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Tomorrow President Obama will deliver a policy speech at Kennedy Space Center outlining his budget proposal for NASA. The particulars of this NASA budget have been a contentious issue. While the plan does raise NASA's budget by $6 billion over 5 years, it also cuts the Constellation program & shifts aspects of NASA manned operations to private commercial interests that may or may not be able to pick up the slack. If they can pick up the slack, the hope is that it will result in launching a space industry capable of moving people into orbit for a much cheaper cost. If they can't pick up the slack, then we're back to near square one & the United States is dependent on the Russians for getting astronauts into space.

The arguments over this are interesting since it cuts across ideological lines. This issue also brings out a very old argument about the worth/cost of NASA & the manned space program.

That old argument ("Why are we wasting money on a space program?") is one I find very tiring & very dumb. I notice it in some of the NASA diaries from time to time. It's also something that cuts across the ideological spectrum. If they believe the 4,000-year-old Earth is round, conservatives who object to NASA see it as money that could be a potential tax cut. Liberals who object to NASA somehow see it as an agency that's taking money away from hungry children & people without health care. Both perspectives are based around a fallacy, and indicative of a mindset that sees any big project or idea (whether it be going to the Moon, high speed rail, solar/wind/space-based power, etc.) as either too "hard" and too "costly", or somehow places it into an either-or dichotomy that detracts from some other "more worthy" cause.

The impetus for this diary was a blog post over at Bad Astronomy that featured a video from astronomer Neil deGrasse Tyson speaking at the State University of New York at Buffalo. Tyson, who is the director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan, is asked about the White House's current budget proposal (which he agrees with in part, and disagrees with in other parts), and proceeds to make a great statement about the cost/worth of NASA... and of dreams.

Back in 2007, a study asked Americans what percentage of the federal budget they believed NASA received? Their answer was 24%. What's the truth? Out of the $3.55 trillion 2010 United States federal budget, NASA received 18.724 billion (0.52%)... half a cent on a dollar. For half a cent on a dollar, the United States government puts men & women in space, robots on other planets, and maps the universe, yet somehow people still find a way to bitch about it.

But what's that you say? How much is spent on the "wasteful" manned space program that could be going to something else? Here's the proposed 2011 budget, all $3.69 trillion of it.

See that little red box the arrow is pointing at? That's the "space operations" budget. It goes from $6.15 billion in 2010 to $4.89 billion in 2011. Put another way, it goes from 0.17% of the federal budget to 0.13% of the federal budget, or tenths of a penny on a dollar.

So what of boldly going to places where few or no one have gone before?

Let's start with the most contentious aspect of President Obama's NASA budget proposal; cutting most of the Constellation Program that was meant to return NASA to the Moon. One of the main arguments in favor of its cancellation is that it would be too expensive to get the program back on track. According to the Augustine Commission, there were options to get the Constellation Program back on track that required a budget increase to NASA of $3 billion per year. While that sounds (and is) a lot of money, let's put that number in perspective. To me it is the height of ridiculousness that, with all the earmarks & all the appropriations for ridiculous bullshit, we can't find an extra $3 billion per year for NASA to go to the Moon and do the other scientific research & development in its mission & promote commercial interests. The 2010 "Pig Book" was released today & documents 9,129 earmark projects at a cost of $16.5 billion in the last year's legislation. Does somebody really want to argue we can't find the money to do this or things like it, since Congress has no problem finding money if it's going towards an airport, bridge, or Post Office that might have a Representative's name plastered on it?

Before I get deeper into this, let me state that I'm skeptical of what's been released so far of the President's plan for NASA. I am NOT against it, and I am NOT for it... as of now. I hope the President's speech tomorrow will fill in some of the blanks & take away some of my skepticism. But in discussing this, I'm going to try to lay out both sides of the argument & be fair.

Here's the White House Fact Sheet released in advance of the President's speech. Yesterday, the plan was augmented some by reviving the Orion spacecraft (but only as a lifeboat for the International Space Station), and committing to select a design for a Heavy Lift Vehicle (i.e. a rocket capable of pushing a spacecraft to the Moon, an asteroid, or possibly Mars) by 2015.

