Congress, NASA

Congressional tensions between SLS and commercial crew, FY2014 edition

NASA’s commercial crew program and the Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion programs have been sources of heated debate on Capitol Hill that last couple of years. But, as both efforts make progress, could the tensions that often pit the two programs against one another be easing? Not necessarily, based on comments from a couple members of Congress this week.

Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-AL) expressed to the Huntsville Times this week his disappointment with the administration’s fiscal year 2014 budget request, citing NASA in particular. The funding requested for SLS, $1.385 billion, is below the FY12 budget’s nearly $1.5 billion (although it is similar to what the program will end up with in FY13, once final rescission and sequestration cuts are applied and any operations plans changes are implemented.) He also complained that NASA’s proposed asteroid retreival mission “does not commit to using SLS to get there and has no clear time frame or cost estimate,” the Times reported. (NASA has, in fact, suggested sending astronauts to the captured asteroid in cislunar space in 2021 on EM-2, the first crewed SLS/Orion mission, although specific mission architectures and cost estimates are still under development.)

And what about commercial crew? Aderholt told the Times that, given his perception that SLS was not being adequately funded, the administration’s request for $821 million for commercial crew “is not defensible.”

Late Friday, the House Science Committee’s Democratic Caucus issued a press release from Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD), ranking member of the committee’s space subcommittee, marking the 32nd anniversary of the first Space Shuttle launch. (The press release doesn’t show up on the caucus’s web site as of Saturday morning.) After recounting the shuttle’s history, she turned her attention to the future, in particular calling for an acceleration of SLS and Orion:

Under current plans, the first crewed flight of Orion/SLS is scheduled for no earlier than 2021—a ten year hiatus in NASA human spaceflight capability. That’s a long time, and I hope that Congress and the Administration can work together to help NASA accelerate the achievement of that capability.

There’s no mention in her statement about how to fund an acceleration of those capabilities, and also no mention of commercial crew, which could return orbital human spaceflight capabilities to NASA (albeit on vehicles owned and perhaps operated by American companies) in 2017, under NASA’s current schedules.

95 comments to Congressional tensions between SLS and commercial crew, FY2014 edition

  • Ben Russell-Gough

    I think someone needs to sit Rep Edwards down and say this to her: “The Commercial Crew Spacecraft will restore NASA human spaceflight capability. NASA can fly crews on them!” Keep repeating it as many times as it takes for her to understand it. If necessary, add a sock-puppet show.

    • josh

      it’s not that she doesn’t understand. she doesn’t want to understand. got to protect the pork.

    • Matt

      To Congresscritters, any American spacecraft that flies NASA crews has to be a NASA vehicle. No exceptions. Though I want the Commercial sector to succeed, as that frees up NASA’s resources for the BEO mission, it is not a one-size fits all for HSF, nor should it be; a balanced program, making the full use of both government and private industry, IMHO, should come out of this debate.

      Congress is not a rubber stamp for any Administration. And remember that skepticism on Commercial Crew is not heresy or blasphemy, but is healthy. Now, if this Administration was really committed to a real Flexible Path, with multiple destinations, they’d be listening to what Jeff Greason said about the concept:
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wMrfAtqTikg

      His fellow Augustine Panel member Ed Crawley had a presentation at the Cape on that 15 Apr 2010 “Space Summit” that laid out FlexPath: he “made the sale.” Too bad Charlie Bolden and Lori Garver (or anyone else from the Administration) never did. What Crawley recommended was that you build the capsule, rocket, and any hab module, then start using them. You get several years of exploration work done with just those-lunar orbit, Lagrange Points, NEOs, maybe a Mars flyby, building up deep space experience needed for Mars, while at the same time working on a lunar (and eventually Mars) lander and the associated surface systems. And I suggest y’all have a look at this article by Jeff Foust himself: Making the Case for an Asteroid Mission:
      http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewnews.html?id=1620

      Again, if the budget wasn’t an issue, my preference would be Moon first, then NEOs, then Mars. But that’s just me.

      • Coastal Ron

        Matt said:

        And remember that skepticism on Commercial Crew is not heresy or blasphemy, but is healthy.

        Maybe it’s just me, but you sound like the people that say it’s OK to question science.

        Look, there is no question that the U.S. aerospace industry can build and operate commercial crew transportation systems. None. There isn’t even a question of them being able to do it “the NASA way”.

        The only question is whether there is a profitable business in commercial crew transportation. Politicians that have never run an aerospace company or a transportation company have “questions”, but the companies risking their own capital say that it’s worth a try. Who is right? The only way we’ll know is by letting them try.

        But let’s remember that the long term goal is either that we want to expand humanity’s presence out into space, or that we just ant to do lots of pork spending. That’s pretty much the choice here.

        Assuming you do want humanity to expand out into space, there is no way we can expand humanity out into space on NASA’s puny $18B/year budget, so we have to transition routine tasks to the private sector. Will they all succeed? No. Can they succeed? Yes.

        So unless you are a Putin fanboi like DCSCA, you too should be clamoring for Congress to speed up the date private industry takes over routine crew transportation to LEO. NASA can’t afford to do it with the SLS & MPCV, so the Commercial Crew program is the only way we’ll support not only the ISS, but also any businesses that wants to test out their business ideas in LEO (like Bigelow). Because business is how we’ll expand out into space, not by waiting around for NASA to do the occasional flags & footprints mission.

      • Coastal Ron

        Matt said:

        Again, if the budget wasn’t an issue…

        That’s like saying “if the laws of physics didn’t apply…”

        Money is the prime issue here, not ability. If it only cost $1M to go back to the Moon, we’d be going there all the time. Remember, we’ve been there a number of times, and we know how to do it with 60′s era technology, so it’s not too hard.

        But it costs significantly more that $1M to return to the Moon, and there is no known reason to spend that kind of money to visit some place we’ve already been.

        So wiser up Matt – budgets ARE an issue. And that is why focusing on lowering the cost to access space is so important, which is why so many support the goals and accomplishments of SpaceX. They are forcing everyone to reassess how much it costs to get mass to space, and that’s a good thing.

        • Matt

          To you, Ron, it’s “been there, done that.” Just like the President said three years ago…and even you said at the time it merely deferred lunar return. Apollo only scratched the surface when it comes to human exploration of the lunar surface. Apollo only visited six sites-that’s like saying to all the frontier explorers that came after Lewis and Clark-”no need to go anywhere else, those two saw it all? Hardly.

