Author Topic: Why is NASA Beholden to Ares if Direct is the Better Alternative?  (Read 14043 times)

Offline jkumpire

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Folks,

This is a question and reply that was on: http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/forums/thread-view.asp?tid=12379&posts=72&start=1

The responder to my questions felt it might be good to move it to a different thread, so here it is.

This post has my questions, the next post his response. Please submit your input.

Gentlemen,

I would ask you for a moment of patience, because I am going to ask a very simple question, since that is all I can ask:

After all the discussion about Direct vs. Ares vs EELV, vs any other alternative, why is it that NASA sticks with Ares?

After a ton of reading here and other places, Direct claims every advantage over Ares there is. I will assume your analysis is spot on. Why then is NASA sticking totally to Ares w/o even incorporating some of your ideas, or even publishing a fact sheet saying why Ares is more valid than Direct's vision or alternative?

Reading so much of the discussion leads me to say some people are not rational in the debate. Even at the beginning of STS, there was some internal logic as to why STS took the form it did. NASA won some arguments about STS over AAP/Saturn as the future of the American space program. The recent discussions are trying to prove there is no reasonable alternative to Direct that competes with it.

If Direct is the better alternative, what you are asking me and other lay people to believe is that NASA's leadership is so beholden to Ares they are willing to destroy NASA for this idea. Or, the politics are so warped in Washington that NASA is forced to follow a second-rate idea that costs more money to do less for some real or imagined political constituency. Or, that the NASA director is so vain, that he will get rid of the opponents to Ares and surround himself with yes men to push his personal idea of VSE, even if 2009 comes and the new president dumps it, or 2015 comes and Ares doesn't work. Why would he risk America's space future on something that has holes all through it when a better alternative is bubbling around the Internet?

I just don't understand either the engineering or the politics: Either Ares is not a dog as opposed to Direct, or NASA is blowing its foot off with a howitzer for the vision of its leader, or some political gain. It makes no sense.

I hope I have made myself clear here, help me to understand what I am reading, or missing.

Offline jkumpire

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The response:

A great question. If this becomes an off-topic discussion, I'd prefer it go in a separate thread, but let me put forth the best explanation I've heard so far for this...

The tragic loss of Columbia inspired NASA, The President and both houses of the US Congress all equally re-consider the Space Shuttle and to decide a different direction was needed for NASA after 30 years of that program.

A while before Columbia Mike Griffin and a group of colleagues had been considering alternatives outside of NASA. Scott Horowitz had an SRB-based launcher. Griffin wanted a big Mars rocket and needed a way to make such a $30bn rocket appeal to Congress. But there was some common ground between the two rockets, and building the small one could offset a lot of the costs for the second. A small team formed around this idea.

When Sean O'Keefe left, Griffin had his chance. O'Keefe left the agency in the position of doing a lot of studies - all based upon EELV architectures which Congress was strongly against because of the jobs situation. By all accounts they made it *very* clear they wouldn't accept an Administrator who would abandon the STS infrastructure.

Griffin put his plan forward as one which was ready to go. A plan that didn't need two years of study to implement, and which protected the STS workforce.

While he was the third selectee, he was the first to accept the job.

He came in, threw out all of the "spiral" developments and did what he felt he had to do in order get the program moving as quickly as possible. This approach was done for a good reason: Because Shuttle Retirement in 2010 was fast approaching and a replacement had to be ready in double-quick time. I really can't fault him for that train of thinking. There's an awful lot of sense in that approach given the circumstances.

The ESAS Report was produced in order to justify the plan. It was a wash, and everyone knew it. Griffin quickly put his team - who were the ones most familiar with the new approach and ready to leap upon it - in the top management spots in order to get things moving fast.

Thus he set forth.

However, there have been a lot of unexpected hurdles along the way because the systems proposed changed quite a lot, and changed quite quickly. They became very un-related to existing Shuttle hardware, and that meant both the costs and schedule impacts were very significant indeed.

And the technical problems they have encountered (low performance, TO, Orion ZBV etc) have ultimately meant we never did avoid the two years of studies anyway. Worse though, they continue 'studying' the problems because the solutions are still evading them. All the while, management is still trying to hustle the program through its milestones.

The program reviews are supposed to be going from milestone to milestone, shadowing the DAC. They haven't been. DAC-1 should take you up to the SRR milestone. DAC-2 should take you from there through to PDR. The DAC's are currently quite a ways behind the milestones, which is completely the wrong way around. The engineering is behind the management - which isn't a good arrangement.

Anyway, why stick at it even given such a difficult position to fight from?

At this point, Ares-I is the *only* way for Griffin to ever get his "big rocket" - which has always been his personal goal - ask anyone who worked with him at APL or OSC or anywhere else. He's really *driven* by rockets like Saturn-V.

If Ares-I fails, his big rocket also fails, and that would mean he also fails - at least to himself, anyway. Of course nobody wants to fail, that's totally normal and true of Mike, you or I. Thus, to achieve his goal, he is "sticking the course" no matter what - and essentially praying for a miracle to come from somewhere.

