Congress, NASA

House full-year continuing resolution offers something for SLS and Commercial Crew supporters

The deadline for sequestration has come and gone, but another deadline is looming: the continuing resolution (CR) that funds the federal government at fiscal year 2012 levels expires on March 27. On Monday, the House Appropriations Committee introduced a new continuing resolution that would run through the end of fiscal year 2013. The CR would fund most programs at 2012 levels, but there are a few exceptions in various agencies, including NASA. The table below compares the FY12 levels with those in the FY13 bill for NASA’s various accounts (all values in millions of dollars):

Account FY12 FY13 CR
Science $5,090.0 $5,090.0
Space Operations $4,223.6 $4,000.0
Exploration $3,770.8 $4,152.0
Cross Agency Support $2,995.0 $2,847.4
Space Technology $575.0 $575.0
Aeronautics $569.9 $569.9
Construction $390.0 $390.0
Education $138.4 $138.4
Office of Inspector General $37.3 $37.3
TOTAL $17,790.0 $17,800.0

While most accounts are not changed by the new CR, the bill does decrease funding for Space Operations and Cross Agency Support, while increasing Exploration by a corresponding amount. The CR, like the FY12 appropriations bill, includes specific breakouts for programs in the Exploration account, revealing increases for both the Space Launch System (SLS) heavy-lift rocket and the Commercial Crew program:

Item FY12 FY13 CR
Orion $1,200.0 $1,200.0
SLS $1,860.0 $2,119.0
Comm’l Crew $406.0 $525.0
Expl. R&D $304.8 $308.0
Expl. Total $3,770.8 $4,152.0

The $525 million for Commercial Crew is what the Senate had included in its previous FY13 appropriations bill; in the deal between NASA and Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA), chairman of the appropriations subcommittee that funds the agency, Wolf had agreed to support funding for the program at or near the Senate’s level (the House’s version of an FY13 appropriations bill last year funded Commercial Crew at $500 millon.) The increase in SLS funding isn’t explained; even with the increase, it falls well short of the $2.64 billion authorized for the program in the 2010 NASA Authorization Act.

Separately, for NOAA’s budget, the House CR sets aside $802 million of the agency’s $1.95 billion procurement budget for the GOES-R weather satellite program. The press release from the committee notes that the bill includes a “provision allowing additional funding to maintain the launch schedule for new weather satellites, ensuring the continuation of data for weather warnings and forecasts, including forecasts of severe weather events.”

The full House is scheduled to take up the bill as soon as Wednesday. The amounts listed above are still subject to 5% cuts from sequestration, as the CR does not address the deficit reduction requirements of the Budget Control Act.

61 comments to House full-year continuing resolution offers something for SLS and Commercial Crew supporters

  • JimNobles

    The FY13 CR numbers for commercial aren’t that shabby. I bet NASA finds a way to funnel as much money as they can into commercial crew. They know a winner when they see it. I am encouraged.

  • Robert G. Oler

    There is going to be commercial crew and I would be surprised if it is not in the 2015 or 14 time frame…the GOP will get beat like a drum if they stop commercial crew in faavor or SLS or Orion or some other non performing program…and besides Commercial crew is Happening and SLS/Orion is dying RGO

    • JimNobles

      .
      “…the GOP will get beat like a drum if they stop commercial crew in faavor or SLS or Orion or some other non performing program…”

      I expect the GOP to support commercial crew more and more as they get educated about it and the companies involved keep getting stuff done. And once the GOP sobers up and realizes that just because Bronco Bama likes a program it doesn’t necessarily mean the program is bad. I think the GOP will act more and more like adults now that the hysteria is flattening out.

      • Coastal Ron

        JimNobles said:

        I expect the GOP to support commercial crew more and more as they get educated about it and the companies involved keep getting stuff done.

        One indication of that was the recent visit to SpaceX headquarters by Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham. They even had their pictures taken with Elon Musk and Gwynne Shotwell.

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “The $525 million for Commercial Crew is what the Senate had included in its previous FY13 appropriations bill… Wolf had agreed to support funding for the program at or near the Senate’s level… The increase in SLS funding isn’t explained; even with the increase, it falls well short of the $2.64 billion authorized for the program in the 2010 NASA Authorization Act.”

    We know exactly what reviews and milestone payments the extra $119 million for commercial crew buys. But there is still no coherent understanding of what the extra $260 million buys back for SLS. A test? A milestone? A capability? When we are boosting the latter by twice the amount of the former, why isn’t the SLS held to the same standard?

    And what is the optimal funding level for SLS and MPCV? Does MPCV really need $1,200 million exactly? Or is that just a nice, round number that covers the workforce with some fat added on top? And how can SLS remain a viable development project, regardless of whether it’s funded at $2,640 million, $2,119 million, or $1,860 million level? How can a project keep its schedule and content intact and unchanged, even with a 30% cut? Is the SLS project really that fat and bloated? Or is there no NASA management insight on SLS at all?

    Even setting aside how expensive and duplicative they are, SLS and MPCV have got to be better managed (or just managed at all).

  • Coastal Ron

    It sure seems that someone (or a number of someones) in the House Appropriations Committee likes Commercial Crew. Lavishing a higher percentage of restored funding to Commercial Crew than what they are trying to give the SLS… is this the start of a trend?

  • Fred Willett

    It’s not SLS vs. Commercial Crew. NASA clearly wants to do both.
    They see Commercial Crew as a short term need and SLS as a long term investment. So they fund both as best they can.
    Too many people in the blogosphere see it as an either or contest. It’s not. At least not to NASA. They seriously see the need for both.
    If I, and others think that there is a better way forward than SLS doesn’t matter. The guys in NASA making the decisions only know one way. The NASA way. The big rocket way. Saturn V Redux. So that’s the path they’re on.
    If, as I suspect, NASA is bypassed by Commercial in the next few years then, and only then, will SLS be dropped.

    • Robert G. Oler

      Fred Willett
      March 5, 2013 at 12:13 am · Reply

      It’s not SLS vs. Commercial Crew. >>

      it is actually. SLS/Orion are going nowhere; they are roads to a lot of money being spent for zero capabilities…and all that money could really do a lot of things in terms of building a space future for the US if it were invested correctly.

      It is a moment of carrier vrs battleship… RGO

      • DCSCA

        “all that money could really do a lot of things in terms of building a space future for the US if it were invested correctly.”

        Try pitching that to private capital. LOL

    • Coastal Ron

      Fred Willett said:

      It’s not SLS vs. Commercial Crew. NASA clearly wants to do both.

      Oh sure, some in NASA want the SLS.

      But the Administration didn’t want to build an HLV at this point, and since they are in charge of running NASA, that counts for something.

      And as far as SLS vs Commercial Crew, Commercial Crew satisfies a current need whereas the SLS doesn’t satisfy any known or funded need, so it could be argued that the SLS is keeping us dependent on Russia for access to space – can American defend that?

      Too many people in the blogosphere see it as an either or contest.

      Really I see it as “look at all the stuff we can’t do because Congress is forcing NASA to build the SLS”.

      They seriously see the need for both.

      Seriously? No.

      But there is hope that Congress will not only keep funding the SLS, but maybe someday (fingers crossed) Congress might even fund some sort of big exploration program that will use the SLS.

      Those that understand the money side of the political equation know that the SLS is an unfunded mandate for NASA, and it is spending far too early before it is needed. Just look at the $2.5B MSL and the $8B JWST programs, both of which can be lifted by an Atlas V – how the heck is NASA going to be able to afford two SLS-sized payloads every year for a decade? Like I said, those that understand money know the SLS will never get used enough to be worthwhile.

    • Neil Shipley

      Where is the NASA mission for the SLS? Why does it need both? It clearly needs Commercial Crew since it has no capability to provide that service at present nor into the future other than through this program. But SLS? Why does that exist? There’s no funded mission for it. There’s also no likelihood of a funded mission based on the cost of just building and launching the vehicle.

      Is NASA leadership stupid? Do they not see the glaringly obvious? Are they just going along with Congress simply because they’ve been directed to build the monster rocket? Seems like it to me.

      No one inside or outside NASA or Congress has yet been able to clearly articulate a mission for the beast. The nearest I’ve heard is a ‘jobs program’.

    • JimNobles

      If I, and others think that there is a better way forward than SLS doesn’t matter. The guys in NASA making the decisions only know one way. The NASA way. The big rocket way. Saturn V Redux. So that’s the path they’re on.

      To be fair the SLS, design and all, was pretty much forced on NASA by Congress. I’m sure that many in NASA are happy that they have been ordered to produce the Heavy Lifter that they have always wanted but the design and even the production time-scale might be very different if they’d just been told to come up with the design themselves. Maybe. Not really trying to take up for them though…

    • DCSCA

      “It’s not SLS vs. Commercial Crew. NASA clearly wants to do both.”

      More like they have to– at leasr until the ISS is put out of its fiscal misery and splashed.

  • Simon Cooper

    Where is the Administration in all of this? Obama said in 2010 that there would be no HLV, and Orion would only be kept as an LEO backup to commercial crew (and that was a reluctant concession).

    There seems to have been no fight back against Congressional pork since then.

    • JimNobles

      Where is the Administration in all of this? Obama said in 2010 that there would be no HLV, and Orion would only be kept as an LEO backup to commercial crew (and that was a reluctant concession).

      The conventional wisdom seems to be that SLS was part of a compromise to get other things, including commercial cargo and crew. In other words, it was politics.

    • Robert G. Oler

      “Where is the Administration in all of this? ”

      Obama has seemingly gone back into “Uncle Fuddy” mode (apologies to TWest Wing) or as a friend from the Dean For America days calls this particular mode of his “Poo head”

      Part of this is the basic and underlying weakness of the Administration and The President, he has no real vision of what he wants to do with the country…

      What should be happening now at NASA HQ is that they should be putting together a “plan” to move toward a budget without SLS/Orion…There are lots of different ideas out there, you since that someone at NASA (Maybe zounds Garver of all people) has the outlines of one with the Bigelow announcement she had.

      But it should be a plan about “what NASA does”…for all I know they are working on it but evidence remains small. RGO

      • DCSCA

        “Where is the Administration in all of this? ” “Obama has seemingly gone back into “Uncle Fuddy” mode (apologies to TWest Wing)… ” mused RGO

        You don’t get it. Obama put space in the out box back when he made his speech at KSC several years ago. As far aas this president is concerned, its off his desk and off the agenda as well. Expectations of any exciting space initiatives from the Obama Administration, Term 2, rank with the chances of a manned Drgon mission next week— ZERO. Look to Hillary in her first term to set a fresh course in space. She has a personal interest in it. Obama does not.

        • Robert G. Oler

          Expectations of any exciting space initiatives from the Obama Administration, Term 2″

          I am not looking for “exciting”…I grew out of “exciting” in terms of space policy in my 20′s when I figured out how NASA was floundering with the shuttle…what I am looking for is “coherent” in terms of strategery.

          We need to break that national space industrial complex, we need to break the notion that human spaceflight is a 100 billion dollar adventure for a few select government employees…we need to break the notion of “exploration” as some kind of geopolitical circus.

          I really dont want a President that has a “personal interest”…because what that translates to is another goofy show like Apollo or the space station program. RGO

          • DCSCA

            “We need to break that national space industrial complex.”- dreams RGO

            Thst’s not going to happen given its proximity to national defense and DoD.

            “I really dont want a President that has a “personal interest”…”

            Space enthusiasts would welcome it. Beats basketball.

            “we need to break the notion that human spaceflight is a 100 billion dollar adventure for a few select government employees…”

            Then fly someone.

            And it’s really not, anyway. The entire nation goes along for the qdventuer- and the ride– and in color, too. And reap the benefits. It’snot about the spaceflights but what it brings to the society that does it.

            “we need to break the notion of “exploration” as some kind of geopolitical circus.”

            Except it is. There’s no other way to sell it. As Frank Borman said, “Anybody who thinks Apollo was about exploration is nuts. It was about beating the Russians.” Spaceflight, manned ot unmanned, in this era will always be about projecting economic and political power on Earth. That’s where the peole and industries are– not in space.

            • Robert G. Oler

              DCSCA
              March 6, 2013 at 7:25 am · Reply

              If you really believe the sentiments in that post then there is little to do with you. People (including me) hold the darndest opinions but the measure of those is if they are based in fact and all that post is is opinion sort of stuck in the Frank Borman mindset of the Apollo program.

              I did find this point at least “entertaining”

              “Spaceflight, manned ot unmanned, in this era will always be about projecting economic and political power on Earth.”

              It was firmly rooted in that during the Apollo era and like the civil war “bloody” shirt it has been brought out, sometimes with geniune sentiment, in terms of programs after that; but like the civil war “bloody shirt” or Mr. Bush’s “terror” it is just that; a symbol.

              The problem is particularly since Apollo is that the programs carried forward on “national prestige” have 1) slowly stopped performing at all and 2) even if built (shuttle/station) have so far generated almost nothing in value for their cost…OTHER THEN moments of “national pride” …and really even those are overwhelmed by national dispair over fiascos

              So now people, I guess like you, say “wow is because we are stuck in LEO…as if that makes any difference. If NASA could actually put together some ACTUAL program to go beyond LEO it would be interesting to see how much “excitment” it would raise.

              But in any event the power these things have as geo political interest are low. I take it you dont travel much now. I do. The American or Chinese or Russian or anything human spaceflight program is a non event outside the countries who are spending the bucks…The Chinese flight to their “station” got large press in China but almost none outside that, even in Asia

              Where there is geo political interest is in the GOP …which is stuck sort of like you in the 60′s…F-35/SLS/Orion/large carrier programs etc all excite the increasingly zenophobic wing of the GOP because to them, these project power; even though they are only programs…not actual “things”

              RGO

              • DCSCA

                I take it you dont travel much now. I do. The American or Chinese or Russian or anything human spaceflight program is a non event outside the countries who are spending the bucks.

                THis is just silly. Its not the spaceflights but the technologies that make them a reality which hold value. Unless something chaged overnight, the PRC is still red; and literally taking one step back to make two steps forward, right before your eyes, al the time buying from the West (or more recently hacking and swiping) the very ‘rope’ by which they’ll hang them.

                “If NASA could actually put together some ACTUAL program to go beyond LEO it would be interesting to see how much “excitment” it would raise.”

                It’s not NASA’s job to do that. THat leadership comes from the WH. and the only person who has posted any pleasure in being locked in LEO ops, is you— and NewSpacers overjoyed bt the Magnidfied Importance of Diminished Vision.

            • Robert G. Oler

              THis is just silly. Its not the spaceflights but the technologies that make them a reality which hold value. ”

              wow, that is on par with the “logic” used by Bush43 and his band of nitwits to justify going to war in Iraq…

              There is not a single “aggregate” technology (or more correctly capability) that has come out of NASA HSF that has value anywhere near the cost…

              Had the group that wanted to try and privatize the shuttle system pulled it off we might be having some debate where you could use some facts; but from Mercury to Apollo to Shuttle and to some extent even to station the “aggregate” technologies that came out of NASA HSF are shunned by everyone (including other governments) in large measure because they are unaffordable.

              there are NASA aggregate technologies which have become “worth their cost”; the geo com satellite is one such example…But even there at the end of the ATS system they were pulling a tad far ahead of technology/cost…ATS6 while a massive success was simply to expensive (mostly that was the fault of how expensive the Titan III had gotten) to be a template for technology transfer…at least at that stage of teh market.

              Not even the individual parts of Mercury-Station have proved cost for value.

              And in SLS/Orion there is no “technology”…its all old stuff nothing really new…

              You cannot point to a single example that makes your statement quoted above factual.

              as for ” Unless something chaged overnight, the PRC is still red; and literally taking one step back to make two steps forward, ”

              hard to see your point there, the Chinese are mostly using Russian space and military technology at least what can be seen on display…and all nations take a few steps in progress and some in retrograde.

              The US was moving forward under Clinton and spent 8 years with a wrecking ball.. RGO

      • DCSCA

        “What should be happening now at NASA HQ is that they should be putting together a “plan” to move toward a budget without SLS/Orion.” wondered RGO.

        Won’t happen, Robert. It’s a geo-political strategy for the United States. And its jobs. The nation is not going to relinquish a HL project of scale to any private business venture any more than it would turn over USN ops to Carnival Cruise.

        • Dark Blue Nine

          “It’s a geo-political strategy for the United States.”

          What “geo-political [sic] strategy” does SLS address? What are the goals of this strategy, what is the plan, and how does SLS fulfill this plan? Where is this strategy laid out in a White House policy document or speech?

          “The nation is not going to relinquish a HL project of scale to any private business venture”

          We are and do. The Delta IV Heavy, the only existing heavy lift capability in the entire U.S. inventory (military, commercial, and civil), was turned over to a joint venture of Boeing and Lockheed Martin called United Launch Alliance.

          • DCSCA

            “The nation is not going to relinquish a HL project of scale to any private business venture”

            “We are and do.”

            Not for HSF– which is the focus of this discussion.

            • ChrisB

              Keep moving the goalposts.

            • Coastal Ron

              DCSCA moaned:

              Not for HSF– which is the focus of this discussion.

              The U.S. Government, and NASA, entrust the design, manufacture and operations of their hardware to “private business ventures” all the time.

              When was the last time NASA actually built and flew something?

              NASA is a contracting agency, meaning that it is a funnel for government dollars to “private business ventures”. In return those “private business ventures” provide products and services – this is pretty standard stuff.

              For instance, NASA relied on Rockwell International to design and build the Shuttle, and then relied on Boeing (who bought Rockwell International) and Lockheed Martin to operate the Shuttle.

              The only question here is when does “space exploration” become a contracted service instead of a government-led activity? JPL is a contracted R&D Center, and they pretty run the whole Mars rover program – NASA is just the customer. The lines are already blurry.

              But the bottom line here is that Congress has not funded any “projects of scale” for HSF exploration. None. Nada. ZERO.

              All they have partially funded is a gigantic rocket and a very limited capsule to use for local “trips”. But no trips beyond development, and they are already late on funding any immediate uses of the SLS after it’s ready to fly for real.

        • Justin Kugler

          Never heard of the United States Merchant Marine or the DoD Commercial Airlift program, I guess.

          • Coastal Ron

            Justin, DCSCA doesn’t like it when reality impinges on his surreality… ;-)

            It’s pretty obvious that he is completely unaware that the DoD/NRO stopped using NASA to get their precious cargo to space decades ago, and that they rely 100% on “private business ventures”.

            In fact, the Air Force is even telling SpaceX how they can get DoD/NRO launch business, so using “private business ventures” is engrained in the actual agencies that have real payloads. That would include NASA too, since every mission that leaves Earth does so on a “private business venture” launcher.

            • DCSCA

              Justin, DCSCA doesn’t like it when reality impinges on his surreality…

              On the contrary Ron. There are far too many space programs– what— five or six and what ever dark budgets are operating. Consiolidating them all under one agency would make a lot of sense and save billions. But if want to believe that private firms like Space X are going to surplant United States government space ops- particularly in HSF, go for it. It makes for nice sandbox play until the big, bad PRC makes its move to Luna. But then, americans mostly likely will yawn as they dally further and further behind as China hallmarks this century as their own.

              • Coastal Ron

                DCSCA blathered:

                Consiolidating them all under one agency would make a lot of sense and save billions.

                The problem with most stuff you say is that it is not connected to any substantial evidence that makes it plausible. This is another example of that.

                The Air Force does not want to take over NASA, and no one wants NASA to be militarized.

