Surrender in Space?

I know I shouldn’t take anything Mark Whittington writes seriously, but I want to write about a stupid meme that smarter people than Mark have also been bandying about–that somehow Obama’s budget proposal would surrender our leadership in space to the Russians and Chinese.

I’m going to dignify this silliness with an attempt at a rebuttal.

First off, where are the Chinese and Russian space programs today, compared with ours?

China:

  • Has barely started flying its first manned spacecraft in the past five years
  • Flies only occasionally, with some years having no flights
  • Is five years off from even having the same lift capacity as our EELVs
  • Is thinking about launching a small space station sometime this decade
  • Is at least semi-competitive on the international launch market, but still not a big player
  • Does occasional robotic science missions beyond LEO

Russia:

  • Has a good, fairly reliable human launcher they’ve been running for decades
  • But can’t afford to fly that vehicle very much except when NASA is footing the bill
  • Is operating a portion of a space station that is dependent on NASA for its continued survival
  • Is doing fairly well on the international commercial satellite launch market
  • Does occasional robotic science missions beyond LEO

USA

  • Runs most of the ISS
  • Will be funding multiple commercial launch providers, creating an actual manned spaceflight industry
  • May see commercial orbital stations in the near future developed by domestic entrepreneurs like Bigelow
  • Is investing in technologies and infrastructure like propellant depots that can greatly simplify BEO exploration and even commercial BEO transportation

I could go on.  I just have a hard time seeing how the country that’s actually trying to build up commercial manned spaceflight, and break new ground with technologies like propellant depots is somehow going to get overtaken in space by countries like Russia and China.

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Jonathan Goff

Jonathan Goff

President/CEO at Altius Space Machines
Jonathan Goff is a space technologist, inventor, and serial space entrepreneur who created the Selenian Boondocks blog. Jon was a co-founder of Masten Space Systems, and is the founder and CEO of Altius Space Machines, a space robotics startup in Broomfield, CO. His family includes his wife, Tiffany, and five boys: Jarom (deceased), Jonathan, James, Peter, and Andrew. Jon has a BS in Manufacturing Engineering (1999) and an MS in Mechanical Engineering (2007) from Brigham Young University, and served an LDS proselytizing mission in Olongapo, Philippines from 2000-2002.
This entry was posted in NASA, Politics, Snark, Space Policy. Bookmark the permalink.

33 Responses to Surrender in Space?

  1. Pierce Nichols says:

    Russia and China have deeper long term structural and demographic problems likely to sharply curtail their spacefaring activities in the medium term.

  2. A_M_Swallow says:

    The space supporters are sending begging letters to the US President, Congress and the voters. These letters need to give a reason the money is needed. The chosen reason is a sports one – we are about to be overtaken. It may or may not be true.

  3. Stefan says:

    Private space is coming. Right now NASA has the choice of either buying our services or ignoring us (and we want to provide), but it will happen either way. Profitable free markets don’t need political favor to work.

    And when we’re sending thousands of people to do business in space, whatever government programs China and Russia want to fund will be totally irrelevant to us.

  4. First of all, the presidents budget only provides private industry with a meager $1.2 billion a year. And we have no idea when private industry will have their manned space infrastructure ready to compete against another manned spaceflight company like Russia’s Energia.

    Secondly, Obama delays his decision on building a heavy lift vehicle until 2015 which means that there probably won’t be any beyond LEO missions until well into the 2020s. And there’s no funding for any lunar landing craft. That gives countries like Russia, China, India, and Japan plenty of time to catch up with us.

    I can still remember the days when ‘Made in Japan’ meant a shoddy product. Yet, less than a decade later, US automobile workers were rapidly losing ground to Japanese automakers while Japanese electronics companies were rapidly putting US companies out of business.

    10 to 15 years is a long time. It took the US just 12 years from having no satellites in orbit to landing humans on the surface of the Moon. As a nation, China is already the third largest economy on Earth. And ten to 15 years from now, they’re going to be a lot richer. We may laugh at their meager space program now. But we may not be laughing 15 years from now. And we may pay a big price, economically, if other nations start to reap the benefits of the Moon before we do!

