I found this comment over at NASA Watch (in response to Mike Griffin’s latest attempt to rehabilitate his reputation) by someone who calls himself (or herself) “AresEngineer” sort of interesting:
Where’s all this “Ares is Bad, Bad Rocket” stuff coming from? Is it because the engineers on the project are saying that it was bad from the start, or because it’s easier to just parrot the news media? The media’s philosophy is “no publicity is bad publicity”, especially when they’re screaming “Ares is finished” predicated by initial findings that we need more funding for ISS and deep-space. Yes, the Augustine Commission has found a valid reason for concern. Just remember that they’re an advisory committee, not the ones that say yea/nay to the space program. And even the President can’t sack the project…only Congress can, and there’s almost unilateral support there for deep-space missions and the Ares program. And I think the whole “Ares is going we’re nowhere” is nonsense when at this hour, a 329-ft rocket is sitting in Kennedy’s VAB getting ready for it’s first test flight…Ares IX. One-half percent of the annual federal budget to fund space (and the technological fallout inventions which produce more jobs), is a great investment. If questionable programs like Cash for Clunkers went through, Auto company bailouts went through (and don’t forget the banks), U.S. Space can get it’s 3 billion a year (until launch) too.
It combines many of the prevailing false myths of space policy: that all NASA needs to succeed is enough money, and its technical choices are irrelevant; that we get more benefit from “spinoff” than the cost of the HSF program; that deep-space missions and heavy-lift in general (and Ares in particular) are synonymous, and that the former cannot be done without the latter; that having a fake rocket stacked at the Cape is somehow indicative of progress on the program.
In the coming decades, we can expect to hear this kind of thing forever: Mike Griffin’s NASA had a great idea for how to become space faring and get back to the moon, and the rocket was almost ready to fly, but unvisionary pinch pennies in the White House and Congress decided to end the next glorious chapter in spaceflight just when it was on the verge of happening. It will be very similar to the economically and politically ignorant refrain from people who bewail the short-sighted end of the Saturn program, or the wonderful SST that would have made us competitive with the Europeans, or Orion, which would have opened up the solar system with colonies on Ganymede by now if only the politicians hadn’t been such luddites and shut it down.
I’m sure that there are and were good people and good engineers working on the program, and when it’s your job to try to build something, you salute and do the best you can. And it’s hard to motivate yourself to do your best, or even go in to work in the morning, unless you believe that what you’re doing is worthwhile, so on a program like this, it can sometimes involve a certain degree of self delusion. But not everyone was so deluded, or we wouldn’t have been getting all of the inside scuttlebutt that we have been for years, from inside Marshall, Johnson and HQ, from people like this guy. And I assume that, when the program is finally put out of its and our misery, that many working on it will be relieved to not have to continue to charge that particular trench and barbed wire, and happy to be put on something with more promise, if that happens.
But there will also be people who will go to their graves cursing the philistines who couldn’t see the magic and wonder in Ares that they did, and I suspect that “AresEngineer” will be one of them. There’s nothing we can do about it — it’s just human nature — I’m just warning you now to be ready for it.