Transterrestrial Musings  


Amazon Honor System Click Here to Pay

Space
Alan Boyle (MSNBC)
Space Politics (Jeff Foust)
Space Transport News (Clark Lindsey)
NASA Watch
NASA Space Flight
Hobby Space
A Voyage To Arcturus (Jay Manifold)
Dispatches From The Final Frontier (Michael Belfiore)
Personal Spaceflight (Jeff Foust)
Mars Blog
The Flame Trench (Florida Today)
Space Cynic
Rocket Forge (Michael Mealing)
COTS Watch (Michael Mealing)
Curmudgeon's Corner (Mark Whittington)
Selenian Boondocks
Tales of the Heliosphere
Out Of The Cradle
Space For Commerce (Brian Dunbar)
True Anomaly
Kevin Parkin
The Speculist (Phil Bowermaster)
Spacecraft (Chris Hall)
Space Pragmatism (Dan Schrimpsher)
Eternal Golden Braid (Fred Kiesche)
Carried Away (Dan Schmelzer)
Laughing Wolf (C. Blake Powers)
Chair Force Engineer (Air Force Procurement)
Spacearium
Saturn Follies
JesusPhreaks (Scott Bell)
Journoblogs
The Ombudsgod
Cut On The Bias (Susanna Cornett)
Joanne Jacobs


Site designed by


Powered by
Movable Type
Biting Commentary about Infinity, and Beyond!

« Altruism | Main | Electric Roadster »

Who Cares What He Thinks?

Seriously. I'm sure that he's a fine engineer, and manager, but why does that mean that we should give his opinion more weight than anyone else's on the subject of space goals? Just because someone is an expert at implementing a space program doesn't make them one at justifying it, or determining what it should be.

As is always the case with stories like this, there are implicit underlying assumptions that are never stated. In order to argue where we should be going, one first has to decide why are going into space at all, and that's not a subject that ever really gets discussed. I assume that Mr. Gavin is into space "exploration," and assumes that everyone else shares that justification. He thinks that when it comes to the moon, we've "been there, done that," and it's time to go "explore" somewhere else, and that Mars is much more interesting. But what if the goal is instead, space development, or space defense, or geoengineering, or energy production? In that case, Mars makes no sense at all, and the people who want to send humans there should pay for it themselves.

Of course, I continue to wish that we could get a consensus from all the people with disparate space goals that the best approach is to make space access affordable, which will enable them all. Unfortunately, NASA is only making things worse in that regard (unless COTS, despite the paltry sums being spent on it, succeeds).

[Late afternoon update]

Rampant sarcasm has broken out in comments on this subject at Space Politics.

Posted by Rand Simberg at July 31, 2007 09:15 AM
TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.transterrestrial.com/mt-diagnostics.cgi/7961

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference this post from Transterrestrial Musings.
Comments

Your second paragraph is very well put.

Posted by Ashley at July 31, 2007 11:01 AM

I sometimes get tired of the "We've already been to the Moon" meme. Mr. Gavin seems to think that since we've already landed on the Moon, we should push on and "explore" somewhere else.

To be frank, I've never followed this logic. Even if we agree that "exploration" is the goal of the space program, it's not clear to me why landing on the Moon no longer counts. Does he believe that since we've already been there, it will be seen as "boring" by the public, and lose support? I find that unlikely, especially since fewer and fewer people remember the Apollo landings these days- the ten year old kids who watched it on TV are pushing fifty. Does he believe that because we landed at six spots around the Lunar equator on the light side, we can count the entire Moon as "explored" and assume that it has nothing more to teach us? This seems like a dubious proposition at best, especially considering that right now we arguably have better maps of Venus and Mars than we do of the Moon.

I've often wondered how much of the Apollo generation's thinking is still shaped by von Braun's plan, as outlined in Colliers. There seems to be an unspoken assumption in a lot of their thinking that the Moon's already been done, so it can be checked off the list and we can move on to Mars- without a lot of critical thought as to why Mars should be the next step.

Posted by Jeff Dougherty at July 31, 2007 12:14 PM

Here's a good article suggesting that a Near Earth Asteroid should be an intermediate step between returning to the moon and pressing on to Mars:

http://www.space.com/missionlaunches/070730_asteroid_probe.html

Posted by Mike Combs at July 31, 2007 12:50 PM

And what happens when we visit Mars? Check it off the list too? What's next after that? Landing on Jupiter? ;-)

Posted by Karl Hallowell at July 31, 2007 01:17 PM

To back up what Jeff said, the moon has a surface area of many thousand square kilometers. In six missions, we've explored on a few kilometers. There's still a lot to see and learn there. One thing we need to learn is how to live off planet for extended periods, something Apollo simply wasn't able to achieve. Those lessons would be quite valuable for future trips to Mars, the asteroids, etc.

While I respect Mr. Gavin's accomplishments with the Apollo Lunar Module (a wonderful piece of engineering), if we took his approach we'd never send any more space probes to Mars, Jupiter, or any other planet we've already "explored." We might as well give up.

Posted by Larry J at July 31, 2007 01:19 PM

The day we send the first manned starship to Alpha Centauri, I suspect we'll *still* be learning something new about the physical nature of the Moon (or of Earth, for that matter...)

Posted by Frank Glover at July 31, 2007 02:21 PM

>And what happens when we visit Mars? Check it off >the list too? What's next after that? Landing on >Jupiter? ;-)

That's often what I've wondered. We're going to run out of places to explore pretty fast, given how flimsy some definitions of "explored" seem to be. ;-) Apollo did some great things, but it certainly did not explore the entire Moon.

One amendment to my previous comment: instead of "the goal of the space program" I should have said "the goal of NASA's space program". Fortunately, it seems that there's more than one around these days.

Posted by Jeff Dougherty at July 31, 2007 02:24 PM

If six landings on the moon make it a 'Been There, Done That' boring, what the hell is low earth orbit by now after umpteen hundred flights?