This new plan:

  • Advances America’s commitment to human spaceflight and exploration of the solar system, with a bold new vision and timetable for reaching new frontiers deeper in space.
  • Increases NASA’s budget by $6 billion over 5 years.
  • Leads to more than 2,500 additional jobs in Florida’s Kennedy Space Center area by 2012, as compared to the prior path.
  • Begins major work on building a new heavy lift rocket sooner, with a commitment to decide in 2015 on the specific heavy-lift rocket that will take us deeper into space.
  • Initiates a vigorous new technology development and test program to increase the capabilities and reduce the cost of future exploration activities.
  • Launches a steady stream of precursor robotic exploration missions to scout locations and demonstrate technologies to increase the safety and capability of future human missions, while also providing scientific dividends.
  • Restructures Constellation and directs NASA to develop the Orion crew capsule effort in order to provide stand-by emergency escape capabilities for the Space Station – thereby reducing our reliance on foreign providers.
  • Establishes the technological foundation for future crew spacecraft needed for missions beyond low Earth orbit.
  • Increases the number of astronaut days in space by 3,500 over the next decade, extends the life of the International Space Station, likely beyond 2020, and enables the launching of astronauts on new vehicles from the Kennedy Space Center 1- 2 years sooner.
  • Jumpstarts a new commercial space transportation industry to provide safe and efficient crew and cargo transportation to the Space Station, projected to create over 10,000 jobs nationally over the next five years.
  • Invests in Florida, adding $3 billion more for the Kennedy Space Center to manage – a 60 percent increase.
  • Makes strategic investments to develop critical knowledge, technologies, and capabilities to expand long-duration human exploration into deep space in a more efficient and safe manner, thus getting us to more destinations in deep space sooner.
  • And puts the space program on a more ambitious trajectory that pushes the frontiers of innovation to propel us on a new journey of innovation and discovery deeper into space.

Also, the argument is that aerospace companies (startups like SpaceX & old-school types like Boeing & Lockheed Martin) will compete, innovate, and fill the gap left by the Space Shuttle, when it comes to sending material & people into low Earth orbit. In doing this, there is a belief the "New Space Industry" will be able to do it at a much lower cost, and create thousands of jobs.

PayPal founder Elon Musk said his company SpaceX hopes to fly astronauts to the space station by the end of 2013. He figures he will charge NASA about $20 million an astronaut. That's a bargain compared with the more than $300 million a head it was going to cost NASA under the Bush plan, and the $56 million NASA will pay Russia for trips on Soyuz rockets in the short term.

Musk's Falcon 9 unmanned rocket is sitting on a Cape Canaveral pad with its initial launch a month away. Several companies are competing with Musk, including one run by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. Musk said what's happening is "the new generation of space."

So after reading all of that how could anyone be skeptical? The biggest criticism of the proposal, as echoed by Neil deGrasse Tyson in the video above, is that it's long on broad ideas that sound good but short on details, dates, goals, and specifics. It is also betting on an industry that may or may not take hold. For example, as impressive as SpaceX's achievements are, let's remember that they're still a company that's only 2 for 5 when it comes to launching rockets into space, and none of them had a human being riding along either.


The prospect of NASA relying on smaller companies — unproven upstarts in the view of critics — could create yet another hurdle in convincing an already skeptical Congress of the idea of relying on commercial companies to provide taxi transportation to the International Space Station. "I don’t think there is a business case for us," John Karas, vice president and general manager of human spaceflight at Lockheed Martin, said about space taxis.

Publicly, Boeing has been enthusiastic... But Loren B. Thompson, an analyst at the Lexington Institute, a policy group financed by military contractors, said Boeing is more skeptical in private.

In 1995, Boeing began pursuing the commercial space business through an international partnership called Sea Launch; it also developed the Delta IV rocket to launch both military and commercial satellites. The company lost money in both efforts, with Sea Launch filing for bankruptcy in 2009. To stem the Delta IV losses, Boeing and Lockheed Martin, which was also losing money with its Atlas V rocket, set up a joint venture called the United Launch Alliance in 2006.

"Senior Boeing executives have told me that they are skeptical about new launch opportunities, given the losses they incurred on previous initiatives such as Sea Launch and the Pentagon’s expendable launcher program," Dr. Thompson said. "They are unlikely to invest large amounts of money on the new NASA vision."

