NASA Bolden going?

By Phil Plait | May 14, 2009 10:38 pm

On Universe Today I see that NBC is reporting that NASA may have a new Administrator as soon as Monday: Charles Bolden, a Shuttle astronaut who flew on the mission that first deployed Hubble in 1990.

NASA has been without a permanent director for months, since Mike Griffin stepped down and Christopher Scolese was named Acting Administrator. NASA needs a permanent chief; it must make long-term decisions, and make them soon. I’ve been fretting about how much Obama really cares about NASA; he picked a dog for his family before a top dog for NASA. If this rumor about Bolden is true, I’ll be glad to see someone picked, though the fact that it took this long still concerns me. Bolden seems like a good choice; he has a history with NASA, has flown many times, and has command experience in the military. Will this make him a good Administrator? Hard to say.

For the moment, I won’t worry about it too much; when it comes to things like this I’m a wait-and-see guy. If and when he’s chosen, we’ll see what people with real experience with NASA management have to say. Stay Tuned.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: NASA, Piece of mind
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Comments (52)

  1. If I was President, I’d pick my dog before a NASA Admin too.

    Not that NASA isn’t significant, but there are a bajillion things a Prez has to figure out that are equally or more significant, especially when first thrust into Office. I’d figure if the Acting Admin was keeping things running smoothly, then it is safe to wait a little while before finding the right guy.

  2. TomHandy

    From the MSNBC story, it certainly sounds like there’s some significant respect for him:

    “Florida’s senior senator, Democrat Bill Nelson, flew in space with Bolden in 1986, just before the Challenger tragedy. “Charlie’s credentials are top-notch,” Nelson said. The man who just retired from NASA’s top post, rocket scientist and aerospace engineer Michael Griffin, said Bolden would be “perfect” for the job.”

    “Princeton physicist Gene McCall, a senior scientist and fellow at the Los Alamos National Laboratory and retired chief scientist of the Air Force Space Command, said, “No one is more qualified to continue moving NASA out of its years of drifting than Charlie Bolden.”

  3. Darrin

    To Bolden go where no one has gone before.

    Sorry, couldn’t resist…

  4. “he picked a dog for his family before a top dog for NASA”

    Little birdie tells me that he’s picked a dozen NASA top dogs, but that space-state senators have vetoed them with threats to derail the nominations.

  5. Looking at his credentials, Bolden looks like a fairly obvious choice. I remember his name cropping up a couple of times earlier in the year. He seems to tick all the right boxes, but as you say, does that mean he’s administrator material? Who knows.

    However, I am a little old fashioned when it comes to “it’s best to have experience in a trade before you manage it,” so his years of spaceflight experience will give him the edge.

    We’ll see I suppose.

    Key thing is that we could have a NASA administrator at last! Let’s hope strong leadership leads to the right direction for NASA.

  6. Troy

    The family canine doesn’t require as much thought or research as nasa’s top dog.

  7. Speaking of ‘top dogs’, check out the article and video of Stephen Chu (head of Department of Energy) at MIT at:
    http://www.salon.com/tech/htww/2009/05/14/steven_chu_at_mit/index.html

    And no one asks him where oil comes from!

    J/P=?

  8. Ray

    It takes a little time to pick a nominee who has paid his taxes.

  9. MadScientist

    I’ll agree with the “hard to tell”. Since he’s familiar with some aspects of operations and his rank indicates many years of managing other people, he might be the guy – at any rate a far more sensible choice than the previous suggested contender.

  10. BigBadSis

    Thanks for the title, BA. It brought a smile.

  11. Cheyenne

    “We need to put as much training into the space tourists as any government-sponsored space exploration. ” – Bolden

    “But some White House officials and members of Mr. Obama’s transition team for the agency initially opposed Gen. Bolden’s nomination on the grounds that he was too closely tied to NASA’s existing manned-exploration programs and wouldn’t bring a fresh perspective to the agency.” – Wall Street Journal

    He seems like a really decent, hard-working, smart guy who is just (probably) going to help NASA get completely locked up into the same state they’ve been in for the last 20 years. Endless delays, massive cost overruns, further cuts to science missions (like what Griffin was doing) to support the George Bush manned moon return plan. Even Griffin thinks the guy is a fantastic pick (which in my humble opinion is pretty worrying).

    Come on Obama – pick somebody that will put science first! All those missions should get funding priority over funding the next bloke to go shuffle around on the moon beating on rocks with a hammer – we’ve really evolved in our capabilities and thinking since that point decades ago.

