Give space a chance

By Phil Plait | January 30, 2010 1:47 pm

For criminy’s sake. What is it with people and all the rending of garments over the impending doom of NASA?

First:

1) The reports of Spirit’s death are greatly exaggerated.

spiritOK, yes, Spirit is now stuck. It looks like even if it survives the Martian winter it may no longer be able to traverse the Red Planet’s landscape. But that doesn’t mean it’s dead. Instead of a rover, it’s now a stationary platform capable of doing a lot of science on the cheap (since most of the cost was getting it there).

If you’d rather not have a lander sitting on the surface of Mars doing science that we simply cannot do from millions of kilometers away on Earth, then fine. But astronomers and scientists and science journalists should know better. Stop saying it’s dead.

[And I can picture Opportunity on the other side of Mars, waving its mast frantically, saying, Hey, remember me? Still moving, still doing cool stuff!]

Next, and more importantly:

2) The reports of the manned spaceflight’s death are greatly exaggerated.

OK, yes, it does look like (assuming the rumors are true) the Obama budget for NASA is cutting out the Constellation rocket program in general and Ares in particular. But that doesn’t mean manned spaceflight is dead.

SpaceX launch of the Falcon 1 with RazakSATAs I said in that above link, private space companies are still a ways off from putting people in orbit. However, I strongly suspect they’ll be doing it before Ares would’ve been ready to do it anyway. Private companies like Space X may be two years from that, while Ares wouldn’t have been ready for five, assuming NASA could even get Ares ready by the scheduled time and in the assigned budget (which I would give a chance of, oh, say, precisely 0). So it’s possible, perhaps even likely, that after the Shuttle retires later this year (or early next) companies like Space X will be able to reach the International Space Station with rockets before NASA could.

As far as going back to the Moon, we still don’t know exactly what the budget for NASA will be like, but it was made clear in the leaked reports (again, assuming they are true) that money will be spent to look for a better heavy lift vehicle than Ares. No specifics were given (though the Commercial Spaceflight Federation says it may be 6 billion bucks, a huge chunk of change), so let’s wait until we actually see the report, hmmm?

Also, a lot of folks thought Ares was a waste of time, money, and with little or no chance of working well. Heck, the Space Frontier Foundation praises the killing of Ares! So not only is it unfair to lament the death of manned spaceflight, some people think — with some evidence, mind you — this will spur it on even more.

Buzz Aldrin's footprint on the Moon, from Apollo 11That last sentiment rings true to me. NASA’s manned program has been endlessly circling the Earth for almost 40 years now, with no real end in sight. I don’t have a lot of faith, so to speak, that Ares can do the job in breaking this cycle. I suspect a lot of the same folks who are decrying this move by Obama are the same ones who would be first in line to say that NASA has had its wings cut for decades now, making one bad decision after another when it comes to space exploration. Maybe it’s time — maybe it’s long after time — that we let someone else have a stab at this.

When I look at the Moon, I see a place where people will one day work, live, breathe, play, and explore. I also see that future receding two years for every year NASA doesn’t have a rocket to go there, and I’ve been watching that movie play for many years now.

I’m tired of it. When I look out my window now I see a future I’ve been dreaming of my whole life, a future that seems just out of my reach. When my children, my grandchildren, look out their windows in that future, y’know what I want them to see?

The blue-green crescent Earth hanging in a pitch black sky over a cratered horizon.

Let’s give space a chance.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: NASA, Piece of mind

Comments (166)

  1. Shannon

    Man I hope you’re right. My dream for awhile now has been to be among the first to help establish either a lunar or martian colony. I’m still in my early-20s, but at the pace we’ve seen NASA moving, it’s felt as though not even my future children would have a shot at such an endeavor.

  2. Josh

    The last couple of paragraphs of this article relate precisely how I feel as well. It’s actually frustrating for me to look up in the sky and see the moon and know that there’s a good chance we will never go back in my lifetime, and there is a feeling of helplessness knowing there’s nothing I can really do about it either.

  3. nota bene

    Personally, I think NASA should pursue unmanned missions. I think they’re getting a hell of a lot of amazing science out of robots. If I were king I’d be spending the science budget on space telescopes and probes, because the bang-for-the-buck ratio is so much higher.

    I don’t look at the moon and think, “people should live there,” I think “we’re decades away from being able to even think about pulling that off and we have more efficient ways to spend those resources in the meantime”. I think a worthy goal would be to put one orbiter around every planet in the solar system–how cool would that be? Maybe even take a shot at getting a probe outside of the solar system perpendicular to the ecliptic.

  4. No specifics were given (though the Commercial Spaceflight Federation says it may be 6 billion bucks, a huge chunk of change)

    Yeah, that’d be, what? A whole month of our guerre du jour?

    Until this country can kick the gunmetal-blue monkey off its back, we may never be able to afford anything that will get us back to the moon as a nation.

    I hope those private enterprises have enlightened leadership, as opposed to say…the former leaders of Microsoft. Oh, wait…

  5. Steve A

    I agree with the first half of this post, but there are some issues with the second half.

    “Private companies like Space X may be two years from that, while Ares wouldn’t have been ready for five.”

    Problem is here, while the base sentiment might be correct, private companies have been “two years away” for years. In fact, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 was supposed to have its first flight test years ago, and already there seems to be signs that its ISS cargo schedule will be delayed. A GAO report a few months ago found that there were signs of a few months slippage already, and so far there have been vague dates for the first lauch (March? May? Next few months? Who knows.)

    Also, Phil, you’re confusing two issues here: there is a difference between the money spent on commercial companies for rockets and a plan to get to the moon or anywhere past Low Earth Orbit (LEO). The $6 billion in all reports that will be spend over 5 years for commercial companies will help get astronauts to the ISS. These aren’t heavy lift options that could get astronauts to the moon, Mars, asteroids, L1 points, to whatever destination is chosen. You equate the two as though they are the same, but it’s not.

    As correctly reported in other places, there has been no new plan proposed. There have been studies of other heavy lift options discussed, but no indication of what would replace the current plan. The best source so far is a New York Times report saying that another study would take place, similar to the ESAS back in 2005. In fact other reports are indicating that Ares may continue in the meantime. It’s not clear, but so far no replacement plan has been stated or charted. Your post here unfortunately incorrectly implies that commercial companies will be working on it.

    What is clear is no commercial company is going to get anyone past the ISS anytime soon. Nor is anyone even starting to work on a way. I like the idea of commercial companies taking over LEO operations over time, but unfortunately, Phil, they aren’t going to reach the dream you have (which I really want to happen, too!).

  6. T_U_T

    let’s face it. It is not only the manned spaceflight you failed at. Your entire country is falling apart piece after piece. It is just a matter of years before you turn into a third world failed state or descend into a civil war

  7. Katharine

    In terms of manned spaceflight and establishing an outpost on the moon, how much have the theory and Earthbound tests been developed ?

    If funding’s going to be cut for manned space flight, then the best we can do is find ways to come surging back once we get funding back.

  8. Steve A

    @Shannon, and others:

    “at the pace we’ve seen NASA moving, it’s felt as though not even my future children would have a shot at such an endeavor.”

    I wish things move faster too, but it’s not all NASA’s fault. What people forget, and I see it here a lot, is NASA is not 100% independent when it comes to policy and execution. It is the President and Congress that decide basic plans for NASA.

    NASA has been moving slowly, because often times it is not given the direction or money it needs to do the direction is given. Also, these projects, because they are so difficult, will necessarily take more than one presidential term to accomplish. With the party holding the office of the president changing every 8 years and a new direction and study always initiated, how can any agency accomplish anything?

    What I find sad about all of this, is there has been a lot of work over the past few years that has gone beyond just the rocket. There have been Orion mockups tested in the ocean, new awesome rovers being tested in various locales that would allow astronauts to travel weeks from base, new spacesuit development, etc. NASA has pushed forward in a lot of areas towards the moon goal. Now, thankfully, much of this can be reapplied if another destination is chosen.

    The new plan may be better in the long run for NASA and manned spaceflight, but as of now with nothing stated there’s reason to be pessimistic. All we’ve heard is the current programs have been taken away with nothing put in its place.

  9. T_U_T

    If funding’s going to be cut for manned space flight, then the best we can do is find ways to come surging back once we get funding back.

    Yes, Just after the second dark age ends, in maybe 2800 or 3000 AD.

  10. Steve A

    @kuhnigget

    “Yeah, that’d be, what? A whole month of our guerre du jour?”

    Much less than that. NASA’s entire yearlt budget, IIRC, can be spent in a little over a month, maybe two. NASA will be getting about $1.3 billion a year extra. But remember this: The Augustine Commission concluded that for any meaningful exploration plan past LEO, NASA would need to be funded an extra $3 billion a year over time, maybe after a few years. This plan does not get you there.

  11. Any major changes proposed by President Obama will have to be approved by Congress. With the current partisan atmosphere in Congress, even Republicans who could not care less about NASA will be willing to use the issue to make further partisan attacks. The end result is that NASA will suffer some serious damage to its own mission and US human spaceflight development could be curtailed.

    Commercial space enterprise is nowhere close to offering human spaceflights to LEO let alone beyond LEO. SpaceX was originally suppose to be launching inaugural Falcon 9 over two years ago. Plus that, the Falcon 9 while suitable for ISS crew and cargo launches, would not be suitable for launching Orion or other beyond LEO spacecraft. This is one problem that too many people fail to understand when it comes to engineering launch systems. Most rockets are designed for specific capabilities and to adapt these systems to different capabilities requires considerable redesign taking time and expense. Each and every component on launch system would have to be analyzed to determine suitability for new launch criteria and redesigned if necessary. Whole new production line would be required for each redesigned component. Not only that, but often the original designs will limit the ability of engineers to incorporate new technology and innovation. The space shuttle is an excellent example of this difficulty in redesigning. This is why, ‘clean sheet’ designs are often preferred to redesigning from existing systems.

    Another problem that few people fail to recognize is that in order for a transportation system to develop an existing market must be readily available to generate commercial revenue . The rail system developed because of demand of both freight and passenger service between US cities. Commercial aviation got its start through US postal service and mail contracts that existed between US cities.

    However, in space beyond LEO, there is no destination or permanent facility where a market for human space travel could generate commercial revenue. NASA was focusing on develping commercial crew and cargo transport for ISS through Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) initiative. The Constellation Ares I/Ares V in no way competed with or substituted for commercial launchers for LEO access. This is the major reason for why extending ISS to past 2020 is vital. Because the space station is the main element driving the development of the commercial LEO spaceflight market.

    At this point, no commercial company could afford to develop the heavy lift systems required to make beyond LEO exploration feasible. They would have no market upon which to build a tranportation system. Space tourism alone would not generate sufficient revenue to assuage the costs of development and commercial operation. This was why the Constellation program was necessary and still is.

  12. Steve A

    @Katharine

    “If funding’s going to be cut for manned space flight, then the best we can do is find ways to come surging back once we get funding back.”

    There is something unfortunate here. The big worry by some about big cuts is that you’ll see a big brain drain, similar to what happened at the end of the Apollo era. With no funds, engineers go to other fields, so when people are ready to get back into the swing of it again, there is no one available to do the work. So unlike what you propose, which I wish would happen, there will be no “surge.”

    Much will depend on what the final budget is and what the final plan actually states.

  13. Adrian

    And als, let’s not forget about the Google Lunar X Prize http://www.googlelunarxprize.org/

  14. Sir Craig

    2) The reports of the manned spaceflight’s death are greatly exaggerated.

    Uh-oh…cueing the wrath of T.E.L., andy, and Pieter Kok in 3 … 2 … 1 …

  15. Douglas Troy

    First off

    #6 T_U_T What’s the name of that Trolling Boat you’re standing on?

    Secondly

    Even if the rover were DEAD, no longer working, done for, couldn’t start, be started and the energizer bunny was nothing more than a lifeless tuft of pink fuzz laying face down next to it, Spirit exceeded its original mission life-time by an exceptional amount.

    … and to use a snippet from one of Eddie Izzard’s shows to express my feelings on this matter:

    What’s it like Astronaut?
    It’s Awesome Sir.
    What? Like a Hot Dog???
    Like a thousand Hot Dogs Sir.
    :)

  16. Steve A

    @ nota bene:

    “If I were king I’d be spending the science budget on space telescopes and probes, because the bang-for-the-buck ratio is so much higher.”

    Depends on what you mean by “bang for the buck.” For pure science, I think you’re right. But what manned spaceflight does as good if not better than unmanned is drive technology that can be applied to life here on Earth. The systems derived to help astronauts live help people’s lives on Earth, sometimes in strange ways. For instance, the ESA developed a sensor to examine astronauts returning from space. Now, that was adapted to examine the water content in ham and ensure great quality.

    I think you also see a lot more public participation in manned flights than unmanned ones, which can help generate interest in STEM fields. Both areas do well here, but you see more stories of student led or derived experiments with the manned spaceflight side than the unmanned side.

    Finally, there’s a lot more international cooperation going on with the manned spaceflight than unmanned. This is starting to change, with NASA and the ESA joining their Mars programs together, but the ISS has been monumental in building the systems for various countries to work and live in space.

    Both manned and unmanned programs are needed since they each do things well that is lacking by the other.

  17. T_U_T

    #6 T_U_T What’s the name of that Trolling Boat you’re standing on?

