NASA

Garver: NASA should cancel SLS and Mars 2020

A segment of public radio’s Diane Rehm Show on Thursday examined “The Future of Space Exploration” with several guests, including former NASA deputy administrator Lori Garver, and Garver used the occasion to make some of her most critical comments about two key NASA programs since leaving the space agency four months ago.

Early in the show, Garver hinted that NASA wasn’t spending its budget as effectively as it could after Rehm suggested NASA’s core problem was that it didn’t have a big enough budget. “I’m not sure it is, actually,” she said. “I believe that NASA and their $17 billion has an incredibly exciting and important space program. Of course, we could do even more with our $17 billion, and I think if we did that we would engender that support from the public and their elected leadership.”

Later, after Washington Post journalist Joel Achenbach brought up the issue of too much program for the budget, something he covered in an article last week, Garver said it was an issue of making tradeoffs and dealing with various science and human spaceflight constituencies. “Space isn’t really partisan, it’s parochial,” she said. “NASA needs to push and do new things, and be less about the status quo and the already-developed constituencies and keeping them fed.”

Later in the show, Rehm asked Garver what NASA programs she felt should be cut. “To me, I think those particular programs that are built on previous technology,” she said. “Right now, we’re building a huge rocket called the Space Launch System, the SLS. It was something that Congress dictated to NASA that it had to do, with the Orion spacecraft. It is a holdover from Constellation, which the Obama Administration tried to cancel, and it’s $3 billion a year of NASA’s $17 billion. Is that how you would be investing in the space program? Where is it going to go? When will it even fly?” (The $3-billion figure she cited is actually the approximate combined value of the SLS and Orion budgets, not SLS alone.)

Another guest, Scott Pace of George Washington University’s Space Policy Institute, defended SLS. “If we’re going to be going to Mars eventually, if someone wants to do a human mission to Mars, you basically do need a heavy-lift vehicle,” he said. Constellation, he argued would have developed that heavy-lift rocket (the Ares V) in a more logical manner by starting with the smaller Ares I.

Garver wasn’t convinced. “The rocket is so similar, and it’s built off of 1970s technology. The very engines we’re going to use are Space Shuttle engines that were developed in the 1970s. Would you really go to Mars with technology that’s 50 years old? That’s not what innovation and our space exploration program should be all about.”

She was also critical of another major NASA program, plans to send a rover to Mars in 2020 closely modeled on the Curiosity rover. “I would not redo the Curiosity mission,” she said. “I would invest that planetary science mission in doing something new like Europa, or going to Mars in a more creative and innovative way where we can again drive technology.” That built upon comments she made earlier in the show. “If you’re a Mars scientist, you want to keep having NASA fund your Mars missions and keep redoing, for instance, what we just did with Curiosity is now planned again for 2020, instead of what you could be doing, driving in a new direction on Europa.”

While NASA’s decision just over a year ago to proceed with a 2020 Mars rover met with complaints from some parts of the planetary science community, who felt NASA was overemphasizing Mars over other parts of the solar system, it is largely consistent with the decadal survey the community produced in 2011. That report identified as the top priority large, or “flagship,” mission a Mars rover that would cache samples for later return to Earth. A science definition team report published in July did indeed recommend that the rover include the ability to cache samples for a future, as yet undefined, sample return mission.

Garver’s comments about SLS in particular represented her strongest criticism of the program since leaving NASA in early September, but she previously offered more subtle criticism of the program. “In my view, we should not be debating whether or not we should have the ability to terminate a program that is not working in a cost-plus environment,” she said in a speech at the meeting of the FAA’s Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee (COMSTAC) on December 11 in Washington. That was a reference to legislation the House Science Committee was considering that day that would effectively prevent NASA from canceling several key programs unless Congress approved. Among those programs covered by the House bill is the SLS.

In her COMSTAC remarks, Garver also emphasized innovation, as she did on the talk show Thursday. “The government should be advancing space commerce, and that is the best way to have an innovative program that out-competes the world,” she said last month.

160 comments to Garver: NASA should cancel SLS and Mars 2020

  • Rhyolite

    Canceling the purposeless pork rocket is a no brainer but I would take issue with canceling Mars 2020. Anything SLS can do could be replaced with a combination of EELVs and FH. On the other hand, considerable NRE went into developing the Curiosity platform. Reusing it with new sensors to go after different targets makes sense to me – there is still a lot of exploration to do on Mars. There should be more than enough money saved from canceling SLS to do a flagship mission to Europa.

    • reader

      Can you clearly articulate the science goals of 2020 rover ? Nobody can, because that mission was not selected for science goals.

      It was selected to keep the lights on at JPL, keep the expertise at LockMart space systems for doing martian landers, and to keep a lot of martian scientists on their grants.
      The claims that this rover was selected by decadal survey are demonstrably false according to publicly available documentation, and even decadal survey is not really objective body as it’s very much influenced by the level of experience by proposal submitters and their support funding. Can you guess which planetary science group has the most of both ?

      And if anyone actually cared a little about anything but science, we would be landing an array of robotic craft on lunar probes and multiple asteroids to figure out if space resources can actually be utilized at all.

    • reader

      And don’t think for a second that Garver is not aware of these issues, i bet she has fought more vested interests and fiefdoms than outside observers are even aware of.

      Pork has different flavors, just because we can slap a “Science” label on it does not make it icecream.

      BTW, look up the two senators that congratulated JPL^H^H sorry NASA on the 2020 Rover selection, and then go look at which aerospace contractors are their big campaign contributors. I’m sure its purely a casual correlation.

  • red

    “While NASA’s decision just over a year ago to proceed with a 2020 Mars rover met with complaints from some parts of the planetary science community, who felt NASA was overemphasizing Mars over other parts of the solar system, it is largely consistent with the decadal survey the community produced in 2011.”

    I think the 2020 Mars rover is not wildly inconsistent with the spirit of the Decadal Survey’s direction for the highest priority flagship mission, which was for a descoped version of MAX-C. However, having any flagship mission at all in a Planetary Science budgetary environment that is considerably lower than that envisioned by the Survey (i.e. the current situation) is totally inconsistent with the Survey’s specific decision rules:

    “It is also possible that the budget picture could be less favorable than the committee has assumed. If cuts to the program are necessary, the first approach should be descoping or delaying Flagship missions. Changes to the New Frontiers or Discovery programs should be considered only if adjustments to Flagship missions cannot solve the problem. And high priority should be placed on preserving funding for research and analysis programs and for technology development.”

    The Survey wanted a Discovery mission about once every 2 years. Right now with budget cuts and the Flagship mission, the future of the Discovery program is almost no missions at all. Drastically cutting Discovery while funding a Flagship completely violates the intent of the Survey. You might be able to get 3 or so Discovery missions for that 1 Flagship, which would at least keep Planetary Science on life support.

    The NASA that once launched waves of Discovery missions, plus robotic precursor missions (LRO/LCROSS), small Moon-specific missions (LADEE), and small Mars Scout missions (MAVEN) is gone.

    As for SLS … what monstrous waste. Garver’s $3B/year estimate of the waste isn’t too far off if you include SLS itself, SLS ground systems, and the large portion of cross-agency support that should be attributed to SLS.

    • reader

      How the rover mission got selected has very little to do with decadal survey. You have to ignore a large body of evidence to think that.
      The program managers are now trying to reverse engineer decadal survey goals onto the mission to make amends, but this is retroactive and of dubious value. Why the heck does that rover cache samples anyway if we dont even have an inkling of a plan of how to retrieve them ?

  • James

    2020 Mars Rover is about keeping JPL alive
    SLS is about keeping KSC, JSC, and MSFC, and Stennis Alive

    NASA’s reliance on Decadal survey’s is quaint, and outdated. There is never enough money to implement them anyway. It takes gobs of time to assemble, solicit ideas, vet for technical and cost feasibility, then play the politics of whose mission gets top dog status. All the trading of ponies in the pen . Publish it, then have HQ create a strategic plan to implement it, w/o enough funds to do so.

    Then, congress porkers pull punches and circumvent them anyway.

    Egad, what a waste.

    To wit: The Earth Science Decadal of 2007: So far, nothing launched from Tier1 Missions. Astrophysics: Maybe WFIRST/AFTA – that’s it. Explorers continues though GEMS was cancelled last year (the Energizer Bunny program of NASA..it keeps on ticking despite the budget lickings!); heck AP is farming out it’s science to ESA.

    Etc. Etc. Etc.

    NASA HQ folks are plugged in enough to know what science is deemed ‘next’; but they don’t lead, they follow, so we have the mess we have.

    • Hiram

      “NASA’s reliance on Decadal survey’s is quaint, and outdated.”

      No, it’s that NASA’s servicing of the Decadal Surveys is incompetent. Because there is never the money available that NASA told the Decadal Surveys to plan for. Yep, those surveys are planning to projected budget numbers provided by NASA. (And the survey teams are free to dream a bit about whether those projections might be low.) The survey teams aren’t making up those numbers out of whole cloth. The Decadal Surveys are an important idea, for developing consensus in the science community.

      That’s what the Decadal Surveys ARE. They aren’t laundry dream/wishlists. They are hard won recommendations of the best way to spend a very finite amount of money.

      So you can blame NASA, but what they need to be blamed for isn’t relying on the Decadal Surveys. It’s for misleading those survey committees about the available resources.

      Case in point. The Astrophysics 2010 Decadal Survey for which space astronomy was, soon after it was released, totally trashed by JWST cost overruns.

      • James

        With the lack of forward progress being made on implementing Decadal surveys’, it is unnecessary to revisit them every 10 years. If you want to keep them, make them a 50 year plan, not a 10 year plan.

        E.g: If you look at average time, say for the AP Decadal, from when you are named Big Dog Flagship, to when you actually fly, it’s about 18 years on average. Not sure I’d want to win given that time frame. Everybody else can go home except Explorer PI’s.

        Also, the consensus you talk about isn’t always there. Horse trading goes on between groups within survey teams, and missions get invented that weren’t even submitted (WFIRST). The communities as a whole aren’t aligned as sub communities vie for their science and are disgruntled if they don’t come out on top. Cause if you dont come out on top, you can forget your flagship for about another 20 years. There is usually much grief to spread around with these Decadals are announced.
        HQ of course, which has a difficult time making decisions loves them, because it’s their road map for the next 10 years.

        Tis an interesting game being played. Time to play a new one.

        • Hiram

          “With the lack of forward progress being made on implementing Decadal surveys’, it is unnecessary to revisit them every 10 years. If you want to keep them, make them a 50 year plan, not a 10 year plan.”

          That doesn’t make a lot of sense. You’re saying that since NASA can’t effectively respond to the careful assessment and strategic analysis that the science community does with the Decadals, it would do better by just avoiding that careful assessment and strategic analysis altogether. Hey, that was easy! I look at it differently. I think that NASA should help charter the Decadals in ways that it can be responsive to. Ten year plans are about right, because ten years are a reasonable time constant for technology change and innovation.

          As to consensus, you’re confusing it with some kind of fairness. Consensus is where the science community goes to Congress, holds a Decadal Survey in their left hand, raises their right hand, and says THIS IS WHAT WE WANT. The snarling, greediness, and infighting that went into it doesn’t count at that stage. Congress loves that. It absolutely loves it. That’s because Congress is uncomfortable judging science, and they don’t want to be lobbied on science needs.

          Hey, without such consensus, SMD could be just like HEOMD, with outwardly partisan groups arguing over SLS and human spaceflight destinations. Scott Pace has suggested that HEOMD do Decadal Surveys. I’m not sure if that would work, but he’s right. Human space flight at NASA has no sort of community consensus that grounds it. The problem, I guess, in that case, is establishing what constitutes community.

    • reader

      “NASA’s reliance on Decadal survey’s is quaint, and outdated.”

      Not only that, but the idea that decadal survey represents a just and impartial assessment of overall science priorities has no basis. Groups with more experience and present funding are in much better position to submit stronger proposals and hence lock everyone else out for NEXT TEN YEARS.

      Plus, i think it’s insane that robotic exploration program is solely driven by science, not technology goals.

      • Hiram

        “Plus, i think it’s insane that robotic exploration program is solely driven by science, not technology goals.”

        Let’s be clear. There is no “robotic exploration program” at NASA. There is a science directorate, and there is an, ahem, a human space flight directorate hiding as an “exploration” directorate. Robotic exploration at NASA isn’t “driven” by science, it’s what scientists agree that they need to do the best science. There is no reason that HEOMD can’t use robots to help with human space flight. Absolutely no reason at all. In fact, you’re right that it’s kind of insane that they don’t. But please don’t try to redefine science to do what human spaceflight needs to do.

        “the idea that decadal survey represents a just and impartial assessment of overall science priorities has no basis. Groups with more experience and present funding are in much better position to submit stronger proposals and hence lock everyone else out for NEXT TEN YEARS.”

        Groups with more experience shouldn’t be in a better position to submit strong proposals? Hey, let’s get a bunch of inexperienced people in there! That’ll make for better missions, no?

        The justness and impartiality of Decadal Surveys is irrelevant. What counts is that they are assessments and strategic planning that is independent of the agencies and industries that are going to be paid to do the work. That’s what we should call “just”. By the way, a “group” is defined as a collection of people that offer strength to a task. Groups morph to accrue that strength. Why in the world shouldn’t groups with the most strength to perform a task be chosen to do that task? There is nothing about science, or any federally funded activity, that says that everyone has to have an equal chance to get funding irrespective of their experience. If I want to get a roof put on my house, should I look for outfits with less experience and no present funding?

