Exploration: February 2010 Archives

Trading the Moon for Mars, Buzz Aldrin, WS Journal

"The new NASA budget makes sense for many important reasons. First, the president is signaling that this agency deserves the full support of this administration and Congress, even as priorities are sorted out and other budgets are cut. Second, getting long-range space flight right requires getting near-Earth orbit perfect. Third, forestalling the moon mission in favor of perfecting the technologies that will allow us to reach Mars within some defined period ahead is sound. We should not rush it and experience an avoidable tragedy."

To the Moon? I think not, Alice..., Miles O'Brien

"The truth is the public in general long ago stopped paying much attention to what NASA is doing in the manned space realm. There have been some spikes of interest here and there - for Hubble repair missions, to see John Glenn fly or, sadly, for the returns to flight after the accidents - but in general, it's been a long, steady decline that really began on July 24th, 1969 - when the Columbia capsule carrying Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins splashed down in the Pacific. Let's not forget Apollo was never built to be a sustainable program. It was all about the sprint. Is it any surprise it did not sustain public interest?"

Fake Mars Mission Befallen By Real Drama, Gizmodo

"The Mars Society is a group that prepares for man's eventual exploration of Mars with simulations in the Utahan desert. But their mission logs, posted regularly on the group's website, reveal a tension that is very real--and very funny. ... According to their "Mission Info" page, they are the first team comprised entirely of Belgians. In the wake of the trouble they've been having, it now seems ominous that the last line of their statement reads, "the media is following our project very closely."

- Live webcams
- Crew 90
- Log Book for February 15, 2010 Commander's Report

Senators to NASA chief: Go somewhere specific, AP

"NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said after the hearing that critics were confusing the lack of a specific destination or timetable with the lack of a goal. NASA has a goal, a big one, Bolden said. It's going to Mars. But Bolden added that getting astronauts to Mars is more than a decade away and NASA needs to upgrade its technology or else it never will get there."

- Senators Say Plan Puts NASA On Mission To Nowhere, NPR
- Senators grill NASA chief on President Obama's space plan, USA Today
- Senators Decry NASA's Change of Plans, SpaceNews
- NASA Chief to Senators: We're Going to Mars, space.com
- Bolden: Mars is the 'ultimate' goal, Orlando Sentinel
- NASA chief says Mars is goal, lawmakers express doubt about budget, The Hill
- Senators Vow to Fight NASA Outsource Plan, WS Journal
- Challenger Center Statement in Advance of Today's Senate Hearing on NASA Budget

An Open Letter to NASA Administrator Charles F. Bolden, Homer Hickam

"It was for that reason, I guess, that I was so surprised at how you've treated a lot of the people who work for you, all of whom also love our country and spaceflight. Maybe you weren't aware that many of those people were pulling 80-hour weeks doing everything they could do move the Constellation moon program forward. The impersonal manner in which you informed them that their work was no longer needed was not good, Charlie. Nor was the fact you allowed the program that defined NASA's future to be closed down with nothing concrete to take its place. I mean, a good manager would never allow a thing like that to happen. That's why I think you were as surprised as everybody else when you got your orders from the White House. At least, I hope you were."

Space Pioneer Burt Rutan Blasts NASA Plan, WS Journal

"Commercial space pioneer Burt Rutan has sharply criticized Obama administration proposals to outsource key portions of NASA's manned space program to private firms. The White House wants NASA to use outside firms to develop and operate new rockets and spacecraft that would transport astronauts into orbit and beyond, functions that had previously been considered a core function of the agency. Mr. Rutan, a veteran aerospace designer and entrepreneur, in a letter addressed to lawmakers on Capitol Hill, says he is "fearful that the commercial guys will fail" to deliver on the promises to get beyond low earth orbit, and that the policy risks setting back the nation's space program."

A better way to go where no one has gone before, opinion by Scott Hubbard, SF Chronicle

"Some complain that the plan concedes the moon to the Chinese. This is nonsense. The United States landed on the moon six times more than 40 years ago. As Buzz Aldrin, the second man on the moon, has pointed out, it is far more logical to partner with the Chinese on the exceedingly expensive trip to the moon. In the meantime, many of us have identified the "flexible path" as a way of moving human exploration ever more deeply into space beyond low-Earth orbit, while keeping Mars as the ultimate goal."

Losing sight of the Moon?, ABC

"Like other NASA astronauts and scientists working on the complex Constellation program, Andy Thomas was surprised when the White House chose to dump the entire project. "Many of us who'd been working in Constellation and watching Constellation had recognised that some elements were not going in the right direction," he said. "We were not surprised when they were cancelled, we were surprised when the entire program was cancelled and done so without a clear plan of what the going forward position was. The wording was rather vague."

"Welcome to the NASA Lunar Electric Rover (LER) Simulator. You don't need a driver's license, but you still need to buckle up as the LER Simulator gives you a glimpse of what it might be like to support the activities of a functioning Lunar Outpost. Get busy. You never know if your skills here will become a major part of the NASA Astronaut application process in the future."

Download at the iTunes store.

Spaceships Worthy of the Name, Buzz Aldrin, Huffington post

"In storage at Marshall Spaceflight Center, and elsewhere around the country are spacecraft components from which we can build a true spaceship, one worthy of the name. I've called the Exploration Module, or XM. This vehicle, lifted up to orbit aboard the Space Shuttle in its final missions, would be a true spacecraft that lives only in space. ... My concept for a cycling spaceship, now universally called the Aldrin cycler, could be fashioned out of the XM. All we'd need would be a rocket to attach to it, maybe like the Centaur liquid hydrogen upper stage flown many times aboard many different launchers - and managed by Ohio's Glenn Research Center."

For NASA no easy answer for next space destination, AP

"Former NASA associate administrator Alan Stern said he's waiting to hear what NASA officials outline in the Capitol Hill hearings, but he too has concerns about not having a precise destination. "We need a destination and a timetable and that's really lacking," Stern said. He said that relying on technology to dictate a location "sounds like a program to nowhere." Because human spaceflight is about inspiration, science and international cooperation, Stern said, "you need a specific destination, a proper noun, something that's capitalized."

Farewell to NASA's Glory Days, opinion, NY Times

"One of the most important attributes of a manned space program is its ability to inspire young people to pursue careers in science. As someone who came to power on a platform of inspiration, President Obama knows about the importance of rekindling hope. Killing NASA's storied manned space program and doing away with a timeline for space travel will snuff out much of inspiration and awe that has come to be associated with NASA's endeavors."

Obama must reconsider space mission, Times Leader

"Rarely have we seen such an about-face on an imperative national initiative. Congressional resuscitation is virtually impossible. Who wants to work for, train for and possibly die for the Moon and Mars when our national leader isn't at your side and doesn't have your back? Perhaps Obama thinks we've done that, been there. Or maybe he's not thinking at all."

Space race no longer being run, Walton Tribune

"American space exploration, however, as funded by the government is essentially gone. Obama - or at least his advisors, because I'm not even sure he remembers there is a NASA -- says the future of manned space travel lies in private industry, which is funny from the man who owns General Motors. Apparently, free enterprise is best condoned when it's something you don't want."

"Inspired by NASA's Constellation Program, iRover is a fun way to tour the Lunar surface and see some of the elements that make up NASA's Lunar architecture.

Description: Drive your Lunar Electric Rover (LER) over the Lunar surface to conduct missions. Rescue stranded crew members, transport crewmembers, and launch and recover other Landers. Avoid being caught on the surface unprotected during Solar Particle Events (SPEs)."

Buy it at the iTunes Apps store

"A ribbon-cutting ceremony with Endeavour commander George Zamka and station commander Jeff Williams to celebrate the arrival of Tranquility and its seven-windowed cupola on the International Space Station includes the placement on permanent display in the node of a rock brought back from the moon's Tranquility Base by Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin in 1969, and carried by shuttle astronaut Scott Parazynski to the summit of Mt. Everest in 2009."

