Lobbying, NASA

What can $300 million a year buy for NASA’s planetary program?

In its continued quest to restore $300 million to NASA’s planetary science program, The Planetary Society described in a blog post this week what that restored funding could provide. According to “newly-formed internal budget numbers” provide to the organization from unnamed “sources within the planetary science community,” that additional funding could, in the long term, fund a 2018 Mars lander mission to cache samples for later return to Earth, a mission to Jupiter’s moon Europa, and could also move up the next Discovery mission selection one year, to 2015.

Of course, all of that is not possible with just an additional $300 million. While details (including the specific “budget numbers”) are not included in the post, the implication is that not only would the $300-million cut proposed in fiscal year 2012 be restored, but also the overall funding level of $1.5 billion would be retained for the indefinite future. For example, the reformulated Europa mission included in that calculation has a cost of at least $2 billion (down from the $4.8 billion estimated during development of the planetary science decadal survey); that’s about seven years’ worth of $300-million funding wedges alone. An Mars Science Laboratory-based caching rover would cost $1.3–1.7 billion, according to the Mars Program Planning Group, significantly more than what’s likely available in projected budgets for a 2018 mission.

So not only would that $300 million need to be restored in FY2013, that overall budget would have to be maintained through the end of the decade and into the 2020s to afford the Mars and Europa missions. (A separate issue is whether it’s better to spend that money on two flagship-class missions, versus one flagship and increased frequency of smaller Discovery and New Frontiers missions.) That kind of long-term planning is a challenge in the current uncertain fiscal environment.

39 comments to What can $300 million a year buy for NASA’s planetary program?

  • Dark Blue Nine

    Or, at its current run-rate, $300 million could be used to fund two (2) weeks of MPCV/SLS development.

  • E.P. Grondine

    Find this stuff from space before it hits:

    http://planetarydefense.blogspot.com/

    PS – I want “your” Mars money. I do not want Musk’s; he earned it.

  • Robert G. Oler

    As DBN points out 300 million every two weeks on the right wings favorite government giveaway program…

    Cancel SLS/Orion and its not hard to see how a vibrant space program emerges.

    SLS/Orion going into the history books generates 3 billion dollars. Send 1 billion off to deficit reduction.

    out of 2 billion a year fund 1/2 billion for a robust planetary program. In return for that there is a mission cap of 1 billion total for flagship missions and 1/2 billion for “others” …and a mission must go from conception to launch in three eyars for a flagship or 2 for “less”.

    the Mars people will want rovers so reopen the MER production line with suitable upgrades It is possible to come up with a robust Mars program on this budget.

    1/2 billion a year goes for upgrades to the space station. This should be the Mark Holderman and company upgrades and Node 4 as additional docking and two Bigelow modules as a free flying microgravity device/corporate module

    1/2 billion goes to pushing additional crew access…It might be time for a down select here but 1/2 billion spread out over two years should get at least two vehicles to flight ops.

    1/2 billion for technology experiments at ISS (Fuel depots) and some “auxiliary” vehicles..(this might be a slush fund as well for the additional modules to ISS.

    at the end of three years there is something to show for all of this spending…what have we gotten for SLS/Orion spending the last three years? Thats 9 billion dollars that people like Mark Whittington are ok with wasting

    Robert G. Oler

    • RockyMtnSpace

      “… out of 2 billion a year fund 1/2 billion for a robust planetary program. In return for that there is a mission cap of 1 billion total for flagship missions and 1/2 billion for “others” …and a mission must go from conception to launch in three eyars for a flagship or 2 for “less”.”

      Spoken like a true armchair know-nothing. Integration and test alone is a 14-16 month process. “Fast” Discovery missions are 48 months from Phase B ATP through launch and typically undergo 1.5 – 2 years of concept development before that to establish the science value, science and mission implementation, and preliminary risk reduction. All that for a capped $425M mission. New Frontiers class missions ($600-$700M) typically are longer because the instrument development and integration is more complex and thus more risk reduction and science implementation time is required. Otherwise you get stupid failures like SpaceX in their recent ISS mission where they ignore lessons learned in terms of using rad-hard parts and instead use off-the-shelf components never designed for space application. They can at least come back (in theory) and fix it after the fact, deep-space science missions can’t so they have to be designed, tested, and demonstrated to work right the first time and be capable of performing even after a fault.

      • Robert G. Oler

        RMS writes:

        “. Otherwise you get stupid failures like SpaceX in their recent ISS mission where they ignore lessons learned in terms of using rad-hard parts and instead use off-the-shelf components never designed for space application”

        those “failures” did not affect the mission hence while failures of components (most of which were recovered they were something that could be tolerated.

        Moving on

        “Fast” Discovery missions are 48 months from Phase B ATP through launch and typically undergo 1.5 – 2 years of concept development before that to establish the science value, science and mission implementation, and preliminary risk reduction. All that for a capped $425M mission. ”

        that is to long…that is one reason you get less for the money. These projects need to move a LOT faster in the ground work stage…IE the concept development needs to push in under a year for various proposals.

        What you are use to is projects which grind on at a space bloated bureaucracy tempo. We need to lean things out…accept failures in this but have more product. A lot of this will occur if we have spacecraft “bus” designs where one “hangs” instruments on. Instead almost every project has to start from scratch…Absurd.

        The Mariner programs used a baseline bus (mostly left over from Ranger) worked well and were launched on a more or less regular schedule. Same with the Pioneers…

        Think out of the box do not be trapped by the past.

        Robert G. Oler

        • RockyMtnSpace

          “… those “failures” did not affect the mission hence while failures of components (most of which were recovered (sic)) they were something that could be tolerated.”

          This time, yes. Next time, maybe. In the long run, no. Flying with known defects is just bad engineering and bad management. But this has been the norm for SpaceX from the beginning.

          “… that is to (sic) long…that is one reason you get less for the money. These projects need to move a LOT faster in the ground work stage…IE the concept development needs to push in under a year for various proposals.”

          And you have first hand experiance that validates this position? Please provide examples where you have led a spacecraft development program that successfully entered a flight phase.

          “… What you are use to is projects which grind on at a space bloated bureaucracy tempo. We need to lean things out…accept failures in this but have more product.”

          Ever hear of “Faster, Better, Cheaper”? It’s been done before and failures were stated to be “acceptable”. But the paying stakeholders; NASA/OMB, Congress, taxpayers, were intolerant to failures. PI’s and teammates learned that lesson well.

          “A lot of this will occur if we have spacecraft “bus” designs where one “hangs” instruments on. Instead almost every project has to start from scratch…Absurd.”

          Your ignorance (or more likely your arrogance) betrays you yet again. Very few, if any, missions start from scratch in terms of the spacecraft. In fact, just the opposite is true. The same avionics fly time and again, updated only to address parts obsolescence or to address performance needs of the science instruments or mission. As an example, the avionics flying on MRO (launched 2005) traces its roots to MGS and Odyssey but with an updated rad-hard processor (IBM Power PC 750). Stardust and Phoenix flew the same RAD6000 as MGS and Odyssey. Juno flew the same avionics as MRO again with minor changes given mission differences (temp sensors, spinner vs 3-axis controlled GN&C sensors, etc.). MAVEN will fly the same avionics as MRO as will OSIRIS-Rex, as will the latest PHOenix redux, Insight. Reaction wheels are off-the-shelf as are star trackers, sun-sensors, IMUs, transceivers, TWTAs. Prop tanks and thrusters are off-the-shelf as are the associated valves. The number and size of thrusters vary from mission to mission based on the mission needs. The structure design changes from mission to mission but that is a small dollar item anyway. In your oft-repeated airplane analogies, while you might fly a Piper Cub from LA to Las Vegas, you would never attempt a non-stop LA to Honolulu or LA to Frankfurt trip in that aircraft because the mission needs require something different. Likewise, you wouldn’t use a 777 as a regional hopper around the state of Texas or Oklahoma. Given the nature of cost-capped PI-led missions, you can’t afford to “start from scratch” nor take the risk in unproven flight hardware. Mission success is everything. Finally, real engineers don’t just “hang” an instrument onto a spacecraft. The instruments drive spacecraft pointing, stability, and control requirements to achieve science goals. This is what drives upfront conceptual and preliminary design cycles. Each mission has different environments over which it must operate. A LEO or GEO spacecraft sits in a relatively benign thermal environment given the proximity of a nice warm Earth. Deep space probes have to contend with much wider temperature extremes (-173 to +100 deg C) given orbital trajectories and science objectives yet still operate under all nominal and off-nominal conditions. Instruments have sun pointing restrictions, even under faulted spacecraft operations which must be accommodated. Landers are different than orbiters are different than deep-space flyby spacecraft with different mission designs, delta-v needs, fault management responses, power needs, etc. Radiation at Mars is hugely different than radiation at Jupiter or Saturn or the moon. Data uplink/downlinks are governed by spacecraft power, distance, orbital plane, etc. All of the above impacts mass and cost, neither of which are ever comfortably “in-the-box”. So I suggest you either educate yourself on the realities of spacecraft design and mission design or stop bloviating on subjects you have no clue on.

          • Robert G. Oler

            RockyMtnSpace
            November 16, 2012 at 1:15 pm · Reply

            “This time, yes. Next time, maybe. In the long run, no. Flying with known defects is just bad engineering and bad management. ”

            It did NOT STOP the shuttle people from flying; they flew with O rings that didnt seat, foam coming off the vehicle;…………..and the last few flights were with “patches” on the AL…needed because of substandard alloys. Doing that cost NASA 14 astronauts.

            all far more serious then the rather routine event of a flight computer that would not “resynch” with the others…

            Program management is not that different in technical issues from nuclear subs to airplanes to well spacecraft. The Mariner series was able to launch on the average about every two years with excellent results from a science standpoint and from a mission success (three failurs…two launch vehicle and 1 launch shroud)

            reuse of “parts” is not reuse of design and that is what would speed up the process and cut the cost of uncrewed vehicle flight…

            “Landers are different than orbiters” and aircraft carriers are different then submariners but that does not mean that each group cannot use a basic design and make modest mods.

            GEO vehicles do not have a massively different thermal situation from a vehicle not in orbit around the earth but at the same solar distance.

            Mars Observer failed because parts were used longer then their intended GEO use.

            We are moving into an airplane world in spaceflight. it will be very very safe…far more then NASA imagined with the spce shuttle. RGO

          • Robert G. Oler

            “Ever hear of “Faster, Better, Cheaper”? It’s been done before and failures were stated to be “acceptable”. But the paying stakeholders; NASA/OMB, Congress, taxpayers, were intolerant to failures. PI’s and teammates learned that lesson well.”

            Well this comes as a surprise to you? Stupidity is never appreciated even if the program is ‘cheap’

            getting the “units” of measurement mixed up…

            would you rate that as 1) stupidity, 2) the result of spending not enough money or 3) something else…particularly when as teh vehicle traveled to Mars…there were along the way “signs” that all was not well.

            I dont think anyone has a real clue about the failure of the lander. I have heard the “landing gear trigger” theory; but they or that does not explain the loss of the penetration vehicles

            If one is depending on layers and layers of checkers to find things like measurement/units issues then one is simply lost in incompetence….

            In the real world…people are fired for that…I mean just tossed out the door…Robert G. Oler

      • Robert G. Oler

        I would add one more thing…if you do not like “resynching” of computers in devices hurtling through time and “space” then stay off of commercial airplanes. What “should” bother them a tad at SpaceX and I am quite sure that they are working on as we speak, is that one of the flight computers did not “resynch”…

        computers in airplanes do this all the time. As a Production test pilot on large commercial jets, I know how to go into the FMS and find out how often…the only time the mere mortals who are entrusted to fly “people” around know it, is when they dont resynch…then the FMS tells them.

        Then the offending logical device does what I bet the one on the Dragon did…do “its thing” while the other two ignore it…but it could to “its thing” all By itself if it had to.

        Usually they just turned shuttle computers off to save “juice”…live long and prosper. RGO

        • RockyMtnSpace

          “… Then the offending logical device does what I bet the one on the Dragon did…do “its thing” while the other two ignore it…but it could to “its thing” all By itself if it had to.”

          That’s real useful until one of the other two flight computers suffers the same failure and the flight software, which employs a 2-of-3 polling or 2-of-2 confirmation fault management architecture, suddenly doesn’t know which computer is running correctly and which one is off doing “its thing”. Why do you think they are running three flight computers? The system has to be single (typical in the case of robotic missions) or dual (imperative for manned missions)fault tolerant. You typically don’t have the luxury of just ignoring an unsynched system when there isn’t a pilot joysticking the vehicle (a la airplane). There are critical events that have to happen at a defined time and if one or more flight computers are running to a different clock or sequence timer, bad things happen quickly. Your constant drumbeat that spacecraft are the same as airplanes just serves to demonstrate time and again that you have no clue about how spacecraft really function and the impacts of failures in those systems can have. To borrow a quote from knowledgable people who have been there, you just don’t know what you don’t know.

          • Robert G. Oler

            How absurd your analysis is summed up in this sentence

            ” You typically don’t have the luxury of just ignoring an unsynched system when there isn’t a pilot joysticking the vehicle (a la airplane).”

            the statement is almost comical actually…in a modern airplane (say the Boeing 737 NG on up and certainly in the triple seven and above) without the flight computers the pilot is reduced to a passenger.

            you have three flight computers so that two can vote the one out…plus even in “basic” systems there is a logical method of how the voting occurs…the “pilot” in no US certified airplane does this…it all happens “in the blink of an eye”

            another hoot

            “There are critical events that have to happen at a defined time and if one or more flight computers are running to a different clock or sequence timer, bad things happen quickly.”

            the exact description of a CAT IIB or CATIII autoland, particularly on an aircraft carrier.

            when you learn what you are talking about I’ll stop pistol whipping you…until then I need entertainment. RGO

  • joe

    Dark Blue Nine November 15, 2012 at 9:05 am • Reply
    “Or, at its current run-rate, $300 million could be used to fund two (2) weeks of MPCV/SLS development.”

    Per page EXP-4 of attached link:

    http://www.nasa.gov/pdf/632674main_NASA_FY13_Budget_Exploration-508.pdf

    The 2013 Budget requests for SLS/MPCV are as follows:
    - $1,884.9 million for SLS,
    - $1,028.2 million for the Orion MPCV

    That totals $2.9131 Billion.

    Last time I checked $300 Million was 10.3% of $2.9131 Billion, which would translate into 5 to 6 weeks.

    But then you were never one to let accuracy (much less mathematics) get in the way of a good cheap shot.

    • Dark Blue Nine

      “The 2013 Budget requests for SLS/MPCV”

      I referenced the “current run-rate”, not the budget request.

      The FY13 budget request is a fiction at this point, because:

      1) We have no idea what sequestration or a budget deal is going to do to NASA or MPCV/SLS. Or even whether MPCV/SLS survive sequestration or a budget deal.

      2) The FY13 budget request for MPCV/SLS is substantially _less_ than the FY12 budget. These are projects in early- to mid-development. To schedule work in a timely and efficient manner, their budgets need to be ramping up, not down. The FY13 budget is a placeholder at best, or, if real, a guarantee that MPCV/SLS will get stretched out for years and years, at worst.

      Call me crazy, but I’d rather deal with known, ongoing budget figures than a placeholder budget facing the biggest across-the-board federal cuts in recent memory.

      “That totals $2.9131 Billion.”

      You’ve conveniently left out ground system development and NASA civil servant and overhead costs.

      Call me crazy, but I think launch systems need pads, spacecraft need ground stations, and both, if they’re government projects, need some government engineers.

      “But then you were never one to let accuracy (much less mathematics)”

      I’m not the one using numbers from placeholder budgets that don’t exist yet to represent the current run-rate of a program.

      I’m not the one selectively leaving out ground systems and workforce budget figures to make my case look as good as possible.

      Pot, kettle, black.

      “get in the way of a good cheap shot.”

      It’s not a cheap shot. It’s a choice.

      We can spend $300 million on a couple weeks of MPCV/SLS development. Or we can accelerate or execute some planetary missions. They’re both exploration. It a trade that decision makers should be discussing.

      (Actually, with no funded landers or other actual exploration hardware and with no funding source for the MPCV service module, I hesitate to use the term “exploration” in conjunction with MPCV/SLS.)

      Finally, even if your figures were accurate, what’s the point? Whether we’re paying for two, four, or six weeks of MPCV/SLS work matters little when that same amount of money buys so much more in planetary missions doing actual exploration. We can nitpick the MPCV/SLS numbers to death, but it doesn’t change the fact that their enormously high cost is preventing the agency from doing actual space exploration, both human and robotic.

      • joe

        Dark Blue Nine November 15, 2012 at 4:28 pm • Reply
        “I referenced the “current run-rate”, not the budget request.”

        If the “current run-rate” (and it would be interesting to know where you got your “current run-rate” figures) exceeds the amount budgeted then either supplemental appropriations must be sought (highly unlikely) or spending stops so that is a meaningless statement.

        “The FY13 budget request is a fiction at this point, because:”
        “1) We have no idea what sequestration or a budget deal is going to do to NASA or MPCV/SLS. Or even whether MPCV/SLS survive sequestration or a budget deal.”

        If your assumption is correct that would make SLS/MPCV funding even less and your original statement even more widely inaccurate.

        “Call me crazy”
        Thanks for the invitation but I will pass.

        “That totals $2.9131 Billion.”
        You’ve conveniently left out ground system development and NASA civil servant and overhead costs.”

        No, if you read the information on page EXP-4 of attached link you will see that $404.5 million for Exploration Ground Systems (EGS) is included in the totals. This makes the rest of your rant (to put it politely) inoperative.

        Now continue trying to obfuscate to your heart’s content. Any objective observers (if there be any such around here) will realize that you are simply trying a avoid admitting to made a serious mistake.

        • common sense

          “Any objective observers (if there be any such around here)”

          Nope, not even one. Maybe you? Do you qualify? Or are you saying that you are not an objective observer yourself?

          But here. I think we all know what it is like to be a lone voice in the wilderness and for that we do thank you and welcome you any time you feel like this. So rest assured we are all together as a big family striving to achieve a better future for all. But not necessarily objectively.

          Without you joe I have to say this forum would not be quite the same. Objectively. Really!

        • Dark Blue Nine

          “If the ‘current run-rate’ (and it would be interesting to know where you got your “current run-rate” figures)”

          We’re in FY13, but Congress has not passed an FY13 budget. Instead, they passed a continuing resolution, or “CR”, which allows programs to continue spending at whatever their rate was in the prior year.

          Before they adjourned to campaign, Congress passed a six-month CR for FY13 in September:

          http://www.spacepolicyonline.com/news/senate-passes-cr-astronaut-artifacts-bill-heads-home-update

          So, in the case of MPCV/SLS today, the current run-rate refers to the rate of FY12 spending because that’s what the program is allowed to spend under the CR for the first six months of FY13.

          For more on “continuing resolutions” generally, there’s an entry on wikipedia.

          “If your assumption is correct that would make SLS/MPCV funding even less and your original statement even more widely inaccurate.”

          No, it wouldn’t. Current FY13 MPCV/SLS spending is set by the last, six-month, continuing resolution that NASA (and the rest of the federal government) is still operating under, which maintains FY12 spending levels and was passed in September.

          Sequestration won’t happen until the New Year. And if a budget deal is made to avoid sequestration, we won’t know its impact until the deal is announced. Either way, MPCV/SLS is currently spending at the FY12 level, which is higher than the level in the FY13 budget request, which in turn is going to be higher than whatever reduced level comes out of sequestration or a budget deal.

          (And again, no sane development program at this early stage has a flat or declining budget. Assuming MPCV/SLS survives sequestration or a budget deal or even if the FY13 budget request becomes real, there are going to be major schedule delays as the program has to reduce workforce, defer work, etc. to slow down its rate of spending. The program may not be terminated, but it’s going to be effectively broken.)

          “No, if you read the information on page EXP-4 of attached link you will see that $404.5 million for Exploration Ground Systems (EGS) is included in the totals.”

          That’s not the complete ground systems budget. It excludes the facilities spending in other accounts.

          “This makes the rest of your rant (to put it politely) inoperative.”

          You’re still conveniently or ignorantly missing civil servant workforce spending and associated overhead in other accounts. Those are your biggest missing pieces.

          Once upon a time, NASA employed full-cost accounting. The agency abandoned it when Griffin came onboard, and you can no longer rely on the program budget lines to include facilities, salaries, G&A, cost pools, etc.

          “you are simply trying a avoid admitting to made a serious mistake.”

          So what? Let’s say you’re right and I’m wrong. Does it make one whit of difference to the argument whether $300 million buys two weeks or six weeks of MPCV/SLS spending when the same amount of funding would accelerate the next Discovery mission by a full year (52 weeks)?

          Either way, we’re deferring actual space exploration by a year to buy a few weeks of development on a program that has no budget for any exploration payload or even the service module necessary for its spacecraft to maneuver beyond LEO.

          Even if you proved me wrong by a factor of 2-3, MPCV/SLS is still one or two orders of magnitude (10-100x) more expensive for little/no space exploration.

          You’re losing the forest for the trees.

          “Any objective observers (if there be any such around here) will realize that”

          No need for conspiracy theories. If everyone else keeps saying that you’re wrong, then you’re probably just wrong.

  • Vladislaw

    Here is a link to a NASA page,

    http://www.nasa.gov/exploration/systems/mpcv/industry.html

    the selling point is that:

    “Creating a next-generation space transportation system is an undertaking of astronomical proportions. The Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV) design team has incorporated cutting-edge technology garnered through collaborative efforts with every NASA center and hundreds of industry experts across the country.

    The MPCV Program Office, located at Houston’s Johnson Space Center, is leading this historic development effort. As the home of America’s Astronaut Corps and Mission Control, the center is responsible for the MPCV’s crew and service modules, crew training, flight operations, spacesuits and mockup facilities.

    Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio, is a partner in the development of the MPCV crew and service modules and spacecraft adapter, and has reconditioned an existing facility to support the entire suite of environmental qualification tests for the integrated MPCV vehicle.”

    WOW .. they just gotta be building a fission powered Battlestar Galatica sized spacecraft.

    They show a map and how they are utilizing resources from 28 STATES! To build this ENORMOUS …. capsule. whew.. does the nation even have enough resources?

    Does this bring back the nostalgia of the 60′s and how this nation put their shoulder to the herculian task of building Saturn V?

    And we are honestly going to have a debate about the return on investment for the taxpayer by having NASA doing it through traditional FAR contracting or what we get with SAA’s and cut out the porkonauts in congress?

    Sorry … give me a space based, reusable, vehicle and a gas station. Over this porktrain nightmare.

    • Coastal Ron

      Vladislaw @ November 15, 2012 at 5:52 pm

      They show a map and how they are utilizing resources from 28 STATES! To build this ENORMOUS …. capsule. whew.. does the nation even have enough resources?

      It’s almost Rube Goldberg like – what is the MOST number of companies we can involve to make a product.

      Obviously the motivations involved with the various companies are all wrong if the goal is to lower the cost to access and do things in space – one more reason we have to speed up the commercialization of space, and even some parts of space exploration (which is usually a prelude to exploitation anyways).

  • The Planetary Society fails to make a cogent argument about why they should get this extra money. It seems they think they’re entitled and that’s it.

    Why do we have to do a Mars sample in 2018? Why not 2020? Or 2028? It’s not like Mars is going to disappear. The same goes with their other vague suggestions.

    We expect Congress to justify why they’re wasting $3 billion a year on SLS. Well, the same should go for the Planetary Society or anyone else with a hand out demanding taxpayer dollars.

    • Googaw

      fails to make a cogent argument about why they should get this extra money. It seems they think they’re entitled and that’s it.

      Sounds familiar.

    • E.P. Grondine

      You’re absolutely right.

      Science priorities within NASA are not set by any cost/benefit analysis. Instead, NASA science has “themes” which guide their spending.

      As far as Mars goes, I myself would prefer a ball rover with HD res going up Valles Marineris.

      I am still waiting for NASA to assemble all the still frames of the SL9 fragments impacts into a movie.

      NASA’s crater counting from existing data is abysmal.

  • @Stephen C. Smith
    Why do we have to do a Mars sample in 2018? Why not 2020? Or 2028? It’s not like Mars is going to disappear. The same goes with their other vague suggestions.

    Well, chances are with the coming sequestration ( I seriously doubt a budget deal will be forthcoming by Dec. 31st ) NASA’s budget will be docked to the point where there will be zero money for science missions anyway. Just count on money for ISS, COTS contracts and SLS/MPCV.

  • Here is the problem. If sequestration happens, there is still a chance it won’t, but if it does, NASA will not contract its government employee workforce. Instead it will lay off contractors and shut down projects (except for EWST which Babs Mikulski will keep funded at all costs).

    There will be no talk of closing centers. There will be no talk of streamlining processes. There will be talk of EXPANDING the bureaucracy to ensure better efficiency. I wish I could say you would be surprised with how little $300 million could do for planetary science.

    I guess it could do a lot if you cut the red tape… but if you believe that, I have some nice balmy beachfront property in Wyoming I would like to sell you.

    Respectfully,
    Andrew Gasser
    TEA Party in Space

    • Robert G. Oler

      Here is the problem. If sequestration happens, there is still a chance it won’t, but if it does, NASA will not contract its government employee workforce. Instead it will lay off contractors and shut down projects (except for EWST which Babs Mikulski will keep funded at all costs).>>

      that is not the PROBLEM that is in fact the “gem” of sequestration…we start hacking away at the contractor leeches that are killing both space and defense efforts.

      The Government work force while needing some “pruning” for competence (the head of JSC is going out the door I think tomorrow) is essentially a good workforce bogged down by incompetent upper and upper middle managers…It is about like the Navy and a ship or squadron that isnt working. The problem is not the mechanics or even the pilots it is the commander or the command staff…fix those you fix the unit.

      Fixing the government work force is a relatively simply matter…but it cannot happen until the symbiotic relationship between NASA and the contractor group and workforce is terminated.

      And sequestration properly handled will do that. Sequestration can be used to “delete” non functional programs (SLS and Orion) shed the corporate hangers on…and then with some axes taken to the NASA workforce it can be reshaped to accomplish good things.

      The Tea Party has become a mindless “we hate government” group with little or no differentiation in the programs or process.

      Fortunately one of the things we saw “set” in terms of their influence in the political process is the Tea Party…I assume the same setting is taking place in space policy.

      Your side lost, mine won. Enjoy RGO

  • vulture4

    I feel the planetary society should explain how they would like NSA to augment the science budget. If they want to see SLS/Orion cancelled, fine. If they want higher taxes, also fine. But don’t just say “give me the money”.

  • Ben Russell-Gough

    Just a note on this subject – OMB is alleged to be talking about early cancellation and destruction of the Cassini (Saturn/Titan/Enceladus) and Messenger (Mercury) probes as part of trimming NASA’s planetary science budget. So, if SLS/Orion was cancelled, I think we can see that the probability of any of that money being retained by NASA is somewhere between ‘zero’ and ‘ha-ha’.

    • joe

      You are correct and then there is this:

      http://nasawatch.com/archives/2012/11/lugo-and-coats.html

      “Lugo and Coats Are Out. More Changes Ahead?”

      Now that the election is over it appears the “Long Knives” may be out.

      • Coastal Ron

        Now that the election is over it appears the “Long Knives” may be out.

        I’m sure Norm Augustine would be available to “review” the SLS and MPCV. I wonder how that would turn out… ;-)

        But hey, wasn’t that the thrust of what Romeny/Ryan were going to be doing anyways? If it wasn’t worth borrowing money from China to do it, then we shouldn’t be doing it? To assume that any NASA program would have been “safe” with Romney is more delusional than realistic, so assuming any program is “safe” under Obama would be the same.

        However the real test is what Congress does, and since we still have the same Republican House that won’t fund weather satellites because they might confirm global warming, who knows what they will do with “exploration for science sake”.

        • joe

          Yes Ron,

          I know how much pleasure you take in your fantasies of other peoples suffering, but before you celebrate too much it might be wise to wait and see where all those knives actually fall.

          • Coastal Ron

            I know how much pleasure you take in your fantasies of other peoples suffering

            Who would be suffering?

            Or are you saying we should budget NASA as a jobs program?

            Having worked at defense contractors for a good part of my career, I know how it is to lose a contract. But bigger issues are at stake here, especially in light of the need to reduce our long-term deficit. While I still want an ongoing effort in space across a wide number of disciplines, I want to make sure that each program is worth funding, and is being run as best as possible.

            Should the SLS program be cancelled, sure there would be people let go. But that can’t be the overriding reason to keep funding a program (i.e. the fear of lost jobs). You have to look at the big picture…

    • Robert G. Oler

      the Cassini and Messenger rumors are just that, but if they become “truth” then we should oppose that RGO

    • Vladislaw

      Does NASA bring some of this on itself? They always seem to sell a probe with .. how extreme it is in space … they will be lucky if it lasts 90 days, 6months, 1 year et cetera.

      Then .. they either over built it, or under sold it, but the probe, which had an operating budget designed for the life of the probe that was sold to congress keeps operating .. sometimes .. for decades and decades longer than what was said. Now you have what .. a dozen, two dozen probes all asking for funding for extended mission times? Again .. more realistic mission costs and how long they REALLY can expect it to last? We have half a century experience now. I just saw that Kepler is being extended…. really glad to hear it.. now .. what DOESN’T get that money?

    • E.P. Grondine

      One of the dumbest proposals I’ve heard. If a probe works, run it until it fails.

  • vulture4

    If the probe failed before the planned completion date the management would be blamed for unreliability. Because of exponential failure rates the probe must have an average lifetime several times its design lifetime if it is to have a 90% chance of reaching the design life. I think they should be shut down if and when they are not producing data worth the cost. In the case of Messenger perhaps it has completely mapped its target, but I cannot believe this is the case with Cassini, and it will be a long time before we get another probe to Saturn.

    • Ben Russell-Gough

      In fact, after 2017, there may be no operational outer planets probes at all. After all, Cassini will have been de-orbited, as would have Juno, New Horizons would be off down the path trod by the Voyagers and I suspect that there could be arguments that, as Voyager 1 has arguably reached the heliopause, there is no further reason to leave either Voyager or NH operational. Not a good argument but certainly a political argument.

      Science is being steadily sacrificed in favour or entitlement programs. If the choice came down to more science or bribing voter to vote for you, which do you think a politician would choose?

      • Robert G. Oler

        What is eating us alive is the military…we are going down the same road the Soviet Union did, spending ourselves into oblivion over guys in caves. There is NO reason we cannot go back to a 200-300 billion military. RGO

    • E.P. Grondine

      DBN, some types of data can be “summed” to produce far higher resolution.

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