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So, those who were/are my regular readers (as well as some Obama supporters who aren't regular readers) know that I have been pushing for Senator Obama to have a space policy, after he released his educational plan around Thanksgiving.  Well, in the last few weeks, the Obama campaign has begun to rectify that.  First, on Jan 2nd, Lisa Ellman, Obama's policy director, issued the following statement,

Obama believes we should continue developing the next generation of space vehicles, and complete the international space station. While Obama would delay plans to return to moon and push on to mars, Obama would continue unmanned missions, and use NASA to monitor the forces and effects of climate change, support scientific research, and maintain surveillance to strengthen national security. Obama also believes we need to keep weapons out of space.

And on Thursday, this week, the Senator released a full policy statement.  Come over the fold, and I'll give you my thoughts

Below is the text, followed by my thoughts.

Develop the Next-Generation of Space Vehicles: The retirement of the Space Shuttle in 2010 will leave the United States without manned spaceflight capability until the introduction of the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV) carried by the Ares I Launch Vehicle. As president, Obama will support the development of this vital new platform to ensure that the United States' reliance on foreign space capabilities is limited to the minimum possible time period. The CEV will be the backbone of future missions, and is being designed with technology that is already proven and available.

This is perhaps my greatest (or at least 2nd greatest) problem with his proposal - he specifically endorses developing the CEV, and the Ares I.  The Ares I is a terrible vehicle, that has fundamental, I repeat FUNDAMENTAL FLAWS, that will make it LESS safe than the shuttle, and potentially unflyable.  And, because of the push to save Ares I, CEV is becoming dangerous as well.  (And don't get me started on the pollution that comes from the Solid fuel).

The other thing worth noting is that there is no mention of the Ares V, or the Lunar lander, which has the implication that anything beyond earth orbit for the ESAS program won't happen, which means that CEV will be restricted to earth orbit, and probably providing access to the Space Station - this puts it in direct competition with things from the COTS program, like Dragon/Falcon 9, and Dreamchaser, just to name a few.  These are vehicles that will likely fly before CEV ever comes close to flying, and restricting it to earth orbit will hurt the development of a space market developing (like how the mail market helped the early aviation industry develop).  

Complete the International Space Station: The International Space Station is an example of what we can accomplish through international cooperation. Barack Obama is committed to the completion of the International Space Station.

No real problem here, at least in general.  Again, there is the issue of will/how commerical flights will work with the station. That was not addressed, however, I think I have already talked enough about that.

Continue Unmanned Missions: Robotic missions provide a level of endurance and cost-effectiveness that is unsurpassed. The Voyager probes, launched in the 1970s, are still sending back data beyond our solar system. Closer to home, the Spirit and Opportunity rovers have been exploring the surface of Mars for more than 1,300 days, 14 times longer than their intended mission length. Along with Earth-orbiting platforms like the Hubble Space Telescope and the Chandra X-Ray Observatory, unmanned missions have yielded some of the greatest scientific discoveries of the last century. Barack Obama is committed to a bold array of robotic missions that will expand our knowledge of the solar system and lay the foundations for further manned exploration.

The question is exactly when will that "further manned exploration"  come.  More to the point, however, Senator Obama seems to think the only thing that really comes out of space is scientific knowledge.  The truth is, space has much more to offer, however, space is not just about science and knowledge.  In fact, in a lot of respects, I'd love to see NASA move away from being a partial scientific agency - Nasa is at its foundation, a space agency, that does scientific exploration now and again.

Monitor the Forces and Effects of Climate Change: Barack Obama has proposed bold initiatives to put America on the path to stop global climate change. His administration will set standards based on rigorous scientific inquiry that, in turn, cannot take place without a capable space program. The task of researching and understanding the forces that affect our home planet will require a constellation of climate monitoring space platforms. As president, Obama will ensure that NASA has the funding necessary to play its part in the fight against global climate change.

I'm not going to say much more here.  While ideally I'd argue that Earth science belongs in the domain of another agency, I also know just how precarious we are when it comes to the issue of global climate change.

Support Scientific Research: In the past, government funding for scientific research has yielded innovations that have improved the landscape of American life, technologies like the Internet, digital photography, bar codes, Global Positioning System technology, laser surgery, and chemotherapy. Today, we face a new set of challenges, yet the United States is losing its scientific dominance. Over the last three decades, federal funding for the physical, mathematical and engineering sciences has declined at a time when other countries are substantially increasing their own research budgets. Barack Obama believes federally funded scientific research should play an important role in advancing science and technology in the classroom and in the lab. He will work to diversify the makeup of the scientific community and provide federal research programs a much- needed infusion of funds.

Here I applaud the Senator.  We need more scientific research, definitely.  However, of even bigger concern, IMHO, is not just the basic scientific research, but the need to push toward developing technologies to the point that the average person can take advantage of them.  More on this at the end.

Maintain Surveillance to Strengthen National Security: Orbiting surveillance satellites provide a vital way to ensure compliance with non-proliferation treaties and monitor emerging threats. For example, nuclear facility construction in North Korea and Iran can be closely monitored from above without the challenges faced by weapons inspectors on the ground. Satellites can be further used in the effort to secure loose nuclear weapons and materials around the world, an effort which Barack Obama has promoted aggressively in the U.S. Senate.

Keep Weapons out of Space: China's successful test of an anti-satellite missile in January 2007 signaled a potential new arms race in space. Barack Obama does not support the stationing of any weapons in space. He believes the international community must address the issue of space weaponization head-on and enter into a serious dialogue with Russia, China and other nations to stop this slow slide into a new battlefield.

I am lumping these two together, since they are both about national security in space.  Space has proven vital to allowing us to monitor states of concern, countless times, and this will need to continue.

As for preventing space weaponization - on the one hand, I would love to imagine that we could keep weapons out of space.  However, realistically, as we move into space, weapons will come (and there is good reason to suspect that they already have been in space).  And, IMHO, the sooner we admit that, the sooner we can start dealing with the issues that are raised.  (This is a lot like the issue of nuclear proliferation - we need to do everything we can to prevent it - the question is, can we actually prevent it?)

Strengthen Math and Science Education: Fifty years after Sputnik, science and math education in American schools is facing a crisis. As the Gathering Storm report concluded, "danger exists that Americans may not know enough about science, technology or mathematics to contribute significantly to, or fully benefit from, the knowledge-based economy that is already taking shape around us." Barack Obama will make math and science education a national priority, and provide our schools with the tools to educate 21st-Century learners.

   * Recruit High-Quality Math and Science Teachers: Barack Obama's will establish a Teaching Service Scholarship program to recruit an army of new teachers. These scholarships will prioritize recruiting math, science and technology degree graduates. Obama will create Teacher Residency Programs to train teachers using mentorship, graduate study and hands-on training to develop 30,000 teachers a year, providing additional teachers in math and science. In addition, Obama will devote $100 million a year to Professional Development Schools to help new teachers, or veteran teacher needing to hone their skills, learn from professionals in the field. Professional Development Schools will partner universities with school sites that exhibit state-of-the-art practices and train new teachers in the classrooms of expert teachers while they are completing coursework.

   * Enhanced Science Instruction: Barack Obama will work with governors to create flexible and workable systems for the states to achieve the goal of ensuring all children have access to strong a science curriculum at all grade levels. Obama will also support state efforts to make science education a priority at the pre-K level.

   * Improve and Prioritize Science Assessments: Science assessments need to do more than test facts and concepts. They need to use a range of measures to test inquiry and higher-order thinking skills including inference, logic, data analysis and interpretation, forming questions, and communication. Barack Obama will work with governors and educators to ensure that state assessments measure these skills.

Okay, here's the thing - what exactly does this have to do with Space?  I don't deny that its true, and there are serious issues in science and math education, but exactly what does this have to do with Space?  

If the Senator is really talking about pursuing a program like the Teacher's in space whose primary website seems to be down, then I am all for that.  However, I don't believe thats the case.  So, excactly, what does this have to do with space?

Whats missing

My main complaint is in whats missing - there is absolutely no discussion about the potential for the commerical sector in space.  This is where the real excitement within the space community exists - the development of real markets for putting people into space, and having routine access.  To be fair, Senator Clinton has not mentioned commerical space either, but as the candidate of change, I would hope that Senator Obama would see this.  With the developments coming from the NewSpace industry, we sit on the edge of major developments and changes, much like we saw with the internet in the 90s, and much like people expect with things like stem cell research.  