- Video: Moon Rock and Everest Rock Ready for Trip to the Space Station
- Preview: Confessions of a Moon Rock Courier
- Moon Rock Gains Traveling Companion for Historic Return to Space
- Playing With Moon Rocks and Duct Tape at the Dinner Table
- Photos From Moon and Everest Rock Event at NASA

Keeping the U.S. in the space race, letter, John P. Holdren and Charles Bolden, Washington Post

"Charles Krauthammer was badly off target in his Feb. 12 op-ed, "Closing the new frontier," on the Obama administration's plans for the U.S. space program. As the blue-ribbon Augustine Committee concluded last year, the Bush plan, not the Obama plan, would have left the United States a loser in space. Despite valiant efforts by NASA and its contractors, President George W. Bush's Constellation program would not have been able to send astronauts to the international space station until two years after the station had crashed into the ocean."

Organized labor attacks Obama's space plan, Orlando Sentinel

"Add organized labor to the voices angry at President Barack Obama's decision to scrap NASA's moon program. In a letter sent to Obama on Feb. 4, R. Thomas Buffenbarger, international president of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, said the White House idea to outsource flying astronauts into low Earth orbit would cost jobs, not create them."

Time for Action, Machinist's Union Local Lodge 2061

"The date, time and venue for the rally have been set (Saturday, February 27th at BCC North Campus, Titusville, 3:00 p.m.). National AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka, presidents of national and international unions, Florida AFL-CIO President Mike Williams, elected officials and perhaps some celebrity guests will speak. However, this is not a union rally. This is a community event intended to protect local business, our schools and the quality of life we presently enjoy."

IFPTE: A new day at NASA - a rebirth at Ames

"Although for the thousands of dedicated employees who have been working diligently on Constellation, there will naturally be disappointment and concern, in the end, the Administration has chosen a more realistic and pragmatic path towards a more sustainable and ultimately successful overall mission."

NASA plans more outreach to Muslim countries, Orlando Sentinel

"NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden said Tuesday that President Barack Obama has asked him to "find ways to reach out to dominantly Muslim countries" as the White House pushes the space agency to become a tool of international diplomacy. "In addition to the nations that most of you usually hear about when you think about the International Space Station, we now have expanded our efforts to reach out to non-traditional partners," said Bolden, speaking to a lecture hall of young engineering students."

What's next for US spaceflight, if not the moon?, Christian Science Monitor

"Why bother with human spaceflight at all? For many people and countries, human spaceflight represents a pinnacle of human technological achievement and prestige. Others point to potential economic and environmental benefits that could come from activities ranging from space tourism and tapping resources on the moon to use as fuel for fusion energy to mining asteroids or producing pharmaceuticals in microgravity conditions."

Obama's budget reshapes the U.S. space agenda, PolitiFact.com

"This change of plans clearly breaks Obama's promise to "endorse the goal of sending human missions to the Moon by 2020, as a precursor in an orderly progression to missions to more distant destinations, including Mars." But the president's budget for NASA does keep five other campaign promises. It proposes working with international allies to extend the life of the International Space Station at least through 2020; it supports access to space for private-sector companies; it supports increased investment in research and development related to space; it supports increased spending to prepare for longer space missions; and it establishes school programs to highlight space and science achievements."

Election 2008 postings

Space Policy: Go Boldly

Some Thoughts on the NASA Vision, Jeff Volosin

"I mean no disrespect - but - I am tired of listening to Dr. Spudis, Dr. Griffin and all of the other, whiney, Baby Boomer, Cold Warrior, Manifest Destiny driven individuals who are still trying to live out their 1950's childhood dreams - at taxpayer expense.