Posted by Mike Puckett at July 31, 2007 02:53 PM

What are scientists of every sort still exploring EARTH? I mean, we've been on this planet for thousands of years, haven't we learned all there is to know about it yet?

Posted by Cecil Trotter at July 31, 2007 02:55 PM

"What are scientists of every sort still exploring EARTH? "

Damn Cecil, you are so right! I was doing this very thing just two hours ago in fact!

I am going to set my Jeep and all of its associated apparatus on fire in protest of my boring and repetitive job!

After all, I have done the same things literal thousands of times. In fact, I think likely I hold the personal human record for most benthic surveys conducted in this state!

BORING!!!! There is no place for repetition in Science!!! One data point is quite enough for any reasonable soul!!

Screw this!

Posted by Mike Puckett at July 31, 2007 03:24 PM

What, Mike, you mean you're not happy with n=1? :-)

But it's not even that. You're still doing surveys in places where people have (presumably) been before. Most of the Moon's surface has never been explored from any closer than low orbit.

And that's not even counting what we might turn up on a repeat trip to Hadley. Who knows what else is lying on the ground around there?

Posted by Jeff Dougherty at July 31, 2007 03:28 PM


To back up what Jeff said, the moon has a surface area of many thousand square kilometers. In six missions, we've explored on a few kilometers. There's still a lot to see and learn there.

Four astronauts can't possibly explore "many thousand square kilometers."

Nor is that NASA's stated goal. Mike Griffin wants to establish a lunar base, so they'll land at the same spot each time. Every time the astronauts do an EVA, they'll be walking around the same base, past the same scenery, the same craters, and the same rocks. There won't be much new in watching astronauts repair the LOX plant for the 27th time.

As the LEO bashers say, the astronauts will be "janitors, not explorers."

--

So, Larry, when are you going to answer my question? If the US can't afford to spend $120 million on a military spaceplane that has "limited value," how can it afford to spend $120 billion sending a few astronauts to the Moon? Why are a few Moon rocks and tv pictures of astronauts planting flagshave more valueable to the US than routine, affordable access to space for military purposes? Please educate me.

Posted by Edward Wright at July 31, 2007 03:31 PM


If six landings on the moon make it a 'Been There, Done That' boring, what the hell is low earth orbit by now after umpteen hundred flights?

It would be called "fiction" or "the future." There haven't been "umpteen hundred" manned missions to low earth orbit.

Besides, wasn't VSE justified by claims that LEO was boring, not "real" space exploration, and "NASA needs to go someplace" more exciting?

If NASA is doing VSE because tv viewers think watching astronauts building a base in LEO is boring, why would viewers find building a base on the Moon more interesting? The operations will be pretty much the same: Routine resupply missions, the arrival of new modules, EVAs to install and repair equipment.

The only real difference will be the scenery: constant, nonchanging lunar landscape instead of the everchanging backdrop of the Earth. If viewers aren't interested in watching install a new antenna with a typhoon developing in the background, why would they be interested in watching an astronauts install an antenna with Lunar Rock 216 in the background? (The same rock they've seen on the last 50 EVAs.)

Posted by Edward Wright at July 31, 2007 04:02 PM

"It would be called "fiction" or "the future." There haven't been "umpteen hundred" manned missions to low earth orbit."

It would be called artistic liscense by any one not so heavily invested in extrapolating everything into the the same tired binary strawman arguments ad infinitum.

Posted by Mike Puckett at July 31, 2007 04:23 PM


Okay, Mike, then Gavin can take the same "license" and refute you by saying there have been umpteen hundred flights to the Moon.

And Mark can say Ares is not more expensive than the Shuttle.

And Bill can say the movie rights to a Moon landing would be worth ten billion dollars.

If numbers are just something you make up, you can claim anything. Like Gertrude, I prefer "more matter with less art."


Posted by Edward Wright at July 31, 2007 04:56 PM

I think there's something to be said for mobility. Wherever the lunar base is, put something with wheels up there.

In fact, anything we use public money for on another planet should have wheels. If I'm paying a billion bucks, I want to be able to tool around a bit!

Posted by Daniel Markham at July 31, 2007 05:18 PM

From the original article:
"The intriguing question of current or prior life on Mars needs to be answered," [Gavin] says.

It does? Why is it such a priority that it takes priority over all the other priorities? I have no investiture in the "Das Marsprojekt uber alles" philosophy. Mars doesn't even appear on my radar most of the time, and when it does my analyses have shown me that it offers too little in the way of business opportunity or useful knowledge over my lifetime to be of interest. Interesting knowledge, yes, but if I'm heading out that way it's to set up a station at Sun-Mars L1 (maybe L2) to handle traffic to both Mars and the asteroids. Because the opportunity is in the asteroids. My personal feelings are that we are on a snipe hunt with the whole "Life on Mars" thing, a hunt that has already gathered huge amounts of data at great expense, and distracted us from prepping for the Moon and NEOs.

I will admit that if we do end up finding some kind of xenoform it could have huge repercussions for the biotech industry. Utterly, mind-bogglingly huge consequences that will involve massive sums of money. It could also be a bust and nothing more complicated than a archaeobacteria with few differences of worth from what we already have our hands on. But they never talk about it that way!

I really don't feel much attachment to Apollo, either. It's an interesting chapter for the history books, but I'm looking forward, and the Moon and Cislunar Space offer huge business opportunity in a number of areas. Opportunities that are becoming increasingly tappable as the American space industry grows.

Or in the style of my generation: "Like, Mars? Whatever!"

Posted by Ken Murphy at July 31, 2007 05:20 PM

"If numbers are just something you make up, you can claim anything. Like Gertrude, I prefer "more matter with less art."

No Ed, you prefer to whine and play lawyer ball when people challenge you about making further varations of the same tired binary strawman argument over and over.

Posted by Mike Puckett at July 31, 2007 05:29 PM

It's the old familiar battle between the rabbits and the turtles. I don't really mind as long as they don't go back to launching whales.

Dinkin comment @ spacepolitics:
"Because Iím an economist, I get an extra vote as long as itís different from the first."

Good one, made my day ^_^

Posted by Habitat Hermit at July 31, 2007 05:57 PM


the same tired binary strawman argument /em>

Irony abounds, Mike -- do you know what "binary" means?

It refers to a system of math with only two values. Usually "one" and "zero," but it could also describe your counting system in which all numbers are either zero or "upteen hundreds." :-)

In the standard counting system, there have been about 250 manned flights to Low Earth Orbit, which is neither zero nor "umpteen hundreds." More than a thousand flights less than what most people would call "umpteen hundred."

If you want to "challenge" me, please use some actual logic based on real facts, not handwaving and madeup numbers.

Posted by Edward Wright at July 31, 2007 06:35 PM

Speaking of comments:
- The first comment at the source is our infamous friend from Italy. Never fails.
- Rand's filter rejected my real e-mail because it contained "a-n-5" (without dashes). What gives? What sex word can it be?
- I'm totally behind the inflatable marmot concept, as long as it uses Bigelow technology.

Thanks, Rand, this was absolutely fantastic comedy.

Posted by Author at July 31, 2007 07:48 PM

Ed,

1) For the record, you challenged me, I don't remember adressing anything you wrote first.

2) I don't care to debate with you because you will pull out the same super productive binary strawman argument you pull out everytime. I am sure it would be worth the effort and time to thrash it to its inevitible conclusion for the benefit of all the readers in this thread who do not recall it from the past 432 umpteen bazillion times you have flagellated that mortified equine. I do not care to engage you in a Road Runner vs Wyle Coyote exercise in futility. If you wish to keep stepping over the edge of the cliff, be my guest.

3) Yes, I know there has been 6 lunar landings and around 200 orbital flights. Do you know umpteen is not a real mumber but a slang term used to represent a large number that ~200 certainly is compared to 6. Metaphor is a valid linguistic tool. I assumed all the audience here at Transterrestrial are adult enough to properly contextualize it. In that, I certainly will accept a judgement of error. Apparently, I ascribed you a bazllion times more common sense than you have so far demonstrated in this thread.

4) Why do I have to explain this to you? You seem to be hung up on making technical debating points. Ed, this may suprise you but no one else gives a shit. Lawyer ball lost all fun around the 11th grade, it is a dead end exercise that adults can see thru easily.

5) Irony abounds even more when you use the word "Irony' in the proper context instead of straining to push deep into the frontiers of non-sequtir land. Irony can be pretty ironic at times as Lt. Drebin once opined but not in this case.

Posted by Mike Puckett at July 31, 2007 07:50 PM

"if viewers aren't interested in watching install a new antenna with a typhoon developing in the background, why would they be interested in watching an astronauts install an antenna with Lunar Rock 216 in the background? (The same rock they've seen on the last 50 EVAs.)
Posted by Edward Wright at July 31, 2007 04:02 PM"

What if they turned that area into a really interesting rock garden. People could vote for rock placement via the internet. Then, in the comments section we could sit back and say, "man your right, moon rock 217 looks really nice next to moon rock 216".

Posted by Josh Reiter at July 31, 2007 07:58 PM


Do you know umpteen is not a real mumber but a slang term used to represent a large number

Which does not support your bizarre statement that there have been "umpteen hundred" flights to Low Earth Orbit.

Two hundred is not "a large number" of hundreds.

Unless you think any number bigger than 1 is "large."

I now leave you to return to your emotional rant.

Posted by Edward Wright at July 31, 2007 08:29 PM

Rand, I believe you were saying something about McCarthyism?

Posted by Sara K at July 31, 2007 08:40 PM

Ed,

Perhaps a little Vagisil could help you with that sand lodged in your mangina.

Posted by Mike Puckett at July 31, 2007 09:22 PM

invariably, even this post sparked more in a way of comments of where and how, and who is stupid, instead of the "why" question.
if even the blogosphere crowd is unable to discuss this topic intelligently, or at all, what do you expect from mainstream media or politicians ?

lost fight from the get go. There will never be a concensus, or even clearly articulated two opposing opinions on "why go to space?" question, as space cadets prefer to fight over "where, when and how expensive" questions instead.

Posted by kert at August 1, 2007 12:45 AM

So, Larry, when are you going to answer my question? If the US can't afford to spend $120 million on a military spaceplane that has "limited value," how can it afford to spend $120 billion sending a few astronauts to the Moon? Why are a few Moon rocks and tv pictures of astronauts planting flagshave more valueable to the US than routine, affordable access to space for military purposes? Please educate me.

Your continued mixing of NASA and DoD space is just plain stupid. Why should I waste my time trying to convince you of the stupidity of the comparison? And if you think you can build a military space plane that has actual operational utility for $120 million, you obviously have no clue. A single F-22 costs about that much and it's a long way from being a space plane.

Posted by Larry J at August 1, 2007 07:45 AM

I don' think there is a single answer to the "why" question. I don't think there ever was, really.

That's why the cost issue is the only one worth fighting for. Lower the costs, and you can support multiple "whys". Keep the costs high, and you guarantee continuing strife.
That's why the Moon/Mars argument is so silly -- as long as it supports lowering costs to space, it's a good idea, albeit in a roundabout way.

Posted by Daniel Markham at August 1, 2007 08:54 AM

i never wished for the single answer, the problem is that the "why" question is almost never disputed, and even if it is, the stated answers are really really vague "inspiration, maintaining the technological lead" and so on.

by the way, could you explain, in one minute, with really simple terms to a average Joe, WHY would you want to lower launch costs ? Its sort of a trick question ..

Posted by kert at August 1, 2007 12:01 PM

That's why the Moon/Mars argument is so silly -- as long as it supports lowering costs to space, it's a good idea, albeit in a roundabout way.

The problem is, it doesn't. If anything, it support the continued maintenance of high costs...

