RUMOR: Obama to axe Ares and Constellation

By Phil Plait | January 27, 2010 1:39 pm

NASA logo, on its headRumors are flying that in the President’s budget, which will be presented to Congress on Monday, all the money for the Constellation rocket program — and the Ares I and V rockets — will be gone. NASA will still get a full budget and even a slight increase, but the money for the new rocket system will be axed.

First and foremost, these are rumors. The sources are all anonymous, and all the media are quoting each other. However, given the number of sources and the media involved, it’s probably fair to say these rumors have a good chance of being true.

So what does this mean?

To be honest, I’m not sure. It’s a lot to think about, and I’m not an insider expert on NASA. Having said that, here are some thoughts. Consider these mumbling out loud, ruminations to ponder. If I’m wrong, please feel free to comment!

[Continued after the jump.]

1) According to the rumors, NASA will drop Ares and look for a different heavy-lift vehicle. That means we aren’t going back to the Moon any time soon. The Orlando Sentinel (linked above) says this:

"We certainly don’t need to go back to the moon," said one administration official.

I disagree with this, strongly. I think we do need to go back. I also think we can do this even in a recession; the money involved is trivial compared to things like the bank bailouts and the two wars we’re fighting. And this will create jobs, high-tech jobs, employing tens of thousands of people.

And don’t give me any baloney about spending the money here on Earth rather in space. That’s a false dichotomy, and totally wrong.

2) What do we do in the meantime, with the Shuttle being retired this year and no other way of getting people to space? I hear a lot about private companies, and I think in a few years they’ll be able to do it, but note that not a single private company has put a human in orbit yet, nor have they even launched a rocket capable of doing so yet. To be clear, I think private companies are doing an amazing job so far and may very well be the way we get to space… but we are still years away from that. Once Space X tests its Falcon 9 rocket and it works, I’ll be a lot happier.

The nearly-completed space station3) According to the rumors, Obama wants to extend the space station’s life to 2020. I’m ambivalent about that, since I don’t think the station serves a very useful purpose except to drain vast amounts of money from NASA. Well, that’s a bit unfair: we’ve learned how to build large structures in space, and there is some scientific use for it, but it’s cost $100+ billion, and that’s a vast sum of cash. That money could have been far better spent by NASA on a different, less expensive design, and other projects (like, say, a return to the Moon).

4) Just because Obama proposes this, it doesn’t mean Ares is dead. It has to pass Congress, and while Congress likes to starve NASA, they’ve never let it get to the point where it gets manourished. There are NASA centers in several states, and many other companies all over the country that make millions from NASA projects. Congresscritters are unlikely to kill such a machine. I expect a big battle in Congress if all this is true.

nasa_ares_1x5) I’m not sure I entirely disagree with this decision, if true. Ares is way behind in schedule and way over cost. The test last year of the Ares I-X has been called an outright fraud by many people, including Buzz Aldrin and the Space Frontier Foundation. Developing a better system might be a good idea… but then, that’s why NASA started with Constellation in the first place. Who’s to say they’ll do any better this time?

6) I’m getting emails snidely attacking Obama for this. I’m not sure that’s warranted. I have not seen the actual budget, so I don’t know how this will play out. Bear in mind before lazily attacking me that I have been clear on how I feel about Obama and NASA in the past.

I have very mixed feelings over NASA: on one hand, they do some fantastic things with what is really very little money. On the other hand, their seeming lack of ability to get anything done under budget and within schedule is legendary. Those two are related; internal fighting for funds between NASA projects makes it hard to do everything and do it well. If NASA’s budget were increased by about 30% a lot of that would go away. But if these rumors are true, the infighting may very well get worse.

Conclusion:

I don’t know what will happen here. Congress will fight canceling Ares, so it may not happen at all. And if it does, with more money going to privatizing space, it may help in the very long run. But it leaves a big gap in the here and now — which, to be fair, is NASA’s fault too; they should’ve been thinking 15 years ago about what to do when the Shuttle retires, especially after Challenger.

I don’t know enough about what’s really happening in the Ares program right now to know whether it’s a total loss, or whether it’s worth fighting for. I also don’t know if private space companies really can pick up the slack. They think so, and it seems likely, but we have no solid proof yet. That’s still a ways off.

And finally, space exploration is important. I find it difficult to believe Obama doesn’t know that; he’s proven himself to be both pro-science and understanding of the inspiration it provides. And the rumor is that this year’s budget for NASA actually goes up a little bit, it just cuts Constellation and Ares. But if this really does gut NASA’s future, cutting way back on what they can do, then it’s a mistake.

We’ll know soon enough. For actual answers, I’ll be curious to see what experts in this field have to say. I imagine they’re sharpening their keyboards even as I write this.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: NASA, Piece of mind, Space
MORE ABOUT: Ares, Constellation, Moon, Obama

Comments (178)

  1. The moon inspires people. Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) doesn’t. The inspiration it would provide today’s students is probably worth the cost of admission all by itself.
    My take on this: Write your congressmen! Tell them what you think. I wrote to Bill Nelson and Barbara Mikulski today voicing my opinion (keep NASA funded and focused on the moon).
    But don’t give them my message; give them yours!
    http://www.senate.gov
    http://www.house.gov

    Emory
    Follow me on Twitter: @VAXHeadroom

  2. The upside-down NASA logo is perfect. Nice one.

    Viva Constellation!

  3. Elmar_M

    I am quite happy with the idea of killing a way to expensive government programme and replacing it with private contracts.
    It is much cheaper and more maintainable that way. I am very impressed with Obamas insight and pragmatism here. It is very unusual for a democrat to axe spending on things that could probably be considered as a government job programme. Lots of republicans are goan to moan, hehehe (the ones that would usually cry for private companies to do everything, lol).
    I have high hopes for the likes of SpaceX and co to take this job over and surpass what we would have gotten with constellation for much less money. On the plus side we will see more jobs generated in the long term (that wont cost tax money, but actually will bring tax money) and a more sustainable space infra structure.
    First we need to get to LEO and that for CHEAP and then we can go anywhere from there.

  4. In other words, if the rumors are true, the politicians are basically saying that we should just shelf our ambitions and R&D projects because while we can afford to bail out banks who can’t understand what they’re doing with people’s money, we can’t afford to actually create jobs through scientific research and space exploration for a fraction of the cost.

    This kind of political tunnel vision is downright reprehensible and I would want to see some sort of public ad denouncing it. Not just cheerily talking about how technology is out future, but giving people the whole story, that the government is actively ignoring R&D for the sake of having wingnut battles in Congress.

    Than ask the public how much they’d like to seed well paying jobs and technological leadership. Anyone can chant that his or her country is number one at everything. But it seems that few people are willing to ensure that will actually be true.

    Well, at least we still have space tourism startups who want to do the job that NASA’s top management either isn’t willing to do, or isn’t being allowed to do.

  5. Bob

    Isn’t time to sit down with the Europeans and Japan and jointly build the next space craft?
    It really doesn’t matter if an American sets foot on the moon since we all ready were first.

  6. Elmar_M

    not a single private company has put a human in orbit yet, nor have they even launched a rocket capable of doing so yet.

    Neither has Ares and it wont for many more years. It is already so late by now, I dont think it wont be done within the next ten years. Take my word for it.
    Ares is a overpriced paper rocket that is doing nothing to lower the price for access to space, nor does it do anything to keep us there. We need to get a sustainable space architecture first. Sustainable! Right now we dont even have an architecture that is able to sustain the (very expensive) space station. It is an illusion to believe that it would be able to sustain a moon project.
    Why go back to the moon if it is another few short walks and then no return for another 40 years?
    No, we first have to get cheap access to orbit. One way or the other. The best way to achieve that is by allowing private providers to freely compete for NASAs and other contracts.
    Oh, I also do not agree on your remarks about the ISS being a waste. It is not. There are in fact many private companies, research facilities, etc that would love to be able to use it (and they would pay for it), but access is expensive and it is also very limited.
    Bigelow wants to build his own stations for that very reason. He will also happily pay the private companies for access to his own stations. And so you develop a market and the rules of the market will lower the price.

  7. Kevin

    If the public actually knew how much they benefit from the space program, there wouldn’t be any cuts, IMO. The big thing NASA lacks is a good PR firm.

    Right now it is against the law for NASA to advertise. I think they should be able to do whatever is necessary to further the goals of exploration and discovery. I’d rather see NASA advertise on television instead of all the slimy lawyers.

  8. jb

    I say cancel ares I..develop a new HLV, get commercial involved. still develop orion and the chariot and athlete moon rovers so when the HLV is ready they can use the HLV for something. Time to have fun in space..what to do due to layoffs in florida..I don’t think you can stop the bleeding too much..hence the political juggling in the days ahead..
    my 2 cents
    jb

  9. Tom

    New meaning of “NASA” if this happens.

    Never
    Again
    Send
    Astronauts

    We’ll have to go to Brevard County after 2012, I bet space collectors will have a great time at the moving sales. Ugh! :-(

  10. Craig

    Günter Wendt, Pad Director for almost all of Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo, wrote an excellent book: ‘The Unbroken Chain’. It’s an excellent book, very readable, funny, and insightful on the behind the scenes shenanigans the astronauts and crew got up to.

    In it he talks about ‘all the money launched to the Moon’. I found it very enlightening. He argues that no money was launched to the Moon. Every cent of that money stayed right on Earth. It went into the pockets of over 400,000 Americans in jobs ranging the gamut of engineering, manufacturing, accounting, hospitality, even custodial. Every dollar spent on getting to the Moon went directly into the economy. Certainly some companies made profit, but that’s true of just about every dollar the Government spends.

    The key with space exploration, which in a way far surpasses other ‘public works’ projects such as highway, bridge, and dam construction, is that the knowledge and technological advances gained through the Apollo program put the US ahead of the rest of the world is so many, many different areas.

    Anyway, his book was really a delight to read. I was really shocked at how many of the funny little in-jokes in ‘The Right Stuff’ and especially ‘From the Earth to the Moon’ actually happened!

  11. I have mixed feelings if the rumor is true, going back to the moon I think is important unlike the “anonymous administration official” and more importantly establishing a more permanent presence on the moon is significant. However, my opinion, one of NASA’s primary goals should be to either develop and/or foster technologies and solutions to make Earth orbital access convenient, practical, reliable and most importantly affordable. I am not an expert by any means, but it doesn’t seem like the Constellation program gets us a lot closer to that objective. While I believe science alone is enough to justify a good orbital access strategy, realistically the impact to the world would be in all areas.

    Regarding the space station, I am going to be really pissed if the world leaders decide to de-orbit a $100 billion dollar space station unless its absolutely necessary. This has nothing to do with my love of science, its a practical matter – you don’t spend $100 billion to just discard it later. If nothing else, you use it as a construction / storage shed for all of your future endeavors. However, I think the Hubble program should have taught us it is practical to maintain and extend the purpose of existing resources in space. I haven’t researched the numbers, but I would imagine the maintenance cost is far less than the cost of building a new station from scratch.

  12. DrFlimmer

    At point 3)

    Be careful, Phil. The ISS does not have the “I” in it for fun. It’s not just NASA that build and runs it. It’s an international project, with ESA, the Russians and other agencies and countries involved. It would be highly unfair and counterproductive if the Americans just drop out, say good bye, and leave the ISS behind.
    In fact, the ISS is a sign what international partnership can achieve! And that is a good sign in dark times, when it seems that the borders are rising again on Earth. Just like the mission in the 70ies that linked an Apollo capsule with a Soyuz.
    Maybe the ISS is “just” a sign, but it’s a good sign, and, btw, a bright sign for international partnership!

    America should not just drop out. These things cannot be decided “just” by the president. This must be discussed with all the partners! Only then a decision can be made.
    So, be careful with it!

    I’m quite happy we have the ISS….

  13. BJN

    Space exploration is important, and an expanded robotic program is the best and least expensive way to do that.

    Any lunar or planetary human exploration program should be a joint effort of nations. We’re past the days of doing technological stunts as propaganda for democratic capitalism.

  14. Elmar_M

    I also want to add that I am very much for NASA doing space related R&D. I think that NASAs job should be in the exploration itself and in developing new technologies that enable private companies to build better space ships. So NASA could be doing research on new engines, or new heat shield tech and the commercials like SpaceX would then use the tech to build new and better LVs.
    Of course in order for this to make sense NASA should learn how to document their research and tooling, etc. So Know How is not lost like it has been in past decades (e.g. with X33 releated research).

  15. For once I will not disagree with Phil’s politics here. I think he has it called pretty well.

    NASA being a day late and a billions of dollars short is business as usual. It is wrong and an embarrassment to be sure, but fear of developing a shuttle replacement based on this not a good argument. NASA is what it is and until they are purged of this behavior it will continue to be. We need a shuttle replacement and this is how it happens.

    Scrapping the Constellation program and maybe going in another direction… we have seen this play out before. I mean look at the cost overruns for the ISS before a single component was launched.

    Regardless of where you stand politically, this is potentially bad news. I am not fan of Obama, but his disdain for NASA in general and particularly exploration is curious. But in all fairness he did say on the campaign train he would kill Constellation. Figures the one promise he did keep was that.

  16. Peter Loron

    Flying people on solid rockets when perfectly serviceable reusable liquid engines are available is pork, plain and simple. On top of that, it is more dangerous than the alternatives.

  17. John Keller

    Kiss manned spaceflight goodbye. Or at least US manned spaceflight. Our once great nation is slowly dying.

    Two years ago he said he would do this and he has kept at least this promise.

    Phil, you need a NASA is doomed logo.

  18. JH

    I have a friend that just got his degree in aerospace engineering. He’s been hired on at a company that works with large contracts with Nasa.

    He’s been pretty much told that there is a distinct possibility that his last day of work will happen within the next three months. And he’s not the only person in this industry who’s been told that.

  19. Cheyenne

    It seems like a very pragmatic decision by the administration.

    But to those that think the ISS is a good thing – Do you know how many peer-reviewed articles have been published based upon the science done aboard it? It’s the most expensive science program ever devised. One way to measure the success of that is to look at the quality of its science output.

    I really like NASA but I hope they can find a new direction and focus. This may end up being an opportunity for them.

  20. I think people who are complaining that money on Ares could be better spent on other space projects are misplacing their ire to some extent. As of right this moment, there is no way to go up into space for any reason- be it habitation or exploration- without strapping yourself to a chemical rocket of some kind. The shuttle has a catastrophic failure rate of 1/17 (or thereabouts, the figure is an old one), and as evidenced by the Hubble repair mission- we still need to get people up there to do things. All things being equal, a HLV is priority one and whether we’re going to the moon, landing on Mars, building semi/permanent moon stations, or planning any other space task we’ll still need a way of getting up there.

    Suggestions that we re-purpose old, imperfect, obsolete, highly specialized equipment to do new things just don’t strike me as realistic. Sorry. Just because we should be putting money into space infrastructure or a million other things, it doesn’t mean we can, and I cannot emphasize this point enough: Whatever we plan on doing up there, we’re still going to need a reliable way of getting up there. I put most of my angry eggs in the big basket labeled, “NASA needs more money- in general.” Then we can see how much restructuring is actually necessary.

  21. Aaron K.

    “And don’t give me any baloney about spending the money here on Earth rather in space” reminded me of an old Mr. Show skit about a government program to blow up the moon. Cue a young Sarah Silverman, leading a protest group in chanting “we’re Earthlings, let’s blow up Earth things!”

    Conveniently on the ‘tube:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Csj7vMKy4EI

  22. Jim

    Saw this on Slashdot and thought it ironic that a post or two later mentioned India will be sending people into space by 2013.

    It’s sad how far America has fallen. I just got my daughter a telescope for Christmas and we’ve enjoyed looking at the moon. It’s a shame any aspirations of her traveling there will be dashed by budget cuts….

    Lets hope the private folks can fill the void.

