Category Archives: Space

The Wrong Author

Steven Weinberg has a 5500-word essay in the New York Review of books on the president’s space initiative. It repeats the same tired nonsense and myths, about how space is for science, that there’s no reason for people to go, that it will cost a trillion dollars.

The President gave no cost estimates, but John McCain, chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, has cited reports that the new initiative would cost between $170 billion and $600 billion. According to NASA briefing documents, the figure of $170 billion is intended to take NASA only up to 2020, and does not include the cost of the Mars mission itself. After the former President Bush announced a similar initiative in 1989, NASA estimated that the cost of sending astronauts to the moon and Mars would be either $471 billion or $541 billion in 1991 dollars, depending on the method of calculation. This is roughly $900 billion in today’s dollars. Whatever cost may be estimated by NASA for the new initiative, we can expect cost overruns like those that have often accompanied big NASA programs. (In 1984 NASA estimated that it would cost $8 billion to put the International Space Station in place, not counting the cost of using it. I have seen figures for its cost so far ranging from $25 billion to $60 billion, and the station is far from finished.) Let’s not haggle over a hundred billion dollars more or less

Lies, Damned Lies, And Aerospace Cost Estimates

Dwayne Day has a long, but worthwhile description of how bad the reporting has been on the president’s space initiative, and the source of the mythical trillion dollar program.

Jeff Foust has a related piece on how badly the administration and particularly NASA has handled the media, with the danger that this president’s space initiative may share the fate of his father’s.

I remain very concerned about this program, because I think that the approach is fundamentally technically flawed. If Dennis Wingo is right, they’ve narrowed down the trade space far too much too early, by looking at a binary decision between building at ISS with EELVs (a bad idea for two reasons–ISS and EELV) or building a heavy lifter and replicating Apollo. Either approach will result in a program that’s ultimately unsustainable, if it succeeds at all.

There are other options, but it requires new thinking that NASA is clearly not yet ready for. I think that the president’s initiative would have a much better chance if he had set up a clean new agency, rather than giving it to the existing NASA, just as we did when NASA was established forty six years ago. It’s not clear that Code T as such will be able to break out of NASA think as long as it’s a code within the agency, rather than one that’s independent.

Why I’m Not In A Union

Geeeeez.

Go check out the idiot union rep at NASA Watch. The moron can’t even spell his name right. Maybe she’ll threaten to sue me for unfair labor practices, too, for calling her a moron and an idiot. Sorry, dear, but truth is an absolute defense against libel.

(Sorry, no permalink–maybe Keith will move this to Spaceref so future viewers of this post can find it).

And hat tip to Mike Puckett in the comments section of this post.

[Update at 9 PM PST]

I should add that I found this particular part the most moronic (and sadly, typical of leftist thinking):

You have either missed the point of the Bulletin, or you are trying to stifle Freedom of Speech.

Once again, we’re not allowed to critique dumb commentary without being accused of “stifling Freedom of Speech.” As though by the mere act of criticism, the perpetrators of free speech have been hustled off to the gulag, to speak no more.

Here’s a quarter, Virginia. Go call someone who gives a damn.

[Update on Saturday morning]

Clark Lindsey has some further thoughts (scroll down, though the beginning part about potential Centennial prizes is worth a read, too):

It also brings up the serious topic of the brother-in-law effect commonly cited by space startup companies. A potential investor initially shows great enthusiasm and seems ready to write a check but a few days later backs off after talking to a brother-in-law or other contact who works at NASA. The NASA person typically knows little about the project but bashes it anyway and influences the investor against it.

I’ve heard that the military has rules forbidding employees from expressing any such personal judgments about commercial products of possible military use because of potential conflicts of interest. Similar rules should be placed into the next NASA budget authorization.