Archive for the ‘Space Exploration’ Category

John Logsdon, writing at Space News, has a profound and truly excellent guest blog.  The crux: Apollo was great, but can we put it behind us?

Among the highlights:

The administration’s incoherent defense of NASA’s current vision…whatever it is.  You could go on to say this has been exasperated most recently by the Administrator’s comments as addressed here and elsewhere.

Apollo–it was to beat the Russians to the Moon and was not a vision for space exploration.  Holding on the stunt-mentality of the Apollo era (“let’s see Ivan try and do that!”) is a stumbling block to doing more–that’s of more value–in space.

Milestones are needed.  Without these, there is little urgency.  Likewise, without them, funding will tend to slide to the right and that means tomorrow never comes.

Great work by Dr. Logsdon!!

This is the link which won’t show per normal methods…sigh.

Interesting to be sure, but where’s the beef?!

Tell me again just what we get from the ISS?  It was supposed to be a one decade, $8 billion effort.  It turned into a $100 billion 25-year effort.

The idea of putzing around in LEO is getting old.  Hasn’t that part of space been fully explored?

Andy Pasztor of the WSJ reports the administration is “leaning towards outsourcing major components of its space program.” This would mean some competition (or even cancellation!) for the planned NASA-sponsored Ares programs which (in six to eight years) will be used to resupply the International Space Station with materials and astronauts. To paraphrase Emil Faber, “Competition is good.”

The Air Force would like the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle to get man-rated. That would allow them to have some of the cost-burden of that program, which was supposed to provide cost savings of at least 25 percent on USAF launches (cue Bob Euker sound-bite: “Just a bit outside”) to other users. Likewise, commercial providers like Orbital Sciences, and SpaceX will be in the mix, too. However, don’t expect the Ares programs to go down without a fight.

Also, while the President “has confirmed his commitment to human space exploration,” the next part of the challenge will be to understand exactly what the President means by ‘human space exploration.’

We are already at the point where human space exploration–currently defined by orbiting the earth in the ISS–fails to satisfy. One manned trip to the Moon may satisfy for a short while, but after that…

“Manned space” needs to provide a vision of space travel that is not completely disconnected with reality. Space tourism may be the start. Perhaps the lessons learned in space tourism and the technologies developed in that aspect of the space economy will be applied to the space domain in general. I think it is space’s best hope.

Former astronaut Buzz Aldrin makes an emotional plea for U.S. space leadership with a goal of establishing an American colony on Mars.

The major shortfall in his plea is why we should do this. While Aldrin uses traditional space advocate language like “galvanize public support,” “inspire America’s young students,” and “renew our space industry,” that agreement is as vacuous as the self-licking ice cream cone. If he said “to make life on earth better for Americans by providing revolutionary improvements in energy” (for example) it would be quite a bit easier to get behind.

Additionally, the Outer Space Treaty appears unsupportive of an American colony on Mars, as it says “outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, is not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, by means of use or occupation, or by any other means.” Is an American colony on Mars “use or occupation”?

A better offer would be to create a new Outer Space Treaty which would allow for the creation of property rights and sovereignty claims in order to incentivize private citizens, industry, and consortiums to explore space for a purpose other than…exploring it.

Finally, as with many of his era, Mr. Aldrin proposes we explore space as part of an international coalition and for the benefit of all mankind. That is little more than code for U.S. taxpayers providing for free-riders to benefit from space. China holds about $2 trillion in U.S. currency–if they want to play, let ’em pay.

I think Mr. Aldrin perhaps stands a little too close to the issue.