  23. andy

    The manned space program should have been cancelled after Mariner 2 and Mariner 4 made it abundantly clear that in space, there is nowhere to go. Take your pick of incredibly lethal destinations, and ask yourself whether meeting the requirements for getting someone there through the radiation hazards outside the Earth’s magnetosphere is worth the effort…

  24. I hate political maneuvering… That’s all I can say without going into an obscene filled rant at this time.

  25. SpaceManSpiff

    “while Congress likes to starve NASA, they’ve never let it get to the point where it gets manourished. ”

    Sadly, that’s not what e.g. the Columbia Accident Investigation Board said, in particular in Chap 5, section 3, titled “An Agency Trying to Do Too Much with too little” or section 5, which noted the deteriorating state of NASA’s infrastructure, with the Space Flight Advisory Committe quoted as saying that “deteriorating infrastructure is a serious, major problem,” and that several Kennedy Space Center facilities were in “deplorable condition.” Things haven’t changed much since 2003 either, with the recent Augustine Commission stating that “The U.S. human spaceflight program appears to be on an unsustainable trajectory.” and “additional funds must be provided or the exploration program first instituted by President Kennedy must be abandoned.”

    Also I’m not sure how much weight to give the argument that private companies haven’t already demonstrated X capability (whatever X happens to be) and that consequently NASA should be left to do it. This same argument has been used for years by NASA bureaucrats, and it has meant that until very recently the agency has, at best, paid lip service to the various efforts to get it to seriously support private space companies, and at worst, actively undermined such efforts, e.g. see the sad tale of the Industrial Space Facility, which had been backed by no less a luminary than Max Faget.

    After all, when the manned space program began, NASA used repurposed IRBMs and ICBMs, and put them through a vigorous testing program to man-rate them. (The Saturn family were the first rockets purpose-built for human space flight, with astronauts safely riding modified Redstone, Atlas, and Titan missiles previously). There’s no reason at all to think that the new generation of private boosters, which *are* being built with human space flight in mind, can’t go through a similar process, on a similar timescale. Given the drawn-out schedule of the Ares program, even if it takes a few years, a commercially-led approach will still probably result in a shorter time-to-pad: the Augustine commission estimates the Ares program won’t be able to orbit a human before 2017.

  26. Imipak

    Hardcore UMSF spacegeek here, and I’m sorry to say I respectfully disagree.

    Both Ares vehicles would be good to keep if possible, but manned flight to the moon and/or Mars would be a pointless waste of time, money and cycles. Think how many MER-like vehicles you’d get from the budget for a repeat of Apollo. As for Mars – call me back when we’ve done a successful sample return mission. Even a few grams of regolith. It’s just never going to happen, or at least not this side of 2050, and not likely after it either without a stunning bit of breakthrough technology that changes the game (e.g., something that cuts cost-to-orbit to 1-5% of current values.)

  27. It’s a shame. Personally, I’d *love* to go into space, and I’d have to think long and hard about the risks if someone were to offer me a spot on a round trip to Mars (rather than outright reject, like many people).

    But… in terms of knowledge per dollar, manned space exploration isn’t really cutting the mustard. Cassini, Chandra, Opportunity/Spirit… we’ve done far more with machines in space than anyone expected was possible 50 years ago, and simple AI is allowing them to do even more science per mission. Strapping a robot on a rocket and blasting it out of our gravity well is expensive enough. Humans are even more delicate — it costs launch mass to protect them, which is paid for in the currency of scientific instruments per launch.

    Mars and the other planets in our solar system will still be there in 100 years. By all standards except human lifetimes, 100 years is a very brief amount of time. Yet, by then we may well have a space elevator, space fountains, beamed power, or some other means of escaping from an Earth-sized gravity well at G-forces that don’t liquefy humans. For nonliving payloads that can tolerate the G-forces, we’ll almost certainly have commonplace rail gun / mass driver launches (due to the huge cost savings for commercial satellites). If those were available, it would drastically cut the cost of building a space station or interplanetary “mothership” vehicle, as well as launching supplies like food/water/oxygen for the long trip, perhaps even the fuel for a Mars landing and re-launch.

    While my eyes will tear up when the Hubble and the Space Shuttle are retired, I think the money is better spent on other endeavors for the time being.

  28. I’ll wait till the rumors are confirmed.

  29. kirk

    most think about space shuttle should stay flight until 2015 retires! or space shuttle atlantis would add flight sts 135 next april 12,2011 for 30 years retires! space shuttle atlantis would add memory of columbia and challenger put on shuttle window side near atlantis add columbia both challenger !

  30. M.J.

    If only we thought there was a terrorist group on the moon mining our water…

  31. Bob in Easton

    I’m not a scientist…my degrees are in design…so take what I have to say with a grain of salt.

    I’m with Buzz. Let China and the other maturing space faring countries do low earth orbit and go to the moon. We need to think big, and that means Mars. We need a heavy lift vehicle and we should let the private sector go whole hog to wards putting people in space.

  32. Fizzle

    “NASA will drop Ares and look for a different heavy-lift vehicle.”
    Couldn’t that mean dropping Ares in favor of DIRECT which from what I understand could be up and flying before Ares?

  33. Jonathan Swift

    Wikipedia sez the global illegal drug trade for 2003 was $321 Billion.
    Wikipedia sez Ares projected cost $40 Billion (over several years).
    Parts of Mankind wish to lift themselves up (literally and figuratively), while other parts want to turn their brains to mush. Perhaps we can reach a mutually agreeable situation that allows both factions to get their wish.

    The Devil’s gonna show up whether you invite him or not. Why not put him to work?

  34. I said in the comments here during the election run up that Obama had no use for NASA, and that he’d probably cut it way back. I was right.

    Look at NASA through the eyes of a man who has spent his entire working life filtering people into victim groups. You will see a lot of money spent on buying toys for middle aged white guys who live in JesusLand (Alabama, Florida and Texas), don’t belong to unions, and who vote Republican. I’m certain Obama sees every penny spent on NASA as wasted.

    Space science is not something that interests the Obama administration in the slightest.

    Phil, like so many Obama voters you projected your hopes and dreams onto his screen. That screen has been folded up and you’re seeing an anti-science socialist. Get used to 3 more years of science taking a back seat to handouts to cronies.

  35. ccpetersen

    Of course, Obama’s hand has been forced by spending and deficits racked up in the 8 years before his election. It puts me in mind of people who have to come in and clean up after a party they weren’t invited to, but nonetheless have to spend the money and effort to tidy things up.

    I’m of two minds about cancelling Constellation and Ares. I’ve always wondered if they are the right thing to do. I’m still not convinced. As for private development — it will always have to compete with government-funded programs in places like China and India. Right now, I’d say that the high ground of space exploration by humans is being ceded by the U.S. and it is the price we may have to pay for the mess our economy got in before Obama took office. He faces an awful, uphill battle to clean up the mess left behind. Too bad our manned space program may pay the price.

  36. ccpetersen

    Jim @ 31:

    I don’t see Obama in the same light you do. Where do you see that he’s spent his life filtering people? Links please. Are you sure you’re not reading your own opinion of him into what the man actually has to face? I’m not a big fan of his either, but I don’t envy him the mess he has inherited. And, to be honest, I think that perhaps the Constellation and Ares programs were not the right track — or at least were compromised designs. I want to see us go back to space as badly as the next science fan, but let’s do it right.

  37. Elmar_M

    JH 18.
    Why do you think that the only way to get a job in the aerospace industry is a fixed pay government contract?
    Tell your friend to go here for a private company that is hiring and that has never taken any government money to do space:
    http://www.blueorigin.com/
    And also: http://www.spacex.com/careers.php

    All you other doomsayers: Space does not have to be government driven. Why do you guys think that? Where does it say that? Even space stations can be done by private companies without any government funding. Take Bigelows Sundancer. Bigelow is actually desparately looking for companies that will bring his customers to LEO and his space stations.
    But NASA of course wants to pay people to build very expensive HLVs that will – maybe- fly 10 times, maybe 20. Then the programme will be deemed to expensive and cancelled. Noone will then have any use for the HLVs. The investment will be wasted.
    If you take a company like SpaceX and their Falcon 9 in return. They have a huge market and a technology that is adaptable. The rocket engines are the same for their small-, medium-, and heavy lift vehicles. That is a design that makes a lot of sense and it is cheap and sustainable. They will also have a good flightrate. That is important! Without a lot of flights any LV is doomed to be expensive.

  38. Fizzle, that would be a pleasant surprise, but has anyone heard rumours of this at all?

  39. Katharine

    Well, perhaps the ESA can pick up the slack.

  40. Monkey Deathcar

    Jim,

    How can Obama be an “anti-science socialist”? It just doesn’t follow to call him a socialist in a post about a rumor that Obama will increase privatization of an industry. Maybe an “anti-science corporatist”? Even that isn’t really right, but it’s at least closer. Maybe an “anti-space exploration corporatist”?

    Other than that though, nothing else in your post really makes sense either… so carry on.

  41. Lukester

    I AM GOING TO SAY WHAT EVERYONE SEEMS TO BE MISSING: THIS IS GEORGE W. BUSH’S FAULT!

    I believe in Obama! He wanted to fund NASA, but when you have such a screw up in office before you that didn’t leave you with any money, what do you expect?

    Thanks, Bush!

  42. PeteC

    The problem with “letting the private sector do it” is that nobody is stopping the private sector from doing it – they are quite welcome to.

    Unfortunately, long-term space exploration is not the sort of thing that can provide a significant jump in the stock price to activate a CEO’s year-end bonus. Turning up at a shareholder meeting with even a guaranteed “this will pay enormous dividends for the next generation” would get a CEO fired – very, very few people care about the year after next when it comes to stocks, let alone a few decades from now.

    Now, something like an enhanced x-prize might work – a government-led, government-funded project that sets large companies (Boeing, Lockheed and the like, not plucky little guys like Scaled Composits or SpaceX) competing to win guaranteed big contracts might work, but you’d have to take away the military procurement mentality of “government pays for development, pays for cost overuns in development, gets an contract, agrees, pays for cost overuns in contract, pays for the contract price being underestimated, pays additional costs due to delays, pays a bonus due to finally getting anything at all, pays for refit kits and repairs to finally bring it close to the scaled-down version of the original spec” mentality.

    If Obama wants to really do it right, he’ll put a sensible amount of the stimulus money into NASA – as Phil says, it’s high-tech jobs and projects that pay dividends in the long run, and they are as or more worth encouraging than just keeping ditch-diggers working (which is, at root, worth doing too if the alternative is just paying them social security). Whether Constellation is worth keeping is a harder task – none of us are really aware of what the true state of the Constellation program is. If the contractors would commit to delivering on time with any further cost overuns being at their own expense, then perhaps it’s worth keeping, but I suspect the program is in not nearly as good a position as it’s proponents suggest.

    Maybe it’s best to do this in stages – for now, focus on decent, long-term use heavy lifters (whether single-use or reuseable) and maybe a simple low payload personnel-to-orbit spaceplane, with requirements that standards be worked out and off-the-shelf components used so that every bolt doesn’t have to be hand crafted. Include other space infrastructure programs such as orbital tugs and taxis, boost vehicles to higher orbits, standard construction kits that can be used to build a variety of structures, up-to-date suits, and so on. Then, for the next stage, work out your Earth-to-elsewhere vehicle – possibly one assembled in orbit from components lifted by the heavy-lift vehicle previously built – plus the extra bits such as a standard environment shelter for planetary landings, a standard rover, and so on. Then we’d be getting somewhere. Using four or five heavy-launchers to get a decent sized crew module (complete with centrifuge, if only to sleep in), a framework, engines, landing module and fuel would produce a genuine spaceship.

  43. Katharine

    Lukester – we realize this. Many of us are wondering why Bush hasn’t had more shoes thrown at him.

    However, we can’t do anything about this now except prosecute him, and the nature of politicians means that, by definition, politicians protect their own. No matter what party, they’re a pack of scumbags; this has been borne out ever since Ancient Greece. The kind of power politicians have corrupts their senses. I generally hate politicians and businesspeople.

    I’m not even totally sure if we can prosecute him.

    The best we can do now is force economic growth by forging ahead technologically. Science has been a vital part of what has pulled us out of every economic slump.

    Except for maybe the ones wars pulled us out of. And war is dumb.

  44. Kevin

    You can’t believe the number of people on Twitter panicking about this right now. The space fans – and some who work at NASA, JSC, KSC – are begging people to “contact their representatives.”

    Some of them are saying this will be the “end to our civilization.”

    Since when do (supposedly) rational science-types believe in rumors?

  45. Rob

    Killing a particular program doesn’t always seem to end that path of research at NASA. Remember NASP, HSR, whatever other names the supersonic aircraft research program has gone through. Likewise, lifting bodies research from the 50s lead to the shuttle program. I think Mission to Planet Earth was ended, but there’s certainly still geo and weather research satellites going up. I’d withhold judgment until we see what really happens.

    As to the idea of “killing an expensive government program and replacing it with private contracts,” isn’t that exactly how most of NASA’s programs work right now? Tell Rockwell, Thiokol, Lockheed, etc., that the shuttle is a government program and not a government contract. They’ll be surprised.

  46. Howard Zen

    Thanks, Obama, for being such a miserable failure.

  47. Imipak

    Don’t forget that the tin in orbit was only ever a by-product of the $100Bn ISS price-tag. The main function of the ISS was to prevent thousands of highly-skilled Russian rocket engineers wandering the world selling their time to the highest bidder. Imagine the world we’d be living in if Iran (say) had bought off-the-shelf ICBM technology 15 years ago.

  48. Imipak

    PS you’ll note SpaceX Falcon IX is funded by – drumroll please – taxpayer dollars, in the form of NASA contracts for flights to ISS. As such, wingnut Heinlein fantasies about private spaceflight are just that: wingnut fantasies.

  49. Katharine

    Quite frankly, I think part of the problem is America’s ‘softening’ when it comes to the sciences – there’s an explosion in the life sciences, and this is great; at the same time, there needs to be an explosion in engineering and physical sciences in addition. We need more mechanical engineers, physicists, chemists, and computer scientists. Unfortunately, this nation is beginning to turn into a nation of, well, people we in the sciences hire to push papers and take our calls.

  50. GT

    Very perceptive, Lukester. I have a solution: why not just print some more money and give it to NASA? That cheapskate Bush only printed one quarter of what Obama has already printed for the banks and the auto companies and the stimulus.

  51. Nice work, Howard Zen (#46), in not reading what I wrote, especially the conclusion.

  52. Jim Howard (#34): that’s unfair and incorrect. Obama has been supportive of science, as I have written here several times. Supporting NASA and supporting science are not the same thing, though there is of course substantive overlap.

    And socialist? Puhlease. That pasta won’t stick to the wall, except with the teabaggers. Socialization of some things != socialism.

  53. Harman Smith

    I love how this turned into a Obama bashing fest. OK, a mini-bashing fest. Obama is so anti-science! Of course. How could we have been so stupid! We’ve been had! Change We Can Believe In… Yes We Can… we were all fools back then! If only John McCain was elected president.

    Oh wait. http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2009/02/27/john-mccain-still-really-hates-science/

  54. Elmar_M

    Imipak,@ 48
    Ah really? How much of the development cost of Falcon 9 was paid by tax money, hu?
    None.
    NASA pays SpaceX for the delivery of cargo to the ISS via the COTS programme. That is a very different thing. They are paying for a service, not for the development of said service.
    SpaceX would have developed Falcon9 either way.
    Also, if you compare the development cost of the soon to fly Falcon 9 to the development cost of even the (completely worthless fraud of a) Ares 1X, you will find that it was a lot less money and even the entire COTS cost is comparably low cost to what one Ares 1 would have cost.
    And again, I dont get how people cant see the point. There is no point in doing a one shot mission to Mars, the moon, or anywhere. It is a WASTE OF MONEY! If you want to go to the moon, or Mars, or whereever, you should be doing it in a way that allows us to return any time we like, over and over again. You need to build an infrastructure for that, or all you will get is another Apollo.

  55. David Bell

    I’d like to take a nitpicky moment about your argument against the ISS, if you don’t mind.

    The $100 billion that’s been dumped into it so far is meaningless. It’s just the basic concept of sunk cost, familiar to businessmen and gamblers alike. That money is gone. Abandoning the ISS won’t recover it.