          Want some firsts that haven’t been done on the lunar surface-and these are the kinds of firsts that the Augustine Panel (remember that?) suggested that would keep the public engaged and supportive: first human landing at the poles-never been done. First farside landing-ever: never been done. First woman on the lunar surface-never been done. First semi-permanent base, and so on. And NO: the commercial sector shouldn’t lead on exploration. That, IMHO, is the job of NASA and the other space agencies. Commercial can support exploration (i.e. the much talked about propellant depot), but commercial leading the way? I think not. The commercial sector only gets involved if there’s money to be made along the way. Going someplace new isn’t likely to get that. Going someplace and setting up a lunar mine or ISRU faciity after NASA’s been there a while? That’s what the commercial sector should be doing.

          Reasonable people can disagree, Ron. I just think that this administration has been anti-NASA since day one. It all goes back to the ’08 campaign, when Mr. Obama was running for the nomination, and he wanted to merely defer, not cancel, Constellation to pay for “unspecified education programs.” Why? Because, as a campaign staffer said at the time, “it was a Bush thing.”

          Again, this is my opinion, but if this Administration was more interested in a real FlexPath, they’d put more meat on the bones, other than the asteroid capture and a Mars orbit by 2035. Lay out where else you want to go, when you might want to, and what you’ll be doing. That means lunar orbit, Lagrange Points (both Earth-Sun and Earth-Moon) maybe even a Mars flyby, before going back to the lunar surface as prep for going to Mars-which would have a Martian Moons mission as final dress rehearsal for Mars proper. So far, from this Administration, hardly anything else. And I can’t wait until 2017, when not only does SLS fly its first flight, but a new administration takes office, and one that’s much more NASA-friendly.

          • common sense

            See, the problem is that you are not “reasonable”, you may think you are but really are not.

            Which one of any of your ideas brings any benefit back to the US after say for example a woman land on the Moon? Please enlighten us.

            Also I wonder. How many places on this Earth have you ever visited that were actually new to you? Any?

            As for 2017, at least that keeps you going because once upon a time a certain Bush came up with the VSE which was original and bold but failed to act upon it and the then Congress did not fund any of what was required to achieve Constellation goals. The only hope then was O’Keefe/Steidle spiral approach now known as Flexible Path but this is probably too difficult to comprehend it seems.

            Oh well.

          • Coastal Ron

            Matt said:

            Apollo only scratched the surface when it comes to human exploration of the lunar surface.

            And scientists were lucky to get that. Remember that the Apollo program was politically motivated, and that the primary goal was “landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth“. Exploration was not the goal, just a byproduct.

            Want some firsts that haven’t been done on the lunar surface… First woman on the lunar surface-never been done.

            I know a number of women that would find that a sexist goal, and not worthy of consideration.

            And NO: the commercial sector shouldn’t lead on exploration. That, IMHO, is the job of NASA and the other space agencies.

            If you consider landing in different locations on the same celestial body “A First”, then I think you are setting your “exploration” bar too low.

            To me the best use of NASA’s brain power is not in being a tour guide for different places on the Moon and picking up “interesting” rocks, but building and proving out new technologies and techniques that we need to expand humanity further out into space.

            And really, who cares what the name is on the outside of the lunar rover? NASA, ESA, JAXA, DSI, Boeing, GM, Praxis or whoever, all that really matters is if it’s sustainable. And that’s where the private sector comes in, in that they dramatically reduce the costs after something has been proven.

            For instance, who are the leaders in VTVL these days? NASA? Nope, companies like Masten and Armadillo. So why should NASA spend money on developing VTVL when the private sector is already doing it? The role of government is to do what it’s citizens and companies can’t or won’t do, and right now we have plenty of private sector companies that are willing to step up on exploration – and you think that’s bad?

            • Matt

              NASA and other space agencies lead in exploration, the commercial sector follows. And Ron: three years ago, after that so-called “space summit”, even you were acknowledging that Mr.Obama only deferred lunar return by NASA-a real Flexible Path includes that-after Lunar Orbit, this asteroid capture, L-Points, other NEOs, maybe a Mars flyby. Summarily dismissing NASA returning to the moon puts you in what Ed Crawley said in his presentation: “Do you want to be NASA Administrator in the 2030s, and tell the President that we’re ready for the Mars landing, and have no experience in working on another planetary body?” Even in that SpaceRef article Jeff Foust wrote-and I provided the link in another post-those who support asteroid missions acknowledge that going back to the Moon is practically certain. And just as an American, I’d rather have the first human back on the Moon since December 1972 wear the stars and stripes on his or her shoulder patch.

              I know several female fighter pilots who would take exception to your comments on the first female on the lunar surface.

              The commercial sector has a role to play-but not the lead. That, Ron, is NASA’s job-and that of the other national space agencies. The commercial sector can support exploration, but going somewhere for the first time-or returning to the Moon to get ready for Mars? That is the proper role of NASA. And you fail to take into account the politics. This board’s about space politics, and keep in mind that Congress writes NASA’s checks; the mere suggestion that NASA should “outsource” exploration to the private sector would be DOA on The Hill-and rightly so.

              There is ample room for debate and discussion as to how exploration should proceed. You have your preference, I have mine. Others have their own ideas. Disagreeing with the administration-regardless of who’s in the White House-is not heresy, blasphemy, or treason. And Ron, you’re forgetting one big thing: national pride. To many, having the first person make that first step back onto the moon be an American is a lot better than, say, a Russian or Chinese. You may not care, but there are those who do. Some are in Congress, and on the relevant committees that deal with NASA.

              • The commercial sector has a role to play-but not the lead. That, Ron, is NASA’s job-and that of the other national space agencies.

                You can continue to repeat that until you’re blue in the face, but it remains an opinion, not a fact, and not a particularly sensible or substantiated one. When it comes to reducing the cost of space activities, private companies are leading, and they’re likely to lead all the way to other planets, your NASA-centric fetishes notwithstanding.

              • common sense

                “what Ed Crawley said in his presentation: “Do you want to be NASA Administrator in the 2030s, and tell the President that we’re ready for the Mars landing, and have no experience in working on another planetary body?” ‘

                I wonder what kennedy might have done had he heard something that profound when he said we were going to the Moon. Hmmm. I am sure he would have been truly impressed.

                “I’d rather have the first human back on the Moon since December 1972 wear the stars and stripes on his or her shoulder patch.”

                So if a US astronaut lands on the Moon but not with a NASA designed vehicle they won’t be allowed to wear a US shoulder patch? They would be less american? Still truly profound I see.

                “I know several female fighter pilots who would take exception to your comments on the first female on the lunar surface.”

                Lucky you.

                “The commercial sector has a role to play-but not the lead.”

