Though this is a blog chronicling the misadventures of the crew of RV-103, many of you know I am retired from Kennedy Space Center and Human Space Flight is near and dear to my heart. A major event recently occurred that I want to comment on. It is not a launch, but something bigger, the deliberate ending of 50 years of America’s Human Space Flight Program.
On 1-27-10 the Orlando Sentinel broke the story that the Obama Administration was going to cancel the Constellation Program. Constellation is the successor program to the Shuttle Program which is ending in September. In place of Constellation, Obama is proposing an unspecified plan that is supposed to be “superior” and will supposedly be flying to unspecified locations sometime after 2020, ten years or more from now. Obama even had the audacity to announce this cancellation of our Human Space Flight Program during the anniversary week of the loss of Apollo One, Challenger, and Columbia. I guess choosing this week is appropriate since we can now add the loss of America’s Human Space Flight to this sad and sober anniversary.
Constellation was to be the successor for the Shuttle Program. After the loss of Space Shuttle Columbia, President Bush ordered that the Shuttle Program be shut down after the International Space Station was finally completed in 2010.
The new goal for Constellation and NASA was to transport astronauts back to the Moon, to build a base there, and teach us how to live on another world before we made the bigger leap to Mars. Constellation was to be the program that would sustain our Human Space Flight for these United States for the next 50 years.
When the democrats took power in Congress shortly afterwards, Constellation was hampered with inadequate funding year after year. NASA had to try to develop Constellation and fly the remaining shuttle missions with a limited budget. To give you an idea how limited that budget was, in 2009, Congress gave General Motors a bailout to get them through a 3 month period. The amount given to GM exceeded an entire year of NASA’s budget.
Despite the inadequate funding, NASA was able to develop Constellation. After 6 years and 9 billion dollars invested by the taxpayers, hardware has been built, workers are assigned to the program from nearly all nine NASA centers, and ground support equipment has been built including the launch facilities at Pad B, the launch tower, and a Launch Control Center. There was and still is actual hardware and workers that are making Constellation come into being. In October of 2009, Constellation had their first successful launch of the Ares I rocket. The day after the announcement that Constellation was to be cancelled, workers had just attached the final piece of the new launch gantry.
An upset worker on the project took the initiative to post this Craig’s List ad that ran for a day before NASA had it flagged for removal.
During the 2008 presidential campaign, Obama came to Titusville Florida, and looked the KSC workers and their families’ right in the eye promising that he would continue Constellation. He lied of course so he could win Florida in the election.
When Obama won the election, I told my co-workers that he would cancel Constellation and replace it with a program that would exist only on paper and PowerPoint. The media would fawn over how “brilliant” and “farseeing” Obama’s new program would be, but as like any space program that exists only on paper, it is only science fiction. My prediction turned out to be true. Obama has ended America’s Human Space Flight program that has existed for 50 years and ceded leadership in space to the Russians and the Chinese.
Some complain that NASA’s budget could do better buying more school lunches or some other social program. How much did NASA cost the taxpayer? Several billion each year, but if you break it down to actual taxpayer cost, it was 1/6 of one cent of every taxpayer dollar. Compare that to the Social Welfare programs such as Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security which takes up over 50 cents of the taxpayer dollar. Considering all the technological spinoffs that NASA has spawned over the last 50 years, which program do you think gave the American taxpayer a better return?
Some say that NASA is nothing but a government welfare system. My idea of a welfare recipient is someone without an education, no job nor inclined to get a job, a single parent usually with multiple children by multiple fathers, laying on the couch all day eating potato chips while watching Jerry Springer, and meeting with their crack dealer later in the evening.
NASA and their contractors work for the American taxpayer. They punch a clock every day, performed their assigned tasks, and pay their taxes. These are productive members of our society and these ordinary people do extraordinary things by designing, building, and launching spacecraft and people. Their work is to take care of and grow one of the most productive crown jewels of these United States of America. These are not welfare people, but workers who produce for the American People.
There is a cost to our nation for this deliberate destruction of our Human Space Flight Program. As Keith Vauqelin once said, “I am convinced of the fact that when societies and civilizations retreat from exploration, they die.” The Human Space Flight Program is one of the prominent crown jewels of these United States and unlike a monument, a productive crown jewel. The spin offs from the program have both directly and indirectly benefited our society in countless ways from technology, to health care, etc.
I always envisioned that the Constellation Program would spin off many new things, for example, cheap durable housing/shelters from learning to live on the Moon. Can you imagine the Haiti earthquake and their current plea for tents, fabric that will barely shelter someone from the elements, instead had an aircraft carrier from the USA show up with cheap, durable shelters spun off the Moon program to house the homeless? Shelters that could withstand solar radiation, storms, temperature extremes of -200 F to 200 F, etc, let alone the normal elements? That could have very well happened in some future disaster because of our investment in Human Space Flight.
How many of you know that currently we have 6 astronauts/cosmonauts and scientists flying above in the International Space Station? How many know that this facility is considered a world class research facility and not just a “space station?” How many of you know it has been occupied for over 10 years?
To lose our Human Space Flight Program is harmful to our nation and a good example of our current Congress and President’s methodical destruction of our country’s infrastructure and Constitutional Republic. They are, in my opinion, working very hard to bring a return to the days of the Lords and serfs.
Another cost to our nation is the eventual loss of our 100 billion dollar space station to the Russians. We have paid for the majority of this station and now we will be giving it away. We will be dependent on the Russians for a ride to the station and already they are saying they will be raising the price to over 50 million dollars per ride. Expect more price increases, charging of rent for us to stay on our own station, and the possible denial of a ride and therefore denial of our space station.
Why would they want to give us a ride? They may ask that question some day in the near future. It’s like giving the key to your home to a competitor, throwing away your car, and asking him to give you a ride home 250 miles everyday. Eventually your competitor could leave you stranded 250 miles from home and help himself to your house. Keep in mind that only Russia and China will have access to space after September and historically they have not been our friends.
The human cost is there also. Nearly 13,000 workers at KSC, 3,000 workers at JSC, and up to 5,000 workers at MSFC will lose their jobs. For every job at these space centers, there are approximately 4 jobs in the surrounding communities. Instead of having nearly 21,000 workers productively working for the American taxpayer, and nearly 84,000 surrounding community jobs that employ productive citizens, we will end up losing nearly all these jobs. Nearly 105,000 jobs gone, 105,000 families affected, 105,000 families now dependent on the taxpayer for unemployment, welfare, and food stamps? And Obama calls this progress?
I know I am not as well spoken as Apollo 17 astronaut Dr. Harrison Schmitt, so I will end this with his thoughts on the matter. Dr. Schmitt is the only scientist (geologist) to actually walk on the Moon and the first scientist to travel into space. Please take some time to read and forward his words.
NEW SPACE POLICY CEDES MOON TO CHINA, SPACE STATION TO RUSSIA, AND LIBERTY TO THE AGES.
E-Mail | 2/5/10 | Harrison H. Schmitt
Posted on 02/08/2010 12:49:31 PM PST by Revel
Harrison H. Schmitt Was an Apollo 17 astronaut who walked on the moon. A very good friend involved with LRO, sent me this.
As promised, my reaction to the FY2011 NASA budget proposal follows:
NEW SPACE POLICY CEDES MOON TO CHINA, SPACE STATION TO RUSSIA, AND LIBERTY TO THE AGES.
The Administration finally has announced its formal retreat on American Space Policy after a year of morale destroying clouds of uncertainty. The lengthy delay, the abandonment of human exploration, and the wimpy, un-American thrust of the proposed budget indicates that the Administration does not understand, or want to acknowledge, the essential role space plays in the future of the United States and liberty. This continuation of other apologies and retreats in the global arena would cede the Moon to China, the American Space Station to Russia, and assign liberty to the ages.
The repeated hypocrisy of this President continues to astound. His campaign promises endorsed what he now proposes to cancel. His July celebration of the 40th Anniversary of the first Moon landing now turns out to be just a photo op with the Apollo 11 crew. With one wave of a budget wand, the Congress, the NASA family, and the American people are asked to throw their sacrifices and achievements in space on the ash heap of history.
Expenditures of taxpayer provided funds on space related activities find constitutional justification in Article I, Section 8, Clause 8, that gives Congress broad power to “promote the Progress of Science and the useful Arts.” In addition, the Article I power and obligation to “provide for the Common Defense” relates directly to the geopolitical importance of space exploration at this frontier of human endeavor. A space program not only builds wealth, economic vitality, and educational momentum through technology and discovery, but it also sets the modern geopolitical tone for the United States to engage friends and adversaries in the world. For example, in the 1980’s, the dangerous leadership of the former Soviet Union believed America would be successful in creating a missile defense system because we succeeded in landing on the Moon and they had not. Dominance in space was one of the major factors leading to the end of the Cold War.
With a new Cold War looming before us, involving the global ambitions and geopolitical challenge of the national socialist regime in China, President George W. Bush put America back on a course to maintain space dominance. What became the Constellation Program comprised his January 14, 2004 vision of returning Americans and their partners to deep space by putting astronauts back on the Moon, going on to Mars, and ultimately venturing beyond. Unfortunately, like all Administrations since Eisenhower and Kennedy, the Bush Administration lost perspective about space. Inadequate budget proposals and lack of Congressional leadership and funding during Constellation’s formative years undercut Administrator Michael Griffin’s effort to implement the Program after 2004. Delays due to this under-funding have rippled through national space capabilities until we must retire the Space Shuttle without replacement access to space. Now, we must pay at least $50 million per seat for the Russians to ferry Americans and others to the International Space Station. How the mighty have fallen.
