Congress, NASA

Differing perspectives on commercial crew

Speaking at the meeting Wednesday of the FAA’s Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee (COMSTAC) in Washington, NASA administrator Charles Bolden made another pitch—this time to a rather sympathetic audience—for the agency’s commercial crew program.

“If NASA had received the president’s requested funding for this program then,” Bolden said, referring to the rollout of the program three years ago, “we would not have been forced to recently sign a new contract with the Russians for Soyuz transportation.” Those earlier cuts, he said, have pushed back commercial crew to 2017, “and even this delayed availability is in question if Congress does not fully support the president’s 2014 request for our commercial crew program.”

“Further delays in our commercial crew program and the impact on our human spaceflight program are unacceptable,” he said. “That’s why we need the full $821 million the president has requested in next year’s budget to keep us on track for our 2017 deadline.”

The commercial crew program has frequently been seen as being in conflict with the agency’s Space Launch System (SLS) heavy-lift rocket and Orion spacecraft for limited funding, particularly in the eyes of some members of Congress who think NASA is favoring commercial crew in favor of SLS and Orion. “The either-or debate exists one place that I know of, and that’s in the Congress,” he said. “And it is a a false debate that is built on my inability to convince critical members of Congress” that both commercial crew and SLS/Orion are essential aspects of NASA’s long-term plans. “The argument that it’s either heavy lift or commercial crew is a fallacious one.”

After Bolden completed his talk and left, COMSTAC heard a different take on commercial crew from Capitol Hill. “I think there’s been some frustration on the Hill at how the commercial crew program over the last few years has unfolded,” said Tom Culligan, legislative director for Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA), who chairs the appropriations subcommittee that funds NASA. “There wasn’t a clear vision and path and strategy laid out from day one, with buy-in from the Hill and with the stakeholders in the community, about how we were going to proceed on this program.”

That frustration, Culligan suggested, is because NASA hasn’t moved fast enough to select a company to develop a crew transportation system. “I think the decision early on to try and spread resources for crew to low Earth orbit to as many people as possible maybe wasn’t the best decision,” he said. “The Congress did not buy off on a program to provide development subsidies to a large number of entities out there. They bought off on a program to get American astronauts to low Earth orbit and Station as quickly as possible and as affordably as possible. And I think there was a disconnect there, maybe, between what people at NASA’s priorities were and Congress’s understanding of priorities were.”

“I don’t think today you find people on Capitol Hill who say we shouldn’t have this program, the way you did a few years ago,” he continued, but that there was “bipartisan concern” about how it’s being run. “I think you’ve got some people who are upset, maybe, at how the program was run, particularly the first couple of years. But now we’re all in it, we need to resolve it, we need to have that ability as quickly as possible.”

As for Bolden’s call for funding commercial crew at the requested level in 2014, Culligan did not sound optimistic. “Say, overnight, there was 100-percent consensus that we wanted to fund this at the President’s level. I’m not sure the resources are there. I don’t know where you find $300 million and change in this environment,” he said, referring to the approximate difference between the program’s 2013 funding ($525 million before rescission and sequestration) and the $821 million requested for 2014. At the same time, though, he said, Congress would not be happy with any delays beyond 2017 in bringing commercial crew into service. “NASA is going to have find a way to make it work with the allocation that we have and what we’re able to devote to it.”

135 comments to Differing perspectives on commercial crew

  • Just four manned missions to the ISS every year cannot sustain multiple commercial crew companies.

    The Federal government needs to help commercial crew companies and the emerging private commercial space station industry by starting a– national and international space lotto system– so that billions of adults around the world can risk a dollar or two every year for a chance to visit a private American space station aboard private American space vehicles.

    As an extra incentive, lotto winners would also receive a $250,000 monetary prize to compensate them for the time off from work for astronaut training and their trip into space.

    Combined with space tourism for the super wealthy, this should help to rapidly grow the commercial crew industry and commercial space station industry– without the need for any tax payer dollars!

    Marcel F. Williams

    • Space Pete

      There will not be four missions to the ISS every year, there will only be two (one new crew every six months). Not sure where this “four per year” number comes from, but official NASA plans show only two.

      And if the one year increments become permanent, it will go down to only one per year.

    • Gregori

      You keep repeating this idea even after its been pointed out as a terrible one…

    • Coastal Ron

      Marcel F. Williams said:

      Just four manned missions to the ISS every year cannot sustain multiple commercial crew companies.

      As Space Pete points out, it is two flights per year, not four.

      And the companies all know the math involved here, and they have even stated that they see NASA’s needs as just part of what they hope will be an emerging market for transportation to LEO.

      Keep in mind also that NASA’s MPCV is tied to a rocket that may not be safe enough to fly for humans, since it will not being flying enough to determine it’s safety heritage. In contrast, the Commercial Crew vehicles will all be flying on launch systems that fly multiple times per year, so they don’t have to have the added expense of maintaining their own launch systems just for crew.

      The Federal government needs to help commercial crew companies and the emerging private commercial space station industry by starting a– national and international space lotto system…

      Regardless the merit, it’s a non-starter in the Congress we currently have, and in no way would NASA want to give up any of their meager budget to fund such a thing. You can’t even get any traction within the space community. Time to drop it.

      And regardless whether such a thing is funded, NASA still needs cargo and crew transportation services.

      This is the thing that you ignore, is that NASA has a KNOWN DEMAND for logistics, and paying other countries to satisfy that demand is economically and politically a bad idea.

  • James

    Culligan: “NASA is going to have find a way to make it work with the allocation that we have and what we’re able to devote to it.”

    Since Congress does not want to see CC slip beyond 2017, these words translate into:
    Cut back some other program at NASA to fund CC.

    SLS backers won’t allow their pet “rocket to nowhere” be raided for CC, so this means the money will have to come from somewhere else within NASA.

    When the JWST wedge starts to open up, when its costs begin to ramp down, Exploration Systems will no doubt be looking at their pot of gold!

    Look out SMD!

  • Coastal Ron

    That frustration, Culligan suggested, is because NASA hasn’t moved fast enough to select a company to develop a crew transportation system. “I think the decision early on to try and spread resources for crew to low Earth orbit to as many people as possible maybe wasn’t the best decision,” he said.

    The difference between the competitive transportation marketplace that NASA wants and the sole-sourced one that Congress appears to want is a legitimate point of debate. Which is the best route to go?

    The funny thing though is that there are so many “pro-business” Republican’s that are against a competitive marketplace, and it’s a “socialist” Democrat President that is against a sole-sourced solution.

    This is also a difference between how the President sees the future of our activities in space, and how Congress sees it.

    Congress sees it as an extension of the funding trough that NASA has been since the 70′s, with parochial needs dominating what gets funded. Things only get funded if they primarily benefit certain states & political districts or certain companies.

    The President supports the private sector providing routine services, and doing it in a competitive, redundant marketplace.

    Which is better for space exploration in the long term? If we want to increase our presence out into space, then the only way we’ll be able to do that is with the private sector creating revenue streams from it, since NASA’s budget is too meager to sustain much on it’s own.

    I support competition.

    • DCSCA

      “The funny thing though is that there are so many “pro-business” Republican’s that are against a competitive marketplace, and it’s a “socialist” Democrat President that is against a sole-sourced solution.” whines Ron.

      They oppose it because the ‘private sector’ sees na low to no ROI on it. They opppose government subsidizing it and regard HSF as an extention of national security.

      “This is also a difference between how the President sees the future of our activities in space, and how Congress sees it.” weeps Ron.

      Mr. Obama doesn’t see any future activities in space at all. He has no interest in it. He is a passive president when it comes to legislative matters and put spsce in the out box in 2010 at KSC, per the recommendations of staff from a white paper summary.

      • Monty

        Obama is no different than any past president in that regard: he cares almost nothing for the space program, either of the robotic or manned kind. On his list of priorities, “space exploration” probably doesn’t even appear, even in an appendix. Politically, the space program has no reason to exist except in terms of US prestige — and it is thus a purely political animal, and thus prone to the winds of political expediency.

        In my view, all the stakeholders — scientists, industrialists, exploration enthusiasts — need to sign on to private-sector development of space. But that’s not going to happen absent the same kind of governmental partnering that took place during the rail era, and during the commercial air travel era.

        Honestly, I think we’re on the cusp of having a viable private-sector space industry…but it’s not a very robust one. Space-tourism and small-scale science isn’t going to be enough to pay the freight for the kind of innovation we’re going to need to drive costs down. The only thing that’s going to do that is large-scale industrialization: mining, manufacturing, power generation, all the infrastructure stuff. That in turn will require a robust transportation network, which will in turn drive innovation of vehicles, engines, etc. It happend with sea-based transport, it happened with rail transport, and it happened with air transport. It’ll happen with space-based transport too.

        The big question is whether America will spearhead this move or follow behind someone else. I’m not as blithely confident as many others seem to be that Russia or China can do it first: they are under even more desperate financial pressures than we are, and with the same problem of aging populations and increasing demands on public funds.

        If America wants to spearhead this move to industrialize space, we have to have a plan. The most basic first step is to drive down launch costs, and we’ve started down that road already. But that’s not enough: just getting stuff into space cheaply isn’t the point. The point is to build out capability not just go to space, but to stay there and get stuff done. To make things. To spread out and colonize. The federal government’s role is not to map all that out in detail, but rather to “prepare the ground” for that stuff to happen.

        It’s one of the President’s jobs to sell that to the American people so they are willing to fund it. No president since Kennedy has bothered to “sell” the space program to Americans, and NASA’s insular and risk-averse culture hasn’t helped.

        • Monty

          “Politically, the space program has no reason to exist except in terms of US prestige — and it is thus a purely political animal, and thus prone to the winds of political expediency.”

