Apollo Is Finally Over

I’ve had a lot of differences with John Logsdon over the years, but in this Space News piece (pointed out to me by Charles Lurio), he gets it pretty close to exactly right (i.e., we’re pretty much on the same page):

Yale University organizational sociologist Gary Brewer more than 20 years ago observed that NASA during the Apollo program came close to being “a perfect place” — the best organization that human beings could create to accomplish a particular goal. But, suggested Brewer, “perfect places do not last for long.” NASA was “no longer a perfect place.” The organization needed “new ways of thinking, new people, and new means.” He added “The innocent clarity of purpose, the relatively easy and economically painless public consent, and the technical confidence [of Apollo] … are gone and will probably never occur again. Trying to recreate those by-gone moments by sloganeering, frightening, or appealing to mankind’s mystical needs for exploration and conquest seems somehow futile considering all that has happened since Jack Kennedy set the nation on course to the Moon.”

Introducing “new ways of thinking, new people, and new means” into the NASA approach to human spaceflight has not happened in the two decades since Brewer made his observations. That was the conclusion of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board in 2003, and despite the positive steps taken since then to operate the shuttle as safely as possible, much of the Apollo-era human spaceflight culture remains intact. Trying to change that culture and thereby close out the half century of Apollo-style human spaceflight seems to me the essence of the new space strategy. There is no way of achieving that objective without wrenching dislocations; change is indeed hard. Gaining acceptance of that change will require more White House and congressional leadership and honesty about the consequences of the new strategy than has been evident to date.

Sadly, White House and congressional leadership and honesty have been in pretty short supply lately, on both this issue and others.

So Will This Have Legs?

Imagine that in, say, 1982006, Klansmen had hung out at a polling place in Georgia, holding a night stick, and intimidating black voters. And it was caught on video tape. And the Bush administration Justice Department had prosecuted the perps, gotten default convictions, and then basically walked away from the case, giving one of them a slap on the wrist. And it was determined that this was not a legal decision, but a political one, and that some of those responsible had lied under oath to Congress about it, and there was reason to know that the Attorney General was at least aware of it, and perhaps even drove the decision.

Imagine that. Imagine the bays of outrage from the press, demanding Congressional hearings, and to know what the president knew and when he knew it.

Well, that’s sort of what’s happening now. Except, of course, without the Congressional hearings or discussion from the media. Other than Fox News, and PJM, which of course, as the White House said, aren’t legitimate news sources.

Depressing

So, over at Red State, we have an editorial from a congressman trying to preserve the pork for his district, and falsely equating Constellation with American human spaceflight. The comments are almost universally equally ignorant. I searched them in vain for anyone who understands what’s actually going on.

You want to gather them all in a room and ask them some questions:

Do you know that NASA had nothing to do with GPS?

Do you know that NASA is getting an increase in its budget (and no, it’s not all going to global warming research and Muslim countries).

Do you know that the new plan will have people getting up to the station without the Russians much sooner, and for much less cost than the old one did?

Do you know that NASA has technology development plans that will make it much more affordable to send astronauts beyond low earth orbit? Plans that were going unfunded under the old program?

Do you know that the only parts of Constellation being worked on did nothing except get NASA astronauts to low earth orbit with a redundant rocket, at a cost of more than a billion dollars a flight? That the hardware needed to get beyond earth orbit wasn’t planned to be developed for years, and wasn’t even well defined?

Do you know that a commercial rocket will fly in the next few weeks with a commercial capsule that could deliver crew to orbit in the next three years or so. And that the rocket and capsule, and its manufacturing facilities were developed, and its launch pads modified for less than the cost of the Ares I-X flight test?

Sigh…

[Update a few minutes later]

OK, I kept plowing, and I finally found a couple commenters who get it:

No thanks to Constellation
utahtim Tuesday, June 29th at 7:12PM EDT (link)

Constellation is bad rubbish and good riddance. You may be correct that Mr. Obama’s space policies will reduce the number of government jobs in Alabama and elsewhere, but claiming NASA is good at “human exploratory space flight” anymore is just plain wrong. NASA hasn’t put a man beyond low earth orbit (unless you count fixing Hubbell) since the 1970s, and when it has put people in low earth orbit, it’s only been a few government employees at a cost of roughly $1B a flight, and not very often at that. NASA doesn’t even have a good safety record. I favor the idea of human space exploration, but there are far better ways to go about it than with the expensive, bloated, dated, and constantly slipping government project that is Constellation. No thanks.

Not the NASA of Apollo
freeus Tuesday, June 29th at 8:04PM EDT (link)

I have worked at KSC for almost 20 years and this is NOT the NASA that launched the Apollo missions. It has become no different than any other Government agency bogged down with endless rules, regulations, inefficiencies, and bloated beaurocracy. It took 25 years – YEARS! – to build the ISS and Constellation had spent nearly 10 billion over the past 5 years with little to show. I’m certainly not an Obama supporter, but cancelling Constellation (and Shuttle – another incredibly inefficient program) is the right thing to do. The way NASA has been operating for decades has got to stop.

Unfortunately they’re pretty scarce.

The Real Question

Am I the only one who thinks that it’s obvious what Coburn is really asking here?

She as much as said that she will find ObamaCare and the individual mandate constitutional. And, of course, that there are no effective constitutional limits on the power of the federal government.

[Update early afternoon]

Did she just buy herself a filibuster?

“I wouldn’t rule out a filibuster,” [Coburn] said. “Look, my two main concerns are …: We’re in trouble as a nation, and one of the reasons we’re in trouble is the expansion of the federal government into areas that our Founders never thought we should be in. And we have a nominee to the Supreme Court that is fully embracing that and with no limits in terms of the Commerce Clause. So to me, that’s very concerning. The second point I would make, again, is that she believes precedent trumps original intent. And she defended that. And so that — both those things are very concerning — should be very concerning to the American people.”

Jeff Sessions isn’t impressed with her, either:

“She does not have the rigor or clarity of mind that you look for in a justice on the Supreme Court,” Sessions says. “She is personable, people-oriented, and conciliatory, yet she lacks a strict, legal approach. You want a mind on the court. She’s charming, delightful, and personable, but I don’t see that there.”

Sessions is not convinced. “I have become more troubled after today,” he says. “On really tough matters, she becomes very political and acts less in a principled, lawful manner and more in a manipulative, political manner. That’s not what you need on the Supreme Court.”

Unfortunately, it’s what we’re likely to get with this administration.

An Oil-Spill To-Do List

I’m sure that the president will get right on it, just as soon as he finishes his latest round of golf.

You know, I’ll bet that Bobby Jindal hasn’t hit the links once in the past couple months.

One of the most insane things is the EPA not allowing the ships to clean the water, because they only remove ninety-plus percent of the oil. This is bureaucracy run amok. The president could fix it with the stroke of a pen. I wonder why he doesn’t?

Biting Commentary about Infinity…and Beyond!