Author Topic: A Reasonable, Post Election Devolution Plan for Exploration  (Read 10828 times)

Offline Danderman

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Let me posit a hypothetical, albeit likely, scenario for 2009:

The new President, citing the need to make "tough decisions" effectively cancels the entire VSE. In the past, such cancellations have led to losses of years, if not decades, in achieving goals such as return to the Moon, or landing on Mars.

So, what levels of activity, or what kinds of activity, could be pursued at a low level so that decades are not lost after 2009? For example, during the end of the Reagan administration, the Pathfinder program allegedly provided useful results in providing a technical basis for exploration (I can't say whether this is true).

Would a small program aimed at development of ISRU be useful in generating downstream savings? Are there other technical development efforts that would allow exploration to be restarted in the future at a point further along than we are today?

An alternative approach is to promote commercial space so that some future President could announce a return to the Moon from a commercial orbital outpost, and so not look quite as silly as the announcements of Bush I and II.


Offline jeff.findley

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I'd start small technology development programs, like ISRU, which could dramatically lower the cost of returning to the moon.  The other obvious, and perhaps even more important, technology to develop would be LOX/LH2 fuel depots and fuel transfer in LEO.  LOX would be easiest to start with, but LH2 should quicky follow.

Development of technologies like this would dramatically change the lunar architecture to the point that existing (or upgraded) EELV's could be used instead of investing tens of billions of dollars to develop new heavy lift launch vehicles.

And, as an added bonus, technologies such as LOX/LH2 fuel depots in LEO have commercial applications, so this could potentially help the US launch industry across the board.

Offline edkyle99

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Let me posit a hypothetical, albeit likely, scenario for 2009:

The new President, citing the need to make "tough decisions" effectively cancels the entire VSE. In the past, such cancellations have led to losses of years, if not decades, in achieving goals such as return to the Moon, or landing on Mars.

So, what levels of activity, or what kinds of activity, could be pursued at a low level so that decades are not lost after 2009? ...


Propulsion.  That is the key. 

 - Ed Kyle

Offline renclod

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Quote
what kinds of activity, could be pursued at a low level so that decades are not lost after 2009?

http://hdl.handle.net/2060/20080023145

Cryogenic Fluid Management.



Offline William Barton

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I think the near future is going to look very different, depending on whether or not COTS is continued and succeeds. Let's say Obama wins and manages to cancel VSE completely, but realizes he needs to keep ISS for his theoretical two terms, due to international entanglement issues. He can elect to budget development of the two existing COTS items, including one COTS-D item, whatever it takes to get Cygnus and Dragon flying asap. Of course, it won't necessarily have to be Orbital and SpaceX, much as I admire their sand (to quote Rooster Cognurn). That might be cheaper in his eyes than keeping STS flying for another six years, with the likelihood another accident will occur.

Offline jml

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Propulsion.  That is the key. 

 - Ed Kyle

DDT&E work on J-2X, RS-68 A & B, Space-X "BFE", and Americanized RD-180?

Or something else, perhaps from the "advanced concepts" category?

Offline Norm Hartnett

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Increase funding and commitment for COTS.
Evaluate of how to extend ISS lifetime/utilization while drastically reducing ISS costs (stand down a majority of the army on the ground).
Partner with DoD on space plane and hypervelocity aircraft research.
Partner with ESA to find ways that NASA can contribute to ESA’s Aurora Space Exploration Architecture.

0.02
« Last Edit: 07/19/2008 02:03 AM by Norm Hartnett »
“You can’t take a traditional approach and expect anything but the traditional results, which has been broken budgets and not fielding any flight hardware.” Mike Gold - Apollo, STS, CxP; those that don't learn from history are condemned to repeat it: SLS.

Offline edkyle99

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Propulsion.  That is the key. 

 - Ed Kyle

DDT&E work on J-2X, RS-68 A & B, Space-X "BFE", and Americanized RD-180?

Or something else, perhaps from the "advanced concepts" category?

I've heard that U.S. production of RD-180 is dead and in the process of being buried.  NK-33 might be an alternative, since Aerojet has a manufacturing license.  NASA purchase of Taurus II launches might be a way to support NK-33 production. 

If not Russian engines, NASA would need to find a way to support a U.S. high-thrust kerosene rocket engine, and SpaceX appears to be the only team actively playing anything close to that game in the U.S. right now, since Rocketdyne (PWR) hasn't built RS-27A in years.  J-2X of course seems pretty important.  NASA must keep that effort, or something like it, alive somehow I would think.  Perhaps this could be achieved by producing a higher thrust upper stage engine for EELV.  RS-68 would stay alive as long as the EELV program didn't kill Delta IV, but might not be needed if high-thrust kerosene were available. 

