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The Empire Strikes Back
Are we nearing the end of COTS? Happy New Year.
It's probably not too late to do anything about it:
If you're even half as angry about this as I am, then it's time to let Congress know that you're mad as hell and not going to take it any longer. Even if it doesn't do any good, won't it just feel grand to let your Representative and Senator know how you feel!? And while you're at it, write a letter to your local newspaper editor.
Here's the Space News story from Brian Berger.
I guess I'd be more disappointed if I had had higher hopes for the program. But it was conceptually flawed to begin with, in many ways, and while the people executing it are good people, they had to battle a bureaucracy whose primary focus was on maintaining jobs and Constellation, many of whose cohorts (along with the porkmeisters on the Hill, such Senator Mikulski) no doubt viewed it as both a threat and a distraction.
I don't know whether or not this effort will save the program or not, but I'm not sure that it really matters. SpaceX always had a plan that didn't involve COTS, and will continue to move forward without it. Bigelow is continuing to offer his market incentives. The suborbital business will go on in the absence of COTS. As for how ISS is supported, that will continue to be a slow-motion train wreck into the next decade. I think that in the end, it will go off the tracks, as more and more people realize in Washington that the federal human space program is FUBAR, and likely to be replaced by a private one.Posted by Rand Simberg at December 27, 2007 07:54 AM
It looks like that having tired of predicting the impending death of VSE, the Internet Rocketeer Club is now predicting the death of COTS. Prematurely, of course.
Rand has forgot to mention that Rp/K has agreed not to sue NASA if the GAO report goes against it. That means that the restrictions put on COTS by the Congress end in February.
The funding cut is bad, but it would delay COTS by six months to a year; not a catastrophe. A wild card in this case is whether the White House decides to ignore earmark language in the Omnibus Bill as is rumored and orders the various departments and agencies to spend the money based on merit. I'm not sure how much of NASA has been earmarked, but that could be a mechanism for restoring the COTS funding.
In the meantime, SSF really needs to get its act together if it ever hopes to be an effective space advocacy organization. The time to deal with this sort of thing is not afterwards, but before.Posted by Mark R. Whittington at December 27, 2007 08:47 AM
"The time to deal with this sort of thing is not afterwards, but before."
Senator Mikulski's closed door legislative sausage making doesn't allow for much anticipation. Even fellow Congressman don't see these details until hours before the bills are voted upon.
The evisceration of COTS is a huge disappointment. It was the only facet of NASA's implementation of the VSE that wasn't government-owned and operated.
As I read Ambrose's 'Nothing Like It In The World: The Men who Built the Transcontinental Railroad' I marvel that even a back room dealing 19th century congress did a better job opening a new frontier than our 21st century equivalent.Posted by John Kavanagh at December 27, 2007 09:07 AM
A Mikulski anecdote,or The problem with Maryland.
She usually campaigns on her porkbarreling prowess, but some years ago her TV commercial was a very short bit whose message was "I like the Orioles." She was reelected easily. Maryland has been an annoying Democrat bastion for a couple hundred years.Posted by FC at December 27, 2007 11:05 AM
Note: I currently live in Maryland and am active in politics. That means I am active in the Democratic Party. Fortunately, people who know me know I am a reasonably independent centrist with all sorts of my so far not very active blog Independent Broad Minded Centrist.
OK, Mikulski, my other senator Ben Cardin and Steny Hoyer, Majority Leader in the House and my congressman are reasonably decent people. Mikulski especially seems like a strong supporter of space generally. I gather some Baltimore L5 people can take a great deal of credit for that. Cardin and Hoyer are also reasonably strong supporters of science, technology and space. Hoyer, during his last campaign, publicly supported nuclear power. Not loudly, but he did support it. Considering a good bit of what I hear among local partisans, that shows a bit of courage.
What do I make of this action? Well, given Mikulski's general political proclivities, it seems to make some sense. I don't know how the case was presented to her and her staff, but people should remember that Mikulski is a person who sees government on the side of the little guy and has been exposed much of her life to private actors not always being the most honorable of people. She trusts NASA far more than most people posting here. I will endeavor to learn more about this particular action and communicate what went on to others as I learn things.
The local Republican Party is pretty sad -- and I say that as someone who tended to lean pretty much moderate Republican in New Jersey where I grew up. There was a Republican governor of Maryland for four years from 2003 to 2007. He didn't seem to realize his election was a fluke. His opponent, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, was a poor choice who ran an extremely poor campaign. When Ehrlich was elected, rather than stressing bipartisanship and friendly relations with the Democratic majority, took actions that said more "I'm in charge -- do what I want." During his bid for reelection his team and that of the man running for the open Senate seat, Michael Steele, did things that had people saying "Do they think we are stupid?" For example, they imported homeless bums from Philadelphia to pass out leaflets implying endorsements that were not made.
Currently the city of Baltimore and the major Washington suburban counties of Montgomery and Prince George's are quite heavily Democratic. Other parts of the state are as well. I think there is some Republican strength in rural counties and some wealthier, outlying counties like Anne Arundel. I can name only two Republican office holders of note -- two out of eight Congressmen are Republican, Roscoe Bartlett from Western Maryland and Wayne Gilchrist from the Eastern Shore. Gilchrist is apparently one of the few remaining moderates in the Republican party. He's somewhat prochoice and has spoken critically of the war in Iraq. Ehrlich -- the man who LOST the governor's race in 2006 -- has endorsed a primary opponent of Gilchrist saying it's time that a real conservative held that post. Hmm -- I suspect a "real conservative" would lose that race to a Democrat.
In short, I think it will take strongly committed, sensible Republicans who are willing to build bridges to other kinds of people to build up their party to the point where it is generally competitive in Maryland.
Myself -- when I do introduce libertarian ideas into discussion -- try to make them as appealing to nonlibertarians as possible. I also try to find liberal Democrats who have said things along the same lines. Then, too, I do like pointing out that the National Review advocated ending the war on drugs in 1996 and asking why don't we have at least a national discussion about the issue. There are other things along those lines as well.
I hope this helps people outside of Maryland understand the local political climate.
I do agree that the Space Frontier crowd do need to get better at current day politics -- as does the National Space Society and any number of other groups. Right now the group that seems to be getting it best is the AIAA. Note: I am public policy officer for the Baltimore Section. The AIAA at least realizes that it is a good idea to work with local people to contact senators and representatives with our Congressional Visits Day and other grass roots activities. Yes, there is some professional lobbying as well. Our goals also seem the most moderate and establishment oriented. Some of us are broadening that agenda. I particularly focus on workforce issues. Since one of the things I tried out before getting into IT was social psychology, I think I can make more of an impact there than elsewhere.
I hope this helps.Posted by Chuck Divine at December 27, 2007 12:29 PM
The congressional language clearly links this issue to the fact that half of the COTS program fell apart and is "in dispute" (to put it mildly).
Congress looks at COTS like it looks at any other program--if there are major problems, then it questions the wisdom of the entire procurement and holds back on money until it has assurances that the money will be well-spent. With one half of the COTS program out of the running, Congress has every right to question if NASA requires all the money it asked for, and to hold back money if it doesn't like the answers it gets. Now we can argue the wisdom of such big cuts, but this doesn't boil down to a simple partisan issue, as some are claiming.
Finally, as the Space News article noted, RpK threatened to go to Congress and urge _exactly_ this action. So why isn't there any condemnation of RpK here? They seem to be playing a pretty underhanded game. Should they be allowed to get away with it? And if they do, is there any way that the program can survive long-term?Posted by Terrence Shaw at December 27, 2007 02:59 PM
Finally, as the Space News article noted, RpK threatened to go to Congress and urge _exactly_ this action. So why isn't there any condemnation of RpK here? They seem to be playing a pretty underhanded game. Should they be allowed to get away with it? And if they do, is there any way that the program can survive long-term?
The reason that RpK is not criticized here is that George French has up till now been one of the good guys, spending his hard earned money to build up the alt.space community.
Unfortunately in the pressure of the cauldron of trying to make something in quasi-commercial-government oriented space happen George forgot the first rule of government contracting. Never trust the government! Without contracts beyond the government
RpK had no chance raising the kind of money that they were looking for in the market without contracts beyond the government. What they just pulled off in the appropriations bill is actually an interesting ploy that works to their advantage in many ways.
If the procurement is held off for six months to a year as is possibly the case, most of the existing COTS competitors will cease to exist. This throws a lot of uncertainty into the market and makes it harder for the competition that survives to raise funds. At the end of the process if they get this to be a traditional contract procurement as is their contention then they may or may not have a shot but at least they have managed to cut the playing field way down going forward.
Smart move for them, not for anyone else.Posted by Dennis Ray Wingo at December 27, 2007 03:21 PM
"It looks like that having tired of predicting the impending death of VSE"
Once again, Shittington assumes facts not in evidence. Rand argues that NASA will bungle VSE execution for years to come in his post. For example, Rand states "How ISS is supported, that will continue to be a slow-motion train wreck into the next decade." Rand is obviously not "predicting the impending death of the VSE".
In the future, Shittington, read a post twice before you reply to it. You clearly don't have the necessary I.Q. for basic reading comprehension on the first pass.
"the Internet Rocketeer Club is now predicting the death of COTS"
And, once again, Shittington throws around his tired old chestnut and takes out another wall in his glass house.
Does Shittington qualify as a member of his own club? Let's find out...
Writes (using the charitable definition of that term) an internet blog? Yes, Shittington qualifies for the "Internet" part of the title.
Espouses opinions (again, using the charitable definition of that term) about rocketry for which he has no training or experience? Yes, Shittingon qualifies for the "Rocketeer" part of the title.
Rand has training in and professional aerospace engineering experience. What does Shittington have? A college degree in history? Maybe?
Why does Shittington insist on applying a label to others that he fits better than anyone else?
Is Shittington really so stupid that he doesn't see the irony in that?
"That means that the restrictions put on COTS by the Congress end in February"
Wrong again, dumbass. Once enacted, the funding cuts would requie a new act of Congress to be reversed.
Is Shittington ignorant not only of basic aerospace engineering principles, but of the governing principles of our country, as well?
Did Shittington not manage to pass even high school civics?
It's about time to get your GED, Shittington, and stop making false claims about your college history degree.
"it would delay COTS by six months to a year"
It won't delay Musk, farts-for-brains. The funding is adequate to maintain Space-X's milestones on schedule.
And the other COTS performer has yet to be selected. So how in the pea-sized cranium of yours could you know whether the cut will inflict a delay of "six months to a year"?
Oh yeah, you don't. You just write crap without thinking it through, don't you Shittington?
"I'm not sure how much of NASA has been earmarked"
It's over $80 million, idiot. Anyone can read the bill and add up the earmarks.
Anyone except you and your lack of basic reading and writing skills.
Again, better get to work on that GED, Shittington.
"that could be a mechanism for restoring the COTS funding"
In case you hadn't noticed, brains-in-the-ass, the bill creates a $200 milion hole in the carryover funding for Ares I and Orion. Does Shittington really think that NASA is going to reapply earmark funding to COTS instead of Ares I and Orion?
"SSF really needs to get its act together if it ever hopes to be an effective space advocacy organization. The time to deal with this sort of thing is not afterwards, but before."
On what passes for his blog, Shittington exhorted his readers, long after the bill left Congress, to complain to Congress about the COTS and Centennial Challenges cuts.
Now Shittington criticizes the Space Frontier Foundation for doing exactly the same.
More hypocritical throwing of stones through your glass house, huh, Shittington?
What an uninformed, uneducated, and unintelligent hypocrite is Shittington...
It looks like that having tired of predicting the impending death of VSE, the Internet Rocketeer Club is now predicting the death of COTS. Prematurely, of course.
Oh dear, a self-hating rocketeer. And predictions are always premature by definition.
It's kind of sad that the second-last poster can't compose a coherent rebuttal, or express his opinion without the use of profanity. Perhaps he feels some amount of shame as well, as he uses an alias instead of his real name.Posted by George Skinner at December 29, 2007 03:20 PM
"It's kind of sad that the second-last poster can't compose a coherent rebuttal, or express his opinion"
No offense, George, but you're missing the point if you thought that post was intended to be a rebuttal or to express an opinion. The post makes fun of a pathetic, hypocritical, untrained, amateur aerospace engineering wannabe who smears others with labels that only apply to himself. It's about shutting down Shittington's name-calling, not scoring points in a debate.
"without the use of profanity."
Aside from the apropos "Shittington", there's not another swear word in the entire post. Sorry if that offends you, but Shittington is the one who started the name-calling years ago. And besides, if the post didn't meet Rand's standards, it would have been banned.
"Perhaps he feels some amount of shame as well, as he uses an alias instead of his real name."
Everyone is anonymous on the web. Lighten up and come down on the side of right. It's a post that finally starts putting a jerk back in his place who's smeared his ugly labels all over this forum and others.
And if not, it's not worth you wasting your time or blood pressure on this because it was never directed at you, anyway.
Mikulski especially seems like a strong supporter of space generally.
Only if you believe "space = NASA" and NASA's mission = maintaining jobs in her state. She has never shown the slightest concern for how well the money is spent, only how much she can rake in. When it comes to space in general, she does not care any more than Whittington does.
If "Baltimore L5 members" think they are responsible for that, more fool they, in more ways than one. In reality, it is Goddard Space Flight Center that calls the tune. Of course, the L5 Society has not existed since its remains were devoured by Von Braun's NASA Space Society.
What Whittington lacks is not reading and writing skills (as poor as those are) but basic math skills. He never offers any quantitative reasoning and the few times he posts numbers, they are invariably wrong. He acts like a social science major who thinks facts don't matter and the correct answer is whatever the professor (Mike Griffin) tells him. Then he gets mad at the engineers who actually care about the facts.
This is hardly surprising given his posts on Amazon. He thinks "House" is a realistic medical show. His knowledge of space apparently comes from similar pop sources.Posted by at December 30, 2007 09:36 AM
He never offers any quantitative reasoning and the few times he posts numbers, they are invariably wrong.
That sound just like the esteemed Dr. Dennis Wingo himself, as well.Posted by Finite Element at December 30, 2007 11:37 AM
Oh wow, "shittington"! That's hilarious! No doubt it took you all day to come up with that one. You altspace people crack me up, you really do. How's that rocket in your back yard coming along, there, mister astronaut farmer?
PS: I've already heard "densityPHUCK", so you'll have to come up with something else.Posted by DensityDuck at December 31, 2007 09:18 AM
"Oh wow, "shittington"! That's hilarious! No doubt it took you all day to come up with that one."
Actually, that's the third post and thread to make that reference.
Try to keep up.
"You altspace people crack me up, you really do. How's that rocket in your back yard coming along, there, mister astronaut farmer?"
Actually, some of work for NASA, the USAF, or the majors and still find Shittington's labels insulting and more than worthy of derision.
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