Category Archives: Space

Nonsense From Easterbrook

You know, correcting Gregg Easterbrook’s malanalysis of space issues could be a full-time job in itself. It’s dismaying that people who should be intelligent enough to otherwise know better glom onto them in order to validate their own unknowledgable preconceptions on the subject. And by the way, it’s no insult to be called unknowledgable on these issues. Few people are, even many in the space industry. To become so requires a huge investment in time and study that few have the time for.

I find it particularly frustrating, because there is so much to legitimately criticize in the recent proposal, NASA, and space policy in general, but the opportunities to do so are drowned out by better known, but far less knowledgable people who rest on their laurels from a few lucky shots against the shuttle a quarter of a century ago.

I don’t really have time, but since he gets entirely too much credibility in the blogosphere and elsewhere, I’ll take apart his latest bit of misinformation.

Just the cost numbers for the Crew Exploration Vehicle alone–forget all the probes, colonies, and other stuff–make Bush’s announcement yesterday an all-time monument to budgetary low-balling. He declared that for the next five years, $12 billion will be devoted to the Moon-Mars initiative. That, the president said, is enough to fund new the Moon probes and development of the ill-named Crew Exploration Vehicle. This figure is utterly ridiculous, a mere fraction of what will be entailed in anything beyond some “paper spacecraft”–engineers’ lingo for studies and Power Point presentations of hardware that never gets built. Boeing expects to spend around $7.5 billion merely to develop the new 7E7 jetliner, which will stay within the atmosphere and use very well-understood engineering. The development cost of the Crew Exploration Vehicle will be several times greater

This paragraph is chock full of nonsense. He’s doing something worse than comparing apples to oranges–he’s comparing space capsules to commercial airliners. There is no way to infer the costs of one from the other–they are totally irrelevant to each other. One carries hundreds of people, has to fly thousands of times, provides its own propulsion, has to meet all requirements of FAA certification. The other is simply a can that carries four people or so, with basic subsystems like a reaction-control system, avionics, life support, with thermal protection and a recovery system if it’s going to do an entry. And in fact, it’s also “well-understood engineering,” and has been since 1968 or so. It may be expensive, but there’s no way to tell by looking at airliners.

The best way to tell is to do a parametric cost analysis on it. It’s basically an upgraded Apollo capsule (and perhaps service module for modest propulsion and additional consumables). We know how much that cost the first time, and it should be easier now, particularly considering the technology advances over the past four decades (e.g., computer microization). If NASA can’t develop that vehicle in a few years for a few billion, it should be disbanded.

The timetable is also a low-ball. Bush declared that the Crew Exploration Vehicle would be tested in 2008, just four years from now. There’s no way on Earth, as it were, this could happen without a cost-no-object crash program to rival Apollo. The Air Force’s new F22 fighter has been in development for 13 years; an entire new spaceship can be developed in four years?

I didn’t hear Bush say that. 2008 was the first robotic probes of the moon in anticipation of a manned return seven years later.

If we could develop such a thing in four years the first time on an Apollo budget, why couldn’t we affordably do it again in ten years (first flight is supposed to be 2014) on a less urgent basis?

[Update]

Commenter Duncan Young says that Gregg is right on this point, but that doesn’t make him right that it can’t be done. As I said, it’s perfectly feasible to develop and test a capsule, and associated service module, in four years, particularly since we already know how to do it, and have done it before. Apollo was a crash program, but the capsule itself wasn’t really a long pole. As an aside, this is probably the only major development that will have to occur during Bush’s term of office.

[/Update]

It may be that we can’t, but Gregg certainly offers no coherent reasons why we can’t, except with another absurd comparison–to a multi-mission fighter that’s gotten into a lot of political problems with interservice rivalries, and which again, fly hundreds of sorties and have to be maintainable by high-school grads.

And I don’t know what Gregg means by “spaceship,” unless it’s a way of intimidating his readership into thinking that he’s one of them there “rocket scientists,” and knows what he’s talking about. If he means a “ship” that flies in space, there’s nothing inherently expensive or difficult about that.

