Comments on President Bush's new space policy?

Your comments thus far:


With all due respect to space advocates who view the new space policy as a positive thing, I am a space advocate who sees it in an entirely different light. I look at the same policy and see a shutdown of U.S. human spaceflight in 2010. Beyond that, there is an incredibly unchallenging timeline for retuning to the Moon. This bold vision is no more than political double speak.


Manned missions to space are financially irresponsible and totally unrequired at the present time. We can gain all the same benefits and more with robotic missions at one tenth of the price. The benefits from the robotic technology development to humans are much greater and immediate than technology advancements due to manned missions. Additionally, the cost savings from these robotic missions can be applied to improve life for earthbound humans. For 40 years, NASA has been sending humans to space claiming we are benefiting from what experiments they perform, when they have been performing the same damn experiments over and over. We are gaining nothing from the ISS and will not gain anything immediate from manned missions either. Let us go to space to build outposts and such but do it all with robots. Only then we should consider sending humans into space. Imagine the technology gained by such ambitions and how that technology is directly applicable to improving life, right here on earth. For a tenth of the cost we get one hundred fold or more in return. Don't be fooled by the politics and the romance of seeing a person prancing around on the Moon or Mars. Be practical in your space ambitions. Our planet can not afford to sustain manned space missions for little or no return in the investment. Thank you for your attention.



I applaud Pres. Bush's attempt to provide NASA some direction. However, after observing NASA's attempt to respond in the last few weeks, I am not encouraged by what I see. Sean O'Keefe seems to be good for NASA from a political viewpoint but his background is military and his Godfather Dick Cheney is also defense oriented. In turn Generals and Admirals have been brought in to run NASA and the Exploration Initiative. While these people have leadership experience, they are severely lacking in space program background. Going to the Moon and Mars is not the same as building or flying airplanes. Should I conclude that the real objective of going back to the moon is military related. If not, I wish for the best but worry about the ability of these people to get us there.


It is amazing that NASA was set up as a "civilian" agency in 1958, under the rubric of Ike's admonition about the "military/industrial" complex. The Space Science Board and those involved, such as John Foster Dulles, called for a civilian agency to assure a focus on space as a place for scientific, peaceable exploration. Post 9/11 and in the thros of the paradigm shift initiating war, NASA and its contractors are being taken over by retired military. Military Shuttle pilots are ok, it is in the bowls of the Program that I am concerned.

The espirit d'corps of ring knockers with their readiness reviews defies the culture NASA blossomed from. NASA was a place to dream not scheme. Swagger stick prodding does not bring focus and just does not work in an R&D world. As this course has been laid and reinforced with more military retiring into NASA's coffers, there appears to be a future where the avaracious little beasts will consume themselves, and nothing will get done.

NASA will never change, because the military mindset cannot change. We are in need of a revolution not evolution, and our tedious marching in cadance is stiffling what we all do best in this space buisness, think outside the box, or in quantum think, see no box at all. Somehow this Administration must stand tall, and get the message. NASA is a civilian agency involved in great risky business. Congress passed Public Law 85-804, Indemnification for Ultrahazardous Activity, relating to the nuclear industry and the Space Shuttle. Our melt down is not in flight assets, nor in infrastructure, it is in a rusting workforce. It is better to wear out than rust out, and the stagnant inertia housed in military leadership seems to portend a fate where we are so safe and so perfect in quality that we will never launch. We will always be ready, but we will never launch.

If we have the guts to be proactive in war, we should be equally resolved to take on this ultrahazardous activity, and go up hill. If it takes bringing the bold, the brave, and even the brash to push the button, so be it. I am not advocating recklessness, but relentless pursuit of our dream, where the risks we perceive define our duty, a duty which must include going back to doing what we do so well. Those of us in this business know what that is, Let's Roll!


Editor, NASA Watch:

As a long time space enthusiast and amateur astronomer, I welcome any new initiative that pushes mankind further into space. However, as a non-American (a Canadian) I would like to offer a different point of view. The exploration and exploitation of space cannot and should not be the work of one country, but rather the work of all countries that can and wish to contribute. Rather than having the US run a program and inviting a few tag-along countries, I suggest an international consortium modelled on INTELSAT (see http://samadhi.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/Programs/intelsat.html for a brief description of how INTELSAT operates). Governmental agencies, non-governmental organisations, and private businesses could contribute funds and expertise to long-term space exploration and exploitation of space resources, and expect financial returns in proportion to their investment. In this scheme, the US could keep those space programs that it considers to be in its own vital militiary, security or economic interests (and pay for them itself) and work through the consortium to accomplish the longer term more expensive manned and unmanned exploration programs. I know that Americans don't like to be involved in any international program that it doesn't completely control and bend to its own benefit, but perhaps now you have a chance to change that.


Comments on President Bush's new Moon-Mars Initiative:

As a member of the science community, science-driven programs such as Discovery and Explorer are especially important to me. However, I feel that some missions can be equally justified on the merits of pure Exploration. Therefore, I applaud NASA's new focus on Exploration as a major theme in its planning for the next few decades. I think the upcoming manned missions to the Moon and Mars will generate a groundswell of public excitement. However, the manned program needs an engaging spokesman such as Steve Squyres of the Mars Rovers team to communicate effectively. Most of NASA's spokesmen for their manned program are boring or worse, and that sadly includes Administrator O'Keefe who is addicted to talking like an insurance actuarial statistician.

There are some interesting aspects of the upcoming missions to the Moon that the media have overlooked so far. First, somewhere in America today there lives the First Woman on the Moon. Her first footsteps will capture immense headlines.

Second, there has been no word from NASA as to HOW they will again land a crew on the Moon. Will they use the tried-and-true method of Lunar Orbit Rendezvous, with a separate Lunar Lander? Or will they utilize a Direct Approach, landing the entire CEV on the Moon? I would appreciate a public debate on the merits of each approach.

