Author Topic: How much should NASA get?  (Read 4251 times)

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How much should NASA get?
« on: 01/21/2007 12:52 AM »
Since we are coming up on major election in the US - new president, new congress, and 1/3 of a new senate, and we're all curious about how that will play out vis--vis NASA, I'd like to take an informal poll - how much support is there here among members of NSF?

I assume everyone here supports space fight in some way - that seems like a given.  But my question is, how many of you actually support NASA and VSE - i.e., the status quo?  There seem to be a variety of opinions here somewhat at odds with the current plans for NASA (not that there's anything wrong with that, it's a free country, after all).

From reading the posts on this site over the past few months, it seems like we have here (and I apologize in advance for the following simplistic mis-representations):

The Mars First crowd - who think going back to the moon is a waste of time and resources.

The anti-Ares crowd(s) - who think almost anything else is a better idea (nuclear, direct, space planes, tethers, elevators, etc.)

The libertarians - who think space flight should be left to the private sector.

The robot crowd - who think manned spaceflight is expensive and unnecessary.

The anti-NASA crowd - who think that NASA is an aging stupid bloated money sink.

I'm not interested in a debate of these points of view, and I recognize I haven't done them justice here.  

My question is - how much do you think we should spend on NASA?  If your congressman called and asked you how to fund NASA and VSE, what would you recommend?  

Increase?  Decrease?  Blank check?  Nothing?  


(apologies for the US-centric post.)












Offline spaceflight101

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Re: How much should NASA get?
« Reply #1 on: 01/21/2007 01:51 AM »
I spoke with Marcia Smith when I attended the final public hearing of the CAIB, and I floated 1% of the national budget. That way, it would ensure that NASA would get an increase every year, and keep up with inflation.

The major problem is that the direction of NASA is set by the President, and if the next one thinks that Disney should run human spaceflight, you can bet that it will be done.

The exploration of space is by its nature a multigenerational task. A direction should be agreed upon (or chosen), and plans should be made to accomplish the goals of that direction. The task of the Administrator should be to prepare and deliver a report to Congress every year with a progress report-these are the goals, this is the progress we've made this year, and this is what we hope to accomplish next year.

Too many people think that NASA should be able to give hard numbers for tasks that have never been done. They reel at the total costs, even though they represent 30 years of work.

NASA is not General Motors or Harley-Davidson.
GM developers can tell management how much it will cost to build a new Silverado, because they've been doing it for years.
Harley can tell its management how much it will cost to build a Sportster because they've been doing it since 1957.
NASA cannot tell you how much it will cost to go to Mars any more than the engineers who built the Trans-Continental Railroad could tell their bosses how much linking the continent would cost for the same reason:
No one has done it before.

As far as the Mars First crowd goes, they ignore the fact that it's been 33 years since a human has landed a craft on any celestial body. The knowledge base has been lost, and let's be real, we have to learn how to crawl before we can walk, and learn how to walk before we can run. John Glenn didn't go to the Moon, did he?

Haste here will be paid for with human lives.

If NASA had a 1% budget, you could have all the science, unmanned, and manned programs you wanted.

But there are a surprising number of people who think that NASA's budget could cure world hunger, cancer, and give everyone a 52" plasma HDTV, and so they complain on their cell phones, and Internet-linked computers while they drive their microprocessor-based cars with satellite navigation to their energy-efficient homes (using technology from NASA) and watch their football games on their satellite TV.

Just a few thoughts...

Online MATTBLAK

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RE: How much should NASA get?
« Reply #2 on: 01/21/2007 02:27 AM »
Although I can't see it happening, I'd like to see signed into law that Nasa gets a guaranteed full 1% percent of the U.S. Federal Budget every year. This would boost their budget from currently $17 billion per year to about $21 billion. With this kind of money they could bring Ares 1/Orion online a full year earlier and perhaps fly Shuttle another year to better finish and stock up ISS. This would also reduce the manned spaceflight gap between Shuttle and ISS from 4 years to 2 years. And also, it would speed up Constellation systems development for the return to the Moon...   :)
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Offline CuddlyRocket

Re: How much should NASA get?
« Reply #3 on: 01/21/2007 08:20 AM »
$50 billion per annum. That will put some beef behind the space program!

Hey, it's not my money! :)

Offline vt_hokie

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RE: How much should NASA get?
« Reply #4 on: 01/21/2007 09:50 AM »
I wish we could direct a small portion of funds to complete something like the Kistler K-1.  For a small fraction of what we'll spend on Ares, we could demonstrate the viability of a fully reuseable launch vehicle.

Offline mr.columbus

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RE: How much should NASA get?
« Reply #5 on: 01/21/2007 10:30 AM »
Quote
vt_hokie - 21/1/2007  5:50 AM

I wish we could direct a small portion of funds to complete something like the Kistler K-1.  For a small fraction of what we'll spend on Ares, we could demonstrate the viability of a fully reuseable launch vehicle.

But even though it might only be a small fraction of the cost of the development of Ares I and Ares V, tax money spent on the K-1 may very well be wasted. Remember, there have been hundreds of millions spend on the K-1 for more than a decade now without any actual result.

As to the question on how much money NASA should receive, I think this question is to general. Rather than thinking about increasing NASA's budget, it would be better to think about a serious restructuring of NASA. It would work best if NASA would be split up into one agency focussing on aeronautics, one agency focussing on human spaceflight only and one agencsy focussing on unmanned spaceflight and scientific missions. In that case it is much clearer for congress to decide on where the money actually goes to.

Offline spaceflight101

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Re: How much should NASA get?
« Reply #6 on: 01/21/2007 10:55 AM »
On our tax returns, there is a check box to designate $1 towards funding the presidential election campaigns.
Would it be worthwhile to pursue adding a "Chuck a Buck" for NASA?

Offline MKremer

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Re: How much should NASA get?
« Reply #7 on: 01/21/2007 10:57 AM »
Quote
spaceflight101 - 21/1/2007  5:55 AM

On our tax returns, there is a check box to designate $1 towards funding the presidential election campaigns.
Would it be worthwhile to pursue adding a "Chuck a Buck" for NASA?

I'd go for that. Great idea.  :)

Offline simonbp

Re: How much should NASA get?
« Reply #8 on: 01/21/2007 09:08 PM »
1% isn't a bad idea, and one that is easy enough for the media to make trite pronouncements about. Indeed, "Just One Percent" would make a good slogan...

Simon ;)

Offline PurduesUSAFguy

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Re: How much should NASA get?
« Reply #9 on: 01/21/2007 09:39 PM »
I think that NASA needs to be reorganized, I think we need an agency that is dedicated to aeronautical research and goes forward with projects like the canceled X-43b/c and develops the enabling technologies for blended-wing body airliners. Premenance in aeronautics is in the best interest of the United States economically and militarily.

The space end of the house should be dedicated to the exploration, development, and colinization of space, I'd like to see it done with more of a free market flare then NASA uses currently, but also the emphasis should be on developing a permanent human presence in space.

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Re: How much should NASA get?
« Reply #10 on: 01/22/2007 12:49 PM »
In a lot of regions, whenever there's a government building project there's a "1% for the arts" set aside by law - the idea being that art enriches the public, even if they are largely oblivious to it.  I think a "1% for space", or even better, a "1% for exploration" would be a good thing.

Offline Jim

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Re: How much should NASA get?
« Reply #11 on: 01/22/2007 01:11 PM »
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PurduesUSAFguy - 21/1/2007  5:39 PM

I think that NASA needs to be reorganized, I think we need an agency that is dedicated to aeronautical research and goes forward with projects like the canceled X-43b/c and develops the enabling technologies for blended-wing body airliners. Premenance in aeronautics is in the best interest of the United States economically and militarily.