    If you’re going to talk about the financial cost of the station, all that matters is what it is GOING to cost. If the money we will dump into it in the future will pay off, in terms of returned investment, new science, or even just popular opinion, than the station is worth keeping active, no matter how much it has previously cost us.

    On the other hand, if we don’t expect to get a good return on future investments, then the station isn’t worth keeping active no matter how invested we already are. A money sink will never get us the $100B back. Gone, gone, gone.

    Now, I don’t know if the ISS is worth what we’re paying for it. I don’t have nearly enough information to make that decision, so I’m not arguing with your opinion itself. I just hold you to a higher standard of logical argument. :D

  56. Gary Ansorge

    14. Elmar_M

    ” exploration itself and in developing new technologies that enable private companies to build better space ships. So NASA could be doing research on new engines, or new heat shield tech and the commercials like SpaceX would then use the tech to build new and better LVs.”

    I Agree!

    They SHOULD be working on exotic launch systems/engines, like mag lev for initial rocket boost, the Nuclear Lightbulb for nuclear powered rockets, laser launch systems, tethers and launching construction materials via Launch Point Technologies magnetic launcher. Granted, they have been doing some work along these lines, but it seems pretty minimal, thus far. They’re low budget items. They should be very BIG items, in the overall scheme of things at NASA. If they do the hard part, the basic research and initial development, industry can run with it.

    About, the ISS: if that 100 billion dollar figure includes launch costs, the ISS only accounts for about 5 percent if that. 5 billion in hardware is still too damn expensive to discard, since with present launch costs it would cost another 95 billion to get the same amount of construction material into orbit. At the very LEAST it should remain as a storage depot and launch platform to further human access to space.

    GAry 7

  57. The issue is always going to be motivation.

    The glory days of Apollo were driven by competition with the USSR, and that tied into the always-urgent arena of national defense. That’s why we allocated so much money to space then, and it’s why we don’t now.

    I love science and engineering and space, and I think a robust space program is worth it just for those reasons. But no matter how much I might wish it, national goals are not set according to my desires.

    However, you can get things done even with the relatively anemic budgets that NASA has had for the last 35 years. You just have to match your goals with your capabilities. Unless a compelling reason comes up, we’re likely to continue at the roughly the same levels as we have now. And we got a few good things from that – like the Hubble, like the Mars rovers, like Galileo.

    I do like the tentative steps that private ventures are taking, but I think it will be decades before we see routine private orbital flights. It’s expensive, and will remain so for a good while.

  58. Astrofiend

    Let’s just wait and see what happens in, you know, real life before everyone gets fired up over mere rumors.

    As for all of the talk about politics – Judas. America (and hence NASA) is on the downslope not because of some potential cuts and a re-think of some NASA programs and general NASA strategy – it is due to the fact that it houses a disproportionately large percentage of people filled with super-wanky patriotism that invariably manifests itself as claims like ‘Obama is a socialist’ and ‘Bush should be hung for treason’ and all that BS. My personal observation is that these people generally don’t seem to have any actual substance of their own and nothing to actually contribute to society – they think they make a difference by shouting political slogans that FOX news force feeds them, passing it off as their own opinion, and wearing little American flag lapel pins. They think they make a difference, but they are wrong. Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel. All politicians are evil incarnate – they all make promises they have no intention of keeping. All of you clowns that claim that you are either ‘republican’ or ‘democrat’, like it is somehow part of the very fabric of your being need to wake up and smell the stink – politics is rotten, pollies themselves are generally rotten, and the only option open to you is to vote the worst candidate out each election. Seeing as Bush had done a splendid job of being the worst president ever by pretty much any metric one cares to dream up, Obama got voted in. Sure, he’s full of it too, but at least he seems to be noticeably less full of it than Bush was.

  59. Mchl

    I’m not a fan of Constellation, but that’s the best we have and I want people back on Moon within my lifetime expectancy. Come on! I was born more than 10 years after Apollo 11 and humans still haven’t gone into space for good. For the record: LEO is NOT space.

    If Constellation is axed, I’m off to learning Chinese. I’m betting on them in this race.

  60. Kevin F.

    “which, to be fair, is NASA’s fault too; they should’ve been thinking 15 years ago about what to do when the Shuttle retires, especially after Challenger.”

    Try back in the 70′s when they should have canned the shuttle program in the first place.

  61. Peter F

    If this rumor turns out to be fact, isn’t it just telling us the truth, instead of kicking the can of breaking the news to us down the road, the way the last few Presidents have done?

    Did anyone honestly still think NASA was going to send manned missions to the Moon or Mars, again? Seriously?

  62. rj

    ^ PeterF, I never did.

    Let’s be honest with ourselves here. Americans want a lot of things, but they’re not willing to pay for it. In such a society, the spending at the margins get squeezed. NASA’s at the margins. As far as the “jobs creation” card, this would be jobs for people at the high end of society. The jobs that need to be created are at the lower end of society.

    For whoever mentioned India going in space in 2013, I’m sure that comforts the people living in abject poverty there. I’d personally rather live in a nation that has its priorities straight.

    NASA’s best chance in the future is to talk to the IRS and get a line put on the annual tax form that says whatever dollar figure you put in is mandated to go to NASA for their research in space as an additional tax charge that the taxpayer would pay voluntarily if they choose to do so. I’d chip in a hundred bucks. I think most people on here would. Wouldn’t you give money to the government to give to NASA if you knew it would directly go to NASA as a donation?

  63. justcorbly

    @60: The decision to build a shuttle was made in the Nixon White House, not by NASA. The decision to kill Apollo with unflown missions was made in the White House. The decision to build ISS was made in the White House. The Ares and Constellation decisions were made in the White House.

    See a pattern?

    NASA does not make the big decisions about the human spaceflight endeavors it tackles. Those decisions are made in the White House, which may or may not, usually not, lobby Congress to fund the agency appropriately.

    @61: Yes, I believe that. Certainly, I have much more faith in NASA than in any startup company with no track record.

  64. Eamon

    Katherine@39

    Well, perhaps the ESA can pick up the slack.

    The ESA and the other partners were sold the ISS on the basis of US participation and support for the project. The ISS, as it is, is pretty near unsupportable without the US. We were invited to participate in a common endeavour by the United States – and if the US welches on the deal it will effect its reputation and dampen enthusiasm for any such future ‘International’ projects.

  65. StevoR

    @ 61. Peter F Says:
    Did anyone honestly still think NASA was going to send manned missions to the Moon or Mars, again? Seriously?

    YES! Me for one.

    I did – & still do – think NASA is our best bet for getting people to the Moon and Mars and space travel generally. Ideally with co-operation from the European space agencies, Russia & China, but able to do so even without them.

    Interesting to note people are seeing China as our leading competitor -and the “Peoples Republic” is socialist at least in name. (Just ask any Tibetan or Falung Gong member or Uighur person how much it represents their people but that’s another story.) Which may get some thinking, hang on is socialism actually such a bad thing? Not that many Americans have more than the vaguest notion of what socialism really is anyhow methinks. ;-)

    @4. Greg Fish Says:

    In other words, if the rumors are true, the politicians are basically saying that we should just shelf our ambitions and R&D projects because while we can afford to bail out banks who can’t understand what they’re doing with people’s money, we can’t afford to actually create jobs through scientific research and space exploration for a fraction of the cost. This kind of political tunnel vision is downright reprehensible and I would want to see some sort of public ad denouncing it. Not just cheerily talking about how technology is out future, but giving people the whole story, that the government is actively ignoring R&D for the sake of having wingnut battles in Congress.

    Well said. I’m with you there Greg Fish, that’s how I feel too.

    I really, *really* hope these rumours are false. If this is really true then its pretty much heart-breaking and the manned space program is pretty much dead – at least for the next few decades – if itcan be revived at all. This would be a colossal, gargantuan, titanic thesaurus-exhausting setback for Humanity getting into space.

    I thought Obama was a lot more pro-science and had a positive vision of space exploration and science; that he was a Star Trek fan who understood and followed that shows positive co-operative, optimistic view of the future. I have been disappointed by him so far and *if* these rumours are true is true, well I’ll be absolutely furious and miserable.

    But I couldn’t agree more with the fact brought up here by (# 53) Harman Smith that Obama is definitely a lot better than the alternative. John McCain hated astronomy – he diddn’t even know the difference between a planetarium and an overhead projector. You think as President he would’ve done better by NASA? Not a chance. Sarah Palin *shudder* would’ve been Vice -president and one very ancient man’s heartbeat from thePresidency itself -and she was a full anti-intellectual uber-”conservative” Creationist wingnut.

    However disillusioned I get about Obama I will always be immensely relieved and happy that he is in power and not those pair of [expletives deleted.]

  66. Fernando

    It is very dissapointing to hear these rumors. It is dumb to trust in Space-X to send astronauts. They have a very long road to go. But it is absurd to send men to the Moon and Mars in the short term. First think in LEO. And retire the Shuttle, and preserve the ISS (make someone remember Obama that the project was approved by a margin of one vote in the Congress). Did you read about this on NasaWatch that a 2.5 billion dollar bullet train project from Tampa Airport to Disney will be announced by the President and the Vice-President? What? The Evil Empire of the Mouse has a strong influence over the government that prefers a fake Mars landing with tourists than a real one with astronauts?
    The program was badly executed but in the short term the ideas about Moon and Mars could have been shelved and concentrate on LEO. Scrap (for now) the Ares V and the Altair but keep the Orion and Ares I (or replace it with an EELV) to fly to the ISS. If at some time a Moon landing could have been done, prepare for it. Another mistake by Constellation was that it was taken like the Apollo, an exclusive US program, and not an internaional one like the space station. Obama, do not kill the program but rethink it.

  67. Brian Too

    I can’t shake the feeling that it’s unfair to complain too much about NASA’s late and over budget programs.

    What is the fundamental mandate of NASA? Even more fundamental than just space? They are explorers, inventors, dreamers tasked with making those dreams reality. They are Rocket Scientists, those oft-referenced people who do the Difficult Things we choose, not because they are easy, but because they are hard!

    The reality is we set the bar pretty high and we have to accept that some projects will simply fail. Others will work but be over time and budget. And no, the answer is not simply to hire more accountants and project managers. When you ask for high levels of innovation one of the side effects of that mandate is higher than usual levels of failure and budget challenged projects.

    This is exactly the same principle that Venture Capitalists use in the private sector. They fully expect to lose all their money oh, about 1/3 of the time. Every dollar gone. Another 1/3 of the time they will basically break even, so the effort was wasted in cold economic terms. The final 1/3 of the time they want a huge hit, a breakthrough product or company, lots of profits. They have to have those to make the VC business profitable, and to have the money to fund the other 2/3 of the projects that didn’t make it.

  68. Messier Tidy Upper

    Time for NASA’s plan B – anyone remember that & anyone know whatever happened to this idea?

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2009/07/03/nasas-plan-b/

    I’d prefer we went with plan A – it seems we’ve already gone down this road a good way so my thinking is let’s keep going – lets fund it properly by say asking those banks to repay some of their bail-out money into it or pulling out of some of these unwinnable wars Bush the lesser got us into. Or however else. I’m sure people can think of lots of things that get more money for less positive return & universal human benefit than NASA.

    Personally I think the Ares is a beautiful ship and a plausible looking scheme for a Lunar return & I’d love to see it fly.

    But if we can’t get plan A to work & we’ve already got the fallback – see link above – then surely we need to go with plan B and be quick about it.

    As for the International Space Station, as people have pointed out and I’ve emphasised here it is excatly that -international – NASA & the USA will look very bad internationally if we abandon it now. Also let’s not forget it ain;t finishe dyet abnd maybe it s knockers would be well-advised to just wait until its finsihed and ha shad achance towork for awhile before laying into it. Patience is a virtue, things take time – esp. when stopping the shuttles flying holds things up so much – and it took the Saturn V LEM & many other such things a long time to work too. Give it time & give it a chance.

    For another example, waiting for the Galileo mission to Jupiter seemed like forever but when it finally flew it did great. My guess is the ISS will be much thesame -once its fully operational it’ll do impressively well & the critics will be mostly silenced by its achievenments.

    Finally, I don’t think we can stress enough that in regard to public Vs private space operations it is NOT a zero-sum either/ or situation. We can and are best off having *BOTH* working together. Same thing applies to robots & humans inspace too. One or the other only is not as good as having both running together.

  69. Jenkins

    Phil is trying hard to defend Obama but failing miserably. GUYS OBAMA IS FOR SCIENCE! SERIOUSLY. WAIT AND SEE.

    And hey Phil, since you spent many a post defending climategate, how about reporting on the fact that now the university is being investigated for breaking the law by deleting emails and refusing to provide raw data: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/environment/article7004936.ece

    But you probably won’t. Climate change is immune to Phil Plait’s brand of skepticism. So is Obama. You’re a joke, Phil.

  70. Mikel

    I used to believe that we “must” get more into manned space flight. Why? Well, as we all know, Earth won’t last forever. In order for Homo Sapiens to survive, in the long run we will have to leave this planet. However, the longer I’ve hung around (I’m in my late 50′s – ugh) the more I believe we actually have the time to mount a charge in this arena.

    You may ask, when will that happen? My answer is, not until we find a way to traverse space at faster than snail speed. When we finally manage that breakthrough, and I say when, not if, that will be all the incentive we need. The realized idea that we could go “out there” in a reasonable time period will spur development of starships that are purely a matter of science fiction today.

    So, let NASA and space travel be political footballs. In the great cosmological stream of things, it doesn’t really matter. We will make the scientific breakthroughs or we won’t. And if we don’t, then we don’t deserve to survive the Earth’s demise.

    I am sanguine either way it goes.

    - Mike Petersen

  71. First, the writers for the story from the Orlando Sentinel, Robert Block and Mark Matthews, are your basic newspaper hacks who frequently sensationalize space news concerning NASA. Having read more than a few of their articles, I have come to the conclusions that these guys are no better than psychics when it comes to getting the facts right. They even wrote a number of articles dissing SpaceX time and time again.

    Just this last December, Congress passed an omnibus bill HR 3288 which included funding for NASA space exploration among which were Constellation program Ares I rocket which also benefitted from stimulus funding from ARRA. So cancelling the Ares rocket development when funding has already been approved and committed for FY2010 seems rather shortsighted. Also in that legislation was a provision preventing the President from diverting any funds from Constellation or terminating that program without Congressional approval. And right now Congress is not in a good mood with President Obama. Last thing President Obama wants is a political fight over NASA especially since key states like Florida, Ohio, and California has significant tax revenues from space industry.

    Construction of new launch facilties and pad for new Ares I are almost complete. What? We spent hundreds of millions of dollars building a launch pad we’re not going to use now? Conversion of manufacturing plants for production of Constellation Ares I components are currently underway.

    Ares I and Ares V are an integrated launch system. Meaning they have crossover launch components between both launch systems like the 5 segment solid rocket motor and second stage J-2x engines. By most accounts, the Orion spacecraft will still be developed for beyond LEO exploration. Given that two launches will be needed to lift both spacecraft and Earth Departure Stage to LEO, cannot see how using heavy lifter for both launches will be cheaper than the Constellation system. The Augustine panel has stated in its final report that Constellation is a viable, executable program.

  72. Messier Tidy Upper

    Ran out of editing time. :-(

    (We need 1/2 an hour BA not 15 min. – well I do!)

    This paragraph may be clearer & sure is better in this typo-free corrected form :

    As for the International Space Station, as people here have already pointed out & as I’ve emphasised here, it is exactly that – *international* – NASA & the USA will look very bad internationally if we abandon it now.

    Also let’s not forget the ISS ain’t finished yet and maybe it’s harsh knockers would be well-advised to just wait until its construction has been finished and it has had a chance to work for a while before slamming it. Patience is a virtue, things take time – esp. when stopping the shuttles flying holds things up so much – and it took the Saturn V, LEM, Galileo spaceprobe & many other such things a long time to work too. Give it time & give it a chance.

    PS. Obama’s first ‘State of the Nation’ address coming up soon – wonder if NASA will get a mention there?

  73. You can forget about manned space flight in the future.

    If you want to know what President Obama’s decision means, this is precisely what it means:

    The end of human spaceflight shall occur soon. By “end” I do mean forever.

    No, there is no need for humans to return to the moon. There is nothing on the moon for humankind.

    No, there is no need for humans to walk on Mars. There is nothing on Mars for humankind.

    No, there is no need for humans in space. There is no future for humankind in space.

    No, there is no need for the technological progress produced by human space flight (which has declined dramatically anyway). Technological civilization is a dead end for the human species.

    After human space flight has ended, the airplane era will end. After the airplane era ends, the automobile era will end.

    The future which you seek is like a mirage. You cannot reach it and even if you could you would still find nothing there.

    There is no future for humankind on the moon, Mars, or Space. Nor is there any future for humankind on the Earth. The pollution on the planet has already pushed it beyond the tipping point leading to a horrendously inhospitable climate not compatible with the survival of our species.

    Capitalism has failed. Consumerism is dead. The collapse of the United States of America has already begun.

    Things are going to get really unpleasant in the years ahead. You won’t be worried about space travel so much in the future. Suvival will become your primary concern.

    Peak Oil has occurred. The US Dollar is poised to become more worthless than toilet paper. A bankrupt and insolvent civilization cannot afford space travel or anything of the other luxuries that Americans take for granted now.

    In the years ahead, Americans are going to desperately seek for food and find none. If you want to know the future of humankind on the Earth look at Haiti. Humans have already destroyed their own environments and overpopulated the planet. The human population will reach its apex in the decades ahead and then a population collapse will occur.

    What does “population collapse” mean? Well, if you live long enough to find out you will wish you had not.

    Forget the moon. Forget Mars. Forget NASA. All of those futile dreams have ended. You’ll have to live differently in the years ahead or you won’t live at all.

  74. Dedjester

    Total NASA budget fron 1558 to 2009 has been $416 Billion. That’s $416 billion over 51 years. And look at the returns we have from those incredible people.

    Do not cut their budget. Increase it, give them a CLEAR goal and let those incredibly talented poeple show us all what can be done.
    I love ALL aspects of our space program. To say one is more important than another is like saying sleeping is more important than eating. Sure you can go without both for a little while, but soon you wither and die.

  75. MadScientist

    No Ares = no US vehicles for manned space missions for at least another 10 years. We will have to rely on the Russian Soyuz for small crews and the EU’s robotic supplier for supplies and possibly a conversion of the supply vehicle for personnel transport. Such a move also makes it likely that there will be much more pressure to pull out of the ISS consortium, and if the USA pulls out I don’t see anyone else sinking money into the ISS – so it can be de-orbited even before the original 2016 end-of-funding agreement. I would hope at least for further cuts in ICBM warheads and more civilian use of the ICBM vehicles and perhaps even more work on rocketry for science missions.

  76. Martin Ratcliffe

    1. NASA Administrator Charles Bolden stated in early January at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society that Obama will NOT preside over the demise of human spaceflight. I heard those words at the meeting, and believe what Bolden said. Note Bolden is close to the President, and isn’t regurgitating media reports.

    2. The cost of the Vision for Space Exploration and the return to the Moon was never fully funded by Congress, nor pushed through by President Bush for adequate funding. Frankly it is no surprise that the US cannot afford to go to the Moon. Currently the US public have not had the will to do it.

    3. Ending Aries 1, a topic discussed inside NASA for months, doesn’t mean the end of human spaceflight. The Augustine commission report has many recommendations, three of which include human spaceflight to Near Earth Asteroids/objects (NEO’s). Why not the Moon? Because the cost of developing an additional craft to land in a deep gravity well like the Moon is very expensive and will take many years, perhaps two decades.

    Instead, flying to Near Earth Asteroids can be done with an Orion spacecraft, and has two additional and valuable benefits. Developing techniques to visit NEO’s also develop the skills to divert asteroids from potential Earth impact. This is the single most important reason to develop a human spaceflight capability.

    If anyone doubts this, ask a dinosaur. 90 million years ago the dinosaurs must have experienced the Tycho impact on the Moon. Fragments must have rained down on the Earth. They had many millions of years to develop an asteroid deflection program. They blew it. Will we? (this item courtesy of astronaut John Grunsfeld).

    4. Refocussing NASA’s budget to support human flights to NEO’s that lie 20 times farther away than the 1960′s goal, the Moon, will be a huge challenge and engage the public in a bold venture, not aimed at job creation, but aimed at human survival on Earth.

    5. Once the launch vehicles are developed, and the US has human spaceflight capability to fly into deep space, developing any lander for any object can be developed using the talent, skills and funding of the international relationships that have been developed for the ISS. ISS goes far beyond the the hardware, but involves the working relationships and skills developed for large international space projects.

  77. Asimov Fan

    Is it silly to suggest we just re-build an slightly updated version of the Saturn V-Apollo craft again?

    I mean we know that works & know we can build it.

    We have a number of new alternatives & different plans for the “Return to the Moon” – Ares & Constellation, Plan B, DIRECT, Shuttle-C, etc – but none that are tried and tested or even fully constructed yet.

    Can we go back to the future and start up the Apollo-Saturn V production lines again?

    Might that be our best hope of returning soonest which would be the greatest! :-)

    PS. I would love to see Apollo 18, 19 & 20 get to fly after all even if they are 50 years later -and lets have a first woman on the Moon and send a first astronomer there too! ;-)

  78. James

    Sorry i couldn’t read all the palaver above, but one struck a chord. Privitize space. Yea, right. Two things wrong with that concept. Research and development.
    Business don’t like to research without a handout, from you and me (tax releif). They have to develop a concept, and prove it, and then develop it. No profit, not done.
    Government has the centers where concepts are developed, and sold off to the highest bidder. Say teflon. Say solar cells. Say computing and the internet.
    None of the ideas were developed by business, but sold by business. Paid for by us thru our tax dollars, Then a business was given the technology to sell.

  79. @David,

    OMG! I, like, totally saw Zeitgeist yesterday for the millionth time! You’re so right! Humanity is doomed and we can only be saved by a man carrying a large leatherbound Bible around America who can slice your hand off with a machete like it was butter.

    Yeesh. This planet is not yet overpopulated in terms of resources, allocation remains the primary issue when it comes to questions of poverty. Also there’s more to population growth than simply P(t)=Ce^(kt) as the growing sex disparity in China is demonstrating, and if you have no clue what that means, then I strongly recommend you brush up on your math and read up on population modeling.

    Pollution is an issue, but even assuming the worst-case scenarios we’re still pretty well off as a species. Meanwhile the good ole US of A will continue to be strong for years to come. People confuse the leverage with power. China doesn’t even match half of US productivity. It has leverage in the form of US debt and currency, but once again leverage is not power and they need us more than we need them. Sure, this country is going to hell in a hand-basket in terms of democracy, but the Romans demonstrated aptly enough that you could live in a society built on slave labor, in a state of perpetual war, where women are barely treated like humans, and still have a functioning empire. Actually, it sort of helps, and we’ve always lived in one form of oligarchy or another, so it’s not a huge shift in principle- just in transparency.

    My point is simply this: No, it’s not the end of the world as we know it. Also, if you’re going to be a nihilist, do it for good reasons, like the fact that every form of intelligent life in the universe is doomed by its entropic nature and the fact that it will bloat out into infinity well after the last coherent atom has decayed fully. Not because you saw a crappy documentary once (or picked up its memes elsewhere.)

    (Yes, I saw Book of Eli. Hokey, hokey, HOKEY.)

  80. Astroquoter

    Dan Brown, ‘The DaVinci Code’ author & somewhat controversial, slightly Conspiracy Theorist novelist did make some good points in his otherwise average, if clever SF / thriller / puzzle ‘Deception Point’ novel :

    “If we privatise NASA our current pursuit of scientific knowledge would be quickly abandoned in favour of profitable ventures. True space science would die in a heartbeat. Why would private companies bother studying the origins of our universe when it would cost them billions and show no financial return? They wouldn’t. The throngs of entrepreneurs rushing into space will NOT be rocket scientists. They will be entrepreneurs with deep pockets and shallow minds. No NASA means complete anarchy in space.”
    - Page 204-205, ‘Deception Point’, Dan Brown, Corgi Books, 2001.

    I agree with that quote. If NASA goes or is reduced to very little as these rumours imply, space science and space research (which incidentally helps greatly in our understanding of Earth and its ecological and environmental issues) will be dealt a massive blow.

    If private space companies gain too much power and rule low-earth orbit unfettered and alone then the potential and probability is strong for misuse and abuse, exploitation for cynical harmful-to-others profit, promoting military saber-rattling and religious extremism.

  81. Mike

    I try to be positive about the rumor. The report released in October that reviewed human spaceflight plans had some interesting options.

    See the full report here: http://www.nasa.gov/pdf/396117main_HSF_Cmte_FinalReport.pdf

    Some of the Flexible Path options look more interesting to me than plodding back to the moon and then plodding on to Mars.

  82. StevoR

    @ 71. David Says:

    You can forget about manned space flight in the future. If you want to know what President Obama’s decision means, this is precisely what it means: The end of human spaceflight shall occur soon. By “end” I do mean forever.

    So Russia, China, and lot of other nations interested in the field are going to give up on human spaceflight just because the USA (hypothetically) does? :roll:

    I don’t think so!

    No, there is no need for humans to return to the moon. There is nothing on the moon for humankind.

    WRONG.

    Here’s a list of five possibilities for you – just for starters :

    1. Helium three which could be a fuel of the future.

    2. Water ice, possibly minerals – we may find that extracting ores from the Moon works cheaply and easily and, of course, won’t have the environmental or social issues we get on Earth. Uranium mining on the Moon, for instance, could help stop the worries about radioactive elements being launched from Earth, avoiding the sort of protests that Cassini for instance suffered with its RTG component. Maybe we could actually build such spacecraft and launch them from the Moon itself?

    3. The Moon also offers a low gee, hard vacuum environment which is could have its advantages for some industrial processes – and a wide range of temperatures. Ditto. The Moon would also be an ideal place for using solar power : long days, no clouds (or air) in the way, huge tracts of land available and some locations with permanent sunshine – polar craters.

    4. The opportunity to practice colonisation and artificial ecological sustainability techniques and learn how to create artificial biomes (think the “Biosphere II” experiment) more rigourously than on Earth and perhaps more accurately – for planetary environments than space stations but in a way that may be more ethically responsible than on Mars – *if* Mars has some life forms of its own.

    5. Dare I suggest tourism? No seriously, if places like Antartica and Mt Everest are becoming tourist sites of sorts (& they are) then why not the Moon too? We can even fly under our own power there as well as create artwork, play, love and be inspired and energised there along with all the other human things. Now all we need is to get the fungineers designing the Lunar theme park… ;-)

    Actually there is one other huge and key thing that our Moon offers which we should never under-rate :

    KNOWLEDGE!

    No, there is no need for humans to walk on Mars. There is nothing on Mars for humankind.

    WRONG again, David.

    Mars to offers us knowledge, offers us a better understanding of our solar system, cosmos and ourselves and a potential new home & new start. It offers us adventure and hope and all sorts of serendiptious things we’ll only fully appreciate when we get there.

    No, there is no need for humans in space. There is no future for humankind in space.
    No, there is no need for the technological progress produced by human space flight (which has declined dramatically anyway). Technological civilization is a dead end for the human species.

    Sheesh, you’ve offered us a lot of hope for the future there haven’t you? :roll:

    Seriously dude, are you depressed even suicidal or something or just a miserable killjoy with no hope and no appreciation of how wonderful, how inspiring, how truly magnificent our technology is and how astoundingly much it can achieve?

    Needless to say, I totally disagree with you & think you are utterly WRONG (&, yes, that’s definitely an all-caps wrong!) there too.

  83. Katharine

    David, I would totes lend you some of my Celexa because you sound as if you need it.

  84. Hello The Chemist,

    * “OMG! I, like, totally saw Zeitgeist yesterday for the millionth time! ”

    Now I don’t waste my time watching movies so I don’t have the least idea (or interest) in what you are talking about. As it turns out, I happen to spend my time in Nature and have observed that everything which has a beginning also has an end.

    This principle is universal and there are no exemptions.

    Immortality and etetrnity do not belong to either you or I or the United States or Technological Civilization or any of humankind’s aspirations.

    All those things which can come to an end will come to an end.

    What this means, of course, is that you will die. I will die. The United States will collapse. Technological civilization will crumble to dust. Humankind will go extinct.

    If you have any doubts about any of these consult the last 4 billion years of history.

    If you continue to have doubts regardless of 4 billion years of evidence, please keep your eyes open and you’ll verify all these things by direct personal experience.

    The future isn’t so far away that these things will happen after you have died. It seems quite likely that if you have a normal life span you’ll see these things happen with your own eyes.

    The future isn’t bright. Humankind’s future is bleak.

    You happen to live on a planet which was very kind to humankind for the last 10,000 years. Civilization was possible because the climate was stable and there were entire regions with resources that we’re exploited to the max and depleted to nothing.

    That era has ended. On a planet with 9 billion people humankind cannot afford any mistakes at all … too bad that humnkind has made a thousand mistakes and continues to do so today at an accelerating pace.

    Our civilization is already crumbling. You should be able to verify this in your own neighborhood simply by walking the streets and observing the real world.

    But if it is not obvious to you, I can assure you that the ancient Romans never imagined that their empire would end even during the centuries in which (we now know) it was declining precipitiously.

    Death comes for us all. No one is exempt. Nothing is exempt. Humankind’s dreams and aspirations are not exempt.

    You can live in a science fiction dreamworkd as long as you wish but fantasyland is already ending. The human spaceflight era is ending right now.

  85. Katharine

    Humankind may have an end, but it probably isn’t the end you think it is, David.

    In fact, even the kindest possible end – evolution into another species – is an end.

    Civilization is not crumbling. It is changing.

  86. Katharine

    “What this means, of course, is that you will die. I will die. The United States will collapse. Technological civilization will crumble to dust. Humankind will go extinct.

    If you have any doubts about any of these consult the last 4 billion years of history. ”

    This is borne out by history how?

  87. Jeffersonian

    @Phil
    “First and foremost, these are rumors.”
    The president presents the proposal, which just recommends how the pie be sliced. Once in congress, it goes into various committees, then the Appropriations’ sub-committees, etc. Then the big back-and-forth starts. IE, you can’t just base everything on the proposal, especially rumors. Non-story, then.

    NASA will be effected by the Bush debt for another decade. That’s just fact. Don’t cross fingers for any fave projects. Space will take a back seat to the education crisis, health crisis, and climate crisis for the foreseeable future. Space programs are going to have to become even more international in effort and more private-sector driven.

    I’m all for a space program but it’s funny how you show some people a list of Obama’s accomplishments in just one year’s time and they immediately respond “but what has he done for my household in the last couple days?”.

    @Jim Howard
    In your opinion, what IS the correct level of Socialism a country should have?

    @The Chemist
    “Also there’s more to population growth than simply P(t)=Ce^(kt)”
    True, but it’s also not simply an allocation puzzle, and carrying capacity is not simply a function of resource quantity.

  88. Katharine

    “America (and hence NASA) is on the downslope not because of some potential cuts and a re-think of some NASA programs and general NASA strategy – it is due to the fact that it houses a disproportionately large percentage of people filled with super-wanky patriotism that invariably manifests itself as claims like ‘Obama is a socialist’ and ‘Bush should be hung for treason’ and all that BS.”

    This.

    When someone says they’re patriotic, it automatically makes me think ‘TRIBALISTIC MACHO DUMBASS’.

  89. Hello SteveoR,

    * “So Russia, China, and lot of other nations interested in the field are going to give up on human spaceflight just because the USA (hypothetically) does? ”

    No, Russia and China will give up on their space dreams for precisely the same reason the United States has abandoned human space flight. Humankind cannot afford this luxury any longer. Humankind cannot afford any luxury any longer. Humankind cannot afford to waste resources of any sort any longer.

