Author Topic: NASA's New Direction  (Read 60835 times)

Offline Proponent

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NASA's New Direction
« on: 11/30/2016 01:07 PM »
Some weeks ago, it was noted that a Trump piece on space policy co-authored by former congressman Robert Walker emphasized commercial participation in the US space program.  Since it also failed to mention either Orion or SLS, some* inferred that a Trump administration would likely cancel both.

Walker has since been removed from Trump's transition team.  Furthermore, the like-minded Mark Albrecht has been assigned to the DoD "landing team," as it's being called.  Thus, two of the strongest pro-commercial advocates are out now out of the civilian space-policy loop.

In the meantime, Chris Shank has been appointed to lead the NASA landing team.  Shank is a retired congressional staffer, who supported Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Tenn.).  Given that Smith is a strong advocate of Orion and SLS, I think supporters of those two programs can now breathe a sigh of relief.

Smith has also been critical of ARM, and, along with Sen. Babin, has just launched another critical inquiry into it.

So, my bets, most confident first, are:

  1. Earth sciences are cut (we all know that, right?).
  2. SLS and Orion carry on.
  3. ARM dies.

Of course, we're all still wondering who the new NASA administrator might be.  People we've heard about in the media lately -- not that it has to be one of them -- who seem to still be in the frame are Rep. Brindenstine, Scott Pace and Eileen Collins.  Maybe Mike Griffin, though I'm not sure he qualifies as someone we've heard about lately.  They are all consistent with keeping Orion/SLS.  That Trump seems attracted to hero-figures must be a plus for Collins.



* At first I wrote "many people" in place of "some," but that sounded too much like something Trump would say!

Offline redliox

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Re: NASA's New Direction
« Reply #1 on: 11/30/2016 02:55 PM »
In the meantime, Chris Shank has been appointed to lead the NASA landing team.  Shank is a retired congressional staffer, who supported Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Tenn.).  Given that Smith is a strong advocate of Orion and SLS, I think supporters of those two programs can now breathe a sigh of relief.

Smith has also been critical of ARM, and, along with Sen. Babin, has just launched another critical inquiry into it.

So, my bets, most confident first, are:

  1. Earth sciences are cut (we all know that, right?).
  2. SLS and Orion carry on.
  3. ARM dies.

Just read the news about Shank, as well as about the letter inquiring about ARM.  Both I suppose mark a start to the transition (or New Direction likewise).  I think I could agree with the 3 items you specify; if nothing else they sound like things any Republican candidate might do under the current circumstances. 

Of course, we're all still wondering who the new NASA administrator might be.  People we've heard about in the media lately -- not that it has to be one of them -- who seem to still be in the frame are Rep. Brindenstine, Scott Pace and Eileen Collins.  Maybe Mike Griffin, though I'm not sure he qualifies as someone we've heard about lately.  They are all consistent with keeping Orion/SLS.  That Trump seems attracted to hero-figures must be a plus for Collins.

Maybe Eileen, but hard to say still.  With the transition team assembling we'll see a name shortly so I'm not placing bets.
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Offline yg1968

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Re: NASA's New Direction
« Reply #2 on: 12/01/2016 05:09 AM »
This may or may not be true

http://spacenews.com/trump-names-insider-to-lead-nasa-transition

"In a Nov. 29 statement, the office of President-elect Trump announced that Chris Shank will serve on the landing team for NASA, the first individual named to date to handle transition issues for the space agency"

Its true according to the website for the Office of the President Elect and of the Vice President Elect:
https://www.greatagain.gov/news/president-elect-trump-announces-additional-agency-landing-team-members-3.html

In case you are wondering, Shank was pro-SLS and Orion and not a friend of commercial crew when he was a Republican staffer in the House. Although at this point, most in the House have given up on the idea of derailing commercial crew since the demo flights are not that far off.

Online enzo

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Re: NASA's New Direction
« Reply #3 on: 12/02/2016 01:47 AM »
Excerpt from Trump's speech in Ohio tonight 12/1/16
Quote
"We are the nation that won two world wars, that dug out the Panama canal, that put a man on the moon, and satellites all over space. But somewhere along the way, we started thinking small. I'm asking you to dream big again, and bold and daring things for your country will happen once again. I'm asking you to join me in this next chapter of this unbelievable and unprecedented movement, as we work toward prosperity at home, peace abroad, and new frontiers in science, technology, and space."
We have heard promises like that before, but it is notable how he mentions space prominently in such grandiose context. That is something new.

