Category Archives: Space

Frank Sietzen’s Talk At RTTM

“If you believe that if we would only give NASA more money, then everything would be fine, you won’t like the story I’m going to tell you.”

“A NASA administrator [Goldin] who was even more dysfunctional than anyone thought.”

“Struggling against the tide of inertia at [HQ]”

“[Bush] knows more about NASA than we ever thought. Gave instructions to O’Keefe, to go over and fix that mess up (but used a different word than mess, not fit for a family blog).”

“President was very involved, even in the details. Was never interested in a specific destination, but thought that exploring the universe was important. NASA was, to him, an embarrasment, and he didn’t like to be embarrassed.”

“Columbia showed that NASA was even more dysfunctional than the president had thought.”

“A group of low-level staff in the White House asked if they could get together to come up with a paragraph for the president to say at the centennial of flight in December 2003. They met, unaware that there were higher-level meetings going on on space policy.”

“Policy advisor from Reagan administration, met with president. ‘NASA is screwed up!’ President: ‘I know that.’ Advisor: ‘Not only is NASA screwed up, but we ought to go back to the moon, and I have a white paper.'”

“President comes back from Columbia memorial, and wants to develop a vision.”

“Young staffers are coming up with ideas independently.”

“They develop a realization that Shuttle is a roadblock to human spaceflight. The age of the Shuttle had ended on February 1, 2003. A hinge of history had opened. The age of reusability was over [Simberg note: this is the single biggest flaw in the administration (and Aldridge Commission) thinking].”

“NASA is unaware of all this, and they want a new mission, they want an Orbital Space Plane, they want everything.”

“Reconstitute the low-level staff work and come up with a vision, with a strawman policy structure and a calendar. Committee eliminates options until they get down to two or three. O’Keefe continues to ask for budget increases, claiming that they could accomplish all kinds of things with budget increases. Problem was that NASA couldn’t get new money in current environment.”

“Looked at two options–five percent decrease, and five percent increase. Former is “going-out-of-business” budget, and latter isn’t enough for the Moon.”

“Independently, five Senators met Cheney, ‘NASA didn’t have enough money, NASA had no vision.’ (Hollings, Brownback, McCain, Breaux, and Nelson–three of them Dems)”

“OMB came up with five percent for NASA. O’Keefe met with his advisors, and asked them if they’d be willing to give up something for a new vision, and got a consensus. They gave up the Shuttle, and the space station.”

“Loss of SLI means that the government won’t be helping develop any new technology for the next few years.”

“O’Keefe would have given up anything, to save his agency. Why? Because he caught the bug from the president of the United States.”

“Marburger: ‘Mr. President, I think that the objective should be a return to the Moon.’ President: ‘This is about exploring, not destinations.’ So they went back and laid out the Moon as a test bed for exploration. Bush: ‘This is about going to other destinations than the moon, right?'”

“Bush decided that he wanted to address the nation about space. Bush to speechwriter: ‘Get to work on a space speech.’ Speechwriter (who had never heard of any of this): ‘What!?’ President: ‘You heard me.'”

Now describing how they got their story out before the speech, and almost got scooped because no one would believe them.

[shot at Leonard David]: “The UPI editor wouldn’t run the story without being able to verify this.” [To Leonard] “You don’t have a problem like that at Space.com.”

“President to O’Keefe: If you get this mission, you can’t go about it in the way that NASA does today. You have to get things operating more like FFRDCs, you have to involve entrepreneurs and private enterprise, and you have to get out of the launch business.”

“Stovepiping ends on August 1st. People at centers start to report direct to HQ instead of to the center directors. Some of rank and file are fighting this tooth and nail. Can you imagine an agency that was given the greatest vision in space in the history of the space program, fighting it? There are people who are against this, because they are afraid.”

“Sean O’Keefe has a trick for people who complain that he can’t do something. He reaches into a desk drawer, and pulls out an application for the Post Office. ‘You apparently don’t want to work for NASA…'”

“Things don’t look good for the initiative if Kerry is elected, and even if President is reelected, it’s not clear whether Congress will fund it. To initiate reforms requires more than one group of reformers. If there is a fight over civil space, he [the president[ has to win.”

“This is not the vice president’s story–he only appears in the book three times. This is the president’s program.”

Taking questions now. Jeff Krukin: “Is there any sense that all of this could be made irrelevant by things happening in the private sector”?

Answer: “Yes, O’Keefe has met with Musk, and O’Keefe is very skeptical about the ability of the conventional space industry to do things affordably. Was particularly disturbed by cost estimates for OSP. Has been reaching out to the smaller players.”

“Estimate cost of getting to the Moon by 2020 is 64 billion dollars. They found nine billion for a down payment by 2009, but they won’t be able to afford it all without much lower costs from the private sector (and that doesn’t mean traditional contractors).”

Andrew Chaiken: “Trying to reconcile the stories of the Texas governor who never visited JSC with this new space visionary president.”

Answer: “Read Paul O’Neill’s book. Describes a completely different president than the one O’Keefe described. Was confronted with embarrassment of dysfunctional space program. If it would have been Paul O’Neill as head of NASA, it would have been like talking to a wall–O’Keefe’s personal relationship with Bush was key to making this happen (is personal social friend with the family). Complaint about lack of vision and money from Congress was essential, and if Columbia hadn’t happened, we would not have gotten the new policies. Kids working in White House were necessary as well–everything came together.”

“Different than his father’s space policy, because it recognizes budget realities.”

Now drawing the inevitable comparison with Jim Webb, the administrator during Apollo.

Asked about announcement today that NASA thinks that budget estimate for Return to Flight has more than doubled. Thinks will either shove schedule out, or ratchet up pressure on the Hill to get a budget passed.

“Rollout of the plan was botched, because they didn’t involve Congress, which is under pressure for war and deficits. Senator Brownback is the key.”

Dennis Wingo: “Is there a plan to keep centers like JSC and Goddard from sucking as many funds as possible”?

Answer: “Yes, aware of the problem, working on a strategy.”

End of speech.

I’ll have thoughts later.

John Young’s Speech At RTTM

“That Saturn shakes purty bad, but not near as bad as it did in the movie…” in reference to Apollo XIII.

He’s describing his flight to the moon.

The Principal Investigator for the seismometer told him, “If you don’t put my experiment out right, don’t come back.”

He’s describing a spinout in a lunar rover. “Do you know what saved us? …There was nobody coming the other way. I’m sure that when we get two rovers up there we’ll have the first lunar auto accident.”

He describes dust as one of the key challenges to lunar operations (a point made by a speaker yesterday, who was a designer of the rover).

He illustrates the fractal nature of the lunar surface by pointing out an object that looks like it’s a few feet away from him, which is actually the distance of two football fields.

He’s showing a picture of the far side, which is very heavily cratered, particularly in the highlands. He’s clearly very concerned about the threat of extraterrestrial object impacts. He points out King Crater, which is 77 km in diameter (he claims that the object that created it could have wiped out Nevada and much of California.

Now he’s talking about supervolcanoes, three of which are in the US (including Yellowstone and the Long Valley Caldera by Mammoth Lakes in California–I didn’t catch the third one). Yellowstone is overdue to blow, and no one knows when the next one will happen. When it does, it will likely wipe out civilization.

“You’re ten times more likely to die in a civilization-ending event than in a commercial airline crash. NASA is working to make airline flights ten times as safe, so you’ll then be a hundred times more likely…”

He’s praising Bob Bigelow for his work on inflatable structures.

“You’ll know we’re serious about going back to the moon when you see people heading back there with shovels.”

In a question on the state of the art in new suits, talking about the need for a good glove: “The human hand is a heck of a piece of machinery, and sometimes gets into trouble going places that it doesn’t belong.”

Ends by showing a picture of his grandchildren: overall theme of his talk is protecting the planet. He thinks we’re in a space race, but not with another country, but rather against nature.

John Young’s Speech At RTTM

“That Saturn shakes purty bad, but not near as bad as it did in the movie…” in reference to Apollo XIII.

He’s describing his flight to the moon.

The Principal Investigator for the seismometer told him, “If you don’t put my experiment out right, don’t come back.”

He’s describing a spinout in a lunar rover. “Do you know what saved us? …There was nobody coming the other way. I’m sure that when we get two rovers up there we’ll have the first lunar auto accident.”

He describes dust as one of the key challenges to lunar operations (a point made by a speaker yesterday, who was a designer of the rover).

He illustrates the fractal nature of the lunar surface by pointing out an object that looks like it’s a few feet away from him, which is actually the distance of two football fields.

He’s showing a picture of the far side, which is very heavily cratered, particularly in the highlands. He’s clearly very concerned about the threat of extraterrestrial object impacts. He points out King Crater, which is 77 km in diameter (he claims that the object that created it could have wiped out Nevada and much of California.

Now he’s talking about supervolcanoes, three of which are in the US (including Yellowstone and the Long Valley Caldera by Mammoth Lakes in California–I didn’t catch the third one). Yellowstone is overdue to blow, and no one knows when the next one will happen. When it does, it will likely wipe out civilization.

“You’re ten times more likely to die in a civilization-ending event than in a commercial airline crash. NASA is working to make airline flights ten times as safe, so you’ll then be a hundred times more likely…”

He’s praising Bob Bigelow for his work on inflatable structures.

“You’ll know we’re serious about going back to the moon when you see people heading back there with shovels.”

In a question on the state of the art in new suits, talking about the need for a good glove: “The human hand is a heck of a piece of machinery, and sometimes gets into trouble going places that it doesn’t belong.”

Ends by showing a picture of his grandchildren: overall theme of his talk is protecting the planet. He thinks we’re in a space race, but not with another country, but rather against nature.

John Young’s Speech At RTTM

“That Saturn shakes purty bad, but not near as bad as it did in the movie…” in reference to Apollo XIII.

He’s describing his flight to the moon.

The Principal Investigator for the seismometer told him, “If you don’t put my experiment out right, don’t come back.”

He’s describing a spinout in a lunar rover. “Do you know what saved us? …There was nobody coming the other way. I’m sure that when we get two rovers up there we’ll have the first lunar auto accident.”

He describes dust as one of the key challenges to lunar operations (a point made by a speaker yesterday, who was a designer of the rover).

He illustrates the fractal nature of the lunar surface by pointing out an object that looks like it’s a few feet away from him, which is actually the distance of two football fields.

He’s showing a picture of the far side, which is very heavily cratered, particularly in the highlands. He’s clearly very concerned about the threat of extraterrestrial object impacts. He points out King Crater, which is 77 km in diameter (he claims that the object that created it could have wiped out Nevada and much of California.

Now he’s talking about supervolcanoes, three of which are in the US (including Yellowstone and the Long Valley Caldera by Mammoth Lakes in California–I didn’t catch the third one). Yellowstone is overdue to blow, and no one knows when the next one will happen. When it does, it will likely wipe out civilization.

“You’re ten times more likely to die in a civilization-ending event than in a commercial airline crash. NASA is working to make airline flights ten times as safe, so you’ll then be a hundred times more likely…”

He’s praising Bob Bigelow for his work on inflatable structures.

“You’ll know we’re serious about going back to the moon when you see people heading back there with shovels.”

In a question on the state of the art in new suits, talking about the need for a good glove: “The human hand is a heck of a piece of machinery, and sometimes gets into trouble going places that it doesn’t belong.”

Ends by showing a picture of his grandchildren: overall theme of his talk is protecting the planet. He thinks we’re in a space race, but not with another country, but rather against nature.

Yet More RTTM Blogging

Jeff Krukin points out another shortcoming of the Aldridge Commission report. It doesn’t contain the word “settlement,” settling (as it were) instead for the more neutral (and neutered) phrase, “extended presence.” It remains focused on exploration, and not the broader vision.

He is announcing the formation of a new Space Frontier Foundation project to rectify the public perception of space as exploration, rather than the broader view, called the “Space Settlement Project.”

Sounds like a worthwhile activity.

John Young is going to speak after lunch.

Live RTTM Blogging–David Gump

David Gump of Lunacorp started off his talk with a twenty-year old poster about business opportunities in space, displaying the Shuttle and the then newly announced space station program. It was a cautionary note, reminding us of all the things that can go wrong, and how the more things change…

[Update]

Central lesson learned:

Government-owned infrastruxture (with federal employees as the space workforce) is poison to commercial ventures (cannot be overcome by good intentions–institutional barriers are too deep).

Privately owned facilities (vehicles, platforms, bases) are essential to success.

He hates the phrase “space advertising.” Emphasis needs to be customer rewards.

Prizes are good, but cannot be the only way for NASA to involve the private sector (same point that Jim Benson of SpaceDev made yesterday). Prizes are good for amateurs and angels, but businesses won’t accept the risk of being beaten to the deadline.

Lunacorp’s submittal for the NASA exploration initiative was to rely on the invisible hand, by nurturing private enterprise, and not to attempt another “Stalinist plan.”

Live Blogging–Wendell Mendell

Thanks to Michael Mealing (see comment here), I’m back on the air, and waiting for the first talk (Wendell Mendell, lunar guru from Johnson Space Center).

[Update about 9 AM]

Dr. Mendell is relating a history of how his thoughts have evolved on getting back to the moon. Brief summary: he started out naive in the early eighties, and but eventually came to realize that NASA was incapable of carrying out the vision, and that private activities will be the key. He made a variation of a theme that I’ve commented on in the past (when I called space, including currently low earth orbit, a wilderness). He described it as an undeveloped country with vast resources, but no infrastructure.

[A few minutes later]

He’s hammering on a theme now that Paul Spudis reinforced yesterday in the keynote address: that various players are working hard to subvert the president’s initiative to support their own agendas. Moreover, the continued focus on Mars indicates that people were not listening to what the president said (he mentioned it only once, as part of the phrase “Mars and beyond”).

He’s knocking down the misconceptions that the only purpose of going to the Moon is to learn how to go to Mars, or to test equipment that will be used on Mars.

More thoughts on this later (and probably a column or two) after I collect my thought, and am not distracted actually listening.

[Another update]

This was mentioned briefly yesterday, but Dr. Mendell says that there is serious talk among some at NASA of doing a “touch and go” on the Moon. In other words, immediately after a lunar landing, we’ll then go on to Mars, thus somehow (in their demented view) having satisfied the letter (if not the spirit) of the president’s vision.

Centennial Challenge Report

NASA has published a report (PDF) on last month’s Centennial Challenges Workshop (thanks to Neil Halelamien over at sci.space.policy for the pointer).

I haven’t read the whole thing, but I did go look to see what they did with my glove idea.

I regret that I wasn’t there–they made some decisions that I would have argued about. I think that the glove should be 8 psi, not 4.3–a large part of the idea was to eliminate the need for prebreathing and avoid risk of the bends. I like the idea of providing plans for gloveboxes to the contestants, and think that worrying about someone injuring themselves is silly, not because it’s not a danger, but because it’s a danger we have to accept if we want to progress. I still like my task idea of tearing down and rebuilding an auto, or motorcycle engine. I proposed a million, and they came up with a quarter million (though they recognize that the amount may be too low–it’s driven by legal constraints which will hopefully be removed in the future).

Anyway, it looks like a promising start, and Brant Sponberg should be congratulated. Let’s hope he can keep the ball rolling.

Space Prize Hearings

SpaceRef has a summary of the hearing on prizes for space achievements, held on the Hill this morning.

Molly Macauley made an excellent point:

“Even if an offered prize is never awarded because competitors fail all attempts to win, the outcome can shed light on the state of the technology maturation. In particular, an unawarded prize can signal that even the best technological efforts aren’t quite ripe at the proffered level of monetary reward. Such a result is important information for government when pursuing new technology subject to a limited budget,” she said.

The DARPA Challenge is a good example of that, in my opinion.

Of course, we have the usual caviling:

“While establishment of a NASA prize program is certainly worth considering, we should not be lulled into thinking that it is any substitute for providing adequate funding for NASA’s R&D programs,” cautioned Subcommittee Ranking Minority Member Nick Lampson (D-TX).

Rep. Lampson is one of the representatives from JSC.

Overall, while there were some appropriate cautionary notes, there seemed to be a consensus that this was a good idea. Let’s hope that they can get the funding now.