taxes alone would cover the difference. In the long run maybe the government could move to being less than 20% of the customer base. At which point having the ‘commercial’ sector pick up the full amortized cost (fixed+variable) would be no big deal.

    As I said we can only have a true private sector industry when its primary customer is the private sector by definition. That should be the policy objective. Everything else is just changing which contractor we write the Federal Government check to. Please forgive me for being a bit underwhelmed by the change.

    One business trash another in order to get a chunk of the government purse is as old as the Republic. Not everyone is foolish enough to think what is being sold as ‘commercial’ space is anything we haven’t seen before.

    So please let’s separate endless debates over worn out platitudes (government bad-private good, big bad-small good, old bad-new good etc.) from real policy changes that could actually achieve lower prices for everyone in the long run.

    Costal Ron: “Existing commercial alternatives can do what the government needs”

    Wrong on two counts, one ULA is not anymore ‘commercial’ than SLS could be. It is in fact 100% dependant upon the DoD. Meaning without the DoD it couldn’t survive. Now launching stuff into space is in the strategic national interest so that is why this arrangement works.

    Second count, we are in fact facing serious cost overruns on spacecraft development due in large part to diameter, volume and mass margins limits. Exhibit A JWST, Exhibit B MSL. In fact just the cost ‘overruns’ on these two programs along are now ‘more’ than the ‘entire’ development cost of the SLS.

  • @ Dennis Berube:

    “If the drive into space is given up, in the future if there is a need for it once again, we will have to start over again, costing us more time and money in the long run..”

    What manned deep space capability do we currently have, to ‘give up?’ We are pretty much starting over again, regardless. The problem is that some would have it be the same Apollo-esq thing again.

    Orbital manned capability however, will continue on its own, very nicely. NASA would be welcome to draw upon those services and products as part of doing anything beyond LEO, any time it wishes.

  • red

    Here are a couple more space politics items:

    The Planetary Society:

    http://planetary.org/special/action

    “Join our urgent campaign to restore NASA’s primary mission of space exploration today.

    We must do all we can to change the direction the U.S. Congress is forcing NASA to follow! …”

    “The U.S. Congress has shackled NASA with a rocket designed by committee … literally. Worse, the design is based on benefits to their districts, not on sound engineering or benefits to science, exploration or our future. …”

    and

    http://planetary.org/blog/article/00003063/

    “URGENT: Call Appropriations Committee members to support Pu-238 production”

  • Lockheed Martin cutting 7.5% space systems jobs. http://www.marketwatch.com/story/lockheed-martin-cutting-75-of-space-systems-jobs-2011-06-14
    UNLESS THERE IS INITIAL RISK SHARING w/ PUBLIC/PRIVATE monies FOR space. Space investment will not be there to promote – that’s sad!

  • The depth of the NASA questioning caught many of the candidates off guard, all of them will have policy people writing up position statements this weekend. The political risk is if cost cutting should shift into higher gear as a campaign issue and candidates compete publicly with their own cost savings proposal; having NASA in the limelight now wouldn’t help.

    On the other hand NASA got through a GOP debate in a cost cutting environment and no one called for it’s elimination, in fact the only two vocals each defended some cost each in their own way. Politically, it would seem to bode well for a status quo funding-wise and program continuity will be looking for a reassuring politician, and that program continuity vote is key to carrying several states.

  • Everything else is just changing which contractor we write the Federal Government check to.

    No, the other things that change are the size of the check, the probability of getting results, and the utility of the resulting products should they actually, eventually appear.

  • Pathfinder_01

    “That’s were you are wrong. There is no reason that the for profit companies operating the MPCV and SLS shouldn’t be ‘allowed’ by the Federal Government to offer them ‘at cost’ for ‘commercial’ missions. At cost as in the incremental cost to launch that doesn’t include the fixed cost of having the capability in first place (a strategic national decision). This would drop the price per kg to orbit to about $1,000 for the private utilization of said national system. I’m guessing with the higher diameter, volume and mass margins (ie lower spacecraft cost) a few more ‘commercial’ business cases would close.”

    Policy since the 1980ies has been to create private space companies and for the government to use private companies. Only NASA HSF is has been resistant to this change. SLS , like the shuttle will be forbidden to launch anything that the private sector could launch and the private sector really isn’t that interested in 70+MT items. See the Commercial Space Launch act, (which allows private ownership of rockets) and the launch services purchase act. Also price per kilogram is a lousy measure. If my satellite masses 10MT, why should I pay 1.5 billion to launch it via SLS and why should the government subsidize me to the same? The shuttle was born in an era where governments owned rockets and there were no privately owned rocket systems. It was to replace the ELV and do so cheaply. It was to be an all in one system. It failed at being cheap and this model of government owned launcher launching all satellites no longer applies to today’s world.

    Also bigger isn’t better. The larger the item the harder it is to build, test, transport. There are limits to how big you can make something without having to pay for facility upgrades (because your item is too big to fit in a test chamber), transport by barges (cause your item won’t fit in even a supper sized cargo plane). Heck one of the complaints about the old Saturn V rocket was that parts that you could fit in your hand on other rockets required a fork lift for it.

    ‘As I said we can only have a true private sector industry when its primary customer is the private sector by definition. That should be the policy objective. Everything else is just changing which contractor we write the Federal Government check to. Please forgive me for being a bit underwhelmed by the change.’

    Err…Not quite. We already have a private launch sector. ULA is kept around for DOD, but why should NASA have its own system that is shared with no one? There is no incentive for NASA to reduce or control costs. There is incentive for Lockheed martin, Boeing, and Space X to do so.(The DOD can switch providers). Lets give NASA the ability to choose providers.

  • Major Tom

    “In fact just the cost ‘overruns’ on these two programs along are now ‘more’ than the ‘entire’ development cost of the SLS.”

    This is a false statement.

    The 2010 NASA Authorization Act provides almost $7 billion for SLS from FY11-13. Assuming a normal development curve, the same amount will be spent in FY14-16 in order for SLS to meet the 2016 deadline in the Act. So SLS development cost will approach, if not exceed, $14 billion. (And NASA has sent a letter to Congress stating that SLS needs more than that to meet the schedule and constraints in the Act.)

    The total estimated cost of JWST ($6.5 billion) and MSL ($2.3 billion) is $8.8 billion. Forget overruns. Even the total costs of JWST and MSL fall $5 billion short of the $14 billion-plus SLS budget.

    “we are in fact facing serious cost overruns on spacecraft development due in large part to diameter, volume and mass margins limits.”

    This is also a false statement.

    MSL delays and overruns have been driven principally by actuator lubrication issues that have nothing to do with the size of the spacecraft. (In fact, heat shield issues driven by the large size and mass of the spacecraft have been threatening, not helping, MSL’s schedule.)

    thespacereview.com/article/1319/1

    The JWST Independent Cost Review Panel found that JWST delays and overruns have been driven by underestimation of cost and poor budgeting at the program’s outset, issues that have nothing to do with constraints on the size of the spacecraft.

    nasa.gov/pdf/499224main_JWST-ICRP_Report-FINAL.pdf

    FWIW…

  • Robert G. Oler

    Stephen Metschan wrote @ June 14th, 2011 at 6:22 pm
    ” There is no reason that the for profit companies operating the MPCV and SLS shouldn’t be ‘allowed’ by the Federal Government to offer them ‘at cost’ for ‘commercial’ missions. ”

    sure there is. it is called, and I know it is a foreign thing to you “private enterprise”.

    If Company A can develop on the government nickle Mousetrap B and then offer B to the private sector with almost no development cost and no real cost for operating the infrastructure then any private company that wants to develop better mousetrap C really cannot afford to. C will never have its development cost to be zero and someone else take the burden of the vast majority of its fixed cost.

    There IS NOTHING in the US that operates like this now. The shuttle system tried; the notion of launching commercial satellites on government owned and operated equipment was the forte of the vehicle and the “space transportation system” but it simply never worked. NASA nor its contractors was under any burden (like competition) to lower cost where practical …and the result was that the commercial launch industry in this country went from something to well nothing.

    Your notion is a tired old record played one more time, trying to justify infrastructure that otherwise has no justification.

    “Not everyone is foolish enough to think what is being sold as ‘commercial’ space is anything we haven’t seen before.”

    Name me one launch system where the company developing the launcher has done so mostly on its nickle…and what government nickles it got, it had to meet fixed performance objectives to get.

    The “DIRECT” concept certainly can never be developed that way.

    That you do not want to see that SpaceX (and OSC and some others) are doing just that is YOUR PROBLEM…it is not reality. There is literally no difference between how Boeing developed the Dash 80 and how SpaceX is developing the Falcon.

    As for Webb. I see Major Tom took you down on that.

    Stephen no matter how hard you try to misrepresent somethings that dog is not hunting any more. You folks have been pattingyourselves so much on the back at NSF.com that you need to drop out of ethernet and move into the real world. Smell the roses…your side is losing.

    and it is grand

    Robert G. Oler

  • Coastal Ron

    Stephen Metschan wrote @ June 14th, 2011 at 6:22 pm

    There is no reason that the for profit companies operating the MPCV and SLS…

    Sure there is, if it’s not competitively awarded. But that’s just to start.

    …shouldn’t be ‘allowed’ by the Federal Government to offer them ‘at cost’ for ‘commercial’ missions.

    That sounds like a direct market subsidy. The problem is that the need for that kind of direct market manipulation is unknown and undefined. Why does the U.S. Government need/want to spend so much money to artificially increase the space launch/exploration market?

    “At cost as in the incremental cost to launch that doesn’t include the fixed cost of having the capability in first place (a strategic national decision).

    OK, that’s a subsidy. You want the U.S. Taxpayer to subsidize putting mass into space. I don’t think you were listening to what the Republican Presidential candidates were saying – they don’t want MORE government spending, they want LESS. If the government wants to encourage a market, there are better ways to do it than building infrastructure that no one really needed in the first place.

    I’m guessing with the higher diameter, volume and mass margins (ie lower spacecraft cost) a few more ‘commercial’ business cases would close.

    Maybe you haven’t noticed how much debate there is/was on propping up GM and Chrysler? Do you seriously expect Congress to consider a massive subsidy for the space industry when it’s not in trouble?

    Besides, it’s not the size that is holding back larger launches, it’s the price of the payload and the launch. Bigger payloads cost more to design, build and test, and if you go beyond 5m wide, now you start running into transportation limitations (i.e. more costs).

    As I said we can only have a true private sector industry when its primary customer is the private sector by definition.

    No denying that government work is still are large segment of the U.S. space industry, but I think you would find that over time government work as a percentage is going down. The commercial satellite industry continues to grow, and does that largely without government as the customer.

    For moving cargo to LEO space stations, that market is getting ready to officially kick off by the end of this year or so. For commercial crew, that transition should happen in 2016. Now while the initial customer is government (all the ISS partners), there are companies waiting for the commercial capabilities so they can test out their business ideas – all without direct government subsidies.