Not only did Constellation never received(sic) the Administration’s promised funding, but the Bush Administration and Congress required NASA 1) to continue the construction of the International Space Station (badly under-budgeted by former NASA Administrator O’Keefe, the OMB, and ultimately by the Congress), 2) to accommodate numerous major over-runs in the science programs (largely protected from major revision or cancellation by narrow Congressional interests), 3) to manage the Agency without hire and fire authority (particularly devastating to the essential hiring of young engineers), and 4) to assimilate, through added delays, the redirection and inflation-related costs of several Continuing Resolutions. Instead of fixing this situation, the current Administration let go Administrator Griffin, the best engineering Administrator in NASA’s history, and now has cancelled Constellation. As a consequence, long-term access of American astronauts to space rests on the untested success of a plan for the “commercial” space launch sector to meet the increasingly risk adverse demands of space flight.
Histories of nations tell us that an aggressive program to return Americans permanently to deep space must form an essential component of national policy. Americans would find it unacceptable, as well as devastating to liberty, if we abandon leadership in space to the Chinese, Europe, or any other nation or group of nations. Potentially equally devastating to billions of people would be loss of freedom’s access to the energy resources of the Moon as fossil fuels diminish and populations and demand increase.
In that harsh light of history, it is frightening to contemplate the long-term, totally adverse consequences to the standing of the United States in modern civilization if the current Administration’s decision to abandon deep space holds. Even a commitment to maintain the International Space Station using commercial launch assets constitutes a dead-end for Americans in space. At some point, now set at the end of this decade, the $150 billion Station becomes a dead-end and would be abandoned to the Russians or just destroyed, ending America’s human space activities entirely.
What, then, should be the focus of national space policy in order to maintain leadership in deep space? Some propose that we concentrate only on Mars. Without the experience of returning to the Moon, however, we will not have the engineering, operational, or physiological insight for many decades to either fly to Mars or land there. Others suggest going to an asteroid. As important as diversion of an asteroid from collision with the Earth someday may be, just going there hardly stimulates “Science and the useful Arts” anything like a permanent American settlement on the Moon! Other means exist, robots and meteorites, for example, to obtain most or all of the scientific value from a human mission to an asteroid. In any event, returning to the Moon inherently creates capabilities for reaching asteroids to study or divert them, as the case may be.
Returning to the Moon and to deep space constitutes the right and continuing space policy choice for the Congress of the United States. It compares in significance to Jefferson’s dispatch of Lewis and Clark to explore the Louisiana Purchase. The lasting significance to American growth and survival of Jefferson’s decision cannot be questioned. Human exploration of space embodies the same basic instincts as the exploration of the West, the exercise of freedom, betterment of one’s conditions, and curiosity about nature. Such instincts lie at the very core of America’s unique and special society of immigrants.
Over the last 150,000 years or more, human exploration of Earth has yielded new homes, livelihoods, know how, and resources as well as improved standards of living and increased family security. Government has directly and indirectly played a role in encouraging exploration efforts. Private groups and individuals take additional initiatives to explore newly discovered or newly accessible lands and seas. Based on their specific historical experience, Americans can expect benefits comparable to those sought and won in the past also will flow from their return to the Moon, future exploration of Mars, and the long reach beyond. To realize such benefits, however, Americans must continue as the leader of human activities in space. No one else will hand them to us. Other than buying our national debt, China does not believe in welfare for the U.S.
With a permanent resumption of the exploration of deep space, one thing is certain: our efforts will be as significant as those of our ancestors as they migrated out of Africa and into a global habitat. Further, a permanent human presence away from Earth provides another opportunity for the expansion of free institutions, with all their attendant rewards, as humans face new situations and new individual and societal challenges.
Returning to the Moon first and as soon as possible meets the requirements for an American space policy that maintains deep space leadership, as well as providing major new scientific returns. Properly conceived and implemented, returning to the Moon prepares the way to go to and land on Mars. This also can provide a policy in which freedom-loving peoples throughout the world can participate as active partners.
The Congressionally approved Constellation Program, properly funded, contains most of the technical elements necessary to implement a policy of deep space leadership, particularly because it includes development of a heavy lift launch vehicle, the Ares V. In addition, Constellation includes a large upper stage for transfer to the Moon and other destinations, two well conceived spacecraft for transport and landing of crews on the lunar surface, strong concepts for exploration and lunar surface systems, and enthusiastic engineers and managers to make it happen if adequately supported. The one major missing component of coherent and sustaining deep space systems architecture may be a well-developed concept for in-space refueling of spacecraft and upper rockets stages. The experience base for developing in-space refueling capabilities clearly exists.
Again, if we abandon leadership in deep space to any other nation or group of nations, particularly a non-democratic regime, the ability for the United States and its allies to protect themselves and liberty will be at great risk and potentially impossible. To others would accrue the benefits “psychological, political, economic, and scientific” that the United States harvested as a consequence of Apollo’s success 40 years ago. This lesson has not been lost on our ideological and economic competitors.
American leadership absent from space? Is this the future we wish for our progeny? I think not. Again, the 2010 elections offer the way to get back on the right track. *****
One final note: If and when you choose to contact your Congressman and Senator in Washington, don’t accept “I support the space program” as an answer, but insist to know where they stand on the Constellation Program. Don’t let them wiggle out of the question with some generic answer as politicians are apt to do.
Enjoy this YouTube video about Constellation.