        • reader

          The justness and impartiality of Decadal Surveys is irrelevant

          It’s really not. Lets be clear – we all know that Mars will get funding because there are more Mars scientists and they have done the proposals a million times, and there are more proposals and better structured proposals for Mars in the first place. PLUS, Mars has its own fat funding line that has nothing to do with Decadal. Thats why we are looking at four rovers on Mars and fifth one in the making.

          Good just science value ? You’d have to try really prove that it is.

          If I want to get a roof put on my house, should I look for outfits with less experience and no present funding?
          The problem is, if you want a toilet installed you will get your roof replaced instead. So your house will will be special in always having the shiniest, newest roof.

          If you wanted a balanced science program, you would have at minimum an independent external advisory board consisting of people that have no vested interest in planetary science or anything space related at all. The would have to be scientifically literate, still. Hmm .. where to find one .. i know i know this one, there is whole big NSF right there with multiple multidisciplinary review boards for all sorts of science and it works just fine!

          • Hiram

            “Lets be clear – we all know that Mars will get funding because there are more Mars scientists and they have done the proposals a million times, and there are more proposals and better structured proposals for Mars in the first place.”

            That reminds me of the line that Moon samples are important because SO MANY SCIENCE PAPERS have come out of the Apollo samples. That’s, of course, because SO MUCH MONEY has been plowed into Apollo sample analysis. Not because those papers are necessarily all that good. You’re right. But that’s the way the world works. Large expenditures make a large community, looking to preserve itself. Welcome to reality.

            “Mars has its own fat funding line that has nothing to do with Decadal”

            That’s a strange comment. NASA science investments are guided by the Decadals. Fat funding is justified by fat prioritization.

            “If you wanted a balanced science program, you would have at minimum an independent external advisory board consisting of people that have no vested interest in planetary science or anything space related at all.”

            Your science program might be “balanced”, but it would be meaningless as well. Yeah, let’s get a bunch of economists or doctors to tell us what science we need to do on Mars. Oooh, better yet, let’s get a bunch of planetary scientists to define U.S. fiscal policy and oversee U.S. cancer research! That will ensure “balance”, no? In fact, the planetary decadal committee included lots of scientists who had nothing to do with Mars, and in terms of eventual support, could be considered completely “independent” from Mars investments.

            Now, as to an independent external advisory board, that’s what’s going on up on the 9th floor, and at OMB where the SMD budget plan goes. You think the SMD budget goes straight to Congress??

            “i know i know this one”

            No you don’t. The multidisciplinary boards at NSF are for research lines that are (drum roll) multidisciplinary and crosscutting.

            “Good just science value ? You’d have to try really prove that it is.”

            Can I point to to (oops!) the 2011 Planetary Decadal Survey? It’s proved to the people who understand science value. Were you one of them?

            As to toilets and roofs, if you need a new toilet, and accidentally have a new roof installed, I sure can’t help you.

            • reader

              So, some of your points would make sense if MSL 2 / 2020 was selected by a decadal survey process.

              Let me point this out once more : It. Was. Not.

              And for engaging economists for planning would be a marvellous idea, but that was not my point. Like i said, having a scientific review board of people with no direct connection to space or planetary science would eliminate a lot of bias from the flawed system.

              And now, go back to top priorities of the decadal survey, and count how many of these are actually being worked on ? The contrast between theory and practice is pretty stark.

              • Hiram

                “So, some of your points would make sense if MSL 2 / 2020 was selected by a decadal survey process. Let me point this out once more : It. Was. Not.”

                Not. By. Name. But put on your glasses.

                “Mars 2020 would be intended to ‘… enable concrete progress toward sample return, thereby satisfying the NRC Planetary Decadal Survey science recommendations….’ This plan would be consistent with that of the Decadal Survey’s MAX-C concept: to seek out and identify materials from former habitable environments, to collect them, and to cache them on Mars for return to Earth by later spacecraft missions. Mars 2020 would not be MAX-C as envisioned in the Decadal Survey (NRC, 2011), in that Mars 2020 would be based on hardware designs of MSL rather than of MER, and would be able to accommodate HEOMD payload elements.”

                That’s from the July 2013 report of the Mars 2020 Science Definition Team. Max-C, of course, was the highest priority flagship mission in that 2011 Decadal report. Max-C was cancelled a year after that report came out because it was looking so expensive, and Mars 2020 was going to try to be a more economical approach to reach the same goals, but with a different hardware approach. THE SAME GOALS. See, was that so hard?

                Oh, by the way, Mars 2020 is NOT an approved mission. It doesn’t have a new start. It doesn’t have a budget line. It’s a concept study. It’s a well funded concept study (ah, that’s your “fat funding”), but hey, for a flagship mission, why wouldn’t it be? This concept study is very much consistent with the expressed scientific needs of that survey report, and it’s a concept that is trying hard to satisfy the recommendations of that report.

                As to the number of priorities of the Decadal Survey that are being worked on, let me say once again that Max-C was the highest priority large mission, and Mars 2020 logically inherits that rating. But yes, as I’ve been saying, I wish that more Decadal priorities were being worked on. NASA can’t afford to work on them, and in many respects misled the Decadal committee about how much money it had to work on them.

                “having a scientific review board of people with no direct connection to space or planetary science would eliminate a lot of bias from the flawed system”

                Well, most people don’t consider it a “flawed system”, and if I forgive any bias, it’s bias of experience and skill. Yup, those experienced and skilled proposers are going to get special attention, amazingly enough. Don’t be thick.

              • reader

                We are getting further but facts are still not quite aligning with the claims here.
                Mars 2020 was going to try to be a more economical approach to reach the same goals,

                No, not true. Mars 2020 was not about sample return at all, when it was announced. Let it sink in. It was another Mars rover, which needed to find its scientific justification after the mission was launched.

                THE SAME GOALS.
                No, not even close. Look at the currently planned payload budgets and try the same claim again.

                Oh, by the way, Mars 2020 is NOT an approved mission.
                Yes it is, the AO is already out, proposals due about 10 days from now, it has guaranteed funding line for this year and the next.

                let me say once again that Max-C was the highest priority large mission
                And MSL2 is not Max-C – at the point of the announcement and not now. Until AO responses are evaluated and ranked we wont know, and there are already preallocated payloads on it that have very little to do with Max-C

                it’s bias of experience and skill.
                Yes i know, never question the “authorities”, thanks for reminding me.

              • Hiram

                “We are getting further but facts are still not quite aligning with the claims here.”

                I’ll say.

                This thread was about consistency of Mars 2020 with Decadal Survey goals. Again, that text from the SDT report I quoted above says *precisely* that Mars 2020 is consistent with those goals. But maybe the SDT was made up of your feared “authorities”? Maybe you’d like to challenge them about lies you think they’re telling?

                As to being an approved mission, take a deep breath. Mars 2020 has no explicit line in the 2013 NASA budget. As you should know, the AO that is out is for science investigations only, not for the hardware design and development. That AO is explicitly being solicited in order to allow the project to start Phase A which, you might be aware from NASA project lifecycle definitions, is “Concept and Technology Development (i.e., define the project and identify and initiate necessary technology)”. Well, gee, if you want to design a rover, it’s a good idea to select the kind of science you might like to do on it. Phase A is NOT a new start. It is NOT a commitment to fly. It’s concept development. “Concept” as in, we’re really not sure we’re going to do it, but would like some details about what it might look like.

                This AO is for Phase A/B investigations. Funding for this year, and the next, as you say. The winners of this competition are not guaranteed that they will be on the Mars 2020 team if it is built and launched. Their work must be confirmed before proceeding to development (Phase C). That being the case, NASA can always pull the plug on these teams if Mars 2020 isn’t going to happen. It has no obligation to these selected science teams to fly their stuff, which Lori Garver knows well.

                Yes, NASA is getting serious about Mars 2020. It is approved for concept and technology development (which is indeed a significant investment). It is NOT approved for construction and launch. Lots of missions go through Phase A without ever being launched.

                “Mars 2020 was not about sample return at all”

                Coulda fooled me. As well as the SDT words abouve, the Mars 2020 AO specifically says “In addition, scientific investigations will enable future Mars exploration by identifying and rigorously selecting a suite of samples for placement into a cache for potential future return to Earth.” That’s what NASA says. Not your feared “authorities”.

                I hope that helps to align things for you. The consistency with Decadal goals is explicit. Other than that, the confusion here may be about what the word “approved” means. “Approved” to enter Phase A and do concept development is a minor approval, in the grand scheme of things.

              • reader

                selecting a suite of samples for placement into a cache for potential future return to Earth.” That’s what NASA says. Not your feared “authorities”.

                Selecting samples and caching them NOT returning them to earth. Emphasis on the word potential. And everyone without vested interests is asking what good is a sample cache if you have no idea or plan on how to retrieve them.
                DC survey didnt ask for “cache me some samples” so it’s not consistent.

                Mars 2020 has no explicit line in the 2013 NASA budget.
                You are wrong on this one. Mars has had, still does have and most likely will continue to have an explicit line in SMD budget slice. Decadal survey or not. And there are budget allocation plans stretching well into FY2012 that plan the expenditures, with lions share going to the 2020 rover for a few years.

              • reader

                Sorry, that was meant to be “well into FY2020″

                The figures : Mars exploration had explicit $500M in FY2012, $360 in FY2013 and about $250M in FY2014 and is projected to go up to $500M levels in FY2017 and FY2018 to fund the rover.

                Meanwhile, “Lunar Quest Program” got zeroed out, “Outer planets” heading from hundred million levels to almost nothing.

              • Hiram

                “DC survey didnt ask for “cache me some samples” so it’s not consistent.”

                That’s just flat out wrong. Max-C, as given top priority in the Decadal Survey, was the Mars Astrobiology Explorer-Cacher. The “C” is for “cacher”, amazingly enough. The Max-C descope option (which we can call Mars 2020), as recommended by the Decadal report (see Table ES-3) had a science objective to “Collect, document, and package samples for future collection and return to Earth”. Sounds like “cache me some samples”, no? The Decadal Survey most certainly DID ask for sample caching. Now, the survey report had no idea how that cache would eventually be returned to Earth, which indeed makes it a somewhat pitiful plan. Has “reader” actually read the Decadal Survey? Skimmed it maybe? Glanced at it?

                “Mars has had, still does have and most likely will continue to have an explicit line in SMD budget slice.”

                Mars Exploration has a budget line in the FY14 budget, including two sub-lines for MAVEN, and “Other Missions and Data Analysis” But Mars 2020 does NOT appear explicitly as a budget line in that document. We’re not talking about budget lines for Mars, for goodness sake. We’re talking about budget lines for Mars 2020. Again, the “plans” for Mars 2020 we’re talking about are conceptual ones. Mars 2020 is, as a conceptual project, implicit in the “Other Missions” line. A budget line (as in, a line of text in a table) would have “Mars 2020″ on the left, and a (big) number on the right. Ain’t no such thing there. Now, maybe you have a detailed FY13 operating plan that shows such a budget line, but it sure isn’t public.

                I think it’s time to drop this. I keep pointing at facts, and you keep making stuff up. We can agree that “reader” doesn’t like Mars 2020. There, feel better?

              • reader

                Has “reader” actually read the Decadal Survey?

                Yes, but my personal problem is that i have read other documents too and i’m quite familiar with the history of MSL 2. MSL 2 is not Max-C no matter how you try to paint it ( but it will end up costing more ). Decadal survey is explicit about sample return being the highest priority, not caching samples.

                MSL 2 is a result of OMB threats to cut Mars funding line ( which you still claim doesnt exist ? ) and a certain blue ribbon panel trying to bring HEOMD, STP and SMD Mars people together to sing kumbaya and still give an appearance that science priorities are being followed. The facts are available for anyone who bothers to look.

              • reader

                And let me offer you a quote by Mark Sykes
                http://www.space.com/24157-obama-legacy-in-planetary-exploration.html

                Odd initiatives come out of the blue, with apparently little thought behind them. The announcement of the “Mars 2020″ mission — doubling down on the public-relations success of the Mars Science Laboratory (Curiosity) landing — took even the Mars community by surprise at the 2012 American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco. Having committed to the multibillion-dollar mission (still with no supportable budget profile), NASA then had to come up with a credible science rationale for it

        • Vladislaw

          “The justness and impartiality of Decadal Surveys is irrelevant. What counts is that they are assessments and strategic planning that is independent of the agencies and industries that are going to be paid to do the work.”

          University programs depend on bringing in grants. Where does the grant money come from? Some of it comes from the aerospace industry. I can imagine that corporation X might have a representive drop some hints to some PHD’s that they sure would like a proposal submitted for XYZ if it was in their corporate interest to do so. I have actually seen it happen. Not for aerospace but the defense dept. So it is not a big stretch, when you are talking about hundreds of millions of dollars a pop.

  • The Obama administration has been hostile towards a new heavy lift vehicle– right from the start. And has done almost everything possible to stop or to slow down the development of the SLS. And both Democrats and Republicans have called his administration out on this over and over and over again!

    Plus President Obama’s hostility towards returning to the Moon has pretty much caused Congress to rightfully ignore any half-hearted proposals coming from the administration for NASA’s manned space program.

    But the Boeing/ATK heavy lift vehicle will be built whether the Obama administration likes it or not. And it will be one of the essential workhorses of the solar system in the 21st century.

