NASA, Other

In the search for a “definitive” national space policy, no definitive answers

Thursday evening the Baker Institute for Public Policy at Rice University hosted a panel titled “Lost in Space: The Need for a Definitive U.S. Space Policy.” (The event was webcast, and the video of the event is on the institute’s website.) The panel was predicated on the belief that the US doesn’t currently have a clear national space policy, particularly when it comes to guiding NASA’s activities, and sought to “discuss the need for and the elements of a definitive national civil space policy.” At the end of the over 90-minute event, though, the panel came away with no clear answers of what that “definitive” space policy should be.

While the title of the panel appeared to address national space policy in general, it was clear that the emphasis of the discussion would be not just on civil space policy, but specifically on civil human spaceflight. “For an American astronaut, the road to space is really through Star City and Baikonur and Kazakhstan,” lamented George Abbey, former director of the Johnson Space Center and moderator of the panel, in his opening remarks. “It will be that way for a long time to come.” (Abbey also claimed in his remarks that this July “it’ll be two years since an American spacecraft has been up to visit that station.” In fact, last year two American spacecraft—SpaceX Dragon cargo vehicles—visited the station, and by July at least one more Dragon, plus likely the first Cygnus cargo vehicle from Orbital Sciences, will have visited the ISS. None of them, of course, carry crews.)

As to how to change the current situation and create a more definitive national space policy, particularly for human spaceflight, the panelists offered a range of options, but also little optimism that things would change in the near term. “I’m not very optimistic, at least in the short run,” said John Logsdon, who described the current situation as “an uneasy and unsatisfactory compromise.” “The perception of the need is there, but it’s not a widely shared perception. And it’s hard hard to change things in our system of government.”

Neal Lane, who was director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy during the latter years of the Clinton Administration, said he recalled complaints from the space community during his time there asking why the president didn’t make space a higher priority. “I think you could argue that no president except Kennedy has really placed the space program high enough on the list of priorities to be sustainable,” he said. “I still hold out the hope that, someday, our space program will excite the public to the degree that presidents and members of Congress will place it higher on the list of priorities. But it’s not happened yet, and it can’t happen in my view very quickly.”

To Rice University professor Eugene Levy, that long-running challenge to come up with a more definitive policy for human spaceflight in particular is not surprising. “The failure to articulate and mount a program of human piloted missions to deep space, rather than being a crisis, rather than being a bungle of leadership and political process, represents a triumph of rationality and success in the political process,” he argued. “No convincing case has been made for mounting a program of deep space piloted missions.” He added he’s not opposed per se to human space exploration, only that the reasons given don’t justify the expenditure in an era where NASA “is getting about as much of the national resource as it is likely to get on any time horizon worth planning for.”

One way to achieve a broader consensus for space policy is geostrategic considerations, offered Joan Johnson-Freese, a professor of national security affairs at the Naval War College. She said while there was no space race between the US and China, there is the “perception of leadership” that is at stake if there is no continued clear direction for national space policy. “The connotation of space is regarding the future. Leaders go into the future. And if we are seen as ceding that leadership to other countries, it will have larger geostrategic implications,” she said.

She and another panelist, former astronaut Leroy Chiao, advocated for more cooperation, rather than competition, with China. “For the United States to maintain its leadership position in human spaceflight,” he said, “that’s where we need to focus our efforts and get over the xenophobia and take the lead position in making it happen.” Johnson-Freese noted that if the US doesn’t increase cooperation with China, it risks being left out of future partnerships. “The danger of not working with China is that everybody else is,” she said. “I’m afraid we’re going to be standing there with our football and everybody else is going to be playing a different game.”

Of all the panelists, Mark Albrecht, the former executive secretary of the National Space Council in the George H.W. Bush Administration, took the broadest view, expanding his scope beyond human spaceflight and NASA in general to look at the broader national space enterprise. “We have a weak national policy” for space in general, he said, with no “overarching theme”; instead, he considers it more of a “guidance document.” He saw a number of problems with national space efforts today, from the military’s return to the “Milstar era” of very big, expensive satellite programs to diminished market shares for commercial satellites and launches by US companies.

Space policy excels, he argued, when it’s part of a broader national strategy, such as defeating the Soviet Union in the Cold War. “But right now, we don’t have a national strategy,” he argued. The only way to change space policy, he said, “is to have an overriding national policy for the United States for which a different kind of space policy would fit in.”

The panel ended with no clear view about how to change national space policy (let alone broader national policy) or what to change it to, and no optimism that we’ll see any significant changes of any kind in the near future. “With economics and the fiscal cliff looming in the future, one of the options for policymaking is called ‘muddling through,’” said Johnson-Freese after making the case for a renewed geostrategic emphasis on national space policy. “And that’s where we are and that’s where we’re going to stay.”

80 comments to In the search for a “definitive” national space policy, no definitive answers

  • Gary Warburton

    The US needs to drop the SLS effort then it would have a clear space policy. This effort to be everything to everybody clearly won`t work. Legistlation to stop congress and the senate from interfering in NASA and designing rockets is something that cannot work. The designing of rockets, and the designation of missions should be left to Nasa and its scientists, and its engineers. Congress and the senate should only be concerned with finances and what they feel they can afford. Nasa is the only one who should decide what mission is started.

    • Coastal Ron

      Gary Warburton said:

      The designing of rockets, and the designation of missions should be left to Nasa and its scientists, and its engineers.

      Agreed.

      Nasa is the only one who should decide what mission is started.

      Don’t agree. Or at least, to a certain degree. If the money involved is large, and will require predictable funding over a number of budget years, then Congress and the President (our elected representatives have to be on board with what NASA (run by people taxpayers didn’t elect) wants to do. That’s just a fact of politics.

      • Gary Warburton

        Many people have a passion in life, an interest. Many of the people who work at Nasa have a passion in their lives which may be rockets and engineering or astronomy and exploring space, —science. These people are creative and work very hard because it is there passion. Politicians are interested in business and making their country a better place through creating programs that help people to succeed and have a better life. They have insight into peoples motives and learn how to manipulate people this their passion. Recently they have become more and more concerned with manipulation than anything else. Policians have no real interest in science or engineering therefore should not be making decisions for Nasa.

        • amightywind

          Policians have no real interest in science or engineering therefore should not be making decisions for Nasa.

          Oh right. Lets leave that up to the experts who practice the one true faith. Accept that politicians represent will the people and collectively work their will. I wish greater emphasis were put on those hard working NASA workers drawing overly generous federal salaries and benefits. If you got rid of 20% of them America would never know the difference.

    • Guest

      The designing of rockets, and the designation of missions should be left to Nasa and its scientists, and its engineers.

      NASA and its contractors are enthusiastically designing an expendable launch vehicle to nowhere. There are several ways to cure this problem, cancel the program, take away NASA’s right to design the program, or put somebody in charge of it who can do the job.

      • JimNobles

        NASA and its contractors are enthusiastically designing an expendable launch vehicle to nowhere.>

        I believe that statement is inaccurate due to omission. I would word it this way: “Congress decreed a retro shuttle-derived job-producing heavy-lifter be built, even with no real missions planned for it, and now NASA and its contractors are enthusiastically designing an expendable launch vehicle to nowhere.”

    • E. P. Grondine

      Hi Gary –

      The Congress determines the goals of the federal government, and what space missions are in the nation’s interest.

  • Derek

    I think the US should really focus itself on fostering the fledgling commercial industries sprouting out all over the place in space utilization. While science should be the ultimate goal, the only way to make exploration sustainable is by making space pay. I think NASA in the short term is doing great things by supporting commercial access to space, and in the long term it could really make space utilization profitable by enabling companies that seek to build infrastructure and mine/manufacture materials in space.

    The US is in desperate need of new sources of revenue to account for its wildly overstretched budget, and using NASA to invest in and support companies like Planetary Resources and DSi before other nations take advantage of such resources could greatly improve everyone’s situation.

