Congress, NASA

Space policy viewed through an exoplanetary lens

On Thursday, the space and research subcommittees of the House Science Committee held a joint hearing on “Exoplanet Discoveries: Have We Found Other Earths?”. Exoplanet research, as you might imagine, is not particularly controversial, and seems far removed from big issues facing NASA today on Capitol Hill. Yet, during the brief (less than one hour) hearing, some members found ways to bring up those key topics for discussion.

That started with the very first question of the hearing, by space subcommittee chairman Rep. Steven Palazzo (R-MS) to NASA associate administrator for science John Grunsfeld. Palazzo noted that scientists believe a telescope larger than the James Webb Space Telescope is needed to detect “biosignatures” from Earth-like exoplanets, and that such telescopes would require a heavy-lift launch vehicle like the Space Launch Systems (SLS). “How does the development of the SLS enable future exoplanet discoveries?” he asked Grunsfeld, who answered that SLS has both the capacity and the large payload fairing needed to accommodate future large telescopes. “We’re looking very favorably on the development of SLS,” Grunsfeld said.

Palazzo also brought up another issue with NASA’s fiscal year 2014 budget proposal, the cuts to the agency’s education budget as part of a government-wide restructuring of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education. “Are there any anticipated changes to the education and public outreach strategy” for NASA’s exoplanet program, he asked.

“The critical component in the inspiration of out next generation of explorers, scientists, engineers, and, even more important, to have an very broad, educated populace in the scientific method and basic science, is to do exciting things that produce exciting scientific results,” Grunsfeld responded. “And on that scale, we’re changing nothing.” The specific details of the STEM education plan are still under development, he said.

Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD), the ranking member of the space subcommittee, followed Palazzo by asking Grunsfeld about sequestration’s effect on exoplanet research both now and, potentially, into FY14. “There’s no question the budget environment has caused us to have to make some tough choices,” he responded. He said that while NASA selected a new exoplanet mission, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), last month, “we’ve had to slow the start of that mission by about six months” because of limited budgets.

“If we continue into a sequestered environment” in 2014, he warned, “then we’re going to have to look at perhaps turning off an operating observatory or cutting back further on the development of new missions.” That would include slowing down studies of using two space telescope optics systems that the NRO transferred last year to NASA.

The last member to speak at the hearing, full committee vice chairman Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), returned to the topic of the first question: the SLS. “Do you know what the budget for the SLS launch system is?” he asked Grunsfeld. Before Grunsfeld could answer, Rohrabacher continued. “We don’t know, so you don’t know, either, frankly; that was a leading question. And if that money was going to be taken out of your budget to develop the SLS launch system, rather than go with launch systems that we’ve already got, would you be supportive of that?”

“No,” Grunsfeld responded.

“Right,” said Rohrabacher. “I just wanted to make sure these were on the record because there’s a lot of people pushing for the SLS launch system when we don’t even know what the budget is, we don’t know where the money’s coming from, and it’s really possible that if we do that, we’ll just defund all of the things the SLS is going to carry, meaning your projects.”

90 comments to Space policy viewed through an exoplanetary lens

  • E.P. Grondine

    While finding a home for “greys” or “little green men” is interesting, I would much rather that NASA found the next piece of “shtuff” from space headed our way.

    While Rep. Rohrabacher’s points are well taken, and he is representing the desires of his constituents, I woud advise him not to antagonize his colleagues right now, during this time of NASA’s recovery from the Ares 1 disaster.

    Once again, SpaceX’s engines use technology developed in Alabama, and it strikes me that in the future SpaceX will continue to use and rely upon technologies developed at other NASA centers.

    • Neil Shipley

      Right. From the Ares 1 disaster go directly to the SLS disaster.

      And SpaceX, well Kerolox pintle engines haven’t been exclusive to NASA, they haven’t built a new engine in decades IIRC nor are they relying on NASA technology to move their program forwards so your point is?

      • E.P. Grondine

        To resstate this in a form you will understand, Neil, my point is that Alabama, Mississippi, Florida and a number of other states will not pay for a SpaceX/California/Texas based manned Mars mission.

        Aside from that, a whole lot of SpaceX technology came from NASA research, and that includes technologies for their payloads. For that matter, the SpaceX flavor of “enthusiasts” count on their technologies working in re-usability and that it can be scaled larger, none of which is proved yet.

        While SpaceX is a fine company, it is not the only rocket company in the world.

        • Coastal Ron

          E.P. Grondine said:

          To resstate this in a form you will understand, Neil, my point is that Alabama, Mississippi, Florida and a number of other states will not pay for a SpaceX/California/Texas based manned Mars mission.

          Ted Cruz (R-TX) wouldn’t mind, and he’s one of the few that show up to the committee hearings.

          But more broadly, if we can’t get past pure pork politics, NASA isn’t going anywhere (as the SLS is currently proving). And as I’ve stated previously, I see that we are still in a temporary period where politics is able to exert a larger than normal influence over what NASA does.

          Where I hope things go (but not without some pain) is where we get back to the normal process of propose, define, bid and award what NASA wants to do. Those pushing the SLS short circuited that process.

          • E.P. Grondine

            From what I see, you have two camps of NASA supporters: those pushing for using SLS to fly a few men to Mars, and those pushing for using Falcon Heavy to fly a few men to Mars.

            After the disaster that resulted from single threading NASA through ATK’s Ares 1, you would think and hopw that some people might have learned.

