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NASA Mars Space

Lori Garver Claims That NASA Is 'Wary' of Elon Musk's Mars Plans (arstechnica.com) 103

MarkWhittington writes: Ars Technica reports that former NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver claimed, during a panel discussion at the Council for Foreign Relations, that many at NASA are "wary" of the Mars ambitions of SpaceX's Elon Musk. While the space agency has yielded low Earth operations to the commercial sector as part of the commercial crew program, it reserves for itself deep space exploration. Garver herself disagrees with that sentiment: "I thought, fundamentally, you just don’t understand. We’re not in a race in a swimming pool where everyone is racing against one another. We're in a cycling race where the government is riding point and the others are drafting behind us, and if someone comes alongside us and can pass us because they’ve found a better way, we don’t get out our tire pump and stick it between their spokes."
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Lori Garver Claims That NASA Is 'Wary' of Elon Musk's Mars Plans

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    Musk does burn government $$$ but NASA does so as well. I'm indifferent but some people aren't happy unless they're complaining.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    At this stage, NASA should just funnel money to SpaceX as fast as they can, before the space programs of other countries make them an irrelevance.

    Yes I know that's harsh, but how else can NASA sidestep the politicians that meddle with NASA's long-term plans every election cycle?

    • by Kjella ( 173770 )

      At this stage, NASA should just funnel money to SpaceX as fast as they can, before the space programs of other countries make them an irrelevance.

      Yes I know that's harsh, but how else can NASA sidestep the politicians that meddle with NASA's long-term plans every election cycle?

      Well, nothing Musk has done so far is deep space-specific. In fact, the whole manned flight program comes from NASA money. Is he going to design the Mars lander, outpost, return vehicle and fund it all? I doubt it. So in practice it's going to be on the politicians' whim for quite some time still.

      • by Hadlock ( 143607 )

        Well shit, why would they have bothered to call it Space eXploration, then? WHy not just call it "Space UPS" or "SpacEX" or some other delivery company name?

      • You think that 100% of spacex's money for the manned system is the feds? You must be with Boeing or l-mart ( 1 step below k-mart ). Boeing had over 620 million, while spacex is less than 540 million. In addition, Boeing gets 4.6 billion contract to finish it out and launch twice. Spacex gets 2.6b to finish it out and 3 flights. Spacex is putting a lot of their money into this. Boeing? Not a penny.
      • He is at least slightly visionary. I figure I'm averagely visionary, and here's what I come up with:

        Screw that throw away flimsy ass lander vehicle thing. For what, red dirt on boots? Where's the profit in that?

        Think big man. A real space ship. A real ship that lasts 100 years. It rotates for gravity and surrounded by water for radiation. Stay as long as you like. It's really big.

        Impossible you say?

        That's where the cheap ass subsidized reusable rocket comes in handy. It's a game changer in the right hands.

      • "in practice it's going to be on the politicians' whim for quite some time still."

        Ah, my friend, but there's a giant difference, here: SpaceX is a private company, NASA is not.

        No, no, I'm not implying anything the like of "government can't do anything right, let's handle it to the private initiative". The difference is that NASA, being a public entity, can't bribe congressmen to ensure its money provision, Musk can.

    • by GuB-42 ( 2483988 )

      At this stage, NASA should just funnel money to SpaceX as fast as they can.

      This would turn SpaceX into a NASA clone.
      People at SpaceX aren't fundamentally smarter than those from NASA. Their advantage is that, as a private company, they are profit-driven, which prompts for cheaper and more reliable design. Good for routine missions. NASA is more about research and development, that's two different approaches.
      Flooding SpaceX with money and asking them to do the same job as NASA is a recipe for disaster IMHO as it will go opposite to where SpaceX is good.

      • by WindBourne ( 631190 ) on Tuesday November 24, 2015 @10:24PM (#50998877) Journal
        Dead wrong. Spacex is NOT profit driven. If they were, they would raise their prices to just under ula's. They are driven to explore. These are engineers, not MBAs or politicians.
        • by GuB-42 ( 2483988 )

          Being profit driven is not a bad thing. Making profit is the duty of any private company, because a company that is not profitable will eventually bankrupt and this is good for no one.
          This is especially essential for companies with good engineers, because these are the ones that should stay alive.

          What you are talking about is optimizing for short-term profits. This is bad, and in fact, it is not even seeking profit, it is sucking the company dry, leaving just an empty shell behind. And that's important that

          • Being profit driven is great when it is long-term. Short-term profits are normally done for stock manipulation so that the executives can sell their options (and this is a disaster to the companies).
            However, Musk is NOT profit driven. He is goal driven, of which the making of profits is a side-effect, not the ONLY goal.
  • by mwvdlee ( 775178 ) on Tuesday November 24, 2015 @05:11PM (#50997239) Homepage

    Worst. Analogy. Ever.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      NASA had to lay off their analogy writers too.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      There's this fish, see, and it has a bicycle...

      No, no, wait. There's a bicyclist and a unicyclist...

      No that's not it. A Rabbi, a Priest and a Mechanic walk into a bar...

      Can we get back to you?

  • Can I get a car analogy, please?
  • by scunc ( 4201789 ) on Tuesday November 24, 2015 @05:24PM (#50997341)
    ... but we can't come up with a decent analogy. -- NASA
    • It sure beats the bad car analogies from SCO v IBM

    • You missed the point of the analogy.

      Near Earth orbit and Mars insertion are two ENTIRELY DIFFERENT THINGS. Just because are fast in a swimming pool ... doesn't mean you have dick of a chance in a bike race with the same people.

  • by NostalgiaForInfinity ( 4001831 ) on Tuesday November 24, 2015 @06:08PM (#50997691)

    We're in a cycling race where the government is riding point and the others are drafting behind us, and if someone comes alongside us and can pass us because they’ve found a better way, we don’t get out our tire pump and stick it between their spokes."

    That's a great metaphor. Keep in mind that (1) riding point doesn't mean you're the winner, (2) bicycling relies heavily on doping, and (3) once they see themselves losing their funding, any remaining good intentions of "playing fair" will fall by the wayside.

  • by erice ( 13380 ) on Tuesday November 24, 2015 @06:21PM (#50997813) Homepage

    Launching to Earth orbit has a clear business plan. Companies with real revenue streams will pay for this service for sound business reasons. Thus, it makes sense for a private company to do this. They can make money this way and that is what all business are out to do.

    Going to Mars, though, does not have a clear plan. Where is the profit? Even if you can do it for a reasonable cost, how do you make money? Thus, I'm sure many in NASA and outside, are doubtful that Musk will actually do this.

    However, if Elon Musk does send humans to Mars then funding NASA to do the same thing is an expensive redundancy. If enough of Congress believes that story then there will be no funding for NASA.

    If Elon Musk does not go to Mars and NASA does not go to Mars (because congress thought Elon Musk would do it) then I guess nobody goes to Mars.

    That is the sort wariness I would expect from smart people working at NASA.

    • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      The gov and mil backed secrecy of NASA covering for Operation Paperclip https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org] and hiding top German experts from later versions of the Dora Trial https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org] or the international press, or authors is not really needed anymore.
      Any private company can do space now until it gets a bit interesting with the Missile Technology Control Regime or established gov contractors try and keep their decades of no bid contracts.
    • by topnob ( 1195249 )

      Where is the profit? Even if you can do it for a reasonable cost, how do you make money?

      people pay to go, same as suborbital flights, Musk has said he has done the figures and he wants to get the costs down to $500k per person, which implies that it will be in the millions for the first few trips, and implies he is going to make money out of it.

      His companies are making money, so I don't think you can doubt he has planned it out to make money.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Musk isn't going to Mars. Just a financial breakdown of the Apollo missions will demonstrate easily why Musk isn't going to Mars. He can't afford a spacecraft that big. He can't fund it, and can't build it. There's no business case for going to Mars. It's a frontier that business won't fund the exploration of. To be honest, I don't think America is smart enough to get to Mars anymore. The general population is too pacified/enthralled to pay for a Mars mission or even care about why they should go to mars.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      You could wind back an extra ten years and have said there is no way Musk could get to orbit based on a breakdown of the original Vostok human space flight program. But he has and it didn't cost a significant portion of the nation's GDP to achieve that. The reason why, of course, is that technology has marched forwarded significantly in the last 40 years. Are we at a point where it is within the realms of a billionaire to stage a mars mission? Maybe not. But technology is trending towards that point, and it

    • He may not be able to afford a Saturn V, but that's not what he plans to use, he plans to use multi-launch mission using reusable Falcon 9 Heavy. Everything he has done this far suggests he is able to build it. I am not saying he can't fail, but at this point it takes too many unsupported and ill-informed assumptions to just say he isn't going to do it. This is getting a little bit old to be honest. First it was the main engine. Musk isn't going to develop and/or build one. Look at how much NASA spent deve
      • Actually, that's not what he's planning on using. He's planning on building a super-heavy lifter roughly comparable to the Saturn V or SLS. Here's the link from the article: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]. If you scroll down you'll see a cross-section comparison. This thing makes the Falcon Heavy look like a toy.

        He is planning on some Falcon 9 based flights to Mars, but those will be just be landers and/or supplies. Here's the wikipedia link for that one: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

        • My mistake. Nevertheless, it seems the plan is to make the super heavy lifter reusable, which is one of the key features that makes the plan at least theoretically feasible.
          • I agree. I haven't seen anything about re-usability on the SLS which is just nuts. I actually think Airbus' approach with the Adeline is a more realistic approach, but they don't seem to be nearly as far along as SpaceX is. Any sort of re-usability is clearly better than none.

            My main disagreement with Ms Garver is that she portrays this as a turf war. Musk has an edge of bravado about him that can make him seem a bit un-serious. Re-using rockets sounds great. Re-using them on the same day sounds like a gree

  • They spearheaded it and that was great - but most of their scientists are in the private sector now. The private sector can do it cheaper, likely much safer and more efficiently while turning a profit and bringing back resources to justify that profit on a scale NASA could never hope to achieve. This isn't to say NASA should be closed, on the contrary they should have more funding to pursue projects like those in Eagleworks, some of the LENR and similarly fringe-physics projects. We need to be able to ge
  • That is that NASA regulates and approves human space worthy craft rather than build much of it itself. Shrinking budgets and trend toward privatisation may force NASA's had. I prefer NASA pay a big role in space travel. But that may not be realistic in the long term.
  • Lori Garver said: "We’re not in a race in a swimming pool where everyone is racing against one another."

    If you're not in a swimming pool, why are there bubbles coming out of the astronauts' helmets and spiraling upwards? If you're not in a swimming pool, why did an astronaut's suit suddenly fill with water, and "makeshift snorkels" were required?

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