Campaign '12

Santorum joins in

This morning we noted that GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney criticized fellow candidate Newt Gingrich’s plans for lunar bases in a letter on the Romney campaign web site, even though space policy looked to be in the rearview mirror after the Florida primary earlier this week. Now another Republican candidate has joined in.

In a 60-second radio ad posted on its web site, the Rick Santorum campaign also criticized Gingrich’s plans as “fiscal insanity”. The ad starts with a discussion of the $15-trillion national debt, then asks, “what does Newt Gingrich suggest? Spending half a trillion dollars on a moon colony.” (As noted in the earlier Romney post, the $500-billion cost estimate appears to come from a single article; the Gingrich campaign never announced what it thought it would cost.) A couple Gingrich soundbites from his January 25th speech in Cocoa, Florida, follow. The announcer then says, “Gingrich’s idea is fiscal insanity, and another reason true conservatives are uniting behind Rick Santorum.”

Ron Paul, it would seem you’re up next.

86 comments to Santorum joins in

  • Robert G. Oler

    The announcer then says, “Gingrich’s idea is fiscal insanity, and another reason true conservatives are uniting behind Rick Santorum.”./..

    all five of them and they have their Bibles with them.

    In the “it never hurts to lie” Rick is late to the party RGO

  • SpaceColonizer

    I wonder if Gingrich is going to come out now and defend his position.

    He needs to be clear that he did not say or mean that the 13,000 people would be there in 2020. Anyone who actually watched the event should realize that. He brought it up before he laid down his main goals, and even described it as the “weirdest” idea he’d ever had.

    He also needs to play up the commercial aspect, which plays to the base.

    He should point out that NASA’s budget is currently less than 0.5% of the U.S. budget. I think it would be smart to promise that he thinks he can get the moon base ready for human visitors without raising NASA budget above that percent.

    Let’s assume we keep NASA’s budget at 17B… you could cut up to $800B from annual federal spending and still be at or below 0.5% the federal budget. So then let’s take NASA’s exploration budget, about 3.5B, for 8 years, a total of 28B. I believe a lot can be accomplished toward a moon base with that amount… if it is spent wisely.

    Alternatively, you can cut a politically easier $500B from the federal budget, raise NASA’s budget to 18.75B, still be under 0.5%, put all that extra cash into the exploration account (it’s also actually really close to the 10% Newt suggested for prizes), and that would get you 42B.

    Anyways… I think that would be reasonable.

  • @SpaceColonizer

    Part of the problem is that many people who might tend to be pro space, don’t know how little America actually spends on its space program relative to other government programs. And NASA and other space advocates are not doing a very good job making the public aware of it.

    But for others, NASA represents government waste. And sending astronauts on joy rides into space or too the Moon is perceived by many in the country, and especially by the media, as inherently wasteful. So even if NASA’s manned spaceflight budget was only $1 billion a year, it would still be perceived as wasteful.

    Once again, NASA and space advocates have done an extremely poor job of communicating how economically beneficial space expenditures have been to the American economy.

    Gingrich only hurt matters by confusing a barely listening public by mixing terms like base, colony, and even State in the same speech. Sure, anyone with any intelligence knew what he was talking about. Unfortunately, many from the Bible belt are not exactly known for their scientific knowledge.

    Maybe the term “Lunar Outpost” will have to be used from now on to make a facility on the Moon seem more affordable to the public rather than base which may sound like some huge facility.

    Still NASA and space advocates have to be vocal in making the long term economic argument for such a manned lunar facility.

    China’s not going to the Moon because they like to waste money. They’re going to the Moon because they like to make money. And they intend to economically dominate both the heavens and the Earth.

    Marcel F. Williams

  • Robert G. Oler

    Marcel wrote:

    “China’s not going to the Moon because they like to waste money. They’re going to the Moon because they like to make money. And they intend to economically dominate both the heavens and the Earth. ”

    there is no data whatsoever to support that analysis. It is mixture of hope, fear and just goofy RGO

  • John

    Major aerospace programs helped create hundreds of thousands of jobs and new technology breakthroughs that we witnessed during the Apollo era. We can no longer afford to maintain the same monopolies that have prevented our national space program from moving forward.

  • Coastal Ron

    Marcel F. Williams wrote @ February 3rd, 2012 at 10:24 pm

    China’s not going to the Moon because they like to waste money.

    And indeed they are not going to the Moon at all… at least not yet.

    All they are planning to do is STUDY going to the Moon. We’ve done lots of studies too, and I’m sure they’ve read them. Which makes you wonder why the Chinese, with all the studies we’ve already done for them, are still wanting to study going to the Moon?

    I’d say they haven’t been able to “close the business case’ anymore than we have for spending what will likely hundreds of $Billions before they get any appreciable ROI.

    Cry wolf all you want, but I don’t think anyone is listening… ;-)

  • Marcel F. Williams

    @Oler & Coastal Ron

    Just because you guys and Romney and Obama don’t want to go to the Moon doesn’t mean that other nations don’t want to go to the Moon. The Chinese made their intentions clear in their White paper. And Chinese scientist have also made this clear:

    “If China doesn’t explore the moon, we will have no say in international lunar exploration and can’t safeguard our proper rights and interest.”  Ouyang Ziyuan (Ouyang), a senior consultant at China’s lunar exploration program.

  • China has no Moon program. They’re thinking about a Moon program. But they have no Moon program.

    It’s truly astounding how some people try to frighten us with Red Menace II when the Chinese haven’t launched anyone into space in 3 1/2 years. Their next human space flight mission will be to send taikonauts to practice docking with a practice space station module that will then be de-orbited. Maybe, just maybe, they’ll then start building their own modest space station that will be dwarfed by the ISS, which might be finished by 2020.

    We’re supposed to be frightened of that?!

    Anyway …

    General comment about Romney … Can anyone name anything we know he absolutely stands for?! Anything?! The guy hasn’t taken a firm position on any issue. You can find recordings of him taking both sides on any subject, based on his audience. He blathers empty rhetoric at campaign stops. He’s passionate about nothing except being President.

    I ask myself, “What legislation would President Romney introduce upon taking office?” I can’t think of an answer, because he really doesn’t take a stand on anything.

    And if you missed it, Ron Paul last night on CNN talked about “an honest rape.” Goodness.

  • GeeSpace

    It seems that the space policy of all the republican presidential candidates, except Gingrich, is looking at the past and downward. Gingrich seems to be looking to the future and upward.

    If I had any input into Gingrich: moon colony” speech I would have added some things and deleted some things. That’s said, lets realized that campaign speeches generally don’t have a lot of details in them.

    And I really hope Gingrich strongly fights back on space development,
    If would also be great if other people publicly supported space development. And that does not mean supporting Gingrich’s candidacy

  • Robert G. Oler

    Marcel F. Williams wrote @ February 4th, 2012 at 7:00 am

    @Oler & Coastal Ron

    Just because you guys and Romney and Obama don’t want to go to the Moon doesn’t mean that other nations don’t want to go to the Moon.>>

    and just because you want to go to the Moon does not mean that other nations are trying to 1) go to the Moon 2) go to the Moon to dominate it and 3) all the other babble you post.

    In the end “exploration” does not mean 1) humans nor 2) dominate any celestial body. All it means is what the CHinese (and us and the Indians and …) is doing and that is sending uncrewed vehicles to take pictures and do other things.

    Thats cheap and has good return for effort. There is no hint that the PRC is doing anything but studying going to the Moon and has a human spaceflight program that is so lethargic that it makes Betty White look like she is playing football at the super bowel.

    If the Reds make as much progress in getting to the Moon in the next 20 years that they have made in the last five…they will have completed their studies by then RGO

  • Robert G. Oler

    Stephen C. Smith wrote @ February 4th, 2012 at 7:42 am

    General comment about Romney … Can anyone name anything we know he absolutely stands for?! Anything?! The guy hasn’t taken a firm position on any issue. ”

    I have one of the opo research papers done by the McCain campaign in 08 on Willard and he is consistent on nothing but his inconsistency on issues.

    Other then “I want to be President” Willard has morphed his positions on just about everything EXCEPT mostly his economic politics and policy which is massive tax breaks and incentives for the upper income people and a sort of double down on trickle down economics. This is the great issue that is fracturing the GOP right now.

    In the end the folks who are voting for Willard dont care about the rest of his flip flops as long as he maintains his economic policy and outlook because that is the sustaining feature of most of their lives…the rest are simply overwhelemed in thought by the financial resources that Willard can throw into a campaign. This is one reason that Willard hit Newt so hard on the space issue…it simply “doesnt sound right” the way Willard bombards Newt on his statements (mostly lying) and draws them into the Willard orbit.

    It is an old GOP establishment trick and the funny thing is watching my friends in the Tea Party standing with open mouths as they have watched the establishment of the GOP just simply cut their legs out with money.

    Other then Rick S I am hoping Willard is the nominee. If Newt was the election would be “hard” for me in that I want a big issues campaign and Newt would give it…and then I would 1) be torn who to vote for and 2) would probably have to vote for Obama to keep the nuts that are hanging on to Newt at bay.

    As it is now with Willard as the nominee I think that Obama will win reelection, the GOP afterwards will fracture badly and there will be a chance to regroup on the party (or there will be a credible third party) …in any event in a Willard/Barack race…I would happily vote for Obama…on space policy and politics alone. And as he wins watch people on the far right simply die! RGO

  • vulture4

    Ouyang is an enthusiast, not a decision maker. China’s goal for human spaceflight is not to make money directly, but to build national pride in a domestic audience that still remembers a century of foreign occupation and to advertise its commercial aerospace capabilities. It sees spaceflight not as a way of dominating the world, but as a way of demonstrating that it belongs in the select club of world leaders.

