Congress, NASA, Other

Former NASA head O’Keefe skeptical about sequestration

Earlier this month NASA administrator Charles Bolden expressed optimism that “sequestration”, the term given to the across-the-bord budget cuts currently in place for fiscal year 2013 after the failure of the supercommittee to come up with a long-term deficit reduction plan, could be avoided by Congressional action in the coming year. “I don’t think it’s going to happen,” he told an audience in early December, saying the agency was not making any special preparations for it as part of its FY13 budget planning.

A former occupant of Bolden’s current office is similarly optimistic that sequestration will be avoided. “There is no question that this atmosphere is very, very tough. The budget environment is going to be challenging,” said Sean O’Keefe at a Washington Space Business Roundtable luncheon last week. Despite that environment, he said that the automatic across-the-board cuts required by the sequestration process is enough to get Congress and the administration to act to craft an alternative that will prioritize cuts. “The spectre of sequestration is so onerous that the notion behind it is that it will force everybody to act to avoid something mindless, driven by a computer formula,” he said.

He said that he was not surprised that the supercommittee failed to come up with its own plan, calling that diverse collection of members the “let’s give peace a chance” move that predictably failed. He expects that in the coming year both Congress and the Administration will work to find an alternative, not wanting to appear to have failed in cutting spending during an election year as well as risk more downgrades from ratings agencies. “The chances of coming to an alternative to sequestration, I think, is high.”

O’Keefe, who served as NASA administrator from the end of 2001 to early 2005 and is now CEO of EADS North America, touched upon a wide range of topics, many not related to NASA or space policy, in his talk. In one passage, he endorsed the idea of turning over routine transportation to low Earth orbit of cargo and crews to the private sector. “The logic behind all this that I found compelling,” he said, “is that NASA is an extraordinary place… that is designed for the purpose of doing things that haven’t been done before.” Repetitive flight activities is something that may be better suited to the private sector, he suggested.

That activity, designed to support continued operations of the ISS, is important because the station is “exactly one invention, discovery, something away from being the next wonder of the world,” he said. “When that happens, it will be exactly like Hubble,” he said, referring to the space telescope that became beloved by the public after corrected optics allowed it to return stunning images and perform cutting-edge science. “Just one breakthrough, and we’re going to see this station in a completely different way,” rather than questioning the expense of building and maintaining it.

51 comments to Former NASA head O’Keefe skeptical about sequestration

  • Sandholtz

    Bolden and several of the other NASA ‘leaders’ (I use that term loosely) seem to take the position that NASA just does whatever they are told.

    This: http://spacenews.com/commentaries/111219-nasa-needs-wake-reality.html
    is an excellent statement by hero and leader Cris Kraft. I particularly like his position that NASA needs to decide what we need to be doing and how to define a manageable and affordable program instead of waiting for the President to define Congress a plan which will prove unmanageable.

  • guest

    What a novel concept-NASA take a proactive stance and decide what we need to be doing!! Kraft has is right. We’d better listen now or we are all in trouble.

  • Dave

    I am not sure what people mean when they say they want NASA to take a proactive stance and decide what we need to be doing. Constellation was such a program. President Bush didn’t push for the funding and Congress didn’t provide the funding. Constellation was under funded and this stretched to program out and caused the total cost to increase.
    President Obama decided to end the Constellation and replace it with whatever. He didn’t push for the budget and Congress hasn’t provided the budget.
    NASA can define any program it wants. It can define several programs that will satisfy the whims of every space cadet out there.
    Congress and the President do not have the political will to support NASA to perform any program. NASA’s problem is with Congress and the President.

  • DCSCA

    O’Keefe’s capacity to literally speak for hours in bureaucratic double-talk and say nothing is legendary. He could put the portraits in a Congressional meeting room to sleep. A Cheney favorite known mostly for bureaucratic beancounting than for any visionary space planning, O’Keefe has publicly stated his main reason getting the job was to curb the then ‘out-of-control’ costs being incurred by the ISS project. He is the same fellow who presided over the management structure whose poor decisionmaking helped bring down Columbia, losting both the vehicle and crew. Maybe he should re-read the CAIB Report which was severely critcal of the agency he was overseeing and its managment structure before he goes around making more general managerial recommendations on any space policy. No surprise he advocates private sector takeover of space operations given his Republican political affiliations. Fishing for his next gig perhaps. Of course applying elements of cost-cutting, penny-pinching business models of ‘for profit’ private sector enterprises to the R&D facets of space operations can be disasterous, as Challenger and Columbia demonstrated. Cheaper, faster, better isn’t always cheaper, or faster or better. During O’Keefe’s tenure at NASA, they lost seven astronauts, another $3 billion space shuttle and cost America’s space program billions in reworks as well as years of downtime which ultimately led to the termination of the program. O’Keefe’s time at NASA is a painful reminder of the Peter Principle at work.

  • amightywind

    Repetitive flight activities is something that may be better suited to the private sector, he suggested.

    O’Keefe was a weak leader. The Columbia disaster and management fiasco occurred on his watch. If his policies had been implemented we would have abandoned Hubble and the shuttle prematurely. Fortunately Mike Griffin came along. You should disregard what he says.

    Cris Kraft…

    Kraft was that rarest of individuals. An aggressive, results oriented, innovative bureaucrat. What a difference from the leftist ideologs we have had to endure. There should be a place for him in the Valhalla of spaceflight.

  • DCSCA

    Kraft’s advocacy to return to the moon has been a consistent and sound proposal of his and his posting describes an international effort to establish a lunar outpost akin to establishing a foothold in Antarctica. He understands the fundamental constraints of the Age of Austerity and sees a way to make best use of assets in place around the planet and still move forward with available funding. He has worked in this envorinment and knows how to make the best of what he has.

    Kraft understands how this kind of lunar program would develop the confidence. the robust hardware, systems, procedures and infrastructure necessary to master ‘routine’ cislunar space operations in this era while at the same time, develop confidence in same as a proving ground for longer range space explorations, much like Gemini was for Apollo. It’s an inspiring proposal for a fresh generation of space engineers, technicians, researchers and scientists as well. And the economic byproducts of such an enterprise would be as prolific, much as those spawned during the space race of the 1960s. A return to the moon is the the logical stepping stone to further explorations out into the solar system. Kraft, indeed, has it right. Because ultimately, this is the way it will be done. Whether it is American led remains to be seen. For this kind of space program is the work of generations both now and to come.

  • tps

    You do know that Kraft has come out against SLS, right?

    “Building a great big rocket is not a necessary expenditure at this time. In fact, the budget that will be consumed by this big rocket will prevent NASA from any meaningful human exploration for at least the next decade and probably beyond. We don’t have to march in place while we wait for the powers that be to cancel it. Let’s be innovative; let’s wake up the sleeping giant and have at returning to the Moon right now.”

  • Perhaps the most timely comment by Kraft is the very last paragraph in the above spacenews.com article and concerns SLS:
    “Building a great big rocket is not a necessary expenditure at this time. In fact, the budget that will be consumed by this big rocket will prevent NASA from any meaningful human exploration for at least the next decade and probably beyond. We don’t have to march in place while we wait for the powers that be to cancel it. Let’s be innovative; let’s wake up the sleeping giant and have at returning to the Moon right now.”

    All I can say in response to that is, “Amen”

  • Doug Lassiter

    Kraft’s advice is fine, to the extent it’s affordable. NASA hasn’t proposed it because NASA is not convinced it is affordable. Obama proposed going to a NEO because he doesn’t have a clue how unaffordable it is, as noted. That is, Kraft’s advice just echos the many many calls for NASA to do something reasonable, presuming, as everyone does, that money just has to be available to do it. So the fundamental constraints of an “Age of Austerity” make it possible for us to mine, refine, and er, enshrine the Moon? Fat chance.

    A smarter essay would have laid out an affordable path that would put us on that trajectory, rather than blathering on about power plants and launching pads.

    Yes, a return to the Moon is, in many respects, a logical stepping stone to further explorations in the solar system. But just saying we need to go there doesn’t really help a lot in the near term.

  • Coastal Ron

    amightywind wrote @ December 20th, 2011 at 3:35 pm

    Kraft was that rarest of individuals. An aggressive, results oriented, innovative bureaucrat. What a difference from the leftist ideologs we have had to endure. There should be a place for him in the Valhalla of spaceflight.

    And Kraft said the following about the SLS, which is supported (in part) by far-right ideologues:

    Building a great big rocket is not a necessary expenditure at this time. In fact, the budget that will be consumed by this big rocket will prevent NASA from any meaningful human exploration for at least the next decade and probably beyond.

    And

    The U.S. and the world already have a large set of space assets — both human and machines — that can be immediately utilized. NASA engineers and scientists and the aerospace industry are full of innovative and unique ideas on how to use these vehicles.

    He’s echoing what we’ve been saying about the SLS for quite some time. I would imagine this creates a dilemma for you now… ;-)

  • Sandholtz

    I think O’Keefe was much more the type of leader NASA needs. O’Keefe was responsible for developing and selling the Vision. Where the Vision went awry was a year after O’Keefe left, when Griffin came in with Apollo redux, which was unaffordable and unsupportable, and which Kraft rightly points out is still not affordable even if we reduced the size of the launch vehicle from Ares 5 to Ares 3/4. O’Keefe had absolutely nothing to do with the Columbia-that was the management and operations people at the middle echelons, many of whom led Constellation, and many of whom are still in place today. Constellation succeeded in wasting the years from 2005 to 2012. SLS and Orion are likely to waste the next decade with nothing to show for it in 2020.

  • gregori

    If there was a so called “Age of Austerity”, grand plans for humans in space would be the at the bottom of the list of things that would be funded. They would even be axed out right. Promoting such an idea, but demanding funds for unproductive activities in space that don’t benefit most people in a practical way is lunacy.

    I think all this talk of “ages of austerity” is really melodramatic over reaction to a temporary hiccup in the economy that won’t be remembered much in a decade or two. The world has seen FAR worse. The world has never been this wealthy before either.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Doug Lassiter wrote @ December 20th, 2011 at 6:17 pm

    Kraft’s advice is fine, to the extent it’s affordable. ”

    and you wrote:

    “Obama proposed going to a NEO because he doesn’t have a clue how unaffordable it is, as noted.”

    I dont agree with the last statement and the first statement is entertaining.

    Obama proposed going to a NEO because he knew that the heavy lifting in terms of “money” was way passed even a second term and any project that NASA undertakes is “decades” longer then advertised so it is no real skin off of his nose.

    The op ed was to me at least a plea for NASA management to try and get with their congressional buddies and stop the bidding for SLS and try and glue together some program that can get underway while there is still at least some modest cash (or the ability to deficit spend)…before it all gets shut down.

    other then that I am looking forward to seeing folks who support SLS try and explain the op ed.

    RGO

  • Sandholtz wrote:

    Bolden and several of the other NASA ‘leaders’ (I use that term loosely) seem to take the position that NASA just does whatever they are told.

    Well, duh. They are federal employees working for the taxpayer as represented by their elected officials in Congress and the White House.

    Anyone NOT doing what they are told would — and should — be fired.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Stephen C. Smith wrote @ December 20th, 2011 at 8:49 pm

    Well…

    actually there is a “Lot” of behind the scenes lobbying with the various Congressional pals that different centers use a lot of times without the administrator or his/her staff knowing about it.

    What the op ed is arguing for indirectly and in the code that will resonate at Building 1 on NASA Rd 1 but will be ignored is to try and formulate a plan to lobby the local congressional people to that actually does something and gets moving…SLS is going to die…and when it goes under so will any real “NASA” program. RGO

  • DCSCA

    “So the fundamental constraints of an “Age of Austerity” make it possible for us to mine, refine, and er, enshrine the Moon? Fat chance.”

    Uh-huh… that’s like asking for the moon. However, Kraft speaks from experience. He’s a cool cookie when it comes to managing ‘fat chances,’ taking calculated risks with existing assets under pressure and pressing on through difficult times. 43 years ago this very morning, Kraft and his NASA team began delivering just that- the moon- when in the cool dawn of a crisp December morning, Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and Bill Anders thundered away from the Cape a top the first manned Saturn V beginning mankind’s first journey out to Luna. If you were alive to experience it- and that Chtistmas Eve telecast from the moon– the entire flight remains unforgetable given the contect of the times as ’68 came to a close. It was a lousy year. If you were alive… you’d understand precisely what Kraft is talking about.

    “But just saying we need to go there doesn’t really help a lot in the near term.”

    In fact, it does– especially if it fires the imagination of a fresh generation of can-doers.

  • DCSCA

    @tps wrote @ December 20th, 2011 at 5:50 pm

    “You do know that Kraft has come out against SLS, right?”

    In this time frame, as an integrated means to reach an asteroid with a manned mission, bypassing the moon and then on to Mars, yes, it’s a flawed proposal at this juncture. Kraft’s ideas revolve around a return to the moon, developing robust hardware, systems, methods and procedures through this tight era utilizing existing assets and realistic budgets along with global resources for long term off-planet habitation and operations in cislunar space as a ‘proving ground’ for the next phase which would be a long term expedition out to Mars. The NASA of today should listen to people who made things work and got thing done right.

  • gregori

    If they don’t do what they are told, they can be held in contempt of the law and called before congress…..

    NASA is pretty much hamstrung by the what congress tells it to do and by how much it appropriates to do that. It often tells it to do great things and then doesn’t fund them. This makes NASA look really bad. The current law on the SLS/Orion is a pretty extreme version of this.

    These people have careers and families to worry about and it could be a disaster for them if they’re honest and stand up to congressional insanity. So they more or less go along with what they are told to do. I don’t blame them one bit. The guys involved in DIRECT had to do their work in secret.

  • Sandholtz

    I can tell you that in 1961, NASA was the one that did the study and told Lyndon Johnson that if the goal was to show technological prowess, then we should land a man on the moon. The idea did not originate with Kennedy, Johnson or with Congress.

    In 1969-72, NASA decided they needed a reusable winged fly-back booster. We needed it because if they did not have it, they had no other launch vehicles and we’d be stuck on the ground without it. Saturn production had been turned off in 1968. They sold the idea to Nixon and Congress bought into it.

    From 1976 through 1984, NASA decided that a Space Station was the next logical step, and Reagan agreed, over the heads of several of his advisers, and Congress agreed to fund it. Jim Beggs did not sit around and wait for Casper Weinberger or James Stockman to tell him what he needed to be doing.

    Now, our NASA ‘leadership’ and many of you like Gregori, seems to be saying ‘woe is me’ we better let someone else figure out what we need to do because after all we are only engineers and rocket scientists and why do you think we would know what to do….these people are pathetic.

  • Sandholtz wrote:

    I can tell you that in 1961, NASA was the one that did the study and told Lyndon Johnson that if the goal was to show technological prowess, then we should land a man on the moon. The idea did not originate with Kennedy, Johnson or with Congress.

    Wrong.

    Read John F. Kennedy and the Race to the Moon by John Logsdon, which was published in January.

    Don’t buy into the mythology. Read the true history and learn.

  • Sandholtz

    Actually I have the book, I’ve read the book, and I am quite aware of the studies and planning NASA was doing so that they had the answers when Kennedy, Johnson, Teague and others needed convincing, each for their own reasons. NASA was leading the discussion, and identifying many of the points of debate, not waiting for others to decide their fate.

  • Doug Lassiter

    While Kraft’s finger wagging about SLS is appropriate, he still gives no assurance that going to the Moon and doing the things he wants us to do there is even remotely affordable or policy-marketable given the kind of budgets NASA is looking at. The idea that Kraft should be considered especially wise because he helped shepherd astronauts to the Moon is easy to overrate, because he was sitting on gobs, I mean big gobs, of money at the time. That’s no longer the case.

    It’s about a lot more than firing imagination. More fuses have been lit on peoples imagination on this that I can easily count. It’s about coming up with a credible, affordable plan. Kraft is merely pointing his finger at the Moon, but not telling us how we can really get there. Well, he’s telling us what we don’t need to get there, which is kind of handy.

    To get back on topic, we’re talking about whether the present NASA budgets have a chance to be preserved, much less realizing the kind of budgets I suspect NASA would need to develop the Moon.

  • E.P. Grondine

    While we have yet to see a definitive history (with technical analysis), in my opinion, O’Keefe was in no way responsible for series of failures that led to Columbia’s Loss of Crew.

    In point of fact, despite many bold claims to the contrary, Obama simply proposed restarting a step architecture for manned Mars flight that had been started over a decade before, and had proceed under Democratic and Republican Presidents, and their Administrators.

    Given that Kraft proposes an international manned Moon effort, it is remarkable that many here at SP are not attacking him. Perhaps awareness of some the realities of the costs of manned spaceflight have finally sunk in.

  • amightywind

    If you were alive… you’d understand precisely what Kraft is talking about.

    Oh, yeah. The liberals were in control and making their usual mess of things. But they weren’t pacifists, like today, and the nation was unified around contesting the Russians in space. Now we beg them for rides. That was a great Christmas eve. The moon was full. The astronauts didn’t talk any multicultural claptrap. We got a good blast of the Bible.

  • Robert G. Oler

    “. “Just one breakthrough, and we’re going to see this station in a completely different way,” rather than questioning the expense of building and maintaining it.”

    LOL this is the space policy equivalent of “the light at the end of the tunnel”.

    In reality the HOly Grail of the killer space app has been the quest that like Ahab the good folks at NASA policy making have been on for sometime, all the while keeping the more likely reality of technowelfare jobs as the pump primer.

    We will never have a killer app at the space station as long as everything on the vehicle must go through the app killers at NASA. That filter reduces everything to the trivial science that is going on now…

    I really would like someone to have to explain why with a crew of six on board…we are getting slightly above 1 person week of science a week…what are the other five doing?

    RGO

  • amightywind

    That filter reduces everything to the trivial science that is going on now…

    My goodness! We agree. As long as we are Earth LEO bound, clearly the killer apps are the astronomy missions: Hubble, Chandra, Spitzer, Kepler… $ billion rat experiments in zero g are less promising.

  • DCSCA

    Stephen C. Smith wrote @ December 21st, 2011 at 9:11 am
    =yawn= Logsdon is but one source but certainly not the last word on space history. A source, BTW, that needs to keep publishing to justify grants. Just another perspective. However, you’ll find that Johnson was directed by JFK to flushing out what was possible to establish a technical lead. The proposals included space platforms, probes to scoop up lunar samples as well as a manned lunar mission– even a joint flight was in the mix at one point. The Kennedy Administration commited to the manned lunar mission with the hopeful intent that it be accomplished in the second term but there was, of course, no guarantee, However the ‘end of the decade’ deadline proved a suffcient ‘pad time’ as a deadline. What is overlooked and ‘myth’ is JFK’s role in Apollo. Sure, he gets credit for pointing at the moon and saying ‘go’ – saw early Saturns in wok but he was killed as Mercury ended and a year before Gemini got off the ground. LBJ deserves much of the credit for getting Americans to the moon.

  • DCSCA

    E.P. Grondine wrote @ December 21st, 2011 at 12:05 pm

    Except he was responsible for maintaining the managment structure in place at the time. He is responsible for that. The alternative, to infer he is not, reaffirms the Peter Principle.

  • DCSCA

    amightywind wrote @ December 21st, 2011 at 1:30 pm

    =yawn= Japan and Germany were once mortal enemies- now close allies. And Communist Red China now props up American capitalism. And Russians work with Americans in space. The players change teams and uniforms but the game goes on, Windy.

  • DCSCA

    Doug Lassiter wrote @ December 21st, 2011 at 11:04 am

    Kraft is merely pointing his finger at the Moon, but not telling us how we can really get there. Well, he’s telling us what we don’t need to get there, which is kind of handy.

    =yawn= In fact, he has sketched out a methodology repeatedly over the years. The general concept remains valid. Whether it is American led remains to be seen. Space exploration remains a luxury for nations in this era. One day it will be seen as inevitable. An in time, a necessity. Just not our time.

  • Coastal Ron

    DCSCA wrote @ December 21st, 2011 at 1:36 am

    “You do know that Kraft has come out against SLS, right?”

    In this time frame, as an integrated means to reach an asteroid with a manned mission, bypassing the moon and then on to Mars, yes, it’s a flawed proposal at this juncture.

    Nope. If you read what Kraft said in his Space News commentary, he only talks about the Moon.

    And his suggestion is timely given the budget realities of today, especially since any exploration, regardless of where it’s going beyond LEO, will be hard to mount and sustain within NASA’s current budget envelope – and it’s not getting any bigger.

    It’s also interesting that someone that was part of America’s biggest go-it-alone space exploration effort is promoting international partnerships as the best way for us to get beyond LEO again.

  • gregori

    The engineers at NASA and its contractor workforce are not lacking technically or in merit. They are subject to he laws of congress and might lose their jobs or be held in contempt if they deviate from what they’ve been told to do. There is no way they are going to tell congress that we don’t actually need the SLS and that it could be done much cheaper.

    People can throw around fuzzy words like “leadership” all they want. No amount of leadership would turn this ship around, less they be held in contempt of the law. Its a buzzword and a cliche at the same time. Its also falling victim to this myth of the “great man” who made the trains run on time and all that non sense.

    We’ve plenty of great people, if only they were allowed exercise their talents to actually do something in space other than maximize the budget and keep the most amount of contractors/states happy.

    Given some latitude to actually come up with the imaginative technical solution necessary to achieve a goal or mission, NASA and its contractors would have no problem doing just that. Congress won’t allow them do that and they control the wording of the law and the purse strings. The act not only tells NASA what to do, but also how to achieve that. This is just wrong.

  • John Malkin

    Robert G. Oler wrote @ December 21st, 2011 at 1:47 pm

    I really would like someone to have to explain why with a crew of six on board…we are getting slightly above 1 person week of science a week…what are the other five doing?

    It’s too early to determine the “productivity” of science on the space station. We’ve just finished with construction and on top of that Russia had a problem with their rocket. We will have a better idea after the next couple of years. However, SLS will eat into any NASA science or demo hardware budgets. So some of the crew might have extra time to paint and write poetry anyway.

    But keeping fingers crossed that they will be docking Dragon in February.

  • E.P. Grondine

    Hi AW –

    I knew I could count on you to retreat to the 1960′s.
    But times have changed.

    RGO –

    Even if that killer app in materials, biomedical research or understanding of physical processes never occurs (though it is very likely one will), the technologies and methods for the Moon and Mars will have been developed with the ISS. For those of you who are fixated on immediately going elsewhere, they test cars by just going round and round as well.

  • Doug Lassiter

    E.P. Grondine wrote @ December 21st, 2011 at 12:05 pm
    “Given that Kraft proposes an international manned Moon effort, it is remarkable that many here at SP are not attacking him.”

    Given that Bolden has said that no way will the U.S. voyage outside of LEO without partnerships from other countries, and the ISECG, composed of more than a dozen international space agencies has developed and agreed on a detailed framework for cooperation, a major goal being a return to the Moon, it would be pretty silly to attack Kraft on this point. That’s just the way it’s gonna be. It may not happen for a while, but when it does, that’s how it’s going to happen, and near term efforts will be designed to anticipate it.

  • Coastal Ron

    Robert G. Oler wrote @ December 21st, 2011 at 1:47 pm

    I really would like someone to have to explain why with a crew of six on board…we are getting slightly above 1 person week of science a week…what are the other five doing?

    Good question, and one would hope that they are increasing the percentage of science done over time.

    However it would be nice to know, as a point of comparison, the same type of information for our bases in the Antarctic and similar type hazardous locales. For instance, when our scientists are doing undersea research in nuclear submarines, the vast number of people involved are operating the vessel, not doing research. And there are certainly lots of maintenance people at the Antarctic bases just keeping the vehicles going and runways open (plus food and logistics).

    Though the ISS seems like a plug-n-play laboratory, it’s really still a prototype of sorts. Sure we had Skylab, and the Soviets/Russians had their various stations, but the ISS is the first of this grand size.

    That said, my expectations would be that the scientists and engineers start figuring out how to design equipment and experiments that require less and less touch labor. I don’t know how quickly that will be, but if they don’t, then that will indicate that we’re not quite ready to move out beyond LEO yet, and I hope that’s not the case.

    My $0.02

  • DCSCA

    Coastal Ron wrote @ December 21st, 2011 at 4:55 pm
    Uh, yep.Context is everything and you best keep up w/dr. Kraft’s consistent proposal which he has reiterated through several venues.

  • Sandholtz wrote:

    Actually I have the book, I’ve read the book, and I am quite aware of the studies and planning NASA was doing so that they had the answers when Kennedy, Johnson, Teague and others needed convincing, each for their own reasons. NASA was leading the discussion, and identifying many of the points of debate, not waiting for others to decide their fate.

    The book says no such thing, and you’ve provided zero evidence to support your alternate-universe claims, so we can safely conclude you’re just making this up.

    Moving on …

  • Coastal Ron

    DCSCA wrote @ December 21st, 2011 at 9:59 pm

    Context is everything and you best keep up w/dr. Kraft’s consistent proposal which he has reiterated through several venues.

    People change over time, as can their views on things, so I’ll stick with what Kraft is saying today.

    I’ll leave the non-relevant 40 year-old commentary for you dwell on… ;-)

  • Sandholtz

    Stephen C. Smith wrote
    “The book says no such thing, and you’ve provided zero evidence to support your alternate-universe claims, so we can safely conclude you’re just making this up.”

    Open the book to page 25 where it tells how the NASA Research Steering Committee decided in mid 1960, based on recommendations from George Low and then ultimately concurrence by the Administrator, that a manned lunar landing was the goal. They then went on to define the Saturn configurations required for circumlunar and landing missions. Page 51 – in October 1960 NASA began to establish budget and technical requirements for the missions and identified alternative architectures (Direct, EOR and LOR)

    In late 1960 two other events significant to the moon landing selection occurred. The USAF identified that the US was way behind the Soviets and would take several years to catch up, but urged in a report that the US increase effort in spaceflight. And a panel of scientists endorsed a manned space program for scientific reasons.

    Kennedy was elected in November, 1960.

    In March 1961, the NASA Administrator put together a six page paper on the reason the US was in the position it was in in space, what needed to be done to restore US preeminence (page 64), and the rationale.

    By the end of March 1961, the Vice President was asked to identify alternatives and priorities (page 66). The official memo asking for the assessment is on page 81. In May, 1961, the President announced the moon landing goal.

    My original statement:
    I can tell you that in 1961, NASA was the one that did the study and told Lyndon Johnson that if the goal was to show technological prowess, then we should land a man on the moon. The idea did not originate with Kennedy, Johnson or with Congress.

    NASA orchestrated the selection of the goal beginning before Kennedy was elected President. Several political events occurred spurring the selection of the moon landing goal. But the original statement is an accurate statement in every way.

  • vulture4

    I don;t agree with everything Kraft says. Some of Kraft’s comments, like his suggestion that “The possibilities of generating electrical power on the Moon and transporting that power back to Earth are promising.” are far-fetched to say the least. But Kraft’s point that the SLS is unaffordable is clear and forceful. He doesn’t say that given a different mission, or different leadership, SLS would be appropriate. He says it will be cancelled regardless of all these things. Consequently the money spent on it is wasted and it should be cancelled now and not in five years.

  • I was at the same luncheon that Jeff attended. During question time, I put on my psychologist hat and asked a couple of questions about the Columbia investigation and subsequent report. I didn’t get much of an answer. I wonder how much of said report O’Keefe understood. Griffin in his first talk as NASA Administrator was visibly angry about the report. He said he had read said report three times. He also said he did not understand the cultural findings because of a lack of knowledge of human psychology. That’s a pretty poor admission.

    I will point people to a couple of very long pieces on my blog:

    A Few Observations
    An Interesting Side Comment by Michael Griffin

    Young people are avoiding science and engineering fields for a number of reasons. Insiders want people to believe it is matter of inspiring and educating said young people. They don’t want to believe reforms are needed in tech fields. Lives for people in tech fields are marked by very poor work-life balance, poor, sometimes abusive management and a lack of progress in various fields. I’ve tried informing people about reform, apparently to no effect.

    That’s way too much for now. Jeff, thank you for this blog.

  • Greg Smirnoff

    I am surprised that Kraft limited his criticism to the SLS and not also to Orion/MPCV. Orion is also redundant with systems already further along in development by commercial entities, and no throw away capsule is required if you do lunar or planetary missions on a reusable, maintainable, affordable basis. Put the all too considerable money towards something that makes some technological progress instead of trying to recreate an Apollo command module.

  • E.P. Grondine

    Good morning, Sandholz –

    Its nice to see Dr. Logsdon studying Eisenhower’s space policy. The way I picture it, Eisenhower’s World War 2 experience led him to select great subordinates, and to listen to them. What did Logsdon have to say about Trevor Gardner in his book?

    In the future there will be a need for a detailed history of the development of impact science.

  • pathfinder_01

    Greg, like you I am no fan of Orion. However Orion has more BEO capability than the ccdev craft at the moment. Dragon is the only ccdev spacecraft that has a heat shield designed to withstand a high speed reentry. CST100 and Dream chaser are not.

    Orion is aiming for the ability to support a crew 21 days. CST100 is only aiming to support a crew for 2.5 days and I doubt that the ccdev version of any spacecraft will aim for more than 4-5 Days. Orion was also designed to support itself without a crew for six months. None of the CCDev craft save dragon in the form of dragon lab are designed for that.

    One of the reasons why the ccdev craft are cheaper than Orion is because they can cut a lot of corners (i.e. You can get to and from the ISS a lot faster than to/from the moon and you won’t generate as much heat on reentry nor do you need as much delta V to dock with the ISS as you would need to return from lunar Orbit. Plus you can do with less radiation shielding. ).

    The big problem with Orion is cost per unit which might not be so bad if the thing wasn’t disposable. That is the major turn off.

    Orion has a role of sorts as a BEO crew transfer vehicle or BEO crew return vehicle. It is just that NASA can’ t afford the rest of the things you need to go with Orion (Habs for long duration missions like NEO, Landers, ect…). By itself Orion is pretty useless.

  • Sandholtz

    EP Grondine – Logsdon has quite a bit to say about Gardner-it was Gardner’s report that said the US could not overtake the Soviets for several years but which urged efforts to overtake them, (page 47) but inadvertently the report was painting an ambitious future for the USAF in space, which contradicted Defense Secretary McNamara’s warnings to limit USAF ambitions. Gardner’s report was also supportive of large space stations and development of large scale engines (F-1) and boosters. The report inadvertently undermined USAF goals and strengthened NASA.

    Your bringing up Eisenhower is an important aspect – remember NASA was laying out the plan, the requirements and the rationale for a manned moon program in mid-1960, before the election. In large measure the NASA plan was intended to counter the Eisenhower efforts to limit space efforts. NASA decided where it wanted to go and as soon as there was a President elect the NASA defined plan was brought in; the first step was convincing the newly elected officials that the plan was well developed and well supported. When other things clicked into place – the orbiting of Gagarin and the Bay of Pigs, NASA had their ‘elevator speech’ ready and took full advantage.

    This is also why an O’Keefe-type figure is important as a well-connected politician and salesman in a leadership position. Griffin, the consummate space engineer, knew exactly what he wanted, even though his design skills did not match his education, but he got no where when it came to interfacing with the political machine. Bolden, the military officer, seems to be great at taking orders, but appears to come up with no ideas of his own and seems to look upon countering Administration officials as somehow unpatriotic.

    O’Keefe figured out what NASA needed in the wake of Columbia, rallied the people to develop the Vision plan, and took it direct to the Administration. The return message from the Administration was clear: ‘you have our support but you will not get a lot of extra money so you need to figure out how to do it with what you get.’ Griffin’s Constellation made unrealistic assumptions about getting 20-30% of an increase in budget. He wound up not only killing the Vision at least temporarily, but lost even the previously constant NASA budget; instead he succeeded in getting it cut.

  • Sandholtz wrote:

    NASA orchestrated the selection of the goal beginning before Kennedy was elected President. Several political events occurred spurring the selection of the moon landing goal. But the original statement is an accurate statement in every way.

    No, they didn’t. Again, you’re making it up. You may have the book but NASA “orchestrated” nothing.

    Moving on …

  • vulture4

    I’m not sure Kraft was considering SLS separately from Orion, since the latter would have little future without the former. He seems to refer to the mission as a whole. In theory, Orion could be used alone on a Delta for LEO, but it would be far more expensive than the alternatives.

    As to technology jobs, the solution is to provide better secondary education and college, both technical and academic, at a cost students can actually afford, and jobs they have a prospect of getting when they graduate. After Sputnik, Kennedy and Congress provided very substantial funding directly to schools to improve STEM education. That worked. I benefited from it.

    A student of mine recently graduated with a degree in computer engineering and $100,000 in loans. His mother may have to sell their house to pay back the loans. A college education in the US is too expensive for many qualified American students and jobs are few when they graduate. It is senseless to claim spending billions on spaceflight will “inspire” students instead of solving the real problems.

  • DCSCA

    Coastal Ron wrote @ December 22nd, 2011 at 12:14 am

    Hmmm. Kraft has been working with an eye on international cooporation since the Mercury days, through the DSTN development, through ASTP and on into shuttle operations. Consistency wenhances gravitas; past is prologue.

  • Coastal Ron

    pathfinder_01 wrote @ December 22nd, 2011 at 11:57 am

    The big problem with Orion is cost per unit which might not be so bad if the thing wasn’t disposable. That is the major turn off… By itself Orion is pretty useless.

    Between the SLS and the MPCV, I see the SLS as the most oppressive program NASA has going. Once that is gone then I would lobby hard for the cancellation of the MPCV, but not until the SLS is gone.

    I view the MPCV/Orion as a purpose-built vehicle for an uninspiring return to the Moon. Griffin’s “Apollo on steroids” rehashed old architectures, and did not think about what the true needs were for future exploration.

    The MPCV is over-built for being an LEO to lunar orbit transport, as well as not be reusable. For staying in orbit around the Moon, it’s too small to live in for very long, and a dedicated small space station would be better for being a way station to the lunar surface. It has too narrow of a use case for it to be worth the $8B we’re spending on it.

  • E.P. Grondine

    Hi Sandholz –

    Logsdon’s book now sounds worth reading – if instead one doesn’t want to spend time instead researching how Gardner cleaned up the L. Ron Hubbard-KGB (DONALD)/Jack Parson mess, or how Gardner worked on the radar and reconaissance systems of the early 1950′s, or his work with LBJ and the Democrats on the “Missile Gap” in the late 1950′s. Apparently Logsdon still does not yet fully understand Eisenhower’s “Open Skies” effort.

    Of course, since my stroke that kind of work is impossible for me now; instead I work very very slowly on Native American history. Typing, spelling, and grammar are difficult, and I can not convert even simple Mayan dates.

    As far as Griffin goes, he just bought the ATK line. If you look at how hard it was to kill ARES 1, Griffin’s political estimate was about right, it was his physics and costs that were off – courtesy ATK. I am very pleased to see Griffin working on air launch now, as at current warning times that will be about the only effective means of dealing with 30 to 60 meter dead comet fragments.

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