Opinion: Apollo 8 – An unfinished journey
Forty-six years have elapsed since mankind first traversed the skyways above the Moon. In 1968 the crew of Apollo 8, Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and Bill Anders thundered into the Florida skies in their Apollo Command and Service Module which was perched atop a Saturn V booster. Mission planners had opted to go big – and on the very first flight of Apollo outside of low-Earth orbit – astronauts ventured into the gravitational sphere of our nearest celestial neighbor. The path forward since that time has seen some tremendous highs – and some rather disappointing lows.
In the early stages of mankind’s race to the Moon, it was imagined that humanity, if it stayed on the course that it was on, could have reached Mars by the 1980s. We did not stay the course however. Rather, U.S. President Richard Nixon ended the Apollo voyages to the Moon, listening to the constituency that the funds used for space exploration would be better served for more terrestrial matters.
As the first great era of human space exploration was brought to a close, NASA had high hopes that a combination of a space station and a shuttle to construct it – would allow the agency move from sending crews from lunar – to Martian orbit. It was not to be.
The Nixon Administration, essentially, told NASA to choose. You could either get the station or the shuttle – but you could not get both. It was probably the most impossible of decisions.
Without the shuttle, there could be no construction of a space station and without a station – where would the shuttle go to? What would it do? The agency, made the only choice it could – it needed a vehicle to get to orbit, forcing NASA to find other purposes for the new craft and hope that later administrations would fill the void.
It would take nearly 20 years before the first elements of what had started out as Space Station Freedom, would morph into the International Space Station (ISS) and the first Russian and U.S. elements began to come together in orbit. For half a decade NASA and its international partners would send elements of the ISS to orbit – until February of 2003.
America’s first space shuttle, Columbia, was lost on reentry after super-heated gases, plasma, entered through a hole in one of the shuttle’s wings – doomed the orbiter and its crew of seven. The loss and subsequent investigation would ensure that the U.S. lacked the ability to launch crews on its own for two years, even when STS-114, the “Return to Flight” mission took to the skies in 2005, the problems that caused the loss of STS-107 – were still not corrected – causing further delays.
Once NASA had resolved these issues, the space agency enjoyed about five years of success, before the Shuttle Program came to an end when space shuttle Atlantis‘ wheels came to a stop at the Shuttle Landing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in 2011. The end of the program came at a time when the agency was adrift.
NASA had been directed to send crews to the Moon, Mars and beyond, but, just as had occurred 40 years earlier – politicians got in the way.
At first, the Obama Administration worked to essentially end NASA’s crewed space exploration efforts. The Senate intervened and some of these elements would survive, with the president now expressing support for a mission to an asteroid and expressing the hope that NASA would be able to send astronauts to Mars sometime in his lifetime.
For those space enthusiasts and experts out there, you are doubtlessly wondering about the exclusion of the Apollo era, even its later stages, the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project and Skylab – what about them?
They? They were an amazing anomaly, an incredible moment in time when humanity was actually on the path toward traveling out into the solar system. It is unclear, at this point, if we will find that trail again in the near future.
More than a few people believe NASA’s current trajectory is unsustainable. For one thing, many would argue that, a program that only has a major mission once every three-to-four years – is not really a program. NASA’s William Gerstenmaier and others have stated that the agency is working toward having the new Space Launch System carry out missions at least annually. As it stands now? The first flight of SLS is set to take place in four years – in 2018. Three years later, a crew will board the Orion spacecraft perched atop SLS for a planned circumlunar flight. Three years after that, in 2024, a decade from now, we might see astronauts travel to lunar orbit, this time to visit an asteroid that has been towed there. A decade from now…
In 1961, NASA launched Alan Shepard into sub-orbit. The following year John Glenn rode his Mercury capsule, Friendship 7, to orbit. Three years later, in 1965, Virgil I. “Gus” Grissom and John Young had their Gemini capsule ferried aloft by a highly-modified Titan missile. Five years after that? Apollo 8, on a pillar of fire provided by the massive Saturn V, flew to the Moon. In so doing they validated the Apollo Command and Service Module.
In the following year? Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the Moon. Between 1961 and 1969 – the United States utilized no fewer than five different launch vehicles – and fielded four different types of spacecraft. Eight years total and in that time – the U.S. space agency launched six missions under Project Mercury, 10 under Project Gemini and 11 under the Apollo Program. Eight years – 27 missions. On average the space agency carried out more than three missions a year. Now? The agency is hoping to conduct a mission once every three to four years.
In the 16th century, missions to the New World – took place at the pace of about once a year. As a very popular story says, “the road goes ever on…” However, we need to actually be on that road more than three times a decade.
For its part, NASA is looking at missions into deep space in a new way. Gone are unilateral, nationalistic efforts. Now, other nations, or groups of nations, as is the case with the European Space Agency and its involvement on the Orion spacecraft’s Service Module – are getting involved.
NASA has not only tested out technologies and systems on orbits – but it has also discovered which relationships work – and which might increase the likelihood of difficulties. In the past decade, NASA has fomented relationships with established and emerging aerospace companies. They, using concepts and technologies developed by the space agency, have started to do what NASA has done for the past 50 years.
While just getting into low-Earth orbit might be inspiring to those who have not done it before. As a species, we stopped the real journey we were on when the crew of Apollo 17, the last crewed mission to the Moon, splashed down in the Pacific Ocean in 1972. The trails in the empty void above our world have been seared into place for 50 years with hundreds of missions. The Moon? Has only seen twelve sets of footprints and Mars has not seen one.
This time of year we look forward to the future and we celebrate the past. Apollo 8, the mission where astronauts read from the Bible’s Book of Genesis – is almost 50 years in the past. One wonders if, rather than travel to the International Space Station, components of which have been on orbit for 16 years, if we focused on the Moon, Mars or other destinations throughout our solar system – where we would be today? Where would we be if we had not stopped the first steps on our journey outward? Where would we be if rather than reinvent established technologies – we pressed them toward the journey to other worlds, if we were not required to start over and over again – where would we be?
For those who think we would not be that far – you need only review the numbers above. Compare what one nation did from 1961-1969 – to what we have done from 2004 and are slated to do through 2024. The journey we began in 1968 – is unfinished – and it is past time we got back onto the road, at a pace that at least somewhat mirrors what we have done in the past.
Video courtesy of NASA / Apollo 11 Channel
This is an opinion-based commentary – not an article. It is based off of the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of SpaceFlight Insider
This commentary was edited at 2:39 p.m. EST on Dec. 25 to correct a typo
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Jason Rhian spent several years honing his skills with internships at NASA, the National Space Society and other organizations. He has provided content for outlets such as: Aviation Week & Space Technology, Space.com, The Mars Society and Universe Today.
Apollo actually died before Nixon took office. The production of the Saturn Boosters was ended with the first production run. The peak year of NASA funding was FY 1966. Starting in FY 1967 it was winding down. The first Nixon NASA budget was FY-1970. By then it was too late. It was over.
It had nothing to do with the deficit, it had to do with a changing priority of the federal government. Apollo was betrayed by its own success, and that success was used as a weapon for most of the ill conceived socialist government policy since that time.
The Saturn V was only a qualified success; it was small. If not for Houbolt’s LOR the larger Nova would have been required. For any lasting human presence in space a much larger vehicle than the Saturn V was needed and this requirement has not changed. The few who realize this have managed to keep the infrastructure going with the SLS.
The New Space mob hates any idea of a Heavy Lift Vehicle (which used to mean a 100 tons to LEO was “heavy”). A launch vehicle with several times the lift of the Saturn V would need Solid Fuel or pressure-fed boosters in the over-15 million pound thrust range. Hydrogen upper stages with a wet workshop and a very powerful LAS would also be required because, for various reasons, transporting fissionable material to the Moon would be a key enabler for any kind of human crewed deep space mission. None of this is possible for any “entrepreneur.” Only immense resources can enable a real space program. That New Space fanatics dispute this and misrepresent the true situation is despicable.
The first Space Race between the US and the USSR was the catalyst for the rapid evolution of our space program from 1961 through the last mission to the moon in 1972. There were many well conceived plans to follow-up on the success of Apollo but the only one that came to fruition was Skylab and only one of them made it on orbit. Nixon and his administration, with the notable exception of VP Spiro Agnew, had no interest in the manned space program. It took a Herculean effort with far too many compromises and unrealistic promises to (barely) get approval for the Shuttle Transportation System. A permanent manned space station, a return to the moon, a mission to Mars, etc., were all tossed into the dustbin of history.
We do not have the Cold War dynamic present to drive Congress to fund NASA at the level seen in the 60s. We have not had leadership in the White House (from either party) since JFK to articulate a clear manned mission and then back it up with political capital. I don’t blame the politicians because they are only concerned with issues raised by their constituents and their corporate donors. The American people have failed to support a rational and appropriately funded long-term mission for NASA. We have not made this goal a priority for those in Congress to pursue. The Space lobby can’t compete with the National Security/Defense lobby for funding.
It will take circumstances like we see in the film Interstellar to motivate humanity. We need a threat to our survival as a species to come together to put in the needed resources to finally get out of LEO and explore our solar system. I just don’t see us investing in manned space exploration without such motivation over the next 20-30 years. Congress is too busy handing out corporate welfare and tax breaks to care for the infrastructure in desperate need of repair down here on earth so what hope is there for ever building an infrastructure in space?
“The Space lobby can’t compete with the National Security/Defense lobby for funding.”
The Apollo 1 fire was a disaster for North American as well as the space program. The lesson was not lost on the Aerospace industry; space is hard money and defense is easy money. Space, as in human deep space missions, are far too risky for investors compared to cold war toys that do not even have to work. Spaceships have to work. Despite years of New Space sycophants endlessly repeating the big lie by screaming cheap, there is not going to be any cheap. New Space is actually double talk for Low Earth Orbit and there is only one money making enterprise when going nowhere in endless circles; space clown tourism.
What’s the first thing a NASA backed international team hear upon landing on Mars?
Elon Musk: “Get off my land.”
Elon would not be where he is without NASA but I hope that NASA to go with Elon.
“Elon” is the worst thing that has ever happened to the U.S. space program.
SLS+Orion is like an Apollo program which has the aim to end with Apollo 8. As if JFK had said: “- We will go AROUND the Moon before the end of the next next next next next decade”. Anyway, that is what is actually happening. SLS+Orion really need a big investment in a new ambitious space program in order to become useful. I hope it will happen, but it is a very risky bet.
Congress views NASA as a popular jobs program. The established ‘space states’ want to keep it that way. Example 1, the SLS rocket had to be based on Shuttle technology, as per congress. Congress thinks they can spec rocket requirements.
We’re going back to the moon and Mars with companies like SpaceX. NASA is just a big pork chop for congress. Just compare what SpaceX has done for each dollar invested vs. NASA dollars spent.
Just exactly what has SpaceX accomplished? Nothing that was not done before Apollo a half a century ago. The hobby rocket is a joke compared to state of the art vehicles like the Delta IV heavy and Ariane. It has gotten away by cooking the books to look cheap but the day is rapidly approaching when the mediocre performance and massive under-the-table support from NASA will be exposed for the scam it is. All the bizarre grasshopper parlor tricks and excuses for being years behind schedule will not keep the doors of a worthless company open once the jig is up.
The American People have never be offered a rational plan for human spaceflight? For a plan to be rational it has to be affordable. NASA has never made flight to LEO and beyond affordable therefore it not rational. Only now through Spacex is NASA helping make Spaceflight affordable and therefore rational. Flying to explore BEO in expendable Rockets like Orion and SLS is not rational.
A rational plan would be to support commercial Space Companies that are making Spaceflight more affordable by providing them with business/missions exploring BEO affordability.
The People would buy that.
Their support for SpaceX indicates they already are.
“Events did not conspire to bring about such challenging expeditions then or since. According to Portree, Congress felt NASA needed to be punished after the tragic Apollo 1 fire that killed three astronauts in January 1967, and that lead to budget cuts for future endeavors. The rising costs of the escalating conflict in Vietnam did not help NASA’s budget either, and the new Nixon administration, elected in 1968, wanted to carve out its own space policy distinct from the Apollo years. Were it not for these factors, Portree said, “I think the more ambitious Apollo and Apollo follow-ons would have happened.”
Portree was wrong, and his writing has helped to perpetuate many myths about Apollo…
One of the big things, which is the budget, is talked about in detail and LBJ sold the bill of goods about the budget to NASA. Webb knew better and quit, Tom Paine just accepted it.
The fact is that our federal budget priorities were shifted away from space, with no real cuts in the overall federal budget. Indeed if you take NASA’s budget at its high water mark of FY 1967 and normalize it against the largest federal agencies something interesting is shown.
in FY 1966 only the DoD had a larger slice of the budget. I have plotted NASA’s normalized budget against these federal agencies and you can see that by 2014 all but two of them have a larger slice of the federal pie than NASA..
Here is the link to my spreadsheet. The numbers come from the White House website for the budget.
Department of Agriculture
Department of Commerce
Department of Defense–Military Programs
Department of Education
Department of Energy
Department of Health and Human Services
Department of Housing and Urban Development
Department of the Interior
Department of Justice
Department of Labor
Department of Transportation
Corps of Engineers–Civil Works
Other Defense Civil Programs
Environmental Protection Agency
International Assistance Programs
National Aeronautics and Space Administration
National Science Foundation
Office of Personnel Management
Small Business Administration
I have found Portree’s work to be top notch and in agreement with all I have read on the Apollo Applications Program and the struggle to fund manned space missions after Apollo ended. See http://www.wired.com/2014/07/assuming-everything-goes-perfectly-well-nasas-26-january-1967-apollo-applications-program-press-conference/ for an excellent article on the subject.
I used to think the same thing. It jives with what LBJ told Webb and comports with the general narrative of the time.
If you dig deeper, this is not the case. You have to dig into Walter MacDougal’s “The Heavens and the Earth” and the budget documents to find out what the real story is.
The real story is that the Apollo program was used by progressives as a means to validate their ideas of government intervention in society.
Read MacDougal, search the term “technocracy”.
Look at the excel spreadsheet that I provided as a link. It is quite clear that the issue was and has been and is not the budget, but funding government priorities…
Other reading that addressed the errors of the Apollo program are shown in prescript from GE CEO Ralph Cordiner. Here is his thesis on Competitive Free Enterprise in Space…
Inferring that SpaceX is in the BEO business is misleading and public relations hype supported by legions of deluded sycophants do not make such claims anything more than advertising.
Overall a good piece. As you said a journey unfinished…but how would you finish the journey? What is the role of commercial in finishing the journey?
The unfinished journey also has to lay some of the blame on NASA. How many failed new rocket developments has NASA done over the last 10 -20 years? That has lost support in the public that NASA knows what is doing in manned space flight. Then with the VSE – the plan was there – how NASA decided to implement it -Constellation is another story. Apollo on Steroids – not one but two new spacecraft – Ares I and Ares V. If NASA had decided to build one spacecraft and finish it or had decided to write requirements and let commercial bid on it – it may have come out cheaper and and have alot more for it – look at COTS and think as to how much it would have cost if NASA had decided to do it itself. But the past is that – the past. NASA needs success. Be successful and maybe politicians would be more willing to give NASA more money. Cooperation with other space agencies and commercial is the way to go. Getting more money out of the federal govt. helps – but even getting the money – you need to spend it wisely and get more bang for the buck!
Concerning the separate crew and cargo vehicles of Constellation; that was actually an attempt to correct one of the most profound mistakes of the Shuttle program. The Shuttle was made to do everything by pursuing the profit motive and going cheap. There is no cheap.
