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NASA Moon Science Politics

Senators Question Removal of NASA Program Manager 67

Hugh Pickens writes "The New York Times reports that one day after the removal of NASA's head of the Constellation Program, Senator John D. Rockefeller IV, chairman of the committee that oversees NASA, and Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, the committee's ranking Republican, have asked NASA's inspector general to look into whether the NASA leadership is undermining the agency's moon program and to 'examine whether this or other recent actions by NASA were intended or could reasonably have been expected to foreclose the ability of Congress to consider meaningful alternatives' to President Obama's proposed policy, which invests heavily in new space technologies and turns the launching of astronauts over to private companies. Congress has yet to agree to the president's proposed policy, and has inserted a clause into this year's budget legislation that prohibits NASA from canceling the Constellation program or starting alternatives without Congressional approval. The Constellation manager, Jeffrey M. Hanley, whose reassignment is being called a promotion, had been publicly supported by the NASA administrator and other NASA officials. But he may have incurred displeasure by publicly talking about how Constellation could be made to fit into the slimmed-down budgets that President Obama has proposed for NASA's human spaceflight endeavors."
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Senators Question Removal of NASA Program Manager

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  • by durrr ( 1316311 ) on Sunday May 30, 2010 @08:46AM (#32396224)
    Senators thinking too much of their sponsors and pets in addition to the perpetual conflict over the imaginary difference in US parties(republicans/democrats) is the reason why we're not going anywhere. The congress is a fucking kindergarten full of uneducated, dishonest and selfish man-babies who feel entitled to have everything their way, and if they have to face critique they'll cry until your ears bleed or you let them have it their way.
    Perhaps when India or China start their mars missions congress will sober up.
  • by beaverdownunder ( 1822050 ) on Sunday May 30, 2010 @08:48AM (#32396238)
    ... but why is it so hard/expensive to repeat something that was done several times 40 years ago using comparatively horribly primitive technology? Somehow I expect this to all 'go away'. Not everything in the world is a conspiracy, but not everything isn't, either. Hello, NASA -- what gives?
  • by durrr ( 1316311 ) on Sunday May 30, 2010 @08:54AM (#32396254)
    Because a certain president found the space program dull and boring and decided to funnel all the NASA money into warfare instead, because the latter is so much more exciting and something we need more of. And when you let something stagnate for 30 years, chances are you'll have a bloody hard time getting it going again, especially when all the people and expertise have moved on and away.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 30, 2010 @09:04AM (#32396302)

    think about it this way:

    Remember when, as a kid, you balanced a ruler on your finger? Launching a rocket is just like that--only the ruler is human beings and the finger is a (hopefully) controlled explosion.

    If your system isn't PERFECT, people die.

    Now, that's just a normal rocket. We've done those before. But to send humans to the Moon, you've got to launch a larger mass than to get just to the Space Station. Much larger. And you have to bring enough fuel with you (more mass) to carefully brake yourself as you get into lunar orbit. And you have to bring enough fuel with you to carefully brake yourself as you get down to the Moon's surface. And you have to bring enough fuel with you to launch off of the Moon's surface again. AND you have to bring enough fuel with you to get back out of lunar orbit and pointed back at the moon. AND you have to bring fuel tanks and rocket engines for each one of those steps, too. Plus food and clothing and toilets for your humans. All of that has to be lifted in the original rocket.

    This still doesn't get at your question, though. We did it in the 60's, why can't we do it now? Well, lots of reasons. Primarily, we were trying to do it in a way that was less expensive to operate than the Saturn Vs--that program was cancelled because it was so expensive. Most of the technology, and all of the parts, are obsolete, so we couldn't just go with another Saturn V. Also, it takes $Billions to do this, so we have to satisfy all of our "stakeholders," which meant that we had to try to do it using Shuttle parts, because if you make a bunch of people suddenly unemployed, senators get upset. So it would be (arguably) better to launch with an all-liquid system, but we had to cobble together rockets out of the Shuttle parts. Well, performance-wise, they're slightly worse but safety-wise they're slightly better, so it's all good. But then it turned out that there were technical problems to using Shuttle parts when they're not attached to the Shuttle's stack--see the first point about balancing a ruler; if it's not perfect, things go dramatically wrong. So the design had engineering problems that had to be fixed. It takes time and money to fix those problems, and the program fell behind and went over budget.

    Meanwhile, congress SAID they supported NASA in a broad, bi-partisan fashion--and they did, they tried to give NASA more money...but Bush, who started the program, cut the budget. Every single God-damned year. When you start a complex program and give it less money than it is asking for, you cause more problems than just the dollar amounts represent. Work gets done out of order due to the financial constraints. This means people have to make assumptions about the work that should have been done already, but isn't. That means that some of those assumptions will be wrong. That means that some of that work will have to be re-done, and that means more time and money.

    So, there you have it--why NASA can't do again what it did 40+ years ago: the physics are nightmarishly difficult, there were engineering difficulties (imagine that), there were constraints about how the system could be built due to congressional politics, and the president didn't support us with enough money. End of story.

  • by voss ( 52565 ) on Sunday May 30, 2010 @09:20AM (#32396366)

    They wouldnt have been able to put up a manned version until 2018. The Ares I was unnecessary, you can use
    Delta IV or Atlas V already proven rockets plus the Falcon 9 launching next month.

    The Ares V heavy lift rocket could be done faster,cheaper and more reliably by a shuttle derived heavy lift vehicle
    such as the Direct 3.0 , the tooling is already in place for Directs version using the existing shuttle tooling.

  • by dkf ( 304284 ) <> on Sunday May 30, 2010 @09:29AM (#32396416) Homepage

    Perhaps when India or China start their mars missions congress will sober up.

    I wouldn't count on it. It would be a truly remarkable event for recent Congresses.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 30, 2010 @10:10AM (#32396650)

    It's not a technological problem -- as you say, it's been done before, and others have done comparable development in a fraction of the time and cost (SpaceX and other NewSpace companies).

    The issue here is, and has been for the past 40 years, entirely political. Space is big money, and big money attracts politicians like flies. NASA is both a job program for engineers and a reliable means of buying votes. Why do you think the various space centers are scattered all over the country? Why do you think rockets are launched from Florida, but the flight is controlled via Houston?

    Get the politicians out of the mix. Once companies have to produce reliable designs on a budget or disappear, we'll have cheap access to space. It won't happen with cost-plus programs or the "cover-your-ass" bureaucracy.

  • by Simonetta ( 207550 ) on Sunday May 30, 2010 @10:47AM (#32396886)

    Space Exploration is a 20th century quasi-religion that is beginning to manifest itself as a mental disease among those people who continue to believe it too strongly.
      Get over it. Manned space flight was a 20th-century phenomenon that has been determined to be to expensive and too limited in returns to be continued at its former funding levels. We have serious problems now that we didn't have then, and throwing hundreds of billions of dollars (that we don't have anymore) into space doesn't solve them. Grown-up people who have to make hard and realistic decisions about our public funds and resources have decided this. Tom Swift halfwits can't accept it. Too bad. Time to get real.
        20th-century Americans are prone to economic fantasy because they have lived their whole lives inside one. What they don't realize is that their country and their government is broke. There is no trillion dollars for space explorations. There is no trillion dollars for anything. There is no trillion dollars left anywhere in the USA.
      There WAS a trillion dollars spent on a Iraq-Afghanistan war that accomplished nothing. There was a trillion dollars spent on maintaining the fantasy that some Wall Street banks and investment firms are too big to fail. There was a trillion dollars spent giving $600,000 mortgages to janitors. There was a trillion dollars spent on federal government budget deficits. Money is not a physical good. Money can be created out of nothing and can disappear back to nothing. Technical people never understand this. They don't study economics, and they don't understand economics.
      There was trillions of dollars unwisely spent...and 'there was' means the past. America was rich, now it's not. There was money in the past but there isn't going to be in the future. The trillions of dollars that 20th-century American space enthusiasts believe could and should be spent on the glorious future in space and it's endless possiblities for the betterment of humanity doesn't exist. It's spent-- it's gone. The Burger Kings and endless suburban strip malls is what you got for it. It's all that you're going to get. This is the great tragedy that is America and what it could have been, but isn't and now never will be.

  • by durrr ( 1316311 ) on Sunday May 30, 2010 @02:07PM (#32398580)
    Let political correctness be damned; Judging from your name you're a girl, which explains why you're stuck in the "make a safe home for your future family" mindset and can't see the purpose of space exploration, the biggest and most important engineering challenge there ever was. It's probably also why you're not rated troll.
    As to why space exploration is important: resources, including energy: green-24/7 unclouded solar energy, and space in abundance you cannot comprehend, microgravity manufacturing could also bring us some interesting goods. You want a safe space and nice upbringing for your children? get us out into fucking space then, our 6 billion people earth starts to feel a bit crowded, in space, you could have a billion children for yourself and there still would be plenty to go around.
    Of course, there's the problem of no preexisting infrastructure, but if no one starts building it, it will never be built, just like our power/water/sewage/transport grid didn't grow and evolve by itself, it was built at the cost of billions of dollars and the sweat and blood of thousands of people over centuries of time.
    Stop yelling at your man for rubbing those sticks together in a seemingly purpouseless fashion, he's inventing fire and you'll fucking love the steak he'll cook.

"my terminal is a lethal teaspoon." -- Patricia O Tuama