Exploration: November 2006 Archives

AIP FYI #135: New Benchmark Report Raises Caution Flag on Future of U.S. S&T Enterprise

"Twenty-one months ago, the Task Force on the Future of American Innovation issued "The Knowledge Economy: Is America Losing its Competitive Edge: Benchmarks of our Innovation Future." This 18-page report has been credited with helping to raise the awareness of policymakers about U.S. R&D leadership. ... The new report, "Measuring the Moment: Innovation, National Security, and Economic Competitiveness. Benchmarks of our Innovation Future II" was released on November 16 at a Capitol Hill press conference."

Editor's note: I did a text search of the 2005 report document. "NASA" shows up once, "aerospace" ("space") shows up twice. "Aeronautics" is not mentioned.

I did a text search of the 2006 report. "NASA" shows up once, "aerospace" ("space") shows up 34 times (mostly as references). "Aeronautics" is mentioned 5 times.

In neither report is any mention made of the Vision for Space Exploration or anything related to NASA's manned and unmanned missions. It would seem that the bulk of what NASA does is not covered under the introductory quote in the 2006 report ie. "To keep America competitive, one commitment is necessary above all: We must continue to lead the world in human talent and creativity." - President George W. Bush, State of the Union Address, January 31, 2006

Sadly, space exploration was often touted as an example of America's technological prowess - and a harbinger of things to come in our nation's future. Now it doesn't even rank worth a mention when the topic of "our Innovation Future" is discussed. Yet nations such as China and India see such things as a source of national pride - and something to aspire toward - accomplishments we now seem to have forgotten.

Editor's note: Doug Stanley, the leader of the ESAS last year has been making some interesting posts at nasaspaceflight.com. A friend referred one posting in particular to me. It would seem that Dr. Stanley has some issues with things that were posted on NASA Watch regarding the ESAS.

Curiously, throughout the ESAS process - and in the full year following its release - not once did I ever get a request from Doug Stanley to address issues on NASA Watch - with attribution - even though he was quite aware that he (like any other reader) could do so. Instead, he chose another website on which to do so. Of course, that is his right. In so doing, however, Doug Stanley wants to have it both ways. In particular, I found this excerpt to be most illuminating:

NASA Responds To Stick Rumors

NASA Internal Memo From Constellation Program Manager Jeff Hanley

"All, between articles like this one (see below) and the wave of 'better ideas' for architecture that have waded into recent notoriety, I thought it was time to level set folks on where things stand and dispel these rumors and hearsay surrounding the "issue" of the Ares 1 performance and overall implications to the architecture."

Big Problems With The Stick, earlier post

Editor's 14 Nov. note: In closing his memo, Jeff Hanley notes: "We will continue to get these faux expressions of concern from those who wish to see us fail. They will be disappointed."

For the record, Jeff, I do not want to see you fail. I want to see you succeed.

What is really annoying about comments like Hanley's is the simple-minded and intellectually lazy way that NASA people deal with criticism. If you dare to criticize their approach - in any fashion - you are automatically against them. And, if you are outside the agency, then you are automatically unqualified to have an opinion. It never seems to occur to these NASA folks that the people who highlight potential issues may actually be concerned that they will not succeed unless these issues are addressed.

But no, it is so much easier to manufacture enemies - that way you have something external to blame things on when programs run into trouble.

Reader comments (send yours to nasawatch@reston.com):

Northrop Grumman, Booz Allen Hamilton, SpaceX to Host Networking Event for Current, Future Space Exploration Leaders

"University students, young professionals and first-level managers from NASA and the aerospace industry will be able to meet and share their views on the nation's space exploration program with space leaders from NASA and the aerospace industry at a reception being planned by Northrop Grumman Corporation in partnership with Booz Allen Hamilton and Space Exploration Technologies Corporation (SpaceX)."

Yuri's Night 2007 Executive Team Applications due 29 November 2006

"This year will mark the 7th Yuri's Night as well as the 20th anniversary of ISU! We are now putting together our 2007 executive team to expand the impact of Yuri's Night, to recruit and support events around the world, to organize a global webcast, plan a zero-g flight sweepstakes, and to bring Yuri Gagarin's tradition of planting a tree after each mission to our parties here on Earth- with our new Yuri 'Plant-a-Tree' Mission."

Constellation Battles the Blogosphere, Space News

"Hanley said in an interviewhe normally does not respond so directly to what he characterized as misinformation that appearsin "the pseudo media-blogs and so forth." But the NASA Watch post spurred him to action. Hanley sent his e-mail, he said, to "a few dozen Constellation leaders throughout the program" - a long enough distribution list, it would seem, to ensure the message leaked to an even wider audience."

Editor's note: Jeff Hanley went to great lengths to make certain that I got his email. The way he did so (I have the original distribution list) makes me wonder why he was so eager to use other people to get his thoughts to me - but not do so himself - either directly - or through PAO. Moreover, if Hanley holds PAO- accredited news sources such as NASA Watch in such distain, one wonders why he'd even bother to reply in the first place. Just one of life's little mysteries, I suppose.

