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The 2012 Space Race Is On!

Saturday evening, the Romney campaign released its space policy white paper, Securing U.S. Leadership in Space. As Obama showed on Aug. 3, 2008 when he told the Space Coast of his unwavering support for NASA’s Constellation program, hope can be an important selling point to the Space Coast, and to winning the eastern anchor of the I-4 Corridor and Florida in 2008. Compared with what President Obama has in the last four years given the space community in general and the Florida Space Coast in particular, Romney’s space policy appears downright reassuring.Unlike the President’s 2010 space policy, Romney will, as he first discussed in Florida in January, bring together experts from several disciplines to develop new goals for NASA. This point alone would differentiate in a large way a Romney Administration in developing a roadmap for NASA from that of the Obama Administration. As Neil Armstrong noted in his May 12, 2010 testimony before the Senate Commerce Committee:

 

Photo Credit: NASA

“Rumors abound that neither the NASA Administrator nor the President‟s Science and Technology Advisor were knowledgeable about the plan. Lack of review normally guarantees that there will be overlooked requirements and unwelcome consequences. How could such a chain of events happen? A plan that was invisible to so many was likely contrived by a very small group in secret who persuaded the President that this was a unique opportunity to put his stamp on a new and innovative program. I believe the President was poorly advised.”

Moments after the Romney campaign released its space paper, GOP Vice-Presidential nominee Rep. Paul Ryan gave a space policy speech at the University of Central Florida. During his speech, Ryan noted,

“It’s important that we have a space program that has a clear mission, a space program where we know where we are heading in the future, and a space program that is the unequivocal leader.

The Obama re-election campaign quickly responded that the Romney campaign was only pandering to the Space Coast while giving no specifics. But as Space Coast residents will recall, in early August 2008, candidate Obama came to the Space Coast to make many specific promises, very nearly all of which were subsequently broken in February 2010.

President Obama’s Promise To The Space Coast

Aug. 2, 2008, Titusville, FL

Transcript of video

    All those things are just in the short term to tide people over. But we’ve got to rebuild our economy in a much more fundamental way. We’ve got to secure our long-term prosperity and strengthen our economy for the 21st Century. This is where the issue that Bill Nelson brought up is relevant. One of the areas in which we are in danger of loosing our competative edge is in science and technology, and nothing symbolizes that more than our space program.

    I’ve written about this in my book. I grew up in Hawaii. And I still remember sitting on my Grandfather’s shoulders as some of the astronauts were brought-in after their capsules had landed in middle of the Pacific. I could barely see them; I was waving at an American Flag. I remember my Grandfather explaining to me this is what America is all about. We can do anything when we put our mind to it. We can do anything when we put our mind to it. And that was what the space program described, that sense of possibility, of always reaching-out to new frontiers. When I was growing-up, NASA inspired the world with achievements that we are still proud of. Today we have an Administration that sets ambitious goals for NASA without giving NASA the support it needs to reach them. As a result, NASA has had to cut-back on research and trim their program, which means that after the Space Shuttle shuts down in 2010 we are going to have to rely on Russian spacecraft to keep us in orbit.

    Let me be clear…

    we cannot cede our leadership in space. That’s why I will help close the gap and ensure that our space program doesn’t suffer when the Shuttle goes out of service by working with Senator Bill Nelson to add at least one additional Space Shuttle flight beyond 2010 ; by supporting continued funding for NASA; by speeding the development of the Shuttle’s successor; and by making sure that all those who work in the space industry in Florida do not lose their jobs when the Shuttle is retired – because we cannot afford to lose their expertise.

    More broadly, we need a real vision for space exploration. To help formulate this vision, I’ll reestablish the National Aeronautics and Space Council so that we can develop a plan to explore the solar system – a plan that involves both human and robotic missions, and enlists both international partners and the private sector. And as America leads the world to long-term exploration of the moon, Mars, and beyond, let’s also tap NASA’s ingenuity to build the airplanes of tomorrow and to study our own planet so we can combat global climate change. Under my watch, NASA will inspire the world, make America stronger, and help grow the economy here in Florida.

Today, there is little debate within Congress that NASA is not better off today than it was four years ago. NASA people at JSC, MSFC, LaRC, and KSC all say the same thing; that NASA’s spaceflight engineering talent is slowly being disassembled.

Voters now have two visions for NASA. One that seeks to strengthen the Agency so that it can lead, with the help of the commercial space companies, the march outward from low-Earth orbit. The other will see the continued transformation of NASA into a mere contracting agency for companies whose own technical skills and understanding of human space flight do not match that of NASA circa 1964, much less today. The latter vision is one that will not get us to the Moon, asteroids, and beyond and was the reason that in 2010 Neil Armstrong came out of retirement to oppose President Obama’s vision for NASA.

[Update: Transcript of Obama “Titusville Space Speech” added with remarks.]

55 comments to The 2012 Space Race Is On!

  • Dan Adamo

    Ah, yes, the vision thing. As the Constellation Program demonstrated to us all, a vision for NASA is worthless without adequate funding from Congress. The Obama Administration, with help from the U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee in 2009, gave the nation a comprehensive assessment of the means necessary to take human spaceflight beyond low Earth orbit (BLEO) while maintaining our ISS obligations through this decade. The Committee’s work was arguably the most open and honest look at human spaceflight policy in NASA’s history. It concluded an additional $3 billion annually allocated to NASA would be necessary to achieve meaningful BLEO human spaceflight. These infusions to NASA’s budget remain elusive during an era of discretionary funding austerity in Congress. Regardless of what a Presidential candidate promises in a Space Coast campaign speech, the old adage “no bucks; no Buck Rodgers” is what matters to NASA’s future. My advice would be to let issues other than space exploration policy drive your vote for President.

  • Ferris Valyn

    1) Jim, this is loaded with opinions, and should be labeled as much
    2) If Romney were to get elected, and he sticks to this, SLS is headed to the scrapheap of history.

    Romney states it quite clearly “NASA doesn’t need a budget increase”…..

    • Ferris,

      I appreciate your viewpoint. But at the very least, neither Orion nor SLS will face annual efforts by the Administration, as it currently does, to cut, really to harm, those programs.