It’s just a capsule. It’s not a launcher.

But if, as Bush declared, it will be capable both of flying back and forth to the space station and of flying to the Moon, we’re talking quite a machine.

You mean, like the Apollo capsule, which was capable of both flying back and forth to the moon, and to Skylab (and to meet a Soyuz)?

Quite a machine. How ever will we do it?

Alternatively, a smarter approach might be to construct one spaceship that always stays in space, looping back and forth between Earth and Moon; people, supplies, and fuel would be launched to meet the ship in Earth-orbit, but the ship itself would never come down. (This was a Werner von Braun idea.) That would mean design, engineering, and construction of a type of flying machine that has never existed before. Development of the space shuttle cost between $50 billion and $100 billion in current dollars, depending on whose estimate you believe. The idea that something more challenging, the first-ever true spaceship, can be developed for $12 billion is bunkum.

I hesitate to call ideas loopy, but this one is literally. He says that it would be smarter, then he says it would “mean design, engineering, and construction of a type of flying machine that has never existed before.” He’s criticizing a plan that doesn’t require that as being unaffordable and requiring decades, and then proposing one that’s undefined and has never been done before as somehow “smarter.” On what planet?

Again, this is not a Shuttle. This is not an airliner. It’s not a fighter jet.

It’s a supersized Apollo capsule. We have an existence proof that we know how to build them. It will be easier now than it was forty years ago, honest. If we need a separate lander to get down to the lunar surface, we know how to build those, too. It’s even possible to develop things in parallel, though I suspect that only the capsule will be required for the 2008 date, so they have something to replace the Shuttle capability for crew transfer in 2010.

And what’s going to put this Crew Exploration Vehicle into orbit? No rocket that exists in the world today is capable of lifting the Apollo capsule and Moon lander of the late 1960s. Unless the Moon-bound twenty-first-century Crew Exploration Vehicle is going to be significantly smaller than the Apollo of a generation ago–carrying just one person and no supplies–a new, very large rocket will be required.

No, Gregg, we have acquired no experience with docking vehicles, or orbital mating over the past four decades. It’s inconceivable that we could launch a capsule on one flight of a Delta or Atlas, and a service module on another flight, and hook them up in LEO. We have to redevelop Saturn.

And of course, even if one is truly unknowledgable enough to believe that, we could develop a Shuttle-derived launch vehicle with Saturn-like capability in about four years for a billion or three (though that’s a separate budget than the one for the Crew Exploration Vehicle). We’ve known how to do that since the eighties. We haven’t done it because there’s been no need, not because it can’t be done, or because it’s unaffordable.

We shouldn’t expect George W. Bush himself to know that $12 billion is not enough to develop a spaceship. We should expect the people around Bush, and at the top of NASA, to know this. And apparently they are either astonishingly ill-informed and na

Crank Email Du Jour

In response to today’s Fox News column (it’s a reprise of this post from last night, with a new title), I got a couple emails from a Richard Lasher, who, judging by his email address, works for the government of the state of ten thousand lakes. Unfortunately, he’s no Lileks:

I do not support ANY form of HUMAN space initiative. There is nothing we can “discover” that is worth just 1 human life! We should require a 500 year moratorium on space initiatives. The funds, resources, and energy should be devoted to solving REAL problems, here on Earth! If, after the 500 years, we are not extinct, do not live in caves, or only have pre-industrial age
technology, then we should ask, “Are there any problems on Earth yet to solve?”, and finding NONE, then consider space exploration.

Don’t we have enough problems to solve? Drugs, Terrorists, HIV, SARS, children (American and worldwide) going to bed sick and hungry, an army (700,000 – 1 Million) of illegal aliens entering the U.S. every year, worldwide social issues of poverty, genocide, labor laws, environmental, and human rights issues need to be solved BEFORE “The World” should spend money on space exploration! To do otherwise is OBSCENE”. What’s the hurry? Our Sun won’t destroy the Earth for several Billion years. Perhaps, if we survive for another million years we will have learned compassion (greed will no longer be a “GOD”) and how to use the resources of the Earth to the benefit of ALL mankind, not just the rich, not just the multi-national corporations, not the warlords supported by drug money, or corrupt governments.

A few minutes later, thinking that the first one hadn’t gone through, he sent another gem (he’s apparently not familiar with the concept of a “sent” folder that allows one to resend emails). To wit (or in this case, lackwit):

I hope you got the text from my previous e-mail… It was really “good stuff” ;-}

My system prematurely sent the e-mail.

In Short. Stop human space initiatives, and focus on the real problems that we have here on Earth for the next 500 years and then see if space exploration should be a priority. What can we learn from human space travel that is worth just 1 human life? We can’t go far enough to escape the Sun’s destruction of the Earth is several billion years.

Who cares if the Earth is 13.57678765533445809987654345 Billion or Trillion years old? What can you do with than information? Who cares if the Universe was created by a “Big Bang” or a “Big Implosion”, or the result of some “String thing”? What can you do with that information? Nothing! Who cares if Mars ever had water or Microbes? There is no surface water there now! Do we plan to import subterranean water from Mars, if there is any? NO!!!! So What, if there are live microbes on Mars? Who is to say that WE did not put them there by crashing into Mars on previous landing attempts? If there are microbe fossils, WHO CARES? That would say, “We are not alone in the Universe”, if you equate human life to that of a microbe. It might be the same microbe that “got life started” on Earth, and even IF you could prove it, WHO CARES?

Space exploration is a shiny trinket, but we need to solve the tough problems here on Earth first!

“God help us” if we find anything of value on the Moon! We could have WW3 over that future resource!

It’s a treasure trove of idiocy, complete with cranky idiosynchratic capitalization and lots of exclamation marks!! So we know it’s really important, and must be true!!!!

It’s not really worth fisking, and I’m busy today, but I thought I’d throw out some chum to the sharks in the comments section. I may get around to addressing it later if the mood strikes and I find some time.

[Update]

Here’s another one, though not quite as bad, in an email with the subject “mars fantasy”:

Every one is so positive about this new space program that was proposed by our president.

Balderdash! Are these people crazy? The war on terror is till continuing and will continue through our lifetime. Along with a huge national debt which is wrongly considered by neo-conservatives to be inconsequential. One accident in several years and we change everything around. Did anyone not think the space program to be dangerous? Loss of life was to be expected and will still happen in the new program.

The Mars mission had been proposed by Lyndon Larouche many years ago. It was to cost in the neighborhood of one trillion dollars. At the time his idea was ignored and he was considered to be a nut case. Isn’t he now in jail?

The present approach is correct. The space shuttle is needed to put satellites in orbit, take them from orbit, and perform repairs. As well as for the construction of a space station; which will be necessary sooner or later. A prime example of the need for the space shuttle is the Hubble telescope which was a Major Triumph of the space program. Sadly I just learned that it has been admitted by these people that elimination of the space shuttle would mean that there would not be any more missions to the space telescope. And probably the enhanced space telescope would be canceled also. The news said that the telescope would degrade gradually and that this was very unfortunate. I call this ignorant; big time. Telescopes above the Earth’s atmosphere are a part of the effort to explore space.

I have just read a book on the history of astronomy that was published in 1957. In that book it was mentioned that Dr. Werner Von Braun had a plan for going to the moon and Mars. It consisted of a space station at 1,000 miles above the Earth that would be used for the refueling, repair and construction of vehicles for traveling to the planets. He is said to consider that travel to the planets would be a simple task once the space station was in operation. Do we have anyone of the stature of Dr. Von Braun today or is every government agency staffed by party hacks that have not been educated in technical matters. Not to mention the numerous commissions.

I am ashamed of what the present administration has done. Are there no serious dissenters?

Gotta like a guy who uses the word “balderdash.”

Even ignoring the mistaken notion that we can’t walk and chew gum, or kill terrorists and explore the solar system at the same time, among the many other problems with this is, of course, the “poisoning the well” fallacy. Just because some reprehensible person advocates a position doesn’t discredit the position. Hitler was militantly anti-smoking. I wonder if Michael thinks that therefore we should be even more firmly in favor of it?

Strategery?

Laughing Wolf thinks that there may be a method to Dubya’s madness in not mentioning private enterprise in tonight’s speech (beyond the fact that he gave the speech at NASA HQ). Here’s hoping he’s right, but even if it isn’t the president’s intent, it may be the effect, which is just as good if it works out.

‘…Headed Into The Cosmos”

The new space policy expected since the loss of Columbia almost a year ago was finally announced by President Bush today.

In his speech, the president correctly pointed out that in over three decades since astronaut Eugene Cernan was the last one to kick up lunar regolith, no American, or indeed human, has been farther from the earth’s surface than four hundred miles or so. In response to this tragic statistic, in stirring words, the president pronounced that “humans are headed into the cosmos.” After years of watching science fiction movies, like 2001, and television shows like Star Trek, it’s a message that we have grown to absorb culturally for decades, but now, for perhaps the first time, it’s formal federal policy.

Whether or not it will actually result in achieving the goals that Mr. Bush laid out remains, of course, to be seen. Only the most minimal one, of starting preparatory robotic exploration of the moon in 2008, will occur within his term of office, and that only if he wins reelection this year. The rest of the objectives–completing the station and phasing out the space shuttle in 2010, manned visit to the moon in 2015, lunar base in 2020–will all occur, if at all, after he has left office.

The speech was broad brush, with details and specific architectures to be left for later, which is appropriate. Some of the few details that were revealed are a little troubling.

It’s apparently the end of the Orbital Space Plane project, which is a good thing–it will probably transform itself into the new Crew Exploration Vehicle, which is apparently intended to become a modern version of the old Apollo capsule. But if I heard the speech correctly, that vehicle isn’t to be ready for a decade, in 2014, while the Shuttle is scheduled to be taken out of service upon planned station completion in 2010. This implies that there will be a four-year gap during which we have no ability to get people into space, at least on a government-funded American vehicle. I suspect that this, and other issues, will be fleshed out over the next few days.

It should be noted that on that schedule, it will take us over a decade to get back to the moon, whereas we did it much faster the last time, when we knew much less about how to do it. Of course, the last time, funding was no object–a circumstance that no longer holds. It should also be noted that if the station is completed in 2010, it will be over a quarter of a century after the program was initiated–results from the new initiatives will have to be more timely to keep to the stated schedule.

Many have pointed out that the goals are not new–they’re the same ones that Vice-President Spiro Agnew presented as a follow-on to Apollo during the Nixon administration, and that the president’s father laid out on the Washington Mall on July 20, 1989. In both cases, they fell flat, and were eviscerated by the press and the Congress. Indeed, in the latter case, NASA itself played a role in subverting them by coming up with an outrageous cost estimate of half a trillion dollars, thus removing this potential distraction from its desired focus on the space station.

The challenge of the administration will be to prevent this initiative from similarly faltering, at least during its term. From this standpoint, the proposed schedule and funding profile is convenient, because the majority of new expenditures for this will occur, like the milestones, after the president is out of office. Most of the initial funding will come from a reallocation of already planned NASA resources, with very few new funds to be requested.

The other strategy will be to have an independent commission come up with the implementation approaches that were absent from the speech, and the president announced he was doing exactly that, to be headed by Pete Aldridge, a veteran aerospace executive. It’s not a choice that I find particularly inspiring–I’m afraid that Mr. Aldridge is too deeply steeped in space industry business-as-usual, but there will be others on the commission, and I hope that there is an outreach program to seek fresh ideas and approaches.

While I’m glad that the president has stated a national goal of finally getting humans beyond earth orbit, I’m disappointed that those humans are apparently to continue to be NASA employees, who the rest of us watch, voyeuristically, on television. NASA was not just given the lead–it was apparently given sole responsibility. There was no mention of private enterprise, or of any activities in space beyond “exploration” and “science.” It was encouraging to hear a president talk about the utilization of extraterrestrial resources, but only in the context of how to get to the next milestone.

This is the part of the policy that should be most vigorously debated in the coming months–not whether or not humans, and American humans, are heading into the cosmos, but how we get humans doing that who aren’t only civil servants, and whether or not there are roles for other agencies, and sectors of society. Given NASA’s track record, and in the interests of competition, the administration should in fact consider setting up a separate organization to manage this initiative, and put out portions of it to bid, whether from NASA, DARPA, other agencies, or the private sector.

Most of all, I hope that the administration can break out of the apparent NASA-centric mindset demonstrated in the president’s speech today, and come up with a broader vision, rather than a destination, and help create a space program for, as Apple Computer used to say, the “rest of us.”

‘…Headed Into The Cosmos”

The new space policy expected since the loss of Columbia almost a year ago was finally announced by President Bush today.

In his speech, the president correctly pointed out that in over three decades since astronaut Eugene Cernan was the last one to kick up lunar regolith, no American, or indeed human, has been farther from the earth’s surface than four hundred miles or so. In response to this tragic statistic, in stirring words, the president pronounced that “humans are headed into the cosmos.” After years of watching science fiction movies, like 2001, and television shows like Star Trek, it’s a message that we have grown to absorb culturally for decades, but now, for perhaps the first time, it’s formal federal policy.

Whether or not it will actually result in achieving the goals that Mr. Bush laid out remains, of course, to be seen. Only the most minimal one, of starting preparatory robotic exploration of the moon in 2008, will occur within his term of office, and that only if he wins reelection this year. The rest of the objectives–completing the station and phasing out the space shuttle in 2010, manned visit to the moon in 2015, lunar base in 2020–will all occur, if at all, after he has left office.

The speech was broad brush, with details and specific architectures to be left for later, which is appropriate. Some of the few details that were revealed are a little troubling.

It’s apparently the end of the Orbital Space Plane project, which is a good thing–it will probably transform itself into the new Crew Exploration Vehicle, which is apparently intended to become a modern version of the old Apollo capsule. But if I heard the speech correctly, that vehicle isn’t to be ready for a decade, in 2014, while the Shuttle is scheduled to be taken out of service upon planned station completion in 2010. This implies that there will be a four-year gap during which we have no ability to get people into space, at least on a government-funded American vehicle. I suspect that this, and other issues, will be fleshed out over the next few days.

It should be noted that on that schedule, it will take us over a decade to get back to the moon, whereas we did it much faster the last time, when we knew much less about how to do it. Of course, the last time, funding was no object–a circumstance that no longer holds. It should also be noted that if the station is completed in 2010, it will be over a quarter of a century after the program was initiated–results from the new initiatives will have to be more timely to keep to the stated schedule.

Many have pointed out that the goals are not new–they’re the same ones that Vice-President Spiro Agnew presented as a follow-on to Apollo during the Nixon administration, and that the president’s father laid out on the Washington Mall on July 20, 1989. In both cases, they fell flat, and were eviscerated by the press and the Congress. Indeed, in the latter case, NASA itself played a role in subverting them by coming up with an outrageous cost estimate of half a trillion dollars, thus removing this potential distraction from its desired focus on the space station.

The challenge of the administration will be to prevent this initiative from similarly faltering, at least during its term. From this standpoint, the proposed schedule and funding profile is convenient, because the majority of new expenditures for this will occur, like the milestones, after the president is out of office. Most of the initial funding will come from a reallocation of already planned NASA resources, with very few new funds to be requested.

The other strategy will be to have an independent commission come up with the implementation approaches that were absent from the speech, and the president announced he was doing exactly that, to be headed by Pete Aldridge, a veteran aerospace executive. It’s not a choice that I find particularly inspiring–I’m afraid that Mr. Aldridge is too deeply steeped in space industry business-as-usual, but there will be others on the commission, and I hope that there is an outreach program to seek fresh ideas and approaches.

