NASA

More NASA budget feedback

In a press release yesterday, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) criticized elements of the administration’s FY13 budget proposal, including the funding provided for the Space Launch System (SLS). However, unlike Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), who worried it and Orion were not getting enough money, he argued the “SLS Titanic” was getting too much. “By NASA’s internal estimates, the SLS and other components won’t be ready to launch astronauts to an asteroid until 2028, after we have spent over $130 billion towards the mission,” he said, adding that the same mission could be done faster and less expensively without the SLS. Rohrabacher then channeled his inner Mitt Romney: “If I had someone come to me and say they wanted to spend well over a hundred billion dollars when they knew the task could be done more quickly and less expensively, I’d say, ‘You’re fired.’”

Rohrabacher did praise the request of $830 million for NASA’s commercial crew program, but called the limited funding for technology development, at the expense of the SLS and increased Earth sciences funding, “a travesty”. “Any more of this kind of ‘leadership’ and soon NASA’s entire budget will be consumed by JWST and the SLS, two things that won’t have made it off the launch pad ten years from now,” he concluded. (SLS is currently scheduled to perform two launches through 2021, and JWST is slated for a 2018 launch.)

It should be little surprise that Mars exploration advocate Robert Zubrin is opposed to the proposed cuts in NASA’s Mars program. In an op-ed in National Review, he starts off with a criticism of those cuts, but, never one to shy away from audacious claims, goes well beyond that. He suggests the administration, particularly presidential science advisor John Holdren, demands “constraints on human aspirations” because of limited terrestrial resources, which Zubrin believes is bunk. Mars, Zubrin argues, is “the proper goal for NASA’s human-spaceflight program, and the proper priority for its robotic scouts. But instead of exploring new worlds, NASA’s science budget will now go to providing slush funds for climate-change would-be Jeremiahs.”

A Boston Globe editorial on the NASA budget starts with this question: “WALL-E or Major Tom?” The paper prefers the animated robot over Bowie’s lost astronaut, at least as analogies to space policy, arguing the budget proposal wrongly cuts robotic Mars exploration while preserving funding for human spaceflight programs (it only specifically mentions the Orion capsule). “If the space program has to suffer cuts,” the editorial argues, “it’s far preferable they should come out of manned programs that make nice headlines but don’t generate nearly enough scientific bang for the buck.”

96 comments to More NASA budget feedback

  • ArtieT

    Zubrin is dead spot on with his criticisms.

    At Goddard yesterday, Bolden said that when they looked at the MARS mission to ‘return the samples’, they felt it would be too expensive, and while not saying so directly, I inferred from his remarks it would be over budget and they didn’t want another JWST fiasco. So cancelling that sample return mission means chopping out the 2014 and 2016 missions.

    Dumb.

  • amightywind

    Rohrabacher is frequently featured on these pages even though he is a rather isolated figure within the GOP and has rather singular views. He is a rare GOP supporter of Cronyspace. We get that. But there is not much more to be squeezed from that orange.

    manned programs that make nice headlines but don’t generate nearly enough scientific bang for the buck

    Consider the source, the Globe, a notorious left wing bastion. At least the battle lines are clearly drawn. If we are speaking about manned programs, what about the 800lb gorilla in the room, the ISS?

  • Given that such positions go to members based on seniority, Rohrabacher is next in line for the Chairmanship of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology. The current chairman Rep. Ralph Hall is well up there in age. Let’s hope for the sake of the health of America’s space effort that Hall doesn’t hang in there as long as Strom Thurmond did in the Senate. That is assuming the Repubs retain the house after the next election.

  • GeeSpace

    We can see from Rep. Rohrabacher’s statements which side of the bread he butters. His Romney-like quote is not funny or even cute.

    Robert Zubrin, a long term advocate of human missions to Mars, said a month or two ago that the 2016 and 2018 Mars robotic missions would be cut. I would guess that there would be little surprise that the Commerical Space Federation supported commerical space funding. Also Dr. Holdren has some interesting (maybe strange) ideas about the lack of possible benefits of techology for human advancement and well being. :

    Boston Globe editorial make the same mistake that some people and other newspapers make. That space expolration is either robotic or human, Actually it’s both types

  • Scott Bass

    Although the Zubrin piece was well written, it glossed over the reasons behind the cancellation of constellation and the shuttle program…. Giving the impression they were methodically canceled on a whim… He probably should have left that part out to make his article stronger. In the grand scheme of things though he is correct that the amount of money saved is insignificant and the mars programs probably should be salvaged….. The Webb telescope remains the elephant in the room…. I am sure it will provide great science but the cost overruns of that project even makes its fans scratch their head in disbelief

  • Michael from Iowa

    I would have preferred to see the cuts, if anywhere, to come from the SLS program rather than from NASA’s science missions, but let’s be honest with ourselves here – Congress will NEVER pass a space bill that doesn’t include massive pork for a massive, pointless rocket program.

    This is the same stubbornness that resulted in Obama’s space policy proposal having to be largely compromised in the first place. Ares 2.0/SLS is $1.8 billion a year down the proverbial toilet that could have been better used supporting science missions or technological development programs.

  • Scott Bass

    Everyone knows the number… But just as a reminder…. JWST=8.7 billion dollars ….. Hard to imagine that kind of irreplaceable hardware going up on a single rocket and even if it all goes off with out a hitch experience shows us that some part of it will malfunction down the road….. Creating it unserviceable seems to me to be tempting Murphy’s law to the extreme

  • Space Realist

    If NASA or the US public wants Mars samples at a reasonable cost and in a reasonable timeframe, then (meteorites aside) a Phobos Sample Return mission would seem to me to be the way to go, since Phobos Grunt failed.

  • Das Boese

    Robert Zubrin bloviated:

    But instead of exploring new worlds, NASA’s science budget will now go to providing slush funds for climate-change would-be Jeremiahs.”

    Zubrin has just eliminated the last ounce of respect I may have had for him.

    His piece is an appalling mess of twisted facts, ridiculous assumptions and cognitive dissonance, all so he can blame your president for the mess caused by your congress.

    Seriously, he can bugger off. Mars exploration doesn’t need “advocates” like him.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Scott Bass wrote @ February 15th, 2012 at 8:56 am

    Everyone knows the number… But just as a reminder…. JWST=8.7 billion dollars …..

    If the thing continues without change it will be more like 12…RGO

  • Doug Lassiter

    ArtieT wrote @ February 15th, 2012 at 7:39 am
    “At Goddard yesterday, Bolden said that when they looked at the MARS mission to ‘return the samples’, they felt it would be too expensive, and while not saying so directly, I inferred from his remarks it would be over budget and they didn’t want another JWST fiasco.”