Even if Ares-I doesn't ever fly a crew, it still pays for J-2X and 5-segment SRB - both of which he needs for the big rocket. He has no reason to abandon Ares-I - even if it never flies.

At this point, to do anything else would - to Griffin - bring shame down upon him personally and would bring ridicule down upon NASA as an agency from all the folk who told him two years ago that it was a poor solution. But worse still, he believes it would shake Congress' confidence, and The President's confidence in NASA.

I don't believe he is thinking about how much worse it will be if he continues to try to drive this square peg into a round hole - only to find the whole thing is screwed up permanently and will never work properly again. You can't strip the threads off of a bolt and expect it ever to hold something firmly again.

IMHO he has forgotten the fact that the people in Washington couldn't give a rats a$$ about what rocket NASA uses, just as long as they protect the jobs and don't waste time and money on just another bl**dy boondoggle like ISS has proven to be - which is precisely what Ares is shaping up to be.

And if there's any doubt at all, the politicians *are* watching NASA messing around with Ares right now and are not impressed at all.

It's not too late though. Griffin's career is tied to whether he makes the *PROGRAM* work. It is not tied to which *LAUNCHER* he makes - it never was.

I just hope his academic smarts aren't the only smarts he's got. He needs some street smarts right now. He's found his car is breaking down in the bad part of town late at night, and his academic savvy are just not going to help him at all here.

Ross.

=2c.

Edited by kraisee 1/4/2008 4:03 AM


Offline jkumpire

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Ross,

A couple of responses to your very excellent post:

1. I know the ISS is considered to be a pain in the neck or any other places in the human body. Freedom was the better alternative from the beginning, but now that the ISS is up and running more and more, I personally think it is a great thing to have in space. If for no other reason than we are learning more and more about living and working in space, and I still believe there will be payoffs down the line.  

2. The NASA we all know and love had its false starts and foul ups in the 1960's. But, when the money was on the table the suits set their egos aside and went with what turned out to be the best plan for getting to the Moon in the 1960's. Are you really telling me that in your view the Director today does not have the courage or the sense to change direction to a better alternative? It is hard for me to swallow that, though I am in no position to have an opinion in the matter.

3. Has Direct ever been sold to the Congress? Or is the Congress, which is more responsible than other body in destroying NASA in the 1960's/70's, and handing us this mess NASA/"we" are now in, a large part of the problem? I see that you saying the Congress is watching how NASA is fouling this up. If that is the case, why has not any member of Congress, including the Florida delegation (who has the most to lose here) ask: "Director Griffin, why have you not considered the Direct proposal as a viable alternative to Ares? If you have considered Direct, what are the reasons for choosing to stay with Ares?      

More thoughts later.....

Offline Lampyridae

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Wow, a really good 2 cents. Thanks Ross, and thanks jkumpire for asking the question.

If ever Mike Griffin thought DIRECT was the way to go, I think he's now passed the point of no return as far as he considers it. It takes a lot of courage to say, "whoops, I fouled up. Now let's sort this mess out." He would actually earn more respect that way, and probably a better future job or even stay in charge of NASA, but as far as I can see there ain't nothing coming of it because he simply is not going to do that. Sadly, Mike will have to go before DIRECT has a chance. Unless Congress says "thou shalt not use the Stick."

Now, I don't have a personal grudge against Mike Griffin and I don't think anybody should on this forum, he is actually stuck in a bad place and he surely knows it by now. I don't believe that Ares I not flying will not result in Ares V; I think Ares I can and will fly in a rather Spartan sense of the word. I do think however that Ares I will be dropped in favour of an NLS / DIRECT launcher as soon as it comes along. Ares I might make 3 or 4 flights before it is canned, if it does fly. 2 launch 1 vehicle makes so much more sense that I think DIRECT will still resurface in the form of a slightly scaled-back Ares V, something like Ares-III with either a 8.3m or 10m tank, depending on how quickly they chuck the tooling after building the last STS ET.
SKYLON... The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen's preferred surface-to-orbit conveyance.

Offline MB123

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I would expect him to have the courage. That is his job.

Offline HIP2BSQRE

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People may expect Mike to change his mind--but think where he is at?  He has put his job on the line that Ares is the way to go.  No-one likes admitting mistakes--especailly mistakes that cost billions of dollars and will last for the 20-30 years.  If he accepts Direct---people might say why did you not change sooner, or why did you not really analyize it in the ESAS report?  So what can he do?  Maybe he'll be right---he is willing to take that chance.  In 2015, we may know if he was right or wrong.  If he is wrong, history will not be so kind to him---but by then too late and serverl billion dollars will have been spent.    If someone asked you to "fall" on your sword for the good of the company, and good many of us would not--we would bring the whole company down--in the this case NASA's manned spaceflight.