While I’m glad that the president has stated a national goal of finally getting humans beyond earth orbit, I’m disappointed that those humans are apparently to continue to be NASA employees, who the rest of us watch, voyeuristically, on television. NASA was not just given the lead–it was apparently given sole responsibility. There was no mention of private enterprise, or of any activities in space beyond “exploration” and “science.” It was encouraging to hear a president talk about the utilization of extraterrestrial resources, but only in the context of how to get to the next milestone.

This is the part of the policy that should be most vigorously debated in the coming months–not whether or not humans, and American humans, are heading into the cosmos, but how we get humans doing that who aren’t only civil servants, and whether or not there are roles for other agencies, and sectors of society. Given NASA’s track record, and in the interests of competition, the administration should in fact consider setting up a separate organization to manage this initiative, and put out portions of it to bid, whether from NASA, DARPA, other agencies, or the private sector.

Most of all, I hope that the administration can break out of the apparent NASA-centric mindset demonstrated in the president’s speech today, and come up with a broader vision, rather than a destination, and help create a space program for, as Apple Computer used to say, the “rest of us.”

‘…Headed Into The Cosmos”

The new space policy expected since the loss of Columbia almost a year ago was finally announced by President Bush today.

In his speech, the president correctly pointed out that in over three decades since astronaut Eugene Cernan was the last one to kick up lunar regolith, no American, or indeed human, has been farther from the earth’s surface than four hundred miles or so. In response to this tragic statistic, in stirring words, the president pronounced that “humans are headed into the cosmos.” After years of watching science fiction movies, like 2001, and television shows like Star Trek, it’s a message that we have grown to absorb culturally for decades, but now, for perhaps the first time, it’s formal federal policy.

Whether or not it will actually result in achieving the goals that Mr. Bush laid out remains, of course, to be seen. Only the most minimal one, of starting preparatory robotic exploration of the moon in 2008, will occur within his term of office, and that only if he wins reelection this year. The rest of the objectives–completing the station and phasing out the space shuttle in 2010, manned visit to the moon in 2015, lunar base in 2020–will all occur, if at all, after he has left office.

The speech was broad brush, with details and specific architectures to be left for later, which is appropriate. Some of the few details that were revealed are a little troubling.

It’s apparently the end of the Orbital Space Plane project, which is a good thing–it will probably transform itself into the new Crew Exploration Vehicle, which is apparently intended to become a modern version of the old Apollo capsule. But if I heard the speech correctly, that vehicle isn’t to be ready for a decade, in 2014, while the Shuttle is scheduled to be taken out of service upon planned station completion in 2010. This implies that there will be a four-year gap during which we have no ability to get people into space, at least on a government-funded American vehicle. I suspect that this, and other issues, will be fleshed out over the next few days.

It should be noted that on that schedule, it will take us over a decade to get back to the moon, whereas we did it much faster the last time, when we knew much less about how to do it. Of course, the last time, funding was no object–a circumstance that no longer holds. It should also be noted that if the station is completed in 2010, it will be over a quarter of a century after the program was initiated–results from the new initiatives will have to be more timely to keep to the stated schedule.

Many have pointed out that the goals are not new–they’re the same ones that Vice-President Spiro Agnew presented as a follow-on to Apollo during the Nixon administration, and that the president’s father laid out on the Washington Mall on July 20, 1989. In both cases, they fell flat, and were eviscerated by the press and the Congress. Indeed, in the latter case, NASA itself played a role in subverting them by coming up with an outrageous cost estimate of half a trillion dollars, thus removing this potential distraction from its desired focus on the space station.

The challenge of the administration will be to prevent this initiative from similarly faltering, at least during its term. From this standpoint, the proposed schedule and funding profile is convenient, because the majority of new expenditures for this will occur, like the milestones, after the president is out of office. Most of the initial funding will come from a reallocation of already planned NASA resources, with very few new funds to be requested.

The other strategy will be to have an independent commission come up with the implementation approaches that were absent from the speech, and the president announced he was doing exactly that, to be headed by Pete Aldridge, a veteran aerospace executive. It’s not a choice that I find particularly inspiring–I’m afraid that Mr. Aldridge is too deeply steeped in space industry business-as-usual, but there will be others on the commission, and I hope that there is an outreach program to seek fresh ideas and approaches.

While I’m glad that the president has stated a national goal of finally getting humans beyond earth orbit, I’m disappointed that those humans are apparently to continue to be NASA employees, who the rest of us watch, voyeuristically, on television. NASA was not just given the lead–it was apparently given sole responsibility. There was no mention of private enterprise, or of any activities in space beyond “exploration” and “science.” It was encouraging to hear a president talk about the utilization of extraterrestrial resources, but only in the context of how to get to the next milestone.

This is the part of the policy that should be most vigorously debated in the coming months–not whether or not humans, and American humans, are heading into the cosmos, but how we get humans doing that who aren’t only civil servants, and whether or not there are roles for other agencies, and sectors of society. Given NASA’s track record, and in the interests of competition, the administration should in fact consider setting up a separate organization to manage this initiative, and put out portions of it to bid, whether from NASA, DARPA, other agencies, or the private sector.

Most of all, I hope that the administration can break out of the apparent NASA-centric mindset demonstrated in the president’s speech today, and come up with a broader vision, rather than a destination, and help create a space program for, as Apple Computer used to say, the “rest of us.”

Real-Time Speech Blog

Starts with obligatory paen to the dedicated people at NASA. Some of it is nonsense, of course–“bold,” and “risk takers” hasn’t described NASA personnel for many years, but it’s obligatory nonetheless.

Now he’s using the Lewis and Clark analogy. Not too bad Going through the litany of benefits from space exploration, including weather, GPS, communications, imaging processing, etc.

Hyping Shuttle and station, talking about space telescopes and probes, and finding water on other planets, and current searches for life beyond earth with robots. Pointing out that we haven’t been further than four hundred miles from earth in thirty years.

“expand a human presence across our solar system.”

Finish space station by 2010, and use it to focus on long-term effects of space on humans. Return Shuttle to flight ASAP. It will be used to complete ISS assembly, and then retired in 2010.

Develop new spacecraft, CEV–first mission by 2014. That means a gap of four years when we don’t have a government vehicle for manned spaceflight.

Return to the moon by 2020, with initial robotic missions in 2008. Now he’s saying 2015 for manned mission, so maybe the 2020 date is for a lunar base.

Talking about moon as base for deep space missions, including lunar resources for propellants. It will be used as a learning experience for Mars missions. We need to send people to really explore the planets.

“Human beings are headed into the cosmos.”

“…a great and unifying mission for NASA…”

Commission of private and public-sector experts to figure out how to implement it. Pete Aldridge to head it. Lousy choice–we need someone who’s less steeped in government programs.

“We choose to explore space…”

[Speech over]

OK, no big surprises, other than fleshing out dates. Nice speech, but it really is picking up where Apollo left off in terms of goals. In fact, it’s exactly the same goals laid out by Spiro Agnew during the Nixon administration, which was promptly shot down in the press and Congress. It’s also the same goals that his father laid out on July 20, 1989. It’s not at all clear to me what’s going to be different this time.

Listening to it, NASA was clearly given not only the lead, but the sole responsibility for this–there was no mention of private activities in space, or how they might play a role, if for nothing else, getting stuff into LEO. My disappointment of last week is confirmed–there’s little hint of new thinking in the administration how to approach space policy.

However, for as long as it lasts, it is nice to have as national policy that “humans beings are headed into the cosmos.” It may at least provide a rudder for activities across the federal government, not just at NASA, but at the FAA and other places. I continue to believe that ultimately this program will not get humans into the cosmos, at least not in any large way. If the schedule laid out by the president holds, I won’t be at all surprised to see the first NASA expedition to the moon in 2015 greeted by the concierge at the Club Med Luna.

[one more point]

Jay Manifold has already laid out a “triple-constraint” program summary.

[Update]

I’ve gathered some more-coherent thoughts in the next post.