Like many of you, for the past 25 years, I have played my own minor role in a vibrant NASA. I have watched as NASA has pushed back the limits of robotic exploration of the solar system with ever more complex and capable probes. In addition, I have seen NASA greatly expanded our view of the Earth - helping us better understand how our environment is changing and how human activities and natural processes contribute to that change. In contrast, human spaceflight has, just during my career, driven off a cliff."

reader note: "An unbadged man said to me as I left my JSC building last Friday, "Is this a place of business or a campus? I mean, is this 'where it all happens'?" I was going to challenge him but he explained he was a bus driver from that bus over there that had brought in some people. I said, just, Yes Sir! and went on home. (It was a tough week.)

In this day and age, should I have pointed over his shoulder and said... That flag up there on that roof flies every day there are Americans on orbit. It has been there continuously, longer than I've been working here. If you go through those doors across the parking lot and turn left and could get past the locked doors and guards, you would be in Mission Control. THE Mission Control Houston. You could pick up a mic and talk to the astronauts and cosmonauts working in space right now. If you turn right instead, you'd find a building full of mission operations people who a week ago had no question that their contributions were valued by the country.

Today, I don't know how that question would be answered in that building. I'm angry the question has even come up. I wasn't born here at JSC, but I got here as soon as I could. I just don't know whether here is supposed to be 'where it all happens' anymore."

The Future vs. the Past

NASA and Space - The Future vs. the Past, John K. Strickland

"Under Admiral Craig Steidle starting early in 2004, the VSE was a forward looking program that was open to new ideas and the development of fundamentally new, innovative technology. Griffin shut the door firmly on most of those new ideas in 2005. Instead, he looked backward at what had been stolen away from him and the space community by politics 40 years ago - a continuation of the Apollo Program, and tried to re-create it as "Apollo on Steroids".

Echoes of Apollo

Obama overhauls NASA's agenda in budget request, Washington Post

"Nearly half a century ago, President John F. Kennedy challenged America to put a man on the moon. Earlier this month, by killing NASA's Constellation program, President Obama essentially challenged the space agency to do something other than put a man back on the moon."

America's Long Journey Away From the Moon and Mars, Wall Street Journal

"As a longtime NASA booster, I couldn't help but feel a gut kick when the President's new budget meant the end of Constellation, a program commonly nicknamed "Return to Flight" and "Apollo on Steroids." To many of us, Constellation offered an end to the directionless Space Shuttle era and a return to the glory years of Apollo. As a historian, though, I knew at the program's announcement six years' ago that such an epic undertaking, back to the Moon and then onto Mars, would never happen."

Analysis: NASA must take next giant step, Houston Chronicle

"The rationale given by administration officials was viable, said Keith Cowing, a former NASA manager who for years has served as editor of the NASA Watch Web site as well as Spaceref.com. "The costs were spiraling, the rockets weren't working and the cost would have been something NASA never would have been expected to get. I was surprised they went as far as they did. ... There's something to be said for killing it completely, once and for all." What Cowing and others -- meaning just about everyone else -- have a difficult time understanding is where exactly manned exploration under NASA is headed. "Flexible is an interesting word," Cowing said. "It means you adapt, you listen, you learn. But path means there is a direction you are heading. I don't see that yet."

Where Next?

The New Space Race, Paul Spudis

"Although it is not currently popular in this country to think about national interests and the competition of nations in space, others do not labor under this restriction. Our current human spaceflight effort, the International Space Station (ISS), has shown us both the benefits and drawbacks of cooperative projects. Soon, we will not have the ability to send crew to and from the ISS. But that's not a problem; the Russians have graciously agreed to transport us - at $50 million a pop. Look for that price to rise once the Shuttle is fully retired. To understand whether there is a new space race or not, we must understand its history. Why would nations compete in space anyway? And if such competition occurs, how might it affect us? What should we have in space: Kumbaya or Starship Troopers? Or is the answer somewhere between the two?"

