Campaign '12

The insignificance of space policy in the 2012 campaign

At first glance, it might appear that space policy got a lot of attention in the last week: Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney mentioned the late Neil Armstrong in his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention on Thursday night, and did so again during a campaign stop on Saturday in Cincinnati, a day after the Apollo 11 astronaut’s funeral there. The Republican Party platform, approved during the convention, included a plank about space. Meanwhile, while the Republicans convened in Tampa, President Barack Obama found a very different outlet to discuss policy issues, an “Ask Me Anything” discussion on the popular website Reddit, where he answered one question on space policy.

So, that should be good news for those who follow space policy, right? Not really. None of these comments said much of anything new—or even much of anything at all—about the candidates’ positions on space policy. The fact that we’re paying so much attention to such minor comments indicates how little the candidates, in particular Romney, have said on space, especially in comparison to just four years ago.

The highest-profile mention of space came Thursday night, when Romney gave his acceptance speech at the convention in Tampa. He mentioned in his address Neil Armstrong, but only to reflect on this significance of Armsrong’s accomplishments and not mentioning either the current administration’s space policy or what a Romney Administration might do differently:

I was born in the middle of the century in the middle of the country, a classic baby boomer. It was a time when Americans were returning from war and eager to work. To be an American was to assume that all things were possible. When President Kennedy challenged Americans to go to the moon, the question wasn’t whether we’d get there, it was only when we’d get there.

The soles of Neil Armstrong’s boots on the moon made permanent impressions on OUR souls and in our national psyche. Ann and I watched those steps together on her parent’s sofa. Like all Americans we went to bed that night knowing we lived in the greatest country in the history of the world.

God bless Neil Armstrong.

Tonight that American flag is still there on the moon. And I don’t doubt for a second that Neil Armstrong’s spirit is still with us: that unique blend of optimism, humility and the utter confidence that when the world needs someone to do the really big stuff, you need an American.

On Saturday, his reference to Armstrong in Cincinnati was even shorter, effectively doing little more than namechecking him: “I will do everything in my power to bring us together, because united, America built the strongest economy in the history of the earth. United, we put Neil Armstrong on the moon.”

As for the reference to space in the GOP platform, the two paragraphs about space said very little, describing only the benefits of spaceflight and, in the most general of language, what (if anything) the US should be doing differently:

America’s Future in Space: Continuing this Quest

The exploration of space has been a key part of U.S. global leadership and has supported innovation and ownership of technology. Over the last half-century, in partnership with our aerospace industry, the work of NASA has helped define and strengthen our nation’s technological prowess. From building the world’s most powerful rockets to landing men on the Moon, sending robotic spacecraft throughout our solar system and beyond, building the International Space Station, and launching space-based telescopes that allow scientists to better understand our universe, NASA science and engineering have produced spectacular results. The technologies that emerged from those programs propelled our aerospace industrial base and directly benefit our national security, safety, economy, and quality of life. Through its achievements, NASA has inspired generations of Americans to study science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, leading to careers that drive our country’s technological and economic engines.

Today, America’s leadership in space is challenged by countries eager to emulate – and surpass – NASA’s accomplishments. To preserve our national security interests and foster innovation and competitiveness, we must sustain our preeminence in space, launching more science missions, guaranteeing unfettered access, and maintaining a source of high-value American jobs.

The first paragraph only describes the varied benefits of space exploration, while the second offers virtually nothing in the way of specifics. The closest break to the current administration’s policy is the call for “more science missions”, but how many more, and of what kind? There’s also no reference to human spaceflight, including the retirement of the Space Shuttle, cancellation of Constellation, or anything else. In addition, while the space program, in particular human spaceflight, is often claimed to be something that sets the US apart from other nations, the plank was not included in the platform’s “American Exceptionalism” section, but instead near the end of “Reforming Government to Serve the People”, although there’s really nothing in the way of reform in that platform language regarding space.

Then there’s Obama’s participation in the Reddit AMA session. Much of that interest was devoted to the novelty of the event, including the fact that Obama himself was writing the answers (the White House released a photo of him typing away on a MacBook Pro, his tie loosened and sleeves rolled up.) Given the Reddit audience skews strongly towards people with an interest in technology, it’s not surprising someone asked, “Are you considering increasing funds to the space program?” Obama’s answer, though, didn’t address the point of the question:

Making sure we stay at the forefront of space exploration is a big priority for my administration. The passing of Neil Armstrong this week is a reminder of the inspiration and wonder that our space program has provided in the past; the curiosity probe on mars is a reminder of what remains to be discovered. The key is to make sure that we invest in cutting edge research that can take us to the next level – so even as we continue work with the international space station, we are focused on a potential mission to a asteroid as a prelude to a manned Mars flight.

That was simply a reiteration of some of the general points of his space exploration policy, including the goals of human missions to an asteroid and to Mars as well as increased investment in technology development. He said nothing, though, about the size of NASA’s budget.

This limited attention the campaigns are playing to space is a sharp contrast to 2008. By this point (the beginning of September) in the 2008 campaign, the Obama campaign had released a detailed space policy white paper, just a few days after the John McCain campaign released its own policy paper. At that time, neither was the incumbent, nor had either built up much of a record on the topic in the Senate. Four years later, the Obama Administration does have a policy to run on, if they so choose, but Romney’s comments are little more than vague statements to date, such as his January speech in Florida where he talked about how to develop a mission for NASA rather than articulate what that mission should be.

So why is that the case? In an article published Friday evening by the Orlando Sentinel, former congressman Bob Walker suggested that internal conflicts within the Romney campaign might be preventing it from providing a more detailed policy. “I think the civil war has kept any one faction from dominating the discussion inside the Romney advisory group,” Walker said, referring to the campaign’s space policy advisory group announced in January.

Or, it may be that, contrary to the wishes of space advocates and enthusiasts, space just isn’t that important an issue. The presidential campaign is largely revolving around the economy: are you better off that you were four years ago? Space is lost in the shadow of that debate, even in a swing state like Florida where, at least in the state’s Space Coast region, people think and care more about space policy than most of the rest of the country. That seems unlikely to change in the final two months of the campaign.

122 comments to The insignificance of space policy in the 2012 campaign

  • DougSpace

    Romney’s reluctance to specify a plan may be due to an internal conflict. On the other hand, it may be that he has a position but believes that if he were to reveal it, it would cost him votes. If that were the case then I would guess that it means that he wants to cancel the SLS. Stating this would cost him votes in critically important Florida and open himself to criticism that he was gutting America’s space program. Even if he were to replace the SLS with some other program such as a commercially-developed HLV or an architecture relying on the Falcon Heavy, it would provide too many specifics which could be attacked and diatorted by his opponents.

    Although some explanation like this is a possibility, I still think that the most likely explanation is that he has chosen not to make a decision about what to do in space until he has a presidential commission which makes recommendations or lays out options. He would want to do this in order to make sure that he gives his opponents no targets to shoot at on a topic that isn’t top priority for him.

    The significance of this is that it gives us time to propose a direction to his advisors. My feeling is that his current advisors are already largely set in their mind albeit I don’t think that we should rule out the possibility of them changing their minds given circumstances. For example, Griffin supported Constellation. But is it realistic to restart it given the degree to which it has been dismantled? So if Griffin recognizes that Constellation is dead, then what does he believe should be done instead. Perhaps he could be influenced.

  • Mark R. Whittington

    On the other hand, perhaps Romney is telling the truth in that he wants to make a serious examination of space policy before laying one out, rather than to make a good speech that might or might not be operative once he is president. Obama, after all, promised a crowd in Titusville that he supported the Constellation return to the moon goal. Less than two years later, once safely elected president, he sneered at it. Romney already has the votes of people who are disenchanted with Obama’s dysfunctional policy and may think he has no political need to propose his own during the campaign. Of course, speaking only for myself, I rather wish he would make a good space policy speech, if only to lay out some general principles.

  • Heinrich Monroe

    If the GOP were worried about space votes in Florida, you would have thought that a convention in Tampa would be a great place to appeal to those voters. No promises need have been made, but we could have heard even an echo of the admittedly unspecific and blurry GOP platform verbiage which, did you notice, said nothing at all, either directly or indirectly, about human space flight. For goodness sake, where were even blurry and unspecific words about the importance of space from Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio? If the convention had been in Indiana or Wyoming, that dearth of reference to space could have been forgiven. But Florida? The only mention about space was the acknowledgment of the death of a space hero which, when you consider that nothing else was said about space, pretty much admits that, in Romney’s presidential vision of the future, space is a non-issue. It’s relevance to national needs is historical only. No, I think the GOP convention pretty much sealed the deal about the GOP and space. Space demands some words in a platform, and they wrote those, but it clearly isn’t something that the GOP sees as something the voters want to hear about.

  • Vladislaw

    Ya right Mark … he ran for the Presidency BEFORE Mark .. I would think he already HAD a space policy NAILED DOWN.. from his past run.

  • Vladislaw

    Mark .. do you goto a brain surgeon for select memory adjustment? President Obama supported what he was publically being told was going on with Constellation.

    But we all remember the dust up between Griffin and Garver ..

    Lori said – mike all we want to do is look under the hood –

    Mike said – if you want to look under the hood it means you do not trust the numbers I gave-

    Well what did we find out once it was investigated? Do not trust Mike’s numbers or his “pay as you go” scheme.

  • Joe Russo

    Both of them should be ashamed of themselves—invoking Neil Armstrong but not really caring enough about manned spaceflight. I wonder if they are just symbolic of most of our nation when it comes to NASA. Among we space enthusiasts, how many people share our sentiments or think we are weird for supporting NASA?

  • President Obama and Mitt Romney have very little interest in the manned space program. The fact that they have both either criticized or ridiculed any return to the Moon clearly illustrates their myopia on the matter.

    Since the end of Apollo, Presidents have pretty much restricted NASA’s manned space program to LEO as merely the symbol of a pioneering manned space program instead of a real pioneering manned space program.

    The irony of course is that since the end of Apollo, the $220 billion NASA spent (in today’s dollars) on its manned space program could have easily been used to fund beyond LEO programs such as a permanent lunar base and a permanent Mars base, instead of endlessly going around in circles above the Earth with absolutely nothing to show for it!

    Marcel F. Williams

  • Coastal Ron

    Mark R. Whittington wrote @ September 2nd, 2012 at 11:17 am

    Obama, after all, promised a crowd in Titusville that he supported the Constellation return to the moon goal.

    Sure, if it was affordable. But just like other things he found out when he took office, Bush had left him a mess in the space department as well as the economy.

    In case you hadn’t notice Mark, Congress has not voted to increase NASA’s budget since Obama came to office, and Constellation would have required a big increase in order to make it to the Moon in our lifetime. Congress did not support the Constellation program either once it became clear it was unaffordable, and a bipartisan Congress voted to kill it. Which if you remember from high school civics, only Congress can kill programs (ask Dick Cheney about the V-22 if you don’t believe me).

    Oh, and in case you haven’t been watching the news, the Romney/Ryan ticket is getting ready to slash the national budget, and without any clear & inspiring direction from Romney (does he inspire anyone?), that means NASA’s budget gets slashed too.

    There is no future where NASA gets gobs and gobs of money to spend on luxurious rock hunting trips. NASA needs to learn how to create and master leading-edge exploration hardware and techniques, and then hand it off to others to reduce in cost and somehow monetize. It won’t be fast exploration, but it at least it won’t bankrupt us either.

  • Googaw

    As much as most folks around here will wish this away, the two GOP platform paragraphs on NASA are very significant, and indeed revolutionary. It’s just the opposite kind of significance from what most folks in these parts were hoping for.

    The two paragraphs on NASA are categorized under “Reform” rather than “American Greatness” for a reason. NASA is headed for big changes.

    Of what will these reforms consist? In that platform, astronaut projects are mentioned only in the past tense. “Commerce” and “infrastructure” are not mentioned at all. It is “science”, “unfettered access to space”, and the inevitable “jobs” that are stated in the future tense.

    The GOP seems to have learned from the way Romney thrashed Newt Gingrich in the primary, to take their advice about NASA from practical people rather than sci-fi daydreamers and astronaut fans. The results will be revolutionary.

  • DCSCA

    @Mark R. Whittington wrote @ September 2nd, 2012 at 11:17 am

    “On the other hand, perhaps Romney is telling the truth in that he wants to make a serious examination of space policy before laying one out, rather than to make a good speech that might or might not be operative once he is president.”

