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The One-Percent Solution
Eric Hedman thinks that there's nothing wrong with the space program that can't be solved with more money.
Sorry, no sale here. Even if it were possible to increase NASA's budget by over fifty percent in the current political climate, all it would mean is more waste, less motivation to do things smart, and less pressure on them to rely on commercial suppliers. It wouldn't result in more cost effective space activities, which are what are required to open up the frontier. Until the people developing space systems are spending their own money, as XCOR, SpaceX, Armadillo and others are, we'll continue to get pork-based solutions, with little resembling innovation, in which success of the mission itself is, at best, a secondary goal.
[Update at 11:30]
Oh, and Mark? There's no such word as "enfusion."
Get Firefox. It has a spell checquer built in.Posted by Rand Simberg at April 30, 2007 07:24 AM
Well, to a certain extent that is true - if you put enough money in it, really good people (and managers) will be atracted to NASA. You know, managers so good that they can do their jobs in the short breaks between political backstabbing opportunities.
Of course, it would have to be a LOT more. None of this measily 50% increase. Give NASA the same budget as DOD, and I bet they could get _something_ done !Posted by David Summers at April 30, 2007 08:43 AM
Yes, give NASA as big a budget as DOD. Also, everyone should get a pony.
There's nothing wrong with the space program that can't be solved with more money put into prizes and open-bid contracts.Posted by Osvaldo Mandias at April 30, 2007 09:44 AM
Rand: "all it would mean is more waste, less motivation to do things smart, and less pressure on them to rely on commercial suppliers."
This assumes that a government agency will operate more efficiently and make good decisions if you just bleed them enough, which has never been in evidence. Many of these inefficiencies are fundamental to the public sector; others are inherent to the nature of NASA's mission; and most seem relatively inelastic to funding one way or another.
To assume that taking away a capability will make them reach out for commercial alternatives is to misunderstand the nature of bureaucracy. All that happens is they attach so many conditions to the contracts that a firm has to become a de facto extension of the bureaucracy to win them, and the transaction is no longer "commercial" in nature, no longer cheap or efficient, and eventually becomes unsustainable. Congress is then under pressure to increase funding, both from NASA and the "Borged" firms, and will either do so or cancel the program. This is why reliance on NASA contracts, even of the ostensibly fixed-price variety, is fraught with peril for commercial firms.
To get anything done, NASA has to be what NASA is, and that costs a lot of money. If we have any intention of returning to the Moon before the Chinese make their introduction, and any intention of ever getting to Mars, we simply have to accept reality and pour money into NASA. The poor choices it's made in the past were precisely because of arbitrary limits placed on it, and the less money it has the shorter its horizons become. Enemies of space exploration--and those who have an ideological rather than practical belief in commercial space--support cutting NASA funding, then use the results of those cuts as evidence that NASA can't do its job, and that's circular reasoning at its worst.
Paul: "Yes, give NASA as big a budget as DOD. Also, everyone should get a pony."
This is an asinine reaction. NASA's human spaceflight mission is clearly more important than most of what DoD does, and at its peak had contributed foundationally to the economy rather than flushing money down the toilet. If NASA had been given even a quarter of the DoD budget over the past two decades, human beings would be swarming around the inner solar system like locusts today. But because a lot of libertarians hate government spending, a lot of conservatives would rather flush the money down the DoD toilet, and a lot of my fellow liberals are short-sightedly opposed to space, we have to dick around and feel giddy when some toy rocket launches ashes into suborbit. The problem isn't NASA, it's the idiots who refuse to fund it.
Osvaldo: "There's nothing wrong with the space program that can't be solved with more money put into prizes and open-bid contracts."
I agree with the prize concepts, and NASA should absolutely contract services from companies that already provide them, but there's no such thing as a "commercial" firm with one client. Any service where NASA is the only customer should be done in-house.Posted by Brian Swiderski at April 30, 2007 11:27 AM
Let's look at the evidence, shall we?
When the FAA's budget was frozen, automatic pay increases continued, putting severe pressure on everything else. As a result, the FAA started to embrace innovative ideas that would not otherwise have been considered including outsourcing some of their regulatory functions to private groups like aircraft type associations.
> To get anything done, NASA has to be what NASA is, and that costs a lot of money.
The NACA was not what NASA is, and it did not cost a lot of money. Yet, it got a lot done. We got a commercial aviation industry and a military air force out of it.
> If we have any intention of returning to the Moon before the Chinese make
Who is "we," Brian? Have you been to the Moon? I haven't. How can I "return" to some place never been?
