[FPSPACE] The next 50 years
epgrondine at hotmail.com
Wed Apr 4 19:46:37 EDT 2007
An analysis by E.P. Grondine of
HUMAN SPACE EXPLORATION: THE NEXT 50 YEARS
BY MICHAEL D. GRIFFIN
March 14, 2007
Aviation Week's Space Blog: Human Space Exploration: The Next 50 Years
""PREDICTION IS DIFFIFULT, ESPECIALLY THE FUTURE," SAID QUANTUM PHYSICIST
Wasn't that Yogi Bera?
"THE FIRST QUESTION TO BE ANSWERED IS, WHERE TO BEGIN? WHAT IS THE GLOBAL
VIEW THAT CAN BEST SHAPE OUR THINKING?"
Begin with the impact hazard, as it is the key hazard facing mankind.
Continue on to the environment, energy systems, and dwindling resources. Or
on to our inability to restrain armed conflict, if you really want to be
"IT IS SO VERY EASY TO BE COMPLETELY WRONG,"
Yes, it certainly is.
"SINCE A VARIETY OF RADICALLY DIFFERENT FUTURES IN SPACEFLIGHT CAN BE
PRESUMED WITH EQUAL APPARENT CREDIBILITY TODAY."
Yes, they certainly can. It's sad the level what public discourse has sunken
to. I think attack politics is responsible for a lot of it, as is the
general decline in the standards of education.
"FOR EXAMPLE, IT MIGHT BE THAT, AFTER COMPLETING THE CONSTRUCTION OF THE
INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION (ISS) AND RETIRING THE SHUTTLE, THE EXCITEMENT
INHERENT IN A NEW REACH OUTWARD FROM LOW EARTH ORBIT (LEO) WILL APPEAL TO
THE NEXT GENERATION, LEADING TO A VIGOROUS, TECHNOLOGY-DRIVEN PROGRAM, A
PLAN TO REACH THE SURFACE OF MARS BY THE LATE 2020'S, AND THE WILL TO
SUSTAIN AND BUILD UPON THAT EARLY PRESENCE."
Actually, given the reluctance to use the Ares 5 to launch large nuclear
reactors over Florida, this "future" is pretty much moot. Another problem
with it is that it is unlikely that it will be demonstrated conclusively in
the next 15 years that Mars harbors no pathogens which would present a
problem if returned to the Earth. So you can prettty much pitch this future
Finally, do the taxpayers really want to pay that much to send a few people
"OR, INTEREST IN HUMAN SPACE EXPLORATION COULD ONCE AGAIN BE MOTIVATED BY
COMPETITION AMONG SPACEFARING NATIONS, LEADING TO A MODERN VERSION OF THE
"SPACE RACE" OF THE 1960S, PRODUCING SUBSTANTIAL PROGRESS BUT FOR REASONS
UNSUSTAINABLE IN THE LONGER TERM."
It takes at least 2 to race, and no other space capable nation has any
desire to do so.
"IT COULD BE THAT THE UNCHECKED GROWTH OF ENTITLEMENTS, THE GENERATIONAL
COMMITMENT OF RESOURCES NECESSARY TO COMBAT TERRORISM, AND A CONTINUED
DOWNWARD TREND OF INTEREST BY AMERICAN STUDENTS IN MATHEMATICS, SCIENCE, AND
ENGINEERING EDUCATION, WILL COMBINE TO MAKE THE CIVIL SPACE PROGRAM AS WE
HAVE KNOWN IT IRRELEVANT TO THE LIVES OF OUR GRANDCHILDREN'S GENERATION."
Actually, since devastating impacts have occured about once per 100 years,
that will never be true. We're already in space, like it or not.
"OR THE TRUTH COULD LIE IN SOME OTHER DIRECTION ENTIRELY"
Yes, it most certainly does. See above, "impact hazard".
"MAYBE HUMAN SPACEFLIGHT IN THE NEXT 50 YEARS WILL BE DOMINATED BY TOURISM,
FIRST SUBORBITAL, THEN ORBITAL, WITH RELATIVELY LITTLE IN THE WAY OF
INDEPENDENT GOVERNMENT ACTIVITY."
Not likely unless the laws of physics are revoked, which means a high cost
to orbit even with the most efficient systems.
"THE ONE THING OF WHICH WE CAN BE CERTAIN IS THAT IN TRYING TO ENVISION THE
WORLD OF 2057, TWO GENERATIONS IN THE FUTURE, WE WILL BE WRONG. WE WILL BE
WRONG IN OUR ASSUMPTIONS ABOUT THE LARGER CONTEXT OF WORLD CULTURE AND
CIVILIZATION IN WHICH SPACE EXPLORATION EXISTS, AND WE WILL BE WRONG EVEN IN
THE NARROWER CONTEXT THAT IS THE SUBJECT OF OUR ATTENTION HERE."
Speak for yourself...
Since the NASA Administrator is oblivious to the impact hazard, even after
having the Congress specifically direct his attention to it, his vision is
limited. If the recent impact rates hold, there will be another Tunguska in
the next 100 years, and if it hits a population center... then the world of
2057 will be very different indeed.
"EVEN THE MOST CURSORY REVIEW OF SOME OF THE KEY EVENTS IN THE DEVELOPMENT
OF SPACEFLIGHT SHOWS THE NEED FOR GREAT HUMILITY BY ANYONE WRITING AN ESSAY
ON THE LIKELY STATE OF SPACE EXPLORATION IN 2057.
"FOR EXAMPLE, WHO WOULD HAVE SUPPOSED IN EARLY 1957 THAT THE SOVIET UNION,
AND NOT THE UNITED STATES, WOULD LOFT THE FIRST ARTIFICIAL SATELLITE INTO
President Eisenhower, as he wanted the Soviet Union to establish a right to
"THE FIRST ROBOTIC LUNAR PROBE, AND THE FIRST MAN, INTO SPACE?"
S.P. Korolev and N.S. Krushchev.
"AND WHO WOULD EVER HAVE PREDICTED THAT THE UNITED STATES, STUNG BY LOSSES
IN A COMPETITION IN WHICH IT HAD NOT EVEN KNOWN IT WAS ENGAGED, WOULD, OR
EVEN COULD, RESPOND BY CARRYING OUT THE FIRST LUNAR LANDING EIGHT YEARS AND
TWO MONTHS AFTER DECLARING THE GOAL?"
von Braun, Gardner, Schreiver, Dornberger... Korolev, Glushko, Chelomei,
"MOST THEN-KNOWLEDGEABLE OBSERVERS BELIEVED THAT SUCH A FEAT WAS UNLIKELY TO
BE ACHIEVED MUCH BEFORE THE END OF THE 20TH CENTURY, IF THEN. NOT EVEN THE
MOST VISIONARY OF HARD SCIENCE FICTION AUTHORS ASIMOV, CLARKE, HEINLEIN
IMAGINED THAT IT COULD OCCUR AS EARLY AS 1969. AND THEN, HAVING SPENT $21
BILLION (IN MID-60S DOLLARS) TO DEVELOP THE TRANSPORTATION SYSTEM TO MAKE
SUCH A THING POSSIBLE, WAS IT EVEN CONCEIVABLE THAT SUCH HARD-WON CAPABILITY
WOULD BE UTTERLY DISCARDED WITHIN A FEW YEARS? WHO WOULD HAVE IMAGINED IT?"
The Congress of the United States, shortly after their voters learned what
the Moon was really like, and shortly after it was realized by those voters
that Mars was simply not like the Earth, and therefore neither held little
immediate value for them.
"AND YET IT HAPPENED.
It sure did, at the first economic crunch.
"WITH THOSE THOUGHTS IN MIND TO ENCOURAGE AN APPROPRIATE HUMILITY, IT IS
NONETHELESS NATURAL TO WONDER HOW WE MIGHT DEVELOP A VISION OF THE FUTURE
THAT IS THE LEAST LIKELY TO BE TERRIBLY WRONG. HOW CAN WE EXTRAPOLATE
TODAY'S WORLD IN SUCH A WAY AS TO AVOID THE MOST OUTRAGEOUSLY WRONG
By studying the past.
"MOST OF THE PRESENT DISCUSSION WILL FOCUS ON THE U.S. GOVERNMENT CIVIL
SPACE PROGRAM. I WILL HAVE SOME COMMENTS ON THE INTERNATIONAL SCENE AND ON
THE POSSIBLE ROLE OF COMMERCIAL SPACE, BUT FOR MUCH OF THE NEXT FIVE
DECADES, THE U.S. GOVERNMENT WILL BE THE DOMINANT ENTITY IN DETERMINING THE
COURSE OF HUMAN SPACE EXPLORATION."
Not really. The dominant entity in the immediate future will be the people
of the United States, acting through their elected leaders.
20 years from now, it may be the 1.2 billion people of China.
"WE WILL, I HOPE, DEVELOP ROBUST INTERNATIONAL PARTNERSHIPS THAT WILL
ENORMOUSLY ENHANCE THE VALUE OF SPACE EXPLORATION."
That's nice to know. Now how do you define "value"? Flying a few people to
"AND WE MUST DO EVERYTHING POSSIBLE TO PROVIDE AN ACCEPTING ENVIRONMENT FOR
COMMERCIAL SPACE ENTITIES, STANDING DOWN GOVERNMENT CAPABILITY IN FAVOR OF
COMMERCIAL SUPPLIERS WHENEVER IT BECOMES POSSIBLE TO DO SO."
Well, one might want to start with the existing EELV manufacturers then.
Last time I checked they were commercial suppliers.
"BUT WITH THAT SAID, THE U.S. TODAY IS SPENDING MORE THAN TWICE AS MUCH ON
CIVIL SPACE, PER CAPITA, AS ANY OTHER NATION, AND I BELIEVE THIS SITUATION
IS UNLIKELY TO CHANGE SIGNIFICANTLY FOR SOME TIME."
Don't get your hopes up. And remember, through careful thought, wise
planning, and focused programs, other nations may be able to do far more
with much less.
"COMMERCIAL SPACE FIRMS OFFER GREAT PROMISE BUT, SO FAR, LIMITED
PERFORMANCE. FOR A WHILE YET, IT IS THE U.S. GOVERNMENT, THROUGH NASA, THAT
DETERMINES THE MAIN COURSE OF HUMAN SPACEFLIGHT."
Actually, it appears that ATK (hereinafter Thiokol), lobbying with money
made from the sale of grains for Iraq and the ABM, is determining the main
course of US spaceflight right now.
"OF COURSE, MANNED SPACEFLIGHT IS BROADER THAN EXPLORATION, AND OVER THE
NEXT DECADES IT IS TO BE EXPECTED THAT OTHER ENTITIES BESIDES THE U.S.
GOVERNMENT, BOTH COMMERCIAL AND INTERNATIONAL, WILL BE CONDUCTING HUMAN
That's pretty much a certainty.
"A SPACEFARING CIVILIZATION CANNOT BE THE REALM ONLY OF GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES
AND GOVERNMENT SPONSORED ENGINEERS AND SCIENTISTS,"
Yes it can, if one is refering to true manned space flight, due to its high
cost. If one wnats to, one can pretend that sub-orbital lobs are manned
"THOUGH A BIAS TOWARD SUCH GROUPS IS CLEARLY ONE ATTRIBUTE OF A FRONTIER
Once again, the "frontier" was the frontier, and settlers and traders were
usually there ahead of their governments. Space is space, while the
"frontier" was on the Earth. Life suuport systems were always immediately at
hand, and transportation costs were very low.