Also missing is the issue of whether prizes will be utlized.  The X Prize proved very successful in changing the nature of how we interact with space, and proving that "hobbyists" could become involved.  And the Centennial Challenges program has also been shortchanged again this year, and thus I remain concerned.

Final thoughts and whats really needed

The truth is that this plan has serious problems IMHO.  With no mention of commerical space, and specific mention supporting the terrible vehicle combination of CEV and Ares I, this plan would and will cause serious problems for any real push for further utilization and development of space.  

The reality is that, in Washington, what is seen as the biggest space issue is the so called "gap", between when the Shuttle will be retired in 2010, and when the CEV is suppose to fly in 2014.  The reality is that commercial space could do wonders here, but because of the Senators and Representatives from major space states, like Florida, Texas, and California, most members of Congress can't/don't want to believe that things could change.  

Serious reforms are/will be needed at NASA, and the main issue will probably involve job cuts, that could be as painful as military base closure.  I know this will not be popular with many people, but it will be needed if we want to really utilize space.  

Finally, what does it mean for me as a voter?  Well, 1 - It really doesn't change my thoughts on who I am voting for in the primary, because since I am in Michigan, my vote won't count in the primary (I haven't yet decided if I will vote uncommitted, or if I'll vote in the R primary, for Romney or Ron Paul), and I haven't really had a campaign I can volunteer for (and  being a poor college student, I haven't had any money to donate to anyone).  By and large, I have been undecided during this election, and this certainly hasn't helped the Senator, IMHO.  As for who I'll vote for in the main election - I am a Democrat - I vote Democrat, and if the Senator is nominated, I will proudly support and help him (although I will constantly be trying to get his attention on this issue, with the hope of changing his opinion).  

I really wish the Senator would come out with something better, because I do think he can be a great president.  But this needs serious work.

Originally posted to FerrisValyn on Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 07:00 PM PST.

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Comment Preferences

    •  Re. the "surveillance" item and science ed item (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      peaceloveandkucinich, psericks

      (note, I'm "uncommitted" re candidate preference; any of the Ds will do a better job than any of the Rs.)

      ---

      Satellite surveillance.

      That is a direct message to NRO (the National Reconnaissance Office) and NGA (the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency), and thereby a slightly less direct message to the US Air Force (whereas NSA is culturally connected to Army & Navy, NRO is culturally connected to Air Force), and by implication also to NSA (as another technical intel agency).  

      The message is:  Your original missions are vitally important and as President I will support you in those missions.  I will get you out of the domestic snooping business, which we know you don't want anything to do with in the first place.  But if doing the latter requires taking steps that prove a bit embarrassing, don't worry, because I recognise the importance of the missions for which you were chartered, and you have my support.  

      IMHO this is a very smart move: it will bring support from the agencies, who are pretty pissed off at Bush for treating them like toys.  

      ---

      Science ed

      Look at it in this context:  The Rs have been running away from science since the debate where three of 'em proudly raised their hands Yes when asked who among them did not believe in evolution.  

      Under the Rs, Red China will plant its flag on the moon while we are still conducting monkey trials in local school districts.  

      Science & math are absolutely vital to a strengthened space program, and they are also profound threats to the fundamentalist world view.  Putting a strong emphasis on science & math ed as part of an education platform would guarantee that the righties would attack Obama mercilessly on yet another front.  Contextualizing them in terms of strength in space, and contextualizing space as a national security issue, provides partial immunity from this angle of attack.  

      ---

      About launch & orbital vehicles:

      Something I've noticed about Obama's energy platform is that it seems to be written by smart people who happen to be non-specialists.  Any specialist can spot the relevant points easily enough.  You've spotted a similar issue re. his space platform, which implies the possibility for a similar case of it being written by smart non-specialists.  

      This kind of stuff contributes to the idea that Obama is "inexperienced."  What is needed is relentless input by specialists to his campaign staff.  Let the existing smart non-specialists take the credit for it, I don't care, just so long as they get it right.  

      ---

      Editorial comment re. "commercial space."   Not like the internet, please.  An enormously important utility has been taken over to a large extent by scammers and predators and parasites of all kinds (e.g. 95% of email traffic is presently spam; the only reason you don't see it is due to filtration, but it does bog down the network and you see the effects indirectly).  We've already made that mistake once, let's not make it again, for example with various paratites making pre-emptive real estate grabs on the Moon and Mars or for that matter in orbit.  It should not be possible to profit from activities that consiste primarily of manipulating paperwork and permissions, and that have the real effect of slowing down real progress in space.  

      ---

      In Michigan you can vote for Ron Paul (instead of Thompson), cite "commercial space" as the key issue, and that might send a message about that issue.  

      ---

      Question:  among all the candidates, who do you think has the best space platform, whether among Ds or among Rs?  Do any of the Rs have things in their space platforms that the Ds need to have also?  

      •  Hey, G2geek - wondered if I'd see you here (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        G2geek

        Science ed - actually, done properly, I would argue that you could tie the commerical space sector to the power that science offers (Think of it something like "Science offers the possiblity of new products, and new technologies, and most importnatly, new industries that create new jobs" followed by discussion about space :D)

        The problem is, this is a space policy.  If it was a science and technology policy, I would actually agree.  But space policy should have direct links to space, and I don't agree that you can easily tie it together.  

        Re:Launch vehicles

        I actually wouldn't be at all surprized (and frankly, thought that might be the case myself).  It does seem to add to the meme about his "inexperince"

        I wonder if you can volunteer for policy work?  

        Commerical space - I do hope we can avoid some of the worst issues, but I think that it will be different compared to the internet, because, at the end of the day, to really make it worth while, resources will need to be tapped.

        To answer your question - looking just at space policy, I'd lean slightly to clinton, because she doesn't cite the CEV or Ares I.  I will admit some ignorance concerning the R's - I believe McCain has been infavor of VSE, but if he intends to retain CEV and Ares I, well, that ruins him.

        However, the larger reason I'd argue Clinton's is probably the best is because I know one of her top advisors in this area is Lori Garver - a known supporter of NewSpace.

        •  interesting... (0+ / 0-)

          For some reason I thought you might say Clinton would be best on space policy.  Possibly because the only other major D candidate (Edwards) seems to have missed on at least one other sci/tech issue: specifically his a-priori opposition to nuclear power, though I do think he would in practice be more flexible about that one with enough pressure from voters.  

          Re. volunteering for policy work:  Uh, yeah, I'd be open minded about going there.  My major expertise is in telecommunications (@ 25 yrs), and I have enough expertise in energy to be of value there; and enough expertise on the subject of intelligence policy to be of some use there*; I am not an expert on space and in particular know little about launch vehicles... though the other problem is that I'm up to my ears in projects at the moment...  However my verbal abilities are at 4th standard deviation above the mean, which counts for something in terms of writing things for public consumption.  Speaking of which, the meme to circulate about the Rs particularly Hucksterbee is, "Red China's flag flying over the Moon."  Using the phrase "Red China" for deliberate effect.  

          ---

          *among other things, dump this National Intel Directorate nonsense, put DCI back in charge of intel policy & coordination, and have all the technical collection agencies report to CIA Directorate of Intel as was the case before Bush screwed up the org chart (historically, for some odd reason, wars tend to bring on panicky reorganizations of the intel org chart, which IMHO is dumb; bad time to be making changes...).  Keep DI and DO together under CIA as an internal check and balance on organizational culture (detailed explanation on request).  Math & science ed are relevant here too.  So is language ed.  I have a detailed policy proposal for a National Translation Corps that would be a feed-in to NSA & CIA recruitment for linguist/translators, an area that has also been sorely neglected under Bush.  Anyway....

          And don't even get me started on telecoms policy.... for one thing, forcibly separate carriers from content, and bring back the broadcast monopoly regulations pre Jimmy Carter.  I could go on for ten pages on these & related topics but I'll force myself to stop here:-)

  •  What drives exploration... (5+ / 0-)

    The reality is that exploration, in general, has never happened without specific commercial or political motivations for doing so.  If you look at the explorers of hold, they always were looking for things that would bring them and the powers that be wealth and more power.  

    Today, space exploration is hitting a wall, especially in terms of manned exploration because the financial benefits of doing so are not clear.  Why spend billions of dollars going to the moon or mars just to do it?  

    Now I grant, there are plenty of secondary benefits to science research, but it's not as tangible as say finding a shorter trade route to China.  It's doesn't feel as important as beating the soviets in a race to the moon.  There's just not that kind of momentum behind these efforts.

    Until that changes, it will always be seen as a secondary interest.  If your choice is send more funding to health care or schools, or send more money to the moon, the moon will lose every time.  Space policy will continue to be unimportant to presidential candidates and to election results.  

    To be clear, I'm a big fan of space exploration.  Went to space camp a few times when I was a kid.  I love that stuff and I want us to keep going further out there.  But I think we're going to keep hitting a wall until we really have a very good reason to do it other than it's really cool :)

    ---
    Disclaimer: I support Obama. I may contain hope and could become fired up and ready to go at anytime.

    by sterno on Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 07:10:28 PM PST

    •  I agree there is that problem, BUT (4+ / 0-)

      the solution is presenting itself in the form of the NewSpace industry - and that is to make money.  Things like Space tourism, access to resources (like Space based solar power), new economic markets (like zero-g Manufacturing), all can change things, and provide jobs and even new industries.

      You point out the issue of it costing Billions of dollars - the fact is that there is a LOT of evidence that that is changing, and will change substantially, in the next 5-10 years.  The current price that Space Adventures offers to send someone to ISS (20-40 million dollars).  But if you look at the work being done by SpaceX, by XCOR, by Armadillo, by Scaled Composites and Virgin Galactic, I would not be surprized to see that price drop to something like $100,000, or even $50,000, in 5-10 years.  

      We can position ourselves to take advantage of this new industry, and new commerical oppurtinities, or we can let them pass us by.  

      •  I've been hearing that ... (0+ / 0-)

        For decades. Color me skeptical on any dramatic near term reduction in cost to orbit.

        Developments like SpaceShipOne, though cool, don't really change this, because the basic space access problem isn't getting into space as such, it's reaching orbital velocity. You need about 30 times as much kinetic energy to enter orbit as you do for a suborbital hop.

        Not specific to this discussion, but much great stuff at this site.

        The best fortress is to be found in the love of the people - Niccolo Machiavelli

        by al Fubar on Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 07:34:56 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  No, its not 30X (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          al Fubar, JeffW

          Its not even 25X.  The real issue with getting low cost access is that its always required (or appeared to require) a large amount of up front capital, and there hasn't been any agreement that there is a market for it.  That is changing, because of SpaceShipOne.

          Further, the NewSpace companies aren't just working on sub-orbits - take a look at SpaceX for one example.  There are many others.  Another great example - Bigelow Aerospace has launched 2 unmanned space stations.

          It really is changing this time.  

          •  How Does the Energy Cost of a Low End (0+ / 0-)

            space trip compare to common large occasional trips that average people might take?

            For example one passenger's energy share for a cross country plane or bus trip?

            We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

            by Gooserock on Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 08:13:36 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

        •  Market demand is what is needed (0+ / 0-)

          I recall a Usenet post that opened my eyes . . .

          An RL-10 rocket motor is less technologically sophisticated than a current tech gas turbine helicopter engine. Helicopter engines cost ~$100,000 each because thousands and thousands are sold each year.

          An RL-10 costs many millions of dollars because each one is built by hand.

          = = =

          To build TWO Mars rovers cost 125% of what building one would have cost.

          Why? The techs set up the rovers side by side and after installing a part on Spirit, they turned around and installed the same part on Opportunity.

          Clinton rejected Saul D. Alinsky as outdated. Obama has lived Alinsky's teachings. That is one core difference between them.

          by Bill White on Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 08:13:59 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  There is no good reason (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ramo

    for humans to go into space.

    •  Sure there is (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Miss Jones, cosette, bear83

      Economic development, resources, new perspectives, saving the world - I've blogged about it, as have other people

      In short - if you want to help the world get better - you have to start talking about embracing off-planet resources, and using off-planet oppertunities

      •  Robots (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Ramo

        90% of the cost and effort of manned spaceflight is devoted to keeping the astronauts alive. If you weighed the mass of data from robotic missions up against that from manned flights, there would be no contest. Manned flight has not yielded significant scientific results. There is no good reason to send humans into space. There is tremendous value in sending robots. We should be spending our money on making better robots.

        •  Space is not just about science (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Odysseus, Miss Jones, cfk, JeffW

          and actually, there is real debate about whether you can do the kind of direct science with robots that a human can do.

          Regardless, the main point isn't about science though.  Space doesn't just provide science - space can provide resources, and new economic oppurtunities, to deal with the problems of globalization, of global warming.  For example, the private space tourist industry, is projected to be a $100 million dollar industry during its 5th year of operations.  Those are real jobs and real dollars.  Perhaps more to the point, $31 million dollars has been spent on sub-orbital space tickets, on a craft that has yet to be shown to the public (I am of course talking about Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo).

          This gives a great explanation about why we need to invest in manned spaceflight.

          •  Why should we be subsidizing space tourism? (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Anne Elk

            I think there are a few more important industries that the state might want to prop up.  Like turd farming.  Seriously, the state doesn't have an unlimited amount of cash to blow, and we need to appropriately prioritize investments a little bit.

            Economic development from manned flight seems pretty marginal right now.  Maybe when we can get fusion to be more efficient, it might be a less pointless (i.e. to harvest He-3 from the moon).

            From a scientific POV, nearly everything interesting can be done much cheaper unmanned.

            "Whether the British ruling class are wicked or merely stupid is one of the most difficult questions of our time." - George Orwell on the Spanish Civil War

            by Ramo on Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 08:11:30 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Because there is more than just space tourism (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Miss Jones

              NewSpace vehicles are being proposed for a variety of things - For example, consider Masten Space System's sodasat.  These, and other scientific flights that need zero-g can/will be something of a major industry.  

              Other examples are things like space sports, and low cost remote sensing.  Yes, part of the offshoot of cheap access is luxary travel, but there are a lot of other parts of industry that will come with cheap access.  

              Nasa can do things that will encourage the development of these industries, or things that will discourage it.  And this is true of the federal government at large, even more so - look at things like the Space Launch Amendment of 04.  

              •  Not very specific. (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Anne Elk
                What important research has been done through manned flights?  There was some work done on crystal growth and semi-conductors, but nothing significant came from it.

                And space sports?  Are you serious?  Dunno what you mean be "remote sensing."  You might want to elaborate there...

                Look, universal health care is important.  Better schools are important.  Climate change legislation is important.  Trying to combat disease and poverty around the world is important.  And there's a whole lot of important basic research that we could invest in (NASA, for instance, is working on LISA, which will tell us a lot about gravity waves).  The next President is going to have to spend a lot of money doing a lot of very important things.  

                Space tourism simply is not one of them.  I certainly don't want my tax dollars to go there, and I'm not terribly inclined to support Presidential candidates who would disagree.

                "Whether the British ruling class are wicked or merely stupid is one of the most difficult questions of our time." - George Orwell on the Spanish Civil War

                by Ramo on Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 08:33:16 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  The current NASA budget is about ~$18 billion (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  JeffW

                  NO ONE will succeed with efforts to increase it, and yet NO ONE will succeed with efforts to slash it.

                  Jobs in Florida are one reason and the PR hit that would come from being the US President that ended US spaceflight would be another.

                  Therefore, since ~$18 billion is pretty much a given and humans in space will be part of that, I simply want more for my money.

                  = = =

                  I have more idealistic reasons but I'll stick to this, for now.

                  Clinton rejected Saul D. Alinsky as outdated. Obama has lived Alinsky's teachings. That is one core difference between them.

                  by Bill White on Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 08:36:56 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Better return for the money... (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Anne Elk

                    We should stick with science.  Again, NASA is involved in a lot of really interesting science.  LISA, WMAP, Hubble (which could be done unmanned at a fraction of the cost).  To hell with this "Mars, bitches" policy.

                    I'd be fine with it, though, if advertising, etc. entirely pays for the manned flight.

                    "Whether the British ruling class are wicked or merely stupid is one of the most difficult questions of our time." - George Orwell on the Spanish Civil War

                    by Ramo on Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 08:45:58 PM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  We should stick with science. (0+ / 0-)

                      My brother is a research physicist and argues exactly as you do.

                      My counter argument (on the merits) would be very long and unlikely to persuade you. I can accept that.

                      On the other hand, any American President who ended American human spaceflight would be crucified by a great many people including Senator Bill Nelson (D-Fla) and Boeing lobbyists and Lockheed lobbyists etc. . .

                      And since ~$18 billion equals maybe 24 hours of the Iraq war there is NO political chance American human space flight shall be terminated. No matter what the "best" policy may be.

                      Therefore, I want more for that ~$18 billion than we are getting as of now.