High ISP deep space propulsion is also important.  Solar thermal, ion thrusters, etc..   

 - Ed Kyle

Offline jongoff

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Quote
what kinds of activity, could be pursued at a low level so that decades are not lost after 2009?

http://hdl.handle.net/2060/20080023145

Cryogenic Fluid Management.

The meme!  It spreads!  :-)

Seriously, I'd think the two things NASA could do that would really help would be paying for technology demonstrators for CFM stuff, and for RLV technologies.  Those are the two keys to actually making space transportation affordable.

~Jon

Offline Danny Dot

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Both the Russians and the Chinese have manned programs.  The number one goal will be to get a manned program back in the old USA.  If thrust oscillation is solved, Ares I will continue.  If not, Orion will be switched to an EELV.  Manned program to the moon will be put way on the back burner to leave money to get a manned program to LEO back up and running ($200M/year on it).  We will not get back to the moon in our life time.

Danny
Danny Deger

Offline kraisee

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Re: A Reasonable, Post Election Devolution Plan for Exploration
« Reply #10 on: 07/19/2008 07:21 PM »
I know this thread is looking at the unhappy end of the 'what if' scale, but you have to realize just how much support there is for the VSE in Congress.   Within the last month the House voted 409 : 15 in favour of a $2bn increase to NASA's budget - a whopping 96.5% majority.

And the President doesn't actually control NASA's money.    Congress does - and always will.   The President has a lot of 'influence' and can agree or disagree to sign bills, but with that sort of strong commitment clearly coming out of Congress (assuming we see a similar proportion of support from the Senate of course) it really wouldn't matter if the President even veto'd such a bill - there is more than enough support to overturn such a veto.

Appropriations is always another matter of course, but historically NASA Authorizations and Appropriations have gone largely hand-in-hand.

I don't see this situation changing a great deal, even with these elections.   I think the new Congress is just as likely to be as strongly supportive as this one.

Just MHO of course.   I'm trying to point out the silver-lining to the dark cloud of this thread ;)

Ross.
« Last Edit: 07/19/2008 07:25 PM by kraisee »
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Offline Norm Hartnett

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Re: A Reasonable, Post Election Devolution Plan for Exploration
« Reply #11 on: 07/20/2008 10:58 PM »
Actually I don’t consider the death of the VSE as a bad thing, at least as envisioned in the ESAS. I think that NASA is over reaching with ESAS, insufficient money and insufficient technology in too little time. The ESA Aurora program seems more sensible to me, small steps with no firm plans beyond the next technical step. The goal, exploration of the moon, Mars, and beyond is the same but the method of getting there is far more flexible. Constellation/ESAS is a monolithic program, Aurora is a process.
“You can’t take a traditional approach and expect anything but the traditional results, which has been broken budgets and not fielding any flight hardware.” Mike Gold - Apollo, STS, CxP; those that don't learn from history are condemned to repeat it: SLS.

Offline Jorge

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Re: A Reasonable, Post Election Devolution Plan for Exploration
« Reply #12 on: 07/21/2008 01:19 AM »
I know this thread is looking at the unhappy end of the 'what if' scale, but you have to realize just how much support there is for the VSE in Congress.   Within the last month the House voted 409 : 15 in favour of a $2bn increase to NASA's budget - a whopping 96.5% majority.

And the President doesn't actually control NASA's money.    Congress does - and always will.   The President has a lot of 'influence' and can agree or disagree to sign bills, but with that sort of strong commitment clearly coming out of Congress (assuming we see a similar proportion of support from the Senate of course) it really wouldn't matter if the President even veto'd such a bill - there is more than enough support to overturn such a veto.

Appropriations is always another matter of course, but historically NASA Authorizations and Appropriations have gone largely hand-in-hand.

You're kidding, right?

Have you compared NASA's actual FY2007 and 2008 outlays with the amounts authorized by the NASA Authorization Act of 2005?

Have you compared the FY2009 appropriations bills currently working through committee with the lavish amounts authorized by the act just passed?

Have you read the comments from the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee about no appropriations bills going to the full Senate this year besides DoD and DHS, with all other agencies being funded by continuing resolution?

How much would anyone on this forum be willing to wager that NASA's final outlays for FY2009 will exceed $18 billion?

I smell a sucker.
« Last Edit: 07/21/2008 03:30 AM by Jorge »
JRF

Offline John Duncan

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Re: A Reasonable, Post Election Devolution Plan for Exploration
« Reply #13 on: 07/21/2008 12:23 PM »
With all the gyrations that Griffin & Co. are putting the engineers through to get Ares to work, by the time the new President takes office, Ares will look like a joke.  I figured the least we'd get is a LEO booster, but I'm betting it won't be Ares.

