Campaign '12

Revisiting Alabama’s primary results

Some discussion in yesterday’s post about an Alabama congressional race looked at whether Newt Gingrich’s comments on space in Huntsville last week helped or hurt him there. Below are the results from the state’s GOP primary and in three northern Alabama counties, including Madison, where Huntsville is located (data via CNN:

Candidate State Madison Morgan Limestone
Santorum 35% 33% 40% 40%
Gingrich 29% 27% 28% 28%
Romney 29% 31% 25% 24%
Paul 5% 7% 5% 5%

In those counties Gingrich polled one to two percentage points below his statewide total, a difference that is probably not statistically significant. (Rick Santorum, who said little about space in a Huntsville visit two days after Gingrich’s, did worse in Madison County than he did statewide or in the other two north Alabama counties, with Mitt Romney doing better there.) Gingrich’s comments on space, in Huntsville or earlier, certainly did not help him there, but they may not have hurt him either: keep in mind that his disdain for NASA bureaucracy may have been, for some, a liability in a place that’s home to a major NASA center.

41 comments to Revisiting Alabama’s primary results

  • GeeSpace

    Well. there might be, possiblity, issues that are more important to voters than the issue of space policy. A very surprising fact to space supporters.

    One note of interest is that the Madison County voters for Paul was 20% higher than Paul’s state wide totals. No other candidate can claim that, Therefore, Paul a very high level of support in Madison County and support Paul’s politic positions

  • vulture4

    I agree. Even NASA employees support for candidates or parties does not seem to be much influenced by candidates positions or records on space.

  • MrEarl

    Gingrich, speaking in a more frustrated tone than usual. “Our political system is so methodically and deliberately stupid.”

    Please take your “moon base” and go home.

  • Dark Blue Nine

    Thanks to Jeff for consolidating the relevant county results in one table. Per an earlier post of Jeff’s, Gingrich had the same +/-1% performance versus his statewide performance in these Alabama counties as he did in Brevard County in Florida:

    http://www.spacepolitics.com/2012/02/01/did-space-policy-affect-the-outcome-of-the-florida-primary/

    Given these results, either:

    1) NASA human space flight center workers rate human space flight initiatives as low a priority as the rest of the electorate;

    2) NASA human space flight center workers are outnumbered by other voters at the polls;

    3) Gingrich’s specific human space flight initiatives did not play well with NASA human space flight center workers.

    Given how closely the county totals tracked the statewide totals, I’m guessing #1.

    Regardless, if an initiative to return to the Moon doesn’t play in these counties, it’s hard to see how such a major human space flight initiative is ever going to emerge again in national politics, absent some external forcing event.

    I hope Gingrich repeats his space speeches at JSC so we can see if the Texas primary results track with Florida and Alabama.

  • MrEarl

    Considering that Gingrich proposed doing his moon base WITHOUT NASA and has called for the elimination of NASA, I think #3 is much closer to the truth.

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “Considering that Gingrich proposed doing his moon base WITHOUT NASA and has called for the elimination of NASA”

    When and where did Gingrich say that? Do you have a quote and reference?

    Gingrich has talked about reforming the NASA bureaucracy and allocating up to 10% of the NASA budget to prize competitions (presumably for actors outside NASA).

    But I know of no statement by Gingrich that NASA should be eliminated, abolished, etc. or that NASA would no role in his lunar base.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Dark Blue Nine wrote @ March 15th, 2012 at 11:11 am

    At least in the Houston JSC area it is number 2.

    The JSC and Human space flight no longer are the primary economic drivers of the area. They are large but they are not even “that large” interms of the work force base even in technical information. The Clear Lake Area is becoming a sort of “medical city” south and fairly soon the hospital complex on Hwy 3 and near EPO will overtake the Center in total employment on campus…

    Several political figures have been caught in this. Olson shilled for Cx pretty hard until at his town hall meetings he faced very hard questioning over his support for that vrs his inability to keep Continental airline jobs (and there are a good number of CAL employees in the area) in Houston… He then retreated to his standard fare of “drill baby drill”.

    When the space station was on the “block” in 1994 (?) might have the year wrong but pretty sure I dont…there was a pretty good monopoly of JSC driven business in the area and it got a lot of “press” and community action to save the program…Cx going under barely got a yawn….that is how much the area has changed.