Now to be fair to the White House, the fact sheet released late yesterday says the President will give a "timetable" tomorrow for a next step for NASA. This is in stark contrast to last month, when NASA Administrator Charles Bolden went up to Congress and was drilled by members in part for a lack of specificity. In all of the Congressional hearing to date, I believe only one member (Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA)) has offered support to this plan so far. During House & Senate hearings, the "hostility toward the administration's plans for NASA was so great that three lawmakers who don't serve on the science committee attended [the] hearing just to give Bolden a piece of their mind." Of those lawmakers that gave Bolden a piece of their mind, was Representative Alan Grayson (D-Orlando) who called President Obama's NASA budget "faith based" after Bolden couldn't give a straight answer on what the "next step" was for NASA.

Also, answers like this one didn't help Bolden in selling the proposal. It's also indicative of what concerns some people about this new direction for NASA.

Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH) said at that hearing, "The lack of a clear mission, with goals and milestones, fails to not only inspire the current NASA workforce, but also fails to inspire the future generation of scientists and astronauts." She added that she had recently visited a high school in her district and met with a student who said he wanted to be an astronaut. "I had no clue what to say to him at that point," she said, citing the cancellation of Constellation in the budget proposal.

Bolden’s response didn’t help. "I would have told him to forget it for a while," he said. His response was well-intentioned: he thought students should focus first on getting a good science and engineering education (and, unstated, that the odds of becoming a NASA astronaut are very long: there are far more professional athletes in the US today than members of the astronaut corps). But in the context of the hearing, that probably didn’t alleviate any concerns about the future of human spaceflight.

Because of this reaction among Congress, the event at the Kennedy Space Center tomorrow was scheduled. Now you might expect opposition from Grayson & some of the others, given they're looking out for a project in their back yard. However, the hostility towards this proposal extends past the usual suspects looking out for jobs in their districts/states.

From The Oregonian, March 07, 2010:

The battle for space exploration is being waged in some decidedly terrestrial places. One is room 2338 of the Rayburn building on Capitol Hill, the cramped office of Oregon Rep. David Wu. Another is down the hall, the rather pedestrian committee room that's home to the Science and Technology Committee... Not many members of Congress are happy about the change, especially the small, but devoted space-geek subset of Congress that considers NASA and space exploration its marquee issue. For this group, of which Wu is a charter member, an intense exploration of space brings technological advances and innovation that benefit everything from health care to auto design to helping stabilize Social Security.

"NASA is really important," said Wu, who chairs the Science panel's Technology and Innovation Subcommittee. "It's really important for technology and it's really important for vision. It's important for where the human race is going eventually. But it's only $17 billion a year. The innovation enterprise is huge." Wu and his allies are augmented by lawmakers of both parties from Florida, Texas and Alabama where the space industry is largely based and where jobs -- and money -- are directly connected to a future of manned missions to space.

"I was against privatization with the Bush administration. I'm against privatization in the Obama administration," Wu said in an interview. "What Obama is proposing is so fundamentally flawed, that's why there's been a strong reaction."

Yesterday, two letters were released from former astronauts. One letter was signed by Neil Armstrong (Commander Apollo 11), Jim Lovell (Commander Apollo 13), and Eugene Cernan (Commander Apollo 17), and called the proposed plan "devastating" to United States leadership in manned space flight. A second letter from a large assortment of NASA veterans from Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, Skylab, and Space Shuttle programs was published asking the President to reconsider.

"One of the greatest fears of any generation is not leaving things better for the young people of the next. In the area of human space flight, we are about to realize that fear; your NASA budget proposal raises more questions about our future in space than it answers.

Too many men and women have worked too hard and sacrificed too much to achieve America’s preeminence in space, only to see that effort needlessly thrown away. We urge you to demonstrate the vision and determination necessary to keep our nation at the forefront of human space exploration with ambitious goals and the proper resources to see them through. This is not the time to abandon the promise of the space frontier for a lack of will or an unwillingness to pay the price."

Today, Buzz Aldrin responded to his Apollo 11 crewmate, by releasing a letter praising President Obama's proposal.