Before you say it, yes, I know you mean "return" to the Moon in a purely symbolic sense: you and I won't actually go to the Moon, we will simply share in the vicarious experience of watching pictures of it on television. Like watching "Return to Dodge City" on the Westerns Channel.
Here's the thing, Brian. Some of us want to do more than watch teevee, and we think we deserve more for $16 billion a year than a teevee show. We don't want to vicariously "return to Dodge City" or "return to the Moon." We want to go to the Moon.
If we want to have any chance of going to the Moon, or Mars, your "simple reality" of "pouring money into NASA" is simply the wrong road.
I'm not an "enemy of space exploration," Brian. I simply recognize that the current approach has made space exploration expensive and rare, almost to the point of nonexistance. If space exploration is worthwhile -- and I believe it is -- then we much enable lots of people to explore space, not just watch it on teevee.
Ah, now we come down to it. This has been the argument since the Eisenhower/Kennedy days. "We need to create a civilian space program to take manned spaceflight away from the military." That may have made some sense to Cold War propagandists, but it makes no sense today.
We need to stop using space as a Roman circus for the voters and start developing it in ways that will preserve and enhance the military and economic power of the United States.Posted by Edward Wright at April 30, 2007 02:09 PM
Mojave Aerospace Ventures had only one client (Paul Allen). There are many commercial firms with only one client.
> Any service where NASA is the only customer should be done in-house.
According to Brian Swiderski. There's a considerable body of law and regulation that disagrees, including the LSPA, the FAIR Act, OMB Circular A-76, and the US National Space Policy Statement of August 31, 2006.
The latter statement says that the United States government should "use U.S. commercial space capabilities and services to the maximum practical extent; purchase commercial capabilities and services when they are available in the commercial marketplace and meet United States Government requirements; and modify commercially available capabilities and services to meet those United States Government requirements when the modification is cost effective" and "refrain from conducting activities that preclude, deter, or compete with U.S. commercial space activities, unless required by national security or public safety."
Please tell us, Brian, why NASA's building Ares/Orion is required by national security or public safety.
Posted by Edward Wright at April 30, 2007 02:27 PM
Edward: "FAA started to embrace innovative ideas that would not otherwise have been considered"
I know very little about the history of FAA, so I couldn't even begin to address your example. But take into consideration a few points: (1)FAA is a regulatory body, meaning its one and only product is paperwork; (2)with deregulation of airlines, the amount of work FAA was expected to do declined dramatically; and (3)merely "considering innovative ideas" says nothing about whether a net advantage has been produced. An idea can be an innovative, pathetic fallback from real ambitions, intended to limit the damage of budget cuts rather than delivering something superior.
"The NACA was not what NASA is, and it did not cost a lot of money."
Nor was its mission comparably ambitious. Why do you see them as mutually exclusive?
"Yet, it got a lot done. We got a commercial aviation industry and a military air force out of it."
What NASA gave us is priceless, and could never have been produced by NACA: They did the impossible, and created the (so far) pinnacle event of human history. We would not have walked on the Moon, we would not have sent all those probes out into the solar system, we might just now be developing computers that could fit in a single room, and it's highly unlikely that global communications and positioning would be available. Airlines would go higher and faster, maybe skimming the darkness of a solar system we still knew nothing whatsoever about, and the Moon would still be a fictional place at the end of a vast and unbridgeable chasm.
That is the mission of NASA as I see it: To do the impossible. And if they're allowed to operate freely, like the DoD undeservedly does, given funding commensurate to the magnitude and importance of their mission, they will be able to both accomplish it and do so in a way that facilitates NACA-style follow-up. The domain of NASA should be to send robots to any and all unexplored or poorly characterized places within reach of human technology; to send people to those places with the greatest promise for sustaining human colonies; and then to pass the baton to another agency tasked with exploiting the accomplishments. Unfortunately, this would require a massive, DoD-level budget.
"Some of us want to do more than watch teevee, and we think we deserve more for $16 billion a year than a teevee show."
Far less than $16 billion a year is going to Orion, even with Griffin's eviscerations of science, and you probably won't even get the TV show at that funding level. Besides which, NASA exploration of the Moon would do a lot of general groundwork for the private sector, characterizing the environment, health issues, and the success or failure of various approaches that will be watched closely by interested firms. Moreover, regardless of dollar-for-dollar cost comparisons, that work is essentially free since it's external to the firms themselves.
"I simply recognize that the current approach has made space exploration expensive and rare, almost to the point of nonexistance."
The current approach is the result of time limitations at NASA's genesis, and have continued as a result of budget constraints, so using that as a rationale for continual underfunding is circular reasoning.
"This has been the argument since the Eisenhower/Kennedy days."
Uh, no. You completely ignored what I said and saw only what you were prepared to answer. What I said, for the second time, was "NASA's human spaceflight mission is clearly more important than most of what DoD does." Nothing in that statement attempts to address the role of the military in space, nor the relationship between NASA and DoD, it simply compares the relative importance of human spaceflight to most of what DoD does.
"We need to stop using space as a Roman circus for the voters and start developing it in ways that will preserve and enhance the military and economic power of the United States."
Talk is cheap. NASA has six manned Moon landings, well over a hundred manned spaceflights, a dozen wildly successful deep space probes, and a huge manned space station in collaboration with other countries, all for less money than the Iraq war. Blue Origin, now in its SEVENTH year of development, backed with the personal fortune of a dekabillionaire, recently cold-launched a giant bathtub a few hundred feet in the air. You may be content to wait forever for the private sector to build the perfect, ideologically acceptable escalator to the stars, but I frankly don't give a shit whether it's corporations or governments that get us there. Whoever can do it, should do it, and so far NASA is the only game in town, and it should be funded massively.
Moreover, if you think this is about "preserving and enhancing the military and economic power of the United States," you're completely missing the point. The steps we take building up to this push outward will have repercussions when the United States is a myth, when the religions that exist today are forgotten, when every "eternal" institution of today is gone, and all that connects then to now is DNA and the sweep of history. It doesn't effing matter how we get out there, as long as we do.Posted by Brian Swiderski at April 30, 2007 07:23 PM
> Nor was its mission comparably ambitious. Why do you see them as mutually exclusive?
Because in the real world, the government does not have an infinite amount of money. Nor should it.
> What NASA gave us is priceless, and could never have been produced by NACA: They did the
That's a religious belief, not a demonstrated fact.
If we had continued the NACA and the military X-plane programs, we might have routine, affordable access not only to the Moon but all of cislunar space.
> That is the mission of NASA as I see it: To do the impossible.
Overblown rhetoric. Putting astronauts on top of missiles and shooting them to the Moon is not "doing the impossible." That was proved 40 years ago. It's just doing the very, very expensive.
> NASA exploration of the Moon would do a lot of general groundwork for the private sector,
And when the private sector sees how much money NASA spent doing that, they will run screaming in the opposite direction. Just as investors did 40 years ago. We don't need another negative demonstration to scare investors, or another four decades of NASA Administrators telling Congress it's impossible to do it for less.
> The current approach is the result of time limitations at NASA's genesis, and have continued
That's a bizarre explanation, when NASA 's going to spend 14 years to get back to the Moon. It only took them 8 years the first time, and it could be done in less time now, if Griffin did not rule out the use of existing launch vehicles. No, Brian, time limitations are not the problem.
> You completely ignored what I said and saw only what you were prepared to answer. What I said,
> Moreover, if you think this is about "preserving and enhancing the military and economic power
No, Brian, I got the point. I know ESAS isn't about those things. I do care about them, which is why I don't care for ESAS. At least you're being honest though and not trying to convince us Orion will protect the national security by preventing the Chinese from invading the Moon and stealing all the green cheese.
Posted by Edward Wright at April 30, 2007 10:26 PM
"Because in the real world, the government does not have an infinite amount of money."
This response is imbecilic on so many levels I don't know where to begin. You appear to propose that NASA hand over its entire manned spaceflight budget to a prize and contracts agency, to be doled out among an industry that doesn't even really exist at this point, then lecture me on "reality." Then, in response to a suggestion that NACA and NASA are not mutually exclusive, which makes no stipulations about relative or absolute funding levels, you make some flippant remark about "infinite" money. More money has been spent on the Iraq war to date than has ever been spent by NASA in history, and you react as though if they doubled the NASA budget and resurrected NACA the country would go bankrupt.
"If we had continued the NACA and the military X-plane programs, we might have routine, affordable access not only to the Moon but all of cislunar space."
There's no reason to suspect the X-plane program would have transcended suborbital flight, let alone opened cislunar space, and the idea that it would have led to Moon landings is preposterous. NACA would have produced hypersonic, high-altitude transport AT BEST--the only "business case" that would have existed without the otherwise unforeseeable ancillaries of NASA development. The rest of the solar system would still be a total mystery and fodder for cheap pulp comics instead of real places with real promise.