  12. Charles Boyer

    Cheyenne, with all due respect, you always seem to overlook the overwhelming support that the American taxpayers (i.e., the owners of NASA) have for manned space flight. Were it to stop, it is quite likely that NASA would cease to exist and that robotic exploration would suffer as well.

    Massive cost overruns are a natural part of nearly any major government endeavor. While it is unfortunate, that’s how things work: projects are sold with an extremely optimistic timeline and cost structure and in the real world that rarely works. That goes for manned spaceships, Mars probes, defense projects, national parks, government buildings and darned near anything else you can think of.

    Finally, I agree completely that the science mission funding should be restored. Where we disagree (and I hope in a collegial, friendly way) is that I think it should not be at the expense of the other side of the house. Given the relative pittance that both receive, and the fact that the public supports greater funding, I think that there is room for both.

    What would NOT happen politically is for manned exploration’s funding to be taken away and given to science/robotic missions. That’s just not how the politics works, given the way NASA has evolved in Congress.

  13. Gary Ansorge

    Cheyenne:
    Disagreement, I have.
    Manned space flight is the (very public) rationale for research. Is it hard? Aye!
    Expensive? Oye Vey! But until we’re able to create and launch a 64 bit quantum computer, we’re kinda stuck with the one between our ears. Silicon intelligence is fine, but carbon is better. Granted, carbon life requires complex environmental support but silicon is subject to EM interference and requires significant “hardening” to survive in space and while that is somewhat easier than an earthly environmental system, it’s limited to the simple systems we can currently construct. In exploration of new environments, such systems have significant limitations(slow reaction times, limited adaptability, etc). One human with an analytical lab could tell us more about MArs in six months than we could learn with simple robots in a dozen years.

    Both systems will likely be required to continue our expansion into space for the foreseeable future. FIRST simple silicon, THEN complex organics. That’s how we’ll grow.

    GAry 7

  14. Boo-yah-ka-sha--Respek

    If I were president, I’d name my dog NASA.

  15. Matt T

    As a fan, I have to ask you Dr P, pleeeeeease stop using this “Obama chose a dog before a NASA chief” line — I really don’t think it reflects well on you. You’re an intelligent man, so I have to assume that you understand perfectly well that there is not a simple, 1-to-1 correspondence between the order in which someone performs a set of activities and their ranking of those activities’ importance. Regurgitating this ingenuous one-liner makes you appear petulant (“Obama hasn’t addressed my pet area of interest, so he’s a big poopyhead”). Or worse, it puts you in the same camp as John “Overhead Projector” McCain — using a demonstrably misleading example as a cheap political shot.

    There’s also the slightly tangential issue that Obama’s choice of pet is manufactured news. He makes numerous personal decisions every day, but we don’t — and shouldn’t — give a crap. If he spent a day in the Oval Office weighing Scottish Terrier vs Labrador instead of, say, what the hell to do about Afghanistan, then, yes, we have a problem. Until then, let him pick his dog in his own time and IGNORE it.

    If you feel (and apparently you do) that he is unreasonably dragging his heels on this particular matter (picking NASA head, not White House Mutt), then go ahead and tell us why. But leave the ingenuous soundbite snarks to the politicians. You’re better than that.

  16. Thanny

    Phil seems a bit naive when it comes to politics (not issues, politics itself). Obama went into office with a choice for NASA head. To believe otherwise is ludicrous. His choice, however, was blocked behind the scenes, for whatever reason. The same for other choices, and not only for NASA.

    I’m not one of those Obama-can-do-no-wrong types (I’m very critical of how he’s handling the economy, for example), but it’s unfair to heap blame on him for the realities of how political appointments are handled. At least one, for example, was held up in committee for no reason by a single Republican, and the rules stupidly allow that.

  17. Matt T and Thanny, I disagree with both of you. NASA has a high public interest level, and his taking so long to fill this position has come to the notice of major media. It’s a big deal. And Thanny, you have no evidence he came into office with a pick in mind. The only evidence we have is that it’s been 5 months and no Admin pick. And Matt the link I put in to a previous article about Obama and NASA explains my thoughts on this. That’s why I put that link there.

  18. SpaceTripper

    Those at NASA who fear that Charlie would oppose changes to the status quo obviously don’t know him very well. To suggest that he comes with an agenda is not even credible. He is a consummate loyal field general who leads to the vision of his commander. He is skilled in building consensus, collaboration and morale – a team builder. So, relax, you control freaks, and let the system work.

  19. Cheyenne

    @Gary and Charles – I get your points but I still strongly and respectfully disagree. I know I’m kind of beating a dead horse here and I don’t want to hijack the thread. Just a couple more things-

    Read The Economist today –

    “FEW scientists believe that the space shuttle has helped their profession. Mostly, it has been used to convey astronauts to a space station that has produced little worthwhile research and to launch satellites that might have been put into orbit more cheaply by old-fashioned, throwaway rockets.”

