NASA Officials Talk SLS / Budget

[youtube_video]http://youtu.be/iRcsP0hWvyA[/youtube_video]

Video courtesy of AmericaSpace

NEW ORLEANS, La — During a visit to NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility (MAF) for the ribbon-cutting for the new Vertical Weld Center, AmericaSpace spoke with NASA’s Dan Dumbacher and William Gerstenmaier regarding the current state of the program that the center will be used to help build: the Space Launch System, or SLS. Recent questions by our guests have reminded us about these interviews, which we are now presenting to you for the first time.

During the interview, NASA’s Deputy Associate Administrator for Exploration Systems in the Human Exploration & Operations Mission Directorate details plans for the first manned flight of SLS, currently slated to take place in 2021, as well as the possibility of seeing SLS missions fly at the rate of about once per year.

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51 comments to NASA Officials Talk SLS / Budget

  • Leonidas

    Great video Jason!

    On another note, I got worried about the recent report from the NASA Office of Inspector General, saying that the current ‘flat budget’ environment threatens the development of SLS/Orion, and puts at risk the whole time schedule, and delays could raise the costs more.

    Any chance that Congress will take that into consideration while drafting a FY2014 budget and a NASA Authorisation Act?

    • SLS/Orion has a lot of support from Congress. However, I simply don’t know. Generally all political/budget topics are handled by Jim. The only reason I posted this video was Ben Harrison mentioned he’d read SLS wouldn’t fly but once every four years or not until 2025 (with crew) in Space News. Given that ran counter to what I was told during this interview & I was at the same event he mentioned – I wanted to provide evidence to the contrary. One of the things we noted is an inacurate statement will get out & will be relayed as if it were gospel. As such, whenever we see one of these we strive to provide accurate info.

      • Ben Harrison

        Given that ran counter to what I was told during this interview & I was at the same event he mentioned – I wanted to provide evidence to the contrary.

        I have dug a little more, but haven’t found anyone else using the same date as SpaceNews used, so it’s good you looked into it.

        • I gotta be honest with you, I truly hoped you were wrong as it would’ve meant the dates would’ve severely deteriorated.

          The problem (one you touched on earlier) is everyone involved with space – is smarter than everyone else involved with space. Each “path” has its strengths & flaws, but all of us think our “way” is the only way. I wonder what the space movement would be like if we all (myself included) were willing to give an inch & work together.

          Thanks for keeping an open mind Ben, it’s deeply appreciated.

          • Ben Harrison

            I wonder what the space movement would be like if we all (myself included) were willing to give an inch & work together.

            It certainly would be a lot nicer to be talking about the progress and results than the direction and budgets.

            As a community though, we do have to keep reminding ourselves that we all do want more space exploration to happen. We seem to disagree most on issues that directly relate to money, and who does what.

  • john hare

    It concerns me that they did not talk about the budget except in terms of somehow, or do the hardware and let me worry about the budget. There are four congressional and two presidential elections before first operations in 2021. Any of these could negatively affect something as visible as the SLS, whether it is merited or not.

    I wish we could discuss alternate concepts here without it becoming an argument. I don’t believe the SLS budget will survive politically. You disagree. Your articles on ULA in general and the Delta IV Heavy in particular though suggests that twenty five ton ships could be launched several times a year starting now to perform dozens of missions before SLS even comes on line. ULA also has considered depots and advanced engines that could be done in short (between elections) time frames.

    • Ben Harrison

      Your articles on ULA in general and the Delta IV Heavy in particular though suggests that twenty five ton ships could be launched several times a year starting now to perform dozens of missions before SLS even comes on line.

      ULA’s President has stated in the past that their existing factory can be expanded to handle a lot more launches. ULA also has a study on their website called “Affordable Exploration Architecture 2009” that details a hardware architecture that would support a continuous presence on the Moon, as well as a continuous presence in our local Earth-Moon system. All done with existing launchers, and able to be ramped up or down based on available funding levels.

      And because we could be out doing space exploration today, but we’re not, that I think is one of the biggest sources of friction between people that support the SLS and those that don’t.

  • Spacefan

    I noticed an interview with Chris Craft who appears to be pretty well respected in spaceflight circles and he was not particularly impressed with the SLS. Basic argument went along the lines of big launch vehicle, big design costs, big technical issues, big cost blowout. Not the first time this has been stated publicly by people with industry experience. Also seems to be pretty consistent with NASAs recent large projects of recent years, eg. X-33, Cx, JWST, Orion.
    Trouble is, no body wants to seriously discuss alternatives without getting into a slanging match and the sides seem pretty polarised.
    There are definitely alternatives available but it seems like SLS is with us until Congress decides that enough has been spent or the vehicle flies. Meantime there’s no budget to develop any other hardware that might be required to flie on her and it seems likely that Congress is not going to increase funding to levels that will support additional flight hardware. For example, they seemed quite happy to have the Orion SM developed and built by ESA. I am fairly disappointed in the whole shemozzel.

    • Do you mean Christopher Kraft?

      • Ben Harrison

        Chris-Craft is a boat brand of course, which is what I think of every time I hear the former NASA Flight Directors name. We had a Chris-Craft when I was a kid, so of course the boat has more brain cells associated with it than someone from NASA that I didn’t know about then.

      • Spacefan

        Sorry yes.

