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Robotic Spacecraft (Astronomy, Planetary, Earth, Solar/Heliophysics) => Space Science Coverage => Topic started by: Blackstar on 11/15/2012 01:47 PM

Title: Cassini and MESSENGER to be shut down?
Post by: Blackstar on 11/15/2012 01:47 PM
There's a rumor going around that the initial OMB budget proposal (which goes to NASA, then back to OMB to become the final administration budget) calls for shutting down both Cassini and MESSENGER to save money.

No more details than that. But we may be seeing a repeat of what happened with the Apollo seismic instruments when budget cuts are ending ongoing data collection.
Title: Re: Cassini and MESSENGER to be shut down?
Post by: kevin-rf on 11/15/2012 02:11 PM
How much will that reduce the deficit by again? Shaking a head...
Title: Re: Cassini and MESSENGER to be shut down?
Post by: hektor on 11/15/2012 02:14 PM
I think you cannot just shut down Cassini. As with Galileo, you need to conduct operations to destroy it safely.
Title: Re: Cassini and MESSENGER to be shut down?
Post by: GClark on 11/15/2012 04:30 PM
Maybe OMB knows something about the Planetary Sciences Senior Review that (the existential) we do not.

Have they ever put the results of that out?
Title: Re: Cassini and MESSENGER to be shut down?
Post by: Ben the Space Brit on 11/15/2012 04:51 PM
That would be tragic, short-sighted and entirely in line with modern government priorities.
Title: Re: Cassini and MESSENGER to be shut down?
Post by: Pheogh on 11/15/2012 04:57 PM
Is there anyway these can be taken more international. Certainly there would be interest from other governments in supporting these priceless assets?
Title: Re: Cassini and MESSENGER to be shut down?
Post by: ugordan on 11/15/2012 05:04 PM
That would be tragic, short-sighted and entirely in line with modern government priorities.

I agree. This would be tragic, moreso for Cassini (then again, I am more emotionally attached to it).

Is there anyway these can be taken more international.

Cassini already is an international project and that fact actually saved it from cancellation once. Not sure how it would help this time as probably the majority of the operations money is provided by NASA.
Title: Re: Cassini and MESSENGER to be shut down?
Post by: Joffan on 11/15/2012 06:08 PM
Once spacecraft are at their destination, there is never a good reason to abandon them as long as they're working. Getting explorers like Cassini and Messenger to their destination is way more expensive than operating them, but the operations is where the science return happens.

Perhaps one day, far in the future, we will have a spacecraft that is working but completely superceded by other spacecraft in place. Then it will make sense to turn off operations; but not before.
Title: Re: Cassini and MESSENGER to be shut down?
Post by: Pheogh on 11/15/2012 06:28 PM
That would be tragic, short-sighted and entirely in line with modern government priorities.

I agree. This would be tragic, moreso for Cassini (then again, I am more emotionally attached to it).

Is there anyway these can be taken more international.

Cassini already is an international project and that fact actually saved it from cancellation once. Not sure how it would help this time as probably the majority of the operations money is provided by NASA.

what are we talking about here $$$ what kind of money. If Santa Claus were to offer ESA a healthy space probe around Saturn right now, am I to understand they couldn't come up with the money to use it?

Title: Re: Cassini and MESSENGER to be shut down?
Post by: ugordan on 11/15/2012 06:33 PM
what are we talking about here $$$ what kind of money.

Don't know about an exact number, but it's in the millions per year of operations cost. It's a complex spacecraft and many people are involved.

Quote
If Santa Claus were to offer ESA a healthy space probe around Saturn right now, am I to understand they couldn't come up with the money to use it?

Not sure that's even doable as it's a JPL spacecraft.
Title: Re: Cassini and MESSENGER to be shut down?
Post by: Jim on 11/15/2012 06:46 PM
what are we talking about here $$$ what kind of money. If Santa Claus were to offer ESA a healthy space probe around Saturn right now, am I to understand they couldn't come up with the money to use it?



JPL would still be required to operate it.
Title: Re: Cassini and MESSENGER to be shut down?
Post by: Robotbeat on 11/15/2012 06:52 PM
There's a rumor going around that the initial OMB budget proposal (which goes to NASA, then back to OMB to become the final administration budget) calls for shutting down both Cassini and MESSENGER to save money.

No more details than that. But we may be seeing a repeat of what happened with the Apollo seismic instruments when budget cuts are ending ongoing data collection.
Dumb dumb da-dumb dumb.

This sounds incredibly short-sighted. We have a big, perfectly good spacecraft that spent a heck of a long time getting to its destination, and we can't afford to pay someone to plan its operations and talk to it?

I know operating it can't be that simple, but seriously... How much would it cost, if spread out over a single full-time lead and some grad-students (work for practically minimum wage) and a small amount of DSN (or, heck, ESTRACK) bandwidth?

I just don't understand why we ever turn these guys off when their instruments are still returning useful data and the tanks still have plenty of propellant in them. It costs billions of dollars to send these guys out there and decades to get from conception to arrival at the target. We have no other presence at Saturn, an incredibly diverse and fascinating system that we are still learning new things about all the time.

Heck, amateur reception of Cassini's signals has been demonstrated: http://www.qsl.net/ct1dmk/dsn.html (Even some signal from Voyager 1 was detected...)

http://www.ke5fx.com/hpll.htm
Title: Re: Cassini and MESSENGER to be shut down?
Post by: Jim on 11/15/2012 07:33 PM
How much would it cost, if spread out over a single full-time lead and some grad-students (work for practically minimum wage) and a small amount of DSN (or, heck, ESTRACK) bandwidth?


1.  This is not a rover.  Grad students don't have the experience to manage flight operations or understand the vehicle systems.

2.  Why bother if there isn't going be bandwith to downlink the data.
Title: Re: Cassini and MESSENGER to be shut down?
Post by: Robotbeat on 11/15/2012 08:06 PM
How much would it cost, if spread out over a single full-time lead and some grad-students (work for practically minimum wage) and a small amount of DSN (or, heck, ESTRACK) bandwidth?


1.  This is not a rover.  Grad students don't have the experience to manage flight operations or understand the vehicle systems.

2.  Why bother if there isn't going be bandwith to downlink the data.
1) Granted. But how much needs to be understood?
2) Cut it down to one-tenth or one-twentieth, and the amount of science that can be done isn't reduced proportionally. If it is reduced, it's probably more logarithmically. You may get only one third or one fourth as much useful scientific results from 10% or 5% as much data, but at far less cost.
Title: Re: Cassini and MESSENGER to be shut down?
Post by: woods170 on 11/15/2012 08:10 PM
That would be tragic, short-sighted and entirely in line with modern government priorities.
Not just modern government priorities. Back in 1976 the operation of the first Dutch satellite ANS was prematurely shut down for the very same reason: To save a few lousy bucks. This despite the satellite being in perfect working order.
Title: Re: Cassini and MESSENGER to be shut down?
Post by: Jim on 11/15/2012 08:42 PM
1) Granted. But how much needs to be understood?


A lot.  It is not in LEO, it is in a constantly changing orbit with flybys of moons.  It also is a very complex spacecraft
Title: Re: Cassini and MESSENGER to be shut down?
Post by: kevin-rf on 11/16/2012 12:46 PM
The real answer is there is no free lunch, and in the short sighted view of cost accounting the program is assigned the full cost of the resources it uses, people, ground stations, ect. Hand waving saying it can piggy back on these resources is dishonest to the others who share the resources. It costs what it costs and someone has to pay the bills, would you rather steal the money from other programs to make it look cheaper?
Title: Re: Cassini and MESSENGER to be shut down?
Post by: Blackstar on 11/16/2012 12:52 PM
I know operating it can't be that simple, but seriously... How much would it cost, if spread out over a single full-time lead and some grad-students (work for practically minimum wage) and a small amount of DSN (or, heck, ESTRACK) bandwidth?

Operating costs are in the tens of millions of dollars. They start to add up when you have a dozen operating planetary spacecraft.
Title: Re: Cassini and MESSENGER to be shut down?
Post by: Blackstar on 11/16/2012 12:55 PM
It's also worth noting--I failed to note this--that both spacecraft are in their extended mission phases. So the beancounters may be looking at them and saying that they've accomplished their primary missions, so there is diminishing return on keeping them operating.

There is a legitimate issue there, but it's complicated. There are some things that you can only do, or are only willing to do, late in a mission. For instance, they take greater risks with Cassini now than they did at the beginning of the mission, do closer flybys, etc. And orbital dynamics change so that some things are possible after many orbits around Saturn that were not possible earlier.
Title: Re: Cassini and MESSENGER to be shut down?
Post by: Blackstar on 11/16/2012 12:56 PM
Maybe OMB knows something about the Planetary Sciences Senior Review that (the existential) we do not.

Have they ever put the results of that out?


I have not heard of a senior review done on this. And if it was done, it would be public--there'd be no way to keep it quiet.
Title: Re: Cassini and MESSENGER to be shut down?
Post by: Galactic Penguin SST on 11/16/2012 01:18 PM
Am I the only one who was surprised that the OMB failed to mention Mars Odyssey and (gulp!) Opportunity, if they went chasing after Cassini and MESSENGER? ::)
Title: Re: Cassini and MESSENGER to be shut down?
Post by: Robotbeat on 11/16/2012 02:40 PM
1) Granted. But how much needs to be understood?


A lot.  It is not in LEO, it is in a constantly changing orbit with flybys of moons.  It also is a very complex spacecraft
I understand that. But can't much of this be automated? Does it really take a team of people to do this?
Title: Re: Cassini and MESSENGER to be shut down?
Post by: Robotbeat on 11/16/2012 02:42 PM
I know operating it can't be that simple, but seriously... How much would it cost, if spread out over a single full-time lead and some grad-students (work for practically minimum wage) and a small amount of DSN (or, heck, ESTRACK) bandwidth?

Operating costs are in the tens of millions of dollars. They start to add up when you have a dozen operating planetary spacecraft.
Why are they tens of millions of dollars, not counting DSN bandwidth? How many people are absolutely required to keep Cassini functioning and performing useful flybys?
Title: Re: Cassini and MESSENGER to be shut down?
Post by: Space Pete on 11/16/2012 02:45 PM
Stupid decision. OMB's piece-by-piece killing of the US space program continues.

MESSENGER has only been in Mercury's orbit less than two years, and Cassini is our only currently operational outer planets explorer (apart from Juno which is in transit - maybe they'll shut that down too). :(
Title: Re: Cassini and MESSENGER to be shut down?
Post by: Ben the Space Brit on 11/16/2012 04:02 PM
Stupid decision. OMB's piece-by-piece killing of the US space program continues.

My hope is that the California and Florida Congressional delegations kills this as completely as they killed the early HST retirement a few years back.
Title: Re: Cassini and MESSENGER to be shut down?
Post by: GClark on 11/16/2012 05:05 PM
Maybe OMB knows something about the Planetary Sciences Senior Review that (the existential) we do not.

Have they ever put the results of that out?


I have not heard of a senior review done on this. And if it was done, it would be public--there'd be no way to keep it quiet.

It looks like the Senior Review was briefed to the Planetary Science Subcommittee of the NASA Advisory Council Science Committee last month (1-2 Oct).  ISTR that the results of the Senior Review have been pushed back several times without explanation.  This may be related.

Time and tide melt the snowman...
Title: Re: Cassini and MESSENGER to be shut down?
Post by: Blackstar on 11/16/2012 06:34 PM
It looks like the Senior Review was briefed to the Planetary Science Subcommittee of the NASA Advisory Council Science Committee last month (1-2 Oct).


It that's correct, then it was a public briefing. They cannot hold closed session briefings under the Federal Advisory Committee Act.
Title: Re: Cassini and MESSENGER to be shut down?
Post by: Blackstar on 11/16/2012 06:38 PM
Am I the only one who was surprised that the OMB failed to mention Mars Odyssey and (gulp!) Opportunity, if they went chasing after Cassini and MESSENGER?

Let me be a little clearer than I was originally:

These are RUMORS, with no way to confirm them because this info doesn't get released until the budget comes out in February.

Now I normally don't put much credence to rumors, but this is not inconceivable (and I heard it from a source who is not nuts). And it could also be a case of OMB playing the Washington Monument Strategy with NASA, threatening to shut down something that is considered sacred in order to get NASA to make a counter-proposal to cut other things (like new missions).

Certainly, if there is a decision to cut funding not only from new missions but from operating missions, you'd expect them to look at the older operating missions, and the ones that are in their extended mission phase. High on that list would be Cassini, MESSENGER, and presumably LRO.
Title: Re: Cassini and MESSENGER to be shut down?
Post by: robertross on 11/16/2012 08:24 PM
Thanks for the 'rumours' anyway Blackstar.

If there is an attitude to shut down ops of a mission after the primary phase is over, and into the extended mission, that would have dire consequences for the Opportunity rover on Mars - or do they not want to touch anything on Mars? Just a thought, because the little rovers that 'could' are bringing back a great wealth of data.

Worth a letter campaign I think to the powers that be.
Title: Re: Cassini and MESSENGER to be shut down?
Post by: Blackstar on 11/16/2012 11:57 PM
There are pros and cons to all of these. For example, it is very difficult to land on Mars, which is an argument to run a rover until it dies on its own. On the other hand, if you have a reasonably healthy flagship mission like Cassini, it will return far more data than smaller missions, including Opportunity on Mars. And on the third hand, at some point the data being returned is not really new compared to all the other data that has been gathered.

The one thing that I can definitively say is that the decision should not be initiated by the budget-cutters. Instead, it should follow a properly-run senior review. Astronomers do senior reviews all the time, but they really haven't been done for planetary, in part because planetary missions tend to die earlier. At a senior review, a group of scientists decide if the mission is still producing worthwhile data, and they set a floor and determine if a given mission is above or below it. You'll remember that this is how WISE got the axe a couple of years ago.
Title: Re: Cassini and MESSENGER to be shut down?
Post by: Star One on 11/17/2012 07:34 PM
That would be tragic, short-sighted and entirely in line with modern government priorities.

Seconded on that. Especially as I didn't think Cassini had that many more years to run, four isn't it, why not just let it see out that period?
Title: Re: Cassini and MESSENGER to be shut down?
Post by: spectre9 on 11/18/2012 05:55 AM
Might be a good idea.

Gotta move on at some point and the planetary budget is under severe stress right now.
Title: Re: Cassini and MESSENGER to be shut down?
Post by: arachnitect on 11/18/2012 08:08 PM

Worth a letter campaign I think to the powers that be.


Planetary Society has one going:

http://www.planetary.org/get-involved/be-a-space-advocate/ (http://www.planetary.org/get-involved/be-a-space-advocate/)
Title: Re: Cassini and MESSENGER to be shut down?
Post by: robertross on 11/18/2012 08:59 PM

Worth a letter campaign I think to the powers that be.


Planetary Society has one going:

http://www.planetary.org/get-involved/be-a-space-advocate/ (http://www.planetary.org/get-involved/be-a-space-advocate/)

Thanks, and sent