I am not totly convinced that Direct is NASA's magical answer.  A good LEADER, not manager is willing to listen and evalute alternative approaches--an will LEAD.  That what makes the differance between a manager and LEADER.   Mike might have been a good manager for NASA, but it this aspect he has not LEAD!

Online Jeff Lerner

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History will  only judge Mike Griffin's time as Nasa's Administrator in a favourable light if he significantly reduces the gap between the end of the Shuttle Program and Cx. If that's Ares, fine...if it's DIRECT, thats fine as well. Mike Griffin's primary job is to convince Congress to fund NASA's programs. If he can't get the funding to accomplish his programs, he should revisit his plans and look for alternatives....otherwise he will have failed NASA.

Offline Avron

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Wildthing - 1/4/2008  10:28 PM

History will  only judge Mike Griffin's time as Nasa's Administrator in a favourable light if he significantly reduces the gap between the end of the Shuttle Program and Cx. If that's Ares, fine...if it's DIRECT, thats fine as well. Mike Griffin's primary job is to convince Congress to fund NASA's programs. If he can't get the funding to accomplish his programs, he should revisit his plans and look for alternatives....otherwise he will have failed NASA.


Gaps getting wider, time is a ticking and yes, money is flowing.. History may not be very kind to Dr Griffin, but all that cashflow without the need to deliver a usable item is the Key to all this Eh attachment to a system that thus far has failed to provide much in the way of confidence based on views expressed here and elsewhere.  At the end of the day Dr Griffin may well find himself in a "favorable light" for a few, but I would doubt many would be trilled by his Management or his ability to lead.

Offline Nathan

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Folks,
Congress will not choose one or the other proposal as they are not qualified to do so. They have an agency set up to do the analysis and report to them - that's NASA. The only thing that Congress could realistically do is say to NASA that it's budget is going to be flat for the next five years and that any VSE architecture should take that into account. Budget realism is the key here.
Given finite cash, if we want to go to Mars then we should go to Mars.

Offline renclod

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jkumpire - 2/4/2008  2:32 AM
... a very simple question ... why is it that NASA sticks with Ares?

NASA has a plan that fits a mission.

The mission is complex. Every time we bring up "an alternative" we must consider the entire complexity of the mission.

1/ Provide crew transport to ISS. Do it with a minimalistic system, but don't forget to assure  the 6 months life boat. Do not expand into ISS cargo transport - there is another venture for that called COTS. Do not expand into prolonged/augmented ISS operations. We have international obligations but enough is enough.

2/ Provide capability for lunar outpost support. Do not ignore the profound implications of this mission. Surface systems (as cargo) must be expedited and landed without crew, in preparation of long duration crew missions and in critical support of such outpost while manned. Cargo (outpost support) must be expedited in a simple and reliable manner - EOR/LOR/libration points rendezvous and assembly must be avoided. The requirement is for xx tons landed on the Moon in one package.

3/ Design a lunar manned transport system combining item 1/ crew transport and item 2/ cargo transport.



Offline jkumpire

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Men,

It has been a great conversation so far...

Nathan, in defense and space issues there has been times in the past where Congress has affected policy, for good and ill, even if it is out of its league in making decisions. That is the power of the purse, and the power of the voting public, and you wouldn't want it any other way.  We cannot live in Plato's Republic.

Asking questions of Federal agencies like NASA when money is involved is like hitting a cow with a cattle prod, something happens in response (usually). Unlike other programs that have massive amounts of big spending lobbyists and politicians who are tied to its success, NASA is not real big on the pecking order. It has to win fights for money, so it has to respond to legit questions about it's plans and projects.  

Renclod, I totally agree the mission is complex, and ultimately the suits at NASA HQ in DC have to make the tough calls. But, Ross has said that the big suit in NASA has a commitment to Ares which is driving everything else, for good or ill. Direct is touted as a proposal to do the same thing, cheaper, quicker, and better, and we have 300+ pages of threads making its case. After reading it, Direct has a pretty good case, and NASA has said nothing about why it chooses Ares over Direct.

As we know from history, for example, Apollo's mission profile caused huge battles at NASA, and there was a lot of paper and ink, as well as bureaucratic "blood" spilled over the decision. But when everything was laid out on the table, the right plan won.

We now live in much more "certain" and dynamic times, there are untold ways to gather data and get a clearer picture of the choices and alternatives in front of NASA. But at the risk of sounding redundant, NASA it seems has a king maker making a project "the" project, in spite of legitimate alternatives which do the same things better.

I would just like NASA to say why Ares is the only alternative at this point. this is a huge issue for our future, it's not question of either sending Gemini around the Moon, or waiting for Apollo.

I have a lot of respect for Direct's team, they have done a great job presenting a great plan. Ares may well be a better plan, but I would like to see NASA say why Ares is better. If nothing else, I do pay a lot of tax money (doggone it, I wish I had the income to have to pay more taxes ;) ) to see this thing work. I want the best bang for the buck, not the best bang for the hierarchy at NASA HQ.        