"As an Apollo astronaut, I know full well the importance of always exploring new frontiers and tackling new challenges as we explore space. The simple truth is that we have already been to the Moon – some 40 years ago. What this nation needs in order to maintain its position as the 21st century leader in space exploration is a near-term focus on lowering the cost of access to space and on developing key, cutting-edge technologies that will take us further and faster – while expanding our opportunities for exploration along the way. The President’s program will help us be in this endeavor for the long haul and will allow us to again push our boundaries to achieve new and challenging things beyond Earth. I believe that this is the right program at the right time, and I hope that NASA and our dedicated space community will embrace this new direction as much as I do. By so doing we can together continue to use space exploration to help drive prosperity and innovation right here on Earth."

Originally posted to 医生的宫殿 on Wed Apr 14, 2010 at 05:11 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

    •  The problem with Constellation (7+ / 0-)

      wasn't that it was going to be expensive.  The problem with Constellation was that it wasn't efficient.  Even if you ascribe to the idea that we could GET the additional $6 Billion a year for NASA (which, yea, I know I Know, but we aren't getting it), it wouldn't do anything but create another shuttle program.  This time to the moon.  

      As great as going to the moon is, I want to see more than a few people in space - I want to see hundreds in space.  And that will only happen if we can get not a doubling of NASA budget, but a double digit increase for NASA (say around an additional $20 Billion a year).  

      But thats not gonna happen, not from the federal government.  We might be able to get that from the private markets.  

      I leave you with the followinig video, that needs to be watch

      •  Unless there is profit (5+ / 0-)

        for the private sector, there is no reason for them to invest in space technologies.
        In fact, for them to make money means the government will probably spend as much if not more than the way we have been doing it.

        •  RE (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          1.  Thats what is happening right now, and what was happening under Constellation.  The private sector was getting cost-plus contracts, that were doing EXACTLY what you are talking about - endless cost overruns, PLUS paying companies a profit on top.  That won't happen under the new plan
          1.  What you aren't considering is there may be a market for private people  (or corporations) who want to send people into space.  And that has some interesting possiblities.
          •  As always, you are missing the point (0+ / 0-)

            Profit in this context requires that the funds come from sources other than the taxpayers.

            Unless we find revenue streams that do not ultimately come from the taxpayers, it won't be sustainable.

          •  Questions (0+ / 0-)

            How would the new plan stop cost overruns as you suggest?

            Launch vehicles for humans will be very expensive. Are you banking on enough wealthy people willing to pay a kings ransom to help pay for the cost of those  vehicles as well as make a profit for those companies?

            •  A couple of things (0+ / 0-)
              1.  The new plans utilize what is called a firm-fixed price contract, as opposed to a cost-plus contract.  In a firm fix price contract, the government only pays the agreed upon amount - if there are cost overruns, the companies pay for those overruns
              1.  There is evidence that there is a market (and not just for rich people) to fly humans to space.  Even if there was only 1 additional flight per year, that wasn't NASA based, that would defer NASA costs by something like 33%.  And to give you proof that there is evidence of a potential market, there is already in orbit 2 prototype space stations  that a private company has built & deployed
              •  Well, I accept one (0+ / 0-)

                of your 2 things to an extent. Your second point to an extent. The launch vehicles in #2 demonstrates the commitment of an entreprenuer. I still believe the cost will be prohibitvely high for all but a few unless it is subsidized.

                Your first point might be the gate keeper though. Sinece the recipe for space travel is still in development only a few companies might even consider taking a fixed price contract unless it is high.

                •  We have evidence that (0+ / 0-)

                  at least some will accept it.  SpaceX & OSC have both accepted a firm fixed price contract for Cargo delivery to the station.  

                  And Obama is proposing a $5.8 B investment in firm fixed price contracts, to be awarded, for crew vehicle development.  There is good reason to suspect that would attract both the new guys (SpaceX) and the old guys (ULA)

        •  Uh, no. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Bill White

          Speaking as someone who works at one of the companies that is going to be carrying cargo to the ISS, we will make money while drastically reducing the cost to the government.  


          Because we are agile enough and hungry enough to do so.  The difference between us and a company like Lockheed Martin is that they have an infrastructure born of the cold war and need to "feed the beast" in order to be profitable.  

          We do low cost science missions, GEO communication satellites (the MOST competitive space business there is), small and soon medium launch vehicles, and other work for the government.  Our entire revenue for a year is less than LM's profit.  

