Goodbye Constellation, Hello ... Barocket?
    By Hank Campbell | April 19th 2010 01:57 PM | 36 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
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    3 NASA employees out of the 22,000 people about to lose their jobs sat in a room full of loyal Democrats and listened to President Barack Obama talk about how much he loved NASA.  Then he talked about how he was gutting it.

    Not everyone is buying hope in this instance.  Buzz Aldrin agrees with Pres. Obama that the Moon has been done but Neil Armstrong, first man on the Moon, and Gene Cernan, the last, think it is a  big step backwards to instead go to an asteroid.   I am probably not the first to say it but it seems we will now boldly go where no one really wants to go.

    Harken back to 2006, before Scientific Blogging existed and the only science blogging on the Internet was militant, left-wing atheists telling us how much Republicans hated science because President Bush limited stem cell research to existing lines.    

    Imagine if George W. Bush had said back then that we don't need to fund human embryonic stem cell research because we are going to fund some future technology that is even better.   Or we don't need to implement energy alternatives because we can rely on some future magic science to cure global warming.  Would Democrats have cheered?  Yet cheer they did, at least about magic future science instead of current science in a recent press conference.

    The return to the Moon Bush announced in 2004?   Canceled.   It's no surprise.  The Democratic War On Science started in 2007 when the newly installed Congressional majority whacked $550 million out of the NASA budget, specifically the Constellation program.  Since we are in alternative universe land, imagine if Nixon had come into office as a new Republican in January 1969 and canceled the Apollo program because it was started by a Democrat and was under-funded and not meeting its target?

    More important than political motivations behind a "not my idea so it must be wrong" approach to science and technology cancellations is a monetary one; money spent by US taxpayers that is now gone?  $10 billion.

    Was Constellation ever a really great idea?   No, and in that sense I agree with Pres. Obama.  I was puzzled why it was taking us 16 years to go back to the Moon with modern technology when it only took 9 years to go the first time, including creating everything from scratch using the computing power of a 2010 wristwatch.    But back then NASA was an outcome-oriented endeavor and now it is a bloated government monolith perpetuating its own existence so I am skeptical of most things they do.   And that old stuff still works so we don't need to recreate it.   A 38 year-old RS-18 engine from the Apollo program got fired up with liquid methane a short while ago and worked just fine.

    The justification for a return to the Moon, according to NASA, consisted of:

    1) extend human colonization,
    2) further pursue scientific activities intrinsic to the Moon
    3) test new technologies, systems, flight operations and techniques to serve future space exploration missions
    4) provide a challenging, shared and peaceful activity to unite nations in pursuit of common objectives
    5) expand the economic sphere while conducting research activities that benefit our home planet
    6) engage the public and students to help develop the high-technology workforce that will be required to address the challenges of tomorrow.

    Sound like hoopie?  Yeah, NASA is clearly lacking vision and no one is making a movie about those bullet points any time soon.   Want to excite kids about space?  Have them watch The Right Stuff. #3 is unnecessary given that we already know how to go into space, #4 is just annoying feel-good pablum, #5 is meaningless speculation and #6 is unlikely, since no one is going to get excited about going back to a place we went 41 years ago.  That leaves extending human colonization and science intrinsic to the moon as compelling reasons.

    Well, are they?   We aren't running out of land so colonization is not a pressing concern and improved energy would make more water potable which means we could  have more people living and growing food in places they can't easily inhabit now, so energy research may be better use of tax dollars.   But human colonization is exciting and not all science can be results oriented.   There is terrific cutting edge stuff that needs to be tested where it counts, like an oxygen generator that would extract it from silicon dioxide and metal oxides in the ground on Luna. That is cool technology.

    And water on Mars is a game changer in lots of ways, as Sandy Antunes wrote about.

    Reaction from those outside the industry is all over the map.  Space-policy analyst Howard McCurdy of American University in Washington, D.C. says he's intrigued by Obama's willingness to "leapfrog" over smaller goals.   Time wonders if Obama's NASA strategy has fizzled at launch  because making Floridians mad during a bad economy is not a great idea.   Not that Florida has ever been important in an election or anything.   Others are wondering if Obama 's American self-loathing is bleeding over from foreign policy to domestic issues and he wants to weaken America's industrial base.

    Ask California what onerous taxes and a hostile business climate does to its finances and you might agree that driving Lockheed-Martin and Boeing out of business is a bad idea for America.    Sure, landing on an asteroid in 2025 sounds like a great plan, but what will replace those lost jobs now?

