NASA, Other

Briefs: Garver interview, Canadian lunar interest, RD-180 ban

Late August is a quiet period in space policy, with Congress in recess and so many others on vacation, but there are a few items of interest:

Discover magazine published earlier this month an “exit interview” with NASA deputy administrator Lori Garver, who announced plans on August 6 to leave NASA in a month. (The interview was actually conducted prior to that announcement, so it doesn’t cover her plans for leaving.) The interview focuses on NASA’s Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) plans and the pushback those plans have received from Congress. “I think there are just, right now, some things that because of the partisan nature of this Congress we are not going to be able to convince them,” she said, echoing earlier comments on the issue.

Garver also said that the redirection mission was adopted because of concerns about original plans to send astronauts to a near Earth object. “The long-pull intent was for astronauts to go to an asteroid for some hundreds-of-days mission, but the medical community is not prepared to allow astronauts to do that yet,” she said. In fact, the international exploration roadmap released last week makes virtually no mention of human missions to NEOs beyond NASA’s asteroid redirect mission.

That roadmap, curiously, has attracted a lot of media attention not in the US but instead in Canada. “Canada could be sending its first astronaut to the moon under an ambitious long-term plan being developed by a group of space agencies around the world,” reported the Canadian Press in an article about the report. The Canadian Space Agency is one of the members of the International Space Exploration Coordination Group, which prepared the report, but it did not call out specific roles for the CSA or other agencies in that document. CSA officials said they envision having a Canadian astronaut on the lunar missions envisions for the late 2020s in the report.

That idea has the endorsement of the Toronto Star in an editorial today, saying it would be “a shame if Canada failed to rise to the challenge posed by humanity’s next great leap beyond the surly bonds of Earth.” There’s no mention, though, of the near-term challenges faced by CSA in the form of constrained budgets and an uncertain long-term direction.

Meanwhile, Russian officials are reportedly contemplating an export ban on the RD-180 engine used by the Atlas V rocket. Russia Today, citing a report in Izvestia, said Russia’s Security Council was considering blocking the export of the engines, for reasons not explicitly clear in the article but possibly linked to the Atlas V’s use in launching military payloads. Any ban would not take effect until 2015, according to the report, but would still leave United Launch Alliance with few options to deal with the ban. A Russian space policy expert called the proposed ban “stupid” since it would deprive engine manufacturer NPO Energomash of its main business. Stupidity, though, is not necessarily a primarily criterion in policy decisions.

137 comments to Briefs: Garver interview, Canadian lunar interest, RD-180 ban

  • amightywind

    Garver also said that the redirection mission was adopted because of concerns about original plans to send astronauts to a near Earth object.

    Why didn’t NASA publish that fact so we could have the debate? Sad. The natural impulse of nanny state leftists like Garver is to shut down debate in the name of safety. Here’s an idea. Let’s engineer an asteroid exploration mission for the radiation environment. Of course it points to the requirement for an Ares V class booster. One thing is for sure, twirling around in LEO will do nothing to help us mitigate the radiation hazard.

    Russia’s Security Council was considering blocking the export of the engines, for reasons not explicitly clear in the article but possibly linked to the Atlas V’s use in launching military payloads.

    Anyone surprised that the gangster Putin would use the RD-180 as a bargaining chip? This also effects the CST-100 and Dreamchaser programs, not just the military. Pratt and Whitney has always advertised the ability to build these things in West Palm Beach. Time for them to step up.

    • Hiram

      “Why didn’t NASA publish that fact so we could have the debate?”

      This is an odd argument. The adopted NASA strategy has nothing to do with the results of a space community “debate”, but rather facts about human safety in a deep space environment. NASA is by far the expert in that topic. They don’t need to ask anyone else. Here’s an idea. Maybe we could manage space safety by doing a community poll? Maybe using SurveyMonkey?

      “One thing is for sure, twirling around in LEO will do nothing to help us mitigate the radiation hazard.”

      That’s one of the many, many things that twirling around in LEO won’t do. Launching an SLS won’t do it either. Twirling around in LEO will, however, mitigate a bevy of other hazards.

      “leftists like Garver”

      Lori Garver is right handed, I believe. But let’s not discriminate against southpaws.

      • amightywind

        Obama and Garver might have had more buy in for their quixotic asteroid lasso mission if they had made this point from the outset. Others of us would have argued that a Plymouth Rock like mission would be feasible if we had a more heavily shielded Orion and a correspondingly large booster to launch it. By leftist I refer to the socialist political leanings of Garver and other appointees at NASA.

        • Hiram

          I have to agree with you on the ARM buy-in strategy, or lack thereof. Bolden and Garver have a history of poor marketing and advocacy of mission concepts, pulling things out of a hat and shouting “follow me!” Congress in particular abhors that strategy.

          Given the risks involved in any HEO mission, the fatal cancer risks (at least) from several month GCR exposure, as best they are known, are comparatively minimal. Probably in the single digit percentages for optimal ages and pre-mission health. Those astronauts would probably do quite well, though it’s unlikely that they would fly again.

          Nah, I think that southpaws are a more serious national threat. There aren’t that many of them, but they pull all sorts of stuff out of left field. Why, basic physics is dependent on what we’ve come to know as the right-hand-rule. Of course, Ronald Reagan and Harry Truman were lefties, though they desperately tried to hide that fact.

          • Nah, I think that southpaws are a more serious national threat. There aren’t that many of them, but they pull all sorts of stuff out of left field. Why, basic physics is dependent on what we’ve come to know as the right-hand-rule. Of course, Ronald Reagan and Harry Truman were lefties, though they desperately tried to hide that fact.

            As is the current president.

            Bob Clark

            • Hiram

              “As is the current president.”

              Hey, that’s right. Also, Bill Clinton and George H. W. Bush. A bunch of leftists!

              It is a common rumor that Neil Armstrong was and Buzz Aldrin is a leftist. Neil Armstrong’s left foot was the first one planted on the Moon. That’s well known. In fact, a high proportion of astronauts and test pilots are/were left handed. Those leftists are all over the place! Even in places that are halfway relevant to space exploration.

          • amightywind

            Why, basic physics is dependent on what we’ve come to know as the right-hand-rule.

            Not at all. It is an arbitrary convention for multiplication of vectors in R3 and its left handed dual works just as well. Mirror symmetry is mysteriously woven throughout mathematics.

          • Matt

            Hiram, I agree with you on communication (or the lack thereof). Bolden, Garver, even Dr. Holdren (Presidential Science Advisor) have done just that: lack of communication. Just “Follow us” when talking to Congress. Which is basically telling Congress “Rubber-stamp all of our proposals.” Congress doesn’t like that, nor did they like getting blindsided when that abomination known as FY 11 was rolled out. Want to know why there’s hostility to this Administration’s treatment of NASA? That disaster-coupled with the lack of communication that this administration has when dealing with its space plans, is why; cut and dry, that is it.

        • Vladislaw

          OOHHHHH if only President Obama would have EXPLAINED it better to republican members of the house … THEN they would have just jumped at the idea… gosh .. you are so politically astute.

          • Hiram

            “OOHHHHH if only President Obama would have EXPLAINED it better to republican members of the house …”

            I don’t think it’s a matter of “explaining it better”. It’s a matter of presenting it in such a way that legislators could have time to digest it, ponder implications of investment schedule, and even take some ownership in the rationale, if not the project. As opposed to handing them a formed plan and asking for their signature on it asap. You’ll notice that the single largest major development project that NASA has going right now — SLS, is something that (for better or worse) owes its existence to a strong sense of legislative ownership. These is a significant degree of legislative ownership in NEO threat mitigation (originally George Brown, and now at least Dana Roharbacher), so that’s rationale that will go over well in Congress. Unfortunately for ARM, most of it isn’t about NEO threat mitigation. If you’ve spent any time near the Hill, you would appreciate the delicacy that is needed here that NASA management simply doesn’t appear to understand.

            Of course, what NASA desperately needs is something FAST, and that’s just not in the cards.

            • Vladislaw

              So if congressional members .. say … like Shelby .. just needed it presented in a way he would have more time to digest it, ponder it’t implications and investment schedule would then take some ownership of it and then jump on board an Obama proposal and run to his constituants telling him he is on board with the President on this new idea?

              • Hiram

                “So if congressional members .. say … like Shelby .. just needed it presented in a way …”

                Say … like Shelby? With all due respect to the guy, there ain’t no one on Capital Hill who pulls NASA’ strings like Shelby. Actually, the Senate was pretty irrelevant with regard to ARM, so, let’s not “say … like Shelby”.

                Actually, FWIW, anything that was attached to an SLS would have gotten a big thumbs up from him. He’d be running to his constituents really fast.

          • RockyMtnSpace

            “OOHHHHH if only President Obama would have EXPLAINED it better to republican members of the house …”

            What a moronic statement. The biggest blowback came from the Democrat-controlled Senate by members from both sides of the aisle.

            • Matt

              Quite so: people like Nelson, Hutchinson, Landreau, Shelby, among others. And the House was under Democratic control at the time-Pelosi was still speaker. And the House reaction was equally hostile and bipartisan.

              • Coastal Ron

                Matt said:

                Quite so: people like Nelson, Hutchinson, Landreau, Shelby, among others.

                Uh, Matt? Shelby is a Republican senator from Alabama, not a Democrat.

                And the House reaction was equally hostile and bipartisan.

                And yet the vast majority of Republican’s in the House in space-related states like Alabama, Texas and Florida voted to cancel Constellation. Boy, they fell into that trap, eh? ;-)

                This really bothers you, huh Matt? It’s like you’re obsessed over this one subject.

    • Coastal Ron

      amightywind said:

      Why didn’t NASA publish that fact so we could have the debate?

      That debate happened on the floors of the House and Senate over the FY11 NASA budget – anybody that pays attention to what NASA needs for space exploration understands this, which apparently you don’t.

      But instead Congress wanted to build an unneeded HLV and an unneeded up-sizied Apollo-style capsule rather than focus on developing the technology and techniques we actually need for doing space exploration beyond LEO.

      Even Republicans in Congress don’t want uses for the SLS and Orion, which confirms how unneeded they are.

      This also effects the CST-100 and Dreamchaser programs, not just the military.

      Actually not. Both Boeing and Sierra Nevada have said they they were fine with using the Falcon 9 as an alternative to the Atlas V. If Putin’s goal is to break up ULA’s monopoly on government launches, a ban on the RD-180 is just the thing. How ironic would that be? ;-)

      • RockyMtnSpace

        Ron babbled “If Putin’s goal is to break up ULA’s monopoly on government launches, a ban on the RD-180 is just the thing. …”

        What an idiotic statement. What possible gain would Putin realize by breaking up a supposed US monopoly for a market that Putin has absolutely no opportunity to engage in? Unless of course you are implying that Putin/Russia has a monetary stake in SpaceX. And if that is the case, then kiss any DoD contracts to SpaceX goodbye. Think before you post!

        • Coastal Ron

          RockyMtnSpace said:

          What possible gain would Putin realize by breaking up a supposed US monopoly for a market that Putin has absolutely no opportunity to engage in?

          None. Apparently you missed the irony in what I said.

          Unless of course you are implying that Putin/Russia has a monetary stake in SpaceX. And if that is the case, then kiss any DoD contracts to SpaceX goodbye.

