Campaign '12

Dueling op-eds from the candidates

This week’s issue of Space News features a pair of commentaries from the campaigns of the two major presidential candidates, largely reiterating points previously made during the campaign. Representing the Obama campaign, former science and technology advisor Jim Kohlenberger first lays out the various accomplishments of the Obama Administration during its first term. (That includes trumpeting the successful landing of the Mars rover Curiosity, a program that predates the administration, without mentioning the proposed planetary science budget cuts that have put the future of NASA’s Mars exploration program into disarray.) “The president’s plan, passed with bipartisan support in Congress, builds on America’s unrivaled space leadership to take us farther, faster and deeper into space than humans have ever gone before,” he states.

Kohlenberger then criticizes the rhetoric and plans (or, he argues, lack thereof) from the Romney campaign. “Romney’s central point seems to be an echo of the erroneous claim that NASA and America’s space program are adrift with no clear strategy or goals,” he writes. The Romney campaign’s “rather petite space plan”, he notes, claims the US doesn’t have any plans for putting astronauts into orbit “but then goes on to embrace the president’s own plans for partnering with U.S. industry to do just that,” a reference to the language in support of commercialization in the Romney space white paper.

Not so fast, counter Scott Pace and Eric Anderson in their own op-ed. The two, members of Romney’s space policy advisory group, repeat many of the points made in last month’s white paper. “President Barack Obama has put us on a path that cedes our global position as the unequivocal leader in space,” they claim. After reviewing the key points of the Romney white paper, they conclude, “Mitt Romney will ensure that we have a space program worthy of a great nation.”

One change in the op-ed versus the white paper is the latter’s claim, highlighted by Kohlenberger, that “For the first time since the dawn of the Space Age, the United States has no clear plan for putting its own astronauts into space.” Instead, Pace and Anderson write, “For the first time since the dawn of the Space Age, America has chosen to forgo its own capabilities for putting astronauts into space and instead relies on the Russians.” They argue that while shuttle’s impending retirement was known when Obama took office, “the earliest that Americans will again ride American rockets into space is 2016 — a stretch longer than the one between President John F. Kennedy’s famous speech and the first steps on the Moon.”

If, in fact, commercial providers start crewed launches in 2016 (which may be a stretch goal, as NASA is planning on having such vehicles available in 2017), the time between Obama’s 2009 inauguration and that first flight would be less than eight years, compared to slightly more than eight years between JFK’s May 1961 speech Apollo 11′s July 1969 landing. However, the actual gap in US human spaceflight access, measured from the final shuttle mission in July 2011, would be on the order of five years, less than the gap between Apollo-Soyuz and STS-1.

68 comments to Dueling op-eds from the candidates

  • Robert G. Oler

    Pace and the rest are frauds…in 2010 they praised Obama’s policy

    they are like the rest of the GOP now, able to lie at the tip of the hat because their followers are well either ignorant or will believe any anti Obama propaganda. RGO

  • E.P. Grondine

    America did not choose to forego its ability to put man into space.

    The shuttle killed its crew, and then America decided to risk all hope for manned space flight on ATK, a crummy company which could not deliver a crummy launcher anywhere near on time and on budget.

    As to how other alternatives to the shuttle for manned launch were shut down over the years, that is a long ugly story.

  • amightywind

    “President Barack Obama has put us on a path that cedes our global position as the unequivocal leader in space

    Correct, At best Obamaspace will deliver a capability equal to the Russians or Chinese, all marooned in low earth orbit and doin’ a lot of nothin’. But Obama’s stated policy was to reach a NEO. His program and the stated mission don’t match. Lets face it. The US space program is being held hostage by two groups: Obama’s crony campaign contributors who want to raid the treasury (Musk); and Wilsonian internationalists who want our space efforts joins at the hip with Moscow and Brussels. The wisest policy would be for Romney to reinstate Constellation, and sole source it in America.

    able to lie at the tip of the hat

    Perhaps you have not been following Benghazigate on Fox News.

  • Dark Blue Nine

    The Obama campaign takes credit where credit is not due. The Romney campaign lays blame where blame is not due (and fails at basic math). Neither lays out a plan going forward.

    Why bother voting, at least on this issue?

    Wake me when the election is over.

  • @Windy

    able to lie at the tip of the hat

    Perhaps you have not been following Benghazigate on Fox News.

    Typical neo-con b.s., the ability to hold two conflicting thoughts as one.

    What makes you think Mittens will reinstate CxP? Ain’t gonna happen.

    Except maybe take cash away from SpaceX and throw it ATKs way.

  • Robert G. Oler

    amightywind wrote @ October 25th, 2012 at 9:03 am

    Perhaps you have not been following Benghazigate on Fox News.>

    No, it is the dumbest thing that I have seen on Fox News (well Trump was dumber), it is a shiny toy to keep people like you interested…there is no there there…RGO

  • Coastal Ron

    And the Bush alternative was what? Rely on the Ares I/Orion to go to LEO endlessly because the ISS would have been sold off or splashed, and the Moon landing hardware wouldn’t have been ready for 20 years.

    Boy, Pace and Anderson sure do make a strong argument… NOT!

    Apparently the Romney plan is to rely on disposable hardware that never creates a sustainable infrastructure in which to build up our presence in space. If that is their goal – government subsidies for redoing 60′s era trips – then OK, but be honest about it.

