Congress, NASA

Olson promising new plan for space exploration

Rep. Pete Olson (R-TX) kept his statement Thursday about the end of the final shuttle mission largely apolitical, thanking those who worked on the program and promising that it is “by no means the end of human space flight”. However, in an op-ed published Friday in POLITICO and co-authored by former astronaut Walt Cunningham, he is more pointed in his criticism of the administration’s space policy. “President Barack Obama shifted NASA policy away from human spaceflight,” they write of the administration’s move to cancel Constellation and support development of commercial crew capabilities, adding that “NASA’s plan for deep space exploration… leaves them without a specific destination and timetable. Really, without a mission.” (The administration has set some destinations and deadlines, including a human NEO mission by 2025 and Mars orbit by the mid-2030s, but these have been often criticized as vague or too far into the future.)

Cunningham and Olson devote some attention to NASA’s commercial crew initiative, saying it diverts “billions of dollars to a group of companies – most devoid of experience in manned space vehicles”. “We don’t believe that a private market capable of supporting a low-earth orbit system, independent of government, exists in the near-term. If it did, it wouldn’t need government support,” they write, concluding that “Space exploration is likely to continue to be a government-sponsored mission for the foreseeable future – if the U.S. is to retain its preeminence in space.”

While these criticisms of the agency’s plans are hardly original, they do add something new. “In coming weeks we, with others committed to the HSF [human spaceflight] program, will offer a more detailed plan to return to flight,” they state. They don’t disclose exactly when that plan will be released, but do offer some key elements of it:

•Spell out a coherent HSF mission, goal and timeline for the next 20 years. Manned missions to the Moon, and then Mars, should be part of this timeline.

•Return to the earlier NASA model of success: Adopt best practices to reform contracting, foster better communication between centers, eliminate activities not essential for space exploration and clear away bureaucracy.

•Assess the near-term potential and costs for commercial space companies to support both cargo and manned LEO missions to better understand the potential investment required by private investors, and the degree it may free NASA resources to focus on the deep-space mission.

•Make a quick decision on a heavy launch system and the necessary related technologies.

They don’t state what they will do with the plan once they release it other than a goal for “a long-term strategy, with specific policies, led and endorsed by Congress”.

178 comments to Olson promising new plan for space exploration

  • Michael Listner

    The plan should have been to have a definitive plan in place before the space shuttle’s last flight. As it is, the ball is now in the Russian’s court and they are going to be loath to give it back.

  • Return to the earlier NASA model of success: Adopt best practices to reform contracting, foster better communication between centers, eliminate activities not essential for space exploration and clear away bureaucracy.

    Yes, that always works.

    As it is, the ball is now in the Russian’s court and they are going to be loath to give it back.

    We don’t have to hope they “give it back.” We can take it back, and quickly, if we stop wasting money on rockets to nowhere and start funding their actual competition.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Pete has been a disappointment. He is essentially a corporate shill. this op ed has one flaw after another and one logic bomb after another. Robert G. Oler (lives in 22)

  • Doug Lassiter

    “NASA’s plan for deep space exploration… leaves them without a specific destination and timetable. Really, without a mission.”

    The fact that NASA human space flight doesn’t have a specific destination and timetable is precisely because it doesn’t have a mission. It doesn’t have a mission because there is little agreement on what is actually important for human space flight to accomplish. Is it about racing? Is it about science? Is it about species preservation? Is it about resource development? No, “all of the above” isn’t credible rationale, because each of these are best done in different ways. Of course, this promising new plan is based on “space exploration”. As usual, the proponents don’t have a clue about what that phrase really means.

    The most interesting part of this plan will be where they “spell out a coherent HSF mission”. I have an open mind, but I suspect that this coherent mission will again just be to run the “exploration” word up the flagpole and watch it flap.

    It occurs to me that the most potent form of exploration now being tested is the commercial gambit. That is, having commercial enterprise take a major role in defining space flight development. Basing this development on consumer interest is exciting and very new. Sure, it’s risky, and it’s hard, but there is some good chance that big rewards will follow, in terms of space access. It’s a real challenge for our nation, of which these commercial ventures are very much a part. Much more so than putting boots back on the Moon. We have real leadership here. No one else can do this, really. We have a national tradition of entrepreneurship that China doesn’t have. That entrepreneurship is “in our genes” a lot more than is putting feet on distant rocks. Yes, there is a government role here. That’s in nurturing these explorers in the interest of national goals.

  • CharlesHouston

    As a supporter of Pete’s opponent, Nick Lampson…

    Pete certainly does have a good point that a lot of money is being given to companies to develop capabilities that we are simultaneously retiring. SpaceX in particular seems to have done well but does their business model work, or will they turn out to be another government contractor? Boeing has long experience in this field but will they actually be able to sell to anyone except the government?

    If we just wanted to retire the Shuttle and go fly on Atlas or Delta, we could have just declared that the plan and done it. Now we have operators that can come, and go, as Rocket Plane Kistler did. Have we actually changed or do we just claim to have?

  • Mark Whittington

    Actually Olson’s assessment of commercial space and private markets is about the same as John Elbon of Boeing:

    http://news.yahoo.com/boeing-explains-why-needs-government-subsidies-build-commercial-193900723.html

    He is not rejecting commercial space out of hand, only calling for a more realistic view of its prospects. One suspects that whatever plan arises will be the basis of a space policy for the next president.

  • Major Tom

    Olson’s statements and plan are contradictory and incoherent. On one hand he states that he doesn’t “believe that a private market capable of supporting a low-earth orbit system… exists”. Then in his plan for a plan, he wants to “Assess the near-term potential and costs for commercial space companies to support both cargo and manned LEO missions to better understand the potential investment required by private investors, and the degree it may free NASA resources to focus on the deep-space mission.” So which is it? Does a market worth examining and leveraging exist or not?

    It’s also hard to see how Olson’s plan for a plan differs from the Administration’s plan in any significant way. In addition to pursuing commercial cargo and crew, Olson wants to set “goal [sic] and timeline for the next 20 years”, incluidng “manned missions to the Moon, and then Mars”. The President has explicitly set a Mars goal 20 years out, and the Augustine Committee option on which the Administration’s plan is based had human lunar missions. So, even setting aside Olson’s incoherency, what exactly would we get with Olson’s plan for a plan that we’re not getting with the Administration’s plan? What exactly is Olson proposing that’s different? Or is he just using empty rhetoric to look strong to voters back home?

    FWIW…

  • Coastal Ron

    Michael Listner wrote @ July 23rd, 2011 at 9:52 am

    The plan should have been to have a definitive plan in place before the space shuttle’s last flight.

    The plan since Bush/Griffin FY2006 has been to get Commercial Crew going, but Griffin and Congress never pushed it. Griffin got Commercial Cargo going, so I give him credit for that, but he did nothing for crew.

    As it is, the ball is now in the Russian’s court and they are going to be loath to give it back.

    Actually relatively nothing has changed. We’ve always been dependent on the Russians to keep our crew at the ISS, since the Shuttle could only stay in space for two weeks max. The Shuttle could temporarily add people, and it could exchange crew members, but without the Russians we could not keep the ISS occupied.

    And as Rand points out, all we have to do is accelerate the CCDev program, and we could have two or more modern LEO transportation systems that carry more than twice what the Soyuz can, for the same price/seat or far less.

    Congress is being very shortsighted here, or more likely, politics is the root cause.

  • common sense

    Why is it that former Apollo astronauts – of whom we haven’t heard in about 40 years or so – suddenly are so adamant about a “plan” for HSF? Where were these people in 2004? Where were they when Griffin took over and pretty much ruined all the intents of the VSE? Why are they so bent on discrediting a president that actually tried to correct an ongoing financial catastrophe? Why are they so hell bent against commercial firms, US commercial firms accessing space?

    To be a true patriot today means we have to go against US entrepreneurial spirit? That we must bankrupt NASA and the US government for fantasies of grandeur?

    What the heck is happening to these people?!

  • Music to my ears!

    I would love for a market to open up that could fund a major commercial manned space market, independent of NASA. Something along the lines of a He 3 breakthrough, or a very low-cost 100% reusable crew launch technology.

    However, situations being what they are, taxpayers are going to be paying almost all of the bills. And while that is the case, spaceflight hardware and services should be tailored to the requirements of NASA and DOD. NASA missions should not be required to be shoe-horned into the limited capabilities of whatever happens to catch the momentary fancy of a few newspace startups…

  • VirgilSamms

    “billions of dollars to a group of companies – most devoid of experience in manned space vehicles”. “We don’t believe that a private market capable of supporting a low-earth orbit system, independent of government, exists in the near-term. If it did, it wouldn’t need government support,” they write, concluding that “Space exploration is likely to continue to be a government-sponsored mission for the foreseeable future –”

    No “flaws” or “logic bombs” there. Only the truth and of course it hurts.

  • Googaw

    Rand, “rockets to nowhere” is certainly an apt phrase for orbital HSF, but it’s important to observe that the original Bridge to Nowhere in Alaska would still have been a boondoggle if it was done under a fixed price “commercial” contract with the window dressing that the contractor would get to own the bridge and charge tolls to the scarce private travelers to nowhere. The result would still have been that most of the contractors’ revenues would come from the government contract, not from anything resembling a free market, and the taxpayers would quite disproportionately come out the losers.

    The case of orbital HSF is even worse: a reasonable estimate is that in the future as in the past, 99% or more of the revenues will come from the NASA contracts, while less than 1% have or will from the “tolls” charged to private travelers to the nowhere.

  • Googaw

    Major Tom, there’s no contradiction in what Olson is saying. He’s pointing out what is obvious to everybody but hopeless daydreamers, namely that the only significant “market” for these “commercial” orbital HSF proposals is NASA itself.

    Of course, given that Olson is admitting there is no sustainable market for orbital HSF, and presumably he knows that the Cold War has long since become history, one does wonder what his justification for taxpayer funding for Celestial Pilgrimages in Big Rockets actually is. Apparently the implicit justification, Government Jobs for My District, is all that is required.

  • DCSCA

    Olson and Cunningham. Now there’s a pair of deuces for you. Neither are JFK. Neither are going to inspire let alone plan, reorganize or reinvigorate America’s space program in this economic environment. Leaving aside the pols in districts with directly affected economies like Clear Lake or Titusville, the Apollo veterans are a little late to the game in this as any kind of unified voice. And they were the face of the manned space program Americans recognize best. But they’re old men now. And the aging Walt Cunningham isn’t exactly a heavy hitting ‘name player’ from the club. His one flight, Apollo 7, 43 years ago in October, ’68 (he is also the last surviving crew member,) was earth orbital and a CSM shakedown cruise w/no LM. To space enthusiasts he is known but to the general public much less so; his flight a footnote to history. He did pen one of the early ‘tell all’ books, ‘The All-American Boys,’ but that’s about it. Sure, folks will listen politely, but nobody really cares what Walt has to say these days. They’d assess Tom Wolfe’s take on it all with greater appeal.

    The Apollo era folks gave it their last, best shot trying to save Constellation– to no avail. Even Glenn tried. (No doubt the 50th anniversary of his Mercury flight in February, 2012 will be bittersweet, too– and to this generation it will be a curiosity at best.) Their effort fell on the deaf ears of a new generation, NewSpace et al., who never experienced their accomplishments first hand and know nothing of it today outside of popculture. Their perspective now is simply out of sync with the economics of our times.

    The voices that did matter have made their positions known in a sporadic and scattered fashion– often conflicting as well; in vain letters, op-eds or agitated cable news appearances (Cernan excels at that) or been strangely muted. Some were just very late to the game, like Armstrong. With all due respect to Walt, NASA needed Armstrong to step up to the plate more over the years. To be sure, when called by respected authorities he has made himself available and his consistent views known– but to a select crowd. But he has seldom shown any initiative in matters very public for space. It’s not his cup of tea. Even Lindbergh, who Armstrong has tried to use as a rough template for his fame, went to bat for aviation– and for Goddard as well. Armstrong is quite articulate and consistent on matters space related, but his reticent, professorial demeanor doesn’t play well in the combative arena of the media, where persuasion is played these days. Cernan carries the ball in there. Armstrong has always measured Apollo in the context of a chapter in the evolution of aviation. So it has been left to fellows like Tom Hanks- and even Stephen Colbert- to be the vocal combatants advocating HSF.

    To be sure, Kraft, Kranz, Lunney, Lovell, Schmitt, Scott, Cernan, Borman, Anders lent their names to op-eds and ‘letters’ but they fell on deaf ears to a new generation outside of the space community footing the bills now. They know little of these individuals and their accomplishments other than as characters in films like ‘Apollo 13′ or in TV mini-series– or as Aldrin did– reintroduced himself to a new generation as an aging dancer on a TV show.

    Soon after Apollo 8 returned back in December, ’68, the crew gave a speech to a Joint Session of Congress and not long after, appeared on NBC News’ ‘Meet The Press.’ Borman was asked if the space program was worth the estimated $24 billion cost and in his response, he likened it to ‘technical life insurance’ for the United States. Today, it’s clear the U.S. simply can no longer afford the premiums to pay for the policy.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Major Tom wrote @ July 23rd, 2011 at 12:54 pm
    “Or is he just using empty rhetoric to look strong to voters back home?”

    That is Olson’s style. There was a recent controversy here in Houston at a VA cemetery where a volunteer group was claiming hat its first amendment rights were being violated by the person in charge of the VA here. Olson jumped on the issue as quick as a cat running to tuna, not having investigated it much or even really looked into it other then the story told by the “volunteer” groups. Turns out he had been pretty much “had” by the volunteers…the situation was no where near as described and there has yet to be identified a case where the limitations on the groups efforts were not at the behest of the relatives of the deceased.

    http://blog.au.org/2011/07/22/texas-tall-tale-va-lays-to-rest-religious-right-distortions-about-cemetery-censorship/

    As the op ed indicates Olson has little or no knowledge of actual space politics or policy. That is a sad thing. And he has not taken any opportunity to actually learn something other then embracing some former Apollo people.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    Nelson Bridwell wrote @ July 23rd, 2011 at 2:58 pm

    “However, situations being what they are, taxpayers are going to be paying almost all of the bills”

    then the taxpayers should actually get something for their money. Instead of 12-15 billion and all I got was this crummy sub orbital test that was meaningless.

    Or do you think that Cx had some value? It cost twice what the entire Gemini program did, more then the R&D and building of the first Ford CVN…and that produced a flattop

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    Mark Whittington wrote @ July 23rd, 2011 at 12:52 pm
    ” One suspects that whatever plan arises will be the basis of a space policy for the next president.”

    why would “one” suspect that? You have not even read the effort, the effort already has major inconsistencies in it…and worse none of the potential “next Presidents” have seem to indicated that they think that there needs to be a new “space policy”? There is no dollars “behind” whatever the policy is going to be…if it happens at all.

    Is this however just wishful thinking on your part? Another “50,000 troops can take Iraq” moment?

    Gee Mark you use to be a serious policy person, now all you are is an Anti Obama shill RGO

  • Coastal Ron

    Nelson Bridwell wrote @ July 23rd, 2011 at 2:58 pm

    I would love for a market to open up that could fund a major commercial manned space market, independent of NASA.

    You and others have the same inability to connect the dots on how high-investment markets get going – someone has to foot the bill to be the first.

    In this case it’s NASA for the ISS, since without commercial crew we’ll continue to be dependent on the Russians at ever increasing prices (i.e. whatever the market will bear).

    After commercial crew services are established (i.e. certified by NASA), then anyone can contract with the commercial companies to test out new business models in LEO. The barrier to entry is much lower and less risky.

    We already know that Bigelow has identified seven countries that want to lease his BA-330 space habitats, so all that’s needed is the transportation system. But Bigelow has said he won’t start up until there are two or more transportation providers, and he won’t fund them, so that still leaves NASA to be the leader.

    But I don’t understand what the beef is here. The U.S. Government has a long history will being the initial investor for lots of transportation systems, and in the end the U.S. Taxpayer ends up benefiting directly and indirectly. Transportation to LEO will be the same, so I don’t understand people’s reluctance, especially when they don’t like using the Russians. Is there a lower cost alternative that we’re missing?

  • E.P. Grondine

    Excuse me once again, but the President set out a goal – a manned flight to an asteroid. If you disagree with this goal, you still have to acknowledge that it exists. As I mentioned before, just because a goal does not agree with your goal, that does not mean that it does not exist.

    This statement and all others like it are prime examples of cognitive dissonance.

    The two companies mentioned both have engineers with years of experience in manned spaceflight systems.

    As far as the launch companies go, think of them as a Bic (SpaceX), Zippo (ULA), and a Ronson electronic ignition refillable butane (USA).

    After ATK’s last maneuver, the SLS will be announced after the debt/budget negotiations are done.

  • vulture4

    This article is completely incoherent. The authors want small government and tax cuts, yet they attack Obama for not pouring almost unlimited amounts of money into Constellation. Where would this money come from, would we borrow it from China? Why didn’t they mention the obvious underfunding of Constellation, as McCain did in 2004? The cancellation of Shuttle and all reusables? The lack of any conceivable practical benefit from “Apollo on Steroids”?

  • Griffin got Commercial Cargo going, so I give him credit for that

    Don’t. The White House forced him to do it.

  • vulture4

    Nelson Bridwell wrote @ July 23rd, 2011 at 2:58 pm

    “NASA missions should not be required to be shoe-horned into the limited capabilities of whatever happens to catch the momentary fancy of a few newspace startups…”

    “newspace startups” like, for example, Boeing? Or SpaceX, which has more actual commercial satellites on its launch manifest than have been launched from US soil in the past decade?

  • Gee, how come the defenders of porking status quo always trot out Apollo astronauts? Can’t they find anyone of relevance to a program that flew in the last forty years to defend their porking?

