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space (spās) n. 1. space beyond the atmosphere of the earth.

prag·ma·tism (prgm-tzm) n. A way of approaching situations or solving problems that emphasizes practical applications and consequences.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Space Community Infighting revisited

I would like to back up a little and state my views on space access. Based on the comments I got on my Heavy Lift vs multiple Lift entry, I think I have not made myself clear.

In my ideal world, NASA would only build what no one has ever built before (and by NASA I mean Lockheed and Boeing as well). This would include the beginnings of a Moon base, perhaps a Mars space craft, a Mars base, and so on. Private industry would take over the stuff that has been done, such as launch to LEO, Lunar modules, communications, imaging, etc... As things became more common place, private interests would take people to the Moon and construct their own Lunar bases.

I am basically a supporter of the NASA -> Unexplored frontiers, Private->Open Frontiers. This doesn't mean waiting until something is easy before passing it if off to private companies, but until that we know it isn't impossible, just hard. Really it isn't a matter of "passing it on" so much as it is, understanding the problem well enough to convince investors you can do it. So whenever private industry can do that, they should go for it, NASA or no. So all you alt.space guys, give me a break. I am on your side.

That being said, as my profile suggests, I am not stuck on the idea. If NASA goes to the Moon, against my good advise :), with it's own heavy lifter (shuttle-C or whatever), then I am not going to pout and stay home in protest when my shot comes up.

Now when I discussed "paralysis by analysis" previously, I did not make it clear, I am not talking about private industry. Of course space companies are going to fight over design ideas? That's the beginnings of competition. Go! Debate! Attack each others ideas? That is what this country was founded on. But I bet none of you (the good ones anyway) would expect your company to sit around writing a business plan for 2 or 3 years because you couldn't come to an agreement on what architecture you business will run under.

I am assuming (based on everything I have read) that NASA is going to build their own rocket (wasteful as that may be) and they are going to spend $1 or $2 billion on spinning their wheels over how to do it. The mentality that I hear outside of NASA, I fear, mirrors the debate inside of NASA. It is comments like this that bother me (No offense meant to any of the follow people. I love you guys - djs)

...there is no better way to kill the VSE program than to start it off with a costly expendable rocket program. - Clark Lindsey

Some people within the aerospace establishment understand that the development of a heavy lift vehicle is essential for a successful Lunar program,... - Robert Zubrin

The consensus is that the Vision for Space Exploration requires a new heavy-lift launch vehicle - Taylor Dinerman


The idea that if you pick the wrong one, the entire program is doomed to failure is what creates "religious wars." I believe multiple launches (preferably purchase from somebody like SpaceX) is the way to go. Do I think we will get there with a Shuttle derived HLV? Yeah. Will it cost more? Most likely. Will it be less scalable? Yeah. But NASA stays in conference rooms arguing this until 2020, it will cost a lot more and may not happen at all. People can be very finicky when they aren't seeing any progress.

Well there you go. Feel free to pick my argument apart now...

1 comment:

Michael Mealling said...

My comment and specifically my post were more in response to some of the stuff at Space Access last week than your particular article. I definitely agree with your points.

I think the issue is whether or not you're dealing with a zero sum funding source. In government you have to fight to get the money you need and even then its at the cost of someone else who wants that funding just as badly. Out here in the commercial world we know there's room to grow in ways that aren't zero sum. And unless you're used to thinking both ways, the others behavior is baffling.

BTW, good blog! Don't let it burn you out! ;-)