    Gingrich was the only candidate to speak out on space and was promptly attacked for it. I was hoping that someone in the Space Coast GOP would spring to his defense, or at least defend the idea of a greater national role in human spaceflight, but they are more interested in attacking Obama. Space has at least a modest chance with Obama. It has no future with a Republican administration, at least not now.

  • Coastal Ron

    Marcel F. Williams wrote @ February 4th, 2012 at 7:00 am

    Just because you guys and Romney and Obama don’t want to go to the Moon doesn’t mean that other nations don’t want to go to the Moon.

    You continue to not understand the issue here.

    Of course I want to go to the Moon. I would also like to go to Mars and lots of other places in our Solar System. As a start, I think a robotic lunar precursor program could be very exciting and productive, but Congress decided not to fund that request from Obama’s NASA.

    The biggest stumbling block to going back to the Moon with humans is money, which apparently you don’t realize. But until someone quantifies the direct or indirect economic benefit of us putting people on the Moon, it’s not going to happen.

    For instance, lunar water is a resource, but there is no demand for it until you get lots of activity on or near the Moon. What will drive that activity? What direct or indirect benefits do we get from spending $Billions to create that demand? Until someone can show a good ROI for the U.S. Taxpayer, it’s not going to happen soon – especially now that Newt has supported it.

  • John

    Its typical for a politician to avoid commitment for fear of repercussions. Not one candidate except Gingrich believes America is capable of restarting our national space program. Whether it be the Moon, to Mars or developing the ability for humans to circumnavigate our own solar system, these politicians are simply afraid to commit.

  • Googaw

    “…and they have their Bibles with them.”

    “many from the Bible belt are not exactly known for their scientific knowledge. ”

    Seriously folks? You’re going to pit the cult of the heavenly pilgrim head-to-head against Christianity? And hope to keep taking taxpayer funds and the end of the tussle? Good luck with that. :-)

  • Googaw

    Gingrich’s basic problem is that the whole idea of the government setting a central planning goal for private enterprise is anathema to the free enterprise ideas of the Republican Party that Gingrich himself claims to espouse.

    A true Republican approach would say: we don’t pick winning or losing locations in the cosmos. We don’t know whether the next step for free enterprise in space is the moon, asteroids, better satellite services in earth orbit, or somewhere else. We don’t know whether it will involve astronauts or robots. We aren’t the Soviet Union: we aren’t going to set up a central committee to decide these things. Wherever it is, and however it is done, a Republican federal federal government will be there to create and protect property rights, otherwise enforce the rule of law, and ensure that international law is made consistent with these goals. It won’t be there to pick winners and losers.

    But instead Gingrich’s proposal is for Washington D.C. to dictate the “vision” and the “infrasructure”, in the form of a cliched astronaut shrine out of mid 20th century sci-fi, and expect private enterprise to slavishly follow his oh-so-brilliant lead.

    In the real world such central planning doesn’t lead to thriving new industries. It leads to lavish porkfests at taxpayer expense. That is why Gingrich is being attacked by Santorum and Romney, and cannot defend himself.

    Incidentally, the of the federal government that Gingrich otherwise says he wants in space could be signified by a concrete proposal — InspectionSat — a mostly declassified and well publicized NRO/USAF effort to send an inspection satellite to geosynchronous orbit to ensure that all the satellites there are following the rules. A White Fleet for space. If the goal is to plant the flag and assert that the rule of law in space is enforced by the U.S., we should plant it in the place people are actually using. Whatever the future may hold, GEO is currently the most crucial orbit for real space commerce and military intelligence alike.

    A White Fleet in GEO, and not “visionary” outposts in an unused lunar desert, will bring up all the issues that need to be brought up regarding how law is to be enforced and by whom and how in space. If it’s too bellicose to do something like that in GEO now, it’s probably going to be too bellicose to do it on the moon in the future, if/when the moon becomes a useful place for private industry.

  • Doug Lassiter

    Marcel F. Williams wrote @ February 3rd, 2012 at 10:24 pm
    “Once again, NASA and space advocates have done an extremely poor job of communicating how economically beneficial space expenditures have been to the American economy. ”

    I think the public understands very well how economically beneficial space expenditures have been to the American economy. What they aren’t quite as sure about is how human space flight has been beneficial to the American economy. Sure, the federal government plows $8B per year into it, but that’s a simplistic perspective of economic development.

    The public has zero, I mean ZERO, understanding of how a permanent human occupied base on the Moon would benefit the American economy. This would be a great opportunity for Mr. Gingrich to speak up about that and say “This is what I meant …”. The fact that he’s not speaking up about it speaks volumes. The “boldness” in his proposal has been executed. He’s succeeded in being perceived as a “visionary” thinker. But now comes the hard part. Convincing people his vision isn’t just nuts. In order to do so, he has to show some foundation for his vision, and clearly articulate the benefits. Is he willing to walk what he talks?

    “The Chinese made their intentions clear in their White paper.”

    What the Chinese made clear in their white paper IN ONE SENTENCE, was that they were sorta thinking about sending humans to the Moon. May I quote?

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

    Studies of a preliminary plan? To the extent that the U.S. is scared of the Chinese doing what we did forty years ago, this white paper should hardly have anyone quaking in their boots.

  • Coastal Ron

    John wrote @ February 4th, 2012 at 1:23 pm

    Not one candidate except Gingrich believes America is capable of restarting our national space program.

    We already have a national space program – what do you think we spend $18B/year on at NASA?

    You need to be more specific. Do you mean a HSF exploration program for beyond LEO?

    Actually I think you have also stumbled upon a perception issue that NASA has. Does it exist for “Flags & Footprints” type events? Doing “exciting” things that are entertaining?

    The biggest attention that the Shuttle program used to get was when they launched, which in of itself is not space exploration, just high-priced fireworks. How many people really cared what they were doing on Shuttle missions? How many people care what we’re doing on the ISS? Let’s not debate the ISS per se, but whether we want NASA doing science or entertainment stuff.

    Science is pretty boring to watch, but landing on the first time we landed on the Moon or the first time we captured Hubble for repairs, that go lots of TV coverage. Picking up rocks on the Moon, for the 20th day in a row, that would be boring to watch for the vast amount of U.S. Taxpayers. And so it is for the ISS, which is the kind of science that bores most of us, but excites scientists. Is that good enough?

    Should we ditch the science portion of NASA and just focus the entertainment part?

  • For a Federal investment of less than $8 billion a year, we could have a base on the Moon that could gradually grow into a lunar colony once private companies have their own space programs and the first tourist start to go there.

    And the first nation, or nations, to grow their lunar tourist colonies into industrial colonies will eventually dominate the satellite manufacturing, repair, and launch industry which is at the core of a multihundred billion dollar a year satellite based telecommunications industry. Such an industrial satellite industry on the Moon could also end up being the primary or sole producer of solar power satellites for the production of energy for Earth which could potentially be a multitrillion dollar a year industry.

    But America does not get to be the primary beneficiary of such a lucrative future on the Moon by just sitting around and letting the Chinese, Japanese, Russians, and Indians settle the Moon.

    But if a relatively tiny $8 billion a year (less than one month occupying Iraq) is too much for Americans to invest in a future on the Moon that could potentially reap hundreds of billions and possibly trillions of dollars for our children and grandchildren then maybe this generation of Americans wasn’t worth the financial sacrifices of earlier generations either. Maybe, like other great empires, we’ve just grown too fat and lazy and disinterested to invest in our future anymore.

    Marcel F. Williams

  • DCSCA

    Santorum was born in 1958. He was all of 4 when Glenn was launched and 11 whn 11 landed. The golden age of spaceflight wasn’t really a part of his life. President Obama was six months old when Glenn was launched and approaching the age of 8 when Apollo 11 rached the moon. Like Santorum, the golden age of spaceflight wasn’t really a part of his forumilative years, either.

    On the other hand, Gingrich was 14 when Sputnik was launched, not yet 21 when Glenn flew and 28 for Apollo 11. Romney was 10 when Sputnik was lofted, 15 when Glenn orbited and 22 as Apollo 11 landed. It is these two men, roughly the average age of the MSC flight controllers and the same generation– who are in the ‘sweet spot’ for exposure, broad understanding and developing- or dismissing- interest in spaceflight. They are generally of the same political persuasion. So it’s valid to ask why Romney and Gingrich have such differing viewpoints on spaceflight- one clearly embracing broad, grand- if not grandiose- visions with historical context and the other decidely dismissive of it.

  • DCSCA

    @Googaw wrote @ February 4th, 2012 at 2:41 pm

    Space exploitation is not space exploration.

    The discredited theories of supply-side economics, aka Reaganomics is never going to fuel the human expansion out into space.

  • Googaw

    “And so it is for the ISS, which is the kind of science that bores most of us, but excites scientists.”

    It doesn’t actually excite very many scientists, either, except the ones getting the grants.

    “Should we ditch the science portion of NASA and just focus the entertainment part?”

    The movie theater and the video game are astronomically more cost-effective ways to be entertained about space. And where is entertainment listed as a federal power in the U.S. Constitution? Or even the NASA charter? Do you think you can sell one of these gigaprojects honestly based on their supposed entertainment value? Or in the process of selling entertainment as a taxpayer-funded program will you have to fall back on the lies about how it’s really about science?