    • Ben Harrison

      I see that article at the Houston Chronicle. Interesting to see his perspective on things.

      http://blog.chron.com/sciguy/2013/09/apollo-legend-on-nasa-its-a-tragedy-it-really-is/

      Regarding the cost of the SLS, Mr. Kraft said:

      The problem with the SLS is that it’s so big that makes it very expensive. It’s very expensive to design, it’s very expensive to develop. When they actually start to develop it, the budget is going to go haywire. They’re going to have all kinds of technical and development issues crop up, which will drive the development costs up. Then there are the operating costs of that beast, which will eat NASA alive if they get there.

      Regarding alternatives he said:

      In the private sector we’ve got an Atlas and a Delta rocket, and the Europeans have an Ariane rocket. The Russians have lots of rockets which are very reliable, and they get reliable by using them. And that’s something the SLS will never have. Never. Because you can’t afford to launch it that many times.

      He’s also a fan of going back to the Moon. Lots of topics covered.

      • Love the idea of returning to the Moon. He apparently hasn’t noted the Russians have had more than a few issues recently (Proton as well as multiple issues with Progress). Like the idea of tapping proven launch vehicles. Although, & this will drive NewSpacers insane, that pretty much places the ball solely in ULA’s court (until the FH flies, then flies regularly, delivering a proven track record).

        • Spacefan

          I don’t have a problem with ULA vehicles or the ESA Ariane. They’ve a demonstrable history of reliability but they are costly dependant on your viewpoint. I think some Newspacers are Mars fans as well and would like to see tangible progress irrespective of who makes it happen.

        • Ben Harrison

          Although, & this will drive NewSpacers insane, that pretty much places the ball solely in ULA’s court (until the FH flies, then flies regularly, delivering a proven track record).

          What is the description for people that are OK with ULA and SpaceX, and whoever else, sharing the load for government launches? MixSpace? CompetitionSpace? Non-MonopolySpace?

          Or is it NewSpace?

          Personally I’m fine with the guidelines that the Air Force has set for demonstrating reliability before they start using a new launch provider, and if I recall correctly it’s three successful flights.

          Falcon Heavy will likely attain a “proven track record” far before any NASA exploration payloads are ready for launch, and far before the SLS too. And if NASA makes all their payloads interchangeable, then they can switch between whatever mix of launchers are currently approved and available. Every other transportation system does this, so it’s about time space hardware got with the program.

          But what about NASA? Why is it that NASA doesn’t have to prove out the SLS before they start using it? Why are crew flying on the second SLS flight and first functional Orion flight? Are there two sets of standards being used here?

          • NowSpace (at least that’s what I’ve dubbed us). It’s a mixture of “New” & “Old” & describes when we should drop sides & get to work.

            BTW, ULA, SpaceX, Orbital, Arianespace, Roscosmos with more on the way. Where exactly is the monopoly? Sorry, whenever I hear that accusation raised – I go insane. The real problem here is we have teenagers who want to be treated like folks with 50 years of experience. Sorry, some things have to be earned.

            I believe that rule covers unmanned missions.

            There you go making predictions again. Folks made predictions that SS2 would be flying customers by 2010. My advice – don’t make predictions. Today’s SpaceX – is tomorrow’s Constellation Program.

            You apparently didn’t read my comments on another thread. I’ve said before both FH / SLS need to prove viability before given the keys to the kingdom. Moreover, if FH proves to be as terrific as fans have painted it? I’m all for open competitive bidding on exploration missions. However, commercial space companies need to actually fly someone first. The fact you sidestep is that NASA has 150 manned missions under its belt. “NewSpace” – has none. That’s why I’m harder on NewSpace – they’ve launched nobody, but talk like they’ll have us dancing with Orion slave girls next week. That mentality gets ppl killed.

            The two “standards” I see: One side has a history of flying people into space, has landed 12 Men on the Moon, launched Skylab, traveled to Mir, repaired Hubble, built the ISS & more & the other side hasn’t launched a single person. That’s also the biggest problem I have with proponents of this movement. They want these companies to be treated equally to NASA/established contractors – despite the fact they’ve yet to do anything to deserve it.

            • Tracy the Troll

              Jason,
              A couple of things…

              Isn’t SpaceX filled with Legacy Engineers from Boeing, ULA, L/M, Grummen etc…I mean these people that run SpaceX didn’t come straight out of college…did they?

              Also…

              “but talk like they’ll have us dancing with Orion slave girls next week.”

              If we are dancing with Orion Slave Girls …then we are in big trouble as we would have fallen under their hypnotic spell and will do their bidding…

              • SpaceX is 10 years old & has launched 10 times since its founding in 2002 – the rate of less than once a year. ULA by comparison launches about 12 times a year. SpaceX & Orbital have no experience launching astronauts on their products (at this point neither does ULA). Word it however you want – you can’t invent a resume – where none exists.

                The point is, NewSpace supporters want the same cred granted to their companies – even though their chosen companies haven’t flown anybody – anywhere. I find it disappointing that rather than push their favorite companies to gain such experience – supporters would rather attack those for pointing this out. Again, teenagers wanting the same respect of people with 50 years worth of experience. Respect has to be earned based on merit.

            • Ben Harrison

              Where exactly is the monopoly? Sorry, whenever I hear that accusation raised – I go insane.

              The NASA SLS is a monopoly transportation system. Congress intended it to be used for both crew and cargo, and there are no options for commercial participation.

              Do you think NASA will be competing out Orion launches? Or 70-130mt cargo launches? I think not.

              Not that it drives me “insane”, but I think the term NewSpace is not well defined, and because of that it means different things to different people.

              Can you tell me who NewSpace is? It would be nice if we were all on the same page.

              For instance, is Boeing NewSpace because they are working on private spaceflight?

              • Typically you ignore why not. Which company has a history of producing launch vehicles of that size? I’ve already addressed this before. What if The Rotary Rocket Company, or Sea Launch had won those contracts? Does it make any sense to open contracts up to companies with no proven track record? To use your own wording – I think not.

                The companies I mentioned have been given what they’ve shown they can handle. Once they can prove they can handle BEO – then they gain access to that as well – but not before. Too much rides on it – literally. You’re complaining about how SLS/Orion wasn’t open for bidding – but not acknowledging that the other companies out there lack the experience/infrastructure for such an endeavor.

                NASA did the right thing in open the well-worn path to orbit to commercial companies. However, to date, only one company has been able to meet the cargo objectives. Proving concerns that, despite their claims to the contrary, they might not be up to the challenge. But, here you are saying we should open BEO ops to these firms as well. Here’s a crazy idea – why not require that these companies actually develop a portfolio before offering up the most challenging task of all to them?

                Stay tuned, I’m writing an Op-Ed about NewSpace.

                As to your previous comment about Inspiration Mars. I think most rational people wouldn’t call a stunt (& it’s little more than that) as what our future in space will look like, nor view it as a good thing. It reminds me of stories from the 50s where couples would unicycle over a tight rope across the Grand Canyon. It might be good for reality TV – but in terms of serious space exploration – it’s not something to be taken seriously.

                If there’s one attribute I think that highlights a “NewSpacer” its the willingness to believe what a company says – opposed to what they’ve actually done. It’s to say that firms who haven’t launched a single primate – should be given the same opportunities as those that have powered manned space flight for over half a century. More importantly a NewSpacer, when presented with these issues – will talk about anything but that empty portfolio.

                • Ben Harrsion

                  Typically you ignore why not. Which company has a history of producing launch vehicles of that size?

                  I’m not sure why these conversations devolve into “SpaceX vs SLS”, so being a long time ULA supporter I’m perfectly happy to just talk about ULA and what they can do.

                  Which company has a history of producing launch vehicles of that size? If you want to trace the history of mergers and acquisitions, it’s United Launch Alliance as of today.

                  No one has more rocket experience than they do. No one. Not even NASA.

                  The companies I mentioned have been given what they’ve shown they can handle. Once they can prove they can handle BEO – then they gain access to that as well – but not before.

                  OK, ULA has shown it can handle BEO. When does NASA give them the 70-130mt cargo business?

                  You’re complaining about how SLS/Orion wasn’t open for bidding – but not acknowledging that the other companies out there lack the experience/infrastructure for such an endeavor.

                  ULA has the experience, and had already presented a plan to Congress that showed their growth plan to reach 140mt capacity.

                  It reminds me of stories from the 50s where couples would unicycle over a tight rope across the Grand Canyon.

                  Funny, I think of Burt Rutan and Steve Fossett’s efforts to circumnavigate the globe in small aircraft and a balloon. I see the Inspiration Mars effort as along the same lines.

                  If there’s one attribute I think that highlights a “NewSpacer” its the willingness to believe what a company says

                  Why wouldn’t I believe what ULA says they can do? Why don’t you believe what they say?

                  • Probably because you mentioned what FH “will” do. Again, once an issue with your argument is raised – you either sidestep it or pretend you didn’t make it in the first place. Nevertheless:

                    And the SpaceX Falcon Heavy can certainly lift a full-up Orion to orbit…

                    And what if the SpaceX Falcon Heavy becomes certified by the Air Force for government use? What is supposed to happen then that allows them to “share the load” with the SLS? I’m not aware that NASA has even made that an option. What have you heard?

                    You made both these comments at 4:25 p.m. today & are acting like you were talking solely about ULA.

                    Please stop trying to make it like I’m making this stuff up. You stated SLS wouldn’t fly but once every 4 years – how well did that statement work out for you? I pulled video showing not only were you wrong, but you were wrong in stating those reps had said it during the event in question. Now? You bring up FH, I show the flaws in your argument & you try to make like you were talking about ULA all along?

                    ULA’s two key components are building SLS & Orion. LMCO is bldg Orion & Boeing is predominantly in charge of SLS! Yet another fact you neglect to mention. Please explain how the two companies that comprise ULA are building SLS/Orion are unhappy they didn’t get the contracts to build SLS/Orion!

                    I don’t think Burt Rutan & Steve Fossett were married… Moreover, given that neither of the two flights you’re likely to mention lasted anywhere near as long as what IM is planned for & given the loss of Fossett – I think that most will agree that long term voyages into space should be based on rational, objective-based missions & not record-breaking stunts.

                    Ben, you know full well I was referring to FH. I also noted you conveniently neglected to mention the other salient points I raised.

                    • Ben Harrison

                      Jason, I have a post that hasn’t shown up, and I don’t want to duplicate it since it covers part of what you bring up on this comment. Let me know if I need to re-post it.

                      Probably because you mentioned what FH “will” do.

                      How is that any different than what SLS “will” do, or ULA’s EELV Phase 2 “will” do.

                      The same people and the same exact companies that are building the SLS have never built an HLV before, yet I have no doubt that they can. Just like I have no doubt that ULA can build an HLV, and SpaceX can build the Falcon Heavy.

                      Maybe you doubt what well funded American companies can do, but I don’t.

                      But NASA was not given the option of putting it’s exploration requirements out for bid, and you know that. So “NASA” did not decide not to use ULA or anyone else, Congress did.

                      ULA’s two key components are building SLS & Orion. LMCO is bldg Orion & Boeing is predominantly in charge of SLS! Yet another fact you neglect to mention.

                      Isn’t it common knowledge? I know you know that, so why restate it? And you know I know that since I am a ULA fan.

                      And you prove my point here too, since if Boeing and Lockheed Martin are good enough to build the SLS and Orion for NASA, then they good enough to build whatever NASA needs on their own. Right?

                      But again, NASA was never given the option to see if the aerospace industry could satisfy it’s HLV lift needs, because Congress wanted NASA to build the SLS out of the leftovers of the Constellation program. No studies, no debates, no input from NASA.

                      I know you dislike the President (or maybe it’s just his plans for space), and maybe that informs your opinions about why it was a good idea for Congress to mandate the SLS. But it was never a choice between NASA and industry, so let’s stop pretending it is.

                    • Ben, you asked why the conversation had devolved into a FH/SLS debate. That was my answer. Now you’re (again) trying to make it into something else.

                      I also take issue with your comments about what I “doubt.” A lot of people who were well-funded made a lot of claims – Bernie Madoff comes to mind.

                      Again, given that, technically speaking, ULA’s component parts got Orion/SLS – not sure they’re complaining as much as you are. Moreover, stop acting as if I didn’t answer the question. If you want my answer you should probably read my entire post & not cherry-pick points to attack.

                      Yes, I know you’re a ULA fan, I know SLS wasn’t open for bidding (thankfully). Just like you know you’ve ignored most of what I said earlier about this subject. Just like you know, I know you’ll do the same here.

                      No, you’re not right. The customer, be it NASA, Congress or Wal-Mart tells the contractor what to build – not the other way around. Moreover. You (yet again) ignore what I said about Dumbacher’s comments. If you want to read what he said about the “why” behind how SLS was funded – go back & read my earlier comment. You seem to have issue with reading my entire statement, which is why your follow-on posts always seem off-topic & confused.

                      I never said that it was a choice between NASA & industry. You need to read my 6:31 pm comment. Stop placing words in my mouth. What I’ve been saying (& you’ve been ignoring) is that firms like SpaceX (one you mentioned which I focused on) have no track record & until they get one they haven’t earned the right to bid on contracts the size of SLS.

                      Ben, you have a issue with pretending that folks say one thing – when they have actually said something entirely different. You ignore it when the gaping holes, fact-errors & flat-out misrepresentations you utter are pointed out & then try to make it as if the conversation has been about some new topic all along. Let me be as clear as I can be about that sort of tactic – it’s annoying. I don’t like ppl who misrepresent what I say & behave as if a conversation about “Y” has been about “X.”

                      Before you wag your finger at me – you might want to actually read what I post before acting like I’m some dolt who hasn’t paid attention. My patience with you changing subjects & acting like its my fault is over. Stop wasting my time & come back to me when you’ve actually read what I’ve posted, not what you think that I’ve said after skimming over it.

                    • Ben Harrison

                      Apologies if this ends up be a duplicate, but I have a post that apparently got lost somewhere. My end, yours, who knows.

                      You stated SLS wouldn’t fly but once every 4 years – how well did that statement work out for you? I pulled video showing not only were you wrong, but you were wrong in stating those reps had said it during the event in question.

                      Not “my” numbers Jason.

                      SpaceNews stated that information, and I made that very clear that’s where I got it from. I even suggested that you ask NASA about it, and that lead to you digging out the video and posting it here. Reference the “Media Relations Hit Snag With Cassiope Launch” article and my September 1, 2013 at 11:23 am reply where I said:

                      I got the 2025 SLS flight date from a June 28th article in SpaceNews covering a media tour of Michoud and Stennis. Being that top NASA officials were there it seemed the date came from them, but hopefully you can check it out with NASA directly to verify.

                      Seems to me I should get some credit for being upfront about this.

                      If you want to cast a stone at SpaceNews that’s up to you, but I’d make sure you’ve never accidentally misstated any information on AmericaSpace before you do that.

                    • No, just numbers you used in your argument. Instead you turn it into an insulting comment -why not just apologize?

                      As to your last statement. I’ve apologized numerous times for mistakes I’ve made. The difference between us – is that I do apologize when I make them – you just pass the blame onto someone else & try to change the subject. Space News isn’t here trying to “correct” folks with factually inaccurate data – you are.

            • Ben Harrison

              You apparently didn’t read my comments on another thread. I’ve said before both FH / SLS need to prove viability before given the keys to the kingdom.

              I saw your questions, but I had “signed off” because I didn’t want to keep you going back to an old thread. My bad.

              This gets back to what the SLS is and is not. Per Congress, the SLS is NASA’s only choice for Orion launches, even though it could compete out that task to the commercial marketplace. ULA has a growth path for their launchers that would meet NASA’s needs for crew and cargo (even though that is not yet defined), and the SpaceX Falcon Heavy can certainly lift a full-up Orion to orbit like the Ares I was going to do. There are plenty of options NASA could use.

              But that isn’t going to happen. Regardless how long it take the SLS to become operational, NASA will not be given the option to farm out crew and cargo transportation to non-SLS launchers.

              So no, the SLS does not need to prove it is viable, and the current plan shows that. Flying crew on the second SLS flight and first operational Orion flight wouldn’t be allowed by the Air Force if they were going to be flying one of their national security satellites, so apparently NASA doesn’t have a very high standard for what is “viable”.

              And what if the SpaceX Falcon Heavy becomes certified by the Air Force for government use? What is supposed to happen then that allows them to “share the load” with the SLS? I’m not aware that NASA has even made that an option. What have you heard?

