NASA

Garver: role for private sector in NASA’s asteroid mission plans

NASA deputy administrator Lori Garver made a surprise appearance yesterday morning at the opening session of the Planetary Defense Conference 2013 in Flagstaff, Arizona (she said she had planned to attend months ago, but her appearance was only formalized relatively late and not included in the agenda for the session.) She provided an overview of NASA’s FY14 budget proposal in general, with a particular focus on the agency’s new asteroid initiative, something of particular interest to attendees.

Afterwards, Garver was asked what role new private ventures with an interest in asteroids, like Planetary Resources and Deep Space Industries, would have with the initiative. “That’s a really important aspect of this,” she said. “When Planetary Resources was founded a few months ago, and following on that Deep Space Industries, I could not have been happier” because it demonstrated there was interest in asteroids beyond NASA. (Planetary Resources actually formally announced its plans almost a year ago; Deep Space Industries followed in January.) She added that NASA’s planned additional $20-million investment in asteroid detection efforts was not intended to be competitive with the B612 Foundation’s Sentinel mission.

Garver said NASA would hold a workshop in the “June timeframe” to look how to best leverage the NASA investment and that the agency was open to tools like data buys and prizes to get information on identifying asteroids that could be potential targets of the proposed NASA mission. “We believe there are a lot of innovative ways, just like we are doing in other aspects of NASA” to support agency goals, she said.

Her comments came just a few days after one of the principals of one asteroid resource company expressed hope that NASA would partner with industry. “We’re looking forward to a partnership with NASA. There’s a lot the private sector can bring to this game,” Rick Tumlinson, chairman of the board of Deep Space Industries, said at the Space Access ’13 conference in Phoenix on April 11. “A correctly structured program to bring an asteroid into lunar orbit may be based on the COTS model, where we had a cooperative venture leading to a pay-for-services model. It might work very well in this case.”

76 comments to Garver: role for private sector in NASA’s asteroid mission plans

  • Dark Blue Nine

    Nice words but…

    If NASA was serious about PR and DSI, the agency would support these companies’ first steps by buying time on their microsat-class curvey telescopes — not building a pork-driven in-house instrument to fly on a GEO comsat.

    If NASA was serious about PR and DSI, the agency would commit to retrieving a C-type asteroid per the Keck study, not whatever tiny NEO it can get most quickly as Lightfoot stated in his budget talk.

    If NASA was serious about PR and DSI, the agency would send robotic precursors (whether PR/DSI’s or the agency’s) to ensure that the retrieved NEO is truly a C-type asteroid useful for testing and resource extraction and not thinly surfaced with carbonaceous material.

    If NASA was serious about space data buys and space prizes, then the agency would have actually done some over the past decade, not bought engineering specs from Google Lunar X-Prize competitors and repeatedly limited Centennial Challenges to ground-based robotics.

    The agency has started nothing fundamentally new commercially since Centennial Challenges and COTS, including COTS-D, was announced during the Bush Administration. Garver’s support for commercial crew (COTS-D revamped) is great, but she wastes a lot of hot air and time saying nice things at these conferences with nothing substantively new to show for it.

    Why does NASA even need to hold a June workshop on this topic? There are only two companies in this game. Invite them to the office and start talking to them.

    How much more bureacratic can the Deputy Administrator make the blindingly obvious?

    • Gregori

      Yes NASA should just give away money to unproven companies…

      • Dark Blue Nine

        Where did I write that “NASA should just give away money to unproven companies”?

        There’s no reason for NASA to do small, simple, space-based telescopes in-house. College students do those. So could these companies.

        And there’s no reason to hold a workshop for only two players in an industry.

        Take some office meetings and release an RFI or two, develop a couple SAAs or BAAs based on those inputs, release draft versions of those solicitations and ask for comment, and then update and release the final SAAs or BAAs. Same goes for prizes. Best proposals or entries win.

        It’s a very straightforward process to get commercial activities on the street. The agency just has to stop tripping over itself.

        • Gregori

          Oh I summarized the gist of it for you. pardon

          • Dark Blue Nine

            No, you didn’t.

          • Isn’t it funny how people say “in other words” when they apparently aren’t capable of understanding simple English?

          • Tom Billings

            Gregori, ..Not only did you summarize nothing said before, but you did your best to twist what was said, without adding context, nor any new information. Your basic assumption was that NASA was giving away money, especially whenever a Corp. not a member of the NASA Contractor’s Club was getting any. That is standard contractor club blither. The people at Planetary Resources alone have over a century of spaceflight work between them. Deep Space is hiring people as experienced in asteroid research as John Lewis, and it gets no better than him, anywhere. SAA are completely appropriate there.

            IMHO, the real addition to what Dark Blue Nine said should have been that NASA has found itself playing a game set by the Congressional Committees far more than it had hoped to. Neither Lori nor General Bolden will want to antagonize them ahead of the attempted raid on CCiCap funding they anticipate to fund the asteroid mission the administration asked for 2 years ago, before the SLS program was forced down their throats. So, they are doing *nothing* that could be characterized as “give away money” by the same fools who tout CCiCap as doing that.

            That is the reason for the conferences and other froofraw. They can leave no political openings for those who don’t give a damn about either the Moon or the Asteroids, as long as money flows to their own congressional districts.

            • Gregori

              Its not my problem that everyone wants to redirect the pork to their own pet project. If the companies are serious about their endeavors, they would want to have a business plan that doesn’t involve sucking off the government teat. So many of these “start-ups” are targeted almost solely at government with all wonderful rhetoric about being private ventures.

              • common sense

                ” If the companies are serious about their endeavors, they would want to have a business plan that doesn’t involve sucking off the government teat. ”

                Agreed completely. These company are not serious, clearly unlike you. I am sure you are so serious about human space exploration that you made a living working for it.

                Right?

              • Coastal Ron

                Gregori said:

                If the companies are serious about their endeavors, they would want to have a business plan that doesn’t involve sucking off the government teat.

                That’s kind of an anarchist position, isn’t it?

                Do you apply the same standard to office supply companies that provide copy paper to the government? Or the airlines that carry government employees? What about service personnel that get paid by the government? Soldiers, janitors, law enforcement… all teat suckers?

                Look, the way I look at it the government has a need to send supplies to the ISS, so the CRS program is a service, not pork. Same with the Commercial Crew program, which addresses America’s desire to have a domestic crew transportation capability so we don’t have to rely on Russia for rides to space.

