President Obama's NASA budget unveiled

By Phil Plait | February 1, 2010 11:06 am

NASA logoAs promised, today President Obama released his planned NASA budget for the year. Not too surprisingly, it’s pretty much as the rumors indicated. There’s a lot to say here, and I have a lot on my mind, so please hear me out.

The Good News

The good news for sure is an increase of $6 billion over the next five years. It stresses new technology and innovation (to the tune of over $1.5 billion), which is also good. A lot of NASA’s successes have been from pushing the limits on what can be done. It also stresses Earth science, which isn’t surprising at all; Obama appears to understand the importance of our environmental impact, including global warming. So that’s still good news.

The very very good news is that half that money — half, folks, 3.2 billion dollars — is going to science. Yeehaw! The release specifically notes telescopes and missions to the Moon and planets. That, my friends, sounds fantastic.

Bye bye Constellation

Now to the other aspects of this budget. As I have written before, this new budget axes Constellation:

NASA’s Constellation program – based largely on existing technologies – was based on a vision of returning astronauts back to the Moon by 2020. However, the program was over budget, behind schedule, and lacking in innovation due to a failure to invest in critical new technologies. Using a broad range of criteria an independent review panel determined that even if fully funded, NASA’s program to repeat many of the achievements of the Apollo era, 50 years later, was the least attractive approach to space exploration as compared to potential alternatives. Furthermore, NASA’s attempts to pursue its moon goals, while inadequate to that task, had drawn funding away from other NASA programs, including robotic space exploration, science, and Earth observations. The President’s Budget cancels Constellation and replaces it with a bold new approach that invests in the building blocks of a more capable approach to space exploration…

[Emphasis mine.]

I can’t say I disagree with much that’s written there. A lot of it is based on the conclusions of the Augustine commission, a blue-ribbon panel of experts appointed by Obama to look into NASA’s future plans and make recommendations.

The Space Station

The budget calls for extending the International Space Station beyond the 2016 timeline, perhaps for four more years. I would say this is a bad idea, BUT the budget also asks for extending the ISS’s scientific capabilities. I would be happy to see that; ISS is very limited as a science platform. However, the dang thing is already built and in orbit, so it makes sense to spend a little bit more (I was surprised to see only about $180 million for this) to make it useful scientifically. If that becomes the case, then a lot of the issues I have with ISS go away.

Incidentally, the budget calls for a guaranteed $600 million for the next five Shuttle missions to ISS, even if a launch slips into FY11.

Back to the Moon?

So, where does this leave us as far as going back to the Moon? It leaves us delayed, again. That sucks. However, as I have pointed out before, Constellation was already a mess. Behind schedule, over budget, and starved of funding. It was a mandate from the Bush White House, but never got the money it needed from them or Congress to ensure it could be done (this didn’t work when it was attempted from the Bush Sr. White House/Congress either).

I don’t want a repeat of the Apollo program: a flag-and-footprints mission where we go there, look around, and then come home for another 40 years. I want to go there and stay there. Apollo was done as a race, and the goal of a race is to win. It wasn’t sustainable. We need to be able to figure out how to get there and be there, and that takes more than just big rockets. We need a good plan, and I’m not really sure what we had up until this point is that plan.

Building a heavy-lift rocket that can take us to the Moon, Mars, and near-Earth asteroids is not really easy. It’s not like we can dust off the old Saturn V plans and start up the factories again. All that tech is gone, superseded, and we might as well start from scratch with an eye toward newer tech. This budget is calling for that, as well as relying heavily on private companies.

Commercial space

And about that. I’ll say this again: private companies have not yet put a man in orbit, but Space X, as an example, is close to doing so. Once the Shuttle retires later this year, private companies will be putting humans in space before NASA will have the capability to do so again [UPDATE: please see my comment below; the above statement about companies beating NASA is correct]. I am no fan of paying the Russians or other countries to do this for us, and going the route of civilian space makes sense.

Now, Space X doesn’t have the heavy lift capacity that an Ares 5 or other planned NASA rocket might have had… but with routine launches to space covered by private companies, NASA can concentrate on what it should: innovation, pushing the limits, paving the road. Once the road is laid, let others use it.

So I don’t see this as doom and gloom. I see this as 1) putting science and innovation first, and 2) freeing NASA up to do what it does best: explore the boundaries.

Here’s what I think. Warning: political complaining ahead.

Remember: the way we’ve been doing things for 40 years has gotten us literally in circles. It’s perhaps long past time to shake things up and try something different. In my previous posts on this (see Related Posts at the bottom), people are complaining that Obama is killing our Moon plans and gutting NASA. That’s simply not true. I think this may very well save NASA and our future manned exploration capabilities, if this is all done correctly.

As for that, and having said my piece that I think this is a good idea, it may not matter: the other thing to remember is that this must pass Congress first. I honestly don’t think that will happen. For one thing, two many Congresscritters have too big a stake in NASA to let go; if you don’t believe me, read this article where Alabama Congressmen complain about the new budget. When Republicans whine about privatizing something, you know you’re in for a fight, and it’s not like Congressional Democrats haven’t been all that useful in backing up Obama’s plans.

We’ll see how this goes. If it’s business as usual with Congress, then I suspect it may be a lot like the health care plan all over again: lots of spin and noise, lots of knee-jerk reactions because it’s Obama’s plan, lots of "compromise" that’s really just watering down something to make it worse, and then a budget will be passed that won’t be able to get anything done.

I’m pretty damn tired of that, and I’m going to do something about it. I’ll write my Congressmen, and I’ll tell them that the time for bending over backwards is long gone. It’s time to grow a spine, time for boldness, time for innovation. Whether people like it or not, this is the new budget being proposed, and if Congress wheedles over it, then yeah, NASA really will be screwed, and we’ll spend the next four decades circling our planet and gazing at the Moon, wondering when we’ll ever go back.

Perhaps it’s fitting that this news is released on the anniversary of the loss of Columbia — it’s been seven years since that day when the orbiter broke up upon re-entry. A very good case can be made that complacence played a big role in that event. When it comes to space exploration, we must never rest on our laurels, we must never have the arrogance to think we have it all under control, and we must never forget that to explore means to push ahead into unknown territory. That is the lesson of Columbia.

The Moon, Mars, and all of space await us. This new budget may not be perfect, but I strongly suspect it’s the best we can do, and far, far better than the course we currently have laid out. If we don’t push for this now, we may never go back.

A ship may be safe in the harbor, but that’s not what ships are for.




Related posts:
Give space a chance
RUMOR: Obama to axe Ares and Constellation
Apollo 1 redux: The inevitability of disaster


CATEGORIZED UNDER: NASA, Piece of mind, Politics

Comments (224)

Links to this Post

  1. President Obama’s NASA budget unveiled - DISCOVER | Build Solar Power Systems | February 1, 2010
  2. Nicolás Giorgetti » No más yanquis en la luna | February 1, 2010
  3. Lost Moon…Is Obama’s The Least Imaginative Administration Ever? « Maurizio – Omnologos | February 1, 2010
  4. It’s Time To Get Serious About Colonizing Space | Blog SDN | February 1, 2010
  5. Links for 2010 Feb 1 | Spontaneous ∂erivation | February 2, 2010
  6. Farvel til Constellation-programmet: hva nå, NASA? | 2050 | February 2, 2010
  7. Obama haalt streep door Constellation/Ares | Astroblogs | February 2, 2010
  8. Populär Astronomi - » Obamas nya NASA: dödsstöt eller smart vändning? | February 2, 2010
  9. Blog de Astronomia do astroPT » Missões à Lua canceladas! | February 2, 2010
  10. It’s Time To Get Serious About Colonizing Space » AllTheDurbin.com | February 4, 2010
  11. Rocket Party » Astronomy Fun | February 5, 2010
  12. Next Meeting, New Media for Astronomers and a Lunar Occultation - Richastro | February 7, 2010
  13. Fixing the budget « A Man With A Ph.D. | February 17, 2010
  14. Show notes for Episode 52 « Radio Freethinker | March 3, 2010
  15. 62 Mile Club » 10 Space Jobs From the Near Future | April 12, 2010
  16. Fox doesn’t need to understand Obama’s NASA plan to attack it | DEMOCRAT.GNOM.ES | April 15, 2010
  17. Pulse on Techs » Obama lays out bold and visionary revised space policy | Bad Astronomy | April 15, 2010
  18. NASA Wakes Up « Prose Encounters of the Nerd Kind | August 31, 2010
  19. What the F... has Obama done so far? Hilarious! - US Message Board - Political Discussion Forum | November 4, 2010
  1. IBY

    Man, then the chance this budget change might pass leaves me somewhat hopeless. The democrats don’t seem to have learned from their losses. And the republican resolve has been strenghtened by all of those so called “compromises” which they never vote for. And they then dare to hypocritically accuse the democrats for not compromising or whatever.
    Anyways, good article, and just like you, I am sick of the political dilly dallying.

  2. Kevin

    I don’t have the warm fuzzy feeling that you have, unfortunately. This whole thing sounds like Obama and his budgeteers have been watching too much bad science-fiction.

    To me it sounds more like a quote from A.C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End – “The Stars are not for Man.”

    I just hope I’m wrong. Which is silly, because I have no hope.

  3. T_U_T

    people are complaining that Obama is killing our Moon plans and gutting NASA. That’s simply not true.

    Well. that hypothesis is easy to test. If Obama plans gutting NASA, then ISS will get axed in short future.

  4. Huron

    Phil, you’ve bought into the bureaucratic doubletalk completely. NASA is stuck in LEO for another 10-15 years, if not more. Fitting that is released on the anniversary of Columbia? If by fitting, you mean pissing on the graves of the Columbia crew, you’re right. Likewise for the crews of Challenger and Apollo One, especially Apollo One.

    China may not be rushing forward in space exploration, but it appears to be on a steady path. They take the lead in space exploration by the 2020s. President Obama has just taken one giant leap backward.

  5. James

    Well if he is in the mood for cuts, then why doesn’t he cut the pointless wars the US is involved in and transfer the funds to NASA?

    As bad as these plans were at least they were something, they may have sparked the publics interest in space. We won’t see Americans on another world in our lifetime.

  6. John

    “Honest taxpaying astronomy blogger thinks that wasting NASA money on global warming is good news”

  7. Harman Smith

    @4 “President Obama has just taken one giant leap backward.”

    … by increasing NASA’s budget and having them focus on what works?

    IMO, NASA’s budget should have been increased even more. I just don’t see how 6 billion is all that much. The NASA folks and Charles Bolden sound very optimistic and happy about the new plan, but I don’t know. I guess it’s a step in the right direction. Constellation should’ve never been underfunded. The mistakes that were made should’ve never been made in the first place.

  8. andy

    You know I would love to see a good program aimed at long-term habitation on the Moon or Mars, but really what is needed at the present time is not a rocket program but more research into artificial ecologies (supplying a Moon base or especially a Mars base is going to be expensive and difficult) and closed environment psychology. One of the failures of the Biosphere 2 project was that the inhabitants split into factions who were barely on speaking terms: in a lethal environment like that of the Moon or Mars this is not something you want to happen. Such research can be done perfectly well on Earth. At the kind of costs that launching people to these destinations entails, the strategy of just lobbing hardware into space and hoping some of it does the job is no way to go about doing things.

  9. Sir Eccles

    I think NASA has many problems, some of which are image problems and some of which are institutional problems. From the public point of view it does some things really well such as the science stuff, sending probes to Mars and the like. Other stuff it does badly such as the grand schemes and plans to send men to where ever that inevitably in this day and age get delayed and over spent. That NASA might be allowed to concentrate on the stuff it does well might be a good thing.

    I think the words that people are missing from Obama’s speech with regards to Constellation is “lack of innovation” does manned rocketry actually progress by, in the public’s mind, “rebuilding Apollo”? Unfortunately we haven’t really got any of the sci fi star trek propulsion methods worked out yet, so I think we’re stuck. It might be that the best thing is to have a second NASA that does manned stuff and the first NASA sticks to probes and science. If this means private industry doing it without government help that may be for the best.

  10. Justin

    The investment in science and future space technologies is wonderful. The point of NASA, in my mind, is science.

    Potentially not having the ability to put Americans in space again for …. 10 – 20 or more years is depressing.

    Just my opinion.

  11. Aurelio

    Once again Phil Plait the super skeptic is skeptical of everything except Obama. Seriously Phil, you don’t have a problem with Obama axing Constellation and putting all that money towards climate change research? Not only that, but you failed to even ask “why can’t we do both?”. It’s pretty shocking how you take everything Obama says about NASA and science and spin it into the best possible outcome.

  12. First of all, this is a great, and I suspect highly realistic take on the subject. I like your space writing AND your political writing (even when I disagree) so it’s nice to see them come together.

    As someone who never bothered getting his hopes up for Obama (though I still voted for him, because the alternatives -yes I considered third parties- all sucked) this is bittersweet. I’m big on going back to the moon, setting up bases etc. I’m also big on giving NASA more to work with. I guess if I can’t have one (for now!) I may as well be content with the other. It’s a pity Al-Qaeda isn’t setting up terror-cells on the moon. (That is seriously one sentence I don’t think anyone has ever uttered before.)

    i think it’s a mistake to look to private companies to do all of our future space-work for us. This is especially the case in an era when companies are downsizing, outsourcing, or eliminating R&D. Profitability is a serious concern, and wealthy space tourists are only going to sustain so much for so long. Hell, we may not even have private space exploration if it weren’t for fantastically wealthy personalities like Richard Branson- who have failed at various ventures but have the money and emotional attachment to sustain it well past the point where any rational businessperson would have cut their losses. SpaceX probably wouldn’t exist without government money- NASA money namely.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not averse to the thought of private companies going into space. Hell, with my mild vision problem and my failure to “have the right stuff”, they’re the best chance I’ve got to merely visit orbit before I die. (Even if it’s only a slim chance.) I just don’t think the incentive to discover is going to be enough to sustain them.

    Still, I think that having the infrastructure ready to deliver to the moon isn’t as important as having the rocket that would take us there. I’m glad you raised the point that we can’t, or rather shouldn’t, recycle Saturn V schematics. Still, a permanent moon-base is an indefinite amount of time away- while a station in the moon’s orbit is far more realistic. (A pity we can’t just push the ISS over) At this stage, I freely admit I’m conjecturing: But energy requirements on the moon itself may be difficult to manage. How are we going to bulldoze regolith over a new station (which is presumably the best way to shield it from micro-meteors and radiation)? I’m not saying it’s impossible, but I do think it’s not going to fall into NASA’s budget anytime soon. I think a station in lunar orbit which can launch periodic excursions is a much more realistic and cost-effective way of doing science in the long-run. (At least for now)

    I do hope this can get passed. Much as I’m not completely happy with it, I dread the thought of whatever Frankenbill would be created in the spirit of “compromise”.

  13. The solution to “Building a heavy-lift rocket that can take us to the Moon, Mars, and near-Earth asteroids” is simple… Don’t do it.

    Concentrate on getting low-cost to orbit. It doesn’t have to be heavy lift if it’s cheap enough that we can launch several rockets for the cost of one heavy-lift rocket. Then develop interplanetary missions (manned and unmanned) from the point of view of launching them from ORBIT, not the ground. ISS is our toe-hold in space, but it needs to be more than a science platform. It needs to be an infrastructure supply point. It needs to be able to assemble boosters to launch satellites into Earth orbit and to send them on their way to other planets. It needs to be able to store fuel and cargo for more ambitious missions (such as humans to the moon)

    Going to the Moon should entail the development of a space-craft capable of launching from Earth orbit, dropping a lander on the Moon and returning to Earth orbit to pick up more cargo bound for the moon. Assembling the space craft in orbit solves a multitude of issues such as fuel, volume and shielding.

    Of course it might take a little more money and effort to get this sort of infrastructure up and running, but once it is, all segments of space exploration (to say nothing of other commercial endeavors) will benefit and each successive mission will cost less as we learn to do the same things more efficiently and safer. Ultimately it will be cheaper and easier to sustain through the lean years. Why is this such a hard concept for NASA to grasp?

  14. Cheyenne

    I think that was a very fair analysis from Phil.

    @Sir Eccles – I’d completely agree with the idea of splitting up NASA into two parts. Then we can more clearly see who produces better science, does exploration better, and achieves it in cheaper and more efficient way. Whoever wins that contest should get a greater chunk of our allocated space bucks each year.

  15. Wayne on the plains

    I’m not nearly as upset about the content of the NASA budget as I am the way this has been handled. How many speeches has the President given in the past year? If he’d preceded this budget announcement with a major space policy speech laying out the reasoning behind these changes, I would be much happier, but canceling Bush’s “vision” without replacing it with something better just really sends the wrong message about the importance of space exploration. How can I face my students and say, “Remember all that about us going back to the Moon? Well, forget that, but exploring space really is still important”?

  16. John T

    This from the New York Times (hardly Obama critics). With all due respect, I think it’s a much more realistic assessment of the situation than this blog post:

    “In place of the Moon mission, Mr. Obama’s vision offers, at least initially, nothing in terms of human exploration of the solar system. What the administration calls a “bold new initiative” does not spell out a next destination or timetable for getting there…

    If the approach succeeds, it could jumpstart a vibrant space industry, but it is also risky. By canceling Ares I, NASA would have no backup if the commercial companies were not able to deliver…

    NASA has also not yet spelled out how it would go about verifying that commercial rockets are sufficiently safe for carrying astronauts. A worry is also that the decades of expertise and experience within NASA in operating spacecraft will be lost, and that the commercial companies might stumble as they learn.

    A move to an international collaboration would also make future exploration programs susceptible to buffeting from diplomatic winds on Earth. For example, after Russia invaded Georgia in 2008, lawmakers questioned whether the United States should continue flying astronauts on the Russian Soyuz rockets.

    While more countries would share the cost, an international collaboration would probably be more expensive and cumbersome to manage, and could be slowed down by delays of any of the partners.”

  17. Samantha

    I agree with the new plan in spirit, but I live on the space coast and this is scaring me to death.

  18. “…private companies have not yet put a man in orbit, but Space X, as an example, is close to doing so.”

    No they’re not. In fact they’re even further away from launching a human being into orbit than Constellation is. If you doubt that then let me ask you this : What will they put the crew in? SpaceX Dragon? Come-on people, thinking that SpaceX will have a safe, credible, human launch capability in the next 5 years is pure fantasy.

    The talk about funding “Research and development to support future heavy-lift rocket systems…” is just that – talk. Sure we’ll throw the money around and we might even have some neat in-orbit technology demonstrations for youtube. In the end, however, there will be no manned launches and we will continue to rely on the Russians for trips to the ISS.

    Until we get tired of paying them that is. Then we’ll quietly drop the idea.

    No American company is going to spend the money to develop a manned launch vehicle. Why? Because there’s no money in it because there’s no need for it. The Russians have more enough capacity to handle the few more trips to the ISS that will be needed. Say about 50 more seats. In fact, since they’ll have no competition for the next 5 years, make that just 25 more seats.

    Personally I think, for good or bad, this is the end of the US manned spaceflight program.

  19. Aurelio (#11): You missed almost the entire point of what I said.

    First, getting a huge increase to NASA’s budget isn’t going to happen, so trying to do too much won’t work; that’s a big reason why Constellation is so far behind. I have made the case that we need to increase the budget, but right here, right now this is what we’ve got.

    Second, I said this plan is not perfect, but likely to be the best we can get.

    Third, if you go through older posts, you’ll see I have been critical of NASA.

  20. NoAstronomer (#19): I don’t know how far Space X is from putting people in space exactly, but Constellation was a solid five years from doing so even with no more delays. The first Dragon capsule flights are scheduled for this year, so in my opinion that puts them on a better track to put people in space than NASA has.

    The Space Shuttle is an amazing tool, but it’s a dead end technologically and for exploration. It’s only use is to finish the space station, and for a long time (before this budget, in fact) the ISS’s only use was as a target for the Shuttle.

    Calling this the end of US manned space exploration is simply wrong. If Congress digs in its heels and tries to do business as usual, then I think that would make it far more likely that we’ll continue to go nowhere for years, maybe decades, to come.

  21. Someone needs to make the case that studying global climate change is actually exactly where we should be putting our research if we want to do any long-term terraforming and colonization on another planet. Why not term it “PLANETARY CLIMATE CHANGE”?

  22. I’m really pretty surprised at all this nay-saying and hand-wringing. Really, folks? I am saying this is perfect, I’m saying this is better than what we have. Constellation was in serious trouble, as a lot of folks not just me) were saying.

    And as Fizzle (#16) pointed out, Buzz Aldrin approves of this as well. I don’t always agree with Buzz, but here I do. He has been saying NASA has lost its way, and I agree. As I said, it’s time to shake things up.

  23. Mchl

    I feel a bit disappointed (seeing Constellation cancelled)… But then, when so many people say it’s a good budget, BA among them (that can be both Buzz Aldrin and Bad Astronomer – choose whichever suits you best), maybe there is something in it…

    And I predict a new wave of moon hoax lunacy.
    “They can’t get there now! How could they go there then?”

  24. Dan

    I think leaving the future of the US space program in the hands of private companies is a severe mistake that we will end up regretting for many decades.

    NASA will soon have no means of putting astronauts into orbit or reaching the ISS. We will be in the extremely risky and politically dangerous position of begging the Russians to use their superior capabilities to get us there. In place of our own capabilities, we will gamble our future on a bunch of private companies, none of which has so much as put a man into orbit. Does anyone believe these companies will not be hit by massive delays and cost overruns? Is there a government contractor that hasn’t?

    And even when the private companies become capable, we need to remember the key difference between private and public enterprises: private companies operate TO MAKE A PROFIT. They are not primarily interested in pushing the limits of innovation and discovery, they are interested in paying back their shareholders and maximizing returns. If the most profitable activity is putting huge billboards in space saying “Coca Cola is out of this world”, then that’s what they will concentrate on. Why would they want to undertake the kind of huge and possibly unprofitable investments that NASA does? They will play it safe; that’s what they are supposed to do.