      It isn’t as though anyone is asking that those within the Administration currently opposed to Orion or SLS get behind those programs–they can’t. I get that. But it would be an improvement if they would just limit their opposition to efforts that don’t border on the illegal. And if the current Administration would just get behind the program of law, as Harry Reid has requested more than once, Orion and SLS would run better, saving the tax-payers money.

      You know these folks–I don’t–and I would appreciate some insight as to what on earth is so difficult about that? I mean, everyone I talk to is just flummoxed by the Administration’s senseless head-banging-against-the-wall on this. Even those in Congress who don’t support space are opposed to the Administration simply on the bases of defending Congressional prerogative and Article I of the Constitution.

      • Ferris Valyn

        Seriously Jim…

        This is your response? Something that is the equivalent of “Well sir, have you stopped beating your wife?”

        I make a simple request, and note he has specifically said he will not increase NASA’s budget, and that is your response?

        • Yes, Obama and his team were against Orion, SLS, and a return to the Moon before they were for it. I’m just glad you’re as consistent in your opposition to, as I am in my support for, the Congressional space program.

          Which candidate has said we can look forward to increased NASA or non-DOD space funding? None.

          • Ferris Valyn

            Jim,

            And now your putting words in my mouth. You would think there comes a point when your non sequiturs and shameless BS ends, and you would do the honorable thing – Label this piece as opinion.

            And yet you refuse to. Tell me, what are you afraid of?

            • Jim Hillhouse

              Ok, fine. Now you’re for Orion and SLS. Welcome aboard.

              • Ferris Valyn

                You are getting really good at putting words in people mouths.

                We are slowly crossing that bridge where someone might accuse you have violating journalistic integrity.

                • Ferris, this isn’t an article; it’s a comment. As such, I’m under no “fairness” requirement and am therefore free to express, to the limited extent I may while staying within the AS comment guidelines, my feelings about this comment stream, which ends…now.

                  • Ferris Valyn

                    I am not talking about the comments section – I am talking about the article itself. Now, if you want to call that a comment, fine, whatever. But what is written up top isn’t just a “here is what was said” – it has editorial slant.

                    That is is the problem. The article (not the comments section) is what has a viewpoint.

  • Leonidas

    I’ve said it countless times before, I’ll say it again:

    Human space exploration and settlement, as an endeavour (and if we want to be serious about it), requires 5 crucial factors:

    a) The political will to do it,
    b) adequate and firmly established funding,
    c) boldness and vision, commitment and leadership,
    d) an acceptance of the inherent risk of human spaceflight,
    e) a ‘no limits’ mindset, that embraces the view that we aren’t forever chained to one planet.

    Sadly, all 5 factors are tragically absent in today’s culture. And not only that, the trend is to move further away from enabling these factors.

    And that’s the reason we are still and will probably continue to be stuck on Earth, and just keep chasing our tails here.

    As for the politics: In my own personal opinion, Romney promises nothing. The only think he agrees on with Obama, is the continuation of the commercial transportation program, (which is a really good thing!). Other than that, concerning beyond LEO, where is NASA going? SLS (a project already stretched out too far into the future) faces a real danger of being delayed more, by impending funding cuts. Who guarrantees that it won’t get scrapped along the way like Constellation?

    Will Romney stick to his January 2012 promise and fire his stuff if he assembles his ‘blue ribbon committee’ of experts and they come up with plans for Moon settlement? And if he implements a 5% cut across the board as he has promised, where does that leave NASA? The space agency as it is, can’t even participate in the ExoMars mission for crying out loud, and it will be able to have a ‘bold new direction’ in space with all the looming budget cuts?

    Beyond the poetic rhetoric, Obama has already demonstrated his ‘support’ for the space program. Is Romney going to be better? Judging from his campaign speeches, I don’t think so. As Jason Rhian cleverly pointed out in a previous article on this site, the verdict is:

    None of the above!

    • I wish NOTA were an option. But you raise great points about the cultural state of America that undermines the political will to do anything extraordinary. I’m to the point where I don’t care which Party can dream big, and then act on it, I just want someone to do so.

      As I see it, the only real difference between the two candidates is that we know the Obama Administration will continue to interfere with, all with a goal of ending, Orion and SLS where Romney is implying he will go along with Congress on these. We also know that any promises by the Obama campaign on space are specious and that Romney’s are nebulous.

      Like I said, I wish NOTA were an option.

      • Leonidas

        Dear Jim,

        I sincerely admire your passionate support for the space program and I admire the work that you put into AmericaSpace. I come often to this site to read serious analyses and articles on space exploration.

        Yes, I wish NOTA was an option too. I was just expressing my own feelings about the situation.

        As for the Obama Administration, I have to agree with you that it has demonstrated its intentions about the space program and they are hardly ‘supportive’ despite the propaganda, and Romney is nebulous at best.

        I also want someone to just come forward and show some vision, but this is the core of the problem: there is noone. And the key thing here is that it’s not supposed to be what a President wants, it’s supposed to be what the people want, and right now, the people (for the most part) aren’t exactly supportive of the space program. People by a wide margin, regard space exploration as a ‘special interest’ thing, a waste of money and resources. The politicians just react on the public’s attitude.

        Plain and simple, space isn’t considered a priority. It’s on the bottom of the ladder right now. And that ill-advised view is the product of a lack of education by the public, and lack of realisation of the importance of space research and exploration on our daily lives. That view is so catastrophic, that it can be considered suicidal.

        As with all good things, we just can’t rely on politicians to show vision for space exploration. The people must demand it from them. And for this to occur, a shift must happen to the cultural mindset on the US.

        At least that’s the way I see it.

        With sincere regards,

        Leonidas

        • You’re right, space isn’t that big of an issue. Maybe, and it’s just my guess, that’s because in large part the American people don’t know what their space agency is up to?

          When I was in Houston recently visiting some friends, it turned-out that Endeavour was also nearby at Ellington Field. Driving from Houston Hobby airport to Ellington Field is normally a 15 minute drive. Because of the crowds streaming-in, that drive took me 2 1/2 hours. And when I left at 8 PM, an hour before NASA was to close-down for public viewing of the Shuttle, I joked with one NASA guard that there would be a riot if they really tried to do so–he laughed and acknowledged that he’d be working late that night. Leaving Ellington, traffic was still backed for mikes. I guess we’d expect that of Houston, something of a space town.