              • Wasn’t the thread I was referring to. I believe it was under the FH’s Uncertain Moon story.

                While DIVH has flown – FH has not. Until then, while it looks good on paper it hasn’t proven anything in the real world. You asked about what makes a NewSpacer? Instead of basing you’re opinions on what has happened, you base it off what these companies say will happen. If you don’t see the problem there – look up Delta III, N-1 & the Conestoga Rocket.

                I’ve spoken with NASA’s Dan Dumbacher personally, NASA doesn’t want to “farm out” SLS – it wants a launch vehicle which can do two things: 1.) launch large payloads on single launches – not require multiple launches as Dumbacher states the agency views that as being more prohibitive than SLS. 2.) Prepare for a mission to Mars.

                One other thing that makes a NewSpacer – convenient holes in information. It goes back to your comments that prompted me to post this video. You made a lot of statements meant to smear SLS. Thing is? I was present at the same event you cited & your numbers were wrong & this video proved it. It makes one wonder what else you’ve been stating as fact that’s based on factually inaccurate data.

                I don’t deal in “what ifs.” I deal in what has already happened. Let me suggest a possible comparison. Look at the number of engines in the N-1 rocket – compare that with the number of engines in the FH. Another thing I’d suggest, take a look at your prior comments. Whereas I stated that once these companies start proving themselves they should be allowed in. Have you been willing to do the same & keep an open mind? Have you cherry-picked your talking points, while ignoring others? You asked what defines a NewSpacer? One thing is the unwillingness to accept firms NewSpacers support have no track record, no portfolio in conducting these types of missions & aren’t ready to handle them. Whereas I see that day fast approaching, but want us to exercise caution – you demand it happen today – experience or not. I think astronauts would rather fly on a rocket that came from companies who have 50 years experience & who’ve launched 150 crews into space – than those with no experience whatsoever. Despite how rational this argument is – you criticize it.

                As to your question about the USAF & SLS. What payloads did the Saturn V fly for the USAF? Again, you graft your question so as to make SLS look bad – all the while ignoring history. Moreover, let me be clear, there are problems with SLS. However, I also can see how the rocket can be used to get us out of LEO & back to the business of exploring. The primary problem most supporters of the NewSpace movement have with SLS – is they want those funds to go to their pet companies irregardless of whether-or-not they’ve demonstrated to handle such a project. So what happens? Because I oppose companies that are ill-equipped to handle projects of the scale of SLS get the contract – I’m targeted as an OldSpacer & attacked. My views are based on one thing – accomplishing the mission & getting the crew back home alive. Not which companies say they can do it better or cheaper.

                • Ben Harrison

                  You requested I respond to this, so I’m just letting you know that I have read what you said about talking to Dumbacher (Deputy Associate Administrator for Exploration Systems Development at NASA). Just so there is not confusion, you said:

                  I’ve spoken with NASA’s Dan Dumbacher personally, NASA doesn’t want to “farm out” SLS – it wants a launch vehicle which can do two things: 1.) launch large payloads on single launches – not require multiple launches as Dumbacher states the agency views that as being more prohibitive than SLS. 2.) Prepare for a mission to Mars.”

                  The official line from NASA is that they want the SLS, but as we know from what the President originally wanted in his FY11 budget request, “NASA” did not want an HLV at this point in time. NASA wanted to focus on exploration technologies instead. But that didn’t happen.

                  And regardless what any NASA employee wants, “NASA” officially supports whatever the politicians want it to support, regardless what the government employees of that agency want. That’s a fact for every government agency, not just NASA.

                  I’ll even do you one better and tell you that NASA Administrator Bolden is on record as saying that he is the biggest SLS supporter.

                  All of that is immaterial though, since the reason there is so much discussion about how we should be doing space exploration is because of a lack of confidence that NASA’s current direction will end up doing anything worthwhile. Christopher Kraft’s recent comments demonstrate that it’s not just “NewSpace”, but a wide variety of people and groups that are concerned about NASA’s current plans and funding. Even you have said that much needs to change in order for NASA to attain the goals you think it should be pursuing.

                  I will end my comments for this article and look forward to the article you’ll be doing on “NewSpace”. And I look forward to your definition of what companies “NewSpace” consists of.

                  • For some reason, most of your post came across as if it were a quote from me.

                    I noted your tendency to cherry-pick again (Dumbacher’s opinion was just that of a “NASA employee”). I doubt he’d talk outside the NASA talking points. Given that Gerst & others have echoed those comments – I guess that’s just their “opinions’ too. Moreover, I’ve interviewed numerous NASA officials – NASA wants heavy-lift & they want SLS. Obama wanted to cut all manned programs during the 2011 FY Budget time frame, so whatever is claimed NASA “wanted” – is actually what Obama wanted. You’re very skilled at taking bits & pieces to show proof of something – however inaccurate.

                    Just FYI – the Op-Ed states that term for NewSpace companies no longer applies, that it’s become more of a philosophy.

  • Tracy the Troll

    Jason,
    I read that Inspiration Mars, the Mars fly around in 2018 by Dennis Tito’s group is now in conversations with the SLS/Orion developers and NASA to be active participants including selecting hardware and using NASA Astronauts… Tito had a requirement for male/female crew…Nasa just selected a class of 4 male and female astronauts….Just a coincidence? Wouldn’t this be a large and Necessary PR event for them if they could pull this off? Have you heard anything about this?

    • Spacefan

      Hi Tracy Troll
      Will SLS, Orion and the Orion SM be ready by then? I’m pretty sure they’re not going to be unless there’s a significant injection of funds, but where from is anyone’s guess. Perhaps Tito’s group?

    • Ben Harrison

      Dennis Tito’s group is now in conversations with the SLS/Orion developers and NASA to be active participants

      Do you have a reference you can provide? Unless I missed it, it hasn’t been in the news.

      …to be active participants including selecting hardware

      The Inspiration Mars groups has stated that the SLS is one of the three launch options they are doing trade studies on. The challenge for the SLS is that it doesn’t have it’s first flight until at least 2017, and Inspiration Mars no-later-than launch date of January 5, 2018. From an availability standpoint, that makes the SLS a high risk option.

      …and using NASA Astronauts… Tito had a requirement for male/female crew…Nasa just selected a class of 4 male and female astronauts….Just a coincidence?

      Yes, a coincidence. Inspiration Mars has stated they are looking for married couples. Two people that have already demonstrated that they can stand each other over long periods of time, and in isolation from others.

      Also the use of NASA personnel and NASA hardware would require Congress to officially support the private Inspiration Mars effort, and I don’t see that happening. Congress doesn’t even support what NASA wants to do for Mars.

  • Karol

    Didn’t the Curiosity MSL register high levels of radiation during the voyage to Mars? Has the long-term exposure to high levels of radiation problem been solved? I would hope that the general public would not blame NASA for participants possible suffering a lingering, agonizing death from cancer which could have been possibly avoided if more time had been taken to resolve the problem. What’s the rush? Mars isn’t going anywhere.

    • Spacefan

      Guess that’s the beauty of a ‘private’ mission. No body to blame except the participants themselves and the organisation that sends them. I believe possible radiation exposure is overdone (sorry) and there are methods of mitigation avvailable.

    • Ben Harrison

      Didn’t the Curiosity MSL register high levels of radiation during the voyage to Mars?

      I found this NASA website that talks about it.

      http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/msl/news/msl20130530.html

      Has the long-term exposure to high levels of radiation problem been solved?

      No, but since everything we do in space has a negative effect on the human body, it’s a matter of informed consent more than artificial limits that are set by a government agency that may have become a little too risk-averse.

      People pay good money to risk their lives for fun, so how is this any different?

    • Tracy the Troll

      Karol,
      I believe that since all human knowledge doubles every 2 years that we need new and larger markets to expand the free enterprise system. As it is on Earth a very few control the markets and this is having an effect that will be unsustainable in providing this civilization the means to continue a precious few who’s short sightedness will ultimately cause the end of human civilization on Earth …

      I realize that this is not a surprise to anyone given the recent events of earthquakes and tsunamis that shows just how vulnerable our nuclear industry is or to asteroids that exploded over Russia for example.

      People will go just as they have done in the past to get away from the massive corruption that exists on Earth where governments are beholden to special interests and operate more like organized crime that protect cash flows for certain industries and do not promote anything close to free markets or free enterprise.

      As such as soon as technology possible when given the opportunity people will in large numbers immigrate to Mars, a hostile seemingly barren planet. The level of technology that will be required to live on Mars will open new opportunities for Mankind that will allow it to thrive in ways that we cannot facilitate on Earth…. There will be new energy, medical, agriculture, communications, transportation and governing systems that will required if we are to continue to exist..

  • Karol

    “For heaven’s sake, I loathe danger, especially if it’s useless; danger is the most irritating aspect of our job. How can a perfectly normal technological fact be turned into adventure? And why should steering a spacecraft be risking your life? It would be as illogical as risking your life when you use an electric mixer to make yourself a milkshake. There should be nothing dangerous about steering a spacecraft. Once you’ve granted this concept, you no longer think in terms of adventure, the urge to go up just for the sake of going up.
    I don’t understand the ones who are so anxious to be the first. It’s all nonsense, kid stuff, just romanticism unworthy of our rationale age. I rule out the possibility of agreeing to go up if I thought I might not come back, unless it were technologically indispensable. I mean, testing a jet is dangerous but technically indispensable. Dying in space or on the Moon is not technically indispensable and consequently if I had to choose between death while testing a jet and death on the Moon, I’d choose death while testing a jet”
    Neil Armstrong

    Craig Nelson, “Rocket Men” p. 34

    • Ben Harrison

      Karol, this is kind of a moot point since there are people that do in fact like to seek out “danger”, or want to be “first”. It is human nature, and one pundit from the past has not changed that since they made their declaration. If anything we have even more ways to die while pushing the limits.

      I have no doubt that Inspiration Space will find a willing, qualified couple that will take on the dangerous challenge of flying to Mars and hopefully surviving to tell about it. I also have no doubt that Inspiration Mars WON’T send people if they don’t have a reasonable expectation of mission success.

      But Inspiration Mars is just the beginning of what our future space adventures will look like, and I think that’s a good thing.

      • Karol

        I do not consider Neil Armstrong “one pundit from the past”. I understand that there are Newspacers who hold the heroes of the Apollo era in less than highest esteem because they speak truth to power and do not bow before the Newspace icons. They are men of sterling integrity, courage, and honesty not susceptible to glitzy power-point presentations or hot tub fantasy. I, personally, would not be so contemptibly presumptuous as to consider myself equal to or greater than Neil Armstrong in intelligence, courage, or character. I will state without equivocation that I would have been greatly honored, and humbled, to have met this incredible man. Without doubt, long after anyone reading this post is reduced to desiccated human residue with perhaps the luxury of a lichen-eroded barely-legible headstone, the epic heroism of Neil Armstrong will still be vibrant and inspiring.