    To close, let me point out that by 2020 we may see Chinese astronauts planting their flag on the moon. At that time, when your kid turns to you and says “Daddy/Mommy, why can’t America send people to the Moon?”, what can you answer? “Sorry son, America is too cheap. The Chinese have surpassed us”.

  25. andy

    These anti-Obama posts seem to be fundamentally missing two key points: one, the choice was not Obama versus a universe of possible candidates, it was Obama versus McCain; two, there are other issues besides space travel to think about when choosing a candidate.

    But then again, I’m just a European, so what do I know…

  26. Also, the head of the Augustine commission has weighed in:

    The plan released with the President’s FY 2011 budget does appear to respond to the primary concerns highlighted in our committee’s report. By extending the ISS to 2020, NASA and our many international partners will be able to capitalize on the full capability of this unique orbiting laboratory. By making a significant investment in creating commercial capabilities to take humans and cargo to low-Earth-orbit, overseen from a safety-standpoint by NASA, will drive competition, lower costs, open new markets and make space more accessible. Similarly, by allocating the technology resources highlighted in our report as being necessary, it will be possible to lay the foundation for travel beyond low-Earth-orbit, including destinations such as the asteroids, the Lagrangian points, Mars’ moons and Mars itself, as well as revisits to our own Moon. NASA will be able to focus on this true frontier and to regain its position as a cutting-edge research and development organization.

    That sounds pretty much like what I wrote in my post.

  27. EOMS

    So in short, Bush wrote a hot check for Constellation?

  28. Dan (#25): Once the Shuttle retires, NASA won’t have the means for putting people into space for a long time even if Constellation doesn’t have any delays. The companies may have delays, but from what I have seen, they handle them far better than NASA can. Nothing against NASA there, but it has a vast bureaucracy, and smaller companies can respond more quickly to problems.

  29. Mchl

    Yeah… I keep my fingers crossed for SpaceX et al. Can’t wait for Falcon 9 launch… With any luck… ok with a lot of luck and very little of bad luck we might hear they (or some other private company/consortium) start they own Moon programme.

  30. Stan9FOS

    “As long as humans spend all their time & energy moving numbers from one column to another, and arguing with one another about the relative merits of their arithmetic, they can avoid actually doing anything indefinitely.”
    Signed, The Alien Spectators (They think this place is a hoot!)

  31. Space Cadet

    Buzz agrees with the budget. Hmmm. Having met him and sat in many meetings with him, I would wonder if he owns stock in these private companies…

  32. Ari

    We recognized Constellation as the “best we could do” and by that I mean a vision that would be supported by NASA (read support = keep job = congressional approval). What we needed then, and what Obama is risking to propose now, is fundamental change that allows NASA to do what it does best and get out of the “space truck” business. The question now (as it was then) is congress willing to support a “real” space program or not. How important is 30,000 jobs (10,000 in my county alone) to members from those districts compared to other members supporting a robust space program with even more jobs spread throughout the country? The answer I fear is those with the most to lose (Nelson, Shelby, etc) are likely to carry the day. How I would like to be wrong for all of us.

  33. Paul from VA

    I did some looking through the various budgets that came out today. One thing I saw is that astronomy seems to maintain it’s current level of NSF funding (increase in line with inflation of ~2.5%), with the exception being Arecibo seeing a pretty severe cutback in astronomy funding, as recommended by the last NSF panel.

    As for Astronomy and NASA, I wish there were more information out there. All I can find is a flat-ish budget for the next several years. JWST, NuSTAR, and Astro-H are the only missions mentioned for launch in the next 5 years. Did JWST eat the rest of the astro budget?

  34. UmTutSut

    I’ll paraphrase what I said in the other budget-related thread. My beef is not with the *concept* of turning LEO over to private industry, but with the execution. The “commercial space pioneers” have not demonstrated any real ability to produce a human-rated launch vehicle sooner than Ares I would fly. And I’m very skeptical that these commercial entities have the institutional engineering knowledge to avoid mistakes in launch vehicle development recognized and solved decades ago. For example, the second and third Falcon 1 launches failed because of such problems — POGO and residual first stage thrust — recognized and fixed in the 1950s and 1960s. Whatever. What choice do we have but to wish these guys good luck? Looks like they’re gonna be our only ticket to ride.

  35. Alex

    What lacks is a long-term goal or even a vision. Putting more money in science and the development of new technologies sounds nice, but where should this lead? The budget request looks pragmatic and feasible, but also arbitrarily and not really inspiring.

  36. Dan

    Phil #25: I certainly understand what you are saying conceptually. As an entrepreneur myself I am generally a big proponent of the speed and resourcefulness of private enterprises. But I also know how they operate: they need to show return on their investments, so by necessity they must be risk-adverse. And cutting-edge space exploration is inherently risky from an investment standpoint.

    I’m not necessarily saying they should keep Constellation going; I am far too ignorant of the engineering details to support Constellation vs. some of the other proposals that were out there. But I am saying this is a HUGE gamble to dismantle NASA’s capabilities for manned flight and assume private companies will pick up the slack (or that some future budget will magically find the resources to restart NASA’s program). In any major policy decision one needs to look at the worst case scenario, and I think the worst case scenario here is that we may be ceding leadership in space exploration to the Chinese for a generation.

  37. James

    Perhaps it IS a good idea to start from scratch…

    …but that also means we won’t see manned Moon/Mars landings from NASA in our lifetimes…

    So it’s not something I’m personally very happy about.

    We just have to hope that China gets its Moon program going… or that NASA could find a cheep way to get to Phobos at the least.

    I’d love to see something like this happen before I die.

    But in the long term, we have to build large self sufficient bases with oxygen gardens and mining facilities on the Moon, Mars and elsewhere. Even if we do this robotically to start with, that’s fine, but our ultimate goal should be permanent human settlements away from Earth.

    After all, what is the point of being an intelligent species, if we don’t use our intelligence to explore the world around us?

    It’s like living our whole lives inside a cave because going outside is too much effort.

  38. SkatesCCM

    “Behind schedule, over budget, and starved of funding …”

    What government project, idea, entity has never been all of the above? Which leads me to ask, how can something be over budget and starved of funding? Makes no sense, just like all the complaints about made-up global warming.

  39. SkatesCCM (#41) If you think global warming is made up, then no wonder that statement confuses you.

    If something is over budget, that can mean that not enough money was designated for it in the first place. With the limited budget Constellation has, it’s running over that budget in production. Understand? If I give you a dollar to buy a car, and you buy a $10,000 car, you were both not given enough money and running over budget.

  40. Michael

    Sometimes I feel like a flag-and-footprints mission is just what we need to renew the general public’s support. But you do make some good points. I’ll be writing to my congresspeople too. NASA could certainly use the money, and if we had to choose between a shot at the moon or a lot of new science, I’ll go with the science. In the long run, that’s what will have the greatest return.

  41. Wesley Struebing

    You are right, Phil, and I withdraw an earlier tweet to you. It was my doppelganger (grin)…I DO have a real concern, though about commercial ventures really getting us “out there”. Without Space X and some of the other incentive competitions, I have trouble seeing them see past near earth, where the companies are relatively certain they CAN and will make a profit. With ‘5-year plans” and bottom lines, I just don’t see them investing the time and especially the money to explore – and it’s gonna TAKE exploration first, in my mind, of a human kind (Spirit and Opportunity, say are great science tools, but they’re raising questions that only humans BEING there are gonna be able to answer). Maybe I’m too cynical, today.

  42. Ken

    #41: Over budget = going to take a lot more $$ to finish than planned.
    Starved of budget = the $$ ain’t there to do it.

  43. tacitus

    Enough of the whining about the Chinese beating us to the Moon already!

    The future of human beings in space belongs to all nations, not just the Americans or the Chinese. In the long run it doesn’t matter one jot if it’s China, America, Russia, or even little Liechtenstein that gets to the Moon first (from today).

    If China wants to invest its new found wealth in an aggressive space program that gets them to the Moon in 10 years, then more power to them. The sooner the better, I say. This isn’t a repeat of the Cold War, where the overriding objective was a propaganda victory over those evil commie Soviets. Those days of jingoism dressed up as patriotism should be long behind us — Americans should have more confidence than that.

    I have absolutely no doubt that the USA will continue to be in the vanguard of space technology and exploration for decades to come. What we don’t need is to always be the front-runner in every high profile venture that tickles the public fancy. If building a sustainable presence on the Moon means it takes a decade longer than it take the Chinese to plant their flag on the Moon then so be it. Let China take the spotlight — I will be happy to cheer them on.

    Any investment in the (peaceful) development of space, from any country, is a win in my book.

  44. Joey Joe Joe

    The ISS is the ultimate Nigerian scam. Just give us a little more money and it will work, we promise!

    We should just cut our losses and dump it into the Pacific now.

  45. Harman Smith

    If China wants to get to the Moon for the sake of just going there, let ‘em. I don’t care. The US already went there a long time ago. Now, if the Chinese wanted to build a Moon colony there as soon as they get there, I’d be worried (and embarrassed).

    @32, “Buzz agrees with the budget. Hmmm. Having met him and sat in many meetings with him, I would wonder if he owns stock in these private companies…”

    If you’re suggesting Aldrin only agrees with the budget simply because he personally invested in private space companies, that reasoning can work the other way around. (BECAUSE he thinks private space companies are the future, he invested in them.)

  46. doofus

    We choose to piddle around. We choose to piddle around in this decade and not do other things, not because they are easy, but because they are politically tolerable.

  47. christopher (hartford, ct)

    If Apollo got people to the moon in 8 years, with a room full of computers dumber than my cellphone, why can’t Space X get a person into orbit within 5 years? Why did Constellation decide it was going to take 30 years to go back to Luna? Where is the challenge in taking three times as long to do something we already did? CxP has always seemed like a bad idea to me, it was a way for an administrative-heavy organization to work with the good ol’ boys over several decades, making sure everyone gets paid with no accountability for anyone involved. The problem with Constellation is that it had no vision from the get-go, it was just a way of maintaining the space status quo. Private space companies have competition, they’ll spur the innovation needed to make the next great leap forward. And if they don’t, they’ll fold up their tent and let the next guy take a crack with a lot less of a hit to the tax-payer than the CxP program wasting 5 years to design a booster. It seems to me that this budget is far from the end of manned space exploration because, although the shuttle is beautiful, human beings haven’t been personally exploring space for a great deal of time now. The Planetary Society embracing this is probably a good indication of this not killing manned spaceflight.

  48. Mchl

    @tacitus #46: It’s not about Chinese beating us. It’s about Chinese beating US. ESA (that’s mine ‘us’) has no plans for Moon landings and hardly any for human flights (there are some vague projects of human rated ATV), so Europe cannot be beaten… woohoo!!!! :P

  49. Ken

    I generally agree about the notion of splitting NASA into two parts, but I would call it a “science side” and an “engineering side”.

    Remember the first “A” in “NASA”? Dryden and their ilk have never been about science. They are pushing the envelope of aeronautical engineering all the time, finding ways to make aircraft faster, more fuel efficient, more maneuverable, etc. I think manned spaceflight should go under that arm. Arguably launchers in general should be there.

    Then the JPL and Goddard folks can concentrate on traditional science payloads, robotic interplanetary exploration, piling on global warming evidence, whatever.

    Right now I agree that manned spaceflight produces very little science. However Iv’e said before that it’s all about the engineering – it will *never* get cheaper or safer until we get lots of experience, and the only way to get experience is to *do* it. That includes things like ISS – build an insanely complex facility in orbit just to develop and refine the technology to *do* it, then hand it over to the science and business development folks. We will *not* be able to learn how to build large complex structures in orbit until we *do* it.

    So I have mixed feelings about Constellation. It’s sad to see it up for termination because it was at least doing *something*. However I understand that at some point it may be necessary to cut losses for a program that’s too far astray. I just wish it was being replaced with *something* in the direction of manned spaceflight.

    I’m curious – what happens if the Russians simply decide not to sell Americans seats on their ships anymore? Without an independent manned launch capability we might as well simply hand them the keys to ISS with a nice bow on them.

  50. IVAN3MAN AT LARGE

    SkatesCCM (#41):

    Which leads me to ask, how can something be over budget and starved of funding? Makes no sense…

    Obviously, you have never been a college/university student deep in debt!

  51. DigitalAxis

    @36 Dan: The problem is, NASA has been very risk-averse for a while now. Challenger and Columbia were treated as huge debacles; the X-33 wedge-shaped replacement for the space shuttle went nowhere and took way too long to do it (My understanding is that they tried to develop all-new technologies for it, but there simply wasn’t the money or the time to do it?) One could argue that focusing on what NASA’s already good at is yet another risk-averse scenario.

    ——–

    So, this budget is good for all parts of NASA except manned spaceflight. That’s good for me professionally, but at the same time I always thought manned spaceflight was NASA’s raison d’etre. It’s sad to see that dream has become impractical. On the other hand, the only way NASA can really continue manned space flight and all the other things they’re directed to do is if Congress gives them a lot MORE money on top of what Obama is proposing*.

    I somehow suspect the affected senators won’t propose more money to sustain and expand NASA’s mission; that would conflict with their contention that the President has been spending too much already.

    Final thought, I think we DO need some powerful heavy lift rockets. Maybe not the Aries V itself, but there’s a lot more you can do with a larger payload capacity.

    *and I get the impression that the end products would be the giant monstrosities akin to Apollo, only slower to produce because the agency still would have far less money.

  52. For those that are interested, the complete history of every NASA annual budget from 1958-2009 is available at the link in my name. It peaked in 1966 where it was 5.5% of the total federal budget (32 billion in 2007 dollars), and the proposed 2010 budget comes in at 0.52% (17 billion in 2007 dollars).

    According to the article, the total cost of the Apollo program was approximately $136 billion in 2007 dollars. For comparison, the International Space Station will cost around 157 billion dollars by the time it’s completed (source: Wikipedia: “World’s most expensive single objects”).

  53. Question:
    The second to last heading on the Management & Budget website lists “Increase funding to detect asteroids that could potentially pose a hazard to the Earth” as a bullet point, but doesn’t give a dollar figure. Since everything else has a dollar amount attached to it, I find that disconcerting. Are they just going to pray really hard about it and hope God smacks those nasty asteroids away with his tennis racket? (It’s a REALLY BIG racket, as you can imagine.) Or is there ACTUAL MONEY being budgeted towards this purpose?

    Not that I’m fatalistic, but there’s nothing like a little Armageddon to really bring people together.

    Overall, I think the new budget seems like a step in the right direction; a step we won’t get to take. One small step for man is one giant leap for congress.

  54. Dan

    #45 Tacitus and #47 Harman: No offense meant, but I think you are misunderstanding how the Chinese (and I think much of the rest of the world) think about this.

    In China, television news routinely shows American accomplishments in space: Shuttle launches, ISS activities, Mars rover updates. They are seen as evidence of a great country, one China aspires to copy. Between our economic power and our scientific accomplishments (including in space), America has been viewed for generations with great respect. And don’t fool yourself: that respect translates into billions of dollars of income to US companies that rely on the “cool factor” to export overseas (clothing, drinks, electronics, cars, etc).

    But now the Chinese (and much of the rest of the world) see the US as in decline. Our economy floundering, our politicians unable to agree, our culture focused on short-term empty consumption. They see us as unable or unwilling to be the leader that we once were.

    And how does this play into that? The US, the undisputed leader in exploration, the country that put men on the moon, can’t even send men to their own space station. We have to ask the Russians for help. Meanwhile the Chinese (and maybe India?) are going full steam ahead, landing men on the moon and cementing the idea that the balance of power has shifted. The rest of the world doesn’t care about budgetary issues or Constellation vs. private enterprise questions. They simply see China can do it and we can’t.

    Symbolism matters. It matters a lot. The fact that we did something 50 years ago won’t matter as much as the fact that we can’t do it anymore.

  55. Harman Smith

    @56,

    I think that ultimately NASA’s new direction will mean that the US will still pave the way for space exploration. The Chinese may do stuff with the Moon, but NASA right now is going to invest and innovate to make the next great leaps.

  56. christopher (hartford, ct)

    Dan #56, I agree that symbolism matters, but at this point, we’ve all seen the wonderful “blue marble” pictures of Earth. We’ve pretty much run out of ‘first person of X background in space’ to send up. It’s a well known fact that, whomever you are, you can go hang out on the ISS if you have a cool 25M to spend on it. I’m not sure how powerful going up to low earth orbit is as a symbol these days. What the US does have, is 2 rovers who are on Mars, Cassini flying loops around Saturn and returning amazing photos of the most awe-inspiring sight in our system, the rings, New Horizons moving as the fastest man-made object ever. Pretty soon Kepler data is going to be leading to discover scores of new exo-planets. My point is that the US and NASA will still be the leader in, “holy crap, I’ve never seen -that- before” moments in space exploration for years to come. There is big symbolic power in that, and I think it’s more impressive than just rehashing old achievements. Personally, I think “sending a human into orbit” will be the new “detonating an atomic bomb” as far as a country announcing itself as a full-fledge member of the Grown Up Table. And the more folks the better. But landing on the Moon is only as big of a symbol as we make it. If NASA panics and say, “oh noes! we can land on the Moon!” then the world will take notice. But when you’re landing probes on Titan, it’s pretty clear that you could go back to the Moon if you wanted to.

  57. [crap. I posted a long response here, which was either moderated out or swallowed by the blog software. Trying again, shorter version]

    Phil, I agree with you in principle. However, I’m terribly afraid that we’re regressing NASA to the point that we won’t have human space flight for the forseeable future.

    Basically, the Obama administration had 3 arms of NASA spending. 1) space station 2) shuttle/manned spaceflight 3) robotic exploration. The space station is overspent and underperforming. The shuttle is a military-driven awful piece of engineering (see R. Feynman’s appendix to the Challenger report) 3) JPL clearly knows how to get stuff dong and is going gangbusters doing meaningful science on Mars.

    If I was faced with those three output channels and told that we can only do one well, perhaps with part of a second, I can see why they made that decision.

    However, private space exploration is a BIIIIIIIG IF. I think analytically this proposal is the best bang for the buck. But (IF it goes through as the budget) a vast quantity of people at NASA who do manned spaceflight will see this as the end of their jobs and leave to go to something else. NASA will LOSE the personnel and ability to do manned spaceflight.

    Clearly Bush Jr’s call to push for Mars missions was crap, and everyone knew it. But I was hoping that out of it would come a vehicle that could at least shuttle personnel back and forth to the ISS. It’s going to be very hard to participate in ISS activities if the US doesn’t have any way to get people to the station except via Soyuz.

    I was hoping that the remnants of Ares I would survive and become a viable orbit-capabile vehicle to keep our hand in. I’m afraid that without that, NASA’s ability and will to do manned spaceflight will atrophy very quickly and we’ll be left entirely without it.

  58. Told ya. While you were busy blaming everything on Republicans, Democrats were chomping at the bit to gut science. Once the Democrats took over, you were more than happy to give them the benefit of the doubt as they cut NASA whenever they possibly could. Now, National Aeronautics and Space Administration will be expected to count tree rings to prove something that IOCC couldn’t prove in the first place. Sure, free-enterprise inter-stellar travel is wonderful. But, who’s got a billion dollars to get it done? Sir Richard’s doing all he can, he hasn’t even reached orbit. The technology’s been there since 1964. Why aren’t they cruising? It’s expensive, that’s why. The chance for profit at this time slim to none. Other than a hand full of thrill seekers, there’s not reason for the average company to spend money on space travel. That’s why it’s so important that well funded governments lead the way. They don’t have to show a profit with every venture. And now, watch as China, Japan, India, and probably a dozen other countries reap the rewards of US taxpayer funding as they use the technology we gave them to jump ahead of us in space travel. If we need to go fix Hubble again, who will we pay to do it?

    This is stupid. It’s short sighted. It’s poisoned by political correctness. As bizarre as it may seem at this time in history, we lost the space race to several different countries that now can do what Obama’s administration can’t. This just sickens me.

  59. andy

    It’s like living our whole lives inside a cave because going outside is too much effort.

    And the most likely place where people living on the Moon and Mars will have to end up to escape the lethal effects of radiation and meteorites?

    I have to say, I do like this “abandoning the Moon and Mars is equivalent to going and living in a cave” analogy…

  60. Dan

    Christopher #59: I hope you are right; I really do. But my gut feeling is that while Kepler data and the speed of New Horizons may be very interesting to us science geeks, to the average (and much more populous) Joe, it will pale in comparison to “Man, China’s got a man walking (or living) on the Moon!”

    If I may once again use a China reference (I’ll stop after this, really!), I think this historical reference is very appropriate:

    In the early 1400’s the Chinese had the largest ships in the world and were extending their voyages of discovery to great lengths, going as far as Africa. They were poised to become the dominant maritime power of the world, and it is completely feasible that it might have been China discovering and colonizing the Americas before Europeans. But when a new emperor took over around 1424 it was decided to focus on domestic priorities instead of “wasteful” exploration, so the ships of the fleet were burned and China closed itself, beginning a gradual decline and allowing foreign (European) powers to rise in its place.

    I pray we are not repeating history.

  61. I am on a telecon right now with several space companies, and they all are looking at putting people into orbit around 2013-2014, and it will cost roughly $20 million per person. Assuming no delays either with them, or if NASA goes ahead with Ares, this is a solid year ahead of when NASA can put people in orbit after the Shuttle retires.

    I stand by my statement in the post and in earlier posts. Private companies will be putting people in orbit long before NASA will be able to after the Shuttle retires.

  62. minusRusty

    “the Augustine commission”?!?

    Heh. (Private humor. Sorry. I really wish I knew how to get a personal message to him.)

    -Rusty

  63. What do the Russians charge per person?

  64. Arch

    If we weren’t constantly dragged into pointless wars and didn’t have to watch CONGRESS VOTING THEMSELVES A RAISE EVERY YEAR, I might have bought their nonsense. Sorry, wavering.