    Rubbish. Romney betrayed his mindset on space policy when he had the chance to discuss it in a high profile setting during the debates. The dismissive Romney indicted in no uncertain terms that he’d ‘fire’ any manager who came into his office with talk of ‘moon bases’ and so on. And when presented a golden opportunity to expound on space matters in more detail while campaigning along Florida’s Space Coast, Romney balked, remaining as uninspiring and nebulous as ever, delivering boilerplate rhetoric with no substantive content.

    No sir. Willard Mitt Romney is no friend of spaceflight. Worse still, Romney had the “un’mitt’igated” gall to attempt to lay GOP claim to the Apollo legacy during his convention remarks as follow-up to the Eastwood catastrophe. It was reprehensible. The Republican Party fought tooth and nail against the JFK/LBJ initiated Apollo program in Congress and in the public discourse of the era. It’s all in the Congressional Record. And their ultra-conservative presidential candidate in 1964- the ‘father’ of the modern conservative movement and core of the GOP base- Barry Goldwater, voiced opposition to a ‘moonshot’ as one of his talking points during his famous ‘extremism is no vice’ Cow Palace speech.

    Worse still were Mitt Romney’s shallow, calculated comments at the Tampa convention embracing the late Neil Armstrong and an ‘American flag’ on the moon. It was a shameless, hollow and truly despicable attempt to retroactively put GOP fingerprints on a successful, big government space project, initiated by Democrats JFK and LBJ, his own Republican Party vigorously opposed. Romney quipped he and Ann watched the moonwalk on a sofa. The rest of us alive at the time remember watching it on a television set.

  • DCSCA

    More alarming was Limbaugh’s foolish commentary on the space program in response to Brokaw’s comments on Apollo after Romney’s speech. Limbaugh reaches a lot of listeners and his meandering musings in his monologues were not only massively flawed, incorrest and often incoherent, they betray yet again a feeble-minded foolishness far too many simple-minded citizens simply nod to and say, ‘ditto.’

  • DCSCA

    “Bob Walker suggested…”

    Walker is a Gingrich crony–
    Remember Newt? ‘Newt Gingrich, Moon President’ pf SNL fame. The last people on Earth to be talking yup space are the two chuckleheads, Walker and Gingrich.

  • Coastal Ron

    Marcel F. Williams wrote @ September 2nd, 2012 at 12:49 pm

    President Obama and Mitt Romney have very little interest in the manned space program.

    Romney hasn’t shown any interest, but Obama has been fighting (and winning) to keep U.S. human spaceflight going.

    Where is the only place in the galaxy that Americans do science off-planet? The ISS, which Bush/Griffin wanted to end so they could fund short flags-and-footprints trips to the Moon. The most recent science results from the ISS show how valuable it is – they have proved out methods and techniques that prevent/slow bone loss while in zero-G. Doing that kind of research is priority #1 if we want to become a spacefaring nation (I know I do).

    How does the U.S. get to space? Right now on Russian spacecraft, but soon on two or more commercial crew systems. A redundant, low-cost crew transportation system would not exist without the fight Obama eventually won against Republicans (and some Democrats) in Congress.

    And what has Romney said he would do?

    – Do a study.

    Oh, and his space policy team seems to be dysfunctional to the point that they can’t articulate any space policy at all. NONE. What does that say about a future Romney administration?

    The comparisons between Obama and Romney are pretty easy if you care about space policy. Of course most people don’t, which is why no one cares that we haven’t returned to the Moon in over 40 years…

  • DCSCA

    Wait ’til September 12, when the Armstrong national memorial is scheduled to occur in Washgington, for a larger platform for more meaningful platitudes to flow.. If memory serves, it’s close to- if not the same anniversary- of the issuance of the famed 1969 10-cent air mail ‘First Man on the Moon’ stamp depicting Armstrong’s ‘small step, giant leap’ – a die for which was carried aboard Apollo 11.

  • Robert G. Oler

    “And I don’t doubt for a second that Neil Armstrong’s spirit is still with us: that unique blend of optimism, humility and the utter confidence that when the world needs someone to do the really big stuff, you need an American. ”

    Willard’s statement is like the rest of his speech both incoherent and a big pander to the “black and white” TV set of the Republican party.

    “you need an American”. Did Neil go to the Moon by himself? No he was part of acrew of three, and a team of well 10000 or so, all paid for by the pocket of the US taxpayer.

    Apollo is just the sort of project that typifies the things the GOP no longer claims that they like; centralized federal government effort that harnesses the genius of AmericanS and the enivronment of the country.

    the “you need an American” line is probably from Dan Senor or John Bolton (both say it enough) as to try and make national group efforts seem like individual “ruggedness” which is the signature of the black and white tv set.

    As an aside I was at the Dickinson/Texas City football game this friday. None of the people around where we were sitting had a clue why the flag was at half staff until sundown. When I told one who asked “Armstrong’s service was today” this person asked “who”? (it was pleasant though that more then a few people recognized me as a former school board member!)

    So much for eternal hero. RGO

  • Robert G. Oler

    Mark R. Whittington wrote @ September 2nd, 2012 at 11:17 am

    On the other hand, perhaps Romney is telling the truth in that he wants to make a serious examination of space policy before laying one out,>

    Or the more likely explanation is that he doesnt care.

    After 10 years of running for President you would think that he would have a policy on everything; Mike Griffin thinks he has a space policy…

    Anyway it doesnt matter…no convention bounce…RGO

  • Heinrich Monroe

    As much as most folks around here will wish this away, the two GOP platform paragraphs on NASA are very significant, and indeed revolutionary. It’s just the opposite kind of significance from what most folks in these parts were hoping for.

    I think that pretty much captures it. Who knows what Romney himself believes, but the GOP platform is very explicit about the importance, with respect to space, of science, jobs, and space access. Space access hardly need apply to human space flight. It would be crazy to justify human space flight with science (as we’ve been learning over the past few decades). Jobs? Well, the number of jobs you create are in direct proportion to the NASA budget. So well funded science and access fill the bill.

    But yes, human space flight was referred to only in the past tense, and properly proudly. Same for Obama. In fact, the future, we are told by Obama, is exemplified by what Curiosity is doing on Mars. Hint, hint?

    The number of lost opportunities to credibly advocate and endorse human space flight in this campaign, should anyone have wanted to do so, are really astounding. What Newt Gingrich did was to turn human space flight into a joke.

    On the other hand, perhaps Romney is telling the truth in that he wants to make a serious examination of space policy before laying one out, rather than to make a good speech that might or might not be operative once he is president.

    Which is consistent with most of Romney’s “I’ll tell ya later” policy standings. Well, that’s nice, Mitt, but it sure would be nice to get some clue about where your head is at on this. We have plenty of clues about where your head isn’t at on this. What Romney could have easily said is that Neil Armstrong symbolized what human space flight could be for this nation, as opposed to just what it was.

  • “There is no future where NASA gets gobs and gobs of money to spend on luxurious rock hunting trips.”

    NASA doesn’t need gobs of money to move beyond LEO. It just needs to stop wasting money staying at LEO!

    Marcel F. Williams

  • “Romney hasn’t shown any interest, but Obama has been fighting (and winning) to keep U.S. human spaceflight going.”

    Obama tried to abandon NASA’s manned space program by terminating NASA’s return to the Moon and then shutting down NASA’s ability to even travel to orbit.

    I do applaud the President, however, for trying to help private companies develop their own private space programs for their own private commercial uses! Both public and private space programs are mutually beneficial to each other and to the American economy.

    But I strongly oppose trying to integrate private companies into a big government pork program like the ISS which really should have been designated for termination after 2016 so that NASA could use that three billion a year in ISS funding for beyond LEO missions.

    Marcel F. Williams

  • “After 10 years of running for President you would think that he would have a policy on everything;”

    Romney was for the Constellation return the Moon program during his previous campaign. But suddenly he was against returning to the Moon as a way of ridiculing Newt.

    But Romney really doesn’t care about any policies or the American people. He’s just interested in the image of himself sitting in the White House as the first Mormon President, doing something that his father could never achieve!

  • Mark R. Whittington

    Oler is not very good at parroting Obama talking points. In any case, we know that the Obama space policy is a disaster and is widely unpopular. Politically, Romney doesn’t even need to present his own (though I would wish he would, if only to satisfy my curiosity.) It can safely be assumed it will be better than the current clown show,

    Oh, and Rasmussen gives Romney about an eight point (thus far) bounce,

  • The last people on Earth to be talking yup space are the two chuckleheads, Walker and Gingrich.

    Bob Walker is the former chairman of the House Science Committee, and Newt Gingrich is the former Speaker of the House. If they’re “chuckleheads,” what does that make a pseudonymous moronic troll like you?

  • Coastal Ron

    Marcel F. Williams wrote @ September 2nd, 2012 at 5:46 pm

    …so that NASA could use that three billion a year in ISS funding for beyond LEO missions.

    It’s a fair question to look at the relative value of different space plans. Let’s do a quick comparison of the ISS and the long deceased Constellation program:

    ISS – $100B to build and become operational, and $3B/year for sustaining operations. The space station itself has an operational lifetime of more than 20 years, and is made up of reusable/replaceable modules. The ISS is a fully equipped laboratory that is answering the questions needed to be answered if we’re to become a space faring nation. Total man-days in space = 2,190/year.

    Constellation – $100B to build, which included four notional missions to the Moon. Except for the Orion capsule, the rest of Constellation was to be thrown away, and no lasting infrastructure was to be left in space. Total man days on the Moon – ~32. Further missions would have probably cost $5B+, so NASA could only afford to go every two years if it’s budget was equivalent to the ISS sustaining budget.

    So let’s see. The ISS provides far more space operations experience, it has a mission that is critical to our future in space, and it can be used as a platform for our expansion out into space.

    The Constellation program as defined by Michael Griffin was just an incremental improvement over the Apollo program (i.e. “Apollo on steroids”). However while the Moon is a future destination, it’s not on the critical path for learning how to live and work in space, or even for going to Mars (a more desirable destination than the Moon for a number of reasons).

    That’s the way I see it. Please provide competing comparisons if you can, although so far I haven’t heard anyone come up with a compelling reason why we should spend $100B and 20 years to repeat Apollo – and be left with no lasting space infrastructure… again.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Mark R. Whittington wrote @ September 2nd, 2012 at 6:27 pm

    Rasmussen is doing what every other tracking poll did…showing a “burbble” and then a return to normal. Next week (the one up coming) will tale the tail as some real polls will come out…but LUntz is telling his clients that there is no significant bounce, which is what would be expected. Romney is running a “no white guy left behind” campaign

    ” we know that the Obama space policy is a disaste” who is the “we”? Are you speaking to that Chair again pretending to be royalty? Yikes seek help.

    Under Obama’s watch the first new spacecraft that can carry supplies and people built in the USA has FLOWN…that is more then Bush 43 got for his 15 billion dollars on Cx…

    You do recall that Bush spent 15 billion and got nothing? RGO

  • common sense

    Oh boy. I think that he knows someone who thinks it is possible this guy could possibly bring back american exceptionalism. You know? Right. The man from other there.

    And I think it is possible that the Transformers on the Moon really is a conspiracy suggesting that robots will replace people on the Moon. Robots kinda humanized.

    I feel so much better now. Thank you Mitt Romney. Take care now and sell it back to us so that you can make some cash.

    That must, MUST have hurt. From David Brooks?!??!

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/28/opinion/brooks-the-real-romney.html?_r=1&smid=fb-share

    Some GOPers still awake?

  • My two cents worth …

    I thought that Obama *did* answer the question. He just did it in a gentle way so as not to say bluntly that more money was the answer.

    Q. Are you considering increasing funds to the space program?

    A. Making sure we stay at the forefront of space exploration is a big priority for my administration … (fluff excised) … The key is to make sure that we invest in cutting edge research that can take us to the next level – so even as we continue work with the international space station, we are focused on a potential mission to a asteroid as a prelude to a manned Mars flight.

    His point was that simply increasing the NASA budget isn’t the solution. The solution is to “invest in cutting edge research that can take us to the next level.”

    And that’s the problem. His administration has tried to do that, only to have the Congressional porkers try to block him every year at budget time.

    If we take the $3 billion wasted annually on SLS and put it to, say, Franklin Chang-Diaz’s ion engine research, that could give us the technology that makes a human Mars mission more plausible.

    Similarly, Congress cutting the commercial crew budget the last two years has slowed NASA’s ability to field a fleet of 21st Century spacecraft, extending instead our reliance on Russia.

    Bottom line … Obama didn’t give a yes or no answer. What he did was address the real problem, namely a misalignment between real priorities and what Congress is willing to fund. Obama was right. He was polite, instead of blunt, which is why some people think he didn’t answer the question.

  • Robert G. Oler

    http://www.parabolicarc.com/2012/09/02/bigelow-to-rehire-workers-in-wake-of-nasas-commercial-crew-awards/#more-42461

    this is just one more “good thing” from the commercial crew and cargo program…along with the nano/cube/small sat launch capability on the Falcon9 and other developments you can see how the Revolution in space affairs (RISA) is going to change the future from the present. RGO

  • Robert G. Oler

    I am NOT and WONT be (am making to much money!) but what would be my suggestions for a second term Obama administration space policy?

    1. Recognize the importance of ISS. “We built it” literally and there is around 100-200 billion of US dollars in it. Make the darn thing work. Get another crew member up there (Dragon or something ACRV), push improvements toward the station (Nautilus X etc)…and most important find some organization outside of NASA that can run it.

    2. push for the end of human exploration as a NASA goal. its dead politically and the residue is simply killing the agency. Make ending the programs which are sucking the life blood out of the agency a priority and re program the money toward something like oh ISS.

    3. move to reorg the nasa centers…

    4. Start prunning dead wood at the centers in SES.

    Comments RGO

  • James

    So Mitt Romney is vague about his plans for NASA. And is anyone surprised that a politician is vague about an issue?

    Obama doesn’t give a hoot either. I’m sure he was thrilled that the Augustine Report said Cx needed Billions more to be successful. He got to cancel something he only said he supported to get votes, after saying he’d delay Cx 5 years and spend the money on Education.

    Politicians, who are mostly lawyers, do not recognize that the increase in the quality of our living standards is directly related to advancements in technology.

    They are uniformed, ill advised, and only crave the perks and power and privileges that come with elected office.

    NASA? ShMASA.

  • A Romney administration just could NOT do ANY worse than the wholesale destruction delivered to NASA by the Obama one! I am very aware that tactically, Romney’s reticence about his future space policy once inaugurated, is most probably a smart move: again, just look at what happened to Newt Gingrich when he tried to state his positivity for a beyond-LEO human spaceflight goal! The media lampooned him! They made him into a laughing stock for NO legitimate reason, other than their non-stop collective sneer & jeer against a manned program that changes the LEO-only status quo. Media alert: WE ARE STILL SPENDING VAST BILLIONS OF DOLLARS OF THE FEDERAL BUDGET ON SPACE, ALL THE WHILE BEING STRANDED IN LEO! When December of 2022, gets here, we will have spent half-a-century, fifty long odd years, going around in circles, a mere 200 miles overhead, doing further global warming research!

  • Adastramike

    Oler wrote:

    So much for eternal hero.

    Armstrong will forever be the first human to walk on the surface of another celestial body. The fact that people in your small town didn’t know the flag was at half staff for Armstrong doesn’t mean anything other than this: most people (particularly Oler) aren’t aware of a lot of things. That does not equate to diminishing the status or impact of Neil Armstrong’s achievement. Even if most people in the US don’t care about space on a daily basis, or care more about other things that directly impact them, that does not mean a space hero is not still that hero, or that space is not humanity’s future, yet to truly unfold. And it will unfold, if not by Americans then by others.

  • guest

    Why would either candidate have a policy in hand? Obama tried to terminate Constellation, which had no chance of succeeding, according to Augustine, only to be overridden by Congress which continues to fund Orion and a downsized Ares 5, even though there is no genuine mission in the planning and no goal. If you go to the space community, there is no agreement on what direction human space flight ought to take. Kraft and Moser wrote that SLS is a mistake. Orion is an expensive project that is a decade from flying-well beyond the next President’s term-and its basically redundant to Space-X’s Dragon which is much closer to flight. Griffin argues for Constellation but few others concur its doable without terminating ISS-not going to happen, wouldn’t be prudent) and even then it needs a substantial increase in funding; and why would a Constellation be worthwhile since all it does is repeat Apollo. Other alternatives like Cis-lunar first, Nautilus-X. are not even being openly discussed. NASA and the space industry have the talent and reason to figure out a plan, and yet they have not gotten their act together; why does anyone think either candidate can do better than the experts? Until the space experts get together and decide on a plan, then nobody is going anywhere. And the NASA and industry people already screwed up once when they failed to put forward a plan for transfer of Shuttle talent to comparable positions on the new program. If they came up with a meaningful, implementable plan that could put people back to work, then maybe they’d have something the candidates could listen to and react to, but if the experts have no plan and no rationale and continue to openly disagree with one another, then they could be getting some serious surprises starting in FY2013-14.

  • Heinrich Monroe

    Oh, and Rasmussen gives Romney about an eight point (thus far) bounce,

    I guess the relevance of that to this discussion is that Romney has been so quiet about space? Smart guy!

    It turns out that a Rasmussen poll last year determined that only a tiny percentage of American believe that federal employees work harder than private employees. Take that, NASA! Onward, space commercializers! Well, their polling also found that 3/4 Americans believe that NASA is doing a pretty good job at … whatever they do.

  • Googaw

    Also relevant is the following Romney acceptance speech quote:

    “President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans and heal the planet. My promise is to help you and your family.”

    Alongside “heal the planet” you could add other futuristic visions and reactions to futuristic fears that have gripped Obama, as well as some Republicans, whether it’s replacing fossil fuels with solar power or building castles in the sky for Buzz Lightyears. Such fatal conceit of prophecying and centrally planning the future, is BTW the main parallel Romney and Ryan supporters draw between Solyndra and Crony Capitalism & Corruption (“Commercial Crew & Cargo”). It’s a strong parallel, regardless of the great variety of methods used to spend or promise government money or coerce private sector expenditures on such schemes.

    Of course, those who confuse sci-fi with reality and pretend to prophecy the future will vehemently call Romney “short-sighted” for not putting forth grand government programs to stem the rising oceans with solar power, invest in doll houses for Buzz Lightyear, blah blah blah, yak yak yak, woof woof woof. The whole retro-futuristic schtick — Romney rejects it. Another Romney slogan could well be: a pulp-free government by 2016. (Pulp sci-fi, that is).

    Romney wants to leave these speculative markets-of-the-future to private investment (or, if they so choose, non-investment), using private funds, and for government policy to emphasize keeping government regulation and taxation off the backs of the industries of the now. Like the energy real families actually use to get to work and school — fossil fuels. Like the actual spacecraft like Curiosity that do actual and affordable scientific exploration. Sorry Bob Bigelow — forget about your inflatable doll houses, it will be back to UFO hunting for you. Elon Musk at least has real commercial and practical military and scientific satellites that he can launch.

    For government action Romney emphasizes things government does very differently and better than private enterprise — e.g. science and national security. Government activities fitting these criteria that have been demonstrated to work well and cost effectively — unmanned scientific space exploration and astronomy are obvious examples. Gathering more data on the weather and climate, data and open scientific analysis that is available for independent parties to audit, rather than panicked crash programs to raise fossil fuel prices and destroy the energy fundamentals of our economy. Nor spectacular cathedrals or grandiose central plans for imagined industries-of-the-future. Such white elephants as Shuttle and ISS provide prime examples of the futile waste that is consequent of the central planners’ fatal conceit.

    Romney doesn’t pretend to be a great prophet with great heavenly dreams — being a believer in a normal religion, he leaves that kind of thing to his church. And he is wisely leaving the specifics the real-world practical science and access to space that the GOP favors to the experts on those topics that he plans to appoint once the election is over. The strong clues are there in the GOP platform about what the priorities will be and what kinds of experts he will appoint to make the wide variety of actual decisions that will need to be made.

    So far the Romney approach is the best approach to NASA that I’ve seen in many an election cycle. If you are still asking what space policy I favor, it’s right there in the GOP platform. Call it the Googawization of NASA.

  • Googaw

    Where is the only place in the galaxy that Americans do science off-planet? The ISS

    In cult-think, science is just not science without Buzz Lightyear. So forget about science on Mars, around Jupiter and Saturn, Venus and Vesta, Mercury and the Moon. Forget about all the data we get with telescopes from distant star systems and galaxies. Without Buzz around, it just doesn’t exist.

  • DCSCA

    @Mark R. Whittington wrote @ September 2nd, 2012 at 6:27 pm

    “It can safely be assumed it [Romney space policy] will be better than the current clown show…”

    You know they say about prognosticators who employ the term ‘assume’ Whittington. And FYI, Rassmussen is a conservative O&O polling operation. =eyeroll= America has seen Romney’s red penciled POV on spaceflight during the debates. And his empty rhetoric during the Florida primary. Or maybe you were watching the sofa, and not your TV, then, too. It bears repeating: “Ann and I watched those steps [Armstrong’s Apollo 11 moonwalk] together on her parent’s sofa.” The rest of us- except you it seems as well- watched it on our television sets.

  • Heinrich Monroe

    Politicians, who are mostly lawyers, do not recognize that the increase in the quality of our living standards is directly related to advancements in technology.

    But some politicians properly recognize that space propulsion and space life support technology bear rather weakly on our quality of living standards. Unless we’re talking, perhaps, about the quality of life in space.

    In no way shape or form has the improvement in our quality of life strongly justified federal expenditures on space over the last sixty years. That is, our quality of life would be a lot better if that money had been directed at specific needs. That’s not an argument against space exploration, but just an argument against using space exploration as a flag-carrier for technology development in general.

    Where is the only place in the galaxy that Americans do science off-planet? The ISS,

    Gasp. You can’t be serious. Americans are doing science throughout the solar system.

  • James

    @Heinrich.

    To quote myself: “Politicians, who are mostly lawyers, do not recognize that the increase in the quality of our living standards is directly related to advancements in technology”

    Tell me where in that statement I argue that space exploration be a flag carrier for technology development in general?

    Ignorance of technology development, the value of it, no matter where it is happening, is lost on our politicians.

    The only tool politicians have for dealing with the problems of the world, are ‘laws’.

    And ‘laws’ are useless in dealing with the root cause of any problem. A law is a carrot, or a stick, and in both cases fails to address the root behavior. It’s an old fashion approach to behavior modification. Not bad, not wrong, simply not what the world requires

  • Vladislaw

    “Of course, those who confuse sci-fi with reality and pretend to prophecy the future will vehemently call Romney “short-sighted” for not putting forth grand government programs to stem the rising oceans with solar power, ”

    Gosh .. you must not have been listening to his time as Gov. of Mass. He said coal was dirty and kills people and worked to get it closed down, was pro climate change was man made and supported the carbon tax and others to numerous to mention . my how the times have changed.

  • Coastal Ron

    Chris Castro wrote @ September 2nd, 2012 at 11:04 pm

    again, just look at what happened to Newt Gingrich when he tried to state his positivity for a beyond-LEO human spaceflight goal!

    Yes, and here is what Romney said about the Gingrich idea:

    I spent 25 years in business. If I had a business executive come to me and say they wanted to spend a few hundred billion dollars to put a colony on the moon, I’d say, ‘You’re fired!’.

    Of course Romney could flip-flop on this issues like he’s done with virtually every other issue he’s changed his mind on, but this is what he currently thinks – it’s money focused.

    So if you want to leave LEO, then you better figure out how to do that for far less than the $100B Constellation program.

    Hmm, who is focused on lowering the cost to access space these day? Oh, that’s right, SpaceX, who I’m sure will be just as well admired by a Romney administration as it is in the Obama administration… ;-)

  • Coastal Ron

    Heinrich Monroe wrote @ September 3rd, 2012 at 9:18 am

    Americans are doing science throughout the solar system.

    I forgot to add the qualifier “in person”, which at this point is only the ISS.

    Of course we have robotic explorers throughout the solar system, and a couple getting ready to leave the solar system (if they haven’t already).

  • Heinrich Monroe

    Tell me where in that statement I argue that space exploration be a flag carrier for technology development in general?

    Never said you did. But this is a discussion about space, and you’re talking about technology advancements. In many circles, one is synonymous with the other. But as a generic statement, yes, the importance of technology development is lost on our leaders.

    The only tool politicians have for dealing with the problems of the world, are ‘laws’.

    Not quite right. The most important tool they control is money, and for this purpose, the most important laws they deal with are how to spend the money. Of course slapping money on something doesn’t address root behavior either.

    When December of 2022, gets here, we will have spent half-a-century, fifty long odd years, going around in circles, a mere 200 miles overhead, doing further global warming research!

    When December of 2022 gets here, we will have spend a few millenia going around in circles, a mere few feet over the surface (contributing to global warming, I guess). Spent a lot more than a few hundred billion dollars doing that too! Learned a lot by doing so as well. I am amused by people who don’t like circles. Oh, squares! We should be going around in squares!

