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NASA Politics

Partisan Food Fight Erupts Over NASA, Commercial Space 164

RocketAcademy writes "Until recently, space policy has been a non-partisan issue. Even when politicians disagreed on space-policy issues, that disagreement rarely aligned with party lines. That has changed in the last few years. Now, one organization is throwing fuel on the political fire. The Space Frontier Foundation has called Republicans the Party of Big Government Space. SFF is upset about the GOP platform, which lacks specifics about space policy. According to the SFF, the GOP 'has nothing but hackneyed praise for NASA, and doesn't even mention the increasing role of the private sector.' The Obama campaign quickly echoed the statement. But NASA Watch points out that the Democratic platform is even less specific than the GOP's. Others express concerns that partisanship harms space policy."
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Partisan Food Fight Erupts Over NASA, Commercial Space

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  • by cpu6502 ( 1960974 ) on Tuesday September 04, 2012 @06:49PM (#41228807)

    That's how it sounds: They are complaining that the GOP relies too much on NASA, and doesn't provide enough incentives for private space companies. (I wonder if they think the DNC is any better?)

  • by noobermin ( 1950642 ) on Tuesday September 04, 2012 @06:54PM (#41228869) Journal []

    You don't need to read it all, the first reason says it all. The entire point of congressional sessions is ot discuss and the whole point of discussion is to change minds. There is none of that from this congress and thus, they don't do their jobs but they get paid anyway.

  • What is private? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by tomhath ( 637240 ) on Tuesday September 04, 2012 @07:06PM (#41229003)

    If NASA is funding development then it's not private.

    If private companies want to develop their own space vehicles and offer their service for hire that's fine, but it's in addition to what NASA does (that's the Republican platform). Democrat platform seems to depend on what state the day's speech is delivered in.

  • by Vylen ( 800165 ) on Tuesday September 04, 2012 @07:07PM (#41229015)

    Seriously, the headline had me thinking it was about a fight over food supplies in space with issues regarding commercial vendors to supply NASA or something.

    Greatly disappointed :(

  • 16 Trillion reasons (Score:5, Interesting)

    by nevermindme ( 912672 ) on Tuesday September 04, 2012 @07:50PM (#41229423)
    16 Trillion reasons not to spend more than keeping life support on for NASA. When there are less than 50% of US citizens are dependent on some type of federal aid to keep above bankruptcy it might be time to go to the moon. And when college students can afford to pay tuition from the earnings of part time job and not finance the basic education until there retirement perhaps mars would be in reach of American Astronauts. We will need to go backwards for a bit to rebuild ourselves.
  • by Jah-Wren Ryel ( 80510 ) on Tuesday September 04, 2012 @08:09PM (#41229575)

    How come we never heard from the so-called "Space Frontier Foundation" when Obama wanted to turn NASA into a zoo ?

    Because he didn't. The idea of using NASA as form of interntaional outreach has been there for decades - NASA is a "halo" program for th US and is thus one of our best forms of PR. Reagan even made a speech where he said:

    "We can find there's yet undiscovered avenues where American and Soviet citizens can cooperate fruitfully for the benefit of mankind. In science and technology we can launch new joint space ventures."

    And BTW, that shit worked too. NASA's outreach programs have paid handsome dividends for America. We would never have had the Ansari X-Prize if Anousheh Ansari hadn't been inspired by NASA as a child in Iran.

  • by ancientt ( 569920 ) <> on Tuesday September 04, 2012 @08:33PM (#41229751) Homepage Journal

    (This has led to the odd sight of Republicans bringing Obama's budgets to the floor so they can say Democrats voted against them.)

    Personally I think there is much the state governments should handle instead of the federal government, so I'm basically in favor of cutting the role of the federal government where reasonable responsiblities can be returned to the state. That's a lot of weasel words to say that state government spending is better than federal government spending, but not all the time.

    So I'd rather see a congress locked into limited action rather than the rather abymissal results of a united one. There are exceptions where I think the federal government has a role, but over most of my lifetime, I've been continously disappointed in the "progress" when they do something "productive."

    Summary: Please, please give me a "No" party to vote for. The republicans and democrats have both had plenty of examples where they voted for spending and increasing regulation when I strongly wish they had left that to the states, so I'm afraid I can't be happy to vote for either "retardicans" or "demotards" and carefully weigh each vote I make to try to figure out whether voting for somebody without a chance or voting against the slightly less terrible choice has the most impact. I can't remember the last time I was happy to vote for somebody that I thought might win.

    It does strike me as slightly hilarious that you can get a situation where Democrats will vote against a Democrat budget and still call the opposition the "party of 'No'."

  • by symbolset ( 646467 ) * on Tuesday September 04, 2012 @09:49PM (#41230317) Journal
    Not really. You can do a lot with LH2/LO2 if you have enough of it on orbit to boost a LEO craft out beyond cislunar space. Planetary Resources has the start of a plan, big-money backing, and they're cash-flow positive. I think they've got good odds of kickstarting something interesting.
  • I know, really! Imagine what the public backlash would be against actually spending TRILLIONS of dollars on a needless oil war and secret police regime...

    Imagine spending tens of billions of dollars on air conditioning for those soldiers serving in scorching tropical deserts to get some respite.

    In fact, more money is spent on lipstick in America than is spent on spaceflight. Go figure and try to understand what the priorities really are for the country.

  • Re:What is private? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Teancum ( 67324 ) <[ten.orezten] [ta] [gninroh_trebor]> on Tuesday September 04, 2012 @11:00PM (#41230805) Homepage Journal

    There is a time and a place for "cost-plus" contracts that have been traditionally used by NASA over the years (along with the Department of Defense for a great many projects). It is based upon the very successful model used for the Manhattan Project, where a bold goal was established by the government... something seen as critical perhaps even to the survival of the country itself. As to if that was true for building a nuclear bomb or flying people to the Moon could be debated, but the point is that those were set out as significant goals that simply had to be met, and how much it cost to get them accomplished was of relatively minor importance.

    It is also important to note that while there were scientists who said that such endeavors were in theory possible, nobody knew at all how to actually get them accomplished. It really is exploring the frontier of human knowledge, where going to the Moon wasn't even conclusively proven to be even possible using any kind of machine on a practical level. Certainly entire new technologies had to be invented from scratch for both the Manhattan Project and the Apollo Project. If you asked even well respected contractors how much it was going to cost to build those devices, they would just give you a blank stare. Oh, they might come up with a rough estimate, but the truth is nobody knew how much it was really going to cost. It had never been done before, so there was no possible way to even remotely guess a great many of the costs. Certainly no sane contractor would ever enter into a contract with the government to produce a device or provide a service when they can't even reliably depend upon even the order of magnitude for the costs they will come into.

    That is why you need to have the government take the risk of the costs for such significant endeavors, which is the "cost" part of the contracting model. The "plus" is a guaranteed profit that the company will earn simply for participating and getting involved with such a project. That makes shareholders happy, but it also allows us as citizens to receive the benefits of a company which has the skills and equipment necessary to pull off such important national endeavors.

    One of the problems after the Apollo project (and the Manhattan Project in terms of DOD contracts) is that it was considered normal to use such a contracting model for everything else, even if they didn't need such a contract. Sending people into space to go and dock with the ISS is something with a long history and a great many rockets that have been developed over the years capable of such a feat. It is indeed possible to estimate fairly well how much it will cost to perform such a launch down to just a few dollars. For that reason, the cost-plus contracts really should have been abandoned a long time ago.

    Going to Mars still has a whole bunch of unknowns about it, and for building the actual spacecraft or even the forward logistical supplies that need to be sent to Mars ahead of time is something that isn't really well known. There have been several spacecraft that have gone to Mars already, so there is at least some history there... it doesn't need to be purely cost-plus, but there might still be some role to play for using that model.

    The SLS program is one that is using the "cost-plus" contracting model, which is one of the reasons why it will eventually die as a huge embarrassment to the good United States Senators who held advanced degrees in aeronautical engineering and designed the program through legislation in the first place. It shouldn't be all that complicated to send a big rocket into low-Earth orbit from Kennedy Space Center. Heck, the SLS won't even be the largest vehicle sent from KSC into LEO.

  • by jamstar7 ( 694492 ) on Wednesday September 05, 2012 @12:27AM (#41231317)
    Bush 2 inherited what could be concievably be called a 'space program'. He looted it for pork, then shut the Shuttle down because it was getting unsafe. Then he got ambitious to provide yet more pork by coming up with the Aries systems. Congress was right to kill them, but wrong to replace them with SLS.

    When NASA does hard science, they can't be beat. It's when they get stuck fighting over the scraps that Congress hands them after passing out the pork that they have trouble. And it doesn't help that the bosses they keep assigning are beancounters, either.
  • by Jah-Wren Ryel ( 80510 ) on Wednesday September 05, 2012 @12:35AM (#41231367)

    Or are you saying that NASA Administrator Charles Bolden is a liar ?

    I'm saying that in the context of the interview it was clear Bolden was only talking about outreach programs. Listen to what he says in the link YOU provided.

    1) Re-inspire children to get into science and math
    2) He wanted to expand our international relationships
    3) Third and perhaps foremost he wanted me to find a way to reach out to the muslim world.

    None of those items are about going to space, they are all directions for outreach programs.

    That's all he's talking about -- none of this bullshit about "turning NASA into a zoo." Just direction for outreach programs, the kind of thing NASA has been doing practically from day one.

    What is it with this fauxbama shit? There's tons of real policy issues to critize the guy on, why do so many people like you insist on going after fairy tales?

  • by jamstar7 ( 694492 ) on Wednesday September 05, 2012 @12:42AM (#41231407)
    The GOP is all about the big business. Boeing, Lockheed, et al would have folded if not for government cost-plus contracts that pay even when nothing is delivered, and have all those nifty cost overruns built right into them. It's The Way It's Done in the aerospace industry. If they manage to get control of both Congress and the White House, expect the 'traditional' aerospace companies to be deregulated and piled in pork while outfits like SpaceX get buried under red tape. Can't have these young upstarts changing The Way It's Done, especially with the next round of elections only a bit over 2 years away...

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