Friday, January 18, 2008

Rough Mix

Top U.S. planetary scientists, several astronauts and former NASA division directors will meet privately at Stanford University on Feb. 12-13 to propose changes to the direction the Emperor is pointing us towards. They have their hands firmly on the bassinet and this baby has no seat belt.

Can you blame them? The self appointed group of renegades, seeing the error in the Emperor's ways, wants to right the course and steer on towards daylight. The only problem with any group storming the castle is that they tend to plunder the very thing they are trying to save. And this group, mostly victims of the Emperor's sword, are putting their own interests in front of the country's.

This group wants to spread our germs to Mars. The last, let's say lost, 40 years have made everyone impatient. Despite the fact that the space station, just 180 miles away, is hanging by a thread at the end of the logistics support chain, they think we can instantly build the competency to extend that chain tens of millions of miles out into space. 180,000 miles is just too close for this bunch.

The Vision was formulated to develop, in step-by-step fashion, the systems and experience required to venture deeper into space. The Vision got corrupted by the Emperor along the way. He started building "cathedrals" when we really needed a confessional. We needed to build on existing assets, develop the operational experience to support deep space operations, and learn to live off the land in hazardous environments. The Emperor gave up that Vision to build a monument to himself. Now that monument is being toppled over. But instead of righting the wrongs, the Stanford folks, Noel "Wheel Chair" Hinners, Wes "Comet Head" Huntress, Scott "Smoking Gun" Hubbard, and K.T. "I can throw" Thorton, are pursuing their own agenda born out of the chaos.

Despite the Emperor's missteps, the one thing that has kept support for the Vision high, motivating Congress, is that the message from the faithful has been spoken with one voice for the last four years. Retire the shuttle by 2010, finish the space station, develop the CEV, head out to the moon, Mars, and beyond. When noise hits this channel, Congress will get confused. Didn't you just say we needed to build the CRV, or was it OSP? No, wait, it was X-33, X-34. Nope, got that wrong too. CEV/LSAM. Might as well throw that out to. Start over.

The Stanford group is ill-advised. Like Pete Townsend and Ronnie Lane said in their 1977 album, "Rough Mix," they are walking in backwards, like they are walking out.


Space said...

With all due respect to this usually spot-on blog, this entry is way off-the-mark. Self-appointed this group may be, but there's nothing in the AW&ST article to indicate that they plan to cut the ISS "logistics support train thread", throw the baby out with the bathwater, or leap straight to "spreading our germs to Mars".

All they're proposing is that the next White House be presented with options to use the few assets we're likely to inherit from the Griffin era (an overgrown Orion flying on EELVs because Ares I is broken and no budget for heavy lift or lunar landers) to conduct the few exploration missions that those assets are capable of executing (i.e., libration point servicing and near-Earth asteroid rendezvous). There's nothing in such a plan that prevents, say, lunar excursion from a libration point architecture or use of in-situ resources if such are identified at the lunar poles (or an asteroid).

And they propose doing so by leveraging as many existing or near-existing private sector assets as possible, a position very consistent with this blog and that would also help ISS logistics.

It's also worth noting that some of the individuals in this group have a successful history of redirecting and rescuing troubled programs. Huntress reversed the one-mission-a-decade dead-end in the space science in the early 90s and Hubbard reformulated the Mars program after the loss of MCO and MPL.

Focus your ire on the idiots who put the human space flight program in this mess. (Some of whom, like Horowitz, have largely abandoned it). The fact that there are leading planetary scientists and engineers who care enough about human space exploration to spend their own dollars and time trying to identify a viable future is worthy of praise, not scorn.

Rocket Man said...

Options? As you say, moving off ARES and onto EELV's is the right thing to do. However, you really need to hear the inside discussions, beyond the AvWeek article, to appreciate the depth of their rift with the current point of departure. This group isn't doing surgery, its a hanging party.

kT said...

I see Mrs. Scared Housewife needs to inject politics into the rough mix.

What they are proposing is the further politicization of something they know very little about, space technology and life support physics.

As long as Constellation and Ares exists, it will be a stain on the American technological landscape.

Destinations are meaningless as long as the vehicles are flawed.

You may now return to your exercise in doublespeak, Ms. Anonymous.

My ire is directly on your politics since you grossly misunderstand and do not represent in any fashion the physics and reality of spaceflight.

Space said...

"However, you really need to hear the inside discussions,"

I have. Neither they nor the AvWeek article resemble the comments in this latest post.

Again, great blog -- keep up the good work -- but this one missed the mark by a wide margin.

kT said...

Actually, all we have to do is take a glance at the operations at Mount Everest or McMurdo to see how widely off the mark you are, Ms. Paranoid.

A rational person would understand that a vast infusion of resources into the asteroid detection, tracking and characterization process would be a much better near term investment in that area.

We all have our agendas. I'm a fifth planet Ceres kind of guy. But I'm not advocating manned missions to Ceres just yet, just as I'm not advocating bases on the lunar poles just yet. Some of us really do understand the conventional methods of constructing large pyramids, and the kind of technological breakthroughs necessary to turn large pyramids upside down, and stand them on their points.

Space said...

"I see Mrs. Scared Housewife needs to inject politics into the rough mix."

I detect an Elifritz off his meds. I'm sorry your proposal is not a finalist in the COTS competition.

kT said...

So am I, but at least they'll have a credible, sustainable launch vehicle architecture position paper (white) with which to compare the Delta II and Ares clones. It will be ironic indeed if they simply choose to put something on the existing EELVs.

I'm all for NK-33 style vehicles, they will make fine boosters for my hydrogen powered SSTO core stages.

I'm so sorry that us science and technology and operational types have to be so hard on you, but this thing has been out of control for so long now, and the vultures are gathering for the final feast.

The leftovers will be less than satisfactory, and somebody needs to speak up to document the death and come up with a suitable 'Phoenix'.

I had my phoenix moment, and now I'm sure there will be hundreds of other lobbyists and space policy hacks, university professors and agency officials just screaming at the top of their lungs that they, and only they, are qualified enough to determine how the billions of dollars and many years of research and development efforts are to be further wasted on their projects.

Meanwhile, asteroids are whizzing around, space junk is accumulating, greenhouse gases are increasing and energy is becoming more expensive.

Did I mention the debt and war?

John Benac said...

What really will see a vehicle and mission through from start to finish is a clear presidential directive, stated at the beginning of a long term. George Bush had a weaker vision with no timetables and little funding. The next president needs to come out of the gate with a supported position. is where you can go to get involved in the grassroots movement to tell the next president (and everyone who will loose the race as well) that they need to support the spaceflight program, and give leadership to the agency in a post shuttle era. lets you fax, email, and call on the phone each of the candidates.

CEV very well could die, but only if people like us don't speak up to the people who are making the decisions.