    A shocking fact does not become trolling just because you find it outrageous.

    Secondly

    Even if the rover were DEAD, no longer working, done for, couldn’t start, be started and the energizer bunny was nothing more than a lifeless tuft of pink fuzz laying face down next to it, Spirit exceeded its original mission life-time by an exceptional amount.

    Secondly, I was not talking about any rovers. I was talking about your country losing ability to put men in space. And giving up on regaining it. Most probably giving up for good. And about that, that this is just one of symptoms of the decay of your society quickly accelerating into a full fledged collapse.

  18. T_U_T

    “If I were king I’d be spending the science budget on space telescopes and probes, because the bang-for-the-buck ratio is so much higher.”

    That is exactly the short term thinking that is going to cause it. Axe manned space program just because unmanned probes have immediate scientific ROI higher. Axe science in general, just because stock market speculations have immediate ROI higher than science.

  19. I’d like to say that they should put more money into missions, but after the JWST and MSL cost overruns, that’s a hard call to make.

  20. Travis D

    So what other options are there that can lift 160 metric tons into orbit?

    And T_U_T, what are you rambling about? Just get done watching Zeitgeist or something?

  21. Harman Smith

    Spirit rover ftw

  22. According to the leaked articles, there is a call for a heavy lift vehicle in the President’s budget, as I stated in the article. The point I’m making here is that it doesn’t look like Ares is going to work, and even if it does it’ll be a long time before it does. Looking to a new system designed from scratch may be the best way to get to the Moon, even if it means more delays. Right now, those delays could be a lot longer than anticipated anyway.

  23. T_U_T

    So what other options are there that can lift 160 metric tons into orbit?

    None. Just give up, and return to live in caves.

    And T_U_T, what are you rambling about? Just get done watching Zeitgeist or something?

    zeitgeist was a crappy conspiracy theory movie that got both astronomy and economy wrong.. However one needs not a movie like that to realize what is going on.

  24. T_U_T, trolling is not just what you say but how you say it. Your first post was very trollish. And the content (“It is just a matter of years before you turn into a third world failed state or descend into a civil war”) is definitely trollish. Stop it.

  25. T_U_T

    If my post came through as trollish, then I whole heartily apologize for my style. It may come to you as unbelievable and hence most probably a jest, but I stand to what I said. The collapse of your entire country is accelerating, and it is just a matter of time before you end up living in ruins of what was formerly your homeland. If you don’t see it, I am sorry but I can not do much about that. Delete my posts, ban me, there is no way you could not consider me a troll. No way to tell you. :-(

  26. aerodragger

    @Lab Lemming #19:

    Totally agree with you about the cost overruns, especially on Mars Science Laboratory, er, “curiosity” (ugh). It would be great to have a new uber-capable rover on Mars pronto, but not at the expense of other projects’ budgets.

    @nota bene #3:

    Totally agree with you about the unmanned missions. Related factoid: The total project cost of the Voyager mission was $865 million. The total cost of the International Space Station could be somewhere around 160 billion dollars. (sources: JPL and Wikipedia). If it were my allowance, I’d choose the 184 Voyager missions instead of 1 space station. Or 64 Hubbles.

    Although Phil’s post was specifically about manned spaceflight and not robotic missions per se, hopefully this isn’t off-topic as it relates to budget. A new (or upgraded) EELV that works for both probes + manned capsules would be wonderful. The DIRECT concept seems like it has potential.

  27. Douglas Troy

    T_U_T

    My #2 was not directed at you, rather, it was in response to Phil’s posting in general.

  28. bigjohn756

    I’m a little sad that the plucky Spirit is mired in the sand. The xkcd strip conveys my feelings very well. I hope they can get it tipped to get some sunlight for the winter especially since it can still do some good science if it survives, besides, the 90 day warranty has expired.

  29. jasonB

    @Gary Miles et al

    Are you saying that it takes an entirely different launch system (rocket, for lack of a better term) to put up a satellite in geosynchronous orbit and one in LEO? Or would it be more along the lines of needing different systems for say a moon landing and putting up a satellite?

  30. Phil, a number of people including many pols claimed that NASA would not be able to complete the space shuttle launch manifest by the end of FY2010 which is September 30. Yet, as of right now the launch operations are proceeding on schedule. STS-130 is still launching on Feb. 7 leaving only 4 remaining shuttle flight. The next flight STS-131 is already being processed in the VAB.

    Augustine panel II found that the Constellation Ares I was a technoligically feasible and viable launch system for Orion. The greatest difficulty for Ares I has been the less then promised funding under the original funding profile provided by VSE. Furthermore, Ares I and Ares V are integrated launch system based on a 1.5 architecture. The other launch system recommended by the report, Ares V Lite, would require the launch of two heavy lifters. Also, the so called Flexible Path option is dependent upon technology like inspace propulsion engines and radiation shielding that does not even exist at this point. The idea that I am trying to get across is that commercial space companies will not be able to independently develop and operate heavy lift launch vehicles let alone develop profitable commercial space enterprise beyond LEO. NASA was on the right track. Just becaue it occurred under Dubya does not mean that it was a bad program or wrong policy.

  31. PeteC

    Personally, I think that rather than spend money on yet another one-shot firework ride, it’s time to start building some space infrastructure.

    Some of that should be standardisation. A standard set of engines. A standard communication module. A standard guidance system. A standard module width for space station parts, space ship parts and orbiters and landers. Cut the cost by not making it necessary to individually hand-craft every bolt.

    After than, a standard heavy-lift system; even, possibly, a hybrid that uses a mag-lev rail or similar to accelerate the lifter to high speeds even before it leaves the ground and the main engines kick in. Every kilo of fuel saved is a kilo more payload. Simultaneously build the reuseable apaceplane for carrying crew – not cargo – so the heavy lift vehicle can use extreme accelerations. A small spaceplane intended to carry (say) up to 10 people without the shuttle’s cargo bay should be far simpler to develop than a manned shuttle. The heavy lift system itself could be flexible – one could have a medium lift system by just making the same rocket a bit shorter.

    Develop a standard construction kit. Standard solar panels. Standard tools. All modular – need more power? Add another panel. Need more space? Add another crew module.

    After that, develop a standard module – size, power, cabling, shielding, etc. Then re-use that module repeatedly to build crew quarters modules, galley/stores modules, power generation modules – even a storm shelter module and an constructable module-strut-centre carosel module – strut – module arrangement ot provide a little pretend gravity to reduce health problems. These modules could then be assembled in orbit to build a space station – or, with the addition of an engine module, a lander module and a couple of fuel modules, assembled into a genuine spaceship. A much better option in my opinion – if nothing else, being able to ship whole tanks full of fuel up gives a space ship more options, more speed and a lot more opportunities when things go either horribly wrong or wonderfully right.

    Then go back to the moon, and Mars too. Visit a comet or two. One could potentially do all of that with the same vehicle – just replace the fuel tanks each time.

    But it all hinges on a good, relatively cheap and effective heavy lifter to start with.

  32. T_U_T

    But it all hinges on a good, relatively cheap and effective heavy lifter to start with..

    Actually, all that hinges on money. And nobody will give you anything that is needed for more important things. Like corporate welfare, bailouts, warfare, etc.

  33. Screw the technical details, all it takes is the will to get there. Everything else is just logistics.

    Dr P I agree with every word you say, and thank you for summing up my dreams better than I could.

  34. badnicolez

    I actually agree with T_U_T…this marks the end of US dominance on this planet and off. Obama and his cronies in congress are ruining this country more quickly than any even thought possible.

    Killing Constellation over a measly $3B per year in funding shortfall before there is a viable replacement is ridiculous, especially considering how long it took to develop and start testing that system. This government easily wastes $3B every month. Might sound like a lot of money, but in reality, in goverment terms, it is a drop in the proverbial bucket.

    Just as NASA takes longer than scheduled to accomplish nearly anything, so too will private industry, having already proved it. This is realistically the beginning of the end of manned space flight for the US.

  35. @ T_U_T:

    As much as I am usually the one reprimanded for various forms of asshattery, and as much as your method of presentation sort of makes me want to punch you in the nose (I add the “sort of” specifically to avoid censure…it’s a hypothetical punch, Dr. BA), I have to agree with the basics of your message, if not the severity.

    Honestly, if this republic doesn’t get itself straightened out, we won’t be able to afford sending rockets anywhere.

  36. @jasonB

    Take the Delta IV launch system for example that was developed by Boeing and now manufactured and launch by its spinoff company United Launch Alliance. The Delta IV heavy can launch a payload of up to 25,800 kg to LEO depending on the distance and trajectory. To get to Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO), the same Delta IV can only lift a payload up to 10,843 kg. The greater the orbital distance of launch the lower the payload capabilities. To break from that orbit would require either a departure stage motor or an inspace propulsion system.

    While the Delta IV heavy might have sufficient thrust to lift Orion, which with its fully fueled service module weighs over 24,000 kgs, to LEO, there are limiting factors. Like the diameter of rocket, center of gravity, mass ratio, the type of liquid propellent used, and safety. All of these factors limit the kind and payload capacity of spacecraft that can be launched. ESAS found that Delta IV had several substantial ‘black zones’, which are times during launch of rocket where is any kind malfunction that occured the safety of the astronauts would be seriously compromised. In fact, what the study found was that the Delta IV EELV would have to be substantially redesigned to launch Orion. The other factor involved the DOD was adamant about not have its schedule of Delta IV military satellite launches delayed due to reduced resources. Boeing who owns the patents to Delta IV and is co-owner of ULA is opposed to changing the current program of record.

  37. nota bene

    @ #16

    Depends on what you mean by “bang for the buck.” For pure science, I think you’re right.

    Yes, that’s what I meant. I think that before we can really consider permanent Antarctica-style outposts on the Moon, we need to understand basic theory better.

    I agree with your points re: developing technologies for use on Earth, and international cooperation. I feel that we are still not quite ready technologically to tackle the huge challenges involved in colonization, and should be patient. I am very confident it will happen eventually, although I expect it will not happen in my lifetime regardless of how many resources are devoted to it. In the meantime, our abilities to work remotely (see Mars rovers, Cassini, New Horizons; Hubble, Swift, Fermi, Chandra, Spitzer, WMAP, etc etc) have become so advanced that, for a fraction of the cost, we can achieve things that could help us in the grander goal of colonization.

    Essentially, I think the NASA budget should be spent more on technically difficult/pure science robotic missions, and private enterprise can hopefully take on a greater share of the manned spaceflight program, since manned spaceflight (as you note) draws more enthusiasm and thus (potentially) investment that would otherwise not be going towards things like space observatories.

    @ #18

    That is exactly the short term thinking that is going to cause it. Axe manned space program just because unmanned probes have immediate scientific ROI higher. Axe science in general, just because stock market speculations have immediate ROI higher than science.

    I fail to see how I’m engaging in short-term thinking when I’m saying that the ultimate goal of space colonization is probably best left to future generations, and that institutions right now should be focusing on what’s within reach in service of that larger goal, which (I believe) must wait. And the bit about the stock market is a textbook straw man argument.

    But by all means, please tell us some more about how we’re all headed back to the dark ages, Nostradamus….

  38. @ Badnicolez:

    I actually agree with T_U_T…this marks the end of US dominance on this planet and off. Obama and his cronies in congress are ruining this country more quickly than any even thought possible.

    Now THAT’S trollery.

    Read some history, sweetheart.

  39. In short, trying to redesign existing satellite launch systems for human spaceflight is tantamount to taking a Beamer or Caddy raising its suspension and putting on big fat tires so you can go off roading in the desert. It might work, but not very well.

  40. Mindless1

    Why spend an enormous amount of money to have the private sector “possibly” develop a “taxi” to the “space station to nowhere,” when there’s already a long time supplier available. Hasn’t anyone heard of the “Russians?” Every time you look at a photo of the Space Station, there’s a Soyuez attached to the side of the Station.

    It’s like giving money to some people to develop an automobile, when all you need to do is go around the corner and pull one off a lot, all set and ready to go, for a lot less money.

  41. bunnydeville

    I’m the one that posted the link on the Fark politics tag that seems to have stirred everyone up. While I think Shelby was wrong as far as what he said, I understand why he’s so upset. I have a lot of friends who work on ares who might be looking for jobs come Monday. The entire city of Huntsville is scared. And what if SpaceX doesn’t work? Although from what I hear a private company would have to deal with the political crap that the Ares engineers have to deal with….

  42. Elmar_M

    I want to fill this into the discussion:
    http://www.hobbyspace.com/nucleus/index.php?itemid=18289#c

    And then I want to say that AresV for going to the moon was even longer away than the much delayed Ares1 (yes not only SpaceX faced delays, but NASAs Ares with much, much more funding too). There is at least existing hardware for Falcon9 and the Dragon capsule. Where is Ares1 hardware? And AresV, is even further away.
    DIRECT seems quite feasable and if they can pull this off, it would give everyone what they wanted for much less cost than Constellation.
    Also, I dont understand the animousity against SpaceX. They have done amazing stuff with- for NASA terms- no money. I mean they built everything they have, actual flying hardware you know, with much, much less money than the budget INCREASE (yes we are talking about an INCREASE in budget here, not the actual budget) that NASA was asking for to build their Constellation system.
    Constellation would have been very expensive, not only to build, but also to maintain.
    Expensive programmes, usually dont run very long. That is a sad fact, but still a fact. The cheaper a programme the more chance it has.

