Translating Doug Stanley

Ray, over at VSE Restoration, provides the subtitles:

Once the White House embraces a direction for U.S. human spaceflight, Stanley said NASA should then be allowed to conduct a thorough architecture study to include apples-to-apples comparisons of the cost, safety and risk of the Augustine panel’s options, as well as alternative scenarios the panel might not have considered.

May I use my cynical filter to translate?

Once the White House embraces one of the Augustine committee options, NASA human spaceflight management should then be allowed to do an “apples-to-apples” comparison of the Augustine committee options, as well as alternative options the panel might not have considered that happen to serve NASA interests really well. They should then be allowed to discard the selected Augustine option, and pick one that benefits certain portions of NASA rather than the people of the United States.

In addition, Stanley urged that NASA be allowed to determine the true cost and risk of commercial crew transport in low Earth orbit.

In other words, NASA should be allowed to ignore the potential of commercial crew transport in low Earth orbit, and instead continue to buy crew transport services from Russia while NASA spends decades and tens of billions of dollars to build a government-designed and government-operated crew transport “business” to compete with U.S. commercial space business, but that does nothing to address national needs like security and commerce.

There is no need for a NASA evaluation of “the true cost and risk of commercial crew transport in low Earth orbit”. We already know that such a generic NASA evaluation of “commercial crew transport” is sure to conclude that a NASA-designed and NASA-operated crew transportation system is by far safer, simpler, sooner, better, faster, and cheaper than any imaginable commercial crew transportation. Why even bother with the evaluation when you know its conclusion in advance?

Obviously, Dr. Stanley has a lot of ego (if not a lot else) invested in this mess, and it’s understandable that he’d want to do everything he can to preserve the status quo that he created. But if I were General Bolden, I wouldn’t let any of Mike Griffin’s former minions anywhere near evaluation or policy going forward.

[Update mid morning]

Speaking of Doug Stanley, he was one of the speakers at a half-day symposium on the Augustine results, held at the Space Policy Institute a week ago. Dwayne Day has an interesting report in today’s issue of The Space Review.

I’m struggling to understand the logic here:

According to Stanley, the architecture that emerged from ESAS was the result of a number of assumptions they made when they started their evaluation. Had some of those assumptions been different, their architectural design would have been substantially different. As an example, if the Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV, now named Orion) had not been required to go to the International Space Station, then they would have produced a requirement for only a single launch vehicle rather than the Ares 1 and Ares 5 combination that they ultimately produced. On the other hand, if the requirement had only been for the CEV to go to the International Space Station, they would have selected an EELV (i.e. the Atlas or Delta). Stanley said that now that the assumptions have changed, it was entirely legitimate to question if NASA was developing the right architecture.

So, he’s saying that the concerns about “human rating EELVs” were bogus? That it was safe enough to send crew to ISS, but not to LEO on the way to the moon? And that if they were only going to the moon, they would have gone with a Saturn V-like architecture? But doesn’t that violate the (dumb) rule about not mixing crew and cargo? I’d like to see an elaboration on this.

I found Tom Young’s comments quite tendentious (that’s the nicest word I can come up with off the top of my head):

Young connected those past efforts at acquisition reform to what he considers the current claims that commercial crew is the way to substantially decrease costs to the government. “There is no magic,” he warned. “When someone comes along and says ‘I’ve got this new magic solution,’ my advice is to run for the hills.”

I’m aware of no one who proposes a “magic” solution. I am aware of a number of people who have proposed solutions based on solid engineering, and not driven or constrained by the need to maximize employment in Huntsville and other places. Now it may be that it requires political magic to make that happen, but if that’s the case, we should be honest and say that, instead of setting up straw men and denigrating people who propose it as technical and accounting charlatans.

Young took several questions that were focused upon his remarks about the lack of a credible commercial crew-to-orbit industry. How can such an industry become credible without government supporting it? “You really have to be careful about what you mean by ‘commercial’,” Young replied. “You cannot have government provide 100% of the funding and do no close monitoring.” The only way to do it is to put private money at risk. “The private sector invests in providing a service that somebody comes along and buys. I don’t see an industry that is investing the capital that is necessary, and to the extent. I’m also skeptical of providers where there is only one market.”

First, no one has proposed that government provide 100% of the funding for COTS-D or commercial exploration. Nor have they proposed that there be no government oversight. But the government oversight in this case comes from the fact that progress payments are based on achieved milestones, rather than cost plus profit. My mind is continuously blown by people who don’t seem to understand this concept, and think that the latter provides better value to the taxpayer than the former. As for not seeing an industry investing what is necessary, he needs to take off his blinders. Elon Musk and his other investors will be very surprised to hear that they haven’t been investing what is necessary. And the notion that there is only one market (as another panelist said as well) is nonsense on stilts. What is Bob Bigelow? And ISS? Not to mention Space Adventures? Chopped liver?

There’s a lot more to comment on from the other panelists, but that’s all I have time for right now.


…and accountability:

To be clear, this lack of accountability is not a feature on this specific administration but is, instead, a reflection of the inherent uncertainties associated with macroeconomics. The administration, however, has not been particularly forthright in admitting to this lack of accountability. Indeed, the act of releasing quarterly reports on how many jobs have been “created or saved” gives the illusion of accountability without the reality.

The country is in the very best of hands. If you like having it run by thieves and charlatans. The press certainly doesn’t seem to mind.


We’ve had critters in the yard in Redondo Beach for the past seventeen-plus years that we’ve owned the house. The ones that we’ve seen (besides squirrels and birds) were mostly possums (including a juvie that wandered into the house one day that was a chore to catch, and one that died out in the yard by the spa and smelled to high heaven). Back when I had a backyard artificial stream running, we heard a growl out the bedroom window one night, back in the nineties, and we shot a flashlight out to see a couple masked faces looking back at us.

When we moved in a couple weeks ago, the new next-door neighbors told us that they thought we had a raccoon nest somewhere, and we heard animals running around on the roof at night.

I called animal control, who told me that I could borrow a trap, with a deposit, but they didn’t have any available, because there was a waiting list. They also said we could call a private trapper. So I did. The first night, he left four traps, and we got a possum. The second night we caught two neighborhood cats. He came by yesterday to release the cats, and take the possum to release it in the wild (somewhere up in the Santa Monicas). The traps were reset and baited (with cat food), and this morning, we had the coon above, and another possum.

Where there’s one coon, I’m guessing there is at least one more, judging from the sounds on the roof. Unfortunately, we’re starting to run up a tab, because he charges fifty bucks per visit, and a hundred per animal taken away. I’m thinking that I should just buy my own traps at this point.

[Evening update]

Between the coons, possums and cats, maybe I should just get some more traps, and set up a neighborhood menagerie. I could charge admission to the kids. I imagine there’s some RB zoning law against it, though.

[Update a few minutes later]

I just checked prices on line, and traps are less than a hundred bucks each, including shipping. I think that’s the way to go before I pay him any more, assuming that Animal Control will come get my catch.

[Monday morning update]

Got another coon last night. I think I’m going to call it quits for now, and if the problems continue, I’ll do it with my own traps. This wasn’t in our budget.

Hanging On By Their Fingernails

The Tigers seemed determined to blow their lead in the division for the last month, and they managed to do it yesterday, letting the Twins tie them. But they finally shook the dust off their bats and beat the White Sox today. If Minnesota holds on to win against the Royals (as they are ahead currently in the seventh), I guess there’ll be a one-game playoff. So they have one more chance to blow it. They have my full confidence in their ability to do so.

Meanwhile, after blowing their record last week, the Lions have started a new losing streak today. We’ll see if they can top the previous one.

The Coming Augustine Pushback

Jeff Manber has some thoughts on the upcoming (and inevitable) backlash against the upcoming Augustine report.

I’m not sure I quite agree on his taxonomy of the opposition. Or rather, the limited degree to which he describes and breaks it down. I absolutely agree that to oppose any policy change simply because it’s Barack Obama’s is senseless, just as opposing the VSE was senseless when it was based on nothing other than the fact that it was proposed by George Bush (though many did that, by their own admission). But the Ares defenders come in (at least two flavors): those who truly believe that it’s a great idea, or at least that nothing better is like to replace it, and those for whom it is a meal ticket. I have much more respect for the former, delude though they may be. I have little for the latter, though their actions are certainly understandable. But they should not pretend that they have anything to do with advancing humanity, or this country, in space.

In any event, nothing good will come from such a backlash. It will either result in a continuation of the current disaster, with not more money to pay for it, and just a postponement of the inevitable, or continued drift and policy infighting. My fear is that the private sector will be collateral damage, if not a direct target.

[Sunday evening update]

Jeff Krukin thinks that political inertia will reign. Sadly, I think he’s right. That’s bad news for the taxpayers, but it’s overwhelmed by other bad news for the taxpayers in general on other larger fronts. And I hope that the private sector will prevail, though I fear it will not. Either way, if he’s right, the government will continue to do little to open up space, and much to prevent it, while spending billions of taxpayer dollars on programs that purport to do so.

The Singularity Summit

I couldn’t attend (it’s in New York City) but The New Atlantis is live blogging it.

[Update an hour or so later]

More reporting from Popular Science.

[Update Sunday evening]

Phil Bowermaster says that the folks at The New Atlantis don’t seem to understand for whom the bell tolls. Or the applause indicts.

And I should note that I have significant philosophical differences with the good people at the Ethics and Environmental Policy Center, which publishes the magazine. But I say good people, because they have differences with me as well, but still feel that my space policy pieces are important to publish. And in fact I’ve no reason to think that they disagree on that issue.

As I and others have noted before, space expansion and increased human longevity are inextricably intertwined. The latter requires the former, ultimately, and the former allows the latter. Both are fundamental to extropianism.

An Existential Question

This is a sign I saw on the road from Las Cruces to Tucson.

Dust Storm Sign

So. What does it mean?

Is it a description of what might be? That there is a possibility of dust storms? Here, and now, but not other wheres or whens? Or is it (as we were reprimanded by our mothers or English teachers) simply an expression of permission for dust storms to exist? By whom? Our betters in Santa Fe, or Phoenix? These are state-sanctioned dust storms? And they’re not permitted elsewhere?

Or is it more of a Heisenbergian deal? That dust storms simultaneously both exist and don’t exist, and which is the case is determined only when one collapses the wave function by driving down the road to Lordsburg?

I’ll never know for sure, of course, but I can say that I never saw a dust storm on the trip.

Next up (or perhaps other things in between) — a road sign that I liked a lot more, on the American autobahn. There are a few things that the Germans got right.

Deja Vu

I’m watching Michigan demonstrate why it’s the worst 4-0 team in the country against the Spartans. They seem to be reverting to the team that they were last year. Last week’s win against Indiana may have been their last this season.

[Post-game update — the above was posted in the third quarter]

Well, they almost pulled off another one, like Notre Dame and Indiana, but their luck ran out in overtime.

Biting Commentary about Infinity…and Beyond!