    On a planet with 9 billion hungry humans the species will have to work very hard on survival and even so the species will fail because humankind has trashed the Earth like it was a worthless lump of rock rather than a living planet responsible for making our own existence possible.

    * “Here’s a list of five possibilities for you …. ”

    The five reasons which you mentioned aren’t sufficient justifications for wasting billions of dollars sending humans back to the moon. There is no future for humankind on the moon or in space … at all.

    The moon is an environment not suitable for humankind survival. The same is also true of Mars and everywhere else in the Universe.

    Humankind has only one home, the Earth, and it is a living planet and it is life itself which makes this planet hospitable for human life.

    Too bad humans have trashed the Earth and rendered it inhsospitable to the survival of our civilization and our species. In the centuries ahead the Earth is going to seem like an entirely different planet and I don’t mean this in any sort of positive sense. The Earth is going to become hellish in many different ways and it is very unlikely that our species will survive.

    A species that is headed to self-extermination should not waaste time trying to live on sterile cold lifeless lumps of rock without magnetic fields or trees or lakes or dolphins or birds.

    I have got some advice for humankind: Love the planet you have. Otherwise the species isn’t going to survive but life will go on. There was life after the dinosaurs and there will be life after humankind.

    Extinction happens.

    * “Mars to offers us knowledge, offers us a better understanding of our solar system, cosmos and ourselves and a potential new home & new start. It offers us adventure and hope and all sorts of serendiptious things we’ll only fully appreciate when we get there. ”

    I feel sad for anyone who imagines that a lifeless lump of cold rock is a home for humankind … though, given all the species that humans have driven extinct and all the ecosystems humankind has destroyed, I think humans prefer stile desolate wastelands to a living planet.

    No, there is nothing on Mars for humankind. There is no future for humankind in space.

    You should learn to love where you are rather than pine for some other planet, especially a planet without trees and birds and flowers and butterflies.

    Forget Mars.

    * “Sheesh, you’ve offered us a lot of hope for the future there haven’t you? ”

    Given human nature and what I read in the newspaper every single day, humankind merits no hope for the species’ future. Humans are miserable violent perpetually unhappy animals who spend all of their time fightng against each other and killing things for no particualr reason except boredom.

    The future doesn’t belong to humankind. The Earth would be a more peaceful place without us.

    Human behavior would seem to indicate that much. Destroying the Earth for the sake of technological civilization makes as much sense as burning your house down (with you inside) for the sake of heat on a cold winter night.

    * “Seriously dude, are you depressed even suicidal or something or just a miserable killjoy with no hope and no appreciation of how wonderful, how inspiring, how truly magnificent our technology is and how astoundingly much it can achieve? ”

    I am not at all impressed by human technology and I pity anyone who is so easily impressed. I wouldn’t destroy a living planet for the sake of technology, to do so makes as little sense as destroying your kidneys so that you might rely upon the technology of dialysis.

    Technological civilization is a dead end.

    Technological civlization is already dying right in front of our eyes.

    Shall we continue to destroy the Earth for the sake of machines and drive humankind extinct in the process?

  90. Hello Kaherine,

    * “Humankind may have an end, but it probably isn’t the end you think it is, David.

    * “In fact, even the kindest possible end – evolution into another species – is an end.

    * “Civilization is not crumbling. It is changing. ”

    The Truth is harsh, isn’t it, Katherine?

    You happen to live on a planet which has seen a lot of primate species go extinct. Humankind is the last of its kind for a reason.

    If humans want to evolve into some other life form (and I recommend that humankind do so because the species is a horrible sad mierable violent destructive mess at present) perhaps the species shouldn’t trash the Eaeth so completely that it will drive itself extinct

    Things are really bad on the Earth already and they are going to get much worse in the years ahead.

    How will humans survive with 9 billion hungry people and not enough food to keep them alive?

    They won’t.

    The future ain’t pretty.

    Humankind’s future is like Haiti’s present. There is no Star Trek in humankind’s future.

    Forget space.

  91. Katharine

    Humankind is not arbitrarily restricted to this planet.

    You strike me as very anti-intellectual and very anarcho-primitivist.

    Human existence is not a zero-sum game between Earth and civilization.

  92. Katharine

    “No, Russia and China will give up on their space dreams for precisely the same reason the United States has abandoned human space flight. Humankind cannot afford this luxury any longer. Humankind cannot afford any luxury any longer. Humankind cannot afford to waste resources of any sort any longer.”

    You forgot to read Phil Plait’s argument at the top of the page.

  93. Pi-needles

    @ David 71, 80, 85 &, 86 :

    My, you are a cheery chappie aren’t you? :roll:

    Do the words ‘undue negativity’ or ‘excessive pessimism’ mean anything to you?

    Yeah, these rumours don’t sound good & *if* they’re true its a bad, sad thing.

    But:

    a) they’re only rumours at this stage & you’re jumping the gun a bit here. You’ll look pretty foolish if Obama comes out and does the opposite. This may not be likely, but its at least possible & even if something like this is confirmed it may not be as bad as it’s been made out to be.

    (This is actually a common political ploy – leak an ultra-bad “ambit” policy then surprise people when you’re actual policy is better than feared.)

    b) Human spaceflight isn’t just in Obama’s hands – China and Russia already have manned space programs & India, Japan and others are starting their own programs. As StevoR (78) noted, just because the USA stops doing it doesn’t mean others will too.

    Au contraire, they may see it as a great opportunity to get ahead & surpass the US space tech & accomplishments lead. Far from giving up on the space “dream” more nations seem keen to get involved. They know it has significant benefits to them and is the smart thing to do as well as bringing enormous national presteige.

    &

    c) Realistically, while you may perhaps be right in the *very* long term (eg. millions or billions of years) about everything ending, I think your timescale is way off. I don’t think the end is nigh -not for centuries to come.

    I can’t see America or our wider global civilisation falling apart and ceasing to be anytime soon nor can I see manned spaceflight ending in the few decade or so. Staying in LEO & not progressing very far, sure, being restricted to the ISS even for a while, maybe. But stopping altogether? Uh-uh, not likely to happen.

    I don’t think Obama wants or plans to go down in history as the man who ended the US manned space program and ended Americans dreams of becoming astronauts. (McCain, OTOH, I wouldn’t be so sure about although still most likely not. Glad Obama’s president although, yes, he hasn’t been as good as hoped for either.)

    Humanity-wise yes, we have many major problems and obstacles but we’re intelligent and determined enough to find or create solutions too. Its amazing what people can achieve and endure when they have to. Don’t underestimate that.

    Don’t underestimate science and technology as solutions to problems either.

    Finally, what David do you hope to gain by your gloomy jeremiads on this blog? Why do you feel so keen to come here and post such miserable, depressing stuff? What do you want *us* to do & say?

    Do you just need us to try & cheer you up or something? “No your not that fat, no bum doesn’t look big in that, its not that bad, yes, you’re handsome, yes there’s hope, go get ‘em tiger!” ;-)

  94. Peter B

    Craig @ #10 said: “Günter Wendt, Pad Director for almost all of Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo, wrote an excellent book: ‘The Unbroken Chain’…In it he talks about ‘all the money launched to the Moon’. I found it very enlightening. He argues that no money was launched to the Moon. Every cent of that money stayed right on Earth. It went into the pockets of over 400,000 Americans in jobs ranging the gamut of engineering, manufacturing, accounting, hospitality, even custodial. Every dollar spent on getting to the Moon went directly into the economy. Certainly some companies made profit, but that’s true of just about every dollar the Government spends.”

    With respect, the claim is incorrect. These people built infrastructure which is currently either in pieces on the Moon, in solar orbit, or at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. Had these engineers built homes, schools, hospitals and bridges, the same salary dollars would have gone into their pockets, and the result would have been infrastructure which could be used by the American public. Continuing to use this argument is a little dangerous.

    “The key with space exploration, which in a way far surpasses other ‘public works’ projects such as highway, bridge, and dam construction, is that the knowledge and technological advances gained through the Apollo program put the US ahead of the rest of the world is so many, many different areas.”

    Has the value of technological spin-offs been calculated with certainty? I understand the General Accounting Office concluded that NASA had overstated the value of spin-offs.

    Please understand, I’m one of the biggest space nerds going around, but I still find the whole issue of the value of human space travel unresolved. It’s expensive, for two main reasons: firstly, our technology is such that we need enormous rockets to get useful payloads into space; and secondly, we find the idea of people dying in space so horrifying that we impose all sorts of safety restrictions. In the case of the latter, many people seem willing to volunteer to go on dangerous or one-way missions into space, yet many people also seem reluctant to allow others to do this.

    I find a useful analogy is to imagine shifting Kennedy’s challenge back 50 years and relating it to aircraft: in 1911 President Taft challenges the USA to fly non-stop across the Atlantic, within 5 years. Have a think about how the technology was developed to fly non-stop across the Atlantic, and how long it took. These days aviation is pretty much the realm of private enterprise, but it took over 50 years after the Wright brothers before air travel became generally available to the general public, and another 30 years before it became easily affordable.

    Put it all together, and what do you get? Well, I’m not sure. It suggests, I suppose, that the future of spaceflight will be in private hands, although there’s still a role for government in a variety of roles (governments still own or charter aircraft for a variety of purposes, for example, flying people and equipment to and from Antarctica).

    Perhaps it might be instructive to translate Kennedy’s challenge back to the courts of European royalty in the 16th century and frame it in terms of making a profit out of the New World…when did private concerns take over from government sponsorship there?

  95. Pi-needles

    @ David :

    Do you have anything positive to add, any proposed solutions or suggestions for how we can make things better, any possibilities for hope or, in your view, should we all go kill ourselves now?

    Seriously, take a prozac or a walk outside and try to find something good in life. That’d be a win:win scenario for you and us.

  96. spacermase

    @David: so, how’s prison life treating you, Mr. Kaczynski?

    @Gary Miles: I’m glad that someone else noted all this info was coming from a single source. Let’s hope their less-than-reliable track record holds up :-)

    Personally, I wouldn’t be too surprised if Ares I gets threatened- when the engineers working on Orion tell you off the record that they need a bigger rocket (which actually happened to me), you know there’s a problem.

    Just as long as they don’t give up on the Ares V or a similar HLV, I’ll be happy.

  97. CR

    David, it sounds like you’d be happy if humankind went extinct, and the sooner the better. Seriously, we get your point that things end, and that we should take better care of what little we have, but your posts all make it seem like we’re done for, very soon, and the world will be better for it.

    I hope that we haven’t screwed ourselves out of a longer future, but I’m not naive enough to think everything is going to be all pretty & perfect like some weird Star Trek episode. But hey, just because things end eventually doesn’t mean that I just give up all hope and don’t bother trying to make a better world than the one I live in. I’m sure a lot of people feel similarly.

    But what would you care about such feeling? Even those who might agree with your points about better protecting what we have in order to extend a future for ourselves could be just as easily dismissed with ‘but it’s all going to end, so why bother?’ attitude like the one you’ve preached over multiple posts..

    As bad as things are with our species & in the world we’ve made, I don’t have such deep loathing for myself nor for my species.

  98. Joe

    Not a word about this in the speech, just sayin….

    And I don’t understand how people like David expect to improve the world and help people if they have nothing but contempt for them.

  99. Ben

    39. Katharine Says:
    January 27th, 2010 at 3:32 pm

    Well, perhaps the ESA can pick up the slack.

    Surely you must be joking, the RKA, ESA, JAXA all don’t have the capability or will necessarily to do anything of the sort. IE, go beyond LEO. The ESA rather partner up than commit to such a big ambitious goal (Well, its the nature of the ESA), and JAXA hasn’t made clear its goals on manned spaceflight. No, we’ll see China land on the moon before anyone else does if these things are true.

  100. Bruce

    Now all that money wasted on science can go towards paying for ObamaCare.

  101. Trimegistus

    I love how so many commenters blame Bush for the torrent of red ink in Washington. Can’t you people do basic math? Obama has run up vastly bigger deficits in a single year than Bush managed in his entire administration!

    Someday it will sink in: Obama is a disaster. But I suppose we can blame Bush for Obama.

  102. PeteC

    David,

    I’m sorry, but what you’re saying is simply wrong. Food problems? First of all, in the industrialised world, populations are actually dropping; the only thing that keeps the numbers up is immigration. Here in Europe we *pay* farmers to keep fields empty and not grow anything. We’ve had butter mountains and wine lakes. We’ve been paying people to destroy our overproduction. Growing enough food for 9 billion really isn’t a problem.
    The developing world has its problems for sure, but many of those stem from cultural and social issues. Dictators and strongmen, constant civil wars, a culture that does not encourage effort, belief in magic – all these things help keep the vicious circle of poverty in place. In places where that circle has been broken over the last few decades, there has been a big improvement in the quality of life, and a corresponding drop in large families – look at Brazil, for example, or South Korea.

    Our current problems are just that, problems. No big deal. Economies do daft things sometimes. Our current situation – far from being the “end of capitalism” – is not nearly as bad as in the 1920s. Heck , it’s a lot better than living during WW2, with cities being bombed nightly. We’ll get through this. It might take a few years, and some big names might have to go bust, but at the end of it all people will go to work, make things, do things, get paid and get on by.

    Climate change? It’s an issue, but we’re not talking about 100 degree Celcius changes here! I think you underestimate how resilient we are as a species. While we were fur-wearing primitives we went through the end of an ice age – coasts changed, seas rose, glaciers shrank, floods came – and yet, here we are. In the very worst case, we’re going to lose some coastal cities to flooding, crop patterns will change, we might lose some population as we struggle to adapt. A few hundred years later it will just be history. We will adapt; our evolutionary adaption is to adapt. Most likely, we’ll have a few problems, some will do badly, some will do well, some cities will be lost, others will have the money to build sea defences – just as half of Holland has. We’ll make it.

    I see nothing that can exerminate us on the immediate horizon. Even a full-scale nuclear war would leave millions, probably billions, of survivors. A thousand years later it’ll all be history.

    As for the breakdown of society, every generation complains that society is breaking down. Every new generation thinks its invented behaving badly; it thinks it invented sex, alchohol, rudeness, violence. And yet, whenever you look back, people were complaining about the same things – even ancient writings recovered have said it!

    Humanity is bad? Hmn, humanity is one of the most altruistic species on Earth. Insects are truly brutal; most animals not much better. Imagine being a rabbit – it’s not happy hopping over fluffy meadows, it’s a brutal existence spent mostly hiding in damp woods until you finally end in a small damp squeak and a crunch.

    Yes, everything ends. Rome did, even though the Romans thought it was eternal. The British Empire did, though they thought the sun would never set. It happens. They left their mark. They left successors behind. One day the USA as we know it will collapse politically into multiple entities, or it will be absorbed into something bigger, or some other event will occur, but it will have left its own mark on history too.

    And maybe humanity will eventually die to competitor, or an asteroid impact, or when the sun goes red, but that’s a long, long way in the future. My own personal little hopw would be that humanity too, when it has gone, leaves successors – thousands of adapted new species decended from Earth humanity on thousands of worlds across the Milky Way.

  103. dcurt

    Of course Obama isn’t anti-science, as long as it supports his agenda. The more the sciences are dependant on gov’t funding, the greater the chances of convincing the public that we need our gov’t to “SAVE HUMANITY”. And that is exactly what this comes down too…these programs won’t help him get Cap and Tax passed…

    Maybe if NASA was to convince Obama that moon rocks, without a doubt, will prove Global Warming.

    I understand the hatred for Bush, but it’s completely “irresponsible” to assume that Obama has good intentions…just because he’s not Bush.

  104. Elmar_M

    @66 who said

    It is very dissapointing to hear these rumors. It is dumb to trust in Space-X to send astronauts. They have a very long road to go.

    and @75. MadScientist who said

    No Ares = no US vehicles for manned space missions for at least another 10 years.