          Wow, you overreact fast, and without the least shred of evidence! Let’s hope you’re never in the chain of command… ;-)

          • RockyMtnSpace

            Ron dodged “None. Apparently you missed the irony in what I said.”

            There was nothing ironic in your statement. It was, and remains, an idiotic comment.

    • It’s cool that that there is a push to revive the Saturn V F-1 engine so that we would not need the RD-180. But another possibility for producing a heavy thrust kerosene engine would also give us a reusable one and might be cheaper: convert the SSME to kerosene fueled.
      Still another might be to convert the RS-68. This would give us a more powerful kerosene engine possibly on the level of the F-1.

      Bob Clark

      • vulture4

        There is no way to directly convert an engine from hydrogen to kerosene due to the different mass ratios and thrusts. One could design a new engine of similar size. The SpaceX Merlin is a kerosene engine comparable in thrust to the SSME.

        • The RL10 already has been successfully tested to run on methane instead of hydrogen. And the hypergolic engine used on the Apollo lunar lander was recently converted to run on methane. As for how they change the mixture ratios it could be use of different gear ratios in the turbo pumps.

          Also, the SSME is actually a far more powerful engine than the Merlin, about 500,000 lb. thrust compared to 160,000 lb.

          Bob Clark

          • Coastal Ron

            Robert Clark said:

            The RL10 already has been successfully tested to run on methane instead of hydrogen.

            The RD-180 runs on kerosene though, and you were talking about converting a hydrogen engine over to using kerosene. Stay on topic.

            Also, the SSME is actually a far more powerful engine than the Merlin, about 500,000 lb. thrust compared to 160,000 lb.

            I’m sure vulture4 meant efficiency, not thrust. Anyone looking at a Merlin engine would know it’s not in the same thrust class as an SSME. However you can cluster engines together, which is what SpaceX has done to lower the overall costs.

            And keep in mind that it really doesn’t matter how much thrust an engine has, it’s what the over design choices end up making the end price to the customer. Who cares if we use RP-1 and less powerful engine if the overall cost of getting mass to orbit is 6X less expensive than if we use LH2 (Falcon Heavy vs Delta IV Heavy)?

            You have to focus on what matters, and that is money.

            • It turns out the performance of kerosene and methane are pretty comparable and that is why the development of such a heavy thrust engine is often referred to as that of a heavy-thrust hydrocarbon engine.
              Methane as a cryogenic though does have better cooling properties so it would be easier to convert a hydrogen fueled engine to using methane.

              Bob Clark

              • Coastal Ron

                Robert Clark said:

                Methane as a cryogenic though does have better cooling properties so it would be easier to convert a hydrogen fueled engine to using methane.

                But you started this conversation by saying we should convert SSME’s from LH2 to RP-1, and now you’re explaining your logic by saying how similar LH2 and methane would be.

                I think you have confused yourself.

    • “Anyone surprised that the gangster Putin would use the RD-180 as a bargaining chip? This also effects the CST-100 and Dreamchaser programs, not just the military. Pratt and Whitney has always advertised the ability to build these things in West Palm Beach. Time for them to step up.

      On this much, we agree. Commercial crew critics (who want to see its funding sucked into the SLS pit), tell me again how we don’t need it for ISS access*, that it’s okay to continue relying on the Russians…

      (* And Soyuz would be inadequate for access to the private commercial stations to come, regardless.)

  • Egad

    “The long-pull intent was for astronauts to go to an asteroid for some hundreds-of-days mission, but the medical community is not prepared to allow astronauts to do that yet,”

    That is wise of the medical community, considering that NASA does not have and, due to lack of funds, is not currently developing the deep space habitat needed to keep a crew alive for even one hundred days. Nor is there any indication as to when a DSH might enter design and testing. However, in some future year, perhaps in the 2030s, the situation may change and the medical community reconsider its opinion.

  • Vladislaw

    I do not recall, but didn’t President Obama call for funding NASA to build a domestic engine to replace the RD-180 years ago?

    • Yes, instead of being an “open loop” hydrocarbon engine it was to be a “closed loop” engine like the RD-180, thus 15% to 20% more efficient than other American hydrocarb engines and much bigger and more powerful than the RD-180. It was to be the first stage booster engine for their originally proposed HLV, before Congress forced SLS on NASA.
      Back to my self-imposed exile from this looney bin.

  • My two rubles’ worth in this blog post.

    This is just Russia rattling a saber over Syria. Pulling the plug on the RD-180 is a win for SpaceX.

    • Coastal Ron

      Stephen C. Smith said:

      Pulling the plug on the RD-180 is a win for SpaceX.

      Isn’t competition and redundancy a great thing? Not only does it remove concern about the viability of your supply chain, but it also reduces the ability of another country to use political blackmail on you.

      I guess Elon Musk can disrupt international politics as much as he can markets, huh?

      • Coastal Ron wrote:

        Isn’t competition and redundancy a great thing? Not only does it remove concern about the viability of your supply chain, but it also reduces the ability of another country to use political blackmail on you.

        If SpaceX hadn’t come along and created a viable alternative, we’d be over a barrel right now. ULA would have its government monopoly, with only two launch vehicles — the Atlas V and the Delta IV. The engines for both would be controlled by one company, Aerojet Rocketdyne, and one of those two engines would be made in Russia.

        Because the government guaranteed their domestic launch monopoly, we’d have only one option if Russia really did cut off the RD-180s. Then we might have to take this Russia Today report more seriously.

        • Coastal Ron

          Stephen C. Smith said:

          If SpaceX hadn’t come along and created a viable alternative, we’d be over a barrel right now.

          Word. I’m not sure why supposed free-market promoters are against competition in the launch market, but they should be realizing now that competition not only provides for redundancy and keeping costs as low as possible, but it also keeps provides us with more political options.

  • I was surprised by that medical community comment. Since a Mars plan under current plans would be even longer, that means the current plans can not be carried out even if we could afford them.
    This is another reason to mount Mars missions from the Moon. Using lunar-derived propellant depots, we make missions to Mars in weeks rather than months.

    Robert Clark

    • Vladislaw

      We wouldn’t have to spend six months or mine the moon to get to Mars in weeks. If we could get past the nukes in space issue we could get to Mars faster than six months.

    • vulture4

      The medical limitation is a tangled web. Basically, it is not really anything approaching an absolute limitation but has been portrayed as such primarily as a stimulus to research and an effort to adhere to the fairly conservative exposure standards adopted since Skylab. A 1.5 year round trip to Mars would somewhat exceed current career radiation exposure standards but not pose an immediate hazard to life or functional ability.

      • Coastal Ron

        vulture4 said:

        The medical limitation is a tangled web.

        It gets back to risk, and that currently NASA is risk adverse. That’s not a bad thing overall, but for space exploration there are going to be times where there will be higher known and unknown levels of risk.

        As long as there is informed consent, I have no doubt we’ll have thousands of qualified applicants that would be glad to take those risks. NASA needs to incorporate that into it’s planning.

        • Hiram

          As I noted above, as best as it’s known, which might well be considered suspect, the cancer risk from GCRs in a year-long Mars trip with minimal shielding is small compared to other risks in the trip. Frank Cucinotta at JSC and his team have has researched this in some detail. If an astronaut returned from Mars and died of cancer later on, it would hardly be clear that his or her voyage caused that death. But that’s correct that risk averseness at NASA has, for along time, been standing between the agency and human spaceflight accomplishment. One has to imagine that the intolerance for risk there is related to doubts about purpose. You only tolerate risks when the real mission value is high.

    • Coastal Ron

      Robert Clark said:

      This is another reason to mount Mars missions from the Moon. Using lunar-derived propellant depots, we make missions to Mars in weeks rather than months.

      No it doesn’t Bob.

      This has been explained to you over and over, but apparently you can’t do the math.

      The Spudis plan requires at least $88B and 17 years to produce any propellent, and that would be on top of the money that would be needed for building the hardware needed to use the propellant.

      If we need propellant for a Mars trip, the least expensive and fastest way to get it is to fly it up from Earth. It’s available today, and depending on which launcher is used, can be had for less than 1/100th the cost of the Spudis plan.

      In the constrained budget environment we’re in, sourcing propellant from the Moon is a fantasy. Try and stick with reality Bob.

      • Spudis and Lavoie deserve credit for being first to provide cost numbers to producing a propellant generating facility on the Moon. However, the situation is rather analogous to how under George H.W. Bush NASA came up with an initial estimate of $500 billion to mount a Mars mission, whereas later estimates under more realistic cost constraints were able to cut that by a factor of 10.
        The same is the case here with regard to the Spudis and Lavoie cost estimates. For one thing they included the development cost of a SLS type vehicle and of two separate versions of an Orion type crew module. Those take up a big chunk of the development cost.
        But you don’t even need the SLS to do the cargo or manned flights to the Moon, and likely you would not use them under a cost constrained plan. Also, since NASA is not currently even considering using them for this purpose and they are already being developed anyway independently of this plan, their development cost should not be consider as part of the costs for the plan.

        Bob Clark

        • Vladislaw

          Actually, that is not correct. Spudis and Lavoie came out in 2010. There was another proposal three years before them in 2007 for mining the moon.

          http://www.space.com/3567-texas-firm-draws-plans-orbital-gas-station.html

          This proposal was based on another even early one:

          “The scenario is based, in part, on a 2003 proposal entitled “The Shackleton Crater Expedition: A Lunar Commerce Mission in the Spirit of Lewis and Clark” and rejected by the Bush Administration”

          when you look at the alternative commercial ones, they sure come in a lot lower than the ones were a monster government rocket is in the mix.

        • Coastal Ron

          Robert Clark said:

          But you don’t even need the SLS to do the cargo or manned flights to the Moon, and likely you would not use them under a cost constrained plan.

          All of that has already been pointed out to you, so I’m glad you now acknowledge it.

          However that STILL doesn’t change the economics of where propellant is sourced for a Mars vehicle.

          Whether it’s $88B or only $50B, unless you can get the cost of getting propellant from the Moon down to the same as what a Falcon Heavy could do it for launched for Earth, then it doesn’t make economic sense to set up a propellant factory on the Moon. None.

          I’m not sure why you keep ignoring money as a significant factor Bob. Why is that?

          And just as getting $88B from Congress to fund your plan is a fantasy, $50B (or whatever number you come up with) is a fantasy too, as is the still 17 years it will take to implement. Republican’s who have NASA related facilities and companies in their states and districts voted overwhelmingly to cancel Constellation, so if Republican’s can’t stay focused on the Moon for more than 5 years, then asking them to fund something for 17 years is very unlikely.

          You need to accept reality here and move on Bob.

          • All of that has already been pointed out to you, so I’m glad you now acknowledge it.

            I’m a strong supporter of commercial space so we never disagreed on that. It is the only way manned spaceflight will become routine.

            Bob Clark

      • RockyMtnSpace

        Ron droned on again … “The same is the case here with regard to the Spudis and Lavoie cost estimates …”

        Sorry, but Spudis/Lavoie are not the gold-standard when it comes to producing space architectures and certainly not when it come to producing cost estimates. Yet you continually prop up that strawman argument to bash anyone who disagrees with you. Get new material, this one is worn thin.

        • Hiram

          “Sorry, but Spudis/Lavoie are not the gold-standard when it comes to producing space architectures and certainly not when it come to producing cost estimates.”

