A Short-sighted Proposal

JFK at Rice University, September 1962.  A different America.

JFK at Rice University, September 1962. A different America.

A budget-cut fantasy of many bureaucrats and other “deep thinkers” on space – the complete, final and utter termination of the human spaceflight program – is mooted in a recent report from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).  Buried in the bowels of this 316-page tome, “Discretionary spending Option 11” occupies page 74 (in total).  With such brevity, one can’t expect sophisticated, in-depth analysis and in this case, those expectations are completely met.

The CBO proposal makes the following case.  Supposedly, increased capability in information technology has rendered humans irrelevant to the gathering of data.  As robotic capabilities have increased, so lessened is the need for people.  Moreover, by not flying people, we avoid risking human lives and “decrease the cost of space exploration” by reducing the “weight and complexity” of vehicles needed for missions.  The CBO estimates that the elimination of human spaceflight would decrease the budget deficit by about $30 billion over the next four years and more than $73 billion over the next decade.

It’s important to keep these budget “savings” numbers in perspective.  At the moment, the federal government spends about $3.7 trillion ($3700 billion) per year.  Over the next ten years (if no significant changes to spending are made), we will spend almost $40 trillion ($40,000 billion) dollars.  As a fraction of the total federal budget, the $73 billion saved from eliminating human spaceflight amounts to almost (but not quite) two tenths of one percent (0.001825) of total spending.  If one considers only “discretionary spending” (i.e., the non-mandatory money over which we allegedly have a say on how it is to be spent), the savings add up to a whopping one-half of one percent (0.0053) of discretionary spending.  In federal budgeting, rounding errors are more than this amount.

Let’s try to fathom the CBO’s rationale by posing three questions.  First, is human spaceflight an outmoded idea, a remnant of the old days before high-tech and the information revolution made people obsolete?  Second, even if we did terminate this effort, would it solve our fiscal problems?  Third, what would the termination of human spaceflight mean for both the civil space program and for possible future national and international efforts and needs?

The “machines will replace people” argument was around even before I started in this business over 35 years ago.  While it’s certainly true that robotic capabilities have greatly improved over that time period, it’s largely because they started from such a low level.  The endless debate between advocates and opponents of human spaceflight often takes the garb of theological disputation.  The biggest fallacy put forth by opponents of human spaceflight, in my opinion, is equating data with knowledge.

Because robotic systems return enormous amounts of information, they are sometimes judged to be “better” at space exploration than humans.  But data is not knowledge.  Data are numbers, quantities and measurable pieces of information that can be streamed down to Earth in increasingly larger amounts at increasingly faster rates.  We certainly need that information to help unravel the complex stories of the exotic places to which we journey, but we seek to achieve knowledge and understanding, which bears the same relation to data as a Chippendale table does to a pile of wood.  You cannot have the former without the latter.  The latter alone is simply a stack of timber; the former is a piece of art designed by a human’s imagination and skill set.

Often we do not know ahead of time what the most important parameters to measure might be.  Faced with unforeseen circumstances, humans adapt.  A trained observer knows what features or aspects of an environment are most pertinent to whatever problem is being addressed.  In any situation, our senses are constantly flooded with billions of bits of information.  Picking out the relevant information from the mass of extraneous or irrelevant data requires the guiding hand of human insight, expert knowledge, experience and vision.  To date, such qualities have proven to be elusive in machines.  Robotic systems have limitations – they can only measure what they are designed to measure.

Although this aspect of human superiority may seem restricted to the intellectual task of scientific exploration, it also comes into play during the construction, maintenance and repair of complex systems.  Over the last 30 years, the value and necessity of human intervention during in-space assembly and repair has been documented on numerous occasions.  Existing space systems cannot be serviced solely by machines and attempts to develop such automated “repairbots” have yet to be fully successful.  In-space repair work and construction requires not only the dexterity and flexibility of people but also their expert knowledge and adaptive intelligence.  Such qualities are essential during normal operations and absolutely imperative when things go wrong.  The history of human spaceflight is filled with instances of people fixing balky equipment and turning useless pieces of junk into working space hardware.