    Not true. SpaceX already has a very much advanced prototype of its Dragon capsule. This will be manned. They also have an almost finished launch vehicle to bring it into Space.
    In contrast: NASAs Ares1 is far from finished and given the issues it had, it might have never flown humans at all. The Orion capsule is also far from finished. So far all these vehicles only exist on paper! Why do you believe that after all those years that there has been soo little progress in their development (and money thrown out the window for paper studies an power points) why do you think that Ares 1 would be flying any time before SpaceX dragon would? I see no indication for that. AresV had a much longer timeframe even. Again in no way they would be flying before SpaceX! The only things these programmes did was cost money. Money that could be spend on real research and research on new technologies for space flight (which is also on the agenda, if I see that correctly).
    This technology is then (much better) used by companies like SpaceX to build new, cheaper and more efficient launchers for NASA AND EVERYBODY ELSE! People seem to completely ingore that NASA is not the only player in space anymore. There are many others and more are coming. Be it tourism or science projects. The cheaper access to space gets, the more people will reach for the stars, simply because it is finally within reach. The NASA way of doing things with custom built launchers and space craft is not sustainable.
    It makes much more sense to buy the equipment that is available on the open market and use that. Imaging if every hospital in the world had to custom contract a manufacturer for a special CT scanner. These things would be even more expensive than they are now. Instead they are shopping on the open market for the scanners that are suiting their needs best. That drives competition and it lowers cost. It is much more visible with ultra sound machines actually. They used to cost 100s of thousands of US$. Now you can buy a much better one for 8 thousand.
    Most of the medical research is done with of the shelf CT scanners. Why cant NASA do their stuff with off the shelf rockets? It does not make sense.

  105. Elmar_M

    @ 80. Astroquoter who quotet Dan Brown on the privatization of NASA:
    First, NASA is not going to be privatized. They are just going to buy their launch vehicles on the open market instead of designing their own ones and forcing their designs on their contractors, making everything more expensive than necessary in order to create jobs that have to be paid for by tax money.
    So no, their science is not privatized.

    Second, that quote is silly. I like Dan Brown like everybody else does, but a large part of the research in the world is done by private companies, not by governments. Especially true for medical research. Yes universities also do their share, but they research the fundamentals that are then used by private companies to build new and better equipment or to develop new medication. This is working very well in medicine, I dont understand why this paradigm should not work in space exploration also.

  106. Hello Katherine,

    * “Humankind is not arbitrarily restricted to this planet.”

    Given the lack of oxygen, potable liquid water, food and a protective magnetic field I would say that it is quite certain that humans are restricted to the Earth. To leave the Earth is to subject the astronaut or colonizer to certain death.

    * “You strike me as very anti-intellectual and very anarcho-primitivist. ”

    I am post-intellectual and post-technological. Humans have trashed the Earth and each other for the sake of an unsustainable civilization which creates morbidly obese consumers with insatiable appetites and no sense of responsibility for the future of the species.

    * “Human existence is not a zero-sum game between Earth and civilization. ”

    Tell that to all the species that humankind has driven extinct and all of the ecosystems that humankind has eradicated. Civilization is a dead-end path by which a species destroys its future for the sake of wealth, luxuries, conveniences and addictions.

  107. Hello Pi-Needles,

    * “Do the words ‘undue negativity’ or ‘excessive pessimism’ mean anything to you? ”

    No, I devote my attention to flowers and birds and beaches and sunrises and sunsets. I am merely being honest with people who are profoundly delusional about humankind’s future.

    * “b) Human spaceflight isn’t just in Obama’s hands – China and Russia already have manned space programs & India, Japan and others are starting their own programs. As StevoR (78) noted, just because the USA stops doing it doesn’t mean others will too. ”

    The situation in Russia, China, India and elsewhere is just as seriously messed up as it is in the USA. Too bad that space-obsessed people continue to look at the planet as if national boundaries actually mean anything. Humankind’s problems are bigger than the USA. Humankind’s problems are bigger than civilization.

    * “c) Realistically, while you may perhaps be right in the *very* long term (eg. millions or billions of years) about everything ending, I think your timescale is way off. I don’t think the end is nigh -not for centuries to come. ”

    God, you are sincerely delusional. You really think that you have millions or billions of years? No, civilization has decades or at best centuries. Technological civilization has already passed its apex and is perceptibly declning at an accelerating pace. Perhaps you should spend as much time paying attention to your surroundings as you spend dreaming about a home in space.

    Humankind’s future is more like Haiti than it is like 2001: A Space Odyssey.

    * “I can’t see America or our wider global civilisation falling apart and ceasing to be anytime soon nor can I see manned spaceflight ending in the few decade or so. Staying in LEO & not progressing very far, sure, being restricted to the ISS even for a while, maybe. But stopping altogether? Uh-uh, not likely to happen. ”

    No, of course, you cannot see any of these things because you are fully engaged in science fiction fantasyland style thinking. Those fantasyland dreams actually ended a long time ago but it will take some time before reality sets in among techo-utopians.

    * “I don’t think Obama wants or plans to go down in history as the man who ended the US manned space program and ended Americans dreams of becoming astronauts. ”

    No, President Obama has his plate full merely attempting to avoid becoming the president who presided over the collapse of the US of A. Under such circumstances ending the human spaceflight program is trivial.

    * “Humanity-wise yes, we have many major problems and obstacles but we’re intelligent and determined enough to find or create solutions too. Its amazing what people can achieve and endure when they have to. Don’t underestimate that.

    * “Don’t underestimate science and technology as solutions to problems either. ”

    Science and technology are dead-end paths by which humanskind has transformed a living planet into a sewer of pollution which shall soon have a hellishly inhospitable climate. Those who imagine that technology will rescue humankind from the consequences of our destructive behaviors are going to be seriously disappointed since technology will fail and technological civilization will end.

    * “Finally, what David do you hope to gain by your gloomy jeremiads on this blog? Why do you feel so keen to come here and post such miserable, depressing stuff? What do you want *us* to do & say? Do you just need us to try & cheer you up or something? ”

    I am being honest with you and you should appreciate it. No, I am not a miserable depressing person nor do I need you to cheer me up. In a little while I will be on the beach and the beauty of the living world will sustain my soul as it always has.

  108. Hello Pi Needles,

    * “Do you have anything positive to add, any proposed solutions or suggestions for how we can make things better, any possibilities for hope or, in your view, should we all go kill ourselves now? ”

    I have something positive to add: Love the planet you have instead of a desolate cold lifeless lump of rock.

    If you want humankind to survive stop trashing the planet.

    Technological civilization is a dead end. If you love your grandchildren sacrifice the planet-destroying habit otherwise the catastrophe which will fall upon them will occur in your own lifetime.

  109. Hello CR,

    * “David, it sounds like you’d be happy if humankind went extinct, and the sooner the better. Seriously, we get your point that things end, and that we should take better care of what little we have, but your posts all make it seem like we’re done for, very soon, and the world will be better for it. ”

    Well, now that you mention it, that is precisely the case. A species which has destroyed its only home doesn’t merit any special favors from God or Nature. A species which has spent 10,000 years fighting increasingly horrendous wars doesn’t deserve to dominate a living planet.

    Humankind is a miserable pathetic perpetually addicted to violence animal which cannot resolve its own personal problems much less manage a living planet much less colonize space and attain imortality in the stars.

    No, I don’t want humankind to go extinct. I am observing humankind extereminate itself in the most horrendous manner possible while deluding itself with dreams of eternity in the stars and a techno-utopia in which only humans and machines exist while the rest of Nature is allowed to die.

    Humans have chosen to live in the worst possible manner. Humans have chosen the worst possible fate for the species.

    Don’t blame me for informing you about humankind’s terrible circumstance. You’d find it for yourself by direct experience soon enough. The future isn’t so far away that you can disregard it any longer.

  110. Hello Joe,

    * “And I don’t understand how people like David expect to improve the world and help people if they have nothing but contempt for them. ”

    I’ve spent enough time observing humankind to have pity for the misguided perpetually violent and ulta-destructive animal.

    How can humankind improve the Earth? Perhaps humankind can stop destroying the Earth.

    Love the planet you have or the species will go extinct and life will go on very well without humankind.

  111. MadScientist

    @Martin: What will loft the Orion if we don’t develop a new heavy-lift rocket assembly? No Ares5 = No Orion. I don’t think anyone currently has production rockets to lift such a heavy vehicle as Orion (except perhaps into sub-orbital flight or near-earth orbit – but what’s the point of that).

    @Elmar_M: I think Dan Brown is a talentless hack (though a popular one). So do you love Dan Brown as much as I do?

  112. Hello PeteC,

    * “I’m sorry, but what you’re saying is simply wrong. Food problems? First of all, in the industrialised world, populations are actually dropping; the only thing that keeps the numbers up is immigration. Here in Europe we *pay* farmers to keep fields empty and not grow anything. We’ve had butter mountains and wine lakes. We’ve been paying people to destroy our overproduction. Growing enough food for 9 billion really isn’t a problem. ”

    Billions of humans are already suffering but you don’t know it because there is still food at your grocery store. Some day in the years ahead there won’t be any food at your grocery store and you will discover what scarcity really means.

    * “The developing world has its problems for sure, but many of those stem from cultural and social issues. Dictators and strongmen, constant civil wars, a culture that does not encourage effort, belief in magic – all these things help keep the vicious circle of poverty in place. In places where that circle has been broken over the last few decades, there has been a big improvement in the quality of life, and a corresponding drop in large families – look at Brazil, for example, or South Korea. ”

    Okay, let’s say that the people of the Middle East and Nigeria and Venezuela and Mexico followed your advice and all attained middle class consumer status. These people would consume all of their own oil and have nothing left to export to the good self-righteous consumers of the USA.

    Americans would become very impoverished very quickly.

    The impoverished people of this world aren’t impoverished because they are lesser humans that those of the Wrest. The impoverished people of the world are impoverished because the West opprressed and exploited them in order to gain access and control over their resources.

    But this will end soon … when China stops propping up America when its welfare for capitalism ends. China isn’t going to finance America’s debt fuelled lifestyle forever. You will discover what true poveryt is when China stops being America’s sugardaddy.

    * “Our current problems are just that, problems. No big deal. ”

    This is a profoundly delusional statement which you’ll discover for yourself soon enough.

    * “Climate change? It’s an issue, but we’re not talking about 100 degree Celcius changes here! I think you underestimate how resilient we are as a species. While we were fur-wearing primitives we went through the end of an ice age – coasts changed, seas rose, glaciers shrank, floods came – and yet, here we are. In the very worst case, we’re going to lose some coastal cities to flooding, crop patterns will change, we might lose some population as we struggle to adapt. A few hundred years later it will just be history. We will adapt; our evolutionary adaption is to adapt. ”

    Again, you don’t perceive the full scale of the problem confronting humankind. Climate change is the sort of problem which can drive humankind extinct. Humankind’s ability to adapt is overestimated. Humankind hasn’t faced this problem before.

    * “I see nothing that can exerminate us on the immediate horizon. Even a full-scale nuclear war would leave millions, probably billions, of survivors. A thousand years later it’ll all be history.”

    Your inability to perceive threats might explain your irrational optimism.

    * “Humanity is bad? Hmn, humanity is one of the most altruistic species on Earth. ”

    I can tell, I read the newspaper every day … bombs and bullets, violence and warfare, species going extict and ecosystems ravaged, and a billion humans livig on less than $2 a day while Americans are morbidly obese hyperconsumers.

    Humans are so altruistic!

    * “And maybe humanity will eventually die to competitor, or an asteroid impact, or when the sun goes red, but that’s a long, long way in the future. My own personal little hopw would be that humanity too, when it has gone, leaves successors – thousands of adapted new species decended from Earth humanity on thousands of worlds across the Milky Way.”

    Here is a Star Trek science fiction fantasyland.

    The future isn’t going to turn out that way. The future has already failed to turn out that way.

    Humankind is a species headed to self-exterminatio but humans are too delusional to know any better and too addicted to violence and destruction to stop.

    On a positive note, though: There is life after humankind just as there was life after the dinosaurs. The Universe doesn’t need us and the Earth can afford to lose us.

    Humankind won’t leave a memory, either. There won’t be any museums devoted to humankind like those museums which are devoted to the dinosaurs. When humankind is gone humankind is forgotten forever.

    Such is the fate of the species that destroyed its only home.

  113. MarkW

    David, if you’re so nihilistic, please do us a favour and stop posting your depressing bull on blog comments and just go and kill yourself. K? K.

  114. SLC

    Hopefully, the money currently being wasted on scientifically empty manned space flight will be redirected to scientifically useful projects like robotic probes to investigate the possibility of life on Europa. It appears to me that President Obama supports scientifically productive activities, which does not include human space flight. I agree with Prof. Bob Park and Prof. Steven Weinberg, the time to scale back manned space activities arrived a long time ago. But of course, according to some on this blog, Park and Weinberg don’t know what they are talking about.

  115. UmTutSut

    In the end, it doesn’t matter what those of us who support human space flight want. “They” are going to do what *they* want to do because (a) we’re a small minority and (b) most Americans don’t give a flying fork about space…and honestly, probably aren’t intelligent enough to care.

    Look at how the LCROSS impact was covered by the mainstream media; it wasn’t *science*, it was a *TV show* for the masses’ entertainment.

    Grumble, grumble….

  116. Chris

    @Emory Stagmer:

    ‘The moon inspires people. Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) doesn’t *inspire me*’.

    Fixed that for you.

    A moon mission is not an ongoing event. An LEO platform is, and can nicely allows us to point to people being ‘up there’ continuously. It is as important, if not more so, than a moon mission.

  117. Grand Lunar

    I won’t shed tears for Ares if it’s cut.

    I know I sound like a broken record (or CD, or MP3 player, or whatever else you listen to), but I for one would be elated to see the Jupiter rockets take Ares’s place.

    And of course, I would also be happy to see Falcon 9 fly. LEO can then belong to commerical space flight. NASA and others can concentrate beyond that.

    Oh yes, and let’s stop these stupid wars that are worse than useless.

  118. Katharine

    I do agree that humanity is something of a pox at the moment on average, but don’t generalize to the entire species. Personally, if we could bring up the average education level of everyone on Earth, that’d be a good start. An admirable goal, I think, would be to aim for a college education for everyone on the planet.

    In your screeds about humanity, David, you leave out the percentage of the population that is actually concerned with finding solutions to problems, hates war, doesn’t want to destroy the planet while advancing technologically, and wants to do things the right way. Are you going to lump we members of the science community in with the frothing, uneducated, stupid masses? I’ll be totally honest – I have an astronomical contempt for anyone who neither has nor is in the process of getting a four-year degree from a non-fundie-idiot accredited institution (partially because of the fact that there are certain things one learns in college, in addition to what you learn from classes, that you cannot exactly learn anywhere else, although this tendency, I will say, is significantly more likely in the sciences, engineering, and perhaps also the social sciences than in other areas with far less useful degrees such as the arts – I have no idea, by the way, why universities have degree programs in the arts), and this is with the full knowledge that there is money out there for the taking if people try and get it, provided they do well in classes. Most of the people I see every day make pond scum look like Einstein. I really do not like people in general. (Before anyone gets alarmist, I am not an eliminationist; rather, I prefer the tactic of creating an environment inhospitable to stupidity.)

    But I know the difference between what is and what can be, and I have some idea of how society can achieve it, and so do others that agree with me; the problem, in part, is getting the dumbasses to agree.

    No, David, I do not think YOU perceive the full scale of the problem confronting humankind, because you underestimate humanity. While I cannot stand most of it, I understand that in times of crisis, it often rides on the back of its best and brightest.

    And some of us happen to enjoy cold, desolate, lifeless lumps of rock. At some point, we will develop the technology to make them warm, not so desolate, and not so lifeless.

    You say things about special favors from your imaginary friend or nature – as if they were human. They are not. Your imaginary friend doesn’t exist and nature, realistically, is just the universe’s physical constants, matter, and the forces of natural selection. You say things about ‘deserving’. In your own mind, perhaps, they don’t deserve to live. But some of us don’t deserve that fate, just like the Germans who resisted the Nazis in World War II don’t deserve the same fate as the criminals at Nuremberg.

