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NYT Follow Up
I'm back in DC, and busy, so I don't know how much posting there will be, but I did want to note on reconsideration one problem with the New York Times editorial advocating ending Shuttle and ISS. Jorge Frank, over at sci.space.policy, pointed out last night that they seem to want to eat their cake and have it too.
They call for an end to any more ISS missions, but want a Hubble repair. Well, if they do that, they should realize that a) they won't get the forty billion in savings that their editorial states, and b) that Hubble repair mission will cost at least six billion or so (more than launching multiple replacement telescopes). This is because the soonest that a Hubble repair mission could be mounted is probably about a year and a half from now. That means that the infrastructure to support the Shuttle would have to be kept in place for another year and a half. It also means that, since there would be no ISS missions against which to charge these fixed costs, these would all be debited against the Hubble mission (the only reason that the system remained in place, accruing those costs).
So they can phase out Shuttle and ISS, but it's hard to then make an argument for Hubble. And if they're going to keep it alive for Hubble, then they might as well figure out some way to maximize the utility of it for getting station as far toward completion as possible while the system is still operating. In the latter scenario, it just means figuring out the minimum number of flights that should be done with Shuttle, and how to manage without it for the rest. Which (almost surely not coincidentally) is exactly what Mike Griffin's NASA is planning to do.
[Update a few minutes later]
Mark Whittington disagrees with me. Well, actually, as he often does, he disagrees with a strawman argument he pretends is me:
...the fact of the matter is that the first people to return to the Moon and then go to Mars will be employees of some government (hopefully including the American one). The private sector will have a very big role, especially once people start living off the planet in significant numbers. But big bad government will also have a role in opening up the high frontier, just as it has with every other frontier. That's the truth, supported by history and common sense, whether one wants to believe it or not.I of course never said that "big bad government" wouldn't have a role in opening up the high frontier. I was speaking specifically of certain NASA centers, and what their role would be, and I don't think that it will be anywhere near as large as most conventional thinking about the space program would have it. The issue is not whether or not government will be involved, but which branches of it, and how. The monocultures that NASA's manned space centers tend to produce will continue, I think, to be evolutionary dead ends (just as Shuttle and ISS have turned out to be). But because they generate so many jobs, they will continue until (like Shuttle and ISS) they become untenable in the face of clear private (and other government, such as the DoD) alternatives.
Now Mark trots out a new straw horse in response:
I must admit to a little confusion. What other government agency besides NASA would take the lead government role in space exploration?
I expect NASA (until costs come down quite a bit) to continue to lead "space exploration" (though much of that will be done out of Pasadena, and will be unmanned). But of course, until now, I said nothing about space exploration. I thought we were talking about humanity moving out into space, which is much less about space exploration than space development. And space development will occur with the help (and hindrance, and connivance) of a number of government agencies, including the FAA, the DoD (including DARPA), DoE, and perhaps even Commerce. NASA building small and expensive capsules launched on equally-expensive heavy-lift expendables from Cape Canaveral may provide some entertainment to the masses for a while, but it will have little to do, ultimately, with the development of space, any more than Shuttle and ISS have.Posted by Rand Simberg at August 15, 2005 07:33 AM
Sunday New York Times lead editorial:
"Is the Space Station Necessary?"
Editorial directly below that:
"Meanwhile, People Starve."
So, here's the solution (according to the New York Times): cancel space station and space shuttle and spend that money to feed starving people.Posted by William Berger at August 15, 2005 08:14 AM
>>...figuring out the minimum number of flights that should be done with Shuttle, and how to manage without it for the rest. Which (almost surely not coincidentally) is exactly what Mike Griffin's NASA is planning to do.
Very true, and something that a lot of people seem to be ignoring. No one can accuse Grifffin of being a Shuttle cheerleader.
The decision to stop Shuttle has already been made. Bush made it about two years ago. The only question is how many more missions before the last flight.Posted by at August 15, 2005 10:21 AM
How, pray tell, did Mr. Whittington determine this to be a "fact"? Crystal ball? Time machine?
That statement's pretty ironic because Mark's been railing agaisnt the evil "libertarians" for making forward-looking statements about private enterprise in advance of actual hardware.