So we'll be on EELV's, unless DIRECT or some blend of it breaks through the layer of smog over NASA HQ.

-John
"We'll remember the Shuttle days with fondness 20 years from now when we still don't have a replacement.  The something we had was better than the nothing we wound up with."


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Offline William Barton

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Re: A Reasonable, Post Election Devolution Plan for Exploration
« Reply #14 on: 07/21/2008 12:49 PM »
I know this thread is looking at the unhappy end of the 'what if' scale, but you have to realize just how much support there is for the VSE in Congress.   Within the last month the House voted 409 : 15 in favour of a $2bn increase to NASA's budget - a whopping 96.5% majority.

And the President doesn't actually control NASA's money.    Congress does - and always will.   The President has a lot of 'influence' and can agree or disagree to sign bills, but with that sort of strong commitment clearly coming out of Congress (assuming we see a similar proportion of support from the Senate of course) it really wouldn't matter if the President even veto'd such a bill - there is more than enough support to overturn such a veto.

Appropriations is always another matter of course, but historically NASA Authorizations and Appropriations have gone largely hand-in-hand.

I don't see this situation changing a great deal, even with these elections.   I think the new Congress is just as likely to be as strongly supportive as this one.

Just MHO of course.   I'm trying to point out the silver-lining to the dark cloud of this thread ;)

Ross.

Something to bear in mind: Congress can authorize and appropriate money, but cannot compel the President to spend it, short of impeachment. Checks and balances.

Offline William Barton

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Re: A Reasonable, Post Election Devolution Plan for Exploration
« Reply #15 on: 07/21/2008 12:54 PM »

Propulsion.  That is the key. 

 - Ed Kyle


DDT&E work on J-2X, RS-68 A & B, Space-X "BFE", and Americanized RD-180?

Or something else, perhaps from the "advanced concepts" category?

I've heard that U.S. production of RD-180 is dead and in the process of being buried.  NK-33 might be an alternative, since Aerojet has a manufacturing license.  NASA purchase of Taurus II launches might be a way to support NK-33 production. 

If not Russian engines, NASA would need to find a way to support a U.S. high-thrust kerosene rocket engine, and SpaceX appears to be the only team actively playing anything close to that game in the U.S. right now, since Rocketdyne (PWR) hasn't built RS-27A in years.  J-2X of course seems pretty important.  NASA must keep that effort, or something like it, alive somehow I would think.  Perhaps this could be achieved by producing a higher thrust upper stage engine for EELV.  RS-68 would stay alive as long as the EELV program didn't kill Delta IV, but might not be needed if high-thrust kerosene were available. 

High ISP deep space propulsion is also important.  Solar thermal, ion thrusters, etc..   

 - Ed Kyle

It seems pretty clear the US needs a large kerosene first-stage engine. My personal opinion is, an indigenous development would be better for the country than figuring out how to license-build somebody else's engine. How hard would it be to design a rocket that could fly with multiple equivalent powerplants?
« Last Edit: 07/21/2008 12:55 PM by William Barton »

Offline clongton

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Re: A Reasonable, Post Election Devolution Plan for Exploration
« Reply #16 on: 07/21/2008 12:56 PM »

Something to bear in mind: Congress can authorize and appropriate money, but cannot compel the President to spend it, short of impeachment. Checks and balances.

Congress doesn't have to compel the President to spend NASA's money. It compels NASA to spend the money. Unless the President wants to deliberately invoke a Constitutional crisis, he has no further say once the appropriations bill has become law. By either signing the bill or allowing it to become law without signature, the Congress retains the authority to compel, not the President.

The Administrator is the President's representative. It is his or her job to represent the President, and his or her policies, in accordance with the direction and appropriations provided by the Congress, and to oversee the day to day operations of the agency in accordance with Congressional direction.
« Last Edit: 07/21/2008 12:59 PM by clongton »
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Offline rsp1202

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Re: A Reasonable, Post Election Devolution Plan for Exploration
« Reply #17 on: 07/21/2008 03:58 PM »

I've heard that U.S. production of RD-180 is dead and in the process of being buried.

Could you please explain further.

Offline William Barton

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Re: A Reasonable, Post Election Devolution Plan for Exploration
« Reply #18 on: 07/21/2008 04:11 PM »

Something to bear in mind: Congress can authorize and appropriate money, but cannot compel the President to spend it, short of impeachment. Checks and balances.

