Wednesday, June 24, 2009

And That's the Way it Isn't

It's good to see Jay Barbree putting that rocket science degree to use. The "only reporter who has broadcast every mission flown by American astronauts for the same network" is now seeing a Democratic conspiracy at work to keep the Ares 1 from flying. In an underwhelming display of benightedness, Jay writes, "The problem seems to be that Project Constellation was formed with a Republican in the White House — and because of this, some want a redo. But they have a problem: how to get around the fact that Constellation is sound. It’s the safest human spaceflight project ever put to paper. Opponents are groping for anything to tear it down."

Wow. Let's repeat that. "The safest human spaceflight project ever put to paper."

And let's hope it stays that way, right there, safe on the paper.


Gary C Hudson said...

(I have posted this elsewhere but Jeff's article should be read by all commentators on this debacle.)

It is worth repeating, daily if need be, Mike Griffin quotes from the following 2005 article (Jeff Foust word’s in asterisks, Griffin in quotes):

*While Griffin has praised the general goals of the vision, he was critical at the March 2004 hearing about how much some aspects of the plan would cost. … Griffin argued in his testimony that this seemed “somewhat high”, asking, “Why we are expecting so little for the money which has been allocated?” *

*One of the hallmarks of the Vision for Space Exploration is that it sets out a timetable for completing the ISS and retiring the shuttle, as well as eventually phasing out NASA participation in the station around the middle of the next decade, freeing up money to spend on exploration programs. In previous testimony, though, Griffin has made it clear that, if anything, he would like to speed up the timetable for these two projects.*

*In other testimony, Griffin has made it clear that he is not opposed to using EELV vehicles effectively unmodified from their current versions to launch crewed vehicles. In a May 2003 hearing by the House Science Committee’s space subcommittee on NASA’s Orbital Space Plane (OSP) program—a short-lived effort to develop a manned spacecraft that was superseded by the CEV—Griffin noted that the term “man rating” dated back to efforts in the 1950s and 1960s to modify ICBMs to carry capsules. “This involved a number of factors such as pogo suppression, structural stiffening, and other details not particularly germane to today’s expendable vehicles. The concept of ‘man rating’ in this sense is, I believe, no longer very relevant.”

He argued that EELVs and other expendable vehicles are already called upon to launch high-value unmanned payloads. “What, precisely, are the precautions that we would take to safeguard a human crew that we would deliberately omit when launching, say, a billion-dollar Mars Exploration Rover (MER) mission?” he asked. “The answer is, of course, ‘none’. While we appropriately value human life very highly, the investment we make in most unmanned missions is quite sufficient to capture our full attention.”*

*Indeed, in his May 2003 testimony on OSP he seemed frustrated that the OSP might not enter operation until 2012: “If the OSP program requires more than five years—at the outside—from authorization to proceed until first flight, it is being done wrong.”*

Next year will be 5 years for Ares I.

Water Landing Man said...

Well let's see... "Ares I is safest on paper"? Hmmmmm... I guess only if you're using the safest ink, you know, that invisible kind.

The Commission is in Huntsville today talking alternate architectures, like the Prop Depot, EELVs and Direct 3.0 approaches. The ssssss..side mount discussion is most likely reserved for the KSC portion of the tour, where most Shuttle huggers tend to congregate.

The late night gossip is that an EELV partial approach is in the mix, at least if we still wish to stay tuned into ISS without a flight gap. The Commission will get to see first hand the Nations largest EELV integration/MFG plant later this month in Decatur. ULA's Decatur facility will be impressive having even more roofed square footage than any of the US Auto manufacturers buildings, putting the MAF a bit to shame. One EELV point most are not aware of is that its development program was half paid for by the US Government. Perhaps it's time to at least get a launch or two out of that money spent.

...and as far as the issue of "Safe" goes, there are not only drawings and analysis written with REAL ink on paper, but accompanied with real launches.


Anonymous said...

Does Jay Barbree's employer have a no drug policy? Where did he get his 'facts' from? The bottom of a Cracker Jacks box?

Buzz Aldrin had a good write up in Mechanics Illustrated - that seems the only place to go for an experienced and unbiased view anymore.

The undertow of all of these articles and blogs is that NASA should not be in charge of or the gatekeeper to space anymore. The braindrain that Aldrin alludes to has already happened.

Aldrin's vision is certainly a better plan than the wiggle stick.

Mr. X said...

The attack on Ares is truly bipartisan. Many liberals think that national space programs are taking money away from social programs. More and more conservatives are coming around to the John Derbyshire point-of-view that NASA's manned spaceflight program is a waste of taxpayer dollars. The only people left to support Ares are the paranoid cold-warriors who imagine some Chinese plot to take over the moon.

Anonymous said...

Technically he is correct. It will be "The safest human spaceflight project ever put to paper" precisely because paper is what it will forever remain. Any votes for changing "Ares" to "Kiwi"?

Anonymous said...

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines, Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. - Mark Twain

Anonymous said...

Mr. X needs to leave the deep south more because he seems to think space is for just conservatives. NASA is in the south because of the good equatorial launch position, and because the south needed the jobs back in the day. Not because swamp hicks have a special tendency toward space that us corrupt cheating liar northerns don't have.

Anonymous said...

The managers talked to the Augustine commission while the minions toiled in their cubes. That's right! Somebody thought the better of the idea of letting commission members get near the minions.

And the message was,"All is well. Everything is proceeding as smoothly as possible. We are well into this project and see no problems."

"Dave. I still have the greatest enthusiasm for the mission."

Mr. X said...


Suggest you avoid the childish name-calling and drawing false conclusions (I've spent most of my life as a "corrupt cheating liar northern," and I don't see space exploration as a particularly partisan issue.) Manned spaceflight used to enjoy tremendous bipartisan political support, but that has been steadily eroding on both sides of the aisle.

Jay Barbree's claims of a Democratic conspiracy against Constellation are completely bunk. As a journalist, he should be trying to build a complete picture by talking to people on all sides of the Constellation debate, rather than parroting the words of Mike Griffin as fact.

If anybody's conspiring against Ares, it's basic math and physics. Basic math says we can't afford it, and basic physics says that it will be an uphill struggle to make Ares I work safely.

Kit said...

The thing that concerns me is that NASA adopted a contractor's(ATK) proposal for VSE/CEV launchers with no attempt to evaluate it prior to the decision. Then once the dotted line was signed, the major re-designs began invoking first DIRECT and now SHUTTLE-C/HLV from the program manager himself. Due to not merely technical but escalating cost concerns coupled to horrendous delays.
It REALLY struck me how the latter presentation was so much like the DIRECT presentation. Clearly an attempt to demonstrate: "we can do this too"! Well why didn't they? It was what was intended by VSE to begin with...

Kit said...

"childish name calling" and "false conclusions".
By whose lights? I am by no means "name-calling"; nor have you explained your own false conclusions to my satisfaction. I suggest you try following your own advice.

John said...

"Aldrin's vision is certainly a better plan than the wiggle stick."

I find it amazing the quantity of the so-called technical community in the blogosphere that can't comprehend that a flight control system can control the thrust vector of the Ares I in spite of it's shape and mass distribution.

Sure it looks ugly and top-heavy, but has anyone seen a Bode plot or done a TVC gimbal response analysis to see if there is a controllability problem? Doubt it.

Keep in mind that many maneuverable fighter jets are also statically unstable but have used closed loop flight control for _decades_ to provide excellent response to guidance/pilot inputs.

But then again, I could be wrong.

Either way, F=ma.