Congress, NASA, White House

On a day of remembrance, looking to the future

Friday was the 10th anniversary of the Columbia accident, and a few members of Congress—but only a few—as well as President Obama marked the occasions with columns or other statements about the accident. Those comments shared solemn sentiments about anniversary, but offered a spectrum of views about the future.

In his statement about NASA’s Day of Remembrance (available on NASA’s website but not showing up on whitehouse.gov), President Obama noted the Columbia anniversary, as well as the previous Challenger and Apollo 1 accidents, but mostly looked ahead. “The exploration of space represents one of the most challenging endeavors we undertake as a Nation,” he said, adding that “it’s imperative America continues to lead the world in reaching for the stars while giving us a better understanding of our home planet.” His statement then briefly described NASA efforts “that will eventually put Americans on Mars.” Among the items he cited was “the biggest booster since the Apollo-era Saturn V [that] is well on its way to launching a new American journey into deep space.” Of course, when the Obama Administration rolled out its proposed NASA revamp in its FY11 budget proposal—released on the seventh anniversary of the Columbia accident—that heavy-lift booster work was set to be deferred for five years.

Friday’s Orlando Sentinel featured a pair of op-eds from members of Congress tied to the Columbia anniversary but primarily focused on the future. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) largely laid out NASA’s current plan, including develop of the Space Launch System and Orion as well as commercial crew initiatives. “I’d say NASA’s future is bright,” he concludes. Nelson, chairman of the space subcommittee of the Senate Commerce Committee, does note plans for a NASA reauthorization bill this year, but suggests it will not deviate much from the plan for the agency laid out in the 2010 bill: “the road map from the 2010 plan will continue guiding the agency.” He adds that he plans to “lead an update of space legislation to further enable private companies to meet our nation’s needs,” but offers no specifics.

However, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) called for more substantive changes to NASA in his Sentinel op-ed, including “divesting” NASA of “anything that can reasonably be placed in another agency,” such as Earth science. “We should prioritize technologies that give us the biggest bang for our buck, including solar-electric propulsion and cryogenic propellant storage and transfer,” he argues. He throws in calls for NASA efforts to clean up orbital debris and study near Earth objects. “We will never re-create Apollo, the product of many complex variables, but the truth is we don’t really want to re-create Apollo,” he states near the end of his piece. “This time we want to colonize the solar system, building settlements on the moon, in deep space, and on Mars.”

Rohrabacher also, unsurprisingly, expressed his support for commercial space transportation, but another House member noted safety concerns she had. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), ranking member of the House Science Committee, said in an op-ed in The Hill that NASA must ensure “safety is not compromised in the process” of developing new systems. “[W]e cannot let our enthusiasm for the efforts of private enterprises — albeit ones that are getting significant taxpayer funding — to develop vehicles that could one day fly NASA astronauts to the International Space Station lull us into a false sense of complacency,” she wrote, citing a recent report by the Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP) that she said offered “troubling indicators” that compromised safety is a possibility.

“The best way to honor the crewmembers of the Space Shuttle Columbia STS-107 mission is to remember the hard lessons learned from that tragedy. Space travel is risky and is not yet mature,” Johnson writes in the conclusion of her op-ed. “I will work steadfastly with my fellow members of Congress to ensure that we pursue a meaningful human space flight program for our Nation, one that can continue to inspire Americans to look to the future, yet one that is grounded in NASA’s decades of experience, expertise, and hard-earned lessons.” And one that, presumably, can fit within the stricter fiscal constraints NASa is likely to experience in 2013 and for at least the next several years beyond.

92 comments to On a day of remembrance, looking to the future

  • Robert G. Oler

    The thing that always strikes me about Columbia and Challenger “memorials” is how hard a time people at NASA and the NASA hangers on have acknowledging why both those accidents happened; ie the NASA incompetence..

    The speeches from most of the NASA flunkies make it sound like that each crew died and the orbiters were lost because of some great unknown when in reality what happened was well NASA simply killed them.

    It is really stunning RGO

    • Paul

      NASA incompetence is not the root cause, though. The root cause was programmatic incompetence, and that can be sourced back to the politicians. The shuttle just didn’t make sense, and forcing the agency to pretend it did led to pathological behavior.

      • Neil Shipley

        I’m sorry to disagree (actually I’m not) but programatic incompetence was not the root cause. Complacancy and negligence on the part of the Shuttle Operations Team were the root cause. They knew of the problems and continued to fly ignoring engineering advice to the contrary both wrt SRB seals as well as the tiles. Furthermore, there was no possibility of escape for the crews and the vehicle had never been sufficiently tested to verify safe operations. In other words, it was always an experimental vehicle.

    • E. P. Grondine

      Hi RGO –

      As you point out, the people at NASA are not the only folks who have a problem facing up to what happened. The NASA cheering gallery that tries to pass itself off as the space press does as well.

    • DCSCA

      It’ll happen again. Bad managemnt can kill. And if Space X wever flies nd fries some poor souls to vapor, they’ll take the heat as well– or simply get lawsuited out of business.

  • Coastal Ron

    Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), ranking member of the House Science Committee, said in an op-ed in The Hill that NASA must ensure “safety is not compromised in the process” of developing new systems. “[W]e cannot let our enthusiasm for the efforts of private enterprises — albeit ones that are getting significant taxpayer funding — to develop vehicles that could one day fly NASA astronauts to the International Space Station lull us into a false sense of complacency,” she wrote

    I’m sure the Congresswoman has the best of intentions, but I don’t think she realizes how ironic she is being when she implies that NASA, who lost 40% of the Shuttle fleet to accidents, is somehow the paragon of safety.

    And does the Congresswoman understand that a future NASA-built transportation system (i.e. the SLS) is likely to have a less-than-stellar safety record because it will never be able to operated at a safe operational tempo due to lack of use?

    Look, safety is the result of many factors, with the design being the first. If you have an inherently safe design (which the Shuttle wasn’t), that allows a lot minor issues not to result in the loss of life (the ultimate measurement of safety, not the loss of vehicle).

    The vehicles being developed through the Commercial Crew Program are all far more inherently safe than the Shuttle, and likely the SRB-version of the SLS. Add on top of that the higher operational rates the rockets used for the Commercial Crew vehicles have, and the natural capitalistic incentives of commercial companies (i.e. dead customers are bad for business), and it’s no wonder the U.S. Government relies on the commercial sector for most of it’s transportation needs.

    Commercial space transportation is the future, not government transportation, so the quicker everyone helps that happen, the less money (and lives) will be wasted.

  • Scott Bass

    The biggest thing I got out of this is Obamas endorsement of SLS ;)

  • amightywind

    Among the items he cited was “the biggest booster since the Apollo-era Saturn V [that] is well on its way to launching a new American journey into deep space.”

    I don’t trust Obama, but I’ll take the statement of support of SLS as a good sign. It is time the SLS vehicle had a naming. The name Ares is available…

    • Fred Willett

      Obama is the president.
      The president is just chief administrator: he has to do what congress says. (in this instance)
      Congress says build SLS.
      Hence Obama builds and supports SLS.
      Obama is not interested enough in the space program to fight congress over SLS.
      So it wastes money. Big deal. That is congress’ problem.
      No doubt if it wastes too much, or looks like it’s going to fail like Constellation then it will get cancelled.

  • Scott Bass

    I agree… A name might be appropriate, does anyone know how stuff like that is decided…. Bolden? I would be happy to write such a request to the appropriate person… NASA loves to put programs out there for kids to submit possibilities

  • Scott Bass

    Btw, Wrote the question about naming to my educational contact at NASA…. I personally like the tradition of Greek mythology for our Rockets or anything constellation related

  • vulture4

    Maybe the SLS should be renamed the “Griffin”.

  • Scott Bass

    Well…. They really could just stick with Ares… The general public probably would not find that confusing at all…… I actually don’t see an issue with resurrecting the whole constellation naming structure… The mars goal is the same, just a change in rockets and interim destinations

    • JimNobles

      A good name could be “Phoenix” because SLS rose from the ashes of Constellation.

      But a phoenix rises from the ashes of its former self, lives a gloriously short life, then returns to ashes to be yet reborn again in a different way. I suspect this Phoenix’s life may be gloriously short indeed.

  • Dark Blue Nine

    It’s sad to see the White House still embracing SLS and MPCV after the election. I only hope sequestration or a budget deal makes the Administration come to its senses about the mismatch between budget need and availability on these projects. Otherwise it’s just going to be another four years of year-for-year slips, spiralling costs, and technical issue after technical issue as they try to stuff 100 lb. of potatoes in a 1 lb. sack, followed by termination a year or so into the next Presidency. Of course, we’ve been to that show — it was called Ares I/Constellation.

    At least this should (in theory) shut up the idiots whining about how Obama is trying to kill human space exploration. Of course, if you were trying to kill human space exploration, it’s hard to think of a better way than SLS and MPCV.

    • Bennett In Vermont (@BennettVermont)

      …if you were trying to kill human space exploration, it’s hard to think of a better way than SLS and MPCV.
       

      Truer words could not be spoken. It’s really depressing how a few powerful Senators can lie their way into killing off almost all hope of seeing progress in HSF, especially when the biggest lie they tell is “This will insure our country’s dominance in HSF”.

    • Justin Kugler

      Thay may be waiting for political cover from the NRC review of human space flight programs, plans, and priorities. It’ll be much harder for Congress to argue with the result of the panel that they ordered the NRC and NASA to commission.

      • I’m with Justin on this one. After all, as Jeff noted, “Of course, when the Obama Administration rolled out its proposed NASA revamp in its FY11 budget proposal—released on the seventh anniversary of the Columbia accident—that heavy-lift booster work was set to be deferred for five years.” and even then, it was going to be a totally liquid fueled rocket with no shuttle-derived hardware.
        Again may I remind everyone, SLS was the administration’s compromise with certain members of the Senate for getting Commercial Crew.

        • Coastal Ron

          Rick Boozer said:

          SLS was the administration’s compromise with certain members of the Senate for getting Commercial Crew.

          I’m glad you are pointing that out, since many forget what was going on during that point in time.

          At the time, we were all celebrating getting 80% of what Obama wanted (i.e. Constellation cancelled, ISS saved, Commercial Crew initiated), so letting the work on outsourced rockets (distilled down to just the SLS) and continuing the sort-of-useful MPCV seemed like a good compromise. Of course we need to finish parring down the unneeded SLS, but that will happen on it’s own.

  • JimNobles

    I just can’t see the Whitehouse taking a battle stance over SLS. They are not space cadets and SLS is a part of compromises they’ve made. We may never see a move by the Obama administration to cancel SLS. I think they just don’t care about it that much one way or the other.

    Plus Charlie and Lori seem fully committed to it. It does, afterall, represent the dreams of the mighty Heavy Lifter that NASA has always lusted after. We might see SLS fly. Maybe more than once. But I don’t think it will ever be a real asset for the American space program. It just costs to much to build and operate.

    SLS might represent the last dinosaur that went down after the comet hit.

    • James

      Politicians never like to admit they screwed up; Hence Bush II would never have re thought Cx and cancelled, even if it was obvious to everyone else.

      Therefore, it will be up to President Clinton to pull together Augustine II committee to revisit SLS/MPCV for yet another review of NASA, for it to be cancelled. Which is will; but only after Obama is gone.

    • Fred Willett

      The same thing applies to Charlie and Lori that I said about Obama further up these comments.
      Charlie and Lori are administrators. They do not set policy. The President does, at the direction of congress.
      Even if they hate SLS and think it will inevitably fail they would still have to smile, support it, and work to try and make it succeed.
      Charlie is a good soldier. He knows how to follow orders.
      Lori has been around space politics all her life. She knows they way the system works.
      Both will support SLS so long as it’s policy.
      Both will try to make SLS work.
      I just don’t think they can.

  • Scott Bass

    Y’all are being way to pessimistic, Commercial flight keeps marching on as well. And SLS is not slipping yet… In fact the last update I read they were working through the issues pretty briskly…SLS will fly… This latest embrace all but guarantees it

    • Dark Blue Nine

      “And SLS is not slipping yet…”

      No, SLS has already slipped a year. Congress legislated 2016 for SLS to enter service.

      http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1760/1

      The first SLS launch is currently scheduled for December 2017.

      More slips are anticipated based on the technical issues that are beginning to emerge:

      “SLS is currently scheduled to launch in 2017, but recently started to show signs it will slip into 2018 – even at this early stage of development – after a core stage design issue was revealed.”

      http://www.nasaspaceflight.com/2012/10/atlas-v-saa-milestones-preparation-crewed-launches/

      “SLS will fly…”

      Even if SLS wasn’t already experiencing schedule slips, the enormous budget shortfalls on the project guarantee year-for-year schedule slippage for the foreseeable future:

      “… Orion and SLS funding are considerably below levels authorized in the agency’s 2010 authorization act: in FY2012, for example, NASA received approximately $1.2 billion for Orion and $1.5 billion for SLS, but was authorized to spend $1.4 billion for Orion and $2.65 billion for SLS. Unless one believes the authorization bill figures overestimate the costs of these systems, there’s potential schedule or other risks with their development, particularly with the SLS.”

      http://www.spacepolitics.com/2013/01/17/asap-report-focuses-on-commercial-crew-funding-and-contracting-risk/

      The SLS budget was reduced by $1.15 billion last year (FY12). That’s a 43% cut. You can’t successfully develop an engineering project by whacking its budget nearly in half.

      Congress has already baked in similar cuts this year (FY13), and that’s before sequestration or a budget deal produce another 5-10% haircut.

      “This latest embrace all but guarantees it”

      The White House and Congress are “embracing” SLS in words only. The budget reality is that they’re vastly underfunding the project. They’re doing enough to keep the old Shuttle workforce from voting against certain incumbent congressmen but nowhere near enough to get SLS to flight in any reasonable timeframe, nevertheless pay for the development of some actual exploration payloads to put on top of SLS.

      Even if SLS wasn’t vastly underfunded, MPCV is in deep trouble. The capsule is 4,000 lbs. overweight for Earth reentry a couple years before CDR, when it should have substantial positive (not negative) mass margin. The service module is also overweight by about 1,500 lbs. And just getting the first copy of the service module is dependent on funding ESA has yet to commit, and there is no budget or plan for sustained service module production after that.

      I’m repeating myself, but the whole program is half of a house of cards, waiting to be blown over. But as long as the White House and Congress are willing to go along, these issues will be ignored and papered over until the mess lands in the lap of the next President.

    • Fred Willett

      Read the Booz Allen report. the first 3 years of SLS were expected to stay on track. The problems kick in after that.
      Also note NASA’s budget was projected to rise as SLS proceded. It has fallen and will likely fall further.
      These factors probably doom SLS.

  • Scott Bass

    Your Right Jim that how much an asset SLS ends up being is squarely placed with the next administration…. Still need missions

    • Coastal Ron

      Scott Bass observed:

      [the SLS] Still need missions

      Which at this point is proof that the SLS is not being built because it’s “needed”, but because of the number of people it employs in certain states.

      It’s not enough for Congress to fund a “program” for the SLS, nor even a couple. In order for the SLS to be worth the $30B+ that us taxpayers are feeding it, it has to be better than $30B+ of commercial alternatives – and that is before it becomes operational.

      $30B would buy 234 Falcon Heavy launches, and put about 2,808mt of payload in GTO (about the mass of 6 ISS).

      Or, if you would prefer Delta IV Heavy, at $450M/flight $30B would give you 66 launches and put about 856mt in GTO (equivalent to about two ISS).

      So what “program” requires the equivalent of two or more ISS masses delivered to GTO? A new Earth observation satellite to monitor for global warming? An upsized Mars rover? Something new to impact on the Moon?

      As has been observed quite a bit recently in the press, and known for years by those of us regulars here on Space Politics, there is no consensus on what, if anything, the U.S. Taxpayer should be asked to fund for future human space exploration. And that is reflected in Congress, which isn’t enthusiast about what Obama has set as NASA’s interim goal (i.e. visiting an asteroid), but they have not expressed any particular plan themselves.

      Those expecting the second coming of Apollo (the program) will continue to be as disappointed as they have been for the last 40 years, and those that believe the SLS is the beginning of something new will soon realize that it will just be a repeat of Constellation.

      • JimNobles

        So what “program” requires the equivalent of two or more ISS masses delivered to GTO?

        Maybe the Death Star thing is still on. Only going black budget.
        .

        I’m sorry. I apologize for my flippancy. It was unseemly.

        Really. I’m sorry. I apologize again.

  • Scott Bass

    I wish they would go ahead and through a couple of bills at Elon and have him build a lander, I feel sure he would have one ready to go by the 2020 flight…. Hell, he will probably have modified dragon to do a direct landing by then ;)

    • Dark Blue Nine

      “he will probably have modified dragon to do a direct landing by then”

      Going on pure rumors here, but we may see a Dragon attempt a circumlunar flight during Falcon Heavy testing.

      • JimNobles

        Going on pure rumors here, but we may see a Dragon attempt a circumlunar flight during Falcon Heavy testing.

        I’ve thought about that, as well as maybe sending Dragon on a L2 flight. But do you think Elon would risk possibly embarrassing his main customer, NASA, by doing something that’s on their projects list? And doing it at much lesser cost. I wonder if he would think SpaceX should actually do something like that. And then I wonder if he has already been assimilated. (No!)

        • Coastal Ron

          JimNobles said:

          I’ve thought about that, as well as maybe sending Dragon on a L2 flight. But do you think Elon would risk possibly embarrassing his main customer, NASA, by doing something that’s on their projects list?

          It’s been on NASA’s “To Do” list for over 40 years, so maybe it’s time to let someone else do it. Besides, the only people that will get embarrassed are the ones backing the SLS in Congress, since it would prove beyond a doubt that the commercial sector can get us out of LEO on their own.

          And doing it at much lesser cost.

          Especially if SpaceX uses one of the Dragon’s that have already flown.

          I wonder if he [Musk] would think SpaceX should actually do something like that.

          I’m sure they’ve talked seriously about it, but considering what the goals of the first Falcon Heavy are, I would give it less than a 30% chance of happening.

          • “I’m sure they’ve talked seriously about it, but considering what the goals of the first Falcon Heavy are, I would give it less than a 30% chance of happening.”

            I tend to agree, on the first time out. But let’s assume for a moment that the first Falcon Heavy launch is completely successful…how many more ‘test’ launches might there be (during which an unmanned circumlunar Dragon might be tried), before actual customer payloads (presumably going no farther than geostationary) are flown?

            • Coastal Ron

              Frank Glover said:

              But let’s assume for a moment that the first Falcon Heavy launch is completely successful…how many more ‘test’ launches might there be (during which an unmanned circumlunar Dragon might be tried), before actual customer payloads (presumably going no farther than geostationary) are flown?

              The SpaceX manifest shows two Falcon Heavy for 2015 with customers, although the manifest dates are “Vehicle Arrival at Launch Site”, not launch dates.

              I don’t know. Since SpaceX is trying to ramp up to 12 launches per year by 2015, an extra Falcon Heavy may be pretty tough, especially since they will be getting ready to focus on Dragon crew flights that year.

              Sure it is possible, and I think they have the money and capability to do it if they want, but I’m thinking that they won’t since they will have a lot on their plate. I also don’t think Musk thinks getting to Mars will be any faster with the government than without it, so there is nothing really to be gained by “showing up” NASA (or really, the few SLS supporters in Congress). Musk is, after all, a pretty practical guy.

              • JimNobles

                Sure it is possible, and I think they have the money and capability to do it if they want, but I’m thinking that they won’t since they will have a lot on their plate.

                I agree. OTOH if they don’t find a risk-taking customer for the first and maybe second flights they are going to have to send up some sort of mass simulator anyway.

                Maybe the idea of sending a refurb Dragon past LEO will appeal to them. I haven’t kept up with the specs but how much propellant would be left in the center core upper stage after reaching LEO? Enough for a free-return around the moon?

    • A M Swallow

      Elon is not the only New Space company. Armadillo Aerospace, Masten Aerospace and Project Morpheus are working on landers that can actually fly. They will need money to space rate them.

      The current prototype landers are single engine where as large landers are likely to need multiple engines. See Falcon 1 to Falcon 9 for an example of how to do that.

      A manned lander will need a cabin and life support. A space rated version of the MMSEV could act as both lander cabin and rover; mass approximately 5 tonne.

      • Coastal Ron

        A M Swallow said:

        Elon is not the only New Space company. Armadillo Aerospace, Masten Aerospace and Project Morpheus are working on landers that can actually fly.

        I think those that don’t like SpaceX like to use “NewSpace” as a derogatory term, but in my mind “NewSpace” is any company that is risking capital to build space hardware of all types. So not only is that Armadillo and Masten, but Boeing with their CST-100, Orbtial Sciences with the Taurus/Cygnus, and Sierra Nevada with the Dream Chaser.

        The current prototype landers are single engine where as large landers are likely to need multiple engines.

        ULA’s proposed lander that is based on the ACES platform has been shown using rows of small motors lined up along side the horizontal lander. Their design also has a separate crew module with it’s own motors so it can abort at any time during landing.

        A space rated version of the MMSEV could act as both lander cabin and rover; mass approximately 5 tonne.

        NASA’s Multi Mission Space Exploration Vehicle (MMSEV) concept is a good one, and a good example of what NASA should be working on, not the SLS. And if NASA did develop the MMSEV, they really wouldn’t need the Orion/MPCV anymore either, since the MMSEV is also capable of acting as a lifeboat.

        There are alternatives to the “Apollo cargo cult” way of doing things.

        • pathfinder_01

          “NASA’s Multi Mission Space Exploration Vehicle (MMSEV) concept is a good one, and a good example of what NASA should be working on, not the SLS. And if NASA did develop the MMSEV, they really wouldn’t need the Orion/MPCV anymore either, since the MMSEV is also capable of acting as a lifeboat.”

          Not quite a craft with a heat shield (Orion, Dragon, ect…) could in theory perform direct reentry at the end of an mission which takes less time and less delta V than attempting to return to earth orbit or return to LEO to be picked up or return to a LEO space station(or other craft waiting in LEO).

          The MMSEV is for in space use and it is optimized for the environment of space rather than dealing with reentry. There are uses for a space capsule, but NASA it is something that NASA probably should not be designing esp. if it is not much more than an Apollo rehash. IMHO the perfect craft would be something reusable and able to withstand a fast reentry. Something like say Dragon or Dreamchaser XL.

          Now for a trip say to Mars or maybe to a NEO a space capsule has less to offer esp. to Mars as in about a day or so you will be too far from earth to attempt to return in it. Ditching the capsule can become more attractive but the capsule also could be used for returning at the end of mission and letting the SEP slowly park the main spacecraft back into a high earth orbit over say a year.

          • Coastal Ron

            pathfinder_01 said:

            The MMSEV is for in space use and it is optimized for the environment of space rather than dealing with reentry.

            Agreed. I just don’t see the need to do a direct return to Earth for every little problem we run into in space. And if we do, then we’ll transfer in lunar orbit or EML to a capsule that can do a direct return. But otherwise, when we’re out beyond the Moon, the MMSEV (or something like it) would be the lifeboat of choice.

            Eventually though I think someone will perfect a reusable vehicle that will likely slow down in Earth’s atmosphere and dock at the ISS or some other destination in LEO, where people can then transfer to one of the (hopefully many) commercial crew vehicles. Then it would fuel up, take on outbound passengers, and leave for EML – a milk run.

            • A M Swallow

              For an incoming spacecraft to slow to to ISS orbital speed it either has to have a heat shield or sufficient propellant for 3.22 km/s delta-V. If it has a heat shield the spacecraft may as well go all the way, but will need a stronger heatshield.

              I suspect that the cycle will be launch the spacecraft on a launch vehicle to LEO. In LEO either refuel or add an expendable inspace stage and fly to an EML spacestation. Change vehicles, after performing the Mars or Moon trip return to the EML spacestation. Use the original spacecraft to perform a direct re-entry to Earth. After a few repairs the spacecraft may be reusable.

            • Coastal Ron

              A M Swallow said:

              I suspect that the cycle will be launch the spacecraft on a launch vehicle to LEO. In LEO either refuel or add an expendable inspace stage and fly to an EML spacestation. Change vehicles, after performing the Mars or Moon trip return to the EML spacestation. Use the original spacecraft to perform a direct re-entry to Earth. After a few repairs the spacecraft may be reusable.

              Today NASA seems to be of two minds regarding this. When they talk about Orion/MPCV, they talk about dragging it around with them no matter where they go. Let’s call this the Apollo model of space transportation.

              But when the people in NASA that aren’t beholden to the Orion/MPCV talk about space travel, and they talk about Nautilus-X being the next step for them, then what you propose would likely be the next evolutionary step in space transportation.

              After that, then a reusable Earth-EML vehicles can be inserted into the mix when it is determined whether using the atmosphere to slow down or fuel (or both) works best depending on the infrastructure available (i.e. is fuel assumed to be plentiful, or scarce).

              If it has a heat shield the spacecraft may as well go all the way, but will need a stronger heatshield.

              It’s a speed vs cost equation here. For speed, yes, you would just haul your heatshield around with you so you can return to Earth whenever you want. But if you are basing your transportation system on cost, and it costs a lot of money to lift that spacecraft out of Earth’s gravity well, then carrying around a smaller heatshield for stopping in LEO would be a better choice.

              • pathfinder_01

                It really depends on where you need to go and how you are doing the mission.

                For a manned trip to the moon SEP or any form of electric propulsion is not a favorable method and carring enough chemical propellant fora round trip without aerocapture impossible. EP is much too slow for the trip vs. Chemical. It could be used for cargo but not people. Also you can return from the moon or cis-lunar space in about 3-4 days and there is the free return trajectory enabling you to return to earth with little to no use of propellant. Here having a capsule makes a lot of sense.

                On trips out to Mars or NEO, SEP is a very favorable form of propulsion that could enable you to return to earth orbit at the end of the mission. There are questions about the survivability of direct reentry from these velocities(higher g forces, more heat generated from reentry). Your spacecraft is very soon out of range where you could return in a capsule; whereas for the moon, you are never out of range of return. Free return trajectories are much harder to nonexistent. Here dragging the mass of a capsule become more questionable. It could enable you to return faster (leaving the ship to return via SEPor be disposed of(eweh!)) but that is about it.

                Also remember most of the mass of an chemically powered spacecraft is propellant so you will need to haul up just about as much mass to send something back out to EML-1 and there is less ability to do inspection and repair in space…not to mention that a bad aerocapture could put you in to an orbit with no ability to reach the station. The mass of the heat shield is rather small.

                Also a direct landing on earth that did not land where it intended could have some degree of surviablity(depending on system..i.e. Orion has lots of ocean to land in, and Soyuz/Dragon/CST-100 just need somewhere flat or fail that a body of water), a lifting body like Dream chaser may be able to steer to an alternate route or bail out. A craft in the wrong orbit and unable to reenter would force a requirement that the craft needs to support a crew long enough for rescue or the crew will die. There was a NASA proposal that did return to the ISS and it requires the craft support the crew for a month to allow the shuttle to launch a rescue mission!

                There are also issues with launch windows on return(every ten or so day to or from EML-1/2) to the ISS vs. anytime return from EML-1 . Anyway the most likely place for something like Nautilus-X to park would be EML-1 or EML-2 . Departure from EMl -1 or eml2 is like .14km/s in terms of Delta V vs. 3.22ish from LEO. So it is smart not to bring a reusable in-space spacecraft down to LEO unless you have to. It easier to give a small mass a big push(i.e. the capsule) than to have to push a large mass(Natilus X) out.
                If you had lots of chemical propellant available at EML-1 cheaply, then it might make sense to return to a LEO station but direct reentry for the most part would be a very strong contender for all the above reasons. Also needing a truck to restock the vehicle after a mission and using workers on the ground is going to be cheaper than needing a Cygnus and astronauts to do so. It may be a long time before the economics favor in-space LEO to EML-1.

                A LEO station however can make a good starting off point because it allows you to preposition things. i.e. If you left from the from, you wouldn’t need to launch 2 rockets in extremely short order(48 hours) like CXP or forced to cram everything into one like Apollo. You wouldn’t need to develop boil off technology to the same degree since the EDS stage could be sent after the crew or the station could provide active cooling and a sun shield to extend on orbit time.

    • DCSCA

      Seeeesh. More of the ‘promises of things to come’ pie-in-the-sky crud. Space X has failed to launch, orbit and safely return anybody. And you’re babbling about landers. It is utter false equivalency.

      Fly somebody. Put somebosy up– or shut up.

      • JimNobles

        Space X has failed to launch, orbit and safely return anybody.

        It’s not time for them too yet. They are using this extra time to develop their super-duper planetary landing system by calling it a Launch Abort System and having NASA help pay for it.

        They are using their time most efficiently and effectively.

        Tick-tock. Tick-tock. =yawn= =rolls eyes= =scratches testicles=

        • NeilShipley

          Yep, good call. Not many have realised just how smart Elon is and how he’s using NASA as the government ‘enabling’ organisation that it should be. Certainly ‘tick tock’ DCSCA hasn’t woken up yet or else he’s just playing games. Hope it’s the former but sorry to say, most probable the latter based on his continual repeating of that particular phrase.

  • Scott Bass

    Dark Blue, thanks for the lengthy explanation of your points …. I apparently have been reading more positive articles than, one recently about the fuel baffling issues sound on track to be resolved ….no doubt when you try to build the biggest rocket ever there will be some setbacks…. Looking forward to being at the cape for the first one regardless if it is late.
    As far as Space X…. Really hope so and also hoping the lunar xprize peeps success…. some exciting years coming

  • amightywind

    Back in 2009 I witnessed, in horror, the Augistine Committee’s shameful report and Obama’s subsequent cancellation of Project Constellation. Never has so much damage been inflicted on NASA at one time. I still can’t figure out exactly what the ‘flexible path’ was. I predicted that there would be a backlash in congress and that Constellation would be reinstated. I was partially correct. Unfortunately, the Senate got into the business of designing rockets and we got Ares-lite rather than the better Ares V, 10 meter design. Now that Obama is finally singing the tune of SLS, perhaps the program can enjoy a few years of stability and finally get the job done. Newspace is dying.

    “he will probably have modified dragon to do a direct landing by then”

    It would be quite a trick. I haven’t even seen the powerpoint for that one.

    • JimNobles

      Newspace is dying.

      Dear Lord, how can one human being be so wrong? Do you listen and read only those things that support your beliefs?

      Newspace is thriving.

      • JimNobles

        And augmenting my own post:

        Bigelow Aerospace Opportunties and Pricing… ( bigelowaerospace.com )

        Robert Bigelow lists his prices. Most interesting to me were the costs for the launches. Interesting because he apparently has sound enough price quotes from the providers that he’s now comfortable offering set prices to his clients.

        Falcon 9 and Dragon: ……… $26.25 Million a seat

        Atlas V and CST-100 ………… $36.75 Million a seat

        I wonder how much he is having to pay for them. At those prices they must be planning on using them near full capacity. I can’t see launching two or three people at a time for that cost.

        Newspace is thriving. Newspace is rising.

        More information in the Opportunities and Pricing section of his site.

        • Coastal Ron

          JimNobles said:

          I wonder how much he is having to pay for them. At those prices they must be planning on using them near full capacity. I can’t see launching two or three people at a time for that cost.

          I doubt we’ll really know, but I suspect that both Bigelow and his transportation providers (SpaceX and Boeing) are likely using a Penetration pricing strategy initially, which is:

          Penetration pricing includes setting the price low with the goals of attracting customers and gaining market share. The price will be raised later once this market share is gained.

          After putting so much time and effort into getting ready for this potential market, trying to make a profit on the first couple of commercial customers would be counter-productive. If so, then Bigelow, SpaceX and Boeing would not be making money initially on commercial customers, but you can bet that SpaceX and Boeing will be making a profit on NASA’s government Commercial Crew transportation contracts. That’s just the way it works.

          • JimNobles

            I also just realized that each client might have to purchase the equivalent of two seats. One for them and one for their stuff. Unless they are planning on taking only one change of clothes and no equipment or supplies…

            • Coastal Ron

              JimNobles said:

              I also just realized that each client might have to purchase the equivalent of two seats.

              Again, it’s too early to tell what the advertised pricing covers, and what it doesn’t for the transportation and stays at a Bigelow station – we haven’t seen the “fine print”.

              However bulk supply and resupply are something that hasn’t been talked about by Bigelow, nor other things like staffing (one would think a Bigelow representative will be on board at all times), housekeeping and maintenance. Those kind of costs should be covered by the lease payments, but we’d have to see the contracts to know for sure. They could be part of an add-on menu of pricing (i.e. ala cart services).

              I would imagine more pricing details will come out once they start signing up the first users.

              Releasing the limited amount of pricing that they have allows individuals, companies and countries to start their budgeting processes, and it also should start the race to who is going to be the first – if promoted right, that could provide a lot of good media coverage, which in itself could generate even more customers.

              • pathfinder_01

                A space station could operate without crew from time to time so I don’t think you will need it. However you probably will need a CCREW pilot and he could be trained to use the station while it is manned.

                Bulk supplies are an interesting problem because the ccargo craft all use the CBM while the ccrew plan to use the NDS. The CCrew craft have to be able to take a person’s worth (mass/volume) of cargo in exchange for a seat so how will that fit in unknown esp. as some of the CCDEV craft plan to be able to operate without crew. The only craft that can dock an carry cargo is progress and ATV the rest are berthed(which requires a robot arm).

              • Coastal Ron

                pathfinder_01 said:

                Bulk supplies are an interesting problem because the ccargo craft all use the CBM while the ccrew plan to use the NDS.

                However if you don’t need bulky items brought to the station, then you can just use Commercial Crew vehicles to also bring cargo. All the Commercial Crew vehicles can also carry cargo, it’s just that they have the size restriction because of the NDS – Progress has the same limitation.

                IIRC, none of the art that Bigelow has released for his Alpha Station show a robotic arm, so we’ll have to assume he plans to use Commercial Crew vehicles to do resupply.