Posted by Rand Simberg at August 1, 2007 03:33 PM

We need to lower cost to orbit for the same reason we need huge plasma TVs: everybody wants to do it and it's high time the average man was able to do what all the fat cats are doing. We need to lower cost to orbit. Why? Because it costs too dang much, that's why. (grin)

Posted by Daniel Markham at August 1, 2007 06:02 PM


Your continued mixing of NASA and DoD space is just plain stupid. Why should I waste my time trying to convince you of the stupidity of the comparison?

In other words, you can't answer the question. Just as I thought.

And if you think you can build a military space plane that has actual operational utility for $120 million, you obviously have no clue. A single F-22 costs about that much and it's a long way from being a space plane.

No, Larry, a single F-22 does not cost "about" $120 million. It costs over $350 million.

What makes you think it's impossible to build a new aircraft for less than the cost of an F-22?

Burt Rutan built SpaceShip One *and* White Knight were built for a combined cost of only $25 million.

If you're right, they should have cost at least $700 million.

The F-22 is not a benchmark for low-cost aircraft development. It's one of the most expensive and complex aircraft ever built. As you say, an F-22 is a long way from being a spaceplane -- it has a lot of systems a spaceplane doesn't need. More than half of the F-22's cost is in avionic systems, most of which a spaceplane does not require.

Yet, you assume that a spaceplane has to cost as much as an F-22?

Once again, Larry, you have proven my point. Your
posts are fairly typical of Space Command attitudes toward anything new and innovative. That's why the Air Force will have to look elsewhere to develop real operationally responsive space capabilities.

Posted by Edward Wright at August 1, 2007 07:00 PM

We need to lower cost to orbit. Why? Because it costs too dang much, that's why.
This totally fails to sell it. So you spend good amount of engineering man years and a bunch of money in all these different organizations working on the goal. You manage to lower average price per kg on commercial launch market tenfold.
Then what happens ? You have got about 34.3 seconds left to explain it to Joe.

Posted by kert at August 2, 2007 01:08 AM

Kert:

Yep. It's a trick question. I suggest lowering costs to orbit as a main goal because we'll never agree on any other goal. So to ask which specific goal is the reason to lower costs? Yikes! Cognitive Hazard alert!

I'll give it one more shot. Let's say you're a surfer.

Dude. Like, we got to leave this place. People messing up the air and everything, and MTV doesn't even show videos that much anymore. So like, it's time to roll, dude. But the boffins can't seem to get us a ride that doesn't cost like as much as Britney Spear's crotch shots. So we gotta find some way to cruise without all the dinero. Like giant elevators with frickin laser beams. Or a bodacious slingshot built over half the midwest. Whatever. But it ain't cool to stay: there's probably going to be a rumble or just a big wired-up, turned-on, tuned-in meltdown of stagnation coming. Somebody needs to go to the local 7-11 for more stuff.

Posted by Daniel Markham at August 2, 2007 06:12 AM

Hi All,

In terms for aircraft costs the B787 Dreamliner might be a better benchmark. Virgin Atlantic is buying 15 of these for $2.8 billion, that is $187 million each. Design and build an RLV with economics (esepcially the potential to earn revenue) as good and folks will buy them.

Last I saw VG was paying $275 million for 5 SpaceShipTwos and The White Knight 2. That is getting into the commuter aircraft ballpark.

But the problem with LEO is the old chicken and egg problem. Airplanes had someplace to go and things to do from Day 1. The first bombing mission was in 1912 by Italy against the Ottoman Turks in their war over Libya. The first airline in the U.S. was started in 1914 flying folks across Tampa Bay, replacing a slow ferry trip and long drive around the shore. Where are the Space Equivalents? Reconn systems (Corona) do date to 1959 and comsats to the 1960ís as does Transit, but nothing that requires the economies of scale required to make the business case for RLVs work.

Right now demand for LEO systems is about the same as the demand for Viking Long Ships to North America, nothing found in space justifies it. The handful of Greenland Falcons sold to the Royalty in Europe, and the timber from Newfoundland to Greenland and Iceland, didnít require anything more. By contrast Spainís shipment of silver, gold and trade goods did and you got the Spanish Galleon to achieve Cheap Reliable Access To Americas (CRATA). Find the LEO market that requires 2000-3000 launches a year and you will have CRATS. But until then you access will be expense and firms following a field of breams model, build it and they will come, will continue to fail to find financing.

Tom

Posted by Thomas Matula at August 2, 2007 11:26 AM


But the problem with LEO is the old chicken and egg problem. Airplanes had someplace to go and things to do from Day 1. The first bombing mission was in 1912 by Italy against the Ottoman Turks in their war over Libya.

Tom, the first airplane flew in 1903 -- not 1912. You overlook nine years that preceeded what you call "Day 1."

And why is that a "problem with LEO." Do you think there will be no places the US wants to bomb in the future?

Reconn systems (Corona) do date to 1959 and comsats to the 1960ís as does Transit, but nothing that requires the economies of scale required to make the business case for RLVs work.

No? Care to guess how many combat sorties the US military has flown in Afghanistan or Iraq?

By contrast Spainís shipment of silver, gold and trade goods did and you got the Spanish Galleon to achieve Cheap Reliable Access To Americas (CRATA).

Again, Tom, read the economic history of that period. All that gold Spain looted from the New World ultimately weakened the Spanish economy. Gold was money in those days; by importing large amounts of gold, they were inflating the money supply. That inflation led to the Spanish crown being unable to afford as many ships and water barrels as it wanted for the "Enterprise of England" (aka Spanish Armada), contributing to Spain's defeat and decline as a world power.

The real market for traffic to the New World turned out to be the immigrant trade. Why do you insist on going back to the notion that the only resouces are raw materials? As economist Julian Simon pointed out, the "ultimate resource" is not gold or silver, it's people.

Find the LEO market that requires 2000-3000 launches a year and you will have CRATS.

Been there, done that, Tom. :-) 2000-3000 launches represents less than 1% of military sortie requirements.

Then there's that "ultimate resource" you keep overlooking.

