Feb 01 2010

Our Dream Is Dead

Published by at 8:19 am under All General Discussions

I have no idea who is talking inside the current administration regarding technical matters, but whoever they are they are pretty damn dumb. The global warming charade is probably the best known march of the ignorant, but it is not the only example of people trying to make decisions about things they have no business making.

Now it seems someone in the White House thinks we can just buy a manned spacecraft off the lot:

NASA’s grand plan to return to the moon, built on President George W. Bush’s vision of an ambitious new chapter in space exploration, is about to vanish with hardly a whimper.

Obama’s budget, according to a background briefing by an administration official on Sunday, will call for spending $6 billion over five years to develop a commercial spacecraft that could taxi astronauts into low Earth orbit. Going commercial with a human crew would represent a dramatic change in the way NASA does business. Instead of NASA owning the spacecraft and overseeing every nut and bolt of its design and construction, a private company would design and build the spacecraft with NASA looking over its shoulder.

Or we can design special fairy dust and fly like Tinker Bell.

What is even more stunning is that this is not even a cost savings to the public (nor shovel ready). The Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle (which is now under contract and being built) was originally budgeted for $3.9 billion. I seriously doubt it will stay there, but it has been through requirements definition and preliminary design. Why start over and throw tens of thousands of people out of work  in the process?

And I am only talking the jobs associated with Orion and Ares (the launch vehicle). There are more jobs to be lost this year when the Space Shuttles are retired:

The administration estimates the new funding for the commercial program would create up to 1,700 jobs, which could help offset the expected loss of 7,000 jobs in Florida when the space shuttle is retired next year.

Typical Obamanomics math, they don’t even get the lost jobs numbers right. The ‘reasoning’ for this change used in the article is mind boggling naive:

“The Defense Department began using commercial rockets a long time ago to launch priceless national security satellites, that our troops’ lives depend on. If the Pentagon can trust private industry with this responsibility, we think NASA can, too,” Gedmark said.

Rockets are not crew vehicles (no air, food, waste disposal, pressure, etc). The US Air Force DOES NOT trust private industry to its ‘manned vehicles’. Neither does the Navy  for its ships or the Army for its tanks and guns. They specify every nut and bolt. I am just wondering who is so gullible (outside the news media) to buy these 3rd grade excuses to do dumb things?

Is there some special reason (or corporate buddy) driving the White House to throw away all the work (and money) to date, and go with a solution 33% more expensive? This smells of funneling money at great taxpayer expense to me.

Or is this just more childish Bush Derangement Syndrome at work? That seems likely.

I should have known better. Anyone who thinks they can re-architect the dynamic, innovative and enormous health care system of this nation is clearly delusional and suffering from a demigod complex. Since they are pretending to be doctors and nurses, I guess pretending to be astronauts, engineers and entrepreneurs is not a surprise (since none of them have a clue what those careers are all about either).

All I know was I was hoping mankind would return to the stars in my lifetime, as we did with the Apollo mission and John F Kennedy’s dream of visiting the Moon (I was 9 when humans first stepped on the Moon, I was 12 when the missions stopped). Obama the job killer is also Obama the dream killer. Heaven help us these next 3 years.

45 responses so far

45 Responses to “Our Dream Is Dead”

  1. WWS says:

    Jimg, that’s a bizarre series of non-sequiters. It’s always amusing to watch someone rail about a lack of free speech while availing himself of same.

    I can read your previous comments; I guess this is where you say “ooops, never mind!”

    I think most people think the development of private space flight capability will happen and that in the long run it’s a very good thing; it’s just that I think that given the rate of development, it’s going to be a good 30 or 40 years before any kind of reliable private capability is established, which means that the Russians, the Chinese, and the Indians (and who knows, by then maybe the Brazilians) will have established a presence in space that dwarfs ours.

    And for the nation that has led the way into space for so long, that is a very sad turn of events.

  2. jimgagnon says:

    I apologize to others about my echo chamber comment. You can imagine my frustration at posting early in the day and watching all the other comments post, with mine ignored. It might be co-incidence, but my entries didn’t get shown until I complained to the referring blog lunarnetworks.com.

    As far as Constellation, the best estimates for the Ares V launcher was it becoming operational in 2030 or so. The program has been underfunded from the start; since it’s going to take so long, why not take the time and do it in the way that leaves behind a solid infrastructure? One with multiple providers to LEO so that we have redundancy, one with space refueling so that ships aren’t required to weigh nearly 200 tons at launch, one with a lander that lets astronauts walk out onto the surface and not climb down three stories of ladders?

    Jon Goff has published a plan where he could put men on the moon with a launcher no larger than 25 tons to LEO, with a total cost at less than half a billion dollars (http://selenianboondocks.com/2010/01/more-random-lunar-one-way-to-stay-thoughts-a-business-case/). If we let the private market have its shot, ideas like this and others will have a chance. With NASA calling all the shots, this kind of free thinking doesn’t have a chance.

    Even Buzz Aldrin feels this way, and he’s hardly a commie pinko. You can read his endorsement at http://www.nasa.gov/pdf/421062main_Buzz_Aldrin_Statement.pdf

    I think today is a good day for manned space flight. The end of the Shuttle was going to be painful, no matter how it went down. Following a sensible, logical path to space will ensure that the next generation of rocket engineers and enthusiasts won’t have to repeat this pain and dislocation again.

  3. crosspatch says:

    “the best estimates for the Ares V launcher was it becoming operational in 2030 or so. The program has been underfunded from the start; since it’s going to take so long, why not take the time and do it in the way that leaves behind a solid infrastructure?”

    Or why not stop underfunding it and hire more people and get it done faster? The cost per job would surely be well below that of the current national budget.

    We also need to rethink how we approach space flight. One of the reasons why it is so expensive is BECAUSE it is done by the government and there is a huge bureaucracy behind the actual delivery process. NASA also doesn’t tolerate a risk level that we tolerate in everyday life. How many people/year die in incidents involving aircraft? If spacecraft were built to risk tolerances that we accept all the time for airplanes, they would be a lot cheaper. It seems that the closer you are to the ground, the more risk we seem willing to take. In the US, 100 people a day are killed in car accidents but in nearly 50 years of space flight, we have lost not one astronaut to a space accident. THAT is why it is so expensive.

    Failure is not an option when spacecraft cost hundreds of millions of dollars each. We need to get to where we are with terrestrial flight with regard to risk tolerance.

  4. DrDave says:

    Does anyone find it interesting the Obama just gave Elon Musk’s Telsa company 500 million in loan support, and now seems to be directing billions to Elon Musk’s SpaceX outfit.

  5. owl says:

    Texas & Florida.

  6. crosspatch says:

    “Following a sensible, logical path to space will ensure that the next generation of rocket engineers and enthusiasts won’t have to repeat this pain and dislocation again.”

    Problem is that no such sensible path was announced or funded. Manned space flight was simply cut off. All of it. We have no manned space flight capability and we have no program whose aim is to develop one.

    What you say sounds great until you put 15 seconds of thought into it. Had they decided to take a different path, that would be one thing. Instead they have decided to take no path.

  7. jimgagnon says:

    The problem with the cost stems from the design of Constellation. Two brand new launchers, huge capsule and even bigger lunar lander — nothing was designed with cost containment in mind. I believe it was Jeff Gleason of the Augustine commission that noted that even if Constellation were handed to us free and fully finished, we would have to turn around and shut it down because NASA’s whole budget isn’t big enough to even fly it.

    “Failure is not an option when spacecraft cost hundreds of millions of dollars each. We need to get to where we are with terrestrial flight with regard to risk tolerance.” — I wholly agree. However, NASA would never accept that sort of risk tolerance. Private enterprise, however, will. We need to give them the chance.

    “…but in nearly 50 years of space flight, we have lost not one astronaut to a space accident. ” — by my count the US has lost 14 astronauts in space accidents, 17 if you count Apollo 1. However, each accident paralyzed manned space flight. By having multiple private systems, we have redundancy in the hardware we use to go to space — if a flaw is discovered in one system, we can rely upon the others while that vendor fixes his rockets.

  8. crosspatch says:

    Owl, I agree. This was “Chicago” thug politics aimed at Texas and Florida.

  9. crosspatch says:

    I meant accidents IN SPACE or during an actual space flight.

  10. crosspatch says:

    “The problem with the cost stems from the design of Constellation. Two brand new launchers”

    Well, they are reusing a lot of shuttle technology for the boosters.

    But forget the moon mission for a moment, we don’t even have a way to get a man to orbit now, let alone to the moon. No manned space flight capability at all. is the problem.

  11. crosspatch says:

    Sorry, I was considering moon programs, not shuttle flights for some reason, brain fart.

  12. jimgagnon says:

    “No manned space flight capability at all. is the problem.”

    I agree it’s not the most prudent path to drop a existing capability before a new one comes online. I caution clients against it all the time, yet most roll the dice and forgo parallel systems. I think the reason why the Administration went this route is that programs such as the Shuttle have a tendency to suck all the air and money out of a room; they probably decided that flying out the rest of the mission manifest and then ending the program was the only way to ensure that we really would move forward. Besides, Griffin did his level best to ensure that the Shuttle couldn’t fly past 2010 anyway; extension of the Shuttle past a few flights was going to be a difficult and expensive proposition.

    Apparently, they had a group conference call today of the private space businesses where several of them said they would put people in orbit within three years. Even if all of their estimates are off by a factor of two, that’s still ahead of when Ares I could have flown. When faced with realities like that, it’s no wonder the Administration decided to simply zero out Constellation.

    I know it’s hard for people to trust a new Administration, but they did state two very exciting goals today: to be able to ultimately support hundreds if not thousand of people in orbit, and to develop a ship that could reach Mars in weeks. No firm dates or plans, but frankly they need the next few years to do the R&D first. If I were in Huntsville, I would be incredibly excited: given the choice to design yet another launcher or the first of a kind planetary space ship, I know what I would rather work on. The designers of such a ship would stand shoulder to shoulder with Von Braun in the history of men in space.

  13. AJStrata says:

    Ares is and was irrelevant. JimG, you seem to have a bais, if not an agenda here. Who do you work for – or better – would you benefit personally from this?