The SLS at least has the most efficient mix of lower and upper stage propulsion technologies and has an escape system. I would add that the faux escape systems on the LEO taxis being marketed by SpaceX and Boeing are actually intended to keep tourist space stations in orbit. The toxic dragon carrying all these propellents is a mockery of crew survivability.
NASA’s plans have always overloaded the money provided to the agency. At the end of the day the government does not give a rats rear end about what we care about. It is our job to change that. Not by trying to change the government, but by doing it ourselves..
“Doing it ourselves” is a scam. It took a sizable chunk of the GNP to put two people on the Moon. What you are talking about is a fantasy being marketed to the gullible. A state sponsored public works program to first replace the GEO junkyard with moon-water-shielded space stations is a plan that will benefit the nation and generate revenue for other space projects. DIY is not going to fly.
The several tens of billions of dollars a year spent in the GEO market would say otherwise. In energy terms that is more than half way to the lunar surface.
What exactly are you saying is “otherwise” Wingo? Your vague connection between GEO satellites and the lunar surface has nothing to do with my comment. Try again.
Gary, you have fixed ideas, and are not going to listen, so I wish you well in your quest.
New Space is the worst thing that has ever happened to space exploration. The end game of this scam is LEO tourism. Low Earth Orbit has about as much in common with space as a catfish pond does with the North Atlantic. The lesson to be learned from the Shuttle program was there is no cheap and LEO is not space. Instead the public has been duped by these “entrepreneurs” and their cheap and nasty taxis to a useless contraption of tins cans at very high altitude. Space travel means going somewhere and the endless circles of LEO are a dead end. Shame on all these “experts” who use their credentials to advocate this waste of time and money.
The elephant in the room has always been space radiation and no one will touch it. The radiation problem means admitting that no business can be done using the aerospace model of unshielded lightly constructed spacecraft. So whatever money can be made has to come by way of lies. And the big lie is obvious to anyone who understands what a solar storm is.
The New Space mob is quick to cyberbully and dogpile anyone who points out their scam. And the proof of this scam is the Geostationary Earth Orbit junkyard of satellites that exists because no human crewed space stations on the cheap tin can model can be used above the protection of the Van Allen belts. Again, LEO is NOT space. The only solution is massive water shielding and since bringing up thousands of tons of tap water from Earth is not practical- the ice on the Moon should be the present focus of the entire human space flight community.
Instead, the focus is hobby rockets lifting blow-up tents into LEO to enable the obscene spending displays of the ultra-rich. What makes it criminal is subsidizing this tourist scam by conning the taxpayers- who think it is all about Mars. Every tax dollar that has been spent on New Space, and the billions in free NASA support, have been a complete waste of money. Shame on all of you “industry professionals.”
…… The end game of this scam is LEO tourism…….
The end game is the economic development of the solar system. This is something that NASA is neither qualified to do or has the charter to do, that is unless your only idea of economic development is state directed.
Our government, and our space agency has failed since the early 1970’s to get us beyond LEO. I for one am not willing to grow old and die waiting for the progressives to decide that they have been wrong in spending priorities for a generation, when they have no intention of doing so.
I was there when SEI was destroyed. I was there when the VSE was destroyed, by a Space Agency head who wanted to go to Mars at any cost.
Commission after commission has said that NASA does not have enough money to do what it is tasked to do. The current head of HEOMD has stated that a mission once every four years cannot be sustained from an engineering perspective.
And you call Elon a scam?
Blaming NASA for everything to try and hide the severely limited capabilities of New Space is getting old. It is not New space that is “qualified” while NASA is not- it is the opposite. You are relying on years of propaganda from the New Space mob and claiming credibility because “you were there.”
“State directed” and the rest of your political spin terminology does not change the fact that the space age began with a “state directed” effort by the soviets and we followed that model in our Moon program- and it worked. Your “economic development” model has done nothing but fail (the shuttle was going to “pay for itself”)and devolve into a tourist scam.
Gary, no it did not work.
If you are seriously interested in seeing where we went wrong, read Cordiner’s missive from 1960. He predicted just about everything that has gone wrong with the government directed space program…
Read this and then think about his words. You are simply not fully informed on the matter.
Sorry, I am not biting. We did land on the Moon so it did work. What failed afterward was due to going cheap. Space is not about capitalism or socialism or political agenda’s per se; it is about decisions and technology. Your arguments are distracting but not really meaningful.
No, he did not change his mind. He lamented the Lunar Orbit Rendezvous as a mistake that left no infrastructure either on the Moon or in Earth orbit, making the cancellation of the lunar architecture easy after the first new missions.
I worked with and knew well several Von Braun associates and you are absolutely wrong on this point.
Whatever you say Wingo.
…And the proof of this scam is the Geostationary Earth Orbit junkyard of satellites that exists because no human crewed space stations on the cheap tin can model can be used above the protection of the Van Allen belts…..
This is proof? You do understand that the radiation environment in GEO is only 30% more than LEO don’t you? The GEO junkyard exists because it is more cost effective to dispose of those assets than to have a human presence in GEO to service them. This may change, and soon, and it will be because we have a space station in LEO as a jumping off point.
If you have looked at the NASA DRM’s, ALL of them use the cheap tin can model that are known as astronaut cookers by those in the know…
Solar storms are why GEO satellites are more “cost effective” than space stations. Just like I said. And LEO is no more a “jumping off point” now than it was for two orbits by Apollo on the way to the Moon. LEO is a dead end.
..Sorry, I am not biting. …
Then remain ignorant of the voices that even before Apollo knew that what we were doing was a mistake and even worse, a betrayal of our American culture and way of life.
Ralph Cordiner was the deputy head of our entire WWII industrial organization and knew well what would and what would not work and what was consistent with our American way of life. The Apollo program was used as a way to force on our nation a way of government operation that infects us and weakens us to this day.
If you are unwilling to even consider the words of people like him, you are of no use to the cause of space development.
I like SpaceX
…..Solar storms are why GEO satellites are more ……
I have not read one single design article that makes this argument.
You may not have read a “design article” that says so but the reason there are no space stations outside of LEO is radiation. Shielded GEO Space Stations would be far superior to satellites but the infrastructure to supply that shielding from the Moon does not exist and will not as long as space tourism masquerades as space exploration and falsely promises all things on the cheap.
..And LEO is no more a “jumping off point” now than it was for two orbits by Apollo on the way to the Moon. LEO is a dead end…….
Von Braun, as well as many others, myself included, thought and think differently.
You and Von Braun! Mr. Brown thought alot of things in the 1950’s and much of it he changed his mind about when it was realized it was not practical.
The back and forth commenting arguing every detail of my views on the New Space scam is not a new experience for me. I have played this game for years and what usually happens is the New Space mob dogpiles the forum with endless comments till my points disappear in the ocean. That, or the moderators who will not tolerate the contamination and shrill insults receive so much hate mail I am banned. These legions of space clown wannabes and Musk groupies have polluted any discussions to the point where their lies and propaganda have become accepted as fact by the gullible and uninformed.
The New Space playbook is to scream cheap, accuse NASA of being the root of all evil, and blather about depots and smaller cheaper rockets being superior in every way to the evil heavy lift scenario. It has gone on so long because the people with credentials have either joined the mob or are cowed into silence. The U.S. space program has stagnated for several years because of this New Space tourist scam and it has done tremendous damage to the cause of space exploration. Again, shame on the people involved who should know better.
The only people calling people names and hurling invective is you. You might want to consider that.
“-you are of no use to the cause of space development.”
“Then remain ignorant-”
“You are simply not fully informed on the matter.”
“-you have fixed ideas, and are not going to listen,-”
I consider your appeals to association with the divine Von Braun and your opinion of me is best ignored.
The Ayn-Rand-in-space vile insulters and liars that poison any forum where someone dares blaspheme the New Space manifesto are what need to be exorcised from public discourse for any intelligent discussions to resume.
Text without context is error… This is true in any realm of intellectual endeavor.
..I consider your appeals to association with the divine Von Braun….