            • Coastal Ron

              E.P. Grondine said:

              From what I see, you have two camps of NASA supporters: those pushing for using SLS to fly a few men to Mars, and those pushing for using Falcon Heavy to fly a few men to Mars.

              Well that doesn’t cover what I support.

              I want a space architecture that can use a broad assortment of existing rockets – Delta IV Heavy, Ariane 5, Proton, H-IIB and Falcon Heavy.

              And Mars? We have a lot to do locally before we head out to Mars.

              • E.P. Grondine

                Hi CR –

                Makes sense to me, but you have to remember that Falcon Heavy is still in development, as is SLS. Russia will be flying Angara not too long from now.

                It looks like international programs are cheaper and far more robust than single nation programs.

                It also looks like the citizens of the different nations prefer international cooperation to international confrontation.

          • DCSCA

            “Ted Cruz (R-TX) wouldn’t mind, and he’s one of the few that show up to the committee hearings.”

            That’s hardly a ringing endorsement as he’s an outcast in his own party and has the credibility of Joe McCarthy which ain’t sayin’ much.

        • Neil Shipley

          You don’t need to restate E.P. Your point(s) don’t make any sense.

          Firstly, I don’t recall SpaceX ever requesting any government funding for a SpaceX Mars mission so this point is moot. IIRC Elon thinks that NASA should lead but as for funding private missions then no.

          Secondly, SpaceX have always acknowledged the debt they owe to NASA however they have left pretty much all the heritage (high cost) ways behind them by:

          a) designing their vehicles from clean-sheet, e.g. F1, F9, F9 1.1, Dragon, DragonCrew
          b) redesigning and simplifying their engine technology,e.g. Kestral, Merlin 1C, D
          c) using the latest in manufacturing techniques and processes via brand new factory in Hawthorn, Test Facility in McGregor. GH testing at Spaceport America.
          d) utilising improved processing and launch techniques, eg. horizontal, low labour content, etc. Plans to develop a private commercial launch facility.

          This is something NASA hasn’t managed to do except in the COTS and CCiCap Programs and this isn’t NASA but companies doing it. Check the NASA MPCV and SLS for the old methodolgy.

          Finally, SpaceX is pursuing specific R&D projects in the form of FH, GH, and F9R. There’s also discussion around the Raptor Methalox engine apparently in design.

          Certainly reusability is not proved but SpaceX is the only operating company attempting to get it functional for orbital vehicles.

          NASA isn’t funding anything reusable orbital, only sub-orbital via a pickup from, I think it was one of the Masten vehicles.

          So I’m only looking at facts here, not hyperbole. True, SpaceX is not the only rocket company in the world but it is about the only one that might seriously have a chance at changing the current paradign and in fact, when you look at pricing, it is. In addition, it’s moving on with certification for the U.S. Air Force for defence payloads having already won two.

          Cheers

          • E.P. Grondine

            Hi Neil –

            Internet newbie that I am, or old grouch, I don’t know what IIRC means.

            What Musk stated was that he could not afford to do manned Mars private sector, and it would need government funding. California has budget problems, and I don’t think that even Texas could pick up that kind of bill.

            Those low cost technologies you mention are NASA developed technologies. Musk’s engineers had a well stocked pantry to cook from, but don’t forget who grew the groceries, delivered them, etc.

            • Malmesbury

              IIRC = If I Recall Correctly

              Which “low cost technologies” are you refering to as “NASA developed technologies”?

              Genuine question…

              • E.P. Grondine

                Thanks for the enlightenment.

                I will simply state the above based on what I know, which is nothing that any of you have ever seen. You can take it that way, chuck it, or try to check out the facts for yourselves.

  • Coastal Ron

    “Right,” said Rohrabacher. “I just wanted to make sure these were on the record because there’s a lot of people pushing for the SLS launch system when we don’t even know what the budget is, we don’t know where the money’s coming from, and it’s really possible that if we do that, we’ll just defund all of the things the SLS is going to carry, meaning your projects.”

    Yep, that kind of cuts to the chase.

    Palazzo noted that scientists believe a telescope larger than the James Webb Space Telescope is needed to detect “biosignatures” from Earth-like exoplanets, and that such telescopes would require a heavy-lift launch vehicle like the Space Launch Systems (SLS).

    Let’s see, the JWST is projected to cost $8B, and will have taken about 22 years from conception to launch. If they were to double it’s size, no doubt the budget would double, and it miraculously makes it to launch in just 10 years, that would still mean it wouldn’t launch until at least 2024. Plus, unless they could find $1.6B/year in the budget to fund such a program, that would mean NASA would need a 10% budget increase.

    And this would only be one of many such programs that would need to be funded in order to keep the SLS flying twice per year, and twice per year is the minimum NASA says it needs to keep up a safe operational tempo.

    So getting back to Rohrabacher’s observation, where is the money to fund the steady stream of SLS payloads that are supposed coming?

  • The video of the hearing is here:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4v0Moax5xi0

    What I found interesting is that Palazzo allowed all the other representatives five minutes, but only allowed Rohrabacher “a couple minutes.” Clearly Palazzo wanted to adjourn the hearing; he didn’t respond to what Rohrabacher said, which was a clear refutation of his opening question.

    • Jeff Foust

      What I found interesting is that Palazzo allowed all the other representatives five minutes, but only allowed Rohrabacher “a couple minutes.”

      There were votes in progress on the House floor as the hearing was ending; Palazzo and others dispensed with their customary opening statements at the beginning of the hearing to try and get the hearing in before those votes started. I think Palazzo was trying to ask (inelegantly, perhaps) Rohrabacher to be brief so they could wrap up the hearing.

