NASA, Other

NASA’s problem with farmers, the committee, and Tinkerbells

On Monday, Mark Albrecht, the executive secretary of the National Space Council over two decades ago, gave a speech at a Space Policy and History Forum forum in Washington. Much of his talk covered familiar ground he’s previously discussed, such as in a speech last November, including his experience on the Space Council during the George H.W. Bush Administration that he recounted in last year’s memoir Falling Back to Earth. That included his current assessment of NASA, in which he suggested the space agency should be “razed and raised”, and, more specifically, criticism of the Space Launch System (SLS) heavy-lift rocket, which he said was “too expensive, too slow, and too old.”

Albrecht did offer some new (at least compared to his November talk) thoughts about the state of the space agency. “I think at least three large constituencies have taken hold and own a significant part of NASA and the civil space program,” he said, “and they’re going to have to be dealt with. As time goes on, as the years go on, they get bigger and stronger and more entrenched.”

The first of those constituencies is what Albrecht calls “farmers.” These are people “who own a piece of the current program,” he said, ranging from a contract or a project all the way to a field center. “They have carved up that $17.3 billion, they lobby for it directly and independently, they fiercely protect it, and anybody who wants to change it is going to have to come through them.”

The second group he dubbed “the committee,” which represents groups of people who believe that “if you want to do something, every group has to be satisfied,” he explained. “So you accept programs, projects, and designs that satisfy the committee requirements, not an efficiently or effectiveness requirement.”

The final group in Albrecht’s taxonomy is the “Tinkerbells.” These are people, he said, who believe that if Americans just knew how great NASA was, “the money would come pouring in and all of these things could be solved.”

The combination of these three groups create a set of “boundary conditions” that Albrecht said could limit any effort to reform NASA. One is that any new program must be added on top of existing programs, rather than replace them. “If you try to substitute something new for something that’s ongoing, we’ll get you,” he said of those entrenched interests. New programs also have to be contracted in the same, generally cost-plus ways of old programs, he said. (That’s why he believes the COTS and CCDev programs, which have used funded Space Act Agreements rather than conventional contracts, have attracted criticism: “Different is threatening, because people start saying, ‘why can’t you do that differently?’ and they don’t want to do it differently.”) A final boundary condition, according to Albrecht, is that “you have to use, to the maximum extent, the infrastructure that already exists.” That means using centers and contractors in their traditional roles.

These constituencies are entrenched within NASA and have to become overcome in order to enable real change for the agency. “The longer it goes, the harder it’s going to get because those groups—and there are probably more—get stronger and stronger and stronger.” It was those constituencies, he suggested, that stymied the Bush Administration’s attempts to focus NASA on the Space Exploration Initiative over 20 years ago. “If it didn’t work in 1989, it is going to be much, much harder to do that in 2012 or 2013.”

But if those forces were strong enough to stop SEI 20 years ago, what’s the hope of overcoming them today if they’re that much stronger? Could sequestration, with its automatic across-the-board spending cuts, be the factor that overcomes those forces, as one attendee suggested during a question-and-answer session? “It really is the dark side,” Albrecht said. But, he said, history has shown that major changes have taken place in government agencies like the DOD because of “draconian” budget cuts. “Those are the times when really new and innovative things happen.”

However, he said he preferred to find ways to enact what he believes are the necessary changes without slashing NASA’s budget. “Let’s just think about what we could do with NASA at $17.3 billion, if we really, really focused it, and really got rid of the redundancy,” he said. “At $17.3 billion we could have an absolutely unbelievable space program.”

78 comments to NASA’s problem with farmers, the committee, and Tinkerbells

  • pathfinder_01

    The trouble isn’t those constituencies. Even If new space blooms, they will create constituencies like those. The trouble is those constituencies are no longer aligned in a productive manner. I mean the Shuttle has been pretty redundant since the deregulation of space by the Regan administration and the next manned spacecraft should have sought to use commercially available rockets but it did not due to those constituencies.

    It is rather like a city department whose time is over. For instance the City of Chicago had public bathhouses till the 70ies. They began closing them in after WWII, but that was a long slow process. Sure they had a function they were built at a time when indoor plumbing was rare and they did promote the public health but even by 1918(when the last one was built) attendance was declining. Laws requiring apartments be built with bathrooms slowly reduced the need for them.

    The same goes for NASA, deregulation means NASA has no function in launching satellites and at the moment there really isn’t enough manned spaceflight to demand a manned only system or a system that had no other users(SLS). The shuttle may have been a mistake but it had missions. SLS pretty much does not.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Yeah this is pretty good…the real dividing line is “the status quo” vrs dynamic change. NASA (and the DoD) have become a real life example of the department depicted in “Yes Minister” and eventually “Yes Prime Minister”…the entire notion of “change” is just inconceivable…and sadly I have come to the conclusion that sequestration is a bad idea whose time might have come. Under the guise of patriotism the DoD and NASA are sucking the life blood out of the US budget process and US technology. We now have a US military that is only really competent at beating up on pygmies and then it doesnt do all that good either…NASA is such that it is going to take somewhere near 20-50 billion depending on how you count to essentially do a knock off of the shuttle system, which ab initio only rang in at 9-11 billion (depending on how you count). The right wing (and the GOP) pushes through this with rendetions of “I am proud to be an American so at least I know I am free” to excuse ineptness and get the votes of low information voters…but in the end the DoD and NASA (and a few other technology driven agencies) have become what the right wing always rails against..the welfare queens with big screen TV’s. RGO

  • Coastal Ron

    In the context of Albrecht’s definition, we definitely have too many “Tinkerbells”, and a number of them are regulars here.

    NASA truly does get enough money to explore, both with robotic systems and human ones. What NASA lacks is the ability to control it’s budget, which in our form of government is not going to happen.

    What does need to happen is education. Education in the form of showing Congress that the SLS is a deadend effort – that it only leads to over-priced launch hardware and infrequently completed and over-priced mission hardware. Once Congress has to start confronting the need to fund missions for the SLS, no matter who the President is, the SLS will die – it’s only a matter of how fast (i.e. a direct cancellation, or more likely, a stretch out that turns into a cancellation).

    Once the SLS is cancelled, then a whole bunch of future budget commitments go away too. So even with an overall reduction in budget, NASA would still be able to afford to do HSF exploration using existing rockets and near-term hardware. The time will come.

  • James

    NASA”s future is pretty predictable: simply look how its been going, and project that into the future. Costs go up, while real spending goes down. It has been that way for 20 years, and will continue. It’s likely in this scenario that a ‘bad day’ (Say SLS explodes on test flight, or JWST doesn’t work as operated) will begin discussion of ‘shut down NASA’.

  • Wish there was video of this talk.

  • Fred Willett

    NASA doesn’t matter.
    They still do a lot of good work at the margins. COTS for example. It was an after thought of a program. Space Act Agreements which were so poorly funded ($500M for 2 medium class LVs and 2 cargo vehicles) that it was unreasonable to expect anything to really come from it. Yet SpaceX succeeded and Orbital are on the verge of succeeding.
    But it only happened because no one in power was paying attention.
    Now SLS on the other hand…

  • Mark R. Whittington

    Albrecht, who is by the way a Romney space adviser, is always interesting to listen to. But his analysis does not hold up to close examination. People resist the efforts to shut down space exploration (which for practical purposes ending SLS will do) not because they fear some innovative program taking its place. They resist such efforts because they fear — rightly in my view — that they’ll be replaced by nothing. Oddly, the modern version of SEI was not shut down by the three groups he describes, but rather by a radical liberal administration that views space exploration as something that is irrelevant to its desire to create a European style welfare state in this country. The crony capitalism program that is commercial crew fits right into that plan. Where government dollars flow, so does government control. Until some way is found to separate government from commercial space, the latter will never be truly commercial.

  • Jeff, thanks for posting this. Mr. Albrecht was on the mark, although a big heap of the blame goes to Congress for refusing to allow any change to NASA’s current bureaucratic structure.

  • A general comment in light of Mr. Albrecht’s remarks.

    Yesterday I was on one of the first KSC tours into the VAB since Atlantis returned to High Bay 4 for display.

    A NASA docent, who was a former Shuttle engineer, was present to answer questions.

    Someone asked him why “Obama ended the Shuttle program.” He was fairly honest about how CAIB pointed to the flaw of having the crew vehicle side-mounted, but he didn’t correct the misperception that the Shuttle was cancelled by the current Administration. Someone else asked if we had a “heavy-lift” replacement, and he said no.

    I took these folks aside later and explained the truth — that Shuttle was cancelled in 2004, that the phenomenon that caused the loss of Columbia continued to happen through the end of the program, and that there was no need for a heavy-lift vehicle now that the ISS is completed. I told them about Bigelow, how we could attach inflatable habitats if need be, and that we could also choose to simply assemble a vehicle in orbit instead of launching it all at once. I also told them about Falcon Heavy and the heavy-lift versions of the Atlas V and Delta IV — but we have no need right now. The gentleman also failed to mention SLS, which Congress claims is a heavy-lift vehicle but we all know it will never be used for that purpose.

    Having an annual KSC pass, I’m out on the tours all the time and have my ears open for what representatives tell the public. Some are less than honest about the circumstances leading to today’s events, which is sad because the public believes what these people are telling them.

  • amightywind

    The horrible bias for the pathetic status quo continues on this site. Why is SLS too expensive when we are torching $billion a year on the ISS, easily the most wasteful government program of all time?

  • Robert G. Oler

    Mark R. Whittington wrote @ July 1st, 2012 at 7:40 am

    ” People resist the efforts to shut down space exploration (which for practical purposes ending SLS will do) not because they fear some innovative program taking its place.”

    that is the most goofy analysis you have made and that says a lot because you are constantly throwing out right wing flackery.

    There is zero indication from anyone in power particularly in this administration that the money spent on SLS/Orion would be “gone” (ie the total NASA budget reduced) if those programs were cancelled. Indeed Charlie Bolden for one has said just the opposite…and there are programs which are innovative and thoughtful which could be used to take their place.

    After having made one goofy argument after the next for SLS/Orion you have been reduced tot he weakest of Sir Humphrey’s arguments to keep a failing program “if we dont have it the money goes”.

    So you support a goofy program that AT BEST wont fly a human for another decade, which is trending over budget and off schedule anyway…and other then simply flying humans has no mission attached to it…all for a cost that is the most expensive rocket/capsule combination ever built.

    And then to cover all this you lie. “Oddly, the modern version of SEI was not shut down by the three groups he describes, but rather by a radical liberal administration that views space exploration as something that is irrelevant to its desire to create a European style welfare state in this countr”

    it is your opinion and I guess that just makes it a nutty one; but the assumptions it is based on is a complete lie. Cx was shut down for under performance and over cost. It had become an American style welfare program…welfare for technocrats who went to work every day, wrapped themsleves in the flag and told us all how they were special kinds of “government jobs”…all while producing little.

    Meanwhile flacks like you bought the line of “welfare queens” and “welfare state”…all while supporting programs Cx/SLS/Orion/F-35/ etc which are nothing but bad welfare spending.

    What happened to you Mark? Has the chagrin over how badly Bush performed coupled with the drift of the GOP toward lies and babble just driven you into a sort of nutty right wing corner where you can simply say things (and accept people as your nominee who say things) that are simply lies. Willard lies about what he said two weeks ago. Hint he doesnt htink people like you will notice.

    If SLS/Orion/Cx had been a social welfare program, it had produced so little of value for the massive amount of dollars spent…you would be the first one beating up on it.

    Remember Cx took three times the amount of money Gemini did…and produced NOTHING that could fly in space. I assume you still recall Gemini was an actual program. Zounds

    you are an excellent representative for the GOP

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    Stephen C. Smith wrote @ July 1st, 2012 at 8:58 am

    in the other thread you talked about how the GOP lies…

    this is a direct Mittens quote

    “Folks I cant tell you what I would do as President. Because then I would lose”.

    The GOP (and to some extent the Dems, but far more the GOP) have become the party of the uber rich and corporations…and SLS/Orion are the gifts to the space “stakeholders” from it.

    It is technowelfare…they have tapped into the middle class income bucket to support their technowelfare…and folks like Jamie Diamon who are literally playing monopoly with middle class money…

    The problem is that they have a base of idiots who can be easily fooled by the patriotic blather that comes out of the mouths of people…so it is easy to blame Obama for all Bush’s faults. RGO

  • Aberwys

    Thank you, sequestration (if you appear). Thank you, fading economy. I’m a young person at NASA and can’t stomach the Old Guard. They shut out our POVs in ways that you can’t even being to imagine. I have seen far too many good young folks dinged on their performance appraisals and told “no good deed goes unpunished.”. I hope to continue to help cultural change and use the circumstances to speed it along.

  • Ben Joshua

    pathfinder_01 wrote @ June 30th, 2012 at 7:53 pm

    “The trouble isn’t those constituencies. … The trouble is those constituencies are no longer aligned in a productive manner.”

    “Those costituencies” (contractors, centers & Congress itself) have so much political heft, they become self aligning. No outside force, except perhaps the marketplace, can re-align space policy to be space centered instead of constituency centered.

    So the problem is indeed, “those constituencies.” To coin a corollary of Adam Smith’s “An unregulated market runs amok,” one might say, ‘An unrestrained, unguided constituency runs amok’ (and over budget & over schedule).

    As for Albrecht being a Romney advisor, history’s footnotes are full of pre-election advisors with zero influence post-inauguration. Just ask Alstan Goolsbee what happened to his “whopping big jobs program.”

  • Coastal Ron

    amightywind wrote @ July 1st, 2012 at 9:07 am

    Why is SLS too expensive when we are torching $billion a year on the ISS

    Let’s talk money.

    If the ISS were cancelled after 2020, that would save NASA $3B per year. That is only enough to pay for 1-2 SLS launches per year, but not enough to pay for any payloads or missions.

    In order to justify the use of the SLS, the payloads have to mass 70-130mt (154,000-286,000 lbs), which is about 1/5 to 1/4 the weight of the ISS.

    How much will those payloads cost to build?

    Considering how much NASA has spent on payloads in the past, one guess on how much a SLS-sized, moderately complex payload would cost is $10B. Unless you reuse ISS modules, which don’t need the SLS to get to space, every mission is using newly designed hardware. Considering how much the JWST is costing ($8B), I think even $10B is too low, but let’s use it for now.

    In order to afford to launch an average of 1-2 SLS flights per year, NASA would need an average of $18B/year just to launch SLS missions – and that doesn’t include the support costs like the $3B/year for the ISS that you are complaining about.

    So where is this doubling or tripling of NASA budget coming from? The Republican House? Ha!

    If you want to dispute my estimates, fine. Then just provide your own. But don’t pretend that the SLS and the SLS payloads are somehow “free”.

  • Coastal Ron

    Mark R. Whittington wrote @ July 1st, 2012 at 7:40 am

    People resist the efforts to shut down space exploration (which for practical purposes ending SLS will do)…

    Show us how much you would spend to build SLS payloads, and how many SLS-luanched missions per year that would support.

    Come on. Show us that the SLS is in any way affordable within NASA’s $18B/year budget.

    [crickets chirping]

    We don’t need the SLS to get space exploration hardware to space. We could be back on the Moon or doing some short BEO jaunts by 2020 if the SLS budget were redirected to building hardware that fits on existing rockets.

    It’s funny how supposed conservatives won’t acknowledge they don’t have a clue how much things cost. Not a clue.

  • Martijn Meijering

    there was no need for a heavy-lift vehicle now that the ISS is completed

    That too is misleading. If you consider Shuttle an HLV, then existing EELV Heavies are HLVs too, so even if we do need that kind of payload capacity it’s still available. There’s no need for larger EELVs, though a larger ACES upper stage would be useful as an EDS, with the larger launch vehicle as an inconsequential side-effect.

  • vulture4

    There are certainly those who say all human spaceflight is wasteful. Today it is. With reduction in cost and development of new applications, we may be able to make it productive for tourism, commerce, and science.

    But if we cannot do it in LEO, we certainly cannot do it on the moon, where the costs will be far higher. The greatest obstacle is the cost of reaching LEO, which must be reduced by a factor of ten. This is very difficult, and some are tempted to ignore the problem and ask for $100B for a few sorties to the lunar surface. This might satisfy their personal existential goals, but the taxpayers have never been willing to finance it.

    And as von Braun suggested half a century ago, practical BEO HSF requires major infrastructure in LEO to dock the very different vehicles needed for surface-to-LEO and LEO-BEO and to service the vehicles for their repeated trips. The ISS provides the base we need to develop those technologies. If we give it up we will not be trapped in LEO. We will be trapped on the ground.

  • Robert G. Oler

    “Let’s just think about what we could do with NASA at $17.3 billion, if we really, really focused it, and really got rid of the redundancy,” he said. “At $17.3 billion we could have an absolutely unbelievable space program.”

    no truer words were ever spoken. If NASA in today’s dollars did Gemini the entire program for 5.5 or so billion…you can imagine what a combination with private enterprise that would allow more SpaceX/OSC type efforts where amazingly 1.2 billion (with only 400 million in government funds) buys you a new launch vehicle and a resupply ship.

    We could easily be on the Moon. Saddly we are stuck with technowelfare. RGO

  • Martijn Meijering

    People resist the efforts to shut down space exploration (which for practical purposes ending SLS will do)

    Er, no. It’s SLS (and Ares I / V before it) that shut down space exploration, except for robotics and even that was significantly affected by it. Steidle’s approach would have worked.

  • Vladislaw

    Aberwys wrote:

    >I>”I’m a young person at NASA and can’t stomach the Old Guard. They shut out our POVs in ways that you can’t even being to imagine. I have seen far too many good young folks dinged on their performance appraisals and told “no good deed goes unpunished.”. “

    A book or blog would be nice, naming names, naming incidents, cataloging and recording everything and giving it to the public.

    You routinely see a post on here about a NASA employee who talks about the way NASA is run by the usual suspects. It would be nice for this laundry to be air dried in the light of the sun, rather than anonomous blurbs now and then.

    Get together with a bunch of your like minded young peers and record all this and take that old guard down by pulically showing the corruption of values et cetera for what it is.

  • Robert G. Oler

    But, he said, history has shown that major changes have taken place in government agencies like the DOD because of “draconian” budget cuts. “Those are the times when really new and innovative things happen.”>>

    yes this is when we built the cruisers and aircraft carriers that carried the load the first year of ww2…in opposition to the battleship admirals…the SLS people of their day.

    RGO

  • @Aberwys
    ” I’m a young person at NASA and can’t stomach the Old Guard. They shut out our POVs in ways that you can’t even being to imagine. I have seen far too many good young folks dinged on their performance appraisals and told “no good deed goes unpunished.”. I hope to continue to help cultural change and use the circumstances to speed it along.”
    Aberwys, people like you are our hope. I’m much older than you, but unfortunately, after seeing what has been happening the last 40 years at NASA, I don’t have to imagine what you are saying, common sense (and I don’t mean the commenter here ;) ) and objective evidence tells me what you are saying is true.

    There are “Tinker Bells” here on this blog who have the strange mindset that being antiSLS makes one antiNASA. B.S. of course. We just think that the enormously talented people at NASA can be working on something that will actually advance America’s lead in space, rather than working on a rocket using obsolete Shuttle tech that will never be finished.

  • Mark R. Whittington

    The more I think about it, the more I conclude that Albrecht’s analysis is somewhat simplistic. For one thing, he leaves out a 4th group, which I called “The Visigoths” an alliance between liberals in the Obama administration and fake libertarians who would like to burn NASA to the bedrock and replace it with something that serves as a conduit for Solyndra style deals.

    Oler’s rantings are even more off the wall. If the SLS is like the battleships then where are the aircraft carriers being proposed? Don’t you dare mention fuel depots. Nine launches per deep space mission is a crazy way to do exploration.

    Whether they realize it or not — and most do not — the heavy lift haters want to end space exploration in the United States and cede it to unfriendly foreign countries. They are (to turn around Oler’s crazy WWII metaphor to something that makes a little sense) like the pre war isolationists who inveighed against military spending of any time. The question is, what kind of Pearl Harbor would it take to wake these dimwits up?

  • Martijn Meijering

    And as von Braun suggested half a century ago, practical BEO HSF requires major infrastructure in LEO to dock the very different vehicles needed for surface-to-LEO and LEO-BEO and to service the vehicles for their repeated trips.

    Not necessarily major infrastructure, and maybe none at all, depending on whether you mean practical government-funded exploration or routine commercial exploration. Also, it need not be in LEO, it could be at a Lagrange point initially. Once we get to routine commercial exploration, the market will likely develop lots of commercial infrastructure in LEO and at L1/L2, and probably on the lunar surface.

    The ISS provides the base we need to develop those technologies.

    Actually, if we want to reduce space launch costs drastically, it would probably be a better bet to abandon the ISS (and SLS/Orion) and spend the money on unmanned probes / orbiters / landers and the propellant to launch them. Competitive procurement of $6B / yr worth of launch services and $1B / yr for spacecraft should lead to a breakthrough within a decade. In fact, even $1B / yr could be enough. And historically NASA has spent $3B / yr on launches, though not competitively of course.

  • I have not seen a better expression of what I and others have been thinking for decades regarding the primary memes that are holding back NASA within the agency. Point by point, Albrecht hit it spot on.

    I’m with him as far as not seeing the agency’s budget cut, if the people who are stuck in mental ruts can be gotten out. Many are older people who are close to retirement and they’re resistance will be eliminated in the natural course of time without active intervention. The rest hopefully will either adapt or leave when they see their old obsolete methodologies are no longer considered to be implementable.

  • Dennis Wingo

    former congressman Robert Walker had much the same speech in 2004 at STAIF right after the announcement of the VSE. Walker spoke in regards to the “stovepiped” interests at NASA and if they were not overcome the VSE would die, which of course it did.

    It all starts at the top at NASA. O’Keefe and Steidle resisted the pressure from MSFC to immediately go for a heavy lifter and we got the CE&R studies along with the H&RT efforts. This looked to be a marked departure from the status quo. We did have tons of “lets come together for a common purpose” type meetings but it did not result in the adoption of something stupid like Constellation until O’Keefe’s departure and the installation of Griffin, who brought back the old status quo with a literal vengeance.

  • @Mark Whittington
    “Whether they realize it or not — and most do not — the heavy lift haters want to end space exploration in the United States and cede it to unfriendly foreign countries.”
    Talk about “simplistic”? Being antiSLS is not being a “heavy lift hater”. Heavy lift may be necessary at some point for certain operations we will need for later stages of deep space exploration/exploitation. We just don’t need it now and even if we did need it now, it shouldn’t be an HLV that is orders of magnitude more expensive to develop than it needs to be and does not advance the state of the art sufficiently to lower flight costs. Open your mind. Relieve yourself of the mental rut caused by inflexible adherence to an obsolete meme.

  • pathfinder_01

    “Actually, if we want to reduce space launch costs drastically, it would probably be a better bet to abandon the ISS (and SLS/Orion) and spend the money on unmanned probes / orbiters / landers and the propellant to launch them.”

    Err not really. Probes are machines that can be made smaller by engineering(do we need to do this?) and by advancing technology(what once took a machine that filled an air conditioned room is now done by machines that can fit in a pocket. ). That means that a probe with given capabilties could need less propellant over time. Smart one was able to hitch a ride to the moon as a secondary payload can you imagine a machine with it’s abilities able to do that in the sixies?

    People on the other hand can’t be easily made smaller, requires supplies that are not easily made smaller and require a lot more propellant to move.

  • Malmesbury

    The reason battleships died, by the way, wasn’t that they couldn’t be armoured enough to be protected against air power (they couldn’t). It was that they couldn’t reach carriers to fight back. 20 miles vs 200 miles.

    The pro SLS crowd use the following arguments –

    1) We need a big rocket to explore – yet Griffin said to Congress that the Chinese could get to the moon on their existing rockets.

    2) The entrenched interests (as described above) need their big rocket to be SLS like. If they are denied the politicians will pull the funding for NASA.

    3) Paying money based on results to buy specified capabilities is corporate cronyism. Open ended cost-plus contracts with no penalties for 100%+ over runs are the American Way.

  • Justin Kugler

    Rick,
    A recent study showed that people have a tendency to entrench themselves when presented with data that contradicts their mental model. I think that’s why Whittington ignored Ron’s counter-argument about the cost of SLS. His mental model appears to be that we need a “space program” that builds Nelson’s “monster rockets” to maintain American supremacy against our perceived enemies.

    Those of us that are trying to change the system so that we have a true space economy, of which NASA exploration is a part, are approaching the situation from a completely different perspective. Our goal is to make it so that America’s presence in space doesn’t depend entirely on NASA activity and goes beyond just military and science applications and the relatively limited com-sat market.

    I think that’s why we all keep talking past each other, though the conspiracy theories bandied about and brazen partisanship from some persons certainly don’t help us reach any sort of accommodation.

    Even so, we’re going to have to start speaking the same language if we’re going to work past these differences and build a national space enterprise that actually accomplishes anything. We need to have honest discussions about our own interests, stop attributing evil intentions to those we disagree with, and figure out how to work together.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Mark R. Whittington wrote @ July 1st, 2012 at 2:15 pm

    More goofiness from a supporter of the government status quo and technowelfare programs.

    you wrote:
    ” If the SLS is like the battleships then where are the aircraft carriers being proposed? Don’t you dare mention fuel depots. Nine launches per deep space mission is a crazy way to do exploration.”

    nine launcher per deep space missions is a far more sane way to do exploration by humans then at least two decades and maybe three of simply studing and building a launch vehicle and a capsule that are 1970′s technology.

    It is a far saner method of believing in exploration by humans then the one you have; which is tos upport a program that does nothing for decades but develop a spinoff rocket/capsule.

    But moving on..where are “the aicraft carriers being proposed”. FDR moved the US Navy’s policy from that of building battleships above all else…for three reasons (these are his reasons not mine)

    1. Battleships were not affordable..and they took far to long to build using to much steel and other materials which were in short supply both during the 30′s and WW2.

    2. Battleships did not encourage innovation in either use or tactics.

    3. Battleships did not meet the needs of the tactical environment evolving even the 30′s as illustrated by various “fleet Problems”.

    The analogy today is the various “innovations” that are occurring from SpaceX to Virgin to other groups who are trying to come up with technologies and products that not only are flexible in their use; but open up other areas of technology to experimentation and development…and are affordable.

    For instance if Virgin meets the notion of a airlaunched rocket that delivers 400 lbs or so to a 200nm orbit for around 1 million dollars (this annoncement is forthcoming) that changes the notion of what size of satellite is affordable to launch, which COULD change how the military develops its constellations. Who knows if this works; but it is at least one method of innovation that is impossible with funds concentrated on SLS.

    you whine on fuel depots. Fuel depots do not care what “use” the fuel is put to…we have apparantly (if the recent launch calender is any indication) mastered on several lift fronts the ability to put payloads into earth orbit. 9 launches is simply a matter of cost…and those 9 cost far less then just a years development of SLS.

    Plus the depots ahve use for other things…like servicing satellites in GEO for instance.

    What you and other troglytes who are supporting SLS have is not only an addiction to corporate croniism, but a failure of imagination. You and other SLS supporters are the folks even after Pearl Harbor who longed for a Jutland style battle in the Pacific…a battle which (with the modest exception of Surigoso Straits) never happened. Even the cruiser gun actions of WW2 were far more dynamic and manuever oriented then a slug fest like Jutland.

    you and others cannot think out of the narrow box of your past.

    and you lie, you call things what they are not.
    RGO

  • Robert G. Oler

    Mark R. Whittington wrote @ July 1st, 2012 at 2:15 pm

    like the pre war isolationists who inveighed against military spending of any time. The question is, what kind of Pearl Harbor would it take to wake these dimwits up?”

    You dont know history. You have read far to many Glenn BEck rantings.

    Pearl Harbor really did the US a favor in terms of military strategery in the Pacific. Had the Japanese not sunk the big gun battlefleet at Pearl harbor, say they had instead done something very smart like started teh war by bombing the Canal…there is almost no scenario where some fool in the Pacific Fleet does not do, what I would call an SLS…ie run out and try and win the current “war” like they saw happen in WW1…ie a Pacific Jutland.

    What Pearl Harbor did was not only delete that possibility by sinking the big gun ships, but it also “sunk” most of the Admirals who were in command and would have pursued that strategery.

    There would have been an Admiral Pye or such who would have said “who needs those aircraft carriers lets instead go teach them with our battleships, that is what we have all gamed for these decades”

    World war 2 bears this out. The Houston did well in the Asiatic waters because she more or less ignored pre war tactics…Spruance didnt know aircraft carrier “tactics” such as they were and instead listened to Aubrey Fitch (who had fought the Japs to a standstill at the Sea) and moved toward a very dynamic battle plan. He won at Midway.

    SLS is a clear case of “Jutland” thinking in the age of mobility. Not only in the mold lines of he vehicle but in the groups that are putting it together it simply tries to mimic technology and tactics of the past (about the same time period) with people who are functionally incompetent (Griffin could be Admiral Pye…). Griffin had more money then Gemini but he couldnt get the rockets or capsule off the ground.

    If the Chinese are building a Moon program (and there is no evidence for this) along an Apollo based effort (ie big rocket very expensive almost nothing reusable) then they are BETTER AT IT then the current crop of NASA folks who have spent decades and billions and will need more decades and more billions to do what the Chinese dont need as much money for. And you support this.

    The lesson of Pearl Harbor is that innovative thinking works. SLS is not innovative. The lesson of Pearl Harbor is that new technology and notions could defeat old technology…SLS is old technology…the lessons of Pearl Harbor is that a military that dares greatly, wins. there is nothing daring about SLS.

    What is it going to take to wake the dimwits who support SLS up?

    RGO

  • Martijn Meijering

    Err not really.

    I meant specific launch costs (and prices), not cumulative costs. Competition will drive down prices and large volumes will make R&D profitable, assuming prices can in fact be reduced dramatically through R&D. If they can’t, we’re screwed.

    This approach pretty much requires propellant-intensive solutions rather than clever spacecraft engineering, because spacecraft, unlike propellant, are far too expensive to launch in large quantities.

    Once we have cheap lift, we can then focus on clever spacecraft engineering, but first things first.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Thanks to history challenged Mark Whittington the analogy between Griffin and his slavishs devotion to big heavy boosters and Admiral William S. Pye…is not a bad one.

    Pye never grasped in the interwar years the changes that technology and tactics for a Pacific were driving…as late as 1940 Pye is heading a list of flag officers who are arguing for a large battleship build program as part of the Two Ocean Navy. Pye is part of the Navy’s commission that designs the criteria for the Montana class battleships.

    On 7 December Pye is commander BattleForce US Fleet (ie the Pacific fleet)…he has his flagship California sunk out from under him…and we can ignore his indecision on the Wake Relief and concentrate on his Post efforts after Nimitz releaved him.

    Pye became the commander of Task Force One, comprising the remaining operational battleships in the Pacific fleet, based in San Francisco. Pye ordered this force to sortie to patrol the West Coast during the Battle of Midway, as a precaution against a possible Japanese attack in that area. His fears proved unfounded. His sortie effort is self appointed and foolish.

    In the process he takes the remaining operational battleships out with only one of them having operational radar. The only air cover he has is from a small escort carrier, the Long Island, which has no radar. With the supporting destroyers and cruisers, “Pye’s cruise” uses more fleet oil then the entire Midway and Alaska US Fleet movements…a quantity in very short supply. He is only cut short on his cruise when Long Island is ordered to Pearl Harbor with her planes, to replace battle losses at Midway.

    Pye never had a sea command again.

    Had the IJN been able to do its alternate plan for a diversionary attack duing the battle of Midway…a raid on Seattle with two fleet carriers and four fast cruisers…Pye’s force is in almost every war game, is either useless or annihilated.

    SLS is the battleship of its day. What we need is innovative thinking; what worked in the limited engagement of Apollo is not an effective means of doing things today.

    It is as hard to understand the support of SLS and the opposition to new methods of doing things today as it was for some to understand the Battleship admirals. RGO

  • Aberwys

    Thanks for the kind words. My belief is that persistence and small, incremental chances at change in the presence of a senior person who is slightly open makes more of a longer term
    impact than a revolution.

    Of course, sequestration would be a great help — the chaos that is an opportunity for major change. That’s why I welcome it.

    FWIW:
    Plenty of my peers worked hard on the Open NASA effort, which is not well accepted (actually, I’ve heard senior folks laugh about it–as in “awww, so cute the kids are busy…”). So, I quietly go about my business and make small incremental changes and take my hits. I say this so that folks know that there are internal folks trying to make NASA better. We just have to do it slowly and quietly, anonymously as well, lest the Old Guard block us.

  • Coastal Ron

    Mark R. Whittington wrote @ July 1st, 2012 at 2:15 pm

    Whether they realize it or not — and most do not — the heavy lift haters want to end space exploration in the United States and cede it to unfriendly foreign countries.

    I see you are avoiding the money question.

    I’ll make it easy for you – how much would NASA need per year to operate the SLS and pay for the SLS-sized missions?

    My opinion is that Congress won’t give NASA enough money to use the SLS, so no meaningful exploration will be done with it. That means $30B wasted on building a rocket when we could have been paying ~$7B for existing rockets and had $23B left over for exploration hardware and mission operations.

    So far from ending space exploration, us so-called “heavy lift haters” are really just haters of wasteful spending, and we know that we could be out exploring far sooner, and far better, without spending a decade waiting for an unusable rocket.

  • For one thing, he leaves out a 4th group, which I called “The Visigoths” an alliance between liberals in the Obama administration and fake libertarians who would like to burn NASA to the bedrock and replace it with something that serves as a conduit for Solyndra style deals.

    A group even more imaginary than your imaginary friends in the “Internet Rocketeers Club.” Tinkerbell.

  • pathfinder_01

    “If the SLS is like the battleships then where are the aircraft carriers being proposed? Don’t you dare mention fuel depots. Nine launches per deep space mission is a crazy way to do exploration.”

    Funny we do it with the current manned mission…

    This year so far we have had 3 atlas launches, 3 delta, 1 Falcon 9, and 1 Peguas XL from the US alone for a total of 8 and the year is about halfway over and that is just from three companies one of which hasn’t reached operational tempo yet! Given the US normally launches about 20 flights a year nine launches isn’t that big a streach. If each of those launch companies were given 3 launches a year you would easily meet your nine launches.

    If you need one system and one oganization to do nine launches, probably a bad idea (although the Shuttle could do that much in about 2 years assuming it didn’t go down on you for two years and the window to mars takes about 2 years to open).If you want to land on the moon about 3-4 launches of Delta Heavy or about 2-3 launches of FH will do. If you just want to travel to L1it can be done in two launches.

    Fuel depots allow multiple systems and multiple users.

    Heck the ISS alone had 2progress flights, 1 ATV flight, 1 Soyuz so far this year. And has 3 Soyuz flights, 1 HTV flight, 1 Dragon flight and 2-3 more progress flights to go. The ISS is planned to receive 11 flights this year and got 13 last year. Nine flights is within current capacity.

    Anyway I don’t like SLS, not because it is heavy lift because it is unnecessary expensive to the point where NASA cannot afford much in the way of spacecraft to go with its heavy lift. Heavy lift if needed should be designed and operated by industry not NASA. It is rather like building an airplane with the capacity of a 747 in the 1930ies (a bad idea that would not likely be profitable) and doing so using a government organization with no recent history of aircraft development.

  • Justin Kugler

    Sounds like we have some of the same peers, Aberwys. :)

    I think we need both people like Nick Skytland, who bust through barriers, and people like you, who quietly move things along. I suppose I’m somewhere in the middle.

    If you ever need a friendly ear to confide in, you can find me on global.

  • Martijn Meijering

    Nine launches per deep space mission is a crazy way to do exploration.

    Why?

  • Coastal Ron

    Mark R. Whittington wrote @ July 1st, 2012 at 2:15 pm

    Don’t you dare mention fuel depots.

    Fuel depots.

    But seriously, if you want to doom the U.S. to staying in local space and never reaching beyond the Moon, then by all means ban refueling in space. While you’re at it, ban refueling here on Earth too. Makes as much sense.

    Nine launches per deep space mission is a crazy way to do exploration.

    Thinking you can go to Mars in one launch is even more crazy…

  • Nine launches per deep space mission is a crazy way to do exploration.

    It’s much more sane than trying to do it in a single launch, for many reasons, but foremost because it makes it affordable.

  • Justin Kugler

    Ron,
    It’s possible if you use certain forms of nuclear propulsion, but I don’t think that’s what he was talking about. :)

  • Dave Huntsman

    ….if the people who are stuck in mental ruts can be gotten out. Many are older people who are close to retirement and they’re resistance will be eliminated in the natural course of time …….The rest hopefully will either adapt or leave when they see their old obsolete methodologies are no longer considered to be implementable.”

    Unfortunately, I believe the opposite is more the case for the next several years. The middle and many senior managers in place in the Agency now are stuck in those mental ruts and they are quietly conducting a purge of the Agency of thse change agents not protected by being directly in the COTS or commercial crew programs. I can name people at several Centers – including HQ – and some of whom are older but change agents nonetheless, who have been either buried…or outright fired (yes, civil servants can be fired or pushed out via forced retirement), by middle and senior managers who themselves are in the mental rut. In short, the agency is in many ways worse off than even just a year ago due to this quiet mini-purge going on.

  • Bob

    This whole discussion seems a well worn path, mostly amplifying the simple observation that NASA is constituency driven and not mission driven.

    I too applaud the OPEN NASA initiative to the extent that it’s real (and that seems to be in some doubt here), but an openly stagnant NASA is only marginally better than a furtive stagnant NASA.

    The stagnant NASA we see today is the direct result of the Augustine Commission’s hatchet job on human space flight. There is likely no way forward unless major “genetic modification” is done on the agency’s DNA.

    There needs to be a serious fraction of non-governmental funding, a complete overhaul of the technology philosophy, a serious rethinking of the risk-reward calculus, and a few singular inspiring missions worthy of the risks and worthy of the spirit of our great nation.

  • Tinkerbell: “Building a house with dozens of truckloads of material is crazy. We need to deliver the whole house on a single truck that only drives to a building site once a year. What are these people thinking? And don’t you dare say ‘on-site assembly.’ Or ‘fuel depots’. Because I don’t know that rockets need oxidizer too.”

    Tinkerbell: “NASA is dying, but if you only clap your hands, she can get back on with building a big monster rocket that only flies once in a while at a cost of billions per flight, and which sucks up all the money for payloads that would actually fly on it. Won’t everyone clap for Tink? C’mon, won’t you clap?”

    [crickets]

    In case anyone can’t guess, I love, love, love Albrecht’s metaphor. Or analogy. Whatev.

  • reader

    “Nine launches per deep space mission is a crazy way to do exploration.”

    It’s much more sane than trying to do it in a single launch, for many reasons, but foremost because it makes it affordable.

    And to the readers at home, i encourage you to find the feature in the “bug”

    Hint, it has got something to do with frequency.

  • Aberwys wrote:

    Thank you, sequestration (if you appear). Thank you, fading economy. I’m a young person at NASA and can’t stomach the Old Guard. They shut out our POVs in ways that you can’t even being to imagine. I have seen far too many good young folks dinged on their performance appraisals and told “no good deed goes unpunished.”. I hope to continue to help cultural change and use the circumstances to speed it along.

    Personally, I think you should be submitting your resume to SpaceX.

    The old NASA will go the way of the dodo. It has to. Congress won’t let it change on its own.

    Before I moved to Florida, I worked for an old and sclerotic company, run by a few people entrenched by decades. It was a miserable place to work. The CEO wasn’t going anywhere; he had hand-picked the Board of Directors and had married the daughter of one of them. Once you hit 50, you were targeted through layoffs or, even worse, termination for fraudulent charges. In my last assignment, I was actually told by my supervisor I was never to joke in front of our manager. Jokes were forbidden.

    They tried to lay me off on my 50th birthday, and again on my 52nd. I took the second one and left for Florida.

    It’s great that young minds and fresh ideas are trying to change NASA, but the real change is happening at SpaceX, Virgin Galactic, Blue Origin and some of the other startups. The NewSpace companies will run rings around the government programs very soon now. We got a taste of that with COTS 2/3. By 2015, a lot of people will be asking why we have a government human spaceflight program when the private sector can do it cheaper and with better technology.

    I disagree with those who think SLS will die during sequestration or the battle to avoid sequestration. SLS will survive until Senators like Shelby and Nelson and Hatch move on. We get rid of Hutchison at year’s end, which is a step in the right direction. But it’s going to take more years and wasted billions before SLS goes the way of the dodo — and the old guard might finally be pushed out the exit.

  • vulture4

    Mark R. Whittington wrote “The Visigoths” an alliance between liberals in the Obama administration and fake libertarians who would like to burn NASA to the bedrock and replace it with something that serves as a conduit for Solyndra style deals.

    Mr. Whittington, I would respectfully ask that you enlighten me on a point I have difficulty understanding. I have worked at a NASA center for 25 years, and lived 60 years. I have seen administrations come and go, and disagreed with many of their policies. But I have always respected them as people and tried to understand what they were doing, and assumed they were acting on the basis of honest principle.

    But many within the space program do not regard President Obama as a political leader with whom they might agree or disagree. They regard him, as a conservative commentator on a local radio station recently said, as ‘evil incarnate’, a metaphysical agent of Satan. And then he repeated it at least six times in five minutes. A significant percentage of NASA civil servants have adopted the view that even when Mr. Obama does something that exemplifies their stated goals such as trying to reign in giant government-micromismanaged programs, reduce costs, and harness the innovation of private industry.

    So my question is, where did this feeling that President Obama (or the Democrats, or liberals like me) are not simply people with different ideas, but rather metaphysically “evil”, come from?

  • Vladislaw

    I like it when opponents of fuel depots, like mark “never tell the truth” whittington say don’t mention fuel depots. But they turn around and say lets build a moon base and harvest fuel and then send it to fuel depots in LEO… lol

  • @Stephen C. Smith
    “I disagree with those who think SLS will die during sequestration or the battle to avoid sequestration. SLS will survive until Senators like Shelby and Nelson and Hatch move on. “
    I don’t think sequestration will do it either. However, the next few years will bring a heavy-lifter that will make a splash in the news headlines as the most powerful rocket in the world, actually flies and will be simultaneously touted as developed without government largess. That will be a major catalyst for change. Meanwhile, as the completion date for SLS gets pushed farther down the line, then I don’t see how the good Senators you mentioned will be able to indefinitely justify it to their political colleagues who outnumber them. Yes, it will take a few years, but the handwriting is on the wall.

  • Justin Kugler

    vulture4,
    It’s all about cognitive dissonance. It’s easier to justify the fight to yourself and reject counterpoints if you demonize your opponents, particularly when it comes to partisan politics.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Whittington (along with his tirade against Simberg) posted this on his website in response to this thread

    “I interpret that as a slam against Neil deGrasse Tyson and his outside the box idea for doubling NASA’s budget.”

    Tyson’s ideas are no more “out of the box” thinking then you have demonstrated in the last 10-12 years. Doubling NASA’s budget fixes nothing…

    NASA’s issues are not money, as Albrecht notes ““At $17.3 billion we could have an absolutely unbelievable space program.”

    the problem is that at 17 billion and change we cannot have an unbelievable space program and the current sloth, morass, torpor and timidity (a space news OP ED of mine a few years ago that said about the same thing that Albrecht is saying) that we have now and that you have made it your lifes work to defend.

    It is actually worth looking at some numbers. In rough numbers Cx/SLS/Orion have consumed a little over 22 billion dollars…if SLS/Orion were to continue before the first crewed flight occurred at best it would consume about 30 billion more dollars.

    thats 50 billion and change. and not a single human has flown on the vehicle.

    SpaceX with its combination of government (about 400 million) and private capital (about 800 million) has developed both a rocket and a capsule…so say it takes another 1.2 billion to develop the crewed version.

    thats about 2.4 billion…or about 1/10 of what Cx/SLS/Orion has spent.

    That is the problem…and doubling the NASA budget does not fix that.

    you use to know that. What happened to you? Have you just gotten so caught up in Obama hate?

    RGO

  • Robert G. Oler

    http://blogs.airspacemag.com/moon/2012/07/failure-to-launch-failure-to-lead/

    this is Spudis reaction to Albrecht’s comments…and it is typical Spudis…babble

    the problem with Whittington/Spudis and others, other then simply Obama hate is that they cannot imagine that we will “go somewhere” in a manner that is different then Apollo…or station. They cannot imagine a new path developing. It is strange that Whittington who use to rail against government handouts…is not supporting them RGO

  • Vladislaw

    “Plenty of my peers worked hard on the Open NASA effort, which is not well accepted (actually, I’ve heard senior folks laugh about it–as in “awww, so cute the kids are busy…”). So, I quietly go about my business and make small incremental changes and take my hits. I say this so that folks know that there are internal folks trying to make NASA better. We just have to do it slowly and quietly, anonymously as well, lest the Old Guard block us.”

    I would rather have them called onto the carpet and defend those statements publically.

    If they are going to act like a dinosaur, then let’s treat them like a dinosaur and help with the extinction.

    There is a simple rule to live by, you are either part of the problem or part of the solution. If they are a part of the problem then that has to be made very public. The first sign for a healthy recovery is to first understand there is a problem. Either they are a problem or they are not. If they are… then catalog it, record it and make it public and instead of you on your heels you force them to have to defend those actions. I would rather have them trying to defend then allowing them the offensive.

  • Dark Blue Nine

    You have to like directness and succinctness of Albrecht’s terminology. Tinkerbells wishing for more funding like Griffin and Hutchison’s staff gave us Constellation and SLS, and farmers like ATK, P&W Rocketdyne, Nelson, etc. willingly went along to keep the Shuttle checks coming.

  • josh

    the us could have an amazing space program at 5 billion if they gave all that money to innovative companies like spacex and shrunk nasa by 80 to 90 percent. start with shutting down msfc and jsc. they won’t be missed.

  • reader

    the us could have an amazing space program at 5 billion if they gave all that money to innovative companies like spacex
    Thats probably the last thing you’d want to do, if you want vibrant competitive space industry.

    start with shutting down msfc and jsc. they won’t be missed.
    Agreed

  • mike shupp

    Bah humbug b-llsh-t. Albrecht’s got his head wedged in his posterior anatomy. Ditto for his supporters here — most of you guys.

    Suppose for the sake of the argument that the “farmers”, the “committee” types, and the “Tinkerbelles” in NASA and its supporting contractors were identified and summarily fired. With no replacements. Euphoria would reign at this and several other websites — Transterrestial Musing and QuantumG’s Blog, for example.

    Suppose as well, 4 or 5 NASA centers got eliminated. Stennis and Edwards for certain, maybe Marshall, maybe Goddard, maybe Ames, maybe Langley, maybe Glenn. Suppose SLS got cancelled, effectively immediately. And the ISS termination date was moved back from 2020 to 2018 or perhaps 2017. People’d be pretty damn happy here, right?

    And we can suppose that in such an environment, we could cut back on some other stuff. There’s really NO need for NASA to waste money on aeronautics research, is there? Yeah, people talk a bit about getting NASA back into that track, but that’s what happens when you get Democratic Presidents — every Republican President from Nixon on has tried his damndest to eliminate aeronautics from NASA, on the grounds that private enterprise can do that kind of research. And I know most of you guys really embrace Republican wisdom rather than Democratic wastefulness. So aeronautics could go.

    And planetary sciences. And astronomy. And climate monitoring — oh, God help us, ten times — we ALL want an end to satellites that measure sea depths and land temperatures and CO2 percentages in the atmosphere! We’re all scientists and engineers here, and we know that GOD is in charge of the climate, not a bunch of pinko professors!

    So there’s just so much we can cut from the NASA budget, and it’d generate so much happiness here, so much sheer pleasure that… well, the US space program would be just like the Japanese and German and British and French and Swedish and Icelandic and Irish and Greek and Moroccan and Mexican and Argentinian space programs in not doing much, which would open up just so much opportunity for Free Enterprise Solutions to all Space Problems that I swear! sperm would certainly just ERUPT! from my monitor everytime I brought Space Politics up on my browser. Wouldn’t that be nice?

    And yet. And yet and yet and yet. We’ve all grumbled that NASA has become a disfunctional, unambitious, money wasting, low-performing organization. Suppose it was … not reformed, perhaps, but at least PUNISHED severely as I’ve suggested, chopped down, cut back, slapped silly, had serious pain afflicted …enough to satisfy Rand Simberg and Robert Oler both. Enjoy that thought, guys!

    But what would happen next? Do you think NASA would be given 18 billion dollars a year still, and be told “Go for it!” and that all of a sudden brand new spaceship designs would pop out of Boeing and Lockheed and SpaceX and XCOR and Scaled Composites and Armadillo like bread from overampped toasters? Do you think we’d be planting lunar bases down in three years and claiming the land about them as US territory in four and shooting off manned rockets to Mars by the end of the decade? You think Congress would stand up and cheer for that? You think the presidential contenders in 2016 would claim bragging rights for that? That the representatives of the gathered nations of the United Nations in solemn debate in New York City would squeal with glee and rapturously acclaim the American achievement? You think the Chinese would all smile when they saw us, and the Russians would all shout Da Tovarish! and treat us to toasts of vodka, and all the girls in the rest of Europe would spread their legs spontaneously to reward American tourists for their nation’s accomplishments in space?

    You know this wouldn’t happen, all you guys. All you sober guys, anyhow. Yeah, NASA’s a disfunctional do-nothing government agency and it’s got some terrible people. But getting rid of those people and getting rid of all the parts of NASA you and I don’t care for will not change the basic fact that Congress, the Federal Bureaucracy, the US Preeisdent, and the American people fundamentally DO NOT WANT an ambitous, aggressive space program. NASA doesn’t do much because most people in and out of government don’t want it to do much. And to complete the picture, most of those people are also not at all eager to have “commercial” enterprises compete for tax dollars to perform the sort of space programs that once might have been assigned to NASA.

    You can’t fix NASA by firing people you dislike, I’m trying to say. It’s dishonest to pretend that you can. Fix NASA itself — better yet, fix the circumstances that govern NASA — and automatically a different set of people will appear to govern the space agency, and differnt things will happen. That you guys are so unable to recognize that … it shows why you guys are so far away from power over the US space grogram, and why you really ought to be far away from power.

  • And yet. And yet and yet and yet. We’ve all grumbled that NASA has become a disfunctional, unambitious, money wasting, low-performing organization. Suppose it was … not reformed, perhaps, but at least PUNISHED severely as I’ve suggested, chopped down, cut back, slapped silly, had serious pain afflicted …enough to satisfy Rand Simberg and Robert Oler both. Enjoy that thought, guys!

    This is one of the stupidest posts I’ve seen yet. One massive straw man.

  • Robert G. Oler

    mike shupp wrote @ July 3rd, 2012 at 9:26 am

    are you and Whittington sharing the same writer? Sigh

    There are several mounds of horse droppings here but the largest pile is the notion that if we stop the current program then NOTHING can take its place.

    That is tops on the list of Sir Humphries guides to failing programs…it is sort of like “if Lockmart doesnt build airplanes who will keep us safe”…

    then there is this last excuse “Congress, the Federal Bureaucracy, the US Preeisdent, and the American people fundamentally DO NOT WANT an ambitous, aggressive space program. NASA doesn’t do much because most people in and out of government don’t want it to do much”

    that is simply not true…NASA does a lot, it flies orbiters incompetently and gets people killed, it puts endless requirements on programs that drive up cost and stifle innovation…and thats just to start.

    A lot of NASA’s problems are self generated by incompetent people who have managed to get to management positions; in a dysfunctional operations platform. Dont self aggrandize the problems they are fixable…they just need leadership RGO

  • Dave Hall

    @Josh wrote:
    “the us could have an amazing space program at 5 billion if they gave all that money to innovative companies like spacex”

    Spread over a decade, SpaceX may indeed be able attract $3-4billion for a Mars 1 manned *return* mission done on a private-public partnership basis … if it can be shown that matching private funding can be raised. A well crafted reality TV media campaign along the lines of what the Dutch chaps are suggesting may just indeed cover a lot of the private/commerical portion of the budget, totalling $6-8B spent on landing on Mars and returning a small team of people. Near-future idealist NewSpace science friction, of course.

    It’s interesting to note that the Mars-One.com intro videos on YouTube have received hundreds of thousands of views. Maybe there are more space exploration advocates than meets the eye.

    Dave in Africa

  • mike shupp

    Rand Simberg – If the shoe fits so painfully, pull it out carefully and clean it under warm running water, then let it dry in the open air.

    Bob Oler – Take some sober pills. There’s a US military and intelligence space program in the vicinity of 50 billion bucks per year; there’s a 3 billion dollar weather satellite program which belongs to NOAA (mostly, anyhow); there’s a civilian market for say ten billion dollars of comsats and a couple billion more for launching them.

    This dwarfs NASA, and yet it’s invisible to most people — even the omniscient geniuses here at Space Politics seldom mention them. So my secret suspicion is that they’d likely continue, pretty much as they are now, were NASA to be eliminated. That’d probably be the case even if some evil set of events eliminated NASA and every New Space firm in existence. So I didn’t mention them.

    As for the special incompetence of NASA’s bureaucrats, I’ll point out that military space programs are equally poorly run, as attested by numerous Congrressional hearings and GAO reports — ditto for aircraft R&D and procurement programs and naval ship building. I’ll note we’ve been waiting on fusion to become a viable energy source for 40 years, and suggest gently that NASA-style incompetents have been known to emerge in the nuclear power business in at least three nations. I won’t be so crude as to mention Enron, since those splendid American businessmen surely understood the ethics of they were doing, all down the line. I won’t even refer to the American health care mess, or the wide divergence of legal thinking that can be observed at the highest (one might even say Supreme) level of the American justice system. Let’s just look at high level “too big to fail” bankers from around the world and the regulators who failed to govern them and the politicians who created that regulatory system and the economists who variously advised or admonished or cheered on or ignored the bankers for lo so many years! Do you still want to maintain there’s something UNIQUE about NASA’s managers? You’d put your hand on a Bible and swear to this in court?

    I don’t think you guys are providing serious counterarguments, y’know?

  • pathfinder_01

    “This dwarfs NASA, and yet it’s invisible to most people — even the omniscient geniuses here at Space Politics seldom mention them. So my secret suspicion is that they’d likely continue, pretty much as they are now, were NASA to be eliminated. That’d probably be the case even if some evil set of events eliminated NASA and every New Space firm in existence. So I didn’t mention them.”

    For things that are vital people will pay high prices and perhaps any price. Weather satellites are vital they alert us to dangerous weather conditions (Hurricane, Blizzard). Milsats are vital for the military. They would continue NASA or no NASA. As much as I love HSF, it isn’t vital and NASA needs to understand that it is on the cutting line first. There is only so much people are willing to spend for space make the most of it.

  • Coastal Ron

    mike shupp wrote @ July 3rd, 2012 at 4:36 pm

    I don’t think you guys are providing serious counterarguments, y’know?

    Counter arguments to what? That the DoD/NRO program is largely hidden from the public? I don’t disagree with that.

    However I think you’re delusional if you think that there is any connection between what the DoD/NRO gets in their budget and what NASA “should” get. Certainly no more connection than there is between NASA and NIH, or even the NPS.

    As to the rest of your posts, I just figured that you had to get something off your chest – something happened that made you snap and want to unload. I figured since I wasn’t a trained therapist I wasn’t planning on responding.

  • If the shoe fits so painfully, pull it out carefully and clean it under warm running water, then let it dry in the open air.

    The shoe doesn’t fit at all. I’ve never worn it. I see no need to otherwise respond to your fantasies about what I believe.

  • Aberwys

    I still believe in quiet anonymous change. If you open the curtains right away, the majority go blind with the sunlight. If, instead, you work gradually, watching for their eyes to adjust as you change the lighting, their vision adapts

  • Robert G. Oler

    mike shupp wrote @ July 3rd, 2012 at 4:36 pm

    are there sober pills? Let me know I might need them tomorrow…I usually “let go” on the 4th a little.

    Your post boils down to “wow NASA is no worse then anyone else” and that is one of hte problems with what I refer to GOP ethics…ie “they are doing it as well”. My two year old is in that phase (she is acting more like 4) and we are trying to make sure that its a temp thing…

    Bad or poor behavior on anyone or other agencies part does not excuse bad behavior on the part of anyone else. I dont have an issue with the fact that most of the military industrial complex is as corrupt and incompetent as the space industrial complex…but that doesnt make either of them a good thing or something we might tolerate.

    The “tinkerbells” of the world (and I guess that includes you by self definition) are always of the line that “being NASA we can screw up”…so Linda H. has no problem excusing her flat out incompetence by saying “we didnt mean to do it”…or “wow if we had known” when really she did mean to do it by her incompetence which is illustrated by the fact that despite some solid evidence that there was a problem..she should have known.

    What the folks at NASA need is a good thumping. They need some projects cancelled, some people laid off or sent to the worst possible duty station from which they will resign and then some hard ass managers put in who make people face up to their responsibilities; either stand by their work or get out of the way…and start accomplishing things with numbers of people that are more realistic.

    To paraphrase the guy on Animal House “going through life slothful and incompetent claiming others are worse is no way to live”.

    Get back to me on those pills…as DSCA would say the clock is ticking RGO

  • Frank Glover

    “…will not change the basic fact that Congress, the Federal Bureaucracy, the US Preeisdent, and the American people fundamentally DO NOT WANT an ambitous, aggressive space program.”

    There’s a difference between actively ‘DO NOT WANT’ it (come on, it would all have been gone long ago, if there were really the kind of universal agreement to that end that you listed. If all of them ‘do not want’ it, who is left to write the checks for continued operation, mike? Who? Why?) and simply ‘DO NOT CARE.’ about it.

    That’s why it’s possible to mutate into a jobs program with insufficient connection to useful results. Not enough care, save for those with money flowing to their districts.states, but not enough are actively opposed or it just would not be…

  • Tom Billings

    Mike Shupp seems to have been talking to my brother recently. What Mike has said is the core of that sibling’s opposition to my interest in Space. It’s not just that he doesn’t want government money spent on spaceflight, human or robotic, …He doesn’t want private money spent on any of it, either. There *are* people out there like that, …they include many of my family over the years.

    What Mike misses is that these folks are a minority, …. a small one, though growing larger as people grow more frustrated with seeing money flow into somewhere called NASA, and nothing they think valuable coming out. My brother thinks it is not *possible* for anything interesting to him in his life to come from ever launching another rocket again. How much of that is their reaction from my space advocacy, …I don’t know. I do know he, and some like him are lost on this topic forever

    I do know that those who squander what is left of the US Republic’s support for advancing space technology, to the point where private groups cannot be stopped from settling the solar system, can kill not only NASA, but can kill any hope for the US to influence strongly the cultural milieu that settles the rest of the solar system. I think that influence is crucial to the future I want to see.

    I do know that SLS, and the thinking behind it, if continued too far, will go a *long* way towards winning huge numbers of new converts to my brother’s viewpoint. After all the technical reasons are given, that reason remains for putting NASA’s money into something that can produce what US citizens value, which SLS does not do. The monster rocket worshippers, whether “farmers” , “comittee”, ..or “Tinkerbells”, are doing all that is needed to see my brother eventually win the argument.

  • Happy 4th of July everyone RGO

  • Malmesbury

    a small one, though growing larger as people grow more frustrated with seeing money flow into somewhere called NASA, and nothing they think valuable coming out.

    Too true. Watch the Simpons episode when Homer goes into space. That is how NASA is now perceived by the general population – occasionally brilliant, massive cost over runs and can do less and less for more and more.

  • BeanCounterfromDownunder

    This is off topic however I’d like to point out that in a couple of weeks, NASA will make possibly 2.5 awards in the CCiCap Program. This will determine just how serious NASA is about HSF. The program is about developing crew capability to LEO. So if serious, my view is SpaceX, Boeing, and pick any of the others for the 0.5 award. This purely from a technological and saftey viewpoint. Nothing new or radical required for LEO so why go there! That’s a rhetorical question btw, I’m not looking for anyone to answer. :)

  • Vladislaw

    I found a couple items of interest in that article Robert.

    “The Obama team has asked NASA officials about the costs and savings of scrapping the agency’s new Ares I rocket, which is being developed by Chicago-based Boeing Co. and Minneapolis- based Alliant Techsystems Inc.

    NASA chief Michael Griffin opposes the idea and told Obama’s transition team leader, Lori Garver, that her colleagues lack the engineering background to evaluate rocket options, agency spokesman Chris Shank said. “

    Now how is that possible? A lot of posters have commented that President Obama’s plans about the Ares I was never talked about, it was done in backrooms in the dead of night and no one had a clue that he was even considering shutting it down. Now this article says he talked to NASA about it and Griffin even commented about it. Funny considering Griffin was one who alluded that the cancellation took place without a word to anyone.

    This part is hillarious:

    “Meanwhile, Chinese state-owned companies already are assembling heavy-lift rockets that could reach the moon, with a first launch scheduled for 2013. All that would be left to build for a manned mission is an Apollo-style lunar lander, said Griffin, who visited the Chinese space program in 2006. “

    What heavy lift? They are building a medium lift rocket, the Long March 5, the equivalent of the Delta IV heavy. This author obviously doesn’t have a clue about rockets.

    “NASA chief Michael Griffin opposes the idea and told Obama’s transition team leader, Lori Garver, that her colleagues lack the engineering background to evaluate rocket options, agency spokesman Chris Shank said. “

    This was laughable, what Griffin should have said is that her colleagues lack the background to manipulate the data before an evaluation takes place as well as he did.

  • Vladislaw wrote @ July 5th, 2012 at 3:10 pm

    Griffin is like every other nut in the GOP, they always have an excuse or an explanation as to why things have gone sour on their watch…and it rarely ever includes the supposed sacred mantle of the GOP “Personal responsibility”.

    There is one thing that needed evaluating in the transition effort…was Cx on schedule and Budget and since the answer was obviously no; the one thing was “why”.

    And those answers all start with the name “Mike Griffin”.

    RGO

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