Posted by Edward Wright at August 2, 2007 12:31 PM

Ed,

So much misinformation and misunderstanding in one reply. A new recrd for you? Go back and read why the Wright Brothers developed the airplane.

As for your analysis of New World traffic models, is immigrant the new politcally corect term for slaves and indenture servants? They were the bulk of the counter trade in the Americas until the 1600's. And that is key, markets exited on both sides of the ocean so there was a reason to develop better ships. There are no such dynamics for LEO.

Key is Markets come first, then technology to serve them. No one cared about burning coal in ENgland, it was smelly and hard to get, until they had a wood shortage. Then demand soared and so did technology for mining it.

As for the USAF needing 2000-3000 launches, if they really had a need for that launch rate the systems would be in place now. Actually they are, they are called ICBMs and IRBMs. There were 4,500 of them that were flown in World War II (A4). But that market hasn't helped LEO much since its not a LEO market.

Which brings us back to this post.

NASA has no more need for a high volume low cost system then NOAA has for Tankers. So why expect they will develop them? The 2-3 flights COTS will make a year is not a significant market and is a poor reason to spend billions to keep ISS flying. If you wanted you could serve it flying surplus Minuteman Missiles and a cheap capsule for less then they are spending on COTS.

But. yes, the USAF is the key, and I am glad some space advocates are finally coming around to seeing it. Its role will be the same as the Army's old frontier forts in the wild west. So the question is what missions make sense for high launch demands.


Posted by Thomas Matula at August 2, 2007 06:45 PM


As for the USAF needing 2000-3000 launches, if they really had a need for that launch rate the systems would be in place now. Actually they are, they are called ICBMs and IRBMs.

Tom, the USAF does not have a need for 2000-3000 IR/ICBM launches a year. Why would you believe that?

Space Command does a few operational readiness test launches every know and then, and that's it. They've never launched a single ICBM or IRBM in anger.

ICBMs and IRBMs are good for only one mission: destroying the world, and that went out of fashion with the end of the Cold War. They are useless for real warfighting, which requires a completely different type of system.

The US military has conducted hundreds of thousands of sorties over Afghanistan a similar number over Iraq. None of those were conducted by IR/CBMs.

As for the USAF needing 2000-3000 launches, if they really had a need for that launch rate the systems would be in place now. Actually they are, they are called ICBMs and IRBMs. There were 4,500 of them that were flown in World War II (A4).

There were no ICBMs or IRBMs in World War II. Nor any German astronauts launched on V-2s, either. :-)

An IRBM has a range of at least 3000 kilometers. An ICBM has a range of at least 5500 kilometers. The A-4 had a range of about 300 kilometers.

NASA has no more need for a high volume low cost system then NOAA has for Tankers. So why expect they will develop them?

Who said I expect them to??? Geez, Tom, you're the guy who kept telling me how important it was to give NASA billions of dollars to build heavy lift rockets and Constellation capsules so they could stripmine the Moon for Helium 3 and stuff. I never thought that made any sense.

If you've fallen out with NASA, don't take it out on me.

But. yes, the USAF is the key, and I am glad some space advocates are finally coming around to seeing it. Its role will be the same as the Army's old frontier forts in the wild west. So the question is what missions make sense for high launch demands.

Okay, I've "finally come around" to what I tried to hammer into your head for years, while you kept telling me it was politically incorrect to advocate any space policy except the Bush Vision. :-)

Now, if you can just forget about IR/ICBMs and look at real warfighting requirements, you will see the answer to your question.


Posted by Edward Wright at August 2, 2007 08:29 PM

Ed,

If you check my posts I have a long record of arguing that the USAF should be in charge of doing Spacelift, not NASA. Its the SFF that has finally come around after derailing the DC-X with its no military space policy in the 1990's. Of course they were also against the ISS and are now arguing for it because of the COTS bone they were thrown. Waste multipled by waste.

The VSE is about going to the Moon and that is NASA's job. And you need real rockets to do that, much larger then the RLVs folks are advocating. Instead of the toy rockets in ESAS NASA needs to be building something that will lift 400,000 to 500,00 lbs to LEO. And forget using the Shuttle infrastructure. Start from zero, it will be faster and cheaper in the long run then ESAS. NASA needs to pick-up where the Saturn V left off and before it followed the spaceplane deadend of the Shuttle.

The entire problem with VSE is NASA insisting on using Shuttle sytems for it. That is like using Viking long boats for transatlantic trade. Its time to build a rocket that will allow real payloads to be put into orbit. Until then the Moon, Mars, Mars moons, will just be unreachable fantasies and the Moon vs Mars debates pointless. What NASA needs to do is start work on a modern version of Bob Truax's Sea Dragon. 1 million poounds to LEO. Now that is a rocket, the entire mass of the completed ISS in one launch. Then you will have a sustainable space program that goes beyond LEO. Not before.

The USAF is about responsive spacelift. And because of it NASA never wanted the DC-X or X-33 programs. The RLV program was doomed as soon as NASA took it over. As for the ICBM's I for one am glad they haven't been needed, although they are still in service even if the numbers have been reduced thanks to the end of the Cold War and the raise of the Cruise missile.

Posted by Thomas Matula at August 2, 2007 11:58 PM

I and many others have said this before, but there is a "killer app" that requires immense amounts of cheap launch capability, and would make astronomical (pun intended) amounts of money for anyone with the guts to go for it. That application is SPS.

And at the same time, this would solve a lot of the environmental and political problems that humanity's thirst for oil is causing. Has anyone told Mr. Gates - who has poured billions of his own money into the festering bottomless pit that is Africa, most of those billions to end up in Switzerland?

Just imagine how much of a boost to the economy of the whole continent would be a Beanstalk with its terminus on some African mountain.

The problem is not that those who have control of the money necessary to do something about this can't see the possibilities; I am sure that they can. However, spending the necessary cash would reduce profits in the short term - and thus eat into the bonuses of presidents and vice-presidents of companies. Unfortunately, the same applies to American Presidents, except that this time the bonus is continuation in office.