    By the way, Newt Gingrich got skewered by the media for a very legitimate reason. He was promoting colonizing the Moon without telling anyone why it would be worth doing. Spending several trillion dollars to put another star on our flag really doesn’t make a lot of sense, does it? The media not only skewered him, but did so with a lot more thought and intellectual effort than he ever invested in his grand ideas.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Adastramike wrote @ September 2nd, 2012 at 11:34 pm

    Armstrong will forever be the first human to walk on the surface of another celestial body. The fact that people in your small town didn’t know the flag was at half staff for Armstrong doesn’t mean anything other than this: most people (particularly Oler) aren’t aware of a lot of things.>>

    You sound like the folks at America Space..

    “in your small town”…well Santa Fe is smaller then Dickinson but for the geography challenged…Dickinson is one of the “bedroom” towns surrounding the Johnson Space Center.

    Awareness is a dish best served cold (sorry Channeling my Klingon this morning) RGO

  • I agree there’s been a lot of light but no heat. But both campaigns are putting their space comments (such as they are) in the mainstream, whereas four years ago the space issue discussions were relegated to niche venues. These days I’m seeing space-focused op-eds in all over the place…thanks to Curiosity’s landing, SpaceX’s ISS mission, Armstrong’s passing, and maybe Florida’s efforts to keep the issue alive.

    Plus President Obama already has a space policy (such as it is), while Gov. Romney has only a TBD asterisk. I’d love to be a fly on the wall as Romney’s space team debates the specifics of a policy paper. Unfortunately, Gingrich poisoned the gravity well, so Romney might best steer clear of the issue altogether. P.S. – It would be wise if they brought Bob Walker aboard to counterbalance the Griffinites.

  • Coastal Ron

    Ellegood wrote @ September 3rd, 2012 at 12:33 pm

    P.S. – It would be wise if they brought Bob Walker aboard to counterbalance the Griffinites.

    I don’t think they need someone to achieve balance – they appear to be perfectly balanced, which is why they haven’t told Romney what he should be for or against. But I do agree that they need someone to unbalance their policy group, specifically to shift the balance towards a more sane approach for HSF.

    That, of course, would be to continue to support the ISS (with Commercial Crew & Cargo to keep costs low), and to kill the SLS so we can build a truly reusable space exploration system like Nautilus-X.

    Another by-product of killing the SLS would be to more fully fund robotic exploration missions, which in addition to Mars rovers, should also include sending a rover to the Moon (which could be in partnership with the private sector).

  • E.P. Grondine

    Hi Ed –

    “we are focused on a potential mission to a asteroid as a prelude to a manned Mars flight.” hope that clears it up for everyone – its not Zubrin’s Mars Now fantasy, it is NASA’s DPT architecture.

    What I expect from Romney is ATK (see Ryan’s NASA budget).

    While few know it, whoever gets the keys, they’ll likely get one of those 3 AM calls that go along with them.

    good luck –
    EP

  • joe

    Robert G. Oler wrote @ September 2nd, 2012 at 4:43 pm
    “As an aside I was at the Dickinson/Texas City football game this friday. None of the people around where we were sitting had a clue why the flag was at half staff until sundown. When I told one who asked “Armstrong’s service was today” this person asked “who”? (it was pleasant though that more then a few people recognized me as a former school board member!)
    So much for eternal hero. RGO”

    But Robert, you expect far too much from a man of Armstrong’s minimal accomplishments. How could he possibly be expected to compete with your fame and acclaim as (allegedly) a former school board member.
    You are indeed a Legend in Your Own Mind.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Stephen C. Smith wrote @ September 2nd, 2012 at 9:28 pm

    Similarly, Congress cutting the commercial crew budget the last two years has slowed NASA’s ability to field a fleet of 21st Century spacecraft, extending instead our reliance on Russia.

    Bottom line … Obama didn’t give a yes or no answer. What he did was address the real problem, namely a misalignment between real priorities and what Congress is willing to fund.>>

    the Republican answer (well actually the Taliban which controls the GOP) to almost every issue that is our country right now has either been to block real change or insist on going back to some past that never really existed but the right wing put together in its own feeble mind.

    To even advocate that they have learned to lie.

    thats not just my view point but its the viewpoint of Former Bush43 officials like Matthew Dowd…as Dowd said on ABC

    “Paul Ryan, what he did in his speech, I think, so stretched the truth, and I like Paul Ryan, I have a lot of great respect for Paul Ryan, but [what] he said about closing the GM plant, which closed before Barack Obama took president, about the Simpson-Bowles bill which — Simpson-Bowles, which he opposed, and then all of a sudden you see faults Barack Obama for. At some point the truth should matter.

    http://livewire.talkingpointsmemo.com/entry/matt-dowd-ryan-so-stretched-truth-in-his

    the truth should matter but with those who advocate policies from the past…it does not.

    Apollo is over; and even when it was in its hey day it never came up with either a program that was affordable or continuable past the very narrow political circumstances that spawned it..and those who advocate a massive human exploration program in space cannot get their hands around that reality…

    ISS is to me a failure in terms of how it was built…but it should in my view become the focus point of our space policy. WE BUILT IT, there was some international help but without American dollars and effort it would not be there…and we need to find a way to use it; to make it useful; ironically in the maintenance of uber complex space machines humans are finally proving their worth in space…the issue is how to make teh machine do something useful.

    Obama is at least addressing the situation on a reality plane. “old ideas do not work best”…they are merely people who cannot find innovative solutions for complex problems and insist on retreating to some imagined simpler time.

    The truth should matter…we are not going to have massive Apollo style programs…we need to think on a more realistic level…and thats Obama’s space policy.

    Nice post on your part…hope you and your family are well. RGO

  • Jeff Foust

    Take the personal sniping at each other offline, please. Now.

    Thank you.

  • Heinrich Monroe

    its not Zubrin’s Mars Now fantasy, it is NASA’s DPT architecture.

    Just to be correct here, the DPT (Decadal Planning Team, c2000) “architecture” was based on a premise of an Earth-Moon Lagrange point “Gateway” habitat, not unlike what is being considered now (e.g. Boeing ISS-EP). That facility would be the crux of in-space BEO servicing missions, a valuable depot facility for all BEO efforts, and perhaps a construction venue for eventual missions to the Moon and much further. While a visit to an asteroid was mentioned briefly in this study, far more effort was devoted to Moon and Mars although, in general, DPT was noteworthy because it was capability-oriented rather than destination-oriented. The kinds of NEO visits now being posited have little or no DPT heritage.

    You should understand that, although Obama raised the prospect of sending humans to a NEO, and this was adopted (for lack of anything more marketable) by NASA, that goal is looking very much harder than it once did, and it’s becoming very clear that potential international human space exploration partners are largely uninterested in it. I suspect that goal is going to slide off the table pretty soon, a least as any kind of near-term activity. Of course, once it does, Obama will need a new goal to lean on.

    That’s not to say about learning more about NEOs isn’t important, but that sending humans there probably isn’t the best way to do it.

  • Ben Joshua

    Why would a presidential candidate pick up a political hot potato like spaceflight and the NASA budget, when there is so little benefit in votes and money, and an assurance of distraction and controversy.

    We now have two spaceflight programs running in parallel – SLS on the one hand, and Boeing/SN/SpaceX on the other. Time will tell which approach yields results, and which Congress funds at a functional level.

    With proponents of each approach in a titanic struggle for funding and credibility, don’t expect either candidate to weigh in seriously or specifically.

    I know where I stand, but I am not a mega donor to a campaign, nor a whopping big corporate interest, just a voter and citizen. Besides, much of politics is the selling of illusion – storytelling – and our next steps in space will be based on hard-nosed workability and affordability, because you can’t get to LEO repeatedly without technology that is increasingly reliable and affordable.

    Funding, I hope, will follow performance, in this emerging competition. Presidential candidates are happy to wait and see. They will be happy to also take credit, if we reach a point of clarity, on whichever approach succeeds as a sustainable and evolutionary way to step off the earth.

  • Coastal Ron

    Ben Joshua wrote @ September 3rd, 2012 at 3:07 pm

    Why would a presidential candidate pick up a political hot potato like spaceflight and the NASA budget, when there is so little benefit in votes and money, and an assurance of distraction and controversy.

    I would think it’s a little late for Romney to release any space-related policy that doesn’t somehow set himself apart from Obama.

    But considering how Obama is supporting commercial space efforts while some prominent Republicans (and some Democrats) are supporting government-built/owned unaffordable rockets (i.e. SLS), it would be hard for Romney to send a complimentary message on space that didn’t need increased NASA funding – and that goes against his “small government” message.

    Not that having any preferences for our efforts in space is important at this juncture of time (i.e. no looming National Imperatives that require us in space), but it’s just more that Romney has left as a gigantic gray area for what a Romney administration would do (or not do) if elected. And gray-areas don’t inspire people’s votes…

    Funding, I hope, will follow performance, in this emerging competition.

    Politics doesn’t require performance in order to get funding. The SLS hasn’t done anything but support jobs, and is not forecasted to do anything operationally, yet Congress has gone along with a $30B budgetary commitment.

    Paradoxically, I think a Romney administration is more likely to fight for canceling the SLS than an Obama one. Guess we’ll have to wait and see.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Heinrich Monroe wrote @ September 3rd, 2012 at 2:24 pm

    You should understand that, although Obama raised the prospect of sending humans to a NEO, and this was adopted (for lack of anything more marketable) by NASA, that goal is looking very much harder than it once did, and it’s becoming very clear that potential international human space exploration partners are largely uninterested in it. I suspect that goal is going to slide off the table pretty soon, a least as any kind of near-term activity. Of course, once it does, Obama will need a new goal to lean on. ”

    exactly EXCEPT what happens is at some point the “goal” simply vanishes.

    when the barracks were bombed in Lebanon the GOP establishment wanted to more or less invade Lebanon. but the guy who had the big chair in the Oval Office said “this is not my war” and ordered a withdraw. That was hard for the GOP hawks to stomach but Reagan the great softened it a tad by saying “we are withdrawing to the ships off shore” he didnt mention that then the ships would sail away and Lebanon would no longer be our problem.

    Obama is doing a variance of this. The “asteroid” goal is something to keep the trogolytes busy; NASA is already running mission simulations and churnign out viewgraphs, they have astronaut committees etc…but at some point in an Obama second term; the effort to do this will simply “sail away” …and then we can all get on to a real space policy.

    in an Obama second term (starting with sequestration) SLS and Orion die, the asteroid thing simply “descopes”….and we then move on to something else. I am hoping that this is some real effort at a centrifuge on the station nee Mark Holdermans plan and maybe Nautilus X…or something along those lines…programs which help Bigelow.

    RISA…the revolution in space affairs is ongoing. RGO

  • Kate Morgan

    The most important question that will determine where NASA goes in either Administration, is who will become Administrator. Most agree that Bolden has been such a disapopintment to Obama that he won’t be retained and certainly Romney would appoint someone new (Albrecht?)

  • Heinrich Monroe

    The “asteroid” goal is something to keep the trogolytes busy; NASA is already running mission simulations and churnign out viewgraphs, they have astronaut committees etc…

    That’s what it smells like to me. Now Lori Garver has commanded her underlings at NASA to follow the boss, and not think about anything other than footprints on a NEO. But eyes are starting to roll at HQ. It’s pretty clear that Obama just fingered a NEO because, well, we did the Moon before and, um, what’s the next rock out there? But here’s the kicker. The problem with the Moon wasn’t just that we were there before, but we might actually have a chance of getting back, and spending absolutely huge amounts of money doing it in a big way that would befit a brand new visit. At least with a NEO, the trogdolytes can be kept busy without spending a lot of cash. I can only assume that Romney will design a similar strategy to keep NASA proud, looking at large distances, while not spending a lot of money.

    One might wonder why Obama didn’t just point us at Mars if he wanted to keep the trogdolytes busy. Well, because huge numbers of people really want to go to Mars! NEOs don’t have the same popular attraction as Mars. If you want to save money, you select a destination that few people are really desperate to go to, but it’s sorta further than we’ve ever gone before. Then when you don’t manage to go, because it’s really pretty hard, the grousing isn’t as extreme. You won’t have people up on Capitol Hill wearing oblong rocks as jewelry, and DEMANDING that we get our act together and go to a NEO.

    To the extent that the NASA budget is flat and or decreasing, that seems like a very smart strategy.

  • “Please provide competing comparisons if you can, although so far I haven’t heard anyone come up with a compelling reason why we should spend $100B and 20 years to repeat Apollo – and be left with no lasting space infrastructure… again.”

    A moon base program is not the Apollo program. Although the Apollo architecture could have evolved into a moon base program. Since I was a strong critic of the the Constellation program and the Ares 1/V architecture and strongly for a Moon base program– something that Griffin is now suddenly for– you need to compare the ISS/Shuttle Program with an SLS/Moon base program.

