Congress, NASA, White House

Before the next four years, focus on the next eight weeks

Last night’s results indicated that something close to the status quo will reign in space policy in the near future. The balance of power remains unchanged: the Obama Administration will be in office for the next four years, while the Senate remains in Democratic hands and the House in Republican hands for the next two. There will be some second-order changes: ScienceInsider notes that about a fourth of the House Science Committee’s current membership won’t be back next year, and the committee will need a new chairman with Rep. Ralph Hall (R-TX) term-limited under Republican rules. And there will also be speculation about changes at NASA, including how long current administrator Charles Bolden will remain on the job.

However, just because there hasn’t been any major changes on either end of Pennslyvania Avenue doesn’t mean, as a SPACE.com article put it today, that “NASA will likely continue along its current path” towards a human mission to a near Earth asteroid by 2025. While that goal may remain on the books, the ability of NASA to achieve that goal will strongly depend on what happens over the next eight weeks regarding negotiations about the 2013 budget and efforts to avoid sequestration. Without a deal, eight weeks from today—January 2, 2013—the automatic spending cuts known as sequestration will go into effect, cutting NASA’s budget by over eight percent. Even if a deal is reached, the space agency may face spending cuts, although likely in a more targeted fashion than those implemented by sequestration. Those cuts could certainly impede NASA’s ability to continue on its current path. In other words, don’t look too far ahead just yet.

80 comments to Before the next four years, focus on the next eight weeks

  • Robert G. Oler

    “Last night’s results indicated that something close to the status quo will reign in space policy in the near future. The balance of power remains unchanged: ”

    NOOOOOO

    I am still thinking through what last night means. Of course a few things come to mind immediately… Michael Barone is not smarter then everyone else in terms of politics…some might think so but then they are right wing troglodytes who have backed the losing side for quite sometime.

    first off the balance of power no longer remains the same in DC…I know thats the spin particularly from the losers…but Obama was reelected in the face of ENORMOUS headwinds.

    Obama carried FL despite the urgings of the pro shuttle/pro Cx/ pro anything other then Obama urgings of people from the past.

    The balance of power at LEAST NOW is not the same…

    In space politics Mike Griffin, Scott Pace and Eric and even the Tea Party in space people have submerged or are in the process of submerging in the cacophony of defeat.

    In the end Obama has (to quote Bush43 after his far more narrow reelection) political capital and previous GOP mistakes on his side…Sequestration is an excellent excuse to down SLS and Orion which are sliding the wrong way…and Mike Griffin and the rest of hte band of losers will try and salvage it but their cred died last night.

    Obama (and by Proxy Charlie Bolden) need to come up with a vision for the agency (A space industrial power is a good one) and start running with it.

    This is the third day at Gettysburg. The forces of Darkness have spent themselves in a futile charge and instead of sitting back and letting them escape across the Potomac, Obama needs to mount up and end the thing…that includes programs like SLS and Orion…

    Elections matter and this was a large Obama victory. He dealt with economic headwinds, a vicious right wing attack media (seeing the look on the Fox news host as Ohiowas called …along with Rove’s meltdown…priceless), millions of dark money…and yet he triumphed.

    Shoot the other guys wounded and go after them.

    I have crow soup Rand if you want it RGO

  • I have crow soup Rand if you want it

    I wasn’t the one making predictions here.

  • Rhyolite

    “The balance of power remains unchanged”

    I don’t think that is correct. The looming sequestration and expiration of the Bush tax cuts hit republican priorities much harder than democratic ones. They give the administration bargaining chips that they haven’t had in the past two years. I expect that they will trade a short term extension of the upper income tax cuts for other domestic policy priorities. It should be an interesting couple of months.

    • Mary

      The current administration has nothing to bargain with. They’re in debt up to their ears in a weak economy with high unemployment and skyrocketing prices on consumer goods and fuel.

  • Dark Blue Nine

    I’d like to think that given the:

    1) Huge, multi-billion dollar mismatch between SLS/MPCV budget needs in the 2010 NASA Authorization Act and subsequent appropriations funding;

    2) Year-for-year slippage in the SLS/MPCV schedule, first from to 2017 from the 2016 requirement for the first unmanned flight in the Act, and now threatening to slip again to 2018;

    3) Absence of funding for any actual exploration hardware (transit stages, landers, proximity vehicles) or payloads due to high SLS/MPCV development costs;

    4) Absence of funding for an MPCV service module, restricting MPCV to Earth orbit, due to high SLS/MPCV development costs;

    5) Lack of resources to advance robotic exploration priorities like MEP, Outer Planets, and WFIRST, partly due to high SLS/MPCV development costs; and

    6) High likelihood of a 5-10% multi-year cut in NASA’s budget, either through sequestration or a budget deal.

    I would hope that a second-term Obama Administration would deal, sooner than later, with the flagging, empty human space exploration program that was forced upon them by the 2010 NASA Authorization Act and terminate SLS/MPCV. And I would hope that the Administration would replace those programs with a more budgetarily realistic space exploration program, one that likely builds on COTS/CCDev elements and more efficient architectures and technologies. With Hutchison retired, Nelson having done badly in the I-4 corridor, Republican allies temporarily on their heels, and the clarifying pressure of sequestration, now is probably the only good time to replace SLS/MPCV before the next Administration. I hope the White House takes advantage of it.

    That said, those are just hopes. Given the:

    1) Low priority of human space exploration;

    2) Fact that civil human space flight (if not exploration) is in relatively decent shape thanks to ISS/COTS/CCDev;

    3) Large number of much higher priorities on the Administration’s plate; and

    4) Highly parochial support for SLS/MPCV in Congress.

    It’s probably unlikely that the Administration will make a move. It’s easier to ignore continued year-for-year slips in SLS/MPCV and leave the problem for the next President, than it is to expend a little political currency on fixing a failing civil human space exploration program.

    • Googaw

      The recent choices for the HSF commission, dominated by national security and astronomy, suggest the following priorities:

      (1) They will keep SLS, whether it is on schedule or not, because we need a thriving solid rocket industrial base, and because of hints and rumors about DoD needs to launch very big satellites. SLS is probably the top NASA priority of the national security folks, so cancelling it just isn’t in the cards unless the rest of NASA goes first. But they will cancel or at least seriously defund and stretch out Orion/MPCV.

      (2) Finally fund something like Terrestrial Planet Finder (the pet project of Lunine and a huge community of science fans).

      (3) As a sop to astronaut fans, say that human exploration of the moon, Mars, etc. is important, but long term (safely beyond the budget horizon). Spin out plenty of PowerPoint sci-fi stories about this to keep them happy.

      (4) Diminished funding for ISS and servicing ISS, “commercial” or otherwise. If they don’t find a way to greatly reduce servicing costs, while keeping scientific experiments going at good pace, cancel it.

      (5) Not reflected on the commission, but a high priority after Sandy, is getting more data on climate change. For example we need more data on the causes and severity of storms and what relationship(s) this may or may not have to warming oceans. So expect to see money shuffled from the rapidly dwindling HSF budget to actually important scientific spacecraft. Some wags have also spun this as a national security issue.

      (6) Shift a billion dollars or so of NASA’s budget to DoD space efforts. This means NASA could easily be cut by more than the sequestration amount.

      • Dark Blue Nine

        “The recent choices for the HSF commission, dominated by national security and astronomy, suggest the following priorities:”

        It’s not an “HSF commission” like Augustine’s. It’s a National Research Council (NRC) ad hoc committee. It’s membership is selected by NRC staff, as overseen by permanent NRC committees like the Space Studies Board and the Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board, to respond to a congressional earmark for this study. The membership is the product of academics and retired researchers and their staff. NRC committees are not selected, overseen, or even rubber stamped by the White House, Congress, or NASA. The NRC itself isn’t even part of the government — it’s a non-profit organization.

        As others have already pointed out, NRC reports outside the decadal surveys usually do little but gather dust. This one is even more likely to do so given how irrelevant its schedule is to rapidly oncoming decisions:

        http://nasawatch.com/archives/2012/11/yet-another-slo.html

        “(1) They will keep SLS, whether it is on schedule or not, because we need a thriving solid rocket industrial base,”

        The small, monolithic solid rockets that support ICBMs, SLBMs, etc. have little in common technically with the enormous, segmented, one-of-a-kind solid rockets uniquely employed by the Shuttle SRBs. Moreover, you could replace every Minuteman and Trident in the current inventory for a small fraction of the SLS budget.

        And even if the military solid rocket industrial base was dependent on Shuttle SRBs, SLS is not guaranteed to continue providing support. The initial stages of a competition to replace the SRBs with some other advanced booster, likely liquid, are already underway.

        “and because of hints and rumors about DoD needs to launch very big satellites.”

        What “hints and rumors”? After up to decade-long delays, multi-billion overruns, and cancellations leading to gaps in coverage in practically every major DOD satellite acquisition — along with sequestration and/or deficit deals to reduce the DOD budget — all indications are that the U.S. military will disaggregate future constellations and employ smaller and simpler satellites. They’ve been broadcasting this position loud and clear in multiple forums for over a year now:

        http://www.military.com/features/0,15240,229639,00.html

        http://www.airforce-magazine.com/MagazineArchive/Pages/2012/October%202012/1012space.aspx

        http://www.portaltotheuniverse.org/blogs/posts/view/190659/

        “SLS is probably the top NASA priority of the national security folks, so cancelling it just isn’t in the cards unless the rest of NASA goes first.”

        No, national security priorities for NASA have nothing to do with any NASA development program. They’re operational in nature.

        “(6) Shift a billion dollars or so of NASA’s budget to DoD space efforts. This means NASA could easily be cut by more than the sequestration amount.”

        NASA could easily be cut by more than 8%, but DOD is facing the same or more severe cuts under sequestration or any budget deal. All discretionary funding is at risk — a cut to NASA won’t be transferred to another department or agency.

  • Googaw

    Shoot the other guys wounded and go after them.

    Isn’t it just great that what we do in space is decided by politics.

  • yg1968

    RGO,

    None of what you are predicting is likely. SLS is backed by many Democrats in the House and in the Senate. It’s obvious that you don’t pay attention to anything but the presidency to make the statements that you are making. The President does not sit on the House and Senate appropriation committees. He cannot pass a NASA Authorization bill. I am not a big fan of SLS either but none of what you are predicting is likely to happen.

    • Robert G. Oler

      SLS support is clustered around a modest nee small level of core support …what sustains it is the “you do my pork I will do yours” which works until we have to deal with well the incoming sequestration and budget deals…then all bets are off.

      We are coming to the moment in the Titanic movie when all the folks start working for themselves…there are not enough people to save an SLS that is off track already. We will see…so far I have gotten far more correct then wrong.

      RGO

  • Grandpa

    There are far more serious problems for this country than these little Space issues. How about the survival of the republic? The nation is divided and everyone knows what A. Lincoln said. NASA and there little $8B budget could disappear tomorrow and no body would notice. Get it through your heads… Nobody cares. — Grandpa

    • Googaw

      How dare you disturb our fantasies with this strange blast of normal opinion.

      • Grandpa

        Sorry. I remember those pipe-dream days too.

        I have worked on NASA programs stating with Gemini and Skylab through the recent cancelled Constellation program. As usual the government can never sail a straight course because of too many bosses and not enough workers (i.e., BUREAUCRACY)

        • Guest

          through the recent cancelled Constellation program. As usual the government can never sail a straight course because of too many bosses and not enough workers (i.e., BUREAUCRACY)

          And of course, extremely poor top level programmatic and technical design had nothing to do with it. As I recall, Constellation was the design of a single individual, just as the senate launch system (SLS) was.

    • DCSCA

      People cared. But for the wrong reasons. They looked to space ops as symbols of technical prowess and national pride. That falls flat with infrastructure collapsing all around them, their jobs disappearing and astronomical healthcare costs these days. Today, a symbol of national schievement is a McDonald’s in Red Square, not flags and footprints on Luna. That is, until the PRC heads out there.

  • JimNobles

    As far as possible let the Space Cadets run the space program. As far as possible let the Space Cadets pay for the space program. The best way I know to do that is to go as commercial as possible. If space becomes a business sphere then it lets people vote with their wallets, and vote as much as they feel they can afford. And they don’t even have to be Americans to vote.

    I’ve watched Government Space for over fifty years. It’s been interesting and sometimes exciting but I’ve seen enough. I’d like to see something else now.

    As long as space is wedded to politics we will be continually banging our heads against a brick wall. Maybe we’ll manage to knock a few bricks loose but I believe that mainly we will end up with sore heads.

    I am not rabidly anti-Government Space nor do I think the commercialization of the inner solar system will be particularly easy. For all I know it may turn out to be impossible. But I am beginning to suspect it’s our best option given all the factors at work.

    IMO.

  • DCSCA

    This is a breakpoint for sure between past triumphs and future ventures to come. I keep thinking of Cernan’s desperate political pitch for the losing side. Sad. We lost Ride, Armstrong, and the shuttles are in museums. So is Geno’s vision of the future. The 21 century for spaceflight has begun, about 12 years late.

  • common sense

    SLS will go. BUT if there is such a need then it will be competed. The whole darn rocket will. New entrants will show up beyond the usuals…

    MPCV is dead. Has been for some time. May be on life support until a crewed Dragon.

    Dragon will fly crewed (spaceX crew) without a LAS next year or after another 2 or 3 COTS flights which ever comes first. YMMV.

    Fun times!

    Especially now that Romney has won… No. Wait!!!

    Ah.

    :)

    • Neil Shipley

      I’m pretty certain Dragon Rider won’t fly without a LAS. My prediction v’s your’s.
      Agree on MPCV. SLS eventually but it’s providing more jobs so will take longer than MPCV. Mind you so was Cx. How long did that take to die? Suspect sequestration will do it.
      Cheers.

    • Robert G. Oler

      Yeah that would be my time period for SpaceX to give it a try with their own crew. But I bet they have an LAS RGO

    • common sense

      Unless SpaceX found the time and the people to build a LAS, notwithstanding their planned LAS/retropropulsion system I don’t think they can design an effective working LAS in such a short period of time. But hey if I am wrong great! All I am saying is that they do not need a LAS to be at least as safe as Shuttle and I say “at least”. I believe the system is already safer than Shuttle. The only real problems might be pad-abort (that’d be a bad day without a LAS) and max-Q abort (transonic) where even releasing Dragon might make it another interesting day. Otherwise if they are high enough a capsule can take pretty bad punishment if correctly designed if they can jettison it somehow…

      Just saying…

      • Robert G. Oler

        They are doing everything to come up with an LAS…the Grasshopper the second generation dragon with the big DRACO’s…it wont take much when all of that is mature. RGO

        • common sense

          Do not discount the difficulty of building an effective LAS, a LAS that will save the crew. The LAS designed for Ares I had a good chance of killing the crew. That being said there are multiple ways to approach a LAS. You could have one limited for on-pad ops or other known limitations. It is important to realize that the added complexity of essentially having another vehicle on your rocket does not necessarily make it safer. What is important is the integration of the LAV (Launch Abort vehicle = Capsule+LAS) to the LV itself. Separation and flight characteristics (e.g. control and stability) are paramount. So again they don’t necessarily need a LAS at all to be “safe”. The illusion of 100% safe is what is the danger, economically. Are you 100% safe in a B737, in an F-15? No. What you have is a defined “envelope” of flight. Going out of the envelope is what kills. Same for a darn rocket. Yes a first or second stage can explode but a 747 tank can explode as well. No one has an escape system on a 747. An F-15 ejection seat really is there for combat and the more likely occurrence of departing the designed envelope. And so on and so forth. After another maybe 3 flights of F-9/Dragon they should have enough data to know how safe their ops are and whether they can fly a crew. No matter whether there is a LAS or not.

    • MaDeR

      “Dragon will fly crewed (spaceX crew) without a LAS”
      Ever heard about SuperDraco?

  • E.P. Grondine

    When a large hole in the ground from the mammoth killer “carbonaceous asteroid” impact is found, confirmed, and made public it will profoundly change the terms of the discussion and debate on space policy.

  • Click here for my blog article on the subject.

    I think SLS will survive. Too many people in positions of power on Congressional committees to protect it.

    The administration will have to tolerate SLS to protect funding for commercial crew and ISS. That was the bargain in 2010 and it’s the bargain that will have to continue so long as Shelby, Hatch and Nelson remain in the Senate.

    The more likely casualties will be robotic exploration, aeronautics, space center technology upgrades and the like.

    Just my guess, but I think the second-term Obama administration will try to make lemonade out of lemons by proposing potential SLS uses, e.g. the L2 outpost, even though Congress won’t fund it. All Congress wants is to protect jobs in their districts, so an unfunded “destination” on paper will make them happy.

    The key is to buy time for NewSpace to mature. Get SpaceX, Boeing and Sierra Nevada flying to ISS and Bigelow. Have Virgin Galactic and XCOR capture the public imagination by flying private citizens into space. The administration needs to get NewSpace into the public consciousness so Congresscritters will conclude they risk their careers by publicly killing it.

  • Mary

    Obama never deserved a second win, which shows how bad off the country is. I agree that SLS will survive because Obama will forget about NASA and space exploration.

    • Curtis Quick

      It was not so much that Obama did not deserve to win as much as it was that no one really wanted the alternative. Also, I don’t see how SLS can survive sequestration. The administration can sieze the opportunity and advance the space program the only way possible and quietly kill of SLS.

      • Mary

        That was my point. The people who voted for Obama don’t care what happens to America or future generations. Obama supports SLS, so its not going anywhere.

        • Robert G. Oler

          Mary
          November 7, 2012 at 10:46 pm · Reply

          That was my point. The people who voted for Obama don’t care what happens to America or future generations.>>

          that is a very wide spread statement and at least in my case is incorrect. IN large measure I voted for Obama (for the first time) because in his reelection was the only path I could see (between the two that are available) for a future where American is both free and the worlds leading power.

          Space illustrates that. SLS surviving aside, the program that The administration has staked its space “legacy” On is commercial crew and cargo. Yes the Congress has pushed SLS and Orion; but there is in my view no chance even if the projects stay funded tha 1) they complete in any sane time period or 2) for any sane cost or 3) they change the way the space business does its business.

          The shuttle is illustrative in this. Lets average but I bet the numbers are close…take an average of four flights a year and lets say but 7 no 8 people on each flight…what that means is that the nation was spending 3.5 billion or so dollars for about 32 tops people in space a year. the math is easy and you can see what the “person” cost is…and the per day cost is even higher.

          The only way SLS/Orion will be different is that it will be fewer flights and less people…

          I have a 2 and 1/2 year old who has tested for her age in some of the highest categories they have at UTMB…her conversational skills are at a 5 year old level…I dont know what her future is, but if she wants one that in any fashion includes space as something in her life that does things, not sucks tax dollars commercial cargo and crew are the only door to open that pathway. SLS/Orion are more of the same we have done the last 30 years.

          IN general, why Obama won the election is that the GOP has as an enemy…the future. Their world is somewhere in the 80′s for foreign policy and the 50′s for social policy. And if you look at Griffin, Pace and the other trogolytes who were bellying up to be “Willards” space team…their space policy is “Apollo on steroids” or simply “Apollo one more time”.

          Your statement is absurd.

          RGO

          • Mary

            My statement was correct. Those who voted for a stumbling lack luster 1st term president were content with massive debt and skyrocketing commsumer costs. Commercial space was never a consideration let alone space exploration.

        • Anonymous American

          “The people who voted for Obama don’t care what happens to America or future generations.”

          What an arrogant, mean-spirited thing to say. I love my country. I served my country. I voted for the person I think will be the best leader for our country given the challenges we face. Disagree with my choice if you wish, that is your right. But never, ever dare to question my love for my country.

          I know you feel angry and disappointed about the outcome of the election. But think before you post such silly words. We are all Americans. We are all in this together.

          • Mary

            Not angry at all. You voted for a socialist.

          • Anonymous American

            “Mary”,

            You do not even know the meaning of the word “socialist” if you think it applies to the President. If you’re this apoplectic now, I can only imagine your reaction if you were ever to met a real socialist!

            You must be one of those reality-challenged conservatives I’ve heard so much about. You exemplify the old saying, “Ideology is the domination of experience.” Something I used to say only about Marxists–oh, the ironies abound!

            I’ll leave you to your fog-bound state, as you seem unable or unwilling to engage in reasonable discussion. There are more pressing matters to deal with in the real world, where we adults are living.

            Peace.

          • Mary

            “Anonymous American”

            Glad you got it out of your system, but Obama is not going to change.

            In fact the bill is coming due, and guess who’s going to pay for it.

        • JimNobles

          -
          I don’t think Obama really cares about SLS at all. Although NASA seems to be in love with it. I can’t see the President putting much effort into either saving it or canceling it. It was forced on him after all. I think he will use what ever political capital he has on things he considers more important.
          -

          “The people who voted for Obama don’t care what happens to America or future generations.”

          Childish.

          • Mary

            “The people who voted for Obama don’t care what happens to America or future generations.”

            Childish? Yes, in the way they voted because they are comfortably dependent and expect to be supported by the government.

        • Vladislaw

          Gosh Mary, you must be from the party of GOD. People who vote for President Obama are actually voting for the destruction of north america. What .. is it going to slide into the ocean? Obama has aready been the new president for a day .. when does america slide into the ocean? Or is god going to toss another hurricane at us for electing Obama? Oh wait, the republicans said the hurricanes were for supporting gays… I get confused and mixed up, how did your party say god was going to punish America again for voting for Obama?

          Do you know how freakin’ INSANE you sound? The republican message, which has to be from a perfect god because nothing the CONServatative republicans say is or do is ever wrong. It is always those tax and spend democrats. Doesn’t matter that most of the debt is because of Reagan Bush Bush… continue to blame the democrats.

          whew … Okay .. sorry jeff.. you can delete this now .. just needed to rant.

        • Obama is going along with SLS because that was the deal a group of Senators presented him with: go along with SLS and they would allow Commercial Crew to happen. Even after the deal was agreed upon, the administration resisted implementing it for as long as they could. Remember the space state politicians griping about the delays? When it becomes politically expedient to get rid of SLS without harming CC, SLS will will be abolished by the Obama administration. It may take a couple of years, but it’s just a matter of time.

      • It was not so much that Obama did not deserve to win as much as it was that no one really wanted the alternative.

        Well, if by “no one” you mean almost half of the voters…

        • Robert G. Oler

          Sure…and Gore won the popular vote in 2000 but that didnt stop the GOP from charging ahead with its agenda. Winning is winning. This was a blowout RGO

        • Curtis Quick

          Rand, I do not mean that no one voted for Romney. My point was that they were more voting against Obama than for Romney. I may be incorrect here, but no one I asked said they voted for Romney because they thought he was the right choice as the nation’s next leader. Rather, they said the voted for Romney because they did not want Obama to win re-election.

          And on the other side, many may have voted for Obama because they were Democrats. Independents may not have liked Romney’s six figure monthly income and his history at Bain destroying thousands of jobs and either cast their ballot for Obama or did not vote. And conservative Republican’s like myself did not trust Romney’s character and would not vote for him.

          Thus I claim Obama won because no one really wanted Romney as president.

          Now as far as SLS goes, I think it will get thrown under the bus with sequestration without much argument. I don’t see Obama or other Democrats defending it. I don’t even think Republicans will hold a candle out for it. It is so pork obvious that it cannot be saved. Especially as commercial roars ahead with cheaper and more immediate alternatives.

          • Vladislaw

            78% who voted for Obama wanted him to win.
            22% who voted for Obama didn’t want Romney to win.

            53% who voted for Romney wanted him to win.
            47% who voted for Romney didn’t want Obama to win.

            Last I saw on that stat.

    • Coastal Ron

      “Obama never deserved a second win…”

      Romney never deserved a first win.

      …which shows how bad off the country is.

      Yes, people voting for who they want to lead them is a bad idea… ;-)

      From a space “vision” standpoint, Romney calling a meeting is not a “vision”, so I don’t see how anyone could be excited about a Romney presidency just from a space perspective (luckily we won’t have to deal with that).

      However, for good or bad, the Obama NASA is truly thinking of doing things beyond LEO. Mike Wall over at NBCNews.com is reporting that NASA has already cleared it’s plans for using the SLS for a Moon mission, and that it can do it within NASA’s current budget. Color me skeptical, since any such plan will have to assume that the SLS will get developed on time and on budget, and so far that hasn’t happened on any large NASA program.

