The Birth and Death of SEI (Part 2-long)

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Dwayne Allen Day

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Feb 21, 1995, 2:06:42 PM2/21/95
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The following article is scheduled to appear in the March 1995 issue of
Spaceflight magazine. Copyright maintained by the author.


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The Birth and Death of SEI (Part 2)

What NASA did was to simply wrap up every project on its wish list and
put it in the report. As a result, the report contained everything from
Lunar Observer, a robotic lunar probe ($700+ million), to a Mars
rover/sample return mission ($10 billion). It included an early version
of MESUR (Mars Environmental SURvey), a distributed network of probes on
the Martian surface, using two expensive Titan IV boosters. But the
truly big ticket items were an extensive lunar base and a Mars base,
using both the shuttle and a shuttle-derived heavy lift booster. They
would use the space station as a jumping-off point, even though there
were many station supporters who warned that this was not only
unnecessary but could jeopardize other station missions like delicate
crystal growth experiments. Some of those involved in the study found
the whole process bizarre. One of the requirements for the lunar base
was a crane for lifting cargo off the landers and depositing it on carts
to be wheeled to the base. The accountants went to work and came back
with a price tag for the crane--ten billion dollars. . . for a crane.
One of the more astounding projections in the report called for 14
shuttle flights a year in support of the program. This would have
exceeded the maximum flight record of nine shuttle flights in a year and
may have required the construction of an additional large launch pad at
Cape Canaveral. Just as importantly, it did not include any other
non-SEI missions. In other words, to pursue SEI, NASA was virtually
proposing to abandon everything else on its plate, including the
politically popular Mission to Planet Earth, while at the same time
doubling its budget to carry out the new mission. But Admiral Truly
wanted to fly shuttles and so the agency came up with a mission plan that
would have required lots of them.
If NASA had wanted to discredit the Initiative, it could hardly have done
better than the 90-Day Study, which landed like a bomb in Washington and
confirmed the suspicions of critics in Congress that the president was
endorsing a multi-billion dollar program at a time that budgets were
getting increasingly tight. A program plan that required doubling the
space agency's budget indicated either that the mission was impossible to
accomplish cheaply or that NASA was too screwed up to do it. Neither
conclusion bade well for the future of SEI.
Indeed, some on the Space Council were shocked by how unrealistic NASA's
study was and privately expressed dismay. It was in response to the
90-Day Study that the Space Council convened a special blue-ribbon panel
to review this and several other proposed plans. One of the plans came
from Lowell Wood, a scientist at Lawrence Livermore and protege of Edward
Teller who was known as the creator of Brilliant Pebbles. Wood's
proposal involved inflatable spacecraft and the use of other
unconventional techniques. It would have bypassed NASA completely and
relied on ignoring traditional government procurement procedures. Wood's
estimate was that such a program, including the moon and Mars, could be
done for around $10 billion in 10 years--the cost of NASA's lunar crane.
One critic in NASA labeled it "Brilliant Condoms." But a former Space
Council staffer admitted that they pushed Wood's proposal to "scare the
pants off of NASA."
The blue-ribbon panel consisted both of space experts like Carl Sagan,
Buzz Aldrin and policy analyst John Logsdon, as well as others brought on
to add intellectual diversity to the panel, such as Edward Teller and Tom
Clancy. Faced with NASA's $400 billion proposal on the one hand and
Wood's $10 billion proposal on the other, the panel determined that more
study was needed. Many members were also critical of NASA for what they
viewed as a totally unrealistic approach. The panel recommended that the
National Academy of Sciences study the issue further.
In NASA's case, the policy process is complicated by the fact that many
of the people involved in the community are engineers with little
understanding of politics. Either they view politics as illegitimate,
and a corrupting influence on the task of setting goals for the space
program, or they feel that political justifications can be handled
logically and empirically, like thermodynamics. Many of those drawing up
plans for lunar and Mars exploration never really answered the question
of why it should be done. In most instances they didn't even try, taking
an attitude somewhat akin to, "just sign the check and let me go play."
But while they may have failed answering the question of why, they also
fell down when it came to the question of how--the question they should
have been far more capable of answering.
A well-balanced program plan should have offered the President multiple
options with varying price tags. But the 90-Day Study did nothing of the
sort. It simply offered five different ways of doing essentially the
same expensive mission. Some of the "reference approaches," as they were
called, were difficult to distinguish from one another and looked as if
the study team had made little effort to offer a range of alternatives.
The message seemed to be: conduct SEI like Apollo or not at all. But an
Apollo-type program was totally unrealistic after the Cold War and only
the rocket-scientists failed to recognize it.
Thus began a long process of what official Washington is best at:
studying a problem to death. But the problem wasn't with the people
ordering the studies, it was with the results that the studies produced.
None of them adequately reflected reality--there simply wasn't enough
money out there to conduct a large human space exploration program. In
order for there to be more money, Bush would have had to been willing to
fight for it and the total dollar figures would have had to be far lower
than they were. But the initial response had not been good and the
damage had been done. Almost immediately everyone started talking about
a $500 billion boondoggle. The high numbers themselves may have scared
Bush away and led him to think that the program was a liability.
In May 1990, at the impetus of the Space Council, Project Outreach was
begun. This was an attempt to appeal for outside suggestions concerning
how best to conduct the Space Exploration Initiative. The panel
appointed to collate the proposals was to be known as the Synthesis Group
and was chaired by former astronaut Thomas Stafford. Project Outreach
was a clear indication of the Space Council's total lack of confidence in
NASA's approach to SEI. It was another indication of the growing war
between Albrecht's Space Council and Truly.
Other factors also intervened to damage SEI. One of the major problems
was that Truly actively campaigned in private against a program that his
boss, the President of the United States, had endorsed in public. When
queried in Congressional hearings on what sectors of NASA's budget could
be cut, Truly pointed to SEI as something he was unwilling to fight for.
As time went on, NASA's image worsened. In the summer of 1990 the agency
suffered a series of setbacks, including hydrogen leaks on the space
shuttle and the Hubble Space Telescope's flawed mirror. This prompted
Albrecht to urge Quayle to call for an outside review of the space
program. The review, the Advisory Committee on the Future of the U.S.
Space Program, was headed by the Chairman of Martin Marietta, Norman
Augustine. The Augustine Committee, as it was called, issued its report
in December 1990, concluding that the civilian space program was not in
as bad shape as its critics charged, but did urge that the space program
be refocused to make science the center of its mission.
One thing the Augustine Committee did not do was to differentiate between
science and exploration, which might have bolstered the argument for
humans in space. Neither did it issue a ringing endorsement of the SEI
program, which it relabled the awkward-sounding "Mission From Planet
Earth." In fact, as Quayle later revealed in his memoirs, the Augustine
Comittee initally placed human exploration last on the list of missions
that NASA should be occupied with. Quayle, Albrecht and others objected
and so the listing was eliminated from the final report. What the
committee did do was to propose that NASA adopt a "go as you pay"
approach to human exploration of the solar system and that NASA create a
position of Associate Administrator for Exploration. "Mission From
Planet Earth" would be open-ended and without a timeframe and NASA should
only propose missions it could reasonably expect to be funded.
NASA's response to the Augustine Committee's report was weak. Richard
Truly did name an Associate Administrator for Exploration. His name was
Michael Griffin and he came to NASA after a successful stint in the
Strategic Defense Initiative Organization. But although Griffin brought
a new approach to SEI, a "smaller, faster, cheaper" approach, he
antagonized many in Congress. Selling an unpopular program on Capitol
Hill was a lot different from managing a secret experimental satellite.
Griffin also failed to communicate well with the head of NASA's Office of
Space Science and Applications, Leonard Fisk, and they both ended up
proposing redundant programs on Capitol Hill, making the agency look even
more foolish.
In the summer of 1991 the Synthesis Group issued its report which in some
ways was a further disappointment to SEI proponents. America at the
Threshold was another glossy report illustrated by Robert McCall. It was
focused more upon architecture and infrastructure--the ways of conducting
exploration missions--rather than the why or the ways of reducing the
costs. The report stated that both Mars and lunar missions required a
heavy lift launch vehicle on the order of the Apollo mission's Saturn
V--an expensive undertaking. Furthermore, the report strongly favored
the use of nuclear propulsion to send humans to Mars. In essence, what
the Synthesis Group said was that there were no cheap routes either to
the moon or Mars. There were no truly groundbreaking ideas floating
around which would make SEI possible. The Space Council had hoped that
an outside group could gather cheaper ways to do what NASA said would be
incredibly expensive. It failed to do this.
The release of the Synthesis Group's report led Space Council Chairman
Dan Quayle to state that the end of the shuttle program was in sight.
This resulted in a minor public spat with Truly, who was still pushing
the idea of purchasing a fifth space shuttle in addition to the one
already on order to replace the Challenger. The public dispute between
Truly and Quayle was only the tip of the iceberg, because by this time
Space Council staffers were actively attempting to get him
fired--apparently without Quayle's knowledge. The problem was that Bush
had shown a great reluctance to fire agency and Cabinet heads who were
damaging him politically or even actively opposing him. In many ways the
President was more loyal to his subordinates than they were to him.
Truly was also extremely adept at Washington infighting and craftily
deflected attempts to fire him by using both the press and his
relationship with the president. Although Truly had been Sununu's choice
(another person Bush had a hard time getting rid of), Truly acted as if
he and the president, both former Navy fliers, were close personal
friends. The whole affair got incredibly messy. After the decision had
been made to can Truly his wife even wrote Bush a letter pleading that
her husband not be fired. As long as Truly hung on, the Space Council
was unnable to push NASA towards a workable SEI plan.
Furthermore, the situation at the space agency seemed to worsen as there
were problems with both the Galileo space probe and a NASA-managed
project to build the United States' next generation of weather
satellites, not to mention continued management and design problems with
the space station. In the spring of 1992, Bush finally did fire Truly in
a messy and embarrassing way. The person they got to replace him was Dan
Goldin, who has been fighting to reform the agency's bureaucracy ever
since. But by this time the point was moot. The Space Exploration
Initiative was dead.