    Space jobs are what the economic development people refer to as “single ended”…they take money and distribute it but there is no product that resounds from that spending which hangs out long after the spending is gone.

    So for instance the spending on the NASA By pass created a lot of jobs etc as any influx of dollars does…but it also well we still have the road after its over and that has changed the community (most argue for the better!).

    We still have a house in Clear Lake and I am still on the mailers but I am not as in touch as I once was…moving to our new place in Santa Fe…but I’ve heard the efforts to get Willard to adopt some sort of space effort and spring it on the folks trying to get buy in from the local JSC voters.

    I dont know if that would work. As I noted the district is diversified and most dont have the good feel for space spending that once existed (we are more worried about how to keep the schools open)…but the folks who are at JSC…are well there are normal people and then there are the people who more or less are right wing nuts.

    The home schoolers are big, the social conservatives etc…and they are probably going to fall for Rick…I was up in the city the other day moving some things…I should scan in at least one of the letters that had been left with my neighbors concerning my thoughts on the space program…

    sigh not universally loved. RGO

  • MrEarl

    DBN, you have not been paying attention.
    At a Republican debate in June, 2011, Gingrich had this to say about NASA’s place in future space exploration:
    “unfortunately, NASA is standing in the way of it, when NASA ought to be getting out of the way and encouraging the private sector.”

    He also said this on Dec 18th 2007
    “One of the great disappointments of my life has been the hijacking of the great space adventure by the NASA bureaucracy. Space should be an area in which American innovation, creativity, and entrepreneurship are producing constant breakthroughs that increase our economic capability, improve our quality of life, and raise our prestige around the world. Instead, space has been hijacked by dull, inefficient, and unimaginative bureaucracies and transformed into an expensive, risk-adverse, and sad undertaking.”
    I’m sure many in NASA interpreted that as either elimination or at the very least a substantial downsizing of the agency. What is the bureaucracy that Newt refers too? That could be almost any NASA employee in any center.

    He also made clear that his moon base would be done through the private sector through the use of prizes:
    “The program I envision would probably end up being 90% private sector, but it would be based on a desire to get NASA out of the business of trying to run rockets, and to create a system where it’s easy for private sector people to be engaged.” He added: “I’d like to have an American on the moon before the Chinese get there.” (Washington Post quote from Jan 26th.)

    You’ll notice that Newt also believes the much ridiculed assertion on this blog that the Chinese are going to land a man on the moon.

    I wouldn’t expect Newt’s remarks to be welcomed by Marshall who has a large role in the creation of the SLS which is threatened by a shift to private LV’s or by KSC workers who could see their job eliminated by the switch to private LV’s. JSC may see some benefit to Gingrich’s plans if they believe that the moon base would be supported out of Mission Control.
    I know many on this blog my agree Gingrich on a lot of these points but that’s not what’s up for debate. Jeff, DBN and others make the point that space issues are a low priority even to NASA workers where I believe that it’s the particulars of Newt’s plan, the reduced or eliminated role of NASA and it’s workers, that is causing the lack of support.

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “DBN, you have not been paying attention.”

    Per your quotes, Gingrich sees the NASA bureaucracy as inefficient and risk-adverse, wants NASA out of the launch business, and sees a lunar base being 90% private. But nowhere does he state that he would be “doing his moon base WITHOUT NASA” and or call “for the elimination of NASA”. Those are your words, not Gingrich’s.

    In fact, Gingrich talks about reviving NASA, investing the presidency in building a nationwide space movement, and believes the space program is important for commerce and military development, not just science:

    http://campaign2012.washingtonexaminer.com/article/gingrich-tells-florida-voters-hed-revive-nasa/339261

    http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Elections/From-the-Wires/2012/0126/Newt-Gingrich-Space-visionary-and-future-Geek-in-Chief

    You should be careful not put words in others’ mouths and make false claims about what others have said.

    “Jeff, DBN and others make the point that space issues are a low priority even to NASA workers where I believe that it’s the particulars of Newt’s plan, the reduced… role of NASA and it’s workers, that is causing the lack of support.”

    I’m not debating your take on the poll numbers. It was option #3 in my first post above. I’m simply stating that you should not make up or exaggerate what politicians (or others) have actually said or written.

    I will say, if your hypothesis is correct, then it’s a pretty poor state of affairs at NASA if NASA workers will vote against a civil space initiative because they don’t think that they’re getting a big enough piece of the proposed pie. I don’t think that is happening, but it would be very sad and damning indictment of the NASA workforce if it were true.

  • DCSCA

    @Robert G. Oler wrote @ March 15th, 2012 at 2:37 pm

    “The JSC and Human space flight no longer are the primary economic drivers of the area.” Seriously then what is- car sales or petroleum related industries. Many Americans believe Pittsburgh is still a ‘steel city’ as well– but the mills closed decades ago.

  • DCSCA

    @Oler- a postscript- Pgh did a similar make over and became a medical research and insurance hub. But Houston surely remains a center or petrochemical operations.

  • DCSCA

    “But I know of no statement by Gingrich that NASA should be eliminated, abolished, etc. or that NASA would no role in his lunar base.”

    “GINGRICH CRITICIZES NASA

    House Speaker Newt Gingrich said on Saturday that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration should have been disbanded after the Apollo moon program ended in the 1970′s. Source- NY Times February 6, 1995″ Now you do.

  • @Mr Earl
    “You’ll notice that Newt also believes the much ridiculed assertion on this blog that the Chinese are going to land a man on the moon.”
    I for one have never said that the ultimate Chinese goal was not the moon. But as has been pointed out to you repeatedly, supporting SLS and claiming you are worried about Chinese dominance of space are inherently contradictory positions. As Chris Kraft eloquently wrote, using existing launchers we could start working our way outward now rather than waiting the years before we see a fully developed 130 mton SLS that you claim is needed for that task and get there sooner than with SLS (especially with the extra slip to the schedule that will occur with the Booz-Allen predicted budget busting at 5 years out). And I won’t repost the list of NASA, university and industry documents that came to the conclusion that SLS is the least effective method both economically and from a time-efficiency standpoint, since the numerous times they were posted before have not registered on you.

    But you have a favorite vehicle which is based on shuttle legacy technology and you insist on putting that square peg into the round hole of cislunar travel. In that same manner, Hutchinson et al. tries to make SLS fulfill the ISS backup role as well (even though it will extend our reliance on the Russians indefinitely). It goes back to the old saying, “If all you have is a hammer, pretty soon everything starts looking like a nail.”

    As for those calling for the elimination of NASA, all you are doing by advocating an ultimately impractical solution will be to make their position look more reasonable in the long run when it doesn’t pan out. If you really give a damn about NASA’s future and your country’s leadership in space, then get rid of your misplaced loyalties.

  • Robert G. Oler

    MrEarl wrote @ March 15th, 2012 at 3:13 pm

    At a Republican debate in June, 2011, Gingrich had this to say about NASA’s place in future space exploration:
    “unfortunately, NASA is standing in the way of it, when NASA ought to be getting out of the way and encouraging the private sector.”

    I would agree that of all Newts statements on NASA and Space this has probably been along the lines of the one that wounded him the most.

    While many at NASA HSF feel that the agency has a whole has picked up a bureaucracy; “their” role in that bureaucracy on an individual level is not clearly seen. It is kind of like the guy in the video from Mississippi who is beating up on federal entitlement spending but defends his taking of food stamps and unemployment “I deserve them”. Sure.

    I hesitate to tar all with the same brush but in the end the bureaucracy at NASA is self perpetuating and that is in large measure because MOST of the people there are depending on it for “their” livelyhood and they of course think that they are essential.

    RGO

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “Now you do.”

    I think you’re making it up. When I copy and paste the words:

    “House Speaker Newt Gingrich said on Saturday that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration should have been disbanded after the Apollo moon program ended in the 1970′s.”