    There is no such thing as post-intellectual and post-technological. You understand neither the intellect nor technology.

  119. The “inspiration” to the public of manned moon landings is vastly overrated. Apollo 11 generated an enormous amount of attention, obviously, but the public’s attention declined sharply with each subsequent Apollo mission, even though the missions became much more ambitious. By the last Apollo mission, the news media and the public were barely paying attention.

  120. JH

    ELMAR:

    Thanks, I’ll point my friend towards the private sector website you listed and others.

    Someone else mentioned that twitters all abuzz with the “call your reps” from the Nasa, JPL, etc employees. That someone (I can’t scroll back up through David’s claptrap again, sorry) mentioned that it was odd watching scientists go crazy on rumors.

    At my line of work, we knew about pending layoffs long in advance of the news. We knew that if X , Y, and Z didn’t happen, that we’d have no money. We also knew that if we saw our managers closing their doors a lot and showing up in really nice suits that they weren’t around the office.

    Perhaps the people at JPL, Nasa, et. al. know something about their future that we don’t know. Perhaps someone leaked plans of the governments next moves to them. It’s indeed possible. We are in a spending freeze, after all. Science isn’t defense, so it’s gonna go.

  121. Katharine

    One of the things Obama needs to do, I think, is hack liberal arts funding in half.

  122. Phil, you have a typo “they’ve never let it get to the point where it gets manourished.” :)

    Still reading all comments before I make mine though. Though, in short, I agree with you.

    edit: cursed grammar

  123. BradPhysicsPhD

    America needs employment. NASA breeds employment.
    Everyday, we use products which were developed for the space program. These products are now being created by private companies which employ people.

    Currently, we do not have the technology which allows us to live on the Moon for a good length of time. It is reasonable to assume, the technology created for this project will create many jobs in the future.

    Spending needs to be cut when it comes to pork and earmarks. Those with the power of the purse need to open it up and spill out the contents. Get rid of the trash, and get back to responsible spending. Otherwise, some individuals might find themselves with a different title after November.

  124. RL

    I’m a little skeptical about the fixed price contracting of space launches to commercial firms. The reason these things are expensive is that they are hard and commercial firms will only last if there is money to be made (i.e. profit to attract investors). In the near term, I’m skeptical that money can be saved. Maybe long term. Long term, though, I think manned exploration of anything in near Earth orbit is dead if this rumor is true. I’m also not surprised. It took so long for a NASA administrator to be approved and then to wait for the Augustine panel to issue a report that it seemed obvious that the NASA mission and moon/Mars missions were going to be changed.

  125. RL

    @ Phil

    ..teabagger…”

    Really? Way to jump into the gutter.

  126. I think that putting humans in space is silly and a waste of resources. Look what robot spacecraft have done, Voyager, Galileo, Giotto (the US opted out of Halley), Cassini, the vehicles on Mars, none of them require oxygen, food or massive shielding and they work! If we want to explore space, robots are the way to go.
    For the record, the NEAR asteroid rendezvous mission flew on time (it had to because Kepler’s laws wait for no man) and came in under budget. It was done by Johns Hopkins/Applied Physics Lab and can be done by others as well.

  127. PeteC

    David:

    OK, only you can see these incredible challenges that will destroy us. What are they?

    Global Warming is an issue, but one that threatens to impact our political and national structures, not our species. In the very, very worst case – all the ice caps gone – we’ll lose a lot of coastline. It’s not going to be “Waterworld”. Sure, that sucks for New York, LA and the like, but Zurich will be just fine. And half of Holland was reclaimed from the sea and is kept safe by huge engineering works. I suspect we’ll end up building the same around our major cities. It will be ruinously expensive, but again, if you take the long view, we’ll get through. You keep talking as though Global Warming was set to boil the planet to a dry desert; it’s not.

    Food shortages? I pointed out quite clearly that modern farming can easily feed the entire population of our world. Global warming might impact some of our current growing areas, but it will also improve others. Maybe Russia replaces the USA as the major grain producer; that’s still not extinction talk. Massive political reorganisations and changes in the balance of power happen; it’s a common theme in history. The fall of the Roman Empire didn’t end humanity. The industrialised world isn’t growing in population; all it has to do is maintain the status quo. If we want to reduce population, all we have to do is restrict immigration (not something I’d recommend doing, by the way). The third world has problems today, and will for a while yet, but please note that during the height of the Etheopian famine, Etheopia was a major grain exporter. Money and greed won, sadly. We could easily feed everyone on the planet, but it would unfortunately take a strong global government to do so.

    Yes, watch the evening news and you’ll see bombings and murder and rape. But it really is a small percentage of our population. I’ve never done anything like that; I’d be surprised if anyone here has. The evening news is not going to report “Today John Smith went to work, installed some shelving for a customer, then went home, where he played with his children and enjoyed the evening with his wife”. Nor will they report “Today Mary Smith went to work and spent the day immunising children against infectious diseases before going out and having fun with her friends”. Compared to the life of a lion, we live in a virtually violence-free environment. Don’t get sucked into the totally misguided notion that Nature is soft and fluffy and in perfect balance. Many species have destroyed the balance locally; some globally. The blue-green algae that first evolved to produce the oxygen you’re breathing wiped out most of the rest of the species on the planet. Mother Nature is a bitch.

    Oil? There are replacements. Yes, increasing the third world to western standards of industrialisation would increase their oil consumption; however, replace oil with, say, fusion and those problems go away. Fusion plus better batteries solves most of our energy issues in one go. It’s not trivial to do; however, it’s a technological problem, and when we really put our mind to it we’re quite good at solving them.
    If not fusion, then geothermal, solar, orbital solar, wind, wave, tidal or most likely a large combination of them all. Heck, if good ‘ol fission would keep us going for a while, if we had to. Waste is bad, but it could be handled. There are ways.
    I see nothing threatening technological civilisation. There are plenty of things that could redraw borders, change power balances or alter the political landscape. There’s also a few nasty issues that could potentially kill quite a lot of us. I don’t however, see any huge halt or fallback in technological progress or its use.

    At the moment you’re basically doing the same as the guy with “The End is Nigh!” sign on the high street. If you want to be taken a bit more seriously, present some data, or at least a coherent hypothesis on what could exterminate us. Just shouting “You’re all blind and stupid! You’ll see, you’ll see!” is not very convincing. How do you see humanity becoming extinct? You’re quite happy to chuck close-to-insults at everyone else, but at the moment you sound like an Emo teenager, all angsty without any coherent thought behind it. Please, present a viable hypothesis.

  128. Jya Jar Binks Killer

    I hate annoying adverts as much as the next person but we need to get NASA some proper money to do what it wants & can do best so how about allowing sponsorship of NASA & its rockets and craft by the big corporations?

    It works for Formula 1 & other motor racing plus, well, pretty much all sports these days really so why can’t it work for space agencies? ;-)

    It may be distasteful and make things “impure” but, crikey, I’d rather have “This Moon mission brought to you by brand X, shoe company Y and product Z” or whatever else than no such missions at all.

    Obama has given his big speech already- is there any news officially on NASA’s funding & fate yet?

    (BTW. To “David” the Emo kid on a downer: your comments are depressing, boring & several people here have already patiently explained to you why you are also wrong. Now go troll somewhere else please & let the adults talk.)

  129. Daffy

    They should make NASA a private, for profit corporation…then Obama and the rest of congress—Republicans and Democrats—would give them all the money they want, no questions asked!

  130. Jya Jar Binks Killer

    @117. Grand Lunar Says:

    I won’t shed tears for Ares if it’s cut.

    Neither will I but I will be sad and wonder what could have been had they kept going that bit longer. They’ve already started building it, its had one or two good or good-ish tests & it does seem a shame to throw that work away and start again on something else.

    I guess its just frustrating that we have to start again – *if* we do – & that we lost so much momentum after the Apollo program hit NASA’s peak. We could have been on Mars in the 1980′s if we’d just put enough energy and money in to make it happen.

    Oh & memo to President Obama:

    You know how you talked about “the audacity of hope?”

    Well its time you put your money where your mouth was and really promoted something both incredibly audacious and inspiringly hopeful -

    FUND NASA PROPERLY & give ‘em a clear “Before the decade is out” Kennedy-style target to work towards, okay!

    If you need to get the money from somewhere – just remember the banks owe you bigtime & seem to have more than enough to throw at their greediest CEO’s so a little pay back there could be due! ;-)

  131. Gus Snarp

    Who knows how the next federal budget will really shake out, but given the proposed freeze on spending increases for total non-military, discretionary spending, I have serious concerns about NASA. They create a lot of jobs, but to a lot of the people to whom this spending freeze business panders, NASA is a big waste of money. If you’re moving money around trying to keep the most essential services running while not cutting too many jobs in too many districts, keeping the unions and other vocal lobbies happy, NASA becomes a prime target for cuts.

  132. Brian

    Just want to remind people that just because Ares is sunk, or could be sunk doesn’t mean we’ve lost it all. Talk is that he want to subcontract out space flight to other countries. Contracts that corporations will bid on, once they have the capability, and government contracts are always lucrative. Also, let us not forget that there are literally trillions of dollars in metals floating around up there from NEOs, to the Asteroid Belt, to pick a planet or moon. All of it waiting to be exploited by a company with the resources, the leadership, and the wherewithal to do it. There are many companies out there who earned more last year than most nations.

    Phil could be right, while this is terrible in the short term, in the long term…this could be good.

  133. Messier Tidy Upper

    From an old BA blog article :

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2008/11/04/ares-hardware-arrives-at-kennedy/

    I was amazed to see that test launch is scheduled for July 12 of next year! Then I had to smile: I keep thinking of Ares (and the Shuttle retirement) as happening some time in the nebulous future, but in fact the Shuttle retires in just a year and a half from now. And so Ares test flights need to start soon, the sooner the better. Somehow all this slipped away from my conscious mind. The Shuttle has been flying since 1981, most of my life (I remember the first launch of Columbia, back when I was in high school). It’s hard to imagine that it all ends so soon.

    But I’m glad NASA is getting their act together on this. Both Presidential candidates — and I only need to write it that way until the end of the day, phew! — have promised extra cash for NASA to help get Ares on track, and I think in the end that’s a good thing.
    - November 4th, 2008 1:00 PM by Phil Plait

    So is there any way we can hold them or specifically Obama to his promise? Perhaps he needs to be reminded of this? Vigorously reminded.

    Then again, what’s a politicians promise worth? :-(

    Any more news officially known yet BA or is it all still rumour?

    NB. Is my mind playing tricks or do I recall seeing a BA blog item showing an awesome test firing videoclip of the Ares booster out in the desert somewhere? I’ve used the search function here & tried under a few things (Ares I, rocket test, engine test & some combos thereof) but without success. :-(

  134. Pathfinder's Airbag

    I think it’s a sad commentary on the state of our species’ imagination if the best we can come up with and rally around is a re-do of something that was done forty years ago. Faced with infinite human and technological potential and infinite possibilities, we’re wringing our hands because mean ol’ President Obama doesn’t want to spend a bajillion dollars to send folks to the moon to putter about looking for bits of water ice (now there’s something that will truly inspire the nation!). The unmanned Mars rover program has, frankly, been far more inspiring and fruitful than decades of low-orbital manned shenanigans. We need to get out of the fifteenth century view that we have to send human explorers everywhere, and we have to think bigger than going back to the moon. “First steps” sure, but the Apollo program wasn’t driven by baby steps but fired by politics and imagination.

  135. Charles Boyer

    Hopefully, the Chinese will have the foresight to hire all of the engineers that this decision will unemploy and use them in their growing space program.

  136. Charles Boyer

    “I think it’s a sad commentary on the state of our species’ imagination if the best we can come up with and rally around is a re-do of something that was done forty years ago.”

    Fortunately, after Ferdinand Magellan circumnavigated the globe in 1517-1519 the leaders of that time decided to re-do what had been done and sent the likes of Vasco de Gama and others to continue exploring.

  137. Katharine

    Charles -

    The problem with that is we don’t want domination in space to be in the hands of a country that censors the Internet and has one of the worst human rights records of a developed country.

  138. “THIS IS GEORGE W. BUSH’S FAULT!”

    That poor capslock button. What did it ever do to you? I guess we can blame Bush for that also. Blaming Bush for everything is childlike at best, at worst a severe lack of political acumen.

    This is Obama’s budget and he is President. If he chooses to gut manned space flight (as he promised BTW) then that is his choice. He is not alone NASA has been a budgetary whipping boy for a slew of administrations, but then again how many politicians look beyond the next election?

    There is little I agree with Obama about but I hope he realizes this is a mistake…

  139. Elmar_M

    Again, I dont get why everybody thinks that axing Ares was a bad thing!
    It was NOT! It was a good thing and the only right thing to do. It would not have flown within the next decade anyway.

  140. T_U_T

    Again, I dont get why everybody thinks that axing Ares was a bad thing!
    It was NOT! It was a good thing and the only right thing to do. It would not have flown within the next decade anyway.

    So better never than late. Some peoples thought processes are so alien to me, that I fail to believe we come from the same stellar system, or even the same reality.

  141. Elmar_M

    So better never than late.

    Better a cheap and sustainable alternative to late and expensive, how about that? Mr Alien.

  142. Travis D

    I’m not so disappointed in canceling the Ares I. But I am dismayed about canceling the Ares V because it represented something we haven’t had since the Saturn V, a super heavy lift booster. What other plans are there in the work that can lift what the Ares V was projected to be able to lift? I’m leery of letting private industry take the lead on this. I’m sure they could get things done but being private industry it would probably result in a lot of dead child slave laborers somewhere.

    Oh and please discard fantasies of dropping manned space flight for robots, a NASA with no manned space flight would be an agency that would get no public support and no money. You’d basically be killing NASA if you did that.

  143. Elmar_M

    I’m leery of letting private industry take the lead on this. I’m sure they could get things done but being private industry it would probably result in a lot of dead child slave laborers somewhere.

    What are you talking about??!!!!!
    As far as I am aware of, SpaceX is manufacturing everything in the US and some companies that are members of the ULA were also contracted for Ares. So I dont quite get where you get these ideas from. Got anything to back up these claims?

  144. I made a joke the other day. “If I ever vote for a Republican for president again, you’ll know that someone, somewhere has perfected a mind-control ray.” I used to be a conservative. I also used to be a pretty stupid kid. I’m am solidly on the left/progressive side of politics now that I’ve grown up and seen how the world works.

    However, if Democrats continue trying to starve NASA, I’ll start voting Republican again. This one issue is that important.

    It beggars the imagination how the same people who understand climate change, overpopulation, pollution and dwindling resources on Earth consistently refuse to fund the one thing that would solve the majority of those problems. I said as much on Twitter once and some idiot replied “what has NASA done for us?” I wanted to reach through the monitor and strangle him for his stupidity.

    Republicans may make a mess of things on the ground, but at least they almost always support NASA. I believe this planet will die if we don’t get off it, so it won’t matter how well it’s being run by people who refuse to let us leave it.

  145. PeteC

    Rooker, while I sympathise with your point, as I understand it they basically *increased* the funding for NASA significantly this year. This is about cutting the Constellation program, not NASA’s funding. Phil did a post on this a few months ago.

    And voting for a candidate such as John McCain, who publically showed his distain and contempt for space issues, in order to teach the Democrats a lesson is somewhat silly. If one candidate will cut Constellation and the other shut down all non-commercial launches, for example, I’d suggest choosing the least damaging option.

  146. PeteC,

    McCain is just one example and one who goes against the norm. McCain often disagrees with the rest of the GOP. In general, Democrats can’t seem to understand why space exploration is important.

    And my vote wouldn’t be to teach anyone a lesson. In my scariest dreams we never leave this world and, 100 years from now, 30 billion of us are fighting over the last liter of fresh water and the last stalk of wheat. I’ll vote for whoever is more likely to prevent that from happening.