          Fair statement. But if you have lower, more digestable strawman numbers, from an allegedly more gold-standard source, we’d be delighted to get a reference. Otherwise, Spudis & Lavoie are calling the shots.

          • Vladislaw

            All you have to do with the Spudis plan is take out ALL government monster rocket launches, take out the standard cost plus fixed fee contracting numbers.

            Switch to SAA’s instead of FAR and make them all milestone based, competitively bid, fixed price contracts.. and you could cut quite a few billion out of the Spudis plan.

            Hell he doesn’t even have $1 budgeted, out of 88 BILLION for contests/prize money for a few projects.. Hell 1 billion of Spudis’s funding moved to X prizes would lower a lot of the numbers.

            • Hiram

              Excuse me? Contests and prize money make for “gold standard” cost estimates? These are nice ideas, but never proven for space accomplishment. Ever. Perhaps not fools gold, but they merely look kinda shiny right now. As to fixed price contracts, that may well lead to cost savings, though this is a proposed effort that is really R&D right now, so industry may well have some reluctance to put in attractive bids. We’re not talking launching stuff, for which lessons abound. We’re talking lunar resource development, which has never been done.

              Still waiting for “gold standard” space architectures and cost estimates.

              • Vladislaw

                Ansari X Prize of 10 million didn’t prove anything? that Prize didn’t leverage capital?

                Leveraging capital is not a priority at NASA right now?

                I do not believe you would need to do cost plus to get a piece of hardware on the moon and see if it can process. Actually there has already been work done on it ..

                http://www.nasa.gov/offices/oct/early_stage_innovation/centennial_challenges/regolith/index.html

                The regolith challenge.

                Just because only peanut shells have been thrown at this doesn’t make it a valid test. What if the actual peanuts (real funding) where tossed at it.

                If no one competes, it hasn’t cost you a dime. But if you want to leverage your TINY funding.. this is the way to do it.

              • Hiram

                “Ansari X Prize of 10 million didn’t prove anything? that Prize didn’t leverage capital?”

                Shooting people up to 100km for a few minutes is a bit different than developing lunar resources. Alan Shepherd did a lot better than that in 1961, as did Joe Walker in an X-15 in 1963. The Ansari prize was about doing it commercially. Also, the regolith challenge is in a box of lunar simulant at Ames. It’s in a box. We’re talking orders of magnitude difference between these and lunar ISRU. Your dreams about prize scalability aren’t convincing. Yeah, I have the same dreams, but I recognize them to be dreams. A “valid test”? This is going to be about a funding “test”? I’m all for “leveraging funding”, but let’s be realistic here.

                If no one competes, it hasn’t cost you a dime, and you also haven’t done anything.

                Still waiting for “gold standard” space architectures and cost estimates.

              • Vladislaw

                Hiram, THIS is what you stated:

                “These are nice ideas, but never proven for space accomplishment.”

                I gave an example that was a PROVEN example, a 10 million dollar prize returned thousands and thousands of labor and actual flight hardware was produced and it operated successfully.

                You then .. turn it around and say:

                “Shooting people up to 100km for a few minutes is a bit different than developing lunar resources.”

                We are not talking about developing lunar resources at that point. It was about leveraging NASA’s capital to get more bang for the buck. I proved it. I can only use history as an example and history is on my side. X prizes leverages capital. so what do you want? A NASA ONLY pork fest or do you want to actually see something accomplished with limited funding available?

                You then stated:

                “Alan Shepherd did a lot better than that in 1961, as did Joe Walker in an X-15 in 1963″

                Great, and it only cost 3.9 BILLION in 1961 dollars. Scaled Composites did it for 25 million, chasing after a 10 million dollar prize.

                Man if you are going to use those prices as somehow a selling point .. you are being nutty.

                You stated:

                “Also, the regolith challenge is in a box of lunar simulant at Ames. It’s in a box. We’re talking orders of magnitude difference between these and lunar ISRU.”

                Ah .. BEFORE they launched any of the four rovers to mars .. where did they test them on earth? In a box?

                Of course they tested them in a box, it was only a proof of concept test… sheesh. And it was done for 750,000 dollars. Once again .. a HUGE leverage of capital…

                How much do you think it would have cost NASA do conduct those same proof of concept tests in sandbox?

                I am being realistic here. History has shown it over and over. Hell even Newt Gingrich said a 20 billion dollar x prize for a MARS orbit would be money better spent then giving it to NASA.

                The pork premium is killing the agency. Spudis, when I asked him directly, said his numbers incorporate that. He also said you could not go straight commercial because the usual suspects in congress would not fund it if they are out of the loop. You see them fighting commercial at every turn. Every President since Nixon has mentioned more commercial for NASA and it has fell on deaf ears for the Porkonauts in congress.

                NASA’s own internal studies have voiced the same thing. They can not do cheap .. not when ever district has to have a slice.

                X prizes by passes the pork machine. SAA’s with fix prices by pass the pork machine. This part of spaceflight .. is NOT rocket science.

              • Hiram

                “I gave an example that was a PROVEN example, a 10 million dollar prize returned thousands and thousands of labor and actual flight hardware was produced and it operated successfully.”

                You gave a proven example for a TINY job. It was hardly “space accomplishment”. What it was was *commercial* accomplishment of what we know we can do in near space. I agree with you that it’s a nice step in the direction of what is needed, but it is by no means a compelling argument, in and of itself, for the scale of work that needs to be done for developing lunar ISRU. You’re deluding yourself if you think it is any more than that. $10M prizes for commercial accomplishments are hardly what a responsible budget planner would build an ISRU plan on. We’re talking “gold standard” here. Not “dream standard” or “hand waving standard”

                I am certainly not arguing that Spudis & Lavoie’s costs are irreducible. I’m just saying that your arguments are not particularly strong ones that they are reducible.

                I think that what Scaled Composites did for the Ansari X prize was marvelous. But they did it fully forty years after Mercury and X-15. It comes as no surprise that they could do it more cheaply than what came before. The cost of failure on Mercury was, by the way, vastly larger than the cost of failure on the Ansari X prize.

                “Of course they tested them in a box, it was only a proof of concept test… ”

                Oh, so what we have is a successful “concept test” for funding lunar ISRU? Heh.

                “Hell even Newt Gingrich said a 20 billion dollar x prize for a MARS orbit would be money better spent then giving it to NASA.”

                Ah, Newt, the gold standard for space policy …

              • Vladislaw

                You keep moving the goal posts.

                This is what you originally wrote:

                “Contests and prize money make for “gold standard” cost estimates? These are nice ideas, but never proven for space accomplishment.”

                I have proved it, there are mutliple examples. From the X-prize to the lunar lander contest that Armadillo won, the space glove et cetera.

                You then change the goal posts and stated:

                “Shooting people up to 100km for a few minutes is a bit different than developing lunar resources.”

                We were not talking about Lunar resources. Stay on track. But you don’t you then write:

                “You gave a proven example for a TINY job. It was hardly “space accomplishment”. ”

                You are wrong again .. by a magnatude. A ten million dollar prize lead to a couple hundred million dollars worth of labor from multiple teams.

                That winner has since got the first dedicated commercial space port built, a couple hundred million. A company called the Space Ship Company was formed and another 125 million invested. Virgin Galatic was formed and another 250 million invested. Has sold 625 rides raising 125 million in backorders. Has lead to 55 million invested in a competitor’s entry, the XCOR’s lyxn.

                So lets recap, a 10 miilion dollar prize has led to almost a billion dollars of economic activity and you call it … tiny… ya right…

                “A key advantage of prizes over traditional grants is that money is only paid when the goal is achieved. A 1999 National Academy of Engineering committee report[1] recommended that “Congress encourage federal agencies to experiment more extensively with inducement prize contests in science and technology”. A 2003 NASA Space Architect study, assisted by the X PRIZE Foundation, led to the establishment of the Centennial Challenges.

                As a federal agency, NASA has one of the federal government’s three largest procurement budgets.”

                http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Centennial_prizes

                So once again, what do you want.. the U.S. moving forward or the same ole’ same ole’ the porkonauts in congress have been spoon feeding us the last 30 years?

                Offering a prize produces a leveraged amount of economic activity in space related companies and entrepreneurs.

                I didn’t say build a plan on, I said it was not even CONSIDERED and not even a one single dollar out of an estimated 88 BILLION dollar budget was allocated for it.

                Why not include several prized and incorporate them into it? They do not have to be the long tent in the pole on critial paths. But for the proof of concept work in the earth stages on the ground could certainly benefit from them.

                As I said .. the Spudis plan would not even consider them it was just the same ole same ole cost plus fixed fee FAR contracts to the usual suspects.

              • Hiram

                Re value of contests and prizes … “I have proved it, there are mutliple examples. From the X-prize to the lunar lander contest that Armadillo won, the space glove et cetera.”

                I do not regard sending humans to 100 km or VTVL as “space accomplishment”. I regard it as commercial accomplishment. Really impressive commercial accomplishment, by the way. The technical challenges that would be faced in doing lunar ISRU are entirely different than throwing humans briefly up into near-space or hovering over a pad. As such, the fiscal challenges are going to be different as well. These prize winners give me confidence that commercial space is smart, but they don’t give me confidence that commercial space is smart enough to do what we’re talking about. Speaking of which …

                “We were not talking about Lunar resources. Stay on track.”

                That’s nuts. This was a discussion about costing for what Spudis and Lavoie were proposing to do. That was developing lunar resources. Stay on track.

                “So once again, what do you want.. the U.S. moving forward or the same ole’ same ole’ the porkonauts in congress have been spoon feeding us the last 30 years?”

                If you bothered to read what I wrote, you would have understood that I am in no way defending the “same ole’” funding methods. I believe that there could well be innovative strategies to break the cost curve for space accomplishment. Prizes are a nice idea. But what I’m saying is that these innovative strategies have yet to show any space accomplishment results. Although it’s not a prize-based effort, let’s see what Golden Spike can manage to do. That’s real space accomplishment they’re proposing, with truly innovative funding, but still a long way away from lunar ISRU.

                So your rant comes down to the fact that prizes aren’t usually offered, and not that prizes actually lead to space accomplishment. I appreciate your passion for what might someday be, with a wink, and a nod, and a whole lotta luck, but we’re done here.

        • Coastal Ron

          RockyMtnSpace moaned:

          Sorry, but Spudis/Lavoie are not the gold-standard when it comes to producing space architectures and certainly not when it come to producing cost estimates.

          Many proponents of lunar propellant manufacturing do use the Spudis/Lavoie plan as the “gold standard”, as Bob certainly validates. Even Paul Spudis uses it as the “gold standard” – go figure, eh?

          I have even talk Dr. Spudis that parts of his plan seem reasonable, but not the full-up ISRU part. But I certainly think there is quite a bit of the “then a miracle occurs…” in what he proposes, in that he assumes many things that he does not explain, and assumes outcomes that are vital to what he proposes but doesn’t explain how they will happen.

          Since the Spudis/Lavoie plan is the latest and best defined so far, it is useful for comparing to the alternatives. And the alternatives are what lunar ISRU proponents don’t want to discuss. Bob is a good example of that too.

          Get new material, this one is worn thin.