Vision Impaired, Paul Spudis, Air & Space

"I have previously discussed what I perceive as the most significant problem with FP, namely, that it is activity without direction. The administration's budgetary version of this path confirms this perception. Much verbiage is thrown around about multiple missions to all sorts of destinations, blazing new trails with new technology, trips to Mars that last weeks instead of months, and "people fanning out across the inner solar system, exploring the Moon, asteroids and Mars nearly simultaneously in a steady stream of firsts." But nowhere in the budget documents or agency statements is there anything about the mission that we are undertaking. So we're going to an asteroid. What will we do there? Why are we going there? What benefit accrues from it?"

Plan for NASA lacks vision, editorial, St. Petersbrug Times

"But the 2,000 jobs the administration expects private companies to create in Florida under the plan is far less than the 12,000 NASA and private jobs that Florida's east coast expects to lose when the shuttle is retired."

Give NASA Back, The Crimson White

"Most importantly, this achievement of the International Space Station proves, definitively, the existence of the worlds' potential for cooperation. Nations can peacefully work together towards a common goal--not unlike, say, Obama's goal of eradicating nuclear weapons. If NASA were to go commercial, as Obama hopes, the country would lose its ownership, and cooperation between multinationals--only concerned with their bottom lines and profits--wouldn't be nearly as idealistic as the cooperation between nations we have now."

Abandoning human space flight is shortsighted, Rep. Pete Olson, The Hill

"The administration would like to foster commercial providers with our human space flight capabilities. Commercial participation is a good thing, and something that everyone agrees with, but it's simply not ready to take humans into space safely, and should not be the sole means for our country's access to space."

Space to thrive, The Economist

"Much has been made of the fact that NASA will, as a consequence of Constellation's cancellation, have to rely on private firms to send its astronauts to the international space station once the space shuttle is withdrawn. In many ways, though, this is the least interesting aspect of what is happening, for what Mr Obama proposed is actually a radical overhaul of the agency."

One step back for mankind, Financial Times

"That is what makes the debate over Constellation symbolic. The decision to abandon moon exploration has "decline" written all over it. Americans often profess astonishment that the Chinese of 600 years ago failed to take full advantage of their technological superiority. They invented gunpowder and, on the eve of Columbus's discovery of America, their ocean-going vessels were bigger and more seaworthy than Europe's."

Video: JSC's Project M

This video of NASA JSC's "Project M" depicts a Robonaut-based, tele-operated mission to the Moon - one that JSC claims could be accomplished in 1,000 days once the go-ahead was given.

NASA Plan Faces Turbulence in House, WS Journal

"NASA's proposed budget "essentially decimates America's human space-flight capacity," said Democratic Rep. Donna Edwards of Maryland Rep, Ralph Hall of Texas, the ranking Republican on the full Science and Technology Committee, said "it is naive to assume that a do-over will somehow deliver a safer, cheaper system faster than the current path we are on." The reaction portends an uphill fight for the Obama Administration, partly due to sentiment on Capitol Hill that it failed to consult members before unveiling such a dramatic shift in direction In an interview Tuesday, NASA's Administrator, Charles Bolden, accepted part of the blame. "I could have done a better job of communicating" with Congress, he said. "I will take the hit for that."

Proposed NASA budget plots entrepreneur-friendly course, LA Times

"The potentially seismic shift for the aerospace industry was announced Monday, the seventh anniversary of the loss of the space shuttle Columbia, and came as defense companies were bracing for a pullback in the Pentagon's spending on weapons."

Obama Gets Space Funding Right, Steven Weinberg, WS Journal

"Giving up on manned space flight doesn't mean we have to give up on the exploration of the solar system. The president's budget calls for spending $19 billion on NASA, and for much less than the cost of sending a few astronauts once to a single location on Mars we could send hundreds of robots like Spirit and Opportunity to sites all over the planet."