    Foreign Policy Magazine-
    “Manned space flight might be a great adventure, but don’t fool yourself into thinking that the presence of humans helps advance science. The greatest scientific achievements of the space program have been the unmanned missions to the planets and the use of remotely controlled instruments to measure the cosmos. All of our greatest space science has come from robots.”

    Further on-
    “Most scientists roll their eyes when NASA talks about the need for human astronauts. Numerous missions have been delayed (and made substantially more expensive) when NASA decided they had to be launched with the space shuttle instead of cheaper unmanned rockets. NASA’s circular rationale: to justify the cost of the shuttle.

    Message for Obama: Explain to the public that putting humans in space is not only very dangerous; it usually slows the advance of science. If the public just wants the adventure, then let them know that that is the real purpose. ”

    Op-Eds by the Chicago Tribune, Wall Street Journal, articles in Time magazine, various Science associations in the US and elsewhere are all touting opinions more akin to mine than the current thinking at NASA. Let’s seriously re-prioritize the budget of the agency seems to be the growing consensus of thought.

    This is finally the golden opportunity for real change to be made. But it’s not gong to be – we’re going to stick with this stupidly unproductive and massively wasteful plan to put humans on the moon and keep them in LEO (the Senator from Florida is so excited with the pick as he wants job protection for his people – he knows Bolden’s way of thinking). And we’re going to NOT do a heck of a lot of really cool missions in the meantime because they can’t be funded. But yes they still do many, and they rock at that- but imagine what NASA could be doing!

  20. Matt T

    I read your original post, and I just re-read it to make sure I didn’t miss anything. What I see there is an argument — and a good one — in which you lay out yours fears that Obama is, to be blunt, full of hot air about science, at least where NASA is concerned. I get that, and I’m not actually disagreeing (although I think some of the commenters make good counterpoints, too).

    What I’m failing to see is a justification for comparing a personal choice with virtually no significant ramifications (choosing a pooch for your kids) to a political appointment with major implications for both politics and science (choosing the next NASA Admin).

    It’s a bad comparison. It does not support your arguments. And it smells of cheap politicking. You have good arguments; please don’t undermine them with “overhead projector” tactics. That’s all I’m saying.

    If you want to make a comparison, how about the speed with which Obama moved on stem cells? I’m sure there are others, too. That are relevant.

    BTW, the point you make about the high-profile nature of NASA’s headlessness is a valid one, but I didn’t really get that takeaway from either of your posts.

  21. Gary Ansorge

    Cheyenne:
    So long as humans and our support species are limited to one planet to live and grow, just so long will we and they, be vulnerable to extinction. Humanity in space isn’t about excitement: it’s about survival.
    Politics requires an immediate excuse to fund any venture. Excitement MAY be the excuse but it is not the over riding rationale.

    Peace,

    GAry 7

  22. SLC

    Re Cheyenne

    Mr. Cheyenne, don’t you know that the denizens around here believe that folks who advocate de emphasis of the manned space program don’t know what they’re talking about? Bob Park doesn’t know what he’s talking about, Steven Weinberg doesn’t know what he’s talking about and apparently former Lockheed chairman Norman Augustine also doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Attached is a link to Bob Parks latest What’s New site. As an aside, the choice of a former astronaut like Mr. Bolden is a disaster for those of us who believe that NASA should concentrate on science, not spectacles.

    http://www.bobpark.org/

    2. NASA: A NEW PANEL WILL REVIEW SPACEFLIGHT OPTIONS.
    Yesterday the Obama administration announced that an independent panel will take a fresh look at NASA’s human spaceflight program. The panel will be new, but its chairman won’t. Norm Augustine, former CEO of Lockheed, has headed many national committees, including the 1990 report on NASA priorities (WN 14 Dec 90) that called for putting space science above space stations, aerospace planes, manned missions to Mars, and all the other engineering spectaculars on which NASA has focused. The new panel could not do better than to resubmit the 1990 report.

  23. Ray

    Phil,

    “And Thanny, you have no evidence he came into office with a pick in mind. ”

    Actually, we do have proof. Scott Gration was mentioned before Obama became President, but was nixed.

    http://www.space.com/news/090322-nasa-chief-iskatowitz.html

    http://www.redorbit.com/news/space/1623779/obama_may_select_highly_decorated_pilot_as_nasa_chief/

  24. Thanny

    Phil:

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2009/01/14/scuttlebutt-scott-gration-to-be-new-nasa-chief/

    That’s just the one you picked up on. The existence of a rumor about a potential political appointee is evidence against your notion that Obama has simply let NASA leadership slide.

    It’s a matter of record that several of Obama’s choices for department heads have been held up by politics. I find it reasonable to conclude the same is true of his choice(s) for NASA head.

  25. StevoR

    Scott Bolden sounds like a good choice to me. :-)

    I like the idea of an astronaut who has risked his life and knows the NASA culture from long experience – and who has worked on the Hubble Space observatory being given a chance to run the show.

    (Personally, I’d have seen whether John Glenn, Sally Ride or Buzz Aldrin was interested & if so then given one of them a go!)

    NASA, in my view, needs to be properly focused, funded and given a specific task* (or tasks*) with a deadline set and enough money and gumption to get on with it!

    JFK got it absolutely right & we (not just the US but the whole Western world) need something like Apollo again. IMHO Naturally.

    That to me is what’s important.

    I agree with those people here who’ve stated its worth Obama taking the time to get the NASA boss & program right & that the BA’s knocking Obama for picking a dog first is, well… not-so bright. The implications of choosing a family pet matter a whole lot less than the implications of choosing a NASA cheif and getting NASA going properly again.

    I do NOT believe we have an either /or situation with robots vs humans in space.
    I think we need & should fund and direct BOTH.

    I also think manyof NASA’s critics (& esp. those criticising its human program) are short-sighted, ungrateful and misguided & need to look at NASA’s superlative achievements and successes as well as its occassional failures. NASA ain’t perfect – nothing is – but it is simply the best space agency in history and has acheieved the most remarkable, marvellous and superluminous things. We should *never* forget that.

    We should instead fund them properly**, support them, do our best to fix its flaws whilst never losing sight of just how good they are & how amazing the things they’ve achived -even if they do need to get on with acheiving more now and getting wa-ay beyond just Low Earth Orbit and not just resting on their past laurels.

    ——————————–

    * Eg. Humans landing on Mars by 2020, return to plus colonising of the Moon – with first woman and non-WASP types to be on the Moon by 2019, human landing and exploration of Near Earth-Asteroids, et cetera.

    ** Funding ~wise it really appalls me that the US, instaed of funding NASA and looking after its own people, just wastes such huge amounts of money – & energy & life – on invading innocent nations like Iraq and Afghanistan and funding & abetting Israel’s aggression, occupations and bullying in the South-West Asian / Islamic world region. (Yes Iraq & Afghanistan *were* innocent – Bin Laden & Al -Quaeda the over-rated threat & excuse for civil liberty roll-backs _are_ guilty but are NOT national actors. The Taliban are a nasty bunch of zealous thugs but like the Viet-Kong are the legitimate popular govt /resistence groups in their specific countries. The best thing to do is leave these other lands the heck alone & just go after Bin Laden for 9-11 – but in any case he is most likely already dead – . War is NOT the solution & democracy cannot be imposed from outside by force. Period.)

  26. StevoR

    @ Cheyenne : (May 15th, 2009 at 10:33 am)

    @Gary and Charles – I get your points but I still strongly and respectfully disagree. I know I’m kind of beating a dead horse here and I don’t want to hijack the thread. Just a couple more things-

    Read The Economist today –

    “FEW scientists believe that the space shuttle has helped their profession. Mostly, it has been used to convey astronauts to a space station that has produced little worthwhile research and to launch satellites that might have been put into orbit more cheaply by old-fashioned, throwaway rockets.”

    Er Cheyenne, ever heard of the Hubble Space telescope?

    Youknow that thing that has given us so many incredible astounding images and infornation, seen deeper and in more detail than anything else in history and all that?

    You do know what the shuttle ‘Atlantis’ and its crew are currently in space for don’t you – or do you?

    You do remember that the astronauts – the manned misisons put the HST up there and have fixed and upgraded it many times don’t you – or do you?

    You also know – or do you – that the Apollo manned missons to the Moon are responsible for enabling us the arrive at the whole ‘Big Splash’ theory of its origin?

    As for the International Space Station, perhaps you should wait until its actually, y’know fully constructed and built before expecting it to be the treasure house of who knows what amazing discoveries and diplomacy that it promises ..

    Are you completely ignorant or just stubbornly and rudely ungrateful, Cheyenne? Which is it?

  27. StevoR-Correcting

    Arrrgh! Gosh-durned bustard typos & the lack of editing ability here. Sigh. :-(

    TAKE II :

    @ Cheyenne :

    [quoting the economist]“FEW scientists believe that the space shuttle has helped their profession.”

    Really? Why not name (& shame!) some then! If there are any then theyareas ungrateful and ignorant as you appear to be.

    “Mostly, it has been used to convey astronauts to a space station that has produced little worthwhile research and to launch satellites that might have been put into orbit more cheaply by old-fashioned, throwaway rockets.

    Er, Cheyenne, have you ever heard of the Hubble Space telescope?

    You know that thing that has given us so many incredible astounding images and information, seen deeper and in more detail than anything else in history and all that?

    You do know why the shuttle ‘Atlantis’ and its crew are currently in space don’t you – or do you?

    You do remember that the astronauts – the manned shuttle missions – put the HST up there and have fixed and upgraded it many times don’t you – or do you?

    You also know – or do you – that the Apollo manned missons to the Moon are responsible for enabling us to arrive at the whole ‘Big Splash’ theory of its origin?

    As for the International Space Station, perhaps you should wait until its actually, y’know, fully constructed and built before expecting it to be the treasure house of who knows what amazing discoveries and diplomacy that it promises ..

    Are you completely ignorant or just stubbornly and rudely ungrateful, Cheyenne? Which is it?

    As for your proferred solution of going backwards to non-reusuable, throw-away rockets, well it looks like your getting your way there but I hardly think that’s the greatest step forward. I’d like to see the shuttle as it should have been – maybe with a few different and improved versions as real spaceplanes & workhorses developed one day hopefullysooner rather than later.

  28. Christopher Petroni

    So long as humans and our support species are limited to one planet to live and grow, just so long will we and they, be vulnerable to extinction. Humanity in space isn’t about excitement: it’s about survival.

    I’ve never been impressed by this argument. As bastions against extinction go, space travel is a pretty overpriced and ineffective one. Our existence on the planet on which we evolved is tenuous enough. How are we supposed to survive on more hostile worlds? Saying that space travel is a means of survival is like saying that starving people should plant crops.

    A far better means of avoiding extinction is to stop causing irreparable damage to the ecological mechanisms on which we depend on this planet.

    I’m not saying humans shouldn’t try to colonize other worlds, by the way, and I’m certainly not attacking the scientific achievements space travel has allowed. I’m saying that we should be honest about the purpose of human expansion into space. It’s the same purpose with which Europeans colonized North America: simple expansion, nothing more.

  29. Jar-Jya Binks Killer

    @ Christopher Petroni :

    It’s the same purpose with which Europeans colonized North America: simple expansion, nothing more.

    I’m not sure you are correct either about the European colonisation of the new world or space exploration.

    I don’t think either can be simplisticallyexplained as simple expansionism.

    A range of motivations including, dare I say it both the religious and the scientific are /were involved.

    There are economic motives. (Eg. gold and silver in the 1600’s, helium-three and possible energy and technology developing now for a space.)

    There are reasons of military and national prestiege and competition. (England Vs Spain & Portugal, later England vs France & Holland back in the 1600-1800’s, USA vs USSR and now maybe – hopefully? USA vs ESA & China. Possibly co-operation between these and friendlier rivalry rather than more hostile “space-racing.”)

    There are religious and political reasons. (Eg. thepilgrimfathers and Puritans fleeing European persecutionfor freedom intheir new colony, less pleasantly Catholic desire to converty the heathen Aztecs, Inca, Chinese etc .. & also to find aroute to Jerusalem and find themythical Prester John Christain kingdom back in the 1600-1800s..Today, well ther arestill persecuted religiosu groups seeking freedom, whetherany will resort toLunaror martian colonisationas an escape and new land of our making building remains tobe seen but certain mystical ideas seem toexist on bringinglife toMars and spreading lifeand humanity into the wider cosmos. )

    There are social and environmental reasons. (Eg. Colonisation of Australia by convicts to reduce the number of criminals in English society, today we maywant tochange our energy production by basing say the dirty industries in space or some such.)

    Its not simple expansion really I don’t think.

    For one thing if it were then you’d think the nations most in need of expanding – those with the largest populations – like China and India would be those doing mostof the expanding which historically just isn’t the case.

  30. SLC

    Re StevoR

    Mr. StevoR cites the Hubble space telescope as a triumph for manned space flight. If we had not wasted so much money on manned space flight, we could have launched many Hubbles with far more capability. Attached is a commentary by Bob Park showing how the Hubble telescope was greatly diminished in its capabilities because of the insistence of NASA on coupling it with the shuttle. But of course, according so some on this blog, Prof. Park doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

    2. PEOPLE: THE AMERICAN PUBLIC CAST A VOTE FOR HUBBLE.
    Because of the risk, the final Hubble repair mission was initially scratched by NASA. The American public wouldn’t hear of it. I was the recipient of some of the public irritation after WN was quoted in some newspapers this week saying the shuttle was “at the root of Hubble’s problems.” How could I say such a thing? Without repairs by shuttle astronauts Hubble would have been abandoned at birth as a nearsighted failure. Let me explain: the hero’s welcome given the Apollo astronauts persuaded NASA that there should be astronauts on every mission. It was decreed that nothing was to go into space except by means of the shuttle. That included Hubble, which had to be designed to fit in the cargo bay, and worst of all, it had to go into an orbit the shuttle could reach. That ruled out the L2 point, which by every measure is the ideal place to locate a telescope. That is, unless you want to look at Earth; then you need the L1 point on the side toward the Sun.

  31. Jar-Jya Binks Killer

    @ Christopher Petroni :

    “So long as humans and our support species are limited to one planet to live and grow, just so long will we and they, be vulnerable to extinction. Humanity in space isn’t about excitement: it’s about survival.”

    I’ve never been impressed by this argument. As bastions against extinction go, space travel is a pretty overpriced and ineffective one.

    Currently. We’re working on changing that. 😉

    Don’t assume that just because space travel is expensive and ineffective now that that will always be the case.

    Our existence on the planet on which we evolved is tenuous enough.

    Is it? Really?

    How are we supposed to survive on more hostile worlds?

    Technology dude! Plus maybe some terraforming! 😉

    Have you forgotten much of Earth was hostile & hard tosurvive in befroe we cahnge dthimgs and did lilttle things like build houses and air-conditioners and heaters and killoff allthe deadlliestpredators like sabre toothed tigers and asiatic lions & so forth ..

    Saying that space travel is a means of survival is like saying that starving people should plant crops.

    Well, yes, starving people who want to stop starving long-term do indeed need to plant crops. Many starving people are already trying to do so. Its one of many strategies to get out of circumstances of starvation – international aid and relocation are other temporary ones to tide them over but they do need to (and do) plan for the longer term future as well.

    A far better means of avoiding extinction is to stop causing irreparable damage to the ecological mechanisms on which we depend on this planet.

    Which will save us from being wiped out by an asteroid impact, supernova or gamma ray burst how exactly?

    Don’t get me wrong, we need to be environmentally conscious and stop harming the environment and all that too – but the choice isn’t a simple either /or. We can & should do both!

    I’m not saying humans shouldn’t try to colonize other worlds, by the way, and I’m certainly not attacking the scientific achievements space travel has allowed.

    Good. You really don’t want to do that – here especially! 😉

    I’m saying that we should be honest about the purpose of human expansion into space. It’s the same purpose with which Europeans colonized North America: simple expansion, nothing more.

    Honesty is good.

    But I’ve covered that last “just simple expansion – er.. NOT!” bit first.

  32. Jar-Jya Binks Killer

    D’oh! Italics stuff up. :-(

    The last two lines in the post above aren’t meant to be italicised and are mine.

    The rest are italicised to signify that I’m quoting Christopher Petroni’s post.

  33. Jar-Jya Binks Killer

    @ SLC :

    Mr. StevoR cites the Hubble space telescope as a triumph for manned space flight. If we had not wasted so much money on manned space flight, we could have launched many Hubbles with far more capability. Attached is a commentary by Bob Park showing how the Hubble telescope was greatly diminished in its capabilities because of the insistence of NASA on coupling it with the shuttle. But of course, according so some on this blog, Prof. Park doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

    Well *I* don’t think Bob Park knows what he’s talking about either!

    SLC, you’re going to need to back up your extraordinary claim there with a bit more than just Bob Park (& who’s he again?) says so … :roll:

  34. Jar-Jya Binks Killer

    Almost forgot one of the other big reasons for exploration – historically & for the future in space :

    The Everests one of – “…because its there!”

    Seriously I do think there is an innate human desire to explore, to find out and go beyond where people have gone before.

    There is certainly for some people this burning driving curiousity that motivates then to do extraordinary things and put their lives at risk seeking bold adventures and exotic new places and esoteric new knowledge.

    We explore in part because we are human. We do (someof us anyhow) have a pyschological geas forcing us on, compelling us towards both exploration and science. 😉

  35. SLC

    Re Jar-Jya Binks Killer

    Okay, how about manned space opponent Steven Weinberg, Nobel Prize winning physicist?