In passing, the CBO report notes that the possible termination of human spaceflight might “end technical progress” towards the goal of sending humans to Mars.  What is the relevance of this observation if they are already set on terminating human spaceflight?  The viability of the U.S. space program has suffered from keeping Mars as the over arching objective of the human spaceflight program – in that everything (including a report about it’s pending demise) has been tethered to and restrained by it.  People have demonstrated the value of their presence in all regions of space, in both intellectual and practical terms.

The real tragedy of eliminating the human spaceflight program would be the destruction of a capability that may be difficult or impossible to reacquire at a later date – essential and irreplaceable expertise and practical knowledge dissipated and lost.  Having no experienced people to run a human spaceflight program would cause innumerable problems, many of which could lead to loss of life and property.

Should we wreak such havoc to save two tenths of one percent of the budget?  Of course, large things are made up of small pieces and one could argue that if the federal budget is ever to be brought under control, we need to start somewhere.  But this “savings” seems to have more downside than benefit.  What would it cost to begin again?  Or has our government seriously decided to pass the baton of our long-held leadership in space exploration (and with it, the utilization of space resources) off to another?  What cost, that?

Look elsewhere, CBO.

This entry was posted in space industry, space policy, space technology. Bookmark the permalink.

25 Responses to A Short-sighted Proposal

  1. Roger Handberg says:

    This is a recurring fantasy of the CBO, did the same thing back in the 1990s when Clinton came to office and I believe it was suggested later during other presidential transitions. This is interesting because they appear to see a target of opportunity in the economic troubles inflicted by Congress so they grow bolder. Vision is not their thing.

  2. The primary purpose of a manned government space program is not simply to explore but to pioneer– so that private industry and private citizens can eventually commercialize, industrialize, and colonize extraterrestrial environments.

    With its natural resources and low gravity well, an industrial colony on the Moon could easily dominate the satellite manufacturing and launch industry which is at the core of a $200 billion a year telecommunications industry. And its not too difficult to imagine such industrial colonies existing on the lunar surface within the next 30 to 40 years.

    The world spends several trillion dollars a year consuming energy. Some areas on the Moon are rich in thorium resources. For next generation breeder reactors, just one ton of thorium could provide as much energy as 3.5 million tonnes of dirty greenhouse gas polluting coal. Thorium is also an excellent way of converting plutonium from the spent fuel of uranium powered reactors into clean non-carbon polluting energy. So the export of thorium from the Moon to the Earth could potentially be a major multibillion dollar industry.

    If solar power satellites for providing energy for Earth ever becomes a reality then the Moon is likely to become the major resource of material for manufacturing such orbital power stations.

    The Earth is going to need to produce a lot more food in ways that are a lot more environmentally friendly. Indoor farming is something that some companies are currently investing in as a possible way of helping to feed a lot more people in the future. Developing the technologies to grow food in indoor facilities on the lunar surface could help to greatly enhance similar technologies on Earth for growing food under artificial conditions.

    You reduce deficits by growing the economy. And you grow the economy by pioneering new technologies and new frontiers! Our investment in the natural resources of the rest of the solar system– and in the new technologies that are going to enable us to exploit those resources– are going to make our children, grandchildren and future human generations stupendously wealthy relative to today’s standards.

    By the next century, the wealthy citizens of the solar system are going to seriously wonder why something as obvious as pioneering the solar system was even an issue back in the early part of the 21st century!

    Marcel F. Williams

    • billgamesh says:

      There is plenty of thorium here on Earth Marcel. “Exporting thorium to the Earth from the Moon” is….not going to make any money. As for building solar power stations on the Moon and then sending them into Earth orbit; if we are going to build a new thorium energy infrastructure on Earth then why do we need space solar? The whole idea of space solar is to completely eliminate all the harmful byproducts of energy production on Earth. And there really is only one way to do that; do not produce the energy on Earth.

      The competing scheme for space solar is Criswell’s Lunar Solar Power which transmits the energy from the Moon to the surface of the Earth through relay stations. This leaves all the really massive collector surface area on the Moon. This type of system is also adaptable to beam propulsion systems which could conceivably make “cheap lift” and high speed solar system travel a reality.

      Supplying all the Earth’s energy- every last megawatt- and protecting the Earth from the increasing likelihood of an asteroid or comet impact with spaceships, and finally using these energy relay stations as semi-permanent telecommunications platforms covers all the valid reasons for a manned lunar program for the next thirty years to half a century.

      The Thorium is actually a lunar resource to be exploited as fuel for spaceship and colony reactors after lunar solar energy is powering the Earth which is three or four decades at the very least. The clones of the lunar base will eventually reach out into the solar system to low gravity bodies like Ceres, Callisto, Titan, Rhea, Dione, Tethys, Umbriel, Ariel, Enceladus, Titania, Miranda, Oberon, Triton, and a half dozen more I forgot the names of.

      The only reason to send humans into space is a mega-project that accomplishes the creation of a space infrastructure addressing the valid problems of energy consumption, planetary protection, and eventually commercial interests. Only such a global effort can be sustained and the world transformed.

      • Of course, as you know, not every region or nation is comfortable with nuclear power. So I don’t think we’ll ever see the total domination of nuclear fission as the sole energy source of electricity and synfuel production on Earth.

        So the Earth in the near future will probably be powered by a variety of carbon neutral energy resources: uranium, thorium, space solar, ground solar, hydroelectric, wind, and biowaste.

        Some nations, like the US, have a lot of thorium resources but others don’t. So lunar thorium might be of interest to nations that don’t have significant domestic thorium resources.

        Thorium reactors still need to be mixed with fissile material in order to produce energy– unless you’re using accelerator thorium reactors. So thorium imported from the Moon could also be slightly enriched with fissile uranium 233 to a safe level (similar to that of natural uranium on Earth) before export. After arriving on Earth, the concentration of fissile material contained within the thorium could be further enriched for reactor use with the rest of the thorium being used with the recycled spent fuel from the thorium cycle. So enriching thorium with thorium produced uranium 233 might enhance the economic value of thorium exported from the Moon.

        You’re also probably going to get some minor environmental complaints about enhanced background radiation in the regions where thorium is being mined on Earth. You wouldn’t have to deal with such things on the Moon, of course.

        But I agree with you, most lunar thorium will probably be utilized for colonies on the Moon and for other– extraterrestrial– purposes. I wouldn’t be surprised if lunar thorium was exported to colonies on Mars, however, where thorium resources appear to be substantially lower in concentration.

        Marcel F. Williams

        • billgamesh says:

          “I wouldn’t be surprised if lunar thorium was exported to colonies on Mars-”

          If I thought Mars was a good destination I would agree with you Marcel. IMO the main problems are too much gravity and not enough solar energy.

          On low gravity bodies like the icy moons of the gas giants (and Ceres) it is not only far easier to land and take-off, it is also easier to construct underground circular “sleeper trains” that furnish one gravity. While there is no solar energy in the outer system there is thorium on the Moon and yes, this could be exported in the form of reactors.

          So for these off world colonies located on natural bodies I would say the two prominent features would be tunneling machines and the torus habitats in the tunnels which would provide radiation shielding and one gravity. The tunneling machines are a big problem- they are massive. The alternative is using nuclear devices to excavate chambers but while you do not need a tunneling machine this concept has it’s own set of problems.

          The one advantage Mars has is an atmosphere to use for Aerobraking. I do not think it is worth the trouble since the gas giants (except for Jupiter with it’s radiation hazards) can be used for braking also.

  3. Warren Platts says:

    I wouldn’t worry about it too much. These guys will never get any traction: Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy entails that HSF will continue–albeit, this may mean only more flights to ISS for the foreseeable future….

  4. William Mellberg says:

    Half a century ago, John Kennedy challenged America to seek space leadership — starting with a manned landing on the Moon. The United States achieved that goal (and others), defeating the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in the “race” to the Moon. Politics aside, the economic impact of America’s space leadership was enormous — creating new industries, new jobs and new lifestyles. The money invested in America’s space program generated enormous returns.

    A few years after Kennedy issued his space challenge, Lyndon Johnson launched his “War on Poverty.” Thus far, Poverty is still winning. Along the way, America has lost countless billions of dollars in government waste and welfare fraud. The entitlement mentality does not create jobs. It does not spark new industries. It does not grow the economy. It does not pull folks out of poverty.

    Socialism redistributes misery, as well as money. When the producers (i.e., taxpayers) run out of money, they are blamed by the takers for the even greater misery which always follows. Tossing more money at our social problems (e.g., crime in our inner cities) does not seem to solve those problems. Perhaps that is because money alone will never solve the underlying causes of those problems.

    How much easier it was, by comparison, to send men to the Moon. Tasks were identified. Plans were made. Hardware was built. Men were trained. And the goal was met. All in just eight years.

    If only today’s social engineers were as competent as yesterday’s space engineers who realized America’s space leadership. But today’s social engineers can’t even launch a website.

    How the mighty have fallen.

    • billgamesh says:

      “Socialism redistributes misery, as well as money. When the producers (i.e., taxpayers) run out of money, they are blamed by the takers for the even greater misery which always follows.”

      Redistribution of wealth, while a demonized term, is essential to civilization. Any type of insurance enterprise, including health insurance, is redistributing wealth from the winners to the losers. Any profit is redistributed by the owner to the employer as they see fit. Maximum profit is associated with slavery of course. While it is popular to mix the free rider problem into this mix they are actually separate issues. Redistribution is a necessity while free riders are a unintended consequence.

      I live downtown in a major city. There are hundreds of people wandering the streets at all hours who are getting “free money” and supposedly these millions of “takers” are destroying this country when it is all tallied up. The final solution to the problem of all these “useless eaters” was attempted by the Nazis. Sterilization has been tried. Mass incarceration has been tried. The reality is that with a high standard of living and without ruthless natural selection the human race will generate more and more of these non-functional individuals and we cannot get rid of them without going to the dark side.

      “Throwing money” at social problems may seem bad but consider the opposite path. That is worse. Consider the countries where police are paid to be part-time exterminators of vagrants- paid by merchants to kill thieving street urchins. And the time honored custom of neglecting and exposing the elderly to the elements so they get sick and die. In between the youth and the elderly are the demographic of angry young people in this country and all over the world who cannot get a decent job. You can curse them for not being smart enough or driven enough or young and healthy enough- but they are not going away.

      I once told someone the only reason they owned anything was because other people let them own it. If you want to get a conservative angry say that. Then tell them to read up on the French Revolution and the people who thought they owned everything.

      • William Mellberg says:

        “The final solution to the problem of all these ‘useless eaters’ was attempted by the Nazis.”

        Good grief, man! Who said anything about exterminating the poor? My comments referred to the economic growth that resulted from America’s space program and the resulting explosion of new technologies (and new jobs) in ceramics, metallurgy, cybernetics, etc. There have been thousands of productive spin-offs from our space program — which is why nations like China and India are now emulating America’s success.

        As for the poor …

        “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Show him how to catch fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.”

        Too many welfare and entitlement programs keep people in poverty — generation after generation. They add nothing to economic growth or social progress. The best social welfare program is a productive job, not a government hand out.

        As Ronald Reagan said, “We should measure welfare’s success by how many people leave welfare, not by how many are added.”

        That doesn’t mean that I’m not in favor of helping those who can’t help themselves. Helping the truly needy was a concept instilled in me as a boy by my parents and by my church.

        But as someone who has volunteered countless hours mentoring young people over the years, I can tell you that there is no greater satisfaction than seeing a person make good use of his or her God-given talents and abilities — no matter how humble or modest they might be. You cannot replace the sense of pride one derives from a job well done with a welfare check.

    • Education has almost always been the essential key to ending poverty. So its kind of difficult to fight a serious war on poverty if tons of poor people in America are still purposely trapped in inferior schools in impoverished neighborhoods where they learn — more about illegal drugs and crime– than they do about science and math and space travel.

      Plus poor and undereducated people in America tend to have a lot more kids than wealthier and better educated people which makes it even more difficult to eliminate poverty. America is becoming poorer because of the simple fact that poor and undereducated people tend to have more kids than wealthier people.

      But whether we have sympathy for the poor or not, poor and undereducated individuals do have a significant impact on our society because of the higher crime rates associated with such individuals. 75% of state prison inmates are high school drop outs. And the exceptionally high crime rate in American is estimated by some economist to cost the American economy some $1.7 trillion annually! Numbers like that kind of dwarfs NASA’s tiny $7 to $9 billion a year manned space program. But imagine what America could do if we could somehow put those staggering numbers to productive use both on and off the Earth!

      But you solve the problem of finally educating– everyone– in America by finally giving poor kids the same educational opportunity as wealthier kids. Its that simple!

      And you do that, IMO, by finally allowing parents to send their kids to the public or private school of their choice through a voucher system that includes both public and private schools. Public schools under this scenario would be not-for-profit institutions that compete with private schools for students and their State funded vouchers. And any funds left over after paying for books and tuition and school supplies would be placed in a college & trade school scholarship fund for each student, available to the student only if they graduate from high school or get their GED.

      H.G. Wells once said: “Civilization is in a race between education and catastrophe.”

      I think he was right!


  5. While I have been exploring the possibilities of using robots to assist in the construction of space infrastructure, I must remember that the ability of robots is still painfully limited in dealing with situations where there is a problem outside the built-in problem solving ability of the software. Therefor, people will be required on site to supervise the robots and fix problems for a long time.

    Space solar power is one example of that, where the space factories that could build the power satellites would be miles long, but well within the capability of our current technology to build. Heavy use of robotics for such construction will also require human crews on site. It is also important to realize that we should never be dependent on a single type of energy source such as space solar, as this would result in a high risk of collapse if some unknown hazard took out that one source.

    The budgetary thinking falls right into the mental trap of the planetary science community, “look but do not touch”, or in other words, robot probes only and forever, leaving us stuck on one planet permanently. As a strong supporter of planetary research, I disagree with that P.O.V. The creation of a generalized operational in-space human capability in the inner solar system is critical to defending the earth against asteroid impacts, and eventually reaping the riches of both the Moon and the asteroids mineral wealth.

    Right as we are about to make the leap to vastly cheaper space transport based on reusable rockets is not time to be cancelling manned spaceflight by the USA.

    • billgamesh says:

      I agree with most of what you are saying John. Robots and tele-presence surrogates only go so far and trying to run any kind of industrial operation without people onsite is going to run into brick wall after brick wall.

      As for space solar being effected with space factories and miles long power satellites I reject that as not being practical; however building it all on the Moon is a different matter than putting it together in space. Which is why I support Lunar Solar Power. I think we could rely on space solar as a main source with appropriate emergency sources kept ready in case of major system damage.

      As for reusable rockets- IMO and others, reusability is a myth. Perhaps with a space solar infrastructure in place beam propulsion could give a high enough ISP and thrust for SSTO craft but it is hopeless with conventional chemical propulsion.

      Which is also why we need a Moon base; only nuclear energy can enable an effective planetary defense plan with human crewed spaceships. We can only assemble, test, and launch such nuclear missions from the Moon.

  6. mike shupp says:

    Likely people are over reacting. Congress is trying to trim the budget some more, en route to tinkering some more with sequestration for the next ten years, and so the Congressional Budget Office gave them a list of possibilities. Killing off manned space flight was one of 103 different options, and far from the biggest one. And given that a large percentage of the public has it deep in their heads that NASA chews up 1/4th of the federal budget, it makes sense to have an official document which says “No it doesn’t.” We should be pleased, in fact.

    And the other thing we should do is throw that CBO report right back at people continually carping about the budget situation — like [gratuitous swipe at fellow poster deleted], for instance — and tell them, “Here’s some other options for cuts. Start picking!”

    • Paul Spudis says:

      Just a reminder to the comment posters — keep your comments civil and impersonal. The first time I will delete the insult; the second time I will delete your comment.

  7. Stan says:

    If Robots are so good why do they keep having humans trying to shut down Manned Space Flight. Why don’t the Robots argue their own case.
    Oh you mean they are not capable of doing that.

  8. billgamesh says:

    “-the U.S. space program has suffered from keeping Mars as the over arching objective-”

    Mars is a rock. Very interesting to certain intelligentsia and also as a tool for “entrepreneurship”, but still……a rock. The idea of living on other worlds is especially attractive to an American culture that has always been seeking a new frontier. But Mars is not that frontier; there is actually no new frontier where you can hitch up your wagon and head west. Not until we learn how to freeze people for interstellar travel anyway. That is reality and reality has always been the enemy of people trying to generate interest and money for space exploration.

    The reality is that human beings need air, water, heat, food, gravity, space, and a very low level of radiation exposure to thrive. Naked mole rats are happy living in tunnels but humans……
    Any environment that challenges these requirements is a non-starter. Lower gravity means you will debilitate to a poorer state of health and radiation means you will get cancer eventually. What this means for colonization was figured out in 1976 by Gerard K. O’Neill; we have to build our own Earth environments in space- not on inferior natural bodies. O’Neill also understood that space solar energy transmitted to Earth was the path to establishing these new worlds by way of a commercial industry.

    Unfortunately building first a space solar infrastructure and then artificial hollow moons several miles in diameter is a mega-project that would require the nations of Earth to stop buying weapons and start building Heavy Lift Rockets. It does not seem possible but actually there are no show-stoppers, no unobtanium or warp drive required. All that is needed is a base of operations a few days away with resources and energy available to exploit; The Moon.

    What has changed since O’Neill wrote the High Frontier is that ice on the Moon has made such a mega-project far more practical and the threat of an asteroid or comet impact has become far more apparent. This threat drags the military and their funding into the game and makes success an order of magnitude more likely. That is, if they will throw away their cold war toys and play a new game.

    • billgamesh says:

      I have to add that while space solar energy appears to be the key enabler, space solar advocates are viewed with not much more credulity than space elevator builders. The people advocating for space solar seem to be their own worst enemies. Such projects had long been delegated to the non-starter trashcan when Criswell proposed a different approach with Lunar Solar Power over a decade ago. The scale of Lunar Solar Power is so huge that just starting is such an immense enterprise that no one will go near it.

      • Warren Platts says:

        Space-based solar power would radically reduce the IMLEO for a major industrial project on the Moon, as opposed to landing enough solar panels for the 10’s of megawatts that will eventually be needed.

        Also, a lunar space elevator could be built with currently available materials like Kevlar.

        • billgamesh says:

          I am suggesting something that to me does not sound so outlandish; several hundred square miles of collectors beaming endless megawatts of microwave energy into space. Essentially it is the construction of large antennae arrays on the Moon, in space as relays, and on Earth.

          A big project to be sure, but is there really anything that is so bizarre and unbelievable about this scheme to transmit power across distances without wire?

          But to me the idea of a space elevator, even a lunar space elevator, is completely bizarre and impractical and I sense it poisons the well. I am seriously talking about a mega-project that I believe would make the world a much better place. Such mocking is not all in good fun.

          But if some day I am proven wrong what an interesting universe it is.

    • “Lower gravity means you will debilitate to a poorer state of health ”

      While that’s true for a microgravity environment, we currently don’t know if that’s also true for the hypogravity environments of the Moon or Mars. But we could quickly find out if we had a permanent outpost on the lunar surface.

      Humans and other animals living at a lunar outpost just a year or two should quickly tell us if the Moon’s low gravity is inherently deleterious to human health. Having some mammals living and– reproducing– on the lunar surface for several years would also be of interest.

      Finding out if humans and other animals can live and reproduce on lower gravity worlds without any deleterious effects is obviously of great interest for those in the private sector who dream of future human colonies on the Moon and Mars.


  9. I look on all of the space goals as being mutually supporting instead of mutually exclusive. Most importantly, the development of reusable, reliable and inexpensive in-space transportation and infrastructure will enable all of the space goals. I support the Moon for near term science and production of rocket fuel from the ice at the lunar poles. I support Space Solar in GEO, and the eventual development of asteroid mining to enable building very large space structures such as rotating space habitats. Lunar fuel can assist in these other efforts, since it is easier to make fuel from ice than from rocks. Fully reusable lunar ferries and tankers to bring the fuel to L1 are a requirement for this type of operation.

    I should point out that developing the technology for bases on the Moon and Mars will enable us to eventually establish ourselves in other solar systems, since there is no guarantee that we will quickly find habitable planets nearby. We will need to be a space-based civilization with space-based industry first before we can even attempt interstellar flight.

  10. billgamesh says:

    “-the purpose of returning to the Moon, i.e., to create a sustainable human presence based on the use of lunar resources, got lost in the ESAS shuffle.”

    Great spaceref article from 2010.

    The horrific cost of spaceflight seems to be the salient point of contention. This myth that space is too expensive has been promulgated for decades and is more a political tool of manipulation than fact. The counterpoint to the cost of space exploration is the cost of defense which has a cloak of patriotic invisibility around it that precludes any comparison.

    The 150 mt HLV is the sine qua non. I always try to mention the fact the Saturn V was built just big enough to get to the Moon and if not for an engineer named Houbolt we may have went with a much larger vehicle called Nova.

    To build the habitats and industrial infrastructure necessary for first self-sufficiency and then manufacturing, a large one way cargo lander and at least monthly or bi-monthly launches would be the very minimum needed. Constellation suffered from budget limitations which made such a minimum effort impossible. Considering the funds required, for those who are outraged and express unending shock and dismay at how much money NASA wastes, there can never be any worthwhile space space program. Thus the short-sighted proposal.

    The reality is the money is available and will be spent on something. What it gets spent on has more to do with profit than what benefits the U.S. and the entire planet. The promise of space does not include promises of reelection or higher quarterly earnings- it only promises risk.

    • Paul Spudis says:

      The reality is the money is available and will be spent on something. What it gets spent on has more to do with profit than what benefits the U.S. and the entire planet.

      The “money” is not “available” — we are spending money that we don’t have hand over fist, by printing it. Meanwhile, a $17 trillion (and rising) national debt will ultimately bankrupt our country. Even if you confiscated all of the privately held wealth in this country, you could not pay your way out of the mess we’re in.

      I happen to believe that a case can be made for it to be in the national interest to have a civil space program. But your analysis simply does not hold water. Enough of this redistributionist nonsense.

      • gbaikie says:

        -The reality is the money is available and will be spent on something. What it gets spent on has more to do with profit than what benefits the U.S. and the entire planet.

        The “money” is not “available” — we are spending money that we don’t have hand over fist, by printing it. Meanwhile, a $17 trillion (and rising) national debt will ultimately bankrupt our country. Even if you confiscated all of the privately held wealth in this country, you could not pay your way out of the mess we’re in.

        I happen to believe that a case can be made for it to be in the national interest to have a civil space program. But your analysis simply does not hold water. Enough of this redistributionist nonsense.-

        I think we past, going to be bankrupt. We are bankrupt.
        If mean we not going to tax our way out of this crisis. That is obviously true. It’s as false as idea that ObamaCare is going to save US healthcare.
        The only way to get out of the situation of having the nation bankrupt
        is to encourage economic growth.
        Which good news, if you are space cadet. Because one can increase nation economic growth via opening the space frontier.
        But let’s put the possible economic growth due utilization of space environment to the side. There lots of other ways to cause economic
        growth. It is not difficult to cause our nation to have economic growth,
        the question is it economic growth a priority. At the moment, obviously
        it is not priority. Some like Obama don’t even want the US to have much economic growth- due to sick idea that it creates global inequality.

        But as you say we going bankrupt, which what you mean is US is going to hit a wall or find in a swamp with no apparent way out. And I think instead, we reach pain threshold, which will cause the public to change their priorities. Unfortunately a lot damage can occur before it becomes apparent to the ruling class- before they start to feel the pain- which will only be transmitted by the class which being ruled. Washington DC is currently a boom town- they are in bubble of everything is going great.

        But as I said the space environment is obviously one path to economic growth- though it’s a slow path. But public could be convinced it is path to growth, and public can have some patience with this slow path, as along as more immediate paths of economic growth are included.

  11. Stan says:

    Of course the savings realized by the elimination of manned space fligh/exporiation would just barely pay for the waste in the DOD budget. An overall strategic plan for the ‘conquest’ of space would be what is needed for the USA. Dare I say ‘Manifest Destiny’.

Comments are closed.