          Though now that I think about it, that’s not strictly the case: the US must preserve launch capability for spy satellites and such like. So it’s a national-security issue. I guess I should have said civilian space program.

  • Matt McClanahan

    Culligan: “I think there’s been some frustration on the Hill at how the commercial crew program over the last few years has unfolded,” [...] “There wasn’t a clear vision and path and strategy laid out from day one, with buy-in from the Hill and with the stakeholders in the community, about how we were going to proceed on this program.”

    Seriously, when I read this, I had to read it twice to make sure he wasn’t describing SLS. Because when I take out “commercial crew” and put in “SLS”, the sentence sounds more accurate.

  • Jim_LAX

    Coastal Ron; I could not agree more!

  • Coastal Ron: “Keep in mind also that NASA’s MPCV is tied to a rocket that may not be safe enough to fly for humans, since it will not being flying enough to determine it’s safety heritage. In contrast, the Commercial Crew vehicles will all be flying on launch systems that fly multiple times per year, so they don’t have to have the added expense of maintaining their own launch systems just for crew.”

    That’s because the current administration didn’t want a heavy lift vehicle because they really don’t want NASA to have a manned space program.

    The most logical way to use the SLS would be for a lunar outpost program which would probably require at least four to six SLS launches per year. But the Obama administration sees no value in the hundreds of millions of tonnes lunar ice (probably billions of tonnes) at the lunar poles.

    So NASA is stuck with only dreams of the future for an administration that really doesn’t want them to go anywhere! And many Commercial Crew advocates say, AMEN! to that:-)

    Marcel F. Williams

    • Fred Willett

      Where does the money come from to fund these SLS flights?
      At the current funding level SLS maybe gets off one flight every year. Maybe.
      Can you see an increase in NASA funding coming down the track that will allow more flights than that?
      Can you see even more funding that will be needed needed for actual hardware to fly on SLS?

    • Coastal Ron

      Marcel F. Williams said:

      That’s because the current administration didn’t want a heavy lift vehicle…

      You’re right, they didn’t. And they didn’t because they didn’t have any money – or ready exploration systems – to launch on ANY HLV.

      So Congress ignored the exploration-enabling budget requests, and directed NASA to build the unneeded SLS.

      …because they really don’t want NASA to have a manned space program.

      Right. Uh huh. That’s why the fought for extending our only human-occupied post in space, why the fought for creating a Commercial Crew transportation system so we can expand our presence in space beyond what NASA can afford, and why the Obama NASA budget originally requested funding for exploration-specific things like in-orbit refueling and storage.

      The most logical way to use the SLS would be…

      Unfortunately you are not familiar with our form of government. The President can request something, but it is Congress that writes the budget laws – the President can either sign them or veto them, but even if veto’d, Congress can override the veto. That’s how the SLS was funded, since the President didn’t want it, but he agreed to it as part of a grand compromise.

      Because of that, Congress is not being held back somehow on funding uses for the SLS. But if you’ll notice, they have not called for one hearing concerning future SLS missions. Not one. Why?

      Because Congress knows that SLS missions will be cost at least $10B each, and take at least 10 years to build, which means that NASA’s budget will have to expand in order to fly the SLS twice or more per year for decades to come.

      But the Obama administration sees no value in the hundreds of millions of tonnes lunar ice (probably billions of tonnes) at the lunar poles.

      Neither does Congress. Whose district is that in?

    • JimNobles

      -
      But the Obama administration sees no value in the hundreds of millions of tonnes lunar ice (probably billions of tonnes) at the lunar poles.

      No one sees the value of that other than us space cadets. What else is news?

      If we see the value in it it’s up to us to get to it. Not complain because we can’t talk some Politican(s) into pick-pocketing a bunch of taxpayers who probably think the idea is prepostorus, if they think about it at all.

      This is America people. We need to start thinking like Americans and not like some socialist enclave where a group of people decide what everyone’s spare change should be spent on.

      What if Elon had immigrated here and then spent all his time on trying to talk Politicians into passing laws supporting the things he considers important? He does that a little bit, everyone does, but he also started his own companies to try and address the problems his own self. Take a lesson.

  • Mark R. Whittington

    Of course the obvious solution is to realize that a $17 billion a year NASA is not enough to pay for everything that is needed. The sooner the government decides to actually pay what NASA’s various programs actually cost, the sooner all of this bickering can come to an end.

    • amightywind

      Its been this way for several years and NASA has done nothing to reform its activities given budget realities. Three commercial crew projects 2 years of operational flights. Really? The definition of insanity…

      • Neil Shipley

        No, it’s been several decades and a number of total program failures. And really, commercial crew? One monster rocket for which there are no missions and insufficient funding. Now that’s what I call insanity.

      • josh

        the dragon will still be flying long after sls is cancelled. deal with it, windy…

    • Fred Willett

      The sooner we learn to accept that funds are limited and learn to live within our means the sooner we might get somewhere.
      If you can’t afford a Porche buy a Ford.

    • “Of course the obvious solution is to realize that a $17 billion a year NASA is not enough to pay for everything that is needed.
      It’s more than enough if SLS is killed. And we would be able to a true human deep space exploration program as well. Wake up, Mark.

      • BRC

        It’s more than enough if SLS is killed.”

        Sorry, no it won’t. It’s a nice thought, but in all likelihood you won’t see zip. The nano-second that gargantu-monument to engineering-by-partisanship gets killed, ALL of that funding will be redirected and spread out (a.k.a., “redistribution of wealth”) into scads of pork-troughs everywhere (but not one widow’s mite, for anything “Up There”).

        • I think you may be only partially right. I think there is a good chance that at least some of it will be diverted to real technical progress in spaceflight, though part may be lost in the manner you state.

          But even it all the SLS funding disappears to points elsewhere, then American human spaceflight will be no worse off either way. That’s because SLS is just a make-work project that would not have gotten us anywhere, since it would never be completed anyway. What’s the difference (as far as America’s spaceflight capability is concerned) between perpetually waiting for SLS to be finished (as the NASA commissioned Booz-Allen-Hamilton report says is likely to happen) and not having the money in the budget that is currently being thrown away on SLS? The answer, of course, is nothing. Either way we’re no closer to deep space exploration to the Moon, asteroids, Mars or whatever. Six one way, half a dozen another.

        • Coastal Ron

          BRC said:

          It’s a nice thought, but in all likelihood you won’t see zip.

          I disagree. However, I do agree with Rick in that NASA is far better off without the SLS and it’s funding than with the SLS and no way to use it. And that’s because the SLS is a liability that NASA has to pay for even if it’s not using it, so it’s a HUGE negative on NASA’s budget.

          However once the SLS is cancelled (not if), some of that money that was anticipated to go towards the SLS will be able to be kept by NASA, since NASA already has a long list of unfunded and underfunded programs that it can point to.

    • Coastal Ron

      Mark R. Whittington said:

      Of course the obvious solution is to realize that a $17 billion a year NASA is not enough to pay for everything that is needed.

      Apparently Congress is OK with it, since the trend over the past few decades has been to decrease NASA’s real budget. Just look at this data to see the trend.

      That’s not because of Obama, it’s because of every Congress for the past few decades has felt no need to increase NASA’s budget.

      And what really “is needed”? From the average taxpayer standpoint, they tolerate money going to NASA, but not too much – they already think NASA gets far more money than NASA really gets, so that should tell you something.

      There is no “National Imperative” to go to the Moon, or anywhere for that matter.

      The sooner the government decides to actually pay what NASA’s various programs actually cost, the sooner all of this bickering can come to an end.

      You have an entitlement mindset.

      NASA does some good stuff – real science, real forward looking stuff. But it is also the pork playground for a lot of political interests (Florida, Texas, Alabama, etc.). Pork is bad, and that is also the reason to move NASA away from being an owner/operator to buying services as they need them.

      There is no reason for NASA to build and operate their own launch system. None. And there are no known customers (with money) demanding the SLS. The SLS is pure pork.

      If Congress cancelled the SLS and used the same funding for exploration hardware that fit on existing launchers, then we’d be beyond LEO exploring far faster than if we have to use the SLS. And we wouldn’t need a budget increase to do it.

    • Monty

      NASA’s miserable performance on high-dollar projects like JWST doesn’t inspire confidence.

  • I don’t think Congress will ever raise the NASA budget again until they know- exactly– where NASA’s manned beyond LEO program is going. And Democrats and Republicans simply don’t trust the Obama administration on this issue!

    But you really don’t need to raise the NASA budget if the only thing NASA is going to do from now on is to hitch a ride aboard a Commercial Crew space craft to the ISS. And Congress is really not in the mood right now to fund programs to nowhere.

    Marcel F. Williams

    • Matt McClanahan

      Marcel, if you’re correct and Congress has no faith in NASA’s beyond-LEO plans, then why would they want to build the SLS? Doesn’t it seem like they’re displaying some measure of cognitive dissonance by pushing NASA to develop the rocket while simultaneously rejecting the advancement of any mission that would make use of it?

      • Coastal Ron

        Matt McClanahan said:

        Doesn’t it seem like they’re displaying some measure of cognitive dissonance by pushing NASA to develop the rocket while simultaneously rejecting the advancement of any mission that would make use of it?

        STOP! You’ll hurt his BRAIN!!

        ;-)

    • Mader

      Congress is really not in the mood right now to fund programs to nowhere.
      Considering Congress consistently supports SLS, they certainly are (and were for last few years at least) in mood to fund job progams to nowhere. Your claim shows that you are detached from reality and spout pure BS.