                      Clinton rejected Saul D. Alinsky as outdated. Obama has lived Alinsky's teachings. That is one core difference between them.

                      by Bill White on Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 08:50:27 PM PST

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  That's a fair point. (0+ / 0-)

                        It's very politically tricky, so we're not likely to see significant changes.  But I'd like the policy going in the right direction: more science, less manned flight.  And it sounds like Obama meets this criteria.

                        "Whether the British ruling class are wicked or merely stupid is one of the most difficult questions of our time." - George Orwell on the Spanish Civil War

                        by Ramo on Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 09:03:03 PM PST

                        [ Parent ]

                        •  At the moment there is a HUGE decision (0+ / 0-)

                          facing us relative to what lift shall replace the Space Shuttle.

                          The Direct 2.0 plan appears to put the most mass in LEO for a given price tag, keep the Florida workers employed, and allows America to get back on the Moon.

                          In essence, it re-uses as much of the shuttle legacy as possible but omits the orbiter. No more tiles, etc . . .

                          Also, there is some fascinating math related to using the LaGrange points to do lunar missions. It saves a surprising (surprising to me, a history major) amount of fuel compared with other architectures and that means less "initial mass in LEO" and that means cheaper.

                          Also, these L points (EML-1 & EML-2) offer access to Martin Lo's "interplanetary superhighway" which allows long slow trips most anywhere in the solar system at very low fuel costs.

                          This involves multi-body gravitational calculations over my head but the experts all say the math works.

                          Robotic probes could go many places if they started at an L point.

                          = = =

                          The biggest change we need (IMHO) is for NASA to be ordered to partner up with private players who generate revenue from media, marketing and the like.

                          Tax revenue subsidies for space tourists? Nah, I oppose that. But there are joint cost sharing opportunities which can be win-win, again IMHO.

                          Clinton rejected Saul D. Alinsky as outdated. Obama has lived Alinsky's teachings. That is one core difference between them.

                          by Bill White on Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 09:12:56 PM PST

                          [ Parent ]

                          •  A shipyard at a Lagrange point? (0+ / 0-)

                            That sounds very expensive and long term.  I don't really think the new Pres should consider her/himself with it.

                            "Whether the British ruling class are wicked or merely stupid is one of the most difficult questions of our time." - George Orwell on the Spanish Civil War

                            by Ramo on Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 09:39:05 PM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  Heh! No not a shipyard (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            NCrefugee

                            That would be staggeringly expensive . . .

                            Lunar missions can occur one of three ways:

                            Direct - meaning the entire spacecraft that leaves Earth orbit lands on the moon.

                            LLO - meaning that a crew transfer vehicle docks with a lunar lander in low lunar orbit. Apollo did this.

                            EML - the crew transfer vehicle docks with the lunar lander at either EML-1 or EML-2.

                            Direct is the most costly in fuel. LLO can be the least costly IF the missions are one-off or stunt based mission. Flags and footprints.

                            But, if you put a re-useable lunar lander at an L point, crews fly from LEO to EML-1, change trains and land on the Moon. Later the lander returns to the L point and the crew comes home.

                            L points are stable (Earth gravity and lunar gravity  balance - best explanation I can give in six words) and therefore the lander will still be there when you come back six months later, a year later, whatever. (Very minor station-keeping is required)

                            Add oxygen extracted from lunar regolith into the mix and overall mission costs fall through the floor. For a CH4 + O2 engine, LOX is 80% by mass of the fuel load. Get it from the Moon and you do not need to lift it up from Earth.

                            An ISS type station in low lunar orbit is not feasible. The moon is "lumpy" and orbits decay even more rapidly than around Earth. Precess is the proper word, I believe, and your station will be unreachable from the lunar surface for reasons related to orbital inclination.

                            L points are inclination neutral and are reachable 24/7 from any point on the Moon and on Earth.

                            = = =

                            Stockpile fuel and a crew habitat at the L point, but no shipyard. Building stuff on Earth will remain less expensive for a long long time.

                            Clinton rejected Saul D. Alinsky as outdated. Obama has lived Alinsky's teachings. That is one core difference between them.

                            by Bill White on Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 10:09:58 PM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  Minor physics issue... (0+ / 0-)

                            Some Lagrange points are unstable.  Even if the two gravitational fields cancel each other out at the station, if you infinitesimally perturb the station's position in a certain direction it may continue to accelerate away from that Lagrange point.  It could also be stable in certain directions and unstable in others (known as a saddle point).

                            About a more modular system in general, yeah that's fine.  Might make sense to move in that direction.  But as I wrote, I don't think this stuff is particularly important right now.

                            "Whether the British ruling class are wicked or merely stupid is one of the most difficult questions of our time." - George Orwell on the Spanish Civil War

                            by Ramo on Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 10:33:43 PM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  Well yes, but this is a blog comment after all (0+ / 0-)

                            Station keeping is needed but the delta v is quite modest.

                            I also agree this is very very far from being the most pressing issue we face, however, NASA is at a cross-roads and will be as we transition to a new Administration in 2009. And human spaceflight will NOT be abolished regardless of whatever we might think.

                            Whoever is elected will need to spend enough time on this to select a NASA Administrator, if nothing else. Those of us who do care, will have that opportunity to get involved.

                            I would like to foster an occasional discussion as to what a "progressive space program" might look like, if only to give myself some respite from my raging "Hillary hatred" /snark

                            Like I said elsewhere, I disagree with Obama's space policy, but, he's my guy without hesitation.

                            Clinton rejected Saul D. Alinsky as outdated. Obama has lived Alinsky's teachings. That is one core difference between them.

                            by Bill White on Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 10:41:27 PM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  What I shall propose is a space race (0+ / 0-)

                            Using Russian lift, I believe a privately funded mission could reach EML-2 and return to Earth at a total cost of approximately $350 million.

                            (US rockets? $1 billion for this mission. After we develop them as they do not today exist. Elon Musk offers hope for lower costs.)

                            Last year, Larry Ellison of Oracle spent ~$200 million NOT winning the America's Cup.

                            Get two or three teams to race from LEO to EML-2 (and back) in a yacht race style format using Russian rockets at a cost of maybe $350 million each and use sponsorship and media dollars to pay for it.

                            = = =

                            NASA would go ape shit! ;-)

                            I've met some of the people who tried to buy Mir from the Russians and they tell me the US government was very uncooperative.

                            Subsidies? Eh, not so much.

                            Ending hostility to ideas like these? That is what I believe a progressive US space program would encourage.

                            Clinton rejected Saul D. Alinsky as outdated. Obama has lived Alinsky's teachings. That is one core difference between them.

                            by Bill White on Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 10:16:05 PM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                      •  I sincerely doubt that (1+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        Ramo

                        I don't think people really think about spaceflight as important. Maybe if the Prez announced it, but if it bleeds slowly to death, no one is going to start a riot over it. The NIH budget has been strangled and no one is making a fuss about that.

                        •  Senator Bill Nelson will (0+ / 0-)

                          Senator Barbara Mikulski will

                          No riots in the streets, but ending human spaceflight would eat into pet pork projects of plenty of Democratic Congress-folk.

                          And, if a Democratic President ended human spaceflight? The Republicans would throw a huge fit about the humiliation of America. Bullshit?

                          Maybe, but take a look at what John Edwards says:

                                Q: If elected President, how would you balance the scientific research at NASA with the manned spaceflight program which, arguably, has dubious scientific value?

                          A:     I am a strong supporter of our space program. It reflects the best of the American spirit of optimism, discovery and progress.

                             We need a balanced space and aeronautics program. We need to support solar system exploration as an important goal for our human and robotic programs, but only as one goal among several. And we need to invite other countries to share in a meaningful way in both the adventure and the cost of space exploration.

                          At $18 billion, keeping Americans in space offers Presidents a PR opportunity NONE of them will pass up.

                          Obama proposes to do so, but he won't if elected.

                          The money he would save wouldn't be worth the whining from the Congress-folk who represent the people who work for NASA.

                          Clinton rejected Saul D. Alinsky as outdated. Obama has lived Alinsky's teachings. That is one core difference between them.

                          by Bill White on Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 10:32:33 PM PST

                          [ Parent ]

                          •  The left most Dems in Seattle (0+ / 0-)

                            Would be crawling all over anyone who wanted to shut down Boeings parts of the space program.

                            Boeing will need purging and some pretty severe watchdogs after 8 years of Republican non oversight, but the NASA contracts are at least semi transparent compared to the black and gray ops and outright buying of some government contracts.