    Me, I’d rather have some chance of creating self-sustaining transportation industries that rely on reusable infrastructure. Call me crazy…

  • Pace and the rest are frauds…in 2010 they praised Obama’s policy.

    Nonsense. Provide a citation. Scott Pace has always been critical of the Obama policy.

  • @Rand
    “Nonsense. Provide a citation. Scott Pace has always been critical of the Obama policy.”
    That’s the way I remember too. Scott was against it from the get go.
    http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/293035-5

  • Robert G. Oler

    I wrote

    Pace AND THE REST are frauds

    OK this is not Pace but it is one of the authors of the piece. From NASA watch.

    “Its rather odd that Space Adventures CEO Anderson would be party to such comments. in April 2010, when he was Chairman of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, Anderson is quoted as saying the following about the Obama Administration’s space policy: “This visionary plan is a master stroke. It’s exactly what NASA needs in order to continue to lead the world in space exploration in the 21st century.” In May 2012, on the occasion of the first launch of the SpaceX Dragon, CSF Chairman Anderson is again quoted, saying “This is a testament to the viability of the commercial spaceflight industry … Congratulations to SpaceX for successfully completing the first steps of this demonstration flight. Elon and his team’s success today is an important milestone in achieving a sustainable space program.”

    Remember my words I chose them carefully “and others” are frauds

    RGO

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “Nonsense. Provide a citation. Scott Pace has always been critical of the Obama policy.”

    Pace has always been critical of the Obama Administration, but his criticism has always been hypocritical. He criticizes (and also can’t correctly count) the post-Shuttle gap, but he ran the independent program assessment shop for Griffin at HQ during the years when Shuttle shutdown became an inevitability and when Ares I/Orion slipped year-for-year. If Pace had a problem with the length of the gap (of whatever length he thought it was), he should have been speaking out then, not now when there’s nothing his candidate could do about it even if elected.

    Other folks agree:

    “Scott Pace’s comments evidence total amnesia on his part. Regardless of whether you think it was a good or bad idea, the plan to retire the Space Shuttle and rely upon Russia to transport Americans to the ISS for a number of years was put in place by the Bush Administration – not the Obama Administration. After working in the Bush White House to develop that policy, Scott Pace spent 4 years with Mike Griffin at NASA during the Bush Administration implementing this policy. FYI I am told this phenomenon has become known as ‘Romnesia’

    Pace and Anderson lament a gap between Shuttle retirement and first possible U.S. access to space in 2016 yet that date was already accepted as fact for Orion/Constellation while Pace and Mike Griffin were still running NASA. Indeed 2018 was cited as a more realistic estimate. As for the commercial access to space being pursued by SpaceX and others, Mike Griffin (one would assume with Scott Pace’s agreement) signed a number of agreements with private companies to bolster their involvement with NAS A including this one with SpaceX and Orbital in 2008.

    In other words Scott Pace and Eric Anderson were most certainly for the things that the Obama Administration has been doing – before they were against them.”

    http://nasawatch.com/archives/2012/10/coordinated-fac.html

    I knew Pace during his Bush I and RAND CTI days, and respected his objective, perceptive analysis and achievements with respect to GPS and other national space policy. I don’t know what happened to him during the Griffin years, but they turned him into a technically and programmatically ignorant Constellation torchbearer and out-of-touch, platitude-spouting political hack. I expected a lot more out of the Romney space policy team with Pace as its chair.

    It’s sad Pace has taken Logsdon’s mantle at the GW space policy program. Those kids deserve more for their education dollar than Pace’s meaningless white papers and hypocritical op-eds.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Rand Simberg wrote @ October 25th, 2012 at 12:54 pm

    Pace is like the entire GOP field a lying sack of shit

    This is from his op ed

    ” “For the first time since the dawn of the Space Age, America has chosen to forgo its own capabilities for putting astronauts into space and instead relies on the Russians.”

    that is one of those lines that is designed to appeal to low information voters and not really tell the truth.

    First the US has not abandoned human spaceflight as the astronauts who are US citizens on the space station illustrate. “How” they get to orbit might matter to right wing zenophobes and jingoist; but the reality is that the notion of ISS that started with Reagan is “playing”

    What these words, adn the words by Paul Ryan another lying sack of shit are designed to do is make the appearance that the US HAS NO astronauts flying in space period. They never say “the US has astronauts on ISS” they imply that the only way astronauts are in space is on Russian vehicles.

    That they go to essentially an American space station is simply not spoken…nor is the notion that this state of affairs WOULD EXIST even if the shuttle was flying because this is how the Bush administration wanted it…

    Simberg and Whittington and Wind just gloss over reality here.

    RGO

  • Crash Davis

    They never say “the US has astronauts on ISS” they imply that the only way astronauts are in space is on Russian vehicles.

    That they go to essentially an American space station is simply not spoken…nor is the notion that this state of affairs WOULD EXIST even if the shuttle was flying

    Yes, you Nimrod, the only way astronauts are in space is because of us hitchhiking on a Russian spacecraft.

    And no, if the space shuttle was still flying, Americans would have a capability to get to the ISS.

    Remember your meds this morning?

  • Coastal Ron

    Crash Davis wrote @ October 25th, 2012 at 3:37 pm

    They never say “the US has astronauts on ISS” they imply that the only way astronauts are in space is on Russian vehicles.

    Convenient amnesia? Yes, they never say “the only way we’ve been able to keep Americans on the ISS continuously for 11 years has been because of our reliance on the Russian Soyuz”.

    It’s hard to call Obama something bad when he wasn’t the one that set up the system the U.S. relies upon today, so Republicans have to ignore the ISS so they can make it seem like it was Obama’s idea to start using the Russians to go to [somewhere] space.

    AND they conveniently leave out that it has been the Obama administration that has been fighting a Republican House to get funding for replacing the Russians – talk about misleading.

    Luckily space politics is not a leading indicator of how people will vote.

  • Justin Kugler

    Soyuz has always been the primary crew transfer vehicle for the ISS because the Shuttle could not provide lifeboat functionality. There were only periodic crew exchanges on Shuttle. It was not part of the regular rotation.

    Robert is right that we would continue to use Soyuz even if the Shuttle was still flying. That’s because Congress killed the US lifeboat project to save money. If John Muratore’s Crew Return Vehicle had been finished and deployed, perhaps the situation would be different. If wishes were horses…

  • vulture4

    It wasn’t the cancellation of the Crew Return Vehicle that created the gap, since it provided no launch capability. it was the cancellation of the Orbital Space Plane, an interim replacement for Shuttle, which was essentially the same as today’s Commercial Crew program except for the advent of SAAs and the substitution of SpaceX for Orbital Sciences. Since he had already decided to cancel ISS, Bush saw no reason to continue OSP.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Crash Davis wrote @ October 25th, 2012 at 3:37 pm

    And no, if the space shuttle was still flying, Americans would have a capability to get to the ISS.>

    MEDS sadly dont fix terminally partisan or dumb. If the shuttle was flying and the Soyuz was not, as the Soyuz time on orbit drew to a close so would the date the station was decrewed, no matter how many times the shuttle flew a year.

    you should vote for Romney, you are his kind of voter.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “That’s because Congress killed the US lifeboat project to save money. If John Muratore’s Crew Return Vehicle had been finished and deployed, perhaps the situation would be different.”

    Actually, the Bush II Administration killed the X-38 CRV when Goldin surprised them with a $5 billion ISS overrun soon after they took office. The ISS Habitation Module, the advanced TransHab project, and probably a couple other things I’m forgetting were also terminated to offset the overrun. Although Congress could have restored budget for these items, they did not, and the cuts originated at the White House Office of Management and Budget.

    After being informed of the situation by OMB staff, the White House required Goldin to fire then JSC Director George Abbey. This ended his NASA career and abuses, although some of his practices, like advancing astronauts personally loyal to him into agency management positions they were unqualified for, would be resurrected by Griffin.

  • E.P. Grondine

    Hi AW

    “The wisest policy would be for Romney to reinstate Constellation, and sole source it in America”

    .7 G combustion oscillations. You got a Plan B?

  • E.P. Grondine

    Everybody here seems to be forgetting that Columbia “blew up”.

    If it were not for Russian involvement, it is likely the Station would have been lost. While some of you here hate the Station, and would like to see it dead by any means possible, and are quite vocal, that is not true nationally, nor internationally, nor is it true among space engineering professionals.

    DBN, thanks for the info. What is Logsdon doing now?

  • Coastal Ron

    E.P. Grondine wrote @ October 26th, 2012 at 11:15 am

    Everybody here seems to be forgetting that Columbia “blew up”.

    Columbia, with a hole in it’s wing caused by ice impacting during it’s ascent to orbit, disintegrated during re-entry over Texas.

    Perhaps you are thinking of Challenger?

    If it were not for Russian involvement, it is likely the Station would have been lost.

    Don’t remind Mitt Romney of that – it will confuse him (i.e. the Russians actually SAVED the U.S. money).

  • DCSCA

    “Mitt Romney will ensure that we have a space program worthy of a great nation.”

    Given his comments on space along the Florida coast and to ‘Newt Gingrich, Moon President’ in the primaries, it’s highly doubtful..

    You can’t believe anything Mr. Romney says about everything..

  • Justin Kugler

    Thanks for setting me straight, DBN.

  • Dark Blue Nine

    Grondine: “DBN, thanks for the info. What is Logsdon doing now?”

    Professor Emeritus at GW. Still researching, publishing, travelling, and teaching.

    Kugler: “Thanks for setting me straight, DBN.”

    Thanks for setting the Houston Chronicle straight. That was one heckuva letter to the editor.

  • We should remember that commercial crew has fallen behind about two years because Congress has cut the funding twice in the last two years from what the administration requested.

    If the administration had received what it requested, we’d be fairly certain of crew flights in 2015. In fact, the CCiCap request for proposals gives NASA the option of paying the vendors for a crewed demonstration flight, probably in late 2014. (The vendors would provide the crew.)

    Thanks to Congress cutting the funding, those demo flights could be later in the decade.

    That’s clearly the fault of Congress, not Obama.

  • joe

    Stephen C. Smith wrote @ October 26th, 2012 at 5:14 pm
    “We should remember that commercial crew has fallen behind about two years because Congress has cut the funding twice in the last two years from what the administration requested.”