So why did SEI fail?
Some critics say that the whole idea was unworkable right from the
start. Even if NASA had not been in the terrible shape it was in 1989,
even if Bush had been willing to throw greater weight behind the
proposal, even if the Space Council enjoyed amicable relations both with
Congress and NASA, the cost of a moon-Mars program was simply
impossible. NASA already had a space station program waiting in the
wings, there was no way it could handle two multi-billion dollar
development programs at once. But others, like space policy analyst John
Pike of the Federation of American Scientists argue that if NASA, the
Space Council and President Bush had all done a better job of justifying
the program, it might have had a greater chance of being implemented.

What is somewhat ironic about the whole sordid mess was that after all
the damage had been done and after Congress refused to appropriate even
minimal amounts to continue paper studies, NASA finally came out with the
first part of a workable SEI program plan. Known as First Lunar Outpost
and unveiled in 1992, the NASA plan would return a four-person crew to
the lunar surface for an extended stay. The scientist-astronauts would
conduct astronomical and geochemical experiments as well as evaluate the
use of lunar materials for on-site support of future missions. First
Lunar Outpost, or FLO, as it was called, would still require a Saturn V
class booster and would still have a hefty price tag, but it represented
significant progress toward a workable plan. Furthermore, FLO was a "go
as you pay" approach, since it was only the initial step to a permanent
return to the moon, not a giant, multi-billion dollar leap.
At the fourth Case for Mars conference in 1990, Air Force Colonel Pete
Worden, who worked both in SDIO and on the Space Council during its war
with NASA, managed to sum up what by that time had already gone wrong.
Worden said "Our final piece of political advice from those of us
involved in SDI: For everyone's sake, make sure you know exactly what
and when you want to build before you have the president give a speech on
it."

DDAY
SPI

--
Dwayne A. Day
Space Policy Institute
The George Washington University
Washington, DC 20052

bromley blair pat

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Feb 23, 1995, 4:35:49 PM2/23/95
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This discussion of the birth and death of the
Space Exploration Initiative, and all previous
facsimiles of it is quite interesting, but
not very useful unless the author consolidates
the lessons learned and proposes a plan of
action for the near future and far future.

The question to Dwayne Allen Day is:

So what?

Blair

Dwayne Allen Day

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Feb 26, 1995, 7:35:12 PM2/26/95
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In article <3ir2cj$7...@ixnews1.ix.netcom.com>,
Rand Simberg <sim...@ix.netcom.com> wrote:
>Conversations that I had with Mike Griffin at the time indicated that he
>didn't get it, either. He seemed to think that the only reason that we
>weren't doing these things was that they were too expensive--not that no
>good justifications had been articulated for them.

I tend to agree. The problem is that the cheap approach only came after
most of the damage had been done. I think that if the initial proposal
had been a little better handled and the price tag significantly lower it
would have had a chance. Put another way, I think there was some wiggle
room in the relationship between cost and justification at the
beginning--a weak justification had some chance provided that the cost
was not through the roof. But everyone was so shocked by the initial
price tag that by the time the cost came down, no one wanted to hear any
justification (and the justification was still weak).

Rand said:
> >I agree with John here. The problem, as you point out, at
least
>implicitly, was that the Administration didn't really understand why it
>was doing this itself, other than to make Quayle look good and keep
>money flowing to aerospace contractors. Thus, it was hard to try to
>sell it to anyone else. Ironically, some of the justification is
>contained in Bush's speech. Everyone remembers the part about "return
>to the moon, this time to stay, and then on to Mars." This is the part
>that NASA (other than Truly and Marty Kress) liked--it sounded like
>Apollo redux. No one in the media ever commented on what came a little
>earlier (words slipped in, it is my understanding, by NSS activists),
>that we were going to "settle the solar system." If the emphasis had
>been more on opening up a frontier and opportunities for average
>Americans, instead of another high-tech welfare program, they might have
>made more headway. But Bush never had that kind (or any kind, for that
>matter) of vision, which was one of the reasons that he was fired and
>(hopefully temporarily) replaced with Billary.K

I don't know where the "settle the solar system" stuff came from, but an
earlier Reagan space document brought up the "establish a permanent
presence beyond earth orbit" idea. I don't know how well this would have
worked either.


You're right about "poured" being "pored"--I knew this, I just missed
it. I think that in Britain they throw in the extra "u" (like
"endeavour") and so it'll be grammatically correct when it runs in
Spaceflight.

The other mistake was that I called Henry Cooper a general when he was
never in the military. Major goof there that came when I wrote that part
late at night after looking at bios on various SDIO leaders and mixed him
up with Abrahmson. Have to print a correction on that.

bromley blair pat

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Mar 1, 1995, 5:15:21 PM3/1/95
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Dwayne Allen Day just wrote a response to my question:
So what? What should we do?

He took the effort to answer the question , and propose
a strategy.

The strategy is much more specific and clear than I have seen
before, and I thank him for making the effort. If more people
were to set up plans to carry out their visions, with many
clear goals, and very clear pathways, progress with proceed
much more smoothly and quickly.

I don't make any apologies for saying "so what?". It is pretty
useless for anyone to complain about a problem unless they are
going to do something about it. No amount of pondering about
what the problem is and what causes(d) it will change anything.
It can guide one in how one addresses the problem; however, if
we don't do anything, then all the discussions you and others
have made are a complete waste of time and money.

Again, thanks for your last post.


Blair

Henry Spencer

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Mar 4, 1995, 5:42:33 PM3/4/95
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In article <3ivo17$c...@gwis2.circ.gwu.edu> wayn...@gwis2.circ.gwu.edu (Dwayne Allen Day) writes:
>1-Don't for a second think that successful space exploration is primarily
>about hardware. Hardware is a second-order concern. Everything relies
>upon justification--WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS?

Just to be difficult :-), I'm going to disagree with Dwayne on this one.
Successful space exploration is primarily about hardware -- specifically,
the hideous *cost* of hardware. Justification is a serious issue today
primarily because costs are so high. People want a lot of justification
for spending billions. Spending millions is much easier. If space
exploration was a factor of 1000 cheaper, the justification problem would
largely disappear.

Phrasing Dwayne's point differently: everything turns on the discrepancy
between space exploration's enormous costs and its relatively weak
justifications. You can tackle the problem two ways: look for stronger
and more convincing justifications, or try to reduce costs to the point
where existing justifications suffice. The latter *is* a hardware problem
to a large extent.
--
There is a difference between | Henry Spencer
cynicism and skepticism. | he...@zoo.toronto.edu

John Pike

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Mar 5, 1995, 9:49:12 AM3/5/95
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wayn...@gwis2.circ.gwu.edu (Dwayne Allen Day) wrote:
...
> I'm a little surprised by this. Surely you've read a history book
..........

