Campaign '12

Obama, Romney, Mars, and China

On Monday, President Obama made a congratulatory phone call to members of the Mars Science Laboratory team at JPL, thanking them for their work successfully landing the Curiosity rover on Mars. The eight-minute call was a fairly basic speech thanking the JPL team and its partners for the mission, with the now-obligatory mention of flight director Bobak Ferdowsi’s mohawk. It was, though, according to one source, only the third time a sitting president made a congratulatory call to JPL regarding a robotic mission achievement: Gerald Ford callled in 1976 for the Viking missions and George W. Bush called in 2004 after the landing of the Mars rover Spirit.

“You guys are examples of American know-how and ingenuity, and it’s really an amazing accomplishment,” the President said late in the call. “I’m going to give you guys a personal commitment to protect these critical investments in science and technology.” Left unmentioned, though, is the 20-percent cut in NASA’s planetary sciences program in his fiscal year 2013 budget proposal and a decision to back out of the joint ExoMars program with Europe.

President Obama’s Republican opponent, Mitt Romney, also worked in a mention of the Curiosity rover landing during a campaign stop in St. Augustine, Florida. “You also just saw we just landed on Mars and took a good look at what’s going on there,” he said, using the landing, as well as the US’s performance at the Olympics, as evidence that the America was still the greatest nation in the world. “And I know the Chinese are planning on going to the Moon, and I hope they have a good experience doing that. And I hope they stop in and take a look at our flag that was put there 43 years ago.”

The comment about China’s lunar plans recalls a statement Romney made nearly six months ago, one of the last times he mentioned space on the campaign trail. Speaking in Kalamazoo, Michigan, Romney was dismissive of claims that China was planning a human mission to the Moon. “It’s like, guys, we were there a long time ago, all right?” he said at the time. “And when you get there would you bring back some of the stuff we left?” Romney’s comments indicate he does not appear to be any more concerned about those plans now.

185 comments to Obama, Romney, Mars, and China

  • amightywind

    “You guys are an example of the ingenuity we are trying to crush with our cradle to grave nanny state. Land on Mars? You didn’t do that!” But seriously folks…

    I wouldn’t read too much into Romney’s off the cuff remarks, although that never stopped JF before. Romney will be far more hawkish on China on issues of currency manipulation and aggression in the South China Sea than the patsy now in the Whitehouse.

  • Paul Bryan

    I may be proven wrong by history here, but personally I just don’t see Romney getting the chance to impose whatever view he has on Nasa. I just think the economic crisis of the last three years has changed the political mood the world over. I know the USA has it’s own, unique political narrative but it strikes me that this is no time to be selling the usual Republican refrain of low taxes for the rich and belt tightening for everyone else. That just sounds like they’ve learned absolutely nothing. Oh hang on a minute …

  • Jeff Foust wrote:

    Left unmentioned, though, is the 20-percent cut in NASA’s planetary sciences program in his fiscal year 2013 budget proposal and a decision to back out of the joint ExoMars program with Europe.

    Those complaining about the cut in planetary sciences should also have to justify why these programs invariably go billions of dollars over budget and fall years behind schedule.

    Deliever on-time and on-budget, and maybe I’ll feel some sympathy for you.

  • amightywind

    Deliever on-time and on-budget, and maybe I’ll feel some sympathy for you.

    In my vast experience working in the development of dozens of technology products, I have observed that projects without strong program continuity are much less predictable than those that are not. Like many companies, NASA routinely cold starts new missions with new management and engineers that draw minimally from previous experience. Project managers have no real data on past performance with which to make accurate estimates. They make hopeful estimates which are inevitably blown. Team members have no preexisting process to optimize. If a company like Boeing can come within 1 month of the first flight of the 787 before admitting a 3 year delay, what chance does NASA have developing even more ambitious technology? On the other hand a company like Apple builds directly on its previous successes, leaping from strength to strength. Not only are they a brilliant technical organisation, they are an optimizing one. They release products, but are never finished developing them. If you are interested in this stuff you should read ‘Out of the Crisis’, by Edwards Deming. Most of you would like him. He was kinda a socialist.

  • Robert G. Oler

    amightywind wrote @ August 14th, 2012 at 8:23 am

    If what you and Whittington and other right wing zenophobes are doing were not so damaging to the body politic I would simply chuckle as you 1) misrepresent The Presidents point about community, in fact outright lie about it not just taking the quote out of context but simply rearranging the words and 2) in doing so continually make his point. This is illustrative.

    The people who did the MSL effort would be no where without the “community” of the US who paid the taxes to indulge their skills. It is an excellent example of technowelfare…the people doing it would be on the street or doing something else; without the community of the US to pay taxes and create their positions.

    You guys deserve Romney; he lies about everything and that fits most of you RGO

  • Robert G. Oler

    Willard’s comments on the Mars effort and the Chinese illustrate why 1) people like Whittington and all the other right wingers who think he is going to do anything significant in human spaceflight if he (as is unlikely now) gets to The Presidency and 2) why on the face of it Willard is unqualified to be President.

    lets go in reverse order.

    Willards view of American greatness is a series of “first” or ” toll cards” which on their face are meaningless. The Chinese have demonstrated that if one throws enough money at something one can go from nothing to a successful Olympic “medal” effort in a very short time…exceptionalism of a nation is not the triumph of its individuals (that is individual success) or even of a singular collective effort; it is the triumph of a people who try and make the entire nation work better for everyone; who believe in a country where not only do they prosper but the next generation has the oppurtunity to do even better.

    Like Willard reciting how he is a “real conservative” over and over or the goofy renditions of a patriotic song…all his “wow watch us we are great” lines do is illustrate his narrow “grab it while you can” theory of life and politics.

    To Willard it was not the entire country that planted the flag (both of them) on Iwo Jima…it was a few people. …if he knows about such events at all.

    now for 1. This illustrates how little Willard cares about space and human spaceflight in particular…and it is self dulliosonal on the part of some the xenophobic right wing that follows him OR it is an acknowledgement of the lies that Willard tells to believe that once in office he would do anything different.

    Reverse squared are a perfect group of candidates for the GOP right now “save our past”. RGO

  • Robert G. Oler

    amightywind wrote @ August 14th, 2012 at 10:18 am

    “In my vast experience working in the development of dozens of technology products, I have observed that projects without strong program continuity are much less predictable than those that are not. Like many companies, NASA routinely cold starts new missions with new management and engineers that draw minimally from previous experience.”

    what a laugh…wasnt the project manager or something high up an intern in the Viking program? and the program makes heavy use of Viking legacy stuff including the thrusters.

    How is it on your world RGO

  • Robert G. Oler

    amightywind wrote @ August 14th, 2012 at 10:18 am

    If a company like Boeing can come within 1 month of the first flight of the 787 before admitting a 3 year delay, what chance does NASA have developing even more ambitious technology?>>

    More goofiness…the 787 is far more a technology pusher, then MSL…are you a child. RGO

  • McGriddle

    More goofiness…the 787 is far more a technology pusher, then MSL…are you a child. RGO

    The 787 is a tube and a wing, as has been designed since the 30’s. You are comparing this to MSL which landed on another planet in the solar system? Oler Land has taken a new level of insane rambling. You must be a comedian in your actual so-called life.

  • James

    Romney sounds like he doesn’t have a clue; which makes me wonder if he is as clueless about other issues that face the Nation

    Obama is highlighting how hypocritical he is, and what an opportunist he is as well.

    Newt had his warts, but at least he spent a few nano seconds thinking about Space and how to craft the government role to benefit the nation!

    Where are the real leaders this nation needs to surmount all the dilemma’s we face?

  • Robert G. Oler

    McGriddle wrote @ August 14th, 2012 at 12:49 pm

    “The 787 is a tube and a wing, as has been designed since the 30′s. You are comparing this to MSL which landed on another planet in the solar system?”

    I see you are a space aficionado. The fact that MSL landed on “another planet” is trivial in today’s technology…the data systems for the 787, the propulsion systems, the basic “tube and wing” as you so clumsily put it are far more advanced then anything that is on MSL…the Rover itself barely has the computing power of my two year old daughters “good night toy” (I know its rad hardened blah blah blah)…

    space fans have been hiding behind the “space is hard” meme for decades now and its time that cover be tossed off.

    expand your mind RGO

  • amightywind

    the data systems for the 787

    A garden variety switched Ethernet network and computers from Smiths. I think they are running Integrity OS. Last I heard.

    It is the magnificent control systems and deep throttling thrusters on MSL which impress me. They must have an awesome landing radar too. I think they are running VxWorks. (what were they thinking?) Aviationnow has some nice details. Any one know if Curiosity is running a CAN network?

  • amightywind

    Where are the real leaders this nation needs to surmount all the dilemma’s we face?

    The GOP has them all lined up:

    Romney, Ryan, Rubio, Christie, Jindal, Palin, Perry, Rand Paul, Barrasso, Coburn, …

    Believe!

  • Rhyolite

    “Believe!”

    Laugh until you cry.

  • adastramike

    “Deliever on-time and on-budget, and maybe I’ll feel some sympathy for you.”

    Maybe NASA should just cost these missions more realistically in the first place…

  • adastramike wrote:

    Maybe NASA should just cost these missions more realistically in the first place…

    And I would agree with that, but there’s a general perception that NASA “bids low” with Congress figuring that later on Congress will have no choice but to fund the overruns rather than losing all the money already spent.

    I think the only way the message gets through is if the budget gets cut and programs get cancelled if they go more than, say, 10% over budget.

  • Paul Bryan

    amightywind wrote @ August 14th, 2012 at 2:15 pm

    Where are the real leaders this nation needs to surmount all the dilemma’s we face?

    The GOP has them all lined up:

    Romney, Ryan, Rubio, Christie, Jindal, Palin,< Perry, Rand Paul, Barrasso, Coburn, …

    Believe!

    HA HA HA!

  • adastramike

    Oler:

    “the data systems for the 787, the propulsion systems, the basic “tube and wing” as you so clumsily put it are far more advanced then anything that is on MSL…”

    Unless you have worked on both 787 and MSL, how could you possibly be able to make such a blanket statement? A 787 might have more parts, as it is a larger craft, but it’s a basic aircraft design with improved avionics. Other than that what else is truly new? In-flight movies? Onboard WiFi? New materials? MSL had a new landing system design to land a 1 metric ton car on Mars. It was a true leap forward. Also, people don’t cheer in Times Square when an airplane lands or takes off. Get a clue.

  • Coastal Ron

    adastramike wrote @ August 14th, 2012 at 3:04 pm

    Maybe NASA should just cost these missions more realistically in the first place…

    Golly gosh, I’m sure no one has ever thought of that… ;-)

    Seriously though, think about it. NASA’s primary task is to do what hasn’t been done before – to be on the cutting edge of space exploration. If you’ve never done something before, then how do you accurately estimate it?

    There are things you can do, such as standardizing key technologies and techniques once you’ve proven them (like the sky crane), after which they should cost far less to use. Rockets are that way, where NASA doesn’t have to design a new rocket for every Mars mission. Of course that model is broken with the SLS, since NASA is being forced to re-invent the wheel (so to speak) instead of using existing rockets.

    What I see that’s missing is really two things:

    1. The fear of losing funding.

    Constellation is a great example of this, where people now understand that programs are not too big to fail. The JWST program lucked out, and I would suspect that it stays on it’s revised budget now.

    2. The lack of honest personnel assessments after programs are either successful or failures (like losing funding).

    And I wouldn’t automatically think that everyone on a successful team really contributed, no more than I would think that everyone on an unsuccessful team screwed up. Sometimes failures are the result of unintended consequences from high-level decisions, which no amount of team genius can overcome.

  • Coastal Ron

    amightywind wrote @ August 14th, 2012 at 10:18 am

    In my vast experience working in the development of dozens of technology products, I have observed that projects without strong program continuity are much less predictable than those that are not.

    Wow, when you’re not being an ideologue, you can actually contribute to the conversation… ;-)

    If you are interested in this stuff you should read ‘Out of the Crisis’, by Edwards Deming. Most of you would like him. He was kinda a socialist.

    If it weren’t for Deming, we probably wouldn’t be as prosperous as we are now – certainly not as efficient in our manufacturing. The Japanese folks in manufacturing certainly revere him, and rightfully so because of the help he provided in turning their manufacturing sector into the world leader back in the later part of the 20th century.

    If Deming is any indication, maybe being “kinda a socialist” is what we need more of.

  • amightywind

    The 787 is an immense step forward in materials, electrical actuators, etc. I have a lot of respect for it. But lets face it, we have never seen as intricate an electro-mechanical control system as we have for the ‘seven minutes of terror’. What is even more impressive is that it was flown ‘all up’ based only on component level testing, kinda like the first space shuttle. Amazing.

  • Rhyolite

    787 and MSL were technical successes but management failures. They worked but they went massively over budget and schedule. Unfortunately, management failure is becoming the norm in aerospace.

    The list of shame includes: FIA, FCS, Deep Water, AEHF, TSAT, SBIR, Cx, ISS, MSL, 787, JWST, F-22, JSF…basically a who’s who of major programs over the past 20 years.

    I don’t worry that the Chinese are going to the moon or fielding a stealth fighter; we can match them on technology any day. I worry that it will take us 20 years to respond.

    The management culture in this industry needs to change starting with accountability. Programs need to be canceled, managers need to be fired, and executives need to be sacked.

  • Coastal Ron

    Rhyolite wrote @ August 14th, 2012 at 5:05 pm

    787 and MSL were technical successes but management failures.

    I guess under “management failures” you could put supply chain failures, but it really goes back to the original design being so much of a leap ahead. That’s part of the reason Boeing went with a mild upgrade to the 737 instead of an all new design – the supply chain wasn’t ready for another all-new design.

    MSL is another kettle of fish, since it wasn’t a supply chain issue, but more of a design & validation issue. Sure you could propose a complicated landing system, but you wouldn’t build one without testing as much of the system as you could.

    Testing, fixing failures, making improvements, retesting… you can’t design with great certainty a schedule for that – which is the part of manufacturing I’m in, and I know of no one in my industry that could quantify a successful, repeatable strategy for cutting-edge, one-off products.

    Be pleased by perfection, but be ready for when things aren’t perfect. That’s why good managers always hold back substantial financial reserves on such programs. Of course then you get people complaining about sandbagging, so there’s plenty of punishment to go around no matter what happens… ;-)

  • mike shupp

    Yeah. NASA programs typically overrun their budgets and schedules. Bad NASA!

    But y’know, those secret Defense Department and NSA satellite programs have been known to do the same. Bad DoD! And NOAA has had problems with its weather satellites. Bad meteorologists! The budget and schedule for driving a subway system from central LA to the lower San Fernando Valley was seriously off, and memory says the Big Dig in Boston basically tripled in cost and time. Bad bad Civil Engineers! Software developers have been known to be a bit … ambitious … as we;; Frederick Brooks even wrote a book about it, The Mythical Man-Month, which some of you folks may have heard of. Bad bad programmers! And in fact, people have noted then tendency in other periods. Arthur C. Clarke wrote a short story about this, “Superiority”, once upon a time — it was required reading in some courses at MIT back in the 1950’s.

    This leads to two possible conclusions:
    A) NASA’s management is uniquely screwed up.
    B) NASA’s management is par for the course, and there’s
    probably stuff basically wrong with the way we as a
    culture set up & run large scale projects, particularly
    R&D programs.

    My own bet’s on (B).

  • josh

    “Palin … believe!”

    good one, windy! gave me a chuckle:D

  • DCSCA

    “On Monday, President Obama made a congratulatory phone call to members of the Mars Science Laboratory team at JPL, thanking them for their work successfully landing the Curiosity rover on Mars.”

    Rightly so, as some splendid and expensive engineering was accomplished. Science, not so much- in fact, none at all to speak of – which makes the ‘Mars Science Laboratory team’ horning in on the accolades for the engineering success of the EDL team all the more dubious.

  • DCSCA

    “I [Mitt Romney] know the Chinese are planning on going to the Moon, and I hope they have a good experience doing that. And I hope they stop in and take a look at our flag that was put there 43 years ago.”

    Do you, Mitt? Tell us the details, as the details of other, more Earthly plans you speak of, chiefly economic, often elude you. And there were two of ‘our flags’ planted there 43 ago, Mitt. Two in ’69– Apollos 11 and 12. Details, Mitt. Maybe they can pick up 11’s for us, as it tumbled over into the dust 43 summers past, and has been resting on surface since. Its color may have flagged and faded as well, disintegrated by the effects of radiation and temperatre variants by now– or maybe not. They can pick it up- or what reamins of it- and bring it back for us– after planting their own- most likely made more durable by design
    .
    And you know, Mitt, or should we call you Ozzie Nelson, there are over 7 billion people on Earth now– not the 4 billion or so of ’43 years ago’… the young really aren’t all that impressed about a fella waving America’s press clipping from two generations and half a century past. And you know, Mitt, recently the Nielsen people conducted a survey which ranked the TV coverage of that first flag raising on that first moon landing far, far, far down the list of memorable moments with people alive today.

    Moonwalk scored low in TV survey | The Columbus Dispatchwww.dispatch.com/…/07/…/moonwalk-scored-low-in-tv-survey.html

    That was then. This is now, Mitt. Your ‘been there, done that’ throw away line means little to new generations poised to make fresh impressions on Earthy minds and in the lunar dust. But you go on reminding the world American’s were there first, Mitt. Of achievements exhoing the past. As if it matters to the geopolitical and economic realities of today.

  • BeanCounterfromDownunder

    DCSCA wrote @ August 14th, 2012 at 8:07 pm

    Agreed. Only time will tell if the science is worth $2.5 billion. Well let’s be kind and say the engineering development is worth $0.5 billion assuming it can be used in follow-on programs. Pretty doubtful given the fact that there’s insufficient funding for this class of mission for some years but we can be generous.
    Anyway, another view is it’s all ‘sunk’ cost. Gone, spent, consumed, no longer available. We have what we have! If we gain knowledge about Mars it’s a bonus, if we don’t no big deal. Sorry not quite true. There’s the rest of the life cycle costs i.e. ongoing operational costs for the expected life of 2 years. What would that be? Say 150 high paid scientists @ what $100k a piece plus overheads say 50% $22.5 million so future life cycle costs for the mission rounded up another $50 million. Probably light on knowing NASA. Pittance compared with the original capital outlay.
    Cheers.

  • Robert G. Oler

    adastramike wrote @ August 14th, 2012 at 3:56 pm

    Unless you have worked on both 787 and MSL, how could you possibly be able to make such a blanket statement? A 787 might have more parts, as it is a larger craft, but it’s a basic aircraft design with improved avionics. >

    oh its easy, I know more about engineering management of large complex problems and projects then you do…I am very good at it, I make a lot of money doing it.

    The 787 is/was as much as a leap forward in design as the Dash 80 was over the 377…to call it a “basic aircraft design with improved avionics” is to show utter and complete ignorance.

    Landing on Mars, indeed vehicle to Mars (or anywhere really) is not that complex a task; as the US has been doing it for sometime and gotten very very good at it. The only failures they have had is when some idiot forgets basic engineering and tries something bizarre like not everyone working in the same mathematical units, out of the three that died enroute to Mars or in terminal orbit phase or in terminal landing phase…the only real “puzzle” really is the Mars Polar Lander…I have never read a post flight analysis that is really convincing as to why the failure occurred…however the team organization is “boobish”.

    The MSL people had a comparatively easy task and they took a lot of money doing it. F for effort RGO

  • common sense

    @ McGriddle wrote @ August 14th, 2012 at 12:49 pm

    “The 787 is a tube and a wing, as has been designed since the 30′s. You are comparing this to MSL which landed on another planet in the solar system? Oler Land has taken a new level of insane rambling. You must be a comedian in your actual so-called life.”

    You really have no freakin idea what you are talking about. Do you? SLS is technical marvel then? MPCV a grandiose spaceship?

    Now I worked on neither MSL nor the 787. BUT the 787 makes something difficult look easy. And if you don’t grab why then too bad. Just go learn. Things like what the original avionics in the CEV was supposed to be. And why. And then think hard about MSL and what it is supposed to do in terms of “landing” that is.

    Robert, hang in there. We don’t agree on certain things but considering whom you have against in general.

    http://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/nasa-shuttle-derived-future-manned-spacecraft-cev-may-get-avionics-from-boeing-787-206131/

  • Heinrich Monroe

    The comments about the science value of MSL, and speculations about science payoff and ROI when it hasn’t done anything yet are pretty funny. MSL wasn’t sent to Mars to “go do some great science” (which, it is noted with a smirk, it hasn’t even done yet!) It was designed, and sent to Mars specifically to do certain measurements. The science those measurements enable is summarized in four discrete goals, which you can look up at your own convenience. So the scientific success of MSL isn’t going to be a matter of what it smells like to you, or what you think it smells like to the public. The science success metric is quite specific, and NASA paid $2.5B specifically to meet it. So the scientific promise of MSL has clear, indubitable value. There isn’t any question, among people who know science, and are hired by the government to do it, that it has value. NASA has paid $2.5B to get some very specific questions answered.

    Judging science as you do is like skeptically watching a skyscraper get built. The goal is the skyscraper. The investment in the project commits to a value for the skyscraper. But when the bulldozers roll in, and the first excavation is done, you snidely belittle the project which, after all, has barely produced a hole in the ground. That attitude isn’t naive. It’s just dumb.

  • Heinrich Monroe

    “Maybe NASA should just cost these missions more realistically in the first place…”

    As I said before, there is a time honored tradition of quietly underbidding missions, especially when you don’t have independent cost assessors leaning over your shoulder. Why? Well, it’s so you can start the project! As long as you’re doing cost-plus, who cares? The penalties for busting your budget are pretty minimal, except in the zero-sum game sense that there is less money for other projects. So there frankly isn’t much of an incentive to do the bidding right. If your team is fully employed on Project A, you aren’t going to worry that your competitor won’t have a chance on Project B.

    Now, you’re not going to hit your budget target every time, but one would like to believe that if your cost estimating has any credibility, you’re going to come in under on as many as you come in over. That’s not the way it works at NASA.

  • Cynthia Mae

    I must say that there should not be any cold blood between the two countries. So yes, America has already been in the moon. But that was in the 60’s. Up to today, there are quite a lot of skeptics about the moon landing in the 69. A new voyage to the moon can stop all that skepticism. Besides, what China achieves from this moon voyage will not only be their pride but ours as part of the human race.

  • DCSCA

    @Heinrich Monroe wrote @ August 15th, 2012 at 12:31 am

    “The comments about the science value of MSL, and speculations about science payoff and ROI when it hasn’t done anything yet are pretty funny.”

    Hilarious indeed to the ivory towered, elbow-patched, faculty lounge set, at ease excessively spending other people’s money- 42 cents of every dollar borrowed. This gold-plated turtle, which has yet to move, is projected, on paper, to return ‘science’ for 2 years costing $2.5 billion which averages to a ROI to justify the expense of roughly $3 million/day. It’s been there 10 days and as the applause for the splendid engineering by the EDL team fades- nothing close to $30 million worth of ‘science’ has been returned– just ruddy-red pictures similar past imagry from much less costly craft; images akin to any dusty desert scenes you can snap any day of the week in Arizona w/a $5 digital camera. Curiosity is going to have to deliver a lot, lot, lot more to justify the expense. The comedy of it all is inescapable, indeed.

  • McGriddle

    Now I worked on neither MSL nor the 787.

    So you have no idea what you are talking about, and this is all too obvious. You are emitting jibberish along the lines of Oler.

    I never mentioned CEV, MPCV or SLS. This is just your simple mind coming up with a disjointed argument.

  • amightywind

    Besides, what China achieves from this moon voyage will not only be their pride but ours as part of the human race.

    What a lovely sentiment. Do you take pride that the Chinese, as part of the human race, are aggressively seizing lands that lie within the 200 mile territorial limits of their sovereign neighbors?

  • Vladislaw

    A simplier solution would be every single person involved in the project is fired for blatent cost overruns and low balling. Send a few crews out on the street and the next crew that bids for a project will be more realistic.

    Exactly what are the costs to the group that lowballs? They listen to a few congressional committee meetings and get ranted at .. then a bigger pile of money is shoveled at them and they are told that is all they get …. until the next committee meeting.

  • Coastal Ron

    Heinrich Monroe wrote @ August 15th, 2012 at 12:31 am

    But when the bulldozers roll in, and the first excavation is done, you snidely belittle the project which, after all, has barely produced a hole in the ground. That attitude isn’t naive. It’s just dumb.

    Well said. Curiosity is just getting reconfigured for planetary exploration mode, and these few commenters are calling it a failure for not discovering the secret of life. Weird. Really weird.

  • common sense

    @ McGriddle wrote @ August 15th, 2012 at 6:57 am

    Oh you’re right I certainly did not work on either. And you are free to believe it only is jibberish. Like Robert said many times there was supposed to be WMD in Iraq, you know. Whatever.

    I mentioned CEV, SLS and MPCV because of the hype of the technical advances associated with these programs. After all CEV was supposed to bring humans to Mars. Not a rover.

    So again believe what you want. But again if you cannot make the difference between a 787 ops and a Mars lander and the consequences associated with either failure if any then you don’t seem to have a clue.

  • Coastal Ron

    Cynthia Mae wrote @ August 15th, 2012 at 3:58 am

    Up to today, there are quite a lot of skeptics about the moon landing in the 69. A new voyage to the moon can stop all that skepticism.

    What skeptics? What skepticism?

  • Vladislaw

    “Up to today, there are quite a lot of skeptics about the moon landing in the 69. A new voyage to the moon can stop all that skepticism. “

    So if the Chinese land on luna in 2020 it will prove America did it 50 years before? Wouldn’t they have to land at an American site to prove that? We already know the poles are the place to set up shop, so the chinese landing on the southern pole would hardly prove america landed on the equator 50 years before them.

  • MrEarl

    WMD! Et tu CS?!

    I expect Oler to go on the loony bin political operative tangent but not you.

    The Mars rover is a triumph of engineering and hopefully will equal that triumph with its science mission also.
    If it succeeds then the cost will be well worth it. If it fails then any price would have been too much.

  • kayawanee

    Cynthia Mae wrote @ August 15th, 2012 at 3:58 am

    So yes, America has already been in the moon. But that was in the 60′s.

    AND the 70’s. The last manned mission was in December 1972.

    Up to today, there are quite a lot of skeptics about the moon landing in the 69.

    So a Chinese moon landing will cure this? Sorry, there is no cure for stupid.

  • E.P. Grondine

    What the scientists and leadership of the governments of China and the US hope to do may end up being far different than the future that they will have to deal with.

  • DCSCA

    @Coastal Ron wrote @ August 15th, 2012 at 9:53 am
    “…commenters are calling it a failure for not discovering the secret of life”

    The only commenter who has posted this thought is you. As Oler would say– ‘Goofy.”

  • vulture4

    DSCA: ” to return ‘science’ for 2 years costing $2.5 billion”

    Compared to a manned Constellation flight costing $400B that returns science for two hours a day for a month?

    As to China, what it hopes to achieve is stability and economic growth. It’s primary goal in space is to join the US in the ISS program and thus reduce the likelihood of conflict.

  • Googaw

    Curiosity is just getting reconfigured for planetary exploration mode, and these few commenters are calling it a failure for not discovering the secret of life.

    Typical of Coastal to set up a straw man very far divorced from the real comments he is responding to, so that in his imagination he can knock it down.

    We’re pointing out that the excitement over Curiosity’s accomplishments to date have been purely over its engineering accomplishments. Simple fact. Not a judgment about the outcome of a science mission that you admit not yet even started. Observers are quite properly reserving enthusiam over the science until we see results — although of course we already have reason to be skeptical that it will be worth anything close to $2.5 billion.

    Meanwhile, the engineering has made our nation proud.

  • Googaw

    What the scientists and leadership of the governments of China and the US hope to do may end up being far different than the future that they will have to deal with.

    That’s a good statement what practically always happens in the future. It never goes to plan, and it usually doesn’t come anywhere remotely close. It’s the plans that are stupid and silly, not the future.

  • Robert G. Oler

    amightywind wrote @ August 15th, 2012 at 8:59 am
    “What a lovely sentiment. Do you take pride that the Chinese, as part of the human race, are aggressively seizing lands that lie within the 200 mile territorial limits of their sovereign neighbors?”

    their version of “regime change” RGO

  • Robert G. Oler

    MrEarl wrote @ August 15th, 2012 at 12:45 pm

    If it succeeds then the cost will be well worth it. If it fails then any price would have been too much.”

    The problem is that there are metrics of success for the people who built and run the thing and there are metrics of success for the people who paay for and appropriate the thing…and they are not the same metrics.

    When MSL does not find “life” there will be a lot of reluctance to pay for the next probe…RGO

  • Googaw

    there is a time honored tradition of quietly underbidding missions

    In the special world of NASA, its contractors, and their mindless groupies, government contracts are “commerce”, and living over 99.5% off the government dole is “free enterprise” and “market” economics at work.

    And now corruption is “honored”.

  • E.P. Grondine

    Hi V4-

    “As to China, what it hopes to achieve is stability and economic growth. It’s primary goal in space is to join the US in the ISS program and thus reduce the likelihood of conflict.”

    Definitely true…You can add in democratic evolution of their political system in along their own Chinese path.

    But there are more partners in the ISS than the US.

    My thinking is that China would like to be part of a manned international Moon effort. Whether they will be in a position to lead that is another question.

    In any case, what the US and Chinese space and political leadership may end up having to deal with is likely to be much different than what they are planning for, and a good deal of it may depend on either the actions of others or forces of nature.

  • Frank Glover

    @ Cynthia Mae:

    “Up to today, there are quite a lot of skeptics about the moon landing in the 69. A new voyage to the moon can stop all that skepticism.”

    Some of them won’t believe it, until they can by tickets there from Orbitz. Too bad for them. Convincing conspiracy theorists, should be somewhere around 843rd on the list of reasons to return to the Moon.

    @ vulture4

    ” It’s primary goal in space is to join the US in the ISS program and thus reduce the likelihood of conflict.”

    I’ve not heard the Chinese say that. Somewhat interested in ISS, maybe. But I’m not even remotely convinced that access to ISS is even a secondary goal of their space program. That they have flown and occupied the basic element of a station of their own, tends to support this. They didn’t design it two weeks before launch, that was in some degree of development for years, as is whatever follows it.

