Examining the “why” and “how” of space exploration

Regardless of the outcome of today’s election, there will be some key challenges for space policy in the next four years. Can NASA’s current approach to human spaceflight and space exploration be sustained given the nation’s fiscal challenges? If not, what should replace it? At a forum last week on Capitol Hill organized by the Marshall Institute, panelists offered their own prescriptions for a revamped, more sustainable approach to space exploration.

“Right now, I fear that our national leadership is on the verge of canceling all deep space human exploration,” warned Charles Miller, president of NextGen Space LLC and the former senior advisor for commercial space at NASA. “We are on the edge of a cliff. No matter who wins, we are probably looking at a return to a Clinton-era policy where human spaceflight is the ISS and only the ISS. Deep space exploration is on the verge of being deferred for another decade as a luxury we can’t afford.”

Miller, in his speech (his prepared remarks are published in this week’s issue of The Space Review) argued that the “why” of space exploration should be to expand human civilization (featuring free markets and free people) across the solar system. He warned, though, that this goal alone wasn’t sufficient to merit support from the American public. “This was Newt Gingrich’s mistake in Florida in late January,” Miller said. “Newt mistook the repeated standing ovations he received from the hundreds of space industry people in that room in Florida for something that the far larger electorate cared about. We all need to learn from his mistake.”

He called for a “pragmatic” alternative strategy that he outlined in a five-point plan that leverages the capability of the private sector, particularly in commercial space transportation, and alternative contracting models like that used in NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program. That, he argued, had national security as well as commercial and exploration benefits. “Our national security is harmed because US launch vehicles are more expensive, and less reliable, because they fly less often,” he said. “Our national security is harmed when it depends on Russian rocket engines.”

Two other panelists, while not offering plans as detailed as Miller’s, also made the case for more pragmatic approaches for space exploration. “I am very concerned about calls for bold missions,” said Adkins, president of Adkins Strategies, LLC and a former staff director of the House Science Committee’s space subcommittee. “I’m worried that a bold vision that says that you have to do something like Apollo is akin to swinging for the fences, where, yes, you might get a home run, but it’s more likely you’re going to strike out, particularly in this environment.”

Any program, Adkins said, needs to be broken up into smaller, more feasible steps—“singles, doubles, and triples” in his analogy—to maintain momentum. “I think the greatest threat to human space exploration is to continue to have unrealistic expectations and to continue to go nowhere.”

James Vedda, author of the recent book Becoming Spacefarers (reviewed here), argued for the importance of building up infrastructure to sustain human exploration and development over the long term. He noted that the settlement of the American West didn’t really take off until some key infrastructure, such as railroads and telegraphs, were put in place starting in the mid 19th century. “The same is going to be true for space development,” he said.

“What we did in Apollo was brilliant; it achieved its goals,” Vedda said. “But it was not something put in place to spread humanity across the solar system.” To accomplish that goal, he said, we need to move to turn cislunar space into an “industrial park,” building up experience and also creating value that can lead to the next steps. “We don’t want to do this like an athletic competition, where you have this finish line” after which you go home. “We want to have things that have staying power.”

Beyond Miller’s five-point plan the panelists didn’t propose much in the way of specific initiatives to implement the changes they would like to see. None saw the need for major structural policy changes, like the creation of a new National Space Council. In addition, a NASA-specific BRAC to reduce the agency’s overhead might be useful but would be a “political nonstarter,” as Adkins put it. He did suggest it may be more feasible to do a “federal BRAC” involving NASA and other agencies, like the Department of Energy and NIST. “At the end of it, NASA could be a net beneficiary,” he suggested.

“These are very challenging times. There is a path through this,” Adkins said. “Budget will constrain policy and drive it.”

38 comments to Examining the “why” and “how” of space exploration

  • common sense

    I think there are very simple steps that can be taken, the problem lying with special interests and that is the crux of the problem.

