Frank Sietzen: May 2009 Archives

Frank's note: Readers, Keith has asked me to keep posting for awhile, so heres my latest query: been reading some of the ideas for a commercially-derived lifting body crewed spacecraft that would make use of the existing expendable launch vehicle fleet, although the spacecraft itself would largely be reusable. My question: If a COTS-D solicitation is to be made, should it be opened to a lifting body as well as a blunt-bodied capsule? Would a spacecraft capable of a Shuttle-like reentry and runway landing be a more efficient way of bringing astronauts-and commercial experiment samples-back from the ISS rather than landing in the ocean and waiting weeks for the capsule and its contents to come back to land? Or would a steerable parachute for the capsule achieve the same capability? What do you think-gliding to a runway vs. splashing in the ocean?

Frank's note: Readers, Ive been working of late with Buzz Aldrin and his team to help prepare a series of presentations related to this summers 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing mission. There are so many commemorations planned around the world that a friend is writing an article for a travel magazine about them. But do you think it will resonate with the American public? In other words, will anyone other than us space geeks really care? Your thoughts, please on marking this historic anniversary, what you think the true legacy of Apollo is for us today-and especially if you will, your memories of what you were doing that hot summer in July 1969 when the world watched us prove our collective will was as good as our words

Frank's note: Readers, in this my last exercise in gauging your ideas before Keith slips back in the saddle, I thought Id ask your views about the moon-specifically on whether or not to make it the initial focus of the VSE. Again, Buzz Aldrin has provoked my thoughts by suggesting that the U.S. defer any manned landings on the moon at all, instead developing a multi-national lunar development regime and using the heavy lift boosters and landers that would be developed by others, not the U.S. In his approach, the focus should be squarely on Mars, via its moons at first.

How would each of you use the moon in the context of solar system exploration? Would the U.S. taxpayer stand for seeing the Chinese land on the moon while the U.S. was in a multi-decade Mars mission development program? If the U.S. used the moon to mature technologies for deeper missions to asteroids, or Mars, could a sortie-type approach suffice, or would a permanent lunar base be the better way? Or could we reasonably avoid the moon entirely in a credible manned Mars effort, assuming the Obama administration made such a goal a priority?

Frank's note: I remember the sound the wheels made as they clanked on the asphalt pathways of Arlington National Cemetery. In my minds eye I see the sunlights glint on the brass buckles holding saddle to horse, for it was the horses that accompanied the procession that carried his flag-draped coffin that hot summers day. It was July 1999, less than three weeks before the commemoration of the 30th anniversary of Apollo 11. And I, along with many hundreds of others, including the astronaut heroes of my youth, walked that July day in the sun behind the procession that carried Pete Conrad to his resting place high in the hills above Arlington. Earlier, crammed in a small stone chapel on the cemeterys grounds, Willie Nelson played and all of us prayed for Petes soul. He was the second human to have walked the ancient lunar soil to be buried in Arlington. He was only one of many American astronauts who lie there, in that hallowed place reserved for the heroes of our history.

This Memorial Day, we remember the many heroes whose sacrifices have kept us free. We will mark the losses of soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines. But let us not forget those who we have flown beyond the atmosphere and made the ultimate sacrifice. For they, too have made America what it is today-and will someday be for others. For so many of us, space exploration is both a career and a fixation. We eat and sleep it, dream about it, try, usually in vain, to explain our fixation to others. But only a small number of us put our lives on the line to make space flight happen. They-and their families and friends, know the true cost of risking everything to advance human knowledge, explore the unknown, and bring honor and glory and sometimes sadness that punctuates our times. Let us thank all who fly in space, hold dear and close those we have lost, and mark this Memorial Day with both pride and determination that their losses will not be forgotten or diminished by whatever path we take in space.

No matter what flavor of space program we favor, we can all agree on that, cant we?

Per aspera Ad Astra. God Bless them all, and may God always bless America.