    And what they do or don’t do in the South China Sea, will have much more to do with stability and conflict on Earth, than what they might do with humans aboard ISS…

    But their own station and/or access to ISS will give them the appearance of at least parity in space with the West, at home and elsewhere. And that perhaps *is* of at least secondary value to them.

  • With Jeff’s indulgence …

    This parody video was posted today on YouTube. It’s going viral, boys and girls.

    “We’re NASA and We Know It”

  • Heinrich Monroe

    images akin to any dusty desert scenes you can snap any day of the week in Arizona w/a $5 digital camera

    Sounds like you have an awesome background in field geology. I know of many people who would look at the first images from Curiosity and say “Yep, just more rocks.” The Mars geologists already see a compelling scientific storyline in those “dusty desert scenes” that you refer to.

    Most of what NASA does is “akin” to many of the scenes you can snap pictures of any day of the week. Smiling people with helmets? Vehicles with hot vapors coming out their rears? Somersaults in mid-air (yes, there was a lot of that in London last week) Of course, what counts is not what these images are “akin” to, but what they really are.

    Hilarious indeed to the ivory towered, elbow-patched, faculty lounge set, at ease excessively spending other people’s money

    NASA science is $5B/year. 0.2% of the federal budget. Yes, that money is perhaps easily spent, but it’s so insignificant on the grand scale of federal expenditures that your paranoia about it is more curious than exasperating. But those elbow patches are really rad, ya know, especially when you’re lounging. You’re just jealous, aren’t you?

    In fact, it has been remarked that if the sky weren’t black, those pictures from the Apollo era could just have been taken in a dusty desert scene. Of course, as we’ve been told by the lunar landing denialists, whose paranoia is akin to yours, maybe they were!

  • Jeff Foust

    Unless you can closely tie that “viral” video to the subject of the post, it’s off topic, ladies and gentlemen. Thanks.

  • Heinrich Monroe

    Oh, I forgot to add this … DSCA is now writing for Onion!

    http://www.theonion.com/articles/nasa-now-almost-positive-mars-is-rocky,29069/

    http://www.theonion.com/articles/mars-rovers-discoveries,29190/

    But do they let him wear elbow patches?

  • Coastal Ron

    Googaw wrote @ August 15th, 2012 at 6:55 pm

    In the special world of NASA…

    What did you say your business experience was? Clerk at a 7-11?

  • Robert G. Oler

    Heinrich Monroe wrote @ August 15th, 2012 at 8:03 pm

    This goes on and on everywhere at NASA…I’ve seen it both from being badged at JSC (well actually every federal facility but we will let it go at that)…and as a member of the school board that JSC is in.

    NASA of all versions could make a date with Sarah Jessica Parker be a drag…what happens is that the public outreach either gets overhyped and ridiculous or the folks who claim to be doing it dissapear into “no thats not a serious thing we have to do my serious research”…

    The two probes that might stand to reverse that are Juno and Grail. With Juno the camera seems to be an afterthought and I know that both schools in the CCISD and Santa Fe ISD are either working up proposals or have them well in the mill to actually do something with the camera where the “research” is done primarily by the school. With Juno it is a multi year thing so some kids will have gone out the door by the time it happens but they are involved “now” and other children/students will be involved later…

    Most of the time the pictures are boring to almost everyone but the people who are trying to get real data from them…and the fact that someone else might get sometime on an experiment or whatever is frequently mocked by the “serious people”.

    I’m not saying that a “people’s cam” or whatever would reverse public interest that declines rapidly after a space spectacular, that is the nature of spectaculars…but it would keep the interest of the politicans who are sensitive to such things and that would be a good thing as well…

    as it is right now it is a bunch of egg heads with their toys…a few years ago one of the real “Flash gordon” astronauts appeared at the HS that if people lived at JSC, their kids would go to. He/she tried the “and we were docking at 17,500 mph” when in the Qand A one of the first embarrasing moments was when some pimply faced kid asked him “are the closure rates between the station and the shuttle that fast”…

    Kids are not idiots RGO

  • DCSCA

    Googaw wrote @ August 15th, 2012 at 5:30 pm

    “We’re pointing out that the excitement over Curiosity’s accomplishments to date have been purely over its engineering accomplishments.”

    Precisely. More pretty ruddy-red photos of Mojave Mars, not so much.

  • Googaw

    What did you say your business experience was?

    I didn’t, just as you haven’t. But quite obviously my experience is sufficient have learned far more about business and economics than you have. And I haven’t put my knowledge through the hopelessly twisted hallucinatory blender of the astronaut cult.

  • Googaw

    “There are still a lot more tests to conduct, and many additional research projects that will take quite some time to complete, but we are now more certain than ever that Mars is covered in rocks…I would say we’ll need to send several more rovers up there, and eventually a manned mission, to prove once and for all that Mars has rocks on it.”

    Hilarious. :-) :-) :-) Just as SNL and Rachel Maddow shed light on how far from reality Newt Gingrich and his NewSpace advisers had strayed with their lunar fantasies, the Onion now sheds light on insular NASA scientific and budgetary pretensions.

    But it’s also sad how eerily reflective the above sendup is of actual NASA Phoenix press releases about the “discovery of water” of Mars.

    “Previous Mars robots have formed a tribe.”

    My robot cult will have its revenge. Bwaa ha ha ha ha ha!!!!

  • This parody video was posted today on YouTube. It’s going viral, boys and girls.

    The bashing of SpaceX seemed completely gratuitous.

  • Coastal Ron

    DCSCA wrote @ August 15th, 2012 at 9:52 pm

    More pretty ruddy-red photos of Mojave Mars, not so much.

    You seem to have some sort of expectation that a dirt on another planet is going to look different than a dirt on Earth. Weird.

    To use your term, you’re just crankin’ to crank.

  • Coastal Ron

    Googaw wrote @ August 15th, 2012 at 10:18 pm

    I didn’t, just as you haven’t.

    I have over time, but I’ll summarize.

    Degree in Business, been in management since I was 21 at companies that have commercial and government customers. In some positions I’ve also been responsible for P&L (profit & loss). My specialty is Operations Management, such as production line scheduling and production & inventory management, and I’ve also been a project manager and manufacturing manager.

    I have been part of the bid team for successful government contracts, including one DoD contract that was one of the first to use the Commercial Off The Shelf (COTS) model. With that contract, instead of the government being allowed to validate the components of the products we built, we only certified the product features. It was a huge change for our DCAS inspectors. That experience helped inform my view about the NASA Commercial Cargo & Crew effort.

    Oh, and I attend a weekly roundtable with local entrepreneurs where we discuss business models – both successful and unsuccessful.

    Et tu Goo?

  • A M Swallow

    From main text

    “It’s like, guys, we were there a long time ago, all right?” he said at the time. “And when you get there would you bring back some of the stuff we left?”

    I am sure that the Apollo 11 flag would look good as an exhibit in the Chinese museum of ancient history. Although it may be controversial.

  • Coastal Ron

    Googaw wrote @ August 15th, 2012 at 10:18 pm

    And I haven’t put my knowledge through the hopelessly twisted hallucinatory blender of the astronaut cult.

    You’re weird about this “astronaut cult” thing.

    Just like satellites, which you agree are acceptable forms of transport commerce, astronauts/crew/humans are just another form of payload to be delivered to space. It’s the same as the terrestrial land/water/air transport model – passengers take more care during transport (hence the higher prices/lb), but otherwise use the same vehicles.

    Stop being so inane about this.

  • E.P. Grondine

    Re: Astronaut cult

    http://abob.libs.uga.edu/bobk/ccc/cc072101.html

    My current thinking is that manned space flight was about manned Mars flight from the very beginning. And that this forms the foundation for a type of space utopianism, similar to what that seen when aviation started.

    In a way it is kind of like Hinduism, where if we (mankind) screw up this planet, we get a do over on Mars.

    (I should note here that Musk thinks otherwise, and he and his colleagues are not fools.)

    On the other hand, I think that NASA has seriously underestimated the impact hazard, and that manned operations in space will be needed to build the proper detection equipment for both comets and smaller comet fragments.

    As far as Mars goes, the cratering history still needs to be done. I think that a rover going up Valles Marineris would be a good national investment.

    In the end, I think a research base of maybe 50 people might be possible later on.

    I do not think that a US manned flight to Mars or its moons would re-establish US space eminence should China set up a permanent Moon base, and I wonder if that is not what motivates the SLS launcher.

  • Robert G. Oler

    A M Swallow wrote @ August 16th, 2012 at 10:59 am

    I am sure that the Apollo 11 flag would look good as an exhibit in the Chinese museum of ancient history.”

    lol

    one of the greatest scenes in the Movie SGT York is the one between York’s Mother and Sister as Alvin has just made the decision to go back to the Army…As York walks out the door his sister asks his Mom “Why are they fighting in Europe” and the reply is “I dont rightly know child, (and then with an anguished look on her face she repeats) I dont rightly know”

    What is very sad about our politics today in general and in space politics in specific is that most of the viewpoints held by the various partys and hangers on should be classed in the “I dont rightly know” category.

    Absent the Soviet US cold war “balance” of the 60’s there is probably not even today a “person on the Moon” and absent the legacies of that era in the US (Ie large corporations that exist almost exclusively at the feeding by the federal government) there is probably not a debate about sending people.

    BECAUSE the debate about “humans in space exploring” centers solely around those two “realities” which are either relics or legacies of history…none of them have a thing to do with the present. I dont know but doubt that Willard was even aware that the Chinese probe will be “unpersoned”…but he wouldnt care in the least if it was crewed UNLESS he could find a polling advantage over Obama for it.

    The reality is that the Chinese are not stuck with the relics or our legacy of the cold war…and dont seem to be in my view acting on them…the only people who seem to have them acting that way…are the people who are stuck in that era.

    RGO

  • common sense

    @ MrEarl wrote @ August 15th, 2012 at 12:45 pm

    “WMD! Et tu CS?!”

    Long time no see. Hope all is well.

    “I expect Oler to go on the loony bin political operative tangent but not you.”

    Well y’know I read pretty tiresome stuff and it gets me going sometimes. Some deserve more than others ;)

    “The Mars rover is a triumph of engineering and hopefully will equal that triumph with its science mission also.”

    It is and I am pretty happy too. But sometimes we need to put things in perspective. The triumph was absolutely imperatively needed at this stage. So great. Those sharks circling around NASA will be put off for a little while. And even though I would get rid of y’know SLS/MPCV in a heart beat I think this kind of exploration mission is absolutely necessary for even human exploration. Getting our feet wet and everything. A little like what ISS is providing even if we limit ourselves to assembly in space, which shows how little we need SLS…

    “If it succeeds then the cost will be well worth it. If it fails then any price would have been too much.”

    Depends how you assess success and failure. Again see ISS. Some might say it already was a success. Now comparing that with 787 is not very hmmm appropriate. And it goes to show how advocate think and it is not pretty.

    Now. If we could show that somebody has WMD on Mars and drone paper planes circling around MSL… I will always feel sorry – to a point – for Colin Powell. What a masquerade he was put through. Anywho.

  • I do not think that a US manned flight to Mars or its moons would re-establish US space eminence should China set up a permanent Moon base, and I wonder if that is not what motivates the SLS launcher.

    The only thing that motivates the SLS launcher is job preservation in certain states and congressional districts.

  • Googaw

    astronauts/crew/humans are just another form of payload

    Yet another turn to the twists. :-) :-)

  • Heinrich Monroe

    You’re weird about this “astronaut cult” thing. Just like satellites, which you agree are acceptable forms of transport commerce, astronauts/crew/humans are just another form of payload to be delivered to space.

    I beg to differ. The “astronaut cult” label is applied to humans who act, and are viewed, as far more than cargo and payload. They are seen as heroes, they are seen as courageous, and with their fancy suits and their hallmark helmets, they are seen as team players on what is viewed as the ultimate team. The objective for the team is to win the game, and the score is kept according to how far you go. They are seen as “explorers” of the first order (to the extent we even have a clue about what that word “exploration” means). The cult is truly a divine one, that is worshiped by many people and, at least as it used to be, especially by kids. Astronauts are selected for leadership positions, and even organizational ornaments, more because of where they’ve been and who they represented in going, than who they are and what they’ve independently accomplished.

    But that’s changing. Partly because our paralyzingly risk-averse human space flight program makes them significantly less courageous, and partly because our rationale-challenged human space flight program makes them less than heroes. You stand a firefighter next to an astronaut. Who’s the real hero? Who’s the real courageous one? The Shuttle astronauts became largely truck drivers on the cosmic interstate, and ISS astronauts these days are scientists and engineers who happen to work in a pretty cool place. Their helmets are pretty slick. Yes, the “cult” isn’t quite what it used to be, though it desperately clings to its historical precepts.

    The astronaut corps evolved out of corps of military airmen who were extraordinarily brave and real heroes in the service of the nation. Their bravery and heroism was inherited from their military efforts, where those qualities came from something more than the fact that they were sitting in seats with a powerful engine attached to it. One hopes that commercial space will help change that whole dynamic of the astronaut cult.

    There is no question that these are highly trained people, and many (especially the current generation) are actually pretty smart, but their profession has become more emblematic than programmatic.

  • Vladislaw

    China would first have to opt out of the Outer Space Treaty before they grabbed our flag.

  • A M Swallow wrote:

    I am sure that the Apollo 11 flag would look good as an exhibit in the Chinese museum of ancient history. Although it may be controversial.

    Well, that would be a neat trick since the flags were made of nylon which deteriorates quickly under direct exposure to ultraviolet light.

    Recent photos by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter show they’re still standing (except for Apollo 11), but most likely they faded blank long ago. Any attempt to touch them would result in them falling apart.

    If China wants to spend $200 billion to retrieve a flag, go ahead. Mitt Romney said as much; a few months ago, when asked about if China went to the Moon, Romney said we should ask them to return our artifacts.

    Meanwhile, we’ll be investing in a permanent human presence in Low Earth Orbit where we’ll be developing pharmaceuticals and biotechnology that no other nation on Planet Earth will have. China will have the tattered remains of a flag. We’ll have an entirely new economy that will leave China in the economic dust.

  • BeanCounterfromDownunder

    amightywind wrote @ August 14th, 2012 at 2:10 pm

    ‘They must have an awesome landing radar too.’

    No they used the camera system developed for the MERs. Some tech transfer after all.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Heinrich Monroe wrote @ August 16th, 2012 at 6:47 pm ..

    well thats entertaining…but I dont agree with it.

    the “astronaut cult” is more or less the same as any other “cult” notion…it is the personification of an event or effort in the form of an individual or group of people…it is more or less “hero worship”…and is how governments try and sale some effort…ie “person X doing this or that is the symbol of national greatness”…

    When I think it was “Life” wanted to do its efforts on the Original 7 and they wanted to give the Original 7 homes, cars eetc..Jack Kennedy was somewhat concerned about this, because as you point out they were essentially military officers and it took some convincing to sale him on the notion.

    By Gemini that notion was more or less off the public radar but it held onto the NASA scene as the lunar landings neared…and today it is used as an excuse to need humans to do things that really machines can do and to exaggerate the dangers in space efforts (“So and so is spacewalking at 17,500 mph”)

    RGO

  • @Stephen C. Smith;….. Low Earth Orbit is the true path to oblivion!!! Why do the typists on this site always assume that there is nothing else to do on the Moon but plant flags & collect rocks, and that somehow some incredibly mindblowing empire has yet to be constructed in LEO?!?! Low Earth Orbit has been the weak & flimsy fall-back position for some four decades in human spaceflight. Really, what is so thrilling and amazing anymore about a manned space capsule going into a fixed orbit ’round the Earth, and docking up to a connected chain of space modules, and spending six months inside those said aluminum cans??! At WHAT POINT does LEO space station exploits reach the stage of “been there, done that”, also?? Is America just going to be content with never venturing ever again into deep space, simply because another nation has begun doing it?? There are MAJOR new & expanded acheivements & operations to be done on the Moon, once renewed manned flights are occuring over there. The planting of the red Chinese flag upon the Lacus Somniorum, would be merely the opening photo-op, of this glorious second round of Lunar exploration! China will stake its claim to the new Antarctica!

  • Heinrich Monroe

    well thats entertaining…but I dont agree with it.

    That’s nice. But you didn’t make it clear what you didn’t agree with. Your description is largely consistent with what I wrote.

  • Coastal Ron

    Heinrich Monroe wrote @ August 16th, 2012 at 6:47 pm

    The “astronaut cult” label is applied to humans who act, and are viewed, as far more than cargo and payload.

    Agreed. But Googaw thinks that still exists, and I don’t see it. Maybe he worships some of the past or present astronauts, but I couldn’t tell you who’s flown in space for quite a while.

    I do agree with your description that shows we have transitioned from trailblazers to the worker class. Little distinguishes one of the later Shuttle flights with a support flight to Antarctica, or even to an oil rig – highly skilled pilots transporting highly skilled workers to a dangerous environment.

    A friend of mine works 100m under water in a wet suit, and his job is likely far more dangerous than what current astronauts face – he doesn’t have a cult either.

    There is no astronaut cult for current space travelers.

  • E.P. Grondine

    RGO – From what I could make out, China has its own reasons for a manned Moon effort, not related to previous US-Soviet tensions.

    Rand – We currently do not know what prompted Griffin’s decisions, particularly on space architectures, and the entire Congress voted up SLS.

    Monroe – Those seats are expensive and only the best people are chosen to fill them. And spaceflight is “still experimental”.

    Smith – Your estimates of the costs of the Chinese manned program are way off.

  • Heinrich Monroe

    Low Earth Orbit has been the weak & flimsy fall-back position for some four decades in human spaceflight.

    Largely matched by a weak and flimsy budget that our human space flight program has to work with. It’s more about affordability than about “thrilling and amazing”. It’s easy to come up with dreams about the latter, but it’s a lot harder to make them consistent with the former. You can rant about aluminum cans, fixed orbits ’round the Earth, and the Chinese, but you have to base your ranting on fiscal realities.

    The Moon as the new Antarctica? Well, considering the mad dash for ISRU, commercialization, and settlement down there on the ice, we’d better get ourselves in gear for the Moon.

  • E.P. Grondine

    Re ISS utilization:

    The initial problem with ISS utilization was that Alabama thought that US industry was still wealthy enough to build new labs there. Problem is, they weren’t and aren’t.

    The current effort out of Florida is not likely to do any better.

    The cutting edge materials and biotech companies operate elsewhere, and in my opinion NASA needs to set up small outreach and utilization offices near to them.

    As far as China’s station goes, my guess is that its capabilities and capacities will be carefully planned, based on the best previous experiences of other nations, and its utilization will be similarly planned.

  • We currently do not know what prompted Griffin’s decisions, particularly on space architectures, and the entire Congress voted up SLS.

    Do you seriously believe that anyone in Congress outside of the space committees knows or cares anything about SLS?

  • Heinrich Monroe

    There is no astronaut cult for current space travelers.
    I think that’s probably true, as most of the younger astronauts I’ve talked to are actually somewhat embarrassed about the cult that developed for the older and retired members of the Astronaut Office. They largely don’t want to live in that cult.

    But I think the cult still exists in the mind of the public, who although are also unable to name current astronauts, have come to see them as a royal breed apart. That’s what I meant when I said that it desperately clings to its historical precepts. It does so in the mind of the public, but maybe not so much in the mind of the younger generation of astronauts.

    To many people, including some who hang out here, those astronauts who’ve just gone “round and round” are not even the most sterling representatives of the cult.

  • @Chris Castro
    “Low Earth Orbit is the true path to oblivion!!! Why do the typists on this site always assume that there is nothing else to do on the Moon but plant flags & collect rocks, and that somehow some incredibly mindblowing empire has yet to be constructed in LEO?!?!
    You forget I am a typist on this site that does not “assume that there is nothing else to do on the Moon but plant flags & collect rocks, and that somehow some incredibly mindblowing empire has yet to be constructed in LEO?!?! ” I am for the cost lowering commercial push to LEO because it is the first step back to the Moon and everywhere else. And I am not the only one here who thinks that either.
    Stop thinking with your emotions and start thinking with your brain.

  • common sense

    @ Rick Boozer wrote @ August 17th, 2012 at 5:07 pm

    “Stop thinking with your emotions and start thinking with your brain.”

    Sigh… And he’s so not alone. The message ought to go to the entire space advocacy community. Robots, astrocultists…

    But, are you going to hold your breath? Nah I did not think so.

  • Gooogaw

    Sadly, the astronaut cult remains a strong and increasingly irrational force. But as reality evolves further away from their fantasies, they become more recognizable for what they are. Examples of how it manifests itself are legion. Here are some depressingly common ones:

    * Its cult-speak, with semantics rooted in the sci-fi entertainments and Cold War contests of the last millenium, and increasingly divorced from today’s economic reality. A common example is talking about “we must go to [deep space destination X]” and assuming that the listener will automatically parse this as “we must [send humans] to [X]” — when all the missions to deep space, save for a bizarre cold-war abberation that was 100% government funded, have been unmanned, and when we can get orders of magnitude more functionality per dollar with unmanned spacecraft for almost any goal we choose, save their goal of launching astronauts for the sake of launching astronauts.

    * Obsessing about the future of space commerce as centered on HSF, when for the entire half century of its history it has been unmanned, and the gap between the capabilities of manned and unmanned per dollar keep increasing. The cult thinks about space as a big doll house for playing with their Jedi figurines. Nothing could be further from the actual economic and technological reality of practical commercial and military applications of space.

    * The above comes with all the associated economic fantasies space travel that come from the sci-fi and Cold War national glory stunts of the last century. In this delusion the actual commercial and military applications of space, as well as the most effective scientific missions in space, since they are unmanned, involve mere “bouys”, and are irrelevant compared to their “space ships” and “space stations”, i.e. Buzz Lightyear doll-houses, that dominate their fantasy markets-of-the-future.

    The astronaut cult is, in short, a passionate take on reality that is light-years divorced from the views of people working in real commercial and military space applications, people who rationally think about using space for practical purposes. Nor are most cult views shared by most of the American public from which NASA and its contractors beg their astronaut fantasy funds, nor increasingly by the media (witness Maddow, SNL, etc. just this year making fun of such fantasies). But alas, its decrease in popularity has been accompied an even larger increase in divorce of the cult mind from the actual economic and technological reality of practical applications of space. And the Internet has allowed these people to get together and talk just to each other, so that they confuse their unique world-view not only with reality but with the more normal and more rational views and opinions the vast majority of other people hold about space, when they even bother to think about it. So it now can be accurately called a cult rather than a mere misguided set of public opinions.

  • E.P. Grondine

    Rand,

    I am a long way from the Hill now, and have had a stroke. I usually comment here in the morning while I am trying to get my body and mind working.

    Like I said before, we still don’t know entirely what Griffin had in mind for the Ares 5, thought perhaps that design’s name offers a clue…

    The SLS money passed the Congress.

    The thing that gets me about most space reporters is that they can not investigate their way out of a paper bag, but instead rely on handouts or careful leaks.

  • @Rick Boozer;… I do think with my brain clearly, and I know that TRUE exploration does NOT involve abandoning previously opened frontiers, for fifty or sixty years, resting upon half-a-century-ago-won laurels, and ridiculing any other nation or party which chooses to finally take on the long-unfinished work of re-exploring the said frontier-zone. The chap who I directed that comment particularly to, seems to be of the mindset that some immense pharmaceutical empire has yet to be created in LEO, and that renewed human activity on another world’s surface is some kind of laughable escapade. Well let me tell you all: The nitty-gritty of human space exploration, the sum of all its majesty, IS the grappling with a planetary surface! Just compare ANY of the Apollo Lunar flights with ANY of the ISS jaunts, and you will see that the space-station-in-LEO stays are dreary & dull by comparison! Furthermore, I hardly think that in any of our country’s modern-day Antarctic bases, that the staff-crew are primarily preoccuppied with either flag-planting or artifact-stealing. The notion that China will just be doing raids on our long-ago relics on the Moon, and that’ll be all they’ll be doing, is squarely ludicrous!! Manned exploration activity evolves & expands in its specific scope. The personnel at our Antarctic bases involve themselves in an extensive list of on-site work.

  • Chris Castro wrote;

    I do think with my brain clearly

    That is not only unclear, but most people who read your posts would think it unlikely, given the emotions (CAPITAL LETTERS and lots of exclamation points!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) combined with nonsense in the actual words and all the strawmen. No one here thinks that we should stick to LEO, but one would never know if from your insane, hysterical rants.

  • Coastal Ron

    Gooogaw wrote @ August 17th, 2012 at 7:13 pm

    A common example is talking about “we must go to [deep space destination X]” and assuming that the listener will automatically parse this as “we must [send humans] to [X]”

    If our goal isn’t to eventually send humans out into deep space, then why have a NASA at all? Shut down every program that isn’t focused on Earth, and pack up all the HSF memorabilia so it doesn’t tempt any future generations. Googaw has spoken!

    I guess that would be called the Googaw anti-astronaut cult.

    Oh course if you were to poll the people that work at NASA, I would venture to say that 99.9% of them don’t agree, and a majority of the people that comment on this blog would not agree either. Nothing wrong with either side of the issue, as that’s just opinion. But neither position rises to the level of “cult”.

    What NASA should be doing is a current question, and one I hope everyone got their say on through the National Research Council’s independent study that was soliciting public comment. If you didn’t do it yet, too bad, since the comment section closed Friday. I provided my comments, and here is part of what I said:

    If asked, I would state that our goal is to be a spacefaring nation, with the eventual goal of supporting human life on other planets. No dates, but a clear statement of why we as a nation are spending taxpayer money and risking lives in space.

    So send humans to [X]? Sure, at some point. Though that won’t be very fast on NASA’s meager budget, even if the SLS is killed next year (yes, hope spring eternal).

  • The SLS money passed the Congress.

    So in response to my question, you simply repeat your irrelevant statement?

    No one in Congress, other than those on the space committees, knows or cares what SLS is.

    Congress passes lots of things, but it’s completely ignorant of how Congress works to think that this means that they actually support specific things that they pass. For the most part, Congress is completely ignorant of what they vote for (ObamabCare being an excellent example).

  • Gooogaw

    does not “assume that there is nothing else to do on the Moon but plant flags & collect rocks

    What else is that?

  • Coastal Ron

    Gooogaw wrote @ August 17th, 2012 at 7:13 pm

    Nothing could be further from the actual economic and technological reality of practical commercial and military applications of space.

    Oh? Tell us why. Provide some economic facts to back up your claims.

    As far as technological, we’ve had the technology since the 70’s.

    And as far as the economics part, the people and companies investing their own money would disagree.

    Despite your Chicken Little hand waving, real companies are risking their own real money in pursuit of what they see as a real market. They are all successful companies that have made money in tough markets – what do you know that they don’t?

    Show us examples, provide facts, cost analysis – something, anything, to back up your hysteria.

  • Gooogaw

    Just compare ANY of the Apollo Lunar flights with ANY of the ISS jaunts, and you will see that the space-station-in-LEO stays are dreary & dull by comparison!

    LEO going in circles…boring…Moon….been there done that….

    It’s all pretty boring compared to Star Wars really.

    I know where we really need to send our diapered heroes:

    TO INFINITY AND BEYOND!!!!!

  • Coastal Ron

    Chris Castro wrote @ August 17th, 2012 at 10:43 pm

    Just compare ANY of the Apollo Lunar flights with ANY of the ISS jaunts, and you will see that the space-station-in-LEO stays are dreary & dull by comparison!

    Dreary and dull? What are you imagining happened on the Moon? That they were fighting space aliens? Eating Moon cheese? Being seduced by Moon Maidens?

    Other than picking up rocks and playing golf on the Moon, what science did they do? They had to bring back their samples to have terrestrial scientists analyze what they found. Ooooooh, exciting!!

    Oh sure, Harrison Schmitt could use his scientists Mark 1 eyeball to select the most interesting samples, but his Mark 1 eyeball was behind a bulky spacesuit, and the analysis of what he found had to wait until he returned home. How is that any better than sending robotic explorers?

    And how does going to the Moon solve the problem of surviving in space? You still need a laboratory to test out theories and try out hardware and techniques. The ISS is that laboratory for now, and it’s 1,000 times closer to it’s customers than the Moon is. That means it’s less costly to operate and support, which on NASA’s meager budget is a big thing.

    And money is an important thing Chris – where is the $100B+ going to come from to set up your lunar dreams? How many decades to put in place? What happens to our space program in the meantime? Too many questions, and not enough money from what I can see, and isn’t likely to change in the next four – regardless who wins in November.

  • Heinrich Monroe

    With regard to astronaut cult, by extension, the rocket scientist cult and to some, the ivory tower and elbow patches cult, there’s an interesting article in the latest Atlantic that takes a fresh look at how the public sees these people. Curiosity has led us to consider closely how exploration of space by humans can be different from human space exploration. How the brand of military heroism that marked the original astronaut corps has evolved.

    http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2012/08/from-heroes-to-humans-the-totally-regular-people-who-landed-a-robot-on-mars/261278/

    “Now, it’s easier for us to see NASA’s staffers not as Heroes, beatified by bravery, but as something much better: as people who do heroic things. People who deserve respect, but not necessarily reverence.”

  • Coastal Ron

    Gooogaw wrote @ August 18th, 2012 at 1:34 am

    I know where we really need to send our diapered heroes

    I’m sure this is another fruitless question, since you seem to lack the ability to provide facts, but if you’re think a cult exists, then who are the supposed people that cultists are worshipping?

    Name names.

    Cuz all I see are a bunch of people working and doing jobs in space, each one 100% replaceable. Cults require objects of affectation that don’t change.

  • Googaw

    If our goal isn’t to eventually send humans out into deep space, then why have a NASA at all?

    It’s Buzz Lightyear or bust! To the cult, nothing else matters.

  • Googaw

    Name names.

    Reality –> blender –> bizarre non-sequitur, as usual.

  • Coastal Ron

    Googaw wrote @ August 18th, 2012 at 11:46 am

    Reality –> blender –> bizarre non-sequitur, as usual.

    Wow, asking for details is bizarre?

    So let’s see, arguments without facts, claims without details…

    So in other words you don’t plan on adding to the discourse by supporting your odd claims? OK, suit yourself…

  • Coastal Ron

    Heinrich Monroe wrote @ August 18th, 2012 at 10:05 am

    Now, it’s easier for us to see NASA’s staffers not as Heroes, beatified by bravery, but as something much better: as people who do heroic things. People who deserve respect, but not necessarily reverence.

    Yep. And the more things and people we send out into space, the more “who deserve respect, but not necessarily reverence.”

