27 thoughts on “Today’s Non News In Space”

  1. The comments section of the arstechnica article is childishly brutal. It’s amazing that supposedly saavy technical people can immediately get bogged down into an argument on whether the president should be referred to as a “retard” or a “dotard”…

    As for the news itself, if it can get funded, the companies and NASA can move with a purpose and work with aplomb, then there is hope. I am quite happy to see Elon Musk pioneer the Martian landscape, while NASA develops infrastructure in the Earth-Moon system.

    1. Before reading the comments at Arse Technica, ask yourself “could they find a way to slip in gratuitous Trump – bashing”?

      But in general it’s best to just stay out of that site’s comments, as it’s generally a cesspool.

      1. The meat of the document is:

        Presidential Policy Directive-4 of June 28, 2010 (National Space Policy), is amended as follows:

        The paragraph beginning “Set far-reaching exploration milestones” is deleted and replaced with the following:

        “Lead an innovative and sustainable program of exploration with commercial and international partners to enable human expansion across the solar system and to bring back to Earth new knowledge and opportunities. Beginning with missions beyond low-Earth orbit, the United States will lead the return of humans to the Moon for long-term exploration and utilization, followed by human missions to Mars and other destinations;”.

        1. “… to enable human expansion across the solar system and to bring back to Earth new knowledge and opportunities.”
          I like that line.

  2. It’s a letter of intent basically and means no more than any… probably less.

    NASA really aught to be broken up so we can figure out what to get rid of.

  3. As a result, NASA’s share of the federal budget has declined from just shy of five percent at the height of the Apollo program to less than 0.5 percent today.

    This is really a poor point to make. When we are running near trillion dollar deficits, it doesn’t necessarily mean that NASA is getting shafted in the budget. They can do a lot with what they have and its a toss up between who wastes more of NASA’s budget, NASA or congress.

    Getting rid of SLS would go a long way but so would not blowing up budgets on jenky telescopes. Not saying those telescopes aren’t a worthy endeavor but the programs have been run horrendously.

    What Berger misses is that the status quo includes commercial. NASA has been operating on a dual track approach and I think that is the best we can hope for. Expanding the use of commercial options will be a great things, even if NASA is weighed down by SLS for a while longer.

    In short, unless this administration is taking a second term for granted, time is running out for it to meaningfully change the course of the US spaceflight program.

    I like how Berger always employs peer pressure.

    Who knows what the specifics of Trump’s space plans will be but if they are good, they will survive his administration. But when we are talking about commercial and public/private partnerships, there are other players who get a say in meaningful changes. It isn’t just up to government, which is a good thing. Maybe some space socialists will figure that out one day.

  4. “On Monday, a third president, Donald Trump, announced that NASA will go back to the Moon and eventually send humans to Mars.”
    Yeah, but given this president’s lack of political skills, this program will probably suffer the same fate as the other two. Most likely, NASA will be forced to limp along with little funding or direction until the next administration cancels it. That’s OK though, because Spacex is going to the moon, with or without NASA. The only question in my mind is; can they beat the Chinese?

    1. Considering that the Chinese have so far pretty much been engaged in “one and done”, each a couple or so years apart, the real question is who will be the first to have a second flight, and how soon will it be after the first?

      1. But their one and done approach is really just taking small measured risks that incrementally build knowledge and capability. They are working their way up to an operational station. Zimmerman suspects it will be more than a station and more of a interplanetary ship. Whatever their end goal is, they are making steady progress.

        It is a marathon not a race and that they are thinking in the long term should cause some concern or at least buy them some respect from people who are dismissive of what they are, or will be, capable of.

        Complacency has its place, like when you dither over asking the waiter for a refill this time around or wait for the next but not when dealing with people who view you as their military and economic competition who are incredibly smart, talented, and motivated.

  5. Well, Zimmerman’s got a hard-on for Mars that’s hard to beat. I fail to understand how someone as bright as he is fails to understand that there are very probably unknowns that are completely unknown to us until we have some experience in building and maintaining permanent bases on other worlds. In his view, the difference between 1% and 0% sea level Earth atmosphere’s pressure seems to be overly important. They’re both going to cause your blood to boil if pressurization fails. His long-term goal seems the same as mine — to get the hell far enough away from Earth government that it’s a moot point. But until you can do so without dying, it’s pointless. And the only way to do that is by first walking before trying to run, sad to say. So until we’ve had a long-term Moon base running for a while to test everything out, going for the long-term goal is foolhardy in the extreme. I don’t want to stop him from trying, but only a hopeless optimist would predict anything but death for anyone attempting long-term colonization of Mars before the Moon. There are just too many unknowns…

    1. Disregard part of that, please. I suffered a brain-fart and confused Zimmerman with Zubrin. Zubrin is Mars-happy to an extremity of extremes, I know not about Zimmerman.

      Still, only an optimist of the most extreme order would think it’s smarter to gamble their lives on a target where help is years away at best versus days (at best). Nor is it at all possible with what we know now for a Mars colony to exist without further missions from Earth (probably many missions), and there is so very much that we don’t yet know.

      1. I am not sure of what Zubrin, current view of US government policy of first Moon and then Mars.
        I agree with Mars fans, that we shouldn’t have NASA get bogged down with lunar program. I think less than 10 years should be enough time for the first explore the Moon part and then explore Mars part.

        I think Lunar program should include increasing capability docking spacecraft and fueling- developing operational experience using depots in space.
        In terms of “learning” I think in terms of years spent, most time should be related to robotic exploration of the Moon. And in terms duration of time, next spend more time with depot operations, as compared to crewed exploration.
        Or in terms of dollar as metric, Lunar program total cost should be about 40 billion dollars with 1/2 of that [20 billion] spent on robotic
        lunar missions, and 20 billion dollars on crew activity- manned Moon part of program.

        And with Mars program, around 75% of budget manned and 25% robotic.

        1. Though one continues with ISS during Lunar program and end ISS manned program before starting Mars exploration. So one transfering ISS manned to Lunar and then to Mars manned program.
          And what significant about the big picture is you ramping up a larger robotic program which directly related to the goals exploring the Moon and then Mars. And robotic program includes depot operations [for robotic and manned missions].

        2. I am not sure of what Zubrin, current view of US government policy

          Guaranteed he hates it and would hate anything put forward by this administration. He was so emotionally invested in Trump losing, I don’t know if he is capable of setting his feelings aside.

          Oh, here is a quote from Zubrin,

          Not everyone, however, was impressed by the policy’s rollout.

          “JFK called for reaching for the moon in a resounding speech before a joint session of Congress,” Robert Zubrin, founder and president of the nonprofit Mars Society, said in a tweet. “Trump mumbles his way through a reading of a signing statement for his putative moon program in a private ceremony at the White House. … How we have fallen.”

          His critique is more about the oratory skills of Trump than anything he actually said. Pretty speeches are nice but competent actions are better.


          1. Trump sees space exploration as part of make America great again. Probably, seen as a small and insignificant part.

            I would see space exploration as a Huuge part of making American great again. And making the world great- end war, end poverty, etc.

            Though I think Trump should be improvement over Obama- but Clinton [or anyone] could done that.

  6. Craig: even the NSF thread is overcome with Trump hatred (or rather, Repub hatred in general). I think many conservatives have given up commenting on techie sites–it’s just too much trouble.

    As for NASA: maybe it’s a good thing to keep it focused on SLO while others forge ahead without undue attention from the bureaucracy.

  7. I don’t think this will result in any meaningful change to NASA’s current programs. The only difference is that the “Journey to Mars” talk will become “Journey to the Moon” talk. (Indeed, it already is.) At least SLS and Orion were actually designed for this mission, so the “Journey” talk won’t sound quite so silly.
    In the event NASA continues to get a stable funding stream and a stable policy direction they might eventually get back to the Moon sometime in the 2030’s. At least, there is a far more realistic chance of that than NASA getting to Mars in the 2030’s. But that will only happen if Blue Origin or SpaceX doesn’t get there first.