      • Ben Russell-Gough

        The thing to remember is that Congress doesn’t think it’s a rocket to nowhere. They think that it’s going to the Moon in the near term and (typically) aren’t well enough informed enough to realise this isn’t happening. That’s why Administrator Bolden’s announcement of ‘not in my lifetime’ caused such a lot of surprise.

        • Mader

          Moon? What moon? You didn’t got memo? Party line for last few years is “Mars”, not “Moon”. It does not change anything anyway.

          And I will tell you what Congress think. “Job program”. Nothing less, nothing more.

        • The thing to remember is that Congress doesn’t think it’s a rocket to nowhere. They think that it’s going to the Moon in the near term and (typically) aren’t well enough informed enough to realise this isn’t happening.

          Congress doesn’t “think” about it at all. Not one in ten Congresspeople give any thought whatsoever to space policy. They just vote on whatever comes out of committee.

  • Un-elected and self-important D.C. bureaucrat said:

    NASA is going to have find a way to make it work with the allocation that we have and what we’re able to devote to it.

    Gee, doesn’t this sound just like what Bill Nelson and Kay Bailey Hutchison said when the independent Booz Allen Hamilton review of SLS concluded it was going to cost a lot more than what Congress was willing to fund? Nelson and Hutchison said they didn’t care, build it for what we give you.

    More proof that the people on The Hill don’t give a damn about space, only their own selfish interests.

  • Fred Willett

    I think it speaks volumes that Culligan said “The Congress did not buy off on a program to provide development subsidies to a large number of entities out there. They bought off on a program to get American astronauts to low Earth orbit and Station as quickly as possible and as affordably as possible. And I think there was a disconnect there, maybe, between what people at NASA’s priorities were and Congress’s understanding of priorities were.”
    Some in congress do not support the idea of commercial space. They want merely to minimize costs. They want NASA to pick a winner and downsize to a single contractor.
    Culligan speaks for Frank Wolf. Isn’t he supposed to be a republician?

  • Matt

    There is still a lot of bad blood on the Hill among those involved with space matters over Constellation’s cancellation. Not that it was axed, but how it was done (no prior notice, no consultation, etc). And the perception that the Obama Administration was “outsourcing” HSF to a bunch of unproven private contractors who haven’t flown anyone yet didn’t help matters any. Not to mention that both Charlie Bolden and Dr. Holdren (Presidential Science Advisor) are just not good communicators when they testify (Holdren’s probably better off in a clasroom, and Charlie’s probably wishing he’d stayed retired). Throw in a belief by members of those relevant Congressional committees that NASA shouldn’t be giving payouts to private companies to do RDT&E work that they should be doing with their own money, and you get the state of affairs today.

    • Coastal Ron

      Matt said:

      There is still a lot of bad blood on the Hill among those involved with space matters over Constellation’s cancellation.

      Piffle.

      If Congress didn’t want to cancel Constellation, then they wouldn’t have written it into their budgets and voted for it.

      You have to stop believing this fiction, and learn how your system of government works.

      Not that it was axed…

      Hmm. Constellation was going to the Moon, but now we’re not. Constellation was building a dedicated crew launcher (Ares I), and now we’re not. Constellation was building an exploration-class spacecraft with a Service Module, and now we’re hoping ESA can build one for us (and likely only one). And Constellation was building a lunar lander, and now we’re not.

      Other than a too-small HLV, and a too-limited but over-priced capsule, what we have now is nothing like Constellation.

      Do you even know what Constellation was?

      And the perception that the Obama Administration was “outsourcing” HSF to a bunch of unproven private contractors who haven’t flown anyone yet

      Another fiction.

      Commercial Crew is LEO only, so how in any way is that “outsourcing HSF”? And wasn’t it during Bush 43 that both Commercial Cargo & Crew were specifically defined for ISS support? All Obama did was get Commercial Crew going.

      And the other fiction is that NASA would let anyone do anything that wasn’t qualified. Do you think they would let Boeing fly NASA personnel without Boeing proving they were qualified? I don’t think you know how government contracting works.

      And in any case, what COTS, CCDev and CCiCap have shown is that the private sector really IS up to the task of creating NASA-qualified transportation systems. And no one should be surprised, since it’s the private sector that NASA relies upon to build all their hardware anyways. Duh!

      • Matt

        Ron, I know full well what Constellation was: and I was looking forward to it. Ares I to fly crew, Ares V for heavy-ift, Orion crew vehicle, and Altair for the lunar lander. Sorties first, then leading to a lunar base, with planned NEO and Mars flights in the future. Don’t patronize me, for I know bloody well what it was supposed to do.

        Second, Memories are long in Congress: look at Benghazi, for example, or Whitewater during the Clinton years. Again, if you’ll remember, Charlie Bolden himself admitted at a post-shuttle flight presser after that botch of an FY 11 rollout that he blew it. He didn’t listen to his PAOs (and likely didn’t listen to any legislative liasions), and said just that at that post-launch brief. And both he and the Administration paid for it.

        Third: It was the perception that NASA was “outsourcing” that spewed a lot of venom. Both on The Hill and off of it. Even members of the Augustine Panel-even Norm Augustine himself-admitted in both Congressional hearings and in the media, that they were surprised at the flak coming towards commercial crew. Leroy Chao, a former NASA astronaut, and a member of Augustine, was quoted in both the Orlando Sentinel and Florida Today at the time as saying “It’s not ‘either or’.” He was upset that the way things were spun was that “if you’re for commercial to LEO, you’re against NASA to BEO, and the other way around.” Again, the Administration hasn’t communicated that very effectively, and they have the gall to wonder why their proposals don’t get more support (financial and otherwise) from The Hill?

        Fourth: No one denies that private contractors have always built NASA’s space vehicles from the get-go, whether it was McDonnell-Douglas with Mercury and Gemnini, Rockwell International with both Apollo and Shuttle, and Grumman with the Apollo Lunar Module. Private industry builds, NASA Operates. That’s the way it has been done ever since 5 May 1961. For many, the idea of NASA astronauts “paying for a ticket” on a commercial vehicle to LEO is still anathema. And don’t get started on this “Commercial to the Moon and NASA pays for the ride” idea….it’ll never get Congressional Approval. Do I doubt that commercial contractors, operating under NASA human-rating rules and safety standards, can fly crews to/from ISS safely? No. But they have to prove they can do it first. Just as Space X had to prove that they could fly Dragon to ISS, and Orbital has to do the same with Antares, the same thing applies to Boeing (My preference), Space X, etc. My diagreement is that government funds are going to help private entities develop something that they should be putting up their own money for. The only money they ought to get is when they complete a mission for NASA and are then paid. But R&D, plus Test and evaluation? Use your own funding.

        The private sector is not a one-size fits all solution to HSF. While many ideas expressed in this regard are technically feasible, expecting NASA to jump on that bandwagon are not politically feasible, given current politics. Remember, Ron, the opposition to the original FY 11 Budget was bipartisan.

        • Coastal Ron

          Matt said:

          Second, Memories are long in Congress…

          Um, the Kay Baily Hutchison memories aren’t – she’s gone. And it’s funny how politics works, as you well know since it was unthinkable in 2009 to think the Constellation program could be cancelled, yet it was.

          Political memories are not the issue, it’s how (and where) money is spent that is the issue, and the SLS spent it in the right states, but Commercial Crew didn’t.

          It was the perception that NASA was “outsourcing” that spewed a lot of venom.

          What “outsourcing”? Commercial Crew only services the ISS. The requirements – which go back to the Bush/Griffin era – only specify LEO capabilities. The Orion/MPCV is intended to be launched by the SLS and used only for BEO operations. Where do they overlap?

          This is a fiction that you have bought hook, line and sinker.

          For many, the idea of NASA astronauts “paying for a ticket” on a commercial vehicle to LEO is still anathema.

          No it’s not. We’ve been “paying for a ticket” since the crew of Expedition 1 flew up to the ISS on a Soyuz October 31, 2000 – over 27 flight during the past 12 years now.

          I don’t know about you, but I haven’t heard of anyone refusing to fly on a Russian vehicle, which leads me to believe that NASA employees don’t mind. In fact, if you were to ask them, I’d say they would PREFER to fly on U.S. Commercial Crew vehicles instead of Russian Soyuz. I think they would take pride in doing that, and many former U.S. astronauts are trying to make that opportunity happen sooner rather than later. I’d say their opinions are more accurate than yours.

          But they have to prove they can do it first.

          That is a fake requirement. It also shows that you don’t think NASA is capable of assessing whether companies are capable of developing workable systems. If anything, the COTS, CCDev and CCiCap programs have proved you wrong.

          The private sector is not a one-size fits all solution to HSF.

          What commercial proponents like me have been saying is that the private sector can handle the routine tasks (like transportation and logistics) that have already been proven out. That frees up NASA to concentrate on developing the techniques and technologies that will be needed in the future but have not been developed or proven out.

          In that regard, transporting mass to orbit (and beyond) is 50 year old technology, and the private sector is currently the most experienced entity to provide transportation services to NASA. All NASA has to do is define their needs, and release an RFP.

          In practice, this means NASA can devote far more of it’s budget to developing the stuff that gets us out exploring – and what’s wrong with that?

          • Matt

            The “Commercial uber Alles” approach won’t fly politically. You know it and so do I. NASA just being involved as a customer is not even getting out of the relevant Congressional committees. I’ve said it before, Ron, and I shall repeat. I have no problem with the private sector handling the LEO crew and cargo mission. That frees up NASA’s resources to go BEO. Where I disagree is in funding: no subsidies or handouts to these private companies do develop their own spacecraft. It’s like the government giving Douglas a handout to build the DC-3 in 1936, or Boeing a handout to build the 247 about the same time. If these firms need NASA assistance, fine, but reimburse NASA for the help. Develop and test with their own money. The only other money they should be getting from NASA is the fee for services rendered.