"BUT IF WE UNDERSTAND THAT BROADER PARTICIPATION IS DESIRABLE, U.S. HUMAN
SPACE EXPLORATION PROGRAMS CAN BE CONDUCTED SO AS TO ENCOURAGE, RATHER THAN
MINIMIZE, SUCH. DOING SO WILL, IN MY OPINION, BE A KEY TO ITS SURVIVAL AND
PROSPERITY, A POINT THAT I WILL MAKE AGAIN IN WHAT FOLLOWS."
Actually, given the costs of manned spaceflight, there is no reason for the
average citizen to subsidize larks for the wealthy few. Call me cheap, if
you want, but I'd rather spend the money elsewhere.
"BUT LET US NOW FOCUS OUR ATTENTION ON MORE SPECIFIC MATTERS. THE MOST
STRAIGHTFORWARD EXTRAPOLATION IS TO ASSUME THAT THE FUTURE WILL, ON AVERAGE,
BE MUCH LIKE THE PAST IN REGARD TO KEY ASSUMPTIONS.
That's a pretty big assumption.
SINCE NO ASPECT OF GOVERNMENT CIVIL SPACEFLIGHT IS MORE CRUCIAL THAN THE
FUNDING ALLOCATED TO IT, LET'S CONSIDER NASA'S FUNDING HISTORY FOR THE LAST
50 YEARS, AND TRY TO MAKE A REASONABLE YET CONSERVATIVE PROJECTION AS TO
WHAT WE MIGHT RECEIVE IN THE NEXT 50. AND THEN LET'S CONSIDER WHAT THAT
FUNDING MIGHT ALLOW US TO DO, SETTING ASIDE UNFORESEEABLE POLITICAL
UPHEAVALS. TO UNDERSTAND WHERE WE MIGHT GO, WE MUST UNDERSTAND WHERE WE
HAVE BEEN, AND I THINK WE NEED A BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF OUR HISTORY THAN IS
COMMONLY THE CASE.
"ANY ASSESSMENT OF HISTORICAL OR PROJECTED BUDGETS NECESSARILY MUST BE DONE
IN CONSTANT, INFLATION-ADJUSTED DOLLARS.
It also has to take into account the developed technological base.
"THIS FACT LEADS INEVITABLY TO THE QUESTION OF WHAT INFLATION INDEX SHOULD
BE USED, BECAUSE LONG-TERM ASSESSMENTS ARE SENSITIVE TO THAT CHOICE. MANY
CHOICES ARE POSSIBLE; THE BUREAU OF LABOR STATISTICS MAINTAINS THE FAMILIAR
CONSUMER PRICE INDEX (CPI), APPLICABLE TO THE U.S. ECONOMY AT LARGE; I.E.,
THE GROSS DOMESTIC PRODUCT (GDP). HOWEVER, THE CPI IS NOT THE BEST MEASURE
OF INFLATION FOR GOVERNMENT SPENDING, PRIMARILY BECAUSE THE 'MARKET BASKET'
OF GOODS AND SERVICES APPLICABLE TO THE PRIVATE AND PUBLIC SECTORS OF THE
ECONOMY ARE VERY DIFFERENT.
Yes, inflation goes up with the amount of money wasted.
THE BEST USE OF THE CPI IN CONNECTION WITH GOVERNMENT PROGRAMS IS IN THE
ESTIMATION OF THE CONSTANT-DOLLAR 'OPPORTUNITY COST' OF GOVERNMENT
ACTIVITIES TO CITIZENS. GOVERNMENT SERVICES ARE PURCHASED BY TAXPAYERS WITH
CPI-ADJUSTED TAX DOLLARS; MONEY PAID IN TAXES IS MONEY NOT AVAILABLE TO
CONSUMERS TO PURCHASE OTHER GOODS AND SERVICES."
Yes, and I think that minimally those taxpayers expect the NASA
Administrator to take the steps necessary to ensure their continued
"THE OFFICE OF MANAGEMENT AND BUDGET (OMB) PUBLISHES SEVERAL INFLATION
INDICES APPLICABLE TO DIFFERENT PORTIONS OF THE GOVERNMENT SECTOR. FOR
GOVERNMENT R&D ACTIVITIES, INCLUDING THOSE AT NASA, THE OMB PRESCRIBES THE
USE OF THE SO-CALLED 'GDP (CHAINED) PRICE INDEX'
DELVING INTO THE MERITS AND SHORTCOMINGS OF VARIOUS INDICES, OUR DISCUSSION
OF INFLATION-ADJUSTED NASA FUNDING WILL EMPLOY THIS INDEX. WHILE FISCAL
ANALYSIS ACROSS SEVERAL DECADES IS SENSITIVE TO THE CHOICE OF INFLATION
INDEX, THE PRESENT DISCUSSION IS NOT SIGNIFICANTLY INFLUENCED BY THE CHOICE
OF THE GDP CHAINED INDEX VS. OTHER OMB INDICES.
"UNLESS SPECIFICALLY STATED OTHERWISE, ALL FISCAL DISCUSSIONS IN THIS ESSAY
ARE COUCHED IN TERMS OF FISCAL 2000 DOLLARS, WITH INFLATION ADJUSTMENTS
ACCORDING TO THE OMB GDP (CHAINED) PRICE INDEX.
"FIGURE 1 SHOWS THE CONSTANT-DOLLAR BUDGET FOR NASA'S FIRST 50 YEARS,
1959-2008, IN FISCAL 2000 DOLLARS, AND INCLUDES THE ASSUMPTION THAT THE
AGENCY WILL BE FUNDED IN FISCAL 2008 AT THE LEVEL OF THE PRESIDENT'S
Actually, given the current state of things, a better assumption is that
NASA will be budgeted with specific earmarks, i.l. instructions, as it was
in the last resolution.
"DATA FOR OTHER FISCAL YEARS IS HISTORICAL. THE ANOMALOUS FUNDING BUMP IN
FISCAL 1977 IS DUE TO THE INCLUSION OF A FIFTH 'TRANSITION QUARTER' IN THAT
YEAR, SINCE IN 1976 THE FISCAL YEAR BOUNDARY WAS SHIFTED FROM 1 JULY TO 1
OCTOBER, WHERE IT REMAINS TODAY. MAJOR EVENTS IN NASA'S HISTORY 'THE APOLLO
PEAK', THE POST-APOLLO AEROSPACE DEPRESSION, AND THE SUPPLEMENTAL PROVIDED
BY THE CONGRESS IN RESPONSE TO THE CHALLENGER DISASTER, ARE ALL CLEARLY
VISIBLE IN FIG. 1. (CLICK ON IMAGE TO SEE FULL SIZE.
"AS SEEN, NASA TODAY IS FUNDED AT A CONSTANT-DOLLAR LEVEL SLIGHTLY HIGHER
THAN THE AGENCY'S HISTORICAL AVERAGE. WITH PROPOSED GROWTH IN THE
PRESIDENT'S BUDGET FOR FISCAL 2008-12 ROUGHLY MATCHING THE ANTICIPATED RATE
OF INFLATION OVER THE NEXT SEVERAL YEARS, AGENCY FUNDING IS EXPECTED TO
REMAIN SLIGHTLY ABOVE THE 50-YEAR AVERAGE.
Don't get your hopes up. There's a war in the mid-east to pay for.
"IN AN ATTEMPT TO OFFER A REASONABLE, BUT CONSERVATIVE, VISION FOR
GOVERNMENT CIVIL SPACE ACTIVITIES, LET US ASSUME THAT NASA CONTINUES, IN
FISCAL 2013 AND BEYOND, TO BE FUNDED IN CONSTANT DOLLARS AT THE AVERAGE
LEVEL OF THE PRESIDENT'S REQUEST FOR FISCAL 2008-12. THIS IS ILLUSTRATED IN
FIGURE 2, WITH THE AVERAGE OUT-YEAR BUDGET ASSUMED TO BE $14.2 BILLION IN
FISCAL 2000 DOLLARS. WE IN THE SPACE COMMUNITY WILL CERTAINLY HOPE FOR
MORE, BUT WE SHOULD NOT EXPECT LESS.
Don't get your hopes up.
MORE PROPERLY, WE SHOULD EXPECT TO PERFORM IN SUCH A MANNER, ACTUALLY
DELIVERING A BOLD, EXCITING, EFFICIENT AND EFFECTIVE SPACE PROGRAM, INSTEAD
OF POWERPOINT CHARTS WITH HOPES AND DREAMS, THAT POLICYMAKERS DO NOT WANT TO
Yeah, and the policymakers also told you what minimal performance they
expected from you in dealing with the impact hazard, within the existing
budget... and they don't like being held hostage.
"THE YEAR-TO-YEAR BUDGET PROFILE WILL SHOW SOME VARIABILITY, OF COURSE, BUT
WE SHOULD EXPECT CONSIDERABLY MORE STRATEGIC AND FISCAL STABILITY THAN WAS
EVIDENCED IN THE AGENCY'S FIRST FEW DECADES. MINOR ANNUAL VARIATIONS SHOULD
NOT AFFECT THE LARGER PICTURE; ON THE FIVE- TO 15-YEAR CYCLE OF
DEVELOPMENTAL SPACE PROGRAMS AND PROJECTS, IT IS THE AVERAGE LEVEL OF
FUNDING WHICH IS THE MOST SIGNIFICANT PARAMETER. THE TOTAL FUNDING RECEIVED
BY THE AGENCY OVER A SIGNIFICANT PERIOD, A DECADE OR MORE, TOGETHER WITH
STABILITY OF STRATEGIC GOALS, LARGELY DETERMINES WHAT CAN BE ACCOMPLISHED.
Actually, its how that money is spent.
"FIGURE 3 OFFERS A DIFFERENT VIEW OF HISTORICAL AND PROJECTED NASA FUNDING
FOR THE PAST AND FUTURE 50 YEARS. FUNDING IS AGGREGATED BY DECADE, AND
INCORPORATES THE ASSUMPTION OF A STABLE CONSTANT-DOLLAR BUDGET EMBODIED IN
FIGURE 2. FIGURE 4 PROVIDES A SIMILAR VIEW, WITH FUNDING AGGREGATED IN
15-YEAR INTERVALS AND CONSTANT INFLATION-ADJUSTED FUNDING ASSUMED THROUGH
2063. THIS 15-YEAR ASSESSMENT PERIOD IS PARTICULARLY CONVENIENT, SINCE
ESSENTIALLY ALL MERCURY, GEMINI, APOLLO AND SKYLAB DEVELOPMENT AND
OPERATIONS ARE CAPTURED WITHIN THE FIRST 15 YEARS OF NASA'S HISTORY.
"FIGURES 3 AND 4 OFFER WHAT MIGHT BE A NEW PERSPECTIVE FOR MANY. FROM A
DECADAL VIEWPOINT, THE 'APOLLO PEAK' IN NASA FUNDING, REGARDED BY SO MANY AS
THE AGENCY'S HALCYON PERIOD, IS A MYTH. IN TRUTH, NASA RECEIVED FUNDING
WELL ABOVE ITS HISTORICAL AVERAGE LEVEL FOR ONLY FIVE YEARS, 1964-68,
FOLLOWED BY A LENGTHY AND DEBILITATING REDUCTION. BUT WHEN AVERAGED OVER
DECADAL OR FIFTEEN-YEAR TIME SCALES, THE NATION'S CIVIL SPACE PROGRAM HAS
EXPERIENCED NO PARTICULARLY NOTEWORTHY FUNDING PEAKS. THE HIGHEST
HISTORICAL FUNDING PERIOD WAS ACTUALLY IN THE DECADE (OR 15-YEAR INTERVAL)
CENTERED ON THE EARLY 1990S, NOT DURING APOLLO.
FURTHER, IF WE ASSUME FUNDING STABILITY IN CONSTANT DOLLARS AS SHOWN IN FIG.
2, THE TOTAL IN EVERY SUBSEQUENT DECADE WILL MATCH THAT OF THE APOLLO
DEVELOPMENT DECADE, 1959-68. EXPRESSED IN A SLIGHTLY DIFFERENT WAY, NASA
COULD CARRY OUT A COMPLETE APOLLO-SCALE EFFORT EVERY 15 YEARS BETWEEN THE
PRESENT DAY AND THE 100TH ANNIVERSARY OF SPUTNIK.
Ummm, using 15 year periods hides a wealth of information. After the "Apollo
peak" Cocoa Beach's real estate market collapsed.
"LET US NOW ADDRESS ANOTHER TIME-HONORED BELIEF ABOUT THE APOLLO ERA. WHEN
WE TALK ABOUT AN 'APOLLO-SCALE EFFORT,' IT IS IMPORTANT TO UNDERSTAND THAT,
CONTRARY TO CONVENTIONAL WISDOM, WE ARE NOT TALKING ABOUT AN AGENCY DEVOTED
EXCLUSIVELY TO HUMAN EXPLORATION. THE FUNDING RECORD CLEARLY SHOWS THAT THE
'APOLLO ERA' WAS ACTUALLY QUITE A LOT MORE THAN JUST THAT.
"IN THE APOLLO DEVELOPMENT DECADE OF 1959-68, HUMAN SPACEFLIGHT RECEIVED 63%
OF THE BUDGET. FUNDING SPECIFICALLY FOR APOLLO FROM ITS INCEPTION IN FISCAL
1961 TO ITS COMPLETION IN FISCAL 1973 WAS ABOUT $105 BILLION IN FISCAL 2000
DOLLARS. IF MERCURY ($1.9 BILLION), GEMINI ($5.1 BILLION) AND SKYLAB ($12
BILLION) ARE INCLUDED, THE ENTIRE HUMAN SPACEFLIGHT PROGRAM FROM 1959-73
RECEIVED ABOUT $125 BILLION, OR 61% OF THE $206 BILLION ALLOCATED TO NASA
DURING THIS PERIOD. LITTLE HAS CHANGED IN THIS REGARD; TODAY, THE
PRESIDENT'S FISCAL 2008 BUDGET REQUEST ASSIGNS 62% OF NASA'S FUNDING TO
"THE LIST OF ACHIEVEMENTS IN BOTH AERONAUTICS AND SPACE SCIENCE FROM 1959-73
IS LONG AND IMPRESSIVE. AERONAUTICAL ACCOMPLISHMENTS OF THIS ERA INCLUDE
199 RESEARCH FLIGHTS OF THE THREE X-15 ROCKET PLANES, THE DEVELOPMENT AND
FLIGHT TESTING OF A HALF-DOZEN LIFTING-BODY DESIGNS, GROUNDBREAKING WORK IN
COMPUTATIONAL FLUID DYNAMICS, DEVELOPMENT OF THE SUPERCRITICAL WING AND THE
DIGITAL FLY-BY-WIRE FLIGHT CONTROL SYSTEM, AND (IN CONJUNCTION WITH THE AIR
FORCE) MAJOR ROLES IN THE XB-70 AND YF12A PROGRAMS. THE 'APOLLO ERA' WAS A
TRUE GOLDEN AGE FOR AERONAUTICS RESEARCH, WHICH WAS ALLOCATED 6% OF THE NASA
BUDGET FROM 1959-68.
Yeah, the US economy had a manufacturing sector which actually made things
then. It had engineers too. And DC ended at Southern Avenue, and Mt Vernon
was a distant suburb.
"IN SPACE SCIENCE THE LIST OF ACCOMPLISHMENTS IS, IF ANYTHING, EVEN MORE
IMPRESSIVE. THE 'APOLLO ERA' SAW DOZENS OF EXPLORER MISSIONS INCLUDING THE
RADIO ASTRONOMY EXPLORER AND ATMOSPHERIC EXPLORER SERIES; A DOZEN PIONEER
MISSIONS INCLUDING PIONEERS 10 AND 11 TO JUPITER AND SATURN; RANGER 1-9;
SURVEYOR 1-7; MARINER 1-10; THE ORBITING SOLAR OBSERVATORY, ORBITING
GEOPHYSICAL OBSERVATORY, AND ORBITING ASTRONOMICAL OBSERVATORY SERIES, AS
WELL AS MOST OF THE MONEY FOR TWO VIKING MISSIONS TO MARS, LAUNCHED IN 1975.
THE TIROS, NIMBUS, AND ESSA SERIES PIONEERED THE DEVELOPMENT OF WEATHER
SATELLITES. THE "APOLLO ERA' WAS ALSO A GOLDEN AGE FOR SPACE SCIENCE, WHICH
RECEIVED 17% OF THE NASA BUDGET FROM 1959-68.
Yeah, the US economy had a manufacturing sector which actually made things
"ABOUT 10% OF THE 1959-68 BUDGET WAS DEVOTED TO SPACE TECHNOLOGY
DEVELOPMENT, INCLUDING SPACE COMMUNICATIONS TECHNOLOGY, AND 4% WAS DEVOTED
TO 'OTHER'; I.E., UNIVERSITY SUPPORT AND CROSS-AGENCY ACTIVITIES.
"THE SUMMARY BELOW SHOWS A 'THEN AND NOW' COMPARISON. IN CONTRAST TO
OFT-REPEATED CLAIMS, HUMAN SPACEFLIGHT IS NOT GROWING RELATIVE TO OTHER
PORTIONS OF THE NASA PORTFOLIO, AND IS NOT ÂEATING EVERYONEÂS LUNCH.Â
CATEGORY 1959-68 FY08 REQUEST
HUMAN SPACE FLIGHT 63% 62%
SCIENCE 17% 32%
AERONAUTICS 6% 3%
COMM & SPACE TECH. 10% 0%
CROSS-AGENCY SUPT. 4% 3%
"THE HISTORICAL RECORD PROVIDES CLEAR EVIDENCE THAT IT IS POSSIBLE TO HAVE
ROBUST, CO-EXISTING PROGRAMS OF HUMAN EXPLORATION, SPACE SCIENCE,
AERONAUTICS, AND TECHNOLOGY DEVELOPMENT IN A SINGLE AGENCY FUNDED AT A LEVEL
ESSENTIALLY THE SAME AS WE PRESENTLY RECEIVE. SO, WHAT MIGHT THE FUTURE
An entirely devastating impact event, with a certainty of 100%, if NASA
continues on its present course.
"LET US ASSUME FOR THE PRESENT DISCUSSION THAT OVER THE LONG TERM, MANNED
SPACEFLIGHT WILL CONTINUE TO RECEIVE 62% OF THE NASA BUDGET. AGAIN ASSUMING
INFLATION-ADJUSTED FUNDING AT $14.2 BILLION/YEAR ON AVERAGE, IT FOLLOWS THAT
HUMAN SPACEFLIGHT WILL BE ALLOCATED $8.8 BILLION ANNUALLY, OR $132 BILLION
IN EACH 15-YEAR PERIOD, IN FISCAL 2000 DOLLARS.
"NEXT, WE MUST RECOGNIZE THAT 'THE FUTURE' REALLY DOES NOT, AND CANNOT,
START UNTIL AFTER 2010. "
'The future' started a long time ago.
"UNTIL THEN, WE ARE ENGAGED IN COMPLETING A LONG-STANDING COMMITMENT TO THE
INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION, WITH NO OTHER OPTION BESIDES THE SPACE SHUTTLE
TO DO IT."
And whose fault is that? The EELVs were in place, and a CEV variant for
servicing ISS with them could have been (and can be) developed.
"AT PRESENT FUNDING LEVELS, WE CANNOT AFFORD TO DEVELOP NEW HUMAN
SPACEFLIGHT SYSTEMS WITHOUT THE MONEY WHICH BECOMES AVAILABLE FOLLOWING
Let's see. The plan was to use the EELVs to service the ISS, and develop a
heavy launcher using shuttle technologies at its retirement. Whose idea was
it to have Thiokol develop a new medium launcher instead?
"DESPITE THE CONCERNS OF THOSE, EMPHATICALLY INCLUDING MYSELF, WHO WORRY
ABOUT THE GAP IN HUMAN SPACEFLIGHT BETWEEN THE RETIREMENT OF THE SPACE
SHUTTLE AND THE AVAILABILITY OF THE NEW CONSTELLATION SYSTEMS, ORION AND
ARES, WE MUST STAY ON OUR PRESENT COURSE
Stay the course, eh? Actually, we can still man rate the EELVs at any point,
and kick in development of the Ares 5.
"AND RETIRE THE SHUTTLE IN 2010, IF THERE IS TO BE A FUTURE FOR HUMAN
Oh, there'll be a future for manned spaceflight. What the US's role in it
will be is the question at hand.
"THE SHUTTLE OFFERS TRULY STUNNING CAPABILITY, GREATER THAN ANYTHING WE WILL
SEE FOR A LONG TIME, BUT THE EXPENSE OF OWNING AND OPERATING IT, OR ANY
SIMILAR SYSTEM, IS SIMPLY TOO GREAT. ANY NEW SYSTEM, TO BE SUCCESSFUL, MUST
OFFER A MUCH, MUCH LOWER FIXED COST OF OWNERSHIP."
"THE SPACE SHUTTLE WAS DESIGNED TO BE COST EFFECTIVE AT A WEEKLY FLIGHT
Yeah - and then the military stepped in to make demands on the launch
"A GOAL THAT WAS NEVER CREDIBLE, IF FOR NO REASON OTHER THAN THE FACT THAT
THE FUNDING FOR SO MANY PAYLOADS TO FLY ON IT WAS NEVER REMOTELY AVAILABLE.
Yes, there is a limited demand for medium launchers.
"AND, IF THERE WERE A PREDICTABLE REQUIREMENT FOR 50-60 GOVERNMENT-SPONSORED
PAYLOADS TO BE FLOWN ANNUALLY, THAT FACT SHOULD BE TREATED AS A MARKET
OPPORTUNITY FOR A PRIVATE, NOT GOVERNMENT, SPACE TRANSPORTATION ENTERPRISE.
A GOVERNMENT HUMAN SPACEFLIGHT SYSTEM MUST BE DESIGNED TO BE COST EFFECTIVE
AT THE HALF-DOZEN OR SO FLIGHTS PER YEAR THAT WE CAN EXPECT TO FLY."
If that's about right, why will we have Atlas, Delta, Ares 1, Space X, and
Kistler (supposedly) providing those 6 flights? 1 manned realted flight per
company per year?
"BUT, IF THE BAD NEWS IS THAT 'THE FUTURE' DOESN'T START UNTIL AFTER 2010,
THE GOOD NEWS IS, THAT IS ONLY FOUR YEARS AWAY.
Oh boy. I can hardly wait.
"AND IN THE 45 YEARS THEREAFTER, BY THE CENTENNIAL ANNIVERSARY OF SPUTNIK,
WE CAN EXPECT TO RECEIVE AT LEAST AS MUCH MONEY AS WAS NECESSARY FOR APOLLO,
THREE TIMES OVER."
Don't get your hopes up.
"AND DESPITE THE LIMITED FUNDING FOR EXPLORATION IN TODAY'S NASA BUDGET, WE
WILL HAVE A BIT OF A HEAD START, BECAUSE WE'RE MAKING CONSIDERABLE PROGRESS
TOWARD THE DEPLOYMENT OF ORION AND ARES, EVEN WHILE FLYING OUT THE
SHUTTLE/ISS MANIFEST. SO WHAT WILL WE DO WITH THIS MONEY?
"MOST OF THE NEXT 15 YEARS WILL BE SPENT RE-CREATING CAPABILITIES WE ONCE
HAD, AND DISCARDED."
No, if for no other reason than simply because current NASA Administrator
will leave office by early 2009.
"THE NEXT LUNAR TRANSPORTATION SYSTEM WILL OFFER SOMEWHAT MORE CAPABILITY
THAN APOLLO. IT WILL CARRY FOUR PEOPLE TO THE LUNAR SURFACE INSTEAD OF TWO,
AND FOR A MINIMUM DURATION OF A WEEK, RATHER THAN A MAXIMUM DURATION OF
Actually the next lunar transportation system will have a whole lot more
capability than that - see Perimov's architecture, which China will most
"BUT IN ALL FAIRNESS, THE CAPABILITIES INHERENT IN ORION, ARES I, AND ARES V
ARE NOT QUALITATIVELY DIFFERENT THAN THOSE OF APOLLO, AND CERTAINLY ARE NOT
BEYOND THE EVOLUTIONARY CAPABILITY OF APOLLO-ERA SYSTEMS, HAD WE TAKEN THAT
COURSE. BUT WE DID NOT,
Yes, and some people still can't understand why.
"AND THE PATH BACK OUT INTO THE SOLAR SYSTEMS BEGINS, INEVITABLY, WITH A
LENGTHY EFFORT TO DEVELOP SYSTEMS COMPARABLE TO THOSE WE ONCE OWNED. IT
WILL COST US ABOUT $85 BILLION IN FISCAL 2000 CURRENCY TO GET TO THE SEVENTH
LUNAR LANDING BY 2020.
Who knows what will happen after 2009?
"THE ABOVE ASSESSMENT IS, FOR MANY, A BITTER PILL TO SWALLOW. NOT ONLY IS
IT DEPRESSING FOR ADVOCATES OF HUMAN EXPLORATION TO FACE THE FACT THAT SO
MANY YEARS WILL BE SPENT PLOWING OLD GROUND,
Since that field was abandoned long ago because it was not productive, i.l.
had "value", it is a wonder why anyone is plowing it again.
"BUT THERE IS ALSO THE QUESTION OF WHY IT WILL TAKE SO LONG. AGAIN, THE
ANSWER IS CAPTURED IN THE FUNDING PROFILE.
Actually, the answer lies more with who is spending that money, and what
they are spending it on.
"WE ARE INDEED RECEIVING TODAY, IN ANY GIVEN 15-YEAR PERIOD, THE SAME
REAL-DOLLAR FUNDING AS IN THE 15 YEARS OF THE APOLLO ERA, BUT WE ARE NOT
RECEIVING IT ON THE SAME SCHEDULE. THE BRIEF, ENORMOUS, FUNDING PEAK OF
MID-1960'S ALLOWED THE APOLLO SYSTEMS TO BE DEVELOPED AND PROCURED IN
PARALLEL. TODAY'S SYSTEMS MUST BE DEVELOPED SERIALLY."
First off, Apollo development started in 1957.
"AND THAT IS WHY THE JOB WILL NOT BE DONE, THIS TIME, IN EIGHT YEARS."
Once again, the answer may lie with who is managing the "job".
"BUT THAT IS ALSO WHY WE WILL NOT INCUR THE DISASTROUS DIVESTITURE OF TALENT
AND TECHNOLOGY THAT OCCURRED IN THE 15 YEARS AFTER APOLLO, BETWEEN THE EARLY
'70S AND THE LATE '80S.
The 15 year model is not all that relevant after all, then?
"IN THE LONG RUN, TO RETURN TO THE MOON OR GO TO MARS AND BEYOND, STABILITY
IS TO BE VALUED MORE THAN GOING IN THE SHORTEST POSSIBLE TIME."
Oh yeah, like the stability of the ISS. Oh yeah, I forgot, Tumlinson and
Zubrinn and their followers view ISS as a waste of money.
"AS WE MOVE FORWARD INTO OUR NEXT 50 YEARS, THIS MUST BE FULLY UNDERSTOOD BY
BOTH POLICYMAKERS AND THE PUBLIC, OR WE WILL FOREVER BE ANSWERING THE
QUESTION AS TO WHY WE WORK SO SLOWLY COMPARED TO THE APOLLO GENERATION.
CIVIL SPACE EXPLORATION BEYOND LEO MUST HAVE THE STABILITY IN STRATEGY AND
FUNDING THAT WAS LACKING THE FIRST TIME AROUND. THIS WILL ONLY BE PROVIDED
BY POLICYMAKERS IF A CLEAR LINK IS ESTABLISHED BETWEEN PREDICTABLE RESULTS
AND PREDICTABLE PURPOSE, STRATEGY, AND FUNDING. I BELIEVE WE WILL SUCCEED
IN FORGING THIS NEW PARADIGM - THE OPPOSITE OF THE APOLLO MOON DECADE
PARADIGM - BUT WE MUST DEVOTE CONSIDERABLE ATTENTION TO DOING SO."
Well, it has been said that he who does not learn from the past is doomed to
repeat it. But then that doesn't take into account new stupidities.
"WHAT WILL BE DONE WITH THE LUNAR TRANSPORTATION CAPABILITY THAT IS BEING
Yes, and now what exactly is that outpost supposed to do? Any idea at all,
except for testing a manned Mars lander? If you don't have any idea what you
want to accomplish, and why it needs to be done, then certainly you won't
have any idea how to do it.
"BY 2020 WE WILL HAVE THIS CAPABILITY, AND WITH IT CHOICES TO MAKE. WE CAN
CHOOSE BETWEEN A LUNAR PROGRAM DEVOTED TO SORTIE MISSIONS, OR ONE DEVOTED TO
BUILDING UP A LUNAR OUTPOST. AND WE CAN CHOOSE BETWEEN THE LEVEL OF EFFORT
WE INTEND TO FOCUS ON LUNAR ACTIVITIES VS. INITIATING DEVELOPMENT FOR MARS
MISSIONS. IN COMPANY WITH OTHER SPACE AGENCIES AROUND THE WORLD, WE AT NASA
HAVE FOCUSED ON AN OUTPOST-CENTERED LUNAR EXPLORATION STRATEGY."
Then since Russia and China have announced the same goal, why not consider
their architectures, instead of simply first testing a manned Mars lander?
"I BELIEVE THIS WILL BE PREFERRED OVER A SORTIE-ONLY STRATEGY FOR THE
REASONS THAT IT PROVIDES A MUCH MORE EFFECTIVE AVENUE FOR INTERNATIONAL
PARTNERSHIP, AND BECAUSE IT PROVIDES THE GREATEST OPPORTUNITY TO LEARN ON
THE MOON WHAT WE NEED TO KNOW TO GO TO MARS. BUT, OF COURSE, NOTHING
PREVENTS A SORTIE MISSION (for which read a flags and footprints test of a
manned Mars lander) TO ANY LOCATION ON THE MOON THAT IS OF SUFFICIENT
INTEREST TO JUSTIFY THE EXPENDITURE OF FUNDS.
Someday he may actually figure out what needs to be done on the Moon.
"SO AGAIN, LET US LOOK AT WHAT IS FISCALLY POSSIBLE.
"IT IS TO BE HOPED AND, I BELIEVE, EXPECTED THAT THE NEXT ERA OF SPACE
EXPLORATION WILL BE INTERNATIONAL IN SCOPE, IN MUCH THE SAME FASHION AS THE
DEVELOPMENT OF THE INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION TODAY. WHATEVER MIGHT BE
SAID OF THE ISS PROGRAM AND THERE CANNOT BE MUCH THAT HAS BEEN LEFT UNSAID
IT HAS PIONEERED A PATH TO THE DEVELOPMENT OF A MAJOR INTERNATIONAL SPACE
FACILITY. THERE ARE LESSONS LEARNED IN SO DOING THAT WE WILL TAKE WITH US
OUT INTO THE SOLAR SYSTEM. THESE LESSONS WILL BE THE MOST ENDURING, AND
ULTIMATELY MOST VALUABLE, CONTRIBUTION THE ISS CAN MAKE. WE WILL BE
APPLYING THEM ON MARS, FIFTY YEARS FROM NOW.
i.l., Mars in 2057, internationally. The chances of a Tunguska type blast
between now and then are about 50%.
"THE UNITED STATES IS DEVELOPING THE TRANSPORTATION SYSTEM WHICH WILL ALLOW
ACCESS TO THE LUNAR SURFACE FOR THE FIRST TIME IN A HALF-CENTURY."
Yeah, but the manned Mars lander test item is so limited in its capabilities
that it can't do what needs to be done.
"THIS IS THE HIGHEST 'BARRIER TO ENTRY' FOR EXPLORATION BEYOND LEO, ONE
WHICH ESSENTIALLY EXHAUSTS THE CONTRIBUTION THAT WE CAN MAKE TO A LUNAR
OUTPOST IN THE NEXT 15 YEARS."
I'm glad no one else is going down the path of using the Moon solely as a
test bed for a manned Mars lander.
"IF THERE IS TO BE A LUNAR PRESENCE SIGNIFICANTLY BEYOND MERELY GETTING
THERE AND GETTING BACK, IF THERE IS TO BE A HUMAN TENDED OUTPOST, MUCH OF
THE EARLY CAPABILITY MUST BE DEVELOPED BY INTERNATIONAL PARTNERS."
"capability" likely will be developed by them.
"BUT OUTPOST SUSTAINABILITY, AT LEAST IN THE EARLY YEARS, WILL LARGELY
DEPEND UPON ORION AND ARES."
Once again, the current NASA Administrator leaves office early in 2009.
Perhaps a new architecture will be adopted after that.
"I BELIEVE THAT BY 2021-22 WE WILL HAVE REGAINED ENOUGH EXPERIENCE IN LUNAR
In other words testing a manned Mars lander will be finished.
"THAT WE WILL BE ABLE TO UNDERTAKE A MODEST, BUT SUSTAINED AND SUSTAINABLE,
PROGRAM OF LUNAR OUTPOST DEVELOPMENT AND UTILIZATION."
Well, that will take the cost of developing and building an entirely new
architecture designed to do what needs to be done on the Moon, instead of
the testing of a manned Mars lander.
"I WILL ALSO VENTURE TO SAY THAT BY 2022 THE ISS WILL BE DEFINITELY BEHIND
US. WE WILL HAVE LEARNED FROM IT WHAT WE CAN, BUT THERE WILL COME A TIME
WHEN THE VALUE OF THE WORK BEING DONE ONBOARD THE FACILITY WILL BE JUDGED
NOT TO BE WORTH THE COST OF SUSTAINING ITS AGING SYSTEMS, AND IT WILL BE
Once again, the ISS power supply could be moved to orbit around the Moon,
used as a test bed for solar electric powered ion drives. Or as a test bed
for micro-wave power beaming. Or perhaps some industrial uses will emerge by
If the "space tourists" want their own power supply, they can damn well pay
for it themselves.
"I DON'T KNOW WHEN THIS WILL OCCUR"
Never. No one is simply going to pitch out a power supply built and orbited
at a cost of 10's of billions of dollars.