  5. Bob Steinke says:

    Marcel,

    You worry that the US won’t start building a heavy lift vehicle until 2015, but Jon’s point is that neither Russia nor China has a heavy lift vehicle now, or plans to start building one before 2015. So we aren’t really behind on that front.

    The only thing Russia and China have that we wouldn’t after cancellation of Shuttle and Ares I is a capsule to put on top of their EELV class launchers. Do you really think private industry can’t build a capsule for $1.2B/year?

    You final point is that we should worry more about the relative velocity of innovation between our and their space industries. Yes, that’s right, and the best way we can maximize innovation velocity is to turn Earth-LEO transportation over to private industry and have NASA focus on in-space technology R&D. That’s exactly what the new plan does.

  6. Andy says:

    Someone please explain this politically correct “new think” to me. How does increasing NASA’s overall budget become surrender of capability? How does allowing the Shuttle retirement decision of George W. Bush’s administration and the money freed up by this event for re-investment in NASA become a surrender? Why is cancelling a ridiculously ill thought project like Constellation and using the money for other space related projects considered to be surrender?

    Let’s face it, NASA is not and was never set up to be a truly operational agency like DoD – it was set up as an R&D agency that procured spacecraft for the U.S. Government. It’s about time it got back to doing what it does well – R&D! Many good things that will lead to much more space activity will come out of these decisions.

  7. Bob-1 says:

    Jon, nice post. Since you counted private space companies like SpaceX and Masten in the USA’s corner, it got me thinking. There are roughly 100 billionaries in China.
    ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_people_by_net_worth_of_the_People%27s_Republic_of_China )

    I wonder what would happen if tomorrow one of them decided to out-do Elon Musk and Robert Bigelow? Rich peple in China are potentially under the thumb of the government, but in practice, they often have significant freedom. And then there is Hong Kong — China has preserved HK’s freedom, and there are roughly 20 billionaires living there (as well as a much larger number of significantly rich people).
    Not to single out China and Hong Kong — there are roughly 800 billionaires worldwide, there is at least one in quite a number of countries, and after all, it would take only one to really shake things up.

  8. Bob-1 says:

    Here’s a better link, covering more countries, with more up-to-date numbers: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_the_number_of_US_dollar_billionaires

  9. Jardinero1 says:

    A significant plurality of China’s billionaires are real estate billionaires which is the worst kind to be, especially if most of the real estate is in a highly overbuilt, overleveraged, overpriced market like China. Who are they gonna sell to if they require liquidity?

  10. I substantially agree with Jon–US is still the leader by virtue of the huge economy and the slow pace of the other players (let’s add Europe, India, Japan). And Obama is not cutting as much as redirecting–which NASA needs. Eventually a formula for private enterprise will catch on–I’ve been working on Microlaunchers.

    Besides the Cold War is long over. There has not for decades been a need to beat the [fill in blank]

  11. Gary Warburton says:

    I`m afraid I`ve become a little sick of even answering these silly antiObama people. Doesn`t the President have a veto? Couldn`t he simply shut these Lawmakers down and close down Ares whether they like or not? It would sure save money and time and allow things to procede without anymore nonsense. Or am I wrong there?

  12. Coastal Ron says:

    In regards to Bob-1’s comments about the world Billionaires, it’s possible for anyone to decide to invest in the space business, and eventually maybe someone will. However the ability to build a space launch business requires more than money.

    Elon Musk started SpaceX in 2002, and he’s just now getting ready to launch his first medium-lift rocket. SpaceX is leveraging off of a large, existing aerospace economy. This is not only the people with the education and experience to build complex space components, but also a large, existing base of suppliers. Outside of continental Europe, this depth of ability, expertise and industry simply does not exist.