AMEN to all that Dwayne said.

> (Apologies for the lack of dramatic coherence in this post--I've got to
> rush back to an AAS conference).

I thought it was a pretty good rant.

> So what do we do next?
>
> 1-Fix NASA....

NASA is only broken in the sense that it is a "how" agency with a
"why" problem. There is a fundamental lack of understanding that this
"why" question can (must) be worked just as sytematically as all the
"how" questions, but this is something NASA hasn't done, and all this
stuff they are doing now (Ladwig's shop, these symposia they are
putting on, etc) are really quite feeble, and just demonstrate how far
the agency is from knowing how to tackle this problem. (I have a rant
on this subject that some of you have heard which I can post if there
is interest -- it is basically my campaign speech for why I should be
selected for a newly created post of Deputy Administrator for Policy).

All of the other "problems" at NASA are just normal bureaucratic
deformations that are secondary to the survival of human spaceflight.

> 2-Make incremental gains that are not tied to some bigger program....

This is happening, but it doesn't address the larger problem.

> 3-Work towards cheaper access to space...

I cannot use "cheap" and "space" in the same sentence. It is
oxymoronic -- sort of like "military intelligence."

> (and don't overhype it!!!

Too often the motto is "Promise deliveries and deliver promises."

> SSTO has not proven itself yet

Nor will it. The main conclusion of the CSTS (as I read it) is that
there is no there there -- no prospect for a realistic reduction in
costs that would stimulate a substantial expansion of demand.

> 4-Wait.

Well, the problem is that I am not getting any younger, and the Shuttle
is going to blow up.

John Pike

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Mar 5, 1995, 10:02:19 AM3/5/95
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he...@zoo.toronto.edu (Henry Spencer) wrote:
.........

> Just to be difficult :-),

Satan always requires an advocate, an obligation I usually oblige.

> Successful space exploration is primarily about hardware -- specifically,
> the hideous *cost* of hardware. Justification is a serious issue today
> primarily because costs are so high. People want a lot of justification
> for spending billions. Spending millions is much easier. If space
> exploration was a factor of 1000 cheaper, the justification problem would
> largely disappear.

Well, this was the whole point of Lowell (promise deliveries, deliver
promises) Wood's "Brilliant Condoms" alternative to the 90-Day Study.
And in some measure the whole point of Cheaper Faster Better (well,
one out of three ain't bad). In the case of Brilliant Condoms there
was no there there -- the closer you looked, the less you saw. And
"Cheaper Faster Better" is on the verge of turning into a code-word
for "Less" (reengineered = fired).

But this entire Brilliant Condom sideshow had the effect of diverting
attention from the real problem of SEI -- answering the why question.

The real question is the point at which the why question goes away.
Right now, that threshold seems to be of the order of a gigabuck.
Supercollider was ~10 gigabucks, and failed to answer why.

If the cost of SEI is order of 100 gigabucks, we must either achieve
a 100-fold cost reduction (ain't gonna happen) or wait until we are
a 100-fold richer than today (someone do the math, this sounds like
the end of the 21st century if it is a USA program, or the latter part
of the 21st century if a Terran program), OR come up with a better
answer to why.

I vote for working on why.

Back to the Moon with China!! On to Mars with India!!

Alastair Mayer

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Mar 6, 1995, 4:01:40 PM3/6/95
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John Pike (john...@clark.net) wrote:

: he...@zoo.toronto.edu (Henry Spencer) wrote:
: .........
: > Successful space exploration is primarily about hardware -- specifically,

: > the hideous *cost* of hardware. Justification is a serious issue today
: > primarily because costs are so high. People want a lot of justification
: > for spending billions. Spending millions is much easier. If space
: > exploration was a factor of 1000 cheaper, the justification problem would
: > largely disappear.

[ramblings about Wood's revisit of the Columbus project deleted]

: If the cost of SEI is order of 100 gigabucks, we must either achieve


: a 100-fold cost reduction (ain't gonna happen) or wait until we are

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
According to you. Those with better understanding of the technology
and economics say otherwise.

: a 100-fold richer than today (someone do the math, this sounds like


: the end of the 21st century if it is a USA program, or the latter part

Circa 2140 at current US growth rates, circa 2050 if we approach NZ
growth rates. We could do better than NZ if we really tried, maybe
put it in the 2030 time frame.

: of the 21st century if a Terran program), OR come up with a better
: answer to why.

: I vote for working on why.

: Back to the Moon with China!! On to Mars with India!!

Aha, the political agenda comes to the fore.

-- Al

John Pike

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Mar 6, 1995, 7:00:45 PM3/6/95
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alas...@firewall.ihs.com (Alastair Mayer) wrote:

> According to you. Those with better understanding of the technology
> and economics say otherwise.

Well, we will let history judge contending tastes in technology and
economics.

> : a 100-fold richer than today (someone do the math, this sounds like
> : the end of the 21st century if it is a USA program, or the latter part
>
> Circa 2140 at current US growth rates, circa 2050 if we approach NZ
> growth rates. We could do better than NZ if we really tried, maybe
> put it in the 2030 time frame.

My projections were based on long-term US growth rates running from
the Late Unpleasantness (aka the War Between the States) and today.


> : Back to the Moon with China!! On to Mars with India!!
>
> Aha, the political agenda comes to the fore.

Politics to the fore!!!

Politics will get you through times of no hardware better than
hardware will get you through times of no politics.

Rand Simberg

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Mar 7, 1995, 10:39:25 AM3/7/95
to
In <3jg7nd$g...@clarknet.clark.net> John Pike <john...@clark.net>
writes:

>Politics will get you through times of no hardware better than
>hardware will get you through times of no politics.

Can you cite some historic examples? I am not aware of any politicless
periods of time.

Rand

John Pike

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Mar 7, 1995, 3:22:43 PM3/7/95
to

I am paraphrasing R. Crumb's Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers:

Dope will get you through times of no money better than
Money will get you through times of no dope.

("dope = reefer = marijuana)

Perhaps I should have used "rationale" rather than "politics," since
politics is a permanent condition, where as compelling rationale is
a far scarcer commodity.

Several recent "no rationale" periods include:

The Bush Administration on SEI.

Freedom in 1990-92, post Cold War and pre Ralpha.

Alastair Mayer

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Mar 7, 1995, 5:14:09 PM3/7/95
to
John Pike (john...@clark.net) wrote:
[snip]
: Politics will get you through times of no hardware better than

: hardware will get you through times of no politics.

My dear Mr. Pike, whatever your ignorance in other areas, I would
have thought you knew enough history, at least, to know that that
is simply not the case.

Rand Simberg

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Mar 7, 1995, 7:00:41 PM3/7/95
to
In <3jifaj$k...@clarknet.clark.net> John Pike <john...@clark.net>
writes:

>I am paraphrasing R. Crumb's Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers:
>
> Dope will get you through times of no money better than
> Money will get you through times of no dope.
>
>("dope = reefer = marijuana)
>
>Perhaps I should have used "rationale" rather than "politics," since
>politics is a permanent condition, where as compelling rationale is
>a far scarcer commodity.
>
>Several recent "no rationale" periods include:
>
>The Bush Administration on SEI.
>
>Freedom in 1990-92, post Cold War and pre Ralpha.
>
>

Well, while I'm familiar with the original quote, I have never agreed
with it, so perhaps it's not surprising that I found your paraphrase
lacking :-)

Rationale makes a little more sense, though I think that given a
sufficiently compelling rationale, the hardware will quickly follow
(e.g. Apollo, Manhattan Project, beer bottle openers)--something about
the maternal qualities of necessity wrt invention. I would argue that
our having lived through the rationaleless period on the hardware we
have has actually been counterproductive, as it perpetuates the existing
paradigm of space as an expensive sanctuary for scientists and ballistic
missiles.

Anyway, just challenging one of your "bytebites."

Rand

John Pike

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Mar 8, 1995, 9:11:47 AM3/8/95
to
sim...@ix.netcom.com (Rand Simberg) wrote:
........

>
> Rationale makes a little more sense, though I think that given a
> sufficiently compelling rationale, the hardware will quickly follow
> (e.g. Apollo, Manhattan Project, beer bottle openers)--something about
> the maternal qualities of necessity wrt invention.

Well, I think that I am guarenteed to get off on a rant on this point.
This was my big problem with the "we need a heavy lift launch vehicle"
crowd back in the 1980s -- I had several very acrimonious discussions
over this. There was a popular line of argumentation to the effect
that if we could just get an HLV built, then the payloads/missions
(such as Moon/Mars) would naturally materialize, so as to provide
the HLV with something to do.

Rand Simberg

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Mar 8, 1995, 10:36:26 AM3/8/95
to
In <3jkg29$g...@clarknet.clark.net> John Pike <john...@clark.net>
writes:

>I continue to be puzzled by the common auditory halucination that I
>am "frequently" interviewed on NPR. By my last count, I have only
>been on their air twice in the last several years -- once last year on
>the SR-71, and the year before on Clinton and Star Wars.

Well, John, I'll confess that my impression is long standing, for
reasons stated in the rest of your message, and I couldn't point to any
recent transgressions. My point was (as stated in another message) was
that I frequent this group for substantive discussion, not News
McNuggets, or pithy but contentless phrases--I get too much of that from
the media.

>Since it is well known that reporters are "objective," NPR decided
>that the best way to assure "objectivity" was just to have their
>reporters interview other reporters, providing two layers of
>"objectivity," (where none are needed -- another obscure Firesign
>Theater reference, did you catch the first one??) and ensuring that
>no "opinions" crept into their reporting.

I have always found this one of the more amusing (and irritating)
features of ATC. In the rocket biz we call this "drinking our own
bathwater."

>And so it goes.

And so it does.

Rand

John Pike

unread,
Mar 7, 1995, 7:13:43 PM3/7/95
to
alas...@firewall.ihs.com (Alastair Mayer) wrote:
>
> John Pike (john...@clark.net) wrote:
> [snip]
> : Politics will get you through times of no hardware better than
> : hardware will get you through times of no politics.
>
> My dear Mr. Pike, whatever your ignorance in other areas

"Jane, you ignorant slut!" Are we really going to get into name
calling here, or can we stick to the issues?

> I would
> have thought you knew enough history, at least, to know that that
> is simply not the case.

So why are all those Saturn V's laying on the ground at KSC/JSC/MSFC?

Rand Simberg

unread,
Mar 7, 1995, 7:04:50 PM3/7/95
to
In <3jilrh$l...@firewall.ihs.com> alas...@firewall.ihs.com (Alastair
Mayer) writes:

Don't mind him--he's just soundbiting again--he sometimes forgets we
aren't adoring and innumerate NPR reporters.

Yeah--If I were packing for my next strand on the proverbial desert
island, my cargo manifest would be heavy on the hardware and light on
the politicians. The only conceivable use for them would be for ballast
on the boat (suitably trussed and gagged, of course).

Rand

John Pike

unread,
Mar 8, 1995, 9:47:37 AM3/8/95
to
sim...@ix.netcom.com (Rand Simberg) wrote:
.....

> Don't mind him--he's just soundbiting again--he sometimes forgets we
> aren't adoring and innumerate NPR reporters.

.........

I continue to be puzzled by the common auditory halucination that I
am "frequently" interviewed on NPR. By my last count, I have only
been on their air twice in the last several years -- once last year on
the SR-71, and the year before on Clinton and Star Wars.

Back before they changed the water I was on NPR (& PBS) much more
often, but about five years back, NPR and PBS decided that they wanted
to take a more "objective" approach to news reporting.

Since it is well known that reporters are "objective," NPR decided
that the best way to assure "objectivity" was just to have their
reporters interview other reporters, providing two layers of
"objectivity," (where none are needed -- another obscure Firesign
Theater reference, did you catch the first one??) and ensuring that
no "opinions" crept into their reporting.

Thus when I did inadvertantly manage to sneak onto their air back in
1993 to rant against Star Wars, it was neccessary that the interviewer
remind the gentle listener that I "obviously had opinions" on the
subject, just in case the gentle listener couldn't figure that out on
their own, and just to remind the gentle listener that everything else
on their air was the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

And when I was interviewed on the SR-71, it was more to explain the
politics of the interplay between Sen. Byrd and Rep. Glickman than to
discuss the substantive content of the issue.

And it has been _years_ since I have been on McNeil-Lehrer, even
though I still get casting calls every now and again. M-L has a
slightly different take on "objectivity" -- they cast their discussions
with either a single authoritative and "objective" explainer, or as
a debate between two opposing views. Well, in practice, since I do
have opinions (though this may have escaped the notice of some in this
group), I can't be cast as the "objective" interpreter. But since in
practice my views, particularly on civil space, are too nuanced for
the debate format (which may be hard for others here to believe), I
consistently fail to get the call-back to take one side in a debate,

And so it goes.


Thomas J. Frieling

unread,
Mar 7, 1995, 11:56:02 PM3/7/95
to
In article <3jisrn$k...@clarknet.clark.net> John Pike <john...@clark.net> writes:

>alas...@firewall.ihs.com (Alastair Mayer) wrote:
>>
>> John Pike (john...@clark.net) wrote:
>> [snip]

>> : Politics will get you through times of no hardware better than


>> : hardware will get you through times of no politics.
>>

>> My dear Mr. Pike, whatever your ignorance in other areas

>"Jane, you ignorant slut!" Are we really going to get into name
>calling here, or can we stick to the issues?

>> I would


>> have thought you knew enough history, at least, to know that that
>> is simply not the case.

>So why are all those Saturn V's laying on the ground at KSC/JSC/MSFC?

Just for the sake of accuracy let's get it on the record that only two of
those Saturn Vs on diplay at the three sites actually consist of flight
hardware.

KSC's is two-thirds ground test articles. JSC's is *all* flight articles. And
MSFC's is no flight articles at all--all ground test articles never built to
fly.

The rest of the Saturn V flight hardware is at Michoud--an S-IC stage and at
the NASM--the Skylab backup derived from S-IVB-515.

See Mike Wright's article in Quest magazine, Spring 1994.

Rand Simberg

unread,
Mar 9, 1995, 11:28:42 AM3/9/95
to
In <3jn2d6$b...@clarknet.clark.net> John Pike <john...@clark.net>
writes:

>Two bytebites in one paragraph -- well done!!!
>....

Thank you. Should I be waiting by the phone for a call from Linda
Werthheimer? ;-)

>I can't cope with "crewed" what rocket scientist dreamed this one up?

I believe that it was Dan Goldin. Need I say more?

>"Piloted" seems better for spacecraft that are going somewhere, and
>"occupied" seems better for stations, etc.
>
>"Crewed" is a homonym with "crude," which is an antonym for
>"sophisticated" which creates the presumption that all piloted vehicles
>are unsophisticated.

I agree. Though it's a little clumsy, my own favorite would be
"passengered." If we could start thinking about carrying passengers,
instead of crew, or astronauts, or pilots, or scientists, it will be a
major step in changing the paradigm.

Rand

Alastair Mayer

unread,
Mar 8, 1995, 1:30:37 PM3/8/95
to
: In <3jkg29$g...@clarknet.clark.net> John Pike <john...@clark.net>
: writes:

: >I continue to be puzzled by the common auditory halucination that I
: >am "frequently" interviewed on NPR. By my last count, I have only
: >been on their air twice in the last several years -- once last year on
: >the SR-71, and the year before on Clinton and Star Wars.

Not that I've listened to NPR in years, but there is a distinction
(which you appear to be making) between being "interviewed" on air
and merely having one's opinions quoted (directly or indirectly).

Whether or not this is the source of confusion I can't say, since I've
long since ceased to be amused by the game of "listen to NPR and then
try to figure out what *really* happened" and no longer play it.

-- Al

Mark Matis

unread,
Mar 9, 1995, 4:22:18 PM3/9/95
to
In article <3jn3vm$b...@clarknet.clark.net>, john...@clark.net says...
>
Don't imagine that
>every time the word "critics" or "skeptics" is used that it is just
>a code-word for "that John Pike."

Actually, I think they were putting a few adjectives between "that" and
"John"

Max Nelson

unread,
Mar 8, 1995, 5:31:34 PM3/8/95
to
> Well, I think that I am guarenteed to get off on a rant on this point.
> This was my big problem with the "we need a heavy lift launch vehicle"
> crowd back in the 1980s -- I had several very acrimonious discussions
> over this. There was a popular line of argumentation to the effect
> that if we could just get an HLV built, then the payloads/missions
> (such as Moon/Mars) would naturally materialize, so as to provide
> the HLV with something to do.

This point may not be completely bankrupt, if one considers launch an
infrastructure issue, as opposed to an application issue. Building
infrastructure provides capabilities which may lead to significant growth
in more/new applications. For example, civil aviation got off the ground
(so to speak) after the Postmaster General "forced" the creation of the
hardware/infrastructure. Until that was in place, close substitutes --
such as railroad -- made the naysayers to civil aviation see little
justification (read rationale) for such efforts. Similar circumstances
can be seen with the creation of the National Highway and many other
infrastructure efforts.

Max

=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+==+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+
Max Nelson | "Great spirits have always encountered
Doctoral Fellow | Violent opposition from Mediocre minds."
RAND Corporation | - Albert Einstein
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Rand Simberg

unread,
Mar 8, 1995, 6:33:08 PM3/8/95
to
In <max-080395...@mac-s1-12.rand.org> m...@rand.org (Max Nelson)
writes:

>
>> Well, I think that I am guarenteed to get off on a rant on this
point.
>> This was my big problem with the "we need a heavy lift launch
vehicle"
>> crowd back in the 1980s -- I had several very acrimonious discussions
>> over this. There was a popular line of argumentation to the effect
>> that if we could just get an HLV built, then the payloads/missions
>> (such as Moon/Mars) would naturally materialize, so as to provide
>> the HLV with something to do.
>
>This point may not be completely bankrupt, if one considers launch an
>infrastructure issue, as opposed to an application issue. Building
>infrastructure provides capabilities which may lead to significant
growth
>in more/new applications. For example, civil aviation got off the
ground
>(so to speak) after the Postmaster General "forced" the creation of the
>hardware/infrastructure. Until that was in place, close substitutes --
>such as railroad -- made the naysayers to civil aviation see little
>justification (read rationale) for such efforts. Similar circumstances
>can be seen with the creation of the National Highway and many other
>infrastructure efforts.

Ah, the old "build it and they will come" (or at least start breathing
heavily) scenario. My own soundbite for this is that they didn't
determine the market for the Golden Gate Bridge by counting the people
swimming between the city and Marin County and back.

OTOH, a bigger vehicle by itself won't increase demand much if it
doesn't also dramatically reduce costs.

OTOOH, while I don't think that an HLLV would have necessarily resulted
in manned (excuse me, crewed) planetary missions, it would have
increased their likelihood, since it would be so obviously good for
them, and would give people more of a justification (after the fact) for
having built it (the old good-money-after-bad syndrome). What it
certainly would have done is to make it possible to build a reasonable
space station, which it currently isn't.

Rand

John Pike

unread,
Mar 9, 1995, 9:07:20 AM3/9/95
to
m...@rand.org (Max Nelson) wrote:
>
..

> > This was my big problem with the "we need a heavy lift launch vehicle"
....

> This point may not be completely bankrupt, if one considers launch an

> infrastructure issue, as opposed to an application issue....

Yes, it is certainly possible to shape the electrons in this fashion,
the question is whether you can get anyone who does not stand to cash
the HLV pay-checks (such as, for instance, the folks who are being
asked to _write_ the check) to place much stock in such arguments.

I think the answer is pretty clearly no.

ALS rose and fell with SDI.
NLS rose and fell with SEI.

EELV is clearly predicated on a _real_ traffic model, and might
actually happen.

RLV is predicated either on capturing EELV's traffic model (which may
prove hard to do), or creating traffic where none currently exists
(hard to believe).

These are all just examples of the phenomenon Steve Aftergood and I
noted in an IAF paper a few years back on nuclear propulsion & power.
The development time for these technologies is long relative to the
half-life of the rationale that justifies them, so you are always
stuck with capabilities in search of missions.

Rationale will get you through times of no hardware better than
money will get you through times of no dope (sorry, I couldn't resist).


Henry Spencer

unread,
Mar 11, 1995, 5:30:24 PM3/11/95
to
In article <3jkdv3$g...@clarknet.clark.net> John Pike <john...@clark.net> writes:
>> Rationale makes a little more sense, though I think that given a
>> sufficiently compelling rationale, the hardware will quickly follow...
>
>...This was my big problem with the "we need a heavy lift launch vehicle"

>crowd back in the 1980s -- I had several very acrimonious discussions
>over this. There was a popular line of argumentation to the effect
>that if we could just get an HLV built, then the payloads/missions
>(such as Moon/Mars) would naturally materialize...

Be cautious, though, because there's a nasty chicken-and-egg problem here.
If nobody spends serious money pursuing such payloads/missions because
there is nothing to launch them on, and nobody spends serious money on
heavy launchers because there are no customers for them... you get what we
have now, stagnation. The same phenomenon is visible in many other areas
of spaceflight. When NASA asked active microgravity experimenters whether
they had any use for the longer missions offered by ISF/CDSF, they said
"no"... because the active experimenters were the ones who could fit their
experiments into shuttle-length flights!

Somebody has to make the first move, and that first move very often *has*
to be done on speculation, without much in the way of firm rationale. An
aversion to this guarantees little or no fundamental progress.

Admittedly, such speculative ventures come a whole lot more easily when
they don't cost ten billion dollars and take ten years before results
are possible.

Dwayne Allen Day

unread,
Mar 12, 1995, 7:06:41 PM3/12/95
to
In article <D4xtq...@zoo.toronto.edu>,

Henry Spencer <he...@zoo.toronto.edu> wrote:
>primarily because costs are so high. People want a lot of justification
>for spending billions. Spending millions is much easier. If space
>exploration was a factor of 1000 cheaper, the justification problem would
>largely disappear.
>
>Phrasing Dwayne's point differently: everything turns on the discrepancy
>between space exploration's enormous costs and its relatively weak
>justifications. You can tackle the problem two ways: look for stronger
>and more convincing justifications, or try to reduce costs to the point
>where existing justifications suffice. The latter *is* a hardware problem
>to a large extent.

You're picking nits, Henry. By your own admission, it becomes possible
only when it is significantly cheaper. But space, particularly human
space, is always going to be more expensive than doing just about
anything on the ground because God gave us lungs and no radiation
shielding. No one (not even some of the nuttier SSTO advocates on this
group) is saying that you can go to Mars for under a billion dollars.

Hardware is a second-order concern.

Jim Kingdon

unread,
Mar 13, 1995, 1:27:40 AM3/13/95
to

>No one (not even some of the nuttier SSTO advocates on this
>group) is saying that you can go to Mars for under a billion dollars.

Well, this may be beating a dead horse, but seems to me the example of
a manned Mars mission proves Henry's point. At $400 billion (NASA's
proposed mission of a few years ago), the general response was "you
have got to be kidding!". At $50 billion (Mars Direct), the response
was "well, maybe interesting. Not now but keep studying it". If it
were really only $1 billion, I suspect it (or some other similarly
ambitious project like a permanently inhabited moon base) would sail
through.

Josh Hopkins

unread,
Mar 13, 1995, 6:50:11 PM3/13/95
to
wayn...@gwis2.circ.gwu.edu (Dwayne Allen Day) writes:

>In article <D4xtq...@zoo.toronto.edu>,
>Henry Spencer <he...@zoo.toronto.edu> wrote:
>>Phrasing Dwayne's point differently: everything turns on the discrepancy
>>between space exploration's enormous costs and its relatively weak
>>justifications. You can tackle the problem two ways: look for stronger
>>and more convincing justifications, or try to reduce costs to the point
>>where existing justifications suffice. The latter *is* a hardware problem
>>to a large extent.

>You're picking nits, Henry. By your own admission, it becomes possible
>only when it is significantly cheaper. But space, particularly human
>space, is always going to be more expensive than doing just about
>anything on the ground because God gave us lungs and no radiation
>shielding.

Why is it always going to be more expensive? It looks like the cost of
getting into orbit can be dropped to $500 per pound in the foreseable future.
That makes a trip up to orbit only a few times the cost of just getting the
permit to climb Everest. Beyond the forseeable future (anything more than,
say, thirty years from now) I don't see any reason why the costs inherently
have to be even that high.

>No one (not even some of the nuttier SSTO advocates on this
>group) is saying that you can go to Mars for under a billion dollars.

No one is saying that you can do that now. However, given the technology of,
say, fifty years from now, anyone who believs it will be impossible to do
so probably hasn't been paying attention. At that point, the issue of
justification becomes much less significant. Henry has a good point.
--
Josh Hopkins jbho...@uiuc.edu
Not everything that counts can be counted,
and not everything that can be counted counts.
- Albert Einstein

Steinn Sigurdsson

unread,
Mar 14, 1995, 3:52:54 AM3/14/95
to
In article <3k02ah$o...@gwis2.circ.gwu.edu> wayn...@gwis2.circ.gwu.edu (Dwayne Allen Day) writes:

In article <D4xtq...@zoo.toronto.edu>,
Henry Spencer <he...@zoo.toronto.edu> wrote:
>Phrasing Dwayne's point differently: everything turns on the discrepancy
>between space exploration's enormous costs and its relatively weak
>justifications. You can tackle the problem two ways: look for stronger
>and more convincing justifications, or try to reduce costs to the point
>where existing justifications suffice. The latter *is* a hardware problem
>to a large extent.

You're picking nits, Henry. By your own admission, it becomes possible
only when it is significantly cheaper. But space, particularly human
space, is always going to be more expensive than doing just about
anything on the ground because God gave us lungs and no radiation
shielding.

...


Hardware is a second-order concern.

But, as John Pike has pointed out, if the physical cost remains
fixed, the relative cost shrinks if the economy grows. Ultimately,
a few tens of billions $ project becomes a minor political issue
if it is small relative to other scales.

Compare the cost of trans-Atlantic/round the world voyages 400 years
ago and now. A marginal venture for a powerful nation state or collection
merchants then, an upper middle class hobby now.

Part of that change is lower hardware cost, part is better hardware
for the same price, part is richer economy.

Henry Spencer

unread,
Mar 13, 1995, 11:07:50 AM3/13/95
to
In article <3jn22o$b...@clarknet.clark.net> John Pike <john...@clark.net> writes:
>These are all just examples of the phenomenon Steve Aftergood and I
>noted in an IAF paper a few years back on nuclear propulsion & power.
>The development time for these technologies is long relative to the
>half-life of the rationale that justifies them, so you are always
>stuck with capabilities in search of missions.

I'd phrase it a bit differently, at least for technologies that have some
"background" state of the art built up: the usual rationales for these
technologies aren't strong enough to justify the kind of program that
could get results before the rationale fades. Amazing things can be
accomplished in three or four years if the will is there and the hardware
is familiar enough that people don't have to grope in the dark to set
out a preliminary design.

(My favorite example of this is the Thor IRBM, where little more than
a year elapsed between contract signing and delivery of the first
flight-ready prototype. It does go up to about 18 months if you allow
for the informal go-ahead preceding formal contract signing somewhat.
It goes up a bit further if you allow for the debugging period that
followed that first delivery. :-))

Alastair Mayer

unread,
Mar 14, 1995, 11:41:57 AM3/14/95
to
Jim Kingdon (kin...@cygnus.com) wrote:

: >No one (not even some of the nuttier SSTO advocates on this

There are some (and I mean people who know something about the subject,
not wide-eyed poorly informed fanatics) who think a permanent moon base
(or colony) is do-able for a $billion given there were available vertical-
landing SSTOs. (Ie. that they could go to the manufacturer and buy three).
Could probably do a Mars mission for the same ball park.

Mind you, that's privately funded. Figure an order of magnitude or two
increase if the government were involved.

-- Al

Dwayne Allen Day

unread,
Mar 14, 1995, 1:27:06 PM3/14/95
to
In article <STEINN.95M...@sandy.ast.cam.ac.uk>,

Steinn Sigurdsson <ste...@sandy.ast.cam.ac.uk> wrote:
>But, as John Pike has pointed out, if the physical cost remains
>fixed, the relative cost shrinks if the economy grows. Ultimately,
>a few tens of billions $ project becomes a minor political issue
>if it is small relative to other scales.

That's true. But how long do you want to wait? NASA's budget has been
stable for the past three years, which represents a sizable decrease when
one factors in inflation. And there is a very good chance it will be
slashed in the coming years. So physical cost remains fixed, the economy
grows, and the funds allocated to space get smaller all the time. If
you're willing to wait two hundred years, maybe this can be paid for by the
National Space Society. . .


DDDAY

Dwayne Allen Day

unread,
Mar 14, 1995, 1:58:56 PM3/14/95
to
In article <3k4h0l$n...@firewall.ihs.com>,

Alastair Mayer <alas...@firewall.ihs.com> wrote:
>There are some (and I mean people who know something about the subject,
>not wide-eyed poorly informed fanatics) who think a permanent moon base
>(or colony) is do-able for a $billion given there were available vertical-
>landing SSTOs. (Ie. that they could go to the manufacturer and buy three).
>Could probably do a Mars mission for the same ball park.

And if pigs had wings. . .

I'll be much less skeptical once an SSTO has a) flown, and b) proven the
cost projections correct.

Marcus Lindroos INF

unread,
Mar 14, 1995, 12:59:32 PM3/14/95
to
Rand Simberg (sim...@ix.netcom.com) wrote:
: In <max-080395...@mac-s1-12.rand.org> m...@rand.org (Max Nelson)
: writes:

: >
: >> Well, I think that I am guarenteed to get off on a rant on this
: point.
: >> This was my big problem with the "we need a heavy lift launch
: vehicle"
: >> crowd back in the 1980s -- I had several very acrimonious discussions
: >> over this. There was a popular line of argumentation to the effect
: >> that if we could just get an HLV built, then the payloads/missions
: >> (such as Moon/Mars) would naturally materialize, so as to provide
: >> the HLV with something to do.

: >
: OTOOH, while I don't think that an HLLV would have necessarily resulted

: in manned (excuse me, crewed) planetary missions, it would have
: increased their likelihood, since it would be so obviously good for
: them, and would give people more of a justification (after the fact) for
: having built it (the old good-money-after-bad syndrome). What it
: certainly would have done is to make it possible to build a reasonable
: space station, which it currently isn't.

Still, even an unused Saturn V is useless if there is no money to launch
it, or political will to build more payloads... NASA had Project EMPIRE
on the drawing board, two launches plus Earth orbit rendezvous would have
been enough for a simple Mars/Venus flyby. Yet the two Saturn Vs surplus
to requirements after Apollo were never launched, although spending billions
on building 15 rockets while only launching 13 probably made less sense
than spending "only" an additional 1-2 billion to launch all 15.

: Rand

MARCU$

Alastair Mayer

unread,
Mar 15, 1995, 12:09:37 PM3/15/95
to
Dwayne Allen Day (wayn...@gwis2.circ.gwu.edu) wrote:
: In article <3k4h0l$n...@firewall.ihs.com>,

: Alastair Mayer <alas...@firewall.ihs.com> wrote:
: >There are some (and I mean people who know something about the subject,
: >not wide-eyed poorly informed fanatics) who think a permanent moon base
: >(or colony) is do-able for a $billion given there were available vertical-
: >landing SSTOs. (Ie. that they could go to the manufacturer and buy three).
: >Could probably do a Mars mission for the same ball park.

: And if pigs had wings. . .

: I'll be much less skeptical once an SSTO has a) flown, and b) proven the
: cost projections correct.

Sure, so will I. (Not that I'm much skeptical even now - I've seen enough
engineering analyses and run enough numbers myself over the last 15 years
to figure the right SSTO can certainly fly and probably come close to
cost projections. Which is not to say that DC-1 or DC-3 or any of the
X-33 proposals are the "right" SSTO in this context.)

Certainly I think that building an appropriate SSTO is orders of
magnitude easier and cheaper than genetically engineering winged pigs. :-)

: DDAY
: SPI

-- Al

Henry Spencer

unread,
Mar 15, 1995, 7:20:25 PM3/15/95
to
In article <3jcjpr$5...@clarknet.clark.net> John Pike <john...@clark.net> writes:
>>... Justification is a serious issue today

>> primarily because costs are so high. People want a lot of justification
>> for spending billions. Spending millions is much easier. If space
>> exploration was a factor of 1000 cheaper, the justification problem would
>> largely disappear.
>
>The real question is the point at which the why question goes away.
>Right now, that threshold seems to be of the order of a gigabuck...

I'd go along with that. Also worthy of note is that a gigabuck is very
roughly the point where private nonprofit investment bows out -- a large
and determined fundraising campaign by a major university or suchlike
can raise hundreds of megabucks (or so I am told), but not a gigabuck.

>If the cost of SEI is order of 100 gigabucks, we must either achieve
>a 100-fold cost reduction (ain't gonna happen) or wait until we are
>a 100-fold richer... OR come up with a better answer to why.

I agree with the arithmetic but not with the underlying premise. *Why* is
it impossible to reduce the cost of such a project 100-fold? (I concede
that the existing spacefaring organizations are unlikely to deliver such a
cost reduction, but that just means that this can't be a Business As Usual
project... which was already obvious.)

Marcus Lindroos INF

unread,
Mar 17, 1995, 5:54:22 AM3/17/95
to
: : In article <3k4h0l$n...@firewall.ihs.com>,

: : Alastair Mayer <alas...@firewall.ihs.com> wrote:
: : >There are some (and I mean people who know something about the subject,
: : >not wide-eyed poorly informed fanatics) who think a permanent moon base
: : >(or colony) is do-able for a $billion given there were available vertical-
: : >landing SSTOs. (Ie. that they could go to the manufacturer and buy three)

Correct, but only if you could refuel on the Moon. I don't think 10-20
Delta Clipper flights per Moon mission is realistic.
---
If water ice is available at the lunar south pole, it could have an enormous
impact on a VTOVL SSTO-based space program. You might have one Delta Clipper
permanently based on the Moon, making periodical flights to low Earth orbit
where it would rendezvous with another DC cargo vessel carrying payloads
from Earth. The lunar DC then returns to the Moonbase with the cargo
and fills its tanks
with lunar LH2 and LOX. That's two flights (at ~$20 million) to land 9
metric tons on the Moon! The current rate using Protons and Russian robotic
landers is probably close to $150 million per metric ton, so enormous savings
should be possible.

MARCU$

: -- Al

Bruce Lewis

unread,
Mar 19, 1995, 7:27:18 AM3/19/95
to
Even better: mount a off-the-shelf 1968-model NERVA
nuclear rocket engine (Isp 950 sec.!) on a moon-based
DC and...well..the mind boggles...

Bruce

Henry Spencer

unread,
Mar 19, 1995, 9:02:51 PM3/19/95
to
In article <3k02ah$o...@gwis2.circ.gwu.edu> wayn...@gwis2.circ.gwu.edu (Dwayne Allen Day) writes:
>You're picking nits, Henry. By your own admission, it becomes possible
>only when it is significantly cheaper. But space, particularly human
>space, is always going to be more expensive than doing just about
>anything on the ground because God gave us lungs and no radiation
>shielding...

Any diving company can explain how to deal with the lung problem, and
radiation shielding is just mass. These are relatively minor problems,
no different in magnitude from many that are dealt with on or near the
ground. I would actually call thermal control the biggest engineering
headache of the space environment, and it's hardly an enormous barrier.
There is no good reason for operations in space to be much more difficult
than operations in hostile environments on Earth. The problem is getting
there, not coping after arrival.

>No one (not even some of the nuttier SSTO advocates on this
>group) is saying that you can go to Mars for under a billion dollars.

And I would agree... if we assume that the Mars expedition has to start
from scratch, using today's technology augmented only by cheap Earth-to-orbit
transportation. But that's not necessary.

The question is whether you can design a *series* of sub-billion projects,
each worthwhile in its own right, which eventually includes a Mars
landing. That's easier. For example, to my mind the obvious precursor of
a Mars landing is a Mars-orbit expedition, exploring the Martian moons and
doing short-delay teleoperation (possibly including sample return) on the
surface. *That* project would use much of the same hardware needed for
the landing expedition, perhaps even including subscale tests of landing
and fuel-manufacturing systems. Its precursor, in turn, would be an
asteroid expedition, which would use much of the hardware needed for the
Mars-orbit expedition. Etc.

This wouldn't necessarily have to be conceived as the dreaded Integrated
Program, sold as a monolithic entity. As I've argued before, if you want
any sort of coherent progress toward goals, *somebody* has to set goals
and define projects which make progress toward them. But each of these
missions would involve its own science return and its own technological
progress, and they wouldn't have to take place in lockstep, provided that
some effort was made to ensure that technology from one was useful for
the next.

In fact, I think it's a fundamental mistake to sell the whole program as a
buildup to the Footprints On Mars... because then you've got big problems
once those footprints appear. Better to sell the first Mars landing as
just one step among many, neither the first nor the last.

All of this requires careful management, new attitudes, etc... but all of
that should be easier to come by on a sub-billion scale.

Henry Spencer

unread,
Mar 19, 1995, 9:13:54 PM3/19/95
to
In article <3k02ah$o...@gwis2.circ.gwu.edu> wayn...@gwis2.circ.gwu.edu (Dwayne Allen Day) writes:
>No one (not even some of the nuttier SSTO advocates on this
>group) is saying that you can go to Mars for under a billion dollars.

Actually, now that I think about it, I have a sneaking suspicion that
maybe, juuuuust maybe, you *could* do a sub-billion Mars expedition with
cheap Earth-to-orbit transport as the only prerequisite. People talk
about Big Dumb Boosters. What would we need for a Big Dumb Mars Landing?

Forget gigabucks of high-tech welfare programs for Boedonnell Northheed,
and stick to flying the mission the cheapest way possible, ruthlessly
substituting brute force for expensive cleverness at every step. Do it
with off-the-shelf hardware, lots of redundancy, plenty of spare parts,
big crews with hands and tools rather than gleaming automated perfection.
There really is very little new technology *needed* for Mars, if you're
sufficiently determined to avoid it.

What would the BDML's starting mass, in Earth orbit be? I dunno... 10kt,
maybe? Say we spend half the budget on launch costs. That means we need
to buy our launches at about $50/kg. While that's a huge reduction from
current costs, it's well within what some of the "nuttier SSTO advocates"
think is within our grasp.

*Could* we do all the development and operation for such a mission on the
remaining half billion? Well, it's a challenge, to be sure... but I have
a sneaking suspicion that it just might be feasible.

Bruce Lewis

unread,
Mar 22, 1995, 12:40:55 PM3/22/95
to
Good point. Wonder what Robert Zubrin would say?

Bruce

Steinn Sigurdsson

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Mar 24, 1995, 7:26:14 AM3/24/95
to
In article <3k4n5q$m...@gwis2.circ.gwu.edu> wayn...@gwis2.circ.gwu.edu (Dwayne Allen Day) writes:

In article <STEINN.95M...@sandy.ast.cam.ac.uk>,
Steinn Sigurdsson <ste...@sandy.ast.cam.ac.uk> wrote:
>But, as John Pike has pointed out, if the physical cost remains
>fixed, the relative cost shrinks if the economy grows. Ultimately,
>a few tens of billions $ project becomes a minor political issue
>if it is small relative to other scales.

That's true. But how long do you want to wait? NASA's budget has been
stable for the past three years, which represents a sizable decrease when
one factors in inflation. And there is a very good chance it will be
slashed in the coming years. So physical cost remains fixed, the economy
grows, and the funds allocated to space get smaller all the time. If
you're willing to wait two hundred years, maybe this can be paid for by the
National Space Society. . .

It is true, the relevant time scales involved are centuries,
not years. I personally don't want to wait that long, but
sometimes straws seems like the only thing around for clutching...


Marcus Lindroos INF

unread,
Mar 27, 1995, 8:12:29 AM3/27/95
to
Alastair Mayer (alas...@firewall.ihs.com) wrote:
: Marcus Lindroos INF (mlin...@news.abo.fi) wrote:

: : Correct, but only if you could refuel on the Moon. I don't think 10-20


: : Delta Clipper flights per Moon mission is realistic.

: Actually no, you refuel in LEO. Work out the numbers and you'll see that
: a fully fueled SSTO in LEO has enough delta-V to fly to, land on, take
: off from and return from the Moon. As Heinlein said, Earth orbit is
: half-way to anywhere.