    The basic problem with communicating the supposed benefits of a lunar base is that it’s harder to convince people of fiction than of the truth. I’ve asked Oler and others over and over what the bare-bones lunar base they keep low-balling is supposed to accomplish, and I’m still waiting for an answer. The fact of the matter is that any answer to this question is either (a) obviously economically stupid, even at the preposterously low-balled cost figures, or (b) something that unmanned machines could accomplish far more cost effectively than a handful of astronauts huddled inside an RV. These cliched space goals from mid-20th-century entertainment, these next logical shrines, are obsolete, however religiously you hold on to them. Get over it. Start dealing with the reality of what space has actually become and how useful things are actually accomplished there.

  • Googaw

    “So it’s valid to ask why Romney and Gingrich have such differing viewpoints on spaceflight.”

    The issue at hand is grandiose sci-fi “visions”, not “spaceflight.” If Gingrich had proposed, e.g. the InspectionSat I suggested above, the issue would be just the political issues of sovereignty and law enforcement that Gingrich wanted to raise with the “Northwest Ordinance” and the “51st State”, but without the sci-fi wackiness.

    So on the issue at hand, namely the role of sci-fi “visions”, Romney is a seasoned businessman, well versed in real world economics. Gingrich is a life-long politician, well versed in the art of taking money from other people against their will and spending it with very little accountability. That Gingrich tends, at least outside his sci-fi fetishes, to be ideologically as opposed to such spending as Romney doesn’t change this basic difference in their career experiences.

  • Doug Lassiter

    Marcel F. Williams wrote @ February 4th, 2012 at 5:06 pm
    “And the first nation, or nations, to grow their lunar tourist colonies into industrial colonies will eventually dominate the satellite manufacturing, repair, and launch industry which is at the core of a multihundred billion dollar a year satellite based telecommunications industry.”

    The satellite telecommunications industry is harbored in GEO, and most satellite expenditures are directed towards LEO. For the latter especially, it makes no propulsive sense to send those units from the Moon. While there are some propulsive advantages of a lunar launch to putting satellites in GEO, I can’t imagine there are any advantages to building satellites on the lunar surface. The supply chain burden is hard to imagine, for that picture. But maybe they can figure out how to build transponders and switching systems out of lunar regolith. Launch costs do not dominate the cost of a communication satellite, and I’ll bet they are far smaller than the cost of a military recon satellite, so trading economies in launch for staggering supply chain costs doesn’t make a lot of business sense.

    Oh, and these industries are going to grow from lunar tourist colonies? Newt’s going to have them rolling in the aisles with a rationale like that.

    No, I hope that Gingrich comes up with a better story than that, for a lucrative future from a lunar encampment. Again, Gingrich has shown that he can be bold and visionary. But he hasn’t yet shown us that he’s not nuts.

    Thanks to him, human spaceflight is now the whipping boy for fiscal conservatives. Romney has admitted that he doesn’t have a clue why we should do human space flight, but he promises to figure it out. Santorum evidently doesn’t even feel strongly motivated to do that, except that doing something the public has been sold on as bold and visionary is, well, nuts.

  • Robert G. Oler

    DCSCA wrote @ February 4th, 2012 at 5:15 pm

    Santorum was born in 1958. He was all of 4 when Glenn was launched and 11 whn 11 landed. The golden age of spaceflight wasn’t really a part of his life. President Obama was six months old when Glenn was launched and approaching the age of 8 when Apollo 11 rached the moon. Like Santorum, the golden age of spaceflight wasn’t really a part of his forumilative years, either. >>

    Well opinions vary. I am within two years of Ricky S and it was the golden era of spaceflight to me. I recall Glenn’s flight like it was yesterday, but then again I still have some of the radios that we listened to his flight on…ie the direct link with his capsule…RGO

  • Robert G. Oler

    Googaw wrote @ February 4th, 2012 at 5:25 pm

    “The basic problem with communicating the supposed benefits of a lunar base is that it’s harder to convince people of fiction than of the truth. I’ve asked Oler and others over and over what the bare-bones lunar base they keep low-balling is supposed to accomplish, and I’m still waiting for an answer”

    nothing I can imagine that would be worth the cost even with a very aggressive cost saving effort.

    I NEVER said doing a lunar base even at reduced cost would have value for the cost. I just said it could be done for far cheaper then NASA could do anything.

    If NASA HSF ran a brothel it would be the worst one in town and the most expensive. The people there are mostly inept.

    RGO

  • Robert G. Oler

    Marcel F. Williams wrote @ February 4th, 2012 at 5:06 pm
    “And the first nation, or nations, to grow their lunar tourist colonies into industrial colonies will eventually dominate the satellite manufacturing, repair, and launch industry which is at the core of a multihundred billion dollar a year satellite based telecommunications industry. Such an industrial satellite industry on the Moon could also end up being the primary or sole producer of solar power satellites for the production of energy for Earth which could potentially be a multitrillion dollar a year industry. ”

    pure conjecture there is no data to support it RGO

  • Coastal Ron

    Marcel F. Williams wrote @ February 4th, 2012 at 5:06 pm

    Such an industrial satellite industry on the Moon could also end up being the primary or sole producer of solar power satellites…

    It’s obvious that you’ve never been in manufacturing, or any of the support functions like purchasing/contracting.

    There won’t be any manufacturing on the Moon until there is a need, and initially it will only satisfy a local need, not an export one. But let’s look down the road to when there are millions of people on the Moon. Will it be less expensive to manufacture electronics on the Moon? Intel is spending $5B on a chip factory in Arizona, which being the U.S. is already an expensive place to build chips. Imagine the cost to build such a factory on the Moon – the construction equipment that will have to be invented, the personnel that have to be supported, the equipment that much be shipped there.

    What advantage would there be to building a chip factory on the Moon? No economic ones that I can tell, except for the natural vacuum the Moon has (clean room related). And let’s remember the need for lots of demand to justify a factory on the Moon. Where is that demand coming from? Would the cost of transportation offset the cost of setting up a factory on the Moon? Not likely, especially as the cost of getting mass to LEO continues to drop.

    You spend too much time in fantasy land, and not enough in the realities of what is needed today to get us beyond where we are today.

  • Googaw

    Doug Lassiter : “it makes no propulsive sense to send those units from the Moon.”

    It may eventually make sense to send propellant to LEO from the moon (or certain asteroids): the maximum thrust required (which is the real cost driver once propellant is cheap) is much lower than from the earth’s surface. This is one of those things that falls in the “way too expensive if astronauts are needed” department, but may eventually be economically feasible with robots. But the real problem that makes satellite or even just solar cell manufacture on the moon a wingnut idea is this:

    “The supply chain burden is hard to imagine:”

    That’s quite an understatement. Our high-tech economy is based on an extremely elaborate division of labor between billions of people. Leonard Reed has written eloquently on how many thousands of people are involved in making the humble pencil (Google “I Pencil”). This is required reading for anybody seriously interested in space colonization. Adam Smith also discussed the large number and variety of people and tools required to make a humble peasant’s coat. Nobody is going to be manufacturing most of the parts that make up satellites, including solar cells, off earth in our lifetimes, or our childrens’. To believe they will is an economic error of cosmic proportions. (The manufacture of certain heavy or bulky but simple components of satellites, such as propellant, are another matter).

  • Coastal Ron

    DCSCA wrote @ February 4th, 2012 at 5:24 pm

    Space exploitation is not space exploration.

    There is no need for exploration unless you’re going to exploit it somehow (i.e. usable knowledge, raw materials, etc.). It is the immutable path civilization has always followed – find new places, explore them, then exploit them.

    Space will be no different. It’s just a matter of how quickly we start exploiting after exploration. We’re already getting an ROI from LEO/GEO, but no one has come up with a need for anything beyond that.

    Knowledge? Meh. We can only afford so much at a time, unless it helps us find a killer asteroid in time (that’s for you E.P.). Otherwise we are limited in doing exploration based on how much “disposable income” taxpayers want to give up for “flags & footprints”.

  • @DCSCA:

    Space exploitation is not space exploration.

    The space exploration is worthless, and I want my money back.

  • DCSCA

    @Googaw wrote @ February 4th, 2012 at 5:49 pm

    “Romney is a seasoned businessman, well versed in real world economics.”

    A man with 15 homes is not ‘well-versed’ in ‘real world economics’ at all, as his own comments betray- like pitching $10,000 bets or dismissing $375,000 in speaking fees as ‘not very much.’ There’s nothing ‘real world’ about that at all. In fact, it’s a little disturbing.

    How you choose to ‘define’ an issue for spin is your right, however, the issue is spaceflight– particularly HSF, and Romney’s position on it has been telegraphed and reitereated repeatedly- he is quite dismissive of it as a facet of American leadership whereas his repeated calls for a ‘strong military’ (which is already the strongest in the history of the planet) are red meat for his party, but red ink for the rest of the country. He’s an odd duck.

    @Doug Lassiter wrote @ February 4th, 2012 at 5:56 pm

    “Thanks to him, human spaceflight is now the whipping boy for fiscal conservatives.”

    Yep. Falls right in line with their anti-science/anti-intellectualism pitch- particularly in the South. Gingrich has done more damage than he realizes. He ridicules the 40-something media types raised in the post-Apollo/shuttle era then expects them to grasp his grand visions as if there’s a Walter Cronkite among them but instead, they laugh back at him. Joe Scarrborough is no Walter Cronkite. Look at Dana Perino, a Fox News commentator and former press secretary to Dubya, who famously had no idea what the Cuban Missile Crisis was.