Earth needs someone with the vision of a Kennedy in the early 60s. Is there anyone out there with that vision?

Posted by Fletcher Christian at August 3, 2007 11:01 AM


If you check my posts I have a long record of arguing that the USAF should be in charge of doing Spacelift, not NASA.

Okay, I checked. Here's a typical post: "However if NASA is serious about developing the Moon as a sustained base you will need the spacelift capability to support it and a SDV heavy-lift will provide that ability."

Assuming you were mispelling "DOD" every time you wrote "NASA," we are still not talking about the same thing.

I am not saying DoD should be "in charge of doing spacelift" (except maybe tactical spacelift, which is a special case).

DoD does not need a Shuttle-derived heavy lifter.

DoD is not in charge of doing airlift. DoD *buys* 80% of its airlift, from commercial airlines and charters. The only airlift missions it does itself are those that have specific tactical and strategic requirements that require military pilots.

You have an fixed belief that a government agency needs to be doing spacelift. It doesn't. There's no reason the government's spacelift needs can't be met by the private sector, just as the bulk of their airlift and sealift is met by the private sector.

Again, I wasn't saying DoD should be doing spacelift. I was saying they should be doing military spacecraft, which can perform tactical and strategic missions. Like the High-Performance Spaceplane that DARPA proposed:

http://www.dod.mil/pubs/foi/reading_room/883.pdf

The VSE is about going to the Moon and that is NASA's job.

Bingo, Tom. The Bush Vision (which, I'll remind you, was supposed to be a vision for the entire *nation*, not just NASA) says the nation's only space goal is sending NASA astronauts to the Moon and Mars. DoD isn't even mentioned. Neither is the private sector, except as NASA contractors.

It's the same vision the government has had since the 1960's, when manned space was taken away from the military and given to NASA.

And you need real rockets to do that, much larger then the RLVs folks are advocating.

No, you don't, Tom. Even Von Braun disagreed with you about that. You may want Der Great Big Rocket, but wanting something is not the same as needing it.

NASA needs to pick-up where the Saturn V left off and before it followed the spaceplane deadend of the Shuttle.

Okay, so you want the government to spend tens of billions of dollars to replace the Space Shuttle with something even *more* expensive. That does nothing for military, commercial, or scientific users.

The USAF is about responsive spacelift.

The USAF doesn't have adequate funding for responsive space, Tom, because there is no Presidential commitment. It is not part of the Bush Vision. Military budgets for everything that isn't currently being used in Iraq are getting cut to the bone. The ground forces are doing okay but the Air Force and Navy are losing ground in budget battles. They don't even have enough funding to maintain existing aircraft like the F-117 and U-2.

You may not believe domestic programs like VSE, prescription drugs, expanded health care bennies, etc. compete with DoD for funding. Programs like responsive space are on the losing end, and they will continue to lose out while we have a President whose vision for space is nothing more than watching NASA plant another flag on the Moon and a Congress that goes along.


Posted by Edward Wright at August 3, 2007 12:27 PM

Ed

I am confused as you just proving my point.

Yes I noted in those posts that NASA needs to develop a Shuttle Derived Vehicle for Heavy-lift for lunar missions and NASA needed to lead development of the Moon. In case you haven't noticed the Shuttle belongs to NASA, not the USAF, the USAF wants no part of it and there is very little reusable in a SDV Heavy-lift, basically just the SRBs, so its not an RLV.

And the Ares V is part of the ESAS and will probably work if NASA ever gets the funding for it. The problem with the ESAS is the Ares I which the DOD rejected in the 1980's when it was proposed for Star Wars and called the Barbarian MDD.

http://www.astronautix.com/lvs/baranmdd.htm

of course the DOD also rejected the Lockheedís VentureStar when it was offered to them in the 1980ís. I remember the WSMR veterans pointing out the various ways it would fail when NASA selected it. NASA seems to have a knack for picking space systems the military already rejected years earlier as impractical and unworkable.

And yes, the VSE is about NASA, not USAF, so why should the USAF build RLVs for it?

Or are YOU proposing that the USAF take-over VSE and build a SDV Heavy-lift for it?

And I guess you forget the Nova, the moon rocket originally proposed? Or the Saturn V follow-ons that were real heavy-lifters? Von Braun was not into small rockets unless he had a nuclear engine for propulsion, which we do not.

The missions the USAF would have for RLVs are military missions, not sending troops to the Moon. And Yes, responsive spacelift is under funded.

Really Ed, the problem you have is the problem most space advocates seem to have and that is thinking its about a SINGLE national space goal and a SINGLE national space program. That is a false perception.

NASA may have its VSE and super heavy lifter for lunar missions.

And the USAF could have its responsive space RLV for its missions.

And both may work side by side. You could build an office building using a pick-up trucks only, but itís a lot faster and easier if you have a few semiís for the heavy lifting so you donít have to spend time rebuilding your bulldozer or air conditioning units on the job site because you had to break them apart to make them fit in you pick-up truck.

Or to put it another way, you could spend 12 years and 40 odd shuttle launches building a 1 million pound space station for 6 people, or you could just launch it on a Single Sea Dragon and start using it now for science. . . Note, one unstated problem with the ISS is that its taken so long to build it that some of the origianl systems are now wearing out as with the computers that failed. By the time the last ISS module in place the first one will be almost as old as the Mir was when it had to be deorbited.

You could establish a fully function lunar base on the moon over several years using 20-30 EELV launches or just one Sea Dragon launch. Which do you think has a better chance of succeeding and accomplishing something worthwhile.

Really Ed, you need to start thinking in terms of logistics, not rockets. The DC-3 is nice, but it was the C-54 that saved Berlin and the C-123 and C-130 that built the Dew Line.