Offline rocketguy101

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In reading the AZcentral article*, it appears NASA keeps pointing to Direct 1.0 as the reason for rejecting the idea (2005 was the first version, wasn't it?).  I agree with jk:  tell us why Ares is better than Direct, and make sure you are comparing to the latest proposal.

* http://www.azcentral.com/news/articles/2008/04/02/20080402nasa-constellation0402-ON.html
David

Offline A_M_Swallow

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The DIRECT people could provide a pointer to the rebuttal to NASA's reply.  Most journalists may not understand rocket science but politicians lying is something they can handle.

Offline Bill White

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Nathan - 2/4/2008  3:53 PM

Folks,
Congress will not choose one or the other proposal as they are not qualified to do so. They have an agency set up to do the analysis and report to them - that's NASA. The only thing that Congress could realistically do is say to NASA that it's budget is going to be flat for the next five years and that any VSE architecture should take that into account. Budget realism is the key here.

In January 2009 we will have a new President who will have the option of naming a new NASA administrator.  If Congress decides they felt strongly about this there are many ways to explain their concerns to the President and the President would have to be politically brain dead not to listen to these concerns coming out of Congress.

None of Obama, Clinton or McCain are politically brain dead even if their agenda is otherwise too full to pay much attention to NASA.

The battle for DIRECT will be won or lost in the halls of Congress (IMHO) and therefore it may prove necessary to "blitz" Congress and hammer on two problems that DIRECT solves:

(a) The gap that requires American astronauts to fly Soyuz for at least four maybe five years; and

(b) The unavoidable job losses that will accompany a stand down for four or five years.

Congress may not make the final call but they can raise a clamor that will be heard at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and looked into.

April 2009 and that first test flight of Ares 1-X looms large. Very large, IMHO.

= = =

Sticking with the Stick seems like a losing proposition for POTUS #44 whoever he or she may be.

Orbiter retires on his or her watch and then NOTHING happens (that the President can exploit for political gain) until well into a second term.

POTUS #44 must spend billions every year on NASA when his / her successor shall reap all the political prestige IF ESAS proves successful.

Forget engineering, from the perspective of pure politics, ESAS is a total dog. And of course, the DIRECT 2.0 team makes a good case from an engineering perspective.

= = =

Griffin winning this thing (if it gets loose in the halls of Congress) shall be very difficult, IMHO.

And it does NOT matter whether its McCain, Clinton or Obama since reality constrains them all.
EML architectures should be seen as ratchet opportunities

Offline MB123

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Quote
renclod - 3/4/2008 9:58 AM
Quote
jkumpire - 2/4/2008 2:32 AM ... a very simple question ... why is it that NASA sticks with Ares?
1/ Provide crew transport to ISS. Do it with a minimalistic system, but don't forget to assure the 6 months life boat. Do not expand into ISS cargo transport - there is another venture for that called COTS. Do not expand into prolonged/augmented ISS operations. We have international obligations but enough is enough.

I have been reading about DIRECT for a while on this forum and I am yet to see this point addressed -

How will DIRECT satisfy the requirement for a minimalistic crew transport vehicle? (definition:minimalistic - Ares I)

DIRECT has, from a cursory glance (i.e. not even requiring a detailed look into the system) much more of a booster than Ares I (2-off SRB plus a liquid stage vs. 1-off SRB)

Is the DIRECT team arguing that an additional SRB (neglect 4/5/6 seg) and liquid fuel stage represents the gap between Ares I and a booster with 'safe' ascent performance, or,

-does the crew version of DIRECT really have much more performance than is required to satisfy crew launch?


Offline Jim

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MB123 - 3/4/2008  12:48 AM
 Can someone please explain to me how DIRECT/which configuration of the DIRECT vehicle will satisfy the requirement for a minimalistic crew transport vehicle?

There is no requirement

Offline A_M_Swallow

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MB123 - 3/4/2008  5:48 AM
How will DIRECT satisfy the requirement for a minimalistic crew transport vehicle? (definition:minimalistic - Ares I)
DIRECT is just the launch vehicles J-120 and the larger lift J-232 (100 tons).  The team intends to use the same Orion capsule as Ares.

Each J-120 can lift 45 tons to Low Earth Orbit (LEO), twice as much as an Ares I.
This means that the full lunar Orion, including the extra fuel, can be lifted to the ISS.  There is sufficient lift left over that 10 to 20 tons of cargo can be lifted at the same time.

Offline jml

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J-120 Crew Launch Vehicle:
Two existing 4-segment SRB, plus an ET-derived core stage with two ground-lit existing RS-68. No upper stage. Variable cost: $130 million per flight. Estimated in-service availability: Late 2012 (85% confidence level). Capable of launching a non-ZBV Orion CEV and SM with full safety systems, two-string fault-tolerance, and airbags for hard landings, along with additional ballistic shielding between the CEV and LV and a wee bit more extra payload margin.

