Exploration: April 2010 Archives

Blunt Talk in Houston

Bolden tries to raise spirits at JSC, Houston Chronicle

"But unlike the president's stop in Florida, where he offered to provide the work force there with $40 million in transition aid and made other concessions, Bolden announced no new initiatives that might benefit Johnson Space Center."

Houston Layoffs Not in NASA Plan ... Yet, My Fox Houston

"For you to go to members of Congress, the media and the American public with contradictory information about the road ahead and the need to move beyond the Constellation program isn't helping," said Bolden."

Bolden in Houston to discuss future of NASA, KTRK

"Reasonable people can agree to disagree," Bolden said in his speech, of which a copy was obtained by ABC13. "However, my friends, now is the time that we must pull together."... "If we flounder and lose out on this opportunity, it is unlikely that our nation will have a similar opportunity in our lifetime," Bolden said."

NASA LaRC Solicitation: Study of Deployable Secondary Structures for Expendable Volumes

"NASA LaRC is seeking an industry partner to study the integration, deployment and packaging of secondary structures within inflation deployed volumes. Secondary structures include any structure that is deployed during or after expansion of the primary volume, such as the floor and work surfaces, but which do not contain pressure loads. ... The ultimate goal of this research is to develop a system applicable to future habitation modules deployed on the lunar surface or in space."

Administrator Unveils Future Vision and a Renewed Journey of Learning, 12 April 2002

"The new NASA vision for the future is:

To improve life here,
To extend life to there,
To find life beyond

The NASA mission is:

To understand and protect our home planet
To explore the Universe and search for life
To inspire the next generation of explorers . . . as only NASA can"

Keith's note: Do these words still work? If so, could they be re-adopted by NASA? The NASA Advisory Council Education and Public Outreach Subcommittee had a spirited and supportive discussion on this today. What do you think?

NASA ESMD Managers Information Packet: A New Space Enterprise

"On Feb. 1, 2010, the President released the FY 2011 Budget Request. The budget proposes several exciting new programs that seek to foster a sustainable human space exploration enterprise. Although our philosophy and approach to exploration will change, our fundamental goal remains the same: to send human explorers into the solar system to stay. We invite you to read below about the study teams that have been formed to develop strategies for the proposed new programs. Plans will continue to evolve with the next step of House and Senate appropriations. In addition, the President's speech outlined the addition of an initial Orion build to be used as a crew rescue vehicle at ISS. We are working diligently now to incorporate this exciting news into our plans."

Humans on Mars? Forget it, opinion, Simon Ramo, LA Times

"But is this a worthy goal? It appears increasingly doubtful that an astronaut could accomplish something useful on Mars not already being done by robots at far less cost and with little danger to humans."

Proceedings from the NASA Administrator's Symposium: "Risk and Exploration: Earth, Sea and the Stars", NASA Administrator's Symposium, September 26-29, 2004
Session Three: The Stars (PDF)

Pages 178-179 [Mars Exploration Rover PI Steve Squyres] "I'd like to finish this on a slightly lighter note by telling you a story. We had a lot of discussion yesterday about humans versus robots. And as the robot guy here, I want to tell a story about the experience that I had that really taught me a lot about that particular topic. We were at first trying to figure out how to use a set of rovers on Mars to really do scientific exploration. The technology folks at JPL [Jet Propulsion Laboratory] built a wonderful little vehicle called FIDO. And FIDO was a great test rover - you could take it out in the field and you didn't worry about getting a few scratches in the paint.

We took it out to a place called Silver Lake in the Mojave Desert about 1997. And we went out there and it was the first time I had ever been out in the field. So I went out there with my team - a bunch of really high-priced geologic talent - some serious field geologists. And we got the rover out there and, of course, the rover breaks down. First time I've ever been out in the field, it's dusty, it's dirty, you know, the rover's not working. So okay, what am I going to do with all these bored geologists I've got on my hands? So I said, "Look, let's go on a geology walk. Let's go on a little field trip." So everybody got their boots and their rock hammers and their hand lenses and everything. And I picked up a notebook and a stopwatch. And we walked out to a nearby ridge where I knew there was some interesting geology exposed and we sat down - or rather I sat down - and they went off and they started geologizing.