    1. if NASA doesn’t get to moon before 2030, I don’t NASA will exist after 2030.
      Or the Economist mag will win the argument:
      The end of the Space Age
      Inner space is useful. Outer space is history
      Jun 30th 2011

      ” It is quite conceivable that 36,000km will prove the limit of human ambition. It is equally conceivable that the fantasy-made-reality of human space flight will return to fantasy. It is likely that the Space Age is over.”
      “Bye-bye, sci-fi

      Today’s space cadets will, no doubt, oppose that claim vigorously. They will, in particular, point to the private ventures of people like Elon Musk in America and Sir Richard Branson in Britain, who hope to make human space flight commercially viable.

      But the shuttle is now over. The ISS is due to be de-orbited, in the inelegant jargon of the field, in 2020. Once that happens, the game will be up. There is no appetite to return to the moon, let alone push on to Mars, El Dorado of space exploration. ”

      I am sure NASA will ever actually de-obit ISS, but ISS will be de-obited whether NASA or anyone wants it to happen- that’s a certainty. Or it’s like we going to hit by some significant space rock- multiple nuclear bomb type scale or larger- eventually.
      Or ISS was not designed to last forever. I might favor the idea of it being designed to last forever, but it is, it’s not going to last for much more then a decade. And NASA incompetence in managing it, is not going to go over well.
      Polically, selling the idea of de-orbiting ISS as good thing, will be selling that ending NASA as a good thing. So it will be neglected until it become an accident, and will be NASA’s last accident.

      1. Anyhow it seems to me, exploring the Moon is quite cheap- and if NASA cease to exist, the Moon will still be explored.
        If the Moon doesn’t have minable water, then it seems asteroid mining is the next viable direction.
        But if exude the Moon and/or space rocks, I don’t think Mars settlements are next in line. I would think Mercury more likely than Mars. Or the Moon and Mars or space rocks and Mars, but as stand alone, Mercury seems better than Mars.
        Now, sub-orbital travel + Mars, perhaps. Assuming the Mars religion persists. But stand alone, Mars crazy, is not going to happen.

        What seems likely, is the launch cost will continue to lower in price- as Economist points out, Earth orbit will remain important.

      2. An ISS replacement could be much larger and cheaper than the original if NASA took a COTS like approach to building it. What NASA really needs is access to a space station. They don’t need ownership of one. A COTS approach could lead to several stations, with NASA as customers to all of them and an emerging market human transport thanks to SpaceX, Boeing, and Sierra Nevada.

        It doesn’t really sound like this is the path for DSG but they have been talking up commercial activities in cislunar space, it would be interesting to see who wants to do something and what they will do.

    2. I think the difference between Moon/Mars is that the Moon is a lot more accessible and more than one company has expressed an interest in cislunar activities. Musk is driven and people wanting to use his products in cislunar space will be beneficial to his ultimate goal.

      I think the meaningful changes wont really come from NASA, although NASA could play a meaningful role. They will come from the groups and individuals who want to go to the Moon and Mars.

      The more activity the better for NASA and the Moon/Mars people. They will all feed off each other’s success.

  8. Simple politics. NASA has a large pork barrel constituency and Trump doesn’t want to upset congresscritters/senators unnecessarily.
    As for “Yeah, but given this president’s lack of political skills”, when even Huffpo publishes an article saying Trump has been winning this year I doubt that that is correct. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/sadly-trump-is-winning_us_5a2b1110e4b022ec613b823f
    Of course Huffpo’s idea of what is won is different from reality.

  9. The trump administration only changed two lines of President Obama’s 14 page space policy

    So basically what @RealDonaldTrump did yesterday was merely replace two sentences in the 14-page 2010 @BarackObama space policy … which suggests to me they embraced the rest without amendment including the forward leaning commercial language in it.https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2017/12/11/presidential-memorandum-reinvigorating-americas-human-space-exploration
    12:40 PM – Dec 12, 2017″


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