    Space has become a place of work, and that’s a good thing. Sure there will still be exceptional moments that we tag to a person or persons, and that happens here on Earth all the time.

    But otherwise someone that has gone to space is only going to get a pat on the back – not a ticker-tape parade. And that shows how far we’ve progressed in space.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Heinrich Monroe wrote @ August 18th, 2012 at 10:05 am

    I dont know if we agree or disagree on the “cult” thing…I’ve been pretty busy …but I did have a chance this morning to reread my post and the thread…let me try this.

    There is and has been for sometime little real reason to do the things we do in both human and other non technology oriented spaceflight. The entire “go to the Moon” thing, “lets explore space again with humans”, the entire “lets explore Mars (or wherever)” at least at the dollar levels it is approaching now…the entire “Webb” effort is all very very important for the people who are caught up in the effort…but for the people who actually pay the bills for this…the entire thing does very little.

    Now some of this would occur anyway because there is a bureacracy and politicans attached to the effort…but as in the case of MSL…to bring the people into the effort the entire thing has to be “hyped”…this is where the 7 minutes of terror came in, the “viral video”, …… it is all “wow we (the people who are involved in it are ) tough and by extension so are the folks like “you” who pay the bills”

    “We are NASA and we know it” is the latest extension of “TEAM USA”…wow we are exceptional.

    Go look at the PR surrounding the two shuttles “nose to nose”…”The shuttles say goodbye to each other” is one headline…wow they are like people…

    It is all a effort to make the people who are paying the bills fill like they are getting something from the effort, even when they are not. It is American life today…a tiny percentage of the American population are/were part of the folks who invaded and occupied Iraq and Afland…but for a bit there all America was doing its part by tying yellow ribbons, wearing flag pins, and singing “I am proud to be an American”…TEAM USA.

    There was a great line by General Pershing to the leader of France at the Paris Armistice when Pershing was told that France was doing this or that to show it was a great nation and Pershing replied that “Nations who have to show they are great, usually are not”.

    My point is that what you call the “cult” thing is really an attempt to justify things that are on their face not justifiable…that are really done to satisfy special interest groups who need to find a link with the people paying the bills…and that does not include trying to explain the “why” of what they are doing…just “it makes you feel good to have us doing it”.

    One of the disturbing trends in American daily life is that more and more the things we do as a country are done for “show”. From our bad ass weapons to the 7 minutes of terror to even invading countries we do them now for reasons which more or less cannot stand the light of day of logical thought.

    We have replaced it with “American exceptional ism” or “faith based” notions of how good this or that thing is…

    I believe that Mars (and other planetary exploration particularly by uncrewed vehicles) is worth doing…but I also believe that these things should be justified by sound reasoning that matches up with the price tag.

    MSL was to expensive, does to little and more or less cannot in my view sustain that sound reasoning…hence we made it a hero.

    RGO

  • Robert G. Oler

    Chris Castro wrote @ August 17th, 2012 at 10:43 pm

    “Just compare ANY of the Apollo Lunar flights with ANY of the ISS jaunts, and you will see that the space-station-in-LEO stays are dreary & dull by comparison!”

    really? The American people tuned out on both pretty early RGO

  • E.P. Grondine

    Rand –

    While my reporter’s cynicism has not been lost entirely yet, I suppose I have at least a little higher regard for our legislators than you, even though the recent neo-con shenanigans have reduced it a lot.

    While I have met some bad representatives, they did not remain in office that long. Fundamentally, they have to represent their constituents.

    The fact of SLS’s passage is there. My current working assumption is that it took more than simple log rolling to get SLS through. What role bi-partisan lobbying by ATK played I don’t know.

    I also don’t know if there was any pressing national defense need for an Ares1 sized solid launcher – as I’ve said before, if there was, its funding should have been by DOD.

    I am happy that no astronauts will be riding the Ares 1 stand alone.

  • E.P. Grondine

    If anyone here means to say “Mars” or the “Moon” or “asteroid”, could you please use the proper words instead of “deep space”?

    At this point in time using the proper words matters.

    Thanks for your consideration.

  • E.P. Grondine

    Heinrich –

    There was nearly several armed conflicts over the Antarctic’s resources in the 1950’s and 1960’s, all of which were averted by the Antarctic Treaty.

    That is why there are no extractive industries in the Antarctic today.

    I am of the opinion that Antarctic resources should be given to the UN, so that it could use them to fund relief from natural disasters.

  • Coastal Ron

    Googaw wrote @ August 18th, 2012 at 12:47 pm

    Here’s a very good article on the astronaut cult:

    Poor Googaw. When I think of you I think of the saying “if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

    Of course you see the article as proof of damnation, but did you read the end of the article?

    Last question—are you a Cosmist?

    Harrison: Yes, I think so. For me, I see space as an opportunity, a tough opportunity, a challenging opportunity, but an opportunity nonetheless.

    Sounds like admiration to me. Not that I agree with him on his views, but he sure takes the rug from under your arguments.

  • Heinrich Monroe

    Here’s a very good article on the astronaut cult:
    http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2012/03/the-holy-cosmos-the-new-religion-of-space-exploration/255136/

    That’s a nice article, and appropriate to this discussion, but I don’t think it’s about astronauts per se. It’s about “space exploration” which, to the older generation, I guess is synonymous with “human space flight”. That synonymity used to be credible, but is now rapidly falling apart. In fact, in many respects, Curiosity is a wonderful example of humans exploring space, but without humans flying through it.

    It is true that in this cosmism religion, astronauts are, as Harrison says, “like saints that ascend into heaven”. Perhaps the JPL Curiosity team should be as well? But Harrison also assets that Sagan and Tyson are priests of the religion, and they sure never went up on any rockets.

    It is all a effort to make the people who are paying the bills fill like they are getting something from the effort, even when they are not.

    But the public thinks they are getting something from the effort. They are getting some kind of national pride, and perhaps even some kind of entertainment. They may even believe in the lame “spinoff” spin. Human space flight is a technology game that we play to assert our superiority over other nations. It’s a game we call “exploration”, though in the purpose that it serves these days (e.g. ISS) it really isn’t. What we’re calling a cult is a sense of inflated self-importance that may just be pasted onto a group of people. Astronauts sure had that inflated sense of self-importance in the old days, and the public is reluctant to let them escape from that label these days. The American public desperately needs heroes (perhaps with an inflated sense of self-importance), and sitting on top of rockets seems to make astronauts look vaguely heroic, in the same sense that sitting in fighter jets, dodging enemy fire and taking out bad guys looks that way. Going fast, with hot gas coming out underneath you. That’s the #1 ingredient for an aerial hero.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Heinrich Monroe wrote @ August 18th, 2012 at 3:28 pm

    “But the public thinks they are getting something from the effort. They are getting some kind of national pride, and perhaps even some kind of entertainment. They may even believe in the lame “spinoff” spin. Human space flight is a technology game that we play to assert our superiority over other nations. It’s a game we call “exploration”, though in the purpose that it serves these days (e.g. ISS) it really isn’t. What we’re calling a cult is a sense of inflated self-importance that may just be pasted onto a group of people. ”

    OK we dont agree…see I paste the “cult” label onto just about everyone who thinks like you illustrate above.

    And that includes the Mars crowd.

    As I noted in my piece above…the national space flight efforts serve no real purpose in the theory of advancing the nation. Jeff Foust our host has a nice piece on Space Review about future Mars efforts….

    http://thespacereview.com/article/2136/1

    the views which he notes…(not his) are essentially devoid of any contact with the American people…it is not about how American life gets better…it is essentially “we have to have a sample return to keep our science going”…

    The American people dont “need” this…they are entertained and somewhat excited at brief moments by it…but if any of them knew that the Mars Curiosity was not going to even look for life excitement would be less.

    Look I live and work in the area of Houston around the Johnson Space Center…I’ve gotten elected to several minor political offices here…you cannot imagine a more self centered group of people then the average employee at JSC…they are mostly “right wing”, they dont believe in things like universal health care; even though they all have either federal health care as GS employees or through the top tier contractors (who have about the same health care)…their logic is “well I am doing something important for the country” They are not just ordinary federal employees, they are special…and thats the kind of cult figure that you talk about.

    I see now it extends to the people who did Curiosity.

    RGO

  • common sense

    Sorry to kill the joy boys and girls. But this astronaut cult nonsense is getting a little long in the tooth now. It’s Googaw’s problem not everyone’s problem.

    Can we talk about WMD now? At least it’s based on history and reality.

  • Robert G. Oler wrote:

    you cannot imagine a more self centered group of people then the average employee at JSC…they are mostly “right wing”, they dont believe in things like universal health care; even though they all have either federal health care as GS employees or through the top tier contractors (who have about the same health care)…their logic is “well I am doing something important for the country” They are not just ordinary federal employees, they are special…and thats the kind of cult figure that you talk about.

    Pretty much the same attitude here at KSC. We’re special, therefore we deserve lifetime jobs with a big fat salary while working as slowly and as little as possible.

    Not everyone behaves that way, of course, but there are quite a few with this attitude of entitlement.

    A recent article in Florida Today quoted a local job recruiting agency which said they were being told by potential employers not to send ex-KSC employees any more because their salary expectations were way beyond reality.

  • Googaw

    Sounds like admiration to me.

    Because like you he’s a true believer, even if you are of a different sect. That doesn’t stop his description from sounding to normal people like the description of a lunatic cult. A set of bizarre beliefs that are widely and properly mocked when brought to national attention. A mass delusion that has been wasting large amounts of federal money, that has disrupted and is still planning on disrupting space commerce, and that I intend to stop.

    P.S. religious artwork depicting one of the more recent of the beloved “saints” (as the above admirer calls astronauts) — from the class of astronauts you are now trying to portray as mere “truck drivers”, even while you lobby for ever more shrines for these useless, at best, holy pilgrimages.

    http://threatqualitypress.files.wordpress.com/2012/07/sally-ride-poster-print.jpg

    It’s not every day that a “truck driver” gets depicted as the central figure in a stained-glass window. One of the “truck drivers”, I might add, that drove commercial space into a ditch in the 1980s, and would have left it near death had not a rational unmanned satellite launcher, Ariane, come along.

  • Heinrich Monroe

    But this astronaut cult nonsense is getting a little long in the tooth now.

    You’re welcome to contribute to other threads if the teeth are getting too long for you here.

    I paste the “cult” label onto just about everyone who thinks like you illustrate

    Fair statement. Except there are the people who really live the astronaut cult life, and there are people who are merely acknowledge it, and perhaps nod approvingly at it. I’m talking about the former. Many of those folks wallow in the awe and reverence that the public, in general, give to them, and really live their lives as saints of the religion. The public desperately wants them to be heroes, but they quietly know in their hearts that they can’t really be heroes. They can’t stand up next to a firefighter or a fighter pilot with a straight face. Perhaps, as you say, the cult is a bit broader than just the flyboys.

    As to Mars and planetary science, yes, the search for life (formalized in NASA science long ago as the “Origins” program, at least in astrophysics) is entirely curiosity driven. The American people don’t need the result, That’s a fact. What they might well need is the curiosity that the effort engenders. The word many use is “inspiration”, which I think is an insipid goal. Inspiration does not, in itself, buy a culture anything. Curiosity does. Inspiration is something that applies to the job at hand. How many people do I really need to be inspired to search for life on other planets?? Curiosity is a trait that feeds many other goals. A lot of what we pay to educate our kids goes into instilling a sense of curiosity about the world, and we spend HUGE amounts on that education. Perhaps space exploration (and I mean REAL exploration, not just lobbing human bodies into the void) is a wise strategic investment in a spirit of national curiosity.

    Our leaders would do well to think hard about what these efforts really mean to the nation. Wouldn’t it be amazing to hear either Obama or Romney really get articulate about the return on that investment. Of course, the standard line is “exploration is GREAT!”, in that lobbing human bodies into the void somehow constitutes exploration to them. Next question? But there is more to it than that, and our leaders should be challenged to bite down, and really flesh out the case for the whole enterprise.

  • Googaw

    It’s about “space exploration” which, to the older generation, I guess is synonymous with “human space flight”.

    And the older cult solidified this into religious dogma, which we still hear constantly recited inside and outside the halls of power. LEO space station, Moon base, Mars mission — all by necessary implication manned by our heavenly pilgrims. Those basic tenets have remained practically unchanged since Werner Von Braun prophecied them. The basic cult-speak with the aforementioned semantics remains as von Braun and his generation first widely used it. We still constantly hear whines such as “will we ever go to Mars?”, meaning of course when will we ever send our diapered ones to Mars, as von Braun prophecied? Per cult-speak, you couldn’t possibly say “we’re going to Mars” and mean by that a mere robot — even though that is in fact the only way in which we’ve ever gone to Mars.

    Of course it wasn’t just von Braun — there are untold amounts of pulp fiction in our garbage dumps written along the same lines — but he was the most authoratative expositor of this sci-fi as our supposed actual future. In the future that actually happened, but the cult has never even started to catch up to, these hallucinations were only ever reified in theme parks, in Hollywood spectaculars, and in bizarre, hundred-billion-dollar dead-end Cold-War stunts. Including the most recent and most bizzare reification of the LEO Space Station, and the even more bizarre pretenses of how with cosmic magic it will give rise to vast spinoffs and space industries, including the incessently cited UFO hunter Bob Bigelow, who will (with help from his little green friends?) magically drop the costs of all this by orders of magnitude, ushering in the new von Braun millenium.

    So the true believers in HSF-centered space development — against which the actually productive unmanned space development and science efforts are as mere “buoys” preparing the way for their von Braunian “space stations” and “space ships” and “bases”, where the real action lies — are still legion.

    That synonymity used to be credible, but is now rapidly falling apart.

    Not in the minds of the true believers. They are still far more numerous than those who accurately assess the relative values of manned and unmanned efforts, and still have a death grip on a big chunk of the NASA budget. That being insufficient to make von Braun’s prophecies come true, they want to impose their bells, whistiles, and safety dances on unmanned launchers and tax real unmanned space commerce in ever more desparate attempts to reify their hallucinations.

    That is where those who are interested in rational space development draw the line on this lunacy. That is where real space commerce and security and science start fighting back.

    BTW, Harrison is a bit confused about Sagan — that’s a very different and much lesser cult, focused on astrobiology and SETI not on HSF.

    The main prophet of the astronaut cult remains, as Harrison describes, Werner von Braun. It’s from von Braun that we got the dogma of a series of holy stations and holy pilgrimages to LEO, the Moon, and Mars as the main central features of space development. And it’s to that general outline that all major sects of the astronaut cult, including “NewSpace”, the most bizarre sect yet to be disgorged from von Braun’s successors, hew to this day. It’s quite true that von Braun’s visions are increasingly divorced from the reality of space development and science as productively practiced. But reality has a rather difficult time getting through to the mind of a true believer.

    Indeed, von Braun’s “visions” were already divorced from reality when he made them: no entity that had to obtain at least as much revenue from an endeavor as it expended was ever going to fund anything remotely resembling them, except as a theme in a theme park. Economic and technological developments are at least 50 years ahead of the cult dogmas, and the gap continues to widen.

  • common sense

    @ Robert G. Oler wrote @ August 18th, 2012 at 5:15 pm

    I reread my post and my remark was not meant at you. Just in case.

    Googaw keeps ranting about this bs and uses a lot of the bandwith, competing with our other friends and it gets tiresome.

    Now as far as JSC goes. My experience has been great there, so I guess it depends whom you talk to. I also have friends there. And I assure you I am not a right wing bigot. At least I don’t think so.

  • My current working assumption is that it took more than simple log rolling to get SLS through.

    There is little evidence to support such an assumption. Absent extraordinary circumstances, the Congress generally rubber stamps whatever the space committee wants to do, while paying little attention to comments. Most representatives probably don’t even know what SLS is.

  • common sense

    @ Heinrich Monroe wrote @ August 18th, 2012 at 7:49 pm

    “You’re welcome to contribute to other threads if the teeth are getting too long for you here.”

    Can you remind me the topic of this thread? Was it astronaut cult?

    Hijacking a thread you may want to run your own website. No?

    Dunno, just’ askin’

  • Coastal Ron

    common sense wrote @ August 18th, 2012 at 8:56 pm

    Googaw keeps ranting about this bs and uses a lot of the bandwith

    I think it’s fairly obvious that Googaw was scarred by some event in his past regarding his obsession over cult’s and visions. He thinks he’s trying to “save” us, even though he doesn’t understand that which he’s trying to save us from.

    For instance, he has visions of terrible things, but he can’t articulate or quantify them, or even provide enough details so others can understand what the heck he’s talking about.

    But yes, onto more productive subjects…

    With a Vice President like Ryan, I would imagine a Romney presidency is not going to increase NASA’s budget, and in fact it may decrease because of the overall budget decreases Romney/Ryan are likely to institute.

    No idea if they would decide to dump the SLS, but I doubt they would make any changes to Commercial Cargo & Crew. Romney’s views on Russia should make him amenable to accelerating Commercial Crew, or at least making sure it replaces our dependence on Soyuz after the current contract is completed.

    Romney’s pick for NASA Administrator would certainly signal a lot, and who knows if Bolden would stay on long in a 2nd Obama administration – lots of drama still to come in the next six months…

  • E.P. Grondine

    Hi Googaw –

    “Of course it wasn’t just von Braun — there are untold amounts of pulp fiction in our garbage dumps written along the same lines —”

    Yes, and those penny dreadfuls and dime and quarter publications all relied on several assumptions, one of which was that Mars was like the Earth. Which it is not, except in one crucial way: both planets get hit by s*** from space. And far more frequently than nearly everyone realizes.

    Apollo put an end to lunar volcanism, and that was its key science result.

    The rest was pure profit.

  • Dave Hall

    A mass delusion that has been wasting large amounts of federal money, that has disrupted and is still planning on disrupting space commerce, and that I intend to stop.

    You’re delusional if you think you can stop anything well established in global culture. Try posting under your own real name for starters instead of hiding under “googaw”.

  • common sense

    @ Coastal Ron wrote @ August 19th, 2012 at 3:17 am

    I have no problem with any one’s opinion even if it based on Star Trek.

    What gets me though is the manic posting, especially from some one who seems to, sometimes, know what he talks about, unlike our friend DCSCA. Sorry DCSCA but even amightywind does not come close to your “except it does – or not – ticktock” nonsense.

    All this moral rambling is utter bs. Who the f- cares? Is that helping space crewed or not crewed?

    So yeah sometimes it gets to me.

    Whatever.

    SLS will not make it whomever is President. Nor is MPCV. There is no budget. There is no budget commensurate that can be properly managed with such a large program. Even a flat budget will kill it, so a slight reduction?

  • Heinrich Monroe

    Can you remind me the topic of this thread? Was it astronaut cult?

    My last comment was about what Obama and Romney should address, relating to the importance of lobbing human bodies versus lobbing human awareness. But I think the cultification of astronauts pertains pretty strongly to space policy issues for them to chew on. That is, the extent to which our space policy depends on having “saints” as opposed to just workers and robotic surrogates for those workers. No hijacking here.

    There, just tellin’.

    Apollo put an end to lunar volcanism, and that was its key science result.

    But if you really want to get way off topic, we could go here. Lunar volcanism (at least in the form of magma extrusions) is now recognized to be the second most important geological process on the Moon, after impacts. Apollo 15 “green glass” and Apollo 17 “orange beads” were clearly pyroclastics.

  • common sense

    @Heinrich Monroe wrote @ August 19th, 2012 at 2:10 pm

    “No hijacking here.”

    Oh yes hijacking indeed. Think for once. Say my name is Charlie. Say I read and post on this blog. A lot of those posts are not reality based and the language is pretty inflammatory. So if my name is Charlie I say what the hell. I am supposed to fight for this bunch? Really? And why would that be? Just because they somehow hold the truth in their hands. Robots vs. humans. After all, as some know, I may be close to retirement and don’t need, not really, this kind of useless aggravation.

    If you think that “cultism” pertains then you have no idea what you are talking about sorry.

    What pertains to space politics is JOBS. For crying out loud! Cultism is like propaganda for the masses. It was for me when I was a child or even older. But y’know we’re supposed to grow up. Right?

    So no “cultism” has nothing to do with space politics, not really. It is a smoke screen.

    And no I don’t really want to go off topic even though I will readily admit I am guilty at times.

  • Absent extraordinary circumstances, the Congress generally rubber stamps whatever the space committee wants to do, while paying little attention to comments.

    Sorry, that should have been “…paying little attention to contents.”

  • DCSCA

    @Coastal Ron wrote @ August 15th, 2012 at 11:28 pm

    =yawn= A ‘two year mission’ on paper, … 14 days in.. at $3 million/day… tallying up to $42 million so far spend on uploading programming to a turtle which has yet to move, some familiar, dusty-red photos which the PR folks foolishly and increasingly keep comparing to arid, earthly locales like Mojave and Three Corners– just like the imagery returned from cheaper, earlier probes. The media is losing interest, fast. Two paragraphs, back page. Even CSPAN1 stopped carrying the Pasadena pressers. Better get a picture of that laser zappin’ rocks, fast! Yep, Curiosity is gonna have to get started returning lots and lots still lots more of ‘science’ to justify its over-budget expense through the next few funding cycles, indeed.

  • DCSCA

    @Cynthia Mae wrote @ August 15th, 2012 at 3:58 am

    “Up to today, there are quite a lot of skeptics about the moon landing in the 69.”

    Not with anyone who matters.

    Here’s a game for you- see if you can spot in this March, 2012 LRO image of ‘Tranquility Base’ the likely location of the first of two U.S. flags planted on the moon in 1969 (that’s two in ’69, Mitt) by U.S. astronauts in this 3012 LRO image which, per Buzz Aldrin, tumbled over in the wash of the LM ascent stage engine exhaust as Eagle lifted off.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Apollo11-LRO-March2012.jpg

  • DCSCA

    @common sense wrote @ August 19th, 2012 at 2:09 pm
    “@ Coastal Ron wrote @ August 19th, 2012 at 3:17 am
    “I have no problem with any one’s opinion even if it based on Star Trek.”

    Maybe you should.

    Might want to check you cell- or do you call it your ‘communicator.’ or talk to your desktop. The starry-eyed, popcultured geeks of this electorate see a Spock/McCoy vs. Decker/Checkov election this cycle and could careless who coughs up the ‘credits’ to pay for it. ;-)

  • Robert G. Oler

    Heinrich Monroe wrote @ August 18th, 2012 at 7:49 pm

    Interesting post…taking a break here from working on our farm…

    I would make a few points as to Curiosity and curiosity.

    I have a two year five months old daughter (Lorelei) who is boxing well above her mass both physically and intellectually. The other day I was working on one of my high powered amplifiers and she was helping, she saw me unscrewing two panels and she picked up a Phillips and said “oh its a flat blade”, got the flat blade and then used both hands trying to unscrew the screw. She had the blade in the head with one hand…and was trying to turn the screw stick with the other…, there was just to much torque. I got it down to her strength level and she finished the job.

    so I have a pretty good grasp on curiosity…

    It is in large measure what has carried us from the dark caves on the plains of Kenya (or whereever) to the gadget and the internet and all the other things that make modern civilization and will advance us into the future…but it also can kill “the cat” if it is not directed well…or with some notion of value to cost.

    I dont think Curiosity is that. The cost are just to damn high. It is in real dollars about 1/2 the price of the ENTIRE Gemini program…why is that? It cannot be that the effort was more in terms of our technology; it is in large measure because the cleverness of a design is in large measure measured by the elegance of it; and the solution is not very elegant. It is like Webb or ISS…engineeering run amock with no level headed counter thought toward the goal.

    Then we go to the goal. I am OK in fact a fan of uncrewed exploration but so far there has been no convincing reason given in my mind as to why we should concentrate heavily on the search for life on Mars…at best it seems like “well Mercury, the Moon, and Venus are unlikely candidates we can search Mars, lets go there”. There is enormous disputes in the “community” if Mars was ever warmer or had a more dense atmosphere or wetter…yet the entire notion of the planetary program now is circulating among a question of life on Mars and that is driving a sample return “quest”.

    Yes we should be curious if there is life on Mars but just as we (my wife and I) direct Lorelei’s curious nature into productive task…we direct her away from things that would harm her…that is the function of maturity….we should be somewhat mature in where we direct our notions in space.

    Instead of asking and answering these questions (is a sample return really worth 30 billion or so dollars?) we now are into the planetary field doing goofy things like “wow this was heroic”…

    Heroic efforts by people involved in an effort is no reason in itself to do the effort. Saying that going to Iraq or Afland was a poorly thought out “plan” is not saying “the people who are trying to do things there are not quite honest and trying to do the correct thing” it is saying that the people who thought up the entire notion are not acting with the best of motives…they were. We have in my view let the entire planetary effort be captured by the “we must search for life on Mars” groupies.

    Today this is how the national debate works…we take things which on their face are not valuable and try to make them that way because of the effort of non decision makers. goofy

    This is in large measure why I support Obama’s space policy. He is stuck with a lot of legacy things; but what he is trying to direct spending to (or someone is) are things where curiosity can be satisfied BUT which have some value for their cost.

    but as the video says “skycrane away” wow RGO

  • DCSCA

    @Googaw wrote @ August 18th, 2012 at 8:31 pm

    “The main prophet of the astronaut cult remains, as Harrison describes, Werner von Braun. It’s from von Braun that we got the dogma of a series of holy stations and holy pilgrimages to LEO, the Moon, and Mars as the main central features of space development. And it’s to that general outline that all major sects of the astronaut cult, including “NewSpace”, the most bizarre sect yet to be disgorged from von Braun’s successors, hew to this day.”

    Interesting perspective. Although it’s a little harsh on Von Braun. Firstly, he has no sucessors to speak of in this period who come anywhere close to his list of accomplishments- Faustian et al, good and bad. None. DCSCA is probably one of the few on this forum who has actually met Von Braun and chatted about what was and what could be along with other fellow students of that era for a few days. It remains an enlightening encounter.

    Bear in mind, Von Braun’s perceptions and procedures were cultivated by himself and his band of rocketeers from their youth through multiple decades of geopolitical turmoil and built on a layered platform of successes seasoned with some very. very savvy PR and marketing style (the guy had a full time PR person on staff for himself.) Von Braun was the benficiary of good timing and generous financing as well through virtually all of his career and made the most of it. He passed in ’77 so the architecture of his thinking and planning is really fading into history and must be considered as more a part of mid-20th century perspectives to the world as it was then. But his rare blend of engineering skill and managerial prowess remains unmatched in this era. If he was alive today and saw the ‘lay of the budgetary landscape’ and the technologies available, it’s a good bet he’d adapt his planning and methodology accordingly with the tenure of the times and relentlessly pursue his objectives with vigor. . He always did that, from his Penemunde days through the Apollo era, until the waning years of his life. For example, review his presentation to Congress in August, 1969, in the wake of Apollo 11’s soaring success in the depths of the Vietnam War and social turmoil. His pitch for a robust follow-along to Apollo with expanded space stations and manned Mars missions was politely shelved and a few years later, he was all but pushed aside within NASA, the nation having accomplished Kennedy’s goal. Less than five yeas after Apollo 17, he was dead.

    @common sense wrote @ August 19th, 2012 at 2:09 pm

    “SLS will not make it whomever is President. Nor is MPCV. There is no budget.”

    Except it will.

  • Googaw

    So if my name is Charlie I say what the hell. I am supposed to fight for this bunch? Really? And why would that be?

    “Hijacking thread” == providing facts and opinions that would make Charlie doubt his faith in our glorious HSF-centered future. Fact and opinions that would discourage him from fighting for “this bunch”.

  • A M Swallow

    Re: Rand Simberg wrote @ August 19th, 2012 at 2:56 pm

    I suspect that both contents and comments are right.

  • BeanCounterFromDownUnder

    Googaw.
    Recommend you write up an essay for The Space Review found at: http://www.thespacereview.com/index.html
    That way, rather than use up other posters time reading your rants, you can post it in a more appropriate forum and interested readers can comment on your efforts.

  • E.P. Grondine

    Hi CS –
    “SLS will not make it whomever is President. Nor is MPCV. There is no budget. There is no budget commensurate that can be properly managed with such a large program. Even a flat budget will kill it, so a slight reduction?”

    See the Ryan budget – he proposes to do like Griffin did, and cut everything else.
    For that matter Weiler did the same thing in space science.

    googaw – while I’m sure that trying to find out exactly what you define as “lunar volcanism” would be interesting, it wouldn’t be that interesting.

  • Recommend you write up an essay for The Space Review

    It seems unlikely that Jeff would run a piece by something called “Googaw.”

  • common sense

    @ Googaw wrote @ August 19th, 2012 at 7:04 pm

    You know Charlie is an astronaut, right?

  • vulture4

    von Braun combined leadership and engineering vision, but so have other leaders in aerospace including Joe Sutter, Kelly Johnson, and Alan Mulally. Von Braun’s original vision was of reusable systems. It should have been clear from the start that Apollo was unsustainable. But then, the V-2 was also completely impractical as a weapon of war.

  • BeanCounterFromDownUnder

    DCSCA wrote @ August 19th, 2012 at 6:11 pm
    ‘Except it will.’

    Why? Where’s the budget? Where are the missions? Where are the objectives?
    The programs are ‘jobs’ programs. Hi-tech (and I use that word advisedly) welfare programs. Never really intended by Congress to produce anything of worth, simply make work.

  • common sense

    “DCSCA is probably one of the few on this forum who has actually met Von Braun”

    Poor guy. Except he wasn’t. Tick tock… Must have been enlightening indeed.

  • common sense

    “Might want to check you cell- or do you call it your ‘communicator.’ or talk to your desktop”

    Read and learn. Try at least!

    http://nasahackspace.com/2012/03/nasa-ames-is-building-a-medical-tricorder.html

  • E.P. Grondine

    Hi RGO –

    “We have in my view let the entire planetary effort be captured by the “we must search for life on Mars” groupies.”

    In space telescopes, the entire effort is now going to looking for Earth-like planets elsewhere.

    This was a conscious decision by NASA on science “themes”, and made some sense at the time. The search for life on Mars is a very important pre-cursor for manned expeditions – either as a driver or to clear the back contamination problem. The potential payback from the finding of ETI is obvious.

    The problem I have is that no one knew how frequently impacts occur on Earth, as the NASA estimates then were about an order of magnitude too low. This is systematic, as asteroid and comet observors are treated like second class citizens by the cosmologists.

    Weather (Sun activity) studies, earth resources, tectonics, all are second class, and had their budgets eaten by MSL and NGST.

  • E.P. Grondine

    Hi RGO –

    I wonder if NASA has enough bandwidth available to handle two rovers at the same time.

    Aside from that, the search for life on Mars is now going beneath Mars immediate surface. Sometime soon they will have to go lower yet.

  • amightywind

    There is enormous disputes in the “community” if Mars was ever warmer or had a more dense atmosphere or wetter

    I don’t think there is much dispute. There is a mountain of evidence now standing in front of us. Allow me to speculate. The image shows a dark moat at the base of Mount Sharp. It is likely filled with sand of basaltic composition, transported by wind. Above that you see a thick, reddish layer sediments with horizontal bedding planes. These were almost certainly deposited in water. Here is your ‘wet Mars’. There seems is a gully in the foreground, also almost certainly formed by a localized flow of water seeping out of the sediments. It makes sense. That slope faces south. Melting of subsurface water should occur preferentially on those slopes. Above those you see a great thickness of lighter colored, cross bedded sediments that I will speculate were deposited by wind. Such thick deposits could only be laid down when Mars atmosphere was thicker and had more sediment transport potential. So there you have it wet Mars, followed by a drier Mars with a thick atmosphere and high winds, followed by today’s dry conditions with a thin atmosphere and wind erosion. It is all in this one amazing image.

    I hear NASA will now take 2 steps back and send a geophysics lander in 2016. Good grief. The public won’t give a hoot about heat flow or Mars quakes.

  • Coastal Ron

    common sense wrote @ August 21st, 2012 at 1:10 am

    [NASA Ames Is Building a Medical Tricorder]

    I think the Qualcomm Tricorder X PRIZE will get there first.

  • Robert G. Oler

    E.P. Grondine wrote @ August 21st, 2012 at 9:53 am

    In space telescopes, the entire effort is now going to looking for Earth-like planets elsewhere.”

    I am not for sure I agree with that effort, but at least it has the background of 1) being something that tagges along with other goals like actually imaging planets around other stars, which I think is very important to find out, and 2) does not exclude other areas of investigation ie tubes that can spot earthlike planets can probably do other things as well.

    Look, the Mars effort to “find life” strikes me on a wide basis as disjointed.

    I am not a planetary scientist nor do I play one on TV (nor am I a climate guy etc or play one on TV) but…

    there is little evidence that in “recent times” Mars has had an environment which is in any way conductive toward the formation of life as we know it. “Wind” might be correct, there might be water in the past; but if so it was a long time ago…and it is hard for me to believe that life which evolved (or was created if you want to go there) based on water now is living or whatever without it. Now I know with MSL they are looking for past evidence; and while finding Dodo bird fossils on earth is entertaining it strikes me that past evidence is never really going to be conclusive…

    If I had to look for life; I would do it in places wehre there is a semi steady state environment today where life could evolve into something that works “now”.

    we do this on Mars because it is accessible…

    But I dont think its profitable. LEts say we got to a sample return and there was no life in the samples brought back…Is that it? Would the planetary folks say “OK we give up?” No they would say “we need more”…

    we are sometime from the technology to go to Mars and we are light years from any kind of commerce or application of technology which would make the trip there remotely financially doable…ie a colony or base that could sustain itself…

    I think that a dedicated “search for life” Notion with Mars is like hunting for WMD…who cares? RGO

  • DCSCA

    @vulture4 wrote @ August 20th, 2012 at 9:04 pm

    “von Braun combined leadership and engineering vision, but so have other leaders in aerospace including Joe Sutter, Kelly Johnson, and Alan Mulally. Von Braun’s original vision was of reusable systems.”

    =yawn= None of these indivdual come anywhere close to von Braun’s level of accomplishments.

    @common sense wrote @ August 20th, 2012 at 11:30 pm

    “Must have been enlightening indeed.”

    Indeed it was- and remains so. We’re still awating you to exercise some judgments that come close to mirroring your own handle as well. Begin w/reading comprehension.

  • DCSCA

    @Coastal Ron wrote @ August 18th, 2012 at 2:08 am

    “Other than picking up rocks and playing golf on the Moon, what science did they do?”

    Why don’t you google thephrse ‘Apollo Lunar Science’ and sift through the over 7 million results and learn. It cost the taxpayers roughly $1 million/minute for Apollo lunar surface activities and even a half-hearted listen to some of the EVA back room audio loops, seldom heard by the general public, along w/t EVA video will educated you on how the multi-tasking and distribution of the workload. -eyeroll=

    Heinrich Monroe wrote @ August 18th, 2012 at 7:49 pm

    The Ivory Tower of Babble.

    As predicted, NASA is nowe pressing for the next Mars probe… kids grow bored with their new toys quicker and quicker these days.

  • Coastal Ron

    DCSCA wrote @ August 21st, 2012 at 3:52 pm

    Why don’t you google thephrse ‘Apollo Lunar Science’ and sift through the over 7 million results and learn.

    As usual you miss the point.

    The vast majority of that science was done here on Earth, not on the Moon. We could have sent monkeys to the Moon to collect rocks and been pretty happy with the science, but of course the whole point of the Apollo program was political (Americans are better than Soviets), not science, so people had to go.

    Even the SLS, your so-called “program of scale”, won’t do any science in situ. If you think the MSL is dumb or unexciting, I can understand why you keep it quiet that you’re an SLS devotee – people would see what a hypocrite you are.

    In fact your whole facade of hating anything that isn’t getting NASA to repeat Apollo is pretty transparent – you literally hate everything anyone says that gets in the way of another glorious NASA Moon walk. SpaceX. MSL. Commercial Cargo & Crew. I think you’d sell your soul to make sure SLS survives…

    None of these indivdual come anywhere close to von Braun’s level of accomplishments.

    You may think you know a lot about space related stuff, but you obviously don’t know much about aerospace – Kelly Johnson is rightfully revered, and is second to no one in his field.

  • Frank Glover

    @ almightywind:

    “The public won’t give a hoot about heat flow or Mars quakes.”

    Sorry, but science sometimes involves more than pretty visible-light pictures. We don’t choose experiments for their public entertainment value…

  • E.P. Grondine

    V4 –

    What you don’t know about the V-2 could fill a book.

    RGO –

    The other thing those telescopes are good for is trying to extend nuclear physics. As far as impact detection goes, their field of view is too narrow.

    Aside from that, have you ever wondered who at NASA has the Hubble images of the last pass of Comet 73P’d debris field?

    Valles Marineris exploration lost out. I think that just a ball rover with an HD camera there would clear up most everyone’s questions. With the debris falling off its sides, you’d have a complete geological sample.

    Oh well.

  • NeilShipley(aka BeanCounterFromDownUnder)

    Come in out of the cold since there seems to be a bit of angst surrounding pseudonyms.
    Anyway, RGO has a good point regarding wanting more. My view is similar. If Mars holds so much promise then let’s get serious and work up a manned mission.
    We’ve been to the Moon, now let’s do Mars, but let’s be a bit smarter.
    Let’s get the political and private sector backing, even international.

    Plan it out using existing private and public sector capabilities.
    Use public and private sector funding.

    Let’s not do an ISS.
    Let’s not simply do a ‘boots in the dust/sand’ mission. Something a bit more long term.

  • common sense

    @ Coastal Ron wrote @ August 21st, 2012 at 2:01 pm

    “I think the Qualcomm Tricorder X PRIZE will get there first.”

    Could be. I was merely trying to show our good friend that NASA can still work on exciting stuff even Star Trek like things. That was all.

  • common sense

    @ Coastal Ron wrote @ August 21st, 2012 at 4:45 pm

    “Kelly Johnson is rightfully revered, and is second to no one in his field.”

    You’re darn right. Only a certified idiot would not see that.

    Even SpaceX operates very much like the Skunk Works. And I believe Scaled Composites too and a few others.

    Oh well…

  • mike shupp

    Robert G. Oler wrote @ August 21st, 2012 at 2:27 pm …

    Searching for life in the cosmos may be a dumb idea, but I think NASA is stuck with it because the taxpayers aren’t going to support much of a space program as long as the universe, outside of Earth, appears dead. No fossils on Mars, no microbes on Titan ==> no moon bases, no manned missions to asteroids or anywhere else. Weather satellites, communication satellites, climate change studies, and the occasional pretty picture of distant galaxies — that’ll be the American space program until the end of the Republic. Isn’t that an exciting prospect!

    I’m inclined to think this is NASA’s own fault, that Life In The Universe would never have become such an important meme if NASA hadn’t been harping on the topic ever since the 1970’s, and that NASA picked it as an objective of the planetary science program precisely because folks back then thought it would easily fulfilled. But I might be wrong — I’ll be happy to hear objections.

  • DCSCA

    @Frank Glover wrote @ August 21st, 2012 at 6:32 pm

    @ almightywind:The public won’t give a hoot about heat flow or Mars quakes.”

    It’s a cinch they won’t care- or know- about the winds, either- per news reports, the latest $2.5 billion, gold plated turtle has a broken wind detector. Already.

  • DCSCA

    @Coastal Ron wrote @ August 21st, 2012 at 4:45 pm

    In fact, it is you who has missed the point.

    Your post-

    “Other than picking up rocks and playing golf on the Moon, what science did they do?”

    You were directed to Google the phrase ‘Apollo Lunar Science’ and sift through the 7-plus million responses to same. Then apply salt and eat your own words. =eyeroll== And, of course KJ is no Von Braun- by a long shot- and Johnson would be the first to agree. You’re just crankin’ to crank. =eyerioll=

  • E.P. Grondine

    Hi Frank –

    “We don’t choose experiments for their public entertainment value…”

    From what I’ve seen, its more like, “Here’s the launchers, now how can we use them?”, as NASA has this strange habit of getting data and then letting it sit. NASA post mission data processing is crappy. That’s why the semi-amateurs at unmannedspaceflight.com can do what they do.

    In other words, NASA is in the business of launching rockets, not doing science.

    NASA science spending is certainly not governed by cost/benefit analysis.
    NASA hires its own client base of scientists, and then satisfies them.

    Here’s a well known secret: if you want samples from Mars, you go to Antarctica or NWA (North West Africa) to get them. It’s far cheaper.

  • Coastal Ron

    DCSCA wrote @ August 22nd, 2012 at 7:12 am

    You were directed to Google the phrase ‘Apollo Lunar Science’ and sift through the 7-plus million responses to same.

    First of all, if you knew how to use Google you’d know that most of those responses are duplicates – 7-plus million Google responses does not equal 7-plus million science papers. What a n00b.

    My original comment that seemed to hit a nerve with you was:

    Other than picking up rocks and playing golf on the Moon, what science did they do?

    And that comment was in response to Chris Castro saying:

    Just compare ANY of the Apollo Lunar flights with ANY of the ISS jaunts, and you will see that the space-station-in-LEO stays are dreary & dull by comparison!

    Armstrong and Cernan didn’t do science on the Moon, they only picked up rocks for later analysis. The ISS, which is a National Laboratory, does in situ analysis every day it’s in orbit on many experiments.

    And if you knew how to use Google, you would find that the science output of the ISS – the amount and variety of experiments – has gone far beyond what the Apollo astronauts were able to do in their few days on the lunar surface- the Apollo astronauts were doing the equivalent of a “smash & grab” on the Moon, but did little actual science on the Moon.

    Of sure, we now know something of the composition of the Moon – =yawn= – but with the ISS we’re learning how to live and work in space. Apollo contributed very little to that goal.

  • Robert G. Oler

    http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0812/79964.html?hp=l9

    It will be interested to see if Cernan speaks at the GOP convention and if he mentions going back to the Moon is fired by Willard.

    Aside from the fact that Willard does not have any real vision, Cernan would fit in well at the GOP convention…he is another old guy saying “save our past (whatever it is) RGO

  • Robert G. Oler

    amightywind wrote @ August 21st, 2012 at 1:33 pm

    \I wrote:
    “There is enormous disputes in the “community” if Mars was ever warmer or had a more dense atmosphere or wetter”

    you replied:
    I don’t think there is much dispute.

    the terrain is compelling; I am not a planetary geologist nor do I play one on TV but I am pretty adept at water erosion and well some of it does look like that.

    Having said that (and in the spirit of real conversation) I find the hunt for life on a world which is for all intents and purposes “airless” (OK Flight Level 1000 here on earth) and today seemingly waterless…strange.

    If Mars were the world of Robinson C on Mars…well thats different. sadly it is not RGO

  • Robert G. Oler

    I would add this about Cernan’s comments in politico…they are despicable

    There is not a sentence in what I read quoted in Politico that is not despicable… but I chose this to mock

    ““No, I don’t. I don’t think he understands what America and what the traditions have been, and what being the leader of the free world has meant to the people of this country. It goes downhill. We are what we are today and we have unique and special things that other countries don’t have because of what we have been for the last 230-some odd years.”

    Cernan doesn’t think President Barack Obama “fully understands what traditional America is all about, because he didn’t literally grow up here,”

    the last sentence is BS. Obama is who he is because he grew up in America…yes he traveled…but so did Willard Romney who dodged the Vietnam war while protesting to support IT, by getting college defermens as a missionary and spending time in France…

    Obama is who he is because he grew up in a country that has since its founding embraced “change” not tradition. We were literally born on the notion of change; change from the notion of a divine right of royalty to the divine right of individuals…and that includes tolerating out of mainstream religious viewpoints such as those that Willard Mitt Romney is a product of, and making sure that race and sex and other things are not a barrier to the ladders of achievement.

    Cernan babbles on about leading the free world…and that is how we have done it…not because we have had the strongest military, for most of our existance we had a weak military except in times of actual war…and we didnt lead the free world by going to the Moon…we did it in the 60’s by a cultural revolution that extended the rights of free men…to blacks and women and other non white groups.

    I am white and grew up in the deep south during the 60’s…so I have a childs view but a solid one of the changes tha went on in that time.

    When the GOP and Cernan talk about “traditional values” they are mocking the American Revolution. They have created a history for themselves that blows (in Cernan’s case) his and the group he was a part of contribution to both history and to the advancement of the US out of proportion.

    Traditional values is a code phrase for “save the past that we have created as a myth and make it our future”…traditional marriage, traditional this or that…and a traditional space program.

    Cernan is part of a past that is not relevant to our future…the days of Apollo are over, the poltiics of Apollo are dead…and if he wants to be convinced of that he should while in Tampa go to Willard Mitt Romney and try and convince him that he should in the remaining days of his time on the national political stage, until he is soundly defeated in November…advocate a redo of Apollo.

    See if Romney holds true to what he said about a lunar program in Florida.

    Fade into history Gene…you have made yourself irrelevant to the present or the future. As my Great Grandmother said “there is a reason people die, most of them grow old”….Cernan has grown old. RGO

  • Coastal Ron

    Robert G. Oler wrote @ August 22nd, 2012 at 12:51 pm

    It will be interested to see if Cernan speaks at the GOP convention and if he mentions going back to the Moon is fired by Willard.

    Well that is the disconnect that Cernan doesn’t see – except for a very short period of time Congress has had no interest in going back to the Moon since Cernan left his boot print there, nor have most Presidents (even Bush 43’s interest is debatable).

    Cernan also said he couldn’t see how helping American jobs stay here in America helps the U.S. (supporting the auto industry), but he wishes the U.S. would dump a bunch of money into space so we can pick up some more rocks.

    He has lost his grip on reality. Which come to think of it, makes him quite qualified to be a speaker at the Republican convention… ;-)

  • DCSCA

    Geno’s so wrongo about PrezO.

    Speaking strictly from a personal perspective, DCSCA spent years ‘growing up’ overseas and witnessed the positive effects of Apollo on national prestige and international relations first hand during a tumultuous period in U.S. history. To be sure, Apollo was a singular golden thread in the dark American tapestry of that era. But this ‘traditional America’ pitch is just bunk– and more the musings of an octogenarian than an Apollo astronaut. If anything, seeing the world only enhances your perspective of what ‘traditional America’ is– or was. Gene’s just wrong.

    DCSCA has met and interviewed Cernan. He’s just as much a forceful, affable advocate for human spaceflight ops today as he was during his Gemini and Apollo days. And he has the same flaw now as he had wayyyyy back then– he doesn’t know when to talk and when to shut up. Back in the day, the astronaut office- kept him in check (Stafford and Shepard knew how to reign him in.) Early in his ABC space consultant days, it was the late Frank Reynolds who knew how to curb Cernan’s sometimes over-the-top, on camera enthusiasm. (Among my personal favorites- ‘We’ll go through 31 seconds like Sherman went through Atlanta!” “Shhh!”, snapped Reynolds in curt response.) Clearly if you’ve caught any of the Fox Cavuto/Cernan interviews over the years, the cherubic Cavuto basks in the afterglow of an old moonwalker’s musings, marinating in the juices of hero worship. No doubt he watched Cernan on TV as a kid, splayed out in front of the TV with his Aurora/Revells, a can of Mountain Dew and some jelly donuts.

    Cernan knows his time grows short. And he has never avoided a public platform (including Fox, such as it is,) which afforded him an opportunity to speak out on government financed spacial affairs- there’s a bit of the Von Braun in him on that point. He has a good eye for PR — he took among the best composed images on the lunar surface– and is by far the first among the astronauts of making the most out of being the last at something- in his case, walking on the moon. And this is a last chance to stand before the nation and make a bold pitch for fading legacy; fading just as assuredly as the $5.50 modal flag NASA bought from a government supply catalogue he planted at Taurus-Littrow, 40 Decembers ago. A bleached-white flag now. A symbolic surrender to fresh competition from new generations eager to leave their own flags and footprints on Luna. For Cernan surely knows that his trips to the moon were not about probing Luna but projecting U.S. power on Earth.

    Cernan should grab the opportunity to speak– not so much to the lowbrowed, anti-science RNC conservative crowd, but to a national audience with a bipartisan appeal which may tune in. While it may not appear so at first glance, Geno’s apolitical in the Von Braun sense on matters space. He doesn’t really care which party advocates funding manned space exploration, as long as the one in power does it, and he senses Obama is walking away from it. While landing on the moon, Cernan steered his LM toward a crater named, not by accident, the Kennedyesque, ‘Camelot.’ What he often overlooks is that it was competition, not exploration, which fueled and financed his one Gemini/Titan and two Apollo/Saturn V rides. Trips paid for at the time, not charged to Uncle Sam’s credit card.

    Still, a Gen-X audience raised in the Reagan era, now coming of political age, needs to hear first hand what others, like Armstrong, (granted, Armstrong’s recouping from heart surgery) have been more reticent to address over the past four decades in bold, assertive terms. Go for it, Geno. Go. Then, just go home.

  • NeilShipley(aka BeanCounterFromDownUnder)

    Perhaps DCSCA could come clean and pony up his / her name?
    Cernan ‘affable?
    There is some anochdotal evidence that indicates that Cernan was never an ‘affable’ individual. He was apparently a bit of a pain to work with and a number didn’t for that reason.
    His time grows short – so what? That has nothing to do with his contribution to the HSF discussion. Perhaps he should have been using his time to more advantage over the years since his walk? But then again, if it was of the quality of his efforts today, then thank the gods that he didn’t. Nothing to see or hear boys and girls. Just another spuiking for the good old days. Totally not relevant to today.

  • Coastal Ron

    DCSCA wrote @ August 22nd, 2012 at 8:32 pm

    What he [Cernan] often overlooks is that it was competition, not exploration, which fueled and financed his one Gemini/Titan and two Apollo/Saturn V rides. Trips paid for at the time, not charged to Uncle Sam’s credit card.

    What a bizarre statement.

    Project Gemini and the Apollo program were both U.S. Government funded and run. Who do you think paid for all that hardware? The rocket fairy?

    Oh, and the U.S. was running a deficit then too, so yes, Cernan’s trip to the Moon was put on Uncle Sam’s credit card.

  • A couple of these Apollo-era astronauts spend their days spewing conspiracy theories at each other, which they then repeat without any factual basis. I’ve been told that a lot of this loopy stuff traces back to Walt Cunningham.

    The bottom line is that they’re irrelevant. If Cernan spoke at the convention, he’d look like a buffoon to a TV audience that has no idea who he is, nor would they care.

    His act plays to the Fox News/Rush Limbaugh crowd but beyond that no one pays him attention. Not even Congress.

  • McGriddle

    The bottom line is that they’re irrelevant. If Cernan spoke at the convention, he’d look like a buffoon to a TV audience that has no idea who he is, nor would they care.

    You’re irrelevant. Get a life.

    The man walked on another terrestrial body and is a universal hero. You, on the other hand, are a fool.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Stephen C. Smith wrote @ August 23rd, 2012 at 6:05 am

    Yes, but in this case it is not an old out of the “mainstream” conspiracy…Cernan is despicably using the words right out of the worst pushers of hate from the GOP right wing.

    It is OK In my view to say “I disagree with the path that Obama has taken the country” (or the space program) and then have a debate on that…there is debate to be had. I dont agree with most of what Obama has done and feel that in many instances he has squandered a lot of oppurtunities.

    But that is not what the GOP does. They have latched onto this notion of “American exceptionalism” and self defined it…so that when the folks who do not pick it up and say “wow we should embrace that” argue against it the come back from the right wing is “well you dont believe in America”…its the same goofy straw men that they have been putting up since Bush “wow if you are not for taking down Saddam you are with the evil doers”…

    Cernan (nor anyone else really) can argue what they really want to argue which is “we dont need a real reason for human spaceflight and NASA just we should do lots of things that make us proud to be an American and keep the bureacracy in business with little or no requirements that it do anything that impacts the country”

    at a recent “town hall” Pete Olson tried this stick when confronted with the waste that is SLS…the reply was more or less “so you dont want a strong American space program”…

    The GOP’s notions of America today are a figment that they have created from history. Marriage was always between one man and one woman (bring up some of the patriarchs from the Old Testament and even some of my family members go goofy)…lets attack Iran because well we are exceptional we can govern who does and does not get the gadget (despite some real security concerns by the Iranian people and leaders based on the Israelis)…we should go back to the Moon or go to Mars because wow we are great then.

    These are all non issues…which is the Romney campaign…Cernan was just tagging on RGO

  • Robert G. Oler

    McGriddle wrote @ August 23rd, 2012 at 12:18 pm

    “The man walked on another terrestrial body and is a universal hero.”

    LOL put oh Geno on a milk cartoon and find a comparable aged greeter at WAlmart and do the same for him…and say “who is this person” and the “universal” might drop out of the equation.

    RGO

  • E.P. Grondine

    Impact prevention has more astronauts working for it:
    http://b612foundation.org/
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/B612_Foundation
    in a non-inflamatory, bi-partisan manner.

    “Like Sherman through Atlanta” – shesh

    CR – I seem to remember that when the cost of the Vietnam War threw the budget out of balance under Johnson, federal workers took a 5% pay cut.
    Then the deficit got way worse under Nixon.

    My thinking is that you can not pay for a war with tax cuts for billionaires.
    I also think that the wrecking crew has left this country with few to no resources to handle any unforeseen calamity which may occur.

  • E.P. Grondine

    Hi RGO –

    “we are sometime from the technology to go to Mars”

    We still don’t know what Griffin had in mind for the ARES 5. My guess is that ATK is presenting and promoting a manned flight to Mars as a counter to a Chinese Moon effort. That’s why we’re hearing the “been there-done that” line.

    “and we are light years from any kind of commerce or application of technology which would make the trip there remotely financially doable…ie a colony or base that could sustain itself…”

    Musk is used to data processing power/$ going up exponentially.

    I’m happy that US sat manufacturers are looking at a launch cost lower than China’s.

  • DCSCA

    @Stephen C. Smith wrote @ August 23rd, 2012 at 6:05 am

    “The bottom line is that they’re irrelevant.”

    Except they’re not. They’re living, historic figures. Even footnoter Walt.

    “If Cernan spoke at the convention, he’d look like a buffoon to a TV audience that has no idea who he is, nor would they care.”

    Don’t be daft, Smitty- the intro would be a red-white-and-blue tribute; a scoop of media-whipped, vanilla ice cream melting ’round an apple pie, all-American guy; one of the nine left alive of the dozen Americans in the whole history of everything who first left human footprints and U.S. flags on another world. The irony of hailing a person who acted out an evolutionary step in human history in front of a group which largely rejects evolution is priceless. A spectacle capped off with some of the best patriotic Apollo imagery ever taked on Luna (snapped by Cernan himself). Images Cernan has repeatedly and religiously said were, ‘Too beautiful to have happened by accident.” God, they’ll eat it up!.

    The GOP laying claim to a hero from a JFK/LBJ initiated program is splendid politics, Smitty. And Geno addressing the intrinsic value of those famed ‘Cernan intangibles’ to listeners who can relate on the most basic terms to placing a fresh footprint on a pristine beach feeds right into the party mantre– as well as Cernan’s motives. Even Reagan waxed wistfully about meeting men who walked on the moon when he addressed the RNC the last time. Yet the losing, ultra-right wing presidential candidate Ronnie championed in ’64 was no fiscal pal of Apollo in Congress. You’re blowing hot gas out the aft end of your service module, Smitty. It’s been a long time since space was offered the chance to hold center stage- however brief- at a national party convention. As a space advocate, you ought to welcome the attention, not diss it. Alas, such is the mind set of the NewSpacer.

    @ McGriddle wrote @ August 23rd, 2012 at 12:18 pm

    Precisely.

    @Coastal Ron wrote @ August 22nd, 2012 at 10:33 pm

    LOL Paid for by the generation which launched them. =sigh= You’re just crankin’ to crank, as usual.

    @BeanCounterFromDownUnder

    On the contary. Geno never met a microphone he didn’t like. And it’s gotten him into some hot water at times, but he has been a tireless advocate for HSF. The point is, if he accepts the offer to speak, he best articulate his ‘Cernan intangibles’ well– as it’s probably the last chance to do so from a platform with so much worldwide media focus. He ought to have Armstrong and Lovell help pen his pitch for him– or at least get their input. But hitting the high notes of the ‘Cernan intangibles’ on a national platform with national and international media looking in is a grand opportunity– and most likely the last. Go for it, Geno. Go!

  • DCSCA

    @Robert G. Oler wrote @ August 23rd, 2012 at 12:21 pm

    “Yes, but in this case it is not an old out of the “mainstream” conspiracy…Cernan is despicably using the words right out of the worst pushers of hate from the GOP right wing.”

    =yawn= Cernan is media savvy and using language as a means to an end. Von Braun 101. Ah, bless those ‘Cernan intangibles.’

  • DCSCA

    @Coastal Ron wrote @ August 22nd, 2012 at 3:28 pm

    “[Cernan] has lost his grip on reality. Which come to think of it, makes him quite qualified to be a speaker at the Republican convention..”

    In other words Apollo caboose has loco-motive, eh.

    Except he doesn’t.

  • DCSCA

    E.P. Grondine wrote @ August 23rd, 2012 at 1:39 pm

    “Like Sherman through Atlanta” – shesh’

    Yeah, he said it during some early shuttle countdown coverage. REynolds reigned him in fast. ABC News gave Cernan a shot at a few solo on air packages, but they weren’t al lthat smooth. He needed the give and take- usually best quipping w/Lynn Sherr or Koppel. Less so w/t late Bergman, who often chimed with corrective, if not self-agrandising tedium. Eventually, 80’s era ABC brass moved Bergman off camera on set- then off set completely, relegating him to reportign location packages… then into video oblivion.

  • Robert G. Oler

    E.P. Grondine wrote @ August 23rd, 2012 at 1:49 pm

    We still don’t know what Griffin had in mind for the ARES 5.”

    I am pretty sure Griffin didnt have a clue either.

    The right wing of the GOP (or we could just say the “GOP” there is no real middle or left wing left…grin) is big on building things, big on starting things but small on finishing them…particularly in space or defense efforts…

    AresV was unaffordable even if it was given to us…and there are no real plans for SLS which is about the same price, there is no real use for the space station; it started under Reagan but really all during Bush43 as it was ending it was kind of “wow got er done” sort of thing with no real clue as “what do we do with it”

    RGO

  • Robert G. Oler

    As for Cernan speaking at the GOP convention…LOL

    If all they did was say “Gene Cernan is now going to speak” about 99 percent of the delegates would say “what delegation is he from?” Of course they will have the two minute bio film so by the time its over all the clueless will say “WOW OBAMA SHOULD HAVE NEVER ENDED THE LUNAR MISSIONS”

    RGO

  • DCSCA

    @Stephen C. Smith wrote @ August 23rd, 2012 at 6:05 am

    “….he’d look like a buffoon to a TV audience that has no idea who he is, nor would they care.”

    A postscript. You’re thinking of ol’Buzz Aldrin… who has excelled at astro-buffoonery amongst the clan by literally w ‘moonwalking’ his way across a Canadian wrestling ring a few years ago and dancing-with-the-stars to a bemused-if-not-befuddled audience of 20-somethings.

  • Coastal Ron

    DCSCA wrote @ August 23rd, 2012 at 5:01 pm

    Paid for by the generation which launched them.

    Not what you originally said – dementia setting in?

    But I guess the bottom line is that you really are OK with deficit spending, as long as it’s for things YOU want. Again, what a hypocrite.

  • DCSCA

    Robert G. Oler wrote @ August 23rd, 2012 at 7:44 pm

    You really are out of the loop.

    http://www.genecernan.com.

  • E.P. Grondine

    RGO –

    I’ll Have to disagree with you on the ISS.

    Given that we could have had DIRECT and two manned launch systems with no disruption to our tech base for less money than was was wasted on the Ares 1, you have to ask what the hell architecture Griffin was thinking about when he chose the Ares 1/Ares5 launchers and their capacities.

    And for all of Griffin’s critical statements over the last couple of years, no journalist has had the either the brains or guts to simply directly question Griffin in detail about his choices then. I suppose that either they know the fan club that is their principal audience, and do not want to offend them in any way, or they are too stupid to know what to ask, how to conduct an interview on a technical topic.

  • E.P. Grondine

    DCSCA –

    From what I’ve seen, Buzz Aldrin is about the only astronaut most 20 somethings know of, and they think he’s pretty cool.

  • DCSCA

    E.P. Grondine wrote @ August 24th, 2012 at 8:21 pm

    Not really. And, of course, they know of Neil Armstrong, who has died today, August 24, 2012.

    God Bless you, Neil. It’s not very often we can say we shared space and time with an individual who will most decidely be remembered centuries from now, when all the struggles and problems of our times have long faded. Ad Astra, Neil. Ad Astra. And well done.

    :-(

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