Campaign '12

Did Gingrich call the administration’s human spaceflight policy “a stupid move”?

In an op-ed Wednesday in the Orlando Sentinel, former White House and Pentagon official Douglas MacKinnon argued that former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich was the only Republican presidential candidate with a “passion” for the space program. Gingrich, he said, “does want the United States to once again become the pre-eminent nation in space”. (Going perhaps a little overboard, MacKinnon worried about China “as it plans lunar colonies, while having unimpeded access to our strategic assets in low and geosynchronous orbit.” China hasn’t expressed any serious plans for lunar colonies, nor is it clear from his essay how the Chinese will have “unimpeded access” to American satellites.) Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney’s previous criticism of Gingrich’s visions of lunar colonies was, MacKinnon argued, a “predictable cheap shot” that “spoke volumes.”

MacKinnon’s praise of Gingrich’s views about space exploration is not entirely uncritical, though. In the op-ed MacKinnon cites “sometimes inconvenient evidence of Gingrich being on both sides of an issue”, in this case, the administration’s current human space exploration policy. He notes that Gingrich, along with former congressman Bob Walker, praised the administration’s decision to transfer crew transportation to low Earth orbit in a Washington Times op-ed in February 2010. However, MacKinnon says that, speaking in Orlando on October 12, Gingrich called “Obama’s decision to shut down the program a disaster and ‘a stupid move.’”

MacKinnon doesn’t provide details about exactly what Gingrich said, but it appears to be a reference to this interview with Central Florida News 13 on that day. The video of the interview, though, suggests a somewhat different assessment of the administration’s plans than what MacKinnon claims. After an off-camera reporter asks Gingrich, somewhat imprecisely, to “tell us your thoughts on the closing of the manned space program”, he replied:

I think it’s a disaster. Look, I grew up with the space program. I wrote a book in 1984, called Window of Opporutunity, where I outlined the size of the space program we ought to have. I think it is an absolute example of government bureaucracy run amok that we have spent this much money and we are without an ability to get into space. I think that we frankly ought to right now have a crash program, put up a big prize, challenge the private sector, and get back into space within two years, and in an aggressive way. We ought to set a goal of getting to the Moon, getting permanently on Mars. We just did a movie called A City Upon a Hill in which we have one of the original astronauts talk about the fact that we ought to be going to Mars. We have bureaucratized, dumbed-down, red-taped, and crushed the space program under government bureaucracy. We ought to liberate it and get back to having the kind of launch program that would not only bring jobs to Florida, but would put young Americans back studying, because they would have a chance to go out into space in their lifetime.

Gingrich doesn’t use the phrase “a stupid move” in the video interview (the space portion of which starts at about the 5:45 mark) but the article accompanying it says Gingrich called “called President Barack Obama’s decision to shut down the program a disaster and ‘a stupid move,’” so presumably it was from a portion of the interview not on the video, or else Gingrich was misquoted.

From the video, it does not appear that Gingrich is opposing the administration’s idea of supporting commercial human spaceflight development; if anything, he is talking about a far more vigorous program than either what the administration currently proposed or what Congress has been willing to support, with calls for a “crash program” that would restore a US human spaceflight capability within two years. (Whether such a program is feasible is, of course, another question.) In the rest of the clip Gingrich rehashes familiar ground with his complaints about how bureaucratized NASA has become, as he did at a Lincoln-Douglas debate earlier this month with fellow presidential candidate Jon Huntsman.

117 comments to Did Gingrich call the administration’s human spaceflight policy “a stupid move”?

  • Coastal Ron

    It’s nice to dream about Mars colonies, but I wonder where he thinks the money will come from?

    Or is he talking about changing the charter of NASA so that it explicitly focuses on the (U.S.) human expansion into space?

    The more he talks, the more questions he raises. I guess that’s what you get when an “idea guy”…

  • GeeSpace

    Well, some people DO think that President Obama did go in the wrong direction. Is that direction stupid? Depends on your point of view’

    Jeff states “it does not appear that Gingrich is opposing the administration’s idea of supporting commercial human spaceflight development”

    Unless Gingrich changed his opinion (which I don’t think he has) he supported prizes for certain space objectives when prizes where not “cool”

    What other candidate talking about Space in positive terms?

    Finally, why do some people talk about the cost of some type of space activity except when the space activity is related to public support of Commercial space programs? Then the cost factor is not even mentioned

  • GeeSpace

    Coastal Ron wrote @ December 22nd “It’s nice to dream about Mars colonies, but I wonder where he thinks the money will come from?”

    President Obama’s space program involves a manned mission around Mars in the mid 2030′s. So I would think Gingrich would use the same pot of money.

  • Doug Lassiter

    Coastal Ron wrote @ December 22nd, 2011 at 4:06 pm
    “It’s nice to dream about Mars colonies, but I wonder where he thinks the money will come from?”

    That’s right. It comes down to the money.

    In Constellation, What was shut down was a human space flight program that was unaffordable. Space Shuttle was a truck whose cargo had already shipped, and whose future was pretty hand-waving, without an obvious customer. These were spun as dreams and exciting ideas without the fiscal follow-through that was needed to support them. That shutting down unaffordable enterprises is considered a “stupid move” is not in itself a mark of high intelligence.

    While I admire Gingrich’s off-the-wall dreams and, perhaps fantasies, the “crash program” that he’s talking about isn’t a managerial or technological one. It’s a policy one, and the target has to be Congress and the American taxpayer. What makes Gingrich think that he can sit in the Oval Office and convince Congress and the American taxpayer to write the kind of checks for hot nozzles and nose cones he thinks they should be writing? He may have an answer to this, but he sure hasn’t told us what it is. Gingrich is a smart guy, and I’m continually surprised at his blindness to what the real problem is.

    His idea that launching people into space “would put young Americans back studying, because they would have a chance to go out into space in their lifetime” is one of his more ridiculous fantasies. Almost all of those young Americans who allegedly studied hard because of Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo never got close to sitting on a rocket. It is amusing thinking about the lessons from Russia about how human spaceflight inspires youth. They’re the ones we’re buying rides from to get in to space right now, and yet their scientific productivity is seriously lagging behind the rest of the world. Yes, their poor scientific performance is linked to an investment strategy that is founded on what we would call pork. That’s an investment strategy that our nation seems to aspire to lately.

  • …a “crash program” that would restore a US human spaceflight capability within two years. (Whether such a program is feasible is, of course, another question.)

    We could be flying humans to space next year on Falcon/Dragon if we stop insisting on an abort system. Wouldn’t be any less safe than Shuttle was.

  • vulture4

    Incredibly, Gingrich attacks President Obama for shutting down the Space Shuttle. Strange he did not bring this up when Bush actually cancelled the Shuttle in 2004. If there is any link between Mr. Gingrich and reality or consistency it is hard to find. That leaves Romney, who consistently says human spaceflight is pointless.

    Conversely, Obama tried very hard to substantially increase funding for Commercial Crew, a reasonable effort that is actually consistent with Republican values of competition and free enterprise. Unfortunately he was blocked by a coalition of vested interests from both parties.

  • Incredibly, Gingrich attacks President Obama for shutting down the Space Shuttle.

    I don’t see where he said that. He said “the program.” It’s not clear to what he’s referring.

  • Coastal Ron

    Doug Lassiter and GeeSpace, it’s not that I’m against more money for doing things in space, it’s just that for the next couple of years it’s unlikely to materialize in an increased NASA budget without a recognized “National Imperative” to get Congress to go along.

    Could that happen with just a clear vision from a President Newt? Who knows. We already know that he would have to brush away the political constituencies that direct NASA money to “certain political constituencies”, and that would be hard no matter which party is in the White House. He would also have to cancel the SLS if he wants anything to actually happen during his 4-8 years of office.

    Bottom line for me is that it’s OK to have ideas, but what we need is someone in the White House that can get things done. And not in an imperial way as Newt has talked about, since that would cause more problems than he knows (especially long-term). But someone that can convince the disparate parties (ideological & political) to get things done for the good of the country. I don’t know if any of the people on the ticket in ’12 will be able to do that, but that’s part of what I will use to gauge who to vote for.

  • Lurker

    Doesn’t sound right as Gingrich has only had praise for Obama’s space policy since day 1.

    http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2010/feb/12/obamas-brave-reboot-for-nasa/

  • @Coastal Ron:

    It’s nice to dream about Mars colonies, but I wonder where he thinks the money will come from?

    What money?

    Or is he talking about changing the charter of NASA so that it explicitly focuses on the (U.S.) human expansion into space?

    NASA is whatever the Congress authorizes and appropriates it to be. So who cares about a charter?

    The more he talks, the more questions he raises. I guess that’s what you get when an “idea guy”…

    If you conjured up a fully baked space policy, you wouldn’t be diddling around low orbit in the first place and this whole discussion would be moot.

  • Al Fansome

    I agree with Jeff and Rand.

    The reported statements by Newt are consistent with his stated views for the last couple decades. If anything, Newt has been extremely consistent on space policy, and the world has increasingly moved to his views.

    The Aldridge Commission, which Bob Walker (perhaps Newt’s best friend) served on, stated in 2004 that NASA should, among other things …

    “NASA’s relationship to the private sector, its organizational structure, business culture, and management processes – all largely inherited from the Apollo era – must be decisively transformed to implement the new, multi-decadal space exploration vision.”

    and

    “NASA recognize and implement a far larger presence of private industry in space operations with the specific goal of allowing private industry to assume the primary role of providing services to NASA, and most immediately in accessing low-Earth orbit. In NASA decisions, the preferred choice for operational activities must be competitively awarded contracts with private and non-profit organizations and NASA’s role must be limited to only those areas where there is irrefutable demonstration that only government can perform the proposed activity;”

    From my position, President Obama is implementing part of the recommendations that Newt and former Chairman Walker have been championing for many years.

    Therefore, I see zero evidence that Newt has criticized the President’s change to national space policy.

    FWIW,

    – Al

  • Funny how these hot-air blowhards never explain how any President is supposed to get an incredibly huge increase in the government space budget through a Congress during an era of trillion-dollar annual deficits and porking run amuck on the space subcommittees.

    Nowhere in the editorial does it mention Mr. MacKinnon’s qualifications to pontificate on space policy. Perhaps that’s because he has none.

    Here’s his bio from a 2008 editorial he wrote:

    Douglas MacKinnon was a press secretary to former Senator Bob Dole. He was also a writer for Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush and a special assistant for policy and communications in the Defense Department. He has worked on three presidential campaigns and is the author, most recently, of “The Apocalypse Directive,” a novel.

    And here’s his bio from TownHall.com:

    Douglas MacKinnon is former White House and Pentagon official who spent three years working in a Joint Command. Douglas MacKinnon was also press secretary to former Senator Bob Dole. Douglas MacKinnon has published hundreds of columns in every major paper in the country, and Douglas MacKinnon is heard and seen regularly on radio and television as a political commentator. Douglas MacKinnon is also an author and novelist. Douglas MacKinnon’s latest novel entitled “Vengeance Is Mine,” can be found at Amazon.com and features a main character who proudly wears his strong belief in traditional values upon his sleeve.

    The bottom line is that he’s professional blowhard. I wonder whose presidential campaign employed him to write the Sentinel column.

  • Al Fansome

    Funny how these hot-air blowhards never explain how any President is supposed to get an incredibly huge increase in the government space budget through a Congress during an era of trillion-dollar annual deficits and porking run amuck on the space subcommittees.

    While Douglas Mackinnon may not have the background to speak credibly on these issues, I challenge the implied assertion that we need “an incredibly huge increase in the government space budget” to achieve a permanent lunar base, and to send humans to Mars.

    Newt’s point is that NASA wastes the very large budget it has, and produces very little for it. Newt’s point is that properly designed, the existing NASA budget ($17.8 BILLION) could produce much greater results than it does.

    Show me where Newt has proposed major increases to NASA’s budget.

    You can not, be cause he has not.

    Instead, what Newt has proposed is to fundamentally transform “how” we spend the existing NASA budget.

    We can put a permanent human outpost on the Moon, and do all the other things, within NASA’s existing budget. But you can only do so if we change how we conduct our national space agenda.

    Newt knows this.

    FWIW,

    - Al

  • We could be flying humans to space next year on Falcon/Dragon if we stop insisting on an abort system. Wouldn’t be any less safe than Shuttle was.

    Exactly. How much is the safety of astronauts worth? We can put a minimum dollar amount on it – at least $55M per astronaut per flight. That’s how much NASA is paying the Russians for seats on the Soyuz which they could be spending at home. I bet the astronauts feel all special.

  • @Stephen C. Smith

    Funny how these hot-air blowhards never explain how any President is supposed to get an incredibly huge increase in the government space budget through a Congress during an era of trillion-dollar annual deficits and porking run amuck on the space subcommittees.

    Where in that piece does MacKinnon call for a huge increase? In fact, he reiterates Newt’s point that that the national space program squanders the very generous annual allowance it gets.

  • Bennett

    Newt is the only candidate with a record of supporting the ideas that NASA is supposed to carry out. He recognized early on that Obama’s FY2010 NASA budget proposal was the best thing to be drawn up since the early (non-military) iterations of the space shuttle, and he came out in support of it. That says something.

    Just because our President was too inexperienced, or lackluster, or uninterested to carry out what was a good plan based on a really good recommendation by the latest blue ribbon panel to examine the situation, is no reason to shoot the plan.

    Newt knows this, and is HSF’s best shot at serious support from the executive branch.

  • Doug Lassiter

    GeeSpace wrote @ December 22nd, 2011 at 4:38 pm
    “President Obama’s space program involves a manned mission around Mars in the mid 2030′s. So I would think Gingrich would use the same pot of money.”

    Pot of money? Appropriations are done yearly. It isn’t Obama’s money in any case, and Congress will need a few decades to allocate federal funds for FY30. Let’s get our terminology straight. There is no such “space program” involving a manned mission around Mars. Never was. A program is something with money. What Obama has is a notion, or maybe a dream. Probably not even a plan. A notion or dream is a good thing to have, but it’s VERY different than a “program”.

    If Gingrich is going to divert vapor-funds from Obama’s dream (those funds are allocated in play money, I guess) to pay for his own dreams, then OK, but his dream about going to Mars doesn’t sound a lot different than Obama’s dream. Neither is realistic. We aren’t going to Mars on $17B/yr.

    Now, to be perfectly clear, Obama’s dream was based on technology developments that Congress didn’t want to pay for. So it was at least half-baked. But one gathers that as of now his play money would have to be be expended on vehicles we can’t buy. Seems appropriate.

    Yes, it’s just about the money.

  • Coastal Ron

    Prez Cannady wrote @ December 22nd, 2011 at 7:20 pm

    Hey buddy, where ya been? We’ve been missing your brand of “commentary lite”. For example:

    What money?

    Wow, that says it all, and is open to so many interpretations. Definitely your signature type of statement. Oh, and indeed, what money?

    NASA is whatever the Congress authorizes and appropriates it to be. So who cares about a charter?

    Well sure, but the question is more a matter of actually doing what they say NASA should be doing, and so far that doesn’t include spreading the population of the U.S. beyond our terrestrial borders. Should that be the policy of the U.S.? That seems to be something that Newt is pushing. Do taxpayers want to pay for that?

    If you conjured up a fully baked space policy, you wouldn’t be diddling around low orbit in the first place and this whole discussion would be moot.

    Ah yes, you must subscribe to the theory that we don’t need to learn how to live and work in space before we leave LEO. I don’t subscribe to it myself (nor apparently does NASA), since disproving it means that we waste a lot of money fixing easy stuff 1,000X further away from LEO. I don’t think that’s a good use of money.

    However since the ISS seems to be safe until at least 2020, it will take a while before you get your chance to find out. Guess we’ll have to revisit this theory of yours at a later point…

  • Mark R. Whittington

    This clarifies Gingrich; views a bit. He supports the commercial space portion of Obamaspace but opposes the attempt to shut down space exploration.

  • @Coastal Ron:

    Wow, that says it all, and is open to so many interpretations.

    Not for you, since I’d expect you’d at least recall your own remarks. Answer the question.

    Well sure, but the question is more a matter of actually doing what they say NASA should be doing, and so far that doesn’t include spreading the population of the U.S. beyond our terrestrial borders.

    At $20 billion a year, that’s a pretty dumb question.

    Should that be the policy of the U.S.?

    Is water wet?

    That seems to be something that Newt is pushing. Do taxpayers want to pay for that?

    Also a dumb question, considering how much taxpayers part with to fund NASA’s present preoccupation with cosmic navel gazing, thumb twiddling, and the Space Station to Nowhere.

    Ah yes, you must subscribe to the theory that we don’t need to learn how to live and work in space before we leave LEO.

    I subscribe to the theory that endless yapping on what needs to be done is no substitute for getting it done.

    I don’t subscribe to it myself (nor apparently does NASA), since disproving it means that we waste a lot of money fixing easy stuff 1,000X further away from LEO. I don’t think that’s a good use of money.

    I don’t think spending billions annually meeting your pathetically low expectations is a good use of money.

  • @Doug Lassiter:

    We aren’t going to Mars on $17B/yr.

    Not sure why national space policy should bother with Mars, but all the reference missions and countless other proposals all trade time for peak expenditures well under $17B/yr.

  • Coastal Ron

    Al Fansome wrote @ December 22nd, 2011 at 9:04 pm

    Newt’s point is that NASA wastes the very large budget it has, and produces very little for it. Newt’s point is that properly designed, the existing NASA budget ($17.8 BILLION) could produce much greater results than it does.

    No argument if we’re talking about the axing the SLS and MPCV. I wonder what he would do with each segment of the NASA budget – would he shift the percentages around? Here is what Obama is proposing for FY16 (in millions):

    Science – $5,016.8 (26.8%)
    Aeronautics – $569.4 (3%)
    Space Technology – $1,024.2 (5.5%)
    Exploration – $3,948.7 (21.1%)
    Space Operations – 4,346.9 (23.2%)
    Education – $138.4 (0.7%)
    Cross-Agency Support $3,192 (17.1%)
    Construction & Environ…. $450.4 (2.4%)
    Inspector General $37.5 (0.2%)

    Fully 49.8% of Obama’s proposed NASA budget is either space technology, exploration or operations related, all of which I would associate with HSF related tasks. What do you think Newt would do differently?

    Instead, what Newt has proposed is to fundamentally transform “how” we spend the existing NASA budget.

    We can put a permanent human outpost on the Moon, and do all the other things, within NASA’s existing budget. But you can only do so if we change how we conduct our national space agenda.

    One of the challenges anyone proposing expansion of our presence in space has to face is that the more places you keep humans in space, the larger your budget has to get for sustaining that presence. That means NASA’s “Space Operations” budget continues to grown larger and larger. How much of the budget can it grow to? We’re at 23.2% – can it exceed 50%?

    Anyone know if Newt would be up to international partnerships as a way of boosting the funding or getting things going faster?

  • Coastal Ron

    Mark R. Whittington wrote @ December 22nd, 2011 at 11:22 pm

    …but opposes the attempt to shut down space exploration.

    I guess you consider proposing to explore an asteroid as a prelude to moving onto Mars as an attempt to shut down space exploration? I don’t, and I doubt Newt would either if asked.

    Keep in mind that candidates of the opposing party have to say red meat statements, and if Newt has said this then it clearly falls into that category.

    However I know that you like to say this Mark, so I’ll just subscribe it to you for right now, which means it’s a nonsensical statement. What a surprise… ;-)

  • Terence Clark

    “We could be flying humans to space next year on Falcon/Dragon if we stop insisting on an abort system. Wouldn’t be any less safe than Shuttle was.”

    Rand, I’m usually on board with a lot of what you say, but I gotta disagree here. Forgive me if this comment was meant tongue-in-cheek, but if it was a serious statement, I don’t see any evidence in the SpaceX plans for flying manned Dragon without an LAS at any point. I’ve been following SpaceX quite closely, and the debate has always been what kind of LAS vs whether or not to have one. Unless NASA came out and actively told them not to, I think an LAS would always be in the plan.

  • DCSCA

    Did Gingrich call the administration’s human spaceflight policy “a stupid move”?”

    Does it matter? Especially when every other word out of his mouth is Reagan, who hasn’t been on a ballot since November, 1984– and represents an economic policy thoroughly discreited what with 50% of Americans now living at or below the poverty line. So much for trickle down economics. As they say, Gingrich is what a stupid person thinks a smart person sounds like. He’s the Hindenburg of American politics, lumbering along with a leaky gasbag… with an inevitable Lakehurst in his political future. Oh the humanity…

  • DCSCA

    “He notes that Gingrich, along with former congressman Bob Walker, praised the administration’s decision to transfer crew transportation to low Earth orbit in a Washington Times op-ed in February 2010.”

    These two Reagan dinosaurs only want to dismantle another facet of government. That’s all this is. It hascnothig to do with spaceflight. And keep in mind, Newt wanted to dissolve NASA after the Apollo landings and has stated so publicly.

  • DCSCA

    @Rand Simberg wrote @ December 22nd, 2011 at 5:44 pm

    “We could be flying humans to space next year on Falcon/Dragon if we stop insisting on an abort system.”

    =yawn= Ever the shill. Dragon will never carry crews. But good God, you’re a sick soul. Even Gagarin had an ejection seat. Your disdain for crew survival is disturbing. Stay away from HSF. You could save a lot if cars did have air bags and seat belts. And fighter jets would be cheaper and more efficient if they didnt carry the added weight and costs of ejection seats.

  • Al Fansome wrote:

    Show me where Newt has proposed major increases to NASA’s budget.

    You can not, be cause he has not.

    Since no one said that, you prop up a straw man only to knock it over.

    We can put a permanent human outpost on the Moon, and do all the other things, within NASA’s existing budget.

    Proof? Show us the evidence. Not wishful thinking.

  • Bennett wrote:

    Just because our President was too inexperienced, or lackluster, or uninterested to carry out what was a good plan based on a really good recommendation by the latest blue ribbon panel to examine the situation, is no reason to shoot the plan.

    Um, Bennett, you may recall that Obama tried to implement what the Augustine Committee recommended only to have the porkers in Congress go apesh*t. Congress imposed the SLS upon NASA and the White House; SLS most certainly did not come from NASA or the White House.

    I’m still waiting for anyone to come forward with a credible explanation for how any President could impose his will upon a porking Congress — this Congress in particular.

    NASA is one small agency in a giant federal budget. All the President can do is veto the bill that contains the NASA budget, but that bill contains budgets for many other agencies. There is no line-item veto at the federal level. Furthermore, it’s become the routine for Congress to wait months after a fiscal year begins to actually pass the authorization bill to fund the budget; if the President vetoes that, it only punts the ball back to Congress and many more months go by with inaction.

    This isn’t 1964 with LBJ asking for NASA funding increases to race the Soviets in tribute to a martyred President. The members of the space subcommittees in Congress are interested only in directing pork to their districts. Beyond that, Congress has no interest in space, and nothing the President says or does can change that.

    In my opinion, saving the ISS and implementing CCDev are two singular achievements by this administration. Look at all that’s happened in the last two years. Lots of companies are jumping into commercial space — not just those in CCDev but others like Stratolaunch. These are credible people with a track record of wealth because they know an opportunity when they see one. The genie is out of the bottle (with apologies to Barbara Eden) and the space-industrial complex is going apesh*t because they can’t control it now. That’s why the Congressional porkers cut the CCDev money, but it’s too late.

    It’s the only way out of this mess. The White House knows it. Bolden/Garver know it. And although they won’t admit it, the porkers know it too which is why they’re fighting so desperately.

    What this President did in liberating space from Congress is as bold and revolutionary as “Man on the Moon by the end of the decade.” And in a few years, hopefully it will be recognized as such — no matter how hard the porkers try to fight it.

  • NASA Fan

    .Stephen Smith wrote: The members of the space subcommittees in Congress are interested only in directing pork to their districts. Beyond that, Congress has no interest in space, and nothing the President says or does can change that.

    ****************

    Indeed. Which is why a Prize driven HSF program will never fly. Congress would not stand for , say $10B , to go to one company should that company be first to the moon. Pork needs to be spread around to get the zesty tasty flavor!

    Indeed #2: Which is further evidence that our form of government isn’t working – the point of Occupy (fill in the blank). Trillion dollar deficits, $20 Trillion in debt is proof enough of this assertion.,

    And finally, as this blog discussion is evidence of, there is no purpose for Human Space Flight beyond Pork spending. And pork spending as a backdrop to any ‘program’ , dooms it to failure.

    HSF: RIP

  • MrEarl

    Rand said:
    “We could be flying humans to space next year on Falcon/Dragon if we stop insisting on an abort system. Wouldn’t be any less safe than Shuttle was.”
    While I would say one year is a little optimistic considering the Falcon 9 has only flown twice and the Dragon capsule only once, you were one of the posters on this blog waving the “blooby shirt” of the Columbia and Challenger dissasters to riduicule NASA. If NASA were to go ahead and allow manned flights of the Dragon to the ISS and something happened, who’s fault would that be, SpaceX or NASA? I’m thinking the SpaceX fanboys out there would be placing most of the blame on NASA.

  • E.P. Grondine

    Hi CR –

    I am pretty certain that such a “National Imperative” already exists. It is simply that many manned Mars flight enthusiasts don’t want to acknowledge it.

  • @Coastal Ron:

    Fully 49.8% of Obama’s proposed NASA budget is either space technology, exploration or operations related, all of which I would associate with HSF related tasks. What do you think Newt would do differently?

    For starters, recoup as much of the 50.2% NASA wastes on everything else.

  • @MrEarl:

    . If NASA were to go ahead and allow manned flights of the Dragon to the ISS and something happened, who’s fault would that be, SpaceX or NASA?

    Who cares who gets the blame?

  • Doug Lassiter

    Prez Cannady wrote @ December 23rd, 2011 at 1:25 am
    “Not sure why national space policy should bother with Mars, but all the reference missions and countless other proposals all trade time for peak expenditures well under $17B/yr.”

    The $17B/yr I referred to was for an annual NASA budget. NASA would be doing a lot more than going to Mars. As per congressional intent.

    Even then, you’re neglecting the 1989 SEI study, done by the agency that would carry out the mission, which came in at $450B. That’s a lot of years! Of course, once Zubrinified, that number can allegedly be smaller. So when Zubrin runs his own federal agency and magically lowers the TRL on all the technologies he needs to use, the taxpayer might be able to afford a trip to Mars.

    If Gingrich wants to come in and say, OK, we’re going to have NASA do a new, bottoms-up study of the cost of sending humans to Mars, because such an expedition might offer value to our nation, that would be sensible. But he’s not. He’s just challenging us to do it, without even referring to potential cost, or how he’s going to get Congress and the taxpayer to meet those costs. That’s the difference between being trying to be a leader and a doer.

    Stephen C. Smith wrote @ December 23rd, 2011 at 6:38 am
    “What this President did in liberating space from Congress is as bold and revolutionary as “Man on the Moon by the end of the decade.” And in a few years, hopefully it will be recognized as such — no matter how hard the porkers try to fight it.”

    That’s exactly right. The battle that needs to be fought for space is political as much as technological. It’s about more than pointing a finger at a planet. To his credit, at least Gingrich is pointing his finger at a planet. But that finger pointing doesn’t make for any kind of credible plan.

  • Rand, I’m usually on board with a lot of what you say, but I gotta disagree here. Forgive me if this comment was meant tongue-in-cheek, but if it was a serious statement, I don’t see any evidence in the SpaceX plans for flying manned Dragon without an LAS at any point.

    I didn’t say there was.

    DCSCA vomited: Dragon will never carry crews. But good God, you’re a sick soul.

    Physician, heal thyself.

    you were one of the posters on this blog waving the “blooby shirt” of the Columbia and Challenger dissasters to riduicule NASA.

    What are you blathering about now? And what does it have to do with anything I wrote?

    If NASA were to go ahead and allow manned flights of the Dragon to the ISS and something happened, who’s fault would that be, SpaceX or NASA?

    There would be joint responsibility. What a stupid question.

  • “We can put a permanent human outpost on the Moon, and do all the other things, within NASA’s existing budget.”

    Proof? Show us the evidence. Not wishful thinking.

    What do you mean, “proof”? The only proof would be to actually do it, but there are numerous studies, from ULA and others, indicating how one could do it by simply diverting the SLS/Orion budget.

  • Coastal Ron

    Prez Cannady wrote @ December 23rd, 2011 at 10:09 am

    For starters, recoup as much of the 50.2% NASA wastes on everything else.

    Like what? Like the $569.4M Obama wants to spend on Aeronautics (you know, the first “A” in NASA)? Or do you want to cut Science or Construction?

    Provide details, not rhetoric, with some idea how you’re going to convince the Republicans and Democrats in Congress to make the changes. Remember that they are the ones that create the budget laws, and the President either agrees with them or veto’s them.

    I can’t remember the last time a President veto’d a budget law just because of the NASA part of it – can you? So even an Imperial Newt may not be able to make a lot of change in NASA’s budget if it’s lumped in with larger agencies (like it usually is).

  • Robert G. Oler

    Mark R. Whittington wrote @ December 22nd, 2011 at 11:22 pm

    “This clarifies Gingrich; views a bit. He supports the commercial space portion of Obamaspace but opposes the attempt to shut down space exploration.”

    It will be interesting to see if it matters…the GOP field is amazing to me in terms of a political study.

    BUT your statement is illustrative of foul logic. First I am not sure Gingrich statement means anything in the context of how it was said…and second you seem to presume that “the attempt to shut down space exploration” implies that Gingrich support SLS and the dorky programs that you do.

    There is no evidence for that.

    There are ways to do human exploration of space (assuming that this could garner any public support whatsoever and that question is open) without SLS and Orion and all the NASA hangers on that go with it. In fact the reality is that there is no variant of human exploration of space in any reasonable time period that can be done with the money and effort that has to be committed to build SLS and the cost to fly it.

    SLS has become a good symbol of “Republican greatness” ie we do things for the symbology of doing them…otherwise people like you cannot articulate a firm reason for doing them..

    Somehow I cannot imagine Newt either doing that or running a campaign to do that or having that campaign successful.

    if any of the GOP candidates were to go out and describe SLS…ie a 10-20 year 30-60 billion effort to build a rocket that cost over 1 billion to launch and uses 70′s technology…they would be scoffed at.

    Robert G. oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    Bennett wrote @ December 22nd, 2011 at 10:24 pm

    “Just because our President was too inexperienced, or lackluster, or uninterested to carry out what was a good plan based on a really good recommendation by the latest blue ribbon panel to examine the situation, is no reason to shoot the plan.”

    dont understand what you are saying here? Sorry RGO

  • Robert G. Oler

    MrEarl wrote @ December 23rd, 2011 at 9:25 am

    Rand said:
    “We could be flying humans to space next year on Falcon/Dragon if we stop insisting on an abort system. Wouldn’t be any less safe than Shuttle was.”

    you replied
    While I would say one year is a little optimistic considering the Falcon 9 has only flown twice and the Dragon capsule only once, you were one of the posters on this blog waving the “blooby shirt” of the Columbia and Challenger dissasters to riduicule NASA”

    Look I think that Dragon has to have an LAS to fly people. I’ve chatted with some of the “personalities” who might be asked to fly on a Dragon in an early demo flight (just saying they would probably want some “person” who had some personality to be a poster person on the flight) and the metric seems to be “three flights of a Falcon9 and an LAS”

    But there are two points I would raise on your post.

    First there are LAS systems and there are LAS systems. The LAS systems on the Mercury/Gemini/Apollo efforts were at best minimal efforts. they might support escape at rocket ignition and “blowup” in the first few seconds…second and this is the important thing.

    how important an LAS system is and how good it has to be depends in no small measure as to how 1) the Challenger/Columbia losses were/are viewed and 2) the way one views human spaceflight.

    Neither shuttles were lost due to engineering issues, they were due to management stupidity and incompetence. Challenger in particular. None of them were like losing the Flying Wing with Edwards on board…If you talk to some of the astronauts and/or read some of the official documents they ALL went along with the management system in place and seemingly “knew” that the engineering issues in play were being downplayed by management.

    The air to ground conversations between the crew/commander of Columbia are particularly “entertaining”. An explanation by NASA ground folks on the ascent damage is offered and accepted with no real critical banter back and forth…not even a commercial airline pilot would have accepted that back and forth while talking about a maintenance issue.

    On Challenger the issues of the cold and the O rings were debated heavily inside the astronaut office andthey without any one or group of individuals or the Chief Astronaut raising any red flags or any serious objection.

    THEY ALL have explanations for it now, but they are really DUMB ones.

    There is test flying and operational flying…NASA aggrandizes the shuttle missions by calling all of them “test” missions…and yet not only did they behave as if they were operational but the folks flying them did as well.

    I dont see SpaceX so far (and all there is is public information) making the same dumb mistakes the folks at NASA did RGO

  • MrEarl

    @ Rand and Oler:
    I may not expressed my thoughts as clearly as I would have liked. My point is, why even make a statement like, “We could be flying humans to space next year on Falcon/Dragon if we stop insisting on an abort system.”? The whole reason the Shuttle was retired and CCDev was started was to create a safer, less expencive way to get to LEO.
    To me his statement just puts Rand in the catagory of SpaceX fanboy with little objectivity. I don’t see how Rand can bash NASA for not having the proper level of safety with the shuttle while advocating that same lower level for SpaceX.

  • amightywind

    if anything, he is talking about a far more vigorous program than either what the administration currently proposed or what Congress has been willing to support

    Don’t you just love this site’s yellow journalism? On the one hand he breathlessly monitors a dying Gingrich campaign for the least nugget of support for CCDev, then he nitpicks when he gets the wrong answer. You’d be wiser to monitor the comments of Romney, Paul, or Santorum. Any candidate will rightly criticize NASA because it is a disaster.

  • I can’t remember the last time a President veto’d a budget law just because of the NASA part of it – can you?

    George W. Bush threatened to do it over VSE funding. It was the only veto threat that I can recall he ever made.

  • Vladislaw

    MrEarl wrote:

    “If NASA were to go ahead and allow manned flights of the Dragon to the ISS and something happened, who’s fault would that be, SpaceX or NASA? I’m thinking the SpaceX fanboys out there would be placing most of the blame on NASA.”

    There has never been a transportation system that does not routinely involve people getting killed. Hell people died riding a horse. People are going to die going to space. We may as well get used to the idea. The only trouble I had with shuttle accidents is that there were red flags that were ignored.

  • Coastal Ron

    I understand Rand’s point about Dragon – likely any capsule without an official LAS on a liquid-fueled rocket – would be as safe as a Shuttle flight. Certainly flying on Atlas V would give any vehicle a pretty high survival rate based on the number of successful launches Atlas V has had. And capsules are likely more survivable just falling off the exploding rocket than the Shuttle was in just about any failure mode.

    That said, no one is in a rush to fly a Dragon, CST-100 or any other Commercial Crew system prior to having all the testing done ahead of time. Elon Musk has stated that they plan to use their CRS flights as part of the validation for Dragon and Falcon 9, but they still plan to fly test flights with their LAS systems to make sure everything works right. I’m sure the other CCDev participants want to do the same.

    But if you had to, you could fly people to space on a Dragon next year, and I’m sure you could find qualified volunteers that would accept the risk, just like the astronauts did when they flew the Shuttle without an LAS. What’s the difference?

  • @ GeeSpace:
    “Well, some people DO think that President Obama did go in the wrong direction. Is that direction stupid? Depends on your point of view’”

    If your goal is just to occasionally get a couple guys on the Moon for a few weeks, at an expense expense that’s beyond government sustainability, much less any hope of commercial interest, then yes, he did go in the wrong direction.

    If you want a developmental path that has a chance of affordable, permanent human presence there, that might actually lead to something we could even call ‘colonization,’ then he took the right steps.

    “Finally, why do some people talk about the cost of some type of space activity except when the space activity is related to public support of Commercial space programs? Then the cost factor is not even mentioned”

    We talk about that all the time….in comparison to the alternatives. But of course no one rides completely for free.

    @ Prez Cannady

    “If you conjured up a fully baked space policy, you wouldn’t be diddling around low orbit in the first place and this whole discussion would be moot.”

    Define ‘diddling around.’ That label can (and possibly will) ultimately be slapped on Mars or anyplace else that we’ve ‘been and done’ more than a few times. The problem is not that we’re ‘stuck’ in LEO, it’s that we’re not *doing* the most useful things we could in LEO that would support doing other things beyond it.

    @ DSCA:

    “=yawn= Ever the shill. Dragon will never carry crews.”

    Never? Ever the clairvoyant…

  • Bennett

    dont understand what you are saying here? Sorry RGO

    Just noting that despite the push back from the few in Congress with vested interests in NASA appropriations, the FY2010 proposal was a GREAT proposal, and Newt got behind it because he recognized its value.

  • DCSCA

    Rand Simberg wrote @ December 23rd, 2011 at 10:47 am
    “hat are you blathering about now? And what does it have to do with anything I wrote?”

    “We could be flying humans to space next year on Falcon/Dragon if we stop insisting on an abort system.” <- the ‘vomit comment.’ Your well -documented and LCD commentary– as crude as the Dragons you shill BTW- regarding tyour disdain for HSF and crew safety speaks for itself. Ultra-conservative dinosaurs lobbying to dismantle another facet of government are not friends of human spaceflight- as history has shown. Stay away from HSF. Meanwhile, the closkcs in Musketeerland go tick-tock, tick-tock …

  • Jim Nobles

    I for one am very much looking forward to the Dragon cargo launch currently scheduled for early February. I hope all goes well. Certainly SpaceX is our best hope for getting commercial crew going soonest. Boeing is close behind and could conceivably take the lead if they put more resources into the effort but we’ll see what happens. I will admit that I like SpaceX’s spirit more than the others.

    There’s something else. I read the comments on this site for several months before ever posting anything. So maybe there are many people who may read this but have not posted anything themselves. If you are new to this area, human spaceflight and NASA spaceflight, please be aware that there is a lot of disinformation being distributed by some of the comments here. This appears to be happening for all the reasons people lie or lie to themselves but the important thing to know is that you shouldn’t necessarily believe anything you read here. Even if it seems to mirror your own current beliefs.

    There is a huge amount of information available about most of the companies, ideas and concepts mentioned in this forum available on the net. I urge anyone interested to take the time and do the search to find out what really seems to be happening. It is quite educational. And fun.

    Happy Holidays!

  • E.P. Grondine

    RGO – I wonder if Trento is up for a followup on Columbia

  • Robert G. Oler

    MrEarl wrote @ December 23rd, 2011 at 1:21 pm

    Merry Christmas.

    Look Rand and I are almost always at each others rhetorical throats…so like defending Garver…but I dont think Rand is a SpaceX fan boy any more then I am…

    But I’ll say this about an LAS and my comment.

    As a practical matter I am pretty sure that the very next US crew to orbit vehicle will have an LAS, particularly if it rides an expendable rocket. There is a current in that direction but MY POINT was that in large measure I am not sure its necesssary UNLESS it provides abort to home through almost all if not all phases of powered flight.

    The Dragon LAS might do that…but I dont think that there is a single tractor system in history or flying that could do that. If the Soyuz third stage had failed on the crew to the station like it did on the next rocket…I am not sure that the crew had any real viable options.

    The history of transportation systems as Coastal Ron said in a few post up is death in ever decreasing numbers per operations of the transportation system…but still deaths. There is no viable inflight escape system from a commercial airliner…and the French lost a lot more people then have been killed in human spaceflight in an Airbus crash over the Atlantic.

    My point is that as long as the management system for operating a complex vehicle is sound (and it was not at NASA in my view almost the entire shuttle program) then flying without a LAS is probably a viable option once the launch vehicle achieves some certain measure of reliability. Again if the LAS is “full powered flight” then maybe thats different…NO tractor system is going to do that…the cost to orbit is to high. I am pretty sure Orions is not that.

    Military pilots have ejection seats not because the airplanes are NOT reliable…but they have them for combat. Now they might come in handy if the airplane “burps” but transport airplanes dont have them…they dont go into combat.

    We are stuck with the notion of an LAS because of Columbia and Challenger…but “right wing Rand” (grin) has a point about the LAS. If Musk wanted to fly people on Dragon, he could in 12…if he would go with the same safety factor that the shuttle had…and truth be told no LAS would have saved the Columbia crew (nor would a similar set of circumstances be solved by an Orion LAS).

    I suspect that given the issues with the Soyuz third stage they might be safer…

    The Russians clearly have a manufacturing/quality control issue with the stage…that’s not good RGO

  • Robert G. Oler

    “The booster used during Friday’s launch flew in the Soyuz 2-1b configuration, which features a modernized digital control system and an RD-0124 third stage engine. The Soyuz-U and Soyuz-FG launchers, which haul supplies and crews to the space station, rely on an older model RD-0110 third stage engine. ”

    the post to Mr. Earl was written before I read the above…

    Robert G. Oler

  • @Doug Lassiter:

    The $17B/yr I referred to was for an annual NASA budget. NASA would be doing a lot more than going to Mars. As per congressional intent.

    Why?

  • Doug Lassiter

    Nice article about Gingrich as an imaginer.
    http://www.politico.com/news/stories/1211/70813.html

    Some things in this article that are very pertinent to space exploration. This is the candidate who points his finger at planets.

    “People clearly respond to a future of adventure, romance and excitement, but they are not all that interested in a docudrama about technological achievements of man and machines,” he wrote, drawing a key lesson from the fact that ‘Star Wars’ performed better at the box office than ‘The Right Stuff.’ ”

    Pointing your finger at a planet is about adventure, romance, and excitement. Making it possible to get there is about enabling (which is partly figuring out how to pay for) technological achievements of man and machines.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Bennett wrote @ December 23rd, 2011 at 5:24 pm

    got it RGO

  • Robert G. Oler

    The reality about the topic of this thread…is that it illustrates two disturbing realities in the GOP of today.

    First there are points to be gained by being against anything Obama is for.

    This shows an amazing descent in maturityof the GOP and in particular the GOP base.

    Second, and this couples with the first. Facts no longer matter to the GOP base.

    One can say “Obama stopped the shuttles flying” all day long, but that does not make it true. Yes Obama could have tried to restart the shuttles (not sure if that was economically viable) but it was Bush with the GOP Congress that made the key decisions and executed them to shut down the shuttles.

    Now the argument goes “well it didnt matter all the jobs could have gone to Cx” …but back to facts matter…No they were not going all to Cx and Cx was badly managed. That the program spent 15 billion dollars…more then has been spent on the CVN Next program (and that gets the US Navy a “boat”) three times more then was spent on the Gemini program (and it actually flew) and Cx produced nothing is a FACT.

    That is waste and sloth and as Gingrich is fond of noting a bureaucracy simply run amock. A bureaucracy that spent a lot of money (15 billion) getting to where we are today…ie nothing flight worthy.

    The other side in the political debate is stupid as well (there is opposition to the Keystone pipeline that is just not well informed) but…

    the reality is that the op ed was written to try and slough off on Obama things he did not do…and things that he had to recover form in human spaceflight.

    This is not just an isolated incident. Herman Cain who once was viable for the GOP nomination was against the Libya effort but could not say way, Palin doesnt like The White House XMAS card, even though Reagan’s was similar. and those are just trivial announcements.

    I have never gotten a straight answer (or even one at all) from the people who say Commercial/cargo/crew is “crony capitalism” and yet support the failure that is SLS…particularly from people who use to support what is now commercial crew/cargo

    Obama has failed ina lot of things…but to attack his space policy needs some more then just “Dont like obama”. RGO

  • Lyle Upson.

    thanks everyone, enjoyable read

    my thinking is that (an Aussie here), is that the objective is the utility of space, when mastered I assume there will be a cis-Lunar industry upon which NASA can take to Mars the hardware shop and the food bowl across nine months of travel… oh, also a chemist shop and some other stuff we usually take for granted when the trip is merely a car ride, just to get there – excluding all belief in a flag planting return trip project; so the “we” can release those newly designed/built capsules from a mother-ship assembled in LEO. Exciting times, and nice to see the local debate on space utility being the objective for both colonisation and the big space shots… meanwhile no choice about it, however the rage and debate goes, USA cannot get a government employee into space without the Russian space program ahead of the USA industrial path that looks to put in space a privately paid employee, in a handful of years …so patience is unavoidable right now on the argument of where, what and when. I just think that my interest in human travel to an asteroid should be by way of following prospecting robots and a private business plan, rather than the let’s do it model, by which time it is likely to be the case of NASA must respect the business plans of the private sector… on the first big NASA moon-shot, there were no shops along for the ride, so you folk could not stay, today is not then… today the commercial world is the anchor for space exploration, not NASA and the USA taxpayer… the commercial world is global and about to become bigger, there will be many nationalities along for the ride, for the next five years the debate should be about enhancing or toppling the space treaty to be replaced with the nine-tenths property law and 10-20 year USA tax breaks to expand space commerce

    i think this refutes and supports the general discussion of USA space politics from another nation…

    cheers all

  • @Doug Lassiter:

    The $17B/yr I referred to was for an annual NASA budget.

    That much is obvious.

    NASA would be doing a lot more than going to Mars.

    Why?

    As per congressional intent.

    Congressional intent is mutable.

    Even then, you’re neglecting the 1989 SEI study, done by the agency that would carry out the mission, which came in at $450B.

    Peak expenditure.

  • @Oler:

    I have never gotten a straight answer (or even one at all) from the people who say Commercial/cargo/crew is “crony capitalism” and yet support the failure that is SLS…particularly from people who use to support what is now commercial crew/cargo.

    Why bother? The more interesting debate is between pro- and anti-heavy lift.

  • Commercial Space just whines & complains that not enough federal budget dollars are flowing its way, that not enough blank checks are being written. That not enough deregulation is being done on its behalf. The Commercial Space community has been in a really funny position for some time now! They would have NASA jettison all of its former grand ambitions, and starve out any plan for a mighty heavy-lift rocket, all for the sake of granting them sole monopoly over whatever this country does next in human spaceflight. THESE ROCKET HOBBYISTS SHOULD’VE NEVER BEEN ENCOURAGED IN THE FIRST PLACE!!! Look at all the great things that NASA had to give up, in terms of ambition, just to make room for the amateurs! This is such a pathetic position for the country to be in, right now; in spaceflight. We’re waiting year after year, holding our collective breath, waiting for private industry to replicate the 1960′s Mercury program’s flights; squandering vast sums of the NASA budget on retaining a wasteful LEO space station—-which continues to teach us NOTHING about true deep space operations—-just to give these Trekkie dreamers some edifice to visit & reach, up there, some 200 miles up. This whole state of affairs does NOT make one bit of sense! There are things that the government can do far more effectively than can the private sector; and manned spaceflight is one of them. The government needs to be the one leading the way. Private sector entities taking over will only keep the nation trapped in LEO for yet another two decades. When that boring day comes that they finally launch a crewed capsule into orbit, and they succeed in docking with the ISS with it, a 20 year dull interlude will await, while Commercial Space tries to “perfect the art” of sending millionaire tourists for jaunt-stays at orbital hotels. An ISS-2 will come after ISS-1; and then an ISS-3 some time after that; and before you know it, it’ll be the year 2030, and we’ll be back to square one again, in terms of deep space goals.

  • Joe

    Robert G. Oler wrote @ December 23rd, 2011 at 11:32 pm
    “The booster used during Friday’s launch flew in the Soyuz 2-1b configuration, which features a modernized digital control system and an RD-0124 third stage engine. The Soyuz-U and Soyuz-FG launchers, which haul supplies and crews to the space station, rely on an older model RD-0110 third stage engine. ”

    An important point. Do you have a link to the article from which the quote was derived?

  • Robert G. Oler

    Doug Lassiter wrote @ December 24th, 2011 at 12:10 am

    Nice article about Gingrich as an imaginer.
    http://www.politico.com/news/stories/1211/70813.html

    yeap that is an interesting article.

    Look, there are things about Newt which I more or less really dont like. In large measure Newt is responsible for the climate in our politics today. He didnt drive the GOP down the path it is on; he was canned to early for that but he surely put it on the road particularly with the deamonizing of the Clinton administration. His effort at impeachment was historically despicable and did untold harm to the nation.

    When Clinton was trying to kill OBL (and came closer then Bush ever came) Newt encouraged the crap about distracting from impeachment.

    But all that aside (and that takes a lot) Newt is one of the more stellar “thinkers” of our political scene. He does “imagine” things and that alone puts him head and shoulders above the little people running on the GOP ticket…and while it does not put him in Reagan or Kennedy or FDR country; he at least gets to smell the air. He imagines a “new” country and Obama cannot do that.

    There IS some sort of human space effort that I think would “inspire” a nation and stimulate the nation when combined with other things would create the same aura as Kennedy did in the 60′s or Reagan in the 80′s or FDR in the 30′s…an era of (to use a Trek line ) “unexplored possibilities”.

    The sad thing for this is that the people who this appeals to in large measure are not out of the box thinkers. All the “apollo lovers” are trying to recreate the myth of the 60′s…the notion of great things done just to be great. Newt seems to have better things in mind; but they cannot see it. I would be curious if Muncy would comment on this.

    The sad thing for Newt is that he might have a hard time getting the nomination. The “evangelical” (religious kook) wing of the GOP seems to be driving toward some anti Romney thing and if they can ever coalesce around “someone” that someone could get the nomination…Newt is left in a dog fight with Paul for one of the two slices (it appears) of the anti Romney pie.

    I would love to see a debate between Obama and Newt. Unless I could be sure that Newt would get a Democratic Congress to keep him in check I would probably vote for Obama…but it would be interesting to see if Obama can discover his “undiscovered” country.

    But the key point is that if Newt got to make space policy in my view it would be inspirational it would be thoughtful…it wouldnt look like Apollo or be a slave to SLS or the NASA bureaucracy …but it would be entertaining.

    Robert

  • Doug Lassiter

    Prez Cannady wrote @ December 24th, 2011 at 7:59 am
    “Congressional intent is mutable.”

    Well, better start muting it. The taxpayer perspective is mutable too. You could just make them pay twice as much as they now do for NASA, no? Why not three times as much? If the idea is to make NASA do nothing else other than sending people to Mars, then I think that politically it’s a non-starter. You’d be talking about a new and very different agency. Re the 1989 SEI study, done by the agency that would carry out the mission, and which came in at $450B …

    “Peak expenditure.”

    Good heavens no, that was the total estimated expenditure. If you compute in fixed year dollars, that works out to about 25 years of NASA budgets where NASA isn’t doing anything else.

    But as per Newt Gingrich, we could just imagine! We can imagine anything. Imagination is cheap.

  • Coastal Ron

    Chris Castro wrote @ December 24th, 2011 at 9:02 am

    There are things that the government can do far more effectively than can the private sector; and manned spaceflight is one of them.

    Oh? NASA hasn’t been able to keep people in space for longer than two weeks since the 70′s – it’s only been able to do it with the ISS because we use the Soyuz as a lifeboat, so NASA hasn’t done a very good job there.

    This really boils down to what you think NASA should be. Should they always do everything, no matter how routine? If so, then you better plan on breaking the trend of flat budgets, because the more NASA does in space, the more sustaining budget they will need for repetitive tasks.

    And of course even NASA disagrees with you about who can do things more effectively. NASA would rather buy services for quite a few things than worrying about doing it themselves. Crew to LEO is one, and likely beyond LEO once NASA needs routine crew rotations for whatever they are doing.

    What you advocate doesn’t make economic sense.

  • Malmesbury

    Prez Cannady wrote @ December 24th, 2011 at 8:03 am
    @Oler:

    I have never gotten a straight answer (or even one at all) from the people who say Commercial/cargo/crew is “crony capitalism” and yet support the failure that is SLS…particularly from people who use to support what is now commercial crew/cargo.

    Why bother? The more interesting debate is between pro- and anti-heavy lift.

    It is pretty simple anyway – giving 10s of billions on a shovel-the-cash basis to LockMart/Boeing etc is The American Way.

    100s of millions in competitive contracts on a pay-per-milestone basis Anti American Communistic Evil.

  • Malmesbury

    Why bother? The more interesting debate is between pro- and anti-heavy lift.

    A point that is often missed is that it is not so much pro/anti heavy lift. The anti bit is actually anti-expensive-giant-rockets. Most of those who are against SLS etc would love to have Sea Dragon….

  • To me his statement just puts Rand in the catagory of SpaceX fanboy with little objectivity.

    Stupid nonsense.

    I don’t see how Rand can bash NASA for not having the proper level of safety with the shuttle while advocating that same lower level for SpaceX.

    I have never bashed NASA for not having a launch escape system for the Shuttle. You’re just making that up.

  • Robert G. Oler

    http://spaceflightnow.com/news/n1112/23soyuzmeridian/

    Joe ( Joe wrote @ December 24th, 2011 at 9:43 am )

    from Spaceflightnow…RGO

  • Robert G. Oler

    Prez Cannady wrote @ December 24th, 2011 at 8:03 am
    “Why bother? The more interesting debate is between pro- and anti-heavy lift.”

    really? To me that is a no debate. I am neither pro nor anti heavy lift I am for affordable lift.

    Without affordable lift we are stuck in the endless loop of one “logical next step” after another, steps that take longer go less far and in general consume lots of dollars for not a lot of success.

    At one time I was a “Shuttle C:” advocate; I have the op eds to prove it in places like “Commercial space”…but the reality is that when the uncrewed version of the shuttle system ends up costing more to develop and operate then the crewed variant…one has to wonder “what the frack”?

    In the end what SLS has become code for is “maintaining traditional NASA” and doing that ensures that we get nothing but to quote “Newt”..or paraphrase him anyway “A lot of people sitting around thinking about space”.

    and to a lot of people that seems just fine. I would like to know why RGO

  • Bennett

    “Most of those who are against SLS etc would love to have Sea Dragon….”

    No doubt!

    Merry Christmas all.

  • DCSCA

    @Rand Simberg wrote @ December 24th, 2011 at 2:55 pm

    “Stupid nonsense.” <– Which sums up SpaceX’s ‘for profit’ HSF operations to date completely.

  • Malmesbury

    My objection to Sea Dragon is, by the way, that it is too small. The first stage engine can be scaled by a factor of 5-10 and still be in the island of combustion stability, due to low chamber pressure. The rest of the vehicle would scale quite cheaply in a ship yard up to about 10x

  • gregori

    Putting a simple capsule on a EELV/Falcon9 could be as safe as the Shuttle was. It might even be a bit safer since unstoppable SRBs and falling debris are not possible modes of failure.

    Its never going to happen though. One of the big selling points of the commercial vehicles is that they are SAFER than the shuttle. Imagine the headlines if there was an accident on one of the commercial vehicles

    “Greedy for-profit private company cuts corners and kill heroic astronauts”

    It doesn’t matter that NASA was willing to take this risk with lives by continuing the Shuttle or the rationality of it. How it will be spun in the event of an accident could finish the company involved. These companies will not take those chances. Its in their interest to make the vehicles as safe as humanly and financially possible. If this means being dependent on Soyuz for a few more years, I think its worth the money and time.

    Oh….. MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYBODY!!!

  • Joe

    Robert G. Oler wrote @ December 24th, 2011 at 4:45 pm

    Thanks.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Merry Christmas and all the other holidays celebrated this time of the year all…have a great day

    And Happy Birthday I. Newton. We stand on the shoulders of giants RGO

  • Doug

    Newt is talking about a prize based space program to jump start the private sector and free market investment in space not NASA.

    It’s not tax payer NASA funding that gets us to Mars it is “free market” investment that gets us to Mars Newt is clear on this the prize is the first step to jump start the process to move it away from NASA entirely or as much as possible. This is not case where the Prez commands congress to write checks to support space it is case where mfree market takes over.

  • vulture4

    The Atlas has one strap-on SRB (a little asymmetrical). Only the Falcon is actually all-liquid and capable of thrust termination without booster destruction. The 1989 study was reasonably unbiased, and the cost of $450B for even a short (i.e. dead-end) manned Mars program is probably accurate for SLS/Orion level technology.

    I don’t think Dragon needs a LAS to be safe, a LAS has never been used in flight and adds little in survivability, but Musk has cleverly combined the LAS with the landing decelerator so it is used on every flight and not really a weight penalty.

  • Doug Lassiter

    Doug wrote @ December 25th, 2011 at 12:30 pm
    “It’s not tax payer NASA funding that gets us to Mars it is “free market” investment that gets us to Mars”

    Let’s be clear. The $20B prize comes out of the taxpayers pocket. Well, unless Google wants to offer $20B. Is Newt going to encourage that?

    The problem that I have with these prizes is that they come across as a lack of commitment by the federal government to getting it done. That’s why we don’t offer prizes to destroy Al Qaeda, nor do we offer prizes to house the homeless. The federal government is really and truly interested in getting those tasks done. Yes, it’s in the interest of private enterprise to do these things, just as indirectly as is a trip to Mars, but no one will jump at the chance. The bottom line is that by offering a prize to get it done, the nation doesn’t really care if it gets done.

    Now, one can also be concerned about whether sending a person to Mars and getting him/her back safely is really in the long term interest. I doubt very much that leaving a footprint on Mars will really pave the way for more ambitions missions, because it’s going to be done in a manner that is pretty risky, as brief as possible, and with no regard to developing an architecture that is truly extensible. Um, what was the prize for the second trip going to be?

  • Robert G. Oler

    Doug Lassiter wrote @ December 25th, 2011 at 6:21 pm

    Merry Christmas.

    The problem I have with prizes is that I have never had an explanation of how they work on an effort that requires serious technological development and has no immediate or even close to near term commercial payback.

    “I doubt very much that leaving a footprint on Mars will really pave the way for more ambitions missions”

    No doubt RGO

  • The bottom line is that by offering a prize to get it done, the nation doesn’t really care if it gets done.

    Does putting forth no-bid cost-plus contracts indicate that the nation cares that it gets done?

  • Rhyolite

    “That’s why we don’t offer prizes to destroy Al Qaeda”

    No one has offered a prize to destroy Al Qaeda but lots of prizes (rewards) have been offered for information leading to the capture or killing of specific Al Qaeda leaders.

    The reason we do one and not the other is illustrative of what kind of prize could be successful for space. No individual or even large non-government organization has the resources to destroy Al Qaeda but lots of individuals may have a key bit of knowledge necessary to bring down one of its leaders.

    Offering rewards for a specific leaders breaks down the problem into manageable chunks and greatly reduces the amount of resources required to make a meaningful contribution. That’s very different than a large scale goal like landing a man on mars.

    A more realistic goal for a prize might be a durable, reusable, low maintenance TPS. There are lots of university material sciences labs and start-up companies that could tackle this. Publish a standard and see who can meet or exceed it first. The prize would not have to be that big – a few million at most – to make a big step forward towards reusable launch vehicles.

    Likewise, there are a lot of component technologies that we lack for opening up space or exist only in an impractically expensive form. Small prizes might be a good way solving some of these problems.

  • vulture4

    Prizes can be effective when a lot of ingenuity is needed but not much resources, i.e. with a lot of garage inventors looking for a way to measure longitude or build a robot jeep, someone will find new solutions. In the aggregate they may spend more than the value of the prize, but no individual contestant will spend more than the prize is worth, or more than they can afford to invest in a hobby. The X prize was worth less than the cost of winning; there was only one serious contestant for the X prize, and they would have gone anyway.

  • Doug Lassiter

    Rand Simberg wrote @ December 25th, 2011 at 11:48 pm
    “Does putting forth no-bid cost-plus contracts indicate that the nation cares that it gets done?”

    Very much so. It means that the nation is so desperate to get it done that they’ll brush aside responsible procurement procedures intended to protect public funds, and be shoveling money from a bottomless pot long before the task is actually complete. With a prize, you’re offering a fixed amount, and the dollars don’t show up until it’s done. You don’t really care whether it actually happens, because if it doesn’t, you haven’t spent anything.

    Rhyolite wrote @ December 26th, 2011 at 2:14 am
    “Offering rewards for a specific leaders breaks down the problem into manageable chunks and greatly reduces the amount of resources required to make a meaningful contribution. That’s very different than a large scale goal like landing a man on mars.”

    Fair point, but if that’s the case, then why aren’t we offering prizes for manageable chunks of getting to Mars? I think that’s what you’re proposing, and it makes some sense. Cryogenic depot? Radiation mitigation? Precision landing technologies? TPS? Even if one didn’t immediately use them to go to Mars, those are technologies we could really use for many things. Individually, we aren’t desperate for them, but each chunk puts us farther down the road to space exploration. In fact, I’ll bet that prizes like those would actually get won, unlike a prize of putting the first footprint on Mars.

    The question is whether a prize can really be viewed as a procurement mechanism. Not sure that it can. In the case of a Mars prize, What does the nation really get for $20B?

  • @Oler:

    really? To me that is a no debate. I am neither pro nor anti heavy lift I am for affordable lift.

    I suppose you’re pro-breathing. Please, your responding to a comment, not running for office.

  • @Doug Lassiter:

    Well, better start mutating it.

    No need. Set aside SLS/MPVC, ISS, and cross-agency support, and you still have $5 billion a year in vulnerable accounts.

    The taxpayer perspective is mutable too.

    The taxpayer shrugged as Congress spent $100 billion on a Space Station to nowhere on a budget that has remained relatively stable at between $15-20 billion in constant dollars. There’s no reason to believe he’ll care about how NASA’s budget is ultimately configured so long as remains within that range and has something to do with space.

    That said, I still don’t see the value in a manned mission to Mars.

    You could just make them pay twice as much as they now do for NASA, no? Why not three times as much? If the idea is to make NASA do nothing else other than sending people to Mars, then I think that politically it’s a non-starter. You’d be talking about a new and very different agency. Re the 1989 SEI study, done by the agency that would carry out the mission, and which came in at $450B …

    What precisely came in at $450 billion in 1989, Doug? You’re conflating the Mars mission with the entire SEI.

    Good heavens no, that was the total estimated expenditure. …

    That was the point.

    But as per Newt Gingrich, we could just imagine! We can imagine anything. Imagination is cheap.

    Considering how space has been traditionally marketed to the public, I don’t blame Gingrich for sticking with what works.

  • It means that the nation is so desperate to get it done that they’ll brush aside responsible procurement procedures intended to protect public funds, and be shoveling money from a bottomless pot long before the task is actually complete.

    No, it doesn’t. It means that the politicians want to shovel money to their campaign contributors, and don’t care at all whether the task is ever actually accomplished. SLS being a prime example.

  • @Frank Glover:

    Define ‘diddling around.’

    Doing nothing productive whatsoever.

    That label can (and possibly will) ultimately be slapped on Mars…

    As it should be, since there’s a snowball’s chance in hell that the surface of Mars will offer up anything that can’t be extracted at substantially less cost from elsewhere in the solar system.

    …or anyplace else that we’ve ‘been and done’ more than a few times.

    If “diddling around” includes developing space, energy and resources orders of magnitude greater than what’s available on Earth is not “diddling around, then we might as well might as well scrap the space program.

    The problem is not that we’re ‘stuck’ in LEO, it’s that we’re not *doing* the most useful things we could in LEO that would support doing other things beyond it.

    Ya think?

  • @Coastal Ron:

    Like what? Like the $569.4M Obama wants to spend on Aeronautics (you know, the first “A” in NASA)? Or do you want to cut Science or Construction?

    Why not cut all of it?

    Provide details, not rhetoric…

    Doesn’t get more detailed than 50.2 percent of what you declared off limits.

    ..with some idea how you’re going to convince the Republicans and Democrats in Congress to make the changes.

    Question, what makes you think Congress is wedded to spending $5 billion on pretty pictures of places even our descendant species are unlikely to visit?

    Remember that they are the ones that create the budget laws, and the President either agrees with them or veto’s them.

    Says the rhetorician. You’ve made an argument about the optics of NASA’s budget–specifically, that almost everything in it is sacrosanct. Now put up or shut up; what evidence is there that Congress is bound to anything beyond the quarter or so of the budget eaten up by SLS/MPCV?

    I can’t remember the last time a President veto’d a budget law just because of the NASA part of it – can you?

    I can’t imagine why you think that’s even remotely relevant.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Doug Lassiter wrote @ December 26th, 2011 at 10:22 am

    “Very much so. It means that the nation is so desperate to get it done that they’ll brush aside responsible procurement procedures intended to protect public funds, and be shoveling money from a bottomless pot long before the task is actually complete.”

    it might have ONCE meant that or even meant that generically but it no longer means that.

    Cost plus contracts do generally mean that the nation needs something so bad that its willing to pay anything for them…but two points are at least to me obvious.

    First “what” that is must be chosen very carefully. One can make an argument that the “gadget” (the atomic bomb), the B-29, the Apollo Lunar lander all were things that qualified for a cost plus contract. No one “knew” how to do those things when they were started, they all seemed essential to some particular facuet of the national life…and they were all very very well managed….and of course they produced results.

    Today cost plus contracts are put on things which 1) should understood as to how to do them (going to LEO with humans is not exactly bleeding edge technology anymore) and 2) should derive from available technology.

    I agree (gasp) with Rand on this…they are mostly just an excuse by GOP and some Dem politicians to shovel money to their favorite defense and aerospace contractors.

    It is somewhat stunning to me that the Italians can convert 767′s to KC 767′s and do it on a fixed price contract with Boeing…whereas the USAF needs to do it on a cost plus.

    There are investments that dont pan out with cost plus contracts and there are investments that are not thought out with cost plus contracts…the ratio of the two is the product of good management. Today the latter is stifling us RGO

  • NASA Fan

    Regarding Prize Money:

    Congress will not tolerate $20B going to a single winner. $20B (in pork) needs to be spread around; that is what keeps the dysfunctional skids of our form of government greased. Spreading the pork around.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Prez Cannady wrote @ December 26th, 2011 at 11:51 am

    @Oler:

    really? To me that is a no debate. I am neither pro nor anti heavy lift I am for affordable lift.

    you replied
    “I suppose you’re pro-breathing. Please, your responding to a comment, not running for office.”

    Oh I dont mind if certain people stop breathing. In fact in some cases I have helped them do just that.

    There is lift that is affordable and there is life that is not. Some people, the people who are for SLS are for the latter.

    if you dont grasp that you dont understand the problem RGO

  • @Rand:

    It means that the politicians want to shovel money to their campaign contributors.

    Campaign contributors, constituents, political allies and even occasionally bitter enemies. Expending public monies to curry favor is as old as the Republic, and any strategy to opening access to space that depends on averting such behavior is doomed to failure.

  • Doug Lassiter

    Rand Simberg wrote @ December 26th, 2011 at 12:14 pm
    “It means that the politicians want to shovel money to their campaign contributors, and don’t care at all whether the task is ever actually accomplished. SLS being a prime example.”

    I think we’re saying basically the same thing about no-bid cost-plus, but I was trying to articulate it a little more diplomatically. When I say the nation is so desperate to get it done, that could well mean that the porker is desperate to get it done by his or her constituents, and Congress representing the nation) is willing to let him or her get away with it. Still a matter of desperation. The “task” in this case isn’t going to Mars, but shoveling money to a certain constituency. The porker cares very much about that task.

    Not sure how one establishes the market for a prize. I guess you float a number, in this case $20B, and if no one steps up to the plate, then you make it $30B? No one still? Make it $50B. That’s not the marketing strategy for a nation that really wants something to happen. As you patiently wait for folks to step up to the plate, nothing is happening to get you closer to the goal.

  • Doug Lassiter

    Prez Cannady wrote @ December 26th, 2011 at 12:07 pm
    “Set aside SLS/MPVC, ISS, and cross-agency support, and you still have $5 billion a year in vulnerable accounts.”

    Well, that’s my point. You’ve got an uphill battle in Congress getting them to set these things aside. Better start lobbying! So maybe Newt is going to do that lobbying? Oh, but he doesn’t do lobbying …

    “The taxpayer shrugged as Congress spent $100 billion on a Space Station to nowhere on a budget that has remained relatively stable at between $15-20 billion in constant dollars.”

    Not at all. From the public perspective, influenced by NASA’s careful outreach, ISS is seen by the public the epitome of exploration. It’s the gateway to outer space, and it is the facility that demonstrates our superiority. We had bigger hair there than anyone else! It was so good that the other countries just has to join us. The “Space Station to nowhere” is hardly an extant public view.

    “Considering how space has been traditionally marketed to the public, I don’t blame Gingrich for sticking with what works.”

    Ah, you mean like the Space Station to nowhere.

    “What precisely came in at $450 billion in 1989, Doug? You’re conflating the Mars mission with the entire SEI.”

    That’s a matter of degree. The Mars mission in SEI was explicitly $173B (thirty five years of $5B/yr), but that was based on what we would learn and take away from a $210B Moon outpost. So the two were not easily separable. Of course these were all just ROM numbers, but they were big numbers, and my point was that there were estimates for accomplishing a Mars trip that involved very big numbers.

  • Rhyolite

    Doug Lassiter wrote @ December 26th, 2011 at 10:22 am

    “Fair point, but if that’s the case, then why aren’t we offering prizes for manageable chunks of getting to Mars?”

    “The question is whether a prize can really be viewed as a procurement mechanism. Not sure that it can. In the case of a Mars prize, What does the nation really get for $20B?”

    I don’t think prizes can be viewed as a procurement mechanism. If there is a well defined good or service the nation needs, then put it out to bid and see who comes back with the lowest price qualifying bid.

    Prizes make more sense to me as an R&D mechanism where there are many possible solutions, many possible solvers and it is not obvious, a priori, what the best solution will be. A prize can stimulate a lot of decentralized creativity. If we are looking for a low maintenance, non-toxic RCS system or a lightweight, reliable closed loop life-support system, it is not clear that a well funded government contractor, like lockheed,

  • Rhyolite

    (sorry, I hit send prematurely on the last post)

    Doug Lassiter wrote @ December 26th, 2011 at 10:22 am

    “Fair point, but if that’s the case, then why aren’t we offering prizes for manageable chunks of getting to Mars?”

    “The question is whether a prize can really be viewed as a procurement mechanism. Not sure that it can. In the case of a Mars prize, What does the nation really get for $20B?”

    I don’t think prizes can be viewed as a procurement mechanism. If there is a well defined good or service the nation needs, then put it out to bid and see who comes back with the lowest qualifying bid.

    Prizes make more sense to me as an R&D mechanism where there are many possible solutions, many possible solvers and it is not obvious, a priori, what the best solution will be. A prize can stimulate a lot of decentralized creativity.

    If we are looking for a low maintenance, non-toxic RCS system or a lightweight, reliable closed loop life-support system, it is not clear that a well funded government contractor, like Lockheed, has any advantage over a small start up like Masten or Andrews or even a motivated tinkerer. We don’t know who is going to have a eurka moment.

    On the other hand, landing someone on mars is always going to be a large scale systems engineering effort. Even if someone has a creative idea for reducing the mission cost, 95% of the effort is going to be straight forward engineering and logistics that can be handled by the lowest bidder. Prizes have no advantage there.

  • @Doug Lassiter:

    Well, that’s my point. You’ve got an uphill battle in Congress getting them to set these things aside.

    You missed the point. I said apart from those four commitments, you have $5 billion up for grabs.

    Not at all.

    Yes. Shrugged. We can consider the taxpayer’s interest–or lack thereof–negligible within the current funding regime.

    Ah, you mean like the Space Station to nowhere.

    I mean marketing.

    That’s a matter of degree. The Mars mission in SEI was explicitly $173B (thirty five years of $5B/yr)…

    Oh my. Where ever can we find $5 billion a year?

    but that was based on what we would learn and take away from a $210B Moon outpost.

    Skip it.

    So the two were not easily separable.

    Why not? There’s no law that says one must spend decades on one celestial body before moving on to the next. Once again, this assumes that going to Mars is worth our while in the first place.

    Of course these were all just ROM numbers, but they were big numbers, and my point was that there were estimates for accomplishing a Mars trip that involved very big numbers.

    Which has nothing to do with whether or not such a program is affordable given NASA’s historical and current level of funding.

  • Coastal Ron

    Prez Cannady wrote @ December 26th, 2011 at 4:45 pm

    You [Doug Lassiter] missed the point. I said apart from those four commitments, you have $5 billion up for grabs.

    Who says it’s “up for grabs”? Per what you suggest (i.e. set aside SLS/MPVC, ISS, and cross-agency support), that leaves:

    Science – $5,016.8 (26.8%)
    Aeronautics – $569.4 (3%)
    Space Technology – $1,024.2 (5.5%)
    Education – $138.4 (0.7%)
    Construction & Environ…. $450.4 (2.4%)
    Inspector General $37.5 (0.2%)

    The biggest chunk is Science, and that seems to have had the most consistent amount of support since the 60′s, depending on what programs were active. And considering that most of those don’t have the political support that the SLS or ISS have, it seems pretty strong. I think Newt would continue to support the Science division too, since that seems to be along the lines of “exciting our youth”.

    It’s fine to think that Congress will decide to dump $5B of science funding per year, but I haven’t seen any evidence of it, have you? What would convince them to do that if they haven’t been predisposed to do it so far?

  • Doug Lassiter

    Prez Cannady wrote @ December 26th, 2011 at 4:45 pm
    “You missed the point. I said apart from those four commitments, you have $5 billion up for grabs.”

    Oh, you were talking about grabbing from science, aeronautics, and ISS. Well the first two are the basis of the NASA charter, so they aren’t “up for grabs”. The latter is founded on international agreements, but may well be more expendable.

    “I mean marketing.”

    So you’re saying that Gingrich should market space like we’ve done it traditionally, with ISS and Shuttle, wherein we convinced the taxpayer to do them on the basis of costs that were astoundingly wrong. Yep, let’s go to Mars and just lowball the cost. That’ll get the taxpayer behind it! Ah, tradition.

    “Oh my. Where ever can we find $5 billion a year?”

    Beat me. But what I’m wondering is where ever we’re going to get the 35 years.

    “There’s no law that says one must spend decades on one celestial body before moving on to the next. Once again, this assumes that going to Mars is worth our while in the first place.”

    No there is no law that says that, but there were large numbers of engineers doing SEI and Constellation who believed it. There was also one of the goals and objectives of VSE which, you’ll recall, was

    Extend human presence across the solar system, starting with a human return to the Moon by the year 2020, in preparation for human exploration of Mars and other destinations

    So while you may be right, you’re sorta spittin’ into the wind here.

    “Which has nothing to do with whether or not such a program is affordable given NASA’s historical and current level of funding.”

    The ROM costs have nothing to do with whether a program is affordable? No, but given the expected funding they do suggest how many generations will be required to get the job done.

  • @Doug Lassiter:

    Oh, you were talking about grabbing from science, aeronautics, and ISS.

    Didn’t include ISS.

    Well the first two are the basis of the NASA charter, so they aren’t “up for grabs”.

    For the nth time, NASA is whatever the most recent authorization and appropriation says it is. The “charter” is meaningless. You already know about all the people who give two hoots about this so-called “charter.”

    “I mean marketing.”

    So you’re saying that Gingrich should market space like we’ve done it traditionally, with ISS and Shuttle, wherein we convinced the taxpayer to do them on the basis of costs that were astoundingly wrong, Yep, let’s go to Mars and just lowball the cost. That’ll get the taxpayer behind it! Ah, tradition.

    Don’t really care how he markets it, so long as it keeps the floor under foot.

    Beat me. But what I’m wondering is where ever we’re going to get the 35 years.

    Probably the same place we got the previous 53 years.

    No there is no law that says that, but there were large numbers of engineers doing SEI and Constellation who believed it.

    I don’t recall any such consensus–or even a sizable contingent–rallying behind the notion that lunar return is an absolutely essential foothold to sending manned missions to Mars.

    There was also one of the goals and objectives of VSE which, you’ll recall, was

    Extend human presence across the solar system, starting with a human return to the Moon by the year 2020, in preparation for human exploration of Mars and other destinations.

    Which is a far cry from saying “you can’t go to Mars unless you return to the Moon.”

    So while you may be right, you’re sorta spittin’ into the wind here.

    How you figure?

    The ROM costs have nothing to do with whether a program is affordable?

    Your aside about “big numbers.”

    No, but given the expected funding they do suggest how many generations will be required to get the job done.

    2.

  • @Coastal Ron:

    The biggest chunk is Science, and that seems to have had the most consistent amount of support since the 60′s…

    I’ll take you for your word at that, but note that I can’t independently verify the history of NASA’s budget in greater detail than the aggregate prior to 2001.

    …depending on what programs were active.

    Assuming this is true, we can think of Science as a slush fund for transient programs, just as cross-agency support is a slush fund for the space centers.

    And considering that most of those don’t have the political support that the SLS or ISS have, it seems pretty strong.

    I wouldn’t use the word “strong.” “Fortunate” is more like it. After all, NASA’s bottom line has been fairly predictable up until recent years.

    I think Newt would continue to support the Science division too, since that seems to be along the lines of “exciting our youth”.

    Let me get this straight. You’re going to predict Gingrich’s space policy priorities based on a throwaway rebuttal to Mitt Romney while ignoring his history of commentary on the subject?

    It’s fine to think that Congress will decide to dump $5B of science funding per year, but I haven’t seen any evidence of it, have you?