                Yeah you’re right. Rockwell might have liked your comments back in the 60s. Grumman too. And a few others for that matter.

                “That, Ron, is NASA’s job-and that of the other national space agencies.”

                Must be in the 1958 Space Act, right?

                “The commercial sector can support exploration, but going somewhere for the first time-or returning to the Moon to get ready for Mars? That is the proper role of NASA. And you fail to take into account the politics.”

                So NASA will go to the Moon for the first time in 1969, right? See the problem now? “will go for the first time” in 1969. And then returning to the Moon is NASA’s proper role. So they will go and return to the Moon. No one else? Right.

                “This board’s about space politics, ”

                Darn! I thought it was about cheese! Got me confused.

                “and keep in mind that Congress writes NASA’s checks; the mere suggestion that NASA should “outsource” exploration to the private sector would be DOA on The Hill-and rightly so.”

                How blind can you be. Congress is NOT writing any check for exploration. Please give us the WBS number associated with NASA exploration program to go to the Moon or anywhere for that matter. The fact that the SLS/MPCV is accounted for under exploration is idiotic. On the other hand they lump so many things under “exploration”…

                “Disagreeing with the administration-regardless of who’s in the White House-is not heresy, blasphemy, or treason.”

                Who said that?

                “And Ron, you’re forgetting one big thing: national pride.”

                Oh yeah, the great big phallic symbol. Forgot that too.

                “To many, having the first person make that first step back onto the moon be an American is a lot better than, say, a Russian or Chinese.”

                Ah again. An American with a government designed spacecraft, because as everyone with half a brain knows an American with an industry designed vehicle is a lot less American.

                “You may not care, but there are those who do. Some are in Congress, and on the relevant committees that deal with NASA.”

                Yeah! Go Congress! Go the Committees! Reminds me of something that failed in the 90s. Not sure what it is. Personally I think the government should take care of the youth, the elderly and generally speaking the people of the USA. But it’s just me. On the other hand it makes me think that I can help vote out of office those I don’t want to see in Congress. Funny eh? You know this notion of government by the people for the people…

              • Coastal Ron

                Matt said:

                NASA and other space agencies lead in exploration, the commercial sector follows.

                Depends on what you call “exploration”.

                Does that mean picking up rocks? Is that “exploration”?

                Since NASA can’t do everything, and doesn’t have the money to do much very fast, I prefer to have NASA develop the things that enable space exploration, since it doesn’t matter who does it, just that happens.

                For instance, to me space exploration includes learning how to live and survive at EM-L1/L2. If we can’t do that, then going on to Mars is unlikely. So NASA developing the technology we’ll need to live at EM-L1/2 is more important to me that returning to somewhere we’ve been before (like the Moon).

                If the government really was interested in digging around on the Moon (which it hasn’t been for the last 40 years), the least expensive way to do that is to have NASA contract with the private sector. Put it out for competition, just like the government does here on Earth for so many “exploration” needs.

                And again, this all boils down to money, which you seem to ignore. NASA doesn’t get much, so asking them to do everything means they won’t do much at all.

                And regarding your obsession with Obama’s “been there, done that” comment, get over it. Except for Bush 43, no other President has bothered to push for going back to the Moon, and even Bush 43 didn’t use any of his “political capital” to support the Constellation effort. The Moon is not a priority for science – Mars is the goal.

              • Coastal Ron

                Matt said:

                I know several female fighter pilots who would take exception to your comments on the first female on the lunar surface.

                Sending a bunch of women to the Moon as a stunt is not useful for anyone. That distracts from the work they would be doing, and implies that women need “special” consideration.

                If you send the best people, and you have nondiscriminatory standards, then women will naturally be part of that, as will men.

                Notice how this ties in with your list of “firsts”, in that pretty much everything you listed were either stunts or not individually worthy of spending $100B of U.S. Taxpayer money.

  • JimNobles

    I think there’s only one way to fix this situation. Elon is going to have to fly a non-NASA crew as soon as possible. Once that’s done it will completely change the discussion.

  • Simon Cooper

    JimNobles – as soon as Elon flies a crew, the Congress will kill funding for Boeing and Sierra Nevada. Which is probably what they would like to do now, to free up more pork money. :-(

    • JimNobles

      Simon said,

      “…as soon as Elon flies a crew, the Congress will kill funding for Boeing and Sierra Nevada.”

      Hmm… I didn’t think of that.

      But I did check around to see if I could determine the absolute soonest SpaceX could fly the crewed Dragon. I found out they plan a ground launched LAS test this December and an air launched LAS next April. If both those tests went perfectly they might could launch a manned flight by summer of next year. If they wanted to.

      But I found out something else. Work on the manned Dragon has been slowed down. It hasn’t stopped but the company is putting their attention on other things for now. Like getting all their other commercial launches ready to go this year. Getting the F9 v1.1 ready to go. Getting the fairing(s) ready to go. Doing work on the systems that are to be used launching the cargo flights they are finally getting around to launching.

      It seems they are in no real hurry to launch a manned Dragon anytime real soon. Too bad.

      • Simon Cooper

        Jim – sounds sensible, as NASA can’t even find a way of freeing up a port on the ISS until 2018, apparently. If SpaceX flew manned in 2015, they’d have to twiddle their thumbs for three more years. It’s ludicrous, but that’s politics.

        • JimNobles

          Simon said,

          “If SpaceX flew manned in 2015, they’d have to twiddle their thumbs for three more years.”

          Yeah, the only other thing that might come along is that Bigelow claims he will have two BA 330s ready to launch in 2016. What he’s going to launch them on I have no idea.

      • Coastal Ron

        JimNobles said:

        If both those tests went perfectly they might could launch a manned flight by summer of next year. If they wanted to.

        The last I heard, which I think was from Shotwell at a NASA CRS-2 briefing, SpaceX thinks they will be ready to fly a company crew to orbit in mid-2015, and to the ISS by late 2015. That is based on the assumption that NASA gets enough funding.

        I think next year is too soon, especially since their CCiCap schedule shows an in-flight abort test in April of 2014, and they would still be working on other Dragon upgrades during that time.

        …but the company is putting their attention on other things for now….

        Yep. They plan to ramp up to six flights for next year, fly Falcon Heavy, try recovering a 1st stage on dry land, and finish the upgrades to the crew version of Dragon. That would be a lot to accomplish for even Boeing, so trying to accelerate a crew flight without a pressing need would not be in the cards.

