Congress, Lobbying, NASA, White House

In bold new fiscal era, space advocates need to be more effective

The so-called “fiscal cliff” and its across-the-board spending cuts are set to take effect on Wednesday, and the last week has seen little progress to a resolution to at least delay those cuts. Even if there is a breakthrough in the next few days, we’re likely heading into an era of constrained budgets. Is the space community, in particular grassroots space advocates, prepared to effectively lobby for their interests? Recent efforts suggest they’re not.

One popular tool in the last year or so has been to petition the White House through the “We the People” web site. Collect 25,000 signatures in a month, and the White House promises to respond to the issue raised in that petition. And, sure enough, there’s an open petition regarding NASA. “Instead of cutting NASA’s budget, we should be growing it. Not doubling or tripling, but at least keeping its funding at the levels it has been or greater,” the petition states, making its case in two brief paragraphs. As of Friday morning, the petition was closing in on 15,000 signatures, with a week left to reach the 25,000-signature threshold for a response.

If this approach sounds familiar, it should: it’s one of several petitions filed since 2011 to in increased support for NASA, several of which reached the threshold for a response. One in September 2011 sought to reallocate defense funding to NASA, while another earlier this year wanted to “at least double” NASA’s budget. There have also been petitions on narrower space issues, like the allocation of Space Shuttle orbiters and the search for extraterrestrial life. None, it appears, has made any difference in space budgets or policy, so there’s little reason this current one, even if it makes it to the threshold for a response, will be any different.

Moreover, the petition process has arguably been abused by people seeking to air various grievances or just have a little fun. A petition calling for the government to begin work on a Death Star by 2016 received 32,788 signatures, enough to warrant an official response. (One imagines the Pentagon and OSTP arguing over who gets to take on that issue.) And, sure enough, now there’s one demanding NASA to fund a feasibility study for the USS Enteprise. Clearly, some science fiction fans want the government to resolve, once and for all, who would win a battle between the Death Star and the Enterprise.

In short, it’s very difficult to consider a petition a serious space advocacy tool. It hasn’t resulted in any change in policy to date. Moreover, wouldn’t it be embarrassing if such an effort failed to attract as many signatures as, say, one to build a Death Star?

There are, of course, other tools: a group called “Penny4NASA” seeks to roughly double NASA’s budget to one percent of the overal federal budget (i.e., one penny of each federal dollar). They’re encouraging people to contact their congressional representatives asking them to double the space agency’s budget, including offering a form on their web site to do so. Among those who have done so is one member of the new National Research Council study of NASA’s human spaceflight program, Ariel Waldman, who tweeted her support of that effort last night.

Contacting members of Congress is not a bad idea, although doing through an online form may not be the best approach, particularly in the numbers this effort has garnered to date: fewer than 7,300 people over several months. (That number includes a handful of people who used the online tool to express their opposition to such a budget increase.) Such low numbers mean that these responses are likely lost in the noise of other issues.

Worse, arguably, is the goal of a one-percent target for NASA’s budget. It’s largely an arbitrary figure, not based on the funding needs of specific programs but a general desire that the space agency is somehow entitled to a larger slice of the federal pie. Moreover, that figure is based on two variables, NASA’s budget and the overall federal budget, thus making NASA’s budget dependent on the level of spending overall instead of its specific needs and requirements. In an era where a recent report found a lack of “national consensus” on the overall goals and strategy of the space agency, asking Congress for a multi-billion-dollar blank check doesn’t sound particularly effective.

There have been more focused efforts as individuals and groups have lobbied for specific NASA programs, such as planetary science and commercial crew, that may have been more effective (until there’s a final fiscal year 2013 appropriations bill, we won’t know for certain.) Those seeking more general support for NASA, though, may want to rethink both their overall strategy and outreach tactics in a time when funding in general will be difficult to come by in the federal budget.

88 comments to In bold new fiscal era, space advocates need to be more effective

  • Robert G. Oler

    https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/withdraw-outer-space-treaty-claim-moon-sovereign-american-territory/TzXgRqFX

    Mark Whittington has a petition…to claim the moon and a few other rhings. Mark seems stuck at 8 signers…

    RGO

    • Mark R. Whittington

      That should tell one something that a Death Star and the Star Ship Enterprise are popular but claiming the moon, which Newt Gingrich once advocated, is not.

      • Guest

        If you want to claim the moon, Mark, at the very least you need an active spacecraft sitting on it. It would be worth your while to look at Lunar Direct using the SLS. Not the SLS as designed but the brand new SLS design. An SLS core stage fully functional as a moon base would be a minimum system in which you could legitimately claim the moon for anything. At the very least it would motivate national and commercial space program efforts.

        • Coastal Ron

          “Guest” said:

          Not the SLS as designed but the brand new SLS design.

          This may surprise you to find out, but the SLS was not funded by Congress because there was a need for a 70-130mt launcher. It was funded by Congress to save jobs that would have resulted from the cancellation of the Constellation program.

          But otherwise there is no desire by Congress to actually USE the SLS, and Congress hasn’t even considered funding any programs that require the SLS.

          Dreams of a government led return to the Moon are just that – dreams. Adjust your expectations accordingly…

          • Guest

            Quoting some other space enthusiast blog forum:

            The need for the RS-25Es is demonstrated not just by NASA’s commitment to increasing the safety of the work-horse engine family but in the simple fact that, unlike with the engines of the Shuttle Program which were recovered and reused after every flight, the core stage liquid engines of SLS will be lost with the core stage during its destructive impact with the ocean after launch.

            Now please tell me, what is wrong with this statement? For anyone self invested in a launch vehicle jobs program, redesigning this monstrosity would represent an excellent job security opportunity.

  • amightywind

    Growing NASA budget? There is more enthusiasm to deport Piers Morgan if you look at the the emperor’s petitions. The reality is declining budgets. As a nation we have chosen to pay for grandma’s lavish retirement and new hip instead of a shuttle replacement. What is really required of NASA is reform. Get rid of 20% of the deadwood. Eliminate non-core departments. It isn’t that hard. It is done in business all the time.

    RGO. Thanks for the link. Whittington and I think alike.

    • “As a nation we have chosen to pay for grandma’s lavish retirement and new hip instead of a shuttle replacement.”

      As if that were either/or…

      Unless a lot of people keel over dead first, post-war birth rate bubbles catch up with you at some point, and we’re there. It’s simple math.

      “Eliminate non-core departments.”

      Be careful what you wish for. Some people think that would include NASA itself.

      “It is done in business all the time.”

      You seem to be confusing business with government, where things are rarely simple, and have, for good or ill, quite different motivations.

  • Robert G. Oler

    RGO. Thanks for the link. Whittington and I think alike.>>

    recruit your friends to help him get to double digits. RGO

    • Mark R. Whittington

      Actually I would like to get it to 150 at least, which is the threshold that the site has to actually display it. If, by some miracle, it gets to 25,000 then a discussion of what to do with the moon in a way of making it a profitable proposition hits the mainstream.

  • Robert G. Oler

    “Is the space community, in particular grassroots space advocates, prepared to effectively lobby for their interests?”

    sadly the “space community” is almost a joke. There are about oh 100 or 200 serious policy people in the “community” the rest are a mixed bag of unrealistic dreamers, corporate toadies and political hacks.

    NASA and HSF have run more or less on corporate intertia since the end of the APollo landings…it is always the “next project” where the agency is going to have a breaktrhough and humans are going to “Star Trek” out into space.

    Meanwhile we get one failed effort after another…

    The entire country is stuck with a government left over from the cold war and a GOP extreme group that wants to preserve that. RGO

  • Niko

    So what is your actual recommendation here? Most people don’t have a lobbying firm at their disposal, but would like to see something done. What is the solution? How about away to show NASA support which they can then demonstrate to Congress? Perhaps an NGO for space advocacy?

  • If one combines both federal and private spending on space, then space spending is way up — and it will continue to be that way in the years to come. SpaceX, Boeing, Sierra Nevada, Orbital Sciences, XCOR, Stratolaunch, Bigelow Aerospace and others will all be growing their businesses in the years to come.

    We’re spending more on space than we’ve spent since the Apollo era. The only difference is that not all of it is being financed by the taxpayers.

    • Coastal Ron

      I think you’re right Stephen, overall spending for space related activities is way up.

      Certainly interest in doing things in space is way up, when you consider all the private firms that are spending their own money to try and create space-related businesses.

      Like all business sectors, not everyone will survive, or at least not with their current business plans. But I think enough will to move us significantly further along to creating an expanding presence in space.

      Keep in mind that this progress will be measured in decades, not years, since the revenue available to fund these endeavors will have to build over time. Still, it’s an exciting time.

  • Fred Willett

    Lobbying in the current economic climate is a waste of time.
    The govt has no money and won’t have for a while.
    Forget it.
    The fact is Commercial space grew right through the economic crisis. NASA is currently less than 6% of the global space economy and likely to fall considerably during the next 10 years. With an attendant fall in relevance.

    One doesn’t need to lobby SpaceX, LM, Orbital or Boeing. They will to go to space despite NASA, DoD or anyone else.

    Sure, if DoD wants things launched these companies are up for it. Ditto NASA. They pay in good ole dollars.
    But so does industry. With the removal (well relaxation) of ITAR it becomes worthwhile for Boeing and LM the get back into the commercial launch market. They (and SpaceX) will carry sats for anyone. And with the govt market shrinking the commercial market becons.
    So if you’re looking for anything interesting to happen in the next 10 years I’d keep my eyes on commercial space. Not just SpaceX and new space either.
    Look to Boeing and LM to “get religion” and compete strongly.
    The motivation? Growth. Something NASA and DoD won’t be able to offer for some time.

    • DCSCA

      Commercial space is quaint, trendy and a ticket to no place; going in circles, no where fast. The largess of the resources necessary to maintain ops for what is a limited market is self-evident in this time frame given the state of the technology in our era.

      HSF has been confined to LEO ops now for two generations and trending to condemn a third to same. The way forward is the way out: to press on with BEO ops- a return to the moon, establishment of a permament lunar research outpost as a hub for government financed exploration serviced by commercial exploitation; development of cislunar ops to refine the use of a general purpose spacecraft; habitation hardware, plans and procedures then eventually press on to Mars, if the robots report back it is even worth the trip.

      That’s a challenging space program for the next 75 years- a program to inspire and employ fresh generations of engineers and technologists with all the promise of progress and economic return said enterprise can bring to the participants here on Planet Earth.

  • Ken Murphy

    One thing I learned during my work with the United Nations Association is that it is largely a pointless task to educate our legislators on these kinds of important topics. What ends up happening is that the UN advocates would visit offices in D.C., and have to repeat them same basic lessons year in and year out. Staffs would change, they’d never get to the actual legislator, it just always struck me as a lot of wasted time and energy.

    I really don’t expect anything different with space activities, and from what I’ve heard of the annual blitzes in D.C. by the space advocacy groups those expectations are being met.

    That’s why this year, while serving as president of The Moon Society I’ve tried to keep us as apolitical as possible. We just want to see people living and working on the Moon. From a personal perspective, I don’t see where NASA is going to be particularly effective in that regard anytime in the near future. The NASA Lunar Science Institute is already broadening its mandate to include asteroids and Mars’ moons, so now we’re going to have a kid sister to LPI, as opposed to a Moon-focused institution.

    Golden Spike is exciting. Excalibur Almaz is exciting. Space Adventures is exciting. LRO and Grail? Meh. Collecting data is important and they’ve provided some excellent info, but as Sartre noted at some point you have to get ‘les mains sales’ (get your hands dirty).

    • DCSCA

      The reaction of the electorate (as well as Mitt and SNL) to proposed lunar colonies by ‘Newt Gingrich, Moon President’ is a good snapshot of the American mind set on space these days. American space efforts have been traditionally reactive, not proactive, to external events. How America reacts when the PRC launches out toward Luna remains to be seen. But you probably could make book in Vegas it won’t be with another Project Apollo.

  • Charlene Anderson

    Jeff –

    I only need one word to respond to your post:

    “Amen!”

  • The sword of Damocles that is threatening funds for scientific research is, at a closer look, an extremely dangerous risk for the future of all citizens, not only scientists. 
The current well-being of most of us Westerners is based on easily identifiable pillars: scientific studies, at first abstract and then applied, that brought us electricity and computers, just to quote a couple of examples. There would not be anything of all that we are used to if some ancestor of ours had not been so curious to think about the why and how of natural phenomena, which sometimes have weird names such as “quantum field theory”.
    The example that I personally like to quote most often, given that I am both an Italian and a physicist, is related to CERN and its accelerator LHC, now operating underground in the Geneva area: the acronym designating this experiment stands for Large Hadron Collider, which, in plain language, corresponds to a sort of dodgem whose cars are minuscule particles, which belong to the category of hadrons … hadrons as in “hadro-therapy”, a technique of modern medicine that is used to cure deep cancers in a unique way. How else could humanity have discovered the existence and behavior of the subatomic world other than walking down the path that has brought to build the LHC in order to discover and study the Higgs Boson?
    This link is just one example of a connection between fundamental science and well-being that is obscure to most people. It is then apparent how the issue of an accurate positioning of research in funding policies represents, in reality, a much wider problem, which requires a unity of intents that goes far beyond academia and laboratories: it concerns all of us together with our kids.
    In such a context the voice that reaches the ears of our political representatives should be a single powerful one that collects many more people than just the scientists. The latter should lead these unitary efforts: in fact, in order to have a weight in society, before politics, lobbying is needed.
    This goal can only be achieved if the general public is involved in the process and engaged in a two-way conversation; how does one go about conquering support from the public? by speaking its own language, studying its interests, meeting it where it is to be found, which most certainly is not at the entry to the Ivory Tower. 
A marketing strategy is needed; that’s right: marketing, as in advertising campaigns; in fact, where else is the success of advertisement if not in its ability to sympathize with the public, to be in its shoes, to touch its emotional cords, one category at a time? 
The time is over, then, to simply rely on press releases in order to reach the public: communication has its own tools, science is the product to be advertised, in a proper way of course. In such a context it is not an heresy to bother mixing scientific content with languages that are either non-scientific or non-verbal even: theatre and dance, for example, or video-games or comics … 
This list could go on and would cite many efforts that either have been just proposed or are already being implemented. What is still missing, which I personally believe would represent a qualitative leap, is the unity of intents: “united we stand, divided we fall”, as the saying goes. There is a notorious instance that exemplifies what I am advocating for here: the history of Hubble Space Telescope. In 2009 it had been declared doomed by US President George W. Bush and NASA President Sean O’Keefe, in charge at the time: no more maintenance for the telescope, the money that the necessary Shuttle mission would have cost had to be destined to bring astronauts on Mars. The scientific community succeeded in exciting such an emotion in common people that the two lobbied against the official decision, pushing Bush and O’Keefe to change their minds … incredible! But true and repeatable.
    Today’s situation, worsened by the economic and financial crisis, represents both a test bench and a turning point: if the lack of awareness and the poor appreciation of science by the public are not confronted vigorously, no petition will ever suffice.
    In conclusion, putting forth a petition is very welcome, in that it asks the public to express its support; however in order for the public to be appreciative of science it has to be aware first and this can only be achieved if the public is engaged in a two-way conversation.
    My recipe for tackling this problem at its roots is in a paper I titled “Who cares about physics today? A marketing strategy for the survival of fundamental science and the benefit of society”: it is available at http://arxiv.org/abs/1210.0082, I hope you will find it interesting.

  • DCSCA

    The most effective space advocate in history was Dr. Wernher Von Braun. He, along with many of his ‘rocket team’ associates, projected that advocacy through both flush and lean times across various political and economic landscapes through a hot and cold war with a steadfast determination sorely needed in the space community today.

    As Tom Wolfe noted some years ago, Von Braun had a philosophy about spaceflight as well; something sorely lacking at NASA these days. He projected both the inevitability and imperativness of it with an engineering pragmatism seasoned with the tug of romance and a curiosity for exploring the unknown. And he knew how to do it without grandiosity, but with determined resolve. He knew the effectiveness of cultivsting interest through a campaign of savvy marketing literally over decades through every medium- from academia to industry through earnest presentations in ‘Earth English’ to Congressional committees, through the press and by lighting young minds through entertainment outlets like film and television as well as periodicals and books.

    The old hands try; Cernan, Kranz, Kraft… but their voices are fading. And they are not Von Braun.

    If you want a blueprint for cultivating space advocacy in the 21st century, look to how it got off the ground in the 20th century. Look to Von Braun for the cold calculus and poetic passion that literally propelled human spaceflight from science fiction into a scientific reality. He knew how to do it.

  • mike shupp

    Nothing personal… but the space buffs who present themseelves on the internet come across as a batch of Jesus freaks, libertarians, climate-change denialists, and birthers. Why on earth should a community of such people expect to have slightest impact on current US government decision making?

    • DCSCA

      That’s myopic. You focus on the fringe.

      • Coastal Ron

        DCSCA said:

        That’s myopic. You focus on the fringe.

        So you agree then that Cernan is part of the fringe? Yet, to Mike’s point, he has been receiving so much attention, and people are now associating “space exploration” with fringe supporters – it dilutes the overall message.

        Besides, the era of “Big Government Space Exploration” is over. The Moon was conquered to Kennedy’s standards, and now all that is left is exploitation, which should be primarily enabled by the private sector. That means it’s business-minded people that will decide what we do next in space, not glorified pilots.

        • DCSCA

          “Besides, the era of “Big Government Space Exploration” is over.”

          Except it’s not.

          Big government space exploration is on the job this very moment– Hubble and ISS aside, see the $2.6 billion ‘Curiosity’ Martian data on the JPL website for details– such as it is. And all of the PRC’s space projects in work. =eyeroll=

          Cernan is hardly fringe having voyaged to lunar space twice and speaks with the authority of experience to inspire- but he backed the wrong horse in the last election cycle which significantly neuters his power to persuade these days. As an astronaut, his job experience involved carrying out policy, not planning it. In other words, he is talent, not management.

          The calling to explore remains valid but the echoes of Apollo grow fainter w/each passing day. Recently spent a few days reviewing video of Gene’s Apollo 17 EVAs from forty Decembers past. The quality of the television was superb but the quantity of work accomplished was hard to calibrate and cumbersome to watch. By today’s standards, the ALSEP instrumentation was minimal, sparse and tedious to deploy; almost a waste of an entire EVA. Drilling cores for heat flow and sampling consumed a great deal of time and consumables in those bulky suits as well. The forays for sampling were more efficient, but hurried. With four decades of hindsight, it appears the surface time could have been used better. And the question RGO keeps asking was there lurking in the shadows- why do it in the first place with crews. Everything comes back to establishing an answer to that question and embracing a philosophy to maintain it.

          • Coastal Ron

            DCSCA bloviated:

            Big government space exploration is on the job this very moment– Hubble and ISS aside…

            Those are all robotic or remote systems – no humans involved. I have long supported robotic exploration, including for the Moon. And even though the program costs are in the $Billions, those are hardly “Big Government” missions.

            However you advocate for Big Government space exploration for HUMAN missions to the Moon, and there is no evidence that anyone is interested in funding that. None.

            Cernan is hardly fringe having voyaged to lunar space twice and speaks with the authority of experience to inspire…

            He was a good pilot, and I’m sure a good engineer too. However he didn’t leverage any of that into anything “inspiring” after he left the astronaut corp. Other than testifying in front of Congress, where has he gone outside his comfort zone to lead? Aldrin has done far more for space-related advocacy than Cernan has, so you set a very, very low bar.

            And the question RGO keeps asking was there lurking in the shadows- why do it in the first place with crews.

            Apollo was a political stunt, which is why it’s a poor example to use for real human exploration efforts. That is likely why we haven’t left LEO since, and here you are advocating for more Big Government political stunts.

            Have you no regard for our deficit? How much money are you willing to borrow from China for this stunt?

            • DCSCA

              DCSCA said: “Big government space exploration is on the job this very moment– Hubble and ISS aside…”

              Ron responded: “Those are all robotic or remote systems – no humans involved.”

