Congress, NASA

House members have concerns about ISS commercial cargo and CASIS

Wednesday’s hearing of the full House Science Committee on the utilization of the International Space Station (ISS) was relatively lightly attended, with only a handful of members of the committee (including its newest member, Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR)) questioning the assembled witnesses. The committee’s concerns focused on two issues: whether commercial cargo providers will enter service in time to avoid a disruption in operations of the ISS, and whether a new nonprofit organization is capable of managing research on the station.

“We have margin on orbit in terms of spares and consumables and research,” said NASA associate administrator William Gerstenmaier, which, coupled with flights by Europe’s ATV (which docked to the ISS late Wednesday) and Japan’s HTV later this year, “to last essentially about a year.” That, he felt, would provide sufficient time for Orbital Sciences Corporation and SpaceX to begin commercial cargo deliveries to the ISS.

“We’ve been assuming that we’ll get maybe one or two commercial cargo flights this year,” he said. “So we need something to occur within about the next year.” Asked by Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD) if that meant he had a high level of confidence in those companies, Gerstenmaier responded, “They will meet the minimum milestones that I just described to you.”

Others were more skeptical. “I don’t know what to think,” committee chairman Rep. Ralph Hall (R-TX) said after describing the extensive delays that both Orbital and SpaceX have experienced under the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program. “I hope NASA doesn’t squander the incredible potential for lifesaving research and other important science.”

Asked during the hearing about the development of a government crew capability to access the ISS, Gerstenmaier said that it was unlikely any additional funding could move up the 2017 date of the first Orion test flight on a Space Launch System (SLS) booster. However, additional money could move up the first crewed SLS/Orion flight, now planned for 2021. “We would have the option of potentially moving that date forward as we refine our budgets,” he said. “The earliest we could be potentially there to help out with station would be probably in the 2018 time frame.”

The work of the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), the nonprofit selected by NASA last year to manage research on the US segment of the station, also faced some scrutiny. “The former director of CASIS raised a number of serious concerns in her recent resignation letter,” said committee ranking member Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) in her opening statement, referring to the letter from Jeanne Becker a month ago. “This committee will need to better understand what the situation is given the important role [of CASIS] in International Space Station utilization.” She said she hoped that the committee would hold another hearing to get the perspectives of the research community.

“They gave to us an annual performance plan of objectives and milestones they were to accomplish during this year,” Gerstenmaier said of CASIS in response to a later question about the organization. “I have sent them a letter and asked them to respond to us by today or tomorrow on what their plan is to achieve those milestones that we’ve established with them.”

Edwards suggested that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) examine the effectiveness of CASIS. “For me, the resignation of the executive director and the problems that she highlighted are really troubling,” she said. On that request, she had the endorsement of Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA). “I think it’s a request that we could all support,” he said.

Immediately after the hearing, Hall went to the American Astronautical Society’s Goddard Memorial Symposium in the DC suburb of Greenbelt, Maryland, where he received the organization’s John F. Kennedy Astronautics Award at a luncheon. In a brief speech at the luncheon, Hall mentioned the hearing he had just chaired. “I don’t care how they get there, I just want to know when they’re going to get there,” he said of ISS cargo and crew transportation. Then he raised a few eyebrows. “The most important thing to me is to save that space station and get it back to working again.” The ISS, of course, is not in immediate peril, although as noted at the hearing, station operations could be threatened in a year if commercial cargo doesn’t come online as currently planned.

147 comments to House members have concerns about ISS commercial cargo and CASIS

  • Jeff Foust wrote:

    Hall mentioned the hearing he had just chaired. “I don’t care how they get there, I just want to know when they’re going to get there,” he said of ISS cargo and crew transportation. Then he raised a few eyebrows. “The most important thing to me is to save that space station and get it back to working again.” The ISS, of course, is not in immediate peril, although as noted at the hearing, station operations could be threatened in a year if commercial cargo doesn’t come online as currently planned.

    If you watchthe video of the hearing, near the end Hall starts to ramble and almost seems senile. He repeated a question he’d asked earlier in the hearing, leaving the witnesses and other House members confused.

    Hall will be 89 in May. He has no business chairing this committee, and it’s starting to show.

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “Gerstenmaier responded, ‘They will meet the minimum milestones that I just described to you.’

    Others were more skeptical. ‘I don’t know what to think,’ committee chairman Rep. Ralph Hall (R-TX) said…”

    It’s remarkable how many congressmen these days know better than agency experts. First the Senate dictates the components, contracts, workforce, and schedule for SLS, and now the relevant House authorization chair thinks he understands ISS logistics better than the man that has managed them for over a decade.

    “‘The most important thing to me is to save that space station and get it back to working again.’”

    And obviously the House authorization chair who doesn’t even understand that the ISS is “working” today is the right guy to be making judgements about ISS logistics.

    “However, additional money could move up the first crewed SLS/Orion flight, now planned for 2021. ‘We would have the option of potentially moving that date forward as we refine our budgets,’ he said. ‘The earliest we could be potentially there to help out with station would be probably in the 2018 time frame.’”

    Sadly, although CCDev funding is not enough to move up SLS/MPCV and CCDev will still deliver a year earlier than SLS/MPCV under the worst of circumstances for the former and the best of circumstances for the latter, this statement from Gerst gives Congress the excuse it needs to raid CCDev and transfer the funds to SLS/MPCV.

  • amightywind

    Hall will be 89 in May. He has no business chairing this committee, and it’s starting to show.

    Why some consider ageism in this society to be more acceptable than racism or sexism, I’ll never know. Hall’s district elects him. His vote in the House is counted. That should be enough for you.

    Skepticism of COTS is well founded. In 2004 it was sold on the premise that it would be a quick and cheap solution. It is neither. Time to pull the plug. As for SLS schedule, this NASA leadership team is slow walking the program at the direction of Obama and Holdren. Only an Administration change will fix this. Congratulations to Mitt Romney and receiving the endorsements of George H.W. Bush and our future Vice President Marco Rubio.

  • The other thing I found fascinating about this hearing was how Tom Stafford was there just for show. Hall made a big deal that he’d invited his “good friend” but Stafford was rarely asked a question by anyone except Hall.

    Perhaps Hall was hoping Stafford would go off the deep end like Cernan — whom Hall also called a close friend — but it didn’t happen.

    I felt sorry for Stafford, who came all this way just to be a hood ornament.

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “Skepticism of COTS is well founded. In 2004 it was sold on the premise that it would be a quick and cheap solution.”

    Your date is off by 2-4 years. NASA signed COTS agreements with SpaceX and OSC in 2006 and 2008, respectively.

    “As for SLS schedule, this NASA leadership team is slow walking the program at the direction of Obama and Holdren.”

    Based on what evidence? The dictates in the 2010 NASA Authorization Act about expensive SLS and MPCV components, contracts, and workforce? The flat funding authorized in the Act? The mismatch between the schedule in the Act and the funding, which has already resulted in a year slip to the first, unmanned launch?

    Exactly how is the management at NASA responsible for these slow-walking congressional constraints?

    “Only an Administration change will fix this. Congratulations to Mitt Romney…”

    Romney has stated that he wants a fundamental rethink of NASA’s purpose and direction. The “fix” will probably be the termination of SLS/MPCV. These programs have a greater chance of survival if Obama remains in office. The current Administration is invested in these programs through agreements with Congress. The next one won’t be.

  • amightywind

    The “fix” will probably be the termination of SLS/MPCV.

    You aren’t thinking clearly. How will Romney, with close ties to Utah and its large ATK workforce, do that with congress dominated by the GOP? Look for traditional NASA to make a return, and the GOP to salt the ground against future democrat NASA adventurism.

    Based on what evidence?

    It took a full year for NASA to disclose the replacement for Ares V which had already been designed. The Administration repeated attempts to transfer funding from SLS to CCDev as Senator Hutchinson already disclosed.

  • Robert G. Oler

    amightywind wrote @ March 30th, 2012 at 10:10 am >>

    “How will Romney, with close ties to Utah and its large ATK workforce, do that with congress dominated by the GOP?”

    this is the same Willard that beat up on Newt’s lunar base or is it the etcho sketch one?

    Anyway it wont matter Willard is not going to be President…RGO

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “How will Romney, with close ties to Utah and its large ATK workforce”

    Romney is from Michigan and made his political career in Massachusetts. His “close ties” to Utah are via his religion, and that’s like saying that Kennedy had “close ties” to the Vatican because he was a Roman Catholic.

    Moreover, ATK has 60 installations in 22 states. Only a fraction of its revenues come from the SRB business, and its headquarters are in Minnesota. It’s hardly a Utah or Mormon corporation, and a President Romney with national concerns is not going to care one way or the other, even if he is beholden to the LDS.

    “It took a full year for NASA to disclose the replacement for Ares V which had already been designed.”

    No, it hadn’t and still hasn’t. NASA is still defining SLS requirements, forget settling on final designs for the various blocks:

    “SLS Launch Vehicle specifications take shape as development continues
    March 16th, 2012 by Chris Gebhardt
    Eight months after the conclusion of the final Space Shuttle mission, the iconic winged-vehicle’s successor continues to take shape at various NASA centers, as the U.S. space agency further defines the Space Launch System requirements’”

    “The Administration repeated attempts to transfer funding from SLS to CCDev as Senator Hutchinson already disclosed.”

    The Administration isn’t “transferring” anything. Despite Hutchison’s fantasies, neither the White House nor future congresses are not required to submit or pass budgets that exactly (or even grossly) match the 2010 NASA Authorization Act (or any other authorization act). Authorization acts only set ceilings on spending totals. It does not dictate specific funding amounts within those totals.

    Moreover, even if there was a transfer, the amounts talked about are 10% of the annual SLS/MPCV bill and 1% of that bill through the first crewed MPCV flight. It’s less than what MPCV’s Delta IV test flight is going to cost. Screaming bloody murder over rounding errors in the SLS/MPCV budget is grossly out-of-whack. Congress should be asking why its going to cost the taxpayer at least $30 billion through 2021 to get a lousy crew capsule and its launch vehicle operational, not whether the specific amount spent is $29.9 billion or $30.1 billion.

  • Anyway it wont matter Willard is not going to be President…RGO

    Yes, just like Rubio wasn’t going to be senator.

  • Hobert Schramm

    Why some consider ageism in this society to be more acceptable than racism or sexism, I’ll never know.

    Some also consider insanity and serious intellectual failings as being traits that legislators shouldn’t have. But we the people know better! How dare we be biased against such noble individualism. Diversity in intellect is something that should be honored, not criticized. There are loads of dumb people, and it makes perfect sense to have representatives who are equally dumb.

  • amightywind

    There are loads of dumb people, and it makes perfect sense to have representatives who are equally dumb.

    Ah, intellectual chauvinism, contempt for the unwashed who cling to their religion and guns, the hallmark of the effete left. I am just using your mindless identity politics against you. Congressional oversight always chafes the specialists in government just as management oversight affects those of us in commercial technology development. From what I see NASA could use more oversight to reign in their wacky entrepreneurial and diplomatic ambitions. How about launching rockets guys? Leave venture capital to Wall Street and diplomacy to the State Department.

  • DCSCA

    “The most important thing to me is to save that space station and get it back to working again.”

    As the saying goes, a ‘gaffe’ in Washington is when somebody tells the truth. That orbiting WPA project has no purpose, no raison d’etre in the Age of Austerity and no direction other than going in circles, spiralling down to an inevitable Pacific splash, taking billions and the future of NASA w/it. Subsidizing commercial for ISS access is short term planning and only throwing good money after bad. Space exploitation is not space exploration. Purging the commercialists poisoning NASA out of the government space agency is more imperative now than ever.

    @Stephen C. Smith wrote @ March 30th, 2012 at 9:34 am

    “The other thing I found fascinating about this hearing was how Tom Stafford was there just for show.”

    =eyeroll= It is Tom Stafford who said repeatedly over the years that there is no guarantee of a HSF program and w/o cultivating support, it will simply fade away. (It was Stafford BTW who fought for and pushed to carry color TV on Apollo 10 to broaden the spaceflight experience to the general public.) And both Cernan along w/Armstrong delivered a properly skeptical asssessment of commercial from a seasoned and experienced POV. Apparently you prefer CEOs who make ‘deep end’ quips about retiring on Mars and demonstrate they ‘don’t know what they don’t know’ to the measured perspective and voice of experience from the folks who’ve actually operated a HSF program. It always comes back to the same thing w/commercial- fly somebody. Put somebody up, or shut up.

    “The most important thing to me is to save that space station and get it back to working again.”

    Dark Blue Nine wrote @ March 30th, 2012 at 10:56 am

    “It’s remarkable how many congressmen these days know better than agency experts.” Except agency commercialists are not experts.

    “Romney has stated that he wants a fundamental rethink of NASA’s purpose and direction.”

    No. Romney has stated he’d form a committee and study it and fire anybody who’d come to his office proposing a moon colony– which pretty much sums up his attitude on matters space. Never trust a man who doesn’t drink. You’d do well to bone up on Romney’s history, his Mormon culture, ties to it (which are significantly deeper than JFK’s faux ties to Catholicism in 1960) and his network of minions and cronies. Meg Whitman was one of them and Californians caught on to her elitism real fast and she lost by nearly 10 points. Romney will as well. Americans don’t elect people president who pull the skin off their chicken, the cheese off their pizza and have elevators in their homes for their automobiles.

    @amightywind wrote @ March 30th, 2012 at 8:33 am

    “Congratulations to Mitt Romney and receiving the endorsements of George H.W. Bush and our future Vice President Marco Rubio.” =blink= Apparently you didn’t actually hear/read Rubio’s endorsement. It’s like a chicken endorsing Colonel Sanders. And Romney’s slim to no chance of a win isn’t improved w/Poppy’s embrace. He’s the one term loser Bush, who cratered the economy, was out of touch w/t electorate and who proposed a space inititive in July, 1989, left it to Quayle to study and didn’t fight to fund it. An elitist so out of touch w/Americans, he was bemused by a supermarket scanner. So he endorses another out-of-touch fella who actually has an elevator in his home— for his cars. =eyeroll=

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “Romney has stated he’d form a committee and study it”

    And a committe study is different from a committee rethink how?

    “Never trust a man who doesn’t drink. You’d do well to bone up on Romney’s history, his Mormon culture, ties to it (which are significantly deeper than JFK’s faux ties to Catholicism in 1960) and his network of minions and cronies. Meg Whitman was one of them and Californians caught on to her elitism real fast and she lost by nearly 10 points. Romney will as well. Americans don’t elect people president who pull the skin off their chicken, the cheese off their pizza and have elevators in their homes for their automobiles.”

    I’m no fan of Romney, but what the heck do his drinking habits, religion, relationship with Whitman, eating habits, and garage have to do with the House hearing or space politics in general?

    You are trolling way off topic.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Dark Blue Nine wrote @ March 30th, 2012 at 10:56 am

    Nice comments if out there in cyber space you see Major Tom tell him I said hello RGO

  • Robert G. Oler

    Rand Simberg wrote @ March 30th, 2012 at 12:47 pm

    Anyway it wont matter Willard is not going to be President…RGO

    Yes, just like Rubio wasn’t going to be senator.>>

    You are hanging on to one prediction made in the course of a campaign..a prediction which I have acknowledged pre the election on this forum was not borne out by events.

    On to the Presidential race.

    There is no one here or on my facebook page or on a few other blogs (all of which I post under my own name as do you) who has been less charitable to Obama under some of the mistakes/wrong policies he has made. However reelects are about two things 1) referrendums on the incumbent and 2) if the “other person” can push out a vision that is more acceptable then the reality of the incumbent.

    Willard has consistently either failed at this or has been pushed into embracing a future (the Ryan budget) which most polls show the American people soundly reject.

    Willard had a chance in Florida to not only attack Newt’s theory on spaceflight and NASA but also push out his own. He did the former with enormous effectiveness but was silent on his own vision. OK its early but do you really think he has one? His current plan to cut the “federal government” is a deft mixture of Nixon’s secret plan to end the Vietnam war…and political reality ie he doesnt want to say what it is because its going to be unpopular.

    Kerry lost the 04 election because he could not articulate a different vision on the issue of the election…Iraq…if Willard sticks to the Ryan theory of economics…he will lose.

    but it is a long way to November and I am quite hopeful that Willard will try and articulate his visions of the future, including one for NASA…right now he is imitating Bob Dole and trying to be “Ronald Reagan”. RGO

  • Egad

    > Americans don’t elect people president who pull the skin off their chicken

    Around here, we pull the skin off, roast it until crispy, and call it chicharrones de pollo. Muy yummy. Gets rid of the fat (mostly) and is still very tasty.

    Probably there would be a vacuum process for doing that in space. The details of raising chickens in space I leave to others.

  • Engineer in Houston

    Dark Blue Nine wrote:

    “Congress should be asking why its going to cost the taxpayer at least $30 billion through 2021 to get a lousy crew capsule and its launch vehicle operational, not whether the specific amount spent is $29.9 billion or $30.1 billion.”

    Absolutely agree with this. Further, how many flights are we supposed to make with SLS after the 2017 and 2021 flights? How much will the standing army cost per year whether we fly it or not? How about the incremental cost per flight? If you look at the cost for SLS alone, it’s a huge money pit. For the roughly $15 billion to $20 billion SLS will cost over the next ten years, that could perhaps buy 100 Atlas V launchers and put 2 million pounds into orbit, and the Atlas V is available now. Better yet, buy 50 Atlas Vs and spend $10 billion on developing in-space vehicles.

  • vulture4

    It is relevant only in that supporters of Constellation in Congress, NASA, and industry who have kept it going as SLS/Orion are convinced that the project is failing only because Obama is sabotaging it. They believe Romney is their knight in shining armor, who will ride in to provide it with unlimited funds and it will suddenly overcome astronomical cost and the lack of any meaningful goal.

  • Fred Willett

    amightywind wrote @ March 30th, 2012 at 8:33 am
    Skepticism of COTS is well founded. In 2004 it was sold on the premise that it would be a quick and cheap solution. It is neither.
    Excuse me. The facts are otherwise. The Total COTS budget was $500M. For that NASA gets 2 new medium class LVs – Falcon 9 and Antares, and two new space craft – Dragon and Cygnus.
    As well these were largely private developments with most of the money being put up by the COTS partners, Orbital and SpaceX. I don’t know Orbitals actual figures, but NASA did a study which put SpaceX figures on the public record.
    http://www.nasa.gov/pdf/543572main_Section%20403%28b%29%20Commercial%20Market%20Assessment%20Report%20Final.pdf
    SpaceX COTS funding was $278M
    Cost of developing Falcon 9 = $400M
    Cost of Developing Dragon = $400M
    Even if you add in the risk reduction work that NASA decided they wanted ($118M for SpaceX) SpaceX has still put up the bulk of the money.
    Compare this to Ares 1 which cost around $10B and delivered nothing with the contractors risking not a cent. That’s FAR for you.
    To conclude. You’ve made these silly, inaccurate if not down right dishonest claims about COTS and commercial space many times in the past. The facts are easy to check and links to the facts have been supplied for you. Yet you continue to seek to mislead. Why?
    I sincerely would like to know. Surely there is a reason. I would hate to believe it is because you turn to stone in the first rays of the morning sun.

  • Fred Willett wrote:

    I sincerely would like to know. Surely there is a reason. I would hate to believe it is because you turn to stone in the first rays of the morning sun.

    I’ve posted before that in my opinion the troll is performance art. Think rabid liberal Carroll O’Connor performing right-wing nut Archie Bunker.

    But my practice is not to respond to the trolls. One has to wonder how much traffic on this site would be reduced if everyone did the same.

  • Vladislaw

    Engineer in Houston wrote:

    “How much will the standing army cost per year whether we fly it or not? “

    Who cares?

    The point isn’t the cost, the point is that the standing army is there, paying their taxes in that congressional members district and the usual suspects keep making those political donations that keep those cost plus, fixed fee, non competitively bid contracts coming.

    It doesn’t matter if SLS ever launches, or if it only launches twice between now and 2021. Just keep those multi billions flowing every year from now until doomsday.

  • vulture4

    America cannot conceivably afford to maintain a permanent base on the moon or Mars with the SLS and Orion. It’s not surprising none of the GOP candidates has voiced any support of it, and that there is no funding for a lander. What will happen when the discretionary budget is reduced? There is something to be said for completely abandoning human spaceflight, but if we retain something it should be the ISS. If we cannot afford to maintain the ISS, then we certainly cannot afford bases on the moon or Mars.

  • Martijn Meijering

    There is something to be said for completely abandoning human spaceflight, but if we retain something it should be the ISS.

    Well, not necessarily the ISS, leasing space on a future commercial hab could turn out to be cheaper and more helpful to commercial development of space.

    If we cannot afford to maintain the ISS, then we certainly cannot afford bases on the moon or Mars.

    On the other hand, we could still create a large and fiercely competitive propellant launch market even for unmanned exploration missions. That could lead to cheap commercial lift and that would enable everything else. For now ISS has synergy with commercial development of space through commercial crew development, but ultimately cheap lift is what matters and commercial crew doesn’t help much with that.

  • Coastal Ron

    vulture4 wrote @ March 31st, 2012 at 12:36 pm

    If we cannot afford to maintain the ISS, then we certainly cannot afford bases on the moon or Mars.

    It’s worse than that. The body of evidence piling up (courtesy the ISS) on the effects of zero-G on humans is starting to make it pretty clear that we’ll need to develop some sort of artificial gravity space stations and spacecraft. Likely they will be rotating structures, unless the LHC finds some sort of gravity particle that we can harness.

    If that’s true, then since Congress is not planning to fund that need (along with most other stuff we need for exploration), we are even farther away from going to Mars than anyone would like. Sure we could send a volunteer crew there in a zero-G spacecraft, but slowly killing people in the name of exploration won’t last long. And this affects our plans for the Moon too, so there is no getting around it.

    I know NASA has a priority list of what they think is needed in order to go explore places like Mars, but Congress seems obvious to it. Part of that is politics, but it makes me wonder if this is indicative of all federal departments and agencies? Does Congress ever listen, or are the politicians really that dependent on their staff for what they should do?

    On second thought, maybe I don’t want to know how the “political sausage” is made – too depressing…

  • Willard had a chance in Florida to not only attack Newt’s theory on spaceflight and NASA but also push out his own. He did the former with enormous effectiveness but was silent on his own vision. OK its early but do you really think he has one?

    No, of course he doesn’t have one. And it doesn’t matter, because space policy is not going to be a voting issue.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Coastal Ron wrote @ March 31st, 2012 at 2:47 pm

    If that’s true, then since Congress is not planning to fund that need (along with most other stuff we need for exploration), we are even farther away from going to Mars than anyone would like.>>

    we are at present progress better then half a century away from a Mars landing by humans and 20 years from now if nothing serious changes (and it will!) we would still be 20 years away from going.

    The fallacy by all the NASAspaceflight.com people is that there is some overriding need in the US political (including the American people) for a “date/destination” driven NASA HSF program. one of the latest SLS rahrah postings there starts “With the push for exploration Beyond Earth Orbit (BEO) increasing,”

    which is of course at best wishful thinking and at worse just lying to ones self (and the rest of the faithful).

    There is no method by which we get to Mars with Apollo expendable type systems in a mode where all the cost are wrapped up in unique systems which have no cost sharing anywhere else…there is no political support for 500 day missions …there is no political support really for much of anything that involves spending real money.

    this is all just a sad Wagnarian ending to an agency that really lost relevance a long time ago as its flagship program (the station) went from 8 billion to over 100 billion and now that they have it, they cannot even put together a structure that makes IT work.

    There are so many show stoppers for a Mars human trip…the medical ones are there of course, but really none matter at all after this years GOP primary where any sort of expensive post station effort was ridiculed by the very people who the NASA faithful are counting on to save them…

    The step to commercial crew and resupply will be seen as the one that change human spaceflight onto a functional vector. Apollo is history…RGO

  • DCSCA

    Robert G. Oler wrote @ March 30th, 2012 at 10:23 pm
    “I am quite hopeful that Willard will try and articulate his visions of the future, including one for NASA…” Golly. Apparentl you missed the globally televised debate where Sir Willard of Romney made clear his receptivness to matters space w/a curt, dismissive reposnse indicating he’d fire any manager who approached his office w/talk of ‘moon colonies.’ . We’ve seen Romney’s visions. It’s out on DVD, titled “The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriett.” Surely you know everybody wears a tie and sweater to mow the lawnm has a wife who cooks in heels, a pleated skirt and, of course, has an elevator in the home for the automobiles.

    If you want to read the tea leaves on the short term future of spaceflight, accept Obama’s holding pattern for another four years and expect changes when Hillary is elected president in 2016, as Ms. Clinton harbors a genuine interest in space; an interest not seen in a public official at that level since the days of LBJ. .

  • vulture4

    I don’t think the medical problems are nearly that serious. One has to say there’s a problem to keep research funded. However it makes sense to keep the ISS operating and get more flight experience and confirm there are no problems, until and unless it is replaced by a newer LEO base.

    Watching the hearing, Hall appeared shocked (“shocked!”) to discover that the ISS had been left without any access from the US. He blamed this squarely on Obama’s delay of the SLS/Orion. Given that the CAIB recommended that the next US manned vehicle be designed strictly to access LEO, and that the Shuttle be kept flying until the replacement was operational, one can understand his irritation.

    Apparently Hall did not read the years of platitudes from the Bush administration that a) we would no longer participate in ISS after assembly complete, and anyway b) the Soyuz would provide completely reliable access at a trivial cost. Apparently Hall is also unaware his committee that is doing everything it can to delay Commercial Crew while insisting that we urgently need the SLS and Orion as a “backup” to provide this access. This is just plain pitiful.

  • DCSCA

    vulture4 wrote @ March 31st, 2012 at 5:18 pm

    Times change. The then ‘long term’ recommendations in the CAIB report were penned and pitched nearly a decade ago in a bubble, before the economy crashed and the Age of Austerity slammed home.

  • Coastal Ron

    vulture4 wrote @ March 31st, 2012 at 5:18 pm

    I don’t think the medical problems are nearly that serious.

    Blindness isn’t a concern? And that’s just one health issue of course, there are more.

    I guess my point is that while we have figured out how to visit space – how to get there & back, and how to stay alive for short periods of time – we don’t know how to live and prosper beyond the surface of the Earth.

    If that is a goal of ours, then we should be putting more resources toward solving that. Studying the problem is good, and the experiments and science on the ISS for that subject are very valuable, but we haven’t started planning how to mitigate or completely solve those problems.

    There are some parallels to our inability to expand our species underwater here on Earth. Sure we have submarines, and people can venture underwater for short stints on their own, but our civilization doesn’t truly “live” underwater. We still have a long ways to go.

  • Ms. Clinton harbors a genuine interest in space; an interest not seen in a public official at that level since the days of LBJ.

    She certainly hides it well.

  • Coastal Ron

    DCSCA wrote @ March 31st, 2012 at 6:17 pm

    …and the Age of Austerity slammed home.

    What “Age of Austerity”? You have advocated, numerous times, to double the amount we borrow from China for your space dreams. Kind of hypocritical, dontcha think?.

  • Robert G. Oler

    vulture4 wrote @ March 31st, 2012 at 5:18 pm

    I don’t think the medical problems are nearly that serious.>>

    I am not a doctor nor do I play one on TV…(although I did help deliver my little daughter…there was competent medical care directing me…and I did help one of our chickens which was having some issues laying an egg…I had to help her get it out…she is recovering nicely!)…nor have I really stayed at a Holiday inn express.

    but I am persuaded by people who are that the notion of people living in zero gee for long periods of time is simply not viable…particularly if there is a notion of performing activities on a “g” world after a long period of inactivity.

    but its worse then that…we are never going to go anywhere in the solar system with an architecture like Apollo’s. RGO

  • Robert G. Oler

    DCSCA wrote @ March 31st, 2012 at 3:56 pm >>

    My sarcasm sometimes does not translate well.

    I am in general agreement with your post.

    However I would add this.

    First Obama would be in less of a holding pattern if it were not for a dysfunctional congress. OK Obama is not all that great a leader and I think he has taken a bit longer the necessary to get his “sea legs”…but the reason we are fracked as a nation is that the parties in the Congress particularly the GOP are literally dysfunctional.

    Hall illustrates that. It is hard to know how he is fracked up…but he clearly is. Babbling on about Delays in ISS crew/commercial and in some fashion linking those to SLS falling behind and all the other BS he and other Space Congressman (of both parties but mostly GOP) spread. Go read Olson’s op ed in TH…it is simply disconnected with reality.

    It is impossible to deal with these people rationally.

    Second HRC…who knows what she will do in 16. I would however say this about her. (and this is from someone who was not a HRC fan in her hubby’s administration)…she has a good notion now of herself and what she would like to accomplish as a leader…and I think she has a good notion of where the US needs to go…and she enjoys big ideas.

    some of her notions as SecState, particularly after Rice are inspired.

    I sort of long for a “big ticket” campaign; Obama I dont think has that (although this campaign might be surprising) and Willard is just a “patch quilt” candidate.

    It is going to take a “big ticket” leader to come up with a good space policy that can encourage human space activity to move along the lines of other great industrial developments in the US.

    its a long way to November of this year…and an eternity to 16. RGO

  • BeancounterFromDownunder

    DCSCA: you keep talking about this ‘Age of Austerity’ but I don’t see any sign of such a think in the U.S. No marches in the street. The closet I saw was some demonstration for and against Medicare. No slashing of jobs or budgets. No politicians speaking out either way.
    This terminology seems a total sham. Show me where the U.S. is actually going about business as if it was lacking in money? Then I’ll show you where a real ‘Age of Austerity’ is taking place: Greece, Spain, U.K. et al.
    Wrt NASA, they haven’t really had a cut of any size whatsoever. When they do, let me know. Until then, it’s nothing but talk and that’s cheap.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Rand Simberg wrote @ March 31st, 2012 at 3:36 pm

    I wrote:

    Willard had a chance in Florida to not only attack Newt’s theory on spaceflight and NASA but also push out his own. He did the former with enormous effectiveness but was silent on his own vision. OK its early but do you really think he has one?

    you replied:
    No, of course he doesn’t have one. And it doesn’t matter, because space policy is not going to be a voting issue.

    That is what separates Willard from a great politicians and leaders…and its illustrated the problem in the GOP since Ronaldus the Great flew west for the last time from Andrews…..great leaders and pols do not depend on “voting issues” to make or take stands. …they take and make stands and convince the people to rally behind them.

    Willards campaign is one patch work after another of him morphing his beliefs to try and get enough votes to win the nomination…and then in the general he will etchosketch again hoping that the dislike of Obama will help those who cling to their religion and guns…stay with him.

    RGO

  • All this cryogenic-in-LEO fuel depot stuff needs to be intelligently debunked. A Heavy-Lift multi-stage rocket has always been the way to effectively combat the cislunar/interplanetary physics of BEO manned flight. What is worse, this LEO fuel depot nonsense, requires FURTHER infrastructure to be emplaced going around in circles, some 200 miles up; and so it keeps America trapped in LEO for another twenty years. Foolishly & needlessly. Meanwhile, China might just decide one fine day, that LEO is just too freaking boring, and that maybe a true astronautical destination, replete with natural resources is the way to go. Then they’ll do just like Project Constellation was going to do, before the current President wrecking-balled the building: They will simply develop a Heavy-Lift rocket with a cryogenic-fuel earth-departure stage. Their lunar lander, attached initially to this upper stage, will be rendezvoused-with in LEO by a manned Shenzou craft; and after the docking maneuver, will be good to go for the first TLI burn ever done since December 1972.

  • Martijn Meijering

    All this cryogenic-in-LEO fuel depot stuff

    What depot stuff? You’re the first person in this thread to mention depots.

    needs to be intelligently debunked.

    It’s impossible to debunk the truth, let alone to do so intelligently.

    A Heavy-Lift multi-stage rocket has always been the way to effectively combat the cislunar/interplanetary physics of BEO manned flight.

    Baseless assumption. Saturn V flew 13 times in a span of about six years. Energia-Buran flew exactly once. Both were cancelled because they were unaffordable. So much for effective. And for the umpteenth time: the moon is in Earth orbit, not beyond it.

    What is worse, this LEO fuel depot nonsense, requires FURTHER infrastructure to be emplaced going around in circles, some 200 miles up; and so it keeps America trapped in LEO for another twenty years.

    Just like the insistence on HLVs then, which has kept us “trapped” in LEO for forty years. We need neither depots (cryogenic or otherwise) nor HLVs nor any other infrastructure we don’t have yet to go beyond LEO or beyond Earth orbit and to do so sustainably.

  • vulture4

    Robert G. Oler wrote: “I am persuaded by people who are that the notion of people living in zero gee for long periods of time is simply not viable…particularly if there is a notion of performing activities on a “g” world after a long period of inactivity.”

    Let’s just say I don’t play a doctor on TV. My advice would be to examine statements on medicine every bit as critically as you examine statements on engineering. Remember the worries about weightlessness during Mercury? We weren’t even sure people could eat without choking. Motion sickness? Bone loss? Deconditioning? Radiation? There are times when every medical problem seems mission critical, but no one ever holds up a red flag and says the next mission cannot fly.

    The problem with visual changes is apparently due to increased intracrainial pressure. This may not even be an effect of weightlessness; the elevated CO2 level in the ISS atmosphere may be to blame. Although it is important that the problem has been recognized, and the exact mechanism isn’t yet certain, the fact is that moderate, chronic elevated ICP is actually a fairly common medical problem on earth and easily treated. So although the research is certainly warranted, there is no reason to believe it will be a roadblock or that it cannot be alleviated by methods much less expensive than artificial gravity.

    Finally, there is absolutely no question as to the real primary medical risk of spaceflight. It is traumatic death by fire, asphyxiation, impact, or any of a thousand contingencies that end with disintegration of the spacecraft. To anyone willing to accept this risk, the subtle problems of weightlessness are seldom a major worry.

  • Robert G. Oler

    vulture4 wrote @ April 1st, 2012 at 12:37 pm

    Not so much.

    there is myth and then there is fact….the myth was that the sound barrier was impenetrable etc etc…and that was played on pretty hard particularly after some deaths trying to break it…but in reality the .50 caliber shell routinely went supersonic and the Navy had been tossing large gun rounds (16 inch) supersonic for quite sometime…

    Same with “we can swallow” in microgee…I have pictures of astronauts and others doing this in “micro gee” on an airplane way before Shepard flew.

    It is at the very least unrealistic to suggest that there are little or no consequences for taking an engine (the human body) that is almost completely adapted by 6000 to whatever (a billion) years of evolution and at least continuance to a 1 gee gravity well, where everything from our circulation system to whatever is designed to deal in that and then giving it a try for a “long time” zero gee life…where the experience from Russian flying is that at the very least the folks who do it can barely stand at the end of it.

    Besides teh fact that this close to earth we are putting people on a vehicle with “elevated CO2 levels” indicates our technology is not quite up to the task.

    Mars is for our society about like the America’s were for the Vikings…a bridge to far. RGO

  • Robert G. Oler

    vulture4 wrote @ April 1st, 2012 at 12:37 pm

    Finally, there is absolutely no question as to the real primary medical risk of spaceflight. It is traumatic death by fire, asphyxiation, impact, or any of a thousand contingencies that end with disintegration of the spacecraft. …

    not so much. the risk are higher in the space station due to NASA incompetence…but those risk are only slightly elevated above taking a B737 from Houston to Dallas. RGO

  • Robert G. Oler

    Chris Castro wrote @ April 1st, 2012 at 4:50 am
    Meanwhile, China might just decide one fine day, that LEO is just too freaking boring, and that maybe a true astronautical destination, replete with natural resources is the way to go.>>

    “boring”? “natural resources”. lets start there.

    why would a country attempt to find natural resources “somewhere” when that somewhere makes the price higher then finding them anywhere else on earth? To have an exclusive supply?it is hard to see anything that is that valuable even for a state run economy.

    Boring? The Chinese (and US the US) are doing most of the things that actually benefit the state in GEO orbit or closer….

    or do you view this as an entertainment show? RGO

  • vulture4

    IMHO NASA should be equally (or more) concerned about the risks of flying in the 737. That is, if the first A really is for aeronautics.

  • vulture4

    RGO: the folks who do it can barely stand at the end of it.

    V4: Anyone can get out of shape, even in 1G. What is remarkable is that even people who have been in space for months can almost always get around quite well within a couple of days. An inconvenience, but minor, and actually less severe than what many patients are confronted with after a month or more of immobilization.

    Gravity exerts very weak forces on objects as small as cells. Cells actually require specialized organs called statoliths to even detect the direction of gravity in plants, where it can be important. Mammals are mobile throughout development and able to function in any orientation to gravity, needing the otoliths in the inner ear to even perceive it. (Frogs, in contrast, have very large eggs with significant mass and may develop abnormally if the eggs are inverted at critical points in development.)

    Many of the apparent effects of spaceflight are simply deconditioning brought on by the lack of exercising the heart, muscles and bones. Although there are always outliers, in general astronauts who exercise consistently generally readapt more quickly.

  • vulture4

    Martijn Meijering wrote ” For now ISS has synergy with commercial development of space through commercial crew development, but ultimately cheap lift is what matters and commercial crew doesn’t help much with that.”

    I absolutely agree that cheap life is critical, but this must include cheap human lift and I would suggest that commercial crew is a critical element in developing it, since SLS/Orion appears unconcerned with cost.

  • Joe

    Chris Castro wrote @ April 1st, 2012 at 4:50 am

    “China might just decide one fine day, that LEO is just too freaking boring, and that maybe a true astronautical destination, replete with natural resources is the way to go. Then they’ll do just like Project Constellation was going to do, before the current President wrecking-balled the building: They will simply develop a Heavy-Lift rocket with a cryogenic-fuel earth-departure stage.”

    Looks like they are already on their way to taking that approach (including the much derided – around here at least – Heavy Lift Vehicle):

    http://www.aviationweek.com/aw/generic/story.jsp?id=news/awst/2012/03/12/AW_03_12_2012_p32-433971.xml&headline=China%20Sets%20Plan%20For%20Moon%20Rocket%20Engine&channel=awst

  • DCSCA

    @Chris Castro wrote @ April 1st, 2012 at 4:50 am

    “China might just decide one fine day…”

    NdGT was discussing matters space and competition w/China on CNN’s GPS, Sunday morning. He again advocated doubling NASA’s budget.

  • Robert G. Oler

    vulture4 wrote @ April 1st, 2012 at 3:52 pm

    on the micro gee thing all I can tell you is that it would be foolish to send people to Mars without having done the “microgee” trip a few times say on the station…and I’ll bet you money that in the end that does not work out well. If the Russians had not had competent help at the end of their “many months trek” they would have been wolf food….and on Mars that will be very very difficult.

    As for cells developing…here is a test. Take 19 fertile chicken eggs hold them at the correct temp and see how many without turning them hatch…now put the same number of eggs under a broody hen (or hens…Vicki is sitting on 10, Sarah 9 and Wanda 11 but I have never seen any of them do more then that…and they are my really broody hens)…that turns them twice a day …or my homebuilt incubator which turns them…and see the hatch rate soar…gravity is a big deal.

    And none of this of course addresses the political issues…which are basically a non starter…

    Robert

  • Robert G. Oler

    Here is the operative line from the AWST article

    “China is nearing what many space engineers think is the ideal for a family of space launchers: a set of rockets built with just a few standard engines and airframe modules, maximizing production runs. The family—the Long March 5, 6 and 7—will cover the 0.5-25-ton payload territory to low Earth orbit and up to 14 tons to geosynchronous orbit, meeting the great bulk of space launch demands.”

    none of this is SLS RGO

  • Martijn Meijering

    I absolutely agree that cheap life is critical, but this must include cheap human lift and I would suggest that commercial crew is a critical element in developing it, since SLS/Orion appears unconcerned with cost.

    Well, yes and no. Commercial crew will relieve commercial spaceflight from the need to recoup their investment for a crew transportation vehicle from private ticket sales. Without that (and CRS) it seems unlikely that the private sector could finance such a vehicle. So in that sense it helps. However, launch prices are likely to remain high enough to prevent a breakthrough.

    If we had cheap lift on the other hand, then financing development of crew transportation would follow automatically, since at $1M / seat or less there would be plenty of takers.

    Unfortunately this is all academic, since with SLS / Orion it is very unlikely we’ll see cheap lift soon.

  • Vladislaw

    the F1′s weighed in at … what? 10 tons each .. 50 tons of engines tossed into the ocean on a first stage? At a cost of what? 25 – 30 million each?

    I would imagine china thinks that is the winning combo.

  • Joe

    Robert G. Oler wrote @ April 1st, 2012 at 6:12 pm
    “Here is the operative line from the AWST article”

    Here is the title of the article:

    “China Sets Plan for Moon Rocket Engine”

    They also describe the “Moon Rocket” as being “the “super-heavy” Moon rocket” that “research on which has been approved.”

    Ignore that if you want. At least you are being consistent in ignoring facts that do not fit your prejudges.

  • @Robert G. Oler
    ““China is nearing what many space engineers think is the ideal for a family of space launchers: a set of rockets built with just a few standard engines and airframe modules, maximizing production runs. The family—the Long March 5, 6 and 7—will cover the 0.5-25-ton payload territory to low Earth orbit and up to 14 tons to geosynchronous orbit, meeting the great bulk of space launch demands.”
    In fact, do you know what “standard engines and airframe modules, maximizing production runs” sounds like? SpaceX! The Merlin engines in the F1 and F9, Stratolaunch will use the same Merlin engines and the second stage engine in the Falcon 9 is just a slightly modified version of the first stage Merlin booster engines. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the Chinese are going this route. They’ve already seen an example of the advantages it offers.

  • Joe

    Rick Boozer wrote @ April 1st, 2012 at 7:42 pm

    As per comment above:
    Joe wrote @ April 1st, 2012 at 7:38 pm

    You might want to actually read the article before attributing such conclusions to an article in which SpaceX was not even mentioned.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Joe wrote @ April 1st, 2012 at 7:38 pm

    Ignore that if you want.>>

    I can ignore it easily…there is nothing but words to indicate that the Reds are going in that direction.

    The Reds right now in human spaceflight are a paper tiger (dragon…Game of Thrones is about to come on)…and it is impossible to gauge their intentions through anything but the prisim’s of what one thinks that they are going to do.

    They are very smart people….whose goals might not be exactly clear to a nation fixated on (Soviet US confrotation or Apollo style human spaceflight)…there is nothing in anything else that they are doing…military civil air transport, space assets that indicate that they are nothing but planners and doers and on some scale of economics that make such efforts affordable.

    now they have a lot of money but why would they waste it on a vehicle (a super heavy) that is 1) very expensive, 2) needs engines that have no use elsewhere and 3) if they did all of that why are we in peril of it?

    That last part I would really like to know…

    why the frack if the Chinese build a Saturn V equivalent should the US view itself in Peril? In any forum? Other then the testosterone I cannot imagine what it is…let me know RGO

  • Robert G. Oler

    Rick Boozer wrote @ April 1st, 2012 at 7:42 pm

    Precisely. whatever the Reds are doing in orbit with people they are trying to do affordable. RGO

  • Robert G. Oler

    Joe wrote @ April 1st, 2012 at 7:38 pm

    One other thing you ought to tell me…why the heck would the Reds send people to the Moon…? RGO

  • Coastal Ron

    Joe wrote @ April 1st, 2012 at 7:38 pm

    They also describe the “Moon Rocket” as being “the “super-heavy” Moon rocket” that “research on which has been approved.”

    Is this an April Fools joke? That we should be afraid that China is “researching” heavy lift?

    I think it’s a diabolical plan by China to get us to borrow more from them in an attempt to “stay ahead” of – guess who – China. They’ll be laughing all the way to the bank.

    You Joe, of all people, should be skeptical of what people say vs what they eventually do. You certainly are with American companies, so why wouldn’t you be with an opaque country like China?

  • BeanCounterfromDownunder

    If nothing else, the Chinese are very aware of what SpaceX is about. They previously made the comment about not being able to compete on price. Perhaps they’ve changed their approach so as to be able to do this.
    Unfortunately it looks as if SpaceX is headed in the other direction.

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “Meanwhile, China might just decide one fine day, that LEO is just too freaking boring, and that maybe a true astronautical destination, replete with natural resources is the way to go.”

    This assumes that the China we know today emerges to become a nation that can afford to do more in human space flight than send one manned Shenzhou to orbit every few years. (It’s been more than three since the last one.) With average annual salaries no better than El Salvador, huge disparities in income between the interior and coasts, local overinvestment fouling the banking sector’s balance sheets, falling growth forecasts and a falling yaun, and behind-the-scenes power plays during succession at the highest levels of government, it’s less than clear that China will become such a nation over the next couple decades:

    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-03-09/china-s-economy-a-bigger-worry-than-yuan-commentary-by-samuel-sherraden.html

    http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/11_06/b4214013648109.htm

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/bo-xilai-fired-in-communst-party-leadership-shakeup/2012/03/15/gIQA3uaLDS_story.html

    “Then they’ll do just like Project Constellation was going to do, before the current President wrecking-balled the building: They will simply develop a Heavy-Lift rocket with a cryogenic-fuel earth-departure stage.”

    No, the best thinking at NASA is that if China was serious about a human lunar mission, they’d utilize 3-4 launches of their Long March 5 rocket, which isn’t due to come online until the middle of the decade (and has been slipping) and is only equivalent to a Delta IV Heavy (~25 tons to LEO), not a Falcon Heavy (~50 tons) or SLS (~70 tons) equivalent.

    http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1231/2

    “Their lunar lander, attached initially to this upper stage, will be rendezvoused-with in LEO by a manned Shenzou craft”

    If you have to rendezvous a crew with a transit stage in LEO, then you’re essentially putting a propellant depot in orbit — that transit stage is going to have to maintain its propellant while it waits for the crew to launch — and you’re going to need in-space propellant storage technology regardless of whether that transit stage is launched fully fueled on an HLV or fueled on orbit by multiple ILVs/MLVs.

    “will be good to go for the first TLI burn ever done since December 1972.”

    This assumes that anyone besides the leadership of the Communist Party of China would care if China landed a couple taikonauts on the Moon. What does it prove? That China has managed to acquire human space flight technologies and capabilities a half century after the United States demonstrated the same? And this is a threat to the western world how?

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “They also describe the “Moon Rocket” as being “the “super-heavy” Moon rocket” that “research on which has been approved.”

    Per the AW&ST article, that “research” consists of a couple papers on rocket engine sizing presented by two engineers from a propulsion academy, who did the calculations at the request of the Long March manufacturer.

    That’s like saying that LockMart paying to have a couple CalTech professors run numbers on a Mars orbiter mission represents a White House decision to return samples from Mars.

    In both cases, there’s no indication that the government has made a decision to pursue the larger effort. Only that a contractor is doing a little tangentially related B&P homework.

  • @all-the-naysayers-of-Heavy-Lift-Vehicles; If the plans for in-LEO fuel depots & FURTHER LEO space-station activity merely continue, as business-as-usual till the 2020′s, then you’ve got an America that retreats to stagnation. This is Flexible Path, this is Obama’s space plan. Just more & more LEO. Think about it: Not a single American spaceman gets to leave LEO in that entire span of time. Our astronauts do nothing but go around in circles, endlessly. ( No work would get done on creating a new Lunar surface lander nor habitat modules, ’cause all NASA would be doing then is further & further activity in LEO. No work would be done on Lunar transport & orbiter craft, either.) Meanwhile envision, if you will, China, taking the opposite approach: building a Heavy Lift Vehicle AND designing manned Lunar space-craft as well! Finally, a nation on Earth doing something majestic in deep space! Remember if you will, that the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11′s flight is coming on July 2019. So when the taikonauts arrive at Lunar orbit, any of those years in the 2020′s, America will have been out of the deep space business for more than 50 years. This would demonstrate to the world the dearth & decline of the West, just as surely as if a Soviet lunar lander had been the first to make it to Luna firma, in the distant past. What matters is NOT what you were able to do fifty or sixty years ago, it matters what you, as a nation, are capable of doing now. A manned Lunar flight is vastly more complex than a “child’s play” LEO flight. If China beats us back to the Moon, and expands the scope of astronautic activities there, to beyond what the last Apollo missions were able to do, then they will have squarely overtaken us—a U.S.A. still stranded in LEO.

  • @Chris Castro
    “Meanwhile envision, if you will, China, taking the opposite approach: building a Heavy Lift Vehicle AND designing manned Lunar space-craft as well! Finally, a nation on Earth doing something majestic in deep space! Remember if you will, that the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11′s flight is coming on July 2019. So when the taikonauts arrive at Lunar orbit, any of those years in the 2020′s, America will have been out of the deep space business for more than 50 years. This would demonstrate to the world the dearth & decline of the West, just as surely as if a Soviet lunar lander had been the first to make it to Luna firma, in the distant past.”
    And unicorns will blithely dance under rainbows, OJ didn’t do it, and there really is a Santa Claus!

    In other words, even if they do beat us back to the Moon, it won’t be with the retro 60′s methods that you advocate. If they do it, they will be saying, “Stupid Americans, you could have beat us here if you hadn’t tried to redo Apollo with a super big rocket.”

    ” What matters is NOT what you were able to do fifty or sixty years ago, it matters what you, as a nation, are capable of doing now. A manned Lunar flight is vastly more complex than a “child’s play” LEO flight.”
    Such hypocrisy on your part, Chris. It is you who acts as if it matters what we did fifty or sixty years ago, because you want to build a giant rocket based on old shuttle tech with Apollo like spacecraft as if we haven’t gotten better tech since then.

    Again, you might strive to learn grammatical structure. Paragraphs exist for a reason.

  • amightywind

    then you’ve got an America that retreats to stagnation.

    The stagnation is well underway. The simple minded have been sold on a petty future where reinventing the rockets of the 1960s, and endlessly servicing the ISS masquerade as an exploration program. A change in administrations is essential to change this ruinous course.

  • vulture4

    We should take a moment to consider why China sends people into space. If they were in a race with us they would obviously be launching more often. They are doing it to demonstrate to domestic and foreign audiences that they are one of the club of world leaders and to advertise their industrial capabilities. Both these goals require a program that can be sustained. They do not require meeting a specific goal, i.e. a new moon race, indeed such a strategy would be self-defeating. If they lost, they would look foolish. If they won, they would irritate their biggest customer and their space program (like Apollo) would be left without any further rationale.

    Above all, China is not attempting to demonstrate the “decline of the West”, in fact they are well aware they cannot survive economically without us. China is not a democracy in our sense. They do not fully understand our concept of human rights, particularly with regard to their cultural minorities. They have a very distinct and strong cultural identity. But that cultural identity is unrelated to Communism as a political ideology. This is tough for many Americans to understand, because Kruschev did say “we will bury you”. But to China, we are their biggest trading partner. Most Chinese today see no more difference between the Communist Party and the Kuomintang than we see between Democrats and Republicans.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Chris Castro wrote @ April 2nd, 2012 at 5:18 am

    at best your reasoning for a human return (by us or the Chinese) boils down to a mere demonstration of greatness…with no real reason behind it? Seesh.

    The chinese are doing those demonstrations already…they are for instance building a modern train system while US roads etc continue their decay because of GOP tax policies…

    You are spouting lunar babble RGO

  • The chinese are doing those demonstrations already…they are for instance building a modern train system while US roads etc continue their decay because of GOP tax policies…

    Hilarious.

    And the problems with the nation’s highways have nothing to do with “GOP tax policies.” You are spouting terrestrial babble, as usual.

  • pathfinder_01

    “If you have to rendezvous a crew with a transit stage in LEO, then you’re essentially putting a propellant depot in orbit — that transit stage is going to have to maintain its propellant while it waits for the crew to launch — and you’re going to need in-space propellant storage technology regardless of whether that transit stage is launched fully fueled on an HLV or fueled on orbit by multiple ILVs/MLVs.”

    Yeap, people who didn’t read CXP’s fine print don’t know that, all they heard was “we are going to the moon”. CXP was going to develop a blanket to slow the boil off of LOH down. Otherwise you would only have hours to launch the crew to rendezvous. Apollo launched not straight to the moon but into a parking orbit lower than the ISS in order to check out systems and get the orbeth effect even then they only had hours to check the before the LOH would be gone! CXP hoped to raise that to 3 days, but honestly I think you would want something longer.

  • Coastal Ron

    amightywind wrote @ April 2nd, 2012 at 9:40 am

    The stagnation is well underway.

    I’ve been around long enough to have heard this refrain quite a few times since the 60′s. It’s still as untrue as it ever has been. But if you want to believe it, go ahead. Just stay away from young people.

    The simple minded have been sold on a petty future where reinventing the rockets of the 1960s…

    And that would be the SLS & MPCV, especially with the uninspiring Apollo 8 redux that is planned a decade from now. I wonder if they’ll hold a lottery for a seat on that $30B joyride? What a great use of taxpayer money…

  • Robert G. Oler

    vulture4 wrote @ April 2nd, 2012 at 10:23 am

    We should take a moment to consider why China sends people into space.>>

    that is a good question and should be answered quite seriously.

    in my view what the Chinese are doing is partially what you are stating…but they are experimenting across the technological board with different things to figure out “what works” and what doesnt.

    They recognize for instance that the overwhelming force multiplier that the US military has is its space assets…what I think (from their literature) that they are amazed at is the cost we go to, to get and keep them. What I think that they are trying to do is the same thing some people in our military and “recce” complexes are doing…and that is trying to figure out how to keep the cost; particularly the lift cost under control as they try and put together these new and advanced constellations.

    Humans?So far in my view the data is mixed…their flight rate nor flight accomplishments are very great…it is almost like they are running the Gemini program per a decade or so…instead of what 16 or so months.

    I’ve thought all along they were trying to sort out how to have human tended large platforms…we will see…but so far there is nothing which indicates a “race” to anywhere…and even if they did why should we care? RGO

  • Martijn Meijering

    If you have to rendezvous a crew with a transit stage in LEO, then you’re essentially putting a propellant depot in orbit — that transit stage is going to have to maintain its propellant while it waits for the crew to launch — and you’re going to need in-space propellant storage technology regardless of whether that transit stage is launched fully fueled on an HLV or fueled on orbit by multiple ILVs/MLVs.

    Not if the crew goes first and awaits arrival of its transfer stage in a space station such as the ISS. Early Lunar Access proposed something similar with the Shuttle as a makeshift space station. This makes a lot of sense if you do it with properly modified existing EELV upper stages. It would be a step towards depots, but a lot simpler and would allow immediate travel beyond LEO.

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “business-as-usual till the 2020′s… Not a single American spaceman gets to leave LEO in that entire span of time. Our astronauts do nothing but go around in circles, endlessly. ( No work would get done on creating a new Lunar surface lander nor habitat modules, ’cause all NASA would be doing then is further & further activity in LEO. No work would be done on Lunar transport & orbiter craft, either.)”

    You’ve described the current SLS/MPCV plan. There are no crewed flights until 2021 at the earliest, and there’s no budget for building landers, transit stages, habs, or other, actual exploration hardware, lunar or otherwise.

    If you want to get human planetary exploration started before the 2020s, then you have to dump the $30 billion-plus SLS/MPCV for a cheaper HLV (Falcon Heavy development currently costs NASA nothing and EELV derivatives cost a few billion) or a cheaper way to get lots of propellant mass on orbit (testing on-orbit cryo storage can be done for hundreds of millions of dollars).

    But as long as we’re spending $30 billion-plus on SLS/MPCV, there won’t be budget available to develop any actual exploration hardware until the 2020s, which won’t be ready to take astronauts anywhere until the 2030s. And that assumes that the inevitable delays and overruns don’t shift the schedule further to the right or result in outright termination.

    “So when the taikonauts arrive at Lunar orbit, any of those years in the 2020′s,”

    China’s plan for the 2020s is to build and operate the Tiangong 3 space station, not to put taikonauts around or on the Moon.

    “This would demonstrate to the world the dearth & decline of the West,”

    Why? The West’s best moment was arguably the defense of democracy and liberty during WWII. We now call those who fought in that war the greatest generation. Does that mean we should have a world war every generation? And if we don’t, does that mean that we’re in “decline”?

    If you have a younger sibling graduating from college this spring, does that mean that you’ve “declined” since you went to college?

    “just as surely as if a Soviet lunar lander had been the first to make it to Luna firma, in the distant past.”

    No. The U.S. and Soviet Union were in a race, and the U.S. won. It’s over. It’s done. Whoever does it next, whether it’s China, another nation, or a private entity, they will come in second place. Forever.

    “A manned Lunar flight is vastly more complex than a “child’s play” LEO flight.”

    It depends on what you mean by “LEO flight”. ISS operations are vastly more complex than Apollo operations in terms of crew size, duration, logistics, power levels, research, communications, hardware mass on orbit, etc.

    Complexity, though, is not necessarily a measure of goodness.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Rand Simberg wrote @ April 2nd, 2012 at 10:59 am

    And the problems with the nation’s highways have nothing to do with “GOP tax policies..

    Sure they do…no money lots of wars no infrastructure. All the trust funds are being raided or used to cover the deficit.

    When Clinton left office we were running a surplus, Bush 43 fixed that quickly.

    The issues with “shoddy construction” have nothing to do with the notion of infrastructure improvement; something the right wing of the GOP does not agree in RGO

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “The simple minded have been sold on a petty future where reinventing the rockets of the 1960s”

    The vast majority of NASA’s human space flight development dollars are going into rearranging the components of the Shuttle, which dates from the 1970s, not the 1960s.

  • Sure they do…no money lots of wars no infrastructure.

    Once again, you drag the discussion off topic with your nutty politics. If we have “no money,” it is not because of “GOP tax policies.”

  • Martijn Meijering

    or a cheaper way to get lots of propellant mass on orbit (testing on-orbit cryo storage can be done for hundreds of millions of dollars).

    EELVs will do. No need to store large quantities of cryogens at a time for long periods – just individual Centaurs for a couple of days at most. That would be enough to transport capsules, landers, habs etc to L1/L2 after EOR with a payload. From L1/L2 onwards storable propellant is more than adequate and much more convenient than cryogens – at least in the short to medium term.

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “Not if the crew goes first and awaits arrival of its transfer stage in a space station such as the ISS. Early Lunar Access proposed something similar with the Shuttle as a makeshift space station. This makes a lot of sense if you do it with properly modified existing EELV upper stages. It would be a step towards depots, but a lot simpler and would allow immediate travel beyond LEO.”

    “EELVs will do. No need to store large quantities of cryogens at a time for long periods – just individual Centaurs for a couple of days at most. That would be enough to transport capsules, landers, habs etc to L1/L2 after EOR with a payload. From L1/L2 onwards storable propellant is more than adequate and much more convenient than cryogens – at least in the short to medium term.”

    If you’re not aware of it, Martin, this study supports your second point (Atlas V/Delta IV/hypergolic transit stages-only lunar architecture for under $3B/yr.) and is relevant to your first point:

    http://spirit.as.utexas.edu/~fiso/telecon/Akin_12-14-11/

    Hope it helps.

  • Robert G. Oler

    The main problem with the Commercial crew…is that it is essential to a future in space that is different from the past…but really the pork people dont want that…The Space industrial complex is an amazing wealth transfer engine RGO

  • Martijn Meijering

    http://spirit.as.utexas.edu/~fiso/telecon/Akin_12-14-11/

    Great link, thanks! I had given up on FISO, but it is reassuring to see Akin (of the eponymous laws fame) involved. A first glance reveals a lot I agree with, especially a focus on spending as much money as possible flying, using proven hardware etc. In this vein Akin advocates foregoing propellant transfer, since storability alone is enough and advocates using a simple launch vehicle for simplicity.

    However, my goal is a different one, namely to create a large and fiercely competitive, launch vehicle-agnostic market for propellant in orbit as soon as possible. For that propellant transfer (but not depots) is required. You also could not choose a dedicated launch vehicle, except perhaps for the individual spacecraft modules and the prefueled transfer stages.

    Therefore I would advocate using a (necessarily more complicated) refuelable storable spacecraft instead of a prefueled one. This would still be considerably simpler and cheaper than dedicated cryogenic depots initially. You could then seek simplicity elsewhere, for instance by starting with a storable transfer stage for transporting unmanned science probes from L1/L2 to beyond instead of a full manned spacecraft.

    This need not be more complicated overall, it would simply have complexity along different design dimensions, which is logical enough given that I am aiming for a different goal.

  • E.P. Grondine

    Hi RGO –

    Why would China go to the Moon?

    To build the CAPS detectors.

    China’s impact history is a bit different than that of Europe or North America.

  • DCSCA

    “No. The U.S. and Soviet Union were in a race, and the U.S. won. It’s over. “It’s done. Whoever does it next, whether it’s China, another nation, or a private entity, they will come in second place. Forever.”

    And this is a foolish metric. Because it’s 20-20 hindsight for 2020 geopolitics, and the economic ripple effects from same. That was then, this is now. Waxing wise and crowing to fresh generations about how great you were half a century ago by waving your press clippings and shouting ‘been there, done that’ will fall on deaf ears of the young, eager to make their mark in the world- and off it. Echoes of Britons circa 1900 about a brash, pushy, upstart nation called the USA. China is heading to Luna for technical, economic and symbolic purposes and any nay-say chatter otherwise is classic denial. Just as the West ignored the Soviet intent about Sputnik, which was no ‘surprise’ to those in the know. When taikonauts orbit the moon beaming back crisp, clear, HDTV imagery and eventually land, plant their flag, the grainy, B/W Apollo TV of same will look even more antiquated. The Chinese Century will be digitally hallmarked and properly claimed as theirs in the hearts and minds of those not around in 1969 but alive to thrive today on a planet increasingly leaving America behind with its 20th century herritage. Forever.

  • DCSCA

    @Robert G. Oler wrote @ April 2nd, 2012 at 4:44 pm
    “The main problem with the Commercial crew…is that it is essential to a future in space that is different from the past…”:

    No. Space exploitation is not space exploration. LEO is a ticket to no place and the largess of costs, scale and rationale for economic return prevents commercal from even considering anything more in this era. NdGT was on MSNBC again today expousing same.

  • Robert G. Oler

    DCSCA wrote @ April 2nd, 2012 at 5:45 pm

    the largess of costs, scale and rationale for economic return prevents commercal from even considering anything more in this era. >>

    that is your viewpoint and you have and do express it here. There is a viewpoint of people who are actually investing money in LEO commercial ops…and we will see which one holds to be accurate. I think you are wrong as well…but time will tell. Soon RGO

  • Robert G. Oler

    DCSCA wrote @ April 2nd, 2012 at 5:41 pm
    When taikonauts orbit the moon beaming back crisp, clear, HDTV imagery and eventually land, plant their flag, the grainy, B/W Apollo TV of same will look even more antiquated.>>

    WHEN That happens we will properly congratulate you on being correct…at the rate of one flight a year (or greater span) we will have some time to work on our congratulations RGO

  • Coastal Ron

    DCSCA wrote @ April 2nd, 2012 at 5:41 pm

    When taikonauts orbit the moon beaming back crisp, clear, HDTV imagery and eventually land, plant their flag…

    They will be the second country to do so, which was Oler’s point. This is what’s known as “a fact”.

    …on a planet increasingly leaving America behind with its 20th century herritage. Forever.

    That hyperbole is what’s known as speculation. I know you confuse the two, so I thought I would clearly note it for you.

    For the Moon part of it though, it means that someone will find a reason for China to spend massive, and sustained amounts of money in the pursuit of something that will have extremely long payoffs. There is no evidence that they will. All there is, and this should sound familiar, is speculation that they will. No facts.

    I wish the Chinese well in their space pursuits, but I don’t fear them. There is no rational basis for it. Not unless you are fearful of frightfully expensive photo-ops with headlines that say “China finally makes it to the Moon 60 years after the U.S.” I’d say Russia would be more embarrassed.

  • BeanCounterfromDownunder

    Completely off-topic but:

    SpaceX COTS-C Flight 2/3 -28days

  • Yeah. Why would anyone fear a fascist state that wants to economically dominate both the heavens and the Earth:-)

    Marcel F. Williams

  • Robert G. Oler

    DCSCA wrote @ April 2nd, 2012 at 5:41 pm
    When taikonauts orbit the moon beaming back crisp, clear, HDTV imagery and eventually land, plant their flag, the grainy, B/W Apollo TV of same will look even more antiquated.>>

    it is to bad that what you predict wont happen because I really would like to see what the result is…I suspect you will be disappointed.

    The “era” of national greatness proclaimed and advertised in set piece extravaganzas started with the rise of mass but bandwidth limited communications around the time of the 36 Olympics. The entire effort by the short guy with the mustache was to outshine the 32 LA Olympics and in many ways the 36 games herald the start of modern Olympic coverage.

    The communications technology was impressive (it was the first time TV was used for instance) but was not of wide bandwidth in terms of what other then the games could be shown. Even with Jessie Owens, the short guy with the mustache and his country come out well…

    the era ends in the 60′s as mass comm bandwidth grew. I would argue it ended actually with the Apollo program…(which ironically is a tour de force for federal government organized programs)…the great achievement of the event could easily be seen (geo com satellites had just gotten a toe hold) but also the seemier side of American life (racisim…there were almost no non whites working in any substantial positions at NASA…sexism etc) could be seen all against a backdrop of no really convincing reason to do the entire thing…

    The PRC has sure tried its version of “national greatness” projects but I suspect that they learned something from their Olympics which were in wonderful facilities with Luz Long type athletes…but they did not buy the Chinese a lot of favorable world or even internal coverage.

    That kind of event is pretty outdated.

    I dont know how much traveling you do but I do a lot, last year I spent a lot of time in Nigeria…and got to know a reasonable number of their space people including some who had spent a lot of time in the US and China working on “Nigerian” sat (it ultimately went to the Chinese.)

    Asked what he found “good” about China V the US all the person who I knew well and found pretty reasonable could talk about was their modern infrastructure and new facilities…he contrasted the trip from Dulles into DC unfavorably with the ride from the Bejing airport to the town…

    Communication bandwidth is so wide now that these various “spectaculars” are usually contrasted pretty quickly with real life conditions on the ground. A nation is not considered great any more even if it has people on the Moon; if it has people dying for lack of health care.

    I realize this is smostly pearls to the swine but it is something that should govern the “we do this because we are exceptional” crowd…they are stuck in a long ago era. RGO

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “And this is a foolish metric.”

    Historically, it’s not. We remember the firsts. We don’t remember the seconds. We remember Columbus. We don’t remember who came second. We remember Magellan. We don’t remember who came second. We remember Amundsen. We don’t remember who came second.

    Decades and centuries from now, we’ll remember that Neil Armstrong, NASA, and the USA were first on the Moon. Whether it’s China, India, the USA again, another nation, or a private entity, we won’t remember who came second.

    “That was then, this is now.”

    That’s right. That was then and this is now. Back then, we were locked in a Cold War with a mortal enemy of roughly comparable technical capabilities, and we greatly feared the potential of their intercontinental nuclear arsenal. The ability of our respective nations to build and reliably operate big rockets was central to the geopolitics of the late 1950s and early 1960s. We thought that if you could drop nukes half a world away and your opponent could not (or couldn’t do so with the same magnitude or reliability), then you were going to win the Cold War.

    Now, that’s no longer true. The Cold War ended with a whimper, not a bang. China doesn’t have a massive nuclear arsenal like the Soviets, we’re joined at the hip economically, and to the extent they threaten us in space, it’s in the form of anti-satellite capabilities, not in the form of rockets for human space flight.

    Putting people on big rockets hasn’t been important to geopolitics since the mid-1960s. If it was, we would have continued investing in Apollo. We didn’t.

    “shouting ‘been there, done that’ will fall on deaf ears of the young, eager to make their mark in the world- and off it.”

    The “young” won’t want to replicate lunar landings that their grandparents accomplished two generations ago. They’re going to want to do something different in space exploration, or (more likely), their signature scientific and technical achievements won’t involve space exploration at all.

    “Echoes of Britons circa 1900 about a brash, pushy, upstart nation called the USA.”

    Britain and other European powers fell during the 20th century because they devastated their populations, infrastructure, economies, wealth, and navies in two, continent- and ocean-spanning wars. Their decline had nothing to do with exploration (or lack thereof).

    “China is heading to Luna”

    No, they’re not. Their human space flight plans only extend as far as building and operating Tiangong 3, a Mir-sized LEO space station, through the 2020s. There is no human lunar hardware in development and there has been no government decision to pursue a human lunar effort.

    “Just as the West ignored the Soviet intent about Sputnik”

    No one is ignoring China. They’re being watched very carefully, in ways that we could not watch the Soviets in the 1950s. And because we can watch so much more closely than we did in the 1950s, we can’t make up a Chinese human lunar program where there isn’t one.

    “The Chinese Century”

    It may become the “Chinese Century” if their economy continues to grow at the rate is has in recent years and if they can translate that growth wages and salaries on par with those in the developed world and an economy that is diversified out of basic manufacturing — without being torn apart by economic and cultural disparities. But that growth and transition will have nothing to do with their human space flight program, which will be a drain on their economy for decades to come.

    Those who most carefully study geopolitics are doubtful that China will continue to grow at such a high rate and that it can manage this transition. The “Chinese Century” is looking less and less likely. Some even predict a Chinese collapse before the decade is out due to numerous, unavoidable demographic and structural dislocations in their economy:

    http://www.businessinsider.com/stratfor-predictions-for-the-next-decade-2010-1#china-doomed-1

    http://historysquared.com/2011/01/25/stratfors-george-friedman-sees-trouble-ahead-for-china/

  • @Coastal Ron; Indeed Russia should be even more embarrassed! They NEVER even sent a cosmonaut out of low earth orbit! All the U.S.S.R. did was petty LEO stations—for the ENTIRE span of time since the 1970′s! Oh, and fifty or sixty years of no Americans on the Moon, combined with the probable deaths of all of the elderly remaining Apollo astronauts, by that time, (heck, some of those men were born in the 1930′s), will NOT look good! Come 2025 or 2035. Man, maybe history just turns out that way: like the Dutch doing preliminary surveys of Australia, only to have the British later on, come along, and overtake them with deeper & more extensive exploration and claiming of the territory. Sometimes history holds a special place for the nation-state that arrives on a scene second or even later. If America stays on Obama’s course in space, and does nothing but more ISS-type of LEO activities, then we totally deserve to be beaten by China!

  • By the way, DCSCA’s April 2nd, 5:41 pm Comment WAS RIGHT ON THE MARK! The space writer Neil DeGrasse Tyson, in his latest book, brought up a neat analogy: If the Earth were the size of your average classroom globe, then ALL of our manned space activities have taken place a mere one-inch above its surface, since the time of Apollo 17′s Moonflight. Think about that—-ALL those Space Shuttle flights, ALL those ISS crew shuffling flights, have taken place, figuratively speaking, a mere one inch above, on a repeating circular path, going around that classroom globe—-and going no further away from it. Pretty lame excuse for doing ‘space exploration’, now wouldn’t you think??

  • @Marcel Williams
    “Yeah. Why would anyone fear a fascist state that wants to economically dominate both the heavens and the Earth:-)
    Evidently you don’t, since you advocate our using the slowest, least practical and least economical methods for doing so.

  • @Chris Castro
    “All the U.S.S.R. did was petty LEO stations—for the ENTIRE span of time since the 1970′s!
    And that is all we will do as well, as long as the SLS project is allowed to continue. Yes, it’s a “pretty lame” excuse for space exploration, but that is where SLS is leading us because it is eating up the funds we could be using to go beyond LEO with more practical methods. A pity you won’t take the blinders off.

  • DCSCA

    Dark Blue Nine wrote @ April 3rd, 2012 at 12:10 am

    =yawn= Historically, it is. Any you’re destned to learn it more often rhymes than repeats. But we’ll put you with the parochials destined to learn the hard way- again.

  • DCSCA

    ” we can’t make up a Chinese human lunar program where there isn’t one.”

    Except there is. Yes, you’re destined to learn the hard way again.

  • DCSCA

    “The “young” won’t want to replicate lunar landings that their grandparents accomplished two generations ago.” Thus by your logic, no one will ever go back. And of course, its not replicating the landings but exploring the moon that entices fresh young minds with new perspectives.

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “The space writer Neil DeGrasse Tyson,”

    I’m not sure what the recent obsession with Tyson is. He’s not a civil space policymaker or program manager, nor does he have experience with either. He’s not even a university researcher. He’s an educator running a planetarium. His plan for human space flight consists of “send money” and “double the budget”.

    Tyson can be an eloquent educator to general audiences and has inherited Sagan’s mantle in that respect, but he articulates no useful or implementable policy, program, or budget prescriptions.

    “brought up a neat analogy: If the Earth were the size”

    It may be a “neat analogy”, but it’s not a rationale, justification, or reason for spending taxpayer dollars. It’s just a statement about how large space is.

    The Earth’s core is big, too, but we’re not planning to send any missions to the center of the Earth.

    If we’re going to spend taxpayer dollars, we have to be able to articulate reasons, goals, and benefits (ideally ones commensurate with the expenses). “It’s really, really big” is not one of them.

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “Except there is.”

    If there’s a Chinese human lunar program, then where is the evidence? Where is this human lunar goal enshrined in China’s public five-year planning documents? Where are the pictures of hardware in Chinese presentations at international conferences? Where are the Google Earth images of new HLV launch facilities or of lander testing in China? Where are the in-space tests of propellant storage or reentry from lunar trajectories?

    These are things that can’t be hidden in the real world. If they exist outside your imagination, then it should be easy to produce evidence of them.

    “its not replicating the landings but exploring the moon that entices fresh young minds with new perspectives.”

    Yes, and they choose to do it this way, which is different from how their parents or grandparents did it:

    http://www.googlelunarxprize.org/

  • DCSCA

    The Chinese are not going to telegraph intent beyond vagaries about their lunar plans, human and so on, any more than the Soviets did beyond what they couldn’t conceal. Just as there was ‘no’ ‘ Soviet lunar program’ – except it was deduced there probably was given the Zond flights and what was deduced about the N-1, [hence, Low's rationale for Apollo 8's mission change-] but the Russian hardware was kept under wraps for decades [ "We really didn't know what they had to compete with ous."-- Chris Kraft] w/little knowledge of N-1 development beyond a small circle in government from CIA sources and of course, the lander itself only acknowledged and revealed to the public about a decade or so ago beyond the chatter from Leonov. Any hints of a space race redux w/China threatens commercial’s bid to siphon off government subsidies; it dries up— which is what the commercial camp is really concerned about and why it is in commercial’s interest to nay-saying any hints of Chinese lunar plans culled from official government planning reports and unofficial sources.

    =======

    @Dark Blue Nine wrote @ April 3rd, 2012 at 8:27 am

    “I’m not sure what the recent obsession with Tyson is.”

    The obsession may be on your part, because he articulates a wise strategy not unlike Clarke’s from four decades ago that rings true and frustrates you.

    “…but he articulates no useful or implementable policy, program, or budget prescriptions.”

    In fact, he does- and it scares commercial advocates desperate to privatize matters spacial. Leaving LEO to commercial for exploitation being one of them– at their own risk and investment, w/o government subsidies, and leaving the BEO explorations to the government space agency with all the science and technical fallout it produces in fields across the board for later exploitation. NdGT knows, as Clarke did, that space exploitation is not space exploration. And NdGT is an exploration advocate. And FYI, it is Squyres who fancies himself the new Sagan, not NdGT.

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “Just as there was ‘no’ ‘ Soviet lunar program’ – except it was deduced there probably was given the Zond flights and what was deduced about the N-1″

    Exactly. There’s no Chinese equivalent of Zond flights or N-1 construction. And in the age of Google Earth, we’d know.

    “Chinese lunar plans culled from official government planning reports”

    What “Chinese [human] lunar plans” in “official government planning reports”? If they’ve been “culled”, then where are they?

    You claim these plans exist. Produce them.

    “The obsession may be on your part”

    I don’t think so. I’ve mentioned him once. You’ve littered this site with references to “NdGT”.

    “In fact, he does”

    Then what is it? Aside from doubling NASA’s budget, Tyson takes no position in his testimony:

    http://www.haydenplanetarium.org/tyson/read/2012/03/07/past-present-and-future-of-nasa-us-senate-testimony

    “More money” is not a goal, objective, strategy, plan, or approach. What civil space policy does Tyson advocate?

  • @Joe
    “You might want to actually read the article before attributing such conclusions to an article in which SpaceX was not even mentioned.”
    I don’t know why the following did not appear earlier. Maybe I didn’t hit Submit when I thought I did.
    I did not say SpaceX was mentioned in the article, neither did I say I read the article. What I said was (based soley on the quote that Oler made from the article) it appeared to describe SpaceX’s modus operandi. Given the fact that the Chinese have said that they are concerned that they can’t match SpaceX’s prices, I think it is very possible that this assumption is correct.
    http://www.aviationweek.com/aw/generic/story_channel.jsp?channel=space&id=news/asd/2011/04/15/11.xml&headline=China%20Great%20Wall%20Confounded%20By%20SpaceX%20Prices

  • Coastal Ron

    DCSCA wrote @ April 3rd, 2012 at 9:08 am

    The Chinese are not going to telegraph intent beyond vagaries about their lunar plans, human and so on, any more than the Soviets did beyond what they couldn’t conceal.

    You truly are a creature from the 60′s. While you were in your time capsule during the 70′s, 80′s, 90′s and early 21st century, the world has become far smaller, and there are less secrets that can be hidden. Sure China could be building many things in secret, but they can’t launch and operate them in secret.

    But to buy into your Chinese Moon fantasies is to buy into believing that there is something on the Moon that no other country sees. We’ve already been there and seen it first hand, and nothing convinced us of the need to go back right away. What is your fantasy reason for why they would create a secret Moon program? Oil? Rare Earth metals? Water? Marcel’s fantasy of “taking the high point”?

    We’ll have plenty of notice for a stepped up Chinese space program that is planning to go beyond LEO, since the Chinese have shown that they are not risk takers in space, and they still have a lot of catching up to do in the realm of space hardware and operations tempo.

    The obsession may be on your part, because he [NdGT] articulates a wise strategy…

    And that strategy is to double the amount of money we borrow from China. Don’t you know we live in the “DCSCA Age of Austerity”? What a hypocrite.

  • Joe

    Rick Boozer wrote @ April 3rd, 2012 at 11:42 am
    “Given the fact that the Chinese have said that they are concerned that they can’t match SpaceX’s prices, I think it is very possible that this assumption is correct.”

    That’s is one way to interpret this sentence from the article “But executives at China Great Wall Industry Corp. are finding it hard to believe that California-based Space Exploration Technologies Inc. (SpaceX) is offering lower launch prices than they can.”

    Another way is that the Chinese do not believe Space X numbers. Given that Musk has recently claimed Space X is developing a fully reusable version to the of the Falcon 9/Dragon complex (with each of the three segments returning to make precision powered vertical landings at the launch site and the first stage to perform a retro grade maneuver – All the while maintaining a positive payload margin) that will fly 1,000 (not 100) times and reduce launch cost to $50,000/launch I think it very likely that this assumption is correct.

  • Robert G. Oler

    DCSCA wrote @ April 3rd, 2012 at 9:08 am

    The Chinese are not going to telegraph intent beyond vagaries about their lunar plans, human and so on, any more than the Soviets did beyond what they couldn’t conceal. >>

    OK then how do you know that they are going to the Moon?

    This is kind of like my middle sister once telling my parents that I had my eyes open during prayer…my Dad replied “How did you know”?

    (I did BTW seeing what was happening)…

    If the Chinese are going to the Moon but not telegraphing their intentions…then how in the world did you figure it out?

    Answer…you are doing what has been done in This Country since WW2 in terms of our major global competitors…impressing what “we” either would do or want them to do…on what they are doing.

    The far right only understands the confrontations of the 60′s so they are projecting them into this century. Just as Saddam became “Hitler”…you have the Reds being the Soviets.

    You really need to “read” 2010. RGO

  • Coastal Ron

    Joe wrote @ April 3rd, 2012 at 12:13 pm

    Another way is that the Chinese do not believe Space X numbers. Given that Musk has recently claimed Space X is developing a fully reusable version to the of the Falcon 9/Dragon complex…

    Keep in mind that the article and quote were from before SpaceX announced their plans for reusability. Reusability of their 1st stage would be a further disruptive influence on the market (see Disruptive Innovation).

    Though the Chinese are familiar with high volume production of consumer goods, that doesn’t necessarily translate to aerospace products, and in fact so far it hasn’t for the Chinese. They are getting better, but the innovation that SpaceX has introduced is mainly that they have removed the high cost drivers from the manufacturing and operations segments of building and flying rockets.

    Part of that has to do with being a new, commercial company without the government contracting-type legacy overhead of someone like ULA. The other part is keeping costs low by building as much as they can in-house, including their engines. Comparing just those two factors makes it easy to see why ULA has much higher costs that SpaceX.

  • Call me Ishmael

    <blockquote cite="We remember Columbus. We don’t remember who came second. We remember Magellan. We don’t remember who came second. We remember Amundsen. We don’t remember who came second.">

    Not always. Francis Drake was second after Magellan. We remember him, and the Golden Hind. Robert Scott was second after Amundsen. We remember him, although not with any intention of emulating him. And in some sense, Columbus WAS second, or third, or 58th, after Leif Ericsson and any number of Basque fishermen, and who knows who else.

  • @Joe
    “Given that Musk has recently claimed Space X is developing a fully reusable version to the of the Falcon 9/Dragon complex (with each of the three segments returning to make precision powered vertical landings at the launch site and the first stage to perform a retro grade maneuver – All the while maintaining a positive payload margin) that will fly 1,000 (not 100) times and reduce launch cost to $50,000/launch I think it very likely that this assumption is correct.”
    Even Musk, says the reusability is not a sure thing, but that he has reasonable confidence it will work. I know there are a lot of people hoping he is wrong.

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “That’s is one way to interpret this sentence from the article”

    The article contains another sentence, which makes clear that the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp. officials “concede they could not match them [the published prices on the SpaceX website] with the Long March series of launch vehicles even if it were possible for them to launch satellites with U.S. components in them.”

    “Given that Musk has recently claimed Space X is developing a fully reusable version”

    The statement by the CAST officials has nothing to do with reusable development at SpaceX. The CAST comments were made in April 2011. SpaceX announced its reusable plans in December 2011. Moreover, the statement above is clear that the statement is in reference to the advertised prices on the SpaceX website for existing, expendable Falcon 9 launches, not for future reusable Falcons with cost goals but TBD prices.

  • vulture4

    “The Chinese are not going to telegraph intent beyond vagaries about their lunar plans”

    This isn’t 60′s Russia we’re talking about. This is the country that almost every major US manufacturer is moving to. This is Boeing’s largest foreign customer. This is a country with more internet users than the US. You can assume that everything they do must have some secret malignant purpose, or you can go there and look.
    Obviously at this point China only _has_ vague plans beyond either a) joining the ISS consortium, if asked, or b) if we continue to freeze them out, setting up their own LEO station and inviting collaborators to join them. If Russia, Europe and China decide to work together in space and the US refuses to take part, we will not have the resources to compete in any meaningful way.

  • Joe

    Rick Boozer wrote @ April 3rd, 2012 at 2:28 pm
    “Even Musk, says the reusability is not a sure thing, but that he has reasonable confidence it will work. I know there are a lot of people hoping he is wrong.”

    When I was working on the Space Station Project in Huntington Beach, California I worked weekends for free on the Delta Clipper Project so I am anything but anti reusability. But Musk is talking about as (I stated earlier) each of the three segments returning to make precision powered vertical landings at the launch site and the first stage to perform a retro grade maneuver – All the while maintaining a positive payload margin and that will fly 1,000 (not 100) times and reduce launch cost to $50,000/launch.

    I realize you will probably not accept the distinction, but there is a difference in hoping he is wrong and thinking he is wrong.

  • vulture4

    Musk is overly optimistic, but absent some form of reusability we are at a dead end. The way to find out what works is with a tech demo project, like, well, Delta Clipper. Which begs the question, why did we cancel it?

  • Joe

    vulture4 wrote @ April 3rd, 2012 at 4:30 pm
    “Musk is overly optimistic, but absent some form of reusability we are at a dead end. The way to find out what works is with a tech demo project, like, well, Delta Clipper. Which begs the question, why did we cancel it?”

    The Delta Clipper was not cancelled it was absorbed into the NASA X-33 Project when it was removed from control of the Strategic Defense Initiative Organization (SDIO) by the Clinton Administration (which also ended the SDIO).

    The Delta Clipper follow on (which would have been called the DC-Y under the SDIO banner) was passed over for the (in my opinion over designed) Lockheed Venture Star. Why was that done? I have no idea, but a cynic might think that once again a newly elected President not wanting to continue a project begun by his predecessor might have something to do with it.

  • Coastal Ron

    Joe wrote @ April 3rd, 2012 at 4:09 pm

    All the while maintaining a positive payload margin and that will fly 1,000 (not 100) times and reduce launch cost to $50,000/launch.

    I’ve read the statement where he talks about the $50,000 figure, which, by the way, would be the capital cost of the rocket, not the full-up cost/launch (fuel alone adds $200K). He was clearly talking about reusing a rocket 1,000 times an example, not a promise of what they will do Day One.

    Reusing the 1st stage just once would provide a dramatic decrease in launch costs, and SpaceX already offers the lowest prices in their class.

    And though you love to present yourself as the only rational thinking person when it comes to SpaceX, let’s remember what Musk has said about what they are planning to try:

    Now, we could fail — I’m not saying we are certain of success here — but we are going to try to do it. And we have a design that on paper – doing the calculations, doing the simulations – it does work,” he added. “Now we need to make sure that those simulations and reality agree, because generally when they don’t reality wins.

    I’d say he is being pretty rational about what they are doing.

  • “I realize you will probably not accept the distinction, but there is a difference in hoping he is wrong and thinking he is wrong.”
    Yes, I do. But I also realize that the new Merlin 1D engines are significantly lighter than the 1Cs with fewer parts and they have 40 percent greater thrust. And yes, I realize the physics requires playing things very close to the margins. But he is saying that their calculations and simulations show it is possible. If it is indeed possible, it is obvious why he would not wish to release any details on how he thinks it can be done.

    But remember, many people said it wasn’t so when he claimed he developed F9 for around $700 million. Then the Air Force and NASA did a detailed audit to find, yep, he was telling the truth. Also, it was predicted before F9 flew that it couldn’t be developed for anything less than several times that amount. Given that history, I’m betting the odds are at least 50/50.

  • DCSCA

    @vulture4 wrote @ April 3rd, 2012 at 3:26 pm
    “This isn’t 60′s Russia we’re talking about. This is the country that almost every major US manufacturer is moving to. You’d do well to revisit the mantre of ‘buying the rope by whuch we will hang them.’

    Red China is still red– secretive as ever.

    Robert G. Oler wrote @ April 3rd, 2012 at 12:52 pm
    =yawn= by their own policy papers. And, of course, during the ‘space race’ (which was never really defined by the participants at the time) analysts read the tea leaves and made projects which history has shown were fairly accurate.

    @Coastal Ron wrote @ April 3rd, 2012 at 11:42 am

    In fact, the hypocrisy lay with commercial space advocates such as yourself who seek government subsidies denied by savvy and wary private capital sources. Transferring funding from DoD to NASA or better still, tucking NASA under DoD as a civilian division and consolidating space operations makes sense, saves money and stabilizes funding with the added protection of a ‘national security’ umbrella. You’d do well to revisit Chines policy papers and learn to read between the lines and absorb what isnt ‘revealed’ as much as what is- and what is can be a quite the head fake.

    @Call me Ishmael wrote @ April 3rd, 2012 at 2:01 pm
    Yep. And, of course, Gagarin was omitted from his rant. Myopic, provincial and predictable. There’s an agenda to protect and any hint of a Chinese lunar program in planning thwarts commercial’s effortsd to tap government subsidies.

    @Dark Blue Nine wrote @ April 3rd, 2012 at 10:42 am

    “If there’s a Chinese human lunar program, then where is the evidence? Where is this human lunar goal enshrined in China’s public five-year planning documents? Where are the pictures of hardware in Chinese presentations at international conferences? Where are the Google Earth images of new HLV launch facilities or of lander testing in China? Where are the in-space tests of propellant storage or reentry from lunar trajectories?” .. These are things that can’t be hidden in the real world.”

    LOL of course they can. Gagarin’s flight was held secret, and that was just an orbital jaunt. This is why policy decisions are beyond the pay grade of technicians who have no experience making policy decisions culled from intelligence sources or analysis from State. Revisit the policy papers and analyses made public and the intent is revealed by as much as what is said as what is not said with the added caveat of intended vagaries. But to profess the Chinese have no ‘lunar program’ is seen for what it is- an atempt by commercial shills to nay-say and ‘space race redux’ chatter which would all but close off any attempt to source government subsidies.

    “And in the age of Google Earth, we’d know.”

    =yawn= Not necessarily- and Google Earth is hardly a primary source to use to make decisions of national policy. That kind of data would be fragmentary at best given the secretive nature of the party concerned. The Chinese are not going to telegraph intent beyond vagaries about their lunar plans for your convenience any more than the Soviets did during the 1960s and 1970s.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Joe wrote @ April 3rd, 2012 at 4:49 pm

    The Delta Clipper follow on (which would have been called the DC-Y under the SDIO banner) was passed over for the (in my opinion over designed) Lockheed Venture Star. Why was that done? I have no idea, but a cynic might think that once again a newly elected President not wanting to continue a project begun by his predecessor might have something to do with it.>>

    Probably not RGO

  • Joe

    Rick Boozer wrote @ April 3rd, 2012 at 5:10 pm
    “But I also realize that the new Merlin 1D engines are significantly lighter than the 1Cs with fewer parts and they have 40 percent greater thrust.”

    However, the issue is not what the Merlin Engine (whatever iteration) Thrust to Weight Performance Ratio/Specific Impulse is. The real issue is durability and the amount of maintenance required to reuse it. The initial Merlin Engine was based on the (NASA developed) Fast Track Program. That work was designed to produce a simple, relatively low cost expendable rocket engine. To say we are now jumping to an engine that can be used 1,000 times at only the cost of the original manufacture is (well let’s just call it) questionable.

    I really have no desire to turn this into an argument, but Musk is doing the people still trying to deliver on their COTS commitments (two year plus late) no favors by continuing to make this type of grandiose statements.

  • Vladislaw

    Musk seems to be doing what any CEO of a start-up tries to do, “grab eyeballs”. I doubt shutting up is a great recipe that will help his employees in the long run, considering a lot of them are taking stock options as pay.

    Most of his investors are friends from his Paypal days and they believe he can do what he says he can. Again nothing much out of the ordinary and usual things you see with entrepreneurs and startups.

    He is betting on success pure and simple. He said as much in the 60 minutes interview, the last launch of the F1 was an all or nothing gamble.

    I would imagine after a successful cargo delivery to the ISS scheduled later this year (not the next flight scheduled which is still a test flight) and all the hype he issues will mean a great IPO.

    Entrepreneurs are gamblers as well as business people. They bet on themselves and what they believe they can deliver. Musk is not doing anything out of the ordinary.

  • vulture4

    I agree Musk should be more measured in his statements, though credibility is hardly a required asset in this field.

    I did not know the DC-Y was combined with the X-33. That seems a strange mix, since one is a VTOVL concept and the other (supposedly) a runway lander. I personally think the whole idea of a lifting body is questionable except perhaps, as in the DC-X, a very low L/D that just eases deorbit G’s and allows some crossrange. The classical lifting body like the Dreamchaser has a poor L/D and a poor volumetric efficiency. It was a solution to our inability (in the 60′s) to build a sharp leading edge that could tolerate entry heating, a problem that no longer exists. Structurally a lifting body is difficult to pressurize or even to fill with fuel tanks (note X-33).

    Wings and fuselage have such different design goals that one shape cannot efficiently do both.

  • Joe

    Robert G. Oler wrote @ April 3rd, 2012 at 6:19 pm
    “Probably not RGO”

    Thank you for the highly informative analysis.

  • Vladislaw

    “LOL of course they can. Gagarin’s flight was held secret, and that was just an orbital jaunt. ”

    I can’t remember, was that before or after there were 100′s of spy satellites were in orbit?

  • Joe

    Vladislaw wrote @ April 3rd, 2012 at 7:20 pm
    “Musk seems to be doing what any CEO of a start-up tries to do, “grab eyeballs”. I doubt shutting up is a great recipe that will help his employees in the long run, considering a lot of them are taking stock options as pay.”

    You seem to me to be saying that being a “CEO of a start-up” is analogous to being a Snake Oil Salesman. If Space X fails I am sure Musk has an ample Golden Parachute for himself, but what happens to his employees who are taking stock options as pay?

    “Most of his investors are friends from his Paypal days and they believe he can do what he says he can. Again nothing much out of the ordinary and usual things you see with entrepreneurs and startups.”

    I am an Engineer not a Financier so I will not argue the point past saying we are betting the future of the entire US space program on an incredible wild card (by your own description).

    “I would imagine after a successful cargo delivery to the ISS scheduled later this year (not the next flight scheduled which is still a test flight) and all the hype he issues will mean a great IPO.”

    If such happens, but what happens if it does not (not just to Musk’s poor benighted employees) to the entire US space program?

  • Joe

    vulture4 wrote @ April 3rd, 2012 at 7:23 pm
    “I did not know the DC-Y was combined with the X-33. That seems a strange mix, since one is a VTOVL concept and the other (supposedly) a runway lander.”

    You are confusing what the original X-33 competition was all about.

    There were originally three possible vehicles
    - A VTOVL Vehicle (from McDonnell Douglas – The DC-Y stand-in)
    - A VTOHL Winged Vehicle (from Rockwell)
    - A VTOHL Lifting Body (the Venture Star from Lockheed Skunk works)

    The Venture Star was selected as the X-33 (as I said in my opinion a mistake).

    “I personally think the whole idea of a lifting body is questionable except perhaps, as in the DC-X, a very low L/D that just eases deorbit G’s and allows some crossrange. The classical lifting body like the Dreamchaser has a poor L/D and a poor volumetric efficiency. It was a solution to our inability (in the 60′s) to build a sharp leading edge that could tolerate entry heating, a problem that no longer exists. Structurally a lifting body is difficult to pressurize or even to fill with fuel tanks (note X-33).”

    About this we are in complete agreement (and I suspect that is the first time I have ever said that on this website).

  • BeanCounterfromDownunder

    Joe wrote @ April 3rd, 2012 at 6:34 pm

    I was under the impression that the Merlin engine was developed from the ground up with simplicity, robustness and reusability in mind from day one. It’s also news to me that it derived from a NASA ‘Fast Track’ program. Source if you wouldn’t mind?

  • Coastal Ron

    Joe wrote @ April 3rd, 2012 at 6:34 pm

    To say we are now jumping to an engine that can be used 1,000 times at only the cost of the original manufacture is (well let’s just call it) questionable.

    It’s also just a fiction in your mind since Musk has never stated a performance spec.

    When he was being interviewed, Musk was giving a cost example, not an operations guarantee. Why is this so hard for you to understand?

    But when rocket reusability is perfected, by whomever, then creating engines with long operational lifetimes is not that hard to imagine, given proper maintenance. A Rolls-Royce 757 turbofan engine achieved the world record for on-wing life without removal with over 40,000 hours over nine years in operation. And certainly the SSME’s have shown that rocket engines too can be reused multiple times.

  • DCSCA

    Vladislaw wrote @ April 3rd, 2012 at 7:20 pm
    “Musk seems to be doing what any CEO of a start-up tries to do, “grab eyeballs”. That’s P.T. Barnum.

  • DCSCA

    @Vladislaw wrote @ April 3rd, 2012 at 8:45 pm

    =eyeroll= Apparently you don’t. Corona was up and running but that doesn’t mean it was capable of deducing a R-7/Vosrok was about to loft a cosmonaut as its payload. Sorry for the typo.

  • Coastal Ron

    DCSCA wrote @ April 3rd, 2012 at 10:53 pm

    That’s P.T. Barnum.

    My gosh, what a sheltered life you lead. Jump into the 21st Century and access any type of media, and what will you see? Company self-promotion! What a shock. I think they even had it in the 60′s, so it shouldn’t be that foreign to you.

    Boeing probably spends more on self-promotion than SpaceX spends in total. Once again your focus on only SpaceX is very telling – still jealous about the Iron Man movies? ;-)

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “LOL of course they can.”

    No, China can’t hide things like HLV construction (we took images of the Soviet N-1 back in the 1960s) or outdoor lander testing (like our Apollo LLRV) or reentry testing (other nations have to be notified so they don’t think it’s a MIRV) or suborbital and orbital testing and the launches that support them (between Saturn 1 tests, Pad Abort tests, Little Joe II tests, and Saturn 1B and Saturn V tests, NASA made 24 unmanned test launches in support of the Apollo Program).

    “Google Earth is hardly a primary source to use to make decisions of national policy.”