Compared with Ares I:
One new (to-be-developed for $1.8 billion) 5-segment SRB, plus an upper stage with one new (to-be-developed for $1.2 billion) air-lit J-2X engine. Variable cost: $120 million per flight. Estimated in-service availability: Late 2015 (65% confidence level). May or may not be capable of launching a ZBV Orion CEV and SM to ISS after the weight penalty of TO mitigation.

If NASA desires to reduce the capabilities and cost of the J-120 to more closely match Ares I's duplication of an EELV-class launcher, and wishes to more closely match the Constellation budget profile through an increase in the overall development and fixed cost by having multiple launch vehicle variants, the $115 million per launch J-110 option is also available.     :)
 

 

 

Quote
MB123 - 3/4/2008  12:48 AM

I have been reading about DIRECT for a while on this forum and I am yet to see this point addressed -

How will DIRECT satisfy the requirement for a minimalistic crew transport vehicle? (definition:minimalistic - Ares I)

DIRECT has, from a cursory glance (i.e. not even requiring a detailed look into the system) much more of a booster than Ares I (2-off SRB plus a liquid stage vs. 1-off SRB)

Is the DIRECT team arguing that an additional SRB (neglect 4/5/6 seg) and liquid fuel stage represents the gap between Ares I and a booster with 'safe' ascent performance, or,

-does the crew version of DIRECT really have much more performance than is required to satisfy crew launch?


Offline alexterrell

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jkumpire - 1/4/2008  6:33 PM
When Sean O'Keefe left, Griffin had his chance. O'Keefe left the agency in the position of doing a lot of studies - all based upon EELV architectures which Congress was strongly against because of the jobs situation. By all accounts they made it *very* clear they wouldn't accept an Administrator who would abandon the STS infrastructure.


Is this statement true?

If it is true, then that means that NASA's role is not to conduct a Vision for Space Exploration, but to provide jobs.

Providing jobs  = added costs. You can't have a cheaper solution whilst providing more, or the same amount of jobs.

Across the World, Defence Departments do not engage in building missiles, ships, tanks etc. They procure them and operate them, and for good reason. Perhaps NASA needs to be banned from developing and building rocket launchers.

Offline jml

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alexterrell:

I take it then that you are not familiar with the current state and historical practices of military procurement in defense departments across the NATO alliance.  Defense departments are subject to the exact same whims of government pork and lobbying as NASA. From the legendary $500 toilet seats and hammers to fights over post cold war base closures to the current battles over projects like F-22, A400M, KC-767 vs KC 330, the military certainly doesn't have any less politics and pork involved.

Not that this long public-sector tradition excuses any government branch for this sort of behaviour. Regardless of whether we're talking about new Air Force tankers or new NASA rockets, I want government to provide the best value for the taxpayer dollar. In this case it sure looks like Direct provides the best value if we want to carry out the VSE, while perhaps EELV (or possibly COTS) provides the best value if we want to simply launch crew to the ISS.

Offline kkattula

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The problem is that to Congress, NASA IS mostly a jobs program.  That could also be the saviour of Direct, because it saves more jobs than Ares I/V.


Offline vt_hokie

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MB123 - 1/4/2008  9:48 PM

I would expect him to have the courage. That is his job.

Exactly.  An ego that prevents one from admitting mistakes is not a trait of a good leader, imo.  (And to make it clear, I'm not accusing Dr. Griffin of that, but just speaking in a generic sense.)

Offline kraisee

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alexterrell - 3/4/2008  4:11 AM

Quote
When Sean O'Keefe left, Griffin had his chance. O'Keefe left the agency in the position of doing a lot of studies - all based upon EELV architectures which Congress was strongly against because of the jobs situation. By all accounts they made it *very* clear they wouldn't accept an Administrator who would abandon the STS infrastructure.

Is this statement true?

If it is true, then that means that NASA's role is not to conduct a Vision for Space Exploration, but to provide jobs.

Providing jobs  = added costs. You can't have a cheaper solution whilst providing more, or the same amount of jobs.

Essentially this is one of the key things most people haven't realized or accepted about this yet.   YES, to Congress this IS partially a jobs program.   It always was and always will be.   Its funded by Congress, and jobs are always one of Congress' biggest priorities.

But jobs programs are not in and of themselves a bad thing.   How that jobs program is utilized - efficiently or inefficiently - is the real key though.

No matter how we do this, a full Lunar Exploration Program which evolves into a Mars program is going to end up being quite a bit bigger than Shuttle/ISS is today.   The program will cost at least as much, and will employ at least as many people as it does today.

If you can do it efficiently, it might be only 10% bigger.   If you do it inefficiently it may end up being 60% or 160% bigger - at which point it will become unsustainable - just like Apollo was.


The deciding factor in such a situation (where Congress is fighting hard to keep the size of the program level) then all revolves around exactly *how* you plan to manage the program.

And this is where efficiency plays its vital role.   In this case it ultimately boils down to the launch vehicles because that's the only element which won't be common to all approaches.   You need a CEV and you need an LSAM if we're going to the moon.   The LV's (in particular the number of new development LV's) then end up being the only really "flexible" element in the process.

Congress is pushing to keep the same staffing levels, so the budget will automatically remain fairly stable at the end of the day (broad strokes view only).   You can therefore either cut the LV costs in half and fly double or quadruple the number for the same money, or you can leave the LV costs at the same level as they are and reduce the scope of the program.

If you do the former, you get more return for the investment.   While the budget didn't change and the staffing didn't change you're now producing double, quadruple, or even more return for that same investment.

If done right, an efficient approach can make it a very cost-effective solution indeed.   If done wrong it ends up as just another boondoggle.

I'm in favour of an efficient jobs program to satisfy everyone requirements and produce many more results.    I'm strongly opposed to any more NASA boondoggles - we've had too damn many already.

Ross.
"The meek shall inherit the Earth -- the rest of us will go to the stars"
-Robert A. Heinlein

Offline luke strawwalker

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alexterrell - 3/4/2008  3:11 AM

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jkumpire - 1/4/2008  6:33 PM
When Sean O'Keefe left, Griffin had his chance. O'Keefe left the agency in the position of doing a lot of studies - all based upon EELV architectures which Congress was strongly against because of the jobs situation. By all accounts they made it *very* clear they wouldn't accept an Administrator who would abandon the STS infrastructure.


Is this statement true?

If it is true, then that means that NASA's role is not to conduct a Vision for Space Exploration, but to provide jobs.

Providing jobs  = added costs. You can't have a cheaper solution whilst providing more, or the same amount of jobs.

Across the World, Defence Departments do not engage in building missiles, ships, tanks etc. They procure them and operate them, and for good reason. Perhaps NASA needs to be banned from developing and building rocket launchers.

Quite true... Something I've pointed out before and is the only 'bug' I have really seen in the Direct proposal, which I personally think is INFINITELY better than the Ares launchers for the job at hand.  One of STS's biggest failings has been it's enormous cost, which from what I've read has been in large part because of it's enormous standing army of workers to support the orbiter and STS infrastructure.  Now the architecture is going to be changed, but the first prerequisite is to keep the large standing army of workers...  so where exactly are the savings going to come from??  It was made quite clear how expensive that standing army is, whether there are missions flying or a total stand down as there was after Columbia.  Yes I understand that shuttle workforce retention is a big "MUST" check box on the list of any feasible architecture alternative, and also that the workforce is to be reduced somewhat thru 'natural attrition' retirement or whatever.  But I also know that if the goal is to keep basically most folks on the payroll program costs aren't going to be much lower than they are currently.  

Ares is just as bad if not worse on this count, as it's 'beholden' to maintain as many STS jobs as possible, but also has a huge development budget and a massive gap where either folks will be kept on the payroll for years doing 'make work' waiting for the architecture to come on line, or given pink slips.  It will end up being a bloodbath on the jobs preservation front and then require the large standing armies to keep it going once it IS online, so it won't do either one very well, and STILL require all that development money, which seems to be growing by the day as it more and more looks like a suboptimal clean sheet design hobbled by old architectural elements (Ares).  

At least Direct doesn't require the huge development budget... JMHO!  OL JR :)
NO plan IS the plan...

"His plan had no goals, no timeline, and no budgetary guidelines. Just maybe's, pretty speeches, and smokescreens."

Offline Jim

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alexterrell - 3/4/2008  4:11 AM

Across the World, Defence Departments do not engage in building missiles, ships, tanks etc. They procure them and operate them, and for good reason. Perhaps NASA needs to be banned from developing and building rocket launchers.

incorrect.   The USAF was the integrator for the B-1.   The Army develops tanks before letting contractors produce them

NASA actually goes further than the military.  NASA doesn't build or operate launch vehicles, NASA hires contractors to do it.  The issue is the contractual mechanism and whether NASA does insight or oversight

Offline edkyle99

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kkattula - 3/4/2008  11:58 AM

The problem is that to Congress, NASA IS mostly a jobs program.  That could also be the saviour of Direct, because it saves more jobs than Ares I/V.


I have trouble believing this assertion outright.  NASA isn't just about jobs.  It is about national prestige.  It is about new technology development.  It is about the creation of new systems that create entirely new fields of knowledge.  (Before NASA, no Van Allen Radiation Belts, no weather satellites, no communication satellites, etc.  After NASA, all of the above and more.)  If these goals could be accomplished more efficiently, using fewer workers, I suspect that Congress would not complain.  Congress has downsized plenty of Government projects over the years, including NASA after Apollo, while hardly blinking an eye.  