      I’m inclined to agree with Stephen about the SLS, but I do have hope that Rohrabacher will assume the leadership role in the House, and that he’ll be able to negotiate the end of that useless disposable pork project.

      • Mary

        Neither Obama or Romney have a clue so its a draw on that. It would be nice to end the pork train, but I don’t see it happening in the next four years.

  • President Obama just doesn’t have enough interest in space to defy Congressional support for the SLS in the House and in the Senate. And during his campaign, the Obama administration even took credit for SLS program:-)

    There’s no reason why a simple L2 outpost can’t be deployed by the SLS with a single launch. And there’s also no reason why such a simple outpost should cost more to develop than a single ISS module ($1.5 to $3 billion). But such an L2 outpost won’t be a serious step towards travel beyond cis-lunar space unless it is properly shielded from cosmic radiation and major solar events!

    To protect a small area within such an outpost (lets say a cylindrical area six meters in diameter and three meters in height: nearly ten times the habitable volume of the Orion capsule) from the maximum solar events that have occurred over the past 100 years will require at least one meter of water shielding. And that would require at least four additional SLS launches to such an L2 outpost, transporting 30 to 40 tonnes of water to L2 per launch.

    Of course, if we’re going to develop the SLS, we might as well use it!

    Marcel F. Williams

    • Googaw

      there’s also no reason why such a simple outpost should cost more to develop than a single ISS module ($1.5 to $3 billion).

      The astronomical lowball auction has begun. $1.5 billion? That must be almost all gratuitous pork. Do I hear $150 million? $150 million! No, $1.50! Over here, a penny! Just toss in some stardust and chant “commerce” until you turn blue. There is no reason it should cost more than it costs me to blow up a balloon. Look how much more visionary I am than you, you hidebound bureaucrat!

    • JimNobles

      -
      “And that would require at least four additional SLS launches to such an L2 outpost, transporting 30 to 40 tonnes of water to L2 per launch.”
      -
      Trying to imagine going in front of a congressional committee and explaining why we need to pay for four SLS launches containing only water. Space Cadets would understand it. But would Congresspersons see the value?

    • @Marcel Williams
      “Of course, if we’re going to develop the SLS, we might as well use it!”
      Developing it and finishing it are two different things. No use wasting money on something that will blow its budget and thus whose completion date is pushed perpetually back. But then logic is not exactly your strong point.

  • Even economically literate “space cadets” would think that’s nuts. There is nothing worth launching on an SLS give its cost.

  • JimNobles

    @Rand Simberg

    Just read your post on Transterrestrial Musings. Very interesting. Someone thinks NASA and the Whitehouse are having second thoughts about SLS? Quite interesting indeed.

    • Robert G. Oler

      It is fairly interesting musing by Simberg and I think he connects all the dots but the politics…let me try this presidential address

      “My friends; to try and get our budget under control we have made the difficult choice to raise taxes, mostly on the rich but well some are coming the way of the middle class as well…and many painful cuts. I know I got elected by promising to save Medicare etc but wow we had to make these deals and so some of that is “non operative”. But BE OF GOOD CHEER…we are going to spend some money to build a propellent depot in orbit, and send some people to an Earth Moon Libration point…what are they going to do? Well we will make sure like on the space station, which we are still figuring out what to do with, they have plenty of cameras and lego blocks and doubtless we will figure out some other things to do which you will see the value of immediately, or maybe later we just hope you dont notice.

      Meanwhile our electrical grid continues to age, our roads decay and our air traffic control system become the laughing stock of the world, but there will be those wonderful pictures from the EML station…and all those people who voted for the Morman guy, they will have a job.

      God or the Creator of your choice Bless The United States.

      ….

      Sorry the politics of this deal are all wrong. RGO

      • common sense

        Yep. It might just go that very merry way.

        But Christmas is fast approaching, so who knows what Dear Santa has in his bag of tricks for us?

        Now, do you (we) believe in Santa? It may be a more fundamental question…

        • Robert G. Oler

          Well…it is a fantasy perpetuated by the right wing folks WHO LOST THIS ELECTION that the status quo is going to be maintained in space politics (or anything else)…

          It is a fantasy perpetuated by people whose world until election day WAS FANTASY. It is clear as stories dribble out from the Romney campaign and one reads the babble coming out from all the people on the right who ignored the real polls, the real math, the real science and predicted a massive Romney victory…that they are still hanging on to the myths of this President and the politics that are unfolding…and that includes scenarios such as Rand is pushing.

          The status quo (a dual track commercial/government program) in space politics was perpetuated MOSTLY by a GOP Congress (some Dems mostly ones who were vunerable in elections now past) that was and is just anti Obama. Some of the rhetoric coming from the Romney campaign is illustrative in this.

          Those situations no longer exist, unless Obama who won big in this election lets them exist…now he might do that…but in the end with budget cuts coming and sequestration on the horizon and Obama pinned pretty hard by his base on the Bush tax cuts…

          programs are going to end. Now whose do you think are going to end at NASA? Ones pushed by the Administration or ones whose backers are small in number and when push comes to shove will find those programs easy to trade off?

          If you want a taste of how insulated the right wing was, even in its media outlets…go see the video’s on the web of the stunned silence on Fox News when Obama wins Ohio…

          couldnt happen to nicer people RGO

    • Googaw

      This comment (said to be on “deep background” from somebody at NASA) is pretty interesting:

      Elon Musk has said that a couple of missions/year to ISS is not enough to keep them going.

      And yet he’ll be lucky if there’s NASA budget for even that much. Apparently, contrary to all the wishful thinking around here, the costs of the bells, whistles and safety dances that NASA is forcing on SpaceX are starting, as anybody with common sense would reasonably expect, to add up to big bucks and big disruption to SpaceX’s actual commercial business of unmanned satellite launches.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Mary
    November 8, 2012 at 3:03 pm

    My statement was correct. Those who voted for a stumbling lack luster 1st term president were content with massive debt and skyrocketing commsumer costs. Commercial space was never a consideration let alone space exploration.>

    I voted happily for The President and I am neither content with massive debt nor consumer cost…Commercial space was a aconsideration and I think human space exploration right now is stupid.

    As are blanket statements. want me to start characterizing Romney voters? People who voted for a lying sack of shit?

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    The EML station could be the shiny toy to distract the beloved as NASA moves to kill SLS and maybe Orion…RGO

    • common sense

      An EML station has no purpose right now. However, if someone was to take their head out of their… err sand they might see that an EML station may not be that hard to make if based on the lessons learned from ISS or possibly a Bigelow station. We could envision an infrastructure of flights Earth-LEO and LEO-EML. We would need to build the transit vehicle that would bring so much lessons to a deep space vehicle a la Nautilus-X. The Earth-LEO transit would be left to the private vehicles. Even though an EML station is pointless just right now, if I had a choice between SLS/MPCV and EML station and transit vehicle, I think the choice would be easy. FWIW.

  • josh

    @Mary

    Let me just say that you come across as the perfect embodiment of a mindless partisan hack who confuses spouting ridiculous, counterfactual talking points (“obama is a socialist”) with constructive discussion. people like you are the reason that the gop has gone bonkers. go on living in your little bubble, the american people will leave you behind.

    • Anonymous American

      Well said, Josh. I’m enjoying watching those troglodytes growing smaller in America’s rear-view mirror. “Mary” and her ilk belong in history’s dustbin. Good riddance.

  • Jeff Foust

    A reminder that comments should remain on the topic of the post. There are plenty of places for general political discussion; this is not one of them. Thank you, as always, for your cooperation.

  • vulture4

    I can easily believe that NASA requirements for crew transport are inflating costs. A lot of these requirements really have no practical effect on safety, they’re just there because if anyone can think of something, no matter how unlikely or off-the-wall, no one questions the need for a plan to respond to it, complete with equipment, training, and operational costs that go on for the life of the program. As to SpaceX and Boeing, there’s a simple way to keep them on board; give each four flights a year.

    • Googaw

      As to SpaceX and Boeing, there’s a simple way to keep them on board; give each four flights a year.

      Yea, there’s no such thing as budget constraints.

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