Yet, Mark doesn't hesitate to make forward-looking statements about the success of government and failure of private enterprise, based only on viewgraphs. Furthermore, he presents his predictions not as opinion but as incontrovertible "fact."
(As a side note, Mark once expressed views similar to those of the evil "libertarians," before he learned the "facts." Two years ago, Mark called for the government to cancel OSP -- known known as CEV and replace it with a one-billion dollar prize:
Posted by Edward Wright at August 15, 2005 12:14 PM
Edward, yep, and I stand by that. What's your point?Posted by Mark R. Whittington at August 15, 2005 01:11 PM
You stand by which point? That it is a "fact" that the next manned lunar landings will be done by government employees, or that we should cancel the earth-to-orbit part of CEV and replace it with a bilion dollar prize?
~JonPosted by Jonathan Goff at August 15, 2005 01:33 PM
Jon, I said nothing about the CEV. However, I agree with NASA that if the private sector can deliver supplies and crew to the ISS, then the CEV should not do so and that orbital operations be restricted to test flights prior to lunar missions.
As for the other, why, yes.Posted by Mark R. Whittington at August 15, 2005 02:09 PM
>>No one can accuse Grifffin of being a Shuttle cheerleader.
Well, he supports shuttle-derived everything because of "workforce transition issues". And of course, workforce size is THE problem with the shuttle, so derived launchers will most likely have the same problem.Posted by kert at August 15, 2005 02:21 PM
??? Surely you know that CEV is the new name for OSP, which you did call for cancelling.
> However, I agree with NASA that if the private sector can deliver supplies and
That's not the same as cancelling CEV and replacing it with a one-billion prize.
If the private sector can deliver supplies and crew to ISS, why shouldn't it be allowed to deliver supplies and crews for lunar missions? Ideology aside?
As for your claim to have knowledge of future "facts," can you please tell us the source of your unique knowledge?
Jon, the CEV is not the new name for the OSP. The OSP was never contemplated for lunar, not to mention Mars trips. They are two seperate vehicles. That you suggest otherwise says very much about your knowledge (or rather lack of knowledge) of space policy.Posted by Mark R. Whittington at August 15, 2005 04:12 PM
LOL. That's like claiming my car is a new vehicle because I'm going to drive it to the Grand Canyon.
That destination was never contemplated before, so now it's a new vehicle. :-)
> That you suggest otherwise says very much about your knowledge
Your suggestion that a capsule designed for trips to LEO or the Moon could be used for going to Mars says very much about your knowledge of space policy, Mark. Perhaps you should not throw stones.Posted by at August 15, 2005 04:22 PM
Mark, note that the last two anonymous messages weren't from me. When I post, I always use my name.
~JonPosted by Jonathan Goff at August 15, 2005 09:17 PM
Jon, I knew that.
Mr. Unknown, you're being silly. Of course the version that will go to Mars will be more than just a capsule. Also, suggesting that the OSP is the same as the CEV is sort of like suggesting that the DC 3 is the same as a 747 because both have wings and fly through the air.
If you reply, do give us the honor of using a name.Posted by Mark R Whittington at August 16, 2005 04:22 AM
Edward, to argue that the private sector will put people on the Moon before VSE does is to see a capability that does not exist and that shows no signs of coming into existence soon enough to win that race.
Rand seems to think that we will see significant advances in private sector space activity in the next ten years. I hope he's correct, but I think it will take longer. What I think we're likely to see are halting steps to suborbital and LEO tourism, an activity I don't think can be the foundation for serious human space development. We will always see government-funded activity, most or all of which the private sector will avoid as unprofitable. That's natural, unless someone is enough of an ideologue to believe the only things that should be done in space are the profitable things. And that's putting your desire to prove the correctness of your ideology ahead of the welfare of the rest of the planet.
Maybe I'm wrong; maybe I'm right. (I don't count buying multi-million dollar Soyuz rides as being legitimate private sector efforts. It's tantamount to buying a MiG ride. The Russian private sector did not develop Soyuz. )
Both Boeing and Lockheed continued to circulate their old OSP concepts, relabelled as "CEV," for nearly a year after the President's speech. All they changed during that period was the name (and your opinion).
Do you think the 747 was just a relabelled DC-3, Mark?
You're also being disingenuous in claiming no one proposed sending OSP to the Moon. As you are well aware, two-thirds of your "Clear Lake Group" (Robert Oler and Rich Kolker) proposed sending OSP to the Moon long before President Bush did. At the time, you opposed the idea.
Then, on Jan 14, President Bush proposed the same idea. You immediately became a supporter and Oler an opponent, because it was Bush proposing it.
Posted by Edward Wright at August 16, 2005 09:37 AM
> Edward, to argue that the private sector will put people on the Moon before VSE does is to see
Yes, and arguing that the government will put people on the Moon before private enteprise is to see a capability that does not exist. For some reason, that's allowable, though. Interesting double standard. :-)
Mark did not simply "argue" that government employees would land on the Moon before private enterprise. He stated it as a fact.
A fact is not simply a strongly held belief. It is an empirical observation. For example, it is a fact that the sky is overcast today. I can observe that. It is not a fact that the sky will be overcast tomorrow -- it is merely a prediction.
When Mark claims a future event is a "fact," he is claiming he can see the future. That puts his powers in the psychic realm.
I await proof of Mark's alleged mystic powers. :-)
> and that shows no signs of coming into existence soon enough to win that race.
Burt Rutan sees signs of it happening. So does General Pete Worden, who proposed a one-billion prize for a private Moon landing.
They can back up their opinions with facts and logic. You haven't backed yours up the same way. So, why should we assume your opinion outweighs theirs?
> Rand seems to think that we will see significant advances in private sector space activity in the
Thinking it doesn't necessarily make you correct, Bill.
More to the point, NO ONE connected to NASA -- not President Bush, not Sean O'Keefe, nor Mike Griffin -- has claimed NASA will land on the Moon in the next ten years.
What makes you think the government will land someone on the Moon in the next ten years?
> What I think we're likely to see are halting steps to suborbital and LEO tourism, an activity I
No, that is not natural. The US military purchases 80% of its logistic transportation from the private sector. The private sector does not avoid that as unprofitable. There's no reason why launching payloads for NASA should be unprofitable, either, as long as NASA is willing to pay.
> unless someone is enough of an ideologue to believe the only things that should be done in space are the profitable things.
Um, Bill -- Boeing and Lockheed make profits on cost-plus contracts right now. Continuing your ideology won't make space non-profit. It will just continue to make it expensive. Why is that a good thing?
> And that's putting your desire to prove the correctness of your ideology ahead of the welfare of the rest of the planet.
That's what the Soviet Union and the New York Times said when Reagan called social-ism a failed ideology. History showed Reagan was right. Capitalism actually *increases* the welfare of the planet.
Posted by Edward Wright at August 16, 2005 10:20 AM
Edward, the government has already put people on the Moon; it currently maintains a small crewed orbiting platform, it owns a vehicle that can put several people in LEO, and it will modify pieces of that vehicle to create other vehicles capable of supporting a return to the Moon. The private sector currently has none of that capability. Will it have in the future? Probably, if it can make money at it. But, do I expect to see the private sector put people on the Moon before the government? ot if government does it by 2020 or thereabouts. Like I said, I may be wrong or I may be right, but government has a healthy hardware lead, a plan, and does not need to worry about profit.
If someone in the private sector is currently funding development of crewed lunar expeditions, including designing and building all the needed hardware, and also expects to do it within 10 years and make money doing it, tell me about it. I know lots of people dream about doing that, but that's not the same thing.
There's no reason why anyone should pay more attention to me -- or you -- than to Rutan or anyone else. Please recall, though, that I'm not opposing private space activity or doubting it will happen. I just don't believe it will happen as quickly as some other people seem to think. Why? Because I believe it will take longer than that for the market to develop.
And, you are correct, of course, that the private sector ought to be ale to sell logistic services to NASA. When I think of private space activity, however, I don't think of that. I think of privately funded, profit-making, companies using their own hardware to to fly paying cargo and customers in space. If there's nothing else but Big Corporations selling logistics support to NASA, then government employees will still be doing the flying, DoD contracts out a lot of its logistics, but those aren't contractors flying F-15's or piloting submarines and aircraft carriers.