Third, where on the Moon will these landings occur? It appears that the polar areas have gotten a lot of media attention because of the possibilty of water ice in those locations. However, there are other sites on the Moon that are just as important to science and exploration as the polar zones. It would be instructive to dig out the old list of landing sites, from the Apollo program, that were considered for the cancelled Apollo 18, 19 and 20 missions. In addition, there was extensive planning for extensive field trips on the Moon as part of the cancelled Apollo Applications Program. It would be fun to dust those off and re-examine those plans as we prepare for our return to the Moon.

Concering a manned voyage to Mars, can a fly-by of Venus be utilized to open up an early-return window after the crew departs from Mars? Throwing in a Venus fly-by would also generate great PR since we would be visiting 2 planets with one mission, even though no landing on Venus would be recommended.

Also, will the CEV capsule utilize the splashdown mode or will it be designed for touchdown on dry land?

Lastly, I hope that the name "Constellation" doesn't apply directly to the new Crew Exploration Vehicle. It won't be so bad as the overall name of the entire program of manned deep space endeavors. However, I strongly urge NASA to pick a snappy, inspirational name such as APOLLO for the CEV itself. Perhaps it is now politically incorrrect to pick such pagan names as Gemini and Apollo, but I hope that O'Keefe, et al, can be brave enough to pick such a name. Nothing longer than 3 syllables, please. Also, no more PC names such as "Spirit" and "Opportunity." If NASA is to be bold and inspirational, then lets choose a name that reflects those qualities.


The sooner we get President Bush's Exploration Initiative going, the sooner we will get humans to Mars and learn what the planet is all about! I look at the 3+ weeks that it has taken the rovers to drill a little dust off a rock and proclaim it as volcanic. Then I imagine Harrison Schmidt landing, taking his hammer to the rock, and proclaiming the same thing...in about 5 minutes!

The Rovers are a prime example of why robots are NOT the way to explore space.

A member of NASA's Gen X: joined after Apollo and will leave before Mars.



Keith,

With Carleton S. Fiorina as a member of the Presidents Commission on Moon, Mars and Beyond I can only say... Good Luck.

In my opinion what she did to Hewlett Packard, was and still is extremely negligent. Lets hope she does better in space.



A still mad HP Stock Holder


As a student who has dreamed of spaceflight for years, I'm in tears over the decision to abandon the Hubble to a slow death before its time. Astronauts and manned missions are flashy and exciting, but it's the beauty of the images that Hubble returns that ignites a true and long-lasting love affair with the stars.

Without the Hubble images of M16 and M27 to remind me why I'm putting myself through the difficulty of studying astrophysics, I would not have made it to graduation.

- A heartbroken dreamer


Several people have said, God bless President Bush, this makes no sense to me, from my observations, Bush is God! As far a money to pay to pay for the space missions, the President has a blank check! Now really! Space. Any business man worth his or her salt knows, to take are business to lower income countries like India and China (Heck China is going that way anyways). As far as the ISS, the Russians are handleing things just fine ( Why fix something that's not broke). I'm all for this space stuff, always have been! This thing with President Bush, moon, mars, is nothing but politics. The only reason this space stuff came up again is because of the Chinese. Going to space is a real good idea, but it always seems to be for all the wrong reasons. I find it funny when presidents throw something out there past their term, I mean it's every new presidents job to undue eveything the former president has done. I've enjoyed reading other peoples opinions here, and I agree with about 90% of them! Everyone, have a nice day!


Keith,

Here's something to probe into... Why is it that seemingly ALL those writing on the Bush space policy act like there's this huge gap in space station access? As I recall, the plan is to test the Constellation s/c unmanned NLT FY08. Shuttle scuttle scheduled for circa FY10. Constellation ready to support beyond-LEO flights circa FY14. Is EVERYONE believing that it's going to take six years (about the duration of Mercury PLUS Gemini!) before a crew rides a Constellation?? I think you should dig into what the real deal is about this supposed gap.




After nearly three weeks, it is time for this commentator to pronounce judgment on Bush's space plan. After careful consideration, I would give Bush an A for convergence, a C - for financing, and a B+ for consideration.

At the same time, the space community and the larger non space community have also chimed in, with varying degrees of success with regards to destinations, critique, real space awareness, costs, benefits, and whether or not their favorite candidate for high political office favors or opposes the Bush plan for NASA, and how. Mostly they hate space because Bush proposed it, not because they inherently have any cogent, informed thought about space development and policy, the idea of a Spacefaring Civilization away from Earth. They don't, and never have. Some Presidential material, that!

Democrats as a whole apart from Presidential candidates largely decry NASA and Bush's plan, arguing the usual stale arguments about more social welfare spending being needed by their constituents, when the many trillions of dollars spent on social welfare spending could be in ending poverty, drug abuse, hopelessness, could be a bigger failure if we hadn't spend much less on space since the mid 1960's shall we say? Give you more billions for failed social welfare and educational systems that don't teach the most basic real fact about space development and settlement? Give more money for a failed system that does not emphasize individual property rights here on earth or out in space in any significant, effective way, promised much and delivered little? No more I say. I choose to invest in the future of man, in the future of freedom, and progress, for choice and rights, for space for everyone, here and now, and for generations yet to come, for the ages no less.

Waiting in space for everyone alike, rich and poor, is the future of the human race in generic as well as individual terms, because if the common man or woman is locked out of property rights in space, it should not be for lack of trying to get a grubstake on the High Frontier. Via any means necessary, and preferably by networked means if available, and cheap too.

With regards to space policy and programs, as well as an overarching goal via Presidential Mandate, the Columbia Accident Investigation Board report Volume I and parts of II, The Commission on the Future of the Aerospace Industry, the World Space Congress, and the Columbia accident itself, and the struggle to build to completion the International Space Station Alpha, then use it to the fullest with some focus and real purpose, all still await address, and we will account for our actions or lack thereof in the next few years if we do not get involved now. Each of these incidents or reports indicate the need for consensus, convergence, goals, and sustained effort for years to accomplish anything substantive and frontier enabling in space, which is sorely overdue. Columbia's destruction and the deaths of its crew are confirmation of the failed policies of cutting NASA's budget to meet overtly political needs to use space for purely political ends, a practice which has proven not only bankrupt, but also harmful to true progress in astronautics and space development/settlement as well. No more using space for purely p0litical reasons; space is important in and of itself, and should be recognized as such by all informed, aware people in the spacefaring nations.