          Apparently you have missed the whole point of the conversations, and that is how to get “X” amount of propellant to LEO or EML for a Mars-bound vehicle. I have provided suggestions that use known pricing and capacities, so I am not proposing any strawman. It is those that simply state that propellant from the Moon would be the least expensive option that don’t provide any backup, and so the Spudis/Lavoie study is the latest and most documented example that can be used as a point of comparison.

          As Hiram said, if you have a better lunar propellant example with pricing we should be using as a comparison, great! Show us.

          But if you don’t, then QUIT YOUR WHINING!

          Thank you.

          • RockyMtnSpace

            Ron mumbled “Many proponents of lunar propellant manufacturing do use the Spudis/Lavoie plan as the “gold standard”, as Bob certainly validates. Even Paul Spudis uses it as the “gold standard” – go figure, eh?”

            Many huh? Name one credible proponent that has the experience, background, and financial wherewithal to execute a lunar propellant manufacturing business plan that uses Spudis/Lavoie as a benchmark. (and no, Spudis himself doesn’t fit this description)

            “I have provided suggestions that use known pricing and capacities, so I am not proposing any strawman.”

            Ron, you clearly just don’t get it. Spudis/Lavoie is the strawman you continually hold up as the alternative cost model to compare to and then to show how smart you think you are, you shoot it down with better, cheaper numbers from an earth-launched based approach. Spudis/Lavoie isn’t a credible architecture so quit using it as a comparative.

            “Apparently you have missed the whole point of the conversations, and that is how to get “X” amount of propellant to LEO or EML for a Mars-bound vehicle. … As Hiram said, if you have a better lunar propellant example with pricing we should be using as a comparison, great! Show us.”

            There is no better example as there is no credible business case or national imperative that exists for a manned Mars mission let alone a propellant supply train to support that mission. Quit arguing the details of a fictitious mission and present a valid cause that such a mission should exist in the first place.

            • Coastal Ron

              RockyMtnSpace whined:

              Name one credible proponent that has the experience, background, and financial wherewithal to execute a lunar propellant manufacturing business plan that uses Spudis/Lavoie as a benchmark.

              What an odd comment, and you are completely missing the point that I and others have made.

              While the Spudis/Lavoie plan is probably executable, I have stated many times that I know of no one that would be motivated to execute it, including the U.S. Government. And that’s the whole point, in that lunar propellant supporters think it’s such a great idea, but they ignore the economics of the proposition, including Spudis.

              Spudis/Lavoie is the strawman you continually hold up as the alternative cost model to compare to and then to show how smart you think you are, you shoot it down with better, cheaper numbers from an earth-launched based approach.

              I noticed that you didn’t respond back to Hiram when he asked you for a better “gold standard” so I guess you can’t supply one, huh?

              But advocates of lunar propellant that comment on Space Politics do use that plan as the rebuttal to where we should be sourcing propellant in space, as Bob Clark and Mark Whittington have shown on this comment thread. Apparently you missed that?

              Quit arguing the details of a fictitious mission and present a valid cause that such a mission should exist in the first place.

              Ah, is you sole reason for arguing here that you don’t believe we should be doing space exploration?

              If so, then you have a bone to pick with virtually every commenter on this blog, and not just me. And if that is the case, then arguing about lunar propellant plans is pretty silly, now isn’t it?

              • RockyMtnSpace

                Ron blathered on “… I have stated many times that I know of no one that would be motivated to execute it, including the U.S. Government.”

                And yet you repeatedly hold it up as the standard to judge/criticize other proposals.

                “I noticed that you didn’t respond back to Hiram when he asked you for a better “gold standard” so I guess you can’t supply one, huh?”

                Wow, talk about selective reading. Let’s see, that next statement I made was:

                “There is no better example as there is no credible business case or national imperative that exists for a manned Mars mission let alone a propellant supply train to support that mission.”

                Are you that incapable of reading and comprehending or are you just that disingenuous?

                “… as Bob Clark and Mark Whittington have shown on this comment thread.”

                So these are the credible proponents that have the experience, background, and financial wherewithal to execute a lunar propellant manufacturing business plan you speak of? Wow, first time I have seen where you imply Whittington is credible on any subject matter. I am sure Mark will smile at that one.

                “Ah, is you sole reason for arguing here that you don’t believe we should be doing space exploration?”

                Whether I believe it is a good thing or not is irrelevant. Neither the current administration nor its NASA administrator have made an argument that manned space exploration is economically, militarily, or scientifically compelling given the associated cost and return on that investment. Neither have anyone in Congress, nor in the broader space advocacy community for that matter. Robotic exploration has a far better chance of making a valid argument given its far lower financial hurdle.

                “If so, then you have a bone to pick with virtually every commenter on this blog, and not just me. And if that is the case, then arguing about lunar propellant plans is pretty silly, now isn’t it?”

                Thank you for agreeing that arguing about lunar propellant plans is silly. That is the only thing you have gotten correct yet. Maybe there is hope for you after all.

              • Coastal Ron

                RockyMtnSpace opined:

                So these are the credible proponents that have the experience, background, and financial wherewithal to execute a lunar propellant manufacturing business plan you speak of?

                Just as credible as you are for advocating robotic exploration.

                And just to be clear, I like robotic exploration as an inexpensive way to buy down risk before humans follow (whenever that is). But if you think your whole rant against lunar propellant plans is advancing your ideas on robotic exploration, I’m here to tell you that you truly are delusional.

                For instance, I have provided examples with pricing to show why using propellant from Earth is far less expensive initially than first setting up a production facility on the Moon. As it just so happens, that same model can be used to support robotic exploration too, since that allows larger and more capable robotic systems to be launched from Earth on existing rockets, but if launched dry and refueled in space they would be far larger than the fully fueled ones we launch today.

                So unlike you, I do present alternatives that enable a wide range of possible space exploration architectures.

                You just whine.

                You can change that by presenting your ideas and stop whining about others. I’m not holding my breath though…

              • RockyMtnSpace

                Ron returned to his broken record – “For instance, I have provided examples with pricing to show why using propellant from Earth …”

                Enjoy your walk down the dirt path.

              • Coastal Ron

                RockyMtnSpace pleaded:

                Enjoy your walk down the dirt path.

                Thanks, I will… ;-)

  • Six to 8 months of space travel wouldn’t put astronauts over the 50 Rem per year NASA limit– if astronauts could seek refuge from excessive amounts of radiation once they reached Mars orbit during the solar minimum.

    But the biggest danger during an interplanetary trip is the possibility of lethal levels of exposure to radiation during a major solar event. And not even a fast trip to Mars is going to protect astronauts from that.

    However, 50 centimeters of water shielding should be able to protect astronauts from excessive radiation exposure from a solar event while also significantly reducing annual exposure to cosmic radiation. While such shielding would make a ship substantially heavier, such weight wouldn’t be prohibitive if an interplanetary vessel was launched from one of the Earth-Moon Lagrange points rather than from LEO.

    Marcel F. Williams

    • vulture4

      A modest storm shelter such as the Apollo Command Module could provide proteciton during a severe solar storm. Cosmic rays are higher in energy and more difficult to shield against but they are lower in flux and do not vary much in intensity.

      • Sorry, Vulture4, Marcel is right on this one. Apollo Command Module would be little protection against a CME. Better to go with the water protection scheme mentioned for Nautilus. What’s true is true even if the other side is making the point, an ideal they should follow also but don’t. However, such a system can’t be developed because of you-know-what.

        • This is the last I’ll say for now. But this subject is in my professional field.

          • A_M_Swallow

            Is the Earth orbit insertion fuel sufficient to protect the astronauts. That is the fuel used at the end of the flight to enter LEO (or EML-2)?

          • Fred Willett

            Didn’t I see a design once based on a Bigelow module where the water supply that is required anyway was simply hung in bags around a small compartment to act as a storm shelter?
            Surely the point is that NASA wants to do some really short missions to work out the deep space systems they will need for longer missions.
            Looked at this way ARM is a sensible 1st step BEO.

            • Justin Kugler

              I’ve done some first-order analysis of my own for my current M.S. work that suggests the water necessary for human consumption on a long-duration mission would be sufficient to also provide shielding against SPEs, if stored in an annular system.

    • It’s actually a year to a year and a half round-trip in space, and a year to two years on Mars. That would put it beyond NASA’s current limits.

      Bob Clark

  • Mark R. Whittington

    More proof that Obama did not think things through who he scotched the lunar return in favor of chasing asteroids. Garver is being a little cute by claiming that opposition to the asteroid mission is “partisan.” A better case can be made that Obama’s cancellation of Constellation was partisan.

    • vulture4

      I must disagree, Mark. NASA did not, and still does not, have the massive budget needed to actually fly missions with the huge rockets to be used in Constellation/SLS/Orion. The person who pointed this out in no uncertain terms back in 2004 when it was first proposed was conservative Republican John McCain.

      • Mark R. Whittington

        John McCain said many things, including support for Constellation during the 2008 campaign. The solution to that problem is to pay for the program, which I suspect McCain would have done had he been elected president.

        • Coastal Ron

          Mark R. Whittington said:

          John McCain said many things, including support for Constellation during the 2008 campaign.

          Politicians say many things during campaigns, and what they say is no indication for how they will act if elected, no matter which party they are affiliated with.

          The solution to that problem is to pay for the program, which I suspect McCain would have done had he been elected president.

          When John McCain is not politicking, he can be very focused on value. His concerns about Constellation end up being validated when Constellation missed every budget estimate and every due date. There was no indication that things would change, and in fact McCain voted for S. 3729, which cancelled the Constellation program.

          As some additional insight, in the House every Republican from Alabama voted to cancel Constellation, every Florida Republican except for Connie Mack (Posey voted YES), and only two Republicans from Texas voted against cancellation, with one being Ron Paul.

          The fiction that Republican’s didn’t vote to cancel the Constellation program is just that – fiction.

          • Vladislaw

            Come on Ron, you are talking with Mark .. he is deathly alergic to facts.. that is why he never uses them. After 30 years he still doesn’t know what a subsidy is .. like the billion a year Lockheed and boeing get. Or what crony capitalism is .. like the 16.5 BILLION to develop a disposable capsule .. LOL .. One thing about Mark .. he does love putting on his clown shows..

        • Matt

          Agree, Mark. McCain (or even Hillary) would’ve been much more supportive of NASA than this President’s ever been.

          • Vladislaw

            Funny.. That is not what Mark said about McCain in 2009:

            “But what about commercial space? On this subject, McCain is silent. But some recent statements McCain has made on commerce in general gives cause for concern.

            When McCain opposed the Bush tax cuts in 2001 and 2003, he suggested at the time that he did so because they favored the rich, a curious rational coming from a Republican. McCain has since had an election year conversion and claims that he really opposed the tax cuts because they were not accompanied by spending cuts, but now supports the tax cuts.

            In a recent debate at the Reagan Library in California, McCain and his main rival, Mitt Romney, had a series of testy exchanges. At one point, McCain snapped that he was motivated by “patriotism rather than profits.” That was clearly a slap at Mitt Romney, who is known as a skilled and experienced businessman. It was also a slap at business in general. Many fear that McCain, deep down inside, views the buying and selling of goods and services for a profit as somehow less than honorable.

            The question thus arises: Would a President McCain be very supportive of commercial space, as has President Bush? He may not absolutely oppose commercial space, may even give lip service to it. But will he be as active in supporting commercial space with tax and regulatory incentives and with compelling NASA to be commercial friendly, especially in its space exploration programs?