      • I know that, Jeff, but it seems unfair to tell everyone else they can have five minutes and then you limit the last guy to only two minutes. Palazzo can turn over the gavel to someone else if he needs to go vote. Rohrabacher can leave if he has a vote. There are parliamentary options available. Palazzo just wanted to wrap up; I think we can all safely assume he knows Dana’s views on things.

  • James

    “How does the development of the SLS enable future exoplanet discoveries?” he asked Grunsfeld, who answered that SLS has both the capacity and the large payload fairing needed to accommodate future large telescopes. “We’re looking very favorably on the development of SLS,” Grunsfeld said.

    Grunsfeld must be drinking the Garver Kool Aid. As Coastal Ron points out, there ain’t no money in the NASA budget, let alone the SMD budget, for anything to fly that takes advantage of the SLS launch capacity.

    Science Missino Flagships are no persona-non-Grata at OMB; word has it, and Grunsfeld knows this, that the historical flagship rate at NASA SMD is going to be cut waaaay back. Maybe one for all of SMD per decade, because OMB has not been enamored with NASA SMD performance on the big flagship missions, and the country is broke.

    Also, since ExoPlanets is within AstroPhysics at HQ SMD, and JWST is this centuries Astrophyics Flag Ship mission, given OMB’s new edict, I doubt Astro Physics will have a flagship till 30 years have gone by. So where does that put an ExoPlanet FlagShip mission that can detect bio signatures?

    Cool mission, great idea, but no money at NASA for that as far as the eye can see.

    Pass the Koolaid!

    • Grunsfeld must be drinking the Garver Kool Aid.

      The “Garver Kool Aid”? Since when has Lori been anything other than a lukewarm supporter of SLS?

      Grunsfeld is just sucking up to the chairman of the committee that authorizes his projects. When Dana called him on it, he gave him an honest answer.

    • josh

      garver never was a big supporter of sls. it was forced on nasa by the porkers in congress. get a clue..

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “Palazzo noted that scientists believe a telescope larger than the James Webb Space Telescope is needed to detect ‘biosignatures’ from Earth-like exoplanets, and that such telescopes would require a heavy-lift launch vehicle like the Space Launch Systems (SLS).”

    Palazzo’s statement is patently false. The Advanced Technology Large-Area Space Telescope (or ATLAST) is arguably the biggest post-JWST space telescope concept out there with some work behind it. GSFC has worked three versions ATLAST, one of which, the 9.2-meter version, is designed to launch on an EELV and has no need for SLS or any other HLV. These telescopes do not “require a heavy-lift launch vehicle”, and it makes no sense to spend $10-20 billion on an HLV to deliver one space telescope like ATLAST with a life-cycle cost estimate less than $6 billion. This information is available on Wikipedia. Who are the idiots on Palazzo’s staff that don’t know how to use it?

    And why does Grunsfeld not know better than to stupidly reinforce this idiotic lie?

    My kingdom for some civil space leadership with half-a-brain.

    Cripes…

  • Hiram

    We should understand that there is some history behind Grunsfeld’s position. HST was lofted, and serviced, by shuttle missions that were not paid for by the Science Mission Directorate. In fact, SMD only paid for the new instruments and the servicing manpower and training. They got a free ride. SMD would never have been able to afford a shuttle launch. So SMD has some serious history with getting free rides, and I suspect they’d be quite happy to keep getting them.

    Now, I don’t see much wrong with that, because if NASA HSF develops a launcher that it can’t figure out what to do with, but desperately needs to keep the assembly lines running to keep porkers happy, SMD is welcome to step in an offer to pay for a payload.

    Of course, as noted, SMD seems to be done with starting multibillion dollar flagship missions for a while, so Grunsfeld is just dreaming. Sure, if you, Congress, can give me the money to build a flagship mission, we’ll be happy to ask HSF if they could pop off an SLS launch for us. That’s not entirely unreasonable. The same legislators that foisted SLS on us could well foist an SLS science mission on us, much to the delight of the science community. That is, if SMD were offered a free ride on an SLS (what, a $1B proposition?) I’ll bet SMD could figure out something to put in it. Ideally not something that would break the bank at SMD.

    BTW, the version of ATLAST that Palazzo was talking about was a 16m deployable one. That needs an SLS to get it up there in one piece. Even a single-aperture 8m ATLAST isn’t going up on an EELV, at least because of the fairing size limitation. The multiaperture one that would go up on an EELV is architecturally an, ulp, large version of JWST. A single aperture ATLAST would be far less expensive than a deployable aperture one, but only if it could get a free ride on an HLV.

  • Vulture4

    We don’t even have a telescope with a unitary 6m mirror (which would fit on Ariane V). Why not start with a few instruments of practical size? For larger apertures, ingenious new technologies in aligning multiple dispersed mirror segments are under development. An added complication? Yes, but not limited in size (so the segments can be spaced apart to maximize resolution) and even expandable, and far less expensive than a rocket with a 20m fairing.

    • Hiram

      Those are not ingenious new technologies, for multiple dispersed segments, but ingenious new concepts. What you’re talking about is completely undemonstrated, and requires a high level of stationkeeping to do successfully. The LISA mission, now under development by ESA, will help a lot with that stationkeeping. TPF and Darwin would have been such telescopes, but were considered to be very high risk projects, when put forward for development.

      No question, however, that were dispersed-segment technologies to be achievable, it would revolutionize the way we do at least space based optical astronomy.