  • Brett

    We’re not going to really do anything different on the Manned space program in the US until after ISS comes crashing into the ocean (unless someone does something in private manned spaceflight). After that, our options are more open.

    I figure we ought to do two things with the manned program: fund private launch companies to see if they can get the costs down for launches and bigelow-style space stations, and “experiments”. Such as more experiments in in-space refueling, in-space fuel- making, simulated gravity generated by rotation, and so forth. We might be headed nowhere, but we can at least lay down a body of useful research in case people are more interested down the line.

    • Coastal Ron

      Brett said:

      We’re not going to really do anything different on the Manned space program in the US until after ISS comes crashing into the ocean

      What is it you imagine the ISS is doing? Or more importantly, what is it preventing us from doing in space?

      To me, being able to have a platform that allows us to test out the technologies and techniques we’ll need to expand our presence out into space is invaluable. How else can we do it? The Shuttle cost on average of $1.5B for each flight, and it could only spend two weeks in space – the ISS only costs $3B per year, and we have 3-6 people there full time.

      And how are we supposed to expand our presence out into space if we keep throwing away paid-for mass? Look around on Earth – did settlers tear down older buildings when they built new ones, or keep them and continuing to use them? My house has had at least four previous owners, and none of them torn it down and rebuilt it each time, just updated it. So it should be with the ISS – use it, reuse it, upgrade it, modify it. There is a million pounds of mass up there, and it’s pretty much the latest, greatest space technology we have today.

      I figure we ought to do two things with the manned program: fund private launch companies to see if they can get the costs down for launches and bigelow-style space stations, and “experiments”.

      “Fund private launch companies” – NASA is doing that today through paying for services. NASA doesn’t launch any of it’s science missions, it uses ULA (and soon SpaceX and OSC). NASA is starting to pay for cargo services for the ISS, and soon it will pay for crew transportation services. The real key is to transition NASA from being an owner/operator to buying services. Except for the SLS (and that’s a big “except”), that’s is what NASA is doing. Kill the SLS, and NASA will have more money to use for things it needs to buy transportation for, and for experiments that utilize the innovation in our aerospace industry.

      • Brett

        What is it you imagine the ISS is doing? Or more importantly, what is it preventing us from doing in space?

        I never said it was doing nothing, just that we’re realistically not going to be doing much different with the US manned space program until after it crashes into the ocean. It will continue to vacuum up funding in every budget request that NASA sends to Congress, and everything else gets what’s left.

        To me, being able to have a platform that allows us to test out the technologies and techniques we’ll need to expand our presence out into space is invaluable. How else can we do it? The Shuttle cost on average of $1.5B for each flight, and it could only spend two weeks in space – the ISS only costs $3B per year, and we have 3-6 people there full time.

        Read the above.

        And how are we supposed to expand our presence out into space if we keep throwing away paid-for mass? Look around on Earth – did settlers tear down older buildings when they built new ones, or keep them and continuing to use them? My house has had at least four previous owners, and none of them torn it down and rebuilt it each time, just updated it. So it should be with the ISS – use it, reuse it, upgrade it, modify it. There is a million pounds of mass up there, and it’s pretty much the latest, greatest space technology we have today.

        Why? There’s not much funding to expand it anymore, and a lot of reasons to get rid of aging space stations. Look at what happened to Mir after 15 years – it was a creaking mess infested with fungi, and prone to fires. That’s not to mention compatibility issues with new modules.

        “Fund private launch companies” – NASA is doing that today through paying for services. NASA doesn’t launch any of it’s science missions, it uses ULA (and soon SpaceX and OSC). NASA is starting to pay for cargo services for the ISS, and soon it will pay for crew transportation services.

        I know that, hence why I listed those companies by name in my post.

  • Gary Warburton

    Derek is absolutely right. Making space pay for itself is the altimate goal. Having Nasa build true spaceships like the Nautilus X and eventually
    constructing an Arthur C. Clark type space station complete with artificial gravity would also encourage private companies to innovate.

  • amightywind

    It is simple. NASA must refocus and implement the vision for space exploration of 2004 with all haste, including the Ares V. There was widespread support for it. It must get rid of some of its ridiculous scientific appendages, ISS foremost among them. NASA certainly must collaborate with Russia or China, both incorrigibly despotic and perpetually hostile to US interests around the world. We cannot allow a few naive internationalists, posing as NASA leadership, to hand them the US’ technological crown jewels. Space is simply another field on which we must compete. Why don’t we try to win for once?

    Brett is right about ISS. It sucks the oxygen out of the air.

    • Gary Warburton

      Space is all about gaining scientific knowlege about space and how to live there. It has brought many benifits to the people of earth and will continue to do so. If it were deorbited today it would be huge waste of money. Anyone who advocates deorbiting it knows nothing about what goes on there.

      • amightywind

        If it were deorbited today it would be huge waste of money. Anyone who advocates deorbiting it knows nothing about what goes on there.

        One is left to wonder after 10 years what exactly that is and why NASA has such a difficult time explaining it? Fish experiments? I contend that the value of the trivial science that derives from the project is outweighed by its grotesque cost by 1000x!

        • Gary Warburton

          How about the refueling experiment which was recently carried out. That alone promises to reduce satellite costs. Ad Astra recently decided to test its new Vasmir ion rockets on the space station to provide a cheap way to reboost the station to a higher orbit and develop new and cheap method to provide thrust to spaceships. How about the plans to place and test a centrifuge on the space station to one day provide artificial gravity for astronauts in space or on long trips to planets. How about recent tests provide cures for Salmonella.
          There are thousands of experiments not only ones that involve fish going on on the space station at any one time. Currently one that involves
          a search for antiparticles with a detector that is the only one of its kind in the world. How are we going to protect ourselves from radiation in space if we can`t conduct experiments to evaluate there effectiveness. Lets face it you don`t know what you`re talking about.

          • Gary Warburton

            I forgot the detector is called AMS Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer.

          • amightywind

            How about the refueling experiment which was recently carried out.

            This is what I mean by distinctly non-cutting edge ISS research. The Orbital Express mission was successfully conducted in 2007! It’s a done deal. QED. Why on earth does NASA need to put astronauts at risk for a test as mundane as satellite refueling?

            Ad Astra recently decided to test its new Vasmir ion rockets on the space station to provide a cheap way to reboost the station to a higher orbit

            Sounds like that snake oil salesman Franklin Chang-Diaz has finally found a paying customer. If NASA wanted to they could outfit ISS with XIPS drives tomorrow and accomplish the task with 25 years old technology.

            How about the plans to place and test a centrifuge on the space station to one day provide artificial gravity for astronauts in space or on long trips to planets.

            Got news for ya. You could have ridden one at the carnival last summer. They work. We have been flying satellites with spinning sections for decades. Oh, ya. Hadn’t heard that ISS would be sporting one for the astronauts to use any time soon.

            How about recent tests provide cures for Salmonella.

            That can’t be done on the ground?

            How are we going to protect ourselves from radiation in space if we can`t conduct experiments to evaluate there effectiveness.

            The radiation environment of space has been characterized for decades by unmanned craft. The ISS plays no role in its mitigation.

            Your problem is that you are unable to access ISS science objectively. Don’t worry. Most of the morons on this site have the same problem.

            • Gary Warburton

              There is a special reason why this refueling was important best explained by Spaceflight Now http://spaceflightnow.com/ Granted there was test before but this test set standards for industry so that satellite developers could design there satillites for refueling and repair.
              Ridiculing someone`s name does not constitute an arguement against ion engines. Everyone knows they`ve been around for a while but these ion engines are more powerful and have variable thrust. Mr. Diaz still works toward making them more powerful and efficient.
              About the centifuge if scientist are able to install them on the space station and future spaceships they would be a means of mitigating bone loss it would it could result one more step to develope the ability to take long trip to Mars and foster the ability to stay at the station for long periods.
              It is precisely because they are in a weightless environment that they are able to do these Salmonella experiments and achieve the results they do. No, they couldn`t achieve the same results on earth.
              Tests to develop various materials for protection from radiation can be carried out much more cheaply in orbit at the station where astronauts can swap various materials in the station to see how well they work. Who says the won`t play a role?

              • Gary Warburton

                That is using a small reusable craft to get outside the Van Allen magnetic belts and exchanging various materials stored on the space station from time to time.

          • Brett

            How about the refueling experiment which was recently carried out. That alone promises to reduce satellite costs.

            You don’t need a space station to do that experiment. It could just as easily be done on a launched mission like what the space shuttle used to do, or even unmanned.

            How about the plans to place and test a centrifuge on the space station to one day provide artificial gravity for astronauts in space or on long trips to planets. How about recent tests provide cures for Salmonella.

            It hasn’t provided cures for Salmonella. And as for the centrifuge, “one day” is nonsense – it was canceled years ago, and no one is making any serious noises about restoring the funding for it.

            I don’t think the ISS is worthless. It has given us the opportunity to learn valuable information about keeping habitable spacecraft operational for long periods of time, keeping humans in space for long periods of time, and closed-life-cycle support systems (the ISS is extremely efficient at cycling water and air). But it’s also not going to get any better with the funding it’s going to realistically get in the next seven years, and more likely it will deteriorate towards the conditions Mir was facing at the end of its life.

            • Brett

              In fact, you almost certainly want to do the re-fueling tests with an unmanned spacecraft. It’s not even remotely cost-effective to re-fuel satellites with launched manned missions.

    • Dark Blue Nine

      “It is simple. NASA must refocus and implement the vision for space exploration of 2004 with all haste, including the Ares V.”

      Ares I and V were never part of the VSE. They were invented over a year later by Griffin and ESAS.

      The VSE directed NASA to “acquire” crew and cargo transport to LEO, not build it.

      “It must get rid of some of its ridiculous scientific appendages, ISS foremost among them.”

      The ISS was continued under the VSE. There’s even pictures of it on the VSE roadmap. You clearly have never even looked at the document, neverthless read it.

      “NASA certainly must collaborate with Russia or China, both incorrigibly despotic and perpetually hostile to US interests around the world. We cannot allow a few naive internationalists, posing as NASA leadership, to hand them the US’ technological crown jewels. Space is simply another field on which we must compete. Why don’t we try to win for once?”

      This paragraph contradicts itself. You can’t decide whether NASA “must collaborate with Russia or China” or “must compete” with them.

      I suggest that you go read the actual VSE, and let us know when you’ve figured it out.

    • E. P. Grondine

      Hi AW –

      You have to remember that the economy was in better shape and that most people did not know the problems with solid engines.

      It is true there was widespread support for the Ares 1 and Ares 5, but not among a whole lot of very skilled engineers, who saw it as a disaster from the very start.

      To recap, large solid grains have combustion oscillations. In the Shuttle, there was a damping mass. With the Ares 1, these were .7 G’s, enough to homogenize the brains of its passengers.

      How did we get into this mess?
      We could have had DIRECT and two manned launch systems for the money that was wasted on Ares 1.

      Right now, I am trying to figure out if Michoud, Marshall, and ATK can be saved with a smaller rocket than the SLS, something on the order of the French proposal for a new Ariane.

      • Malmesbury

        Ariane 6 represents a surrender by Arianespace. Instead of trying to beat the prices offered by SpaceX they elected to support the French military solid motor industry. Alot of ESA people wanted a real try at low cost – hence the comments about *not* carving up the contracts for Ariane 6 by country/money into ESA last year. They’ve lost.

    • DCSCA

      “NASA must refocus and implement the vision for space exploration of 2004 with all haste, including the Ares V.”

      You’re looking backwards, Windy. Ares was a lousy rocket to build a 30 year program around. In the long run, it good the project was shelved when it was–and Griffin was jettisoned.

  • Robert G. Oler

    The problem with NASA is that it like other “things” of the federal government is in a cold war model when there is no cold war. It stays in this model because the (space.military) industrial complex would evolve into something vastly different and that scares the true welfare queens of the federal government; the people who are building spacecraft with no mission and fighters with no real reason.

    As a result NASA is building a rocket and “capsule” like its the 1960′s and Ivan is racing to the Moon and thats not really happening. If the PRC is going to the Moon it is in uncrewed vehicles and there is no hint that they are trying for people…

    But none of that mattes because if the Chinese were going to the Moon with people and we were racing them we wouldnt allow the same idiots who are running SLS/Orion to run the program, we would find competent people

    BUT really that is not the point, all they want at industry is a pay check and there are plenty of “people” in politics who are feeding at the corporate trough and happy to vote the cash.

    Answer a few simple questions

    1. Why are we spending far more money in Space on the civilian side then any other nation and seemingly getting less results (the same could be said for the DoD)

    2. How much political support is there out there to pay what money this current NASA would need after it spend nearly 60 billion dollars and 2 decades on building SLS/Orion (assuming it stays on schedule) to build anything else?

    There are no good answers to hose questions any more then htere are as to why the US has enormous forces deployed still overseas…and is building F-35′s and other turkey weapons.

    We have to rethink all of this and the rethink in space is not “go exploring with people”

    RGO

    • Brett

      1. Why are we spending far more money in Space on the civilian side then any other nation and seemingly getting less results (the same could be said for the DoD)

      I’m not sure what data you’re actually basing this on is coming from.

      2. How much political support is there out there to pay what money this current NASA would need after it spend nearly 60 billion dollars and 2 decades on building SLS/Orion (assuming it stays on schedule) to build anything else?

      Very little, hence why I think we won’t see any meaningful change (for good or bad) in the US manned spaceflight program until after ISS de-orbits in 2020. There’s just enough funding for the infrastructure and programs related to keeping ISS at a basic level, giving money to SpaceX and some other companies, a few other programs (like the sad remnant of Orion), and not much else.

      Once ISS de-orbits, we’ll either see a new program, funnel more funding to the private launch companies, or slash the funding altogether and effectively turn NASA into what it was when it was the NACA: an agency that promotes research.

      There are no good answers to hose questions any more then htere are as to why the US has enormous forces deployed still overseas…and is building F-35′s and other turkey weapons.

      Not to side-track this discussion too much, but the US has enormous forces deployed overseas because it has enormous defense and strategic commitments it had made with other countries, both on treaty and off it. The F-35 is just a way of making sure we can still fulfill those roles while we have them, by ensuring that we have state-of-the-art weapons to replace the more than 30-year-old fighters we’re using right now.

    • DCSCA

      We have to rethink all of this and the rethink in space is not “go exploring with people”…

      It has little to do w/exploration. It’s more akin to chess. But it’s a quaint civilian flavor to a sugar-coating for a geo-political move. ““Perception of leadership”… JJF’s comments are spot on.

      “…there is no hint that [the PRC] are trying for people…”

      Except there is. Take a hint or two. =eyeroll=
      http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2011/dec/30/china-manned-moon-mission-lunar

      Of course, that doesn’t devalue the base question- why send people into space at all. the commercial value is limited; the political value subject to the currency of current events. To project power on Earth still carries cache. Depends on how your government or society values it. For instance, it’s easy for a mature power like the U.S. to scoff at the rising aspirations of the PRC’s lunar efforts- but then, Americans have been there. The PRC has not and to a 30 year old Chinese engineer, what Americans did half a century ago has little bearing on the here and now; seeing one of your own from the present there can be valued more highly than Amerocan press clippings from fifty years past.

      Lane, a Clinton era bureaucrat, noted “I still hold out the hope that, someday, our space program will excite the public to the degree that presidents and members of Congress will place it higher on the list of priorities. But it’s not happened yet, and it can’t happen in my view very quickly.”

      Paging Hillary. It was Hillary who cajoled her husband in ’98 to witness Glenn’s shuttle launch. Ms. Clinton, on occasion, has revealed her personal interest in the space program. (In November, 2012 at a SoS visit to Australia, she raised it again.) It’s a level of interest rarely heard at that strata of government of late. Having been of an age and aware of it in the ‘early days,’(the 65 year old SoS even referenced listening to Ike’s speeches as a youngster during the ’60 Minutes’ telecast Sunday night,) Ms. Clinton more fully grasps, unlike Mr. Obama, the cpacity of the space program to project the ‘national interest’ – yes, even ‘prestige’- in the best light, worldwide. As she well knows from events of that same era, when she was in her early 20′s, astronauts carrying Earth photos and moon rocks on tour through foreign lands presented a much more positive perspective of American values than kids on a tour of duty burning villages with M-16s slung over their shoulders.

  • Mark R. Whittington

    The panel had some interesting points to make, albeit some of them inadvertent. The Rice science prof articulated the “human space flight is stupid” line while the female academic seemed fixated on cooperation with the fascists in China as a solution.

    Two interesting points. Albrecht,as he often does, made a great point that a space policy should be part of an overall national strategy, something that has been lacking for quite a while. Then he offered the bone chilling revelation that Obama’s national strategy is one of American national decline, in which a space program really doesn’t fit into.

    Logsdon made a great point that if Obama had only asked for the extra $3 billion a year that the Augustine folks concluded was needed to fix the deep space exploration program, Congress would have given it to him. It did, after all, blow $900 billion on stimulus junk. The caveat is that Obama would have had to frame it as fixing Constellation rather than ending it. What he actually did was to wreck NASA, a problem that the next president is going to have to solve quickly in 2017.

    • Coastal Ron

      Mark R. Whittington moaned:

      Logsdon made a great point that if Obama had only asked for the extra $3 billion a year that the Augustine folks concluded was needed to fix the deep space exploration program, Congress would have given it to him.

      Actually, that isn’t what the Augustine Commission said. They said that even if the Constellation program was given to NASA for free, it couldn’t afford it. Congress was free to add more money if it wanted to, since Congress regularly ignores what Presidents request – but Congress agreed that Constellation was not worthy of being continued. Let me repeat that – Congress agreed.

      Of course every Constellation supporter forgets that in order to keep the Constellation program, the U.S. would have had to abandon any astronaut activity in space for decades. DECADES!

      Instead we have the beginnings of a commercial transportation system for LEO and beyond (both cargo and crew), and we have a place to test out all the space technology and techniques we’ll need to expand our presence out into space. No need for $100B flags & footprint disposable/dead-end missions that don’t help us go where most people want to go – Mars (you know, the place with an atmosphere).

      • E. P. Grondine

        Hi CR –

        Great statement of fact.

        While you and many others think that spending billions to send a few men to Mars is a high national priority, I’m pretty sure that there are a lot of people who have other priorities right now.

        Let me make this clear. Its not that not that I’m opposed to manned flight to Mars, its simply that I have other space priorities right now, and I think that the road to Mars passes through the Moon.

    • Robert G. Oler

      Logsdon made a great point that if Obama had only asked for the extra $3 billion a year that the Augustine folks concluded was needed to fix the deep space exploration program, Congress would have given it to him.>>

      that is not what the commission said but it is a typical Whittington “simply throw money at it”

      and there is no hint that it would have been successful. NASA is struggling to do a much scaled down version of Cx…what they have done is spent in REAL DOLLARS about twice what the ENTIRE GEMINI program did to actually fly.

      For it we have sloth and incompetence. MPCV is over weight, SLS is consuming 1.5 billion a year and going no where, for basically a shuttle knock off.

      You have become what you use to hate Mark…someone who just throws money at things that they like.

      Seesh RGO

    • Dark Blue Nine

      “The Rice science prof articulated that human space flight is stupid’ line”

      No, he didn’t. He even stated that he wasn’t opposed to human space exploration. He simply pointed out the fact that no justification has overcome the political obstacles to a large budget increase for human space exploration since Apollo.

      “Logsdon made a great point that if Obama had only asked for the extra $3 billion a year that the Augustine folks concluded was needed to fix the deep space exploration program, Congress would have given it to him.”

      And Albrecht, one of only two people on the panel who has actually pushed budgets on the Hill, told Logsdon that Congress would never approve such a huge increase in the agency’s budget with such a paltry explanation. Given Albrecht’s first-hand experience with SEI under Bush I, we should take Albrecht’s assessment over Logsdon’s historical credentials when it comes to budget initiatives in the current era.

      • DCSCA

        “Given Albrecht’s first-hand experience with SEI under Bush I, we should take Albrecht’s assessment over Logsdon’s historical credentials when it comes to budget initiatives in the current era.”

        Nonsense.

        • Dark Blue Nine

          “Nonsense.”

          Here comes Tinkerbell again, trusting in an academic historian who has never had to defend multi-billion dollar budgets on the Hill over a former White House staffer who was in charge of pushing the largest human space exploration initiative since Apollo.

          • DCSCA

            Nonsense. In reality, Pappy Bush’s initiative had no budget to push and the CIC did ntohing to fight for one- so it foundered and sank. Albrecht is to space policy what Bolton is to foreign policy; essentially irrelevant these days, and in search of a relevant gig.

    • It would have been $3 billion a year, EVERY YEAR, just to not fall further behind, and that $3 billion would have increased by an average of 2.4% per year just to keep up with inflation. Even then, to quote from the report, “This option does not deliver heavy-lift capability until the late 2020s and does not have funds to develop the systems needed to land on or explore the Moon in the next two decades.”

      So all we’d get all of $3 billion per year is an extension of the ISS to 2020 with a government space taxi somewhere around 2017.

      Of course, the big elephant in the room nobody mentioned during the forum was NASA’s notorious record for spending inefficiency. Most NASA programs go billions over budget and fall years behind schedule. For all we know, that extra $3 billion/year would have gone down the same toilet that all the other Ares I money went, with no accelerated operational flight date.

      Instead, we have the birth of a vibrant new commercial space industry which by mid-decade will have several companies flying government and private passengers to government and private space stations. Plus, we saved $3 billion a year.

      I vote for the latter.

      • DCSCA

        “It would have been $3 billion a year, EVERY YEAR, just to not fall further behind, and that $3 billion would have increased by an average of 2.4% per year just to keep up with inflation.” squawked Smitty.

        Stephen, this country blows $2 billion EVERY WEEK on the Afghan War. =eyeroll= If Congress and the administration wanted to make a fight of it and find the money, they would have. The money was just an excuse to mask the politics that shelved it. It was another project birthed by Cold War thinkers for a post-Cold War time. It had to go.

        “Instead… (Instead?? False equivalency and bogus, of course)… “we have the birth of a vibrant new commercial space industry which by mid-decade will have several companies flying government and private passengers to government and private space stations.

        =yawn= “Mid decade” let’s say, December, 2015, is just 35 months away, Smitty. And commercial space has not flown anybody.

        And your ‘vibrant, new commercial space industry’- the busybodies you claim will have ‘several companies’ flying government and private passengers to government and private space stations plural– have failed to successfully launch, orbit and safely return anybody from LEO to date. Get real. Or just sober up.

    • Brett

      In what way does a manned space program serve as part of an “overall national strategy”? “Overall national strategy” for what?

      It doesn’t help defense, since the military abandoned their manned spaceflight program decades ago when they realized that unmanned craft can serve their needs better. It maybe helps with scientific and technological advancement, since we’d undoubtedly make scientific and technological discoveries with new projects. There’s prestige, but few people outside of space enthusiasts really get excited about big manned space programs anymore – far more people got excited about Curiosity than about Constellation.

      • DCSCA

        Said Brett: – far more people got excited about Curiosity than about Constellation.”