    Also, I said that before (and I know I am in danger of sounding like a broken record), NASAs job should not be to design, build and operate launchers and spacecraft. NASA is not fit for that. To many political interests are always trying to have a hand in that. Heck the launchers are often not designed taking the most efficiency into considerations, but to make sure that jobs in the usual suspect states are maintained, or increased. That will never work!
    No, NASA should be (and I have said that before as well) should be doing the stuff that private companies dont like doing. That is the R&D. NASA should be funding R&D enabling technologies. Material science (structual, TPS, engine materials, inflatables, etc), propulsion systems (nuclear, advanved chemical, fusion, reaction mass less, ion, plasma etc). Realy with the cost of a single shuttle launch, you could fund all research on all of these. Sure some of this might be risky and that is exactly why the privates wont touch it, but NASA should.
    Then the companies that build the actual launchers, space stations, or space craft, or probes, could use that tech to build better launchers, or better space craft, or better space stations and so on. NASA would then fund programmes likes COTS or competitions for whatever they need and they would be able to cherry pick the best. On top of that, they would get it for much less money. In the end everybody wins.
    Of course this kind of thinking would require the will to plan ahead for more than a election period…

  43. @Gary Miles #38:

    While you’re probably right that it’s difficult to quickly or cheaply human-rate an existing launch system meant for satellite payloads, it’s been successfully done before:

    Redstone –> Mercury (2)
    Atlas –> Mercury (5)
    Titan –> Gemini

    Obviously extensive modifications must have been done, and the NASA budget was a bit different back in those days.

    However, along the same lines, Aviation Week recently said: “A NASA-funded study found that a human-rated Delta IV heavy rocket could be a cheaper route to the International Space Station than NASA’s Ares I crew launch vehicle.” (source: link in my name). So it appears that redesigning an existing system could be a viable option. I’m for anything that gets the job done safely and quickly.

    Full disclosure: I’m not a hardcore spaceflight buff, so I can’t vehemently defend these launch system scenarios.

    @K #44 (comment further down):

    “Where’s my moonbase?”

    You’ll get your moonbase right after I get my flying car. ;)

  44. K

    I grew up in the 70s and I was promised space travel as an every day occurrence. Where’s my space hotel? Where’s my moonbase?
    Best of all, what can I DO about it? I want to DO something about it. We need a plan.

  45. justcorbly

    I agree with Phil’s analysis. What is usually overlooked is that NASA has not been funded to carry out Bush’s “Vision” directive. Nor will it ever be. The only path left open to NASA has been to swap schedule for funding deficiencies.

    If the reports are accurate, the fundamental importance of a reliable heavy-left vehicle has been recognized in the White House. Far better for the private sector to develop and market that vehicle than for NASA to do it in-house, where it would be subject to the vagaries of politics.

    The Pentagon has been procuring critical major weapons systems in a similar process for decades. There is no reason why it can’t work for space exploration, as well.

  46. Gary Miles (#30): I should’ve been more clear. I think Space X and the like are good for LEO. We do need a heavy lift rocket, and NASA should be working on that. I know Ares was starved of funding, but the Ares I-X fiasco made it clear that it will be a long time before that works. It may be better to rethink the whole thing. When Ares was proposed, I was surprised at how quickly they came up with it, and was not satisfied that NASA had looked at all the options in an unbiased way. It was just a feeling, but then they chose the absolute worst of the three proposed space station designs (one of the few things Mike Griffin and I agreed on), so I tend to view NASA’s choices like these with a jaundiced eye.

  47. @aerodragger

    The rockets you brought up, namely the Redstone, Atlas, Titan, were all ballistic missile systems, ICBMs. After Soviet Union launched Sputnik and the American public government brought political pressure to develop launch capabilites to compete with USSR. At this time, the spacecraft, the Mercury and Gemini capsules, were designed to fall within payload range capacity of these launchers for LEO operations. The launchers themselves actually underwent few development changes. The disadvantage is that Mercury and Gemini were technologically limited and did not have the control capabilities that were primarily desired by the astronauts. In fact, the battles between the astronauts, the engineers, and NASA honchoes were legendary when it came to developing these spacecrafts.

    Today, the focus on spaceflight is first defining the goals and mission objectives. Then defining the criteria and capabilities of the spacecraft to achieve those objectives. Once that is done, then the specific spacecraft systems can be determined which will determine size and payload weight. Finally, the spacecraft launch system is developed.

    In the case of Orion CEV, NASA had two choices. One was to go with an already developed launch system like Delta IV EELV or Atlas V EELV. The other was to develop a new launch system to meet the payload requirement. For beyond LEO missions, a heavy lifter would be required. At the time in 2005 and 2006, there was an emphasis by members of Congress that NASA utilized the current existing space shuttle infrastructure to preserve as many jobs as possible. Thus, NASA under Michael Griffin went with the Ares I/Ares V integrated launch system design based on the ESAS report.

    I am familiar with the Aerospace Corporation study. What you should know is that the cost estimates were provided to Aerospace Corp by United Launch Alliance, and not based on the study’s own independent assessment. ULA which is a spinoff of Boeing and Lockheed Martin provided some rather liberal cost estimates. So not surprisingly, the study made it appear that Delta IV Heavy launching with Orion may be cheaper. Given the history of both these corporations in terms of cost overruns on major aerospace and defense projects, I find myself skeptical of those cost estimates. But the other issue is safety which Aerospace Corp could not provide any data for since the Delta IV is not currently human rated based on the safety rules that were instituted after the loss of the ColumbiaThe Augustine II panel found that the development and operation of Delta IV for crew launch would not be any cheaper than the Constellation program.

  48. rumleech

    Space exploration may not be dead but it ain’t half sick. The question for me is how do we come together to make it happen. I don’t imagine we have much political foundation in common? ( For example, I’m a marxist and I can quite imagine I’m on my own in this blog.)

  49. Charles Boyer

    I honestly believe that it will be ULA and not SpaceX that eventually emerges as the leader in private space services.

    That’s because they are already the market leader in private space services. At one end of Cape Canaveral, I have seen SpaceX roll out launch hardware, take a few pictures and then put it back up until it is ready. On the other end, I have seen ULA roll out bird after bird and launch them in orbit and beyond.

    That said, anyone who thinks SpaceX is the slam dunk private provider, well, over the long haul I think they trail — badly.

  50. Kelly Brown

    The way I see it we have to have a manned space program now to build up our expertise and our experience with it. We must go in small numbers now so when it’s time to go in larger numbers we won’t have to play catch up.

  51. Phil, I agree with you that the space station may not have been the best design. But the design was limited in a large degree by the space shuttle transportation system (STS). This all goes back to the early 70′s when US policymakers ditched the Saturn 1-B/V launch system despite the overwhelming success of Apollo. This decision by US forced NASA down the only path left for human spaceflight, low Earth orbit. The ISS may have been costly and under utilized, but by the fact of establishing a human presence in LEO upon which the Russians have capitalized with private flights on Soyuz has created a new market for commercial spaceflight and led to COTS. Hopefully SpaceX will have a successful launch of Falcon 9 in the next few months which will be a vindication of COTS program investment and provide a cheaper launch system.

    The greater damage is the political fallout from changing NASA’s course yet again. The Augustine commission found Constellation program to be a sustainable course given the appropriate funding, so let’s stick with it. If US changes course now, then there is nothing to stop the next administration from doing that. By setting a precedent through staying with the current prgram with perhaps a refinement in mission goals would establish long term stability that NASA so badly needs.

  52. gopher65

    T_U_T: Where are you from, exactly?

  53. Katharine

    Assuming money wasn’t an object, what would NASA be doing right now?

  54. Jya Jar Binks Killer

    Thanks for the update BA. :-)

    I feel a bit more reassured with what you’ve posted here but am still very worried by all the rumours and general atmosphere of gloom that’s been clouding over the US manned space program in recent days.

    Is there anything us “Joe the amateur astronomer” types can do to help keep Americans in space at this stage?

  55. Randy

    I’m not a space scientist but it seems to me that, for the money invested, we have learned so much more from unmanned probes than from manned missions. For example, from a science standpoint I would wager that the most important part of the entire shuttle mission was its ability to repair the Hubble. So I’d rather see us skip efforts to send people to the moon or Mars and instead concentrate on high quality unmanned missions.

  56. Jya Jar Binks Killer

    @ 48. rumleech Says:

    Space exploration may not be dead but it ain’t half sick. The question for me is how do we come together to make it happen. I don’t imagine we have much political foundation in common? ( For example, I’m a marxist and I can quite imagine I’m on my own in this blog.)

    A Marxist?!? Are you for real? A genuine honest to FSM Marxist?!? I thought that political ideology went into history’s dustbin and its believers all went extinct ages ago – about the time the Cold War ended & Berlin Wall fell! Leninist, Trotskyite or Stalinist? ;-)

  57. John T

    I “strongly suspect” you’re looking at this disaster with rose-colored glasses. There is absolutely zero evidence that any of these companies are even close to being able to get supplies or an astronaut to the ISS. And what happens when there are inevitable cost overruns? And accidents? Cheap and fast only works in bad science fiction novels. It is extremely disheartening to me that the past five or six years of hard work is now going to be ditched for an ideological fantasy.

  58. rumleech
  59. dragonet2

    I admit I cried when I read XKCD yesterday. I loves all the brave little robots we’ve sent out into space and am very sentimental about them.

    That said, I’d like to posit that we need to figure out a better, safer and possibly cheaper way to get into space. I’ve been tinkering with a wide-range SF novel series that involves our planet being the mother world and humans were seeded outwards by a now extinct species who they fascinated with their flexibility. A group from the united worlds finds our planet, some of them are not human subspecies but from other worlds, plus there are other species from other systems. One of the ones from another species is horrified that we launch people out into space at the end of what amounts to a Roman Candle.

    Just a thought. Some of our little robots are seeing wonderful places (Voyagers! Spirit and Opportunity!). I hope they persevere.

  60. John T (#57) Does your “absolutely zero evidence” forget the successful launches Space X has had, including a demonstrated flexibility at launch to fix problems on the fly?

  61. T.E.L.

    Steve A Said:

    “Depends on what you mean by “bang for the buck.” For pure science, I think you’re right. But what manned spaceflight does as good if not better than unmanned is drive technology that can be applied to life here on Earth. The systems derived to help astronauts live help people’s lives on Earth, sometimes in strange ways. For instance, the ESA developed a sensor to examine astronauts returning from space. Now, that was adapted to examine the water content in ham and ensure great quality.”

    The Space Program can spawn innovation. So can market demand. Most technologies have been driven by the needs of people who spend their time on Earth. Just because the Space Program sometimes yields spinoffs doesn’t mean those technologies wouldn’t have happened any other way. Do you suppose no one was able to figure out a way of testing ham on their own? The freshness of fish is tested using laboratory techniques developed because there was a need for them.

  62. T.E.L.

    Kelly Brown Said:

    “The way I see it we have to have a manned space program now to build up our expertise and our experience with it. We must go in small numbers now so when it’s time to go in larger numbers we won’t have to play catch up.”

    What large numbers? How large is large? Are you talking about an exodus?

  63. amphiox

    T_U_T – Your statements are frankly idiotic. Civilizations and societies rise and fall, and rise again. It is rare indeed for any cultural group to fall all the way to zero, and never get up again.

    From what I know of your comments in the past, I had not expected you to post something so stupid.

  64. T.E.L.

    kuhnigget Says:

    “Now THAT’S trollery.

    Read some history, sweetheart.”

    Since when is being mistaken nothing more than trolling? And what is it with people who fret over who’s a troll and who isn’t?

  65. John T

    Phil, nobody would be happier than me if Space X succeeds. Honest. But the only acceptable evidence will be when they actually build a system that can safely and consistently reach ISS. They are a very long way from achieving that goal. Until they (or another company) actually accomplish such a feat, I believe it is foolish to bet the house on “private.” And while we’re on the subject, how “private” will these companies be once they start accepting these huge government contracts? They will suddenly find themselves facing the same bureaucratic nightmares and political battles as NASA and its current contractors. And with zero tolerance for failure.

  66. T.E.L.

    John T,

    You’re right. No private company has ever mastered rendezvous and docking, which are a lot trickier than just getting to orbit.

  67. Corey

    I was overjoyed to hear about the moon base idea circling the drain. The moon is a terrible and expensive place to live, and there’s nothing of value there. Someday, maybe we will need the Helium-3. Let the noobs (China, India, Russia) fight over the moon.

    Ares seemed OK to me, but it’s all hosed up. I was disappointed we couldn’t adapt the shuttle infrastructure to something useful, and I think what is going to come out of this is a shuttle-derived, inline heavy-lift vehicle. That’s what I wanted all along. It’s the one thing nobody besides NASA can do. The thing is, the shuttle system really IS a heavy-lift vehicle, but most of the payload is wasted on the shuttle itself. We’re wasting most of the lifting power of the system.

    One thing that has occurred to me is … we’re at the beginning of a new decade. It’s an arbitrary unit of time, but a useful one nonetheless. We need an economic boost and a shot of national prestige and unifying pride. If we commit to putting a human on Phobos, Ceres, or maybe even Mars by the end of the decade, NASA could do it.

    So in the end, we’ll end up spending less on the ISS, stimulating the private space industry for LEO taxi services, and transferring the shuttle bucks into an HLV which can chuck big telescopes and manned spaceships all over the system. It’s really a common-sense and perfect scenario for the future of space exploration. Let NASA do the stuff that only NASA can do (heavy lift) and let the emerging space powers (nations and private companies) fight over the run-of-the-mill LEO taxi stuff. If NASA commit to a new nuclear-powered in-space engine, then it would be a perfect scenario.

  68. Phil you out do yourself… as an apologist for Obama.

    In what way is not having a manned space program a good thing? Relying on the Russians to provide access to orbit seems a risky proposition at best as their friendship is tenuous. Private firms also do not have any heavy lift capability not to mention no ability to get into orbit. And as mentioned above zero experience in rendezvous and docking.

    NASA has the collective experience to apply, but Obama chooses to gut Constellation… not because it is hard, but because it is easy.

    He just made 2012 a remarkably easy choice…

  69. @Corey, there is more than HE3 that we need. The earth does not have replenishing mineral resources, the moon is the closest external source for those. Frankly it is of more value than Mars.

  70. T.E.L.

    The Arquette Sisters,

    Earth’s has an much in the way of minerals today as it ever did. Raw or refined, it’s all still here.

  71. This was all inevitable as soon as a new presidential administration took office.

    Its followed the same pattern going back to Nixon. A new President moves in, and a year or so after taking office, they re-assess the space program and kill (or at least attempt to) one or more of the darling space project of the previous administration. Go back and see when most major space projects lost their fundings–it always follows a change in presidential administration. Obama is just carrying on the tradition by killing Ares and Constellation.

    The problem with handing manned spaceflight over to private companies is we’ve yet to see any real proof that they’re capable of stepping up to fill the niche. NASA for all its faults has proven it can do the job consistently and well. These private companies haven’t even come close to that–only one, Virgin Galactic, has actually put people in space, and even they have yet to reach orbit. And here we’re talking about handing over the keys to the whole manned space program over to them.

    Ares and Constellation had their problems–but then, they were the systems actually being developed in the real world. The only systems without glitches or cost over runs or delays are the ones that remain on paper. When Space X and others are called on to gear up to manned spaceflight capabilities, they’re going to run into the same kind of inevitable engineering problems, snafus, and glitches. The two year projection you give is way overly optimistic, and will only happen if there are no problems–and in the real world, there are -always- going to be problems. Maybe these commercial options will still be ready before Ares was supposed to be. But I doubt it, really.

  72. Flip

    Hopefully they’ll fire Blair from “Nasa 360″

  73. Eli

    Has no one here read Heinlein’s “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress? The Chinese are rolling ahead with their plans for a manned lunar mission. I don’t know about all of you, but I’m uncomfortable with the leaders who sent tanks through Tienamin Square and attack Google will be alone at the top of Earth’s gravity well…

  74. mike burkhart

    Oboma is going to back off this just like he every thing elese since he got in office in fact I think he will give NASA stimulis money and say that it will create jobs If you want proff just today he anouced that we won’t try 9 11 suspects in New York and hes almost given up on health care the minuet some one complains he backs off

  75. @ TEL:

    It’s all in the context. Read the comments prior to Ms. Badnicolez regarding trollery.

    Hint: making 1-off unsubstantiated statements that parrot partisan clichés is a good sign.

  76. T.E.L.

    kuhnigget,

    I don’t get it. Do you mean that if people are tactless and abrasive, then they don’t even believe what they have to say about things?

    And I still don’t understand why you people even care about trolls, cranks, crackpots, etc. For a so-called “science” site, there are a lot of regulars here who care more about how polite people are than about science, and that includes the Honcho.

  77. awesomekip

    “2) The reports of the manned spaceflight’s death are greatly exaggerated.”

    Not just exaggerated, but complete BS. NASA HSF is not being killed, just changed to be more sustainable and different from Apollo. Humans on Mars is still the ultimate goal.

    http://www.nasaspaceflight.com/2010/01/maf-provide-positive-et-hardware-overview-for-early-sd-hlv-test-flight/

    nasaspaceflight.com reports (among other things) NASA Admin. Charlie Bolden will give a speech on the future of NASA HSF on Monday. Also, the “new HLV” is very likely to be a version of DIRECT’s Jupiter launcher:

    “While those questions are yet to be officially addressed, NASA managers are pushing forward at a healthy pace to work towards an “early” test flight of what is now heavily confirmed as based on the DIRECT team’s Jupiter-241 Stretched Heavy Launch Vehicle.”

    It seems DIRECT has won.

  78. Vernon Balbert

    Nobody has mentioned this so perhaps there’s something wrong with the idea, but we have a semi-stable platform in space right now. It’s not very practical, but it is there. Why don’t we turn it into something practical. It won’t be the giant wheel in the sky envisioned in the 50′s or depicted in 2001: A Space Odyssey, but could it not be turned into a transfer station where we could use current lifting vehicles to bring materiel needed to go to the moon or Mars? The station is above most of the gravity well.

  79. David Masten

    The Arquette Sisters, #68

    1. The Obama proposal does not do away with human space flight, it does away with Constellation. According to the Augustine committee Constellation would kill human spaceflight for the US. In order to complete Constellation, the ISS must be ditched in 2016. Ares I will not be ready until 2017 at the earliest. Ares I will have nothing to do until the rest of the Constellation stack is ready to go and that is late 2020′s or 2030′s. So 10+ years without human spaceflight if we stick with Constellation.

    2. Commercial firms have plenty of ways to get to orbit – Atlas V, Delta IV, Falcon 9, Minotaur 2 are a few medium lift vehicles capable of putting both crew (with some mods) and cargo into LEO.

    3. Actually Boeing has done a rendezvous, docking and propellant transfer just a few years back. They built and operated the ASTRO vehicle of Orbital Express under a DARPA contract. Ball Aerospace built the target satellite. Lockheed Martin is developing Orion under Constellation. Boeing is also a prime contractor for ISS. Boeing and Lockheed Martin are the two contractors most likely to put a capsule on an ULA Atlas V or Delta IV under any new commercial crew and cargo program.

    4. It has been more than 30 years since NASA has any experience designing a launch vehicle. Aerospace engineers have a typical working life of about 30 years. Mike Griffin argued that developing Ares I at Marshall was necessary for NASA to regain the knowledge of how to build a launcher. ULA, SpaceX, and Orbital have all developed new launchers within the past 15 years. It is the commercial companies and not NASA that have the knowledge and experience to build and fly new launchers safely to ISS.

  80. biobabe

    The only thing useful in these “leaked” reports is that it seems that adults are finally back in charge, at least a little, at NASA. NASA has totally missed the “out of the cradle” part of A.C. Clarke’s “endlessly orbiting”. The U.S. human spaceflight program for the last almost 4 decades has accomplished, basically, nothing at an expense of what, $300 – 400 billion? I’m not sure anyone knows. (you can’t really count Hubble missions unless you want to include all the “hubble’s” that could have been launched for the same monies). But I am sure that you always change a losing game. And the moon? great place to play, once you’ve earned the bucks elsewhere for that vacation (I’d love to strap on wings and fly in an overpressurized cavern, but my vacation shouldn’t be a national priority).
    And T.E.L., I agree with your final sentence. I’m not against human spaceflight, as long as it a) advances SOMETHING useful, science or not b) there’s a long range plan that includes solar system infrastructure and resource usage c) it’s not a series of flights to nowhere (ISS and a return to the moon) and one-off stunts.

  81. David Masten

    Even more, I do not understand why so many people think it is OK for NASA to launch astronauts on the commercial firm Energia’s launchers but not OK to launch on ULA’s or SpaceX’s. It just boggles the mind.

  82. gus

    Great post Phil.

  83. @ TEL:

    I don’t get it. Do you mean that if people are tactless and abrasive, then they don’t even believe what they have to say about things?

    They might believe in them, but if they can’t be bothered to come up with a reasoned argument to back themselves up, then they are just parroting someone’s else’s opinion and not adding anything of value to the discussion.

    And I still don’t understand why you people even care about trolls, cranks, crackpots, etc.

    Because they have a negative effect on discourse. See Fox News. See the state of political debate in the U.S. Some of us are old enough to remember a time when people with different political views could actually debate one another with tactful civility. Politics has always been dirty, but rarely has it been so frustratingly pointless.

  84. fatkid

    #76,T.E.L.- well said. I like that I can interact with creative, intelligent people that I can’t meet often enough on the street.

    I say shoot for the moon. It’s good for science, it’s good for our collective psyche, and we might finally get a new flavor of tang after 40 years!

  85. T_U_T

    T_U_T – Your statements are frankly idiotic. Civilizations and societies rise and fall, and rise again. It is rare indeed for any cultural group to fall all the way to zero, and never get up again.

    Of course. Like I wrote. in cca 800 – 1000 years we start over again.

  86. Sir Craig

    I know this is Phil’s blog, and I hate feeling like I’m hijacking it, but here goes:

    T.E.L.: If you “still don’t understand why … people even care about trolls, cranks, crackpots, etc.”, it may be because you fail to see it in your own posts. In another thread you berated people for not being able to stand up to what you call “criticism”. You are not a critic – you are a contrarian. Criticism only works if it is constructive and you have yet to offer anything useful. If this were Monty Python’s Argument Clinic, you would be John Cleese’s character minus the humor. And oddly enough, people can be polite and still engage in scientific discussions – it happens all the time, if you’d bother to look. However, if science without politeness is what you crave, go to Pharyngula.

    And for those who think Obama is the anti-ChristNASA and will lead the US into the depths of some imaginary hell, please tell me the mental powerhouse combo of McCain/Palin would have been so much better – I haven’t had a good laugh all day.

  87. Messier Tidy Upper

    Disagree if you like – in fact its good to do so. Healthy debate is interesting, often educational and good mental excercise.

    But don’t be jerks about it & keep it polite and logical. Not rude & personal.

    Isn’t that the basic rule?

  88. Pi-needles

    @ 85. Sir Craig Says:

    And for those who think Obama is the anti-ChristNASA and will lead the US into the depths of some imaginary hell, please tell me the mental powerhouse combo of McCain/Palin would have been so much better – I haven’t had a good laugh all day.

    Pity. I’ve heard you should try & get at least one decent laugh each day for the sake of mental and physical health! ;-)

    Describing the McCain-Palin team as a “mental powerhouse?” Hahahahahahahahahaha!!!!

    Well, that was my good laugh for the day! ;-)

    In another thread you [T.E.L.] berated people for not being able to stand up to what you call “criticism”.

    That would be the thread honouring those who sacrificed their lives for the sake of manned space exploration where T.E.L. had the bad taste to pop up to spew his anti-humans-in-space agenda, yes? As was pointed out there – its not “criticism” folks weren’t stomaching but rather T.E.L.’s offensive lack of basic decency. :-(

  89. Troy

    I always figured no matter who succeeded G.W.Bush the new Moon program would be eliminated. It doesn’t surprise me but I’m a bit sad about it. I don’t want a manned space program unless it goes somewhere beyond orbit. Near Earth asteroid is the best candidate, they have the most potential for peril and profit. I think we should give the space station to Russia or China. This white elephant really does nothing for me. In addition ending the shuttle should go on as planned. China is going back to the moon. While a lot don’t care about the prospect I embrace it. If it shows some loss of U.S. esteem sort of a new guy as king of the mountain, so be it. Nothing makes one work harder than winning the silver, and nothing makes one work less than winning the gold.

  90. T_U_T

    don’t want a manned space program unless it goes somewhere beyond orbit.

    you will never get anywhere with the “I don’t want do any sports, unless I go to the olympic games.” attitude

  91. procyan

    One thing that impresses many outside of USA is how easily Americans give up their authority. 40 years ago you ruled space. And 40 years hence you still squat upon your laurels. If YOU want to explore the moon then you will. That is your decision, not Dubyahs or Bama’s. Nor was it JFK’s, really. Its up to you, collectively to decide what you want. Personally, my informal polls indicates the average Kilroy’s interest in space at a virtual nil.

    Perhaps even more amazing is the notion that you CAN opt out of Moon bases without suffering some really negative consequences. Its about like opting out of stem cell research but expecting effective therapy when Parkinson’s strikes. Opt out of particle physics, those guys at Cern publish everything anyway. Evolution…probably not important…how many more examples have you thought of? Moreover, do you actually believe ISS is yours to give away?! I know you think you own space but that was 40 years ago. Paleeze

    I am terrified that you can accept the unacceptable so casually. The whole world is watching you. you can not just abdicate your role as leaders unless you are willing to accept kow towing to those who covet the role. I think you should be ashamed that this laundry is being aired at all. Is it possible that you don’t see the threat that is rising against you? Go ahead, give the Moon to China and India but be warned. They do not publish everything.

  92. @ The Arquette Sisters:

    You think the Party currently out of power would do any better? Last I heard, they were only interested in making the rich richer and subsidizing their neo-Trotskyite ideal of Permanent Revolution in the name of “Democracy” and “Freedom.”

    Now, if the Moon were made of solid gold, you’d see the “Loyal Opposition” falling all over themselves to get there.