    In parallel or serially depending on available funds, we need to expend and develop commercial HSF, the only way to reduce cost and promote a healthy competition. Get rid of large programs such as SLS/MPCV, for now anyway. Get the HSF workforce into developing the technology and infrastructure to explore with humans our solar system. If for example a Mars landing is too difficult then develop orbiting station, possibly on a moon. We can use the industry to develop ISRU that will benefit them here on Earth and it can be done. We need to have the maximum support of the profit making industry, yes exploitation of space must be concurrent to exploration.

    Now one thing that bothers me is the connexion to national security. Most of their requirements are very different from that of HSF, save for Space Marines. I suspect the military will be (is?) very interested in suborbital point-to-point flight (wink wink Virgin Galactic) and they may be of help there. But I would not make a strong connexion since any national security interests will supersede anything else. Suffice to say ITAR, let alone classified initiatives.

    Again the crux is the various political interests. BUT the concerned workforce is aging and next to retiring therefore this point may be moot in about 10/20 years. How long is SLS supposed to last?… Hmmm Wonder why…

    No magic. No rocket science. It is about a self sustaining market and then no one will ever ask “why” again.

    • Googaw

      If for example a Mars landing is too difficult then develop orbiting station, possibly on a moon.

      If building a bridge from Chile to Australia is too difficult, let’s build a bridge from Antarctica to Australia instead! If it’s easier than that other fantasy it’s gotta make sense right?

      Now one thing that bothers me is the connexion to national seccurity[fixed — national security, real space commerce, planetary science, and every other cost-effective and useful effort in space]. Most of their requirements are very different from that of HSF.

      • common sense

        Trivializing what I say does not make you right. It just make you look as impossible to talk with. Did I say anything like what you suggest? You can be smarter than that. Please.

        And I was addressing the national security comment, I did not limit myself to national security. Again. Please. National security is pandering to a number of constituents that support archaic Cold War mentality and feeding them will only make the problem go on forever. I hope you can see that and that it potentially is a much worse issue than any other.

        • Googaw

          Did I say anything like what you suggest?

          Yes, you most certainly did. My bridge analogy is spot-on. And you said you were “bothered” by a certain set of space activities because “[m]ost of their requirements are very different from that of HSF.” But that describes practically all space activities that are both useful and cost-effective, not just national security.

          Now you try to change your story and say it was because you think national security is archaic, or something like that — you don’t sound very clear on the concept. A supporter of astronauts criticizing “archaic Cold War mentality.” The irony along with the fantasy goes to infinity and beyond!

          • common sense

            No I did not say such thing. I said “for example” and I assumed there might be an HSF mission to Mars in the future. I did not say it was a government funded mission.

            Also Well if you were to read my comment you would know already what I think about the Cold War model. And you are mixing up stuff. I am talking about HSF requirements civilian vs. military. Not crewed vs. uncrewed missions.

            You read whatever you want to read my friend but you are wrong.

            Unfortunately I think I wasted my time with you. My bad.

            Oh well.

  • Sounds like they didn’t answer the “why” question.

    If there were a compelling answer, we would have heard it by now and Congress would have authorized the hundreds of billions of dollars necessary to achieve it.

    Humanity will head out into deep space only when there’s a compelling reason, and that’s an economic one. NewSpace will create the means of doing so, eventually.

    Governments have no interest in profit, and therefore lack the incentive. The only time we did go to the Moon was out of fear the Russians would go first, and even then that was a mistaken threat because the Russians really weren’t racing us.

    • “…and even then that was a mistaken threat because the Russians really weren’t racing us.”

      What they did was engage in, was the practice of; “If at first you don’t succeed, destroy all evidence that you tried.”

      Their N-1 heavy-lift launcher never worked in four attempts, but they didn’t build it for nothing. You can find video of some of the launch attempts easily, as well as pictures of their intended Lunar lander in museums (the ‘Apollo 18′ producers did their homework and made it look right). In a slightly different universe, they could have sent a man around the Moon as little as two weeks before Apollo 8. At the time, they preferred that the world believe what you still seem to believe, rather than come in ‘second,’ but today they’re fairly open about their 60’s intentions. If there’s any ‘Moon Hoax,’ it’s that the Soviets never intended to go.

