Saturday, September 25, 2010

Open Lines, Friday, 9-24-2010


Guest:  Open Lines with Dr. David Livingston.  Topics:  Space policy, congress, FY 11 NASA budget.  This program was an unplanned Open Lines program due to the last minute rescheduling of the planned program.  Please note that you are invited to comment, ask questions, and rate this program on the new Space Show blog, I read a policy update statement from our friend Henry Vanderbilt of Space Access Society, pertaining to the differences in the House and Senate compromise bills being discussed, and the timing for a House vote on their bill.  We also talked about an Orlando Sentinel article indicating that the House and Senate versions were now very close to one another.  Our first caller was Bob Zimmerman who talked about the differences between the House and Senate versions of the compromise NASA plan to the plan proposed by President Obama on Feb. 1 of this year.  Bob did not think the differences were all that much, that there was a real risk for budget cuts, including cuts of the NASA budget for FY 11 and that the FY-11 proposals represented "pork."  He supported many of the provisions that President Obama put forth but they did not translate over to Congress.  Bob is the Space Show guest on this subject and more on Thursday, Sept. 29 at 9:30 AM PDT.  Following Bob, Amnon called to tell us that Astronauts4Hire has its first customer, an Australian beer company that will do zero-g experiments.  You can learn more about this project from the press release his organization put out,  Amnon also created a short survey for space enthusiasts and their friends and families to assess their knowledge about space and issues pertaining to space. He is interested in finding out if we in the space industry are doing a good job of getting the space word out about space.  If you want to see and use his survey, you can find it on Amnon's Spacepirations blog at  Briefly, he is asking us to ask our family, coworkers and friends which Space Shuttle is getting ready for launch, when is the next launch, how many Space Shuttle launches remain after this one and what mission number is it going to be?  If you have thoughts or suggestions about his survey, you can post them on his blog.  I'm not so sure how many of us space cadets could answer these questions nor am I convinced that this is the priority info that we should have rolling off the tip of our tongues.  Let Amnon know your thoughts and results should you use the survey.  Our friend Charles called in from Mohave as he has not yet crossed the state line to Nevada on a permanent basis.  He commented on the Space Access Society update and kept saying that it was like flogging a dead horse and then repeated his usual comments about policy, how to start off correctly in space development and the Microlauncher concept.  He also provided a short personal history of how he landed in Mojave in the first place.  During the balance of Open Lines, we continued to talk space policy, the likelihood of the NASA budget being cut depending on the outcome of the November 2nd elections, comments made by Dennis Wingo on his recent Space Show program about the dangers and risks of space companies taking federal money and more.  In support of what Dennis said several weeks ago, I again referenced one of the panel discussions from the recent NewSpace conference and earlier comments on the subject by our friend Tom Olson.  If you have questions or comments for any of the callers or those asking questions, its best to post them on the Out of the Box blog URL above.  You can also email me at


  1. I am coming to the conclusion that advances in space in the US come about in spite of what the house of representatives and Senate do by way of budgets and legislation since anything they enact seems to be so tied up with self interest and barter polics it has little relevance to what needs to be done. Add to this that the whole process is repeated on a yearly basis makes it almost impossible to accomplish anything.

  2. Advances in space come when we need them for something. For decades NASA has just been a PR stunt.

    I seriously fear either way the current proposals in DC end, NASA as a agency that can do exploration or cutting edge anything is over. NASA will effectively die with the shuttles. And new spacre or old space folks are just arguing over who gets more pork off the corpse.

    I seriously don't agree with the idea that new/space or etc, or commercial - can in anyway move us forward in space. They seem to all have utterly failed to find any commercial backers. Perhaps Virgin or Biggelow can open some huge markets - but I've not heard any signs of real demand out there trying to beat down their doors?

    I'm really losing all optimism here. All the space advocacy groups just seem to be shutting their eyes and arguing for scraps - or spouting nonsence.

  3. I'm going to raise a ugly subject. I'm not going to say I believe what I'm about to say is actual fact. I'm throwing it out as a discussion point. I'm inclined to believe what I'm about to say because I'm a big believer that systems fail easier than work, and that failure modes are by far more likely to occur than success.

    There is too much democracy in space. At its base space travel depends on machine tools, machinists, integrators, engineers, and SOME management. Space policy is, in the end, telling the machinists, integrators, and engineers what to do. I wonder how many machinists, integrators, and engineers are really working the problem for real? But I'll bet the number is small. There's only so much they can do, and having them retool, learn new skills, and make new designs takes a lot of time and effort.

    There's only so much you can tell them to do. Yet, ideas of policy, direction, what have you are not coherent with each other. You can see this by the conflicting world views of the various space policy groups as well as the people working the problem. Look at the SpaceShow Class on Fuel Depots. Two very educated engineers fluent in the dynamics that drive the problem come to opposing points of view. Logic alone cannot tell us what to do, in the end it will be a flawed management call.

    Having a lot of ideas and conflicting points of view out there is a great thing. So long as someone can eventually tell the existing industrial base what to do. At some point people have to admit that they're not going to tell the industrial base what to do and move on. However, that's not happening. What's really surprised me in the demise of Bush-Space was the power of the various interest groups. Even the fringe groups. Every one's had a time on stage with real consideration to defining what piece of metal gets made in the working volume of machine tools. This kind of chaos cannot stand for long. Now that the various groups smell metal and oil in their nostrils they will become less compromising in their stances. Furthermore, when the winning project starts to run into trouble (As all of them will.) the losers, instead of helping, will throw their unused policy as a sling at the program in trouble instead of coming to its rescue.

    We have too much real Democracy.

    If we do have too much real Democracy, I suggest this as a remedy. The losers move on and begin the process of tooling up and making an industrial base to do their own thing. Much as Carmak, Masten, and XCor has done. Once you have your own industrial base to further your own goals you are less tempted to jump the guy who has the big industrial base when they get into trouble. Having your own industrial base THAT YOU'VE BUILT gives you a sense of morality with respect to destruction of industrial enterprises. It really endows one with a sense of the word strategic. I would hope that if the other policy groups were to tool up on their own, they might come to the help of the policy group that won command of the establishment instead of jumping on it's back. Space is about building, not vanquishing the people who disagree with you.

    Peace Everyone.

  4. Don't agree - as far as I can follow? - with your to much democracy in space.

    Big agree that the last couple years its just been various special interest groups talking about how their cause is the most noble - but really they just want the most pork. Vultures fighting over the best bite out of the remains of NASA and the space program.

  5. Hi Kelly, but what do the various space interest groups get out it? The primes, yes, they get to eat pork. But I'm also talking about the various level of interest group. I can't say I'm in the know here, but does the Space Frontier Foundation, Mars Society, etc, receive any money?

  6. ... From the federal G I meant.


  7. Hi Andrew

    >AndrewT said...

    > but what do the various space interest groups get out it? ==
    >== the various level of interest group. I can't say I'm in the know here,
    > but does the Space Frontier Foundation, Mars Society, etc, receive any money?

    No other then subscription or membership fees, they don't get anything. Well unless the primes or NASA throw them a grant or something.
    But they do fiercely support their favorite contractors, etc. So for said contractor - its free highly devoted lobbyists.