"Leaked" email by NASA's Mike Griffin

By Phil Plait | September 8, 2008 1:43 pm

The Aero-News Network reports having an email by NASA Administrator Mike Griffin which was leaked to the press. I don’t know the pedigree of it, though it sounds like him, and he evidently issued a public disclaimer about it (also posted at the Aero-News site).

I can see Griffin’s frustration here. Mandated to do two different things (retire the Shuttle, build Ares) and not having enough money, with the added fun of a 4-5 year gap between losing the Shuttle and launching the first Ares (which would still mean some years before having it ready to lift a human into space). In the meantime, the Russians are playing stupid games in Georgia, and that means we lose their help getting to the station.

The Space Station was a bad idea since its current implementation was picked, and now we’re stuck with it, a 100 billion dollar albatross. And we can’t even get to it after 2010! This situation is insane, and I hope the next president coming in can do something about it… but even then he’ll be limited in his capabilities. There simply cannot be a new rocket before 2014, and I don’t think they can stretch the Shuttle that long. It’ll be 1975 – 1981 all over again (after Apollo-Soyuz but before the Shuttle).

NASA is a political agency, but the nature of short-term thinking coupled with ridiculous political decisions are crippling our ability to get people into space. The government has always been penny-wise and pound foolish, but now this is costing us a lot of pounds.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: NASA, Piece of mind, Space

Comments (83)

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  1. “NASA is a political agency, but the nature of short-term thinking coupled with ridiculous political decisions are crippling our ability to get people into space. The government has always been penny-wise and pound foolish, but now this is costing us a lot of pounds.”

    How true. Sometimes I wonder if there are people in our government intentionally TRYING to do the worst possible thing for the advancement of science. Considering some statistics and numbers that correlate people’s beliefs and education levels, I could almost become a raving conspiracy theorists about the anti-science crowd.

  2. Todd W.

    @Larian LeQuella

    Well, the medieval Catholic church understood: keep the people dumb and you can control them more easily. Remember, knowledge is power. Take away knowledge and you take away power.

  3. Andy

    Hey Phil,

    I’m a Russian to start with. And to continue, I’m very disappointed of the way bloggers behave. I hear a lot of noise from Universe Today, and, you know, I undrestand OK (after visiting Kennedy’s earlier this year) that any opportunity, including Osetia-Georgia (or, admit it, Russia-US conflict as there’s no such thing as Russa-Georgia conflict) is to be used by NASA to get heard and financed as budgets get cut all the time. But it’s pity to hear from someone like you things like “Russians are playing stupid games in Georgia”. You’re not about space exploration anymore, Phil! What the heck are you talking about? Take a guess, how many americans don’t even know where the hell is Georgia. 60%, 75%? Don’t blame Russians, blame your own government. Those money they spend to tame Georgia and the like could be well spend to space exploration. And you’re talking about stupid games… Let me tell you one more thing – this used to be a political game. It’s not anymore, it’s us, people, not governments, who point fingers at each other, building conspiracy theories and “watching our backs”. We should well look in a mirror.

  4. Scathez

    “the Russians are playing stupid games in Georgia”

    Stupid? why? Less stupid than games in Iraq.

  5. Andrew

    The government has always been penny wise? Really?

  6. Andy

    P.S. You’re a reasonable man. Please, explain, how is that related:

    In the meantime, the Russians are playing stupid games in Georgia, and that means we lose their help getting to the station

    How long is it since you became a victim?

  7. Drew

    Maybe this is a real stupid question, but why can’t NASA extend the life of the shuttle just a few more years? Seems to me that if the shuttle is that bad off it shouldn’t be flying now, and if it is safe for flight now, why not continue to use it to support the space station while Ares is finished? There are how many vehicles, 3? If you send each one up once a year that shouldn’t be too much of a stretch, no?

    And as for the political comments, yes, both the US and Russia are playing stupid games. Both regimes long for a return to the Cold War era. There is no money or power in peace.

  8. Andy

    Drew, go to Kennedy’s SC. They’ll explain you HOW short of money they are. Especially comparing to 1/3 of the whole US budget way back in the Kennedy’s times. If it were not for mony I’m sure we would long be colonizing Mars by now.

  9. Drew

    @ Andy 2:23
    If we ground the shuttle before Ares (current timeline) then we would need to use the Russian’s space program to get people and supplies to the space station. Since there are some obvious strains in our relationship, no more cooperation.

    As for the rest of it, I am not going to say the US doesn’t play stupid games with its military, please don’t abuse our intellect by defending Putin’s use of his.

  10. Drew

    I get the money issues, but if it means abandoning the space station and all the money we have put into it, seems a giant waste.

  11. Perry

    FANTASTIC analysis, Phil!

    IMO, the Shuttle should not be flown past it’s last currently scheduled flight in 2010. My reasoning is that it is a VERY flawed design – see the last two shuttle disasters for my evidence.

    Perhaps we can SELL the ISS to the Russians, or maybe the Chinese – they could cancel all the U.S. debt they currently own – solve two problems at once!

    If we want to lead the drive to colonize and industrialize ‘Space’ – then let us move forward to the Moon. The ISS experiments show that a human cannot live long term in microgravity – perhaps we can live in the shallow gravity well on the Moon – maybe not. Let’s find out.

  12. As a member of the military, I will step a bit out of line and say that the politicians DO play stupid games with us. I’m not going to jump on the “Bush lied” bandwagon, but I will say these things:

    - We did not dedicate the troops necessary to do the job correctly.
    - We did not guard the infrastructure from theft, looting, vandalism like we should have.
    - We had no plan in place for reconstruction (and to be honest I still don’t think we have a PLAN aside from “Throw more money at the problem”).

    I personally think that getting rid of Saddam was a “good thing”, but we wasted whatever goodwill we had rather quickly. I also found it rather distasteful how selective we are about which bad people we feel the need to remove. Mugabe, Kim Jong-Il, Niyazov, etc. There I could go all sorts of conspiracy theory as well….

    @Todd W.: Yeah, what I was implying without getting too political/personal. ;) You caught me!

  13. gopher65

    One thing: 100,000,000,000 is the amount of money that the UNITED STATES spent on the station, not the total amount that was spent. The total amount isn’t easy to calculate cause of the different (constantly changing) currencies, the fact that countries don’t necessarily account for the money the spent on the project in the same way, and the differences in PPP between countries.

    However, that said, the best estimates that I’ve seen put the total about about a quarter trillion (short scale) US dollars.

  14. Andy said:

    “P.S. You’re a reasonable man. Please, explain, how is that related:

    In the meantime, the Russians are playing stupid games in Georgia, and that means we lose their help getting to the station”

    I think the potential is there for not having the Russians provide access via their launch vehicles if US-Russian relations deteriorate. Hopefully cooler heads will prevail, and whatever dispute these two nations (Russia and the US) can be resolved diplomatically.

  15. Andy, what the heck are you talking about? “I”m not about space exploration any more?” This blog deals with many issues, and politics is one of them, especially when it impacts science and space exploration.

    What difference does it make to this blog post how many Americans know about Georgia? What the Russians are doing in Georgia is stupid, and it’s affecting the rest of the world in many ways. As Griffin says in the email — did you even read it — is that we need them more than they need us. What’s happening in Georgia is definitely a player in that.

    NASA never got 1/3 of the US budget. Ever. In the 1960s, Apollo was 1/3 of the NASA budget. At its peak, NASA was 5% of the US budget. Now it’s less than 1%.

  16. ben

    I think the whole Aries thing is a BIG wast of money, why not just man rate an Atlas or Delta and save a lot of money trying to reinvent the wheel using old shuttle technology?

  17. ben

    “instead of trying to reinvent the wheel using old shuttle technology?” sorry forgot a word

  18. Daniel

    NASA cannot retire the shuttle until Ares is ready and proven. With the cost cutting they do now and the present state of quality control, it is a disaster in the making.

  19. Grand Lunar

    I too hope that the next president in office will promote a cooler relation with Russia. We’ve come too far to go backwards.

    I’m beginning to wonder if the Direct 2.0 program may have something to it.
    It seems to me it would allow for a heavier Orion than what the Ares 1 is set to carry.

    I wonder if we can’t have both a Direct 2.0-like rocket for the Orion and an Ares V for heavy stuff.
    If not a Direct 2.0, then at least an Ares IV.

  20. SLC

    The answer is very simple. As Bob Park and Steven Weinberg have so eloquently stated, manned space flight is not worth the money in terms of scientific achievement; therefore, deprioritize manned space flight. Period, end of discussion. But of course, Park and Weinberg don’t know what they are talking about.

  21. John

    Well the shuttle is 1/75 chance of catatrosphe for each mission, and so extending the missions beyond the original retirement deadline until 2014-2015 has a 1/12 chance of this happening. Nobody can ask an astronaut to go into space with a 1/12 chance of dying.

    To all the Russians on here, I would like to point out that your propaganda thankfully has stopped been broadcasted on the BBC on TV in the UK, but I know it’s still going on on the Internet and in other countries still, including Russia.

    Russia has always been aggressive towards neighbours – Poland, Finland, Czechslovakia and now Georgia. There is zero comparison between Iraq and these countries, try and read up on the history of the Saddam Hussein regime for a start.

    Russia has lied and lied about the Georgia conflict over and over again, how can we take the Kremlin seriously anymore. The Russians have aims to build up their empire again, they even admit to this, and even admit that a first nuclear strike is their best chance of beating the West. Whilst we hope they won’t, they have begun on the path which may lead to this.

    The free Western world has stood for freedom for many generations, and why should countries like Georgia, Ukraine and even Poland go back to serving the Russians again. They have rights to be free, and joining NATO for Georgia and Ukraine is what they deserve, which is to be free of vicious rulers like Putin who has intentions to make these countries serve his military in the same way that Stalin did.

    If Russia was a free country too then it would have nothing to fear from the spread of democracy towards their borders. It’s sad that the Russian leaders fear freedom for people and wish to childishly scare the rest of the world into submitting to their wishes. Their obvious fear of this permanent freedom for their neighbours is alone valid proof that the Russians haven’t changed one bit from their Soviet era, where they have shown to behave in Georgia the same as they behaved in previous invasions.

    It’s funny that people blame America for the problems caused by Russia, where America is the reason that Russia has slowed down in it’s advances on Eastern Europe. Russia is quite happy to send weapons to terrorist states such as Iran and Syria, who themselves don’t really get on, but yet still do this to spite the USA. Now that is childish and pathetic, and it’s time for Russia to grow up and enter the real world, intead of living in the 19th century. And please don’t say “oh the US helped Georgia”, as it was necessary to upgrade their military to join NATO, and Georgia was never any threat to Russia. Georgia only ever defended itself from Russian aggression and they had the right to defend their own territory and try to take it back. And helping a country who has admitted to wanting to destroy a neighbour to build a nuclear bomb is absolute stupidity by Russia, and even arming Iran and Syria with anti-aircraft missiles is tantamount to war with the West, as they’re both terrorist states. Yet we don’t say this, instead we try to calm the situation whilst remaiming firm. Well before we help Georgia rebuild their military which is going to happen to allow them to join NATO, Russia has said this would be a declaration of war. Now tell me this, which side appears overly aggressive, warlike and seemingly oblivious to what a world war would do to the world.

    Now if Russia continues on its path to destruction and maybe the rest of the world with it, then Putin can be assured that the first bomb will be for him. Even if miles underground Putin and Russia will probably be so obliterated it will separate from the Earth’s crust and break off into space. Now I know Russians won’t like that, but it’s your goverment which is responsible for your country, and they are supposed to answer to you. So if you want your government to change it’s course of action, don’t get angry with the West, get angry at your government. Rise up in the millions and overthrow the vicious dictators. Start a revolution. This happened in Poland to get the Soviets to leave with the support of the free world. Who’s to say that ordinary Russian citizens can’t do the same and bring Russia into the 21st century as a free democratic responsible nation.

    Now about the Ares – it’s a shame that the released video on the test was a disaster. I cannot understand why the funding wasn’t given for this project much sooner, I suppose we can blame Bush for that. I’m sure NASA will find the right solution, with or without the Russians. The free world needs to be as independent of Putin’s Russia in all matters if we are to get through this whole mess, with both resources and space travel.

  22. NM

    Phil, it’d be nice that a skeptic like yourself put a little of it in doubting neocon propaganda. Here’s a fact for you: Georgian troops entered S. Ossetia first, and killed 1500 people on the way. Russia’s done some HORRIBLE stuff in, say, Chechnya, but this is a completely differrent issue.

  23. tdhowe

    Personally as a scientist myself, I find the e-mail very enlightening about the current perception of science in America. The space program has been of incalculable value to the US but still we refuse to put the necessary resources behind it. This is very scenario is repeated in every other scientific field. To rely on a foreign government to keep our space hopes alive (or any other field, i.e. HEP and the LHC) for several years seems asinine since international politics changes about as fast as it takes the morning paper to be delivered.

  24. John

    @ NM

    “Here’s a fact for you: Georgian troops entered S. Ossetia first, and killed 1500 people on the way. ”

    One problem, that’s not a fact. All evidence put forward suggests that Russians entered South Osseria and attacked Georgians who were in Georgia proper, and Georgian army retaliated towards this. Of course some civilians died, it’s war, that always happens unfortunately. But these civilian deaths are low and nowhere near the figure you suggested. This is exactly how Georgian president described events all through the conflict and to the present day.