    2010. The year contact became that much more impossible.

    http://pillownaut.blogspot.com/2010/02/question-mark-2010.html

  65. Jamey

    If we wait for NASA – we’ll never get anywhere in space.

    1) Pretty much any project requires the commitment of more than 10 years – but no President will sit more than 8. Therefore, any project that is likely to succeed will get axed just as it’s ready to go, simply to get more money for the new administration’s little pet projects.

    2) NASA is so focused on making sure absolutely *NOBODY* ever has any chance to die, that they’ll keep pushing to wait until we perfect this technology or that one – but no technology is *EVER* perfect, and by the time it’s good enough, there’s always some newer and better technology that we need to wait for that will make it even safer. For an amazingly prescient look at this problem, I commend to you “The Martyr”, contained in _Psi High and Others_, by Alan E. Nourse.

    Here’s cheering for SpaceX, Bigelow, Armadillo, Virgin Galactic, Scaled Composites, and the rest who want to *DO* things, not just send off robots to do the few limited things robots can do.

  66. Grand Lunar

    When I heard of the ideas for the new plan, I recalled another article that Dr. Aldrin wrote that proposed a similar idea to the “flexible path”.

    I figured that the Ares rockets would be axed one day. Didn’t imagine that it would take Constellation down as well!

    Seeing what Falcon 9 and the Dragon spacecraft can do, I hope that both can take up into Earth orbit, while NASA focuses on the new heavy lift.
    And, as I love to say, Direct has shown how THAT can be done.

    While the moon would remain untouched for a long while, it would be interesting to see asteroid missions take place, and especially Martian moon missions. It might capture public interest again.

    It would be nice to see this budget approved. An increase for NASA is long overdue.

    As written elsewhere, indeed, if Congress wants to cut something big, there’s a useless conflict going on that’s ripe for the picking.

  67. I've got a teabag for ya'

    Moonage- ‘democrats..chomping at the bit to gut science’? The crazy thing about the rhetoric from the right wing is that they might actually believe it! One reason foreign countries have the dough to go is that for most of a decade we gave tax cuts to U.S. companies base their businesses there, robbing us of jobs and taxes. We’ve got an enormous amount of debt that took longer than this year to amass. Unless people take action by blogging, writing letters, speaking up at town hall meetings(appropriately) and getting the people around them to complain to their elected officials, N.A.S.A. will just be another voice crying in the night.

    Believe me, there are a lot of republicans who voted for Obama because of what it would mean for Science if the white house was put in the hands of the religious right for another 4 years.

  68. Joe

    This is the first piece of Obama legislation that has made me really excited. The future of space is in private companies. As the economist of the century Milton Friedman once said, “Show me a subsidized industry and I will show you a second-rate industry”. I think in this case “subsidized” can also refer to government-run. NASA is just like Amtrak: succeeding in the premise but flawed in concept. No, we never would have gotten to the Moon when we did if it weren’t for government initiative. But situations like that are the exception, not the rule.

    I was shocked and excited when I saw Space X’s website the other day (linked from this blog). I literally had no idea how far along they were. Phil’s absolutely right: Private companies are lightyears (har har) ahead of NASA in terms of technology and space capability.

  69. Joe

    IMForeman #66:

    I don’t remember the exact figure, but I do know that it was considerably larger than the $20 million/person Space X is charging.

  70. Katharine

    You know, now I think this might be okay.

    Private companies are not constrained by taxes with regard to developing these things.

    Just make sure, of course, they’re run ethically and that their science is sound.

  71. @Phil #64

    Sure, they say they can and they say they want to. But the fact is Ares has launched, Falcon 9 has not. Who will these private companies be carrying? If it’s NASA astronauts to the ISS then the paperwork alone will bury SpaceX.

    For now I’ll stand back and watch but I’m extremely pessimistic.

  72. Are these new space companies going to be subject to the administration of the FAA or the NTSB? Or will part of NASA spinoff to form a new Space Safety Administration.

  73. BTW: On the subject of letting private companies send up our astronauts… Where do you think the Shuttle came from.? It wasn’t built by NASA. Neither the government nor NASA owns the Shuttle. Commercial space is already a reality. All this “new direction” does is say that NASA isn’t going to launch them any more. Saying that the private sector can’t pull it off is just stupid. They’ve been doing it for years since technically, Boeing is part of the private sector. Last time I looked, they weren’t a government agency. They built most of the technology the shuttle uses. If Space X or some other group can’t hack it, then a company like Boeing will.

    The idea is to stimulate the commercial market to compete to put people and cargo into space. That can only be good for the industry.

  74. Tacitus said:

    “Enough of the whining about the Chinese beating us to the Moon already! “

    A-FRIGGIN’-MEN. Much of the Sino-phobia is an overreaction anyway. China is by no means more powerful (or even close) than the US economically. Read the Economist from the week of December 14th (I think) with the banana on the cover: It points to a survey that shows (especially American) fears about China are vastly out-of-sync with objective reality. Maybe one day, in the bleary-eyed future, China will be our co-superpower, but the simple fact of the matter is China is still fundamentally a poor country with consequently cheap labor and an artificially depressed currency that keeps it that way to some extent. Just because the media and the pundits are whining up a storm about China, it doesn’t mean the current level of concern is merited.

    Meanwhile, this is SPACE. for the benefit of humanity and the furtherence of knowledge, and the stretching of boundaries and the squishing of obstacles and all that mushy stuff! I don’t care if the people who are making the most progress at the moment have a red and yellow flag painted on the spacecraft. I’m a numismatist, a fancy word for coin-collector, do you know how many countries have coins commemorating the (American) crew that landed on the moon? Despite the fact that part of the motivation behind putting people there was political- it was one small step for man and a giant leap for mankind. Sure it was a misspoken sentence, and technically saying “man” to represent humanity is somewhat outdated now, but nowhere in there did Armstrong say something equivalent to: “U! S! A! NUM! BER! ONE!” People are naturally proud when their own countrymen achieve something, but we’re all part of a larger human family that has achieved so much collectively that our petty granfalloonery seems anathema.

    Edited to add:

    Also, the whole Democrats vs. Republicans thing had gotten realllllly old. When people start bickering over which party is more incompetent the response should be, “Now, now, adults are talking.”

    Career politicians, by definition, are feckless partisan hacks. How is it possible for one “side” to be right about everything 100% of the time? It isn’t. At some point, your party is wrong, and persists at being wrong for what, when you think about it, are frustratingly stupid reasons. We have a two party system where the entities in question occupy the ideological poles of every issue. Do. The. Math.

    Feel better now?

  75. Ken

    I’m a big fan of Space X.

    I’ll admit I might be wrong, but personally I think they’re going to be doing some amazing things in the very near future, and they’ll be doing it on a much more affordable scale than NASA. I’m NOT knocking NASA! For a lot of technical and political reasons, comparing NASA and Space X is an “apples and oranges” comparison….

    I’m willing to bet that in a few years we’ll suddenly hear this big buzz and clamor along the lines of, “a private company is sending people into space! Where did THEY come from????” Ahem. We’ll already know, of course. :)

    Phil has it right. This is not a disaster. Each to it’s own: Let’s let NASA continue to innovate and, as Phil says, “pave the road.” In the meantime, Space X (and to be fair, several other private companies) are doing a fine job tweaking the vehicles that run on that road.

  76. NoAstronomer (74): No Ares has NOT launched. That was a test rocket with very little actual Ares hardware on it. Several people have gone as far as to call that launch a sham. By the time Ares is ready for people, Space X will have launched their Dragon capsule many times, having tested it for cargo, and he just said on a telecon to which I am listening that the configuration for humans is very similar.

    I still stand by what I said. Barring delays and accidents (which apply to both NASA and companies), after the Shuttle retires private companies will be able to put people in space before NASA can. Perhaps long before.

  77. Bryan

    Of course the Saturn V plans are outdated- but it still seems to me that they could use the old plans as a starting point, pick a few cheap modernization points (like the computer system, and perhaps some of the construction materials) and go from there.

    The rocket’s job is to simply push things to orbit, and the idea is to get it done safely and cheaply. Starting from a proven design- even an out of date one- that is simple by today’s standards must be time and cost saving, right?

  78. Irishman

    Wow, people sure are reacting negatively. For the last decade, I have seen calls for (1) NASA to clear the way for commercial space access, and (2) NASA to get out of the launch business and focus on the exploration and the technology development. Well, that’s exactly what this is.

    NASA is trying to promote commercial space development through performance-based contracts and competitions – that’s right, X-prize style competitions paid for success, not for effort. Also, NASA is trying to step out of the role as the launch vehicle operator. People have been on about that since Challenger. One of the things United Space Alliance was supposed to do was take over the Shuttle operations and launches.

    And NASA has not said they are handing over exploration to commercial enterprises. The exploration goals and activities will still be set and operated by NASA. What they have said is to work on promoting new and better access to space – what the Shuttle was supposed to be and what they should have been working on since at least Challenger. Their previous efforts have been hampered by a short-sighted Congress and a lack of resources to fit the intended goals. (You want to operate 1 launch system, build a space science platform, and develop a new launch system to replace the current one? Yeah, right, here’s 50 bucks.)

    They have not set an arbitrary date for a specific goal, a date that is unmanageable and unmeetable without major increases in investment. Instead, they have chosen to focus on making space access cheaper and easier and faster, by encouraging private investment to take over. They are returning to the roots of NASA – NACA, and how that organization sponsored the commercial development of aviation in the early part of the 20th Century. That model worked then, and is very different from what NASA has been doing in space. Shouldn’t we try a proven model that succeeded?

    As for where space exploration is headed, they specifically stated this would lead to returns to the moon, visits to asteroids, and eventually Mars and Mars’ moons. They are just going about it in a different way.

    As for not having space access for some time, the Constellation schedule goal would have taken at least until 2016 to provide human launch services, and that is assuming no more slips or delays. Realistic expectations put it more at 2018. Meanwhile, Phil has said the same thing that one of the people in the NASA press conference stated: they are in discussion with commercial enterprises that have stated they intend to get flying in three years, if not sooner. That’s 2013 – 3 years faster than Constellations most optimistic goal. And again, I remind you Obama did not create the hole in America’s access to space. That comes from Bush’s Vision for Space Exploration, that terminated Shuttle in 2010 and didn’t have a successor vehicle until 2015 (IIRC).

    I do have one factual question. IIRC, Congress failed to approve a budget in 2008, and I think 2006. Both years Constellation was slated for funding increases and therefore activity increases that did not happen because the money was not allotted. So, how much of Constellation’s being behind schedule is attributable to Congress delaying the funding vs. any performance delays? Is it fair to blame Constellation for not meeting the original schedule when Congress didn’t turn on activity? Or is the measure of their “not meeting milestones” accounting for that?

    Constellation was broken. By the Augustine Reports’ accounts, they couldn’t have reached the moon until 2028, and that would just be flyby’s, not including landers. Forget colonization, that’s not even “footprints and flag waves”. This new approach is a bold new approach. Sure, there are risks to success, but that’s always the case. At least this new approach makes NASA a sponsor for development, not a hindrance.

  79. “I still stand by what I said. Barring delays and accidents (which apply to both NASA and companies), after the Shuttle retires private companies will be able to put people in space before NASA can. Perhaps long before.”

    That says more about NASA and Obama’s commitment to manned space flight than it does private enterprise… We are behind because NASA and politicians were both short sighted about a replacement for the shuttle. It looks like our manned program will be doodles on cocktail napkins in a DC bar for decades come.

  80. BMcP

    The President’s Budget cancels Constellation and replaces it with a bold new approach that invests in the building blocks of a more capable approach to space exploration…

    Vague words “bold new approach”, especially when it comes from the government. Unless they save something concrete and specific they can show us in a plan, I don’t put any stake in what they say. If 2009 shows anything, it shows government disappoints.

    At least there is some reason hope in the private sector, and they are more motivated not to fall into the cost overrun trap.

  81. Lukester

    My parents watched a man walk on the moon.

    I will not.

  82. Antti

    And that just about closes the chapter on human space flight. I know the whole endeavor was crazy expensive and dangerous, and of little scientific value, but it sure was exciting.

  83. Dan

    #77 The Chemist said:

    “Much of the Sino-phobia is an overreaction anyway.”

    (Off Topic) I am very far from Sino-phobic; in fact I have lived and worked in China for years, love the country, the people and the culture. But this notion of China as a poor country is outdated; yes, many of the people of China are still poor, but as a whole the country is sitting on the largest currency reserves in the world, has a GNP which is about to pass Japan to become the second largest in the world, and continues to develop at a staggering rate. Go look at the endless factories of Guangzhou, the ultra-modern skyscrapers of Shanghai, or the bustling entrepreneurs in Shenzhen and Beijing and then tell me about how poor China is.

    (On Topic) Regarding space exploration: call me a romantic, but I WANT to see the US continue to lead the world in manned space exploration, not just see other countries leading the way. Hopefully these private companies do indeed get us back into orbit by 2013-2014 (does orbit = ability to dock with ISS?), but I still haven’t heard anyone make a convincing argument that private companies will put any investment into proceeding beyond ISS. There’s simply no profit in it.

    EDIT: PS to #81 Irishman: I agree with you; if the Shuttle had been allowed to continue flying until a valid replacement was ready, we probably wouldn’t be having this conversation.

  84. Antti (#85): Congrats on that comment that has no evidence, nothing to back it up, and ignores everything I wrote in the post. You were concise though, so you get 3/10.

  85. So. Obama scrubs Constellation.

    Good riddance to bad rubbish. It was never a viable system, it was always a backwards step, and whoever pushed it through to Congressional funding needs a slap upside the head with the Reality Board.

    This might lead to a valid forward strategy for NASA, but you know what? I’m expecting it to get killed by partisan politics, where whatever the other guys says is NOOOOOO.

    Stupid to the power of Duhh.

    I hope I’m worng. I doubt I will be.

  86. Andy

    I think it was very bold of Obama to put an end to the American human spaceflight capability. I enjoyed the show, but now on to the more important things: science and exploration.

  87. If I may paraphrase Winston Churchill: This is not the end of NASA. This is not the beginning of the end. It is the end of the beginning.

  88. Fec

    Personally i don’t care if it’s Americans, Chinese or Russians. I just want to see someone on the moon before i die. As a human i’d be immensely proud of the achievement.

  89. RAF

    Looks like I’ll be dead before we return to the Moon…and Mars?…we’ll NEVER go there.

    You can have all the science you want, but if mankind does not “go there”, then humanity’s days are numbered.

  90. Goodness you people are depressing. This was the correct decision at this point. Besides, it’s in the hands of Congress now and who knows what will happen.

    If you want to feel a little bit better take a stroll over to Popular Mechanics to read the “5 Winners of Obama’s Space Budget”. In short they are – the Space Shuttle, Earth Sciences, Kennedy Space Center, Robots, and the International Space Station. Some of those sound counter-intuitive, I know, so read the article.

  91. tacitus

    Symbolism matters. It matters a lot. The fact that we did something 50 years ago won’t matter as much as the fact that we can’t do it anymore.

    No it doesn’t, at least not to those who have confidence in their nation and its people. Who cares what the Chinese think about Americans? You seem to think that anything that can be perceived as weakness should be avoided, just for the sake of looking bad to the rest of the world. Again, this is outmoded, Cold War thinking, and I would have hoped that we have grown beyond that by now.

    Anyone who thinks that America will fall into some sort of terminal decline just because it’s seen as not being able to keep up with the Chinese space program is way off the mark (to put it politely). This is a very different (and far more interconnected world) than it was 600 years ago. Jingoistic symbolism has gotten us into a lot of trouble in the last ten years, so I am fine if we don’t let the perceptions of other nations dictate what we do in our own space program.

  92. Irishman

    8. andy Said:
    > … but really what is needed at the present time is not a rocket program but more research into artificial ecologies (supplying a Moon base or especially a Mars base is going to be expensive and difficult) and closed environment psychology.

    There is ongoing research in this. NASA is working on closed-loop environmental systems, and that is one of the items in this new budget. Also, one could argue NASA is already doing closed environment psychology testing – it’s called the International Space Station.

    12. The Chemist Said:
    > It’s a pity Al-Qaeda isn’t setting up terror-cells on the moon.

    Well, if they were, Constellation wouldn’t be necessary, would it? ;-)

    13. Will Said:
    > Concentrate on getting low-cost to orbit. It doesn’t have to be heavy lift if it’s cheap enough that we can launch several rockets for the cost of one heavy-lift rocket.

    What’s the definition of “heavy lift”? ISS has shown us how launching many vehicles and building in space works. Perhaps not with the cheapest vehicle for it, but demonstrating the principle. ISS could have been much more quickly and cheaply by using Saturn V’s to drop 5 or 6 Skylab-sized modules together. Sometimes larger is better.

    > ISS is our toe-hold in space, but it needs to be more than a science platform. It needs to be an infrastructure supply point. It needs to be able to assemble boosters to launch satellites into Earth orbit and to send them on their way to other planets. It needs to be able to store fuel and cargo for more ambitious missions (such as humans to the moon)

    Interestingly, one of the line items in this new proposal includes developing things like automated rendezvous and in-space refueling – exactly the things you’re talking about.

    54. DigitalAxis Said:
    > So, this budget is good for all parts of NASA except manned spaceflight.

    That’s not accurate. This budget is good for manned spaceflight. It just isn’t good for the existing plan of Constellation. This budget puts money into ISS (that is manned spacecraft), and puts money into incentives and awards for manned spacecraft development, and it puts money into things like in-space refueling systems and research vehicles for scouting manned landing mission sites. What it doesn’t do is sink money into a launch system that isn’t meeting target goals and is not delivering on the promises we were given. This country does not need another Shuttle program (big asperations for cheap reusable access, implementation not succeeding).

    Furthermore, why are people crying for the Cancellation if ISS because it “is a waste of money” and then decrying the cancellation of Constellation for that very reason?

    56. Kelliente Said:
    > The second to last heading on the Management & Budget website lists “Increase funding to detect asteroids that could potentially pose a hazard to the Earth” as a bullet point, but doesn’t give a dollar figure. Since everything else has a dollar amount attached to it, I find that disconcerting. Are they just going to pray really hard about it and hope God smacks those nasty asteroids away with his tennis racket? (It’s a REALLY BIG racket, as you can imagine.) Or is there ACTUAL MONEY being budgeted towards this purpose?

    The Budget and Managment factsheet does not list a dollar value, but Budget Overview lists $16M/yr for identification and cataloging of Near Earth Objects. So yes, real money is attached.

    http://www.nasa.gov/pdf/420990main_FY_201_%20Budget_Overview_1_Feb_2010.pdf

    61. Moonage Said:
    > If we need to go fix Hubble again, who will we pay to do it?

    Not gonna happen. The last mission was the last mission.

    76. Will Said:
    > BTW: On the subject of letting private companies send up our astronauts… Where do you think the Shuttle came from.? It wasn’t built by NASA. Neither the government nor NASA owns the Shuttle. Commercial space is already a reality. All this “new direction” does is say that NASA isn’t going to launch them any more. Saying that the private sector can’t pull it off is just stupid. They’ve been doing it for years since technically, Boeing is part of the private sector.

    The Shuttle was built on government contract for NASA, and the shuttles were delivered to NASA as part of the contracts. They are government-owned hardware. Boeing (through USA) may have the contract to service them, but they are NASA owned.

  93. Dan

    - “You seem to think that anything that can be perceived as weakness should be avoided, just for the sake of looking bad to the rest of the world. Again, this is outmoded, Cold War thinking, and I would have hoped that we have grown beyond that by now.”

    That is hardly what I said. I mention nothing about Cold War us vs. them thinking. What I discussed is the perception of American leadership, which extends far beyond our space program, but nonetheless is seen as in decline in much of the world. Being unable to send people to our own space station until 2016 (hopefully, just found that date in another article) is one powerful signal of that. Another is if someone else is landing on the moon while we are just barely getting back to the ISS. There are obviously many non-space related examples, but I don’t want to get too off-topic.

    And again, my biggest complaint is that I don’t see how private enterprise is going to get us PAST returning to ISS. If you can see how this will work, please let me know; I am more than willing to listen. But to my mind the costs of going beyond LEO are so high that no profit-oriented corporation is going to pursue it. That is the realm of governments.

  94. Elon Musek is quoted on a Yahoo! news article as stating on a teleconference today that he can get people into space in 3 years for $20 million a seat. I’ll assume that is the tele-conference Phil mentioned at #64.

    I’m sorry Phil but if that is what Elon truly believes that he is simply out of touch with the reality of getting people (safely!) into orbit.

  95. All of this research is being done on Earth, so aside from ISS support and rich tourists, there will be no payload for commercial to sell to. This is looking like a shuttle debacle all over again:
    http://lablemminglounge.blogspot.com/2010/02/obamas-new-space-plan.html

  96. StevoR

    I see what your saying here BA. I’m not sure I entirely agree with it though.

    I think having sorta committed ourselves to the Ares-Constellation road we should give it a proper chance to work & not cancel it now after taking it this far.

    I also don’t trust private companies to be able to do what you claim or hope they will do. I think they have their place and their role & wish ‘em well but I don’t think they can work out here or take this responsibility.

    In the space age so far we’ve had government space agencies – mainly NASA – get humanity into orbit, into space stations and out in reusuable spaceplanes, out to the Moon and have plans advanced for going well beyond that to Mars and the asteroids.

    Private space agencies, well the best they’ve done in all that time is a few sub-orbital brief lobs. While I don’t mind seeing private companies in space and doing stuff, I am skeptical of how much they can do in the near to mid range term.

    I want to see NASA and govts taking the load there for a while and this means funding programs like Ares properly and having well focused “before the decade is out” goals to go somewhere.

    The manned space program has been circling frustratingly for some time. I wish I could see that changing but under this plan I don’t – I see a retreat into stagnation and failure if anything. :-(

    I do feel badly let down by Obama’s apparent short-sightedness and lack of vision here – but I also very much hope I’m wrong & you’re right about this.