    @Robert G. Oler wrote @ February 4th, 2012 at 6:40 pm

    Two or three years can make a big difference. Naturally, it varies w/individuals, however, the two candidates in question have shown a decided interest in world events and public policy and as such should be well aware of the space projects of scale in that time frame, thoeir relevence and implications as they were high profiled in the media worldwide, squarely in the public eye and the focus of both national and international events. It’s anecdotal, but my own brother, an attorney today, is a few years younger and has no real recollection of the space race, of Mercury, Gemini or Apollo, of meeting the Apollo 11 crew or of Vietnam, for that matter, as having any part of shaping his perceptions of the world around him as a child growing up in the U.S. and overseas.

  • DCSCA

    ” I recall Glenn’s flight like it was yesterday, but then again I still have some of the radios that we listened to his flight on…ie the direct link with his capsule…RGO”

    Interesting. Still have the old R2R audio tapes, myself. But yes, seems like yesterday.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Googaw wrote @ February 4th, 2012 at 2:41 pm

    “A true Republican approach would say: we don’t pick winning or losing locations in the cosmos.”

    oh dont be silly.

    OK there are probably “some” notated Republicans who actually think that…and the talking heads like Gretchen and Megan and Rush and Jonah and all the other babblers of the right say those things…but they nor the masters that pull their strings really believe that. At best it is an opium for the complete dolts who are the base that the GOP survives on.

    Exxon and the folks that run it and the GOP pols who shill for Exxon dont really believe that…they want centralized planning; planning that benefits them. Exxon is making record profits but take their tax giveaways away (ie stop picking winners) and you would think that they would simply vanish from the face of the Earth.

    when the “free enterprise” banks were floundering after a decade of raping almost everyone else in sight; do you think Jimmy D. at Bank of America (think thats right) said “lets live and die by the free enterprise system”. Of course not. He got in his new G 550 (I know I helped the bank pick it out) and thundered to DC to tell the Bush flunkies that they had to save him or “we would all speak Chinese”.

    Defense contractors? If we really had free enterprise metrics in defense spending, ie X dollars buys Y product in A years well where would the JSF be? Or Lockmarts urban combat vehicle that was in “work” years before Iraq but somehow missed the war….or even EELV’s.

    Do you really think ULA wants to compete for their launches? No they want a block buy that locks their product in JUST IN CASE SpaceX or someone else in the free enterprise system really does make it.

    These are all for the most part good solid Republicans who babble on about freedom and the free enterprise system and …

    Not even the people in these endeavors at he worker bee level want it.

    My saintly wife and I are moving shortly to our new “Ponderosa” (grin…we are looking for a name) and one of the things it is going to have is the amateur radio station of my dreams. So when my friend who runs EPO (CPO for the new folks) called and had a great price on his 1 and 1/2 inch heliax…I of course thundered up to get it.

    While I was spending lots of my wife and my hard earned money I ran into several people who I know up at Clear Lake (we have a house there) and one of them was the local GOP flunkie who is always babbling on about Solyndra and Obama socialism etc..and he works at NASA.

    He was explaining patiently to me (I use to be a minor political figure there) how my references to “technowelfare” on Pete Olson’s facebook page were not all that well appreciated etc etc…and I tried to move the conversation into a private enterprise commercial lift sort of thing…and his reply was “Americans want a government run program that makes them proud, all the people who work in the space program pay taxes”. That last part is suppose to make it all right.

    I asked him how that squared with his constant babbling about Solyndra (much as Whittington does) and he was happy to tell me that encouraging solar energy is not Constitutional but a strong space program is part of our national defense…

    Centralized planning is good there.

    The GOP right wing is happy to give lip service to “the free enterprise system” but really they dont want it. They want it where they dont like government involvement but where they like government involvement…they demand it.

    Dont be goofy RGO

  • DCSCA

    @Coastal Ron wrote @ February 4th, 2012 at 7:22 pm

    ‘Space will be no different.’

    Except that’s that point- it is different. Completely different– requiring a change in thinking and perceptions. You’re in your ‘fish in the fishbowl mode’ again, wanting to adapt space to your life in the bowl when, in fact, it’s exactly the opposite– you have to adapt your fish bowl world to space.

  • @Lassiter:

    The satellite telecommunications industry is harbored in GEO, and most satellite expenditures are directed towards LEO. For the latter especially, it makes no propulsive sense to send those units from the Moon.

    I assume this is a typo, since you go on to make the exact opposite point in the next sentence. 3 km/s range throughout cislunar space < 8 km/s just to get to LEO; it's that basic. Gets better once you get the Moon out of the picture, but as of today it looks like the Moon's an unavoidable pit stop.

    While there are some propulsive advantages of a lunar launch to putting satellites in GEO, I can’t imagine there are any advantages to building satellites on the lunar surface.

    Except, of course, that propulsive advantage. Oh, and the vacuum and reduced gravity.

    The supply chain burden is hard to imagine, for that picture.

    It’s hard to imagine because it’s unknown. You can afford to be generous and evaluate the argument on the assumption that someone’s struck a reasonable balance between ISRU and feedstock from home.

    But maybe they can figure out how to build transponders and switching systems out of lunar regolith.

    If anyone hopes to produce replacement solar panels there, they better.

    Launch costs do not dominate the cost of a communication satellite…

    If by “dominate,” you’re excluding from the category a single expense that costs a third to half of the $200-500 million to take a 5 ton satellite from proposal to launch, then you have a point. Of course, then you have to ask why is the satellite 5 tons? What precisely is required to make one work that incurs costs of up to $100 million a ton?

    …and I’ll bet they are far smaller than the cost of a military recon satellite, so trading economies in launch for staggering supply chain costs doesn’t make a lot of business sense.

    Once again, you can afford to be generous enough and treat the Earth-Lunar supply chain as a solved problem.

  • @Coastal Ron:

    It’s obvious that you’ve never been in manufacturing, or any of the support functions like purchasing/contracting.

    It’s obvious you ignored what Marcel actually said just to be a pain in the butt. You also neglected to say anything enlightening at all about manufacturing, purchasing or contracting in favor of spouting obvious fluff.

    There won’t be any manufacturing on the Moon until there is a need…

    Marcel didn’t project the course of lunar industrialization. He pointed out, and you will agree, that the Moon–with all other relevant issues addressed–is a more advantageous location for manufacturing and launching satellites than Earth.

    Intel is spending $5B on a chip factory in Arizona, which being the U.S. is already an expensive place to build chips. Imagine the cost to build such a factory on the Moon

    It’s also obvious you know nothing about manufacturing semiconductors. Hint, Intel isn’t spending $5 billion to erect a building.

  • pathfinder_01

    “There won’t be any manufacturing on the Moon until there is a need, and initially it will only satisfy a local need, not an export one. But let’s look down the road to when there are millions of people on the Moon. Will it be less expensive to manufacture electronics on the Moon?”

    It is possible to make solar panels out of lunar regolith, but such panels would pretty much only be useful to the moon base. Most ISRU concepts for solar panels create panels that are lower quality than the ones made on Earth (i.e. heavier/less efficient). Great to reduce the amount of imports needed but not quite enough for export(i.e not a bad trade given the cost of sending anything to the moon).

    Other more complex electronics…..forget about it.

  • Doug Lassiter

    Googaw wrote @ February 4th, 2012 at 7:21 pm
    “It may eventually make sense to send propellant to LEO from the moon (or certain asteroids): the maximum thrust required (which is the real cost driver once propellant is cheap) is much lower than from the earth’s surface.”

    It’s true that for a high-thrust trajectory, getting stuff from the lunar surface to LEO is easier than from from the surface of the Earth, but for a low-thrust trajectory out of LLO, that’s not necessarily the case. It’s the latter (e.g. SEP) that is more opportunistic for cargo transport, at least in free space.

    But it is really laughable that things from the Moon are going to be cheaper than from the Earth. Yes, they might be, once you’ve got them there. We can argue about He-3, palladium or unobtainium, but for communication satellite components, the idea is just daft. Even for water and derivative propellants, the infrastructure requirements that get you to the point that you have them there are quite enormous. The “lucrative future” of having humans on the Moon is hardly assured.

  • John

    Coastal Ron wrote @ February 4th, 2012 at 3:42 pm

    “Should we ditch the science portion of NASA and just focus the entertainment part?”

    Sorry Ron, I don’t support your theory that the American people are all in it for the entertainment. You’ve been watching too much MSNBC.

  • Robert G. Oler

    DCSCA wrote @ February 4th, 2012 at 8:02 pm

    Interesting. Still have the old R2R audio tapes, myself. But yes, seems like yesterday.”

    I agree with the larger point, a few years probably matter but also individual interest AS A CHILD probably dictated the affect one way or another that the space race had on “you”.

    My parents were house parents at a childrens home where my Grandfather was the superintendent and we had an enormous number of WW2 vets who were also house parents or staff…enormously practical people who knew how to do almost anything. Radio interested me almost from the word go and the couple that managed the “cottage” next to my parents had been a radar officer in the Navy in WW2 (sort of a strange set of circumstances, he had been on Franklin, the doctor who took my tonsils out had been on Franklin and one of my mentor professors in college had been on Franklin…they all knew each other)…

    Claude (my elmer) had pushed the amateur state of the art to the 420 (then) MC band and dabbled in S band moonbounce. he had this wonderful helical array and a converted radar dish…I have most of his amateur gear including the antennas and radios…and today moving it brought back some wonderful memories.