    The other thing to consider is that launchers are only the Supply side of space Supply & Demand. Liquid-fueled launchers are fairly simple when compared to the cargo they are needed to launch. Building the cargo, like human rated capsules, space stations, etc., takes a lot of work. Cargo/Crew (Demand) needs to be ready when the launchers are, and this increases the amount of money that is needed.

    China is working on their first space station, and it’s based on a Russian design. They will learn from this work, but the evolution of new designs takes time to happen. If they decide to speed up their space program, we’ll have plenty of advanced notice. Until then, let’s not make rash decisions…

  13. Chris (Robotbeat) says:

    Yup, Jon, over at NSF, many are continually whining against anything Obama proposes. You made no mention of unmanned missions in your post, and there NASA dominates anyone else. No one else has ever successfully landed a mission on Mars (besides a very short transmission from a Russian probe), whereas NASA has had several, with four lasting _years_ (a couple are still functional). And NASA has sent probes out further than anyone, beyond all the Planets, two of which are still partly functional with another on its way there. No one is better prepared for Beyond LEO (manned) exploration than NASA, although Russia has a more efficient manned spacecraft, on-orbit refueling, and more long-duration human spaceflight experience, all things that NASA is well-prepared to demonstrate.

    Now that multiple manned (or nearly manned) spacecraft are being built (at least Dragon and Orion, if not others), on-orbit refueling being funded again (after the cancellation of the US Propellant Module), and ISS is being fully manned, NASA will be even better prepared for long-term beyond-LEO manned exploration, the kind that can continue indefinitely. Hopefully it won’t even require HLV infrastructure. Build spacecraft, we already have launch vehicles.

  14. kert says:

    Agreed on the general sentiment that private enterprise will beat centrally controlled government organized in the long run.
    What is missed here is this: you dont know what you dont know. I’ll leave it at that.

    One more thing to think about is that US is currently basically out of commercial launch market.

  15. @Bob Steinke

    I’m strongly in favor of giving $1.2 billion a year to private industry to develop their own manned space program. America needs that! Be we also need a strong Federal space program. But we shouldn’t just arrogantly go around thinking that if we just shut things down we can easily build them back up again. If took us less than a decade to get to the Moon. But it certainly seems a lot harder to do that now.

    American space companies already have their hands full trying to compete with Russia and Europe in the commercial satellite launch business. And American private manned spaceflight companies are going to have their hands full competing against Energia and possibly even the Chinese a decade from now.

  16. engstudent says:

    Question Jon:

    Do you think 5 years is enough time to prove and mature propellant depot and transfer technology to the point where an exploration architecture for the moon and PHOs can be designed around it. Or will NASA still need to build and operate its own HLV?

    Also would the technology be matured to a point where a more capable mission can take advantage of both propellant depots and HLV for BEO missions like the Mars-flyby and phobos?

    Would you care to make a prediction (:

  17. Bill Hensley says:

    @kert:
    “You don’t know what you don’t know” – but that’s why you hire people who do. Musk can hire a couple of hundred of the best and the brightest and he’s got that covered. You don’t need to hire ten or twenty thousand of them.

  18. Ian says:

    ***** Yeah! I’d add an expletive here but I know you wouldn’t appreciate it. We’ve talked about this so it’s no surprise I agree with this, but I’m glad you wrote it. Government dictated programs won’t get us anywhere. Or anywhere fast anyway.

  19. Kelly Starks says:

    First:
    ….the presidents budget only provides private industry with a meager $1.2 billion a year….

    Thats a BIG drop from what its budgeting now for maned space launch, so don’t assume private industry will do much more with this money, then they have done with the several times more money they get now.

    >Marcel F. Williams
    >== we shouldn’t just arrogantly go around thinking that if we
    > just shut things down we can easily build them back up again.
    > If took us less than a decade to get to the Moon. But it certainly
    > seems a lot harder to do that now.

    True – we had a lot more aerospace industry in the early ’60’s then we do now. more now then we seem likely to have in 5 years, and Griffens Apollo on steroids was projected to take twice as long – and cost twice as much – as the orogional program in the ’60’s did.

