Thursday, June 02, 2005

NASA FLOUNDERS Torn in Two

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Cheney and DeLay, in between hiding from process servers, getting judges to agree to astonishing dictates and hiding in undisclosed places with undisclosed documents concerning everything from energy to UN ambassador candidates and cheesy fund raising episodes in Texas, promised NASA they will have money to go to the moon.
ASA's new administrator and Texas Republican Rep. Tom DeLay said Tuesday the space agency will have the necessary funding to implement President Bush's vision to send astronauts back to the moon and to Mars.

"We have the money to do good things," said Michael Griffin, who has visited at least seven of NASA's centers since he was appointed in April. During a two-day visit at the home of human spaceflight, he spoke with astronauts, flight directors and other top administrators.

Griffin said the agency has received a steady flow of funding that when adjusted for inflation is comparable to the funding the agency had when it first sent astronauts to the moon during the Apollo program of the 1960s and early 1970s.
Ah, the good ole days of the space race! The goal was the moon, to finally beat the Russians at something! Everything was aimed for this goal and we got the goal and then sat there and flipped out. We had no idea of what to do with it.

This started up a lot of activity. I was part of this. We began to campaign hard for... the Hubble Space Telescope, for example. And mining the asteroids and building space colonies in the L-5 orbit. And then sending out colonies to other star systems.
"You will find that NASA received as much in the last 16 years of its existence as in the first 16," he said. "In my judgment, we can go to the moon. We can go to Mars. We can't do them quite as quickly as we did during Apollo, but we can do it."

DeLay said NASA is a priority—even in a time of war and tightening budgets.

"We will provide the funding necessary to get us where we want to go," the House majority leader said. "And hopefully we can do it in an expedited manner."
Of course, our government is going bankrupt. We are telling Medicaid patients there is no more money for them. We are telling other social programs there is no more money for them. We are now cutting school funding...no money. Why is Bush and his Texas goon squad so interested in NASA?

Well, look at where the moon/Mars stuff is! Texas and Florida. They are cutting out all the robot exploration that comes from California.
The new administrator said he foresees no reason why Johnson Space Center's mission would be significantly altered and hopes to maintain the balance that has been reached between robotic and human space missions.

"If you ask anyone in this country, 'Do you believe that the United States should cede the moon to say the Chinese, Europeans, Russians, whoever?' I bet you the answer would be, 'No,'" he said.

Griffin said he believes a majority of people "want to make sure that as humankind expands into space the United States is there in the forefront."
OK, where is this "majority of people"? All the drum banging for going to Mars has created nearly zero interest. The runaway bride should have gone to Mars! Then maybe people might have been interested. The fact that the space shuttle is still idle is rather funny. The brave speeches about going to the moon when we can't even fix the pumbing in the space station is...pathetic. And the world knows this.

The GAO auditors know this whole thing stinks.
Government auditors faulted NASA on Tuesday for failing to adequately investigate cheaper, safer alternatives to the space shuttle for delivering parts and supplies to the International Space Station.

With just five years until the three remaining shuttles retire, NASA has 28 flights scheduled to complete work on the orbiting research laboratory. That's a flight rate of more than five shuttle missions per year, which even agency leaders acknowledge could prove to be too many.

Lawmakers in Congress have pressed the agency to examine lower-cost missions to the space station using expendable rockets and cargo containers.
Earth to space station: guess what? The Russians are the "cheaper" method but we don't want to admit this. And a mere five missions a year for the space shuttle? I remember the debates about this matter back in the seventies. NASA assured Congress the Space Shuttle would make money and could be launched 70+ flights a year. At the time, I felt this was excessive. I also felt that pretending space exploration would "pay for itself" flight by flight was a stupid idea. Space developments have vastly improved many things we take for granted today but seldom do they "pay off" immediately. Like any growing organism, the tree has to grow before the fruit matures.
At a May Senate hearing, Griffin acknowledged the shuttles may not be up to making 28 flights in five years. He said shuttle program engineers and managers are considering dropping some of the missions.

A new cargo-only module could be employed to replace the lost shuttle missions, Griffin said. The agency is currently evaluating 26 proposals from companies interested in ferrying cargo to and from the space station. International partners Japan and Europe are developing automated cargo haulers that can launch on rockets. Currently, Russia's Progress automated cargo spacecraft are the only means of resupplying the outpost while the U.S. shuttles are grounded.

NASA officials indicated they agree with the GAO's findings and outlined ongoing efforts to accelerate the design and production of a cargo-only launch vehicles.
I had no involvement in the effort to create a space station. I thought it was interesting that one was being built but felt there was an over all lack of faith in the project because the designers were more interested in international politics rather than some known goal. This lack of focus is why the general population of the participating countries are vastly uninterested. This lack of interest is not a surprise. What pleases me is when NASA's new leader and the Bush people tried to kill the Hubble Space Telescope, people did wake up and begin to yell. This valuable mission is still in jeopardy, though. Every time we think we won the fight, the people determined to kill it undermine the possibility of fixing it.

But NASA's problems are deeper. They even admit now that it will take us more than ten years to go to the moon. The first time took less than ten years. Kennedy announced it as a goal and in eight years, man was on the moon. Now we are going to drag our asses back...slowly. Reluctantly, actually. We really don't want to go there. The plan is to mine the moon for the Mars mission.

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress....