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Former NASA Chief On US Space Policy: "No Vision, No Plan, No Budget" (arstechnica.com) 171

An anonymous reader writes: During a congressional hearing Thursday, former NASA Administrator Mike Griffin had harsh words for the space agency and the space policy crafted by President Obama's administration. Under the Obama administration's guidance, NASA has established Mars as a goal for human spaceflight and said that astronauts will visit the red planet by the 2030s. However, a growing number of critics say the agency's approach is neither affordable nor sustainable.

On Thursday, Griffin, administrator of NASA from 2005 to 2009, joined those critics. The United States has not had a serious discussion about space policy, he testified, and as a result, the space agency is making little discernible progress. NASA simply cannot justify its claims of being on a credible path toward Mars, he added.

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Former NASA Chief On US Space Policy: "No Vision, No Plan, No Budget"

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  • by Thanshin ( 1188877 ) on Friday February 26, 2016 @03:48AM (#51589901)

    China, Europe or India have to put people on the moon to relight US population's push to get back to the head of the race.

    Until then, it seems simply too hard to get enough political support.

    • China, Europe or India have to put people on the moon to relight US population's push to get back to the head of the race.

      No, it won't. Not only is the Space Race long over, the political conditions that lead to it no longer exist, and the general public of the US never supported the race that much in the first place.

      Until then, it seems simply too hard to get enough political support.

      Apollo only had political support because JFK took a bullet to the head in Dallas. And even then that support barely lasted two years before the budgets started getting slashed - by the time we actually landed, the program was already running on vapors.

      • A good indication of how public feeling was fading was that Apollo 13 wasn't going to be televised during the lunar approach, and doubts were being had about the landing itself.

      • Apollo was also backed by a legislative genius name LBJ. His "small" role ensured there would money for the 10 year investment (actually 6 years); and expenditure IIRC would amount to 4-5% of the national budget per year (US federal budgets were really small back then...).

        • by HiThere ( 15173 )

          If only he hadn't tied himself to the Viet Nam conflict. When Kennedy died we had, IIRC, 52 military advisors on the ground. And that whole imbroglio yielded NO promise of national advantage that I've ever been able to detect. The way it worked out there was certainly no advantage. ... Unless you count the ending of the draft, which allowed the govt a relatively free hand with how it used military force. *I* count that as a negative, but I can see why some might think it a bonus.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Nutria ( 679911 )

      Now that we've discovered how (1) incredibly harsh that outer space is, and (2) stunningly expensive it is to supply everything that we take for granted here on Earth -- from the downward force needed to keep our bones from cracking and our eyes from exploding, to the UV shielding that prevents us from (a) toasting and (b) going blind, and radiation shielding so that our sperm still works, and we don't die of cancer before having the chance to use it -- to the air, water and food all around us to the fuel a

      • What you're saying, then, is that China will get a colony going first, whereupon (Trump | Sanders) will accuse them of "cheating" somehow.

      • by Maritz ( 1829006 )
        As far as I can tell, your point is 'outer space is a harsh environment for humans". Well done you. You raised a point and it was correct. It was a completely facile point, yes, but you've got to start somewhere.
    • I don't think Europe would trigger our competitive instinct. India, maybe a little. China definitely would.
  • Americans are just not in the mood to pay for humans on Mars, unless somebody finds a cheapo way to pull it off.

    • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

      by Mike Frett ( 2811077 )

      Yeah but we are in the mood to drop bombs on children and pay taxes to spy on everybody. Just imagine if we spin all that into a positive and put our efforts, instead, on the cosmos.

      • Yeah but we are in the mood to drop bombs on children and pay taxes to spy on everybody.

        No, we're not.

        Power-hungry government morons do that. We peons have no choice in the matter.

        Technically, we could replace those morons with someone else. But the current presidential race proves that our only choices are either morons or liars.

    • by Maritz ( 1829006 )
      You don't need it to be cheap, you just need there to be brown people there that you don't like.
  • by Weirsbaski ( 585954 ) on Friday February 26, 2016 @04:07AM (#51589963)
    "No Vision, No Plan, No Budget" ?

    You know, that third one might be the cause of the first two...
    • "No Vision, No Plan, No Budget" ? "You know, that third one might be the cause of the first two..."

      You know the first two might be the cause of the third... NASA publicity would have us all believe that a major Mars mission is just a small step up in difficulty from landing on the Moon, despite the fact that most of that Apollo expertise is aging and dying AND the fact that NASA hasn't done squat outside of LEO in 40 years (manned flight, of course). Nevermind ROI, people just want to believe that the
  • What more could one expect taking guidance from the commander-in-chief.

  • I thought its priority was muslim outreach with bit of "earth science" on the side.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 26, 2016 @05:32AM (#51590169)

    Before Neil Armstrong landed on the moon, the Apollo program was already winding down. NASA had purchased the final Saturn IB and Saturn V rockets and Apollo spacecraft. As much as President Johnson supported NASA, he valued his Vietnam war and his "Great Society" programs, including his "War on poverty" even more.

    When Nixon walked into the oval office, he inherited the space program of JFK, the man he believed had cheated him out of the White House in the 1960 election. Every success of the program that landed a man on the moon in Nixon's time was attributed to JFK and LBJ, and this probably made the deeply flawed man even more insecure. The Apollo13 incident occurred on his watch and his administration was certain that it would be blamed for any fatalities, so they wanted NASA to stop the missions that went to places where rescue was not possible. The number of moon landings was cut on top of the Johnson cuts and hardware was re-purposed for safer Earth-orbit uses like Skylab and Nixon's Apollo-Soyuz. Nixon approved the space shuttle program but selected the least-expensive-to-develop option (reusable orbiter on the side of the stack, boosted by 2 SRBs). There were designs that would have been cheaper and safer to OPERATE, but cost more to develop including one that flew inline atop a Saturn V 1st stage, one that flew mated to the side of a manned fully-reusable flyback booster, and others - but as a typical politician he picked the one that would look best on the books during his time in office.

    Ford ignored NASA. He was focused on the post Watergate mess. With NASA in an R&D and building phase, there was nothing there to provide him with the photo-ops that all politicians crave, and as a congressman from michigan with barely enough IQ points to play football and who'd been appointed VP (rather than being elected) and then elevated to President (again, without an election) he lacked any sort of mandate to do anything.

    Carter ignored NASA. He inherited a program with no available spacecraft, and poor non-human-rated Launch Vehicles and with no desire to do anything with NASA he just neglected it. NASA just used the Carter years to quietly push ahead with the money congress provided to do the development of the shuttles.

    Reagan loved NASA, embraced the Shuttle program including showing up at Edwards to welcome one of the early missions home. He called for a winged single-stage-to-orbit "national aerospace plane" to be developed to eventually replace the shuttles, called for a permanent American space station (which he named "Freedom") and ordered NASA to plan to eventually transition shuttles to commercial service like an airline with private sector operators. When Challenger exploded, he made sure the congress provided the funds to build a replacement orbiter. Unfortunately, with political problems in his last two years, his attention was elsewhere and he lacked the political power to get his higher priority items funded and still have the clout for the NASA items. The Space station and NASP were both funded, but not to the levels needed. Both survived his administration, but not with much inertia.

    Bush41 had been involved with NASA during the Reagan years (it's customary for the VP to be involved with NASA) but seemed tepid. He is famous for saying that he just did not get "the vision thing". On the 20th anniversary of the moon landing he announced a "Space Exploration Initiative" to return to the moon, then move on to Mars, but rather than doing it on a pile of new money like Apollo, he proposed a pay-as-you-go pace .... then he never funded it, and he was booted out of office after only one term. in the middle of his one term, Bush appointed Norm Augustine to run a committee, which recommended ending human exploration beyond Earth orbit.

    Clinton seems to have taken no real interest in NASA (presumably it did not help anyone but Astronauts "get the chicks", so it was of little use (yes, I'm joking here)) but his VP Gore did appear genuinely interest

  • by Kartu ( 1490911 )

    Well, with major program put on shelves:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

    I don't really know whom to blame, Obama, for sparing money on it (NASA's budget is roughly 18 billion $, which is about 0.5% of the federal budget) and effectively stopping the program, or NASA, for Constelation program being behind schedule and much more costly than planned.

    Probably more of NASA's fault.

    Anyway, as far as I get the recommendation of the committee::
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

    goes, the plan is to skip the Moon (as

    • I don't think there's really any single person to blame. Given that the kind of research needed to do achieve kind of substantial manned space flight objectives outside of LEO takes many years, NASA is always going to be hamstrung by the changing winds of political support. As a few have mentioned, the Apollo program owes a lot of its success to the fact that Kennedy died in an extremely public and sympathetic manner, and had already lost most of its political support even before Armstrong set foot on the
  • It's kinda like a war, isn't it? Oh wait.. that is affordable and sustainable. /sarcarsm
  • No vision? Well, arguably NASA has served its purpose; founded to "beat the Commies" after Sputnik "terrorized" the USA by orbiting over it, and then the Sovs. got the first human in orbit, NASA was successful in beating them to the moon. With a bit of help from some ex-nazi scientists and engineers...
    An amazing achievement, but it was always a "because it's there" kind of thing.
    Kennedy's remarkable "we choose to go to the moon" speech made no mention of establishing permanent moon colonies; that was neve

  • It is my understanding that NASA is essentially denied the ability to make any money off of its innovations. Maybe if they where allowed to do that they would have been able to supplement a decent part of their own budget over these past decades.

  • wow, this is super interesting.

    iff it proves to be the case that the same event causes G.W. & G.R.B observations and there is a relationship that connects the speed of the two arrivals,
    like in an earthquake's P&S waves, this is a whole new tool to trace events in the cosmos, as they occur. Combining with an extra handful of observations points,
    it would be possible to easily find the source point via triangulation, at distances which are mind-glowing (pun intended!). Good luck with this - literally!

  • In this case "no vision for putting a manned mission on Mars in the foreseeable future."

    I know "politics" is a dirty word for most nerds, but if you want to spend the hundred billion taxpayer dollars that the optimists think it'll take to mount a manned Mars mission you should at least do them the courtesy of convincing them it's a the best use of their space science money.

    "I want to go to Mars at any cost," isn't a vision. Taking a few half-assed first steps toward Mars in the hope that future admistrators

  • That explains the Obama Administration to a "T"!
    • Maybe if we didn't have two pay for two wars, two recessions, crumbing infrastructure and tax cuts by W, we'd have the money for Mars...
      • Two recessions? I just remember a really long one that's lasted most of his administration.

      • Two wars became 3. Two recessions became one long, extended one (with record numbers out of the workforce because of a lack of jobs). And our debt still skyrockets - nearly $1 trillion in the last 12 months. Yep - no vision, no plan, no budget (remember the first 4 years of the Obama Administration, and the complete LACK of a Federal budget, just continuing resolutions by Reid and Pelosi and Obama?)
        • by Anonymous Coward

          Yeah, let's just ignore the fact that was because of a certain right wing party refusing to do anything, and blame it on Obama.


  • NASA broke the ground for us, but their day is over. Nobody has gone past near-earth orbit in 40 years. Let's not relegate our space exploration to a risk-averse government bureaucracy, paid for by taxes. Elon has the right idea.

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