Author Topic: Op Ed: Five years after Augustine: How does the panel feel about NASA’s SLS  (Read 51531 times)

Online AncientU

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 4964
  • Liked: 2965
  • Likes Given: 4184

Quote from: Augustine
"NASA is the most accomplished space organization in the world. Its human spaceflight activities are nonetheless at a tipping point, primarily due to a mismatch of goals and resources. Either additional funds need to be made avail- able or a far more modest program involving little or no exploration needs to be adopted."

The "mismatch of goals and resources" is directly the result of deliberate mis-prioritization, which is a totally understandable consequence of the factional fiefdom system, and its decades old culture of gamed "optimism".

At least, and at last, they are building a launch vehicle, and it is up to NASA to do this on time and on schedule.  Then it will be up to congress to determine if there will ever be anything launched other than ballast.

I agree with you that our next president will keep her hands off of the issue of HSF policy.  As she would say, "What does it matter?"

Then, it will be time to do an honest comparison of what NASA has produced with its political arms tied behind its back and what the USA (private sector lead, but publicly competed/funded) using can produce without such constraints.  The decision will be that NASA, in its current form/function, is finished as a builder of launch vehicles. 

Time to move on...

Or restore to NASA/the Nation the authority to set long-term spaceflight goals and get them funded as planned (somehow, this stirs visions of unicorn flame trench dancing).
"If we shared everything [we are working on] people would think we are insane!"
-- SpaceX friend of mlindner

Offline JohnFornaro

  • Not an expert
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 9162
  • Delta-t is the salient metric.
  • Planet Eaarth
    • Design / Program Associates
  • Liked: 610
  • Likes Given: 314
At least, and at last, they are building a launch vehicle, and it is up to NASA to do this on time and on schedule.  Then it will be up to congress to determine if there will ever be anything launched other than ballast.

Then, it will be time to do an honest comparison of what NASA has produced with its political arms tied behind its back and what the USA (private sector lead, but publicly competed/funded) using can produce without such constraints.  The decision will be that NASA, in its current form/function, is finished as a builder of launch vehicles.

First, as a friendly warning, you open yourself to shallow criticism by saying that Nasa is "builder of launch vehicles".  Joe Fonebone, a contractor who lives down the street, just "built" a house.  Obviously, he didn't pour every bag of concrete, nail every stud, and paint every wall; his subcontractors did.  Still Joe can legitimately claim to have built the house, and NASA can legitimately claim to have built SLS, whenever that shuold happen.

I'm just pointing this out in an effort to forestall the expected and typically useless pander about how NASA isn't building SLS.

I'm not sure what you mean by the phrase "political arms tied behind its back". 

Back in Griffin's day, the President made one speech and then Griffin worked the congressional political scene to his grandiose and ultimately failed launch system.  In Bolden's day, the President made one speech, and then appears to have ordered the Administrator to fight Congress to the point of subpoenas and contempt.  Is this kinda sorta what you're driving at?

Quote from: AncientU
Or restore to NASA/the Nation the authority to set long-term spaceflight goals and get them funded as planned...

If I mold your words to suit my purposes, then I generally agree with this.  By "molding your words", I mean pretty much changing your statement completely:

The President should work with congressional leadership on creating a plan to establish a permanent human outpost on Mars, by using Luna and L1 as a testing ground for the necessary equipment and techniques needed.  Obvious equipment components would include in space and surface habs, depot architecture, landers, a LEO to L1 tug and finally, an MTV.  Some of the obvious necessary techniques would include propellant transfer, and the demonstration of lunar ISRU.

As to determining the budget for this effort, in the early years, it should be a fixed amount only, say $5B annually, use it or save it.  The faith based pretense that exhaustive study accurately predicts costs and always results in the best design should be abandoned, and that talent should be directed towards the proper scheduling of tasks and accomplishment which would further the goal of getting to Mars.

In other words, do things in the proper order.

As to the political gamesmanship regarding the political distribution of the workforce, I point out that the entire workforce infrastructure is there already.  Somehow, there would have to be implemented a non-partisan oversight committee to divide the workload to the various contractors on a merit based system which has a cost component.

In other words, cut the fat, get the job done.

Like ya say, time to move on...
« Last Edit: 09/09/2014 01:43 PM by JohnFornaro »
Sometimes I just flat out don't get it.

Offline vulture4

  • Full Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 987
  • Liked: 305
  • Likes Given: 89
Quote
The President should work with congressional leadership on creating a plan to establish a permanent human outpost on Mars, by using Luna and L1 as a testing ground for the necessary equipment and techniques needed.
I'm curious who in the congressional leadership has shown support for this, particularly at the $5B/yr level.

Offline JohnFornaro

  • Not an expert
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 9162
  • Delta-t is the salient metric.
  • Planet Eaarth
    • Design / Program Associates
  • Liked: 610
  • Likes Given: 314
Quote
The President should work with congressional leadership on creating a plan to establish a permanent human outpost on Mars, by using Luna and L1 as a testing ground for the necessary equipment and techniques needed.