      By the way, we have loads of instruments with unitary 6m mirrors. In fact, we have instruments with unitary 8.4m mirrors. They’re on the top of mountains. An early version of ATLAST would have simply taken one of these mirrors and thrown it up with an Ares V. With a HLV, one needn’t worry about the large masses you have with unitary mirrors.

  • Matt McClanahan

    I wonder, in a hypothetical 2024 when the SLS has been completed for a couple years and sits unused, what the tone of Congressional hearings will be. I imagine representatives from Alabama, Florida, Texas scolding NASA managers for not adequately utilizing SLS; for failing to plan and prioritize its scientific missions in a manner that requires SLS-scale payloads. I wonder if some of those representatives will be the same ones who told NASA to build SLS in the first place before a mission for it was identified and funded. And I wonder if it will occur to them what just happened, and how high the opportunity cost of their oversight really was.

  • Robert G. Oler

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KaOC9danxNo

    My apologies to the group for my absence and to Jeff for the off topic post…but Chris has done some outstanding work on ISS including some superb outside the box PR…he has even given me and my little daughter 6 amateur radio contacts…

    And his signature is superb…the acting is great, the singing good…its worth a couple of watches

    Have a safe voyage home Col. Not bad for (as Dick Cheney would say) “A pesky Canadian” RGO

    • DCSCA

      Pffffft. What a massive waste of very expensir, taxpayer funded, on-orbit time.

      So that’s what the American taxpayers get to see for their $100 billion expensive boondoggle w/billions/year in operating costs: a Canadian astronaut hamming it up wasting time doing a Bowie music video parody. Too bad he didn’t spend the expensive, on-orbit time listing the ‘valuable’ research results he produced from hi stay to justify the expense of flying him.

  • Mark R. Whittington

    Dana Rohrabacher ambush question was a cheap shot since Grunsfeld could not be expected to have that figure in front of him as he was not there to testify about SLS development. He is not doing his credibility or his ability to influence policy any good with those kinds of antics.

    • Dark Blue Nine

      “Dana Rohrabacher ambush question was a cheap shot since Grunsfeld could not be expected to have that figure in front of him as he was not there to testify about SLS development.”

      It wasn’t a “cheap shot” or an “ambush”, and it had nothing to do with whether Grunsfeld was prepared or not. Rohrbacher was making the point that NASA has failed to/refuses to provide Congress with a life-cycle cost estimate for SLS. Per the latest GAO report on NASA large projects:

      “NASA officials stated that the full life-cycle cost of SLS cannot be calculated…”

      http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-13-276SP

      • Neil Shipley

        One must then ask the question: Why not? Surely a preliminary estimate would at least be available? NASA has estimating tools and has been in this game for many years. Supposedly the experts. Perhaps those tools are such that they can no longer be relied upon to produce ‘reasonable’ estimates?

        • Malmesbury

          You want NASA to tell Congress their rocket will cost what it will cost. Congress doesn’t want to know that. Yet.

          Telling politicians things they don’t want to here is a good way to start a fight….

          • NeilShipley

            Well the Administrator of NASA is employed by the WH so why not tell Congress the estimate. Chances are they’ll ignore it anyway and we’ll all have something more to discuss ad infinitum.

            • common sense

              “Well the Administrator of NASA is employed by the WH so why not tell Congress the estimate.”

              Because Congress sign the checks and you do not want to make them lose face in public… Unless you don’t care about the next paycheck. The Admin works for the WH true but s/he also responsible for all NASA employees and contractors…

              “Chances are they’ll ignore it anyway and we’ll all have something more to discuss ad infinitum.”

              They know and already ignore. Politics… Politics…

    • Robert G. Oler

      Mark R. Whittington
      May 13, 2013 at 12:32 am · Reply

      Dana Rohrabacher ambush questio>>

      Not knowing the answer to questions that you should know the answer to is not an ambush question. So for instance if I were to ask you “what newspapers do you read?” then I would expect since you are passing yourself off as a thoughtful person that you could come up with the answer to that.

      The launch cost of a launch system is something there should be an answer to…obviously there is not RGO

    • amightywind

      Agreed, Rohrabacher is talking to himself. He knows commercial crew is falling out of favor, despite 4 years of political blitzkrieg.

      • Coastal Ron

        amightywind said:

        He knows commercial crew is falling out of favor, despite 4 years of political blitzkrieg.

        So you’re saying that Putin’s area of influence is increasing in our Congress? That Congress would rather depend on Russia for access to the ISS than American companies?

        Now that’s a scary thought, huh?

    • josh

      you mean you’re not doing your credibility any good with any of your comments here…

  • vulture4

    I don’t see the point of this at all. The Obama administration doesn’t want the SLS, but they are forced by Congress to build it and produce a mission for it. So they do so, even though the mission is irrational (one launch for a telescope that hasn’t been funded by Congress and could use a deployable mirror at much lower cost). Then another mmber of Congress accuses them of wasting money on the SLS by using it for the purely conceptual telescope.

    “Palazzo noted that scientists believe a telescope larger than the James Webb Space Telescope is needed to detect “biosignatures” from Earth-like exoplanets, and that such telescopes would require a heavy-lift launch vehicle like the Space Launch Systems (SLS).” I just do not believe it would require SLS or that any significant fractionof scientists believe it would require SLS. In fact a recent proposal to assemble a large segmented mirror at the ISS makes a lot more sense; it could then be ferried to high orbit by ion propulsion. Way back in the Seventies there was a proposal for the Space Station to have an “unpressurized hangar” i.e. a lightweight contamination shield, for such work.