The space end of the house should be dedicated to the exploration, development, and colinization of space, I'd like to see it done with more of a free market flare then NASA uses currently, but also the emphasis should be on developing a permanent human presence in space.

It doesn't needed to be reorganized.  Other agency is not going to get more money than NASA already gets for Aeronautics.  With 2 agencies, there is more overhead and therefore a negative gain for the same total budget.

Offline zinfab

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Re: How much should NASA get?
« Reply #12 on: 01/22/2007 02:01 PM »
i'd go for 1% guarantee as well as chuck a buck.

Offline Jeff Bingham

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Re: How much should NASA get?
« Reply #13 on: 01/26/2007 02:26 AM »
It's ironic that most people would probably think one percent of the federal budget would be a CUT for NASA! Just about everyone I've ever spoken to who is critical of NASA's spending is blown away when told the total NASA budget is less than 7 tenths of one percent of the total federal budget. Of course, some of the more inveterate "Luddites" would then argue that is an indication of how bloated the federal budget is, and go off on that tangent. "There are none so blind as those who WILL NOT see," as the saying goes.

I have to agree with Jim that splitting NASA into its separate parts is not necessary and would add needless duplications in administrative cost. NASA really CAN do all those things on its plate under its current structure if it is not forced to rob Peter to pay Paul due to an inadequate top line of funding. I keep harping around here on the 2005 Authorization Act because it actually authorized total NASA funding at a level of "almost" one percent of the budget in FY 2007 and 2008. But the President requested over a billion dollars LESS than the amount authorized for 2007 and will likely request at least #1.4 billion LESS than the authorized amount for FY 2008 (as we will all be able to see on February 5th when that Budget Request is released.) The Administration--and the Congress, so far--has also never reimbursed NASA for the $2.8 Billion cost to recover from the Columbia accident, either. If that amount were added, in equal parts, to the authorized amounts for FY 2007 and FY 2008, NASA would be funded at very close to a level that is 1 percent of the federal budget...and we WOULD see a healthy space science budget, a strong Earth Science budget, a robust aeronautics research budget, AND a faster-paced development effort in the Constellation program and VSE generally, not to mention the funds to fully outfit the ISS and, if necessary, add the three to five shuttle flights needed to do accomplish that.

As for a "guarantee" of annual funding at a 1 percent level,  even if such a law were passed today, it could be repealed tomorrow. No Congress can bind a future Congress. Only when there is a consensus that the "investment" of 1% is essential to our future well-being as a nation will there be the "political will" strong enough to "bind" future Congresses--or Administrations.  

Still, I think it's something to be continously sought. "A Penny for Your Future" should be able to eventualy ring true for enough to make it happen, if it's heard over and over and over again--and backed up with demonstrable progress.
Offering only my own views and experience as a long-time "Space Cadet."

Offline wingod

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Re: How much should NASA get?
« Reply #14 on: 01/26/2007 02:45 AM »
As for a "guarantee" of annual funding at a 1 percent level, even if such a law were passed today, it could be repealed tomorrow. No Congress can bind a future Congress. Only when there is a consensus that the "investment" of 1% is essential to our future well-being as a nation will there be the "political will" strong enough to "bind" future Congresses--or Administrations.

*******************

This is the key, the crux, the fulcrum, yadda yadda yadda.  I would state that it is space advocates as well as NASA that have not made this case, although to my mind this is certainly true.  NASA seems afraid to talk about the Moon in terms beyond scientific exploration with at least smatterings of talk about oxygen production.  I would posit a full program for lunar and asteroidal industrialization as the primary means to help avert global warming.  As we shift most mining off planet the energy that mining uses is gathered and used out there.  Mining is one of the major players in CO2 production.  Interestingly, Concrete production and Volcano's are the top producers.


Offline CuddlyRocket

Re: How much should NASA get?
« Reply #15 on: 01/26/2007 07:25 AM »
Quote
wingod - 26/1/2007  3:45 AM

I would posit a full program for lunar and asteroidal industrialization as the primary means to help avert global warming.  As we shift most mining off planet the energy that mining uses is gathered and used out there.  Mining is one of the major players in CO2 production.  Interestingly, Concrete production and Volcano's are the top producers.
Neither of which is going to be moved off-Earth!

I can't see mining in space for Earth-return being profitable for many years, except possibly for very high-value rare metals with an important industrial use such as platinum. But these are small players in Earth mining terms.

Similarly with energy. It's cheaper to use the technology on Earth.

Where space mining might be useful - in the medium to long term - is reducing the costs of operating in space, so making the profitability of such operations more achievable.

Offline mr.columbus

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Re: How much should NASA get?
« Reply #16 on: 01/26/2007 08:06 AM »
Quote
Jim - 22/1/2007  9:11 AM

Quote
PurduesUSAFguy - 21/1/2007  5:39 PM

I think that NASA needs to be reorganized, I think we need an agency that is dedicated to aeronautical research and goes forward with projects like the canceled X-43b/c and develops the enabling technologies for blended-wing body airliners. Premenance in aeronautics is in the best interest of the United States economically and militarily.

The space end of the house should be dedicated to the exploration, development, and colinization of space, I'd like to see it done with more of a free market flare then NASA uses currently, but also the emphasis should be on developing a permanent human presence in space.

It doesn't needed to be reorganized.  Other agency is not going to get more money than NASA already gets for Aeronautics.  With 2 agencies, there is more overhead and therefore a negative gain for the same total budget.

Jim, if you look at the private industry this is not the case. Since the beginning of the 90s the trend has been (and has successfully been) to spin-off parts of your business that is not your core business. Aeronautics is not NASA's core business. A separate agency dealing with aeronautics would not necessarily mean more overhead. In fact the problem actually is that in a very large organization smaller groups do not get the full focus of top management and therefore function inefficiently.

I would propose 3 separate agencies each focussing on one area:

Aeronautics agency with a budget of appr. 1 billion
Science and unmanned spaceflightr agency with a budget of appr. 6 billion
Human spaceflight agency 10 billion

That would not mean that those agencies do not collaborate with each other any more or that there can't be any cross-agency projects. It does however mean that each such new agency could put in place its own streamlined organization that fits for the necessary task AND that there are no cuts to unmanned spaceflight missions if you need to fill a budget hole in human spaceflight etc.

Offline Jim

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Re: How much should NASA get?
« Reply #17 on: 01/26/2007 11:40 AM »
Quote
mr.columbus - 26/1/2007  4:06 AM
Jim, if you look at the private industry this is not the case. Since the beginning of the 90s the trend has been (and has successfully been) to spin-off parts of your business that is not your core business. Aeronautics is not NASA's core business. A separate agency dealing with aeronautics would not necessarily mean more overhead. In fact the problem actually is that in a very large organization smaller groups do not get the full focus of top management and therefore function inefficiently.

I would propose 3 separate agencies each focussing on one area:

Aeronautics agency with a budget of appr. 1 billion
Science and unmanned spaceflightr agency with a budget of appr. 6 billion
Human spaceflight agency 10 billion

That would not mean that those agencies do not collaborate with each other any more or that there can't be any cross-agency projects. It does however mean that each such new agency could put in place its own streamlined organization that fits for the necessary task AND that there are no cuts to unmanned spaceflight missions if you need to fill a budget hole in human spaceflight etc.

This is not industry.  The overhead for any gov't agency is the same.  All need personnel, legal, budget , procurement, etc offices

At many NASA centers, people support multiple programs, both unmanned and manned.  For example, KSC, MSFC and JSC has one engineering group that support all programs.   The unmanned and manned organizations are too intertwined.;

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