Congress doesn't have to compel the President to spend NASA's money. It compels NASA to spend the money. Unless the President wants to deliberately invoke a Constitutional crisis, he has no further say once the appropriations bill has become law. By either signing the bill or allowing it to become law without signature, the Congress retains the authority to compel, not the President.

The Administrator is the President's representative. It is his or her job to represent the President, and his or her policies, in accordance with the direction and appropriations provided by the Congress, and to oversee the day to day operations of the agency in accordance with Congressional direction.

That's not my understanding of how it works, but I'm certainly not a constitutional law expert. Of course, if Congress appropriated money for NASA and the President ordered the Administrator not to spend it, he would indeed be preciptating a political, if not constitutional crisis. Andrew Johnson was impeached over an issue similar to this, in the sense that it was a turf war between Congress and the President. The Presidency has only increased in power since then.

Offline psloss

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Re: A Reasonable, Post Election Devolution Plan for Exploration
« Reply #19 on: 07/21/2008 05:11 PM »
That's not my understanding of how it works, but I'm certainly not a constitutional law expert. Of course, if Congress appropriated money for NASA and the President ordered the Administrator not to spend it, he would indeed be preciptating a political, if not constitutional crisis. Andrew Johnson was impeached over an issue similar to this, in the sense that it was a turf war between Congress and the President. The Presidency has only increased in power since then.
Are you familiar with the "Saturday Night Massacre"?  It might be hard for a President to find a NASA administrator that would be willing violate existing law(s).  If one were to resign, it might be difficult for subsequent nominations to get through the Senate.

A President is much more likely to veto legislation than to sign it into law and then subsequently "break" that law, as there's no uncertainty about the veto power.
« Last Edit: 07/21/2008 05:12 PM by psloss »

Offline Bubbinski

If the VSE is cancelled, that raises the question of what "vision" or "purpose" would replace it. 

The American people have a lot of concerns right now - gas prices/energy, economy, war, etc.  I'd say IF the VSE were axed, NASA needs to come up with an alternative that can be seen as helping with some of these problems, if they want good public support.  I know solving the "energy crisis" isn't in NASA's job description, but if they started a program to develop space solar power demonstration craft, I think that would be a good thing to do. 

Start with a solar power delivery from space demonstration using something mounted on ISS, then a larger demonstration craft launched by, say a Delta 4 Heavy or something like that, move on to a full SPS system for military use initially if everything goes right and it's feasible.   Hopefully more efficient and lighter, cheaper solar panels/cells would come out of this, I would think that would help future exploration.
I'll even excitedly look forward to "flags and footprints" and suborbital missions. Just fly...somewhere.

Offline psloss

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Re: A Reasonable, Post Election Devolution Plan for Exploration
« Reply #21 on: 07/22/2008 09:14 PM »
If the VSE is cancelled, that raises the question of what "vision" or "purpose" would replace it. 

The American people have a lot of concerns right now - gas prices/energy, economy, war, etc.  I'd say IF the VSE were axed, NASA needs to come up with an alternative that can be seen as helping with some of these problems, if they want good public support.
The people often choose to make their voices heard in some policy debates, but rarely when it comes to space policy.  In most or all cases, our elected representatives have proposed or made space policy changes.  The audience for selling space policy change is still inside the Beltway.

Offline edkyle99

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Re: A Reasonable, Post Election Devolution Plan for Exploration
« Reply #22 on: 07/22/2008 09:53 PM »

I've heard that U.S. production of RD-180 is dead and in the process of being buried.

Could you please explain further.

I've heard that ULA has recently terminated (decided not to renew) its RD-180 "co-production" R&D contracts with PWR/RD-AMROSS.  This work had included developmental fabrication (and testing) of a few engine components, etc..

 - Ed Kyle
« Last Edit: 07/22/2008 09:55 PM by edkyle99 »

Offline arachnitect

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Re: A Reasonable, Post Election Devolution Plan for Exploration
« Reply #23 on: 07/22/2008 10:48 PM »
Start with a solar power delivery from space demonstration using something mounted on ISS

Solar panels already take years to "generate back" the energy used in their production. Adding a flight to orbit, and (presumably micromave?) transmission back to earth only makes your ROI more problematic, whether you're above the atmosphere or not.

   Hopefully more efficient and lighter, cheaper solar panels/cells would come out of this

NASA's priorities in solar power design are not the same as for ground based applications. NASA needs arrays that are light and compact. Earth based applications need lower initial cost per watt and better energy storage (to deal with that annoying "weather" and 12 hours of darkness). I don't think that anything NASA would do at this point will drive down the cost of solar.

I think that the best lower capital intensity projects would be LEO fuel transfer and ISRU demonstrations.