    Favorite memory…listening to the Echo beacon as we watched the satellite go overhead.

    RGO WB5MZO

  • Robert G. Oler

    Prez Cannady wrote @ February 4th, 2012 at 8:44 pm

    It’s also obvious you know nothing about manufacturing semiconductors. Hint, Intel isn’t spending $5 billion to erect a building.>>

    the employee break room? LOL RGO

  • pathfinder_01

    “ Marcel didn’t project the course of lunar industrialization. He pointed out, and you will agree, that the Moon–with all other relevant issues addressed–is a more advantageous location for manufacturing and launching satellites than Earth.”

    On Earth Hawaii is a more advantageous place to launch rockets esp. moon ones. Apollo briefly considered launching from Hawaii esp. on top of a mountain. However they concluded that the logistics of bring everything in was too costly for the gain.

    This likely holds true for lunar manufacturing and launching satellites. I mean while you can produce solar panels, Earth made ones are better and you still lack other materials (I don’t see being able to ISRU a rubber gasket on the moon anytime soon). The cost of manufacture will generally be cheaper on earth due to economies of scale (i.e. the Silicon on Earth has other users who share the cost of production vs. a lunar factory that does not produce say solar panels or Sillicon for non space uses).

  • @pathfinder_01:

    It is possible to make solar panels out of lunar regolith, but such panels would pretty much only be useful to the moon base.

    In the near-term, and even then you can’t categorically say less efficient lunar photovoltaics can’t compete without comparing costs for the manufacturing and deployment pipelines in their entirety.

    Most ISRU concepts for solar panels create panels that are lower quality than the ones made on Earth (i.e. heavier/less efficient).

    All ISRU concepts are exploratory and experimental.

  • @pathfinder_01:

    Other more complex electronics…..forget about it.

    How do you figure?

  • @Lassiter:

    It’s true that for a high-thrust trajectory, getting stuff from the lunar surface to LEO is easier than from from the surface of the Earth, but for a low-thrust trajectory out of LLO, that’s not necessarily the case. It’s the latter (e.g. SEP) that is more opportunistic for cargo transport, at least in free space.

    For LLO-LEO mass ratios worse that Earth-LEO, you’d need to pick a low-thrust engine with a specific impulse somewhat less than twice that of your lifter. Last I checkd, your highest energy lift stages clocked in at 450s, and electric propulsion was promising north of 1000.

  • Coastal Ron

    Prez Cannady wrote @ February 4th, 2012 at 8:44 pm

    He pointed out, and you will agree, that the Moon–with all other relevant issues addressed–is a more advantageous location for manufacturing and launching satellites than Earth.

    All things being equal, I can only agree with the launching part.

    Manufacturing requires a vast support network that we’re not likely to see off-world for centuries. Googaw had a good example (“I, Pencil“) that illustrates the challenge. Unless you’re familiar with the world of manufacturing, it’s easy to underestimate the difficulty in manufacturing anything here on Earth, much less on an airless world with 1/6 gravity.

    Hint, Intel isn’t spending $5 billion to erect a building.

    I never said “building”, I said “factory”. Apparently you have a reading and comprehension problem (read the press release).

  • Coastal Ron

    DCSCA wrote @ February 4th, 2012 at 8:11 pm

    Except that’s that point- it [exploitation] is different. Completely different– requiring a change in thinking and perceptions.

    Granted, it will cost more.

    But otherwise, why will it require “a change in thinking and perceptions“? Please explain.

  • @Lassiter:

    But it is really laughable that things from the Moon are going to be cheaper than from the Earth.

    What’s laughable is the comedy of errors that makes up the argument to the contrary.

    Yes, they might be, once you’ve got them there.

    This doesn’t even make sense. If you have to bring them there, then it’s not cheaper to “source” them from there; the Moon at that point is just an extremely inconvenient detour.

    We can argue about He-3, palladium or unobtainium…

    No need at this point. We can talk about power, propellant and semiconductors.

    …but for communication satellite components…

    Like chips, boards, antennas? Your satellites are little more than 5 tons each. Exactly how big do you think these components get?

    …the idea is just daft.

    Would love to know why you think so, other than some blanket assertion along the lines of “it would cost too much.”

    Even for water and derivative propellants, the infrastructure requirements that get you to the point that you have them there are quite enormous.

    Enormous compared to what? Say, $5 billion a year looking at clouds and star stuff?

    The “lucrative future” of having humans on the Moon is hardly assured.

    Oh my, risk! God help us if taxpayers spend billions trying to figure out how lucrative–or not–industry on the Moon can be. After all, that money’s best spent on things we know to an absurd certainty will result zero payout in our species’ lifetime.

  • Doug Lassiter

    Prez Cannady wrote @ February 4th, 2012 at 8:44 pm
    “Intel isn’t spending $5 billion to erect a building.”

    They’d be spending more than that if they were building it on the Moon. A lot more than that.

    “3 km/s range throughout cislunar space 8 km/s just to get to LEO; it’s that basic.”

    Entry into LEO requires that you slow down. That takes effort beyond 3 km/s. You can carry a heat shield with you to do it by aerobraking, which adds mass, or you can carry the delta-V with you to do it. Even so, there is still a propulsive advantage going from the Moon to LEO, but you’ve brought a lot of stuff there to enable you to do so.

    “… you will agree, that the Moon–with all other relevant issues addressed–is a more advantageous location for manufacturing and launching satellites than Earth.”

    What in the world does that mean? “With all relevant issues addressed”? Gosh, if all relevant issues were addressed, we could teleport material up to LEO for pennies!! Thanks, Googaw, for the “I Pencil” reference. That’s a memorable one. Yes, it’s obvious fluff. But at least it’s obvious. Unlike the less obvious, and admittedly “unknown” capability of manufacturing satellites on the Moon, which includes the addressing of those “other relevant issues”.

    The vacuum is advantageous? Well, I guess for semiconductor manufacturing you could spin it as helpful. Maybe that’s why you’re saying the solar panels you’d manufacture on the Moon would be better than ones you’d make on the Earth? Not at all clear that’s really the case. But then again, there’s all those semiconductor workers for whom the vacuum sure isn’t helpful. What do you think costs more, vacuum tanks for semiconductors on the Earth or pressurized habs for workers on the Moon? We could cryopump Lucas Oil Stadium (which might be the only way to stop the Pats, ya know) for a lot less than it would cost us to put a Bigelow hab on the Moon.

    But I’ll ask it again. Why isn’t Newt Gingrich telling us what you’re telling us? You’d think he could knock down those nasty folks who are intent on ridiculing him, and so far have been so successful in doing so. But we all know why he’s not telling us those things, don’t we? It’s because, at the least, explanation and detail detract from boldness. It may also be because that explanation and detail just don’t exist.

  • Googaw

    Coastal Ron: ‘Space will be no different.’

    Name removed to protect the guilty: ‘Except that’s that point- it is different. Completely different– requiring a change in thinking and perceptions.’

    Coastal Ron, get with the program! Space is cosmic! It’s heavenly! It’s magic! How dare you agree with Galileo that space follows the same rules as our tawdry earth!

  • Googaw

    “A man with 15 homes is not ‘well-versed’ in ‘real world economics’ at all.”

    Actually that would make him the expert on expensive living. Except that his 15 homes collectively add up to orders of magnitude less than it would cost to house a single astronaut on the moon for a mere year.

  • Googaw

    Oler: “nothing I can imagine that would be worth the cost even with a very aggressive cost saving effort. I NEVER said doing a lunar base even at reduced cost would have value for the cost.”

    Then I presume you don’t really want to defend Gingrich’s plan to do just this with our money (and money borrowed from China which our children will be forced to pay back). That would be…how do you say it…goofy?

  • Googaw

    “You can afford to be generous and evaluate the argument on the assumption that…”

    Sure I can, if they’re spending their own money. Certainly not if they’re spending mine.

  • E.P. Grondine

    googaw, RGO –

    I keep telling you both that THE problem is early impactor detection, and the the best way to do that is CAPS; neither of you seem to understand the magnitude of the hazard or the limits of detection technologies. This was my guess before the Langley studies:

    http://www.oocities.org/epgrondine/.

    I think that it is pointless to discuss China’s intentions with regard to manned space here, in as much as they have stated them pretty clearly themselves. In regards to the Moon, they have also stated goals, and where they are at in their planning process in regards to to their next generation of launchers and potential architectures.

    An educational video:
    http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x1d0mh_benny-hill-chinaman_fun

    As far as the entertainment industry goes, I would like to bring up the cosy relationship between NASA PAO and potential Presidential candidate Stephen Colbert, and note that no one here brought up Colbert’s position on space, nor the free advertising for his position from NASA. And none of the announced candidates have mentioned this so far.

    If he chooses not to run, could Colbert use his super PAC money to buy a private ticket into space?

    Is someone saving the videos of the announced candidates statements?

  • Googaw

    Doug, I’m referring to chemical or even thermal propulsion. Nobody knows how to manufacture SEP propellants from lunar or asteroidal materials last I checked, and in any case that’s going the wrong direction on the rocket equation. With the much cheaper propellant made possible by avoiding the trip out of earth’s gravity well (given a suitably high mass throughput ratio for propellant production), the economics of the rocket equation change radically, and there is a positive feedback loop from lowering subsequent transport costs of equipment from earth orbit outward. Andrew Cutler and Anthony Zuppero among others have written quite cogently on this subject. The cost bottleneck becomes what still has to be launched from earth — which is proportional to the peak power output with thermal power and sufficiently low tank mass.

    As propellant gets cheaper, lower specific impulse combined with lower tank mass and (in a low thrust orbit-to-orbit spiral regime) lower peak power output grows increasingly attractive relative to higher specific impulse with a propellant like hydrogen that requires a larger tank mass. Ceres may be an even more attractive propellant source than the lunar poles for this and other reasons (we’ll probably confirm or refute some of those other reasons when Dawn explores it in a few years).

    It’s well worth working the economics out in detail on a spreadsheet (featuring the rocket equation and playing around with the tank mass, specific impulse, and mass throughput ratios and cost/kg for the propellant production machinery brought from earth). The design economics are radically different than the current situation where we launch all propellant from earth.

    “for communication satellite components, the idea is just daft.”

    For the vast majority of such components we certainly agree on this. The economics of this are that any process that relies on substantial components of the manufacturing equipment themselves to be manufactured in space, creates an exponential blowup in costs, rendering it infeasible for a very long time into the future. And of course given the cost of transporting equipment from earth, any manufacturing process that fails to achieve a very high mass throughput ratio will also fail.

    “Even for water and derivative propellants, the infrastructure requirements that get you to the point that you have them there are quite enormous.”

    I beg to differ. Equipment for processing water has a very high mass throughput ratio and scales down well. (Of course the whole thing has to start out two or three orders of magnitude smaller than astronaut scale to be economical given current or reasonably projected future market sizes — no shrines for the religion of the heavenly pilgrims here). Besides the very cold temperatures at the lunar poles (conditions on Ceres may work better), the main problem is that the design regime is one very unfamiliar to aerospace engineers — the mining/extraction equipment of course (for which we really need extraction industry engineers, not aerospace engineers), but also the radically different economic consequences of the rocket equation as stated above, and also the probable desirability of crudely processed (very impure) propellants and the consequent need to design rocket engines that can run on them.

    Of course, I’m not demanding that tens of billions of dollars of taxpayer money be spent in pursuit of or in reliance on these scenarios. I’m just pointing out that some scenarios of in situ exploitation are exponentially more fantastic than others.

  • @Lassiter:

    They’d be spending more than that if they were building it on the Moon. A lot more than that.

    You keep saying this but you can’t even commit to ballpark figures. What makes you think that a volume fab facility and operation would look *anything* like it does on Earth? Three of your major capital expense drivers–ultra high vacuum, thermal management, and contamination–are obviated or mitigated by the very environment.

    Entry into LEO requires that you slow down. That takes effort beyond 3 km/s.

    So 4 km/s.

    What in the world does that mean? “With all relevant issues addressed”?

    It means you can quit it with your snarky appeals to the least favorable comparisons you can imagine.

    The vacuum is advantageous? Well, I guess for semiconductor manufacturing you could spin it as helpful.

    How would you spin it as problematic?

    Maybe that’s why you’re saying the solar panels you’d manufacture on the Moon would be better than ones you’d make on the Earth?

    Never said any such thing. I’m calling out your absurd assumption that semiconductor fab in space would look anything like it does on Earth.

    But then again, there’s all those semiconductor workers for whom the vacuum sure isn’t helpful.

    What do you think costs more, vacuum tanks for semiconductors on the Earth or pressurized habs for workers on the Moon?

    Vacuum chambers. You don’t need to buy a pressurized hab each and every time you want to crank up volume production.

    We could cryopump Lucas Oil Stadium (which might be the only way to stop the Pats, ya know) for a lot less than it would cost us to put a Bigelow hab on the Moon.

    You can dump cheap fluids haphazardly at less cost than you can do just about anything. Not sure what your point is.

    But I’ll ask it again. Why isn’t Newt Gingrich telling us what you’re telling us?

    For any number of reasons. The most important concerning you and yours is that for all his enthusiasm he’s in the shallow end of the pool on this issue, and…

    You’d think he could knock down those nasty folks who are intent on ridiculing him…

    …the most important reason politically is that “clarifications” run the risk of giving a story more leg than its worth. Space ain’t exactly on the critical path to the convention.

    …and so far have been so successful in doing so.

    Only if you define success as Doug Lassiter going “oh, snap!” Definitely not in the top ten attacks a campaign would spend time rebutting.

    But we all know why he’s not telling us those things, don’t we? It’s because, at the least, explanation and detail detract from boldness. It may also be because that explanation and detail just don’t exist.

    We know the detail doesn’t exist, because there’s a good deal of unquantified risk in crunching ROI from cislunar settlement. So for your purposes, the discussion might as well begin and end there.

  • @DCSCA:

    A man with 15 homes is not ‘well-versed’ in ‘real world economics’ at all.

    A man who believes a tall tale about this particular someone owning 15 homes is not well-versed in much of anything.

  • @Googaw:

    For the vast majority of such components we certainly agree on this.

    At least you try to explain why, so I’ll give you credit for that.

    The economics of this are that any process that relies on substantial components of the manufacturing equipment themselves to be manufactured in space, creates an exponential blowup in costs, rendering it infeasible for a very long time into the future.

    What model are you using that is exponentially dependent on any cost driver?

    And of course given the cost of transporting equipment from earth, any manufacturing process that fails to achieve a very high mass throughput ratio will also fail.

    Define “very high.”

  • “Gingrich only hurt matters by confusing a barely listening public by mixing terms like base, colony…”

    There’s too much of that in the media in general. To me, research ‘bases’ pretty much follow the Antarctica model (and would that we had the Lunar transportation technology to even do that much…including the capacity to support many different facilities, even those of small nations. There’s no single ‘International Antarctica Station,’ as much as some would like the Lunar equivalent.).

    But you can’t honestly talk ‘colonies,’ until serious numbers of people are living there full-time, raising children (except perhaps for tourists, Antarctica is a childfree continent, AFAIK), and doing all the things that make it home, and not merely a faraway job…

    Statehood? Not in this century, even in the most optimistic scenario.

  • Coastal Ron

    Prez Cannady @

    Oh, and the vacuum and reduced gravity.

    I don’t think you know very much about chip manufacturing. Vacuum’s are not a big part of it, but fluid flows are, and that’s where 1/6 gravity will cause them to validate and or change all the solutions they use (I have a friend that works for a semiconductor equipment manufacturer).

    The Moon is also not a clean environment, as our Apollo astronauts found out. Dust mitigation, especially for the sharp edged lunar kind, is high on the list of “things to solve” for lunar occupation. Dust contamination is a killer in semiconductor manufacturing.

    Would love to know why you think so, other than some blanket assertion along the lines of “it would cost too much.”

    Back at you bub. Other than a blanket assumption that manufacturing on Moon “would not cost too much”, you haven’t provided any supporting facts.

    - What are cost drivers for terrestrial semiconductor manufacturing?
    - How many processes that are dependent on 1G gravity will have to be changed?
    - Besides the manufacturing output, what are the maintenance cost drivers for present chip factories, and how will that change when they are located on the Moon?

    We don’t have the capability to manufacture anything on the Moon today, but you think putting one of the most expensive manufacturing processes in the world on the Moon will be easy. I hope you and Marcel enjoy your time in Fantasyland… ;-)

  • Coastal Ron

    John wrote @ February 4th, 2012 at 9:06 pm

    Sorry Ron, I don’t support your theory that the American people are all in it for the entertainment. You’ve been watching too much MSNBC.

    Then why is it that there was more public attention & excitement during a Shuttle launch than during the Shuttle flight?

    You disagree – that’s fine. But back to your original point (“Gingrich believes America is capable of restarting our national space program). I said:

    We already have a national space program – what do you think we spend $18B/year on at NASA?

    You need to be more specific. Do you mean a HSF exploration program for beyond LEO?

    Don’t you think we already have a space program? What do you mean by “restart”?

  • Googaw

    Doug: “They’d be spending more than that if they were building [an Intel semiconductor plant] on the Moon. A lot more than that.”

    Cannady: “You keep saying this but you can’t even commit to ballpark figures.”

    I’ll commit to a ballpark figure for the plant and its necessary supply chains: more money or any other kind of resource than exist in our entire human civilization.

    me: “And of course given the cost of transporting equipment from earth, any manufacturing process that fails to achieve a very high mass throughput ratio will also fail.”

    Cannady: ‘Define “very high.”’

    In the thousands per year for any particular process, in the hundreds end to end (e.g. from lunar ice to rocket nozzle). Very wide margins are needed to account for downtime, ruined equipment, replacement costs, property rights risks, and other risks. Also due to fixed and R&D costs the profit margins will go down faster than the MTR goes down (and up faster than it goes up).

    Cannday: “What model are you using that is exponentially dependent on any cost driver?”

    For the typical piece of equipment the number of parts you need to manufacture on the moon rises exponentially (and it’s a large exponent) with the fraction of parts you want to manufacture on the moon. What’s the model? The fully detailed exploded parts diagram and bill of materials for manufacturing that piece of equipment, and then the same for manufacturing all the parts therein, or manufacturing the chemicals used therein, and the equipment etc. involved in manufacturing those chemicals, etc. In all its excruciating detail and all the way from mine mouth to the finished satellite. Which for the typical satellite will take you through millions of detailed manufacturing and support service processes involving millions of people for the typical satellite. (Hint: that Intel plant is involved. Hundreds of mines and chemical plants are involved. The equipment and employees needed to build , equip, operate, and maintain those mines and plants and their full elaborated supply chains are involved. And that is just the tip of the iceberg).