  93. MadScientist

    Wow – so much praise for SpaceX even though they haven’t got a vehicle capable of achieving orbit yet; the demo (unmanned) flights haven’t even commenced. For at least the next 5 years I see our future hitching rides on Soyuz. Perhaps the Jules Verne type will be fitted and rated for human transport in those 5 years. At the moment SpaceX is as much hype as Ares-1. Being the shriveled old skeptic that I am, I’ll wait for SpaceX to prove themselves before I praise them. Somehow I can’t help thinking that SpaceX was aiming for sub-orbital joy rides. I hope they turn out well; Boeing and Lockheed need some competition. In the meantime, without a heavy lift vehicle and a large return vehicle (like the shuttle), the ISS can only have a skeleton crew. ESA has the rocket but no one has a large crew vehicle.

  94. davem

    No mention anywhere in the comments about Ariane? You guys do know that Ariane launches stuff on a regular basis – the the ISS, even? You could buy a few launches for the small change that NASA uses up. At 120 million USD each, the 3Bn increase in NASA’s budget would buy 25 launches.

  95. Rob Clack

    And then, of course, there’s Ariadne, to say nothing of the Russians and Chinese….

  96. @ procyan:

    Personally, my informal polls indicates the average Kilroy’s interest in space at a virtual nil.

    Unless it can be found in the bargain bin at Walmart.

  97. andy

    Really the idea of crewed space travel is rather like creating a high-detail photorealistic masterpiece with just MS Paint: it can be done, it is impressive (in some ways) when it is done, but fundamentally you are using the wrong tool for the job. I am convinced that if we want to make serious progress with sending humans to other planets and moons, it will almost certainly require some redesign of human beings, and that’s going to take rather more development in biotechnology. (And also dealing with the thorny ethical issues raised by some of these technologies…)

    For example, you have the choice between taking a huge amount of heavy equipment to provide radiation shielding beyond the Earth’s magnetosphere, or trying to make human beings more resistant to radiation damage. We already know of organisms that have impressive mechanisms for dealing with radiation damage – if these can be adapted for use in human beings (through genetic engineering, some kind of symbiosis, etc.) then the radiation problem becomes a lot less severe, and you’ve reduced the amount of mass you have to send around to different parts of the solar system.

    Similar arguments could potentially made for things like capability for hibernation, attempting to revert to “cold-blooded” metabolism (if you need to control the environment as much as you do, there’s no point having the organisms you put inside burning through large amounts of energy to maintain their internal temperature…). You might also want to figure out how to incorporate adaptations that would make the other worlds in this solar system less likely to be lethal deathtraps for anyone who goes there. Some of these may well be impossible, but if you are serious about the future of crewed space travel and inhabiting the other planets and moons in the solar system, they need to be tried. Because unfortunately, with humanity as-is, anywhere we can contemplate going beyond the earth is an environment where one mistake results in everybody dying.

  98. Elmar_M

    @ 91, MadScientist who wrote:

    Wow – so much praise for SpaceX even though they haven’t got a vehicle capable of achieving orbit yet;

    Ahem, hello? Falcon 1 has flown multiple times by now, actually delivering satellites into orbit. Stop talking bull crap!
    Falcon 9, which uses the same engines and much of the same concept does already exist as actual hardware. Each component has already seen ground testing and the whole vehicle is already at the cape and being assembled as we speak. I would not call this vapour ware.
    In contrast, none of the components for Ares has left the drawing board after much, much more money has been spent!!! There is NO actual flight hardware anywhere. There are no engines, no engine tests, nothing. Not even a single stage exists. That paper rockt is what I call vapourware!

  99. Davein the US

    Hello to all you predicting the death of the US. You are probably right, we will fail as a country. Fall from our colonial aspirations. That means no more foreign aid to ya all! However, with that said, a look at world history will tell you that most of the first world countries have experienced this. France, UK, China, Japan, Italy, Turkey, Germany, Russia, Egypt.

    As an American, I welcome the return to the ideas of our forefathers. George Washington: “The great rule of conduct for us, in regard to foreign nations, is in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible. Europe has a set of primary interests, which to us have none, or a very remote relation. Hence she must be engaged in frequent controversies the causes of which are essentially foreign to our concerns. Hence, therefore, it must be unwise in us to implicate ourselves, by artificial ties, in the ordinary vicissitudes of her politics, or the ordinary combinations and collisions of her friendships or enmities.”

    Will this make us a third world country? Only time will tell!

  100. PeteC

    Several of the comments here are so politically based that it’s hard to take them seriously. Like a rabid Apple fan talking about the latest gadget from Steve Jobs, or a rabid Linux fan who starts his conversation with “X from that evil foul Micro$$oft…” it makes the whole comment seem worthless as the conclusion has obviously been predetermined before the first word was written. It’s like the claims of “making the choice in 2012 easy…”; really, honestly, was there any choice to be made? People who say that have already decided to vote for not-Obama whoever stands. Like religion, almost nothing will change their minds. Evidence is unnecessary.

    There are some who so hate Obama for not being a Republican (witness all the, quite frankly, ludicrous claims about him being a socialist – trust me, I like in Europe, we’ve had actual socialists here, Obama is quite right-wing by European terms) – that no matter what he did, he’d be condemned. Cancel Ares? That’s the end! Oh Woe! Double the Ares budget? That’s the end! Our deficit! Woe! Quite frankly, whatever he does, even if he does nothing, there will be a large core who complain.

    Of course, the other side has it’s extremists too. There are some who would praise Obama if he shut down NASA completely. If he uses harsh talk he’s showing some guts; if he backs off from every confrontation he’s being bi-partisan.

    If you want a post on a rumour about the possible cancelling of an already-uncertain and quite contraversial program to be taken seriously, then lose the politics-as-religion part of it. Examine the issue on its own merits or problems. A problem is that none of us know the true state of the program anyway. There are claims about how it’s going well and is on target; but there are also plenty of rumours that it’s a real mess.

    Though as a distant observer I do find it interesting that some are claiming the end of the USA over a rumour that funds might be diverted from a one-shot moon rocket to a heavy lifter program… come on, really?

  101. T.E.L.

    Sir Craig Said:

    “T.E.L.: If you “still don’t understand why … people even care about trolls, cranks, crackpots, etc.”, it may be because you fail to see it in your own posts. In another thread you berated people for not being able to stand up to what you call “criticism”. You are not a critic – you are a contrarian.”

    Wrong. Go back and read my stuff on that other thread. I always presented reasons, at length.

  102. Matt C

    You’re absolutely right. ARES-1 was just a jobs program. They even had guys duplicating the same effort they hired Northrop-Grumman to do on the escape rocket so that the “public servants” would get experience.
    ULA has two very reliable vehicles Delta IV and Atlas. Delta IV is the same diameter as the Orion crew vehicle and all it would take is a ring at the top to accommodate it, with some additional redundancy in avionics and controls put in. Also it’s a liquid fueled rocket (The Air Force doesn’t like solids, they tend to blow up and can’t be throttled back).
    With a new launch pad a variant of the Delta IV Heavy could be built with 2 additional strap-on boosters thus providing the needed lift capacity to carry equipment to the moon. All this could have been done in the beginning instead of ARES. We would already be done now at less cost than NASA wasted on the paper rocket ARES. NASA wasted 6 years and billions of dollars like it usually does. Remember X-33 it was supposed to replace the shuttle 15 years ago. It wasted billions over a few years then died. This is one of the best things Obama has done. Now let’s let the best rocket guys in the country (ULA) get Americans into space at a reasonable cost.

  103. T.E.L.

    kuhnigget Says:

    “Because they have a negative effect on discourse.”

    But you’re leaving out an integral element of that negative effect: your willing part in it. The solution to trolls is and always has been to boycott them. But do you do that? Nope. You chime in obediently, dancing to their tunes. And it’s not always the case that the trolls get the ball rolling. Time after time when Phil posts something about exploration of the Moon, one of the regulars will pre-emptively make a snide crack about “How long will it be before a hoax nut says something about this?”; so don’t hand me any garbage about how the trolls single-handedly wreak their mayhem. A lot of people like trolls, because it gives them something to bitch about.

    If you’re not ignoring them, then you need to take responsibility for your share of the problem.

  104. Jack

    I heard the Obama administration is looking to transfer the Gitmo detainees to Mars…

  105. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    Give space a chance

    Could you expand on that?

    Oh, sorry, you did just that. :-D

    Though this seems to be a low probability projection:

    private space companies are still a ways off from putting people in orbit. [...] Private companies like Space X may be two years from that,

    According to the slides of the testimony (if that is the term in this case?) that Space-X CEO Musk delivered to the Augustine Commission on US space program, the Dragon capsule, first launching in 2012, is mostly man-rated but lacks tested launch escape, crew accommodation and environmental systems:

    • 2.5 years required for first crewed mission
    • “Life-boat Dragon” (return only) capability could be achieved within 1.5 years
    [slide 24]

    So if NASA drags its feet and keeps off a decision to the 1st Dragon launch, you expect to see US manned launches at 2015 at the earliest.

    If NASA keeps on its toes after any presidential decision, US could very well have a manned “return from orbit” capability 2012, and manned launches shortly after that.

    [Btw, it's an awesome set of slides, image-wise and fact-wise. Go read!]

  106. T.E.L.

    Pi-needles Says:

    “That would be the thread honouring those who sacrificed their lives for the sake of manned space exploration where T.E.L. had the bad taste to pop up to spew his anti-humans-in-space agenda, yes? As was pointed out there – its not “criticism” folks weren’t stomaching but rather T.E.L.’s offensive lack of basic decency.”

    Hey, needles, I asked you and others way back on that thread at least two times to show where I’m anti-humans-in-space. You didn’t do it. It’s because it doesn’t exist. My point was never that people should never, ever, under any conditions, for the residue of future history, be in space.

  107. Maverick

    I had to laugh when I read this….remeber this is the “change” you voted for Phil!

  108. PN

    “If I were king I’d be spending the science budget on space telescopes and probes, because the bang-for-the-buck ratio is so much higher.”

    This is actually an incorrect assumption. Land a qualified geologist on Mars, and you will get more useful scientific data in an afternoon that what you get by decades of sending probes. A human can cover more ground than a probe as well as adapt his searches to what he finds (instead of spending 15 years building a follow up mission). I some times play with the thought of what the world would be like if we had taken the same approach to exploring America, as we do when exploring space. With some luck we would have the first human explorers in full biohazard suits walking on a Caribean island by today..

  109. Davein the US

    In regards to SpaceX. I don’t blame them. This is the difference between the private sector and public. They lost three Falcon 1′s before a successful flight. I would imagine the three failed rockets didn’t add up to the purchase price of one Falcon 9. I think that Mr. Musk will be successful with the maiden flight of 9 because the rocket won’t take off until all known variables are accounted for.

  110. jasonB

    @ Gary Miles

    Thanks for the info. It now gives me avenues to go study.

  111. T.E.L.

    Phil Plait said:

    “When I look out my window now I see a future I’ve been dreaming of my whole life, a future that seems just out of my reach. When my children, my grandchildren, look out their windows in that future, y’know what I want them to see?

    The blue-green crescent Earth hanging in a pitch black sky over a cratered horizon.

    Let’s give space a chance.”

    Ok. Well, then, why not give Antarctica a chance? Living at the South Pole is a lot like living on another planet. It’s remote. It’s harsh. The stars in the sky are the same as they’d be on the Moon or Mars. So why not hope that more people will be living there in the future?

    There’s a big chunk of reasoning that’s missing from all this. It’s the question of what people will be doing on those other planets. Every person who’s ever lived has been in space. Space is everywhere, and it’s basically the same everywhere. There is symmetry. Is it enough simply to be “somewhere else”? For a lot of practical purposes Antarctica is somewhere else. It’s still on Earth; but what of it? Surely the point isn’t that Earth is a tainted, sinful place, different in kind from other, more Heavenly realms. And besides, to a Martian, everyone on Earth already is on another planet, somewhere else. So what is it that you expect your progeny to be doing on the Moon?

    Exploration? That’s a good idea. But what do people do to explore a place like the Moon or Mars? They measure the environment with instruments. Astronauts operate instruments. But we already have instruments at the Moon, Mars, and scads of other places. Some of those places are so lethal that human life couldn’t loiter there even snug inside their spaceships. For exploration, warm bodies are at best redundant.

    Is it because some dead astronauts would “want it this way”? Well, they wanted what they wanted, and other people want what they want. As Bart Simpson once wisely said, “This is our day, Sir, and we do talk that way.” When people of today willingly imprison themselves within the wishes of the people of the past, that’s when progress grinds to a halt. And that’s the last thing you need if you want to get to those other planets.

    Vacations in space? Opportunities to have fun with low gravity, freefall, and to take in the beauty of an untamed wilderness? That’s a good idea. But it’s not something to spend tax dollars on. It’s the sort of thing that the Private Sector should handle. But I don’t read a lot of people on this site say they’re willing to invest their own money in private space industry. It’s always someone else who should foot the bill and do the work. The race is easy when you’re just watching from the cheap-seats.

  112. T_U_T

    Ok. Well, then, why not give Antarctica a chance? Living at the South Pole is a lot like living on another planet. It’s remote. It’s harsh.

    Ok.Well, Mr. Columbus. why to bother with such a dangerous thing like a ocean voyage. Find yourself a nice calm lake or river and sail up and down for five weeks. It’s almost the same, isn’t it ? And before you return to shore, throw a few buckets of rocks just at the shoreline, then stand on them so that you can claim you stand where no European has set foot before.