                            The biggest threat to America is not communism, it's moving America toward a fascist theocracy... -- Frank Zappa

                            by NCrefugee on Sun Jan 13, 2008 at 03:19:34 AM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                        •  Bill has it right, Anne (0+ / 0-)

                          Nasa is so covered in Pork - thats a HUGE part of the problem with Nasa, IMHO.  If it weren't so tied into the pork system, it probably could do more, with less money.  

                          Unfortnatly, battling pork is rather difficult.

                    •  What about legislation that would establish (0+ / 0-)

                      liablity issues?  Or ITAR relief.

                      The issue of space isn't just about funding.  

                      And its also worth pointing out that cheap access (of which includes the work being done by Virgin Galactic) would allow for a lot more science.  

                      •  ITAR and science are unmanned flight. (0+ / 0-)

                        Liability sounds like an interesting issue.  I hope that Obama and Clinton read up on it, and come up with sensible policies.  But I would argue that it's secondary to the central issue in space policy - where public money goes.

                        "Whether the British ruling class are wicked or merely stupid is one of the most difficult questions of our time." - George Orwell on the Spanish Civil War

                        by Ramo on Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 09:07:13 PM PST

                        [ Parent ]

                        •  How is ITAR unmanned? (0+ / 0-)

                          ITAR are faced across the board (yes, you can be considered ordance if you ride a Russian rocket).

                          Hell, ITAR has ramifactions well outside of spaceflight (things like the aviation industry and so forth)

                          As for science, the primary issue is cheap access.  Take sounding rockets, for example.  Right now, those are incredibly expensive.  But there are many private spacecraft being developed, that, while they are planned for taking tourists, have flight profiles similiar to the profiles needed for sounding rocket flights.  Now, these rockets will be substantially cheaper than current sounding rockets - well, why not encourage use of these, as opposed to traditional sounding rockets (Burt Rutan was actually approached by some people who wanted to fly experiments on SpaceShipOne).  

                          •  ITAR (0+ / 0-)

                            Sorry, I wikipedia'ed it, and the result was an arms interdiction program.  I assumed that's what you meant.

                            Regarding science, again, nearly all the important shit is unmanned or could be done a lot cheaper unmanned.  You can't really justify manned flight by science.

                            "Whether the British ruling class are wicked or merely stupid is one of the most difficult questions of our time." - George Orwell on the Spanish Civil War

                            by Ramo on Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 09:22:35 PM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  That is what I mean by ITAR (0+ / 0-)

                            basically, anything that goes on a rocket, right now is considered ordanice (yes, that includes you).  True story - Greg Olsen, the 3rd space tourist, wanted to take some cameras that his company makes, into space, as part of a publicity stunt - he couldn't because of ITAR issues (ITAR is one of those crazy issues, that doesn't make a whole lot of sense, but is very difficult to change).  I know that there was real concern about ITAR concerning SpaceShipTwo, Virgin Galactic, and Scaled Composites, as well.  

                            The point I am trying to make is that spaceflight, whether manned or unmanned, its biggest expense comes from the transportation - it doesn't matter your payload - it will cost a lot because the transportation is super expensive.  Get that down, and everyone, manned and unmanned will benefit.  

                •  Remote sensing and space based solar power (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  JeffW

                  Remote sensing basically means putting cameras up at high altitudes (like 100 km or more) and taking pictures, and using them for things like farming, urban planning, and many others.  Learn all about it here

                  I've also mentioned things like Space based solar power - this would deal with our power issues, and be able to provide the clean, large scale base-load power that we need and won't pollute the enviroment.

                  As for what research - quite a bit has been done.  You mentioned the crystal work.  The real issue that has always prevented any large scale industry to develop has been because of the transportation issue.  But this will be solved, very soon.

                  •  Ferris, my take is that space exploration IS (0+ / 0-)

                    vital however if we look at it from the perspective of Maslow's "Hierarchy of Needs" it will fall among the more esoteric of human needs.

                    I just do not see a business case (except from selling aspirational value -- marketing, media, brand value enhancement).

                    Project Apollo simply was a publicity stunt as part of our Cold War competition with the Soviets. Tape recordings of JFK's private conversations establish this rather well, IMHO.

                    Clinton rejected Saul D. Alinsky as outdated. Obama has lived Alinsky's teachings. That is one core difference between them.

                    by Bill White on Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 08:58:08 PM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                  •  Remote sensing can be done unmanned. (2+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    G2geek, Anne Elk

                    As for solar power, that sounds really, really expensive and like a long-term project.  I'd far prefer nuclear in the short term and deep geothermal (i.e. several kilometers down) long-term.  

                    What you're describing seems a bit too sci-fi for our current tech levels.

                    Regarding the research, you might want to elaborate some more.  I don't think crystal growth research can suffice as justification given the expense...

                    "Whether the British ruling class are wicked or merely stupid is one of the most difficult questions of our time." - George Orwell on the Spanish Civil War

                    by Ramo on Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 08:59:22 PM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  Its much closer than you would imagine (0+ / 0-)

                      Space based solar power's big hangup has ALWAYS been the transportation - we've proven solar cell technology (obviously) and we've proven tranmission methods.  The problem is that you MUST have cheap access, because you need a lot of flights.  Without that, yes, it won't happen. (again, my point about cheap access).  It is a significant investment, but the investment wouldn't be any worse than nuclear or geothermal (again, assuming you have cheap access)

                      The issue with Remote sensing - yes it can be done unmanned, BUT it is the companies that are working on cheap spaceflight that can offer it at a substantially reduced price.  And if you can fly remote sensing cheaply, you can fly humans cheaply.  Ok, actually, its not quite that simple, but it ends up being close to that.  Here the thing - one of the companies, TGV-Rockets, is working on a sub-orbital rocket that can provide remote sensing.  However, they are designing it so that it can easily switch payloads between manned and unmanned.  

                      As for research things - In this edition of the space show, Jon Goff was interviewed, and talked about composites that can only be constructed in zero-g.  

                      The point isn't about luxary travel - the point is cheap access, and luxary travel right now will play a role (and probably a substantial role) in its development.  But cheap access does open a lot up.

                      •  Cheap access... (0+ / 0-)

                        That's a killer problem.  You can't really wish it away.  You would need lots of money and time, and no deadlines.  

                        Deep geothermal doesn't need any really fancy tech to be feasible; it's basically drilling holes in the Earth (something oil companies can do really well) combined with 19th century technology (steam power).  Nuclear as well, but for other reasons, it's not a long-term solution.

                        I'm not sure how important this Goff fellow's work happens to be, but count me down as skeptical.

                        I don't think we'll convince each other, so I'll just recommend that you read a piece Steven Weinberg wrote about manned flight.  Weinberg is a prominent physicist who united the weak and electromagnetic forces (we consider uniting forces to be rather important in the field).
                        http://www.slick-net.com/...

                        "Whether the British ruling class are wicked or merely stupid is one of the most difficult questions of our time." - George Orwell on the Spanish Civil War

                        by Ramo on Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 09:31:43 PM PST

                        [ Parent ]

                        •  Any odds you care to name (0+ / 0-)

                          we'll have cheap access in the next 5-10 years.  Its not a matter of wishing it away - its a matter of good engineering, and careful planning (something trully lacking in the current ESAS plan, which I must point out includes the terrible vehicles Ares I, and CEV, of which Obama has endorsed).  And my bet - as I said, it'll come from what happening in the private NewSpace industry right now.  

                          I am curious - have you looked at the work being done by Scaled Composites, SpaceX, XCOR, Bigelow Aerospace, Armadillo Aeropsace, just to name a few?  

                          •  If you think that cheap access will... (0+ / 0-)

                            ... come from the private sector in the next 5-10 years, why are we having this argument?

                            Nope, haven't looked at the various designs.  As you might've guessed, I'm a lot more interested in the physics than the engineering regarding the space program.  It could very well be that Obama's or Clinton's designs for shuttle-replacements are less than optimal, but frankly that doesn't particularly concern me...

                            "Whether the British ruling class are wicked or merely stupid is one of the most difficult questions of our time." - George Orwell on the Spanish Civil War

                            by Ramo on Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 09:54:56 PM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  Because I am a taxpayer, and to quote Bill White (0+ / 0-)

                            I want more for my money :D  Also as White pointed out, 18 Billion is Nasa's current budget.  The fact is, some of that money will go for science, some for manned spaceflight, and various other things.

                            Now, I want the best return on that money spent - whether its spent on telescopes, or studies, or rockets, whatever.  

                            Now, there will be some of that money that goes to manned flight - I want it spent in the most effective possible manor.  

                            I realize you think that cheap access is very far away, but I am sure you agree that cheap access would be good for everyone.  And any money spent related to manned flight should have a major tie to cheap access.

                            The problem is that CEV and Ares I, not only do they not advance cheap access, they are even more unsafe than shuttle (and quite possibly unflyable - do we really want to spend multiple billions of dollars on a vehicle that can't fly, or that half to be made catastrophically unsafe to be able to fly?)

                            And while money is being wasted on that, there are cheaper alternatives that are presenting themselves, in the form of the NewSpace industry, that Nasa could be encouraging and helping.  Or, it could be pursuing something that is nothing more than a glorified jobs program for a few congressional districts - Which is better in your opinion?

                            You should consider a trip down to the Engineering department, or even more interesting, the Business department.  

                            If I might also suggest some reading - Rocketeers: How a Visionary Band of Business Leaders, Engineers, and Pilots Is Boldly Privatizing Space.  

                          •  A better design is a better design. (0+ / 0-)

                            I can't knock that (nor can I really comment on the merits).  Hopefully, the nominee has advisors in the know.

                            "Whether the British ruling class are wicked or merely stupid is one of the most difficult questions of our time." - George Orwell on the Spanish Civil War

                            by Ramo on Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 10:42:09 PM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  To put it another way (0+ / 0-)

                            for the same reason we should be investing in stem cells - this is a new industry, that has increadible growth potential, and I'd like to see some of the jobs created to be American.

                          •  I would say that the growth potential... (0+ / 0-)
                            ... of stem cells is rather more immediate.  And research is a lot less expensive.

                            "Whether the British ruling class are wicked or merely stupid is one of the most difficult questions of our time." - George Orwell on the Spanish Civil War

                            by Ramo on Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 10:39:51 PM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  Come look at NewSpace (0+ / 0-)

                            you NEED to make that trip down to the different departments.  

                            Cheap access baby :D

                          •  Stem cells in space (0+ / 0-)

                            I had hoped it was publicly availiable.  

                            Thomas Pickens 3rd talks about stem cells, and space manufacturing.

                            I saw this talk in person, and I've been looking for it for a while, because Spacehab (who Pickens is the CEO of) has flown multiple modules on the Space Shuttle, and want to use the Station for zero-g manufacturing.  

                            Go watch it.

                          •  Actually, I agree with you and Ferris, both (0+ / 0-)

                            Too many "internet Rocketeers" over-tout what the private sector shall do and if they can do what is claimed, then they do not need a penny of "Uncle Sugar's" money.

                            [As an aside, I sometimes use the "Uncle Sugar" line on a number of space blogs populated by Republican and libertarian types and it annoys them. I say: "So you want Uncle Sugar to pay for this, how statist is that!" Gets 'em riled up almost every time.

                            Devoted followers of Ayn Rand whining that NASA won't fund their pet rocket? Too funny.]

                            That said, I remain convinced we NEED to get people out there, but the argument does get metaphysical quickly.

                            = = =

                            Fair enough as for the physics versus engineering.

                            That is part of what can only be a more relaxed conversation and while I am not a robots-only guy I can appreciate that perspective.

                            Clinton rejected Saul D. Alinsky as outdated. Obama has lived Alinsky's teachings. That is one core difference between them.

                            by Bill White on Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 10:27:37 PM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                •  Cuts have been made in the past... (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Bill White

                  ...to the NASA budget for the very things you have listed, and yet we've made no great progress in any of these areas with that "extra" money. We can stop funding manned spaceflight entirely, and never leave the surface of the Earth again...

                  ...and die here in the future.

                  Float like a manhole cover, sting like a sash weight.

                  by JeffW on Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 09:03:23 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

            •  My preference is to use money from Red Bull (0+ / 0-)

              Did you know Red Bull spends $1 billion per year on advertising?

              The problem (as I see it) is that NASA kinda wants a monopoly on spaceflight and is not supportive of private people wanting to go into space with private money.

              Do a Red Bull marketing deal and have the US government merely be neutral (rather than negative on it) and there will be no need for federal subsidies of space tourism.

              Clinton rejected Saul D. Alinsky as outdated. Obama has lived Alinsky's teachings. That is one core difference between them.

              by Bill White on Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 08:26:57 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

            •  why space tourism: why national parks. (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Bill White

              Space tourism exposes more people to direct personal experience of space flight.  That in turn stirs up more support for other space activity.  

              Even if we're only talking about a handful of wealthy space tourists each year, they will set a trend of support for space that will be emulated by the middle classes.  That translates to votes.  

              In the same manner as national parks stir up support for wildlife conservation in general.  You may never have been to a national park, but you know people who have, or you have seen it in National Geographic, thus you are more likely to support wildlife conservation.  

              •  I've been to a national park. (0+ / 0-)
                That's not cost prohibitive.  I'm a grad student.  Like the vast majority of people, I can't afford to be a space tourist.

                The rich can be space tourists on their own dime.  They shouldn't be subsidized by the public.

                "Whether the British ruling class are wicked or merely stupid is one of the most difficult questions of our time." - George Orwell on the Spanish Civil War

                by Ramo on Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 10:59:40 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  travel & vacations of any kind (0+ / 0-)

                  ...are becoming a pastime for people with disposable income; the only question is "how much."  

                  However that still doesn't address my primary point, that a bit of pump-priming with govt money could get enough wealthy space tourists up there to lead to a generalized increase in cultural awareness of space exploration.  If for no other reason, the middle classes would want to start taking space vacations and would want them to be affordable.  

                  In the long run the need to do the Moon and then Mars and then the stars, is so vital to humanity's continuation in the universe (think: off-site backups:-), that it becomes a matter of "whatever it takes."  

                  And: how'bout paying for it by rescinding some more of the tax loopholes that only benefit the wealthy, thereby making it effectively self-funding...?

                  •  Time scales (0+ / 0-)

                    Colonization is a really, really long time away.  Current government policy has no business worrying about those kinds of time scales.  Not with the problems that we currently have.  Climate change, for instance, is a problem we'll face on a far shorter time  scale than some planet destroying disaster, and is a real priority for the government.

                    Helping the rich get to space is not going to change the colonization dynamics in any meaningful way.

                    Your national park analogy is really silly.  We have national parks for all sorts of reasons (climate balance, biological diversity, research) not merely limited to the desire for pleasant scenery.  And nearly any working and middle class American can go to a national park if they so desire (with a little bit of time off).  The same is clearly not true for space tourism.

                    "Whether the British ruling class are wicked or merely stupid is one of the most difficult questions of our time." - George Orwell on the Spanish Civil War

                    by Ramo on Sun Jan 13, 2008 at 02:51:03 PM PST

                    [ Parent ]

  •  Dear Lord (12+ / 0-)

    A substantive diary criticizing a candidate that doesn't rely on dishonest smears, innuendo, or hyperbole.  I don't know what to make of it.  Recommended, sir, and from an Obama supporter.

    If you say you're free, then be fucking free, motherfucker.

    by Aethern on Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 07:19:03 PM PST

    •  We aim to please (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      moira977, Aethern, Elise

      the truth is, as I said, I don't really have a candidate to support, and perhaps thats why its such an anomilly.  I wish I could be more supportive about Obama's space policy, because he is pretty awesome - but its not good.

    •  Hey, I am a strident and vocal Obama supporter (0+ / 0-)

      and I agree with Ferris.

      Obama's plan gets a C or C-

      Hillary maybe gets a C or C+

      And this will count for less than 1% of my total grade. ;-)

      Clinton rejected Saul D. Alinsky as outdated. Obama has lived Alinsky's teachings. That is one core difference between them.

      by Bill White on Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 08:08:17 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  What about Edwards??? (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        FerrisValyn

        It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change. Charles Darwin

        by pioneer111 on Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 08:46:56 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Edward hasn't really released (0+ / 0-)

          any major space policy statements.  

          During an interveiw, he said the following

          1. If elected President, how would you balance the scientific research at NASA with the manned spaceflight program which, arguably, has dubious scientific value?

          I am a strong supporter of our space program. It reflects the best of the American spirit of optimism, discovery and progress.

          We need a balanced space and aeronautics program. We need to support solar system exploration as an important goal for our human and robotic programs, but only as one goal among several. And we need to invite other countries to share in a meaningful way in both the adventure and the cost of space exploration.

          And when I contacted his campaign last year about space, the response I got back was that while he was in favor of going to mars, paying for it would be an issue.  