    Into Google, no links or references to the New York Times come up. Instead, the top four links are to this blog, where you repeatedly providing the same (likely false) quote in various posts:

    http://www.spacepolitics.com/2011/12/13/gingrich-nasa-sits-around-and-thinks-space/

    http://www.spacepolitics.com/2011/12/10/gingrich-romney-spar-on-space-in-iowa-debate/

    http://www.spacepolitics.com/2012/03/06/gingrich-america-has-a-destiny-in-space/

    http://www.spacepolitics.com/2012/01/22/gingrich-planning-a-space-speech-this-week/

    So are you a habitual liar? Or can you provide a link to prove that you did not make up this quote?

  • DCSCA

    @Dark Blue Nine wrote @ March 15th, 2012 at 4:44 pm

    ROFLMAO. Sorry to burt your bubble– there’s no Santa Claus either. Get over it- you’re wrong and now you know. You don’t know Newt’s history very well, do you. And when presented with the facts you are reduced to personal attacks. Gingrich’s statement is a matter of public record as reported by the NYT and you cry ‘lie.’ LOL. No wonder you believe SpaceX’s press releases. Good grieg, nobody has to ‘make up’ anything about Gingrich as he excels at lying on his own. He is a fool and the damage he has done to public discoure on all matters space, regardless of which point of the compass you come from, will last for years. This week ‘Newt Gingrich- Moon President’ has been a punchline at least three times in the nat’l media– and forever a laugh on SNL.

  • DCSCA

    @Dark Blue Nine wrote @ March 15th, 2012 at 4:44 pm

    You dont read very well: Source- NY Times February 6, 1995.

  • DCSCA

    @Dark Blue Nine wrote @ March 15th, 2012 at 4:44 pm
    Dark Blue Nine wrote @ March 15th, 2012 at 4:44 pm
    “Now you do.” I think you’re making it up. When I copy and paste the words: “House Speaker Newt Gingrich said on Saturday that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration should have been disbanded after the Apollo moon program ended in the 1970′s.” Into Google, no links or references to the New York Times come up.

    Then you’re not very good at it as it comes up twice as a NYT archived article.

    Now you know- again.

    http://www.nytimes.com/1995/02/06/us/gingrich-criticizes-nasa.html

    “Gingrich Criticizes NASA
    Published: February 06, 1995

    House Speaker Newt Gingrich said on Saturday that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration should have been disbanded after the Apollo moon program ended in the 1970′s. In a lecture at Reinhardt College in this town in northern Georgia, Mr. Gingrich, Republican of Georgia, said that he generally favored Government support for science and technology but that NASA had become increasingly bureaucratic.”

  • Mr Earl

    I’m not putting words in anyone’s mouth. I used quotes from Gingrich himself that point to his distaste for NASA. In fact you are the one who misinterprets Newt’s position. In neither of the articles that you reference did Newt specifically say he was going to revitalize NASA. They are just the same quotes that I posted about him clearing the bureaucracy and helping private space ventures.
    And when you talk about a lunar base being “90% private” for all intents and purposes you are talking about doing it without NASA.
    As for your last paragraph about NASA workers, I don’t think many people would vote for someone who would eliminate their jobs and, as hard as it is for you to understand, it could be most of NASA’s employees and contractors believe that the best way for the US to maintain and expand it’s leadership in space is through NASA.

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “Then you’re not very good at it as it comes up twice as a NYT archived article.”

    It’s not an article. It’s a blurb. And the last sentence doesn’t even support your argument:

    “Mr. Gingrich, however, did not say whether he believed NASA should be disbanded now.”

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “I’m not putting words in anyone’s mouth. I used quotes from Gingrich himself that point to his distaste for NASA.”

    There’s a big difference between Gingrich having a “distaste” for NASA bureaucracy, and claiming that Gingrich is going to “eliminate” NASA.

    “And when you talk about a lunar base being “90% private” for all intents and purposes you are talking about doing it without NASA.”

    I’m not talking about it. Gingrich is, in a quote you provided.

    And there’s a big difference between Gingrich reserving a 10% role for NASA, and claiming that Gingrich wants NASA to have no role (0%) in a lunar base.

    Also, today, almost 90% of NASA’s budget goes to outside contractors, anyway. Civil servant salaries and benefits are only ~$2 billion out of an ~$18 billion budget. 90% private involvement would not be much of a change from the status quo.

    “As for your last paragraph about NASA workers, I don’t think many people would vote for someone who would eliminate their jobs”

    First, nowhere in any of your quotes did Gingrich state that he was going to “eliminate” NASA jobs. You state that you interpret such, but that’s just your interpretation.

    And I would still argue that it would be hypocritical, if not of the employees, then of the political system, to vote down a major U.S. human space flight initiative simply because it doesn’t provide enough jobs in the right congressional districts.

    Does NASA exist to to make achievements in space?

    Or is NASA a jobs program?

    You may be comfortable with arguing for a jobs program. I’m not.

    “it could be most of NASA’s employees and contractors believe that the best way for the US to maintain and expand it’s leadership in space is through NASA.”

    In the context of human deep space goals — like a lunar base — I’m not sure why anyone would think that since NASA has been unable to make any progress in human deep space activities in 40 years. This would especially true of NASA employees and contractors who are familiar with the record.

  • DCSCA

    Mr Earl wrote @ March 15th, 2012 at 6:27 pm
    “I’m not putting words in anyone’s mouth. I used quotes from Gingrich himself that point to his distaste for NASA.”

    You know, the sad thing is that Newt has neutralized any validity he might possibly have had on any public discourse about space policy by his own grandiosity. His own words have haunted hinm for decades on in. Look at that ’95 quote about dissolving NASA from his lecture series to college students. Gingrich’s recent comments only did more damage to the public discourse on space for years to come. And SNL sealed the deal with Newt Gingrich – Moon President.’ Three times this week we’ve heard it as a ‘go-to’ punchline in cable news land– and he said it six weeks ago. And the SNL skit will live forever. Gingrich is a bad messenger on a subject which deserves a higher place in public debate than ‘cheesy grits.’ The damage is done. He’s no Tom Hanks.

    What Newt/Walker and the Regan dinosaurs are all about is privatizing all things government. Space just happens to be an easy target as a ‘luxury’ expense in the Age of Austerity.

  • DCSCA

    @Dark Blue Nine wrote @ March 15th, 2012 at 11:11 am

    “I hope Gingrich repeats his space speeches at JSC so we can see if the Texas primary results track with Florida and Alabama.”

    So does every comedy writer at SNL.

    FYI- Your statement was this: “But I know of no statement by Gingrich that NASA should be eliminated, abolished, etc. or that NASA would no role in his lunar base.” Now you do. You’re presented w/evidence which disproves your statement, deny its veracity when shown same, feign ignornace of how Google a full article on the NYT then say it doesn’t apply. Hilarious.

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “FYI- Your statement was this”

    And your statement was:

    “Then you’re not very good at it as it comes up twice as a NYT archived article.”

    I’m still waiting for the article. The link only provides a blurb, which contains no direct quote from Gingrich, and the last sentence of which doesn’t even support your argument:

    “Mr. Gingrich, however, did not say whether he believed NASA should be disbanded now.”

  • DCSCA

    @Dark Blue Nine wrote @ March 16th, 2012 at 12:25 am

    You’re arguing w/yourself. You pitched “But I know of no statement by Gingrich that NASA should be eliminated, abolished, etc. or that NASA would no role in his lunar base.” Now you do. Evidence was provided verifying he did. Get a NYT account or go to a library and look it up. Don’t bother to apologize. End of story.

  • Mr Earl
    “… it could be most of NASA’s employees and contractors believe that the best way for the US to maintain and expand it’s leadership in space is through NASA.”
    And all backing a red herring like SLS does is just reinforce the argument of people who say it isn’t. P.S., I am not one of those people, but by making NASA irrelevant (by pushing an impractical launch system which makes NASA increasingly impotent over time in the deep space arena and robs from Commercial Crew to the extent that it increases our reliance on the Russians) may force the rest of us to come to that conclusion eventually. Just keep backing these dumb moves by the politicians and you will have no one but yourselves to blame for the final outcome. It’s a shame that a lot of people like you feel those NASA employees should only build big honking rockets rather than designing and developing the exciting cutting edge systems that could spread Americans throughout the inner Solar System.

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “Evidence was provided verifying he did.”

    No, it wasn’t. You “provided” a link to a blurb with no direct quote from Gingrich and a sentence at the end contradicting the claim that he has made such a statement.

    “Get a NYT account”

    I have one. The article is not there. Only the blurb.

  • Vladislaw

    Gingrich actually gave the talk on feb 5, 1995.

    http://www.nytimes.com/1995/02/05/us/gingrich-says-nasa-should-have-folded.html?src=pm

    Gingrich Says NASA Should Have Folded

    Published: February 05, 1995

    Speaker Newt Gingrich said today that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration should have been disbanded after the Apollo moon program ended in the 1970′s.

    In a lecture at Reinhardt College in this town in northern Georgia, Mr. Gingrich, Republican of Georgia, said he generally favored Government-funded science and technology programs. But he criticized NASA for becoming increasingly bureaucratic the longer it survived.”

    To me it sounded like Newt was trying to walk back a statement he had made previously.

  • Coastal Ron

    Mr Earl wrote @ March 15th, 2012 at 6:27 pm

    it could be most of NASA’s employees and contractors believe that the best way for the US to maintain and expand it’s leadership in space is through NASA.

    What NASA employees and contractors think is pretty much irrelevant on that topic. Pride in what you do is a great thing, and organizations that have that are doing something right. But it has no bearing on whether NASA is the right organization to be running the space equivalent of a trucking service, or who should be doing exploration. For government agencies, only the people that control the flow of money make those kinds of decisions.

    But you seem to assume that only the government can effect big changes, and I think right now we’re witnessing an aerospace renaissance happening with a number of private individuals that are putting their own money into various hardware projects. SpaceX is currently the largest example, but Stratolaunch is not far behind money-wise, and older groups like Masten Space Systems and Armadillo Aerospace are doing cutting edge development that will pay off when we do go back to the Moon.

    NASA is following, and in some cases funding a number of these groups because they know what they are doing better than NASA. It’s a classic example of American ingenuity and personal perseverance. And individuals can have a big influence on what we do:

    - Frederick W. Smith decided that we should have the ability to ship a package anywhere within the continental U.S. overnight.
    - Jack Dorsey thought we should communicate in message lengths of 140 characters or less.

    At some point someone we don’t know may step forward and lead the way towards opening up the exploration of the Moon.

    My point is that some things just can’t be planned, and that it’s better to focus on our immediate needs (dependable, low-cost transportation to LEO) than things like “who has the more inspiring Moon plan” that are unaffordable right now.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Mr Earl
    “… it could be most of NASA’s employees and contractors believe that the best way for the US to maintain and expand it’s leadership in space is through NASA.”

    oh probably…the question however is “how do they have that belief and square it with the other political beliefs that they have”.

    At least at JSC if you took a poll as to which political party most of the federal employees (and contractors) belong to it doubtless would not only come out heavily in terms of the GOP but they would mostly label themselves “true conservatives” or some other nutty phrase.

    It is my experience having lived in Clear Lake that the first people at any party who will rail pretty hard against government spending on infrastructure and the like…are JSC employees.

    But of course go talk about how we as a nation move into space…and the tone shifts on a dime…then its “government this” or “NASA that”. some of the most goofy emails that one can find on record are the turds who ran the Cx program and having spent 15 billion dollars to get virtually nothing…are busy running down both private industry and free enterprise…and pushing their own expertise at human spaceflight.

    Political hypocrisy is nothing new but the folks at JSC particularly the federal employees take it to an amazing level…as do a great many of their defenders.

    The other day I was at a Pete Olson “gathering” and one noted JSC employee who I know has federal health care…was up beating up on “Obamacare”…but it was OK OLson who has federal health care…was up beating up on it as well. Peace is war, war is peace.

    Its really quite stunning. RGO

  • Robert G. Oler

    Coastal Ron wrote @ March 16th, 2012 at 1:25 pm

    - Frederick W. Smith decided that we should have the ability to ship a package anywhere within the continental U.S. overnight.
    - Jack Dorsey thought we should communicate in message lengths of 140 characters or less.

    At some point someone we don’t know may step forward and lead the way towards opening up the exploration of the Moon.”

    anything is possible but I will be pretty surprised if the last sentence I quote happens…ever.

    First off exploration is not a business that is sustaining…as the two cases you mentioned (and I quoted) above. I dont care how cheap human spaceflight gets there are few pockets outside of government that can sustain the continued cost of “exploration” with no monetary return.

    Second none of the cases you mentioned developed a product that worked outside of EXISTING infrastructure, infrastructure that has in some measure (more in FedEx case then the other) been developed and sustained by the Federal government.

    I can see a Musk or someone thinking “wow lets do this as a stunt” and going to the Moon with humans or Mars with a Dragon …but that “stunt” has to be related to making their product more sale able and more valuable ….

    Robert

  • MrEarl

    Ron, the question I was answering was why NASA employees were not supporting Gingrich in the primaries. My opinion is that Newt’s plan is mainly based on giving money to the private sector in the form of prizes and anyone who works for NASA would think at that his plan, A: Threatens their job and B: Will fail without greater NASA participation.

    To the main trust of your argument, I never thought I’d say this but Oler covers it quite well.
    Exploration is non-sustaining, there’s little to no return on investment. That’s why government has to be the lead. Programs like COTs and Commercial Crew are perfect ways to lower costs by bringing in commercial entities in a sustaining role and encouraging them to take an exploitation role .

  • @Mr Earl
    “Exploration is non-sustaining, there’s little to no return on investment. That’s why government has to be the lead. Programs like COTs and Commercial Crew are perfect ways to lower costs by bringing in commercial entities in a sustaining role and encouraging them to take an exploitation role .
    It still doesn’t mean that government can’t take the lead in a different manner than it is with SLS. That is, without the cost-plus contracting, but with true competition to determine the hardware design without prejudicially pre-choosing a preferred method beforehand mainly to maximize pork that will make it blow its budget. A little less rationalization please?

  • Vladislaw

    Governments tend to do the minority of exploration. They do the big ones, columbus, lewis and clark, but after that the exploration by and large is done by the private sector. The miners/panhandlers the oil and gas men. The government doesn’t bother with the bulk of exploration, finding resources to utilize.

  • Coastal Ron

    Robert G. Oler wrote @ March 16th, 2012 at 2:26 pm

    First off exploration is not a business that is sustaining…

    Good subject to “dig” into. ;-)

    First of all, I never said what the timescale was before a business case could be made for the fruits of exploration, and from a business perspective, you don’t do exploration unless you are looking to exploit what you’re exploring. There is a market in knowledge extraction, but more in resource extraction.

    So from that perspective, yes, oil & mineral companies are having to invest a lot of money into exploration. But that wasn’t always true. When there was still virgin territory it took less exploration to find the resources you thought you could sell. The Moon is virgin territory, if (and it’s still a big “if”) a market can be found for what it has.

    Second none of the cases you mentioned developed a product that worked outside of EXISTING infrastructure…

    For today, you’re right. And again, I wasn’t stating a timescale. But someday the tipping point will come, and “someone” will figure out the combination of existing infrastructure to make it happen. That person may be a CEO of a space-related company, or maybe an entrepreneur that has figured out how to leverage the infrastructure of the day.

    Personally I think most lunar exploration and exploitation will be done by autonomous or telepresence robotic systems – not humans. If that turns out to be true, then the Google Lunar X-Prize could be an indication of how close the tipping point is getting. We still need to find something worth mining on the Moon, but companies are already lining up multi-million dollar contracts for transmitting data back from the Moon, so that’s a start.

    My $0.02

  • Coastal Ron

    MrEarl wrote @ March 16th, 2012 at 3:56 pm

    Ron, the question I was answering was why NASA employees were not supporting Gingrich in the primaries.

    OK.

    Exploration is non-sustaining, there’s little to no return on investment. That’s why government has to be the lead.

    Exploration tied to future exploitation is sustainable here on Earth – you just have to get a far enough head start. There is no reason to think the same model won’t work beyond our atmosphere.

    Regarding the government taking the lead, Commercial Cargo & Crew is not exploration, it’s services – the government needs cargo delivered and crew transported to their space station in Low Earth Orbit (LEO).

    I’m not aware of any large scale exploration that the U.S. Government funds on a regular basis, are you? And if there is, what percentage of the overall amount invested in exploration is it?

    Or at least explain why you think the government is taking the lead in exploration (and how you define that).