          But when a Shuttle fly-by stops traffic dead in the DC area, not a “space town”, it is my feeling that this is evidence of a yearning by the American people to see what we are doing in space. Whoever thought of the Shuttle fly-by’s is a genius worthy of a Collier and a huge thank you from all of us.

          The best picture I think I took was not of the Shuttle alone, it was of the People milling around their spacecraft, the craft that they were willing to spend hours in traffic just to see. And it strikes me that this is what NASA has lost sight of and why it’s public support isn’t stronger.

          Everything NASA builds belongs to the American people. They want to see and touch their spaceships. And there is no legitimate reason that they shouldn’t have the opportunity to do so yearly, even if it is from a distance.

          So I hope that, going forward, NASA regularly shows to the American people what has been done in their name. For example, when the Orion ETF-1 spacecraft has been analyzed after its mission, it should spend the next several years on the road, visiting every major city and not so major towns to show the people their spaceship that was in space. And all subsequent spacecraft should get the same treatment before ending up on static display.

          • Leonidas

            Jim, that’s really good news to hear, that people were waiting in line by the thousands to experience seeing the shuttle. I don’t live in the US, so I don’t have a first-hand impression of this.

            You’re right, NASA really needs to engage the public more on what’s happening. In all fairness, the agency has made a really good progress in this field in recent years, but all of this public’s hunger should be adressed. When the public really gets the bigger picture of what’s happening in the space program and what it all means, then it will be knocking down on doors to be part of it.

  • JohnDB

    It’s disappointing to see AS anointing Romney as NASA’s savior. Naturally, many space enthusiasts are disappointed with Obama’s space policy and the chronic shortfalls of Congressional funding. However, it’s terribly naive to blithely assume Romney will follow through on his words. Given his well documented record of shifting positions on issues big & small, it’s a huge leap of faith to trust ANYTHING he says.

    One can also make the argument that space policy is secondary in importance to economic policy. If Romney, as promised, returns to the laissez faire policies that tanked the economy in the first place, NASA will find itself in a far worse long term situation than it’s in today.

    • You make an interesting point that space policy is secondary to industrial policy. I believe that a strong industrial policy is vitally important for the nation, and that opposition to such by the GOP is a mistake. The old argument that the gov’t shouldn’t pick winners or losers is a side-show; out government does that everyday whether through research grants, contracts, tax treatment, etc.

      Space policy is but a part of industrial policy. Our aerospace industry is one of the few local-based manufacturing sectors that keeps our balance-of-trade with the rest of the world from going off into the abyss.

      The damage wrought by the Obama Administration to our space program, and therefore our nation’s aerospace industrial base, would be far worse but for the insistence by Congress that it build Orion and the SLS. As it is, many at the NASA centers will tell you that though the damage has been limited, none-the-less NASA is, while being turned into a contracting agency, loosing its engineering and technical heart.

      The Obama Administration fought tooth-and-nail against both of the Orion and SLS programs since those programs were created by Congress in the 2010 NASA Authorization Act, signed by the President in October 2010. Every single subsequent NASA budget by the Administration has sought to substantially cut both programs. In the summer of 2011 the Democratic controlled Senate Commerce Committee subpoenaed NASA and was preparing a contempt hearing for the deliberate slow-rolling of SLS by NASA’s leadership. Just a year ago, NASA’s number one and two were telling us how our nation could not afford SLS.

      Today the Administration’s NASA team extol the wonders of lunar exploration–remember the NASA Administrator’s and Deputy Administrator’s quips that we’ve already been to the Moon and don’t need to return?–and of how useful Orion and SLS will be to a future human space exploration efforts. Nearly a month ago the Obama campaign released a space white paper that noted the benefits of Orion and SLS to space exploration. Why the change of heart?

      Nobody thinks that NASA’s leadership and those in the Administration such as Holdren and OMB’s Paul Shawcross, have changed their opinions on ending Orion and SLS. To these individuals, those programs are vestiges of the Bush Administration and must therefore be terminated.

      The reason I did not include the Obama campaign’s latest space policy release is that in the past President Obama has proven that his promises from the campaign trail mean little as President. One need look no farther than 4 years ago when Obama gave his Titusville speech, a speech amplified by the empty promises of Vice-President Joe Biden as he went up and down the Space Coast telling one and all how an Obama Administration would close the Shuttle-Orion/Ares 1 Gap and invigorate human spaceflight. The Obama campaign’s space policy paper was not presented because it is this writer’s opinion, supported by history, that they…”misdirect” and do so for only one reason, to win Florida. Florida voters got played by the first Obama campaign and got burned. Once bitten, twice shy.

      Sen. Bill Nelson has given the Obama Administration several opportunities to prove that it “gets it”, to prove that it is behind strengthening NASA’s exploration efforts. And so far, the distance on space policy between him and the Administration has remained. I trust Bill Nelson infinitely more than I do the Administration on space policy.

    • Ferris Valyn

      Its not that surprising, really. They were preparing to anoint Romney as the space savior for a while now.

      Whats really depressing is they can’t at least mark something that is an opinion clearly as such.

      • Ferris,

        I did debate whether to post this as opinion or not. In the end, I decided not to because the vast majority of the content is fact. In fact, of the 536 printed words, only 143, or 26.6% can be stretched as “opinion”. And if you add-in Obama’s Titusville speech, we’re now talking about 143 out of 1000 words, or 14.3%.

        Which part of the piece strikes you as “opinion”. Romney’s space white paper? Obama’s own words in 2008? The fact that Obama did not come through on his Titusville campaign promises? Neil Armstrong’s own words in 2010 that helped torpedo the Administration’s attempt to end Orion and any semblance of a national HSF?

        But you know, you raise a good point, so I’ve updated the post to include the transcript of President Obama’s words in the video.

        Journalism does not mean not calling a spade a spade. It means being fair and honest. I was.

        You seem to forget what candidate Obama promised in Florida; I’ll let his words re-inform you.