"Putting astronauts on top of missiles and shooting them to the Moon is not "doing the impossible." That was proved 40 years ago."
Yes, because NASA proved it. NACA wouldn't have had anything to do with the Moon.
"And when the private sector sees how much money NASA spent doing that, they will run screaming in the opposite direction."
Oh, I see. The private sector doesn't know by now that NASA does things inefficiently? Bigelow, Musk, Branson, Bezos, etc would just liquidate their investments and go home if the free onslaught of data and experience costs too much after thousands of layers of bureaucracy that no private firm would or could duplicate? It's almost like this hatred of NASA is an article of faith for you.
"Just as investors did 40 years ago."
So you're accusing NASA of doing its job too well and exploring too far past the investment curve. Investors weren't even interested in hypersonic aircraft, so I'm not buying the idea they were "scared off" from otherwise massive investments in the Moon by Apollo's costs.
"That's a bizarre explanation, when NASA 's going to spend 14 years to get back to the Moon."
At its creation, NASA was under pressure to get into space as quickly as possible so the US could catch up to Russia, and this led to a number of decisions that have been highly limiting for future operations. Now those time limits are gone, but budget constraints have replaced them and largely precluded revolutionary approaches.
"Kennedy and Johnson cancelled the B-70, the X-15, and DynaSoar to pay for Apollo."
Then they were merely redirecting the focus of existing space efforts, not reprioritizing funds from the general military to space.
"Today, we're getting rid of B-52s, U-2s, F-117s, and F-16s to pay for Orion."
I don't know where you're getting the idea that these plane retirements, if indeed any of them are being planned, are going to wind up funding Orion. NASA's budget has not significantly increased, while the military has pissed away hundreds of billions above its normal funding in a handful of years conquering Iraq.
"but that is unacceptable to me because I care about national security."
You don't distinguish national security from Pentagon funding, but do distinguish space exploration from NASA funding. Haven't reflected very deeply on this, have you?
"At least you're being honest though and not trying to convince us Orion will protect the national security by preventing the Chinese from invading the Moon and stealing all the green cheese."
What difference does it make whether or not Chinese space exploration presents a threat? Our national character should cry out not to be upstaged by such an old, conservative, and antagonistic civilization. The thought of bitter old men looking up at a Moon occupied solely by taikonauts and saying "They're not so smart, we were first" makes me sick with disgust. Having pissed away its moral authority, and sold its cultural soul for a cheeseburger and CGI movie, all America has left is its spirit of adventure and innovation, its agility and bold love of seeking awesome futures. Before we lose even that, and become a complete parody of our ancestors, let's do a few more great things.Posted by Brian Swiderski at May 1, 2007 12:31 AM
all America has left is its spirit of adventure and innovation, its agility and bold love of seeking awesome futures.
It also has it's $8.8 trillion national debt. Awesome future there.Posted by Adrasteia at May 1, 2007 02:31 AM
Don't worry, they've been buying deficit indulgences from the Chinese. It's all ok.
And still, this is the best argument you can come up with? We ought to surrender in Iraq and disband the military, just so NASA can have more money to -- make spaceflight more expensive?
Sorry, no. I don't want to leave America helpless to its enemies just so NASA can land on the Moon a few times, until the television ratings go down and the program is cancelled again.
> There's no reason to suspect the X-plane program would have transcended suborbital flight, let alone
You need to do a little research, Brian.
The X-20 was working on orbital flight when it was cancelled.
> So you're accusing NASA of doing its job too well and exploring too far past the investment
No, you're making up words and putting them in my mouth.
Investors aren't interested in hypersonic aircraft because the physics of sustained hypersonic atmospheric flight are quite daunting. Much more so than spaceflight. This is another area where you need to do some research.
> Now those time limits are gone, but budget constraints have replaced them and largely precluded revolutionary approaches.
This doesn't make sense. The so-called "revoluntary approaches" would cost less money than ESAS, so how can "budget constraints" preclude them if they don't preclude ESAS?
> You don't distinguish national security from Pentagon funding, but do distinguish space exploration from NASA funding.
Yes, because NASA is not the only organization working to explore space. The Pentagon is the only organization that can protect national security. The duty of government is to provide for the common defense, not to produce bread and circuses.
> Our national character should cry out not to be upstaged by such an old, conservative, and antagonistic civilization.
We are not being upstaged. We are moving forward, developing cost-effective approaches to human spaceflight, while the China is merely repeating the mistakes we made 40 years ago. I would rather move forward than live in the past.