It is time to not only reevaluate what we have been doing, how we have been doing it, but also create new demand for space that is individual driven, by networked means, for as many personal ends as is possible to conceive, and we should start now. This would give hope, a reason for discipline, study, learning and scholarship, teamwork and cooperation, to the youth of the US and the spacefaring nations as a whole. People who create their own futures via networked means, and build a future in space a piece, a spacecraft, a market and an industrial process or two all at the same time, are the real future of man, not further wars for poorly defined reasons, liberal social welfare programs that accomplish nothing over decades of time, and corporate greed as witnessed in the last few years that are obviously bankrupt policies, and should be abolished.

In their place, space development and settlement can provide all the adventure, excitement, commercial activity, and room for expansion for thousands of year, once we are truly anchored in space and making goods for use in space, tapping energy, and getting the common man and woman involved in a fundamental way. This is a better use of money from public and private sources than the rat holes we have been pouring money down in the last one to three decades, with nothing to show for it but more of the same, a decrease in personal freedoms, economic sluggishness, and the ongoing frauds of liberal and conservative politics as we have known them, corporate American malfeasance and corruption, and lying manipulative politicians who cut NASA's budget to make themselves and their policies look good, at NASA's expense.

A state, or city or group of cities and municipalities, counties, or other cooperative economic investment association can raise sufficient capital to build, test, fly, and operate space craft to process raw materials and energy into marketable quantities of fuel, oxygen, water, metals, glasses, ceramics, radiation shielding, electrical power, and other commodities needed by orbital civilization. All of this and more lies waiting for us in space, if we will but seize the high ground and do what needs to be done to gain and empire in the Inner Solar System. Anything else is unnecessary intrigue, and a waste of time, money, and effort. Onto our destiny in Space.


I think unmanned space exploration makes much more sense than manned exploration.

First of all, it is of course very much cheaper (or less expensive). Further, it would stimulate development of robot technology which is likely to have many earth-bound applications.

The argument that we need humans on-site to really understand the remote environment doesn't make any sense to me at all. Humans would need instruments to assess what they are seeing. Being there would allow them to react more quickly, but so what? Let it take a few minutes or days before we react to something that we find. It would probably take a group of experts to decide on the best course of action anyway, and they would be here on earth, not up there on Mars.

Finally, the idea that the pride of the nation requires that we send Americans to other planets doesn't do it for me either. When we were competing with the Soviets this may have made sense, but today it is anachronistic (or simply silly).


NASA has issued a contract stop work order for at least 2 months on All NGLT contracts (including RS-84 kerosene engine) while the new Code T figures out how to implement Bush's CY 2004 Space Exploration Directive.




Hi Keith,

Thank you for posting committee hearing schedules and thereby helping us average citizens participate in the process. Today, my 10 year-old, home-schooled daughter & I attended in person (our first) NASA's hearing before the full Senate Commerce Committee (I'm military stationed in DC). Here are a few, short observations if I may:

1. While Administrator O'Keefe may not be the "Mark Anthony" type motivational speaker, he's strength is legislative affairs. His reputation of fiscal responsibility & demonstrated success the last 2 years in getting ISS under budgetary control plays well to both sides of the aisle.

2. With the exception of Senator Brownback, all other senator's statement & questions centered on either (1) saving indefinitely existing jobs tied to the Space Shuttle (2) money should be better spent on social programs (Senator Lautenberg particularly) or (3) poor-mouthing America's ability to finance such an endeavor (how long ago did they all approve a $800 billion drug plan for seniors?)

3. Senator Brownback was especially note-worthy (no, I'm a resident of TX and didn't think Senator Hutchinson had a particularly strong performance). Senator Brownback was the only one that spoke of the tremendous need to inspire the next generation. My 10 year-old may not have paid attention to everything said in the hearing, but she remembered his comments and restated them to her grandparents tonight on the phone.

4. 1 particularly terrible performance was Senator Wyden. He tried twice to steer the meeting away from NASA's future to the handling of passenger data from Northwest Airlines. For the record, the 15 disks received were of such a proprietary format that NASA could do nothing with it, and returned all disks. All disks were secured & handled as classified material.

In summary, the President's mandate is particularly brilliant. You sense committee democrats want to kill it before it gets off the ground (especially in this election year), but the budget increase request is so small that they can't. NASA will have to spirally develop, and future budget decisions will be based upon previously demonstrated success (the DoD model). Remember, no bucks....no Buck Rogers.


To nasawatch :

The only reason Bush suggestet a return to the moon and beyond to mars is because the Japanese and the Chinese anounced the would go to the moon and establish a base there.

It means nothing since we are broke anyway.





Hello Keith, I have been reading the responses that people have been posting up at your site. And I have been keeping with the discussion of Pres. Bush's space plans. I would like to propose a solution to the conundrum facing space development for the masses. I recommend that we make space exploration open source. By this I mean that we put together all the knowledge and let people pull together to make their own space program and run it. I came up with this idea after seeing the success of the Linux operating system in the market and how many people can work on a common goal.

My idea would be based on acquiring the knowledge that has been acquired by NASA and other agencies in working on space exploration. At the present we have more knowledge and technology than the early pioneers had at their disposal. They needed a lot of money to develop and build the vehicles to get into space and work there. I think it could be done with the resources that we have now. What do you think?


Dear Keith,

Bush's policy focuses on the moon and Mars. But there is a Third Way: near Earth asteroids.

According to the following on-line article, there are three good reasons to go to asteroids:

* Fear: an asteroid will collide with Earth someday (planetary protection)

* Greed: asteroids are resource-rich (in situ resource utilization, space commercialization)

* Curiosity: scientific study (curiosity-based research)

Like the moon and Mars, a combination of robotic and human explorers is suitable.

"Near Earth asteroids: the third option" by Jeff Foust http://www.thespacereview.com/article/90/1


Hello Keith, I have been reading the responses that people have been posting up at your site. And I have been keeping with the discussion of Pres. Bush's space plans. I would like to propose a solution to the conundrum facing space development for the masses. I recommend that we make space exploration open source. By this I mean that we put together all the knowledge and let people pull together to make their own space program and run it. I came up with this idea after seeing the success of the Linux operating system in the market and how many people can work on a common goal.

My idea would be based on acquiring the knowledge that has been acquired by NASA and other agencies in working on space exploration. At the present we have more knowledge and technology than the early pioneers had at their disposal. They needed a lot of money to develop and build the vehicles to get into space and work there. I think it could be done with the resources that we have now. What do you think?




Hi Keith,

The President's mandate is the right course of action for the following reasons:

1. Robotic exploration compliments human exploration; it doesn't replace it. There are missions best suited for robots, and then there's the point where only humans can geometrically expand the knowledge base. While the country is intrigued with Spirit & Opportunity (as they should be), it can't compare with putting a fellow American on another world and associated nation-wide inspiration it will bring.

2. There are just too many physiological challenges in going to Mars. Both Mir & ISS have taught us that the human body is THE weak link in such a trip. Evolutionary break-throughs in bio-technology are necessary, and they will happen. Realistically however, they won't be in the coming decade or next. I say "no" to spinning mankind around in low Earth orbit until such break-throughs materialize.

3. The moon is a near-by, technological proving-ground for vehicles (both space & ground), basing (at L1 and both on & below the lunar surface) & harvesting equipment. The lessons learned from a near-by proving ground will increase technology advancement. Our space industry (and associated secondary industries) will benefit tremendously, and help reinforce good 'ole American ingenuity.

4. The moon as a resource should be explored & cultivated. This means pursuing the energy potential of Helium-3 as well as investigating other resources you & I can only dream of today.

Yes, the shuttle should retire by 2010, and resources directed at getting mankind beyond low Earth orbit. People smarter than me should determine whether future vehicles are re-usable/expendable by optimizing performance & cost, not by what is sexy.

Where mutual benefit exists, other countries are welcome to join America in executing this nation's mandate. However, it is up to this country to lead, and the spirit of internationalism must not weaken our nation's vision or resolve.

A simple tax-payer


Neither Marshall or JSC have earned the right to take responsibility for the CEV. The major programs they've managed over the past 25 years have been massively over budget, not to mention grossly lacking in results. Their major accomplishment has been to create lots of jobs for locals and get a bunch of politicians re-elected. They'll win the CEV because of their political power, sucking most of the remaining money out of the other Centers, but they should, for a change, be held accountable for their past performance. Someone should demand accountability, otherwise we'll become a 3rd-rate space power.



Regarding Boeing's conceptual vehicle graphics: the company's artwork is probably better than their true engineering expertise these days. I did some consulting for NASA on the X-37 orbital vehicle and air launched test vehicle projects and it was disconcerting to see how much blatantly incompetent "view graph engineering" was coming from the contractor. I hope to be pleasantly surprised that the vehicles actually work and make it to a runway landing (if the program isn't totally canceled) but I have serious doubts. After all, this is the same company that played a significant role in Columbia's loss with misapplication of the "Crater" program for debris damage assessment. Will NASA keep blundering along and trust the taxpayer dollars and astronauts' lives to today's Boeing? Big mistake if they do.


Hi Keith,

I would just like to say, and from what I've read from your editorials, I agree with the new space policy being put forward by the US administration. As a space enthusiast, I would love to see this project finished. Most people are quick to say this is nothing more than an election process, however I believe it is more the work of Sean O'Keefe, and as such it will really depend on him whether or not this project is successful.

As for those who lament the cancellation of the Hubble Servicing Mission, saying it was the most successful science mission NASA has ever done. I think everyone will agree that the most sucessful mission, period, was the Apollo Moon Landings, which slightly eclipse the great pictures of distant galaxies. I will say that I would like to see Hubble continue to operate, however from an engineering standpoint, it is much more cost effective let it deorbit and replace it later. If this plan works like it should, I could almost see satelites being launched from the moon using lunar resources to build. I'd assume that would bring the cost down much farther than any new carbon composite miracle material could from earth. Instead of a multi billion dollar Hubble, we could have a couple thousand dollar hubble, not to mention just building one on the surface of the moon. Even if you use an exorbitant price to process the materials on the moon, none of the resources are owned by a nation or a company and would thus be very cheap to use, plus no property taxes.

Take a good look at what this plan is proposing and not just what it is cutting back and you'll see that this is the best technical option we have, which also currently has the backing of the White House and many congressmen (Rep and Dem) who are personally concerned with space.

We learn that being good leaders means knowing how to follow. Space Enthusiasts and scientific professionals might do more good by saying yes, we will follow this plan to the fullest.


I'm really disappointed; in so many ways. I've spent most of my space career waiting for an announcement like Mr. Bush Mentions Mars Part 2. But it's come from one of the worst presidents in history; a man who never visited JSC (even as governor of TX) until a national tragedy. A man with a track record of unfunded mandates, false statements, and false promises; but with a political machine that is finely tuned to use the mindless, lazy lemmings that form the media.

I'm even more disappointed in NASAwatch for being one of those lemmings. You seem to have become a mouthpiece for the administration. Once Goldin was gone, you seem to have become partly blind; and your affinity for Bush and the Republicans is so obvious, you really ought to be included in the soft money pot for the Republican party.



Boeing's new spacecraft concepts look like a giant leap backwards for mankind. I can't believe we'll be abandoning reusable space plane concepts to go back to capsules and throw-away rockets!