        President Obama’s Promise To The Space Coast
        Aug. 2, 2008, Titusville, FL

        All those things are just in the short term to tide people over. But we’ve got to rebuild our economy in a much more fundamental way. We’ve got to secure our long-term prosperity and strengthen our economy for the 21st Century. This is where the issue that Bill Nelson brought up is relevant. One of the areas in which we are in danger of loosing our competative edge is in science and technology, and nothing symbolizes that more than our space program.

        I’ve written about this in my book. I grew up in Hawaii. And I still remember sitting on my Grandfather’s shoulders as some of the astronauts were brought-in after their capsules had landed in middle of the Pacific. I could barely see them; I was waving at an American Flag. I remember my Grandfather explaining to me this is what America is all about. We can do anything when we put our mind to it. We can do anything when we put our mind to it. And that was what the space program described, that sense of possibility, of always reaching-out to new frontiers. When I was growing-up, NASA inspired the world with achievements that we are still proud of. Today we have an Administration that sets ambitious goals for NASA without giving NASA the support it needs to reach them. As a result, NASA has had to cut-back on research and trim their program, which means that after the Space Shuttle shuts down in 2010 we are going to have to rely on Russian spacecraft to keep us in orbit.

        Let me be clear…

        we cannot cede our leadership in space. That’s why I will help close the gap and ensure that our space program doesn’t suffer when the Shuttle goes out of service by working with Senator Bill Nelson to add at least one additional Space Shuttle flight beyond 2010; by supporting continued funding for NASA; by speeding the development of the Shuttle’s successor [Note: The only replacement to replace Shuttle at the time of this speech was the project of record Constellation’s Orion/Ares 1]; and by making sure that all those who work in the space industry in Florida do not lose their jobs when the Shuttle is retired – because we cannot afford to lose their expertise. [Note:Thousands have been laid-off with the demise of Shuttle.]

        More broadly, we need a real vision for space exploration. To help formulate this vision, I’ll reestablish the National Aeronautics and Space Council [Note: The NASC has not been reestablished.] so that we can develop a plan to explore the solar system – a plan that involves both human and robotic missions, and enlists both international partners and the private sector. And as America leads the world to long-term exploration of the moon, Mars, and beyond, let’s also tap NASA’s ingenuity to build the airplanes of tomorrow and to study our own planet so we can combat global climate change. Under my watch, NASA will inspire the world, make America stronger, and help grow the economy here in Florida.

        • Ferris Valyn

          Just read this, and you’ll have to explain something to me

          You said

          “The reason I did not include the Obama campaign’s latest space policy release is that in the past President Obama has proven that his promises from the campaign trail mean little as President.”

          But then you later said

          “Journalism does not mean not calling a spade a spade. It means being fair and honest. I was. ”

          I would call that a contradiction. But I try to remain intellectually honest.

          As for your re-posting of Obama’s speech – you are putting your own spin on something he did not say (I am reminded of the quote from Archie Goodwin to Inspector Cramer here – bonus points to anyone who can name the book this is from).

          As for people being laid off – I’d like to know where the Congress was for that, since it was NEVER included in the 2010 Authorization, but was included in FY2011

          • Hal Fulton

            Ferris,

            Both these statements you quote are accurate and non-contradictory. What is the problem?

            Hal

            • Joe

              Agreed Hal.

              Ferris time to move on.

            • Ferris Valyn

              No, they are contradictory.

              Jim’s claim is that Obama’s policy releases are not reliable, and therefore doesn’t use them.

              Now, I have a fundamental problem with that claim, but I’ll leave that to the side for the moment.

              He then says his job isn’t to call a spade a spade, but to be fair and honest. Therefore, he should, by default, provide that data to his readers, because whats fair is to provide both sides of the report, and any additional that may impact the statement from both sides.

              That is a contradiction. At least in my book.

              • Joe

                Ferris,
                (Note to Jim I promise this will be my last comment on this subject – As it is getting strange).

                He said “Journalism does not mean not calling a spade a spade.” That is just the opposite of what you just said “He then says his job isn’t to call a spade a spade”

                I know you are passionate about this, but you are letting your passion over rule your judgment.

                • Ferris Valyn

                  Passion has nothing to do with it. The logical conclusion of “fair and honest” is either calling a spade a spade, or at least letting people have all of the data that allows for them to determine whether a spade is a spade (or if you prefer, as my employer says “a f***ing shovel”)

  • Matt McClanahan

    I’m surprised by how optimistically Romney’s space policy is being spun here. When I read the white paper, I felt like I was back in the cold war. National security and military power projection are clearly the focus of the policy, not scientific discovery or exploration. The first paragraph of his signed introduction, for example, begins with:

    “America’s space program is a strategic national asset crucial to both our security and our economy. The space capabilities of the United States and its allies create strategic military and intelligence advantages that must be maintained.”

    Sounds like a great policy for the NRO and the USAF, but where does NASA fit in to that? This is the Ryan plan with Romney’s name on it.

    The phrase “pragmatic, sustainable trade-offs” is also disconcerting. There’s nothing at all pragmatic about the JWST, exploring Europa or Titan, or searching for exo-planets.

  • mike shupp

    I think the Romney space plan looks absolutely marvelous if you are already a Romney partisan. I don’t see much there for the rest of us. There’s not a mention in that document, for example, of planetary science or astronomy programs — which NASA has conducted for over 50 years. As for the manned space program, I see this:

    NASA will set the goals and lead the way in human space exploration, working from a clear roadmap in partnership with our allies, research institutions, and the private sector.

    That may look like the pathway to the stars for you. What I see is Near Earth Orbit operations — i.e., the ISS — and a couple of speeches. Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton could have made the same promises.

    Is the Obama program much better? Not especially, though at least by now we have an idea of what his future program might be, little as it is, and it will be somewhat more ambitious than Romney’s.

    My enduring suspicion is that regardless of who holds the White House, the USmanned space program will be limited to NEO until the latter half of this century, if not longer. There’s no stomach for anything bigger, no money, and — sadly — declining interest.

    • No, Mike, even the Romney partisans I know are not happy. We’re that but the case.

      We know that, at least over the past 2 years, the Obama folks have, despite strong Congressional support, tried mightily to end Orion and SLS, the only two programs that offer any hope for a future BEO human program. Now they seem for Orion and SLS and Charlie recently pitched an L2 station. Is this a real change of heart? Heck if I know.

      And what will Romney do if he wins? Will he try to cancel or starve the Orion and SLS programs? No. Will he shower NASA with money? No. Will Romney give us an L2 station, the beginnings of a return to the Moon? Unknown.

      But then, the White House still hasn’t acknowledged Charlie’s L2 proposal, so no dice there either.

      Space voters are down to lesser of evils, not happiness, this election.

      As to where we’ll be over the next decade, I agree. We’re in the baby-step phase and likely to remain there for a long while. It would be a big improvement if we would just stop canceling programs every few years.

      • Ferris Valyn

        You mean Republican voters who care about space are down to the lesser of evils.

        I know a lot of space voters who disagree with you

        • “I know a lot of space voters who disagree with you.

          And I know many more who don’t. :-) Even better, I’ve got Congress on my side. :-P

          • Ferris Valyn

            Not in Florida.

            And tell me, if Congressman Rohrabacher becomes Chairman Rohrabacher? And do you really think Senator Demint, should he become Ranking member on the Senate Commerce/Science is going to be your friend?

            This election is going to reshape space, in ways none of us (myself included) can really predict.

            And this is still an opinion piece. Label it as an editorial.

            • Jim Hillhouse

              I wish Congressman Rohrabacher better luck the second time than he had the first, if in fact Smith decides he doesn’t want the job of replacing Hall.

              All anyone needs to do to get Sen. Demint behind SLS and Orion is say that the Obama folks oppose it. Well, at least I hope.

              Oh, you’re right. There’s change coming. Perhaps not in the White House. But change is coming where it counts for space exploration.

            • Come down to the Space Coast with me Ferris and do a “Survivor” take-off. We’ll each be in a car with a mere 5 gal gas tank, so lots or stops to fill’er up; mine will be a red Buick with a “Obama Space Sucks-Honk If You Like Orion” bumper-sticker; yours will be a blue Volvo with a “Obama Space Rules-We’re Here To Take Your Shuttles” bumper-sticker. We’ll start at nighttime in Indian River Co., go through southern Brevard, Osceola, Orange, Seminole, Velusia, and culminate the trip by driving through the full length of Brevard County with a stop in Cape Canaveral, Cocoa Beach, and Satellite Beach.

              I’ll bet I get through the night better than you. :-)

              Otherwise, lighten up a bit. You’ll be better for it.

      • Karol

        Thank you Jim for providing some very interesting, and important, material for consideration and discussion. We all love the engineering “nuts and bolts”, but Dan is correct – “no bucks, no Buck Rogers”, so like it our not we must give the issue our serious consideration, and given the high quality of the discussion, I can think of no better place to do so than AmericaSpace. Inasmuch as there seems to be a consensus, albeit a reluctant one, that the much needed funding to allow NASA to create the program of space exploration we would all like to see is not likely to be forthcoming regardless of the election outcome, perhaps we should look to other objectives. At the end of the last congressional session, Rep. John Culberson (R.Tx) introduced with the support of Rep. Frank Wolf (R.Va.), Bill Posey (R.Fl.), Pete Olsen (R.Tx.) James Sensenbrenner (R.Wi.) and Lamar Smith (R.Tx.) the Space Leadership Preservation Act. The Act will probably be addressed in the post-election session and seeks to “de-politicize” NASA to the extent possible, and eliminate situations such as the cancellation of 27 programs over the last 30 years at a cost of 20 billion dollars. The bill would create a ten year term for the NASA Administrator who would be chosen from candidates selected by a panel of scientists and former astronauts. The goal would be for decisions to be based on science, not politics. A Board of Directors would provide quadrennial review of programs to enhance stability of leadership and allow long-term planning and appropriations. The internal leadership of NASA would be based be based on the model of the FBI and the National Science Foundation. Without question, there would be numerous issues to be resolved as there is with any legislation. Given the fact that there is always funding available to do that for which we have the national will, and we seem to love our space program until we are handed the bill, perhaps we should look to an Administration that would not oppose needed structural reform and a plan to create a stable, long-term means for planing and funding? (While not taking an axe to the SLS and Orion). Adequate funding would be great, but perhaps we must “take what we can get”. Thank you Jim for providing this unique venue where such issues can be discussed in an intelligent, civil manner. With sincere respect and highest esteem, Karol

        • Karol,

          Dan Adamo is usually right when he says something, so it will be a very usual event when I disagree with him. And I don’t when it comes to the issue of Bucks. I just believe that I can get a “Mini-Buck Rogers With A Few Bucks” not because I want to but because, looking at ourselves and our partners, it is clear that boldness has gone. So what should we do? Hope it will return? Or adapt to our probable long-term realities?

          Taking stock of where we are, Congress has mandated, and for the most part funded as promised though likely not adequately for the schedule, two programs that will within the next 3 years give us a human rated spacecraft and within 5 years give us a heavy-lift rocket. And Congress is committed to funding commercial crewed spacecraft development. If we have the parts to make a return lunar program even remotely possible, down the road, “Vision” or not, it becomes more probable.

          And “Vision” or not, we will in the next 3-4 years face a decision of what to do in space, stick with ISS or focus on the Moon. Our ISS partners are telling anyone who will listen that they want to spend what little but precious funds they have for human spaceflight on returning to the Moon, not maintaining a 20-25 year old low-earth orbiting space station that can contribute little or nothing to a lunar program. Yes, some will say, “But what about using ISS as a lunar jump point?” It’s obvious that, with the current and future budget constraints of ours and those of our partners, we will be barely able to afford one and can certainly not afford both.

          I don’t believe we’ll see another Kennedy, a President with “Vision”, for decades. But I believe firmly that if by 2020 we have a functioning Orion, a nearly-completed SLS Block II, are working on Multi-Purpose Logistics Modules (MPLM) as habitable facilities to extend our exploration reach, and the commercial guys are close to flying actual crew-rated craft, the decision in 2017-2018 by us and our partners to refocus on the Moon is a lot easier than if none of that exists. I’m a firm advocate of a “Baby-Steps” space exploration program being better than no program at all.