    • Malmesbury

      Simple. Congress forced SLS/Orion on NASA. NASA are being good and obedient. Building the rocket and having no payloads whatsoever would be interpreted by Congress as a passive aggressive attack. Hence missions to asteroids and Space Telescopes Of Unusual Size.

      • NeilShipley

        It won’t matter that there are no payloads for SLS since in the not too distant future, NASA will be relieved of the project. Too costly to continue and a new, brighter, shinier space vehicle will become the order of the day and museum pieces just like the shuttles are today.
        Meanwhile, IM will have flown 2 private individuals to Mars and back and SpaceX with their F9Rs and FH will own the space launch business and be well on their way to launching their new MCT.
        Cheers.

    • Guest

      The president signed the bill. That seems to be evidence contrary to your statement.

      • Coastal Ron

        Guest said:

        The president signed the bill. That seems to be evidence contrary to your statement.

        Have you not heard about “political compromises”?

        Obama’s FY11 NASA budget did not ask for an HLV. However, since Obama got most of what he did ask for in his NASA budget (cancel Constellation, extend the ISS, create Commercial Crew), it was a compromise at the time that he was willing to live with.

        Those of us here on Space Politics considered it a big win at the time, and I still do.

        But that doesn’t mean we can’t lobby to kill it, and the President certainly isn’t going out of his way to support the SLS.

        • Coastal Ron wrote:

          Obama’s FY11 NASA budget did not ask for an HLV.

          If you watch Obama’s April 15, 2010 space policy speech (click here to watch), he does call for an HLV but he wants to take five years first to develop new propulsion technologies. Congress wasn’t willing to wait, so they ordered SLS using existing technologies. They acted to protect their pork rather than give NASA the time and money to develop something new, by claiming they were protecting jobs in a recession and giving NASA a Plan B if commercial crew failed.

          • Coastal Ron

            Stephen C. Smith said:

            If you watch Obama’s April 15, 2010 space policy speech, he does call for an HLV but he wants to take five years first to develop new propulsion technologies.

            No doubt there are many interpretations of this, and mine is that he was being counseled that an HLV was not yet needed. Which is true, since no one can point to any sustained need for an HLV of any kind.

            So I saw the call for developing an HLV engine as a way to take a pause and disconnect from the Constellation train wreck. Then, after our future needs had become clearer, the need for sending larger-sized mass to space could be evaluated in the proper way.

            They acted to protect their pork rather than give NASA the time and money to develop something new

            And that something new may not have been a NASA rocket. If a true need for an HLV arose, we all know our aerospace industry is more than able to satisfy any of NASA’s needs. All they would have needed to do was put the requirement out for bid.

            by claiming they were protecting jobs in a recession and giving NASA a Plan B if commercial crew failed.

            Yep, SLS = Jobs. Funny how the SLS supporters forget that Congress was crowing about how many jobs they were saving, and not able to point to one future customer for the SLS. That’s politicians for you…

      • DCSCA

        The president signed the bill. That seems to be evidence contrary to your statement.

        He signed free drift. The effectiveness of Mr. Obama’s presidency and what little agenda he has is dissolving before your eyes. his gun safety legislations was defeated; his foreign policy has more fires burning than California in summer, his tax people are out of control and his DOJ was caught investigating the one group that still was still willing to give him the denefit of doubt- the press. This duck is as lame as his responses to all these problems. Positively passive. and our space program is one of the pieces of debris caught in the vortex. no, Guest, you’ve got more free drift until the nextt administration- likely HRC, who actually has a personal interest in space.

    • Hiram

      The recent proposal to assemble a mirror at ISS was for a small mirror. It was to be made out of tiny mirrors. Not clear what lessons this would provide for construction of a larger telescope. It is well understood that construction of a large telescope in LEO is simply nuts, because of orbital debris. That’s why JWST isn’t going to deploy until well outside of LEO.

      The correct strategy would be telerobotic assembly at EM L1, using mirror segments individually lofted by EELV-scale launchers. Such a design could even be made expandable, if such an expansion is affordable. Once built, flip it on out to ES L2 at low cost, to use effectively.

      The idea of justifying SLS on the basis of science instruments is just as nuts. If SMD could afford one science instrument that would fit on an SLS, it would take a decade to build, and billions of dollars. We’re not talking about lots of SLS launches here.

  • Posted Friday evening at USA Today and on the front page of today’s Florida Today:

    “Political wrangling pulls NASA in different directions”

    My only quibble with the article is that it implies Republican congresscritters oppose the commercial program because it’s an Obama administration idea. It’s not. Commercial space goes back to Bush’s Vision for Space Exploration in 2004, as I wrote about in March:

    “The Origins of Commercial Space”

    But it was nice to see Ledyard King call out Sen. Shelby for his porking.

    • Commercial space goes back to Bush’s Vision for Space Exploration in 2004…

      But not Commercial Crew. I’m sure that there are too many Republicans who oppose it for no other reason than they perceive it to be part of Obama’s nefarious scheme to “destroy human spaceflight.”

      • Rand Simberg wrote:

        But not Commercial Crew.

        Not true. As I documented in my March blog article, commercial crew was part of the Vision from pretty much the beginning. The Commercial Crew and Cargo Program Office was created in November 2005. There are NASA charts from 2007 talking about the start of commercial crew, but noting it was unfunded. They hoped to start funding in 2009 — which of course would be a different administration.

        • That’s the point. While in theory it was a Bush idea, it wasn’t funded, or funding requests made for it, until the Obama administration. Griffin only supported COTS (reportedly only because he was forced to by the White House, which didn’t seem to put as much emphasis on COTS D).

          • E.P. Grondine

            I will simply state the following based on what I know, which is nothing that any of you have ever seen. You can take it that way, chuck it, or try to check out the facts for yourselves. This is all I want to tell you:

            Actually, folks, you are all wrong.

            Sorry, but the facts of what happened do not agree with any of your established narratives.

    • BRC

      Commercial space in fact goes well before “W’s” vision: It’s more preliminary kick-off was when Reagan signed the Commercial Space Launch Act in 1984 (see http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=39335 for his statement).
      All the same, you’ve made an interesting point of “congresscritters” … who apparently would do anything – even compromise some of their own core-ideals & values – to remain in that “critters” club.

      In this case (and using generic terms), despite its core origins coming from one or more of the most vernerated icons of.., say, Party A, a venerated leader of opposing Party B happens to find parts of that concept has merit (despite it’s origin from the “Other Side”). However, by affixing his Party B-ish endorsement on it, the knee-jerk result is that some of the most (allegedly) “faithful” members of Party A, throw a Jekyll & Hyde turn about, and actually glom onto an opposite view of what was originally from their favorite icons, for no other readon, IMHO, than to oppose “The Enemy.”

      I’ve seen them (both parties) do this with things well beyond just commercial space… We’ve got congresscritters (I luv that tag) essentially prostituting themselves with taking views diametrically opposed to their original core values, just so that they can keep/obtain Power.
      Basically, I think this is all just: “I’m against ‘IT’ (even though I once embraced it), soley for no other reason than because I’m against YOU! (and I want your job).”

      • Mader

        This is what will rot your nation from within.

        I would not care, if not for fact, that we are talking about world superpower, not third rate banana republic. Pathetic.

        • common sense

          You think whatever you like but the most dynamic country when it comes to space, and a lot of other things, still is the US.

          Democracy is not supposed to be all “clean” but rather dirty and difficult to make work. It’s all about compromises. And yes the way our government works is littered with dangers.

          The US certainly is not perfect but I do not know of any country that could give a lesson as a whole to the US. Of course you can always find one given subject and believe me I can find several such subjects.

          Yet. Show me one country in this world where things work so much better for the people than in the US with the level of freedom we enjoy. At least things change here, abruptly at times and even for the worse but they do change.

          • Neil Shipley

            I find DownUnder a country with considerable freedoms (excluding weapons but I don’t miss that at all) and I like living here a lot, but then we’re pretty small fry on the World stage but reliable U.S. allies most times.
            Cheers,

      • Guest

        I was involved at the ‘Ronnie’ level. We wanted an aerospaceplane but we couldn’t make it work, and so the SOTU speech and the commercial space launch act was plan B. After Challenger borked the shuttle for commercial launches it just took this long for the ELV industry to shake out to EELVs and now commercial space. The other major player was the ESA and Ariane and to a lesser extent, the Japanese. The Russians and Chinese always went their own way with ELVs. Then came along India, and finally, Elon Musk.

        This has been one long haul, trust me. It could have transpired differently but this is what happened and this is what we have. If you want change, commercial is it now.

        • Guest

          Sorry, I forgot, Orbital is the one outstanding star in all that went down in those decades. If you want to know about the long haul, ask them.

    • DCSCA

      “Commercial space goes back to Bush’s Vision for Space Exploration in 2004, as I wrote about in March…”

      It goes back much further than that. Reagan poisoned the well over thirty years ago.

  • NASA just released its updated ISS Utilization Statistics report:

    http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/news/station_statistics.html

    More handy facts for refuting the ISS deniers.

    • DCSCA

      “More handy facts for refuting the ISS deniers.”

      The best fact we’ve seen this week makin the rounds to refute the ISS is the silly music video. A vivid example of more waste of expensive, on-orbit time.

  • josh

    rohrabacher is one of *very* few people in congress talking sense.

    • common sense

      Except for global warming…

      • Actually, on that subject, too.

      • josh

        i think global warming is kind of a hyped problem. sure we will have to adapt but we will manage. and a warm period will also have a lot of positive side effects. there are more pressing issues.

        • common sense

          No it’s not hyped but I will not enter into this argument now since Jeff won’t like it.

          And I know I am the one who mentioned it. But to me it means credibility for Rohrabacher and that impacts Space Policy/tics.

          Now I have to wonder why he is the only one in Congress who is playing the other card. Just curious. Does he see a benefit to his career at some point? Like an early investor in SpaceX or Tesla.

          Which also shows how much theatrics outside reality are actually associated with anything political.

          Oh well.

          • common sense wrote:

            Now I have to wonder why he is the only one in Congress who is playing the other card. Just curious. Does he see a benefit to his career at some point? Like an early investor in SpaceX or Tesla.

            Like Newt Gingrich and Bob Walker, Dana Rohrabacher is sincerely passionate about space — commercial space in particular. My politics and theirs are diametrically opposite, but our interests coincide here.

            I think everyone would agree that Newt is sincere in his beliefs when he talks about things like a $10 billion prize for a lunar colony. We may not agree with the idea, but he has no political upside in it. He proposes it because he believes in it.

            Dana has pushed commercial space legislation for many years. To my knowledge, none of the NewSpace companies are in his district — in fact, his service in Congress long pre-dates the NASA commercial space program. It’s what he believes — unlike most of his colleagues, who believe in nothing except for what it takes to get re-elected.

            • common sense

              “Like Newt Gingrich and Bob Walker, Dana Rohrabacher is sincerely passionate about space — commercial space in particular. My politics and theirs are diametrically opposite, but our interests coincide here.”

              I believe it is the same for me BUT considering some of their positions elsewhere I would have a very hard time supporting them just for space which is a minuscule area of importance to what we need today in the US.

              “I think everyone would agree that Newt is sincere in his beliefs when he talks about things like a $10 billion prize for a lunar colony. We may not agree with the idea, but he has no political upside in it. He proposes it because he believes in it.”

              We definitely saw the downside of it. I will for sure grant him that. But it goes to show as well that he may (is?) not be reliable at all as a politician.

              “Dana has pushed commercial space legislation for many years. To my knowledge, none of the NewSpace companies are in his district — in fact, his service in Congress long pre-dates the NASA commercial space program. It’s what he believes — unlike most of his colleagues, who believe in nothing except for what it takes to get re-elected.”

              You know what they say right? “Among the blind, the one eyed man is king”

          • Coastal Ron

            common sense said:

            Does he [Rohrabacher] see a benefit to his career at some point? Like an early investor in SpaceX or Tesla.

            He was not an investor in either, at least not that the public records show. Especially for Tesla, which has government loans, and that type of information would have been made public.

            It appears that he doesn’t get any direct tangible benefit from the well being of any of Musk’s companies – other than the continued ability of recieving normal public donations that all politicians strive to get from just about anyone.

            And other than being a lobbyist, he doesn’t have any skills that a rocket or car company would need after he leaves Congress…

            • common sense

              You misunderstood what I meant.

              I was trying (poorly?) to draw a parallel between an early investor financially speaking and he politically speaking. He is investing political capital in what he suspects is the right position for the future which if successful might give him more power/leverage/whatever-makes-a-politician-happy.

              • Malmesbury

                More and more politicians are jumping on the bandwagon.

                Musk is pulling some interesting moves. The Texas launch site is round 1.

                Round 2 will be the (hinted at) factory for building the next step in the SpaceX rocket family in Texas as well -7+ meter cores, 650Klb Lox/Methane engines.

                My guess is that they are aiming for a single stick that will have a lower LEO load than FH, but much greater Escape/GTO load. Which are really what big rockets are for.

                In a cross-feed, heavy configuration, such a rocket would out do SLS.

                The politics of it? We are talking after the next election. With the Texas site well under way, he will have the Texas congressional and Senatorial delegations onside. California (Falcon plant)…. COTS contract into round 2. Dragon rider probably demo’d. At that point announcing a rocket that would challenge SLS wouldn’t be the killer it would be today. Watching Shelby go all LOM and self destruct will be worth it, though.

  • vulture4

    Since the GOP has supported Commercial Crew in the past, why not support it now? Does Rohrabacher support it? Does he oppose SLS? If so, why? Does that portend any general change or is it just him? I agree about his position on global warming, but Congressional attitudes are almost never based on science.

    • amightywind

      Since the GOP has supported Commercial Crew in the past, why not support it now?

      Because the dems killed the popular Constellation Project. It is not likely this administration will ever find much cooperation from the GOP, even less now that they are irrevocably, politically weakened.

    • josh

      yes, he supports commercial crew and opposes sls. and it’s just him, sadly.

    • No, it’s also Bob Walker, and Newt Gingrich.

    • Since the GOP has supported Commercial Crew in the past, why not support it now?

      The GOP never really “supported Commercial Crew.” For the most part “the GOP” was unaware of its existence until the Obama administration, at which point it associated it with him, to the degree that it paid any attention at all. “The GOP,” like “the Democrats,” doesn’t pay much attention to space policy, unless the particular member of the GOP has a NASA center or contractor in its state or district.

  • Just posted on Florida Today:

    “KSC director: NASA would consider making land available for Shiloh”

    My favorite part:

    But asked what the center’s greatest weakness was as it works to become a multi-user spaceport, [KSC Director Bob Cabana] said it was a willingness to change.

    “I mean, we’re still talking about Apollo, you know?” he said. “It’s been 40 years. Give me a break. It’s the future. Let’s move on. Folks got to accept change, alright?”

    The crowd applauded.

    • Neil Shipley

      Exactly. Too much of NASA and the NASA support base both public and government are still living in the past. Of course quite understandable when you consider pork politics but unless that also changes, the U.S. won’t remain as the leader in space. It may take a while for others to catch them but eventually they will. That is discounting the progress of SpaceX which I see as the U.S. saving light.

    • DCSCA

      “I mean, we’re still talking about Apollo, you know?” [Cabana] said. “It’s been 40 years. Give me a break. It’s the future. Let’s move on. Folks got to accept change, alright?”

      This is the problem with shuttle era deadwood like Cabana, who had plenty of breaks in his paceflight career. Maybe if he’d start asking the question- why DO we keep talking about Apollo 40 years on and don’t give shuttle a second thought after just two years of ending it, and don’t give the ISS a thoughtt at all, he’d catch on and see that the past is prologue; it is all around him… the future is Luna, not LEO.

      Cabana ought to rediscover the facility he directs. LC 39A and 39B were built for APOLLO. The VAB was built for APOLLO. The KSC firing room was built for APOLLO. Th barge canals were built for APOLLO. And the center there next to the VAB has a once exposed to the elements and now covered Saturn V built for APOLLO. Apollo is all around him. It was meant to be built upon, not dissed as ancient history by a deskbound shuttle jockey. People remember Apollo because the people who made it a reality earned the right to be memorable. It worked. It was successful. It was historic and a source of national pride for the United States which still echoes across the four decades he complains about. .