            Maybe not. In that case, under McCain, we may get a space program that is magnificent, but in the model of the 1960s. It could be government centric, oriented toward science, national prestige, and national security. But it may not advance the economic development of the high frontier of space. McCain’s space program may not meet the needs of the 21st Century, which suggests that commerce is just as important as science, national prestige, and national security. McCain would, in effect, preside over half a space program”

            So in 2009 Mark said that McCain would preside over half a space program .. now .. in 2013 McCain would have been a godsend .. LOL

            http://voices.yahoo.com/john-mccains-space-program-865727.html

            • Coastal Ron

              Vladislaw said:

              So in 2009 Mark said that McCain would preside over half a space program .. now .. in 2013 McCain would have been a godsend ..

              Ouch!

  • A_M_Swallow

    RD-180 replacement. Is anyone working on a 1,000,000 lbf thrust (vacuum) methane engine?

    We probably have 3 to 4 years to get one to a working state. A ground Isp of 311+ and a burn time of 270 seconds is also needed.

    • Coastal Ron

      A_M_Swallow said:

      We probably have 3 to 4 years to get one to a working state.

      For what launcher? It won’t be a drop-in replacement for the RD-180, since the Atlas V uses RP-1, and it would pretty much require a brand new vehicle. 3-4 years would not be enough time for ULA to do that, and Boeing and Lockheed Martin (ULA’s owners) would have to commit some serious money to do that. There is no indication that I have seen that they would do that.

      I don’t think that Russia would go through with a ban, but it is a reminder about the need for redundancy.

      • Fred Willett

        The word is SpaceX is well down the path to building a methane engine called Raptor. It is reported to be one and a half times the thrust of the Merlin 1D and is a staged combustion engine which gives it a high ISP. The point presumably is to give Falcon Heavy a better 2nd stage.
        It would lift playload to LEO of the FH to about 70t.
        Goodbye SLS.
        Actually, of course, the purpose of a methane upper stage for FH is not to threaten SLS – call that a happy by-product – rather the purpose is to give the second stage heaps of margin to implement reusability.
        That is the real path to Mars. Reusable hardware and falling costs.

      • A_M_Swallow

        Coastal Ron wrote

        I don’t think that Russia would go through with a ban, but it is a reminder about the need for redundancy.

        Russia turned of the Ukraine’s gas supply, so banning rocket engines may be considered a small measure.

        Rocket makers have got to get their design cycles down.

    • Formerly Guest

      NSAA had their chance to engage in realistic propulsion funding and development for reusable heavy lift launch vehicle designs back in 2010, but congress and NASA and their contractors and lobbyists decided otherwise. The president agreed and signed.

      There is still time to either end or salvage this thing and get back on track with it. But not much time. And the chances are slim of anyone inside government and their contractor base of coming to their senses with regard to this absolute tragedy.

    • Dave Klingler

      RD-180 replacement. Is anyone working on a 1,000,000 lbf thrust (vacuum) methane engine?

      Why would they replace the RD-180, rather than just produce it in the U.S.? They’ve been working on the contingency and they have at least two years to get into production. If they had to delay some launches they could.

      It might be a tight squeeze, but I think Aerojet would be able to come up with U.S.-made production RD-180s in under 3 years, in a pinch. They’re not doing it from scratch. They’ve been quietly working the problem for a while. I’d bet money they could have an in-house RD-180 ready for testing inside of three months.

      On the other hand, I don’t think there’s any chance of a ban. I think this is known as the art of diplomacy. For Russia, at the very least, it’ll probably result in a price increase on the RD-180, and maybe a delay in US decisions on Syria.

      In the US, other than new FUD, it’ll probably mean new block grants to Aerojet and Dynetics, regardless.

      • Dave Klingler

        Whups, I typed “Aerojet” when I meant “P&W”.

        • Coastal Ron

          Dave Klingler said:

          Whups, I typed “Aerojet” when I meant “P&W”.

          No, you had it right. Aerojet owns Pratt & Whitney as of June of this year.

          And supposedly P&W has the rights to produce the RD-180, but so far has relied on supplies from Russia. Also P&W is part of the joint venture that currently produces the engine in Russia, so no doubt they have an idea how to build it if needed.

          I mean what would Russia do if we started building new ones – sue us because we wouldn’t be blackmailed?

          I don’t think anything will happen, but it does point out the need for a diversified supply chain for all parts of our space transportation system.

  • Andres Randa

    Stupidity, though, is not necessarily a primarily criterion in policy decisions.

    Oh, Dr. Foust. You slay me.

  • Vladislaw

    Jonathan Goff has an interesting take on the RD-180 over at Selenian Boondocks:

    YHABFT: RD-180 Sales Ban Rumor, A-Com, and FY11 Budget Request HLV Propulsion

    A short highlight:

    When the Obama Administration released their FY11 Budget Request for NASA, it seemed to catch a lot of people off-guard, though my surprise was more that it seemed like the Obama administration had been reading my emails… I can’t state this for 100% certainty, and I won’t go into why I think this is the case, but I’m pretty sure I know what the actual logic was behind this and several of the other controversial elements in the FY11 budget proposal that took so many people by surprise.

    Basically, I would summarize what I think was the core philosophy behind the FY11 budget request trying to dramatically increase NASA’s bang for the buck. By early 2010, it was clear that the massive increases in NASA’s budget necessary to do cool things using status quo approaches just weren’t politically realistic. So, the only way to give NASA a chance to do increasingly exciting and relevant things was to change the status quo and find some way to dramatically increase the bang-for-the-buck of NASA human spaceflight. The strategy taken in the FY11 budget to achieve this goal was to:
    1.Bet heavily on promising technology development and commercial space systems
    2.Hedge that bet in ways to keep some form of HLV viable in case the main bet doesn’t pan out
    3.Make sure that the bet hedging projects are still useful in case the main bet does pan out.

    The HLV Propulsion R&D effort was an example of strategy elements #2 and 3 above.”

    Like a lot of people on here, including myself, have been hammering away at for 8 years is … More BANG for the BUCK.

    NASA can not convert to commercial fast enough for me .. every year it is postponed … another 3 billion in pork disappears with no hardware.

    • Coastal Ron

      Vladislaw said:

      NASA can not convert to commercial fast enough for me .. every year it is postponed … another 3 billion in pork disappears with no hardware.

      Yea verily.

      And I think Jonathon Goff is correct in his assumptions. Too bad pork won out, especially since the SLS and Orion will never become operational and we’ll have lost out on at least a decade of potential space exploration because it them.

      • Egad

        the SLS and Orion will never become operational

        Sure they will, or at least can. Just like Exploration Missions 1 & 2 are exploration missions, all that NASA has to do to make them operational is to add the word “operational” to the name. Exploration Operational Mission 1 — not a problem, couldn’t be simpler.

        • Coastal Ron

          Egad said:

          …all that NASA has to do to make them operational is to add the word “operational” to the name.

          You are right, of course.

          But we both know that in reality the SLS has to build up enough flights to be deemed “operational”, and then it has to be flown at a minimum flight rate to maintain that status. Flying once and then not flying for another four years does not qualify any new system to be called “operational” – except in the non-sensical world of politics.

  • In this morning’s Florida Today:

    Experts: “Drift” is Plaguing NASA”

    The fatal flaw in this Scott Pace screed is that he assumes NASA = Human Spaceflight. It doesn’t, not any more. SpaceX, Sierra Nevada, Boeing, Bigelow Aerospace, Virgin Galactic and XCOR prove him wrong.

    • Robert G Oler

      Scott Pace is a tool of the space industrial complex…grant you Obama has leadership issues but Pace is like a sailor, he has a policy in every port

      Speaking links

      http://www.chron.com/default/photo/Sharon-Booton-left-joined-by-Cecelia-5115119.php

      My daughter Lorelei J Oler holding The Colors. When asked by the reporter who took the picture what she was going to do when she grew up she replied “Fly the Dragon with the super Dracos and explore space. And be like my Dad a servant to The Republic”

      reetings from the Indian sub continent Stephen stay frosty the revolution in space affairs is taking place all people like Pace can do is slow it down RGO

  • Dark Blue Nine

    Another report on the same:

    http://www.spacepolicyonline.com/news/logsdon-and-pace-criticize-lack-of-white-house-leadership-on-nasa

    I agree that the Obama Administration politically mishandled the Shuttle workforce in it proposal to replace Constellation and that ARM is a deeply flawed proposal from both policy and technical perspectives. On the other hand, I don’t know that it would have mattered how perfect the White House made these proposals given the highly parochial and partisan nature of Congress these days. They might have been rejected regardless and that would not have been the White House’s fault. There’s blame on both sides.

    As to the alternatives that Pace and Logsdon presented, I think Logsdon has it more right. I don’t get Pace’s fascination with the Moon as the next proving ground for international space cooperation. No foreign partners ever signed up for Constellation, and one can point to several upcoming asteroid missions (Hayabusa-2, AIDA) among our key allies, for example, as evidence that they’re not more interested in the Moon than any other target.

    Logsdon is probably right that the underlying national policy rationale for civil human space activities needs a fundamental rethink. Resurrecting variations on the Von Braun paradigm hasn’t worked for 50+ years. There’s no reason to believe that it will work in the next 50 years.

    • Hiram

      Certainly Pace’s fascination with the Moon is not well justified. But you have to understand that the key to a “proving ground” for international space cooperation is the word “ground”. It’s about rocks, and there are only so many rocks. The Moon is, in many respects, the easiest rock, and there is room there for putting up flags and fences as well as outposts and cultural institutions (read, colonization and settlement).

      The von Braun paradigm for human visits to Mars is couched entirely in the premise of colonization and settlement. In formal project planning, that premise is absent, though implied. Why? Because there has been no admission by NASA that colonization and settlement of Mars are important. Preservation of the species by spreading it out is often referred to as a noble goal, but if you can put humans on Mars, then sending bombs there or getting diseases there aren’t that hard either. Putting humans on Mars might well advance science there, but in the larger picture of human space flight, science is a minor driver.

      Going beyond rocks, the prospect of space solar power as a collective goal has strong international ramifications, but with our newly developed telerobotic sophistication, it probably doesn’t really require human space flight to do it.

      It is interesting to see that Logsdon is pessimistic abut the NRC human spaceflight committee, in trying to do a rethink of the value of that enterprise. I was hopeful about that committee, but he may well be right. I don’t have a lot of confidence that committee will be able to think outside the box it finds itself in, and will likely consume itself in simply rewording existing tired rationale.

      • Coastal Ron

        Hiram said:

        Because there has been no admission by NASA that colonization and settlement of Mars are important.

        We don’t need NASA to tell us that being a multi-planetary species would be a good idea, it’s either self-evident or it’s not. And this is more of an Executive & Legislative level pronunciation than one coming from NASA.

        Even if our government were to declare that the goal of the U.S. is to be multi-planetary, there would need to be some sort of acknowledgement of risk and goal so that the proper resources could be applied to make it happen.

        Personally I don’t think our government would fund such an effort, or at least not without some acknowledged threat to our way of life.

        • Vladislaw

          I believe it will not come until the Outer Space Treaty is either scraped or given a serious rewrite. Property rights are the 800 pound gorilla in the room.

      • Dave Klingler

        The Moon is, in many respects, the easiest rock…

        But it’s not.

        1. LEO, the EMLs, and even LLO will always be closer than the lunar surface.
        2. A large number of solar-powered asteroid capture satellites could be purchased for the price of a lunar sortie.

        Therefore, the easiest rock will always be the one we bring to us.

        Further,

        3. Anything in orbit – capsules, rocks, used Pez dispensers – anything is worth its weight in precious metals.

        Therefore, any rocks we happen to bring would be both easy and cost-effective for the foreseeable future.

        • Hiram

          Uh, first time I’ve heard that LEO, EMLs and LLO were “rocks”. But yes, to the extent one captures a rock, and brings it nearby, the easiest one will be the one we bring to us. Of course, that’s what ARM is about. Making it easy to get to a rock. Not making it useful to get to a rock.

          Rocks we happen to bring would be easy, cost effective, and quite likely worthless. Most asteroids are worthless, with regard to precious metal resources.

    • This is a general response to the comments by some claiming that somehow the Obama administration could have convinced Congress to go along with its NASA course change if only the administration have quietly briefed Congress in advance.

      In my opinion … poppycock.

      Look, Congress knew for years that Constellation was a dog. The GAO did lots of audits warning about the problems. Congress was aware of the Augustine Committee’s work.

      But here’s the bottom line … It was presented to Congress in September 2009. You can watch it yourself at:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kY-W_GGzjyE

      Norm Augustine spent nearly two hours laying it all out for the Senate Space Subcommittee. Congress didn’t care. They did nothing. They didn’t increase funding. They didn’t listen when Augustine warned that Congress gave NASA too much to do with too few resources. But they did punt the tough choices to the President.

      So why do they get mad when the President did exactly what they said he should do?

      It was because the President didn’t keep their pork going.

      The committee members wanted $3 billion more a year for Constellation, because it kept pork going to their states. Obama saw Constellation for the pork-laden design disaster it was, and pulled the plug rather than flushing more good money after bad.

      If you listen to Bill Nelson’s opening remarks, he talks about how important it is to “take care of the work force.” Why?! NASA isn’t workfare. But he thinks it should be.

      As far as I’m concerned, the administration did exactly the right thing by blind-siding Congress. If the administration had tipped them at all to what was going, the contractors and their lobbyists and their tools in Congress would have mobilized to do everything possible to assure it was Dead On Arrival.

      For the most part, Obama succeeded. He killed Constellation. He saved the International Space Station. He juiced commercial cargo and crew, although not by as much as we would like.

      To achieve that, the administration had to accept the Senate Launch System, yet another workfare program.

      Three years later, the ISS is now fully operational and doing meaningful scientific research. One commercial cargo vehicle (SpaceX Dragon) is flying, and the second (Orbital Sciences Cygnus) gets its test flight in a couple weeks. All three commercial crew vehicles have gone through their crew fit checks and are moving into prototype testing.

      Commercial space is thriving, both the government partnerships and strictly private efforts. Within the next year or two, Virgin Galactic and/or XCOR will take private citizens on suborbital flights; you will no longer have to be a government employee to go into space. SpaceX is building the Falcon Heavy and the Grasshopper. Golden Spike is working on commercial lunar programs. Bigelow will have an inflatable demo habitat at the ISS in 2015. Stratolaunch is building the world’s biggest airplane for horizontal rocket launches.

      We’ve come a long way in three years. Much of this was possible because NASA — thanks to administration policy — has used Space Act Agreements to help the private sector give birth to a robust commercial space industry.

      That was unthinkable in September 2009 when Norm Augustine presented his findings to the Senate Space Subcommittee.

      So far as I’m concerned … Screw Congress. Stay the course. What we’re doing now is working. OldSpace will die of natural causes. Maybe not soon enough to prevent the waste of billions of dollars with SLS, but that’s the price we have to pay to open space to the masses.

      • Matt

        “Screw Congress? When they write NASA’s checks? That is not going to work any time. You want Congress to approve a commercially-based exploration program with that kind of attitude, and you will be in for a fight. And you’ll get one. Watch as said proposal goes down in flames-especially if the GOP takes the Senate and Shelby’s got more power than he has now.

        • Vladislaw

          You do not understand Matt. It is already to late. The horse has left the barn. Once there is commercial access and a commercial destination it will no longer matter what the porkonauts in congress do. The pork premium WILL be cut out of the budget. You can already see it happening. NASA’s budget as started shrinking as more commercial came online. It is now under 17 billion. Watch … once commercial is online, NASA will be chopped even more as they will now have to incorporate commercial transporation more and more and the SLS.MPCV die a slow death.

          • And this was the problem with Scott Pace’s remarks in the “Drift” article. He incorrectly assumes that NASA = U.S. space program. It doesn’t. If you combine federal and private sector spending, U.S. spending on human spaceflight is way up.

            I think the Bigelow habitats are the key. Once they’re operational, private companies will fly private customers to private space stations. Game over.

          • Matt

            No, Vadislaw, you just don’t get it. Remember that Congress has to authorize a commercial-based program, and right now, they are not in favor of it. IF, and I do mean, if, the Administration (not Charlie Bolden, but that commercial zealot Garver) would have fought tooth and nail for it. There’s only a single member of the House in favor of such a program, and that’s Rohrabacher. He’s not doing it out of the goodness of his heart: he’s doing it because he has NerdSpace firms in SoCal, and constituents who work at those firms. No different from those with Orion/SLS work going on in their districts or states.

            If the Commercial Sector was passionate about it, why aren’t ULA, Space X, Blue Origin, Orbital Science, etc., pushing commercially based vehicles for exploration? I’d bet that it’s because there’s money to be made in LEO and not BEO. The “Commercial Uber Alles” approach that is advocated by some here is not politically tenable. Remember the anger over “outsourcing” HSF back in ’10? You’d see it magnified. NASA and other agencies explore. The Commercial Sector supports, and when feasible (asteroid mining, for example,) exploits. Either you get members of Congress on the appropriate committees on your side, or your plans don’t get funded. Simple as that. They are not a rubber stamp, and expecting them to just blindly agree to any Administration’s plan-not just the current one’s (or lack thereof), is a waste of time, IMHO.

            • Coastal Ron

              Matt said:

              Remember that Congress has to authorize a commercial-based program, and right now, they are not in favor of it.

              You are looking it the wrong way Matt. It is highly unusual that Congress specifies the exact transportation mode that NASA is supposed to do. Normally they would leave that up to NASA, or whoever.

              For instance, EVERY non-HSF payload gets to space on commercial launchers. EVERY military payload gets to space on commercial launchers. EVERY future cargo delivery to the ISS is by commercial providers, and the only option NASA has for transporting NASA personnel to the ISS from U.S. soil would be by commercial providers.

              It is the exception that NASA will be using it’s own transportation, and that exception was forced on NASA by Congress. NASA can’t afford the SLS, so there will come a time of reckoning soon.

              Of course Congress hasn’t authorized NASA to build anything to send to space, other than the $16B capsule that doesn’t have a NASA Service Module. A lot of good an HLV does if it doesn’t have HLV-sized payloads to lift, eh?

              If the Commercial Sector was passionate about it, why aren’t ULA, Space X, Blue Origin, Orbital Science, etc., pushing commercially based vehicles for exploration?

              Orbital Sciences doesn’t have a launcher big enough for major exploration (it is launching the upcoming LADEE Moon probe though), and though Blue Origin has long range plans for carrying humans, they aren’t interested in working with others at this point, besides securing a Pad 39-A for future use.

              SpaceX is going to Mars with or without NASA, and they are using NASA’s transportation needs as a way to speed things along for themselves, but otherwise they are doing just fine with a good mix of commercial and government business.

              ULA, which maybe you didn’t know is owned jointly by Boeing and Lockheed Martin, is not allowed to lobby on their own – that is the responsibility of their parents, who just so happen to have big, fat SLS and Orion contracts that they are working on.

              So it’s pretty easy to understand things Matt, if you do a little research. You should try it sometime… ;-)

              • Dave Klingler

                Ron, it’s difficult for me to write these words, but Falcon Heavy is already late and it hasn’t flown yet. Further, I’m keeping my fingers crossed for SpaceX, but I wouldn’t be surprised if DragonRider ends up going for its first manned flight about two years later than planned. I’d be greatly disappointed, but not surprised.

                I have a lot of confidence in SpaceX, but it’ll probably take another dozen successful flights, including at least a couple of Heavies and two or three DragonRiders, before the political winds would swing strongly against SLS. And if there’s one bad day on SpaceX’s part you can probably add close to a decade before Congress changed its mind.

                Further, I wonder whether that will be a good thing for NASA, or a bad thing. These programs are structured so that at least three-quarters of the people in Congress have a financial and political incentive to vote for them. Once the incentive goes away, I expect NASA’s funding will continue to shrink unless they come up with new “incentives” in enough states for Congress to continue funding the agency. Few in Congress are interested in exploring anything unless it brings money to his or her state.

              • Coastal Ron

                Dave Klingler said:

                I have a lot of confidence in SpaceX, but it’ll probably take another dozen successful flights, including at least a couple of Heavies and two or three DragonRiders, before the political winds would swing strongly against SLS.

                Just to be clear, this is not a choice between the SLS and Falcon Heavy.

                I don’t advocate for one unique launcher to replace another, I want commodity payloads flying on a number of different launchers, which today means about 20mt to LEO. There are four launchers currently in that class (Delta IV Heavy, Ariane 5, Proton and H-IIB), and the Falcon Heavy would just add another choice.

                And if there’s one bad day on SpaceX’s part you can probably add close to a decade before Congress changed its mind.

                We could have a pretty robust space exploration program using just Delta IV Heavy, and that is owned by Boeing and Lockheed Martin, so I don’t see this as a choice that Congress is making between vehicles – the people in Congress that wanted the SLS wanted it because of the jobs it produced, not the lift it produced. The lack of any funded payloads for the SLS should be proof of that.

                Once the incentive goes away, I expect NASA’s funding will continue to shrink unless they come up with new “incentives” in enough states for Congress to continue funding the agency.

                I’ve said it before – I’d rather the SLS gets cancelled and the SLS funding goes with it than to have NASA be saddled with an HLV that sucks the life out of what’s left of NASA.

                Few in Congress are interested in exploring anything unless it brings money to his or her state.

                And that is regardless if the SLS lives or dies. Space exploration is just not a priority, not with all the other political battles going on.

                And keep in mind that NASA’s portion of the federal budget has been decreasing for decades, so this is not something new. The ISS is likely to be the last successful major space hardware program for quite a while.

              • Dave Klingler wrote:

                … [I]t’s difficult for me to write these words, but Falcon Heavy is already late and it hasn’t flown yet. Further, I’m keeping my fingers crossed for SpaceX, but I wouldn’t be surprised if DragonRider ends up going for its first manned flight about two years later than planned. I’d be greatly disappointed, but not surprised.

                Like pretty much every single technological development of rocketry in the 20th Century. Why you single out SpaceX is a bit perplexing to me.