Lost in Space, Op-Ed Buzz Aldrin, New York Post

Frank's note: In a recent op-ed published in the New York Post, Buzz Aldrin called the way the U.S. has managed the International Space Station as a form of Space Age colonialism. Aldrin said the U.S. treated its partners more like participants in the way NASA limited access to the station. He called for the admittance of such new space powers as China, India and Brazil among others, and for the U.S. to loosen its grip on station management. He suggested that the U.S. global reputation would be greatly enhanced in such a move, akin to how the Apollo program burnished Americas image during the 1960s and 1970s when many were opposed to U.S. foreign policy, such as the war in Southeast Asia. My friend Buzz has also made the bold suggestion that the U.S. partly close the spaceflight gap by flying astronauts aboard the Shenzhou as well as the Soyuz.

Readers, whats your take on these radical prescriptions by Buzz? Should the U.S. open the ISS to other international partners? Should we make use of the Shenzhou for access to space?

Frank's note: Another thought exercise for NASA Watch readers: What would the U.S. civil space agency look like if you built it from scratch? NASA, as we know, was established at the height of the Cold War, and was structured as a field centered organization with maximum deployment of facilities to help get and keep Congressional largess. The Cold War is long over yet the same organizational structure-and some would say mind set-remains. How would you build civil space policy and management if you had the chance to make a "clean sheet" approach? Would you have the NASA we have today-or a reformed organization? Or would you divide up Earth Science, exploration, space ops and aeronautics research differently? Let's hear your views and suggestions-please be brief and as always respectful of each other's rants and raves. When enough folks have spoken, I'll chime in with my two cents worth...

Frank's update:
Readers, my thanks for some detailed and thoughtful ideas-ytou've obviously been thinking about this for some time. After reading all of your ideas, I'm inclined to support separating out aeronautics from the NASA structure and putting it elsewhere-maybe FAA, maybe a new agency modeled like NACA. NASA's central mission now is exploration-manned and unmanned. That should be the primary focus of what NASA does. Another approach might be to move both Earth science and space science to another agency and have a smaller NASA basically a manned spaceflight operation. But no matter what direction, it seems only a matter of time before some of the agency's field centers are either shuttered or transformed into some form of public-private research partnership outside NASA itself. With the leaner if not drastically smaller budgets likely in the future, it seems that maintaining the status quo agency structure won't be possible. Again, thanks to one and all for a great debate!

Frank's note: Readers have spoken-and the overwhelming majority of you want to see Ares 1/and V scrapped in favor of either some variant of Direct, or an EELV derivative. The most popular names suggested for the panel are:

John Young
Pete Worden
Paul Spudis
Elon Musk

Heres my input: Elon is a great rocket scientist, but with a vested interest in COTS D, his appointment is unlikely. While some readers mentioned academics and politicians, keep in mind Mr. Augustines statement that the panel would seek out astronauts, engineers, and others capable of evaluating the technical merits of human space flight. I dont profess to have the technical smarts to know whether or not Ares or EELV should lift Orion, but having written a book on the birth of the VSE (along with Keith) I still think it makes sense as the next step in human spaceflight-perhaps with a bit more emphasis on Mars over lunar outposts. The original VSE called for use of the moon only as a technology test bed to develop the systems that can take us further into the solar system. Since the departure of Admiral Steidle, that seems to have been deemphasized-a big mistake, in my view. I think my friend Buzz Aldrin is spot on in his missive to keep our eyes on the prize and not get locked into another moon race with the moon as the primary destination.

Many readers called for extending the life of the Shuttle and ISS as well. But in todays constrained environment, many more Shuttle flights much beyond 2011 and theyll be little left to pay for any new launch vehicle.

Readers, thanks for your comments. Lets see what happens next!
BTW, now that you've had a say-anybody change their minds?

Dear Mr. Augustine

Frank's note: OK, NASAWATCH readers, let's hear your ideas on the future of NASA's human spaceflight program, as if you had the chance to testify before the newly created Augustine Commission. Please be direct (no pun intended) and brief and to the point. Get specific.

Secondly, who would readers like to see joining Norm Augustine as one of the other 10 appointees? Please explain your choice(s).



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This page is an archive of recent entries written by Frank Sietzen in May 2009.

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