Congress, NASA

NASA to Congress: don’t “pour money” into NEO programs

Events like last month’s Russian meteor and close approach by asteroid 2012 DA14—coincidental but taking place just hours apart—raised public awareness in the potential threats posed by near Earth objects (NEOs). It would also seem to be an opportunity for NASA in particular to seek additional funding to support its NEO detection efforts, which are lagging behind Congressionally-mandated goals for discovering these objects. Yet, at a hearing Tuesday on the issue by the House Science Committee, NASA administrator Charles Bolden seemed to downplay the threat and ask that additional money not be allocated to NEO programs—at least not at the expense of other NASA programs.

“We could come out of this hearing and decide that we really want to pour money into NEO detection and characterization, and that would not be the right thing to do,” Bolden said. He instead supported the overall 2013 budget request for NASA, which he said is “striking that proper balance” among the agency’s priorities.

Bolden’s rationale was that NEO impacts large enough to pose a threat were rare events. “The probability of any sizable NEO impacting Earth any time in the next 100 years is extremely remote,” he said in his opening statement. While citing several times NASA’s NEO detection and characterization efforts, he also noted NASA’s work on Orion and Space Launch System that will enable a human mission to an asteroid by 2025, something that he said also could also help in understanding asteroid impact mitigation activities.

“This is not an issue that we should worry about in the near term,” Bolden said late in the hearing. “We have a lot of work to do, but the funding that is presently laid out in the president’s budget is sufficient to get us there incrementally. We just have to move that plan forward.”

However, Bolden also admitted that current funding provided to NASA for its NEO work ($20.5 million in FY2012, up from just $4 million a few years earlier) was not sufficient to achieve the goal in NASA’s 2005 authorization act to discover 90 percent of the NEOs at least 140 meters in diameter by 2020. “At the present budget levels—and not the going-down budget levels—it will be 2030 before we can reach the 90-percent level as prescribed by Congress,” he said.

Bolden and presidential science advisor John Holdren mentioned several times NASA’s relationship with the B612 Foundation, the non-profit group raising money for a space telescope to look for NEOs, but did not directly advocate that NASA either help fund that mission or develop a similar mission. Bolden said that were NASA to develop such a mission it would cost about $750 million (B612 is estimating its Sentinel mission will cost about $500 million.)

Holdren, citing a 2010 National Academies report on NASA’s NEO search program, did suggest a significant increase in spending on NEO search efforts to reach the Congressional goal sooner. “I think we would want to be spending upwards of $100 million a year” on detection and characterization efforts, he said.

The chairman of the committee, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), appeared receptive to proposals to spend more on NEO programs. “That’s not particularly reassuring,” he said after Bolden said it would be 2030 to reach the 140-meter-class NEO detection goal. “Maybe we can can help you out with the budget.” However, he earlier warned that Congress wouldn’t write a blank check for this. “I do not believe that NASA is going to somehow defy budget gravity and get an increase when everyone else is getting cuts,” he said. “But we need to find ways to prioritize NASA’s projects and squeeze as much productivity as we can out of the funds we have.”

73 comments to NASA to Congress: don’t “pour money” into NEO programs

  • amightywind

    For once Bolden is right. There are no large objects that will stroke in the next few decades. NEO detection funding should be reduced to a very modest level. This nation must not let natural scientists of all stripes succeed at their fear mongering and extortion.

    • Ben Russell-Gough

      AW, the point is we DON’T know there are no threatening objects. The meteor that hit Russia recently went undetected until it dropped out of a clear blue sky. 2012 DA14 (as the name suggests) was only seen on its previous close approach to Earth because of dedicated searchers. The simple fact is that, without constant vigilance, there WILL one day be a mass-casualty meteor event and the politicians ought to hope that, when it happens, they aren’t shrugging and saying: “Hey! All the experts said we didn’t need to look!”

      IMHO, Bolden’s real problem is that NASA doesn’t have the institutional flexibility to handle a new priority being suddenly dropped in their laps. He’s barely got the existing programs rolling along in such a way as they don’t immediately fall apart as soon as his eye is off of them for a second. The last thing he needs is for Congress to be swept along by the winds of recent news and start changing all the agency’s priorities… again… with all the disruption and delays that inevitably brings.

      • amightywind

        The Russia meteor strike was minuscule. There is no way it could have ever been prevented. This is the kind of phony security that so many in the natural sciences now peddle. I am not opposed to modest efforts to catalog NEOs. This have scientific merit and relevance to manned exploration in their own right.

        • MattW

          A lot of injuries could have been prevented had the meteor been known about in advance.

          • amightywind

            The question is how much is that worth to a US tax payer? Detection of am object of that small size with hours if notice is a technological stretch. Also, the funding of such an effort should be global, weighted by a country’s surface area. I am open to Russia paying the US for such a service.

            • Ferris Valyn

              What would the insurances costs be for an asteroid strike like what happened in Russia happened over New York?

              Or over a military base

              • amightywind

                Low, because the probability of a strike is very low. You don’t see any impact craters in Central Park, do you? There are insurers who would take that bet.

            • MattW

              I think it’s worth a lot, actually, but I’ll admit that I don’t know how much it would cost to develop the capability to detect objects of that size. As a resident of the United States I’d much prefer that the threat detection be owned by the Air Force rather than the UN. If we find a space rock hurtling towards a foreign city, we get to be the nice guys for once and warn them about it. But that’s the kind of country I want to live in and clearly we all want different things.

        • Grandpa Dave

          AW,
          Brue Willis and a team of blue-collar deep-core drillers have experience in NEOs. In 1998 they flew a Space Shuttle mission and intercepted a huge asteroid. But I believe Mr. Willis did not return. My memory escapes me.
          G-pa

  • Dark Blue Nine

    The Administration’s position doesn’t make sense. If the White House and NASA are serious about the human NEO 2025 goal, then they should be hotly pursuing NEO detection and characterization efforts. They’re in need of targets, they need have an understanding those targets before a human rendezvous, and they don’t have a lot of time to obtain either. This is irrespective of the NEO threat to Earth.

    Redirecting a very small amount of funds from SLS/MPCV (and possibly leveraging those resources with B612 resources if they get private funding) would open up a lot of possibilities for, or even fundamentally enable, the Administration’s human NEO 2025 goal, while also meeting the Congressional NEO threat detection deadline.

    If the White House and NASA actually want to do exploration and useful things with human space programs, they should be accelerating NEO detection and characterization efforts, not defending a status quo which doesn’t meet Congressional NEO threat detection deadlines and doesn’t provide SLS/MPCV with useful targets.

    • joe

      If your second paragraph read:

      Redirecting a very small amount of funds from “Commercial Crew” (and possibly leveraging those resources with B612 resources if they get private funding) would open up a lot of possibilities for, or even fundamentally enable, the Administration’s human NEO 2025 goal, while also meeting the Congressional NEO threat detection deadline.

      Would you still support your own proposition?

      • libs0n

        Jurisdiction, Joe. He’s making a specific correlation between the results of NEO mapping and the objectives of the exploration program. Mapping efforts help determine suitable locations for a human asteroid mission; this benefit overlaps with the NEO threat topic. That’s relevant for the exploration program(SLS+Orion), but has absolutely nothing to do with something like the ISS program, which is what Commercial Crew is for. The ISS program has a different programmatic jurisdiction.

        It’s like saying the Constellation program should fund LRO+LCROSS, a moon mapping probe. Saying “then would it not also be fair to make the Space Shuttle program pay for it”, would be off the mark. Mapping NEOs is relevant to stated goals of the exploration program, just like LRO+LCROSS were for the VSE.

      • Dark Blue Nine

        “If your second paragraph read:

        Redirecting a very small amount of funds from ‘Commercial Crew’

        Would you still support your own proposition?”

        Yes. Taking small amounts ($1Mx-$10x) for ground- or smallsat-based NEO detection (or as a contribution along with other government programs and/or philathropic efforts towards a deep space telescope) for planetary protection purposes is fine. It’s obviously important in the long run.

        But as libs0n already stated, that’s not the argument I made. SLS/MPCV don’t have a good target, or even list of good targets, to meet the 2025 NEO mission goal. If the Administration is serious about that goal, then they should redirect a small amount of SLS/MPCV funding toward a NEO detection and characterization effort to create a good target list. (And, coincidentally, such an effort would also contribute towards planetary defense.)

        Sequestration is taking hundreds of millions of dollars out of SLS/MPCV development and associated ground facilities with no discernible impact on SLS/MPCV schedule or content. These projects are so poorly managed that they have no programmatics. So the Administration should be comfortable redirecting another few million, tens of millions, or even hundreds of millions of dollars to obtain a list of NEO targets for the 2025 mission.

        There’s no reason not to, unless the Administration doesn’t care whether SLS ever launches towards, and MPCV ever visits, a NEO. And I think that’s the case. We’re about three years into SLS/MPCV, and there is no good target for the 2025 NEO mission, MPCV is thousands of pounds overweight while suffering test failures that will add mass, and SLS is billions behind budget. The White House is taking no action to fix any of this and has effectively given up on reforming, or even overseeing, NASA’s human space exploration development activities. To an extent, I don’t blame them. They have higher priorities to address with the President’s limited political capital in his second term. But I’m still disappointed that the Administration is letting SLS/MPCV drive over the cliff on autopilot for the next 3-4 years.

        I think that’s fundamentally wrong and a massive waste of taxpayer resources, especially in light of the Augustine report which recommended that the White House not do exactly what the White House is doing. Either the Administration (and Congress) need to do some very heavy lifting to fix SLS/MPCV, including an effort to find NEO targets for the 2025 mission, a massive infusion of billions of dollars, and new management for MPCV and the overall effort. Or they need to terminate these projects and start over. Or redirect the billions for SLS/MPCV to better managed and higher priorities elsewhere.

        My 2 cents…

        • amightywind

          SLS/MPCV don’t have a good target, or even list of good targets, to meet the 2025 NEO mission goal.

          Another lie. Lockmart has identified dozens of viable targets for manned NEO exploration. We all just need to get behind Obama’s exploration vision. Funny how no one took his speech at Kennedy Space Center seriously in 2010.

          • common sense

            All right. I missed the part when Lockheed Martin had become the US Government. So when did that happen?

          • Dark Blue Nine

            “Lockmart has identified dozens of viable targets”

            The list in that four year-old PowerPoint has only eight targets. Not “dozens”. Not even a dozen.

            One of those targets is “not feasible” under any conditions with Orion, so the list of “viable targets” is only seven. Not “dozens”. Not even a dozen. More like a half-dozen.

            And there are only four “viable targets” before 2025, which is the Administration’s deadline. Not “dozens”. Not even a dozen. Actually less than a half-dozen.

            And all of those “viable targets” are only viable in 2020 or earlier. Assuming no more delays, SLS/MPCV won’t launch with crew until 2021. That means that there are _zero_ “viable targets” between when SLS/MPCV is available for crewed flights and the Administration’s deadline of 2025. Not “dozens”. Not a “dozen”. Not even a half-dozen. Not even one. Zero.

            Now who’s lying?

            Read your own documents, think before you write, and stop wasting other posters’ time, nitwit.

            • amightywind

              Page 7 lists 23 targets. Like you say, that was 4 years ago. The number of available targets has only increased since then. So it is indeed dozens. Page 13 shows 8 launch opportunities between 2015 and 2030. There are 5 between now and 2025. Again, those can only have increased since the report was written.

              Read your own documents, think before you write, and stop wasting other posters’ time, nitwit.

              I have read them, enough to easily refute your foolish assertion.

              • Dark Blue Nine

                “Page 7 lists 23 targets.”

                Most of the NEOs lie outside the “Region of Accessible Orbits” on that graph. The number of viable targets within the “Region of Accessible Orbits” on that graph is nine, not 23.

                Learn how to read a graph, you dimwit.

                “Page 13 shows 8 launch opportunities between 2015 and 2030. There are 5 between now and 2025.”

                I already explained this to you above, but I’ll do it again.

                The “opportunity” in 2025 is “Not feasible” under any conditions according to that table. All the other “opportunities” occur in 2020 or earlier, years before SLS/MPCV is scheduled to fly its first crew under the best conditions (2021).

                Learn how to read a table, dimwit.

                “Like you say, that was 4 years ago. The number of available targets has only increased since then. So it is indeed dozens.”

                Evidence?

                Two years later, astronaut Tom Jones was still concerned about a lack of targets:

                “‘Right now we only have a few targets in our catalog. We need a lot more to provide us with maximum mission flexibility,’ former NASA astronaut Tom Jones said. ‘It’s time to get on with this search.’”

                http://www.space.com/11189-nasa-asteroid-choice-astronauts-deep-space.html

                Late last year, an independent report stated that bulk of NASA doesn’t care about the 2025 human NEO goal:

                “Despite isolated pockets of support for a human asteroid mission, the committee did not detect broad support for an asteroid mission inside NASA…”

                http://www.spacepolitics.com/2012/12/06/nrc-report-nasa-hasnt-made-the-case-for-a-human-asteroid-mission/

                NASA had a short list of candidate landing sites for the Mars Curiousity mission published years before that mission launched. A human NEO mission will need even more lead time. Where is NASA’s short list of candidate NEO target for a human mission between 2021 and 2025?

                And does the White House care whether such a list is ever compiled to meet their 2025 human NEO goal?

                Apparently not.

        • Hiram

          While the Augustine report indeed recommended not doing exactly what the White House is doing, the White House is doing it because Congress told them to do it. SLS (remember,”Senate Launch System”?) was NOT a White House endeavour. It’s in the budget because Congress is insisting that it be there.

          So I suspect that Obama’s policy toward the SLS is that it’s just not his problem. If SLS is going to crater, as a project, Congress can take responsibility for it. In fact, I think that’s exactly why the Administration hasn’t focused on SLS functionality.

          Yes, it’s fundamentally wrong, and a massive waste of taxpayer resources, but, hey, Congress is good at that. By the way, finding a NEO that SLS can be aimed at doesn’t make SLS any less fundamentally wrong or a waste of resources.

          So I think you’re right that, most probably, the Administration doesn’t care whether SLS ever launches toward a NEO. Congress might care. We’ll see. But congressional attention is now focused on NEOs as threats, and not as destinations.

        • red

          “There’s no reason not to, unless the Administration doesn’t care whether SLS ever launches towards, and MPCV ever visits, a NEO. And I think that’s the case. We’re about three years into SLS/MPCV, and there is no good target for the 2025 NEO mission, MPCV is thousands of pounds overweight while suffering test failures that will add mass, and SLS is billions behind budget. The White House is taking no action to fix any of this and has effectively given up on reforming, or even overseeing, NASA’s human space exploration development activities.”

          Of course we know the Administration had mixed success in fixing the Constellation debacle, succeeding in getting commercial crew, keeping ISS, restarting space technology a bit, keeping a gasp of robotic precursor work happening, and removing the pointless Ares I, but still getting stuck with Orion and the HLV. They probably figure they won’t succeed against the parochial Constellation interests, so we are stuck with Orion/SLS and therefore any NEO NASA mission in the next couple decades is impossible. But maybe the Administration could succeed this time if they don’t try to take on the whole Constellation force. The HLV interests might be too strong, but the MPCV interests alone might not be, so the Administration could take them on given Orion’s lack of progress after 8 years, excessive cost, and weight problems. After all, MPCV interests lost the Service Module.

          The Administration could propose shutting down MPCV, giving a chunk of MPCV funding to SLS to keep that political force happy.

          A chunk could be allocated to a COTS-style effort to improve upon MPCV functionality (e.g.: capsule, habitat module, etc, possibly working with the European SM if politically necessary) that could be launched on SLS, again keeping that force happy by giving it something to do, and gaining another set of political supporters for the change. That could also strengthen commercial crew if common systems or subsystems are used and funded, or if habitat capabilities for the COTS-like effort translate into new destinations for commercial crew.

          A chunk could be allocated to robotic precursor work like searching for and characterizing suitable NEOs for astronaut visits, giving an early reason for the BLEO HSF effort to exist, addressing the NEO planetary defense issue, and easing the pain of the Planetary Science budget cuts all at once (and thus gaining another political ally for the change). If some of this robotic precursor work took place at Goddard and MSFC as happened in the past, I imagine some powerful Senators wouldn’t mind.

          • Dark Blue Nine

            Going after MPCV alone is an interesting but likely fruitless strategy. To the extent that there are deals on the Hill between the Colorado delegation and the Alabama, Florida, Texas, and/or Utah delegations to have each other’s backs, pitting MPCV against SLS may not work. Even congressional staff will understand that it’s hard to justify SLS without MPCV and vice-versa.

            Therefore, I don’t think it’s enough just to redistribute MPCV funds (even some to SLS). It’s too easy for the SLS/MPCV delegations to put the MPCV budget back together as the dealmaking is limited to the NASA family of legislators. I think you’d have to significantly reduce NASA’s topline at the same time that MPCV is terminated in the President’s budget. Say cut NASA’s topline by half of what you save from terminating MPCV (and then redistribute the remaining half).

            With the current MPCV funding level of about a billion dollars per year, that would be over a half-billion dollar cut to the NASA topline, with a half-billion in savings to redistribute. Finding a half-billion dollars outside NASA would make it very difficult for the SLS/MPCV delegations to bring MPCV back. They would have a hard time justifying to the rest of Congress why something outside NASA has to be whacked by a half-billion in order to fund MPCV.

            Given the costs we’re seeing to augment Dragon in the Inspiration Mars baseline or the ridiculously low cost of adding the Bigelow test module to ISS, it’s reasonable to propose that COTS/CCDev capsules could be augmented for deep space missions for much less than half of the remaining MPCV funding. Put the rest into SLS competitors (EELV Phase 2 and/or Falcon Superheavy and a couple CryOTe flight tests), and you’d have the basis to terminate SLS within a year or two (if killing the only payload for SLS doesn’t do it for you).

            Honestly, though, it’s probably just best to rip the whole band-aid off at once. SLS, MPCV, and associated ground facilities are about $3 billion per year. Just terminate the whole thing, reduce NASA’s total budget by $1.5 billion per year, and redistribute the remaining $1.5 billion per year to CST-100/Dragon/SV mission modules, some HLV competition between EELV Phase 2 and Falcon Superheavy and whoever else shows up, CryOTe flight tests, landers/prox vehicles, robotic precursors, and some actual, fracking, human lunar or NEO missions.

            My 2 cents…

            • Coastal Ron

              Dark Blue Nine said:

              …and redistribute the remaining $1.5 billion per year to CST-100/Dragon/SV mission modules…

              Why not just build Nautilus-X and the Multi-Mission Space Exploration Vehicle (MMSEV)? They are supposed to be reusable, stay in space, and they are a lot more roomy than capsules.

              To me capsules really aren’t meant to be exploration vehicles, but transportation vehicles to/from Earth – and mainly to LEO, not beyond. Sure we can use them for beyond LEO if we don’t have any alternatives, which is why I think we should work on the better alternatives if we get the chance (and canceling the SLS & MPCV would be that chance).

              If we plan to expand our presence out into space, then we need to start focusing on making each part of the transportation system as efficient and low cost as possible.

              • Dark Blue Nine

                “Why not just build Nautilus-X”

                I’m very skeptical about the $3-4 billion development pricetag for Nautilus-X given the number of new technologies involved. I’d fund a technology program to demonstrate and knock down the technologies necessary for a go/no-go decision on whether to develop Nautilus-X. But I wouldn’t fund the decision to develop Nautilus-X, not yet.

                “and the Multi-Mission Space Exploration Vehicle (MMSEV)?”

                MMSEV is a prox ops vehicle for manuevering around and manipulating a NEO, deep space telescope, etc. It’s a nice-to-have, but it’s not necessary (EVAs are the alternative) and it won’t get you from Earth orbit to the target.

              • A M Swallow

                Dark Blue Nine wrote

                MMSEV is a prox ops vehicle for manuevering around and manipulating a NEO, deep space telescope, etc. It’s a nice-to-have, but it’s not necessary (EVAs are the alternative) and it won’t get you from Earth orbit to the target.

                The rover version of the MMSEV can be used as the cabin of Moon and Mars landers. The MMSEV drives off the lander’s ramp and goes exploring.

                Longer missions will require a second lander to deliver food, water, air and fuel.

              • Dark Blue Nine

                “The rover version of the MMSEV can be used as the cabin of Moon and Mars landers. The MMSEV drives off the lander’s ramp and goes exploring.”

                Also true. But in the context of human NEO missions, I’d still argue that it’s a nice-to-have (EVA equipment would probably cost lots less) and that it doesn’t get astronauts or MPCV from Earth orbit to the NEO.

                FWIW…

              • Coastal Ron

                Dark Blue Nine said:

                I’m very skeptical about the $3-4 billion development pricetag for Nautilus-X given the number of new technologies involved.

                I think it would be double that if NASA is the lead. It might be able to be done for around that if industry was a partner. But overall I agree with your point.

                I’d fund a technology program to demonstrate and knock down the technologies necessary for a go/no-go decision on whether to develop Nautilus-X.

                And I think that is really the point here, is that we can’t do that with the SLS elephant squeezing the life out of technology development.

                MMSEV is a prox ops vehicle for manuevering around and manipulating a NEO, deep space telescope, etc.

                Capsules today serve the role of a lifeboat on the ISS, but once you’re in deep space a lifeboat doesn’t have to get you back down to Earth, it just needs to sustain you long enough to get back to the closest transportation node, which could be an EML station. The MMSEV, or something like it, could perform the role of lifeboat in that situation.

              • A M Swallow

                Dark Blue Nine said:

                Also true. But in the context of human NEO missions, I’d still argue that it’s a nice-to-have (EVA equipment would probably cost lots less) and that it doesn’t get astronauts or MPCV from Earth orbit to the NEO.

                So what you want is an interplanetary transfer vehicle.
                * Refuellable with a delta-V of about 4.04 km/s when fully loaded including lander.
                * Space store-able main propellant and RCS propellant.
                * Avionics able to navigate in space.
                * Carries 3 years supply of food, water, air and clothing.
                * Accommodation for several people.
                * Access port for spacestation.
                * Access port to MMSEV or lander.

                Mission hardware such as MMSEV or lander.

              • Dark Blue Nine

                “So what you want is an interplanetary transfer vehicle.
                * Refuellable with a delta-V of about 4.04 km/s when fully loaded including lander.
                * Space store-able main propellant and RCS propellant.
                * Avionics able to navigate in space.
                * Carries 3 years supply of food, water, air and clothing.
                * Accommodation for several people.
                * Access port for spacestation.
                * Access port to MMSEV or lander.

                Mission hardware such as MMSEV or lander.”

                Maybe we’re talking past each other, but to be clear, I’m referring to this vehicle:

                http://www.nasa.gov/pdf/464826main_SEV_FactSheet_508.pdf

                Per that factsheet, MMSEV only supports a two-person crew for 14 days, not three years. And it only carries RCS propellant and engines, not main propellant or engine for significant delta-V.

                I’ve seen “MMSEV” also used to refer to Nautilus-X, which is an entirely different beast. My concern with Nautilus-X is not its capabilities, but the maturity of the underlying technologies.

                FWIW…

              • Coastal Ron

                Dark Blue Nine said:

                Per that factsheet, MMSEV only supports a two-person crew for 14 days, not three years. And it only carries RCS propellant and engines, not main propellant or engine for significant delta-V.

                Since I see that when we “go to space”, we’ll go with more than a single ship – hopefully two or more traveling together. In that case a vehicle that could transfer people between the two main exploration ships should be enough for 99.9% of the issues that would arise.

                My concern with Nautilus-X is not its capabilities, but the maturity of the underlying technologies.

                I’d agree with that.

                But one of the reasons why I like the concept of the Nautilus-X is because it looks very modular, which means we should be able to “upgrade” to more mature versions easier than we can for purpose-built vehicles like the $8B Orion/MPCV.

              • A M Swallow

                Dark Blue Nine wrote:

                http://www.nasa.gov/pdf/464826main_SEV_FactSheet_508.pdf

                Per that factsheet, MMSEV only supports a two-person crew for 14 days, not three years. And it only carries RCS propellant and engines, not main propellant or engine for significant delta-V.

                That is the one. You do not spend the 3 years in the MMSEV but in the mother ship I specified. Only when you get to the NEO do the astronauts open the hatches and enter the MMSEV.

    • DCSCA

      “Redirecting a very small amount of funds from SLS/MPCV …” etc.

      Of course redirecting ALL funding wasted on subsidzing commercial crew would be a much more proper proposal.

      _________________

      Since December, 1980, 1,057,000 Americans have been killed in gun violence whereas the number of Americans lost to asteroid impacts in the same period tallies zero.

      So naturally, Congress shelves gun legislation and wastes time talking about space rocks. The proper forum for dicussing NEO issues – which pose a ‘threat’ to the whole planet, not just ‘America’ is the United Nations, not a sub-committee in the U.S. House of Representatives.

      • Dark Blue Nine

        “Of course redirecting ALL funding wasted on subsidzing commercial crew would be a much more proper proposal…

        The proper forum for dicussing NEO issues… is the United Nations, not a sub-committee in the U.S. House of Representatives.”

        Which is it? Do you want Congress to redirect funding from commercial crew to planetary protection? Or do you want to skip the U.S. federal government and have the U.N. “discuss” planetary protection?

        I know it’s hard for you, but try to focus and articulate a consistent position.

        • DCSCA

          “Which is it?” Reminding you that big government space projects of scale like SLS/MPCV that are also geo-political strategies for the U.S, are not a source for funding while subsidizing commercial crew is a number one target, yes. Letting the UN handle this- yes again. Now run along.

          • Dark Blue Nine

            “Reminding you that big government space projects of scale like SLS/MPCV that are also geo-political strategies for the U.S,”

            What “geo-political [sic] strategies”? What “geo-political” goals has the Obama Administration articulated and how does SLS/MPCV fit into a strategy to fulfill them? Where is this documented in an Obama Administration policy document?

            “are not a source for funding while subsidizing commercial crew”

            I proposed transferring funds from SLS/MPCV to an asteroid detection/characterization effort to support the 2025 human NEO mission goal, not commercial crew.

            “is a number one target, yes.”

            A “number one target” for what? You’re off your meds again and incoherent.

            “Letting the UN handle this- yes again.”

            “Handle” what? You want the UN to “handle” SLS/MPCV or commercial crew or both?

            “Now run along.”

            Thanks, I’d rather not join you in nutjob land.

            • DCSCA

              “I proposed transferring funds from SLS/MPCV to an asteroid detection/characterization effort to support the 2025 human NEO mission goal, not commercial crew.”

              No.

              That your mind set opposes government space projects of scale and embraces the idedolgy of privatizing as much government as possible is established. If there’s any area of NASA which deserves to have government funds reduced ot transfered from its commercial crew, which can source financing in the private capital markets, not the U.S. Treasury.

              • Coastal Ron

                DCSCA said:

                If there’s any area of NASA which deserves to have government funds reduced ot transfered from its commercial crew…

                You’ve been schooled on this many times before, and it’s amazing that you don’t have the capacity to remember this.

                If NASA wanted generic commercial crew transportation to the ISS, then they could have put out an RFP for that. But that’s not what NASA wanted, it wanted crew transportation to the ISS in a very specific and not-completely-documented NASA way.

                And the other silly point you made:

                …which can source financing in the private capital markets, not the U.S. Treasury.

                You keep forgetting that all of the CCiCap participants already put their own money into the program, and that it was part of NASA’s decision criteria for the contract.

                Plus, Boeing doesn’t need to float more shares of it’s stock to invest more in the CST-100, SpaceX has said they don’t need an IPO, and Sierra Nevada is privately held and could care less what you say.

              • Dark Blue Nine

                “No.”

                Yes, nutjob. I proposed funding NEO search and characterization efforts out of SLS/MPCV because SLS/MPCV need a list of viable NEO targets.

                Commercial crew doesn’t need NEO targets.

                “That your mind set opposes government space projects of scale and embraces the idedolgy of privatizing as much government as possible is established.”

                Where? When?

                Provide a quote or link to where I stated that I oppose “projects of scale” or want to “privatize as much [sic] government as possible”?

                Take your meds, nutjob. You’re hallucinating.

  • libs0n

    Although everyone has opinions on how the space program should be structured and what allocations should be where, even you.

  • common sense

    Again just some waste of time and money by our dear Congress. What’s new might you ask?

    The problems with the levees in New Orleans were well known. Yet our government chose to disregard any improvement on the basis of cost alone I believe.

    Therefore what do you think is needed to happen for our government to seriously consider a threat that by all means is unlikely to happen, unlike a strong hurricane in the Golf?

    Do you seriously think that some small scale event in Russia will do? Really?

    Good luck.

  • JimNobles

    Wow! Charlie Bolden just told the committee that he didn’t need money for the heavy lift rocket right now but that he DID need money for Commercial Crew.

    • JimNobles

      Bolden expects to downselect to two Commercial Crew…

      • Coastal Ron

        JimNobles said:

        Bolden expects to downselect to two Commercial Crew…

        Well, maybe two, maybe one, maybe one and a half. He said the RFP will go out this summer, and the selection will be announced next summer.

        He also said that if Congress continues to keep under-funding Commercial Crew, NASA won’t be able to transfer from Russian crew transportation services to U.S. crew transportation services by 2017. Essentially he told Congress that they can either give Russia more money, or keep the money here in the U.S. to create a Commercial Crew transportation system. Seems like a no-brainer decision for real Americans…

        I didn’t catch the full testimony, but NASASpaceFlight has been reporting that NASA’s preliminary plans for Commercial Crew are to boost the number of crew on the ISS from six to seven, which would effectively double the amount of hands-on science time on the ISS. Not sure if Bolden told them that, and that continuing to use Russia means the ISS cannot be used as effectively as when American transportation is used. Again, another no-brainer decision for real Americans…

        Bolden also said that the funding curve for the SLS has been causing NASA to spend money in a wasteful manner for the SLS, in that it forces NASA to build things when it can’t use them, and forces them to pay for things (like the Delta IV Heavy test flight) that could have been done using the SLS – if NASA would have been given greater authority to spend their fixed SLS budget in a smarter way.

        One other part that was funny – Rep Culberson tried to blame Obama for Houston not getting a Shuttle, and Bolden had to smack him down and tell him that Obama had no part in the decision (it was Bolden’s decision), and that Houston’s bid didn’t merit it to get a Shuttle (he said it nicer).

  • common sense

    “There’s no reason not to, unless the Administration doesn’t care whether SLS ever launches towards, and MPCV ever visits, a NEO. And I think that’s the case.”

    Well… I don’t remember the WH proposing SLS/MPCV to Congress. So it’s Congress problem if they want to pay for this pathetic failure of a program. Their problem and of course that of the taxpayer. But sequestration is here to help.

    Oh well.

    • Dark Blue Nine

      “I don’t remember the WH proposing SLS/MPCV to Congress.”

      The Administration didn’t propose SLS or MPCV, but they took ownership during the campaign last September. See quote and link in my earlier post above.

      • Again, SLS was the trade-off the administration made to get Congress at least half-heartedly behind Commercial Crew. That was the deal, now to keep the children quiet the administration have to at least “appear” to be behind it. But when things start to really change (such as when Falcon Heavy stars flying long before SLS Block 1 is anywhere close to being completed), don’t be surprised if you begin to see a change in the administration’s publicly professed attitude toward SLS.

        • Dark Blue Nine

          “That was the deal, now to keep the children quiet the administration have to at least “appear” to be behind it.”

          There’s a big difference between NASA mentioning SLS/MPCV in press releases so that the Administration appears supportive and the Obama re-election campaign claiming credit for SLS/MPCV in a policy paper. The former indicates that the Administration is going along with SLS/MPCV, however grudingly, with the White House as a silent partner. The latter means that the Administration is taking ownership of SLS/MPCV. The Administration didn’t start this fiasco, but by taking ownership of it, they take responsibility for fixing it.

          It’s the difference between waving a white flag and adopting the colors of your opponent’s army. It’s one thing to walk away from a fight. It’s another to join the opposing side. In the latter case, you now own their failures.

          • All I can say is, if I were in their position I’d probably be doing the same thing. As much as possible I would give the impression I’m going along and on-board until the right moment. I would wait until Commercial Crew is fully operational in transporting astronauts to ISS (thus unassailable) and/or Falcon Heavy is complete before I would give a different appearance to the public.

            • common sense

              Agreed. Since these people don’t play fair, or smart, or both, I think it is the right strategy, or strategery as others have so eloquently said before.

      • common sense

        DB9,

        I was going to reply but Rick got me to it. AND I am sure you agree to some degree anyway. I only suspect you’d like someone to finally own the darn thing and do something with it. But because of its nature, of the hot potatoe kind, nobody will until it dies on its own lonesome and slow death.

        By the way Rick, it may spill into the next administration. Just sayin’

        • You could be right, but I hope not.

          • I mean about spilling over into the next administration.

            • common sense

              Yeah well I am afraid that the only time when they will actually retire SLS/MPCV is the time when the workforce will retire as well. As the commercial sector grows (and I hope it does for some time) some of the NASA workforce will transition. The ones near retirement will… retire. Then there won’t be that many voters to cater to. And if I am not mistaken the NASA (and generally speaking aerospace) workforce is near retirement anyway.

              So it might be in the middle of the next WH.

              Of course it may happen that certain senators don’t get re-elected. But I won’t bet on that.

        • Dark Blue Nine

          “DB9,

          I was going to reply but Rick got me to it. AND I am sure you agree to some degree anyway.”

          Yes and no.

          Of course I agree that Congress, especially certain Senators and their staffs, are responsible for starting the SLS/MCPV fiasco.

          But that doesn’t let the Administration off the hook when the President is claiming credit for SLS/MPCV. If Obama wants credit for SLS/MPCV in Florida during the campaign, then his White House has a responsibility to actually manage the program and not just let it drift for the next four years.

          Of course, the President has other, higher priorities than SLS/MPCV, and I was fine with the White House washing its hands of the SLS/MPCV fiasco after the 2010 NASA Authorization Act passed. But by claiming credit for SLS/MPCV, the Administration’s hands are now dirty, and at least a little of its attention needs to be directed at SLS/MPCV.

          The huge disconnect between the Administration’s rhetoric on the human NEO 2025 goal (we’re still doing it via SLS/MPCV) and the dismal realities of SLS/MPCV (no funding even to find targets for that mission) demonstrates that the Administration is out-to-lunch on this issue.

          If the Obama White House is going to claim credit for SLS/MPCV and claim they’re still on track for the human NEO 2025 goal, then they need to engage and ensure that SLS/MPCV is something worth claiming credit for and that the program will meet the 2025 goal.

          “I only suspect you’d like someone to finally own the darn thing and do something with it.”

          Yes, I’m making a good governance argument that the Administration now owns SLS/MPCV by dint of the Obama campaign rhetoric and the recent human NEO 2025 rhetoric, and now must grapple with the reality of the situation and try to fix it.

          I could make the cynical realpolitik argument that you and Rick make — that the Administration is just paying lipservice to SLS/MPCV and letting it die a natural death. I’ve made that argument myself in the past. I saw no reason for the Administration to do anything other than abandon NASA’s human space exploration efforts after the 2010 NASA Authorization Act. It was Congress’s baby and their problem.

          But now that the White House is claiming parentage, SLS/MPCV is their baby, too. They now need to do the good governance equivalent of paying child support and making sure that the kid grows up right.

          “it may spill into the next administration. Just sayin’”

          This is what I’m arguing against. The Bush II White House spent five-odd years with their hands off the wheel, letting Griffin drive the VSE over the Ares I and Constellation cliff. We’ve now wasted another three-odd years on SLS/MPCV. If the Obama White House is going to claim credit for SLS/MPCV and their human NEO 2025 goal, then they shouldn’t have their hands off the wheel for the next four years and let SLS/MPCV drive off the cliff and into the next Presiden’t lap. The Obama White House has a responsibility to fix the program.

          How many generations and billions of dollars are we going to waste on failed NASA human space exploration efforts before a White House actually tries to manage one?

          My 2 cents… FWIW.

          • common sense

            I do understand your frustration believe me. I worked on the CEV when the whole thing started with the VSE on Jan 14 2004 and I had an unbelievable yet very naive view of things. We were going to fly the CEV by 2012 or even 2011 according some at NASA. In the mean time I saw people literally laugh at Musk/SpaceX. And here we are. So I do get it.

            This being said. I grew my cynicism quite a bit since then, became more aware of the political plays (I cannot share stories here but darn unbelievable stuff to swallow… At least for me).

            My take on the WH ownership may be to make Mr. Nelson happy as a clam. It makes for a good relationship. Nelson: “Look the WH embraced SLS/MPCV and I am serving my constituents”. The WH: “Mr. Nelson here is the votes we need to go forward on healthcare, gun control, etc. Please twist arm(s) in Senate as you see fit”.

            The SLS/MPCV fiasco may be (one of) the price(s) to pay to move forward on other far more important matters. So the WH took (some) ownership.

            And that is, I mean those are my 2 cents…

          • common sense

            “How many generations and billions of dollars are we going to waste on failed NASA human space exploration efforts before a White House actually tries to manage one?”

            Until most of (80% ?) the Shuttle workforce have retired. Hence the spill in the next WH.

            FWIW.

          • But now that the White House is claiming parentage, SLS/MPCV is their baby, too.

            You’re assuming that this White House is ever held accountable for its false proclamations.

  • Coastal Ron wrote:

    One other part that was funny – Rep Culberson tried to blame Obama for Houston not getting a Shuttle, and Bolden had to smack him down and tell him that Obama had no part in the decision (it was Bolden’s decision), and that Houston’s bid didn’t merit it to get a Shuttle (he said it nicer).

    Click here to see a blog I posted in July 2011 about Houston’s proposal. Compared to other museums, it was pathetic. Just some simplistic sketches with no indication of a funding source.

    The Houston people seem to be Tea Partiers who think they’re entitled to everything, which by definition makes them hypocrites. We have the same phenomenon here in the Space Coast with the Tea Partiers who think NASA owes them a government job for life.

    • The Houston people seem to be Tea Partiers who think they’re entitled to everything, which by definition makes them hypocrites.

      You’ve taken things far off topic, but Tea Partiers don’t think they’re entitled to anything except a government that follows the Constitution.

      • Coastal Ron

        Rand Simberg said:

        …but Tea Partiers don’t think they’re entitled to anything except a government that follows the Constitution.

        Maybe Stephen is talking about those in the Republican wing of the Tea Party? ;-)

  • A M Swallow

    If the US Government wants to do something about NEO crashing into the Earth they can make civil defense training films.

    For meteors that burn up in the atmosphere, like the Russian one – tell people to stay indoors and hide from flying glass under the table. TV and radio will need to interrupt regular broadcasting to show the films. This can be planned and tested.

    For a medium sized one that crashes into the ground – instruct people to evacuate the area. The emergency services will need to know what to do with the people. Mayors and State Governors will have to give the appropriate orders.

    • Ferris Valyn

      duck and cover?

      • Grandpa Dave

        Yes… I sent a summer in the 1950s building a fallout shelter. We live 40 miles across the lake from Chicago. Those were the days when the Nike-Zeus’s were lining Lakeshore Drive in Chi-town.

        I don’t think our shelter would have saved our butts from a huge NEO. Anyway, why would you want to survive and die later like Dino-the-Dinosaur. Just lean back and enjoy what time you have left.

        IMHO, all of this NEO effort is a huge waste of taxpayer’s money. Invest the monies into other wasteful government programs. Our current POTUS and his friends in the Senate, Poor-old Harry, will have no problems investing your taxpayer monies!

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