Category Archives: Space History

The High Cost Of Space Access

Roger Launius has a brief history of the Shuttle, but this number is outdated:

The best expendable launch vehicles (ELV) still cost about $10,000 per pound from Earth to orbit.

As I commented over there (it’s awaiting moderation), Falcon 9 delivers ~30,000 lbs to LEO for ~$60M. That’s $2000/lb. Price, not cost. Falcon Heavy will roughly halve that. If they can reuse cores, they’ll drop the price further.

Space Anniversaries

Yesterday was the 48th anniversary of the loss of three astronauts on the launch pad, in preparation for the Apollo missions. A child of the space age, I remember it particularly well, because it occurred the day before my twelth birthday. A little over nineteen years later, on my actual birthday, Challenger was lost. I recollected it on the sixteenth anniversary of the event.

Today is the twenty-ninth anniversary of that tragedy, and while I commemorate it, I also celebrate the completion of my sixtieth trip around the sun, over eight thousand miles from home. I’m in Israel to attend a conference named after Ilan Ramon, an Israeli hero who died a dozen years ago on February 1st, when Columbia disintegrated in the skies over east Texas. That anniversary coming up with Sunday, by which time I’ll be home, if all goes according to plan, to celebrate with friends and family, but also grieve for the losses. Yet as I point out in my book, such losses are inevitable, and necessary, perhaps even at a faster rate than once per generation, if we wish to accomplish much greater things than we have in space over the past six decades since my birth.

The Faux Issue About Ted Cruz And NASA

A good analysis from Hank Campbell, with a little history for those ignorant in the space-science community.

I love cute robots on Mars and pretty pictures from Hubble but keep in mind that politicians and their staffers see beyond that. They know we could have cute robots and pretty pictures while spending a whole lot less money – and we wouldn’t lose a single NASA employee. Though advocates claim we will “lose leadership” in some area or another if we don’t spend more money than some other country, that argument does not work with politicians, who see how badly money can be misused – when it is the pet projects of their political opponents, anyway.

I don’t care what Ted Cruz thinks about global warming, pollution is bad whether he thinks so or not, and Senator and now President Obama said he thought vaccines might be causing autism, but did anyone in science not vote for him in 2008 because of that? If you about care climate science, don’t worry about NASA, worry about the new chair of the environment committee, Senator Jim Inhofe, who denies climate science outright.

If you do care about space science, Cruz is a good choice. Just like Cruz’s opinion on climate change, that science media happens not to like Republicans is irrelevant to how well someone will do at NASA. He’s likely to be better for space science than the people we have had under Democrats, including the space advocate (and space-farer) Senator Bill Nelson of Florida, who insisted that extending the life of the glorified space-going UPS trucks known as the Shuttle Program was somehow necessary for science – a porkbarrel agenda that would have starved out actual space science programs – and did nothing at all about President Obama canceling Constellation in his home state. Nelson has to be careful criticizing the President ‘or the Republicans win’ but Cruz is not handcuffed by common party registration. If he has presidential ambitions, helping NASA will help him in Florida and some common sense about funding will be welcome to the public and a lot of NASA employees and scientists who can’t criticize the President. As I have discussed about the James Webb Space Telescope and its eternal cost overruns, every time a high-profile NASA project hemorrhages money, it’s the less-publicized but more scientifically valuable projects that bleed.

NASA needs someone who is not going to sign off on projects hoping they will become too big to fail. It’s better for the public and it’s better for science, because all those experiments that only need a few million dollars can then get it, rather than being told to wait for next year because an old program no one is excited about is delayed and over budget once again.

Unfortunately, he’s bought (or at least seems to have bought) into the SLS BS. But he’s a smart guy, so he may be educable.

NASA’s Mission To Nowhere

Francis seems to suffer from a lack of imagination:

Space analysts said planning and executing a manned mission to Mars would take years and cost hundreds of billions of dollars.

French wants NASA to head in that direction, and he sees next month’s Orion launch as the inaugural milestone in a long journey.

Still, he’s circumspect.

“Unless we build the rockets and test the spacecraft needed to get into deep space, sending humans to Mars will remain a dream for centuries to come,” French said. “Whether Orion will be the vehicle, and whether it will survive the brutal budgetary cycles of Washington politics for the many years ahead that it will need to be funded, is impossible to say. It’s hard to imagine any other method succeeding.

Space historians often suffer from this malady.