: You'd need about 10 flights to refuel in LEO. Less if there's some alternate
: way of carrying up bulk cargo like fuel. Why is that unrealistic?

Ten flights is wildly implausible since the max payload per mission is only
about 10t and a fully fueled SSTO weights about 400-500t.

: (Also
: note, I wasn't specifying Delta Clipper per se, but some 'generic' VTVL
: SSTO)

As for the Delta Clipper, "only" 300t of LOX/LH2 (=30+ flights) will do.
Like I said, oxygen mining on the Moon would cut this down to about 10
flights. At $10 million per DC flight, Russian Proton ELVs would be
almost as economical.


: : ---


: : If water ice is available at the lunar south pole, it could have an enormous
: : impact on a VTOVL SSTO-based space program. You might have one Delta Clipper
: : permanently based on the Moon, making periodical flights to low Earth orbit
: : where it would rendezvous with another DC cargo vessel carrying payloads
: : from Earth. The lunar DC then returns to the Moonbase with the cargo
: : and fills its tanks
: : with lunar LH2 and LOX. That's two flights (at ~$20 million) to land 9
: : metric tons on the Moon! The current rate using Protons and Russian robotic
: : landers is probably close to $150 million per metric ton, so enormous savings
: : should be possible.

: I'd recheck the numbers on that. You need to have the nearly-fully-fueled
: ship transition from near escape velocity (as it falls from the Moon) to
: orbital velocity, which will take a fair bit of fuel or some very high
: heat load aerobraking (higher than with near empty tanks). You end up in
: LEO with some fraction (TBD) fuel load. Might need a couple of tanker
: flights to top up. It also depends on how much water is available on
: the Moon - might be too precious to waste that way.
: Still, it is a possible follow-on (ditto with just using Lunar oxygen).
: Again, the original concept was for getting things *started* on the Moon.

BTW, you need a dV of about 2.8km/s to reach LEO from the lunar surface.
A fully fueled DC might perform a short 1.5km/s braking burn before hitting
the atmosphere. The aerobraking maneuver would then be 1.5km/s faster than
reentering from LEO, the total mass would be 180t vs. 50-60t for a returning
Earth-based 'Clipper. From LEO, you need a dV of 6.2-6.3km/s to go to the
Moon and land.
---
If aerocapture without a braking burn is used, the total required dV is
9km/s (~9.2km/s if you first enter a parking orbit around the Moon as Apollo
did, rather than gamble on a direct landing) vs. the Delta Clipper's 10.5km/s.
So there is lots of room for additional TPS and structural reinforcements
to cope with the reentry velocity of 11km/s, insulated tanks, extra RCS,
power and communications/navigation systems for missions to the Moon lasting
a week. In all, the dry mass could increase by 50% and you could still land a
9t payload on the Moon and bring it back to LEO! Now, these modifications
would cost money of course.
---
In my mind, this is the sexiest thing about VTOVL SSTOs. A Moon landing would
be child's play to a vehicle that is capable of surviving a fierce reentry
heat load of 1500-2000K at mach 25 and a difficult landing at 1G and 1
atmosphere. But I still believe you need rich deposits of LOX and LH2 on
the lunar surface to make it work, because a typical VTOVL SSTO will require
vast quantities of propellant. Lifting all that fuel out of the Earth's
gravity well sounds too difficult to me.
---
As Dale pointed out, Phobos/Deimos, near-Earth asteroids and perhaps
Mars/Venus orbit would be just as easy to reach. VTOVL SSTOs and a propellant
factory on the Moon
could turn out to be the keys to the Solar System. I calculated some delta-Vs
last summer for DC missions to a number of celestial bodies from Mercury
to Jupiter...let's see if I can still find the piece on my hard disk.

: -- Al

: :
: : MARCU$

: : : -- Al

MARCU$

Marcus Lindroos INF

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Mar 28, 1995, 4:55:11 AM3/28/95
to
Henry Spencer (he...@zoo.toronto.edu) wrote:
: In article <3k02ah$o...@gwis2.circ.gwu.edu> wayn...@gwis2.circ.gwu.edu (Dwayne Allen Day) writes:
: >No one (not even some of the nuttier SSTO advocates on this
: >group) is saying that you can go to Mars for under a billion dollars.

: And I would agree... if we assume that the Mars expedition has to start
: from scratch, using today's technology augmented only by cheap Earth-to-orbit
: transportation. But that's not necessary.

: The question is whether you can design a *series* of sub-billion projects,
: each worthwhile in its own right, which eventually includes a Mars
: landing. That's easier. For example, to my mind the obvious precursor of
: a Mars landing is a Mars-orbit expedition, exploring the Martian moons and
: doing short-delay teleoperation (possibly including sample return) on the
: surface. *That* project would use much of the same hardware needed for
: the landing expedition, perhaps even including subscale tests of landing
: and fuel-manufacturing systems. Its precursor, in turn, would be an
: asteroid expedition, which would use much of the hardware needed for the
: Mars-orbit expedition. Etc.

Hmmm...sounds like you should use existing Russian hardware in that case...
Read somewhere (Discovery magazine?) that an American investor is trying to
launch a derivative of the Mir/Salyut space station, to be owned by private
investors. The total cost would have to stay below $300-$400 million for
the investment to pay off...the Russians are reportedly doing their best
to keep costs to that level.
---
Our "big dumb Mars mission" could use a small fleet of Mir modules for
safety, perhaps mated to Block-D upper stages for braking into orbit
around Mars. Alpha's Soyuz ACRV could serve as the Earth return vehicle.
R&D costs would be fairly low since most of the "building blocks" listed
above are simple, rugged and fairly versatile.
---
You still have to explain how you plan to move all these payloads from
LEO to Phobos... Chemical rockets are out of the question unless you
plan to use the Energia, which would be too expensive. And I don't think
assembling a flotilla of spacecraft from "chunks" weighting just 9 metric
tons (=the typical SSTO capability) would be trivial either. Especially
if you want to save money rather than weight.
---
I think you need an ion rocket to move the cargo from LEO to a high energy
orbit...Bruce Dunn(?) suggested this a few months ago. This would take several
months, though.
---
Sounds quite interesting, when I think about it. Henry, please post
a detailed plan!

MARCU$

: --

Henry Spencer

unread,
Apr 1, 1995, 3:00:00 AM4/1/95
to
In article <3l8mdv$4...@josie.abo.fi> mlin...@news.abo.fi (Marcus Lindroos INF) writes:
>: The question is whether you can design a *series* of sub-billion projects,
>: each worthwhile in its own right, which eventually includes a Mars
>: landing. That's easier. For example, to my mind the obvious precursor of
>: a Mars landing is a Mars-orbit expedition...

>
>Hmmm...sounds like you should use existing Russian hardware in that case...

It's not clear to me that the Russian hardware is right for the job, but
it would certainly be worth a look.

>You still have to explain how you plan to move all these payloads from
>LEO to Phobos... Chemical rockets are out of the question unless you

>plan to use the Energia, which would be too expensive...

I'd consider *some* form of high-Isp propulsion to be a high priority for
a series-of-missions approach. Anything going beyond LEO would benefit.
In fact, it seems to me that if you do long-term life support as part of a
space-station project, then propulsion would be the key technical issue
for an asteroid mission, since otherwise there isn't really much new
needed. (For Mars orbit, the teleoperated surface hardware is the major
technical issue. For Mars landing, the lander is it. One problem at a
time.)

If we're talking about the big-dumb-Mars-landing approach instead, then
I don't think chemical rockets are out of the question at all. Fuel is
cheap, and associated development costs are minimal.

>...I don't think


>assembling a flotilla of spacecraft from "chunks" weighting just 9 metric
>tons (=the typical SSTO capability) would be trivial either. Especially
>if you want to save money rather than weight.

Assembling high-tech structures from pieces weighing at most a few tons
is normal on Earth. It's heavier but easier than trying to ship them to
their final destination in one piece. Assembly bases and assembly crews
are low-tech hardware requiring little development, if mass is not a
worry.

>Sounds quite interesting, when I think about it. Henry, please post
>a detailed plan!

First I have to work one out. *First* I have to find some time for it.
Maybe if I just stop reading news for six months... :-)

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