Meanwhile, it is completely natural for businesses to avoid doing the unprofitable. Exploration, almost by defintion, is not profitable. When something is profitable, it isn't exploration, it is exploitation.
I'm not childish enough to argue about your political biases, Edward. Or the phony arguments you attribute to me. You posts appear to me to be driven by ideology. On the other hand, I've not said anything at all about my own political opinions. But, you, driven by your own beliefs, have gone out of your way to attack me for things you only imagine I've posted.
The essence of what I've said is that I support private space activity, will buy tickets if/when I can afford it, that I expect it to happen at a slower pace than others seem to think, and that the private sector will not do the unprofitable things, among which I inclue exploration. You, however, have resorted to childish ranting and raving, calling me a social-ist and even going so far as to invoke the name of that giant evil of right-wing ideologues, the NYT.Posted by billg at August 16, 2005 01:40 PM
More to the point, Edward, is that you seem to believe that if the private sector can't do it, it is not worth doing, and that anything NASA does is unnecessary, terribly expensive, or both.
I don't agree. If people can't make money going to the Moon, I still want them to go. If exploring space is competely unprofitable, I still want it done. If it is done by the government and is terribly expensive, I still want it done.
In my view, it is vastly more important that it be done than how it is financed.
If exploring space is competely unprofitable, I still want it done. If it is done by the government and is terribly expensive, I still want it done.
You're apparently very free with other peoples' money, but at least you're honest about it. We (or at least I) want it done for a reasonable expenditure of taxpayer funds. You seem to be indifferent to such petty concerns. If we can do the moon cheaper, and better, by waiting another decade, what's wrong with that? What's the rush?Posted by Rand Simberg at August 16, 2005 02:05 PM
Which government? The Bush Administration? Do you think you can go to a government office and find the Apollo team still sitting there? Or that because one team that worked for the government did something, decades ago, those skills automatically transfer over to new team?
> The private sector currently has none of that capability.
Kistler Aerospace has George Mueller, who ran the Apollo program. They probably have more of the senior Apollo people than NASA does at this point. The private sector has people who worked on the Shuttle and did all the other things you mention. Even if you dismiss the capabilities of people who have done things recently (like Spaceship One), it's quite possible to hire people who have done things in the past.
> And, you are correct, of course, that the private sector ought to be ale
The two are not mutually exclusive. There's no reason privately funded, profit-making companies couldn't fly paying cargo and passengers for NASA, if NASA were willing to pay for it. Fedex and Southwest fly paying cargo and passengers for NASA right now. Mike Griffin has said he wants private companies to fly crew and supplies to ISS. There's no reason private companies couldn't fly crew and supplies for VSE as well.
> DoD contracts out a lot of its logistics, but those aren't contractors flying F-15's
Because those are combat missions. NASA has no combat missions; only non-combat logistic missions.
> Meanwhile, it is completely natural for businesses to avoid doing
Your definition does not correspond to the real world. Oil and mineral exploration is a profitable business. Ecotourism and other private expeditions are a profitable business. Columbus's voyages were a profitable business.
If NASA offered a prize for exploring the Moon, then exploring the Moon would be a profitable business, as long as a company could do it for $1 less than the value of the prize.
> the private sector will not do the unprofitable things, among
There's no reason exploration has to be unprofitable. It is not unprofitable on Earth. It can be profitable in space, too, under the proper circumstances. One way to make it profitable would be for the government to offer prizes (or "fixed-fee contracts," if you prefer) for meeting exploration objectives.Posted by Edward Wright at August 16, 2005 04:08 PM
Rand: "If we can do the moon cheaper, and better, by waiting another decade, what's wrong with that? What's the rush?"
Mary Poppins: "You can have anything you want if you hold your breath."Posted by Kevin Parkin at August 17, 2005 07:08 AM
Do you have a pertinent response, Kevin?Posted by Rand Simberg at August 17, 2005 07:20 AM
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