          Again, the problem the large primes have is that we do not need what they could do if asked.  That is, in part, why any time anyone asks them to do something it becomes hugely complex - the more complex, the more it leverages their strengths and shrinks the playing field, AND it helps to utilize a bigger fraction of their overhead.  

          Certainly from our standpoint, this gives us a sense of momentum -- when the United States has accolades tossed its way, rather than shoes. - PJ Crowley

          by nsfbr on Wed Apr 14, 2010 at 07:29:12 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  Thanks for your input (0+ / 0-)

        Did check your Becoming Spacefaring link & loved this :)

        Then let us proclaim and make the attempt and then we can get mocked in person

        Since Return to Flight I've had to "rethink" NASA. I realized that beyond earth orbit will be one of our greatest challenges as a species. The Universe of Life may mock us, but that shouldn't stop us from exploring all we can. We need to figure out, and I hope we do, how to make that next step.

      •  Agreed re: Constellation (0+ / 0-)

        Ares 1 and Ares V

        However there are other shuttle derived heavy lifters (DIRECT and sidemount) that could get us to the Moon at a far lower cost than Constellation.

        Paul Spudis posted a very good piece, today:

        A recent talking points memo by the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) seeks to clarify some aspects of the new direction in regards to the cancelled Project Constellation.  Touted by some as "compromise," it asserts that NASA will develop and build a new "Orion lite" crew vehicle whose primary mission will be to serve as an escape pod for the crew of the International Space Station (ISS).  And more interestingly, the policy "Begins major work on building a new heavy lift rocket sooner, with a commitment to decide in 2015 on the specific heavy-lift rocket that will take us deeper into space."

        I’m confused.  If a heavy lift launch vehicle (HLLV) is not needed for future human missions beyond LEO, why are we spending billions of dollars researching aspects of it in order to make a design decision five years hence?  If a heavy lift launch vehicle is needed for such missions, why are we waiting five years to make that decision when we have the parts and workforce needed to make the vehicle now?

  •  i live in wu's district (9+ / 0-)

    and i agree with him. i'm not a fan of privatization. beyond that, i'm much more interested in the science of deep space exploration than what humaned exploration is capable of doing. i want both, but in terms of expanding our understanding of the universe, it's the deep space probes that offer the most possibility.

    The cold passion for truth hunts in no pack. -Robinson Jeffers

    by Laurence Lewis on Wed Apr 14, 2010 at 05:18:04 PM PDT

  •  I'm going to see Neil deGrasse Tyson next week. (7+ / 0-)

    It will be interesting to hear what he has to say about this - hope the topic is raised.

    They only call it Class War when we fight back.

    by lineatus on Wed Apr 14, 2010 at 05:22:55 PM PDT

  •  Thanks for the thoughtful diary. (7+ / 0-)

    I find the "destruction" of NASA meme a bit humorous.  In the last decade, funding for Earth observations at NASA went into a tailspin as well as we decided to go to the Moon, Mars, and beyond.  There was really little angst in the public when the NPOESS fiasco ate NASA's (and NOAA's) lunch.  Now at least NASA and NOAA have started to get NPOESS (now JPSS) back on track.

    But you identified the real issue.  NASA's budget is really abysmal for all the things we want them to do.  We want them to study the Earth, study the planets, study the universe all at the same time and, oh yeah, put man safely into orbit on 40 year old technology.

    Few people knew that the computers on the shuttles were 8080 chip based computers.  Not Pentium 1's but equivalent to what we had in 1990.  They swapped out the control systems in the last ten years but those aircraft were a disaster waiting to happen (again).

    The inability of Americans to launch men into space can be laid at the feet of the last administration who cut NASA's budget to the bone and now Obama is starting to restore the budget in places that people will support (Climate for one).

    The people who built Apollo are in Senior Citizen's homes.  We will lose a lot of contractors if manned space is cut back in NASA now, but we should build back a new generation of rocket scientists who really know how to do this stuff, instead of corporate-rocket boys who know how to suck NASA dry with cost-plus, military style contracts.

