Congress, NASA

CJS spending bill passes full House appropriations committee

On Thursday, the full House Appropriations Committee marked up the Commerce, Justice, and Science (CJS) appropriations bill that the CJS subcommittee approved last week. The full committee didn’t adopt any amendments that affected the NASA provisions in the bill, although Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH) introduced, then withdrew, an amendment to add $85.5 million to NASA’s Space Technology program, bringing it up to the level in the administration’s request. (NASA’s Glenn Research Center is in Kaptur’s district, and she argued that the center would be disproportionally affected by the funding cut in the program.) Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA), chairman of the CJS subcommittee, said he would work with Kaptur to see if there is a way to increase funding for the account before the bill goes to the House floor, possibly late this month.

Shortly after the committee completed its work on the bill Thursday afternoon, Robert La Branche, senior legislative assistant to Rep. John Culberson (R-TX), a member of the committee’s CJS subcommittee, spoke at the meeting of the FAA’s Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee (COMSTAC). While speaking only for himself, he provided some insights into some elements of the appropriations bill, including a provision in the report accompanying the bill calling on NASA to downselect to a single company in the next round of the commercial crew program.

“While this may not be ideally the best situation, to pare down to one provider,” he said, “with only one access for crew to the International Space Station, from Russia, it is incredibly important that we get Americans launched from American soil on American vehicles as soon as possible. Paring down the number of competitors will help things along greatly because the funding won’t be split.”

Some COMSTAC members, in a question-and-answer session that followed, emphasized the benefits of competition. “I will confidently predict that if this policy recommendation of a downselect becomes the policy of the United States, you will find that you have saved neither money nor time,” said Jeff Greason, CEO of XCOR Aerospace. La Branche said that this issue was an “ongoing discussion” that will later involve negotiations with the Senate when it crafts its appropriations bill in the coming weeks.

La Branche also brought up another NASA issue with the appropriations bill: the committee’s skepticism about the agency’s exploration plans. “What we don’t have is a compelling destination,” he said, expressing doubts about the utility and level of interest in NASA’s asteroid mission plans beyond its ability to mature some technologies, like solar electric propulsion. “I believe that where we can move forward with an overall strategy, and where our commercial partners can help us, is in the realm of a cislunar mission, or a lunar surface mission, on the way to Mars.”

“Nobody is excited about the Asteroid Retrieval Mission,” he said later at the COMSTAC meeting. “This does not inspire, in my mind.”

48 comments to CJS spending bill passes full House appropriations committee

  • Hiram

    Absolutely correct that no one in their right mind is excited about at least the human part of ARM. That mission was based on pulling a “destination” into cis-lunar space, and that destination is seen as not “compelling”. Now, that’s a problem. Because if inspiration is about a “compelling destination”, rather than compelling tasks to achieve, there just aren’t that many to choose from! I mean, there are only so many rocks. With regard to a rock, even ARM had no credible tasks to achieve, aside from “get there”, and “touch it”. ARM is totally about a manufactured destination.

    Now, “the realm of a cis-lunar mission” (as opposed to a “lunar surface mission”) is otherwise not a rock. So it’s not entirely clear where La Branche is going with that thought with regards to compellingness. Could he be hinting that maybe a compelling destination doesn’t have to be a rock if there is something to do there? That would be smart.

    • Fred Willett

      If you want a compelling destination then may I suggest Barnard’s Star. It’s more compelling than Mars or the Moon and equally as unobtainable under the present budgetary circumstances.

  • Coastal Ron

    La Branche also brought up another NASA issue with the appropriations bill: the committee’s skepticism about the agency’s exploration plans. “What we don’t have is a compelling destination,” he said, expressing doubts about the utility and level of interest in NASA’s asteroid mission plans beyond its ability to mature some technologies, like solar electric propulsion. “I believe that where we can move forward with an overall strategy, and where our commercial partners can help us, is in the realm of a cislunar mission, or a lunar surface mission, on the way to Mars.”

    As long as we focus and fight about destinations, the ability to get to ANY destination will ignored – and that, above everything else, is the reason why we haven’t left LEO in 40 years.