    It [ULA] is in fact 100% dependant upon the DoD.

    Guess you missed the final launch of the Delta II for NASA? Or the other NASA launches on the ULA manifest, or the Bigelow modules scheduled for 2014? It’s not 100% DoD.

    I’m not saying that ULA didn’t make a conscious decision to depend on the U.S. Government for the majority of it’s work, but will I say that the U.S. Government has, through unintended consequences, not allowed a robust commercial launch market to develop.

    But with a huge government budget crunch coming, that likely will change on it’s own – and all without the direct subsidies that you are advocating.

  • William Mellberg

    Newt Gingrich said:

    “If you take all the money we spent at NASA since we landed on the Moon, and you apply that money for incentives for the private sector, we would today probably have a permanent station on the Moon, three or four permanent stations in space, a new generation of lift vehicles, and instead, what we’ve had is bureaucracy after bureaucracy after bureaucracy, and failure after failure.”

    Would Mr. Gingrich include the Space Shuttle, the International Space Station, the Hubble Space Telescope, the Mars Rovers, Galileo, Cassini, Messenger and other highly successful lunar and planetary missions in his assertion that NASA has given us “failure after failure”? And who does Mr. Gingrich think would have paid for the “successes” we might have had in space if only NASA had gotten “out of the way” of the private sector? Who does he think was stopping the private sector from building a base on the Moon, sending robots to Mars or putting commercial space stations into Low Earth Orbit? Was it NASA … or the laws of economics?

    There are some things that government can do better than the private sector. Recognizing that fact doesn’t make one a liberal or a conservative. It simply recognizes reality.

    Yet, Mr. Gingrich is correct in his assertion that NASA has become an overgrown bureaucracy. Moreover, it has become overly politicized — subject to pork, program changes and cancellations with each new Administration and Congress. As such, NASA lacks focus and direction. The consistency required to implement long-term projects and programs no longer exists in America’s space agency.

    That is why former U.S. Senator (R-NM) and Apollo 17 scientist-astronaut Dr. Harrison H. Schmitt released a proposal three weeks ago calling for the dismantlement of NASA:

    http://americasuncommonsense.com/blog/category/science-engineering/space-policy/4-new-proposal-for-nasa/

    Dr. Schmitt believes NASA should be replaced by a new agency dedicated to the exploration of deep space (both human and robotic). NASA’s current activities would be divided among various other agencies. Aeronautics, for example, could become the responsibility of a newly-reformed NACA (the agency from which NASA evolved). Human spaceflight in Low Earth Orbit would be turned over almost exclusively to commercial space enterprises. Some science missions (e.g., orbiting observatories) would go to the National Space Foundation, or some similar group. At the same time, the exploration and settlement of the Moon, cislunar space, Mars and other bodies in the Solar System would become the focus of the new National Space Exploration Administration (NSEA).

    Dr. Schmitt’s proposal would clearly define the respective roles of commercial space in LEO and government-sponsored missions in cislunar space and beyond. It would end much of the bickering we have seen in recent years between “New Space” proponents and “Old Space” advocates. Yet, as Schmitt suggests in his proposed NSEA Charter, entrepreneurial partnerships would play a role in the exploration of deep space. In fact, Schmitt’s 2006 book, “Return to the Moon”, makes it very clear that he believes free enterprise will be critical to the success of lunar mining acitivities in the future. But until the economic incentives that might draw the private sector into deep space have been demonstrated and proven, it is the role of government to blaze the trail. In that respect, NSEA explorers would be following in the footsteps of Meriwether Lewis, William Clark, Joseph Nicollet, William Emory, John Fremont and others who charted the American West (as well as Schmitt and his fellow Apollo astronauts who first set foot on the Moon).

    Many people, including veteran NASA personnel and current space workers, have embraced Dr. Schmitt’s proposal. They recognize that the best way to “fix” America’s space exploration program is to start with a clean slate. I urge those who have not read Schmitt’s statement to do so with an open mind. I can assure you that he put a great deal of thought into his statement. There is also a link to Dr. Schmitt’s free PDF booklet about “Space Policy and the Constitution” on the Downloads page of his website:

    http://americasuncommonsense.com/blog/downloads/

    It further details Dr. Schmitt’s thoughts about America’s space program. And it reflects his experience as a scientist, moonwalker, senator and educator.

    For the record, I am the Co-Editor of Harrison Schmitt’s website. But my comments here (past and present) represent my thoughts alone.

  • Pathfinder_01

    “Second count, we are in fact facing serious cost overruns on spacecraft development due in large part to diameter, volume and mass margins limits. Exhibit A JWST, Exhibit B MSL. In fact just the cost ‘overruns’ on these two programs along are now ‘more’ than the ‘entire’ development cost of the SLS.”

    Evedence please? MSL had an over ambitious schedule (it isn’t a mere copy of MERS, it is a totally new rover, with new instruments and nuclear thermal powered). Atlas V541 isn’t the largest EELV we have. Delta IV heavy is.

    However Delta V heavy is much more expensive than Atlas hence the desire not to grow so big. They started the project in 2003 and expected all of this to be designed, tested and ready to launched no later than October 2009! They probably had less than 6 years on a project that could easily take 7. Anyway if you know anything about mars EDL is the hard part. With EDL mass isn’t your friend (this is also true on Earth).

    More mass makes it harder and harder for your EDL systems to slow your spacecraft down and land. A good example is the Apollo Capsule vs. the Shuttle. Apollo got hotter than the shuttle but for a much shorter period of time. The shuttle does not get as hot as Apollo but stays hot longer due to it’s increased mass. Orion’s mass now limits its crew to 4 at all times because it can not abort safely loaded with 6(the Parachutes can’t handle the Mass, and there isn’t enough space in the shape for more parachute…plus larger parachutes are more prone to failure).
    Here is a listing of the technical problems that MSL has: http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1319/1

    IMHO the moment people who want an HLV accept the fact that an HLV is sized too big to be of much use for many others outside of manned spaceflight the better. Esp. any HLV that is monolithic.

  • DCSCA

    Coastal Ron wrote @ June 14th, 2011 at 5:22 pm
    No, you said that. What is posted says: As Kraft stated in his memoirs, the reliability factor of missile technology was roughly 60% when they flew Shepard in ’61. Hard to see a commercial firm like SpaceX taking that kind of risk with ‘company assets.’ That’s why governments do it.”

    But if you are a proponent of private enterprise space firms in a high risk/low ROI venture flying with the odds facing Kraft, go for it. Put someone up– or shut up.

  • DCSCA

    @Robert G. Oler wrote @ June 14th, 2011 at 4:36 pm
    ” As Kraft stated in his memoirs, the reliability factor of missile technology was roughly 60% when they flew Shepard in ’61. I have not done a lot of actual research on this, but I bet that this number is low. And was not even thought of being that low even then.”

    =yawn= Bet all you want- you lose. Kraft has done not only the ‘actual research’ but launched the ‘actual flights’ Good grief. The guy who was there, knew the odds based on performance history in his era and launched the actual flights knows better than you and your ‘actual’ research.

  • William Mellberg

    William Mellberg wrote:

    “Some science missions (e.g., orbiting observatories) would go to the National Space Foundation, or some similar group.”

    Oops! A typo. I meant to say the National Science Foundation (NSF).

  • CNN’s “NASA Insider” has this blog comment about the debate:

    NASA Insider: Some Truth to Gingrich’s Barb

    It begins:

    After Newt Gingrich’s harsh comments about NASA during Monday’s night’s debate between GOP presidential hopefuls, you’d guess the outrage from the nation’s legendary space agency would be deafening.

    So far today, all we’ve heard from Houston and Washington are crickets.

    Particularly interesting to me is that this question was asked in New Hampshire, which has no space center or major NASA contractor. Let’s see them ask this question if there’s a candidate debate in Houston.

  • Robert G. Oler

    DCSCA wrote @ June 15th, 2011 at 1:25 am

    “=yawn= Bet all you want- you lose”

    Yawn…bet I dont

    I was wrong. In 1982 the GE missile calculator based on actual Atlas performance and figuring in a wartime degrading factor of 10 percent…had the Atlas at 81 percent CEP negation.

    Kraft must have known his number were in error. He got through every Atlas flight in Mercury without a single problem. RGO

  • William Mellberg wrote:

    That is why former U.S. Senator (R-NM) and Apollo 17 scientist-astronaut Dr. Harrison H. Schmitt released a proposal three weeks ago calling for the dismantlement of NASA …

    And the reason Congress would do this is …?!

    Most of Congress couldn’t care less about NASA or space exploration. Those who do care are quite happy with the status quo so long as pork keeps coming to their districts.

    I think most of us agree government space exploration in this country needs reform, but don’t expect Congress to support it. The Obama administration had to fight tooth-and-nail just to expand commercial cargo to include commercial crew — and that happened only in a compromise exchange for a new pork program, the Senate Launch System.

    Commercial crew is the only way out. And when that happens, NASA will go back to being an R&D agency as originally intended in the late 1950s.

  • Rand: “No, the other things that change are the size of the check, the probability of getting results, and the utility of the resulting products should they actually, eventually appear.”

    Rand I’ll grant you that one, helping to break up monopolies should be a continuous government activity. If it’s too big to fail its too big. Which is why I supported the initiative that helped open the door to companies like SpaceX in the first place when Elon was still at PayPal.

    Coastal Ron: “That sounds like a direct market subsidy. The problem is that the need for that kind of direct market manipulation is unknown and undefined. Why does the U.S. Government need/want to spend so much money to artificially increase the space launch/exploration market?”

    Wrong again, it isn’t a subsidy because the price ‘covers’ the incremental cost of the launch. No additional cost to the government with or without the commercial launch. The same deal should be extended for ULA BTW.

    Coastal Ron: “Besides, it’s not the size that is holding back larger launches, it’s the price of the payload and the launch. Bigger payloads cost more to design, build and test, and if you go beyond 5m wide, now you start running into transportation limitations (i.e. more costs).”

    Wrong on two counts, one is on basic logic, why would anyone design a spacecraft that couldn’t be launched by existing launchers (or soon to be)? Second count, you obviously don’t know anything about the primary cost drivers for spacecraft. If we could double the mass budget, double the power budget and lower the density by a factor of four we could build satellites that do more and cost less than the small delicate flowers we are now shoehorning into the existing systems. Not that every application would benefit (in fact some applications are getting smaller not bigger, great) but certainly the new breakthrough systems that could be launched will. By all means if you satisfied with flying the same old missions we have been doing the last fifty years than your right. If not you are wrong.

    Pathfinder01: ‘More mass makes it harder and harder for your EDL systems to slow your spacecraft down and land.”

    …….and larger diameter heat shields make it easier its called the ballistics coefficient and I’m well aware of it. The designers of the MSL had a key design driver/limitation, how do we land a significantly higher mass (because we want to do more than the last mission) while still constrained to heat shield that must fit a 5m fairing? Answer, spend a lot more money and time by introducing a significant number of new systems we haven’t used before with a corresponding number of new failure points. All of which must be driven to ground in terms of reliability. Not cheap. Or we could just put a bigger heat shield on it a fly an even heavier version more capable version of what we know works.

    Major Tom: “The 2010 NASA Authorization Act provides almost $7 billion for SLS from FY11-13. Assuming a normal development curve, the same amount will be spent in FY14-16 in order for SLS to meet the 2016 deadline in the Act. So SLS development cost will approach, if not exceed, $14 billion. (And NASA has sent a letter to Congress stating that SLS needs more than that to meet the schedule and constraints in the Act.)”

    My numbers are based on the actual cost of paying the people that actually do the work. I have long advocated that the SLS and MPCV be contracted under a similar mechanism that SpaceX enjoyed (ie limited NASA oversight).

    I figure if a company that has zero experience flying in space can do it why not cut loose the big boys as well. $7 Billion is still good number for a hands off SLS (Jupiter-130) development based on existing flight proven boosters and engines. The fact that we are using existing systems proven over three decades is even more reason for NASA to take a more hands off approach.

    Now the NASA badged budget will still show up somewhere due to political reasons but don’t blame it on the hardware or the contractors that will make this happening. So in sum the delta cost is due to whether you want to do something or not. $7 Billion for the political overhead (a given with or without SLS) and $7 Billion for the actual SLS work. Now in perfect world we would right size the oversight to about $1 Billion. Given the general lack of engineers we could have a home for them on the actual work side of the equation. Again in a perfect world.

    Major Tom: “The total estimated cost of JWST ($6.5 billion) and MSL ($2.3 billion) is $8.8 billion. Forget overruns. Even the total costs of JWST and MSL fall $5 billion short of the $14 billion-plus SLS budget”

    Correcting for the apples vs oranges (ie SpaceX vs SLS contracting) above and adding the ‘new’ numbers for JWST and MSL, $7 billion (ie decade before it flies, Tongue-in-cheek) and $2.5 Billion respectively, and we have nearly closed the business case by just using planned capabilities of these two mission alone. Keeping in mind that the science return of the JWST and MSL in an SLS world would have been at least 4x what they will be in current 25mT-5m world. So at some point we need to put that into the calculation as well. Plus with only incremental cost being charge to commercial users we have a $1K/kg launch system. Whats not to love?

    Look either we as a nation choose to repurpose existing national assets in order to advance beyond the achievements of the last fifty years or not. That is the question before us. If you’re happy with just basically repeating the missions of the last fifty years (save for Apollo) then any upgrade to the existing launch system is by definition a waste of money. Then again if we are happy with that then what’s the point?

  • mr. mark

    Once again DCSCA you keep shouting commercial put somebody up or shut up. Every commercial company is shooting for the 2014-2015 timeframe for HSF. Last time i checked it was June 2011. Please! your time travel exploits are already well known around here. Please travel back in time to join the rest of us here in 2011 so, we can have a discussion based on real time events.

  • Robert G. Oler

    William Mellberg wrote @ June 15th, 2011 at 1:06 am

    “There are some things that government can do better than the private sector. Recognizing that fact doesn’t make one a liberal or a conservative. It simply recognizes reality.”

    yes…and well written post; but I would comment on a few things.

    There are some things government can do better then private enterprise; but HOW government does those things HOW it involves private enterprise determines how well those “things” (whatever they are) are done.

    There is no history until recently of government literally designing vehicles and then having private industry fill out “the mold lines” of those vehicles. During the Second World War, which has to be the ultimate relationship of government to private industry, there is very little history of government telling industry how to build various instruments that were used in WW2. The Navy did not design the Essex class carrier, the Army Air Corps the P-51 (or the B-29) nor the Army the Sherman tank. (or really anything else)…what the armed services did is put out proposals and picked the best of the lot that industry came up with. One reason that the entire industrial base was mobilized in the war, is that the government wanted the entire genius of free enterprise focused on providing the best tools to win the war.

    Apollo even worked that way. The government came up with the concepts (LOR) but it was industry that came up with the vehicles.

    Today we dont do that, particularly in spaceflight. SLS is the ultimate example of a vehicle that is being designed simply to keep the industrial base working. There is nothing “free enterprise” about that…or nothing “competent government” about that.

    Harrison has an interesting notion; at one point I even embraced it…but it goes nowhere until as a function of government policy mostly for some political reason which is not well understood now; government decides to make human exploration some priority.

    And Harrison has no better reason to do that then say Whittington does. RGO

  • Aremis Asling

    “Yet, Mr. Gingrich is correct in his assertion that NASA has become an overgrown bureaucracy. Moreover, it has become overly politicized — subject to pork, program changes and cancellations with each new Administration and Congress. As such, NASA lacks focus and direction.”

    NASA itself is a bureaucracy, true, but I think many of it’s problems are more related to just how much of a hand congress and the president play in the organization. NASA isn’t alone as an agency in having the government dictate how particular components of it’s budget are spent. Case in point: the recent move to cancel orders for the latest and greatest US military jet. However, I can’t think of any other agencies in which congress or the president take it upon themselves to armchair engineer central components of their program.

    I love the science NASA does, but what grabs headlines is manned space. That has been the case since Mercury was announced. The ratio of heated debates over manned space compared to robotic space is evidence enough of that. That such a public and central program is guided to the detail by congress and/or the president (any president) is highly unusual and ultimately a core reason why it fails as it does. Bureaucracy can function when the agencies are given direction and guidelines and occasionally given course corrections. We hired them in their respective bureaus because of a specific set of talents. We arrive at problems when those talents are no longer trusted to those agencies and become a matter of legislation by a body unqualified to make such judgments, ie the congress/president.

  • William Mellberg wrote @ June 15th, 2011 at 1:06 am

    Dr. Schmitt’s proposal to throw all the science projects into NSF to compete with every other NSF project seems less than an enabling move. Given the often excessive relative costs (mainly in launch expenditure) the space missions will go to the bottom of the list because so many other projects will appear to have a higher ROI.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Stephen Metschan wrote @ June 15th, 2011 at 11:00 am

    “Wrong again, it isn’t a subsidy because the price ‘covers’ the incremental cost of the launch. No additional cost to the government with or without the commercial launch.”

    That is the most bizzare logic I have heard yet out of the DIRECT fan groups. Not only are you folkd non rocket scientist you dont have a clue about how free enterprise works.

    A 747-400 would be quite a bit cheaper if all the airlines or any other company had to pay was the “incremental cost” of making another one. IE Boeing “ate” all the development cost, the cost of maintaining crew training documents (or even the airlines crew training) and all the other cost that instead get rolled into the purchase price of a 747 400 or any other Boeing.

    NO PRIVATE company develops a product and then says “we can sell it for the incremental cost”…and yet you would have government developed “things” do just that and not call it a subsidy. OK we just wont call DIRECT a rocket, because all it is is view graphs.

    Major Tom is more then capable of dealing with your goofy statements as well…but I will tackle this

    “Now the NASA badged budget will still show up somewhere due to political reasons but don’t blame it on the hardware or the contractors that will make this happening. So in sum the delta cost is due to whether you want to do something or not. $7 Billion for the political overhead (a given with or without SLS) and $7 Billion for the actual SLS work”

    first off you have no clue if 1) the money for SLS will be there, some indications are it will not in the future and 2) Zero notion that the SLS can be built for the money NASA is advocating or the jerks pushing SLS think it will have.

    Second “Badged” cost are cost. NASA badged people are not 7 billion dollars of SLS…I dont know what the total NASA badged or even the total “badged” cost are of SLS, no one does but it is going to be high…and for the most part that cost is recurring every year once we get to launch cost.

    Have you ever had any economics or managed any large (or larger then 1) program?

    Goofy RGO

  • Robert G. Oler

    mr. mark wrote @ June 15th, 2011 at 11:34 am

    I am thinking the Time Tunnel here, Tony and someone else always were in a bad fix…but there was Lee Merriweather…RGO

  • pathfinder_01

    “…….and larger diameter heat shields make it easier its called the ballistics coefficient and I’m well aware of it. The designers of the MSL had a key design driver/limitation, how do we land a significantly higher mass (because we want to do more than the last mission) while still constrained to heat shield that must fit a 5m fairing? Answer, spend a lot more money and time by introducing a significant number of new systems we haven’t used before with a corresponding number of new failure points. All of which must be driven to ground in terms of reliability. Not cheap. Or we could just put a bigger heat shield on it a fly an even heavier version more capable version of what we know works”

    There is a thing called scale and things do not scale evenly. It is the reason why some insects can walk on water yet no large animal can. It is the reason why cars and trucks have different types of brakes and likewise rapid transit trains and freight trains.

    With the MER they thought they had a good landing system. They would use Sojourners landing system but they found out that it could not handle the increased mass of the MER rovers. In fact they had to modify the bounce landing system for the MER rovers and accept that something the mass of the MER is about all you can land with it.

    Apollo vs. Orion is another good one. Orion is bigger than Apollo. Apollo massed 5MT, Orion masses about 8MT.They have the same shape so they have the same lift to drag ratio. That being said the Orion capsule is having parachute problems becuase its parachutes must slow a 8MT capsule vs. a 5MT one. There isn’t enough space in the nose cone of the capsule for enough material to slow the heavier capsule and thus Orion is limited to caring 4 people until they figure out how to get rid of some mass. Apollo despite being smaller could carry 5 in an emergency.

    In the case of MSL they are using a lifting body. The payload is too heavy to slow with a ballistic trajectory. Lifting reentry will give them a wider area in which they can land and could possibly reduce g forces on the payload.

    If you are into cooking try baking a cake in a 3 inch pan vs. a 10 inch pan. The same recipe. The cake will rise higher in the smaller pan due to surface tension. In fact if you put a cake recipe designed for a 3 inch pan into a large 20 inch pan it will almost certainly fall.

    In terms of EDL mass is not your friend. In fact there is a saying that mass is the mortal enemy of all that flies. In addition faring size is not limited by the throw weight of the rocket(i.e. if needed you can order over sized fairings for any rocket).

  • Major Tom

    “My numbers are based on the actual cost of paying the people that actually do the work… $7 Billion for the political overhead (a given with or without SLS) and $7 Billion for the actual SLS work.”

    To be blunt, it doesn’t matter what your numbers are because that’s not what Congress has authorized and is appropriating for SLS. The decisionmakers are expecting a much larger SLS development effort. They’re not interested in an efficient, effective, timely HLLV. They’re interested in buying as many jobs and votes as they can get away with. This is one of several Faustian bargains that you make when using Shuttle heritage hardware.

