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Neil Armstrong Criticizes Obama's Space Strategy 508

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the ok-you-can-cut-in-line dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Former astronaut Neil Armstrong has issued a strongly worded rebuke of President Barack Obama, criticizing the president for proposed revisions to the US space program. Armstrong, along with astronauts James Lovell and Eugene Cernan, called the proposal 'devastating' in a letter obtained by NBC News."
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Neil Armstrong Criticizes Obama's Space Strategy

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  • by ral (93840) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @11:02AM (#31845124)
    Buzz Aldrin (the second human to walk on the moon) has a different take []
  • by BodhiCat (925309) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @11:23AM (#31845404)
    Plus the space program is a way to put money into the struggling economy that will have benefits for US and mankind down the road.
  • by Tablizer (95088) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @11:29AM (#31845476) Homepage Journal

    It seems more logical to use a modular approach rather than One Big Custom Package approach. The large portions of a ship can be carried up using rockets that don't have to be man-rated, reducing their cost. Smaller, safer lifters can then take the personnel into LEO to meet up with the rest of the ship, dock, and then fly off together to study asteroids or whatnot. This appears to be what Obama is leaning toward.

  • by LWATCDR (28044) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @11:38AM (#31845546) Homepage Journal

    Armstrong is also an engineer and served on the Challenger shuttle accident investigation board. Up till now he has stayed clear of politics and has been on the board of directors of many companies so yes he is also a business person.

    Jim Lovell has fromal education includes
    University of Wisconsin–Madison
    United States Naval Academy (BS, 1952)
    United States Naval Test Pilot School, Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland (1958)
    Aviation Safety School, University of Southern California (1961)
    Advanced Management Program, Harvard Business School (1978)
    I think that last one means that he has a firm grasp of business as well as engineering.

    Cernan only has two degrees in engineering so he may be the least qualified of the group but then President Obama has zero education or experence in business, engineering, or accounting. His degree is in law.

    Frankly these man have nothing to gain at this time. They have all done what a very select few people have done. They are all pretty much set for the rest of their lives so they don't need any more money. To dismiss them I think is the height of arrogance.

    And to make matter worse President Obama isn't saving money by killing the Ares he is changing it from a program with at some goals to a welfare program! We are going to keep spending money on developing the Orion but instead of using it for maned flights we are going to use it as the worlds most expensive life boat for the space station.
    We are still going to depend on Russia for manned access to space.
    We are going to spend money on developing a HLLV with no goal or mission for it!
    What this will let President Obama do is kill them off piece by piece but only after dropping many billions of dollars on them.
    Frankly this plan seems to be to be the WORST POSSIBLE plan. Frankly it sounds like something Col Hogan would talk Col Clink into doing!
    So to all those that willing to dismiss these three well educated, extremely brillant, and wise men I just want you to think about it long and hard.
    This is a freaking disaster.

  • by darkmeridian (119044) <> on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @11:39AM (#31845560) Homepage

    Buzz Aldrin had the best take on the goal to return to the moon. He said it was "more like reaching for past glory than striving for new triumphs." It's hard to ignore him. Aldrin was universally acknowledged by the Apollo astronauts as being the smartest. He was known as Dr. Rendezvous because all he focused on was orbital mechanics of spacecraft and getting them to line up. He graduated from West Point and then MIT. As he's a tough SOB. Some moon hoaxer who called Aldrin a liar and a thief got socked in the face. []

    Anyway, Aldrin is a Republican who took Communion on the moon. It's not as if he's a Democrat trying to get behind his President.

  • by Section_Ei8ht (951997) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @11:58AM (#31845840)
    You're the moron! We're not talking about the bicyclist! He was one of the worlds greatest trumpet players! Moron.
  • by Maury Markowitz (452832) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @12:03PM (#31845938) Homepage

    That is a very salient point.

    But I still can't agree with his arguments (yes, I read them). I think killing NASA's booster programs HAD to happen.

    Let's not forget how this was supposed to work: NASA was supposed to build a manned program on the backs of the military's hardware. If there was going to be a major space program beyond that, it would be those same aerospace contractors who would be designing, building and supplying the systems.

    One of those military groups was the US Army at Huntsville. They were proposing to build a new booster called the Jupiter V that used several existing boosters to build a single rocket with a total of 1 million pound thrust. Meanwhile the Air Force was starting research on a 1 million pound thrust engine, which the Army was hoping to use to replace their cluster of smaller engines if that program went well. To further differentiate the new design from the older Jupiters, they re-named it Saturn, "the one after Jupiter".

    The Air Force would have nothing of it. They had already limited the Army to short range _weapons_, which is why the Saturn was a "launcher", not a "missile" (although there was TABS, look it up). As soon as Saturn was being floated the AF was all over it, trying to get it cancelled. Yet the newly-formed ARPA saw merit, and overrode their objections, causing a major hissy-fit in the Pentagon.

    So when NASA came along, everyone saw a way out -- hand Saturn to NASA. Now the Army would be out of the missile game, which would make the Air Force happy. ARPA would still get the spy-sat launcher they wanted, just built from a different budget. The rest is history.

    The problem is that NASA was suddenly in the launcher business, for no reason other than political expediency. And they've tried to hold onto that business since then, in spite of the major problems it's caused for everyone involved. If all went well I wouldn't say this, but it hasn't, so I think the evidence is clear that they need to get out of the launcher biz.


  • by houghi (78078) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @12:29PM (#31846330)

    I never knew that NASA was around in 1907 when nakelite [] was developed. And computers only exist because of the Apollo mission? Darn. I am sure interested in those 200 others. Probably you will include The non-stick pan with Teflon [] as well which was invented in 1938.

    And obviously all these 200 would not have been developed without the Apollo Mission and even more important, the money spend on those invention would not have been spend in any way and this would not have generated any taxes.

    Hey, let's go to the stores and trow in the windows. That will be good for taxes as well as business.

  • by Maury Markowitz (452832) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @12:39PM (#31846434) Homepage

    Between VentureStar and Constellation, exactly how many tax dollars have been wasted because some penny-pinching bureaucrat decided it would be "cheaper in the long run?"

    You do understand that there was a very real possibility that Constellation *would not work*, right? Again, look to your history:

    When NASA was first planning their moon shots they were looking at the Saturn C-3 as being large enough to carry the needed payload. There was a good margin of safety. Going with the C-3 would have saved them LOTS of money. But they decided to go for the more expensive C-5 because they didn't know if their capsule estimates were solid.

    They weren't. As the weight of everything started going up, that margin of safety was eroded, then eliminated. If they had stayed with the C-3 they wouldn't have made it to the moon until the 1970s, if ever. The lesson here has been repeated since with practically every launcher program, ESPECIALLY the Shuttle.

    So what about Constellation? In this case they calculated that the SRBs could *just* do the job. If nothing started getting heavier then it had the power to get the module into orbit with a small margin of safety on the growth side. But then things started getting heavier. So then the upper stage grew along with it, eliminating the margin. Then it kept growing. Then they had to re-engineer the SRBs to get the power back to just enough. That cycle showed no signs of ending, and history suggests that it had a couple more iterations to go.

    The lesson remains clear: build much more rocket than you need, or you'll likely end up not flying.


  • by LWATCDR (28044) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @12:43PM (#31846484) Homepage Journal

    "You realize the rockets used were based on Nazi technology to deliver payloads?"
    Actually not really. When the captured they asked Von Braun how he developed the V2 his response was "ask Goddard". The V2 was a scaled up version of Goddard's last rockets right down the the graphite vanes controlled by a gyroscope.
    The US put Goddard to work during WWII building rockets to help flying boats take off quicker...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @12:46PM (#31846528)
    You shouldn't sign if you don't understand it.
    In this thread: Only lawyers should buy houses.
  • by $RANDOMLUSER (804576) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @12:51PM (#31846582)
    Wow. You are so misguided, there's hardly space here to correct you, not that I would expect you to be swayed by reality, anyways.

    To call the Constellation program "mostly-completed" is purest fantasy -- the paper designs are years behind schedule, simple matters of, say, building and testing the boosters, engines, capsules and control systems are left as an exercise for the reader. The fact that the concepts and designs are simply a rehash of Apollo makes the lack of performance on Constellation just that much sadder. Fact is, buying Soyuz rides to the ISS for years and years was already part of the plan, even if Constellation had stayed on schedule.

    Second, the notion that ANY Administration would base the entire national space policy on who holds a single Congressional district is just delusional. Fiddling the budget between Ames, JPL, JSC, KSC, etc. sure, but axing a cornucopia of aerospace contracts like Constellation actually shows the political will to piss off a LOT of people in a lot of districts. I actually have to give the Administration points for recognizing that the project was way over-budget, way behind schedule, not very well thought out and giving it the axe. Then they turned around and increased NASA's budget for things that actually might prove to be useful (or at least more interesting than the "Hummerrrricaa!! FUCK YEAH!!" that putting men in LEO provides).

    Calling someone else a "total scumbag" in a sentence where you've already mentioned Tom DeLay is grammatically incorrect. It's like saying "Sure, Stalin was bad, but Dave in Accounting is evil".
  • by JWW (79176) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @01:01PM (#31846698)

    I agree completely. Lately, I've heard many liberals push back the argument, "Your for smaller government, but do you support police and firemen?"

    Its a misdirection play on their part. Sure I support the police and the firemen, of MY CITY! Federal tax dollars should not be spent on police or firemen. We have a federal system for a reason, local support for some government functions works much much better than federal support. The feds should get completely out of the education business. Its not mentioned in the constitution and therefore is the responsibility of the states. In fact the states have the most control, but the feds can't stop from sticking their noses into education at nearly every level.

    NASA on the other hand is a national endeavor and is not something that can be done by the states.

  • by floateyedumpi (187299) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @01:15PM (#31846906)

    All the scientists I know (myself included) would correctly indicate that the sun will not grow cold, but will, after exhausting its core hydrogen fuel, vastly increase its luminosity, and swell in size past the Earth's orbit, essentially vaporizing it. All this, in roughly 5 billion years.

    Modern humans as a species are 0.0002 billion years old. Yes, that's three zeroes to the right of the decimal. Do you really believe that we'll care about a couple thousand years worth of exemplars of humanity after we've evolved 25,000 times further than since we separated from proto-human homonids? Will we even be humans at that point? Are there any other conceivable disasters our species or its descendants could suffer during those billions of years, which colonizing space could not prevent?

  • Re:Out of date (Score:3, Informative)

    by TopSpin (753) * on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @01:52PM (#31847438) Journal

    old news

    Armstrong, Lovell and Cernan released their signed open letter [] yesterday. You may not like what have to say, but characterizing their statements, which are less than 24 hours old, as "old news" is ridiculous. Most of the criticisms they make aren't addressed by the latest administration statements, either.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @04:05PM (#31849062)

    We're not going to the moon to go to the moon; we're going to the moon in preparation for Mars. The problem it's being posed more as the former than the latter. I mean, if we can't even get to the moon, what chance do we have for Mars?

    I'm not saying he's wrong, I just don't know the full context of his remarks.

    He addresses exactly this issue. He notes that two things happened to Bush's "Vision for Space Exploration" plan that basically doomed not only the plan itself but also the possibility of getting to Mars:

    1. The promised funding was never provided in full, causing delays to accumulate year after year;
    2. More importantly vis-a-vis Mars, NASA had to focus so much of its limited resources on the Moon effort that it gutted all other advanced space projects including the Earth and space sciences budgets, thereby dooming itself and the U.S. to a one-way only ticket to the Moon as opposed to using it as a stopover destination.

    As Aldrin puts it, "NASA pretty much abandoned all hope of preparing for Mars exploration" by gutting these other programs because of the excessive single-minded focus on the Moon. Obama's plan, on the other hand, called the "Flexible Path", recruits the private sector into developing the basic infrastructure for heavy-lifting payloads into space, letting NASA focus its budget on building on top of this capability to provide a larger repertoire of missions that not only include Mars missions, but rendezvous with asteroids & comets as well, landing on Mars' moons, and so on.

    Really, you should read Aldrin's article. It's very well-informed and well-written. He's definitely one smart cookie and got me sold on the Obama plan that I was initially also skeptical of. It's also good to remember the overall context: this wouldn't be necessary if NASA had a larger budget that wasn't, say, a tiny fraction of the U.S. Military's. They just plain can't implement the "full stack" anymore from basic launching capability to the advanced deep space missions. They need to refocus on where their expertise is most useful and leave the "grunt work" (not trying to belittle the fact that it is, after all, still rocket science) to others, i.e., the private sector.

    In light of his lucid arguments, I would say that nay-sayers including Neil Armstrong et al., simply aren't seeing the entire picture.

  • by LWATCDR (28044) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @04:46PM (#31849660) Homepage Journal

    He is presenting this plan as his own but of course he has advisers but who? What are they qualifications. It is silly to assume that the quality of an unknown source is it not? As to your two year old source of problems.

    "Both vehicles have a history of weight issues;"
    Every air and space craft does. Including the Apollo and LEM.

    "Excessive vibration during launch threatens system design;"
    That was one of the reasons for flight testing.

    " Uncertainty about how flight characteristics will be impacted by a fifth segment added to the Ares I launch vehicle;"
    Flight testing but it has been computer modeled. Uncertainty exists until testing in all things. Classic straw man as you like to say.

    "Ares I upper stage essentially requires development of a new engine;"
    No it is a development of the J2 that was flown on the Saturn family as a second stage of the Ib and the 3rd stage of the V. Also a restartable cryogenic upper stage engine is a mature technology. The J2 from the Saturn line and the Centar that has been flying since the 60s and is still flying today are examples.

    "No industry capability currently exists for producing the kind of heat shields that the Orion will need for protecting the crew exploration vehicle when it reenters Earth's atmosphere; "
    Because they have not built any for a while. Yea not exactly a problem. Did you expect to find on off the shelf heatshield?

    "Existing test facilities are insufficient for testing Ares I's new engine, for replicating the engine's vibration and acoustic environment, and for testing the thermal protection system for the Orion vehicle."
    This is also an infrastructure problem. It will not go away

    The last two must not be any problem at all because they will impact Obama's current plan as well.
    Also with Obama's current plan we will have to develop a service module that can remain in space in cold storage for x months and be 100% reliable if needed. Which also has never been done and we lack the facilities to test.
    And the Atlas V and or the Delta 4 have never been flown with a Orion like payload so there is uncertainty there.
    What hard data to you have that the problems have gotten worse? If you have it present it because that article's list was full of "unknowns" and which could maybe be a problem or not.

    So far you have presented no hard data and no named experts that you may have advised President Obama and that article which is two years out of date and frankly a fluff piece.

    So why is this a good plan? What do we gain? We save no money because NASA's budget is supposed to go up. We gain no capability that I see. And are there any new hard goals of more fluffy in the future stuff?

The sooner you fall behind, the more time you have to catch up.