    Olson is irrelevant. He will be ignored by his colleagues in Congress who have better things to do.

  • William Mellberg

    Common Sense wrote:

    “Why is it that former Apollo astronauts – of whom we haven’t heard in about 40 years or so – suddenly are so adamant about a plan for HSF? Where were these people in 2004? Where were they when Griffin took over and pretty much ruined all the intents of the VSE? Why are they so bent on discrediting a president that actually tried to correct an ongoing financial catastrophe? Why are they so hell bent against commercial firms, US commercial firms accessing space?”

    Maybe you hadn’t heard from them “in about 40 years or so,” but that doesn’t mean they were missing in action, as your comments suggest. Harrison Schmitt was Chair of the NASA Advisory Council from 2005-2008. Neil Armstrong served with him. Several other Apollo astronauts, managers and engineers worked with NASA field centers — and with the Altair Project Office at Johnson Space Center — to pass along the benefit of their insight and experience to the Constellation Generation. Such things as visibility during the landing sequence (i.e., the effects of blowing dust), spacesuit design and the value of a Lunar Landing Training Vehicle were just some of the topics the Apollo veterans discussed with Constellation engineers, many of whom were born after Apollo 11. As just one example, seven out of nine astronauts who trained with the Apollo LLTV thought that experience played an important role in piloting the actual Lunar Module. (The nine included Jim Lovell of Apollo 13 and backup commanders Dick Gordon and Fred Haise, none of whom landed on the Moon.)

    The Apollo veterans were working quietly behind the scenes. Which, perhaps, is why you don’t seem to have known about their efforts. In any case, you are wrong to suggest that after 40 years of silence they are “suddenly “adamant about HSF. They have been “adamant” about HSF all along.

    I believe you disparage the Apollo veterans (managers, as well as astronauts) who have expressed their legitimate concerns about President Obama’s new space policy. They are not “bent on discrediting a president.” They are questioning his decisions. Which, in a democracy, even former astronauts are free to do. Likewise, I believe you misrepresent their statements about commercial firms. In fact, each of them has expressed support for commercial activities in space. (For the record, Harrison Schmitt serves on the board of Orbital Sciences Corporation.) But they have questioned the business case for human spaceflight without the support of taxpayer dollars (i.e., they challenge the term “commercial” space and the viability of the “commercial” market at this time). And they have expressed their concern about safety and reliability issues when the new rockets and spacecraft are being built and flown by startup firms with little or no experience in manned space operations. That concern is based on their own experience over many years. (Neil Armstrong, for instance, started flying rockets with the X-1 and the X-15.) Gene Cernan’s comment that “they don’t know what they don’t know” wasn’t meant to discredit the new firms. It was simply a statement of fact. There were some painful lessons learned by engineers in the past because “they didn’t know what they didn’t know” while pushing the envelope. The de Havilland Comet 1, the Lockheed Electra and the Apollo 1 fire all come to mind.

    Common Sense added:

    “To be a true patriot today means we have to go against US entrepreneurial spirit? That we must bankrupt NASA and the US government for fantasies of grandeur?”

    Again, I believe you misrepresent what these highly-experienced professionals have been saying. They have nothing against the entrepreneurial spirit, nor are they suffering from fantasies of grandeur. Rather, I believe they are trying to inject a large dose of reality into some of the fantasies being passed off as “plans” by President Obama, John Holdren, Charlie Bolden, Lori Garver and Elon Musk. What else would you call Musk’s statement that he plans to “retire on Mars” — or the fairy tale that “average people” will soon be able to afford to fly into space?

    Perhaps what really bothers you about what the Apollo astronauts are saying is that they are telling the truth. I suggest you read a copy of Walt Cunningham’s updated book, “The All-American Boys.” The new pages cover more recent space history. And they are full of truth. As is his Op-Ed with Congressman Olson.

  • Major Tom

    “Major Tom, there’s no contradiction in what Olson is saying.”

    Yes, there is. On one hand he states that he doesn’t “believe that a private market capable of supporting a low-earth orbit system… exists”. Then in his plan for a plan, he wants to “Assess the near-term potential and costs for commercial space companies to support both cargo and manned LEO missions to better understand the potential investment required by private investors, and the degree it may free NASA resources to focus on the deep-space mission.” Again, which is it? If he’s so certain that there is no “private market”, then why bother to “assess” it? He’s incoherent, contradictory, and doesn’t have a consistent position on what he thinks he knows or wants.

    Elementary grade school children are taught to write more coherently. An elected representative (or at least his staff) should be able to do much better.

  • Alan

    William Mellberg wrote @ July 23rd, 2011 at 7:07 pm
    Rather, I believe they are trying to inject a large dose of reality into some of the fantasies being passed off as “plans” by President Obama, John Holdren, Charlie Bolden, Lori Garver and Elon Musk. What else would you call Musk’s statement that he plans to “retire on Mars” — or the fairy tale that “average people” will soon be able to afford to fly into space?

    With Musk and Bezos they are putting their own money on the line. Musk is showing vision when he says that his goal for the company is Mars. Both Bezos and Musk have been working to their plans, but are not afraid to change the plan based on the situation. Musk as said no matter what Dragon will carry people to orbit – the CCDev funding will help speed up by two years the crew capability. Successful launches of commercial payloads will bring in cash – being a privately held company he can direct the capital where he sees fit, i.e. manned Dragon.

    Perhaps what really bothers you about what the Apollo astronauts are saying is that they are telling the truth.

    But then people like you dismiss Dr. Aldrin’s opinion.

  • Gene Cernan’s comment that “they don’t know what they don’t know” wasn’t meant to discredit the new firms. It was simply a statement of fact.

    It was a trivial and tautological statement of fact. No one knows what they don’t know, including Gene Cernan. And what he doesn’t seem to know about the modern space industry would apparently fill volumes in a library.

    For instance, he doesn’t seem to know that Boeing, one of the potential providers of a commercial crew vehicle has been in the manned space business for half a century, and that the United Launch Alliance, on which their capsule will fly, has a long unbroken string of launch successes.

  • William Mellberg

    Alan wrote:

    “But then people like you dismiss Dr. Aldrin’s opinion.”

    People like me?

    As I said, we are all free to express our opinions. That includes Buzz Aldrin and Rusty Schweickart.

    Moreover, Dr. Aldrin hasn’t ruled out a return to the Moon as President Obama has done. Here is what he wrote for the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission (which echoes much of what Neil Armstrong, Jim Lovell, Gene Cernan, Harrison Schmitt and others — including people like me — have said about using the Moon as a stepping stone to Mars):

    “Now, I am not suggesting that America abandon the moon entirely, only that it forgo a moon-focused race. As the moon should be for all mankind, we should return there as part of an internationally led coalition. Using the landers and heavy-lift boosters developed by our partners, we could test on the moon the tools and equipment that we will need for our ultimate destination: homesteading Mars by way of its moons. Let the lunar surface be the ultimate global commons while we focus on more distant and sustainable goals to revitalize our space program. Our next generation must think boldly in terms of a goal for the space program: Mars for America’s future. I am not suggesting a few visits to plant flags and do photo ops but a journey to make the first homestead in space: an American colony on a new world.”

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/07/15/AR2009071502940.html

  • William Mellberg

    Rand Simberg wrote:

    “It was a trivial and tautological statement of fact. No one knows what they don’t know, including Gene Cernan. And what he doesn’t seem to know about the modern space industry would apparently fill volumes in a library. For instance, he doesn’t seem to know that Boeing, one of the potential providers of a commercial crew vehicle has been in the manned space business for half a century, and that the United Launch Alliance, on which their capsule will fly, has a long unbroken string of launch successes.”

    I take it you know Captain Cernan personally since you seem to know what he does and doesn’t know. For instance, you say “he doesn’t seem to know that Boeing … has been in the manned space business for half a century.”

    Do you suppose he had no idea that he was riding on Boeing-built S-IC first stages when he flew to the Moon … twice? Do you think he had no idea that Boeing was involved with the Lunar Rover that he drove on the Moon? Do you really think he is that dumb?

    You also say “what he doesn’t seem to know … would apparently fill volumes in a library.”

    On what do you base that comment … your own vastly superior knowledge and experience in manned space operations?

    May I suggest, Mr. Simberg, that you show a little more humility and a lot more respect for Captain Cernan and his distinguished colleagues. Belittling others — especially men with a lifetime of knowledge and experience — does nothing to win converts to your cause. Tossing snide and sarcastic comments at those who disagree with you shows no superior intelligence. It simply suggests that you are the one who doesn’t know what he doesn’t know.

  • Robert G. Oler

    E.P. Grondine wrote @ July 23rd, 2011 at 5:45 pm

    “Excuse me once again, but the President set out a goal”

    not really, the asteroid thing is more an objective or a “place holder”. Political goals are programs that have firm (if slippable) dates, a coherent plan to get there and a lot of other things.

    My wife and I have a goal of getting our new place on 4th street “squared away”. Dates slip but they exist, there is a flow chart with a coherent plan which is being both executed and modified.

    The “goal” to go to an asteroid is only there to satisfy the weak of mind RGO

  • Alan

    William Mellberg wrote @ July 23rd, 2011 at 9:15 pm
    Do you suppose he had no idea that he was riding on Boeing-built S-IC first stages when he flew to the Moon … twice? Do you think he had no idea that Boeing was involved with the Lunar Rover that he drove on the Moon? Do you really think he is that dumb?

    Yet he seems not to know that Boeing is one of the companies awarded CCdev2 funding for the CST-100? Nor knowing that SNC is building from the HL-20 work that NASA did in the 80′s and 90′s. Appearing to not have that basic knowledge of current activities calls into question the completeness of his logic with his review of the current situation.

    Rand’s point is that they are merely men with feet of clay, not some all-knowing, infallible demi-gods of spaceflight. So are we all supposed to shut up and sit down when they deem to come down from Olympus and render their opinions? Well sometimes the emperor has no clothes, and in the marketplace of ideas everyone has the right to express their opinion. If you don’t like that, I have heard the weather is nice in Havana.

  • Coastal Ron

    Googaw wrote @ July 23rd, 2011 at 4:35 pm

    The case of orbital HSF is even worse: a reasonable estimate is that in the future as in the past, 99% or more of the revenues will come from the NASA contracts, while less than 1% have or will from the “tolls” charged to private travelers to the nowhere.

    It’s obvious that you’re one of those people that feel you must be far away from Earth in order to “be in space”. More rational people understand that we need a place in space to test out what we need in order to live and work in space, and right now that is the multinational ISS in orbit around Earth.

    It is heartening to see that in order for you to be proved wrong about your HSF ratio (99% NASA vs 1% “private travelers”), likely only one taxi mission to a Bigelow space habitat will need to take place. And since Bigelow has seven signed MOU’s, the likelihood of that happening shortly after commercial crew is established is pretty good. Also take into account that Bigelow has stated that they will need crew flights every 3 months, and fairly quickly the ratio of NASA flights to everyone else could be 1 to 1.

    It’s also obvious that you’re not familiar with even common financial terms, since you use the word “toll” incorrectly. There are a number of ways to compare value of commercial crew flights, such as price per flight or price per seat, but that’s OK since you’ve already shown that numbers don’t really support your point anyways, so why use them? ;-)

  • Robert G. Oler

    William Mellberg wrote @ July 23rd, 2011 at 7:07 pm

    “Gene Cernan’s comment that “they don’t know what they don’t know” wasn’t meant to discredit the new firms. It was simply a statement of fact. ”

    with all due respect to Gene for his past accomplishments he really is a Jay Barbee…out of touch with current affairs.

    First off no one “doesnt know what they dont know” if “one” understands the original context of the statement. It has a military legacy and actually sounds better in the native German. Cernan while a military officer (Navy) really did not receive a four year commissioning program (ie a Canoe U or four year military indoctrination) his background is all engineering so the phrase to him is not one he understands (and I have heard him embarrass himself before an audience that did);

    The statement (along with its other three co statements) is meant to say that in a dynamic environment one cannot know all the unknowns even to think about them, because they have not evolved yet.

    Think Spruance at Midway. On paper Spruance should have lost, but when the unknown that he could not have planned for came about, he evaluated it and took advantage of it.

    There are few unknowns in terms of the engineering in going to orbit and returning in a capsule and even mostly a winged vehicle. That was the case with Mercury, landing on the Moon in an era with primitive simulation that was the case as well…with modern simulators no one in the right mind would build a LTTV but they didnt have them.

    There are some unknowns that one could not know in building a brand new company even with experienced people and pushing a new product..that is one reason SpaceX lost so many Falcon 1′s in the test regime…and the notion of using the 1 to wring those unknowns out indicates a good management philosophy.

    I’ve heard heard first hand Gene enumerate on his theories of the startups…and Gene is projecting his experience from Apollo…a projectd with a lot of unknowns that one could not know…onto an era and an effort that has few of them.

    The kindest thing one can say about Gene…is that he is like the character of Captain Kirk in the first Star Trek Movie…a man whose past experience is not serving him well, and he is having a hard time listening to those with current knowledge RGO

  • William Mellberg

    Alan wrote:

    “Rand’s point is that they are merely men with feet of clay, not some all-knowing, infallible demi-gods of spaceflight. So are we all supposed to shut up and sit down when they deem to come down from Olympus and render their opinions? Well sometimes the emperor has no clothes, and in the marketplace of ideas everyone has the right to express their opinion.”

    If you read my comments, I made it clear that in a democracy we are all free to express our differing points of view. And if you listen to the statements made by Captain Cernan and his colleagues, they are the first to admit that they are not infallible demigods. Nor are they the only space veterans who have criticized President Obama’s space policy. Moreover, I would remind you that Barack Obama is no infallible demigod, either. He is a former community organizer … not a former test pilot or aerospace engineer. And Lori Garver doesn’t have a background in flight operations or engineering, either. So when seasoned professionals like Gene Cernan and Walt Cunningham and Chris Kraft speak (and question the new Obama/Garver space policy) … I tend to listen. I don’t think of them as coming down from Mount Olympus. I simply think of them as wise men with a lot of valuable experience. It’s the same reason Boris Chertok was still the Chief Consultant for RKK Energia at age 95. (He is now 99.)

    Alan added:

    “If you don’t like that, I have heard the weather is nice in Havana.”

    The weather might be nice, but the political climate is terrible. And we wouldn’t be having this exchange at all under the thumb of the Castro brothers. I’ll take free speech over Cuban cigars any day.

  • Das Boese

    William Mellberg wrote @ July 23rd, 2011 at 8:54 pm

    Moreover, Dr. Aldrin hasn’t ruled out a return to the Moon as President Obama has done.

    Your president never ruled out a return to the moon, he simply did not make it a priority.

    we could test on the moon the tools and equipment that we will need for our ultimate destination: homesteading Mars by way of its moons.

    As for Luna as a “testing ground” for Mars (or its asteroid-size moons)… it has been explained multiple times now on this blog, by a number of people, why this is idea doesn’t make sense.

  • Vladislaw

    “Return to the earlier NASA model of success”

    Alright … NASA is going to get a budget increase to 4% of the budget and they can go back to the waste anything but time method.

  • Coastal Ron

    William Mellberg wrote @ July 23rd, 2011 at 8:54 pm

    Moreover, Dr. Aldrin hasn’t ruled out a return to the Moon as President Obama has done.

    Go reread what Obama said – he didn’t rule it out. He decided that NASA’s next venture outside of LEO should be to an asteroid.

    If he has decided to go back to the Moon, would you have said he “ruled out going to Mars”? Pretty weird logic there.

    But let me ask you Mr. Mellberg, which is harder:

    A. Returning to the Moon, or
    B. Visiting an asterioid

    We already know how to land and return people from the Moon, so doing it again is mainly a matter of dusting off the old plans and updating them. Oh sure we’ll need some new stuff if we decide to stay very long, but what exactly should NASA’s role be if they are to return to the Moon? What are they goals?

    I see the harder problem as visiting an asteroid, especially since we have never done it before and we know there are technical barriers we need to overcome. And since NASA is on an extremely limited budget, I would rather they work on the long-pole items than repeat ones we already conquered.

    Heck NASA doesn’t even had to put up any money, and already we have 30 teams competing to land a rover on the Moon, so how far behind are people?

    I like the priorities as laid out, and I see them as the fastest path for getting us beyond LEO and on the path to Mars. And apparently some of the Apollo and Shuttle era astronauts agree too, so who’s to say it’s wrong?

  • Mark Whittington

    Oler, first of all, one can only be a shill for someone or something, not against.

    Second, I can say that the outline of Olson’s plans looks remarkably like the Bush plan, so it will be very attractive to the next president.

    Third, you need to really get over Iraq. We won. It’s over.

  • Googaw

    Major Tom, when they say “to support both cargo and manned LEO missions”, obviously they are talking about NASA contracting with these “commercial” ventures, not about the market for private orbital HSF, which they’ve already dismissed. So if you drop your wishful thinking about private orbital HSF as some law of the universe you will see that there’s no contradiction.

  • DCSCA

    @William Mellberg wrote @ July 23rd, 2011 at 7:07 pm

    “The Apollo veterans were working quietly behind the scenes.”

    Too quietly. And the results- or lack there of- all too evident. To paraphrase the old truism, ‘they’re a decade late and several billion dollars short.’ Some of the big ‘names’ could have been more active in cultivating public awareness as noted in an earlier posting. Armstrong could have done more in the public arena, but he really wasn;t obligated to do so. If the country lost interest, none of these fellas could have rekindled it and they are not responsible for this situation. But a more vocal public stance might have helped. Aldrin’s efforts wax and wane along those lines; Cernan has always made an effort; so has Bean to some extent, not the least of which has been through his art; and Lovell has always been a willing and vocal supporter. Kranz as well, since the ’13′ film and both he and Krat upon the publication of their repsective memoirs. But that’s about it. The bulk of the Apollo era ‘A-list’ people left alive have been pretty quiet about it all. And now it’s too late. Tom Stafford noted in an interview several years back that there’s ‘no guarantee of a manned space program’ and that it could just… disappear. At the time it sounded oddly alarmist. Today, much less so.