      But having said that, it’s absolutely true that we cannot conduct government-funded manned space projects today with the mindset of the 60’s either. The Apollo architecture was based on time, not money. The priority was ‘before the Soviets, and before the decade is out, whichever comes first.’ Today, money and cost-effectiveness is more important than time. Returning to the Moon need not, and indeed should not look like the mostly single-purpose Apollo, but return to the pre-Apollo concepts of orbital assembly and refueling, in support of multiple beyond-LEO destinations…

  • Ferris Valyn


    Question – frequently, the Marshall Institute records and posts these events. Do you know if they did for this event?

    • Jeff Foust

      Ferris: If you follow the link in the first paragraph of this post, it will take you to the description of the event and, at the bottom (and I believe recently added), video of the full event.

  • Robert G. Oler

    He called for a “pragmatic” alternative strategy that he outlined in a five-point plan that leverages the capability of the private sector, particularly in commercial space transportation, and alternative contracting models like that used in NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program.”

    I dont know Charles nor his politics but his remarks and the aabove summation of them made me think of the line:

    “Republicans and Democrats all believe in the free market and that it should work according to their plan”

    The entire notion that Charles starts out with, his own version of the “Frontier Thesis” (which is fundamentally flawed on almost every level) then leads to his theories of a plan to make that frontier happen.

    I HAVE no problem with government (the federal government in particular) supporting emerging industries to give them a chance to take hold and prosper…it is the right wing who argues against these things…but there at least has to be some industry to support…in the notion of a “space frontier” there is well nada.

    Charles likes propellent depots as if those alone will do something…

    Look we are seeing the first steps of a true space industrial complex in the country emerging…lets see what the next two years leads to in terms of SpaceX and OSC giving it a whirl.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Googaw

    “Right now, I fear that our national leadership is on the verge of canceling all deep space human exploration,” warned Charles Miller, president of NextGen Space LLC and the former senior advisor for commercial space at NASA.

    (1) We are just now “on the verge of cancelling” something we haven’t done in four decades?

    (2) If it’s really commercial then how could lack of government funding “cancel” it? Of course, “commerce” here is NewSpeak for “chasing NASA contracts that have nothing to do with economic reality.”

    This guy didn’t grow up in this galaxy did he? Paging Bob Bigelow…

  • Googaw

    He noted that the settlement of the American West didn’t really take off until some key infrastructure, such as railroads and telegraphs, were put in place starting in the mid 19th century. “The same is going to be true for space development,” he said.

    Could history be twisted any further away from reality than in the accounts of astronaut cultists and NASA contractor wannabes? In reality, the American West was populated by hundreds of thousands of Europeans and millions of natives long before the coming of the railroad or telegraph. Their “infrastructure” consisted of horses, oxen, Conestoga wagons, and canoes. They were mostly self-sufficient — they didn’t have to launch their very drinking water from Paris or London.

    The infrastructure came later because the people were already there. Thanks to recent politics we have a phrase for building infrastructure where there is not a community of thriving businesses for it to serve — we call it a “bridge to nowhere.” In the case of the NASA contractors and contractor wannabes this could just as readily be phrased “bridge to vacuum.”

    If you are interested in economic reality, rather than in spinning economic fantasies in pursuit of as wasteful as ever NASA contracts, try observing where the actual private sector demand is, rather than lobbying for doll houses to nowhere and droning on about “commerce” and “infrastructure” over and over again until every sane person is nauseus.

    • common sense

      Interestingly enough you say two very basic truths, I think. 1) The infrastructure needs and 2) the commerce. I think yes they, whoever they are, must address first whether there is a market. However I also believe it is also our government that can help define whether there is a market by facilitating the work, e.g. some have mentioned the no-tax in space or whatever the name is. I think there are multiple ways to approach the problems. And the answer may just be that there is absolutely no need for HSF yet why should we just stop? We never really gave it a fair try. So today there is embryonic commerce through the ISS. ISS exists and there is a need. Commercial Crew is an attempt at generating some economic benefit. One might argue that a usual cost-plus approach would do as well and possibly keep as many jobs etc. But we also know the limitations of cost plus on such basic activity.

