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NASA Democrats Government Space Politics

Does Obama Have a Problem At NASA? 479

MarkWhittington writes "Has NASA become a problem for the Obama transition? If one believes a recent story in the Orlando Sentinel, the transition team at NASA, led by former NASA Associate Administrator Lori Garver, is running into some bureaucratic obstruction." Specifically, according to this article NASA Administrator Michael Griffin made calls to aerospace industry executives asking them to stonewall if asked about benefits to be gained by canceling the current US efforts to revisit the moon; we mentioned last month that cutting Aries and Orion is apparently an idea under strong consideration by the Obama transition team.
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Does Obama Have a Problem At NASA?

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  • by Anita Coney ( 648748 ) on Friday December 12, 2008 @09:47AM (#26089313) Homepage

    ... but if I were Obama, Michael Griffin would be so fricken canned.

  • Gossip (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 12, 2008 @09:48AM (#26089325)

    Sounds like a lot of backbiting rumors spread by someone with a bone to pick.

    It's pretty easy to tell how much money would be saved by cancelling Aries and Orion outright. Just look at how much money they have outlined in budget projections.

    The harder question is whether there is some cheaper alternative, and how much it would cost. But that's not something that can be answered accurately in response to a snap question. And saying so is not stonewalling.

  • by fprintf ( 82740 ) on Friday December 12, 2008 @09:51AM (#26089353) Journal

    What is with the entitlement mentality within government? I am sure the article blows what actually happened way out of proportion, but if there *was* any sort of conversation asking industry partners to stonewall, resist, camoflage or otherwise derail the effort to understand the risk/reward of future space efforts, everyone involved within the government should be canned. If I did anything of the sort at my place of work, I'd be out on my ass so quickly!

  • by theaveng ( 1243528 ) on Friday December 12, 2008 @09:55AM (#26089385)

    That means we need to axe a lot of programs, or (a) face potential bankruptcy of the whole country or (b) face the reality that we have to cut Medicare and SS benefits to a needs-based program rather than an entitlement. We have a huge amount of Baby Boomers about to retire, and don't have the money to support them all unless we start saving immediately.

  • by falcon5768 ( 629591 ) <Falcon5768@comca ... t minus language> on Friday December 12, 2008 @09:55AM (#26089403) Journal

    Obama has nothing against NASA. He has EVERYTHING against Mike (global warming is a myth) Griffin, a known Bush lackey and a incompetent manager. Ask anyone in the know about Orion and Ares and they will tell you while it WILL work, it is horribly designed and way over budget for what it is and its DIRECTLY contributed to Griffin, unlike other unmanned programs that where running before he took over and lost funding due to him and Bush's "lets get a American on Mars without spending any more money" ploy.

    Griffins job is canned, he's just drawing out the hanging right now and trying to wrap it in a Obama hates NASA spin, not a Obama hates incompetent Bush republican flunkies spin.

  • by zentec ( 204030 ) * <zentec@gmPOLLOCKail.com minus painter> on Friday December 12, 2008 @09:56AM (#26089411)
    It is unfortunate that we've come to this point in American history, but the truth is probably that we can't afford a grandiose space program right now.

    NASA will still exist, but the bureaucrats running it need to go.  NASA will have a chance at manned space flight, but they need to figure out a way to do it cheaper.  The rest of the nation has tightened its belt, the rest of the nation is concerned about the ballooning debt, NASA isn't exempt from the changes.

    If I had my choice, I'd much rather see the billions spent on a shuttle launch go toward turning children into future aerospace engineers.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 12, 2008 @09:57AM (#26089425)
    what about the billions that will come back to us when we magically pull our troops on 01/21/2009? oh, that's right...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 12, 2008 @10:03AM (#26089479)

    Massive inefficiency is just how the government works.

    That's why so many people are/were strongly against all of Obama's plans to have the government further invade our lives. Even if he honestly wants to help out, the people actually implementing his plans won't care about helping out - they just want a job.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 12, 2008 @10:04AM (#26089499)

    It always amazes me the mistakes people make because they don't study history, or blatantly choose to ignore it.

    The USA defeated the communist Soviet Union by outspending them in the specific industry of aerospace technology. It makes absolutely no sense to kill NASA spending. If anything, kill the "Big 3" auto makers since it's apparent that Japan and Germany have the world beat in the automobile manufacturing industry.

    I can't stress enough how much the USA stands to lose by cutting NASA funding. Considering that the rest of the world has made it abundantly clear that they hate us, and would like to see an Earth without the USA or "Fat Lazy Americans," I was really hoping that NASA would be the USA's gateway to leaving the Earth behind. It's obvious that citizens of the USA will fight everyone who wishes us ill will to the death, and it's obvious that the rest of the world is trying to push us that far.

    I say increase NASA spending, and get us that moon-base/bio-dome we've been dreaming about since the 1960's so we can start lunar immigration ASAP. Space technology is the way of the future, and it's the one thing that the USA has out-achieved every other country in the world.

    -Your pro-NASA AC friend.

  • by retech ( 1228598 ) on Friday December 12, 2008 @10:04AM (#26089501)
    Using that logic would clearly negate a bailout of GM, Chrysler and possibly Ford. Ford Execs have willingly taken huge (comparatively) pay cuts. But GM is the worst for fat cats that line their own pockets while taking public assistance. Why should the people give money to an industry that has failed... failed itself, it's employees, it's investors. The only people making money off of cars are the guys at the top.

    Sucking off the Federal teat and pulling on people's heart strings does not work for a guy in the street with a sign and it sure as hell should not work for a man wearing a $1k suite and having parties in his Michigan ranch for $1million (Yes GM, YOU).

    But in 10 years the Auto industry will be dead. Harvesting the moon and moving into the solar system will happen. The US can either be part of the party or ask for public assistance later on from the colonies on the moon.
  • by shutdown -p now ( 807394 ) on Friday December 12, 2008 @10:05AM (#26089519) Journal

    Massive inefficiency is just how the government works.

    This (or a perception of it) is a phenomenon specific to the US (and, apparently, a few other countries such as UK). Governments seems to work quite efficiently in a lot of other countries around the world. Maybe you should fix whatever is wrong with yours, instead of whining about how it's too inefficient to trust it with anything (why even bother having it at all, if it's always counterproductive?).

  • by Octorian ( 14086 ) on Friday December 12, 2008 @10:08AM (#26089545) Homepage

    And the problem is that NASA/etc. focuses so much on inspiring the 3rd graders, yet don't seem to care so much once those kids get to high school and can actually develop that interest into something useful towards their future.

  • by fprintf ( 82740 ) on Friday December 12, 2008 @10:11AM (#26089573) Journal

    But any investment is a matter of directness of money getting to people. In the case of investment in high engineering salaries at NASA, all that money gets used somehow. It eventually goes to teacher salaries, firemen, roadwork, groceries etc. Because they are engineers, and I will stereotype for a bit, you might also say that some portion of the money you spend goes to fund other high tech development first, from computers to games to fast cars. Eventually the $1 you spend at NASA likely gets spent on the same things that a $1 invested in Detroit does. However the money you spend at NASA moves us further along our technological timeline, whereas any money spent in Detroit keeps us in the automobile age.

  • by Kentaree ( 1078787 ) on Friday December 12, 2008 @10:13AM (#26089589) Homepage

    The USA defeated the communist Soviet Union by outspending them in the specific industry of aerospace technology.

    Wait, what? Did I miss a piece of history somewhere along the way where the Soviet Union was "beaten", rather than fizzled out?

  • by Weh ( 219305 ) on Friday December 12, 2008 @10:16AM (#26089625)

    so your argument for nasa spending is basically that you think that the usa defeated communist russia through it? and you think that the usa would lose a lot by cutting nasa spending _because_ the world hates the usa?

    interesting logic.

  • by gEvil (beta) ( 945888 ) on Friday December 12, 2008 @10:17AM (#26089633)
    Massive inefficiency is just how the government works.

    Massive inefficiency is how the government works when put in the hands of government-hating people who want to prove just how inefficient government can be. It doesn't have to be that inefficient.
  • by QuantumRiff ( 120817 ) on Friday December 12, 2008 @10:17AM (#26089643)

    Social Security buys Billions and Billions in Treasury bonds every year for this exact reason. Currently, more money is coming in, then going out, and they hold it in trust. However, congress likes to "borrow" against that money, and give an IOU, so thats going to bite us in the ass too.

  • good test (Score:2, Insightful)

    by token_username ( 1415329 ) on Friday December 12, 2008 @10:17AM (#26089647)

    If Obama really intends to go through the federal budget line by line as he claimed during the campaign, this will be a good test to see whether he has the balls or not. This is a variation of what's going to happen with everything he tries to cut.

  • by brian0918 ( 638904 ) <brian0918@NoSpam.gmail.com> on Friday December 12, 2008 @10:22AM (#26089687)

    People have to be supported when they retire with work from other people

    If you believe that, then you should donate your money to relevant charities for supporting the elderly. What you should not do is force everyone to pay for your opinion through government mandate. A more reasonable solution is for everyone to support their own parents with the increased money they'll have from not dumping their money into the social security black hole.

  • by Pumpkin Tuna ( 1033058 ) on Friday December 12, 2008 @10:24AM (#26089719)
    I also taught high school, and you are right that high school kids get left out. But I think it's less the fault of NASA and more the fault of high schools. High school is so rigid and change-adverse that any attempts by an outside agency to come in is usually shot down. This is even more evident with the focus on high stakes testing.
  • by elrous0 ( 869638 ) * on Friday December 12, 2008 @10:26AM (#26089765)
    The U.S. didn't "defeat" the Soviet Union. It was just an unsustainable system from the get-go. If the U.S. had never developed any sort of space program beyond launching satellites and ICBM technology; the Soviets would have beat their chests, bragged about their great victories in manned flight, rubbed it in with a few more advancements, then eventually realized that it was a waste of money with little potential and abandoned it. It didn't make any real difference in the end. It was all Korolev could do to get funding for the program in the first place, and he would have lost it quickly if the Americans had simply refused to play ball.
  • by Sockatume ( 732728 ) on Friday December 12, 2008 @10:26AM (#26089771)
    I think someone really needs to sit down and say "the unfunded mandate has to go". With the current timeline, manned space flight will account for more or less NASA's entire budget within about ten years, and there are projects being slashed left and right already. A NASA which forgets about landing humans on the moon and Mars for a decade or two would be a cheaper NASA with a much wider variety of science missions. (IMO, of course, and I'm welcome to any new information on their funding situation and where the budget's going).
  • by kid_oliva ( 899189 ) on Friday December 12, 2008 @10:31AM (#26089823) Homepage
    If you spend billions on a shuttle launch you ensure jobs for people who want to go into aerospace. Take the money away from that so you do not have any shuttle launchings and you have pretty much removed it from most people's minds. I remember growing up in the 80's and the shuttle launches were a big thing. Now it hardly receives any coverage. It would be great to have a president with a mind for the future like JFK. Granted he wasn't perfect but it is better than a rehash of FDR ideas that have put us in the place we are in. That's my $.02. Go ahead and mod me down now.
  • by Samschnooks ( 1415697 ) on Friday December 12, 2008 @10:32AM (#26089843)

    face the reality that we have to cut Medicare and SS benefits to a needs-based program rather than an entitlement.

    That's how they started. SS was never intended to be an entitlement program when it was created in the 1930s.

  • by mR.bRiGhTsId3 ( 1196765 ) on Friday December 12, 2008 @10:36AM (#26089875)
    Forcing your enemy to defeat themselves constitutes beating.
  • by Chris Mattern ( 191822 ) on Friday December 12, 2008 @10:38AM (#26089895)

    Governments seems to work quite efficiently in a lot of other countries around the world.