"We ought to surrender in Iraq and disband the military, just so NASA can have more money to -- make spaceflight more expensive?"
Don't start with that "surrender" bullshit, and you can spare me your other Rovean straw men as well. NASA doesn't "make" spaceflight expensive, it just hasn't traditionally made it any cheaper--something that may be changing with new COTS contracts and prize architectures. Nor do I think that should be the sole focus of its mission, as you apparently do.
"I don't want to leave America helpless to its enemies"
So no matter what the Pentagon budget is, or how wastefully they spend our money, any less = helpless to our enemies? The fact is, American national security would likely be optimal at a fraction of the current budget, and human spaceflight at an order of magnitude greater than at present.
"The X-20 was working on orbital flight when it was cancelled."
The orbital configuration of the X-20 would have been launched atop a vertical rocket booster, just like Mercury, but would have included the added costs, complexity, and danger of winged reentry. This is your example for how much better NACA and/or the Air Force would have done things?
"Investors aren't interested in hypersonic aircraft because the physics of sustained hypersonic atmospheric flight are quite daunting."
They weren't even interested enough to finance development of a cheap, quiet Concorde, but through some kind of voodoo logic you conclude that it was NASA's fault they didn't line up to build Moon bases?
"The so-called "revoluntary approaches" would cost less money than ESAS, so how can "budget constraints" preclude them if they don't preclude ESAS?"
They would cost less to operate once built, not to thoroughly transform NASA's infrastructure in order to develop and implement them. You have to spend money to make money, and Congress, under pressure both from budget hawks and people with misguided priorities, will only give them what's needed to maintain the status quo. Maybe if they just did nothing for a few years and saved up their money, then they could afford these investments, but NASA is not a kid mowing lawns--it's a national space agency with huge commitments. The money to invest in new things either comes at the expense of current operations or must be in addition to current operations.
"Yes, because NASA is not the only organization working to explore space."
Yes, it is. It may not be the only working to develop space, but there isn't a single private organization with a demonstrated capability of launching deep space exploratory missions, manned or robotic.
"The Pentagon is the only organization that can protect national security."
Oh, then I guess we can cancel the FBI, Secret Service, DHS, CIA, state National Guards, State Department, and all state and local police programs involved in counterterrorism and national security. We apparently have no need for Embassies, consulates, intelligence agencies, treaties, non-military alliances of any kind, UN membership, or participation in Interpol. Once again, your cartoonish, childish, binary universe bears no resemblance to reality--the Pentagon is one vector is a very large set, and it gets far too much funding. Money that could be building roads into the future for us all.
"The duty of government is to provide for the common defense"
And you don't think spreading the human species as far and wide as possible qualifies?
"not to produce bread and circuses."
So because the idea of government employees exploring space is less entertaining to you than going yourself, the former is "bread and circuses" and the latter is presumably something else?
"We are not being upstaged."
At this rate, we surely will be. The Chinese displaced millions of their own people for the largest public works project in human history, the Three Gorges Dam, and that was just one of their massive government programs, undertaken with budgets a fraction of what they ultimately will be. Even with full commercialization, if we refuse to use NASA for its natural mission, we'll just be building tourist resorts on the Moon while the Chinese get a decade or more head start on the real prize--Mars.
"We are moving forward, developing cost-effective approaches to human spaceflight, while the China is merely repeating the mistakes we made 40 years ago."
Is there anything in the behavior of the PRC that makes you think they care how much something costs? They are not a democracy, and their resources are not limited in the way the Soviet Union's were by outlawing markets. If we were riding to space on rockets that cost a tenth of what they do today, and the Chinese for some reason ignored the technology and just kept doing things the same way, they will still be able to easily outstrip us in the next two decades. But they won't ignore that technology--the advances we make, they will simply purchase or steal, and pour massive amounts of money into exploiting them.Posted by Brian Swiderski at May 1, 2007 07:43 PM
Sorry, Brian, but Orion/Ares will make spaceflight more expensive. Simple arithmetic shows as much. If you want to deny that, please show your figures.
> So no matter what the Pentagon budget is, or how wastefully they spend our money,
You're putting words in my mouth. I never said that.
We will be helpless, though, if our enemies develop cheap, routine access to space while we throw our money away on historical reenactments.
> The fact is, American national security would likely be optimal at a fraction
Spending $160 billion a year to do almost nothing in space would not enhance our national security.
Making spaceflight *less* expensive will enhance our national security. You're confusing inputs (expenses) with outputs (results).
> The orbital configuration of the X-20 would have been launched atop a
Ah, the old "danger of winged reentry" shibboleth. You've learned the ESAS lines well.
Do you think we should forget jet airplanes because the Comet proved "the danger of pressurized jet airplanes"? One accident means we have to forget about reject the idea of progress and go back to flying fabric biplanes forever, just like the Columbia accident means we have to go back to Apollo capsules forever?
So, what about the Apollo 1 fire? And the Apollo 13 explosions? The kosmonauts who died in Soyuz mishaps? All the capsule accidents Griffin forgets about when he tells you they have a 100% safety record?
Being launched on a "vertical rocket" does not mean X-20 was "just like Mercury." It was an X-vehicle, a step forward, not a deadend. The X-20 would have been followed by more x-vehicles, eventually leading to fully reusable vehicles (like the Reusable Atlas, which was already on the drawing board).
> They weren't even interested enough to finance development of a cheap,
It's called "physics" and "economics," Brian. Concorde was not cheap, whatever you believe, and making a Concorde quiet would require technological breakthroughs.
> "The so-called "revoluntary approaches" would cost less money than ESAS, so
> They would cost less to operate once built, not to thoroughly transform NASA's
They would cost less to operate *and* implement, Brian.
NASA doesn't need to "thoroughly tranform" its infrastructure to buy Atlas and Delta rockets. You're becoming hysterical.
> It may not be the only working to develop space, but there isn't a
Really??? That would come as a big surprise to Boeing and Lockheed.
Do you know who launched the Pluto New Horizons spacecraft?
You have it backwards, Brian. NASA does not have any capability to launch deep space missions. The Shuttle can't go beyond Low Earth Orbit. When NASA wants to launch a deep space probe, it goes to Boeing or Lockheed to buy a commercial launch, on a commercial launcher.
> Is there anything in the behavior of the PRC that makes you think they
When it comes to space? Very little, which is why they are no threat. If they get to the Moon, they won't be able to do more than plant a few flags, leave some plaques, collect a few rocks, and produce a teevee program. Like Apollo.
> If we were riding to space on rockets that cost a tenth of what they do today,
I'm not going to wet my pants about the possibility of Communist China spending more money to put fewer people into space.
Posted by Edward Wright at May 1, 2007 08:53 PM
"Sorry, Brian, but Orion/Ares will make spaceflight more expensive."
More expensive than the Shuttle it replaces, or just more expensive than systems you wish they'd used?
"You're putting words in my mouth. I never said that."
Yes, you did. I suggested cutting the Pentagon budget, and the reason you gave for opposing the idea was to avoid being "helpless against our enemies" and "disbanding the military." Given that we could cut the DoD budget by 3/4 and still have the world's most heavily funded military, your reaction is utterly insane.
"We will be helpless, though, if our enemies develop cheap, routine access to space while we throw our money away on historical reenactments."
1. The threats identified in military studies come from antisatellite weapons on mediocre ballistic missiles, not "cheap and routine access to space."
2. There is no significant danger of any hostile country other than China developing a large enough capability to threaten entire military satellite constellations.
3. You've already dismissed China and its space program.
4. None of that has anything to do with Orion, nor is Orion "in the way" of New Space progress by virtue of not subsidizing enough of it to your satisfaction.
5. No other country in space is doing anything remotely resembling our commercialization regimen, so if it doesn't happen here, it simply won't happen.
6. Your characterization of "reenactment," while reflecting genuine concerns about the lack of ambition in the Lunar plans, is once again a product of circular reasoning. If they could afford to be more ambitious, they would be, but you want to deny them even more money because they aren't.
Where is all that innovative, agile, "mammalian" creative energy of the private sector that should have gotten us to the Moon cheaply and reliably by now? Oh, I forgot--it needs more NASA funding to work, just like NASA does.
"Spending $160 billion a year to do almost nothing in space would not enhance our national security."
If you think $160 billion PER YEAR would be buy "almost nothing," you're out of your mind. At that rate, 2035 would be the target for setting foot on EUROPA, if not TITAN, rather than Mars, and not only would there already be thriving human settlements on both the Moon and Mars, but we could send DOZENS of space probes throughout the solar system **every single year**, in ADDITION to tens of billions in COTS contracts and prizes. Space-related industries would become America's largest and most profitable, its largest employers, and entirely new industries would sprout around its footsteps like some kind of vernal goddess. It would transform our civilization from top to bottom in a matter of years. Yeah, "almost nothing."
