It seems pretty obvious to me that when your policies seem to be deliberately aimed at discouraging hiring in the private sector, this is what you’re going to get.
This week members of the House of Representatives are trying to steal away your space frontier future, just to preserve the Space-States’ status quo. Contrary to the White House’s request and recommendations of the Augustine Commission, Representative Bart Gordon’s proposed NASA Authorization Bill slashes commercial space by 95%, reducing it to $250 million over 5 years instead of the proposed $6 billion over five years. The House version of the “NASA Irrelevancy Act of 2010″ also adds extremely heavy restrictions to commercial crew spending, designed to delay the program’s start.
Congressional ostriches seem willing to sacrifice practical, innovative exploration today for the possibility of Apollo-redux tomorrow. Friends of commercial space, now is the time to call Chairman Gordon, as well as the other members of the House Science Committee, to say, “Please restore the President’s funding level for commercial crew, have the House Committee postpone a vote, and go back to the drawing board to put together a sustainable plan that makes sense for NASA and the nation!” The Committee Representatives’ phone numbers are listed below.
My congressperson isn’t on the committee, but if yours is, call them.
Spasibo, House authorization committee. The Russians will love you.
I (and others) have often noted the tendency of leftists to do psychological projection — that is, to impute to their political enemies their own beliefs, traits and political tactics. Obvious examples: accusing them of lying, accusing them of being willing to do anything to attain/maintain power, being full of “hate,” being “racist.” I’m thinking about starting a web site to track this ubiquitous phenomenon
Anyway, if I had such a site running, here would be another example. They often accuse the right of being violent, but look at these lurid fantasies coming from JournoListers. They don’t just want to kill stories — they luxuriate in thoughts of injuring and killing people with whom they disagree:
Considering Weigel’s talk of setting Matt Drudge on fire, Ezra Klein’s off-color recommendation for Tim Russert, and now Ackerman fantasizing about putting conservatives through plate-glass windows, there is a bizarre addiction to lurid, violent, threatening language — not just among the commenters of liberal blogs, but among the folks who we are told represent their best and brightest. It’s disturbing, and the fact that it doesn’t bother more people is disturbing.
And then we have this, from Sarah Spitz:
If you were in the presence of a man having a heart attack, how would you respond? As he clutched his chest in desperation and pain, would you call 911? Would you try to save him from dying? Of course you would.
But if that man was Rush Limbaugh, and you were Sarah Spitz, a producer for National Public Radio (update: Spitz was a producer for NPR affiliate KCRW for the show Left, Right & Center), that isn’t what you’d do at all.
In a post to the list-serv Journolist, an online meeting place for liberal journalists, Spitz wrote that she would “Laugh loudly like a maniac and watch his eyes bug out” as Limbaugh writhed in torment.
In boasting that she would gleefully watch a man die in front of her eyes, Spitz seemed to shock even herself. “I never knew I had this much hate in me,” she wrote. “But he deserves it.”
Spitz’s hatred for Limbaugh seems intemperate, even imbalanced. On Journolist, where conservatives are regarded not as opponents but as enemies, it barely raised an eyebrow.
I wouldn’t say that no one on the right does this, but I can’t imagine such things being uncommented on were there such a thing as a right-wing JournoList. One occasionally sees such things at Free Republic, but the poster is usually admonished when it occurs. In fact, one thing that I have noted over there is that even when someone with whom the Freepers disagree politically (e.g., Ted Kennedy) actually is dead or dying, the general response is prayers and condolences to the friends and family, not glee. I have certainly never wished death on anyone for their political beliefs or advocacy of them, and like Rush Limbaugh, can’t get my head around the nature of someone who does. I guess that’s one reason I’m not a leftist.
[Update a while later[
One small step for (a) man, one giant leap (too far) for mankind.
The House authorization committee seems determined to put off as far as possible the day that we get back there. Their proposed text makes the Senate bill look visionary, bold and enlightened. I’m just reading through it now. It seems to completely ignore the recommendations of the Augustine panel, except for one point. In the findings, they like (out of context) these words:
While there are many potential benefits of commercial services that transport crew to low-Earth orbit, there are simply too many risks at the present time not to have a viable fallback option for risk mitigation.