  97. Ribozyme

    If what is needed is a heavy lift rocket, why not resurrect the Russian’s Energia rocket which has already had several successful flights instead of trying to entirely design a new one? Or does it have to be an all-American design to be considered acceptable?

  98. Irishman said: “The Shuttle was built on government contract for NASA, and the shuttles were delivered to NASA as part of the contracts. They are government-owned hardware. Boeing (through USA) may have the contract to service them, but they are NASA owned.”

    That’s not strictly true. The actual vehicles might be owned by NASA, but all of the technology is owned by Boeing. NASA can’t go to someone else and say “Build me one of these” unless they are willing to start from scratch and avoid patent infringments.

    Anyway, my point is that NASA did not develop the hardware. Boeing did. The reliability and built-in safety is all Boeing. Therefore, it’s a bit silly to say that private companies can’t meet the reliability and safety of NASA and launch humans into space because they’ve been doing it for years. Private companies already do all the launching and maintenance of the shuttle in everything but name. NASA has final say on pressing the Go-button. Even the telemetry of most of our unmanned probes is handled through JPL by contractors, not by NASA personnel. My brother is one of them. It is surprising to a lot of people how many (or actually.. how few) people in the space business are actually employed by the government directly.

    Even most of the launch crew for the Shuttle were contractors not working for NASA directly. NASA isn’t responsible for crew safety or maintenance directly, only in an administrative sense. That’s why there was such a stink when the Challenger went down. The rumor was that the contracted engineers were saying “I don’t know about this” but NASA overruled them and launched anyway.

  99. gar

    I can’t say that I’m going to miss the Constellation program (I’m not). And I’m encouraged by the idea of investing into new technologies. All good. Hope the money follows in good time. And I hope money continues to fund our superb robotic space vehicles.

  100. Astrofiend

    “NASA and human spaceflight are dead”. God – stop being so goddamn dramatic. You could put in a very strong argument that America is getting back to what made it great here – private enterprise forging the way forward. Instead of constellation being an endless drain on taxpayer resources (as we all know – it was headed way over schedule and over-budget), the companies will be helping the economy out. As Phil has provided ample evidence for, private industry WILL BE and WOULD HAVE BEEN first up with manned missions to any level of certainty one could reasonably have anyway. I find it amusing to see hardcore right-wingers going into conniptions trying to writhe and spin to find a way to justify their irrational hatred of Obama for what is effectively a pro-private industry move (he’s not doing it to benefit private industry and reduce a mountain of debt and kill a black-hole of a space program – he’s doing it because he is possessed by the devil and wants to kill science and so the workers can rise up and unite and form a socialist nirvana). Man I hate pro-party people – politicians all stink, as do your precious republican and democrat parties, along with your wanky, ill-thought out political convictions.

    If you’re going to pursue the ‘manned spaceflight is now dead’ line, then too late – manned spaceflight was already ‘dead’ – rotted from within. What useful things has man done in space recently? Only the deployment of Hubble and the servicing missions. Who cares a dot about the ISS? It was is biggest sham perpetrated on the world since religion. A completely useless tin can, basically in existence to justify the continuation of manned spaceflight for no good reason. Billions have been pissed away into this endless black hole of pure mediocrity. The moon is a worthy goal, if only to serve as a stepping stone to Mars – but guess what? America is piled under a mountain of debt. You cannot afford this. Don’t like it? Well there’s some crazy expensive wars that would have funded a manned trip to Alpha Centauri and back by now, but hey – at least Saddam is gone and there is peace in the Middle East and markedly less terrorism in the world now, right? Oh wait – well, one out of three ain’t bad I guess. Worth every penny.

  101. Mike C.

    I was wondering how this would play here. Unfortunately, my first guess was correct.

    Not much point in trying to detail everything that is so very wrong with this whole deal, and I most certainly don’t have the time. But anybody that thinks that an administration that has effectively nationalized banks and car manufacturers and has the entire energy industry in it’s sights is hell-bent on encouraging private industry innovation is a couple of fries short of a Happy Meal. The Hubbles, Cassinis and Mars rovers of the future will be satellites looking at Earth for evidence of AGW.

    Looking inward, not outward. Pretty much says it all. Maybe we should just make NASA a sub-unit of the USGS.

    EDIT – America is piled under a mountain of debt ? True. One question – what percentage of the current and future debt is due to the NASA budget ?

    Get real.

  102. Dan

    #106 Mike said: “But anybody that thinks that an administration that has effectively nationalized banks and car manufacturers and has the entire energy industry in it’s sights is hell-bent on encouraging private industry innovation is a couple of fries short of a Happy Meal.”

    I really wish you guys would leave politics out of this. This is not the location to engage in meaningless political bashing (especially when it is quite easy to argue that NASA’s current problems were caused by the last administration, not this one). Just stick to the facts of this case and leave your political leanings somewhere else.

  103. Peter B

    James @ #39 said: “It’s like living our whole lives inside a cave because going outside is too much effort.”

    Depending on how hard it is to get out of the cave, perhaps living in it is the better option. The point is that getting into orbit takes a lot of energy, and is dangerous.

    Anyway, what’s wrong with getting private enterprise into the human-orbit business? Remember, the expansion of airline travel was largely a private affair.

  104. Peter B

    Bryan @ #80 said: “Of course the Saturn V plans are outdated- but it still seems to me that they could use the old plans as a starting point, pick a few cheap modernization points (like the computer system, and perhaps some of the construction materials) and go from there.”

    Sadly, it’s not so simple. I doubt if *any* of the off-the-shelf products used in the Saturn V are still manufactured today. Pretty much every system and sub-system would need to be redesigned from scratch to take this into account. You might as well throw out the plans and start from scratch.

    “The rocket’s job is to simply push things to orbit, and the idea is to get it done safely and cheaply. Starting from a proven design- even an out of date one- that is simple by today’s standards must be time and cost saving, right?”

    A new Saturn V would be so different from the original that testing would have to start from scratch as well, so no likely savings there.

    This was what was supposed to be the cost saver for Ares – using sub-systems which are in use today. Unfortunately it hasn’t turned out that way.

  105. The range of reaction here is amazing. But the bottom line is that the cost of manned access to LEO will never come down without going commercial. That leaves NASA to concentrate on the cutting edge of manned space flight, beyond LEO. This is the kind of mission NASA has a pretty good track record at. I actually pretty much agree with Phil’s guardedly optimistic assessment about all this. (And, full disclosure, I work on Constellation.) This could lead to a lot of good things, if done correctly.

  106. Peter B

    Mike C @ #106 said: “Not much point in trying to detail everything that is so very wrong with this whole deal, and I most certainly don’t have the time.”

    I get worried when people object to something on the basis of arguments they don’t spell out. I worry that they don’t actually have an argument, and use this line to hide that lack of argument.

    Could you please explain your concerns.

  107. Count me in on the skeptic side.
    Could private companies put people in space? Absolutely. As others have written, companies like Boeing and Northrop Grumman already have all the know-how because they built the older capsules, landers and vehicles.
    But if space exploration and manned space flight were such a great venture for private enterprise, why don’t they do it already? Because there’s nothing to earn.
    It’s expensive to develop, build and maintain a safe vehicle for space flight, and the only potential customers are some wealthy space tourists and NASA. I really doubt the business would be profitable if NASA paid much less than now. And I don’t see a reason why a private company would aim for the moon if NASA didn’t pay the whole bill.

  108. amphiox

    China cannot beat the US to the moon, even if they landed on the moon tomorrow, because the US has already been there.

    The US sending a couple of people back to the moon to tool around for a few days is no different from the floundering around in low earth orbit we’ve been doing for the last few decades – it’s all stuff we’ve already done before.

    The only justification in my mind for the US to return to the moon is as the first step of a long-term plan to set up a permanent colony. Any program or plan of manned lunar missions that is not geared towards this is to me just a waste of time and money.

    Colonization really is the only (but it’s a big one, since it’s a question of species survival) justification for manned spaceflight. Exploration and science should be done with robotic missions. While there are a few things that cannot be done with robots, none of these is sufficient by itself to justify the extra cost and risk of a manned mission geared solely towards it. We will always get a better bang for our buck using those resources to research extending robotic capabilities. And for the very few things that absolutely cannot be done by robots and have to be done by humans, they will get done automatically if we successfully colonize space, for little extra cost, simply because people automatically do science and exploration wherever they go.

    In terms of NASA, I would not necessarily be upset if the manned space program spends the next 30 years developing the enabling technologies in the areas of life support, propulsion, and energy generation (all of which will have immediate application to earth-based problems, and none of which actually would require sending any humans into space in the early stages of the programs) without even thinking about sending another human into space until these enabling programs have born fruit. The ultimate goal is to be able to send large numbers of people into space routinely, safely, and cheaply, as part of a colonization program.

    All the technical expertise and systems that NASA has developed to date for LEO manned spaceflight should be sold to private companies, to use as they wish for their own LEO efforts (barring things the government needs to keep to itself for national security reasons). NASAs mandate should be breakthrough technology and exploration beyond the limits of what is currently feasible. In terms of manned spaceflight, that to me means NASA should be focusing on 1. heavy lift capability with the ultimate goal of attaining the capability of sending humans to any destination in the solar system, starting with Mars and the NEOs and moving out from there, and 2. LEO capability en masse, cheaply and routinely – a system capable of sending at least 100 people into orbit at a time, at least three or four times a year. (2 then supports 1, vis-a-vis the previously mentioned idea of launching all deep space manned missions from orbit, rather than earth’s surface, an idea which I think is very sensible).

    Anything less ambitious should not be part of NASA’s mandate, and should be given over the private sector.

  109. Already, President Obama’s call to privatize NASA research and development saves taxpayers millions.

  110. Lonny Eachus

    80. Bryan:

    Imagine that you decide to build a house, according to some architect’s plans made in 1950.

    You will find that half the materials called for aren’t manufactured anymore, at least to the specs in force then.

    You will also find that building codes and other requirements have also changed to the point that even where those materials are still available, they won’t fit your needs.

    The same is true of specs for things like the Saturn V. It would have to be re-designed so extensively that it would be much more cost-effective to just start over. And the result would be a better design that is better made.

  111. Jim Gagnon

    Boy, the fur really is flying today. Instead of rehashing whether Constellation was going to get us to the Moon (it wasn’t) or whether private enterprise can get astronauts to orbit (it will), I would like to point out the two most exciting parts of today’s announcement for me: the vision of hundreds or thousands of people in orbit at once, and the goal of developing a planetary ship that can reach Mars in weeks. These twin goals reflects the overriding motivation for manned spaceflight: that space is a place that some day will be our home. To support vast numbers of people in orbit, and to move through the solar system as easily as we ship goods around the world when combined truly do open the doors to human colonization and exploration.

    Imagine we had a ship that could reach Mars in weeks. Such a ship could go to the Moon in day, and once it becomes that easy then that ship can offer rides to every entrepreneur whose cobbled together a lander and wants to try it out. Some say such a ship is not possible today, but that’s simply myopic; fission fragment engines could be built today that offer that kind of thrust and reusability. Jon Goff of Masten Space Systems has proposed a lunar lander that could be built and launched for $250M; imagine how much cheaper he could do it for if our planetary ship could deliver it to lunar orbit, wish him luck and let him go?

    My only concern is that we’re not preserving our existing orbital capacity before developing a new one. However, programs such as the Shuttle have a habit of sucking all the air and money out of the room, so perhaps this is the only way to move forward. Frankly, if SpaceX has a successful Falcon 9 launch this spring and ULA puts forward its proposal for a manned launcher, you’re going to see everyone calm down and start thinking how they can make their business work in space.

  112. Lonny Eachus

    64. Phil Plait:

    I am with you, Phil. We need to go back and find a way to stay. A permanent base in a shallow gravity well puts us in a much better position to go further in the future, and has many physical advantages over microgravity locations like the Lagrange points.

    Ares was an iffy proposition in the first place (PEOPLE riding a fully solid rocket?) and lacked a good path to the necessary expansion and upgrade later. It was “let’s use questionable technology from yesterday to accomplish yesterday’s goals. Who cares about tomorrow?”

    The recent discoveries of abundant He3 and massive amounts of water only helps to bolster the concept of a moon base. Oxygen is plentiful and as long as there is ample electrical storage, solar power makes it easy to extract. As part of the same process, regolith or crushed rock can be fused for easy building materials.

    It’s looking more and more like a slam-dunk to me.

  113. Ben W

    So, I didn’t want to read all 115 comments as of this point, but I did skim a few, and I read all of Phil’s as well as all of them he was specifically responding to. And I would like to point out that private space flight is more likely in my mind than NASA. Don’t get me wrong, I love NASA, but they have HORDES of paperwork and bureaucracy to get through to do anything. A small company of engineers and scientists run by a rich nerd? They just have to ask the boss if it’s cool. And who would go up? Well, them, and other people who have money to burn (a lot of it, but hey) and who want to see space, not to mention companies who want to do research. Any R&D company would love to go into space, just look at all the stuff NASA discovered by accident in the process. They might have less funding, but they also have less oversight telling them not to get creative with how they do things, and that makes a ton of difference.

    Basically, I like how Penn and Teller put it best: Isn’t is possible billionaires know more about making money than… you? (From Season Six, Episode Three of Penn and Teller’s Bulls***. Or BS is this censors swears)

  114. Chris Winter

    First of all, I think shutting down Constellation is a Good Thing. I sympathize with those of you who lament the loss of a near-term chance to get us back to the Moon. But I don’t share your grief because as I see it there’s a very slim chance that Constellation would ever have gotten us there.

    This idea of splitting NASA up into two parts, proposed by Sir Eccles and seconded by Cheyenne, is a good one. Let’s let NASA do what it does well: Space research and hardware innovation. Let’s get it out of the business of building and launching rockets. How many times must it do that poorly before we wise up?

    This is why the idea of breaking up NASA has merit. Put some firewalls between the outfit overseeing the development of manned rockets and everything else. That way NASA can’t bleed other programs if its launcher effort goes over budget, as it always did in the past.

    True, commercial companies won’t get us back to the Moon any time soon on their own. They will do what they’re good at: making small steps forward as opportunities for profit present themselves. Here’s what I expect to see: Routine sub-orbital tourist trips within 2-3 years; commercially-developed rockets putting people in orbit in 5-10 years (and I lean toward 5-6 rather than 9-10.)

    From those advancements will flow many others that go to make up the infrastructure enabling steps farther out: fuel depots and assembly stations on orbit; robotic “space taxis” running from LEO to GEO to place and service satellites; the beginnings of an interplanetary Internet; preparations for test flights of new propulsion technology like VASIMR and maybe even nuclear-thermal. Yes, some of that needs a better political climate, but that will come.

  115. Moonage (#61) it’s almost a relief to see that little has changed with you.

    First, your article on this is factually wrong; Space X has indeed gone into orbit, more than once in fact, and the Falcon 1 has proven a success. The Falcon 9 will test this year, with a Dragon capsule test this year as well. I was on a telecon with Elon Musk, the CEO of Space X, just a few hours ago and he said specifically that they are less than three years from putting humans into orbit. I was sure to ask him about humans specifically. And it’s not just into space, but into orbit. I understand that we all make factual errors when we write stuff- — I do it too — but yours undermines your entire argument.

    Second, your point about fixing Hubble makes no sense at all. Who would fix it if it broke today? There are no more Shuttle flights on the manifest for Hubble. And once the Shuttle is retired, what would NASA do if Hubble breaks down, with no Ares ready to go? They’d have to call the Russians, I suppose, which would happen whether or not Obama’s plan gets OKed.

    And here’s the part you don’t seem to get: private companies will put people in space before Ares could possibly be ready. Ares wasn’t planned on having manned launches until 2015, and realistically what are the odds that date would slip? Pretty high. So if you’re argument is actually correct — which it isn’t — then it would support the idea of NASA funding private efforts as opposed to going ahead with Ares. Either way, your conclusions are flawed.

    And I won’t bother commenting on the title of your post, or its last line. I’ll let others do that.

  116. Scott

    I was almost 12 the last time humans walked on the moon. I never thought that 37 years later I would still be waiting for it to happen again. Now, I really wonder if it will happen again in my lifetime. I am very pessimistic that this will play out as Phil believes; this country has been retreating from its leading role in manned space flight for close to 40 years now and this was another blow.

  117. Eric

    64. Phil Plait Says:
    February 1st, 2010 at 2:15 pm

    I am on a telecon right now with several space companies, and they all are looking at putting people into orbit around 2013-2014, and it will cost roughly $20 million per person. Assuming no delays either with them, or if NASA goes ahead with Ares, this is a solid year ahead of when NASA can put people in orbit after the Shuttle retires.

    I stand by my statement in the post and in earlier posts. Private companies will be putting people in orbit long before NASA will be able to after the Shuttle retires.

    Clearly you’ve drunk the kool-aid if you think what you’ve just posted is come to pass. You seem to forget there’s a difference here between other private endeavors vrs public ones. The private companies are essentially rebuilding the wheel, and have been for decades, and yet, they’ve yet to put men into orbit after all this time.

    How are things going so far for Space X? Oh wait, yeah they haven’t had any delays, have they? Oh wait, remember Bigalow? Weren’t they supposed to have a base on the Moon by now? Didn’t they make that announcement oh in 2004 or so? 6 years later and instead of being closer to their goal, they’re actually further away. (7 years out instead of the 5 years out they were in 2004).

    I might have respect for your science, but this blog has just proven how politically biased you have become. It saddens me. I can’t wait to see what the gents at the BA forum have to say about your apparent sell-out.

  118. That’s pretty funny, Eric (123). Because this isn’t political at all. I don’t care of this was Obama’s plan or the Repubs in Congress. This isn’t about partisan politics, it’s about NASA. In fact, if you read what I’ve written in the past about Obama and NASA, I have not been his cheerleader, and took him to task for taking so long to appoint an Administrator.

    But it seems like you’re the one who is having trouble seeing past your own political beliefs. I’ve been very careful to back up everything I’ve said here with facts and evidence. For example, you seem to forget that with Constellation, NASA was essentially reinventing the wheel, and it was going to take many more years before that wheel could hit the road. And Space X has gone into orbit twice, with tests this year for Falcon 9. I can’t believe how many times I’ve had to repeat that because naysayers are so eager to ignore it.

    Frankly, I find it pretty glum that so many people are willing to tear this apart because of narrow partisan politics. And the politics make no sense, since it’s been the Republicans in Congress who for years have tried to privatize so much. Why are they fighting it so hard with this? And I mean the commenters, not the Congressmen who have districts or States with NASA centers in them. It’s obvious why they’ll fight this, as will Democrats in the same positions.

  119. llewelly

    Isn’t is possible billionaires know more about making money than… you?

    … and perhaps that’s why most of them are not investing in human space exploration.

  120. Nex

    Privatizing NASA isn’t bad, private corporations that have had dealings with NASA, like Space X, have shown remarkable achievement on a much tighter budget than NASA. Look at the cost of the Shuttle Programs development $180 Billion Dollars. Look at the Development cost for Falcon 9 and the Dragon Spacecraft $378 million. Granted Falcon had the benefits of technology and research NASA preformed, but they are in a prime position to surpass what NASA did in the 50’s and 60’s. Going to the Moon is pointless unless we can develop affordable technology to get us there and back, and technology to allow for prolonged stay. These things need to be the focus of NASA and America’s future Space Exploration projects, finding affordable, safe means of prolonged space travel and other planet manned exploration. Seriously do you really think the Moon would be the best place for us to colonize? How much we’d be better off looking to find means to Explore and settle Europa, we wouldn’t need advanced water collection devices, nor would Oxygen be as major a concern. Do I think we’ll eventually colonize the Moon? Yes but I think it will be in preparing for Manned Exploration to other parts of our Galaxy, as it should be. Rushing for a return to the Moon really doesn’t make sense if your goal is “Let’s put people back on the Moon.” We’ve done that there’s no innovation, we need to look beyond that and put a return to the Moon in perspective with desire for further manned exploration to points beyond.

  121. James

    Landing on the moon? $150 million.
    Invading a foreign nation and achieving absolutely nothing? $1 trillion plus.
    Claiming that there isn’t enough money to fund NASA? Priceless.

  122. Gord

    As much as I agree that there is a need to spend more effort in some fundamental research, I also fear this might be the beginning of the end for the American manned space exploration program (or maybe it is the middle of the end). The cancellation of the Ares program does make me reflect back to the late 1950s when Canada cancelled its Avro Arrow fighter program. That was the end for Canada’s advanced military jet aircraft industry. Much of Canada’s aerospace expertise left Canada to work in the US. Where will the NASA engineers go? Perhaps to rising stars China and India. All that said, if the project is going to fail, its better to cut the losses early and start again from scratch, building a vision.

    I remember when I was young, I dreamed of becoming an astronaut, but I worried that we would have manned missions to mars before I ever graduated from university, and I would miss a chance to be there first. It bothers me that so many young people don’t believe we ever went to the moon but I guess I can see the reasons behind their disbelief.

  123. Gord

    I only heard about this by tuning half way through a Canadian newscast. The focus was on how this announcement would impact the Canadian space program. They tried to look at the positive side, noting that Canadian astronauts have recently flown up to ISS in Russian rockets. Obviously that was going to continue anyways as long as there was no US manned lift capability to earth orbit.

    From what I have seen of emerging rocket technology, I would like to see more focus on development of fast and efficent inter-planetary vehicles. I also think it should be possible to engineer more efficient (and cheaper) vehicles capable of getting into orbit. Maybe we shouldn’t do manned missions to Mars until we can build a base on a Martian moon and capability for regular “Mars shuttle”, resupply missions.

  124. Reading the comments, it seems that a lot of people are focused entirely on landing on the Moon.
    But what’s with the lunar fascination? Sending rovers and probes into space isn’t nearly as expensive as sending astronauts to the Moon, but they can give a lot more scientific data, mainly due to the length of the missions and the fact that no return mission is necessary.

    I would rather see a lot more probes being sent into our solar system (and eventually beyond) than a few manned missions to the Moon.