    A moon base program, of course, gives you access to nearby extraterrestrial resources existing within a low gravity well. Much cheaper to manufacture an launch satellites from future cities on the moon (which could exist well before the end of this century) than from a city on Earth. But they will never exist unless we start putting small outpost on the lunar surface first. A Moon base program also allow us to find out if low gravity environments are inherently deleterious to human health and reproduction. If humans are to settle and industrialize the Moon and Mars, we need to find out if a low gravity environment is harmful to humans who might work there.

    We already learned that microgravity environments were inherently harmful to the human body more than 30 years ago with Skylab. So you didn’t need the ISS to learn that. And people are not going to live and reproduce in microgravity environments. A real space station program to succeed Skylab should have been one that produced artificial gravity environments for humans– not just repeat what had been done back in the 1970s. And even Bolden now agrees that the future of microgravity research is in small private commercial space stations, not in the ISS.

    Marcel F. Williams

  • @Earth to Planet Marcel
    “NASA doesn’t need gobs of money to move beyond LEO. It just needs to stop wasting money staying at LEO! “
    The only part of your statement that is accurate is “NASA doesn’t need gobs of money to move beyond LEO. It just needs to stop wasting money…” Promoting SLS is the perfect way to make sure we won’t get beyond LEO because SLS is the thing wasting gobs of money. As the 2009 study from ULA indicated, the cost of hauling propellant from ground to LEO constitutes 70% of the cost of going to the Moon. The only way to get back beyond LEO with the budget we have now (or any budget) we are likely to have in the future is to lower the cost of getting to LEO.
    You are so besotted with the idea of your big shuttle-derived HLV that you are delusional.

  • @Chris Castro
    Again Chris, I ask you a serious question because I am curious to know the answer:
    When America goes back to the Moon in the relatively near future without SLS, will you be happy and proud about it?
    I have the sneaky suspicion that your answer to that question is “NO!” because I suspect that actually getting beyond LEO is less important to you than SLS. As a patriotic American, I will be overjoyed to see that return no matter how it is done. If it could happen with SLS I would be proud to see it done that way, but it can’t happen that way. However, I’m not addicted to one way of doing things simply because it has been the traditional way of doing things for the last four decades at NASA. You’re not really worried about staying stuck in LEO or you wouldn’t be against lowering the cost of getting up to LEO, since the unaffordability of that cost is the primary reason we haven’t gone back to the Moon.

    As for your statement:
    “A Romney administration just could NOT do ANY worse than the wholesale destruction delivered to NASA by the Obama one!
    The same reply I gave to Marcel should give you something to think about, since it applies to you as much as him (if not more so). But it won’t.

  • amightywind

    Its hard to talk about spending money on spaceflight when you are about to slash Grandma’s pension. So it must be.

  • Vladislaw

    Does the Nautilus-X get talked about by people that matter or is it only a small thread of low level engineers?

  • Robert G. Oler

    Most agree that Bolden has been such a disapopintment to Obama that he won’t be retained>>

    If Obama gets a second term (as is growing more likely) General Bolden will get one as well…he wants one and is considered to have been successful. RGO

  • Robert G. Oler

    Heinrich Monroe wrote @ September 3rd, 2012 at 6:46 pm
    “That’s what it smells like to me. Now Lori Garver has commanded her underlings at NASA to follow the boss, and not think about anything other than footprints on a NEO. But eyes are starting to roll at HQ. It’s pretty clear that Obama just fingered a NEO because, well, we did the Moon before and, um, what’s the next rock out there? ”

    Yeah you pretty much got it.

    The sad thing is that I “like” the asteroid mission and was hoping that it would somehow defy the odds and be done…it could have been done very well and prove useful in a lot of ways (I think) …of course I wrote a science fiction story about the first “out of system” visit which was an asteroid….

    The problem is that every and I mean every effort in human spaceflight is made to fit the prevailing theories…if the goal was to go to Alpha Centauri we would first need SLS and then Orion and ……not have an effort and then “think” how can we do this with what we have or is near term or whatever.

    its always “wow lets fit the mission to what we want”…this is why the space station ended up like it did…and it is why Cx was doing what it did and now SLS/Orion are following that same well worn path.

    The real issue on a “destination” (other then it has no real value) is that we need to have a space infrastructure that has “things” that are adaptable to a space mission to (insert place here) and then attempt to do it…I was kind of hoping that the asteroid mission would use that approach…but if its not then it is the best effort at keeping NASA HSF people busy as Newt would say “talking about space’

    RGO

  • Robert G. Oler

    Vladislaw wrote @ September 3rd, 2012 at 10:03 pm

    Does the Nautilus-X get talked about by people that matter or is it only a small thread of low level engineers?>>

    Small numbers of people it doesnt have a lot of contractor support it is out of the box. RGO

  • NeilShipley

    Sorry didn’t think I’d hit the Submit button.

    My question to Kate is ‘where did you get this idea?’

  • I asked Governor Gary Johnson (Libertarian Candidate) earlier in August about his space policy and he stated about something humans ability to live off the planet one day, thousands of years from now…but in the immediate future nothing was going to happen once he cuts the federal budget by 43%.

    Later on he mentioned that regulations on private space exploration companies ought to be reduced to encourage private industry to continue on the work where the government will be forced to end in order to pay off the deficit.

    I don’t expect him to have any greater detailed space policy positions. Considering he wants to gut the federal budget.

  • Coastal Ron

    Kate Morgan wrote @ September 3rd, 2012 at 6:31 pm

    Most agree that Bolden has been such a disapopintment to Obama that he won’t be retained

    Who is “most”?

    From my outside perspective, Bolden has done a great job of getting programs on schedule and on budget. Griffin may have had better speaking and “vision” skills, but look how that translated to the JWST and Constellation programs (i.e. they were over budget and over schedule).

    There is a time for visionaries, but until that time I’d rather have competent managers – and that’s what Bolden looks like to me.

    …and certainly Romney would appoint someone new (Albrecht?)

    Which wouldn’t be a reflection on Bolden per se, but that Romney wants his own person in the position. I don’t begrudge any new President that right. An important first test is whether he would seriously consider reappointing Griffin – that would be a bad sign…

  • Googaw

    Much cheaper to manufacture an launch satellites from future cities on the moon

    This is so visionary. You just put Newt Gingrich to shame.

    Since we’re prophecying grand new markets of the future, markets that render communications satellites mere space buoys by comparison — in other words since we are ignoring the massive ignorance central planners have always had about the future of existing industries, much less new ones — why let ourselves be limited by any other economic considerations? In short, why not forget about the divisions of labor among a global economy of hundreds of millions of specialized employees and trillions of tons of machines required for modern agriculture and manufacturing, and just posit some miniature self-replicating machine that can make anything at all out of the lunar dust? By means of which it will be “much cheaper to manufacture an launch satellites from future cities on the moon.”

    You did forget to mention that with unlimited solar and nuclear power, these lunar cities will also be able to transmute these lunar materials into gold. Perfectly consistent with the laws of physics, and again we could care less about the laws of economics.

    It’s amazing how short-sighted the people who actually have money are compared to we few visionaries and our bold dreams.

    Of course this won’t work if mere profane robots do the manufacturing. Despite all this radically unprecedented mining and manufacturing technology, which gives us the ability to launch a global economy’s worth of industrial infrastructure in a handful of rocket payloads, we still require heavenly pilgrims huddled in buried RVs to personally bless these machines with their cosmic touches before it will work.

    Also due to the cosmic dust we have inhaled, which gives rise to 100% government funded contracts that work just like private markets, this scheme will cost far less than NASA has ever projected. They say hundreds of billions. I wave my hands, chant “commerce!”, and say it will cost mere billions, because I want it so bad.

    There you have it, folks — the justification for taxpayer-funded tins cans in which to play with our Jedi figurines on the moon. Don’t be shortsighted — demand billions taxpayer dollars for this visionary scheme now!

    Later be prepared to lobby for hundreds of billions of dollars more in fat NASA contracts when it turns out that even NASA’s cost projection was a lowball.

  • Coastal Ron

    Marcel F. Williams wrote @ September 3rd, 2012 at 8:00 pm

    A moon base program is not the Apollo program.

    Just to be clear, the Constellation program was not a Moon base program either.

    Congress has no interest in a Moon base program, so this is really just a theoretical discussion.

    We already learned that microgravity environments were inherently harmful to the human body more than 30 years ago with Skylab.

    We may have had hints, but considering that the longest mission duration for a Skylab mission was 84 days, it was unknown what the degree of degradation was for longer periods. The ISS provides us with the ability to finely characterize the degradation over a 6-month period of time (and soon 1-year) and over a larger sample size of humans.

    The other ability the ISS provides is the ability to test out mitigation technologies and techniques. It’s because of that long-term testing that scientists now know that weight-assisted exercise can mitigate bone loss, which is not something we knew from the short hops on Skylab and the max 2-week jaunts on the Shuttle.

    As I’ve said many a time, the only way to learn how to live and work in space is by living and working in space. The least expensive location for that is LEO, which is why the ISS is so important for out long-term future in space.

    And even Bolden now agrees that the future of microgravity research is in small private commercial space stations, not in the ISS.

    Sure Bolden supports private space stations like Bigelow is proposing, but he is not favoring them over the ISS. The ISS is a science laboratory, whereas Bigelow stations are more like high-tech apartments. Bigelow stations don’t have enough power to do the kind of science being done on the ISS, and you would still need to haul up the science equipment and mount them somewhere (with all the cabling and cooling lines that come with them) – I don’t think you understand the infrastructure needs involved here.

    Oh, and I noticed that you still haven’t address the cost question – how much is your little “Moon base program” going to cost the American Taxpayer? $100B gave us a sustainable outpost in LEO – what will your Moon base cost to build and support?

  • Fred Willett

    Not all options for a space policy have to cost a fortune or involve the Moon or Mars or NEOs.
    As someone not involved in the US elections (I’m and Orstralian. I eat barbecues, though the hotplates are a bit crunchy) I offer these policies to any political party that actually want’s to make a difference.
    1/ Fund a “clean up orbital debris” program. It’s an idea that sounds good – cleaning up the garbage that threatens necessary space assets and the great thing about this policy is it need actually cost nothing. Just pass a law or two to make it possible (and economic) for commercial companies to do it and stand back.
    2/ Seed fund a commercial space station. $1B in seed money would get 3 or 4 Bigelow modules on orbit. If there really is a commercial market for Bigelow lets find out.
    3/ Seed fund Boeing/LM to develop reusable LVs. (There is actually a small program running at the moment for DoD (I think) Lower cost launch is seen be many as the key to really useful things in space. Why not fund it usefully? Make a big deal out of it. Win some political brownie points.
    4/ Seed fund Depots.
    5/ Seed fund Tugs.
    6/ Seed fund a hab at L1 or L2 or somewhere to get experience in beyond LEO ops.
    All these are useful things. Much better than footprints on some rock somewhere. I’m sure there are lots of other things which would make great practical policies. Things that would make a difference.
    Not everything has to be about building monuments.

  • @Earth to Planet Marcel
    “If humans are to settle and industrialize the Moon and Mars, we need to find out if a low gravity environment is harmful to humans who might work there.”
    And none of that changes the fact the SLS is the worst way to go about doing it.

    And I notice you did not “provide competing comparisons”. As usual, you gave an answer that does not specifically address the question asked of you. No mention of the costs, relative safety, timeline, etc of doing with SLS as compared to doing it without. Especially, you never give accurate cost values backed up by external evidence.

  • @Earth to Planet Marcel
    Clarification in regard to my last comment. You said:
    “Since I was a strong critic of the the Constellation program and the Ares 1/V architecture and strongly for a Moon base program– something that Griffin is now suddenly for– you need to compare the ISS/Shuttle Program with an SLS/Moon base program.
    That is not a relevant comparison. A valid comparison would be doing a Moon base with SLS vs doing a Moon base with out using existing commercial launchers. That comparison has already been done in NASA, industry and university studies whose links you have been given over and over again (so I will not repost them). The conclusions were that SLS is orders of magnitude more expensive for such lunar projects and offers no advantages in safety, development time, etc.

  • Vladislaw

    Marcel wrote:

    “Since I was a strong critic of the the Constellation program and the Ares 1/V architecture and strongly for a Moon base program– something that Griffin is now suddenly for– you need to compare the ISS/Shuttle Program with an SLS/Moon base program.”

