Akin breakin' heart

By Phil Plait | April 16, 2010 1:00 pm

Response to both Obama’s space policy and my blog post about it were pretty much as I expected. Haters, lovers, people who didn’t actually read what I wrote or listened to what Obama actually said, some thoughtful, some knee jerk. The usual.

toddakinBut my favorite is from Congressman Todd Akin (R-MO), who, in a press release, posted this:

The decision by the Obama administration to gut NASA’s manned flight program does more than jeopardize the long term goals of solar system exploration, the cancellation of the space shuttles replacement will effectively leave the United States reliant upon the Soviet Union to grant us access to low earth orbit. As a member of the Armed Services Committee I am very concerned with that possibility, and as an American I am disappointed by the prospect.

It doesn’t surprise me that someone would erroneously say that Obama is gutting the manned space flight program, when we know he isn’t and when he may in fact be saving it. It doesn’t surprise me that people are forgetting that private industry is poised to take us into low Earth orbit before Constellation could have, though it’s odd for a "fiscally conservative" Republican Congressman — and therefore, one assume, pro-business — to forget such a thing.

It also doesn’t surprise me that someone would blame Obama about us having to rely on foreign partners for access to space after the Shuttle retires, and it certainly doesn’t surprise me that a Republican Congressman would say such a thing, even though this necessity came about because of President Bush’s decision to retire the Shuttle and not have a replacement ready for at least five years after.

But what I do find really interesting is that a Congressman on the Armed Services Committee would refer to Russia as "the Soviet Union".

Pssst! Congressman Akin: it’s the 21st century. It stopped being the USSR in 1991. I guess it’s hard to keep up with such things if you can’t see Russia from your state, though.

[Update (14:30 MT): Apparently, Congressman Akin's release has been updated, replacing "Soviet Union" with "Russian Federation". My congratulations and thanks to his team. Now, if they could fix the other egregiously wrong things he said in that release, we'll be copacetic.]

Tip o’ the Cossack hat to ScottW.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Humor, NASA, Piece of mind, Politics, Space
MORE ABOUT: Obama, Russia, Todd Akin, USSR

Comments (86)

Links to this Post

  1. My Congressman is an Idiot, Part II | April 16, 2010
  2. Obama’s NASA Speech « Blogging with Badger | April 16, 2010
  1. But reality has no bearing in what some people will say. Just watch Fox News (Faux Noise) for examples of that.

  2. Jay

    Wow, just wow!! Never surprises me at the people who get elected to represent us. Honestly how do these people get into office.

  3. Kirk

    Remember, if reality doesn’t jibe with your preconceptions, it’s reality that’s wrong.

  4. RustyShackleford

    Hey, guys.

    Check this out.

    Fox News? More like Faux News.

    See what I did there?
    8-)

  5. UmTutSut

    “…people are forgetting that private industry is poised to take us into low Earth orbit before Constellation could have….” Phil, you and others continue to make such statements, but what reality is there to support it? As I said in a comment to another post, all the commercial guys have right now are paper rockets, except for Elon’s Falcon 9, whose success remains to be seen. The record of the Falcon 1 — three failures out of five launches — doesn’t give *me* confidence. I just don’t see what experience supports the notion that commercial space will do things better, cheaper and faster than a *properly funded* NASA effort.

  6. RustyShackleford

    SpaceX seems to be on track to have the capability to launch humans into orbit within the decade, and don’t they already have plans to take over sending astronauts to the ISS when the Shuttle is retired?

    What’s more American than privatizing this whole business?

  7. …the cancellation of the space shuttles replacement will effectively leave the United States reliant upon the Soviet Union to grant us access to low earth orbit.

    So I’m back to being a “dirty commie” now? I mean seriously, red bait much Congressman?

    But as ridiculous as his statement is, the notion of buying space flights from Roscosmos considering the history of the Cold War should be a little disturbing, especially because Russians will use it for propaganda campaigns which are becoming almost Soviet-like in their aggressiveness and hostility towards the West. I know. I’ve seen it.

    I guess it’s hard to keep up with such things if you can’t see Russia from your state, though.

    And this, as well as the title of this post are just epic. Phil, you win teh interwebs for today…

  8. Bob in Easton

    “As I said in a comment to another post, all the commercial guys have right now are paper rockets, except for Elon’s Falcon 9, whose success remains to be seen. The record of the Falcon 1 — three failures out of five launches — doesn’t give *me* confidence.”

