Uncertainty

If you want to know why more people don’t invest their own money in manned space hardware, look no further than this article:

After announcing in February that Orion and the rest of the Constellation program would be canceled in favor of outsourcing routine crew transportation to commercial operators, the White House decided in April to have NASA fund completion of a stripped-down Orion capsule that would launch to the international space station unmanned to serve as an escape craft.

Lockheed Martin, which beat Boeing and its teammate Northrop Grumman in 2006 for an Orion prime contract worth an initial $3.9 billion, welcomed the news as a partial reprieve for the project. But to Boeing, continued NASA funding of an Orion capsule that would need only a launch abort system to start launching crews would add substantial risk to a business case Schnaars said will be a struggle to close.

And why was Orion kept alive? Not because NASA really needed a lifeboat. It was to try to maintain political support for the administration in the purple state of Colorado. But this political decision could have bad consequences for the stated desire to have competition in commercial crew. And the general problem is that one of the many ways that NASA is such a bad customer is in its unpredictability. And it will always be thus with a government space program.

Reading

…is fundamental:

If they ever read the bill — or admit they do — they’ll find this sort of Yasser Arafat-like equivocation more difficult. Because it will quickly be revealed that their supposedly procedure-only quibbles are in fact objections to the substance — they oppose any methods of controlling immigration that are actually likely to work.

They support only the methods that won’t work — UAVs, “virtual fences,” other technobabble non-solutions — precisely because they won’t work, which is why they have a pass from the Open Borders lobby to support such measures.

Essentially they’re asking the bank robbers what they should do to improve vault security. The bank robbers tell them to leave the vault door open and turn off the alarms and fire the guards, and instead use “smart solutions” to guard the money, like big signs saying “Please don’t take our money.”

Fortunately, polls would indicate that the American people are on to them.

Find The Missing Point

Sigh:

Success would be a win for commercial backers, but wouldn’t answer serious questions surrounding the approach.

And while failure would provide opponents with ammunition, it’s common for new rockets to have trouble on maiden flights and become highly reliable mainstays.

Those factors point to why the White House and Congress should select a dual-track strategy that would OK commercial companies to move forward while also allowing NASA to continue testing a system involving the Ares 1 rocket.

Note that there is zero discussion of cost in this editorial. Note also the fallacy of the excluded middle.

Mike Griffin sort of made this argument as well, saying that he was hoping for commercial to succeed but needed to do Ares/Orion as an “insurance policy” against their failure. But this is insane. On my planet, you spend most of your money on what you consider most likely, and pay a much smaller amount for an insurance policy (provided by, you know, an actual insurer who writes lots of policies and is betting that your main strategy will work so he doesn’t have to pay out). This “dual-track” strategy is exactly the opposite. They are spending six billion on the primary option, and plan to spend forty billion on the “insurance.” That’s just crazy.

But OK, let’s play along. If you really want a “dual-track strategy,” how about making commercial (in this case, SpaceX) one track and give a cost-plus contract to ULA for the other? Because they’ve already said that they can get there within the six billion. Of course, that’s not fair to SpaceX (at least theoretically) because they would then have to compete with a government-subsidized competitor (though I’ll bet they could still beat their price). But regardless, it doesn’t justify continuing wasting money on Ares.

Oh, and then there’s this:

…experts say it could take a decade before the companies have rockets and spacecraft that are safe and capable enough to fly astronauts.

You can find “experts” who will say lots of things. This wording implies that there are no experts who would disagree with that statement. Or at least its implications. Sure it could take a decade. It could take two decades. It could also take only three years or so. What’s magic about a decade? Nothing, of course, except it gives them an excuse to say that we have to have a “dual-track” (read, pork for Florida) strategy.

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