  147. Private space program? I remember laughing my ass off when the first “private” space shot named “Contastoga” was launched and you could still read the “US Army” through the private paint job. Perhaps if there were gold or slaves to be had on the moon entrepreneurial space would get somewhere, but that doesn’t seem to be happening. Sending billionaires into sub-orbital near space doesn’t need a re-entry system of any consequence. Communication satellites seem to be the jewel in private space crown, but most of those are government subsidized.

    NASA delivers the goods and does its best to hit a steadily moving political target. I say sell our share of the ISS to China and India and use the proceeds to finance a new version of the proven Saturn system.

  148. Messier Tidy Upper

    @ 120. Doug Watts Says:

    The “inspiration” to the public of manned moon landings is vastly overrated. Apollo 11 generated an enormous amount of attention, obviously, but the public’s attention declined sharply with each subsequent Apollo mission, even though the missions became much more ambitious. By the last Apollo mission, the news media and the public were barely paying attention.

    *ahem*, Apollo 13, & “NASA’s finest hour” – still the most dramatic and rivetting true-life story of space exploration, *ahem.* ;-)

    Sadly, it seems to take a disaster or near-shave with disaster to make people pay attention. Successful “routine” missions are so dull. :roll:

    (Never mind how amazing even the most “ordinary” NASA misson really is. People. Sigh.)

    Who remembers all those hundreds of perfectly sucessful shuttle flights against the last missions of Challenger & Columbia? What a pity bad news seems to stick in folks minds so much more than good.

    145. Travis D Says:

    I’m not so disappointed in canceling the Ares I. But I am dismayed about canceling the Ares V because it represented something we haven’t had since the Saturn V, a super heavy lift booster.

    Is it official then? Has there been an announcement of this somewhere?

    Oh and please discard fantasies of dropping manned space flight for robots, a NASA with no manned space flight would be an agency that would get no public support and no money. You’d basically be killing NASA if you did that.

    I agree. I think it would – no, will be – tragic when, all too soon, Americans have to sit and watch other nations (incl. some rather nasty totalitarian ones) take the lead in human exploration of space and reap its many benefits. America has blown it & now other countries will move ahead & leave us Westerners behind. The US which, for all its faults, is a genuinely pretty good and peace-loving nation will fall down and suffer while tyrannical nations rule ever more lives and impose themselves ever more harshly on the rest of the world.

    If Obama really has cancelled Ares & Constellation without replacing them with something at least as good if not better then I think it is a very short-sighted and in the long run harmful decision and one future generations will regret and detest him for. I expected much better from this administration. :-(

  149. Chris Winter

    I think it’s more than a rumor. The story is all over nasawatch.com and the guy who runs it, Keith, says it’s more than just speculation. He’s pretty well connected.

    I agree it will be hard to kill given the “geographic engineering” aspect to Constellation. But it can be done.

  150. Messier Tidy Upper

    @ 140. The Arquette Sisters Says:

    … This is Obama’s budget and he is President. If he chooses to gut manned space flight (as he promised BTW) …

    Didn’t you see what I quoted at # 135 & helpfully even emphasised in bold for you?? :

    Both Presidential candidates — and I only need to write it that way until the end of the day, phew! — have promised extra cash for NASA to help get Ares on track, and I think in the end that’s a good thing. – November 4th, 2008 1:00 PM by Phil Plait

    Obama was one of those candidates remember – he just happened to be the winning one – in a landslide too. The way Obama is going now, it looks ever more like he’ll be a one-termer and a real disappointment unless he changes course fast and starts living up to what his speeches promised.

    I included the link there as well.

    So, *NO* Obama did not promise to gut NASA but rather to FUND it & specifically to fund Ares too.

  151. Ron

    The “teabagger” comment was pathetic Phil. I sometimes wonder how your hate for the political right affects your judgment. Juvenile insults have no place in writing about serious topics, even in a blog. It certainly isn’t professional, or the mark of a good journalist, or scientist. It certainly makes me wonder how fair you can possibly be when it involves politics, even remotely.

  152. Elmar_M

    Private space program? I remember laughing my ass off when the first “private” space shot named “Contastoga” was launched and you could still read the “US Army” through the private paint job.

    Being a paying customer does not equal paying for the development of the entire launch vehicle… Ares was a “cost plus” project. Falcon1 was not.

    Perhaps if there were gold or slaves to be had on the moon entrepreneurial space would get somewhere, but that doesn’t seem to be happening.

    I dont know why you are making such inappropriate remarks about private companies, but being an entrepreneur myself (not a rich one, mind you), I cant help being offended by what you are saying.

    I say sell our share of the ISS to China and India and use the proceeds to finance a new version of the proven Saturn system.

    And that would achieve exactly what???

    No, NASA should be funding R&D and science. NASA should be developing the enabling technologies that can then be licensed by US(!) companies to build newer and better LVs and spacecraft. With the cost of a single shutle launch, you can fund the research tech such as: ME Thrusters, EM engines, Polywell fusion, FRC fusion and more. This is the kind of work that the private companies dont want to do, because it is risky. But for NASA these are peanuts compared to the expensive launch and LV development costs they have been dealing with the past decades.

  153. Travis D

    @147 “As far as I am aware of, SpaceX is manufacturing everything in the US and some companies that are members of the ULA were also contracted for Ares. So I dont quite get where you get these ideas from. Got anything to back up these claims?”

    My claim is just that I don’t trust private business any farther than I could throw any of their sociopathic cocaine abusing CEO’s. Private industry is great at innovation but you have to ruthlessly watch them lest they steal your own children to work in some underground mine somewhere. Now SpaceX might be going against the trend and is not run by horrible psychopaths but that doesn’t mean they are just going to altruistically launch people into space to gather science on their own dime. Someone will have to pay them.

  154. Sean

    I don’t see why anyone would want to have private companies controlling who gets to go to the moon. I doubt they’d conduct any astronomical or biological experiments. Although the apartments might be cool for the billionaires who can afford the trip.

    There are some things only governments can do for the better good of a people. This includes raising a military, investigative and rescue agencies, and education programs. I wouldn’t trust a private company to “provide” police officers and I don’t trust a private company to put things on a foreign body.

    Somebody is going to go back to the moon and I’d prefer it by my country. That being said if everyone just keeps waiting until all the stars align nothing will happen. It took 3 years to design the Joint Strike Fighter, and 7 more to actually GET IT to military pilots to start a training program. It took more than 20 years to design the F22 and they’ve just now starting phasing that into gen pop of AF Pilots within the last 4 years.

    So if it takes more than a presidential term to complete the Ares I rocket, I don’t quite see how that’s a deal breaker. We were able to go from LEO-missions to a Lunar EVA in less than 10 years.

    And for everyone who’s going to complain about the cost: we spend countless amounts of money on things we don’t need to do. I won’t even touch the issue of marijuana, but for instance we don’t need to execute prisoners, they’re already in prison and they’re cheaper to keep in for life.

    The money we spend on going back to the moon won’t just go to the engineers, the astronauts, the admins, or the janitors in the facilities @ NASA. It’ll end up paying dividends in every child that decides that science is actually cool! We’d have more kids who want to be engineers or scientists. They’d be able to see that if you work on something you can actually do amazing things and that alone would help spark even more american ingenuity in the long haul. If all we do is talk about going somewhere… well kids are smarter than we give them credit for. If they see that even the government with all of its resources won’t give it an honest try then they’re going to wonder why they should.

    Mars isn’t going to happen in awhile, but a lot of the research for Mars in terms of social arrangements(7 days in a boat isn’t the same as 2 years on an island), radiation management, and the use of organics for both oxygen and food could easily be done on the Moon first.

  155. Elmar_M

    My claim is just that I don’t trust private business any farther than I could throw any of their sociopathic cocaine abusing CEO’s.

    Never used cocaine in my entire life, but you are obviously consuming something!
    Also, you obviously dont get it: ARES WOULD BE BUILT BY PRIVATE COMPANIES TOO!
    They would just make more money from it because of “cost plus” contracts, yes?
    So the private companies that you hate so much, would actually get less tax money if things are done via COTS like programmes instead.
    Comprende?

  156. miles_21

    why is it called ares anyway its a wargod…..
    anyway maybe its up to the regular joe now to explore….obama knows that
    give the money to private companies and let the jetsons kinda vehicle’s come to the public. :)

  157. Michelle

    TEABAGGER?

    Really Phil?

    Your hatred for all things right (which it seems that is mistaken for ‘All things Christian-therefore evil and must be mocked’ and isn’t quite right) boils over into your blogs.

    Please tell me how calling people of an opposing political view a crude name promoting science?

  158. Katharine

    Man, the right-wingers are being all bitch-about-style and no substance as usual.

  159. “Man, the right-wingers are being all bitch-about-style and no substance as usual.”

    Speaking of no substance, look at our manned space exploration after the shuttle is retired.

  160. Phil, if conservatives are tea baggers.

    What does that make liberals? Teabaggees?

    Given a choice of positions to find oneself in… :/

    As I have always said you are a fantastic science writer, but as a political writer your acumen is slightly better than people who believed the Earth was flat. You see no side but your own. You believe if you set sail to see what lays beyond your political horizions, you will fall off the Earth. You are not alone or special in this regard, zealots on either side are like this.

    However being you are a liberal it is more than a tad ironic as being open minded is a tenant of liberalism.

    End result is your guy just killed manned space exploration (or will try) and set us back 10-20 years from this day forward. We now have a manned space program that soon enough will be exactly equivalent to Ghana. China, India and Russia will possibly all over take us.

    Break out your we’re #4 foam fingers.

  161. Plutonium being from Pluto

    News from an Aussie website looks very grim.

    http://au.news.yahoo.com/a/-/world/6740663/us-plan-to-return-to-moon-is-dead/

    US plan to return to the Moon is dead. :-(

    This was headline on the yahoo news (sorta) homepage – I had *so* hoped it wouldn’t be this bad, that even if Ares went, it would be replaced by Plan B or something else. Not abandoned entirely. :-(

    I am mad as hell about this & depressed by it. :-(

    Mr President, Obama, you sir are a LYING SACK OF STINKING EXCREMENT!!!

    Yes, I *do* blame you for this – the buck *does* stop there & you have *broken* your 2008 election promise to fund NASA and Ares properly. You are an utter disgrace and you have let us down badly.

    “Audacity of hope?” :roll:

    “Change we can believe in?” :roll:

    Obama – You stink! :-(

    - StevoR a.k.a. Plutonium being from Pluto

  162. Harman Smith

    All this Obama name-calling with nothing to back things up is a bit useless.

    Here’s what Obama wanted during the campaign:

    http://www.barackobama.com/pdf/policy/Space_Fact_Sheet_FINAL.pdf

    Link to Obama’s promises regarding space:

    http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/promises/subjects/space/

    “He endorses the goal of sending human missions to the Moon by 2020, as a precursor in an orderly progression to missions to more distant destinations, including Mars.”

    If the President cancels the Moon stuff because it’s not really worth it and you can go ahead to Mars right away, I’d support a decision to cancel the Moon trip. In other words, don’t set the bar too low. Don’t go to the Moon if you’re not gonna do something useful.

    IMO everyone is overreacting. You’re hearing stuff about the President wanting to cancel stuff, but not hearing about what he actually wants. It all boils down to what he precisely wants and why. The President is a smart guy, so I’ll hear him out before calling him a ‘lying sack of’ whatever.

  163. Spectroscope

    Well, Bad Astronomer, how do you feel about Barack Hussein Obama now?

    George Bush had a vision for space exploration, the Republicans were in favour of this pro-science and pro-American cause and in favour of nearly everyone’s science fictional dreams of exploration & colonisation of space. The Republicans had a plan to get us back to the Moon and get us even further into the Black as powerful, proud, world-beating leaders and achievers. Bush funded it and the Republicans supported it – but then you helped spoil it by voting Democrat & helping spread the false messianic wilfully blind Obama-mania.

    And today we learn the bleak consequences of that Obama-mania of 2008.

    The Democrats and B. H. Obama have now killed that American, scientific and astronomical dream.

    This is a very sad day that we will look back on in the future as a major sign that the US is a superpower and world leader no more. Abandoning the Lunar dream as well as terminating the Ares-Constellation program and throwing away every cent already invested in it is a disgraceful, short-sighted, stupid move that will empower America’s enemies and weaken the resolve of her friends. Which, of course, is something – about the *only* thing – the Democrats have always been good at. :-(

    Barack Hussein Obama will preside over the end of the United States manned space program.

    The career choice of becoming an astronaut that has been so many children’s dreams will be abolished.

    The Democrats have just proven that *they* are the anti-science anti-space, anti-astronomy party.

    B. Hussein Obama is ruining this nation and ending America’s greatness.

    Yet you wanted this unpatriotic Muslim named, Muslim-raised, downright unAmerican man as President.

    Still happy with your choice BA?

    Do you regret voting and lobbying here for Obama and the Liberal (Socialist) Democrats now? :-(

  164. Messier Tidy Upper

    The BA modestly said :

    It’s a lot to think about, and I’m not an insider expert on NASA.

    Really? You’re not? You’ve worked with them for many years incl. on Hubble. It says in your sidebar bio that :


    Phil Plait, the creator of Bad Astronomy, is an astronomer, lecturer, and author. After ten years working on Hubble Space Telescope and six more working on astronomy education, he struck out on his own as a writer.

    Now I presume that decade on the HST & 6 more years on education was with NASA right?

    But you don’t think of yourself as a NASA insider or expert Dr Plait? Why not?

    I beg to disagree! ;-)

  165. Peter B

    Spectroscope said: “B. Hussein Obama is ruining this nation and ending America’s greatness. Yet you wanted this unpatriotic Muslim named, Muslim-raised, downright unAmerican man as President.”

    Wow! He has a Muslim name, so that makes him bad. You’re literally using name-calling as an argument…

  166. Plutonium being from Pluto

    Looks like therumours are now being officially confirmed. The Australian ABC news on-line site -complete with an ironic “Apollo 11 : Special Coverage – 40th anniversary of the Moon landing” banner at the top says :

    US President Barack Obama has abandoned plans to return US astronauts to the moon by ending the costly Constellation next-generation rocket program. … “We are cancelling the program, not delaying it,” Mr Obama’s budget chief Peter Orszag said. The decision means NASA will be constrained to low-earth orbits for years to come, and transforms the aspirations of the US space program.

    See : http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2010/02/01/2807263.htm

    How miserably sad. :-(

  167. Plutonium being from Pluto

    PS. Too late to add via ‘edit’ & noticed this on re-reading that news item more closely :

    Getting the cancellation through Congress will be a tough mission for the administration, as MPs from Florida and other states with close ties to the space program are likely to oppose moves that could threaten local jobs.

    Here’s hoping Congress does the right thing & blocks Obama on this. Perhaps there’s still a chance for Ares yet.

    If Americans here want to keep their manned space program going somewhere other than Low Earth Orbit anytime soon then I urge them to write to their congresscritters & tell ‘em to keep Ares-Constellation alive.

    I, for one, would really love to see humans return to the Moon in my lifetime – to see the first woman step onto the regolith of that magnificent desolation & to see the first astronomer land there too! Time for another giant leap – & this time let’s not fall back down on our backsides and wait for forty years after taking that one small step but go there to stay!

  168. Messier Tidy Upper

    Now the rumours are indeed confirmed the BA & more commenters (many of the same people again too) have more to say about this issue via here :

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2010/02/01/president-obamas-nasa-budget-unveiled/

  169. Abe Werker

    George W. Bush initiated the new Space Program. I loved it! Unfortunately neither democrats nor republicans wanted to assign appropiate funding to it. So development slowed down and focussed mainly on Ares I. It will take many more years and massive funding to get the Constellation program anywhere.
    So the present administration decides to try a different route. Don’t blame Obama for this outcome. What was he to do? If the congress really would have liked to go back to the moon and beyond a.s.a.p. then they should have given the money to do so. Today there are new opportunities and some companies that are really making progress. Let’s give the plan a chance!

  170. montra----trimek----pig---thailand---

    visit—–project—-nasa———and—–people—–world————-wonderful?——-from—name—-mr.—montra—trimek—pig—thailand———–

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