 - Ed Kyle

Offline clongton

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There is an element to the “jobs program” topic that is often overlooked; and that is the necessity for skill retention as NASA transitions from STS to CxP. The mix of skills for STS and CxP are not an exact match and there are gaps in what’s available vs. what’s needed, but by and large, once CxP is “the” program, most of what was accomplished on STS will still need to be accomplished in CxP, although somewhat differently and with a different mix of people.

It has been noted above that the contractors would need to keep thousands of people on the payroll for 5 years, more or less, while NASA transitions. The truth of the matter is that no contractor is going to do that. Between KSC and MAF, there are going to be approximately 8,000 workers furloughed. Most of those people are married, with husbands and wives and most have children. NASA contends that they will simply hire them back once the gap approaches its end. Here is where NASA looses sight of reality. The last time this happened, between Saturn/Apollo, all those furloughed workers simply went elsewhere and started other careers. Lots and lots of them just “walked away” from mortgages, car payments, etc, because there was absolutely no way to retain them or even to sell them; there was no market because the entire economy was depressed by what NASA had done. Those people had families to care for and they were not going to just hang around and wait for NASA. When STS was started up, NASA went on a hiring binge and tried to rehire the old workforce back. Surprise, surprise; less than 10% came back. That means that 90% of the skill that NASA needed to effectively startup STS had to be obtained from new people with little, if any experience. That was almost 40 years ago and to this day NASA still cannot do some of the things that NASA of the 1970’s could do – those skills are simply lost. Tribal knowledge cannot be passed when the tribe is gone. Yet NASA is taking the same attitude today as it did back then – it plans to rehire the furloughed workers. To say it politely, that is simply “not smart”. The people are going to do what they did 40 years ago; they are going to walk away. They are going to forget about NASA and go elsewhere, start new careers and take care of their families. When NASA gets around to asking them to come back 5 years later, 90%, just like before, will thumb their noses at the agency and turn their backs.

Congress is aware of this and that is partially what plays into the minds of the senators and representatives whose constituents will be affected. They are painfully aware of the double edged sword of this situation; job losses on this scale will make their own re-election tenuous at best, and job losses on this scale will make a successful restart for CxP difficult at best. That is why this “jobs program” issue is so important. Some people prefer to focus on only the “keep them employed” aspects, while others remain focused on “keep the skill mix intact”. The truth is somewhere in the middle. NASA *MUST* be able to retain an appropriate skill mix for successful CxP startup, and the Senators and Representatives must minimize job losses among their constituencies. That’s why they are there. That’s why they were elected. They are doing their job. They are *properly* considering both aspects and trying to find the best solution.

To bring this back to the topic, while a 2-year gap may have been something the contractors may have been able to deal with and retain the people NASA was going to need, a 5-year gap cannot be absorbed. Ares, regardless of its technical performance issues, will result in a minimum of 8,000 job losses between KSC and MAF. DIRECT, on the other hand, while requiring less people among the standing army than STS currently has, is able to account for the lessening of the workforce mainly thru normal attrition; retiring, families moving, etc. With DIRECT, we are back to a much smaller gap. With an 85% confidence level, DIRECT can put CxP in business on an *operational* basis by September 2012. We have developed a workforce transition plan that takes into account what people do what, and where their skills can be either used or transitioned to the new program. We have a plan for actually employing the vast majority of those people, right where they currently are located, in real, necessary and needed CxP work during the transition period; not “make-work” but “real” work. With DIRECT, both the “jobs program” aspect and the “skill retention” aspect are addressed in a manner that is affordable, sustainable and economically prudent, all while returning Americans to flight on their own launcher with only an 18-24 month flight gap, and *NO* work gap.

But Ares is the current program and has had almost 3 years to build up a head of steam. It has momentum and unless a big show-stopper is uncovered, turning NASA’s direction is difficult, even for the people in Congress who want to. But we’re working on that.
Chuck - DIRECT co-founder
I started my career on the Saturn-V F-1A engine

Offline BogoMIPS

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Give the looming of an apparent (or already present, depending on your PoV) recession in the U.S., does it make sens to position DIRECT as a better option for the current economy?  

Set aside whatever technical arguments about which system is better (asuming both systems can do the job, according to the "laws of physics").

Does it not make sense to pick the one that is more affordable to the taxpayer, and protects more jobs?

A "fiscally-conservative jobs program".  I'm not sure how either side of the aisle argues against that (though I know that both are more-than-capable of finding a way).

Offline kraisee

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luke strawwalker - 10/4/2008  10:44 AM
One of STS's biggest failings has been it's enormous cost, which from what I've read has been in large part because of it's enormous standing army of workers to support the orbiter and STS infrastructure.  Now the architecture is going to be changed, but the first prerequisite is to keep the large standing army of workers...  so where exactly are the savings going to come from??

This makes the assumption that you replace the Shuttle with a launch vehicle costing the same.   In that scenario then I agree, you won't ever see any improvements in launch costs.

But unlike Shuttle, this new program isn't just about launch vehicles.   In addition to the pure launchers, we also need a pretty capable Earth Departure Stage, a new Crew Vehicle and an all-new Lunar Lander system too.   All of which are significant budget items in and of themselves.   And all of which will require fairly large staffing numbers too - on top of the LV costs.

So, the logical way to do this - IMHO - would be to make sure that the total workforce for the new program  (LV's, EDS, CEV, LSAM together), matches that we are retiring (STS).

But that would mean that we suddenly now need to be spending only about half the original budget on the new LV's.   The other half must be re-directed to work on the new hardware elements you didn't have previously.


The problem is that NASA has planned the Ares-I / Ares-V 2-vehicle solution to replicate the *full* annual cost of Shuttle.   Thus the agency then needs additional budget to pay for the EDS, CEV and LSAM.   Those items don't come out of the same size pot any longer - the pot must grow.

The extra money they were promised has never turned up to pay for this though - and isn't ever likely to.   So NASA is now forced to go scrabbling around all the other directorates (Science, Aeronautics etc) in order to scrounge-up the missing cash.


In order to "tick" both the workforce retention and budget boxes what you really want is a solution which keeps everyone employed, but which apportions the work differently and makes LV's a much smaller part of the overall budget.

That means you're after an LV solution which costs probably about half the current STS amount and which employs about half the current workforce - and which then allows the other half of the budget/employees to be transferred to the new hardware elements you need.

You just can't do that with Ares sucking up all the available resources though.

Ross.
"The meek shall inherit the Earth -- the rest of us will go to the stars"
-Robert A. Heinlein

Offline jeff.findley

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jkumpire - 1/4/2008  7:33 PM
At this point, Ares-I is the *only* way for Griffin to ever get his "big rocket" - which has always been his personal goal - ask anyone who worked with him at APL or OSC or anywhere else. He's really *driven* by rockets like Saturn-V.

If Ares-I fails, his big rocket also fails, and that would mean he also fails - at least to himself, anyway. Of course nobody wants to fail, that's totally normal and true of Mike, you or I. Thus, to achieve his goal, he is "sticking the course" no matter what - and essentially praying for a miracle to come from somewhere.

Even if Ares-I doesn't ever fly a crew, it still pays for J-2X and 5-segment SRB - both of which he needs for the big rocket. He has no reason to abandon Ares-I - even if it never flies.

I don't think history is on Griffin's side.  Look at how many times the space station was redesigned due to slipping schedules and escalating costs.  If such a redesign is forced upon Ares/Orion, it could very well mean that something like Direct gets a chance.  

I'm not at all happy that the politicians want to "preserve" as many jobs as possible by keeping NASA in the launch vehicle business.  NASA should be spending its resources designing and building lunar landers and LEO fuel depots rather than designing and building yet another launch vehicle architecture.  This does mean shuttle job losses, but hopefully it means job gains in areas critical to the longer term programs.

Still, if they must "preserve" shuttle jobs, Direct is a much more sensible way to go than Ares I/V.

Offline clongton

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jeff.findley - 11/4/2008  9:03 AM

I don't think history is on Griffin's side.  Look at how many times the space station was redesigned due to slipping schedules and escalating costs.  If such a redesign is forced upon Ares/Orion, it could very well mean that something like Direct gets a chance.  

I'm not at all happy that the politicians want to "preserve" as many jobs as possible by keeping NASA in the launch vehicle business.  NASA should be spending its resources designing and building lunar landers and LEO fuel depots rather than designing and building yet another launch vehicle architecture.  This does mean shuttle job losses, but hopefully it means job gains in areas critical to the longer term programs.

Still, if they must "preserve" shuttle jobs, Direct is a much more sensible way to go than Ares I/V.
DIRECT was not designed as “the best possible way to go”, it was designed as the best possible way to go given the constraints imposed by the NASA Authorization Act of 2005. Our goal from the beginning was to adhere to the law, in both letter and spirit. DIRECT does both while Ares does neither.
Chuck - DIRECT co-founder
I started my career on the Saturn-V F-1A engine

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vt_hokie - 3/4/2008  1:34 PM

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MB123 - 1/4/2008  9:48 PM

I would expect him to have the courage. That is his job.

Exactly.  An ego that prevents one from admitting mistakes is not a trait of a good leader, imo.  (And to make it clear, I'm not accusing Dr. Griffin of that, but just speaking in a generic sense.)

What makes it worst is that switching to Direct does not requier admitting mistakes. A  switch to Direct could be explained as just being a benefital upgrade from Ares I.  Just call the J-120 the Ares II and say that the up grade will allow for a better Orion, better safty margins, and the option of carring additional cargo to ISS or the Moon all with lower development costs. No mistakes made just impoving performance.

They could also add that there is the added benifit that by adding the 3 engine and an uperstage (J-232) called Ares III that it would give us a 2 launch moon system should the Ares V be delayed.

So no mistakes need to be admitted for such a switch, but should the Ares I-X end up being an embaresing failure, then not only would mistakes need to be admitted but heads would roll.

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