        Actually, “people” got “excited” about te engineering success of the EDL team getting a safe touchdown. The “science,” not so much. It was Pathfinder and the little Sojourner back in ’97 that generated a media frenzy of interest over that July 4th – all but bigfooting a shuttle mission on orbit at the same time. But then, that was the first U.S. landing since the Vikings 21 years earlier. Everything from toys to postage stamps followed for weeka in the little rover’s trail. The curiosity about ‘Curiosity’ is no where close.

        Said Brett: “I figure we ought to do two things with the manned program: fund private launch companies….”

        No. The place for private firms to source financing is the private capital markets- not the U.S. Treasury.

  • Guest

    If anyone is interested Robert Walker and Charles Miller have an op-ed relevant to this topic and the previous thread up at the Wall Street Journal. I was able to read it but now it seems to be restricted, so I’m not sure what WSJ policy is with respect to op-eds. Here is the link, it’s been up less than an hour.

    Commercial Space Exploration Needs an Obama Relaunch

    • Coastal Ron

      Guest said:

      If anyone is interested Robert Walker and Charles Miller have an op-ed relevant to this topic and the previous thread up at the Wall Street Journal.

      If you Google the title (Commercial Space Exploration Needs an Obama Relaunch), the WSJ provides a link that anyone can read. Thanks for pointing out the article – very pro-commercial space.

      I liked these comments from the article:

      The U.S. private space industry has now succeeded beyond the imagination of most politicians.

      President Obama should now complete the privatization of all U.S. space transportation. Just as the government does not design or build automobiles, ships, trains or airplanes, NASA should not be designing, building or launching rockets to go to low Earth orbit [or beyond either I think].

      One of the biggest beneficiaries of this transition will be NASA. Private industry can build the rockets, and do a much better job at lowering costs than any government agency. NASA can then focus on the important and difficult jobs that only NASA can do.

      And

      A renewed and refocused NASA is critical to America’s future. So as the country struggles with trillions in debt and deficits, it makes no sense for NASA to build rockets that are already available or can be developed at much lower cost by U.S. private industry. Why spend approximately $20 billion to build an unneeded SLS super-heavy-lift rocket, for instance, when existing commercial rockets can carry payloads more often, efficiently and cheaply?

      • Coastal Ron quoted:

        So as the country struggles with trillions in debt and deficits, it makes no sense for NASA to build rockets that are already available or can be developed at much lower cost by U.S. private industry. Why spend approximately $20 billion to build an unneeded SLS super-heavy-lift rocket, for instance, when existing commercial rockets can carry payloads more often, efficiently and cheaply?“

        According to the porkers who forced it upon NASA, the private sector can’t be trusted and will collapse, so the government needs to have its own rockets as a Plan B.

        Presumably this means we will also have government airlines and government taxis and government buses too.

    • DCSCA

      “If anyone is interested Robert Walker and Charles Miller have an op-ed… “Commercial Space Exploration Needs an Obama Relaunch.”

      Walker… =eyeroll= an ex-congressman turned lobbyist; a fellow traveller w/Fred Thompson and Newt. [It was 'Newt Gingrich, Moon President', who years ago once opined to students that NASA should have been disbanded after Apollo ended.]

      These Reagan era dinosaurs are in a league w/Rohrbacher. What’s in play here has little do w/spaceflight ops ‘per se’ and everything to do w/the invasive philosophy of privatizing government services pushed by Gingrich, Walker, et al. Unfortunately, NASA is an easy and persistent target for them. If this forum was about philatelics these same privateers would be rooting for FedEx and UPS over the USPS.

  • Dark Blue Nine

    I watched the whole panel, including the Q&A. Two things stuck out to me:

    1) Budgets and costs went unspoken until Logsdon’s last question at the very end. This is a big omission. Policy discussion in a budget vacuum is like arguing the number of angels that can dance on the head of a pin. It’s all unconstrained theory instead of practical recommendations.

    And even after Logsdon raised the issue, the entire panel (including Leroy Chiao) accepted Logsdon’s misreading of the Augustine report that the only way to do human space exploration at NASA was to increase the budget by $3 billion. That’s not correct. The Augustine report said that if the Obama Administration wanted to continue human space exploration at NASA, then they either had to add $3 billion per year to the Constellation budget or they had to fundamentally rethink/reform NASA’s human space exploration efforts. (And the Augustine report offered several options for that.)

    With sequestration or a budget deal threatening to whack NASA’s budget by up to 10%, an extra $3 billion per year is even less in the cards now than it was a few years ago. So the key question is whether the Administration applies political pressure to reform NASA human space exploration or lets the program continue to drift.

    Now is the time for reform. A massively overweight MPCV, a massively underfunded SLS, and actual exploration hardware reduced to a one-off ESA prototype has unglued what little programmatic logic the 2010 NASA Authorization Act ever had. With further cuts from sequestration or a budget deal looming and the wind at the Administration’s back from winning a second term, the White House is in as strong a position as it will ever be to fix the nation’s civil human space exploration effort.

    Given all the much bigger and higher priorities on the Administration’s plate, I doubt it will happen. But if it’s going to happen, the Obama Administration will need to act in the next 12-18 months before it becomes a lame duck. After that, it’s another three or four years of meandering until a new White House can turn its attention to NASA.

    2) Albrecht noted that we don’t have a definitive space policy because we don’t have a definitive direction as a nation (as we did during the Cold War). He made a specific example of China, stating that we don’t have a definitive space policy with respect to China because we don’t have a definitive relationship with China (e.g., do we adversarial, competitive, or cooperative relationship?)

    While I don’t disagree with Albrecht’s assessment, it’s not a paralyzing situation. The Obama Administration has made a “pivot” in defense and foreign policy towards China, which largely consists of putting forces and agreements in place with China’s neighbors as a counter to potential Chinese aggression, should it occur. But that doesn’t mean that we’re cutting off trade with China at the same time. It’s a “both-and” situation, not an “either-or”.

    As in the Cold War, NASA can be used as both a carrot and stick in effective foreign policy. NASA should be directed to undertake space exploration initiatives with nations on the Pacific Rim to help create competitors on China’s borders to China’s space program and help limit China to a status of regional power, should it become necessary. The obvious allies are Japan and India. The former has an interest in asteroids and the latter has an interest in Mars, both of which align with the Administration’s exploration goals for NASA. A vibrant space exploration program could involve and energize them both in the coming years and help isolate China as needed. And should China check its aggression in the Pacific Rim and seek status as a peaceful world power instead of aggressive regional power, China could then be invited into the partnership, much as the post-Cold War Russia joined the ISS.

    It doesn’t have to be one or the other (isolate or involve China) — we don’t know enough yet. The main thing is to have an executable space exploration program producing actual results that other countries can participate in. But unless the Obama Administration is willing to invest a little political capital to overcoming the parochialism surrounding NASA’s budget the Hill, NASA’s human space exploration efforts will not be in a position to help the White House achieve its goals on the world stage.

    • Brett

      1) Budgets and costs went unspoken until Logsdon’s last question at the very end. This is a big omission. Policy discussion in a budget vacuum is like arguing the number of angels that can dance on the head of a pin. It’s all unconstrained theory instead of practical recommendations.

      Probably because it’s too depressing. We can talk all we want about priorities and mission guidelines, but as long as NASA’s long-term funding is unstable, it’s just not going to lead to much.

      • Dark Blue Nine

        “as long as NASA’s long-term funding is unstable, it’s just not going to lead to much”

        NASA’s budget is remarkably stable. Adjusted for inflation (2007 dollars), NASA’s budget has never fallen below $15 billion (rounded up) and never exceeded $17 billion (rounded down, except in one year) since 1989. That’s nearly a quarter century of budgets that never varied by more than 13 percent.

        The problem is not budget stability. The problem is that we repeatedly plan NASA programs using Apollo-era budget assumptions, when NASA’s budget exceeded $20 billion for seven years and $30 billion for three years in 2007 dollars. That’s never going to happen again. We need to get over it, and plan rational civil human space exploration programs within the limits (with margin) of likely budgets going forward.

  • Coastal Ron

    Interesting comments:

    Space policy excels, he argued, when it’s part of a broader national strategy, such as defeating the Soviet Union in the Cold War. “But right now, we don’t have a national strategy,” he [Mark Albrecht, the former executive secretary of the National Space Council in the George H.W. Bush Administration]argued. The only way to change space policy, he said, “is to have an overriding national policy for the United States for which a different kind of space policy would fit in.”

    The panel ended with no clear view about how to change national space policy (let alone broader national policy) or what to change it to, and no optimism that we’ll see any significant changes of any kind in the near future. “With economics and the fiscal cliff looming in the future, one of the options for policymaking is called ‘muddling through,’” said Johnson-Freese after making the case for a renewed geostrategic emphasis on national space policy. “And that’s where we are and that’s where we’re going to stay.”

    Two things:

    1. If the panel couldn’t agree upon a space policy, then that clearly shows that there currently isn’t a consensus ANYWHERE within government or the space community as a whole. Blaming our politicians, who are supposed to represent our views, is the wrong thing to do. The space community needs to come together first, then guide our politicians to do what has consensus.

    2. My suggestion for a simply worded space policy is “It is the intent of the U.S. to become a space faring nation, and expand our sphere of economic influence beyond planet Earth”. If we use existing space policy as a reference (especially Reagan’s), then this should mean that the commercialization of space should be paramount, and in conjunction with our scientific efforts.

    By also declaring that we want to extend our sphere of economic influence beyond planet Earth, that should help to set up the next great space race, which Planetary Resources and Deep Space Industries are already jump starting. That is also the type of competition that is good, in that it seeks to increase the GDP of Earth, as opposed to just doing pointless flags & footprint trips.

    It is through commerce that we will expand our presence out into space, not through the meager budget of NASA.

    • Robert G. Oler

      2. My suggestion for a simply worded space policy is “It is the intent of the U.S. to become a space faring nation, and expand our sphere of economic influence beyond planet Earth”. If we use existing space policy as a reference (especially Reagan’s), then this should mean that the commercialization of space should be paramount, and in conjunction with our scientific efforts.>>

      those are good words and I think on or very near the mark…the problem is that shifting the 3 billion in SLS/Orion and probably cancelling Webb and doing something reasonable instead require recognizing that space (and the mliitary as well) policy do not exist to serve their respective industrial complex. RGO

    • DCSCA

      “If we use existing space policy as a reference (especially Reagan’s),” moaned Ron.

      This is just silly. Reaganomics- nn economic model which failed the United States and soundly rejected by its people is not going to fuel the move out into the cosmos. =eyeroll=

  • By the way, I wanted to mention that Mark Albrecht fibbed when he claimed that Kennedy Space Center is “crumbling.”

    KSC has had $500 million per year for FY 12 and FY 13 for the 21st Century Space Launch Complex. We have construction, renovations and upgrades underway all over the space center.

    Examples:

    * Converting the O&C into the “Spacecraft Factory of the Future” so Orion can be assembled here, not at the manufacturer in Colorado

    * Converting LC-39B to clean pad for SLS and commercial users.

    * Upgrading the transporter-crawlers for next generation vehicles, including SLS.

    * Upgrading the crawlerway. The LC-39B crawlerway is being upgraded right now.

    * Digging up and replacing water and sewer lines that go back to the early 1960s and replacing them with new technology estimated to last 100-150 years.

    * Renovating High Bays 1 and 3 in the VAB to support SLS and commercial crew.

    Those are just some examples. Other work is being done through Space Florida, e.g. converting the former Shuttle hangar #3 for use by the Boeing CST-100 commercial crew vehicle.

    Dr. Albrecht struck me as someone who had a partisan agenda and therefore wasn’t inclined to be truthful.

    • Neil Shipley

      How much of what is being spent is really for support of commercial crew, how much for SLS and how much for both? Seems to me that there’s overlap but not really that much.

      Examples:

      * Converting the O&C into the “Spacecraft Factory of the Future” so Orion can be assembled here, not at the manufacturer in Colorado.

      * Converting LC-39B to clean pad for SLS and commercial users.

      * Upgrading the transporter-crawlers for next generation vehicles, including SLS

      * Upgrading the crawlerway. The LC-39B crawlerway is being upgraded right now. SLS only?

      * Digging up and replacing water and sewer lines that go back to the early 1960s and replacing them with new technology estimated to last 100-150 years.

      * Renovating High Bays 1 and 3 in the VAB to support SLS and commercial crew.

      I’m not seeing much commerical here. Might be mistaken. Certainly the water and sewer lines simply looks like maintenance that should have been done as a normal part of operations maintenance.

      • Keep in mind that commercial cargo and crew is over on the Cape side at LC-40 and LC-41. Not at KSC. The companies pay for upgrades or it’s Space Florida to entice the companies.

        On the KSC side, you might see some companies leasing space, e.g. Boeing at OPF-3, but again that’s through Space Florida. Sierra Nevada is looking for a facility on the KSC side; a lease through Space Florida should be announced this year. XCOR wants a hangar out by the Shuttle runway, and the same with Stratolaunch.

        Most of the KSC upgrades under 21st Century Space Launch Complex are for SLS. I remember Kay Bailey Hutchison ranting during one of her tirades at Charlie Bolden that she better not find SLS upgrade money being used for commercial crew.

        That said, renovations like converting LC-39B to clean pad mean that anyone could use it. The same with VAB High Bay 1. In theory, SpaceX might use those facilities for Falcon Heavy, but probably not. ATK had claimed they were going to use those facilities for Liberty before they lost the CCiCap bid.

        Other upgrades, such as a new Headquarters building and replacing water/sewer lines, are generic.

    • DCSCA

      “Dr. Albrecht struck me as someone who had a partisan agenda and therefore wasn’t inclined to be truthful.”

      Good observations and well said in your posting, Stephen. Things are going on at KSC. You just have to look. Spent some time there in ’78 as they were transitioning between Apollo and shuttle. On the surface, it may appear to be ‘crumbling’- but renovations and construction were going on then just as they are now. All you had to do was look for it. Albrecht is to space policy what Bolton is to foreign policy; essentially irrelevant these days, and in search of a relevant gig.

  • There will always be frustration with NASA’s manned space program until it’s finally allowed to make the next logical step of establishing a permanently manned outpost on the surface of the Moon! This could have been, and should have been, easily done well before the end of the 20th century.

    NASA could have utilized the infrastructure developed for the Moon to further extended the human presence in the solar system by establishing a permanent human presence in orbit around Mars, on the moons of Mars, and on the surface of Mars during the first couple of decades of the 21st century. If this had been done, private companies and tourist would probably already be on the surface of the Moon and Mars by now!

    NASA spent nearly $140 billion,in today’s dollars, sending men to the Moon and deploying a large space station (Skylab)with the relatively primitive Apollo era space infrastructure within the first 15 years of its existence. Unfortunately, more than $225 billion in today’s dollars was spent by NASA over the last 40 years simply going around in circles above the Earth with the Shuttle and later ISS programs.

    Pulling away from the Moon and throwing away our heavy lift capability didn’t save the tax payers any money, it simply wasted tax payer money over the past 40 years with a frustratingly boring meager symbol of the progressive pioneering manned space program we use to have!

    Marcel F. Williams

    • Robert G. Oler

      Hello ML

      The problem is of course that none of this was obvious to the folks in the Nixon administration anymore then it was to the Carter administration to today.

      I can just imagine Casper and The POTUS sitting around discussing where the space program went in the 1970′s; all with the Vietnam war going (which no one had ever claimed would pay for itself) and Nixon’s plan to (gasp) do single or near single payer health care…and looking at Spiro’s proposals for massive space spending and going “you kidding”?

      Nixon was the last Republican who gave a damn about budgets …imagine that in the 60′s “deficits didnt matter” and bang the XB-70 gets built, MOL or just about any of the efforts which someone and the industrial complex wanted to do…but which had to go because then deficits did matter and a program either had to show some results or it went away in favor of programs that did.

      Apollo was one such program…its results were lunar rocks but really no one could see anything else done on the Moon for the average cost per launch of a Saturn…

      An important lesson it took me to the 90′s to learn, but its very very true particularly now is that since deficits dont matter (OK they do now to the GOP but thats just because “the Kenyan is President” ) is that when deficits dont matter neither really does performance and what really does matter is keeping the various “industrial complexes” that spring up to absorb federal spending going.

      The right wing doesnt like Obamacare in large measure because the health insurance companies that were jerking up prices left and right dont like it because they no longer can. Option C on the space station redo went away because in the worlds of one major company figure down here in Houston “what would we do?” on it. SLS/Orion keep grinding on (although I think that is ending) because well the “stakeholders” have no clue how to do anything but jerk the government around.

      Apollo died because it never pulled its weight in terms of value for money. I dont know if it could have…but in the end the agency passed on flying some Saturn IB missions to Skylab whose “cost in that years budget” would have been under 100 million…go figure

      SLS and Orion are on “death panel watch” (Kudo’s to Sarah Palin who also seems to have finished at least for now her act on the national stage) because well deficits now are back in vogue and where to cut is to shoot the helpless.

      Hope you are well. RGO

      • pathfinder_01

        “ Apollo died because it never pulled its weight in terms of value for money. I dont know if it could have…but in the end the agency passed on flying some Saturn IB missions to Skylab whose “cost in that years budget” would have been under 100 million…go figure”

        It wouldn’t be worth much, basically Skylab was a primitive space station. It was launched with all the supplies it would ever have. It was not designed to have it’s supplies replenished. It basically launched with enough supply for three, three person crews of about 90 days each. The three crews onboard used less supply than expected and thus the station had about 20 days worth of supply left. Skylab could only host one more very short mission.

        The other option was to launch Skylab B(a copy of the station) but that required a Saturn V(which that program had been shut down) and there was no budget for this mission. In addition there where no more command modules left besides the rescue one(which was never launched) for Skylab. The ASTP used the last CM that could have been devoted to such a mission and Skylab itself required one moon landing to be canceled to free hardware for a flight.

        Basically when Congress refused to buy a 2nd round of Saturn V rockets in 1968 the space program was a space program running out of rockets and out of spacecraft! In the case of the Saturn 1B, the airforce decided to develop the Titan III which made NASA entirely responsible for the cost of that rocket(Saturn IA had some Air force involvement) and Saturn I was too rich for NASA to afford. There was some talk of using Titan III and a modified Apollo(modified to be cheaper and LEO only)to Skylab B but again no budget.

        • Malmesbury

          Apollo was also considered a risky, rushed program by many in NASA. Senior execs were happy that the later moon landing were cancelled, since they regarded the probability of LOC as very high. They wanted to move all resources into building a “proper” launch system. Shuttle.

      • DCSCA

        …imagine that in the 60′s “deficits didnt matter” and bang the XB-70 gets built, MOL or just about any of the efforts which someone and the industrial complex wanted to do…”

        Red Moon, Robert. Red Moon. Confucius say scary pitch then perhaps not so scary now.

      • Nixon really didn’t understand the purpose of a manned space program just like he didn’t understand what all the fuss was about when the Soviets Launched Sputnik. He foolishly decided to completely throw away our heavy lift capability, after all of the money spent developing the largest and most powerful rocket on Earth. America could have had complete economic dominance over cis-lunar space by this time if we had built our first lunar outpost back in the 1970s or 80s. Now we have to build a heavy lift rocket all over again.

        Pulling back from the New Frontier didn’t help the US economy, it hurt it. And America’s economic growth has really never been the same since. Investing in science and technology and in vast new frontiers grows the economy, it doesn’t hurt it! You don’t grow an economy by not investing in our technological future.

        America’s economy– is not in trouble– because we invested too much money in domestic infrastructure and in science and technology. Its in trouble because we spent titanic amounts of money on unnecessary wars (Vietnam, Iraq) while continuing to run one of the most– astoundingly inefficient– welfare states on Earth in our Medicare, Medicaid, and Unemployment Insurance systems along with our terrible K through 12 public school system.

        Marcel F. Williams

    • E. P. Grondine

      Hi Marcel –

      The Shuttle was supposed to deliver lower launch costs. It didn’t. You have not learned the correct answers as to why that occurred, in my opinion. They have a bearing on the current discussion.

    • pathfinder_01

      Hate to burst your bubble but even with your questionable numbers $140 billion in 15 years works out to about 9.3 billion a year. $225 billion in 40 works out to 5.6 billion a year. The Shuttle and ISS are cheaper than Apollo per year and it would take almost 2 years worth of budget to equal an Apollo budget.

      In real terms it would be expecting a person who made $50,000 but now makes $30,000 a year to be able to purchase as much as he did when he made $50,000 a year.

      That was why NASA could no longer afford to go to the moon.

    • JimNobles

      Pulling away from the Moon and throwing away our heavy lift capability didn’t save the tax payers any money, it simply wasted tax payer money over the past 40 years with a frustratingly boring meager symbol of the progressive pioneering manned space program we use to have!

      Marcel, the political will to build infrastructure on the moon just wasn’t there as Apollo wound down. I was disappointed too, I thought it was the next logical step. The American people didn’t care enough about it to make sure it happened. But that’s history.

      Most or all of your points about what might have been are taken but they just don’t matter now. A generation has passed. We have to deal with the situation as it is.

      I don’t support SLS because I don’t think it will result in a supportable operational heavy lift system. It simply costs too much. I also realize that, even though I’d like to have a super-duper heavy lifter available (who wouldn’t?), it’s not really necessary at this point. I think that if it appears such a lifter is really going to be necessary the job should be put out for bid rather than have NASA build it since government labor comes with so much higher over-head costs.

      I think people who want ISS to go away are just banging their heads against a wall. None of the ISS partners want it to go away and there appears, for now at least, to be enough political will to keep it going longer. Another orbital facility could probably be built for less money to construct, launch and operate but who thinks government is going to want to pay for that? Costly as it is ISS is already in orbit. If we want to replace it with something more economical then I suspect commercial companies are going to have to build a commercial station and show that it is suitable for our needs before people will willingly let ISS go away. Some people seem to think that we shouldn’t have a station at all but how many people think we are going to explore or exploit or settle space without using some sort of earth orbiting facility?

      I think this journey into space starts right now and from right here where we are actually at and with what we actually have to work with.

      I don’t see the value in lamenting things that might have been. Things washed away by history.

  • Brett

    At this point, I honestly don’t really care if the US has a publicly-funded manned spaceflight program, as long as the cancellation of said program doesn’t destroy the funding base for unmanned missions here in the US.

    All of the justifications for it ultimately come back to the idea that we need humans in space, and we need it soon. For what? Incredibly expensive scientific research on Mars, at a cost for which we could send fifty times its number in increasingly sophisticated automated probes?

    Hypothetical space colonies with no economic justification? Repairs in orbit that won’t be necessary as soon as we have remotely controlled dexterous robots (the earliest prototypes of which are being worked on right now)? Human wonder, even though Constellation got less public excitement than Curiosity? New technology, even though a bulked-up unmanned program could probably do the same? Solar power that will never be profitable compared to ground installations unless launch costs fall by several orders of magnitude?

    Or how about the old canard of “long-term human survival”, as if we can’t deflect asteroids with robots?

    Despite all that, I’m actually not a pessimist about human travel into space. I think it will happen . . . eventually, when it’s profitable to do so, or when there’s a group of people with enough money to fund their own space colony/mission. Until then, I’m okay with the manned program going moribund, as long as it doesn’t drag down the unmanned program in its wake (which it might). It’s also why I think that if we are going to fund such a program, it ought to be for stuff that will create useful knowledge for people more committed to it down the line.