                It’s amazing how out of touch you are on this.

                But then, americans mostly likely will yawn as they dally further and further behind as China hallmarks this century as their own.

                You are nuts. First of all, China, from whom YOU buy lots of products, is not our enemy.

                Secondly, the Chinese are still using Soviet designs and are having trouble building the type of rocket we mastered decades ago.

                Lastly, I welcome China’s participation in a peaceful expansion out into space. If we’re going to expand humanity out into space, it won’t be through the funding NASA’s meager budget provides, it needs to be from the money that many people, companies, and countries provide. The more the merrier.

  • Ben Russell-Gough

    I think that the unthinkable has happened – they’ve reached the bottom of the NASA funding barrel. Simply put, it is not possible to take more money from the NASA budget without actually eroding capability, cancelling projects and cancelling active missions, something that no-one in Congress is willing to be seen advocating (the ‘Closing the Washington Monument’ metaphor applies).

    We might thus have seen the end of major cuts to NASA unless the political climate changes enough that major projects are cancelled to free up cash for other stuff outside the agency.

    • amightywind

      Simply put, it is not possible to take more money from the NASA budget without actually eroding capability

      There hasn’t been any reform of NASA at all. Little do these budget negotiations resemble an effective restructuring in the private sector. There is a lot of capability in NASA (ISS experiments come to mind) that deserve eroding.

  • vulture4

    Cross Agency Support supports hundreds of small technology development projects that are actually of practical value to the country. SLS supports one launch vehicle with limited application.

    • Warringer

      A HLV at that that can be replaced by a HLV that has its maiden flight this year if all works well, the Falcon Heavy.

      Okay sure the Falcon Heavy has only about half the lift capacity of the SLS, but you can get several Falcons for a single SLS…

      • DCSCA

        “Okay sure the Falcon Heavy has only about half the lift capacity of the SLS, but you can get several Falcons for a single SLS…”

        Except SLSW is a geo-olitical strategy for the United States. Falcon is just a business venture. The U.S. is not going to let HL cpability be dependent on a private firm. If that was the mindset of national policy, then we’d let Carnival Cruise operate the USN.

        • JimNobles

          The U.S. is not going to let HL cpability be dependent on a private firm.

          Yes, they certainly will. For the same reasons they get their fighter aircraft, aircraft carriers, and other critically important equipment from the private sector now. The Department of Defense does not build fighter aircraft or aircraft carriers, it buys them. That’s the way it is going with launchers. It’s just that some people are having a hard time dealing with the concept.

          And fighter aircraft and aircraft carriers are indeed creatures of geo-polical heritage.

        • Robert G. Oler

          Except SLSW is a geo-olitical strategy for the United States. ”

          as my two year 11 month daughter says “why”?

          ” The U.S. is not going to let HL cpability be dependent on a private firm. ”

          it is right now. Boeing is struggling with the task, something that they say now will take another 30 billion dollars to complete…starting “now”

          Robert G. Oler

        • Coastal Ron

          DCSCA whined:

          Except SLSW is a geo-olitical strategy for the United States.

          Wrong, wrong, wrong. Not at ALL!

          The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) and the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) would NEVER entrust the safety of the United States to NASA again, not after the failures of the Shuttle.

          The DoD and NRO are quite happy with the Delta IV Heavy, and there is nothing in the pipeline that ULA can’t handle for the defense of the U.S.

          The SLS is not even a consideration for the defense of the U.S., which is the only way it could be considered part of your supposed “geo-olitical strategy”.

          Again and again we have asked you for some morsel of detail to defend this stupid idea, but all you do is repeat it like some mechanical monkey. Provide some details, or take the proper medication to stop this incessant utterance…

        • Dark Blue Nine

          “Except SLSW is a geo-olitical strategy for the United States.”

          What “geo-olitical [sic] strategy” does “SLSW [sic]” address? What are the goals of this strategy, what is the plan, and how does SLS fulfill this plan? Where is this strategy laid out in a White House policy document or speech?

          “The U.S. is not going to let HL cpability be dependent on a private firm.”

          We are and do. The Delta IV Heavy, the only current heavy lift capability in the entire U.S. inventory (military, commercial, and civil), is run by a joint venture of Boeing and Lockheed Martin called United Launch Alliance.

    • NeilShipley

      Make that no application!

  • josh

    more than 3 billion *per year* in pork spending, 500 million for a program that actually delivers results. institutionalized corruption.

  • MattW

    Great to hear that commercial crew gets enough funding restored to put it back on course. I’m not real happy about pulling $250 million out of ISS and throwing it at the SLS. What exactly does that get us?

    • DCSCA

      I’m not real happy about pulling $250 million out of ISS and throwing it at the SLS. What exactly does that get us?

      Out of the space station faster and on to bigger and beter things after it spashes and commercial is leeft with its obsolete LEO grocery trucks.

      • Neil Shipley

        Yep. I agree, the ISS is just a waste of space. Look at fruit, oh and the experiments that have been delivered by the ‘commercial’ vehicle, the SpaceX Dragon and the ones coming back home. Just a waste I say. :)

      • Dark Blue Nine

        “Out of the space station faster and on to bigger and beter things”

        What “bigger and beter [sic] things”? Is this money going to be spent on a lunar, asteroid, or Mars mission? Is some SLS or MPCV milestone or capability going to be accelerated or enhanced?

        If not, it’s just more hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars down the SLS/MPCV drain with no explanation.

      • Gregori

        No money for those things in the “age of austerity”

  • vulture4

    Whether human spaceflight is viable longterm is not yet clear. But if we cannot make human spaceflight practical in LEO, we cannot make it practical on the moon, where costs are much higher. If the ISS is abandoned we will not be stuck in LEO. We will be stuck on the ground.

  • Robert G. Oler

    I would note this about “public opinion”

    In large measure I think that people have stopped being interested in NASA human (and other really) spaceflight for a variety of reasons…not the least of which is that this is not the 60′s and gee whiz technology is a lot of places…but I think that NASA has simply “priced itself” out of the excitement market.

    I think that the Mars effort by Dennis Tito if it goes will have not a constant day to day excitment factor but I think it will have a solid excitement failure.

    In “NASA World” failure (meaning risk of death) is generally a result of NASA incompetence…Challenger/Columbia are not about pushing back new frontiers but the violation of management procedures over 50 years old.

    Tito’s effort has a certain “risk” to it…if it goes I give it under a 50 percent chance of folks returning alive…and it is done “on a budget” so its low margin. And the effort is “novel”…its a rearch; sort of Hillary climbing the big mountain…

    But most important it is the personal drama of risk/reward.

    There is none of that in NASA HSF anymore and when you spend 60 billion on SLS/Orion it darn sure should be correct.

    RGO

    • Neil Shipley

      Hi Robert. Interested to understand how you calculated the odds. To me, the risk factors are really the human technical ones: radiation protection and recycling with hardware failure the next. The actual orbital mechanics etc, pose less risk as they’re well known. This is of course, a completely back of the envelope guess with my only experience being an intense interest in all aspects of spaceflight.
      Cheers.

      • Robert G. Oler

        Neil. I have not done much more then a “back of the envelope” deal either but how I came to my “under 50″ was looking at anything that could be mitigated against which would if not mitigated against kill them outright. And which “defense in depth” of either systems or whatever might be hard on a “the cheap”.

        In order I think its solar radiation (ie the sun just throws off a big one…what was that movie/book oh yeah “Space” and there is simply inadequate “stuff” to mitigate); a life support issue; some sort of space “debris” issue (a larger version of what hit Mariner IV at end of life), and finally some sort of just “random chance operating against them” something like a propulsion failure, TPS issue on reentry etc…

        Otherwise…you know commercial comsats whose “stuff” works for multiple decades so a just blatant systems failure seems unlikely; but those things above are hard to mitigate against on “the cheap”…but the interesting thing is that to mitigate them to a reasonable level of safety is probably a massive chunk of change.

        They could probably spend another 1/2 billion and up the odds a tad…for instance a little bit more money and they might carry a little more “bottled life support” this gives them time to solve more issues…

        but that takes some more mass so they would need a little more propulsion…it flimbs fast.

        but I doubt that they could for any reasonable amount of money get it better then 70 percent…and that is probably about what the Mayflower folks had going for them…or in the early days climbing Everest or the US submarine fleet pre WW2…

        and that is one of the reasons I think it will generate a lot of PR and also some good results…There is a certain amount of risk with immature technology UNLESS you either dont push the technology or spend a lot of money.

        NASA in my view spends far to much money to run up to the last 9 in the reliability range…all the while negating that with bad management decisions. They are almost (with SLS and Orion) coming to the notion of “never go to sea”…

        It is about like flying on the Falcon9 now… RGO

        • NeilShipley

          Good response. I know that SpaceX have gone down the road of developing their systems and hardware such that rather than try to eliminate the possibility of failure, they’ve designed them to be resilient to failure. A significantly different and so far successful strategy vis a vis NASA. Under this strategy, I’d ride F9.

          • Robert G. Oler

            NeilShipley
            March 8, 2013 at 9:42 am · Reply

            Good response. I know that SpaceX have gone down the road of developing their systems and hardware such that rather than try to eliminate the possibility of failure, they’ve designed them to be resilient to failure>

            Yes…

            NASA has so fracked up “reliability” notions with their “fabled MC” analysis that they have 1) made spaceflight so expensive, 2 limited badly what they can do and 3) started listening to it instead of what the vehicle is trying to tell them.

            If NASA had run MC analysis on either Lindbergh’s flight or Earhart’s or any of the other “flights” aviation would still be waiting for the Wright brothers or someone to “beat the odds”.

            Lindbergh went single engine because he knew that even two engine if one motor failed it was end of mission, he didnt take any survival gear because if the motor failed it didnt matter…no navigation gear other then a compass because there was none that he could use and Europe was big. Lindbergh pushed for reliability in the motor.

            Earhart needed the range that a twin would give her so she amped up to a twin, but the rest of it is pretty same except; the Pacific is bigger then the land masses…so she needed help finding Howland,. They had a mitigation for that they worked up some beacon from the USCG…now that didnt work but it could have and had it worked, she would have found Howland. Noonan got her very very close; maybe within 20 miles.

            So the trick is to focus on things for real reliability that you cannot replace or at least try and find things to mitigate their failure while you fix them …you try and mitigate all the things you cannot control (low sun cycle; maybe some sort of “safe house” for modest exceptions)…but in the end you have to accept “end of mission” as a possible scenario if you WANT TO PUSH THE LIMIT.

            A fun time always can be had in “safety discussions” when you ask NASA people if they have run MC analysis (they have) on John Glenn’s first flight or the Apollo 11 mission…or ask them if they had run it on Challenger or Columbia’s last mission …problem is that they have replaced understanding risk with MC analysis.

            Risk always has to be balanced against reward …driving is safe it is…but I dont like to drive when there is bad weather (because of how other people drive) and in Houston particularly snow…the odds go up enormously in things you cannot control…so the rewards have to be good. It is not likely even in snow that I’ll be in a fatal but the odds go up so the reward needs to be “great”.

            I think that the Mars people will likely achieve a nice mix on that…but the risk will still be high…they are pushing the limit.

            Finally this morning we followed the usual routine and before the sun came up our Daughter came into our bedroom and spent her “tent time” with us…well she is very athletic very strong and has started to do some “tumbling” with her body…she has even done back rollovers from a standing sit…today just sitting on the bed, she did one and rolled right off the bed….my wife and I both lunged for her but she was very fast and went right over and landed on the floor on her feet.

            there is always risk in life…as you say “they’ve designed them to be resilient to failure”

            LOL RGO

  • NeilShipley

    Of course, you’d need some luck as well but on that note, fortune favours the brave, but not the foolhardy. I’d hope that IM is more the former than the latter.

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