I’d have to go back and find the context, but as I recall, that was one of the weaker parts of the report — an ugly compromise necessary to reach consensus (for instance, I doubt if Jeff Greason really agrees). As has been noted before, when you’re buying an insurance policy for risk mitigation, it’s insane for it to cost an order of magnitude or more than the main plan. Unless, of course, you’re indifferent to cost, and just want to create jobs for your constituents.
This next finding I completely disagree with:
It is in the national interest for the United States Government to develop a government system to serve as an independent means—whether primary or backup—of crewed access to low-Earth orbit and beyond so that it is not dependent on either non-United States or commercial systems for its crewed access to space.
Why? Why is this in the national interest? Why aren’t redundant commercial systems adequate? We don’t make this demand for moving troops to a war zone — we rely on commercial systems. Again, why is space access more critical in that regard that we need to spend an order of magnitude or more money on it when we don’t do that for moving troops? I can only think of one reason. That is, it’s not in the national interest of the US government — it’s in the parochial interest of representatives with jobs in their district.
Next we have the “safety” excuse:
Development of the next crewed space transportation system to low-Earth orbit should be guided by the Columbia Accident Investigation Board’s recommendation that ‘‘the design of the system should give overriding priority to crew safety, rather than trade safety against other performance criteria, such as low cost and reusability.
First, I disagree the both the CAIB and the authorizers. If the “overriding priority” of the design is crew safety, and it cannot be traded against anything else (such as low cost and reusability), then we will be guaranteed high costs and lack of reusability. What the CAIB and the Congress are saying, if they really believe this, is that space isn’t important. Not important enough, at any rate, to risk the lives of astronauts. But if this is the case, why are we spending so much money on it?
Second, even if we believe that safety should be the highest, overriding priority, there is no guarantee that we are going to get it. After all, if you had asked NASA on January 27th, 1986, or January 31st, 2003 (the eves of the Challenger and Columbia launches, respectively) if safety was their highest priority, they would certainly have assured you that it was. Why would it be any different this time? We spent billions of dollars on Shuttle in the interest of crew safety, and we killed fourteen astronauts. So even if safety is important, maybe the way to get it isn’t to throw the hardware away, or to spend billions of dollars on it. There is certainly, despite all the “safesimplesoon” propaganda to the contrary, no reason to think that Ares/Orion would be any safer than any of the proposed, lower-cost alternatives, but it is clear that this is where the authorizers want to go.
And now come (at least) two fallacies in one paragraph — sunk cost, and begging the question:
In an environment of constrained budgets, responsible stewardship of taxpayer-provided resources makes it imperative that NASA’s exploration program be carried out in a manner that builds on the investments made to date in the Orion, Ares I, and heavy lift projects and other activities of the exploration program in existence prior to fiscal year 2011 rather than discarding them. A restructured exploration program should pursue the incremental development and demonstration of crewed and heavy-lift transportation systems in a manner that ensures that investments to provide assured access
to low-Earth orbit also directly support the expeditious development of the heavy lift launch vehicle system, minimize the looming human space flight ‘‘gap’’, provide a very high level of crew safety, and enable challenging missions beyond low-Earth orbit in a timely manner.
If we truly are in an environment of constrained budgets (and we certainly are), then any sensible analysis will be based on what course will minimize future expenditures while achieving the goal, regardless of past ones. The only budgets we can control are those going forward. There is an implicit assumption that the way to minimize costs is to build on the past “investments,” but it’s one not only unsubstantiated, but false. In fact, continuing down the Constellation/Shuttle road is a way not to minimize costs, but to maximize them, while actually increasing the gap, relative to using existing launch vehicles and almost-existing capsules. Again, it is clear that the priority here is not saving money, or closing the gap, but saving jobs.
This next finding is clearly in conflict with their others:
NASA should be vigilant in taking all necessary steps to control cost and schedule growth in
mission projects, including the development of an integrated cost containment strategy, and adopt measures that improve the performance and transparency of its cost and acquisition management practices.
NASA should approach cost and schedule management with the same level of innovation, rigor, and technical excellence that it applies to the execution of its mission projects.
Well, it’s hard to see how they can do that unless they ignore the other congressional recommendations. There’s certainly nothing innovative or technically excellent or cost controlled about Constellation.