    It’s mid-2011, it’s probably time to give these guys a pass on it all now and stop tryigg yo use them as leverage for developing space efforts in this era. Kraft is 87 and has lived to see his ‘mission control’ be born grow and literally die before his eyes. Aldrin, Armstrong and Collins are in their 80s now. Cernan as well. It’s time for us to formulate space policy on our own terms for our own times. And that’s probably the best tribute we can give to them.

    @Robert G. Oler wrote @ July 23rd, 2011 at 9:43 pm
    “…with all due respect to Gene for his past accomplishments he really is a Jay Barbee…out of touch with current affairs”… “Gene is projecting his experience from Apollo…a projectd with a lot of unknowns that one could not know…onto an era and an effort that has few of them.”

    Nonsense. Cernan’s an ‘exploration guy’ and said so repeatedly over the years. The ‘era and effort that has few of them’ is the ‘exploitation’ pitch by NewSpace advocates desperate to get literally and financially off the ground.

    This writer has met and interviewed Cernan several times and his ‘cheerleading’ is infectuous-often inspiring- and his knowledge base to be respected. The ‘Cernan intangibles’ are quite valid and highly valued by most human beings. But they can’t carry the load as a rationale for HSF in this era. And he works well with the press. But Cernan, like most of his Apollo colleagues, is into his 80s now and any discussion with him that involves the very down to earth realities of budgets and numbers in the Age of Austerity does trip him up some and can deflate his still Cold War-flavored advocacy. (Cronkite got the same way in his twilight years.) You may notice that in his national television appearences- most recently in the comfort zone of Cavuto’s Fox News niche, or on CBS News or CNN, Cernan seldom goes near any talk of numbers or budgets and chiefly rails on about policy and decisions while, at least on Fox, Cavuto glaringly avoids broaching it with him in his ‘business’ show deferring to the flags and footprints rah-rah rationales. As a ‘color commentary’ man for ABC News coverage of the early shuttle flights, he was pretty much the same way. That’s Cernan’s way.

    Barbree is just a reporter, for goodness sake, and by luck ‘the last one standing’ on a beat with reportage experience back to the early days. He seems no less ‘detached’ today than in the NBC News video which Barbree anchored of the Apollo 11 moonwalk- it’s NBC News archived video from that evening reaired once back in 1989 on cable outlet A&E. But he’s no Cronkite.

    @Alan wrote @ July 23rd, 2011 at 7:33 pm
    “With Musk and Bezos they are putting their own money on the line.”

    Inaccurate. Musk actively seeks government subsidies and campaign contributions indicate he makes an effort to curry favor where it counts with same.

    “Musk is showing vision when he says that his goal for the company is Mars.” ROFLMAOPIP in fact he is confirming Gene Cernan’s experienced and witty-worded axiom, that Musk ‘doesn’t know what he doesnt know yet.’ Dryden was talking about manned flights to Mars in ’20 years or so…’ too… back in March, 1964.

  • Matt Wiser

    Melberg: Well said! As you said, dissing what those who’ve been up there before have to say is not a good way to garner support for other ideas or concepts. A lot of the Apollo guys have worked behind the scenes, and both Chris Kraft and Gene Krantz have been tapped by NASA in more recent times to get their ideas for controlling lunar missions. And I do remember NASA TV showing video of Gene Cernan, Jim Lovell, Dave Scott, and Jack Schmitt helping the concept team that was working on Altair, to get the view of what the Apollo guys had to help designing the next generation of lander. To not use the experience that the Apollo people have in their heads would’ve been folly.

    Chairman Hall nails it right on the head. And this is what the Administration so far has yet to spell out: specific destinations with timelines for planning purposes-not actual launch dates (we’re far too early for that), but a general idea as to where and when. That’s not a “Soviet-style command economy” as Oler claimed on another thread, that’s planning ahead (DOD does it all the time). And the newspace crowd needs a dose of reality-which is what the old hands are doing. When Hall holds his hearings on Commercial Crew-which he has said he does want to do, it’ll be a good opportunity for the Commercial crew people to lay out what they have in mind, and for NASA to say how they’ll support that effort (safety, mission assurance, etc.).

    Experience talks in this case-and the experience that the Apollo Team has, from crew members, mission control people, engineers, etc. is something that needs to be utilized in the new program-even if it’s not lunar-centric. They are not gods, but their views and opinions should be given careful consideration on the same terms as everyone else’s.

  • Major Tom

    “Major Tom, when they say ‘to support both cargo and manned LEO missions’, obviously they are talking about NASA contracting with these ‘commercial’ ventures, not about the market for private orbital HSF, which they’ve already dismissed.”

    If the “private orbital HSF” market has been “already dismissed”, then by definition there are no “commercial ventures” for NASA to contract with. Your statement is as confused and contradictory as Olsons’ statements.

    And I’m not the only one who’s noticed how confused Olson’s statements on civil space policy are.

    “Pete Olson Can’t Make Up His Mind”
    http://nasawatch.com/archives/2011/07/pete-olson-cant.html

    “So if you drop your wishful thinking about private orbital HSF as some law of the universe you will see that there’s no contradiction.”

    Where have I claimed or stated that “private orbital HSF” is a “law of the universe” (or anything similar)? Quote? Reference? Link?

    Don’t make stuff up.

    And, if you’re going to complain about posters who make absolutist statements, then you need to look in the mirror. You make statement after statement in this forum arguing that there is no future commercial human space flight market, something that, like anything in the future, is inherently unknowable.

    FWIW…

  • Das Boese

    Matt Wiser wrote @ July 24th, 2011 at 2:06 am

    Chairman Hall nails it right on the head. And this is what the Administration so far has yet to spell out: specific destinations with timelines for planning purposes-not actual launch dates (we’re far too early for that), but a general idea as to where and when.

    Manned mission to a NEO in 2025.
    Manned mission to Mars in the mid-2030s.

    How is that not “a general idea as to where and when” ? What exactly is it you want? The name of the asteroid? That would involve setting a launch window, which you yourself agree it’s too early for. So what is it?

  • Robert G. Oler

    Matt Wiser wrote @ July 24th, 2011 at 2:06 am
    ” And I do remember NASA TV showing video of Gene Cernan, Jim Lovell, Dave Scott, and Jack Schmitt helping the concept team that was working on Altair, to get the view of what the Apollo guys had to help designing the next generation of lander.”

    This shows how out of touch both the NASA folks designing Altair were in general. Asking the viewpoints of people who used technology from about three eras ago in terms of cockpit presentation.

    It is pretty typical because if one looks at how the “cockpit” of Orion or whatever it is called is being put together it has a “1960′s feel…but really.

    The experience of people who were landed a vehicle like the LM under the conditions of Apollo (very narrow windows all in “day” conditions) is next to useless in an environment where a likely landing spot is “perpetual dark” lunar poles with fly by wire systems and night/synthetic vision information.

    It is kind of like asking a Boeing 247 pilot how the cockpit of a nickle seven should be organized.

    All you people need therapy. You are to stuck on Apollo RGO

  • Robert G. Oler

    Mark Whittington wrote @ July 24th, 2011 at 12:25 am

    “Oler, first of all, one can only be a shill for someone or something, not against.” nope that is one of the talents that people like you have developed

    “I can say that the outline of Olson’s plans looks remarkably like the Bush plan, so it will be very attractive to the next president.”

    you dont know either of those two things. First off the current crop of GOP “candidates” are rejecting Bush notions left and right…none of them in the debate in NH said “we need to return to a Bush doctrine in human spaceflight”, in fact your former hero newt specifically rejected it.

    Next you have no idea what Olson’s plans look like

    As to Iraq, that we won does not have anything to do with the goofball statements you made about it nor the lies of the last administration you shillled for (grin)

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    DCSCA wrote @ July 24th, 2011 at 1:53 am

    “The ‘Cernan intangibles’ are quite valid and highly valued by most human beings.”

    yeah that is why Gene outthere beating his exploration drum has influenced the course of events so well!

    That babble doesnt even sell in TX 22…RGO

  • I take it you know Captain Cernan personally since you seem to know what he does and doesn’t know.

    I can infer it from the clueless things he says. If someone tells me 2+2=5, I will call them out on it, and I don’t care if he was the first man to step on Mars.

  • Robert G. Oler

    William Mellberg wrote @ July 23rd, 2011 at 10:52 pm Moreover, I would “remind you that Barack Obama is no infallible demigod, either. He is a former community organizer … not a former test pilot or aerospace engineer. And Lori Garver doesn’t have a background in flight operations or engineering, either. So when seasoned professionals like Gene Cernan and Walt Cunningham and Chris Kraft speak (and question the new Obama/Garver space policy)”

    that seems pretty weak. YOu are free to listen and place value on whatever words from whoever you want, it is a free Republic…but well all that paragraph in my mind calls into is your judgement.

    Obama may be a former community organizer but he has moved on since and has done something few Americans have ever done.

    Being an engineer and a test pilot does not automatically endow people with the ability to excersize political skill or even to define policy for anything even “test piloting”. Just as I would not want a brain surgeon based on that credential trying to work on my airplane, I doubt I would like the lead mechanic to try brain surgery.

    Garver has flaws but we are not asking her to design a vehicle or develop a fly by wire system, she is tasked with operating in the realm of politics and has skills in that areana.

    Skills are not exclusive but they are not associative on their own either. Cernan was in his era a good test pilot. That gives him no special skills in the arena of policy.

    The last administration should have been a lesson in people trying to be experts in things that they are not. When General Shinseki noted that it would eventually take nearly a quarter of a million troops to “pacify” Iraq the administration countered with people who claimed it would be around 50,000. None of these people had a clue what they were talking about. Shinseki had done peacekeeping in the Balkans.

    Guess who was correct.

    If Cernan wants to talk about how to use technology from the LM era he would be someone to listen to. The most junior pilot I have, the one who is the least capable knows modern technology better then he does.

    And none of that gives Cernan any chops in policy

    you need to know what you dont know

    Robert G. Oler

  • William Mellberg

    Coastal Ron wrote:

    “I see the harder problem as visiting an asteroid, especially since we have never done it before and we know there are technical barriers we need to overcome. And since NASA is on an extremely limited budget, I would rather they work on the long-pole items than repeat ones we already conquered.”

    You’re repeating Garver’s hype. But tell me, what do you think makes a very expensive one-shot mission to a little asteroid more valuable than creating a lunar outpost? We already have samples from many different asteroids in the form of meteorites. And asteroids provide virtually no foundation for Mars missions. You can’t land on them. You can’t drive on them. You can’t even stand on them. Because there’s virtually no gravity. So they have little to offer that’s new scientifically, and little to provide in terms of experience for landing and working on Mars.

    As for having “already conquered” the Moon, we have barely scratched the lunar surface. And we haven’t gone to the poles where ice can be found for water, oxygen and rocket fuel. We can “live off the land” on the Moon, as we’ll need to do on Mars. But not on an asteroid.

    How long could we stay on an asteroid? How much energy would be required to return resources (if any) from any asteroid? And what are the chances of visiting the same fast-moving Near Earth asteroid again?

    Can you tell me why an asteroid mission would be scientifically preferable to going back to the Moon (something more than “because we haven’t done it before”)? Can you tell me which type of asteroid you think we ought to visit and why?

    The rationale for the President’s “2025″ asteroid mission hasn’t been explained any better than the rationale behind his economic stimulus package. The only justification for canceling America’s return to the Moon in favor of an asteroid mission seems to be that the lunar outpost was an idea that came from the Bush Administration. But, in reality, the lunar outpost idea came from Wernher von Braun’s fertile mind. George W. Bush was still playing Little League baseball in Midland when von Braun presented it to the public. And Barack Obama hadn’t even been born.

  • Aggelos

    “but what exactly should NASA’s role be if they are to return to the Moon? What are they goals?”

    a moon base,,like Iss..

    in preparation for the bases on Mars,and the long time journey away from the planet earth and the precious magnetosphere..

  • William Mellberg

    Das Boese wrote:

    “As for Luna as a ‘testing ground’ for Mars (or its asteroid-size moons) … it has been explained multiple times now on this blog, by a number of people, why this is idea doesn’t make sense.”

    The explanations that I’ve read here are … nicht sehr gut. Just because “a number of people” have repeated them “multiple times” doesn’t make them so. Obama has repeated his economic vision over and over, but unemployment is still going up month after month in this country. Repeating a falsehood many times does not make it true, although some might begin to think it’s true if they hear it often enough. That’s the value of propaganda.

    That said, using the Moon as a proving ground for Mars makes far more sense than an asteroid mission, although the asteroid mission(s) that would make the most sense would be going to Deimos and Phobos … not to a Near Earth asteroid as Obama and Garver have called for.

  • vulture4

    >>HSF ratio (99% NASA vs 1% “private travelers”)

    Space tourism is the only existing market for more than about a dozen seats to space per year, and the tourist market is highly sensitive to cost. At $23M or so Space Adventures could sell only 1-2 seats a year. At $200K Virgin thinks they can sell 100 a year for only a few minutes in space. A seat to LEO will have to be under $1M before there is any meaningful human presence in space. And that cannot be done with expendable launch systems. That is why we built the Shuttle.

  • William Mellberg

    Robert G. Oler said:

    “If Cernan wants to talk about how to use technology from the LM era he would be someone to listen to. The most junior pilot I have, the one who is the least capable knows modern technology better then he does.”

    So why was Captain Cernan hired by Bombardier as a consultant?

    “Bombardier is proud of its association with Gene Cernan,” says Pierre Beaudoin, President and Chief Executive Officer of Bombardier Aerospace. “He has played a pivotal role at the annual Bombardier Safety Standdowns – the pre-eminent aviation safety seminar in the industry – held in Wichita, Kansas, each year.”

    Mr. Beaudoin also cites “the respect in which Gene is held by the aerospace community” around the globe.

    If you knew what you don’t know, you’d know that Captain Cernan is totally familiar with modern technology, as are his colleagues. None of them have been sitting in rocking chairs. I’d venture a guess that they’ve all held higher positions within the aerospace industry during the past decade than most of their armchair critics.

  • William Mellberg

    Rand Simberg wrote:

    “I can infer it from the clueless things he [Captain Cernan] says. If someone tells me 2+2=5, I will call them out on it, and I don’t care if he was the first man to step on Mars.”

    For the record, Captain Cernan was the last man on the Moon, not the first man on Mars. But I know you’re not that clueless. I do infer from the things you say, however, that you’re disrespectful.

  • red

    “The rationale for the President’s “2025″ asteroid mission hasn’t been explained any better than the rationale behind his economic stimulus package.”

    It’s all meaningless talk at this point, since we will not be able to afford lunar or asteroid HSF missions given the fact that Congress wants NASA to build the SD-SLS and the Orion/MPCV which will use up all of the budget and thus prevent missions, but the NASA proposal described by Obama, Bolden, Garver, etc, was not to do “a 2025 asteroid mission”. It was to start with cislunar space missions soon after 2020 (e.g.: E-M Lagrange points, lunar orbit), then build up to NEO capability, then build up to Mars orbit/Mars moon capability, and finally Mars surface. The Moon was not ruled out, either. The first asteroid mission is just one step in this build-up, and there’s no reason why destination types that have been reached once would not be reached again and again. That would all of course be decided by later Administrations.

    The rationale for this sequence has also been explained many times. The NEO step is justified on various scientific, “planetary defense”, resource prospecting, and “building capability to Mars” bases, as well as a step on the buildup to Mars. The “Flexible Path” strategy (where the initial NEO mission is just 1 step that people tend to focus on I suppose because it’s the first rocky destination) is explained, for example, here

    “Beyond the Moon: A New Roadmap for Human Space Exploration in the 21st Century”

    http://www.planetary.org/programs/projects/advocacy_and_education/space_advocacy/examining_the_vision.html

    and here

    “Seeking an Human Spaceflight Program Worthy of a Great Nation”

    http://www.nasa.gov/pdf/396093main_HSF_Cmte_FinalReport.pdf

  • William Mellberg

    Robert G. Oler said:

    “The experience of people who were landed a vehicle like the LM under the conditions of Apollo (very narrow windows all in day conditions) is next to useless in an environment where a likely landing spot is perpetual dark lunar poles with fly by wire systems and night/synthetic vision information.”

    If you knew what you clearly don’t know, you’d know that the proposed outpost at Shackleton Crater is in sunlight more than 80% of the time. The landing site would not be in “perpetual” darkness, Mr. Oler. Sorry. But you have it totally backwards.

  • amightywind

    Whittington wrote:

    Second, I can say that the outline of Olson’s plans looks remarkably like the Bush plan, so it will be very attractive to the next president.

    Agreed. The Administration attempted to replace Constellation. They had a fair chance to sell a vision and a plan. Does anyone suggest they did a good job? They failed to generate consensus and attempted to implement a program by decree. Congress baulked. The architecture the US builds will be similar to Ares. It sounds like Olson will try to be more specific, since Bolden and his minions will not bring forth ideas beyond lining the pockets of hobbyists.

  • For the record, Captain Cernan was the last man on the Moon, not the first man on Mars.

    I didn’t say he was. I guess you missed my point, which was that I will not agree with nonsense, regardless of the source. I am not a slave the fallacy of argument from authority.

    I do infer from the things you say, however, that you’re disrespectful.

    I deeply respect his service to our nation. But I am not required to respect or agree with his mistaken opinions, based on non-facts, and I am greatly saddened by the fact that he has sullied his reputation with his recent behavior.

  • Mark Whittington

    “I can infer it from the clueless things he says. If someone tells me 2+2=5, I will call them out on it, and I don’t care if he was the first man to step on Mars.”