        Obviously, there are people who seek out danger. Two young people here in Detroit sought out danger yesterday by speeding down the freeway on a motorcycle without helmets. If people want to play Russian Roulette, have at it. The problem with the Inspiration Mars scheme is that the sight of individuals writhing in agony while dying of cancer induced by high levels of radiation they were exposed to during a voyage to Mars is not going to “inspire” anyone to advance planetary exploration. It will, if anything, have exactly the opposite effect. It is a straw man argument to say, “Well, this is not NASA, this is a volunteer commercial enterprise. Everyone is well aware that although members of the space community and readers of AmericaSpace know the difference, NASCAR lovin’, American Idol cheerin’ John Q. Public who pays the tax tab doesn’t know the difference between “Newspace” and “Oldpace”, between NASA and Comm Space.

        The fifteen-seconds-of-network-news majority only know that people died, or are dying, because “the space program” sent them to Mars. If there is a fatal loss of crew during, or after, a trip to Mars, do you really think Inspiration Mars will bravely stand forth and trumpet, “NASA had nothing to do with this tragic loss of life, it was all our fault. Now, who wants to be next.” How do you think the public would react to “suicide by rocket”. NASA being tarred with a dead Inspiration Mars crew, although it would be clearly, unequivocally unjustified, will only heap ammunition on those who would like to see an end to human spaceflight. “Why spend more money and risk more lives when there’s nothing out there but rock and radiation.” We will eventually travel to Mars. Adequate shielding must be developed if we are ever to travel beyond LEO. (One day on Europa would be fatal for an astronaut). We will do the engineering to make interplanetary travel as safe as possible. The danger of radiation will be reduced. There will no doubt be those in this internet age eager to die for their thirty seconds of fame and YouTube immortality, and there will be those eager to make a profit from their folly, but I agree with the exemplary individual whose name will echo into the next millennium, Neil Armstrong: “it’s all nonsense, kid’s stuff, just romanticism unworthy of our rationale age.” There is no need to rush, no need to be first, no reason to do it NOW! Mars will still be there.

        • Leonidas

          Karol, you hit the nail right on the head about the general public’s perceptions of space efforts!

          The public by and large, outside of the space community, doesn’t give a dime on what’s going on in space, and frankly, it couldn’t care less!

          For many of them (the part of the paranoid dilussionals) it isn’t even real, it’s just a hoax made to deceive us. I still remember the dreadful comments on newspapers here, from readers reacting to the death of Neil Armstrong (comments like ‘Hurray, the lying conspiracist is dead!). I’d gladly punch some of these people on the face!

          For others (equally uneducated), the ‘space program’ (be it Old or New) is just something that the governemnts do to ‘control money and resources’, and for them, space is a place the ‘rich’ will go to and take away ‘our money’. You might laugh at these comments, but I hear them all the time from ordinary people, while trying not to bang my head at the wall from what I’m hearing.

          And for others, it’s just a terrible waste of money, plain and simple.

          Guess how many of these would understand the difference between private space efforts and NASA? And even if they did, a potential private space catastrophy on Mars or elsewere, would surely IMHO affect greatly in a negative manner, the public’s opinion (‘Look, people died up there, why are we wasting money up there?’).

          Having said all that, I discriminate between serious private space efforts and laughable ones. All this debate about Inspiration Mars, should really be about Mars One actually. The latter, is so far removed from reality, that it makes me choke and cry from laughter when I’m thinking about their Mars colony plans. I think that the people behind it are sincere, but their whole effort is such a wonderful excercise on wistful thinking that is amusing. They will start facing reality soon enough.

          On the other hand, I put Inspiration Mars on the serious side of private space efforts. Dennis Tito seems to be aware of the dangers and risks, and he doesn’t propose any pie-in-the-sky Mars colonies. His plan is a simple Mars fly-by, and he realised soon enough that if he has any chance of pulling it off, he has to partner with NASA and take all the help and expertise he can get from the agency. He stated himself recently, that more and more he finds that he has to partner with NASA and take advantage of all the work being done on the ISS, on long duration spaceflight.

          All this, points to someone being serious and adequately grounded as to really understand and realise the nature of the task that he put forward. I like to think that if he finds out that he can’t move forward because the risks are too high, he won’t be reckless.

          And I agree with you that much work is still ahead before we can be confident enough for a human trip to Mars, but damn it, we’re stuck on LEO for 40+ years and from where I’m standing, I see more talking than doing from governemnts. When I listened to Obama saying we’ll be on Mars ‘sometime in the 2030’s’, I found it more laughable and amousing than reading my favorite Asterix comics! Obama’s plan is not ‘vision’. Its pandering, it’s saying what people want to hear, knowing in the end of the day that you don’t have to do it. No wonder that private space efforts like Mars One are on the rise.

        • Ben Harrison

          I do not consider Neil Armstrong “one pundit from the past”.

          The only name you referenced was Craig Nelson, who I don’t know. If you were quoting Armstrong you should have been more clear.

          The problem with the Inspiration Mars scheme is that the sight of individuals writhing in agony while dying of cancer induced by high levels of radiation they were exposed to during a voyage to Mars is not going to “inspire” anyone to advance planetary exploration.

          As to “writhing in agony while dying of cancer”, that happens here on Earth regardless if you go to space.

          But I don’t think you understand the level of radiation they are talking about here, which is not guaranteed to kill someone, only make it more likely they will be affected. Ask coal workers about their exposure to coal dust and the radioactivity from coal dust, yet they still choose to work in the coal mines. Risk is all around us.

          As long as there is “informed consent”, then I see no reason to stop them. And isn’t that really the issue here? As long as they are not using taxpayer money (which I don’t want), then let them do it.

          Even if it is one time stunt like Baumgartner, Fossett and others have attempted (and Nyad this past weekend), it does push the envelope so that we can understand what humans are capable of.

          More power to them.

          • Yet another example of your inability to read the entire post – look above Craig Nelson’s name… It’s pretty clear you didn’t read Karol’s entire comment or that you’re familiar with how that related to Mr. Nelson.

            Baumgartner & Fossett’s stunts should not be the basis of space policy.

  • Leonidas

    Just wanting to throw my 2 cents in, I read this interesting commentary the other day on the moonandback site, called ‘Time to Move Beyond “New Space”?’

    You can read it here:

    http://moonandback.com/2013/08/19/time-to-move-beyond-new-space/

    • Spacefan

      Interesting article. Is this about wanting NewSpace to move beyond the existing systems and expensive limitations or is this about NASA returning to it’s roots and developing technology that enables cost reduction and allows NewSpace to move beyond LEO?

      In the first instance there are signs that this is happening with SpaceX being the main participant. Of course Bigelow wants low cost leo access but he’s not involved in creating it unless his proposed habitats are considered a driver which may or may not be the case.

      I can’t honestly see any indication that NASA is currently facilitating any lowering of access cost but then they have to do Congress bidding so they’re pretty much tied to there existing large programs which are certainly not oriented toward cost reduction. Unless you count COTS and CCDev Program but these are/were more about capability than cost reduction.

      I believe that the DoD is making some attempts by opening up their launch market but frankly, there’s only a few takers.

      No other country or program that I can see appears too concerned about access cost. Every so often someone makes noises but there’s really nothing if any substance that I can see.

      • Leonidas

        I see the article as a reasonable and fair commentary on NewSpace’s shortcomings. Things that NewSpace fans might not want to hear, but it would do them good, cause it would be a chance for self-correction and progress.

        From where I’m standing, I see NASA trying all it can, to help kickstart commmercial access to orbit. Since the core of the article’s commentary is about lowering costs of access to space, COTS and CCDEV are a move in the right direction. All the commercial participants have promised more reliable, cheaper and safer access to space than ever before. It’s up to them to prove their point.

        On the other hand, SLS has nothing to do with CCDEV or lowering costs. It’s apples vs. oranges. I don’t see why SLS and CCDEV should be contradictory and mutually exclusive. I see NASA’s philosophy here as ‘hand all LEO traffic to the private sector, while we go beyond’. And CCDEV is NASA returning to its roots in action. After developing technologies for more than half a century, we’ve reached a point where the private sector can do things in LEO better and cheaper. And it was about time anyway.

        It’s dynamite on paper, I hope it works out that way.

  • A lot of folks have been citing (selectively) Chris Kraft’s comments in the Houston Chronicle. I think that there are some important comments he made that others are leaving out:

    But Kraft’s harshest words are directed right where they should be: at the top. “Bolden,” said Kraft of NASA administrator Charles Bolden, “doesn’t know what it takes to do a major project. He doesn’t have experience with that. He’s never known what it takes to do a massive program. He keeps talking about going to Mars in the 2030s, but that’s pure, unadulterated, BS.”

    He also touched on the Constellation Program:

    “You go talk to the guys who were doing Constellation,” he said, referring to NASA’s abandoned post-shuttle plans, “and the reason they came to NASA was to go back to the moon. They’re all leaving now… because there’s no future that they want to be involved in. And that’s unfortunate. You’ve got to have a reason for people to give you their lives. Which is what I did. I gave NASA my life not because they asked me to, but because I wanted to.”

    If anything, it touches on the damage done to NASA by the current administration. It would have been far better to go in & fix what was wrong, like how JWST was corrected. Instead? Obama went in, made a mess and then Congress got involved. While SLS is not perfect – it wouldn’t exist if Obama hadn’t attempted to gut the space agency in the first place. There’s a lot of blame on here for Congress – but not nearly enough for the man who made the mess in the first place.

  • Karol

    THANK YOU JASON!! I knew it! I knew that there was something else, something very important, that was being “conveniently” omitted when I read other reports of his statements. Your accurate, complete quotes put his comments in an entirely different light. Now it makes sense. I can understand why individuals who worked so hard on the Constellation program, believed (as I did) in the Vision for Space Exploration of back to the Moon, on to Mars, and beyond, would be so disappointed and disheartened at having their hopes crushed and hard work wasted that they would want to leave NASA. For these extraordinary individuals, space exploration was the fulfillment of a dream. They didn’t work the long hours for money, profit, or publicity, they often worked long hours of unpaid overtime because they believed in what they were doing, and that it was critically important to the future of our great nation. Chris Kraft said it most eloquently: “I gave NASA my life not because they asked me to, but because I wanted to.” For the Administration to crush such dedication and loyalty, to destroy a vision for our future in space, is wholly inexcusable and a gross failure of leadership. Does anyone honestly believe that the current state of our human spaceflight effort – seemingly aimless, goalless, unenthusiastic, halfhearted “going-through-the-motions” is really better than a properly funded and enthusiastically pursued Constellation program? Heroes like Jim Lovell and Gene Cernan said it all: We need to return to the Moon! Once again Jason and AmericaSpace have proven that if it is the truth you seek, this is the place to find it. Thank you Jim and Jason.