  • Robert G. Oler

    Coastal Ron wrote @ March 16th, 2012 at 11:45 pm

    Well there clearly has to be some thought along those lines…and I dont pretend to know how it is going to work out.

    Right now we have two cases (shuttle and ISS) of the federal government trying to build infrastructure that was at some point or another promised to expand commercial (read private) infrastructure and it has failed (or at least failed so far on the space station).

    So far at least there is no notion (at least in my mind) how on its own or in any consortium of companies a “private” concern drives its way to the Moon and then do something that generates a profit…we cannot even find a way to generate a product that services geosynch satellites from Earth.

    I dont know how this changes.

    At some point my assumption would be that some “Elon Musk” tries a new product and gets a success…but I dont know where and how this happens.

    What I am pretty certain however is that there is no market “just for exploration”…

    Robert

  • DCSCA

    @Oler-

    “- Frederick W. Smith decided that we should have the ability to ship a package anywhere within the continental U.S. overnight.”

    He was late to the game. Governments have been doing that for years – worldwide, too- we called it the Diplomatic Pouch– because it absolutely, positively had to get there. Yes, FedEx swiped it from State. ;-) .

    “Jack Dorsey thought we should communicate in message lengths of 140 characters or less.” That’s not communicating- that’s abbreviating. But if you want to condense conversation into tweeted code like technoCliffNotes, sure there’s a market for it, but it’s not an improvement in communicating at all– just more noise/clutter.

  • Vladislaw

    Robert G. Oler wrote:

    “Right now we have two cases (shuttle and ISS) of the federal government trying to build infrastructure that was at some point or another promised to expand commercial (read private) infrastructure and it has failed (or at least failed so far on the space station).

    So far at least there is no notion (at least in my mind) how on its own or in any consortium of companies a “private” concern drives its way to the Moon and then do something that generates a profit…we cannot even find a way to generate a product that services geosynch satellites from Earth.”

    In some cases the status quo has to run to the point of no returns before we see some changes.

    In one area that I am seeing this is orbital junk. We are heading to a point of no return and something will have to be done. Government funded garbage collectors of some sort of commercial/government system.

  • Coastal Ron

    Robert G. Oler wrote @ March 17th, 2012 at 1:05 am

    Right now we have two cases (shuttle and ISS) of the federal government trying to build infrastructure that was at some point or another promised to expand commercial (read private) infrastructure and it has failed (or at least failed so far on the space station).

    The Shuttle was a worthwhile experiment for the time period it was conceived, but it went on for far too long. Experimentation is good, but not learning from the experiments is bad. Certainly now there is no reason for the U.S. Government to run a transportation system, as it has no innate skills in do so, and it hasn’t even validated if the commercial market can’t handle it’s needs.

    Regarding the ISS, I’ve never heard that it was going to be anything more than a laboratory and testbed. I don’t call that infrastructure per se, and it’s far too early to write accolades or it’s obituary.

    Wikipedia defines infrastructure:

    Infrastructure is basic physical and organizational structures needed for the operation of a society or enterprise, or the services and facilities necessary for an economy to function.

    Commercial Cargo and Crew would be classified as infrastructure assets, but as designed the ISS is more of a destination. I know people would like it to morph into something more, but I don’t count unfunded wishes.

    So far at least there is no notion (at least in my mind) how on its own or in any consortium of companies a “private” concern drives its way to the Moon and then do something that generates a profit…

    I agree. But what I was outlining earlier was based on a timeline that goes pretty far out, and the further out we go, the more capable our autonomous and tele-presence systems will get, and that’s where I see the tipping point coming for finally allowing us to exploit the Moon, and maybe bodies beyond. What they’ll exploit is still unknown, but who knows what our needs will be in 30-50 years.

    What I am pretty certain however is that there is no market “just for exploration”

    No even with the U.S. Government. Apollo was a political thing, not exploration, and the Shuttle wasn’t exploration at all. Congress is fine letting NASA do robotic exploration, but it has repeatedly shown that human exploration is a very low priority. They still have no plans to actually use the SLS/MPCV, despite it’s horrendous cost.

    Once we define what the Moon and other heavenly bodies have that we need, then people will be interested in funding exploration. Until then, I agree, not so much.

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