Offline yg1968

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Re: NASA's New Direction
« Reply #4 on: 12/09/2016 08:06 PM »

Offline Roy_H

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Re: NASA's New Direction
« Reply #5 on: 12/10/2016 09:10 AM »
I think there will be a strong push back on Earth Sciences after all it's not just climate change.
Greg Autry is opposed to continuing the SLS, arguing that Blue Origin and SpaceX can provide better rockets for lower price. Orion will remain.
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Online AncientU

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Re: NASA's New Direction
« Reply #6 on: 12/10/2016 11:39 AM »
Six more added to the NASA transition team:
http://spacenews.com/trump-adds-steve-cook-sandy-magnus-to-nasa-transition-team/

Quite a diversity of perspectives being assembled.  If this group is allowed to blue sky discuss NASA's potential new direction(s), it will be quite interesting.  There doesn't appear to be a single approach/theme as far as exploration goes...

Hope some of that discussion is aired to the public.
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Offline Danderman

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Re: NASA's New Direction
« Reply #7 on: 12/13/2016 07:50 PM »
Another possibility is that Commercial Crew will be slipped into the future and that NASA will buy more rides on Soyuz.


Offline Steven Pietrobon

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Re: NASA's New Direction
« Reply #8 on: 12/21/2016 03:09 AM »
Greg Autry, who is on the Trump NASA Transition Team, had this to say about NASA on 15 October.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/gregautry/2016/10/15/space-policy-101-for-clinton-and-trump/#55a319962853

"We support the spirit of Senate efforts to stabilize NASA’s budget and go a step further by immediately increasing NASA allocation by 50% to $27 billion, annually adjusted for inflation."

"We will fully fund the Commercial Crew Program, which builds on the success of the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) in resupplying the space station."

"We will discontinue spending on Space Launch System (SLS), a giant government rocket, lacking both innovation and a mission."

"NASA’s manned program lacks a mission. We support President Obama’s call for a firm commitment to Mars. Importantly, we will not plant a flag, collect some rocks and then pack up. Our goal must be to establish an economically sustainable human presence in our Solar System."
« Last Edit: 12/21/2016 03:11 AM by Steven Pietrobon »
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Offline redliox

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Re: NASA's New Direction
« Reply #9 on: 12/21/2016 03:32 AM »
Greg Autry, who is on the Trump NASA Transition Team, had this to say about NASA on 15 October.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/gregautry/2016/10/15/space-policy-101-for-clinton-and-trump/#55a319962853

"We support the spirit of Senate efforts to stabilize NASA’s budget and go a step further by immediately increasing NASA allocation by 50% to $27 billion, annually adjusted for inflation."

"We will fully fund the Commercial Crew Program, which builds on the success of the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) in resupplying the space station."

"We will discontinue spending on Space Launch System (SLS), a giant government rocket, lacking both innovation and a mission."

"NASA’s manned program lacks a mission. We support President Obama’s call for a firm commitment to Mars. Importantly, we will not plant a flag, collect some rocks and then pack up. Our goal must be to establish an economically sustainable human presence in our Solar System."

Hard to say if this can be taken at face value or not, mainly because it's dated from back in October and it isn't directly from Trump himself.  Outright canceling the SLS isn't the best idea given how the first one is literally under construction now, although I don't think Trump would approve of its expense and slow progress either.  The notion of significantly increasing NASA's budget, considering commercial flight more readily, and still aiming for Mars are all commendable and hopefully Trump's intentions rather than more election bluster.
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Offline Proponent

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Re: NASA's New Direction
« Reply #10 on: 12/21/2016 11:48 AM »
Outright canceling the SLS isn't the best idea given how the first one is literally under construction now....

The first flight of SLS will serve only as a test of the launch vehicle, ex-EUS, and of Orion.  Any operational use of the launch vehicle will be at least four years and $8+ billion in the future, and quite likely six years and $12+ billion, even if one regards the first flight of EUS as operational.  Hence, I don't see the planned 2018 launch of SLS by itself as reason to keep SLS going.

If confidence is high that Orion will someday fly operationally but not on SLS, then the question that needs to be asked is whether it's worth spending $4 billion or so to test-fly it on SLS in a couple of years' time.  If such confidence is low, then the relevant question is whether it's worth $10 billion or so to make SLS operational in several years' time.
« Last Edit: 12/21/2016 12:32 PM by Proponent »

Offline clongton

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Re: NASA's New Direction
« Reply #11 on: 12/21/2016 12:37 PM »
Outright canceling the SLS isn't the best idea given how the first one is literally under construction now, although I don't think Trump would approve of its expense and slow progress either. 

Wouldn't be the first time.
Ares-I was allowed to have a full up test flight and then cancelled.
J-2X was brought to full completion, fully tested and then shelved indefinitely.

Plus the first operational flight of the SLS vehicle would likely be in the 2nd half of Trump's second term.

The first flight of SLS will serve only as a test of the launch vehicle, ex-EUS, and of Orion.  Any operational use of the launch vehicle will be at least four years and $8+ billion in the future, and quite likely six years and $12+ billion, even if one regards the first flight of EUS as operational.  Hence, I don't see the planned 2018 launch of SLS by itself as reason to keep SLS going.

« Last Edit: 12/21/2016 12:40 PM by clongton »
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Offline Mark S

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Re: NASA's New Direction
« Reply #12 on: 12/21/2016 02:14 PM »
Brilliant. If every new President cancels the previous President's space plans, we will never get off this rock.

Wait and see what happens when they cancel SLS. My prediction is that NASA's budget will be cut by that program's budget amount (or more), and the promised $27B budget will evaporate like the morning's dew. ISS will be canceled also, since it was built by the evul gubmint. And presto, no more need for commercial cargo or crew! Two birds with one stone.

Just think of the yuge savings! NASA can go back to designing airfoils for Boeing or something. Leave space to all those commercial space station providers. You know, like Russia and China. No use wasting taxpayers money on space boondoggles when it could be spent on tax cuts for the rich instead.

Cheers and happy holidays!

Offline Lar

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Re: NASA's New Direction
« Reply #13 on: 12/21/2016 03:13 PM »
Brilliant. If every new President cancels the previous President's space plans, we will never get off this rock.

... under the assumption that only government agencies can build space transportation infrastructure. That may turn out to be a false assumption.  Jury is out.  But that's a bit off topic.
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Offline Danderman

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Re: NASA's New Direction
« Reply #14 on: 12/21/2016 03:19 PM »
Since it doesn't cost anything, privatization of the US segment of ISS should be on the table.

Offline Proponent

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Re: NASA's New Direction
« Reply #15 on: 12/21/2016 03:33 PM »
Brilliant. If every new President cancels the previous President's space plans, we will never get off this rock.....

Come to think of it, this may actually be the best argument for NASA to rely on commercially available systems to the greatest extent possible.  Systems in commercial use, e.g., launch services sold to multiple customers, are much less subject to cancelation for political reasons.  There will still be NASA-unique systems to be funded, but the fewer of those, the fewer critical political battles need be won to actually get something worthwhile done.

Personally, though, I don't expect Orion or SLS to be canceled anytime soon.
« Last Edit: 12/21/2016 03:34 PM by Proponent »

Offline Danderman

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Re: NASA's New Direction
« Reply #16 on: 12/21/2016 03:51 PM »
Although we all love Von Braunian mega projects to explore the solar system, one path that is rarely mentioned is the simple expansion of human activities into orbit to the point where pushing off to the Moon or Mars is trivial. Those from the USA know that there never really was a master plan for stealing the country from the natives, people just picked up and moved from the coast to places where they could make a living beyond the mountains, and from there to the Mississippi, and from there to the next coast. Similarly, we might see extensive commercial development in orbit, with cheap transportation allowing someone to make some $$ operating in lunar orbit, shampoo, rinse, repeat.

That kind of broad based but slow expansion would be virtually impossible to stop for transitory political reasons.
« Last Edit: 12/21/2016 03:52 PM by Danderman »

Offline bad_astra

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Re: NASA's New Direction
« Reply #17 on: 12/21/2016 05:15 PM »
I can see SLS remaining for awhile due to momentum and its constituency. Launching it once will look good, and be forgotten quickly. How many non-Space fantatics who watched the Stick launch once actually even remember it? Americans have gotten use to the fact, if they know about it at all, that we have no crewed spacecraft and that the shuttles are retired, and they probably are complacently ok with that.

Its hard to see any future administration wanting to make SLS the backbone of their space policy, if they even have one. How long as it been since we really had one? Maybe the early days of the Obama Administration with Lori Garver and the pro-commercial aspects. Some of that survived. SLS and current vaguery was a compromise to the pro Constellation legislators.

If SLS launches once every two or three years doing what appears to most people as a poor rendition of Apollo, what gain does a president get from it? Commercial, if only because it has shown a vision, has left NASA's program of reference in the dust as what people think of as the future of manned spaceflight.

If there had been robust funding and a true near-term obtainable goal I'd be the biggest fan of SLS. Still would be. But I won't feel bad when it gets inevitably cancelled, at this point.


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Offline bad_astra

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Re: NASA's New Direction
« Reply #18 on: 12/21/2016 05:22 PM »
I think there will be a strong push back on Earth Sciences after all it's not just climate change.
Greg Autry is opposed to continuing the SLS, arguing that Blue Origin and SpaceX can provide better rockets for lower price. Orion will remain.

That would make Orion quite a survivor. It has survived Ares I and V, endured SLS, said farewell to J2x, had a modified ATV forced upon it, and flown Delta without earning miles. What on earth will they do with it in this scenario? SpaceX hasn't demonstrated a need for it, neither has Blue Origin.
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Offline deltaV

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Re: NASA's New Direction
« Reply #19 on: 12/21/2016 05:38 PM »
Brilliant. If every new President cancels the previous President's space plans, we will never get off this rock.

SLS is the Senate's space plan jobs and fireworks plan, not Obama's. Trump may find SLS as difficult to cancel as Obama did.
« Last Edit: 12/21/2016 05:39 PM by deltaV »

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