  • cui bono

    “…transformation of NASA into a mere contracting agency for companies whose own technical skills and understanding of human space flight do not match that of NASA circa 1964, much less today.”

    Oh, there you go again!

    Given equal time and resources, SpaceX could beat NASA back to the moon, to Mars, or to any rock you might care to nominate.

    What they and others have is the *spirit* of NASA in 1964, which NASA has long since lost in its bureaucratic sofa, or which the porkers in Congress have stolen away.

    • We’re it not for NASA engineers as well as Elon’s sheer guts to take risks, SpaceX would not be in business today.

      Here’s why. According to Elon Musk during an interview on “60 Minutes” with Scott Pelly, had the 4th flight of Falcon 1 been unsuccessful, SpaceX would have gone out of business. You can find the video here,

      http://m.youtube.com/#/watch?v=PNwg8FvfuuU&desktop_uri=%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DPNwg8FvfuuU

      Forward to 9:02 for the money quote.

      What he does not go on to say is that the 4th flight was in part a success because of a review team, of which NASA engineers were members, helped SpaceX solve the engineering and processing problems plaguing Falcon 1 such as fuel sloshing (Flt 2’s failure) and staging (Flt 3’s failure). Ask a SpaceX engineer who was around at that time–I have and none have denied it.

      And why should they. Newton was right about standing on the shoulders of giants.

      And of course, SpaceX can teach NASA how to again be more like NASA of the 1950’s and 1960’s. NASA and contractor engineers and management should spend as much time learning why SpaceX is possibly cheaper than they.

      What hurt NASA according to NASA folks I talk to was being an operations, and not an exploration, agency for 30 years, not Congress. Going from operating a human-rated spacecraft for a generation to trying to develop a new human-rated system on a budget is challenging. And let’s not forget that the only people to do that are NASA (McDonnell Douglass and Boeing really), Russia, and the Chinese. Within the next 5 years, hopefully SpaceX and Sierra Nevada will joint that elite but small club.

      • Ferris Valyn

        Of course, the real question is will Jim actually mark something that is opinion as such, rather than treating it as news….

        • Jim Hillhouse

          I did debate whether to post this as opinion or not. In the end, I decided not to because the vast majority of the content is fact. In fact, of the 536 printed words, only 143, or 26.6% can be stretched as “opinion”. And if you add-in Obama’s Titusville speech, we’re now talking about 143 out of 1000 words, or 14.3%.

          Which part of the piece strikes you as “opinion”. Romney’s space white paper? Obama’s own words in 2008? The fact that Obama did not come through on his Titusville campaign promises? Neil Armstrong’s own words in 2010 that helped torpedo the Administration’s attempt to end Orion and any semblance of a national HSF?

          But you know, you raise a good point, so I’ve updated the post to include the transcript of President Obama’s words in the video.

          Journalism does not mean not calling a spade a spade. It means being fair and honest. I was.

          You seem to forget what candidate Obama promised in Florida; I’ll let his words re-inform you.

          President Obama’s Promise To The Space Coast
          Aug. 2, 2008, Titusville, FL

          All those things are just in the short term to tide people over. But we’ve got to rebuild our economy in a much more fundamental way. We’ve got to secure our long-term prosperity and strengthen our economy for the 21st Century. This is where the issue that Bill Nelson brought up is relevant. One of the areas in which we are in danger of loosing our competative edge is in science and technology, and nothing symbolizes that more than our space program.

          I’ve written about this in my book. I grew up in Hawaii. And I still remember sitting on my Grandfather’s shoulders as some of the astronauts were brought-in after their capsules had landed in middle of the Pacific. I could barely see them; I was waving at an American Flag. I remember my Grandfather explaining to me this is what America is all about. We can do anything when we put our mind to it. We can do anything when we put our mind to it. And that was what the space program described, that sense of possibility, of always reaching-out to new frontiers. When I was growing-up, NASA inspired the world with achievements that we are still proud of. Today we have an Administration that sets ambitious goals for NASA without giving NASA the support it needs to reach them. As a result, NASA has had to cut-back on research and trim their program, which means that after the Space Shuttle shuts down in 2010 we are going to have to rely on Russian spacecraft to keep us in orbit.

          Let me be clear…

          we cannot cede our leadership in space. That’s why I will help close the gap and ensure that our space program doesn’t suffer when the Shuttle goes out of service by working with Senator Bill Nelson to add at least one additional Space Shuttle flight beyond 2010; by supporting continued funding for NASA; by speeding the development of the Shuttle’s successor [Note: The only replacement to replace Shuttle at the time of this speech was the project of record Constellation’s Orion/Ares 1]; and by making sure that all those who work in the space industry in Florida do not lose their jobs when the Shuttle is retired – because we cannot afford to lose their expertise. [Note:Thousands have been laid-off with the demise of Shuttle.]

          More broadly, we need a real vision for space exploration. To help formulate this vision, I’ll reestablish the National Aeronautics and Space Council [Note: The NASC has not been reestablished.] so that we can develop a plan to explore the solar system – a plan that involves both human and robotic missions, and enlists both international partners and the private sector. And as America leads the world to long-term exploration of the moon, Mars, and beyond, let’s also tap NASA’s ingenuity to build the airplanes of tomorrow and to study our own planet so we can combat global climate change. Under my watch, NASA will inspire the world, make America stronger, and help grow the economy here in Florida.

          • Ferris Valyn

            Its the last two paragraphs that are the problems. Those aren’t written with a view towards equity, or giving both sides a chance.

            Had you not included those, or written them significantly different, I’d have no room to complain

  • I think you all have misspelled NOTA.
    It’s spelled NEWT!
    . . Oh wait . . . he was laughed out of the campaign for expressing a bold plan for our Future in Space.
    If Romney is serious about that part of our future, he will offer Newt the post of Secretary of Transportation. I agree with Jim; we need a change of direction. And, maybe with the current President’s “support” for Commercial Space removed, the Conservatives in Congress will have no further excuse to oppose it. They may remember that private business does a lot of things better than government. SpaceX is a small business (compared to Boeing or Lockeed). Not as small a business as mine, but still.