    “The fact that we are using existing systems proven over three decades is even more reason for NASA to take a more hands off approach.”

    It’s exactly the opposite. It’s going to be much harder to extricate NASA civil servants from involvement in Shuttle systems because they have been intimately involved in all Shuttle systems for decades now. It’s much harder to replicate COTS and CCDev in an SDLV than with EELV or clean-sheet systems. With the former, you’re not pushing uphill against thousands of civil servant jobs that have been in place going on 30-odd years now. The latter options don’t have that hindrance.

    “Now the NASA badged budget will still show up somewhere due to political reasons but don’t blame it on the hardware or the contractors that will make this happening.”

    I’m not blaming the hardware or the contractors for political costs, but you can’t handwave the Shuttle jobs issue away. If SLS is Shuttle-derived, the costs of that workforce and infrastructure will be an albatross around the program’s neck. It contributed to driving Ares costs and schedules through the roof and will likely do the same on SLS.

    “Keeping in mind that the science return of the JWST and MSL in an SLS world would have been at least 4x what they will be in current 25mT-5m world.”

    Based on what? Evidence? Reference?

    “Plus with only incremental cost being charge to commercial users we have a $1K/kg launch system. Whats not to love?”

    SpaceX has announced plans to build and test Falcon Heavy by 2013-14 on their own dime with the same price point ($1,000/kg), and it will cost the taxpayer zero additional dollars. I don’t like spending $14 billion-plus of taxpayer revenues and limited NASA budget on an HLLV to hit a price point when the private sector is going to give it to me for free. There’s nothing to love here.

    “Look either we as a nation choose to repurpose existing national assets in order to advance beyond the achievements of the last fifty years or not.”

    Why use existing systems when they suffer from so many high costs and so many drawbacks? If an SDLV comes with a $7 billion political surcharge during development, then why go the SDLV route? Use a different technical base and save those dollars for actual, in-space, BEO hardware development.

    Even if we set aside an SDLV’s political costs, it’s still not competitive. SpaceX quotes $2.5 billion to build an SLS-class HLLV, versus the $7 billion you quote above for your Shuttle-derived SLS. They’ve flown LVs and the DIRECT team hasn’t (although individual members of the team have). Why spend nearly three times the taxpayer money for the same basic capability? Use a different technical base and save those dollars for actual, in-space, BEO hardware development.

    And even if we set aside costs, Shuttle systems like the SSMEs routinely suffer from issues like gaseous hydrogen leaks that induce costly multi-month delays. Even if they were cheaper than the alternative, it makes no sense to baseline such fragile and operationally expensive systems into a new LV.

    “If you’re happy with just basically repeating the missions of the last fifty years (save for Apollo) then any upgrade to the existing launch system is by definition a waste of money.”

    I’m not happy repeating the past. I don’t want to blow big chunks of NASA’s limited budget building inefficient government HLLVs that carry huge political costs and leave nothing in the budget for actual BEO mission hardware. I’d rather build on an existing and near-existing fleet of commercial and military HLLVs, HLVs, and MLVs that cost me little to nothing to develop and that preserve the bulk of NASA’s human space flight budget for in-space, BEO hardware.

    FWIW…

  • DCSCA

    @ Robert G. Oler wrote @ June 15th, 2011 at 8:18 am
    Bet the ranch- and lose it. Kraft was correct based on past performance of the MR system, MA system in the 1960-62 time frame. But if you’re advocvating commerical HSF go operational with a 40%– even a 30% or 25% chance of failure, go for it. Put someone up– or shut up. But keep in mind, even AF flight test programs considered a 10% pilot loss acceptable. Doubt commerical enterprises would last long with those odds. But hey, go fly. Launch somebody, orbit them and return them safely. Prove us all wrong. LOL

    @mr. mark wrote @ June 15th, 2011 at 11:34 am
    “Once again DCSCA you keep shouting commercial put somebody up or shut up.” Real time events for commercial HSF: tick-tock, tick-tock.

  • William Mellberg

    Stephen C. Smith wrote @ June 15th, 2011 at 8:19 am

    “And the reason Congress would do this is …?!”

    Why did NACA become NASA?

    Because of geopolitical events. Which could also spark the change from NASA to NSEA, as Dr. Schmitt suggests in his proposal. I think he makes the reasons clear in his statement, as well as in his PDF booklet, “Space Policy and the Constitution” (both available online at the links I posted above).

    Bear in mind that Dr. Schmitt is no stranger to Capitol Hill. He understands that space policy needs to become the subject of more widespread debate and discussion. He also knows that process will take time. Which is why his statement refers to the next President and the new Congress that will be elected in 2012. If you read his proposal carefully, you will see that it does not call for an immediate switch from NASA to NSEA. But in the long run, Dr. Schmitt’s visionary proposal would restructure America’s space exploration program along logical and practical lines. Which is why I believe it will gain political support.

    In any case, NSEA would be dedicated to space exploration … period. As the proposal mentions, that would include both human and robotic missions beyond Low Earth Orbit. The new space agency’s purpose would be clear and concise. And I believe that would gain public support, which translates into political support over time.

  • common sense

    Just trying to catch up but here is one that is total non sense. Of course you have to qualify it but here goes yet again…

    1. Convective heat rates are proportional to 1 over the square root of the heat shield radius (of curvature, not the the radius of the capsule!) => Large radius heat shield is good. Application: LEO return.

    2. Shock radiation heat rates are proportional to the heat shield radius=> Small radius heat shield is good. Application: Planetary/lunar return. Shock radiation is very poorly modeled and very difficult if not impossible to experiment in ground based installation.

    How often will I have to repeat this? If you don’t believe me and you don’t have to then look up the literature. A good book by Bertin on Hypersonic Aerothermodynamics is a good start… Ballistic coefficients is NOT the only driver! Boy!

    Good luck to us all if we have people designing vehicle for physics they don’t understand, but what’s new?

    Oh well…

  • common sense

    Oh and yes both heat rates add up on reentry… Just in case…

  • common sense

    Now for the topic at hand. Gingrich is absolutely correct and Pawlenty has no idea what he is talking about. Clearly.

    I cannot believe I would ever agree with Gingrich considering what he was doing during the Clinton WH but hey whatever. He’s right and that’s that.

    He should have added in my view that removing the “space program” from NASA and giving it to the private sector would also remove all, or most, the political hoopla associated with it. No more SLS nonsense. No more MPCV nonsense. And he could have added that a NASA more focused on advanced technology would provide the US industry an enormous lead in technology than any other country. At least those two points he should have made.

  • William Mellberg

    sftommy wrote @ June 15th, 2011 at 12:44 pm

    “Dr. Schmitt’s proposal to throw all the science projects into NSF to compete with every other NSF project seems less than an enabling move. Given the often excessive relative costs (mainly in launch expenditure) the space missions will go to the bottom of the list because so many other projects will appear to have a higher ROI.”

    Again, the sole purpose of Dr. Schmitt’s proposed NSEA would be the exploration of the Solar System. As his statement notes:

    “The easiest change to make would be to move NASA Space Science activities into the National Science Foundation (NSF), exclusive of lunar and planetary exploration science but including space-based astronomical observatories. At the NSF, those activities can compete for support and funding with other science programs that are in the national interest to pursue. Spacecraft launch services can be procured from commercial, other government agencies, or international sources through case-by-case arrangements.”

    It seems Dr. Schmitt’s proposal would provide some good opportunities for the emerging commercial space industry to reduce the launch expenditures that you cite for science payloads. Isn’t that the idea, after all?

  • Coastal Ron

    Stephen Metschan wrote @ June 15th, 2011 at 11:00 am

    Wrong again, it isn’t a subsidy because the price ‘covers’ the incremental cost of the launch.

    The development cost, which is significant, is not covered, which means that under your plan it is effectively a 100% government subsidy.

    But why stop there? If that is such a great way to grow a market, then the government should subsidize the oil companies by giving away mineral rights and paying for exploration. Or car companies should be able to have the government pay for new model development and then only pay for just building and selling cars. Why shouldn’t we do that too?

    Wrong on two counts, one is on basic logic, why would anyone design a spacecraft that couldn’t be launched by existing launchers (or soon to be)?

    We don’t lack for larger launchers. Ariane 5 only launches commercial satellites as dual launches (two at a time), so the commercial satellite industry has always had the capability to build and launch satellites twice as big as they have today. And within three or so years they will have Falcon Heavy to use for far heavier payloads, increasing mass to GTO from 10,500 kg (Ariane 5 ECA) to 19,500 kg.

    Increasing mass to GTO can also be done by using space tugs and fuel depots, neither of which requires a new launcher.

    Second count, you obviously don’t know anything about the primary cost drivers for spacecraft. If we could….. and cost less than the small delicate flowers we are now shoehorning into the existing systems.

    I’m not a rocket scientist, I’m a manufacturing guy, so I think I have some relevant points of view on this. And as I’ve already shown, we can already double mass budgets using existing launchers, since only the DoD/NRO is using the full capabilities of Ariane 5/Delta IV Heavy class launchers. And if satellite operators don’t like the pricing of an Ariane or Delta, then likely they’ll like the pricing of Falcon Heavy.

    And they can do all of that today without the U.S. Taxpayer having to pony up even MORE of their tax money to support an industry that should survive by competition, not being propped up by government intervention.

    See the problem with all the stuff you’re saying is that it only works for non-commercial needs (relying on massive government subsidies to do things that aren’t being done). Existing commercial companies and markets don’t need outside government help, because the natural market forces will take care of their needs.

    There is no established or forecasted need for launch capabilities larger than what is being provided by the commercial launch industry.

  • common sense

    @ William Mellberg wrote @ June 15th, 2011 at 3:03 pm

    I am not sure why Dr. Schmitt’s proposal would be viable in any way when it appears (?) to be quite dramatic. Why would anyone support something so drastic? Not sure. Why does he not support commercial space then? Or does he? I will admit that I am not following the reasoning behind this. If NASA is to support commercial space then we should dismantle NASA? Is that it? Hmm. I would not necessarily be opposed to it but why? And why would it be better?

    Personally I can see a strong reorg at NASA, which I suspect has already started. A more nimble NASA, NACA like if you will. But why a dedicated agency to exploration, which I assume human (I haven’t read the proposal yet)?

    I suspect that if such an entity ever emerges it will be in the distant (?) future.

  • Dennis Berube

    Flim Flam, whether you give NASA a new name or whatever, it will still be government based. Just keep NASA as NASA and lets move on into deep space. Newt needs to return to his pond, and would certainly never get my vote, should he win he nomination (which I doubt). None of these candidates are futuristic in their assessments. None, and Obummer in the WH, isnt a forward thinker either. Neither side, demos nor repubs, have a clear plan ahead for anything. We need to get out of that foreign war, and take care of ourselves here in America. No more bolstering up other countries and their governments with our money. We continually buy our friends, and that is the only reason they are our friends.

  • amightywind

    RGO wrote:
    Project Mercury did not have to build the booster

    Great point. But it is an argument against SpaceX’s vertical integration. Every part on a Falcan9/Dragon has been implemented in superior fashion elsewhere.

  • William Mellberg

    Common Sense wrote:

    “I am not sure why Dr. Schmitt’s proposal would be viable in any way when it appears (?) to be quite dramatic. Why would anyone support something so drastic? Not sure. Why does he not support commercial space then? Or does he? I will admit that I am not following the reasoning behind this. If NASA is to support commercial space then we should dismantle NASA? Is that it? Hmm. I would not necessarily be opposed to it but why? And why would it be better?”

    “Common sense” suggests that one should read Dr. Schmitt’s statements (you admit that you haven’t) before questioning or criticizing his proposals. On the surface, dismantling NASA does sound rather dramatic. But it’s no more dramatic or drastic than combining NACA and the Army Ballistic Missile Agency to create NASA in 1958, or turning the United States Army Air Forces into the United States Air Force in 1947 (as Dr. Schmitt has noted). Creating a new space agency dedicated solely to the exploration of deep space (as cited in Schmitt’s proposed NSEA Charter) simply restructures America’s space program to fit the changing roles of government and the private sector. Dr. Schmitt is basically acknowledging the emerging dominance of commercial space in Low Earth Orbit. And he is focusing the government’s role on the exploration and development of space beyond LEO. There is no need for NASA as it currently exists under that new reality. Which is why Schmitt also proposes that some of NASA’s current functions be turned over to other agencies. For example, Aeronautics would be the responsibility of a recreated NACA (as mentioned in my earlier post). These changes would serve to focus and energize America’s space program.

    But again, why don’t you read Dr. Schmitt’s statement and his booklet before commenting on his proposals? Although I have the honor and pleasure of working with Dr. Schmitt, I do not speak for him. His words, not mine, are the ones you ought to be reading:

    http://americasuncommonsense.com/blog/category/science-engineering/space-policy/4-new-proposal-for-nasa/

    One last point regarding your question about Dr. Schmitt and commercial space.

    He serves on the board of Orbital Sciences Corporation. Needless to say, he supports the emergence of commercial space and its role in developing the New Frontier. As I mentioned previously, he makes that point very clear in his book, Return to the Moon. But Dr. Schmitt also recognizes the separate role that government needs to play in blazing the trail into deep space. The creation of a National Space Exploration Administration would acknowledge those differing roles.

    I

  • common sense

    @ William Mellberg wrote @ June 15th, 2011 at 4:42 pm

    ““Common sense” suggests that one should read Dr. Schmitt’s statements (you admit that you haven’t) before questioning or criticizing his proposals. ”

    Is this supposed to bring anything to the conversation? I will read when I have the time or interest. Anyway…

    What you must understand though is that if you use the same people in any organization NASA or otherwise you will get the same results. If you keep the same customer, Congress, you will get the same results. This is why I haven’t read the proposal just yet. Unless it does tell how new people will be brought in. Do you know why SpaceX hires people fresh out of school? Not only, but essentially. Why they only use few experienced people? And I mean “few” with regard to the number of young engineers. Do you? You can call BMW a Chevy, it stays a Chevy.

    So far his, Schmitt’s, support of commercial has not impressed me and I feel very few of us. But we’ll see.

  • William Mellberg

    Common Sense wrote:

    “What you must understand though is that if you use the same people in any organization NASA or otherwise you will get the same results.”

    If you would actually read Dr. Schmitt’s statement before criticizing his proposals, you’d find that it answers most of the questions you’ve raised. That was the point of my comment about “common sense.” It makes no sense to criticize something you haven’t read.

    Dr. Schmitt’s proposal directly answers your point above:

    “To organize and manage the start-up of NSEA, experienced, successful, and enthusiastic engineering program and project managers should be recruited from industry, academia, and military and civilian government agencies. NSEA must be given full authority to retire or rehire former NASA employees as it sees fit and to access relevant exploration databases and archives. An almost totally new workforce must be hired and NSEA must have the authority to maintain an average employee age of less than 30. (NASA’s current workforce has an average age over 47.) Only with the imagination, motivation, stamina, and courage of young engineers, scientists, and managers can NSEA be successful …”

  • common sense

    @ William Mellberg wrote @ June 15th, 2011 at 5:35 pm

    “It makes no sense to criticize something you haven’t read.”

    You know I am not sure where I criticized what he or you wrote. I did ask questions and did admit I had not had time to read. So? Do you think that this passive-agressive attitude is making you gain support? I thought you once worked in the business world? Is it the way you actually tried to convince people to buy your products?

    Weird.

  • common sense

    @ William Mellberg wrote @ June 15th, 2011 at 5:35 pm

    “An almost totally new workforce must be hired and NSEA must have the authority to maintain an average employee age of less than 30. ”

    Now about that above. Is it legal for a government agency “to maintain an average employee age of less than 30″? So basically you are promoting a federal agency that discriminates on the age of its employees? Not very subtle now is it?

    Weird.

  • Robert G. Oler

    DCSCA wrote @ June 15th, 2011 at 2:31 pm
    “. Kraft was correct based on past performance of the MR system, MA system in the 1960-62 time frame. But if you’re advocvating commerical HSF go operational with a 40%– even a 30% or 25% chance of failure, go for it.”

    I dont know how kraft used the statistic concerning the Uncrewed launches of Mercury Atlas, but how you are implying he used it and how you are using it is goofy.

    The ATLAS booster had by the time NASA got hold of it for Mercury an actual high 80′s (or higher) non test prototype record and that record was getting better. The MA uncrewed shots were directly related to integrating the Mercury capsule on a proven booster and at least one of the two failures was related to that (the other was a kind of “common” Atlas problem).

    Atlas would not have been used by Mercury nor would have been carrying “the specials” as long as it had a 40 percent (or even 60 percent) success rate. The only real major “missile” weapon system that was deployed with that low a failure rate in its test phase…was the missiles that bush the last stuck in the holes at Fort Greeley to claim that there was a sort of viable (but its not in any event) ABM system.

    There certainly were “heroic” things about the Mercury effort but a 40 percent failure rate is suicidal and would not have been tolerated.

    In any event Falcon 9 has a 100 percent to orbit success rate. So not sure what you keep bringing up this stat for.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    William Mellberg wrote @ June 15th, 2011 at 5:35 pm

    “. An almost totally new workforce must be hired and NSEA must have the authority to maintain an average employee age of less than 30. ”

    that is not only illegal it is goofy Sorry it is just goofy It assumes that a very young workforce alone is something of value. Put one Jeff Hanley at the top and all the 20 somethings will fall right in line.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    amightywind wrote @ June 15th, 2011 at 4:11 pm

    RGO wrote:
    Project Mercury did not have to build the booster

    You replied:
    Great point. But it is an argument against SpaceX’s vertical integration. Every part on a Falcan9/Dragon has been implemented in superior fashion elsewhere…

    that is goofy the fact that Mercury Atlas did not have to build the booster has no relationship to vertical integration. And nothing on a Falcon9/Dragon has been implement in a superior fashion in terms of cost anywhere else.

    Figure out why SWA can fly “the pig” for less money then American Airlines and yet pay its pilots and cabin crew the industry leader…and you will have learned something.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Coastal Ron: “The development cost, which is significant, is not covered, which means that under your plan it is effectively a 100% government subsidy.”

    Look everyone in the space industry is subsidized one way or the other, including SpaceX with CCDev, CCDev+ and a CRS contract that is only slightly better the STS $/kg only without the crew, without large sized cargo and without down mass. What SpaceX did is not hard to understand. They basically factored the lucrative CRS contract in order to privately capitalize the business. It’s done all the time. So sorry to burst everyone’s bubble but SpaceX is not the Space equivalent of the second coming. And don’t get me started with ULA.

    Regardless, the official Space policy remains ‘subsidy’ of the for profit launch businesses because without them the government would be forced into the arsenal approach due to national security interests. The current policy was seen as stepping stone towards full commercialization but that hasn’t panned out so well. Some people say launch cost is barrier to the wider commercial utilization of Space. I say hey why not find out if it is or not, especially if it cost the taxpayer ‘zero’ dollars over what national security requires?

    So if the SLS (or insert largely supported government launch system here) will exist with or without ‘commercial’ sales then assigning any of the fixed costs to a ‘commercial’ user is in fact a reverse subsidy. I’m simply suggesting that we remove this tax on commercial users to hopefully help kick start that other 80% of the space business that has nothing to do with launch systems.

    The key thing to remember is there is no net cost increase for the additional launch to the US taxpayer. A true subsidy always increases the cost to the taxpayer. Get it? All the examples you gave increases cost to the taxpayer.

    Coastal Ron: “We don’t lack for larger launchers. Ariane 5 only launches commercial satellites as dual launches (two at a time), so the commercial satellite industry has always had the capability to build and launch satellites twice as big as they have today.”

    You keep forgetting the important role of density and diameter. These absolutely drive the cost of some (not all) spacecraft missions. Especially true for mission that want to achieve more than just a rerun of the last fifty years. What we have is a first mover problem. The capabilities of the existing launch systems and spacecraft design are not done in isolation. If the SLS existed you would see a shift to use it. Not a large shift in terms of quantity given that many current applications are adequately addressed using existing launch systems, just the breakthrough ones.

    Major Tom: “To be blunt, it doesn’t matter what your numbers are because that’s not what Congress has authorized and is appropriating for SLS.”

    Agreed, I’m simply pointing out that a world without SLS but with NASA will save you at most $7 billion in development costs while destroying about $30 billion of perfectly good space hardware, worker experience and infrastructure. All to be built up from scratch again by new contractors with different badges in some different form many uncertain funding cycles from now. And at the end of rainbow we will have once again created another for profit semi-commercial TBTF monopoly with lots and lots of lobbyists in key districts with ever increasing costs that I’m sure a Major Tom not yet born will advocate the destruction of in order to chase whatever the new shiny toy is. All the while the taxpayers are fleeced over and over again destroying and rebuilding the same basic stuff over and over again and we can look forward to 100 years of doing the same stuff.

    Look, I’m no fan of TBTF and non-value added stuff which is clearly the intent of the supporters of SpaceX and “Commercialization” (read limited FUBAR from NASA). My point is that maybe just maybe this time (unlike Apollo) we can save the baby while throwing out the bath water?

    Frankly I’m glad SpaceX is out their trying their best to make something work because I fear NASA hasn’t learned its lesson from CxP disaster. To this day many do not understand the serious budgetary and time limits that must be achieved in order for the SLS and them to survive.

    Too many still have dreams that can’t possible be funded all the while losing sight of the advancement possible just by repurposing what we already have.

  • common sense

    @Robert G. Oler wrote @ June 15th, 2011 at 5:55 pm

    I will even accept the idea that what Schmitt was trying to do is to actually suggest what the agency “must” or “should” do. The real question I asked but did not get an answer to is “how”. Assume it is legal, how in heck do they plan to do what they claim? I hinted at SpaceX to see whether William had an idea but it seems he does not.

    So to me without even reading I sense one of those proposals like “we must do this and that”, “lunar base”, etc, without the “how” and the “why” answered yet again.

    Note that I would love to be wrong, but I doubt it, hence the “common sense” thing so often attacked by those who have nothing else to say.

    Whatever…

  • Roo Orbijett

    Robert Oler: when are you going to be on TV again? I want to call in and ask you what you think about something space-oriented.

  • Robert G. Oler

    http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewnews.html?id=1540

    Charlie is going to win this one…yet another crack in the wall

    “But while Congress’ first priority is facilitating development of the SLS described above as quickly as possible, it was never our intent to foreclose the possibility of utilizing competition, where appropriate. The 2010 NASA Authorization Act requires use of existing contracts, workforce and hardware, but it does so only “to the extent practicable.” Where competitive concepts can be brought to bear without impacting mission schedules or compromising system performance, it is incumbent upon NASA to explore them.

    I am concerned, therefore, that NASA is considering a Space Launch System architecture that relies on a booster system developed for the Space Shuttle.”

    guess who wrote it?

    Bet the shuttle huggers on DIRECT are pooping kittens now

    Another brick in the wall

    RGO

  • Martijn Meijering

    Increasing mass to GTO can also be done by using space tugs and fuel depots, neither of which requires a new launcher.

    Or with EOR like Constellation or DIRECT wanted, only with smaller stages and payloads. And that requires no new technology development.

  • common sense

    @ William Mellberg wrote @ June 15th, 2011 at 5:35 pm

    “Only with the imagination, motivation, stamina, and courage of young engineers, scientists, and managers can NSEA be successful …”

    Even though this statement has some truth I find it almost as empty as the “intangibles” argument. The secret again is how to recruit this workforce you describe. Where and how do think you can hire this ideal workforce? Just because you change the name of an organization? Let’s try another hint: leadership and delegation. Not only do you need the young engineers but they need to be led. The leader must be able to delegate as well. So in essence how long do you think it will take to turn NASA into… well hmmm SpaceX? Or Blue Origin? For example. What is it that makes NASA people young and old, along with major defense contractor people, leave their jobs for these places. What?

    It ain’t easy you know?

  • Martijn Meijering

    Everything else is just changing which contractor we write the Federal Government check to. Please forgive me for being a bit underwhelmed by the change.

    Heh, you simply object to someone else getting the check.

  • William Mellberg

    Common Sense wrote:

    “Is it legal for a government agency “to maintain an average employee age of less than 30″? So basically you are promoting a federal agency that discriminates on the age of its employees? Not very subtle now is it? Weird.”

    What is weird (or just plain dumb) is continually commenting on things you have not read, especially since Dr. Schmitt’s statements address each of the points you have raised.

    But in response to your comments above, may I remind you that the military “discriminates” on the basis of age. You don’t see very many 40- and 50-somethings in combat. Nor do you see very many 20- and 30-somethings as generals or admirals.

    With regard to NASA, the age factor and civil service rules, Dr. Schmitt wrote the following:

    “The enthusiasm, imagination and stamina of young men and women formed the heart and soul of Apollo.”

    [If memory serves me right, the average age of the engineers at NASA's Manned Spacecraft Center during the Apollo era was 28. Schmitt was 29 when he joined the first group of scientist-astronauts. -- WM]

    “Underfunding of Space Shuttle development and subsequent projects attempted by NASA, combined with civil service rules concerning employee tenure, prevented the continual rejuvenation of its employee base. In contrast to the early years of Apollo, the average age of employees began to increase year by year. There was a commensurate and natural decrease in the level of imagination and energy of the Agency, along with the departure of many top engineers and managers to other government agencies and the private and academic sectors. The embedded personnel and management issues that helped to create the post-Apollo problems also need to be addressed, quite possibly through special legislation to modify existing civil service rules as applied to NASA.”

  • Robert G. Oler

    The only way to interpret the letter above (by Senator Porkbarrel Shelby) is that he has gotten the word that there is not enough money to build a heavy lift thing that uses shuttle parts.

    His buddies at Lockmart and Boeing have suggested to him that the only way to have any work…is to toss ATK off the pole and try and get some version of heavy lift that is remotely affordable.

    Stephen…how does it feel to see the end times? LOL

    Robert G. Oler

  • William Mellberg

    Robert G. Oler wrote:

    “that is not only illegal it is goofy Sorry it is just goofy It assumes that a very young workforce alone is something of value.”

    A young workforce IS something of value. Young workers bring enthusiasm and imagination to the job. Just as importantly, they are willing to work long hours to get the job done. The average age of Wernher von Braun’s rocket team at Peenumunde was somewhere in their late 20s (as he was himself). Likewise, my dear friend Jim Floyd (now 96) had a very young team working with him at Avro Canada when they designed and built the C102 Jetliner in the late 1940s, and the CF-105 Arrow a few years later. (Several of Jim’s senior engineers migrated to NASA and the Apollo Program when they “old men” in their 30s.) Remember, we’re talking AVERAGE age. You still need older, more experienced managers. But a young workforce is a definite asset. I can still remember the long hours my own father put in during the Surveyor project in the early Sixties. I imagine they’re doing the same thing at SpaceX today.

    Further to Dr. Schmitt’s comments about the age factor, you should check out the new, updated edition of Walter Cunningham’s “The All-American Boys.” He also addresses this subject (and other problems within NASA) in the added chapters at the end of the book covering the Space Shuttle era. A thoughtful analysis and an excellent read.

  • But it is an argument against SpaceX’s vertical integration.

    It might be, if they hadn’t already done it for a trivial amount of money.

    Every part on a Falcan9/Dragon has been implemented in superior fashion elsewhere.

    This is nothing but unsubstantiated insanity.

  • Major Tom

    “Agreed, I’m simply pointing out that a world without SLS but with NASA will save you at most $7 billion in development costs while destroying about $30 billion of perfectly good space hardware, worker experience and infrastructure. All to be built up from scratch again by new contractors with different badges in some different form many uncertain funding cycles from now.”

    No, the Shuttle infrastructure and workforce doesn’t have to be built up again, and in fact, they have to be retired if NASA is going to afford BEO activities within its runout. If a SpaceX can give the taxpayer an SLS-class HLLV for less than $3 billion, there’s no reason to maintain an infrastructure and hardware that is ten times more expensive. If a SpaceX can run an HLLV operation with less than 2,000 employees, there’s no reason to keep a USA and its 8,000 employees. Less dramatic but similar comparisons can be made with EELV-derived HLLVs and ULA.

    FWIW…

  • Robert G. Oler

    William Mellberg wrote @ June 15th, 2011 at 7:04 pm

    Robert G. Oler wrote:

    “that is not only illegal it is goofy Sorry it is just goofy It assumes that a very young workforce alone is something of value.”

    you replied:
    A young workforce IS something of value. …

    a workforce including the managers need to be “young at heart” not just or only in age. Some of the best “bosses” I had when I was 20ish were near or at my age now…and they still had the drive for invention and innovation but it was tempered with the knowledge of tradition and their role was to balance the two ends of the seesaw. I like to think that I follow in their footsteps.

    NASA is an old workforce almost from the moment a 20 something joins it because of the folks who are now managers. Harrison is wrong in assigning some magic to an age…at least a physical one.

    Robert G. Oler

  • common sense

    @William Mellberg wrote @ June 15th, 2011 at 6:45 pm

    “What is weird (or just plain dumb) is continually commenting on things you have not read, especially since Dr. Schmitt’s statements address each of the points you have raised.”

    Wow, better by each post. Good for you to have the enlightened view of everything, unlike the dumb view I have: The $86B (or was it $86M?) lunar base. Now the dismantling of NASA by Dr. Schmitt. You’re right you clearly know what is dumb, or not. Good for you. I hope you’ll let us all know yours and Schmitt’s progress on each of those proposals you support.

    Whatever.

  • common sense

    @Robert G. Oler wrote @ June 15th, 2011 at 11:09 pm

    “a workforce including the managers need to be “young at heart” not just or only in age. Some of the best “bosses” I had when I was 20ish were near or at my age now…and they still had the drive for invention and innovation but it was tempered with the knowledge of tradition and their role was to balance the two ends of the seesaw. I like to think that I follow in their footsteps.”

    Yeah, precisely. Age is no factor whatsoever. I have seen all the spectrum of ages and it does not matter. I like the “young at heart” comment.

    “NASA is an old workforce almost from the moment a 20 something joins it because of the folks who are now managers. Harrison is wrong in assigning some magic to an age…at least a physical one.”

    He’s wrong because he thinks that all the under thirty crowd are like he was when he was young. He has lost contact with this reality. Those people like he probably was, most of them, are NOT in aerospace. Why? Because aerospace is old with an old mentality. It is slow moving and does not satisfy those who excell and like to be challenged. At least most places in aerospace. Take Constellation for example. What did they tell the youth? Let’s redo Apollo. Why? Because it’s all we know. Great reason. Sure to attract top notch individuals…

    Oh well…

  • Coastal Ron

    William Mellberg wrote @ June 15th, 2011 at 6:45 pm

    But in response to your comments above, may I remind you that the military “discriminates” on the basis of age. You don’t see very many 40- and 50-somethings in combat. Nor do you see very many 20- and 30-somethings as generals or admirals.

    You’re confusing a lot of issues, but most importantly what happens in the military stays in the military, whereas U.S. companies have to abide by “The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967“.

    If memory serves me right, the average age of the engineers at NASA’s Manned Spacecraft Center during the Apollo era was 28.

    There is no mystery here if you’ve been a hiring manager or business owner. If you need workers with the latest skills and knowledge typically they are on the young side, and I would imagine that was especially true back in the 60′s. The Apollo program was also expanding an industry that was still emerging out of the piston era, and still trying to figure out how rockets should work, so of course NASA had a young workforce.

    Oh, and according to NASA the average age of a NASA worker today is 47.3 years old, and has 18.2 years of service. Not the young workforce it had during it’s Apollo heyday…

  • Dennis Berube

    What is this talk of young workers. That is age discrimination people. Old people do good work too. Ive heard insurance companies are pushing for a younger workforce so they dont have to pay health care coverage. I cant believe the government would push for that. As to NASA and its heyday, we may never again see Apollo like times. Sad to say, but I still think relying on commercial at this early time, should be better thought over. Also paying Russia millions for a ride is rediculous.

  • Aremis Asling

    Stephen Metschan wrote @ June 15th, 2011 at 5:58 pm

    “Look everyone in the space industry is subsidized one way or the other, including SpaceX with CCDev, CCDev+ and a CRS contract that is only slightly better the STS $/kg only without the crew, without large sized cargo and without down mass”

    Am I reading this right? CCDev doesn’t have crew? Isn’t that what the second C stands for? And Dragon doesn’t have down mass? Without large-sized cargo compared to what?

    As to the subsidy piece, a much larger portion of SpaceX’s funds have come from Musk, Founder’s Fund, and (gasp) actual sales than government funding. True, it is still subsidized in one fashion or another, but it’s a far cry from the suggestion that taxpayers 100% bankroll a rocket and let the company keep the rocket and all rights to sell it at incremental cost to its customers. A fraction of a few hundred million is not the same as 100% of several tens of billions, though they are superficially both subsidies. Given that they both deliver the same result, $1000/kg launches, it’s hard to see how option 2 is the better deal.

  • Major Tom: “No, the Shuttle infrastructure and workforce doesn’t have to be built up again, and in fact, they have to be retired if NASA is going to afford BEO activities within its runout.”

    Retired as in destroyed? So destroying $30 Billion dollars of perfectly good hardware, worker experience and infrastructure is a way to save money? You know some fool said that bulldozing all the excess houses would be great way to help the housing market.

    Major Tom: “If a SpaceX can give the taxpayer an SLS-class HLLV for less than $3 billion, there’s no reason to maintain an infrastructure and hardware that is ten times more expensive. If a SpaceX can run an HLLV operation with less than 2,000 employees, there’s no reason to keep a USA and its 8,000 employees. Less dramatic but similar comparisons can be made with EELV-derived HLLVs and ULA.”

    Amen to that, the operative word is ‘if’. For government types not to adept at how businesses operate, claiming lower ‘government’ funded development cost and making it up with high margins on the operations pricing agreement is classic Government Business contracting bait and switch. Governments love a good cost shift when they see one. Exhibit A; CCDev(low cost)+CRS(high cost). You are aware the operational cost the Jupiter-130 based on three decades worth of ‘actual’ cost numbers is $1 Billion/year for two flights aren’t you? Even with those (you’ll bankrupt the nation) SRBs at each side. Or about $6.5K/kg. USA is on the record of offering the fly STS for $1.5 Billion/year two flights so $1 Billion is not stretch of the imagination.

    The success of SpaceX has been largely due to NASA staying the heck out of the way and this mechanism for cost shifting. Plus they have utilized shall we say a less process controls than typical in this industry. Process controls establish via the hard lessons of experience. Anyway more experienced companies could achieve a similar ‘miracle’ of cost reduction if given the chance to be out from under much of the non-value added micro-management from NASA just like SpaceX enjoyed. Ironically the companies with the most experience still receive the most micro-management while those with limited experience only have to show slight upgrades to their marketing literature to NASA once and while. Hey SpaceX where is the paper work that shows you torque any of these bolts down to the specification. Hands in air what document? Go figure.

  • Aremis Asling,

    it’s very easy to understand how SpaceX has lower development cost than the traditional contracts used to fund the majors;

    SpaceX founders did put some skin in the game, hats off for that, especially given the dismal record of startups in this industry.

    This in turn helped to attract some government funding for SpaceX with the primary policy driver being to hopefully produce a domestic competitor to ULA.

    VSE arrived and with the retirement of the STS the ISS needed resupply. So naturally the CRS contract was seen as way of leveraging off the policy initiative above. The price per kg to ISS was set at nearly the same cost $/kg as the STS in order to attract bids which it did.

    But here’s the funny thing. ULA a perfectly good organization capable of doing the job ‘wasn’t allowed to bid’. Why you ask? Because that would have defeated the whole purpose of the policy which was to gin up domestic competition for ULA.

    Elon goes out and factors off this lucrative CRS contract to raise the remaining capital to build up from Falcon 1 to Falcon 9.

    That and SpaceX cutting corners, accumulated inefficencies over the years within the more experienced majors, and NASA taking a hands off approach pretty much explain why SpaceX’s development costs a lower than typical. No miracle, no appeals to a personality cult, just plan common sense.

    Unfortunately folks like Major Tom have bought into belief that the difference in price is somehow related to a secret magical sauce that only Elon has. When in fact similar cost reductions are possible (in fact greater) by applying the ‘same’ policies to ‘existing’ hardware, workers and infrastructure operated by ‘experienced’ companies. Hopefully the risks were are taking by going with an inexperienced company won’t be on full display one day ‘after’ we have destroyed forever $30 billion of government assets in the name of saving money.

    Then again we destroyed the Apollo program in order to ‘save’ money in building a space station using the Space Shuttle. So fools appear to spring eternal.

    If the past predicts the future than thirty years from now after the Super Falcon is busting the budget some crazy guy will propose an RLV and the cycle will begin again.

  • Major Tom

    “Unfortunately folks like Major Tom have bought into belief that the difference in price is somehow related to a secret magical sauce that only Elon has.”

    Where did I say that? Don’t put words in other posters’ mouths.

    There’s no “secret sauce”. The SpaceX workforce numbers ~1,200. The ULA workforce numbers ~3,700, down from over 4,000 on the way to ~3,000. The USA workforce alone (not including ATK, P&WR, other Shuttle contractors and NASA civil servants that work Shuttle) is over 8,000.

    Falcons are substantially cheaper than EELVs because the Falcon technical base allows SpaceX to do what ULA does with two-thirds to three-fourths fewer mouths to feed. Falcons are way, way cheaper than SDLVs because the Falcon technical base allows SpaceX to do what USA does with seventh-eighths fewer mouths to feed (and more than that when the entire Shuttle workforce is included).

    “When in fact similar cost reductions are possible (in fact greater) by applying the ‘same’ policies to ‘existing’ hardware, workers and infrastructure operated by ‘experienced’ companies.”

    Similar cost reductions are not available. Even without the orbiter, you can’t run the Shuttle infrastructure with less than one-eighth of its former workforce. It simply can’t be done — the Shuttle technical base isn’t designed to be run that way.

    Unless you can show in detail how USA goes from 8,000 to less than 1,000 employees, with margin left over for similarly downsized ATK and PW&R workforces and practically no NASA civil servant workforce, you’re just making it up.

    “Hopefully the risks were are taking by going with an inexperienced company won’t be on full display one day ‘after’ we have destroyed forever $30 billion of government assets in the name of saving money.”

    Those “assets” are an unaffordable albatross. They have to be destroyed so that the bulk of NASA’s human space flight budget no longer has to go to maintaining an ETO launcher.

    “Then again we destroyed the Apollo program in order to ‘save’ money”

    We didn’t terminate Apollo to save money. We terminated Apollo because it was unaffordable (and because the program had served its purpose).

    The Shuttle infrastructure and workforce is unaffordable if we want to do something other than ETO transport within the foreseeable runout for NASA’s human space flight budget. We have to move to a much less labor-intensive ETO technical base so that some portion of that budget is available for BEO development and operations.

    FWIW…

  • common sense

    @ Coastal Ron wrote @ June 16th, 2011 at 12:40 am

    There is another thing that William does not (seem to) understand. It is one thing to hire a somewhat “young” workforce yet abiding by the law and it is a totally different thing to institute an age discrimination hiring system as suggested by Schmitt. These are two different, very different, things. One works within the law and requires a lot of imagination and creativity, the other one is just a mandate. Further and as Robert described well, it is not an “age” problem. It rather is a “young at heart” issue, no matter your age. I have seen 20 something in my life much less passionate about what they do than 60 something still going strong. So age on and of its own is not a good hiring standard. Any one who ever hired any one should (must?) know that. Any one who ever managed any thing should (must) know that. So what is the value of this proposal again?

    Oh well…

  • Coastal Ron

    Stephen Metschan wrote @ June 16th, 2011

    That and SpaceX cutting corners, accumulated inefficencies over the years within the more experienced majors, and NASA taking a hands off approach pretty much explain why SpaceX’s development costs a lower than typical. No miracle, no appeals to a personality cult, just plan common sense.

    Wow, what a load of horse pucky.

    I don’t know what your background is, but mine is in manufacturing, both at big DoD defense contractors, and small commercial manufacturing. I’ve also done internal startups at two large companies, so I have some relevant experience to share.

    For me it’s easy to see why SpaceX has been able to lower costs, and one of the few things you got right is when you said that it’s “common sense”. It’s the same type of common sense that applies to any successful company, and sometimes that’s hard to see from the outside.

    First of all it starts with good management, and since Elon has done this type of thing before, it’s not surprising that he’s built up a good management team. Next you have to have a good business plan, which includes the right products for the right market, and there again SpaceX has shown that they have made the right product guesses years before the market became apparent. Some of that is luck, but as Pasteur was quoted as saying, “Chance favors the prepared mind.” So it goes in business too.

    Regarding ULA’s bid for COTS/CRS – ULA can’t bid on payloads, since by corporate charter they are only a launch company (Boeing & LM joint venture). Both Boeing and Lockheed Martin did bid on COTS/CRS, but Boeing bid ESA’s ATV with Delta IV, and LM bid ATV & HTV with Atlas V. Those uninspired combinations did nothing to affect the current cost structures, and may have even cost more than having ESA and JAXA continue their deliveries, so why would NASA be enthusiastic about that?

    Which brings us back to having the right product for the market. SpaceX did (less expensive capsule with downmass capabilities), and Boeing & LM didn’t. Are you surprised by that?

    Hey SpaceX where is the paper work that shows you torque any of these bolts down to the specification.

    WTF is this supposed to mean? Why don’t you think they have internal policies, procedures and documentation? You know, they do hire professionals, and they’ve been successful in developing two launchers and one capsule – are you saying they are just lucky? That they passed all of their NASA audits by luck? Weird.

  • common sense

    @ Coastal Ron wrote @ June 16th, 2011 at 12:35 pm

    Stephen has discredited himself several times already.

    Don’t you know that SpaceX does not torque their bolts? They use highly skilled workers who do that by touch and feel. It’s an art, not engineering.

    This is all the arguments that the SLS groupies can come up with it seems.

    Whatever.

  • Coastal Ron

    common sense wrote @ June 16th, 2011 at 12:00 pm

    It rather is a “young at heart” issue, no matter your age.

    Agreed. In addition it’s a matter of showing your passion for your profession, and that is done by continuing your education, your work history (assignments you’ve completed), and how you help your profession at work and outside of it.

    Somehow you have to show prospective employers that you aren’t necessarily looking for a job, but a way to continue your passion.

  • Facts Ma'am

    VSE arrived and with the retirement of the STS the ISS needed resupply.

    VSE, and indeed Constellation, arrived well before COTS, and CRS followed after COTS milestones rapidly began to fall for both companies, and when it was apparent that Constellation wasn’t going to make any of its milestones.

    You could at least make a superficial effort to get some of your facts straight. WIKI it out if you are still unsure of the various program dates.

  • Major Tom: “Falcons are substantially cheaper than EELVs because the Falcon technical base allows SpaceX to do what ULA does with two-thirds to three-fourths fewer mouths to feed.”

    Falcons are not at production rate yet, ULAs birds are. Manufacturing 101 my friend. Hence the need for a SpaceX IPO in order to fully capitalize the tiger SpaceX has by the tail at this point. Long story short you’ll see the SpaceX employment numbers climb as they attempt to fulfill the orders they have. Assuming nothing unexpected happens that is. Again hats off to what SpaceX has done thus far but these apples vs oranges comparisons are getting tiring.

    I have to ask, are all you government types this naïve about how business works?

    Costal Ron,

    Look SpaceX has done some amazing things and Elon plus his highly skilled team are to be commended. When the shift in space policy was proposed almost nobody gave it chance in you no where that it would succeed. After all Space is no place for startups? But the difference between the cost structures of USA, ULA and SpaceX are not as different as they appear if all of them where operating under the same contracting ground rules, that’s all I’m saying.

    Second the lack of process control paper work ‘is’ a serious concern, the NASA SpaceX audits aren’t even close to what ULA and USA go through routinely both at the hands of their own internal folks and the government. Again maybe the majors have accumulated too much paper work and bureaucracy over the years and SpaceX has final achieved the correct balance? That was the whole point of the NASA hands off approach and restarting fresh with young company like SpaceX, it was all part of the new policy, get it? Less oversight=higher risk=lower cost.

    As a side note though I feel a lot safer letting loose of the controls on experienced companies like ULA and USA than SpaceX. Only time will tell though. You can bet that if SpaceX has an accident both their internal controls and NASA oversight will ratchet up an order of magnitude. Same thing that happened along the way with the older more experienced organizations as they had failures.

    Third, Concern ULA not being allowed to ‘win’ the bid on CRS is exactly what happened, whether you accept it or deny it is your choice. The policy logic as to why this was the case is also sound, though sound logic doesn’t’ appear to sway your opinion one way or the other.

    Here it is again, ‘Allowing’ ULA to win the bid would have defeated the whole point of trying to gin up competition for ULA.

  • Major Tom

    “Falcons are not at production rate yet, ULAs birds are.”

    Atlas V has launched 26 times over the past nine years. That’s less than three launches per year. Falcon 9 has launched twice in the past year, on top of Dragon production. For all intents and purposes, they’re at roughly equivalent production rates already.

    “I have to ask, are all you government types this naïve about how business works?”

    First, how do you know I’m a “government type”?

    Second, are all you SDLV types so desperate, full of insults, and willing to distort the truth?

    Ugh… take your crap elsewhere.

  • DCSCA

    @Robert G. Oler wrote @ June 15th, 2011 at 5:53 pm
    The man writes his memoirs and tells you the way it was when he did it from first hand knowledge and data for his time and 50 years on you decide he doesnt know what he did. THAT”S goofy, fella.

  • DCSCA

    “In any event Falcon 9 has a 100 percent to orbit success rate -”

    ROFLMAOPIP and it put WHO into orbit in WHAT that got them back safely?????????? LOL

  • William Mellberg

    Stephen Metschan wrote:

    “No miracle, no appeals to a personality cult …”

    “… a secret magical sauce that only Elon has.”

    Well said.

  • Coastal Ron

    Stephen Metschan wrote @ June 16th, 2011 at 7:44 pm

    Falcons are not at production rate yet, ULAs birds are. Manufacturing 101 my friend.

    A couple of points.

    The first is that SpaceX factors production ramp-up into their numbers, since they are selling product and services many years out. That is Manufacturing 101 my boy.

    The second is that Musk stated at the Falcon Heavy announcement that the company grew quite a bit over the past year or so, but that it was leveling out to concentrate on manufacturing. If you look at the SpaceX website you can even see what skills they are still hiring, which at this point is only about 40 people specifically for manufacturing. They’re good for another year or two until they start ramping up for Falcon Heavy and commercial crew, which brings in additional revenue to cover the ramp-up costs.

    But the difference between the cost structures of USA, ULA and SpaceX are not as different as they appear if all of them where operating under the same contracting ground rules, that’s all I’m saying.

    Believe what you want, but all I can tell you is that SpaceX doesn’t have legacy facilities, cost structures and other liabilities to worry about, and they are not doing full-up government contracting, which adds it’s own additional costs.

    A simple internet search concerning the COTS program explains how NASA views the difference, so maybe you should read up on that.

    Second the lack of process control paper work ‘is’ a serious concern

    Why do you keep bringing this up? Was this a dream you had, or is this something that has been documented? Document it or drop it.

    Third, Concern ULA not being allowed to ‘win’ the bid on CRS is exactly what happened, whether you accept it or deny it is your choice.

    It’s not me saying this, it’s Michael Gass, the ULA President & CEO. ULA only does launches. It’s parents (Boeing and Lockheed Martin) have their own divisions for selling payload services, which is what they did on the COTS bid.

    The internet is a wonderful tool – learn to use it so you stop looking so ignorant.

  • William Mellberg

    Stephen Metschan,

    I appreciate your thoughtful comments and your willingness to think about (and propose) alternative ideas and concepts. Your civility reflects your maturity and professionalism.

    I posted Harrison Schmitt’s proposal for a new space agency in the hope that it would generate some intelligent discussion — especially since it represents a thoughtful attempt to restructure America’s space program in a way that recognizes the differing goals of disparate groups.

    Some people have suggested that “commercial” space companies don’t need NASA … but NASA needs them. Schmitt’s plan would give those folks a chance to prove their point because there would be no NASA. Firms like SpaceX would have to stand on their own — relying purely on commercial contracts and private investors to keep them in business.

    Well … not exactly. Schmitt’s plan would also present opportunities for “commercial” space companies to work with the new NSEA in developing the rockets, spacecraft and infrastructure to support programs and missions in deep space (both human and robotic). But instead of being forced to choose one path or the other (or waiting for one path to become fully developed before pursuing the other), the United States and its international partners could be following two convergent paths at the same time. In other words, while commercial enterprises such as SpaceX and Bigelow are busy testing new hardware in Low Earth Orbit, NSEA would be laying the foundations for outposts on the Moon, visits to asteroids and missions to Mars. Much of NSEA’s early activities would no doubt employ robotic spacecraft to survey those destinations.

    Since Elon Musk has talked about “retiring on Mars,” I would think the “commercial” advocates would welcome Schmitt’s proposal … or at least find some common ground in it. His plan would keep the International Space Station operational throughout the decade. And it does not rule out the possibility of turning over the ISS to the private sector if commercial enterprises are willing and able to replace aging modules to keep it operating beyond 2020.

    I believe Harrison Schmitt’s new space agency would spark the imagination of a new generation of explorers — people who not only dream of seeing Earth from an orbiting spaceliner, but who also wonder: “What lies beyond?” As mission commander Mark Kelly said when Endeavour left the pad on its final flight, “It’s in the DNA of our great country to reach for the stars and explore. We must not stop.”

  • Dennis Berube

    I think that if Mr. Musk really wants t retire on Mars, he had better start gettng those rockets up there. The years go by rather fast, an before he knows it, he will be at retirement age, with no Mars base in sight…

  • Coastal Ron

    William Mellberg wrote @ June 17th, 2011 at 2:14 am

    Some people have suggested that “commercial” space companies don’t need NASA … but NASA needs them.

    I guess I’m not “some people”, since I’ve never suggested what you’re saying.

    What I want to see is NASA handing over routine work to the private sector, and have them stay out on the pointy end of technology development and exploration.

    For instance, there is no reason NASA needs to be it’s own transportation company – it has no inherent skill-sets that make it better than commercial equivalents, and in fact it lacks the skills and abilities to operate routine transportation in a cost-effective and safe way.

    Some of what I’m suggesting is along the lines of what Schmitt has suggested, but at this point I don’t see a NASA re-org as the first priority. I also don’t see it happening anytime soon, especially due to all the other national distractions that Congress and the Administration are dealing with. It would take an event relating to NASA to focus everyones attention, and those are kind of hard to predict in advance.

    Put his suggestions on the pile with all the other sincere suggestions.

    Since Elon Musk has talked about “retiring on Mars,” I would think the “commercial” advocates would welcome Schmitt’s proposal

    Where Elon Musk retires is not my concern. If we continuously lower the cost to access space then most of these issues we debate will go away. That’s where I put my efforts.

  • Dennis Berube

    The problem here again is our perception that space is routine work! As has been demonstrated time and again, it isnt. NASA over its existence has made it look easy with the miracles the agency has pulled off. That is the problem, because when a mistake was made it then cost lives. NASA of course takes the blame. I guess it is you younger generations that seem to have a problem with NASA and want to see it shut down. We dont need a new agency, just new leadership within. We need people to oversee that the budget is tightly adhered to, and companies made to stay within their bidding ranges. That should be law! NASA can and will if given the opportunity give us many more miracles in the future. If is the administrators that need to be corrected, and not NASA as a whole.

  • DCSCA

    Coastal Ron wrote @ June 17th, 2011 at 1:49 pm
    “Where Elon Musk retires is not my concern.”

    It is to him- because it’s part of his PT Barnum sales pitch. The only Mars he’ll be retiring at is a pleasant hamlet named Mars, Pernnsylvania.

  • Coastal Ron

    DCSCA wrote @ June 17th, 2011 at 5:59 pm

    It is to him

    Again you demonstrate reading comprehension – whatever good or bad things I think about Musk or SpaceX is not influenced by his desire to travel to other planets.

    My only concern is whether SpaceX is lowering the cost to access space. Development of vacation destinations will soon follow if costs are lowered far enough, but they will never happen if costs stay at current levels.

    because it’s part of his PT Barnum sales pitch

    You seem to be oblivious to the world you live in – it’s filled with advertising and “forward looking statements”. If you’re having problems discerning fact from fiction, or in this case personal goals from corporate ones, then I suggest you seek counseling.

    And regarding the PT Barnum angle, you’re also apparently oblivious to the fact that SpaceX only gets paid for what they do on a contract, not what they say or attempt to do, which is the complete opposite of what Barnum did (he took people’s money before they saw the show).

    You know, I was serious when I said you need to get out more – those stale NASA Apollo manuals you read every night are affecting your perception of the world…

  • Anthony F

    They are wrong, historically government have lead the way exploration wise and companies have followed right behind the government chartered explorers. Columbus was funded by the Spanish government to explore he RE-discovered the Americas and companies like the Virginia Company came in and began transporting people to the Americas to support colonization. This is like NASA going beyond low Earth orbit to Luna or Mars and companies providing transport to low Earth orbit to support colonies.

  • Anthony F

    Sorry, should be “government has lead the way . . .”

  • Lee Chero

    Robert Zubrin is the architect of the first plausible Design Reference Mission for Mars.

    Newt Gingrich met with Zubrin in 1994…..

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