    Man, I start to wonder how do you prevent, with such a narrow mind, the casimir force from crushing it completely.

  113. Katharine

    TEL, you sound… rather a bit anti-intellectual and anti-human.

    “Ok. Well, then, why not give Antarctica a chance? Living at the South Pole is a lot like living on another planet. It’s remote. It’s harsh. The stars in the sky are the same as they’d be on the Moon or Mars. So why not hope that more people will be living there in the future?”

    ‘Cause it’s illegal, that’s why. Antarctica is an environment with a known ecology that would be disrupted if humans settled there. The Moon and Mars aren’t.

    “There’s a big chunk of reasoning that’s missing from all this. It’s the question of what people will be doing on those other planets. Every person who’s ever lived has been in space. Space is everywhere, and it’s basically the same everywhere. There is symmetry. Is it enough simply to be “somewhere else”? For a lot of practical purposes Antarctica is somewhere else. It’s still on Earth; but what of it? Surely the point isn’t that Earth is a tainted, sinful place, different in kind from other, more Heavenly realms. And besides, to a Martian, everyone on Earth already is on another planet, somewhere else. So what is it that you expect your progeny to be doing on the Moon?”

    Way to miss the facts. We’re talking about outer space, not ‘space’ as a three-dimensional area. You’re intentionally obfuscating the discussion. The Moon and Mars are useful for resources, for human settlement, and for gathering resources. There is no ecology there we’re aware of except perhaps bacterial ecology which is well-adapted to the environment.

    “Exploration? That’s a good idea. But what do people do to explore a place like the Moon or Mars? They measure the environment with instruments. Astronauts operate instruments. But we already have instruments at the Moon, Mars, and scads of other places. Some of those places are so lethal that human life couldn’t loiter there even snug inside their spaceships. For exploration, warm bodies are at best redundant.”

    Technology will progress to the point where the way we measure these things will change. This is irrelevant.

    “Is it because some dead astronauts would “want it this way”? Well, they wanted what they wanted, and other people want what they want. As Bart Simpson once wisely said, “This is our day, Sir, and we do talk that way.” When people of today willingly imprison themselves within the wishes of the people of the past, that’s when progress grinds to a halt. And that’s the last thing you need if you want to get to those other planets.”

    This makes no sense. As I said, we are expanding to other planets for a myriad of reasons, not because some dead astronauts want people to expand into space.

    “Vacations in space? Opportunities to have fun with low gravity, freefall, and to take in the beauty of an untamed wilderness? That’s a good idea. But it’s not something to spend tax dollars on. It’s the sort of thing that the Private Sector should handle. But I don’t read a lot of people on this site say they’re willing to invest their own money in private space industry. It’s always someone else who should foot the bill and do the work. The race is easy when you’re just watching from the cheap-seats.”

    The private sector should handle commercial space flight. Some of us don’t have the money to invest in private space industry because, for example, some of us are university students. If I had the money, I’d invest some of it in space. But I don’t. I’m using it to pay my tuition to the college I go to to learn biology.

    Besides, students who are going into areas that are related directly to space (physics, aerospace engineering, geology) are contributing to it with knowledge.

  114. I think that many of us, who grew up watching the Moon landings, and dreamed of bigger things. I think there was a belief that NASA was Never gonna give you up, and no one ever thought NASA was Never gonna let you down. We all thought that NASA was Never gonna run around with expensive, Go nowhere projects and desert you. Personally, I felt that NASA was Never gonna make you cry. Well, here we are 40 years on and where do we go from here?

  115. Steve A

    @Phil

    “the Ares I-X fiasco made it clear that it will be a long time before that works.”

    Wait, what? There is no factual basis for this opinion. The rocket a) launched successfully and b) showed that the vibrations were much less than previously predicted. These were the main goals of the project. Sure there were parachute issues, but that’s what tests are for.

    Secondly, the launch was received very positively across the board. The only ones who didn’t approve were those who are against anything related to the program. Whether you agree with the program or not, to call it a fiasco is unfounded.

  116. @Steve A #106:

    While I can’t speak for Phil regarding his Ares “fiasco” comment, however Buzz Aldrin also embraced the fiasco with his description:

    Yes, the rocket that thundered aloft from NASA’s Launch Pad 39B sure looked like an Ares 1. But that’s where the resemblance stops. Turns out the solid booster was – literally – bought from the Space Shuttle program, since a five-segment booster being designed for Ares wasn’t ready. So they put a fake can on top of the four-segmented motor to look like the real thing. Since the real Ares’ upper stage rocket engine, called the J-2X wasn’t ready either, they mounted a fake upper stage. No Orion capsule was ready, so – you guessed it – they mounted a fake capsule with a real-looking but fake escape rocket that wouldn’t have worked if the booster had failed. Since the guidance system for Ares wasn’t ready either they went and bought a unit from the Atlas rocket program and used it instead. Oh yes, the parachutes to recover the booster were the real thing — and one of the three failed, causing the booster to slam into the ocean too fast and banging the thing up.

    (source: link in my name)

    Not trying to fan any flames, but Buzz does use tangible details to support his position.

  117. Steve A

    @Elmar_M

    “Ahem, hello? Falcon 1 has flown multiple times by now, actually delivering satellites into orbit. Stop talking bull crap!”

    I actually want SpaceX to succeed, but we all need to be realistic here. For instance, SpaceX has only had 1 successful launch with a payload, 2 if you consider the launch with a dummy payload. In total, there were five total launches with 3 failures. And there is no escaping that right now SpaceX is years behind their own schedule of when the Falcon 9 would have launched. Check out, http://www.defenseindustrydaily.com/spacex-launches-falcon-9-with-a-customer-01193/ :

    “SpaceX has sold a Falcon 9 launch to a US government customer, and still plans to make Falcon 5 available in late 2007. ”

    What my problem with relying on commercial companies, is not relying on them per se. I like this idea. I think this is exactly how things should proceed, with the government pushing boundaries until others take over. But let’s not delude ourselves. They are going to be behind schedule as every trailblazing project is. Commercial space ventures are continually 2 years away from fruition.

    As for costs, remember this kind of program is done already with our unmanned spacecraft. How good have they been at keeping costs down when it’s been a ground breaking project?

  118. DaveS

    TUT, if you’re not a time-traveler, your prognostications of US demise is merely speculation. Besides, it’s totally off-topic, which makes it a troll, even if you didn’t
    mean to.

    Phil, I tend to agree that you’re being an apologist for the current administration. Killing the Shuttle without a replacement LEO human-rated replacement is killing the US capability to put people in space and sustain them there. Maybe private enterprise can start in a few years, but if you think Congress is fickle about, try insurance companies and boards of directors.

    Killing Constellation is killing our dreams of sending people to the moon and beyond. Throw Aries away and start clean? Aries IS a clean start. How will a future moon rocket be any different? IOW, what lessons is Aries teaching us that gives us any confidence of doing it right if we throw it away and start over?

    More importantly, if every administration kills the ongoing program, and program lengths are more than eight years, then we require a Kennedy-Johnson sort of situation, which doesn’t come along very often.

  119. Eeyore3061

    Remember the Viking 1 & 2 landers? Landed back in 1976? NASA was more then contemplating shutting them down ‘for lack of funds’ … to the point that you had Save the Viking ads in the backs of SF magazines with a drawing of a Lander with a sign saying ‘Please Donate’ and the Arm holding out a cup.

    So yeah, I can see folks worried about NASA shutting down Spirt.

  120. Steve A

    @aerodragger

    I knew of Buzz’ piece when I wrote my response. He was one of the very few who had that view. Sure the section was banged, but it wasn’t one that was going to be used again. Sure one of the parachutes failed, but isn’t that what testing is about?

    My point was that two people calling it a “fiasco” doesn’t make it a “fiasco.” When the major goals of the launch were accomplished, how is that in any way the way these people characterize it. And he makes it sound like this was put together on the fly, when a launch that was under development for 3 years is not that. That means work began in 2006 when the whole program started back around 2005. This goes beyond whether you feel the rocket is the right way to go or not.

    I actually have several issues with Aldrin’s article, as he claims to have new ideas that are anything but, just renamed versions of stuff that is already presented. Like he essentially describes the Ares V Lite option discussed by others as though they are brand new. And he completely disregards the findings after the Columbia tragedy, which called for the end of the shuttle and for a rocket architecture that was being developed under Constellation.

  121. Steve A

    @DaveS

    I’m going to defend Phil here. Remember, the idea to kill the shuttle was not done by Obama. This was decided back in the Bush Administration after the Columbia Accident Board report. You can argue about killing Constellation, but the shuttle is another thing.

  122. @Steve A #109:

    Agreed that any non-trivial piece of engineering will always require trial & error (and error), spaceflight more so than other disciplines. I think funding is the primary hangup for the program, however the Wikipedia page that details the results of the test is less-than-positive. Listed among the issues: (link in my name)

    * Thrust Oscillation
    * Pad damage
    * Parachute malfunction
    * First stage damage
    * Upper Stage Simulator flat spin

    Not sure if that qualifies for “fiasco” or not. This comment could invite strong responses, but that’s not the intention. As I said earlier I’m not qualified to debate the engineering of the Ares design; this is just some (extremely simplistic) research done on the topic.

  123. Trimegistus

    You sound like an abused wife making excuses for the man who beats her.

    Back in ’08 you kept endorsing Obama because he was so smart and sciencey and smart and intellectual and smart and pro-science and smart and stuff. Not like those bad old Republicans with their “war on science.”

    Well, now you’ve got your little tinpot Messiah in office, and he’s showing you just how big a sucker he thinks you are. Goodbye, manned space exploration. And if he’s willing to do that, how much funding do you expect he’s going to give other space-based science? No more orbiting telescopes. Heck, how many votes do ground-based telescopes pull in?

    Sucker. But don’t worry, I’m sure if you join the teachers’ union you can be sure of a lifetime sinecure teaching high-school science somewhere. Just be sure not to fail any students.

  124. Ken

    BA #60: You mean the launcher with the 40% success rate? The one whose customers got tired of losing payloads, so insisted it have a successful dead-head launch before they’d commit to another payload? That one?

    BTW, SpaceX gets progress payments from NASA for COTS development just like everyone else. It’s not 100% privately funded.

    Commercially-run “Better Cheaper Faster” sounds great until you consider that relying on commercial providers means relying on companies who put a very high priority on revenues, and not so much on assuring success.

    Check out the accident reports for Genesis, Mars Polar Lander, Mars Climate Orbiter, and so on. All of them at one point or other critisize the B/C/F philosophy that reduced NASA oversight and allowed corners to be cut.

    The NASA folks do have to play politics all the time, but at the end of the day their first priority is mission success not making a buck. (BTW, if you think commercial development projects are immune to political games you’re not paying attention – it’s just not so visible).

  125. T.E.L.

    Katharine Said:

    “TEL, you sound… rather a bit anti-intellectual and anti-human.”

    Nonsense. Anti-intellectual? Most of what I do is think. And I love people. If I didn’t care about them then I wouldn’t criticize them. Criticism is good for people. And by the way, I champion using robots to explore the planets. Those robots are the accomplishments of intellectual humans.

    “‘Cause it’s illegal, that’s why. Antarctica is an environment with a known ecology that would be disrupted if humans settled there. The Moon and Mars aren’t.”

    You missed the point. My argument wasn’t about Antarctica per se. It was a handy way of showing how chauvinistic some of the people here are. And besides, it’s NOT illegal to be at the South Pole.

    “Way to miss the facts. We’re talking about outer space, not ’space’ as a three-dimensional area. You’re intentionally obfuscating the discussion. The Moon and Mars are useful for resources, for human settlement, and for gathering resources. There is no ecology there we’re aware of except perhaps bacterial ecology which is well-adapted to the environment.”

    I’m not missing any such thing. I know perfectly well what people are talking about. The comment about space was to stress precisely that what you all want isn’t about “space” at all. It’s some vague notion of being anywhere but on Earth. It appears more a religion to me than anything else. I have lived through nearly the whole history of modern space travel. I grew up with it. It’s all I thought about when I was a kid. But I didn’t stagnate. I’m speaking on behalf of progress in stark contradiction to the schoolboy mentality of hero worship. They just can’t stand the notion of not walking on other balls called planets. Sorry to break the news, but most of the Universe is neither walkable nor even get-to-able. The Universe is enormous. No matter where we find ourselves, we’ll be studying the bulk of the Cosmos from a distance.

    “Technology will progress to the point where the way we measure these things will change. This is irrelevant.”

    Irrelevant? Technology has already progressed, in my lifetime, to the point where it’s changed the way things are measured. 40 years ago it was useful to put astronauts on the Moon. That’s now totally unnecessary. Are you expecting technology to progress backward?

    “This makes no sense. As I said, we are expanding to other planets for a myriad of reasons, not because some dead astronauts want people to expand into space.”

    Ah, but you speak from ignorance. I didn’t conjure that up out of thin air. There’s an entire thread from a couple of days ago where some of the posters who have chimed in on this thread have argued exactly that dead astronauts’ last wishes should play a role in public policy.

    “The private sector should handle commercial space flight. Some of us don’t have the money to invest in private space industry because, for example, some of us are university students. If I had the money, I’d invest some of it in space. But I don’t. I’m using it to pay my tuition to the college I go to to learn biology.”

    Since when is everyone here a poor student?

    “Besides, students who are going into areas that are related directly to space (physics, aerospace engineering, geology) are contributing to it with knowledge.”

    Excellent. I approve. But that’s not what I’m talking about. The private space industry needs money as much as it does knowledge. There’ve been a lot of people on this and other threads who rant about how research is underfunded- but not a word about money from their own pockets.

  126. @aerodragger

    I understand. I have no issues discussing this and I think what you are saying is fair and reasonable, I just have to take issues with the interpretation. I hope what I’m saying isn’t coming off as an attack.

    Many of the issues you are listing are problems, but they aren’t big ones overall. The Wiki article is fine, but it doesn’t get into a lot of details that more reports discuss and Buzz’ article ignore. For instance, about the parachutes from Spaceflight Now:

    “The Ares 1-X parachutes are the same design that would eventually be used to recover Ares 1 first stages, but the first stage in Wednesday’s launch was 15 percent heavier than future operational boosters. The extra weight comes from ballast and avionics in the simulated fifth segment. ”

    and later:

    “”The damage was just all collateral because of the parachutes,” Ess said. “We’re not going to dwell on the damage. We weren’t planning on using this booster again.” ”

    Me:So is a failure when you are simulating more than the rocket weight a disaster?

    The flat spin (Spaceflight Now):
    “It turns out engineering simulations actually predicted such an occurrence.

    “We went back and looked at all the flight models and dispersion cases that we ran, and we found thousands of them that matched what we saw,” Ess said.

    Ess described the upper stage simulator as “inherently unstable” because its center-of-gravity is located near the back end of the vehicle.

    During real Ares 1 launches, the upper stage engine and thruster system would keep the rocket under control. ”

    Also the thrust oscillations, from the wiki:

    “According to NASA, analysis of the data and telemetry from the Ares I-X flight showed that vibrations from thrust oscillation were within the normal range for a Space Shuttle flight.”

    Me: Before the test, media reports and bloggers were claiming astronauts would be shaken to death or unable to work controls. This was a huge issue. If the rocket showed the oscillations were really bad, that would be a fiasco. But it didn’t. It showed the oscillations were the same as hose astronauts encounter now, but NASA is taking steps anyways to reduce them.

    That was the main goal of the launch. I 100% agree that money seems to be the biggest issue and there is debate on whether using the Atlas V is the best way to go, but the Ares I-X in no way was a stumble for the program as characterized by some. That was my point.

  127. bdos

    Sure, tax-money to government institutions = bad, tax-money to private companies = good. It’s the only form of government intervention that’s tolerable to the private sector.

  128. @Steve A #115

    Thanks for the detailed descriptions, much appreciated.

    Considering the importance of the Augustine Commission report, it was critical that Ares hit a serious home run with that test flight. Of course, complicated engineering doesn’t work that way (on demand), but like any first flight, you want everything to be as predictable & successful (read: boring) as possible. It’s astonishing that the first launch of the Space Shuttle was crewed. (!!)

  129. Michel

    It´s not stuck
    It´s dug in…
    SOP during invasions.

  130. @117. aerodragger

    Your welcome. As you can see, even what I posted is not the end all and be all of the issue. There’s a lot of issues involved and good arguments on both sides, with opinions running hot probably because proponents have a lot at stake. If you ever want to see an exhaustive list of daily links with news on both sides of the issue, check out: spacetoday.net

  131. andy

    The visions of space travel developed by Wernher von Braun (with his good old American know-how) were developed before it was known just how lethally unpleasant space and the other planets were, particularly with regard to radiation. If Mars had tolerable conditions then things would be very different: probably there would be a major drive to go there and claim vast tracts of the planet in yet another manifestation of the imperialist tendency of the major powers. Regrettably we are stuck with the unforgiving and inhospitable planet that actually exists, not the canal-crossed planet we might want it to be.

    All environments beyond the Earth where it would be feasible to send people are far more lethal than Antarctica: taking Mars and the Moon for example, there’s the issue of the lack of air (and Mars’s atmosphere is sufficiently low pressure that breathable air would leak out only slightly slower), exposure to radiation, the micrometeorite problem (good for puncturing holes in the base), the issues of what the dust would do to the machinery and its unknown health effects. You then have the issue of remoteness: the problems with getting the resources back also imply problems with getting supplies to the base. You don’t get to go outside except on the inside of a controlled environment like a space suit, you’re in an enclosed society, and if it takes a direction you politically disagree with you have nowhere to go. If someone makes a mistake or has mental problems or gets angry, etc. the consequences can easily be death of not just the person in question but of everyone else as well. Does this sound like an environment where a healthy society can grow and flourish?

    Then there’s the economic justification or rather the lack of it: getting to the resources in space involves getting up and down the Earth’s gravity well, travelling around the solar system, and if we’re considering travelling to any object larger than an asteroid, getting up and down the destination’s gravity well. This is going to make any resources from space hugely more expensive than those produced on Earth. If you’re sending humans there to do the mining, add in the costs of sending the equipment to provide a habitable environment there as well. Furthermore there’s the question of what’s out there that we need to get from space: rocks and ice are plentiful down here. So even the idea of space facilities equivalent to oil rigs, supporting a workforce in a hostile environment to extract economically valuable resources, doesn’t seem to work.

  132. Maverick (#107): Congratulations for missing every single point I was making. Sigh. With that handle, I’m not surprised, either.

  133. Michel

    Maybe that´s what´s makes him a maverick…

  134. earth2allie

    So, Andy, what then do you propose? I agree with you that exploration of the SS would be much more appealing (or at least much less worrisome) if Mars were a lush, green, oxygen-rich planet. That’s a no-brainer since we’d rather send our humans to explore in a non-hostile environment over one that is hostile. However, I don’t agree that von Braun and types from his era of space exploration had misconceptions about the dangers of space. I admire them for accepting those dangers and proceeding to explore anyway. Clearly living in space will have its obstacles, but we are no strangers to these. Along with our task of getting to the Moon, we’re facing our own hurdles and doubt just as they were in the 60′s and 70′s. I can only hope we’ll do as good a job reaching our own goals.

    I don’t think anyone can deny that we’ve gained enormous amounts of knowledge and technology from the space program. When people ask me why we should keep the space program I always say that we learn things by exploration that improve our lives on a daily basis and could even save them some day. If that’s not a good enough reason, I don’t know what is. For me, it’s more a question of saying “when.” Having seen the fruits of our exploration, when do we say we’ve gained enough? Humans are explorers, we ask “why?” from the moment we are able to talk. At what point can we say we’ve learned everything we need to know about our environment, and who gets to make that choice? Until someone gives me a justified answer to that question, I’m going to keep exploring…

  135. Jeremy

    There’s only one thing that’s going to make commercial spaceflight succeed: ROI.

    For LEO, the only customers right now are satellite launches (a highly successful launch industry with lots of competition exists), and possibly the US government for human flight.

    If we are going to move beyond LEO, we’re going to have to look hard at the numbers. That means numbers with dollars signs attached. The folks at permanent.com have been fiddling around with business models for years.

    What’s needed is to have some serious case studies available, combined with some leadership to put together the kinds of consortiums that will be needed to make this a reality. It looks like companies like SpaceX, Bigelow Aerospace and others are all thinking in the right direction. Possibly the right amount of funding would throw the big players together in a room and make things happen.

    The alternative would be to wait for some group of national governments to do the same.

  136. Boris

    AN IMPORTANT QUESTION FOR ALL:
    If I want to work in the forefront of opening up the Moon and/or Mars for human’s settlement and development in my lifetime, where should I still go to (Chinese space agency, Europe space agency, US private space companies, NASA)?
    I understand this involves a lot of things, like the prediction of which organization will go faster, political will, economy, etc. I am amazed so many people response here, and that so many are enthusiastic about space, though we may feel there’s nothing we can do for it. So I am trying to gather lots of opinions here for my direction, thanks.

  137. Bill

    Assume for a moment, we already have a means to go from surface to LEO, and beyond,
    with existing classified reusable air/spacecraft systems. Then, the actions of NASA and our current funding debates are perfectly rational. Please, no conspiracy theories.

  138. Campbell

    Manned and unmanned missions should continue, but that’s not on Obama’s plate. There is no longer a space race. That “race” has been over for decades. Obama does not want manned space travel because it would create jobs, new technologies and advances in science in the private sector for America. Obama does not want to create advanced and efficient space travel, human or otherwise. His administration told the state controlled media that NASA’s plan to “colonize” the moon was shelved. There was never a plan to colonize the moon. The moon base was to be developed because it is far easier to launch from the moon to other parts of the solar system and beyond then from the earth requiring the development and use of new propulsion systems. The whole point of the program was to create a self sustaining base to launch vehicles and for scientific research. Space exploration is about human exploration and discovery of the unknown. Obama continues to convince the American people everyday that he fears that unknown and the evolution of the human species. If he can’t control or suppress it he wants no part of it. Obama will spend trillions on a climate hoax, a speedy train to nowhere or on so-called “green energy gimmicks” (wind power) but nothing that would advance human kind, science and our economy for generations.

  139. MadScientist

    @Elmar_M: Are you seriously saying that a crew vehicle can be lifted to the ISS by Falcon-1? Or will you try to convince me that Falcon-9 will miraculously do all this tomorrow? SpaceX only has promises at this stage; they are really not any further ahead than the Ares-1. Not to mention it was not expected that we would have any new vehicles for a number of years anyway. I still see no reason to believe any claims that someone will have a vehicle ready “in just 2 years” and at much lower cost. I’ve heard that so many times in the past 40 years and it has never been true, so I’m skeptical that such claims would be true this time around. Like I said, I’ll wait for SpaceX to prove themselves before praising them. And no, SpaceX does not have a vehicle rated for the job at hand. I have no idea why you are trumpeting Falcon-1 – it doesn’t offer a single thing that numerous other launch providers do not offer, nor is it relevant to putting humans in space.

    @Matt C: Unfortunately the whole east/west politics is as strong as ever. Unless the aerospace companies on one coast gobble up the companies on the other coast there will always be a lot of needless waste for local political gains.

  140. MadScientist

    Heh … just looking at my previous post and Elmar_M’s comment about Falcon-1. If the Wikipedia can be trusted there have been 5 scheduled launches of which 3 failed. Payload capacity to low earth orbit: 670kg. Yes, Falcon-1 will be fantastic for sending one person at a time to the ISS – or, statistically speaking, 2/5th of a person at a time.

  141. T.U.T.

    I live in a big house, in a nice neighborhood. My parents bring home a collective 200k per year. People always told me I was smart, but I don’t want to put forth the effort to earn the things that I like to consume. It’s easier to bash America and pose as a cynic than for me to admit I am 26 and too lazy to find work!

  142. Maverick

    You seemed to have missed… or avoided my point. You opening campaigned for this President on this site, now you all cry about the “changes” he has made. Instead of addressing that point you chose to make some lame attempt to bash the name I took from a 60′s TV show. Frankly I expected more wit.

  143. DaveS

    Bill@137, the assumption of classified man-launching DoD spacecraft IS a conspiracy theory.

    Cambell@138, you tipped your hand when you said “climate hoax”.

    Steve A@121, yeah, you’re right about Obama not canceling STS. I meant that WITH STS going away, canceling Constellation, even with it’s warts, gives us NOTHING, since Obama is suggesting no rational alternative program. And it surprises me to hear the good Doctor applauding that.

  144. @ TEL:

    If you’re not ignoring them, then you need to take responsibility for your share of the problem.

    You’re right. Henceforth I will ignore at least one troll.

  145. avimort

    As someone who helped get Spirit and Opportunity to where they are on Mars, and someone who teaches University level Geology, I can say that while I am as proud as heck of what the rovers have achieved, any one of my final year students could have gathered the same information they have, and covered the same distance, in 3 weeks, NOT in 6 years…

    That is the fundamental difference between human exploration and robotic exploration. When done by humans it’s (usually!) done faster, smarter, and more adaptably.

    Sure there are risks involved in space exploration, but I could fill up one hundred Mars expeditions full of people right now, even if they were certain that there was only a 20% chance of their safe return.
    Humans are pre-programmed to explore, to take risks, and without the chance to do so, we will stagnate on our own planet, and devolve into a race of navel-gazing slugs…

    Look upwards, and out into eternity, not inwards.

  146. T_U_T

    @142 ( the fake T.U.T ) Nice. Someone hates me now enough to try to post nonsense under my name. Did your parents forget to explain you, that identity theft is wrong ?

  147. Sticks

    Thanks, now I have that awful peace-nic song going through my head because of that blog title
    ;)

    BTW the chatter over here is that the real reason Obama has killed off the Moon mission is because it would prove the Americans never went there in the first place. I think they missed the pictures from the LRO.

  148. fatkid

    tut_Looks like you puked enough nonsense to show your own hand.

    I hope there are enough voters to keep NASA afloat, and enough oversight to get us to the moon. Aside from the obvious vantage point the moon will offer to future further exploration, the moon is an integral part of us all. I’d hate to see a private company sell shares to her exploitation.

  149. Frank

    Sticks- I wish I could disagree. How could we reach so far without the means of returning more efficiently? How do we reach the moon, and leave her so totally? It’s like a multibillion dollar one night stand that we didn’t even have to show up for.