        • DCSCA

          SpaceX thinks they will be ready to fly a company crew to orbit in mid-2015/

          Another press release. In 2010 Space X said it would be lofting crews this year- 2013. We already hacv a goverbmenr space agency that doesn’t meet abbounced schedules. We certainly don’t have to put up with a ‘private firm’ that desn’t and certainly don’t have to subsidize it wither.

          • Coastal Ron

            DCSCA grunted:

            In 2010 Space X said it would be lofting crews this year- 2013.

            They said hree years after contract award with enough funding.

            If only you could read…

            • Neil Shipley

              He’s having trouble writing as well!

            • DCSCA

              Elon says a lot of things that never come to pass. How’s that rtirment on Mars’ plan coming along, Ron? You’re being suckered.

              • Coastal Ron

                DCSCA mumbled:

                Elon says a lot of things that never come to pass.

                If we were to compare his statements of things to come with yours, he would win by a long shot.

                How’s that rtirment on Mars’ plan coming along, Ron?

                Considering that Musk doesn’t plan to retire for a couple of decades, and considering how far and how fast SpaceX is moving, I’d say pretty good.

                You’re being suckered.

                Since I don’t have any financial stake in SpaceX, I don’t stand to gain whether SpaceX does well or bad.

                But apparently you are so emotionally attached to your memories of Apollo, that any non-goverment efforts in space threaten your ego. Time to grow up Tinkerbell…

              • How’s that rtirment on Mars’ plan coming along, Ron?

                Even ignoring you inability to type a coherent sentence, that’s a pretty idiotic question, given that he’s a long way from retirement.

                Not that we expect an intelligent question from a troll like you.

          • josh

            “We already hacv a goverbmenr space agency that doesn’t meet abbounced schedules.”

            in a rush?

      • Terence Clark

        Slowed down or not, last I heard they were still on track for a 2015 manned flight.

        • DCSCA

          “Slowed down or not, last I heard they were still on track for a 2015 manned flight.”

          Meaningless. He’s ‘on track’ to retire on Mars, too. Soyuz works fine to ferry crews to a doomed space platform that will be in the pPacific soon enough as it is.

      • Neil Shipley

        SpaceX is working to their milestones. They won’t have slowed their work unless there’s a) a problem, or b) slack in their schedule that permits this. Just ’cause future NASA funding is uncertain (when hasn’t it been?) the current funding is agreed and so is the schedule. Don’t think the team working on the DragonRider Program would be used on other ‘operational’ work. Show me if I’m wrong.
        Cheers.

        • JimNobles

          Neil said,
          “Show me if I’m wrong.”

          The word I got is that the work on the manned Dragon has indeed slowed down from its previous pace but that is okay. Apparently they feel they are where they need to be and are now concentrating more on different parts of the business.

          As has been pointed out when it comes to returning astronauts to flight on American equipment SpaceX is way ahead of everyone. Including NASA. This is exactly the kind of an embarrassing situation that depending on a big government run space program can put you in. An American company designs and builds a spacecraft and can’t deliver people to the station, maybe for years, because the government can’t provide a f*cking hatch on the station that will fit the spacecraft.

          • Neil Shipley

            Hi Jim. You may have some insider info’ but I’m looking at their planned milestones and they haven’t shifted. If you’re doing a project properly then you’re working to milestones even if they are revised which I haven’t seen but maybe you have.
            Cheers.

    • DCSCA

      “…as soon as Elon flies a crew, the Congress will kill funding for Boeing and Sierra Nevada.” says simplw Simon.

      Another press release.

    • Several members of Congress seemed to have pushed Boeing into the commercial crew fray, if they don’t see profit relative to SpaceX pricing they may walk away anyway. Sierra Nevada hopefully finds a niche on a cheaper launch vehicle. I still favor SpaceX in a crewed orbital flight asap, even if it’s just Tito and Musk playing tiddly winks.

  • DCSCA

    “the administration’s request for $821 million for commercial crew “is not defensible.”

    Correct.

  • yg1968

    Donna Edwards has been anti-commercial crew for a while. She keeps saying in hearings that she is “concerned” about commercial crew. “Concerned” is essentially a code name for “I hate it and I want it cancelled now”.

  • SLS has never been about the government having its own heavy-lift option. It’s always been about protecting the space centers in the districts of those on the space subcommittees, and the contractors who funnel money into their re-election campaign.

    Falcon Heavy will not kill SLS. Congress doesn’t care. Falcon Heavy could send Dragon to the Moon tomorrow and Congress would not care. Congress doesn’t get pork from SpaceX.

    SpaceX is in one district, maybe two if you count Brownsville. NASA space centers and contractors are nationwide. Lots more pork to go around with SLS.

    As with Constellation, it doesn’t matter if SLS ever flies or not. It’s all about the pork.

  • guestagain

    Quite frankly the entire state of the US human space flight program is so dismal that people like myself-a veteran of Apollo, Skylab, Shuttle, Mir, ISS, commercial programs…do not anticipate living long enough to see a renewal of the activity of even a couple of years ago. Plans for things like this asteroid visit are nonsensical. What would be the purpose? If NASA is lucky it might survive in some form though with the present leadership that is doubtful. The present leadership is the leadership that threw away the gains of the last 30 years. Its amazing to me just how poorly they were taught and how little they know. If there are no goals, no missions, no flights, then its a pretty hollow shell of its former self. The leadership is dismal. They have no strategy. There is no plan. Their only goal seems to be to hang onto ISS as long as they can. NASA has already turned over the ability to do human spaceflight to other nations. I have some hope that Sierra Nevada or Boeing’s X-37c, working independently of NASA, will get us back in space in another 6 or 8 years, but beyond that there seems little to look forward to. The capsule approach is a dead end. We saw that 40 years ago.

    • guestagain wrote:

      Plans for things like this asteroid visit are nonsensical. What would be the purpose?

      Astronaut Tom Jones answers that question for you:

      “Why NASA Should Nab an Asteroid”

      Florida Today opinion page editor Matt Reed also answers that question for you:

      “Five Reasons to Lasso an Asteroid”

      The leadership is dismal. They have no strategy. There is no plan.

      Wrong again. It’s right on NASA’s web site under “Budget and Plans.”

      Just because you don’t like something doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

      • Dark Blue Nine

        “Astronaut Tom Jones answers that question for you”

        Not really. Jones argues that the mission “hits hot buttons in all three categories of deep-space objectives: scientific exploration, planetary defense, and space resources”, but provides no details on two of those justifications and actually uses figures that hurt his case on the third.

        Jones provides no details on what “scientific exploration” objectives the mission is suppossed to fulfill. And although not Jones’ fault, the reality is that the President’s FY 2014 Budget Request is cutting NASA’s Planetary Science Division to pay for this mission.

        Similarly, Jones provides no details on how the mission contributes to “planetary defense”. But as already pointed out in other threads, the NEOs that this mission is capable of capturing and maneuvering are orders of magnitude too small to pose a threat to humanity, and the techniques tested on the mission are not scalable to those levels.

        The one justification Jones goes into some detail about is “space resources”. But even he admits that the value of those resources is only $2 billion, when just the robotic NEO retrieval mission has a starting price of $2.6 billion. The effort starts $600 million in the red, and then you have to spend hundreds of millions to billions dollars more to extract the resources from the asteroid (not to mention the costs of SLS/MPCV). Worse, his figure is based on assumptions in the article that all of a particular resource can be extracted, which is wildly optimistic even for a mature, Earth-based mining operation.

        “Florida Today opinion page editor Matt Reed also answers that question”

        My take, FWIW, on Reed’s rationales:

        “1. It would be a mind-blowing, spirit-renewing breakthrough.”

        I’m sure that will be for true believers and space cadets (myself included), but I doubt most taxpayers will be impressed if/when a space capsule sidles up to a “mudball” that is barely bigger than itself. Assuming it actually gets that far, I worry that there is more potential for ridicule and blowback than awe and amazement.

        “2. It could save the world.”

        It can’t. See above. Worse, by focusing NEO search resources on non-threatening NEOs, it will divert capabilities away from searches for dangerous NEOs.

        “3. It complements the Space Coast’s signature mission.”

        As you’ve pointed out many time, pork is never a good rationale for a national space program.

        “4. We can afford it.”

        Affordability is never a reason to do anything. I can afford to spend the next several years in a strip club or mainlining heroin. That doesn’t mean I should.

        And it’s false that NASA can afford this as long as the budget is still bearing the SLS/MPCV albatross. We can’t even build all of MPCV domestically, and NASA’s Planetary Science Division is getting whacked just for the studies to get this mission started.

        “5. It would make us the indisputable leader in space.”

        No, foreign space agency leaders and representatives (nevertheless national leaders and representatives) are already questioning why we are doing this:

        “‘The idea that was presented is a disruptive idea,’ said Johann-Dietrich Woerner, head of the German Aerospace Center, DLR. ‘Everything sounds very nice; it’s pioneering work, for sure. But again, I would ask, ‘Why?’… ‘Could we do the same as a totally robotic mission?’ Woerner asked the audience here.”

        “‘Honestly speaking … we need more data and information about what NASA is thinking,’ said Hideshi Kozawa, executive adviser to the JAXA president for international cooperation… ‘We have lots of experience with asteroid missions,’ Kozawa said, referring to the Hayabusa asteroid sample-return mission Japan successfully completed in 2010.

        http://www.spacenews.com/article/civil-space/34794world-space-agency-chiefs-support-question-nasa-asteroid-capture-plan

        • E.P. Grondine

          Hi DBN –

          “It can’t. See above. Worse, by focusing NEO search resources on non-threatening NEOs, it will divert capabilities away from searches for dangerous NEOs.”

          Why do you think that the “threatening” NEOs are someplace else than among the “non-threatening” NEOs?

          • Dark Blue Nine

            “Why do you think that the ‘threatening’ NEOs are someplace else than among the ‘non-threatening’ NEOs?”

            I don’t.

            But if we spend limited telescope time staring longer at fewer spots in the sky to pick up fainter, smaller, non-threatening, sub-7m objects, then we’ll spend less telescope time rapidly scanning more spots in the sky for brighter, larger, dangerous objects.

            This boneheaded misallocation of resources gets even worse if we spend lots and lots of telescope time trying to pin down the exact characteristics of a few non-threatening objects, instead of scanning for lots of dangerous objects.

            We are years from completing the ongoing survey of highly dangerous 140m objects. To best protect ourselves, we also need to survey objects down to the 30-50m level according to the NRC’s Defending Planet Earth report. There is no reason to waste precious observing time on what is a very limited number of telescopes trying to find and characterize sub-7m objects that post no threat to anyone on Earth.

            • E.P. Grondine

              Hi DBN –

              Once again, since eeflectivity varies among the different types of NEOs, there is no linear relationship between NEO size and brightness. In other words, some of the 20-50 meter NEOs are not brighter than the 7 meter NEOs.

              DBN, you’re not even asking the right questions, such as “Should NASA take over the SENTINEL effort?”

              Elitist snob that I am, I think the B612 mixers will be a lot of fun and be some really great parties, so why have any reason to cancel them?
              In addition, if B612 keeps private their effort private it does not require dealing with the great unwashed in order to get something really useful done – thus there will likely be few idiots inside the doors, and that always makes any event better. Despite what you may see on TV, often Extremely Wealthy People know exactly who they are and are happy being themselves.

              Rand, want to chime in here?

              Of course, NASA could put up its own copy of the SENTINEL space telescope pointing in another direction. Say pointing towards the Moon.

              • Dark Blue Nine

                “Once again, since eeflectivity varies among the different types of NEOs, there is no linear relationship between NEO size and brightness. In other words, some of the 20-50 meter NEOs are not brighter than the 7 meter NEOs.”

                Yes, but per the Keck study, the objective is a sub-7m carbonaceous NEO. So the search is for both the smallest and darkest, and therefore faintest, type of NEO. And that means that telescopes tasked with this search will have to spend a lot of integration time on relatively few pieces of sky in order to pick up these extremely faint and non-hazardous objects, instead of scanning lots of the sky for the brighter objects, which will by definition be larger and more hazardous.

                “DBN, you’re not even asking the right questions, such as ‘Should NASA take over the SENTINEL effort?’”

                I did raise that issue several threads back. If we’re really serious about planetary defense, we should spend $450 million on a B612-type telescope (as well as various SpaceGuard enhancements) that will actually identify hazardous NEOs — not waste $2.6+ billion retrieving one object that poses no threat anyone. It’s an awful and stupid misallocation of national resources.

    • I’ll also direct you to this August 2012 document NASA sent to Congress, in response to the same false allegations made by certain members of the House and Senate:

      “NASA Exploration Destinations, Goals, and International Collaboration”

    • E.P. Grondine

      Hi guest-again -

      The bottom line here is that we could have had DIRECT and two manned launch systems for the money Griffin wasted on the Ares 1. And with that $8-10 billion and 10 years gone, we still have no idea what led Griffin to make that mistake.

      (Since the old political adage is that a good offence is the best defense, it seems to me that Obama is not making the best use of NASA’s history department or its IG office that he could. But then as we’ve seen, Obama is not interested in dividing the nation for political advantage. Its not the way he operates.)

      While we know the compostition of meteorites, we don’t know much more about the composition of asteroids other than that they differ from the composition of the meteorites that make them up.

      Could we get that data robotically? Yes, maybe. Can we get that data with a manned flight? Yes, certainly.

      The important thing here is that we have to find them before we can send men to them or prtect ourselves. Why many people think that the smaller ones present no hazard, or a trivial hazard, is beyond the understanding of most of the experts who work in the field.

      (I have to add here that DBN, like many people, has no idea what threatening and non-threatening NEOs are.)

      Is it worth it? Again, most of the experts who work in the field think so, and can argue for their work using cost benefit analysis. The returns compare very very favorably with those from “space science”, as it is now vaguely defined. For that matter, impact studies are space sciene, and not only that, impact studies are probably the most beneficial field of space science.

      To continue with some other mis-perceptions, the mission will return the US to undisputed leadership in space.
      Furher, by developing the technologies needed for building CAPS (the Comet and Asteroid Protection System), the current mission will assure US leadership for decades to come.

      Finally, what the polls show is that finding and stopping the next piece of stuff from space from hitting us has widespread public support, public support much larger than that for manned flight to Mars.

      Why? Most of us, and most of our descendants, will spend their lives right here on Earth. And for us, that has a higher priority than the special interests of different other “space scietists”.

      • Dark Blue Nine

        “Why many people think that the smaller ones present no hazard, or a trivial hazard, is beyond the understanding of most of the experts who work in the field.

        (I have to add here that DBN, like many people, has no idea what threatening and non-threatening NEOs are.)”

        My “idea” is the same as contained in the National Research Council report “Defending Planet Earth”, namely that objects as small as 30-50m in diameter can be “highly destructive” and therefore search efforts should be extended down to those diameters after the ongoing search for 140m objects is complete.

        But sub-7m objects pose no hazard to anyone on Earth.

        “Furher, by developing the technologies needed for building CAPS (the Comet and Asteroid Protection System), the current mission will assure US leadership for decades to come.”

        No, it won’t. The robotic NEO retrieval mission proposed by the Administration bears no resemblence to the RASC concept study on CAPS. The former employs giant bags and solar-electric engines, while the latter uses mega- and gigawatt-class ablative lasers.

        “Finally, what the polls show is that finding and stopping the next piece of stuff from space from hitting us has widespread public support, public support much larger than that for manned flight to Mars.”

        I agree with the sentiment. But what polls? Where?

        • E.P. Grondine

          Hi DBN –

          This mission comes in at less than the cost over runs on the Ed Weiler Space Telescope and the current Mars Rover.
          Given that, so that others can understand your objections, let me restate your biases. You worked for NASA funded cosmological observors who somehow decided that NEO observors and impact specialists are not “space scientists”.

          Getting down to the nitty gritty of science politics, that group intended to use the NRC report to “contain” the NEO effort by pulling in people who are not directly responsible for dealing with the hazard. (Nice try, no cigar.)

          Both the current mission and any diversion plan rely on NEO rendevous. NASA currently has that technology base and it needs to be preserved.

          If you find the smallest and darkest, then you’ve found everything else. The converse holds as well. If you’ve found everything dangerous, you’re goning to pick up a few of the smallest and darkest. The Yemen meteorite shows that that is already happening.

          Why you think only streak methods will be used is an interesting question. Another is why you think only visible light will be involved in the search. Yes, it is going to be difficult to pry observing time (the “integration” you mention) out of the cosmologists hands.

          As far as public support goes, I don’t know if we’ve had a publicly available poll since Chelyabinsk. What we know from the publicly available polls of late last year is that public support for the Moon or Mars is too weak to justify the expenditure on either SLS/Orion or the “commercial” alterneatives.

          Thus if you want NASA to continue, dealing with the impact hazard is the only option available for ansering the “Why?” question.

          • common sense

            Even though you have (some of) the elements to make a sound argument as to “why” we need humans in space, I think you are all over the place and you really need to reorganize your advocacy. As it stands there is no, absolutely no reason to send a human mission to any asteroid whatsoever. It would be much smarter, more affordable to send robots even if some missions fail to deliver. The cost of sending humans to a NEO is so high that it does not make much sense. Preserving the workforce is one argument that you make often but the workforce can transition outside NASA without much loss in knowledge. The problem again is that you are all over the place to try and get people to acknowledge we must do something about NEOs. I personally would try and identify methods necessary to detect and divert any incoming object (start with the small or the big ones, whatever makes sense). Then develop a strategy on time vs. distance (or velocity or whatever makes sense) how to deal with the NEO. And so on and so forth. Stop shooting yourself in the foot.

            As for the NASA retrieval mission. If this becomes part of NASA’s mission then it becomes much easier to establish SAAs with the private sector to address the mission, the technologies etc. Just sayin’

          • Dark Blue Nine

            “This mission comes in at less than the cost over runs on… the current Mars Rover.”

            Wrong. The entire Mars Science Lab mission is $2.5 billion, including overruns. The robotic NEO retrieval mission starts at $2.6 billion, before overruns. And that doesn’t include the cost of the MPCV/SLS mission to visit the NEO or the cost of getting the high-power solar-electric engine and inflatable grappling technologies to the point where mission development can start.

            “You worked for NASA funded cosmological observors”

            No, I didn’t.

            “Both the current mission and any diversion plan rely on NEO rendevous. NASA currently has that technology base and it needs to be preserved.”

            No, the Navy’s Applied Physics Lab (APL), which built and ran the Shoemaker Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous mission, has that technology. Not NASA. And given the dual-use nature of that technology, it’s being preserved very well without any ongoing APL asteroid missions.

            “If you find the smallest and darkest, then you’ve found everything else.”

            That’s a false statement. To find the smallest and darkest and non-hazardous NEOs, you have to stare at small sections of the sky for long periods of time. You may pick up some of the larger, brighter, and hazardous NEOs, but because it’s taking you much longer to cover the sky, you’re missing a lot of large, bright, and hazardous NEOs. This gets even worse when you try to characterize a few of those small, dark, non-hazardous NEOs.

            “Why you think only streak methods will be used is an interesting question. Another is why you think only visible light will be involved in the search.”

            I didn’t state either of those things. The issues above hold true regardless of the detection technique. CCDs are CCDs. It takes longer for faint objects to charge them, and therefore telescopes will have to spend more time staring at a few, small spots in the sky instead of scanning to pick up the larger, bright, hazardous objects.

            “Thus if you want NASA to continue, dealing with the impact hazard is the only option available for ansering the ‘Why?’ question.”

            This mission doesn’t deal with the “impact hazard”. Sub-7m NEOs don’t pose an impact hazard.

            Even if sub-7m NEOs did pose an impact hazard, NASA “continued” for decades despite never “dealing with the impact hazard”. There’s no reason to believe that’s going to change in the coming decades.

  • amightywind

    Hopefully the civil war between SLS and crony crew will increase in intensity. I concur with guestagain’s wise words.

  • guestagain

    I was speaking of NASA’s human space flight program.

    “Why NASA Should Nab an Asteroid”
    “Five Reasons to Lasso an Asteroid”
    These are mainly about an unmanned asteroid probe. This is not something new. Several countries have and are sending probes to different asteroids. We’ve visited Vesta/ We are on the way to Ceres. No one paid a lot of attention to those missions. Sure Jones says that ‘if we want an astronaut to explore an ancient rock’. I’m sure that for an astronaut like Tom who even had a education in the science it would be a thrill to do a spacewalk with an asteroid. For the rest of us there are a lot less expensive ways to find out about their chemical composition. Bring the asteroid to an orbit closer to earth-have not heard of a good explanation for this-we know that if you use propulsion on a mass it moves. We know how orbital mechanics works.

    “Budget and Plans.”
    Nothing at all about what NASA people are doing in human space flight. This is all about the few hundred million being spent to support commercial programs. What is NASA’s strategy for extending the technological frontier? The commercial projects are great in using technology that has largely been proven.

    “NASA Exploration Destinations, Goals, and International Collaboration”
    Link does not seem to work

    The NRC did a report last year that said there is not a NASA plan or strategy. I work there and I can tell you for sure, we have no idea what we are supposed to be working on or why.

    • A M Swallow

      guestagain wrote

      Bring the asteroid to an orbit closer to earth-have not heard of a good explanation for this-we know that if you use propulsion on a mass it moves. We know how orbital mechanics works.

      We have known the mathematics of moving asteroids since Newton. What we do not have is tested technology able to perform the task. This mission will develop and test that technology. Also it is common sense to test on a small asteroid before attempting to deflect a big, city destroying, asteroid.

      • Dark Blue Nine

        “Also it is common sense to test on a small asteroid before attempting to deflect a big, city destroying, asteroid.”

        The asteroids this mission is capable of moving are orders of magnitude smaller that “big, city-destroying asteroids”. No one proposes using big bags and relatively small solar-electric engines to divert 100-meter-plus class asteroids. For threatening asteroids, we have to resort to techniques like nukes, impactors, gravity tractors, albedo resurfacing, etc. This mission makes little to no contribution to those technologies.

        • A M Swallow

          Or lots of SEP tugs to push the asteroid. Lets get one SEP tug flying first.

          • Dark Blue Nine

            “Or lots of SEP tugs to push the asteroid.”

            EP is an ungodly expensive way to divert an asteroid. You use it only if you’re desperate and have no other options.

            A nuclear warhead costs a couple to a few tens of millions of dollars. Put it on an upper stage and launch vehicle and you’re talking a mission cost well under a half billion dollars.

            This mission, by contrast, starts at $2.6 billion. It’s at least fives time more expensive. But scale up and do multiple copies for a bigger asteroid? Now we’re talking tens to hundreds of times more expensive than the nuke option.

        • E.P. Grondine

          Hi DBN –

          The “small” NEOs are city destroying NEOS. The larger ones have destroyed regions, countries, continents, and the Earth’s biosphere.

          That’s because NEOs usually move at speeds faster than anything man has flown. At those veolicities, a 30 meter iron NEO could destroy a city quite well.

      • guestagain

        Its sounds like a fine program. But its an unmanned program. That is not what I was referring to.

  • JimNobles

    These proposed asteroid missions, they’re mainly just being proposed to give SLS/Orion a mission, correct?

    • A M Swallow

      JimNobles wrote

      These proposed asteroid missions, they’re mainly just being proposed to give SLS/Orion a mission, correct?

      Prior to this proposed mission I suspect that you are right, the main aim was to test the Orion and transfer vehicle. After the meteor hit Russia a few weeks ago people may genuinely want to move dangerous asteroids. We are just starting with a small one.

  • Matt

    My two cents-for whatever they’re worth: a lot of this is basically a diagreement over whether or not government (read: taxpayer) money should be going to private companies for what should be their own R&D work. In essence, the congresscritters who are not happy with Commercial Crew seem to feel that if private companies want to develop their own spacecraft for a commercial crew operation, they should do so on their own dime. NO taxpayer money involved. To proponents, this is a prudent investment that accelerates the time when American spacecraft fly again to ISS with crew. To opponents, it’s a waste of funds that can be used for SLS and Orion, and reminds them of failed “green” investment-Solyndra comes to mind.

    • Matt wrote:

      the congresscritters who are not happy with Commercial Crew seem to feel that if private companies want to develop their own spacecraft for a commercial crew operation, they should do so on their own dime. NO taxpayer money involved.

      Funny how they never showed a bit of concern when the Bush administration proposed it in 2004, implemented it in 2005, issued the first contracts in 2006, and planned to start commercial crew in 2009 — until Obama was elected. Then, all of a sudden, they’re against it.

      • Malmesbury

        Yet (in general) people who are worried about the “purity” of COTS and CC are enthusiastic about cost-plus development contracts to develop all kinds military and aerospace products.

        Which then get flogged to all kinds of people round the world….. To make profits for the shareholders of said companies…

        To put it another way – the only reason that ULA aren’t selling flights to launch satellites with their developed-slowly-over-decades-with-billion-of-government-funds launchers is that their prices are too high.

        The real issue with commercial comes back to the way the contracts are being run. If NASA adopts the fly before buy model, the winner can’t be determined in advance, and it will based more on performance than political issues. In other words, you asking politicians to relinquish control of who gets the contract.

        Worse yet, the contractors (so far under SAA) can decide to use whatever subcontractors they want (or even do it in house). Which means there is no “proper” spreading of the money around the politically key states. Think less control again.

    • Fred Willett

      To proponents, this is a prudent investment that accelerates the time when American spacecraft fly again to ISS with crew. To opponents, it’s a waste of funds that can be used for SLS and Orion
      That sums up the argument exactly.
      But it is a mistake to think the arguments are equal.
      At the moment the US has no domestic crew capability, nor is MPCV designed to fill that role. MPCV is overbuilt for ISS transport and far too expensive. If commercial crew doesn’t happen then it would be much more sensible to continue using the Soyuz as crew transport to ISS and concede that the US is no longer interested in having human access to LEO.

    • @Matt
      “My two cents-for whatever they’re worth: a lot of this is basically a diagreement over whether or not government (read: taxpayer) money should be going to private companies for what should be their own R&D work. In essence, the congresscritters who are not happy with Commercial Crew seem to feel that if private companies want to develop their own spacecraft for a commercial crew operation, they should do so on their own dime. NO taxpayer money involved. To proponents, this is a prudent investment that accelerates the time when American spacecraft fly again to ISS with crew. To opponents, it’s a waste of funds that can be used for SLS and Orion, and reminds them of failed “green” investment-Solyndra comes to mind.”

      Sounds like maybe Wiser is back to haunt us? It’s the same kind of inane drivel he used to spout. Whoever he is he completely misses the point that what a few Congress Critters on space related committees are saying is just an excuse to get the maximum amount of pork via SLS to their constituencies.

    • E.P. Grondine

      Who does this, how, and where are three questions.

      The other more important question that goes unasked and unanswered is, “Why do anything at all?”.

      The proponents on both sides duck this question, instead pretending that the space budget is just there to be divided up. They consistently and continually duck the question of why not just cancel SLS and “commercial” crew entirely?

      No elected official working in the real world anywhere gets to duck this question. It doesn’t matter if they work in the US, Europe, Japan, Russia, China, India, or anywhere else.

      None of them get to duck the “Why?” question.

    • To opponents, it’s a waste of funds that can be used for SLS and Orion, and reminds them of failed “green” investment-Solyndra comes to mind.”

      Only because they’re ignorant, and don’t understand the difference between loan guarantees and fixed-price milestones.

      • Robert G. Oler

        Only because they’re ignorant, and don’t understand the difference between loan guarantees and fixed-price milestones.>>

        micro

        the macro is that in both cases what was done was an appropriate role for the federal government and the people are ignorant of history and how the Republic became an economic superpower and why it has declined in the last 13 or so years.

        Robert G. Oler

      • DCSCA

        Only because they’re ignorant, and don’t understand the difference between loan guarantees and fixed-price milestones.

        Except most people do after the Wall Street fiasco and auto bailouts. The place to source capital investment aka ‘loan guarantees’ – guarantees at market rates not sweetheart rates from government– is the private sector, not the U.S. Treasury. We already have several government space programs- civil, military and black ops. We don’t need to subsidize private sector wannabea awwkin parody throgh false equivalency– and have flown nobody.

        • Neil Shipley

          Pot, kettle, black.

        • Coastal Ron

          DCSCA moaned:

          We don’t need to subsidize private sector wannabea…

          Great, let’s have the ULA launch subsidy removed and let them compete purely on price – which is what SpaceX does. Glad to see you are supporting SpaceX now… ;-)

    • Robert G. Oler

      “My two cents-for whatever they’re worth: a lot of this is basically a diagreement over whether or not government (read: taxpayer) money should be going to private companies for what should be their own R&D work.”

      No, that is the rhetoric. What it is in actuallity an attempt by congresspeople et all to continue the policies that kept the space industrial complex being feed cash…and the ability of those groups to dole out rhetoric which can help the weak of mind ideologically to accept those policies.

      This is the space equivelent of all the other “30 second phrases” like say “regime change” or “amnesty” that are designed to try and dodge reality.

      RGO

    • josh

      the people who oppose commercial crew are hyprocrites and crony capitalists. they want the government to spend billions on a pork project (sls) under cost plus contracts while complaining about a highly successful milestone-based approach that costs a small fraction of sls/orion and actually produces results (commercial crew).
      it’s hypocrisy, plain and simple.

    • Coastal Ron

      Matt said:

      a lot of this is basically a diagreement over whether or not government (read: taxpayer) money should be going to private companies for what should be their own R&D work.

      No, it’s not. People that don’t understand how services are procured think this, and they are wrong.

      If NASA was buying purely commercial transportation services, and not imposing any NASA standards, then NASA paying for the R&D would be odd. But that’s not what is happening.

      NASA wants full control over how crew transportation to the ISS is supplied, and they are setting the standards for everyone to follow. Not only that, NASA didn’t even have a full set of standards available when CCDev was first competed, so there was a lot that was unknown, and that equates to risk on the part of the commercial companies. When a customer imposes their own requirements, they have to pay for them – that’s standard business practice.

      The CCiCap participants are already risking their own money, since they don’t know whether NASA will have enough money to fund all of the competitors. And no company would risk 100% of the R&D money on the vague promise that Congress MIGHT provide enough funding SOMEDAY to buy transportation services from them. Anyone that has done business with the government knows that future promises are not worth the paper they are printed on – only signed contracts are bankable, and only then to the extent of their cancellation clauses.

  • Three years ago today, President Obama was at Kennedy Space Center to gave his space policy speech and take on the space-industrial complex.

    That speech and my comments at:

    http://spaceksc.blogspot.com/2013/04/when-obama-visited-ksc.html

    With three years of history, Jeff’s topic thread is very timely.

  • E.P. Grondine

    Who does what, how, and where are three questions.

    The other more important question that is never asked and no one here answers is “Why do anything at all?”

    Why not just cancel SLS and “commercial” crew? Why do the vocal enthusiastic supporters here of either approch expect that if one is cancelled, they will get the money “freed up”?

    • James

      “Why do anything at all?

      Other than pork, and a general sense that Americans like having a human space flight program (not that they want to pay for it, just that they like having one), I’d say there is no reason.

      • DCSCA

        You’ve hit on the core issue, James. The United States has failed to articulate a concise rationale for HSF ops in the 21st century. It may be that American society is so quixotic that it may never take root beyond being a reactive policy for flag waving and economi power and political projection.

        • E.P. Grondine

          Hi DCSCA –

          Since for the last 16 years or so I’ve been pretty sure that THE answer to the “Why?” question is dealing with the impact hazard, I view the new mission as NASA simply making that paradigm shift. It has certainly come about in a way far different than I expected back in 1997.

          • Dark Blue Nine

            “Since for the last 16 years or so I’ve been pretty sure that THE answer to the “Why?” question is dealing with the impact hazard, I view the new mission as NASA simply making that paradigm shift.”

            This mission doesn’t make that “paradigm shift”. 7-meter NEOs don’t pose an impact hazard.

        • Gregori

          Because its irrational

  • josh

    aderholt and edwards are a disgrace. this is pork barrel politics and nothing else.

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