    Rand, that is as perfect an example of how arrogant and clueless the Internet Rocketeer Club is than if I had come up with it myself. Sheila Jackson Lee could not have said it better.

  • “It sounds like Olson will try to be more specific, since Bolden and his minions will not bring forth ideas beyond lining the pockets of hobbyists.”

    Implication being Boeing are hobbyists and also SpaceX that has actually put a new spacecraft into orbit and return it when the best “new” vehicle NASA actually flew in the same time period was Ares I-X that didn’t make it a third of the way to orbit.

    The ignorance and stupidity continues. Being unable to realize that an administrator cannot enact a law. Not understanding the difference between a pre-existing condition and a technical specification. Insisting the first flight of Falcon 9 never made it to orbit. All supporters of commercial space are left-wing radicals.

    Even people on your side of the issue find you embarrassing. What little entertainment you provide to the rest of us does not excuse your idiocy.

  • Das Boese

    William Mellberg wrote @ July 24th, 2011 at 10:54 am

    The explanations that I’ve read here are … nicht sehr gut. Just because “a number of people” have repeated them “multiple times” doesn’t make them so.

    Actually it does, since you have consistently failed to point out convincingly why they’d be wrong and you are right. Or demonstrate that you even understand what was being explained to you.

    Though I really am at a loss how it’s possible to not understand
    “The surface of the Moon is fundamentally different from the surface of Mars in terms of gravity, atmosphere, chemistry, radiation and thermal environment.”

    Obama has repeated his economic vision over and over, but unemployment is still going up month after month in this country. Repeating a falsehood many times does not make it true, although some might begin to think it’s true if they hear it often enough. That’s the value of propaganda.

    You are not seriously comparing a physics and engineering problem with an economic situation, are you?
    Because that would be silly.

    That said, using the Moon as a proving ground for Mars makes far more sense than an asteroid mission, although the asteroid mission(s) that would make the most sense would be going to Deimos and Phobos … not to a Near Earth asteroid as Obama and Garver have called for.

    Aaand here you go, broken record routine.

  • Coastal Ron

    William Mellberg wrote @ July 24th, 2011 at 10:31 am

    You’re repeating Garver’s hype.

    Actually I’m repeating one of the options outlined in the Augustine Final Report, the one concerning “Flexible Path”. I don’t hang on the words of personalities, regardless who they are. I like ideas because of the merit of them. Call me radical.

    But tell me, what do you think makes a very expensive one-shot mission to a little asteroid more valuable than creating a lunar outpost?

    This is a good question, and I’m going to address it in two posts, with the first delving into the Moon part.

    I guess part of my apprehension with “Moon First” proponents is that they seem to have an open ended plan for the Moon. They want to set up camp, and forget about going on to other places. Because of a lack of a specific plan that addresses that concern, I don’t believe that they believe in the goals of the VSE, even though they say they do.

    My biggest question for you is “when should NASA stop doing things themselves and hand it off to others?”

    I tend to look at NASA as a lead-edge organization that should be handing off tasks to others as soon as they can. Cargo to the ISS, crew to LEO, and building space hardware in general are things that NASA does not have a better skill set than others, and it could be argued that they have far less. Remember NASA didn’t operate the Shuttle, that it was farmed out to contractors, so NASA”s core skills are really in the science end, not the operations end of things.

    So if we go back to the Moon, who says it’s NASA’s mission to set up outposts? First people want NASA to be in the transportation business (SLS), now you want them to be in the business of setting up B&B’s on the Moon. OK, maybe not B&B’s per se, but tell me how running an outpost is a core NASA skill set? Shouldn’t they be contracting that out?

    Heck, NASA isn’t building any of the lunar hardware anyways, so why do they have to operate it? If NASA has to be involved, why not put a contract out for bid to set up and run a lunar outpost? And do the prospecting? Let the market use the technology NASA has pioneered to do the job at a cost and effectiveness better than what NASA can do.

    What you all are advocating for the Moon doesn’t look any different than what resource companies do here on Earth, so other than the joy of finding out the history of the Moon, you haven’t articulated a plan that delineates how each dollar we spend on the Moon is being applied to our ultimate goal of reaching Mars and beyond. Instead you’re just stopping at the Moon, and that’s not the plan.

    Any thoughts?

  • Coastal Ron

    William Mellberg wrote @ July 24th, 2011 at 10:31 am

    Part two of our discussion, which will be on why we should go to an asteroid.

    The rationale for the President’s “2025″ asteroid mission hasn’t been explained any better than the rationale behind his economic stimulus package.

    Regarding the economic stimulus, if you’re not familiar with Keynesian economics then I can’t help you there.

    And if you think the Obama hasn’t explained his rationale for going to an asteroid, then you’re not reading. Read this before continuing on:

    http://www.space.com/8222-obama-aims-send-astronauts-asteroid-mars.html

    In it you’ll see that he said:

    So I believe it?s more important to ramp up our capabilities to reach and operate at a series of increasingly demanding targets while advancing our technological capabilities with each step forward.

    And that pretty much follows the “Flexible Path” concept. Build ever increasing amounts of capability in order to operate further and further away from Earth.

    As Red pointed out, going to an asteroid is not an end to itself, but just one step along the journey. And if you had read about the “Flexible Path” concept, you would have seen that they saw milestones like reaching an asteroid as something that would engage the public, just like the initial Moon landings did.

    But also remember that after a couple of Moon landings the public’s interest in general waned, which is how it should be, since doing something over and over is not entertaining. The first asteroid mission will be something, but if there is a 3rd or 4th, no so much. So going anywhere for the “excitement” factor is pure lunacy, unless you’re an entertainment company like Virgin Galactic.

    So to summarize, if we can get to an asteroid and return the crew safely, we will be that much further along in our capabilities towards reaching Mars. The Moon has been conquered from the sense that we know what it take to go there and return safely, so now it’s just a matter of further exploring and exploiting it. We haven’t been beyond the Moon, and that’s where NASA’s skill sets will be needed the most.

    Any thoughts?

  • Coastal Ron

    vulture4 wrote @ July 24th, 2011 at 11:06 am

    Space tourism is the only existing market for more than about a dozen seats to space per year, and the tourist market is highly sensitive to cost.

    No one knows what the demand truly is for space tourism, since the supply has been constrained by having only one supplier (Soyuz), and that supplier had limited capacity. Plus take into account the amount of time needed for training in Russia, and you’re not getting a true indication of what the market would be like for the commercial crew entrants.

    At $23M or so Space Adventures could sell only 1-2 seats a year.

    The last price was $35M, and there was even a repeat flyer going for that price. Again, the limits have been with the lack of Soyuz seats, not with the number of paying customers. We don’t know what the true market demand is yet.

    A seat to LEO will have to be under $1M before there is any meaningful human presence in space.

    I don’t believe space tourism will be a big factor for a while, instead this is what I see as the category of demand for commercial crew flights:

    1. Crew exchange for the ISS – Besides the normal crew exchanges, I think extra personnel will go up for temporary visits, just like the Shuttle did. They could be scientists, or engineers working to fix something or design something new, or even politicians and tourists.

    2. Sovereign Nation crews for Bigelow stations – Bigelow has already stated that they will be doing 3-month crew rotations, so for one station that’s 4 flights per year. I think the same thing will happen as with the ISS, where extra people will go up for short visits during crew exchanges.

    3. Corporate needs – At some point a company will lease a Bigelow station, or will do something on their own. I don’t see this happening for a few years, but it will.

    4. Tourism – I don’t see a big market for riding a capsule up and coming back down without docking somewhere. The fun is not necessarily in the journey, but the destination, so that’s why I think tourism will be an outgrowth of our true transportation needs, and not a major driver of it. In fact there may not be much room for tourism at all if everyone takes advantage of sending their own personnel up during the crew rotations.

    Regarding price, the going price for a seat on Soyuz in 2016 is $63M, and we were paying on average of $200M for a seat on the Shuttle, so $60M for a seat on the CST-100 or $20M for a seat on Dragon looks like it’s doable for the type of demand we have coming up.

  • Robert G. Oler

    William Mellberg wrote @ July 24th, 2011 at 11:45 am

    lets start about the comments you made on Shackleton.

    First off there is no “proposed base” as national policy, second even a base is in 80 percent sunlight, the LM could not have landed there except for a tiny part of the daylight window, there was a few day limit on its landing window due to the need for shadows because of the primitive landing aids to detail relief (the Mark 1 eyeball) …and any “flying” vehicle is going to have to operate on the “floor” of the crater to be useful…and

    “Shackleton is an impact crater that lies at the south pole of the Moon. The peaks along the crater’s rim are exposed to almost continual sunlight, while the interior is perpetually in shadow. “..

    How the LM was designed is simply irrelevant to any discussion of building a lunar lander except of course at NASA where things from the past are continually used as a template for the future;…it would be about like designing the cockpit of a 787 like that of a 707. Its not done

    you wrote “So why was Captain Cernan hired by Bombardier as a consultant?”

    for the same reason Don Meridith was or Clay Lacy is or chuck Yeager use to sell ultralights. Put a famous name on a product or a seminar and it lends some “recognition” to the entire affair. That is what Bombardier did with Cernan.

    Nothing wrong with it, but dont take from that, that Cernan is actively modulating things at Bomb…he is not.

    And none of this has anything to do with Gene’s ability to talk about space politics or policy. Along those lines he has as much horsepower as say Jay Barbee.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    Mark Whittington wrote @ July 24th, 2011 at 2:38 pm

    “Rand, that is as perfect an example of how arrogant and clueless the Internet Rocketeer Club is than if I had come up with it myself. ”

    actually no, it is just an example of how desperate people like you are to cling to anyone who will defend what has become undefensible…a tens of billion dollar effort to no where.

    When People like Olson make claims such as companies with no space experience, people like you have no problem believing them, even though a modest check would show it is not true. But then you had 8 years of pushing BS that simply was not true. RGO

  • vulture4

    Coastal Ron wrote; ” Again, the limits have been with the lack of Soyuz seats, not with the number of paying customers.”

    If you have some data demonstrating that the demand was significantly higher than this, particularly at over $30M, I would be very interested in seeing it. (And so, no doubt, would SpaceX)

  • William Mellberg

    Rand Simberg said:

    “I guess you missed my point, which was that I will not agree with nonsense, regardless of the source.”

    No, I didn’t miss your point, as my comment made clear. (“I know you’re not that clueless.”) But your self-anointed role as the ultimate source of space knowledge and wisdom makes you look rather foolish when you repeatedly disparage genuine aerospace professionals simply because they question the long-term capabilities of the so-called “commercial” space firms that you seem to place so much unlimited faith in. Or because they advocate policies that are different from the ones you embrace. Your position seems to be that Cernan, Armstrong, Lovell, Cunningham, Kraft, Kranz, et al. are all wrong … but Obama, Holdren, Bolden, Garver and Musk are all right because Rand Simberg says so. (Maybe you’re paid to say so?) And if anyone dares to disagree in the slightest bit with Rand Simberg’s unquestioned authority, they must be declared wrong with sarcasm and invective. That is why I think you are disrespectful — not only of Captain Cernan, but of anyone and everyone who challenges Rand Simberg. Your attitude toward other people does not persuade me that you are right. It only convinces me that you are a conceited, arrogant Internet bully.

    Rand Simberg continued:

    “I am not required to respect or agree with his mistaken opinions, based on non-facts, and I am greatly saddened by the fact that he has sullied his reputation with his recent behavior.”

    You prove my point.

  • William Mellberg

    Coastal Ron wrote:

    “… you haven’t articulated a plan that delineates how each dollar we spend on the Moon is being applied to our ultimate goal of reaching Mars and beyond. Instead you’re just stopping at the Moon, and that’s not the plan.”

    Wrong! As Dr. Paul Spudis has pointed out in the plan he has put forward, utilizing lunar resources would enable us to develop cislunar space, create fuel depots and ultimately make it possible to access Mars more readily and regularly. I embrace the Spudis plan, as I have said here and elsewhere repeatedly in the past.

    Coastal Ron added:

    “And if you had read about the Flexible Path concept, you would have seen that they saw milestones like reaching an asteroid as something that would engage the public, just like the initial Moon landings did.”

    How much public enthusiasm have you seen for the Dawn spacecraft that is now in orbit around 4 Vesta? I haven’t seen any. And NASA HQ hasn’t really trumpeted the mission very much. Perhaps that’s because the average taxpayer is going to look at the images of 4 Vesta and wonder why President Obama wants to spend billions of dollars to visit a rock. Or maybe it’s because Dawn is a bold mission to the two largest asteroids that was approved and launched during the Bush years. Next stop: Ceres

    As for “resources” from asteroids … how do you return them to Earth? Unlike the Moon, which is in orbit around the Earth, asteroids are orbiting the Sun. That makes them not only difficult to reach, but impractical to utilize. Are you suggesting that we spend billions of dollars to go someplace just because we haven’t been there before? Then why not go some place where we can build an infrastructure that could eventually lead to economic viability and sustainability? That place would be one (or both) of the lunar poles.

  • DCSCA

    Robert G. Oler wrote @ July 24th, 2011 at 9:59 am

    “yeah that is why Gene outthere beating his exploration drum has influenced the course of events so well!”

    For a fella who references the long dead Spruance at Midway 70 years ago, in the era of slow, piston-engined aircraft and ancient, straight-decked carriers, prattling on about the out-of-date knowledge base of Cernan’s experiences operating spacecraft in the lunar environment is utterly hilarious. As this writer stated in the posting: “The ‘Cernan intangibles’ are quite valid and highly valued by most human beings. But they can’t carry the load as a rationale for HSF in this era.” Cranky ol’Frank Borman has been more blunt about it: “Exploration doen’t excite many people. Beating the Russians sure did.” Still, as an ‘exploration guy’ and aviator, Cernan’s credentials- and his ‘intangfibles’ are valued and are well established. Your professional jealousy is beginning to establish it self as well.

    @William Mellberg wrote @ July 24th, 2011 at 11:45 am
    Cernan was a consulatant with Coral Pertroleum at one time and, of course, with ABC News. As he’s not a trained or experienced oil man nor a journalist, so using Oler logic, he was not qualified to contribute as a ‘consultant’ to either organization. Neil Armstrong was on the BoD of Marathon Oil as well but what could he possibly have to offer a then Ohio-based oil company.

  • DCSCA

    @Robert G. Oler wrote @ July 24th, 2011 at 4:20 pm

    Along those lines [Cernan] has as much horsepower as say Jay Barbee.”

    Hmmm. No doubt you’re referencing NBC News correspondent Jay Barbree. This Jay Barbree:

    “Jay Barbree, [one] of the world’s most experienced space journalists reported the triumphs and tragedies from the dawn of the space age… exceptionally well qualified to recall and report the remarkable events and emotions of the time.”- Neil Armstrong.

  • Joe

    William Mellberg wrote @ July 24th, 2011 at 4:35 pm

    Mr. Mellberg,

    Well said.

  • William Mellberg

    Robert G. Oler said:

    “First off there is no proposed base as national policy, second even a base is in 80 percent sunlight, the LM could not have landed there except for a tiny part of the daylight window, there was a few day limit on its landing window due to the need for shadows because of the primitive landing aids to detail relief (the Mark 1 eyeball) …and any ‘flying’ vehicle is going to have to operate on the ‘floor’ of the crater to be useful…and …”

    And you don’t know what you don’t know, despite a quick look at Wikipedia. First, an outpost on the rim of Shackleton was proposed early in the Constellation Program and was generally regarded as the preferred site for a permanent base. Second, what you said about landing windows and shadows applies to lower latitudes, but not the the polar regions. Do you understand what being in sunlight more than 80% of the time means? Let me give you some help … think about the north and south poles here on Earth. Third, the landers would not be touching down on the shadowed floor of Shackleton. They’d be landing on the rim. Shackleton is a very large crater, and the rim provides very large areas for landing sites and outposts. But the shadowed floor … now that’s where the ice would be mined via ground vehicles. It’s also where observatories could be emplaced. The beauty of Shackleton is that the outpost (habitat modules) would be in near-permanent sunlight, while the research activities could be conducted in near-permanent shadow — giving relatively nearby access to water ice.

    How familiar are you with selenology (lunar science)? Have you spent much time observing the Moon with a backyard telescope? If we were to look at a lunar map right now, could you point out fifty lunar features (craters, ,mountains, valleys, etc.) if I named them for you? How about a dozen? Could you tell me how some of those features were formed? Can you describe the different rock types on the Moon and their significance?

    The problem with many people who say “been there, done that” with respect to the Moon is that they know nothing about the place, or why it would be such an important stepping stone for exploring and settling deep space.

  • Rhyolite

    “As for “resources” from asteroids … how do you return them to Earth? Unlike the Moon, which is in orbit around the Earth, asteroids are orbiting the Sun. That makes them not only difficult to reach, but impractical to utilize”

    The delta-V required to get to many NEO asteroids is lower than the delta-V to get to the surface of the Moon. The delta-V required to get back from most NEOs is even lower. It’s easier to obtain resources from NEOs than from the Moon by a large margin.

  • Rhyolite

    “As Dr. Paul Spudis has pointed out in the plan he has put forward, utilizing lunar resources would enable us to develop cislunar space, create fuel depots and ultimately make it possible to access Mars more readily and regularly.”

    A number of people on this site have pointed out that the total resources produced by the Spudis plan could be shipped from Earth to LEO for less than the cost of the Spudis plan. It demonstrates that Lunar resources are worth less than their cost.

  • William Mellberg

    Das Boese asked:

    “You are not seriously comparing a physics and engineering problem with an economic situation, are you? Because that would be silly.”

    No, I am not. I am talking about the basic effect of propaganda no matter how it’s applied. Repeat something often enough and the ill-informed will believe it. That is how the Space Shuttle was “sold” to the American taxpayer as a vehicle that was going to drastically increase launches and reduce costs. That is how many other fairy tales have been sold to people over the years … like “hope and change.”

    As a U.S. taxpayer, I have a particular interest in how my money is spent, invested or wasted.

  • Robert G. Oler

    William Mellberg wrote @ July 24th, 2011 at 4:35 pm
    ” Your position seems to be that Cernan, Armstrong, Lovell, Cunningham, Kraft, Kranz, et al. are all wrong … but Obama, Holdren, Bolden, Garver and Musk are all right because Rand Simberg says so. ”

    Look Rand and I dont get along and I think he is mostly a right wing toady (even though he wont admit it) but that is simply not fair.

    Rand has consistently argued that Cernan, et al are wrong, on both solid policy reasons AND because the positions that they have and are advocating have been proven to fail. At least in this case (grin) Rand is not saying “I think that they are wrong so they must be” which is the essence of your statement.

    And what I dont get about “your” position is that you seem to be unable to recognize that that the vast majority of people who are advocating some “Apollo” style mission are 1) either from that era, 2) have supported policies in the past which have completely failed and/or 3) seem to be unable to comprehend the magnitude of those failures.

    This is particularly entertaining to me in light of the “other events” which are going on with funding the federal government. If you think that a “return to the Moon so humans can explore” approach is going to work, as cities like Houston and Dallas and Clear Lake and other areas contemplate the notion that there is not enough money to open the schools…then you dont understand politics…which is what this forum is about

    Robert G. oler

  • But your self-anointed role as the ultimate source of space knowledge and wisdom makes you look rather foolish when you repeatedly disparage genuine aerospace professionals simply because they question the long-term capabilities of the so-called “commercial” space firms that you seem to place so much unlimited faith in.

    Such a “role” exist only in your mind.

    I am not disparaging them because they question the capabilities of the commercial firms. I disparage them because they demonstrate with their words that they don’t even understand them, or are aware of what is happening. Again, why do you, and they, disparage the Boeing Corporation, which has built every manned spacecraft that has flown in the last forty-five years?

  • Robert G. Oler

    William Mellberg wrote @ July 24th, 2011 at 4:57 pm

    “How much public enthusiasm have you seen for the Dawn spacecraft that is now in orbit around 4 Vesta? I haven’t seen any”

    about the same amount of enthusiasm that was for the last shuttle flight AFTER the launch.

    the entire resources from space thing is goofy anyway, it is far about our technology level RGO

  • Rand, that is as perfect an example of how arrogant and clueless the Internet Rocketeer Club is than if I had come up with it myself. Sheila Jackson Lee could not have said it better.

    Mark, are you so stupid as to think that I was implying that anyone has walked on Mars? I was simply making the point that there is no achievement so great that someone’s word should be accepted without question, or who shouldn’t be disputed when they are factually wrong.

  • William Mellberg

    Rhyolite wrote:

    “The delta-V required to get to many NEO asteroids is lower than the delta-V to get to the surface of the Moon. The delta-V required to get back from most NEOs is even lower. It’s easier to obtain resources from NEOs than from the Moon by a large margin.”

    But what about mass? It’s one thing to send a spacecraft to and fro. It’s quite another to send a load of metal back.

  • DCSCA

    @William Mellberg wrote @ July 24th, 2011 at 4:35 pm
    ” It only convinces me that you are a conceited, arrogant Internet bully.”

    Actually, it just reveals his own insecurities and inability to sell- or shill-his position to a skeptical market. But then, space exploitation is not space exploration. Wise minds know the way to Mars is by way of the moon as a proving ground for methods, procedures and hardware, a la Gemini was for Apollo. Kraft pretty much layed it out and it’s a worthy enterprise for a multi-decade space program, unlike the ISS. And the added benefit of 14 million square miles of Luna yet to be explored only enhances the path outward. Someone will go. Whether the United States will lead the expedition is uncertain and an international effort will most likely occur. That’s how it will happen one day. But that day is long off given the economic contstraints of our immediate times. After all, fellas like Oler want more aircraft carriers. Such are the demands on the treasury of the myopic on a withering empire.

  • William Mellberg

    Rand Simberg wrote:

    “Again, why do you, and they, disparage the Boeing Corporation, which has built every manned spacecraft that has flown in the last forty-five years?”

    I don’t disparage Boeing, at all. Nor do they. But Boeing didn’t build any of the U.S. manned spacecraft that have flown in the last forty-five years. McDonnell, North American (Rockwell) and Grumman built this country’s manned spacecraft.

    Do you think Boeing built the DC-3 just because their website said so after they acquired McDonnell Douglas?

  • Alan

    How much public enthusiasm have you seen for the Dawn spacecraft that is now in orbit around 4 Vesta?

    It’s a pitiful marketing job NASA is doing with Dawn’s visit to Vesta. Keith Cowing has been hammering away at NASA’s PAOs to get on the ball.

    http://nasawatch.com/archives/2011/07/nasa-is-sitting.html

  • Robert G. Oler

    William Mellberg wrote @ July 24th, 2011 at 5:24 pm

    actually I am very familiar with the Moon and the notion of lunar bases…and I have landed more airplanes then you ever will imagine (grin) including the V-22 (the real McCoy)…I am not rated in it…but I’ve mastered the take off and landing “thing” (grin).

    Had an entertaining event the other day. I was out in Flagstaff for a conference and had some time at the Lowell observatory there. They set up tubes at night for people to look through and on the way to the “Pluto” telescope I was able to more then hold my own on lunar knowledge. Besides I routinely bounce radio waves off it (WB5MZO).

    A landing at the poles if done with similar technology on the LM will have similar constraints due to the approach vectors that will be used. And there will be a need to fly vehicles “down to the dark” if there are “observatories” there. Ground transportation will not be able to move the bulk.

    “The problem with many people who say “been there, done that” with respect to the Moon is that they know nothing about the place,”

    you wont find a post where I say anything like that. We may at some point “sortie” to some NEO but I doubt that will happen before a return to the Moon. The weakest part of Obama’s space policy is the notion of “going to an asteroid, it reallyisnt a part of his policy it is just a tack on really.

    We are going to send humans “no where” other then Earth orbit as government policy under any President for a long time. We are in a pause like South Pole exploration, waiting for technology and cost to “get better”.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Rhyolite

    William Mellberg wrote @ July 24th, 2011 at 6:10 pm

    “I don’t disparage Boeing, at all. Nor do they. But Boeing didn’t build any of the U.S. manned spacecraft that have flown in the last forty-five years. McDonnell, North American (Rockwell) and Grumman built this country’s manned spacecraft.

    Do you think Boeing built the DC-3 just because their website said so after they acquired McDonnell Douglas?”

    Boeing didn’t acquire McDonnell Douglas, they merged and are now the same company. The inside joke was that McD bought Boeing with its own money, but I digress.

    Yes, they are the same company that built the DC-3. That group still exists within Boeing and is still building airplanes today (C-17s).

    Yes, they are the same company that built all of Americas manned spacecraft. Those heritage organizations exist in various corners of Boeing and are contributing to projects like CST-100 to this day.

  • Rhyolite

    William Mellberg wrote @ July 24th, 2011 at 6:06 pm

    “But what about mass? It’s one thing to send a spacecraft to and fro. It’s quite another to send a load of metal back.”

    You’ve got to be kidding. Trick question: what masses more, a ton of space craft or a ton of metal? Oh wait, they’re both made out of metal.

    The difficulty of moving anything around in the solar system is determined by the delta-V requirements. Moving a 100 tons of spacecraft, or 100 tons of fuel or 100 tons of metal out of the Lunar gravity well will always be harder than moving it from somewhere with almost no gravity well.

  • Rhyolite

    no gravity well…and low C3 requirements.

  • common sense

    Some people live in the past here. Some did live a grand life and unlike what some suggest I have the utmost admiration for their accomplishments as they inspired me to make a career in that field. And I find it odd that those who preach lessons to me have little to no aerospace experience. Then again there are those who tell the military how to win a war. Some of which we’ve been for what 8 years now…

    Anywho.

    Could not answer earlier so I’ll thank whoever responded to the childish exuberance of some posters here.

    Was it James T. Kirk or William Shatner who said something about getting a life? Not sure.

  • Coastal Ron

    William Mellberg wrote @ July 24th, 2011 at 4:57 pm

    Wrong! As Dr. Paul Spudis has pointed out in the plan he has put forward…

    I’ve read the Spudis/Lavoie plan, and the progressive robotic plan to explore ISRU on the Moon sounds like a good start. But once you start adding people to the mix, or assuming that the economics of resources from the Moon will somehow be competitive or less expensive than from the Earth, then that’s where I have said he’s wrong.

    The Spudis/Lavoie plan, which is titled “Mission and Implementation of an Affordable Lunar Return“, claims to “present an architecture that establishes the infrastructure for routine space travel by taking advantage of the Moon’s resources, proximity and accessibility.

    But his deliverables, after spending $88B, is a production system that can produce “~150 tonnes of water per year and roughly 100 tonnes of propellant“. Sounds good until you compare that to what it would cost to source those same commodities from Earth.

    If you used Falcon Heavy, then four launches could deliver 150 tonnes of water per year at a cost of $500M. For fuel, since the plumbing is likely more complicated, let’s assume the same cost, even though it’s less mass. So that’s $1B per year to do the same as what the Spudis/Lavoie plan wants to do starting at $88B. If you use Delta IV Heavy, that would be about $6B per year compared to the Spudis/Lavoie $88B. I don’t get the attraction.

    And unlike the ULA “Affordable Exploration Architecture 2009” plan, the Spudis/Lavoie plan doesn’t really take into account the logistics it will take to support humans on the Moon, so that $88B is just the starting, with the operation running in the red for the foreseeable future.

    So clearly the economics of sourcing water and fuel from the Moon is not even close to being competitive, especially at these volumes. Why would anyone pay 10X more for water and fuel if they don’t have to? And really, unless some law is passed, they won’t.

    What are we missing?

  • But Boeing didn’t build any of the U.S. manned spacecraft that have flown in the last forty-five years. McDonnell, North American (Rockwell) and Grumman built this country’s manned spacecraft.

    OK, then NASA didn’t build any of them, either. They don’t know what they don’t know, which they proved with Constellation. Organizations don’t have knowledge — people do. And Boeing, SpaceX, ULA and others all have people with a lot of experience, and much more recent experience than Marshall.

    Yet you and Gene Cernan insist that we continue to give tens of billions more to an organization that just pissed away ten billion on a failed program, and starve the organizations that have actually been successfully developing and flying rockets for an order of magnitude less money..

  • Matt Wiser

    William Melberg: Well said once again!

    Bose: Vague promises are no substitute for a actual plan of action, even one for planning/budgetary purposes. DOD thinks ahead when they issue a “Defense Guidance” every five years, which helps guide their budgetary and procurement process. NASA ought to do the same. They don’t even know which asteorids may be targets for the mission-even though L-M has ID’d several for their PLYMOUTH ROCK proposal for a NEO mission in 2019.

    DCSCA: I concur with your comment re: Jay Barbree. He’s the best spaceflight reporter there is right now, and no one’s been around longer than he has. Miles O’Brien was good when CNN had him, but they cut him loose-big mistake, IMHO.

    Rand: Oh, so Cernan, Krantz, Lovell, Schmitt, and the other Apollo vets are to be respected for their past accomplishments, but when they comment on what they see with NASA today, they’ve “sullied their reputation with recent behavior”? So, if they have any criticism of Commercial Crew, or the vague promise of an NEO mission, that sullies their reputation? NO. They’re offering comments based on their past experiences, and they have EVERY RIGHT to do so. Agreeing with what Garver, Bolden, Holdren, etc. have in mind for NASA is good in from what you’re saying, but disagreement is what, heresy or treason? Remember what Charlie Bolden said at the Senate Hearing after that “Space Summit” (more like preaching to the choir) last year? He said “Reasonable people can disagree.”

    Personally, though I disagree with FlexPath (the Augustine Panel said that Moon first options with Commercial crew to LEO were also viable), it’s what we’re on. Though I’d prefer lunar return prior to a NEO mission: we’re going to make mistakes, and I’d rather make those mistakes closer to home than when you’re 3-4 months away, with the resulting time lag.

  • Coastal Ron

    William Mellberg wrote @ July 24th, 2011 at 4:57 pm

    As for “resources” from asteroids … how do you return them to Earth?

    NASA doesn’t have announced plans for mining asteroids, only visiting them. You know, flags and footprints like Apollo. The goal is to learn how to live and travel BEO, not set up a mining colony.

    If someone wants to mine an asteroid, then they will follow in NASA’s footprints after NASA has proved out the technology. I’m a great believer in demand & supply market forces, so if we need what’s out in the asteroid field, then someone will figure out a way to build a business around that – it may even be profitable.

    There is a Chinese proverb that is relevant here:

    “Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he will eat for the rest of his life”

    Our tax dollars go to NASA so that they can learn better ways to fish. But so far people like you are don’t want NASA to show everyone how those techniques, which I think is pretty stingy, especially since it’s our tax dollars that funded NASA in the first place.

    NASA also doesn’t have unlimited resources, so I would rather they work on the hardest stuff, and leave the easier stuff to companies and individuals that will step up and take it over. This is a philosophical difference in opinion that many people have, and I guess I believe in what has worked for America in the past.

  • Das Boese

    William Mellberg wrote @ July 24th, 2011 at 6:06 pm

    But what about mass? It’s one thing to send a spacecraft to and fro. It’s quite another to send a load of metal back.

    Rhyolite wrote @ July 24th, 2011 at 7:59 pm

    You’ve got to be kidding. Trick question: what masses more, a ton of space craft or a ton of metal? Oh wait, they’re both made out of metal.

    The difficulty of moving anything around in the solar system is determined by the delta-V requirements. Moving a 100 tons of spacecraft, or 100 tons of fuel or 100 tons of metal out of the Lunar gravity well will always be harder than moving it from somewhere with almost no gravity well.

    True, though there is in fact a difference between bulk resources and (human-crewed) spacecraft that should be noted: A block of ice or metal doesn’t really care if it needs months or even years for a journey. If you get it from a place with negligible gravity it opens up a lot of possibilities, especially the use of light sails.

  • William Mellberg

    Rhyolite asked:

    “Trick question: what masses more, a ton of spacecraft or a ton of metal? Oh wait, they’re both made out of metal.”

    Here’s a question for you: do you know the difference between the empty weight and the maximum take-off weight of an aircraft or space vehicle, and why that difference is significant in terms of economic and operational considerations?

    I’ll give you some hints: fuel and payload.

    Here are a few other points that you might want to think about:

    1. Near Earth Objects (NEOs) are multiple light-seconds from Earth (up to several minutes) and thus, resource processing robots cannot be teleoperated from Earth. They CAN be teleoperated from the Moon.

    2. NEOs are relatively inaccessible objects, with typical launch windows every 12-36 months. You can go to the Moon at any time.

    3. Water in NEOs is probably chemically bound. Water ice is not stable on their surface, and the existence of permanent shadowed craters such as those at the lunar poles is not known. Thus, at least one order of magnitude MORE energy is required to process their clay minerals to extract the bound water, versus simple heating to 100 C to melt lunar polar ice.

    4. Because all resource extraction must be done while humans are present (see Point 1), you will have grossly inadequate batch processing at rare intervals on NEOs, versus the continuous processing possible on the Moon with machines controlled from Earth.

    5. We don’t really know anything yet about the nature of NEO resources — concentrations, physical states, chemical and mineralogical form, and ease of access, extraction and storage. Most chemical industrial processing relies in one way or another on gravity (e.g., density separation, convection, settling, etc.). We might even need to produce artificial gravity in order to process asteroid resources.

    The operational problems associated with asteroids complicate matters tremendously and make them a very poor choice to begin utilizing space resources. If you were looking at all of this from the perspective of a mining executive, where do you think you’d start digging?

    Facts are stubborn things.

  • William Mellberg

    Rhyolite opined:

    “Yes, they are the same company that built the DC-3. That group still exists within Boeing and is still building airplanes today (C-17s). Yes, they are the same company that built all of America’s manned spacecraft. Those heritage organizations exist in various corners of Boeing and are contributing to projects like CST-100 to this day.”

    One of my good friends, a former Area Sales Manager (i.e., jetliner salesman) for Douglas Aircraft Company, would tell you, “Those are fighting words!” It is the Douglas DC-3, NOT the Boeing DC-3, no matter what Boeing’s website once said (since corrected). I dare say there is nobody left at Long Beach who had anything to do with the design of the DC-3, just as there is nothing left of the Douglas Aircraft Company Headquarters building on the west side of Lakewood Boulevard. As you pointed out, C-17s are still being built on the west side of the field. But time is running out for that facility, and the layoffs have already begun as the C-17 program winds down.

    I suppose you think Boeing also built the Fokker airliners of the late 1920s/early 1930s since Fokker Aircraft Corporation of America eventually evolved into North American Aviation, and NAA (Rockwell) was later absorbed by Boeing. As a former marketing and press representative for Fokker Aircraft USA, I would tell you, “Those are fighting words, too!” And Anthony Fokker might have mentioned something about his mother had anyone suggested such an absurd notion to him.

  • ok then

    They are determined to knee-cap commercial crew in favor of SLS and this will be an ongoing funding war every year until something flies.

    Secondly, they are just Congress. Whatever crayola based space plan they gin up, they will still be asking NASA to do the math and fill in the details. Something NASA is already doing for the broad WH directives. If the critics of the current broad political goals suddenly find the Congressional crayola crayon effort stunningly realistic and detailed, I won’t be surprised in the least.

    Pick a position and stick to it. I’m tired of watching the kitchen sinks fly to defend the SLS-or-bust approach.