    If “destination” is defined as a defined point in space, then pretty much where we want to go beyond LEO is pretty limited:

    - Cis-lunar space
    - Lagrange points (Earth-Moon and Sun-Earth)
    - The surface of our Moon
    - Asteroids (collectively in one region, though they do move)
    - Mars region (including it’s moons)
    - The surface of Mars

    Getting to, and staying at, all of this “destinations” have a lot of common challenges, which are being ignored. ANY system that is designed specifically for just one “program” and destination will ignore the ability to be used for other destinations. What a waste.

    We need to stop being so focused on individual destinations and start focusing on the technology and techniques that will allow us to go ANYWHERE. As it is we can’t even leave LEO, so putting any money into destination specific hardware is really premature and wasting time and money.

    Call this approach whatever you want, but we need to give up this Apollo-era mentality that we always have to have a “destination” driving our progress forward. We don’t, and in fact the latest plans to do so have failed miserably… for a reason. If only we could learn from that.

    • Hiram

      “If “destination” is defined as a defined point in space, then pretty much where we want to go beyond LEO is pretty limited”

      But really, there are lots of points in space. Just a few of them have names. There are also “orbits”, which can be viewed as targets. Of course, “compelling destination” is popularly defined as a rock, and there are a lot fewer of those around. The Moon. Mars. Asteroids. That’s pretty much it. The latter two are harder, but at least you can drag an asteroid nearby. Of potential compelling rocks, only asteroids don’t involve a gravity well to contend with. That’s the calculus here for ARM. (1) A rock (2) without a gravity well, (3) ideally nearby.

      And no, the bottom line isn’t technologies to go anywhere. The bottom line is DOING SOMETHING OF VALUE. We need to focus on that. If going anywhere is of value, then developing technologies to do it would be a good thing. But it has never been clearly established that “going anywhere” is a good thing. That’s a hand-waving rationale. In fact, technologies have never been developed in order to “go anywhere”. Our civilization has gone to many new places using technologies it was already using for economic value.

      • Andrew Swallow

        ARM also:
        (4) Builds a craft (SEP) we can use to send to the Moon and Mars.
        (5) Tests a ‘bat’ we can use to divert asteroids on collision course with Earth.

        • Hiram

          “(4) Builds a craft (SEP) we can use to send to the Moon and Mars.”

          Which is a great idea, but doesn’t need astronauts.

          “(5) Tests a ‘bat’ we can use to divert asteroids on collision course with Earth.”

          Which is a great idea, but doesn’t need astronauts. (Actually, the way the asteroid is retrieved in ARM does not test the way you would divert a large asteroid on collision course with Earth. The bag won’t work.)

          Gee. Someone failed calculus. I think points got taken off in differentiation.

          • Andrew Swallow

            True, we do not need astronauts to fly the SEP to the dust cloud and change its course. That is why the astronauts do not take off until several years later.

            The viable alternative to a bag is a very, very big wall. A solid rock can be diverted by a bat shaped object but a dust cloud can not be. A stick just cuts through a pile of rouble.

            • Hiram

              “The viable alternative to a bag is a very, very big wall.”

              Uh, a threatening asteroid is defined by Congress as being larger than 140 meters. Yep, that’s a very, very big wall.

              You know, strategies for asteroid impact mitigation have been looked at very closely and critically, with an eye to implementability, affordability, and yes, viability. I recommend you have a look at that work.

              In the context of a large SEP, docking of that SEP to a threatening asteroid would allow it to be handily deflected. We have the robotic skills to do that rendezvous and docking, largely autonomously, and will have practiced it on a number of such objects.

              “That is why the astronauts do not take off until several years later.”

              No. Press reset. That’s why you don’t need astronauts to do this AT ALL. Hey, astronauts are nifty, keen, and, er, inspiring. But you don’t need ‘em for batting an asteroid.

              • Andrew Swallow

                Hiram. have you ever heard the expression “Do not throw the baby out with the bathwater?”

              • Hiram

                “Do not throw the baby out with the bathwater?”

                Yep. So we’re talking wastewater? Gee, this is worse than I thought!

      • Coastal Ron

        Hiram said:

        But it has never been clearly established that “going anywhere” is a good thing.

        We have lots of goals and rationales that have been used in the history of human activity in space so far. Some directly related to space, some using space as analogies.

        At this point here in the U.S. one of the more popular points of consensus is that Mars is a goal as a human destination. No doubt the “Why” and “When” are not well defined. And there are other goals too. So certainly that shows some level of interest.

        I think it would have value to ask the American public if they supported a long-term goal for humans in space, especially since our taxpayer money would be supporting it. Something along the lines of:

        Should U.S. Taxpayer money be used to help make humanity multi-planetary?

        Or

        Should the goal of the United States be to become a spacefaring nation, and extend our sphere of economic influence out into space?

        Of course rarely are us voters presented with such specific opportunities, and I don’t expect such a question to be put forth for a vote. Maybe a survey is the most practical way to do it.

        And having a President state a very clear philosophy for our goals in space, AND have Congress support that those goals – that would be nice. Not sure if/when that would happen though…

        • Hiram

          “I think it would have value to ask the American public if they supported a long-term goal for humans in space, especially since our taxpayer money would be supporting it.”

          That’s precisely right. Also precisely right that if a President and Congress support those long range goals, it would mean a lot. Then you can design a space program specifically to do those things. Then a space program would have a clear “It’s important because …”

          I’d like to believe that the NRC Human Spaceflight Committee (whose report is in final review right now) will weigh in on such things.

    • Vladislaw

      Lagrange points for Mars and Venus. Some more points to look for trojans.

  • “Inspiration” is about the last quality I would use to describe any staffer on this committee. Not to mention its elected representatives.

    The sheer arrogance these people have in telling me what should “inspire” me is beyond the pale.

  • James

    Regarding ARM: Any idea how Bolden is going to fund this given lack of support in Congress? Can he, on his own, re direct internal NASA programs to fund this embarrassment? What room does he have to find/generate (Tax other programs?) funding within the Agency?

    Boldens’ insistence in pushing for ARM to happen, despite negative-zero support from anyone not involved in securing pork, is all about keeping the Agency afloat; this is pure evidence that he is not leading NASA.

    In fact, there is no one at senior levels of the Agency exercising leadership. Survival yes, leadership no. And they don’t even know it.

  • I would not look to any congressional committee for “inspiration”, nor would I put much credence into their opinion as to what “inspiring” or not. Regardless of what the armchair space critics may espouse, there is tremendous respect in the general population for any human spaceflight endeavor.

    As for the humans versus robots argument concerning ARM (again?) There is very little a rover or probe can accomplish that a human astronaut can’t do better. JAXA pulled off an amazing feat using the Hayabusa craft in rendezvousing with an asteroid and returning that sample to Earth. And it’s prize was but a few micron sized particles. Can you imagine how much more effective a real planetary scientist in a spacesuit would be attempting that same mission? More expensive? Yes. Riskier for the astronaut? Of course, but risk is an inherent element of that occupation. That explorer could simply reach out and gather a handful of sample…before placing a gravimetic sensor, a cosmic particle detector, a radio beacon, or any number of instruments while simultaneously taking photographs of herself floating next to said asteroid. That’s the inspiration that Congress can’t see.

    • As part of my day job, I inform members of the public about the U.S. space program.

      When I tell people about ARM and show them the illustrations, they light up. “Cool!” is a very common response.

      I don’t get many people asking when we’re going to do Apollo again.

      • Hiram

        “When I tell people about ARM and show them the illustrations, they light up. “Cool!” is a very common response.”

        When I tell people about Evel Knievel jumping over busses on a motorcycle, “Cool” is a very common response. That cost a lot less than sending humans to a rock in cis-lunar space. Sorry, but HSF is expensive enough that, at least with taxpayer dollars, it has to be about more than “cool”. We did not do Apollo, BTW, because it was cool. If that were the best justification, we would not have done it.