Tom

Posted by Thomas Matula at August 3, 2007 03:08 PM

Fletcher,

I agree SBSP is the best bet for a market for RLVs. Most launch models I see show 2000-3000 flights a year, far more then for any other application. And its mostly cargo, so its less likely to be impacted by a launch accident then space tourism. I note that Sea Launch will be ready to fly this fall, as soon as repairs are completed on the launch platform. Unlike Shuttle, that is the driving factor, infrastructure repair time, and not the accident investigation time.

Also there would be a strong ground base economic driver to make it a stable long term market, which is exactly what is needed for RLVs. And best of all, its not a NASA market as NASA should have no role to play in SBSP. This means its a stable revenue stream.

Yes, SBSP is probably the best bet for a real RLV, followed by the USAF's responsive spacelift. And NASA is the last one I would want near an RLV.

NASA's job should be the heavy lift for deep space missions. A Sea Dragon class launcher would end the Moon-Mars debate by making both possible at once.

Posted by Thomas Matula at August 3, 2007 03:50 PM


Yes I noted in those posts that NASA needs to develop a Shuttle Derived Vehicle for Heavy-lift for lunar missions and NASA needed to lead development of the Moon.

Right, so why did you say "I have a long record of arguing that the USAF should be in charge of doing Spacelift, not NASA"?

And the Ares V is part of the ESAS and will probably work if NASA ever gets the funding for it.

That depends on what you mean by "work." If you mean, it will allow NASA to launch fewer people than the Shuttle, for more money, then yes, it will work.

You've never explained why that's a good thing, or why the taxpayers should pay $100 billion for it.

And yes, the VSE is about NASA, not USAF, so why should the USAF build RLVs for it?

Tom, you keep calling it *the* VSE, as if there were only one. Let's call it what it is: the Bush Vision of Space Exploration. Other people can have different visions, and those visions can include agencies other than NASA.

The Air Force should not build RLVs for the Bush Vision. They should build RLVs to perform military missions that never made it into the Bush vision. Missions that are important to the national defense.

Really Ed, the problem you have is the problem most space advocates seem to have and that is thinking its about a SINGLE national space goal and a SINGLE national space program. That is a false perception.

It is? Then why do you call it *the* Vision rather than a vision? What other national space goals has the Administration called for? What other manned space programs are included in their FY07 budget? How much money are they getting compared to VSE?

I think it's a single goal and a single national program because I don't see any others. Tell me what they are. (No, the "Lunar Development Authority" doesn't count because the Lunar Development Authority doesn't exist.)

NASA may have its VSE and super heavy lifter for lunar missions. And the USAF could have its responsive space RLV for its missions.

How is the USAF going to get responsive space if no one pays for it, Tom? How are they going to pay for it if all the money gets taken away to "preserve Shuttle jobs", provide free prescription drugs, administer No Child Left Behind, and whatever the Administration dreams up next?

There are limits to how much money Congress can spend on anything, including space.

The DC-3 is nice, but it was the C-54 that saved Berlin and the C-123 and C-130 that built the Dew Line.

During the Berlin airlift, the US Air Force flew 1900 flights in 24 hours.

That does not prove your notion that the only way to the only way to do logistics is build one big giant vehicle that can transport everything in one trip.

Posted by Edward Wright at August 3, 2007 05:14 PM


NASA's job should be the heavy lift for deep space missions.

Then why don't you lobby Congress to change NASA's charter to say that? And repeal the Launch Service Purchase Act, which says that heavy left should be private sector's job?

The NACA was created to conduct research to benefit commercial and military aviation, not to run a national airline.

If you think NASA's job should be running a national spaceline, instead of doing research that benefits national security and economy of the United States, you should ask Congress to write that into law.

Then, Congress could create a new agency to do aeronautics research, space science, and all the other things you no longer want NASA to do.

Of course, sooner or later, someone will ask why the United States needs a national spaceline to do "heavylift for deep space missions," when its only customer is itself.

Posted by Edward Wright at August 3, 2007 05:32 PM

Ed,

The Launch Purchase Act allows NASA to build systems that are not available commercially. Any of the alt.space folks building anything in the Ares V class? The Sea Dragon class? Do any of them even have that capability? Beyond viewgraphs and wishful thinking.

Actually there are so many loop holes in the Launch Purchases Act is really is not relevant to what NASA does. Ask anyone at NASA. Or anyone one who actually does space policy.

And I guess no one ever told you that the DOD spends almost as much on space as NASA. The problem, at least from the alt.space viewpoint, is the DOD has a hard time to justify placing any human assets in space at the current costs. Just as the $110 billion space commerce industry has a hard time justifying placing human workers in space. If either had a strong ECONOMIC reason for humans in space they would use them. And would develop human spaceflight systems.

One could argue that the NASA "monopoly" prevents the USAF from doing it, as alt.spacers do, but that would not be a barrier to the REAL Space Commerce industry which is multinational and could care less what NASA or the U.S wants. Comsats represent a $200 billion dollar asset and IF humans could play a role in increasing their ROI firms like Kistler and SpaceX would not need corporate welfare (COTS) from NASA to build human spaceflight systems. They would have real customers from the space commerce industry to close their business plan. Tourists in space is fun to talk about and easy to hype because of the celebrities involved, but its a nickel and dime business compared to real space commerce.

Tom

Posted by Thomas Matula at August 3, 2007 07:49 PM


The Launch Purchase Act allows NASA to build systems that are not available commercially. Any of the alt.space folks building anything in the Ares V class?

Elon Musk's "BFR" is Ares V class, and it's just as "available" as your Ares V is, Tom.

That's irrelevant, of course, because you still haven't offered a good justification for why you need anything in the Ares V class.

Actually there are so many loop holes in the Launch Purchases Act is really is not relevant to what NASA does. Ask anyone at NASA.

Yes, I know NASA doesn't believe they should have to obey the law.

That isn't an argument for why they shouldn't have to obey to law.

If you get pulled over doing 120 on the highway, do you think the judge will let you go just because you say speed limits aren't "relevant" to you?

And I guess no one ever told you that the DOD spends almost as much on space as NASA.