As for national security--you're joking, right? Absolute dominance of space technology, explosive economic growth that leaves even China in the dust, space colonies with strong cultural allegiance to the United States that might one day become powerful, the ground floor of exploiting literally infinite resources? If you can think of a case where stronger national security than that has ever existed in human history, be my guest and tell me about it.
"Making spaceflight *less* expensive will enhance our national security."
That too costs money. Either be willing to spend it or don't complain when it fails to materialize.
"You're confusing inputs (expenses) with outputs (results)."
Input: $40 billion per year (equivalent).
Input: $16 billion per year.
The record is pretty clear: More = more. At the current DoD budget of about half a trillion per year, middle-aged people would live to see Kuiper Belt settlements, Oort cloud exploration, humanity spreading like a glorious dawn across the entire solar system, the launch of fractional-c interstellar probes, on and on. I get chills just thinking about what could be accomplished with that money.
"The X-20 would have been followed by more x-vehicles, eventually leading to fully reusable vehicles."
NASA has had plenty of reusable vehicles on the drawing board that were cancelled due to lack of adequate funding.
"Concorde was not cheap,"
Whereas Moon bases were cheap, and then NASA came along and turned them expensive.
"and making a Concorde quiet would require technological breakthroughs."
Unlike settling the Moon, which requires no breakthroughs whatsoever--just buy scuba tanks and put a diving bell on top of a Dnepr and you can use M80 firecrackers for the TLI stage. Then the astronauts can use pogo sticks to land.
"NASA doesn't need to "thoroughly tranform" its infrastructure to buy Atlas and Delta rockets."
I agree, but if that's all you're suggesting then your characterizations are hugely exaggerated. Switching to Atlas and Delta rather than Stick might, repeat might, result in nontrivial savings, but nothing tremendous at such a low flight rate as NASA plans. Again, there's no reason they couldn't both do this and have a larger budget.
"Really??? That would come as a big surprise to Boeing and Lockheed."
Earlier you said that only the Pentagon could deliver national security, even though many of its weapons are contracted from Lockheed and Boeing. Now you're saying NASA isn't the sole American institution of space exploration just because its probes and spacecraft are contracted? I don't recall Lockheed launching its own exploration missions with in-house funding, so I guess you're saying every contractor remotely involved in the process is an independent space explorer. The catering van operator that swings by the fabrication plant that makes screws for satellites is apparently on par with NASA.
"Do you know who launched the Pluto New Horizons spacecraft?"
Yeah, NASA. You can pick up a hooker in a Toyota, and you can launch a probe to Pluto on an Atlas, but that doesn't mean Toyota is in the prostitution business or that Lockheed explores space.
"If they get to the Moon, they won't be able to do more than plant a few flags, leave some plaques, collect a few rocks, and produce a teevee program. Like Apollo."
Apollo never got much further than that because it was cancelled, which occurred due to the fickle attentions of a democratic system. China, even if it limited itself to Apollo budgets--which I don't think it will--isn't going to cancel their program. They will stay, and will expand their presence without the remotest care as to the cost, and all that investment will return to them in spades while we wait around twiddling our thumbs for the Holy Marketplace to make Lunar exploration easy instead of just GOING.
"I'm not going to wet my pants about the possibility of Communist China spending more money to put fewer people into space."
What is it with you and these baseless articles of faith? They will spend a LOT more money to put a LOT more people on the MOON, nevermind just LEO, and doing a lot more with it while NASA struggles just to get there on a shoestring budget and New Space struggles to commercialize orbit. This is not the Soviet Union--they will have the world's largest, most prosperous capitalist economy fueling their priorities, projected to be anywhere from two to four times larger than ours, and a government with no semblance of accountability to its people.
At that level, they could spend us into the ground, totally destroying the US appetite for bold space ventures, just like Reagan supposedly did to the USSR wrt military programs, and tiny little New Space industries desperately looking for a niche would not surpass them. Rather, it's more likely they would license the technologies they develop to private firms under strict contracts, and Lunar industries would thus become intimately tied into the Chinese government from the ground up.Posted by Brian Swiderski at May 2, 2007 01:06 AM
Squiddie says: At the current DoD budget of about half a trillion per year, middle-aged people would live to see Kuiper Belt settlements, Oort cloud exploration, humanity spreading like a glorious dawn across the entire solar system, the launch of fractional-c interstellar probes, on and on. I get chills just thinking about what could be accomplished with that money.