    I’ve recently posted two blog articles on how the SLS should be used in the near future:

    An SLS Launched Cargo and Crew Lunar Transportation System Utilizing an ETLV Architecture

    http://newpapyrusmagazine.blogspot.com/2014/01/an-sls-launched-cargo-and-crew-lunar.html

    The SLS and the Case for a Reusable Lunar Lander
    http://newpapyrusmagazine.blogspot.com/2013/12/the-sls-and-case-for-reusable-lunar.html

    Marcel

    • Coastal Ron

      Marcel F. Williams said:

      But the Boeing/ATK heavy lift vehicle will be built whether the Obama administration likes it or not. And it will be one of the essential workhorses of the solar system in the 21st century.

      You should be more concerned about who in Congress is going to stand up and support increasing NASA’s budget by $Billions in order to use the SLS the minimum of twice per year that NASA says is required to use the SLS safely.

      Of course no one has done that yet, from either party, so I’m not sure who you think is going to fund your fantasy.

      Because it’s not just the $1.5-2.5B/launch that Congress needs to fund, but the cost of the mission payloads, and the sustaining operations of the missions. That would require NASA’s budget to double (at least), and since the Republican House is in the process of REDUCING NASA’s budget, that is highly unlikely.

      However if you want a workhorse for the 21st Century to conquer the solar system, and one that is truly affordable, then look no further than the Falcon Heavy. And if SpaceX is able to master reusability, then getting 53mt of mass to LEO could be as inexpensive as $25M. Yes, that’s right. However even if they don’t perfect reusability you’d only have to pay $135M to put 53mt to LEO, so NASA doesn’t need a budget boost if the SLS is cancelled and they use SpaceX instead.

      See Marcel, you need to be figuring out how to accomplish things with LESS money, not MORE.

      • I assume that NASA will have a manned spaceflight budget that at least $8 billion a year once the SLS is fully operational and the RS-25E engines are ready(Obama inherited an $8.5 billion a year manned spaceflight budget from the Bush administration.

        The cost per flight will, of course, will depend on how frequently the vehicle is flown. The Obama administrations concept of launching the SLS only once or twice every few years would be very expensive per flight. If the Shuttle program had been run that way then the cost per flight would have been well over $1.5 to $2 billion per mission.

        NASA has estimated that the annual recurring cost of an SLS type of vehicle to be approximate 1.1 times as expensive as the Shuttle derived Sidemount Shuttle concept for four flights per year.

        For four flights per year, NASA estimated the cost per flight for the Sidemount at more than $500 million per flight. That would probably put the cost of the SLS at nearly $600 million per flight. Four SLS flights per year would therefore cost less than $2.4 billion per year. That’s certainly affordable within an $8 billion a year manned spaceflight related budget.

        Because of its infrequent use, the launch of the ULA’s Delta IV heavy cost over $400 million just to deploy 25 tonnes.

        The SLS is only expensive– if you really don’t want to use it!

        References:

        Deep Space Operations Enabled By A Heavy Lift Launch Vehicle – Johnson Space Center – April 2010

        Heavy Lift Launch Vehicle Study – NASA – May 2010

        • Coastal Ron

          Marcel F. Williams said:

          Obama inherited an $8.5 billion a year manned spaceflight budget from the Bush administration.

          That has nothing to do with anything. Apparently you are unaware of how your government works – Congress sets the budget, and the President can only either approve it or veto it.

          For instance, the Republican-led House has been consistently CUTTING NASA’s budget, even though the Obama Administration has been consistently proposing to INCREASE NASA’s budget.

          So this has NOTHING to do with who is President.

          The Obama administrations concept of launching the SLS only once or twice every few years would be very expensive per flight.

          As long as Congress keeps making it illegal for NASA to plan missions for the SLS it’s unlikely the SLS will ever fly after it becomes operational.

          Why do you think Congress refuses to fund any missions for the SLS? And you can’t blame Obama for that, since Congress is the one that told NASA to build the SLS in the first place.

        • Coastal Ron

          Marcel F. Williams said:

          Four SLS flights per year would therefore cost less than $2.4 billion per year.

          No, the SLS won’t cost a fraction of the Shuttle, especially when it uses the same Shuttle infrastructure and general propulsion design. This article provides a better view into what the costs will be:

          The HLV Cost Information NASA Decided Not To Give To Congress

          The 130mt version is estimated to average about $2.5B, and thats only if 18 SLS are procured at the same time. And that’s a big flaw in your assumptions.

          See, so far Congress hasn’t authorized NASA to buy any SLS long lead material for when the SLS becomes operational. As of now NASA is only authorized to buy launch services on a per-mission basis – no bulk purchasing that exceeds their current needs, even though it would lower the per unit cost of the launches the buy.

          Now you may think “well Congress authorized bulk long-lead purchases for the Shuttle”, but that was a different program and a different situation. The Shuttle was created as a government-owned transportation system that was supposed to be used by NASA, the DoD/NRO, and commercial users. Even though the Challenger accident changed the user base, Congress still saw the Shuttle as satisfying a constant LEO need, especially when the ISS was approved for construction.

          But the SLS is only needed for high-mass exploration programs beyond LEO, of which there are ZERO such programs authorized by Congress. So no payloads means no need for buy SLS launches.

          You seem to have trouble understanding this, that Congress really has no interest in using the SLS. You try to blame Obama, and though he apparently has no interest in the SLS either, Congress is the one that created the SLS and they can propose funding for it anytime they want.

          But they haven’t.

          How do you explain that, and when do you see that changing?

          • Vladislaw

            As I have been saying for quite awhile. Congress cut a deal, allow the pork to flow on the SLS until commercial crew comes online and then the SLS will be canceled. It had to be the plan from the start, because no congress could be so absolutely stupid on the long term funding needed for the SLS return to the moon and mars program.

            No landers, habs, etc etc or anything that we need for BEO.

    • Justin Kugler

      If that’s the case, why was an HLV study program included along with the Flagship Demonstrations Program in the original post-CxP plan that NASA formulated?

      NASA wanted time to figure out what kind of HLV and associated technologies would be required to support the transportation system they were trying to build.

      Instead, Congress is forcing NASA to build an HLV that maximizes use of legacy technology – instead of the life cycle cost-optimized or performance-optimized designs NASA also offered – because it protects jobs in certain states.

      SLS is no more immune to cancellation because of conflicts between budget, schedule, cost, and final product quality than Constellation was. You’re fooling yourself if you believe otherwise.

    • For the price of a year or two of SLS funding, you can get back to the Noon with Golden Spike, door-to-door. NASA could be an anchor customer for 4 missions, and get others nations to sign up for seats.

    • Vladislaw

      those are unreal assumptions you make in your blog posts. Congress/NASA does not look at how to decrease costs… it is the exact opposite, how can you jack the contract higher..

      Why don’t you add how NASA could save money by cutting the deadwood all through the agency, that will really fly with the porkonauts in congress, just like all your cost savings.

    • josh

      you’re wrong of course. the obama administration was open to the development of a new hlv, just not one based on 70s shuttle technology. get your facts straight.

    • Vladislaw

      They were not hostile to heavy lift, the proposal called for a decision on heavy lift NO LATER than 2015. Now go back to the President’s original budgets and look were we would be in 2015. What new tools would we have had in the tool kit. ( new HVL engines for one) and how we could have proceeded. We have now spent close to 20 billion on CONstellation / SLS / Orion.MPCV and we are now looking at 2022 for the first human launch .. LOL

      The nation has wasted so many billions on vaporware it is now literally approaching insanity.

  • Mark R. Whittington

    Garver had just proven that her NASA appointment was a mistake and why she should never be given a position of trust again. She opposes SLS but does not offer any alternatives. That leaves one to conclude that her opposition to the SLS pretty much means that she is against space exploration beyond LEO.

    • pathfinder_01

      SLS isn’t the only way to go beyond LEO, heck locheed martin showed a plan using the EELV to do an NEO mission. SLS is just the best way to sink the space program. It costs too much to use it. It does not fit into any likely budget NASA will ever get.

    • Coastal Ron

      Mark R. Whittington said:

      She [Garver] opposes SLS but does not offer any alternatives.

      Mark, you don’t even have to close your eyes and click your heals on this one – the private launch industry has always been ready to meet the needs of NASA.

      ULA has proposed Atlas and Delta variants that meet and exceed the capabilities of the SLS, and SpaceX has offered to build a launcher larger than the SLS for a fixed price that equals just one year of the SLS budget.

      But NASA has not been tasked for any missions that require anything bigger than what ULA and SpaceX can provide. However if they ever are, the answer is not the government, but the private sector.

      • Mark R. Whittington

        You should provide more details for those assertions. As far as I know no other proposal, except for some view graphs from SpaceX, approaches even the preliminary SLS capacity of 70 tonnes to LEO.

        • Robert G Oler

          Mark. SLS is nothing but view graphs. There are viewgraphs and artist conceptions that show it like a Saturn V, to excite the Apollo people, there are viewgraphs of payloads and second stages…and that’s about it because affording any of this is well impossible even on THREE billion a year.

          You have a right wing habit of assuming things you like are “real”. (Unskewed polls, the WMD, etc) and things you don’t like are viewgraphs. There is more Falcon Heavy hardware then SLS. Hardware and while I doubt it will launch this year, I bet you the first Heavy is on the launch pad.

          Greetings from Istanbul. Robert G Oler

          • Crash Davis

            Mark. SLS is nothing but view graphs.

            You have a right wing habit of assuming things you like are “real”. (Unskewed polls, the WMD, etc) and things you don’t like are viewgraphs.

            Are you serious Robert? You make a statement about SLS being viewgraphs and you then accuse another about not liking something and terming it viewgraphs.

            With logic like this, no wonder you have lost it completely. You must be a clueless, liberal, hobby rocket enthusiast with no reasoning abilities whatsoever. Well done Old Boy. Well done.

            • Robert G Oler

              Crash

              SLS is viewgraphs. The Falcon H is going to be on the pad this year. Learn the difference between hardware and viewgraphs. RGO

          • The idea that an amateur rocket company like Space X knows a lot more about space travel than Boeing or Lockheed Martin or the ULA is– ludicrous from start.

            Space X needs to start putting humans routinely into low Earth orbit before they start bragging about what they can do in deep space. They’ve been in business for 12 years and have still not put a single person into orbit yet.

            Just four years after NASA was created, they had a man in space. And just 11 years after NASA was created, they had a man on the Moon.

            Marcel

            • Coastal Ron

              Marcel F. Williams said:

              The idea that an amateur rocket company like Space X knows a lot more about space travel than Boeing or Lockheed Martin or the ULA is– ludicrous from start.

              Ooh, using the “amateur” pejorative. Funny how a bunch of amateurs have accumulated a $3B customer backlog and have been successfully launching full-sized rockets and spacecraft of their own design. How is a 3,000 person company that does that “amateur”?

              Space X needs to start putting humans routinely into low Earth orbit before they start bragging about what they can do in deep space.

              Who is bragging? Musk has stated that he wants to go to Mars, and that he is willing to fund that effort himself. Not only that, he has been successfully building launchers and spacecraft that are precursors for that effort.

              And if you remember back a few years, you were saying that SpaceX needed to start launching rockets if they were going to be believed, and they have done that. They have even launched their own spacecraft too. So far they have successfully done what they have stated they will do, and there is no reason to think they won’t continue to be successful. Falcon Heavy is up next, and transporting humans is not far behind. And if they perfect reusability and $7M launches, it’s going to be an exciting time in the space community!

              You just lack perspective and vision.

              Just four years after NASA was created, they had a man in space.

              Don’t be ignorant Marcel – NASA absorbed rocket and spacecraft work that had been going on for years before NASA was created. And private companies don’t have access to the unlimited funding governments can provide, especially when space became another front in the Cold War.

              Again, you lack perspective.

            • Robert G Oler

              well now “amateur rocket company”. I am sure they said that at Curtiss wright as North American developed the P51 and at quite a few places as Boeing rolled out the 247 and eventually the B 17.

              If Boeing knew so much about rockets, they would have a product that is competitive in the commercial world. They don’t. RGO

            • Doug

              Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t believe that Lockheed or Boeing have ever put humans into space. They’ve been in business for almost a hundred years and still have not put a single person into orbit. They need to start putting humans into space before they start bragging about what they can do in deep space, no? I suspect an amateur rocket company will do it before they do.

              Oh yes, it was Chrysler’s Redstone rocket that launched Alan Shepherd. Designed by the Army. NASA designed the Mercury capsule, but McDonnell built it. So NASA “had a man in space” just four years after it was created. Took that long for them to buy the parts, I guess.

              Well, North American and Rockwell, as well as McDonnell, were absorbed by Boeing, so I suppose Boeing can claim some heritage for space access. Of course, many employees of SpaceX come directly from the legacy aerospace companies.

            • josh

              …said the ultimate amateur. no really marcel, just what are your credentials here? none? thought so.

        • Coastal Ron

          Mark R. Whittington said:

          You should provide more details for those assertions.

          If you don’t know about ULA’s plans, then you are truly ignorant. They can be found on ULA’s website and have been around since before the SLS was forced on NASA.

          As far as I know no other proposal, except for some view graphs from SpaceX…

          Don’t be naive Mark. Do you expect Boeing or Lockheed Martin to build a fully operating HLV before the government says they need one? But there is no doubt the private sector can build one, right?

          But this is not about questioning whether the private sector can meet the needs of NASA, they already do. And so far NASA has not been funded to do anything the private sector cannot handle, so the SLS is not being built because there is a need for an HLV, it is being built because certain politicians from certain states want money flowing to their constituents. They even publicly stated that the SLS was a jobs program.

          However you and others have failed to show that Congress has any interest in using the SLS as the supposed “workhouse of the 21st century”. Congress won’t even fund one mission that requires a rocket the size of the SLS, only test flights.