  125. LorZod

    So.. let’s see.. the CIA is now being funded to protect us from the terrorist acts of man made climate change and now NASA is being funded to find a scientific solution to man made climate change… All over some junk science that STILL doesn’t make any sense to anyone except the people that created it? How can someone explain that man is causing the Earth to get warmer when A) It was hotter during the Middle Ages than it is today B) the Earth is slowly going into another ice age based on the geologic record C) the Sun has proven to be a major factor in terms of heating our planet for the last several billion years (and there is a surprising correlation between sunspot activity and the warming effects we’ve experienced.. weird that). D) water vapor is one of the major factors in retaining heat on the planet, something NO global warming model seems to take into effect either oh and E) those pesky e-mails and various other evidence that is beginning to show that various scientists have politicized global warming to manipulate the political climate.

    I also love how Global Warming is so horrible that the MAJOR polluters on the planet like China and Mexico do not HAVE to do ANYTHING about their carbon footprint or anything else, just America and other developed countries that aren’t communist or run by dictators (or presidents-in-name-only). Funny that.

  126. Tinfoil Fedora

    That’s it! By fudging a hostile SETI response from an unquantifiable enemy, say ficticious Alquadlians intent on eradicating space flung mammals, allows us to wage war in space without the need to ever declare victory. Better still, no need to declare defeat. All we need are a few martyrs to play pawns on a galactic chessboard, maybe a laser strike on Boise? We can create a self perpetuating economy. Lunar space base in 5 years, Martian outpost in 20.

    Maybe it’ll just be easier to blame the Chinese for getting into space to disrupt satelite communications, disrupting our digital way of life. That ought to get the lard off their couches and into a voting booth.

  127. Stanley H. Tweedle

    No more Constellation? Ah, that’s so sad!

  128. Harman Smith

    Internet connection? $20
    Internet-enabled computer? $500
    Making baseless claims on the internet that going to the moon is only 150 mln bucks? Priceless.

    @84, “My parents watched a man walk on the moon. I will not.”

    Oh, boohoo!!! Your parents saw a man walk on the moon for the sake of just walking there. You and I on the other hand can get an answer on whether there’s any other Earth-like planets out there in the universe (Kepler). A question that has been asked since the beginning of modern man! And that’s just one science mission. The times now are more exciting than ever.

  129. MadScientist

    We can only wait and see what happens; the slate is now wiped clean and we have nothing but promises for the future. However, phrases like “lacking in innovation due to a failure to invest in critical new technologies” never infuse me with confidence. The Soyuz is ancient technology – and extremely reliable. “Newfangled” does not necessarily mean “better” (though the shuttles still have a lot of ancient technology in them too – even older than Soyuz – and updating some of that stuff would definitely be a good thing if we were going for version 2 of the shuttles).

    As for returning to the moon, I’m sure there will be teams out there ecstatic about having an opportunity to build and launch another lunar probe. We even have the launch vehicles that can do the job (but even if we hadn’t, ESA and Russia do). There is no reason not to explore and learn more simply because we’re not sending another human there in the next 15 years.

  130. MadScientist

    @Nex: I don’t believe privatizing NASA would lead to any good; then the agency would be stuck doing routine commercial jobs and fundamental science will take a back seat. As for the myth of NASA building this and that – no, vehicles have primarily been built and developed with corporations like Lockheed, Boeing, Sperry, and so on. This was largely the case even in the days when Werner von Braun was building rockets which could only achieve sub-orbital flight. I am always bemused by people talking about “private companies” and space – private companies have always been involved. What we have today are some companies which do not have the historical preferred status of giants like Lockheed and many of these new companies were created with the intention of bringing the space experience to wealthy civilians. I think it will ultimately be a good thing because there will be more competition (it will be a good thing as long as the corruption can be minimized). However, the claims that NASA is going private are highly exaggerated.

  131. UmTutSut

    Phil wrote: “And here’s the part you don’t seem to get: private companies will put people in space before Ares could possibly be ready.” What’s your confidence based on, Phil? Who’s actually launched anything to orbit but Elon Musk, and three out of five Falcon 1 flights failed. As I said in a post above, good luck. Let’s hope you’re right…but there’s really nothing but paper rockets to say you are.

  132. Ilewelly: “”Isn’t is possible billionaires know more about making money than… you?”

    … and perhaps that’s why most of them are not investing in human space exploration.”

    No. The reason is because billionares didn’t know anything about space until recently, and they’re investing now…. quite a bit. That’s why we HAVE companies like Space X. Not to sound too preachy, but mankinds future is in space. Period. Leaving aside the massive scientific benefits, huge new sources of raw materials and the ability to create major new sources of energy are waiting for the first person with the foresight to exploit them. We’re talking billions of $$… maybe trillions worth of resources that we simply can’t get here in quantity (some we can’t get at all). The problem is low-cost to orbit. Once you’ve done that, as Heinlein said: you’re halfway to anywhere in the solar system.

    The alternative is to stay here and wait for the lights to go out. It should be a no-brainer. Anyone who says humans in space isn’t worth it either has their own agenda or is simply ignorant of the facts.

  133. SlothMotivation

    Again, the US government will excuse itself from doing anything substantial in space exploration. People are now claiming that robotic probes are a better experience than human exploration. Sure probes bring in a wealth of information but there are a lot of dreamers out there that want to place there feet on the moon or other planets. The US has lost motivation to make their dreams a reality. In the beginning NASA went from 0 to 60 in ten years to reach the moon. Explorered the moon for another two years before people found excuses to not to care.

    The US currently has no vehicle to place a human on the moon. The shuttle is not designed to land on the moon and most of the rockets are geared for putting satellites into orbit. The commercial space programs are years away from being profitable to actually placing humans in space.

    The Russians still have rockets capable of sending humans to the moon. I agree, this shouldn’t be about a race to the moon again. But Russia is not a rich nation. They still are able to maintain rockets and the US space program is relying on those rockets. How are the Russians able to pull this off? The US has plenty of money to be able to update the Apollo program and do it in a quick but safe way.

    China, Japan and India are going to spend the money for space explorations.

    But the US is content to say they are not willing to build rockets capable of traveling to planets. They will wait until commercial space flight is profitable. The US is satisfied to sit on a couch and just dream.

  134. Plutonium being from Pluto

    @ 21. Phil Plait Says:

    NoAstronomer (#19): I don’t know how far Space X is from putting people in space exactly, but Constellation was a solid five years from doing so even with no more delays. The first Dragon capsule flights are scheduled for this year, so in my opinion that puts them on a better track to put people in space than NASA has.

    So your betting the future of Americans – Westerners really – in space on your opinion that SpaceX alone is the way to go & will prove itself more capable than any private space company has since the space age began back in the 1950’s? Well I wish I had your confidence in that, BA, I really do.

    I am surprised you seem so lacking in confidence regarding NASA. It has the best record of accomplishment in space. It gave us the HST, the Moon-Landings, the Shuttle .. Yeah, not so much as good lately as it once was but NASA circa 1960’s is proven to be the example to follow on how to really get somewhere in space methinks.

    “Footprints & flags” only? Sure that was the goal they set & met back then & yes we need more than that now but that ‘Apollo’ model is still the one I think we should emulate. Why? Because it worked. That simple. Hello skeptics – look at the *evidence*! ;-)

    The Space Shuttle is an amazing tool, but it’s a dead end technologically and for exploration. It’s only use is to finish the space station, and for a long time (before this budget, in fact) the ISS’s only use was as a target for the Shuttle

    Don’t forget the shuttle also fixed the Hubble Space telescope – and can launch and repair satellites and do a lot more too such as launch spaceprobes eg. Magellan and Galileo and fly spacelab and so forth. (See : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spacelab )

    Dead end? Only because we’ve given up on it and haven’t replaced it with a better version of that shuttle technology.

    As for the International Space Station while its hardly all that inspiring or producing much now don’t forget we haven’t finished building it yet. Let’s give it a chance to see what it will do once its fully complete and up-&-running shall we?

    Now I’ll try & make this concise as to why I think this Obama NASA budget & plan is so bad.

    1. The USA used to have a reasonable plan – and a program in progress – to get back to the Moon.

    Now with this budget that’s gone & we don’t.

    2. The US used to have a reusable spaceplane that could take seven people into orbit and back and build amazing things and launch spaceprobes, fix satellites, fly science experiments like spacelab up into orbit, etc ..

    Now with this,after 2011 we don’t anymore.

    3. There is no concrete plan anymore to get US astronauts to fly on US ships – not for at least five years.

    (No, putting our manned space future in the hands of private space groups like Elon Musks’ ain’t a concrete plan – NOT as I see it.)

    So if an American or other Western national wants to go into space now it will be by begging or negotiating with Russia. Just two nations will be running humans into orbit – Russia & China.

    China, I think, is not likely to co-operate well internationally & is just beginning its own space program based on Russian tech.

    Russia is also struggling economically and both Russia and China are totalitarian* nationalist states with a record of oppressing & menacing other nations as well as their own people – eg. Georgia, Tibet, Chechnya, Xinjiang, Taiwan. :-(

    (* Russia is *theoretically* a democracy – but in name only. :-( )

    Do people here really think this is a positive development for the world?
    Do you really want your future or your childrens in their hands?

    So : What would my alternative ideal program be?

    1) FUND NASA! Fund it properly and well and give it what it needs to do its job of flying humans into space further and further and doing the exploration and colonising that they can do best. If need be let NASA take sponsorship deals or whatever else.

    2) Set a new rule which must never be broken – you do NOT stop flying or have any gaps between flying your old ships and your new. Keep the Shuttle flying until Ares or Plan B or Direct or Shuttle mark II or whatever else is able to immediately replace it. Build more ships and fly them more often – update them, mass produce em, build several different rockets at once -eg. new Shuttles ,new Apollo suuccessors and entirley new craft too! But DO NOT STOP FLYING.

    Space travel is like riding a bike up a steep hill – once you start you keep going, if you stop you risk falling over, you get passed by others & its durn hard to get going again. Keep sweating, go hard and you get to the top of the hill, win the race and can reap the best rewards. ;-)

    3) Clear focused goals – set ‘em , keep to ‘em and durn well see they get done no matter what. Have a series of Kennedy style deadlines. Meet each one.

    So .. first back to the Moon before 2020 & this time to set up a permanent base. Spend what you have to. Build what you have to. Do what you have to. Make it the top priority. No delays or messing about permitted.

    If there’s an accident if lives are lost in something like Challenger or Columbia again – learn from it – but don’t stop flying! Make the investigations quicker & accept that there will be losses and we just have to risk them because what we’re doing matters & not flying hurts us more.

    Then Mars – first landing and starting to explore and colonise plus some nearby asteroids. As before, No stuffing about, no excuses, keep up the momentum and make it happen.

    Then .. well keep going. Momentum makes a huge difference – the tragedy is that we lost momentum so badly post-Apollo. That’s what’s got us into the mess we’re in now.

    Don’t stop! Don’t even blink! Just go! Go! Go!

    Get the engineers together – tell ‘em that. Get the politicans together & the bean-counters. Tell them they either make it happen or get out.

    If people or other groups like SpaceX say they have better alternatives let them work independently on these alternatives concurrently too – but meanwhile keep going with your plan first until it either works or fails when actually put to the test. Only after Ares has been tried – really & truly and fully tried & shown to be unworkable – should we drop it and go to the next one.

    I’m impatient with plans, with talks that go nowhere, with vague promises and politicans waffle. Clear targets – starting now with Ares going to the moon. . That’s what we need. That’s what Obama should have said – to echo JFK : “We will do this. It won’t be easy but we will do it and we start right now!” Just fund it, fly it, do it. :-)

  135. Katharine

    I admit I have an almost reflexive hatred for business and private industries because they tend to go corrupt. And anyway, I find business majors repugnant.

    They’re only the money-shufflers, though, for private industry, thankfully. The money is from the things they produce, which are made by we who are in science and engineering.

    Part of making this successful will be engineering a delicate balance between government regulation and private money.

  136. Pi-needles

    @ 133. Will:

    Anyone who says humans in space isn’t worth it either has their own agenda or is simply ignorant of the facts.

    Or both! ;-)

    @ 127. James Says:

    Landing on the moon? $150 million.
    Invading a foreign nation and achieving absolutely nothing? $1 trillion plus.
    Claiming that there isn’t enough money to fund NASA? Priceless.

    IMHO, this comment wins the whole thread. :-D

    Even if some folks do quibble about the specific figures, the basic point there is sound – & funny. :-)

    There used to be a saying: “If we can put a man on the Moon why can’t we do X?”

    I suggest a replacement “If we can spend X trillion on Iraq & X trillion on Afghanistan & X trillion on bailing out the Banks then why can’t we do X …” Starting with funding NASA properly to get back to Moon & /or land on Mars *somehow* whether via ‘Ares’ or anything else!

    PS. “X trillion?” Yeah, I can’t name the exact number(s) off the top of my head. But we all know its a colossal and ever growing sum in each case that could have been put to far better use.

  137. Bryan D

    One thing to remember of course is that the President can only suggest a budget, it’s the Congress that actually writes down the final product and votes on it. Every D and R from any State that makes anything related to NASA will fight hard to see that stuff not go away, and that’s certainly not partisan politics, it’s just regular politics. :)

  138. Spectroscope

    @ 136. Pi-needles: When are the banks paying back their debts to us taxpayers again? Don’t the Iraqis now kinda owe us – & the Afghanistanis too? Not that I expect the latter to be grateful or able to chip in much (Afghanistan esp. has nothing to give I know.Iraq should be giving the member nations of the Bush’es ‘Coalition of the Willing’ free oil for eternity. Not that they will of course.) but still the West did free them from the tyrannies of Saddam and the Taliban respectively.

  139. Spectroscope

    @ 46. tacitus Says:

    Enough of the whining about the Chinese beating us to the Moon already! The future of human beings in space belongs to all nations, not just the Americans or the Chinese. In the long run it doesn’t matter one jot if it’s China, America, Russia, or even little Liechtenstein that gets to the Moon first (from today). If China wants to invest its new found wealth in an aggressive space program that gets them to the Moon in 10 years, then more power to them. The sooner the better, I say. I have absolutely no doubt that the USA will continue to be in the vanguard of space technology and exploration for decades to come. What we don’t need is to always be the front-runner in every high profile venture that tickles the public fancy. If building a sustainable presence on the Moon means it takes a decade longer than it take the Chinese to plant their flag on the Moon then so be it. Let China take the spotlight — I will be happy to cheer them on. Any investment in the (peaceful) development of space, from any country, is a win in my book. (Emphasis mine.)

    You aren’t serious are you?

    Ignoring the stupid Godwin’s law thing for a sec to make a valid historical analogy – but that’s exactly like saying “it doesn’t matter a jot” whether Nazi Germany, Communist Russia or democratic America invented the Atom Bomb first. :-(

    China is a brutal, totalitarian, one-party dictatorship. I will never forget seeing and hearing about what they did to their own people in the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tiananmen_Square_protests_of_1989) You have an ideological regime – still in power today – that is willing to run its own young people over with tanks, pile their bodies up into heaps and incinerate them with flamethrowers & you think it doesn’t matter if these people control or have a powerful hold on our future? Really? :roll:

    Are you that blind? China is a genocidal menace to the globe. It may not be Politically Correct to say this but it’s a stark fact. Reality is ugly & not what wishy-washy liberal PC delusion. I will never trust them or cheer for China. Not unless there’s a democratic revolution in China that topples the present system.

    Even then there is something I (& I think most others who really know anything) find deeply repellent about their culture which has zero respect for human liberties and inalienable rights and holds little if any respect for even human life itself.

    To think you & those like you understand so little of the nature of the Communist “People’s Republic” which executes thousands and bills their relatives for the bullets – that refuses to accept Taiwan’s right to live in peace and that is conducting genocide against Tibet doing things that would make any sane, compassionate human beings blood run cold & the Chinese culture is scary. :-(

    This isn’t a repeat of the Cold War, where the overriding objective was a propaganda victory over those evil commie Soviets. Those days of jingoism dressed up as patriotism should be long behind us — Americans should have more confidence than that.

    Yes, but then Patriotism is Un-PC now & we are supposed to value the culture of genocidal human-life-liberty-&-pursuit-of-happiness dispising China and the sucide-Homicide bomber worshipping, anti-Semitic, corrupt & fanatical Arab world as equal to our own. Funny how when we find pride in our traditional anglo-European culture and Western nationalism embarrassing we lose confidence in ourslves and our sense of identity and direction isn’t it? :roll:

    Wake up! If you think China isn’t a danger to the world you are being naive. If you think Iran isn’t a danger to the world you are being naive and misinformed.

    Space is a major source national power and prestiege. Rocket technology even the most peaceful – carries an inherent military-ness about it. A civilian payload can quickly be replaced by multiple H-bomb warheads. High ground gives you a military advantage – whether you are overt about this truth or subtle about it, that fact remains. Air power is a decsive advantage – if you control the skies you control much more than just the skies. Space is the ultimate high ground. Rule space and you rule the sky.

    The USA – and the free Western world which gives us our quality of life, our freedom, our opportunity to live to our best and fullest potential if we so chose – is losing, no surrendering, this rule of the skies and space to its enemies. To countries that are at best indifferent to us and at worst openly hostile.

    I feel horribly sure that this will go down in history as our worst ever mistake & that Obama will go down in history as far worse a president than Bush.

    You clearly do not remember the Cold War. I do. You do not appreciate how good we have it today – how pax Americana is infinitely preferable to pax Communista.

    Call me Politically Incorrect or Sino-phobic or whatever if you will. I know this is not the popular PC liberal view here.

    But I will make no bones about this. I distrust, dislike & fear some nations and cultures and believe it would be a nightmare if China or Iran or certain others had the power and influence over the world and especially my and my childrens futures provided by having successful space programs.

    I want America in space – ahead of all others and playing a leading & controlling role.

    I do not wish to give my future into the hands of monsters like those who rule China. Obama I fear is doing the latter & giving up the former.

    (Let me be clear – By monsters I do NOT mean the Chinese people here but rather their govenment only. I pity the average Chinese people although I consider their culture a cruel and dreadful one.)

    PS. I intend no offence by these statements but I do wish to express myself & warn you all & hopefully get you to start waking up to reality here. I always try to abide by the BA’s rules. I honestly do not think I have been impolite or a jerk here but have instead expressed a legitimate if un-PC point of view in a legitimate manner. I hope that you let me stay and continue to do so.

  140. Spectroscope

    @ 77. The Chemist Says:

    Meanwhile, this is SPACE. for the benefit of humanity and the furtherence of knowledge, and the stretching of boundaries and the squishing of obstacles and all that mushy stuff! I don’t care if the people who are making the most progress at the moment have a red and yellow flag painted on the spacecraft.

    As you can see I do care for the reasons I’ve already mentioned above.

    There are some truly nasty people in the world.
    There are also some truly nasty nations.
    These nasty nations and people don’t care about that “mushy stuff” you mentioned. They care only about power and their desire to impose their way on everyone else. China is one of those countries I think.

    Such nations as China and Iran – and, yes, Saddam’s Iraq too – need to be stopped for everyones sake. I am amazed that so many have been mislead into ignoring this sad reality.

    I’m a numismatist, a fancy word for coin-collector, do you know how many countries have coins commemorating the (American) crew that landed on the moon?

    At a guess I’d say nations like Australia, England, Israel, Greece, Sweden, India, Sri Lanka, Japan, Samoa & so forth – parts of the “Anglosphere” Commonwealth or our better allies. I’m guessing China , Russia, Cuba and North Vietnam were NOT among them nor were Afghanistan and Syria. (Or the ‘United Arab Republic’ or suchlike as it was called back then – a short-lived fusion of Syria & Egypt under the Egyptian dictator Nasser.)

    Despite the fact that part of the motivation behind putting people there was political- it was one small step for man and a giant leap for mankind. Sure it was a misspoken sentence, and technically saying “man” to represent humanity is somewhat outdated now, but nowhere in there did Armstrong say something equivalent to: “U! S! A! NUM! BER! ONE!”

    Armstrong didn’t need to say that – just his *being* there proved it. :-)

    And there is nothing wrong with being proud of your nation and patriotic and expressing your love for it and belief it is no. 1 by such a chant.

    Why does anyone think otherwise? *How* could anyone think otherwise? Oh yeah, the Liberal religion of Political correctness. :roll:

    People are naturally proud when their own countrymen achieve something, but we’re all part of a larger human family that has achieved so much collectively that our petty granfalloonery seems anathema.

    To a degree perhaps. But only to a degree.

  141. Kver

    I am deeply saddened that the USA is deciding to retreat from the challenges of manned spaceflight, but not nearly as saddened as watching the American democracy fold up on itself. The have-nots of our society have figured out how to vote the spoils of effort and endeavor over to themselves. Our government has become robin hood’ish in nature (and badly managed with spiraling deficits) and “feel good” speeches that make postponement of progress look desirable even to the educated.

    That private industry may stave off this crumbling empire by being heroes by proxy is a false illusion, once the tax monster comes for them. The power to tax is the power to destroy.

    So we retreat to our intellectual keeps and hope our funding doesn’t get cut on our watch. Sorry moon program, those with the ability to solve those problems for all mankind must be sacrificed for those that won’t solve their personal problem of poverty. May others learn from our mistaken focus.

  142. Phil here is a link to Scott Hororitz Space Review article: Ares evolution. This should be an eye opener to all of the disinformation being circulated about Ares I.

  143. Harman Smith

    It’s almost bizarre how politically charged some of the comments here are! Some of ‘em made me LOL.

    @150, “I feel horribly sure that this will go down in history as our worst ever mistake & that Obama will go down in history as far worse a president than Bush.”

    Have you ever heard of “hyperbole”? Seriously. No, really. Let’s go over that sentence again.

    “I feel horribly sure that this will go down in history as our worst ever mistake & that Obama will go down in history as far worse a president than Bush.”