Lunar Echoes on STS-130

Mementos from canceled NASA moon plan flying on space shuttle, Collectspace

"Together with a piece of Everest's summit, also retrieved by Parazynski, the plaque-mounted moon rocks will be displayed inside Tranquility's new seven-windowed Cupola to inspire the astronauts working there. "Imagine being in the Cupola and looking out this huge series of windows and looking at the Moon and having a piece of the Moon right next to you. What's that going to be like? I have no idea. I'll come back and tell you," said STS-130 mission specialist Stephen Robinson. Robinson had a role in including aboard the flight another, albeit subtle, nod to NASA's lunar exploration history in the form of his and his crewmates' mission patch. The six-sided emblem, which was shaped to resemble the Cupola viewing port attached to Tranquility's side, depicts the Earth as it was first seen in a photograph taken from the Moon by Lunar Orbiter I."

Keith's note: Not only is STS-130 carrying the Moon rock that I carried to Nepal and slept with for a month and Scott then carried to the summit of Mt. Everest, but I just learned that the STS-130 patch was inspired by the "earthrise" photo that Dennis Wingo and our team at the Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project released in Nov. 2008. It usually takes quite a lot to leave me speechless - this comes very close to doing so. How do we expand on such resonant opportunities so as to allow not just a few - but rather millions of people to have a similar, personal connection to what we do in space?

President Obama's JFK Moment, Buzz Aldrin, Huffington Post

"Thank you, Mr. President.

That's what we should say to President Barack Obama in light of his Fiscal Year 2011 space budget for NASA. The President courageously decided to redirect our nation's space policy away from the foolish and underfunded Moon race that has consumed NASA for more than six years, aiming instead at boosting the agency's budget by more than $1 billion more per year over the next five years, topping off at $100 billion for NASA between now and 2015."

Defending the moon, Homer Hickam

"Here is a list of six reasons why the United States should make it a national goal to establish a laboratory on the moon, similar to our Antarctic South Pole Station:

1. National prestige. Many decisions are made in other countries based on how they perceive us . Are we young and dynamic and growing or are we old, lethargic, and dying? If we are considered the latter, we will be attacked in both overt and subtle ways.

2. Growing our economy based on technological and scientific leadership. If we accomplish great engineering and scientific tasks, such as going to the moon and staying there, we will attract the best and brightest minds in the world to not only help us on the moon but to keep us advancing in all technologies. This equals a dynamic, nimble, robust, long-term economy. ...."

Keith's note: Now that NASA has been directed by the White House to cancel Constellation, and with it, all of NASA's big time lunar ambitions, I wonder when they will start to yank things like this sad dancing Moon walker animation offline. Seriously - this is not an insignificant task since there is an immense amount of VSE-related material that NASA has put online since 2004 that will now need to be modified or deleted. In addition, many third party websites contain large amounts of this material as well. And when do you start? Now? When Congress gives up trying to stop this cancellation?

Imagine that there was an Internet in 1967 and you had to erase the Apollo program.

The Obama Space Vision for NASA: Massive Paradigm Shifts Ahead

"In announcing its $19.0 billion FY 2011 NASA budget today, the Obama Administration has made it very clear that it intends to attempt a paradigm shift in the way that America explores and utilizes space. The current plan NASA is following will be cancelled. But the intent to explore will remain and will be reconfigured into a new plan that openly taps private sector creativity while making certain that the taxpaying public is involved in an unprecedented fashion.

This plan for change comes with additional funds - to the tune of an additional $6 billion over FY 2011 to FY 2015 when compared to what the FY 2010 budget anticipated - approximately $700 million of which will appear in FY 2011. That means that NASA will get $100 billion over the next 5 years according to the White House's plans.

In so doing, the White House is hoping to make a clean break with much of the old way of doing things at NASA. As they do, NASA will be pushed to broaden its vision, seek new partnerships, and transform its way of doing things. This will be unsettling to many people.

However, that break begins with some hard choices - most notably, the outright cancellation of The Constellation Program. Started shortly after President Bush announced his "Vision for Space Exploration" in 2004, Constellation was the umbrella activity for what eventually became development activities for the Ares launch vehicle family, the Orion crew module, and the Altair lunar lander. All of this now comes to a halt."



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