Campaign '12

Putting space policy in perspective in the 2012 campaign

Despite all the chatter in recent weeks about lunar colonies and space mirrors and whether or not candidates think the current administration’s space policy is a “stupid move”, it’s worth keeping in mind that space policy is, in the grand scheme of things, a very low priority in this campaign, as it has been in the past. A couple of recent articles help put that into perspective.

An Orlando Sentinel article published today concludes that former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich would have “the greatest effect” on NASA simply because he “would pay attention to it.” The article contrasts Gingrich, a “self-described ‘space nut’”, with Romney’s criticism of Gingrich’s past support for concepts like lunar colonies. Marshall Heard, chairman of the Florida Aviation Aerospace Alliance, warns in the article that it would be a “disaster” if Romney said he was opposed to space exploration in general, although there’s no evidence that Romney is in fact opposed to space exploration.

A Florida Today article (via the Tallahassee Democrat, and now available on Florida Today’s own site) argues that it’s unlikely there will be “big changes” in space policy even if one of the Republican candidates wins the presidency in November. For example, given the administration’s support for commercial crew transportation, “it’s hard for a Republican to get on the other side of that position,” claims Howard McCurdy of American University. In the article, I argue that Gingrich may offer the biggest change from the status quo, given his disdain for NASA’s bureaucracy and his long-held support for large prizes as an alternative to government-run programs. However, a President Gingrich would likely face an uphill battle to implement any major changes, just as President Obama encountered in 2010 when he introduced his space policy.

113 comments to Putting space policy in perspective in the 2012 campaign

  • amightywind

    All this tiresome talk about Gingrich. He doesn’t have a chance. Gingrich may end up 4th in Iowa after Romney, Paul, and Santorum. You think Gingrich would pay attention to NASA because he talks about it. But he talks about everything! The guy talks a blue streak. It this lack of discipline that makes him an unsuitable candidate. He’s been on all sides of every issue. Any President will face an ‘uphill battle’ to change the status quo. It would seem daunting because we have grown used to feckless leadership in the Whitehouse, that proclaimed NASA policy without even attempting develop consensus with congress. That will change with a GOP dominated government. My hope is that we go back to Bush era policy.

  • Robert G. Oler

    amightywind wrote @ December 28th, 2011 at 8:15 am
    My hope is that we go back to Bush era policy…

    spending a lot of money for no results Yeah baby RGO

  • Robert G. Oler

    The one reasonable point in all of this is that there is likely to be little change no matter who wins the 12 election…UNLESS it is someone we have not heard of now like an independent.

    there is no public support for any massive exploration program at NASA, SLS will soon be death paneled in the budget sequestrian, which will happen because there is no political will to fix anything and the budget is going to turn out to be the key campaign issue of 12 (congrats to the jerks in the GOP House…all of 9 percent approval who made that happen, it is a tailor made issue for Obama) and none of the mainstream candidates have the balls (except maybe Paul and Gingrich) to really take a meat cleaver to useless federal spending ON ALL FRONTS.

    The GOP is only willing to tackle old and poor people issues and the Dems are completely confused.

    In the end the reality is that there is simply no desire by the American people to have large grand space projects for no real reason.

    And Dragon will sometime in 12 make it to the space station…and then the entire world changes.

    RGO

  • amightywind

    Oiy. You can’t expect results if you pull the plug on a program in mid-execution. And all the while Constellation has been down, the program has still been bearing fruit. The J2-X, once Constellation’s pacing item, is firing regularly. Patience is required for technology development.

  • gregori

    Why go back to the Bush era policy?

  • Windy blows My hope is that we go back to Bush era policy.
    What do you think SLS is? Really Windy. It seems to me the NASA centers get taken care of rather well with that, lol

  • MrEarl

    Not much new here, I think we all know that space exploration/exploitation has its supporters in congress whether it’s for the spending it brings their states or because they trully have an intrest. That should keep budgets consistant but with little growth. I believe the real budget cuts will come from defence and entitalments because that’s were the real money is.
    Space policy has always taken the “wayback” seat in the stationwagon of govenrnment.

    “And Dragon will sometime in 12 make it to the space station…and then the entire world changes.”
    No “fanboy” statement there. :-)
    Try this;
    Cygnus and Dragon will sometime in 12 make it to the space station…and then changes start to happen.

  • amightywind

    Cygnus and Dragon will sometime in 12 make it to the space station…and then changes start to happen.

    I think a garden variety satellite or planetary mission launch of a Delta IV or Atlas V are far more technically impressive than low priority ISS resupply. I don’t think you will see the ‘tipping’ point’ you yahoos always talk about. When and if CCDev launches people, that will be a more significant event. That is so far off now, because the NASA leadership stretches funds so thinly, it is not likely to happen.

  • E.P. Grondine

    In my opinion, it is highly likely that no matter who is in ofice, space policy will change dramatically soon. Between the improvements in the impactor detection systems, 73P’s debris stream, and the progress in the understanding of impacts, I can’t see how it can’t.

    On the new starts side, the air launch capabilities and Allen’s, Branson’s, and other’s deep pockets will lead to new industrial alliances and launch capabilities, again regaardless of governmental policies.

  • Robert G. Oler

    MrEarl wrote @ December 28th, 2011 at 10:36 am

    I dont have a problem telling you and the world I am a fan of SpaceX.

    They are a startup company that is manufactoring their product completely in the US. The capsule is reusable, the rest is working that way; the capsule is transitioning into a crewed vehicle with ALMOST unlimited potential.

    I cheer for OSC but they are an assembly station not a manufactoring place. They buy modules from the Italians, rockets (essentially OK just the motor) from the Russians and have zero potential to move to crew ops. They toss everything at the end…it is more throw away.

    SpaceX is the American story. Some “guy” came from overseas made a ton of money and could have coasted forever; but instead he is ploughing that money into an American company that builds things and puts them together…he is going (if he is successful) to rule the launchand maybe space ops world.

    What is not to be a fan about RGO

  • vulture4

    The position of the current administration is clear; Obama proposed substantial funding for Commercial Crew, though this has so far been stymied by Constellation supporters in Congress.

    Aside from blaming the current administration for any and all shortcomings, none of the Republican candidates have said anything substantive on space. Nevertheless many Constellation supporters within NASA assume that if a Republican wins they will get ample funds and no pesky competition from other programs. How this can be combined with the substantial tax cuts they also expect is unexplained.

  • John Malkin

    dad2059 wrote @ December 28th, 2011 at 9:55 am

    Windy blows My hope is that we go back to Bush era policy.
    What do you think SLS is?

    SLS is an underfunded Ares V and that’s all they have in the budget except for a few trade studies. Constellation was already underfunded when Obama took office. Dr. Griffin’s Constellation budgets proved it was under budget and the Augustine committee agreed and so did the Space related committees. The Space committees protected their interest but they put a side bet on Commercial. Commercial has proven so far to be an efficient use of tax dollars and the space committees know it. They could have kept Constellation going if they wanted it to continue. They could have killed Commercial Crew again. The President never threaten congress to veto a funded Constellation bill. POR was an option presented by the Augustine committee.

    Politics could be plotted on a vector diagram with the grid representing possible solutions. This grid is in flux as well as the forces. Deadlines (usually last minute) force politicians to freeze the center of these forces and where the center lies is the decision made at the time. The President is a small force on this process. The most powerful forces are the Space Committee members and the Appropriation Committee members with deep pocket lobbyist following close behind. Historically the Space Committees have approved bills in a bi-patrician vote with many being unanimous. Change has to start with the Space Committees.

    Windy, the J2-X new technology? New engineering kind of.

  • ThatNASAEngineer@KSC

    Ultimately, giving a beyond Earth orbit space exploration program to NASA, while doing little in regards to providing budget, AND doing nothing to remove or simplify other programs, spells out one of two possible paths under any administration, democrat or republican. If at least the later were a possibility, then the budget throes could be secondary, under any policy.

    Path 1 has been seen many times, where the disconnect between budgets and reality eventually makes it’s way into the press. Critical stakeholders and decision makers quickly abandon ship, rather than be associated with or defend the impending disaster. This event is usually kicked off by some report or analysis, independent, or even an internal leak, or some form of damning information that makes the case that proceeding is ridiculous. As time goes by, programs have tackled this problem of unfavorable information that gets out in an assortment of ways. None have worked. SLS and Orion will try their own new ways as well. This Path 1 will persist so long as there is the continued total neglect of cost, reliability/safety, and long term perspective addressing uncertainties (with margin). It’s possible that given sufficient short term pressures, there is no escape from this path.

    Path 2 accepts the added ambition of exploration beyond low Earth orbit, keeps existing mandates and attempts to achieve some balance through innovation, change, and getting back to basics. Path 2 likely involves a subjugation of single flight performance fixations, or of agency tendencies, such as owning and controlling an entire system, and an acceptance of change in both process, in government and contractors, and product, opening up to design options that would shift players around. The basic premise of Path 2 inevitably leads to NASA accepting that part of it’s task is to grow access to space, an industrial mandate, so as to use that industry at dramatically amortized cost levels, more productively (more flights back and forth). Once again though, Path 2 may not be feasible for NASA, beholden to extant players for whom such a path would not be immediately favorable.

  • Mark R. Whittington

    A Republican will likely reorient the space exploration program back toward the Moon.

  • MrEarl

    Definition of Fanboy:
    Fanboy is basicaly a slang term for saying somone is way to attached to something. It is a bad thing in almost all cases.
    Example of fanboy speak:
    “The capsule is reusable,”(designed that way but not proven yet), “the rest is working that way;” (working on designs but a few years from even testing full scale) “the capsule is transitioning into a crewed vehicle with ALMOST unlimited potential.” (unlimited?, again remains to be proven)
    I’m rooting for SpaceX too but right now the hype far outpaces the proven.
    What I mean by “changes start to happen”, is commercial enterprise becoming much more involved in human space flight. When Dragon or Cygnus docks with the ISS, that will be the first time a purely commercial vehical begins servicing of a government space facility. If that proves successfull you’ll start to see a lot of the resistance to commercial participation start to fade away. NASA/congress will start to see LEO in terms of purchacing services instead of equiptment.
    For decades it’s been thought that human space flight is extremly difficult, something only governments can do. That mindeset has been reinforced with difficulties and dissaters from the earliest days up till the recent Soyuz problems. Breaking that mindset will take more than Elon Musk saying that he can do it, he’ll have to prove it. Not just once but a few times before things start to change. I think he can do it but I prefer not to put all my hopes into the SpaceX basket because if he fails it could set back commercial participation in HSF for years.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Mark R. Whittington wrote @ December 28th, 2011 at 2:11 pm

    A Republican will likely reorient the space exploration program back toward the Moon.>>

    and you base that on? Wishful thinking? goofy analysis like you did about Iraq? hope? Faith family freedom (grin) RGO

  • amightywind

    but instead he is ploughing that money into an American company that builds things and puts them together

    Those words apply to nerd wealth space pioneer Paul Allen, not Elon Musk. Musk has basically parleyed his proceeds from Paypal and his close relations with the corrupt democrat power elite into one of the great scams perpetrated on the American taxpayer of all time. Tesla, Solar City, and SpaceX, the common thread is ‘government loan guarantee’. These ventures are not as risky to Musk’s fortune as they would seem.