    Or you can just read “I, Pencil.” Even if you could find the raw materials to make a pencil on the moon, you couldn’t come anywhere close to being able to efficiently make even a simple pencil on the moon.

  • Doug Lassiter

    Prez Cannady wrote @ February 5th, 2012 at 9:05 am
    “Three of your major capital expense drivers–ultra high vacuum, thermal management, and contamination–are obviated or mitigated by the very environment.”

    Thermal management is harder on the Moon (unless I guess if you’re sitting in a lunar polar crater) than it is on the Earth. Thermal radiation shields only work so well, even in vacuum, if you’re standing on regolith. Re contamination, electrostatic dust levitation is something that is becoming well recognized on the lunar surface, and mechanically levitated lunar dust is a seriously limiting handicap that has been evident since Apollo. The lunar surface is hardly a clean place. It is true that hydrocarbons are pretty much absent, but those would end up being the least of your problems there.

    In fact, from these considerations, free space is vastly preferable to the lunar surface for semiconductor manufacturing, and even satellite assembly. A Lagrange point hab might be the best site for that work.

    “You don’t need to buy a pressurized hab each and every time you want to crank up volume production.”

    I suppose not. But if the cranking is being done telerobotically, why are we talking about putting human settlement on the Moon in the first place?

    “Space ain’t exactly on the critical path to the convention.”

    Well, it sure appeared in the last week or two as being on the critical path to the credibility of one candidate. The success with which the other candidates, the press, and even the entertainment media used Gingrich’s bold and grandiose plans to flog him is pretty hard to argue with. That’s how I define success. Snap! Gingrich’s handlers (who, to be sure, Gingrich doesn’t see that way, to his disadvantage) must have their heads in their hands. It will be interesting to see when Gingrich next dares to open his mouth about human space flight. Perhaps if he makes it to Texas?

    “for all his enthusiasm he’s in the shallow end of the pool on this issue”

    Well put. But this pool may not even have a deep end. In fact, Gingrich went off the high board in that shallow end. Now that’s bold!

    “We know the detail doesn’t exist, because there’s a good deal of unquantified risk in crunching ROI from cislunar settlement.”

    That’s an understatement.

    Googaw wrote @ February 5th, 2012 at 3:12 am
    “Equipment for processing water has a very high mass throughput ratio and scales down well.”

    I agree that processing water can be done relatively compactly. But we’re talking about digging and transporting large amounts of regolith to where it can get processed. This is about trucks, trains, and bulldozers. If you include those, the mass throughput ratio doesn’t look as good.

    Certainly that’s true about operations in low temperature regions. We have no trucks, trains, and bulldozers that operate at, say, 50K. To power this equipment for extended operations, we’d have to go nuclear, use very big fuel-cells, or perhaps long extension cords.

  • @Coastal Ron:

    I don’t think you know very much about chip manufacturing.

    What you think is irrelevant. You know next to nothing about fabs, and that’s a documented fact.

    Vacuum’s are not a big part of it

    Try one quarter of it.

    but fluid flows are, and that’s where 1/6 gravity will cause them to validate and or change all the solutions they use…

    Fluid flows in fab typically involve gas and plasma flows, so tell us how less gravity complicates things.

    The Moon is also not a clean environment….

    Earth is not a clean environment. The question is whether or not it is easier to set up clean spaces on the Moon than down here. Comparing dust particulates suspended in a pervasive atmosphere to dust on an airless rock is an academic exercise at best, unless you’re planning to do something really stupid and fabricate in the open wild.

    Back at you bub. Other than a blanket assumption that manufacturing on Moon “would not cost too much…”

    I’ve said no such thing.

    We don’t have the capability to manufacture anything on the Moon today, but you think putting one of the most expensive manufacturing processes in the world on the Moon will be easy.

    I’ve never argued that it was easy, or even easier than a comparable terrestrial enterprise. Only that it’s worth finding out, and that there’s nothing to your amateurish attempts to make the argument to the contrary.

  • vulture4

    I’m glad we’re beginning to talk about cost. Everybody and all their gear is currently on the ground. Unless we substantially (factor of ten) reduce the cost of earth-to-LEO ops, nothing beyond LEO will be feasible except for very small robotic probes. No level of risk acceptance or ISRU will produce that reduction in cost; new technology is needed, and we don’t have to go to the moon to develop it. Of course we knew all this in 1970, but we seem to have lost interest in anything practical. Now everyone wants a mission of infinite value that will justify nearly infinite cost. it’s a myth. Stop looking.

    I am also tired of people justifying NASA on the basis of “inspiration”. If you want excitement, go to a movie. If you want to inspire students, get them better teachers, lower tuition so they won’t end up bankrupt, better job opportunities when they graduate, and funding for research if they are graduate students. This all requires higher taxes.

    According to Politifact Romney owns four residences with a total value of about $20 million.

  • pathfinder_01

    “In the near-term, and even then you can’t categorically say less efficient lunar photovoltaics can’t compete without comparing costs for the manufacturing and deployment pipelines in their entirety.”

    In terms of satellites you want as light and as powerful a solar panel (power system) as you can afford. Mass is not your friend here. More mass equals more propellant needed and more powerful engines. Which in turn can trickle into needing more structure to hold the bigger tanks/engines and in turn more propellant/engines.

    If you are using SEP (as many satellites do) then more mass equals more travel time. The mass of the power system is very important here. This mass takes away from the purpose of the satellite (for instance if I can get the same amount of power out of less mass I can add more transponders to the communications satellite for the same launch cost.).

    These factors do not favor less efficient solar panels at all no matter how cheap. This also goes weather satellites, GPS, and even science ones(more efficient panels means I can either add more sensors or other equipment for the same amount of mass or add more power for not much increase in mass.).

    Also the reason why ISRU is attractive on the moon is because the cost of importing is high. This does not mean that the price/quality of the goods produced by ISRU is competitive. It just means that the cost of say sending solar panels from earth to the moon is so high that making them on the surface is more cost effective than sending them. It is very doubtful that anything produced on the moon will be cheaper than anything produced on Earth for a very long time (if ever). For instance a lot of industrial processes use organic chemicals which again would need to be shipped from Earth. Likewise parts made of rubber or plastic would again need to be imported. Oils for lubrication of parts again imported.

    “All ISRU concepts are exploratory and experimental.”

    ISRU on the moon (or anywhere else) is limited because it must have low power usage, low labor, and must use present materials as much as possible (which may or may not be better than what is present on Earth).

    On Earth these are not limiting factors but in space they are. A good example might be an igloo, great for temporary living in a cold snowy environment that lacks other building materials but not much of an export market for them(vs. say mobile homes, brick, or lumber or even a tent). However brick and lumber are not easily found on open sea ice…

  • DCSCA

    Googaw wrote @ February 4th, 2012 at 11:27 pm

    Actually that would make him the expert on expensive living.Actually, it makes him most decidely out of touch with ‘economic reality’ which was the point of your original post.

  • DCSCA

    Robert G. Oler wrote @ February 4th, 2012 at 9:10 pm

    Favorite memory…listening to the Echo beacon as we watched the satellite go overhead.

    Interesting. Parents took me out in the front yard to watch Echo pass overhead at sunset. Vivid memory. Back in that era, they actually published times in the newspaper when satellites passed over- as there were so few to see.

  • @Googaw:

    I’ll commit to a ballpark figure for the plant and its necessary supply chains: more money or any other kind of resource than exist in our entire human civilization.

    So in other words, a single plant would cost on the order of 100-1000 times the magnitude of entire semiconductor industry. Now I’m really interested in what models you’re using.

    In the thousands…

    Units? I’ll assume metric tons, but I could be wrong.

    …per year for any particular process, in the hundreds end to end (e.g. from lunar ice to rocket nozzle).

    1. Why does your throughput requirement decrease as you enlarge the system?
    2. The entire semiconductor industry consumes on the order of 10^5 tons/year of silicon. In the long run, this is going to dominate your payload mass in the least favorable scenario. And even if your factory is going to account for up to 1 percent of all production (the minimum to account your 1000 ton annual flow), that’s a $200 million to LEO for the feedstock. Not exactly an insane annual operating cost.

    Very wide margins are needed to account for downtime, ruined equipment, replacement costs, property rights risks, and other risks.

    “Very wide” doesn’t tell me “how wide.”

    Also due to fixed and R&D costs the profit margins will go down faster than the MTR goes down (and up faster than it goes up).

    I don’t see reach that conclusion by vaguely hinting at recurring costs (which scale linearly) and fixed costs (which add a constant).

    For the typical piece of equipment the number of parts you need to manufacture on the moon rises exponentially (and it’s a large exponent) with the fraction of parts you want to manufacture on the moon.

    Um, that in no way makes sense.

    1/n < 1 for 0 < n.

  • @Googaw:

    That last should be 1/n < 1 for 1 < n.

  • Coastal Ron

    Prez Cannady wrote @ February 5th, 2012 at 2:00 pm

    I’ve never argued that it was easy, or even easier than a comparable terrestrial enterprise. Only that it’s worth finding out…

    No, you haven’t shown that it’s worth finding out. What is it worth?

    As usual, all you do is argue individual points, but you never put forth complete thoughts. Sometimes you seem to argue both sides of a point in the same post. A.D.D.?