    I’m not saying it is. I’m saying that the kinds of developments and testing that are needed to support a human lunar effort can’t be hidden. The Soviets couldn’t hide things like N-1 from us when we had only rudimentary space and air reconnaissance capabilities. We couldn’t hide things like unmanned Saturn test launches from the Soviets. Today, with dozens of remote sensing satellites, hundreds of daily overflights, and massive trade with China, China couldn’t hide a human lunar effort from us if they wanted to.

    “The Chinese are not going to telegraph intent beyond vagaries about their lunar plans for your convenience any more than the Soviets did during the 1960s and 1970s.”

    China is not secretive like the Soviets. They telegraph their launches months and years in advance all the time. For example, I can tell you today that China’s next crewed Shenzhou launch is planned for June this year, that it will have at least one female taikonaut, and what the names and pictures of the two female taikonauts are:

    http://spaceports.blogspot.com/2012/03/two-female-taikonauts-readied-for-june.html

    “Gagarin’s flight was held secret”

    It could be prepared secretly because Gagarin wasn’t going to the Moon.

    “Revisit the policy papers and analyses made public”

    What “policy papers and analyses made public”? Where is this imaginary Chinese policy setting a human lunar goal? Where are the U.S. analyses of said policy?

    You keep making this claim, but you never produce anything that backs it up.

    “This is why policy decisions are beyond the pay grade of technicians”

    “an atempt by commercial shills”

    I’m not a “technician” (whatever that is), and my entire career since graduate school has been with the federal government, so I’m not a “commercial shill”.

    But I’d rather be a technician or a commercial shill than a blithering, incoherent troll.

  • @ Rick Boozer, on his April 3rd, 7:25 am Comment; An LEO-only/ LEO-oriented space program IS indeed a pretty lame excuse for space exploration! The quest for an American Heavy-Lift Vehicle could be the re-beginning of human deep space travel. A HLV launches the earth-departure stage to a parking orbit in LEO. Hence LEO is NOT the end of the journey, it is only the start of it! Whether the EDS & the lunar lander are launched first or second, to the crewed lunar orbiter/transport vehicle, is merely a detail to be worked out later. I happen to think that we will learn a ton of valuable knowledge in the midst of the whole cislunar HLV/ earth-orbit-rendezvous-at-the journey’s-start operation. Someone above, alluded to the problem of in-space propellant storage technology, in the Constellation lunar-mission approach, since the Altair lander/EDS rocket combo will have to be in space for a medium-short time, in a parking orbit, while it awaits the rendezvous arrival of the docking crew on board the Orion craft. Look, whether the crew launches on the same day, later on, or is sent up the following one or two days, the problem of the TLI-burn propellant staying viable during that short interlude does not, to me, appear to be a show-stopper. Yes, there’d be some propellant boil-off; maybe the cryos would require “a stir” in the tanks, but if this engineering art could be worked out, think about the great implications it would have for further deep space applications for manned flight. Like the inevitable unmanned/automated cargo-transport variant of the Altair lander; to emplace base modules & heavy equipment on the Moon, ahead of a crewed mission. The successful management of parking-orbit-rocket-stage cryogenic fuels is something that we’d need to master well ahead of renewed cislunar manned flight. The utilization of a HLV would be the smartest approach to take, in undertaking this. It minimizes having to deal with LEO, and hence gets on with BEO much sooner, since we won’t be needing any LEO space stations to prove its viability. Aside from unmanned flight tests of Apollo hardware & rockets, Apollo only dealt with two LEO manned test flights: Apollos 7 & 9, for the entire Moon phase of the program. Commercial Space’s little rocket approach requires far more LEO space activity and further reliance on LEO stations, in order to work; and hence, bogs NASA down with more ISS-type stuff, and keeps us there for way longer.

  • @Chris Castro
    “An LEO-only/ LEO-oriented space program IS indeed a pretty lame excuse for space exploration!
    Agreed! And as I said, SLS is going to make sure it stays that way. All of the other points you tried to make in that comment have been countered with actual references to industry, university and NASA studies on this blog, over and over again and it just won’t sink in your head. I won’t state those counterpoints gain, because Shuttle-derived HLV is your God and there is no use talking to a religious fanatic.

    “A HLV launches the earth-departure stage to a parking orbit in LEO. Hence LEO is NOT the end of the journey, it is only the start of it!”
    You’re not telling me anything I don’t already know. I actually saw it happen with Apollo before you were born. As for LEO being “the start of it”, that’s the point. You can’t go anywhere else (the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, etc.), until you start at LEO. If you have no economically practical way to get to LEO, going beyond LEO will always remain economically impractical.

    That last comment of yours was just another one of your loooooong conceptually disjointed, jumbled and rambling diatribes. Not even someone who is holds the same position as you would want to wade through all that amount of massively run-together verbage to see if there is anything that makes sense anywhere in your words. Therefore, I just skimmed over what you wrote. Again, please, learn English grammatical rules!

  • Justin Kugler

    DCSCA,
    I’m both a former intelligence analyst and an aerospace engineer and I think DBN is dead-on. The notion of a secret lunar program is absurd. China appears to be engaged in a slow, methodical human space program that is designed to build prestige and reap some of the same benefits the US saw from investment in such technology.

    Even if they do eventually go to the Moon, so what? Our policy should be focused on meeting US national interests and building the infrastructure to do so, not blindly reacting to a perceived Chinese lunar effort.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Joe wrote @ April 3rd, 2012 at 7:39 pm

    Robert G. Oler wrote @ April 3rd, 2012 at 6:19 pm
    “Probably not RGO”

    Thank you for the highly informative analysis.>>

    were you not alive during that decision? Sorry if you are a teenager…I was and anyone who was knows why VentureStar was selected… RGO

  • Vladislaw

    Joe, with the dot com boom working for stock has become a default practice in high tech to get great talent working for you. The reason the talent comes on board is because they believe in both their own abilities and the mission statement of the CEO that is bringing them onboard.

    Why are you not arguing this and defending the workers in the literally THOUSANDS and THOUSANDS of businesses utilizing this model. It is not like Musk is moses out in the wilderness.

    It has nothing to do with being a snakeoil salesman, who were in the business of not giving any true value to the customer, they sold them a bottle of nothing. How can you compare that to what Musk is doing with SpaceX, it would have to be Musk trying to sell you an empty cardboard rocket on a pad and then trying to beat it out of town before you tried to launch it…. that is not what Musk is doing. To try and make that comparison is just beyond silly.

    DCSCA wrote:

    Christ almighty, it is a modern marketing term, read a book.
    Grabbing eyeballs – how to get your customers’ attention

    so settle down.

  • Joe

    Robert G. Oler wrote @ April 4th, 2012 at 1:33 pm

    “were you not alive during that decision? Sorry if you are a teenager…I was and anyone who was knows why VentureStar was selected… RGO”

    Ahh yes more pointless insults substituting for substance.

    If you believe you know why the VentureStar was selected over the basic Delta Clipper concept, why not share it with the class; instead of simply making juvenile insults.

  • Joe

    Vladislaw wrote @ April 4th, 2012 at 2:10 pm

    “Joe, with the dot com boom working for stock has become a default practice in high tech to get great talent working for you. The reason the talent comes on board is because they believe in both their own abilities and the mission statement of the CEO that is bringing them onboard.

    Why are you not arguing this and defending the workers in the literally THOUSANDS and THOUSANDS of businesses utilizing this model. It is not like Musk is moses out in the wilderness.

    It has nothing to do with being a snakeoil salesman, who were in the business of not giving any true value to the customer, they sold them a bottle of nothing. How can you compare that to what Musk is doing with SpaceX, it would have to be Musk trying to sell you an empty cardboard rocket on a pad and then trying to beat it out of town before you tried to launch it…. that is not what Musk is doing. To try and make that comparison is just beyond silly.”

    One word – Enron

  • Vladislaw

    So you are now accusing SpaceX of accounting fraud to keep their stock price high? SpaceX is a privately held firm and Enron was a publically owned company but can you at least accounting fraud being done by SpaceX?

  • Joe

    Vladislaw wrote @ April 4th, 2012 at 4:22 pm

    I was referring to Enron stuffing their employee’s retirement compensation packages with Enron Stock.

    Then when the company failed – for whatever reason – the employees were left with some worthless stocks to paper their walls.

    I am not being sarcastic when I say I hope that does not happen to the Space X employees.

  • DCSCA

    @Justin Kugler wrote @ April 4th, 2012 at 9:40 am

    “I’m both a former intelligence analyst and an aerospace engineer.’

    Then you should know better or you verify the operative term, former, as you may have been out if it for a time. “The notion of a secret lunar program is absurd.” Except ‘secret’ is your word when, in fact, it’s not- just purposely vague with intended and unintended messaging. The world does not operate in absolutes. The Soviet intent followed a similar pattern to China, in spite of DBNs statement they are not, which falls in line w/t commercialist strategy. Perhaps its time you simply acknowledge that to nay-say a Chinese lunar effort is part of the commercialists strategy. A ‘space race redux’ all but ends any hope of them tapping government subsidies– which is in line w/DBN’s position. The denial is an old strategy. No surprise there.

    “Even if they do eventually go to the Moon, so what?” <- Which about sums up the attitude of a nation in decline.

    @Dark Blue Nine wrote @ April 4th, 2012 at 12:41 am

    "China is not secretive like the Soviets"

    Except they are. But your strategy is to nay-say any chatter of Chinese lunar plans, which are in work, as a 'space race redux' all but ends any hope of commercialists tapping the Treasuty for government subsidies

    "[google as source] I’m not saying it is." Except you did nd used it as an example of same to verify above ground installations.

    "China can’t hide things like HLV construction." Of course they can. Nordhausen was hid quite well by Germany. (we took images of the Soviet N-1 back in the 1960s)" Late 1960's— Summer, 1968. =eyeroll= And American mission palnning adapted accordingly.

    "I can tell you today that China’s next crewed Shenzhou launch is planned for June this year, that it will have at least one female taikonaut." This is not 'news' DBN =eyeroll= "I’m not a “technician” (whatever that is), [ <-- you really should know about them if you're going to comment on space operations as they tend to get the work done] …and my entire career since graduate school has been with the federal government, so I’m not a “commercial shill”." Except that you are by your own postings. Garver is in the government, now, too, a shill for commercial. Bolden is as well. But given your use of language, O'Keefe could have used you on staff. But 1+1 still equals 2, not 11. Personal attacks only invalidate your position, DBN. But keep it up- it's an easy tell.

    @Vladislaw wrote @ April 4th, 2012 at 2:10 pm

    "Christ almighty, it is a modern marketing term, read a book."
    DCSCA didn't write that.

  • DCSCA

    @BeanCounterfromDownunder wrote @ April 2nd, 2012 at 10:15 pm

    “SpaceX COTS-C Flight 2/3 -28days”

    =yawn= Golly-gee. Progress 1 was launched on January 20, 1978 aboard the same rocket used to launch the Soyuz. The Progress spacecraft have been servicing space stations w/cargo deliveries for over 34 YEARS.

  • Vladislaw

    When you have literally thousands and thousands of businesses following a common business practice in a sector, it is a fallacy of logic to pull a bad apple out of the basket and then say that bad apple somehow represents all the apples.

    Many try to paint Musk as doing things are somehow unique to him as a startup and therefore he singularly has to be picked out and labeled a bad apple.

    I was illustrating that Musk doesn’t really do much out of standard business practices that literally millions of businesses do.

    And then repeatedly fallacys of logic are then used to try and paint Musk as an out of control snake oil salesman trying to sell your mom a cure all and beat his ass out of town with your money.

    SpaceX had their books audited, NASA said they were clean and fact was Musk’s numbers were true.

    Still it is not enough.

    NASA released data saying if they tried to achieve what SpaceX did it would have cost 10 times as much.

    An American success story for a completely American company.

    Still it is not enough.

    They launch a capsule into orbit and retrieved it, something no other private company has acheived in the history of the planet.

    Still it is not enough.

    Christ all mighty, enough is enough.

    When the hell does an American company, trying to bring back business to America utilizing American workers every going to get a freakin slap on the back.

    All I have ever heard about SpaceX and Elon Musk from day one was nay saying. Everytime they successfully achieve a goal

    Simply move the goal posts and keep on belittling the results.

  • Vladislaw

    “=yawn= Golly-gee. Progress 1 was launched on January 20, 1978 aboard the same rocket used to launch the Soyuz. The Progress spacecraft have been servicing space stations w/cargo deliveries for over 34 YEARS.”

    See what I mean? … game, set and match.

  • Joe

    Vladislaw wrote @ April 4th, 2012 at 7:42 pm .

    “Christ all mighty, enough is enough.
    When the hell does an American company, trying to bring back business to America utilizing American workers every going to get a freakin slap on the back.”

    How about when they actually begin delivering useful payload to the ISS (not once but repeatedly) for the “low rates” of which you are so proud (by the way, those are the same goal posts I have always set – and Space X is over 2 years behind schedule even trying to deliver).

    As to the rest of your post. I try to stay away from profanity but since you seem to like it maybe the board moderators will approve. “Christ all mighty” if you are not part of the Space X PR department you are missing a bet.

  • DCSCA

    “When the hell does an American company, trying to bring back business to America utilizing American workers every going to get a freakin slap on the back.”

    Why should it– especially w/its hand out for subsides from the Treasury. Business is business. And ‘American companies” can operate out of PO boxes in the Caymen Islands.

  • Coastal Ron

    Joe wrote @ April 4th, 2012 at 5:08 pm

    I was referring to Enron stuffing their employee’s retirement compensation packages with Enron Stock.

    Ever the colorful one Joe.

    Next you’ll be blaming Musk for the US mortgage-backed securities debacle. Then the Kennedy assassination. Let’s see, what other completely unrelated but horrible sounding condition can we “hope doesn’t happen to SpaceX and it’s employees because of Elon Musk”?

    I could hope that you aren’t putting astronauts lives at risk on the ISS due to the work you did on it, but see how that would be ascribing the worst possible motivations to someone I don’t know? That’s how you sound.

  • Jeff Foust

    Sorry, folks, but this comment thread has run its course.