    > engstudent
    > Do you think 5 years is enough time to prove and mature
    > propellant depot and transfer technology to the point where
    > an exploration architecture for the moon…

    Do yuo realize the Progress tankers have been doing this operationally for over 30 years? If NASA thought they could baseline it for the ISS, its certainly “proven” enough for for lunar if they wanted to do it. Though then you need a tanker to fly up all that fuel,

  20. JohnHunt says:

    I agree that the United States is an will be in the lead for the foreseeable future. But I’d like to play the Devil’s advocate here.

    If you were China how would you relate to space? For quite some time China will mentally be trying to prove that it is a real superpower. So, what would their space goals likely be? Well, you can’t compete with the US in terms of a Mars mission or a mission to an asteroid because the US will be years ahead on each and might speed things up if they think that you are trying to compete in those areas. You can’t possibly achieve glory through an orbiting space station. Whatever you do will always be smaller than the ISS was.

    So it’s pretty obvious where China will want to head — the Moon. Landing a taikonaut on the Moon would be a big deal for the Chinese even if it took them 5 or 10 years longer than it took the US. Having achieved the Moon, where would the Chinese logically head to show themselves to be at competitive status with the US at a time when the US has already landed men on an asteroid and is getting close to sending men to Mars (well, at least around Mars which arguably would be to Mars). Even if China had a GDP equivalent to the US at that point, there’s no way that China could hope to beat the US to landing a man on Mars. So what would their next logical step be?

    They probably won’t focus on multiple rock gathering trips on the Moon. That’s already been done and we already know a lot about moon rocks anyway. Rather, I’m thinking that they would seek to establish a lunar base. The US would be so tied up with Mars that it couldn’t afford to develop a lunar base. Way back in 2010 the US took that off the table. Besides, to put the Mars mission on hold just to beat the Chinese back to the Moon would look pretty petty. So the US will cede the Moon to the Chinese. If China maintains its underdog attitude then it might be willing to take more risks and so move faster than the ever cautious American program.

    But for what purpose will the Chinese build a lunar base? As a science base? What science? Collecting ever more rocks? No. Building a really big space telescope? Maybe. But the Moon provides resources of great value. ISRU could provide oxygen and rocket fuel (either from water or from Al & O2). Metals could also be extracted. Launched off the lunar surface, these could be provided for sale to operators in LEO or GEO or…to the Americans for their deep space program (oh the irony of the US buying their fuel from the Chinese!). Want to build solar power satellites, the Chinese can deliver your trusses. Do you have an orbiting hotel? The Chinese can deliver your air, water, maybe even food! If you are the Russians, would you want to be joining the US as junior parters or getting in on the emerging cis-lunar space market?

    At that point the Chinese are looking like the owners of space while the US is still trying to get their martian colony to a point of self-sufficiency.

    Oh, an if a taikonaut is lost someone will be scapegoated but the Chinese program will continue. If a martian astronaut is lost, there will be deep soul searching and many will ask where America lost its way in space. The whole purpose of the martian effort might be called into question. Delays might be introduced, plans revised, budgets exploded.

  21. Mark Whittington was on The Space Show the other day.

    http://thespaceshow.com/detail.asp?q=1345

    I only cringed a few times. Most of the time he was reasonable and fair.. he even managed to describe other people’s opinions without disparagement… and towards the end he explained why he likes trolling.

  22. Roderick Reilly says:

    “”””” Russia and China have deeper long term structural and demographic problems likely to sharply curtail their spacefaring activities in the medium term. “””””

    Perhaps, but the U.S. government is, in practical terms, broke; it’s just not acting like it is. The staggering deficit issues will catch up with us, and will likely adversely effect the space program.

    “”””” I`m afraid I`ve become a little sick of even answering these silly antiObama people. Doesn`t the President have a veto? Couldn`t he simply shut these Lawmakers down and close down Ares whether they like or not? It would sure save money and time and allow things to procede without anymore nonsense. Or am I wrong there? “”””

    Oh yes, that would be very helpful, to rule by virtual fiat. Incidentally, not all who oppose the currently proposed NASA plan are “anti-Obama.” Many are Congresscritters interested in preserving their state’s share of the space pie. I don’t necessarily agree with them (on a state-by-state basis), but those are political realities.

  23. Roderick Reilly says:

    I like the private launch aspect of the new plan, and am ambivalent about all else in the new plan. I really don’t put much faith or give much weight in what any administration says it is going to do in space. I do admit that I’m not sorry that the Ares/Constellation thing is going, but I can’t get excited about a program that doesn’t seem to have anything for advanced Earth-to-LEO propulsion, or RLV research, unless I missed something.

  24. Tom D says:

    I too have been disappointed at the virtual disappearance of RLV talk and development in the last 5 years, but I think that was mostly a function of Constellation swallowing up ever larger amounts of the NASA budget. RLV technology was clearly anathema to Constellation. Hopefully, the demise of Constellation will lead to more RLV research and development.

  25. Roderick Reilly says:

    As to the subject at hand:

    Many think that this administration is leading America to decline, and they conflate the more modest space program into those concerns, and I think they are wrong in doing so. Any administration in today’s economic and budget climate would want to have some variant of the Obama proposals, I think. My variant would include reviving the Integrated Powerhead Demonstrator program, TAN nozzle research, along with other more aggressive and ambitious launch vehicle propulsion R&D, a more ambitious X-37 program and scramjet program, and more funding for researching and testing more powerful propellants (nanoalumin/water, Quadricyclane, other near-term HEDM concepts) and nanotube reinforced launch vehicle fuselages.

  26. Randy Campbell says:

    ’bout the ONLY thing about the President’s budget that worries me is the loss of the Space Transportation System infrastructure. (Note I did NOT say “Shuttle” :o) While he’s proposing an “advanced-Heavy-lift Vehicle” by 2015 there has already been ‘feelers’ put out by Bolden/Garvy on a near-term Side-Mount SDV the idea needs to be expanded on and shouted from the roof-tops because that cuts a LARGE under-pinning out from the “continue-Constellation” and the “President’s budget kills-jobs” arguments which is what is currently being harped on here in Utah.

    (Ok, the ACTUAL two biggest and/or loudest “anti-budget-arguements” are really that the proposed budget destroys our ability to defend ourselves by cutting the Minuteman missile system, and that it lack earmarks which are going to cost “millions” of Utahan’s thier jobs…???? Ok, I guess I can let those ones go becauese it’s nothing anyone around here hasn’t come to expect from Bishop and Bennett :o)

    The actual issue of the loss of workforce for NASA and others involved in the STS ARE real and NEED to be addressed because even if/when NASA gets around to re-building KSC etc, the loss of the capability to build STS components and to re-build those components into a variaty of launch vehicles that NASA needs but have no commercial equivilent (yet) is going to cause a “gap” need and capability that the President has already cited as being needed.
    (How else are you going to launch “spare” ISS modules to build a mutli-flight capable Orbital Transfer Vehicle? :o)

    Not going to get into it in THIS post, (:::grin::::) but there seems to be a distinct inability in a lot of people to understand that what is GOOD and especailly “politically-doable” for NASA is not and can never BE the same thing as what is “assumed” to be needed for turning American into a “spacefaring-nation” or even building a robust space transportation infastructure.
    For example IF the President had directed that NASA design and field a fully-reusable two-stage-to-orbit system by 2015 does anyone doubt that we’d have either seen another “failed” launch system cancled or an expansive, rarely used launch system deployed that was unaffordable and unsustainable outside of a government budget? Yet that is the very thing people seem to be arguing FOR even as they say it’s not…

    My biggest “fear” is that politically Congress can delay any implimintation of the budget simply by doing nothing at all which makes actually MORE sense than trying to find a compromise or actually proposing a counter-budget. IIRC, Congress has until July to offer an ‘opposing’ counter-budget and till August/September to re-submit the Presidents budget with modifications, but everything is SUPPOSED to be in place by October-1st as the start of the new Fiscal year. But I think everyone can remember the years where the Federal Budget wasn’t actually APPROVED by all parties and IN-PLACE till well after the physical ‘new-year’ and all the issues THAT caused.

    Unfortunatly it makes a LOT of political sense for Congress-critters of BOTH parties to delay any budget decision until AFTER November. Politically the “opposition” to the proposed NASA budget can be used to off-set somewhat negative voter feelings about passage of the Health-Care act, (no I DON’T really want to get into that here, thanks ;o) just as late-term opposition to Bush’s policy’s were used as a show of “non-conformity” and a means to “distance” ones self for purely political reasons during the LAST mid-term elections.

    Which will leave ANY plans by NASA for continuation of STS related systems and/or expansion of funding in any other areas reliant on what monies can be ‘saved’ from the cancelation of the Constellations program. However, since Constellation has pretty much SPENT its yearly (let alone quarterly) budget, and Congress had never “approved” any spending increases in the FY-2010 NASA budget there isn’t a whole lot of ‘money’ actually available to do anything with.

    Randy

  27. G. Ryan Faith says:

    Perhaps one of the things people are are seeing in the Chinese space program that gives them pause is that their trajectory has been relatively consistent and exploration focused. Obviously, the United States and Russia have huge head-starts, but the Chinese program – at least since the launch of the Shenzhou – seems to be dedicated towards improving its capabilities at a consistent (albeit very methodical) pace.

    In the U.S., we have had several major shifts in our space program since the end of Apollo, and it might be this long-term instability in our human spaceflight goals and program that leads some to believe that the U.S. isn’t making significant progress.

  28. Kelly Starks says:

    >> .. IF the President had directed that NASA design and field a
    > fully-reusable two-stage-to-orbit system by 2015 does anyone
    > doubt that we’d have either seen another “failed” launch system
    > cancled or an expansive, rarely used launch system deployed
    > that was unaffordable and unsustainable outside of a government
    > budget? ==

    Wouldn’t have to be that way. A RLV could be a lot cheaper (hard not to be cheaper then Constellation!), and without the technical issues of Ares-I and Orion could be done faster.

    As for costs. We’ll Orion was going to cost several times as much per launch then shuttle. No clud what Commercial Crew Transport will cost in 2015, but given NASA has budgeted $6 B for NASA to faciiltate its development over the next 5 years — likely not cheap!

  29. Mike Lorrey says:

    Right on, Jon,
    I have to say, a lot of the Socialist Space crowd are whining worse than ghetto queens getting booted off welfare for collecting multiple checks. The NASA unions need to realize they’re like the KGB in 1992. The evil empire is dead and they need to get real jobs. The irony that it took the most left wing president in decades to privatize NASA is possibly the biggest hoot. All my republican friends are kvetching about the situation and I’m having a rollicking time pointing out their hypocrisy and calling them RINO’s for demanding we stay with Big G Space.
    The Stick-huggers over at NSF got me banned over there for speaking the truth.

  30. Kelly Starks says:

    Not surprizing NASA adn Manned space is gettnig gutted out under a pres who said he felt it was a waste.

  31. Randy Campbell says:

    Kellyt Starks wrote:
    “Wouldn’t have to be that way. A RLV could be a lot cheaper (hard not to be cheaper then Constellation!), and without the technical issues of Ares-I and Orion could be done faster.”

    Yep you have all those facts and history to back that up too I see ;o)
    No, Kelly you can’t “assume” your way out of this one I’m afraid, the actual facts stand in direct contrast to your statement. A GOVERNMENT RLV built to the needs of the government (and lacking your assumptions and bias’ being tacked on that change the facts) CAN’T be “cheaper” as there is no forseeable DIFFERENCE between an RLV and ELV for government use! What there IS is an “economic” argument that clearly favors continued ELV production over limited production of a little used RLV which will NEVER re-coup its development costs.