    Now I ask you who do you think is telling the truth – a). Russian Kremlin who are known for lying about having troops in Georgia proper for days, and have no evidence for their claims.

    Or b). A democratic elected Georgian president who has the evidence of passports handed out to South Ossetians since 2005, therefore proves Russia’s meddling in that region for years.

    I know anyone with an ounce of common sense would think the Georgian President’s account most accurate, especially if you’re from Western country.

    Now I put this to you, even if Russia did not attack Georgians directly they were in Georgian sovereign territory by having peacekeepers (as they called them but “aggressors” may be more applicable term). Therefore Georgian army had the right to try and push them out. By Russia claiming South Ossetia and Abkhazia as indepedent is equivalent to India claiming Independence for Bradford in West Yorkshire, England on the same basis that ethnic Indians and their descendants are now living there. Do you now see the idiocy of their claims? When you are talking about Georgia’s sovereignty and rights, it is irrelevant that that Georgia is a neighbour to them, and Georgia deserves to be free of Russian tyranny.

    It is suggessted that the same may take place in Crimea, Ukraine with so called Russian peacekeepers, and in other countries like Moldova and other neighbouring states. None of those actions would be legitimate either, and all of these countries deserve to live free of Russian tyranny.

  25. The problem is that all countries can’t get off their butts and sort things out. We’ve been deeply mired in politics and wars since the dawn of time, and I’m friggin’ sick of it.

    United States, Russia, and every other country has to drop all this territoriality and chest thumping, get together and start doing some good for all of us, not just serving their own elite. We’re not going to get anywhere in space until that happens.

  26. John

    “United States, Russia, and every other country has to drop all this territoriality and chest thumping”

    Right we’ll all just let Russia take whatever country they want then. Very clever indeed, that’s what led to the Nazi’s gaining power in 1938, and then 2nd world war in 1939.

    “start doing some good for all of us, not just serving their own elite. We’re not going to get anywhere in space until that happens.”

    Agreed, but only free democratic countries are not corrupt to be able to work together properly. At this point in time Russia is heading back to the most corrupt path it could possibly take.

  27. mk

    I like the de-prioritizing bit.

    I asked Phil a while back (got no response) why continue manned space flight? Given all that has been done/ is being done robotically… why invest the time and energy and resources and money on manned flight? The “best” reasons I hear are of a “because it’s there” nature. Or a “because you just never know” nature. That always falls flat with me, but who the hell am I, right?

    In all sincerity, this hard working, tax paying American citizen is totally open to other thoughts. Honestly… I’d genuinely like to know!

    Cheers.

  28. Davidlpf

    One reason to send men to space is that robots can do a lot but limited comapred to humans, plus there is no need for delays for robot to communicate back to Earth and the people on Earth to figure what to do next then send the message back to the robot what to do next.

  29. Dr. Plait:

    Minor point: the leaked email was first reported by the Orlando Sentinel on Sunday, and the paper confirmed the authenticity of the message before publishing the article. The Sentinel deserves your link, not Aero-News, which apparently did no original reporting on this subject.

  30. Todd W.

    Not to mention that the efforts spent to advance manned space exploration now gets us that much further along.

  31. Funkopolis

    Why is there no mention of Europe/Japan? With the latest ISS modules, they’re big stakeholders in the station’s future. Europe’s been launching rockets fairly reliably for a while, and I’m sure I saw some concept drawings of a crewed Jules Verne-type craft.

    Are their space programs really still too primitive for anything heavier than a satellite? I find it odd that enhanced European investment/cooperation is rarely mentioned.

  32. Helioprogenus

    This has already been mentioned, but it’s not just the Russians that are playing stupid games in the Caucasus. It’s the West, including the United States, attempting to exploit Georgia for economic resources (as a transit route for the Caspian oil Pipelines). Let’s not pretend that Russia’s acting in a unilateral manner. I’m not condoning Russia’s behavior, but we must be deftly aware that the United State’s purported battle for Georgia’s Democracy has less to do with Georgia’s well being, and much more to do with our control over their exploited resources. Ultimately, these issues don’t just occur in a vacuum, but wholly within a political frame that places national economics and power ahead of human life.

    If we wanted to truly represent Democratic reform, we could start with Zimbabwe or China, yet, we continue to cooperate with those nations, and see Russia, Venezuela, and Cuba as the enemy. Isn’t it funny that these perceived threats all want or have already nationalized their oil supply? They don’t want BP, Shell, Exxon, in their back yards when their own national companies can do the same work and allow less money to flow externally. Iran, similarly, as backwards as they are Democratically, only became that way when we intervened through special forces, to control the oil supply, and keep the then Democratically elected Prime Minister from nationalizing the Iranian Oil Supply.

  33. I wonder how hard it would be to retrofit the Chinese space capsule (Soyuz-derived) to dock with the ISS. The next president can play Nixon-goes-to-China all over again, and offer China a (very prestigious) stake in the ISS.

    Who knows, perhaps China will even compromise on Darfur and Iran.

  34. Davidlpf

    I thought I saw one at Walmart last week on aisle 3.

  35. mk

    Davidlpf… It would seem to me that time delay of communications on a several month if not year mission is somewhat a minor “problem.”

    Todd W… I’m sorry, but… what?

  36. HvP

    mk,

    Why put men in space?

    Gemini 8: A stuck thruster caused an uncontrolled spin. Neil Armstrong, acting in his capacity as a trained test pilot, was able to switch to the reentry system thereby salvaging the mission, spacecraft and docking data obtained. Remote control or robotics would likely have resulted in a loss of the craft.

    Gemini 12: Radar failure required Buzz Aldrin, in his capacity as trained test pilot and expert in rendezvous techniques he himself developed, successfully completed a manual docking with the Agena target craft thereby salvaging what went on to become a highly successful mission.

    Apollo 11: Incomplete radar data led the LM landing craft into a dangerously rocky landscape with only a few dozen seconds of fuel remaining. Neil Armstrong, in his capacity as a trained test pilot, was able to navigate to a more appropriate landing site and avoid what would have possibly been a disastrous crash landing.

    Oh, and MEN then landed on the Moon for the first time… not robots.

  37. mk

    A number of Robotic rovers made it all the way to Mars. And landed in exactly the right place. And performed/are performing quite nicely.

    Oh, and Challenger and Columbia.

  38. Davidlpf

    And a number of robotic probes have been lost and one of the rovers was stuck in sand for a while as well.

  39. John

    Reasons why we need manned missions:

    1. More unmanned probes have failed than manned missions.

    2. Human exploration is more of an achievement than just robot exploration therefore more ambitious.

    3. Humans will have to travel to the stars in the future, and this means beginning with rockets and space shuttle, leading to ISS, and then future missions.

    4. The next generation needs heros like the Apollo astronauts to inspire them to become interested in Astronomy & Physics, and even become astronauts themselves.

    5. Humans will be better at determining whether life exists on Mars than a rover. The same applies for any other world we visit in future.

    6. We need real heros to replace the pointless celebrity heros that our celebrity obsessed culture is full of.

    7. Space tourism needs infrastructure set up in orbit, on the Moon and even Mars maybe.

    8. Any visiting aliens may wonder what we are doing scrounging about on our little planet, and may even pity us.

    9. Any visiting aliens may decide to claim the Moon for themselves, and even the rest of the solar system, unless we populate them.

    10. In case any visiting aliens have already claimed the Moon, we need to go and get it back from them. I’m sure they already fear us humans.

  40. Andy

    Ladies and Gents, I see there’s a lot of tension about the Georgia subject. I just want you to think for a second and apply your own rules to yourselves – if you think Russian propaganda is strong in Russia – think again about US propaganda in US. If you think Russia’s playing stupid games – think again what’s your own game here. Just think. The answer is WE DON’T KNOW.

    Now, Phil, if you say 1/3 of budget is wrong – this probably indeed is wrong. However, what I told you is that I’ve been told by a guide in Kennedy’s and there were a lot of children there and they were not Russian for sure. So, again, I understand NASA does their best to spread the word and to get people involved that would lead to more financing. I’m more than allright with it – that is a thing Roskosmos never does.

    But. Russians never said we would harm ISS program by not letting you in there. It’s your laws that do not let you go ahead with the program.

    So, while your blog “deals” with many things, please let it deal with one thing more: do all your best to not let politics harm space exploration.

  41. Autumn

    Isn’t there some internet law by now that castigates anyone who plays the victim by claiming that “my tax dollars shouldn’t be wasted on” X, unless the said victim gives some indication of their total tax debt per year due to program X?
    I’m getting kind of tired of folks complaining about the buck-and-a-half per year they are forced to “waste” on something they disagree with (note bene; the “buck-and-a-half” cited is simply a made up figure, and is not related to NASA’s per-taxpayer budget.)

    Autumn

  42. Daniel

    @Autumn
    Im getting tired of NASA jumping the gun on almost everything it does (ie retiring the shuttle before Ares is flight worthy…quality control methods…etc). As a taxpayer, I demand accountability from NASA. If it screws up, lives can be lost unnecessarily.

  43. Funkopolis makes quite a point: in all the Cold War style retorics about the US versus Russia, nobody seems to (want to) realize that Europe now flies its own ATV crafts to the ISS. Currently only with cargo, but concept plans indeed exist for a manned version (and the Shuttle disappearing might boost those perhaps). And Europe will continue to participate in (manned) Soyuz flights to ISS as well, certainly now ESA’s Kourou launch site has been adapted to be able to launch Soyuz rockets. So no way that ISS will become exclusively Russian when the US drops out because of not having a capable vehicle anymore.

  44. Oh: and for the latter, they only have themselves to blame really. Both having to rely on Russian Soyuz, and potentially not prolonging the existing INKSNA exemption for Soyuz launches, are results of US political decisions too. The latter would have been a moot point if the US would not have to rely on the Russians because of their decision to scrap the shuttle by 2010. In other words, the US manoeuvred itself into this position.

  45. Lawrence

    Daniel – NASA is getting pulled in 100 different directions at once. Between probes, research, Ares, the Shuttle, the ISS & every other pet project out there – and with about 1/10th or less of the funding the agency actually needs to accomplish all of these different tasks, they are constantly robbing Peter to pay Paul.

    Without a real budget, a firm hard & an honest appraisal of what can and cannot be done – these problems are only going to continue to escalate. I can only hope that the election will at least offer some chance of change. It won’t be easy, and it won’t be immediate (we’ve gone far too long for simple fixes), but hopefully it will put us back heading in the right direction.

    And on the subject of Georgia, the attitude of the Russians really scares me. I find it very interesting that the moment a regiment of Georgian regulars entered what still is Georgian territory to fight separatists that were shelling into Georgia-proper, over 20,000 Russian soldiers just happened to be standing by – fully prepared to fight a campaign that not only included the separatist regions, but advanced miles into undisputed land, blockading roads & ports, and basically trying to overthrow a democratically-elected government.

    Russia is flexing its muscles – Georgia was just the first. In the next several years, you’ll see other former Soviet republics getting bullied by Moscow – more “peacekeepers” getting deployed into harms’ way to act as agent-provocateurs.

    I know that we haven’t been angels, and in some ways have brought this on by our own actions in Iraq, but at least we have a modicum of good intentions & hopefully have learned our lesson for the future. Unfortunately, the moment Russia decides to mess with the Ukraine, it will force the Europeans to get off the sidelines – for that is a line they won’t allow to be crossed & we’ll get to see what a real war looks like – and that will be a very, very bad day for all of us.

    I don’t mean to be so negative or alarmist – but I’ve had friends who have spent many years in Russia – and they’ve been telling me for years that this is only going to get much, much worse before it gets any better.

  46. SLC

    Re HvP

    Mr. HvP makes one of the dumbest arguments ever. The robotics available in the 1960s are in no way comparable to those available today. It’s like computers. A top of the line Dell or Apple notebook has far more computing power then the most powerful mainframe computer available in the 1960s. Given the choice of following the advice of Steven Weinberg or Mr. HvP, I choose Steven.

  47. Charles

    mk,

    Please name a single computer or robot with the computational ability or dexterity of a human being. Just one will do.

  48. Nigel Depledge

    Drew said:

    I get the money issues, but if it means abandoning the space station and all the money we have put into it, seems a giant waste.

    Drew, this is an example of the sunk-cost fallacy. Does it make sense to continue spending money (probably at least in the hundredds of millions of dollars, since shuttle launches are not cheap) on something that is unlikely ever to fulfil its promise? Or is it better to admit that the ISS is a white elephant and move on to the next step of manned space exploration?

    I am not necessarily advocating the abandonment of the ISS, I am just saying that the amount already spent on it is not a good reason to sustain it. Are there other reasons? I don’t know, but I hope there are. I really hope the ISS has good scientific reasons for staying where it is. (Metaphorically speaking. Of course, there are good scientific reasons why it will stay physically in orbit for quite some time. Orbital mechanics are fairly well understood.)

  49. Nigel Depledge

    Larian LeQuella said:

    As a member of the military, I will step a bit out of line and say that the politicians DO play stupid games with us. I’m not going to jump on the “Bush lied” bandwagon, but I will say these things:

    - We did not dedicate the troops necessary to do the job correctly.
    - We did not guard the infrastructure from theft, looting, vandalism like we should have.
    - We had no plan in place for reconstruction (and to be honest I still don’t think we have a PLAN aside from “Throw more money at the problem”).

    I personally think that getting rid of Saddam was a “good thing”, but we wasted whatever goodwill we had rather quickly. I also found it rather distasteful how selective we are about which bad people we feel the need to remove. Mugabe, Kim Jong-Il, Niyazov, etc. There I could go all sorts of conspiracy theory as well….

    I think there are several things that can be added to this. Bush may or may not have lied, but he was certainly not clear. IIUC, polls have discovered that the majority of US citizens (I cannot recall the actual figures) thought the invasion of Iraq had something to do with 9/11. The pretext for the invasion of Iraq was that, in defiance of UN resolutions, Saddam was manufacturing so-called weapons of mass destruction (WMDs).

    The UK government told its citizenry that we had “evidence that Saddam was making WMDs”. They never shared what this evidence was, and after the invasion, no trace of WMDs was ever found.

    So, either (a) it was all fabricated and the invasion was just to gain control of Iraq’s oil, or (b) Western countries knew that Saddam had WMDs only because we sold the technology to him in the first place. If you recall, both the USA and the UK supported Iraq in its war with Iran back in the ’80s.

    Now, whether the truth is situation (a) or situation (b) does not change the fact that the USA and the UK are being immensely hypocritical in criticising Saddam’s defiance of the UN resolution.

    So, even above and beyond your comments about the way in which the campaign was conducted, the politicians were indeed playing stupid games with their military.

    There is no reason to suppose that the Russian military presence in the independent state (and former Soviet Socialist Republic) of Georgia is truly significantly different.

  50. Nigel Depledge

    Daniel said:

    NASA cannot retire the shuttle until Ares is ready and proven. With the cost cutting they do now and the present state of quality control, it is a disaster in the making.

    Would you care to explain this, Daniel?

    It seems to me to be no more than an unsupported assertion. Why cannot NASA retire the shuttle fleet until Ares is ready? As far as I can tell, NASA has plenty of unmanned launch capability (someone else mention Atlas and Delta rockets, which it may not be possible to rate for manned flight due to the forces involved during lift-off).

    It seems to me that NASA could retire the shuttle fleet tomorrow if it were acceptable to abandon the ISS, the final Hubble upgrade and the USA’s access to manned spaceflight.

    So, instead of making bald assertions or simply talking about individual vehicles, perhaps you’d care to explain why it is unacceptable for the USA to have no manned spaceflight capability between the retirement of shuttle and the readiness of Ares / Orion?

  51. Todd W.

    @mk

    What I was trying to say is that eventually, we are (very likely) going to be going around in space. If not the U.S., some other country. The sooner we start trying to advance manned space explorations, the further along we will be in our development, and the sooner we will reach more advanced stages. Keeping ahead of the curve compared to other nations may not be the best reason, but it certainly is a significant factor to consider.

    Another consideration, though perhaps a bit too sci-fi, is that eventually we’re going to run out of room for people to live on Earth, barring any major catastrophes or other events keeping the population under control. So, what are the options? Take population control measures akin to China’s 1 child/family (which hasn’t exactly worked out so well) or look for other places to colonize. In order to colonize another world, we have a long, long way to go in terms of manned space flight.

  52. Well Nigel, you can’t account for sheer stupidity of the American Public. After all, 20% of them think that the sun revolves around the earth! And I would most likely go with answer (b) as to why the invasion happened, with (a) being what some say now. :)

  53. Nigel Depledge

    John said:

    Agreed, but only free democratic countries are not corrupt …

    Erm, John, you might want to investigate that a bit further before making such bold claims. If I have understood correctly, in most democracies (including the USA), governemnt serves the needs of large businesses first and foremost, and the needs of its citizens second. For example: To a big business, tax is negotiable. To ordinary citizens, it is imposed by the elected administration.

    At the end of the day, democracy seems largely to be about spending power.

  54. Todd W.

    I’d actually like to see someone provide some evidence of a country that actually is a democracy, rather than a republic or some other form.

  55. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    Griffin’s grasp of strategy is impressive, his application (i.e. intended deflection of the leak) not so much.

    As for the thread, it’s much clutter:

    Less stupid than games in Iraq.

    Good point. But ironically weakened by georgians participating in Iraq (by way of KFOR, admittedly). Albeit they seem to have announced they will withdraw half, ~ 1000 troops, due to hostilities with Russia.

  56. Nigel Depledge

    Andy said:

    The answer is WE DON’T KNOW.

    But we can make exceedingly educated guesses. As one commenter pointed out, the Georgian government has presented evidence to support its statements, whereas teh Russian government has not.

  57. Nigel Depledge

    Andy said:

    Russians never said we would harm ISS program by not letting you in there. It’s your laws that do not let you go ahead with the program.

    But, as one of the preceding commenters noted, these events do not occur in a vacuum. A US government agency cannot be seen to be spending huge sums of money on Russian rockets and capsules while that same government is objecting to the Russian military presence in Georgia. It would lose what credibility it has with its electorate.

  58. Nigel Depledge

    Daniel said:

    Im getting tired of NASA jumping the gun on almost everything it does (ie retiring the shuttle before Ares is flight worthy…quality control methods…etc). As a taxpayer, I demand accountability from NASA. If it screws up, lives can be lost unnecessarily.

    So, do you demand similar accountability from the US military? They spend vastly more money than NASA, and are responsible for the loss of many many more lives than NASA. So, do you demand this accountability from them?

    If you do, I wish you luck. If you do not, stop whining and get a sense of proportion. NASA gets less than 1% of the US budget, and achieves a hell of a lot more success with it than some other government agencies. Just don’t get me started on the state of high-school education in the USA – at least, not until you have read about Richard Feynman’s experiences.

  59. Nigel Depledge

    Larian LeQuella said:

    Well Nigel, you can’t account for sheer stupidity of the American Public. After all, 20% of them think that the sun revolves around the earth! And I would most likely go with answer (b) as to why the invasion happened, with (a) being what some say now.

    Heh. Too true. I think the same can be said for the British public, but with perhaps a slightly smaller percentage thinking that the sun revolves around the earth.

    To quote a source I can’t remember: “A person is intelligent. But people are stupid.”

  60. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    we would need to use the Russian’s space program to get people and supplies to the space station.

    For supplies it seems the ATV can do it all (solids, liquids, gas) – 1st one separated successfully Friday, remains reentry burn up test in a few weeks. So you could invest in bumping up the ATV production instead.

    Europe’s been launching rockets fairly reliably for a while, and I’m sure I saw some concept drawings of a crewed Jules Verne-type craft.

    Are their space programs really still too primitive for anything heavier than a satellite?

    “Jules Verne” type? The ATV, still up there despite being undocked from ISS last Friday, is not only independently maneuverable to and from orbit and ISS docking, but can do so automatically.

    The remainder of the question also strikes me as naive, as it is US that pushes for independence at every turn. Thus, US has AFAIU no input in ESA activities more than EU can affect NASA.

    IIRC ESA will take the opportunity with the successful ATV launch to propose an ATV pathway to a manned vehicle this autumn. By way of first a heat shield/landing ability, and later manned launch capability. (As evidenced by the first ATV mission, the ATV is currently not only capable of being inhabited but was AFAIU the least noisome part of the ISS.)

    But if you think the politicians are willing to spend more money on ESA, think again. ESA has not the NASA capital flow, so a development of manned vehicle operations will probably be a substantial increase. Then again, perhaps the recent ISS problems will prompt them into action. Dunno if EU policies are any more sustainable than US, so if it goes through it may be a temporary effort at that.

  61. Nigel Depledge

    WRT manned as opposed to unmanned spaceflight:

    I agree that unmanned spaceflight returns far more science per million bucks spent. But I also agree that manned spaceflight is more inspirational and therefore better PR for science in general.

    Consider Cassini. It has returned some spectacular images, and some amazing science. But, without Apollo, would it ever have been funded?

    Similar arguments can be made for big physics experiments. The LHC is a most amazing machine, but it can be argued that the money would have been better spent on many smaller projects. However, without the “big experiment” cachet, would the money have been there for physicists to spend?

    I have been thrilled by the images of Mars returned by Spirit and Opportunity, by MRO and Mars Express. But I would be even more thrilled by images of a manned Arean landing.

  62. mk

    Todd W…

    Thanks for the clarification.

    The only thing I’d say is I’ve heard of the running out of room so let’s colonize someplace else argument as well. But I think even less of it. Spending resources for a solution on this planet is still the better option.

    In the end, I guess I look upon this point in our space exploration and see that the real achievements, the majority of scientific achievements and discoveries have come from probes. I can relate to the emotion, the romance of human space flight/exploration, but until it becomes clear that more significant discoveries and experiments can be accomplished with manned flight than with robotic probes and rovers I’d rather we stick to what is currently working so splendidly. (by comparison, of course.)

  63. mk

    Nigel…

    I too would be thrilled to see men on Mars. It would be a true knockout! But to what end? And cost?

    In addition, would we be where we are today without Apollo? Don’t know. But here we are. And I’m glad for it. Now let’s continue on, I say!

  64. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    Perhaps we can SELL the ISS to the Russians, or maybe the Chinese

    Sell the US parts you mean, Russia and Japan already owns substantial hardware (that’s why it is I(nternational)). Good luck with getting Japan and China to cooperate.

    Albeit IIRC it was mainly US refusal to cooperate with China that hindered them from buying into ISS, making it cheaper, and launched them onto their current path of independent development of manned vehicles and their own space station. (I recently perused the Wikipedia articles on China’s tremendous work, as they announced they will launch their third manned vehicle this month.)

    wonder how hard it would be to retrofit the Chinese space capsule (Soyuz-derived) to dock with the ISS.

    Not hard at all, the Shenzhou probably already have that ability by way of a purported APAS-89 adapter on the orbital module. Remember that the next goal after this autumns 3 man launch and space walk is to dock to the first Chinese space station in 2010 or so. (A “space laboratory module”, likely derived from Shenzhou; as the earlier space stations expandable by docking more Shenzhous and later lab modules.)

    AFAIU the Chinese strategy is to have their own larger (~ 20 Mg) space station in orbit before attempting a manned moon mission after 2020.

  65. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    Well the shuttle is 1/75 chance of catatrosphe for each mission, and so extending the missions beyond the original retirement deadline until 2014-2015 has a 1/12 chance of this happening. Nobody can ask an astronaut to go into space with a 1/12 chance of dying.

    Nobody can ask the same astronaut to go on all missions either. I assume you mean that an astronaut that will go up 2 times will endure a (1-1/75)^2 or 1/40 risk.

    Hmm. 1/75 per mission risk seems not far from the practically achievable, as AFAIU the high altitude Hubble mission will have a 1/175 or so risk for a critical impact from orbital junk, up from the ISS risk of 1/250 or so. IIRC Ares will match the later numbers, so it will be as safe as we can get orbital missions in the near future. [Of course away from Earth orbit you would like to have the vehicle inherently as safe as possible, so Ares is not ideal there.]

    Maybe the main reason to go for Ares for orbital missions is that most failures won’t be as spectacular? (Fewer dead men.) Otherwise it would make sense to decouple orbital and Moon mission demands, if there is enough missions to let both technology paths go around.

  66. BillyBob

    Larian LeQuella said:
    Well Nigel, you can’t account for sheer stupidity of the American Public. After all, 20% of them think that the sun revolves around the earth! And I would most likely go with answer (b) as to why the invasion happened, with (a) being what some say now.

    Still waiting to meet that 20%. Even the dumbest rednecks I know, know better than that. Generally most of us agree it’s a fair mixture of getting the oil, “cleaning up” Hussein, and old information from the Clinton administration about WMD’s. Oddly enough, and this in no way backs up the WMD statements, but there have been planes and equipment found under the desset sands, hidden by Saddam’s troops.

  67. Andy

    To those from both Americas who say “why explore?” (answering to a commenter, who interrogated (:) Phil), please remember how you or your ancestors happend to be there. Same counts to Australians :-)

    mk, what difference does it make what it will cost us to settle on Mars? I would fund such a project myself as much as I can (let’s keep it secret from my wife for now). Just imagine… Just you imagine.

  68. Daniel

    @Nigel
    Actually we NEED the military, and YES I do demand accountability from them as well. Im a taxpayer, Do I not have the right to say where my money goes? That 1% is a fortune to us people who live on earth.

  69. mk

    Andy…

    I think that someday (way, WAY in the future) it will be possible to send people to Mars. At great cost and effort. Now, I would love it if you and others were to fund the entire enterprise and leave the federal monies for things like those smaller, faster, more efficient robotic probes and satellites. There is much to be explored and much to be learned, sooner rather than later. I am hopeful that by the time men set foot on Mars we’ll be drilling into Europa, landing probes onto various other orbiting rocks and ice balls and looking back at our solar system from on high and… and, and, and… etc.

    But then, I’m a dreamer. ;^}

  70. Daniel

    @Nigel
    You are right. The US could just throw away its space program if it wanted to…But then why give voters a reason for McCain/Palin (something about creationism and religion…a skeptics worst nightmare)? NASA has to have a manned presence for national security reasons. It is the times we live in, and abandoning the ISS or any manned presence is strategically a bad move. NASA must do this responsibly, and retiring the shuttle before a manned Ares can get off the pad without blowing up is not responsible.

  71. John

    Talking of McCain/Palin creationist views I think we can say Britain’s view is more sensible, since Gordon Brown has given his support to Obama.

    @ Nigel Depledge

    I said “but only free democratic countries are not corrupt”

    You said “Erm, John, you might want to investigate that a bit further before making such bold claims. If I have understood correctly, in most democracies (including the USA), governemnt serves the needs of large businesses first and foremost, and the needs of its citizens second.”

    I never said all democratic countries aren’t corrupt, but just that those which aren’t democratic are more likely to involve high levels of corruption. Try to read comments literally rather than just changing it’s meaning.

    I’m sure there are some democratic counties with corruption, but most don’t deal with the same level of corruption as say North Korea or Russia. For example the US has free elections, whereas Putin is Russia’s dictator and so on. Serving large businesses can have benefits on citizens, and you should give documented examples with evidence suggesting that they don’t before assuming that your goverment doesn’t care about your needs. For example I’m sure you are quite happy to buy gas for your car, whilst also slagging off oil companies, and it’s human nature for people to be hypocrital without even realising it.

    Why does a lot of American’s post such negative comments about their country and blame them for all the world’s problems where it’s quite obvious they didn’t cause most of it. Try reading on the history of these countries like Russia and when the Soviet Union existed, and you’ll see most problems stem back to them, and not the USA. Outside of the US, in Britain we can see this, why can’t you American’s see this.

    A point about what someone said about the West suppoting Saddam Hussein in the 80′s – well if I put you in charge of a country because your neighbour was attacking you and said we’ll support you to defeat them. If you later decided to attack the same weapons to attack your own civilians just because you didn’t like them, and then tried to invade another neighbour later on, does that not give me legitimate reason to remove you from power with force.

    It’s different that the UN didn’t support the Iraq war and the UN resolutions against Saddam’s Iraq, and therefore not hypocritical removing him from power because there was no resolution against the US attacking Iraq, and the UN did not support Saddam, in fact sanctions were already in place against his regime. Are we to call the UN hypocritical for not defending Iraq when the US and Britain went to war with them, since all countries in the UN with vetos did not all agree on a resolution to remove Saddam with force. No! …Now if the UN had all agreed on a sanction against the US in event of the US attacking Iraq, then that would be the US breaking a UN sanction, and so hypocrital since they would be breaking sanctions in order to prevent another regime breaking sanctions, but that never happened! Except in people’s fantasy minds that hate the US! Idiots!

    I just wish people would read more about certain subjects rather than just making wild assumptions and usually blaming the West for it, and fuelling Russian propaganda which Putin latches onto. Why didn’t Putin give any evidence for the conspiracy of America telling Georgia to attack S. Ossetia, and why didn’t he mention this before the conspiracy was thought of by nut-jobs without a life. That’s most likely because Putin is lying using you to fuel his own propaganda mission. That is most likely because Russia and the Soviets have done this before, and so have other regimes such as the Nazis. Why make up some conspiracy without providing evidence when the answer is there right in front of you, in history books, and repeating itself over and over again in the real world.

  72. HvP

    SLC,

    I’m a big fan of modern robotics and am fully aware of the amazing achievements we’ve made in autonomous machines in the decades since Apollo. The fact still remains that regardless of how much better the computing power, a computer still cannot begin to approach the problem solving abilities of a real human at the controls.

    Robots can only examine and react to the things that we program them to react to. If we can’t anticipate a certain problem then a robot is unlikely to be able to act appropriately without radioing back to mission HQ. Considering the time lag involved to someplace like Mars for example that could easily mean the difference between easily solving a minor issue or total mission failure.

    Astronauts in manned spaceflight have had to overcome a variety of unexpected equipment problems that the engineers simply didn’t account for in advance (an improperly aligned drill, radar info overflow, servicing parts not originally meant to be serviced.)

    If you just stop and consider the lost productivity and effort now required for ground engineers to troubleshoot simple things about the current Mars rovers it’s astounding. It can take hours or even days for men on Earth to figure out which way the rover should be commanded to move just to ensure that it won’t get stuck in a rut, or how to shake a tray so that dirt can fall through it….

  73. Nigel Depledge

    Daniel said:

    @Nigel
    Actually we NEED the military, and YES I do demand accountability from them as well. Im a taxpayer, Do I not have the right to say where my money goes? That 1% is a fortune to us people who live on earth.

    Several points here.

    1) Has the continental US ever been threatened with invasion by a foreign power?

    If not, then for what purpose do you need a military? As a deterrent? Then what are they doing on the other side of the world? It seems to me that successive US administrations have used the US military to impose their own ideas and ideals on other countries. Explain to me how this is “necessary”.

    2) To what extent is the US military organisation accountable to the taxpayers? They are accountable to the administration, which is elected by the electotrate. Hmmm, it seems to me that NASA has the same level of accountability (in fact, probably more so, because there are almost certain to be aspects of the US military budget that are kept secret). So, unless you know different, NASA already has more accountability than some other branches of government. I am sure it is easier for you as a taxpayer to uncover what NASA spends its tax dollars on than what the military spend its tax dollars on.

    So, why do you expect additional accountability from NASA?

    3)As a taxpayer, you generally don’t have the right to say where your money is spent. When was the last time you wrote to George W to tell him what he should be spending your money on?

    What you have the right to do is either (a) vote for an administration that most closely refelcts your own preferences for the spending of public funds, or (b) stand for office. You also have the right to lobby your representatives in Senate and Congress to raise issues that matter to you, and you can ask them to advocate more or less spending on specific aspects of government, but these individuals will most often submit to majority rule. Haven’t you ever seen Legally Blonde 2?

    4) You imply that space exploration is unnecessary (never mind about whether it is manned or unmanned), yet it can be argued that science (including space science) is one of the most necessary prerequisites for the long-term benefit of humanity as a whole.

    5) You point out that “this 1%” (actually, significantly less than 1%, but I do not know the exact figure) is a huge sum to “us people”, but can you claim to speak for all US citizens? No, of course not. You can speak only for yourself, and your personal contribution to NASA’s budget is tiny compared to the benefit you personally are obtaining from it. Not only is your life being enriched by the information returned by NASA’s deep space probes, but you are gaining the benefits of huamnity having a better understanding of the behaviour of the sun, of weather and climate systems, and of rapid transcontinental and intercontinental communications. These benefits all arise (in part or in whole) from space science in one form or another. Do you genuinely begrudge them their handful of dollars a year? (I have no idea how much tax you pay, and it is none of my business, but a fraction of 1% of your tax dollars is unlikely to be a large price to pay for all of these benefits unless you have a vast income and are thus paying many tens of thousands of dollars in tax.)

  74. Nigel Depledge

    John said:

    I never said all democratic countries aren’t corrupt, but just that those which aren’t democratic are more likely to involve high levels of corruption. Try to read comments literally rather than just changing it’s meaning.

    Hey, I won’t change the meaning of what you write if you agree to write what you actually mean.

    You didn’t say that all democracies are free from corruption, you said that only democracies are free from corruption. I was pointing out that most democracies are not free from corruption, and, by extension, that there is little reason to suppose that your assumption is correct. For instance, is there any government that is wholly free from corruption?

    What you meant (and is now clear) is that democracies tend to be less corrupt than other forms of government. I agree with this, but it is not what you said. Do not now try to pretend that what you said was something other than that only democracies are free from corruption.

  75. Nigel Depledge

    Daniel said:

    NASA has to have a manned presence for national security reasons.

    This sounds to me like nothing more than propaganda. For what reason does a manned presence in space contribute to national security?

    Recall that I did not advocate scrapping NASA’s manned spaceflight programme. I merely pointed out that your reasoning was absent from your comment. You asserted that it was necessary for the USA to maintain a manned presence in space without the gap that would result from the current plans for retirement of shuttle before Ares / Orion is ready, but you did not share why you thought thus.

    Merely claiming that it is needed for “national security” is also not a reasoned argument. Answer my above question and you might be getting close.

  76. SR

    John said in an impressive list of other good reasons for manned exploration :

    “9. Any visiting aliens may decide to claim the Moon for themselves, and even the rest of the solar system, unless we populate them.”

    Nebvermind aliens. What about other – far nastier human empires – Imagine China controlling the Moon or Russia or who knows who else?

    Comfy at that thought?

    Just because the US abandons the idea of travelling further into and settling the solar system doesn’t mean that others – hostile or potentially hostile and totalitarian rather than Western and nominally democratic will do likewise.

    Suppose China develops the power to colonise and control the Moon ..and Mars .. and the solar system ‘spose they put big militray bases up there. Their technology will then be vastly superior to ours, their spiritand moral fargreaterand their control and influence over everybody else willbe very great indeed. Spose the Chinese “communist” dictatorship says space is its domain – and stamps down on the Earth and controls that from its high ground too. Imagine a world where US power and influence has collapsed completely. Ever read Orwell’s ‘Big Brother’ novel with the classic image of the dictators Foot stamping on the persons face,crushing and grinding it down forever?

    What sort of a nation and a future does that leave for the United States of America – or Australia or England or any Western civilised nation?

    China has one of the nastiest governments on the planet -justask theToibetans or the victims of Tianamin Square 1989. They have little if any regard for human life, they have a generation of “little Emperors” brain-washed by propaganda and with a very unbalanced male :female sex ratio.

    Do you trust them with your future? With your children?

    If we don’t go forwards., if we don’t do the hard things like colonising the Moon – then we’ll stagnate and rot and fall.

    Its already happening but hopefully its not too late to change course ..

  77. SR

    We need to put people in space.

    We need to colonise the Moon and the asteroids and Mars (Probably in that order.)

    If we are to have a positive future we can’t give up and surrender space to those who (lets face it) will be our enemies or at best just be out for themselves.

    Are we sometimes hypocritical? Perhaps – but so are they.

    Are we flawed and imperfect and often in the wrong – sure – but so are they & I would say worse. Do I think Western culture and ways are better than Eastern & third world – yes, quite frankly I do. History bears me out on this – science and feminism, the abolition of slavery and the idea of human rights and democracy all arose out of Western civilisation -first Greek, then Roman, then European and now American.

    China and the Third world – Asian and African and Arab – has given the world despotism and dictatorship and .. um ..more despotism and corruption and dictatorship …

    Do I prefer a world we we control the Moon, where we control the asteroids and set the leading example? You betchya!

    We need to fund NASA properly. We need to fly the shuttles and replace them with something better. We need to take another giant leap to the Moon and this time stay on our feet there rather than falling back on our butts. We need to walk and learn and grow. We need to be the one’s in charge of the High frontier, the final frontier that goes outwards practically to infinity in every direction.

    To do otherwise is, ultimately, to fade away and die. To lose our future rather than taking it in our own hands. That simple.

  78. SR -correctiomn

    Do I prefer a world where we control the Moon, where we control the asteroids and set the leading example? You betchya!

    Please BA can’t you fix this blog up with some means of editing or at least previewing please? I hate having to “edit” typos etc .. in this fashion rather than directly on the post. :-(

  79. John

    @ Nigel Depledge

    “Do not now try to pretend that what you said was something other than that only democracies are free from corruption.”

    Yes at the level of corruption that we should be concerned about. To pick out minor discrepancies in democracies is hardly the same level of corruption in Russia which involves murder. If you think like that instead of concerning about little backhand payments to government members, which is insignificant in comparison, then what I originally said was absolutely correct!

    I wonder why you actually care to be so picky at both my comments, and towards democratic governments. People are human beings, if they’re in high positions some may be tempted to take bribes etc, it doesn’t make them the same level of bad as what dictator regimes are, which murder people for hardly anything. If you find your democratic country (if you are living in one) so disgusting, go live somewhere like Russia. Then you might have a reason to complain!

  80. Andres Villarreal

    Most people here have forgotten the issue that started this whole quagmire: The Space Shuttle is, and has always been, a terribly bad machine!

    When a bad machine is retired from duty all the remaining choices are frequently bad. The money to make a better one has already been spent. The need for it does not disappear just because the design is flawed. And politicians will make a killing either way.

    Remember, the famous tile problem was known from day one! The need to re-engineer the whole heat shield was known years before the first shuttle flew. The fact that we do not know how to make a cost-effective reusable spaceship with a humongous 22 ton payload capacity was known since the second or third mission, when we could have stopped construction on the other three shuttles.

    We could have decided that the shuttle would be used only when men and women were absolutely necessary (and not just part of the payload) since the early 70′s, but did not.

  81. Nuclear NASA: Curiosity Killed the Cat. What happened to NASA’s Solar Panels? Spirit and Opportunity are still going after 5 years, so why don’t we do like the Russians and send 2 more of the same? Wouldn’t it cost less and have been proven? As for launch, if Florida wasn’t having enough problems with the Oil Spill, now NASA has to threaten them with Nuclear Fallout. Let’s just say it gets into space. Mars space landings don’t make it that often. Do you see the irony of sending a Nuclear Probe to look for life on Mars that could possibly kill that life? Google Nuclear Poisoning… it wouldn’t make Florida or Mars a great travel destination.

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