  36. cthulhu

    It is truly sad how many “scientists” refuse to see any other science besides the one that they specialize in (Steve Weinberg, I’m looking right at you). Manned spaceflight is a proper activity of our government, just like robotic probes and the myopically-canceled SSC. Though I wish that NASA were more focused on enabling space exploration technologies such as on-orbit propellant depots…

  37. SteveR – Seriously, calm down just a tic for the sake of your blood pressure.

    Answers to your questions –
    1- Yes

    2- Yes

    3- Yes

    4- Um, kinda. You mean basically the “giant impact” theory?

    5- OK I will wait (as will we all- for a long time to come). I’ve been waiting for the ISS to do anything other than just marginal advances in science for many years. The “diplomacy” part I find especially funny since the ISS is going to be a diplomatic time-bomb when the US access to it is lost and the Russians become the gatekeepers of it. Next thing you know we’ll be squabbling over who can use what bathroom and when (no I’m just kidding, if that ever became true it would be the perfect metaphor for how pathetic the ISS is- oh wait….click my name).

    6- I know what you would “like” to see. This will probably surprise somebody like you but I would like to have cheap, safe, and universal access to space as well. The problem is we have to live in reality. So if we turn off the Star Trek and try to look at what we are doing with realistic eyes we can then look at what our constraints are and what the actual opportunities are.

    And regarding the Hubble space telescope (that you think you are zinging me with) – everybody here loves the thing and so do I. But it would be totally sophomoric to ever think that its design, launch, and maintenance were done in the best way. We’ll never have a telescope like that again because obviously we shouldn’t. We’ll make them disposable, factors of ten cheaper, way more advanced and powerful and farther out in orbit (Hubble would have worked much better farther away).

    The manned program killed our ability to have launched much more powerful ones sooner (and many, many other programs). The US should have done a Herschel and Plank 15 years ago. Webb should have been up already. We should have a sample return from Mars already launched as just a couple of examples.

  38. T_U_T

    The manned program killed our ability to have launched much more powerful ones sooner

    Bull. NASA funding is not fixed. If you would abandon human spaceflight, NASA funding would just decrease by that amount ( more likely by twice that amount)

  39. Cheyenne

    @T_U_T- Ah so we finally get the actual truth of the matter. It is all about the money money bling for the agency. Something I noticed that the BA said in a comment awhile ago after one of his articles.

    Manned spaceflight isn’t really defensible in this day (and the next few tomorrow’s) on its own merits (yes I know in a couple billion years we’re all doomed and need to go to Zorcan Nine and terraform it – can we just hit the pause button for a couple of decades on this plan?). But rather the manned supporters think they need to be for it just because they are scared that putting science missions ahead of manned missions will lead to cut backs.

    You know what will actually lead to cutbacks? Plans like Ares that have eaten up $6.9 billion in development costs and might still get canceled because the program doesn’t really work and has no good future use. Do you know what won’t lead to cutbacks? Missions that produce, do actual work, explore new worlds, and lead to scientific discovery – and do it in a realistic time frame. Mars rovers, telescopes, and all the other robotic missions fulfill these requirements.

    So can I ask you as a manned spaceflight supporter – why do you think we should continue to spend $8 to $9 of every $10 on manned missions and not re-prioritize that to focus on the missions that actually do the real work and exploration in space? Can you spare a couple quarters brother?

  40. T_U_T

    You say Manned spaceflight isn’t really defensible in this day
    And I say, Manned spaceflight on a shoestring budget isn’t really defensible in this day. So, what about, instead of abandoning it, starting funding it…. you know, …. properly.

    Because human spaceflight just cant’ go anywhere with funding barely covering the cost of staying where we are. That is the problem.

    And. What is the problem with ares rocket anyway ? you could build Saturn V and now, you can’t build things like that anymore. Let’s try to figure out where the problem is.

  41. Cheyenne

    @T_U_T – Again – reality here. Congress mandates the budget. NASA has to work with that and make painful decisions on what it can and can’t do. Your “shoestring budget” line – basically then you mean they should spend ALL money for manned missions. That’s the only outcome in the context of what is being argued here (I support a massive new infusion of cash into NASA from Congress as well, but know that it’s not going to happen- particularly since the manned programs aren’t delivering much and everybody is beginning to realize that).

    “What is the problem with ares rocket anyway?” – I don’t know. You tell me why it’s billions of dollars over budget in just its development stage. All manned missions go way over budget and long past the claimed expected launch dates (and deliver far less than promised).

    Look – it’s a relatively fixed budget. One set of missions works fantastically well and has a historical track record of giving a huge return on investment. The other set of missions does, well, a whole lot less. The first set runs on the virtual scraps because the second one gets the meat and potatoes. You have to make a choice here – there is no way around it. The manned mission money grab chokes the unmanned missions (although damn they have done some amazing things regardless! They could do so much more though).

    I say let’s make the proven winner the one that gets the most money.

    Everybody always thinks I hate NASA since I argue for a change in the way they prioritize their budget. Curious thing really.

  42. T_U_T

    I hate to repeat myself. Do you really think that how NASA spends one year budget does not influence what it gets next year ?
    Dismantle spaceflight and you will get zero budget within few years.
    If your congresscritters decide that NASA should not get enough money then you are screwed anyway.

    and the delays and budget overruns ? Unmanned spacecraft are delayed too. The problem is more evident in manned spaceflight because it is more pushed to the edge than unmanned missions

    One set of missions works fantastically well and has a historical track record of giving a huge return on investment.

    Penny wise and pound stupid. Manned and unmanned space flight have different goals. You can not quite substitute lack of food with more bottled water.
    And their funding is semi- independent because if one was canceled congresscritters would not give the money to the other one, but keep it.

  43. Mark

    And after Mars, we send people to…..? Seriously, an astronaut? And one who wants to follow the Bush-era “Space Exploration” game (aka human spaceflight / Constellation debacle). Why did we bother to vote for this guy? We seem to be getting Bush III.

  44. Cheyenne

    @T_U_T-

    “Yeah. You love us saying something, that you consider obviously insane. Because you think that we discredit ourselves that way. You know, Just everyone else knows that nothing beyond LEO is possible even in principle. We know that since NASA had to fake lunar landings because of this impossibility.

    ( now, do you still like that style of ‘humor’ even if your ox is getting gored ? )”

    First of all I’m not entirely sure that I understand what you are trying to say to be honest. Are you saying I don’t think the moon landings occurred? Is that your, um, comeback?

    I think you slightly do discredit yourself when you propose to do things in space that are more in the realm of science fiction than fact. Your Mars colonization ship that is constructed next to an L4 orbiting ISS is, sorry, really and truly impossible for a long time to come.

    I think you discredit yourself much more when you write “More like pathological suicidal self-hatred.”

  45. T_U_T

    first. You should start by explaining why is that not possible.
    No, seriously, try. You can not make something insane just by declaring it to be.
    Then, you should also explain how is the view that humans are pests deserving nothing but getting stuck here forever and get extinct not an example of pathological self-hatred.

  46. T_U_T

    saying I don’t think the moon landings occurred?

    I am simply makin up stuff and putting it in your mouth. I don’t think you are a moon hoaxer. But neither I am an antivaxxer and I neither think that private is by definition evil as Todd tried to put in my mouth.

  47. @T_U_T

    But neither I am an antivaxxer and I neither think that private is by definition evil as Todd tried to put in my mouth.

    I knew I should’ve put a winking smiley on my post! 😉

  48. T_U_T

    I knew I should’ve put a winking smiley on my post!

    Being compared to an antivaxxer is still not funny. No people died because of my mistakes.

  49. Ugh this Bolden pick just could not suck more. The guy was even a paid lobbyist for ATK. What a total balloon pop. Obama is supposed to stand for change and a new way of thinking. Instead he’s being a bit of a coward, caving into Senator Nelson, and putting NASA back on the path to a retro-dorkwad George Bush space vision.

    Love this quote regarding that ponce Sen Nelson-

    “According to administration officials, Nelson even went so far as to tell the White House recently that if Bolden were not nominated soon, the White House could no longer count on his support for the president’s initiatives in the Senate”

    I really hope Senator Mikulski can prevail in this and get a director that favors science over over sending humans into to space for the sake of….sending humans into space. She is completely right and Nelson, Bolden, and Obama are just wrong. What a buzz kill…..

  50. Space Raptor

    Why all the animosity towards manned space flight? Sure, it’s hard to get actual science accomplished if humans are along for the ride, but how many astronauts, scientists and engineers were inspired by the Apollo program? As Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson pointed out, there aren’t any highschools named after space robots.

    It’s just maddeningly nearsighted for everyone to rail against manned missions to space. It’s exactly like Lord Kelvin’s position on radio. Now, granted, a return to the Moon is a bit to the left of insane. There’s very little incentive for returning there. But Mars? That’s our second home, and it happens to have an embarrassment of riches (deuterium, etc.) just waiting for the first pioneer. It’s New World 2.0 and the next great step for humanity. Go Mars

  51. Beelzebud

    This is why Libertarians and science don’t mix. The animosity towards manned space craft has more to do with the use of their precious tax dollars than any science-based reason. The “Not with MY tax money!” crowd isn’t good for progress.

    More tax money went missing in Iraq than NASA has in its budget. Didn’t see those tax hawks squawking about that too much.

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