    In any case, the market will determine where best to put a factory, not you or Marcel. And by the time that decision needs to be made, NASA will be out of the picture.

  • @Coastal Ron:

    No, you haven’t shown that it’s worth finding out.

    Sure I have.

    What is it worth?

    More than spending $5 billion a year on activities with zero expected return.

    As usual, all you do is argue individual points…

    Stop making stupid statements and I’ll pipe down.

    …but you never put forth complete thoughts.

    Apparently we’ve redefined “complete thoughts” to mean “rambling nonsense.”

    Sometimes you seem to argue both sides of a point in the same post.

    Is that show? Present a single example.

    A.D.D.?

    Says the guy who imagines entire conservations we’ve never had.

    In any case, the market will determine where best to put a factory, not you or Marcel…

    Nor you, or Gingrich, or Romney, or anyone for that matter. Not exactly sure what point you’re trying to make here.

    And by the time that decision needs to be made, NASA will be out of the picture.

    Bold prediction. Back it up.

  • pathfinder_01

    “Bold prediction. Back it up”

    Ah it is not NASA’s job to exploit the resources of the moon. They can develop the technology for doing so, but in general it is private industries job to make any products, or services that will be used on the moon or anywhere else. If the exercise is profitable then it should be done by private industry. If not then it needs to justify why spend government money to provide this product or service.

    On earth NASA and the FAA do research about aircraft, they don’t fly the planes to and from your local airport for commercial purposes. In the case of a moon base supply should be commercially purchased just as it will be for the ISS or frankly anything else on earth. If it makes sense to produce the item on the moon it will be made there but anything complex like oh electronics is not likely to be profitable to produce at such a location. There is more to manufacture than raw material.

    What you and Marcel don’t seem to get is that you need to spend about 15.3km/s worth of delta V to transport anything from the earth to the moon in the first place and the moon is rather lacking in things such as tools, machinery, spare parts, labor, and certain chemicals. This makes for very expensive import costs and very expensive costs in general.

    For instance you can send a lathe to the moon, but what about space parts? Who or what will operate it? How do you do quality assurance work on the moon(i.e. was that last batch of metal or part up to snuff or not?). ect.

    What ISRU does is address those costs by reducing the amount of material that needs to be imported.

  • Coastal Ron

    Prez Cannady wrote @ February 5th, 2012 at 6:19 pm

    More than spending $5 billion a year on activities with zero expected return.

    See, more incomplete thoughts – you drifted off to another topic before you had a chance to identify the supposed $5B worth of activities. Focus, Prez, focus.

    Bold prediction. Back it up.

    Not bold at all. I would expect anyone with business sense would come to the same conclusion. As far as backing up my prediction, every day no factory is built on the Moon, I am right. You are the one that needs to prove the opposite, and so far all I hear is rhetoric.

    But if you think you can build a business case for not only going to the Moon, but building satellite factories there, go for it. The best way to prove someone wrong is to go out and do it, so maybe you’ll be the one that can finally figure out how we’ll make money from the Moon. Until then you’re just another lunatic with big dreams but no money… ;-)

  • pathfinder_01

    “Fluid flows in fab typically involve gas and plasma flows, so tell us how less gravity complicates things.”

    Ah manufacturing uses more than gas and plasma flows.

    Let’s say you are using the fluid to separate something. Let’s say your product falls down to the bottom of the solution while a waste product remains floating(or vice versa). Less gravity means that the time it takes for something to fall will increase. Less gravity also mean that any effects of surface tension might be increased (i.e. your product remains at the top because it is too light to break the surface tension in lunar gravity). Also the change in gravity will affect buoyancy (i.e. a product that sinks at 1g might float in 1/6 g).

  • @pathfinder:

    Ah it is not NASA’s job to exploit the resources of the moon.

    Strawman, and quite frankly who gives a crap?

    What you and Marcel don’t seem to get is that you need to spend about 15.3km/s worth of delta V…

    Floor starts north of 16 km/s if we want to go from Kennedy to a lunar pole.

    …to transport anything from the earth to the moon in the first place and the moon is rather lacking in things such as tools, machinery, spare parts, labor, and certain chemicals.

    Addressed that in my reply to Googaw. Floor starts on the order of $100 million per year assuming you’re sourcing everything (feedstock to tools) from Earth and you intend to scale production up to 1 percent of today’s total production. Also assumes that transport through LEO to lunar surface is reusable (or at least annual costs are negligible compared to the recurring bottom line).

    This makes for very expensive import costs and very expensive costs in general.

    “Very” isn’t a useful figure.

  • @pathfinder:

    Ah manufacturing uses more than gas and plasma flows.

    Strawman.

    Let’s say you are using the fluid to separate something.

    I’d use centrifuges, as differential pressure increases as a square of the angular velocity and the outer radius. You know, like in a real manufacturing process.

  • @Coastal Ron:

    See, more incomplete thoughts

    In what way was it incomplete?

    …you drifted off to another topic before you had a chance to identify the supposed $5B worth of activities. Focus, Prez, focus.

    frequentlyWe’ve had this discussion for months now. I’m not sure if it’s age or years of professional fabulism, but seems you’re going senile.

    Not bold at all. I would expect anyone with business sense would come to the same conclusion.

    It’s not a conclusion. It’s pithy truism.

    As far as backing up my prediction, every day no factory is built on the Moon, I am right.

    So every day SpaceX doesn’t launch a human being, DCSCA’s right?

    You are the one that needs to prove the opposite…

    Actually, I don’t, because I haven’t argued the opposite. Think you can get that through your thick skull?

  • Coastal Ron

    Prez Cannady wrote @ February 6th, 2012 at 7:39 am

    So every day SpaceX doesn’t launch a human being, DCSCA’s right?

    It doesn’t matter what SpaceX has accomplished, since DCSCA will always taunt people about what they haven’t done, regardless if they have plans or contracts to do so.

    Regarding our topic of conversation, which started with Marcel declaring that the Moon would be a good place to manufacture satellites, I know of no one in aerospace or the satellite industry that has talked about the desire or ability to build satellites on the Moon. Building lunar colonies, sure, most people see that as doable, but sophisticated factories? Too far in the future to even consider, and not one of the reasons to go back to the Moon.

  • Googaw

    “So in other words, a single plant…”

    Could you please try actually reading what I write before you respond to it? I said “the plant _and the necessary supply chains_…”. It’s the supply chains and the necessary supporting services that are the killer — as I and others have pointed out repeatedly on this thread. High technology is very dependent on a vast web of supply chains and support services that ultimately involve billions of people and trillions of tons of structure and equipment. Take any piece of high technology out of the economic context of our global economy, try to make it in a smaller economy with smaller supply chains, and it will both be far less efficient in its production and operation, and will require a radical redesign.

    But I forgot: space is heavenly. Space is magic. None of the economics we must follow here on earth apply, so why bother thinking about the dismal science? Just let the laws of voodoo apply. Just put a few astronauts in a hobbit hole on the moon, and soon we will have a thriving lunar economy! That’s all the economics we need to know!

    “Units? I’ll assume metric tons”

    Mass throughput ratio is a ratio: mass output per unit time divided by mass of equipment, which gives units of 1/time. So, for example above 1,000/year is a good target MTR for a lunar process, and above 100/year for the end-to-end supply chain (for the various kinds of overhead reasons previously specified).

    “1. Why does your throughput requirement decrease as you enlarge the system?”

    The MTR doesn’t much decrease or increase with scale. But the absolute costs do increase. The astronaut scale is two to three orders of magnitude too large compared to the market for propellant in earth orbit. At most a few tens of tonnes per year, which translates to about a few hundred kilograms of equipment end-to-end. A single useless astronaut, his spacesuit and his lunar hab would consume more than the entire mass budget!

  • pathfinder_01

    You mean a real process like aluminum manufacture on earth:

    http://www.madehow.com/Volume-5/Aluminum.html

    Every step where there is settling will take longer (or have to be modified to use a centrifuge on the moon)…not to mention the extra costs that will incur.

  • pathfinder_01

    Oh let’s not forget the items needed that will probably have to be imported from earth to make aluminum and these items are consumed (i.e. not recovered):

    Sodium hydroxide: on earth made from salt. However most salt mines are the results of ancient seas….the moon likely has no available salt and so you must import or find some way to create it. Sure there is sodium on the moon, just not in a handy form.

    Cryolite(or Fluorite to turn into synthetic Cryolite)… Minerals that require liquid water to form(again not likely found on the moon).

    Carbon (very rare on the moon).

    Other problems :

    The large amounts of electricity needed

    Just making the aluminum for satellite manufacture is daunting at best.
    And that does not cover all the other stuff you need to make a satelight (like oh copper wiring). This is why making complex stuff on the moon like satelights is not likely to happen any time soon.

  • Vladislaw

    In every new frontier there is the speculation phase, without property rights you really can’t get capital to flow. We could already be trading mineral and water rights on Luna. It might only be fractions of a penny on the dollar at this stage, but at least it creates the markets and the speculation phase and capital flows start.

  • @pathfinder_01:

    You mean a real process like aluminum manufacture on earth:

    http://www.madehow.com/Volume-5/Aluminum.html

    Every step where there is settling will take longer (or have to be modified to use a centrifuge on the moon)…

    Or left alone with additional tanks to improve throughput. Or a combination thereof.

    …not to mention the extra costs that will incur.

    You can’t even say whether or not the “extra” cost will make aluminum production more or less expensive on the Moon.

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