    Lacking some way to “super-boost” the commercial market (which by and of itself a government developed and used RLV is incapable of doing by the nature of being a government program from the start) the “government” is going to be the majority user of any specific space launch system for the forseeable future and therefor will set the requirements for the launch vehicle needed.
    The ONLY way to avoid this is to have at least partial government “buy-in” to subsidize commercial development which was the case in aviation and early space commercialization.

    Nothing the government does is ever “cheap” but then again that’s NOT the governments job. Constellation, (not “Orion” which is only a single piece of the system) would have cost overall LESS than the Shuttle per launch. Simple math will tell you that, it has tons less processing for preperation and recovery than the STS does for the overall flight rate. It also, (in some ways unfortunatly) also reflects the required needs of NASA far more accuratly than the STS ever did.
    But I already know you’re aware of this…

    “Not surprizing NASA adn Manned space is gettnig gutted out under a pres who said he felt it was a waste.”
    Oh I’m sure you can even QUOTE where Obama said that too can’t you? In a way I have to agree with Mike on you’re change of attitude, I just have to recall how HORRIBLE you always thought the idea of the government giving money to commercial space was :o)

    I just have to keep in mind that you have always felt that it was ONLY the governments place to “do” space travel and manned space flight and how you always quoted the only successful manned space program was Apollo and how by copying everything from John Kenndy’s speech to the “success-at-any-price-and-hang-the-future” attitude that has led “successful” efforts by NASA at every turn to “improve” on the legacy left behind was of course the only possible way to expand mankind into space…
    IT has of course been so obvious….

    How can any sane person argue with the logic?
    People “complain” that the current budget lacks “clearly defined goals and a timetable” and for the most part they are correct in that assesment. But the assesment itself is badly flawed and even worse based on a false paradigm and a self-inflated lie if one looks close enough.
    The majority of people seem to lack the ability to see how the current budget makes a rather fundemental change in policy, and in breaking with a “tradition” that has generally FAILED more than helped the cause of manned space flight actually probably gives us the very best hope we’ve had since JFK managed to ‘side-track’ the space program in the first place.

    I was rather surprised, (and more than a bit dismayed actually) when the Presidents speech on the 15th was “compared” to the one given by John F. Kennedy which set the United States to putting a man on the moon and returning him safetly to the Earth by the end of the 1960s.
    On the face of it the two message could not be more fundamentally different, yet having re-read the speech and the original given for the proposed NASA budget I finally was able to see that was EXACTLY the reason the two speeches ARE significant and important! John Kennedy’s speech challenged America to pull itself up above its failures and set a goal for NASA, the government, and the American people that would force them to rise above themselves and challenge our economic, political, and technological limits to achieve. MORE importantly however, it set a specified goal with a short timetable leading America into a path of unsustainable space exploration that ultimatly achieved the challanges set before us but nothing more. Leaving America at a political, economic, and technical dead-end that can easily be regulated to less than a “footnote” in human history.
    (It is surprising at how the idea that “since” Neil Armstrong was the firt person to set foot on the Moon it will be remembered forever, yet historically this is rarely true. Who was the fist person to set foot on the North American continent? Who “discovered” America? Surely history has recorded the name someplace but it is lost to us, because it has been FAR overshadowed by someone else who was at the tip of exploitation and settlement rather than having actually “discovered” the America’s. In our arrogence we’d like to THINK that Neil Armstrong ranks “up” there with C. Columbus but in reality Yuri Gargarin is more celebrated as an explorer anywhere outside the United States. Something we should remember more often than we do.)

    Kennedy’s speech has been held up as THE standard which was needed to “motivate” and “inspire” both the public and government to aspire to new heights and face new challenges but in fact failed motivate or inspire beyond a short-llived “success-at-any-price” space program that was abandoned as soon as it was expediant to do so. In fact this “false” fact of the NEED for “defined-goals-and-timetables” specifically directed ONLY towards a GOVERNMENT space program has directly resulted in two failed attempts at repitition:
    President George H. Bush’s “Space Exploration Initiative” speech on July 20th, 1989 (http://history.nasa.gov/seisummary.htm) and the speech by his son President George W. Bush setting forth his “Vision for Space Exploration” (http://history.nasa.gov/SEP%20Press%20Release.htm)

    Both set forth goals and timetables to be met, both called on firm commitments to support NASA expansion beyond Earth orbit and both failed to gain public and (more importantly) Congressional support and therefor the financial and political support needed to succeed in meeting those goals and commitments.