    We can speculate about the motives or pressures that led to the radical cuts in the Mars program, but has the Administration ever actually tried to express some rationale for the cuts? What in particular made the previously planned efforts, strongly endorsed by the Decadal, expendable? These remarks by Bolden seem to come closest to that. The budget language glosses over those cuts, and remarks, in what seems an offhand way, that “the Agency is adjusting the mission profile so that critical science objectives can be achieved in a lean fiscal environment.” OK, that’s nice, but in a roughly level NASA budget, what makes this line more adjustable than other lines? Without Mars sample return, critical science objectives, as expressed by the Decadal, simply won’t happen.

  • Robert G. Oler

    The only thing that is more fun then watching the “space community” fracture is watching its model, the GOP come apart.

    In the end what has kept the space community “going” is endless promises from the major money eaters, in the past human spaceflight that at some point things that happened in human spaceflight were going to do great things for the “science” community.

    The shuttle was sold that way and the science community had just started to see some payoff when Challenger went bang and that was the end of that.

    Now there is nothing. SLS is a program to build something over decades. Its proponents are trying to rerun the old shuttle playbook (see the notion that SLS will do a lot of uncrewed science launching) but the people who believe that are about as few in number as the people who still believe Saddam was a threat. Webb is SLS for uncrewed flight.

    Comeon the reality is that Webb will not fly in a decade or for under 12 billion dollars, there isnt a snowballs chance in heck that its “on track” (look at the turds in NASA who are associated with it now)…

    so all the little factions are headed off into their own “save my program”. This could all make a great episode of Jacks Big Music Show. RGO

  • GeeSpace

    Michael from Iowa wrote @ February 15th, 2012 at 8:51 am stated
    I would have preferred to see the cuts, if anywhere, to come from the SLS program rather than from NASA’s science missions, but let’s be honest with ourselves here – Congress will NEVER pass a space bill that doesn’t include massive pork for a massive, pointless rocket program

    Well, Michael, you being from Iowa should know pork when you see it.

  • Robert G. Oler

    GeeSpace wrote @ February 15th, 2012 at 8:29 am
    That space expolration is either robotic or human, Actually it’s both types..

    No it really isnt. Humans have not explored anything in space in well what four decades…they have done things in space but zero of it has been exploration…oh there has been a lot of planning and viewgraphs but no exploration.

    Yet for not a lot of money we have learned amazing things about the solar system in particular. We know far more right now for instance about Mercury then we did in 1969…and it has not involved a single human in space RGO

  • Let’s hope for the sake of the health of America’s space effort that Hall doesn’t hang in there as long as Strom Thurmond did in the Senate.

    Worst-case is that Hall will be term-limited out of the chairmanship in five years, though I do hope he retires before then.

    I see that the Globe bases its arguments, such as they are, on the false premise that the purpose of space exploration is science.

  • Mark

    Zubrin is spot on, especially about the motives of this administration. He has proven that the assertion that the phony libertarians make that Obama’s space policy is a bright spot is, in fact, a lie.

    Rohrabacher is a sad case. He should know better that a space going Solyendra is not going to create a commercial space sector.

    In any case it is more likely that commercial crew will be eliminated to pay for Mars and the human space exploration programs than the other way around.

  • GeeSpace

    Robert G. Oler wrote @ February 15th, 2012 at 10:16 am
    No it really isnt. Humans have not explored anything in space in well what four decades…they have done things in space but zero of it has been exploration…oh there has been a lot of planning and viewgraphs but no exploration. Yet for not a lot of money we have learned amazing things about the solar system in particular. We know far more right now for instance about Mercury then we did in 1969…and it has not involved a single human in space

    There hasn’t been human exploration beyond Earth for the last 40 years for basically 2 reasons. Lack of will and negativism about the potential benefits from human exploration.

    How has the people on Earth benefited from knowing more about Mercury other than increasing some data base?

  • Robert G. Oler

    “Thus, in order to accept the constraints on human aspirations demanded by Holdren, Ehrlich, and like-minded thinkers (whether rationalized by alleged limits to available resources in the 1970s, or by the putative threat of global warming due to excessive use of natural resources today), people must be convinced that the future is closed. The issue is not that resources from space might disrupt the would-be regulator’s rationing schemes. Rather it is that the idea of an open future with unlimited resources and possibilities undermines the walls of the mental prison that the would-be wardens of mankind seek to construct.”

    Zubrin might be smart at well “rocket science” but he is a boob politically and there is no other paragraph in his rant that illustrates that but the above.

    As must be patently obvious to even the dull (why Zubrin misses it I dont have a clue) from the “newt” lunar base affair is that most Americans, not even the GOP faithful now view an “open future” as something that is enabled, connected with, or even remotely associated with human spaceflight. Now wheather it SHOULD be like that is maybe at issue but the reality is that if someone anyone who is or would be POTUS were to propose even the money Bob claims it would take to go to Mars, they would be laughed out of the areana.

    Newt is flaming out for a variety of reasons, but there is no doubt that the combustion instability started with his speech on space policy…and the reality is that there are really two possible space programs now (for human spaceflight)

    One is the program the Obama administration wants…the second is what the GOP wants…ie commercial efforts vrs a basically stay close to ones desk and never fly a darn thing program that every year has an explanation as to why whatever it is doing is still 10 years away.

    Bob Zubrin and some others need to come down to political reality RGO

  • Rohrabacher is a sad case. He should know better that a space going Solyendra is not going to create a commercial space sector.

    What an idiotic comment. It’s SLS that’s the Solyndra and cronyism here, not commercial crew.

  • Doug Lassiter

    Rand Simberg wrote @ February 15th, 2012 at 10:40 am
    “Worst-case is that Hall will be term-limited out of the chairmanship in five years, though I do hope he retires before then.”

    Hall is, indeed, term-limited out of that position in the next Congress. So whether or not Republicans maintain the majority, there will be a new Science Committee Chair next year. But there are a number of reasons why Rohrabacher is unlikely to be selected to replace him. Certainly for space issues, which is just a piece of the main committee jurisdiction, Rohrabacher’s views are decidedly outlying.

    As far as I can tell, however, Hall campaigning to stay in Congress. He is the oldest serving member of either house of Congress. But no rumbles about retirement coming from his direction.

  • Robert G. Oler

    GeeSpace wrote @ February 15th, 2012 at 11:46 am
    “There hasn’t been human exploration beyond Earth for the last 40 years for basically 2 reasons. Lack of will and negativism about the potential benefits from human exploration.

    How has the people on Earth benefited from knowing more about Mercury other than increasing some data base?”

    There is in most people’s mind a cost/benefit discussion. And human spaceflight cost a lot for not a lot of benefits. In the end the 100 billion on the Moon program bought a lot of rocks but the benefit of those to society has been trivial…So has of course the results from Mercury probes but they have in total cost about 1 billion…

    Results/benefits/cost

    RGO

  • Robert G. Oler

    Mark wrote @ February 15th, 2012 at 11:26 am

    “Rohrabacher is a sad case. He should know better that a space going Solyendra is not going to create a commercial space sector. ”

    you can say things over and over but it doesnt make them accurate. The space going Solyendra is SLS…and you have never answered any questions as to why it is not…or why the claim you make that commercial crew is, is accurate.