              • Matt

                Ron, I know full well about ULA being a joint venture. The point is still the same: if the companies that would benefit from a commercially based exploration program, why aren’t they pushing one? Again, Boeing, Lockheed-Martin, Northrop-Grumman, etc. would be among the aerospace big boys that would benefit, along with Orbital Science, Blue Origin, and (Ugh) SpaceX, so why weren’t they pushing it beyond those AIAA papers that you’re so fond of….the ones advocating a commercially based program and use of propellant depots? The best guess is that their lobbyists probably reported back that the relevant members of Congress (Not just the ones on the Committees, but the ones with NASA facilities, contractors, etc, in their districts), were leaning against the notion.

                Like I said, Ron, either you get the members of the relevant committees on your side, address other members’ legitimate concerns about facilities, workforce, etc-and no vague promises like POTUS gave in his speech-but give a detailed “roadmap” of where, when, and how we plan to go about this, and you would have gotten support. If not….it never makes it out of committee.

              • Coastal Ron

                Matt said:

                Again, Boeing, Lockheed-Martin, Northrop-Grumman, etc. would be among the aerospace big boys that would benefit…

                Northrop Grumman?

                You really don’t know who does what, do you? Northrop Grumman does not build rockets, and the only spacecraft they build is a commercial satellite.

                You might have made more sense if you would have said ATK.

                And regarding Boeing and Lockheed Martin, I already told you why they aren’t lobbying for non-SLS and non-Orion approaches to space exploration – BECAUSE THEY MAKE MORE MONEY BUILDING THE SLS AND ORION!

                I don’t know how much more simple I can make that.

                …address other members’ legitimate concerns about facilities…

                If our future in space is dependent on “legitimate concerns about facilities”, then we won’t be going far.

                Quite honestly Matt, I don’t care if facilities are closed and job assignments end. That happens in the private sector all the time, and sometimes it’s a good thing to close out one activity before starting up another. NASA is not supposed to be a jobs program, even though Congress treats it as one.

                The SLS and Orion programs are the only ones I know of that have unusually high amounts of political interference. Once they are gone, and NASA can get back to competitive awards for major programs, then NASA should be able to move forward out into space in a much more realist manner – likely slow, but at least more realistically than it can today.

              • RockyMtnSpace

                Ron mumbled ignorantly – “You really don’t know who does what, do you? Northrop Grumman does not build rockets, and the only spacecraft they build is a commercial satellite.”

                NG is the current builder of JWST. Hardly a commercial satellite. NG was the satellite provider for the now defunct NPOESS constellation (NOAA/NASA). Hardly a commercial satellite. NG built the two NASA EOS satellites; AQUA and AURA. These are Earth sensing missions. They built the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory and Chandra X-ray Observatory (old TRW which was acquired in 2002). Not exactly commercial satellites. NG was the builder for the DoD DSP satellites. Not exactly a commercial satellite. They designed and built the DoD DSCS-II comm satellites. Not exactly a commercial satellite. The DoD/IC list is longer. You really don’t know who does what, do you?

                “And regarding Boeing and Lockheed Martin, I already told you why they aren’t lobbying for non-SLS and non-Orion approaches to space exploration – BECAUSE THEY MAKE MORE MONEY BUILDING THE SLS AND ORION!”

                Do you have numbers to back up that statement? I doubt you do. In my opinion only, I doubt either Boeing or LM make more money on SLS or Orion. As a cost-plus contract, their fee is likely in the 10-12% range which, depending on their accounting models, translates to probably 9-10% profit (or free cash). This is not all that impressive in terms of profit compared to most other business sectors but it is extremely low risk and that is why Boeing and LM prefer to execute Government contracts. I suspect Boeing and LM make more, in terms of profit, via the EELV business line.

              • Coastal Ron

                RockyMtnSpace whined:

                First you chastise me:

                Do you have numbers to back up that statement? I doubt you do.

                But then you do what you said I did:

                In my opinion only, I doubt either Boeing or LM make more money on SLS or Orion.

                Double standards, eh? ;-)

                As a cost-plus contract, their fee is likely in the 10-12% range which, depending on their accounting models, translates to probably 9-10% profit (or free cash).

                Cost Plus? Where do you get that? Each launch in individually negotiated. Not only that, but ULA gets $1B/year on top of that for “overhead and facilities cost”.

                You know the GAO issues a report on ULA just about every year, right?

                You need to go back to square one and re-educate yourself.

              • RockyMtnSpace

                Ron babbled on “Double standards, eh?”

                Hardly. You shouted at Matt “… I already told you why they aren’t lobbying for non-SLS and non-Orion approaches to space exploration – BECAUSE THEY MAKE MORE MONEY BUILDING THE SLS AND ORION!”

                Given this statement and its tone of admonishment, it is natural to assume that this was not an opinion you were stating, but an issue of fact. A tactic you use on a regular basis to silence those that don’t agree with you. I asked you to back up that statement of fact (which you haven’t yet done by the way). In contrast, I clearly prefaced my comment as an opinion only. Read and comprehend Ron.

                Then you really hit the dirt trail with this one:

                “Cost Plus? Where do you get that? Each launch in individually negotiated. Not only that, but ULA gets $1B/year on top of that for “overhead and facilities cost”.”

                If you had actually read and comprehended the statement, you would have recognized that the comment on cost-plus was in reference to Boeing’s and Lockheed’s contracts for SLS and Orion respectively. Let me replay the statement:

                “In my opinion only, I doubt either Boeing or LM make more money on SLS or Orion. As a cost-plus contract, their fee is likely in the 10-12% range which, depending on their accounting models, translates to probably 9-10% profit (or free cash).”

                Read and comprehend Ron. It is really a basic skill you should learn before posting for all of the world to see. It might save you from demonstrating the fool you are. Doing a little research would also help as your ignorance on NG space capabilities demonstrates.

                Also, just as a clarification, ULA does not negotiate each launch individually, at least not with DoD which is their primary customer. In the last acquisition round (Nov, 2012) totaling 50 rocket cores, ULA was awarded a block buy of 36 with the remaining 14 to be selected based on competitive bids. This is the first time since the formation of ULA that DoD has opened up launch opportunities for DoD national assets to anyone other than ULA. And before you embarrass yourself again Ron, ULA cannot, by law, bid on commercial launches. Only their parent companies are allowed to do that. That is why both Boeing and LM maintain Commercial Launch Services organizations within their respective corporate structures.

                As you have admonished others on this thread “… it’s pretty easy to understand things …, if you do a little research. You should try it sometime…” (smiley face)

            • Vladislaw

              As I said, the horse has already left the barn. Congress HAS already authorized all kinds of commercial activities. That was the whole point of Ronald Reagan working to get the Space Act ammended. That is the founding document for NASA and it now reads:

              “c) Commercial Use of Space.–Congress declares that the general welfare of the United States requires that the Administration seek and encourage, to the maximum extent possible, the fullest commercial use of space.”
              http://www.nasa.gov/offices/ogc/about/space_act1.html

              Reagan also was instrumental in getting the commercial EELV’s going.

              “Statement on Signing the Commercial Space Launch Act
              October 30, 1984
              I am pleased to sign into law H.R. 3942, the Commercial Space Launch Act. One of the important objectives of my administration has been, and will continue to be, the encouragement of the private sector in commercial space endeavors. Fragmentation and shared authority had unnecessarily complicated the process of approving activities in space. Enactment of this legislation is a milestone in our efforts to address the need of private companies interested in launching payloads to have ready access to space.”
              http://www.reagan.utexas.edu/archives/speeches/1984/103084i.htm

              NASA is MANDATED to use more commercial sources. The porkonauts in congress have tried raising every roadblock they could though but now it is too late. The price differences for commercial launches versus anything the Senate Launch System can launch is freakin’ staggering….

              Members of congress will just no longer fund that pork and as each year of commercial space has progressed, NASA’s budget is having the “pork premium” chopped out.

              In the end.. NASA will have absolutely no choice in the matter, their budget will only allow funding for commercial choices.

              • Hiram

                “In the end.. NASA will have absolutely no choice in the matter, their budget will only allow funding for commercial choices.”

                I think that’s correct. Payloads for SLS are already out of the question. It’s mostly just about pork, but it’s also wishful thinking, in that, sure, SLS payloads are going to be hugely expensive, but when the American public sees what a grand launcher we have, money will just come raining down for payloads. The NASA budget will increase to meet the demand. How could it not??

                Remember that? That was the foundation of Constellation, in which the program continued on an unsustainable fiscal trajectory while the program advocates prayed for a large budget bumpup in the agency. That’s where a budget is built on dreams rather than on reality.

                Not really clear where the end game is here. At some point, Shelby has to see the handwriting on the wall. But until then, SLS will end up getting attached, earmark-like, into approps bills.

              • Matt

                Vadislaw, there’s nothing there that dictates using commercial vehicles for every possible use. Not to mention that there is a difference between what is possible technically and what is possible politically. As long as Rohrabacher is the voice in the wilderness on The Hill, calling for a commercially based program, it’s not going to happen. If the members of Congress whose own constituents would benefit from a commercially based program were serious, they’d be joining forces with him. So far, they’re not.

                Unless you can convince those members on the committees in both houses that deal with NASA that such a program would be beneficial, not just to their competition, but to everyone, it’s not going to get approval. If those who manufacture commercial rockets were so interested, why aren’t they lobbying for NASA to use their vehicles for NASA BEO missions? Not just Atlas V and Delta IV Heavy, but Falcon 9/Falcon 9 Heavy as well…

                Again, there’s plenty of blame to go around, but I blame the Administration: they assumed Congress would just roll over and play dead, that the blowback from affected communities and firms would be easily contained, and that a then-Democratic controlled congress (this is prior to the Nov ’10 midterm election, mind you) would approve their proposals wholeheartedly. They were wrong. Even Sen. Nelson, who got POTUS to go to the Cape for that speech at that choir meeting known as a “Space Summit”, was critical of the Administration’s revised plans after that. Not a good way to get started, if you get one of your regular supporters on the other side.

  • Hiram

    “We don’t need NASA to tell us that being a multi-planetary species would be a good idea, it’s either self-evident or it’s not.”

    That’s baloney. Nothing is “either self-evident or it’s not”. You don’t base policy on that screed. If it’s self evident, then NASA, or Congress, or the White House can SAY IT out loud. The fact that they haven’t strongly suggests that it is NOT self-evident. As you suggest, the need for colonization and settlement of Mars is far more of an executive or legislative pronouncement to be making than for NASA to be making. It’s self-evident but they aren’t brave enough to say it? That’s what I think you’re saying. Many people would say it is self-evident that human spaceflight is an anachronism. Shall we just take their word for it? Depends on who the “self” is, no?

    As to whether our government would fund such an effort, the question is whether taxpayer dollars, spent in the better interest of the nation, should fund it. You’re correct, that if there is no acknowledged threat to our way of life (I mean “our” as in “our nation”), they won’t. If Elon Musk wants to colonize Mars to fulfill his personal dream, more power to him! Let him get out his checkbook.

    • Coastal Ron

      Hiram said:

      Nothing is “either self-evident or it’s not”.

      I should have gone a little deeper. What I meant is that people will either care about humanity having a future in case Earth is wiped out, or they won’t – for various reasons. For instance, some people might feel that their religion says the end of the mortal world is not the end of their souls, and that sooner or later things are going to end – completely. Convincing people with that belief is not going to happen.

      But even those of us that think being multi-planetary is a good idea don’t know what value to assign to it. Do we need to make that happen by the end of this century, or should we been making this a current priority? Not enough info to make it a priority yet.