                The SLS to me is a great example of pork. The Administration didn’t want it, and there are no defined uses for it. In fact that’s what Nelson is trying to do with this asteroid proposal, is find at least ONE use for the SLS.

                For the asteroid topic, I agree with DBN, in that to the point that the U.S. is interested in learning more about asteroids, the level of effort needed today can be done for less money by the private sector.

                Is that “evil”? No, not considering how expensive it is for NASA to do things. The government is hardly ever the least expensive way to accomplish any goal, so the real challenge is making sure the contractor work doesn’t morph beyond valuable work and into continuous pork (like what Boeing is doing on the SLS).

              • Gregori

                I don’t think there is a need to send things to the ISS as there is not a need for an ISS. Its corporate welfare. I think human spaceflight is a waste of money for a bunch of insane fanatical stunts and should be left up to the private sector totally. I am not working all my life for human spaceflight precisely because I think its crazy. Sure, I’m entertained when I see an new mission fly, but entertainment is a pure excuse for a government agency.

              • common sense

                “I don’t think there is a need to send things to the ISS”

                You’re mixing up so much stuff. Well let’s see. Is there an ISS in orbit? Yes. Do we the US have a task to service the ISS? Yes. Therefore there is a need to send “things” to the ISS.

                ” as there is not a need for an ISS.”

                Irrelevant since there is an ISS. What? Do you want to splash it down? And give the finger to the international community? Is that how you run your life/business?

                ” Its corporate welfare.”

                I see. When the airlines carry troops around it’s what? Charity?

                “I think human spaceflight is a waste of money for a bunch of insane fanatical stunts and should be left up to the private sector totally.”

                Which is precisely what I and others here are trying to change. To support, one way or another, the creation of a market, a new economic sector. But this is not a done deal. Things don’t appear over night. The Internet that you are so fond of was created by whom? Any idea? Airlines? It is the government role to ensure the well being of its citizens and it is in part done by creating wealth. And wealth is created through some form of market. Today we are trying to see whether there is a space based market. Yes it might support exploration as well as we develop our capabilities and it may reduce government’s role especially in those idiotic stunts you refer to.

                “I am not working all my life for human spaceflight precisely because I think its crazy.”

                There is more than human space flight in creating a space based economy. Doing anything like this? Anything? Even trying to be informed?

                “Sure, I’m entertained when I see an new mission fly, but entertainment is a pure excuse for a government agency.”

                No, entertainment is not “a pure excuse for a government agency.” Nor should it be. Otherwise your attitude is just plain hypocrisy. You are entertained and the government pays for it, yet you think it’s crazy? Sorry but I’d rather see my tax-dollars go to something else than entertaining people. I’d rather have gotten myself an advanced education for something else than entertainment because this business does not pay much compared with say Hollywood. And Hollywood deluvers a lot more bang for the buck when it comes to entertainment.

                Darn.

              • Gregori

                There already is a space based economy. It doesn’t involve humans. Communication and observation satellites and other things people will actually pay money for in a private market. Humans are pretty much useless in space. They probably should splash the station in 2015. With the debt the government is wracking up, human spaceflight seems like an absurd waste.

                Jesus. The sucking of the government teat never ends. Enough with these faux markets that are just monopsonies.

              • Coastal Ron

                Gregori said:

                Humans are pretty much useless in space.

                Well OK, that pretty much limits any need we’ll have to engage you on how best to expand humanities presence out into space.

                For those of us that do think humanity should expand our presence out into space, the ISS is key to learning not only how to survive in space, but how we can live and work in space over increasingly longer periods of time.

                And while I do see a large need for robotic explorers, especially when visiting new places, humans do provide abilities that aren’t yet able to be done tele-robotically. The key though is knowing ahead of time what the need for humans is, and so far that’s been pretty limited. That will change though, and that’s why we need to know how to survive (and thrive) in space far away from Earth.

              • common sense

                “There already is a space based economy. It doesn’t involve humans. Communication and observation satellites and other things people will actually pay money for in a private market.”

                Something you don’t understand in “create a new market”? I am not talking about satellites. I did not know that having satellites would exclude any other markets. The Moon has been around for sometime you know? And it’s a satellite. Thankfully someone saw the benefit of having more satellites of a different kind. And it was not achieved overnight.

                “Humans are pretty much useless in space.”

                Says who?

                “They probably should splash the station in 2015.”

                I see. You are making policy now? The stations is around and has been planned to stay around until at least 2020. Make an effort, will you? http://www.nasa.gov/connect/chat/bolden_chat.html
                “CharlieB: NASA will continue to have manned spaceflights with our next launch being to the International Space Station early this fall. Our intention is to continue the operation of the ISS with American and partner crew members through at least 2020.”

                “With the debt the government is wracking up, human spaceflight seems like an absurd waste.”

                Blablablablablabla. The DoD costs us around $1T and I do not see any sign of canceling it even though a lot of the most expensive weapons systems do not protect us all that much.

                “Jesus. The sucking of the government teat never ends. Enough with these faux markets that are just monopsonies.”

                Did you come up with this on your own, or copied it from elsewhere? And Jesus has nothing to do with it. Leave him be.

                Monopsonies… And by the way, no the sucking will never end. This is why we have a government and we pay taxes. A difficult concept I know.

                —-

                “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.” — Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, 1943.

              • Gregori

                If there was a credible market for any of these things, it would be done by the private sector using private capital. The government shouldn’t be in the business of picking the winners and creating faux “markets”.

                You are defending waste by deflecting the spotlight away from NASA and to the DoD. I think a lot of the DoD deserves to be downsized as it doesn’t protect from any credible threat.

                Its amazing how hysterical people get when you question their own pork and sci-fi interests. :)

              • common sense

                “If there was a credible market for any of these things, it would be done by the private sector using private capital.”

                Gregori Economic Rule #1. I seeeee. You are not in aerospace but rather in business/economic type work. Must have an MBA? Or something that demonstrates you actually know those things. Self-made man? You made a fortune selling satellites?

                “The government shouldn’t be in the business of picking the winners and creating faux “markets”.”

                Profound statement.

                “You are defending waste by deflecting the spotlight away from NASA and to the DoD. I think a lot of the DoD deserves to be downsized as it doesn’t protect from any credible threat.”