    Mark, stop misstating things. come on you can do it RGO

  • A M Swallow

    If NASA or the US public wants Mars samples at a reasonable cost and in a reasonable timeframe, then (meteorites aside) a Phobos Sample Return mission would seem to me to be the way to go, since Phobos Grunt failed.

    Would the 30kW Solar Electric Propulsion (SEP) tug hinted at in the budget help?

  • A M Swallow

    Mark said

    In any case it is more likely that commercial crew will be eliminated to pay for Mars and the human space exploration programs than the other way around.

    IMHO The astronauts going to Mars will probably leave the Earth’s surface in commercial crew vehicles.

  • Mark

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    Rand I always enjoy your Dr, House style of arguing.

    In any case, SLS is not crony capitalism because it is no more capitalistic than is the procurement of an aircraft carrier or a post office. Commercial crew, on the other hand, has the government as both sole customer and primary investor. I do not understand why the phony libertarian Internet Rocketeer Club cannot bring themselves to understand it.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Mark wrote @ February 15th, 2012 at 2:23 pm

    Rand I always enjoy your Dr, House style of arguing.

    In any case, SLS is not crony capitalism because it is no more capitalistic than is the procurement of an aircraft carrier or a post office. Commercial crew, on the other hand, has the government as both sole customer and primary investor.>>

    Goofy

    Wrong on all counts

    Let’s start with procurement of an aircraft carrier. The new CVN (the Ford class) was procured in a far more commercial manner then SLS is. There were goals set up for the CVN(X), there was a massive R&D program done which evaluated almost every conceivable concept for the CVN…and then there was a contract issued to a commercial company to build that boat.

    SLS had none of that. It was designed by Congress to keep the “stakeholders” In play and it has no real goal. All it exist for is to keep the “stake holders” busy. That is why the design is not all that special, and the Ford is a massive step forward.

    I dont know about a post office, but there is no “federal post office building” company. A client of my fathers (he is an attorney) bid and GOT the contract to build the post office addition in College Station TX…The “client of my Dad’s” is a classmate and that is quite a contract for him. He builds other things, including pouring the concrete for our house.

    Commercial crew does not necessarily have the government as its only customer…it does now, but so did my flight training company when we first started…now I have more.

    SLS is crony capitalism and worse it is pork for no purpose. Can you name a mission?

    RGO

  • Coastal Ron

    Mark wrote @ February 15th, 2012 at 2:23 pm

    SLS is not crony capitalism because it is no more capitalistic than is the procurement of an aircraft carrier or a post office.

    An aircraft carrier serves a defined need within a larger defined need – the projection of U.S. force beyond our shores. A post office is built for the more efficient distribution of mail. They both have defined problems that they solve.

    The SLS doesn’t have a defined need, not a defined payload or program that it serves. The SLS is a faith-based program, and an expensive one at that.

    Commercial crew, on the other hand, has the government as both sole customer and primary investor.

    Commercial Crew has a defined need, which is the transportation of NASA personnel to/from the ISS using U.S. capabilities, not Russian. Congress even designated Commercial Crew as the primary method of transportation for supporting the ISS. The MPCV/SLS is designated as a backup.

    What you and others fail to understand is that the CCDev program is a procurement program, not “an investment”. Maybe you’re confused because it is a multi-step procurement process, but CCDev/CCiCap is reducing risk for NASA, not increasing ownership or requiring them to take an equity stake in the participating companies (i.e. investment).

    Regarding “crony capitalism”, the SLS was funded specifically to keep a specific population of company employees employed – that is what the definition of “crony capitalism” is. In comparison, all of the CCDev participants that have received paying contracts were awarded those contracts based on competition. The Selection Statement was even published for all to see, and no one filed a formal GAO complaint.

    Where was the competition for the SLS contracts? They were “grandfathered” in, which is a nice way of saying “crony capitalism”.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Mark wrote @ February 15th, 2012 at 2:23 pm
    Commercial crew, on the other hand, has the government as both sole customer and primary investor…

    one more thing. the primary investor in SpaceX is Elon Musk. He has sole source invested in SpaceX. The federal government is a customer, not an investor.

    Words are important Mark. You have made a history since the Bush 43 years of twisting them, and now it is important that people like you be called out for what you are. I will become an investor in SpaceX when they IPO. the government is a customer.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Mark

    Oler, then am I to understand that SpaceX is not taking subsidies from the federal government?

    You should really work on that long standing problem with perceiving objective reality.

  • GeeSpace

    Robert G. Oler wrote @ February 15th, 2012 at 1:23 pm said
    There is in most people’s mind a cost/benefit discussion. And human spaceflight cost a lot for not a lot of benefits. In the end the 100 billion on the Moon program bought a lot of rocks but the benefit of those to society has been trivial…So has of course the results from Mercury probes but they have in total cost about 1 billion…
    Results/benefits/cost

    Sorry, I don’t buy that argument. Just because something cost less is not a benefit. I could argue that spending more money in our economy is better than spending less money

  • reader

    Zubrin is spot on what ? OMG cant have another mars rover ? Because it would .. look at some more awesome rocks and would PROBABLY strongly hint at the possibility that the planet may have indeed wet and there may actually be a few dead bugs somewhere in fossils ? Who flipping cares ?

    Yes, starting to think about space as a resource would be awesome, but all the mars planetary science does not get us closer to that, not by an inch. How’s that Martian ISRU sortie coming along, still 20 years into the future ?

    Whereas the most exciting upcoming Lunar probes are sponsored by Google – because NASA doesn’t want to ?

  • Hall is, indeed, term-limited out of that position in the next Congress.

    I don’t think so. I thought that three terms were allowed. He is on his first as chairman, so he gets two more, or a little less than five more years.

    So whether or not Republicans maintain the majority, there will be a new Science Committee Chair next year. But there are a number of reasons why Rohrabacher is unlikely to be selected to replace him. Certainly for space issues, which is just a piece of the main committee jurisdiction, Rohrabacher’s views are decidedly outlying.

    That isn’t an issue. The leadership doesn’t care what the views are of prospective chairman, unless they’re truly egregiously awful (and it’s pretty clear that the House leadership, with the exception of McCarthy, don’t give a rats about space policy one way or the other). All that matters is seniority. If Dana wants the job, and he’s still in Congress, he’ll get it. He would have it now had the Republicans not let Hall keep his seniority when he switched parties.

  • In any case, SLS is not crony capitalism

    I didn’t say that SLS was crony capitalism. I said it was like Solyndra, which is crony corporatism, where campaign donors get handouts via no-bid sole-source cost-plus contracts, where the contractor gets paid regardless of results. With commercial crew, no taxpayer dollars are spent until milestones are achieved, and it is competitive, with multiple providers.

  • MrEarl

    All Oler, Rand and many others do here is bitch and moan about this senator or that concressman’s support of SLS. As I’ve been saying, congress has shown strong support for an SDHLV. I beleave commercial crew is critical to our further exploration/exploitation of space. In the future budget battles it will be important to demand increases in NASA’s overall budget because infighting will almost always favor SLS, MPCV and the JWST.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Mark wrote @ February 15th, 2012 at 3:24 pm

    Oler, then am I to understand that SpaceX is not taking subsidies from the federal government? >>

    yes you need to understand that. Say it a few hundred times and it might sink in.

    SpaceX and OSC are taking payments for milestones achieved in a support of a customers objectives.

    It is no different then what the government paid my company over the last few months as we adapted a program for a military version of a civilian airplane..they wanted X, Y, and Z change. There was no reason for me to make those changes because the changes are specific to their requirements. So as we “milestoned” the changes to the training program they “paid” for those changes. Now they are paying for the service of training the pilots.

    SLS contractors work under a very different “set” of payments. Thats a subsidy. RGO

  • Robert G. Oler

    GeeSpace wrote @ February 15th, 2012 at 3:25 pm

    Sorry, I don’t buy that argument. Just because something cost less is not a benefit. I could argue that spending more money in our economy is better than spending less money>>

    you could argue that but it would be a flawed argument.

    “just because something cost less is not a benefit”…is not what I presented.

    What I said is that spending some have some results that give some relative value for the effort. We could have brought back double the number of Apollo lunar rocks and unless we found TMA-1 there would still be little value in the rocks for the dollars.

    A Mercury (or Mars or Lunar or whatever) probe cost less so it is expected to have less value.

    second spending “more money” means nothing unless the money has value. The GOP spent lots of money under Bush 43…but Cx returned nothing for the dollars spent…as did Iraq or any of the other wild goose chases that Bush did.

    Nuclear power right now cost around 1 billion a gigawatt…so put it in perspective. had we spent 15 billion on 15 gigawatts…you tell me which would we have gotten more value for? 15 gigawatts or Cx?

    RGO

  • Robert G. Oler

    MrEarl wrote @ February 15th, 2012 at 4:47 pm
    ” As I’ve been saying, congress has shown strong support for an SDHLV. ”

    and you were always wrong. Congress people have shown strong support for SDHLV and the rest of the Congress is going along. We are on the verge of cuts that will close major shipyards and end major weapons programs…how long do you think support for SLS will last? RGO

  • @MrEarl
    “As I’ve been saying, congress has shown strong support for an SDHLV.”
    And that makes its lack of efficacy and astronomically larger cost compared to other alternatives OK? I would resent that attitude as a general taxpayer whose wallet that wasted money comes from even if I didn’t know a damned thing about space issues.

  • @Mark
    “Oler, then am I to understand that SpaceX is not taking subsidies from the federal government?”
    The weird Alice In Wonderland pseudo-insight of Whittington. Since when is making a product and then being paid for itafter it is made a subsidy? As someone who is supposed to be a professional writer, you appear not to have a very good handle on the meaning of some English words.

  • Vladislaw

    Scott Bass wrote:

    “Everyone knows the number… But just as a reminder…. JWST=8.7 billion dollars ….. Hard to imagine that kind of irreplaceable hardware going up on a single rocket and even if it all goes off with out a hitch experience shows us that some part of it will malfunction down the road….. Creating it unserviceable seems to me to be tempting Murphy’s law to the extreme”

    You really think it will be launched with no more cost increases and schedule lags?

  • Vladislaw

    Space Realist wrote:

    “If NASA or the US public wants Mars samples at a reasonable cost and in a reasonable timeframe,”

    Then let’s have NASA just buy the sample for 1-5 billion per pound from a space prize.

  • Coastal Ron

    MrEarl wrote @ February 15th, 2012 at 4:47 pm

    As I’ve been saying, congress has shown strong support for an SDHLV.

    You mean when they reduced the number of Shuttle-derived Launch Vehicles (SDLV) from two (Ares I & V) to one (SLS)?

    Don’t confuse support for an omnibus budget as support for a specific program like SLS. SLS survives because it has a small cadre of powerful backers, not because of strong support in Congress. The Constellation program had votes in Congress too, and it was killed without nary a mention in either chamber.

    In the future budget battles it will be important to demand increases in NASA’s overall budget because infighting will almost always favor SLS, MPCV and the JWST.

    I understand your point, but I doubt there will be any NASA budget increases coming, not unless a true “National Imperative” comes up that NASA is designated to solve. Short of asteroids & aliens, I don’t know what one would be…

  • Coastal Ron

    Mark wrote @ February 15th, 2012 at 3:24 pm

    then am I to understand that SpaceX is not taking subsidies from the federal government?

    You do know what a subsidy is, right? Just so we’re using English as the common language and all.

    If you think SpaceX has been given subsidies, then by all means, provide the links to the government announcements for the subsidies. I won’t hold my breath…

  • …am I to understand that SpaceX is not taking subsidies from the federal government?

    Yes, you are, because it is not. You apparently are ignorant of the meaning of the word “subsidy.”

    As I’ve been saying, congress has shown strong support for an SDHLV.

    Congress doesn’t give a damn. The only people who care are the porkers on the space committees. If Dana takes over, and after Hutchison retires, and Nelson loses his election, and Hatch gets primaried out as his colleague was, no one will be left to care except Shelby, and he can be bought off with something else for Huntsville and the knowledge that the ULA factory in Decatur will be cranking up.

  • Vladislaw

    Mark wrote:

    “Oler, then am I to understand that SpaceX is not taking subsidies from the federal government?”

    You are on crack right? As this has been explained to you not once or twice, but literally dozens of times. You have still failed to find one single acredited economist who says COTS payments are supsidies, rather than competitively bid, fixed priced contracts for work performed.

  • The weird Alice In Wonderland pseudo-insight of Whittington.

    To be fair to Mark Whittington, I doubt that the “Mark” in this thread is him. Whatever else you want to say about the former, he always posts under his full name. The arguments are just as clueless, but the style is different.

  • Scott Bass

    Rgo wrote
    There is in most people’s mind a cost/benefit discussion. And human spaceflight cost a lot for not a lot of benefits. In the end the 100 billion on the Moon program bought a lot of rocks but the benefit of those to society has been trivial…So has of course the results from Mercury probes but they have in total cost about 1 billion…

    But you don’t know a benefit til you go…. An argument can be made about the fruits of past mission but not future… You can only make educated guesses ….. That’s what explorations all about….. A lot also depends on luck, we landed six times on the moon and just recently discovered water ice was there…. Not saying that would change anything… Just saying there are probably other unexpected finds in our solar system and the only way to know is to go look

  • amightywind

    But instead of exploring new worlds, NASA’s science budget will now go to providing slush funds for climate-change would-be Jeremiahs.