          We’re 7 years away from the SLS becoming operational – when will Congress fund something for it to do?

          • Ron,
            Mark knows about both the ULA and SpaceX proposals to NASA. I told him about them months ago here and supplied links. But in typical Whittington fashion, often a thing he disapproves of that is backed by evidence is something he has never heard before, whether he has actually heard it before or not. ;)

          • “We’re 7 years away from the SLS becoming operational – when will Congress fund something for it to do?”

            Congress wants a lunar program. The Obama administration does not! Congress tried to trap Obama into a lunar program but mandating that a near term cis-lunar program for the SLS be proposed. But the Obama administration wiggled out of a lunar program by proposing that an meteoroid be tugged into cis-lunar space instead.

            NASA and the SLS will get full support from Congress once Obama’s ‘Anything but the Moon’ policy– finally comes to an end!

            Marcel

            • Coastal Ron

              Marcel F. Williams said:

              Congress wants a lunar program.

              No, only a few in Congress do, and none that will stick their neck out to propose such an expensive proposition. If “Congress” wanted a lunar program, they would create a law telling NASA to go back to the Moon. They haven’t.

              Honestly Marcel, do you know ANYTHING about how your government works?

            • josh

              congress doesn’t want a lunar program, you’re delusional. you’re so far removed from reality that any productive discussion is impossible with you.

          • Michael Gallagher

            The ULA web site no longer has the individual product cards for the Atlas V and Delta IV that show the Saturn-V class growth options. It might have something to do with the fact that ULA is a joint venture of Boeing and Lockheed Martin, both of whom have contracts with SLS and Orion. It’s highly unlikely they’ll undercut themselves.

        • Dark Blue Nine

          “no other proposal, except for some view graphs from SpaceX, approaches even the preliminary SLS capacity of 70 tonnes to LEO”

          Another blatant ignorant lie:

          “In 2004, the Atlas program of Lockheed Martin created a vision for performance evolution of the Atlas V family focused on NASA growth missions, with performance options
          ranging up to 140t. The 5m diameter, 70t class Phase 2 Atlas Heavy, assuming dual RD-180s,was a key vehicle in this evolution. With Constellation, this configuration was put on the back burner…”

          http://www.ulalaunch.com/site/docs/publications/EELVPhase2_2010.pdf

          Don’t write about things you know nothing about.

        • Vladislaw

          You are hilarious witty …. you are either like palin and read everything space news, as it was widely reported in just about every single blog and news site that covers space…

          “duh .. gosh fellas you gotta show proof about those heavy lift proposals since I am so witless and read nothing ”

          SpaceX Gives a Preview of Falcon X and XX

          Atlas V Heavy-Lift Evolution

    • Garver wasn’t asked to provide in-depth, just sound bites, so what’s your point there, Mark?

      Golden Spike is an alternative, using existing hardware and working on a lunar lander NOW.

    • Vladislaw

      She doesn’t have to name them because everyone involved with space issues know that the Atlas V and Delta IV along with the Orbital and SpaceX is all we need to push out. A commercial gas station and the Nautilus X. We don’t need a 100 billion dollar boondoggle like CONstellation, SLS, Orion.MPCV.

    • josh

      you’re lying, as usual. garver is a champion of human space exploration, always has been. and ofc she offerd alternatives. you just chose not to listen.

  • Andrew French

    Of course the alternative offered is still basically the 2011 Obama budget request. It was and is the correct path. Nothing inconsistent here about Garver’s statements. SLS was created by Congress, but once it became law it was Garver’s job to help get it built as efficiently as possible. Has been clear to anyone watching and listening closely that she (and others in the Administration) were simply carrying out Congressional direction.

    • Mark R. Whittington

      Garver, if she believed what she is saying now, should have resigned in protest years ago.

      • Robert G Oler

        You have been wrong on everything major this century. RGO

      • James

        Bingo! And because she didn’t, it’s clear she had her own career ambitions in play,,,above taking a stand (like turning in her badge) for something she believed in.

        Oh how virtue is easily sacrificed at the altar of one’s ego.

        Political creature she is.

      • Justin Kugler

        There’s just no winning with you, is there, Whittington? Andrew is absolutely right.

        Lori stays to try to help NASA get through a tumultuous period, even though she didn’t get everything she wanted in policy and NASA was saddled with a Congressionally-mandated program they’re trying to make the best of, and you say she should have resigned.

        If she had resigned in protest, you would have called her a quitter and said that showed she was insufficiently committed to human space flight.

        • Justin, with all due respect, I think we all have much better things to do with our time than respond to OldSpace trolls. :-)

          They’re the past. We’re the future. I prefer to look forward and tell people about NewSpace than waste my time on people shilling for OldSpace contractors. :-)

          • amightywind

            I think we all have much better things to do with our time than respond to OldSpace trolls. :-)

            MW is no troll. I ought to know 7;^) Ageist remarks have no place in the debate on this forum.

            Interesting that Garver also called out Mars 2020. Why is it she wants to kill everything NASA does well?

        • You are so right, Justin. Here is a direct quote from Lori on Twitter:
          “We cancelled Ares V and Congress forced our hand on SLS. They could make us do it, but can’t make me believe we should.”

          She had to, because that was part of the deal with the gang of Senators to get Commercial Crew going. They would allow Commercial Crew to start only if the administration would allow them to proceed with a shuttle-derived HLV. Now that Commercial Crew is so far along it can’t be stopped and she is no longer in a position where she is bound by the agreement, she is speaking out. The hope was always that, once Commercial Crew proved itself, SLS could be cancelled and more practical avenues to deep spaceflight could be pursued.

        • Vladislaw

          Called moving the goal posts .. Mark does it all the time, so does DCSCA First SpaceX never launches, then they never launch a payload, then they never launch cargo, now it is they never launch people, next he will say they never launch people to the moon….

          they always move the goal posts.

      • josh

        nope, much better to work on dismantling the status quo from the inside. i can understand why you’re p*ssed, mark…

  • amightywind

    Hard to understand why this person’s comments even move the needle anymore. But she can do far less damage now that she is on the outside. She’s partially right. NASA can do amazing things with $17 billion a year. But that starts with space exploration. Space exploration starts with a national launch system. Ergo, SLS is NASA’s only essential program. 2014 will be an exciting year with the first launch of an Orion spacecraft.

    • Coastal Ron

      amightywind said:

      Space exploration starts with a national launch system.

      For what? Can you point to any funded programs that require putting 70mt or more of mass to LEO in one launch?

      If the Republican’s in Congress are cutting NASA’s budget that is a clear indication that they don’t see the need for your supposed “national launch system”. They even want to outlaw uses for the SLS.

      How are you so ignorant about these things?

    • Robert G Oler

      If it launches it is more a shell then a space vehicle. RGO

      • amightywind

        I dunno. Orbital maneuvering. High speed reentry. Recovery. Hopefully it will give the agency a shot in the arm.

        • Coastal Ron

          amightywind said:

          Orbital maneuvering. High speed reentry. Recovery.

          We know how to do orbital maneuvering, and we have many private companies that know how to do it too.

          Recovery? You mean by the U.S. Navy at taxpayer expense? This is only needed if the SLS ever gets funded for a mission that requires the MPCV, and so far that hasn’t happened.

          I dunno.

          Yep, you got that right.

        • Robert G Oler

          Ritchie imitation aside you have a low threshold of excitement. RGO

    • “Ergo, SLS is NASA’s only essential program. 2014 will be an exciting year with the first launch of an Orion spacecraft.”
      Orion won’t be on top of an SLS if it does launch this year. One is not related to the other. More fairies and unicorns from the SLS crowd.

    • Space exploration starts with a national launch system.

      No, it starts with affordable competitive commercial launch systems.

    • Dark Blue Nine

      “NASA can do amazing things with $17 billion a year. But that starts with space exploration. Space exploration starts with a national launch system. Ergo, SLS is NASA’s only essential program.”

      Step 1: Set space exploration goal.

      Step 2: Design a super-big, super-duplicative, super-complicated, super-unnecessary, super-expensive booster.

      Step 3: Terminate all our space exploration programs so that we can afford the super-big, super-duplicative, super-complicated, super-unnecessary, super-expensive booster.

      Step 4: ?????

      Step 5: Explore space!!!

      How idiotic…

    • josh

      2014 will be the beginning of the end for sls. oh, and i would be surprised if nasa and lockmart manage to get orion back in one piece. or into space for that matter. lol…

  • John Malkin

    5 things more interesting than Orion test flight
    5) SpaceShipTwo, first passenger flight
    4) Orbital Sciences, first operational cargo delivery flight
    3) Falcon 9 surpass Atlas & Delta flights combined in one year
    2) Falcon Heavy (Fingers Crossed)
    1) Commercial Crew budget level allows all 3 options going forward (Fingers & Toes Crossed)

    I agree with Garver that focus on SLS (a big rocket) is holding NASA back and it’s not setting up NASA to be a leader in space technology in the 21st century. NASA is endanger of becoming irrelevant.

  • Count me in the pro-Mars rover camp. If we want to learn a lot about Mars, we should make a lot of copies of rovers that are known to work, and / or send human geologists capable of effective field work to Mars. If there needs to be a choice, we should do the latter. Spending all of our money reinventing the landing-on-Mars wheel every time we want to go there is not a good use of resources. We could have built at least five copies of Spirit and Opportunity for what Curiosity cost. Now that we have built Curiosity, we should use that design (and more MERs) rather than expensively inventing something new.

    • Coastal Ron

      Donald F. Robertson said:

      If we want to learn a lot about Mars, we should make a lot of copies of rovers that are known to work…

      If the goal is Mars, then mass producing designs that work is a good idea.

      What Garver’s comments show is that there are two different directions tugging on NASA for robotic exploration – let’s call it the “Focus on Mars” and “Explore Everything” camps. Both have validity I think, and it’s really more a matter of what the long term goals of the Nation are with respect to space exploration.

      If we as a nation plan on sending humans to Mars in the not so distant future, then focusing on Mars is a good idea. The more we know about it the better we can be prepared for when we send humans.

      But there is no national consensus on sending humans to Mars, or anywhere else for that matter, so the “Explore Everything” camp has a valid point of view – spread the exploration dollars around to other interesting places too.

      There needs to be more consensus on this, but I’m not sure when it will ever come.

      • Vladislaw

        I think it goes even deeper than that Ron. More like “I want a legacy project.”

        For example if the Mars 2020 future funding stream(hypothetical) was moved to the explore everything camp you would immediately see it break up. Moons of Jupiter first, Moons of Saturn first, blah blah blah first, et cetera.

        Phd’s chasing the idea of being the PI, in their field, on a flagship mission. If you are actively working agaist another mars mission and you win at canceling it, the fight becomes a new one as the new everywhere has to be determined.

    • reader

      If we want to learn a lot about Mars, we should make a lot of copies of rovers that are known to work,

      This is not what this rover is doing. You are looking at $1.5B starting cost for something of very questionable goals, its not built to explore but to keep Mars lobby fed.

      • Hiram

        Questionable goals? They might be “questionable” to you, but to the science community they are extremely well articulated and carefully planned out. To that community, they aren’t “questionable”. Learning a lot about Mars is precisely what MSL is helping us do. To the extent that there is a Mars lobby that wants to know as much as they can about Mars, geez, feed ‘em! We don’t learn a lot from starving scientists.

        “Not built to explore”? Ah, yes, MSL doesn’t have a footprint maker nor a golf club. They forgot those. But it makes wheel prints. Feel better?

  • Aberwys

    Garver and the Mars Program have always had egos at stake.
    Those get confounded by the JPL need and the planetary science community need for work.
    Egos and financial needs join up.
    Ta-da: Mars 2020.

    Read the Science Definition Team report and look at the authors. Bet you more than a nickel that many of the SDTers were working on Curiosity and prior Mars mission and bet you more than a nickel that we’ll see payload selections of those folks’ instruments (as CoIs or science team members, natch, because showing a direct linkage is obviously stupid).

    It’s really amazing to see the egos at NASA HQ…makes you wonder why the agency exists in the first place…it’s clearly not about doing good science…

  • Dark Blue Nine

    A more detailed, blow-by-blow, review of the show:

    http://www.spacepolicyonline.com/news/garver-would-cut-sls-mars2020-says-space-isnt-partisan-but-parochial

    Observations:

    – Scott Pace never read the VSE. Unlike Constellation’s LEO and lunar repeat, it was a multi-target exploration plan. The White House’s asteroid and Mars goals, however bumbled in implementation, are more like the VSE than Constellation ever was.

    – Policy and academia have turned Scott Pace into an engineering illiterate. Ares I was never necessary for human lunar return or justified on that basis.

    – Pace’s position about partnering with China in a future human lunar program is at odds with most of his Republican masters and allies.

    – Although I sympathize with her positions, Garver should have resigned a long time ago. Her voice would have been more effective in altering the course on MPCV/SLS and Mars 2020 when those decisions were being made, not years later.

    – Mike Gold may be the most inarticulate attorney in history. He certainly didn’t do Bigelow any favors.

  • The White House’s asteroid and Mars goals, however bumbled in implementation, are more like the VSE than Constellation ever was.

    Very interesting observation, and probably true. The sad thing is that Constellation wasted so much of their money and time on Ares 1. The last thing the world needed or needs is another expensive medium-class rocket. The ironic thing, and the implication of your observation, is that the current plan with SLS and Orion is actually a better plan than Constellation was (with the exception of the use of the Shuttle engines instead of the Delta-IV engines), it’s just that the world has moved on now and we need the likes of SpaceX and even OSC a lot more than we need SLS or its contractors.

    – Donald

    • Coastal Ron

      Donald F. Robertson said:

      The ironic thing, and the implication of your observation, is that the current plan with SLS and Orion is actually a better plan than Constellation was…

      No, I don’t think so. You need to wind back the clock even further into the requirements phase, to where an HLV-based exploration program was decided.

      Back when the VSE was announced we were well into building a 450mt space station using 5m diameter modules no bigger than 20mt, which was well within the capability of our existing launch vehicles. We could have chosen to utilize the existing launch systems to support our exploration needs, and if so we would have had well over $8B to spend on in-space hardware instead of trying to build unneeded government-owned launch systems (Ares I/V and SLS).

      What Garver is pointing out is that any new launch system should not be built on legacy systems that we built for a different need (i.e. the Shuttle), but that we should be focused on identifying the new technologies & techniques that should be more efficient, more reliable, and hopefully cost less.

      …it’s just that the world has moved on now and we need the likes of SpaceX and even OSC a lot more than we need SLS or its contractors.

      Yes, well said.

  • Coastal Ron, I was comparing Oranges to Oranges, but I fully agree with what I think you;re saying: we do not need giant rockets to move forward. In fact, I think they are counter-productive, by discouraging thinking small and living off the land.

    – Donald

  • John Malkin

    I don’t think you can justify human spaceflight on science alone. Robotics can do the job more efficient meaning lower cost per scientific discovery. There are things humans can do better but the cost to keep them safe and sustain them away from the planet is too expensive with Apollo methods.

    However, building permanent serviceable human outposts, makes this is a different story. After 50+ years we can only get less than 15 people in space at the same time. This is all countries combined. SLS doesn’t solve this at all, not even close. The expense per person is so high that we would be stuck with an elite few for at least 30 years excluding non-NASA players.

    The goal should be colonization. We could have teams of scientist, artist, engineers and entrepreneurs expanding our reach into deep space. The only block to this is cost. NASA should focus on getting 50 to 100 people to the Moon and Mars and supporting long term in partnership with the private sector and our international partners. A big rocket like SLS can’t transport or support 100 people affordably but that’s not the point of SLS any way. Imagine NASA had 5 to 10 Billion a year to focus on cutting age technology and incentives for the private sector to provide fuel, food and raw resources.

    NASA is a product of the bureaucracy that created it. They spend a large amount of resources playing anti-productive games with congress. Unfortunately, it will take companies like SpaceX, Boeing, Orbital and Sierra Nevada to get us to thousands of earthlings in space doing incredible scientific and engineering feats.

    My $3.52…

    • alex wilson

      sorry, John, but if you’re counting on SpaceX et al to put a colony anywhere, they’re going to have to see a hefty paycheck waiting for them at the finish line. lots of ‘pro-space’ people think that the “free enterprise system” will automatically do colonies in space, but if it’s cheaper to do resource development via robotics, why would they spend the extra cash to put people there? I doubt any company is going to “do” colonies in space, the business case just isn’t there to support it.

      • Coastal Ron

        alex wilson said:

        sorry, John, but if you’re counting on SpaceX et al to put a colony anywhere, they’re going to have to see a hefty paycheck waiting for them at the finish line.

        I understand and do agree with you for the most part. However as far as Elon Musk goes, he has stated that it is a personal goal for him to make humanity multi-planetary, and he has retained majority control of SpaceX in order to make that happen. That doesn’t mean it will happen, but he is the most likely person today to make that a reality. Time will tell.

        lots of ‘pro-space’ people think that the “free enterprise system” will automatically do colonies in space, but if it’s cheaper to do resource development via robotics, why would they spend the extra cash to put people there?

        Which is what we’re seeing with Planetary Resources and Deep Space Industries. They are focused on making a profitable business, and right now they see the best way to do that is with robotic systems, not manned ones.

        I doubt any company is going to “do” colonies in space, the business case just isn’t there to support it.

        Until, that is, a profit motive is found for people to be in space. There isn’t one yet, but I’m sure we all hope there will be one day.

      • Guest

        There is this thing, it’s called ‘the future’. There is also this other thing, called ‘investment capital. I suggest you familiarize yourself with these concepts, since they have been demonstrated over and over to be viable engines of economic progress, vis a vis, railroads, airlines, satellites, computers, software, etc. etc.

      • Vladislaw

        I agree Alex, Mars should be a world of robots only. Obese americans can live on their couches running the robots. Human exploration is so 16th century. The future is to create robotic worlds for machines. REALLY smart machines. There really is no reason a human should actually ever have to leave the couch. Robots can mow the lawn, vacuumn the floors. Hell Amazon is even going to have them deliever packages to you door. Bed, couch, door .. bed, couch, door…. sighs .. what a life.. just sit back and NEVER leave the couch again just sit and run robots ….

    • Hiram

      “The goal should be colonization.”

      But that’s not a goal. Or at least it’s just a secondary goal. The goal is what colonization would achieve that our nation needs to achieve. Confusion of goals and implementation strategy is rampant around here.

      Not quite sure why we need to colonize space, though some would say that species survival depends on it. I’m not sure about that. Survival of our nation certainly doesn’t depend on it. Colonization has never resulted in preservation of a nation. The colonists end up with their own independent nation. The Administration and Congress show ZERO interest in space colonization, and I think that’s exactly why. The Administration and Congress aren’t out to benefit the species. They’re out to benefit the nation.

      But I think you’re right that colonization, if it had a reason, would be the fundamental justification for human spaceflight. No way can you do colonization robotically.

  • alex wilson

    saying “Innovate! Innovate!” is all well and good, but innovate on what? saying we should go to Europa is nice, but do we have even the beginning of an understanding of what a rover landing there would face…..and if you don’t, how do you design any part of a rover, let alone any other part of the mission? doing another Mars rover is “boring” to some folks, but how much do we really know about Mars? isn’t it better to take what we learn and build a better rover to answer more of the questions we have than to go haring off to the next ‘great adventure’ just so we can claim to be ‘innovative’?

    • pathfinder_01

      Innovation happens when people try new methods of doing things. Once no one knew how to land on mars, but we learned how to do it. Europa will be no different. It is harsher far harsher but it also is a place with reasons of its own to go there.

  • Robert G Oler

    The problem is that support for SlS/Orion/even the mars rover mess is just more support for the various “industrial complexes” that cannot exist on their own. In the process they have become “deinnovative” (actually opposing innovation), slotheful, and not respective of the trust that the tax payer has but in them.

    It is really quite amazing when you consider it that the space industrial complex signature effort is a vehicle which is costing more to develop in constant dollars then the old one it spun off of, has higher life cycle cost, and doesnt even pretend to have a mission

    and then you wonder why The Republic is in the shape it is. this is multiplied by the Orion and the new “Mars lander” for 2020…no purpose just doing

    Innovative questions should be “what should NASA be doing now” (not where should it be going we hvae asked that question for half a century), do we really need NASA astronauts anymore? Do we really need a permanent exploration directorate?

    The US did not win WW2 or become a superpower by staying in touch with the dogmas of old…WW2 forced us to silence the voices who could not think past the present and embrace those who could imagine an imperfect future.

    Voices like wind and whittington and all the hangers on of the SIC are simply sirens calling us to run back onto the rocks of the past…we should move to the future. RGO

  • John,

    Robotics can do the job more efficient meaning lower cost per scientific discovery.

    This is widely believed but almost certainly wrong, at least if it’s geological field work or finding a fossile – which no foreseeable robot will achieve except through purest chance. Also, planetary scientists, using adapted military rockets, don’t have to pay for their rocket development like Apollo did. The _incremental_ cost of a single late Apollo mission was around $2 billion. Even accounting for inflation, it’s not that much more expensive than launching and flying an automated landing on Earth’s moon using existing rockets, yet few would argue that any robotic mission, even today, would achieve the science that Apollo-17 did in just a few days. If you compare Oranges to Oranges, it is not at all clear that the cost per unit science is less when attempting to automate missions — especially when you consider inherently hard-to-automate sciences like field geology.

    Alex,

    lots of ‘pro-space’ people think that the “free enterprise system” will automatically do colonies in space,

    It is undoubtedly true that “free enterprise” is unlikely to drive colonization forward, at least in the near term. But, if a nation or nations decide to do colonization, the likes of SpaceX and OSC can do it a lot cheaper with medium sized vehicles than Boeing, et al, can with giant vehicles that the nation cannot afford to develope. Put another way, the way to lower costs for human spaceflgith is the same way that scientists did in automated spaceflight — use already existing rockets. I don’t see why this is so hard to understand. . . .

    – Donald

    • Coastal Ron

      Donald F. Robertson said:

      This is widely believed but almost certainly wrong, at least if it’s geological field work or finding a fossile – which no foreseeable robot will achieve except through purest chance.

      I don’t think anyone is looking for fossils on Mars, or at least not as an official goal.

      However if we want to explore Mars, then the least expensive and quickest way to do it today is with robotic systems. Sure, they can’t do all the things that humans can, but they can do things that humans can’t do too.

      But the real tradeoff is how much money do you have to get something?

      If you only have a few $Billion, then human explorers can’t even get off the ground for that amount, so the only way to get something done is with robotic explorers.

      But that’s not to say that humans are that much better than robotic explorers. The two ton Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) can operate continuously for at least 687 days and carries with it 13 main instruments to get quick results on what it finds. Humans can do a lot of analysis with their supplied Mark I eyeball and brain, and our dexterity is a lot better than current robotic end effectors. But it would take a heck of a lot more mass to do the same with humans.

      If we just need to sample many places, robotic systems are our best bet for now.

    • Vladislaw

      You can not have colonization without ownership.

  • Frank

    Here’s a suggestion: Scrap SLS. Put the money into a space propulsion system that will accelerate a manned mission viable mass at 1g all the way to Mars. You’ll be at Mars in a day and a half. Yepper. Do the math. A day and a half.

    Such an exotic propulsion system would accomplish many things and all but eliminate many others. Such a system would eliminate the ludicrous notion of orbiting fuel depots and a need for anything more than the lifting capability we have now or expect in the near future (D4H, Atlas Heavy, F9H).

    Forget about the Nautilus X … spinning a spacecraft or a section of a spacecraft for the centrifugal effects doesn’t work like people think and it would be almost technically impossible to design and build if it did. Accelerating at 1 g, however, will result in ‘gravity’ that will allow humans to actually walk around inside the vehicle and function normally. No new technology beyond the propulsion system will need to be developed or tested.

    A human trip to Mars with such a propulsion system would reduce to nearly zero the radiation hazard, the amount of supplies needed to support the crew, the psychological issues of being cooped up in a tin can for 3+ years, the major problem of life and mission critical systems and sub systems functioning almost perfectly for 3+ years and the degenerative effects of extended weightlessness.

    Such a propulsion system can have probes to Jupiter in less than a week and at Pluto in under 30 days. The robotic missions would enter a golden era with such a system.

    And such a system could be reusable because once the probe is dropped off it can do a loop and return to Earth for its next mission.

    Realistically, though, if we were to start today with full and ambitious funding we’d still be years from a test flight. But it will open up the solar system like no other technology and will be responsible for a torrent of data and flight experience in the outer solar system, perhaps even a manned reconnoiter of Titan or Europa.

    So, what say we change the discussion to a truly transformative technological development: A constant, high thrust, deep space propulsion system. We can go anywhere in the solar system cheaply and quickly.

    I agree that building a launch system that can put 70+ mt in LEO is a waste of time and resources if there’s no job for it to do. I’m not in favor of meaningless development as a jobs program. I’m in favor of jobs that create the future.

    • Coastal Ron

      Frank said:

      Here’s a suggestion: Scrap SLS. Put the money into a space propulsion system that will accelerate a manned mission viable mass at 1g all the way to Mars.

      Gee, oh course!

      Since no one else seems to know what that propulsions system would be, perhaps you can enlighten us?

      Forget about the Nautilus X … spinning a spacecraft or a section of a spacecraft for the centrifugal effects doesn’t work like people think and it would be almost technically impossible to design and build if it did.

      Well we’re still going to need rotating space stations no matter how fast we travel, since we’ll always have a need for keeping people in space around planetary bodies. The sooner we figure out how to build them the better, although it hasn’t been a breakthrough in designs that have been holding us back, but the cost of moving mass to space. SpaceX is working on solving that one though…

      • Egad

        Well we’re still going to need rotating space stations no matter how fast we travel, since we’ll always have a need for keeping people in space around planetary bodies.

        By no means! Just use the advanced propulsion system(*) that gets you to Mars in a day and a half to establish a 1 g forced orbit(**) around the planetary body. Nothing to it.

        (*) Technical details are omitted for the sake of brevity.

        (**) https://groups.google.com/forum/#!topic/alt.books.larry-niven/L73UzFdrSRA

      • Frank

        Coastal Ron,

        You need to think about how you walk on Earth. It’s been described as a controlled fall. The Earth’s gravity is so weak that a human can jump up with enough energy to exceed the pull. As we all know, however, once you can’t impart any more energy the mass of the Earth bleeds off your input until you come back down. That essentially describes walking as well. We and every locomoting creature that has ever existed relies on gravity to pull them back down when they take a step. We all rely on the enormous mass of the Earth as an integral part of walking.

        When you spin a spacecraft you’re relying on angular momentum to keep you in contact with the vessel you’re contained in. As long as you stay in one place you should be fine. Take one step, a step that has the energy to exceed 1g of force by design with no Earth mass to pull you back down and you’ll bounce around the inside of your rotating vessel like a pea in a baby’s rattle. Spinning a spacecraft for ‘gravity’ doesn’t work … except in science fiction.