- NASA Reiterates its Official Support for Ares I, Earlier post
- NASA Responds to Stick Rumors, Earlier post
- Big Problems With The Stick, Earlier post

Reader note: "1. Description: It is proposed that a basic building block architecture with a large built-in growth potential be used to provide mission capabilities for LEO, lunar and Mars missions. By using a common core and launch facilities, two, four, or six standard RSRM's could be added for meeting various mission requirements. Available and operational space transportation equipment, technologies and processes would be incorporated to save both time and money and to ensure safety and reliability of the system. A new launch facility would be a pacing item.

Q&A: Bart Gordon, Nature (subscription)

"Does NASA have its priorities right? Do you feel that a realistic number has been put on the cost of sending humans to Mars?

I would like to see NASA do all that it is proposing and more. But we need to do a better job of oversight. I want to see if all of the numbers add up, and frankly I don't think they will. If they don't, we will have to take a hard look at priorities. I don't want to pass problems on to others. What we have seen with NASA is that prior administrators just keep on passing on problems. Someone needs to take oversight."

Gordon Steps Up to House Science Post, Science (subscription)

"As chair of the committee's space panel in the early 1990s, Gordon developed an interest in space-related issues that is likely to translate into closer scrutiny of the Bush Administration's proposed moon-Mars exploration program and its impact on space science. "I think that both are underfunded," he says, "but I think we need to know more before we can move ahead."

Show Me The Money

Fly Me to the Moon, Smart Money

"NASA has created Red Planet Capital, a venture-capital firm based in San Mateo, Calif., that'll support budding technologies that have applications for space exploration."

NASA Completes Milestone Review of Next Human Spacecraft System

"An example of the activity was a review and analysis that confirmed the planned Ares I launch system has sufficient thrust to put the Orion spacecraft in orbit. In fact, the Ares I thrust provides a 15 percent margin of performance in addition to the energy needed to put the fully crewed and supplied Orion into orbit for a lunar mission. Engineers established Orion's take off weight for lunar missions at over 61,000 pounds."

Editor's 14 Nov. note: Alas Jeff, some people in your organization would beg to differ on what you have stated. Meanwhile, some of your folks are still not certain that the first stage of Ares I (as designed) can be recovered and reused due to the currently planned reentry, descent, and splashdown profile. And if it can be recovered, many believe that it would not make financial or operational sense to do so. Further wind tunnel tests in the coming weeks are needed before this can be fully understood.

Your employees also talk of the extra billions and additional years that will likely be required before the Ares I design can be made to work. Yet it is also important to note that while a number of folks within NASA, while agreeing - and commenting on - troubles withn the Ares I program, have also said privately that they and their coworkers are committed to trying to make this work - even if agency politics seem to have already arrived at the official answer.

Nature on Funding the VSE

Congressional agendas, editorial, Nature (subscription)

"The damage done to America and the rest of the world by unsustainable deficits is real, and any lack of zeal in facing this problem would be a mistake. In that context, this would be a good time for Congress to look again at Bush's plans for NASA to re-establish a human presence in deep space. The outgoing Republican Congress gave its Republican president too much benefit of the doubt on this undertaking. The new Congress must, at the very least, articulate more convincing reasons than have yet been heard for such a colossal expenditure."

Congress's sci-tech agenda to shift under Democrats, Christian Science Monitor

"Another area ripe for tighter oversight is NASA and the president's Vision for Space Exploration, adds Ray Williamson, with the George Washington University Space Policy Institute. In hearings before the House Committee on Science, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have expressed support for the effort in general. But, he notes, they worry that the White House isn't giving NASA the money it needs to do the job without sacrificing other important activities."

An Alternate Approach towards Achieving the New Vision for Space Exploration, Team Vision

NASA Internal Memo From Constellation Program Manager Jeff Hanley

"In summary, many who carp from the sidelines do not seem to understand the systems engineering process. They instead want to sensationalize any issue to whatever end or preferred outcome they wish. So be it, that is the world we live in."

Editor's note: According to the host of the website where this concept can be downloaded: "The AIAA paper has now been downloaded over 2,000 times. Almost half of those downloads have been to a nasa.gov domain. A number of emails from ex-NASA employees/contractors have also been received that are very supportive of the general approach outlined. In addition, a significant number of secondary referrals and write-ups from around the world via internet/blogsphere as far way as China have also directed significant amount of international interest towards the alternative of achieving VSE."

Editor's note: Interesting - a thousand people@nasa.gov have downloaded this paper. That is more than just a passing interest - from the real rocket scientists.

Space Policy Analysis

Not really lost in space: the new National Space Policy, The Space Review

Editor's note: Another version of this article, also written by National Academies of Science Studies Board Senior Program Associate Dwayne Day, was published in the July-September 2006 issue of the Space Studies Board News.

Big Problems With The Stick

Editor's note: Sources inside the development of the Ares 1 launch vehicle (aka Crew Launch Vehicle or "The Stick") have reported that the current design is underpowered to the tune of a metric ton or more. As currently designed, Ares 1 would not be able to put the present Orion spacecraft design (Crew Exploration Vehicle) into the orbit NASA desires for missions to the ISS. This issue is more pronounced for CEV missions to the moon.

The Ares 1 SRR (System Requirements Review) was held last week at MSFC. Mike Griffin was in attendance. Others participated off-site via webex.com.

It is widely known that both Mike Griffin and Scott Horowitz are reluctant (to say the least) about abandoning their current launch vehicle concept. Alternate approaches such as using EELVs are not welcome solutions by either Griffin or Horowitz.

One possible solution to the Stick's current design problems is to add side-mounted solid rocket motors. Many inside the program are not so sure that this solution is worth the effort. Others suggest that starting from a clean sheet of paper may be the only prudent course of action.

Stay tuned.

The Lunar Ice Debate

Ice on the Moon, Paul Spudis

"In contrast to some recent claims, this debate is still open and nothing has occurred in the last few years to cause participants in the debate to abandon their positions. In a nutshell, poor or incomplete coverage by a variety of marginal data has led to much heat, while casting little light on the issue of lunar polar water. Here, I present the evidence to the reader, noting the strengths and weaknesses of each data set, and attempt to identify the remaining unanswered questions."

An Alternate Approach towards Achieving the New Vision for Space Exploration, Team Vision

"Before us is a watershed opportunity to increase the depth of space exploration and development. The Exploration Systems Architecture Study (ESAS) provides a vital first step towards this important long term goal. Based on the key objectives contained in the ESAS, an alternate space exploration architecture was formulated by the author that reduces complexity, time, risk and cost while simultaneously improving Lunar and Mars mission, affordability, safety and expandability."

Put Your Name Into Space: America's Most Ambitious Student Satellite is Your Canvas!

"In 2010, a small unmanned research spacecraft designed by students will launch into Earth's orbit. The science on board will help pave the way for humankind to explore our solar system. We invite you to participate in this landmark mission by uploading content to be printed on our spacecraft. Use your "space in space" to fly your name, signature, corporate logo, photograph, or other MIT-approved imagery."

"Welcome to SpaceAdvocate.com - the site that empowers space exploration supporters to connect with others across the U.S. to advocate for the Vision for Space Exploration with our nations leaders. Here youll find news, reference information and hot actions related to space issues. With SpaceAdvocate.com, you can join thousands of other people across the U.S. who are just as passionate as you are about carrying the mission of space exploration from the grassroots of our country... all the way up to Capitol Hill."

Editor's note: Over the past several years I have been wondering just what it is the Coalition for Space Exploration does - given that their website is out of date and a coloring book seems to have been their only visible product. Well, it seems someone has finally done something. Alas, if you go to their main website, there is no mention of this new advocacy website. Moreoever, no one seems to have bothered to issue a press release to alert the media. What good is a website like this if the people who are supposed to use it are unaware of its existence?

- Is the VSE Running out of Steam?, earlier post
- What does the Coalition for Space Exploration Actually Do?, earlier post

NSS Space Art Contest

National Space Society Space Settlement Art Contest

"The National Space Society is sponsoring an art contest in which artists are to create visions of a spacefaring future - a future of space settlement, be they on the Moon, on Mars, on asteroids, or orbiting independently in space. Twelve winning entries will be chosen to illustrate the NSS 2008 Space Settlement Calendar."

NASA Internal Memo: ESMD resources Weekly: September 25-29, 2006

"Doc had his first hearing yesterday. We have a few actions but it was well received. It's one of the toughest jobs in Washington to sit in the line of fire like that. Ex Comptroller Mal Peterson aptly called it Kabuki theater. Some basics to keep in mind:

- Show no weakness. They may want to take advantage.

- Stay calm. Be prepared to answer some questions repeatedly. You know much more than they do about the details and what seems to be second nature to you is not to them.

- Rarely should you turn around and ask if someone behind you has anything to add. Most effective reply is a direct answer or say you'll get back.

- What if the witness does not agree with the budget his President has submitted? Say it is adequate over and over with a smile."

Going Back - To Stay

On the Verge of the International Polar Year, NSF Commemorates the 50th Anniversary of First Flight To Land at the South Pole

"Fifty years ago, on Oct. 31, 1956, a tiny U.S. plane made that science possible when it landed on the ice sheet at the southern end of the world, 9,300 feet above sea level. That landing will be commemorated at a ceremony today at the National Museum of Naval Aviation in Pensacola, Fla. The ceremony is scheduled to include a telephone call from NSF Director Arden Bement to personnel at the South Pole."

Editor's note: Half a century ago we did such things, and Antarctic exploration moved from visits to habitation. We have been there ever since. Not so on the Moon. If/when America returns according to the VSE's schedule, it will have been half a century - of absence. Will we return to stay? Given the enormous costs that Mike Griffin's plans call for, I am not sure we can afford it - especialy when you hear talk of a $5 billion annual cost associated with two lunar sorties and $5-6 billion to build the first LSAM.



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This page is an archive of entries in the Exploration category from November 2006.

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