- NASA Watch
- May 29, 2023
Save Webb, Cut Mars – Then Save Mars, Cut Outer Planets
Mars, Europa missions battle for scarce NASA funding, SpaceflightNow
“NASA’s statements about resuming Mars missions later this decade irked some scientists promoting voyages to the outer planets, who said that if the flagship Mars rover was canceled, the decadal survey explicitly prioritized a Europa mission over other, less-ambitious Mars projects.
A mission to closely observe Europa has been on scientists’ wish list for more than a decade.”
NASA Raids Outer Planets Budget To Fund Fast Start on Mars Reboot, SpaceNews
“Meanwhile, with the funding changes described in the operating plan, NASA will now be spending only $9 million on outer planets programs in 2012. Those funds will all go toward studies for missions to the planetary science community’s highest-priority outer-solar-system destinations: Jupiter’s icy moon Europa, the gas giant Uranus and faraway Neptune. A concept study for a mission to Enceladus, one of Saturn’s moons, is planned for 2013.”
In an era of retrenchment, science suffers.
“retrenchment” more like dem self-absorption.
How about shutting down SLS and ISS and really going back to science with a vengeance?
Good lord. It’s like there are people who work at NASA who live in lollipop land.
The $8.8 billion James Web Space Telescope should not exist.
The $4.7 billion Europa Orbiter should not exist.
The $2.5 billion Mars Rover should not exist.
I mean, a Europa Orbiter isn’t even on the drawing board yet. It’s purely a conceptual idea that’s about a decade down the line. Maybe somewhere there is a two page paper written about what they would like in it. But what… JUST WHAT… planet do these people live on where they have the arrogance to say their science deserves a $4.7 billion investment. Like what in this Orbiter will make it cost that much? Is it one thing? Is it five things? They doing it from scratch again or basing it on an existing platform with developed technologies? How can it not cost $4.7 billion… how about $1 billion.
And that’s the issue as I see. From the very first step, the basic idea, they already have designed a budget breaking space probe.
There is nothing that the MSL will find on Mars that is worth $2.5 billion.
There is nothing that a Europa Orbiter worth $4.7 billion.
And certainly, there is nothing the JWST will discover worth $8.8 billion.
That’s what I don’t see happening: hard questions about why $8.8 billion space telescope or the $5 billion space probe exist at all… as both developed and launched instruments and conceptually.
If it has to cost $4.7, $2.5 or $8.8 billion, it shouldn’t exist. Someone needs to tell these projects boosters this. Their basic idea is wrong. If they’re pricing a Europa mission at that, that isn’t the Europa mission we should be investing in.
Frugal, face-palming Scientist.
“Maybe somewhere there is a two page paper written about what they would like in it”?!? Try about a decade of study and hundreds and hundreds of pages:
Wholeheartedly agreed. How about, no space probes over $500M will ever fly again. If you cant design a mission under that, the science is not that urgent and it can wait until technology improves.
Spend the money improving technology instead.
> How about, no space probes over $500M will ever fly again.
Didn’t Dan Goldin rule something like that, i.e. “better, faster, cheaper” and limit planetary spacecraft to 2 years at $150M. If go over that, then program cancelled. I remembered in early 90s with Galileo and Cassini becoming big and time-consuming. Trends were planetary spacecraft will become so big and complex that engineers and managers that start the program will be dead of old age when spacecraft is launched.
Now we are talken lololol about time!!!!! SHHHHH bite your tongue!
come on … 1 billion dollars will only pay 10,000 people 100k a year for one year. Everything done has to be done at multiple centers to appease senators and representives. Every Congressional member from a center has to get at least a couple hundred million in their state. 10 states, 1/4 billion each … it does start to add up.
The National Academy’s Decadal Survey in fact said $4.7B for a Europa mission was too much, so there has been more than a year of study on much less expensive, descoped options that still preserve the highest priority science. Exploring and determining whether Europa’s ocean is habitable is certainly worth something to a great nation, the question is what can we afford and on what time scale? In any event, the $4.7B number is a dead-issue/straw-man and wasn’t and will not be spent; that should make “Mr Frugal” happy!
Great nations should also be well managed, top to bottom. Okay, I’ll grant you if the Decadal Survey say that a $4.7B is a dead issue, then its a dead issue. But what is it going to cost then? $2 billion? That’s my point. It could be even half the size of the original number, and it still should not exist. The very idea of a Space Probe or any scientific instrument costing that much is foolish. I could see $500 million. Maybe a billion.
Let me ask a provocative question. The JWST… $8.8 billion over its entire life time. Fabrication of launch vehicle aside, how many people are really going to work on it over its life time? How many scientists are really going to schedule time to have it point somewhere in space and then write a paper about what it images. Between a few hundred and a thousand maybe? That’s exactly the problem: you know how many much smaller projects and how many more scientists could be funded with that $8.8 billion?
I’m in the computer software industry. They abandoned these kind of mega projects NASA is wedded to before I was out of elementary school and every time they try (looking at you in the mid 2000s Microsoft) they fail terribly. From the outside, it’s an old and bad way of doing business. Let’s take the Mars Science Laboratory as an example – you know how many slightly modernized MER rovers could have been launched for the price of the MSL? Like 6. And what’s going to produce more science, the MSL in one crater at one time or casting a wide net and sending six MERs simultaneously all over the planet. If I went to my boss and said “I have an idea for a great project our great company should be doing, I’ll just need 1/6th of our research budget every year for the next six to eight years, and the technology I use won’t be applicable for almost any other purpose, I’d be laughed at first, then fired.
Look space is my first love, and I would love to send a submersible probe under Europa as much as any true lover of science. But Europa also isn’t going anywhere. It’ll be there in 40 years when hopefully technology is developed to do such a mission economically.
But great nations being well managed shouldn’t be doing things like spending billions of dollars on instruments that benefit a few hundred scientists and whose technology development will never be used ever again. Will we ever be using the JWST’s mirror on that scale after the JWST? If we do, it won’t be until the 2040s. This Europa orbiter… every one of its instruments better be standardized and cheap so they can be used for a Titan mission, or a Triton mission, or a Venus mission or even Mars and Earth Monitoring missions. Every single one. And if the answer is “no it doesn’t work like that”, then it shouldn’t be included.
And if it can’t do that, then we wait. That is the right thing to do. America will be just fine not knowing what is under the Europan ice until the late twenty first century. Saying we have to get there now now now is immature, arrogant and wasteful.
What is beyond time to do, is to think about how to do things differently in the scientific community to obtain the desired results. The true travesty of the JWST is that it could have been done differently for much less. Roger Angel, one of the premier telescope builders in the world designed an optical diffraction limited 10 meter in diameter telescope that would have been constructed at ISS and then MOVED to its operational orbit.
The problem with that idea is that the scientific community (and you know who you are) was so angry at the Hubble telescope development that they wanted (and they laughed about it) JWST at L2 so that the astronauts could not get there to service it.
In our work with DARPA in 2005 we developed a 14 meter telescope concept (optically diffraction limited) that could have been built at ISS in no more than two EVA’s based on work done at Langley in the early 90’s. This telescope would cost less than a billion dollars end to end and would exceed the requirements of the terrestrial planet finder.
It is beyond time for the community to wake up and understand that the old way of doing business is broken and look to the future. Thank God that at this time we have a SMD AA in the form of John Grunsfeld who understands this.
In our work with DARPA in 2005 we developed a 14 meter telescope concept (optically diffraction limited) that could have been built at ISS in no more than two EVA’s based on work done at Langley in the early 90’s.
What does an optical telescope at LEO have to do with JWST?
What does the orbit of an astronomical telescope have to do with anything?
Please take me kindly but next time actually read what I post. Here is what was written and i put the relevant section in all capitals just in case a misconception occured
optical diffraction limited 10 meter in diameter telescope that would have been constructed at ISS and then MOVED to its operational orbit.
What is the pork coefficient for a NASA project? 50%? 100%? Why pay one person 100k a year to turn a bolt when you can hire 1 person from five different states to collectively turn that bolt. And of course you must have a seperate engineer sign off on each turn of the bolt.
If only it was that simple lolol