    And that (rockets on paper) was about all NASA had in the late 50′s…and man did they know how to blow them up too. I can just imagine your reaction back then.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch#!v=13qeX98tAS8&feature=related

  9. Astrotsarina

    The Congressman’s web site now correctly says “the Russian Federation.” Maybe his staff reads Phil’s blog? ;-)

  10. MoonShark

    Haha! That’s some pretty good prophecy, Phil, predicting basically everything this congresscritter said. But man, there’s always a curveball, and that Soviet Union quip really reared its head from left field!

    Seriously though, someone from MO, please email Phil’s previous post to Akin.

  11. Brian Schlosser

    Sarah Palin also has a bad habit of pretending its still 1983. I guess to a certain mindset, The Evil Empire will never really die as long as it lives in their hearts.

  12. Jeff in Tucson

    Bob (#9) beat me to it. 3 kabooms is nothing compared to the tally of rockets lost in the early days of space flight. Competition is what made our space program what it was during the Apollo days–in the future, it will again be competition that drives innovation in the field of space exploration, just not government-vs-government competition. Yay for capitalism. I look forward to having dozens of space-flight companies competing in the open market place. Space flight will become cheap and reliable much faster than I think it could have otherwise, just as, for example, computer hardware has.

  13. Michelle R

    When I read the “Soviet Union” part, I almost choked on my cadbury miniegg.

    rgh! Them damn communists!

    Sigh some people just don’T let go and don’t accept change.

  14. UmTutSut

    Bob in Easton wrote: “And that (rockets on paper) was about all NASA had in the late 50’s…and man did they know how to blow them up too. I can just imagine your reaction back then.” You’re actually making my point for me: NASA *already* has made mistakes and learned from them. Falcon 1′s first two launch failures were caused by problems — residual first stage thrust and POGO — that *were* solved in the 50s and 60s. Look, I hope the commercial guys succeed, but I just don’t see a track record that suggests we should bet the wad on them.

  15. bubba

    Soviet Union. That is priceless. Yup. But ,
    re: #2 Jay: It’s our friends and neighbors who put these lobotomies into office. It’s why we’re, as the World’s Greatest Nation, in a freefall. NASA, etc. had better find those Earth-like extra-solar planets fast!

  16. Ryan

    Looks like they’ve changed the wording from “Soviet Union” to “Russian Federation” now.

  17. Adrian W.

    @ Ryan:

    Yep, looks like they’ve disappeared it down the memory hole. Did anyone save a copy?

  18. Phil, what are the latest figures you have on the loss of permanent jobs at Cape Canaveral and in Houston regarding this policy change?

    I believe America will be going to Mars and the asteroids as much as I believed Bush’s “pledge” to return us to the moon by 2020 (or Spiro Agnew’s “pledge” to have us on Mars in 2000). Politicians say all kinds of things once their “political capital” is spent, and I believe none of them.

    Buzz Aldrin is pro-Obama on this and Neil Armstrong, Jim Lovell, and Eugene Cernan are against. Which of them has been dancing the most of late?

    In the whole (yet horrible) “Robots vs. Humans” debate of which is more important regarding future space exploration, I come firmly down on the side that BOTH are important.

    The next flag on the moon will be India’s or China’s.

  19. Levi in NY

    On behalf of the Whig Party, I want to express my support for Rep. Akin’s comments. The Thirteen Colonies need independent access to space. Though the war in Babylonia is forcing us to pinch every shilling, we can’t just let President Hoover hand our futures in space over to authoritarian regimes like the Holy Roman Empire and the Ming Dynasty.

  20. Number 6

    That was hilarious!….I should think Aiken is red-faced over that one. Too bad his own people didn’t catch the error, before it was released. What would be really sad is if as others here have inferred he would not see it as a mistake.

  21. Bill

    Levi: +1 internets

  22. Well, I’m glad they changed that gaff, but it still has all the misleading and incorrect stuf about “gutting” the space program.

  23. The gaff was about as bad as you can get.. that just shows the lack of thinking that goes on.. the rest of it is meaningless when you know they’re refusing the whole program out of 20+ year old ideological differences.

  24. T_U_T

    What’s more American than privatizing this whole business?

    Yay for capitalism.

    capitalism worked superb for your healthcare. didn’t it ?

  25. I’ve been trying to vote him out of office for close to 10 years, but it doesn’t look like there is any chance of getting rid of him.

  26. Utakata

    Conservatives say the darndest things….

  27. 2. Jay Says:
    April 16th, 2010 at 1:07 pm

    Wow, just wow!! Never surprises me at the people who get elected to represent us. Honestly how do these people get into office.

    ==============================

    It’s the only thing they’re actually good at. Sad, isn’t it?

  28. Looks like it is now corrected on his site…

    http://tinyurl.com/y3t58p8

  29. what amazes me the most is that a republican cares about NASA

  30. Zombie

    @skeptiksnarf: Yes, he cares, for exactly as long as he can score a point about it.

  31. Neeneko

    I think the thing that worries me most about much of the debate around both Bush and Obama when it comes to the space program is all the talk centers around the idea that if NASA does not have some kind of TV ready mega project that they are ‘working towards’ then they are ‘aimless’. It really speaks to how sound-bytish our nation has become and how little value we put in actual research.

    NASA would do better without these long term ‘goals’ and just focus on the hundreds of little focused projects that actually expand our knowledge.

  32. Dave in Texas

    If you think about it… If it wasn’t for privatization just imagine where commercial aviation would be? I feel it’s about time the routine jumps to LEO is given over to private companies…

    I recall some discussion in the early 1980s about turning over the STS to private companies once it was going, allowing NASA to go back to research development.

  33. Watching Obama’s speech, I got the feeling that what he’s more or less saying is “To hell with the Moon, let’s build the Enterprise. We’ll decide where to go once it’s built.” And I can get on board with that. Build the Tech, think big, then we’ll go where it can take us.

    Of course, the usual Talking Point generators are still going to stick to their memes. They’d much rather further the political narrative than have genuine discussions on the topics.

  34. I for one welcome our new Soviet overlords.

    Edited to add:

    Whoops, I’ve just been informed-

    Apparently, in Soviet Russia… Overlord welcomes YOU!

  35. Mount

    That is just too funny. I first glazed over the “Soviet Union” part until you pointed it out. Perhaps it’s just an old habit? I laughed so hard when I finally saw what he said.

  36. jcm

    Slightly off topic: federal judges rules the National Day of Prayer Unconstitutional:
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/csm/20100416/ts_csm/294988


    Star ship comparison:
    http://www.merzo.net/

  37. MadScientist

    Dear Congressman,

    The cold war is over. Really! That’s not just Soviet Propaganda. You can even ask Dubbyah if you don’t believe the rest of us.

    Akin would likely be equally opposed to using the French Arianne V to take us into space (which may happen if ESA do a little more work on their Autonomous Transfer Vehicle – one catch is that the ATV was meant to be dumped in the oceans and not recovered). Akin is probably also unaware that throughout the communist era there was still pretty good collaboration between scientists in many fields; many Russian journals were translated into English for the benefit of scientists who couldn’t read Russian. Russian scientists could still attend international conferences (although they were severely restricted and if they didn’t join the communist party they’d have a very hard time getting permission to travel).

    @IM Foreman: The problem with “just build it” is that different missions will have vastly different requirements and vastly different costs. For example, compare a shuttle flight’s requirements to the requirements of the Apollo missions. Smaller rockets, no need for those relatively large “return” rockets that the lunar modules had (though the shuttles still had their large main motors – with no fuel). The mission durations are roughly the same so the provisioning requirements don’t change much, but imagine the vast differences there would be between a trip to the moon and a trip to Mars. If we built vehicles capable of going to Mars, would we use them to go to the moon? They would be far more expensive than necessary – unless of course we wanted to use them to ferry materials to the moon to build a moon base (and given the dramas with the far simpler ISS, I doubt we’ll see a moon base for a few generations yet). Short story: cost and design depends on where you want to go, so you need to set actual destinations (in this case, the prez sez Marz).