I'm curious who in the congressional leadership has shown support for this, particularly at the $5B/yr level.

Wish I knew.  And perhaps the number should "only" be $3B/year.  I'm riffing off of Augustine and the idea that SLS costs, over time, will be reduced.

There are two aspects of my proposal which are new.  Fixed annual budget, with a use it or save it approach.  At the end of the fiscal year, there wouldn't be this hypocritical waste of taxpayer dollars that plagues every (not just some) government agency.

Secondly, I expect a savings, possibly the $3B figure, from the significant amount of staff time spent in endless inconclusive study and debate over definitions, in favor of the more empirical, pragmatic approach used in the Apollo program.

Keep in mind that I suggest a broad brush approach, and a more comprehensive policy would have to be written.  In the face of expected resistance from the beneficiaries of the status quo, both in industry and congress, this workable plan I've concocted has a slim chance of success, even though, properly implemented the financial amounts would not fall.  With demonstrated success, and effective communication to the voters, successive NASA budgets would likely increase, and private efforts would secure more investment dollars.

What's not to like?

Oh.  Status quo and non-accomplishment.
Sometimes I just flat out don't get it.

Offline vulture4

  • Full Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 987
  • Liked: 305
  • Likes Given: 89
Fixed annual budget, with a use it or save it approach.
A good idea, but this would require a major change in laws. There are a few exceptions but generally federal regulations prohibit saving money past the end of a funding period. The rationale is that if you didn't spend it you didn't need it and shouldn't have asked for it.

Quote
With demonstrated success, and effective communication to the voters, successive NASA budgets would likely increase, and private efforts would secure more investment dollars.
This would also be nice, but I'm not sure the record supports your hypothesis. Even after the Moon landing NASA's budget was slashed, and other R&D agencies like NIH which are quite productive are losing ground even now.
« Last Edit: 09/10/2014 04:34 AM by vulture4 »

Offline JohnFornaro

  • Not an expert
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 9162
  • Delta-t is the salient metric.
  • Planet Eaarth
    • Design / Program Associates
  • Liked: 610
  • Likes Given: 314
Fixed annual budget, with a use it or save it approach.

1) A good idea, but this would require a major change in laws. There are a few exceptions but generally federal regulations prohibit saving money past the end of a funding period. The rationale is that if you didn't spend it you didn't need it and shouldn't have asked for it.

Quote
With demonstrated success, and effective communication to the voters, successive NASA budgets would likely increase, and private efforts would secure more investment dollars.

2) This would also be nice, but I'm not sure the record supports your hypothesis. Even after the Moon landing NASA's budget was slashed, and other R&D agencies like NIH which are quite productive are losing ground even now.

1) Quite aware of the law and the fiscal  "traditions" there.  The rationale is blatantly false as any conversation around the water cooler will reveal.  Still, it persists.

You know how science does not yet have an explanation for where inertia comes from?  Ernst Mach offered an interpretation that inertia is more or less an embodiement of force at a distance.  It's not a widely held view, and I bet you're wondering where I'm going with this.

The "status quo" is very much like inertia, obviously pertaining to human affairs, not so much interstellar bodies.  The political status quo obviously benefits certain parties who actively work to sustain the status quo.  But it is also habitual; this is the way "it's always been done"; it's a hard habit for government to break.

But it is being broken in some ways, with the "rainy day" funds that certain states set up to take care of tax income fluctuations.  Consider leadership* for a moment.  NASA has been a leader in workplace diversity for years.  With a carefully guided cultural change, NASA could demonstrate leadership in fiscal policy.  Yeah, it would be a different approach to the problem of the status quo.

Backing up to habit and inertia. C.S Peirce suggests that the "constants" of the universe resemble habits more than constants and that they do change over time.  Just an OT aside regarding a different approach to the problem of inertia.

2) NASA's budget was slashed at that time because decision makers preferred elective war on false premises.  In my mind, this has been going on since Korea.  Sixty years later, this status quo is quite the habit waiting to be broken.

Consider the hypothetical past as if Griffin had heeded Sutton 7th, p. 350, regarding TO.  It is arguably more than likely, with the Saturn V generation at the top of their game, that the BFR would have been successfully launched, and we'd be ten years closer to having a lunar base supporting an effort to get to Mars permanently.  That $11B would have been used, not disposed of.

Obviously, the relationship between accomplishment and funding is a complex one, and different agencies of the government necessarily would have different outcomes.  Still, NIH is a good current example, with the Ebola virus calling for a cure.  Too bad NIH doesn't have a rainy day fund.

The habitual status quo of there being little relationship between agency accomplishment and annual funding also seems to have habitual roots in the long standing proctice of our government to fail to call things by their true name.

But I can only fix one agency at a time.

*Random avatar: 'Define leadership.'  Me: 'Shut up.'
Sometimes I just flat out don't get it.

Offline SWGlassPit

  • I break space hardware
  • Full Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 442
  • Liked: 250
  • Likes Given: 35

1) Quite aware of the law and the fiscal  "traditions" there.  The rationale is blatantly false as any conversation around the water cooler will reveal.  Still, it persists.