  • John Malkin

    Mark R. Whittington wrote @ December 28th, 2011 at 2:11 pm
    A Republican will likely reorient the space exploration program back toward the Moon.

    Why don’t these republicans do it now? Are they powerless without a Republican President?

    Ralph M. Hall, Texas
    F. James Sensenbrenner, Wisconsin
    Lamar S. Smith, Texas
    Dana Rohrabacher, California
    Roscoe G. Bartlett, Maryland
    Frank D. Lucas, Oklahoma
    Judy Biggert, Illinois
    W. Todd Akin, Missouri
    Randy Neugebauer, Texas
    Michael T. McCaul, Texas
    Paul Broun, Georgia
    Sandy Adams, Florida
    Benjamin Quayle, Arizona
    Charles J. “Chuck” Fleischmann, Tennessee
    Scott Rigell, Virginia
    Steven Palazzo, Mississippi
    Mo Brooks, Alabama
    Andy Harris, M.D., Maryland
    Randy Hultgren, Illinois
    Chip Cravaack, Minnesota
    Larry Bucshon, Indiana
    Dan Benishek, Michigan
    (They outnumber the democrates)

  • Tesla, Solar City, and SpaceX, the common thread is ‘government loan guarantee’.

    SpaceX has no government loan guarantees, you moron.

  • @Mark Whittington
    “A Republican will likely reorient the space exploration program back toward the Moon.”
    Even IF that were true (and that’s a big IF), a lot of people on our side of the issue wouldn’t necessarily mind that scenario, as long as SLS was dumped. Mainly because if SLS is pushed and touted as the way to do it, it will either:
    a) never happen because it will take too long to develop under any budget Congress will be willing to give it or
    b) even if the requisite amount of money was supplied long enough (fat chance) for it to be finished, it would not be budgetarily sustainable in the long run due to high per flight costs.

  • Doug Lassiter

    Mark R. Whittington wrote @ December 28th, 2011 at 2:11 pm
    “A Republican will likely reorient the space exploration program back toward the Moon.”

    At which point, just like the last Republican president, the budget won’t be proposed to actually go there.

    “Reorient” is a curiously passive word to use in this context. Obama has “reoriented” us to go to a NEO, and even “oriented” us to eventually go to Mars. He actually tried to do (rather than just “orient us” toward) technology development that would pave the way for these efforts, but Congress wouldn’t bite. Gingrich would “orient” us to offer prizes to go to Mars. Doesn’t take a lot of commitment to achieve reorientation. Just some words.

    Of course Gingrich isn’t the first legislator to describe himself as a “space nut”. I recall Tom Delay doing just that, around the time he torqued his congressional colleagues into support for Constellation, which later cratered at least in part because Congress wouldn’t pay for it. Need not say any more about this particular space nut’s fiscal expertise, except that it eventually led to a felony conviction. See, being a “space nut” is hardly a qualification for or even a sign of actually being able to do something significant in space. JFK was certifiably NOT a “space nut” according to modern historical accounts, yet achieved perhaps the most admirable accomplishments to date.

    NASA isn’t a campaign issue any more than the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (FY11 budget of $12B) is. It’s frankly just too small. I think the important point is that there is no evidence that any presidential candidate wants to spend less (or more) on NASA than we do now. Well, maybe except for Ron Paul, who once said (though he surely denies it now) in a 1988 position paper, that we should move its functions off to private operators. That being the case, there is nothing for them to argue about. Moon? Yes! Mars? Yes! Who’s going to say otherwise?

  • Fred Willett

    amightywind wrote @ December 28th, 2011 at 3:15 pm
    Elon Musk … has basically parleyed his proceeds from Paypal and his close relations with the corrupt democrat power elite into one of the great scams perpetrated on the American taxpayer of all time. Tesla, Solar City, and SpaceX, the common thread is ‘government loan guarantee’. These ventures are not as risky to Musk’s fortune as they would seem.
    1/ Solar city has not been given govt money, ever.
    2/ Tesla was given a loan for $500M to tool up for the Model S. They have to pay back every cent. If they fail to do so the govt takes shares in the company to that value.
    3/ SpaceX has won $473M in COTS and CCdev contracts in open competition. $278M was under the Bush administration. All of this money only gets paid when SpaceX meets agreed milestones, which they have been meeting.
    And, of course, if there was any corrupt democrat power elite nonsense involved the contracts could be challenged and overturned by an appeal to the GAO.
    If you really believe your corrupt democrat power elite nonsense why don’t you do that?

  • gregori

    It won’t matter if the Republicans reorient manned spaceflight towards the Moon if they are unwilling to fund it. Historically, they will rhetorically support it, but not with enough money to make it happen anytime soon.

  • vulture4

    Those who support increased support for commercial spaceflight and cancellation of SLS may wish to take this opportunity to contact to the Senate; I suggest focusing on Senator Nelson (Phone: 202-224-5274 Fax: 202-228-2183). As a Democrat he should have at least some inclination to support Obama’s proposal for expanded support for Commercial Crew, and I do not think he has any idea of the depth of conviction many space enthusiasts have regarding the inevitable failure of the SLS, or should I say $L$.

  • JimNobles

    It may be a dream but I hope a DIRECT type effort will commence for a Lunar system based upon the 50 ton capability of the FH. That could happen I think. Maybe.

    I don’t think NASA will do much with the FH even if it is available. If someone approached their manager and suggested working on a lunar mission using the FH I suspect they would be encouraged to instead take the extra time (years?) to think about a lunar mission for SLS instead.

    SLS has the potential to do much more damage to the American space program than simply wasting taxpayer money. It could hold back BEO missions which could possibly be accomplished on more affordable launchers sooner.

    Again, I hope a DIRECT type effort grows up around the 50 ton capability of the Falcon Heavy.

  • Robert G. Oler

    MrEarl wrote @ December 28th, 2011 at 2:21 pm

    Definition of Fanboy:
    Fanboy is basicaly a slang term for saying somone is way to attached to something. It is a bad thing in almost all cases.>>

    Do you and Monica talk? I have all these things that I am really attached to…like well my Apple 2plus that does a really “swell job” as a WWVB data logger and time dispenser…Then there is the 8088 with 87 co proc that tirelessly links up to the GPS system and provides “time and position” for the network as well. I had to spend “good money” for a bunch of MFM hard drives to keep that “puppy” working.

    Fortuntly like my old cars/planes (well she likes the planes) and other things she puts up with with grace.

    I like being a fan boy (grin). SpaceX is the essence of what we have needed in human spaceflight for over three decades. If Musk comes close to making his cost numbers (and I believe he is doing that and thats not just “hope” it is from pretty solid numbers I’ve seen) then it is a big game changer and everyone else is out in the cold.

    It is hard for most, people who have never started and succeeded at a business (and I have a pretty good pilot/airplane services one) to recognize how hard it is to put together a good organizational model and a solid product and make money with it. Spaceflight is not that hard…thats NASA crap. It just takes solid engineering to come up with a product and solid management to make that happen at a cost.

    I am prone to be dissapointed. But if it works…enjoy the IPO.

    Robert G. Oler SpaceX fan boy.

  • Robert G. Oler

    i
    gregori wrote @ December 28th, 2011 at 6:51 pm

    It won’t matter if the Republicans reorient manned spaceflight towards the Moon if they are unwilling to fund it.”

    there is more to it then that.

    Republicans have traditionally been unwilling to force the changes on NASA that would make it be able to accomplish anything for any amount of money.

    Instead they like Windy’s notion of success…a program that just goes on and on and on and on and on…and generates good viewgraphs RGO

  • Coastal Ron

    Mark R. Whittington wrote @ December 28th, 2011 at 2:11 pm

    A Republican will likely reorient the space exploration program back toward the Moon.

    Just like Nixon did?

    Just like Ford did?

    Just like Reagan (the father of the ISS) did?

    Just like Bush 41 did?

    Or are you basing this theory on the actions of Bush 43, who never used any of his “political capital” to support Constellation after he proposed it?

  • DCSCA

    Rand Simberg wrote @ December 28th, 2011 at 4:47 pm
    Tesla, Solar City, and SpaceX, the common thread is ‘government loan guarantee’.

    SpaceX has no government loan guarantees, you moron.

    In fact, SpaceX has benefited from government subsidies and stimulus monies for launch pad refurbishment. Still, it’s a ‘guarantee’ Master Musk will keep pitching for more government monies, denied from private capital markets, you moron, because savvy investors seeking high return and low risk investment know denying Musk is easy as he flies nobody and never will.

  • The above referenced article is now on the Florida Today web site (which does not require a subscription to read, as does the Tallahassee paper):

    http://www.floridatoday.com/article/20111229/NEWS02/312290028/Will-presidential-race-end-shift-space

  • Re the above referenced Florida Today article, the print version just arrived here at home and it has a sidebar which attempts to compare the space policies of the various candidates.

    According to the sidebar:

    Republican contenders for president have not posted specific space policies on their websites, and campaigns did not respond to a FLORIDA TODAY request to outline their positions.

    I think that tells us just how important space policy is to these people.

  • Robert G. Oler

    DCSCA wrote @ December 29th, 2011 at 5:40 am

    In fact, SpaceX has benefited from government subsidies and stimulus monies for launch pad refurbishment.

    goofy. There is little government subsidy in SpaceX contract and the “launch pad refurbishments” are the proper role for federal infrastructure…every launch company benefits from that equally.

    The GOP right wing canard is that the Federal government has no role in infrastructure…you can believe that but its historically wrong RGO

  • Robert G. Oler

    Stephen C. Smith wrote @ December 29th, 2011 at 6:44 am

    space politics is a non starter for most candidates for three reasons.

    First they have no clue about it

    Second none of them want real massive exploration; but the right wing candidates have to pretend that they do to keep the right wing of the GOP happy (with the exception of Rand and a few others)

    Third what little they know about space is that it is a loser issue. If the propose massive exploration the rest of the country thinks that they are nuts…if they dont for the right wingers then they are more like Obama.

    RGO

  • @Oler:

    The GOP right wing canard is that the Federal government has no role in infrastructure.

    Now you’re just making stuff up.

  • John Malkin

    Coastal Ron wrote @ December 28th, 2011 at 10:09 pm

    Kennedy Moon in 20 Years (Cold War)
    Reagan ISS (Challenger)
    Bush 43 VSE/Constellation (Columbia)
    It’s sad that all these came on the back of something bad and then withered on the vine underfunded. We gave up the Saturn V. ISS was suppose to be a stepping stone and well Constellation…

    We cannot afford to depend on NASA to expand our capabilities into space with only government money. We need to leverage private companies and private funds. NASA should “explore” on the back of private development. Focusing on advance development which they already do at too little of a budget. We need affordable access to LEO, an Orbital Transfer Vehicle and an Interplanetary Spaceship. These three things allow NASA to “explore” anywhere.

  • Coastal Ron

    DCSCA wrote @ December 29th, 2011 at 5:40 am

    [SpaceX] denied from private capital markets

    What kind of medical condition do you have that keeps you from retaining simple information? You have been schooled on this subject many times, and the fact is that SpaceX has investments from venture capital firms, which refutes your assertion.

    because savvy investors seeking high return and low risk investment know denying Musk is easy as he flies nobody and never will.

    Another subject you’ve been schooled on, but apparently your brain leaks too much. Venture Capitalists are high-risk, high-return investors, and they aren’t looking for monthly dividend checks like you and your grandmother want.

    Also, and this is a another point you keep missing, SpaceX isn’t being paid to fly anyone to space yet – they are only being paid (through the CCDev program) to develop the capability to fly people to space. I know that distinction hurts your brain, but I would imagine that’s not a first.

    Stick to watching “Destination Moon” in your basement and leave reality to those that can handle it better than you.

  • John Malkin

    John Malkin wrote @ December 29th, 2011 at 11:04 am

    Kennedy Moon in 20 Years (Cold War) Sorry, I meant 10 years.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Prez Cannady wrote @ December 29th, 2011 at 11:00 am

    @Oler:

    The GOP right wing canard is that the Federal government has no role in infrastructure.

    you replied:
    “Now you’re just making stuff up.”

    no absolutely not.

    the level of extreme is defined in the GOP by many things…there are social issues (you will note Rick Perry’s Iowa conversion to another position a more extreme on if you will on abortion), there is monetary policy…foreign policy and yes infrastructure.

    The debate over the federal role in infrastructure started in the 30′s. The 1930′s. Faced with a nation that was a hodgepodge of progress the New Deal instituted wide ranging infrastructure programs to “normalize” the industrial development in the nation. Take away TVA and the South is well rural Mississippi all over.

    Ike wanted the interstate roads to allow the car companies flush with new models and post war capabilities to be able to build lots of cars, but the GOP mainly wouldnt hear of the federal government investing nationwide in roads…after all what we had then was a bunch of state highways in various conditions…New Mexico and Arizona had not a single paved road. Texas had under 2000 miles of paved roads…

    But Ike could not be questioned on national defense and thats how Five Star ike sold it. The GOP right wing had to sit down and shut up when Ike made his famous speech.

    Rick Perry believes (or believed its hard to follow his changes) that most of the roads in Texas that are interstates and a great many of the city roads should be toll roads…this is 1) so he can keep taxes low and 2) allow his buddies to make a profit off the toll roads.

    Similar debates were/are held every time some effort is nationalized…See the GOP “right wing” after the Grand Canyon crash…”the airlines ought to control ATC”…

    For the most part the GOP right wing always loses on this. The people of The Republic like the roads to be good in Mississippi as well as say New York…and more and more the “state” enclaves are caving to national standards.

    The debate over infrastructure today is over things like high speed rail or solar power or even how to do power in general. Germany has plenty of “power” because there are no local power companies, there is a national power grid with more or less “socialized” power. One reason we have power problems in The Republic is the insistence that Local power companies exist…and that governs how and where plants (particularly nukes) are built.

    The irony for the space debate is that the same people who oppose ‘high speed rail” are all for spending hundreds of billions of federal dollars to create space “infrastructure”.

    The obligatory statement after that is that somehow the various private groups are going to graft onto that infrastructure and then prosper, even though there is really not any space based analogy to it…ie build SLS and go read the bull over at NASAspaceflight.com on SLS and somehow private enterprise is going to use it to launch Beal modules or this or that or solar power stations or whatever their fantasy is.

    The issue never was solved in the shuttle era…and wont be solved in any like effort.

    So “Republicans” are all for spending 1 billion plus a shuttle launch or 1.X billion an SLS launch…but build a solar power station with federal dollars or give federal loan guarantees or something far less costly and something that gives actual tangible results and they start screaming “states rights”.

    We are in my view nearing the end of the right wing GOP’s reign of terror on America. And then we will pick up making more and more infrastructure federal and resume our march to being a great power.

    Robert

  • Second none of them want real massive exploration; but the right wing candidates have to pretend that they do to keep the right wing of the GOP happy (with the exception of Rand and a few others)

    What are you babbling about now? I’m neither “right wing” or GOP.

  • Coastal Ron

    John Malkin wrote @ December 29th, 2011 at 11:04 am

    We cannot afford to depend on NASA to expand our capabilities into space with only government money. We need to leverage private companies and private funds.

    Agreed. That also means it will be a slow expansion out into space, but hopefully it will be a more dependable one that relying on just NASA.

    We need affordable access to LEO, an Orbital Transfer Vehicle and an Interplanetary Spaceship. These three things allow NASA to “explore” anywhere.

    Too many ignore transportation infrastructure, yet it’s what everything depends upon. This is one area that I think NASA could do a better job at articulating – not necessarily doing it themselves, but helping to create the blueprint that we’ll use for the next decade or so.

  • amightywind

    Today we here that China plans to put a man on the moon. We in the US don’t have a credible schedule for a manned launcher. Although the pacifists and navel gazers on this site would claim the cold war is over, the Chinese correctly realize they are in a battle for world supremacy. Haven’t we given the newspace adventurers enough time? Have they not over promised and under delivered? It is time to reestablish a solid, long term replacement program for the shuttle, and a credible response to the Chinese threat.

  • Coastal Ron

    The “Mighty Bloviator” apparently can’t read – China only plans to study future human lunar plans, not actually go there yet.

    Go cry wolf somewhere else.

  • Robert G. Oler

    amightywind wrote @ December 29th, 2011 at 3:16 pm

    Today we here that China plans to put a man on the moon.>>

    Goofy…all you read was the headline…read the entire report..nothing new there…all it is is “Yankee please borrow more money to waste in a race to the Moon that we really are not in”.

    Dont you ever get tired of being wrong? I would think most of the notions about Iraq or the tax cuts would have made you tired of being wrong RGO

  • Coastal Ron

    DCSCA wrote @ December 29th, 2011 at 5:40 am

    Let’s pick apart more of your inane post:

    because savvy investors seeking high return and low risk investment…

    Every investor hopes to find a combination of high return but low risk, but they are far and few between – for obvious reasons.

    Instead savvy investors know that they have to choose between high risk/high return, medium risk/medium return, and low risk/low return investment opportunities.

    Once again you provide irrefutable proof that you live in a fantasy world.

  • Robert G. Oler wrote:

    Goofy…all you read was the headline…read the entire report..nothing new there…all it is is “Yankee please borrow more money to waste in a race to the Moon that we really are not in”.

    I look forward to the day when the Chinese do put boots on the Moon so we can say, “Congratulations on doing this 50/60/70 years after we did.”

    Let’s also not forget that Gene Cernan urged China to send taikonauts to the Moon last June when he visited that country.

    Yep, Mr. Obama-Hates-Space really said that.

  • gregori

    AMW,

    Even if China made it to the Moon, its not going to win any “cold war” since its symbolic and a grandiose waste of resources that could be used more effectively to dominate the world closer to terra firma. Energy and Ocean minerals are 1000 times more promising the barren landscapes of the Moon. Cyber-security and low earth orbit are more important than the moon by orders of magnitude in the 21st Century. If you’re going to be a raving jingoist, it would help to tame it with some sense of perspective and rationality.

    If there was gold bars ready to be collected from a vault on the Moon tomorrow, it would still make no sense economic sense to retrieve them. When the Chinese make it to the Moon, 50+ years after the Americans have already achieved this goal, they will probably come to the same conclusion that good ol’ USA came to back in 1972, that its just too expensive and not really worth the money. If the US decides to go back to the Moon the same way it went in the 60′s with a giant rocket, the money for this is going to be of-course borrowed from China!! I am sure the irrationality of such a move by the USA would fill the hearts of the leaderership of China with glee!!!

  • Robert G. Oler

    Stephen C. Smith wrote @ December 29th, 2011 at 6:53 pm

    “I look forward to the day when the Chinese do put boots on the Moon so we can say, “Congratulations on doing this 50/60/70 years after we did.”

    yeah..

    Part of the problem with the “The Chinese are going to conquer the Moon” groups is that they view almost every event through the prism of the cold war…and that viewpoint is useless now certainly and really in terms of human spaceflight the entire “race” lasted only a few years before it was meaningless in terms of almost everything. We got to the Moon in a very short time, but the America that watched Buzz and Neil waltz on the Moon in 69 was a far different one then when JFK made his speech.

    Today the reason we are in some peril as a super power is 1) the era of teh super power is ending to some extent and 2) we have a lot of people (most of the GOP field) who is stuck in the 60′s. The Chinese have no reason to go to the Moon or to try and conquer it…the PR effort is trivial even inside China much less outside; the world is devolving into a region of local powers who are more and more shunning conflict with others and trying to improve their own economic lot.

    This week South Africa just announced a 2 Gigawatt solar plant. For what we deployed the space station with, we could be nearing energy independence…for what we spent in Iraq almost anything is possible…

    we just are making bad choices due to knee jerk reactions like Windy’s and while he/she is a troll…the reality is that he/she is the kind of person that the GOP plays to…and thats the rhetoric that they use.

    When the US did not get its way with the french and British over Suez…Ike did not send the mighty sixth fleet to beat them back, he didnt do anything but lift the phone…and tell his SecTres to start selling pounds and francs driving the value of them down. The Brits and French got the message and pulled out..and the Israelis were forced to behave.

    What the right wing does not understand (and that includes folks like Cernan…) is that the Chinese only have to act economically…and we are in trouble. And that would demonstrate power beyond a simple trip to the Moon.

    RGO

  • Bennett

    gregori wrote @ December 29th, 2011 at 7:12 pm

    Too true! And when we default on the debt run up by SLS, they can repo our fledgling colony!

    Conversely, working towards a lunar outpost via gradual infrastructure development, i.e. leveraging the ISS as a staging/construction depot for a real deep space craft, fuel depots, and Bigelow type modules. All of which could be accomplished on the money allocated for just developing the SLS (no bent metal, missions, or payloads) .

    Sooner too, but almost everyone who reads this blog has figured that out.

    Windy works for the bad guys who want nothing to do with real progress.

  • I would look forward with energetic zeal if indeed the Chinese were on their way to the Moon. A Chinese Lunar Landing, or even a Lunar Flyby or Orbital mission with spacemen, would be an astonishing feat of ingenuity & grandeur! I am so sick and tired of hearing this possibility denigrated by people who should know way better! Why not simply denigrate the REPEATED OVER & OVER AGAIN, OF FLIGHTS INTO LOW EARTH ORBIT??! How about putting down all those attempts to put up yet additional LEO space stations??! These same morons who condemn future Lunar exploration are the same sorry bunch who’ll jump up and down with bliss, when Commercial Space launches up an astronaut or two in a capsule, into LEO, for yet another 200th or more LEO spaceflight, to go around in circles, one more time! Is THAT not an “acheivement” which keeps on being repeated, again & again?! If China makes it to the Moon, it will build upon & expand the scope of what was accomplished with the final Apollo “J” class expeditions. The Moon is not merely a finish line, in and of itself, any longer. It is a vibrant & dynamic satellite-planet which is resource-rich, and geologically very worthy of further scientific study. The Moon is the next Antarctica! A far better place to build & expand a human presence than LEO ever will be!

  • Robert G. Oler wrote:

    Part of the problem with the “The Chinese are going to conquer the Moon” groups is that they view almost every event through the prism of the cold war…

    Much less the notion that the Moon can be “conquered.”

    The surface area of the Moon is 14.6 million square miles.

    If any nation sent a lander to its surface with three voyagers to “conquer” it, just how would they “defend” it?

    Nation A lands at one site. Nation B lands at another, hundreds of miles away. How does Nation A’s camp attack Nation B’s camp?

    The whole notion is ridiculous. The cost of sending and maintaining a vast army on the surface of the Moon would bankrupt any nation — assuming its leaders weren’t locked up in an insane asylum.

    Not to mention that the Moon has no military strategic value. If Nation A wanted to attack Nation B, they’d do it hear on Earth where it’s much cheaper and far more direct.

  • MrEarl

    Robert G. Oler wrote:

    Part of the problem with the “The Chinese are going to conquer the Moon” groups is that they view almost every event through the prism of the cold war…
    Reply by Stven Smith:

    “Much less the notion that the Moon can be “conquered.”
    If any nation sent a lander to its surface with three voyagers to “conquer” it, just how would they “defend” it?”

    I don’t think any sane person is talking about “conquering” the moon in a military sence. What we have to be concerned with is capturing of resources. Just like on Earth, the moons resources are not scattered evenly throughout. Prime spots will have easy access to water and minerals and also offer the best trejetories back to Earth. The first nation back to the moon could claim most or all of these prime spots making resource utilization for the ones that come later much more expensive. 40 and 50 year old treaties for sharing the moon’s resources won’t be worth the paper they’re writen on if an efficiant way of resource utilization of the moon found.

  • @Chris Castro
    “Chinese Lunar Landing, or even a Lunar Flyby or Orbital mission with spacemen, would be an astonishing feat of ingenuity & grandeur!
    You will probably see space tourists flown on Russian spacecraft do a lunar flyby mission before you will see the Chinese do so. They already have one passenger signed up and they say that they will probably get the second one that they require to actually do the flight sometime in 2012. It’s not that monumental of a technical feat with today’s standard launch vehicles and spacecraft. It wouldn’t even surprise me if SpaceX (with or without the help of NASA) did a lunar flyby or orbital mission before this decade is out. Since you keep putting your foot in your mouth with almost every post you make, you must truly enjoy being embarrassed.

  • Egad

    > Today we here [sic] that China plans to put a man on the moon.

    The sum total of what the white paper says about that is that in the next five years “China will conduct studies on the preliminary plan for a human lunar landing.”

    And, possibly relevant to that, “It will conduct special demonstrations and pre-research on key technologies for heavy-lift launch vehicles.”

    It’s not easy to see that leading to boots on the moon before the 2020s.

  • MrEarl

    @ Bennett Dec. 29th, 2011 at 8:00pm
    Right now the SLS is projected to cost $32 billion over 10 years, with $60 billion as a worse case. That’s between $3 and $6 billion per year. That will not bankrupt this nation.

    Your second point is:
    “working towards a lunar outpost via gradual infrastructure development, i.e. leveraging the ISS as a staging/construction depot for a real deep space craft, fuel depots, and Bigelow type modules. All of which could be accomplished on the money allocated for just developing the SLS (no bent metal, missions, or payloads) .”
    Considering that a moon base would be roughly the size of the ISS that cost around $100 billion to build, not counting the price of the shuttle missions to build and stock it, and you think that developing and deploying, fuel depots and tankers for refills, tugs, base modules, landers, etc. can be built for between $30 and $60 billion is just fantasy. So how many launches would it take to build all that?
    The largest proven ELV in the US stable can loft 25mT to LEO. The largest planned ELV can loft 50mT to LEO but that has it’s own development issues like cross tanking and controlling 27 engines, not impossible but not as easy as you would think. Or does SpaceX develop the Merlin 2? You just move development costs from controlling 27 engines to developing a new engine.
    NASA recently held a Global Exploration Workshop where Boeing presented some interesting ideas for going back to the moon.

    http://www.nasa.gov/exploration/about/isecg/ger-webcast.html
    http://www.nasa.gov/pdf/604643main_2-Panel%202_Donahue_Final.pdf

    It proposes building a Lunar Gateway at the ISS using present EELVs and surplus parts left over from the ISS construction while the SLS is being developed. When the SLS is ready it would take that Gateway to EML 1 or 2 to be used as a way station/gas station to support lunar exploration using a reusable lander. One could also see the SLS taking large/heavy modules or multiple modules to this gateway to be staged before descending to the surface. This would also be a perfect transfer point for commercial resupply of the moon base.
    An expanded Gateway would also be a good place to construct a mission/ship for exploration of NEO’s and Mars and a perfect departure point.
    The real issue, like always, is funding. A scenario like I just presented would cost the same or probubly a little more than the one you described but the capabilities we would have would be way more than what you have in mind. So, if we can get the funding for what you advocate, for just a 10% to 15% greater investment we could have a much more capable infrastructure.

  • Much less the notion that the Moon can be “conquered.”

    The surface area of the Moon is 14.6 million square miles.

    Or about 15 percent more than the extent of the Mongolian empire.

    If any nation sent a lander to its surface with three voyagers to “conquer” it, just how would they “defend” it?

    Presumably by defending lines of communication to the outpost.

    Nation A lands at one site. Nation B lands at another, hundreds of miles away. How does Nation A’s camp attack Nation B’s camp?

    By attacking Nation B’s launch sites.

    The whole notion is ridiculous. The cost of sending and maintaining a vast army on the surface of the Moon would bankrupt any nation — assuming its leaders weren’t locked up in an insane asylum.

    So you don’t. At least not until there’s sufficient development worth defending. In the meantime, your centers of gravity remain on Earth.

    Not to mention that the Moon has no military strategic value.

    Neither did much of Eurasia, or the Americas, until peoples and nations started exploiting the vast tracts of territory.

    If Nation A wanted to attack Nation B, they’d do it hear on Earth where it’s much cheaper and far more direct.

    Which is precisely why the French-Indian War was decided by the outcome of the Seven Year’s War.

  • @Egad:

    It’s not easy to see that leading to boots on the moon before the 2020s.

    Apparently no one’s going to the moon before the 2020s, so what’s your point?

  • MrEarl

    @ Prez Cannady:
    Like I said: “I don’t think any sane person is talking about “conquering” the moon in a military sence.

  • @MrEarl
    “Right now the SLS is projected to cost $32 billion over 10 years, with $60 billion as a worse case. That’s between $3 and $6 billion per year. That will not bankrupt this nation. “

    No, but we could accomplish a lot more deep exploration and sooner with that same $3 to $6 billion if we dropped SLS as this NASA study shows:
    http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewnews.html?id=1577

    And if what is needed to get it done in 10 years is on the high end at $6 billion/year (possible if not probable), the requisite money will probably not be allocated (judging by previous Congressional actions).

  • MrEarl

    @ Rick Boozer:
    The passage you quote was in answer to Bennett’s contention that SLS will run up the debt, not what can be accomplished.
    The SpaceRef story you quote is talking about what I consider to be “Flag and Footprint” missions, heavy on theater, short on substance. What Bennett was proposing was building infrastructure and I was giving a different way to do it that what was only slightly more expensive but gave us way more capability.
    I suggest you re-read my post and check out the links to the actual NASA sites I posted. Your link provides NASA information filterd through a known opponent of SLS and MPCV so it has to taken with a grain of salt.

  • DCSCA

    @Robert G. Oler wrote @ December 29th, 2011 at 10:39 am
    “There is little government subsidy in SpaceX contract and the “launch pad refurbishments” are the proper role for federal infrastructure…every launch company benefits from that equally.”

    LOL so government funds refurbished the pad- and FYI, the pad was specificly refurbished for SpaceX specs/Falcon operations w/tax dollars. Thank you for reaffirming my comment. That’s goofy, fella.

  • @Boozer:

    No, but we could accomplish a lot more deep exploration and sooner with that same $3 to $6 billion if we dropped SLS as this NASA study shows:

    There’s a considerably more vulnerable pot ($5 billion) if you have the will to make a run for it.

  • Bennett

    MrEarl wrote “Bennett’s contention that SLS will run up the debt, not what can be accomplished.”

    The running up the debt and a repo by China was very tongue in cheek. However, as noted, I share Rick Boozer’s contention that the 3-6 billion/year could be better spent on infrastructure development, rather than on a monster rocket.

    You see things differently, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

    Happy New Year to all.

  • @DCSCA:

    LOL so government funds refurbished the pad- and FYI, the pad was specificly refurbished for SpaceX specs/Falcon operations w/tax dollars. Thank you for reaffirming my comment. That’s goofy, fella.

    You can’t be this dense. Do you expect the federal government to get a refurbished launch pad for free?

  • @MrEarl;

    Like I said: “I don’t think any sane person is talking about “conquering” the moon in a military sence.

    What do you mean like you said? Space superiority has been a key objective of American national security strategy and has been for decades, and space dominance for the last twenty or so years. Eventually, someone’s going to start brewing propellant on the moon. That’s not to say that it will happen tomorrow, or next year, or even within the next two decades. Or before a number of other space-based threats emerge. But it will happen. And the lead time to develop capabilities to counter such threats are measured in decades.

  • @Bennett:

    , I share Rick Boozer’s contention that the 3-6 billion/year could be better spent on infrastructure development, rather than on a monster rocket.

    Or $5 billion for cosmologists and climatologists to stare at their navels. But go ahead, pick a fight with Congress over the only aspect of national space policy that actually interests them.

  • Bennett

    @Prez Cannady

    I’d be down for cutting half (at least) of that fund and adding it to what we don’t spend on SLS in order to actually start building sustainable infrastructure and real progress toward a lunar base.

    Especially after the climate scientists have wasted billions on their AGW scam. We still need weather and earth observation science, but we need to dump the junk science that Gore and NASA’s Michael Mann have been peddling.

  • @MrEarl
    “The passage you quote was in answer to Bennett’s contention that SLS will run up the debt, not what can be accomplished.”

    I understood what you meant. And I had read the info that you provided links to long before you posted it. My point was SLS is not a good way to go no matter what deep space mission that you are after.
    “Your link provides NASA information filterd through a known opponent of SLS and MPCV so it has to taken with a grain of salt.”
    Here’s is a link to the original NASA government document unfiltered by any middlemen which still says SLS is unnecessary and results in much higher expenses. If you read it carefully, you will see that though it does talk about ending with “flag and footprints missions”, it also deals with in-space infrastructure being developed along the way that can be used for other practical and sustained-over-the-long-run purposes.
    http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewnews.html?id=1577

    As Clark Lindsey noted today on HobbySpace.com, Elon Musk posted the following response to reports of Chinese space plans. Yes, I know that your main point is NOT about the Chinese, but what he said also has a lot to do with what is ultimately needed for any kind of practical sustained human space presence.
    “SpaceX has Boeing, Lockheed, Europe (Ariane) and Russia (Proton/Soyuz) near checkmate in rocket technology. End game is all about China.”
    “Not that this really matters. All current rocket tech, including ours, sucks. Only when it becomes fully reusable, will it not suck.

    Bold emphasis of the primary point in the quote was added by me.

  • MrEarl

    Ok Rick, the “new” link you give still goes through SpaceRef which high lights only the positives of using EELVs and the only infrastructure it would leave behind is fuel depots. But it will get us to Flag and Footprint missions sooner. I prefer to build a more permanent presence beyond Earth orbit.

    As for the quote from Elon, “SpaceX has Boeing, Lockheed, Europe (Ariane) and Russia (Proton/Soyuz) near checkmate in rocket technology. End game is all about China.” He could include China in that too because even they don’t know how SpaceX can afford to launch at those prices. Frankly, that’s a lot of salesman fluff coming from Mr Musk. Those other entities have been launching payloads succesfully for decades while SpaceX only has two successful test flights of the Falcon 9 under its belt. They still have a lot to prove. My impression is that Musk and SpaceX will be successful at higher launch costs then he is forecasting now but lower than his competitors.

    “All current rocket tech, including ours, sucks. Only when it becomes fully reusable, will it not suck.” That’s his opinion. You could also make boosters cheap enough that they are still less expensive than reusables. I’m not holding my breath for either case to happen soon and I wouldn’t hold back BEO exploration waiting for reusability to come along.

    Happy New Year, Y’all

  • @Bennett:

    I’d be down for cutting half (at least) of that fund and adding it to what we don’t spend on SLS in order to actually start building sustainable infrastructure and real progress toward a lunar base.

    But you wouldn’t be willing to repurpose all of it. Really, which do you care about more? Settling space or making a point about SLS?

    We still need weather and earth observation science…

    Why?

  • Oops! I posted the wrong link in my last post. Here is the correct link to the actual NASA document unfiltered:
    http://images.spaceref.com/news/2011/21jul2011.pdf

  • @MrEarl
    Ok Rick, the “new” link you give still goes through SpaceRef which high lights only the positives of using EELVs and the only infrastructure it would leave behind is fuel depots.
    See the corrected link in my last post. Again, this is an unfiltered NASA document.

    I prefer to build a more permanent presence beyond Earth orbit.
    On that we totally agree. And SLS is the worst way to do that. We need infrastructure for that.

    You could also make boosters cheap enough that they are still less expensive than reusables.
    Oh come on! When you make a vehicle FULLY reusable you spread its costs over multiple flights and the expense of developing it, building it and operating it get amortized over time, thus the per flight costs go down. And before you do, you can’t use Shuttle as an example because it took the equivalent of Pharoah’s army to develop/maintain/operate, and even then, it wasn’t fully reusable.

  • Coastal Ron

    MrEarl wrote @ December 30th, 2011 at 5:20 pm

    You could also make boosters cheap enough that they are still less expensive than reusables.

    Unlikely, as the cost of materials and manufacturing alone would exceed the cost of fuel for the second flight of a reusable rocket.

    I think between the SpaceX effort to reuse at least their 1st stage, and the air launching that Stratolaunch wants to do, that is the most likely way to significantly reduce the cost of getting people & cargo to LEO. Once the payload is in LEO it can be boosted to anywhere, so making a big reduction there lowers costs for everything.

    This is going to be a slow rate of change, which is pretty typical of aerospace, but once the first solution is found, lots of companies (and money) will follow with their own versions.

  • Bennett

    Prez Cannady wrote “Really, which do you care about more? Settling space or making a point about SLS?”

    The answer is that while I don’t know that all of what’s being done with the $5 billion for cosmologists and climatologists is garbage, I do know that the SLS is a pointless pork jobs program that is highly unlikely to launch before it gets canceled.

  • ROBERT OLER

      MrEarl wrote @ December 30th, 2011 at 9:07 am

    Nope. A nation (treaties aside) cannot claim something it cannot defend nor hold nor really even use. Say the Chinese (or anyone for that matter) found a source of gold bars (or anything) that were concentrated ready for the taking. It would make no sense to spend the effort or resources to hold defend or whatever those things if the cost to do so were more then their worth…particularly when it is only “things”

    Why would the Chinese hold any lunar territory when everything that is there is cheaper on earth?

    Of course people and nations do goofy things .. We spent far more in Iraq then the equal amount of oil would ever cost..and gotx nothing

    Why would the Chinese defend such territory ? RGO

  • Transporting water, fuel, and air from the Moon to private space stations, space depots, and space craft within cis-lunar space is much cheaper than transporting similar resources from the Earth’s enormous gravity well. If China is the first nation to successfully exploit lunar resources at the poles while the US is foolishly spending all of its space resources sending humans to the asteroids to bring back only a few hundred kilograms of material, that could give China a 10 to 20 year lead over the US and its industries in lunar water, fuel, and air production– sending more American wealth and jobs to China at the expense of the United States.

  • pathfinder_01

    “Transporting water, fuel, and air from the Moon to private space stations, space depots, and space craft within cis-lunar space is much cheaper than transporting similar resources from the Earth’s enormous gravity well.”

    In terms of Delta V perhaps. In terms of cost probably not.

    Here is the problem.

    On earth propellants like Hydrogen gas are produced for purposes other than spaceflight. Likewise fuel and water. This means that earth created materials are going to be much cheaper per pound(gallon or other messure) than anything created on the moon for the forseeable future.

    In addition we already have rockets capable of transporting materials to cis lunar space. A Delta IV heavy could throw about 8MT or so to l1/l2 which could easily leave 2-4MT for payload. This would easily be enough to resupply any space station with food and water (Progress and Cygnus only carry about 2MT total).

    In short it would be cheaper to transport from Earth rather than invest in building greenhouses, purification equipment(and where do you get the part for the water purification equipment ect…) and attempt to export it.

    It would be like attempting to export food and water from McMurdo station. They have both a desaltistion plant and a small greenhouse and I will bet the ross island is closer to some locations than others but it just makes no economic sense for them to do so. Those items are for the good of the base itself.

    Where ISRU helps the most is on the moon itself. With lunar ice it is possible to reduce the amount of imports needed from earth to say a lunar base. It is locally valuable, but if you attempt to export then economies of scale from earth are against you(i.e. You need a special lunar rocket/lander to export from the moon while earth uses a rocket like the Delta IV heavy or FH which have other users and will cheaper to build than the first). Your lunar factory needs to import parts from earth at great cost vs. an earth factory that just needs fed ex for a replacement part and so on.

  • ROBERT OLER

      Marcel F. Williams wrote @ December 30th, 2011 at 11:08 pm
    Transporting water, fuel, and air from the Moon to private space stations, space depots, and space craft within cis-lunar space is much cheaper than transporting similar resources from the Earth’s enormous ….

    Goofy that is accurate only if the cost of the infrastructure to retrieve those resources is free..and there is no use spending the money to develop that. Infrastructure unless there is a need. RGO

  • pathfinder_01

    Even on earth there are places that have great wealth Anartica, Deep Ocean Floor but are so diffucult to get to that exporting said wealth makes no sense. The moon is firmly in that catagory.

  • @Oler:

    spending a lot of money for no results Yeah baby RGO

    Congratulations. We’re already there. And your Dems in Congress did such a bang up between 2006-now.

  • @Bennett:

    The answer is that while I don’t know that all of what’s being done with the $5 billion for cosmologists and climatologists is garbage…

    Here’s a better question. What do you know that’s being done with $5 billion for cosmologists and climatologists that isn’t garbage?

    I do know that the SLS is a pointless pork jobs program that is highly unlikely to launch before it gets canceled.

    Possibly. But I ask again. Would you rather pick a fight with Congress, or get crap done?

  • @Oler:

    Why would the Chinese hold any lunar territory when everything that is there is cheaper on earth?

    Congratulations. You’ve just concluded that the value of space is limited to the satellite market. The conquest of space is complete. Let’s kill HSF and…well…Miller time.

    Of course people and nations do goofy things .. We spent far more in Iraq then the equal amount of oil would ever cost..and gotx nothing.

    Don’t worry about it. Rate of return on the Iraq War still beats that from the European theater.

  • @Oler:

    Goofy that is accurate only if the cost of the infrastructure to retrieve those resources is free…

    Wrong. It is accurate of the marginal cost of infrastructure + the cost of operations trails the cost of lifting the equivalent load from Earth.

    …there is no use spending the money to develop that. Infrastructure unless there is a need. RGO

    Congratulations. You’ve just asserted that there’s no such thing as economic growth.

  • @Earth to Planet Marcel
    “If China is the first nation to successfully exploit lunar resources at the poles while the US is foolishly spending all of its space resources sending humans to the asteroids to bring back only a few hundred kilograms of material, that could give China a 10 to 20 year lead over the US and its industries in lunar water, fuel, and air production– sending more American wealth and jobs to China at the expense of the United States.”

    You are completely failing to factor in the enormous transport costs from Earth that have to do with setting up the initial infrastructure, equipment etc. to begin extraction, processing and distribution of those lunar resources. That is a huge initial cost before the first drop of lunar fuel is produced. Even if your argument about the disadvantages of hauling resources up from Earth versus the moon were true (for now and for the foreseeable future it is not, primarily because of reasons explained by pathfinder_01), for humans to do space trips requires that humans be hauled up from Earth’s gravity well. That transport of humans from Earth to space will be a major part of the expense no matter what, so it would be stupid to ignore it.

    But getting back to lunar resource use. In the meantime, before a fuel or other resource base can be set up on the moon, it does indeed make economic sense to resupply fuel and other necessary commodities from Earth in the lowest cost manner. Since the Chinese are worried that they can’t economically compete with SpaceX in this arena, I would say that they should be the ones biting their nails over American space capability. Not the other way around. The Chinese are afraid (with good reason) that they will lose space jobs and opportunities to the U.S. via our new commercial wave.
    http://www.aviationweek.com/aw/generic/story_channel.jsp?channel=space&id=news/asd/2011/04/15/11.xml&headline=China%20Great%20Wall%20Confounded%20By%20SpaceX%20Prices

    But I do agree that we will eventually need to exploit resources on the moon to progress our advancement into space. It will indeed lower costs even further after we have come up with more economical ways of reaching space. But right now because of expensive transport costs for humans, initial equipment and infrastructure that will have to be sent up from Earth, starting lunar resource exploitation is too expensive to be reliably funded by Congress.

    But your argument is the kind of thing that I expect from a Spudite. Supporting the development of a costly government-developed and designed huge rocket that ironically would actually retard to a much later time getting to the point where we can economically exploit lunar resources.

  • ROBERT OLER

      Prez Cannady wrote @ December 31st, 2011 at 2:19 am
    @Oler:

    Why would the Chinese hold any lunar territory when everything that is there is cheaper on earth?

    “Congratulations. You’ve just concluded that the value of space is limited to the satellite market. The conquest of space is complete. Let’s kill HSF and…well…Miller y

    Well that is reality. Markets or benefits have to be looked at in both actual and potential with evolution by time. Tht people who settled Texas in The early 1800′s had no real ideal that Spindletop lay in the future. The Wrights could not have predicted the Dreamliner.. But the forces were all in play in both and other areanas to evolve the market as technology, society etc changed. this has been accurate in the satellite market as well. Syncom was sized just right..had they tried to do say Advent the notion of geo com might have been set back decades.

    I have no idea what technologies or services will be viable in space flight 10 or 20 or 30 years from now IF the effort can start evolving…BUT and it is a big but there is no more use today trying to claim the various parts of the Moon that might some day be useful then there was for Stephen Austin to try and settle Spindletop.

    Most if not all of the notions of using the Amoon today are completely half baked. The notion of the Moon as “the Gibraltar of space” is completely nuts.

    “Don’t worry about it. Rate of return on the Iraq War still beats that from the European theater.”

    Laughable. Go play all the idiots from the GOP telling us how Iraq would pay for itself. RGO

  • Coastal Ron

    Marcel F. Williams wrote @ December 30th, 2011 at 11:08 pm

    Transporting water, fuel, and air from the Moon to private space stations, space depots, and space craft within cis-lunar space is much cheaper than transporting similar resources from the Earth’s enormous gravity well.

    Hardly.

    You’re saying if someone were to issue an RFQ for water, fuel and air to be delivered to cis-lunar space, that the winning bid would be from a company that is going to source all of it from the Moon?