I get chills when people believe that more money always equals more success. You have absolutely no idea if these things could be accomplished in the time frame you set. The glorious dawn will be you reverting back to complaining that people discuss these topics outside of reality, which is of course, what you're doing here. Is it possible? Yes. Is it a reality? No.Posted by Mac at May 2, 2007 07:06 AM
> More expensive than the Shuttle it replaces,
Yes, more expensive than the Shuttle it replaces. This has been discussed here so often it's hard to believe you missed it.
> 1. The threats identified in military studies come from antisatellite weapons
That's only one type of threat identified by some studies.
"Antisatellite weapons on mediocre ballistic missiles" are easily countered, given low-cost, rapid launch.
> 2. There is no significant danger of any hostile country other
Your intel is defective. Kazahkstan has announced that it intends to develop a smallsat launcher, based on the air-launched ASAT program they inherited from the Soviet Union. That would also give them an operational ASAT capability. Kazahkstan is hardly a world power. If they can be on the verge of developing ASAT capabilities, we need to think long and hard.
ESA is working on two separate systems capable of rendezvous and docking with a satellite for servicing purposes. Any system that can dock with an uncooperative target (like a malfunctioning satellite) can also be used as an ASAT.
> 3. You've already dismissed China and its space program.
No, I dismiss the goofy notion China landing a few taikonauts landing on the Moon in Shenghou capsules would be some sort of terrible threat.
There are many other things China could do that would be threats. Those are the things I worry about.
> 4. None of that has anything to do with Orion, nor is Orion "in the way"
I don't want Orion to subsidize New Space. Stop lying about what I said.
I want NASA to continue its mission as an R&D development agency for military and commercial space and aviation. A mission that goes all the way back to the NACA and the New Deal. I'm sorry if FDR is too right wing for you.
I also want the military to be capable of defending the United States. Your proposal to cut 3/4 of the military budget just so NASA can take some cool trips is just plain loony. Even the leftmost members of Congress wouldn't go for that. No one will, this side of Planet Swiderski.
> 5. No other country in space is doing anything remotely resembling our
You need to do some research.
Russia and ESA are doing feasibility studies on suborbital vehicle. The UAE and Singapore are working on launch sites for suborbital vehicles. Kazahkstan has announced the air-launched smallsat launcher. Russia is developing Angora to replace the Proton launcher and building a Soyuz launch site in South America. A Russian billionaire living in London is reportedly offering $300 million for a circumlunar flight, and Russian space officials say they're interested. They're still talking about Klipper, as well, and working with ESA on feasibility studies for lunar landings that could take place before Orion, for less money.
> If you think $160 billion PER YEAR would be buy "almost nothing," you're
"Dozens" of space probes. That just about says it all, Brian.
Yes, we could continue to make spaceflight more expensive. And if we were willing to cancel the military, we could spend $160 billion on NASA and get "dozens" of missions per year? So what?
Apart from the fact that no sane American is going to do that, "dozens" of missions per year is still a very, very small number.
On the other hand, if we reduce the cost of space access and space operations, we'll soon have dozens of missions every day, then hundreds, then thousands -- just like aviation.
> Input: $16 billion per year.
> The record is pretty clear: More = more.
No, Brian, the record shows that your "SPAM capsules" carried fewer astronauts into space than the Shuttle did. They spent more money, but they flew less. Again, you need to do some research.
> "and making a Concorde quiet would require technological breakthroughs."
> Unlike settling the Moon, which requires no breakthroughs whatsoever--
Yes, Brian, we had the technology to settle the Moon thirty years ago. It doesn't require breakthroughs in supersonic aerodynamics like your "quiet Concorde." I don't know why you find that surprising.
Apollo was not cancelled because they lacked some technological breakthrough needed to continue. It was cancelled because it cost too much money and the returns were too small.
> "Do you know who launched the Pluto New Horizons spacecraft?"
> Yeah, NASA.
No, NASA's only launch vehicle (the Shuttle) isn't capable of reaching Pluto.
NASA bought a commercial ride for New Horizons, which is what the LSPA calls for.
> This is not the Soviet Union--they will have the world's largest, most
You're confusing Communism with capitalism, Brian.
China does not have the largest, most prosperous economy in the world. The United States does. I really wonder why the China worshippers just don't move to China, if their system is so much better than ours. The Soviet economy was also projected to grow faster than ours, all throughout the Cold War. Somehow, it didn't.
Posted by Edward Wright at May 2, 2007 01:32 PM
Re: Firefox's "Spell Checker";
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