    True, but the same thing can be said for:
    - Constellation Systems (yes I know boo hiss)
    - The International Space Station
    - The Space Shuttle
    - Any other HSF program since Apollo/Skylab

    I have never heard any of you guys cut any of those programs any slack. In fact when they got their out year appropriations budgets cut, you called that cost overruns.

    For all the talk about how ‘commercial space’ is:
    - Bold
    - Innovative
    - Cutting Edge
    - Paradigm Shifting
    - Game Changing

    As things go along you seem more and more ordinary.

  • common sense

    “I have never heard any of you guys cut any of those programs any slack.”

    The Internet did not exist for years after Apollo, Skylab and Shuttle. It was not even that widespread during X-38 and X-33. You know that right?

    By the way… Who killed X-38? X-33? OSP?

    I am sure that if you were waiting for us to complain over the Internet that had not yet been invented then it makes life complicated of course. On the other hand it makes you quite the visionary…

    And CEV and Ares were not cut. Just browse and look up for references on this site. Too much of a hard work for me. And the driving rule for the VSE was that NASA should not expect any increase. Etc, etc.

    Constructive as usual. I wonder if I would not rather read about voodoo doll worshiping than that litany of baseless complaints.

    Anyway. How’s work going on Orion?

  • joe

    common sense wrote @ October 26th, 2012 at 8:13 pm
    “Anyway. How’s work going on Orion?”

    Apparently not very well since even Administrator Bolden (an Obama appointee) is now having doubts about the Obama Administrations sincerity of commitment to the Space Program.
    http://www.nasawatch.com/

  • common sense observed:

    The Internet did not exist for years after Apollo, Skylab and Shuttle. It was not even that widespread during X-38 and X-33. You know that right?

    Of course, what the troll overlooked is that NewSpace, even with the funding handicaps imposed by Congress, is still producing next-generation vehicles for a small fraction of the cost if NASA had tried to build it.

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “True, but the same thing can be said for:
    – Constellation Systems (yes I know boo hiss)”

    No, Constellation actually received slightly more in annual appropriations than what was promised in the VSE budget. The stimulus added even more.

    The problem with Constellation was that the program made little progress, slipping schedule year for year and moving work out to the right. Projections to keep that enormous army longer and longer drove total costs through the roof, making Constellation’s schedule irrelevant and budget untenable.

    ” – The International Space Station
    – The Space Shuttle”

    These two are more complex. ISS costs blew way beyond projections, leaving various White Houses little choice but to keep the program within a level annual budget. Of course, development programs don’t do well with level budgets, so this caused costs to rise even more. (Important side note — the SLS/MPCV budget in both the 2010 NASA Authorization Act and in the President’s Budget runout is also flat, even slightly declining, so expect ISS-scale overruns on SLS/MPCV, too.) Various White Houses were also given chances at various points in the long space station design cycle to choose less costly options, and they did not. So there’s some blame on both sides for ISS costs.

    Once its baseline was established, Shuttle was well-funded. But there is some argument over whether NASA was forced to make bad design choices (e.g., SRBs) by early reductions in the projected Shuttle budget, sacrificing higher operational costs for lower development costs. But there were a lot of other, bone-headed design trades on Shuttle that had little to do with budget. And there were competing alternatives (e.g., small s/c on a Titan) that could easily have fit with budget to spare. Again, some blame on both sides.

    ” – Any other HSF program since Apollo/Skylab”

    I don’t think any other NASA HSF program ever got far enough. Things like SLI and OSP were either overtaken by events (OSP by Columbia) or strangled within their first year or so when it became apparent early that NASA was out of control on manpower and costs (SLI). X-33 failed technically before it ever became an HSF project.

    “For all the talk about how ‘commercial space’ is:

    – Bold
    – Innovative
    – Cutting Edge
    – Paradigm Shifting
    – Game Changing

    As things go along you seem more and more ordinary.”

    It depends on what your comparing to.

    Compared to some future, fully reusable, $100/kg. launcher or an Aldrin Mars cycler, yeah, there’s nothing to write home about.

    Compared to EELV development, where the taxpayer put in about a $1 billion or so and got two new LV families, it’s doing somewhat better, with two new LVs (hopefully Antares makes it) and two new capsules (hopefully Cygnus makes it) fielded for $500 million to the taxpayer.

    Compared to the inability of the traditional NASA development system to get an operational and affordable launch vehicle fielded for its entire existence, COTS (and hopefully CCDev) has been pretty revolutionary. Compared to the tens of billions of development dollars spent on Constellation, SLI, OSP, and X-33 with no operational capability to show for it — or the unsustainability of Saturn V or the crippling costs of Shuttle — COTS and CCDev are orders of magnitude better.

    YMMV…

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “Apparently not very well since even Administrator Bolden (an Obama appointee) is now having doubts about the Obama Administrations sincerity of commitment to the Space Program.”

    I’m no Bolden fan, but I wouldn’t put too much credence into a second-hand account of a NASA Administrator blowing off steam during a meeting.

  • joe

    Dark Blue Nine wrote @ October 26th, 2012 at 9:33 pm
    “I’m no Bolden fan, but I wouldn’t put too much credence into a second-hand account of a NASA Administrator blowing off steam during a meeting.”

    I absolutely agree. When the politically appointed head of an executive branch agency gets quoted in the press as doubting the sincerity of the support for that agency by the President who appointed him that is just perfectly normal.

    It happens all the time.

    Move along folks, nothing to see here.

  • Robert G. Oler

    joe wrote @ October 26th, 2012 at 8:21 pm

    Apparently not very well since even Administrator Bolden (an Obama appointee) is now having doubts about the Obama Administrations sincerity of commitment to the Space Program.>

    I’ve read that story and I am trying to find some coherence to the entire thing…Bolden pounding his shoe?

    I wouldnt put a lot of stock in this…you might but then again some are easily excited RGO

  • Robert G. Oler

    joe wrote @ October 26th, 2012 at 7:24 pm

    For all the talk about how ‘commercial space’ is:
    - Bold
    - Innovative
    - Cutting Edge
    - Paradigm Shifting
    - Game Changing

    As things go along you seem more and more ordinary.>

    but of course SpaceX is flying while at JSC they are pushing around mockups playing space assembly and SLS/Orion is doing more and more “planning” while consuming 3 billion a eyar…and slipping

    Bold is a good word RGO

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “When the politically appointed head of an executive branch agency gets quoted in the press as doubting the sincerity of the support for that agency by the President who appointed him that is just perfectly normal.”

    Bolden wasn’t quoted by the press at all. There was no press event, interview, or any other conversation between Bolden and a member of the press (on the record or otherwise).

    Instead, some anonymous source in a meeting with Bolden heard (or thought they heard or just plain made up a story about) Bolden expressing frustration about his boss (Obama). This anonymous source then passed along what they heard (or thought they heard or made up) secondhand to Keith Cowing at NASAWatch.

    Do I doubt that Keith Cowing heard from a source what he’s written on NASAWatch? No.

    Do I doubt whether the source heard Bolden correctly in the first place, is taking Bolden’s comments out of context, or made up the entire story for their own ulterior motive? Sure.

    Do people vent privately about “wanting” to [kill, maim, hurt, etc.] their boss, not expecting to actually carry through on the act and certainly not expecting their comments to wind up on the internet? All the time.

    These are the reasons why I don’t give much credence to this story. There’s no way to know whether it’s accurate, and even if it is, it almost certainly does not reflect what Bolden would do in his professional capacity as Administrator. No one working for an Administration makes demands of the POTUS or bangs their shoe in the Oval Office.

  • Coastal Ron

    joe wrote @ October 26th, 2012 at 10:08 pm

    When the politically appointed head of an executive branch agency gets quoted in the press as doubting the sincerity of the support for that agency by the President who appointed him that is just perfectly normal.

    Political appointees can leave anytime they please. They not only serve at the pleasure of the President, but they serve at their pleasure too.

    Bolden is no doubt a space enthusiast, and I think he has been a good manager of NASA and it’s programs. However he’s not the President, who has to oversee all government departments and agencies.

    This also highlights the divergent views of how ultimate goals should be pursued – the goal vs capabilities debate that I’ve mentioned before. Maybe Bolden is a “goal” guy, and Obama would prefer a “capability” approach? Whichever it is, it’s up to the NASA Administrator to convince the President why a certain approach is best, not the other way around.

    We’ll know soon whether this is even something we should be worrying about…

  • E.P. Grondine

    Hi CR –
    “disintegrated” is too big a word for some people – thus “blew up” in quotes

  • E.P. Grondine

    Hi all –

    “Scoop” is committed to a manned Mars mission, and so are most of his sources. That in itself is not anything “bad”, but his promotion of Mars Direct as the necessary architecture and the only thing NASA should be doing is just plain stupid, in my view.

    Why? Dr. Aldrin’s “cyclers” is about the only technically and cost feasible architecture for that goal. The ISS provides the test bed for those technologies.

    Obama already has committed to a manned Mars mission in the 2030 time frame, and as per the DPT architecture implementing a manned mission to an asteroid as a development/test mission.

    The part that gets to me in all of this is when I pointed out that Griffin’s Moon ardchitecture was little more than test flights for manned Mars, I was called every name in the book. Now see Spudis’s piece at the same site:
    “However, the mission of the VSE became muddled and Mars advocacy was the reason.”

    I myself do not think that manned flight to Mars will determine space leadership, but rather whichever nation leads in building CAPS.

  • Robert G. Oler

    joe wrote @ October 26th, 2012 at 10:08 pm

    “I absolutely agree. When the politically appointed head of an executive branch agency gets quoted in the press as doubting the sincerity of the support for that agency by the President who appointed him that is just perfectly normal.”

    do you know what this story shares with the Senate Trial of Bill Clinton?

    There is not a single word not a single word “on the record”…its all second hand. The Senate GOP didnt have the balls to have a witness under oath and this story has nothing under quotes from General Bolden.

    So…neither is worth a fig.

    Is this venting? My last assignment in the mideast I was so angry one day… I threw a phone through the window of my office. (sadly it didnt get me sent home either)…venting is good sometime. RGO

  • Egad

    X-33 failed technically before it ever became an HSF project.

    Having watched X-33 with horror, I’d say that its failure was more than simply technical. The program mashed together what should have been at least three separate R&D programs (linear aerospike, composite lobed cryogenic fuel tanks, TPS), all of them technically challenging. Then, when one of them got into trouble (the tanks), the $NAME who was in charge of NASA at the time proclaimed that they’d shown the impossibility of SSTO.

    I hold no overall position on SSTO myself, other than “it would be nice if you could do it”, but the X-33 mashup sure wasn’t the way to be trying to do it.

  • amightywind

    Apparently not very well since even Administrator Bolden (an Obama appointee) is now having doubts about the Obama Administrations sincerity of commitment to the Space Program.

    Its a little late for that. Bolden’s fate is hitched to Obama’s. May both of their government career’s soon end.

    FTA: If this is not the President’s goal for NASA, then Bolden wondered why NASA should be expected to continue funding the ISS for another decade and a half.

    This has been the root of amightywind’s animosity for ISS the last 4 years. Apparently Bolden is pretty bored with our tedious space program as well.

    FTA: Bolden said that he needs that commitment to allow him to decide what to do (not do) with regard to extending the ISS.

    This is the kind of leader Bolden is. He is a marionette and Obama makes his mouth work.

  • Coastal Ron

    Egad wrote @ October 27th, 2012 at 1:55 pm

    Having watched X-33 with horror, I’d say that its failure was more than simply technical.

    I would agree. I remember watching the webcam they had in the assembly area – you could tell something was up when the webcam stopped showing any progress.

    OK, so the composite tanks didn’t work, but what if they built them out of aluminum? No doubt heavier, but fast forward to the near future with the Stratolaunch system, which is planned to be able to air-launch a 490,000 lb rocket. The X-33 supposedly weighed around 300,000 lbs, so I wonder if an air launch platform could have made the system work?

    I wonder if Lockheed Martin is watching Stratolaunch with an eye towards re-proposing a VentureStar-type vehicle if a strong enough cargo and crew market does develop?

    Probably too many “what if’s” for anything to happen, but the X-33 sure was a compelling idea.

  • Egad

    Probably too many “what if’s” for anything to happen, but the X-33 sure was a compelling idea.

    Yeah, it was, and the tragedy is that the program was so misconstrued that it didn’t even fail usefully. I.e., it failed, but it didn’t teach us any useful technical lessons through its failure. It did provide, if not teach, a lesson in how not to run such a program, but I doubt that NASA got the message.

  • Mary

    SLS Booster “risk reduction” contracts signed as solids square up to liquids
    http://www.flightglobal.com/blogs/hyperbola/2012/10/contenders-discuss-the-various.html

  • Coastal Ron

    Mary wrote @ October 27th, 2012 at 5:11 pm

    SLS Booster “risk reduction” contracts signed as solids square up to liquids

    Even more so than that, it’s solids vs LH2/LOX vs RP-1/LOX.

    However, since they don’t plan to down-select until around 2015, that still provides plenty of time for the SLS program to fizzle out and avoid the unnecessary expense of trying to find a bigger booster for a rocket that doesn’t even have a funded need with the smaller booster – oy vay!

  • DCSCA

    Stephen C. Smith wrote @ October 26th, 2012 at 5:14 pm
    “We should remember that commercial crew has fallen behind about two years because Congress has cut the funding twice in the last two years from what the administration requested.”

    Then its not ‘commercial crew’– is it. Need financing– pitch it to the private sector, not the taxpayer. That’s true commerical, free market capitalism..

  • E.P. Grondine

    Hi Egad –

    The composite tanks were ATK’s baby – it is really too bad another US firm did not get that piece of X33. Our aviation industry will probably pay dearly for that decision.

    The other factor you’re leaving out is that in the end the total launch demand did not make it possible for private firms to see X-33 through to RLV.

    The mass factions were known going into RLV, and it was an attempt to probe the limits.

    One of the more “humorous” aspects of Dan Goldin’s tour of duty as NASA Administrator was the Mars nuts (and Scoop’s) constant attacks on a man who was very pro Mars and had a realistic plan how to get it done.

  • E.P. Grondine

    Hi AW –

    “This has been the root of amightywind’s animosity for ISS the last 4 years. Apparently Bolden is pretty bored with our tedious space program as well.”

    While you can fix a system on ISS, you can not fix a system while its on its way to Mars. If the toilet breaks, you’re SOOL.

    Why do you think that ISS is not a good test bed for deep space manned mission systems?

    Next, why are you making the assumption that the US can afford to do manned Mars flight alone?

    Finally, even if we could afford to go it alone, as a a matter of national policy, should we?

    I need to note that while Musk thinks he can lower launch costs and make enough money to finance manned Mars by doing so, he is currently making use of an engineering base developed by NASA to build his launchers, and if he is able to pull it off, he will use NASA tech that he does not have to pay for developing. That includes space toilets.

    Its Musks’ money, its his and his partners’ risk, its capitalism, and I’m just happy that US sat manufacturers have a low launch cost available.

  • vulture4

    X-33 was based on the (Apollo-era) premise that all management had to do was be “bold” and tell the contractor to build a single-stage-to-orbit RLV and of course it would occur. Yet another untested concept was the use of a lifting body rather than a wing-and-fuselage design.

    There are parallels between the election and the X-33. The Obama administration has made incremental but sustainable improvements for four years, with the economy expanding, unemployment declining, and corporate profits at record levels and housing gradually recovering. The Romney campaign says we are fools for not being greedier, if we vote for him everyone will have jobs, the growth rate will be 100%, there will be no taxes, and we will all be rich overnight. Of course it is not realistic, but it sounds good if you accept the premise.

  • joe

    vulture4 wrote @ October 28th, 2012 at 10:06 am
    “There are parallels between the election and the X-33. The Obama administration has made incremental but sustainable improvements for four years, with the economy expanding, unemployment declining, and corporate profits at record levels and housing gradually recovering. The Romney campaign says we are fools for not being greedier, if we vote for him everyone will have jobs, the growth rate will be 100%, there will be no taxes, and we will all be rich overnight. Of course it is not realistic, but it sounds good if you accept the premise.”

    That is an interesting (and truly strained) analogy.

    Raises the questions:
    - Do you support Obama because he supports ‘commercial space’?
    Or
    - Do you support ‘commercial space’ because you support Obama?

  • Robert G. Oler

    joe wrote @ October 28th, 2012 at 11:54 am

    Raises the questions:
    - Do you support Obama because he supports ‘commercial space’?
    Or
    - Do you support ‘commercial space’ because you support Obama?>>

    neither although Obama supporting commercial space is indicative of why I support Obama.

    Obama recognizes something that is completely foreign to most people of the GOP…the cold war is over and the notino of a superpower world is done.

    Most of the goofy right wing thinks of the superpower era as a “military” toe to toe with the Russkies (Apologies Major Kong) but it was far more then that…it is the reason the mideast is like it is TODAY…and they simply dont grasp that.

    the bipolar world is easy for the trogolytes of the GOP to understand…and many for instance still view space efforts in that.

    Once you recognize the change then what is happening in the world, while entertaining is not scary and where space policy is going, including commercial space; is actually exciting. RGO

  • Robert G. Oler

    Mary that is a good story…it will be interesting in five years to see if Atlas and Delta have survived…RGO

  • Robert G. Oler

    vulture4 wrote @ October 28th, 2012 at 10:06 am

    X-33 was based on the (Apollo-era) premise that all management had to do was be “bold” and tell the contractor to build a single-stage-to-orbit RLV and of course it would occur”

    X-33 is one of those things that IF I could have 30 minutes with both Administrator Psycho Dan and Vice President who I wish had become President in 2000 Al Gore…where we did nothing but tell the truth in the knowledge that it would never come out…I would ask about

    there is a story there..”Venturestar” was doomed period RGO

  • common sense

    @ Robert G. Oler wrote @ October 28th, 2012 at 12:38 pm

    Nicely put.

    And for sure yes only “troglodytes” vote for a candidate’s space policy only.

    Have a good weekend.

  • Mary

    Robert G. Oler wrote @ October 28th, 2012 at 1:19 pm

    Mary that is a good story…it will be interesting in five years to see if Atlas and Delta have survived…RGO.

    Competition is always good.

  • Neil Shipley

    Off-topic but congrat’s to SpaceX for the successful completion of their first CRS flight.

  • amightywind

    Why do you think that ISS is not a good test bed for deep space manned mission systems?

    A Mars mission will have to have a spinning section, lest the astronauts bones turn to jello. A Mars craft will also weight much less than 10^6 lbs.

    Next, why are you making the assumption that the US can afford to do manned Mars flight alone?

    Because we went to moon alone. Would I mind exploring with Europe or Japan? No. They need to pull their weight. But I see no reason to reward our enemies Russia and China.

    Finally, even if we could afford to go it alone, as a a matter of national policy, should we?

  • Neil Shipley

    Will SpaceX price and reliability be able to exert such influence that they end up virtually the only game in town? Can they avoid the pitfalls that have befallen the ‘old space’ companies? Can Musk remain true to his public objective? Can SpaceX grow at the rate necessary to handle all the potential business keeping in mind price and reliability above?

    Certainly ESA (Germany and France predominantly) is now scrambling to find a compromise for Arienne 5 mid-life upgrade or nebbie 6.
    DoD may resort to relying on a single provider – they virtually have until now although they have 2 EELVs. But SpaceX could end up with NASA and certainly most of the commercial business.
    China’s on record as saying they don’t think they can match SpaceX price. What happens if SpaceX manages to produce a viable FH?
    So many questions – so few answers!! Interesting times alright!

  • Vladislaw

    “Then its not ‘commercial crew’– is it. Need financing– pitch it to the private sector, not the taxpayer. That’s true commerical, free market capitalism..”

    The private sector is not demanding the creation of both a product and service that currently does not exist. What part of this do you keep failing to understand?

    The Federal government has ordered a federal agency, NASA, to procure both a DOMESTIC product and service that does not exist.

    Maybe we will have to drag out a chalkboard so we can draw some flow charts so even you can understand this.

    Here is the concept .. the Federal government wants to buy something domestically. A product and service. But .. that product does not exist. The government does not care if the provider of this product and service ALSO SELLS to commercial customers, all the government is concerned with is that there is multiple suppliers for the federal agency NASA.

    I would think even someone with a such a limited understanding could grasp this concept but apparently it is just beyond your reasoning capabilities.

  • Coastal Ron

    Neil Shipley wrote @ October 29th, 2012 at 10:03 am

    Will SpaceX price and reliability be able to exert such influence that they end up virtually the only game in town?

    So far satellite owners are still placing backup orders in case their prime service providers (like SpaceX) have a problem. But is that enough to keep healthy competition going in that market?

    Satellite owners also don’t want to depend on monopolies, so I think we’ll see some sort of strategy emerge as they try to monetize the savings that SpaceX offers while keeping competition in the launch market.

    Can SpaceX grow at the rate necessary to handle all the potential business keeping in mind price and reliability above?

    They are certainly in the phase of a company where many companies have stumbled, and that could still happen with them. The good thing for them is that they only have to get the Falcon v1.1 going in order to protect the vast amount of their future business. The Falcon Heavy only has one order, Dragon for crew is a development program based on existing elements, Falcon 4/5 for Stratolaunch, and the Grasshopper is a test program – all side programs that the company could survive without if something happened.

    As to price, they own the low end of the market, so they could raise prices by significant amounts and still be the low-cost leader. However I think the goal Musk is going for is to lower the amount of money that it takes to get mass to orbit, not to maximize the amount of profit SpaceX can make, so I would think he would resist raising prices unless he has to.

    Certainly ESA (Germany and France predominantly) is now scrambling to find a compromise for Arienne 5 mid-life upgrade or nebbie 6.

    In some ways SpaceX has spoiled the low-cost launch market for everyone else. Their motive isn’t based purely on protecting jobs in a country (i.e. ESA), exercising national will (i.e. China), or generating gobs of profit from a customer with nowhere else to go (i.e. ULA), SpaceX wants to lower costs for the market so the pricing stalemate is broken.

    It’s hard to compete against someone who already has a proven product AND whose #1 priority is making humanity a multi-planetary species – how does a normal commercial company compete with that?

    Even though SpaceX has shown the way to go for anyone that wants to build a low-cost rocket system, they have also locked up the customers that were willing to take risks with newbie launch companies, so any new companies that want to do take the same path won’t find the same type of initial customers that SpaceX found. Quite a conundrum.

  • Vladislaw

    I agree Ron, they could also, with the savings for using SpaceX still fund a few additional launches with the savings they got from utilizing the Falcon 9 and get their constellation of satellites up and running faster.

  • Vladislaw

    Windy wrote:

    “A Mars mission will have to have a spinning section, lest the astronauts bones turn to jello.”

    It is a six month trip to Mars with conventional chemical rocket propulsion. We know astronauts will not turn to jello in six months. If they land on Mars, we do not know if 1/3 gravity is enough to do a reset and recondition the human body enough that the 6 month trip home will prove detrimential. I would like to see a centrifuge section developed and tested at the ISS though.

  • Thanks for outlining the differences between the two candidates’ positions on the future of NASA. I think it’s an important factor in the upcoming election that has gotten little to no coverage in the mainstream media thus far.

    However, I think we are reaching the point in our space exploration history where NASA and other federal space agencies would be better as consultants rather than managers. The same thing happened to the satellite telecommunications industry when Intelsat privatized in 2001, and business has never been better in that sector.

    With the continued rise of publicly funded technology projects on sites like Kickstarter, it’s only a matter of time until prospective astronauts are successfully funding their missions online. So, when do you think it will happen and who will foot the bill?

    Adam Brinckerhoff
    Development Engineer
    SpaceUnited

  • Googaw

    Will SpaceX price and reliability be able to exert such influence that they end up virtually the only game in town?

    Is what they are doing to cut costs such a deep dark secret, or so heavily patented, that it can’t be repeated by others?

    While SpaceX benefits from fat NASA contracts for the same rocket, the flip side is that they are getting seriously distracted with all their various side projects in search of more NASA contracts. Although must of what people think they are doing is far more marketing hype than serious project. But if a competitor can recreate their costs reductions for satellite launch without getting bogged down in the bells, whistles, and safety dances of NASA astronaut contracts, Space X will have fierce competition for a long time to come, and indeed may become just another government contracting zombie (there you go Coastal! Just in time for Halloween!) like Orbital Sciences while a more nimble competitor wins their real commerce market.

  • Dave Hall

    Adam Brinckerhoff wrote: With the continued rise of publicly funded technology projects on sites like Kickstarter, it’s only a matter of time until prospective astronauts are successfully funding their missions online. So, when do you think it will happen and who will foot the bill?

    You could immediately test your theory by trying to use Kickstarter to raise the price of a ticket to the ISS to do some privately funded science … personally I don’t think there will be many takers, but I could be wrong.

    Speculating on alternative ways to foot the bill, I think Tesla Motors will succeed in growing to the size of at least Porsche in the next decade, making Elon Musk a multi-billionaire independent of SpaceX. He’s signed the Giving Pledge (http://givingpledge.org) committing to give away the majority of his wealth philantropically. Also in the next decade I think that SpaceX will succeed in building a super-heavy lifter for a fraction of the development and operational cost of the SLS, though who pays for that remains to be seen.

    Combined, that will put Musk in a position to philantropically get the ball rolling and at least partly fund a first Mars mission, possibly with international governments putting in matching funds in order to participate. Such a mission is likely to be the biggest media event ever resulting in at least some sponsorship and media rights revenues for the mission.

  • Dave Hall

    Will SpaceX price and reliability be able to exert such influence that they end up virtually the only game in town?

    Googaw responded: Is what they are doing to cut costs such a deep dark secret, or so heavily patented, that it can’t be repeated by others?

    No-one repeated Alexander of Macedonia’s short life’s work in 2,300 years … though many autocrats have tried. Perhaps Elon Musk is that once-in-ever Frankenstorm of an entrepreneur-engineer that only happens once. In my book/story that makes him worth supporting.

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