I also consider Dr. Gerry O’Neill, Dr. John Lewis, and Mike Duke, Wendell Mendell, Dr. Charles Lundquist, and Dr. Ernst Stuhlinger as mentors and key influences…
You might want to expand your horizons to encompass work other than your own…
Good for you Wingo!
Your attempt to rewrite history to suit your agenda is a brave one, Dennis, though I fear that it is doomed to fail. Unless you cherry-pick your sources, as it appears you have, the documentary evidence to support your claims about NASA history just doesn’t exist.
Human affairs are complex, which means that the history of human affairs is complex. Because of this, an unscrupulous or simply misguided person can find support for just about any point of view in the historical record. This is one reason, for example, that conspiracy theorists can build a case convincing enough to fool some people.
Historians seek to make themselves as dispassionate and impartial as possible. “As possible” is an important disclaimer, since no one is ever completely impartial. One can, however, seek to be introspective throughout the research and writing process and to seek out and remain open to informed criticism.
Historians refer to their results as “interpretations.” This does not mean that they do not trust their own experience and training; it means that they are prepared to revisit their conclusions. It is a bit like “hypothesis” and “theory” in science.
I think that if you approached the material on its own terms, not strictly on your terms, and that if you were willing to analyze differing interpretations and seek to understand how they might affect your interpretations, then you would seem credible.
Another thing that would help, at least if you hope to impress people who have a good grip on the source materials, would be for you not to commit the “appeal to authority” logical fallacy again and again. If you can quote the authorities that you name in a way that supports your position without distorting their intent, then that is useful. Simply dropping names proves nothing.
When your practice is to drop names *and* cherry pick, it appears to prove something. Alas, what it seems to prove isn’t praiseworthy.
I commend Mr. Church for sticking to his guns. I don’t agree with everything he writes, nor with his tone. I do agree, however, that “New Space” is questionable on many levels.
You write so well I am green with envy. Sad that the media world you swim in is turning into a cesspool.
..Your attempt to rewrite history to suit your agenda is a brave one, Dennis, though I fear that it is doomed to fail. Unless you cherry-pick your sources, as it appears you have, the documentary evidence to support your claims about NASA history just doesn’t exist….
I have already provided the key piece of evidence, which is the federal budget starting with NASA’s highwater mark in FY 1966. Many people, including yourself blame Nixon for the death of the Apollo program, but the pieces were put into place well before he came into office, though Nixon did nothing to stop the falling budget.
FY 1966 high-water market budget was $5.933 billion dollars. Nixon’s first budget, which was FY 1970 was already down to $3.752 billion, almost $2.2 billion PER YEAR less. The low water mark was the FY 1974 budget at $3.255 billion. NASA’s budget decreased by over 40% before Nixon came into office, and that killed the Saturn V, not any decision that he made.
Sorry David but numbers don’t lie. NASA did not get a significant budget increase until Reagan in the 1980’s who DOUBLED, NASA’s budget, and Bush one increased it even more.
….I think that if you approached the material on its own terms, not strictly on your terms, and that if you were willing to analyze differing interpretations and seek to understand how they might affect your interpretations, then you would seem credible…..
Game on. My next post on WordPress will address this exact thing, using words from president’s mouth’s, the excellent work by MacDougal, as well as the death of the DoD space program, brought about by McNamara because it was “destabilizing”.
The simple fact is that it was the democratic congress, backed by a democratic president, that killed the Apollo program. Nixon could have brought it back, but it would have been the same problem as trying to bring back the Shuttle program in 2012, all the subcontractors and sub tier suppliers were already gone. By 1973 even the engineering drawings were mostly gone, only saved by people that I have personal knowledge and relationships with. This was also the time of the German massacre at MSFC, when all of the German rocket scientists were basically forced out of their jobs, as chronicled by Fred Ordway.
Until we understand the reasons that the Apollo program was brought into being and later killed, we cannot make progress. I for one am tired of the crap of lofty goals and crappy budgets of the last 35 years.
…Historians seek to make themselves as dispassionate and impartial as possible……
Which means nothing more than Cronkite claiming that he was impartial. There is no such thing as an impartial historian when looking at events during their lifetimes. We can seek to be dispassionate and present both sides, but your very presentation in this thread indicates that you are anything but dispassionate or impartial or you would have looked at the budget numbers, and read Ralph Cordiner’s missive on the subject. There is also General Bruce Medaris’s book that was written a couple of years later and went much farther in weighing in the problems that the Kennedy space and military space buildup were causing the nation and its direction.
So, I will present the words of presidents, the cautionary words of the CEO and Chairman of the Board of GE and the former head of the American military space program. These are hardly cherry picking.
While I can’t bring it in as a primary source as it was lunch meetings and private meetings, I have discussed the same subject with Tom Paine, former NASA administrator before he died, with Robert C. Seamans, former secretary of the Air Force and NASA deputy director during the Apollo years.
Name drop, sure, when I was there with them and discussing this with them during the years I was a student working on the SEI program and wondering what the hell was going on with funding.
I am also one of the founders of the first private space science mission to eventually fly, the Lunar Prospector mission, originally started by the Space Studies institute under Gerry O’Neill. Even Alan Binder’s book includes me as one of those founders.
You have your perspective, I have mine, lets have some fun delving into the history…
…Another thing that would help, at least if you hope to impress people who have a good grip on the source materials,…
Oh we will have some fun with it. Especially as this develops as a theme over the next year. I have access to the oral histories, the documents, and things I am quite sure you have never seen. See, when the history is still alive and you know the people, and worked with them, gained their trust you can find from those that kept these documents and saved them for history, you have an advantage.
Nothing in the tower of Babel you just filled up the page with is praiseworthy Wingo. You are just making yourself look worse.
I have never seen a Rocket launch before. But I’m going to catch a glimpse of Spacex’s next launch, because I know that if they stick it, this flight will mark a change in history as significant as the Wright Brothers first flight.
Space Outsider Age 59
Unfortunately, the rocket equation is not going to change which means the penalty for the land-on-a-barge stunt makes such a scheme impractical. Reusability is a myth. The only time it has ever come close to working was with the shuttle SRB’s and that did not break even. But it did allow inspections enabling over 200 in-a-row flawless firings of a booster that makes the falcon look like what it is; a hobby rocket. Transporting and inspecting all those used engines and the stage and flying them again is far more expensive than just dropping them in the ocean. It’s a scam. Don’t fall for it.
The above Link outlines
es a Real Space/Mars Plan Mr. Church All your arguments will not help. You have no rational Plan. I’ll follow Musk who is really trying.
Enjoyed reading the history Mr. Church. On to the future. Jan. 6th or 7th or later this year
Seriously? Boozer is a known hack / lobbyist for NewSpace, a fact noted by this very website:
Thank you very much for that link; I am completely new to Space flight Insider and it is very gratifying to finally read some honest reporting on New Space.
The best book I have read on the transition from Apollo to the Shuttle Program is “Space Shuttle Decision, 1965-1972 (History of the Space Shuttle, Volume 1)” by T. A. Heppenheimer. It is a well-written, factual history detailing (using primary sources) how we went from the capabilities NASA had in the Apollo Era into the limited capabilities during the early Shuttle Program. Heppenheimer details how the manned space program was breathtakingly close to being shut down by the Nixon Administration. I have couple of hundred books, journals, articles, NASA documents, personal papers, etc., on the space program that I have collected since I started working on my MA Thesis on the von Braun and the German Rocket Team in the late 90s. No one I interviewed or corresponded with during my research ever advocated for private sector space exploration at the expense of NASA. It was well understood that there would be the Public (NASA)/Private (Contractors) partnership for the foreseeable future. We have seen efforts made by the Obama Administration to fund commercial space access to LEO but few would claim that Space X will replace NASA anytime soon. Until Congress and the White House get on the same page and Congress agrees to fund NASA at a sustainable rate over the long-term, we will continue to see our access to LEO limited and BEO non-existent.
Yes, it is all here for anyone to read but it is poison to the New Space mob; they can’t stand facts that contradict their DIY space fantasy and would rather wallow in infomercials and hero-worship.
“-few would claim that Space X will replace NASA anytime soon.”
Unfortunately legions of deluded sycophants have been brain-washed into believing NASA is the evil empire holding back “entrepreneurs” from conquering the solar system. As is the case when reality is turned completely inside out, these true believers are incapable of accepting that what is actually happening is the opposite of what is being claimed in the New Space infomercial. SpaceX has always been completely dependent on massive free NASA support, the cash cow of a largely useless LEO ISS, and billions in taxpayer dollars. Their engine, friction stir welded stages, heat shield, and hypergolic technology is all old NASA technology and paid for originally by the taxpayers who are now being charged for it again. It is becoming so bizarre with the absurd claims of far-too-small “reusable” grasshopper rockets taking Elon to his retirement condo on Mars; it can’t go on much longer before it all collapses like a house of cards. Elon cries about space being hard while his adoring fans cheer on a cheap, nasty, and years-behind-schedule mediocre hobby rocket. It’s crazy and has more in common with a cult than spaceflight.
…Unfortunately legions of deluded sycophants have been brain-washed into believing NASA is the evil empire holding back “entrepreneurs” from conquering the solar system……
No one serious believes this, and no one serious claims this as what anyone serious in the emerging space industry thinks.
You understand neither government space or free enterprise space.
If you had the moral courage to have read Cordiner’s missive you might have gained some understanding of how we have reached this stage with our current dysfunctional space efforts.
“No one serious believes this,-”
A perfect example of cognitive dissonance; many, many people believe exactly what I stated. You are in denial.
I could cut and paste hundreds of comments from New Space fanatics that prove I am right and you are wrong. But what would be the point? You are a sufficient example.
Like I said, no one serious.
What is it with people who simply cannot see beyond their own narratives?
You are what you protest about.
There is a big difference between being a historian and an ideological advocate. Historians do not merely quote, they interpret. “Doing history requires investigating original sources in light of the “Five C’s of Historical Thinking”: change over time, context, causality, contingency, and complexity.” – (John Fea, Chair, History Department at Messiah College in Grantham, PA) ““However accurately we may determine the ‘facts’ of history,” he said, “the facts themselves and our interpretations of them, and our interpretation of our own interpretations, will be seen in a different perspective or a less vivid light as mankind moves into the unknown future.” – (Carl L. Becker). Historians present a thesis which must be backed up by the historical record. When it comes to the space program, historians help us learn from past experience for those working in the present to make better, more effective plans for the future.
Being an ideological advocate means taking a specific position to promote one’s worldview, in this case the privatization of space exploration as the only way humanity will explore BEO while demonizing NASA and the government. The ideological advocate presents his case like an attorney in a trial lobbying for a favorable verdict. He will selectively present “evidence” which supports his position while calling into question any other viewpoint. The endgame is not finding any “truth” but to advance the ideology being promoted.
Ideology blinds one to the historical record as it takes an open mind to form a conclusion based on the facts rather than a predetermined worldview.
Excellent post by the way…
..Being an ideological advocate means taking a specific position to promote one’s worldview, in this case the privatization of space exploration as the only way humanity will explore BEO while demonizing NASA and the government….
I don’t believe in either direction. The government CAN do this. The facts are that the government has the financial resources (our federal budget outlays have increased by over $1 trillion dollars per year since 2005) to do BEO exploration and do it in an effective manner. The fact is, as evidenced by the continuing lack of a budget (which is acknowledged by EVERYONE), that the government, meaning congress and the white house, has no interest in doing so and has other priorities that mean far more to them than space.
These are simple facts that everyone can do a modicum of research to prove.
The private space naysayers are also correct that the private sector does not (currently) have the will (again will not financial resources) to do this completely and 100% outside of the realm of government.
Again a simple fact that can be easily researched by looking at the net worth’s of just those billionaires in Silicon Valley who could fund such efforts.
It is my engineering judgement that the cost of BEO exploration has been dramatically reduced by the advance in technology over the last 4 decades to where claiming that we need the hundreds of billions of dollars that NASA claims they need to do such is also not correct.
As it is often stated by myself and a plethora of others, having a heavy lift vehicle is unnecessary for BEO exploration. NASA acknowledged this in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s with the OASIS (Orbital Aggregation Space Infrastructure System), architecture. The 2005 NASA Concept Exploration and Refinement (CE&R) contract studies also provided evidence for this assertion.
The previous NASA administrator thought differently and that is why the SLS/Constellation/ESAS architecture was developed. I go with Von Braun and company, as well as the above referenced studies that show otherwise.
The issue comes down to this. If NASA continues down an unsustainable path (as evidenced by the last Augustine commission report as well as NASA’s own statements), the time will come when the will, the money, and the architecture will be put into place that will enable the private sector to do what the government has shown itself (as evidenced by the last 42 years of no BEO exploration) unable or unwilling to do.
My posts to the people here that insist on a narrative that is not in evidence, is to point them to factual data (the federal budget over the last 50 years), and the voices of those who said that the Apollo national effort was in error (Ralph Cordiner, CEO of General Electric, General Bruce Medaris, Von Braun boss and head of the ABMA), and that a path more consistent with the American national character (utilizing private enterprise to the maximum extent possible) would be in our best interest.
Furthermore the historical position that it was Nixon, or deficits, or Vietnam that caused the end of Apollo, is not sustainable, when a more detailed look at the historical record is presented.
“As it is often stated by myself and a plethora of others, having a heavy lift vehicle is unnecessary for BEO exploration.”
And therein lies a key element in the New Space scam. The propaganda campaign against the SLS is due to the fact that BEO exploration depends on lunar resources. Acquiring cosmic ray shielding in the form of lunar water, assembling, testing, and launching the nuclear spacecraft required for any BEO human spaceflight can only happen by way of the Moon. And going to the Moon dumps the entire New Space manifesto in the trash can.
The schemes for building everything in LEO are the worst possible path as proven by the insanely expensive and worthless ISS. Blaming NASA and the Space Shuttle for this albatross does not hold water when the very difficult technical challenges of storing and transferring cyrogenic propellents are taken into account. Something that has yet to be done and considering how many years SpaceX is behind simply transporting people to the ISS, the creation of such an orbital construction and propellent depot infrastructure is pure fantasy; part of the scam. The only practical and efficient method to get to the Moon is directly with the largest vehicle possible. Goodbye SpaceX.
All the long recitations concerning politics and money and private industry versus government are all a smokescreen to obscure the simple technical details that expose New Space for what it is: scamming the taxpayer into subsidizing LEO tourism while calling it space exploration.
…The propaganda campaign against the SLS is due to the fact that BEO exploration depends on lunar resources……And going to the Moon dumps the entire New Space manifesto in the trash can.
Huh? Considering that I am one of the leading advocates of this, your statements border on the nonsensical. The economic development of the solar system is our goal. That goal goes through the Moon as a first step, a critical path, and the great enabler. I know that Elon does not buy this but that is his prerogative.
As for toy rockets, SpaceX is the only private company that I know of on the globe that now routinely puts multi-ton commercial spacecraft into GEO orbit. GEO in energy terms is more than half way to the Moon, thus again, your statements border on the nonsensical.
“Considering that I am one of the leading advocates of this-”
The world does not revolve around you Wingo. I don’t care what you advocate. If you are speaking for the entire New Space mob when you say, “economic development of the solar system is our goal”, and then exclude Musk, I have to wonder if you understand the meaning of the word nonsensical. You are certainly being misleading by calling SpaceX the only “private company” going to GEO. SpaceX would not exist without NASA and….gee whiz, how many times do I have to detail what a fabrication the whole “he did it all by himself” story is? The hobby rocket is no Moon rocket. That is plain enough to anyone who knows even a few things about launch vehicles. You can continue to try and bully me by accusing me of ignorance and moral cowardice and whatever, but as long as you keep regurgitating New Space propaganda, it is obvious who is guilty as sin. It’s not “economic development”, it is a scam to send uber-rich tourists to LEO on the taxpayers dime. Musk is trying to make money with satellites and blunders like grasshoppers and suing the air force but he can only sell low as long as NASA and the taxpayer is paying for it under the table. When the truth is finally exposed the whole New Space scam will fall apart. The sooner the better.
…“economic development of the solar system is our goal”, and then exclude Musk, ……
No one is excluding Musk. Elon does not believe in lunar development, and he has spoken on this multiple times. If you would ever look outside of your stovepipe you might have known this.
………..You are certainly being misleading by calling SpaceX the only “private company” going to GEO. …….
So because Apple sells millions of iPads and computers in the government market, Apple is not a private company? Do you ever examine your logical fallacies? Lockheed Martin, Boeing, and Northrup Grumman are certainly private companies, with shares traded in the market, and their rockets certainly would not exist without government support and beyond that they are not competitive in the commercial market. Just today SpaceX booked another commercial comsat customer. They are blowing open the global competitive landscape in the launch vehicle market to GEO.
………The hobby rocket is no Moon rocket. That is plain enough to anyone who knows even a few things about launch vehicles……….
The Falcon 9 payload to the lunar surface is about 1500 kg. Seems like it can do the Moon to me for payloads. It can put several thousand kg to GEO. These are facts of physics and launch vehicles. There is no other private company around the globe that does this. Ariana Space is owed by governments. The HII, the Proton, the Soyuz, Sea Launch, all government owned. ULA is a private enterprise but it is backed by payments of several billion dollars PER YEAR from the U.S. government just to exist.
………….to send uber-rich tourists to LEO on the taxpayers dime…………
So you don’t like rich people who help defer the cost of space infrastructure? Maybe that is your beef.
….Musk is trying to make money with satellites and blunders like grasshoppers and suing the air force but he can only sell low as long as NASA and the taxpayer is paying for it under the table…..
If your assertion were true then ULA, which gets a far greater amount of money from the U.S. government than SpaceX does, would be competitive in the global launch market for GEO spacecraft. Thus, your statement is rendered impotent of fact.
…….When the truth is finally exposed the whole New Space scam will fall apart…….
The truth is out there, but in this case, your truth does not correlate to reality. Bit of a problem that is… for your position.
“No one is excluding Musk.”
“-the Moon as a first step, a critical path, and the great enabler. I know that Elon does not buy this-” I think that excludes Musk.
“Apple is not a private company?” Apple does not need NASA holding it’s hand and actually creates it’s own products instead of using old NASA technology.
“The Falcon 9 payload to the lunar surface is about 1500 kg”
How much for the SLS?
“There is no other private company around the globe that does this.”
Again, with billions in free NASA support and taxpayer dollars coming from the ISS- there would be no SpaceX. It is “private” in name only.
“-your truth does not correlate to reality.”
Your New Space infomercial does not.
…..“-the Moon as a first step, a critical path, and the great enabler. I know that Elon does not buy this-” I think that excludes Musk…….
Your thought is incorrect. Elon is just focused on Mars.
………How much for the SLS?…………..
Zero. It isn’t flying, and NASA is not going to the Moon with it if and when it does fly.
——-Again, with billions in free NASA support and taxpayer dollars coming from the ISS- there would be no SpaceX. It is “private” in name only.——–
For which SpaceX is providing a transportation service, and at a lower price than our Russian friends, our European friends, our Japanese friends, or Orbital Sciences. In Federal Acquisition Regulations that is called the best deal for the government. ULA gets billions from the government whether they fly or not and still they are uncompetitive in the commercial launch market, which is in contrast to your contention about SpaceX subsidies.
Your refusal to acknowledge this does not change the reality of the situation.
Personally, technically, I love the Atlas V, not so much the Delta IV, but they are not competitive for a reason.
“In Federal Acquisition Regulations that is called the best deal for the government.”
Condemning and then praising the government selectively is simple trickery that fools nobody except those who want to be. It is the old confidence game that thrives on human greed. Screaming cheap when the reality is there is no cheap results in nothing except failure. The hobby rocket cannot lift what is needed to the Moon. Those who insist New Space schemes will open the solar system to human exploration are either gullible or invested in the scam. A game better suited to wall street banksters than space advocates. Shame on anyone who is playing it.
……Shame on anyone who is playing it….
The true shame is on those who refuse the truth, refuse the lessons of history, and refuse to learn when new data is laid on the table. The famous physicist Max Plank once exclaimed that science advances “one funeral at a time”. God help us if this is true in space, but it does seem to be the case.
The true shame is that even the most basic facts are twisted and put in the context of political ideology and for-profit deception. That people are made promises that cannot possibly be kept. The New Space scam is based on promising human space exploration beyond Earth orbit on the cheap- with no intention or possibility of this ever happening. The hobby rocket is for LEO and LEO is not space. It is endless circles going nowhere. The HLV is cursed and demonized because if it flies it proves New Space is a lie, a trick maintained with technobabble and endless infomercial misinformation. When people go to forums they find nothing but more deception; a legion of liars and cyberbullies dedicated to a bizarre Ayn-Rand-in-space libertarian fantasy. There are no shortage of “industry experts” with paper on the wall who are willing to lie, misrepresent, mislead, and argue till the truth is invisible beneath a pile of their foul ramblings. They disgust me as they should sicken anyone dedicated to the cause of space exploration. Shame on them.
“Apollo was betrayed by its own success, and that success was used as a weapon for most of the ill conceived socialist government policy since that time.”
Dennis Wingo, December 25, 2014
“At the end of the day the government does not give a rats rear end about what we care about. It is our job to change that. Not by trying to change the government, but by doing it ourselves..
Dennis Wingo, December 25, 2014
“The real story is that the Apollo program was used by progressives as a means to validate their ideas of government intervention in society.”
Dennis Wingo, December 26, 2014
“The end game is the economic development of the solar system. This is something that NASA is neither qualified to do or has the charter to do, that is unless your only idea of economic development is state directed.
Dennis Wingo, December 26, 2014
“The Apollo program was used as a way to force on our nation a way of government operation that infects us and weakens us to this day.”
Dennis Wingo, December 26, 2014
“The simple fact is that it was the democratic congress, backed by a democratic president, that killed the Apollo program.”
Dennis Wingo, December 28, 2014
“If NASA continues down an unsustainable path (as evidenced by the last Augustine commission report as well as NASA’s own statements), the time will come when the will, the money, and the architecture will be put into place that will enable the private sector to do what the government has shown itself (as evidenced by the last 42 years of no BEO exploration) unable or unwilling to do.”
Dennis Wingo, December 28, 2014
Anti-government and anti-NASA attitudes are commonly found among New Space proponents yet they have little to say about the billions in government funds and free NASA support that keeps their flagship “entrepreneurs” headed for the NASA funded space station. It is a common theme that “the time will come” when NASA will be privatized and for-profit will replace “state directed.”
So this ruinous self-destructive relationship plays out and the U.S. Space Program is the ultimate loser by supporting these two-faced double agents. The goal is profit and the only profit to be made in LEO is with tourists;
“So you don’t like rich people who help defer the cost of space infrastructure? Maybe that is your beef.”
Dennis Wingo replying to Gary Church December 29, 2014
“The lesson is that, ceteris paribus, very large space development projects are probably too unattractive as investments for private investors and lenders. For the current generation of space development enthusiasts, indoctrinated in the principles of neo-classical or free market economics popularized in the Reagan years, this is a very disquieting conclusion. Many exhibit a fierce libertarianism. They share an ideological conviction that private enterprise and unfettered markets are capable of overcoming almost any technological or economic obstacle. Government appears less as the driving force for space exploration than as the political and bureaucratic obstacle to technological innovation and the commercial development of space. Given the disappointing performance of NASA in the 1970’s and 1980’s, convictions such as these are hardly surprising (Kay 1995:161-171). Space development enthusiasts watched as government funding for NASA programs declined steadily while important opportunities for commercial launch capability and space industrialization in near Earth space were lost. Yet the “lessons” drawn about from the disappointments of the 1970’s and 1980’s are probably the wrong lessons for space development. Government participation in the economic development of space is essential. Why else would promoters combine libertarian denunciations of the government’s role in space development with political demands for indirect subsidies in the form of tax credits for space commerce and the privatization of public assets in the form of the International Space Station (Lehrer 1999). Complaints about the role of government in space development would be more convincing if private sector efforts in space had produced comparable results. Government space programs can point to records of successfully launching interplanetary probes and spacecraft with human crews. Even after all the excuses have been made, the record of private sector accomplishments in space is unimpressive. Of course, identifying space sector efforts as “private” is somewhat problematic because many employ technology developed with government funds, or employ castoff parts and borrowed facilities from government programs, or anticipate that the government will be their primary buyer.
The fundamental problem in opening any contemporary frontier, whether geographic or technological, is not lack of imagination or will, but lack of capital to finance initial construction which makes the subsequent and typically more profitable economic development possible. Solving this fundamental problem involves using one or more forms of direct or indirect government intervention in the capital market.
When space development enthusiasts describe how permanent human communities might be established in space, they often draw analogies to the European colonization of the Americas and to the “winning” of the western frontiers of the United States and Canada, analogies which are often given a very contemporary libertarian spin. Complex historical processes are offered up as examples of the triumph of individualism and private enterprise.
The unspun truth about European colonization in the Americas, and in Asia and Africa, is that the state played a central role in all colonial enterprises. European colonies often emerged out of trading ventures organized as joint stock companies chartered by the colonizing state and in which the crown invested both its prestige and its capital. Colonial territory was conquered and defended by soldiers and sailors paid either by the colonizing state or the local colonial state. Plantations and mines were often directly owned by the local colonial state. Trading monopolies and tax privileges granted by the colonizing state to the local colonial state were used to attract capital investment. Indeed, conceptual distinctions between public and private economic activity which seem so clear today were much less clear in the heyday of colonialism.
The unspun truth about the “winning” of the western frontiers of the United States and Canada make for even poorer libertarian dramas. Notwithstanding all the hardy pioneers in their covered wagons, the western frontier of the United States was really “won” by the U.S. Army and the construction of the railroads which were capitalized by enormous Federal land grants. Similarly, the western frontier of Canada was “won” by cash grants, subsidies, loans, and the guarantee of bond issues by the Canadian government to finance the construction of the railroads.” – “The Political Economy of Very Large Space Projects”, John Hickman, Ph. D., JOURNAL OF EVOLUTION AND TECHNOLOGY, Volume 4, November 1999, http://www.jetpress.org/volume4/space.htm
The immense governmental resources required for establishing a permanent human presence Beyond Earth Orbit, and most importantly concerning New Space, even above Low Earth Orbit, are out of reach of “Entrepreneurs.” And that term is of questionable accuracy concerning New Space considering the government funding and invisible support they already enjoy. Super Heavy Lift Vehicles, nuclear energy, a lunar resource infrastructure- all are far beyond the very limited capabilities of New Space companies. Which makes the promises they make and plans they advertise false promises and false advertising. In other words, as I continue to state, it’s a scam.
Again, an excellent post. I am also well aware of the real contradiction between the libertarian wing of the space movement that while private capital was available during the years when Teledesic and many other ventures were growing, and the scramble to have the government subsidize their dreams when that collapsed. That was where I began parting ways with that crowd.
I certainly understand and support the role of government in providing infrastructure and have written about this on many occasions, going all the way back to Phoenician state support for shipping and Roman roads. In the more modern context there was the state of New York support in providing a monopoly to Robert Fulton that allowed him to obtain the capital to build the world’s first steamship. (See the book “Fire in His Mind” by Kirkpatrick Sale). Then it was the Erie canal, the New York railroad and others. One interesting one was when the state of Virginia bought shares in railroad companies that build track through the state. This provided the critical infrastructure for the Confederacy during the war between the states. This goes to the Pacific Railway Act of 1862, pushed by the former railroad lawyer turned president named Lincoln. This public private partnership provided the capital needed for the Union Pacific and Central Pacific to bridge the nation.
Going into the 20th century we have the Panama Canal, the National Highway Act of 1926, the construction of the Hoover dam, the Airmail Act, the Interstate and Defense Highway Act of 1956, all where infrastructure systems for the benefit of the nation.
I get all of that, and know that a libertarian government would have never built any of it. I am not of that ilk.
This infrastructure based, or “internal improvements” as Lincoln called them, gave way in the Kennedy era to a new and more dangerous intervention in the national fabric by the “new men” of the day. McDougall chronicles this in an amazing fashion in his book “The Heavens and the Earth, A Political History of the Space Age”.
I am just going to provide a few quotes as this is the subject of my next wordpress post. Robert McNamara in my opinion is one of the lead authors of many of our current technocratic ills. Here is a quote from page 322 of Heavens and the Earth. This quote is regarding the approval of the Apollo program.
….He also believed, and everyone concurred, that large space projects “reflect the capacity and will of the nation to harness its technological, economic, and managerial resources for a common goal.” Apollo was proposed; no one dissented……
McDougall goes on to reference a Webb-McNamara report (gotta dig that one up) that has this gem in it.
…Soviet attainments, the report suggested, were the result of a program planned and executed at the national level over a long period of time, while the United States had “OVER ENCOURAGED [my emphasis] the development of entrepreneurs and the development of new enterprises.”
What the hell were they thinking!
then the horror.
“Of all of the programs planned, perhaps the greatest unsurpassed prestige will accrue to the nation which first sends man to the moon and returns him safely to earth.”
[me] Thus the entire goal of the Apollo program was a mad men like public relations stunt!
Here is the money quote from page 323…
Where the Eisenhower men doubled and tripled spending on science, education, and R&D, it was there intention to contain as far as possible the effects on TRADITIONAL VALUES [my emphasis] and social institutions and the relationship of the public and private sectors. The men who launched Apollo came to office dissatisfied with existing state management of the national treasure and talent, and began to view the space program as a catalyst for technological revolution, social progress, and even the “restructuring of institutions” in ways that were dimly foreseen but assumed to be “PROGRESSIVE” [my emphasis].
As we know today, this did not work in the Soviet Union and we are bearing the fruits of this dysfunction in our government as well. The Affordable Care Act is the current “Moonshot” of the progressive mindset.
This is exactly the mistake that Ralph Cordiner, Bruce Medaris, and even Ronald Reagan in his “Time for Choosing” speech was exclaiming that the nation was making….
We see this today in NASA/Congress/White House and the completely dysfunctional space program that we have.
“then the horror.
“Of all of the programs planned, perhaps the greatest unsurpassed prestige will accrue to the nation which first sends man to the moon and returns him safely to earth.”
[me] Thus the entire goal of the Apollo program was a mad men like public relations stunt!”
The goal was to send man to the moon and return him safely. Stating that it was in some horrible way “a stunt” disrespects the hundreds of thousands of people who sacrificed and triumphed in the endeavor, and the three who died. I condemn such statements and have no respect for a person that writes such trash.
This is just too much.
… disrespects the hundreds of thousands of people who sacrificed and triumphed in the endeavor, and the three who died. I condemn such statements and have no respect for a person that writes such trash…..
You wanna know what really disrespects those people? The death of the Apollo program and our 42 year aftermath of not going any farther with manned space exploration. These people are old now and most of them don’t understand why we have not moved beyond what we did in the Apollo era. By examining the history of those in charge at the time and what their motivations were, we can finally start to understand it and to then formulate a path forward.
I for one am unwilling to see another generation pass without opening the space frontier. The current path is unsustainable, and everyone who understands the politics and realities sees it.
The sudden switch from damning to praising gives your sick game away. Manipulation and obfuscation is the New Space way of burying any criticism. Veiled insults, endless lengthy political dissertations; repeated a thousand fold on every forum where space used to be discussed without such garbage driving away anyone not part of their gang of cyberthugs. When the New Space liars and bullies get called on their perfidy they babble and recant and make like it is all such good fun. Truly disgusting.
“You wanna know what really disrespects those people?”
I already know Wingo- I just spelled it out as clear as possible without using the foul language you deserve. You just disrespected them and now want to move on.
…endless lengthy political dissertations; …
Yea, God help us for trying to put the Apollo program into the context of the times and the reason that as president Kennedy asked “Why do we want to distort the budget to do this rather than spend $7 million dollars on a desalination plant”.
No wonder we have not made more progress, with this kind of thought pattern.
Gary Church you are violating the commenting rules by insinuating that people are new space liars and bullies. 😉
And the little model rocket sends another flight to GEO.
What will Spacex do this the profit? Build a reusable affordable BFR?
Spend the Money wisely on R&D, taking lessons learned from old NASA research and actually making them Work??
Say you are right! Say its a scam to start a Leo tourism business. Wouldn’t self sustaining people living in Space be Great progress? The Settlement of LEO!!! Cool! 🙂
Putting a satellite up is one thing- even North Korea did that and without NASA help- but setting back actual BEO human spaceflight efforts with a tourist scam is not “cool”- it is criminal. You are cheering for the other team and don’t even know it.
Did you really try to compare Spacex launch capabilities with North Korea? Trolling much? I would love to see some actual information on why you see Spacex as a scam other than you just saying that it is. Plus why do you keep using the term New Space like its a curse word. “New Space” was put in place so NASA could focus more of their limited resources on BEO missions rather having to launch for everyone. And it seems to be working with more money being directed at SLS upcoming year.
You are violating the commenting rules calling me a troll.
I didn’t call “you” a troll, I said “Trolling much?”, because it seems like your posting comments looking to spark conflict. As well as spamming your distaste of commercial space like SpaceX.
But in the end you didn’t even answer what I asked either, so I’ll rant on “New Space”
I want to see more space travel, I want to Apollo level missions and beyond. Commercial space will free up NASA to do those things, they won’t have to worry about LEO missions, or even GEO. They will be free to focus on SLS and other deep space craft.
You are violating the commenting rules by accusing me of spamming.
Actually I’m not, but whatever you say.
– Don’t use foul language.
– Don’t resort to ad hominem attacks.
– Don’t lie.
– Don’t spam.
– Check your ego at the door.
– Don’t discuss “B” when “A” is actually the point of discussion. If you can’t address the points at hand please don’t post.
I am doing my best.
“-it seems like your posting comments looking to spark conflict.”
No. Simply telling it like it is. You call it spam, I call it truth.
Once a basic grasp of how space flight works is realized it becomes quite obvious what the New Space game plan is. Occam’s razor and all that; the only thing left after all the Bravo Sierra is hosed off the wall is space tourism. That so many people have been deluded into thinking otherwise and so many more are completely drowning out the truth with propaganda is how New Space has done so much damage to the cause of space exploration.
……Not much has changed in physics or materials science and the rocket equation tells us that what worked then is the only thing that will work now. And that…completely screws up the New Space game plan……
Yet, your wisdom is such that it is greater than that of Von Braun, who in his 1958 Horizon showed how that with launch vehicles with no more lift capacity than the Delta IVH or Atlas V we could build a vehicle to send 18 men to the Moon.
Your wisdom is also greater than those who authored the OASIS and RASC reports that also showed how, with orbital assembly this could be done.
Your wisdom is also greater than Mike Duke of NASA, who for 50 years showed us how we could reduce the size of launch vehicles by the utilization of lunar resources, thus enabling the economic development and colonization of the solar system.
Your wisdom is also greater than that of Gordon Woodcock, long time senior advisor to the National Space Society and author of a plethora of papers showing how this can be done without heavy lift launch vehicles.
I submit that it is you that is wrong, you who do not understand that there is more than one way to accomplish the goal of the exploration and development of the solar system.
Your wisdom is an empty chair.
The first fact that is constantly warred upon by the New Space thought police is the central device of this opinion piece: the Heavy Lift Vehicle. While most think the space age started way back when and is ongoing, in truth it began with Apollo 8, ended with Apollo 17, and so lasted just short of four years. So call it four years- that was it, 1968 to 1972. Those Apollo Heavy lift missions were the only times that human beings left Earth’s gravity field. It was only accomplished with a HLV (defined as able to lift 100 tons to LEO) and using hydrogen upper stages it only just barely did the job. Not much has changed in physics or materials science and the rocket equation tells us that what worked then is the only thing that will work now. And that…completely screws up the New Space game plan.
The second problem, after the inconvenient HLV truthers, is the inadequacy of the profit motive to effect a permanent human presence in space. This seems to drive the libertarian and conservative element in the New Space mob completely nuts. To state unequivocally that only vast governmental resources are capable of getting humankind off planet Earth generates epic outrage and psychotic denial. Unfortunately it is true. Really. NASA DID follow the state run Soviet model and it did succeed. Unless a person thinks the Moon landings were a hoax, this is the reality. No scheme to make money off space has ever worked except the telecommunication satellite industry. And that does not take humans anywhere and for satellites it stops at GEO.
And Third, the elephant in the room; space radiation. The very best work explaining this subject in layman’s terms is also the most rarely cited. The reason so few have read it is because it is the truth and very bad news for anyone hoping to travel in space on the cheap.
Traveling in space is not going to happen using the present aerospace design philosophy. A true spaceship will in fact be somewhat like a ship on the ocean in that it will be wrapped in a large mass of water. Thousands of tons of water. This is unavoidable and of course generates automatic denial among space enthusiasts. It simple turns everything upside down and seems to make space travel an impossible dream. So the HLV truthers and the Old Space preventers are bad enough for the New Space mob but the cosmic ray elephant is heresy. Completely unacceptable.
The good news is that we can build HLVs. The more of them we build the cheaper they get and we can build them much, much larger than the Saturn V. The defense industry leaves absolutely no doubt of that; some of their projects make the Saturn V look cheap. Solid rocket booster and hydrogen engine technology can lift everything we need- except thousands of tons of tap water for radiation shielding. But why lift anything if it is just pouring money into the void? And since we can’t go anywhere except around the corner to the Moon because of space radiation what is the point? The answer to these questions came when evidence for water ice- hundreds of millions of tons of it- was discovered by the Indian Chandrayaan lunar probe radar imaging the north pole of the Moon in 2008.
With this water we have a resource 6 times easier to put into space than water from Earth. That shielding means the GEO satellites- an over 100 billion dollar a year revenue generator- can be replaced with water shielded human crewed space stations. There is the money. The lunar water also means shielding for true spaceships capable of multi-year journeys. The Moon being outside the magnetosphere means that nuclear energy can be used without any restrictions or possibility of contaminating Earth. That allows those thousands of tons of spaceship shielding to be pushed around the solar system.
The ice on the Moon should be the central focus of the entire human spaceflight community. Instead all anyone hears about is trying to land a kerosene hobby rocket on a barge.
“I would love to see some actual information on why you see Spacex as a scam other than you just saying that it is. Plus why do you keep using the term New Space like its a curse word?”
I tell you what, I agree with most of what your saying Mr. Church. To get past BEO it’s going to cost tons of cash and that is commercially unfeasible. I would to add that is why New space is good. It’s allowing NASA to get out of the Leo business and focus on SLS and beyond. NASA has commitments with leo right now and rather allow the US space industry fall they created the commercial programs. It’s OK to disagree with me, I’m also sorry that some “new space folk” treated you bad. Let’s hug it out with words.
You state d examples in history of government building infrastructure railroadsand such. Well Public Space is not build infrastructure, They are very inefficiently building an expendable rocket SLS and dumping our space future in the sea.