"AND I AM NOT SURE IT IS PREDICTABLE OTHER THAN IN A STATISTICAL SENSE, BUT
I BELIEVE THAT BY 2022 OR THEREABOUTS IT WILL HAVE HAPPENED. AND WHEN IT
DOES, THE RESOURCES WHICH HAVE BEEN USED FOR ISS SUPPORT CAN BE APPLIED TO
THE SUPPORT OF A LUNAR OUTPOST.
I think you're right there.
"FOR THE SAKE OF ARGUMENT AND NOTHING MORE, LET US SAY THAT IN 2022 WE WILL
BEGIN A SUSTAINED LUNAR PROGRAM OF EXPLORATION AND DEVELOPMENT CONSISTING OF
THREE MANNED MISSIONS (TWO OUTPOST CREW ROTATIONS AND ONE SORTIE) AND ONE
UNMANNED CARGO MISSION PER YEAR, UTILIZING THREE ORION/ARES I VEHICLES AND
FOUR ARES V LAUNCHES."
So let's see, that's 10 large Thiokol grains per year, up from 4 now.
Anybody here have any doubts that that income stream is not already included
in Thiokol's powerpoints and spreadsheets?
Of course, as Apollo was cancelled entirely with only 6 landings, that
income stream may become limited.
"PRESENT PROJECTIONS ASSUME A CARGO CAPACITY OF SIX METRIC TONS ON A LANDER
CARRYING FOUR CREW MEMBERS, AND TWENTY METRIC TONS ON A CARGO LANDER, AT A
MARGINAL COST OF ABOUT $750 MILLION FOR A HUMAN MISSION AND $525 MILLION FOR
A CARGO MISSION. THE MARGINAL COST IN FISCAL 2000 DOLLARS FOR THIS NOMINAL
LUNAR PROGRAM WILL THUS BE ABOUT $3 BILLION.
Split 3 ways, $750 million is $250 million apiece. But that $750 million
can't be split.
$750 Million is about twice the cost of the same mission using 4 mediums and
a lunar orbiting fuel transfer facility. And using mediums, you have
economies of scale.
It looks like the CEV is pricing out at about $750 million - $525 million =
$225 million per copy, with each Ares 1 going for nearly $450 million = $525
million-say $80 million per cargo module or so.
"THESE MARGINAL COSTS DO NOT INCLUDE AN ALLOCATION OF THE FIXED COSTS OF
PRODUCTION AND OPERATIONS WHICH WILL BE ASSIGNED TO EACH FLIGHT.
I got a question. If Thiokol wanted to enter the medium lift launch market,
why didn't they do it on their own dime? Or why not DoD's, as for the
existing medium EELVs? Why NASA's dime?
"LET US ASSUME A FIXED-COST SUPPORT BASE OF $1 BILLION ANNUALLY, ABOUT A
THIRD OF THAT FOR THE SHUTTLE TODAY, EQUIVALENT TO ROUGHLY 6,000 FULL-TIME
EMPLOYEES AT AVERAGE FISCAL 2000 LABOR RATES. WE SHOULD ALL WORK TO MAKE IT
I don't know how people feel about their home districts.
"BUT THIS IS AN APPROPRIATELY CONSERVATIVE ESTIMATE FOR THE PRESENT. THIS
YIELDS A SUSTAINED LUNAR PROGRAM COSTING NO MORE THAN $4 BILLION/YEAR,
LEAVING $4.8 BILLION ANNUALLY IN THE HUMAN SPACEFLIGHT ACCOUNT TO BE APPLIED
TO NEW DEVELOPMENT PRIORITIES.
Let's see. Assume 2 CZ5 and 2 Angara at about $80 million per launch, or
perhaps as low as $60 million per launch. About $400 million, split several
ways, for each mission?
"BY THE 2020'S WE WILL BE WELL POSITIONED TO BEGIN THE MARS EFFORT IN
That is, if the taxpaying public wants to spend any money at all on manned
flight to Mars, which is highly unlikely, given that they can see about all
of Mars that they want to with rovers.
"THE LUNAR CAMPAIGN WILL HAVE STABILIZED; A HUMAN-TENDED OUTPOST WILL BE
WELL ESTABLISHED; WE WILL HAVE EXTENSIVE LONG-DURATION SPACE EXPERIENCE IN
BOTH ZERO- AND LOW-GRAVITY CONDITIONS, AND IT WILL BE TIME TO BUNDLE THESE
LESSONS AND MOVE ON TO MARS WHICH DOES NOT IMPLY THAT WE WILL BRING LUNAR
ACTIVITIES TO AN END. QUITE THE CONTRARY; MY PREDICTION IS THAT THE MOON
WILL PROVE TO BE FAR MORE INTERESTING, AND FAR MORE RELEVANT TO HUMAN
AFFAIRS, THAN MANY TODAY ARE PREPARED TO BELIEVE.
Agree with you on that.
"BUT BY THE EARLY 2020S, IT WILL BE TIME TO ASSIGN A STABLE LEVEL OF SUPPORT
FOR LUNAR ACTIVITIES, AND SET OUT FOR MARS.
"THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE ORION/ARES I/ARES V TRANSPORTATION SYSTEM IS BEING
DONE IN A WAY THAT PROVIDES A SUBSTANTIAL CAPABILITY FOR SUBSEQUENT MARS
That's certainly an understatement.
"IN PARTICULAR, WE EXPECT THE ORION CREW VEHICLE (OR A MODEST UPGRADE OF IT)
TO PROVIDE THE PRIMARY TRANSPORTATION FROM EARTH TO WHATEVER TRANSPORTATION
NODE IS USED FOR THE ASSEMBLY OF THE MARS SHIP, AND TO BE THE REENTRY
VEHICLE IN WHICH THE CREW RETURNS HOME AT THE END OF THE VOYAGE. THE ARES V
CARGO VEHICLE WILL PROVIDE, WITH NO MORE THAN A HALF-DOZEN LAUNCHES, THE 500
METRIC TONS OR SO WHICH IS THOUGHT TO BE NECESSARY FOR A MARS MISSION, BASED
ON PRESENT-DAY STUDIES. AS A PERSPECTIVE ON SCALE, THIS MASS IS ABOUT 25%
GREATER THAN THAT OF THE COMPLETED ISS.
Yeah, if you don't launch wings and a body, and their heat shielding, you
can put up a lot more mass. Since the performance numbers are as they are,
why wasn't the development of the Ares 5 undertaken instead of the
development of the Ares 1? Oh yeah, I forgot. Thiokol wanted to enter the
medium launch market on NASA's dime.
"IT IS DIFFICULT TO ESTIMATE THE NON-RECURRING COST OF DEVELOPING A MARS
MISSION THAT IS INITIATED SOME 20 OR MORE YEARS IN THE FUTURE, AND
ESPECIALLY SO WHEN A SPECIFIC MISSION ARCHITECTURE HAS NOT YET BEEN
Well, if you throw out any option using a large nuclear electic power
generator launched over Ft. Lauderdale, that pretty much leaves solar
electric and solar thermal architectures, now doesn't it?
"BUT REASONED ESTIMATES CAN BE MADE. A SMALL GROUP CO-CHAIRED BY SKYLAB AND
SHUTTLE ASTRONAUT OWEN GARRIOTT AND ME MADE AN ATTEMPT TO DO SO IN A STUDY
CONDUCTED FOR THE PLANETARY SOCIETY IN 2004. WHILE NECESSARILY OMITTING
MANY IMPORTANT DETAILS, A REASONABLE APPROACH BASED ON MISSION MASS,
CONSISTENT WITH MODERN COST ESTIMATION ALGORITHMS, WAS OUTLINED. IT WAS
CONCLUDED THAT, FOLLOWING A DECADAL HARDWARE DEVELOPMENT CYCLE, NINE MARS
MISSIONS COULD BE CONDUCTED OVER A 20-YEAR PERIOD FOR A TOTAL COST OF
APPROXIMATELY $120 BILLION IN FISCAL 2000 DOLLARS, OR $6 BILLION/YEAR,
SIGNIFICANTLY LESS THAN WE ARE SPENDING ON SHUTTLE/ISS TODAY.
It was just my 'magination... running away with me....
(IF THIS SEEMS LOW, IT SHOULD BE NOTED THAT THE DEVELOPMENT COST OF THE
HEAVY-LIFT TRANSPORTATION SYSTEM IS ALLOCATED TO THE EARLIER LUNAR PROGRAM.
THE MARS PROGRAM WOULD PAY ONLY THE MARGINAL COST OF TRANSPORTATION.)"
As a lunar program using a different architecture could be done entirely
with mediums, for which see Perimov's architecture, op. cit., clearly this
is a rationalization and the entire development cost for the Ares 5 should
be assigned to the manned Mars effort.
"ALLOCATING AN ACROSS-THE-BOARD 30% RESERVE AT THIS STAGE PUTS THE COST OF A
30-YEAR MARS EXPLORATION PROGRAM AT $156 BILLION IN FISCAL 2000 DOLLARS. OF
THIS, APPROXIMATELY $70 BILLION CONSISTS OF DEVELOPMENT COST, WITH RESERVE.
IF $4.8 BILLION/YEAR IS AVAILABLE IN THE HUMAN SPACEFLIGHT ACCOUNT, THEN THE
MARS MISSION DEVELOPMENT CYCLE WILL REQUIRE ABOUT 15 YEARS. THUS, IF WE
BEGIN DEVELOPMENT WORK IN 2021, WE WILL BE ABLE TO TOUCH DOWN ON THE MARTIAN
SURFACE IN ABOUT 2037, WITH FOLLOW-ON MISSIONS EVERY 26 MONTHS THEREAFTER
FOR THE NEXT TWO DECADES."
Let's see, follow on missions every 26 months for the following 20 years? I
wonder how many Thiokol grains that works out to...
"SO THERE WE HAVE IT, AT LEAST FOR THE U.S. CIVIL SPACE PROGRAM. AT PRESENT
LEVELS OF REAL-DOLLAR FUNDING, BY 2057 WE CAN CELEBRATE THE 35TH ANNIVERSARY
OF A LUNAR BASE,
2022 - but only the test of the manned Mars lander has been detailed so far.
WHICH WILL BE GROWING IN CAPABILITY AT THE RATE OF 30 METRIC TONS PER YEAR,
EVEN WITHOUT ASSUMING ANY INTERNATIONAL PARTNER CONTRIBUTION TO LOGISTICS,
WHICH I BELIEVE IS OVERLY CONSERVATIVE."
You can not assume that anyone will give you money simply to fly to the
Moon, test a manned Mars lander, step out and raise a flag. You can assume
that no one overseas will pay you to do it. Choose an architecture which
makes international participation difficult, and you can expect it to be
shut down due to the expense...
Even as early as Kennedy, he was considering "co-ordinating" the US and
Soviet Moon projects shortly before he was assassinated.
Some people, and I include Zubrin and Tumlinson here, don't learn because
they just don't want to. Unfortunately, the rest of us end up picking up the
"WE CAN CELEBRATE THE 100TH SPUTNIK ANNIVERSARY IN CONJUNCTION WITH THE 20TH
ANNIVERSARY OF THE FIRST HUMAN MARS LANDING. AND WE CAN DO ALL OF THESE
THINGS EVEN WITH WHAT I WOULD CONSIDER THE PESSIMISTIC ASSUMPTION THAT WE
RECEIVE NO MORE MONEY, IN CONSTANT DOLLARS, THAN WE DO TODAY. INDEED, THERE
SHOULD BE MONEY AVAILABLE FOR MISSIONS TO INTERESTING NEAR-EARTH OBJECTS, A
SEPARATE CHALLENGE WHICH WE WILL COME TO UNDERSTAND OFFERS HUGE
OPPORTUNITIES FOR THOSE SEEKING TO DEVELOP A SPACEFARING CIVILIZATION."
My g*d, you can get an act of Congress passed, and the man still does not
understnad. These NEOs have hit sometimes, and there's these big holes left
in the ground where they did.
"THAT'S WHAT I SEE AHEAD FOR THE AMERICAN SPACE PROGRAM. WHAT ABOUT THE
REST OF THE WORLD? BOTH RUSSIA AND CHINA HAVE DOMESTIC HUMAN SPACEFLIGHT
CAPABILITY TODAY; INDEED, THE ISS PROGRAM WOULD BE IN VERY DIFFICULT STRAITS
WITHOUT RUSSIAN CREW AND CARGO SERVICES.
Yes, indeed. After Columbia, the ISS would have been in the ocean without
OTHER NATIONS OR ALLIANCES EUROPE, JAPAN, INDIA, BRAZIL, OTHERS COULD
DEVELOP SIMILAR CAPABILITY WITHIN A FEW YEARS OF A DECISION TO DO SO."
Yes, but when they do so, it's highly likely that they won't be spending
money simply to test a manned Mars lander.
China will make its decision around 2016.
"FOR ADVANCED NATIONS TODAY, POSSESSING THE CAPABILITY FOR HUMAN SPACEFLIGHT
TO LEO IS A POLITICAL, NOT A TECHNICAL, DECISION. BUT GOING BEYOND LEO, TO
THE MOON, IS A PROBLEM OF A DIFFERENT ORDER. AND YET, THE MOON IS A
NECESSARY FIRST STEP OUTWARD FOR ANY NATION SEEKING A SPACEFARING FUTURE.
Their space leaderships agree with this.
"SO LET US LOOK AT THE RESOURCES REQUIRED TO PURSUE SUCH A FUTURE.
"THE DEVELOPMENT PHASE OF APOLLO REQUIRED ABOUT $80-85 BILLION IN FISCAL
2000 CURRENCY, ABOUT THE SAME AS WE PREDICT WILL BE REQUIRED TO REDEVELOP
As its not likely that anyone else will use the current US architecture (See
Perimov's study) their development costs will be at least an order of
magnitude less. As a matter of fact, one can break it out launcher by
launcher, korabl by korabl ("spaceship by spaceship" seems so awkward;
"capsule by capsule" doesn't work too well either; SZ by SZ?) if one wants.
"CONSTELLATION SYSTEMS WILL, AS STATED EARLIER, OFFER SUBSTANTIALLY MORE
PERFORMANCE THAN APOLLO, BUT IT DOES SEEM AS IF AN EFFORT OF APPROXIMATELY
THIS MAGNITUDE IS NECESSARY, NO MATTER WHAT.
Jeezus, you have the blind, and then you have the willfully stupid.
THERE IS AN INHERENT OF THE COST VS. PERFORMANCE CURVE; IT TAKES A LOT OF
EFFORT TO GET TO THE MOON,"
Only if you're using the Moon to develop a manned Mars system.
"AFTER WHICH ADDITIONAL CAPABILITY CAN BE ADDED AT SOMEWHAT LESS MARGINAL
Yeah. For example, once you've developed a medium launcher (CZ5) and fuel
transfer faciility (space station - 2014) then you can place them wherever
"SO LET'S ASSUME A MINIMUM REQUIRED EFFORT OF ABOUT $80 BILLION IS REQUIRED
TO DEVELOP A BASIC LUNAR CAPABILITY."
Once again, you only need to make that assumption if you're trying to use
the Moon to test manned Mars systems.
"IN THE U.S., AT APPROXIMATE AVERAGE AEROSPACE LABOR RATES FOR FISCAL 2000,
THIS IS EQUIVALENT TO AN EFFORT OF ROUGHLY 600,000 MAN-YEARS, OR 40,000
PEOPLE FOR 15 YEARS. OTHER NATIONS WILL LIKELY OPERATE IN A SOMEWHAT LEANER
FASHION THAN IS CHARACTERISTIC OF THE U.S. AEROSPACE CULTURE;"
Yeah. I don't think anyone else in the world is wealthy enough to afford
this level of stupidity.
"I WILL ALWAYS REMEMBER MAX FAGET'S COMMENT TO ME THAT 'WE COULD HAVE DONE
APOLLO WITH A LOT FEWER PEOPLE, BUT WE COULDN'T HAVE DONE IT WITH ANY MORE.'
BUT IT REMAINS LIKELY THAT AN EFFORT SIMILAR TO APOLLO WILL BE REQUIRED
FOR ANY NATION OR SOCIETY ATTEMPTING TO REACH THE MOON FOR THE FIRST TIME,
PROVIDED IT HAS ACCESS TO THE NECESSARY INDUSTRIAL BASE AND AN ADEQUATE
Once again, one can look at the other architectures and price them out.
It's really not all that hard.
"MANY NATIONS OR ALLIANCES CAN, AS A MATTER OF POLITICAL CHOICE, DECIDE TO
MOUNT SUCH AN EFFORT. EUROPE HAS A POPULATION 50% GREATER THAN THAT OF THE
U.S., YET SPENDS ON A PER-CAPITA BASIS ONLY ABOUT A FIFTH OF WHAT WE SPEND
It's even less than that when one considers the massive US spending on DoD
"A FUTURE EUROPEAN GENERATION COULD CHOOSE TO DO OTHERWISE. INDIA HAS A
MIDDLE CLASS POPULATION EQUAL IN SIZE TO THE ENTIRE U.S. POPULATION, AND
PRODUCES ENGINEERING GRADUATES EQUAL TO THE BEST ANYWHERE. CHINESE SPACE
AGENCY REPRESENTATIVES HAVE REMARKED PUBLICLY THAT, TODAY, SOME 200,000
ENGINEERS AND TECHNICIANS ARE ENGAGED IN SPACE-RELATED WORK. AND OF COURSE
RUSSIA COULD BEGIN THE DEVELOPMENT OF A LUNAR TRANSPORTATION SYSTEM TODAY,
ESSENTIALLY AT ITS DISCRETION, GIVEN ITS EXISTING SPACEFLIGHT CAPABILITY AND
THE RECENT AND CONTINUING FLOW OF ENERGY MONEY INTO THAT COUNTRY.
"BY THE MID-TO-LATE 2020'S, AT THE LATEST, SEVERAL NATIONS WILL HAVE THE
INDEPENDENT CAPABILITY TO REACH THE MOON, AND WILL BE DOING SO. MY HOPE IS
THAT THE VARIOUS PROGRAMS CAN BE BENT MORE TOWARD A COOPERATIVE THAN A
Its likely they will, regardless of any US effort to "bend" them. As a
matter of fact, go in with that attitude and they're likely to tell you to
I BELIEVE THAT NATIONS WILL FIND IT TO BE IN THEIR INTERESTS TO COOPERATE IN
LUNAR EXPLORATION AND DEVELOPMENT, AS THEY DO IN ANTARCTICA TODAY."
"BUT IT WILL ALSO BE TRUE THAT EACH NATION TO DEVELOP KEY ELEMENTS OF SPACE
INFRASTRUCTURE, ESPECIALLY TRANSPORTATION BUT ALSO NAVIGATION AND
COMMUNICATIONS ASSETS, WILL BE UNLIKELY TO SET THEM ASIDE IN FAVOR OF
RELIANCE ON OTHERS."
Actually, what will probably come about will not be single source "reliance"
but rather mutual interactions with multiple countries, all providing medium
lift launchers - see Perimov's architecture.
"FOR THE NEXT GENERATION, MAYBE AS MUCH AS TWO DECADES, THE U.S. MAY WELL BE
THE ONLY NATION CAPABLE OF REACHING THE MOON ON ITS OWN."
Actually, as was stated earlier, Russia is capable of reaching the Moon, but
can not afford to go alone and is unlikely to go unless there is a really
good reason for going.
China will make its decision around 2016. The world will be different then.
Who knows? Will China and India be co-operating by then? Who knows? Why'd
you leave Japan off your list?
"BUT MUCH BEYOND THAT, AND I SUSPECT THAT WE'LL BE THERE WITH OTHERS. THE
MOON WILL BE WITHIN THE GRASP OF A SIGNIFICANT NUMBER OF ADVANCED NATIONS.
IT WILL BE THE NEXT BIG LEAP, A VOYAGE TO MARS, WHERE INTERNATIONAL
COOPERATION IS A REQUIREMENT, RATHER THAN AN OPTION."
Actually, due to its cost, sustained working on the Moon is likely to
require international cooperation, so choose an architecture which makes
"WHAT WILL BE THE ROLE OF COMMERCIAL SPACE ENTITIES IN HUMAN EXPLORATION?
BY 'COMMERCIAL SPACE', I MEAN SPACE BUSINESS ENTERPRISES WHICH DEVELOP A
MARKETABLE CAPABILITY WHILE DEALING AT 'ARMS LENGTH' WITH THE GOVERNMENT;
I.E., LARGELY WITHOUT THE FINANCIAL BACKING AND CLOSE GOVERNMENT SUPERVISION
WHICH HAS HISTORICALLY CHARACTERIZED THE SPACE INDUSTRY. THE GOVERNMENT
WILL, AT LEAST INITIALLY, STILL BE THE MAJOR CUSTOMER FOR SUCH ENTERPRISES.
Funny how that works. Maybe it has something to do with the engineering
realities imposed by the laws of physics.
"WHETHER OR NOT AN ENTERPRISE IS PART OF THE COMMERCIAL SPACE ARENA DEPENDS
NOT ON THE IDENTITY OF ITS CUSTOMERS, BUT ON THE NATURE OF ITS INTERACTIONS
WITH THAT CUSTOMER.
Maybe with enough bs, one can "hide" reality.
"I EXPECT THAT THE ROLE OF COMMERCIAL SPACE IN HUMAN SPACE EXPLORATION WILL
BE SIGNIFICANT, AND POSSIBLY TRANSFORMING, OVER THE NEXT FIVE DECADES AND
Well, we could always shut down NASA and hire WalMart to buy the CAPS
services from China.
"WE AT NASA ARE PRESENTLY ENGAGED IN AN EFFORT TO DETERMINE WHETHER IT IS
POSSIBLE FOR A COMMERCIAL FIRM TO DEVELOP ORBITAL SPACE TRANSPORTATION
CAPABILITIES WITHOUT THE CLOSE SUPERVISION OF THE GOVERNMENT.
Let's all pray to our deity that Space X's Falcon works. (Atheists can
simply take a minute to hope if they like.)
THE LATTER APPROACH, THROUGH WHAT ARE COMMONLY KNOWN AS 'PRIME CONTRACTS'
WITH INDUSTRY, HAS BEEN THE TRADITIONAL APPROACH OVER THE LAST FIVE DECADES
FOR STATE-OF-THE-ART PROJECTS IN THE DEFENSE AND AEROSPACE INDUSTRY. IT
PRODUCES SUCCESSFUL OUTCOMES WITH REASONABLE CERTAINTY AND AT GREAT
Its funny how much those "prime contract' expenses have risen in recent
years. Which is to say, its sad how much those "prime contract' expenses
have risen in recent years.
"I BELIEVE IT IS OBVIOUS TO MOST THAT, IF A DESIRED PRODUCT LIES WITHIN THE
STATE OF THE ART, IT CAN BE PROVIDED WITH SUBSTANTIALLY GREATER EFFICIENCY
BY THE COMMERCIAL SECTOR THAN BY THE GOVERNMENT. THERE IS LITTLE
COMPARATIVE DATA OBTAINED UNDER CONTROLLED CONDITIONS TO SUPPORT THIS CLAIM
OR TO ESTIMATE THE EFFICIENCY FACTOR INVOLVED.
You left out the costs of all the "consultants", and the costs of the
"bidding" processes, etc.
BUT, TO ME, THE LIMITED DATA AND MY OWN EXPERIENCE POINTS TO AN EFFICIENCY
FACTOR OF THREE TO SEVEN IN FAVOR OF THE COMMERCIAL SECTOR. WHATEVER THE
FACTOR, THE LIKELY COST BENEFIT TO THE GOVERNMENT OF COMMERCIAL PROCUREMENT
OF SPACE GOODS AND SERVICES, ONCE IT IS POSSIBLE, CANNOT AND WILL NOT BE
IGNORED. BUT, AGAIN, THE CRUCIAL ASSUMPTION IS THAT THE INTENDED PRODUCT
LIES WELL WITHIN THE STATE OF THE ART. WHEN THIS ASSUMPTION CANNOT BE MET,
CLOSE GOVERNMENT INVOLVEMENT WILL CONTINUE TO BE REQUIRED. COMMERCIAL FIRMS
SIMPLY CANNOT BE SUCCESSFUL IF ENGAGED IN A RESEARCH UPON WHOSE SUCCESS
THEIR REVENUE DEPENDS.
SOME HAVE OPINED THAT THE SCALE AND DIFFICULTY OF SPACEFLIGHT IS SUCH THAT
IT WILL REMAIN AN INHERENTLY GOVERNMENTAL ENTERPRISE FOR THE FORESEEABLE
FUTURE. I DO NOT SHARE THIS VIEW.
Then why the hell are you subsidizing Thiokol's entry into the medium launch
FOR ME, THE QUESTION IS MORE PROPERLY WHEN, NOT IF, THE STATE OF THE ART IN
ASTRONAUTICS WILL PERMIT A PRIVATE ENTERPRISE TO DEVELOP A SUCCESSFUL
ORBITAL TRANSPORTATION CAPABILITY WITHOUT THE DIRECT SUPPORT AND THE
ACCOMPANYING ONEROUS AND EXPENSIVE OVERSIGHT OF A GOVERNMENT PRIME CONTRACT.
You left out the costs of all the "consultants", and the costs of the
"bidding" processes, etc.
WE AT NASA ARE ATTEMPTING TO DETERMINE WHETHER THIS DATE HAS IN FACT
Actually you've tied ISS to COTS, two companies whose rocket have yet to
work. Little less not dealt with docking problems, etc. And you have no
But then Tumlinson and Zubrin think ISS is a waste of money, so I guess that
doesn't matter... to you.
BY PROVIDING SEED MONEY IN THE FORM OF SPACE ACT AGREEMENTS FOR TWO
COMMERCIAL ORBITAL TRANSPORTATION SERVICES (COTS) ENTITIES,
Subsidizing Kistler. Space X still has enough money left to go it alone. For
your subsidies to Thiokol, see above.
WE HOPE TO STIMULATE THE ATTAINMENT OF ENTREPRENEURIAL COMMERCIAL SPACE
Its all simply too wonderful. The existing launcher manufacturers are simply
not defined as "commercial entities", which will certainly come as a
surprise to their stockholders.
IF SUCH CAPABILITY IS SUCCESSFULLY DEMONSTRATED, WE CAN THEN PROCURE SUCH
SERVICES IN A MANNER MORE CHARACTERISTIC OF THE ECONOMY AT LARGE THAN IS THE
USUAL CASE IN THE GOVERNMENT-DRIVEN AEROSPACE SECTOR. WE AT NASA ARE
PREPARED TO STAND DOWN GOVERNMENT SYSTEMS AS AND WHEN COMMERCIAL CAPABILITY
Better check with Thiokol about that.
WHETHER OR NOT THE SPECIFIC COTS INITIATIVE IS SUCCESSFUL, THE COMMERCIAL
SPACE BUSINESS MODEL WILL EVENTUALLY BECOME SO.
Space technology generally has high development costs, high risk, and a long
pay back period.
That's why the government has a role.
A LONG-TERM GOVERNMENT SPONSORED SPACE EXPLORATION PROGRAM CARRIES WITH IT
THE IMPLICIT DEMAND FOR MANY TONS OF CARGO LOGISTICS AND CREW TRANSPORT,
OFFERING A STABLE AND TEMPTING MARKET NICHE FOR INDUSTRY.
What the hell for? What goods or services will allow them to make money? And
won't the ultimate buyer still be the government, at least in the case of
manned space flight? And ultimately, exactly what services will those manned
spaceflights provide to the taxpayer?
SOME ENTERPRISES WILL BE SURELY SUCCESSFUL IN THEIR ATTEMPTS TO SERVICE THIS
MARKET, AND FROM THERE COMMERCIAL SPACE ACTIVITY WILL BLOOM.
Let's all pray (or hope) that Space X's pressure fed liquids work.
IN ADDITION TO TRANSPORTATION, SPACE EXPLORATION IMPLIES THE NEED FOR
COMMUNICATIONS, NAVIGATION, POWER SYSTEMS, AND OTHER SUPPORT INFRASTRUCTURE.
THESE REQUIREMENTS WILL BE TARGETED BY SPECIFIC FIRMS AS SERVICES TO BE
PROVIDED COMMERCIALLY, RATHER THAN BY GOVERNMENT.
As there are firms today that provide those goods and services, what the
hell is the man talking about here?
I BELIEVE THAT THE FUTURE FOR U.S. CIVIL SPACE EXPLORATION THAT I HAVE
OUTLINED HERE CAN BE ATTAINED WITH THE RESOURCES THAT WILL BE AVAILABLE TO
NASA BY MEANS OF CONVENTIONAL GOVERNMENT APPROPRIATIONS AND ACQUISITION
Well, there is some good news indeed. At least he understands that he can't
spend more than the Congress appropriates.
BUT I ALSO BELIEVE THAT THIS IS JUST ABOUT AS MUCH AS WE CAN ACHIEVE WITH
THOSE RESOURCES, UNLESS WE CAN EFFECT REAL CHANGES IN OUR METHODS OF DOING
Try changing your architecture.
IF WE WANT TO DO MORE, IF WE WANT A RICHER FUTURE, IF WE ARE UNSATISFIED BY
THE RELATIVELY MODEST PROGRAM OF INNER SOLAR SYSTEM EXPLORATION I HAVE
ENVISIONED HERE, THERE MUST BE A CHANGE IN HOW WE GO ABOUT IT. EMBRACING
THE POSSIBILITIES INHERENT IN COMMERCIAL SPACE TRANSACTIONS IS ONE SUCH
PS - keeping your existing space firms in business is a good idea.
WHAT ELSE DO WE HAVE TO DO TO BRING ABOUT THIS FUTURE?
Try preventing a country from being blown off the face of planet Earth.
MOST OF WHAT WE NEED TO ACCOMPLISH THE GOALS SET FORTH HERE HAS ALREADY BEEN
DISCUSSED, IMPLICITLY OR EXPLICITLY, IN CONNECTION WITH BUDGETARY ISSUES,
BUT IT MAY BE HELPFUL TO CONCENTRATE SOME ATTENTION ON THE MATTER.
THE MOST IMPORTANT FACTOR FOR FUTURE SUCCESS IS STABILITY IN PURPOSE,
STRATEGY, REQUIREMENTS, AND FUNDING.
Stay this course?
APOLLO FUNDING WAS UNSTABLE IN BOTH DIRECTIONS.
Actually, once the voters found out how bleak and barren the Moon and Mars
were, few thought Flags and Footprints on the Moon was worth the cost. Why
expect the current generation to conclude any different? The decline in
THE HUGE RATE OF EARLY GROWTH ALLOWED THE APOLLO GOAL TO BE MET; THE ABRUPT
CESSATION OF FUNDING AS THE GOAL DREW WITHIN SIGHT PRODUCED STRATEGIC DAMAGE
THAT REMAINS UNTO THE PRESENT DAY.
Again, actually, once the voters found out how bleak and barren the Moon and
Mars were, few thought Flags and Footprints on the Moon was worth the cost.
Why expect the current generation to conclude any different? The decline in
The shuttle caused the "strategic" damage.
TO BE SUCCESSFUL, PROGRAM MANAGERS (WHETHER IN GOVERNMENT OR INDUSTRY) NEED
STABILITY. ADDITIONALLY, THEY NEED THE KNOWLEDGE THAT THERE WILL BE SUCH
STABILITY; DEFENSIVE PLANNING IS INHERENTLY WASTEFUL.
Okay, What you going to do with ISS if neither the Falcon or K-1 work? And
what are you going to do if they do? You still haven't covered docking and
STABILITY OF PURPOSE, A RESULT OF AGREEMENT UPON PRIORITIES, IS AS IMPORTANT
AS FUNDING STABILITY.
Well, actually the Congress told the NASA Administrator that impactor
detection was a priority, and he simply ignored them.
MANAGERS MUST HAVE REASONABLE AND EFFECTIVE CONTROL OF WHAT IS DONE WITH THE
RESOURCES PEOPLE, MONEY, AND TIME ENTRUSTED TO THEM. IF FUNDING IS IN FACT
STABLE, THEN ADDITIONAL MONEY WILL NOT BE AVAILABLE TO SOLVE PROBLEMS WHICH
ARE, INEVITABLY, ENCOUNTERED IN ANY STATE-OF-THE-ART DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM.
MANAGERS MUST HAVE THE LATITUDE TO SACRIFICE OR DEFER LOWER PRIORITY EFFORTS
IN ORDER TO PROTECT MORE IMPORTANT ONES. THIS IN TURN REQUIRES, AT A
MINIMUM, BROAD AGREEMENT ON WHAT THOSE PRIORITIES ARE.
Well, actually the Congress told the NASA Administrator that impactor
detection was a priority, and he simply ignored them.
WHEN THIS CANNOT BE OBTAINED, EVERY PROGRAMMATIC OVERRUN AND EVERY MINOR
BUDGET VARIATION PRODUCES DIVISIVE POLITICAL INFIGHTING OVER WHAT WILL BE
SACRIFICED, AND WHAT WILL NOT.
Actually, the disgust with NASA over their failure to adequately deal with
the impact hazard is pretty much bi-partisan, and no politically divisive
infighting has occured over who is more disgusted, as everyone is. Pretty
much like the disgust with the way the war in Iraq was handled.
A COMMON RESULT IS THAT NOTHING IS SACRIFICED AND ALL PROGRAMMATIC CONTENT
IS PRESERVED, BUT AT A SLOWER PACE. THIS PRODUCES AN INHERENT INEFFICIENCY
IN THE EXECUTION OF ALL PROGRAMS, RESULTING IN MORE OVERRUNS, ETC., IN A
DEGENERATING SPIRAL. IT IS DIFFICULT, AND HUGELY WASTEFUL, TO CARRY OUT A
PROGRAM IN SUCH AN ENVIRONMENT.
It is wasteful to spend money on a dead end architecture.
THERE IS ANOTHER ASPECT OF STABILITY THAT IS EQUALLY CRUCIAL TO BRING ABOUT
THE FUTURE OUTLINED HERE. IT INVOLVES, ONCE AGAIN, A LESSON TO BE GAINED
FROM THE PAST. THIS IS THE ABSOLUTE NECESSITY OF FULLY UTILIZING THE
SYSTEMS WE DEVELOP, AT HUGE EXPENSE, RATHER THAN DISCARDING THEM IN FAVOR OF
SOMETHING WHICH IS APPEALING BECAUSE IT IS NEW.
Then why the hell are the EELVs not being used to service the ISS?
THIS ASPECT OF STABILITY HAS HAD A DIRECT IMPACT ON NASA'S ABILITY TO
MAINTAIN STABILITY OF BOTH PURPOSE AND FUNDING FOR DECADES.
Yes, it sure does.
WE MUST TREAT OUR SPACE SYSTEMS AS WE HAVE ALWAYS TREATED OUR AIRPLANES.
SUCCESSFUL AIRCRAFT DESIGNS, FROM GENERAL AVIATION AIRPLANES TO THE
HIGHEST-PERFORMANCE MILITARY FIGHTERS, ARE EVOLVED, UPGRADED, AND USED FOR
Then why the hell are the EELVs not being used to service the ISS?
JUST AS WITH DC-3'S, B-52'S, AND MANY OTHER AIRCRAFT, WE NEED TO UNDERSTAND
THAT ORION AND ARES WILL BE FLOWN BY THE GRANDKIDS OF THE FIRST ASTRONAUTS
WHO TAKE THEM INTO SPACE.
Thiokol is expecting a long income stream.
WE SIMPLY CANNOT AGAIN AFFORD THE STRATEGIC DISTRACTION, THE WASTED MONEY,
THE SQUANDERED TALENT, AND THE LOST TIME OF BUILDING A NEW HUMAN SPACEFLIGHT
SYSTEM, AND THEN USING IT FOR ONLY SIXTEEN MISSIONS.
The taxpayers pretty much determine how much of anything they want to buy.
ONCE AGAIN, A LOOK AT THE BUDGETARY HISTORY PROVIDES A SOBERING LESSON FOR
THE FUTURE, A SOBERING VIEW OF WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN. LET'S RECYCLE TO THE
EARLY 1970S, A TIME OF BUDGETARY STARVATION FOR NASA, A TIME WHEN WE DID NOT
YET HAVE THE SPACE SHUTTLE, BUT DID STILL HAVE THE APOLLO SYSTEMS, THE
SATURN I-B AND SATURN V, THE APOLLO COMMAND/SERVICE MODULES (CSM), THE LUNAR
LANDER, AND THE SKYLAB SYSTEM. ALL OF THESE THINGS WERE IN EXISTENCE IN
1973, HAVING BEEN CREATED IN THAT SEMINAL FIRST 15 YEARS OF OUR AGENCY'S
MAKE NO MISTAKE; THESE SYSTEMS WERE FAR FROM PERFECT. THEY WERE EXPENSIVE
TO DEVELOP AND EXPENSIVE TO OPERATE. OUR PARENTS AND GRANDPARENTS,
METAPHORICALLY SPEAKING, DID NOT REALLY KNOW QUITE WHAT THEY WERE DOING WHEN
THEY SET OUT TO ACCEPT PRESIDENT KENNEDY'S CHALLENGE TO GO TO THE MOON.
THEY LEARNED AS THEY WENT ALONG.
Actually, the people learned then that it was not worth the money,
BUT WHAT THEY EVENTUALLY BUILT WORKED, AND WORKED WELL. AND IT COULD HAVE
KEPT WORKING AT A PRICE WE COULD AFFORD.
In other words, they learned that the marginal value of it was not even
worth the marginal cost.
LET'S LOOK AT SOME RECURRING COSTS IN DOLLARS THEN AND NOW. ALL COSTS
INCLUDE BOTH HARDWARE AND MISSION OPERATIONS, AND ARE AT THE HIGH END OF THE
RANGE OF POSSIBILITIES, BECAUSE THEY TAKE NO ADVANTAGE OF STABLE RATES OF
PRODUCTION. FISCAL 2000 COSTS ARE APPROXIMATE, OBTAINED BY INFLATING
PROGRAMS IN THE AGGREGATE, RATHER THAN TRACKING AND INFLATING SEPARATE
EXPENDITURES OF REAL-YEAR DOLLARS.
ELEMENT REAL-YEAR $ M FY 2000 $ M
APOLLO CSM 50 160
AOOLLO LUNAR MODULE 120 400
APOLLO LUNAR MISSION 720 2400
SATURN I-B 35 120
SATURN V 325 1100
SKYLAB CLUSTER 275 925
LET'S ASSUME THAT WE HAD KEPT FLYING WITH THE SYSTEMS WE HAD AT THE TIME,
THAT WE HAD CONTINUED TO EXECUTE TWO MANNED APOLLO LUNAR MISSIONS EVERY
YEAR, AS WAS DONE IN 1971-72. THIS WOULD HAVE COST ABOUT $4.8 BILLION
ANNUALLY IN FISCAL 2000 DOLLARS.
FURTHER, LET US ASSUME THAT WE HAD ESTABLISHED A CONTINUING PROGRAM OF SPACE
STATION ACTIVITIES IN EARTH ORBIT, BUILT ON THE APOLLO CSM, SATURN I-B, AND
SKYLAB SYSTEMS. FOUR CREW ROTATION LAUNCHES PER YEAR, PLUS A NEW SKYLAB
CLUSTER EVERY FIVE YEARS TO AUGMENT OR REPLACE EXISTING MODULES, WOULD HAVE
COST ABOUT $1.5 BILLION/YEAR. THIS ENTIRE PROGRAM OF SIX MANNED FLIGHTS PER
YEAR, TWO OF THEM TO THE MOON, WOULD HAVE COST ABOUT $6.3 BILLION ANNUALLY
IN FISCAL 2000 DOLLARS. THE AVERAGE ANNUAL NASA BUDGET IN THE 15 DIFFICULT
YEARS FROM 1974-88 WAS $10.5 BILLION; WITH 60% OF IT ALLOCATED TO HUMAN
SPACEFLIGHT, THERE WOULD HAVE BEEN SUFFICIENT FUNDING TO CONTINUE A STABLE
PROGRAM OF LUNAR EXPLORATION AS WELL AS THE DEVELOPMENT OF EARTH ORBITAL
INFRASTRUCTURE. I SUGGEST THAT THIS WOULD HAVE BEEN A BETTER STRATEGIC
ALTERNATIVE THAN THE CHOICES THAT WERE IN FACT MADE, ALMOST 40 YEARS AGO.
It wasn't worth the money then, and that's why the effort began to develop a
cheaper launch system; the CEV/Ares1 and Ares 5 look to be even more
von Braun's original Saturn 1 medium launcher used parachute recovery, and
he knew the Saturn 5 was too expensive, and knew it early on. von Braun
assigned Koelle this ROV task in 1963-1964.
First you had the heat shield problems, then you had the reconfiguration of
the shuttle by the DoD, and then you had the substitution of the pressure
fed liquids by Thiokol's solids. And then it was over: A launcher so bad von
Braun quit, and began to work trying to set up a distributed computer
network, an internet, using comsats.
Thank g*d that at least stupidity is international. Brezhnev also wasted
the Soviet Union's wealth on Buran.
AFTER A TIME, AS NASA BUDGETS ONCE AGAIN IMPROVED, WE WOULD HAVE BEGUN TO
CONCENTRATE OUR LUNAR ACTIVITY AROUND AN OUTPOST, AND WE WOULD HAVE USED
CARGO MISSIONS TO EMPLACE THE OUTPOST EQUIPMENT. A MODIFIED APOLLO LUNAR
MODULE DESCENT STAGE, WITH EXTRA FUEL AND CARGO REPLACING THE ASCENT STAGE,
COULD HAVE BEEN USED FOR THE PURPOSE. THE SATURN V COULD DELIVER TWO SUCH
VEHICLES WITH A SINGLE LAUNCH.
SO, OVER TIME, WE COULD HAVE BUILT UP AN EARLY LUNAR OUTPOST, OR SMALLER
ONES AT DIFFERENT PLACES OF INTEREST. BY THE PRESENT DAY, USING WHAT WE HAD
WITH MINIMAL MODIFICATIONS, AND I WILL REMIND US ALL THAT THE SOYUZ SYSTEMS
OF THAT ERA ARE STILL FLYING, WE WOULD HAVE A VAST STORE OF EXPERIENCE AND A
SIGNIFICANT AMOUNT OF LUNAR INFRASTRUCTURE.
Once again, what for?
WHEN THE CIVIL SPACE BUDGET EVENTUALLY IMPROVED, AS IT DID, WE WOULD HAVE
BEEN WELL POSITIONED TO BEGIN DEVELOPMENT OF A MARS MISSION.
AND IN THE MEANTIME, WITHOUT DOUBT, WE WOULD HAVE CONTINUED TO MODIFY,
REFINE, AND INCREMENTALLY IMPROVE THE OLD APOLLO DESIGNS, TO THE POINT WHERE
THEY WOULD HAVE PROVIDED GREATLY ENHANCED EFFECTIVENESS BY THE PRESENT DAY.
IF WE HAD DONE ALL THIS, WE WOULD BE ON MARS TODAY, NOT WRITING ABOUT IT AS
A SUBJECT FOR THE NEXT 50 YEARS.
Right. We could have sent a few people to Mars then, but didn't because it
wasn't worth the money.
WE WOULD HAVE DECADES OF EXPERIENCE OPERATING LONG-DURATION SPACE SYSTEMS IN
EARTH ORBIT, AND SIMILAR DECADES OF EXPERIENCE IN EXPLORING AND LEARNING TO
UTILIZE THE MOON.
THIS ESSAY ON THE NEXT 50 YEARS WOULD BE QUITE DIFFERENT THAN THE ONE I AM
OFFERING HERE. I THINK MOST OF US WILL AGREE THAT IT WOULD HAVE BEEN A
The public decided what they wanted - a cheaper manned space program with
the shuttle. But the shuttle did not deliver that.
NOW, NOTHING IS AS EASY AS PLANNING IN HINDSIGHT, NOR AS PERMANENT AS A LOST
And no one is as dead as a person hit by an impactor. As Pliny put it, "than
which no more terrible form of death is to be feared."
I OFFER THE ALTERNATIVE HISTORY ABOVE NOT TO THROW STONES AT POLICYMAKERS
LONG DEPARTED FROM THE SCENE, BUT TO INFORM FUTURE DECISIONS.
You'll get another chance at the Houston oral history debrief.
IF WE IGNORE THESE LESSONS, WE WILL SURELY REPEAT THEM.
Hell, if you didn't learn them the first time, you surely will.
THE VISION OF THE NEXT 50 YEARS IN SPACE THAT I HAVE OUTLINED HERE IS NOT A
FLIGHT OF FANCY. IT DOES NOT REQUIRE A COURSE CHANGE FROM PRESENT
UNDERSTANDINGS, NOR DOES IT REQUIRE EXTENSIVE DEVELOPMENT OF COSTLY NEW
TECHNOLOGY. IT IS A LOGICAL, INCREMENTAL, STABLE, SUSTAINABLE PLAN THAT CAN
BE EXECUTED WITH REALISTICALLY ATTAINABLE BUDGETS.
I don't think so. For the reasons stated here.
FOR THESE REASONS, I BELIEVE THAT IT WILL BE DONE, AND DONE AS ENVISIONED
HERE. WE REALLY CAN CELEBRATE THE 100TH ANNIVERSARY OF SPUTNIK WITH THE
20TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE FIRST HUMAN LANDING ON MARS. IT IS UP TO US TO MAKE
I don't think so. For the reasons stated here.
-- MICHAEL D. GRIFFIN IS ADMINISTRATOR OF THE NATIONAL AERONAUTICS AND SPACE
E.P. Grondine is the author of
Man and Impact in the Americas
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