    Yet Kennedy’s speech more than anything else set the US on a direct path to our current situation of limited horizons and even more limited goals. Rather than having a slow but steady progress in capability as happened with aviation the American space program was artificially accelerated beyond levels it could sustain in order to “beat” an idealogical foe who had used prior American complacincy and hubris in order to score propaganda points during the Cold War. The synergy of circumstances that lead to the Kennedy speech and the Apollo program are never going to happen again and we’ve SEEN this mode fail without those circumstances, yet it is held as some sort of “truth” that IF we have a “vision” handed down from on-high (oh yes, and an opponent to “fight” against, oh and maybe a little bitty massive “Cold-War” going on) the American space program will be victorious!

    Well maybe a we’d have to have won a massive global war… And have suffered another “Pearl-Harbor” type “surpise attack” by those viscious “Commies” where we managed to fight them to a standstill… And then begin a massive economic, cultural, and political shift from “peace” to “war” as we realize we might be technically, (which in “American-speak” means we’re also politically and as a civilization) less advanced because try as we might OUT efforts to equal or exceed those damn Commies keeps coming up in failure!
    So maybe just a FEW things…

    So… Let us “maybe” review again how this is somehow a “truth” of manned space flight? :o)

    Randy

  32. Kelly Starks says:

    1. >on 22 Apr 2010 at 7:49 pm31Randy Campbell
    2.
    3. >> Kellyt Starks wrote:

    4. >> “Wouldn’t have to be that way. A RLV could be a lot cheaper
    5. >> (hard not to be cheaper then Constellation!), and without the
    >>technical issues of Ares-I and Orion could be done faster.”

    >Yep you have all those facts and history to back that up too I see ;o)
    Well, yeah. And the cost projections of all the potential vendors. Constellation was budgeted at 10-20 times the cost of a commercial RLV, about 2-2.5 times NASA projected cost for a shuttle replacement full RLV, 2.5 Times the adjusted cost of the full shuttle development. Also comparing ELV missiles boosters like from Atlas against rocket planes with simplar delta-V (X-15), you get lower costs for the RLV.

    > == CAN’T be “cheaper” as there is no forseeable DIFFERENCE between an RLV and ELV for government use! ==
    Well first I mentioned cheaper then Constellation which at $100B in dev costs, is staggeringly expensive compared to anything NASA tried before. The complete adjusted cost of the space race is only 30% more then the Constellation development budget.

    Second its assumed ELVs are cheaper because they only need to last ones and don’t need recovery systems, but in practice they are about as complicated, but harder to test and verify.

    >>“Not surprizing NASA adn Manned space is gettnig gutted out
    >> under a pres who said he felt it was a waste.”

    > Oh I’m sure you can even QUOTE where Obama said that too can’t you? ==

    Yeah, I could look up the articlers I sent yuo back in ’08 where that was a big issue amoung space advocates.

    > == In a way I have to agree with Mike on you’re change
    > of attitude, I just have to recall how HORRIBLE you
    > always thought the idea of the government giving money
    > to commercial space was )

    Are you on drugs? I never said anything like that!
    You pulling my leg on this post?

  33. Randy Campbell says:

    I wrote:
    >> == In a way I have to agree with Mike on you’re change
    >> of attitude, I just have to recall how HORRIBLE you
    >> always thought the idea of the government giving money
    >> to commercial space was )

    Kelly Starks wrote:
    >Are you on drugs? I never said anything like that!
    >You pulling my leg on this post?
    Pulling your leg on this particular issue? Yes. Point of fact you have always said the exact opposite. :o)

    Randy

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