      Now what I would like to see happen is an industrial panel/committee of some sort to give some ideas as to what a market might be if any say if we were to ISRU on the Moon. What must be the launch cost? The cost of establishing ISRU for example to make it a worthwhile market? Is it only possible? Does it need humans? I don’t want to see the next to next to last JSC study a to what we will do in space if our budget was a trillion dollars.

      If there is a market for HSF then let’s make it happen. Let’s nurture it. Commercial Crew is a step in the right direction since ISS exists and there is a need. But then what? Eventually ISS will be decommissioned. By then if there is no market HSF will cease to exist.

      Again let’s take this opportunity to establish obvious needs such as reducing the cost of launch to LEO. How far can that go? What are the requirements? Can it be done as we service ISS in such a significant way that other markets may open again such as ISRU?

      Let’s try and ask the right questions. Not pander to whatever interests because pandering will only take us so far. Right now the end of the road is the end of the ISS. And that is a fact.

      So what is it going to be? What are going to do?

      • Googaw

        I also believe it is also our government that can help define whether there is a market by facilitating the work

        But government and the contractor wannabes who lobby government can “define” any economc fantasy that crosses their minds, or that some astronaut cultists talk them into, to be “a market.” Being a fantasy, it lasts only as long as the government funding.

        In contrast there were a wide variety of thriving businesses in the American West and other frontiers that were unplanned and unfunded except by the handful of entrepreneurs who actually saw the opportunities and didn’t wait for a government central planner or lobbyist to define it for them.

        In the case of orbital HSF, it has for many decades been over 99.5% government funded — that < 0.5% (and usually closer to zero) being a handful of billionaires paying the marginal cost of marginal costs for seats that had basically already been paid for by the taxpayer. And surprise surprise, cosmic pixie dust has not caused the orbital tourism industry to rocket into dominance. That fantasy, along with "infrastructure" like Skylab, Salyut, Shuttle, Mir, and (soon) ISS turn out to be every bit as dead-end as Apollo. The whole orbital HSF fantasy is many orders of magnitude away from breaking even — except from the fat government contracts they keep fooling politicians into plowing our tax money into.

        Now what I would like to see happen is an industrial panel/committee of some sort to give some ideas

        In other words, still not having any ideas for how astronauts can pay their own freight after all this time, you think such ideas will magically pop out of yet another central planning committee. Like all those Soviet innovations that won the Cold War for them.

        Let’s try and ask the right questions.

        You should try that some time. Here’s one for starters: ask not what we can do for astronauts. Ask what astronauts can do for us. I’m afraid you won’t like the answer (to quote RGO: “nada”), but that’s the question you should be asking.

        Given that answer, here’s a follow-up: ask what you can do to expand real space industry — actual and existing, and thus unmanned space industry — to the point where in the future it might actually have need of astronauts.

        But the real answer to that will take astronaut cultists too far afield from the diapered heroes themselves. So I’m not going to hold my breath waiting for them to ask the right questions.

    • Vladislaw

      You always seem to miss some small points.

      1862-1872, Congress awarded 100 million acres of public lands to railroad companies

      1866 National Mineral Act (free public land)

      The Homestead Act (1862) 605 million acres available for free.

      A lot of people that headed west to settle the frontier were leaving to immediately increase their economic well being. Free land, free timber rights, water rights, mineral rights.

      There might not have been any infrastructure, but the government sure gave them a leg up with a ton of free assets to start up. Taxpayers contributed and deserve a big share of the credit of the success of the west.

      • Googaw

        Again you are talking about stuff that happened many hundreds of years after the first Europeans started settling the West, and many thousands of years after the natives. There was already a vast volume of a very wide variety of businesses sprawling all over the midwest and west coasts of North America by the 1860s, such as the California gold rush of 1849.

        Not to mention that the resources that were practically free in the West — farmland, cattle ranching land, forest — for the foreseeable future range from prohibitively costly to nonexistant in outer space. Or can our vaunted central planning committee conjure up space trees and cosmic cows from moon dust by using their celestial powers?

        • Vladislaw

          they didn’t start steam service on the missouri until 1860. The first permanent european agriculuture settlement in northern dakota territory that had a direct waterway to hudson bay wasn’t until then too.

          I think you are WAY over estimating how much was going on. The gold rush didn’t even start until 1849 and most were sailing there, the wagon trains came later and were traveling straight through.

          the small pox epidemic of 1837 that swept through decimated a lot of these small population centers and slowed down movement for a while in a lot of areas.

  • Googaw

    but there at least has to be some industry to support…in the notion of a “space frontier” there is well nada.

    “Does not involve astronauts” != “nada”, except in the minds of people who spend too much time conversing with astronaut cultists.

    Back here in reality, there is plenty of space industry. Indeed, there’s plenty of of space industry beyond LEO. Unmanned space industry.

    I hesitate to mention this, because the first and last thing an astronaut cultist wants to do when this news briefly flits through their minds is to try to figure out how they can use this as an excuse to lobby for a new astronaut toy (“infrastructure”) to spend tens of billions of taxpayer funds and screw up the industry. Witness the Space Shuttle.

    But I’m afraid these economic fantasies about Buzz Lightyear doll houses are just as you say. Nada. Nada, and excuses to grab the remaining NASA astronaut contract bucks before folks in DC wake up to the fact that their cherished Cold War heroes have gone the way of the buggy whip.

  • Neil Shipley

    Googaw, what’s the beef with ‘astronauts’? Whatever!
    Anyway, I’m all the way with RGO. Let’s see what SpaceX and Bigelow can get up and running. I’m pretty sure they’re working on it. And the reason: well there doesn’t have to be a commercial one for SpaceX – Elon’s personal goal. Bigelow – yes but just as Elon probably sees his role of Space FedX as the means to his end-goal, Bigelow probably just wants to get commerce in space going and be the provider of habitats – like his hotel chain – so his ultimately is a commercial reason. He’s previously on the record as saying that this takes a little faith. So be it.
    Don’t simply disparage. After all, they’ve actually spent their own money on it. So what if they’ve taken some gov’t funding even if in your view it’s a waste. It won’t be the first or last time that happens. As an example, I’d draw your attention to the current presidential election.

    • Googaw

      well there doesn’t have to be a commercial one for SpaceX – Elon’s personal goal.

      SpaceX is owned by a bunch of different investors, all of whom, including minority owner Musk, expect to make a profit. NASA contracts are their sole source of HSF revenues — not suprising since contracts from these odd government civilian agencies are well over 99.5% of the revenue stream in this “industry” (100% in recent years).

      I strongly urge folks to actually do the arithmetic. Any orbital HSF industry is several orders of magnitude away from being able to fund itself. When the NASA contracts dry up they will drop HSF like a hot potato, regardless of whether that happens next year or thirty years from now. Hopefully they will take the initiative and drop the NASA astronauts before the bells, whistles, and safety dances that come with them ruin their very promising satellite launcher.


      So now we’re back to invoking the authority of a UFO hunter who also has been reduced, like all other people who pursue orbital HSF, to merely chasing NASA (sub)contracts when he’s not chasing little green men. After many years pursuing customers he still has no substantial revenue from anybody for his balloon “hotels”.

      And really stupid things like these most definitely should be disparaged, especially when that stupidity is being funded by reaching into my back pocket and selling my children into debt slavery.

    • Vladislaw

      I agree, no point in Bigelow wasting resources until he has transportation. A coupld of good test flights for both Boeing and SpaceX would be to a bigelow station, and set it up. Two birds with one stone. There are a lot of 2nd and 3rd tier countries that will never do anything on the ISS through NASA. But then can have bragging rights to a full up space program by buying 2 seats a year to leo and lease 1/3 of a BA 330. 100-150 million a year. There is a lot of countries with a checkbook that big.

  • vulture4

    There are two elements in cost-effectiveness. One is effectiveness. The other, not surprisingly, is cost. Humans can do a lot of useful work in space, and it can provide unique vacations as well. But except for a half dozen civil servants providing symbolic prestige to various governments, there is virtually no one to whom a seat to space is worth $60M and only one or two a year who will pay $20M. If we continue to allow cost to be nearly infinite, we will never see a day when there are more than a handful of people in space. Conversely, if we can bring this cost down to <$1M many goals for human spaceflight will become practical.

  • Fred Willett

    I think Mr Miller falls into the classic trap of wanting to make plans. But the essence of commercial anything is it is an essential chaotic market. Lots of people each doing their own thing.
    It’s not so much a matter of specifying “we need X and Y and Z” as letting people sort out for themselves what they want to do: how they want to procede; and letting them do it.
    It’s only later that the historian comes along and finds the order in the chaos.
    The fact is the space economy is now about $300B a year and growing at about 10% p.a. A rate above the rest of the economy.
    By contrast NASA’s budget is $18B a year and at best static, at worst, falling.
    It is obvious that commercial space is the way ahead. Whether it be SpaceX building rockets, Altius building sticky booms or Planetary Resources attempting to mine asteroids.
    That’s business.
    People, companies, doing their own thing.
    It’s the way the future grows.
    It’s the way it always has.

    • Googaw

      Fred that was a very good comment until the very end. I couldn’t have said it better:

      the essence of commercial anything is it is an essential[ly] chaotic market. Lots of people each doing their own thing…the space economy is [growing at a] rate above the rest of the economy…

      Very well said. But you fell down when citing examples. Practically all the growth you’ve accurately observed in genuinely private sector space commerce comes from the communications business. That’s the business every single one of SpaceX’s private sector customers is in. Planetary Resources and Altius’ stickyboom have no significant revenues from private sector customers, nor any prospect of any — they are chasing NASA (sub)contracts like everybody else who spins these sci-fi stories. That is what the stories are for.

      • Fred Willett

        Planetary Resources and Altius’ stickyyboom have no significant revenues from private sector customers,
        Well that’s partially right. So far. Planetary Resources haven’t even launched their first satellite yet, and when they do it will be aimed at looking for, rather than actually mining asteroids. Altius on the other hand is a really really small company. They are generating some income – enough to survive on, and are working on some new technologies like the stickyboom. If they aren’t yet the size of Boeing or ATK, well never mind, they might be someone day. Who knows?.
        …nor any prospect of any
        This, of course it’s way too early to say.
        In the case of Planetary Resources it’s a group of Billionairs putting up big bucks in the hope of future returns. In the case of Altius it’s one guy striking out on his own and starting a new business.
        That’s why I chose those two examples. They are both recent startups from different ends of the business spectrum, and both are commercial concerns.
        They illustrate the point that commercial things are happening.
        Does this guarantee success for PR and/or Altius? No.
        It’s like asking if the 1977 small startup by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak will ever succeed?
        Who knows.
        We just have to wait and see.

        • Googaw

          the 1977 small startup by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak

          wasn’t chasing government contracts. They sold to private sector customers from the very beginning. Indeed, Jobs got the idea for the Apple I by hanging out at an early computer store and observing what people were and weren’t buying. Learning about the customers. A required skill to succeed in Silicon Valley. But something people in the NASA contractor community, including most of NewSpace, have no clue how to do, since their only “customer”, if they have any at all, is NASA or one of its contractors. So they specialize in political lobbying instead of adding value to people’s lives, and work on economic fantasies of no actual relevance to what people in the private sector actually want and can afford to buy.

    • Vladislaw

      “That’s business.
      People, companies, doing their own thing.
      It’s the way the future grows.
      It’s the way it always has.”

      Yes, carving out their new website on the digital frontier with their own bare hands. But you can not ignore the 800 pound gorilla sitting in the middle of our economy. It is a maker or breaker. Always has been. The federal government, like it or not, has to be a variable in any equation, especially one where property rights are not even established past GEO. You want to know why business ends at GEO? Thats where the property ends.

      The key is the multiplier effect. Or in laymen’s terms, getting the biggest bang for the buck. A policy of zero g-zero tax is a no cost way for the Nation to induce capital flows to move towards potentially higher returns. One of the highest multiplier effects you can get.

      Another way is having contractors put some of their own skin in the game. The COTS model for three seperate EELV’s has shown us that. Atlas V, Delta IV, Falcon 9 ( and soon orbital) Those gave a lot better return to the tax payer, at a lower cost than Ares I and constellation.

      The federal government can help or hurt but they are rarely ever neutral to businesses wanting to do their own thing.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Bill Nelson has been reelected according to MSNBC RGO

  • Coastal Ron

    Without a “National Imperative” for doing a significant amount of things beyond LEO, it doesn’t matter what any President suggests.

    What I think Obama can do in his 2nd term (confirmed now by Fox News) is promote the creation of the basic infrastructure that will allow both NASA and U.S. companies to operate beyond LEO.

    Oh, and sorry I haven’t been in on the conversation recently – I left the comfort of the coast last week and went to Ohio to work for the Obama re-election effort. You’re welcome…

    • common sense

      Well done then in Ohio!

      I think the basic infrastructure will be to let the SLS/MPCV die their own death and he will ask for more cash for commercial initiatives in space (Lunar/NEO COTS anyone?) and the model may even spread to the DoD.

      We shall see.

      • Googaw

        As if we don’t already have enough “commercial” initiatives where 100% of the revenue comes from government (taken out of the pockets of actual commerce). The many previous grand markets-of-the-future dead and conveniently forgotten, we quickly move onto the next hallucinatory justification for leeching off the economy instead of contributing to it.

  • common sense

    By the way I almost forgot. We need to have some form of a NASC or National Space Council. Such council would include the industry as I was suggesting above but not only. And no, not just for HSF, just in case… I see a potential problem with a conflict with the NASA Administrator as to who decides what to do. But if as I suspect we go towards a more important involvement of the private sector then that point may become moot. Unfortunately it also means less power for the NASA Admin and who would then take the job?… Anyway. Fundamentally we need such a council I think. Still.

  • Politicians say space policy is just this – policy. Leaders look for bold vision and seek to take us there.

    NASA is not an expenditure. It’s an investment. How many of you in your own portfolios spend less than 1/2 of 1% on investments? A healthy 3-5% should be mandated for NASA. We should begin building a space policy with China/Russia and India along with the ESA. Imagine if we developed a true partnership with China/Russia on deep space travel?

    If you do not have bold vision – you’re destined to look up to the sky and imagine the clouds as they take shape overhead – only to slowly disappear or rain down upon your head.


    Space exploitation is not space exploration.

    The metrics, rationale and geopolitics for such grand and inspiring enterprises like Apollo have changed greatly since the era when flags and footprints projected national power. They sell Roll-Royces in Russia now and there’s a McDonald’s in Red Square. A Big Mac in the mouth is the taste of victory today rather than a moon rock on display in a museum.

    American space efforts have always been reactive, not proactive. When the PRC launches out toward Luna, how Americans react will determine the future course of U.S. space efforts fro the better part of this century.

  • vulture4

    NASA can only be an investment if it produces a return. Let’s remember that it was Kennedy who challenged the Russians to a race to the moon, using it as a symbolic substitute for the nuclear arms race which was coming perilously close to destroying civilization (for those of us who remember air raid drills in New York City). China is a fierce economic competitor but not an ideological adversary. They have no interest whatsoever in a symbolic moon race; if they lost they would look incompetent. If they won they would irritate their biggest customer.

    As evidence, they have launched only four manned missions in ten years, even though they have had no significant technological failures in years. Obviously if they were in a race they would be maintaining a much higher launch rate. Their goals are different, to build national pride in their domestic audience and respect for their industrial capabilities in potential customers. Note that (unlike SLS) their current and future man-rated LVs are also intended for the commercial market, and consequently their largest currently planned LV (the CZ-5) is in the 25MT to LEO class, similar to Delta IV heavy, appropriate for large satellites or space station modules but not really for an Apollo-like dash to the moon.

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