    A not uncommon illusion created by distance. The further away from a government you are, the better it seems to work.

  • by lalena ( 1221394 ) on Friday December 12, 2008 @10:38AM (#26089901) Homepage
    It was only a couple weeks ago that Slashdot referenced an article about aging weather satellites. We will soon lose coverage that will determine when we should evacuate for hurricanes. Sometimes, NASA tasks are not glamorous. Is it worth going to Mars or the moon again instead of:
    • Keeping our satellites in orbit.
    • Replacing broken satellites.
    • Keeping the Hubble telescope working.
    • Keeping or replacing the shuttle fleet.

    Funding is limited. We have to choose one or the other.
    Here another article I found on the weather topic. http://www.usatoday.com/weather/hurricane/2007-06-12-quickscat-satellite_N.htm [usatoday.com]

  • by genner ( 694963 ) on Friday December 12, 2008 @10:40AM (#26089933)

    If I had my choice, I'd much rather see the billions spent on a shuttle launch go toward turning children into future aerospace engineers.

    Why would you want to do that?
    When they graduate how are they going to find a job?

  • Sadly (Score:4, Insightful)

    by argStyopa ( 232550 ) on Friday December 12, 2008 @10:42AM (#26089961) Journal

    ...sadly, I think many slashdotters are going to be disappointed as NASA funding under Obama takes a backseat to a number of other programs that are targeted at much larger domestic constituencies.

  • by CrimsonAvenger ( 580665 ) on Friday December 12, 2008 @10:42AM (#26089975)

    Social Security buys Billions and Billions in Treasury bonds every year for this exact reason. Currently, more money is coming in, then going out, and they hold it in trust. However, congress likes to "borrow" against that money, and give an IOU, so thats going to bite us in the ass too.

    Umm, no.

    What happens is that the SS revenue is spent on Social Security every year. Then the leftover funds are transferred to the General Fund, in exchange for NO INTEREST T-Bills. Then the money is spent.

    When SS needs more money than is coming in every year, they will NOT be able to miraculously redeem those NO INTEREST T-bills. What will happen is that the Government will issue more interest bearing T-Bills to pay the difference. Sort of exactly like the deficit spending they're doing now that people hate so much.

    This will continue until and unless the government raises SS taxes on the working people to cover the difference. Which will, of course, happen right away - the government doesn't really want to admit that the "Social Security Trust Fund" is a meaningless example of flim-flammery.

    Net effect: we pay taxes, government spends the revenue gained any way it damn well pleases. SS Trust Fund NEVER gets used (because if it were used, we'd realize it's non-existant), and that wall-safe full of NO INTEREST T-Bills just keeps getting fuller till the end of time.

  • Frankly (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 12, 2008 @10:47AM (#26090045)

    Griffin's comment on Global Warming was excellent and probably the only thing about him to like. He simply expressed the biggest issue standing, we don't know what the optimal climate is. If anything the comments of the those who didn't like his remark were more akin to the right wing religious nuts. It is a religion now and will always be one because anything which is brought up to disprove it is immediately derided regardless of merit. If anything the whole GW document is nothing more than a new age Bible

    Oh, as to his remark in 2007

    "I have no doubt that global -- that a trend of global warming exists. I am not sure that it is fair to say that it is a problem we must wrestle with. To assume that it is a problem is to assume that the state of earth's climate today is the optimal climate, the best climate that we could have or ever have had and that we need to take steps to make sure that it doesn't change.

            First of all, I don't think it's within the power of human beings to assure that the climate does not change, as millions of years of history have shown, and second of all, I guess I would ask which human beings - where and when - are to be accorded the privilege of deciding that this particular climate that we have right here today, right now is the best climate for all other human beings. I think that's a rather arrogant position for people to take."

  • by thebheffect ( 1409105 ) on Friday December 12, 2008 @10:48AM (#26090063)
    Perhaps 'beaten' is an inappropriate choice of words for the situation, but in essence it is correct. The US Democracy/capitalism ideology was pitted against the Soviet communistic ideology in multiple ways, indirect military action and direct economic competition. The ability of the US financial system to borrow/lend tremendous amounts of liquid capital to invest in military and civilian infrastructure was the main reason the Soviet Union collapsed in economic ruin. 'Defeat' is a strong word, but that is just what the US economic system accomplished against the Soviet Union.
  • by BusinessHut ( 1143993 ) on Friday December 12, 2008 @10:50AM (#26090093) Homepage

    Absolutely! NASA is playing with OUR money here. With the .000000000001% of the say that I get with my tax dollars, I vote fire anyone at NASA doing anything so childish. Grow up and do what's best for your organization, and your Country! Stop thinking only about yourself!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 12, 2008 @10:52AM (#26090119)

    Neither you or I can even in hindsight say for sure what effect the psychology of the moon race had on everything. It's certainly possible that efforts such as these bolstered US nationalism and hurt Russian nationalism, and contributed in the net to a shortening of the time it took for the soviet union to collapse.

  • by miffo.swe ( 547642 ) <daniel.hedblom@NOSpaM.gmail.com> on Friday December 12, 2008 @11:00AM (#26090215) Homepage Journal

    If i was an American i would be much more concerned with military spending than with NASA. The various spy organizations and domestic surveillance programs alone makes the NASA budget look like weekly allowence. Add the military spending and NASAs budget is just silly in comparison.

    If there is one area where money is spent for nothing its in the military.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 12, 2008 @11:01AM (#26090229)

    Here's the thing. The economy ain't so hot (I gno, rite!) so how does it make sense to employ a relatively small number of people at a relatively high salary when that money (one BILLION dollars!) could go to some other project that could influence thousands more workers?

    Yes, in these difficult economic times, the only way for us to lead this great nation into a 21st century economy is to fire all of our highly skilled science and engineering jobs, and instead funnel that money into low-paying government work resurfacing roads and changing light bulbs. Yes we can!

    And, oh yeah, we also need to send some more billions of dollars to support the fatcat CEOs in Detroit. I have heard they've cut back so much that they don't even serve champagne on their corporate jets anyone! Que horrible!!!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 12, 2008 @11:05AM (#26090295)

    Hahahaha! Reagan was a simpleton who happened to be president at an extraordinary time in world political history. His words, which the neocons worship as if they were the thigh bone of a major saint, were put into his mouth by others to promote the ideas of still others. That's the way most Presidents do it.

    Yes, we outspent the Russians. We also made deals with murderous Mideast kings and potentates to keep oil cheap, depriving Russia of income from the only thing the world wanted to buy from them and which they have in abundance if they could only get it out of the ground cheaply. The cost of those proxy alliances is evident today.

    Russia was complicit in its own demise because they chose the worst economic system in human history and enforced it with the same thugs that instituted and ran their government. We couldn't have beat them without their help. Quite a cost extracted from the babushkas when a people defend their murderous past leaders because they themselves survived the purges and had fresh eggs to boot. Those are the people Putin is singing to today.

    What would the world look like today if the Soviet Union had been created by the modern Finns? Quite a bit different I'd wager. America might not be calling all the shots.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 12, 2008 @11:08AM (#26090355)

    Soviets would have beat their chests, bragged about their great victories in manned flight, rubbed it in with a few more advancements, then eventually realized that it was a waste of money with little potential and abandoned it.

    Controlling the ultimate high ground is not without potential. Now the US is planning the same with full-spectrum dominance and whatnot.

  • by fnj ( 64210 ) on Friday December 12, 2008 @11:09AM (#26090381)

    Everything you put into SS is payed back to you (on average) within 2 to 3 years.

    Does that take into account the time value of money on the open market? OK, so I'm asking a rhetorical question. I know it does not, so it is a completely bogus statement, and the idiot who originated it needs to [re-]take Economy 101.

  • by Culture20 ( 968837 ) on Friday December 12, 2008 @11:15AM (#26090489)
    The US Federal Government was _designed_ to be inefficient, counterproductive, and gridlocked. It's a theoretical safeguard against tyranny.
  • by Steauengeglase ( 512315 ) on Friday December 12, 2008 @11:17AM (#26090509)

    Here's the thing. The economy ain't so hot (I gno, rite!) so how does it make sense to employ a relatively small number of people at a relatively high salary when that money (one BILLION dollars!) could go to some other project that could influence thousands more workers?

    Easy, pull troops out of Iraq. Amazing, I just increased NASA's budget by well, well over 100 fold per year.

    In other news where is the rival Jupiter delivery system that scientist and engineers were working on after-hours?

  • by Abcd1234 ( 188840 ) on Friday December 12, 2008 @11:18AM (#26090527) Homepage

    Yeah, but it wasn't designed to be flat out incompetent, which seems to be the primary complaint of many a conservative who desires for small government.

  • by geekmux ( 1040042 ) on Friday December 12, 2008 @11:19AM (#26090535)

    Half of the countries in Europe, pretty much. Ireland, Finland... actually, while we're at it, Germany as well.

    Also, before we go down that path, note that the original question was to pick "efficient" countries, not those that don't tend to go after citizens, introduce censorship, etc. This is a different problem that is orthogonal to the one of efficiency, and can (and should) be resolved separately.

    Good point. The most efficient Governments in the world do not have "citizens", they have indentured servants. Efficiency is a byproduct of true control, and thus introduces the problem with trying to resolve the issue separately.

  • by kabocox ( 199019 ) on Friday December 12, 2008 @11:24AM (#26090621)

    Besides, with everyone talking about creating jobs, how does it make sense to cut NASA hard and put tons of people who are working on Ares out of work?

    Because those people work directly for the government. Which means you or I indirectly pay for them. Now if they were doing it because a space transport company was paying the bills, it would be much more impressive and more likely to be real long term jobs that don't need political support to survive.

  • Re:Frankly (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Abcd1234 ( 188840 ) on Friday December 12, 2008 @11:24AM (#26090629) Homepage

    we don't know what the optimal climate is.

    Anything other than the current climate is non-optimal for the current crop of human beings, as the places we live, the technology we utilize, and our very ways of life are a direct response to the local environments we populate. Change that environment, and a *lot* of people will suffer (African drought, anyone?), as they will be maladapted to the new climate.

    Of course, humans can change. But when climate change is happening very rapidly (as is the case now), neither we, nor other species, will be able to compensate fast enough, and the results can be devastating.

    As such, Griffin's statement is, at best, extremely naive, bordering on ignorant.

  • by digitig ( 1056110 ) on Friday December 12, 2008 @11:32AM (#26090755)

    A more reasonable solution is for everyone to support their own parents with the increased money they'll have from not dumping their money into the social security black hole.

    Yes, that way whoever has the most kids gets the best retirement. Anybody who reaches old age childless, or whose children die (for example, killed on active service in the armed forces) is clearly a waster who has contributed nothing to society and deserves to be thrown on the scrapheap.

    Unless there's a flaw in your argument, of course...

  • by Valdrax ( 32670 ) on Friday December 12, 2008 @11:41AM (#26090919)

    Michael Griffin is the best thing to happen to NASA since the Apollo program. If Obama cans his ass, he will have lied about everything he said about maintaining the space program.

    Well, I will say that Obama has been quite vague on whether he'll keep NASA well funded. It seems like something he's not inclined to do on his own without pressure from the public. On the other hand, the transition team not only asked how much would be saved if the program was canned but also asked how much it would cost to accelerate it, so it looks like they're looking at all options.

    That aside, I can't really say that this kind of behavior that should be rewarded or even tolerated in a subordinate. The whole hiding of information and acting like double checking his figures suggests that he's lying about something makes it look like he genuinely has something bad to hide too. I mean, can you imagine keeping *your* job after telling your incoming boss the same thing (and even pressuring business partners to withhold info from him too)?

    Even if Obama keeps the program, which I hope he does, Griffin does need to "Go." Right out the door.

  • by Valdrax ( 32670 ) on Friday December 12, 2008 @11:45AM (#26091011)

    A more reasonable solution is for everyone to support their own parents with the increased money they'll have from not dumping their money into the social security black hole.

    If we could rely on people to do what's right in the real world, we wouldn't need government in the first place.

  • by p0tat03 ( 985078 ) on Friday December 12, 2008 @11:52AM (#26091125)

    The problem is that 3rd graders don't want to know *how* to get there, but high school kids do, and we don't tell them that. We show them all of these cool jobs that they could do when they grow up, and then we don't tell them what they need to do to get there. Oops.

    I got into code because I saw some really, really cool stuff being worked on at a lot of companies, and I had the resources to play with it at home. To get people into aerospace you need to do the same - inspire them to get into the field, and then give them the resources to play with the technology.

  • by chrysrobyn ( 106763 ) on Friday December 12, 2008 @11:57AM (#26091189)

    You're wrong, flat out wrong.

    If "Griffin is 1000% correct here", that means he's absolutely right on all accounts. You don't have to read much about the Ares program to realize there's more than a little dissent among the ranks about some of the design decisions here. You also seem to equate replacing Griffin, who silences opposition as best as he can through demotions instead of communal discourse, with disbanding the entire space program. Seriously, who makes that kind of absolute?

    If we can find a replacement who can listen to the educated engineers who think the program is too risky or that it can be done more efficiently, or if we can efficiently accelerate the whole program, why not do it? Seems to me that there's more than enough disagreement on the entire program that there's room for improvement. Nobody seems to think he's got the right compromise between all the objectives.

  • by Dawn Keyhotie ( 3145 ) on Friday December 12, 2008 @12:00PM (#26091239)

    Griffin is dead-set on Ares because it is his pet project. He brought it with him from the university think tank that Bush pulled him from. It is not a good architecture, and even now NASA engineers are fighting basic laws of physics to get the thing to fly.

    The ESAS committee rubber-stamped Ares because that's what Griffin wanted. It is not the best approach. Especially when they decided to drop the Space Shuttle Main Engine in favor of the RS68 engine due to cost. The RS68 is cheaper, but much less efficient than the SSME. Once they dropped the SSME, they should have convened another committee to re-evaluate all options using the RS68 numbers.

    The DIRECT project is where we need to be. Check it out, check the numbers. NASA has been sitting on this for almost three years now. It's ridiculous.

    www.directlauncher.com [directlauncher.com]

  • by alispguru ( 72689 ) <bane@NOSpam.gst.com> on Friday December 12, 2008 @12:00PM (#26091247) Journal

    That is the point of the checks-and-balances thing, after all.

  • by mccoma ( 64578 ) on Friday December 12, 2008 @12:01PM (#26091263)
    if your not a staunch advocate, then you are a crazy non-believer
    doesn't seem to be any reasoned middle-ground anymore.
  • by jazzduck ( 1180033 ) on Friday December 12, 2008 @12:06PM (#26091343)

    Ares / Orion / Constellation are, indeed, important and worthy programs. But that doesn't mean Michael Griffin is the right one to lead them.

    If the programs were being managed well, there should be no problem with an oversight committee looking under the hood. If the programs aren't being managed well, we should shit-can Griffin and appoint somebody who's going to get it right, precisely because Ares/Orion/Constellation are so important.

    And what's with his assertions that "any change [in the program] would make NASA look bad"?! Screw that; what will REALLY make NASA look bad is if they're unwilling to admit any problems with their new rocket until it blows up on the launch bad and kills its crew. Griffin is right about Ares and Orion needing time and money. But insisting on absolute secrecy and "staying the course" sounds more like the war in Iraq than a space program.

    So in short: Go NASA, go Ares, go Orion, go Constellation. Fuck Griffin.

  • by King_TJ ( 85913 ) on Friday December 12, 2008 @12:06PM (#26091345) Journal

    Government, by nature, can't be "trusted" - at least in the sense that individuals allow it to decide what's "best" for them.

    I view it as more of a "necessary evil" than anything else. A total lack of government is much like a vacuum on a planet with an atmosphere. It's not going to exist permanently or naturally.

    (I've always thought "anarchists" often have the wrong idea about things. Anarchy is a "government changing device", not a sustainable way of life.)

    Many nations put together "Constitutions" specifically to outline the duties of their governments (and to ensure they govern in a fair and limited way). Even the USSR had a Constitution (that echos quite a few similar "values" to the U.S. Constitution). Look it up online sometime! The problem is, the lazy and the power-hungry, and sometimes just the misguided, work to ever expand government's "sphere of influence". Given enough time, most "good and just" governments wind up only paying lip-service to their Constitutions, and violate much of it in practice.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 12, 2008 @12:11PM (#26091399)

    Easy, pull troops out of Iraq. Amazing, I just increased NASA's budget by well, well over 100 fold per year.

    No kidding. Every two months spent in Iraq is equal to a year of NASA's budget. You wanna cut costs, get the hell out of the war that's costing a fortune and making us look like asses.

  • NASA's Future (Score:2, Insightful)

    by spud.dups ( 1371655 ) on Friday December 12, 2008 @12:12PM (#26091423)

    A student I knew did a story on Obama and NASA. I can't remember all the specifics, or his resources, but some of the report was that Obama favors social programs over space exploration. Here[LINK] [cjr.org] is a link to the first report I could find on Google given back in 2007. It basically says that Obama wants to delay the space program for 5 years and put the money into education.

    I too believe that general education here in America has a lot to be desired, but there are so many life saving and other useful technologies that have come from the program. For a simple example, NASA came up with the first prototype of creating Velcro. Who would have thought.

    I don't believe that Obama has some affinity to keep the program around, and he never mentioned prior to the speech given last month that he grew up on Star Trek, or loves what they do at NASA. My worry is more then changing management, it's that he will try and take this out of the budget completely.

  • by wisebabo ( 638845 ) on Friday December 12, 2008 @12:16PM (#26091493) Journal

    Griffin may be, as you say, 100% correct here but telling contractors and others to "support Constellation and not discuss alternatives" as well as demanding "mid-level executives from not meeting with the transition team" is INTOLERABLE (from TFA). Considering this comes from an accredited journalist from a reputable news organization (at least I've heard of them previously), their claims of having witnesses, documents and e-mails to back them up should be taken seriously.

    Perhaps Griffin is one of the few Bush appointees who isn't corrupt, incompetent or so politically/religiously biased as to commit criminal acts (justice department I'm looking at you). On the other hand considering the absolute disasters this administration has led us into regarding war, international relations, energy policies, the economy, the environment, civil/human rights, politicization of science, corruption of the judiciary, (oh and did I remember the war on terror?) I think anyone with half a brain would look upon anyone Bush would pick with extreme skepticism.

    The shuttle HAS been a disaster for the last 25 years. If his plan has decent merit hopefully it will be allowed to continue. Hopefully Obama's team will consider not just the plan itself but the costs of any delay/change to a new one and will make the best choice accordingly. Of course there is a risk that they may not but we did not elect the president of NASA, we elected the PRESIDENT OF THE USA to make these decisions for us. Even as an avid space buff I have to respect that there ARE things more important than NASA. Considering Obama's top level appointments so far I have confidence that they'll do a good job.

    If Griffin's plan is good, he will always be known as the one who got the ball rolling and pushed it through difficult and uncertain times. (Maybe he feels so entitled at NASA because under Bush everyone around him WAS an idiot). IF THE ALLEGATIONS from the newspaper ARE TRUE though, he, with his resorting to tactics reminiscent of his other Bushies, has proven that he does not have the character to lead NASA. Let Ares go without him.

  • by MozeeToby ( 1163751 ) on Friday December 12, 2008 @12:32PM (#26091785)

    If the new programs are the best thing to happen to NASA in decades, then it should be trivial for Griffin to find a dozen experts in the field to tell Obama as much. Maybe you haven't noticed, but it really seems to me like Obama listens to his advisors and takes what they say into account.

    Throwing a temper-tantrum is not the way this should be handled. Give the president-elect the information he needs to make an informed decision about your organization. If you don't like the dicision later, the throw your hissy-fit. Start a public awareness campaign, lobby congress, whatever. Don't deny the commander-in-chief information just because you disagree with him.

  • by karlwilson ( 1124799 ) on Friday December 12, 2008 @12:33PM (#26091793)
    Well at least back up your reasons for dismissing the Ares vehicle as "silly." I'm an aerospace engineer too, but that doesn't necessarily qualify me to opine on the subject of solid rockets.
  • by karlwilson ( 1124799 ) on Friday December 12, 2008 @12:36PM (#26091837)
    The same can be said of Bush. When the world economy collapses it's Bush's fault, but if Reagan did something right, he can't take credit for it? That's something to laugh about.
  • by Eravnrekaree ( 467752 ) on Friday December 12, 2008 @01:05PM (#26092249)

    Actually extending medicare to everyone would actually reduce the per person cost for medical care. Evidence shows that a universal health care system can be operated more efficiently, provide better coverage and more preventative care, reducing costs through preventative treatment, and operating at an at cost basis to provide the best service for the lowest cost. So actually doing universal health care would save us money, and everything has to be paid for in one way or another, universal health care is designed to make it affordable and ability to pay for all. Universal health care would save individuals money, otherwise health care, as with roads and energy systems, education and so on have to be paid for one way or another. Health care and education are basic rights and without public funding of these only the wealthy would be able to afford it. I am tired of conservatives saying how will it be paid for, of course we pay for it, but this will be democratically controlled and operated in the public interest, our interest, I think what we want is a government that operates efficiently and makes good use of money, and thats who I vote for and why I voted for Obama, not people who just want to cut or raise spending just to cut or raise spending. Republicans cut spending just for the hell of it, it doesnt matter if the money is being spent in the most efficient way or if other ways to acheive the same goal would be worse, or if the money is being used for important things.

    Social security has always partly been a needs based system, the disability aspect of it for those who have serious medical conditions. Part of it has been a retirement security system. With a privatized sytem the cost of both of these would be higher and would leave many people unable to afford basic essentials. Al Gore in 2000 wanted to place social security funds in a lock box to assure they could not be raided, if we had done so we would not have a crisis. The system can be managed in a way to avert such a crisis, there is no need to deny essential service that many need to survive.

  • Bad Strategy (Score:3, Insightful)

    by PPH ( 736903 ) on Friday December 12, 2008 @01:39PM (#26092771)

    When the incoming administration sends their representative over to see if your programs should continue, stonewalling is a really bad idea. Pissing them off isn't too smart, either.

    In the first case, funding will get cut due to ignorance. In the second, out of spite. Either way you are out of a job in a bad economy. More likely, Obama's people wil just figure that NASA management is full of blow hard morons, replace them and put someone else in their place that they can work with.

  • by aztektum ( 170569 ) on Friday December 12, 2008 @01:40PM (#26092791)

    That is my argument also. 700 billion to prop up failing banks who screwed themselves? Or 700 billion for NASA and other science agencies to develop research programs fuel marketable ideas that would create jobs? Billions for the broken, decrepit auto industry (which, thankfully, does not appear to be happening any time soon) that has failed to provide valuable products for consumers (other than mechanics who repair them). Or billions spent to develop new technologies with companies that are trying new things (like Tesla).

  • by ile.vm ( 1424509 ) on Friday December 12, 2008 @01:47PM (#26092879)
    "I also have enough European friends to know what a government can be WHEN SOMEONE ELSE PAYS FOR THEIR DEFENSE, and I've seen it for myself as well when I studied in NZ for two years."

    There, fixed that for you

    P.S. Mods: I'm not necessarily off topic. NASA spending should properly be considered defense research (or at least much of it should be).
  • by EgoWumpus ( 638704 ) on Friday December 12, 2008 @01:53PM (#26092957)

    No, they do not. They were originally supposed to be run like airliners, with a cost much lower than expendable rockets. They utterly and completely failed at that goal.

    Such stories as Post-its [wikipedia.org] demonstrate that though something may, at the outset, have an intended goal, it's actual best use may be far off that mark.

    I hear this argument a lot; "x sucks because it was supposed to be y and it's not". The question is really; is there any utility to x? For what it did, the shuttle program was successful. What it did didn't happen to be what it set out to do, but only a very narrowly defined vision will see that as a failure.

    The real tragedy here is how much of the taxpayers' money has been wasted on this lobbyist-driven boondoggle over the decades, and what we could have achieved in space, had we spent that money wisely.

    This is also a common refrain, "Think of what we could have done if we spent the money wisely!" What is never included is what else is needed. Money may be a necessary condition, but it is not sufficient - unless you spend orders of magnitude more. Does that seem like a familiar pattern?

    NASA has a $17B 2008 budget. Ten times that was dropped by Congress in a tax rebate early this year. More than forty times that was given to the Administration as discretionary bailout spending. Neither of these expenditures is guaranteed to achieve the goal they set out to do, and even if they succeed have no direct permanent benefit to society; forestalling economic collapse is all well and good, but only if you also go in and fix underlying issues.

    On the other hand, NASA provides tangible benefits to science, and science has always, in the long run, improved society both culturally and economically. Knowledge gleaned is not lost. As a tax payer, I will far more readily spend $17B a year, even if it's vastly inefficient, for small, tangible scientific advances, than spend ten times that much to cover up major problems in the economy. Nothing is gained by axing NASA, and even less is gained by claiming that NASA is totally and irrevocably useless and has always been.

    Long story short: our resource investment in NASA is low, and the claims of it's inefficiency are entirely out of proportion to it's actual inefficiency, meaning that such claims are inherently deceptive.

  • by Shivetya ( 243324 ) on Friday December 12, 2008 @02:06PM (#26093195) Homepage Journal

    That is crux of the issue. What about when grapes were grown in Great Britain? Was that an optimal climate? Who decides? Those with the most money or the loudest voices? It obviously was warmer then for a good part of the world, so when was it right?

    Plus nature has always been a harsh mistress. It has wiped out more species than we will ever know about. We find examples all the time of species that existed but are gone now. We can have one volcano explode and affect the environment more than man can in a year yet who do we think has the power to change the environment? Ourselves, boy do we kid ourselves or what!

    We don't know and anyone suggesting that twenty years ago was more right than one hundred is nothing but a religious nutcase. Yes religious because this has taken on every facet of a radical religion.

  • by Taibhsear ( 1286214 ) on Friday December 12, 2008 @02:32PM (#26093557)

    Seriously? You wiki link to a dodge? Minus the glaringly obvious choices of Aries [wikipedia.org] the astrology sign, Aries [wikipedia.org] the constellation, Ares [wikipedia.org] the fraking GOD, or the tiny tidbit that there is, in fact, another rocket named Aries [wikipedia.org]. Your wikifu is weak young one.

  • by Ellis D. Tripp ( 755736 ) on Friday December 12, 2008 @02:35PM (#26093593) Homepage

    That has always been a "hands-on" way to interest kids in spaceflight technology. And in the past, NASA used to have a lot of model rocket stuff available on their kids/educational webpages.

    Unfortunately, the US government is now in the process of regulating model rocketry out of existence in the name of fighting terrorism...

  • by doconnor ( 134648 ) on Friday December 12, 2008 @02:41PM (#26093675) Homepage

    Large private businesses are probably at least as inefficient as government. It's just that large private businesses don't have access to information laws, publicly broadcast broad meetings and relatively detailed budgets published and teams of reporters and opposition parties searching through all that looking for any sign of misspent money, no matter how insignificant compared to the total operation of government.

  • by Toonol ( 1057698 ) on Friday December 12, 2008 @02:58PM (#26093895)

    The Soviets did have an unsustainable system; but it wasn't pre-ordained how long they would last. There is little doubt America's actions hastened their decline by decades. That could reasonably be described as 'beating'.

  • by NiteShaed ( 315799 ) on Friday December 12, 2008 @03:16PM (#26094179)

    Out of curiosity, who exactly are we defending the Europeans from at this point? The Russians walked unfettered across the boarder into Georgia recently even though they're supposedly a "close ally" of ours, and the days of us preparing for a massive Soviet ground invasion of Europe are pretty long gone. Our biggest military bills now seem to be flushing good resources down the toilet in Iraq, and last time I checked we are under no imminent threat of attack by the Iraqi military now or in the past.
    Even if we are spending a ton of money on defending Europe from someone, why? They have their own militaries, whom we've asked for help (the "coalition of the willing" in the Middle East). If we have an inflated military budget, blame ourselves, not the people that we insist on "protecting".

  • by sumdumass ( 711423 ) on Friday December 12, 2008 @03:38PM (#26094469) Journal

    Don't inject reason and thought into this. We are bashing Bush right now so we can prop Obama up.

  • by CFTM ( 513264 ) on Friday December 12, 2008 @04:43PM (#26095499)

    How this gets modded insightful is beyond me. Going in to Iraq was not the correct move, but that isn't a point worth debating at this point because we are there. An exit strategy needs to be created, and quickly but to just pick and leave would just create an environment ripe for the next Saddam. We've made a terrible bed, and now have to sleep in it.

  • by ile.vm ( 1424509 ) on Friday December 12, 2008 @05:29PM (#26096155)

    the combined EU defense budget sometime (or NATO without the US). It's still bigger than all other contenders (except for US). As it is, Europe can defend itself from any possible threats - let's assume Russia, China and Iran, for simplicity sake - on its own well enough.

    Your figures are worthless. There were far more cases of frostbite in India last year then there were in Antartica. That means your safer from frostbite if you move from Mumbai to McMurdo, right?

    Look at the data as a percentage of GDP, as stated at the bottom of the exact wikipedia page you cited: United States 4.06%, New Zealand 1.0%, Spain 1.2%, Ireland 0.9%, Switzerland 1.0%, Belgium 1.3%, Germany 1.5%, Sweden 1.5%, Denmark 1.5% ... even that bastion of European militarism, France is only at 2.6%. With all that spending, they should have a working aircraft carrier again any year now. Even those numbers are deceiving, because the EU countries use their armed forces as a jobs program. Most of that money is going to pay for people to keep the unemployment rate down, not training or weapons or anything else that makes for an effective military.

    I could respect you if you were arguing that it's OK to hide behind a nuclear missile, and let the rest of the world go to hell (because if you do that you can't do anything except concede to tyranny or destroy the world, no middle options). But don't try to argue that the EU or New Zealand carry their weight. Just ask your average Sudan refugee camp resident how well the EU peacekeepers are doing without effective helicopter support. Most of those refugees get squat for protection. The EU can choose to help them or not help them, but it's despicable to say that you want to help them but then secretly be too cheap to do it.

    Most Europeans at this point say "the Americans should do it" which is EXACTLY my point.

  • Re:Frankly (Score:3, Insightful)

    by khallow ( 566160 ) on Friday December 12, 2008 @06:38PM (#26097131)

    Oh please. The drought is due to lack of rain, plain and simple. How on earth do "water use policies" affect rainfall frequency and volume?

    They reduce local moisture content which means less rain. Do that over all of subsahara Africa and you'll see a big drop in rainfall. The dwindling lakes are a key clue. They started before the current bout of global warming, but not before the agricultural revolution hit Africa.

    Given how African's have managed to "adapt" in the last couple decades, I'd say your claim is clearly false.

    And even if it were correct, many will still suffer in the meantime. Which brings me back to my original point: the current climate is optimal.

    So how much responsibility should I have for people who refuse to adapt? To be blunt, I think that's the problem with Africa. Everyone else in the world with minor exceptions like North Korea are getting on with the program. Africa needs law abiding, low corruption government. It needs public health infrastructure. It needs legal systems that allow businesses to function. It needs an education system.

    I think it'd be a disaster to attempt to fix Earth's climate in a particular regime.

    Did I say we should? No. Nice strawman, though. In fact, I never addressed that idea at all.

    You repeatedly mention "optimal" climate with respect to the current climate. I term a group of related physical states of the global climate a "regime". I just said that I think there are more important things than to maintain the "optimal" climate.

    But now that you bring it up, I think it's clear through my comments that the problem is rapidity of climate change, not climate change in and of itself. And given global warming is accelerating, rapidity of climate change is only becoming more and more of a problem.

    This is a reasonable concern. But I don't see a good case being made for rapid climate change. Accelerating a very slow rate of change does not mean rapid climate change. And there are upper limits to how much CO2 and other greenhouse gasses can heat up the Earth.

    Agreed. Problem: if a large fraction of the world's arable land becomes unusable because of drought or flooding due to climate change, how can you raise the living standard of these people?

    Answer: move them to a location that isn't so screwed up. Keep in mind that a lot of the world's unarable land in the far north is going to become arable.

    Hint: raising living standards does not necessarily require "modest [amounts] of global warming".

    Well, I've been seeing numerous proposals to halt or even reduce carbon dioxide emissions. For example, US President-elect Barack Obama has proposed that global carbon emissions be reduced by 80% by 2050 (in this speech [nytimes.com], for example). No discussion of how this will affect the global economy. Which means to me that Obama doesn't know and probably doesn't care either. That sort of willful ignorance in turn strikes me as a massive harm to peoples' wealth and living standards everywhere. The weaning off from fossil fuels should be natural. It should cost more (due to scarcity and proven externalities) than the options and in that way cause a massive shift to a more sustainable infrastructure. Modifying human activity in such a massive way without a valid pretext is just going to introduce economic inefficiencies into the global economy.

  • by mysticgoat ( 582871 ) on Friday December 12, 2008 @07:27PM (#26097701) Homepage Journal

    The Soviet Union's collapse actually began in 1953, when Stalin died. Krushchev (1953-1964) had neither the personal charisma nor the cold blooded ruthlessness, nor (in retrospect) the egomania that was needed to hold together the empire that Stalin had built. K inherited an incredibly powerful imperial structure, that Stalin had built with what history will deem as the largest and possibly the bloodiest slave labor state the world has ever seen. Ghengis Khan's hordes pale in comparison. It was such a well crafted totalitarian state that it survived despite Kruhschev's failing to be the pure bastard that was needed to run such an organization, and it continued to wilt only slowly under Brezhnev.

    Gorbachov recognized that it was no longer possible to maintain the tight controls on communications a totalitarian state requires, and began making it easier to get licenses for things like typewriters, copiers, and fax machines. For the Soviet economy to survive, it had to start trading on an equal footing with the rest of the world, and for that to happen, lateral communication had to be allowed to augment the star-only channels of totalitarianism. But Glasnost could not happen fast enough; the center could not hold.

    Glasnost could possibly have worked, if the rest of the world had stayed with 1970s communications technology. But in the 1980s, cheap personal computers gave even small businesses in Europe and the Americas trading and manufacturing advantages that Russia could not compete with. For the Soviet Union to have met that challenge would have required it to acquire and install the entire annual worldwide production of PCs for several years in row. It just couldn't happen.

    Every other condition that obtained during the 1980s is something that the Soviet Union could have managed. The reason why it failed during the USA Alzheimer President's watch rather stumbling along for a few more decades was the introduction of the personal computer into every economy the Soviet Union was involved with, except its own.

    It really did all have to do with Lotus 1.2.3, PeachTree Accounting, and Word Star, which enabled western institutions and businesses to do things like 'Just In Time' inventory systems and effective cost accounting management practices. This had nothing at all to do with capitalism versus communism; this was entirely about pragmatic computer usage versus totalitarian strictures on communications.

System checkpoint complete.