  150. UmTutSut

    MadScientist wrote: “If the Wikipedia can be trusted there have been 5 scheduled launches of which 3 failed.”

    Just as important, the second and third Falcon 1 launches failed due to problems which engineers recognized and solved in the 1950s and 60s — POGO and residual first stage thrust. I’m greatly concerned that neither Space-X or any other of the “commercial space pioneers” has the institutional expertise to avoid mistakes already made in trying to launch larger vehicles.

    (FYI, I’m neither T.U.T. nor T_U-T!)

  151. Lee

    Now that we possibly actually have a viable new source for a plasma engine, will that not solve the payload issue of putting 160 metric tons into space? And I also agree, running a maglev train to accelerate the rocket into space is a perfectly valid solution. Given these two new possibilities, and with enough budget and passion, it should be viable to get a manned mission to mars. Now if we can only get the government (whichever one you are under at the moment) to agree that it should be a priority, then we are onto something. So let me ask you this, has anyone here ever written in, signed a petition, or done anything to put support towards this endeavor?

    Just a thought. I figure, the more people that write in, talk to a government official, and make a stance that says “Hey! I really do want this!” The better off we will all be.

  152. D-Dave

    Didn’t see anybody put this up, so I’ll add a little link to XKCD:


    http://xkcd.com/695/

    Awwwww….

  153. Boris

    I had, to the Bush admin and the congress office. Mars Society is actively doing this.

    Can somebody tell me if I want to work in the forefront of opening up the Moon and/or Mars for human’s settlement and development in my lifetime, where should I go to (Chinese space agency, European space agency, US private space companies, NASA)?

    I understand this involves a lot of concerns, like the prediction of which organization will go faster, political will, future economy, etc. I am amazed so many people responded here, and that so many are enthusiastic about space, though we may feel there’s nothing we can do for it. So I am trying to gather lots of opinions here for my direction, thanks.

  154. Acronym Jim

    Michel@129: I agree. To paraphrase Phil, Spirit is not bogged down, it merely has BOG.

  155. spacehistorian

    The blame for our current situation sits squarely with the American people & our lack of political will. We had the Apollo infrastructure ready to build upon in the late 60′s but the Nixon Administration took the axe to NASA’s budget & NASA had to over promise the capabilities of the Shuttle to save that program from being cut & the American people barely noticed or complained. So instead of using the heavy lift capability of the Saturn V & IB boosters to place a permanent manned station in LEO and return to put bases on the Moon & have the capability to launch a manned mission to Mars by 1984, we have been stuck in LEO ever since Apollo 17 returned from the moon in 1972. No matter what any President may propose, it won’t get off the ground unless Congress, backed by the support of the American people, fully funds the program over the long-term rather than based on election cycle.

    Our manned space program has met the enemy and it is us. Just imagine if we had just a small percentage of the tax dollars wasted on the two wars that we have waged during this past decade dedicated to building a HLV & a manned command capsule or craft. We could have built the foundation of the von Braun/Roddenberry vision for humanity’s future in space but we have sold that dream for short-term selfish interests and by our reaction to baseless fear mongering by our politicians pushing an agenda that drained our treasury and moral leadership. Karma is a female dog with puppies.

    I give President Obama credit for trying to change the culture of using NASA as a shiny toy where we have been promised the moon but somehow that outcome never materialized. If consistent funding is put into a HLV then we can build a workable infrastructure to get humans past LEO & out doing exploration & exploitation of the Moon, Mars, asteroids, etc.

  156. Habitat Hermit

    First off as an non-American that is pretty much not any kind of Obama fan politically speaking (the opposite really and although he’s not as bad as I feared I did fear that he would be insanely extremely bad so I’m not saying he’s done good in general because he hasn’t –I think he’s learning though) let’s give credit where it’s due: Obama and his administration has done something pretty awesome here –even better than the VSE (not the same as ESAS or Constellation, far from it)– not absolutely perfect in every way but close (in general I agree a lot with Dr. Paul Spudis on this and that and I remain somewhat unconvinced Flexible Path will work as intended) and has had some really good advice from among many others Lori Garver (who I also likely disagree a lot with on politics but which still seems like a good honest hardworking person who knows her stuff well, really well). Impressed by Bolden so far as well, no idea what his politics are and I couldn’t care less as long as he does a good job (and so far he’s living up to the little I think (i.e. that I assume from reading about his past) I know about him: he fixes broken “stuff” (organizations, systems) and fixes it well).

    Ok the rest of this comment is long and I want to apologize for it.

    Boris at #136 if you’re an American citizen with some solid skills in rocketry or engineering (maybe not necessarily with papers, the people you approach will soon be able to tell you if you’ve got what they want and would likely offer possible advice and suggestions if you don’t –but don’t run down their doors and don’t take anything for granted as they’re all very busy ^_^) or at least a strong heart and willingness to learn you should without any doubt go to one or several of the many US NewSpace firm like the one run by Dave Masten (that would be Masten Space Systems, NASA Northrup Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge winner, 2nd place in both levels if I remember correctly but very close calls with Armadillo Aerospace winning first in both). The same Dave Masten that tirelessly tries to inform a lot of substantially underinformed or misinformed people here and elsewhere. Unless they pay a lot of attention they’re excused by the way and of course people simply disagree at times no matter how informed or not.

    Of course Masten Space Systems does not hide that they’re currently in the fairly early stages working their way upwards slowly and carefully to suborbital (although orbital is their eventual goal and they will get there) with their VTVL RLV vehicles (just like Armadillo Aerospace and other less known people) and they’re not involved in the current brouhaha as a business except perhaps as an excellent example of US entrepreneurial guts and solid engineering. It’s still pretty much early days for suborbital NewSpace (but those early days also mean that it’s sometimes easier to join). Btw some people work many hours for free, sometimes entirely for free, at this stage it sometimes looks more like a lifestyle than a job (I’m saying this as an outsider on a different continent so have a decent quantity of salt available ^_^ however I try to follow it all as closely as possible, time permitting).

    Did I say I’m biased towards what MSS and the rest of NewSpace (mostly located in the US) and their supporters are doing ? You bet I am ^_^

    Of course if you’re aiming for orbital right now you might want to have a talk with SpaceX which is the (still I think) most popular company to apply to among newly educated rocket scientists according to Dr. David Livingstone (host of the radio and internet broadcast The Space Show), I occasionally disagree with the good Dr. on this or that detail but on this I’m 100% confident he’s right (any error is my own and I might be outdated by a year or two on this specific issue).

    Or if you would be more interested in something besides launch systems there’s Bigelow Aerospace with their two inflatable modules that are currently in orbit (and more to come). They’re technology demonstrators for habitable inflatable modules, Bigelow Aerospace is looking for all sort of very highly educated people primarily (those can be hard to get) in all sorts of diverse fields of science (including medicine) and engineering but I’m sure they occasionally might need other people as well (as might the other companies) and selfmade Mr. Bigelow appears to be the kind of person who loves honest hardworking effort. Actually I think I just described everybody in NewSpace there ^_^

    Quite bluntly although every human of course have their flaws and peculiarities there’s simply an amazing bunch of great individuals all across NewSpace.

    There are tons and tons of other companies as well, prolonged daily reading of RLVnews.com over at HobbySpace will slowly introduce you to many of them.

    And sure there is NASA, if things start going smoothly now NASA could become once again a truly great place to work. Also “OldSpace” (and particularly Lockheed Martin and ULA but it seems even Boeing might be getting into the new groove)) will also become even greater places with a more efficient sensible US space policy encouraging greater direct commercial involvement (and decision making on the engineering solutions).

    If you’re outside the US sure you might want to aim at your “local” agency. The Chinese are moving very slowly but have done fairly well so far, otherwise most likely not that appealing as a work culture unless it’s your own culture and know how stuff works “socially”. ESA is kind of a nightmare but they do have good people and Ariane (world leader on commercial launches) although the cultural thing applies twice (and I say this as an European living in an ESA member nation –nobody can out-bureaucratize and out-complicate the EU, nobody ^_^). I’ve got a real good impression of JAXA in particular and also ISRO, JAXA has had teething problems and are facing budgetary issues but I think working there would still be very good (despite their rather glacial speed) even as a foreigner if you enjoy the unique strangeness of Japan (I do, a solid bit of bias there). Both ISRO and JAXA seem very open minded yet fairly realistic as organizations to me. The Russians of course have in many ways the most solid background and experience possible be it Energia or Roskosmos, Russian culture might seem strange at first but if you can accpet or even cherish a culture that in many ways have more in common with the (in my opinion fairly solid but not flawless) social values of 50ies America and you have supreme understanding of and insight into what you’re doing (not just a degree or two) you should do fine (unless you just want to work at the conveyor belt in which case you’re out of luck unless you’re Russian).

    But there’s NewSpace (or closely related) activity in many places outside the US however on a much smaller scale: Switzerland, Romania, Denmark and possibly Germany (although I’m a bit unsure about the status of “pure” NewSpace there although I know a Google Lunar X-Prize team is based there and they’re active, same in Russia). New Zealand is also somewhat on the map. And depending on whether something like the N-Prize might appeal to you the scope widens to many other parts of the world.

    Happy hunting? ^_^

  157. Habitat Hermit

    I should add that of course there are many more, and in far more countries when I think it over (like England) and in different but related space industries (like satellites, not to mention space sciences/research directly related to broadly useful space engineering like ISRU, or tethers and crawlers and all sorts of interesting fields of endeavor) and interesting space agencies I left out (Brazil for instance despite their tragic setback a year or a few years ago) but it will have to do as is, hopefully you’ve gotten some helpful information to find even more on your own (and I know only those I know –not all of which I’ve mentioned because even with my limited outsider awareness it would quickly become far too long a list).

  158. Ol'Bob

    For more than 50 years NASA has been in the business of keeping private companies from gaining access to space. When NASA insiders (including Von Braun) got involved in private space efforts the French and Soviets stepped in to shut them down. (Look up OTRAG.)

    Now, the President has said that NASA astronauts should be tickets on commercial transports. Sounds good to me. A local guy who made his money on video games spent a couple of weeks on the ISS for less that what NASA would have spent on fuel to launch him to the same destination. You can buy a ticket to orbit right now. Why not use NASA to do the research to help US business offer the same ticket for a lower price? Makes sense to me. There is a private US company, Bigelow Aerospace, that has already tested an inflatable space habitat in orbit. The habitat is built on top of technology that NASA abandoned and was launched on a Russion launcher. NASA can help private space companies by moving into the role that NACA had back before they renamed it NASA.

    Many of us have been hoping for this change for decades. I for one salute President Obama for this wise and courages decision.

    Ol’Bob

  159. Boris

    @Habitat Hermit thanks for being the first to response. Due to my citizenship, language and cultural background, I am kind of limited to the CNSA, ESA, US NewSpace companies and NASA, which are anyway big players of space in the world.

    I am looking for a place where there are or will be projects going beyond the low earth orbit for sustained development, and wonder which organization will achieve that first. NewSpace companies are indeed exciting to provide cheaper mass access to LEO, but I doubt how soon they can open up the market beyond LEO, if they ever in my lifetime. It still seems to me to bring a moon base or other pioneering space projects, the governments still need to do them first. So where should I go?

  160. Habitat Hermit

    Boris: without any guarantees and assuming human/manned activity outside LEO I would have said the safest bet would be SpaceX and Bigelow Aerospace before the new approach for NASA, now afterwards it’s still very likely to be SpaceX and Bigelow Aerospace but under a contract to do so for NASA (i.e. servicing NASA astronauts and NASA goals). Elon Musk started SpaceX with an eye on Mars, Bigelow started Bigelow Aerospace with an eye on the whole universe but is as far as I know looking towards Luna after LEO ^_^ so neither of them want to limit themselves to LEO forever.

    If t/Space reactivates with a NASA contract I think they could surprisingly quickly be on their way to Luna. Not entirely sure they would need people though.

    However (and I don’t know this for sure nor any details) as a foreigner getting to work in this field in the US might not be all that easy, perhaps impossible. Considering the whole situation with ITAR when it comes to US companies and US technology it would be strange if it wasn’t a significant challenge to get to work on the very same technologies inside the US as a foreigner.

    CNSA has plenty of important experience to build up in LEO and has no official plans (or any overly likely capabilities) for manned operations beyond LEO for the next decades (which is extremely sensible; solid foundations are required –in a way NASA is doing just the same now but on the next level, overdue since they tried to skip it). ESA isn’t even as far as CNSA and ESA hasn’t really been all that eager on manned spaceflight (yet, could change and seems to slowly be changing, would likely change fast if Skylon –see below*– works out) and will have to do the same as CNSA if they want to be independent (and thus also able to contribute more significantly to any partners).

    Of course with an empowered US space business the path will eventually open up for both CNSA and ESA and anyone else to act smart and buy their services as customers and instead themselves focus on utilizing space for new additional capabilities and knowledge.

    * Of course there’s always the possibility of Reaction Engines Ltd. and their Skylon taking off big time but I don’t think they need more people, only time and success.

    All that aside if you are trying to enter from the top while also forecasting the future then that seems impossibly difficult and you might want to reconsider that approach, maybe instead do like Musk and Bigelow (and Bezos (Blue Origin), and Carmack (Armadillo Aerospace), and Masten (Masten Space Systems)) and do it the other way around by becoming adequately self-funded?

    Either way best of luck.

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