  14. Redteam says:

    jimgagnon, gosh I’m so glad you trolled over to let us in on your wisdom. Ain’t it great. We sure wouldn’t want the guvmint to waste any money on space projects would we? then they wouldn’t have as much to piss away on those valuable things that the socialists want, such as more Czars to circumvent the constitution and and all that payola by the progressives(their name for socialists) to SEIU and ACORN (that valuable tool of the socialists to circumvent democratic voting procedures) and the Dimocrats, to get them to vote for ObamaCare. Why with just a little bitty deficit of 1.6 Trill next year, all that wasteful spending on a space program might put us on track to surpass manageable debt. Ha, the money saved on the space program will not amount to the rounding error on the deficit.
    Just hang around and keep imparting your brain farts to show your intolerance for our not bowing down to yo master.
    Repeat after me: “Steve’s our man, if he can’t do it, nobody can.”

  15. sjreidhead says:

    I’m sitting here working on a post for Tuesday. You are right about things not making sense. Have you seen the numbers for NNSA, Los Alamos, and Sandia? I would think they were a reward for services rendered by Big Bill, but evidently there is the largest increase for nuclear weaponry research since Reagan.

    None of this make sense – other than the – “I hate GWB theory”!

    The Pink Flamingo

  16. dbostan says:

    This illegitimate prime minister wants to redistribute the last penny from our future to pay for past “deeds”.
    And the weaker America becomes, the better in his eyes.
    I ask what I asked before: can anyone let me know what would he do differently if he were an open anti-American?
    Isn’t it clear by now?
    Let’s not forget that the Russians, who are not new-comers to space exploration, just announced a new project for nuclear rockets, with a very aggressive schedule.
    I am not an expert in this field, but that displays at least the desire to advance.
    The Chinese and the Indians are also planning for the future, only this schmuck is pushing us down the third world path.
    How about the cancellation of the raptor (F22) only a few month before the Russians announced their 5th gen. fighter?
    And on, an on and on…
    This guy is killing us ON PURPOSE.

  17. WWS says:

    re: “I meant accidents IN SPACE or during an actual space flight.”

    Not really a fair distinction; compare to commercial aviation. In flight, high altitude accidents are fairly rare, although of course they do happen, as the French Air flight over the Atlantic showed again last year. Outside of that still unexplained crash and the mysterious TWA 800 disaster, most of this type of accident have been collisions.

    But by the numbers, the great majority of accidents for any kind of flight operation occur on landing or takeoff. Space flight has been no different.

    Accidents will happen, and one positive thing about the private, multiple launch vehicle approach is that we will no longer be in a position where a single accident completely shuts down the space program. The shuttle program has never really recovered from the Columbia disaster; it has just been limping along in a half hearted way for years now. I still remember the days when we were promised 26 shuttle flights a year; that promise stands as a testament to hubris today.

    I do think that part of the problem that Ares, Orion, and Constellation have is a lingering memory of all of the oversold promises of the past. When a promise is given as to budget and expectations, it’s fair to conclude that the country will get maybe half the promised performance at twice the price and twice the time. That’s not solely NASA’s fault; it’s rather the fault of the entire political culture that drives them to make wild promises in order to get funding.

    I think that era has come to an end, whether we like it or not.

  18. ajh1492 says:

    I’ve been doing public and private sector Systems Engineering work for the last 25 years. I don’t work for a company that has NO hat in the ring.

    NASA need to evolve to along the lines of what the DoD does . . . let contracts out to private industry to provide service for commodity items. We need LEO access to be a commodity item, that is the only way to cut the cost and make it profitable for people to invest capital. The DoD does not fly on DoD built-aircraft, they fly on Boeing, LM, and other aircraft built by private industry.

    NASA needs to focus on sustainable, beyond LEO activities. It needs to “trail blaze” the path like Jefferson had Lewis & Clark do. Ultimately it needs to help make each activity attractive to private capital (LEO-Lunar orbit/Surface, LEO-Phobos/Mars, etc.). NASA needs to focus at the edge of exploration, let private industry do commodity and logistical work.

    * First, develop new technologies in a Public-Private-University teams like DARPA does for use in beyond LEO activities. (NASA has done this well in the past, they need to get back to that).

    * Second, define the requirements for what Manned/Unmanned spacecraft are needed for Science/Exploration activities for beyond LEO like DoD Procurement Offices operate (albeit more efficient I would hope).

    Remember, Columbus sold the trip as a way of opening a trade route to China. THAT is how he got the money.

    Bottom line, is NASA a Jobs program or a Science/Exploration program?

    If one believes that it is a Jobs program, then keep the black armband on.

    If one believes that it is a Science/Exploration program, then the door has been opened wide to innovation and rapid change.


  19. Huan says:

    Space would have been a Stimulus project i could have supported. The money spent could have gotten us more that we we already have (as compared to maintaining infrastructures and such) and given us a jump forward in engineering and science.

  20. Whomever says:

    I think in support for the President that all liberals should disconnect the GPS mechanisms they have in their cars. Then they could recognize that they are lost.