                You don’t understand what you read!! I get it now. So tomorrow ask a friend to teach you and get on with it because you know it is going to help you throughout your life.

                “Its amazing how hysterical people get when you question their own pork and sci-fi interests. ”

                Hysterical? You’re funny Gregori. As to my own pork, personally, I like it better cooked pink and juicy on the grill. Sci-Fi interests are fairly broad even though nowadays I don’t really have time to read so I watch movies instead, it helps numb my mind in face of so profound comments I have to read everyday. But I liked Dredd and Star Trek and Star Wars and other stuff and I am looking forward to watching Oblivion.

                You’re welcome. ;)

              • Gregori

                Ad hominem and jeer me all you like… it doesn’t change the fundamentals. There is no real market for human spaceflight in the near future and if one is created it should not be done with people’s taxes but through the market mechanism where ideas are tried through economic merit and not forced down people’s throats by confiscating other people’s money.

              • Coastal Ron

                Gregori said:

                If there was a credible market for any of these things, it would be done by the private sector using private capital.

                There is a market – NASA needs to resupply the ISS, and needs to transport crew to/from the ISS. They even know the cost of not developing a U.S. supplier, since they are already buying those services from other countries.

                The market exists.

                Who pays for setting up the initial capability is really the big dispute, and this is where you have to put your business hat on (if you have one).

                If you ran a company, and a customer came to you and said:

                I want you pay you to deliver our personnel to a very dangerous location, but you have to do it exactly the way we want, not the way you think you would do it.

                Oh, and we can’t guarantee that we’ll have the money to pay you when you’ve done all the things we say you have to do before you can delivery our personnel, nor can we guarantee that we’ll still have a need for that service in the 5 years it will take us to make sure you are going to do it the way we want you to do it.

                Is that OK? Will you commit $1B of your own money on those terms?

                So if you were a CEO, or a Board of Directors responsible for the fiscal health of your company, what would your response be?

                This is a test of how well you understand how it is to work with the government, which I have, and apparently you haven’t.

              • Gregori

                The test of if there is a “market” is when you take away the ISS and the government gravy train.

              • Coastal Ron

                Gregori said:

                The test of if there is a “market” is when you take away the ISS and the government gravy train.

                Since the Commercial Crew participants are already investing their own money before any revenue trips occur, it’s hard to see where the “gravy train” is.

                This continues to be a fallacy that in your logic.

                As to whether there will be any other need to send people to LEO after the U.S. part of the ISS program has ended, I have no doubt there will be, the only question is when. But the when is pretty flexible, since the rockets all the spacecraft ride on are in continuous production regardless if there is any crew business, so it’s really just the spacecraft programs in house that need to stay active for any business.

                It’s a pretty low overhead compared to what NASA will be experiencing with the MPCV and SLS.

            • common sense

              “There is no real market for human spaceflight in the near future and if one is created it should not be done with people’s taxes”

              So you are saying that airlines should pay back the various government for helping to develop a new industry? Railways? Internet? Etc. Is it the core of your argument?

              ” but through the market mechanism where ideas are tried through economic merit and not forced down people’s throats by confiscating other people’s money.”

              Confiscating other people’s money? Confiscating? Do you know what taxes are for?

              So in essence you want taxes to be selectively used according to your own criteria? Or just no tax at all? Then we can have private militia replacing the military, corporation replacing the government(s). Etc. How do you suggest we use, or not, taxes? What should the criteria be for using, or not, taxes? Please enlighten me.

              —–

              https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taxes

              “Money provided by taxation has been used by states and their functional equivalents throughout history to carry out many functions. Some of these include expenditures on war, the enforcement of law and public order, protection of property, economic infrastructure (roads, legal tender, enforcement of contracts, etc.), public works, social engineering, subsidies, and the operation of government itself. Governments also use taxes to fund welfare and public services. A portion of taxes also go to pay off the state’s debt and the interest this debt accumulates. These services can include education systems, health care systems, pensions for the elderly, unemployment benefits, and public transportation. Energy, water and waste management systems are also common public utilities. “

              • Gregori

                Taxes should be used on things that are generally needed by the public, not creating faux-markets in space or paying for the economic sci-fi fantasies of others. I know what taxes should be used for but more often than not they are just a method of confiscating money to give to others

      • josh

        well, nasa has proven beyond the shadow of a doubt that they’re not up to the task (see constellation). so why not?

  • E.P. Grondine

    Hi again DBN –

    Sorry, but given that DSI is trying to enter PR’s market, I don’t think that PR will be publicly sharing their business plans with them anytime soon.

    PR is likely to continue to keep those proprietary.

    Garver told you the purpose of the June meeting.

    The Canadian Space Agency will likely be participating in that one as well, as the first NEOSAT results should be coming in soon…

    There is a fight on in the US for the contracts for the ground processing for all of the data.

    My diabetes is acting up, and I am in the field now doing what work I can, and will likely not be at the June meeting either…

    • Dark Blue Nine

      “Sorry, but given that DSI is trying to enter PR’s market, I don’t think that PR will be publicly sharing their business plans with them anytime soon.”

      Where did I say that PR planned to share their business plan with DSI?

      The rest of your response is equally nonsensical.

      • E.P. Grondine

        Hi DBN –

        “Where did I say that PR planned to share their business plan with DSI?”

        Note Bechtel just teamed up with PR.

        • common sense

          I love this exchange.

          >>Question: “Where did I say that PR planned to share their business plan with DSI?”

          >>Answer: Note Bechtel just teamed up with PR.

          It explains a lot though.

          Oh well…

  • common sense

    “How much more bureacratic can the Deputy Administrator make the blindingly obvious?”

    Not to dispute your assertions but you are answering your own question, somehow.

    NASA is a government agency, some sort of public service. It is not a business and cannot be run as such, it is not seeking effectiveness. It only wants to keep the workforce around, right or wrong. Any manager will tell you anywhere that to be successful they must control the budget. So how do you get a budget at NASA? Could it be related to how many people are actually working for you? If so, where is the incentive to be more efficient, leaner?

    Also most civil servants will still be there long after Bolden and Garver will be gone. They just have to wait and weather the ongoing storm. You cannot change the ways of an agency such as NASA if it does not want to change. Or rather, you may be able to but, since you cannot hire/fire as you want, you have to starve the agency. Put the agency in a spot where it will break or make. And oh surprise, what is happening? Lots of rhetoric coming out of Congress but not much in terms of action. In actuality Congress is bent on decreasing the budget at NASA. What I find phenomenal here though is the support of the NASA workforce sold to the delusion of SLS/MPCV.

    So for example, the budget is being cut. Right. So what would any business do? They would restructure as appropriate to survive. NASA is not restructuring. They are throwing away some services that may end up being essential to get NASA going. But how do you efficiently restructure if you cannot move people around at the very least? Congress is NASA’s customer but what a customer! These people cannot come to an agreement if their lives depended on it. Many here are asking for some visionary leader at NASA. But it won’t work. The vision if any must come from the customer, Congress. And they don’t have any vision. They are willing to fund a stupid set of vehicles with no mission, hence no vision. They just want to spend the money they have to keep their customers happy, i.e. the voters. The ROI for Congress is in number of votes, not in money saving. The WH offered to give NASA a new direction, developing technologies necessary for exploration but some idiots need a destination, a place to plant a flag.

    Good luck restructuring NASA. Good luck with the bureaucracy. It is plain amusing to see Congress blaming the WH for a budget that they actually vote for.

    Anyway. I think you are asking NASA to do things that they just cannot do and/or don’t want to do. How long is this going to last since you cannot change the agency? How long is the starvation going to be? How do you replace a workforce you cannot move? You tell me.

    Oh well.

    • Dark Blue Nine

      “I think you are asking NASA to do things that they just cannot do and/or don’t want to do.”

      I think you’re right in terms of the overall NEO retrieval initiative. It’s a $2.6+ billion initiative that doesn’t make significant advances in human space exploration, planetary defense, or space resources, but gives the right stakeholders the appearance that NASA is being responsive to their pet projects (SLS/MPCV) and goals (2025 human NEO mission).

      That said, NASA is inflicting more wounds on itself and the nascent space resources industry over and above what the Beltway is doing to the agency.

      No one is requiring NASA to wait months and months to hold a “workshop” for an industry that only consists of two players. NASA is doing that to itself.

      No one is requiring NASA to tie up expensive civil servant resources building college-level micro-space telescopes in-house (at least not yet) when industry can supply them at low cost. NASA is doing that to itself.

      No one is requiring NASA to retrieve whatever NEO it can grab first instead of waiting for a C-type asteroid that will be useful to this nascent industry. NASA is doing that to itself.

      No one is requiring NASA to forgo precursor missions and risk retrieving the wrong asteroid when industry can supply them at low cost. NASA is doing that to itself.

      The overall NEO retrieval initiative is as dumb as rocks (no pun intended), and I agree that’s driven by forces outside NASA’s control. But in its first steps, NASA is also going out of its way to make the initiative as commercially unresponsive and useless as possible. No one in the White House or Congress is forcing the agency to do that.

      • common sense

        “I think you’re right in terms of the overall NEO retrieval initiative. ”

        My comment extended beyond the NEO dream/nightmare.

        “It’s a $2.6+ billion initiative that doesn’t make significant advances in human space exploration, planetary defense, or space resources, but gives the right stakeholders the appearance that NASA is being responsive to their pet projects (SLS/MPCV) and goals (2025 human NEO mission).”

        My only hope with this mission is that if it becomes an integral part of NASA’s mission then it becomes that much easier to establish SAAs with the industry. Possibly opening the door for a NEO-COTS. We all know, including NASA I am sure, that SLS/MOCV will never be part of this mission since they will never fly. So in essence they are planting the seed for partnership. Then they will have to be smart about it…

        “That said, NASA is inflicting more wounds on itself and the nascent space resources industry over and above what the Beltway is doing to the agency.”

        I think this is not quite correct. Any organization reflects the desire of its customers. And again the desire is not to establish and perform on any given mission. My experience is that until there is a budget allocated to anything this is just plain bs err theater.The customer says it’s all fine all the while cutting budget. So…

        “No one is requiring NASA to wait months and months to hold a “workshop” for an industry that only consists of two players. NASA is doing that to itself.

        No one is requiring NASA to tie up expensive civil servant resources building college-level micro-space telescopes in-house (at least not yet) when industry can supply them at low cost. NASA is doing that to itself.

        No one is requiring NASA to retrieve whatever NEO it can grab first instead of waiting for a C-type asteroid that will be useful to this nascent industry. NASA is doing that to itself.

        No one is requiring NASA to forgo precursor missions and risk retrieving the wrong asteroid when industry can supply them at low cost. NASA is doing that to itself.”

        All very true but this is not the point. The point is “I have 10 people working for me so what can I plan to make sure these people are employed”? Well how many PhDs with 20 year experience do you actually need to build college-level anything? I will venture a guess: Not many. Yet what do you do with those guys? Of course since you cannot get rid of them any one with a bit of imagination would use these people to do something else that is actually needed. But it requires… imagination AND that these people agree to do something that is different from what they have done all those years which made them a legend in the world. See what I mean? But don’t get me wrong I am sure they are not all like that, right?

        “The overall NEO retrieval initiative is as dumb as rocks (no pun intended), and I agree that’s driven by forces outside NASA’s control. But in its first steps, NASA is also going out of its way to make the initiative as commercially unresponsive and useless as possible. No one in the White House or Congress is forcing the agency to do that.”

        Yes but what I was trying to say was that it may not be Garver’s fault alone. Again what do you do if a subordinate civil servant refuses to do the work yet you cannot move them out of the way? What?

        • Dark Blue Nine

          “My comment extended beyond the NEO dream/nightmare.”

          Fair enough.

          “Again what do you do if a subordinate civil servant refuses to do the work yet you cannot move them out of the way? What?”

          You let them rot. You stick them in a dead end job, give them tasks they hate, and deny them advancement and raises. Eventually they’re smart enough to take the hint or the pain of the job overcomes their fears and they go elsewhere.

          • common sense

            Nah. It won’t work. Your method only works on isolated cases, not if the problem is systemic.

            The system is self perpetuating. NASA (try to) hire fresh out of school kids that they then educate into the NASA way for many years. These people, except for some, have never set foot in a real business. They only understand the NASA hierarchical system that has some tepid military flavor to it, except that in the military if you eff up you are dismissed and probably sent to a nice assignment somewhere warm or cold.