    "Progress" is the core of progressive. Two steps forward. One step back.

    by captainlaser on Wed Apr 14, 2010 at 05:23:20 PM PDT

    •  Contractors need to be in a commercial market (0+ / 0-)

      not a contracting market.

      an most of the contractors are kinda like the people who specialized in blacksmithing, at the time the car became popular - their knowledge just wasn't well suited

    •  Rimjob, Thanks for a great diary (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Especially right before the Space Summit. You're right about the ideological. Checking comments on a variety of forums, watching forum admins manage the blowout, it's all been interesting. Making me appreciate Daily Kos preparing me -- because of all those endless & amazing pie fights we like so much -- to get "flat" on an issue that's really important to me.

  •  Yep, I wanna go (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Rimjob, jwinIL14, Casual Wednesday

    but I can't get there from here.

  •  Well I remember a time when NASA.. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    .. was a kind of earmark. Or at least had project money going to enough districts that it got a lot of support.

    I can't wait to see what we get from the privatized launcher industry. There is no doubt some great talent working in that sector, but I still remember Morton Thiokol's folks taking their rocket scientist hats off and putting their bean counter/manager hats on and firing Challenger off with frozen O-rings. So of course the more government-centric system has failed us on occasion, that's plain to see. I bet the privateers have many more such decisions to make though, and it is not a comforting thought.

    Moderation in most things. Except Reactors. IFR forever!

    by billmosby on Wed Apr 14, 2010 at 05:35:57 PM PDT

  •  I think moon AND Mars shld be on the table. (7+ / 0-)

    I attended a 2 hr lecture by Steve Robinson (STS-130) last week.....the STS pictures were just freaking awesome....beyond's something that we should not let go...

    I'll listen to what President Obama has in place before commenting on his plan....but i do sincerely hope they push NASA for greatness and not leave it to "market-industry".....heck I got driven to science because of NASA and I want other kids to have the same dreams to excel.....

    USA should not be dependent on Russia or China for even accessing the ISS....that's laughable....$$$ should also not be an the diarist pointed out 16Billion in pork.....I'm sure they can dish out 5-6 Billion/yr extra to NASA.....  

  •  I am against privatizing NASA. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    In her own Voice

    Boeing and Lockhead Martin are not just "aerospace companies." They are defense contractors.

    After the mining incident and the oil refinery disaster, here in Seattle, we need to wake up. If private industry is left unchecked to mine the moon, other planets in our galaxy, or bring home some "alien" nasties, they could wipe out not just ourselves, but all living things.

    No thanks.

    I'd rather have the government cut funding, if necessary, until we're back on our feet.

    "[K]now that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy." -Barack Obama

    by Battle4Seattle on Wed Apr 14, 2010 at 06:09:22 PM PDT

  •  Channelling President Kennedy (8+ / 0-)

    ...we choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.

    From the looks of it, we can afford a bit more for the space program. Shifting some defense spending would be a good start. OTOH: Cutting NASA would not touch the deficit and debt.

    Oh and don't forget all of the benefits we have already realized from space exploration.

    "Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living."

    by Casual Wednesday on Wed Apr 14, 2010 at 06:12:30 PM PDT

  •  I am deeply ambiguous on the Constellation cut... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    On one hand, it would be very neat to see it implemented. On the other hand, it would not break much new ground - in fact, the Constellation family of launch vehicles and orbiters bears an uncanny resemblance to Mikhail Chelomei's "modular rocket" concept from the 1960s (if the Russian space program went with that instead of N1, the first man on the moon would have likely been Vladimir Komarov). Since LEO rocket launchers represent a mature technology, there is some sense in farming it out to private companies. On the third hand (I'm running out of hands here), private companies can handle mature technologies, compete, and let everybody win, or drive themselves into the ground.

  •  "NASA... is a force of nature like none other" (4+ / 0-)

    Total tip & rec for that Neil deGrasse Tyson vid

    Maybe we'll go to Mars one day, I don't know when, but let's work on technology that might enable that some day. That worries me. Because without a plan to go somewhere outside of Low Earth Orbit, we've got no force operating on the educational pipeline of America. NASA, as best as I can judge, is a force of nature like none other.

    NASA knows how to dream about tomorrow

  •  Robots >>> Human Space Flight (0+ / 0-)

    In this age of falseness, only howls of agony ring true.

    by Paul Goodman on Wed Apr 14, 2010 at 06:31:50 PM PDT

  •  How about we take all the money that goes into (5+ / 0-)

    "faith-based initiatives" and give it to NASA.

    Takes the money out of dumb, and puts it into smart.

  •  Neil deGrasse Tyson for President! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Rimjob, marsanges

    Dunno how much I'm kidding about that...

    The historian's one task is to tell the thing as it happened. -- Lucian of Samosata

    by Unitary Moonbat on Wed Apr 14, 2010 at 07:06:23 PM PDT

  •  I love that Earthrise photo! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I love it so much I chose it as the cover for my new indie-author novel Platinum Moon!

    Available now as an ebook. Print edition is coming.

    I'm not ready yet to launch a full bore marketing campaign but when I saw the photo I had to comment.

  •  With all due respect (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Bill White

    quoting Lockheed Martin and Boeing on the topic is to ignore the huge interests they have in not doing what is in the best interests of the country.  And, frankly, doing so displays some significant ignorance of the industry.

    Unfortunately, this is quite common.  The reason Lockmart and the other giants talk down what SpaceX, Orbital Sciences and others are doing is that it threatens them.  In fact, the reason that Orbital was created was to change the landscape of providing access to space, and it has been doing just that for over 25 years.  In the areas it competes it changes the competitive dynamic.  SpaceX now seeks to do the same thing.  

    On the other hand, the major aerospace primes seek to continue to take huge sums from the government and play the cost plus contract game to drive money into their pockets.  Note that the COTS/CRS program contracts that SpaceX and Orbital have are fixed price ones.  When was the last time you heard of Lockmart taking a fixed price approach to a major contract with NASA or DoD?

    Now there are highly complex projects that require the depth and capabilities that Boeing and Lockmart have as a result of their enormous size.  Carrying cargo and people to LEO don't.

    (Disclaimer:  Orbital is my employer.  I also happen to strongly believe in what my company does and the ethos that permeates the company:  We deliver quality and value to our customers and no one works harder to do so than we do.)

    Certainly from our standpoint, this gives us a sense of momentum -- when the United States has accolades tossed its way, rather than shoes. - PJ Crowley

    by nsfbr on Wed Apr 14, 2010 at 07:21:09 PM PDT

    •  We need commercial cargo and commercial crew (0+ / 0-)

      however do you believe Orbital and SpaceX are ready to shoulder the entire burden for launching NASA astronauts?

      •  Not today. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Bill White

        And not to everywhere.  

        But I strongly believe in where the president is going - find the cheapest, reliable way to do the parts that don't require new technology, get that going, and then use NASA itself to do what it was created to do - lead in technology and take risks.  NASA should always be looking to put itself out of business in what it is doing today.  

        I left out that I spent the first 11 years of my career as a civil servant at NASA.  What the agency does do well is do the things that carry too much risk for a company to bear.  I worked on really amazing things while at NASA.  What the agency sucks at is the ongoing and repetitive.  Why?  Because it is not designed for that.  It is designed to have expertise and fully investigate the unknown.

        So, in a few years, yes Orbital and SpaceX will be able to taking astronauts to the ISS, which is the logical starting point to go anywhere else.  

        Certainly from our standpoint, this gives us a sense of momentum -- when the United States has accolades tossed its way, rather than shoes. - PJ Crowley

        by nsfbr on Wed Apr 14, 2010 at 07:40:30 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I agree with all of this, however (0+ / 0-)

          I do not agree that commercial crew / cargo to ISS should constitute 100% of NASA's human spaceflight budget.

          Point NASA at the Moon, NEOs or Phobos and let Orbital and SpaceX support ISS, with occasional assistance if the logistics pipeline gets backed up.

  •  excuse me but... (0+ / 0-)

    ...i think there is something we are all missing here: an opportunity that is very simple really, if only we stop for a minute, review the world wide popularity of Star Trek and other similar fantastic yet persistent world cultural flights of fancy and take another look at what WE actually have at our disposal today.

  •  Every dollar... (0+ / 0-)

    ...that goes to NASA is corporate welfare for high-tech industries, which in turn privatize billions in profits.

    Just like the Pentagon.

    Illegal Alien: Term used by the descendents of foreign colonizers to refer to the descendents of indigenous people

    by mojada on Thu Apr 15, 2010 at 12:03:34 AM PDT

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