        And, if it did work, you’ve got balance issues galore. Say there’s a space station with 10 crew members. The Commander calls a meeting and 10 people converge on a conference room. Assuming 200 lbs per person, you just moved a ton of mass to one side of your spinning station. How do you balance that? You’ll have to balance your vehicle or the station or spaceship will precess and it won’t take long for your delicate vehicle to tear itself apart.

        Do you have bladders of water that pump balancing amounts to the opposite side? How complicated will that be? Pumps, sensors, computers and an enormous amount of water and all of the plumbing etc. Remember we’re building this in space and that’s not going to be an easy assembly or implementation … if it worked. It also needs to be very real time or your ship will get out of balance with mere grams of eccentricity. Just ask NASA about what happens to spacecraft that aren’t precisely balanced for their spin function. And don’t you think that if it worked NASA would be in the middle of testing the concepts? No money is in the pipeline for large scale tests of spinning artificial gravity.

        Also, what about the torque of the spin? If you have a stationary part of your vehicle it will require a countervailing force in the opposite direction. Logically, a second ring or spinning section of equal mass going in the opposite direction would counter it.

        Think of a helicopter. They need the rotor on the tail to counter the torque of the engine unless there’s a second, counter-rotating helicopter main rotor. You’ll have this torque in spades in space. And, oh by the way, you just nearly doubled the size and complexity of your craft. How much money did you say you have to invest in a space vehicle?

        In 1907 Albert Einstein observed:

        “A little reflection will show that the law of the equality of the inertial and gravitational mass is equivalent to the assertion that the acceleration imparted to a body by a gravitational field is independent of the nature of the body. For Newton’s equation of motion in a gravitational field, written out in full, it is:

        (Inertial mass) * (Acceleration) = (Intensity of the gravitational field) * (Gravitational mass).

        It is only when there is numerical equality between the inertial and gravitational mass that the acceleration is independent of the nature of the body.”

        (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Equivalence_principle)

        I’m sorry. Wishing that science worked like science fiction will not get us to the planets. Simple and logical will work and you can’t get any simpler than a constant propulsion system. Make no mistake, however, it’s not going to be a simple technical feat. I’m talking maybe 25-30 years if we start now. A one-g constant thrust engine will be a technical marvel and will require copious and dedicated funding to achieve. Cancelling SLS and rededicating those funds to a project like this would be an excellent use of NASA’s limited funding, in my opinion.

        As for a description of the technology, Ad Astra has developed the VASIMR (Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket) engine and they claim that in a few years they can get humans to Mars in 39 days. This is nowhere near a 1g acceleration but 39 days beats the hell out of 6 months. There are other technologies being considered for a constant accelerative propulsion system but the VASIMR is probably the best positioned to begin test flights in space.

        • Vladislaw

          You would be sleeping in the centrifuge not walking around. The purpose is not so you can walk around a station. It is about bone loss et cetera. If you put that artifical strain on the body at rest it should get rid of some of the problems. It is not a cure all, but if sleeping in a centrifuge for 8 hours a day can extend space missions to a year or 18 months, it increases the distance we can safely travel.

          • Frank

            Sleeping or not, it’s still an engineering nightmare that would be nearly impossible to build, again, if it worked.

            It took 11 years to build the ISS and it was basically a ‘snap together’ assembly procedure and then connect the plumbing and wiring. And we needed a space shuttle to truck it all to orbit and to facilitate the assembly. I don’t see anyone suggesting we build a modern version of the shuttle to build a huge and unwieldy structure like a spinning spaceship or station.

            And it would be huge and, I’m guessing, take several decades to build. I’m sorry, this is wishful thinking that has no empirical evidence to support any of the claims.

        • Coastal Ron

          Frank said:

          I’m sorry. Wishing that science worked like science fiction will not get us to the planets.

          Wishing for a propulsion system that far exceeds anything known to man today is not very realistic, now is it?

          Ad Astra has developed the VASIMR (Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket) engine and they claim that in a few years they can get humans to Mars in 39 days.

          Yes, but only IF an lightweight electric power system can be developed. So far no money is working on this, and no known solution will support the 39 day trip. I think VASIMR will be used for many things, but it awaits huge breakthroughs in power systems.

          When you spin a spacecraft you’re relying on angular momentum to keep you in contact with the vessel you’re contained in.

          You know, there has been a lot of work done on this already. You can use the SpinCalc to see how big a rotating structure needs to be to reduce or eliminate the rotational effects for a variety of gravities. For instance, if you have a structure with a radius of 225m you can have a gravity of 1G and mitigate the effects of both Angular and Tangential Velocity on humans.

          But I will readily admit that we need to validate our assumptions about artificial gravity with rotating structures. However we lack electric power supplies to produce heavy acceleration with electric propulsion, and there is no money going into solving that right now.

          As of now there is no clear path towards solving either of these approaches. And with $Billions being spent on a useless rocket (i.e. the SLS) and $Billions being spent on a spacecraft that is already out of date (i.e. the Orion MPCV), we’re not going anywhere fast.

          • Frank

            I’ll be the first to admit that there’s no empirical evidence to support my claim but it is supported by theory and does not require a giant spinning structure, just the development of technology that does not currently exist at the levels required for 1g acceleration. My assertion is that we take the SLS money and put it towards this 1g propulsion development. It is NOT science fiction or wishful thinking … it doesn’t exist because we haven’t made the effort, which is, in my opinion, how we should be spending NASA’s precious funding. Again, scrap SLS and put the funding into this development. It’s straightforward and very doable. with almost no secondary development of other technologies needed.

            We know 1g acceleration is attainable but technically not there yet. But a spinning, manned spacecraft? No one has ever been inside a spinning spacecraft or has any idea what it would be like. I’ve read where theorists believe it would take a minimum of an 80 foot radius to not confuse the vestibular system of the inhabitants. That will be an enormous structure just for this minimum configuration. Then there’s the balance of the spacecraft issue and the torque issue to address. And you’ll still bounce around the inside like a pea in a babies rattle if you try to move around inside. It’s just not a technically feasible solution to long duration spaceflight.

            Keep in mind, that you want the spinning spacecraft so astronauts can spend extended time in space without the deleterious effects of extended weightlessness. The long flights still have to address the psychological impacts, the large amount of life support supplies for the crew for the long mission, the radiation issues with extended times in deep space as well as the absolute necessity that every system and subsystem work perfectly for the long flight. We’re talking a vast and enormously expensive engineering project before we leave LEO. All of these issues, however, are solved by developing a 1g constant acceleration propulsion system.

            Like I said earlier, it’s a day and a half to Mars at 1g acceleration. What’s not to love? Yes, the technology does not exist to achieve this yet. But it is much more achievable with a focused development effort than trying to go to Mars (or anywhere) on a ballistic trajectory.

            And a side benefit is that it can be utilized to send probes to the far corners of the solar system. With the greatest of respect for Alan Stern and his extraordinary New Horizons probe on its way to Pluto, a 1g propulsion system could have a probe in orbit around the Pluto-Charon system in less than 30 days. Your probes would be much cheaper and certainly more frequent with a propulsion system like this.

            • Coastal Ron

              Frank said:

              I’ll be the first to admit that there’s no empirical evidence to support my claim but it is supported by theory and does not require a giant spinning structure…

              A rotating structure in space is a pretty simple engineering challenge. In fact, it resembles bridge building here on Earth if you bend a bridge up into a circle. The biggest challenge though is the mass required, which right now would make it prohibitively expensive, but becomes more affordable if SpaceX is able to bring the price of their Falcon 9 down to $7M/flight (Falcon Heavy prices would not be much higher).

              Developing an electric power supply that is light enough to put in a spacecraft and won’t kill the crew with radiation IS NOT possible today. I hope it does get solved someday, but it is not something that can be solved with lower launch costs.

              • Frank

                You keep ignoring the fact that a spinning spacecraft or station does not work like you imagine. Any effort to deploy such a structure, in spite of its size large or small, simply doesn’t work.

                And, as noted previously, the mitigations for the torque and balance issues are prohibitive in and of themselves. And, what about the long flight times.

                You’re right, we’re talking a huge power source like lightweight, high power nuclear reactors like we have on subs, some with as many as 6 reactors and people in close proximity. Shielding is very possible with nuclear reactors of this type.

                What will be a major challenge will be the confinement magnetics. Temperatures and pressures will be in the realm of fusion reactors and that will be an enormous challenge.

                I say, again, scrap SLS and lets get started on constant 1g propulsion.

              • Coastal Ron

                Frank said:

                You keep ignoring the fact that a spinning spacecraft or station does not work like you imagine.

                You are under the misapprehension that I thought up artificial gravity using rotating structures. I didn’t, but far smarter people than you and me think that it will work. And since the physics of it are pretty simple, I think it will work too.

                Any effort to deploy such a structure, in spite of its size large or small, simply doesn’t work.

                And you know this how? By what experiments?

                And, as noted previously, the mitigations for the torque and balance issues are prohibitive in and of themselves.

                I’m not saying we’re doing it tomorrow. We have to wait until the cost of moving large amounts of mass to space fall a lot, and a reason for sending humans to Mars is found.

                And, what about the long flight times.

                If the effects of zero gravity can be mitigated, by whatever means, then it’s pretty much just cosmic radiation mitigation that we have to worry about. And we have to worry about radiation no matter how fast our transportation is, because nowhere can we go where we get the same level of radiation protection that we get here on planet Earth. If we can’t survive in space for long periods of time, moving or not, then we’re not ready to go anywhere.

                I say, again, scrap SLS and lets get started on constant 1g propulsion.

                We agree on scraping the SLS. But we could also prove out the concept of rotating artificial gravity for probably only $1-2B if NASA uses SpaceX for launching mass to orbit – a couple of self-sustained hab units with their own propulsion tethered to each other and then spun at various speeds and tether lengths. Wouldn’t take long to figure out – far less time than figuring out a completely new power generation system that doesn’t kill the passengers it’s needed for.

              • Frank

                These ‘far smarter people’ have less to go on for their theories of angular momentum gravity than I do for accelerative gravity. I can point to numerous manned launches where gravity was generated by acceleration and they can’t point to any human experience spinning in zero g using angular momentum to create ‘gravity’. As I noted in a previous posting we are able to walk here on Earth because we can exceed the pull of gravity with our muscles to lift ourselves high enough to bring the trailing foot forward. This is the ‘controlled fall’ I mentioned.

                It doesn’t take much insight to see that if there isn’t a mass the size of the Earth pulling you back down but you’ve got the muscle capacity to naturally exceed one g that where there’s no mass you’re going to have problems, as in, once you’re no longer in contact with the spinning floor there’s no more angular momentum imparted and you are going nowhere but ‘up’, most likely in an uncontrolled tumble.

                I think it would be possible in a spinning torus to have your feet firmly planted on the floor experiencing one g by way of the rotational motion and then quickly pulling your legs up into a ‘lotus’ position with your feet and legs crossed and you won’t ‘fall’ to the ‘floor’. You’ll more or less hover in place drifting maybe toward the trailing bulkhead.

                The environment inside a spinning spacecraft is going to be like nothing we’ve ever dealt with and, yeah, I could be wrong on the particulars but I don’t think I’m wrong that it would be totally unsuitable for manned space flight, nevermind the huge size and construction issues.

                The effort to deploy such a structure is impossible because of the size and complexity. At some point the engineering will be prohibitive. Building in space is extremely difficult and I would put to you that some structures are all but impossible to build even if the concept worked. I don’t see any way that a structure of the size you suggest or even the minimum size would be feasible to build in zero g.

                From a cost standpoint it would be over the top with all of the heavy lift launches required to get the components to orbit. And keep in mind we have no shuttle to work from so what do we do there, send up a 690 cubic foot Orion with a crew on a D4H or F9H?

                You’ll spend an enormous amount of money just getting the parts to orbit. If SLS is a boondoggle you’re suggesting replacing it with an even bigger one with existing or soon to be existing launch vehicles that won’t have the maxed out 130 mt lifting capability of the SLS.

                The torque and balance issues will not be easily solved. As I noted earlier, you’ll need to have two modules spinning in opposite directions to counteract the torque and the balance issues will be so complex that I don’t think they can be solved.

                As with all spacecraft and aircraft they must be designed by ‘simplicating and adding lightness’, as the aeronautical engineer’s axiom goes. This vehicle would be a monster that will require the high energy propulsion system I’m suggesting just to poke along on a ballistic trajectory!

                As for the long flight times, the experience on the ISS says it all. The recent cooling loop pump repair was easy enough within 300 miles of Earth but 30 million miles from Earth will be another game altogether. I have absolutely no confidence that engineers will design and build a ‘perfect’ system guaranteed to work for 3+ years without any breakdowns. With a ‘simplicated’ spacecraft that’s had ‘lightness’ added to it you’re going to have a delicate vehicle that will ‘just’ be robust enough to complete a mission. Any breakdown, particularly with a cascading series of events anything at all like Apollo 13 and no one comes home. You’ll be lucky to see the debris field.

                No one is going to Mars on a ballistic trajectory and coming back to a heroes welcome. A major failure is all but certain in the 3+ year planned mission.

                Now, if you shorten the outbound flight to a day and a half or even take a week so you can arc up over the plane of the ecliptic to avoid as much dust and debris as possible, you’re talking a week out, a week back and 2 to 4 weeks at Mars and Phobos. Supplies, hardware MTBF, radiation and the ravages of prolonged weightlessness are almost, not quite, but almost non-issues. A flight to Mars is eminently doable with the technology we have today or will have in the next few years. All of these benefits accrue because of a 1 g constant propulsion unit. Complex, innovative, state-of-the-art engineering will be mostly confined to the development of the propulsion.