            But they have delusion of grandeur, of fiefdom. They just have no idea how it works outside the confines of the agency. A lot would not survive outside. And in the current economic situation who would be fool enough to leave a well paying job even if they are asked to “be flying a cargo plane full of rubber dog shit out of Hong Kong”. Not a chance. The situation is dire. And as usual nobody is willing to take an ounce of responsibility.

            But as they say “the fish rots from the head” and the head is Congress. Congress pays for programs where nobody is really accountable for. But it is not just NASA, only that this is the topic at hands but any major corporation tends to follow the same model. Lack of accountability, promotion of CYA. The real difference here is that the workforce can just tell you to eff off if they don’t want to do the job because they can just plain stay. The idea of a permanent job is great, fantastic but we are seeing the perversion of it. And when I hear self congratulatory people say they have been civil servants for 30 years I wonder how the public would actually react if they knew. Especially the public going through the current economic malaise to say the least.

            Why is someone so proud to be a civili servant for 30 years when their job is at no risk? Odd.

      • DCSCA

        “… the overall NEO retrieval initiative. It’s a $2.6+ billion initiative that doesn’t make significant advances in human space exploration, planetary defense, or space resources, but gives the right stakeholders the appearance that NASA is being responsive to their pet projects (SLS/MPCV) and goals (2025 human NEO mission).”

        Yep.

        United States civil space policy is at a crossroads. And it is in free drift. After half a century of lurching from one project to another for various geo-political strategies and economic motives, the core question for this century remain unanswered:

        What is the rationale for HSF by the United States in the 21st century?

        Projecting geo-political power snd economic vigor on Earth? Surely it’s not the flags an footprints pitch– that motivation died with Apollo.

        As a life-long HSF advicate, DCSCA has to say there simply isn’t s rationale with the viability to catch the imagination of the general public and sell it to them. Lassoing a space rock sure ain’t it.

        It’s make work for the aerospace industry. Place holding. And it will never happen.

        It smacks of being just another ‘WPA’-styled project of scale for the space infrastructure just like the ISS boondoggle. And in this era, it’s a waste of dwindling resources. So we’re down to this– a few years ago his one time lobbyist now deputy administrator talked of returning to the moon. Now she’s babbling about lassoing space rocks. Anything for a contract, eh, Lori? And shuttle deadwood Bolden won’t think about a retuen to Luna either so they pitch lassoing a small one to play with sround luna instead to fill the void.

        Except it doesn’t.

        And as a life-long advocate for HSF, it pains me to say this entire proposed mission is just plain stupid. Sooner ot later somebody in Washington is going to look down the national agenda and see the foolishness going on at this once proud agency. But by then, it may be too late and billions will go down the rathole again. Still, Constellation was shelved. Snd there’s room for the Project Lasso binder next to it.

        “NASA is inflicting more wounds on itself and the nascent space resources industry over and above what the Beltway is doing to the agency.”

        Yep.

        As projects of scale go, in terms of the bureaucracy, this is the ISS redux. Lots of contracts to be let and when its done, HSF rationale will remain undefined. What do they do with it once they lasso it? Find what an unmanned probe could report at 100 times less the cost and then be stuck with having to deorbit the crstertmaker into Luna lest it get loose and we fsce ‘Armageddon.’ For a once proud, can-do space agency that got humans to Luna, this proposal is pure lunacy.

        _________

        “Garver: role for private sector in NASA’s asteroid mission plans”

        Fire her.

        • Coastal Ron

          DCSCA opined:

          As a life-long HSF advicate, DCSCA has to say there simply isn’t s rationale with the viability to catch the imagination of the general public and sell it to them.

          Just because you want to be “inspired”, doesn’t mean most taxpayers do. They don’t.

          Ask anybody about the successes NASA has had over the decades outside of the mega programs like Apollo, Shuttle and ISS, and you will find that NASA didn’t “catch the imagination of the general public” prior to when the mission actually succeeded. Most of the time the public didn’t know anything about those efforts until they were launched, much less started making their first discovery.

          That’s why trying to run NASA by being “inspiring” is doomed to failure.

          NASA does best when it has focused science and technology goals with little political involvement. That’s not to say politicians don’t have a role – they do. But that role is in the funding and oversight, not the definition of the science and technology goals.

          That’s one of major reasons the SLS is so screwed up – politicians wanted it, not NASA, nor any known customers.

          JWST is an example in the other extreme, in that politicians didn’t demand better accountability from the program managers when they started going over budget.

          The public will let NASA do whatever it does without major input, just as it does with every other agency and department in the government. The U.S. Taxpayer is too busy with their daily lives to be bothered with such minor details as what a $18B/year agency is doing. Produce something of value and they might take time out of their daily lives to provide a comment. But it’s not mandatory.

          The key though is that if they do take a close look at what’s going on, will they see something of value happening? Will they see their money being spent wisely? Will it have lasting value?

          Those are the real questions they ask, not about “inspiration”.

          • DCSCA

            That’s why trying to run NASA by being “inspiring” is doomed to failure.

            The only person who has posted anything about running NASA by ‘inspiration; is you. What you fail to grasp is the need for generationg public support. That may take some imagination. that’s not inspiration. Do ‘go back to school’ and try to learn the differnce. and while you’re at it, revisit the folly of the Harding, Coolidge, Hoover era.

            • Coastal Ron

              DCSCA mumbled:

              What you fail to grasp is the need for generationg public support.

              And what you fail to have is a spell checker – get a clue, man!

              Back to the topic at hand – when was the last time you voted for a space program, hmm? That’s right, you never have.

              How often do politicians get voted out of office for supporting or not supporting a space program? That’s right, they never do.

              “The Public” only votes for people that oversee our space program, not the programs themselves, and space is not a big enough issue to register on the general publics political radar.

              You want your voice heard about a space program? Write a letter to your local Congressional representative. But I suggest you use a spell checker, otherwise they’ll figure you care the same about space as your do about your spelling… ;-)

        • Matt

          DCSCA: Agree entirely with your post. Fire her. And get rid of Bolden as well. Then get some fresh blood in the Agency leadership. Just under four years to 20 Jan 2017…

  • Coastal Ron

    Just read an article on Businessweek about why Stanford turns out lots and lots of successful businesses and Ivy League colleges don’t. And the techniques that Stanford uses go back to 1925, so they are not a recent phenomenon (HP was one of their early successes).