    • JohnDB

      Do you honestly believe Gingrich was serious? His “bold plan” to build a lunar colony was laughed at because it was such a transparent, cynical, desperate attempt to buy Space Coast primary votes. Even Fox News made fun of it!

      In this particular election, a change of direction might not be a good thing for NASA. If Obama is the “devil we know”, Romney is surely the “devil we DON’T know”. Given Mitt’s established track record of 180 degree course reversals, he could easily end up being far worse for NASA.

      Like you, I support growing the commercial space industry though it’s hard to imagine it ever going much beyond LEO (not profitable). If we’re going to the Moon or Mars, it will only happen with government approval and taxpayer dollars.

      • Ferris Valyn

        1) Go back and look at Newt’s history. I can say a lot of things. But the reality is, Gingrich has tried to do a lot for space (and remember, I am a Democrat)).

        2) If going to the moon or mars is not profitable, then we might as well give up the dream of space settlement. Because if there isn’t money to be made, then ultimately people won’t go.

        • Leonidas

          Ferris,

          You have raised a very good point and you have touched the heart of the problem! The way I see it, the problem with today’s culture is: Impatience. Everyone wants immediate profit-no risk involved. The ‘fast food’ culture. The problem with that mindset is that ultimately you limit your horizons and scope, only to what is short-term profitable. This way, long-term vision, investment and ultimate profit is deemed ‘unacceptable’, ‘dangerous’ and ‘risky’. No wonder that human space exploration today is in the state it is. Space settlement as an endeavor and what it represents, comes in sharp contrast to today’s cultural mindset.

          Ultimately, as a culture you get what you pay for. If you are unable or unwilling to dream big and invest in it, you’ll end up coming short. History is full of examples of the dangers of this viewpoint. As the saying goes, someone who doesn’t learn history’s lessons, will repeat its mistakes.

          • Ferris Valyn

            Leonidas

            I am sorry, but that is crap. Yes, I would say that it is true about large swaths of our investing class, but it is NOT true about the populace at large.

            You talk about dreaming big, but you are afraid to practice it. Stand up and be for space settlement. This idea of “our goal should be the moon or Mars” or whatever is crap. Lets make it explicit – its about settlement.

            But if you are going to make it about settlement, then you have to be prepared to pass the ultimate test of society – to have a positive measurable ROI to society. And a lot of how we measure ROI is through monetary means. That doesn’t mean people have to cheer to pay taxes, some small percentage of which goes towards space. They have to be prepared to turn over their money directly to space settlement, and large amounts of it. The most obvious reason to do that is a better future (which is likely to include more money). You have to convince the African-American single mom, barely making ends meet, to spend money on space. You have to convince the farmer in Iowa, the logger in Washington, the Alaskan fisherman… In short, you have to make them a consumer of space (not a user, a consumer – big difference)

            Jeff Greason made a very good point about this. There is an emerging awareness that the goal of all of this is settlement. The problem is we don’t know that we can actually do this. And this scares a lot of the space community. Because what it means is we are pursuing a goal, with unknown results, that we may fail at because its too hard. Many people would rather play at doing space, and keep the illusion that maybe someday we’ll settle space, rather than actually bet it all on the goal and justification which may lead to ultimate success. Because that means failure must be an option.

            And the other side of the coin is this – if you make the goal space settlement, you have to start building metrics about how you are doing with that. And we have past the point where any money spent on space has a mostly positive benefit towards the goal of space settlement.

            In short – when someone says we need to go to the moon, or build a space station, or go to mars, or some other single point destination, we should find that unacceptable.

            WE should be willing to say “The goal is 3 million people in space, among the moon, mars, asteroids and free-space.” And then be prepared to give up any money that isn’t advancing that goal.

  • Leonidas

    Ferris,

    Thank you for your comment. Point very well taken. Then I re-read your original post and mine, to see if I had misunderstood something.

    When I talk of space exploration, I see it as a precursor ultimately to space settlement. Personally when talking of space, I never held the idea that the goal should be just one destination. Many people say ‘we should go to the Moon’ or ‘we should only go to Mars’. But what about the rest of space? To use a crude analogy, it’s like saying ‘we should only live in Europe, or South America’.

    Space settlement would be the biggest undertaking humanity could ever take. The risks are astronomical and you could very much fail. There is no guarantee. And if it succeeds the profits could be of the same magnitude. And you can’t know if you can do it until you try, but you have to comitt to that, otherwise you’re fooling yourself.

    I don’t know, maybe I come off as naive, but the whole point of my original post was that the world as a whole (I wasn’t talking about the US only) is unwilling to do that. As you point out, countries aren’t willing to give their money for that. It’s just my personal opinion, but this is what I find as ‘lack of vision’, considering the other areas that enormous amounts of money are spent each year, with little or no ROI as I see it.

    • Ferris Valyn

      When you say Space exploration, you may see it as the precursor to space settlement. But I guarantee you, many elected officials don’t (at least in the US). I’ve spoken with staffers and Congressional reps, and raised the point about space settlement. Specifically, I’ve asked about how visions of space settlement are driving young people to companies like SpaceX, and shouldn’t this emerging goal of space settlement inform our plans.

      The response I’ve gotten is “[Congress] doesn’t know if Space settlement, or even space development, will have any value”

      And mind you, the people I am talking about were from “Space States” (I won’t name specific names, because these were all private, off the record conversations, but if I did, you would say “Oh yea, s/he’s got a space interest”)

      As for the rest of the world – again, the problem there is magnified further, because space isn’t something the average person does. Its what governments do, and only governments do.

      You have to turn individual human beings into consumers of space. Do that, and the flood gates of money open. It has nothing to do with vision. It has everything to do with “normal people aren’t allowed to go here”

  • Leonidas

    “It has everything to do with “normal people aren’t allowed to go here”

    That phrase intrigued me!

    I’m just speculating here, but since politicians seem to view the space program as their pet program, and since space is by a wide margin a ‘government thing to do’, isn’t the case that governments don’t want to lose the conrol they have over it? Maybe because if people are allowed to go there, and the flood gates open, governments won’t be able to control it as they want.

    Does it all ultimately come down to power and control?

    • Ferris Valyn

      No and Yes.