  38. Troy

    When it was the Soviet Union they called them Russians, now that it is Russia they call them the Soviet Union, I guess old habits die hard.
    It is amazing how the president gets a bad rap for everything. But anyway ending the Shuttle is the right thing to do if you’re Bush or Obama, that thing is an accident waiting to happen and they are running out of spare parts anyway you can only go so long before you have to retire a piece of hardware. It is overdue.
    I say why rent from the Russians? Let them have the space station, good riddence I’d say. White elephant in space. So Obama got that wrong. Considering the massive sums spent on the Moon rocket I’d prefer if we went back we’ve been there but there is much we haven’t seen. So Obama got that wrong. But the one thing Obama got incredibly right is that an asteroid mission should be something we should be seeking. This requires a certain amount of vision because asteroids get little respect. Asteroids are the ultimate two edged sword they can destroy our civilization on the other hand they could be safely harvested of their metals and raw materials. More than anything else that should be our priority. Good call Obama.

  39. justcorbly

    Akin didn’t make a mistake.. He was simply lying.

  40. In Soviet Union, Space Program Cancels you…

  41. Astrofiend

    What a knob. Just looking at the photo of the guy gives me the creeps.

  42. DigitalAxis

    …and as an American I am disappointed by the prospect.

    Well put, Congressman! Let’s give NASA the money and time it needs to build a new and better crew vehicle AND do all the other things asked of them, not just the $6 billion Obama is already giving them. Even assuming that, we’ve still got a gap of a few years… but the door’s kind-of already shut on that one.

  43. Katharine

    I pity the intelligent politicians who have dumb constituencies. How exhausting it must be to have to talk at a level below that which you prefer to use, without nuance and without reasoned argument and full of ridiculous emotional appeals.

  44. John Ahrens

    It’s been stated several times recently that it seems that Democrats think private enterprise works above 100 kilometers and Republicans think it works below 100 kilometers. I think it works in both environments.

  45. Katharine

    Not that I think Akin is one of the smart ones. But there are some smart politicians.

  46. Lawrence

    Yeah, these guys have no problem spending hundreds of billions of dollars on wars here on Earth, but god forbid you properly fund NASA!!!!

    Just imagine where we might be if even a decent fraction of that money had been invested back in the early to mid 1980s. Hypocrites – all of them.

  47. Travis D

    With every single non-American thinking that every single US citizen is a drooling illiterate idiot incapable of even simple tasks it hurts that we set out on the course to not have LEO capability for a few years. For that duration they will look down their noses at us. But what about after? How will the development of the new heavy booster work? Will we just wait until someone else makes one then buy copies of it?

  48. Matt T

    @Mount (#36):
    Me too. My explanation is that this shows perfectly what the rhetoric is like. It’s so completely and directly out of the 80s political speech manual, you don’t really even notice the use of an anachronism like “Soviet Union”. It all just sounds like “blah blah reds under the bed blah blah zomg we will have to kiss rusky assky blah blah soviets blah evil empire blah blah”.

  49. Mark C

    Sadly, this is my Congressman, who recently said that he is calling on “supernatural” help to defeat the health care bill and also argued that the bible should be a “blueprint” for American government. Sorry folks; I tried to get him defeated, by my neighbors are about as conservative and Fox-saturated as they come.

  50. ret3

    How irresponsible of him to let slip about our Top Secret time travel program that lets us send astronauts back in time to hitch a ride with a USSR-launched rockets!

  51. shawmutt

    @25. T_U_T

    “Yay for capitalism.

    capitalism worked superb for your healthcare. didn’t it ?”

    Ah, I see what you did there! You juxtaposed an ignorant senator’s “Soviet Russia” comments from the 80′s with your own comments from the Soviet Union of the 30′s! Brilliant!

  52. gss_000

    Space, as I said in another post, is a litmus test for how you see the world. There is a thread with conservatives that space=US defense (giving up the ultimate high ground). By the government relinquishing control of access to space to companies, essentially they see it as allowing other countries to take control of space.

    But Phil, I need to mention you are incorrect on one thing, too. You say:

    “People are forgetting that private industry is poised to take us into low Earth orbit before Constellation could have.”

    I think the more correct version of that is, “we hope private industry is poised to take us into low Earth orbit before Constellation could have.” Reports are coming out that the Augustine Commission did not use the same standards to judge commercial claims as they did Constellation:
    http://www.floridatoday.com/article/20100405/COLUMNISTS0405/4050308/1229/Kelly–Space-plan-caveats-can-t-be-ignored

    While I see no reason to doubt that they will get us up there, and it may in fact turn out to be true they get us there faster, commercial space claims are notoriously overly optimistic. SpaceX’s Falcon 9 was supposed to be launched 3 years ago, and Virgin Galactic has repeatedly pushed back their initial operations. Everything is always ~2 years away if you read enough news.