        • Hiram, you missed my point … If Congress is going to tell us that “inspiration” is the justification for a space program, then I am finding people who think ARM is inspirational. Members of Congress and their staffers claim that no one is “inspired” by ARM. I have personally witnessed hundreds of people who find it “inspirational.”

          Is it the wisest investment of taxpayer money? No. But that’s not my point. My point is that Congress is trying to define for us what we think should be “inspirational.” It’s an insipid argument by insipid people.

          Not to mention they’ve never proven that the Senate Launch System inspires anyone other than OldSpace lobbyists.

          • Hiram

            “If Congress is going to tell us that ‘inspiration’ is the justification for a space program, then I am finding people who think ARM is inspirational.”

            You said you were aware of people who thought it was “cool”. What exactly were they inspired to do? Did you see any “inspiration” on their part? What did it look like?

            “Inspiration” is kind of an ugly word. It is not measurable, so it’s impossible to assess any activity as being “inspirational”. It has a strongly religious connotation. Ya gotta believe!

            Of course, that’s PRECISELY why “inspiration” is used as rationale for human space flight (as well as other things). It’s a slippery word that sounds reverent, and no one has taken any effort to try to define it. (It’s a lot like “exploration” in that regard.)

            Let’s not even use that word. Let’s hope Congress doesn’t take that word seriously. I think we agree that defining something as “inspirational” is an insipid argument.

            • Vladislaw

              I do not believe that is entirely accurate.. Stephen informs people, at the margin, some of those people will be “inspired” to:

              A) Tell other taxpayers about arm and space.
              B) Be more of an advocate for space on social networks.
              C) Parent push a child more into stem and space.
              D) Contact rep/sen push space.

              Inspire just mean to influence, guide or motivate, so basically, at the margins, any action will get a certain amount of people to move, the real question is how many. What is the most productive for the end goal and what is that end goal.

              • Hiram

                Ah, now we’re digging into the details. Thanks! So that’s what space “inspiration” is. It’s about telling other taxpayers about ARM & space, being an advocate, having parents push kids, and doing congressional advocacy. NOW I understand why it’s a rationale for human space flight. NOW I understand why we’re paying big bucks to do it. Ah, it all makes sense!

                We’re paying to influence, guide, motivate, and getting people to move. Sounds like solid marketing to me. Yep, what you describe is marketing. So it’s marketing that is the rationale for HSF.

                You crack me up.

                Now, what Stephen does is marvelous, in engaging the public. But he’s not getting paid by ARM, Orion, or SLS to do it. That’s not where the big bucks are going. That’s not the “inspiration” we’re talking about.
                I’m still waiting for him to tell me what exactly the ARM concept inspired these people to do.

              • Vladislaw

                Do you even understand what inspire means, you seem to have some grandiose definition. If someone is motivated, no matter HOW SIMPLE the new action by a tour, an article, video, it doesn’t matter.

                Someone might do something really minor another might make a career choice.

                I never said it was a rational for spaceflight, you did. pay attention.
                You wrote:

                “What exactly were they inspired to do? Did you see any “inspiration” on their part? What did it look like?”

                I gave examples of what SOMEONE may be inspired to do.

                Just because someone is inspired it doesn’t automatically mean they going to try and build a rocket company.

              • A couple days ago I had a college student approach me to say he’d just taken a final exam in asteroid retrieval.

                He is clearly “inspired.”

              • Hiram

                “Do you even understand what inspire means?”

                Nope. Nor do you.

                You gave examples of people being inspired to do marketing. Pay attention.

                “He is clearly “inspired.”

                To take a final exam? Yay.

                C’mon, guys. The word “inspiration” means pretty much whatever you want it to mean but, oh, it’s a good thing! There’s “exploration” for ya. Same thing. “Exploration” is great! Whatever it is. Scientists, humans space flight advocates and stuntmen have very different definitions of what it is.

                See, I’m not saying inspiration is bad. I’m saying it’s good! We’ve defined it to be good, whatever it might be. So let’s all say “Yay to inspiration!”, and move on to more pointed rationale.