              • A M Swallow

                Coastal Ron said

                All the Commercial Crew vehicles can also carry cargo, it’s just that they have the size restriction because of the NDS

                So all the user’s equipment will have to be designed to fit through an NDS.

                Unmanned cargo capsules able to dock to NDS ports using remote control are probably needed.

              • Coastal Ron

                A M Swallow said:

                Unmanned cargo capsules able to dock to NDS ports using remote control are probably needed.

                I haven’t seen the design details of the Alpha Station that covers liquids replenishment, so we don’t know if they need a vehicle like Progress or ATV that has liquids transfer capability in it’s docking port. However all Commercial Crew vehicles can be operated autonomously, so they can all haul cargo without crew.

                We need to hear more from Bigelow on how the logistics of his stations will work, amongst other things. Still too little public information, but no doubt Bigelow has this already figured out.

      • DCSCA

        “NewSpace is dying”….” “Dear Lord, how can one human being be so wrong?”

        And without out a government financed, faux destination to give it life-support, it would be dead, or still born. Paging Conestoga One.

    • Fred Willett

      The flexible path announcement had no substance. But within a couple of months NASA had a detailed plan worked out divying up tasks across all centres.
      This thread http://www.spacepolitics.com/2010/04/08/nasas-next-steps-telecon/
      will tell you all about it. In particular follow Major Tom’s comments and links.
      The flexible path would have given us much of the technology (beyond SLS) required to take us to Mars. Unfortunately congress preferred SLS. The irony is that even if we ever get SLS most of the work outlined here will still need to be done. Except, of course, now there’s no budget for it.

      • Flexible Path was the worst thing that could’ve happened to NASA & the American space program!! It is pure ignorance, to think that you could get to Mars with NO experience dealing with new manned lander craft & descent flight procedures upon another world, with substantial gravity. If we don’t deal with the Moon first, then a host of complex issues are going to clobber us, upon that first Red Planet landing. For instance: You still have to face the dust management problem; that grimy, regolith powder is liable to be an irksome difficulty, both to the astronauts inhaling it & to the spacecraft’s electronics & mechanisms. New types of space suits should be field-tested in precisely a regolith-filled environment, such as the Lunar surface, beforehand.

        • Coastal Ron

          Chris Castro said:

          It is pure ignorance, to think that you could get to Mars with NO experience dealing with new manned lander craft & descent flight procedures upon another world, with substantial gravity.

          It’s funny how you construct these fake arguments, and then don’t even realize that what you advocate for has already been done.

          We went to the Moon on Apollo with little experience about landing on an airless body, and now we know how to do it. Done. Even small companies here on Earth (Masten, Armadillo, etc.) can now do it better than NASA.

          As to Mars, since the Moon doesn’t have an atmosphere, it is a poor analogy for practicing landing on Mars. But no worries Chris, because we are already practicing landing on Mars with progressively larger and larger masses, which is how you build up your competence and capabilities for anything.

          For instance: You still have to face the dust management problem; that grimy, regolith powder is liable to be an irksome difficulty, both to the astronauts inhaling it & to the spacecraft’s electronics & mechanisms.

          That is true, but Moon dust and Mars dust are not the same, so again, the Moon is a poor analogy. But as we grow the size of vehicles that can land on Mars, we can also land larger and larger test vehicles, including robot testers for dust issues.

          Sorry, Chris, if the goal is Mars, then we don’t really need to go to the Moon first. We will go back to the Moon, someday of course, but it’s not on the critical path for Mars.

          • JimNobles

            One of the things I like best about commercial is that it has the potential to get prices so low that people may have the opportunity to go where they want and do what they think needs doing.

            If you think you need to go to the moon and if you can find enough people who agree with you then maybe you can pool your resources and make it happen.

            If you think you need to go to Mars (like Elon does) you maybe can make that happen.

            If you think Asteroids are the way to go, launch costs can get so low that maybe it becomes feasible.

            Newspace detractors be damned, commercial is the best thing to happen in space flight since liquid fueled engines.

        • Dark Blue Nine

          “Flexible Path was the worst thing that could’ve happened to NASA & the American space program!! It is pure ignorance, to think that you could get to Mars with NO experience dealing with new manned lander craft & descent flight procedures upon another world, with substantial gravity.”

          This is an idiotic statement. The average time delay for communications between Mars and Earth is over 300 times larger than the time delay for communications between Mars and the Moon. Mars’ gravitational gradient is twice that of the Moon. Mars has an atmosphere that exerts aerodynamic forces on the entry vehicle; the Moon does not. You can use parachutes or inflatable decelerators at Mars; you cannot at the Moon. Lunar landings are nothing like Mars landings.

          “If we don’t deal with the Moon first, then a host of complex issues are going to clobber us, upon that first Red Planet landing. For instance: You still have to face the dust management problem; that grimy, regolith powder is liable to be an irksome difficulty, both to the astronauts inhaling it & to the spacecraft’s electronics & mechanisms. New types of space suits should be field-tested in precisely a regolith-filled environment, such as the Lunar surface, beforehand.”

          More idiocy. Lunar regolith is dangerous because it is composed of fine particles with very sharp edges and protrusions. It rapidly wears moving parts and damages lungs.

          There is no similar danger on Mars because all the sharp edges and protrusions in Mars soil particulates have been ground away by a few billion years of atmospheric processes and about a billion years of aqueous processes. If you want to simulate Mars soil, you go to cold locations on the Earth, not the Moon.

          The major danger posed by Mars surface operations is not dangerous regolith, but hexavalent chromium. It’s very prevalent in Mars and can block the uptake of oxygen in human blood if breathed into the lungs. This chemical danger does not exist on the Moon.

        • Fred Willett

          Don’t worry all these issues are being funded by SLS……..oh wait.

        • DCSCA

          “If we don’t deal with the Moon first, then a host of complex issues are going to clobber us, upon that first Red Planet landing.” mused Chris.

          Yep. The way forward is for an government space agency to master cis-lunar space ops w/GP hardware and associated spacecraft, refine methods and procedures through the experience of establishing long duration habitation on Luna, servicing same by contracting private firms then modify/adapt that knowledge base for a human expedition to Mars- if the robots report it is even worth the trip. It may not be in this era if the planet is peppered with inexpensive and reliaboe probes. That’s your space program for the next 80 years. It’s a better bet you’ll see a permanent base on the moon before you’ll see any human expeditions out to Mars. If a SRM or two make the run and return Martian soil and rocks for analysis– what’s the hurry to send crews and all the necessary support materials out. Besides, we should really wait for Elon to get there and build those condos for retirement. ;-)

    • Yes. The full-up Ares 5 is the rocket that we should be building. NOT an Ares-light, & further we should NOT be building it for nothing; for some hazy, if-they-build-it-they-will-come approach. Ares 5 should be built for accommodating specifically the new lunar lander & the earth-escape stage. Plus it is squarely obvious to anyone, that you don’t need such a large heavy-lift rocket to launch the Orion craft: a smaller rocket can do that task. Unless, like Apollo, you’re going to go back to launching every spacecraft at once, and performing a Transposition & Docking maneuver, mid-cislunar flight. Which is of course doable, but the two-launches flight plan was a much better idea; as it separated the crew from the bulk enormity of the cargo. I dread that, in the absence of a lunar plan & lunar-bound vehicles, that the bad implication is they will construct a Heavy-Lift merely to launch the Orion into LEO, and reserve no definite deep space scheme for it; pre-destining it to be the American version of the Soviet Energia: which flew a couple of times & then went nowhere.

      • Coastal Ron

        Chris Castro said:

        Plus it is squarely obvious to anyone, that you don’t need such a large heavy-lift rocket to launch the Orion craft: a smaller rocket can do that task.

        And such a “smaller rocket” is getting ready for it’s first test flight by next year – Falcon Heavy. Falcon Heavy can lift 45mt to LEO in it’s smallest capacity, which is more than enough for the Orion/MPCV with an ESA service module.

        Oh, and as a bonus, it costs NASA nothing to develop. Nada. Zero. Which leaves more of NASA’s meager budget to use for exploration hardware. Gee, if only NASA would do that for all it’s hardware transportation needs – you know, farm it out to the commercial sector so NASA has more money for building the exploration hardware that will let us leave LEO? Think about that…

        • Pure falsehood! The Commercial Space companies require vast amounts of subsidizing money! They ARE costing the government a huge enormity of currency! The billions of dollars that should be going into building the Orion craft & whatever smaller rocket that would launch it, is instead being ludicrously poured into commercial entities that have long dismal & shaky records, when it comes to being reliable about delivering on its promises. Commercial Crew is a horrible investment of government cash!

          • You are the one spouting falsehoods. For instance, the total amount that NASA has paid SpaceX so far is less than $400 million. It’s only billions if you count all CC participants.

          • Coastal Ron

            Chris Castro moaned:

            The Commercial Space companies require vast amounts of subsidizing money!

            Tell us how much money NASA is paying SpaceX to build the Falcon Heavy, which is the largest rocket since the Saturn 5?

            Hmm?

  • Scott Bass

    Probably should at least say there are plenty of missions for SLS, just none embraced….. That will change over time though and as the economy gets stronger, proposing bold things becomes politically easier. I do understand the naysaying …. But also believe the longer this goes the chances for the SLS program improve… Or to put it another way… The more money spent, it becomes distasteful and scandalous both politically and to the Public….. We didn’t blink much at constellation being canceled but people will be seriously saying wtf should they cancel another as soon as the test article is ready to fly …… The bigger the snowball gets the harder it will be to stop…. So this is a sad day for SLS opponents but a happy one for SLS supporters

    • Fred Willett

      I remembere Jeff Greason saying at a conference in the wake of the Augustine Committee that he had heard that the notion of closing down NASA altogether had been circulated in Washington at some point and he was afraid that NASA would not survive another big failure like Constellation.
      That’s what scares me more than anything. NASA has done some incredible things. SLS is clearly under funded. Bolden couldn’t say so, but the Booz Allen report was a clear message: “My behind is covered. This is never going to work. I told you so.”
      Well congress didn’t listen.
      So Bolden squared his shoulders and soldiered on. You know he’ll do his best.
      But it’s doubtful even he can save congress from it’s idiocy.

      • Fred Willett wrote:

        That’s what scares me more than anything. NASA has done some incredible things. SLS is clearly under funded. Bolden couldn’t say so, but the Booz Allen report was a clear message: “My behind is covered. This is never going to work. I told you so.”
        Well congress didn’t listen.
        So Bolden squared his shoulders and soldiered on. You know he’ll do his best.

        I think you’re right.

        By the way, here’s the executive summary of the Booz Allen report if you want to read through it.

        From the opening paragraph of “Key Findings”:

        All three Program estimates assume large, unsubstantiated, future cost efficiencies leading to the impression that they are optimistic. A scenario-based risk assessment, which excludes cost estimating uncertainty and unknown-unknown risks (historically major sources of cost and schedule growth), reveals all three Programs’ reserves are insufficient.

        It goes on and on from there …

    • Coastal Ron

      Scott Bass said:

      Probably should at least say there are plenty of missions for SLS, just none embraced…

      Plenty of imaginary missions, and none funded you mean. Of course the same could be said for beyond-LEO HSF missions that use existing rockets, so the point to take away from all of this is that Congress really isn’t interested in committing to a new, large HSF program.

      That will change over time though and as the economy gets stronger, proposing bold things becomes politically easier.

      Debt reduction will take decades, and spending for NASA is not tied to any particular formula or amount. Congress can spend whatever they feel NASA needs, just like they do with the DoD and the NPS. Right now they are not feeling that NASA needs more money.

      But also believe the longer this goes the chances for the SLS program improve… Or to put it another way… The more money spent, it becomes distasteful and scandalous both politically and to the Public

      That didn’t help Constellation, nor any of the other big programs that have been cancelled over the years (Future Combat Systems spent $18B before being cancelled). Besides, if the narrative is that the SLS is being cancelled because the commercial launch industry can take care of NASA’s needs, then the public will understand that – the polls already indicate that.

      I give the SLS program 2-3 years before being cancelled, since that is when a combination of factors will come together to make it quite obvious that the SLS is a dead-end program. Those factors include a lack of funding for any sustained use of the SLS (Congress will refuse to increase NASA’s budget to accommodate them), the program itself will be going over schedule & budget (a 5th grader could predict this), and the successful progress of commercial aerospace in developing and fielding spacecraft and launchers like the Antares/Cygnus, Commercial Crew, and Falcon Heavy.

      This is not rocket science, it’s inevitable.

    • Robert G. Oler

      Scott Bass
      February 3, 2013 at 5:33 pm · Reply

      Probably should at least say there are plenty of missions for SLS, just none embraced….. That will change over time though and as the economy gets stronger, proposing bold things becomes politically easier. I do understand the naysaying …. But also believe the longer this goes the chances for the SLS program improve… Or to put it another way… The more money spent, it becomes distasteful and scandalous both politically and to the Public>>

      that is a very very unlikely scenario.

      I dont see how SLS survives this years budget agreements which are coming…but in your scenario

      SLS never gets “cheap” or really even affordable. Even if one builds it then the payloads for it cost enormous amounts…nothing is cheap to fly on SLS…and there is no money for that development.

      Booster cost drive payload cost SLS is like shuttle on the wrong side of the cost equation.

      I wouldnt read to much into Obama’s statement, its how malfunctioning federal programs die RGO

  • JimNobles

    Let’s not forget that SLS represents a danger to NASA as well as a boon. If it keeps being underfunded and the schedule really starts slipping it could be cancelled just for that. If the politicians that are supporting it just for the jobs don’t really care if it becomes operational as long as the money flows back to their states let that happen then the whole thing could crash. This is not at all an unlikely scenario. SLS is enough like Constellation that it inherits most of the same problems.

    If SLS gets cancelled or simply stops being able to advance due to its own weight then NASA will probably get the blame. Congress is certainly not going to take the blame for something like that.

    So, to all you folks who are SLS supporters, I hope that in your prayers for SLS you also include prayers for the angels to influence Congress as well. Because if SLS goes down (and I expect it will at some point) Congress will most likely be the reason it does.

    That’s one of the reasons I like commercial, it allows people to be in charge who don’t have the same motivations and perspectives as politicians. Remember, a Senator or Congress Person’s main goal is to keep the people who elected them happy enough to elect them again. If that conflicts with a government project to build a big rocket then the big rocket will probably lose.

    • amightywind

      Obama and his progressives were the greatest threat to manned spaceflight this country has ever known. For whatever reason, Obama capitulated. It signals the end of the ISS driven program. I’m surprised, but happy. It is gratifying to see that the traditionalists finally won. Congress will not kill manned spaceflight, not after they just saved it, but hopefully they force reform on NASA. Now the question becomes, is the leadership team qualified to lead a large development project like Ares? Little does the current leadership resemble the competent group that led us to the moon in the 60′s.

      • Neil Shipley

        The leadership that lead to the Apollo Moon landings was not particularly competent. Given the funding they had available, most anyone could have done it. And they were far from safety conscious or risk-adverse. Nothing’s changed wrt NASA on that front anyway.
        So far as the current leadership goes, I can answer that one. The current leadership team for SLS and MPCV/Orion are most definitely not capable, nor could they be considered remotely competent to handle any sized project. They do appear to be basically the same team behind Cx and look where that landed.

      • JimNobles

        Obama and his progressives were the greatest threat to manned spaceflight this country has ever known.

        That’s ridiculous. I’d repeat the arguments refuting it but 90% of the people reading this already understand them.

        For whatever reason, Obama capitulated.

        Obama compromised. They are not the same thing.

        It signals the end of the ISS driven program.

        Not until the Partners are through with the ISS it doesn’t. But thanks to commercial we have the potential of supporting an orbital facility as well as other endeavors.

        Congress will not kill manned spaceflight…

        You are correct. What support Congress gave to commercial space saved our HSF butts. Without commercial we would be facing many years of not being able to launch Americans on American hardware. I’ll give Congress that.

        Now the question becomes, is the leadership team qualified to lead a large development project like Ares?

        Good grief, Ares is gone. Gone like Elvis. At it’s best SLS is like a fairly good Elvis impersonator.

        Little does the current leadership resemble the competent group that led us to the moon in the 60′s.

        Their competence was bolstered by the fact they had much, much less fiscal restraints than we have today. They could throw money at a problem until they got it figured out. Those times are gone. Let them go. The current leadership has to be able to operate in the real world, with the real politics of today. With the real fiscal issues of today.

        You’re smart enough to know all this. Why do you keep posting the things you do?

  • SLS is the price we pay to keep meddling Congresscritters distracted while commercial space builds the future.

    Would you *really* want people like Shelby and Hutcheson and Wolf and Hall closely monitoring each step of NewSpace? I wouldn’t. So distract them with their shiny bauble-to-nowehere and let people like Elon Musk, Jeff Greason, and Jeff Bezos do their thing.

    The Obama administration is doing the space equivalent of football’s running the ball into the line to run the clock out. They’re buying time for NewSpace. They know the future is on their side.

    I hope SLS flies some day. I really do. Not because I think it will ever accomplish anything. I just want the taxpayer to have a side-by-side comparison, to see what the private sector can do (Falcon Heavy) with a fraction of the money wasted on SLS.

    Besides, I suspect even the most fervent SLS detractor would like to see it launch just for kicks. Nothing beats smoke-and-fire.

    • Coastal Ron

      Stephen C. Smith said:

      Besides, I suspect even the most fervent SLS detractor would like to see it launch just for kicks. Nothing beats smoke-and-fire.

      Well that would not include me.

      I prefer to not waste $30B of taxpayer and a decade of very capable talent on something that will end up being cancelled for lack of need.

      In fact, I would say that a significant percentage of people that showed up for Shuttle launches were only there for the “smoke-and-fire”, and an even smaller percentage for the chance to be there if something went wrong – kinda like the lookie-loos on the freeway that stare at accidents.

      I understand your point Stephen, but my preference is to force the decision point about the SLS sooner rather than later – either Congress needs to pony up an extra $20B per year for the SLS-sized hardware programs that the SLS requires in order to be minimally useful (2 missions per year, DDT&E plus operational budget for each non-disposable mission), or they should cancel it.

  • Coastal Ron wrote:

    I prefer to not waste $30B of taxpayer and a decade of very capable talent on something that will end up being cancelled for lack of need.

    I agree, however it’s going to be wasted whether we like it or not. Congress is going to see to that.

    Which is why I’m resigned to what I wrote.

  • josh

    if sls doesn’t collapse under its own weight by 2017 (it’s very likely that it will, at the very least its launch date will slip a couple of years) it will most likely be cancelled by president hillary clinton. too bad obama is preoccupied with bigger problems at the moment.

    • Neil Shipley

      Yes and you can understand why Obama is preoccupied. After all, there are more than a few pressing issues facing the U.S., NASA not being one of them.

    • Or maybe there will be a President Jeb Bush, and he will be a far better friend to the space community, than the liberals. A Bush 3 presidency could do wonders for America’s sense of national purpose in space. He would restore the Moon goal, realizing full well how returning there is totally essential, before ANY manned launch to Mars could even be contemplated. Dealing with Luna is a crucial first step, on the way to interplanetary travel.

      • common sense

        Instead of speculating about Jeb Bush, why don’t you go ask him? See how it goes. Then please report back to us. I’d love to hear about it.

        • Neat little idea. But I certainly believe that the Republicans are much more apt at seeing the space arena in terms of a reflection of American greatness, exceptionalism, & adeptness. If either McCain or Romney had been able to win the Presidency, neither man would’ve destroyed Project Constellation, the way BO had.

          • Coastal Ron

            Chris Castro moaned:

            If either McCain or Romney had been able to win the Presidency, neither man would’ve destroyed Project Constellation, the way BO had.

            It must be wonderful to live in Chris Castro World, and to not have to face up to reality.

            The Constellation program was doomed the moment Michael Griffin decided to circumvent all the spiral development work that had been done, and instead use a “Apollo on steroids” architecture. From there on the program became financially unsustainable and affordable.

            Oh, and McCain questioned the program at the beginning, so yes, McCain would have quickly killed it too – he knows a bloated program when he sees it.

          • common sense

            “But I certainly believe”

            Stop “believing” get to actually know. You will open your world to a totally different, fascinating and very refreshing perspective. Believing is not enough with facts. You have to know the facts.

  • E. P. Grondine

    Re: Rohrabacher’s concept.

    The problem is that the technologies are still not common. The relevant agencies lack the abilities as regards launches, sensors, busses, and operations. Thus NASA will have to remain as a service provider to them.

    Given that, the questions are the formal relationships of NASA as a service provider to those agencies. Some clarifications and improvements may be possible there.

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