      For most people (and I would include most elected officials here) there is a combination of “accidents of history” that have resulted in a situation where by space is a “government” thing, not an individual thing. Some of this is a technical/cost thing, but some of it results from decisions made in a time, where significant alterations were not really considered, because the existing worldview didn’t allow it.

      We all know the history of how the Space Program grew out of the cold war, and because of those events, our history of space was shaped a certain way. Whats interesting is that there was another pathway (closer to a NewSpace mindset) that was suggested by the space exploration prior to the 1960s. There is a talk by Alex MacDonald that points out how space exploration was vastly different prior to the 1960s (yes there was space exploration, of sorts, dating back to the 1800s) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MNbYP77bWxM

      Its a very fascinating talk.

      The point of this is that when we started sending stuff to space, most leaders of the world weren’t asking “how can space help us” and “how can spaceflight benefit the average person.” It was all in the context of the Cold war, and the view of space as part of a military campaign. You can trace this across many elected officials. If memory serves me correct, Eisenhower was opposed to the idea of holding a press conference after the launch of Explorer I. For all the claims about Kennedy, its known that he didn’t actually care that much about space, as space. And this goes on, and its not just presidents.

      And those decisions resulting in a culture that really has never asked the questions of how you go from exploration to settlement. In many respects, the situation with the shuttle, its inability to meet its original goals and the like, resulted from this skewed focus.

      To put it bluntly – the people who were asking the questions of going from exploration to settlement, who were asking about the value of space as space, largely came from a purely technical/scientific/engineering world viewpoint. There did not exist a way for the average person to become a part of it, beyond the narrowly defined path provided by the government. To put it another way – the only way to care about space was if you were a scientist, or an engineer, or maybe a technician. If you were a farmer, or a teacher, fitness instructor, you didn’t have a role to play in space.

      Again, this isn’t to imply some sort of conspiracy – merely accident of history. You can compare this with the rise of the internet – people created their own paths to the internet. And yes, I don’t deny that cost played a role, but you see the difference – people are consumers of internet.

      Now, that said, there is a small group of people who I think do view it as being about power and control. And, IMHO, that group exists largely in the traditional Space Industrial base, and its tied to that cultural situation I’ve laid out above.

  • Leonidas

    Ferris,

    Thanks for the link. I’ll give it some time to watch it.

    I really liked your analysis. It was on the spot. I’m not implying either that there’s a ‘conspiracy’ (I really hate that type of thinking). It all comes down to the consequences of the reasons why humanity went to space in the first place. Space has always been to the powers that be, a geopolitical driver. And there’s a portion of the public today that sees the space program as a relic of the Cold War, something that we should leave behind in this time and age (I find that very sad by the way).

    And you’re right about ‘accidents of history’. History is full of them. And they shape future events in ways so subtle we can’t recognise.

    Before the flight of Gagarin in 1961, Kennedy had asked NASA and the Department of Foreign Affairs to make recommendations for a tighter US-Soviet co-operation in space. Hadn’t Gagarin’s historic flight taken place, things might have been very different. But that fateful day on April 1961 defined the landscape for decades to come. It was this historic event that shaped Kennedy’s commitment to ‘put a man on the Moon and returm him safely to the Earth, by the end of the decade’.

    Even after Kennedy has delivered his speech, he was still worried about the vast amounts of money the Apollo program would require. That’s one of the reasons why he had asked Nikita Khrushchev a couple of times, to join the US in the ‘exploration of space’. Yet Lyndon Johnson wasn’t very much happy with this prospect. He saw Apollo as a completely American endeavor. Kennedy’s assasination was another crucial ‘accident of history’ in this regard.

    So, had a few things been different, the space program would probably have taken a completely different trajectory.

    There are those people that say, that the Apollo program came too early, too fast, because of the political climate of the day. They say that hadn’t humanity beem rushed into a Space Race because of the geopolitical factors, and had it followed Von Braun’s 1950’s initial plans of step-by-step space settlements, from space stations to trips to the Moon, to ultimate trips to Mars, space settlement would have been realised.

    We can never know where all the alternate paths would have taken us. But there is an important lesson to be gained here, by studying the reasons we went to space in the first place, and how ‘accidents of history’ completely shape the course of events. Understanding that the initial reasons for going to space aren’t relevant, maybe we could realise the right ones, by finally asking how can space help us and how spaceflight can benefit the average person.

    • Ferris Valyn

      Leonidas – so, to bring this conversation full circle – when JohnDB says going beyond LEO will only happen by tax dollars, know that you (the proverbial you) is setting yourself up for another accident of history.

      Or to move it to another location – know that when you embrace a program that has all the same trappings of Apollo (in the form of Constellation) or retains the same setup as Shuttle (in the form of SLS) know that you are repeating the same accidents of history.

      To put it a different way – the problem with SLS wasn’t that it was a big rocket. The problem is that commercially based heavily lift was NEVER GIVEN A CHANCE. And thus we repeat the accidents of history.

      And those that want to merely play at doing spaceflight can continue.

  • Leonidas

    Commercial Heavy Lift is considered a possibility for beyond LEO for my money. It deserves a fair chance.

    I really can’t understand all the feud between advocates of both government and commercial space. Private industry was an integral part of the space program right from the start.

    My personal opinion is that given the state the US program is today, with no means to get a crew even to LEO, we just can’t afford to rule out commercial heavy lift as an option. In all honesty, I’m skeptical if commercial HLV can pull it off, but we aren’t gonna find out until we give it a fair try, aren’t we? Provided of course NASA isn’t scaled back in its efforts.

    Sometimes you have to be innovative and try different approaches to problems.

    • Ferris Valyn

      Leonidas

      This is where we pass from control being an accident of history, to that which is actively encouraged.

      The fact is, commercially heavy lift will be cheaper, but it will be cheaper because the amount of labor involved will be a lot less. It also means NASA will no longer have a rocket that is just for it. And that large portions of the technological and skill base developed for Shuttle has no future.

      These facts scare a lot of people (including Mr. HillHouse).

      • Leonidas

        Ferris, I really hope it will be cheaper. I wish it every success! And I really wish Space X’s tries to fully reusable rocket stages to flourish. Resuable and cheaper means to orbit are long overdue!

        The jury is out. My hope is that we’ll see some exciting stuff the next few years.