Hi Keith,

I would just like to say, and from what I've read from your editorials, I agree with the new space policy being put forward by the US administration. As a space enthusiast, I would love to see this project finished. Most people are quick to say this is nothing more than an election process, however I believe it is more the work of Sean O'Keefe, and as such it will really depend on him whether or not this project is successful.

As for those who lament the cancellation of the Hubble Servicing Mission, saying it was the most successful science mission NASA has ever done. I think everyone will agree that the most sucessful mission, period, was the Apollo Moon Landings, which slightly eclipse the great pictures of distant galaxies. I will say that I would like to see Hubble continue to operate, however from an engineering standpoint, it is much more cost effective let it deorbit and replace it later. If this plan works like it should, I could almost see satelites being launched from the moon using lunar resources to build. I'd assume that would bring the cost down much farther than any new carbon composite miracle material could from earth. Instead of a multi billion dollar Hubble, we could have a couple thousand dollar hubble, not to mention just building one on the surface of the moon. Even if you use an exorbitant price to process the materials on the moon, none of the resources are owned by a nation or a company and would thus be very cheap to use, plus no property taxes.

Take a good look at what this plan is proposing and not just what it is cutting back and you'll see that this is the best technical option we have, which also currently has the backing of the White House and many congressmen (Rep and Dem) who are personally concerned with space.

We learn that being good leaders means knowing how to follow. Space Enthusiasts and scientific professionals might do more good by saying yes, we will follow this plan to the fullest.



Boeing's new spacecraft concepts look like a giant leap backwards for mankind. I can't believe we'll be abandoning reusable space plane concepts to go back to capsules and throw-away rockets!


Keith,

Thanks for providing a forum for everyone. I would like to see you require that people sign their names, though. It's very very easy to snipe from under cover of anonymity, and it does a lot of harm.

I think we have Vice President Cheney to thank for the new NASA policy; I know from inside sources that, as his "homework" over the August 2001 recess, he took away a small reference library worth of reading on the topic of space. That was immediately followed by the events of 9/11 which put everything else on hold for quite some time. Columbia reminded us that we shouldn't have dropped the ball on developing a new vision for NASA.

If I were a member of this administration, reading the NASA Watch feedback column to see how our new proposal for NASA is being received by the community most likely to benefit from it, I would be very discouraged.

Instead of pointing to the administration and blaming them for uncompleted programs and eternally changing directives, try thinking of them as issuing policy in response to public interests and demands. One read-through of the postings below makes it clear that pro-space fans and professionals--the core constituency that they should be able to count on--is wildly divided in what it sees as the right path to take. As different factions take the lead, the administration policy veers to follow what seems to be the current "majority" opinion. If WE don't know what we want then how will they get it right?

I was recently reminded of Arthur Clarke's wonderful quote: "The only way to discover the limits of the possible is to go beyond them into the impossible."

For those of you who don't even want to try, could you please stop acting like hold-down bolts and unhitch yourselves from the pro-space bandwagon? Some of us have places we want to go--soon!



Keith,



If NASA has any chance for success in carrying out President Bush's space plan, they must start to recognize that human space exploration beyond the confines of low earth will require a progressive culture of integrated perspectives, synergistic connections, and viewpoints not normally considered in conventional thinking. In other words, shifting their paradigm is a must.





Pres. Bush says he wants to involve other countries in this venture. I have some personal knowledge of the U.S.'s and particularly NASA's reaction to international involvement. I doubt that there is much sincerity behind this, except a hope for someone else to pay the bills. Any real commitment will involve really sharing decision-making, technology, opportunities for leadership, glory, flag-waving, chest-thumping claims of natural superiority - I really cannot imagine this happening.

However, if there is any reality to this, allow me to suggest some areas where other countries could get involved:

1. Share system design with China. As the country most actively pursuing related goals, a lot of benefit could be gained by sharing technology - for example, docking port design and systems (and CO2 scrubbers?). (Note that "sharing" is not the same as "dictating.") This could lead to more lifting power and delivery opportunities - perhaps even rescue mission possibilities, when they become necessary.

2. The ESA is already developing a new GPS system, based on current technology. It would probably be faster and cheaper to develop a fleet of lunar satellites for GPS and comms relays based on this technology than starting over.

3. Japan and Germany particularly have developed advanced maglev technology. This could well be the best technology for a lunar launch system. A track of relatively light rails, a sun shield to keep them cold, a sled to serve as a reusable launch platform, and solar cells and batteries for power. Electricity is a lot more readily available than rocket fuel on the moon. (It seems to me that this could also play a major role in a creating single (chemical) stage to orbit vehicle on Earth - and could be very economical if the technology was also used for commercial applications, such as launching earth-bound aircraft without using fossil fuels.)

4. Canada has lot of experience with robotic mining equipment. This would likely be very useful in establishing any permanent bases, and in exploiting extra-terrestrial resources anywhere to make missions feasible.

If the U.S. is serious about international involvement, they have to make significant opportunities and incentives available for participation. We'll see if it happens.



It is sad to see so many negative comments about president Bush's vision on space exploration.

Keep up the good work, don't give up telling these people to use real facts, not fictions (i.e. one trillion dollars for Mars trip, as used by senator Lieberman).




Dear Keith,

It's good to see that Bush's space policy aims to use lunar resources:

"Lifting heavy spacecraft and fuel out of the Earth's gravity is expensive. Spacecraft assembled and provisioned on the moon could escape its far lower gravity using far less energy, and thus, far less cost. Also, the moon is home to abundant resources. Its soil contains raw materials that might be harvested and processed into rocket fuel or breathable air." Remarks by the President on U.S. Space Policy http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2004/01/20040114-3.html



It's similar to what the late Gerard K. O'Neill said
about the space program:

"a great deal of cost can be saved, and the time scales for all space activities drastically shortened, by making the maximum use of resources which are already located at the top of Earth's gravity well" Alternative Plan for U.S. National Space Program http://www.ssi.org/alt-plan.html



There seems to be a steady shift towards in situ
resource utilization using robotics: Zubrin's Mars
Direct, Mars Reference Mission, etc.