You know how science does not yet have an explanation for where inertia comes from?  Ernst Mach offered an interpretation that inertia is more or less an embodiement of force at a distance.  It's not a widely held view, and I bet you're wondering where I'm going with this.

The "status quo" is very much like inertia, obviously pertaining to human affairs, not so much interstellar bodies.  The political status quo obviously benefits certain parties who actively work to sustain the status quo.  But it is also habitual; this is the way "it's always been done"; it's a hard habit for government to break.

But it is being broken in some ways, with the "rainy day" funds that certain states set up to take care of tax income fluctuations.  Consider leadership* for a moment.  NASA has been a leader in workplace diversity for years.  With a carefully guided cultural change, NASA could demonstrate leadership in fiscal policy.  Yeah, it would be a different approach to the problem of the status quo.

Backing up to habit and inertia. C.S Peirce suggests that the "constants" of the universe resemble habits more than constants and that they do change over time.  Just an OT aside regarding a different approach to the problem of inertia.

You can't compare state and federal budgeting.  States are more or less fully in control of their budgeting, and the rainy day fund happens at the top-line level.  It's legal specifically because the state made it legal.

You can't do that for a federal agency budget without an explicit change in federal law.  With the federal government running a deficit pretty much every year, and with multiple agencies funded at less-than-ideal levels, OMB and congressional appropriators look at unspent funds the way vultures look at roadkill.  If this use-or-save approach will ever come into fruition, it will have to happen for the entire federal government.  If that were to ever happen, you can guarantee there will be a political revolt demanding tax cuts and refunds.  Unless the collective personality of the American electorate changes drastically, it will never happen.

Offline JohnFornaro

  • Not an expert
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 9162
  • Delta-t is the salient metric.
  • Planet Eaarth
    • Design / Program Associates
  • Liked: 610
  • Likes Given: 314
"You can't do that for a federal agency budget without an explicit change in federal law."

Is it completely beyond the pale to think that I'm calling for a change in federal law?
Sometimes I just flat out don't get it.

Offline SWGlassPit

  • I break space hardware
  • Full Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 442
  • Liked: 250
  • Likes Given: 35
It would be an incredibly disruptive change that would affect every single federal agency and office and would throw a huge wrench in the entire appropriations process.  I just do not see such a change happening in this congress or any other for the foreseeable future. 

Offline JohnFornaro

  • Not an expert
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 9162
  • Delta-t is the salient metric.
  • Planet Eaarth
    • Design / Program Associates
  • Liked: 610
  • Likes Given: 314
Not that I see it happening either, but I note that "disruptive change" is good except when it's bad, according to the whims of one poster or another.
Sometimes I just flat out don't get it.

Offline vulture4

  • Full Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 987
  • Liked: 305
  • Likes Given: 89
Not that I see it happening either, but I note that "disruptive change" is good except when it's bad, according to the whims of one poster or another.

I'd be glad to see it, but don't hold your breath. For people who haven't been in a government project, the reality might seem the stuff of fantasy. I've been at program reviews in which managers constantly faced an inquisition regarding "burn  rate", and that doesn't refer to consumption of rocket fuel. Every dollar has to be accounted for. If someone gets sick or dies and can no longer be paid, managers must act quickly to find a new way to keep spending at the proper rate, and woe betide the manager who could not explain any discrepancies! Some money must be spent this year, other money can be kept till next year, but no longer. "Contingency plans" must be drawn up to get rid of any unexpected expiring dollars. There is nothing worse than "leaving money on the table" when the fateful hour of midnight arrives. The money goes all the way back to the treasury and everyone in the chain of appropriation will look bad. That might explain the popularity of SLS/Orion; it effortlessly consumes cash that might otherwise be hard to dispose of.

Oh, and on the side we need to actually find funds, keep our essential personnel from getting laid off, and maybe, if we are lucky, occasionally do something useful. If we do, then we have to spend twice as much time generating reports that management can use to get credit for it from higher management. Sometimes I wonder if we are living in the world of "Alice in Wonderland".
« Last Edit: 09/18/2014 02:00 AM by vulture4 »

Offline JohnFornaro

  • Not an expert
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 9162
  • Delta-t is the salient metric.
  • Planet Eaarth
    • Design / Program Associates
  • Liked: 610
  • Likes Given: 314
Not that I see it happening either, but I note that "disruptive change" is good except when it's bad, according to the whims of one poster or another.

I'd be glad to see it, but don't hold your breath.

Using Mark Twain's three categories; lies, damn likes, and statistics, the current government operation model is not even a statistic.  It's a damn lie.

Any honest government employee will agree with me, under promise of anonymity.  NASA is the one government agency where the disruptive change for good, use it or save it, could be implemented, at least incrementally.

And where's you get the idea that I was holding my breath?  I'm actually banging my head against the wall!  I couldn't find the right emoticon.
Sometimes I just flat out don't get it.

Offline vulture4

  • Full Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 987
  • Liked: 305
  • Likes Given: 89
I'm actually banging my head against the wall!  I couldn't find the right emoticon.



Tags: