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Editorial: President Proposes Bold New Approach to Exploring the Final Frontier February 6, 2010

by Andre Bormanis , Filed under: Editorial,Science/Technology , trackback

In 2008 Star Trek writer/producer and science advisor Andre Bormanis wrote an editorial here at TrekMovie about the presidential campaign and the future of NASA, advocating the Constellation program. Barack Obama (a Trekkie) went on to win the election and this week his administration announced a major shift in NASA policy, including the cancellation of Constellation. Today Andre is back with his thoughts on the new NASA.

 

President Proposes Bold New Approach to Exploring the Final Frontier

by Andre Bormanis

The announcement of the change of policy for NASA came with Monday’s submission of the NASA’s FY 2011 budget, which opened with the following statement (full of Trek-isms).

Today we are launching a bold and ambitious new space initiative to enable us to explore new worlds, develop more innovative technologies, foster new industries, increase our understanding of the earth, expand our presence in the solar system, and inspire the next-generation of explorers.
– NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, February 1, 2010

The bad news is, the Constellation program has been cancelled. The good news is, the Constellation program has been cancelled.

Constellation was initiated in 2004 by the Bush Administration to return American astronauts to the moon. The intention was to build an Apollo-style capsule that would accommodate up to six astronauts, riding atop a new launch vehicle, Ares-I, largely derived from Space Shuttle booster technology. Eventually a heavy-lift launcher and Moon landing vehicle would be developed as well.

After six years and roughly $9 billion, Constellation has produced a couple of mock-up capsules and test articles, and only one test flight, of just the first stage of the proposed Ares-I. This is mostly the fault of the previous Administration and Congress, which never funded the program at the level it needed to keep on schedule, and get crews to the Moon by 2020. Even if it were fully funded today, no one believes that a Moon landing would happen by 2020, and accomplishing this goal – essentially a repeat performance of what we did with Apollo over forty years ago – would cost on the order of $100 billion. It would further drain money from space science and unmanned exploration of the solar system at a time when our robotic emissaries are so brilliantly demonstrating their exceptional capabilities.


Artist rendition of (now cancelled) Constellation program Orion spacecraft in lunar orbit

President Obama has instead chosen to end Constellation, but also to add money to the NASA budget to develop advanced propulsion systems, automated rendezvous hardware, orbital fuel depots, and other technologies that will be needed to get humans beyond low-Earth orbit (LEO). The job of ferrying astronauts to and from LEO will be given to private industry, with about $6 billion in new NASA funding over the next five years.

Critics of this approach cite two immediate concerns: one, private space ventures have yet to demonstrate that they can reliably send people, not just payloads, into orbit. This is certainly true, and there is probably greater risk in handing this task to the private sector than in giving the job to NASA (as lead contractor – private industry has always built space hardware).

Secondly, as a couple of friends recently reminded me, technology development in the absence of a clear and specific goal often leads to a lot of fancy hardware that never gets used. Constellation, whatever its faults, at least had a clear goal: get Americans back to the Moon.

Although no specific goals were laid out in their plan, NASA’s chief did make comments to the press about where he sees the new vision leading:

Imagine trips to Mars that take weeks instead of nearly a year, people fanning out across the inner solar system, exploring the moon, asteroids and Mars nearly simultaneously in a steady stream of firsts.
– NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, February 1, 2010

Personally, I think President Obama made the right decision. Although I initially supported Constellation, the program has become, at best, a slow road back to the Moon, and that road is almost certainly a dead end, not a stepping-stone to more distant journeys. I do hope that in the coming months Obama will articulate a specific set of destinations for NASA beyond LEO – the Lagrange points, a near-Earth asteroid, possibly the Martian moons – that can pave the way to an eventual human landing on Mars.

Yes, it’s a risk to give up Constellation and turn the reins to LEO over to the private sector, and yes, it’s a risk to develop new technologies before specific missions with the necessary political support have been established. But as James T. Kirk once said, “Risk is our business!”


Could NASA’s new direction be the right path to the final frontier seen in Star Trek?

 

More to come on new NASA Debate
Tomorrow TrekMovie will have another editorial on this topic from another Trek vet, but with a differing point of view.

 

Andre Bormanis was the Star Trek science advisor for several years before becoming a full-time writer and eventually producer for “Star Trek: Enterprise”. He holds a B.S. in Physics and an M.A. in Science, Technology, and Public Policy, the latter earned under a NASA Space Grant fellowship. He is a long-time space advocate and member of The Planetary Society. Andre is currently a writer and producer for the ABC Studios series “Legend of the Seeker”.

Comments

1. NX-17000 - February 6, 2010

1st!!! This is interesting… Hope that we get to do what Bolden said within my lifetime. That would just be great.

2. Kirk's Revenge - February 6, 2010

To boldly go where no penny-pincher has gone before.

3. Cmdr John Koenig - February 6, 2010

Dammit Jim, I was hoping to go back to the moon.

4. AJ - February 6, 2010

We cannot look at space exploration as country-specific anymore. The US (or China, or Russia) gains no strategic “advantage” going back to the moon (besides ‘yay, we’re on the moon!’).

It’s taken a few decades for humanity to feel that the achievement of lunar landings belong to Earth as opposed to the US alone. With the space station out there, it’s probably time to rally the UN to create a united space agency.

And, by golly, I think I’ll send a letter to Secretary Moon now.

5. Losira - February 6, 2010

Its a shame to see money go warfare instead of peacefull exploration of the stars. But the irony of it that conservatives do support privatizing. Various agencies of goverment. I say give NASA what it needs and develope more reusable crafts @ equipment and head to the moon and mars after. Privatetise Iraq. Or do we have to have WW 3 first, Post-Atomic Horror, then Rush Paxton LOL! Then head to the Stars? We may not be so lucky in real life history

6. Trelane - February 6, 2010

Mars or Bust!

7. Anthony Pascale - February 6, 2010

RE: Int’l
I agree that International cooperation is important. Way back in 2007 I wrote an editorial about that:
http://trekmovie.com/2007/06/03/time-to-form-starfleet/

If you read the NASA budget, linked at the top of the page, there is hope, as you see in the details there is a lot of talk about working with int’l partners. I think that perhaps part of the reasoning for the vageuness of say ‘mars by 20xx’ is that NASA wants to figure out a way to turn the mars mission into something like ISS and so instead of declaring it a NASA goal and then asking others to join it, eventually we will see an Int’l effort with some joint announcement.

Bolden did speak about this a bit in his statement on Monday, saying:

We can’t underestimate the rich promise of space exploration to draw nations together, and this budget gives us the means and the guidance to build even stronger alliances in the future.

http://www.nasa.gov/pdf/420994main_2011_Budget_Administrator_Remarks.pdf

8. Jim Durdan - February 6, 2010

I usually agree with Andre. To bad this time he is 100% wrong.

Does anyone really think is Nations cannot exist in peaceful co-existence on Earth they will in space?

Naiveté

9. Chris Doohan - February 6, 2010

I wanted to go back to the moon too, but I believe it was a good decision tp scrap the Constellation Program (it was huge drain on the limited NASA budget). The Robonaut’s can do the same job at a fraction of the cost, thus expanding our presence in the Universe over a shorter amount of time.

My guess is that this will actually get us to Mars faster.

10. Anti-ChiCom - February 6, 2010

This country is BROKE!

I love the space program as much as anyone but let’s be REAL. When you’re out of work, you don’t get a credit card to pay for a trip to HAWAII!!

Time to take off the rose colored glasses. Just because we WANT a thing does not make that thing a necessity.

Time to tighten the belt and quit borrowing money from the ChiComs!

We need to be cutting costs and programs and, sadly, the fact is the space program IS one we can cut.

11. Losira - February 6, 2010

I have to agree that going to the stars require global teamwork. Its not only easy on the purse but joining together would bring the dream alive. A united Earth effort. Or we can bloat up our militeristic Hawk budget and our moon will turn into Praxis

12. Schultz - February 6, 2010

##4&7: I’m all for a UN space federation. Definitely a good idea, and not only economically. ;)

13. spock - February 6, 2010

I really wish this site would stop carrying Obama’s water. He has DESTROYED THE SPACE PROGRAM, and is giving it a bogus mission with the bogus GLOBAL WARMING research. As the UK media has been doing the heavy lifting on the story of how research was falsified, and data was tampered with. Even NASA’s hands aren’t clean.

UN space program is bogus too. Another way to extort money from America.

14. Enterprisingguy - February 6, 2010

I’m afraid we have a long way to go as a people before we will ever see the kind of global teamwork some would wish for.

The UN is as corrupt and political as any organization there ever was. It’s totally ineffectual. The members all have agendas of their own. I can’t see things being any different at this stage cooperating among countries to go into space.

One day…maybe. But not now.

15. Holger - February 6, 2010

Hey, I already have a Constellation mission patch. Damn!

Now seriously, I have no trust in private business’ ability to handle scientific and exploration spaceflight. But let’s see what will come out of it.

16. spock - February 6, 2010

It’s better for the nations to skip the UN and work within their own alliances. After all we don’t need to be sharing the technology with the thugs and dictators that infest the UN. Libs need to lose their rose colored glasses. They remind me of the people who follow the will of landru. ;)

17. spock - February 6, 2010

Maybe TOTUS can come up with a vision for the space program worth of JFK’s goal. I just don’t see it since the attitude of “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country” is dead.

18. RTC - February 6, 2010

Sadly, I have my doubts regardless of approach. There is simply no collective will on the part of the American people to pursue space exploration. Sure, we get excited about launches and rovers and cool new photos. But when it comes down to brass tacks–or more precisely, zinc-copper pennies, a whole bunch of ‘em–Americans don’t want to spend the dough to go to the moon, Mars or anywhere else. Their sense of exploration ends at their wallets.

It was different in the 1960s, when we feared a ‘red moon’ and moustache-twirling Soviets sure to drop bombs from orbit upon our collective heads. We don’t feel that sense of threat. Watch when the Chinese or Indians finally reach the moon; outwardly, we Americans will simply bury any insecurity, shrug and say, “So what? We did that in 1969.”

I’m not dismissing the need for us to aggressively tackle social ills like poverty, access to health care and other things. We must do that. It’s a moral tragedy that we haven’t done so yet. But I believe there is at least some room to do both–and we’re missing it.

Saddest of all, we’ll have missed the whole, exciting notion of what it means to lead humankind to a new, wondrous place. We’ll have missed the many ways we can leverage that leadership, that know-how, throughout our society. And we’ll have lost another one of those unique traits that made America special.

19. Anthony Pascale - February 6, 2010

CBSpock

final warning for partisan trolling

It is possible to have discussions here without making sweeping generalizations about one side or another, and this is about space not about left right partisan bs.

Also this site will be presenting the opposing view tomorrow, we are not ‘carrying the water’ for anyone

20. Pat Gleeson - February 6, 2010

# 18 “And we’ll have lost another one of those unique traits that made America special.”

I couldn’t agree more. The manned space programme at it’s peak was a unique undertaking which did more for US prestige and advancement than anything before or since. The “Great new American Enterprise” as JFK called it has – to all intents and purposes – been mothballed. Any compromises made with such large scale programmes lead to cancellation in the end.

50 years 1961 – 2011.

I wonder would Chinese taikonaut footsteps on the moon cause a paradigm shift in attitudes? They must be due another space launch sometime soon.

21. Hat Rick - February 6, 2010

As I wrote on my blog (clickable above) a few days ago — the first time I updated it since exactly a year before — the President’s policy is a disaster and a waste of some of most precious resources — money and time.

I am beyond disappointed with President Obama’s utter lack of integrity on this issue.

I note in the same blog his campaign promises at the time they were made relative to NASA. The contrast between what he promised then and what he has actually proposed is stunning.

Don’t believe Administrator Bolden’s spin. It’s nonsense.

I urge anyone who wishes our space program well to write their representative about what seems a betrayal of our national effort toward the human exploration and exploitation of space. I’ve already done the same.

Hat Rick

22. Hat Rick - February 6, 2010

A few reasons why Administrator Bolden’s defense of his boss’s NASA policy is sheer nonsense:

1. His position is that NASA has not abandoned human spaceflight. But the reason he claims this is true is that there will still be astronauts who will circle the Earth in low-Earth orbit.

For most serious thinkers, circling the Earth endlessly is not the kind of human spaceflight we have in mind. John Glenn and before him, Yuri Gargarin did this six decades ago. In the year 2010, our highest aspirations for human exploration of space is still only to circle the Earth?

2. Bolden claims that NASA’s money will be used to fund new technological development. This is nothing more than building castles in the air hoping that the castle will float. Part of NASA’s job already includes research and development, and very little has availed itself in that respect other than incremental improvements. Given the track record we’ve seen, from the cancellation of post-Apollo flights to the termination of the aersopike-engined X-33 to the proposed cancellation of Constellation, every single program promising to develop new and radical technologies has proven to produce nothing more (or less) than evolutionary improvement.

The warp engine isn’t coming any time soon.

Yes, there is the ion engine, but it would take decades to develop that into a viable technology for human spaceflight.

Bolden is taking advantage of the lack of education of many observers to attempt to fool them into the belief that months of manned spaceflight can be easily shortened into weeks. But we can’t even to that for unmanned spaceships, let alone manned ones. And we won’t, for many decades.

Is President Obama prepared to tell the truth of that to the American people?

23. P Technobabble - February 6, 2010

I believe those who “rule the world” have a fundamentally materialistic vision of human enterprises, and are, therefore, more concerned with building “treasures on earth.” They do not have the vision required to solve human problems, let alone travel to the stars.
I saw a great bumper sticker yesterday, but couldn’t see who the author was: “When the power of love conquers the love of power, then there will be peace.” This is the sort of vision I am talking about. If humanity had no need to spend a single dime on warfare, security, etc. there would be plenty of money for the exploration of the final frontier.
Perhaps it requires a greater examination of what the people of Kirk’s time are really like, and how they get to be that way…

24. C.S. Lewis - February 6, 2010

Among my other academic accomplishments, I hold an MBA and an academic MS (with an unrequited invitation to my Ph.D.) from top-notch institutions both of which focused on strategic competitive analysis and finance, with heavy doses of economics, marketing, etc. As a high level, working management consultant with several prestigious firms, my clients are the senior finance management of the most successful organizations in the world, be they government, NGO or Fortune 500/Global 200 corporations. (For the record, I am not in the least bit associated with Wall Street, although I did spend two unpleasant engagements at Fannie Mae.)

I don’t know how to break this to you, but a return to manned interplanetary spaceflight is a delusional fantasy.

The United States is in technical bankruptcy. If every person living on the land mass of the United States were enslaved and their labors directed to the federal government, existing obligations to external sovereign states could not be satisfied.

To direct privately owned, forcibly obtained tax dollars to such a boondoggle is immoral. (And yes, it is immoral for the other 65-75% of the federal budget not spent on Constitutionally mandated purposes but I digress.)

While the perverse logic of our “management of perspectives” economy dictates the truth be withheld and baffling, deliberately obfuscating esoterica be promoted in its place, one must question if NASA is given a budget solely to maintain the facade that all is well. Certainly, NASA is dubious luxury in the best of times. Today, it represents conspicuous consumption reminiscent of the Gilded Age – and it will be equally resented as the masses come to realize the truth, the complete horror of our present economic situation.

The Apollo program was embraced by the Americans of the 1960s for two fundamental reasons:

1. Conquest of the moon was an almost archetypal vision of mankind since before history

2. Americans were a united, unified people that could properly be called a nation in the literal sense.

Today, the USA is a hodge-podge “free for all” and the only unifying force is a common desire for the US dollar, which I have pointed out is soon to be worthless. Absent said greed, there is no compelling reason for the productive, tax-paying minority of this land to underwrite their neighbors, let alone finance a monumental voyage to outer space with no apparent benefit other than “That’s sooo cool!”

If persons who are fans of the fictional world of Star Trek truly wish to visit outer space in their lifetimes, then they must immediately set about to productive work, imposing federal/state/personal financial responsibility on a gargantuan scale, and right the present, almost inconceivably crushing economic realities of today.

Then, in a generation or two or three, we might be sufficiently independent as a people, securely living within our financial means and we might then and only then contemplate the luxury of sending men into space for the devil of it.

In the mean time, every penny spent on NASA (and most other government budget items) is taken at the point of a gun from productive members of society and directed toward spending that is, ipso facto immoral and usually wasted.

Sincerely,
C.S. Lewis

25. Hat Rick - February 6, 2010

Sadly, my talents at prolixity fail me when compared to other leading lights of this forum, so I will say merely this:

Lewis: 1492. Isabella. Columbus.

Q.E.D.

26. Imrahil - February 6, 2010

Oh, and #24: America was “united” in the 1960s? Really? I call bullshit on you.

27. Craiger - February 6, 2010

So what is going to replace the Space Shuttle? I never did like the capsule design and having a separate playload vehical. Couldn’t they just come up with a new Space Shuttle design that is smaller and faster but still can carry payloads?

28. JDM - February 6, 2010

Lewis is right, and citing victories of exploration anywhere from 200-400 years ago or more will not change that. The idea that seems to have been prevalent since people really thought Obama could win in 2008 seems also to have been that, so long as enough people like the idea, then it’s worth throwing money at, the likes of which Lewis talks about from independent, productive tax payers. It’s a fundamental reason why the recent healthcare reform bill(s) didn’t go through. Even if everyone agreed on exactly what the problems are and that the Democratic Party’s solution is potentially the most effective one, the resources simply don’t exist to effectively implement the changes, which in this case (for better or worse) would meet with tumultuous resistance and take so much time to actually do the good it’s supposed to do that it risks being cut-back or completely overhauled if another Republican is (allowed to be) elected President.

I use the word “allowed” in parentheses here not to be snide or sarcastic but because, again, regardless of where you stand on the issue and from a political perspective, it would almost take a benevolent, perhaps temporary dictatorship to properly shepherd such a program through. This is something that should be fairly obvious given the fact that the next biggest such program was likely Social Security, which FDR had roughly a decade to set up and guide. Also, the 60’s probably had the benefit of 8+ years of Democratic leadership, at least in the White House, to ensure continuity of the moon landing effort.

The space program is likely to be a similar situation, at least with the kind of lofty goals proposed here. I tend to be conservative, but I actually agree that the Constellation program under Bush was a waste if he and his party never intended to properly fund it in the first place. Again, though, this is basically an apolitical issue. Either we have the money, or can expect to have it over the course of a certain period of time, or we don’t. Right now, BOTH parties agree that we don’t, and yet far too many seem to think it will magically appear out of thin air (or be replicated LOL) given the idea is popular enough. This kind of thinking didn’t work for Bush and the Republicans with the Iraq war (which had public and BIPARTISAN support in the beginning) and it’s clearly not working so well for Obama and the Democrats.

As far as a “unified world,” or one-world-order, it’s not only delusional, but would invariably lead to the very kind of corruption and oppression that many progressives claim to be against. It is, to me anyhow, and to anyone that values their independence and sovereignty, an inherently oppressive concept and one easily fought because its opponents tend to be the ones with the money to fight it.

29. Magic_Al - February 6, 2010

It’s not that the U.S. can’t afford a bigger space program, it’s that the U.S. doesn’t want a bigger space program. If there was a way to link space with national security, money would be thrown at it with little accountability.

In 2003 the Pentagon was caught being unable to account for $1 trillion (with a T), but given the political climate at the time hardly any eyebrows were raised. People just assumed whatever was paid for must have helped national security somehow, as though no proof is required. In fact the administration’s response was to propose reporting to Congress in LESS detail and giving the SecDef MORE spending discretion. That’s how easily money flows and questions are silenced when The People are behind you.

To put it simply, when Americans are afraid, they will write a blank check. Maybe NASA needs to do more fear-mongering about Near Earth Objects, although probably one needs to hit before the public at large would ever care about it.

30. Hat Rick - February 6, 2010

Many who may be inclined to support the so-called “privatization” of space take the view that private enterprise will find a way to get to space much more cheaply.

If so, then I have one question: Why hasn’t it already?

To the extent that private space has ventured into spaceflight, it is, in the case of the collaboration of Scaled Composites with Virgin Galactic, in large measure because NASA did it first — with billions of dollars of R & D and decades of effort having already been invested.

Virgin Galactic, however, didn’t need money from NASA. Why, then, deprive NASA of funding for Constellation on the pretext that private enterprise needs it?

As “C.S. Lewis” of this forum has stated, the private enterprise model really doesn’t need private funding for the objectives it has it mind.

And those objectives have nothing to do with the objectives that, until now, Constellation has served. Those objectives are far loftier, far more ambitious, and far more compelling than space tourism. They are also far riskier and far more expensive. Sending human beings more than 200,000 miles away to land on the Moon is orders of magnitude more complex than sending a tourist vehicle on a ballistic trajectory or, in the case of SpaceX, even sending cargo capsules to the ISS.

Constellation was, in essence, the ultimate R & D effort, and it served the same function that NASA’s original Mercury-Gemini-Apollo programs did on a much vaster and interplanetary scale. Terminating the Mercury, Gemini, or Apollo programs would have made it much more difficult, if not impossible, for the SpaceX’s of the world to exist today. Likewise, to the extent that it is terminated, the R & D toward Constellation’s implementation that would give rise to future versions of SpaceX would no longer exist.

The new budget for NASA effectively terminates the ultimate R & D program on the very rationale that R & D should be increased. That makes as much as sense, as the great George Carlin once said, as having sex in the name of abstinence. Unfortunately, in this case, this act of intercourse no joke, and it’s the American people who are on the receiving end of it.

31. Hat Rick - February 6, 2010

Correction: “The private enterprise model really doesn’t need public funding for the objectives it has in mind.”

As corrected.

32. C.S. Lewis - February 6, 2010

^26 Imrahil

Yes, it is difficult for you to imagine, but it is true. Swearing and cursing me will not change that fact. I know, I was there (if only as a child). Moreover, my ancestry as an American dates to 1620, descendant of the Pilgrim Fathers and a “Son of the American Revolution” whose forefathers died on both sides of that war. This is a heritage and a status difficult for the multicult to understand, but it existed, invented this thing we call America, and made possible those quintessential exploits, no matter how alien a concept it might seem to you.

Yes, I grieve at her loss. Sadly, you will never know nor understand what she was like nor would I hazard are particularly interested. You see only the carcass of a once great nation yet under the illusions of the omnipresent propaganda of the state, mistake it for my authentic Lady Liberty of song and story.

Heavy sigh… there are none so blind etc but it explains your choice of vocabulary and cynical perspective that such a place could ever exist, when you have known only the Matrix, in a manner of speaking.

You may now return to your idle distractions and day dreams.

Sincerely,
C.S. Lewis

33. justcorbly - February 6, 2010

This is a much more well-reasoned editorial on this subject than I’ve seen in mainstream or specialist media.

If we are to develop and sustain an infrastructure that supports human space exploration, the need for a major private sector role is obvious. (if, and when, we are attacked by Romulans, the government can step back in.)

While I am not a private space ideologue, it’s obvious that NASA’s monopoly of human spaceflight discouraged private sector efforts. The sooner we bite the bullet on this, the better.

If NASA again funds research in advanced propulsion, and figures out how to fly a working plasma rocket, people will forget about Constellation.

34. KMKProd - February 6, 2010

15. Hold on to that patch, it was designed by Mr. Okudagram himself Mike Okuda–who does a lot of patch and graphic designs for NASA.

It is hard to believe that a man who is so adamantly upposed to the private sector and capitalism is now so willing to hand over human space flight operations to private businesses (who are no where near being ready to take on the mantle). I’m raising the BS flag here. Especially when the budget for NASA is on average 0.6% of the US annual budget.

This decision is probably a payoff to China for lending us so much money–we give them the moon in return. They plan to be there by 2018-20 and who knows what they will do with our equipment that is still there. They may even claim there is nothing and that we never went. (JK-or am I?)

I am pissed, but I have hope for change and that there are a lot of people in Congress that are against this obamanation of a budget. This year there will be a turnover in Congress, and then in 2012 someone else will come in and correct alot of this mess.

35. kmart - February 6, 2010

26,

It was united till events DURING the 60s tore it apart. Some of us were THERE, you know, and others have actually studied history. The early 60s were still coasting on the delusions of the 50s.

The only way to justify a manned spaceprogram is based on guaranteed returns — namely, a high velocity transport that can carry a lot of folks to the asteroid belt to bring back enough platinum to change the world’s economy in a huge way. Basically, you need to do a SALVAGE-1 (anybody old enough to remember that show?) for real.

Doing stuff out there for national pride or any other reason that doesn’t MASSIVELY affect this country and others in the way that platinum would (assuming it can be mined easily, something I haven’t read much about in the last 18 years or so) is pointless posturing.

I am so disappointed that the sps programs went nowhere. I don’t know if it was NASA incompetence or some of the backward-thinking environmentalists (that ain’t all of them, but a few) that got it canned, but there’s another example of pissing the future away.

36. KMKProd - February 6, 2010

Also, about the need to go to the Moon again, and this “been there, done that” attitude: If we are to go and land on Mars, wouldn’t it be prudent to practice all the procedures and get the equipment and everything right closer to home, before we make the trip–whether it takes weeks or months to get there? The Moon is only 3 days away, and we can mount a rescue a lot simpler there. Also, lifting off from the Moon would be easier and cheaper since the gravity is 1/6 that of Earth.

This “bold new plan” for NASA is a travesty; it is killing more than 50 years of human space flight in the US. Astronauts I work with are saying this is BS.

37. KMKProd - February 6, 2010

30. “…this act of intercourse no joke, and it’s the American people who are on the receiving end of it.”

Wow, that is a great comment. Great job.

38. The Original Spock's Brain - February 6, 2010

@ 25. Hat Rick

1312. Abubakari II. Recife, Brazil.

39. Hat Rick - February 6, 2010

Thanks, 37. It’s nice to be appreciated!

Please feel free to comment on my blog. All comments are moderated.

40. Hat Rick - February 6, 2010

28:

It’s worth bearing in mind, as well, that the retrenchment of Imperial China after the travels of Zheng He, which brought him around the world in mighty fleets of giant exploratory vessels — dwarfing by far those of Columbus — may have portended an era of decline in that country. Had the emperor not dismantled the fleet, China might have been the first to colonize North America.

See, e.g.: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1421_Hypothesis

41. Greg2600 - February 6, 2010

We need international cooperation, for sure. Plus we need to open it up to companies who aren’t operating in the 1960’s in terms of cost and budget overruns. I applaud Obama for doing the smart thing. We need a renewed focus on new ideas and concepts.

And how about a big hand for NASA, regardless. They get ONLY 19 billion a year, and do a lot with that. People ignorantly think NASA is this huge cash drain, no that would be the Pentagon. NASA in reality doesn’t get a ton of money to do what they’re asked to do.

42. guest - February 6, 2010

Regardless of the best approach to reach space in the future, there will never be an earth alliance trying to solve the problem. If China ever gets to the moon or other space body, it will be declared Chinese territory, treaties or no treaties. Some might not care but economically, a big chunk of space rock could provide a nation with a LOT of resources and wealth. To pretend there is no space race is simply handing the win over to everyone who is racing. Losing the race could cost much more than winning…

43. boborci - February 6, 2010

No need fora public space program when the secret one is doing just fine!;)

44. Thorny - February 6, 2010

34. I’m not really sure where you’re getting your “the private sector is nowhere near ready” ideas from. Who do you think builds all of the satellites we have in space? NASA doesn’t. Corporations like Boeing, Space Systems / Loral and Lockheed-Martin do. Who built the pressurized modules for the Space Station? Boeing and the private company Alenia of Italy did. Who launches all of our satellites into space? Lockheed, Boeing (together forming United Launch Alliance) and Orbital Sciences do. SpaceX has launched one so far with its cheap Falcon 1 and has its much larger Falcon 9 at the Cape being prepared for first flight in a month or two. Who is NASA depending on to deliver supplies to the Space Station after the Shuttle retires? Not a big government “Shuttle II”, they’re paying SpaceX and OSC to do it.

So if private companies already build the rockets, satellites, and manned space stations, why is it they are so “far from ready” to build a new space capsule? In fact, Lockheed was already working on a cheaper version of NASA’s Orion (“Orion Lite”) specifically for space commerce, in support of Bigelow’s space hotel venture. (Bigelow has already launched two prototypes into orbit.) SpaceDev (now Sierra Nevada) has also been working on a commercial space taxi, called DreamChaser (derived from a 1990’s NASA lifting body, the HL-20.) Boeing is dusting off its losing bid for NASA’s Orion, and has teamed with Bigelow to build it. And of course, we heard for years how private enterprise could never match NASA, how they couldn’t possibly put people in space on a fraction of NASA’s budget. That was, until Burt Rutan did it with SpaceShipOne. Yes, that was just suborbital, but even that was scoffed at by critics even as late as one year before SS1 flew. Now the naysayers are back again, scoffing at the notion of private industry sending astronauts to the Space Station.

Does private industry have a lot to prove? Sure. Should we give them the chance? Absolutely. That’s the American Way ™. It wasn’t a big government organization that truly opened the American West, it was largely the commercial railroads, operating with government contracts. It wasn’t big government institutions that invented the airplane, it was two brothers in a bicycle shop (the government money was behind another man, Langley, who failed.) It wasn’t a big government bureaucracy that created the airline industry, it was the Post Office signing contracts with private companies for air mail deliveriy. And a weak economy is no justification for giving up. In the height of the Great Depression, Douglas Aircraft designed, built, and sold the DC-3, perhaps the greatest airplane ever built, and one that decidely changed history.

If five to ten years from now, all the private efforts have failed, we can always go back to the Big Government Program method and build a new Saturn V-class rocket and a bigger and better version of Apollo. The Moon and Mars will still be there. Maybe China will be there waiting for us on the Moon, but at the rate they’re advancing (one manned flight every three years or so) I doubt it.

45. D - February 6, 2010

Oh well, now I don’t feel so bad about failing to become an Astronaut, as I would be without a job..or at least a ship.

Also, I doubt that turning over spacecraft developement and operations to private companies is really going to reduce costs that much. NASA isn’t going to be merely “hiring out a scheduled space tourism flight” in the same manner you can rent a commercial airliner. They are going to follow the military’s aircraft development and procurement process, which, if you haven’t noticed, the last couple of aircraft the military has aquired have NOT been cheap. And the bad thing about government contracts…they almost always tend to go overbudget and overtime. I’m also not really convinced that the commercial companies will have any easier of a time building a spacecraft to meet NASA’s needs, as NASA’s requirements change with every Administration change.

While the idea of an international space agency is appealing to the visions of the Star Trek future, it’s really not that feasible. First off, as some have already pointed out, humans have this nasty habit of wanting to kill each other, which means any International Space Agency would be hamstringed from the get go by “security concerns” that not so nice nations would be using the agency primarily to do research for ballistic missiles.

What I find truly laughable, are the folks that are cheering the “fiscal responsiblity” shown by essentially terminating manned spaceflight, and thinking that now all that money will go to robotic unmanned missions to the planets. Mark my words, I would wager in 10 years there will be no more NASA…it’s Aerospace research duties taken over by DARPA, it’s exploratory programs farmed out to the universities, who will probably not be launching any robotic missions, and it’s climate monitoring studies will be shifted to NOAA and that will then be made a division of the EPA.

If the government wanted to impress me with “fiscal responsibility” they would have started with terminating their own pay…seeing as the whole lot of those politicians make more than enough money without needing their “paychecks”.

46. I am not Herbert - February 6, 2010

43. boborci: “No need fora public space program when the secret one is doing just fine!;)”

HEH!!

Release the UFO technology!

47. Hat Rick - February 6, 2010

Thorny wrote,

“I’m not really sure where you’re getting your “the private sector is nowhere near ready” ideas from. Who do you think builds all of the satellites we have in space? NASA doesn’t. Corporations like Boeing, Space Systems / Loral and Lockheed-Martin do. Who built the pressurized modules for the Space Station? Boeing and the private company Alenia of Italy did. Who launches all of our satellites into space? Lockheed, Boeing (together forming United Launch Alliance) and Orbital Sciences do. SpaceX has launched one so far with its cheap Falcon 1 and has its much larger Falcon 9 at the Cape being prepared for first flight in a month or two. Who is NASA depending on to deliver supplies to the Space Station after the Shuttle retires? Not a big government “Shuttle II”, they’re paying SpaceX and OSC to do it.”

I agree that private enterprise has the expertise to build the hardware. However, private enterprise doesn’t have the will to build the hardware needed for the most ambitious goals of human spaceflight.

Nor is private enterprise infallible. Far from it. You mention Boeing. Boeing is more than two years behind on the Dreamliner. After making promise after promise, Boeing may have to pay billions in “make good” or compensatory payments as a result of numerous delays.

Boeing has also apparently made the wrong call on the Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental, whose orders lag far behind the Airbus 380.

Cumulatively, this is a mistake that may cost Boeing tens of billions of dollars in lost sales.

May I remind everyone, as well, that Boeing is a monopoly in the manufacture of large commercial airliners in the United States, having opportunistically assimilated its last remaining rival, McDonnell Douglas, some time ago.

Boeing is now falling behind Airbus, the European consortium, which until the last decade was a distant second in orders and manufacturing of commercial airliners. Boeing has fallen from first to second place in this, its cardinal area of expertise.

Defense manufacturers such as Boeing and Lockheed Martin (the largest defense company in the world) have incurred billions in cost overruns over the years. Lockheed Martin’s F-35 is widely derided as overbudget and underperformance. Even the F-22 Raptor, easily the best fighter aircraft in the world, was terminated by the Obama Administration partly on the basis of cost.

As I think upon it, the so-called “efficiency” of private enterprise rarely fails to incur jocularity.

Prior to the Great Recession of this date, the vaunted greatness of Wall Street should have yielded similar mirth. Much to the detriment of the world, the joke that is Wall Street is now much more tragic than not.

48. Federali Aundy - February 6, 2010

Thank you Mr. President for advancing the destruction of our Space Program.

49. CmdrR - February 6, 2010

Bob — I’m fine with Section 31 doing all the work. But, I want Elvis back, OK?

50. ryanhuyton - February 6, 2010

A manned mission to Mars won’t happen until the 22nd century in my opinion. I also think that more cutbacks will be made to the unmanned space programs, i.e Mars Rover and Hubble telescope if not abandoned altogether. The only international ventures into space appear to be by countries such as Iran, Russia, North Korea, Pakistan, China, India and the U.S. Each intends to build orbital nuclear weapons platforms. One button is pressed, and a single city or country is wiped out in an instant.
That appears to be the priority right now. Ironically, the only thing countries seem to agree on is the “need” for war. NASA will still have a space program, but only to repair satellites and to carry weapons into space. If the choice is between spending billions on space exploration or space weapons, then it comes down to what the politicians can sell to the public. And right now I’d bet a lot more people than not would prefer building more powerful weapons to keep them “safe” from countries like Iran, Pakistan and North Korea or to respond quickly if a country is attacked. It is the way it is. Unless it is for “national security” then I think the public will not support a space program. Which is a shame. There more to be gained from space exploration and knowledge than there is from war and destruction. Its simple logic. But the human race is not logical.

51. MarkF - February 6, 2010

If they can make rockets that don’t have thrust oscillation issues I am satisfied.

52. Hat Rick - February 6, 2010

The thrust oscillation issue was greatly overemphasized. Ares I performed much better than its detractors feared.

Also, to the Jupiter Direct people: Project Constellation is dead. Jupiter Direct is also dead (never having lived). Happy now?

Thirdly:

Is the aforementioned Lockheed Martin happy that President Obama has cancelled Constellation? Just read this:

http://www.universetoday.com/2010/02/06/orion-can-launch-safely-in-2013-says-lockheed/

53. Thorny - February 6, 2010

Hat Rick…

True, Boeing stumbled out of the gate with the 787, but it is a radical new concept of both design (all-composite construction) and manufacturing (extremely widespread subassembly manufacturing). There was a Union strike in there slowing things down, too. In retrospect,, we shouldn’t be surprised that bringing together myriad parts from all over the world for assembly into one aircraft was more complicated and took longer to get up and running than Boeing expected. Still, the 787 has sold more airframes prior to first flight than any other airliner in history, and recent order cancellations are likely conveniently blamed on delivery delays when they’re really due to the economic downturn. (At least a few airlines are glad they didn’t have to ask banks for loans this year to pay for new 787s.)

The 747-8 program is successful. The passenger variant (the Intercontinental) has sold few airframes, but its development is largely derived from the cargo version, which has sold very well (nearly 100 on order before first flight isn’t bad for basically a 40-year-old design.) Boeing will make a lot of money on the 747-8 program (compared to Airbus’s A380 that almost certainly never will), and the Intercontinental mostly serves to keep Airbus honest in A380 prices. 747-8’s first flight, by the way, is scheduled for Monday.

Boeing acquired McDonnell-Douglas, but they had ceased being a major player in the airline industry a few years before (with the failure of its MD-11 vs. Boeing’s 777 and Airbus’s A340.)

Regardless, I do like Boeing’s manned spacecraft concept. They’re designing it to be adaptable to any launch vehicle (the other concepts are tied to one rocket or another) which means they can launch on whichever vehicle proves cheapest/most reliable, and that seems like a business move.

54. jiat2001 - February 6, 2010

I for one support the cancellation of the Constellation program. That project was going nowhere and why recreate Apollo type capsules? Why not build a much larger spaceship with faster propulsion and artificial gravity rotation drives? Oh right, we don’t have the money or the technology….wait, we do have ALIEN technology but our government is keeping mum on it. The Constellation program reminded me of the failed X-33 shuttle replacement. I too would like to see humans go to Mars but I also believed that unless we fix the problems here on Earth, we have to put space exploration on hold. One day we will finally leave Earth and colonize other worlds.

55. Thorny - February 6, 2010

Hat Rick… “The thrust oscillation issue was greatly overemphasized. Ares I performed much better than its detractors feared.”

Ignoring for the moment that Ares I never flew (the Ares I-X had almost nothing in common with the actual Ares I design) I really don’t think we should be putting astronauts on Solid Rocket Boosters if we don’t have to. Sure, the Redesigned SRB has worked well since it was introduced after Challenger, but solid boosters simply are more dangerous than liquid fuel boosters. Generally, SRBs fail without warning and fail violently. Challenger was actually an extremely unusual exception. And if you do have enough notice to abort, there is no way to turn an SRB off, so your abort system needs to be huge and powerful to outrun the SRB.

It should be noted that of all the options the Augustine Commission gave to President Obama, only one included proceeding with Ares I, and that option required raising NASA’s budget $3 billion per year, every year, and still wasn’t likely to fly before 2017.

And as for Ares I itself, by NASA’s own accounting, it was going to cost $30 billion to field. This for a rocket slightly more powerful than the existing Delta IV-Heavy (which costs somewhere around $500 million per launch.) A billion or two dollars for improved avionics (which Obama just ordered in his budget, by the way) can make Delta IV-Heavy perfectly suitable for launching astronauts and save US taxpayers $28 billion. And Delta IV-Heavy is an all-hydrogen vehicle with no SRBs to worry about.

I’m actually a little surprised President Obama didn’t kill Ares sooner. Too much on his plate with the wars and healthcare, presumably.

56. Hat Rick - February 6, 2010

Thorny,

Thank you for your enlightening posts. I mean that sincerely; you are a true expert and a gentleman.

However, I believe that gentlemen can and should disagree where there is reasonable cause, and here, I believe, there is.

1. Boeing. I used to own stock in Boeing. Dreamliner was and is a success — thus far. It is the most successful new airliner model in memory, with over eight hundred orders to date. Airbus’s 350 was beaten — badly — and now has had to redesign it into the 350XWB. The latter is, at best, a paper airplane, and Airbus, with the A400 fiasco, simply doesn’t have the funds to assure its success. However….

2. Boeing, Part II. Boeing’s Randy Tinseth has admitted that the business case for the Intercontinental is not what it was anticipated to be.

3. Boeing, Part III. The A380 may have its problems, but beating the Intercontinental in orders is not one of them. The superjumbo already has over 200 orders. The Intercontinental has 32 of them. It’s the freighter version of the 747-8 that’s garnered the lion’s share of orders, and it’s the freighter version that can be deemed successful. But the passenger version is a great disappointment, and up until recently, it had had only one customer — Lufthansa.

4. Lockheed Martin. Lockheed Martin is the prime contractor for Orion. One of its official has castigated the cancellation of Project Constellation, whose test flight of Ares I (the I-X version) was recently deemed a success.

5. Private industry. SpaceX’s Falcon 9 is still unproven. Even were it to launch successfully, the best it could do currently is launch what is essentially a big pressurized cargo container into space to supply the space station. The Europeans and the Japanese can do that. America has stood for far more, and must not abdicate its responsibility to keep pressing on to push the envelopes of spaceflight. Bigelow Aerospace has lofted what is essentially a gigantic pressurized balloon into space, and has the video of floating emphera within to prove it. That “space station,” however, is far from having been proved habitable.

6. Private industry, Part II. I, for one, never doubted that Burt Rutan’s outfit could do a suborbital flight, nor that the X Prize could be won. Scaled Composites deserves big kudos for its successes. However, NASA and the Russians did this in the early 1960’s. If Obama has its way, NASA would no longer be able to do even this since the NASA spacecraft capable of such flight would no longer exist.

Bear in mind, as well, that no manned private spacecraft has ever achieved orbital flight. SpaceX has lofted only an unmanned Falcon spacecraft into orbit.

For the SpaceX’s Dragon to be converted into a manned spacecraft would require extensive modifications and testing, costing millions of possibly many years of effort, with no guarantee of success. It would be akin to changing a semi trailer into a bus — except the bus would have to fly in space.

President Obama is throwing away billions of sunk funds in order to chase a dream amounting to nothing. The odds are that his latest proposal will result in nothing more than years or decades of delay — all while the rest of the world races ahead.

57. 790 - February 6, 2010

We ready have bases on the moon and mars.
We also already have ways to travel that don’t involve combustion propulsion engines.

The administration and Nasa/JPL are keeping all the real information to themselves.

This proposal only means more money in the way of private satellite delivery systems. No doubt satellites that will not be used in the exploration of space.

58. Hat Rick - February 6, 2010

57, it may be within the realm of possibility that we have, indeed, reversed-engineered alien technology — if indeed it exists — along the lines claimed by those who believe figures like Robert Lazar. However, in that it is not generally believed that UFO’s are in fact the products of alien or time-traveling civilizations, and in that if we have fantastically advanced technology through other means, it is hardly in undisputed evidence, it is not clear that we can have much confidence that the real state of our technology is as you say.

Bob Orci’s joke, above, notwithstanding.

And yes, I do listen to Coast-to-Coast AM on occasion.

59. Thorny - February 6, 2010

Rick… Right back at ya!

I have to say I was taken aback at the cancellation of Lockheed’s Orion. From most accounts, Orion was actually doing pretty well and most of its delays were due to design changes made necessary by the ever-decreasing performance of Ares I (it lost 6-person crew and ground landings because Ares I was no longer powerful enough to launch the original Orion.) I fully expected Ares I to bite the dust (good riddance), but I expected the President to move Orion to either a DIRECT-like rocket or Delta IV-Heavy. I do think President Obama threw the baby out with the bath water.

But I’m excited by the prospects of not one new US manned spacecraft, but potentially several taking flight in the next five years.

And I will be very pleasantly surprised (read: amazed) if the first Falcon 9 launch is success for SpaceX. I’ll even be a little surprised if the second is successful. I’d prefer to see Shuttle remain in service until Falcon and/or Taurus II/Cygnus (OSC’s system) are operational. But Falcon and Dragon have enormous potential and I’ll be glad to see more money heading their way. Dragon doesn’t need to be “converted”, it was designed with manned capability from the start. That’s why SpaceX has said for the last two years that it can have a crewed version flying in three years if they get the money to move forward on it.

Bigelow has only launched two small prototypes, but that’s actually quite impressive. The next step is for Bigelow to build a next-generation prototype that can be attached to the Space Station, there it will serve double duty as additional volume on the Station (perhaps for the canceled Centrifuge) and as a safe proving ground for Bigelow’s space hotel systems. Isn’t this the sort of thing NASA should have been doing all along?

By the way, by most accounts (exact numbers are hard to pin down due to early buyer discounts), Airbus needs to sell 500-550 A380s to break even on the project. They’ve sold 200 or so and have few prospects for more large orders, as that market is being eaten away by “big twins” 777, 787 and A350. Boeing on the other hand, needs to sell 100 or so 747-8s (all flavors) to break even, and they’ve pretty much already done that, with the cargo version paying for the passenger version.

60. Hat Rick - February 6, 2010

Thorny, informative as usual.

I think we have a philosphical difference in part. I don’t believe that private industry will necessarily fail in space. However, just because private industry may succeed does not mean that NASA should cede.

NASA’s role has always been to push the frontiers of space — not in a purely experimental way, but in a tangible manner that yields results.

As I noted in one of my posts above, NASA’s success in developing technology capable of once again breaking the bonds of low-Earth orbit would be the precursor for private industry to do the same. But if NASA itself fails blaze the trail by doing the heavy lifting toward human exploration of the Moon and the planets, what incentive would private industry have to do so?

I would also respectfully disagree with an earlier contention that Orion-Ares would simply be an Apollo Redux. Even aside from the longer-term objective of manned Martian exploration, Orion Ares-I and Ares-V suite of rockets would enable exploration of areas of the Moon, and lunar colonies, in a manner far beyond the reach of Apollo. Now, sadly, all that is gone — perhaps forever — unless Congress refuses to agree to President Obama’s rash, wasteful, and unwarranted plans.

Heroes have died in order to help America achieve its leadership in space. If only we permit it, their memory is there to guide us as we fight against the destruction of NASA’s Project Constellation.

61. Jeffery Wright - February 6, 2010

Space belongs to China, next time you watch Star Trek, imagine all the dialogue in chinese.

Progressives always hold humanity back. They would have refused funding the great explorers of our past, using the same arguments progressives do, today.

Progressives gutted NASA after the Apollo missions, of which the shuttle was to be just a small part of, became all there was.

Unimaginable riches are there for the taking, opting to fund entitlements instead of advancing the place of humanity among the stars is illogical.

We haven’t even been able to so much as build one rotating space station in orbit yet, and this is the year 2010? Weak.

Here’s to China. It’s all yours. Here in the states, the future isn’t what it used to be.

62. Jeffery Wright - February 6, 2010

@54 We must fix the problems in Europe first, Captain Christopher Columbus, therefore we cannot fund your exploration. It’s not like you would have discovered anything significant, anyway.

To the others, there are no bases on the moon, mars and there is no alien tech that was de-engineered, that the powers that be, are using in secret.

Unless, of course, you have proof you’ve been keeping to yourselves.

63. RB - February 6, 2010

Obama is right, yet he is also wrong.

We need to change the way we think of human space flight. We need better mechanisms to get people longer distances for our eventual trip to Mars. We need to fund research into all the things needed to further manned space flight.

Unfortunately, the Constellation program was the perfect vehicle for this. Getting back to the Moon is the most important thing we can do to further man’s travels into space. Why not direct NASA to increase research into all these great projects in the hope of returning to the Moon in the near future?

We should be funding both research and actual human spaceflight. WIth this new edict, we have essentially given up on one of the most important goals human beings can have: discovery.

64. RB - February 6, 2010

One more thing: Here’s a great counter-argument to this article.

http://gizmodo.com/5461806/obama-cancels-kennedys-dream

65. Daoud - February 6, 2010

Where’s a united Earth space probe agency, when you spot on need one!?!

The Son of Doohan is exactly right, and echos what Carl Sagan often said. We should be sending out probes at 10 times the rate. More probes like Spirit, Opportunity and Phoenix on Mars. A rover on the Moon can nail down the polar craters with water ice. A rover on Titan. Rovers on Europa and Ganymede. These are all inexpensively (compared to manned spaceflight) possible. And frankly, even the probes are essentially “manned”. They were sent by humans, not dolphins!

As much as we love Star Trek, we have to own up at some point that it’s fantasy. Reality is in our ability to program machines to do work for us.

66. MarkF - February 6, 2010

Hat Rick,

You’re right but they were still going to put the shock absorbers in, adding to the mass and whittling away Orion’s capacity.

67. 790 - February 6, 2010

#58, sure I agree that a lot of so called ufo’s are man made. Are you using that to defend your point that we don’t have that capability?
^
Keep in mind that if we have this tech, that you say there’s no evidence of, ah it would be a secret,,, and you wouldn’t know about its truth,,,

it would obviously be a fantasy to your limited mind?

68. Hat Rick - February 6, 2010

65, I think that when we can live through our robots, then — but only then — will humanity have reached the stars.

But so long as we are made of flesh, and so long as it is blood and not electricity that courses through our veins, then we will not have explored space ourselves even as our emissaries send messages to their creators back on Earth.

If, and only if, humanity becomes machine, then machine exploration of the universe will have been the triumph of the spirit. But not, I daresay, of the human spirit — as we now know it.

For all that has been said of Obama as a Vulcan, much less a Trekkie, he is proved to be more a Romulan than either of those. I wish I could say that like a fan of Trek, his imagination knows no bounds, but we now know that that is very far from the truth.

As has been said many times before, the essence of Trek is nothing if not inspiration.

The essence of Obama’s failure of vision is… failure.

69. Hat Rick - February 6, 2010

“65, if what you say is true, then I think that when we can live through our robots, then — but only then — will humanity have reached the stars.”

As corrected.

70. CarlG - February 6, 2010

You know, we wouldn’t be having this problem if Ricardo Montalban hadn’t taken off with our only starship in the mid-90’s…

KHAAAAANNNN!!

71. Hat Rick - February 6, 2010

70: Oddly enough, I am watching The Wrath of Khan as I type, in Blu-ray. I kid you not.

Coincidence? There is no such thing.

72. Imrahil - February 6, 2010

so my comment railing against handing the keys to space over to private corporations got deleted, huh?

Oh, and CS Lewis: Simply being “from” the 1960s is no justification for historical blindness.

I’m glad you trotted out your lily-white puritan ancestry though for us all to admire. I’m sure other WASPs in power in the 60s felt they were “United” too, while ignoring the concerns and cares of MASSIVE segments of the population. They didn’t matter, after all, right?

73. WGW - February 6, 2010

this is bs. Once again this President has dropped the ball. We need to go back to the moon, NASA funding needs to be increased from the pathetic funding it has now. Perhaps instead of the 9000 earmarks in recovery bills for duck crossings we could send the money to NASA. And so what if a NASA moon landing would cost 100 billion the bailouts for banks were 800+ and solved nothing. Obama lacks the vision of the final frontier

74. WGW - February 6, 2010

“would cost on the order of $100 billion. It would further drain money from space science and unmanned exploration of the solar system at a time when our robotic emissaries are so brilliantly demonstrating their exceptional capabilities.”

in the 60’s we didnt care about the cost, but we had a dream. unmanned is useless, most of our tech comes from the Apollo program and what we found out by going to the moon. Obama is a Vulcan reminiscent of Soval

75. StarFuryG7 - February 6, 2010

I’m going to go absolutely out on a limb here and just take a really wild guess: Mr. Bormanis also happened to vote for Obama.

76. ximpa - February 6, 2010

Totally disagree, especially since part of the budge will be used to follow the folly of IPCC’s false statements…

77. Nivenus - February 6, 2010

Having extensively studied the Civil Rights I can say with some degree of certainty that the 60s were not a period of unity. You know, a period filled with the national guard enforcing desegregation, governors proclaiming their states were under federal occupation, etc, etc.

Maybe it’s just me, but I hear the governor of Alabama call out Obama as a dictator I’ll hold my breath about the US being more divided now than then.

78. Licinius - February 7, 2010

Interesting discussion, especially from Hat Rick and Thorny. I’m genuinely not sure how to feel about all this, but if I had to make judgment right now, I’d say I’m not happy. While we all hope and expect private enterprise to contribute, I don’t see the rationale for pulling the plug on Constellation yet. It should simply be funded adequately to achieve its goals.

I’m not worried about the ingenuity of the American people–I’m worried about our national capacity to envision lofty goals and STICK to them.

79. CarlG - February 7, 2010

I know we’d all prefer a big, splashy, “event” mission like Constellation to come off, but the really useful space discoveries will more than likely be found nested in the middle of some eye-glazingly dull project that we would ostensibly never care less about.

It’s like in First Contact — it would’ve been a lot less exciting if Zephram had sent up two dozen unmanned warp ships to make sure his rickety bucket didn’t explode, but that would be a lot more reasonable procedure in real life.

Anyways, what I’m trying to get at is that small steps taken carefully, although it seems boring, will be a lot more useful to the understanding of space than a few big, sexy, “feel-good” showcases.

Still want the option of retiring on Mars, though. Ah well.

80. vjeko1701 - February 7, 2010

I’ll just hope that NASA will soon be replaced with UESEA (United Earth Space Exploration Agency)

81. JohnWA - February 7, 2010

It was always a question of how deeply would the budget cuts go rather than whether it would happen.

We don’t live in the United Federation of Planets. Nobody in the U.S. government – aside from NASA scientists themselves – is the least bit interested in space exploration just for the sake of knowledge. Unless there’s crude oil on the moon, I doubt either the Democrats or the Republicans are willing to spend billions of dollars to go there. Especially with the economy the way it is.

The Cold War is over.

And NASA has never articulated a clear vision as to why it is actually necessary to go into space right now. And because the agency has failed to garner much public support for this project, both political parties have no problem with pulling the plug on it. The average American couldn’t even tell you what Constellation is.

82. James T. - February 7, 2010

Can’t recall ever posting here before. I am watching what should have been the final overnight Shuttle launch with great sadness at the thought that CxP is being scrapped. The weather did not permit Endeavor’s launch this morning. (Another bummer.) While waiting, I glanced through the 80 or so posts ahead of mine with great interest. No doubt Trekkers to the left, the right and in the middle are some very smart people. My only two-cents, if I may, is that this really should not be a right or left issue. The decision to scrap Constellation is a more than just a rebooting of our timeline. I see it on par with the death of Edith Keeler, or rather her “not dying” in an altered timeline. Think of some of the discussion on that, a most beloved episode, “City on the Edge of Forever.” Humankind is on the edge of forever and I only hope the Guardian of Forever puts things back on track. Meanwhile, I found this vid on YouTube you might want to consider: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a2IQVZmHnJQ

83. AJ - February 7, 2010

The 1960’s, in my living memory, was a period of major cultural divide the US. Hippies in Central Park draft-dodging, and a despicable war on TV every night; it’s amazing JFK’s talk was ever realized.

At some point, another country, looking for its place in world history and the eyes of its people, WILL send someone to the moon or to Mars. They’ll discover moonrocks and sand, and will be talked about for generations. It certainly feeds inspiration, something the youth in the US today deperately needs.

84. Frank Fischer - February 7, 2010

“… at a time when our robotic emissaries are so brilliantly demonstrating their exceptional capabilities.”

As I recall correctly one of the Mars Rovers is struck in a sand pit.

This is clearly a tremendous advantage over to human exploration. ;-) Spirit & Opportunity have done a great job but they also show the limits of space probes in general.
Its that simple: No Constellation => No vision for NASA => No manned spaceflight => No NASA => no Star Trek future.
SAVE Connstellation! Please consider to contact your reprensative or email the white house!

And by the way: you can invest and develop new technologies besides a return to the moon, simultanesley. More money doesn’t equal more ideas and more technology breakthroughs.

P.S.: Don’t say we still have the ISS. I love it too but its lifetime is limited. And what will be after ISS with? Nothing.

85. Hugh Hoyland - February 7, 2010

Why only pick on President Obama, sure his policies maybe no good, but neither were his predicecors, GWB. When will we all realize these folks work for the same “people”, people that happen to come from the 13 sector of the galaxy. They are called “The Six invader force”!

P.S. I think I need to get more sleep on my days off,

86. Curt - February 7, 2010

This is going to be the death of NASA and manned space exploration. Now, we’re placing out trust in manned space exploration on Richard Branson. What a joke.

I’m heading to Florida from Wisconsin to watch Discovery launch in September… NASA’s last shuttle launch. I wanted to witness manned space flight’s version of the Battle of Adrianople.

“We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.” – John F. Kennedy

The vision’s gone. Obama’s quickly becoming the anti-JFK.

87. The Last Maquis - February 7, 2010

@ 3

Well what are ya?, A moon shuttle conductor?

88. Brian - February 7, 2010

Well said #13!!!

“The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.”

89. Scott B. here. - February 7, 2010

Now is the time to get the budget under control, grow the economy, get more people back to work in non-government jobs, not announce grandiose schemes to send people into space. Sad, but true. These are the times in which we live.

If the Obama Administration had announced big plans in this year’s budget for the moon and Mars and beyond, there would have been screaming from both sides of the aisle about unnecessary deficit spending on nutty projects, and rightly so.

As it is, Congress can still add Constellation funding back into the budget.

And don’t forget to remember: NASA’s budget is actually being INCREASED in the latest proposed budget, with increased funding for science and some real Buck Rogers propulsion ideas that may make going to Mars a viable two-way trip for astronauts.

Scott B. out.

90. P Technobabble - February 7, 2010

Who really puts a lot of faith in the government’s abilities, anyway? I’ve already posted a link to a list of government failures, but again:
http://www.publicintegrity.org/investigations/broken_government/articles/full_list/

And the list only starts from the year 2000. The point is, the government is typically incapable of running successful programs because it is always tangled up in its own bureaucracy, political agendas, greed, and so forth.
The fact that the government and big business has allowed the United States to fall into what CS Lewis above called “technical bankruptcy” is the greatest failure of all.
As an 11 year old boy in 1968 (and already a Star Trek fan), I saw the film 2001, and then the lunar landing a year later, and I really believed the Star Trek world would come true. Now, at 52, having seem some of the horrors that have taken place on earth, with most of humanity being, as Rick said above, “on the receiving end,” I have become rather cynical.
I recently saw a program on the Smithsonian Channel about the asteroid Apophis, which is, apparently, going to come so close to earth that numerous scientists are concerned the earth’s gravitational pull could actually pulled the asteroid right into us. It is, if I recall, a 250 foot rock, which, if it hit us, would have devastating effects. It will approach us in 2029, and potentially hit us in 2036. Do we have even the organizational skills to put together a fast-moving program, in the event this asteroid were to become a serious threat? Would our government be able to get out of its own way in order to save the planet? Or would they sit around a table arguing about how to pay for such a project?
Right now, the US is hurting. The house is on fire, and all the politicians can do is watch it and argue about what we should do about it. And guess who’s burning in the meantime…?

91. Bob B - February 7, 2010

I don’t agree with Andre. Obama is just spouting more pie in the sky dreams that will never be fulfilled just to kill the only hope we have of keeping a manned presence in space based on US technology. Idiots!

92. Anti-ChiCom - February 7, 2010

Here’s my plan:

1.) Take the handcuffs off business in the USA and bring MANUFACTURING back to the USA through tax incentives and removal of oppressive “environmental regulation”.

2.) Reinvigorate the US economy through the private sector so that we can AFFORD a space program again! You people think we are playing with monopoly money? Or that if we just wish it into existence it happens?

Crazy! It’s not a bottomless pit.

The US dollar teeters on the brink and the deficit with the ChiComs is at a dangerous level.

This isn’t the 1960s…not even the same economy or country!

Wake up!!

93. Boborci - February 7, 2010

Google Visions 2020 to read about our military’s view on the importance of space dominance and then ask yourself if it is logical, given recent events, that the US is really lettng space go.

94. Anti-ChiCom - February 7, 2010

Yes, I agree Bob…for military applications. But even with that, I have to question the economic feasibility of it.

This country is in serious economic trouble, but that’s be played down by the mass media.

We, as a country, have borrowed and spent our way into a serious problem.

Even moreso when you consider WHO we’ve been borrowing from. We could have the rug pulled out from under us at any moment.

I wish this country WAS in a position to have a top space program.

I, for one, have felt we should have a base on the moon like Moonbase Alpha in Space:1999 by now — but we don’t. Likewise, we should have a REAL space station capable of launching manned flights to Mars and beyond.

Money has been wasted and pennies were pinched when we DID have the money.

Hindsight as they say is 2020.

95. Hat Rick - February 7, 2010

Bob Orci, no, it’s not. There is a small-scale reusable shuttle that very few people know about and that is very little written about, but that isn’t technically secret.

As I wrote here some time ago, Google “X-37″ and you will references to it, including a Wiki article and even various images of the real thing.

Writers on the subject report that when any specific agency is asked about it, they are referred to some other agency for details. Apparently, no one wants to tell the public exactly what it is or what it’s for. Officially, it’s just a technology demonstrator. Unofficially, you can draw your own conclusions.

The U.S. military has plans for on-orbit abilities that require highly maneuverable satellites that can disable, kill, or perhaps even “kidnap” enemy satellites as part of our requirement for complete C4I control. Usage of robotic fighters and spacecraft might therefore become routine; procurement of UAV’s has outpaced that of manned fighters for the first time recently.

All of which leads one to say that can always speculate, with substantial basis, that the military has a parallel space program that might include manned spacecraft.

The Delta IV and Atlas V programs certainly permit us substantial heavy-lift capability.

But, that said, the bell still tolls for civilian exploration of outer space, since if President Obama has its way, where space exploration is concerned, the beating heart and human spirit is destined to be replaced by silicon chips and electromagnetic waves.

96. sean - February 7, 2010

#92

As we’ve had a fiat currency for some time now, we in fact can just wish it into existence.

97. Hat Rick - February 7, 2010

Corrections:

“All of which leads one to say that one can always speculate, with some basis, that the military has a parallel space program that might include manned spacecraft.”

“But, that said, the bell still tolls for civilian exploration of outer space, since if President Obama has his way, where human spaceflight is concerned, the beating heart and human spirit are destined to be replaced by silicon chips and electromagnetic waves.”

As corrected.

98. Anti-ChiCom - February 7, 2010

#96 — “Fiat currency”…exactly. But, the madness has to end.

99. Licinius - February 7, 2010

Scott B–

Let’s not go back to the old chestnut about how we can’t afford to explore space.

There’s actually nothing “grandiose” about continuing Constellation. It was conceived to be an incremental program, adjustable in mid-stream (unless killed outright). There’s not much I liked about Bush Admin. policy, but that was one initiative that actually sounded pretty reasonable.

The discovery of water on the Moon actually makes the long term prospects of staying there more practical. Nor is the money involved very serious– what, a three billion a year increase? That’s chump change by Federal standards, and pretty cost effective considering the spin-off benefits to private industry traditionally associated wih space projects. Every dime spent on space gets spent here, on Earth (at least for now!)…such expenditures are actually more like stimulus money for the tech sector, with the added benefit of giving us all something to cheer about, together. That’s priceless.

100. boborci - February 7, 2010

94. Anti-ChiCom – February 7, 2010

There’s always money for black ops! Probably partly why we’re publicly broke.

Check out Rumsfeld here talking about how the Defense Department has misplaced 2.3 trillion dollars:

http://whitehouser.com/politics/pentagon-two-trillion-dollars-missing/

2.3 trillion could just about cover a moon base, no?;)

101. Hat Rick - February 7, 2010

100, an excellent point.

NASA’s total annual budget is about $18.7 billion. The Pentagon’s annual budget is more than $663 billion.

The total federal budget for 2001 is $3.834 trillion.

The reallocation of a percentage of NASA’s annual budget to maintain Project Constellation, therefore, would be approximately the amount of the rounding error of the total federal budget.

102. Hat Rick - February 7, 2010

^^I meant the total federal budget for 2010, not 2001.

103. Anti-ChiCom - February 7, 2010

#100 — Great article Bob!

Yes, I agree…misplaced and wasted money certainly COULD have been used better for the space program. But, I remember all the ridiculous back and forth going on as far back as when Reagan proposed Space Station Freedom. That’s the station I wanted. Something big, something permanent as a launch platform for constructing a moonbase and — missions beyond.

But at the time, the party in control kept whittling away at the budget until we got the ISS…and that has faced all kinds of problems even though it was, technically, an international effort.

Anytime any administration wastes money it’s not a good thing. But, none of this negates the fact that our country is in serious financial trouble.

We need to run the country like you would your household. You just wouldn’t go and take a nice European or Hawaiian vacation if you’re out of work and in financial trouble…so, on a similar level, you wouldn’t be paying for space missions when the country is going broke either.

We’ve got to fix things here before we talk of going back to space. I’d like to do it, but I want us to do it right — after we’ve gotten our house in order.

And when we get back to it, I am all for international endeavors…why not?

104. Anti-ChiCom - February 7, 2010

Interesting video too Bob! I’d like to know where that money went as well! Black ops? Maybe…

I’d like to know.

105. guest - February 7, 2010

http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/peter_diamandis_on_our_next_giant_leap.html
Lots of other interesting talks (ted.com) regarding space exploration by the private sector, several from Burt Rutan, who I am reminded of everytime I watch Bruce Greenwood as Pike…

106. Odkin - February 7, 2010

Wait, let me get this straight… a media elite TV Producer *supports* President Obama? We must have looked long and hard to find one of those. Of course his credential as Producer of the only failed Trek series bolster his credibility and good judgment.

Is the opposition point of view going to get an entire weekend pinned as the top article of the site?

107. Red Skirt - February 7, 2010

#100. “Check out Rumsfeld here talking about how the Defense Department has misplaced 2.3 trillion dollars:”

He should check the seat cushions in his couch.

108. OLLEY OLLEY OLLEY - February 7, 2010

So is Nasa going to keep using the shuttle?
I mean those things are nearly 30 years old and its hard to find trucks that old and reliable

109. Oregon Trek Geek - February 7, 2010

I would not be surprised if someday we learn that the US never left the moon, with an ultra black-ops military base up there active since the 1960’s. Mars too? Excuse me while I indulge my inner conspiracy theorist this fine Sunday morning….

110. denny cranium - February 7, 2010

I thought it was “Boldly Go”
While a trip back to the moon would be a great nostaligic journey, its kind of like going to see the Rolling Stones and paying $350.00 for a seat that was $15.00 in 1969. And some would argue that hearing Jumping Jack Flash in 1969 was better than and 2009.

I’m for spending our money to get us further into space.
I do think the US is the flagship for spending the money though.
Boborci (always great to see you here) thanks for a great link in your post

111. denny cranium - February 7, 2010

sorry Jumping Jack Flash was better in 1969 than it was in 2009
My bad

112. Bubba Hotep - February 7, 2010

The thing that I find sad in all of this (in addition to the insane amounts of money that have been spent to date and will be spent to date yet we are still without a replacement for the space shuttle) is the insane amount of time it is going to take for us get a replacement ready. Really, another 10-20 years before any of this will be ready. Really? 10-20 years?

With the technology of 50 years ago we went from rockets that blew up on launch (1960) to landing men successfully on the moon. Yet with all of that experience, yet will all of the advances in technology (especially computer modeling technology and materials), we cannot design and build something more quickly for less money?

Huh?

This is shameful and embarrassing.

China, Japan, and Europe have plans for manned space flight that include LEO, the moon and Mars. The nation that led the way to the moon 40 years ago doesn’t? OK, so they are playing catch up in a sense, but we’re not going further?

Nothing like reverting to a third world nation.

Don’t we have old Gemini blueprints laying around somewhere? Couldn’t we reverse engineer some of those capsules and rockets on display at the Air & Space Museum?

113. Kent Butabi - February 7, 2010

Darned if we do and darned if we don’t.

114. agentm31 - February 7, 2010

According to the NASA Astronaut Neil Armstrong the aliens have a base on the Moon and told us in no uncertain terms to get off and stay off the Moon!

Ummm. Let’s just stay home.

115. MrRegular - February 7, 2010

Bold new approach?? Where are we going??
Private industry is certainly capable of launching to low Earth orbit, but if Obama is charging NASA not to explore the final frontier, then NASA is not going anywhere.
Thousands of people will be losing jobs. I thought Obama was interested in creating new jobs, specifically high tech jobs. I guess I was wrong.
If the plan was overbudget, and the “Direct” option would have worked faster & cheaper, why did he not direct NASA to pursue that option?
As a lifelong fan of space exploration, I can’t tell you how disappointed I am. I never would have thought that, while watching Space:1999 for the first time as a kid in the mid 70’s, that an American President who used “Hope” as a rallying cry would cancel the return to the Moon. I’m not the one to let this pass–I will be writing my representative this week.

116. Hat Rick - February 7, 2010

Actually, 113, it’s damned if we don’t. The lack of superheavy-lift capability, which Ares V was going to provide, may mean that we will have no way of deflect as-yet unknown Earth-killers akin to Apophis.

There are billions of asteroidal threats there of which we know nothing. Witness the latest uproar over NASA’s X-shaped asteroid discovery.

Aside from the Shuttle, the heaviest-lift rockets we have are the Atlas V (whose engines are provided by Russia) and the Delta IV. They are capable of lifting about 20 to 25 tons into low Earth orbit. The Ares I would have been capable of lifting a man-rated assembly of similar mass. None of them even approaches the Saturn V’s capability.

No Russian, European, Chinese, Japanese, or any other booster under development significantly exceeds the lift capability of the Atlas or Delta.

The Saturn V would have been greatly eclipsed by the Ares V. The Ares V, at a rating in excess of 200 tons to low-Earth orbit, would be capable of lifting an excess of 65 tons to translunar injection — i.e., to the Moon, more than 200,000 miles away.

By comparison, the Shuttle can lift only about 25 tons about 300 miles above the Earth.

All may not be lost if we can detect Earth-killer asteroids early enough, but the less capability we have, the farther we must detect them in order to have enough time to nudge them away from their deadly trajectory.

God help us all.

117. Scott B. here. - February 7, 2010

RE: 90 – Technobabble: This quote from an article on spacenews.com regarding your killer asteroid concerns:

“(NASA’s associate administrator for science Ed) Weiler said Obama’s budget plan includes new money to identify and catalog asteroids and comets that could threaten Earth”

Not exactly plans to build asteroid-nudging rockets, but something.

Here’s the full article:

http://www.spacenews.com/policy/100205-nasa-budget-beneficiaries-science.html

Scott B. out.

118. Hat Rick - February 7, 2010

118, as you will agree, there is the detection of Earth-killers, and then there is what we can do about them.

In the 1998 movie Deep Impact, the U.S. President, played by Morgan Freeman, was faced with a crisis caused when a previously unknown comet seven miles wide found its bulls-eye on Planet Earth. Hundreds of thousands of elite were given the chance to hide in caves as billions of others were faced with the certainty of planetary extinction.

Asteroids are notoriously difficult to detect against the vast blackness of space; they could come in any direction at any time.

An impact of even something a few miles wide would cause worldwide conflagrations and then the loss of most of the biosphere as a permanent winter set in lasting a period of years.

I hope you all stocked up on parkas.

119. Scott B. here. - February 7, 2010

Re: 99 – Licinius – Believe me, no one wants to get out there in the solar system and beyond any more than I do, but *right now* is simply not the time to announce big, new space spending. Our yearly deficit is a trillion and a half bucks! Imagine yourself running up your Visa card balance to several hundred thousand dollars, and then telling your friends you plan to buy a yacht.

Unfortunately, the huge bulk of government spending is on Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid and Defense. All third-rail issues. Try common sense solutions like raising the retirement age, having means testing for SS benefits, comparative effectiveness measures for Medicare patients, or cutting Defense spending — or on the other side, raising taxes of any sort — and watch the pitchforks and torches appear.

I wish we Americans were allowed to earmark 5% of our income taxes for whatever issue we wanted to fund. Most of mine would go to the space program. :-)

Scott B. out.

120. Scott B. here. - February 7, 2010

#118 – Hat Rick – Well then, aren’t you glad we’re going to be spending more money looking for the little buggers?

Actually, I don’t worry overmuch about the killer asteroid scenario. You and I are much more likely to get blindsided by a drunk driver in a defective Toyota than we are to die in an asteroid impact. :-)

Scott B. out.

121. Thorny - February 7, 2010

Hat Rick… “The Ares I would have been capable of lifting a man-rated assembly of similar mass. None of them even approaches the Saturn V’s capability.”

Actually, Ares I was less powerful than Delta IV or Atlas. A little known fact was that to reach orbit on an Ares I, Orion would have needed to fire its own engine for about four minutes, in effect becoming Ares I’s third stage. Atlas and Delta’s performance numbers are pure payload to orbit, no third stage required.

Hat Rick… “By comparison, the Shuttle can lift only about 25 tons about 300 miles above the Earth.”

I honestly can’t think of anything we need to put into orbit that has to be more than 25 tons for any single piece. The Apollo Command/Service Module was launched lightly-fueled on a Saturn IB that could launch only 20 tons to orbit (fully fueled for lunar missions, the Apollo CSM weighed 35 tons.) The Apollo Lunar Module weighed 16.5 tons, and the first was also launched on a Saturn IB.

That’s why I’m very much in favor of the Orbital Propellant Depot concept that Mr. Bormanis mentions in this article. The great bulk of any mission we send beyond Low Earth Orbit is going to be fuel. The actual hardware can be launched lightly-fueled on existing Deltas or Atlases. We can build a Propellant Depot in LEO with Atlas and Delta and fill its tanks using the cheapest rockets available (SpaceX Falcons or OSC Taurus II’s, with other start-up companies likely to bid as well.) If a fuel delivery fails, it is not a big deal… fuel is cheap and easily replaced. When enough propellant has been stocked at the depot, we launch our deep space mission on two or three Deltas or Atlases (one each for the Command Module, Lander, and Earth Departure Stage.) They rendezvous at the Propellant Depot, fill the tanks of the Earth Departure Stage, and off they go.

The advantages of this concept are manyfold: It completely obviates the need to develop an expensive, one-purpose Saturn V-class rocket; It fosters development of low-cost rockets, which should trickle down to lower cost satellite launches as the vehicles mature; It allows easy international cooperation, as other nations can provide x amount of fuel in return for a seat on, say, a moon landing mission (or the US could deliver the fuel in return for Europe or Japan providing the lander); The depot would not be limited to deep space applications, it could also service reusable tugs taking large satellites to geosynchronous orbit.

Saturn V-class rockets are glamorous, but the propellant depot concept is what will really open the solar system to exploration.

122. P Technobabble - February 7, 2010

I think the scenario of something threatening us from space is worth considering simply to expose our ability — or lack of — to come together in order to save the planet. I wonder if the ability (and not necessarily technologically) really exists.

123. MarkF - February 7, 2010

A lunar mission under Constellation would not be ready until 2028. The ISS would be close to retirement by the time Ares I was ready. So we were not getting there any more quickly by continuing that plan. If SpaceX is successful I’m looking forward to the Falcon 9 Heavy being deveoped. I think when the ISS is winding down there will be serious discussion about what next.

124. MikeTen - February 7, 2010

HAT RICK, The Boeing X-37 was originally a NASA program until the US Airforce took it over and it is very similar to the old Airforce X-20 Dynasoar program in the 1960’s.
With some modification the X-37 can be used to transport crews to low Earth orbit and the ISS.

As for private industry, if Burt Rutan can launch sub-orbital flights for approximately $50 Million dollars, can you imagine what he could do with $500 Million to $1 Billion or more?

125. Hat Rick - February 7, 2010

From Scott: “#118 – Hat Rick – Well then, aren’t you glad we’re going to be spending more money looking for the little buggers?”

Oh, very much so, but there is still that little problem of doing something about them, short of using a gigantic interplanetary can of Raid!

From Thorny: “Actually, Ares I was less powerful than Delta IV or Atlas. A little known fact was that to reach orbit on an Ares I, Orion would have needed to fire its own engine for about four minutes, in effect becoming Ares I’s third stage. Atlas and Delta’s performance numbers are pure payload to orbit, no third stage required.”

I stand corrected. The Ares, I take it, would be in the 20 ton range, rather than the 25?

“I honestly can’t think of anything we need to put into orbit that has to be more than 25 tons for any single piece. The Apollo Command/Service Module was launched lightly-fueled on a Saturn IB that could launch only 20 tons to orbit (fully fueled for lunar missions, the Apollo CSM weighed 35 tons.) The Apollo Lunar Module weighed 16.5 tons, and the first was also launched on a Saturn IB.”

The Orion promised to be larger and more capable than the Apollo, therefore accounting for the extra mass. As you’ve consistently noted, Ares I has had some payload capability issues.

The new LCM, associated stages, and propellant were to be launched via Ares V. Their combined weight required the use of the superheavy.

It’s possible that individual components could be lofted in sections. A similar idea was considered by Von Braun, who overruled it possibly on the basis of its complexity.

“That’s why I’m very much in favor of the Orbital Propellant Depot concept that Mr. Bormanis mentions in this article. The great bulk of any mission we send beyond Low Earth Orbit is going to be fuel. The actual hardware can be launched lightly-fueled on existing Deltas or Atlases. We can build a Propellant Depot in LEO with Atlas and Delta and fill its tanks using the cheapest rockets available (SpaceX Falcons or OSC Taurus II’s, with other start-up companies likely to bid as well.) If a fuel delivery fails, it is not a big deal… fuel is cheap and easily replaced. When enough propellant has been stocked at the depot, we launch our deep space mission on two or three Deltas or Atlases (one each for the Command Module, Lander, and Earth Departure Stage.) They rendezvous at the Propellant Depot, fill the tanks of the Earth Departure Stage, and off they go.”

If only President Obama’s plan had set any of these ideas as goals instead of Constellation, it would have been at least a minor victory for manned exploratory spaceflight. Since it did not, the plan remains a disaster without parallel since Nixon’s decision to terminate the Apollo Applications Program.

123, the termination of Orion means that there would be a substantial delay in any post-ISS program since the capsule is as yet not fully developed. The time lost to development would have to be made up first. Further, there are areas of developmental commonality between Ares I and Ares V, such as the preparation of KSC launch facilities. Perhaps most importantly, if Constellation is cancelled, the dispersal of personnel and talent would mean a high degree of permanent and perhaps fatal loss of institutional memory essential to continued manned exploratory spaceflight.

For these and various other reasons, Obama’s plan is, by many accounts, an unmitigated disaster for the expansion of human spaceflight beyond low-Earth orbit.

126. Ian B - February 7, 2010

People need to get their heads around the idea that government is no better at space industry than at any other industry. There is no future for nationalised space flight. It has done immense harm; not least the vast budgetary bloat has created the widespred conviction that spaceflight is inherently monumentally expensive and inordinately difficult.

NASA has been nothing but a jobs creation programme** for years. Sure, it has done some good stuff with robot probes- again, vastly overpriced robot probes- but it will never, never, get mankind into space in numbers beyond a handful. Shut the thing down before it does any more harm.

__
**That is, a governent programme that creates n government jobs at the cost of 2n or more productive private sector jobs.

127. Hat Rick - February 7, 2010

126, for certain tasks, only government has the resources to do what is needed during the time within which it is required to be done bearing the risk that needs to be borne.

The libertarian argument only works if one does not consider the existence of public goods whose value is independent and superior to that of the aggregation of private interest. These public goods include intangibles such as the general national interest, justice, equality, and the like. Private interest works only where in the end there is reasonable gain sustained under reasonable risks. It is in part illustrative of the inability of private interest to provide needed goods that we see, among modern nations, no private armies, no private police forces, and no private tribunals for crimes.

As I have always said, NASA’s function is not to supplant private industry, but to blaze the trail forward so that the risks become reasonable for private industry to follow.

There will never be an incentive for private industry to colonize Mars unless the technological development sustained and implemented by NASA and other public agencies, and funded by the taxpayer, pioneers the way forward.

128. Hat Rick - February 7, 2010

Part II:

The general national interest requires — by way of example — that we develop the technology necessary to compete with other nations regardless of the risk of failure which may include — again, for example — the loss of life. It is for this reason that administrations from Eisenhower to the second George Bush agreed that NASA’s manned exploratory effort should be funded.

The libertarian counter-argument can only be to deny the existence or the value of any such national interest. But any such denial is on the face of it absurd given that other nations are clearly advancing toward the same goals libertarians believe are superfluous. It is these goals that private industry cannot logically or economically provide, but that are absolutely essential nevertheless.

129. MarkF - February 7, 2010

Hat Rick,
The plan is not for NASA to sit idle while deferring to private contractors. To quote the Washington Post”:

“The idea is to create technological flexibility so that astronauts could potentially visit a variety of locations in the inner solar system, including the moon, near-Earth asteroids and possibly Mars or the moons of Mars. The “Flexible Path” strategy was favored by the advisory panel appointed last year by President Obama to review NASA’s options.”

The vehicle assembly building will probably be refurbished to accept different rockets at any time.

130. James Heaney - Wowbagger - February 7, 2010

Without reading most of the comments, this looks like an exceptionally clear case of a President cutting the legs out from under a program and then bragging about how fancy the wheelchair will be. Classic Washington? Yes. Understandable in a time of fiscal crisis when NASA’s popularity is low? Sure. Is there anything we space nerds, who see and understand the importance of human space flight, can do — except grind our teeth and wait for the economy to recover? Send a letter or two to Congress and the local newspaper, maybe; not much else.

But is Mr. Bormanis putting a completely unwarranted positive spin on a piece of terrible, terrible news? With all respect to Mr. Bormanis, who has had more of an impact on my appreciation for science than anyone other than Bill Nye, I very much think so. President Obama has outsourced human space flight, eviscerated its goals, and left NASA an easy target for fiscal hawks in Congress. This should disappoint every Trekkie.

Constellation was a long way from perfect, but at least it was a plan which — grindingly slowly — was moving forward. Ah, well. One more reason to miss President Bush.

My two cents.

131. Hat Rick - February 7, 2010

129,

This is pie-in-the-sky thinking and what I originally referred to here and in my blog as building castles in the air with the fervent hope that some way will be found by private industry to make them float.

When JFK stated that we would land on the Moon before the decade was out, he had good reason to believe that it could be done because there was an ability on the part of government to assure that it could. Further, his vision, resting as it did on foundations already established through the late 1950’s and reaching back to the days of the German V-2, did not require technological breakthroughs that — in the contemplation of President Obama’s plan — would reduce space travel time from years to weeks.

Outlandish claims to the contrary notwithstanding no such technology exists within the foreseeable future and no amount of private funding could possible conjure it from thin air. Prior agency studies dedicated to determining the possibility of such technology were found to be so unproductive that the department in question was closed down.

President Obama’s plan tells us that NASA is prepared to give us a lavish feast if the means are found to find what is essentially the unobtainium of space technology. The problem is that the feast he has in mind depends wholly on catching a pig in a poke.

132. Ian B - February 7, 2010

Hat Rick

Your argument opens a huge can of worms, and myriad arguments can be made, but all that would take far more than blog comments are suited to. One central flaw in your argument is simply the presumption that an objective measure of your “public goods” can be arrived at independent of economic value considerations- and this is impossible, as economic value is the only proxy for actual value that we have.

It is impossible to declare an objective justification for “colonisation of Mars” in your terms. You may want that. Great. But we cannot know if it is a public good, or a public bad. If there is no value associated with it, which can be measured (by the economy) in relation to other values, there is simply no way to judge whether it should be done. In practical terms, you are misleadingly portraying your own personal preference- a dream of colonising Mars- as a “public good”, and demanding that others pay for your dream, whether they want it or not. You may personally consider that there is some great value in sending a handful of guys to plant flags and play golf on the Moon for the “national interest”, but you cannot tangibly demonstrate that, and the economy says otherwise. The individuals who constitute the nation- which you seem to believe has an “interest” distinct from theirs- accord higher value to other things. We can see this because that money they are allowed to keep, they spend on these other things. If the nation considered flag-planters of sufficient value to justify the expenditure, you wouldn’t need to spend tax money on it, you could raise a susbcription from freely given donations.

The fact is, there is no incentive for private industry to “colonise Mars” because at this stage of human development there is no practical reason to do it. Never in the history of the world has anywhere ever been colonised simply for some vague higher Platonic goal of “just being there”. You need a reason to go there, and nobody at this stage has a compelling one.

When human society and the economy expand out into space, because greater value can be returned than is expended, we will go to Mars. Not to fart around planting flags and as a playtime for a few geologists, but for pragmatic reasons. Until that natural evolution of our economic interests, any “visionary” colonisation programme will not only fizzle out, but be a vast boondoggle.

133. Hat Rick - February 7, 2010

132,

A nation is not constrained by the “objective” measurement of any good that an economist may desire to place upon it. Merely because something cannot be tagged with a price does not mean that it has no determinable value.

To the contrary, the value of such a good might be literally immeasurable and therefore priceless.

What is the value of a human life? It depends on whether you as asking the human in question or the unethical harvester of organs who desires to accelerate death in order to promote his own profit.

Libertarians are prone to place personal freedom of action at the very top of the list of values without explaining how such freedom is technically measurable on its own terms, and if it is, then why other intangibles, such as justice, cannot be on theirs. On the face of it, there is no reason why indvidualistic freedom should be more or less valuable to any group of people than is the ability to assure security from external threats, including technological threats from other groups of people — nations — and — to take another example — the threat of global extinction.

It is a mistake to identify values with money and and an even greater one to pretend that anything that cannot be monetized or closely identified with individuated personal preference need not be considered valuable, let alone within the domain of sovereign action. Reality very much begs to differ.

134. Hat Rick - February 7, 2010

On the question of the “Flexible Path” option: This was the Augustine Commission’s third alternative, which provided for human exploration of the asteroids and the the moons of Mars.

There’s just one tiny problem: There is zero funding for any actual program to land anyone anywhere other than the International Space Station. That’s “zero,” as in “zilch.” Evidently private enterprise will take up the slack, somehow. Yet, the moons of Mars being about 62 million miles away from Earth on a very good day, that would mean that any commercial space vehicle capable of sending astronauts to the ISS, which is around 200 miles above Earth, would be approximately 61,999,799 miles short of its destination.

Recall that the Augustine Commission’s concern was lack of money of the other two options. It seems that its concerns would be greatly implicated if it had known that a proposed budget were to allocate exactly no money to the third option as well.

Where Obama’s plan may use the term “Flexible Path,” please substitute the words “Pie in the Sky,” oleaginously baked for your dining pleasure.

135. Hat Rick - February 7, 2010

^^61,999,800 miles, actually. My mistake.

136. Ian B - February 7, 2010

133

A nation is not constrained by the “objective” measurement of any good that an economist may desire to place upon it. Merely because something cannot be tagged with a price does not mean that it has no determinable value.

Economists do not measure value, they simply attempt to understand the generalities of the marketplace. Individuals assign value. We all do this every time we choose how to dispose our own resources- buying this rather than that, saying that this is too expensive, etc. The marketplace as a whole measures the relative values of all the goods within it by a myriad interactions which are too complex to measure.

Price is not the same as value. Price is that which the seller seeks to earn, value is an internalised quantity to each individual. If the price of a good is 1 dollar, the value to some individuals will be greater than one dollar, and others less than a dollar. You need to get a grasp on what value is, rather than trotting out a misunderstanding.

To the contrary, the value of such a good might be literally immeasurable and therefore priceless.

Or worthless. Such a value is by definition undefined. You need to try trading the good to get a feel for what value other people assign to it.

What is the value of a human life? It depends on whether you as asking the human in question or the unethical harvester of organs who desires to accelerate death in order to promote his own profit.

You might like to ask the wise, benign governnments who throw lives away in their thousands in the pursuit of wars that the nations individuals didn’t request.

Libertarians are prone to place personal freedom of action at the very top of the list of values without explaining how such freedom is technically measurable on its own terms, and if it is, then why other intangibles, such as justice, cannot be on theirs.

No we don’t.

On the face of it, there is no reason why indvidualistic freedom should be more or less valuable to any group of people than is the ability to assure security from external threats, including technological threats from other groups of people — nations — and — to take another example — the threat of global extinction.

Indeed. But these things are not in conflict or contradiction, because nobody tries to price (“value”) them. The Libertarian seeks not indiscriminate freedom of action, which comes to immediate conflict, but a metaframework in which coercion is verboten- or to put it another way, a society based on consent. There is no tradeoff between a society of free consent, and, e.g. security. There is even less of a tradeoff between freedom and some nebulous public good of putting a man on the Moon before the Russkies do.

The principle of consent can also be derived directly from Hume’s Guillotine, but that’s too much to go into here.

It is a mistake to identify values with money

Bizarre. Money is the unit of measure of value. You may as well claim that you shouldn’t identify electrical potential with voltage.

and an even greater one to pretend that anything that cannot be monetized or closely identified with individuated personal preference need not be considered valuable, let alone within the domain of sovereign action. Reality very much begs to differ.

It’s not reality begging to differ. Your argument, as I said before, is that the rest of the world disagrees with you, so you declare that there are some unmeasured and unmeasurable higher values which you- somehow, magically- know the value of. In the end, it comes down to, you want a rocketship, other people won’t freely pay for it, so you seek to take the money from them by force- and then, if they complain, accuse them of selfishness!

To return an earlier point; as I said, I cannot value a human life. What is certain from history-especially of the last century- is that nobody values it less than the state.

137. Hat Rick - February 7, 2010

It appears we continue to have a hearty difference of opinion.

“Economists do not measure value, they simply attempt to understand the generalities of the marketplace. Individuals assign value. We all do this every time we choose how to dispose our own resources- buying this rather than that, saying that this is too expensive, etc. The marketplace as a whole measures the relative values of all the goods within it by a myriad interactions which are too complex to measure.”

It would come as a great surprise to most macroeconomists that they do not measure value when they seek to determine the gross domestic product of an nation, which is the total value of the goods and services produced.

If, however, you mean that economists do not assign value, I believe you have an argument. But measurement and assignment are two different things.

“Price is not the same as value. Price is that which the seller seeks to earn, value is an internalised quantity to each individual. If the price of a good is 1 dollar, the value to some individuals will be greater than one dollar, and others less than a dollar. You need to get a grasp on what value is, rather than trotting out a misunderstanding.”

Price is the objectification of value in a free market, no? My point is that the libertarian identifies price with the libertarian’s view of value. Ironically, by denying this it seems to me that your argument actually sustains mine.

“Or worthless. Such a value is by definition undefined. You need to try trading the good to get a feel for what value other people assign to it.”

A supposition, at best. Values may be declaratory. Many values are self-evident — as enshrined in our Declaration of Independence, for example. Insofar as our founding docouments, or Constitution, for example, sees value in government promotion of the useful arts (industry). (Congress has power “To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts …”). Did Congress first require for this the test of trade?

“The Libertarian seeks not indiscriminate freedom of action, which comes to immediate conflict, but a metaframework in which coercion is verboten- or to put it another way, a society based on consent.”

Coercion exists in one form or another regardless. You cannot ignore that the freedom of any one individual often has effects on the freedom of another in civilized society. An individual refuses to pay for a certain good; in totality, the aggregation of such action results in the bankruptcy of the purveyor of that good. The libertarian refuses to call that coercion, but if the purveyor has no other recourse because a libertarian society refuses to provide a common safety net, then there is no difference between the result of the refuser’s positive action and its negative effect. The unsuccessful purveyor is essentially coerced into bankruptcy or some other circumstance practically indistinguishable from unconsented action.

“Bizarre. Money is the unit of measure of value. You may as well claim that you shouldn’t identify electrical potential with voltage.”

How much money should we pay for friendship or love?

138. Hat Rick - February 7, 2010

^^Insofar as this, our founding docouments — our Constitution, for example — sees value in government promotion of the useful arts (industry).

As corrected.

139. Bob Tompkins - February 7, 2010

Lucinda Rae Tompkins
13 April 1957- 2 February 2009
Passed peacefully at Simon Cancer Center, Indianapolis after a 10 year on-and-off battle with cancer.
I gave her the gift of knowing what it is to be a Trekker-
She gave me so many gifts that I lost count…..
Rest in peace my lovely lady.

140. Christine - February 7, 2010

I for one respect any decisions not to go on space missions. The US is way in debt already; why not just help other nations grow their own space programs or, God forbid, start a GLOBAL space program? It’d probably be easier pooling funds together, anyways…

The USA’s in trillion-dollar debt at the moment. I don’t like pointing fingers at certain politicians, so I won’t, but we’ve got to fix this planet before we go off to other ones. As much as I love and support NASA and everything they’ve done, I’m just trying to be realistic. I don’t like to see the national budget so deep in the red!

141. Ian B - February 7, 2010

If, however, you mean that economists do not assign value, I believe you have an argument. But measurement and assignment are two different things.

Please feel free to continue nitpicking my terminological errors in this informal, discursive medium. There’s a typo or two you might care to pick up on as well.

Price is the objectification of value in a free market, no? My point is that the libertarian identifies price with the libertarian’s view of value. Ironically, by denying this it seems to me that your argument actually sustains mine.

No it doesn’t. That some inexact aggregate statistics of past trades can be calculated doesn’t in any way support your proposal that there are some other higher values that you (and other, ill-defined persons) can measure but the rest of us can’t.

A supposition, at best. Values may be declaratory. Many values are self-evident — as enshrined in our Declaration of Independence, for example. Insofar as our founding docouments, or Constitution, for example, sees value in government promotion of the useful arts (industry). (Congress has power “To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts …”). Did Congress first require for this the test of trade?

A slip here from value(s) to “values”. Same word, subtly different meanings being employed, the latter being that of ethical values. Many societies have a hegemonic ethical value that women are inferior to men. If they did attempt the “test of trade” they’d discover that this is total cobblers and that they’re simply harming their society’s productive value by hobbling half the population.

Likewise, because some statist-inclined constitution scribblers thought that the government ought to further the useful arts of industry- which is politician speak for giving tax money to their industrialist selves and friends- is neither here nor there. This “value” isn’t self-evident at all, which is why we are debating it.

Coercion exists in one form or another regardless… An individual refuses to pay for a certain good; in totality, the aggregation of such action results in the bankruptcy of the purveyor of that good. The libertarian refuses to call that coercion…The unsuccessful purveyor is essentially coerced into bankruptcy or some other circumstance practically indistinguishable from unconsented action.

This is a pernicious argument frequntly deployed- that is that since “we are all coerced”, further coercion is appropriate. But the “coercion” you describe is merely the free choices of people. A person who offers a product for sale which is not wanted is not being coerced, they have simply made a bad decision which they have to correct. It’s easy to see the difference- the “coercion” being employed by the unwilling shoppers is passive. It is not a positive act. I went to the supermarket today, and didn’t buy most of the products in it. This was not thousands of positive acts on my part, simply passive disinterest.

But coercion is the initiation of force, followed by the escalation of that force. If Alice is a vegetarian, she is not coercing butchers by not buying their products. If the state forces her (directly, or indirectly via taxes and subsidies) to pay for meat production, now she is being coerced- if she attempts to resist the state will employ increasing force against her to force compliance.

The two things are fundamentally different. One is simply a limitation, the other is coercion. Nobody forced the producer to offer a lousy product nobody wanted. Nobody forced anyone not to buy it. There is no coercion involved in the bankruptcy. There is considerable coercion in a bailout, since the taxes that pay for it are taken under considerable threat of state violence.

It’s simply wrong to claim an equivalence.

How much money should we pay for friendship or love?

A rather odd argument. These things are by definition freely given, and thus by definition cannot be (directly) purchased- they are normally traded in kind- friendship for friendship, love for love. It is thus not by definition possible to assign economic values, for the same reason it is impossible by definition to organise one’s own surprise birthday party.

A quick websearch though suggests that here in Britain, the going rate for something similar starts at about £150 for the first hour.

142. cd - February 7, 2010

I was a kid when men were on the moon. It looks like I’ll be an old man before anyone goes back. If ever.

143. Hat Rick - February 7, 2010

I’m done with the conversation, and not because you’re wrong, but because you’re right, in that we must first understand what we mean when we use certain words. For example, you state:

“A slip here from value(s) to “values”. Same word, subtly different meanings being employed, the latter being that of ethical values. Many societies have a hegemonic ethical value that women are inferior to men. If they did attempt the “test of trade” they’d discover that this is total cobblers and that they’re simply harming their society’s productive value by hobbling half the population.”

Where do I start with your argument? It appears to me that you cite ethical values as something beyond the discussion of libertarian philosophy, when in fact the error in the exclusion of it is the point I was making. We are arguing completely past each other.

As you say, we are in part quibbling over words. But the point is that both of us are, and until we spend a whole lot of effort defining our terms, we’re going to go around the merry-go-round. And time is too short for that.

But this does not mean that we do not have a substantive basis for disagreement. We do. Very much so.

For example, you discount the Constitution and its values, and perhaps you should, since you appear not to be American (judging from your use of pounds). I will admit to arguing over the years with mainly American libertarians, who often use the “let’s go back to the old days the way the Founding Fathers intended” method of argument, which seemed to work well for them, until I pointed out what the Constitution really says.

With your arguments I have a different problem, and that is that you don’t claim that the Founding Fathers had any special insight. The problem, however, is a nonobvious one: It’s that I have no idea what you really believe, other than that it seems to me that for you, whatever suits the libertarian argument is true, and whatever doesn’t, isn’t. I think your argument also suffers from the format required, which sticks both you and I with the requirement of taking quotes and attempting to respond to only what appears to us to be the most egregious errors, often leading to nearly comic results. (For example, no doubt in haste, you claim that I say that your use of “value” supports my definition of higher values, when I said no such thing.)

Something as complex and convoluted as the multi-faceted, ever-changing target that comes under the general rubric of libertarian philosophy requires that I ask you to define your terms, requiring me, of course, to do the same to prepare for every reasonable instance in which misunderstanding may occur. It is a task of Brobdignian proportions. And, frankly, I’m not going to go down that route.

144. 790 - February 7, 2010

Lol @hat rack, when Boborci comes forward that we have a black ops spacefleet your all in support.

:)

Comical.

145. Hat Rick - February 7, 2010

I will comment on one intriguing thing, however, and that is the seductive “passive/active” theory of coercion.

You state:

“But the “coercion” you describe is merely the free choices of people. A person who offers a product for sale which is not wanted is not being coerced, they have simply made a bad decision which they have to correct. It’s easy to see the difference- the “coercion” being employed by the unwilling shoppers is passive. It is not a positive act. I went to the supermarket today, and didn’t buy most of the products in it. This was not thousands of positive acts on my part, simply passive disinterest.”

This strikes me as a clear oversimplification. Purveyor “A” sells his product. Purveyor “B” sells a competing product. Would you claim that no consumer ever positively decides to buy one product over a competing one? I wouldn’t think you would. Why is the decision not to purchase one product not an active act?

In fact, the libertarian’s rational purchaser would be advised to affirmatively decide to purchase that product that he or she likes best. It would be irrational for a purchaser to make random decisions, and surely the free market does not operate on random decisions?

The counterargument may be that the free market operates rationally even though individuals may act irrationally. That may be so, but libertarians do not generally claim that individuals act randomly. And the only way that individuals could truly act passively with regard to a competitive economy is to act randomly. (The fact that you do not purchase the majority of things in a supermarket is irrelevant, since we are not discussing whether an individual purchases everything; no consumer, I think you would agree, ever does.) The problem with this, of course, is that the consumers do no such thing.

146. Penhall99 - February 7, 2010

So…Obama has cancelled the mission to go back to the moon, but its a good thing because Bush screwed it all up anyway….Ummmm…yeah. Right.

147. John from Cincinnati - February 8, 2010

NASA’s new motto should be:

“Boldly not going where no robot has gone before”

148. Steve - February 8, 2010

Thank you 13. My thoughts exactly. I don’t know why everyone says Obama is Spock. How on earth does that make any sense? Because he is supposedly a Trekkie???

149. SChaos1701 - February 8, 2010

How anyone could support what Obama has done to NASA is beyond me. To try to further justify it is just blind following and purely partisan support by someone who is just trying everything they can to grasp at straws and hold on for dear life to a President who has (so far) had a dreadful presidency and still wants to justify their vote.

150. Steve M - February 8, 2010

This is a response to AJ.
No strategic advantage?????
There is a thing called Helium 3 and it is basically no place else but all over the moon.
Helium 3 is the perfect fuel for fusion power.
If China get s to the moon 1st and nobody else does, they will claim it as their property and obtain the ultimate power source and control!
Sounds like an evil plot to rule the world?
I think you and others (OBAMA!) should take a closer look at this and think again!
Also, do you really think that the UN could run a “United Space Agency”???
Ya right… they are not very bright nor trustworthy.

151. Christine - February 8, 2010

Um, just to remind everyone here, as I previously stated,
we have bigger problems here on Earth than we do in space.

People sure as heck weren’t going on space missions during WWII or the Great Depression (despite the fact that we didn’t have that kind of technology back then). Maybe cut the pres’ a break and let him focus on problems occurring on the surface? Like a national debt of God-knows how much money and thousands of people not having jobs?

152. Hat Rick - February 8, 2010

We had much bigger problems in the 1960’s than we have now.

Viz., the Vietnam War, civil rights unrest, inner city riots, and about 50,000 thermonuclear weapons aimed at every population center and military facility in the United States and the rest of the “Free World.”

We also experienced substantial inflation, the oil crisis, and fears of stagflation in the 1970’s, when the Shuttle was developed and built.

The United States is not bankrupt. We may owe money to foreign interests, but most of what is owed is still owed to ourselves. Further, the stimulus bill money doesn’t go into a giant black hole never to be seen again — it’s recycled within the financial institutions that — admittedly — did a number on the American economy.

No more excuses should be entertained on why we are destroying Constellation and our hopes for a productive technological future.

153. Anti-ChiCom - February 8, 2010

151 — Christine, you make me proud.

Obviously, you wouldn’t take a vacation if you were out of work and broke — unlike Hat Rack…

I love the space program. But, the difference between me and Hat Rack is that I want to do it in a fiscally responsible way and not pinch pennies AFTER we have solved this country’s economic and fiscal train wreck that is hurtling towards us faster than the moon blasted out of orbit in Space:1999!

154. Anti-ChiCom - February 8, 2010

151 — The first thing I’ve agreed with this President on is cutting spending. If that has to be the space program then so be it. There’s more we can cut on top of that! I think we need to be looking at ALL of it and eliminating the wasteful programs we don’t need.

Time to tighten the belt. The universe isn’t going anywhere. All of it will STILL be there when we get our act together.

155. Hat Rick - February 8, 2010

Until very recently, no one had ever imagined that we would ever witness the impact of a foreign body on a planet withour Solar System.

Then came Comet Shoemaker-Levy.

The universe is far more chaotic than we used to believe.

154 may claim that the universe will be here for quite a long time. That’s true. The question is whether our civilization will be here when, every year, we realize how many cosmic threats there are out there that we are simply unprepared to confront.

The argument that we must solve our problems down here before we extend our reach into space is nothing more than a counsel of despair. We will never solve all problems we have on Earth, and therefore using that rationale we will never explore the Solar System. There has never been a period of perfect peace and economic prosperity so pristine that everyone will agree that space exploration is warranted.

Great ideas, such as space exploration, have always encountered opposition from small minds. We should rise above rancor and petty concerns and understand the need to develop our technological reach to defend ourselves from what is an increasingly dangerous universe.

The money needed to continue funding Project Constellation wouldn’t pay even a significant fraction of the interest on our national debt. It is certainly a small price to pay for progress toward the means of protecting our planet from cosmic threats and maintaining American leadership in space exploration.

156. Jesse - February 8, 2010

Darn. I was hoping to fly a Constellation called “Stargazer.”

157. Anti-ChiCom - February 8, 2010

155 — You don’t pay for space programs when the country is going broke and you have at least 10% unemployment in this country.

That’s just irresponsible to even promote such an absurd notion.

True, we will not solve all the Earth’s problems. I don’t propose that. What I propose is putting THIS country back on the road to fiscal responsibility — only that will ensure that we can ever have a national space program that we can call be proud of. Fiscal responsibility will breed economic prosperity which will (eventually) begat a better space program than we have today! One that doesn’t call for penny pinching and a slow motion crawl to the final frontier.

My way is better.

158. Hat Rick - February 8, 2010

157, as I said, if we’re so desperate for money as a country that we need the several billion it would take to continue Constellation, we are in desperate straits indeed. So here are some things we should do:

1. Eliminate NASA entirely. This would save about $20 billion a year.

2. Eliminate the Coast Guard, since the Navy could do the job. Billions saved, plus the Navy would be closer to home.

3. Recall all our troops from overseas except for a few dozen on each base to serve as trip wires.

4. Terminate all our overseas wars and let them fight it out amongst themselves.

5. Cut all student loan programs and call in all student loans. This would save billions of dollars over the years.

6. Move the President into the Watergate Hotel. He could have the top three floors. If he’s squeamish about the name, rename it ‘Recession Recovery Central.”

7. Make Obama fly commercial instead of spending millions on Air Force One every time he takes a foreign trip. Or at least make him fly on the Vice President’s 757.

8. Get rid of the First Lady’s massive entourage.

9. Hold State Dinners at the local Waffle House. Make sure they use the good china there.

10. For God’s sake, take away Obama’s customized Blackberry. Talk about vanity!

159. Senacca - February 9, 2010

Obama blames the Bush administration for the failure of Constellation?
So they cancel it?
He could’ve been the guy responsible for taking humans outside Earth orbit again… what a waste of killer PR. Instead hands it over to the private sector, expecting the American people to praise him for it?
Really?

NIKE and PEPSI sponsored space flights is NOT the future.

I am convinced that our president has NO love for Star Trek.
If he were really a fan… he would’ve found a way to get Constellation on track…. Hmmmm. , Maybe give NASA the money to get the job done?

160. Editorial: President Proposes Bold New Approach to Exploring the Final Frontier | Live Long and Propser - February 9, 2010

[…] Editorial: President Proposes Bold New Approach to Exploring the Final Frontier February 6, 2010 […]

161. Neville A. Ross - February 9, 2010

@Hat Rick:

3. Recall all our troops from overseas except for a few dozen on each base to serve as trip wires.

‘Bring our boys & girls back home!” What the Left has been proposing for years, and what Jesse Jackson proposed when he was running for President! But did you heed him, or the Left? NO! Now America is hurting because of it.

4. Terminate all our overseas wars and let them fight it out amongst themselves.

Same as above-why wasn’t it done before? Oh yeah, ‘we’re the kings of the word, and we can do what we want!’ And look where it’s gotten you.

5. Cut all student loan programs and call in all student loans. This would save billions of dollars over the years.

And watch as massive student riots convulse America, and a anti-NASA meme spreads out among the youth of America! You thought the riots of the ’60s were bad? The ones caused by your cockamamie proposal will make the ’60s riots look like folk dances.

A lot of this would have been avoided if-

*You didn’t vote for Reagan, Bush, Clinton, or Bush Jr.

*You kept out of overseas conflicts

*You took care of the needs of the average American with smart social programs similar to those in Europe and Canada

*You remembered the lessons of the 20s and 30s and didn’t repeat the mistakes committed then (related to point #1).

*You got your leaders (who serve you and listen to you) to rein in corporate America.

But you didn’t-and now, you’re collectively here. Needing the broom of the Obama administration to sweep up the mess created by past mistakes committed by past leaders elected by the average American-you. And no one else but you.

You want the best bet for getting back to the Moon? Support your leader as he best navigates and fixes this financial mess. And wait for a better time-with better vehicles, a sound financial foundation, and strong commonweal-to get back to the Moon.

162. Hat Rick - February 9, 2010

I think one should stop and think carefully before assuming how another person must have voted.

It’s quite possible to be incensed with the President’s policy regardless of political affiliation

I still support the Administration’s policies in other areas. However, the President’s proposal on NASA may be the single most foolish decision not related to war I remember in the last decade.

163. 'Trick - February 9, 2010

Here is one reason to return to the moon! It holds one of our most important strategic reserves.

http://www.qwantz.com/index.php?comic=1645

All kidding aside, I am seriously impressed (and outclassed) with much of the debate above. I think if this proposed program is going to do anything, or go anywhere, it will be because of conversations like these, and people making their opinions known. Currently, I have reservations about either decision (keep the program running or shut it down). I will have to resolve my inner conflict before forming an opinion, but much of what has been said here has helped.

Love this site.

-‘Trick

164. Dr. Image - February 9, 2010

The thought that I will never see another American walk on the moon in my lifetime distresses me greatly.

Obama is certainly no John Kennedy.

And relying on “private industry” is a good way to to get people killed.

165. dmduncan - February 9, 2010

Larry Niven had a great idea. Send a bunch of remote piloted vehicles to the moon and charge people on Earth money to remotely explore the moon.

Make them abundant, small enough, and relatively cheap, so that people can afford to get some wheel time — you can even sell lottery tickets for a chance to win some wheel time — and not only will you make money doing it but who knows what discoveries some Earth bound Marco Polo will make?

There are some features on the moon I would love to see explored.

The Lunar X prize might eventually make such things possible.

166. I am not Herbert - February 9, 2010

162. Hat Rick: “I think one should stop and think carefully before assuming how another person must have voted.”

HAH! You’re a good one to be talking about ASSUMPTION!!

167. nuSpock - February 9, 2010

#35–what point is there in manned space travel if we go out there and mine asteroids for platinum and instead of aiming for the Federation, we aim to become the Ferengi? What next, all women must stay at home nude all the time?

168. nuSpock - February 9, 2010

and #12–oh yes because we can raelly trust the corrupt people in the U.N. right now…if you only knew how corrupt and evil the U.N. policies and people behind those policies really are you’d realize if as-is the U.N. built a Federation, it’d not be like The Federation of Star Trek, but rather more like the Terran Empire of the Prime Mirror Universe

169. nuSpock - February 9, 2010

*really

170. SChaos1701 - February 9, 2010

Obama = Peter Principle

In terms of who’s the worse president….Obama > Jimmy Carter

171. I am not Herbert - February 9, 2010

@Anthony:

Respectfully, IMHO people who are just dirty name calling our President don’t deserve to post here.

I believe that they deserve the threat of banishment.

I know I’ve been censored for less…

172. SChaos1701 - February 10, 2010

171

So you think people don’t deserve to post for expressing their God given right to criticize their elected officials.

If he can praise a president who has (in JSC alone) condemned 30,000 engineers to unemployment and turning Clear Lake into a slum because the reason it was developed has a very good chance of closing down, he damn sure can listen to people with an opposite viewpoint. Just like people who didn’t like the new movie can post here, so can people who disagree with the president; especially considering the fact that his praises are constantly being touted here. I HOPE you can respect that because that’s CHANGE we can believe in.

173. Anti-ChiCom - February 10, 2010

#171 People should have a right to say whatever they want. This is a FREE country!

At least, I THINK it is….???

Agreed, #172 — putting people out of work is never good but if we keep one pork project going we’ll never stop the others. I’d hate to see the fine folks in Clear Lake lose their jobs or that community hurt in any way, but we really have to get a grip on the spending and waste.

174. Anthony Pascale - February 10, 2010

It is a free country, but this site is like pretty much every site in that we ask people to be civil and so no flaming, trolling, etc.

And on this site I also happen to not like seeing partisan attacks. And there are a few here who dont seem interested in discussing the topic of space policy and are more interested in making political attacks and that is not for this site.

You are free to chose another site, there are plenty where you can mock, scream and vent your hate for the other side of your political beliefs, but I dont want that here

175. SChaos1701 - February 10, 2010

173

NASA is NOT pork. It takes up about 1/5 of 1% of the federal budget and year in and year out comes out in the black.

176. SChaos1701 - February 11, 2010

What happened to the comment that was up here after my Post #175. That is not cool.

177. I am not Herbert - February 11, 2010

SChaos1701:

I will ALWAYS respect thoughtful criticism. But that is not what you are putting forth.

Want respect? STOP the disrespectful name-calling. Back up you statements.

178. SChaos1701 - February 11, 2010

177

Advance degrees in History and Political Science with 2 publications is all the back up I need.

And you didn’t say anything of the sort, you got pissed because someone badmouthed the president and because you like him so much you believe that those who speak ill of him should not have the right to say anything.

This what happens when a website does a bad job at hiding the pushing of a political agenda. This was a much nicer site before the Obama crap was put up here. Leave politics out of my entertainment.

Oh yeah, and just because you delete a comment where someone finally calls you out on your bias, doesn’t make it any less true.

This site could be great again if the politics would be left out.

179. I am not Herbert - February 11, 2010

I agree! Leave it out!

Back it up FOR US please. (Show your work, use your words)

…now here’s a Hug & Cupcake…

180. SChaos1701 - February 12, 2010

179

I’m from the South so I just recently discovered fluffernutters. I’ll take one of those. :-D

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