  • ken anthony

    I am disgusted with the attacks on free enterprise. The laws of economics don’t end once we go to orbit and beyond.

    NASA is supposed to be encouraging free enterprise BEO. It has failed, but free enterprise hasn’t. NASA continues to spend it’s budget on the wrong things. However the NASA budget really isn’t the issue (I can hear the gasps and guffaws.)

    “It’s the economics stupid.”

    Markets proceed in steps. Each step must normally be profitable in itself. Thanks to satellites we have competitive launch systems. This provides funding for other steps (only for those with a vision beyond the satellite market.) Cargo and passenger service to LEO and back exists as a market thanks to ISS and those that would use the SpaceX DragonLab.

    But ISS is not economically viable. You can never trust government funding. Bigelow believes he has an orbital market. Win or lose it’s his money (regardless of other money.) The market will determine if he’s right, not any comments here. So the crystal ball goes as far as humans in orbit. Can we see farther? Yes.

    There are a variety of possible next steps but two are obvious:

    1) Passenger vehicles to go between orbits.
    2) Lander/SSTO vehicles for higher gravity surfaces.

    If NASA or others go anywhere for any purpose, private enterprise can sell them tickets. A large volume orbital ship is affordable today using existing components and the first trip would pay it’s total cost. Anyone that thinks only government can do such a thing has his head in the sand. The ship itself becomes a market for fuel.

    People have tried to find others, but only one economic incentive will pay for people in space. Those people having a reason to go and spending their own money. That means private ownership.

    Rather than disparaging free enterprise, if you want anything but a totalitarian future, you should be embracing it rather than the scorn I see in comments here.

  • @Common Sense
    It was Shatner on SNL addressing the fanaticism of some Star Trek fans.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Matt Wiser wrote @ July 24th, 2011 at 10:22 pm
    “? So, if they have any criticism of Commercial Crew, or the vague promise of an NEO mission, that sullies their reputation? ”

    no, it is when they have uninformed or purposely misleading comments…like commercial companies receiving billions of dollars RGO

  • Coastal Ron

    William Mellberg wrote @ July 24th, 2011 at 11:51 pm

    If you were looking at all of this from the perspective of a mining executive, where do you think you’d start digging?

    Luckily NASA isn’t planning to do any of those things, so you can stop debating yourself.

    Although it is funny to see you make the same arguments against asteroid mining that some make against lunar mining…

  • Vague promises are no substitute for a actual plan of action, even one for planning/budgetary purposes.

    They beat a plan that’s guaranteed to fail to anyone with half an ounce of technical, fiscal and political sense.

    They’re offering comments based on their past experiences, and they have EVERY RIGHT to do so.

    No one said that they have no right to do so. I simply said that when they make foolish and uninformed statements, they make themselves look like fools, and it saddens me.

  • Justin Kugler

    Mr. Mellberg,
    Your point #1 is not clear. The Earth and the Moon are close enough that the difference in communications lag to distant objects is negligible. Did you meant to suggest that we can do telerobotics on the Moon from the Earth?

    I would also point out that the space division of Boeing does have experience with building and operating America’s largest and most continually operating spacecraft, the International Space Station.

    I also ask why you think all resource extraction must be done with humans present. For example, Bill Stone’s Shackleton Energy Company is modeled on human-tended robotic resource extraction on the Moon where robots do the heavy-lifting and humans are essentially there for troubleshooting when required.

    I think we could all do well to check our assumptions and not treat them like facts, sir.

  • William Mellberg

    ken anthony said:

    “The laws of economics don’t end once we go to orbit and beyond.”

    They certainly don’t. Which is why it is so very, very difficult to make a business case for human spaceflight without taxpayer dollars. And that’s the point Cernan, Armstrong, Lovell, Schmitt, Cunningham, Kraft, Kranz and many others (including yours truly) have been making. No one is “disparaging free enterprise.” The critics are simply talking about the laws of economics — the same laws which have made it impossible to produce a truly viable supersonic transport for commercial aviation. Remember, Concorde was heavily subsidized by Britain and France. It was also a dead end in terms of follow-on commercial developments. Yet, SST economics are (were) vastly superior to the costs associated with human spaceflight, no matter how many fantasies some people might embrace.

  • Which is why it is so very, very difficult to make a business case for human spaceflight without taxpayer dollars.

    The issue is not whether or not there are taxpayer dollars. The issue is whether they are spent cost effectively. For the past half decade, they have not been, if the goal was to advance humanity into space. Purchasing services from commercial companies on fixed-price contract has so far been much more affordable, and successful.

  • DCSCA

    @Rand Simberg wrote @ July 24th, 2011 at 5:55 pm
    “Again, why do you, and they, disparage the Boeing Corporation, which has built every manned spacecraft that has flown in the last forty-five years?”

    This is just flat-out wrong but considering the ‘source’ no surprise on the inaccuracy. Boeing had not acquired nor merged with the existing firms in the time frames when the ‘manned spacecraft that [have] flown in the last forty-five years’ were designed and developed. The prime contractors before mergers and acquisitions were McDonnell-Douglas; North American and later NA/Rockwell. Boeing’s chief contribution was the SI-C and the LRV. They did propose a shuttle system but it was rejected. No doubt Simberg would claim Babe Ruth’s stats while with Boston should be part of NY’s stats on him after they acquired him.

  • DCSCA

    @Coastal Ron wrote @ July 24th, 2011 at 10:31 pm
    ” I’m a great believer in demand & supply market forces…”

    Hmmm. Then you have no basis to need to press for government subsidies of any commerical space enterprises, manned or unmanned. The ‘demand & supply market forces’ will dictate the financing parameters for a high risk, low ROI enterprise, won’t they, and private capital markets have made their position known. Which is why hobbyists like Master Musk seeks government subsidies. What a disappointment he is to your belief system. But then, socializing the risk on the many to benefit a few is a hard habit to break. Tick-tock, tick-tock, fella.

  • DCSCA

    @William Mellberg wrote @ July 25th, 2011 at 1:03 pm
    ken anthony said:

    “The laws of economics don’t end once we go to orbit and beyond.”

    “They certainly don’t. Which is why it is so very, very difficult to make a business case for human spaceflight without taxpayer dollars.”

    In this era, precisely. Well said.

  • DCSCA

    @Matt Wiser wrote @ July 24th, 2011 at 10:22 pm
    Kraft’s been critical of the ‘NASA’ management mind set of ‘now’ , but his criticisms pale in candor to those of the crusty ol’ Frank Borman LOL.

  • VirgilSamms

    “Yet, SST economics are (were) vastly superior to the costs associated with human spaceflight, no matter how many fantasies some people might embrace”

    OUCH!!

    That HAD to hurt all the space station vacation hopefuls.
    Best post concerning private space for a long time.
    Thank you W.M.

  • DCSCA

    DCSCA wrote @ July 25th, 2011 at 4:52 pm
    @Robert G. Oler wrote @ July 25th, 2011 at 8:00 am
    no, it is when they have uninformed or purposely misleading comments…like commercial companies receiving billions of dollars

    =yawn= Misleading? Uh, put down the mirror. After wheels stop on STS-135, CNN aired a chart in a post-flight report segment listing the hundreds of millions of dollars subsidizing individual comemrical space companies– the total tallies toward the billion dollar arena in time. Point is, they’re getting subsidies.

  • Coastal Ron

    William Mellberg wrote @ July 25th, 2011 at 1:03 pm

    Which is why it is so very, very difficult to make a business case for human spaceflight without taxpayer dollars.

    To start with, yes, NASA will likely be a loss leader for SpaceX and Boeing, in that they will be glad to break even on the costs.

    But the profit in spaceflight will be in expanding the market past the initial ISS demand. That’s what commercial companies do that NASA can’t, which is find new customers and new uses for their services, and that’s what we need if we want to get more people living, working and visiting space.

  • Googaw

    I am disgusted with the attacks on free enterprise. The laws of economics don’t end once we go to orbit and beyond.

    True, but the economic laws of the free market do end once you sign a contract with NASA — “commercial” or otherwise.

  • William Mellberg

    Justin Kugler wrote:

    “Your point #1 is not clear. The Earth and the Moon are close enough that the difference in communications lag to distant objects is negligible. Did you meant to suggest that we can do telerobotics on the Moon from the Earth?”

    That is, indeed, what I meant. And, if you read my point #1 again, I think you’ll see that is what I said. I assume that most mining operations on the Moon would be done with telerobotics from Earth because of the negligible time lag in communications. But that capability would be more difficult (if not impossible) for NEOs where the time lag, as I mentioned, can be up to several minutes.

    Justin Kugler pointed out:

    “… the space division of Boeing does have experience with building and operating America’s largest and most continually operating spacecraft, the International Space Station.”

    That is true, although I think there is a difference between space ‘craft’ and space ‘station.’ Spacecraft suggests a vehicle for traveling to and/or from space (or across deep space as in the case of planetary probes). Space station suggests an outpost for living and working in space (i.e., a destination/habitat, not a transportation vehicle). Semantics aside, you raise a very valid point with regard to Boeing’s experience with manned space systems. I stand corrected!

    Justin Kugler also asked:

    “… why you think all resource extraction must be done with humans present. For example, Bill Stone’s Shackleton Energy Company is modeled on human-tended robotic resource extraction on the Moon where robots do the heavy-lifting and humans are essentially there for troubleshooting when required.”

    I think if you take another look at my point #4, you will see that I echoed Stone’s model when I referred to “continuous processing possible on the Moon with machines controlled from Earth.” As I mentioned previously, I also embrace the Spudis-Lavoie plan which would rely on robots to do the heavy-lifting and humans to do troubleshooting when needed. Moreover, that is also what Harrison Schmitt describes in his book, “Return to the Moon.” Schmitt has also cited some of the difficulties associated with mining and processing resources at asteroids vs. mining and processing resources (including water ice and Helium-3) on the Moon.

  • Justin Kugler

    What is the problem with NASA making milestone-based payments for the development of a service that it intends to utilize, especially at lower cost than NASA itself could? Are the semantics of what such a process is called really that important?

  • “Or do you think that Cx had some value?”

    The primary value of Constellation was it’s ability to take us to the Moon, and later Mars. The architecture was specifically selected from day one to meet those requirements.

    Boeing states that CTS-100 is purely LEO only, and only has battery electric power for a few days. The initial requirements for Dragon was for cargo to the ISS. In the early days, for a crew variant, Musk was against even adding a window or any flight controls beyond a red abort button. Despite hyperbole from Musk, the SpaceX philosophy has always been KISS.

  • William Mellberg

    Rand Simberg wrote:

    “No one said that they have no right to do so. I simply said that when they make foolish and uninformed statements, they make themselves look like fools, and it saddens me.”

    Who says they are “foolish and uninformed statements” … Rand Simberg?

    Who says “they make themselves look like fools” … Rand Simberg?

    And what makes Rand Simberg’s assessment of what is or isn’t “foolish” so vastly superior to what Professor Armstrong and Captain Cernan have said and written?

    I would suggest that people take a look at the presentations Armstrong and Cernan made on Capitol Hill last year. They’re available on YouTube, as are the Q&A sessions that followed. I watched them again this afternoon, and I found nothing “foolish” about their remarks. Nor did they use insults and invectives to express their disagreements with others … unlike Rand Simberg.

    Insults are the weapons used by demagogues.

    Logic and reason are the tools of persuasion used by gentlemen. And I have never heard more gentlemanly presentations than Professor Armstrong’s remarks to the House and Senate committees. His demeanor was modest and humble. His comments were certainly more lucid than some of the ones Mr. Simberg offers here and elsewhere. Mr. Armstrong and Captain Cernan offered words of wisdom based on decades of experience — not the sanctimonious rants of an armchair critic.

  • the economic laws of the free market do end once you sign a contract with NASA — “commercial” or otherwise.

    Really? Do the laws of the free market end when Microsoft sells NASA copies of Windows?

  • “We already know that Bigelow has identified seven countries that want to lease his BA-330 space habitats, so all that’s needed is the transportation system. But Bigelow has said he won’t start up until there are two or more transportation providers, and he won’t fund them, so that still leaves NASA to be the leader.”

    The Bigelow case is very different from NASA BEO because Bigelow is offering a packaged LEO service that meets the very limited (mostly political) needs of a few nations that do not have any manned space program. That is because US taxpayers will be paying for all of the development costs so that those small countries can afford to put a few token heroes in LEO.

    NASA is different. It’s recent goal was to put men on the Moon and then Mars. This is not something that NewSpace (SpaceX, SpaceDev, Masten, Blue Origin, Armadillo, …) has to offer. You can argue that Boeing is NewSpace, but it isn’t, any more than NASA ever was.

    “But I don’t understand what the beef is here. The U.S. Government has a long history will being the initial investor for lots of transportation systems, and in the end the U.S. Taxpayer ends up benefiting directly and indirectly.”

    In the case of past US investments in transport (Erie Canal, Panama Canal, Transcontinental Railroad, …better examples???) there was a clear, well-defined market demand for those transport services. Despite the best efforts of people like Jeff Faust, there is not yet a clear commercial demand for LEO crew launch services.

    But no matter how you slice it, this situation is crazy. Why did we just build the ISS if we don’t really need it? Why do we need to go to the Moon now when we have been ignoring it for the past 30 years? How did AerianneSpace and Russia capture most of the commercial launch market from us?

    I don’t really view Bigelow’s business plan as true space commerce. I would love to see a medical or materials breakthrough that could create a market for LEO manufacturing, or a 100x drop in launch costs that could put LEO tourism within the reach of the upper classes…

  • Coastal Ron

    Googaw wrote @ July 25th, 2011 at 5:20 pm

    True, but the economic laws of the free market do end once you sign a contract with NASA

    You and DCSCA need to take finance and business classes together.

    Contracts are part of everyday life in business, regardless if it’s between two private companies or with a government agency. And sometimes government contracts can be a really good deal, if you know how to negotiate them, which is how Boeing, ATK and Lockheed Martin do so well in the defense and aerospace market.

    No, the economic laws of supply and demand still exist both here on Earth and everywhere else. You just have to open your eyes and recognize them. You two don’t.

  • William Mellberg

    Coastal Ron wrote:

    “But the profit in spaceflight will be in expanding the market past the initial ISS demand. That’s what commercial companies do that NASA can’t, which is find new customers and new uses for their services, and that’s what we need if we want to get more people living, working and visiting space.”

    But NASA is not the United States Post Office, and there is no existing “commercial” market for human spaceflight as there was for carrying the mail when the early airlines were organized with the help of government air mail contracts in 1925. It is important to remember that those air mail contracts were based on the sale of air mail services to the general public (i.e., a mass market). Moreover, many of those early air mail carriers were soon flying passengers because of the pre-existing market for people traveling from Point A to Point B. Air transportation supplemented (and eventually overtook) rail and sea transport because of a mass market for travel services between destinations across the country and around the globe. There is no such pre-existing market in space. And without the ISS, there’d be no need for “commercial” space today. In short, there is not much of a business case for “commercial” space in terms of human spaceflight. A new supersonic transport would have a better chance of making it in the real world world of free enterprise. And I don’t see Airbus or Boeing pushing that idea.

  • VirgilSamms

    “Why did we just build the ISS if we don’t really need it? Why do we need to go to the Moon now when we have been ignoring it for the past 30 years? How did AerianneSpace and Russia capture most of the commercial launch market from us?”

    Why the ISS? Don’t ask me- I have always hated that 100 billion dollars of tin cans. A Saturn V could have put the same interior space up with a wet workshop second stage in one afternoon in the mid 70′s. Great You tube videos though. Especially the ladies hair in zero G.

    Why the moon now?
    We recently found very convincing data for millions of tons of ice on the moon. That changed everything.

    How did Russia and Ariane space succeed?
    Russians stuck with evolving their existing equipment for higher quality and high reliability. Like we have been doing with the SRB’s and other shuttle components.

    Ariane uses the same formula that has been known since the first air force space launch system studies back in the 50′s; SRB’s and a hydrogen core stage with as few engines as possible.

    The same formula we are trying to bring into existence with the SLS.

    And before the comparision of the Soyuz and Falcon 9 start, Soyuz has 5 turbopumps in the core and boosters and is controlled with very simple 2 axis vernier rockets. Falcon has 9 turbopumps and 9 3 axis gymbals.

    Soyuz has flown over a thousand times. Falcon has flown twice.
    There is no comparison.

  • A new supersonic transport would have a better chance of making it in the real world world of free enterprise. And I don’t see Airbus or Boeing pushing that idea.

    Because they don’t know how to do it in a way that it makes money.

  • Olson and Rogers would end NASA’s major missions for this decade and SpaceX looks increasingly likely to be the only American astronaut launcher available during that time, or least until the next Congress convenes in 2013

  • DCSCA

    Coastal Ron wrote @ July 25th, 2011 at 6:49 pm

    =yawn= We’ve already established the crushing disappointment you’re experiencing as commercial firms seek government subsidies which undercuts your own stated position as “a great believer in demand & supply market forces…” The ‘demand & supply market forces’ have dictated the financing parameters for a high risk, low ROI enterprisewhich keep private capital markets, in search of a profit, wary. Which is why hobbyists like Master Musk seeks government subsidies. What a disappointment for you. But then, socializing the risk on the many to benefit a few may just be the bedrock of your belief system after all.

  • DCSCA

    @Googaw wrote @ July 25th, 2011 at 5:20 pm

    It’s folly to believe ‘free enterprise’ will lead the way out into the solar system. The 80-plus year history of rocketry has shown otherwise. For profit ‘free enterprise’ activities have always been a follow along, cashing in where it could. And the imes they had the chance to step up and lead the way, the balked, letting governments carry the load of a high risk venture, socializing it on the back of the many. ‘Free enterprise’ rocketeers have earned the scolding they get. Space exploitation is not space exploration.