      So unless we get some high-powered politicians to get excited about being multi-planetary, they will just kick the can down the road.

      If Elon Musk wants to colonize Mars to fulfill his personal dream, more power to him! Let him get out his checkbook.

      I’d invest in SpaceX knowing his goals if he ever does an IPO. Not a lot, as I don’t see a near-term threat to our survival, but some since I’m enough of an idealist that I’d want to look out for my descendants.

    • Vladislaw

      It has been said .. there are plenty of reports by the government and or funded by the government and been reported on.

      http://adsabs.harvard.edu/cgi-bin/nph-abs_connect?bibcode=1987STICA…7..217F&return_req=no_params&selfeedback=1&use_title=YES&use_kwds=YES&return_req=feedback

      • Hiram

        “plenty of reports by the government and or funded by the government” do not make space policy.

        In any case, this is a pretty ratty collection of colonization and settlement papers, by the way. I had no idea that Lou Friedman at the Planetary Society was “funded by the government”. As per most everyone else here. Ooooh, Bob Zubrin on the government take??

        No one is saying that space colonization and settlement hasn’t been discussed and even advocated. I’m saying that it has not been adopted (or even hinted at) as national policy. I welcome examples of where it has been because, frankly, human space flight doesn’t make a lot of sense to me unless that’s the goal.

        • Vladislaw

          From the VSE, in the President’s forward”

          “Goal and Objectives
          Extend human presence across the solar system”

          Now .. maybe I am not fully understanding that line, but when the President says he wants to extend human presence across the entire solar system, for economic gain, I would think it was self evident he is talking about colonization, as a long term goal, starting with the moon and mars.

          “Across Multiple Worlds

          NASA will make progress across a broad front of destinations, starting with a return to the Moon to enable future human exploration of Mars and other worlds. Consistent with recent discoveries, NASA will focus on possible habitable environments on Mars, the moons of Jupiter,”

          I kinda doubt you will ever see NASA or the Government use the word colonization, to many negative connatations to that word.

          • Hiram

            “Now .. maybe I am not fully understanding that line, but when the President says he wants to extend human presence across the entire solar system, for economic gain, I would think it was self evident he is talking about colonization”

            Far from it. It takes one human to extend human presence. So send a bloke to Jupiter. In fact, MSL extends some admittedly poor “human presence” to Mars, but without a human body being there. Besides, VSE was a policy document we haven’t heard from in a long time. The VSE could have said “colonization” and “settlement”. It could have said “footprints, and lots of them”. Those would have been easy words to use. So, why didn’t it use them? You know, and I do too. The idea of those words scares the hell out of federal space policy makers.

            The profound failing of human space flight planning, especially as our robotics and telerobotics get so good, is that planners can’t admit to the world that colonization and settlement is what human space flight is really all about. They are deathly scared to do that.

    • Dave Klingler

      It’s probably not all the same to you, but I seriously doubt humanity will ever be “multi-planetary”. There’s simply no reason to be. I’d be very happy to see us further develop our infrastructure in LEO, considering that our hold on LEO is very tenuous and there are no official US plans for an ISS successor.

      As Gerard O’Neill asked, “Is the surface of a planet really the right place for expanding technological civilization?”

      The answer then and now is very clearly “no”. I have no interest in putting governmental effort toward the Moon or Mars. Let the billionaires plant their footprints, if they’d like, when it’s cheap and easy to use LEO as a base camp.

      • Hiram

        “I seriously doubt humanity will ever be “multi-planetary”. There’s simply no reason to be.”

        This is well put. Now, of course, even Stephen Hawking has recommended that species preservation calls for expanding humanity into the solar system, but as I said, the security we gain from that could be more economically achieved otherwise and, in many respects, isn’t even all that secure.

        As to putting human presence on other worlds, how about if we put Stephen Hawking on another world? Would that count as “human presence”? He’s a human. He can see and hear. He can sort of communicate, and he can roll around. But he can’t do anything else. Well geez, we can put robotic surrogates on other worlds that can see and hear for humans, communicate to humans, and roll around. So as noted, the words “human presence” are very slippery ones.

      • Actually, there is a very big reason to be: money. Scientists have shown there is unimaginable mineral wealth in even medium-sized asteroids of the appropriate type. To conduct such mining operations on a continuing scale probably would require human operators.
        If you have manned spaceflight that extends out to asteroids, it is not likely the big prize of Mars would just lie there unexplored.

        Bob Clark

        • Hiram

          You take the same medium-size chunk of an “appropriate” piece of the Earth, and there would be “unimaginable wealth” there as well. A medium-sized asteroid is a largely unimaginably big piece of rock! The key here, though, is “appropriate type”. Such asteroids (mostly class M) are pretty rare, and largely not easily accessible. I don’t believe any are potential ARM targets.

          It is rarely appreciated that there is a hugely rich ball of rock circling the sun right now. It will make many people very very wealthy. In fact, it already has.

          No question that human operators would be needed for large scale mining operations. The question is whether the human operators need to be there.

        • Coastal Ron

          Robert Clark said:

          Actually, there is a very big reason to be: money. Scientists have shown there is unimaginable mineral wealth in even medium-sized asteroids of the appropriate type.

          Let’s not forget how the raw resources economy works – you don’t make “unimaginable wealth” for simply finding a large cache of needed material, you have to deliver it to a customer who is willing to pay you money for it.

          And let’s not forget how the law of supply and demand works either. If you find an asteroid filled with “Mineral X” and you start shipping it to Earth and the consumption market for “Mineral X”, then likely the price for it will drop. It could even drop a lot.

          That’s why that “unimaginable wealth” may not happen immediately, especially since you have to find the people or companies that already have “unimaginable wealth” that want to trade it for lots and lots of “Mineral X”.

          Let’s hope we eventually have this problem to deal with, but it’s going to be a pretty long time until it happens.

          • Vladislaw

            Actually there isn’t any market yet for offworld resources. Dennis Hope would probably be the closest thing to an actual market.

            Once again we are plagued with no property rights regime yet. On terra firma you have mineral rights auctions all the time, and rights are freely traded. In North Dakota, we have been selling mineral rights for coal .. since … forever. Coal companies will have speculative rights on property that have been around since the turn of the century and never been exercised. But they are carried in the books as an asset. Their value is always changing as coal prices change.

            So even if not a single pound of asteroid has actually been mined, we could have a pretty robust speculative market for real estate and mineral rights for offworld proporties.

  • Hiram

    “I should have gone a little deeper. What I meant is that people will either care about humanity having a future in case Earth is wiped out, or they won’t – for various reasons.”

    People who don’t care about humanity having a future in case the Earth is wiped out include the Administration and Congress, I then have to guess. They evidently don’t care about humanity being wiped out since they don’t offer us a goal of planetary colonization. Is that what you’re saying? They show no interest in planetary colonization.

    Let’s face it. What planetary colonization offers is a way to survive, as a species, a global tragedy that is not under human control. Like an asteroid impact. Survive a war? Nope. Whoever can lob hydrogen bombs across our nation can lob them onto Mars. Survive a rogue medical threat? Nope. Someone will end up bringing those bugs to Mars as humans escape there.

    So let’s talk about asteroid impacts, which don’t involve human decisions. What planetary colonization offers the taxpayer is a way to preserve the species when the rock hits, without necessarily preserving the taxpayer or his or her descendants. What? You think YOU’RE going to go to Mars and escape yourself? No way. A vastly better way to preserve the species is to prevent an impact, and we pretty much KNOW HOW TO DO THAT. We do that by first charting the solar system, and then proving a deflection strategy, of which many have been proposed. That better way protects ME and my descendants. That’s a kind of preservation the taxpayer will gladly buy into.

    I have to say that what our Congress cares about is firstly preserving our nation, and secondly about preserving its citizens. It doesn’t give a flying fig about preserving our species.

    I’m not saying that being a multiplanetary species isn’t a good idea. It’s just not obvious that it’s a great idea right now, and Congress and the Administration, in their infinite wisdom, appear to feel the same way.

  • Dave Klingler

    Some thoughts on the Space Policy Online article:

    I find myself agreeing with Scott Pace, in that if the Administration put together an international project similar to the IGA, whether for the Moon, Mars, an asteroid…whatever, it would have more chance of reaching fruition. I heard Bill Clinton say once that he had come to the conclusion that the ISS would never get done unless he put it in a treaty, which constitutionally supercedes just about everything in the US budget. The IGA was his solution, and it worked.

    I also read Logsdon’s warning about backsliding and for the first time I wonder whether Garver wasn’t run out of NASA as part of some political deal for Congressional support. There are a lot of entrenched interests that wanted her gone, not just yesterday but ten years ago.

    The answer to that one will probably remain speculation, but I know Garver has a deep and abiding love for space exploration; I served with her on the SEDS National Board. I’d be surprised if she’s not involved with some NewSpace company in a few years when it doesn’t look like a huge conflict of interest. And that may also be the answer; she may have figured out herself that it was time to leave NASA if she wanted to continue shaping the cutting edge.

  • Justin Kugler

    Chris Kraft was interviewed recently by the Houston Chronicle’s science reporter, Eric Berger, and he doesn’t have kind words for either SLS or the lack of direction.

    http://blog.chron.com/sciguy/2013/09/apollo-legend-on-nasa-its-a-tragedy-it-really-is/

    • I think this line from that article is particularly telling:

      I think it’s safe to say these are viewpoints NASA officials aren’t sharing with President Obama’s administration nor the members of Congress. But having spoken to a number of current NASA officials and even astronauts, many of them will privately express these views as well.

      Bob Clark

      • I have yet to work in a single place where everyone has the same opinion on management priorities. Unless you’re self-employed.

        There are plenty of people in NASA who are thrilled with commercial cargo and crew, with the ISS, etc. And then there are people who are fantasizing that Apollo will magically happen again.

        It doesn’t matter. As with any other agency or business, the people at the top determine the policy.

  • This story ran into today’s Florida Today:

    “KSC Employment Dips Below Lowest Point”

    KSC’s total work force this summer dipped below 8,000 for the first time since NASA began keeping comprehensive records in 1964, two years after the center was formally established.

    The total — including civil servants, contractors, construction workers and other tenants — is about half what it was four years ago and hundreds less than the previous low reached in 1976, a year after American and Soviet crews met in space and five years before the first shuttle launch.

    With local astronaut launches not planned before 2017 on commercial vehicles and 2021 on a NASA rocket, Kennedy jobs may not have hit the bottom but aren’t expected to fall much further.

    Center Director Bob Cabana expects the numbers to stay flat for another year or more before the new commercial operations and NASA’s exploration program start to ramp up.

    “It will never be what it was during shuttle and Apollo,” Cabana said recently at an exhibit of the retired shuttle Atlantis at the KSC Visitor Complex. “It’s a different time, but I think it’s definitely a positive atmosphere here. Things are improving greatly on a weekly basis.”

    If you get into the detail of the numbers, it turns out that the number of NASA civil servants is actually up from where it was about ten years ago. The reduction has been mostly with the contractors.

    I know James Dean didn’t intend it this way, but the article will certain give more ammunition to people who think the sole purpose of the U.S. space program is to protect lifelong government contractor jobs for space worker union members.

    It’s a time of change. Some people don’t like change. Especially if that change means their guaranteed-for-life government job isn’t guaranteed any more because it’s obsolete.

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