Tom, are you being deliberately obtuse?

Yes, DoD spends lots of money on "space" -- meaning communications, weather, reconnaissance, and satellites.

Why don't you go to AFRL and tell Jess Sponable how many billions of dollars you think he has to develop military spaceplanes? Maybe he can it to you.

Just as the $110 billion space commerce industry has a hard time justifying placing human workers in space. If either had a strong ECONOMIC reason for humans in space they would use them.

Tom, you live in a marvelous fantasyland where no decisionmaker ever makes a mistake, everything worth doing has already been done, and nothing worthwhile ever gets postponed or cancelled for lack of resources.

The real world is less perfect than you think.

Tourists in space is fun to talk about and easy to hype because of the celebrities involved, but its a nickel and dime business compared to real space commerce.

Okay, Tom, you're absolutely right. There's no value in human spaceflight. :-)

Strange, then, that you want the taxpayers to fork over a hundred billion dollars so NASA can send four "tourists" to the Moon.

Affordable spaceflight is stupid, but unaffordable spaceflight is brilliant???


Posted by Edward Wright at August 3, 2007 08:58 PM

Ed,

[[[Yes, DoD spends lots of money on "space" -- meaning communications, weather, reconnaissance, and satellites.]]]

Exactly, they could fund a spaceplane, IF they really wanted to build one. Same with the Space Commerce industry. The fact that neither group has should be something alt.spacers need to think about when advocating their RLVs.

Technology follows markets. When a valid market appears for RLVs they will be developed. And VSE is not that market no matter how much you wave your arms. NASA wasted 35 years going down the RLV dead end with Shuttle, X-33, SLI, SLP. Its time to give it a rest and let NASA explore space, not provide corporate welfare to Alt.space.

If alt.space is the space version of the microcomoputer revolution as it claims it is the last thing it needs is corporate welfare from NASA like COTS and spending billions to keep ISS flying so alt.spacers have a place to go. Apple never begged the Federal government to buy its computers, it found real customers, which is why it succeeded.

Posted by Thomas Matula at August 4, 2007 01:05 AM


Exactly, they could fund a spaceplane, IF they really wanted to build one.

Tom, you just don't get it. There is no "they." DoD is not one huge monolith, no matter what you think.

The fact that neither group has should be something alt.spacers need to think about when advocating their RLVs.

Tom. that's exactly what I've been trying to tell you.

You keep confusing Space Command with the Air Force. I keep trying to explain that they are two different things. Space Command is not the Air Force, they merely work for the Air Force. Air Combat Command *is* the Air Force. Culturally, they are very different animals. Read General Horner's book, if you don't understand why.

Just because an organization has the word "space" in its name does not mean they have an interest in all things related to space. "Space Command" is really Missile Command, the US counterpart of the Russian Strategic Rocket Forces. They're the guys who sit in silos and watch the missiles or sit in missile control and operate the satellites. They are not pilots and have no interest in anything humans can fly on.

Technology follows markets. When a valid market appears for RLVs they will be developed.

You're contradicting yourself. If you really believe that, you should stop talking about space solar power. According to the Matula Principle, if there were a market for space solar power, Exxon would have developed it by now.

The fact that no one has developed it proves there is no market and it will never done, right?

Its time to give it a rest and let NASA explore space,

Why? Didn't you just say space exploration was a waste?

If space exploration isn't worthwhile, why should the taxpayers spend $100 billion so NASA can do it?

And if it is worthwhile, why should NASA be the only people who do it?

If alt.space is the space version of the microcomoputer revolution as it claims it is the last thing it needs is corporate welfare from NASA like COTS and spending billions to keep ISS flying so alt.spacers have a place to go

We don't keep ISS flying so alt.spacers have a place to go to, Tom, we keep ISS flying because you want to "create jobs" in Florida and Texas, remember?

Now, you want to build a new ISS on the Moon so you can create more jobs. If you want to stop asking for welfare and shut down ISS, that's fine with me. Do you want to?

For someone who claims "a long record of arguing that the USAF should be in charge of doing Spacelift, not NASA," you sure spend a lot of time arguing for huge sums of money so NASA can do spacelift.

Posted by Edward Wright at August 4, 2007 11:58 AM

Ed,

As usual you argue yourself into circles. Really, that is alt.space space policy in a nutshell.

Posted by Thomas Matula at August 4, 2007 01:55 PM


As usual you argue yourself into circles. Really, that is alt.space space policy in a nutshell.

Nothing but namecalling.

As usual.

If you're so convinced that the future will be nothing but a repeat of the past, with a bit more funding -- a few more communication satellites launched by the private sector and DoD, a few more daring NASA astronauts riding der great big rocket to the Moon -- why do you even bother with us?

Why don't you talk to the Planetary Society, which shares your vision in its entirety, including opposition to any meaningful form of human spaceflight? Or become and advisor to Mike Griffin?

Why are you so upset that other people still believe in the idea progress? Why must you devote all your energy to talking us out of it instead of advancing your own agenda?

Is it because you're afraid we might succeed, and you'll look stupid for wasting hundreds of billions of dollars trying to recreate John Kennedy's mistakes?


Posted by Edward Wright at August 5, 2007 12:10 PM

Ed,

Why do you argue so strong if the victory of space libertarians is so assured? Or are you afraid that you are wrong and space is as hard the professionals say it is?

Posted by Thomas Matula at August 5, 2007 04:01 PM


Why do you argue so strong if the victory of space libertarians is so assured?

Why do you beat your wife with a tire iron instead of an axe handle???

I never said victory was "assured." On the contrary, the Bush vision could steamroll everything else, just like the Kennedy's Apollo program did in the 60's.

I'm optimistic, though, because it doesn't appear likely to me that Bush will be reelected to a third term.

You, on the other hand, seem intent on clinging to a plan that's going nowhere unless Bush does get his third term.

Posted by Edward Wright at August 5, 2007 05:38 PM


Post a comment
Name:


Email Address:


URL:


Comments: