Congress, NASA

The Mars skirmishes continue

It’s been two weeks after the release of a NASA budget proposal that proposed major cuts and radical changes to the agency’s planetary science programs, particularly its Mars exploration program. While congressional action on that budget proposal is still months in the future, proponents of the program are continuing to rally their opposition to those cuts while NASA officials defend the proposal.

Earlier this week NASA administrator Charles Bolden visited JPL, where he “seemed to receive a warm and friendly welcome from JPL staffers”, in the words of a Pasadena Star-News account, despite a budget proposal that could cause some of them to lose their jobs. He offered few additional details about the agency’s plans to replace the previous plans for the joint ExoMars missions with a “viable, affordable” alternative that could feature missions in 2018 and/or 2020. If those plans do work out, Bolden promised, “hopefully you’ll find a minimum loss of jobs here” at JPL, the Pasadena Sun reported.

Advocates in Congress, though, are continuing their push to restore planetary funding. In an op-ed in this week’s issue of Space News (a version of which also appeared in the Star-News) Reps. Adam Schiff (D-CA) and John Culberson (R-TX) made the case that funding for planetary science, including not just Mars exploration but a proposed Europa orbiter (a personal favorite of Culberson), should be restored. “Slashing NASA’s budget for exploring the solar system would be a serious mistake that would threaten our nation’s hard-won and long-held leadership role” in space exploration, they argue. The administration’s proposed cuts to planetary science “would compromise a program painstakingly built up over decades and jeopardize a work force that, once dissolved, would be difficult, if not impossible, to reconstitute.” In addition, Schiff held a town hall yesterday with JPL employees “to discuss the future of space exploration”, according to a tweet from the congressman, which presumably included discuss of Mars exploration funding.

In addition, yesterday the American Astronomical Society (AAS) released its own statement on the proposed NASA budget. Unlike the AAS’s own Division for Planetary Sciences, which was sharply critical of the proposed Mars and other planetary cuts, the main AAS offered a more nuanced view. The AAS is “deeply concerned” about those cuts, the release stated, but the paragraph discussing that comes after one where the organization of professional astronomers said it was “grateful” for funding for the James Webb Space Telescope. “It is challenging to receive a budget from the President that supports part of our discipline and undercuts another,” AAS executive director Kevin Marvel said in the statement, saying the AAS would work to get Congress to “fully support all of the decadal surveys’ priorities.”

41 comments to The Mars skirmishes continue

  • GeeSpace

    He (Bolden) offered few additional details about the agency’s plans to replace the previous plans for the joint ExoMars missions with a “viable, affordable” alternative that could feature missions in 2018 and/or 2020. If those plans do work out, Bolden promised, “hopefully you’ll find a minimum loss of jobs here” at JPL

    I hope Bolden is not looking for ESA partnership with a viable, affordable mission in 2018 and/or 2020. Bolden’s and NASA’s creditability is gone with the U.S withdrawal from EXoMars, etc and some other ESA-NASA programs

    I look foward to hear Bolden’s justification for long term planning of 2018 and/or missions.

  • amightywind

    I am personally relieved that NASA will not allow Europe to hijack our successful Mars program with pie in the sky, premature, and expensive ExoMars. I wish we would trim other areas of the budget that transfer money to other countries, like ISS.

  • gregori

    AMW,

    Mindless belligerence won’t get you anywhere, as it is just cutting of your nose to spite your face. Europe was willing to put up a lot of its own money and expertise to support this mission and it would have been mutually beneficial. You attract more support with sugar, not shit.

    Not only is Europe not going to be putting up money to support a mission, there is going to be no Mars missions after MAVEN in 2013, AT ALL. Having no missions in order to pay for JWST and SLS is not successful by any definition of that word.

  • amightywind

    Mindless belligerence won’t get you anywhere

    Not mindless belligerence. I disdain pointless, feel good internationalism at the expense of progress. We are abandoning ExoMars because we aren’t getting enough out of the tie up. The US is about to revolutionize Mars exploration with MSL. There is no follow on because of ExoMars. Now perhaps there can be.

    It is not SLS or JWST that is starving the Mars program, but that absurdity that is ISS.

  • Robert G. Oler

    GeeSpace wrote @ February 24th, 2012 at 8:12 am

    He (Bolden) offered few additional details about the agency’s plans to replace the previous plans for the joint ExoMars missions with a “viable, affordable” alternative that could feature missions in 2018 and/or 2020. If those plans do work out, Bolden promised, “hopefully you’ll find a minimum loss of jobs here” at JPL>>

    rabbit out of hat. RGO

  • Doug Lassiter

    I can see two sides to this. On the one hand, the cuts to Mars exploration by SMD are devastating. On the other hand the Planetary Decadal Survey really provided NASA with few good Mars options except for MAX-C which, from a cost perspective, is really pretty scary and, at least as now conceived, patently unaffordable. That same Decadal explicitly considered a reasonable descope option for MAX-C as not using ExoMars. So while the cut to the Mars exploration line was very unfortunate, it isn’t completely obvious that going with ExoMars was the right plan. I think the budget cut can be interpreted as buying time to figure out a better plan.

    But there is no question that the cost impact from JWST overruns has regrettably spilled over into the Planetary Science line, which is what contributes to making the whole thing unaffordable. Blaming the Mars budget on human space flight (whether SLS or ISS) is pretty naive. Money doesn’t flow between those directorates, and killing something in one directorate won’t enable something in another.

  • E.P. Grondine

    JWST, Mars, Euopra, etc. – Has any body even managed to find the line item for the NEO detection budget? Has it been reported anywhere?

  • Coastal Ron

    amightywind wrote @ February 24th, 2012 at 10:08 am

    It is not SLS or JWST that is starving the Mars program, but that absurdity that is ISS.

    You must think there is a use for the SLS. Interesting.

    Care to list five SLS-sized payloads or missions you think Congress is likely to fund, and which budget year you think the funding will start?

  • Doug Lassiter

    E.P. Grondine wrote @ February 24th, 2012 at 11:50 am
    “JWST, Mars, Euopra, etc. – Has any body even managed to find the line item for the NEO detection budget? Has it been reported anywhere?”

    I don’t want to start a discussion about this, at least because it is off-topic, as it usually is when it’s brought up here, but even a casual look at the FY13 budget (search for NEOO if you have trouble) will lead you straight to it, as well as an explanation of the success of the program towards meeting the requirements of the “George E. Brown, Jr. Near-Earth Object Survey Act”. No one is “reporting” it, because it’s a successful program, with a level budget.

  • ArtieT

    NASA has not credibility anymore with its stakeholders regarding its ability to manage large robotic science missions. A quick look at the presidents FY 13 budget proposal shows NO new starts for anything except Explorers.

    Given this view by OMB/Congress it makes perfect sense that the 2016 and 2018 Mars missions are cancelled, as the Sample Return mission of 2020 looked to be another JWST fiasco.

    There will be no more large science missions, planetary or otherwise, till JWST has been launched, and that is only if JWST sticks to its current plans.

    The Mars budget was naturally declining as MAVEN and MSL FY 13 requirements freed up millions for the ExoMars missions. But since those were canceled, it makes sense to use that $ to feed the beast that is JWST.

    Implementation of science robotic missions at NASA, those that will be over a $B need to be rethought in light of these realities, and the fact that Grunsfeld, a big fan of servicing, is sitting in the AA’s chair.

    SLS, if it survives, will need a regular cadence of launches to keep the manned space flight operations & maintenance aspects of it up to snuff, even if this regular cadence involves Science missions. That means probably that Science will be looking at it for ‘something’; But not flagships.

    Lots of challenges ahead for NASA

  • amightywind

    Care to list five SLS-sized payloads or missions you think Congress is likely to fund, and which budget year you think the funding will start?

    You can find proposed SLS missions here.

    Its a whole lot more exciting than spinning round and round, mugging for NASA TV dressed in a sweatsuit, and praying that there will be a Soyuz to take you home.

  • Coastal Ron

    amightywind wrote @ February 24th, 2012 at 2:15 pm

    You can find proposed SLS missions here.

    That’s the standard “money is no object” wish list of every space cadet. Let’s talk fiscal reality and priorities here.

    According to SLS supporters, the SLS, when it becomes operational, will be launching at a regular rate (1-6 times per year depending on who you ask), so what payloads/missions are up first, and when will Congress approve the funding for them?

    Considering how long it takes to build and launch simple missions like MSL (8 years), complex products like the MPCV (12 years), or complex missions like JWST (22 years), Congress has to be approving the money pretty quick if the SLS is going to be kept busy next decade.

  • Bennett

    amightywind wrote “Its a whole lot more exciting than spinning round and round,”

    Mucho exciting, including this gem of irrationality:

    SLS DoD Missions, the HLV will be made available for Department of Defense and other US Government agencies to launch military or classified missions.

    Yeah right, as if. The wiki page is pure BS propaganda written by an idiot.

    Plus, one of the criteria was “Congress is likely to fund”.

    Fail.

  • Robert G. Oler

    amightywind wrote @ February 24th, 2012 at 2:15 pm

    You can find proposed SLS missions here.”

    these are fantasy missions…these are NASA people who have nothing else to do sitting around dreaming of “what might happen”…they could be designing warp drive instead.

    There are no payloads for SLS and there will be none other then NASA HSF trying to keep itself alive. DoD? OK dont make me laugh I’ll have to start bringing up scenes from Strangelove again RGO

  • ArtieT

    Grunsfeld has talked about using SLS for science. He seems to like the fairing size. However, that means flag ships. And there is no appetite at OMB/Congress for any flag ships for as far as the eye can see. So SMD use of SLS seems unlikely.

    No one is going to have the budget to use it.

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “NASA has not credibility anymore with its stakeholders regarding its ability to manage large robotic science missions. A quick look at the presidents FY 13 budget proposal shows NO new starts for anything except Explorers.

    Given this view by OMB/Congress it makes perfect sense that the 2016 and 2018 Mars missions are cancelled, as the Sample Return mission of 2020 looked to be another JWST fiasco.”

    I think ArtieT has it right — the Administration’s Mars cuts were as much about finding funding for JWST as they were about avoiding another massive MSL- or JWST-like overrun.

    I’d add that the cuts may also have been intended to send a message that NASA’s Mars planning was in disarray. Even without likely future overruns, it’s not clear what new science or technology the U.S. taxpayer was getting out of ESA’s ExoMars rover, EDM lander, or Trace Gas Orbiter. Aside from the drill on the ExoMars rover, these spacecraft appeared to be largely repeats with JPL’s help of prior or planned NASA missions. (I’d love to be shown where I’m wrong and how the return was going to be commensurate with the U.S. contribution.) And without clear planning and budget commitment for the full series of missions necessary to pull off a sample return, JPL’s MAX-C rover made little sense.

    That said, I’m not impressed with the vague and job-centered statements about NASA’s Mars replanning to date.

    NASA got the news that their Mars program needed to be replanned with the OMB passback last Thanksgiving, but the only details that Bolden has today are that SMD, HEOMD, and OCT will produce a plan for a 2016 or 2018 mission sometime later this year. They should have more by now to support the FY13 budget request. This seems to be a systemic problem under Bolden, where he is failing to get NASA’s ducks in a row before the Administration announces a major change in direction with a budget rollout.

    Worse, it’s unclear which of these three NASA HQ offices is in charge, why science instruments should be risked on a tech demo s/c (they should be separate per the old VSE Mars plan), and how this mission fits into a longer-term plan of Mars exploration (or what that longer-term plan is). I don’t know how this jumble of authority and priorities and lack of long-range goals is going to produce anything more defensible than the old plan.

    And in the absence of a clear plan with clear authority, priorities, and long-range goals, the argument on the Hill is collapsing into another politically motivated and parochially focused NASA center jobs discussion. The discussion is not about what priority science or critical technology is going to get done circa 2018. It’s about whether the mission can keep everyone employed at JPL, and how much additional work is going to have to be given to JPL to keep everyone employed. This is tragic in JPL’s case, where its FFRDC authority gives it the hire/fire flexibility lacking at NASA’s other centers. No doubt JPL should always maintain a core Mars team, but the whole point of an FFRDC is to be able to scope and mold its workforce as needed to rapidly and efficiently pursue national R&D priorities. Reducing the highly successful Mars program and JPL to the status of another zombie albatross around NASA’s neck would be a very sad outcome, but it appears that’s where we’re headed. It’s bad enough that the human space flight program has been about jobs and not space exploration for decades now and will continue to be for years to come thanks to SLS and MPCV. But if the robotic program goes down the same path (maybe we’re already there with JWST), it’s not clear what the point of the “S” in NASA is anymore.

    Maybe this will end as other major cycles in the Mars program and NASA’s space science programs in general have ended — with a come-to-Jesus understanding that the old program had collapsed into a few or one unrealizable big missions and that a shift to an integrated, goal-driven plan of multiple, smaller missions was needed to maintain momentum. This shift has been successful in garnering budget support in the past, but I see no evidence that it’s happening this time around.

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “You can find proposed SLS missions here.”

    Those aren’t SLS missions. They’re just generic GEO, Moon, NEA, Phobos/Deimos, and Mars human space flight goals. There’s nothing about them that requires SLS (or MPCV, for that matter).

    Others are vain attempts to justify SLS with payloads that are highly unlikely to materialize from ISS, DOD, commercial, and secondary payload users. It’s reminiscent of unrealistic Shuttle planning, where to justify the costs of a monster launcher, everything in the nation has to launch on it. No sane business plan would ever assume such high market capture.

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “Grunsfeld has talked about using SLS for science. He seems to like the fairing size. However, that means flag ships. And there is no appetite at OMB/Congress for any flag ships for as far as the eye can see. So SMD use of SLS seems unlikely.”

    There’s also a National Academies committee that looked at SMD use of Ares V. The results were so bad (too few and too expensive missions) in the committee’s interim report that NASA didn’t bother to pay for a final report.

  • Aberwys

    ArtieT wrote @ February 24th, 2012 at 2:09 pm

    “Given this view by OMB/Congress it makes perfect sense that the 2016 and 2018 Mars missions are cancelled, as the Sample Return mission of 2020 looked to be another JWST fiasco.”

    Not even close to JWST, unless you think that $27M (US contribution to Mars 2016) and $55M (US contribution to Mars 2018) are equal to JWST’s $8B.

    As far as I know, the decimal system tells me that math doesn’t work.

  • Aberwys

    Dark Blue Nine:

    ” it’s not clear what new science or technology the U.S. taxpayer was getting out of ESA’s ExoMars rover, EDM lander, or Trace Gas Orbiter. ”

    You have no idea what kind of instrumentation NASA was putting on the table for TGO or for MOMA. Most of that stuff has not even made it to academic conferences yet. Stay tuned though…if you’re going to planetary science-related or instrumentation related conferences starting late this summer, all the cool instrument work that has been done (and will never be delivered to the PI instituions in German and elsewhere in the EU) will come out.

    Again, NASA invests, folks do the work and political interests hammer science without knowing what science is being done.

    What a waste. More of a waste than if they kept the funding going (vs. shift it to JWST). I hope James Webb does something good with the paltry $100M drop in the bucket that they’ll add to their $8B mega-budget.

  • Doug Lassiter

    Dark Blue Nine wrote @ February 24th, 2012 at 4:31 pm
    “There’s also a National Academies committee that looked at SMD use of Ares V. The results were so bad (too few and too expensive missions) in the committee’s interim report that NASA didn’t bother to pay for a final report.”

    There were a number of studies that looked into the science that could be done with an Ares V. The NRC one that you refer to most certainly was competed, and is available at http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=12554. That study identified LOTS of missions that had awesome science potential. But they were all pretty much unaffordable. The unspoken conceit was that if ESMD wanted Ares V badly enough, and desperately needed a reasonable flight rate, they’d pay for the launches. But even then, the payload cost would have been hard to digest by SMD..

    There were two other studies done by NASA, one for Ares V astrophysics projects, and one for Ares V planetary projects, and the results were pretty much the same. Those studies may have preceded the NRC study.

    Look, I think that a 2-week vacation in a five star hotel in the Bahamas would be a wonderful, wonderful thing. But fiscally, for me, it’s just a fantasy.

    “I’d add that the cuts may also have been intended to send a message that NASA’s Mars planning was in disarray.”

    That’s a good way of putting it. As I said above, the Planetary Decadal recommendations for Mars were pretty much unaffordable. They knew it. The Decadal committee tried to grapple with their unaffordability, and participation in ExoMars was one of the first descope options considered. Yes, the buy-in to ExoMars is small, BUT the presumption was that ExoMars would be a shared payload with the MAX-C cacher. So the presumption of ExoMars participation was that a greatly upgraded MSL EDL architecture would be available. So agreement to participate in ExoMars was a tacit agreement that that Max-C would go ahead, and the firehose of $$ would get turned on. NASA simply wasn’t ready to do that.

  • ArtieT

    @ Aberyws

    I don’t know the costs of the 2016 or 2018 missions; however, if the 2020 mission was over a billion, it would have to have shown up in this years Presidents FY 13 budget proposal. And as I said, OMB is not gonna approve of large missions anymore in NASA’s budget. Hence, the 2020 mission is’nt going to go forward.

    Science won’t progress on the backs of Explorers, as great a program as that’s been, w/o large observatories. Which in the next foreseeable decades ain’t gonna happen.

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “You have no idea what kind of instrumentation NASA was putting on the table for TGO…”

    Actually, I/we do. The proposed instruments are:

    MATMOS (Mars Atmosphere Trace Molecule Occultation Spectrometer)
    NOMAD (High Resolution Solar Occultation and Nadir Spectrometer)
    EMCS (ExoMars Climate Sounder)
    MAGIE (Mars Atmospheric Global Imaging Experiment)
    HiSCI (High Resolution Stereo Color Imager)

    “or for MOMA”

    MOMA was one of the proposed instruments for the ExoMars rover (the Mars Organic Molecule Analyzer). It wasn’t the rover itself.

    “Most of that stuff has not even made it to academic conferences yet. Stay tuned though…if you’re going to planetary science-related or instrumentation related conferences starting late this summer, all the cool instrument work that has been done (and will never be delivered to the PI instituions in German and elsewhere in the EU) will come out.”

    I’m sure the capabilities of the instruments would have been stunning. That wasn’t my concern.

    My concern was how the instruments and spacecraft fit into a logical sequence of science investigations that answered key questions about Mars, its past habitability, and whether it ever harbored life. For example, according to the last planetary decadal survey, at this point, significant advances in answering these questions are only going to come from being able to examine Mars samples using instruments in Earth labs. That begs the question of why participate with ESA in TGO. Or, in another example, if TGO is critical to these questions, why bother with another atmospheric orbiter, MAVEN. There’s no clear sense of goals, priorities, and strategy. Out of the dozens and hundreds of Mars missions we could be mounting, why these?

    We used to have a program that pursued a clear follow the water/organics strategy with alternating orbiters and landers at each conjunction. At some point, that strategy was traded for cooperation with ESA on a mission of importance to them and one-third of an incomplete sample return effort. I don’t know that the Administration cut the Mars program because of this defocusing, but it would not surprise me if it played a role.

    “Again, NASA invests, folks do the work and political interests hammer science without knowing what science is being done.”

    For better or worse, good science is not enough to justify a special, multi-hundred million dollar per year program focused on one target planet. If we just want good science, then the competitively selected Discovery and New Frontiers missions are enough. For a dedicated effort like the Mars program, there has to be a clear set of priority questions and an end-to-end strategy to get them answered.

    The Mars program used to be like that. It had ceased to be such a program, and that may have played a part in the Administration’s reduction to the program.

    That said, it appears that what’s going to replace the Mars program is going to be even more muddled and confused. In fact, it may not even be a program, just a one-off mission.

    “I hope James Webb does something good with the paltry $100M drop in the bucket that they’ll add to their $8B mega-budget.

    Part of my background is in astrophysics, and even I sympathize with this sentiment.

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “Not even close to JWST, unless you think that $27M (US contribution to Mars 2016) and $55M (US contribution to Mars 2018)”

    I think these figures are inaccurate and low. There’s an article in next week’s SpaceNews stating that NASA has spent $45 million to date on four instruments for ExoMars 2016 alone.

    Just for the record…

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “The NRC one that you refer to most certainly was competed, and is available at http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=12554.”

    Thanks for the correction. I could only find the interim report on the SSB website. When I asked, I was told that NASA never funded the final. Apparently they missed the final when they updated.

    “That study identified LOTS of missions that had awesome science potential. But they were all pretty much unaffordable. The unspoken conceit was that if ESMD wanted Ares V badly enough, and desperately needed a reasonable flight rate, they’d pay for the launches. But even then, the payload cost would have been hard to digest by SMD.”

    I see that there’s only one candidate mission that both benefits from Ares V and is in the ~$1 billion mission class — Solar Polar Imager, probably because most of its mass is bound up in propellant to toss it over the Sun’s poles.

    The rest are in the $1-5 billion or $5 billion-plus categories (and that doesn’t include the cost of launch). $5 billion would have funded the old Mars program for a decade. Hard to see any of these missions becoming reality, regardless of how they’re launched. The SMD budget would have to be increased five- to ten-fold.

    Figure 1.1 should be mandatory reading for anyone thinking about using SLS for science/robotic missions.

  • Aberwys

    I think that NASA should stop being singled out for cost overruns and penalized for them. I’m not saying that we should ignore being fiscally responsible here, just putting this in perspective:

    The cost of JWST is $8B.

    The amount of cost _overruns_ in the military for 2009 was almost $300B.

    http://www.galorath.com/wp/296-billion-dollars-in-dod-cost-overruns-2009-gao-weapons-systems-assessments.php

  • ArtieT

    NASA Science is at a cross roads. Planetary/MARS, Astrophysics, Helio. In order for them all to take the next steps in moving Science along very complex instrumentation and mission implementation schemes are necessary.

    That means big bucks, i.e. multi billion dollar missions.

    However, NASA stakeholders do not have the stomach for approving such large missions, as NASA’s track record with large missions (of which MSL and JWST are just the latest examples) is poor.

    What is called for now is a new approach to achieving these big science goals. This is the job of NASA leadership. Perhaps Grunsfeld was hired to start SMD in a new direction, with a new paradigm – not sure yet.

    What is obvious from the FY 13 budget proposal is nothing much outside of a few Explorers is new in the Science portfolio. Exo Mars 2016, 2018 were cancelled. So was WFirst. LISA and IXO were cancelled last fall. All for same reasons – too expensive.

    Earth Science was spared (maybe this is where JPL can find some future work in the remainder of the decade), but their mission costs are creeping up too and each will soon be nearing a Billion. Heck, by the time they have their next decadal, they’ll have flown two missions: SMAP, ICESat 2. Not a great response to the decadal.

    NASA must transform itself; lets hope NASA leadership see this.

  • E.P. Grondine

    Hi DL –

    “No one is “reporting” it, because it’s a successful program, with a level budget.”

    Given that this is NASA, that in itself is newsworthy.

    I still want Hubble images of 73P’s debris stream.

    I like my own simple Mars goal – a nice sized rover going up Valles Marineris. Rocks from different eras should have fallen off the sides.

    NASA could call it POWELL.

  • E.P. Grondine

    Let’s see – 2 hi def cameras for stereo if possible by bandwidth, otherwise 1 cam movable, plus lo def backup, an adequate power supply, a portable instrument for isotopic dating, and a tool to prepare the samples’ surfaces.

    How much mass, and what would be the launch cost?

  • Doug Lassiter

    It is worth noting here that with regard to HLV science missions, Earth Science really doesn’t want/need any. Those scientists have been asked. If you want to do different Earth science experiments with different sensor packages, it’s easier to put up different satellites to do them. You certainly don’t have the need for aperture size, on-board power or propulsion that astro-, helio-, and planetary missions do.

    The choice of Grunsfeld to lead SMD does offer some potential, but there are ways that it could go all wrong. If Grunsfeld was chosen as a person who could meld HSF with science, he’s going to find that a lot of the melding is artificial unless he does some out-of-box thinking. That is, having astronauts wrestle with a large space telescope to do servicing/maintenance is pretty cool, but the right way to do it now is almost certainly telerobotic, perhaps from close by. That wasn’t the case when he was wrapping his arms around Hubble. The same could be said for astronauts assembling large science spacecraft with hand tools. That’s not to say that HSF doesn’t offer opportunity for science (except life science) but just that that this opportunity isn’t going to necessarily look like things we’ve already done. Grunsfeld will have to lead NASA out of that box. If all he’s there to do is to lead NASA space science to do more wrestling with telescopes, SMD is sunk.

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “The amount of cost _overruns_ in the military for 2009 was almost $300B.”

    That’s not accurate. What that GAO report says is that for the programs GAO was tracking, there were $296 billion in _cumulative_ overruns on those programs to date, corrected for inflation to 2009 dollars.

    We’d also expect DOD to have more and bigger overruns because they have more and bigger programs. The DOD budget is ~$700 billion, compared to NASA’s ~$17 billion.

    “I think that NASA should stop being singled out for cost overruns and penalized for them.”

    NASA is not “singled out”. Lots of DOD programs, from NPOESS (with NOAA) to SBIRS to TSAT, get terminated or otherwise “penalized” for overruns. Heck, even low cost and largely successful DOD space programs like ORS and STP are up for cancellation in this budget environment.

    Overruns anywhere are bad, but NASA doesn’t get any worse treatment than anyone else. In fact, a lot of NASA programs associated with NASA center workforces (Orion/MPCV, Ares/SLS, JWST, etc.) are given second, third, and fourth chances that other space and R&D programs don’t get.

  • Coastal Ron

    Dark Blue Nine wrote @ February 24th, 2012 at 11:18 pm

    “The NRC one that you refer to most certainly was competed, and is available at http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=12554.”

    The link should be “http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=12554” (you had a period on the end).

    Figure 1.1 should be mandatory reading for anyone thinking about using SLS for science/robotic missions.

    Not wanting to pay $37.25, I downloaded the PDF summary – do you mean chart “FIGURE S.1″, which starts “Two possible configurations of the Ares V shroud…“?

    That figure stated “Any spacecraft carried atop an [Ares V] upper stage would have severely restricted volume constraints. Neither shroud option takes advantage of the width of the Ares V shroud. SOURCE: Adapted courtesy of NASA.

    SLS would have the same constraints, and in looking at the preliminary NASA plans for the SLS, the Earth Departure Stage (EDS), which might mitigate this issue somewhat, isn’t even planned to be available until the 2030′s. That means the SLS would offer no advantages payload-size compared to existing rockets during it’s first decade of availability.

    I don’t think SLS backers know that, otherwise they wouldn’t be crowing about how only the SLS can loft wider payloads than existing rockets. Taking that into account, now we’re talking 20 years until the SLS can provide any meaningful value over existing launchers.

    This is really starting to get me pissed off about wasted spending. Politicians won’t be able to focus on anything related to logic for the rest of this year (too busy saving their own skins), but I think I’m going to start publicly lobbying for the cancellation of the SLS next year, either by joining an existing group, or maybe doing something on my own.

    The fiscal insanity known as the SLS has to be stopped.

  • Doug Lassiter

    Coastal Ron wrote @ February 25th, 2012 at 12:16 pm
    “The link should be “http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=12554” (you had a period on the end).”

    I didn’t href it. I just posted that address as text. WordPress turned it into an activelink.

    The shroud size in a launch vehicle is a simplistic metric for payload size. JWST, for example, could never have been lofted deployed in an 8m diameter shroud. The deployed version of JWST could never have withstood launch loads. What’s been proposed as a large-aperture HLV follow on for JWST (visual and UV wavelengths) is a BIG chunk of heavy glass that completely obviates any need for a support structure and alignment actuators. What you end up with is a hugely massive telescope that needs a huge control system to point it. By the same token, in making it massive and stiff, a lot of control options are taken out. This strategy isn’t extensible, as a bigger telescope has to wait for a bigger rocket. All in all, not a very smart investment in technological capability. But hey, it’s a low-tech way of filling (exactly one) SLS!

    Grunsfeld worked on this plan while he was at STScI. Let’s hope he’s visionary enough to see beyond that strategy.

  • Martijn Meijering

    I see that there’s only one candidate mission that both benefits from Ares V and is in the ~$1 billion mission class — Solar Polar Imager, probably because most of its mass is bound up in propellant to toss it over the Sun’s poles.

    Which means it could also be done with propellant transfer and smaller launchers. That would actually be a good idea: provide SMD with a transfer stage based on the Orion and heavily subsidised propellant at L1/L2 and let them take care of the science side of things.

  • Martijn Meijering

    Taking that into account, now we’re talking 20 years until the SLS can provide any meaningful value over existing launchers.

    And even then only compared to currently existing launchers, not launchers that might exist 20 years from now.

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “Not wanting to pay $37.25, I downloaded the PDF summary – do you mean chart “FIGURE S.1″, which starts “Two possible configurations of the Ares V shroud…“?”

    No, I mean Figure 1.1 on page 11 of the full PDF download, which is free as long as you give them an email address. Using historical data, that line graph shows how much spacecraft typically cost per metric ton of launch payload available to them. For example, a 10mT spacecraft will cost at least $5 billion and up to $15 billion (not including launch), depending on difficulty. The text accompanying the graph notes that Ares V has a 10mT throw-weight to Uranus/Neptune and even more to Mars/Jupiter.

    Again, when the Mars program was well-funded, $5 billion would have funded an entire decade of missions. If we had forced the Mars program to use Ares V, they would have only been able to do one spacecraft of average difficulty every 10 years. Obviously, HLVs on the scale of Ares V or SLS make no sense for science missions.

    Your points about shroud size in Figure S.1 also stand.

  • Coastal Ron

    Dark Blue Nine wrote @ February 25th, 2012 at 2:54 pm

    No, I mean Figure 1.1 on page 11 of the full PDF download, which is free as long as you give them an email address.

    Thanks for the clarification.

    Using historical data, that line graph shows how much spacecraft typically cost per metric ton of launch payload available to them.

    Powerful metrics. That is the type of info that can be used to ultimately derail the SLS. I say that because no matter the “generally accepted wisdom” of thinking that a bigger rocket must be better, the unintended consequence in NASA budget terms is that fewer missions are affordable, and LESS science & exploration gets done.

    I downloaded the report, and the “TABLE S.1 Summary of Mission Concepts Evaluated by the Committee” looked at 17 potential missions:

    - 5of the 17 (~30%) gained no advantage using Ares V
    - 6 of the remaining 12 (35%) use antennas or mirrors
    - One relies on Orion, but utilizes the Ares V EDS
    - The remaining five (30%) relied upon the Ares V EDS

    In summary, only 6 of those 17 missions relied upon the larger diameter capability of Ares V. The rest could be done using existing rockets and separately launched boosters.

    Also of note is the point that Doug Lassiter & DBN have been making, in that of the six missions utilizing antennas or mirrors, five of them were estimated to be >$5B in cost. How many of those level of missions could NASA afford to launch every year?

  • DCSCA

    Mars chatter in the Age of Austerity rates with Romney reminding Michigan voters in a near empty stadium that his wife, Anne, drives two Cadillacs.

  • DG

    NASA HQ is more concerned with make-work programs than real science and innovation. Interestingly, JWST is one of the worthy programs that should be funded. However, the whole manned program has been a fiasco for a while now. It has contributed nothing while spending all of the money and now NASA wants to cut one of the only good things it has going. Just take that $300M out of the manned program and give it to planetary. All will be happy, but Bolden won’t do that because he’s an astronaut, and that’s the problem. The bigger problem is that Congress is not funding NASA at the level it needs to be funded, but if the budget is what it is then clearly we’re going to have to do without some of the luxuries we were used to – like the Shuttle. What’s that you say? The Shuttle is grounded? Where’s that money going to then? SLS? WHY when SpaceX is going to solve our transport problems to ISS? We’re going to send men to an asteroid? Apparently, we cannot even afford to send a robot there!

  • Space Cadet

    @ Dark Blue Nine
    ” If we just want good science, then the competitively selected Discovery and New Frontiers missions are enough.”

    Unfortunately, the Discovery was program was cancelled (after the current Disc-12 flies)and the next New Frontiers won’t even have an Announcement of Opportunity out until 2015 at the earliest. It’s not just Mars. It’s not just Flagships. Planetary Science was virtually annihilated.

    Let that be a warning to any who dare to p.o. OMB …

  • Very great post. I just stumbled upon your weblog and wished to mention that I’ve really enjoyed browsing your blog posts. In any case I’ll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you write again soon!

Leave a Reply

  

  

  

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>