    I bring this up because the U.S. Government is not very entrepreneurial or inventive, and usually the things that government does best are things that are well understood. This asteroid initiative is not well understood, and is more like the intersection of a number of desires by interested parties – Obama wants an asteroid mission, Nelson wants something for the SLS to do, people in NASA are looking for “inspiration” (whatever that means), etc. etc.

    If the goal is to spend money in pursuit of these goals, then NASA should do all of this by itself. But that is not in the best interests of the U.S. Taxpayer, since doing the mission is a “nice to have”, not something of national importance (this mission won’t address our immediate asteroid collision concerns).

    So if we’re going to spend money on this science project, then we should use that money to spur innovation in the private sector, since that is what generates the tax money for NASA in the first place. This point is lost on a lot of people, and pretty obvious to a lot of others… you know who you are.

    I don’t know if Congress will ultimately cough up the money for this initiative, but if they do I hope that NASA competes out as much as possible to the private sector. Run it like a COTS program maybe, since that has been an unequivocal success. Of course if they do that, then likely it will turn out the SLS is not needed for it in the long run, and that runs counter to what Nelson’s goal for this initiative is…

    • DCSCA

      “And the techniques that Stanford uses go back to 1925….”

      Pretty much the entire planet is well aware of the ‘techniques’ in work in the 1920′s and the results from same. WE cal lit The Great Depression. but if you want to champion Harding, Coolidge and Hoover ideals and ‘techniques’ a la Reagan, go for it. The world needs all the trickle down laughter it can get.

      • Coastal Ron

        DCSCA whined:

        Pretty much the entire planet is well aware of the ‘techniques’ in work in the 1920′s and the results from same. WE cal lit The Great Depression.

        Stanford didn’t cause the Great Depression you dolt, out of control stock markets on the far side of the country did.

        And if you read the article you would have understood the references I made, but instead you jumped to the wrong conclusions in your usual knee-jerk fashion.

        Go back to school and learn something…

  • E.P. Grondine

    The conference schedule:
    http://www.iaaconferences.org/pdc2013/?q=ipc

    It is being streamed as well.

    Of course no one from the “comets and comet fragments hit school was invited to this event, but they are onboard for the new mission.

    As far as institutional survival goes it is necessarey for NASA to deliver a product that their backers (US taxpayers) feel is worth the cost.

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “Run it like a COTS program maybe, since that has been an unequivocal success. Of course if they do that, then likely it will turn out the SLS is not needed for it in the long run”

    That’s true regardless of whether the NEO retrieval mission is run commercially or not. As Georgia Tech, Golden Spike, and ULA have shown, you don’t need SLS or MPCV to loop around the Moon, even with a layover at an MPCV-sized rock. There are multiple other faster and much less expensive architectures and vehicles for doing that.

    If this NEO retrieval mission becomes NASA’s major focus for the 2020s, it actually undercuts the case for SLS and MPCV.

    • Coastal Ron

      Dark Blue Nine said:

      If this NEO retrieval mission becomes NASA’s major focus for the 2020s, it actually undercuts the case for SLS and MPCV.

      True, and overall the lack of any defined need for the SLS is becoming clearer.

      There is an interesting article on NBCNews.com about the SLS where Boeing claims it’s on budget and schedule. However former NASA Shuttle PM John Shannon, who now works for Boeing says:

      “SLS is every mission beyond low-Earth orbit,” said John Shannon, Boeing’s International Space Station (ISS) program manager. “The fact that NASA has not picked one single mission is irrelevant.

      It’s not irrelevant of course, it’s telling. If NASA hasn’t found a need for the SLS so far, whose to say they ever will?

      The asteroid mission looks more and more like the justification for keeping the funding going at high levels for the SLS, since without a defined need there is no reason not to fully fund the Commercial Crew program – which does have an immediate and defined need (both monetary and political).

      But since the asteroid mission doesn’t need the SLS until there is a need to fly the MPCV, who knows when NASA (or whoever) will have robotically snagged an asteroid and dragged it back to lunar orbit?

      This SLS drama keeps looking worse and worse…

      • DCSCA

        “The fact that NASA has not picked one single mission is irrelevant.“”

        It’s not irrelevant of course.” says Ron.

        Except it is. At this stage.

        Particularly when you’re in the early stages of developing a GP space system— and you certainly are not one known to be a goal oriented advocate for space ops on this forum. Review the early development history of the F-1. It was in work long before the commitment to the moon was articulated by JFK and the Nova-Saturn series were under consideration and Saturn V was greenlighted with F-1 derivatives installed in the business end of the S I-C for lunat flights.

        • Coastal Ron

          DCSCA whined:

          Except it is. At this stage.

          The stage we’re at buddy boy is denial. And that denial goes beyond the acknowledgement that there never was any known need to build a rocket larger than the Delta IV Heavy, it includes the denial by Congress to fund any use of the SLS.

          Heck, if you look at the recent GAO report, there aren’t even enough funds to build the 130mt version of the SLS.

          Can you point to the 2-3/year 70-130mt payloads that the SLS is supposed to be lifting? Or just point to the ~$5B/year extra funding NASA will be getting in order to afford the development, building, launch and operation of 140-390mt of payload per year?

          And if you look at how long it takes to develop semi-complex payloads, there is probably going to be at least a five year gap between when the SLS comes online and when there will be a payload for it to lift. And I’m being pretty generous here, since I think it will be more like 10 years of nothing to do (except for short jaunts around the Moon for the MPCV). For comparison, the much smaller MSL took 7 years from start to launch, and the JWST is projected to take 22 years.

          So while you may enjoy having a faith-based space program, I’m a little more realistic. If there are no customers crying for the lack of 70-130mt lift, the SLS should be cancelled until such a time as there is a demonstrated need. And by that point SpaceX and ULA will be the builders, not the most expensive transportation operator in the world (i.e. the U.S. Government).

  • amightywind

    Boy, I am getting tired of the NASA leadership’s out of the box thinking. Like everything else, the putative asteroid mission (which will never get past the House, by the way) will turn into a program of political patronage.

    ensure that the retrieved NEO is truly a C-type asteroid useful for testing and resource extraction and not thinly surfaced with carbonaceous material.

    Who said a C-type asteroid is useful for materials extraction? They may be scientifically interesting but if the goal is profit, as Garver implies, it makes much more sense to mine an M-type for strategic metals (hopefully using a nuclear smelter!)

    • Dark Blue Nine

      “Like everything else, the putative asteroid mission (which will never get past the House, by the way) will turn into a program of political patronage.”

      Hypocritical words from an SLS/MPCV supporter.

      “Who said a C-type asteroid is useful for materials extraction?”

      The common first product in most ISRU schemes is volatiles (for propellant, water, and/or air). They’re the easiest to extract, usually through simple heating. Their value derives from their location, i.e., launch and transportation savings. C-types will have the most, and they’re what the Keck study, PR, and (I believe) DSI all said should be the first NEO target from a resources perspective.

      “it makes much more sense to mine an M-type for strategic metals (hopefully using a nuclear smelter!)”

      Yeah, it’s best to make the multi-billion dollar investment before proving that the ten- and hundred-million dollar investments make sense. Just like SLS and MPCV.

      • amightywind

        The common first product in most ISRU schemes is volatiles (for propellant, water, and/or air).

        Not likely for asteroids in accessible NEO orbits. Use your head. Asteroid mining will be nearly autonomous.

        Just like SLS and MPCV

        I consider SLS/Orion to be the most important investments in space for this country since Apollo.

        • Dark Blue Nine

          “Not likely for asteroids in accessible NEO orbits.”

          Your argument is that a resource is not likely to be extracted when NEOs are in “accessible” orbits?

          You’re an illiterate idiot.

          “Asteroid mining will be nearly autonomous.”

          It has nothing to do with autonomy. Volatiles are much easier and less expensive to extract than metals, regardless of whether astronauts are in the loop or not.

          “I consider SLS/Orion to be the most important investments in space for this country since Apollo.”

          Because you want the next human deep space exploration program cancelled after a handful of flights?

          “Use your head.”

          If only you had a brain to use.

          • common sense

            “Because you want the next human deep space exploration program cancelled after a handful of flights?”

            You are wildly optimistic. “handful of flights”??? It’s not even built. Worse actually, not even designed!!!

            • common sense

              I thought I would provide this reference to support my assessment… And I assume this probably does not account for the money already spent on Ares I/V and CEV…

              http://www.gao.gov/assets/660/653866.pdf

              Select gems:

              MPCV: Page 54

              “According to NASA officials, vehicle development that cannot be managed within the constraints of the current budget”

              “The current projected mass of the spacecraft for the first crewed flight test exceeds the recommended mass by over 5,000 pounds. ”

              SLS: Page 62

              I really love this one: All those years after ESAS and Constellation:

              “Project officials are still assessing whether existing, or heritage hardware, can meet performance requirements without modifications. ”

              “As a result, once development of the 130 metric ton vehicle begins, modifications may be needed.”

        • amightywind

          Volatile (water) rich asteroids are not likely present in NEO orbits, reasonable accessible to large spaecraft. they are likely present at greater distances from the sun. You cannot mine water from a desiccated piece of charcoal. Is that stated simply enough for you?

          • Dark Blue Nine

            “Volatile (water) rich asteroids are not likely present in NEO orbits, reasonable accessible to large spaecraft. they are likely present at greater distances from the sun. You cannot mine water from a desiccated piece of charcoal.”

            C-type (carbonaceous) NEOs are 40% volatiles by mass, divided equally between water and organic compounds. See p. 16:

            http://www.kiss.caltech.edu/study/asteroid/asteroid_final_report.pdf

            We know this from carbonaceous meteorites recovered on Earth which, by definition, come from C-type NEOs.

            Is that simple enough for you, you unthinking ignoramus?

            • amightywind

              At 40 degrees C or higher in the sun? Hydrated minerals perhaps. Good luck drawing water from those. Stick to what you know.

              • Dark Blue Nine

                “At 40 degrees C or higher in the sun?”

                It’s not 40C inside a NEO.

                “Stick to what you know.”

                Think, for once in your life.

          • DCSCA

            Project Lasso will never fly, Windy. It’s a placeholder to mute short term, anti- SLS/MPCV chatter snd the project muddles along. SLS/MPCV is a geo-political strategy. It will never lasso asteroids… but as part of a geo-political strategy and national resource, it may be used to prohject power and economic viability by eventually flying someplace else close by in future administrations.

            • amightywind

              Agreed. It is fun to refute the scientific justification for it anyway.

              • E.P. Grondine

                Hi AW, DCSCA –

                It looks to me like both of you and Smith do not understand the political reality. First, there is not enough public support for the SLS if it is to be used solely for manned flight to the Moon or Mars. Second, the public actually expects NASA to handle the impact hazard.

                Perhaps the Great Eastern may provide a historical analogy for the SLS. It was put to a highly beneficial use its original creators did not foresee.

        • josh

          “I consider SLS/Orion to be the most important investments in space for this country since Apollo.”

          yeah, these are the projects that will finally ruin nasa’s hsf program once and for all. so i guess they’re kinda “important”. lol…

        • E.P. Grondine

          Hi AW –

          “I consider SLS/Orion to be the most important investments in space for this country since Apollo.”

          Well, then, IMO you better pray that the asteroid mission goes forward, because otherwise SLS is dead.

          As far as any attack/fight goes, AW, you better ask yourself exaactly how much political capital Obama is willing to spend in frighting for jobs in Republican states. My guess would be just enough to make it clear to everyone in those states that the screw-up came from the attack wing of the GOP, and no more. Your answer may be different, but I don’t think that anyone can spine this.

          Anyway, since as CS put it:
          “The overall NEO retrieval initiative …is driven by forces outside NASA’s control.”,
          (in other words, the BS abruptly stopped at Chelyabinsk),
          it strikes me that it would be pretty stupid (in other words very stupid) for the attack wing to get in the way of those forces.

        • Matt

          Agreed, Almightywind. Glad to see there’s some fighting the good fight.

    • Gregori

      Nuclear Smelter not happening. Forget about it

  • Dark Blue Nine

    Unbelievable… someone needs to put MPCV out of its misery.