  • Vladislaw

    “and there is no existing “commercial” market for human spaceflight”

    Tell that to Bigelow Aerospace, I want to see how long they laugh at you as they wave the increasing numbers of MOU’s from countries that want to lease parts of their station.

  • Matt Wiser

    Rand: “Foolish and uninformed?”….Rand, remember this? Neil Armstrong, Gene Cernan, Jim Lovell, Chris Kraft, and others were briefed by no less than Charlie Bolden himself on commercial crew, Flex Path, and so on. As Bolden himself admitted in his Senate testimony last year, they had questions, which he tried to answer; they offered criticism, and he tried to ally that criticism, and they wound up disagreeing. Listening to what the old Apollo vets is not backwards thinking, it’s using a national resource that is finite, and not using their expertise in the future program would be the height of folly.

  • Googaw

    William, your observation about the vast difference between mail and HSF is blatantly obvious to anybody who understands the history of mail and applies business or economic common sense to HSF. Yet it hits the acolytes of celestial pilgrimages like an egg hitting a brick wall. Regardless of any such exposure to reality such as you provide here, the brick wall goes on making this and other preposterous comparisons, another example being comparing the sale to NASA of mass-market software to a “commercial” contract where NASA underwrites up-front most of the R&D costs of a service very unique to a very unique government agency.

  • Coastal Ron

    William Mellberg wrote @ July 25th, 2011 at 6:50 pm

    But NASA is not the United States Post Office, and there is no existing “commercial” market for human spaceflight as there was for carrying the mail when the early airlines were organized with the help of government air mail contracts in 1925.

    Analogies are fine in order to get an idea across, but don’t be a slave to them since no two things of this magnitude are ever the same.

    The ISS needs crew transportation multiple times per year. We have always been dependent on the Russians for their Soyuz to keep our astronauts at the ISS (lifeboat duty), and now we are 100% dependent on them to get there and back. Oh, and they are charging $63M/seat for transportation in 2016.

    That is market demand with a sole source for supply. Not a good situation to be in.

    Regarding the word “commercial”, one of the definitions is “making or intended to make a profit”. Is there a commercial market for Boeing, SNC, Blue Origin and SpaceX for transporting crew to the ISS? They believe there is, and they are investing their own money in advance of any firm commitments from NASA. Maybe they all won’t make it, but who knows.

    And since NASA is willing to not only help pay for these companies (and others) to learn how to do crew transportation the NASA way (CCDev), but also pay them for actually transporting the crew on a regular basis, then that sure seems like a commercial venture (i.e. intended to make a profit).

    Maybe you have some other definition of “commercial” that I’m not aware of?

    A new supersonic transport would have a better chance of making it in the real world world of free enterprise.

    You bring up the SST a lot – big emotional attachment?

    The Concorde failed because the market wouldn’t support it, regardless if it was fast, elegant, pretty or whatever. The luxury market that it served had lots of fungible alternatives that cost less and offered more, and the SST had few options to change. A BA “Club World London City” business-class suite probably couldn’t fit profitably in a Concorde, much less a first-class suite, so what was it’s competitive advantage when speed wasn’t that big of an issue?

    The SST was an Anglo-French government experiment that failed, and why you don’t see Airbus and Boeing building new ones is that the market isn’t demanding them.

    NASA (and Congress) want American transportation to the ISS, so there is a market demand for commercial crew. I doubt the CCDev participants think they will be profitable solely on the ISS business, and that’s why I think they will bring their marketing prowess to bear to expand the market demand past not only Bigelow, but to other users. The ISS represents the anchor tenant, but not the whole business.

  • Coastal Ron

    Nelson Bridwell wrote @ July 25th, 2011 at 6:44 pm

    The Bigelow case is very different from NASA BEO because…

    You keep bringing up this canard. Commercial Crew (CCDev) and commercial space (Bigelow in this case) are focused on LEO, not BEO, so there is no “competing” with NASA. And NASA isn’t even funded to go BEO right now, so how could NASA compete even if it wanted to? Weird.

    Although if NASA and Congress don’t get their act together, someone from the Google Lunar X PRIZE is going to beat them back to the Moon, and then that might inspire someone to venture out a little further.

  • “There is no such pre-existing market in space. And without the ISS, there’d be no need for “commercial” space today. In short, there is not much of a business case for “commercial” space in terms of human spaceflight. A new supersonic transport would have a better chance of making it in the real world world of free enterprise. And I don’t see Airbus or Boeing pushing that idea.”

    I have to agree. It isn’t that we don’t want to see lucrative commercial markets arise in the future (like hypothetical He3), and Commercials space succeed independent of NASA. There just really isn’t much of a case to be made at the moment. I don’t expect Boeing to invest much into CST-100 beyond what CCDev provides. I suspect that to them it is a case of aggressively holding down costs whereever possible, and getting a toe in the door, should a significant market arise in the future, or to fill out their portfolio in order to attract future business.

  • Das Boese

    William Mellberg wrote @ July 25th, 2011 at 6:50 pm

    There is no such pre-existing market in space. And without the ISS, there’d be no need for “commercial” space today. In short, there is not much of a business case for “commercial” space in terms of human spaceflight.

    Wrong, completely wrong. The market very much exists, the ISS has multiple facilities dedicated to commercial research in use right now, ESA advertises ISS services on their website, as do the Japanese. All with constraints due to the station’s design, focus on construction work and basic research as well as limited crew time.

    A new supersonic transport would have a better chance of making it in the real world world of free enterprise. And I don’t see Airbus or Boeing pushing that idea.

    It’s a high risk niche market that is not very attractive for the aerospace giants. But I would not at all be surprised to see someone else develop a supersonic business jet in the next decade or so.

  • Vladislaw

    Matt Wiser wrote:

    “Rand, remember this? Neil Armstrong, Gene Cernan, Jim Lovell, Chris Kraft, and others were briefed by no less than Charlie Bolden himself on commercial crew, Flex Path, and so on”

    Why do you only list astronauts that disagreed? Why don’t you list all the astronauts that agreed with the policy? You try to give the impression that no one agreed. How about listing all the astronauts that are now working for commercial launch companies?

    When Buzz came out for the flexible path I remember the constellation huggers just ripping into him and called him all kinds of names because he didn’t support your position. I guess that was okay to rip into that apollo vet because he disagreed with you.

  • Vladislaw

    Nelson Bridwell wrote:

    “That is because US taxpayers will be paying for all of the development costs so that those small countries can afford to put a few token heroes in LEO.”

    So what you want to see is US taxpayers paying for all the development costs so that america can put a few token heros on the moon?

    “I don’t really view Bigelow’s business plan as true space commerce.”

    Oh oh, I bet Bigelow Aerospace will be losing sleep tonight because Nelson doesn’t believe their business plan is “true” space commerce.

  • Nelson Bridwell wrote:
    ““That is because US taxpayers will be paying for all of the development costs so that those small countries can afford to put a few token heroes in LEO.”
    Not all, only part. Not like Cx and SLS where the taxpayer pays 100%. NASA only forks out part of the money and the commercial partner pays the rest. Plus its a fixed price contract. No way to go over budget as happened with Cx and will probably happen with SLS. Why you guys don’t get this is beyond me.

  • Neil Armstrong, Gene Cernan, Jim Lovell, Chris Kraft, and others were briefed by no less than Charlie Bolden himself on commercial crew, Flex Path, and so on

    Too bad they weren’t briefed by someone who can actually articulate the plans and the issues.

  • Dennis Berube

    Ive said it before and Ill say it again. If projected cost to visit say Bigelows space station, stay high, not to many people will venture there. What will that do? Will he raise his prices even more, or will he pull out and let it fall into the sea? At several million a pop, how many people will continually go into space? It certainlywont ever be the middle class!

  • VirgilSamms

    “Because they don’t know how to do it in a way that it makes money.”

    They could not make money with the SST. And you can. Amazing.

  • William Mellberg

    Rand Simberg wrote:

    “Because they [Airbus and Boeing] don’t know how to do it [build a supersonic transport] in a way that it makes money.”

    No. It’s because the laws of physics prevent a supersonic transport from being built that will come anywhere close to matching the fuel burn and operating costs of subsonic transports. The speed advantage does not offset the cost disadvantage to attract a large enough market for an airline to support a fleet of SSTs. No matter how efficiently an SST might be designed, its speed is always going to result in a higher fuel burn than subsonic aircraft. It’s related to the energy required to reach those speeds. Moreover, supersonic aircraft are always going to be more costly to maintain than subsonic transports. And, as the recent order (the biggest in history) from American Airlines for Airbus and Boeing jetliners demonstrates, air carriers are still looking for greater fuel efficiency and lower maintenance costs … not speed. That’s because most passengers are looking for cheaper fares … not greater speed. So it is more than just the laws of physics working against the development of a new SST. The laws of economics are a major factor. And those same laws of physics and economics also make it very, very difficult to present a legitimate business case for genuine “commercial” space. Without the taxpayer-funded ISS, there’d be no “commercial” human spaceflight because the market (the real life commercial market) for human spaceflight simply doesn’t exist. If supersonic air travel is a niche market, human spaceflight is something even smaller. There were not enough millionaires to support supersonic air travel without government subsidies. And there aren’t enough billionaires to support “commercial” joy rides into space on a scale that would result in truly affordable costs and a viable mass market.

    Rand Simberg also wrote:

    “Too bad they [Armstrong, Cernan, Lovell, Kraft, et al.] weren’t briefed by someone who can actually articulate the plans and the issues.”

    I suppose they would have seen the light if Rand Simberg had briefed them rather than Charlie Bolden. What a pity that your superior abilities aren’t more widely recognized and utilized. Of course, most people don’t like being routinely insulted and belittled. So even if you were to brief Armstrong, Cernan, Lovell and friends about the glorious future of commercial space, they might be a little less receptive to your message when you start out by calling them “fools.”

  • Googaw

    It’s folly to believe ‘free enterprise’ will lead the way out into the solar system.

    Actually, it’s folly to believe that free enterprise will successfully _follow_ NASA by trying to privatize its useless and preposterously expensive astronaut extravaganzas.

    Where free enterprise does now lead — with a dose of very utilitarian contracts from the DoD thrown in — is in the real business of space, the launching and operations of automated satellites for communications and many other very useful services. A business that got its start, historians will recall, by private enterprise and the DoD satellites launched on retrofitted ICBMs, with NASA granted an unnecessary monopoly on those launches and making some token contributions to some of the early comsats. These services provide mass market benefits for millions of people on earth, like the mail and mass market software. These very useful businesses, and not the cult of celestial pilgrimages, are the actual cutting end of space development.

  • William Mellberg

    Vladislaw wrote:

    “Why do you only list astronauts that disagreed? Why don’t you list all the astronauts that agreed with the policy? How about listing all the astronauts that are now working for commercial launch companies?”

    Let’s see … could it be because they have a vested interest in the subject? Could it be because they’re on the payrolls of those companies? Not that I’m taking anything away from the distinguished astronauts who are now gainfully employed in “commercial” space. Nor do I question their commitment to the cause. But people should be aware of the fact that they have a personal stake in “commercial” space. Retirees like Armstrong, Lovell, Cernan, Kraft, Kranz, et al. do not.

    That said, I also recognize that different people have different views based on their personal experiences. So I can readily accept the fact that some Shuttle veterans are genuinely enthusiastic about what they see as the potential of “commercial” space. Moreover, Armstrong, Lovell, Cernan and their colleagues have repeatedly said that they hope “commercial” space succeeds. They’re simply expressing some reservations based upon their experience, as well as on the laws of economics.

    I do know from personal experience as a former marketing and press representative for a major aerospace manufacturer that I was paid to put the best spin on the products our firm was trying to sell, even as we ignored some of their lesser points. That’s the nature of the beast, whether one is selling automobiles, airplanes, spacecraft or widgets. “Follow the money,” as the saying goes. One doesn’t badmouth one’s employer.

    Of course, there are some other Apollo veterans who have embraced the Obama plan. One of them, Rusty Schweickart, actively campaigned for Barack Obama in 2008. So I wasn’t surprised that he endorsed the President’s new space policy. However, if I’m not mistaken, Buzz Aldrin has expressed some reservations about “ObamaSpace” in recent months — especially with regard to going back to the Moon.

    The beauty of a free country is that we’re all able to express our differing points of view. Ideally, we do so in a mature, polite manner — respectful of other peoples’ knowledge, experience and opinions.

  • William Mellberg

    Das Boese wrote:

    “Wrong, completely wrong. The market very much exists, the ISS has multiple facilities dedicated to commercial research in use right now, ESA advertises ISS services on their website, as do the Japanese. All with constraints due to the station’s design, focus on construction work and basic research as well as limited crew time.”

    But the ISS is not a “commercial” facility. It is a multi-government facility paid for by the taxpayers of the partner nations (mostly U.S. taxpayers, I might add, but certainly with tax dollars from Canada, Europe, Japan and Russia). Would those opportunities for commercial research exist right now had it not been for those tax dollars paying for the construction and operation of the ISS?

    Would Concorde have ever gone into service with Air France and British Airways if the French and British governments hadn’t paid for the development costs, handed the aircraft over to the state-owned carriers (at the time) and guaranteed a break-even result? That wasn’t really a “commercial” proposition either, because the private sector stayed away from Concorde. As was the case in the United States. As long as Uncle Sam was flipping the bills, Boeing went ahead with its own 2707 supersonic transport. But as soon as the taxpayers stopped supporting the Boeing SST, the project was no longer commercially viable, and the company pulled the plug. Mind you, there was nothing stopping Boeing from going ahead with the project as a private venture … nothing other than the lack of investors, lendors and customers.

    The same applies to “commercial” space. If it weren’t for taxpayer dollars, there would not be an International Space Station circling the Earth today.

    That said, I wish Bigelow all the best as I would like to see some privately-funded space stations circling our planet. But getting a return on that investment isn’t going to be easy. If that weren’t the case, why hasn’t Boeing already orbited their own privately-funded space station given all of their experience with the ISS?

  • Dennis Berube
    “Ive said it before and Ill say it again. If projected cost to visit say Bigelows space station, stay high, not to many people will venture there. What will that do? Will he raise his prices even more, or will he pull out and let it fall into the sea? At several million a pop, how many people will continually go into space? It certainlywont ever be the middle class!”

    Most of Bigelow’s prospective customers would be governments and/or industries. Six countries have already signed letters of intent with Bigelow.

  • They could not make money with the SST. And you can. Amazing.

    I didn’t say I could, you idiot. Amazing.

  • No. It’s because the laws of physics prevent a supersonic transport from being built that will come anywhere close to matching the fuel burn and operating costs of subsonic transports. [snip]

    That’s a long-winded way of repeating what I wrote.

    I suppose they would have seen the light if Rand Simberg had briefed them rather than Charlie Bolden.

    Maybe. Charlie hasn’t done a very good job in his public appearances. He may have many talents, but coherent explanations of his plans hasn’t been one of them, to date.

    What a pity that your superior abilities aren’t more widely recognized and utilized. Of course, most people don’t like being routinely insulted and belittled. So even if you were to brief Armstrong, Cernan, Lovell and friends about the glorious future of commercial space, they might be a little less receptive to your message when you start out by calling them “fools.”

    What mental incapacity would make you think that I would do that? I respect them for their achievements. If I were trying to persuade them, it would be stupid to think that I would attempt to do so by belittling them.

  • The beauty of a free country is that we’re all able to express our differing points of view. Ideally, we do so in a mature, polite manner — respectful of other peoples’ knowledge, experience and opinions.

    Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but they’re not entitled to their own facts, even if they’ve walked on the moon. Anyone stating nonsense should expect to be called out on it.

  • Coastal Ron

    Dennis Berube wrote @ July 26th, 2011 at 12:20 pm

    If projected cost to visit say Bigelows space station, stay high, not to many people will venture there.

    Bigelow is not doing tourism like Virgin Galactic. Bigelow has signed memorandum of understanding (MOU) with seven nations that want to use his private space stations. And the last I saw, he was offering something like 3 months for $23M/person, so it’s a pretty low price compared to the $2.4B/year it cost to run the Shuttle program.

    Bigelow has also said regarding commercial crew services, that they initially “would need six flights a year; with the launch of a second, larger station, that number would grow to 24, or two a month.

    So that isn’t too many people when you compare it to other forms of transportation, but it’s a huge leap in the amount of people that will be traveling to space on a regular basis.

  • Vladislaw

    “That said, I wish Bigelow all the best as I would like to see some privately-funded space stations circling our planet. But getting a return on that investment isn’t going to be easy. If that weren’t the case, why hasn’t Boeing already orbited their own privately-funded space station given all of their experience with the ISS?”

    Because Boeing knows what side their bread it buttered. Cost plus contracts with NASA versus the risk of competition. Gosh … tough choice.

    What year did the Dept of Transportation green light private space flight and provide the regulatory regime for private space flight?

    What year did the FAA give approvals for private space flight and set up the regulatory regime for it?

    What year did Congress green light private space flight? We have members of congress denigrating commercial space, like Shelby. When a person works for NASA on his pork train they are patriots, but when an ex-nasa joins commercial space they are working on hobby rockets.

    What year did NASA provide human rating standards for industry?

    I believe they were ordered to collate and provide this in 2006 and still have not provided a complete listing for it.

    How many ex NASA personal have told about the road blocks and strong arming tactics NASA has used to keep their monopoly. Look how they treated Tito, damn, you would have thought he was the anti – christ for wanting to get into space by going around NASA. For NASA anyone that went above 50 miles, even for just MINUTES was an astronaut. But not Tito .. oh no .. NASA had to invent a new term for him .. spaceflight participant… that is laughable.

  • William Mellberg

    Rand Simberg wrote:

    “If I were trying to persuade them, it would be stupid to think that I would attempt to do so by belittling them.”

    Then why do you belittle them here? And what makes you think they haven’t seen the remarks that you’ve posted here?

    What is really stupid is putting words into the public record that you might some day regret. You’ve left a long trail of insults behind you. Which is why your words ought to be more sweet … because you might have to eat them.

  • Coastal Ron

    William Mellberg wrote @ July 26th, 2011 at 1:43 pm

    Without the taxpayer-funded ISS, there’d be no “commercial” human spaceflight because the market (the real life commercial market) for human spaceflight simply doesn’t exist.

    Does it matter who paid for it? The ISS was built by government contractors, and now NASA needs cargo and crew services for it. Why can’t government contractors do that too?

    Maybe you’re over thinking the problem? Look at it this way. Regardless who paid for the ISS, it needs supplies and crew rotation. Who is going to do that in the most cost effective way? Here are the choices for crew services:

    1. Russia. We’re using them now, but they are our sole source for accessing the ISS. They will be charging $63M/seat in 2016.

    2. Wait until the MPCV/SLS. Who knows when that will be, but we know the costs will be about $250M/seat.

    3. Commercial companies. NASA needs to teach them how to do crew transportation the NASA way, and pay them for doing that, but in the end they will be far less than the MPCV/SLS, and likely less expensive than the Russians. Plus we’ll have redundant American access to space, which we didn’t have with the Shuttle.

    Choose one, or provide your own alternative.

  • Then why do you belittle them here?

    I don’t belittle them here, other than to point out that they are mistaken. Which is the same thing I would tell them if I were discussing this with them in person.

    Apparently, though, anything other than blind worship is beyond the pale for you.

  • Rhyolite

    William Mellberg wrote @ July 24th, 2011 at 11:51 pm

    “Here’s a question for you: do you know the difference between the empty weight and the maximum take-off weight of an aircraft or space vehicle, and why that difference is significant in terms of economic and operational considerations?

    I’ll give you some hints: fuel and payload.”

    Ok, since you don’t seem to be able to do the calculations yourself let me give you an example: Let’s say we want to ship propellant to a fuel depot in LEO where it might be useful and compare what it would take to do this from the Moon and from a NEO. Assume a transfer vehicle with a 100 mt wet mass, a 10 mt dry mass, and an Isp of 450 sec. That’s probably an optimistic mass ratio.

    The Moon to Earth transfer requires about 3 km/s and let’s assume we can aerobrake and circularize to LEO for 0.5 km/s for a total of 3.5 km/s. That means the transfer vehicle will expend 54 mt of propellant to get to LEO and arrive with 36 mt left. That sounds reasonable until you remember that you have to use a portion of that fuel to get the transfer vehicle back to the Moon. The return transfer is 5.5 km/s (no atmosphere aerobrake) with requires 24 mt of propellant leaving a net transfer to the propellant depot of 12 mt. In other words, 87% of the fuel produced on the Moon would be consumed getting it to somewhere it might actually be useful.

    The NEO to Earth transfer requires about 0.2 km/s and let’s assume we can aerobrake and circularize to LEO for 0.5 km/s for a total of 0.7 km/s. That means the transfer vehicle will expend 14.5 mt of propellant to get to LEO and arrive with 75.5 mt left. The return transfer requires about 4.5 km/s, which requires 17 mt of propellant leaving a net transfer to the propellant depot of 58.5 mt. 65% of the propellant generated at at a NEO makes would to LEO while only 13% of the propellant generated at the Moon would. The lunar infrastructure would end up having to be nearly 5 times as large just to deliver the same amount of usable propellant.

    It is also worth pointing out that if the Lunar transfer has very little margin. If the numbers are off slightly, then the net transfer drops to zero very quickly. The NEO numbers could be off by quite a bit before it becomes infeasible. The higher delta-V requirements for the Moon make any resources there much more difficult to utilize.

  • Rhyolite

    Sorry…65% of the propellant generated at at a NEO would make it to LEO while only 13% of the propellant generated at the Moon would.

  • Rhyolite

    William Mellberg wrote @ July 24th, 2011 at 11:51 pm

    “If you were looking at all of this from the perspective of a mining executive, where do you think you’d start digging?”

    Earth. It’s gong to be a long time before the marginal return on investing in BLEO ISRU is going to be competitive with the marginal return on investing in better launch technology.

  • Rhyolite

    William Mellberg wrote @ July 24th, 2011 at 11:51 pm

    “Here are a few other points that you might want to think about:”

    “1. Near Earth Objects (NEOs) are multiple light-seconds from Earth (up to several minutes) and thus, resource processing robots cannot be teleoperated from Earth. They CAN be teleoperated from the Moon.”

    Scooping (or drilling) regolith into processor is something that should be readily automated.

    “2. NEOs are relatively inaccessible objects, with typical launch windows every 12-36 months. You can go to the Moon at any time.”

    Can you think of any space mission that we don’t plan years in advance?

    “3. Water in NEOs is probably chemically bound. Water ice is not stable on their surface, and the existence of permanent shadowed craters such as those at the lunar poles is not known. Thus, at least one order of magnitude MORE energy is required to process their clay minerals to extract the bound water, versus simple heating to 100 C to melt lunar polar ice.”

    The energy cost of extracting water is very small compared to electrolysis of water into fuel. Energy is also going to be much more of a problem in permanently shadowed craters.

    “4. Because all resource extraction must be done while humans are present (see Point 1), you will have grossly inadequate batch processing at rare intervals on NEOs, versus the continuous processing possible on the Moon with machines controlled from Earth.”

    The assumption is false.

    “5. We don’t really know anything yet about the nature of NEO resources — concentrations, physical states, chemical and mineralogical form, and ease of access, extraction and storage. Most chemical industrial processing relies in one way or another on gravity (e.g., density separation, convection, settling, etc.). We might even need to produce artificial gravity in order to process asteroid resources.”

    Actually, we have a good idea of the nature of asteroids because samples, in the form of meteorites, drop into our laps every day. We can correlate meteorites and asteroids by spectral type. In the case of the moon, the small number of samples we have were at locations that were devoid of resources. The closes we have come to lunar resources is bombing them from orbit.

    In any event, it is going to be a very long time before someone can make a case for any kind of resource generation beyond LEO and it is not clear to me that the Moon is the place to start.

  • Vladislaw

    Rhyolite wrote:

    “That sounds reasonable until you remember that you have to use a portion of that fuel to get the transfer vehicle back to the Moon. The return transfer is 5.5 km/s (no atmosphere aerobrake) with requires 24 mt of propellant leaving a net transfer to the propellant depot of 12 mt.”

    I agree with you and believe Ceres to be the asteroid that will become the fuel station of the future. Could you cut down on the return propellant if you utilized zenon and Ion propulsion for the return trip to Luna? You could fuel it in LEO for the return trip to Lunar orbit.

    You are calculating the Lunar return propellant costs to LEO from a lunar orbit, correct? If so you would also have to include the propellant cost from the Lunar surface for launching 90 tons of propellant into lunar orbit.

  • Call me Ishmael

    Coastal Ron wrote @ July 26th, 2011 at 3:50 pm

    3. Commercial companies. NASA needs to teach them how to do crew transportation the NASA way, and pay them for doing that, but in the end they will be far less than the MPCV/SLS …

    Surely you jest. NASA will teach others to do things “the NASA way” and pay whatever that costs (also “the NASA way”), but those costs will somehow be much less than those of the previous/current “NASA way”?

    NASA has to learn that it _can’t_ do things “the NASA way” any more. That not even the congressional porkmeisters will/can give it enough money for long enough to pay for “the NASA way”. That any NASA astronaut who plans to actually get into space “the NASA way” is in for a lifetime of disappointment. This education will take years, if not decades, but this would be a good time to start.

    I lightheartedly hope that SpaceX and any other commercial entities actually hoping to be part of NewSpace walk away from NASA’s current conception of CCDev (or quote a price for doing it “the NASA way” that is so high SLS actually starts to look competitive) and continue doing their own thing on their own dime. It will probably be more profitable for them, and would certainly leave the rest of us better off.

  • Rhyolite

    Vladislaw wrote @ July 26th, 2011 at 5:44 pm

    The numbers are too and from the lunar surface. Different references may have values that vary by a few hundred m/s for each of these legs of the journey. Low thrust trajectories are possible for some these legs but that tends to increase the delta-V requirements. You still need (relatively) high thrust to get off of the lunar surface.

  • Vladislaw

    “I lightheartedly hope that SpaceX and any other commercial entities actually hoping to be part of NewSpace walk away from NASA’s current conception of CCDev (or quote a price for doing it “the NASA way” that is so high SLS actually starts to look competitive) and continue doing their own thing on their own dime.”

    Wouldn’t some members of congress just lean on DOT or FAA for stricter safety reguirements, driving them out of LEO access all together?

  • Matt Wiser

    For once, I’m agreeing with Vadislaw: Congress would lean on DOT and the FAA to impose safety requirements that would likely mirror NASA’s.

  • Matt Wiser

    Vadislaw and Rand: Charlie Bolden is not a very good communicator: while no doubt he was a fine astronaut and a great Marine, he’s not that good at articulating his proposals and ideas. The FY 11 rollout demonstrated that-and he’s never recovered in all of his House and Senate testimony. As Charlie admitted after that disaster of a rollout, he didn’t listen to his PAOs.

    Buzz has been quoted recently as advocating lunar return as soon as possible, but not a unilateral U.S. effort: instead, make it international. (ESA, JAXA, Canadians, hell, even Russians if necessary) Which is what some were advocating in a NYT piece on NASA prior to 1 Feb 2010 and all that followed. Some at JSC were wiling to allow ESA to develop a lunar lander and have ESA crew members on lunar missions if that was what it took to get the program past the new administration.

  • Coastal Ron

    Call me Ishmael wrote @ July 26th, 2011 at 7:30 pm

    Surely you jest.

    I understand your concern, as do the CCDev participants that just gave NASA an earful about moving away from SAA’s.

    But when I say NASA, I am using them as shorthand for “the U.S. Government”, since the FAA and Air Force are involved too (AF for range issues). There is no getting around that the government is going to have to figure out what and how to certify crew systems, so it can either happen with NASA money or without it.

    NASA is the entity that has the need driving CCDev, so they should be paying for non-standard stuff. The problem is no one knows what the standards should be, so there will be flailing, no doubt. But as long as there is enough budget from Congress, it will get done.

  • Bennett

    “Wouldn’t some members of congress just lean on DOT or FAA for stricter safety reguirements, driving them out of LEO access all together?”

    A valid concern. I submit that at some point, the holders of technology have no obligation to a system that is in a self-destruct mode vis a vis policy.

    The human race really needs to get on with it.

    I hear Brazil has some great restaurants and beaches.

  • ken anthony

    how many people will continually go into space? It certainly wont ever be the middle class!

    Ah, the ‘if man were meant to fly he’d have wings’ argument. Funny how it keeps coming back in style. The super rich are the first to be able to afford anything. Then the rich. Then upper middle class. Eventually, the poor have iPods, cell phones, color TVs (gad!), etc.

    Cabins come in different sizes at different rates. A ship that holds four passengers will have different economics from one that holds 200.

    How much space does a person need to travel to some destination? BA330 gives 55 m^3 per person. Dragon provides 1.4 m^3 per person.

    A year of supply (no recycling) is about 4 m^3. Pack ‘em in 8 to 9 m^3 and you send 40 instead of 6 in the same ship (and same mass, meaning same total cost, because the six take on exploration equipment, the 40 take carry-on.) We’ve just cut the cost to 15% per ticket without breaking a sweat.

    The super rich could go now. Everyone else will have to wait for economies of scale. That’s how it always works.

    BTW, no matter what the travel cost, claiming land at the destination pays for everything (a very small claim) including a lifetime of income once there. Which for many will justify using their entire net worth to make the journey.

    It’s still funny that people claim high regard for economics then prove they really don’t in the next breath. Putting your hopes in Marxist space will always disappoint. Claiming that profitable companies need government assistance rather than recognizing they are just taking advantage of it is a dead giveaway.

  • There is no getting around that the government is going to have to figure out what and how to certify crew systems, so it can either happen with NASA money or without it.

    The FAA currently has no legislative authority to regulate passenger safety, other than ensuring that the consent is informed — its only responsibility is to ensure the safety of uninvolved third parties. If the current FAA authorization bill in the House becomes law, this moratorium will be extended for eight years past the first commercial passenger flight into space.

  • pathfinder_01

    “Some at JSC were wiling to allow ESA to develop a lunar lander and have ESA crew members on lunar missions if that was what it took to get the program past the new administration.”

    ESA on board at that point was too little too late. The big issue CXP caused was a gap in American spaceflight from 2010(est. shuttle stand down) till 2017(est. Orion ready for Orbit). Even worse this Orion would have now where to go (ISS being dumped in 2015 to free funds to make an HLV which would not be ready till the 2020ies). Stupid plan. If executed we would be circling the earth in a tiny capsule only good for 21 days for years! And even if you kept Orion and Ares it would cost as much or more than the shuttle to launch crew to the ISS (at least with the shuttle you get more).

    Orion by itself might be expensive and useful with a space station, but a capsule by itself is a very limited vehicle. NASA needed a budget increase and in this political environment it is not happening now or for any time in the foreseeable future.

    Adding ESA before the Obama administration might have kept the lunar plans afloat and like JAXA and ESA and the ISS but no way in heck was the US going to go to the moon anytime soon on a CXP plan and Shuttle budget unless some pretty big changes happen.

  • Matt Wiser

    Well, NASA and ESA are talking about adapting the ATV to serve as an equpment-storage module and crew living area.

    http://spaceflightnow.com/news/n1107/26mpcveurope/index.html

    They’ll be involved at some point. And if it goes through, it solves the hab module problem as not being in NASA’s budget right now (Ron-are you listening?).

  • Vladislaw

    Matt Wiser wrote:

    “They’ll be involved at some point. And if it goes through, it solves the hab module problem as not being in NASA’s budget right now (Ron-are you listening?).”

    NASA would be required to pay the ESA’s 8% share of costs for the ISS in exchange. NASA would have to have a new budget line providing that funding since the ESA would not be putting up the cash for their share.

    So, where does that funding come from?

  • DCSCA

    @Rand Simberg wrote @ July 26th, 2011 at 3:21 pm
    ‘Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but they’re not entitled to their own facts…’

    Hmmm. Your own words– clearly opinion and decidely not factual: “…the Boeing Corporation, which has built every manned spacecraft that has flown in the last forty-five years.”

  • Vladislaw

    This would be a better asteroid choice for a first time run. Earth trojans would be about 1 million miles away and repeat trips would be a lot easier.

    Earth’s First Trojan Asteroid Discovered

    I wonder how many more there are floating around.

  • Coastal Ron

    Matt Wiser wrote @ July 27th, 2011 at 1:21 pm

    They’ll be involved at some point. And if it goes through, it solves the hab module problem as not being in NASA’s budget right now (Ron-are you listening?).

    I think it’s great that ESA proposed the ATV, but I don’t see where it increases NASA’s budget to do anything beyond LEO, which current is $0. Every MPCV and SLS are 100% disposable, and you need to build up an inventory of them to do any missions. When are we going to add that to the budget?

    Are you listening Matt?

  • William Mellberg

    Rhyolite wrote:

    “it is not clear to me that the Moon is the place to start.”

    And based on your comments, I can understand why it isn’t clear to you.

    But it is clear to some of the world’s best-known planetary scientists.

  • Coastal Ron

    William Mellberg wrote @ July 28th, 2011 at 4:38 am

    But it is clear to some of the world’s best-known planetary scientists.

    Scientists think it would be neat to explore the Moon, and I would I agree. It would be neat.

    You and others have also claimed that lunar ISRU makes economic sense, but so far you haven’t been able to show us the math that even comes close to supporting that claim. Why is that?

    Until you can provide some sort of economic and logistics rationale for why lunar ISRU is part of the critical path for space exploration, people will continue to not believe you.

    For instance, under the Spudis/Lavoie plan it takes $88B to start supplying 150mt of water a year from the Moon, but we could be supplying that much from Earth for far less and much sooner using existing launchers and technology. It doesn’t make economic sense.

    For me, that’s why I don’t see a need for a big push to the Moon, since it’s not on the critical path for us to do space exploration. It’s a nice to have, but not a gotta have.

  • Rhyolite

    William Mellberg wrote @ July 28th, 2011 at 4:38 am

    “And based on your comments, I can understand why it isn’t clear to you.”

    I’ve shown my calculations. Where are yours?

    “But it is clear to some of the world’s best-known planetary scientists.”

    Scientists aren’t engineers. The orbital mechanics of shipping ISRU products around the Earth-Moon system are very straight forward and very unfavorable, as I have shown.

  • Rhyolite

    Coastal Ron wrote @ July 28th, 2011 at 11:23 am

    “For instance, under the Spudis/Lavoie plan it takes $88B to start supplying 150mt of water a year from the Moon, but we could be supplying that much from Earth for far less and much sooner using existing launchers and technology. It doesn’t make economic sense.”

    Just to emphasize, the Spudis/Lavoie plan supplied 150 mt at the surface of the Moon. If you could magically transport that to LEO, where it might be useful, at zero cost it would still be a money losing proposition. In reality, most of that is gong to get burned on the way to LEO and in shuttling the tanker back to the Moon. The same net transfer could be supplied from Earth by as little as one medium lift launch vehicle. The economics just don’t work.

  • Coastal Ron

    Rhyolite wrote @ July 28th, 2011 at 12:40 pm

    Just to emphasize, the Spudis/Lavoie plan supplied 150 mt at the surface of the Moon.

    Good point. And I liked your detailed analysis earlier too.

  • Major Tom

    “Earth’s First Trojan Asteroid Discovered”

    That’s huge.

    FWIW…

Leave a Reply

  

  

  

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>