    Now let’s take a closer look at that first clause:

    “I feel horribly sure that this will go down in history as our worst ever mistake”

    By this you mean the decision to increase NASA’s budget by $6,000,000,000 over five years, cancel a space program that wasn’t working at all and re-focus on projects concerning innovation and technological improvements? That, right there, is the biggest mistake the United States of America ever made? Ever? Really? I mean—Jesus—really? Reeallllyyy????

    I dunno, man… sometimes I just… I just don’t know anymore.

    Also, #152 basically saying NASA is being destroyed by big government, taxes, and poor people, is just… is there an internet acronym that covers that? I feel that LOL just isn’t cutting it.

  144. SlothMotivation

    NASA’s annual budget is going from $19 billion to a little over $20 billion in 2015. The $6 billion over five years is pennies compared to the Department of Education (3 times NASA’s budget), Homeland Security (5 times NASA’s budget) and Defense Department (20 times NASA’s budget).

    If the budget is approved, NASA will continue on but don’t count on any big science just robo missions and telescopes. Of course, all of our astronauts will be placed on hold until the commercial space program becomes profitable. Our astronauts could move to Russia where they could still participate in a space program. There definitely won’t be anything in America for them.

    May be some of NASA’s budget could go into retraining and re-employement programs for our astronauts.

  145. Chris Winter

    SlothMotivation wrote: “If the budget is approved, NASA will continue on but don’t count on any big science just robo missions and telescopes.”

    You don’t think those are “big science”? Hubble Space Telescope is not big science? Mars rovers and orbiters are not big science? Cassini? Voyager? Pioneer?

    Please tell me what sort of a program would mean “big science” to you.

    I agree, the astronaut corps will be hurt by this budget realignment. But how many of them had a realistic chance of flying even before the change?

  146. amphiox

    LorZod, the answer to the question you posed in #132 is simple. All five of your points, from A to E, are wrong.

  147. amphiox

    All the “big science” missions are robotic! In terms of scientific results returned per dollar spent, the manned spaceflight program has returned, with one exception, jack squat. For science return per cost, the ISS is little more than a publicity stunt.

    Columbia (someone correct me if I’m wrong here) was a science mission. Can anyone honestly say that ANY of the scientific experiments/results conducted on that mission was worth the cost of the astronauts’ lives in that accident? (Or perhaps more fairly, worth the level of risk the astronauts were subjected to, given that the accident could not have been foreseen)

    The repair/upgrades to the Hubble Space Telescope is the only exception. That was truly excellent science made possible by manned spaceflight. But even here, the value of the return is diluted by the incredible cost. Suppose a hypothetical alternate situation where there was no manned space program, but all the funds that were spent on the Hubble shuttle missions were instead spent directly on a robotic space telescope program? Every time the space telescope had a problem or needed an upgrade that could only have been performed by a manned mission, we could have simply used the same funds to build and launch a new replacement telescope, with money left over. We probably would have had a fleet of over 10 Hubble Telescopes by now, each individually specialized for different tasks.

    Manned missions for the sake of science alone is simply non-sensical to me. Colonization, with a view towards the longterm survival of our species, is the only goal that justifies the expense and risk (and of course, it is the only area where humans are absolutely necessary!). A lot of science will automatically flow out of such an endeavour, but that is all a bonus. It is not the reason for going out there.

  148. Irishman

    Will (103) Said:
    > That’s not strictly true. The actual vehicles might be owned by NASA, but all of the technology is owned by Boeing. NASA can’t go to someone else and say “Build me one of these” unless they are willing to start from scratch and avoid patent infringments.

    That’s true, but that’s true of any government equipment buy. The military wants an F-22, they have to go to Lockheed Martin for that – Boeing can’t make them. Same way if you want to buy a Ford Mustang, you can’t get Mercedes Benz to build you one.

    > Anyway, my point is that NASA did not develop the hardware. Boeing did. The reliability and built-in safety is all Boeing.

    That’s debatable. Yes, Boeing did the design work, but they did it with NASA oversight and following NASA policies and oversight.

    > Therefore, it’s a bit silly to say that private companies can’t meet the reliability and safety of NASA and launch humans into space because they’ve been doing it for years.

    This much we agree on. I think the other is quibbling over semantics.

    > Private companies already do all the launching and maintenance of the shuttle in everything but name. NASA has final say on pressing the Go-button. Even the telemetry of most of our unmanned probes is handled through JPL by contractors, not by NASA personnel. My brother is one of them. It is surprising to a lot of people how many (or actually.. how few) people in the space business are actually employed by the government directly.

    You’re preaching to the chior. I’m one of them contractors.

    Klopfer (112) Said:
    > But if space exploration and manned space flight were such a great venture for private enterprise, why don’t they do it already? Because there’s nothing to earn.

    First of all, there is a commercial use for space flight. Who do you think puts communication satellites in orbit?

    Second, part of the problem is a chicken and egg problem. Access to space is very expensive, so the thing you use space for needs to be very profitable, and something you can only do from space. Drive the launch costs down by an order of magnitude or two, and the uses for space become more creative because the cost to get there is less, so the return doesn’t have to be as great to justify trying it. But who can afford to develop both the cheaper launch system and the new venture? That is 2 giant hurdles. That’s where NASA steps in and says, “We need access to space and will put X dollars toward someone providing it.” Now there’s funding available to develop the first step, and once the access is in place, companies can look at using space because one giant hurdle is cleared. That puts the risk back to equivalent with other venture capital risks.

    Third, part of the problem is government obstacles to launch. Columbia demonstrated there are real risks to putting launchers where the flight path goes over population zones, and airways need to be clear of commercial and private air traffic for launch systems. That means regulations on air traffic zones, launch sites, etc. These things haven’t been established, but now that there is traction for the idea there is movement on the bureaucratic infrastructure.

    The idea here is not for NASA to have companies build yet another NASA launch system. The idea is for companies to build launch systems that NASA uses, open to other customers.

    amphiox (113) Said:
    > All the technical expertise and systems that NASA has developed to date for LEO manned spaceflight should be sold to private companies, to use as they wish for their own LEO efforts (barring things the government needs to keep to itself for national security reasons).

    Actually, anything that was government developed and not part of commercial proprietary restrictions is available to private enterprise. It doesn’t have to be sold, it is freely available. Paid for by tax dollars. Hardware wise, though, would have to be bought from the government.

    > NASAs mandate should be breakthrough technology and exploration beyond the limits of what is currently feasible.

    And that is what the new plan is all about. Let NASA sponsor technology development, and have private enterprise pick up the slack of implementing applications of the research. Kinda like aeronautics.

    Jim Gagnon (117) Said:
    > … I would like to point out the two most exciting parts of today’s announcement for me: the vision of hundreds or thousands of people in orbit at once, and the goal of developing a planetary ship that can reach Mars in weeks.

    Yes, it’s amazing how many people overlooked that part of the announcement. NASA’s new goal is to make space more accessible, not limited to a couple dozen specialists.

    > My only concern is that we’re not preserving our existing orbital capacity before developing a new one. However, programs such as the Shuttle have a habit of sucking all the air and money out of the room, so perhaps this is the only way to move forward.

    First off, operating Shuttle is a huge expenditure. Shutting it down frees up money to invest in other research. That was the struggle with previous attempts and developing follow-on vehicles. Shuttle and ISS taking up such huge amounts the government’s politically feasible amount of money for space was already drained. Not enough left to also develop a new launch system. Besides, Shuttle was already dead – the safety issues have made it politically unfeasible to continue flying beyond ISS completion.

    I’m disappointed our launch system is going away before a replacement is in place. But I had that reaction when it was announced by Bush in the VSE. And we really are losing a unique capability of Shuttle that no launch system proposed has addressed – the ability to return sizable payloads from space. Even Orion had a relatively small payload return capability – nothing like the launch capability of Progress, for instance. This is forcing hardships on ISS support that was planned with that ability that will no longer exist. But none of that is the result of this latest announcement. In fact, I would love to see one of the commercial ventures look at payload return as part of their servicing capability.

    Phil Plait (121) Said:
    > Second, your point about fixing Hubble makes no sense at all. Who would fix it if it broke today? There are no more Shuttle flights on the manifest for Hubble. And once the Shuttle is retired, what would NASA do if Hubble breaks down, with no Ares ready to go? They’d have to call the Russians, I suppose, which would happen whether or not Obama’s plan gets OKed.

    Actually, I’m pretty sure the plan is that Hubble is done being serviced and will be deorbited after it ceases to work. I suppose one can never say never, but without a Shuttle and robotic arm, any attempt to service again would be such a dramatic and expensive undertaking it would likely be cheaper just to build and launch a new one.

    And Chandra and Spitzer weren’t built with the ability to be serviced in space at all, so Moonage bringing them up is silly. They’ll deorbit and be replaced as well. I notice he didn’t mention the James Webb Space Telescope, that got funded in this budget proposal.

    Plutonium being from Pluto (134) Said:
    > “Footprints & flags” only? Sure that was the goal they set & met back then & yes we need more than that now but that ‘Apollo’ model is still the one I think we should emulate. Why? Because it worked. That simple. Hello skeptics – look at the *evidence*!

    What about the Apollo model are you wishing to emulate? The goal of “footprints and flags”? That won’t work, first because it’s already been done, and second, because the political will of this country is not in the same place it was in 1960. What made Apollo happen was the Cold War and the space race. Without that cultural backdrop (and China just ain’t the same thing), this country doesn’t have the political will to support that kind of investment. So it ain’t happening at the Apollo pace, regardless of the goal, and that goal is not one the bulk of this country will support now.

    > 1. The USA used to have a reasonable plan – and a program in progress – to get back to the Moon.
    Now with this budget that’s gone & we don’t.

    It is true, we are trading a specific plan to get to the Moon again for a plan to develop space infrastructure and hope to encourage more investment in going to space. The Moon isn’t off the table, but the specifics are no longer there.

    > 2. The US used to have a reusable spaceplane that could take seven people into orbit and back and build amazing things and launch spaceprobes, fix satellites, fly science experiments like spacelab up into orbit, etc ..
    Now with this,after 2011 we don’t anymore.

    True, but the Shuttle was gone anyway. Obama didn’t make that happen, that was declared by Bush in VSE because of Shuttle safety issues. And since you will ask, yes, since Obama was reversing Bush he could have reversed the Shuttle cancellation as well, except the driver for Shuttle termination was safety concerns. Also, closing that program frees up a lot of money to pump into new investments, making new developments faster. I share the lament over the loss of our own access, but I see the reasons behind it.

    > 3. There is no concrete plan anymore to get US astronauts to fly on US ships – not for at least five years.

    True, Constellation might have been a more concrete plan, but wouldn’t have been any faster.

    Gary Miles (153), thank you for that link. It addressed my previous question. So, Constellation’s schedule shortfalls and budget “overruns” are all effects of Congress not funding the program at the originally stated levels. Thanks, that was my concern.

    Orion and Ares had some real design issues that can’t be laid at the feet of Congress. I know there were issues with weight constraints and underperforming capacity for the launch vehicle. I know there was vascillation over the landing method (sea or land) and decisions lagging implementation, causing rework. But the picture of Constellation not meeting goals is largely a distorted one by measuring performance of Constellation against the original plan and not against the reality of Congress and funding.

  149. Irishman

    Okay, this blog software is annoying. New posts are appearing where they weren’t before – I assume they were in hold for moderation. But that changes the post numbers.

    Gord Said:
    > As much as I agree that there is a need to spend more effort in some fundamental research, I also fear this might be the beginning of the end for the American manned space exploration program (or maybe it is the middle of the end). The cancellation of the Ares program does make me reflect back to the late 1950s when Canada cancelled its Avro Arrow fighter program. That was the end for Canada’s advanced military jet aircraft industry. Much of Canada’s aerospace expertise left Canada to work in the US. Where will the NASA engineers go? Perhaps to rising stars China and India.

    This is nonsense. The US aerospace opportunities are becoming larger. It just means shifting from government jobs to private sector jobs. More competition for launchers means more rocket scientists at work, more engineers trying to develop new systems, more hardware getting built, more companies to apply to and work for.

    BarMonger Said:
    > Reading the comments, it seems that a lot of people are focused entirely on landing on the Moon.
    But what’s with the lunar fascination? Sending rovers and probes into space isn’t nearly as expensive as sending astronauts to the Moon, but they can give a lot more scientific data, mainly due to the length of the missions and the fact that no return mission is necessary.

    Economic efficiency can be measured several ways, but keep in mind the rovers Spirit and Opportunity sent to Mars? Everything they did their first year on Mars could have been done by a human explorer in a couple of days. Robotic missions may have longer missions and no return required, and no life support systems (which simplifies things greatly), but they are slow compared to having a human on site to evaluate and make decisions, not relayed back to Earth and commands sent back for the next day.

    SlothMotivation Said:
    > The Russians still have rockets capable of sending humans to the moon. I agree, this shouldn’t be about a race to the moon again. But Russia is not a rich nation. They still are able to maintain rockets and the US space program is relying on those rockets. How are the Russians able to pull this off? The US has plenty of money to be able to update the Apollo program and do it in a quick but safe way.

    No. The reason Russian systems are still viable is because they have been in continuous use and improvement over the past 4 decades. There was never a lull where things stopped being made. If Apollo had been kept going, then it would be no issue because incremental changes would have kept it viable, but trying to build a Saturn V now would be like trying to build a Commodore 64. The parts don’t even exist, even if the plans do.

    Extending Shuttle would already have been somewhat of a challenge for this very reason. Some aspects of Shuttle production had already been shut down and retooling began. Turning things back on after they have gone away is tougher than keeping them running.

    > But the US is content to say they are not willing to build rockets capable of traveling to planets.

    This is false. What the US has said is that the government doesn’t need to build and operate these systems directly, but get private enterprise more involved. NASA’s goals are to continue working on elements of space travel like in-space refueling, rendezvous systems, and faster and more efficient interplanetary space drives. They didn’t specify a system yet because the whole point is to create and evaluate the systems for future use.

    SlothMotivation Said:
    > Of course, all of our astronauts will be placed on hold until the commercial space program becomes profitable. Our astronauts could move to Russia where they could still participate in a space program. There definitely won’t be anything in America for them.

    This is false. US astronauts will continue to participate in ISS via the Russian services that NASA will contract with them. ISS operations are joint and rely on facilities from both countries. In fact, ISS is supporting a 6 person crew now, and that won’t change. It is true that some current astronauts may choose to change careers, but that has always occurred. Many of them have moved over to senior management roles for the contractor companies that support NASA. Others have moved into different space advocacy roles, or other technical fields. This is nothing new. There may be a drop in US astronaut corps numbers for a bit, but there’s no need to think they need retraining help.

  150. Katharine

    “Yes, but then Patriotism is Un-PC now & we are supposed to value the culture of genocidal human-life-liberty-&-pursuit-of-happiness dispising China and the sucide-Homicide bomber worshipping, anti-Semitic, corrupt & fanatical Arab world as equal to our own.”

    You seem to mistake patriotism for nationalism, which is what the conservative idiots practice.

    I am no patriot, partially because I think America’s pretty silly and because I think it’s pointless to be proud of one’s culture – I’m proud of the things some of the people there have produced, but I’m not proud of the culture itself. Of course, I probably have a very different view on American culture than you do, being someone who plans to gtfo of the country and move to somewhere in better-quality-of-life, more-liberal Europe.

    “Funny how when we find pride in our traditional anglo-European culture and Western nationalism embarrassing we lose confidence in ourslves and our sense of identity and direction isn’t it?”

    Funny how nationalism and racism have produced some of the most horrible regimes in world history.

  151. akear

    The problem is that SpaceX has only a 40% success rate. As a human rated vehicle it is a deadtrap. Can you imagine getting on a plane with a 60% chance of crashing. Private industry simply does not have NASA’s half century of manned space flight experience.

    I would go as far to say spaceX is potentially the most unsafe human rated vehicle since the civil war submarine the Hunley. Despite being the first submarine to sink a ship, it has had a 55% human loss rate. In fact after the successful sinking of the ship the entire crew and sub disappeared.

    Burt Rutan space craft is impressive but it is a sub orbital vehicle that has no practical purpose. It is just the world’s most amazing roller coaster ride. All these private space craft are poor compared to what NASA does.

  152. akear (162): That’s not terribly fair. It’s only had a handful of launch attempts so you have low-number statistics. The past two launches were successful, and that wasn’t for a rocket that is human-rated. But you could just as easily say that their success rate has improved hugely.

  153. akear

    It not fair to give the US a 10+ year manned space gap by relying on inferior equipment. Besides, hugh sums of money have already been spent on Ares and Constellation. The first Ares test was a success. SpaceX only averages two launches a year with a 40% success rate. It NASA had this record for any launch vehicle heads would roll.

    Most experts on the subject call Obama’s space policy short sighted. If Obama wants to be a bad president like Bush it is his choice.

    Crap in Space…….

  154. akear

    Well, I guess 90% here agree this decision borders on insanity. The US manned space has been ruined. Time to move on to other subjects.

    It is over……..

    Bye.

  155. akear: “Well, I guess 90% here agree this decision borders on insanity.”

    I don’t know which thread you’re reading, but it appears to be the same place you got Space X’s 40% success rate from.

    BTW: Do you know how many rockets were lost while we were trying to get people on the Moon? We even lost three men on the ground, but we still managed to put a few footprints on the Moon.

    There seems to be some kind of myth that NASA won’t insist on safe rockets if they don’t go with Constellation. I don’t know where this comes from, and although Space X isn’t the only one out there developing a manned program, they are closer than Constellation was (or anyone else) to putting people into space. The relative merits of their program (ie what kind of delays they will suffer) is up to people who have intimate knowledge with their technology, but it is an undisputed fact that they have spent FAR less money on their program than Constellation and their launch schedule is more ambitious. They are the current “best bet” for getting humans into space if we don’t want to use Russian rockets. Anyone who says different, I invite you to provide some evidence that there are others who are planning to launch a passenger-capable rocket in 2011, because Space X is.

    Make no mistake, NASA may not go with Space X (although I don’t see a better alternative) but their program is proof that NASA isn’t the only game in town, and probably not the best either.

    And before anyone starts making any claims about how safe their rockets are(will be) it would be a good idea to have some knowledge of their hardware first, because if there is one thing I know about the private sector is that less money does NOT necessarily mean lower quality. Anyone who wishes to dispute that should first take a look at Microsoft.

    And take a look at this before saying that NASA is “abandoning manned space flight”
    http://nasawatch.com/archives/2010/02/bolden-talks-ab-1.html

  156. Ari

    “Most experts on the subject call Obama’s space policy short sighted. If Obama wants to be a bad president like Bush it is his choice.”

    Sorry but most actual “experts” (and almost ALL of the NASA/Contractor community) are thrilled that NASA is being directed to let SCIENCE drive the science rather than have politics and jobs drive the science.

    The Ares program (and I use the term program with a grain of salt) was no such thing. Huge techincal hurdles exist to any successful mission to Mars (Dust, Radiation, Pyschology, and Hundreds more) – there was essentially no “program” in the program to deal with any of these.

    This idea I hear that commercial suppliers can’t do the job sounds vaguely familiar? It should if the terms like Post Challenger, Shuttle/Centaur, Unified Launch, etc ring any bells at all. The critics were wrong then as proven by the last 20 years (not on the wrong side of the debate but simply invented their wrongness) and they are wrong the same way now.

    Psuedoscience like I see here is no different than Anti-Vax, Creationism, and Alt-Med but I guess its hard to recognize when your spouting this nonsense yourself?

  157. amphiox

    Why can’t the knowledge/expertise/technology developed for Ares/Constellation up to this point be reused? Knowledge is knowledge. The laws of physics and the principles of engineering don’t change. Just because the program will not continue doesn’t mean that everything learned to date from it just sinks into a black hole a disappears forever.

    NASA being a publicly funded government agency, all the experience and technical expertise that NASA has developed to date should be freely available to the private section, in its entirety. And what is not free should in principle be available for a price. In principle, private enterprise, with proper support, should be able to start off more or less exactly where NASA leaves off. There should be no big gap in transfer of capability if things are done right.

    I always got the feeling that Ares/Constellation was doomed from the beginning, that NASA was being asked to do the impossible. Basically it was:

    Bush Administration: “OK, NASA. We want you to go back to the moon and then to mars. You’ll get no additional funding, and no political support, but I’m sure you eggheads will figure something out. You have 20 years. Hop to it.”

    NASA: “Erm, yeah. Well, I guess you’re the boss.”

    Finally, recognizing that current technology has reached a plateau in capability that is not easily surmountable, continuing research into the cutting edge, breakthrough, enabling technologies that are necessary for the continuation of manned spaceflight in the longterm, while choosing not for the time being to devote resources into just sending up more people in the same limited vehicles for no justifiable purpose, until the necessary enabling technologies have reached a point of sufficient maturity is in no way, shape or form, “abandoning” manned space flight.

  158. amphiox

    As with everything, exploration is practically bounded by money, time, and goals. But I always thought it unfair, in terms of the cutting-edge/breakthrough areas where NASA is mandated to operate, to set such strict bounds, simply because so much cannot be foreseen or planned. It is really more sensible, and fairer, I think, to leave one of these boundaries open.

    For example, we (ie society/government/etc) could say to NASA:

    1. Here is your fixed budget for the next 20 years for manned spaceflight. Go as far as you can with these resources. We’ll want annual reports on progress.

    or

    2. We want you to get astronauts to Mars. Here is a fixed, annual budget, guaranteed for 4 years, followed by renegotiation every 4 years. Take as long as you need to to get the job done properly. We’ll want annual reports on progress.

    or (which as I understand it is close to what actually happened in the 1960s)

    3. We want you to get astronauts to Mars in 20 years. Money will be no object. You are guaranteed all the funds that you require. Get to work. We’ll want annual reports on progress.

    I don’t know if such scenarios are politically feasible, but to me they are the only sensible way to run something like NASA.

  159. Irishman

    akear Said:
    > The problem is that SpaceX has only a 40% success rate.

    That’s not a fair assessment. First off, SpaceX has not man-rated a launch system yet. Second, how many launches did it take for the US to build a rocket that flew? SpaceX is in early development. It takes time to shake down any new design.

    > Burt Rutan space craft is impressive but it is a sub orbital vehicle that has no practical purpose. It is just the world’s most amazing roller coaster ride. All these private space craft are poor compared to what NASA does.

    It is true that nothing yet performs what NASA has performed. It remains to be seen how quickly private enterprise can develop systems with the market open.

    > It not fair to give the US a 10+ year manned space gap by relying on inferior equipment.

    I’m not happy about the break in launch capability, but that was already a given. I think we’ll be flying in 5. I don’t know if 3 will be met, but I remain hopeful.

    > Besides, hugh sums of money have already been spent on Ares and Constellation.

    You seem to be using the justification “we’ve already wasted huge sums of money, so we should waste more”. Note: that is independent of the quality of Ares and Constellation – I am reframing the statement to the perspective of the decision makers. How much money has already been spent is irrelevant to comparing the value out of what will be gained by continuing that path vs. pursuing a different path.

    > The first Ares test was a success.

    It is a little unfair to call that an Ares test. That was a development test to understand certain flight dynamic aspects of the rocket stack. It was not an Ares I rocket. Calling it a “sham” might be strong – I don’t know how Constellation billed that flight. But for the purpose it served, it was a valid test flight.

    Will Said:
    > There seems to be some kind of myth that NASA won’t insist on safe rockets if they don’t go with Constellation.

    Yes, that is another one of those perplexing assumptions. We have yet to see any notion of how NASA will go about approving commercial rockets for their use. It will not be a simple matter of “Well, they flew one and it worked, I guess they’re good.”

    Question for the doubters: how are commercial airline designs rated for use? How are they approved prior to being sold to any airline?

    Ari Said:
    > The Ares program (and I use the term program with a grain of salt) was no such thing. Huge techincal hurdles exist to any successful mission to Mars (Dust, Radiation, Pyschology, and Hundreds more) – there was essentially no “program” in the program to deal with any of these.

    You seem misinformed. “Ares” is not the name of a Mars program. “Ares” is the name of the rocket system – Ares I with the 5 SRB can stack and Orion capsule on top, Ares V for the dual SRB/ET stack with the payload module on top. “Constellation” is the name of the overall program, which includes making a launch capability, a crew vehicle, working on a Lunar return, and thinking about someday planning for Mars. There’s no reason for Constellation to have been tackling the Mars issues now – the first step is the launch platform and crew capsule for near Earth.

    Don’t blame “Ares” for not being what it never claimed to be.

    amphiox Said:
    > Why can’t the knowledge/expertise/technology developed for Ares/Constellation up to this point be reused?

    I’m not sure what you are asking. Are you asking if Ares work can be turned over to some private company to pick up and continue? That is a question of my own – I would not be surprised to see Boeing make a bid to rescope Ares and vie for some of the competion money or other ways to stay in the game. If they can pull it off, they may yet make a launch system that gets NASA business. Just because NASA is pulling the plug on Constellation as written doesn’t mean the companies can’t find a way to build on what they have done.

    If you’re expecting other companies to pick up and start from Ares’ current position, that is less likely, primarily because the infrastructure that is in place is owned by United Space Alliance/Boeing. Anyone else would be even further in the hole trying to take over Ares work.

    As far as the knowledge/expertise, there are ways for that to be captured. First, the principles and whatnot are already in the technical literature. Second, the employees with that knowledge are going to need jobs if Ares is really stopped. They may move to other companies and contribute their knowledge to the new systems. Put it this way, if Boeing does give up Ares, they can’t afford to keep all those people on the payroll with no money coming in, so those people will have to find new jobs.

    > I always got the feeling that Ares/Constellation was doomed from the beginning, that NASA was being asked to do the impossible.

    That’s not far from the truth. NASA has been blasted for problems meeting projected schedules and dates before (Shuttle, various station incarnations, Shuttle again, etc). They adopted a “pay as you go” plan for Constellation, which was really more of a “get what you pay for” model. Then right out of the bag, Congress dilly-dallies and does not approve a Federal budget, so the year stuff was supposed to kick off there was no money to kick it off with. Then then 2 years ago they repeated that fiasco. Ergo, more scheduled spending increases to Constellation were not provided, so work could not be done. Constellation adjusted the work delivered to match the funding they received. So it is a bit harsh for critics now to be saying “Constellation is not on schedule”.

    > I don’t know if such scenarios are politically feasible, but to me they are the only sensible way to run something like NASA.

    No, they’re not politically feasible. Congress rewrites the budget every year. Theoretically funding could be promised for multiple years, but it is always subject to some Congressman tweaking it the next year for their own personal gain (constituents, etc).

  160. akear

    Nobody really believes this madness can continue. Either Obama or Bolton will come to their senses or congress with simply add to NASA’s budget incrementally. Most experts I have heard say the privatization plan simply will not work because the private space companies are not ready. Most of the things Bolton talked about are decades away from realization. I was surprised he did not talk about faster than light travel! When the private space companies are still landlocked in 2020 NASA will take over. However, the Obama plan is so ridiculous it will probably be scrapped way before then. Eventually, privatization will be the best way to get to space, but that is 30 years away. In the meantime constellation is our best bet, and it now looks like congress has realized this. When the American public realizes how utterly ridiculous this is they will again back NASA. Right now I am finding this whole thing amusing. After hearing space experts and congressman ridicule this plan I feel so much better today. This space plan of Obama’s will fall faster than health care did last year. We will soon have NASA back in the saddle again. Anyone here knows in the back of their mind this is true. We have been here before with the defunct space plane. I would not be surprised if the shuttle comes back for another half decade. It always comes back to the shuttle – doesn’t it?

    This is privatization plan is going nowhere folks!!!!! In the meantime maybe we can just have some fun mocking these amateurs. You have to admit it is pretty funny.

  161. Graybeard

    This is a refreshingly coherent dialog. For what it is worth, Irishman is dead on with everything he said. I would offer a few more observations on the total NASA situation.

    Irishman’s paragraph on the impacts of the federal budget management on Constellation is very accurate. I don’t suggest NASA was blameless – but they had plenty of interference from OMB micromanagement, congressional underfunding, and continuing resolutions. Hold that thought for a bit…because when the private enterprises become dependent on that same budget process, they will have the same problem. (It will probably also be blamed by those enterpreneurs to ‘explain’ their own techincal delays.) Hopefully, OMB cannot dissect every line item in the commercial folks’ budgets and demand detailed justification for their cost numbers.

    Second, remember that NASA themselves don’t really build hardware. Industry builds hardware, and always has. NASA, the large commercial industry, and the enterpreneurial startups, all have access to the same pool of engineering talent graduating from the schools. In that vein, NASA or commercial engineers are no worse, or better, than anyone else. The issue is in OPERATING the system safely. Several comments were made comparing to operating an airline. You take some comfort in knowing that your commercial airline is required to operate according to FAA regulations. That assurance goes way beyond having the airworthiness certificate for the hardware. There are pilot certification standards, maintenance requirements, operational rules, and any number of other aspects beyond having a safe aircraft design. I have seen no model yet for how to ensure the commercial space operators have credible ops plans to which the government can commit human lives for transportation. Rich joyriders fly at their own risk. Government astronauts – NASA career fliers, international partner crews under government agreements, or 1-time payload investigators under the US flag – all will have a legitimate expectation of government due diligence in safe transport to the ISS.

    So where does that leave human spaceflight and NASA? I am personally thrilled with the increases in technology development and science. They are critical to the objectives of the overall space program, and Constellation was only an interim solution to the longer problems of exploration. But I also fear that a long standdown in human launches will sap the resolve for those development and science expenditures. It takes both pieces to have a human exploration program.

    However, I think the absence of any government-operated crew launch capabillity in the portfolio will prove to be a DEVASTATING strategic error. SpaceX and the other folks have fine engineers, are doing oustanding work. They enjoy the luxury of agility from the lack of government regulation or oversight in the development phase. However, I think there is an incredible naivete in the public about the prospect of operating a commercial space flight venture. I am not even close to being convinced that the new startups have the ability to assure safe operations. Hanging our near-term access to space on unproven businesses is, I think, premature.

    I would also quibble with the perception that any venture is ‘commercial’ if NASA is >95% of their business base. (A few Zillionaires will fly to orbit; most will will take a sub-orbital joyride with Branson or others and get the Tshirt for much less money. Bigelow’s vision notwithstanding, I don’t perceive a large market of people to pay for orbital flights at this stage of the game). This will be NASA paying a guaranteed income to a sole provider. If you only have one provider and one customer, it is more like privatization than commercialization. (and the airmail subsidy analogy is bogus. If the airmail planes went out of business, there were other options for the mail to move. Not so if there is only one spaceline – and the Russians won’t be a feasible option if we fall back on them on short notice. This business relationship will be far from the convetional perception of ‘commercial’.

    Others protest that the risk of business failure will incentivize the commercial guys to be safe. I recall the Challenger commission and Columbia accident report BOTH citing schedule pressure as a contributing factor in bad decisions – and NASA had no profit motive. We can only speculate on the dynamics of a decision based on meeting contract performance requirements.

    As for the increases in the NASA budget? I would not put too much stock in the election-year promises of politicians for future funding. They can – and probably will – evaporate the same way the orioginally promised funding for Constellation did, and with largely the same effect on the commercial and science projects.

  162. Graybeard: You also have to remember that companies like Boeing don’t have to worry about delays and cost overruns as much because the congress-critters in the districts where they have employees like it when the people like it when they are employed. When a project is canceled, even if there is no net loss in jobs, those districts will lose jobs and the congress-critters don’t like that.

    That’s where the perception of an engineering welfare program comes from. The big boys get a little job security and in the meantime, the companies who don’t HAVE the major funding but are nevertheless doing amazing things with a fraction of the money get completely ignored when budget time rolls around.

    It makes sense to kill Constellation even if we had the money to finish the project (which we don’t), because it would send a message that you can’t just keep spending money and expect that we’ll keep coughing up more. I know that they didn’t get the money they were promised, but since they started even their projected costs have soared. It doesn’t make sense for NASA to listen to them say “We can do this for X amount of money in Y amount of time” and then fall for it when they KNOW every project before this one has turned into X times two or three or more and ended up slipping two or three years (or more) before it’s done.

    If all that happens is we force the companies involved in Constellation to go back and provide realistic assessments of how much and how soon, then it will have been worth it. I hope it does much more.

    Handing them another fist-full of $$’s and saying “Get it done whenever.” is a BAD IDEA.

    and btw: As far as the Challenger is concerned (I don’t have the material for Columbia in front of me at the moment) the contractors… the engineers (the ones in the private sector) were the one’s trying to get the launch called off or at least delayed. As you said… scheduling issues (which are NASA’s responsibility) This doesn’t have any bearing on whether or not a company like Space X will build rockets safe enough for humans. It only means that NASA’s criteria for “safe” was (at least for that day) BELOW that of the civilian engineers on site.

  163. Abe Werker

    There is not that much difference with the old days.
    NASA still develops technologies, and companies then make proposals and build the actual ships and rockets.
    And they’re not starting from scratch! For example the Dream Chaser spaceplane is based on years of solid NASA research and development. The Atlas V rocket is an excellent rocket, already flying, but has to get manrated. Please take some time to check out the companies and technologies that are involved in this.

    And, Yes, it’s a radical step to abandon Constellation, but changing from a project that is way behind schedule and will cost a lot of extra money, which the congress probably won’t want to give anyway (they haven’t in the last 4 years either), to a stable budget and things in progress, doesn’t sound so bad at all.

  164. Abe Werker: Just keep in mind that keeping Constellation and actually paying the money needed to complete it are two different things in the eyes of Congress. Regardless of whether it works, it’s still a jobs program.

  165. akear

    When Congress sees what is really instore for NASA this will never pass. America will have its space program back.

  166. Vladislaw

    Space is a PLACE! … NOT a PROGRAM…

    read the space act that created NASA in 1958, the third paragraph states:

    “(c) The Congress declares that the general welfare of the United States requires that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (as established by title II of this Act) seek and encourage, to the maximum extent possible, the fullest commercial use of space.”

    in the next section it tells what NASA is supposed to do:

    “(1) The expansion of human knowledge of the Earth and of phenomena in the atmosphere and space;
    (2) The improvement of the usefulness, performance, speed, safety, and efficiency of aeronautical and space vehicles”‘

    like how the government funded aerospace companies to do research on aircraft, NASA was supposed to do the same thing for spacelines what they did for airlines… namely research and development.

    In 1972, after nixon axed the apollo program, he wanted more commercial space. In 1984 after the challenger accident President Reagan called for more commercial space. In 1998 President Clinton passed a new space act calling for more commercial space. In 2004, in the visison for space exploration President Bush called for commercial space to fill the gap by 2012, griffin funneled the money away and spent it on ares 1.

    Presidents have been trying to get commercial space going for almost 40 years, but senators with powerful connections to contractors and local jobs in their districts, have over turned those efforts everytime.

    The only way space will open to ALL americans, is to break the monopoly NASA has held for space access. setting up a million and one road blocks and excuses about how ONLY they can go to space.

    NASA doesnt build anything, they contract everything out to commercial firms.

  167. akear

    Below is video of one man that is not pleased by Obama-space.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=weGtoY-Vlik

  168. akear

    Well. lets finally close this thread with one last thought.

    After nearly 50 years Obama will be remembered as the president who ended the US space program.

    NASA
    1960 – 2010

    We voted for a nightmare.

  169. Squidmonde

    The greatest benefit of programs like Constellation was never the practical human exploration of space. Their greatest benefit was to give the students in classrooms like mine all across the world something to get excited about. Every day I go in and try to convince these kids that science, technology, engineering, and mathematics is something that is worthwhile and something they can find fulfillment doing. Canceling Constellation puts lie to all that, and I and every other teacher trying to get kids interested in pursuing these fields look like delusional fools, out of touch with the real priorities of America and the world.

    The cost of canceling Constellation will be a minimum of two more generations of students who couldn’t care less about science and exploration, another two generations of losing the opportunity of having our best and brightest do something a little more meaningful than chartered accountancy or banking.

  170. akear

    They will still have their XBoxes and IPODS.

  171. akear: “Well. lets finally close this thread with one last thought.

    After nearly 50 years Obama will be remembered as the president who ended the US space program.”

    Only for people as shortsighted as you. This could be the end of the manned space program, but it won’t be because NASA cut Constellation. It will be because we failed to take advantage of a really good opportunity.

    NASA wasn’t built to “run” space. It’s been trying to ever since Apollo. The same as the FAA, the government has to take up the role of management and leave the operations to those better suited to it.

  172. akear

    We must end this thread with the truth.
    RESET underway…………………….

    Well. lets finally close this thread with one last thought.

    After nearly 50 years Obama will be remembered as the president who ended the US space program.

    NASA
    1960 – 2010

    We voted for a nightmare.

  173. Ari

    Irishman Says (and I agree with your points throughout this thread so ty – but …)

    “You seem misinformed. … There’s no reason for Constellation to have been tackling the Mars issues now – the first step is the launch platform and crew capsule for near Earth.”

    The Vision calls for the space program to:[1] [2]

    “Explore Mars and other destinations with robotic and crewed missions”

    VSE –> CxP –> Ares/Arion. The Ares Program was a direct response to the ESAS so you are incorrect.

    The program was clear … five specific goals/tasks and Ares I/Orion was directly in support of those goals. IMO (and almost all of us working the program) the money spent was premature given the total lack of requirements/design drivers needed as input to execute these goals as directed.

    The current policy is far more logical and has goals, missions, and money much more closely aligned.

  174. Scotty

    Wow! There is a ton of misinformation floating about here. Constellation was not over-budget nor behind schedule. I work for one of the PRIVATE prime contract companies on Constellation and the PRIVATE companies are doing very well receiving high marks in contract ratings (go look it up) for being on budget and AHEAD of schedule. Many are saying “privatize, privatize”. Well, that is how Constellation is set up. The NASA administration part of Constellation is quite small. The work is being done by private companies. The cancellation of Constellation will not just impact the several thousand jobs at NASA, it will cause the loss of tens of thousands of private jobs at ATK, Boeing, Pratt & Whittney etc., not to mention the subcontractor trickle down. I hope the Congress saves Constellation.

  175. akear: Repeating something doesn’t make it true.

  176. akear

    As they say you can’t hide from the truth. Come back here in 2020 when we still don’t have a manned space program.

    Listen to what theoretical physicist and co-founder of string theory Michio Kaku thinks of Obama’s plan. The link is below.
    Only respond if you think you are smarter than Kaku is. See, I already set up a trap for you.

    http://www.parabolicarc.com/2010/01/29/video-michio-kaku-rips-nasa-plan/

    Thanks to Mr. Kaku I win here again.

  177. akear

    I spoke the truth and you lost.

  178. akear: “Listen to what theoretical physicist and co-founder of string theory Michio Kaku thinks of Obama’s plan. The link is below.
    Only respond if you think you are smarter than Kaku is. See, I already set up a trap for you.”

    Intelligent doesn’t mean smart or knowledgable about everything. I have a lot of respect for Kaku, but he’s wrong. It’s not his fault. He’s not a rocket scientist, he’s not an economist, and he’s not a businessman. I’ll listen to him when he talks theoretical physics, but why exactly would he be considered some kind of expert on this subject?

    We’re not talking theoretical physics. We’re talking economics and industry. What NASA is doing right now is exactly what the government did with aviation, and I don’t see much of a difference. Michio says we have to rely on private enterprise getting into space. THEY’RE ALREADY THERE. The difference.. the ONLY difference is that NASA won’t own the hardware anymore. They’re also opening up the field to more competition. I don’t see the downside.

    The shuttle was designed by the aerospace industry, not by NASA. Almost all commercial satellites are designed, built and launched by non-government agencies. NASA isn’t getting out of space. They’re getting out of the way.

  179. akear

    That still leaves us in with a ten year manned space gap. We are right back were we started from in this thread.

  180. akear: “That still leaves us in with a ten year manned space gap. We are right back were we started from in this thread.”

    Except it doesn’t, and we’re not. You seem to believe it, and you’re trying to convince me of that based on…. what? The fact that NASA canceled Constellation? Even if Constellation didn’t slip further than it already has, it could maybe be ready to fly men into orbit by 2014. Even if we didn’t stop the project, we’re liable to have a 5-7 year gap when all is said and done.

    Space X is currently on track for being able to have a manned launch vehicle ready to go next year. Even I am a little suspicious of that deadline, but that’s still three years ahead of Constellation even with the extra money they asked for. If NASA decides Space X isn’t going to be able to do it, you’re telling me that no one out there can launch earlier than 2020? You’ll have to come up with something better that you have so far, to convince me.

    And as I said; saying it doesn’t make it so.

    Don’t get me wrong, NASA can still screw this up, but if they can get this past Congress (that’s kind of a big if at the moment) what we’ll have is a better way of doing things, not worse.

  181. akear

    Most experts would disagree. Get used to it, America is a second tier manned space power after the Shuttle retires.

  182. akear

    SpaceX is not really a heavy launch vehicle. Besides it has a 40% success rate and is slow to launch. The 10 year space gap is now inevitable, and that is change we will have to get used to.

  183. akear: “Most experts would disagree”

    Now we’re getting somewhere. Which experts?

  184. akear

    By this time we know who the critics are. If you want to live a delusion that is fine, sometimes it is better than facing reality. I wish you were right I am wrong. The truth is by late next fall the US manned space program will be in third place behind Russia and China.

    Heck, I may follow your approach and live a delusion. The reality is just too grim to face.

    “When does a dream become a nightmare”

  185. akear: Way to dodge a simple question, especially when it was all you had to do to knock me out of this “delusion” you think I’m in. You’ve certainly spent more effort arguing with me than it would have taken to compile a list of people. It’s not that I don’t know who they are. You brought it up, so I was curious to see which one’s in particular were able to convince you of what you believe. If you’re not going to do something that simple, then you can’t expect me to say “Oh yeah.. my mistake. I guess you were right.”

    Well, you can expect it all you want, but it’s not going to happen because that would be silly.

    and going back to telling me I’m wrong is redundant. We’ve already established that you think I’m wrong. Continuing to say it doesn’t make it any more likely that I will believe it. You’re starting to sound a little trollish to me.

    BTW: Falling behind the Russians and the Chinese is going to happen next year. I agree with you there, but that is has nothing to do with anything at this point since it was going to happen with or without Constellation. The question is: does the cancellation of Constellation and going with a different project accelerate the timetable for us putting men into orbit or push it back? The earliest they said Constellation would be ready to do that was 2014. Judging by how these projects generally develop that date would almost certainly slip several times before they’d be done. NASA thinks that we can do it sooner without relying on Constellation. Space X thinks they can do it by the end of next year. I don’t believe them, but they’ve got a lot of wiggle room between that and 2014. If you know anyone who can do it sooner, by all means speak up.

  186. Thom

    “He’s not a rocket scientist, he’s not an economist, and he’s not a businessman.”

    Are you? How many people are all three of those things? And there goes that old south park reasoning about the guy who’s smart at one thing and a complete dummy at everything else. If you can get theoretical physics, you obviously get rocket science and I’m sure he’s run across some economics every now and then.

    “What NASA is doing right now is exactly what the government did with aviation, and I don’t see much of a difference. ”

    You don’t see the difference between the economic advantage of getting from one place to another quickly and the economic dead end of spending millions or even billions getting to a rock with nothing of significant material worth on it? Oh, yeah, yeah, I know, Helium 3 for fusion and all that jazz, yet we don’t seem to be anywhere near that technology yet. What incentive do companies have to put people on the moon? What incentive do they have to put people into orbit? “Space tourism”? Give me a break man.

    “says we have to rely on private enterprise getting into space. THEY’RE ALREADY THERE. ”

    No, they’re not. Not in any meaningful way. You can’t weasel this in on a technicality. NASA contracting and commissioning parts from private companies is NOT the same thing as private companies going out on their own personal business venture in space. If your target market contains ONE institution with (compared to private citizens and most companies) deep pockets and they stop buying your product, guess what? Your market is a gone.

    At best, companies will keep launching satellites. MAYBE they’ll develop a need for people to go repair the satellites. Other than that, I don’t see any space exploration popping from the private sector.

  187. Thom: ““He’s not a rocket scientist, he’s not an economist, and he’s not a businessman.”

    Are you?”

    No I’m not, but I know what the economists and the businessmen say: “If we can get someone else to get us into orbit, we can do a lot of things that will make money.” This includes everything from testing technology to bringing back raw materials in bulk. The problem has been the infrastructure the private sector has had access to. If NASA goes from being in the driver’s seat to being a client, then a lot of other people can benefit. If Space X turns out to be the one, they’ll still own the rocket (I hope) and they can launch anyone with a project and the money (at 1/5th the current rate) including people.

    And yes, private enterprise IS already there. The only thing they don’t do yet is launch people into orbit. The shuttle isn’t the only gig in town for getting payloads and satellites into orbit. They aren’t even the primary means. They haven’t been for some time. High profile stuff and equipment and people bound for ISS is what goes up on the shuttle. Standard rockets… the things that have been launching since the 80’s is what takes up the rest. Standard rockets that a LOT of people other than NASA are launching on a regular basis, and it’s a growth industry. The technology is there. Anyone who says we can’t do it without NASA just doesn’t know what they’re talking about. Private enterprise is getting into space despite what NASA does, not because of them.

    As for raw materials, it’s not only helium 3. You can manufacture oxygen and water in space, make fuel and depending on where you go, you can bring back the kind of raw materials we have right here on Earth but in massive quantities (again with the right infrastructure in place), some of them rare enough that they are causing economic problems down here. NASA will NEVER be equipped to exploit those resources. You’ll need the private sector to get at them. We might as well start now. It’s not like we need to wait for them to be ripe or something.

    NASA isn’t selling the tickets, and they’re certainly not the only ones looking to hitch a ride to orbit. In many cases they (and the government) are the problem, not the solution. It used to be that they needed to be in the way a little bit to drive development, but those days are quickly ending, if they haven’t already. NASA just needs to get out of the way and lend a hand.

  188. Thom

    “You can manufacture oxygen and water in space”

    Got plenty of that right down here. If we run out, I’m pretty sure it will be easier to make more here rather than making it in space and shipping it all the way back down here.

    “you can bring back the kind of raw materials we have right here on Earth but in massive quantities”

    What “raw materials”? What are these mysterious “materials” you refer to? I don’t know of any materials that are on the moon or mars or elsewhere that are worth enough that we’ll have a net gain from going millions or billions of miles out into into space to get and bring back in sufficient quantities.

    And I’m well aware of satellites being privately launched. I singled out earth orbit specifically as the only place I see private space travel going. I don’t see going to the moon or mars profitable at all. I mean, in the long term for humanity, yes, but for a company trying to make a profit right here and now, there is NO reason to put a bunch of money into R&D for travel to the moon and mars.

    “The only thing they don’t do yet is launch people into orbit.”

    That’s a big step. And a vastly different one as well. Putting satellites into orbit has an obvious profit motive. You have to struggle to find the profit motive for putting people into orbit. You’d have to strain even harder to find a good reason to put people on the moon and elsewhere from a private consideration. And what fantastic new innovations are they going to come up with via the “magic of the free market and competition” that everyone seems so keen on? I’m pretty sure that they’re limited by the laws of physics themselves as well. Are they going to make some magical chemical rocket that can get you to the moon for just a $1000 dollars? Please tell me what magic they will make because they’re now “competing”? What made NASA so inefficient anyways? They’ve regularly been given squat for money and told “put a robot on Mars” by politicians. That doesn’t simulate the pressure of free market competition enough for the engineers? Make a robot and put it on mars, you have less than $1 billion to do so, GO! Didn’t NASA tell some astronauts out by the moon how to make an air scrubber out of crap they just had floating around the space ship? That’s not efficiency?

    “NASA just needs to get out of the way and lend a hand.”

    I don’t understand how NASA was “in the way”. Last I checked, space is pretty big. Lots of room for everybody. And you want them to lend a hand? How? I thought NASA sucked? Why would anybody need their help when they’re just big and inefficient and dumb?

  189. akear

    We are saved! Apparently the Obama administration is in violation of the law. Read below…

    February 12,2010

    The Honorable Charles Bolden
    Administrator
    National Aeronautics and Space Administration
    300 E Street, SW
    Washington, DC 20546-0001

    Dear Administrator Bolden:

    We are writing to express strong concern about NASA Headquarters actions and comments regarding the Constellation programs, the programs which together form the human spaceflight programs authorized by Congress in 2005 and in 2008, under Republican and Democrat control, respectively.

    As you are aware, the Consolidated Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year (FY)10 contained bill language prohibiting NASA from terminating current programs which are part of Constellation and also from initiating new programs. The clear purpose of including such unusual language was to give Congressional authorizers and appropriators, indeed Congress as a whole, an opportunity to examine the Administration’s budget proposal for FYI 1.

    NASA officials provided several Congressional briefings during the week of February 1. NASA officials have also commented to luncheon groups and to the media about the new plan proposed by the President. We have become aware of the formation by NASA Headquarters of at least five “tiger teams,” the job of which is to shut down Constellation and to transition to the new program. We understand that those teams are already strongly engaged at the Center level. Additionally, we are aware of NASA’s approval, then disapproval on January 23, of at least one major contract related to Ares I, which impacts many subcontractors as well as the prime contractor of that particular contract. Finally, there are disturbing reports of verbal instructions to Program Managers to begin the shutdown of Constellation programs.

    During one briefing to Congressional staff, the phrase “setting aside” was used, with regard to FYI0 Constellation funds. NASA officials have also been fairly open about their desire to use FYI0 funds to help meet shutdown costs which are a standard part of large, multi-year contracts.

    We are compelled to remind you that setting aside funds may be a direct violation of the Impoundment control Act (as well as of the appropriations language for FYlO). That act resulted from the refusal of the Nixon Administration to allot funds to activities specified by Congress. According to GAO, the Act was also used to confirm Congressional authority at least twice during the Administration of President George W. Bush.

    As you are aware, the series of contracts required to maintain a program such as Ares and Orion require long-lead agreements as far as 36 months into the future. The disruption, therefore, of those contracts can be viewed, with strong legitimacy, as a termination of a program.

    The termination of the Constellation programs is a proposal by the President, but it is Congress who will accept or reject that proposal. In the meantime, FY10 funds for the

    Constellation programs are to be spent as if the program will continue -that is the clear intent of the specific language in the Consolidated Appropriations Act. Finally, it is important to note that premature disruptions of the Constellation program contracts by NASA Headquarters may result in the dissolution of critical engineering teams in a matter of a few weeks, and that significant restart costs and program delays may also result from that if Congress decides to continue the Constellation programs. Such unnecessary costs created by NASA Headquarters will result in those costs having to be absorbed by other budget accounts and programs within NASA, including headquarters. Likewise, if Congress approves the President’s new plan, the appropriate funds for contract shutdowns will be provided in the FYI 1 appropriations acts, not from FY 10 funds.

    Given these facts, we ask that you immediately cease all activity of the tiger teams. We understand from the Chief Financial Officer at NASA that the safety criteria list for the new “commercial” programs proposed by NASA (in the new sense of being the primary means of human spaceflight) are still weeks away from being finished, and that those criteria have an enormous impact on the real budget cost of the President’s new plan. We urge you to accelerate the reports to Congress regarding this plan.

    Secondly, we urge you to reconfirm the approval of the major contract which you placed on hold on January 23. This plan, we understand, is a routine update of work plans last revised in 2008; it is needed for Constellation work to proceed in a normal way per PY10 funding plans.

    Finally, we ask for your personal assurance that there will be no instructions to contractors or to Center Directors to slow down or to terminate contracts related to the Constellation programs. Most reassuring would be a letter from you to the Center Directors, and a copy of that provided to the House Science and Technology Committee and to the House Committee on Appropriations.

    We ask for your response no later than March 1. We believe these matters are crucial to the viability of the U.S. Human Spaceflight program. We also wish to point out that the bipartisan support for the Constellation plan may be extremely difficult to repeat for a new plan, even among long-time Congressional supporters, not to mention Members who are under strong grassroots pressure to support other programs as a higher funding priority than NASA. We support NASA missions and look forward to working with you during the hearings process and the FYI 1 appropriations process, as well as a possible Space Act bill this year.

    Sincerely,

    Cc: Rep. Alan Mollohan, Chairman, Committee on Appropriations
    Rep. Frank Wolf, Ranking Member, Committee on Appropriations

    Signers:

    Robert Aderholt (R-AL)
    Ralph Hall(R-TX)
    Spencer Bachus (R-AL)
    Jo Bonner (R-AL)
    Pete Sessions (R-TX)
    Gene Green (D-TX)
    Steven LaTourette (R-OH)
    Anli Cao (R-LA)
    Bill Posey (R-FL)
    Michael McCaul (R-TX)
    Ken Calvert (R-CA)
    Kevin Brady (R-TX)
    Mike Rogers (R-AL)
    Ron Paul (R-TX)
    Charles Gonzalez (D-TX)
    Al Green (D-TX)
    Mike Coffman (R-TX)
    Steven Rothman (D-NJ)
    John Culberson (R-TX)
    Pete Olson (R-TX)
    Parker Griffith (R-AL)
    Lamar Smith (R-TX)
    Bobby Bright (D-AL)
    Jason Chaffetz (R-UT)
    Rob Bishop (R-UT)
    Artur Davis (D-AL)
    Suzanne Kosmas (D-FL)

  190. thom: “What “raw materials”? What are these mysterious “materials” you refer to? I don’t know of any materials that are on the moon or mars or elsewhere that are worth enough that we’ll have a net gain from going millions or billions of miles out into into space to get and bring back in sufficient quantities.”

    Iron, Nickel, Magnesium… most likely others. They’re not “mysterious” but they are worth a lot of money. We’re talking HUGE quantities, the kind that companies pay billions for right here on Earth. And don’t dismiss oxygen and water. The water can be used to make hydrogen fuels and the oxygen is not used just for people to breathe. If you don’t make them in space, you have to bring them up from Earth. If you do, then you can use that cargo space for other things or simply not bring up so much stuff and lower your bottom line, or use the money to bring more cargo back to Earth. That’s the problem. People think that we have to bring up huge quantities of water and oxygen and food and all the stuff that allows people to live, but if you have built the infrastructure to handle it, all that stuff (not the food but the room and the facilities to grow it) are already out there. There’s more water in one comet than on the entire planet. Tell me that’s not worth billions. But like I said, you don’t get at these things by just launching a rocket there and planting a flag. You get there by letting the business world take you there, by building the support mechanism to make repeated trips to those locations bringing stuff up and bringing product back. That’s what infrastructure is and it’s how you make space cheap, and that’s what business is good at. Government is bad at it. NASA is government.

    thom:”I don’t see going to the moon or mars profitable at all. I mean, in the long term for humanity, yes, but for a company trying to make a profit right here and now, there is NO reason to put a bunch of money into R&D for travel to the moon and mars.”

    But for any long term mission to the planets, we still need that infrastructure, and we need to be building it now if we’re going to be sending people to the moon and Mars in the next decade, otherwise it will be just like Apollo and just as hard to follow it with more missions. There are still plenty of things to do in orbit, but once you have the infrastructure in place it is much easier to get anywhere else you need. The asteroid belt probably has the most profit for the cost, at least to begin with.

    thom: ““The only thing they don’t do yet is launch people into orbit.”

    That’s a big step.”

    Apparently one that Space X is on the verge of passing at 1/5th the cost. As I said… their schedule of next year is probably not going to happen, but it’s certainly better than 2014 which… as I said before as well the EARLIEST Constellation can do it. And if Space X can’t do it, there are other groups actively working on that too.

    thom: “You have to struggle to find the profit motive for putting people into orbit.”

    No you don’t. There are plenty of things that humans can do that robots simply can’t. The problem is making it cost effective. NASA was committed to groups like Boeing and space was expensive. ISS was supposed to make space routine. It failed. The shuttle was supposed to make space cheap. It failed. Now we have groups saying “We can do it cheaper and we already have investors taking an interest.” The only problem is that they’re not the groups that NASA traditionally partners with. Space X got as far as they did with no funding from NASA and they’re almost in a position to beat Boeing at their own game. Imagine what they could do with the money we were going to give Constellation.

    thom: “Are they going to make some magical chemical rocket that can get you to the moon for just a $1000 dollars? ” No but for any corporate purpose, you can’t get anyone to anywhere on Earth for $1000 dollars, so that question is moot. On the other hand, if travel in space was routine enough that going to the moon was just a question of waiting a few weeks for the next transport that was going there anyway then your ticket might only cost $1000. Again, the government will never be that efficient. That only happens with private enterprise.

    thom: “What made NASA so inefficient anyways? They’ve regularly been given squat for money and told “put a robot on Mars” by politicians. That doesn’t simulate the pressure of free market competition enough for the engineers? Make a robot and put it on mars, you have less than $1 billion to do so, GO! Didn’t NASA tell some astronauts out by the moon how to make an air scrubber out of crap they just had floating around the space ship? That’s not efficiency?”

    Don’t confuse being able to come together in a crisis for efficiency. Apollo 13 was a mess. PEOPLE solved that crisis, not NASA. If it had been a different group on duty, who knows. I’ll give that one to NASA. That’s not efficiency though. That was doing what needed to be done, and it wouldn’t have mattered the cost.

    As you say, putting people up is different. ISS was supposed to be a lot of things it isn’t. The shuttle was supposed to be a lot of things it isn’t. What makes you think that Constellation will be all the things they say it will be? NASA efficiency shows in the deep space probes, not in the manned missions. The unmanned project traditionally gets crap for a budget and they do some neat things with it. The manned mission gets all the money, and then when a project goes overbudget and the completion date is pushed back. Somehow they come up with the money, then it goes overbudget again and the completion date is pushed back further. Again, they somehow come up with the money to pay for it. That’s not efficiency. That’s someone screwing someone. Either it’s NASA without a clear idea of what it wants or it’s the tiny gaggle of companies NASA contracts to who know they’re the only game in town so they can ask for whatever they want. Either way, it’s inefficient and it’s NASA’s fault for not opening up the market. Now they want to do that. I don’t see the problem.

    thom: ““NASA just needs to get out of the way and lend a hand.”

    I don’t understand how NASA was “in the way”. Last I checked, space is pretty big. Lots of room for everybody. And you want them to lend a hand? How? I thought NASA sucked? Why would anybody need their help when they’re just big and inefficient and dumb?”

    I never said they were dumb, but they are a government agency. They hold all the keys. Like the FAA, they could shut down anyone who’s planning to launch if they wanted to. It’s only been recently that they’ve begun to take a look at the regulations involved in gaining the licenses to launch into space. That, more than funding issues had kept the private sector out of space for some time. Why do you think Arianne is such a popular launch vehicle for satellites? They didn’t have those regulations to worry about, and they had plenty of customers.

    As for lending a hand, NASA has the largest astronaut corps outside of the Soviet Union (possibly larger than them too) and NASA has the most experience putting people into space. That is worth a lot. NASA is not useless, but they were designed to do research, not to run launch facilities. They need to go back to that and support the private sector. The motivation is already here, although that could probably also use their help. The means are almost here (for all practical purposes it’s here already). The money definitely is here.

  191. akear

    SpaceX has a 40% success rate as mentioned before. Since 2002 it has only been in orbit twice. By NASA standards it is a below average launch system.

  192. akear

    According to various sites it looks as if Congress is going to shoot down this new space plan. For now the US space program is saved.

  193. Tony Heslington

    Watching from a stones throw away here in Canada I’ve had a few conversations with my friends and we have the feeling we are viewing the fall of the American Empire.

    What does a fall look like? Other powers rising. Over extending ones own powers. Lack of leadership. Over extended budgets. Government corruption. Greed. Self indulgence. Believing ones own hype. Denial. Complacency. Ignorance. Does this sound like a certain country we know?

    I don’t think you understand it. NASA has lost initiative and ability because its sponsor is floundering.

    A diet of Hollywood space films with the star spangled banner endorsement has made for complacency. You just don’t see it. Quick somebody slip in that red flag maybe we will get a credit on our dept?

    Why not close NASA following the ‘modern’ American way?

    With so many of our products already made in China why not buy a Chinese rocket system? Think of it… You won’t have to pay costly American salaries, won’t have to build in costly American factories, won’t have to worry about any cost raising policies like pollution control. You will be able to invest in an ‘emerging market’… its a good investment! Such practices have never hurt an American before…

    Most importantly the corporate elite will still be able to pat each other on the back in their marble hallways and tell each other what a good job they are doing. Way to go Bubba!

    Who was that president that said… “ask what you can do for your Country”? Do you think he would have envisioned a brighter future? Pity he couldn’t have been around to guide a vision for the space program…..

    I hope some of you will at least consider my point, it is not an attack – its a think about it.

    T.

  194. akear

    This new space policy almost looks like it was conceived in study hall by high school science students. Actually, I think they would do a better job.
    Alas, poor Obama is going to Florida this week to try to save this disastrous plan.

  195. akear

    This thread maybe a little dated, but it now looks as if the administrations plan is dead in the water. The whitehouse is now rushing for a new and improved plan.

    It is nice to end this with a positive note.

    Well….where is everybody. Oh well it is time to move on.

  196. CB

    If they kill this plan, and continue with Constellation, our space program is doomed. It will mean nothing but continued stagnation as we experienced with the shuttle.

    Constellation is a failure. An attempt to re-create our glorious past with a lack-luster, overbudget, and frankly foolish plan that does nothing to push the state of the art. Hello? The whole reason we’ve done nothing interesting in manned space programs for 40 years is because of the kind of thinking that lead to Constellation! It’ll be another 40 years of extremely expensive and pointless flights that serve no purpose but trying to justify their own existence.

    And you’re cheering it on Akear.

    It’s so sad.

  197. Plutonium being from Pluto

    Neil De Grasse Tyson’s comments here :

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2010/04/14/neil-tyson-sounds-off-nasa/

    Talk in part about America fading and flame of US space program going out. For once I agree with at least a lot of what N. dG. Tyson says although he should’ve been far harsher on Obama specifically.

    The Mercury seven astronauts lit a flame against the darkness.

    The Gemini, Apollo and Space Shuttle astronauts kept the flame alive, fanned and burning; sometimes brighter than other times but always still burning and shining light & warmth into the darkness of the world.

    The Bush administration kept that candle, that fire going by their plan for the return to the Moon and beyond.

    It has been a candle that has brightened our lives and warmed our hearts and minds for generations bringing light and warmth to the whole world.

    But now Barack Hussein Obama has come along and just snuffed that candle out. :-(

    Obama will go down in history as the man who ended America’s greatness along with its space program, the man who turned NASA into nothing, turned the US of A’s success and greatness to failure and decline. :-(

    I feel Obama has betrayed everyone not only in the United States of America but across the wider Western world by this one “ending human space exploration” policy and will go down in history as the worst president America ever had.

  198. Plutonium being from Pluto

    Okay, with this news :

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2010/04/15/obama-lays-out-bold-and-visionary-revised-space-policy/

    Of an overnight revolution in Obama’s NASA plan (in Australia quite literally – I went to bedwith the comment above & woke to hear & see this news.)

    I will admit I may have been wrong – if this turns out to happen & I still need to hear more … but still WOW I am reconsidering & would take back what I’ve said above. :-O

  199. Andrew

    The main problem is that Space X is a poor system. It is 2 for 5 in successful launches in an 8 year period. A vintage 1965 Gemini system is far more reliable.

    Secretly, nobody in the beltway really believes Obama has the power to axe Constellation. There is just too much opposition to it.

    What is sad is that many don’t even care if we lose our space program.

  200. Plutonium being from Pluto

    Then again, maybe I spoke too soon in my comment # 216 above on hearing what sounded so much like good news.

    On reflection, my reservations on how big of an improvement Obama’s revised plan really is are growing. See :

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2010/04/15/obama-lays-out-bold-and-visionary-revised-space-policy/comment-page-4/#comment-259773

    for why that is.

  201. akear

    Everyone now admits with Obama’s plan we are in for a 10 year manned space gap. That cannot be good! What is it like to be a non-space faring nation? Hopefully, if congress gets its way we won’t find out.

    I admit it will be a strange empty feeling when American’s can no longer send humans into space. For the last five decades Americans have ventured into space. Now that will end soon.
    What is it like to have a right leg for 50 years and suddenly have it amputated?

    We are dealing with extremly negative emotions here that cover, defeat, surrender, despair, and ultimately extinction. What a sad time to be an American. The eagle’s wings are broken.

  202. akear

    I wish people would stop trying to tie Tea bagger with the Pro-Constellation crowd. The main difference between the two is 40 IQ points among each of its members. The administration has even tried to tie politics into the debate by saying NASA should reach out to Muslim countries. They were hoping that this would stir the pot and make the Pro-Constellation crowd appear xenophobia like the tea baggers. All it really did was make people scratch their heads in confusion.

    Is this administration the first one to actually try to curtail a viable space program. If I am not mistaken didn’t Carter try to stop the space shuttle program? Hopefully, Obama will be no more successful than Carter. I can’t believe Congress would be in favor of a ten year US manned space gap? Just twenty years ago this would be seen as totally unacceptable.

  203. Lili

    What is the problem when a private company like Space X becomes very close to putting man in orbit? What difference does it make if its a private or public company??

NEW ON DISCOVER
OPEN
CITIZEN SCIENCE
ADVERTISEMENT

Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!

ADVERTISEMENT

See More

ADVERTISEMENT
Collapse bottom bar
+

Login to your Account

X
E-mail address:
Password:
Remember me
Forgot your password?
No problem. Click here to have it e-mailed to you.

Not Registered Yet?

Register now for FREE. Registration only takes a few minutes to complete. Register now »