Lobbying, NASA

Planetary scientists seek unity as they gear up for a budget fight

While NASA administrator Charles Bolden was defending the administration’s budget request before House appropriators earlier this week, other NASA officials were left to explain the consequences of those cuts to an audience even less pleased with the proposal: the planetary sciences community.

“I wish I had a good succinct answer” for why NASA’s planetary science budget received a 20% cut in the fiscal year 2013 budget proposal, said John Grunsfeld, NASA’s associate administrator for science, at the “NASA Night” forum at the Lunar and Planetary Sciences Conference (LPSC) Monday night in The Woodlands, Texas. Grunsfeld, who took the job after the FY2013 budget decisions had been made, said that the cut was not intended to be “punitive” for overruns on missions like the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) or the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). “It really comes down to a lot of tough trades,” he explained. With MSL on its way, he said, administration officials decided “planetary would have, I think the words I’ve heard are, a ‘paced development.’”

Grunsfeld acknowledged that the decision to withdraw from the joint ExoMars program with ESA was a “huge disappointment”, but he was hopeful that there will be a way to restore some kind of Mars mission for NASA by the 2018 launch opportunity. A planning group led by Orlando Figueroa to examine potential long-term exploration architectures is ramping up its work. A website for the group will be up soon, he said, along with town hall meetings, with a goal of completing its study by late summer.

Many in the audience at the event, which was also webcast, wanted more information on why planetary got cut. Some wondered if planetary was, in effect, being raided to pay for JWST. “As far as I know, there were no specific trades between programs,” Grunsfeld said. JWST is funded in the budget proposal for FY13 and later years at the levels needed to support a 2018 launch, reflecting its status as an agency priority, “and other programs were adjusted up and down to maintain a flat topline.” He cautioned against infighting within the scientific community over funding. “We will all lose,” he said, if that were to happen. “There is no doubt about that.”

During the Q&A period, Jim Bell, president of the Planetary Society, gave an extended and impassioned plea for Grunsfeld and Jim Green, the head of NASA’s planetary science division, to fight the proposed cuts—even if it cost them their jobs. “What we’re asking you to do is what we are all doing, and that is to fight back,” Bell said. “And even if you lose your jobs over opposition to this misplaced budget agenda, it would have been the right thing to do.” That line generated a mixture of laughter and applause from the audience.

Grunsfeld recalled that he was in a similar position before, working at NASA Headquarters as chief scientist in January 2004, when the agency decided to cancel the final planned servicing mission to the Hubble Space Telescope. “I had a really tough night,” he said after hearing the news, trying to decide whether he should resign in protest. He said he talked with astronomer John Bahcall, who told him he would have the support of the astronomy community if he left, but if he did that, “there will be nobody inside of NASA to help to save Hubble.” Grunsfeld stayed, and, of course, that servicing mission was ultimately restored and flown.

At a “community forum” the next day at LPSC, also webcast, members of the planetary science community tried to rally their forces to fight the proposed budget cut. “One of the reasons that planetary got whacked” in the budget proposal, said author Andrew Chaikin, who moderated the session, “is because the planetary community is perceived in certain powerful circles as being weak. We have to have to come together and show that we are not weak.”

That coming together process, though, appeared to be very much a work in progress at the forum, as representatives of several professional organizations talked about their planned outreach efforts, ranging from informing their members to organizing visits to Capitol Hill. “I want to stress the crucial importance of responding as a united community,” said planetary scientist Steve Squyres, who chaired the most recent planetary sciences decadal survey. “And I do not mean as a community of Mars fans and a community of Europa fans. I don’t even mean responding as a community of planetary scientists. I mean responding as a community of space scientists.”

Squyres warned that, as bad as these cuts are for the planetary science community, it could get worse. He said he has talked with “various decisionmakers” in Washington who “are looking for ways to cut even further” in budgets. “What we must not do is give anybody a reason for cutting planetary even further. There’s going pressure to do that.” That, he argued, requires a united front by planetary scientists. “There is no surer way to give budgetcutters—and there’s lots of them out there—a reason to go after the planetary program than to project an appearance of disunity, disarray, disagreement as to what we should be doing. We must speak as one voice.”

76 comments to Planetary scientists seek unity as they gear up for a budget fight

  • ArtieT

    Notwithstanding JWST and MSL, for the most part the Robotics side of NASA has done a spectacular job of returning new discoveries in space science – with reasonably acceptable slips in schedule and cost overruns. Witness the Smithsonian Award just earned by Cassini.

    When societies take on technical and scientific challenges that require innovation, and indeed succeed in those endeavors, the quality of life goes up for the society. There is plenty of evidence in papers on the history of technological innovation that show the majority of quality of life gains between the Great Depression and today was driven by technological innovation – most of that era was w/o a space program.

    Yet the cabal of lawyers pretending to be leaders of our dysfunctional and failing government don’t see the value in technological innovation; rather they see value in arguing about government funded contraception.

    Squire et al need to not only come together as a science community to prevent further mindless cuts to space science, they need to use the privilege of their public identities and quasi science celebrity to join Neil DeGrass Tyson to push for ‘a Penny for NASA Robotics”

  • Aberwys

    Grunsfeld’s take on why planetary got the ax in the President’s budget request is very different from what Bolden said in his testimony to the House this week.

    Bolden said that he had justified the cuts because Mars was doing well. He also commented to Rep. Schiff that the funds were passed to JWST.

    So, what is the story?

  • amightywind

    I don’t understand why planetary scientists don’t point at the 800 lb gorilla in the room, the utterly fantastic $3 billion annual waste of the ISS. Kill ISS and resuscitate planetary science and HSF. The enemies of planetary science are not anonymous. Planetary science is starving to death while the ISS gorges itself. Fight back chumps!

  • Justin Kugler

    We’re putting new earth and space science instruments on the ISS over the next few years, enabling new science missions that would not have been possible before because those teams couldn’t have afforded their own self-contained flight. The ISS is not the enemy of space science.

    Grunsfeld himself has said his tenure will not pit HSF and science against each other. The ISS is the only permanent infrastructure we have in space right now. We have to learn to use what we’ve got instead of throwing things away to try to pick up where Apollo left off. Failing to learn that lesson is why Constellation fell flat and SLS is, in my opinion, not likely to fly.

  • MrEarl

    What Squyres says about the planetary science community goes for the space community in general. If we project an appearance of in-fighting and disarray it just opens the door the budget cutters to reduce the NASA budget even more.
    We all have our pet projects that we would like to see funded better and our wasteful programs that is sucking the life out of everything we hold dear. When we attack programs we’re not going to shift money from one program to another, it’s just going to lower NASA’s budget even more. Right now, NASA’s budget is at it’s lowest percentage of the federal budget since it’s founding over 50 years ago.
    We should be working toward an increase in the NASA budget. Toward that end there is the web site Penny4NASA. I think NASA is well worth a penny on the dollar.
    http://penny4nasa.org/Penny4NASA/Home.html

  • amightywind

    If we project an appearance of in-fighting and disarray it just opens the door the budget cutters to reduce the NASA budget even more.

    Aggressive “in fighting” is the only way to jolt the NASA bureaucracy out of the status quo to significantly reallocate the budget. If the planetary community holds hands and sings kumbaya with their adversaries, they will die.

    We’re putting new earth and space science instruments on the ISS over the next few years

    It is already well established that ISS science is a joke, especially compared to the fantastically successful Mars exploration program.

    We have to learn…

    We have learned after $100 billion and 10 years that there is nothing to learn. The facility is near the end of its life. A follow on, more modest Bigelo station could be built for a tiny fraction of the cost.

    We should be working toward an increase in the NASA budget.

    It isn’t gonna happen. For the next several years at least spending will stay flat or decline in real terms.

  • @Mr Earl
    “I think NASA is well worth a penny on the dollar.”
    Agreed. All the more reason not to be wasting a penny of it. We should be going for maximum return on our space investment so we can do the most we can do regardless of the amount NASA is actually budgeted – whether the budget is substantially increased (not bloody likely) or not. Reducing planetary science is not the way to do it. Since we know we can return people to the Moon and go elsewhere sooner than we could on our present path without short changing any other programs within the current budget, we should do that. But you don’t like how that would be done.

  • Doug Lassiter

    This “penny on a dollar” business is trite and baseless. Let’s call it what it is. It’s $35B on $3.5T. There are many many pennies on that dollar, as there are many billions in those trillions that compete with it, for things that the nation needs. The “penny on a dollar” marketing line is a trivialization that is just an escapism for not having a convincing rationale. The argument shouldn’t be that space exploration doesn’t cost much, but that it offers great value. Pretending that something has value because of its fiscal triviality is a dangerous policy strategy. One could just as easily forgive federal fiscal stupidity with the “penny on a dollar” line. As in, it’s too trivial to worry about.

    With all due respect to Neal Tyson, whose passion and determination are admirable, this is a memorable line, but that doesn’t make it something that you should base rationale or policy on.

    I’ll remind everyone that if NASA got a penny on the federal dollar, it would hardly guarantee that amazingly good things would happen. It does sort of mean that it would do twice as much as it does now. We could have an ISS that was twice as big, pay for twice as many Soyuz’, and employ twice as many people. You don’t get badges or make history for doubling things.

  • MrEarl

    Ok, tell me where all this infighting has gotten us.

  • Justin Kugler

    With know-nothing “friends” like you, amightywind, who needs adversaries?

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “I don’t understand why planetary scientists don’t point at the 800 lb gorilla in the room, the utterly fantastic $3 billion annual waste of the ISS.”

    Because there’s zero probability that the United States would sink a flying asset, fire thousands of NASA human space flight workers, and piss off 14 other nations just for the sake of a couple undefined Mars missions.

    Those of us who wanted to kill the space station lost that fight back in the 90s. It’s been almost two decades. It’s far past time to move on.

    “The enemies of planetary science are not anonymous. Planetary science is starving to death while the ISS gorges itself.”

    The $3B per year gorilla in the room is SLS/MPCV. We’ve spent billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars and over half a decade trying to get Orion to fly; we’re still almost a decade away from the first operational, crewed mission; and both projects are still slipping year-for-year. Unlike ISS, SLS/MPCV are not flying, there’s a high likelihood that no astronaut will ever fly on them, and there’s no international partners to piss off.

    SLS/MPCV are the appropriate the target for offsets to pay for planetary exploration missions. They’re planetary exploration projects that have performed poorly, aren’t doing exploration, and have no exploration payloads. Just one year of SLS/MPCV development would pay for an entire MSL-class mission (including overruns), or multiple MERS-class missions, with change to spare.

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “This ‘penny on a dollar’ business is trite and baseless. Let’s call it what it is. It’s $35B on $3.5T. There are many many pennies on that dollar, as there are many billions in those trillions that compete with it, for things that the nation needs. The ‘penny on a dollar’ marketing line is a trivialization that is just an escapism for not having a convincing rationale. The argument shouldn’t be that space exploration doesn’t cost much, but that it offers great value.”

    Exactly. Does NASA produce $17B worth of value, each year every year, today? If we can’t prove that, then we have no hope of convincing policymakers to double down on such a bad bet.

    This sort of analysis should be applied to every weak program at NASA. Do SLS/MPCV produce $3B worth of value every year? Will they produce $30B worth of value a decade from now? Will they produce $60B worth of value two decades from now?

    If not, replace them with something that does so that the overall $17B (or $35B) NASA budget can be justified from the ground up, not arbitrarily guessed/hoped/wished for from the top down.

  • MrEarl

    ” Does NASA produce $17B worth of value, each year every year, today?”
    Would most, or any, govenment agency pass that test?

  • @Mr Earl
    “Ok, tell me where all this infighting has gotten us.
    Nowhere, the same as SLS will. But affirming or denying that truth doesn’t make things any better either. Eventually, it will become so grossly apparent that SLS is a turkey (even to someone who is not space savvy) to the point that it will go the way of Ares I. When that happens the real enemies of NASA will have an excuse to rape it. “See! NASA’s a waste because they threw away billions on something that could NEVER be practical.” They won’t want to make the effort to analyze the situation enough to realize that only parts of NASA are that wasteful and most are doing worthwhile work.

  • Vladislaw

    amightywind wrote:

    “I don’t understand why planetary scientists don’t point at the 800 lb gorilla in the room, the utterly fantastic $3 billion annual waste of the ISS. Kill ISS and resuscitate planetary science and HSF. The enemies of planetary science are not anonymous. Planetary science is starving to death while the ISS gorges itself. Fight back chumps!”

    Just three letters, think about that … change just three letters in this post, change ISS to SLS and your post makes perfect sense.

  • Ben Joshua

    Chaikin is onto something. Space science and tech, for all its data yield and benefits to humanity, have relatively little political heft on capitol hill. Congress though, insists on SLS/MPCV (which may be obsolete well before first flight), because of political heft, maybe the inertia of bloat.

    Dark Blue Nine wrote @ March 23rd, 2012 at 11:22 am
    “Does NASA produce $17B worth of value, each year every year, today?”

    Break it down further and ask which NASA programs offer value in excess of their cost (from the dollars and lives saved by NASA’s aeronautical research to the former Vice-President’s artificial heart) and perhaps more importantly, from a budget politics view, what development timelines result in the most value and least bloat?

  • @Mr Earl
    “Would most, or any, govenment agency pass that test?”
    Maybe not. But it’s still not an excuse for waste in any government agency, not just NASA. People with that mindset are the reason why the deficit is as bad as it is. “It’s alright for my favorite government agency to be wasting money on a project with no long term benefit for the nation as a whole because all of the other agencies are doing the same kind of thing and some of them are wasting a lot more!” How lame.

  • Vladislaw

    MrEarl wrote:

    “We should be working toward an increase in the NASA budget.”

    Actually we should be looking for ways to increase productivity for NASA.

    NASA needs more bang for the buck, not more bucks.

    When NASA’s own documents show that their way would cost 4 billion and the private sector’s costs would be under 500 million, then money isn’t the issue. The contracting methods, ownship of vehicles, redundant staff et cetera are the problem.

    NASA should be moving towards buying the data and leasing vehicles rather then the highly prohibitive methods NASA uses to procure these results.

  • Robert G. Oler

    MrEarl wrote @ March 23rd, 2012 at 11:59 am

    ” Does NASA produce $17B worth of value, each year every year, today?”
    Would most, or any, govenment agency pass that test?>>

    Yeah most of them would…ie they would pass the “value for dollar” test.

    FAA…how much value per dollar do you put on the air traffic control system? How much value per dollar do you put on the regulatory system which stops airlines from screwing the public by flying unsafe airplanes.

    US Marshal Service…how much value per dollar do you put on apprehension of federal felons, maintaining the borders, etc?

    National institute of health….

    Medicare and Medicaid…It is per dollar one of the most effective and cost efficient health care systems in the world…Old people have great health care, the poor are not dying in the streets…people who have lost their jobs can get affordable health care…(shouldnt we all have that?)

    NNSA (National Nuclear SEcurity Administration) just picked up all the nuclear material in Mexico…a few months ago it was the Ukraine…this is the DOE that Rick Perry would get rid of when he can remember the name.

    EPA…the air in Houston is far better today then it was in the 60′s…Been to China? They dont have an EPA and most days Bejing is just not breatheable.

    CIA? What to say here.

    There are some agencies that the government and people do not get their monies worth…I think TSA has a role but they are not very effective (and I say this from a day to day experience)…but that is probably more leadership then anything else.

    It is hard to see the dollar back from NASA HSF…I dont expect one back from NASA planetary programs…these are truly “small scale” Items which fall into the “this is what a great power does”…but HSF? We spend a lot of money (about the equivelent of a Nimitz or Ford class carrier a year) on HSF and we dont get a lot back.

    The station has consumed a lot of money, consumes more each year and we get …what?

    SLS…a total sink hole. Orion…a joke.

    RGO

  • Robert G. Oler

    MrEarl wrote @ March 23rd, 2012 at 10:48 am

    Ok, tell me where all this infighting has gotten us.>>

    the same place that years of not thoughtful support uncritical support of Cx got us…no where a lot of money spent nothing to show for it…at least however there is opposition, there is some notion of a different path.

    RGO

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “Would most, or any, govenment agency pass that test?”

    Sure. A couple non-controversial examples off the top of my head:

    National Weather Service — The annual budget for the NWS is almost $900 million. The savings in lives and property from evacuations in advance of one major hurricane or flood easily exceed that budget, and there are usually a couple or several such events each year. Add in massive savings for planning in U.S. agriculture and weather-sensitive industries, and it’s easy to argue that the products of the National Weather Service are worth many, many times the tax dollars spent on them.

    Smithsonian Institution — Total annual attendance (admission is free) at the Smithsonian museums is about 30 million, and the total annual federal budget for the Smithsonian is about $800 million. That’s a little over $25 per attendee, which is on par or less costly than admission to most amusement parks these days. When you add in the research and scholarship, educational mission, and preservation of national artifacts, I think it’s easy to argue that the Smithsonian is worth the tax dollars spent on it, probably more.

    Even if we can’t reduce a NASA program to these kinds of dollars-and-cents analyses, it’s not that hard to compare the relative worth of different NASA programs based on what they’re producing. For example:

    Per NASA’s own analysis, commercial cargo/crew is already worth several times the tax dollars spent on it because it would have cost the government multiples of what NASA kicked in for Falcon 9 development to develop a new launch vehicle using a traditional government development program approach. Commercial cargo/crew are programs that NASA should retain and expand upon because they’re already producing value in excess of what the taxpayer spent on them.

    Compare that to ISS, which arguably has not produced anything of value comparable to the tens of billions of taxpayer dollars spent on it. But at least ISS is a program that is flying and producing something in terms of research, operational experience, astronaut time, and foreign relations. Even if NASA will never recover the taxpayer’s investment, it’s a program that the government can at least wring some value out of by minimizing transport and operational costs and maximizing research, technology, and partnership dollars.

    And then compare that to Orion/MPCV, which hasn’t produced anything, period, despite more than a half-decade of development and billions of taxpayer dollars, and which isn’t projected to produce anything, even one crewed flight, for another decade and tens of billions of more taxpayer dollars. Orion/MPCV imposes a huge opportunity cost on NASA’s planetary exploration activities for something that is likely to never actually carry out a planetary exploration mission. It’s far from clear how NASA will ever wring value out of Orion/MPCV when it takes so long, costs so much, and crowds out the funding for transit stages, landers, and other, actual human planetary exploration hardware.

    Even if we can’t get to $17 billion, it’s pretty clear that NASA (or at least the human space flight side of NASA) needs more programs like commercial cargo/crew, needs to maximize the value of programs like ISS, and needs to minimize its exposure to programs like Orion/MPCV. There’s no way NASA will ever justify $17 billion, nevertheless $35 billion, a year as long as the agency keeps investing in zero-return albatrosses like Orion/MPCV (and to a lesser extent, minimally producing programs like ISS) that comprise 20-40% of its total budget. That’s an enormous drag.

  • Justin Kugler

    I could not have said it better, DBN.

  • Coastal Ron

    Vladislaw wrote @ March 23rd, 2012 at 12:38 pm

    NASA needs more bang for the buck, not more bucks.

    Well said.

    Other than threatening to cut off someones budget, I haven’t seen Congress asking how we can do things for less money. Businesses have to do that, otherwise they go out of business. Government should be asking those questions too, especially for NASA.

    Of course if they did, then they would discover that the SLS should be cancelled right away. That’s probably why Congress doesn’t ask those types of questions…

  • amightywind

    But at least ISS is a program that is flying and producing something in terms of research, operational experience, astronaut time, and foreign relations.

    ‘Producing something’ seems a rather tepid defense for such extravagant expenditure.

    Research? What research? Rat experiments? Hybrid seeds? Life sciences? Compare the scientific output of two similarly extravagantly funded projects: ISS and the Large Hadron Collider. One of the will explain the phenomenon of mass. The other will measure the tensile strength of spider silk.

    Operational experience? Seems to me the effort to keep the station alive highlights its design deficiencies. All the more reason to splash it.

    Astronaut time? We now know stays of greater than six months in zero g are likely to cause macular degeneration. How much worse does the news need to get before we build spinning manned structures? And whose time? Seems to me that the Russians are over represented considering their modest contributions to the station.

    Foreign relations? Russia occupies 20% of our allies the Georgians. They threaten the Baltic republics. Their strongmen rig elections. They enable a nuclear Iran. They encourage death and mayhem in Syria. They use natural gas as a political weapon in Europe and Asia. Can you honestly say being marooned with the Russians on ISS has been favorable to the US in foreign relations?

    You are not thinking clearly.

  • MrEarl

    “FAA…how much value per dollar do you put on the air traffic control system? ”
    Like what is now called NexGen that’s been in “development” for over 30 years, costs billions of wasted dollars and will not be fully operational until around 2020?

    The Smithsonian Institution was rocked by scandals from 2005 til 2008 and with the National Zoo being particularly hard hit.

    “Medicare and Medicaid…It is per dollar one of the most effective and cost efficient health care systems in the world”
    Really?! Let’s not forget that Medicare/Medicaid acknowledge fraud and waste equal to NASA’s entire budget.

    I’m not arguing agenst commercial efforts, I’m arguing agenst this blood sport the space community seems to be perpetully engaged in where each group is out to profit at the others expence which invariably leads to smaller and smaller pies to devide not more for the “victor”.

  • @Mr Earl
    Again, waste in all government areas should be avoided, and that includes NASA (with SLS being a prime example). Waste in one arena of government does not excuse it in another. Stop the rationalization.

    “I’m not arguing agenst commercial efforts, I’m arguing agenst this blood sport the space community seems to be perpetully engaged in where each group is out to profit at the others expence which invariably leads to smaller and smaller pies to devide not more for the “victor”.
    No, what you are doing is trying to represent the legitimate concerns of the rest of us as petty bickering in order to make a wasteful project that you favor look good. When it comes to looking out for a “group”, what matters to me is what will advance this country as a whole; meaning for benefit of every citizen’s future.

    Leadership in space is crucial for America to remain at the technological cutting edge and to keep our economy competitive. The promotion of your pet vehicle by certain people in positions of power to advance only their local constituents’ interests is the greatest current threat to our future as a significant player in spaceflight.

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “Research? What research?”

    See report link at http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2009/sep/HQ_09-203_ISS_Science_Report.html. From the summary article:

    “Advances in the fight against food poisoning, new methods for delivering medicine to cancer cells, and better materials for future spacecraft are among the results published in a NASA report detailing scientific research accomplishments made aboard the International Space Station during its first eight years…

    One of the most compelling results reported is the confirmation that the ability of common germs to cause disease increases during spaceflight, but that changing the growth environment of the bacteria can control this virulence. The Effect of Spaceflight on Microbial Gene Expression and Virulence experiment identified increased virulence of space-flown Salmonella typhimurium, a leading cause of food poisoning…

    Another experiment produced a potential medical advance, demonstrating a new and powerful method for delivering drugs to targets in the human body. Microgravity research on the station was vital to development of miniature, liquid-filled balloons the size of blood cells that can deliver medicine directly to cancer cells…

    One of the most prolific series of investigations aboard the station tests how spacecraft materials withstand the harsh space environment… This experiment has significantly reduced the time needed to develop new satellite systems, such as solar cells and insulation materials, and paved the way for materials to be used in new NASA spacecraft such as the Orion crew capsule.”

    “Operational experience?”

    For better or worse, ISS is the only facility in human history to give us experience with the magnitude of construction and operations necessary to mount a long-term exploration expeditions.

    “Astronaut time?”

    There’s a lot more to long-duration, deep space expeditions than macular degeneration or microgravity countermeasures. See
    http://news.discovery.com/space/mars-mission-simulation-space-station-110421.html. An excerpt:

    “NASA is looking at using the International Space Station as a testbed for a human mission to Mars, beginning with a planned week-long simulation to be staged next summer.

    Initial studies would focus on figuring out effective and safe ways for NASA’s ever-present Mission Control to give the astronauts more autonomy.

    Mars-bound crews won’t be able to talk with flight controllers — or anyone back on Earth for that matter — the same way they do from aboard the station, which orbits just 220 miles beyond Earth. Traveling at the speed of light, a radio wave will take up to 22 minutes to travel between Earth and Mars — and the same span of time for a reply — making normal conversation impossible.

    ‘We want to use the space station as a way to get smarter about what a mission to Mars or a mission to an asteroid might look like,’ space station flight controller Pete Hasbrook told Discovery News.”

    “Foreign relations?”

    There are 13 other members of the partnership beside Russia (and the US).

    “You are not thinking clearly.”

    And you’re willfully or actually ignorant.

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “The Smithsonian Institution was rocked by scandals from 2005 til 2008 and with the National Zoo being particularly hard hit.”

    I don’t want to make light of a couple dozen animal deaths, but their loss at one Smithsonian facility doesn’t fundamentally change the value that the Smithsonian delivers to its attendees. I’m not even sure that they change the value that the National Zoo delivers to its attendees.

    Institutions have management problems all the time. Whether that leads to a loss of value for their customers or funders relies on a host of other factors.

  • Robert G. Oler

    MrEarl wrote @ March 23rd, 2012 at 3:00 pm

    “FAA…how much value per dollar do you put on the air traffic control system? ”
    Like what is now called NexGen that’s been in “development” for over 30 years, costs billions of wasted dollars and will not be fully operational until around 2020?>>

    The main thing that slowed NexGen down was the Bush 43 era anti everything that is “the world” and a goofy fixation with primary radars after 9/11.

    The main problem is that the technology of FANS has been going “faster” then the international agreements could move particularly when Bush/Cheney hated everything international…tiresome people

    Plus the present ATC system evolved as FANS is over a period of 30 years as well (the present ATC system roots to the 30′s, the radar system to the 50′s)…and the change in FANS is like going from an Apple 2 to the most modern Pentium.

    NASA is not moving forward technologically.

    “Really?! Let’s not forget that Medicare/Medicaid acknowledge fraud and waste equal to NASA’s entire budget. ”

    No they do not…and “fraud and waste” is another one of those tiresome GOP talking points when they have no real fracken solution. Listening to Pete Olson in the same paragraph talk about “fraud and waste” then defending his attempt at an F-35 second engine. …again Tiresome.

    “, I’m arguing agenst this blood sport the space community seems to be perpetully engaged in where each group is out to profit at the others expence which invariably leads to smaller and smaller pies to devide not more for the “victor”.”

    NO I AM ALL FOR THE BLOOD SPORT. That is how you kill the fracked up programs that have GOTTEN ALL THE MONEY and accomplished nothing. The people who ran Cx should have been given the opening scene from the movie Branded…where they are thrown out for incompetence.

    As I told the “local yokle” cop who got in my face the other night coming home from the Gulfstream dinner as I shoved my ID in his face..”get the frack out of here and go annoy other people”.

    His reply was “Yes Sir”..My wifes reply was “you dont show that much” and mine was “He is an idiot”. .tired of tiresome people who continually advocate the failed policies of the last 40 years on goofy terms.

    There is no waste fraud in SLS and Orion, there is only incompetence. RGO

  • Vladislaw

    “There is no waste fraud in SLS and Orion,”

    When NASA/contractors proudly announce they are utilizing services from almost every state in the union to build a freakin’ capsule, isn’t that borderline waste?

  • Vladislaw

    Dark Blue Nine wrote:

    “See report link at http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2009/sep/HQ_09-203_ISS_Science_Report.html. From the summary article: … “

    Great post but it won’t matter. They always just move the goal posts.

    No experiment turned lead into gold yet so ALL experiments are therefore worthless.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Vladislaw wrote @ March 23rd, 2012 at 5:24 pm

    “There is no waste fraud in SLS and Orion,”

    When NASA/contractors proudly announce they are utilizing services from almost every state in the union to build a freakin’ capsule, isn’t that borderline waste?>>

    In my word it is incompetence…it is the inability to articulate what the dollars are being spent for so we just need to rely on the notion that the dollars are being spent. No one cares where the GPS satellites are built…they have worth on their own RGO

  • DCSCA

    Every dollar budgeted for commercial space subsidies and faux ‘development’ must be cut to zero as the place for commercial, ‘private enterprised’ JSF firms to source financing is the private capital markets, not the United States Treasury.

    Mars planetary funding should be dependent upon the success/failure of the $1.2 billion Curiosity rover’s arrival in August. Both author Chaikin (met him at the From The Earth To The Moon premiere; a storyteller, not a scientist) and Sagan wanabe Squyres should know this. If Curiosity ‘reelsdown’ safely, transfer the funding saved from terminating commerical HSF budget subsidies to planetary space. Waiting five months is no big deal. Of course, terminating the JWST, a project that is its own budgetary black hole- the supercollider redux– would free up billions for other space activities, out just flat out save some tax dollars in the Age of Austerity.

  • DCSCA

    @Dark Blue Nine wrote @ March 23rd, 2012 at 11:22 am
    “Exactly. Does NASA produce $17B worth of value, each year every year, today?”

    =eyeroll= This is the is the same lame assertion that an accountant in a board meeting of any firm w/a R&D division would pitch to the CFO before recommending a budget cut to boost quarterly dividends and beef up the next annual report. And savvy, senior corporate execs will tell you long range ‘five years plans’- in the private sector- are worthless in business operations and the best’ weather forecast’ you can use as a thumbnail is about 18 months out- and that the first place you go to shave costs is your R&D group, then personnel in middle managment across the divisional seating chart.

  • Doug Lassiter

    Ben Joshua wrote @ March 23rd, 2012 at 12:14 pm
    “Chaikin is onto something. Space science and tech, for all its data yield and benefits to humanity, have relatively little political heft on capitol hill.”

    There is nothing new here. Space science has long been the poor brother to human space flight in congressional advocacy efforts. Scientists don’t know how to advocate on the Hill (they’re getting better at it, but their efforts are still pathetic compared with the launch industry). They are obscenely bad at articulating the “benefits to humanity”, which for the launch industry is easy — “jobs in YOUR district”. Andy knows this. But what he’s saying, I think, is that planetary science has to do a better job showing a united front. That’s what the Decadal Surveys are supposed to do, creating that united front, but this last one precipitated a lot of grousing by the non-Mars communities.

    From the standpoint of an academician, letting a thousand flowers bloom with argument and public discourse marks intellectual success. To Congress, which doesn’t have the time or patience for such discourse, that just signals lack of consensus. If you want something done, don’t tell Congress that you have loads of different great ideas! Their business isn’t to appreciate loads of different great ideas. Their business is to make the right one happen.

    The idea that planetary astronomy was penalized because they were so successful seems incredibly dumb, but I think what it really means is that the planetary science community was so successful that they backed off on strategic advocacy. If you’re fat and happy, you don’t push as hard. The overwhelming emphasis on Mars sample return exemplified this. It was a stunningly expensive and ambitious plan, but hey, we deserve it, the planetary community felt. We’re that good!

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “This is the is the same lame assertion that an accountant in a board meeting of any firm w/a R&D division would pitch to the CFO before recommending a budget cut to boost quarterly dividends and beef up the next annual report.”

    It’s not a “lame assertion” if the R&D division is not producing value commensurate with the corporate resources being poored into it. If it’s not, then it should be cut and resources redirected to better performing divisions.

    “And savvy, senior corporate execs will tell you long range ‘five years plans’- in the private sector- are worthless in business operations and the best’ weather forecast’ you can use as a thumbnail is about 18 months out-”

    The statement you’re whining about refers to an annual analysis. That’s every 12 months, not 18 months or five years.

    “and that the first place you go to shave costs is your R&D group”

    Not if they’re producing value in excess of the corporate resources being put into that group.

    “then personnel in middle managment across the divisional seating chart.”

    Not if those divisions are producing value in excess of the corporate resources being put into those divisions.

    You can’t manage anything with blanket statements. Only someone with no business experience and a very lazy brain would make such claims.

  • Robert G. Oler

    DCSCA wrote @ March 23rd, 2012 at 6:47 pm
    are worthless in business operations and the best’ weather forecast’ you can use as a thumbnail is about 18 months out- and that the first place you go to shave costs is your R&D group, then personnel in middle managment across the divisional seating chart.>>

    that might be the Willard Mitt Romney etchsketch school of management but in the real world it is a ticket to disaster.

    “the best weather forecast” one can get is meaningless in terms of a business product…particularly when one is creating a market from scratch. You cannot start an airline from “idea” to first flight in under 2 years…I have a lot more experience doing it then you do…

    what you can do is 6 or 12 month analysis of trends; particularly when one is trying to put together a new product.

    None of this of course has anything to do with planetary science; particularly when one is looking at trip times in years and planning time in multiple years.

    the problem with planetary science is that it and everything else are being cannibalized by JWST and SLS…and the only reason for that is that these two programs have pork pie supporters. RGO

  • DCSCA

    Dark Blue Nine wrote @ March 23rd, 2012 at 8:10 pm

    “It’s not a “lame assertion” if the R&D division is not producing value commensurate with the corporate resources being poored into it. If it’s not, then it should be cut and resources redirected to better performing divisions.”

    =yawn= In fact, your statement is quite lame as you’re attempting to apply corporate business modeling to government operations- a R&D one at that. You might as well whine the DoD doesn’t turn a profit, so it ought to be privatized. ‘Value’ is relative, of course, depending on what you value and your metrics, but you’re attempting false equivalency again, which is a characteristic of desperate commercial space advocates of late. Over the past 80-plus years of modern rocketry, every time private industry has been presented w/t opportunity to assume the huge financial burden, the high risks, uncertain rewards, (aka minimal to no ROI) and lead in this field, the private sector has balked every time and yielded to the government to assume the burden. That’s why governments over the decades, in various guises and for a variety of geopolitical and miltary motivates have done it.

    It’s an absurdity to apply ‘private enterprise’ corporate business modeling to a government agency- and in NASA’s case, a R&D organization, whose ROI over time can easily be justified when calibrated as a Cold War expense, an element of national security, etc., Private firms are in business to make a profit. The government exists to provide services private enterprise has failed or demonstrated a reluctance to meet- and in the case of HSF, that reluctance remains stark. Since April, 1961, they have failed to launch, orbit and return anybody. They fly nobody.

    Goddard went wanting and was starved of both government and private support for his research (save Guggenheim’s generosity thanks to Lindbergh). In Germany, private sponsorship of fledgling rocket clubs waned and in turning to the government, Von Braun and his colleagues found themselves flush w/Reichmarks for military research. When Sputnik was lofted, it was the government, the Army’s Redstone that took the risk, met the challenge albeit for geopolitical purposes (which is a metric of profit in some quarters at State) and orbited Explorer.That’s why governments do it. That’s why it was NASA, not PanAm, which flew men the moon. The only place private enterprise leads in space for profit enterprise is in the movies- see 1950′s ‘Destination Moon’ for details- it actually has a great business plan- provided there’s uranium ore on the moon as the rationale to profit from the flight by reel four. As Lincoln noted- ‘The legitimate object of government, is to do for a community of people, whatever they need to have done, but can not do, at all, or can not, so well do, for themselves in their separate, and individual capacities.’ That’s why governments conduct space projects of scale. That’s why governments do it.

  • pathfinder_01

    DCSC, companies do cut R/D if the R/D isn’t producing enough revenue(or the company is having hard times and has fewer resources) or when compaies merge(do you need two R/D deparments and locations??). They increase R/D in good times(lets reinvest our money) and sometimes bad(i.e. Lets R/D our way out the hole).

    However for many/most companies five years out is much too long a time. Maybe some drug companies due to the time it takes for a drug to get to market, but for others like food companies things move much faster.

    Anyway one of the things R/D does is not just make new products but make old products better(i.e. Cheaper to make, more appealing to the customer, new uses ect..).

    What commercial crew brings is a way to make HSF cheaper(and probably safer). By using exsisting rockets(Falcon 9, Atlas) you save the massive costs of building a new HSF only rocket(Ares-1/SLS) as well as the time it takes to make it. By having companies invest some of their own money you get a little more fiscal responsiability.

    I mean look objectively at this situation. NASA is pushing a 2014 in space test of Orion, something that Dragon has already done and did so in 2010! Dragon started development in 2005 and is set to carry cargo to the ISS. Orion started in 2005 and is currently in no shape to even carry underwear to the ISS much less a crew. Heck the 2014 flight won’t even have a life support system or a working service module that first flight of an capsule is almost ten years latter!

    NASA spent $278 million to develop Dragon while Orion has taken billions. Commercial development is much more cost effective.

  • BeancounterFromDownunder

    DBN, congrat’s, couldn’t put it better.

  • DCSCA

    Doug Lassiter wrote @ March 23rd, 2012 at 6:53 pm

    “Space science has long been the poor brother to human space flight in congressional advocacy efforts.”

    Not if the space science projects are working in tandem w/HSF projects of scale. Witness the various lunar probes through the 1950s which provided valuable data as precursors for the manned landings. A Surveyor acted as a passive target affirming pinpoint landing protocol for Apollo 12.

  • pathfinder_01

    Anyway today’s NASA is not the NASA of the 60ies. The NASA of the 60ies only developed what was needed to go to the moon. They used existing rockets as much as possible. Mercury flew on Atlas, Gemini on Titan. Apollo itself made use of the Saturn IB for LEO testing and missions. The Saturn IB was an existing rocket with a new stage (the SIIB).

    Today’s NASA thinks it can build rockets despite the fact it has not developed a new system in 30 years. Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Orbital and Space X have all designed and built new rocket systems in the last 10-15 years.

    Does not make use of existing rockets for HSF. There is no reason why Orion could not have been built to fly on Atlas or Delta besides the need to save shuttle jobs. Atlas and Delta could have been modified to do HLV work for much cheaper than the Ares or even SLS. Heck even for building and supplying the ISS there was no reason why everything had to go on the shuttle.

    The current NASA which is slowly dying and IMHO will become irrelevant without commercial crew is one that designs and builds rockets. This is no longer needed. What is needed is Payloads not rockets. That is why NASA is in the silly situation it is in now where SLS’s only payload is Orion and SLS is being developed in stages instead of all at once(i.e. in 2017 we won’t even be able to go into lunar orbit like Apollo 8!).

    Imagine how much further along things would be if NASA focused on say a 40MT-50MT earth departure stage with a long loiter time or refueling in orbit and ULA and Space X focused on lifting the stage and Orion to orbit. Instead of building a 3 stage SLS!

  • Dark Blue Nine quoted:

    Advances in the fight against food poisoning, new methods for delivering medicine to cancer cells, and better materials for future spacecraft are among the results published in a NASA report detailing scientific research accomplishments made aboard the International Space Station during its first eight years…

    (begin sarcasm)

    Dontchya know … All that is irrelevant. We need more Moon rocks. Or a vial of sand from Mars. And to keep the standing Army of Shuttle workers polishing the chrome (never know when we might need obsolete technology again). Those are the true priorities for humanity. A cure for cancer?! Vaccines for salmonella and MRSA?! Who needs those?!
    (end sarcasm)

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “In fact, your statement is quite lame as you’re attempting to apply corporate business modeling to government operations”

    I never applied “corporate business modeling” (whatever that is) to NASA. I only asked whether NASA produces value commensurate with its $17 billion annual budget. That’s something that should be asked of any institution receiving taxpayer dollars.

    Traditional business metrics — EBITDA, profit, ROE — don’t apply to government agencies, obviously.

    “and in NASA’s case, a R&D organization, whose ROI over time”

    I never used ROI. You did.

    You’re the one applying business metrics to NASA. Not me.

    “can easily be justified”

    Well then do it. Justify NASA’s $17B annual budget. If it’s so easy, you should be able to show that the agency produces at least $17B worth of value to the US taxpayer annually.

    “That’s why governments do it.”

    “That’s why governments do it.”

    “That’s why governments do it.”

    Please stop with the obsessive-compulsive routine. It’s creepy.

  • DCSCA

    Robert G. Oler wrote @ March 23rd, 2012 at 11:59 pm

    It’s the real world at senior levels. Not usprised you’re not aawre of it.. Get used to it– it’s how the businesses which make the world go ’round operate.

    @pathfinder_01 wrote @ March 24th, 2012 at 4:01 am

    “Commercial development is much more cost effective.”

    So effective, it remains non-operational; has failed to deliver cargo and failed to take the risk and fly anybody while government space programs have been flying crews for half a century. You’re trying to apply close-to-the-margin for profit business modeling to government which contradicts the very nature and rationale for government operations to beging with. Government is not a business- something Sir Willard of Romney has failed to learn. Profit driven companies do cut R&D (reflexively almost always the first place they go to flitch off fat) the first driven by the profit motive and the needs of the bottom line. But government isn’t a profit driven corporation and those who ascribe to the ideology that it should be are doomed to failure. And FYI, Dragon’s 2010 test ‘tested’ notihing; it circled twice carrying a wheel of cheese. And besides, Progress has been servicing LEO space platforms for three decades.=sigh=

    @BeancounterFromDownunder wrote @ March 24th, 2012 at 4:26 am

    How’s that Australian manned space progam coming along. Newt’s available to run it for ‘ya.. Oh, that’s right, you have none but you want to spend other nation’s monies.

  • DCSCA

    @Robert G. Oler wrote @ March 23rd, 2012 at 11:59 pm
    “the best weather forecast” one can get is meaningless in terms of a business product…particularly when one is creating a market from scratch.”

    Except commercial is not ‘creating a market from scratch,’ is it. the ISS is a ready made market for it, we’ve been told. And that the market is there already anyway, ready for development. So much for you’re judgement and ‘experience.’ 18 months is the thumb nailfor senior corporate types. Above your paygrade. Then there’s this gem- “”SLS…a total sink hole. Orion…a joke.” The voice of experience– not. Whether youl ike it or not,. SLS and Orion will fly.

  • DCSCA

    “Even if we can’t get to $17 billion, it’s pretty clear that NASA (or at least the human space flight side of NASA) needs more programs like commercial cargo/crew, needs to maximize the value of programs like ISS, and needs to minimize its exposure to programs like Orion/MPCV.” <- this is Gingrichesque/Walker styled babble. Any attempt to apply private sectored/business modeling to government R&D operations is just an effort to cut government by extremist ideologues.

  • Monte Davis

    Welcome and thanks to Deep Blue Nine — who may have been around for a while, but I had slacked off here because so much of the conversation was repetitive and predictable “Space is all about HSF beyond LEO,” “Space is all about private enterprise proving my faith that government fails at everything,” and “Space is all about finding the mantra that will magically get 51% of voters and Congress excited about something that has never excited more than ~5% in the absence of bogus add-ons like the Soviet->Chinese->Brazilian Menace.”

    Keep making sense, DBN; there’s always a chance it could prove contagious.

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “this is Gingrichesque/Walker styled”

    What are you talking about? Gingrich wants to allocate 10% of NASA’s budget for prizes and establish a lunar colony. No one in this thread, including me, has written about that.

    You’re way off topic.

    “Any attempt to apply private sectored/business modeling”

    Again, you’re the one using business metrics like ROI, not me.

    “to government R&D operations is just an effort to cut government by extremist ideologues.”

    I’m not talking about cutting NASA’s topline line or any other government agency. I’m talking about allocating the resources they have more effectively.

    Do you really want ineffective programs dragging NASA’s budget down?

    How could you possibly argue with this?

  • BeancounterFromDownunder

    DCSCA How’s the U.S. one going? You know, the big rocket NASA one. Not the commercial effort which you like to denigrate no end. Oh, sorry, aint got one at the moment, huh! Shucks, just have ta pay them there Russians for a ride.

  • BeancounterFromDownunder

    No MD, not much chance if you’re trying for the likes DCSCA and Windy. You could beat them over the head with a shovel and they’d still think everything was fine and dandy. But if you like a little light relief and nonsense, then they’re clearly up for it. “… second stage spinning out of control”, ” … 49 cents in the dollar …” et al.

  • Vladislaw

    DCSCA wrote:

    “That’s why governments do it.”

    Governments do it because in the 1960′s private citizens were not allowed to build their own ballistic missiles like Atlas and Titan and launch them in their backyard.

    Three years and you still have not produced the governmental documents showing how the Dept of Transportation, the FAA, NASA and Military all signed off on people were allowed to build missiles and rockets in their backyards and could launch people on them… tick tock tick tock.

    Governments did it because they didn’t trust the population with their own ballistic missile capability.

  • vulture4

    There are people in the space program working very hard to do something useful for ordinary people and for our country. I’m one of them. Many of these programs fall under the catchall title of Research and Technology (R&T). It’s a microscopic part of the NASA budget. We were working with partners from academia and industry on a new technology that could benefit US manufacturing and renewable energy, but our minimal (~$30K) proposal was not funded, in fact almost all research and technology, over a dozen promising projects (well under $1M for the entire year) were eliminated. At the same time, the one unmanned Orion test added to the SLS/Orion program added over $400M.

  • Robert G. Oler

    DCSCA wrote @ March 24th, 2012 at 8:22 am
    Any attempt to apply private sectored/business modeling to government R&D operations is just an effort to cut government by extremist ideologues.>>

    I see where you are confused…you think NASA HSF is doing R&D…ok thats just goofy RGO

  • There are quite a few people in the space program trying to do useful work. I’m one. Most such projects are ground-based and fall into the catchall area called research and technology. R&T is such a small part of the budget it is almost invisible. Yet almost all of our R&T (a dozen projects which had been selected from over 60 proposals) was eliminated this year to save less than $1M. Give us a pittance and we’ll work our tails off to produce renewable energy, cure diseases, and maybe make a few US aircraft manufacturers more competitive. NASA has produced useful work. As it is, we often work months to develop and propose practical research only to end up with nothing because it isn’t part of “Moon, Mars, and Beyond”.

  • DCSCA

    @Dark Blue Nine wrote @ March 24th, 2012 at 10:17 am
    “Again, you’re the one using business metrics like ROI, not me.”

    Inaccurate. Your own business model metric w/ROI quantifers posting says otherwise: Dark Blue Nine wrote @ March 23rd, 2012 at 11:22 am “Does NASA produce $17B worth of value, each year every year, today? … This sort of analysis should be applied to every weak program at NASA. Do SLS/MPCV produce $3B worth of value every year? Will they produce $30B worth of value a decade from now? Will they produce $60B worth of value two decades from now?” Whose to say a R&D program w/a year of research is ‘ineffective’ — that’s an attempt to apply a standard business metric to a government research project. ‘Nuff said. What’s ‘creepy’ is inability of the commercial HSF advocates to accept that space exploitation is not space exploration- particular when it seeks government subsidies.

    @BeancounterFromDownunder wrote @ March 24th, 2012 at 11:30 am

    They denegrate themselves, Beano, by attempting false equivalency w/tried, proven and experienced government HSF programs, yet fly nobody, remain non-operational, cloak themselves in the ‘private enterprise’ free market mantre yet seek government subsidies denied from private capital sources to fly to the a faux market, the ISS. If they ever launch, orbit and return crews safely and go operational and pay for it all themselves, DCSCA will be among the first to applaud it.

  • pathfinder_01

    ??? DSCSA

    I don’t think that a moon base/mission, government owned space station, or government deep space mission can or needs to be profitable. However hauling cargo and crew to space can be profitable and frees NASA up to work on other things.

    Company QA/QC, University R/D and government R/D is not profitable, but there is a whole lab supply industry that is. 50-100 years ago scientist used to blow their own glassware! Now you just pick up a catalog (or use the internet) and order whatever you need. It frees time and is often cheaper or more efficient. I mean you could have your lab tech make some microbial media from scratch or you could order it premixed(add agar, water, autoclave, pour into plate/test tube) or order test tubes and plates already filled and ready to go with a given media. This makes labs more productive than they were 50-100 years ago (i.e. the problem of how to make a Petri dish and fill it with media has been solved).

    Public schools for instance need to transport children to school. They could own their own busses or hire a school bus company. If they do the latter then others can use the service like private schools, churches community organizations. The school bus company is much more efficient and usually cheaper than hiring a driver and owning the bus.

    NASA needs to transport crew and cargo to the ISS. It can either own its own systems(which is expensive) or use existing ones to the greatest extent possible. At a minimum just using Atlas means that NASA isn’t footing the entire bill to keep Atlas in production and any additional trips/seats sold on a CCREW craft is just gravy.

  • Robert G. Oler

    vulture4 wrote @ March 24th, 2012 at 3:29 pm
    As it is, we often work months to develop and propose practical research only to end up with nothing because it isn’t part of “Moon, Mars, and Beyond”.>>

    Yes (taking a break on this loverly…grin Saturday afternoon)…that is the problem.

    The move by Obama and Bolden to turn NASA into an actual R&D agency and the attempt to frustrate it by the “we have to have a goal” groupies is one of the larger debacles of our time. What people who are “Go someplace” folks cannot seem to grasp (or simply do not want to, is that our technology in human spaceflight is to primitive, sort of Viking like to do anything really useful on other worlds, the best we can do is work our way into the technology that 1) makes it possible and 2) makes it affordable.

    instead we have billions spent on valueless things…of course another problem is that the right wing 6000 year old Earth anti science people…do not want renewable energy. Oil is good RGO

  • Robert G. Oler

    DCSCA wrote @ March 24th, 2012 at 4:01 pm
    “Does NASA produce $17B worth of value, each year every year, today? … This sort of analysis should be applied to every weak program at NASA. Do SLS/MPCV produce $3B worth of value every year? Will they produce $30B worth of value a decade from now? Will they produce $60B worth of value two decades from now?” Whose to say a R&D program w/a year of research is ‘ineffective’ — that’s an attempt to apply a standard business metric to a government research project. ‘Nuff said. ”

    you dont seem to understand the role of project management in a program…nor defining the role of projects and programs in American life.

    RGO

  • Doug Lassiter

    Doug Lassiter wrote @ March 23rd, 2012 at 6:53 pm
    “Space science has long been the poor brother to human space flight in congressional advocacy efforts.”

    DCSCA wrote @ March 24th, 2012 at 4:27 am
    “Not if the space science projects are working in tandem w/HSF projects of scale. Witness the various lunar probes through the 1950s which provided valuable data as precursors for the manned landings.”

    That has nothing to do with Congressional advocacy, and the Surveyor project was 45 years ago anyway. We’re talking about this century. (You did set your clock forward by one hour, didn’t you? Setting it backwards by forty years could get one into a lot of trouble.)

    A slightly more sensible example is HST, which gave the space shuttle program perhaps the most useful thing it ever had to do. I can’t really imagine, however, that Congressional support for HST ever depended all that much on Congressional support for human space flight.

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “Inaccurate. Your own business model metric w/ROI quantifers posting says otherwise”

    No, it doesn’t. Nowhere did I use the term ROI. ROI is a specific business term, with specific calculations behind it.

    I repeatedly used the term “value”, which can be measured many ways.

    “Whose to say a R&D program w/a year of research is ‘ineffective’ — that’s an attempt to apply a standard business metric to a government research project.”

    Sadly, the majority of NASA’s budget is not spent on research.

    “space exploitation is not space exploration”

    Again, enough with the OCD. You’ve repeated this phrase literally hundreds of times in this blog. If you don’t have an original thought, then don’t post. Otherwise you sound like a mental patient.

  • ArtieT

    Congressional support for NASA – HSF or Science, has nothing to do with support for NASA – HSF or Science. Congressional support for NASA is really Congress doing what it can to ensure it’s survival.

  • BeancounterFromDownunder

    DCSCA wrote @ March 24th, 2012 at 4:01 pm
    “They denegrate themselves, Beano, by attempting false equivalency w/tried, proven and experienced government HSF programs, yet fly nobody, remain non-operational, cloak themselves in the ‘private enterprise’ free market mantre yet seek government subsidies denied from private capital sources to fly to the a faux market, the ISS. If they ever launch, orbit and return crews safely and go operational and pay for it all themselves, DCSCA will be among the first to applaud it.”

    I know we’ve been here before but the government has not yet asked for nor contracted with any commercial firm to fly anybody anywhere. The U.S. governement via NASA has no, repeat, no capability left to fly anyone to leo. The only ones with that capability are China and Russia, not the U.S.A.

    On the issue of so-called subsidies, let’s be clear, the COTS nor the CCDev spinoff programs are subsidies. NASA is paying for the development of a capability to standards that the commercial companies would not build to otherwise. Not a subsidy. And again, they didn’t seek it but tendered for it via a commercially let contract. Some were engaged, some missed out.

    The ISS is a legitimate international market, not a faux pas one since it exists and commercial companies can tender to provide services. The fact that some government funding is also available is beside the point. There have been plenty of examples where capability has been developed with both government and commercial funds via properly tendered for commercial contracts.
    So far as your friends at SpaceX go, any contract between themselves and any outside party, be they government or another commercial entity, is regarded as a commercial contract.

    Look out for 30 April. Could change the game further if successful. Remember, only a ‘test’ flight. CRS contract flights are operational.
    Cheers.

  • DCSCA

    @BeancounterFromDownunder wrote @ March 25th, 2012 at 5:26 am

    “I know we’ve been here before but the government has not yet asked for nor contracted with any commercial firm to fly anybody anywhere.” So Wilbur and Orville needed a government contract before taking flight. Thank you for playing.

  • Coastal Ron

    DCSCA wrote @ March 25th, 2012 at 4:45 pm

    So Wilbur and Orville needed a government contract before taking flight.

    They were looking for government funding after they had demonstrated powered flight – I guess you probably didn’t know that.

    And I’m sure had you been alive at that time that you would have been standing outside of their bicycle shop yapping “Orville and Wilbur have flown NOBODY” as they were getting ready to transition from gliders to powered flight. Do you understand now how you sound?

  • DCSCA

    @Doug Lassiter wrote @ March 24th, 2012 at 6:37 pm

    “That has nothing to do with Congressional advocacy, and the Surveyor project was 45 years ago anyway.”

    So the successful use of robotics (Surveyor/Ranger/Lunar Orbiter) in support of HSF operations is voided by the passage of time w/you. LOL HST was designed for servicing by HSF- and in fact, was saved by same due to failures in quality control by the manufacturers & oversight in the space science ciommunity.

    @Dark Blue Nine wrote @ March 24th, 2012 at 10:50 pm

    Inaccurate. “… it’s pretty clear that NASA (or at least the human space flight side of NASA) needs more programs like commercial cargo/crew, needs to maximize the value of programs like ISS, and needs to minimize its exposure to programs like Orion/MPCV.” <– Your words. This is a business metric; the 'Newt Gingrich, Moon President' privatization pitch. In other words, NASA needs to operate more like a profit driven commercial enterprise- a business- to boost the value of its assets. =eyeroll= This is the ideological, privatization poison advocated by Reagan era dinosaur extremists like Newt and fellow traveller Walker whose ultimate goal is to privatize all things government. It's absurd– and as we saw with STS-25, costly and literally disasterous.

    As NdGT is revisiting and Clarke understood 40 years ago, space exploitation is not space exploration and it's clear NASA went off course decades ago, when an integrated space program w/shuttle, station and lunar exploration plans with an ultimate goal of Mars were shelved. Shuttle alone became its own destination for government space operations which in retrospect was clearly wrong headed and worsened when the government space agency was injected w/efforts at 'privatization' by Reagan era ideologues (rather than pursuing it on its own separate from NASA) bent on reducing government and privatizing as much of it as possible. Rather that culling out LEO for commercial development through private capital, they tried to use government as a crutch for commercial. and at the same time, nixed fully funding HSF exploration projects, papercutting it to death. Clarke believed LEO commerical space would develop on its own, sourcing private capital markets, leaving HSF exploration to government. Instead, we're left w/a budget starved government space agency w/elements trying to maintain HSF using commercial as a crutch and commercial attempting to use government as a faux market. It's a mess. Clarke was right. NdGT is correct- double NASA's budget, direct them to explore and leave LEO to commercial to exploit, financed through private capital investment, not government funding. Space explotation is not space exploration and its easy to see why such clarity disturbs you as it befouls privatization advocates and commercial pitch for government subsidies in accessing a faux market– the ISS.

    @pathfinder_01 wrote @ March 24th, 2012 at 4:05 pm

    "I don’t think that a moon base/mission, government owned space station, or government deep space mission can or needs to be profitable. However hauling cargo and crew to space can be profitable and frees NASA up to work on other things." Agree 100%- as space exploitation is not space exploration. Which puts us in good company w/Clarke & NdGT. We just miscommunicated.

    @Robert G. Oler wrote @ March 24th, 2012 at 2:02 pm

    In fact, it is you who is befuddled as HSF remains a R&D field. Your knowledge base of aviation should tell you that, as avionics R&D continues in that field as well, beyond established commercial service, destined to improve the industry. But if you want to pitch Gingrich's privatization position, go for it. The nation needs the laughs. @Robert G. Oler wrote @ March 24th, 2012 at 5:52 pm LOL dream on.

    @Vladislaw wrote @ March 24th, 2012 at 1:14 pm

    It's a big planet and there are lots of places to fly from but you seem anchored to North America. Governments, in various guises, for miltary and geopolitical purposes, do it because the largess of investments necessary are beyond the capacity for private firms to absorb given the high risks and low to no ROI. The 80-plus year histroy of modern rocketry shows that whenever private enterprise was presented the opportunity to step up and lead in this field, it balked, and let government carry the fiscal load, cashing in later. Goddard was starved of funding while Von Braun was flush w/Reichmarks; When Russia lofted Sputnik, it was the Army, not private enterprise, which responded. Commercial has always been a follow along, exploiting, cashing in where it could. That has not changed. Space exploitation is not space exploration.

  • Das Boese

    DCSCA wrote @ March 25th, 2012 at 7:21 pm

    Commercial has always been a follow along, exploiting, cashing in where it could.

    Do you not understand that this is a good thing ?

  • DCSCA

    @Das Boese wrote @ March 25th, 2012 at 8:28 pm

    Not w/government subsidies– that’s not a good thing, especially as those funds syphoned away from a dwinding resource pool to subsidize commercial exploitation frustrates funding government exploration projects of acale. The place for commercial firms to source seed monies for financing exploitation is the private capital markets, not the U.S. Treasury.

  • DCSCA

    @Coastal Ron wrote @ March 25th, 2012 at 5:56 pm

    ??? The point between Beano & DCSCA was about having the contract before initiating the project. Apparently you missed that. Of course they tried to secure a gov’t contract afterwards — that is, after they proved it was possible– not before. So what you’re advocating is securing a contract before you can prove you can provide the goods & services for same. Hilarious.

  • Coastal Ron

    DCSCA wrote @ March 25th, 2012 at 7:21 pm

    Shuttle alone became its own destination for government space operations … when the government space agency was injected w/efforts at ‘privatization’ by Reagan era ideologues…

    It’s pretty apparent that when you’re talking about anything not of the 60′s, you get easily confused.

    NASA didn’t stop using the Shuttle for commercial flights because of Reagan. The fate of the Shuttle was sealed the day it was approved by Nixon in 1972, and if anything the Challenger disaster was the just one of the confirmations of that fate.

    For a little history of who was going to initially use the Shuttle, this Wired article talks about the plans for the first 23 flights.

    In hindsight, Reagan actually saved NASA from continuing down the wrong road when he ordered NASA to get out of the commercial launch business, and he predicted that would stimulate development of a private satellite launching industry. Which it did.

    What would you have wanted Reagan to do – force NASA to keep trying to be a commercial launch entity? Weird.

    …and it’s clear NASA went off course decades ago, when an integrated space program w/shuttle, station and lunar exploration plans with an ultimate goal of Mars were shelved.

    And yet you are against the ISS, despite it being foretold by your 60′s space visionaries? Again, weird.

    NdGT is correct- double NASA’s budget

    You mean double the amount of money we borrow from China for politicians to use on their pet projects? You know, the old “43 cents of every dollar” crap you always retort when anyone but you suggests spending more? Not just weird, but bizarre.

    I don’t think you know what you stand for. To put it in your own words – you’re just crankin to crank.

  • pathfinder_01

    “??? The point between Beano & DCSCA was about having the contract before initiating the project. Apparently you missed that. Of course they tried to secure a gov’t contract afterwards — that is, after they proved it was possible– not before. So what you’re advocating is securing a contract before you can prove you can provide the goods & services for same. Hilarious.”

    “ Not w/government subsidies– that’s not a good thing, especially as those funds syphoned away from a dwinding resource pool to subsidize commercial exploitation frustrates funding government exploration projects of acale. The place for commercial firms to source seed monies for financing exploitation is the private capital markets, not the U.S. Treasury.”

    Not really. Rockets have been privatized since the 1980ies. NASA could have chosen ULA or Orbital to do cargo launch in the first round COTS and Boeing or Lockheed Martin to develop the spacecraft. I personally think that they were on some level trying to show that private companies couldn’t do the sacred duty of support HSF more directly when Space X made a lot more progress than expected and although RPK went bankrupt, I think the Bush administration wouldn’t lets them weasel out and so they choose Orbital. In theory launching a cargo vessel is no different than launching any other statelight expect for the added rendezvous and docking(or birthing).

    Also part of the requirement for COTS is that there was a certain amount of private funding. This is very different than for things like Orion and the Shuttle where the government is footing 100% of the development bill. In other words Elon and some private investors have skin in the game from the get go. Anyway they way COTS works is you don’t get paid till you demonstrate the objectives that you agree upon. So NASA has not yet paid for the COTS2/3 flight because it has not launched.

    Anyway Orbital has been around since 1982, made its first launch in the 90ies and makes both rockets and satelights. So your rant about securing a contract before you can provide doesn’t apply much to them as by 2006(the year COTS was awarded), Orbital had developed the Pegasus rocket, Taurus rocket, and Minotaur rocket.

    Anyway without cheap and effective resupply there is no such thing as exploration period. Privatization helps here.

  • Vladislaw

    DCSCA wrote:

    You are so full of it that your eyes are brown. With 2000 billionaires and 20000 millionaires you are saying that the only thing stopping one of them from spending 25 million to build SS1 and WK1 was fear of investment?

    Man are you daffy, if you do not think the military signed off on the X prize and allowed it to happen then you are nuttier then I thought.

    The military wants space planes, the Dennis Kosiniches in congress will never let it happen.

    FIrst the public has to be comfortable with seeing space planes like the SS2, once the public has a transportation system it is easy for the military to say they want them too.

    No american company that has all it’s investments tied up here are going to fight the government and start building rockets in the third world dictators country… again you are sounding nuts .. again.

    The USA is going to allow private businesses puting space tech that can drop incontintential bombs in the hands of third world dictators .. no DC… an american can not just go country hopping and build ballistic missiles in their country.

  • Doug Lassiter

    DCSCA wrote @ March 25th, 2012 at 7:21 pm

    @Doug Lassiter wrote @ March 24th, 2012 at 6:37 pm
    “So the successful use of robotics (Surveyor/Ranger/Lunar Orbiter) in support of HSF operations is voided by the passage of time w/you. LOL HST was designed for servicing by HSF- and in fact, was saved by same due to failures in quality control by the manufacturers & oversight in the space science ciommunity.”

    Sure, nothing is “voided by time”, except there is a history of several decades of successful and strongly congressionally supported science missions since then you seem to be ignoring that had absolutely nothing to do with human space flight. It’s not as if association with human space flight is needed to ensure congressional support for science missions.

    HST was indeed designed for servicing by HSF, and that work was done extremely well. Now, the direction of support isn’t entirely clear. Had HSF not been around to support HST, the science community would have dunked HST-I, and built HST-II, at lower cost to NASA than a servicing mission. But had HST not been around to have HSF support it, HSF would have lost out on a profoundly important accomplishment that to this day is marked by HSF advocates as a profound gold star. That is, repair of HST was among the proudest moments of the HSF community.

  • DCSCA

    @Vladislaw wrote @ March 26th, 2012 at 11:35 am

    “No american company that has all it’s investments tied up here are going to fight the government and start building rockets in the third world dictators country…”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_space_agencies

    Odd you feel only ‘American’ firms can develop/conduct commercial operations. The resources are not limited to the U.S., the technology originally florished in Germany, Russia and ‘space programs’ operate all over the world.

  • Call me Ishmael

    Permit me to attempt that again.

    Had HSF not been around to support HST, the science community would have dunked HST-I, and built HST-II …

    You mean they would have lobbied Congress to fund HST-II, and Congress would have responded “After the way you screwed up HST-I, you want us to give you another billion dollars!?!?!?!?” And all the other interest groups in DC would have advocated spending money on their pet desires instead. And since it would be an entirely new appropriation, instead of continuation of an existing line item, the odds are vanishingly small that it would have been approved in less than a decade. And then, of course, it would have turned into JWST, because “we can do things so much better now” and “this time failure really is not an option”.

    There. That’s what I intended it to look like.

  • BeanCounterfromDownunder

    HST may have been designed for servicing by HSF but the actual total cost (not just the launch) of that servicing was not worth it. A new ST with the same capabilities could have been built and launched in lieu of the servicing missions. It was more a publicity stunt than a real need.

    IMO the issue with the current programs is that too much science is trying to be crammed into single spacecraft rather than having more with each doing fewer tasks mainly due to the inordinate cost of space launch. I believe the U.S. launch and space science businesses have reached a ‘tipping’ point. Both science missions and others are going to be restricted in number, size and scope due to the inordinate cost of them and launch. This is affecting DOD as well with the same likely outcomes.
    SpaceX is the only company attempting to alleviate this situation. Scientists involved in these missions and other commercial satellite companies should get behind SpaceX if they wish to continue in their business in any meaningful way.

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