                I can say I was inspired to DO certain things. By parents, teachers, mentors. But being inspired to “like” something, like space, isn’t an accomplishment, any more than Laurence Fishburne inspired me to like the Kia K900 on the SuperBowl broadcast.

                I have no objection to people wallowing in inspiration, with regard to space rationale, to the extent that it just doesn’t really mean anything.

    • Hiram

      “As for the humans versus robots argument concerning ARM (again?) There is very little a rover or probe can accomplish that a human astronaut can’t do better.”

      The “humans versus robots” argument is an old and moldy one. We’re talking about humans on an asteroid exploring an asteroid versus humans on Earth exploring that asteroid. This is all about humans. When you’re working in cis-lunar space, with the short comm time delays, that’s easily possible. The word “robot” has a lot of bad connotations. Don’t fall into that trap. The technology for telerobotic sensing and dexterity has increased enormously in the last decade. We do surgery with telerobots. Think you can do surgery in an EVA suit?

      “That explorer could simply reach out and gather a handful of sample…before placing a gravimetic sensor, a cosmic particle detector, a radio beacon, or any number of instruments while simultaneously taking photographs of herself floating next to said asteroid.”

      You’re right, a telerobot operated from Earth could do all of that. The explorer will be sitting in a chair in Pasadena, and she’ll have a cup of coffee near her. She can do a selfie of her remote avatar pretty easily.

      What is being talked about here are specific, high value tasks. Moving a big rock is a big one. Sending humans out into cis-lunar space is another. The first doesn’t require astronauts, and the second doesn’t require a rock. So putting humans together with rocks is an artificial solution to the problem at hand.

      BTW, you keep focusing on science (sampling, etc.). That’s NOT a priority for ARM. The asteroid scientists are wholly unenthused about having humans do this work. Doesn’t add value. In order to do the science work that needs to be done, humans are HUGELY expensive compared to other strategies. That money could be used to do science, sample, and experiment with many asteroids.

  • “I will confidently predict that if this policy recommendation of a downselect becomes the policy of the United States, you will find that you have saved neither money nor time,” said Jeff Greason, CEO of XCOR Aerospace.

    Ah, there goes Jeff again, confusing the Congressional shills with logic. Similarly to what he did on the Augustine Committee, and we all saw how that turned out. We got the ludicrous SLS anyway.

    • Andrew Swallow

      Unfortunately “the Congressional shills” are using more than shouting. They are trying to put the down select into the law.

    • “Unfortunately “the Congressional shills” are using more than shouting. They are trying to put the down select into the law.”
      Which is what I thought I was subtly implying.

  • Andrew Swallow

    If you want to inspire politicians you name it after them.

    The first stage of the SLS – big noisy and rises to the occasion. It then burns out and falls back to the Earth to be forgotten.

  • Robert G. Oler

    sadly I dont think that any mission that is to any “place” in the solar system off earth with humans that cost “north” of 100 billion dollars to do…inspires anything but opposition. there is no support for such an effort.

    Face it folks the days of Apollo are over. RGO

    • Hiram

      The “place” that Apollo took us to was where we could stick it up the rear of the USSR. The Moon was incidental, as a destination. That achievement was diplomatically expressed as “exploration”, and everyone sighed with pride, since sticking it up the rear of the USSR was, well, a bit mean.

      As noted earlier, an expensive mission with humans to a particular place in the solar system might achieve some measure of popular support IF it came with a credible reason. But the only reason we can come up with is that we’re going to stick it up the rear of someone. Not quite clear who (China maybe?), but we’re going to let everyone know that we’re capable of doing that.

      Seriously, though, if human spaceflight is about colonization and settlement, let’s just admit that and see if we can move ahead with a plan. Congress won’t do that. If it’s about resource development, then let’s establish what resources are available that we need, and move ahead with a plan. Congress won’t do that. (No, water is not a resource that we need, but it is kinda handy for colonization and settlement.) If human spaceflight is about technology development, then lets get a clear understanding of what technology we need it to develop, and move ahead with a plan. Congress won’t do that. If human spaceflight is about jobs, then let’s understand why it creates jobs better than other strategies, and move ahead with a plan. Congress would like to do that, except it isn’t plausible.