Keith, et. al.:

I commented briefly earlier about Bush's new "plan", but the recent cancellation of the Hubble servicing mission, and your recent postings make me feel that I must follow up:

While I applaud any new attention and focus in the cause of space exploration, I have to question your seemingly uncritical eye for this proposal, and your constant heaping of scorn against all who would point out its flaws.

Yes, the new "plan" is better than the directionless morass we have been in for the past several years, but any truly critical eye would note that this is yet one more example of sweeping half-done projects into the garbage bin. I don't have enough fingers and toes to count the X-projects, launcher plans and exploration initiatives left on the table. Now in addition to all of the ones from the past we add OSP, ISS (now a dead end) and the Hubble space telescope (to be abandoned in its prime). Further, this is yet another course change for an obviously rudderless agency. Constantly changing course and starting over from scratch wastes billions of dollars, and squanders positive public opinion.

Keith, we look to you for the critical eye. We trust you to point out when the emperor is wearing no clothes. I can't believe that you feel that this plan is perfect. I would appreciate greatly an editorial, critical review of the president's "plan". Please tell us what you really think about the specifics.



Some thoughts from a space enthusiast in the UK.

Before judging the Presidents proposals, some the commentators in this discussion would do well to do some basic research on what lays behind the plans. The policy was not conjured out of thin air but appears to be based on the LUNOX plan put forward by NASA in 1993. Basically automated construction of a lunar base and robotic mining of the lunar surface to produce oxygen for the return flight. Go look it up! - http://www.abo.fi/~mlindroo/Station/Slides/sld051p.htm

As for the common criticism, that with the demise of the Shuttle, NASA would also loose its heavy lift capacity, NASA has studied a cargo only version of the Shuttle - 'Shuttle - C' going back to the 1980's. This system would be more than capable of launching a booster and command module complex to lunar orbit. Atlas or Delta launchers could launch astronauts to rendezvous with this ship in LEO if the Shuttle Launch system was still considered too risky.

Studies into Gemini and Apollo systems carried out by the USAF (MOL) and NASA (Apollo X) in the 1960/70s may also give some ideas as to the direction that the US space program is going.

FInal thoughts: Using a modular system gives much greater mission flexibility, with the possibility of a longer period of development by building on already flight tested hardware. Such a system could even be developed together with Russia and the ESA not only to save costs but also to benefit from their experience.


Surely Former astronaut trainee will head Bush-proposed moon-Mars commission should read Former trainee astronaut trainee will head Bush-proposed moon-Mars commission



The closest Pete got to space was the crew photo shot for STS-62A.



When will NASA's human space program finally get to finish a program before it gets scrapped for political reasons? The U.S. will complete the ISS in 2010, and then immediately abandon ship. (...major bummer!) The ISS could/should have been built years ago except for budgetary and political squabbling.

I worked at NASA JSC from 1994 until 2002. I arrived at the center starry eyed and looking forward to a career of supporting the space program. I left NASA in 2002 with a heart full of frustration after seeing one program after another get cancelled for political and budget reasons. I provided support for the X-38, and saw that program cancelled because the X-38 could not ferry crews to the ISS. In reality, there was onging work for making the X-38 a launch capable vehicle. Now some of the OSP/CEV designs closely resemble the X-38 lifting body. (....hmmm...) I was additionally frustrated by the decision to build ISS to "core complete" where it would offer little improvement over the Russian Mir space station. The ISS has been more newsworthy in it's role as a hotel for the rich and famous than it ever has been as a laboratory. The U.S. has vowed to complete the ISS, but our time to perform serious laboratory work will be extremely limited. Why did the U.S. government bother to spend billions of dollars on a space platform that will be abandoned no sooner than it is finished.

I have little confidence in the Bush administration's cost estimates for the return to the moon. The STS, Hubble, and ISS all cost substantially more to build than their original cost estimates. Inm addition, with the exception of the soon to be defunct Hubble, neither the STS or ISS have ever achieved their original design plan. Why can't the ISS be used as platform to assemble the space ship that would travel to the moon or Mars? Wouldn't that be a much more cost effective solution than building a permanent base on the serface of the moon? I would like to see NASA use the existing infrastructure to expand our horizons. Bush's space vision abandons everything that "works" today in favor of launching the Lunar/Mars program from thin air. My biggest fear is the day that the shuttle stops flying and the U.S. must stand down while finishing the CEV. (If the CEV is finished and launches astronauts on budget and on schedule, I'll buy dinner for all Americans at Long John Silvers!) ...just kidding! :>)

I would love to see NASA receive the proper political support and financial capital that it needs to fulfill Presindent Bush's vision. I truely believe that it is in America's best interest that the human and robotic space programs be integrated into complimentary roles. The astronauts on Mars should be able to use a 2020 version of todays crawler to explore the surface of the planet. There would be no lag time in communications, and the astronaut could simultaneously control more than one crawler to be able to cover much more territory in a short period of time. Once the robotic crawler has identified a target worthy of further investigation, the astronauts depart base camp on a Mars rover to take a closer look.. Thank you for letting me clear my head,


Dear Mr. Cowing,

I started on Shuttle as a co-op in 1980, before Columbia's first flight, and worked my way up to Flight Controller (Deorbit phase) before I left the program in 1998. I'm really sad to see the Shuttle go, but all things must have an end, and it's her time.

The Shuttle was a fine idea when expendable rockets were hideously expensive, but the cost of unmanned expendables long ago dropped to the point where they were cheaper than a Shuttle flight. It seems reasonable to assume that we can get the cost of man-rated vehicles down as well. Plus Shuttle's operational costs have never gotten down to where they should be.

Shuttle is and remains an ideal vehicle for constructing or servicing large satellites in low earth orbit. But satellites in general are getting smaller and cheaper, and they're lasting longer. Plus, with the end of the Cold War (and improved optics) there are fewer military satellites in low-earth orbit, and these were to have been a significant portion of Shuttle's customer base. All that leaves for Shuttle to service are Hubble and Space Station. The former is due to be replaced, and the latter will soon be finished. There's no need to keep Shuttle around much longer, I'm afraid.

For a long time NASA has languished waiting on its next major mission. But with Shuttle and Station to maintain, it could never get the budget authority to embark on such a mission without a major increase in funding. This it has not gotten under either Democratic or Republican administrations, and the American public seems unlikely to demand it. Retiring Shuttle now that it's no longer needed will give NASA the budget authority to pursue a major new project without much increase in budget.

The new manned vehicle seems a good choice for such a program: it can be developed in increments, first as a crew-escape vehicle for station, then as a round-trip vehicle on a man-rated version of an already-developed booster, and finally as the command module of a lunar flight. Since it won't have all the additional capabilities of Shuttle, it should be cheaper to operate. Once the development phase is through, that will, hopefully, free up revenue to start development of lunar transfer vehicles and lunar landers.

(I would hope we could stick to at least part of Von Braun's original plan and use Space Station as a waypoint for Lunar vehicles. It'd be awfully convenient to, say, fuel, supply, and do final systems checks on a lunar bus while it's docked to Station. But Station's orbital inclination may prevent that from happening.)

So I think the Bush plan is far from being audacious in a technical or fiscal sense: rather I see it as extremely prudent, conservative and well-thought-out. The audacity lies in actually promoting a new NASA program, which has not been seriously undertaken in about twenty years.

Will Bush's plan actually get us to the Moon, much less Mars? I can't say for certain: the way is long, difficult and dangerous, and besides, who can predict the future? But I think it does give us a better chance of doing so than any other plan that's been proposed since the Kennedy administration.


Good Morning -

After 35 years working for Aerospace Contractors (RCA,GE, CSC) at NOAA, NASA/Goddard, and NASA HQ I can only say; "What else is new?" The typical pennywise and pound foolish fiscal policies of each administration continue to confound me. The pathetic funding committment and outrageous expectations of Congress and NASA Managers still remains the same. Some things will never change.

Fortunate to have met Neil Armstrong after his return from the Apollo-11 mission it always reminds me of nobler and certainly more effective times. The taxpayer got plenty of bang for his buck. Even the stingiest legislator would have to conclude that the value of the Apollo Program went far beyond what was spent for it.

15 years on the various Hubble Programs leaves me truly disgusted that simple small-minded "politics" would propose to discard such a useful, scientific national asset for planning expediency and still allow billions to be wasted on Iraqi Arabs. The on-going international scientific, political and social return from Hubble is every bit as important as Apollo was in its day. To let Hubble waste away and de-orbit is a criminal act; considering the investment of our money, brains and time that made it all happen.

Maybe we should step back and try to get a grip on where we are and where we really want to go - as a Nation and not an empty, election year, gambit.


A flight controller who worked in the MOCR during the Apollo program said, "Countries that stop exploring become third world countries." There was more to this discussion but the quote is a good one.

I also wonder if spacecraft requirements may unintentionally be influenced by the name, i.e. the OSP (orbital spaceplane). They are considering a capsule type design but because of the name chosen, then the shape will have to be "a plane." Even if a blunt body Apollo type vehicle would best meet mission requirements.

Hopefully, the name CEV will not jeopardize a good design. I think names such as Apollo, Jupiter, Viking, (whatever name from ancient explorers, folklore gods, etc.) are great soundbites but yet engineers are not constrained to certain designs based on the name, i.e. OSP.


Some would argue that the money would be better spent on education. That by adding the $11 billion planned for this new initiative to the $600 billion US department of Education budget over the same time would solve all the problems with the educational system.

How about the story of Homer H. Hickam, Jr, a boy growing up in Coalwood West Virginia in the late 1950's. A company town where you joined your father and grandfather in the coal mines when you grew up. In 1957 Homer greeted the news of Spunik with awe and decided to build his own rocket. He spent weekends and evenings learning engineering, math and physics, his friends joined in, and in 1960 they and their rockets came in first place at a national science fair and won full scholarships. As a result of the space program the US gained 4 engineers and 2 bankers rather than six young boys destined to a life in the mines.

This story was repeated thousands of times throughout U.S. in the 1960's. Convincing children to pursue science, technology, and math, and setting the stage for the computer revolution of the 1970's.

The U.S. is dependant on the knowledge based economy and if we are to remain competitive, we need to have more and more students entering the fields of engineering, technology and science. What better way to contribute to the educational excellence of our nation than to support and contribute to a program that will inspire thousands of children to enter the fields that our modern economy requires. After all study after study shows that children learn most effectively when they are genuinely interested in the topic and want to know the subject for its own sake and not because the teacher tells them to.




Shouldn't our emphasis be on Mining minerals and such on the Moon to begin making a PROFIT from our Space program endeavors? Science could ride along as our expertise evolved. Make space a Commerce first and formost.




Let me explain what the administration just did.



They changed the name of the Orbital Space Plane to the Crew Exploration Vehicle. NASA finally admitted (sort of) that the new crew vehicle will cost at least $12B spread over several years. This number has been floating around the OSP program for months but no one wanted to advertise it because all indications were that Congress would refuse to fund something that amounted to another ISS expenditure. The renaming of OSP and stating that it is the start of manned Mars exploration is intended to save OSP.

To save OSP, the administration came up with a plan that did the following.

First, they gave up on the shuttle. Then despite earlier indications to the contrary they gave up the idea of any significant increase in NASA's budget. They essentially gave up on getting anything out of ISS beyond it serving as an astronaut hotel. They admitted that much of the Space Science budget, the Life and Microgravity Science budget, the Second Generation Launch technology budget, the Space Station budget, the Space Shuttle budget, and quite possibly other budgets such as Earth Science will have to be sacrificed to fund the new crew vehicle.

Saving OSP does not look like a good deal for the agency or the taxpayer. OSP, or if you prefer CEV, will be nothing but a can that contains people. It won't go anywhere on it own. Without large increase in the NASA budget, the CEV will never have a mission outside low earth orbit since NASA will not have launch vehicles or unmanned transfer vehicles capable of supporting any manned mission outside low earth orbit. On top of everything else, the cost of CEV will lead to cutbacks in robotic exploration missions.

The only conceivable reason the administration backs this plan is that the Houston crowd is terrified that the shuttle program could not be saved and they wanted a manned space vehicle to take its place. Otherwise, we might not have a reason for the Johnson Space Center - which despite its name change is still the Manned Space Center.

If you assume that shuttle was a lost cause then this plan gives Houston all it could hope for. Manned spaceflight is given priority within NASA. The ISS program will continue without any pressure on its Houston operators to do anything but support additional manned spaceflight which is a great example of circular logic.

Unfortunately, pleasing the Texas crowd will put virtually all other NASA programs in jeopardy. Considering ISS overruns and the fact that manned missions have provided virtually no useful returns in 30 years it is amazing that the administration is giving manned spaceflight priority within NASA - but of course politics always seems to trump accountability.

(I have little ulterior motive for this assessment of the situation. I am a life long Republican and this plan won't put me out of work since I work at one of the NASA centers that support manned spaceflight.)


Northrop Grumman Space Technologies has been posting articles about a new carbon-fiber tank curing system that requires no autoclave. This means that ultra-large tanks like those required for Sea Dragon will now be much cheaper to build and still be very lightweight and efficient. Truax claimed that his old Sea dragon concept would end up with a launch cost around $200 a pound. Maybe the American Sea Dragon will beat the Chinese Dragon back to the moon?


The US has no hope of ever landing another person on the moon, much less Mars. Some obvious reasons are: with their rapidly escalating national debt, they can't afford it; the average American isn't interested in science - more like in American Idol; the american politicians have become very risk adverse in the last twenty years; the technical elite (engineers, scientists) will lot lie idly by while he sacrifices all space science for a theatrical stunt; and (possibly most importantly) robotic capabilities are commencing a meteoric rise and will soon be able to research the moon and Mars far better and cheaper than any human.

Ottawa, Canada



If the expectation is that only those shuttle missions will be allowed that can seek safety of the ISS until a rescue is made, then our entire space program is gutted. The ISS is not forever. It is unreasonable to assume that every mission must have a safe harbor in space. The ISS itself could not have been built under those conditions. This is a good example of bureaucratic CYA extremism.

The CAIB is a board constituted to make "recommendations". It is not the safety czar. It does not authorize or disallow anything. While it would certainly behoove management to closely follow what the board recommends, management must assume the role of leadership not the hindmost. Management must decide the risks. That's why they make the big bucks and stand beside the project Chief Scientist on TV when a successful landing on Mars is accomplished. You want the glory? Then get your butt out front and lead.

Hubble is worth it. Oh, so worth it. I don't think we should force anyone to go that doesn't want to go. Sincerely. No repercussions. Volunteers only. But I think the volunteers will be easily found. To those who think the manned program cannot stand another disaster, I say this: there are no absolutes in flight safety. It cannot be economically feasible to have absolutes. Nothing will be accomplished under such a program.

I agree that the shuttle is fatally flawed in design. But it's too late now. We have to go with we got and a modicum of common sense for such an awe inspiring project as the Hubble. Nobody is asking for repeated missions outside of the board's recommendations. What we are asking for is a little bit of exceptional leadership.


Thank you once again for a forum which allows the ordinary "punter" (or John Doe as you Yanks would say) to voice an opinion.

I am a Brit, I am not a republican. I do not agree with George Bush on many issues, however on this issue I find myself in agreement.

NASA's budget is about 2% of the entire US GDP. The US is the largest economy in the world, it is a world leader in most areas. Its defence, agricultural and welfare budgets, to name but a few, outstrip the entire economies of some small nations.

A Spirit B2 Bomber cost around $2 billion dollars, the US has squadrons of the beasts. The war in Iraq has cost several tens of billions of $ (if not more) so far.

How in Gods name can anyone say that an extra $200 million a year will bankrupt the US, and is "unaffordable"???

The bang for buck from spaceflight is enormous, just look at the recent interest in Spirit (109 million web hits in the first day).

Many criticise the political policies of the US, with some justification. However, if there is one arena in which the US can truly claim the moral and intellectual high ground it is space exploration.

This is a golden opportunity for the US, hard decisions will be made, but the US must and should lead the manned effort in space. To say it cannot afford it is intellectual cowardice of the first order.



To all the Bush Plan cynics with a retirement plan:

How much of your income do you invest in your "high-risk" fund? I'm sure you, like me, take care of your immediate needs first -- house, food, kid's education, etc. But you have to set a little bit aside, or where would you be in 20 years?

The civilian space program is a high-risk investment in America's future, and is funded accordingly. I'd hate to think where we would be in 20 years without it. And now, we have an investment strategy.



Keith,

Great series of articles for UPI; I look forward to the book. I'd like to be optimistic about the new space policy; it seems like exactly the type of focus NASA has needed for decades. I remember the Apollo missions from childhood and would like humankind to return to the moon and venture outwards before I retire! Yet it's difficult to be optimistic given the ignorance and politics that are flying around in the media.

It's distressing to hear callers on C-SPAN saying that we should take the money that the government spends on NASA and do something "here on earth" with it. As if: a) NASA's paltry budget would make any difference elsewhere; or b) the money we spend on space does not provide value for us on earth in many, many ways (no need to elaborate; many have done so).

This is not President Bush-41's Space Exploration Initiative. The 1989 SEI was a request to NASA to go and make plans for Mars. When NASA came back with a $400B shopping list, SEI died and well it should have. The public simply will not stand for spending that kind of money on space. They do support a NASA budget of roughly the current size. Fast-forward 15 years: the new policy was developed with active input from NASA and actually makes tough choices: retire the shuttle to free up funds for the new vehicle. Scrap some planned ISS science, or have the partners take it up.

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