Thursday, April 15, 2010

Obama Addresses NASA

Alright, so I decided not to make a canned blog article that I could post 10 seconds after the speech. I listened to the whole thing, did my best to remain objective, and have concluded thus:

Although I do like the mission ideas (human asteroid visit and Mars orbit), the time frame is way too long. Congress will mess this up within 10 years, and that's the real problem. When an organization lives and dies, financially, based on political ebb and flow, there is no way a plan spanning 20+ years is going to work. Period. I'm pretty sure that's why Kennedy wanted the Moon in 10. At least then he could have the chance to oversee the majority of it directly.

Hell, it took just 8 years for NASA to fall under the gun for the Constellation Program. I admit, I didn't like that plan myself, but it's always politicians (who for the most part don't have the foggiest clue about science, engineering, or technology -- other than the on/off switch) who jump in and screw up the process and the flow. Lawyers and bankers have no business regulating that which they have no knowledge.

It would be more prudent to just give NASA HSF a lump sum of $60 billion and give them a more definitive goal set and time line. At least then Congress can't muck it up. Here's what I think is a solid plan of action (based on historical evidence that we can move fast if given the resources). This also includes using international partners AND bringing China, India and other aspiring nations into the mix. Nothing should boost national pride more than WORKING with other nations to do amazing, peaceful things in space.

1. Establish a Trans-Lunar Infrastructure by 2015. Spacecraft (commercially developed), Orbiting fuel depots around Earth and Moon (NASA developed) and dropping supplies on the Lunar surface for phase 2 (both). Work on phase 2.

2. Build Lunar Base for 15 people by 2020. Both commercial and NASA partnerships to be used by NASA and general public scientists (globally as well, but as a rental space).

3. Spend the next 5 years (up to 2025) learning how to maintain, hold, operate and expand the base. 5 years to learn lessons AND inspire. Actually having a base there manned full time would kind of be a big deal for kids.

4. Mars landing by 2030. Use those lessons learned for the next main step, Mars mission. Probably just a landing for a month, depending on the orbital trajectories used, but a mission nonetheless.

At least in this manner, you have something big happening every 5 years. Things are being built, established, done and move forward. Yeah, NASA might need more money after the initial $60 billion, maybe not given commercial and international involvement, but either way at least we'd be getting things DONE! That's the problem with the current way of thinking...will we ever get anything actually done before it's messed with?

As an aside: For NASA doing R&D on advanced systems, I think it's about time we demand the military (Air Force especially) to reveal and employ all the Top Secret crap they've been working on with respect to space based assets. No more cloak and dagger nonsense. It's time to grow up and use what we've already paid for.


Marcel F. Williams said...

The president said that we've been to the Moon already so there's no reason to go back:-) At least he's honest!

Douglas Mallette said...

That argument is bull crap. We didn't DO anything on the Moon. Drove a dune buggy, hit some golf balls, brought home some rocks? Come on.

We needed to use the Moon as a building step for gaining knowledge on off world activities, and establishing a "weigh station" of sorts to go further.

That was the plan...and should still be.

Stryse said...

Yeah, that argument is crap. The moon is the best testing ground that Earthlings could ever hope for in space. If we can't do it on the moon, we won't be able to do it elsewhere. Space is risky, inherently, but we're foolish not to mitigate that risk by developing the skills, tools, and general-know-how to live and work in space. We need to hone all that within an accessible distance from the Earth... not wait til we get to Mars to learn how to live and work on another planet.

There is plenty to do on the moon, and a program to exploit the moon will have us busy off-world for decades to come.

Plus, you know, that moon has a lot of stuff on/in it that humanity could exploit right here on Earth. Maybe even save a few mountains from becoming plateus.

Exploiting those resources remains fiscally out of our reach for as long as we remain on the planet.

Until we get the infrastructures in place, we can't start benefitting from the raw resources the moon is harboring. So we should get started.

Though I think we'd also be wise to not underestimate our own planet as a testing ground for some of the skills and technologies we need to perfect.

I like the mission simulator ideas we've done in the past (and continue to do) for understanding the consequences of long-term confinement like we'd see on a trip to Mars.

I think we should do more though. Build, hold, operate, and maintain a fully functioning and thriving colony on the ocean floor somewhere. We'd learn a lot about living in self-contained environments that could be directly applicable to life in a moon-base or a mars-base.

All in all, I'm glad that Obama hasn't completely put NASA back on its pre-bush-plan era of not having much in the way of direction, but I agree with Doug that we need to set more aggressive time-tables if we want to see anything happen.

Considering we haven't left LEO in forever, I actually thought Bush was being a bit aggressive on his timetables for re-establishing our presence on the moon. But of course a new administration, a new agenda.

Marcel F. Williams said...

Exactly! Let's hope the Congress feels the same way that we do!

I think folks like Zubrin now regret their Mars 1st philosophy since the president seems to have thrown the baby out with the bathwater.

Setting up a permanent Moon base is the fastest way to end up setting up permanent bases on Mars. In fact, I strongly believe that if we returned to the Moon before the end of the decade, which is easy to do, IMO, we could easily have permanent bases on the surface of Mars well before 2030.

Astrochimp said...

My big question is why a five year delay in selecting the designfor a heavy lift launcher.

Falcon 9 will be ready to launch in less than a month. The Jupiter version of Direct could be ready to test fly in around three years if they get to building the first test model right away.

If we need something bigger, start designing it now and then start building ASAP.

Marcel F. Williams said...

I don't think the President is all that enthusiastic about building a heavy lift vehicle. He really doesn't want NASA to build anything.

I think he wants NASA in the R&D business with NASA purchasing manned and heavy lift flights from private industry.

I think Obama thinks that Space X will build an HLV on their own so the government won't have to build one at all and just rent HLV services from Space X.

I think Bolden really wants NASA to build a heavy lift vehicle for Mars. But I think Obama thinks that Bolden will change his mind in about 5 years if Space X is on course to develop its own HLV so the government won't have to fund the development of an HLV.

At least that's my theory:-)

Douglas Mallette said...

Marcel, that's a lot of thinking...I think. lol

Norman Copeland said...

If every rocket builder at NASA offered 100 dollars towards building a heavy lifing payload rocket vehicle they could all get other jobs to pay the bills.

The bill Gates foundation could perhaps donate.

God bless the president, god bless America.

RJSNAP123 said...

I am now going to take a active role in posting and responding in this blog. This is the best blog I have found in regards to space.

Now for my responses to the comments in this post.

1st post Marcell F Williams:
I am sorry but this president is not honest at all, just like his predecessors.

2nd Post The Man Douglas Mallette:
You are completely right on this argument

3rd Post Stryse:
You are right in your arguments too. But, as far as Bush being too agressive he wasn't. But he didn't put enough $$$ towards it to be able to meet his timetables.

4th Post Marcel again
I agree with the moon base first but we can do multiple things at the same time if the funding is there. As far as Congress believing the same way we do, they only care about who is giving them money so we need to vote them out and vote in people who think the way we do or it ain't happening.

5th Post Astrochimp
We had the design and now it I believe is cancelled now with the change in direction, but not totally sure.

6th Post Marcel x3
All Barry Soetoro AKA Barack Obama cares about is repaying the people who funded his campaign hence the movement towards private industry.

And Norman Copeland
You make no sense with the rocket builder 100$ thing. And as far as the Bill Gates Foundation, that is garbage. Bill Gates is a eugenicist. And God doesn't bless this president and it seems the Lord has left us long ago.

G.R. said...

we ARE going back to the moon. This time, it will be with a base from private space. In addition, I believe that we will be either going there or POSSIBLY on the surface by 2020. Why? Because Bigelow wants to go there. What is laking for him is the MULTIPLE WESTERN PRIVATE HUMAN RATED LAUNCH VEHICLES.
What is needed to speed things up is for NASA to buy units and attach them to the ISS, OR even buy a station from BA with 3 units. I think that if Obama will commit to doing that NOW, that we will be on the moon before 2020.

Norman Copeland said...

G.R wrote:

''we ARE going back to the moon''

The operative being who is the ''we''? 4 astronaughts? Or wait a little and it is we!!!

Errr... How many vehicles developed on the NASA budget from the previous 20 years?

How many x planes?

How much will it be on any of the 50 or more vehicles avbailable from America?

How much will it be from afghanistan?


God bless the presidents!!!