Offline luke strawwalker

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Re: A Reasonable, Post Election Devolution Plan for Exploration
« Reply #24 on: 08/19/2008 07:32 PM »
Let me posit a hypothetical, albeit likely, scenario for 2009:

The new President, citing the need to make "tough decisions" effectively cancels the entire VSE. In the past, such cancellations have led to losses of years, if not decades, in achieving goals such as return to the Moon, or landing on Mars.

So, what levels of activity, or what kinds of activity, could be pursued at a low level so that decades are not lost after 2009? ...


Propulsion.  That is the key. 

 - Ed Kyle

EXACTLY!!!  That's why NASA is finding itself in this quandary now... and why I consider it criminally stupid that the development projects for advanced or evolved engines like RL-60, J2-X, RS-84, F1-A, etc...  even completion of ASRM's would have really helped the current situation.  An incremental, determined, low key, long term experimental and development program would have given NASA a whole stable of suitable rocket engines ready for final development completion and production, without taking years and years to finish work that could have been done years ago.  But the short-term thinking prevailed that STS would go on forever and nothing would be needed to replace it in our lifetimes, or so it seemed...

Now they find their back to the wall with the cupboard essentially bare, and facing long expensive development programs with no results to show for it for a LONG time...  and having to settle for a suboptimal problematic 'solution' simply because the available options just aren't there because the research and development was shrifted for... what??

EXTREMELY short sighted, and now we're paying the piper...

With talk in other posts of the merits/demerits of a "shuttle II" the question I want to know is, why hasn't it been done YEARS AGO??  The closest we came was X-33 and the plug was pulled on it when there were some interesting avenues yet to be explored.  Oh, yeah, I remember the talk now... it was turned over the 'the private sector' and died pretty soon after that.  SO much for 'yall build it and we'll buy rides from you'...  Same thing with NLS or even Shuttle C... had we done the hard work and spent the money to develop and field such a system, we wouldn't be in this stink now...  We might not have the optimal system or the most affordable system, but we wouldn't have our backs to the wall either thumbing a ride off other countries either... 

In the future, we need to avoid this hard spot by learning from it, and if we EVER intend to do ISRU or advanced (nuclear/ion/etc) propulsion we need to be doing the incremental research and demonstration missions NOW (or soon anyway). 

(Sigh)  Oh well, expecting leadership from managers and politicians is asking too much anyway....  If wishes were horses everybody would ride...  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 Steve G

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Re: A Reasonable, Post Election Devolution Plan for Exploration
« Reply #25 on: 08/19/2008 08:05 PM »
I don't see a major shift by either candidate.  Obama hinted he was looking to preserve Florida jobs, and since that is the swing vote state, there may be a policy shift which would reap the state's electoral collage.  The best way to get votes is to lean towards Direct since it promises to save jobs.

However, with just two years to go until the shuttle is retired, the options are less than unlimited despite the problems.  There is the growing gap, the incredibly shirking spacecraft (Orion), the Ares 1 problems, the humongous federal deficit and deteriorating relations with the Russians which represents America's ride into space for five years following 2010.

No matter who wins, I believe both will try to close the gap.  This will either by dumping more $$$ onto the Ares 1, or choose an alternative.  I don't see the shuttle being extended more than by a year, there are simply no more parts available right now to sustain the fleet past 2010.

The space priority of the next administration, Democrat or Republican, will be closing the gap and reducing US independence on the Soyuz and saving the investment on the ISS.  It will be NASA led, not by COTS.

I see the Ares 1 being canceled for a quicker route, but whether it is Direct remains to be seen.

Sadly, the moon will be put on the back burner.


Offline Antares

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Re: A Reasonable, Post Election Devolution Plan for Exploration
« Reply #26 on: 08/19/2008 08:08 PM »
Well, look at what the DoD has learned to do in some areas of its purview (rockets) and is learning to do in others (satellites).

Fund low level technology development where the programs fielded by the warfighter (~ astronaut) are not dependent on technologies that are not yet ready to be integrated for prime time.  This is what DARPA, AFRL, NRL, etc. do, sometimes in cooperation with things like Phantomworks and Skunk Works.  Look at the satellite debacles (FIA, SBIRS, others) that have happened in recent years - they put new technologies in the critical path for integration into a system and field use of that system, and failed miserably.

And then when the DoD decides to field a system for operation, it has a clear, defined mission without requirements creep (at least the successful ones).  NASA's only agreed-upon mission is to keep 70-some-000 people employed.
If I like something on NSF, it's probably because I know it to be accurate.  Every once in a while, it's just something I agree with.  Facts generally receive the former.

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