    I didn’t realise I had so much in common with Zubrin. His criticism of John Holdren and his climate change banshees is whithering. I’m glad more people are seeing this clearly.

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “As I’ve been saying, congress has shown strong support for an SDHLV.”

    No, certain congressmen have demonstrated strong support for maintaining Shuttle-derived jobs in their districts/states. But they’ve only funded SLS/MPCV and the rest of NASA human space flight at about half the amount that the Augustine Committee said was necessary. If their primary interest was a functional HLV and timely human exploration missions, then they would have properly funded NASA human space flight, or chosen a less expensive approach to putting large amounts of mass into orbit, or thrown SLS open to competition instead of earmarking a very expensive design and existing jobs and contracts into legislation.

    Even if one is not aware of the funding and procurement situation, a review of various congressional statements about SLS repeatedly revolve around jobs, employee retention, workforce size, and the numbers associated with those, not around exploration goals or HLV capabilities:

    U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, today issued the following statement: “…NASA began reviewing additional alternatives for the SLS in November of 2010. Since then, more than over 5,500 jobs have been lost… the Administration awaited the results of an independent cost assessment, a delay that has cost 3,000 jobs.”

    “I am happy to have a path forward in the future of U.S. space exploration with the new launch system. I look forward to working with my colleagues on the committee as we continue to advance U.S. led efforts in this frontier. This decision provides some certainty for NASA employees as we work to retain the best and brightest workers who have the experience to take us further into space,” said Senator John Boozman, Ranking Member of the Science and Space Subcommittee.

    Early development flights are expected to make use of existing solid rocket boosters and hardware. The Congressional leaders say the contracts to build the rocket are being amended in the next couple of weeks to speed up development and hiring to keep experienced workers in place. “You will see the workforce scale up so that’s it’s not that drop. You phase from one right to the other,” says Sen. Bill Nelson, (D) Florida.

    “The Space Launch System is long overdue,” said Reps. Ralph Hall (R-TX), Steven Palazzo (R-MS), and Frank Wolf (R-VA) in a joint statement. Hall is the chairman of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee while Palazzo chairs that committee’s space subcommittee; Wolf chairs the appropriations subcommittee whose jurisdiction includes NASA. “It is our sincere hope that today’s announcement signals a breakthrough with this President that will help alleviate the uncertainty that has plagued our aerospace industrial base and wreaked havoc on its employees.”

    Congress designed SLS to create Shuttle-derived jobs, not to create a functional HLV.

  • @Rand
    Thanks for the info. Apologies to Whittington. Mea Culpa.

  • E.P. Grondine

    The President proposes, the Congress disposes.
    Has anyone found the NEO detection budget in this budget yet?
    The PR releases failed to mention it.

  • A M Swallow

    Rather than a subsidy the US Government are paying SpaceX and Orbital deposits. In private they will negotiate the price of CRS and CCP down to get the money back.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Scott Bass wrote @ February 15th, 2012 at 7:45 pm
    Just saying there are probably other unexpected finds in our solar system and the only way to know is to go look>>

    that is precisely the role of uncrewed exploration RGO

  • Doug Lassiter

    I said …
    “Hall is, indeed, term-limited out of that position in the next Congress.”

    Rand Simberg wrote @ February 15th, 2012 at 4:34 pm
    “I don’t think so. I thought that three terms were allowed. He is on his first as chairman, so he gets two more, or a little less than five more years.”

    I believe the six-year term limit applies to the sum of time as Chair and Ranking Minority Leader. This is not well understood by the public. See http://www.senate.gov/artandhistory/history/common/briefing/Committees.htm. This applies to both House and Senate.

    They’re none too happy about that limit applying to years as ranking members either. http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0210/32503.html

    Hall’s time is coming up fast, though I believe waivers can be given.

  • Googaw

    According to the Wikipedia definition Rand linked to, a subsidy is “money given by a government to help support a business or person the market does not support…’subsidy’ may refer to favoring one type of production or consumption over another…Subsidies may occur in the process [of government procuring goods and services] by choice of the products produced, the producer, the nature of the product itself, and by other means, including payment of higher-than-market prices for goods purchased.”

    Well let’s see:

    * The market does not support orbital HSF (indeed it covers much less than one percent of its costs) — check.

    * NASA is transferring (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/give) money via contracts to business(es), which thereby make a profit off their otherwise extremely unprofitable orbital HSF products — check.

    * NASA paying money for orbital HSF favors that form of consumption over what the taxpayer would have spent the money on — check.

    * NASA is procuring transport to a space station at a far higher volume, and paying far higher prices, than the private sector would pay — check.

    In short, a procurement subsidy is still a subsidy.

  • Regarding that inane argument about the meaning of the word “subsidy” …

    A NASA executive recently used the word “investment” to describe the commercial program. You can look up the meaning of the word “invest” on Dictionary.com, but it works for me.

    The bottom line is that the government needs domestic options for reaching the ISS. They have invested in companies developing vehicles for NASA that will use that technology for private launches. Good for them. I couldn’t care less if it’s a “subsidy.” The governments of other spacefaring nations “invest” or “subsidize” heavily their launch programs. Commercial launches go overseas for a reason; in 2010, both Russia and ESA had more commercial launches than the U.S.

    It’s good for the American economy to bring that business back to the U.S. Local, county and state governments routinely offer tax breaks and other incentives (e.g. building roads) to bring job-creating businesses to their districts. I see no reason why the federal government can’t do the same.

    The only problem is when elected officials protect obsolete industries in the name of pork, e.g. SLS. The solution for that is to vote out those elected officials. We have no one to blame but ourselves.

    I will support elected officials who invest in commercial space. I will not support elected officials who invest in protecting obsolete technologies simply to cater to space worker unions.

  • If Jeff will forgive the temporary topic drift …

    Breaking news … China has postponed its next crewed flight until at least 2013.

    The paper Shanghai Daily ran a story today that the Shenzhou-9 flight this year to their target module will be unmanned. The earliest manned flight will be in 2013.

    The last time China launched taikonauts was September 2008. This means it will be at the minimum over four years since then before the Chinese launch people again.

    And we’re supposed to be afraid of that?!

    Here’s a commentary by a Space Daily journalist.

    Am I supposed to go back to cowering in the bunker now?!

  • Ferris Valyln

    Regarding the discussion of who will be the next Chair of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee….

    Hall will be term-limited out at the end of the 112th Congress. The Republican House Caucus rules allow for one term, up to 6 years, as Chair and/or Ranking minority member, which Hall was for the 110th and 111th.

    Republican seniority order on the committee is Sensenbrenner and Hall – both term-limited out – then Lamar Smith (who is also next in seniority at Homeland Security where the current Chair will be term-limited out) and then Rohrabacher.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Googaw wrote @ February 16th, 2012 at 2:27 am

    and a revenue enhancer is a tax hike.

    Look by the definition you use EVERYTHING that the government procures can be labeled a subsidy. I am OK with that as long as we now label SLS a subsidy.

    Frankly I dont think much of the way you use the word.

    There are clear demarkationis between SLS and say the Commercial lift…the government is completely designing one and has little role but specs in the other, the government ends up owning hardware in one and not the other, the government operates the hardware in one not the other…I could go on.

    But as in the case of revenue enhancer V tax hike, I dont care what you call it but the differences are important RGO

  • I believe the six-year term limit applies to the sum of time as Chair and Ranking Minority Leader.

    If so, that’s good news. The sooner he goes, the better.

    Republican seniority order on the committee is Sensenbrenner and Hall – both term-limited out – then Lamar Smith (who is also next in seniority at Homeland Security where the current Chair will be term-limited out) and then Rohrabacher.

    Lamar Smith may get knocked out in a primary. He really stepped in it with SOPA.

  • amightywind

    This means it will be at the minimum over four years since then before the Chinese launch people again.

    A scandal! So what do we make of the fact that SpaceX hasn’t launched anything 14 months? They must have interns working night and day to get Dragon ready for flight. We’re supposed to rely on this?

  • Coastal Ron

    amightywind wrote @ February 16th, 2012 at 11:49 am

    We’re supposed to rely on this?

    Anyone that relies on a sole-source provider for critical transportation needs is nuts.

    In this case, the ISS is supported by three cargo transportation systems, with SpaceX and Orbital being the 4th & 5th when they become operational. If one of those two falters, the others are there to provide redundancy.

    Regarding when SpaceX will launch next, and what their goals are for the flight, Clark Lindsey at HobbySpace.com passed this along from a talk Gerstenmaier gave yesterday:

    He [Gerstenmaier] warned that “stakeholders” were putting way too much importance on the COTS demonstration flights. He said if, for example, a vehicle approaches but fails to berth with the ISS it will not be a disaster. The demo flights are intended to root out problems that will be solved in subsequent flights.

    For crew, it would be lunacy to rely on one crew transportation provider, like we did with Shuttle and are now doing with Soyuz, but a few porkers in Congress would rather pad their district pockets than develop a U.S. redundant and competitive crew transportation system to LEO.

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “So what do we make of the fact that SpaceX hasn’t launched anything 14 months?”

    There was nothing on the Falcon manifest in 2011 except the COTS 2/3 flight, which NASA did not approve until the year was over (December 2011). On top of that year-long wait, the Progress 44 failure and additional NASA software testing requirements have added further delays, pushing COTS 2/3 into the spring of 2012. None of these delays are attributable to SpaceX.

    “They must have interns working night and day…”

    Sounds like the bitter ageism of a old Shuttle engineer who relied on political job protection to stay employed and lost, instead of keeping his skills relevant and affordable in the marketplace.

    And a quick review of SpaceX management shows that it is populated by individuals with decades of launch and aerospace experience.

    “We’re supposed to rely on this?”

    Yes. Congress mandated an Orion-derived MPCV, despite the fact that Orion slipped year-for-year during the Constellation years. Not surprisingly, since MPCV was approved, the first flight of MPCV has slipped another year to the right, into 2014. So we have no choice but to rely on COTS and foreign partners for at least two more years, and longer if MPCV continues to slip and/or must fly on SLS.

    If you want a timely alternative to Dragon and Cygnus, then complain to your congressman. COTS, SpaceX, and OSC aren’t responsible for shoving an expensive and slow Orion program down NASA’s throat and the resulting MPCV delays. Congress is.

  • So what do we make of the fact that SpaceX hasn’t launched anything 14 months?

    That they’re taking the time to do it right, as they did the last time?

  • well

    First an ASAP review says CC is in jeopardy if it’s not given enough money and now the head of the progam is signalling that it won’t make sense to pursue it if they can’t get enough money to get to ISS before it’s gone.

    Maybe Congress will listen. I doubt it.

  • Robert G. Oler

    amightywind wrote @ February 16th, 2012 at 11:49 am

    “So what do we make of the fact that SpaceX hasn’t launched anything 14 months? They must have interns working night and day to get Dragon ready for flight. We’re supposed to rely on this?”

    nothing..routine development delays where cost is a consideration.

    For a data point remember Cx spent 15 BILLION dollars and got a lousy test flight (and thats kind) for about 700 million…which was a flop.

    So dont be alarmed. If you want to worry about something concentrate on the beating the GOP is going to get in the fall…Suicide is painless it brings on many changes.RGO

  • amightywind

    He said if, for example, a vehicle approaches but fails to berth with the ISS it will not be a disaster.

    The problem is NASA cheerleaders like Gerstenmaier hyped SpaceX endlessly and raised expectations. They will not come down now. I will look forward to the inquisition in congress should future events merit one.

  • If you want to worry about something concentrate on the beating the GOP is going to get in the fall

    You mean the way Rubio was going to lose in Florida, as you told us?

    Don’t give up your day job to be a political prognosticator.

  • The problem is NASA cheerleaders like Gerstenmaier hyped SpaceX endlessly and raised expectations.

    Why do you just make things up?

    Oh, it’s because reality doesn’t support your fantasies.

  • DCSCA

    Rand Simberg wrote @ February 15th, 2012 at 6:23 pm

    because it is not.

    It is. And they keep begging for more.

  • Robert G. Oler

    amightywind wrote @ February 16th, 2012 at 3:10 pm
    ” I will look forward to the inquisition in congress should future events merit one.”

    After the PR disaster that D. Issa presided over today I would think that future “inquisitions” will be put on hold.

    The GOP presidential process has done the amazing. It has killed a lunar base for the foreseeable future and seems to be making Obama a viable reelect. Smooth move RGO

  • Vladislaw

    How much would a NASA schedule delay, similiar to SpaceX’s, cost taxpayers?

    How much is this SpaceX schedule delay costing taxpayers?

  • Vladislaw

    “Definition Of Subsidy:
    1. Economic benefit (such as a tax allowance or duty rebate) or financial aid (such as a cash grant or soft loan) provided by a government to

    (1) support a desirable activity (such as exports),

    (2) keep prices of staples low,

    (3) maintain the income of the producers of critical or strategic products,

    (4) maintain employment levels, or

    (5) induce investment to reduce unemployment.

    The basic characteristic of all subsidies is to reduce the market price of an item below its cost of production. Also called subvention. 2. Indirect financial contribution by a firm to its employees, such as low cost meals or free transportation. Also called benefit.”
    http://www.businesstermsdictionary.com/terms/64989-subsidy.html

    1 – SpaceX is not receiving a cash grant or soft loan. The government is calling for competitive bids, to build something to their standards. The firm has to use their own money to build the item, only when they have completed the item to the government’s specifications do they get paid for the work they completed.

    (1) The government is not supporting a preexisting activity. They are calling for the domestic, commercial aerospace industry to provide a service to the government that currently does not exist. The government feels that any domestic commercial firm has to have the ability to do certain things in order to satisfy the government’s requirements. In order to achive this the government is purchasing that ability from domestic firms, in form of milestones, to guarantee they have that ability demanded by the government. Once the commercial activity is operational the government could then subidize it by providing a tax break for lets say .. material manufactures to have ‘manned’ space labs and the govenment gives a subsidy to lower the per seat cost of getting into space.

    (2) Since the service is not in commercial operation yet the government can not be providing a subsidy to keep the price low. In the future they could, but as yet, not applicable. You would still be hard pressed to have a space transportation service classified as a staple. Giving wheat growers a tax break to keep flour and bread prices low is a common subsidy for a staple.

    (3) Not applicable to SpaceX but is for Boeing and Lockheed Martin.

    (4) Not applicable to SpaceX but is for Boeing and Lockheed Martin.

    (5) Not applicable.

    The government is not providing funds to satisfy the basic characteristic of all subsidies, to reduce the market price. Since no domestic aerospace firm is currently providing a service the govenment spending is not providing a subisdy to lower the market cost. Once a firm does start provding that service the government could provide a subsidy to try and lower the cost.

    Currently the Russians are setting the commercial market price for the per seat cost for human access to LEO. Roughly 35 million for a commercial passenger, 56 million for a government passenger. Since the Chinese are not selling rides to LEO the Russians enjoy monopoly power until an American firm comes online.

  • BeanCounterfromDownunder

    DCSCA wrote @ February 16th, 2012 at 4:55 pm

    Um, when and where?

  • Googaw

    “I am OK with that as long as we now label SLS a subsidy.”

    Certainly. Indeed comparing Falcon 9 and SLS head-to-head, the latter has the far greater and far more distorting subsidy. But Dragon vs. Orion is much closer to a wash: neither one is remotely close to the kind of thing the private sector is purchasing on a regular basis.

  • BeanCounterfromDownunder

    Here’s a warning to Congress from NASA about Commercial Crew funding:

    http://www.spacenews.com/policy/120215-nasa-commercial-cut-kill-program.html

    Conspiracy warning: some may be quite happy if this actually happened and there is after all, precedent!!

    If it happens, Boeing has said there’s no business case. That will only leave the ‘real’ privates and of those, only SpaceX has much chance of producing any hardware that will fly.
    It’ll be an interesting outcome if the program is killed off. NASA then will have only MPCV going forward and I don’t think it’ll fly before the decision’s made to splash the ISS.
    JM2CW.

  • Space Cadet

    I’m baffled by the extent to which the media has missed and understated the story here!

    Cancellation of two Mars missions is only the tip of the iceberg in what was cut from planetary exploration. Planetary science at NASA has three classes of planetary missions, plus various technology development programs. Large (Flagship), medium (New Frontiers), and small (Discovery).

    Flagships are dead.

    The Discovery program is dead; Discovery-12 (about to be selected from finalists) is the last of the small missions.

    Every one of the technology development programs (PIDDP, MIDP, ASTID, & ASTEP) was cancelled.

    All that is left is a single medium-class mission that won’t even be soliciting proposals until 2015!

    Two Mars mission are just the most visible casualties. Planetary Science was not just “cut by 20%” is was flat-out ANNIHILATED!

  • DCSCA

    SpaceX is not receiving a cash grant or soft loan.

    American taxpayers refurbished SpaceX launch facilities through stimulus funding. Musk didn’t. =sigh=

  • DCSCA

    @Coastal Ron wrote @ February 16th, 2012 at 12:50 pm

    “Anyone that relies on a sole-source provider for critical transportation needs is nuts.”

    So you drive a Prius, eh, and the bulk of Americans are ‘nuts’ in your view. Oh, wait, you said you drove a Honda Civic. So that puts you in with the can with the rest of the cashews.

    “Regarding when SpaceX will launch next, and what their goals are for the flight, Clark Lindsey at HobbySpace.com passed this along from a talk Gerstenmaier gave yesterday:

    “He [Gerstenmaier] warned that “stakeholders” were putting way too much importance on the COTS demonstration flights. He said if, for example, a vehicle approaches but fails to berth with the ISS it will not be a disaster.”

    No. It will be a FAILURE.

    “The demo flights are intended to root out problems that will be solved in subsequent flights.”

    Hmmm. Test flights, not demos. “Demos” in marketing terms are to ‘demonstrate’ your capabilities/service/product to a customer base, not flush out your flaws for same. And so, as SpaceX continues to lower expectations for ‘stakeholders’ aka the innvestment community, they fly nothing. Tick-tock, tick-tock.

  • Dark Blue Nine

    France and Italy have turned down a NASA proposal to contribute a propulsion module to Orion/MPCV, worried that it is “technologically lackluster and unlikely to generate public enthusiasm.”

    http://www.aviationweek.com/aw/generic/story_channel.jsp?channel=space&id=news/asd/2012/02/16/02.xml&headline=France,%20Italy%20Shun%20Orion%20Development

    Expect more cost growth and schedule delays as Orion/MPCV has to pay for the propulsion module out of its own budget.

  • Dark Blue Nine wrote:

    France and Italy have turned down a NASA proposal to contribute a propulsion module to Orion/MPCV, worried that it is “technologically lackluster and unlikely to generate public enthusiasm.”

    Yeah, how dare they not pay to keep obsolete jobs going in Texas, Alabama and Florida …

  • Robert G. Oler

    Googaw wrote @ February 16th, 2012 at 10:27 pm
    “Certainly. Indeed comparing Falcon 9 and SLS head-to-head, the latter has the far greater and far more distorting subsidy. But Dragon vs. Orion is much closer to a wash: neither one is remotely close to the kind of thing the private sector is purchasing on a regular basis.”

    I dont know nor really care about your political notions in general but in space politics the statement above illustrates the joy in this political year.

    The right wing, the goofy wing of the GOP has been relabeling things for so long that they dont even know the definitions themselves anymore. ..and oddly enough the “GOP Front runner” is someone who is busily relabeling himself as something he clearly is not…

    There are some things similar about Orion and Dragon. Both are designed to fly in space, both fit the technical definition of capsule and maybe a few other things…but in terms of the financial circumstances under which they are being built…well there is nothing similar.

    Orion is being built big government style…with NASA help “contractors” are building the thing all with NASA money. The teams on both sides are bloated….I bet you that there are more NASA people billing their time on Orion then there are total SpaceX and NASA people associated with Dragon.

    In the end Dragon remains the property of SpaceX a private company and Orion that of NASA.

    YOu guys have spread the BS of the private sector for so long you dont even know reality anymore. and the right wing has started to morph its social policy into an economic one.

