Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Grinch is Alive and Well!

Inside a snowflake like the one on your sleeve, there's happening a story you must read to believe.

Like clockwork, as the decorations are hung by our chimneys with care, the Emperor and his minions demonstrate not only their lack of holiday wardrobe, but also their lack of any holiday spirit. Once again, the "NASA family" talk takes a back seat as precious holiday time is stolen away from the contractor community and their own families to work proposals while the minions are all snug in their beds.

Oh, the Who-manity!

"The avarice never ends!" said the Grinchy Emperor. "I want golf clubs. I want ARES. I want Altair. I want a pony so I can ride it twice, get bored and sell it to make glue." The next phase in the ARES V and Altair sagas are hitting the presses and hanging, and we don't mean like mistletoe, over the contractors' holiday plans. We are sure that an extra two to four weeks of delay to let Thanksgiving and Christmas pass without additional distractions would have been too much to ask of the green man without soul.

And, Kris Kringle forbid, that the Snow Princess and her Changelings get a look at the planned procurements before they go out the door.

"Those Whos are hard to frazzle, Jeff. But, we did our worst, and that's all that matters."


Anonymous said...

I have lost count of the missed birthdays, holidays ruined, important games not seen because I was half a continent away on business. Canceled flights without warning, thunderstorms in the way. It all adds up after while.

I have had procurement officers want to do best and final negotiations on the 24th of December! No big deal to them. NASA is not the only Gov agency that seems to be able to pull these tricks at will and without retribution.

However, I am not far enough up the ladder to have a crackberry on my hip or one of their cell phones in my pocket. I do have caller ID!

As has been said before, we work for a cruel master, he's insane and ungrateful and there is not one thing we can do about it.

The real cruelty in all of this is that some manager, somewhere, knows that he can brow beat the minions into doing his bidding on their own time. He is also the one that makes impossible schedules and then flogs his minions, stealing their time, to make up for his shortsightedness.

Anonymous said...

Someone in change.gov needs to put a moratorium on all non-essential procurements, rationale being the downturn. This is BS. The Emperor is lining his closet with a tremendously large number of contracts that will cost a tremendously large number of dollars to cancel or rescope. Let's close 3 or 4 centers and privatize what we can. NASA is discretionary.

Anonymous said...

Yeah they are trying to commit NASA as rapidly as possible to everything. I suspect however that a lot of final contracting will be placed on hold given the present economics. The termination costs will be negotiated and no one will make out like a bandit. The winds of politics blow both ways- a contractor acting like a thief will be outed and exposed to public ridicule. And of course threatened with no future contracts. Believe me they will behave like good little boy scouts.

I expect moon dreams will become just that. NASA will be lucky to hold on to ISS support. WIth 10% unemployment staring us in the face a year from now such exotica will seem pointless. And you get a lot more bang for the buck building a national grid system worthy of the name than transporting half-assed "urine to drinking water" gizmos to ISS to allow 6 guys to do ant farm science.

I would expect a lot of aero work on wind turbines though! Perhaps even an integrated wind predictor to allow power generation to be predicted.

If the science folks finally get a proportional say I would guess we would see a lot more rovers and landers. They produce more science per $ and have far less national pride downside when they fail.

Anonymous said...

Steve Squires (head of the Mars Rovers) seems to disagree with you regarding robots producing more science per $ than humans:

"The rovers... do in a day what a skilled field geologist can do in 30 seconds."


"...robotic exploration is what I do. However, I feel that the best exploration is only possible with humans..."

Each Robot sure is cheaper. But don't believe the hype that they are more efficient. For the cost of a human mission, the number of equivalent robots would be impressive, but the human crew would kick their butts in terms of science return.

The question is how much we're willing to spend in total. If we have enough, humans are the way to go.

Anonymous said...

Yah I am sure that Steve Squires would LOVE to actually go to Mars. There is no question that he would accomplish far more than a robot. The point is that we are NOWHERE NEAR being able to accomplish that. We are probably at least 20 years and $400B dollars away from placing the first human on Mars. That is with a concerted effort which is not going to happen. Given a launch opportunity every two years at a conservative cost of $2B/mission that would mean we would be able to launch 20 robots per opportunity for that money. There aren't enough launch sites, deep space comm capability, Mars scientists or designers to even come close to supporting such a campaign. This would mean we could have hundreds of robots blanketing Mars- all on the same scope of an MLS or so.
You aren't going to get that money but budgeting even 10% of that would be a great thing.

Let us be clear here- you are not going to go to the moon or mars and do any significant exploration or science with 4 or 6 guys. Antarctic exploration shows that a crew of at least 90 is required to sustain a technologically intensive research activity in a harsh, no-retreat environment for periods ranging into years. Perhaps 10% of that crew are scientists. This is mimicked by experience with long duration shipboard and submarine operations. - and they are only out for a few months at worst.

Another parallel example is the cost of deep submersible operations. How many manned submersibles can the world field to go to the abyssal areas? A handful. But the number and capabilities of ROV's have exploded over the past decades. I am sure those scientists would love to romp around on the bottom at 15000 ft but the cost is not digestible. I could make an excellent case that the return of science from those deep vents dwarfs the real returns from a Mars rover costing hundreds of millions of dollars. Who deserves the big money?

So yes if wishes were horses, beggars etc.

Anonymous said...

Come on you guys - you could at least take the time to look up and spell his name correctly - Steve Squyres.

And I have lost count of the number of bogus calculations of how hard it is to go to Mars, or to an NEO, or even back to the moon. Kennedy said that's why we do these things - because they are hard.

Agree that NASA needs refocused and to get beyond a 10 center jobs program - but not just to do wind turbines. Give me a break.

kT said...

And I have lost count of the number of bogus calculations of how hard it is to go to Mars, or to an NEO, or even back to the moon.

Could you be so kind as to give us links to these 'bogus' calculations, and links to your analysis and refutation of these 'bogus' results.

Thanks in advance.