In looking at their requirements for implementation in Section 202, it’s clear that they would like to resurrect Constellation. I see, though, that there are plenty of loopholes in it that would allow NASA to do pretty much whatever they want (the word “practicable” is a very useful one in this regard). I would also note that they beg the question again:
The crew transportation system shall have predicted levels of safety during ascent to low-Earth orbit, transit, and descent from low-Earth orbit that are not less than those required of the Ares I/Orion configuration that has completed program preliminary design review.
Problem is, while Orion has completed PDR, Ares never did. So beating its level of safety should be pretty easy.
Look. Imagine that someone took a Rubik’s Cube, took it apart, and put it back together in a such a way as to make it unsolvable. That’s this bill. The conflicts are irreconcilable. You can fly in 2015, but not with anything resembling the POR. You can “build on the investment,” but not without breaking future budgets. You can build a (relatively) safe vehicle, but not by sticking with the current direction. You can be a proper steward of the taxpayers’ money, but you can’t do that and “build on the investment” of an unaffordable system.
This isn’t a space bill, it’s a jobs bill. The good news is that it’s sufficiently different from the Senate version that it may not be reconcilable in conference. Or it may end up looking so much like the House bill that the administration (which has at least hinted via Lori that the Senate version is acceptable) that the president won’t sign it. My hope is that there won’t be an authorization bill this year (because the likelihood of getting a good one is low). Despite the apparent desperation (more than usual) to get one out, I think that remains the likeliest outcome.
It’s the forty-first anniversary. Mark Whittington took a few minutes off from fantasizing about the contents of legislation and the emotional states of others, and his imaginary Internet Rocketeer Club, to put together a long list of relevant links.
[Update a few minutes later]
Living on the moon — it’s the pits.
[Update a while later]
[Update in the afternoon]
Speaking of Mark Whittington, his latest fantasy is that Constellation would have gotten us back to the moon in 2019. It’s hard to know how to deal with wilful delusions like this.
[Update a couple minutes later]
Bob Zimmerman displays a profound lack of faith in his country:
Sadly, it appears right now that the next manned lunar mission is probably not going to be an American mission. Though the exact outline of NASA’s future remains as yet unclear, President Obama has rejected the Moon as a future destination, and Congress appears willing to accept this decision.
Instead, either a Chinese, Indian, or Russian astronaut is likely going to be the next human to stroll onto Tranquility Base, taking pictures and souvenirs. All three nations have expressed a determination to get to the Moon. All three have also demonstrated in recent years the technological know-how for making it happen.
I will say no more than that I see no sign of either political will or capability of any of those countries to put a man on the moon. No one seems to be in any big hurry about it (e.g., China launches humans into space every three or four years). There is no indication that any of them are building the kind of infrastructure (either a heavy lifter or propellant depots) to enable it, and no demonstration of the ability to do vertical/vertical vehicles (not even at a Masten/Armadillo level).
My prediction is that the next human to trod the lunar surface will not be a government employee.
I admit that, in light of the recent revelations from the JournoList and the NAACP, I am proud to be a racist.
[Update a while later]
One day, Spencer Ackerman will walk into a bar where Fred Barnes is having a drink. A tumbleweed will roll by outside.
I don’t think he’d have the guts.
They’re not just partisans and vicious. They’re mediocre partisans, and vicious hacks.
I’m reading through it now, and will probably have something up later, but it strikes me that if the final bill looks like this, it will be vetoed. I would consider a CR preferable if I were NASA.
Nothing has happened since the fortieth anniversary to change my opinions in the long essay I wrote last summer.
Four decades have passed since the first small step on the dusty surface of our nearest neighbor in the solar system in 1969. It has been almost that long since the last man to walk on the Moon did so in late 1972. The Apollo missions were a stunning technological achievement and a significant Cold War victory for the United States. However, despite the hope of observers at the time—and despite the nostalgia and mythology that now cloud our memory—Apollo was not the first step into a grand human future in space. From the perspective of forty years, Apollo, for all its glory, can now be seen as a detour away from a sustainable human presence in space. By and large, the NASA programs that succeeded Apollo have kept us heading down that wrong path: Toward more bureaucracy. Toward higher costs. And away from innovation, from risk-taking, and from any concept of space as a useful place.
As I wrote, Apollo was a magnificent technological achievement, but in terms of opening up space, it was not only a failure, but the false lessons learned from it have held us back ever since.