    “Design Issues

    The current projected mass of the spacecraft for the first crewed flight test exceeds the recommended mass by over 5,000 pounds. Project officials have deferred mass reduction activities for the first non-crewed flight to the first crewed flight…

    Project officials are tracking a risk that the thermal protection system could crack due to the thermal expansion stress loads of the heatshield prior to reentering the Earth’s atmosphere, which could threaten the safety of the crew and success of the mission. This cracking property was known prior to selection of the heatshield material, but project officials have been conducting stress analyses on the heatshield, among other studies, to understand the magnitude of the cracking. These analyses have delayed production of the heatshield for EFT-1. The heatshield was deemed mature during its critical design in May 2012…”

    “Project Update

    The project has experienced delays in building and delivering hardware for its first exploration flight test (EFT-1) which could threaten the launch currently scheduled for September 2014. EFT-1 will test numerous separation events, the thermal protection system, and the parachutes, all of which protect the crew during flight, reentry, and landing events. Development challenges coupled with an aggressive schedule have led the project to miss more internal milestones than anticipated for this test event.”

    See p. 55 at:

    http://www.gao.gov/assets/660/653866.pdf

    • common sense

      You know what is so so very very sad.

      If NASA had followed the spiral approach and built the infrastructure on the EELVs, if they had developed a 3 crew CEV – not a effing 5 meter big capsule, with a cargo variant then we would probably be flying, and had been for sometime. Oddly what SpaceX is doing is precisely that. Those vehicles would be able to dock in space to create an EDS of some sort, even using a Skylab style approach. We’d have a SM and lunar landers by now. The whole thing started in January 2014 for crying out loud!

      So one has to wonder.

      Why???

      Oh well.

      PS: In the GAO report they assume SLS started in 2011… What happens if you include the Ares I/V budget????

      Oh well. Bis repetita…

      • common sense

        ” January 2014″

        Meant 14 Jan 2004 of course… Since I am not yet in the future nor I have ever been. Not really. Not in this dimension anyway.

    • josh

      yup, orion/mpcv is a bad joke. 10 billion+ for a friggin capsule. lockmart doesn’t have what it takes. neither does nasa. let spacex do the job.

    • Egad

      >Unbelievable… someone needs to put MPCV out of its misery.


      Between the idea
      And the reality
      Between the motion
      And the act
      Falls the Shadow Shelby

      (With apologies to T.S. Eliot)

      http://www.spacepolicyonline.com/news/mikulski-will-support-asteroid-initiative-not-sure-about-orion-planetary-requests

      Mikulski Will Support Asteroid Initiative, Not Sure About Orion, Planetary Requests
      Marcia S. Smith
      Posted: 15-Apr-2013
      Updated: 15-Apr-2013 11:04 PM

      [Senator Mikulski] quickly added, however, that she is concerned about the proposed cut to Orion and stressed the reality that, with Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) as vice chairman of the full committee, it was not politically possible to cut that program.

  • josh

    empty words as long as sls is around.

  • Neil Shipley

    Just read the GAO report. Words fail me wrt SLS and Orion. Unbelievable. How can the Administrator accept the shortcomings as expressed by the report for these 2 projects. And if he accepts the report (believe he already has) what exactly is he going to do about them?

    • Malmesbury

      Cancel it and replace it with a program that uses the same contractors & methods, with greatly reduced goals. Costing upwards of double what Orion would have cost to finish.

      Don’t knock it – it’s how military systems are procured.

    • Neil Shipley wrote:

      How can the Administrator accept the shortcomings as expressed by the report for these 2 projects.

      He has no choice. He was ordered to do so by Congress.

      Harken back to January 2011 … My blog post titled “Senators in Denial.”

      And the January 2011 press release by the Senate Commerce Committee:

      … [T]he production of a heavy-lift rocket and capsule is not optional. It’s the law. NASA must use its decades of space know-how and billions of dollars in previous investments to come up with a concept that works. We believe it can be done affordably and efficiently – and, it must be a priority.

      NASA warned them. They didn’t listen.

      And if he accepts the report (believe he already has) what exactly is he going to do about them?

      Nothing. As noted above, Congress has already ordered him to ignore it.

      • common sense

        Yep, Stephen I believe you have it exactly right.

        Congress write the laws and, as we just saw, adamantly ignore the public will…

        Idiocracy on the rise…

      • Coastal Ron

        Stephen C. Smith said:

        He [Bolden] has no choice. He was ordered to do so by Congress.

        A lot of people don’t understand that. They think NASA does what it wants, while in reality Congress dictates the majority of what they do by the way they are funded.

        Few will recall that NASA didn’t ask for an HLV like the SLS, but instead their highest priority in the 2011 budget request was $7.8B over five years that:

        Funds the development and demonstration of technologies that reduce the cost and expand the capabilities of future exploration activities, including in-orbit refueling and storage.

        Lowering the costs to do future space exploration. Imagine that. Apparently it was too heretical for those in Congress that like to feed at the NASA trough.

        Instead we got two programs (SLS & MPCV) which no one has any idea if they are cost effective, or do anything to reduce the future cost of space exploration.

        And notice how all the SLS supporters go quiet whenever the subject of cost comes up? So much for the supposedly “fiscal conservative” Windy and his merry band of “explorers”.

        • common sense

          “Instead we got two programs (SLS & MPCV) which no one has any idea if they are cost effective, or do anything to reduce the future cost of space exploration.”

          Most of the cost comes from the number of people working these programs and Shuttle before. About $2.4B a year not even flying. And since Congress is only interested in votes they have absolutely no incentive in reducing the cost since it would mean to reduce the workforce hence fewer votes.

          What NASA might have done though is to describe to them that other more pressing priorities might employ just as many people just doing other things.

          Changes are hard… Oh well.

    • More great moments in SLS/MPCV porkery … Remember this?

      http://olson.house.gov/uploads/SLS%20Letter%20to%20Bolden%206%2014%2011%20signed.pdf

      A letter by seven House members — all Republicans — demanding that NASA “stop studying and re-studying NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS)” and just build it.

      Then there was this June 7, 2011 Orlando Sentinel article:

      “I don’t think we need it. I don’t think we can afford to operate it. I think it will be rarely used and expensive to maintain,” said Alan Stern, a former NASA associate administrator. “The most likely possibility is that it [the rocket] is unfortunately going to collapse under its own weight in a couple years.”

      Already, NASA has told Congress that it can’t build the rocket and its companion crew capsule by the 2017 deadline with the money — at least $14 billion over the next five years — it has been given.

      And how’s about the Booz Allen Hamilton report of August 2011:

      http://images.spaceref.com/news/2011/BAH.Executive.Summary.pdf

      That independent audit concluded that cost estimates more than five years out were overly optimistic, but Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison falsely claimed that SLS “can be initiated within our currently constrained fiscal limitations,” when the report stated the opposite.

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