      But the plan we move ahead with has to be aimed at an ultimate goal that we all agree to, and just going to some destination is not a credible ultimate goal.

      • Robert G. Oler

        Hiram I agree with much of that…but I would add this. We cannot have a colonization phase of anyplace off EArth unless there is an industrial phase where “something” that can support the colonization comes into being (ie people have to have some job that produces wealth otherwise they are just technowelfare)…

        History is a good guide ie the “sea’ Made money for nations before they used it to colonize other “places”…but so is current events. WE dont have colonies on the sea floor because there is nothing that is done there that right now supports human activity…what we have are temporary “sea stations” ie oil rigs that people stay on for a bit and the come “back” to “earth”

        for all the smoke and fury there is nothing that the space age has developed which sustains economically human activity in space…right now the Space Station is a major cost, not profit center…and until there isa “profit” center…we have gone in my view about as far as we can go

        Robert G. Oler

        • Hiram

          “I agree with much of that…but I would add this.”

          Probably correct. Fair statement about ISS. It’s doing great stuff for teaching us about human spaceflight, but it’s not an extensible proposition. One is enough. ISS provides NO lessons for why we need to have humans in space, but rather develops capabilities for keeping them there. Oh, there’s that tourism thing. Pffft.

          That we must have an industrial phase off-Earth to support people is probably correct, even if the goal is species insurance. We’re not going to send people up to twiddle their thumbs while they wait for the Earth to die. But that just raises the question of value. Sending humans off-Earth needs to have a “why” that provides value. The “why” for Apollo was to kick the USSR in the groin. It did that. We checked that box, and then were done with the Moon.

          As to off-Earth resource potential — prove it. You don’t need astronauts to prove it, and you may not even need astronauts for developing the resources.

        • Fred Willett

          right now the Space Station is a major cost, not profit center…and until there isa “profit” center…we have gone in my view about as far as we can
          Kinda agree.
          But things are beginning to change.
          Most of ISS is not making money because it’s govt run. But Nanoracks are making money, and from the ISS.
          True it’s only a little but, but it’s a straw in the wind of things to come. (I think and I hope)
          The thing is the NASA budget is fixed or declining. The budget of commerce is not, and if it grows slowly doesn’t matter. It grows.
          Consider Nanoracks a seed. SpaceX and Orbital are two other seeds making money out of ISS. Or Space Adventures – when they can book a flight.
          We just need to give these seeds time to grow.
          I suggest we check back in 10 or 20 years and see what the economic seeds have become.

  • Neil

    The reality as I see it. Governments are not going to engage in any meaningful exploration plan simply because of:
    1. Too expensive under exisiting structures
    2. Opportunity cost
    3. No or insufficient votes in it for politicians

    They will tinker around the edges, talking the talk only so far as the above holds true. In other words, simply to keep the constituents employed and NASA will remain beholden to the political processes of Congress.

    In the non-government area we have several disparate groups:
    1. Those who see a ‘destination’ as starting point
    2. Those who see something else as the starting point such as:
    2a. ISRU
    2b. Flags and footprints
    2c. Colonisation
    2d. Technology
    2e. Some mix of the above alternatives

    For these groups the major obstacles are:
    1. Funding
    2. Cost (loosely linked to funding since sufficient funding would eliminate cost)
    3. Technology
    4. Support

    My back of the envelope analyses suggests that there are only a couple of groups who can overcome the above obstacles and they are:
    1. SpaceX
    2. Bigelow

    Both these groups have complementary technologies, are being driven by something other than profit and have strong directed wealthy individuals as leaders who are beholden to none other than themselves.

    SpaceX in particular has what I would call a ‘cult’ leader who can inspire devotion and dedication over and above the norm. This I see as the sole reason why SpaceX may achieve their ultimate aim and why other groups including those such as Mars One will fail.