      And Apollo went some where. It made the moon a place. Cabana’s shuttle years went no place. The late Neil Armstrong once said, “The Apollo program enjoyed a certain nobility of purpose. A program not to conquer enemies but to conquer ignorance. A program not to exploit but to explore. A program not to take from others but to give to all…” He was correct. Apollo ‘expanded the human experience to the moon’ as Neil noted. That’s why we remember it, Cabana. And talk about it still. Shuttle? Not so much. Nobody talks about shuttle at all. And it is hardly missed. Because, Bob, it went in circles, no where, fast, for 30 years.

      • Coastal Ron

        DCSCA opined:

        why DO we keep talking about Apollo 40 years on and don’t give shuttle a second thought after just two years of ending it…

        Apparently you are deaf to all the people that pine for the Shuttle, and ignorant of the fact that part of the reason for the SLS was to enshrine Shuttle technology in a BFR.

        …and don’t give the ISS a thoughtt at all

        Again, you fail to notice that when Apollo makes the news, it’s usually when someone dies, or when someone is a former Apollo participant promoting something other than the Moon.

        In contrast, when the ISS makes the news – which it does with regular frequency – it’s because it’s an example of life in space (i.e. fixing things, making music, the science being done, etc.).

        The VAB was built for APOLLO.

        Apollo only used the VAB for a few years – the Shuttle used it for DECADES.

        Get over it moon boy.

        • DCSCA

          “Apollo only used the VAB for a few years – the Shuttle used it for DECADES.” spins Ron.

          But it was BUILT for APOLLO, Ron. as were the mobile launch platforms/crawlers. And meant to be built upon. Dissing Apollo won’t get you far as a space advocate for your commercial LEO position. So keep it up. .

  • NeilShipley

    Much as I admire Armstrong, such a statement demonstrates just how closed he was to the real world and the politics that drove Apollo. And as I mentioned above, much of NASA is still there with him.

  • Gregori

    The Moon is a barren lump of rock moving in circles, going no place fast….. why do we want to send people there?

    • Hiram

      Because people want to live there, have families there, and make their fortune there! Just like everyone does with other desolate and essentially uninhabitable places like Antarctica, the Marianas Trench, and the Sahara desert. Wait … they don’t?

      • common sense

        Hey some are okay for a one way trip to Mars… What a horrible way to die. But you cannot discount the stupids err groupies.

      • Call Me Ishmael

        What do we want with this vast, worthless area? This region of savages and wild beasts, of deserts of shifting sands and whirlwinds of dust, of cactus and prairie dogs? To what use could we ever hope to put these great deserts, or those endless mountain ranges, impenetrable and covered to their very base with eternal snow? What can we ever hope to do with the western coast, a coast of three thousand miles, rock-bound, cheerless, uninviting, and not a harbor on it? What use have we for this country?

        Daniel Webster, on the Louisiana Purchase(*)

        I can hear you now, saying “But that was different!”. No, it wasn’t. The only difference is a matter of timing.

        (*) On googling, I discovered that there is no direct evidence that Webster actually spoke these words, although they are frequently attributed to him. But certainly others were saying similar things. And Webster may well have agreed with the sentiment.

        • common sense

          Are you serious? I mean really? Louisiana similar to the Moon? The difference is “timing”???

          Must be something in the air where you’re at.

          Oh well.

        • Hiram

          Savages and wild beasts? No sweat. Deserts of dust? Yeah, we’ll stay outta those. Cactus and prairie dogs? Pots and pets. A cheerless coast? Get the tourist agencies involved. Serve beer and margaritas. But you know, we can breathe there. We can find food and water there. If the savages and wild beasts can live there, so can we. It can’t be hard.

          Let me know when we see savages and wild beasts on the Moon or Mars. They could teach us something.

    • Guest

      The geometry of the poles of the moon, mostly, the nearness of Earth, the light (heavy in relation to most things material) orientational gravity that makes long term plant growth and human habitation possible, the optical flux from that lucky orientation, the thermal gradients available in the cold traps for cryogenic storage and possibility of cosmic sludge therein. Absolute radiation protection over half the sky.

      It’s the clear winner all around.

    • DCSCA

      “The Moon is a barren lump of rock moving in circles, going no place fast….. why do we want to send people there?” crows Comrade Gregori.

      Hmmm. Let’s allow a President of the United States to respond:

      “Many years ago the great British explorer, George Mallory, who was to die on Mount Everest, was asked why did he want to climb it, and he said, “Because it is there.” Well, space is there, and we are going to climb it. And the moon and the planets are there, and new hopes for knowledge and peace are there. And therefore, as we set sail, we ask God’s blessing on the most hazardous and dangerous and greatest adventure on which man has wver embarked.”

      – excerpt, President John F. Kennedy;s speech on space delivered at Rice University in Texas, September 12, 1962.

      http://www.jfklibrary.org/Asset-Viewer/Archives/USG-15-r29.aspx

      http://www.jfklibrary.org/Asset-Viewer/Archives/JFKPOF-040-001.aspx

      You’d do well to read and/or watch the entire speech. Gregori.

    • E.P. Grondine

      Hi Grigori –

      The only concrete reason for sending people the Moon is to help build the Comet and Asteroid Protection System.

      Jeff, when is “impact” or “NEOs” going to get a story category over at spacetoday.net?

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