    Perhaps you can provide some numbers … the ISS cost about 100billion. But the actual station cost was well under half that amount. It was being stuck with using an over priced transportation system, the space shuttle, that drove costs through the roof. Not only in just the direct costs but the indirect costs of the accident that put the schedule behind for years and added billions.

    Now you are proposeing .. that somehow, using ANOTHER massively overpriced launch system, SLS, with a single string fault system, to build another station. Only this station is 230,000 miles away.

    So we get the station half built, we get a couple NASA maintence people based there (because just like the ISS most people will not be doing science but building maintenence) and then a rocket failure happens?

    What is really insane to me is your idea that building a base just 200 miles away cost 100 billion and is not returning any science ( your words) is a boondoggle but we could ask the same congressional people, the same agencies, the same overpriced systems .. but somehow … somehow .. a lunar base will be different. ALL the problems we see with dealing with a base 200 miles away … are going to magically disappear and be 10 times cheaper if we do it 230,000 miles away.

  • Egad


    The problem is that every and I mean every effort in human spaceflight is made to fit the prevailing theories…if the goal was to go to Alpha Centauri we would first need SLS and then Orion and ……not have an effort and then “think” how can we do this with what we have or is near term or whatever.

    IOW, the means justify the ends.

  • Mary

    We really don’t have a space policy which is the reason its not being addressed and why our national space program has been floundering since the Nixon administration. The SLS essentially become another STS but with development costs well exceeding estimated per launch costs without any significant or appreciable outcome. We are going nowhere fast as long as NASA is “chained” to the Congressional STS mandate.

  • @Vladislaw
    Marcel proposed the ISS comparison to a lunar base in order to lure discussion away from the real issue, which is a cost comparison of using SLS versus using existing commercial launch vehicles for lunar missions (including lunar bases) or for any other deep space mission. He does that bait and switch because he knows he cannot win in a legitimate discussion of using SLS for those missions versus using existing launchers instead. Be careful not to fall for the bait and be lured into a discussion that leads away from that most important point. Put him in a situation where he is forced to show how the lunar base he wants is more economcally implemented with SLS rather than with the alternative, even though study after study says otherwise.

  • Further illucidation of the above point. Marcel is trying to frame the problem as “We need to get rid of ISS to pay for SLS which we need”. But the point is we don’t need SLS. Even if SLS was to be built (highly unlikely) we would have to choose between lunar flights and ISS, but the other way we could have both. Why have only one of the two when we can have it all?

  • @Mary
    That was a very succinct analysis.

  • Ben Joshua

    We seem to be slipping into a “destination” vs. “capability” based planning debate. This is just the sort of subtlety that doesn’t exactly froth to the top in a presidential campaign. And yet, it is exactly the right debate to bring essential questions of architecture to light.

    Do we want a dedicated architecture that limits destinations and makes each goal more expensive? Or do we want, excuse the expression, a “flexible” architecture that can be adapted to several purposes, bringing several destinations and goals within reach?

    I wish a presidential candidate would simply talk up science and exploration, giving the national spirit and economy some new ways to go.

    btw, go Curiosity!

  • The responses by Obama and Romney to the Science Debate questions are now online.

    For those who think Romney will increase the NASA budget, your fantasy is over.

    A strong and successful NASA does not require more funding, it needs clearer priorities. I will ensure that NASA has practical and sustainable missions. There will be a balance of pragmatic and top-priority science with inspirational and groundbreaking exploration programs.

  • Vladislaw

    I would like to see the converstation turn into a straight up TRANSPORTATION issue and how do we get the commercial sector to build the Nation’s transportation infrastructure needs. We have settled this in rail, auto, air, and sea but not space. Until we come to terms, as a Nation, with this and treat it like ANY OTHER form of transporation this muddle we are in will continue.

    The mission/astronaut centric thinking as to finally end and working in space has to be treated like other industries with hazard pay.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Ben Joshua wrote @ September 4th, 2012 at 11:24 am

    We seem to be slipping into a “destination” vs. “capability” based planning debate. This is just the sort of subtlety that doesn’t exactly froth to the top in a presidential campaign. And yet, it is exactly the right debate to bring essential questions of architecture to light.”

    ….

    the entire post in my view was well said.

    I sometimes muse as to where we would be and what we would have done had say Kennedy not felt it necessary to give the lunar challenge…I dont think that the Soviets would have done much different; but the US program/effort might have evolved more along a capabilities line then it has a destination one…as it is finely doing now.

    Some policy maker both in the military and civilian world might have said “we need to be able to afford this” and the entire effort moved more toward a technology development program then it did a program completely devoid of cost checking.

    A friend gave me some old documents from the Apollo days, this person worked on the extended stay LM…where they were trying to work out with the basic LM (once the notion of the LM truck died because of the budget) pushing the stay of the LM on the moon…and he had worked on an effort to deploy a “small” solar array which was designed to help the power issues on the LM…it would have cost in then dollars about 10 million to crank up…and by the time they got to those missions, they didnt have the money it had already started to go away.

    Gemini was expensive but they were knocking on the door of operational with that program…

    Anyway what we need today is to develop capabilities…the “aviation” side of the NASA house does quite well without a “destination”.

    RGO

  • Robert G. Oler

    Ben Joshua wrote @ September 4th, 2012 at 11:24 am

    I wish a presidential candidate would simply talk up science and exploration, giving the national spirit and economy some new ways to go.”

    Science is not the GOP’s thing right now…they are on faith based viewpoints. RGO

  • amightywind

    Under Obama’s watch the first new spacecraft that can carry supplies and people built in the USA has FLOWN

    I congratulate the gallant entrepreneurs SpaceX for delivering potato chips and underwear to our bright eyed, bushy tailed cosmonauts on the ISS. Now if they could only accomplish a simple repair in space. This reminds me of the 70’s again where I had to endure 6 long years with no spaceflight. The difference today is there is nothing fun to even look forward too. The future is bright if you measure progress by the size of our pension pay outs.

  • “The only way to get back beyond LEO with the budget we have now (or any budget) we are likely to have in the future is to lower the cost of getting to LEO.”

    Obama inherited an $8.4 billion a year manned spaceflight budget from George Bush. That was plenty of money to sustain the $3 billion a year shuttle program while investing $5.4 billion in beyond LEO development. The SLS program is only $3 billion a year. And Congress probably would have increased the manned spaceflight budget by about $1 to $3 billion annually if Obama had actually had a serious beyond LEO program.

    Trying to pretend that $8.4 billion a year is not enough to sustain a manned space program is just– beyond silly! I think you’ve been attending too many Tea Parties.

    Marcel F. Williams

  • “This is so visionary. You just put Newt Gingrich to shame.”

    It doesn’t take much vision to understand that the Moon has a substantially lower gravity well than the Earth. It just takes a knowledge of physics:-)

    Marcel F. Williams

  • Robert G. Oler

    http://www.sciencedebate.org/debate12/

    both campaigns answer a space question.

    frankly both answers are word salad without croutons or even crackers…with Romney you have no idea what he means none…he has been pro life, pro choice, pro health care mandate, against the health care mandate, pro this pro that and now he is simply not answering any question on what he is for…

    And his bounce even with Rasumussen is collapsing…even today the media has started labeling Ryan as a liar…perhaps Ryan can run a space marathon.

    right now…things change but right now its 52-48 Obama with 320 or so in the college. RGO

  • Rhyolite

    “Much cheaper to manufacture an launch satellites from future cities on the moon”

    I think the SSL satellite factory in Palo Alto employees about 2400 people.

    However, much of the mass of the satellite comes from other suppliers – aluminum, carbon fiber, thrusters, processors, TWTAs, etc – meaning that a lot of indirect employees are involved in building a satellite. Let’s assume it’s another 2400 people.

    Now add families and the people that build and maintain the moon base, grow the food, recycle water, etc. and I don’t think you can build a self contained satellite factory on the moon with less than 10,000 to 20,000 people.

    Relocating those people to the moon would cost more than all commercial satellites ever built (not to mention all of the specialized equipment to build a satellite). Lunar satellite factories are sheer lunacy.

  • common sense

    @ Ben Joshua wrote @ September 4th, 2012 at 11:24 am

    “I wish a presidential candidate would simply talk up science and exploration, giving the national spirit and economy some new ways to go.”

    We currently have one such President who did exactly how you suggest (not keeping track of FY-11, did you now?) but our enlightened Congress decided to defeat him in any way they could. On any subject not just science and exploration. Including the delusional GOPers but also the friendly Democrats in Congress who have a problem doing away with cash from lobbyists of any kind.

    Oh well.

  • “Perhaps you can provide some numbers … the ISS cost about 100billion. But the actual station cost was well under half that amount. It was being stuck with using an over priced transportation system, the space shuttle, that drove costs through the roof. Not only in just the direct costs but the indirect costs of the accident that put the schedule behind for years and added billions.”

    Companies like Bigelow can produce larger and cheaper microgravity space stations. Its now private industries turn to try to make profits out of microgravity research. NASA needs to move on from the ISS and focus on permanent bases on the Moon, Mars, and on artificial gravity space stations.

    Annual space shuttle cost were $2 billion plus the $3 billion transportation cost of the space shuttle (a $5 billion a year program). I guess you could argue that the current ISS program is a $3.8 billion program if you include payments to the Russians and payments to private industry for Commercial Crew development.

    Of course, the space shuttle could transport 8 people into orbit plus 24 tonnes of payload, while returning up to 10 tonnes of payload. NASA estimates shuttle launch cost at about $450 per mission.

    SpaceX and NASA signed a $1.6 billion Commercial Resupply Services contract in December 2008 for 12 flights to the space station through 2015. That’s $133 million per flight. The Falcon 9 can launch about 10.5 tonnes to LEO.

    So it would require at least three flights of the Falcon 9 to– almost– achieve the lifting capability (crew plus payload) of a single shuttle launch. So the cost of the shuttle and the Falcon 9 should be about equal– unless Elon decides to give us tax payers back some of the money.

    NASA estimates that the recurring cost of the SLS will be approximately 1.1 times the cost of the sidemount shuttle concept. At a flight rate of six per year, a privatized SLS (presumably something like the United Space Alliance that launched the Space Shuttle) cost were estimated to be as little as $430 per launch. So the SLS cost should be around $473 million per launch.

    So the SLS with an upper stage can launch 105 tonnes into orbit for about $4.5 million per tonne. At $133 million per flight, the Falcon 9 can launch payload into orbit at about $12.7 million per tonne. So Elon would have to lower his prices by nearly three times to match the, lower cost of the SLS.

    National Aeronautics and Space Administration
    Heavy Lift Launch Vehicle Study
    May 20, 2010

    A Near-Term, High-Confidence Heavy Lift Launch Vehicle
    William J. Rothschild1 and Theodore A. Talay2
    John Frassanito & Associates, Inc.
    1350 NASA Parkway, Suite 214, Houston, TX 77058
    National Aeronautics and Space Administration

  • Coastal Ron

    Ben Joshua wrote @ September 4th, 2012 at 11:24 am

    We seem to be slipping into a “destination” vs. “capability” based planning debate. This is just the sort of subtlety that doesn’t exactly froth to the top in a presidential campaign.

    Numerous politician claim that they want to build the foundation for the future, so it is a concept that the average voter has heard talked about. I think it would also resonate if the goals are clearly defined and the public deems them worthwhile.

    Still, any AFFORDABLE goal we have for space is going to consist of too small a detail for the average taxpayer, which is why the goal has to be easy enough to understand – and I think most people are OK with lots of stuff happening for years without any visible signs of progress, and then suddenly things get exciting (like MSL or even the SpaceX C2+ flight).

    For human spaceflight, I might frame it thusly:

    We are building the technologies and mastering the techniques we need in order to become a spacefaring nation and extend our human exploration once again beyond Earth’s orbit.

    Yes, I know that the Moon is in orbit around the Moon, but in this case it means LEO and I think most people would gloss over it. Yet it still indicates that the Moon is not the only destination, which is important.

    Notice too that there are no dates, since dates ignore cost. Instead a capability based goal generates dates (and destinations) as a byproduct of what we can do within our budgetary means.

    Day 5 of the official Romney/Ryan team, and we still don’t know what they plan for NASA, or even our efforts in space in general…

  • So the SLS with an upper stage can launch 105 tonnes into orbit for about $4.5 million per tonne. At $133 million per flight, the Falcon 9 can launch payload into orbit at about $12.7 million per tonne. So Elon would have to lower his prices by nearly three times to match the, lower cost of the SLS.

    Recurring costs are irrelevant. You can’t ignore development costs.

    And of course, you also have to believe NASA estimates. That’s a fool’s errand.

  • Vladislaw

    If the average cost of the shuttle was 1.5 per flight over the life of the program… what was the extra 1 billion per flight paying for, under the title of space shuttle?

    The falcon 9 can launch about 10 tons but the dragon is limited to about 6.5 tons of pressurized/unpressurized cargo. But SpaceX wanted to go with a lower price by reusing the dragon capsule, but NASA requested a new dragon for each flight… so hard to blame SpaceX for the prices. They bid to the requirements requested, now how they would do it.

    you are mixing a lot of apples and oranges.

    You are never going to convince many people that launching an 80 ton vehicle to put 7 people in space, or 24 tons of cargo was worth that extra billion.

    SpaceX is still quoting 20 million a seat or 140 million per flight. 80 million for a 40 tonne Falcon Heavy, or 125 million for a 53 tonne Falcon heavy with cross feeds. So you are looking at 265 million for 7 passengers and 53 tonnes to LEO. SLS + Orion is not even close to those costs, they are insanity on bun spending.

  • Coastal Ron

    Marcel F. Williams wrote @ September 4th, 2012 at 3:43 pm

    Companies like Bigelow can produce larger and cheaper microgravity space stations. Its now private industries turn to try to make profits out of microgravity research.

    Sure Bigelow could build something to match the size and functionality of the ISS, but who would pay for that?

    And you keep forgetting that the ISS is already built, and the $3B/year to keep it operating (ground facilities, logistics, etc.) would be the same for a Bigelow equivalent. Didn’t you realize that?

    NASA estimates shuttle launch cost at about $450 per mission.

    Nope. That was debunked long ago. The average cost of a Shuttle flight was $1.2B, or $1.5B if you amortized the DDT&E (i.e. development) over the life of the program. Oh, and NASA agrees with these figures, not yours.

    The size of the SLS is far bigger than the Shuttle, so the equivalent costs will be far higher, especially with the low flight rate the SLS will likely have.

    I say low, because any moderately complex payloads that require the SLS will likely cost somewhere $10B+ and take up to ten years to build (see JWST & Orion programs for reference) – NASA can’t afford to build too many of those type payloads concurrently, especially with the price of the 130mt SLS estimated to be $2.5B/flight.

    So the SLS with an upper stage can launch 105 tonnes into orbit for about $4.5 million per tonne.

    Falcon Heavy currently costs $128M for 53mt to LEO, which equals $2,415/mt, which means it’s less the half the cost of your fictionally-low estimates for the SLS.

    Government owned/run transportation systems just can’t compete with free market solutions, and absent a “Nation Imperative” like space aliens or rouge asteroids, NASA will never get a big enough budget boost to afford a SLS-sized mission once a year.

    Ain’t gonna happen with either Obama or Romney, so you better figure out an alternative that involves far less taxpayer money (as we’ve been telling you for a long time).

  • @Earth to Planet Marcel
    “Trying to pretend that $8.4 billion a year is not enough to sustain a manned space program is just– beyond silly!”
    And for the umpteenth time. No one is saying that. A truly robust space program with both ISS and exploration to the Moon and beyond is only possible without SLS. Why choose SLS when we could have the same accomplishments you claim you want and MORE without it?

    Furthermore the estimate of six SLS flights per year is a pipe dream. Even if ISS were cancelled, that many HUGE expendable HLVs could not be built in one year within budget. If SLS were reusable, six flights per year might sound more reasonable.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Marcel F. Williams wrote @ September 4th, 2012 at 3:43 pm
    “NASA estimates that the recurring cost of the SLS will be approximately 1.1 times the cost of the sidemount shuttle concept. At a flight rate of six per year, a privatized SLS (presumably something like the United Space Alliance that launched the Space Shuttle) cost were estimated to be as little as $430 per launch. So the SLS cost should be around $473 million per launch. ”

    thanks for the humor or humore (grin)…”NASA estimates” is to me about the funniest statement that one can use in from of “cost”.

    there are so many problems with this cost estimate…the first is that they would never get to six a year, the second is that there is no chance SLS would launch for cheaper then the shuttle stack and that was over 1 billion a pop…ULA cost? More laughter…their numbers are fantasy.

    SLS is dying…its going to be as dead as the Romney campaign come oh January.

    (Romney and Ryan will go into the history books by losing in November)

    RGO

  • @ Marcel:

    “The irony of course is that since the end of Apollo, the $220 billion NASA spent (in today’s dollars) on its manned space program could have easily been used to fund beyond LEO programs such as a permanent lunar base and a permanent Mars base, instead of endlessly going around in circles above the Earth with absolutely nothing to show for it! ”

    Define ‘something to show for it.’ We finally *got* the station, did we not? How would you answer that same assertion from critics, just because a complete set of pressurized research modules were on a solid surface somewhere, instead?

    In any case, ISS went *seriously* over budget in development. Left in the same hands, what makes you think a Moon or Mars base (which, even with the best of policy and management, and all other things being equal, would cost more than a LEO space station) would not proportionally do the same?

    And, ISS once came within a single vote of cancellation. There’s nothing about a Lunar or Mars facility that would not invite, or guarantee similar successful bullet-dodging either, again given its inherently higher cost.

  • @ Chris:

    “A Romney administration just could NOT do ANY worse than the wholesale destruction delivered to NASA by the Obama one!”

    Continue to pour more money into SLS for four more years, and see what your opinion is then…

    “…just look at what happened to Newt Gingrich when he tried to state his positivity for a beyond-LEO human spaceflight goal! The media lampooned him! They made him into a laughing stock for NO legitimate reason, …”

    And did his Republican opponents leap to his defense? What did Romney explicitly say he would do so someone presenting such an idea…?

    If ‘the media’ shot Newt down, it’s partly because no one on his side was providing cover fire (and the confusion between ‘bases’ and ‘colonies’ and ‘statehood’ did not help. He put those rounds in his own foot)…

  • Googaw

    I would like to see the converstation turn into a straight up TRANSPORTATION issue and how do we get the commercial sector to build the Nation’s transportation infrastructure needs. We have settled this in rail, auto, air, and sea but not space.

    Neither rail, auto, air, or sea transportation were “settled” by central planners, much less by pop writers or blog commenters pretending to the power of prophecy. Nor were they developed via cult-political “needs” to reify one’s retro-futuristic fantasies at taxpayer expense. They were rather evolved through very long and unpredictable lines of business, mostly at most times serving the real needs of real private customers (and most of the rest of the time the real needs of security).

    Contrast the successful development of earthside transportation and industries, largely via markets with many suppliers and many customers, to Skylab, Salyut, Shuttle, Mir, and ISS, which were developed according to this bizarre Cold War ideology of pretending to prophecy and centrally plan infrastructure for fantasy industries-of-the-future.

    Thankfully, the GOP platform steers very clear of a NASA role in developing futuristic space “infrastructure”, and it doesn’t appear to be a very high Democratic priority either. Both parties are now rather stressing science and exploration as NASA’s priorities. So the good news is that these vapid discussions ofm centrally planned “capabilities”, i.e. taxpayer-funded bridges-to-vacuum, are largely moot. These grand 20-year plans to reify our economic fantasies will leave the realm of space politics and go back to the pages of pulp sci-fi from whence they came.

  • “I congratulate the gallant entrepreneurs SpaceX for delivering potato chips and underwear to our bright eyed, bushy tailed cosmonauts on the ISS. Now if they could only accomplish a simple repair in space.”

    Why?

    Sorry, but.that is not, and never was their job. Maintenance is the responsibility of the customer. Delivering the repair materials and tools (and ultimately the customer’s designated repair personnel) to the repair site at lower cost, that’s their job. Why do you seek to confuse the two?

    “This reminds me of the 70′s again where I had to endure 6 long years with no spaceflight.”

    Yes, of course it was just to cause angst for you…

    Mercury did not overlap Gemini, did not overlap Apollo, did not overlap the Shuttle. *I* survived every one of those ‘gaps.’ I know they’re not the end of (fill in blank). I fully expect to survive this one as well.

    You can, too.

    The only thing that makes this one really different, is the presence of a space station (that you don’t like anyway) that the US can’t reach on its own…and I’m sure I don’t have to point out that multiple approaches are well into development to commercially address that, and any other LEO destinations that will appear.

    Patience, Grasshopper. This is almost certainly the last time in history, that there won’t be at least one domestic route to LEO in operation. That’s what redundancy is about.

  • @ Rhyolite:

    Thank you.

    Every time I see someone post notions of manufacturing entire space systems from scratch on the Moon, I wish I could poke into their brains just how many different things go into them, carried out largely in a shirtsleeve environment, that would all has to be transported (along with people) to the Moon, and adapted for the environment there, just in order ‘to take advantage of the shallower gravity well.’

    Never mind that while there’s drag and more gravity to deal with here, there are also an array of plentiful fuel resources down here, that are more than cheap enough to balance that out….

    But those people haven’t gotten past the fallacy that the cost of fuel is what makes spaceflight from Earth’s surface expensive.

  • Googaw

    However, much of the mass of the satellite comes from other suppliers – aluminum, carbon fiber, thrusters, processors, TWTAs, etc – meaning that a lot of indirect employees are involved in building a satellite.

    And the satellite builders also rely on water, a variety of kinds of waste disposal, a wide variety of chemical inputs, construction, transportation and communications services, and so on. And these suppliers and service providers in turn rely on other suppliers, and on other service providers, and they in turn rely on still more, and so on, until the dependency network has elaborated out to encompass a substantial fraction of the global economy. We live in a tightly woven global economy of over 6 billion people. The myriad of details in the designs of our components and sub-components, and especially things as sophisticated as satellites and most of their components, depend on this global economy. It’s astronomically far beyond our capabilities to remove a small subset of our high-tech economy and make it anything remotely close to self-sufficient.

    I don’t think you can build a self contained satellite factory on the moon with less than 10,000 to 20,000 people.

    Thus even this is an extreme underestimate.

  • Googaw

    Day 5 of the official Romney/Ryan team, and we still don’t know what they plan for NASA, or even our efforts in space in general…

    Never fear. For President you can always write in the dear leader of North Korea. They still have the detailed 5-year plans you’re so attached to, and I’m sure we’d love to have them over here too.

    Oh wait: five years is not nearly long-range enough for you. You want central prophecy about a long future of “capabilities”, plans and predictions of a kind to which not even our long-gone Cold War rivals pretended to aspire. And you want the plans to be focused on doll houses and rockets for your Buzz Lightyear collection, not on anything that has actually been shown to make sense for business, science, or security in space.

    So never mind about the dear leader. Maybe one of those newly discovered exoplanets has the grand planning prophet you seek. Bob Bigelow would know about that.

    Me, I’m satisfied with statements of principle rather than idiotically detailed prophecies and preposterously reified fantasies that get tossed in the garbage upon first contact with reality. Or even worse, squander billions of taxpayer dollars before politicians recognize the disconnect from that reality.

  • pathfinder_01

    “United Space Alliance that launched the Space Shuttle) cost were estimated to be as little as $430 per launch. So the SLS cost should be around $473 million per launch.”

    You are ignoring the $3-4 billion a year it cost to keep the shuttle running. When that is factored in each shuttle launch costed about $1 billion per launch. Falcon 9, Altas, and Falcon heavy cost nothing for NASA to keep running. It is like saying the mortgage is only $1000 a month therefore it is more affordable and ignoring taxes and utilities on the house.(i.e. A Mcmansion maybe cheaper per squarefoot, but they are still expensive). With rockets the cost to keep the system going is often far more than the cost per flight.

    So it is more like NASA spends $2-3 billion a year(or more) on SLS but only gets 2 flights for that sum of money for a total of 260 tons in orbit. FH goes for $128 milllion or so per launch and can lift that much in about five for a total of $640 million.

    Falcon 9 is actually $54 million per launch. The $133 is for a COTS run with a dragon capsule. It would cost $1.2 billion to lift the same amount(still less than one year of SLS).

    This is where the shuttle failed to cut costs. It had very high fixed costs as well as somewhat high reoccuring costs and any system made of thoose parts will never be cheap.

  • NeilShipley

    Marcel F. Williams wrote @ September 4th, 2012 at 3:43 pm

    Wrt your cost comparison on SLS versus F9, a couple of points.
    1. F9 exists and the costs are real. SLS is still vapourware.
    2. A better comparison might be FH and SLS however costs for FH have more basis in fact that SLS so again your analysis is flawed.

    SLS is vapourware like Liberty and you know what happened there. It was eliminated because technical case was weak. Golly, guess that would apply to SLS as well.

    Try again.

  • Curtis Quick

    Marcel, first, your numbers are not accurate, and second you are comparing apples to oranges. Using the Space Shuttle as an example of cost for heavy lift launches is dubious at best. The cost of a shuttle launch is closer to US$1.5 billion/launch than your US$450 million. You have to take in total taxpayer cost for this to be a meaningful comparison. The shuttle could launch 24,400 kg to LEO. However you wish to go to the moon, not LEO, so those numbers are not particularily helpful.

    The appropriate vehicle to compare with should not be Falcon 9, but Falcon Heavy. It can launch 53,000 kg to LEO for under US$ 100 million. But more importantly it can launch 16,000 Kg to the moon for the same cost, which is just over a third as much as a Saturn V could get there. The first launch is planned for next year. Upgrades in Merlin engines will almost double the capacity of the Falcon Heavy, edging even closer to the Saturn V capability to get things to the moon.

    Forget about the shuttle (it could not get anything to the moon). The SLS is being developed to get 70,000 kg to LEO for approximately US$ 1 billion dollars in approximately ten years time. Assuming it actually flies it may be able to get 20-25,000 Kg to the moon.

    Comparing cost to Moon/kg. Falcon Heavy comes out at US$6,250/Kg. SLS comes out at about US$40,000/Kg. That is at almost 7 times as expensive for SLS as Falcon Heavy.

    Now that is assuming that Falcon Heavy does not get better and cheaper over the next decade and that SLS does not get more expensive before it launches. In any case, these numbers speak volumes.

  • DCSCA

    Houselights dim, slow zoom to center screen; roll montage of clips from film and television using the campaign slogan in dialogue, ‘forward’ .. end on the motion picture clip from Apollo 11’s landing sequence camera.. with the Aldrin audio track, ‘forward… forward…..’ spot to Buzz Aldrin at podium. He begins his address to the DNC with one word, “Forward.” Then a tribute to Neil, the commitment of the party to the space program, manned and unmanned, from JFK, LBJ and so on….a pitch for Obama’s way forward in space to a national audience. Applause.

    Nah. They’d never do it.

  • Vladislaw

    “Neither rail, auto, air, or sea transportation were “settled” by central planners, much less by pop writers or blog commenters pretending to the power of prophecy.”

    Do you REALLY believe the crap you write?

    No planning of the Railroads? No town & city governments? No state governments? No Federal government? No financial incentives? Christ there was government involvment in every freakin railspike crossing the U.S.

    No government planning at the state and local level for where airports would go?No financial incentives? No government planning where roads, bridges etc were placed for autos? No financial incentives? No government planning, zoning et cetera on were ports were built, No financial incentives?.. sheesh

    You are talking nutty now. There was inducements for all that infrastructure going back almost 2 centuries… gawd you talk crazy sometimes. In colonial times they gave to road builders the right to take any sand, gravel, timber that was close to them as they built the roads.

    Space transportation has NEVER been treated just like ANY other form of transportation. Hell the government even planned where to insure there was commerical blacksmith services for horses for the miltiary that was going to be stationed at remote areas.

    Space transportation has always been, from it’s very beginnings, treated as a different animal and not a transportation system for everyone. Once the pork became entrenched it became a non starter to treat it like any other.

  • Coastal Ron

    Vladislaw wrote @ September 5th, 2012 at 8:46 am

    Space transportation has NEVER been treated just like ANY other form of transportation.

    I think the important distinction here is that the government plans the details of the infrastructure, but not the use. They build the freeways, but not the cars and trucks. The ports, but not the ships. Etc., etc.

    For our space transportation infrastructure, I don’t mind launching rockets from government facilities, since there are only so many good launch locations to be had in the continental U.S. But the government designing, building and running the rockets? That really hasn’t been necessary for decades since we have a large enough industrial base to handle that, but the Shuttle program distorted the realization of that.

    It’s time for the U.S. Congress to stop trying to be a designer, manufacturer and service provider (i.e. the SLS), and concentrate on being an infrastructure provider (i.e. the 21st Century Launch Complex).

  • Vladislaw

    I agree Ron, put the incentives in place for the infrastructure needed then get out way. I have no problem with all the TURNKEY transportation systems the government utilizes. I just do not want a top down big government only system, which we have been stuck with. A problem never experienced in other forms.

    You say it is time for congress to stop trying .. as long as it remains a porkonauts dream to get that pork train running in their district, rather than getting results in space it won’t.

    That is why I would like to see move out of NASA altogether.. it has nothing to do with NASA. NASA does not get to interfer with anyother form of transportation, but they do get to utlize all those forms…. this is just another form of transportation that NASA can utlize.

  • .P. Grondine

    Heinrich –

    Just to be clear, you’re leaving out the later development of the DPT under Okeefe/Reidel. I assume that your attempt at confusing the readers here is deliberate.

    RGO –

    Iits pretty clear that Obama’s PR effort for his space policay failed, and that was not Bolden’s fault. I think Bolden has done a great job in tunring around an extraordinarily difficult mess, and will l9ikely continue as Administrator if Obama wins.

  • SLS is dying…its going to be as dead as the Romney campaign come oh January.

    Off topic, but I hope that Mr. Oler has a big pot of crow stewing on the stove, since he persists in these stupid predictions. Just like Rubio didn’t have a chance in Florida.

  • Googaw

    Vladislaw, by central planning I’m talking about what you and Coastal Ron and the other “capabilities” folks are trying to do, and what the Reds were trying to do — plan the future of an entire industry or, even more futile, the birth of a new industry. The examples you give are ones of decentralized planning — planning one out of hundreds or thousands of routes or ports of an already mature industry.

    Alas, you prefer the pretense of prophecy to actual knowledge of history. In actual history, the airplane started out in the garage of the Wright Brothers and hundreds of other serious hobby enthusiasts and early entrepreneurs. The one government-funded attempt to fly the first airplane notoriously failed where a far more poorly funded hobby and entrepreneurial effort succeeded. In its second decade the airplane was also used as a practical tool of war, and for mail — needs thousands of year old, and thus very well understood.

    The railroad evolved over many centuries as a way for horses to haul coal wagons between mine mouths and tidewater ports. Then in the first decade of the 19th century somebody substituted a steam engine for the horse. Then later still somebody else built a railroad on another kind of route for other kinds of cargo. Then somebody else still added passengers. Then dozens of companies sprung up planning and building thousands of routes.

    In other words, very decentralized planning for a wide variety of practical purposes, and markets with many customers as well as many suppliers, targetted at long since demonstrated needs, is where almost all of our transportation infrastructures came from, and is where all of the industries served by those infrastructures came from. There was, outside of the Soviet Union and governments it influenced — which notoriously failed to innovate new industries — no central panel of government experts top-down planning and funding the future of an entire industry with a pretense to prophecy. Augustine Commissions and the like have never created new industries. Much less are new industries created by a bunch of fast-typing blog commenters who obsess on getting billions taxpayer funds for their retro-futuristic fantasies.

  • Vladislaw

    OOHHHH I see … so when the railroads were in their infancy in the U.S. and Congress stepped in and used it’s powers under the commerce clause and passed a federal statuary scheme that preempted all state and local law .. that was just “decentralized” planning?

    “Finally, in December 1917 the ICC recommended federal control of the railroad industry to ensure efficient operation. The resulting efficiencies were to go beyond simply easing the congestion and expediting the flow of goods; they were to bring all parties—management, labor, investors, and shippers—together in a harmonious whole working on behalf of the national interest.”

    Just more decentralized planning no doubt. The interstate highway system? more decentralized planning. We have had transportation boards and planning of infrastrucure since … always..

    Just because the government sets out infrastructure requirements and or guidelines does not mean individuals are not free to pursue their own interests INSIDE those guidelines for providing tranportation systems to the commercial markets.

    Aviation is controled at the federal level, state air laws are routinely struck down by courts. Air traffic control.. more infrastructure. I just do not buy it. The government has been involved heavily in all transportation as far as getting a handle on the infrastructure.

  • NeilShipley

    Rand Simberg wrote @ September 5th, 2012 at 4:59 pm

    Yep, it’ll sure be interesting to see who’s prediction is correct in the long run. I don’t know a lot about U.S. politics but seems like Romney just doesn’t inspire much of anything. I think the appropriate term is ‘bland’. And SLS, well you can’t help but look at the failed Cx Program as a comparison.
    ATK’s Liberty was scrubbed on a weak technical case. If you applied that criteria to SLS, you’d reach exactly the same conclusion and scrub it as well.

  • E.P, Grondine

    Rand –

    Re: Romeny and “”restore”:

    The simple fact is that we could hve had DIRECT nd two manned launch systems with no disruption to our tech base for the money wasted on ATK’s Ares 1.

    Given that Ares 1 would be an astronaut killer, as long as I am able I will remind everyone about its .7 G osicllations.

  • Call me Ishmael

    Vladislaw wrote @ September 5th, 2012 at 8:02 pm

    Finally, in December 1917 the ICC recommended federal control of the railroad industry to ensure efficient operation.

    I can’t quite recall . . . was there anything else going on in December 1917? Like maybe a war?

    The Wilson administration took over a lot of things during WWI, and thought about taking over a lot more. I can’t remember to what extent they actually did assume control of the railroads, but no “federal control” lasted beyond the end of the war. Fortunately for “efficient operation”.

  • Vladislaw

    yes there was a war on, and the decentralized way of the railroads would not do .. so a CENTRALIZED plan from the government took over and ironed out all of that out. The point being, the idea that somehow transportation, sooner or later, does not move up the scale to a point where centralized planning from government, on transporation infrastructure takes place. At the local level, the state level and the then ultimately the federal level.

    The envolvment thought .. did nothing to prevent individuals or companies from pursuing, building innovating the various transportation products.

    there is a difference between building a train engine, as an individual company, and the government deciding what is in the best interest of the nation for laying out where the tracks will go. Infrasture and transportation devices .. are two seperate things.

    I am argueing that government should approach space transporation just like ALL other forms for transportation, and layout how to get the infrastructure in place that promotes the ability for commercial firms to build the “trains planes and automobiles” for use on the space “highways”.

    This has happened with all our transportation systems. EXCEPT for space. That transportation has been the NASA’s wheelhouse from day one and the usual suspects have fought to keep it that way rather than commercializing it like all other forms of transportation.

  • Googaw

    OOHHHH I see … so when the railroads were in their infancy…in December 1917 the ICC recommended federal control of the railroad industry to ensure efficient operation.

    Stunning.

    Somebody who has actual studied the history of railroads could accurately state that they were in their infancy when coal and ore wagons were pulled by on rails from mine mouths to port by the Renaissance. They might say they had a second infancy in the first two decades of the 1800s when steam engines were harnessed to pull these wagons. Their adolescence, in the 1820s and 1830s when railroads as we know them, carrying cargo and passengers from city to city, were being built across England and the East Coast of the United States.

    But now we’re supposed to ignore all that long history and put the infancy of the railroad in…1917!

    Ignorance of the future is excusable — everybody is ignorant of the future. Ignorance of the past, OTOH….

  • Googaw

    space “highways”.

    Which highways are these? The highways of preposterous metaphor? Or the highways of cult dogma, on which thou shalt build and from which thou shalt not stray?

  • Vladislaw

    ya .. that was really funny googoo .. you purposesly take out words and replace them with a few … and then try and make it look like I said the railroads were in their infancy in 1917.

    My first statement:

    “so when the railroads were in their infancy in the U.S. and Congress stepped in and used it’s powers under the commerce clause and passed a federal statuary scheme that preempted all state and local law .. that was just “decentralized” planning?”

    A complete paragraph about what congress did WHEN railroads WERE in their infancy.

    Second SEPERATE statement:

    ““Finally, in December 1917 the ICC recommended federal control of the railroad industry to ensure efficient operation. The resulting efficiencies were to go beyond simply easing the congestion and expediting the flow of goods; they were to bring all parties—management, labor, investors, and shippers—together in a harmonious whole working on behalf of the national interest.””

    I START with what congress did when railroads were in their infancy and ENDED with the FINALLY in 1917.

    You are freakin’ amazing that you think you can eliminate everything in between infancy and 1917 like it doesn’t even exist and then state this total nonsense:

    “so when the railroads were in their infancy…in December 1917 “

    You said that:

    “Their adolescence, in the 1820s and 1830s when railroads as we know them, carrying cargo and passengers from city to city, were being built across … the United States. “

    In 1830 england 98 miles of track and the U.S. had 39 miles .. and you call this adoloescence? THAT is nuts. By 1850 the U.S. only 8500 miles of track. Still only baby steps considering we would increase that number by a factor of 20. We didn’t break 100,000 miles until moving towards 1900.

    I will stand by my statements over the nutty comments you made and the deception in the way you quoted me.

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