    And I can see this as ending up motivating the major space capable countries to join the game in the end. When SpaceX hits a ‘tipping point’ in their capability, these nations are not going to give up the high ground. They will join for fear of being left out in the cold. It may be that Elon and SpaceX is the only possible group who can overcome the politics and bring about a united effort in space exploration. I know that Elon has stated that he really wants public/private effort however I think this view may have changed of late given the current politics.

    IMHO if they can’t then no one can and we will retreat from the effort as a race to ultimately go the way of the other species who failed to adapt. Extinction.

    Cheers.

    • Hiram

      “IMHO if they can’t then no one can and we will retreat from the effort as a race to ultimately go the way of the other species who failed to adapt. Extinction.”

      Failed to adapt? Adapt to what? As to cultures that never invested a lot in sending people to far away lands, at least one of them — China, is doing fantastically well. Yes, that opinion deserves some humility. I think the prospects for human extinction are far higher on the Moon and Mars than on the Earth. Let’s see, the emu and passenger pigeon never tried to advance into space, so yes, that must have killed them off.

      The reality as I see it is that governments aren’t going to engage in any meaningful plan for human spaceflight because they simply don’t see the national value in it. Governments are charged with bringing value to citizens. Elon only needs to bring value to himself. At least until governments actually establish national value in human space flight, let’s give him our most fervent hopes.

      • Neil

        Hi Hiram.
        Well China is actually pursuing an hsf program, admittedly not quickly however they are seeing the ‘value’ in that investment otherwise they’d not do it.

        Wrt ‘adaption’, I’m sorry you chose to use examples that were somewhat trite. I’m using the term broadly and with respect to humans as a supposedly intelligent species with the ability to adapt their environment to changing circumstances – it they so choose. In my context it could mean anything from environmental to a pandemic to a war.
        I accept your comments value with this proviso: Elon needds others to achieve his aims, not just himself, and I firmly believe that he couldn’t do it without instilling some sense of cultism into his organisation. Ordinary workplace wouldn’t cut it.
        Cheers.

        • Hiram

          “Well China is actually pursuing an hsf program, admittedly not quickly however they are seeing the ‘value’ in that investment otherwise they’d not do it.”

          Yes, but one has to believe they’re doing it simply to show that they can be as good as us. It’s soft power, not species preservation, going on here.

          “Wrt ‘adaption’, I’m sorry you chose to use examples that were somewhat trite.”

          I hear ya talkin’. The word I should have expressed concerned about is “ultimately”. The time scale that human space flight advocates are motivated by these days simply isn’t a timescale on which we envsion any global threat to the species. Yes, we will move out into the cosmos. But we may not do it this century, and life will go on. It hurts, doesn’t it? We’d really like to see it happen in our lifetimes. But it isn’t necessary right now, and while deep down Congress knows it, they don’t want to admit it.

          What you say about Elon is exactly right. He needs a cult, and he’s their leader. The federal government won’t cut it. I admire that, in Elon. He has a mission that our government wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole.

          Sure, we could get hit by an asteroid, but the correct mitigation strategy doesn’t need astronauts. (See above.)

          • Neil

            Yep, we’re on the same page. Would hope that Elon, if he manages to keep to his what say 10 – 15 years then I might see it happen if I get an average or better male lifespan. And yes it does hurt when you consider the wasted years and the wasted billions. Oh well, life’s full of little disappointments.
            Cheers.

  • Andrew Swallow

    Senate terms last 6 years. NASA could probably get a rover to the Moon in that time. It could do some prospecting for resources. How inspiring that is I will leave to the politicians to decide.

  • John Malkin

    Rep. John Culberson (R-TX) said, “with only one access for crew to the International Space Station, from Russia, it is incredibly important that we get Americans launched from American soil on American vehicles as soon as possible. Paring down the number of competitors will help things along greatly because the funding won’t be split.”

    I would bet that Russia would charge us a small fortune, if we have an issue with our one American provider and are forced to buy seats on Russian Soyuz even for a short time maybe even double the current rate. So at least two American options should be available to support one being grounded so Russia can’t ever play into again.

    Also throwing money at something only has limited impact.

    Say you buy a product cost $10.00 normally, you pay $20 to part manufactures to put your order on the front of the line plus you play another $10 for a courier shipment. Total cost for expedited product delivery: $40. This doesn’t include development time for a new part.

    So than you give the manufacture $100 to get it faster… ?!? Am I missing something?

    • Neil

      SpaceNews has a relevant article concerning the requirement for competition in the CC Program at: http://www.spacenews.com/article/opinion/40537commercial-crew-needs-competition
      Cheers

      • Robert Clark

        The father and son astronauts Owen and Richard Garriot argue we should
        accelerate the pace at which we get an independent U.S. space capability:

        It’s Time to Push for US Human Spaceflight Independence (Op-Ed).
        Richard Garriott, Cosmonaut/Astronaut, and Owen Garriott, Astronaut
        (retired) | May 07, 2014 12:54am ET
        “After more than two decades of development, it is essential that the United
        States keeps the ability to visit, work and return from the ISS within its
        national capabilities. Yet, it is surprising to see how little discussion,
        much less pressure, is being applied to accelerating plans to regain an
        independent capability for human spaceflight. Now seems to be the time for
        Congress, NASA and the general public to all push hard, and get one or more
        of these U.S. systems in space as soon as possible.”
        http://www.space.com/25785-american-human-spaceflight-capability-richard-garriott.html

        We could have NASA flights to the ISS by 2015 with funding. Odd that SpaceX
        is not pressing the issue since they plan to make their own, independent of
        NASA, crewed test flights to LEO in 2015.

        Both Elon Musk and Gwynne Shotwell are scheduled to appear at the 2014
        International Space Development Conference (ISDC) next week:

        Featured Speakers and VIPs at ISDC 2014.
        http://isdc.nss.org/2014/speakers-vip.html

        Wish I could go but can’t make it this year. Hope the issue gets raised.

        Bob Clark

        • John Malkin

          The space.com article indicates 18 to 24 months and Mr. Bolden has said additional money above $848 million may be able to make 2016 not 2015. Unfortunately it would have been 2015 if CC was fully funded last budget cycle.

          Where did congress get the $3,055 million figure for SLS/Orion? Is it from NASA or the Contractors?

          It would be nice if NASA managed the space program for once without so many outside influences. That will never happen.

          Looking forward to ISDC.

          • Robert Clark

            I was going by the SpaceX statement they can launch crews by 2015:

            SpaceX to Launch Private Astronauts in 2015
            By Matteo Emanuelli on January 11, 2013 in News
            On January 9, SpaceX announced its readiness to launch U.S. astronauts, employed by SpaceX itself, into orbit by 2015.
            “We want to know when commercial companies are ready to fly their crew at their own risk,” said Ed Mango, manager of NASA’s commercial-crew program. The idea is for NASA’s commercial partners to demonstrate the safety and operability of the new craft on their own employees before the agency risks its astronauts.

            http://www.spacesafetymagazine.com/2013/01/11/spacex-launch-astronauts-2016/

            Then you could potentially have the bizarre scenario where SpaceX is flying their own crews to space in 2015, while NASA continues to pay the Russians to send NASA crews to the ISS until 2017.

            Bob Clark

  • Scott Rankine

    Given everything that’s happening with Russia and the ULA fiasco, NASA should award only one commercial crew contract to accelerate development of this vital capability. Clearly, that contract should go to SpaceX. Boeing is years away from being able to fly crews to and from the ISS while SpaceX is on track to demonstrate that capability next year by doing a flyby of the station with its own manned spacecraft. Congress and NASA are going to look awfully foolish if they are still funneling money into Boeing, especially in light of the Senate Launch System (SLS) which is burning through billions to build a ‘rocket to nowhere’ and the 1960′s vintage Orion capsule, both of which are going to look like gold plated dinosaurs once the American public see’s what SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy and Dragon2 spacecraft can do, including precision powered return landings at the Cape.

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