    I really hope this plan comes through, and there is something very powerful for the monetary case these companies make, but you should be a little more skeptical about their claims.

  53. Mary

    #19 Sreven Colyer I think India already has a flag on the Moon. My understanding is that, besides the 6 American flags, the European Union, Russia, and India also have flags on the Moon, but they are displayed on equipment or probes. Of course, they were not personally delivered, which I figure is what you meant.
    If my information about the other flags is incorrect, I would appreciate knowing as I am preparing my displays for Astronomy Day. It was just the other day that I found the infomation re the other flags after I had a question.
    Every year, there are people who ask if they can see the flag on the Moon through the telescopes our group has set up for free public viewing. I am sure everyone who does ‘sidewalk astronomy’ gets that question. They are surprised and disappointed to learn that it is not possible. Then some ask if Hubble has taken pictures of the original flag. THANKS to you, PHIL, I have a good explanation for that.
    I am sure after each year, there are probably a number of new folks checking out this blog. I always have ‘ Bad Astronomy’ on hand and refer to it for answers. Then, there are some quotes from or references to Phil’s information (with appropriate credit) on my posters.
    Sorry this is off topic for this post, but it just seemed to flow from it.

  54. ScottW

    *laugh*

    I’M USEFUL!
    :D

    Phil, you can repay me with a cold Fat Tire. We live about ten miles apart. :P

  55. Plutonium being from Pluto

    @ MaDer #108 on the earlier thread. Posting this in the hope that you see it to let you know I’ve replied to your unjust personal attack on me here :

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2010/04/15/obama-lays-out-bold-and-visionary-revised-space-policy/comment-page-4/#comment-259765

    & I would really appreciate a saner & more thoughtful response from you there.

    I won’t call you a “troll” if you won’t call me one. ;-)

    I am happy to engage in a reasonable if passionate discussion of the issues if you are but I would advise you to remember the BA’s policy of not being a jerk to others & being polite – which I try (hopefully successfully) to keep to myself. :-)

    Off topic I know, hope this is okay.

  56. DLC

    I had a long-winded reply written out and chopped it.
    Instead, let me just ask this: Where do you see any real manned spaceflight in
    http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/factsheet_department_nasa/
    ?
    I see a lot of nebulous “research and development” and no actual “we choose to go to the moon in this decade . . .”
    I’d like to believe the President when he says he backs manned spaceflight, but I’m just not seeing it. Not saying we must go back to the moon — although I think we need to — but I’m just not seeing any kind of manned spaceflight outside of LEO. Not in my lifetime at least.
    I’d like to be proven wrong on this.

  57. Plutonium being from Pluto

    56. ScottW Says:

    Phil, you can repay me with a cold Fat Tire. We live about ten miles apart.

    Tyre? Won’t you need more than one or are you just out a spare? ;-)

    Or is this a case of a “tire” not being a Tyre? Just curious. ;-)

    BACK ON TOPIC NOW :

    Gee, BA I wonder how you voted in the last US election? ;-)

    (To be honest thought, I’d have done the same if I were a US rather than Australian citizen – given the woeful anti-planetarium McCain alternative.)

    I was delighted when I heard about Obama’s NASA policy change yesterday but on reflection I’m having more and more reservations as to whether its as good as I first thought.

    The extra funding and the idea of going to Mars are great if vague and too far -off in time but Constellation should have been re-instated and we should still return to the Moon as well. It is an improvement but stillnotenough of aone tonecessarilysave Obama from the shame of having the worst space exploration policy of any US President so far.

    I hope Obama or his advisors read this blog and others and take the criticism on board still and go the rest of the way to reversing their initial NASA policy.

    As for the “Soviet Union” slip up, yeah, its funny. ;-)

    But then who hasn’t occassionally said the wrong thing by accident? ;-)

  58. Kris

    “It doesn’t surprise me that someone would erroneously say that Obama is gutting the manned space flight program, when we know he isn’t”

    Obama IS gutting the manned spaceflight program. You are simply refusing to see it.

    His decision amounts to throwing 30 years of experience from the Shuttle program, and developing a new spacecraft which will take 10 to 20 years. By then, everyone who has practical experience with manned spaceflight in the U.S. will be dead or retired. So you will have a system designed by people without experience, operated by people without experience and used to fly people without experience (really — how many astronauts per year can you send on Soyuz to ISS?). Mars in 2030? You will be lucky if this new thing can reliably get to LEO by then.

    NASA should have built a sensible Shuttle-derived system (Constellation was not sensible) back in 1990s. Building today a system from scratch puts you behind Russia, China and even EU (who could modify ATV to carry humans if it wanted to). In other words, the U.S. is effectively out of the game.

    During this century resource depletion will force the humanity to begin lunar or asteroid mining. This is what the human spaceflight technology is really needed for.

  59. Progress

    Conservatives do tend to live in the recent past at best, rarely in the present and are certainly not interested in the future.

  60. Grand Lunar

    My dad wasn’t too enthusiastic about the missions going to asteroids.

    I see it, however, as a way to surpass Apollo, by going further as well as going to where no one has been before.

    I know I sound like a shameless spokesman, but I really, really hope that NASA uses the Direct 3.0 path for it’s new rockets.
    Affordable, makes use of what we already have, and quite capable of meeting our needs.

  61. #55 Mary: #19 Steven Colyer I think India already has a flag on the Moon. My understanding is that, besides the 6 American flags, the European Union, Russia, and India also have flags on the Moon, but they are displayed on equipment or probes. Of course, they were not personally delivered, which I figure is what you meant.

    Yes, Mary, that’s what I meant. Personal delivery service. Like United Parcel Service,which will someday (I hope) have to change its name to Universal Parcel Service. They won’t have to change their logo. :-)

    After I wrote #19 and a day later, I’ve calmed down. Rapid change brings on rapid emotion, oops. In the long run what does it matter who or whom gets there. The important thing is we, Humanity, get there. Like Ralph Kramden said, “To the moon!”

    Einstein was right to eschew Nationalism and Hawking is right to tell us the importance of leaving the planet. Whether people pay attention to them or not is another story. Setting up an (underground thanks to radiation) Lunar Colony is Job One IMO. India, China? International? It doesn’t matter in the end. What does matter is that we do it, and if WE who love this stuff don’t push for it how will it happen? To sell the Republicans push the idea of mining (profits). To sell the Democrats push the idea of full or near-full employment. I have other ideas, and I can’t believe I’m the first one strongly pushing for a permanent lunar base. Anyone know who else is doing this?

    Moonwalker John Young, 79, flew on Gemini 3, Gemini 10, Apollo 10, Apollo 16, STS-1, and STS-9. I wonder what he thinks of these developments? It should be rather obvious if you read this excellent exit interview from NASA from 6 years ago: here. What a great guy.

  62. This is the same guy who claimed that the pilgrims gave the country “her first constitution,” as well as flubbed the words of Pledge of Allegiance in front of hundreds of fellow travelers on the Capitol steps.

  63. Gary Ansorge

    59. Kris

    The panel that advised the Pres on the Constellation program made the point that in order to return to the moon and go on to mars would require $ tens of billions for a chemically fueled rocket that has one significant drawback; 95% of the rockets mass would still be only fuel.

    Our Pres rightly decided that would not keep us in space for another century. New launch tech however, DOES have that capability.

    The best a chemically fueled rocket can do for us is an ISP of 450(from Liquid H2 and LOX).
    (this means you get 450 lbs of thrust if you burn one pound of fuel in one second).

    To go to Mars, we will absolutely need nuc power and such drive systems as the Vasimir rocket. President Obama rightly decided to start that R&D NOW, rather than investing in “old” tech.

    I’m all for that.

    Note that all those experienced people are experienced in old tech. SOME of that experience would be transferrable but most will have to be acquired anew as we transition to new/better tech.

    Gary 7

  64. ScottW

    Plutonioum:

    http://www.newbelgium.com/beer/fat-tire

    Lovingly brewed about an hour north of my neck of the woods. :)

  65. T_U_T

    @Gary Ansorge If obama canceled constellation and started a nuclear propulsion program you would have a point. Obviously, he didn’t.

  66. I wish NASA actually would do away with the manned space program, and concentrate on interplanetary probes and space telescopes. It seems to me that we learn much more about the cosmos from those, than from sending some elementary school’s bean sprout garden up on the space shuttle. But I also suspect that the public won’t support the space program unless they have live astronauts to cheer for. So…

  67. T_U_T

    I wish NASA actually would do away with the manned space program, and concentrate on interplanetary probes and space telescopes.

    I wish that people would abandon such short-term thinking.

  68. Plutonium being from Pluto

    @ 66. ScottW Says:

    Plutonium: [Link] Lovingly brewed about an hour north of my neck of the woods.

    Thanks. :-)

    Wow, man that looks nice. Reminds me of Coopers Pale Ale. ;-)

    (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coopers_Pale_Ale#Products )

    [Looks at hand. Swigs from beer bottle.]

  69. Kris

    @65, Gary Ansorge:

    Yeah, right. So in 2030 you launch your shiny new nuclear spaceship and you loose a crew on the first flight, because of a problem with life support system. The kind of problem that was solved back in 1960s, but the last guy who knew how died 2 years before the design for a new life support system was started. Just because you have decided to throw out the accumulated knowledge. So the whole program is stalled for a decade while you frantically try to fix problems which wouldn’t happen if you preserved the engineering culture.

    In the mean time, the Russians buy your engine, hook it to a modified space station module and go to Mars.

  70. Elmar_M

    Excellent post Phil.

    Pretty much sums up all my feelings. And yeah, how does someone like this joke get elected?

  71. Elmar_M

    Kris, you are assuming that there wont be any manned space programme until then.
    This is wrong. There will actually be more people going into space than before.
    Plus, who would prevent the US from buying this very knowledge from the russians?

  72. Pi-needles

    how does someone like this joke get elected?

    Well that’s just it – you ever heard the old saying that the problem with political jokes is that they tend to get elected? ;-)

    Sadly, it’s true.

  73. Stargazer

    And of course we should do away with all exploration that involves humans actually going somewhere to do exploration and science. Why send people to Antarctica, or the Amazonas, or anywhere else? Just send robots.

    I’m puzzled why people still don’t understand the value of actually sending explorers to the site you want to explore. Compare the science return of all the unmanned Lunar landings with the Apollo landings.

  74. Kris

    @73, Elmar_M

    “There will actually be more people going into space than before.” With what? Bought seats on Soyuz?

    “Plus, who would prevent the US from buying this very knowledge from the russians?” In such case it would be more economical to simply buy a working system from them, i.e. outsource. Until someone asks, why the U.S. taxpayer money is used to finance Russian R&D… You see where it leads, don’t you?

    @75, Stargazer

    “Compare the science return of all the unmanned Lunar landings with the Apollo landings.” You can do science with unmanned probes. You cannot do economic development and this is why you actually need human spaceflight technology.

  75. Gary Ansorge

    77 Justin

    Good point about the Saturn 1b.

    71. Kris

    “The kind of problem that was solved back in 1960s, but the last guy who knew how died 2 years before the design for a new life support system was started.”

    Are you familiar with the concept of documentation? You might think of it as crystalized experience.

    I should be the last to knock living, human experience. I have a lot of that. Over 6 decades worth but I, like many others, thought to write a lot of that down, so succeeding generations could profit by it.

    We don’t discard old knowledge when someone dies. It’s why we invented writing.

    Gary 7

  76. D. Scruggs

    One thing the congresscritter obviously did not know, and others here as well, is who builds the engines for the Atlas V. The RUSSIANS build the engines. We are already using lots of foreign technology in our boosters.

    D. Scruggs

  77. Daffy

    I don’t believe for a moment the “Soviet Union” comment was a slip up…Republicans absolutely need everyone to be afraid; that’s how they win elections.

  78. Soviet Union…. WOW…. :-o

    More and more I nudge myself to the center away from the nuts on the far left AND the far right. Sheesh!

  79. RL

    @ 78, Gary.

    While things should be well documented, the sad fact is that things are never well documented enough and documentation can never replace experience. It is quite literally the difference between satellites failing in orbit (or not making it there). Or in this case, success at manned exploration. I’ve personally watched this happen. The learning curve always applies.

  80. What do you expect from a Republican? They cannot accept that their side has egregiously screwed things up during the Bush administration(s) and they cannot accept that Democrats might be able to do things right. But, what floors me is that these Rs have so much money, but they can’t seem to hire fact-checkers. As Daffy says, however, these Rs probably do this stuff on purpose because it’s the only way they can grasp power — to try and frighten people with lies. Facing the truth would be too hard.

  81. MaDeR

    PBFP: I do not think article comments are good place for long discussion. What about BAUT forums? I have account there.

    By the way, walls of text does not help you. Ah well, I will be back in evening and try to read it. -.-

  82. Plutonium being from Pluto

    @84. MaDeR Says:

    PBFP: I do not think article comments are good place for long discussion. What about BAUT forums? I have account there.

    Me too under StevoR. I also use that & a few other “usernames” here.

    (Hope that’s okay with everyone esp. the BA. Why I do this is a long story. I don’t think its “sockpuppetry” – or indeed that *who* is saying something matters even an hundredth as much as *what* it is that is being said.)

    OTOH, wasn’t the one & only AGW thread on the BAUT :

    a) shut down for being too contentious / controversial or something?

    &

    b) Already ridiculously long – just too much to read through and take in?

    & besides

    c) Just my preference but personally I spend more time and tend to prefer using the BA comments here as my discussion forum.

    I actually tried to start another AGW thread complete with a poll after the Climategate scandal broke but the BAUT moderators shut it down. :-(

    So I’m happy to try and take this discussion there.

    I actually kinda wish they’d merge these articles into the BAUT but then the BAUT rules are considerably harsher and less free give’n'take of opinion & I don’t know quite how a merger of this into that could work anyhow so … :-S

    By the way, walls of text does not help you. Ah well, I will be back in evening and try to read it. -.-

    Thanks. :-)

    Do “walls of text” have a “ceiling of print” or are they just “wall-paper?” ;-)

    I just post my opinion & why I think so & the odd link – I’m not sure why this is seen as a problem. Yes, I can be a bit wordy and my posts a bit long at times because I’m trying to explain stuff and express stuff as best I can. I’m not sure why this is bad or what if anything I should do differently.

    I’m certainly willing to listen to reasonable & polite advice on this if you wish to offer any. :-)

  83. ASFalcon13

    I’m going to agree with gss_000. “I really hope this plan comes through, and there is something very powerful for the monetary case these companies make, but you should be a little more skeptical about their claims.”

    Space programs tend to be measured in millions to billions of dollars. Most people don’t have much experience with space programs or sums of money that large, so they don’t have an intuitive grasp of just how much such a program should cost or how much time it should take to execute. For that reason, a lot of people (even plenty of politicians) don’t have the intuition to tell when an outlandish claim of future space capability and price is thrown their way.

    Let me give a more everyday example to draw an analogy. A brand new Ford Mustang costs somewhere in the neighborhood of $25,000. Now, lets say you go off the beaten track and find a dealer that’s willing to sell you that same brand new car for an order of magnitude less: $2,500. Naturally, this is going to set off more than a few alarm bells in your head. You’re going to start asking some questions like “What’s wrong with this car?”, “Are there some major components missing?”, and “Is this dealer trying to sell me stolen goods?” In short, you don’t expect a brand new Mustang to cost a mere $2,500, and you’d probably be right to be skeptical about making such a purchase.

    Realize that some of the claims that firms like SpaceX are making sound to some of us just like that $2,500 Mustang. When SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell goes in front of a Senate hearing claiming that the $6 billion dollar budget increase would be enough money to fund 5-10 commercial launch services like SpaceX, that sounds like the $2,500 Mustang to us (heck, Orbital’s Frank Culbertson immediately called her bluff on that one). When a company has nothing beyond a 2-out-of-5 record with a rocket that has a mass-to-LEO of less that 1500 lbm, and they claim that they can do human spaceflight better, faster, and cheaper than an organization that has been flying crews in space for close to 50 years, well, that sounds a lot like that $2,500 Mustang to us too.

    Don’t get me wrong, I wish SpaceX and friends all the best (because, eventually, commercial crew and cargo to LEO will take the burden off and allow NASA to focus on BEO exploration), but the companies aren’t mature enough and the business models aren’t convincing enough to entrust the entire responsibility of US human spaceflight to them yet.

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