                And, as I mentioned as a side benefit, these propulsion units can be used to send probes on a regular basis to the planets with orbiting probes and landers and rovers. The solar system opens up with incredible possibilities with this technology.

                As far as the propulsion unit killing the passengers it’s needed for, I would hope that there would be numerous unmanned shakedown cruises to the outer planets long before the first manned mission occurs. As you are well aware, spaceflight is extremely dangerous no matter how you go about doing it. Yes, a major malfunction on a propulsion unit could result in LOV/LOC. It’s the price of admission and every astronaut accepts that possibility going in. There are no guarantees, as we all know.

        • Coastal Ron

          Frank said:

          Also, what about the torque of the spin? If you have a stationary part of your vehicle it will require a countervailing force in the opposite direction. Logically, a second ring or spinning section of equal mass going in the opposite direction would counter it.

          Think of a helicopter.

          This statement confirms for me that you are not up to date with this subject. A helicopter has to counteract the force of gravity and the force of acceleration from the blades, plus it needs to counteract the torque caused by the engine spinning the main rotor. Those equivalent forces do not exist for a rotating structure in space.

          For instance, let’s call the rotating structure a space station. Once it is built and spun up to produce whatever force of gravity that is desired at the furthest point from the center of rotation, no “motor” is needed to keep it rotating. The logical place to transfer cargo and crew will be at the center of rotation, and that can be done using a simple housing that is “spun backwards” Or you can have no housing and just spin the vehicles that are going to be docking so that they match rotational speeds (ala 2001 a Space Odyssey).

          You seem to think that your electric propulsion idea is in conflict or competition with rotating human structures in space, but they are not. As long as humans are in space we will need habitats that need to be as hospitable as possible to human life, and rotating structures are likely the way to do that. Plus we will always want faster ways to transit between far distances, and electric propulsion seems to be the best way to do that, so creating more powerful electric generation systems will be welcome too.

          But neither by themselves solves the problems stopping us from expanding humanities presence in space and reaching other planets.

          • Frank

            You’re right that there’s no torque to deal with if the entire structure turns (there’s still the critical balance issue, though). But add any part that must stay stationary, like a transfer hub, and you’ve got torque to deal with. ‘Spinning backwards’ a transfer hub will induce exactly the torque I’m speaking of. The bigger the stationary element, the larger the input to keep it stationary and the higher the torque value. That’s why, if spinning worked, you’d, more than likely, need counter rotating elements to neutralize the torque. Remember, for these to be effective they’d have to be very large radius generating very large torque values on any stationary element.

            I see no competiton between electric propulsion and spinning. If you have the one-g propulsion unit you don’t need the spinning (again, if spinning worked), because you’d be at your destination very quickly and you’d have gravity the entire way so why spin anything. One-g propulsion solves numerous intractable problems as noted in previous posts. It is much more simple in its application than any spinning structure but I will concede it will be a technical leap to achieve a reliable unit.

            As for habitats in space, once you get to, say, Mars orbit you will most definitely need a habitat. And it won’t be small. And it’s likely to be a weightless environment. Because spinning doesn’t work. I’m getting repetitive, I know.

            With a one-g propulsion unit, you’re there so fast that you could stay 6 months (I wouldn’t recommend it, though, based on the degenerative effects seen in ISS crew members after a 6 month stay) in orbit. I would think that a 14 to 30 day stay in orbit would be enough for research or to set up for a manned landing. Since you can go to Mars frequently with such a unit, short orbital stays would be the norm, I would think, as a 14 – 30 day stint in weightless orbit is relatively easy to recover from. It’s not so much the time at your destination that’s the problem, it’s the transit time and that’s solved with one-g propulsion.

            Another of the benefits of a one-g propulsion unit is that you can leave Mars for Earth or Earth for Mars almost anytime you want. You don’t have to wait for conjunction for the shortest ballistic trajectory. As I said, the solar system opens up with such a system.

            The benefits of a one-g propulsion unit are so overwhelmingly favorable that I’m a little surprised you’re still arguing in favor of a technology that doesn’t work.

            As for the problems stopping us from going into deep space, I have to say it’s DC politics and not the waning of the human desire to explore.

            • Coastal Ron

              Frank said:

              You’re right that there’s no torque to deal with if the entire structure turns (there’s still the critical balance issue, though).

              What “critical balance issue”? With a space station large enough to have meeting rooms (your previous example), the mass of the entire structure is going to be magnitudes larger than the mass of the humans moving around in it. This won’t be an issue at all.

              But add any part that must stay stationary, like a transfer hub, and you’ve got torque to deal with. ‘Spinning backwards’ a transfer hub will induce exactly the torque I’m speaking of.

              You keeping thinking of things in relation to how they work here on Earth with gravity. That is the wrong way to look at it.

              As for habitats in space, once you get to, say, Mars orbit you will most definitely need a habitat. And it won’t be small. And it’s likely to be a weightless environment. Because spinning doesn’t work. I’m getting repetitive, I know.

              Not sure if you realize this, but you just dissed yourself in the same sentence.

              With a one-g propulsion unit…

              You do realize that no one is against having 1-G propulsion, right. No one.

              However you have failed to show where this miracle of technology that allows 1-G propulsion is supposed to come from, other than saying it will take up to 4% of the national GDP to do it.

              I already know that the likelihood of the government funding a large spinning space station of pretty remote, and there is no known need for it right now. But you don’t seem to realize that there is pretty much ZERO chance of getting any funding for your miracle electric propulsion idea. None. Nada.

              Why?

              Because space exploration is not a national priority. At all.

              Please adjust your expectations accordingly…

    • Mader Levap

      Put the money into a space propulsion system that will accelerate a manned mission viable mass at 1g all the way to Mars.
      You seem to extremely underestimate diffculties and challenges with research/development/production of such space proplusion system. I suggest you should wait a few centuries at least.

      • Frank

        As I said in an earlier post it would probably take 25-30 years if we start now. Going to the Moon was deemed ‘impossible’ in 1962 when Kennedy made his clarion call to stir America to the challenge … and a challenge it was.

        You’re right, it will be extremely difficult. And we’ll do it if we muster the resolve and focus the determination.

        We’re talking a huge electrical source like high power nuclear reactors. We’re talking magnetic confinement not unlike what the fusion scientists are dealing with. We’re talking a fuel of unprecedented energy output.

        We’re talking a not inconsequential percentage of light speed in some cases with all that that entails and we’re talking of mitigating the inevitable dust and debris between here and there that could destroy a spacecraft.

        Nope, I haven’t underestimated a thing. It will be enormously difficult with a mindboggling reward for success. I still think it can be done in 25-30 years if we have a visionary who understands the importance of getting to the planets quickly.

        • Coastal Ron

          Frank said:

          As I said in an earlier post it would probably take 25-30 years if we start now.

          Where did you pull THAT number from? It sounds like the same number that the fusion people have been using for decades – that clean fusion energy is just 25-30 years away. The problem is that it’s stayed 25-30 years away for the past couple of decades.

          You’re right, it will be extremely difficult. And we’ll do it if we muster the resolve and focus the determination.

          I don’t think you realize how little support there is by your elected officials for doing what you propose. They pretty much have ZERO interest.

          Until that changes no progress will be made by the government for your electric propulsion idea.

          Sorry to tell you this, but that’s the way it is.

          • Frank

            My estimate of 25-30 years is exactly that: an estimate. I’m assuming a fully funded and enthusiastic research and development program not unlike the Apollo program. With the best minds on Earth committed to such a project I may be a bit optimistic in my time frame but probably not by much.

            We’re not talking fusion temperatures to be achieved for the high thrust values or fusion pressures and eccentricities to be confined by high-power magnetics. That said, we are dealing with cutting edge, and at present, undeveloped technology. I see no ‘breakthroughs’ in technical understanding that would be needed, just the plodding, head-down R&D to bring this technology to operational status.

            And, you’re absolutely right: The politics are the deal killer here. That’s up to people like us to embrace the concept and be very, very loud in our advocacy so that the veneer-toothed jerks in DC can’t ignore it.

            • Coastal Ron

              Frank said:

              My estimate of 25-30 years is exactly that: an estimate.

              OK, and my estimate is 100-150 years. And it’s just that, an estimate.

              I’m assuming a fully funded and enthusiastic research and development program not unlike the Apollo program.

              You do realize the Apollo program was initiated as part of our national response to the Cold War and USSR expansion around the world, right? Not because “we as a nation” felt an urgent need to explore the Moon?

              So you can assume all you want, but the reality is that Congress has been decreasing NASA’s budget in real dollars for quite a long time now, and there is no indication that Congress wants to spend up to 4% of this countries GDP on a new form of electric propulsion.

              Now maybe you think I’m wrong, but if so please point out what you think will make me wrong.

              And again, it’s not that I wouldn’t want 1-G propulsion, but just that I try to keep my real life science expectations separate from science fiction.

              • Frank

                Balance isn’t an issue? Talk to a 747 pilot. Maxing out at 975,000 lbs, a 200 lb person is roughly .0002% of the weight of the vehicle. When the pilot has his/her hands on the controls he/she can feel a single person moving inside the cabin as the balance of the plane shifts ever-so-slightly. No, the plane will not career about the sky but left unchecked over time it will influence the flight path. This will be even more pronounced in space.

                Ask NASA about what happens when a satellite gets out of balance for any reason. Watch the Apollo 17 liftoff from the Moon as it visibly tilts to the side as it consumes more oxidizer (Nitrogen Tetroxide) than fuel (Aerozine 50). The very design of the LEM shows how the Aerozine tank is further off-center than the oxidizer tank to minimize the unequal consumption and different densities with the oxidizer being denser than the fuel. Buzz Aldrin commented on the expected rocking of the ascent stage and correction by the RCS system as a disturbing sensation even though they knew it would happen. Balance, my friend, is everything in space.

                And don’t think for a second that just because something possesses a large mass that shifts of even small amounts of mass within will be self-mitigating or inconsequential. Precessions will set up and if not corrected quickly will overwhelm the structural limits of the design causing your vehicle to come apart. Spinning spaceships and space stations do not work as a source of gravity and are all-but-impossible to design and build.

                As for the transfer of torque through to a stationary component of a vehicle, there are no perfect lubricants or bearings. Torque will be transferred and because it is space and not the Earth there will be nothing to keep it from rotating with the spinning component.

                So, where do you get 4% of GDP as the cost of development and 100 to 150 years before it’s a reality? An Apollo-like program doesn’t mean it will take 4% of the GDP. In this case, I’m referencing the can-do attitude and, yes, more and specific funding but I would agree that in the current political climate 4% of GDP isn’t realistic.

                I’m not sure what you mean by dissing myself in the same sentence. Once you get to Mars orbit there’s no more acceleration so you’re weightless. If you plan on staying a while in orbit you’re going to need a place to work and live so a habitat has to come with you on your day and a half journey to Mars.

                As for being for or against a one-g unit, if you’re not against it, why are we having any disagreement? As much as I think it is correct space policy to pursue this project vigorously it needs to be vetted carefully and all of the design elements looked at critically. Contrary to your opinion, it is based on solid science and not science fiction. If you believe otherwise, please show your evidence.

                I’m absolutely opposed to wasting money but I believe this is the best use for our limited funding rather than an SLS (wasn’t that our original point?). So, if there is something that’s a show stopper in the concept or design then that needs to come out early rather than late. That will only happen with the best minds looking at it in an objectively critical way as in a feasibility study.

              • Coastal Ron

                Frank said:

                Balance isn’t an issue? Talk to a 747 pilot. Maxing out at 975,000 lbs, a 200 lb person is roughly .0002% of the weight of the vehicle. When the pilot has his/her hands on the controls he/she can feel a single person moving inside the cabin as the balance of the plane shifts ever-so-slightly.

                You know Frank, you are funny. Really funny. Being a pilot of far smaller airplanes than 747′s, I can tell you that 747 pilots don’t feel one passenger walking around a fully loaded 747. Heck, pilots aren’t even flying a 747 most of the time, it’s on autopilot.

                And I’m not sure why I have to keep reminding you, but the forces involved with a rotating space station are different than those involved with an aircraft flying through the air.

                For instance, let’s say that a 200 lb human shifts their weight at the end of a 225 meter radius space station that happens to be the same mass as the 747 (which is also the weight of the ISS). Let’s say it alters the CG of the space station by .0002%. What difference does that make to the operation of the station, especially when people and fluids will be constantly moving around anyways? The radius won’t change much, nor will the rotational speed.

                You haven’t made a very good case for why this would be a problem, even with your Earthbound analogs.

              • Coastal Ron

                Frank said:

                As for the transfer of torque through to a stationary component of a vehicle, there are no perfect lubricants or bearings.

                You do realize that we use spinning masses to stabilize the ISS, right? They are called control momentum gyroscopes (CMG), and they work quite predictably and well.

                So, where do you get 4% of GDP as the cost of development and 100 to 150 years before it’s a reality?

                You said developing this new power supply would take an effort equal to the Apollo program, and at it’s peak during the Apollo program (which only lasted 11 years) NASA consumed over 4% of the Federal Budget.

                As to 100 to 150 years before it’s a reality, I pulled it out of thin air, just like you pulled 25 to 30 years out of thin air.

                If you plan on staying a while in orbit you’re going to need a place to work and live so a habitat has to come with you on your day and a half journey to Mars.