    Dump? No. Reconfigure. The evidence is within the science budget itself, specifically in the JWST experience.

    What would convince them to do that if they haven’t been predisposed to do it so far?

    Should suffice to simply have a plan to do something with the $5 billion that somehow involved space. I doubt Congress spends a great deal of time pondering over the work of cosmologists and astrophysicists, so it shouldn’t be hard to find something less boring for them to repurpose their favor. Even better if it involved certain states and congressional districts.

  • Coastal Ron

    Prez Cannady wrote @ December 27th, 2011 at 1:29 am

    I doubt Congress spends a great deal of time pondering over the work of cosmologists and astrophysicists, so it shouldn’t be hard to find something less boring for them to repurpose their favor.

    Well apparently Congress is fine doing what it’s doing right now, so you’re going to have to come up with a compelling reason for them to change. I’m not saying they won’t, but someone is going to have to get in front of them and lobby for this big change you’re hoping for.

    Who will do that? A new Republican President? A new NASA Administrator? A new member of Congress who gets assigned to the committee that oversees NASA?

    I’m not saying your ideas are any better or worse than what we already have, but there needs to be a change agent if you want to change the status quo, and I don’t see one – do you?

  • Doug Lassiter

    Prez Cannady wrote @ December 27th, 2011 at 1:09 am
    “For the nth time, NASA is whatever the most recent authorization and appropriation says it is. The “charter” is meaningless. You already know about all the people who give two hoots about this so-called ‘charter.’ ”

    Even if that were the case, the most recent NASA Authorization bill is abundantly clear about the importance of science.

    PUBLIC LAW 110–422—OCT. 15, 2008
    SEC. 2. FINDINGS.
    The Congress finds, on this, the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the following:
    (1) NASA is and should remain a multimission agency with a balanced and robust set of core missions in science, aeronautics, and human space flight and exploration.

    This auth bill includes specific amendments to the same Space Act that you say so many people give two hoots about. Curious that Congress would see the need to formally amend this Act if it were “meaningless”. The amended version of the Space Act was reissued in Pub. L. No. 111–314 (Dec. 18, 2010). This document is very much a living one in the view of Congress. Want to try for n+1?

    “Which is a far cry from saying ‘you can’t go to Mars unless you return to the Moon.’ ”

    The goal and objective that I quoted from VSE, about going to the Moon before going to Mars is elaborated on further down in the VSE document …

    The major focus of these lunar activities will be on demonstrating capabilities to conduct sustained research on Mars and increasingly deep and more advanced exploration of our solar system.

    That’s WHY we’d be going to the Moon, in their view. It’s the major focus of work on the Moon. Hardly a “far cry”. One can argue about whether that’s right, but one would be arguing with the people that assembled the VSE.

    Coastal Ron wrote @ December 27th, 2011 at 11:21 am
    “Well apparently Congress is fine doing what it’s doing right now, so you’re going to have to come up with a compelling reason for them to change. I’m not saying they won’t, but someone is going to have to get in front of them and lobby for this big change you’re hoping for.”

    That pretty well sums it up. Everyone wants to go to the Moon and Mars, but no one wants to pay for it. One can join Gingrich in imagining federal space policy the way it isn’t, but it’s going to take more than imagination to make it happen. It’s admirable to imagine things the way they aren’t, but I don’t believe that anyone has the leadership ability to do it. One would start by getting Congress to throw out half of what NASA does in the next Auth bill, and put in a couple of big amendments to the “meaningless” Space Act as well.

  • @Coastal Ron:

    Well apparently Congress is fine doing what it’s doing right now

    Yes. I believe my point is that Congress is willing to spend up to a quarter of NASA’s budget on watching the grass grow. All in the name of science!

    …so you’re going to have to come up with a compelling reason for them to change.

    Go to the Moon. Go to Mars. Pick your nose. See? Easy.

    I’m not saying they won’t, but someone is going to have to get in front of them and lobby for this big change you’re hoping for.

    If NASA submitted a budget request that zeroed out Science, would anyone notice? And that’s the problem. Reorienting national policy to space development isn’t being held up by Congress, it’s being held up by the fact that the notion everyone–in Congress, the Administration, NASA and even in the dumb-ass advocacy circle–have gotten so used to launching rockets in the pursuit of nothing at all that they’re on autopilot.

    In other words, no one of importance will object to actually doing something worthwhile.

    Who will do that? A new Republican President? A new NASA Administrator? A new member of Congress who gets assigned to the committee that oversees NASA?

    Hell, a clumsy secretary at OMB could do it if she’d just press delete on the right cell.

    I’m not saying your ideas are any better or worse than what we already have, but there needs to be a change agent if you want to change the status quo, and I don’t see one – do you?

    I usually don’t consider an objection worth considering if it resorts to the use of terms like “change agent.”

  • @Doug Lassiter:

    Even if that were the case, the most recent NASA Authorization bill is abundantly clear about the importance of science.

    And I’m sure Congress would wish you long life on your birthday if they had the time to do so. What’s your point?

    This auth bill includes specific amendments to the same Space Act that you say so many people give two hoots about.

    Really? You’re telling me Congress would throw a fit if this boilerplate wasn’t included?

    Curious that Congress would see the need to formally amend this Act if it were “meaningless”.

    As opposed to what? Informally amend it? Not amend it? Go fishing? What do you think Congress does?

    The amended version of the Space Act was reissued in Pub. L. No. 111–314 (Dec. 18, 2010). This document is very much a living one in the view of Congress. Want to try for n+1?

    I’m just glad that you’ve accepted that the Space Act can be amended. In other words, NASA is whatever the hell Congress says it is.

    The goal and objective that I quoted from VSE, about going to the Moon before going to Mars is elaborated on further down in the VSE
    document.

    …blah blah blah…

    That’s WHY we’d be going to the Moon,in their view.

    You have a habit of justifying your position with an appeal to authority that simply rephrases the conclusion you’re trying to reach. You should do something about that.

    It’s the major focus of work on the Moon. Hardly a “far cry”.

    How is it not a far cry? VSE doesn’t even attempt to argue that lunar return is a necessary prerequisite to a manned mission. It simply says we’re doing it, we’ll learn some things, and maybe some those things could be useful on a planet as different from the Moon as Antarctica is from the Bahamas.

    One can argue about whether that’s right, but one would be arguing with the people that assembled the VSE.

    Why argue with a mission statement that doesn’t even attempt to justify itself?

  • Coastal Ron

    Prez Cannady wrote @ December 28th, 2011 at 9:29 am

    Yes. I believe my point [that Congress is fine with what NASA is doing now] is that Congress is willing to spend up to a quarter of NASA’s budget on watching the grass grow. All in the name of science!

    You see that quarter budget as “watching the grass grow”, but I doubt Congress would agree with you. And that’s the problem with your argument, that you think Congress will agree with you, but there is no indication that they will.

    Go to the Moon. Go to Mars. Pick your nose. See? Easy.

    Great, I’m glad you think it is so easy to get Congress to stop spending $5B on NASA science programs, and redirect it to one of your choices. Let me know when they do it, and I’ll be the first to say “you got it right Prez”. However I won’t hold by breath, and not because going to the Moon or Mars wouldn’t be nice, but because I don’t see Congress canceling the $5B in NASA science programs to fund them.

  • DCSCA

    Number of SpaceX press releases thrown to the winds in 2011- too many to count; number of operational Dragons flown in 2011– zero. Chance of Dragons ever turning a profit for SPaceX and carrying crews to the ISS– next to zero.

  • @Coastal Ron:

    You see that quarter budget as “watching the grass grow”, but I doubt Congress would agree with you. And that’s the problem with your argument, that you think Congress will agree with you, but there is no indication that they will.

    How you figure? The 2012 appropriation poaches $500 million and and admonishes NASA to produce even greater reductions in Science in the future, all the while boosting spending on SLS/MPCV above the Administration’s request.

    I’d like to see evidence that Congress actually gives a damn about the Science budget beyond the bottom line.

  • @DCSCA:

    Number of SpaceX press releases thrown to the winds in 2011- too many to count; number of operational Dragons flown in 2011– zero. Chance of Dragons ever turning a profit for SPaceX and carrying crews to the ISS– next to zero.

    How many operational MPCVs were flown in 2011?

  • Coastal Ron

    Prez Cannady wrote @ December 29th, 2011 at 6:53 am

    I’d like to see evidence that Congress actually gives a damn about the Science budget beyond the bottom line.

    I’m not saying they do give a damn about science, but there is no evidence that they would give a damn about repurposing those funds to something else.

    Congress in general is not enthusiastic about anything space related, unless it means money for their district. It’s a sad state of affairs, as I would rather have an official human exploration program for beyond LEO, but Congress is not interested at this time, which means the status quo remains the status quo.

  • @Coastal Ron:

    I’m not saying they do give a damn about science, but there is no evidence that they would give a damn about repurposing those funds to something else.

    That’s precisely the point. They don’t give a damn about repurposing the Science budget.

    Congress in general is not enthusiastic about anything space related, unless it means money for their district.

    Not a problem. Your primary contractors will occupy one congressional district or another. Maybe more than one.

    It’s a sad state of affairs, as I would rather have an official human exploration program for beyond LEO, but Congress is not interested at this time, which means the status quo remains the status quo.

    Give me a break. It’s not the job of Congress to design a space program de novo. It’s the job of the Administration to propose policy and the requisite budget.

  • DCSCA

    @Rand Simberg wrote @ December 22nd, 2011 at 5:44 pm

    We could be flying humans to space next year on Falcon/Dragon if we stop insisting on an abort system. Wouldn’t be any less safe than Shuttle was.

    Ever the shill. Except any crew would have to hold its breath as Dragon has no viable, flight tested, operational ECS. Shuttle did, and had wings BTW, and an abort methodology albeit slim in retrospect, but it was designed that way. Point is, HSF systems want to reduce risk and enhance crew survivability, something you are on record on this forum holding in great disdain. Even Soyuz has an abort system and has saved crew. Dragons will never carry crews as configured. Cargo, yes. Human beings, no.

  • DCSCA

    Prez Cannady wrote @ December 29th, 2011 at 10:15 am

    Earth to Prez…. government funded and managed space programs have been orbiting crews for fifty years. Commerical HSF, never. Tick-tock, tick-tock, fella.

  • vulture4

    As with many federal programs, NASA has a few supporters in Congress and funding tends to be the same from year to year unless there are “across-the-board” cuts. That was why Shuttle and, originally, ISS were both cut; to avoid sudden changes in the NASA budget and make it appear Constellation was “free” while taxes were cut at the same time! So as soon as cost began to grow, schedule began to slip; no one was willing to increase the budget. Now we have a schedule of only two launches a year, and that is predicated on little or no support for commercial crew.

  • @DCSCA:

    Earth to Prez…. government funded and managed space programs have been orbiting crews for fifty years. Commerical HSF, never.

    What are you talking about. Commercial HSF has orbited crews for fifty years.

  • Coastal Ron

    DCSCA wrote @ December 30th, 2011 at 2:06 pm

    Dragons will never carry crews as configured. Cargo, yes. Human beings, no.

    As configured you’ll never fly through the air nor travel across land at speeds up to 65 MPH.

    Could you be any more obtuse?

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