          •  Thanks (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            cwaltz

            I guess it is one of the very few areas that he does not have an extensive plan.  

            It sounds like he would be open to input from a variety of experts.  

            It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change. Charles Darwin

            by pioneer111 on Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 08:53:28 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

  •  I dunno that this matters at all... (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Odysseus, Elise, FerrisValyn, Potus2020

    ...but it is well thought-out and informative, admittedly about an extremely minor issue.

    I'd suggest contacting his campaign in states where NASA is big - Florida, Texas or maybe Alabama if they still do work at Huntsville.  In other states, the campaign probably won't care about space policy, nor probably at the national level.

    The urge to save humanity is almost always a false face for the urge to rule it. ~ H.L. Mencken

    by Jay Elias on Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 07:27:08 PM PST

    •  I don't agree that it is minor (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      cfk

      because we are very close to cheap access to space, and cheap access to space will impact us in so many unexpected ways.  Things like Space based solar power can make major dents in the issue of peak oil and global warming.  And things like zero-g manufacturing open up countless new jobs and industries.  Imagine the effect the internet has had - large scale manned spaceflight will have a similiar effect.

      All of this will happen in the next 5-10 years, which, if Senator Obama is elected president, will mean that he needs to position the US to take advantage of these oppertunities.  We cant' afford to ignore them, like we've done with Stem cells under president Bush.

      •  Whether or not it is important... (0+ / 0-)

        ...it is minor, because people simply don't vote on space program plans.

        Large scale space flight is principally being driven by the private sector at present.  It seems dubious that no matter what NASA does, this is going to change.

        The urge to save humanity is almost always a false face for the urge to rule it. ~ H.L. Mencken

        by Jay Elias on Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 07:35:05 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Not driven by private sector (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Aethern, JeffW

          rather, I would argue its driven by a few Nasa centers.  Actually, if there were more private sector involvement (and private sector that doesn't depend on government handouts) I suspect it would be bigger.  

          Nasa could go a long way to changing this, by buying flights from private companies, like SpaceX.  The question is, will it.

          •  Not to doubt you... (0+ / 0-)

            ...but as far as I am aware there are multiple private ventures, all aiming towards mass space flight.  NASA is not involved in mass space flight at all, but is designing a manned space vehicle to replace the shuttle, as well as continuing its exploration and ISS work.

            The urge to save humanity is almost always a false face for the urge to rule it. ~ H.L. Mencken

            by Jay Elias on Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 08:19:56 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  I report (or rather did) on all of those guys (0+ / 0-)

              however, to be honest, none have really flown.  That said, I fully expect them to make major strides in the next 5 years.  

              But, to date - of the hundreds (and I think its just hundreds, but it might be thosands) of people who have flown in space, 7 (either 7 or 8) have been privately funded.  

              I really need to restart my Space Revolution News.  

      •  If We're Close Then Commercial Interests Will (0+ / 0-)

        come knocking for subsidies, grants and programs.

        And in some cases for permission to proceed I suppose.

        If nobody's knocking, then we're not really close.

        We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

        by Gooserock on Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 08:22:12 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  They are already knocking, and getting some (0+ / 0-)

          answers - Space Launch Amendments Act of 04, the COTS program, Zero-G's new contract - just to name a few.  

          And we can also talking about knocking on doors for private capital - thats the really cool stuff.

        •  US law strongly discourages use of Russian (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          JeffW

          lift, which simply is VERY affordable today.

          Less so than a year ago due to the fall of the dollar, but the Russians do build inexpensive, reliable rockets. (Elon Musk might get there too, that remains a hopeful prospect.)

          More permission to proceed with Russian lift would create markets for US rocket makers, and non-taxpayer subsidized is where we should aim.

          But, NASA likes its monopoly on human spaceflight and that is not very progressive, IMHO.

          Clinton rejected Saul D. Alinsky as outdated. Obama has lived Alinsky's teachings. That is one core difference between them.

          by Bill White on Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 08:40:19 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  I prefer Hillary's Space Plan (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    al Fubar

    which is to send Barack Obama to be the first human on Mars....sooner rather than later ;-)!!

    I like the silence of a church, before the service begins better than any preaching. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

    by Norwegian Chef on Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 07:27:46 PM PST

    •  Ahh, not quite (0+ / 0-)

      Hillary's space policy can be found here.

      After Iowa, I am sure some people thought that though.

      •  Hillary & Obama BOTH offer vague platitudes (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Odysseus

        on space exploration.

        Hillary has a few buzz words that are better BUT both seem committed to Mike Griffin's ESAS. Therefore, we would be arguing over shades of biege if we sought to compare the programs.

        The Vice Presidential choice may be the most important factor, here, on a practical level.

        Clinton rejected Saul D. Alinsky as outdated. Obama has lived Alinsky's teachings. That is one core difference between them.

        by Bill White on Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 07:57:13 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  True, about the VP nomination (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          R Rhino from CT4

          The big reason I have feel (a little) better about Clinton's policy is because of Lori Garver aka Astro-Mom.

          That said, both contain a fair amount of platitudes.

          •  My fear of Hillary's space policy (0+ / 0-)

            is that is could be too NASA-centric.

            al Fubar has a science fiction blog and maybe he could be part of developing a Netroots Nation 2008 track to discuss developing a progressive stance on space exploration.

            You interested?

            I am thinking to try for one morning NOT in conflict with any headliners and run from 9:00 am to 12:00 noon.

            Lori Garver would be an obvious person to invite to a panel or two.

            Clinton rejected Saul D. Alinsky as outdated. Obama has lived Alinsky's teachings. That is one core difference between them.

            by Bill White on Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 08:05:56 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  I'd love to, but (0+ / 0-)

              I don't have the money to go to Netroots nation this year.  At least, I don't expect to have it.  Yes, that might change, but I am not holding my breath.  

              However, if I can come, I am very interested, and even if I can't come, I still could help, I think (I have a few other contacts that might be interesting - we could always ask Mark Whittington :D).

            •  Post a comment ... (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Norwegian Chef, Bill White

              Over at Rocketpunk Manifesto, where it won't get lost in the shuffle like here. I keep my blog itself nonpolitical, beyond posting my wildly inaccurate election predictions, but yeah, I could be interested in this.

              The best fortress is to be found in the love of the people - Niccolo Machiavelli

              by al Fubar on Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 08:10:17 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  My intention would be that those involved (0+ / 0-)

                put their intra-party advocacy 100% on hold. Having participants who support various candidates would be a terrific feature.

                Also, this nasaspaceflight.com thread offers terrific discussion of the Direct 2.0 concept.

                As far as I can tell, no one with any political prominence is pushing this concept.

                = = =

                Let me compose my thoughts, and I do know where to find you. ;-)

                Clinton rejected Saul D. Alinsky as outdated. Obama has lived Alinsky's teachings. That is one core difference between them.

                by Bill White on Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 08:19:42 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  This should be easy ... (0+ / 0-)

                  put their intra-party advocacy 100% on hold

                  Because bank on it that no candidate had any real input to their space policy. They staffed it out to someone who staffed it out, because it is a voting issue for about 0.1 percent of the electorate, if that.

                  The best fortress is to be found in the love of the people - Niccolo Machiavelli

                  by al Fubar on Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 08:28:34 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  True, I betcha if we sat ANY of them down (2+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    al Fubar, JeffW

                    they couldn't go beyond the first few paragraphs of their talking points.

                    Except maybe Bill Richardson.

                    Spaceport America is in New Mexico.

                    Clinton rejected Saul D. Alinsky as outdated. Obama has lived Alinsky's teachings. That is one core difference between them.

                    by Bill White on Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 08:30:18 PM PST

                    [ Parent ]

    •  I suspect Edwards' people would (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      al Fubar, Norwegian Chef, FerrisValyn

      prefer to send them both.

      Clinton rejected Saul D. Alinsky as outdated. Obama has lived Alinsky's teachings. That is one core difference between them.

      by Bill White on Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 07:54:29 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Good luck ... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Bill White, FerrisValyn, JeffW

    I'm a Hillary supporter, and while I actually haven't looked into her space policy, I have no great expectations of it. (I support her for other reasons.)

    We probably aren't really going to get a serious space policy till we have a president who grew up reading science fiction. I suspect that both Obama and my girl live in a geocentric mental universe, and so do most prominent national pols that I know of.

    Oddly, if seriousness about space policy were the sole consideration, the best guy would have been Newt, who actually got his personal megalomania from Foundation Trilogy. (Poor Asimov!) But of course there's no reason on Earth to have supported the guy.

    The best fortress is to be found in the love of the people - Niccolo Machiavelli

    by al Fubar on Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 07:29:04 PM PST

    •  Hillary's space policy (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Bill White, R Rhino from CT4

      can be found here.  Her's is a little better, but not much.  I have met the person who is doing some advising for Senator Clinton, and I do have a fair amount of trust in Lori Garver.  

      To be fair, we've had more space policy during this election than all the other elections combined, thanks to Clinton, and now Obama.

      The problem is that the proposed policies have real problems.

    •  Once again, you offer refreshing candor (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      al Fubar, FerrisValyn

      I'm a Hillary supporter, and while I actually haven't looked into her space policy, I have no great expectations of it. (I support her for other reasons.)

      I am an Obama supporter and agree that Hillary's space policy is marginally better than Obama's but since both are ESAS based, the differences do not matter much.

      Lori Garver? I would like to organize a Netroots Nation space exploration track (3 or 4 hours one morning?) Discuss progressive attitudes towards space exploration.

      Lori Garver would be one ideal speaker.

      = = =

      al Fubar -- you, Ferris and I (and a few other Kossacks) might be well situated to organize a 1/2 day track for Netroots Nation.

      If an Obama supporter, a Hillary supporter, an Edwards supporter and others can work together to do that, it could be a good thing.

      = = =

      Personally, the DIRECT 2.0 guys have persuaded me.

      Especially with their calls to use EML-1 and EML-2 mission architectures for lunar return.

      Clinton rejected Saul D. Alinsky as outdated. Obama has lived Alinsky's teachings. That is one core difference between them.

      by Bill White on Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 08:02:27 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  From the Foundation (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JeffW

      trilogy?

      He thinks he's going to nurture a decaying civilization through the Dark Ages and back again?

      Will this take place before or after the Rapture?  Because Newt =/= Hari Seldon.

  •  As a VERY STRONG supporter of Obama (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Odysseus, Elise, FerrisValyn, clambake

    I agree with you Ferris. That said, it is kinda like learning that my beautiful new girlfriend snores. I will deal with it.

    Anyway, there are vested interests in Congress and the aerospace industry that will tie any President's hand and prevent ANY of the candidates from making the sweeping reforms we need.

    Once the primary food fight is over, I am more than willing to lobby Obama towards a more progressive approach, including increased incentives for the private sector to spend money.

    Clinton rejected Saul D. Alinsky as outdated. Obama has lived Alinsky's teachings. That is one core difference between them.

    by Bill White on Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 07:53:46 PM PST

  •  We don't need "space shuttles".... (0+ / 0-)

    We should not try to replicate "space shuttles" in manned flight.  The space shuttle is and always was a mistake because there is no point in trying to mix the
    mission of crew transport with freight transport...which is what the shuttle is/was.  

    We can do crew transport much easily if that is the entire mission and freight transport can be done without a crew much less expensively.

    •  It wasn't so much mixing humans and freight (0+ / 0-)

      rather, it was the trying to mix what the fundemental mission was - The shuttle can be thought of as taking a motorhome and hooking a semi-trailer to it.  

      I doubt I can find it right now, but Jon Goff talked about it over at his blog.  Basically, the problem that really arose was trying to make it a basic science vehicle, as well as a transport vehicle.  Having a space transport with 1 or 2 crew members is not a bad idea - they can respond in a hurry, and provide good backups.  But do you really need 5 people on every flight?  

      That said, the more modular a vehicle can be made, I would argue, the better it is.  Look at the success of the Soyuz vehicles.  And this really took a beating with how the Shuttle is a fully integrated vehicle - Soyuz can be launched on multiple rockets - if we want to launch Shuttle, we need the ET, and the SRBs as well.

      But there were a lot of mistakes made during shuttle.

      •  The shuttle was ... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        JeffW
        1. An experimental vehicle to test the whole host of technologies needed for reusable spacecraft.
        1. An orbital minibus to ferry humans and small payloads to the space station.
        1. A monster truck forced on the reluctant Air Force to launch large spysats that the USAF preferred to launch with Titan III/IV.

        And you wonder why it didn't work out so well. As so often, Nixon's the One, because he regarded the space program as a Democratic boondoggle.

        But in fairness JFK was halfassed going in - he was given the choice of the classic von Braun program, shuttles and a station, or a narrowly focused moon program, and opted for the latter as more spectacular and not open ended.

        Alas, no major politician that I know of is really very clueful when it comes to space.

        The best fortress is to be found in the love of the people - Niccolo Machiavelli

        by al Fubar on Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 08:18:18 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Another problem with the Shuttle... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          al Fubar

          ...was that you had so few Orbiters. The launch schedules put too much stress on too few vehicles, and look at the result. No wonder the Air Force scrapped their shuttle program: they are required to maintain squadron strength levels of aircraft, and that would have extended to a military Shuttle fleet. The government went for penny-wise and pound-foolish, akin to trying to run what might be considered an airline on two or three aircraft. That might work on a puddle-jumper operation, but not here.

          Float like a manhole cover, sting like a sash weight.

          by JeffW on Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 09:13:05 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  This gets to a paradox, though ... (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            JeffW

            Say you have a fleet of a dozen shuttles, and with a couple in overhaul cycle 10 are going up weekly - which is what you need for economy. But that is 500 launches per year, and even with a tenfold price reduction, say $1000/kg to orbit, the demand may not be there for so much volume.

            As an aside, I've read that 70 percent of space cost is actually the ground operation, not throwing away expendable boosters, etc. I can believe it. I live not too far from Vandenberg AFB, and they do a launch or two a month there. Imagine the cost of air travel if a large airport, with all its personnel and facilities, was needed to fly one 747 every couple of weeks.

            The best fortress is to be found in the love of the people - Niccolo Machiavelli

            by al Fubar on Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 10:00:41 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Great story about that (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              JeffW

              I can't remember where, but Elon Musk talked about how Lockheed Martin was proud of their small number of people involved in launch operations (I beleive its was somthing like 500).

            •  Finding demand is the mission critical (0+ / 0-)

              aspect of all this. IMHO

              RL-10 rocket motors are no more complex to manufacture than gas turbine helicopter engines. Maybe less so. Same with the RS-68 used on Boeing's Delta IV.

              But because they can only sell 8 or 10 or 12 per year they cost several million each. Or more.

              Gas turbine helicopter engines cost ~$100,000 because of assembly lines and mass production.

              The Mars rovers (Spirit and Opportunity) together cost 125% of what it would have cost to build just one.

              Mass production lowers costs IF there are buyers.

              Clinton rejected Saul D. Alinsky as outdated. Obama has lived Alinsky's teachings. That is one core difference between them.

              by Bill White on Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 10:20:43 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

            •  Found it (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              JeffW

              page 175 of Rocketeers

              Musk laughed as he told me how a Lockheed Martin representative boasted to him of his company's "lean" launch crew: only three hundred people.  "Now, what are those people doing?  I can't tell you."  Falcon 1's launch crew?  Tweleve to 15 people sitting in a custom made trailer at the launch site

  •  Please consider posting your (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Elise

    thoughts and sugestions and/or linking your diary at Obama campaign blog. thanks.

  •  Well...I don't know much about (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FerrisValyn

    this issue - but I know a little more now that I've read your diary.

    I'd suggest (as Jay did above) contacting the campaign on your concerns. I've seen willingness to listen as one of Obama's positive attributes, so perhaps he'll consider your concerns and take those into consideration when he revises this policy...which he'll surely do at some point.

    I'm a hopemonger.

    by Elise on Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 08:16:20 PM PST

    •  Glad I can help broaden your horizons (0+ / 0-)

      I probably will contact the campaign again, and ask them about the lack of commerical comments, as well as the other things.

      Could I talk you into contacting the campaign as well?  

      •  You can talk me into contacting the campaign (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Elise, FerrisValyn

        as well.  Happy to.

        Thanks for broadening my horizons, too.

        Regarding education - might have been said, no time to read the comments - a populace well educated in science is a populace that appreciates science, supports science, votes for science and funds science.  Obama is as much about the long term as he is about the short term.  

        •  glad to hear that (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Elise

          He needs to see the larger ramifications that this policy would have

          concerning science ed- yea, that did get mention once, but thats not really tied directly into space policy - thats more science policy, and space is about way more than just science.  

          Frankly, I as much as that annoys me though, the real issues are his supporting CEV and Ares I, and not mention commerical space - everything else is minor compared to that.

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