              No humans involved with the ISS? Hmmmm. That will be news to the past and present human crews orbiting aboard it. No humans involved with Hubble? Hmmm. That will be news to the crews who repaired and serviced it on several occasions, per its design. Thank you for playing. ‘What do we have for Loser Ron, Johnny?’

              In fact, the only bloviation comes from your insistence that “business” will lead the way out into space when history has repeatedly shown it will not- or cannot- chiefly due to the largess of the costs involved and has depended on government to socialize the risk for financing ops in a limited market with little to no ROI in this era. Space exploitation is not space exploration. Someday, you’ll evolve and comprehend this.

              • Coastal Ron

                DCSCA responded:

                No humans involved with the ISS? Hmmmm.

                I typically only read about half the stuff you read, so that’s why I missed that… ;-)

                However the ISS is a science platform, not an exploration one – big difference. The goal of the ISS is to help us learn how we’re going to be able to live and work in space for long periods of time, including beyond LEO. Without it, or some similar effort, we’ll never be able to return to the Moon (or anywhere else) to stay beyond “flags & footprint” type visits.

                In fact, the only bloviation comes from your insistence that “business” will lead the way out into space when history has repeatedly shown it will not- or cannot- chiefly due to the largess of the costs involved…

                Keeping in mind that Apollo was not an exploration program, but a political one (i.e. to show that the U.S. was better than the Soviet Union), there is no working model for sustained human exploration beyond LEO. None.

                So to say that business will not lead the way out into space is ignoring the reality of the situation – no one can afford to go beyond LEO right now, especially the cash-strapped U.S. Government.

                However business has found a workable business model for space (the telecommunications and sensor industries), and efforts like Planetary Resources shows that there are individuals and companies that are willing to make long-term investments required to find profitable businesses beyond GEO. The Golden Spike effort is just a recognition that companies like SpaceX are the key to getting back to the Moon, not waiting for Congress to do something.

                And let’s talk about motivation here, in that Congress has no motivation to pay for your lunar fantasies. The Constellation program was aberration, and Congress was quickly reminded why no one kept the Apollo program going – it was very expensive, and the ROI was pitifully small. Robot exploration provides a better ROI.

                Waiting for politicians to provide “leadership” by creating a new, massive government entitlement program to create more footprints on the Moon is going to be a long wait…

            • DCSCA

              Postscript:
              Ron said: “He [Cernan] was a good pilot, and I’m sure a good engineer too. However he didn’t leverage any of that into anything “inspiring” after he left the astronaut corp.”

              1. Except he has– and has always been one of the best of the ex-astronaut corps at NASA PR- always available for media opportunities. You simply on’t know what you are talking about. No surprise there. As for Aldrin, the troubled Buzz has always been about Buzz, as he has documented in his own hand in several books. However, his efforts to keep aerospace in the public discourse over the years was well intended, havig discussed same w/him at the HBO premiere of ‘From The Earth To The Moon’ in LA in 1998. But his forays into ‘moonwalking’ across Candian wrestling rings; yelling at the moon on ’30 Rock’ and his uniformed stint on ‘Dancing With The Stars’ was, embarassingly more about Buzz than space advocacy. Like Cernan, Kranz and Kraft, as earlier posted, Aldrin is no Von Braun. Also, Cernan was a naval aviator; not a mere ‘pilot.’ Aviators are sensitive to that nomenclature, per a conversation DCSCA had years ago w/t late Wally Schirra.

              2. Ron said: “Have you no regard for our deficit?”

              =yawn= The United States government spends roughly $2 billion a week in Afghanistan. Ten days worth of war costs– approx. $3 billion- added to NASA’s budget would have kept Constellation and/or other aerospace ops up and running. A much wiser investment. And Apollo was spawned as a battle front in the Cold War, Ron, with benefits beyond that geopolitical initiative in both industry and diplomacy.

              Dissing Apollo won’t win you any points in the space advocacy community, Ron, because without out it, the mono would never have been reachjed and the technological/economic return from same to a variety of industries would never have occurred. Your precious ‘business’ model balked at a lunar voyage in that time frame and left it to government to carry the load. Get with the program, Ron.

              The core question remains- why send people out into space? JFK reasoned why and rallied the nation at Rice University in 1962. So much so, it opend Neil Armstrong’s memorial service at the National Cathedral. Half a century later, it is time to reassert and clarify and adequately finance that sense of purpose and destiny.

              • Coastal Ron

                DCSCA mumbled:

                [Cernan] has always been one of the best of the ex-astronaut corps at NASA PR- always available for media opportunities.

                So, resting on his laurels. Other than being a “talking head”, he never stuck his neck out to actually do anything. What space-related companies did he start? What space advocacy organizations did he spend years supporting?

                What leadership? I’m looking at the bio he has on his website, and after he left the Moon 40 years ago there is nothing. Nothing.

                By comparison, for Neil Armstrong:

                He was a member of the National Academy of Engineering and the Academy of the Kingdom of Morocco. He served as a member of the National Commission on Space (1985-1986), as Vice-Chairman of the Presidential Commission on the Space Shuttle Challenger Accident (1986), and as Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee for the Peace Corps (1971-1973).

                I’m sure he’s a nice guy, but his critiques of what NASA wants to do in space lack standing. Sorry.

              • E. P. Grondine

                “As for Aldrin, the troubled Buzz has always been about Buzz, as he has documented in his own hand in several books.”

                But what is it that Buzz is about?

                As far as “troubled” goes, there’s only so much idiocy a space engineer can take.

          • Robert G. Oler

            DCSCA
            December 30, 2012 at 8:02 am

            er. And the question RGO keeps asking was there lurking in the shadows- why do it in the first place with crews. “”

            I thought your comments were “good”

            Apollo was as noted a “stunt’ but having said that NASA is good at mastering technology (or was) but they have no clue how to master the technology with a eye toward cost.

            So what they end up doing is a lot of stuff that really could be done by machines and is being done not very effectively by humans to have it done by humans. RGO

            • DCSCA

              Apollo was spawned as another very public and high profiled battlefront in the Cold War. Hardly a stunt- particularly as it generated technical advances in a veriety of industries in tendem w/national defense issues, national employment across the U.S. and projected a fresh facet of soft-power diplomacy and propaganda for the United States. And along the way, fulfilled an ageless dream that has passed through the mind- even for a fleeting moment- of every human being that has ever lived and looked skyward. Not bad for what you foolishly dismiss as a ‘stunt.’ =eyeroll=

              Still, in this day and age, as the wake of Apollo dissipates, the question remains, at least for the U.S.,– why send people into space. An answer alludes the profiteers playing at being rocketeers: capitalists who read a limited market w/minimal ROI where the economics don’t pay off. THe answer remains in the arena of geopolitics and the raw projection of power and national interests.

              • Coastal Ron

                DCSCA said:

                Apollo was spawned as another very public and high profiled battlefront in the Cold War.

                Well I’m glad you finally are agreeing that the Apollo program was not one of “exploration”. Which also means using Apollo as the pattern for real “exploration” is folly.

                Still, in this day and age, as the wake of Apollo dissipates…

                It was starting to dissipate when Apollo 13 was on it’s way to the Moon, and the lack of any funded plans to return to the Moon until over 30 years later should tell you there wasn’t an urgent desire to return. The lack of any public outcry when Constellation was cancelled further confirms that the public doesn’t care.

                An answer alludes the profiteers playing at being rocketeers: capitalists who read a limited market w/minimal ROI where the economics don’t pay off.

                It’s obvious this is code for Elon Musk and SpaceX, yet you keep forgetting that SpaceX has been profitable for years, and he has a backlog that is full for years. Musk and SpaceX have found the ROI in a limited market, and just like successful entrepreneurs have always done, he is creating new markets that he is well positioned to dominate.

                THe answer remains in the arena of geopolitics and the raw projection of power and national interests.

                That’s always been the option, but there are no geopolitical issues in space that require Apollo-type efforts. None.

    • amightywind

      How insulting! I am not a Jesus Freak!

  • JimNobles

    Nothing personal… but the space buffs who present themseelves on the internet come across as a batch of Jesus freaks, libertarians, climate-change denialists, and birthers.

    Not fair. There are Democrat and Independent space cadet loonies as well.

    :)

    • E. P. Grondine

      “Space Utopianism”, whether set on Mars or the Moon, is generally associated other psychological pathologies.

      When those who suffer from it realize it, they will undoubtedly find a displacement activity to justify their earlier actions.

      • josh

        huh? advocating for the establishment of human colonies on mars is “associated other psychological pathologies [sic]“? says who?
        elon musk seems perfectly sane to me.

        • E. P. Grondine

          Hi Josh –

          Musk is very sane. He is also pretty wiley.

          But most “Mars enthusiasts” are not. That is clear from the consistent “little glitches” in their engineering.

          Take Griffin with the Ares 1 and Ares 5, for example.

  • E. P. Grondine

    Hi Jeff, RGO, all –

    The answer to the problem you now face became apparent to me about 15 years ago.

    The fundamental paradigm shift will be from the paradigm of a habitable Earth like Mars to the realization of how severe the impact hazard is.

    The need for CAPS detectors to deal with the impact hazard will become the fact which will drive manned Moon activities. Irrelevant of budget constraints.

    Lower costs and developed systems will then make it possible for a small manned Mars outpost/lab to follow.

    I am working as hard as I can (post stroke) on retrieving the physical proof of cometary impacts.

    Once one of the nice craters from the Holocene Start Impacts is under the care of the concerned tribal preservation officers, all of the BS about the ca 10,900 cometary impact event is going to abruptly stop.

    That fact, and the physical proof of impact tsunamis recently hitting what is now the east coast of the United States, will force this paradigm shift.

    Does it make sense to you now?

    • Robert G. Oler

      E. P. Grondine

      “The fundamental paradigm shift will be from the paradigm of a habitable Earth like Mars”

      mike shupp
      December 29, 2012 at 7:14 am · Reply

      “Nothing personal… but the space buffs who present themseelves on the internet come across as a batch of Jesus freaks, libertarians, climate-change denialists, and birthers”

      I think that those are both excellent comments in both their quote and their entirety

      The problem with most space “enthusiast” is that they tend to be to “evangelical” ie they believe what they believe and are astounded that other people dont believe that…and in the process get more and more absurd in their beliefs.

      If Mars had turned out to be more like the Mars in “Robinson Curosoe on Mars” then the space exploration/exploitation scheme is very very different. But its not…and instead of abandoning the “western frontier” Notion they have embraced it tighter.

      There is right now no real rationale for humans in space to have a permanent presence(in my view)…that doesnt mean we should stop looking but the looking has to be cheaper then what it is now…if for no other reason then to encourage more people to look.

      RGO

    • Robert G. Oler

      “That fact, and the physical proof of impact tsunamis recently hitting what is now the east coast of the United States, will force this paradigm shift.

      Does it make sense to you now?”

      The only thing that will make this a world driver is if we have a either “major impact” or a real close event (ie like something sailing through the atmosphere before kicking back out…)

      I wish that it was not that way but thats how humans are RGO

      • Fred Willett

        Sorta like after Katrina people suddenly took extreme weather evens seriously.
        Or after Sandy people suddenly took extreme weather evens seriously.
        Oh wait…
        I’m afraid Mr Grondine is doomed to dissapointment. If we are hit by a large rock people are more likely to say. “Well that was a one in a thousand year event so we don’t need to worry for another 999 years.”
        Sadly very silly, but still most likely.

        • Robert G. Oler

          I’m afraid Mr Grondine is doomed to dissapointment. If we are hit by a large rock people are more likely to say. “Well that was a one in a thousand year event so we don’t need to worry for another 999 years.”
          Sadly very silly, but still most likely.”

          Dont know if I agree with that.

          Here on the Gulf coast if you are not ready for a Hurricane then you are a dolt…but…

          If a “rock” comes down that has in some fashion global implications (ie large destruction area, or visible affects) in my view opinions will change quickly. We will see…hope I am alive after it happens! RGO

          • E. P. Grondine

            Hi RGO, all –

            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7M8LQ7_hWtE

            Given that most people don’t read, but everyone watches television, one of the things that gets to me is that NASA has yet to assemble all the Shoemaker-Levy 9 cometary impact event telescope images into a continuous video, both in infra-red and false color visible.

            • Robert G. Oler

              E.P. I will be surprised, pleasantly but surprised if the impact notion gathers any steam without a “close call”…RGO

              • E. P. Grondine

                Hi RGO –

                We had a close call last week.

                NASA PAO buried it under a BS press release about a conference on one known not to hit in 2040. At least that’s their story.

              • Robert G. Oler

                EP it is going to have to be “really” close like coming through the atmosphere…I am aware of the close pass last week, you have gotten “me” interested but its an Adlai Ewing Stevenson thing RGO

  • E. P. Grondine

    DCSCA –

    At the core of von Braun’s paradigm was an Earth like Mars. Though it has not sunk in among some people, most people know that Mars is not Earth like – Mars is Mars-like.

    While most “space enthusiasts” do not realize it yet, cometary impactor detection is the new driver.

    The other item which “space enthusiasts” often ignore is that von Braun’s architecture relied on re-usable heavy lift launchers to make it financially feasible. Thus it was also highly nationalistic.

    • Ben Russell-Gough

      Seriously, I don’t think that this “driver” will be more than a hobby-horse for a small fringe group until a Tunguska-sized event takes out a major population centre. Before then, the majority will be incapable of believing it is a real threat.

      • Robert G. Oler

        Seriously, I don’t think that this “driver” will be more than a hobby-horse for a small fringe group until a Tunguska-sized event takes out a major population centre. Before then, the majority will be incapable of believing it is a real threat.>>

        Yes that was Clark’s theory in Rendezvous with Rama…RGO

        • E. P. Grondine

          You don’t need to convince the populace, you need to convince their representatives and leaders that their constituents are at risk.

          You need to provide them with the hard facts they can use to justify their actions to those constituents, whose cash they are spending.

          That’s why Dallas Abbott’s work on the Hudson River impact tsunamis was so influential on both Weiner and his colleagues and their constituents.

    • josh

      “The other item which “space enthusiasts” often ignore is that von Braun’s architecture relied on re-usable heavy lift launchers to make it financially feasible. Thus it was also highly nationalistic.”

      why are reusable hlvs “highly nationalistic”? musk is working on these today. you’re not making sense.

      • E. P. Grondine

        Hi Josh –

        Even if anyone reduces heavy lift launch costs, the price will still be too high for any one nation to do a go it alone manned Mars effort.

        While the Moon requires far lower launch costs, still no nation really wants to pay for it alone. That is one of the most important lessons of Apollo/Soyuz.

  • This article and the proceeding stream of ideas are of utmost interest to me, as it applies to my personal ambitions.

    I moved to Central Florida a few years ago and immediately noticed a profound lack of general local enthusiasm for space exploration –this to me was inconceivable given the rich history of the Space Coast, but the more familiar I have become with it, the area has revealed itself to be oddly devoid of space advocacy. Obviously the Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral do what they do, but outside of strictly-business activities, space advocacy events/ groups/ efforts are few and far between. Obviously I blame this largely on the state of the nation’s Space Program and the devastating blow job-wise that the area was dealt (and continues to be dealt) following the retirement of the Shuttle Program. The area is feeling very down-trodden.

    However the people here do LOVE space, and they REALLY want to see it all turn around! And not just in a superficial way either, they truly have the ‘space bug’ like I do. I know this because when I talk to them about space, down-trodden though they may be, their eyes light up and they come alive. Many of them you can’t get to shut up about it once you initiate a conversation. They remember the good ‘ol days, and they want to see them return. They just feel powerless.

    All of this being the case, I feel like there is tremendous un-tapped potential here to come together and do something big in the way of space advocacy.

    That is why when Bill Nye approached me a few months ago about starting a branch of the Planetary Society on the Space Coast, I latched onto the proposition. I am spearheading this and we are now in the preliminary stages of establishing TPS presence here.

    Some people may consider some of the activities of The Planetary Society to be among the aforementioned ‘Space Utopianism’ variety, however TPS is a very vast and individualized organization with many different efforts under the general space advocacy umbrella. TPS has been very influential with the powers at-be, and through this has accomplished many efforts in space exploration. Space advocates have to be loud and they have to be persistent, which for some may translate as fanatic, but it is necessary in order to be heard by the general public.

    If it is done right, I believe that the marriage of The Planetary Society with the enormous presence of influential space-minded individuals on the Space Coast can be a recipe for something truly amazing. ‘Grass roots’ space advocates are important everywhere in the nation, but I believe that they are especially important here in America’s spaceport. To the American public ‘Cape Canaveral’ is synonymous with ‘the U.S. Space Program’, therefore to them words out of Cape Canaveral carry double the weight that they do anywhere else.

    All of that to say –the people commenting on this article have the right kind of mindset that America’s Space Program needs. If any of you would like to speak with me, I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas on this subject in application to the Space Coast area. Doubly-so for anyone who may live here –we would love to have you on-board for this new Planetary Society effort. I’d be happy to talk with you here, or you can email me at: McNulty@knights.ucf.edu

    Ad astra per aspera. Keep fighting the good fight!

    • Not to discourage you, Sarah, but you should be aware that the National Space Society already has a chapter here in the Space Coast. I realize that TPS and NSS have somewhat different goals, but rather than competing for the same few activists out here you may wish to contact them and combine our efforts. Their web site is http://www.nssflorida.org.

      I’ll also point out that there’s a difference between people who want a robust government space program just so they have a guaranteed job-for-life (in their minds), versus those who are passionate space advocated for “the cause.” A lot of people here are hostile to the current program because they think the private sector won’t pay them as much as they were paid on a government program — and they’re right. Government programs pay for skills way more than they’re worth in the private sector.

      My point is, don’t expect these people to flock to your cause. They’re just going to want to know what you’re going to do to create a job for them. They don’t particularly care about solar system exploration, unless they’re given a job to do it.

      • Sarah

        Way ahead of you. TPS Space Coast has already aligned missions with NSS Space Coast. It is true that the basic missions of both organizations are the same, but that’s a good thing. Multiple nonprofit organizations participating in the same causes doesn’t divide their potency, it brings an additional source of support and funding to the table. The only way we might end up ‘competing’ is through membership procurement, but that isn’t necessarily bad either.

        Re; Workers who actually care versus those just working for a paycheck: obviously there are lots of the latter, but to imply that their existence renders the true space enthusiasts few and far between is a bit extreme. While there may not necessarily be droves of people who care enough to actively advocate, I’m confident that there are a reasonable amount of people who do care enough to advocate. I know because I encounter them every time I go over there. I’ve met some amazing people over there who truly have a passion for space, and I’m pretty certain I know of at least a few off-hand who will probably be willing to give TPS a shot.

        The demographic here is also wide, and certainly not limited to government employees. Obviously there are the contractors, and enthusiasts outside of the industry, or in related industries. You also have the presence of four very space-savvy colleges in the proximity. Brevard Community College, while small, does in fact have a solid space core. Then there’s FIT, UCF, and Embry-Riddle. UCF often partners with NASA on research, not to mention that NASA’s Florida Space Institute is now a part of UCF. All of them full of bright-eyed college students beaming with a passion for space.

    • amightywind

      You know your organization shares an acronym with the Tea Party in Space. Fortunately for us all, you wield similar influence.

    • Coastal Ron

      Sarah said:

      TPS has been very influential with the powers at-be, and through this has accomplished many efforts in space exploration.

      I don’t belong to any organized space advocacy group, and so could you provide some examples of what The Planetary Society has accomplished?

      • Coastal Ron wrote:

        I don’t belong to any organized space advocacy group …

        Oh, you belong to the National Space Society too? :-)

        Sorry, couldn’t resist.

        Years ago, when I belonged to the Democratic party (now I’m registered non-partisan), that was the old joke — “I don’t belong to any organized political party. I’m a Democrat.”

      • Sarah

        The Planetary Society’s influence: I’ll start off by saying that TPS was Carl Sagan’s brainchild. Now, whether or not you like Carl Sagan, no one can deny his massive personal influence on the space program, and his highly successful effect on the American public. And that should give a good idea of what TPS’ personality is like.

        Riding that tailwind TPS began gaining a good amount of respect in the 80′s. In 1981 Congress cut NASA’s funding for SETI. TPS helped convince Congress to restore its funding. They developed the first privately-funded hardware sent to another planet. They developed project LIFE, which was a two-phase study of the theory of transpermia, and proved that there are organisms that can survive the vacuum of space. TPS funding jump-started the investigation into the Pioneer Anomaly, which convinced NASA to follow up with its funds. Their big current project is a ‘Light Sail’, which was originally created and carried out in conjunction with Cosmos Studio (yes, Sagan’s Cosmos) but launched onboard an ill-fated Volna; they have now resurrected the project under NASA’s ‘NanoSail-D’ project (now re-named ‘Light Sail’) and two finished Light Sails are currently in queue to be piggybacked.

        And billions and billions of smaller projects from every corner of space science and advocacy.

        With its high-profile origins, it attracted space advocacy giants such as Neil DeGrasse Tyson (board of directors), and Bill Nye (CEO). Regardless of where you stand on which issues and projects, The Planetary Society is a powerful vehicle through which to reach the public.

        • I’ll just note that I joined TPS when Carl and Bruce Murray and Louis Friedman.

          Carl had star power (no pun intended), but we don’t have a Sagan today who’s willing to translate that star power into effective political action.

          Neil Tyson is entertaining, but he isn’t an effective political force. For example, here is his March 2012 appearance before the Senate science committee. Only three members showed up, and one of them quickly bailed. Tyson spent a half-hour talking to a largely empty dais.

          Carl wouldn’t have let that happen. He understood politics. In fact, he once was arrested protesting nuclear bomb testing. He knew that would get media attention. Would Neil put himself on the line? I doubt it.

          Bill Nye was politically active in the last election, but is that going to translate into anything?

          In Sagan’s time, we had three commercial television networks and PBS. That was it. One reason Cosmos rocked the nation was that so many people were aware of it. If Carl tried to premiere Cosmos today, it would be on an obscure cable channel like Discovery. Very very few people would watch it.

          I don’t think NSS or TPS have outlived their usefulness, but I do think they need to reassess how to achieve their goals. Lobbying for more government funding isn’t going to work any more. Most members of Congress are scientifically illiterate, and care about nothing other than their own re-election.

          Space enthusiasts, in my opinion, need to turn to the private sector, to wealthy benefactors, to visionaries like Elon Musk who are willing to put their billions on the line for space exploration (and exploitation). It’s going to take more efforts like Golden Spike that circumvent Congress.

          I wish Carl were still with us, because I suspect he’d be all over NewSpace.

        • Sarah

          The solution is clearly to take a time-out from space for a while and focus all our efforts on developing technology to reverse engineer death. That, or we could clone Carl.

          All kidding aside, I can’t speak to the effectiveness of trying to force science pills down Congress’ throat, and I’m certainly in no place to judge whether or not certain individuals have the tact required to do so. However I do agree that, at least in the case of 98% of the population, the best target audience for space advocacy is the public. Without support from the American citizen, the Space Program doesn’t exist. No matter how much lobbying is done in Washington. Even in Carl Sagan’s case –he himself admits that the robotic missions of the 70′s and 80′s would probably not have happened if Apollo hadn’t done such a flawless job of instilling pride and enthusiasm in the hearts of America as a whole.

          Sadly, enthusiasm for space among he general population has grown lacklustre. That’s where ‘grass roots’ activism comes in. And I don’t mean evangelizing, I mean tact. I am a huge believer in the power of marketing when it’s done right.

          • E. P. Grondine

            Hi Sarah –

            “I can’t speak to the effectiveness of trying to force science pills down Congress’ throat, and I’m certainly in no place to judge whether or not certain individuals have the tact required to do so.”

            While it worked earlier, “space enthusiasts”lobbying for their particular space “science” will become nearly completely ineffective soon, in my opinion. The Congress has a lot of problems to deal with, and will be looking closely at costs/benefits.

  • Great article in this morning’s Florida Today by John Kelly about space stories to watch in 2013.

    Particularly intriguing is this passage:

    The Orion spacecraft appears to be relatively on track based on regular updates from NASA. Try to get similar details about the Space Launch System and you run into, well, a runaround. NASA has issued several vague, detail-free updates this year on the multi-billion dollar rocket project, noting how project managers are passing key review points. The agency so far won’t release the public records outlining the details behind those reviews. The reason: that kind of information is private because it’s part of the agency’s 2013 budget proposal.

    Not to be overly skeptical, but based on the agency’s near-perfect track record of delivering this kind of project over budget and behind schedule, my guess is the details would show the rocket passed reviews with caveats. Similar projects in the past got green lights in these preliminary reviews only to find out later that major technological issue got a different kind of pass. This year, watch for the budget to indicate the rocket will cost taxpayers more and not be ready to fly on time or as frequently as once promised.

    This would seem to suggest that Florida Today did a Freedom of Information Act request on SLS and NASA turned them down. Hmmm …

    • Robert G. Oler

      Stephen…agreed. Orion is expensive but probably is doable. After all it is nothing but an Apollo Command Module “updated” ..

      rockets are another thing. NASA has struggled since the shuttle to develop a “rocket” internally and generally flounders along several fault lines.

      I expect both to flounder this year. SLS because the cost are soaring and Orion as a vehicle because there is no use for it.

      The systems might be another matter. RGO

    • Coastal Ron

      Interesting Stephen. I think it does confirm that the program will be exceeding it’s planned budget and schedule, and why draw any extra attention to it when our political leaders are looking for ways to save money?

      Can’t last long though, since it’s hard to hide an elephant in a small room…

      • Well, I don’t think SLS will die any time soon. We all know the arguments against it, but SLS was created to protect “the standing army” as Jerry Pournelle called it, and there’s no indication that Congress will change that attitude any time soon.

        It will be like Constellation — give the standing army something to do, without making any real progress. The difference is that Constellation was going to be funded by cancelling ISS in 2015. SLS is just a $3 billion per year hole; nothing else will be cancelled, although folks like Senator Hutchison sure made a run at it by falsely claiming it was a choice between SLS and commercial crew.

        Even though I know SLS is nothing more than a porkfest, I’ll feel sad when it gets cancelled. Folks here in the Space Coast are very frustrated seeing one program after another proposed only to have it cancelled mid-stream. A lot of money is being spent to convert LC-39 for SLS. I’d hate to just pull the plug and leave all this standing yet again.

        If SpaceX were to sign a deal to take over LC-39A and High Bay 1 for Falcon Heavy, I’d say hurrah and let’s pull the plug on SLS. But I think SpaceX will go its own way.

        • DCSCA

          “Folks here in the Space Coast are very frustrated seeing one program after another proposed only to have it cancelled mid-stream.”