            Again, Ron, I would rather have our crews flying an American-made spacecraft. Like I said, I have no problem with commercial crew-only that these companies, whether it’s an established firm like Boeing, or an upstart like Space X, prove that their vehicles are safe, meet NASA’s human rating and safety standards, and fly not just one, but preferably two or three, test flights with a NASA astronaut or two aboard with the company crew to verify contractor claims. And just personally, I’d rather that NASA lease one vehicle and fly it with an all-NASA crew to get the astronauts’ own opinions. The sooner it happens, the better. But as long as the face of Commercial Space is (Ugh) Elon Musk, and not an actual crew who’s been there and back, the path through the relevant Congressional Committees will be rocky.

            Be careful: nothing in space is routine. We’ve learned that the hard way. And lost people with that kind of attitude. It’ll be routine when you can go to LAX or JFK and hop an SSTO to a privately operated space station in LEO. Not until then.

            • Coastal Ron

              Matt said:

              I have no problem with the private sector handling the LEO crew and cargo mission.

              Then why don’t you support the Commercial Crew program? Because of a lack of support from those in Congress who are against Commercial Crew, NASA now has to spend MORE money on Soyuz flights. Talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face…

              Where I disagree is in funding: no subsidies or handouts to these private companies do develop their own spacecraft.

              Malmesbury already covered this nicely, and I agree with him. I will add two things:

              1. I’ve worked for government contractors, and I can tell you haven’t. The government is a capricious customer, and that’s why your scheme won’t work. Money Matt, you always ignore the money.

              2. You say “and fly not just one, but preferably two or three, test flights with a NASA astronaut or two aboard with the company crew to verify contractor claims.” How come you don’t think NASA should have the same standards? NASA is flying crew on the second flight of the SLS, and only the second flight of a functional MPCV. Both are brand new vehicles with no flight heritage. Until I hear you lobbying for NASA to have the same standards for their own systems as you think commercial systems should have, then you are being disingenuous.

            • Coastal Ron

              Matt said:

              It’ll be routine when you can go to LAX or JFK and hop an SSTO to a privately operated space station in LEO. Not until then.

              Oh STOP IT MATT. 35,000 people die in car crashes every year, and if cars aren’t classified as “routine transportation”, then I don’t know what is.

              And let’s also remember that NASA lost 40% of the Shuttle fleet, yet many people still wanted it to keep on flying. Maybe even you.

              People will die in space on commercial transportation. That is a given if we are to expand humanities presence out into space. And that is a poor excuse not to go to space.

        • Malmesbury

          The only money they ought to get is when they complete a mission for NASA and are then paid. But R&D, plus Test and evaluation? Use your own funding.

          If you want to buy a fixed capability, that might work. COTS-D etc.

          Good luck getting authorisation for hands off to that extent. If you want FAR contracts, 1000 page spcs from NASA etc, then you will be told the development is on the government. You want it, you pay for it.

          Take a look at defence R&D

        • Ron, I know full well what Constellation was: and I was looking forward to it.

          Then you were living a fantasy. There was never budget for Constellation. It would never have gotten anyone to the moon, or if it had, it would have eventually collapsed like Apollo did, for exactly the same reason, and left us no better off than Apollo did, in terms of affordably sending humans into the cosmos.

          Private industry builds, NASA Operates. That’s the way it has been done ever since 5 May 1961. For many, the idea of NASA astronauts “paying for a ticket” on a commercial vehicle to LEO is still anathema.

          And that antediluvian attitude is exactly why spaceflight is essentially unaffordable, and why we’ve sent only a few hundred people to space in half a century. But please, continue to live in the past, as part of the Apollo cargo cult. The rest of us will head out into the solar system.

          • Monty

            I agree. Constellation was essentially Apollo redux, with the same weaknesses that Apollo had (with a few more thrown in). And it was doomed to die anyway — I knew the moment that Bush proposed it that the next Democrat President would kill it, if for no other reason than partisan politics. No President wants to spend a lot of money making his predecessor look good. The fact that Constellation was a badly flawed plan to begin with made it vulnerable to cancellation anyway.

            The problem NASA faces is that it cannot drive policy, but only implement policy. Yet the people who drive space policy (Congress, the President) are either ignorant of the subject matter or simply don’t care. And NASA’s own record of mismanagement and bureaucratic vapor-lock, not to mention a risk-aversion so extreme it amounts almost to a phobia, don’t help matters.

            • common sense

              I think you don’t have the facts quite right. The policy was the Vision for Space Exploration (VSE), its implementation was Constellation.

              This WH repealed Constellation not the VSE.

              In effect the attempt at the Flexible Path is very much reminiscent of O’keefe/Steidle Spiral Approach to the VSE.

              So the current WH did not abandon the former WH policy in that regard. Furthermore Commercial Space was implemented under the former WH and was pursued much more effectively by the current WH.

              Hope this helps.

            • Tom Billings

              “Yet the people who drive space policy (Congress, the President) are either ignorant of the subject matter or simply don’t care. ”

              To emphasize Rand’s point about Space not being politically important. This was exactly the situation in the Parliament of “The Glorious Revolution”. They had been kept in the dark by the Stuarts, and Pepes, the Stewart Secretary of the Navy. Parliament was filled with MPs who thought they knew naval hisory, and knew only Elizabethan myths, or with people who wanted only what was good for their small rural burrough, and be damned to the Navy. Even with this problem, over 50 years Parliament *learned* about naval affairs enough that by 1750 they were finally able to fund it without sinking its effectiveness in every other bill passed. They had to! Because without the Navy, the French would have put a vengeful Stuart family back on the Throne, with blood in their eye for protestant lordlings.

              By contrast, 50 years after Apollo ended, we still have a Congress, and plenty of Apollo cargo cult followers, who cannot admit that settlement of the Solar System is *the* reason for Human Spaceflight, and that tech development for that settlement is NASA’s most important task. Instead, they remain, 50 years later, just as blind as the Parliament of “The Glorious Revolution”. They can do this because Human Space Flight is not essential to them keeping either their heads or their seats. It never will be! So their asses remain safely cushioned in their committee chairs, and their heads can remain stuffed with lint, as far as Human Space Flight is concerned.

              So others will have to fund it rationally, including lowering costs. NASA money is pointed only at allowing NASA to be “certifying” Commercial Crew providers, as though NASA should be doing that, given the shuttle’s safety record. NASA passengers really should just buy a ticket, and stop pretending that LEO spaceflight is some great mystery only they can pass upon.

        • common sense

          ” I know full well what Constellation was”

          No you don’t and most your posts show that you don’t. It’s not about patronizing you. It’s about stopping delusional comments about what might have been if.

          Do you know what human ratings stand for at NASA? Simple question requiring simple answer. Prove me wrong. Let’s see.

  • “Marcel, if you’re correct and Congress has no faith in NASA’s beyond-LEO plans, then why would they want to build the SLS? Doesn’t it seem like they’re displaying some measure of cognitive dissonance by pushing NASA to develop the rocket while simultaneously rejecting the advancement of any mission that would make use of it?”

    Congress forced the SLS on Obama because the President decided not to build any beyond LEO architecture– at all! And the Obama administration has tried everything possible to undermine the SLS program. That’s why both Democrats and Republicans have been so hostile towards President Obama, Bolden, and Holdren (Dr. Evil) on this issue.

    Marcel F. Williams

    • Coastal Ron

      Marcel F. Williams said:

      Congress forced the SLS on Obama…

      Careful Marcel – I know many SLS supporters that take it as a article of faith that NASA asked for the SLS. You are diverting from the correct narrative.

      …because the President decided not to build any beyond LEO architecture– at all!

      That is fiction. Anyone that has bothered to look at the President’s 2011 NASA budget request would have seen on Page 5 the following:

      1. Technology demonstration program, $7.8 billion over five years. 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.

      2. Heavy-Lift and Propulsion R&D, $3.1 billion over five years. Funds R&D for new launch systems, propellants, materials, and combustion processes.

      Since NASA doesn’t have anything to launch on an HLV, the President’s budget was focused on developing exploration hardware.

      Do you know of any exploration hardware, besides the capsule-only MPCV, that is ready to launch on the SLS?

      Why build an HLV that will just sit around for years and years unused? How in any way does that make sense?

  • Coastal Ron: “Doesn’t it seem like they’re displaying some measure of cognitive dissonance by pushing NASA to develop the rocket while simultaneously rejecting the advancement of any mission that would make use of it? STOP! You’ll hurt his BRAIN!”

    At least I have one. With your Rush Limbaugh economic philosophy, you probably have an encephalization quotient close to zero which is unheard of amongst vertebrates and invertebrate species:-)

    Marcel F. Williams

    • Coastal Ron

      Marcel F. Williams said:

      With your Rush Limbaugh economic philosophy…

      That’s funny. Funny because you aren’t even close.

      I am a capitalist, which the last I looked is not the sole domain of any political party or philosophy. And I advocate for competition to bring out the best ideas and keep prices as low.

      The SLS is the epitome of political pork, which I guess you think is good? There are no customers demanding it, and NASA can’t afford to build anything for it. Not only that, it locks NASA into the most expensive space transportation system the world has ever seen, and it will have the exact opposite effect that you want – NASA won’t be able to go anywhere with it.

      What do I want instead? I want NASA to define it’s requirements in a coordinated way with industry and academia, THEN work out the best way to accomplish them within the anticipated budget profile Congress will provide.

      Because the reason we haven’t gone back to the Moon or beyond LEO for the last 40 years is not because of a lack of interest by space enthusiasts, but because NASA doesn’t get enough money for grand exploration plans. NASA does get enough for modest exploration plans, but those wouldn’t include an HLV, since an HLV is VERY expensive to build and operate. You need to adjust your expectations accordingly…

      • DCSCA

        “I am a capitalist” says Ron.

        And over the 85 plus year history of modern rocktry, ‘capitalists’ have never led the way in this field. It has always been governments, in various guises and for a variety of geo-political motives to project power and influence, which have moved the technology forward. ‘Capitalists’ have always been follow-alongs, cashing in where they could. But every time the opportunity has presented itself for ‘capitalits’ to take the lead in this field, they have balked, and let government carry much of the technical risks and fiscal burdens.

    • Matt

      Ron, no one disputes what was in the FY 11 Budget. The problem was in its presentation. The Administraton’s biggest mistake was making a policy change in a budget rollout. Augustine was late, and they had to digest the options contained in it. In addition, they didn’t inform the relevant members of Congress (chair and ranking members of the committees, and those whose districts were going to be affected), and the presentation was botched from the get-go. The Administration had to play catch-up, hence the “Space Speech” at the Cape. But that wasn’t enough. As long as the Perception was there tha Administration was giving NASA the shaft, by killing CxP and substituting a vague promise of an NEO by 2025 and Mars orbit by 2035, and again, a perceived over-reliance on Commercial Crew and Cargo, the reaction was fast, furious, and venomous. And, if you will recall, there were those who despised the image of the Administration turning away from NASA. And some of those were in Congress, and of the President’s own party!

      • Coastal Ron

        Matt said:

        no one disputes what was in the FY 11 Budget. The problem was in its presentation.

        You must be a magicians perfect customer – you focus on the hand waving so much you miss what’s going on.

        Politicians are elected to serve their constituents, which include the citizens that elected them and the entities that gave them money. When either of those are threatened, then politicians become concerned.

        So it was with the Constellation program.

        But the bottom line is that Congress agreed with Obama that the Constellation program should be cancelled, and they even gave Obama what he wanted on the ISS and Commercial Crew. At the time, we were all celebrating that he got 80% of what he wanted. I still think it was a great accomplishment.

        The SLS was the ugly 20%, but everyone knew that unless a need for the SLS appeared, it was doomed eventually, so it was just a matter of getting it cancelled before it consumed too much of NASA’s budget.

        And, if you will recall, there were those who despised the image of the Administration turning away from NASA.

        Well then they were despising something that was a fiction. Without the ISS we won’t know how to survive long enough in space to reach Mars, and Mars is the goal that just about everyone agrees on. If supporting the ISS is somehow “turning away from NASA”, then those people that think that are the ones that don’t support NASA, not Obama.

        Does that include you Matt? Do you support the ISS? Do you support reaching Mars?

        • Matt

          Ron, I have repeatedly said that ISS is the first step. Mars is the GOAL. Human boots on the Martian surface is the ultimate inner solar system prize for human exploration. Again, Ron, perception matters in politics. And this board is about the politics of sapce. If you will recall, the opposition to that FY 11 Budget was fierce and it was bipartisan: You had people like Sen. John Cronyn (R-TX) and Rep. Shelia Jackson Lee (D-TX), Sen Bill Nelson (D-FL) and Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) coming out swinging. Even the Democratic Party’s gadfly, then-Rep. Dennis Kuchinch (D-OH) was against it. Within 24 hours, there were “Save Constellation” web sites, online petitions, lots of angry workers calling or e-mailing their Congresscritters, etc. Though the effort failed in the end, we fought the good fight against an Administration that was looking for the slightest excuse to kill the program (remember Obama’s ’08 Campaign, where he wanted to defer CxP for up to 5 years to pay for “unspecified education programs?’, or a campaign advisor saying they wanted to kill it because “It was a Bush thing?”)

          Where we differ is how much involvement the private sector should have compared to NASA and other sapce agencies, and where we should go on the way to the Red Planet. I have no objection to commercial contractors taking over the LEO mission, as that frees up NASA and other agencies to go to BEO destinations. And I loath the idea of bypassing the Moon, as you suggest. Golden Spike, assuming they ever fly, is not exploration. Going aomewhere new-and regions like the Lunar Poles, or the far side, is NASA’s job. Doing a NEO mission, Mars flyby and oribt-along with Martian Moons, and the big prize, Mars proper-is NASA’s role. The private sector can support exploration, whether it’s a propellant depot (if that works out), or supply runs to either a lunar base or an L-2 Gateway outpost (Skylab II or the more expensive one unflown ISS hardware). Then the private sector exploits-whether that’s lunar mining or going to asteroids and mining them as well. But going out and doing hard things? That’s NASA’s mission, not some private contractor. And you can only simulate Mars enough on Earth with similar terrain: you’ll have to get experience in surface ops on another planetary body before committing to a Mars surface mission. There’s three places you can do that: one is our Moon, the other is one of the two Martian Moons. I’d rather do things first close to home, with a Martian Moons mission as a dress rehearsal for Mars proper. Test hardware, relearn surface proceedures, and whatever mistakes we make will be close to home. Then fly the Martian Moons mission, then Mars proper.

          • Ferris Valyn

            Why is Mars the goal? Beyond the “we’ve stated that in legislation”, what broader purpose does going to MArs actually provide? And if we get human boots on Mars, then what? Is it enough to just get 1 person there?

          • Coastal Ron

            Matt said:

            And I loath the idea of bypassing the Moon, as you suggest. Golden Spike, assuming they ever fly, is not exploration.

            Apparently you “loath the idea of bypassing the Moon” because you don’t really see Mars as the goal, but instead you see “exploring the Moon” as the primary goal?

            And no, Golden Spike is not into exploration per se, but it would be opening up a frontier. And that’s some that Apollo didn’t do, and what NASA wouldn’t do if it went back to the Moon. We don’t need more government employees on the lunar surface, we need private sector employees and paying customers.

            The private sector can support exploration, whether it’s a propellant depot (if that works out)

            Matt, you either believe that propellant depots will work, or you don’t believe in real exploration. Because without propellant depots, we’ll never be able to do more than “Flags & Footprints” type exploration, with are just enormously expensive stunts.

            But going out and doing hard things? That’s NASA’s mission, not some private contractor.

            This is a fiction that you believe, but it’s not a law. In the history of human exploration, sometimes countries have led, sometimes companies, and sometimes individuals. I can’t predict who will lead our next wave of space exploration, but I can predict that NASA won’t have the money to do it alone. That being the case, NASA has no choice but to partner with others.

            And you can only simulate Mars enough on Earth with similar terrain: you’ll have to get experience in surface ops on another planetary body before committing to a Mars surface mission.

            Matt, we’re already practicing surface ops on Mars, and we have been for decades. Opportunity just surpassed the distance record set by Apollo 17, and soon it will surpass the distance record by Lunokhod 2. And unlike those distance records, Opportunity has been doing science the whole time, getting us more and more information that we’ll need to eventually land humans there.

            We don’t need to go to the Moon before we go to Mars, and it’s not a good analogy for Mars anyways.

            • Matt

              Ron, surface ops isn’t just robotic. That also means crewed operations on a planetary surface. That means testing a Mars lander, habitats, human rovers, etc., in a space environment. Unless you’re one of the “look but don’t touch” crowd who just wants people in orbit and robots on the surface. (i.e. hunan mission to Martian moons w/robotic sample return from Mars proper) I’d rather have boots on the ground instead of a robot. Robots on the surface now, then people. Whether it’s the lunar regolith or the red sands of Mars.

              Wanting to land on the Moon as prepatory for Mars doesn’t mean giving up on Mars as the eventual GOAL. The issue is whether or not we stop along the way to the Red Planet and do some things that haven’t been done before. Landing on the far side (as Jack Schmitt proposed for Apollo 17), landings at the Poles, extended surface stays from a week at the minimum to several months (again, a rehearsal for a Mars mission-after all, if an ISS crew is going to be in orbit for a year simulating a long-duration flight, then we’ll need to have crews on a planetary body for lengthy periods of time to prepare for the 500-day Mars surface stay.

              Look at Augustine again, pp 41-45, where the issue of going to Mars without any kind of human surface ops prior to mission commit is mentioned.

  • Casey Stedman

    I don’t think its accurate to say that SLS is a “rocket to nowhere” anymore, since its being stated as the launch vehicle for every federally operated BEO HSF mission under development. (NEAs and Mars count as “somewhere”)

    • common sense

      Okay then show us a NASA budget line for any BEO work. Any.

    • Coastal Ron

      Casey Stedman said:

      since its being stated as the launch vehicle for every federally operated BEO HSF mission under development.

      There are none “under development”.

      Congress has not funded ANY missions that use the SLS. If you disagree, then please tell us where to find it in the federal budget…

      Oh, lots of people have imagined what they could use the SLS for, and no doubt you have heard all the beyond LEO ideas everyone has. But alas, there is no money yet for any of it yet. And it remains to be seen whether ANY HLV-sized space exploration architecture is affordable by NASA at it’s current funding levels.

      And that’s why, as of today, the SLS is a rocket to nowhere.

  • Kay Bailey Hutchison may be out of office, but she’s still looking for pork.

    Hutchison teamed up with politically extreme Gene Cernan to rewrite history in USA Today. Click here to read.

    • DCSCA

      “What our nation fails to do today will be done by others tomorrow.” is hardly an extremist position, Stephen. And you’ve already demonstrated an inability to tel lthe difference between a true extremeist, like Ted Cruz, and a geunine pragmatist like Geno.

    • Egad

      Hutchison teamed up with politically extreme Gene Cernan to rewrite history in USA Today.

      I was flabbergasted to see them say,

      Congress’ 2010 law will avoid that [US HSF] gap from ever happening again. By ensuring coverage for present priorities and future planning, development of the new heavy launch vehicle has begun. If we maintain the 2010 plan, when the space station is decommissioned in 2020, we will be ready to pursue further exploitation of the moon, possibly Mars and beyond. Even in a time of tight budgets, policymakers recognized the need for planting seed corn. Fully utilizing the space station while allocating resources for the next deeper space pursuit are not opposing options.

      I wonder how much of that they actually believe.

      • Coastal Ron

        Egad said:

        I wonder how much of that they actually believe.

        Well we already knew that Cernan did not understand anything but “return to the Moon”, and KBH is still focused on supporting the SLS.

        It was hilarious and sad at the same time to see that she thinks Congress had some sort of plan back in 2010 to get all the science we need done for trips to Mars to be accomplished by 2020.

        Does she think science can be commanded to have results on a timetable? And without proper funding to start?

        I guess it’s good she retired from Congress…

      • Justin Kugler

        For as much as I heard from people that worked for her that she saw the ISS National Lab as her legacy, I’m astonished that she seems ready to put it in the ocean in 2020.

    • josh

      cernan and hutchison are bad jokes..

      • Guest

        History is not going to be kind to these people. What they failed to do in the past is already being done today by ‘someone else’ in the form of private industry – developing a rational and reusable space launch and development architecture actually capable of demonstrating something useful in space – low cost. These people have space exploration on their brains. The result of that is the not pretty sight we have today.

  • DCSCA

    “we would not have been forced to recently sign a new contract with the Russians for Soyuz transportation.” says Bolden.

    The ISS is a dead-end project, Charlie and the $825 million you ‘need’ or really ‘want’ for just one year of CC development subsidies would finance purchasing seats on Soyuz for U.S. crews for the rest of the decade to the ISS. The objective is to get crews on orbit to conducr research, not subsidize CC launch system development to LEO– to a doomed space platform. IT DOES NOT MATTER WHERE THEY ARE LAUNCHED FROM. THE OBJECTIVE IS TO GET THEM ON ORBIT TO DO THE NEBULOUS, DUBIOUS, ‘VALUABLE RESEARCH.’

    “Those earlier cuts, [says Bolden] have pushed back commercial crew to 2017, “and even this delayed availability is in question if Congress does not fully support the president’s 2014 request for our commercial crew program.”

    You’ve just teed up the legislation for defeat in Congress.

    “Further delays in our commercial crew program and the impact on our human spaceflight program are unacceptable,” [Bolden said.] “That’s why we need the full $821 million the president has requested in next year’s budget to keep us on track for our 2017 deadline.”

    You mean ‘want’ not ‘need.’ This Congress won’t pass it because Mr. O wants- or is it needs- it. It’s not going to go for Project Lasso either. A NASA administrator who publicly advocates abandoning Luna as a mouthpiece for administration policy is wrecking his own credibility. When Paine saw Nixon guttting NASA and couldn’t sell new projects of scale- he didn’t stick around just to carry water for RMN. He left for the private sector.

    • NeilShipley

      You STILL haven’t checked out the research being done on the ISS. That’s just lazy DC. In addition, there’s the value of continuous experience in working in space. Now I don’t know that it’s worth $3 billion a year but it’s certainly better than sqandering it on a ‘Monster Rocket’ with no funded missions or hardware to do them.

      • amightywind

        You STILL haven’t checked out the research being done on the ISS. That’s just lazy DC. In addition, there’s the value of continuous experience in working in space.

        Amightywind has made this point on this forum, but he’ll repeat it for emphasis. Never in history has so much been spent on science of so little value. Those touting science on the ISS are long bereft of credibility.

        • Coastal Ron

          amightywind said:

          Never in history has so much been spent on science of so little value.

          Well if you refuse to see what’s being done on the ISS, then of course you can’t appreciate it.

          But this much is true – if you are a proponent of Human Space Flight (HSF) beyond LEO, then the work being done on the ISS has to be done at some point, and THAT’S the long term value of the ISS.

          Although maybe you’re a supporter of “Flags & Footprints”, in which our astronauts are not away from Mother Earth long enough to feel the deleterious effects of zero-G. If that’s so, then that is an even bigger waste than what you perceive is going on with the ISS…

        • Bennett In Vermont

          Those touting science on the ISS are long bereft of credibility.

          The irony, it burns.

          • DCSCA

            “The irony, it burns.” says Bennett

            So will the ISS— all the way down to its Pacific Ocean grave.

            • ISS will most certainly eventually be splashed. But at least it went up to begin with and thus eventually has to come down. That’s more than we’ll ever say for SLS. What never goes up can’t come down.

  • Jeff tweeted this, so with a hat-tip to our host here’s the link to the New York magazine article on NewSpace:

    “Welcome to the Real Space Age”

    • Guest

      After looking at the image labeling on page 10 I decline to read 10 pages of drivel.

      Thanks.

      • DCSCA

        AARP Magazinwe ran a similar piece about 18 month ago.

      • Fred willett

        Eactually it was a good article. More depth than most and some good quotes.
        Sure there are some factual bloopers, but hey, this is a journalist, not some fanboy.
        The interesting thing is that cernan is saying here that he likes commercial and sees it as the way to mars.
        Unfortunately he likes publicity, Any publicity, more than expressing a consistent and considered opinion. Hence lending his name to the Hutchinson rant.

  • yg1968

    Section 902(a)(4) of the 2008 NASA Authorization Act clearly stated that commercial crew should have 2 or more providers. The 2010 NASA Authorization Act provided for two development phases (CCDev 1 and 2) and did not mention anything about only having only one provider. SLS and MPCV were to be the backup if commercial crew failed. But that does not imply in any way that there should only be one commercial crew provider. Wolf is making up stuff. The House was never in favour of commercial crew and they fought it all the way through.

    • Dave Huntsman

      You’re right, yg. The question comes up, though: With this staffer saying this in front of the commercial space community at COMSTAC, why did no one say anything? He may literally believe this crap; and if he isn’t corrected in front of that sort of audience, then it just validates (falsely) what he’s saying. Did the entire commercial space community just sit on their duffs at COMSTAC and say nothing? What about the FAA/AST, who’s job is to promote commercial space? And any NASA folks in the room?

      • common sense

        Well. That’s the theatrics. I guess. What matters hopefully is the law. Well. Maybe not.

        Now SLS/MPCV as a backup to Commercial Space is so lame I don’t know how they can get people to not react.

        Let’s back up a few hundred millions program with a multi 10s of billions programs. Sure. The backup to my everyday Ford should be a Ferrari as every one knows and does. Right…

  • josh

    the only priority for corrupt politicians like wolf is to secure pork for their districts and campaing contributors. these people have no shame.

    commercial crew could be funded at 2 billion a year. cancel sls, problem solved.

    • Matt

      And that’ll only happen if there was a line-item veto. There isn’t.

      • DCSCA

        “And that’ll only happen if there was a line-item veto. There isn’t.” says Matt.

        And so, a conservative talking point arrives on the scene. Agenda revealed. Thanks for tipping us off.

        • Matt

          Just be glad there isn’t a line-item veto: this POTUS would use it to kill SLS if he could.

          • Yeah, you’d rather have people work on a rocket that (because it will never fly) keep NASA stuck in LEO for another 40 years. Way to go. That’s it. Insure SpaceX has people leaving LEO before NASA and waste billions in the process. Very intelligent.

            What an insult to the talented people at NASA who could instead be working on more advanced spacecraft and technologies financed with the money that could be saved with commercial launchers. That’s it, support setting them up for failure again like they were with Ares 1. How many times do you think that kind of self-serving project can happen before enough politicians outside of the usual space states use it as an excuse to kill NASA itself?

            • Matt

              Rick, the commercial launcher approach will not fly politically. You know it and so do I. Though it was an option that Augustine did point out they listed options, because as Norm Augustine himself said,when he was on The Hill with Neil Armstrong and Gene Cernan the panel was divided. They gave options, not recommendations.

              There is a difference between what is technically possible and what is politically possible. One can assume that if the economy had been better in 2010-11, and the justifiable concerns about preserving infrastructure and work force had been more fully addressed, there wouldn’t have been as much opposition to that FY 11 disaster that Charlie Bolden rolled out. Right now, though it would be technically possible to use EELVs and perhaps Falcon 9 Heavy, it is not politically possible-and you know it. Unless you have a bunch of Ron Paul type libertarians suddenly elected to both the House and Senate, the space states will have a lot of pull in deciding NASA’s future HSF direction. And as long as the face of the “Commercial Uber Alles” approach is Elon Musk, forget it.

              • Again, Matt None-the-Wiser, you completely miss my point. That is, if you and others keep pushing dead-end programs, there will be nothing left that actually works but commercial.

                What good is your preferred rocket for going BEO when it will never get finished? (Whether Congress will go for Commercial or not). A couple of years ago, a proposal was put forward in Congress to route all money for manned space flight (SLS, Commercial, the whole enchilada) into social programs. Keep it up, you’ll help such people succeed because it is only a few Congressman who are pushing SLS and the rest are just going along because they don’t know any better. When the rest of Congress find out that your ilk has been snookering them, it won’t be good for NASA.

                We’re not talking “Commercial Uber Alles”, but Commercial and NASA together. Are you really that dumb? We’re talking about saving NASA from the oblivion people like you are taking it to.

                No, here is the true problem. You and others like you would rather see NASA make no progress BEO than to have it be done any other way but the one you want.

              • Guest

                Again, Matt None-the-Wiser, you completely miss my point. That is, if you and others keep pushing dead-end programs, there will be nothing left that actually works but commercial.

                And most of us who are aware of what has been happening at NASA in the last few decades think that is a GOOD thing. The chances of NASA ever becoming a functioning bureaucracy again is very low, almost ZERO.

                We’re talking about saving NASA from the oblivion people like you are taking it to.

                You haven’t been in the game long enough to know that isn’t possible.

                No, here is the true problem. You and others like you would rather see NASA make no progress BEO than to have it be done any other way but the one you want.

                That would be great. I’m firmly in the dissolve NASA camp now as well. It’s just not working anymore Rick. I’ve taken several runs at solving the problem, but it’s just not going to happen. NASA is populated with buffoons, and congress is corrupt. There is no way around that anymore.

              • “NASA is populated with buffoons, and congress is corrupt. There is no way around that anymore.
                Not completely true. There is in fact a schism within NASA between those who wish to leverage Commercial launch to the maximum advantage and those [buffoons] who don’t. As far as Congress critters on space committees, most are indeed compromised toward pork. However, as the advantages of the Commercial card become more and more apparent, the rest of Congress may become less inclined to go along.

                Believe me, I have been talking about “what has been happening at NASA” for decades. There is a sizable faction in the agency that does not like the situation and hasn’t liked it for a long time. How do you think Commercial Cargo and Commercial Crew even got started?

              • Coastal Ron

                Matt said:

                the commercial launcher approach will not fly politically.

                Complete and utter nonsense.

                The military uses commercial launchers, and it is far larger than NASA, and far more visible politically. Our nation has no problem entrusting our most valuable security payloads to the commercial sector.

                You continue to confuse the desire to spend money on the SLS as some sort of “distrust” for the same companies that are building the SLS and MPCV. You are engaged in what’s known as “circular reasoning“.

            • Matt

              Rick, you just don’t get it. There is a big difference between what is politically feasible and what is technically feasible. And the “Commercial uber Alles” approach” with NASA using EELVs from commercial sources, is not politically feasible at the present time. Only if we elect somebody like Rand Paul (not as bad as his father, but still….) or a loon like Kucinich, would that happen. Right now, the congresscritters from the “Space States” are the ones who, by and large, sit on the relevant Congressional committees. I suggest you read up on realpolitik….there’s a difference between being idealistic, and being realistic.

              Again, if this Administration had been willing to spend the political capital it had after passing Obamacare, they could have pressured the Space State members of congress to accept a commercially based program, deferring heavy-lift and going with the EELV/depot strategy-for example, guaranteeing work at Michoud, Stennis, Marshall, etc, and retaining as much of the NASA and contractor workforce as possible, say. For whatever reason, this President chose not to. And as long as the perception was that this Administration was “abandoning human spaceflight” or and “giving up destinations and deadlines” (bad blood from FY 11′s rollout), and thus the skepticism at best-and outright hostility-to this Administration’s space plan-whatever it is.

              • Again, Matt, even if going with commercial launchers is not politically feasible, SLS is a dead-end. That would be true even if SLS had a much a bigger budget. If you guys keep at it the way you are, there will be NO going back to the Moon for NASA. It will be commercial by itself doing it without NASA’s help. It will just take a little longer than it would have with both together.

                You should care more about your country’s future in space and less about your blind loyalty to an obsolete way of doing things.

              • josh

                your attempts at defending the porkers’ obstructionism are just pathetic, matt.

              • Matt

                Who has the ear of Congress, Rick? The commerical-based crowd or the SLS crowd? Again, as long as you discount political reality, your strategy will get no support or funding. Simple as that. And you can’t change the political fact that the key members on Congressional Committees on The Hill come from “Space States.” Any change in strategy or procurement has to go through them. Either you get them on board or your plans go down in flames. Simple as that.

                Josh: as long as the SLS crowd has Congressional support-not to mention that many of those supporting it are on The Hill, it will continue to be funded. You’d need a line-item veto (and a President willing to use it) to kill SLS. Or you elect somebody like Ron Paul or Dennis Kucinich to the Presidency. Neither is likely to happen because they’re too extreme.

              • “Either you get them on board or your plans go down in flames. Simple as that.”
                Not my plans, Matt. You don’t get it. As long as the Congressmen you mention have that attitude, NASA is going nowhere beyond low Earth Orbit.

                If they continue on as you say, that just means commercial companies will go to the Moon and other places by themselves without NASA. It will just take a somewhat longer than it would have with NASA. Those Congress Critters are just throwing away taxpayer money to do nothing via SLS. I and others would prefer to have NASA involved, but in the long run it won’t be necessary and it will suit us just fine either way. We just think the waste of NASA’s funds is a shame.

    • Matt

      Ron, when there’s only one congresscritter on record as supporting the “Commercial track” for exploration (Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-CA), and he’s not chair of a committee or sub-committee, that should tell you enough about the chances of it happening politically. Again, Ron, there is a difference between what is politically feasible and what is not. If the Administration had expended the political capital to embrace the Commercially based track-as per the ULA report, it likely would’ve passed-with the carrots to the “Space State” Congresscritters who were naturally worried about loss of infrastructure and workforce. (i.e. guarantees of exploration work at Stennis, Marshall, and other centers, utilization of Michoud in some way, offers to contractors to become second-source suppliers for EELVs, and so on, it likely would have passed. Again, for whatever reason, this Administration chose not to follow that strategy.

      Don’t patronize me, Ron. I know full well the DOD uses civilian contractors to launch many of their payloads into orbit. The only ones not launched by civilians are the really classified payloads (read: recon satellites).

      Now, if the Administration had explained to a skeptical Congress that using commercialy available rockets for exploration-either existing ones or those in the pipeline (Falcon 9 Heavy, for example), but under total NASA control (the historical model from Mercury all the way through to shuttle), it would have eliminated the opposition, as long as the FY 11 request to continue heavy-lift research and development, with the “by 2015″ deadline for a decision to satisfy people like Sens. Nelson and Shelby, it would’ve more than likely passed. The Administration’s chief problem is one of communication: it hasn’t explained its plans very well, either to Congress or the public, and fails to follow up with further details or plans.

      • Coastal Ron

        Matt said:

        when there’s only one congresscritter on record as supporting the “Commercial track” for exploration (Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-CA), and he’s not chair of a committee or sub-committee, that should tell you enough about the chances of it happening politically.

        That is only because there is a big, fat, politically motivated program called the Space Launch System (SLS) that is currently being funded. As long as the authors of that program continue to receive political benefits, of course they won’t look at alternatives.

        But what you keep ignoring is that the SLS is unsustainable. Period. It’s just a matter of time Matt, not an “IF”. Even if it becomes “operational”, there is nothing in the pipeline for it to launch. NOTHING!

        It’s will have taken NASA 18 years from inception to launch for the JWST, and it only weighs 6.2mt. And NASA will be lucky if they can keep it under $8B. Now imagine a 25-70mt payload of moderate complexity – how much do you think that will cost, and how long will it take to build, test, and get ready for launch?

        Any hope for using the SLS is already years late and far over NASA’s current budget.

        So Matt, I’m not saying commercial launch services are in some sort of competition with NASA, I’m saying (as are others) that NASA will never be able to afford to use the SLS, and so the ONLY ALTERNATIVE is that NASA will use commercial launch services.

        Since commercial launch companies are also supported by Congress, we only need to wait until the pet project of a few (aka the SLS) finally dies. I give it less than 3 years.

        • Matt

          Famous last words, Ron. Keep that in mind. The only way that Congress MIGHT approve using existing rockets is if the whole process is under total NASA control. None of the “buying a ticket” mentality. And the key component of a commercially based strategy is in-space refueling-and that is still iffy. The RFP for a technology demonstrator was issued last year for a 2015 demo on ISS, and if a depot doesn’t work, where’s your alternative?

        • Matt

          Ron, time will tell: the anti-JWST folks have shut up, and with time, the same will happen with SLS. By the way, besides EM-2 (Lunar orbit), there is a mission, in case you’ve been beating the anti-SLS drum too loud to notice: this asteroid capture flight.

          The commercially based track is dependent-as the ULA report mentioned, on a propellant depot. It may or may not work, so where’s your backup if it doesn’t, hmm? That means you’re back to heavy-lift. Expecting a HLV to appear by itself is naive, you know as well as I do it takes 5-7 years to develop one. And in case you’ve forgotten as well: the tentative flight schedule NASA released last year for SLS is based on a WORST-CASE budget scenario. The age of austerity won’t last forever.

      • josh

        why not patronize you? you don’t have a clue and it shows.

        • Matt

          The “my way or the highway” gets us nowhere, Josh. Right now, there is ZERO political support for killing SLS. That is the political reality at present.

          • josh

            sls will never fly. political realities shift over time. and ofc there is support for gutting that useless program, just not strong enough yet. when falcon heavy flies that’ll change.

            • Matt

              When idealism and political reality clash, reality wind every time. Show me the congresscritters who want to kill SLS, besides Rohrabacher. Any more besides him? Right now, political reality means SLS.

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “‘I think there’s been some frustration on the Hill at how the commercial crew program over the last few years has unfolded,’ said Tom Culligan, legislative director for Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA), who chairs the appropriations subcommittee that funds NASA. ‘There wasn’t a clear vision and path and strategy laid out from day one, with buy-in from the Hill and with the stakeholders in the community, about how we were going to proceed on this program.’”

    Culligan is still whining about being surprised in early 2010 by the President’s FY 2011 budget request for NASA? Especially when he knows (or should know) that those budget documents are embargoed each year, and Administration officials are under threat of firing for leaking them early? Really?

    Culligan and his ilk have to grow up. It’s been over three years. Getting off Soyuz and establishing a domestic source of U.S. human space transport is far more important than preserving Hill staffers’ fragile, juvenile egos about the Administration not consulting with them before the release of embargoed budget documents several years ago.

    “‘The Congress did not buy off on a program to provide development subsidies to a large number of entities out there.’”

    This is patently false. In Section 902 titled “Commercial Crew Initiative”, the 2008 NASA Authorization Act directed NASA:

    “(a) In General- In order to stimulate commercial use of space, help maximize the utility and productivity of the International Space Station, and enable a commercial means of providing crew transfer and crew rescue services for the International Space Station, NASA shall…
    (4) issue a notice of intent, not later than 180 days after the date of enactment of this Act, to enter into a funded, competitively awarded Space Act Agreement with TWO OR MORE COMMERCIAL ENTITIES [emphasis added]…”

    Congress put a law on the books directing NASA to sign agreements with “two or more commercial entities” for commercial crew. And now Culligan is complaining about too many competitors?

    Culligan is Wolf’s legislative director. How on God’s green Earth is he earning his salary if he doesn’t even know the content of the legislation that Wolf sponsors or votes on? Is Culligan an inveterate liar? Or a flaming incompetent?

    I know, I know… he’s both.

    “‘But now we’re all in it, we need to resolve it, we need to have that ability as quickly as possible.’… ‘Say, overnight, there was 100-percent consensus that we wanted to fund this at the President’s level. I’m not sure the resources are there.’”

    Does Culligan want to help fix this problem or not? If Congress wants a domestic crew transport “ability as quickly as possible”, then they have the power of the purse and responsibility to make “sure the resources are there”. As Wolf’s legislative director, doesn’t Culligan understand the powers and responsibilities assigned to Congress under the Constitution?

    I can’t believe that we taxpayers are coughing up over $80K a year for Tom Culligan’s salary as Wolf’s legislative director:

    http://www.legistorm.com/person/Thomas_M_Culligan_Jr_/16259.html

    I wouldn’t let a whiny, lying, uninformed idiot like Culligan represent me in small claims court, nevertheless advise national legislators on multi-billion dollar laws.

    What a joke…

    • common sense

      Boy, I like it when you talk dirty :)

      Well done.

    • DCSCA

      “Getting off Soyuz and establishing a domestic source of U.S. human space transport…”

      Except it’s not. Particularly to a doomed to a Pacific grave, LEO space platform reprsenting policy planning from the last century in an era long over.

      The objective is to get the U.S. crews on orbit to conduct the much hearlded and dubious ‘research’- it in NOT to develop a ‘domestic’ LEO HSF commercial launch capability. It doesn’t matter where the crews are launch from. What matters is gettin them on orbit to generate some ROI from the station. It’s clear that CC advocates care little about research and much about getting subsidies for commercial firms denied by private capital markets. $821 million for one year of development subsidies for a system years from test flights let alone going operational can finance seats for U.S. crews aboard Soyuz, which has been operational and routinely accessing LEO space platforms for decades. The objestive is to get the crew on orbit to do the ‘research’ aboard the ‘National Laboratory’ – as it is called. It is not to subsidized domestic CC firms.

      • Dark Blue Nine

        “Except it’s not.”

        You’re really going to argue that Hill staffers’ egos are more important that establishing a domestic source of crew transport?

        Really?

        You’re an idiot.

        • DCSCA

          =yawn= You’re projecting your own failings again, dbn. The objective is to get the U.S. crews on orbit to conduct the much hearlded ‘research’- it in NOT to develop a ‘domestic’ LEO HSF commercial launch capability. It doesn’t matter where the crews are launch from.

          What matters is getting them on orbit to generate some ROI from the $100 billion boondoggle.

          • Dark Blue Nine

            “You’re projecting your own failings again”

            I’m not the idiot arguing that the bruised egos of congressional staffers take precedence over sane civil space transportation policies for the nation.

            I’m not the idiot arguing that hundreds of millions of U.S. taxpayer dollars should be sent overseas instead of spent generating jobs and profits domestically.

            I’m not the idiot who worships at the altar of the Apollo, but then argues in favor of the competing space program that Apollo defeated.

            None of these are my failings. They’re yours, idiot.

            “the crews are launch from”

            I’m also not the idiot who can’t complete a post without major grammatical errors.

            Learn English verb tense, idiot.

    • Malmesbury

      What is particularly funny is that COTS-D wasn’t activated because (it is claimed) it would have been an instant award to SpaceX only. Or so the story goes. In fact, COTS was seen as complementary to Ares I. COTS-D was a direct threat…..

  • DCSCA

    QUESTIONER: “Would you stand behind recommendations that more stress or emphasis should be put on getting private entrepreneurs and the commercial sector involved in a more rapid fashion than is being accomplished today?”

    NEIL ARMSTRONG: “Well, of course that, uh, that concept has been, uh, encouraged in recent years, uh, I think predominantly the problem is that, uh, the projects are quite massive and it is very difficult to do little– little projects that are within the reach of the– of, uh, typical industrial concerns. And consequently it takes some united effort and because many of the activities are regulated by the governments involved why, uh, government is to some extent a participant in any case.”– excerpt from Apollo 11 crew News Conference, 5/26/89

    “”… there is much to be learned on Luna – learning to survive in the lunar environment, investigating many science opportunities, determining the practicality of extracting Helium 3 from the lunar regolith, prospecting for Palladium group metals, meeting challenges not yet identified.” [Luna] “leaves more than 14 million square miles yet to be explored… I support the encouragement of the newcomers toward their goal of lower-cost access to space. But having cut my teeth in rockets more than 50 years ago, I am not confident. The most experienced rocket engineers with whom I have spoken believe that it will require many years and substantial investment to reach the necessary level of safety and reliability.” Neil Armstrong, Congressional testimony excerpt, 2010

    The future is Luna, not LEO. LEO is a ticket to no place, going in circles, no where, fast.

    • Coastal Ron

      DCSCA whined:

      The future is Luna, not LEO.

      Apparently you don’t listen to what everyone is saying – the goal is Mars. The Moon is only talked about as a stopping point along the way, and even then it’s not universally recognized as needed even for that.

      If you want to go to the Moon, then I suggest you save up your pennies and send them to the Golden Spike company, since they look like they will get to the Moon far faster than NASA… ;-)

    • josh

      stuck in the 60s. lol…

  • Crash Davis

    If you want to go to the Moon, then I suggest you save up your pennies and send them to the Golden Spike company, since they look like they will get to the Moon far faster than NASA…

    Yes, I’m sure with the tremendous amount of money ($19,000) they collected via crowd-sourcing, that will get them to the Moon with plenty of reserves leftover.

    • Coastal Ron

      Crash Davis said:

      Yes, I’m sure with the tremendous amount of money ($19,000) they collected via crowd-sourcing, that will get them to the Moon with plenty of reserves leftover.

      I compare their efforts to the one that NASA has for returning to the Moon – which has $0 in funding.

      Some day the cost of space transportation and space technology will fall far enough that the Moon will be within reach of the private sector and/or private individuals. I expect that will happen long before NASA ever gets funding to return to the Moon, so really it’s just a matter of what the time scale is we’re using, not a question of whether NASA will be the first to return to the Moon (they won’t).

  • Crash Davis

    Some day the cost of space transportation and space technology will fall far enough that the Moon will be within reach of the private sector and/or private individuals. I expect that will happen long before NASA ever gets funding to return to the Moon, so really it’s just a matter of what the time scale is we’re using, not a question of whether NASA will be the first to return to the Moon (they won’t).

    Not even close. What else do you dream about, pixie dust and tooth fairies?

    And some day you’ll have a brain to realize NASA has been to the Moon within the last year and a half (ever heard of the Grail spacecraft?). You are obviously no engineer, scientist, economist, nor space historian.

  • Neil Shipley

    Time to close the comments. :)

  • Matt

    Keep this in mind when the politics comes into play-as it always does: The late Tip O’Neil, the longtime House Speaker in the ’70s and ’80s, said it best: “All politics is local.” It’s not just the contractors working on SLS/Orion: it’s the subcontractors, and the sub-sub contractors, the initial suppliers, and not just them. It’s the businesses that are patronized by those doing SLS work: the car dealer, the restaurants, sporting goods store, bars, laundromat, and on and on. If a congresscritter who represented a district where this work is being done, say, Huntsville, said that he was voting against SLS and in favor of commercial rockets, he’d be turned out in the next election. Right now, there are more congresscritters with constitutents working on SLS than are with commercial space. The closest analog here is trying to close a military base: though we’ve been through several rounds of closures since the early ’90s, it’s still tough. And Congress just rejected a request for an additional round of closures yesterday.

    Which leads to the next point: Elon Musk himself admitted this when he announced the attempt to build a reusable first stage for Falcon 9 at an event hosted by the National Press Club and shown on C-SPAN: he admitted not only that the odds of success were about 50-50, but when asked about lobbying, he admitted that he and the other NewSpace firms have about 1/10th the lobbying power of the major firms like Boeing, Northrop-Grumman, ULA, Lockheed-Martin, Aerojet, Rocketdyne, and so on. As long as their lobbying is very effective, as was shown with the fight to get SLS, those advocating commercially available rockets have a tough road ahead. Not to mention that you’d have to throw carrots to congresscritters in communities that are potentially affected by a SLS cancellation to agree: guarantees of new work at existing facilities (Michoud, Stennis, Marshall, among others), second-source suppliers for existing rockets (mentioned in the ULA report that Ron is so fond of), and so on. (Assuming, of course, that the report was an official ULA product, and not employees giving their personal opinions, and not those of the firm)

  • You can also delete this post and the one I’m replying to. It’s all extraneous at this point, and I wouldn’t want to look like I’m making any superfluous points about the comment from “common sense,” even though I often disagree with it.

  • common sense

    Don’t feel bad you are not the only one who disagrees with common sense. With more or less success. Usually less. If I can say so myself. Not to be superfluous of course.

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