    Not this decade, and likely not next decade either. You continue to have this fantasy idea that we’re on the cusp of being able to put fully operational mining and processing plants on the Moon, keep them operating with a constant stream of personnel and supplies, and that it will be cheaper to operate than it costs to move water, fuel and air from Earth to space.

    Do you have any cost numbers to back up this proposition? I know your statement is more rhetorical than reality, since you never do back it up with anything, but I keep hoping…

  • DCSCA

    @Coastal Ron wrote @ December 29th, 2011 at 11:18 am
    =yawn= in fact, you’ve been schooled on the ‘investment capital sources’ SpaceX has tapped- chiefly Musk’s cronies and Musk himself. Try and keep up. BTW, it’s December 21, 2011… tick-tock, tick-tock, look, up in the sky, it’s a Dragon… not.

    @Prez Cannady wrote @ December 30th, 2011 at 3:33 pm
    You can’t be that dense to keep insisting SpaceX is a private enterprised concern when it begs for government subsidies relies on government contracts and taps taxpayer funding- 41 cents of every dollar borrowed BTW- as part of a deal to refurbish an old launch pad– no cheap investment BTW– which benefits an elite few at the expense of the many when the government is all but broke. SpaceX can easily take the risk and make the pitch to borrow monies from the private capital markets and build its own private launch facilities on its own land. These clowns don’t deserve a dime of taxpayer monies in the Age of Austerity when corporations are flush w/cash for investment and interst rates are at historic lows. Especially when the fly nobody. Florida grandmas gets there Medicare slashed but the Musketeers toy w/a government refurbished launch pad. Lovely. The bottom line is they can’t convice private capital markets that the low ROI is worth the high risk of the investment in a very limited market. The back oil wells, not rocketships, to make money.

    @Oler- Financial Times reports PRC planning a manned moon mission. Once again you’re just plain ‘wong.’. But consistent.

  • Coastal Ron

    DCSCA wrote @ December 31st, 2011 at 1:45 pm

    in fact, you’ve been schooled on the ‘investment capital sources’ SpaceX has tapped- chiefly Musk’s cronies and Musk himself.

    Geez Opie, you can’t even get the terms right when you try to respond. It’s “venture capital“, not “investment capital sources”. Guess you shouldn’t be relying on your Aunt Bee for investment advice… ;-)

    And regarding “cronies”, no one who runs a venture capital fund is going to hand out ten’s of millions of dollars to just anyone – they need to have a proven track record in providing value to investors. That’s something that Elon Musk has, and you don’t. Maybe that’s why you’re jealous of him – who knows what investment failures you’ve had that have led you to be so bitter.

    Nevertheless, your quaint ideas about “private capital markets” and what investors really want don’t jibe with reality. Stick to commenting on programs that ended in the early 70′s.

    @Oler- Financial Times reports PRC planning a manned moon mission. Once again you’re just plain ‘wong.’. But consistent.

    Too bad you like to read filtered information – you should really learn to think for yourself.

    If you read the actual white paper that China released, they state:

    China will conduct studies on the preliminary plan for a human lunar landing.

    Conducting studies is a far cry from “planning a manned moon mission”. Is english a second language for you? ;-)

  • @Oler:

    Well that is reality. Markets or benefits have to be looked at in both actual and potential with evolution by time. Tht people who settled Texas in The early 1800′s had no real ideal that Spindletop lay in the future. The Wrights could not have predicted the Dreamliner.. But the forces were all in play in both and other areanas to evolve the market as technology, society etc changed. this has been accurate in the satellite market as well. Syncom was sized just right..had they tried to do say Advent the notion of geo com might have been set back decades.

    You have a remarkable talent for using so many words to say next to nothing at all.

    I have no idea what technologies or services will be viable in space flight 10 or 20 or 30 years from now IF the effort can start evolving…

    Newflash. That process is over half a century old.

    BUT and it is a big but there is no more use today trying to claim the various parts of the Moon that might some day be useful then there was for Stephen Austin to try and settle Spindletop.

    Are you friggin’ kidding me? You really think propellant is useless?

    Most if not all of the notions of using the Amoon today are completely half baked. The notion of the Moon as “the Gibraltar of space” is completely nuts.

    I’m sure Spudis is impressed by your half-baked incredulity. There is virtually no disagreement whatsoever regarding the opportunity costs of foregoing propellant depots. The only open questions are whether a lunar source can be exploited as efficiently at scale as an Earth bound one. And that final validation will require an actual attempt.

    Laughable. Go play all the idiots from the GOP telling us how Iraq would pay for itself. RGO

    Zero.

  • ROBERT OLER

      Prez Cannady wrote @ December 31st, 2011 at 9:43 am
    Congratulations. You’ve just asserted that there’s no such thing as economic growth.”……

    No that is not my assertion in fact quite the contrary..economic growth is the only thing that spurs infrastructure development and redo.vers the cost of it

    There is no point in developing the interstate highway system in the US the cars are simply not capable of it. The Germans moved the autobahn system but the also pursued as government policy the VW.

    There is no point in developing an earth moon system when there is nothing that can take advantage of the system in large measure because it is unlikely ( and the history of NASA is that it fails) To Develop anything that is affordable.

    We have been down the road you and others want to go down with the shuttle..If wow we had cheap access to space then wow everything changes except wow government failed to develop cheap access to space so no private system uses it.

    There is not a chance that as a government program a earth moon system can be affordable.. Robert

  • @DCSCA:

    You can’t be that dense to keep insisting SpaceX is a private enterprised concern when it begs for.

    Why not? You do. In fact, you keep on insisting its part of a commercial sector that has never flown a manned orbiter and never will.

    …government subsidies relies on government contracts and taps taxpayer funding…

    Ah, the old “multiple terms to describe the same thing” trick. Let me guess, in your world, SpaceX should have donated its rocket to NASA out of the goodness of their hearts. Correct?

    - 41 cents of every dollar borrowed BTW- as part of a deal to refurbish an old launch pad– no cheap investment BTW– which benefits an elite few at the expense of the many when the government is all but broke.

    As opposed to building entirely new launch pads for the private companies that designed, built, and managed the Space Shuttle? You really think the industry should just be giving these things to the government for free, don’t you?

    SpaceX can easily take the risk and make the pitch to borrow monies from the private capital markets and build its own private launch facilities on its own land.

    Possibly, but why pass up a customer with such an obvious need as the US government? A customer that’s apparently willing to spend an order of magnitude more on other private companies to build a heavy lifter that won’t fly before the end of the decade?

    These clowns don’t deserve a dime of taxpayer monies in the Age of Austerity when corporations are flush w/cash for investment and interst rates are at historic lows.

    As opposed to P&W, Boeing, LockMart and ATK?

    Especially when the fly nobody.

    Don’t worry. Nobody out there is flying anyone right now. In fact, the experience of designing an orbiter is over 40 years in the past; so from that point of view pretty much everybody’s brand new at this game.

    Florida grandmas gets there Medicare slashed but the Musketeers toy w/a government refurbished launch pad. Lovely.

    Don’t feel bad. We’re about to spend $2 billion on LockMart for a capsule that doesn’t even have a rocket.

    The bottom line is they can’t convice private capital markets that the low ROI is worth the high risk of the investment in a very limited market.

    You’re a horrible liar. They apparently convinced someone outside of the government and Mr. Musk himself to contribute $100 million.

  • ROBERT OLER

      Prez Cannady wrote @ December 31st, 2011 at 4:50

    “You have a remarkable talent for using so many words to say next to nothing at all.”

    Pearls before swine

    “Are you friggin’ kidding me? You really think propellant is useless?”

    If the propellant cost more then what you can get somewhere else well yes. Or put another way doing that is stupid.

    “I’m sure Spudis is impressed by your half-baked incredulity. There is virtually no disagreement whatsoever regarding the opportunity costs of foregoing propellant depots. The only open questions are whether a lunar source can be exploited as efficiently at scale as an Earth bound one. And that final validation will require an actual attempt.”

    Paul Is only impressed by people who agree with him and then it doesn’t take much. “at scale”. LOL. There is no hint that the scale of propellant use will get anywhere near what it takes to justify the lunar infrastructure cost required for on site propellant production for decades…and that’s why people likePaul babble on for reasons of “we are going to spend the money anyway”

    The chinese are not stupid and they won’t try what a lot of people are suggesting nor should the US

    Robert

  • ROBERT OLER

    There is no point in developing the interstate highway system in the US the cars are simply not capable of it. The

    I wrote this. But it needs editing. Sorry was in a hurry trying to make a FaceTime connection with my wife.

    There was no point in building the interstate highway system IN THE 30′s….

    We are not even in the 1930′s with lunar travel or even space travel.. There is simply no functioning economic system in human space flight now until there is (and I believe on can be developed) such massive projects are dumb. RGO

  • @Oler:

    Pearls before swine

    In other words, you can’t even decipher your own garbage.

    If the propellant cost more then what you can get somewhere else well yes.

    You must be out of your mind. For a 500 sec engine and sufficient payload for 1 km/s, lunar propellant can cost up to 2.7 times as much as Earth propellant and break even. The numbers get dramatically worse (in lunar favor) for lower performing engines.

    Or put another way doing that is stupid.

    Yeah, it’s real dumb idea to lift propellant out of a 3 km/s gravity well rather than an 8 km/s one.

    Paul Is only impressed by people who agree with him and then it doesn’t take much.

    You’re projecting.

    “at scale”. LOL. There is no hint that the scale of propellant use will get anywhere near what it takes to justify the lunar infrastructure cost required for on site propellant production for decades…

    Are you kidding me? Just 100 tons of propellant a year extends satellite life tenfold. This means you’ve reduced your Earth launch costs by an order of magnitude, or from $5 billion to $500 million. The magic number is $4.5 billion, or the savings in global satellite launch costs excluding the cost of the lunar operation. So long as you can keep marginal costs within that range–exploiting lunar propellant is feasible.

    …and that’s why people likePaul babble on for reasons of “we are going to spend the money anyway”

    You know something, making crap up because you have no argument is a real crutch of yours.

    The chinese are not stupid and they won’t try what a lot of people are suggesting nor should the US

    By your reasoning, the Chinese (and the US) are stupid for having a space program in the first place.

  • @Oler:

    There was no point in building the interstate highway system IN THE 30′s….

    Why not?

    We are not even in the 1930′s with lunar travel or even space travel.

    Your silly refuge in analogy is both stupid and disappointing, and once again reflects a path of reasoning that would deny the existence of economic growth. Give it up, Oler. You’re talking nonsense, now.

    There is simply no functioning economic system in human space flight now…

    You can’t be this dumb. Hint. There’s 800 or so of them zipping over our heads as we speak.

  • Freddo

    Prez: “There’s 800 or so of them zipping over our heads as we speak.”

    800 manned spacecraft in orbit right now? Try again, space cadet.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Happy New Year everyone…from the farthest reaches of The Empire.

    Robert G. Oler

  • pathfinder_01

    Perez.
    I am a big time HSF fan and even I know that you are not making a good comparison.

    Which propellant? Just like the automobile there was a time when they were unsure what would power such a machine. Would it use an external combustion engine, internal combustion engine, electric motor? Would it use Ethanol (model T can run off this by the way), petroleum, be plugged in? What happened is that over time the water cooled four stroke internal combustion engine running petroleum became the standard with the occasional diesel model.

    Right now if you want to mount a NEO mission or a Mars mission which propellant would you use? Argon gas for an electric engine? LOH despite the boil off problem? Methane?

    ‘Yeah, it’s real dumb idea to lift propellant out of a 3 km/s gravity well rather than an 8 km/s one.’

    However the 8km/s one already has the industrial capability for propellant. In fact the 8k,/s one can not only produce the propellant cheaper due to economies of scale. It also has better raw materials in some cases.

    For instance it takes less energy to get hydrogen from methane than from water. It also takes less energy to get LOX from air than from water. Even if you were to use water, it is already a liquid here that alone would make it cheaper than having to somehow dig up or harvest lunar ice (i.e. You can pipe it in). The materials used for propellant have lots of other uses on earth and so you don’t need to have a plant dedicated to just your own use (i.e. costs are spread). And in some cases you can get useful byproducts that can be sold for more profit.

    The 8km/s one also already has readily available rockets able to transport it out. You would first need to send your lunar propellant transport craft to the moon (and how many times can it be reused?).

    “Are you kidding me? Just 100 tons of propellant a year extends satellite life tenfold. This means you’ve reduced your Earth launch costs by an order of magnitude, or from $5 billion to $500 million. The magic number is $4.5 billion, or the savings in global satellite launch costs excluding the cost of the lunar operation. So long as you can keep marginal costs within that range–exploiting lunar propellant is feasible.”

    Ah most US sate lights already last ten years or more sometimes.
    Upgrading\replacing them is very attractive rather than refueling them. Spy sate lights might be the exception to the rule as they could be maneuvered more often.

    And what the heck needs 100 tons of propellant? The largest satellite ever built by man (The ISS) only uses about 7MT a year! And mind you this thing does maneuver quite a lot.

    I am all for propellant depots but they must start in LEO or L1 and be supplied from earth. Trying to justify a moon landing because you can make propellant there is a very weak argument for the foreseeable future.

  • @Freddo:

    800 manned spacecraft in orbit right now? Try again, space cadet.

    You must think satellites maneuver through the power of guts and hard work.

  • @pathfinder

    I am a big time HSF fan and even I know that you are not making a good comparison.

    You’re gonna need to get more specific than that. Lots of comparisons being made.

    Which propellant?

    Ostensibly LOX/LH2.

    Just like the automobile there was a time when they were unsure what would power such a machine.

    Don’t worry. This is old hat.

    Right now if you want to mount a NEO mission or a Mars mission which propellant would you use?

    Depends on the mission, and not making that point here.

    However the 8km/s one already has the industrial capability for propellant.

    The “industrial capability” you require to support, say, refueling for 800 satellites with…say…1000 kg bunkerage expended over 10 years is a facility that can produce 80 tons of propellant a year. The marginal cost of operating such a facility has to be compared to the order of magnitude savings gained from the current $5 billion spent annually on launches. In other words, you’re arguing that lunar source of propellant is a loss maker for a $13 trillion economy with a $20 billion a year space program and an 11 million ton hydrogen production capacity for lack of a single gas station.

    In fact the 8k,/s one can not only produce the propellant cheaper due to economies of scale. It also has better raw materials in some cases.

    What economies of scale? A single facility satisfies your immediate needs.

    For instance it takes less energy to get hydrogen from methane than from water.

    Steam reformation is requires 40 kJ/mol, or 16 percent, less input than electrolysis. This is negligible considering–all else being equal–lift from Earth is 700 percent more expensive than lift from the Moon.

    It also takes less energy to get LOX from air than from water.

    I don’t know how liquefaction/distillation compares to electrolysis/liquefaction, but I doubt it overcomes the nearly order of magnitude penalty for lifting from Earth.

    Even if you were to use water, it is already a liquid here that alone would make it cheaper than having to somehow dig up or harvest lunar ice (i.e. You can pipe it in).

    The immediate demand is for 80 or so tons a year. That’s nine liters of an hour, or an order of magnitude less capacity than hot water delivery in a good sized apartment building.

    The materials used for propellant have lots of other uses on earth and so you don’t need to have a plant dedicated to just your own use (i.e. costs are spread). And in some cases you can get useful byproducts that can be sold for more profit.

    The capacity of some industrial facility to expand its margin through diverse production is not directly relevant to its capacity to compete. So long as the margin for the service offered is wide enough to extract a reliable profit, the enterprise will remain viable. The open question is whether or not the margin *is* wide enough, and that can only be confidently answered through risking the accumulation of experience. Hence the need for a public pathfinder.

    The 8km/s one also already has readily available rockets able to transport it out. You would first need to send your lunar propellant transport craft to the moon (and how many times can it be reused?).

    You’ve got something better to do with your $20 billion a year space program?

    Ah most US sate lights already last ten years or more sometimes. Upgrading\replacing them is very attractive rather than refueling them.

    Because you can’t refuel them.

    Spy sate lights might be the exception to the rule as they could be maneuvered more often.

    Satellites don’t maneuver much at all because they can’t. You’re telling me that launch customers would rather pay $5 billion a year than somewhere between that and 10 times less?

    And what the heck needs 100 tons of propellant?

    800 or so satellites.

    The largest satellite ever built by man (The ISS) only uses about 7MT a year! And mind you this thing does maneuver quite a lot.

    I think you mean 7 tons.

    I am all for propellant depots but they must start in LEO or L1 and be supplied from earth.

    Why not do both at the same time? This stupid serial strategy I see bandied about here seems like nothing more than pointless foot dragging.

  • @ Prez Cannady
    “Yeah, it’s real dumb idea to lift propellant out of a 3 km/s gravity well rather than an 8 km/s one.

    As an astrophysicist, the difference in escape velocity of the Moon versus Earth as a major factor is of course obvious to me. But the laws of economics are as inescapable as the laws of physics. The arguments that pathfinder_01 espouses apply. See my post to Marcel Williams for more illucidation on the subject.

    “lunar propellant can cost up to 2.7 times as much as Earth propellant and break even.”

    You are only considering production costs after the infrastructure to produce and transport the end product has been set up. This is the same mistake Marcel Williams makes. Eventually, it will become economically practical (and necessary) to set up lunar resource production infrastructure, but now is not the time. Remember the old Aesop fable of the Ant and the Grasshopper. We can, in a near adolescent impatience for fast gratification, spend prodigious amounts right now with poor return on our investment, or develop what we need to do it practically in the long run.

    Think about the enormous cost of initially setting up the lunar infrastructure to get a practical system going. That expense ends up being amortized in the production as a significant part of the final cost of the fuel. You must get a return on that astronomically (pun intended :) ) large intitial investment; thus, the fuel production process costs and the cost of lifting it out of the Moon’s gravity well are not the only costs and indeed for many years they are not the primary cost. Again infrastructure needs to be paid for, in this case on the Moon. But the sooner we start trying to put this infrastructure on the moon, the more that infrastructure will cost because America’s cost per pound to lift that needed infrastructure from Earth to the Moon is now falling over time at a higher rate than it ever has (much to the chagrin of the Chinese. Again see my earlier post). Therefore, it makes more sense to concentrate right now on lowering launch costs from Earth and do the lunar resource development later, when the lower launch costs will make it cheaper to set up the needed lunar infrastructure and in turn, cause lunar processed products to pay back the initial investment in their production infrastructure sooner. Again see my earlier post.

    Happy New Year everyone. I think we’ll see significant progress in attaining more economical access to orbit in 2012, which in turn, will lead to lower costs to the Moon, NEAs, Mars or other places. Because you have to reach orbit before you can go anywhere else: As many of you do, I look forward to the pursuit of a steady and irreversable process that will result in a future where Americans are spread throughout the inner solar system.

  • Coastal Ron

    Prez Cannady wrote @ January 1st, 2012 at 9:54 am

    The immediate demand is for 80 or so tons a year.

    Lets look at how we could satisfy that from Earth using existing or near-term assets.

    Your 80 tons would be 160,000 lbs of propellant. Delta IV Heavy can lift 28,620 lbs to GTO, and for this example I’ll assume that 20,000 lbs of that would be the propellant payload. That means we need 8 launches, and using the figure of $450M/launch (which I got from Paul Spudis, who says it’s accurate), that works out to $3.6B/year to satisfy the 80 ton need.

    If we were to use Falcon Heavy, the costs go down dramatically. Falcon Heavy can get 41,887 lbs to GTO, and using the same percentage we used for Delta IV Heavy, that’s about 30,000 lbs of propellant delivered. Falcon Heavy costs $125M/launch, and we’ll need six launches to get the 160,000 lbs of payload to GTO, so that works out to $750M/year.

    If we split the contract between ULA and SpaceX, we’re looking at around $2.2B/year.

    The Spudis/Lavoie plan would cost $87B and take 17 years before they projected they would have their propellant operation running, whereas if we use existing assets we could start much quicker and it would take less money up front.

    This gets down to what you want to spend money on. If you want to spend money to build a lunar propellant plant, and you see all the things that you have to do to get gallon #1 of product as paving the way for more than propellant, then maybe it’s worthwhile doing it.

    For me I see more pressing problems, such as concentrating on setting up a transportation system that can be used by anyone for just about any thing between here and lunar orbit. Where the propellant comes from would be up to the suppliers – if they want to build a propellant facility on the Moon, great. But I’ll let supply & demand forces figure that out, with NASA just providing the demand, not the supply.

  • Doug Lassiter

    Rick Boozer wrote @ January 1st, 2012 at 10:13 am
    “But the laws of economics are as inescapable as the laws of physics.”

    Just to underscore this point, and to help respond to those who worship at the temple of the Moon, including Pastor Spudis, there is NO QUESTION that propellants manufactured on site can be put into space using less of those propellants from the Moon than from the Earth. But the infrastructure costs to enable that functionality on the Moon are enormous.

    Routine manufacture on and supply from the Moon makes sense ONLY when they are used in very large quantities such that the infrastructure costs can be amortized effectively. So we’re not talking “exploration” here. We’re talking colonization and settlement. Mass emigration of the species into space. Now, colonization and settlement of space are not federal priorities, and not even clearly a cultural priority. Those are words that are so loaded that Congress doesn’t want to touch them with a ten-foot pole. So they use the word “exploration” instead. That’s a word that doesn’t connote commitment.

    It’s meaningless to talk about economies of ISRU unless it’s clear what you’re going to do with it. The Moon worshippers don’t want to be specific about that, because what would justify it involves words that are presently considered dangerous.

    The historical template for exploration is one that led seamlessly into colonization and settlement. You just left people behind, and made sure they had a knife, a saw, a hammer, and maybe a crate of nails. A gun and some ammunition would be nice as well. That template doesn’t apply to space exploration.

    Getting back on topic, a major change in space policy would be one that faces up to the importance of future colonization and settlement. Is that even a long term goal for our nation? If we formally admit that it is, then reaching out to the Moon to develop space travel resources makes some sense, on some timescale.

  • Scott Bass

    Just thought I would chime in at the end here and say with a sense of certainty that what Gingrich, Romney or anyone else says about space policy over the next 10 months can be taken with a huge grain of salt….. I simply do not believe anything they say….. I do predict a close race between Romney and Obama with a negligible effect on NASA no matter who wins

  • @ Prez Cannady

    As an astrophysicist, the difference in escape velocity of the Moon versus Earth as a major factor is of course obvious to me. But the laws of economics are as inescapable as the laws of physics.

    Setting aside the dubious assertion that economics yields anything remotely universal enough to be considered a law, might help if you actually pointed to specific relationships and highlight their application.

    The arguments that pathfinder_01 espouses apply. See my post to Marcel Williams for more illucidation on the subject.

    They do not. See my reply to pathfinder.

    You are only considering production costs after the infrastructure to produce and transport the end product has been set up.

    No, I’m not. I’ve explicitly noted that the one-time costs are negligible in the long run. Otherwise, you’d be stuck with the ridiculous notion that no new factory could ever be built that could compete against an existing one. The point is rendered moot entirely if we consider the opportunity cost imposed by present space policy.

    This is the same mistake Marcel Williams makes. Eventually, it will become economically practical (and necessary) to set up lunar resource production infrastructure, but now is not the time.

    You understand your argument boils down to “it’s not economically feasible to set up a lunar resource production infrastructure because it’s not economically feasible to do so.” Do you?

    Remember the old Aesop fable of the Ant and the Grasshopper.

    Do astrophysicists typically appeal to fable when competing for grants?

    We can, in a near adolescent impatience for fast gratification, spend prodigious amounts right now with poor return on our investment, or develop what we need to do it practically in the long run.

    We are already spending prodigious amounts on national space policy. I’ve proposed reconfiguring outlays already being squandered to the purpose of kickstarting a cislunar propellant economy. And even if the American space program were in the cash constrained circumstances where you rule of thumb might (on a good day) apply, there is no clear halting condition to your endless search and study for less expensive means to achieve the same goal. In fact, the only natural course of action your fable suggests is to fold up the space program and leave it to the market. Who knows? In a century, available liquidity and the known risk of the enterprise might be such that a private concern will make a go for it.

    Think about the enormous cost of initially setting up the lunar infrastructure to get a practical system going.

    On the order of $5 billion a year for fifteen to twenty years. I wonder where Congress can find that much money?

    That expense ends up being amortized in the production as a significant part of the final cost of the fuel.

    That represents the highly unlikely case of private enterprise conceiving and executing on their own dime. You can trade time for money, and the biggest tap for risk reduction is the Treasury.

  • @Coastal Ron:

    The Spudis/Lavoie plan would cost $87B and take 17 years before they projected they would have their propellant operation running, whereas if we use existing assets we could start much quicker and it would take less money up front.

    Why wouldn’t you? Considering Spudis-Lavoie presents a conservative, phased space of trades, you’d expect an Earth-sourced depot network to reduce lift costs at any stage in which it’s available and applicable (which, given the payloads described, appears to be all of them).

    This gets down to what you want to spend money on.

    No, it doesn’t, because your falsely presenting two paths forward as mutually exclusive choices.

    But I’ll let supply & demand forces figure that out, with NASA just providing the demand, not the supply.

    Are you kidding me? You think NASA’s some sort of force of nature? There’s no letting things play out here. You propose budget priorities, fight for the ones you can make stick and retreat on those that will sink your whole program.

  • Coastal Ron

    Prez Cannady wrote @ January 1st, 2012 at 2:06 pm

    No, it doesn’t, because your falsely presenting two paths forward as mutually exclusive choices.

    Not at all. Where do I put the Moon off-limits for sourcing supplies, or say that you can’t get them from the Moon at the same time you do from Earth?

    As happens here on Earth, local sources of supply at remote locations are usually created because either the long distance sources are unreliable, or they are deemed too expensive. We don’t have that situation on the Moon today (local consumption), or anywhere close to the Moon (an export market).

    As I see it, the only reason to set up propellant sourcing on the Moon is because we really want to create a lot of human activity on the Moon. That’s a valid goal if the President, Congress and NASA want to do it, but no one is pushing that right now.

    On the order of $5 billion a year for fifteen to twenty years. I wonder where Congress can find that much money?

    We all have our favorite programs and departments we like to target, and yours seems to be the Science portion of the NASA budget. However Congress has a longer history of supporting NASA Science than it does in supporting new mega programs like the SLS, so I think you’re being a little quixotic. Welcome to the club… ;-)

  • You just left people behind, and made sure they had a knife, a saw, a hammer, and maybe a crate of nails. A gun and some ammunition would be nice as well. That template doesn’t apply to space exploration.

    It does, actually, at some technology level. I suspect we’re closer to it than many think (e.g., 3-D printers).

  • @Prez Canady
    “Setting aside the dubious assertion that economics yields anything remotely universal enough to be considered a law, might help if you actually pointed to specific relationships and highlight their application.”

    Yes, there are some proven established economic laws, such as:
    For something to be economically worthwhile, it must recoup the investment put into it and it must also yield something of greater economic value than you could have gotten otherwise.

    “No, I’m not. I’ve explicitly noted that the one-time costs are negligible in the long run. Otherwise, you’d be stuck with the ridiculous notion that no new factory could ever be built that could compete against an existing one. “

    One time costs would not be “negligible” when they total in the many tens of billions. Such a structure by your own admission would cost many tens of billions of dollars over the next 15 to 20 years. We’re talking 75 to 100 billion dollars using your own numbers. That price will probably go down significantly in about a decade because of the decline in launch costs that I have already mentioned. Best to start lunar ISRU then.

    “No, I’m not. I’ve explicitly noted that the one-time costs are negligible in the long run. Otherwise, you’d be stuck with the ridiculous notion that no new factory could ever be built that could compete against an existing one. The point is rendered moot entirely if we consider the opportunity cost imposed by present space policy.”

    If you had read what I wrote more thoroughly for comprehension, you would have realized that I am not saying anything as ridiculous as “no new factory could ever be built that could compete against an existing one.” The only thing ridiculous is your assertion that I am saying that. To accurately represent what I was actually saying, I would rewrite your phrase as, “no new factory can be built currently at present launch costs from Earth that could compete against an existing one.” Didn’t you see the part where I said lunar in situ resource utilization will be necessary when it becomes economically feasible to do so?

    “We are already spending prodigious amounts on national space policy.”

    And wasting it on SLS and MPCV.

    “On the order of $5 billion a year for fifteen to twenty years. I wonder where Congress can find that much money?”

    It’s not a question of whether or not Congress has the capability of allocating that kind of money over that long a period. The problem is the unlikeliness that it will do so for that long a period of time that is the issue. SLS will almost certainly go down the tubes for that very reason.

  • pathfinder_01

    “@Freddo:

    “800 manned spacecraft in orbit right now? Try again, space cadet.

    You must think satellites maneuver through the power of guts and hard work.”

    No satellite on orbit uses loh/lox. Rockets and upper stages do but not satellites. They either use hypergolic like hydrazine and nitrogen tetroxide or electric thrusters using xenon (and the like).

  • @Coastal Ron:

    Not at all. Where do I put the Moon off-limits for sourcing supplies, or say that you can’t get them from the Moon at the same time you do from Earth?

    In your previous comment: the last two paragraphs following “[t]his gets down to what you want to spend money on.”

    As happens here on Earth, local sources of supply at remote locations are usually created because either the long distance sources are unreliable, or they are deemed too expensive.

    At some point you need to stop making up your own “laws” of economics. They’re demonstrably flawed. By your reasoning, discovery and production of…say…petroleum increase only when prices do; an assertion which is nonsense on its face.

    We don’t have that situation on the Moon today (local consumption), or anywhere close to the Moon (an export market).

    What an insight. Shall I point out that there’s no local consumption or export of any propellant depoted on orbit?

    As I see it, the only reason to set up propellant sourcing on the Moon is because we really want to create a lot of human activity on the Moon.

    Bingo.

    That’s a valid goal if the President, Congress and NASA want to do it, but no one is pushing that right now.

    Which is a remarkable foolish failing, not principally of the President or Congress, but of NASA and space advocates like yourself.

    We all have our favorite programs and departments we like to target, and yours seems to be the Science portion of the NASA budget.

    Actually, mine is the entire budget for NASA. However, the Science budget makes for a convenient club to use when you get on your quixotic anti-heavy lift soap box.

    However Congress has a longer history of supporting NASA Science than it does in supporting new mega programs like the SLS…

    Now you’re just making stuff up.

  • @Lassiter:

    Just to underscore this point, and to help respond to those who worship at the temple of the Moon, including Pastor Spudis…

    You might as well take up another poster’s point. God knows you can’t be bothered to defend your own.

    …there is NO QUESTION that propellants manufactured on site can be put into space using less of those propellants from the Moon than from the Earth. But the infrastructure costs to enable that functionality on the Moon are enormous.

    Compared to say…4-6 years of NASA’s entire budget? Americans will consent to squandering the money anyway, so might well get something useful for our trouble.

    Routine manufacture on and supply from the Moon makes sense ONLY when they are used in very large quantities such that the infrastructure costs can be amortized effectively.

    You do know we just spent $100 billion on a friggin’ rest stop in LEO that will never recoup its cost in any run. It’s a little late in the day to be whining about the sunk cost in taking a honest step towards establishing a space-faring economy.

    So we’re not talking “exploration” here. We’re talking colonization and settlement.

    Um, yeah.

    Mass emigration of the species into space. Now, colonization and settlement of space are not federal priorities, and not even clearly a cultural priority.

    This is a stupid observation. Is space advocacy an exercise sociology now?

    Those are words that are so loaded that Congress doesn’t want to touch them with a ten-foot pole.

    This is a dumb conclusion, particularly since Congress is more than willing to touch “the Space Station to Nowhere” to the tune of $100 billion.

    So they use the word “exploration” instead. That’s a word that doesn’t connote commitment.

    Yes, nothing Americans appreciate more than noncommittally flushing $20 billion a year down the drain.

    It’s meaningless to talk about economies of ISRU unless it’s clear what you’re going to do with it.

    Replenish satellite bunkerage. Pretty damned clear if you ask me.

    The Moon worshippers don’t want to be specific about that, because what would justify it involves words that are presently considered dangerous.

    Are you kidding? They’ve been as specific as any other advocate of space-based refueling network regardless of its principle source.

    The historical template for exploration is one that led seamlessly into colonization and settlement. You just left people behind, and made sure they had a knife, a saw, a hammer, and maybe a crate of nails. A gun and some ammunition would be nice as well. That template doesn’t apply to space exploration.

    What does this have to do with the cost of tea in China?

    Getting back on topic, a major change in space policy would be one that faces up to the importance of future colonization and settlement. Is that even a long term goal for our nation? If we formally admit that it is, then reaching out to the Moon to develop space travel resources makes some sense.

    Can you think of a better reason to be out in space?

    …on some timescale.

    Presumably one long enough for you to pat yourself on the back and declare victory.

  • Doug Lassiter

    Rand Simberg wrote @ January 1st, 2012 at 4:53 pm
    “It does, actually, at some technology level. I suspect we’re closer to it than many think (e.g., 3-D printers).”

    Let me know when we can “print” an ice excavator and dissociation refinery. I guess some tankage as well. 3-D printers are cute, but they print shapes, not mechanisms that need assembly.

    It is true, however, that equipment maintenance at remote sites could potentially benefit from such printing technology, in that spare parts could be created onsite and there might be less need for a large parts depot.

  • Jeff Foust

    This conversation has long ago diverged from the topic of the original post, and it’s clear we’ve long passed the point of diminishing returns here. Thanks, and happy new year.