                Once you reach orbit, that habitat no longer has 1G of acceleration to provide a sense of gravity, then what? If you’re going to have people in orbit we’ll need some way to provide comfortable living conditions. We still need to prove out what the options are for creating artificial gravity. NASA and scientific community think rotating structures can provide artificial gravity, so excuse me if I don’t rely on your word that it is impossible.

                As for being for or against a one-g unit, if you’re not against it, why are we having any disagreement?

                Because you claim artificial gravity using rotating structures won’t work, and you want the U.S. Taxpayers (which includes me) to spend a vast amount of money over decades of time to find what you admit is an unknown solution to high-power yet lightweight electric power generation system that can operate in space for applications that are not yet funded or planned to be funded.

                To say the least, the only thing we agree on is that the SLS is a waste of time.

              • Frank

                Coastal Ron,

                Let’s just leave it here. I’ve stated my case, explained my reasoning and you choose to disagree.

                I’ll leave you with the final word, my friend.

                Have a nice day.

  • josh

    yup, sls needs to go. this has been clear since the beginning. everything else follows. nasa can’t move forward as long as this make work program is ongoing.

    • DCSCA

      yup, sls needs to go. this has been clear since the beginning. everything else follows. nasa can’t move forward as long as this make work program is ongoing.
      ..

      SLS is a geo-political strategy for the United States. Commercial crew is not. Garver’s job was to carry out policy, not make it. Hence, she quit. The peter principle at work.

      • Coastal Ron

        DCSCA whined:

        SLS is a geo-political strategy for the United States. Commercial crew is not.

        You are funny Putin-boy. Commercial Crew replaces a Russian service, which is by nature a geo-political issue.

        By contrast, since the SLS has NO FUNDED USE, it does NOTHING to make the affect the balance of power in favor of the U.S. In fact, since we’re BORROWING money from China to build the SLS, then if anything the real geo-political effect is that the SLS is making us weaker around the world.

        Funny you can’t see that, and since you have never bothered to explain your inane theory, it’s quite easy for me to refute it… ;-)

  • Costal Ron: If you only have a few $Billion, then human explorers can’t even get off the ground for that amount, so the only way to get something done is with robotic explorers.

    I don’t agree. The asteroid retrieval is an increadibly innovative idea for achieving serious science with a human mission for “a few billion.” Less, if you consider that the SLS lunar halo mission is planned anyway. Given the financial realities and the fact that we are developing the otherwise useless SLS, I don’t understand the opposition to this idea (see my upcomming OpEd in Space News for more). Likewise, setting up a refueling station using Falcon Heavies or even Delta-IVs shouldn’t cost more than a few billion, and it would get us a lot closer to an affordable lunar base or PhD mission than spending all the money on SLS.

    The two ton Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) can operate continuously for at least 687 days and carries with it 13 main instruments to get quick results on what it finds.

    And, determined that standing water existed on Mars at some undetermined date in the past. It is no disrespect to the MERs to point out that this is basic reconnaissance that a human could do in an afternoon. If we are talking about cost per unit science, which was the initial measure, we also have to consider how long it takes, how much it costs over that time, the full development costs of the robotics that would not be needed in a human mission, etc. Human missions would cost far more up front, even economically rational ones using amortized rockets and refueling depots and living off the land, but the amount of science you would get would be far higher and you would obtain it a lot faster. You would also get a lot closer to colonization, if that is your ultimate goal. Outside of knowledge, automated science is essentially useless for colonization, while any human mission advances you toward that goal through operations experience, if nothing else.

    – Donald

    • Coastal Ron

      Donald F. Robertson said:

      The asteroid retrieval is an increadibly innovative idea for achieving serious science with a human mission for “a few billion.”

      I’m not sure it’s a mature enough plan to know that.

      What technology needs to be developed to capture an asteroid? What technology needs to be developed to transport it back to the region of the Moon? How long would all of that take? How much would the asteroid retrieval portion of the mission cost?

      Then, after these questions are answered, we would have to evaluate how doing all of that builds up our exploration capabilities compared to other alternatives.

      Less, if you consider that the SLS lunar halo mission is planned anyway.

      The last I heard the mission that would be used for the ARM would be the first human mission for the MPCV, which seems like an extremely risky idea. Of course that is because of the extremely high cost of the SLS and MPCV themselves, which forces NASA to take risks.

      Given the financial realities and the fact that we are developing the otherwise useless SLS, I don’t understand the opposition to this idea (see my upcomming OpEd in Space News for more).

      From my perspective, and please feel free to use this in your OpEd, the quicker we cancel the useless SLS the sooner we can get NASA back to working on the technologies and techniques we’ll need to do space exploration with our existing launchers. And we may not get a one-for-one exchange of budget when the SLS is cancelled, or anything close – and I’m OK with that, since the SLS is doing a lot of damage to NASA.

      Likewise, setting up a refueling station using Falcon Heavies or even Delta-IVs shouldn’t cost more than a few billion, and it would get us a lot closer to an affordable lunar base or PhD mission than spending all the money on SLS.

      I agree, but that won’t happen as long as the SLS is still consuming massive amounts of NASA’s budget.

    • Coastal Ron

      Donald F. Robertson said:

      It is no disrespect to the MERs to point out that this is basic reconnaissance that a human could do in an afternoon.

      IF you can get a human to the surface of Mars – which we can’t. This is a binary situation here, either we get science done using robotic systems, or we don’t get anything.

      If we are talking about cost per unit science, which was the initial measure, we also have to consider how long it takes, how much it costs over that time, the full development costs of the robotics that would not be needed in a human mission, etc.

      Of course some of what we’re doing is related to what we will be doing for human exploration. The MSL tested out the skycrane method of landing, which at this point is the leading way to land humans on the surface of Mars. MSL is also doing pathfinder duty by measuring the radiation environment on the way to Mars and on the surface, which is critical for designing human transportation to Mars.

      You would also get a lot closer to colonization, if that is your ultimate goal. Outside of knowledge, automated science is essentially useless for colonization, while any human mission advances you toward that goal through operations experience, if nothing else.

      I think we share a lot of viewpoints overall, and I agree that we should be developing our capabilities in ways that build up over time. I just don’t think the ARM does that.

    • Dark Blue Nine

      “The asteroid retrieval is an increadibly innovative idea for achieving serious science…”

      The scientists who actually study asteroids disagree. The Small Bodies Assessment Group that advises NASA in this area has found that ARM doesn’t even qualify as a science mission:

      “Findings from Steering Group, November 22, 2013

      Asteroid Redirect & Return Mission (ARRM).

      (a) Planetary science. While the SBAG committee finds that there is great scientific value in sample return missions from asteroids such as OSIRIS-Rex, ARRM has been defined as not being a science mission, nor is it a cost effective way to address science goals achievable through sample return. Candidate ARRM targets are limited and not well identified or characterized. Robotic sample return missions can return higher science value samples by selecting from a larger population of asteroids, and can be accomplished at significantly less cost (as evidenced by the OSIRIS-REx mission).”

      http://www.lpi.usra.edu/sbag/findings/

      “with a human mission for ‘a few billion.’”

      If you seriously believe ARM will cost several billion dollars, I have some ocean-front property on the Moon that I’d like to sell you.

      • Vladislaw

        Really? How much an acre? Just don’t let Dennis Hope find out …

        Actually I agree. If NASA was going to do a TRL maturing on robotic asteroid roping and then directly shovel the technology into the private sector so they can start harvesting rocks and then MOVE ON to the next one I would support this. But as it is ..

      • Neil Shipley

        Robert Bigelow might be interested.

      • Egad

        SBAG’s meeting this Wednesday and Thursday . It will be interesting to see if they have anything more to say about ARM.

    • DCSCA

      “we are developing the otherwise useless SLS”

      this is nonsense. The same lunacy could have been pitched in the late 50s when the AF pushed to develop the F-1, years before there was a Saturn rocket program to put them into. SLS is a geo-political strategy for the United States. End of story.

  • DCSCA

    Garver is another example of the Peter Principle at work. SLS is a geo-political strategy for the United States. Just as the ISS was in her lobbying days when she was a staunch advocate for pursuing contraxcts to assemble it. If Garver was capable of seeing the big picture, she’d comprehend that. Her embrace of comemrcial space remains a failure of imagination dooming the U.S. to goign in circles, no where fast, for decades to come.

    “Space isn’t really partisan…” say Garver.

    Except it is.

    Space policy the politics of spaceflight operations- has always been a partisan tug-of-war since the creation of NASA– something Garver can easily read up on in the Congressional Record.

    Garver is old news. And a quitter– something NASA doesn’r need in its management. Good riddens.

    • Coastal Ron

      DCSCA opined:

      Garver is old news. And a quitter

      How clueless can you be? She was one of the longest serving Deputy Administrators in NASA history.

      What a maroon!

      • DCSCA

        How clueless can you be?

        Since you’er setting the benchmarks for same, let’s review– the damage done, she quit. Purging NASA of short-sighted commercialists is a good thing, Ron.

    • Hiram

      “SLS is a geo-political strategy for the United States.”

      That’s an interesting proposition for SLS. It means that we don’t have to USE it. We just have to BUILD it. Maybe launch it once or twice to show that it works. Hallelujah! Over a decade or two, can you imagine how much money that will save if we don’t try to use it? We’ll be launching EELVs, Antares, and Falcons up the kazoo, with fuel depots everywhere, while we proudly point back at our we-could-it-if-we-really-wanted-to SLS. Apollo proved that model conclusively with regard to humans on the Moon. As a lasting geo-political strategy, where we never actually USED humans on the Moon, Apollo was tremendously effective. Even as a program that lasted only a few years, forty years ago. I have to assume that’s exactly what JFK has in mind. Brilliant.

  • I have an article on The Space Review about the detrimental consequences of SLS on Commercial Crew: http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2426/1

    • Robert G Oler

      Fine article well written and good thoughts RGO

    • common sense

      I concur. Well done article.

      I would add, briefly, that the fact that the launch costs are going down for access to orbit is the root of the emergence of an entirely “new” market, call it “space market” if you will, that has been, so far, the privilege territory of governments and not of entrepreneurs. Said market includes CubeSats, pharmaceuticals, etc. See for example http://www.newspaceglobal.com for a nice description. Most notably this market creates wealth and employments in the US, an American exception if I dare say so myself.

    • Michael Gallagher

      Better idea: Support full funding for both commercial crew AND SLS/Orion. The former resupplies the space station and the latter focuses on BLEO…which is the plan right now.

      If SLS/Orion is canceled, do not do it until AFTER a new program has been laid out with a destination, timetable, and at least notional designs for the spacecraft. This is the complaint about SLS: “no funded need” = “no program and no spacecraft” (even though no spacecraft has ever been designed BEFORE there was a launch vehicle available to launch it). Pouring money into “research” is a load of bull — busy work so it looks like NASA is going somewhere when, in fact, it’s going nowhere; all the important mission related decisions are deferred indefinitely.

      Either have a fully fledged plan or commit to what we are doing — pick one.

  • josh

    this evening spacex made it still more obvious that they’re the ones to watch when it comes to progress in space. nasa hsf is largely irrelevant at this point. we need them for the cash and not much else… if sls actually makes it to the pad i hope it blows up (without killing or injuring anyone), seriously. it would put this useless pork rocket out of its misery and save a whole lot of money in the process.

  • DCSCA

    “this evening spacex made it still more obvious that they’re the ones to watch when it comes to progress in space. nasa hsf is largely irrelevant at this point. we need them for the cash and not much else…” gushes josh.

    Hmmmm. The National Aeronautics and Space Adminstration has been lofting humans into space for over half a century. SpaceX has flown nobody. You can keep trying to pitch false equivalency all you want but it won’t change the facys nor history. If comemrciakl needs cash- go to the private capital markets, pitch a business plan and get laughed out of the conference rooms.

    • Coastal Ron

      DCSCA whined:

      The National Aeronautics and Space Adminstration has been lofting humans into space for over half a century.

      But not anymore. They are out of the transportation business until at least the next decade. Don’t you keep up with current events?

      SpaceX has flown nobody.

      Which has been the plan you doofus. Again, don’t you keep up with current events? Have you not heard of the Commercial Crew program?

      What a maroon!

      • DCSCA

        But not anymore.

        Hmmm. Monday, Jan. 6, NBC News anchor Brian Williams interviewed two American astronauts aboard the orbiting ISS- a platform largely financed by the U.S. with an annual operaying budget for same at taxpayer expense. SO it will be news to NASA, the orbiting crews and anchorman Williams that NASA is out of the HSF biz. Or mayber it’s just news — to you. Stay classy, Ron-Diego. ;=)

  • Robert G Oler

    Frank not to burst your bubble but

    “an issue? Talk to a 747 pilot. Maxing out at 975,000 lbs, a 200 lb person is roughly .0002% of the weight of the vehicle. When the pilot has his/her hands on the controls he/she can feel a single person moving inside the cabin as the balance of the plane shifts ever-so-slightly.”

    No. I fly Boeings. I hand fly Boeings…you are wrong. :)

    The only way one would even remotely notice this is if you took a large “mass” of people say oh 10 or more big ones over 200 lbs so about a ton of people give or take a few pounds… and had them walk quickly very fast like almost run from one end of the airpane to the other stop turn around and then come back the other way…..what would it feel like? at best a “burp” on the trim.

    the pressure that you would feel on the elevator as the “cg” changed would be well trivial…and if you had the airplane perfectly in trim when they started the affect on the pitch would be trivial.

    Sorry. Robert G. Oler

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