    • DCSCA

      “At this point, I honestly don’t really care if the US has a publicly-funded manned spaceflight program, as long as the cancellation of said program doesn’t destroy the funding base for unmanned missions here in the US.”

      Interesting post on a space blog for a January 27th. No doubt, Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee would disagree.

  • DCSCA

    “One way to achieve a broader consensus for space policy is geo-strategic considerations, offered Joan Johnson-Freese, a professor of national security affairs at the Naval War College. She said while there was no space race between the US and China, there is the “perception of leadership” that is at stake if there is no continued clear direction for national space policy.”

    Precisely. ‘Perception of leadership’ is what it is all about.

    The civilian overlay to the strategic, military imperative. It was the motivation that launched Apollo. Shooting for the moon was nothing more than a projection of geo-political power and economic capabilities to yield influence and commerce on Earth. Von Braun cultivated and marketed it for decades. Frank Borman boiled it down years ago: “Nobody gets all that excited about exploration. But everybody sure wanted to beat the Russians.” And from the U.S. perspective, that competitive mind set has not changed. It remains reactive, not proactive to events beyond its borders in civil space matters.

    The ‘us against them’ aspect of the national character is deeply rooted. Freedom fries, not French fries served here.. Daytonas are run and World Series played here. And whether it’s a pennant race, a car race or a space race, we play to win, world, so don’t you forget it. So the world smiles, claps— .and plays soccer.. For NASA isn’t NASCAR, although both have excelled at going in circles, no place fast for decades.. And the inconclusive banter of the panelists added another 90 minutes to it. Nothing in the American mind set has changed. .U.S. civil space policy has been reactive, not proactive, since Sputnik’s first beep..

    With respect to the Obama Administration’s priorities, space policy- HSF policy anyway- was put in the out box in April, 2010 with his KSC speech. It was as much an administrative move as it was generational in execution, too. As far as the Executive is concerned, civil space is off the ‘to do’ list and the ‘government versus commercial factions’ there in can battle amongst themselves for LEO turf. But this president has moved on. And so has the American public, with its short attention span. To them, HSF is essentially over: the shuttles have been ferried to museums, Constellation shelved; the associated workforce furloughed; Sally Ride passed away and Neil Armstrong was buried at sea. It is the robots that catch their attention– however fleeting– today.

    U.S civil space policy is, like the panel’s inconclusive conclusions, in free drift. A familiar course. Ready to react to the actions of others. What the caliber of that response remains to be seen. But the ‘perception of leadership’ holds value for decades, as the PRC well knows. And Luna awaits fresh flags and footprints to hallmark this century as theirs.

  • E. P. Grondine

    Until you have an answer to the “Why?” question, you can’t answer the “How? question.

    You want a lesson from Apollo> Here’s one. We went to the Moon, and then stopped going, because it was perceived as not being worth the money.

    While a few people still passionately believe in an Earth-like Mars, that is not true of the general public. You never talk with them, so you are unaware of that.

    My answer to the “Why?” question is the Comet and Asteroid Protection System, but then that is because of my assessment of the severity of the impact hazard.

  • Malmesbury

    A major problem capability greed.

    This refers to writing a “challenging, innovative spec” and then spending billions to reach it. This is one of the standard cause of failures in government programs…

    For example, if you build a heavy lifter out of shuttle parts, it tends towards 70 tons to LEO. DIRECT, in other words. If you want more, you pay much, much more.

    Building a single stick booster with a solid first stage – vibration is a big problem & escape from a broken LV is very difficult, and drives your escape g levels to 18g+….. At that point, the rational engineering approach is to go for liquids.

    Another classic was X-33. A VTVL of the type McD originally proposed had a chance of actually making it as an SSTO. But NASA demanded cross range – lots of it. And horizontal landing.

    When it was pointed out that it was cheaper to pour some 100 yard square pads of concrete and bolt a landing beacon to one corner in a hundred places round the world – well that was treason against the spec. Must have more cross range than the Shuttle.

    According to a senior NASA person the original DC-Y proposal was “boring”.

    Boring.

    • E. P. Grondine

      Hi Mal –

      I won’t go into mass margins, nor operational requirements, nor total costs for a launch system based on X33 technology, but I will point out that ATK failed to deliver the composite tank for X33.

  • amightywind

    Building a single stick booster with a solid first stage – vibration is a big problem & escape from a broken LV is very difficult, and drives your escape g levels to 18g+….. At that point, the rational engineering approach is to go for liquids.

    You forgot to add that the booster would collide with the tower at launch. Of course none of these problems came to pass during the successful test launch of the Ares I-X.

    • NeilShipley

      Ares1-X. What was that? Oh yes, that’s right, a dummy sub-orbital Ares1 with nohing bearing any resemblance to the final design or flight hardware. ‘Spinning out of control’. LOL

  • Numbers_guy

    I’m glad to see that some of the commenters here hit on the lack of much attention in the panel to budget outlooks and realities (ref. Logsdon, at the end). I can’t help but look over MOST of the comments here and think much along those sayings like “which rock did these people just crawl out from under?”

    In the vast scheme of things, the desire to see the US lead an expansion of humans out into the solar system, in our lifetimes, is really an assumption. Once assumed (merely because it is an outcome we want) the most we can probably do is think about actions (not outcomes), which may speed up this direction. The de-orbiting of the ISS, or the cancellation of the SLS, or a greater emphasis on new commercial practices are not actions though, as much as outcomes of other actions. (i.e., the SLS may inevitably collapse for an assortment of reasons, and the only actions of stakeholders that will matter are the actionable strategic ones that will “speed” that up).

    That’s the crux of the matter, budget realities and other facts on the ground, which these so-called policy discussions never address. So these policy discussions inevitably devolve into king-for-a-day fantasies confusing a discussion of outcomes with policy, skipping over the steps along the way that would comprise a real policy discussion.

    Put it this way. If this was a war, it’s not policy to discuss an enemy’s resources, or where you wish they had attacked. That’s recon, intel, so on. Not policy. Before concluding that more resources or surrender are the only two options, it’s worth seeing if other options exist, within the resources you have, that can credibly lead to advance, or at the least, living to fight another day.

    Acceptance of reality is the first action, so often.

  • Aberwys

    Is anyone else noticing that the current real space policy, as witnessed in the field, is every fiefdom (big, as in center-sized or small, as in local experts) for itself?

  • Brian M

    Is anyone else noticing that the current real space policy, as witnessed in the field, is every fiefdom (big, as in center-sized or small, as in local experts) for itself?

    I think this is the normal situation. JSC is focused on ops and trying to do some development (Orion, Morpheus). KSC is supporting launch facilities and trying to convert some of those facilities to manufacturing. MSFC does rockets like SLS…..

    What is the big plan?

    An asteroid, I think.

  • Guest

    “commenters here hit on the lack of much attention in the panel to budget outlooks and realities”

    I thought they covered it.

    On the one hand one or two said NASA should be ashamed of itself not being able to do more and move faster with the money they’ve been getting.

    There was also a discussion about if NASA or supporters provided just a little bit of rationale and got some Congressional support behind them, they could easily increase the budget considerably. It was also pointed out thqt at the beginning of Albrect’s term at the time of the start of the SEI under the first Bush, he asked for and got an extra $billion.

    I fault NASA. They’ve not put together a meaningful plan and rationale. and they’ve been showing they do not move too quickly or get too much accomplished with the money they receive. I think the first point especially was the case made late last year by the two independent reports and by last week’s panel discussion. NASA needs a plan and strategy. They ma need to find the Presidential and Congressional support, but if they are waiting on the President to define the plan, then its a lost cause.

  • vulture4

    I think the panel was a little short on answers but correct in pointing out that the taxpayers are not going to pay for colonizing space at current costs. To me the answer is clear. The first step is to figure out why it is so expensive and substantially reduce costs. And let me be clear; increasing demand does not lower costs.

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