    In the end one either believes or DOES NOT believe that it is in the national interest to try and create a thriving private space industry concerning human space flight much as it was in the national interest to create a private aviation industry concerning commercial air travel.

    This is precisely why the airmail act was written how it was, it had little to do with carrying airmail and was all about carrying passenger in ever larger airplanes.

    We have spent hundreds of billions (just 15 recently on Cx) and achieved very little in human spaceflight using the model of government industry you and Whittington and Wind and all the other right wing fruits on this board advocate incessantly. Proponents of that model lie, exaggerate and overstate the issue with private industry now developing and self aggrandize the success of government monolithic efforts.

    I wont let people like you make a phoney comparison and not be called on it Robert

  • Egad

    > France and Italy have turned down a NASA proposal to contribute a propulsion module to Orion/MPCV,

    I’m not sure whether they were being asked to contribute to the service module as it’s currently planned or to some later upgrade to it. If the former, will this delay development of the service module?

  • amightywind

    France and Italy have turned down a NASA proposal to contribute a propulsion module to Orion/MPCV

    I’m sure Lockmart is relieved to lose the ‘help’. They make it sound like it was NASA’s hair brained scheme to convert the ATV into a service module. It was not. It was a European attempt to get a piece of SLS/Orion. Having been burned by our ISS construction experience with Russian and European contractors, the idea was to develop Ares/Orion without foreigners on the critical path. That is still a laudable goal with SLS/Orion How soon everyone forgets.

  • E.P. Grondine

    We could have had DIRECT and 2 manned launch systems for what was spent on Ares 1.

  • Coastal Ron

    DCSCA said:

    American taxpayers refurbished SpaceX launch facilities through stimulus funding. Musk didn’t.

    Your ignorance of standard business practice is amazing. The Air Force owns the property, and old facilities were torn down down to make way for a new tenant (SpaceX). Nothing unusual there, and you seem to be unaware that SpaceX has paid for improvements on the site – again, typical business arrangement.

    So what are you bloviating about? That SpaceX has invested money into improving taxpayer owned property? You are truly confused…

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “It was a European attempt to get a piece of SLS/Orion.”

    No, the article is very clear:

    “Two of Europe’s biggest International Space Station contributors have rejected a NASA proposal that would see the European Space Agency (ESA) pay its share of ISS operating costs by building a propulsion module for NASA’s Orion crew transport capsule, saying the proposal is technologically lackluster and unlikely to generate public enthusiasm.”

    NASA made the proposal, not ESA.

    Moreover, the Europeans wouldn’t be turning down a proposal that they themselves made.

    Even as screwed up as ESA is, they won’t touch Orion/MPCV with a ten-foot pole. That should tell us something about the state of the program.

    And now that program has to fund a propulsion module that it didn’t budget for, instead of relying on foreign partner contributions. More cost growth. More schedule stretching.

  • Doug Lassiter

    Re Ralph Hall being term limited.

    Rand Simberg wrote @ February 16th, 2012 at 11:23 am
    “If so, that’s good news. The sooner he goes, the better.”

    But now we hear in Space News that Shana Dale is returning to work for Hall as his principal space policy advisor! Shana is no space policy lightweight. That could seem like an odd career move if Hall is going to relinquish control in less than a year. Then again, FY13 is when a new NASA authorization bill is due out of the science committee, and I suspect she wants to position herself to be a part of that, as she has had leadership roles in others. I’ll bet she has a good sense of who’s likely to take over as Science Chair, and she doesn’t mind working for that person.

    In fact, I would be astonished if Hall didn’t want to be in a position to exercise leadership on that bill.

  • Googaw

    Oler, you lump my in with some strange company there. Please read more carefully.

  • Space Cadet

    In some communist and socialist countries, the government owns and operates the national airline. US politicians (of both parties but Republicans to a greater degree) are critical of this approach and tout the US system of commercial air transportation and competition as superior. The FAA regulates safety, but they do not own the aircraft and run the airlines.

    So it should be with spacelines; and those Republicans who are opposing commercial space are particularly hypocritical in this regard. NASA (or the FAA) should regulate safety in space transportation; they should not be competing against the private sector.

  • NASA (or the FAA) should regulate safety in space transportation; they should not be competing against the private sector.

    NASA has no statutory authority to regulate anything — that is the FAA’s job. And it has no intrinsic ability to do so. Nelson really wants an agency that killed fourteen astronauts to regulate space transportation safety? Really?

  • Das Boese

    amightywind wrote @ February 17th, 2012 at 11:23 am

    It was a European attempt to get a piece of SLS/Orion.

    This is the most hilariuosly stupid thing I’ve ever read from you.
    ESA and RSA have absolutely zero use for SLS or MPCV. They wouldn’t know what to do with it, and they sure as hell don’t have enough money to waste on it. That was already true for Constellation, it remains true for SLS and MPCV.

    Having been burned by our ISS construction experience with Russian and European contractors

    Yes… Russians and Europeans, always causing these huge setbacks to the station’s construction because of their unsafe vehicles, always bumming a ride on American capsules and never bringing their own supplies.

    the idea was to develop Ares/Orion without foreigners on the critical path.

    Yeah that worked out really well for you didn’t it.

    That is still a laudable goal with SLS/Orion

    After all, if the first attempt ended in colossal failure, the obvious solution is to try the exact same strategy again, only harder!

  • Das Boese

    Rand Simberg wrote @ February 18th, 2012 at 4:25 pm

    NASA has no statutory authority to regulate anything — that is the FAA’s job. And it has no intrinsic ability to do so.

    Well, NASA has regulatory power insofar as they can impose the safety requirements for vehicles that use their facilities (including docking to the station) and transport their cargo or astronauts. I wouldn’t dismiss the potential for a conflict of interests when they’re developing a system of their own at the same time.

  • Well, NASA has regulatory power insofar as they can impose the safety requirements for vehicles that use their facilities (including docking to the station) and transport their cargo or astronauts. I wouldn’t dismiss the potential for a conflict of interests when they’re developing a system of their own at the same time.

    That’s not “regulatory power” in the legal meaning of that phrase, it’s simply a customer imposing a requirement on a provider. But I’m certainly not dismissing the potential for conflict of interest, or their ability to screw up the commercial marketplace with unrealistic requirements. I’m simply pointing out that they have neither the legal authority, or institutional capability to regulate commercial activity, and if provided with it, it would be disastrous. Nelson is being as foolish as Ralph Hall in making such a fetish of safety.

  • After all, if the first attempt ended in colossal failure, the obvious solution is to try the exact same strategy again, only harder!

    To paraphrase a Simpson’s show, there are three ways to do things: the right way, the wrong way, and the BreakingWind way. The third is the wrong way, but faster.

  • well

    I havent seen a comment from Robert Zubrin in recent years that hasn’t left me wondering what’s wrong with him. He seems to really enjoy incendiary rhetoric and what I believe to be strawman arguments. I don’t think he’s doing himself any favors.

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