And I started timing them. You know, how long does it take for Andy Knoll to walk over to that rock? How long does it take Ray Arvidson to pick that thing up and break it open with his rock hammer and look at it with a hand lens? And they were doing a lot of things that our rovers couldn't do, but I focused on the things they were doing that our rovers could do. And, you know, I did it as quantitatively as I could - this was hardly a controlled experiment. And when I looked at the numbers afterwards, what I found was that what our magnifi cent robotic vehicles can do in an entire day on Mars, these guys could do in about 30 - 45 seconds.

We are very far away from being able to build robots - I'm not going to see it in my lifetime - that have anything like the capabilities that humans will have to explore, let alone to inspire. And when I hear people point to Spirit and Opportunity and say that these are examples of why we don't need to send humans to Mars, I get very upset. Because that's not even the right discussion to be having. We must send humans to Mars. We can't do it soon enough for me. You know, I'm a robot guy. I mean, I love Spirit and Opportunity - and I use a word like "love" very advisedly when talking about a hunk of metal.

But I love those machines. I miss them. I do. But they will never, ever have the capabilities that humans will have and I sure hope you send people soon."

Experimental X-37B Robot Space Plane to Launch Thursday, Space.com

"The United States Air Force plans to launch its first robotic X-37B space plane Thursday on a mission that is a forerunner of things to come. A second mini-space plane is already under contract and is projected to be launched next year. New details regarding the mini-space plane and its upcoming Thursday liftoff atop an Atlas 5 booster were discussed today during a U.S. Air Force-held media press briefing."

Americans Back Space Exploration, Know Little About Proposed Policy Changes, Everett Group 'Space Poll' Finds

"As Pres. Barack Obama vows continued commitment to space exploration, including increased funding to explore the solar system and the ultimate goal of landing astronauts on Mars, he finds support from many Americans. Most Americans have a positive image of NASA, the country's space agency, and one-third say it's very important to them that the U.S. continue to explore the solar system (with one-third more saying it's somewhat important to them)."

Keith's note: Yawn - yet another space poll with the same results as the last dozen space polls. I am not certain why people keep paying to do these polls. The polls always come up with the same answers - yet government, private sector, and the general public do not care about the results enough to do anything to change the situation. Until someone, somewhere gets off their ass, nothing is going to change.

For half a decade Americans were told by the White House and NASA, with great excitement, that we were going back to the Moon. Then the next President suddenly tells everyone "Why go to the Moon?, we've already done that". Its as if we walked away from Apollo in 1967. These back and forth policy changes leave everyone with a case of intellectual whiplash. Why should anyone understand (or care) about policy changes when they end up meaning little in the end.

Consumers spent billions to see a space-themed film like "Avatar" and yet NASA was incapable of seizing the opportunity to capitalize on this interest before, during, or after the film's release. And then there is the "Summer of Innovation" that NASA has the lead on from the White House. Summer is only a matter of weeks away. Has anyone heard anything about what this project is going to do? Finally, there was the Space Summit/Conference last week with the President. NASA/OSTP waited until only hours before the event to tell people what was actually going to happen at this event. As for follow-up, how will all Americans learn of the event's results?

Don't hold your breath. If NASA does not care enough to reach out and inform the taxpayers who fund its activities, why should it get upset when people's interest in what the agency does is not all that it could be?

Human spaceflight: diversify the portfolio, Alan Stern, Space Review

"The American people expect big things from our nation's human space flight enterprise. Tragically, however, for the past 20+ years, our country's civil human spaceflight effort hasn't been able to deliver big things, such as historic exploration milestones at far away destinations, or advancing the cause of easy human access to near-space locales. What we need now is more than just a flexible path. We need parallel paths. Instead, human spaceflight in the United States has struggled just to keep its sole domestic transportation system, the Space Shuttle, flying a few times per year, and to complete the assembly of its sole destination--the International Space Station."

Elon Musk: At Long Last, an Inspiring Future for Space Exploration

"Today, the President will articulate an ambitious and exciting new plan that will alter our destiny as a species. I believe this address could be as important as President Kennedy's 1962 speech at Rice University. For the first time since Apollo, our country will have a plan for space exploration that inspires and excites all who look to the stars. Even more important, it will work."

Today's Contrasting Views

White House Defends NASA Plans, ABC News

"Critics say NASA is being dramatically scaled back and tens of thousands of jobs are expected to be lost. The administration insists that this plan is actually going to create 2,500 more jobs in the Florida Space Coast by 2012 and 10,000 over the next decade. The new jobs will come from the development of the commercial space industry and a plan to modernize the Kennedy Space Center."

Obama tries to get support of space plan off ground, USA Today

"While the administration may have finally realized that its initial budget request was a complete disaster, the new plan, from the same team, still ends human spaceflight," said Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., who sits on the subcommittee that decides how much to spend on NASA. "The president has replaced one visionless plan with another."

Americans in Space: A Dream of the Past?, Opinion, Houston Chronicle

"Today the United States manned space program lies in deep peril as our ability to reach destinations such as the moon, Mars and beyond continues to slip to indefinite timetables. If Congress accepts the president's budget proposal on NASA's Constellation program -- a program that enjoys bipartisan support -- Constellation will be eliminated from the federal budget, effectively ending the era of American leadership in space."

Obama revives capsule from canceled moon program, AP

"President Barack Obama is reviving the NASA crew capsule concept that he had canceled with the rest of the moon program earlier this year, in a move that will mean more jobs and less reliance on the Russians, officials said Tuesday. The space capsule, called Orion, still won't go to the moon. It will go unmanned to the International Space Station to standby as an emergency vehicle to return astronauts home, officials said. Administration officials also said NASA will speed up development of a massive rocket. It would have the power to blast crew and cargo far from Earth, although no destination has been chosen yet. The rocket would be ready to launch several years earlier than under the old moon plan."

Is A Human Space Flight Compromise Emerging?, NASA Watch, earlier post

"This is the consensus that seems to forming in and among NASA, OSTP, and NSC: Ares 1 and 5 remain cancelled. Orion is continued - but in a "Lite" variant designed to ferry people to and from ISS. This "Orion Lite" would fly on human-rated EELVs and would be, in essence, a government competitor to what NASA is also encouraging the so-called "Merchant 7" (SpaceX, Orbital et al) to develop. The commercial activities would remain unchanged from what was announced in February. Meanwhile, NASA will continue to fly the Space Shuttle albeit at a stretched out rate (2 or so flights/year) while ET production is restarted."

Open Letter to President Obama Regarding Space Policy

"Too many men and women have worked too hard and sacrificed too much to achieve America's preeminence in space, only to see that effort needlessly thrown away. We urge you to demonstrate the vision and determination necessary to keep our nation at the forefront of human space exploration with ambitious goals and the proper resources to see them through. This is not the time to abandon the promise of the space frontier for a lack of will or an unwillingness to pay the price."

Keith's note: Only a week and a half remain before the much-anticipated Space Summit at NASA KSC on 15 April. While no public mention has been made as to venue, agenda, participants, audience etc., there does seem to be a general consensus forming behind the scenes as to what sort of rethinking might be acceptable to all parties with regard to where NASA human spaceflight is going.

Keith's note: This video shows Neil deGrasse Tyson speaking at the University at Buffalo making an impassioned plea for NASA and the value it has to all Americans. In my experience, no one has ever managed to capture this in such a cogent response. Tyson is the sort of people who should be speaking at the OSTP space summit. But no. Politics preside. Instead, its OSTP Vs NSC and OSTP/NSC Vs NASA and a food fight over who gets to say what NASA needs to do at the Summit. What a colossal missed opportunity.

NASA Lost its Way, Paul Spudis, Air & Space

"Although the purpose of the VSE was clear to the White House and the Congress, it became increasingly clear over time that NASA was having difficulty understanding the mission. They eventually embarked on a multi-year study to define exactly why they had been tasked to go to the Moon and to understand what they might do once they got there. The mission to understand their mission involved lots of meetings, workshops and conferences, whereby all the "stakeholders" had an opportunity to give their input. All this "input" was distilled into a series of documents containing six themes and 181 different specific objectives. No one at NASA could state the mission of the VSE in a single sentence."



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