          That’s a pretty thin whine from the Canaveral set given the sixty years of government missile works going on along the Space Coast, if not outright naive. Government projects start and stop all the time- a few that come to mind: Mercury, Gemini, MOL, Apollo, Skylab and the space shuttle. nobody likes the ‘gaps.’ But SLS and Orion will eventually be up and flying.

          • Coastal Ron

            DCSCA said:

            But SLS and Orion will eventually be up and flying.

            I can see the Orion/MPCV making it to space, since it does serve some short-term purpose (although it will be quickly eclipsed).

            However there is not enough money to build a continuous stream of SLS-sized payloads for the SLS. Just do the math at home, and it quickly becomes evident that NASA would need $20B a year just to build SLS missions if they were to launch them at the rate of two per year for a decade or more, which is the minimum number of launches per year needed to keep up operational competency. As a reminder, NASA’s current budget is only $18B per year, and they would still need a separate budget for the $2.5B/flight it costs for each SLS.

            The SLS will die in the same way the Constellation program did – when Congress realizes it’s too expensive.

            In any case, it’s not needed, since most of the exploration hardware NASA has been dreaming up can fit on existing or near-term commercial rocket systems.

            • vulture4

              “The SLS will die in the same way the Constellation program did – when Congress realizes it’s too expensive.”

              Apollo died for the same reason. Unfortunately many in the SLS/Orion/Constellation program today do not remember why Apollo was cancelled.

              I agree on the problem with prizes; investment in new technology requires a real market, not just stimulating interest. It’s hard enough just to write a proposal when there is a low probability of actually winning. In the case of the X-prize the Rutan Spaceship project was already underway and was the only serious contender, so the prize money (even though it was much less than the actual cost) served as a partial subsidy, but a technology development grant would have been just as effective.

          • NeilShipley

            SLS and MPCV flying? LOL. 1st joke and gotta be one of the earliest and in running for best for 2013. Well done DCSCA. You have returned to this board in your usual style. Oh and happy new year to everyone. Just on 0031hrs 01 January 2013 here in sunny Perth.

            • DCSCA

              You’re confused; the joke is Australia’s manned space program. Oh, that’s right, you have none. But then, you can applaud PRC crewed spacecraft as they pass over Perth… and Orion as well. Leave the lights on. Again. Like you did for Glenn back in ’62… half a century ago.

              • Neil Shipley

                We’ve never chosen to pursue a manned space program instead supporting efforts and developing expertise in other space-related areas. The U.S. did so however and have made a right stuff-up of it with no U.S. – built vehicle capable of it now. Still stuck in leo after decades of flying and now hitching rides with the Russians.
                Power prices probably preclude leaving the lights on these days but there’s only Soyuz and the PRC with that capability today to see them if we did. Maybe we’ll see DragonRider and CST-100 joining them in a few years however the odds are long indeed that MPCV will ever fly. Happy to eat humble pie if it does but will you? Either way the commercial effort is schedule to fly long before MPCV and for billions of dollars less. And don’t try to spin the more capable story. That just total NASA BS.

        • Guest

          Again, I urge you to take a look at Lunar Direct using a slightly modified SLS design and Falcon 9 boosters as F-1 replacements or substitutes.

          It would be well adapted to a clean pad 39A as well, and I also have a booster landing site all line up in the Bahamas. (Well, kind of lined up, it’s not exactly optimal for equatorial) It’s the only way that I can find to make the SLS work in any rational fashion at all in this era. It solves the problem with the lack of payload, the lack of mission, the lack of a large payload fairing and a lot of the structural issues, and most importantly, the RISK of human rating and flying the stupid thing.

          • Neil Shipley

            Well we could take a look but what’s the point. There is no way that SLS and SpaceX will be hooking up. SpaceX won’t want a bar of anything to do with SLS. Haven’t you heard? They’re building their own vehicles.

  • Stan

    @Coastal Ron
    Completely off topic. I enjoy your and a certain self-important Italian’s duelling posts on aviation week site but he seems a bit scarce lately. Ant idea what happened?

    • I’ve noticed that too (AvWeek seems to be the only place that hasn’t yet banned him), but he’s returned there in the comments following a recent item on new spacecraft docking standards…

    • Coastal Ron

      Stan, I know he still posts to newspapers websites when they have space-related topics (he uses his Facebook account), and there have been a few space blogs that he has trolled at too. I have no idea why he posts, but who can know the motivations of crazy people…

  • E. P. Grondine

    Hi Jeffm, all –

    I think Churchill once said, “Americans can be counted on to o the right thing,
    after they have tried everything else”:

    http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/education/july-dec12/rocket_12-28.htm

    Well, you don’t fix your economy by trashing your aerospace industry.

  • Couldn’t NASA achieve more with less if it would finally offer more, and bigger competitive prizes for technology-related breakthroughs regarding space exploration? NASA could offer them at this government prizes portal:

    http://challenge.gov/Nasa

    Competing teams would stir up unprecedented interest in exploring and colonizing space. Isn’t it a shame that the NASA clique is too jealously monopolistic, and greedy with our tax dollars, for that? Hence, there’s not even a Lunar or Mars sample return mission prize available. Can you believe that? NASA would prefer to charge taxpayers billions each year to run it internally and to outsource mainly just from those with influential lobbyist$. Is anyone surprised that we’ve not been back to the Moon in nearly half a century? With such perennial wastefulness from the feds (http://www.USDebtClock.org/ ) isn’t it time for them to give us more bang for our tax dollars?

    • E. P. Grondine

      Hi PL –

      I hate “prizes”. Usually they are a gimmicky waste of money. If someone wants to fund a prize privately, go on ahead, its your money.

      The real prizes are launch contracts.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Happy New Years everyone…Have a great 2013…at home for the celebration when you have a 2 year old ! RGO

  • DCSCA

    Just a small but telling note from the media frenzy over national finances of the past ferw days:

    Amidst the televised banter over the fiscal cliff negotiations on December 31, a CNN reporter relayed this comment by a legislator when $24 billion was floated into the conversation as a cost/saving figure: “Finding $24 billion around here is like finding money under cushions of your sofa.” Immediately thought of the struggle to find a ‘mere’ $3 billion/year to keep Constellation up and running (per NASA, it would have kept it under development for 8 years.)

    Finding money in Congress isn’t the problem for space advocates; convincing backers and developing a rationale for HSF ops and selling it is– as Von Braun knew all too well.

    The immediate focus for space advocates in general and HSF proponents in particular has to be developing a concise, convincing purpose to send Americans into space. ‘Because it is there’ doesn’t fly any more. Memo to Geno: You have the ‘gift of gab”… put it to work!

  • E. P. Grondine

    I need to point out to all of you that you are attributing work by Trevor Gardner to von Braun.

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