    I have a solution.  Given the administration's willingness to discount lost jobs after January 2009, boost their stimulus performance by lowering the baseline and even include un-lost jobs as jobs saved or created in Congressional districts that don't actually exist, he can forget the 22,000 people who will be out of work and instead count them as 22,000 jobs saved by proposing some new, even more awesome technology than what Bush and evil Republicans proposed.

    Pres. Obama has already agreed to spare one part of the Orion space module program developed as part of Constellation.    So it might makes sense to get rid of names like Ares V and Orion and replace them with something that can help him in 2012 and help NASA get somewhere, funding-wise.

    Helloooooo Baracket. Or Barocket, or however he wants to spell it. I think it will catch on, in the heartland.

    Think Obama will want to cut funding when this baby's specs get read to the public?  I bet not.

    And back to NASA, they need to get better public relations.   Maybe the best reason to go into space?   How else will men from Earth meet alien babes?



    The sole reason that many oh-so-advanced aliens haven't payed Earth a visit yet is that each generation expects the next one to build a better hyperantigravitymeteordeflectingperpetualmotionmachinepowered spacecraft.

    Some aliens are soooo much like you humans.

    As I have remarked before, you humans really need to get out more!
    Get off that planet and build a moon base! 
    Better still, come visit our one on the farside.

    yours faithfully,
    courtesy of Yahoo Babelfish,
    Djel E. Bean, Disassociated Professor of Teleportation, University of V838 Mon.
    I clicked 'new comment', went for a coffee, came back and - wow! 
    Your picture was on my screen, Eric.


    I must show it to my friend Djel - he's gonna love it.   ;-)
    I thought you might get a kick out of it, Patrick! ;-)
    What you just said is really more related to your economic status than anything practical. First of all, I know for a fact because my dad gets his pay check from there, that Boeing is no where near going out of business it is in California doing defense contracts not the space program at all. However, I have a reason why NASA is behind and incompetent and needs to be tanked.
    There were and are some highly trained specialist that got laid off, shifted around and abandoned when they rearranged the space program to Florida. They hired people that were not trained, younger, cheaper, and didn't know what they were doing. They were not good at their jobs, that's why we can't afford to give them money. They have proved themselves bad managers whether Americans are interested in space or not. There not reliable with money, why would they give it to them. It is the perfect place to cut to find money to send to more practical purposes and solve more pressing problems, rather than becoming more in debt to china. It is absolutely impossible to face baby boomer generation leaving and becoming social security recipients without doing some financial rearrangement and since the space shuttle, although captivating, is not as valuable to your average Amercan's health care or security. That money is better off elsewhere. First of all it is old technology, it has been there for 20 years, and does three things: puts up and maintains satellites, as well as zero gravity experiments. Since we can simulate a zero gravity experiments here cheaper and more reliably that's out the window. Satellites can be put into the air with rockets, they existed before space shuttle. We don't actually need put people in space to accomplish any of this. The only thing that we would actually have to send them up for is mechanical failure or replacement. That is incredibly rare. Usually, if you have a malfunctioning satellite it is software and you can fix it with a signal. NASA doesn't need the government funding for it, Verizon can pay for it, if they get their act together and quite being sloppy. The big business in space is not research, the space shuttle or the moon. It's communications satellites. America is not responsible for global communications or the only space program that exist. In fact, actually funneling space money into health and medical advances directly could solve some real problems. First of all, that is jobs, just not your job. The Medical field employs large number of professionals, including engineers. Anybody at your salary level obviously could transport their skills. There is a large amount of technology in medical field, they are highly skilled, well paid and the world would be better for their efforts. One thing that you aren't aware of and I am, is that we know that a medical crisis is on the horizon. Most specifically the mental health crisis which is tangible and we know is happening. There, needs to be an educated thinktank to evaluate all the research coming out from the different factions all focused on the brain. They have pluthera of information on the brain however Phds working on it are so specialized that they don't know they that they are on the verge of being able to come up with a unified theory that could be a cure for mental illness. I am bringing this up because I am giving hope to you, even though I find your sort of reactionary and not based in reality, you can move to Professors Pine's Lab at UC Berkeley apply his Nuclear Resonance Imaging Machine to a Neuron, even though you would either build the machine bigger machine or chop up the neuron.
    There are other uses as well. One that you could get funding for from drug company. You could take away the danger of THC molecule that is moving around California like the plague. Isolate it from its organic components, test it to find out what it actually does and turn it into a prescription that can be monitored by an MD, who can prevent addiction and eliminate quality control problems or the point that California might be going up pot smoke...which causes more cancer than a cigarette.
    In case you have missed the reference, THC is the psychoactive component of pot which is really tiny it floats into the brain readily during osmosis, we can probably isolate or synthesize it. These are just suggestions. Put them in your brain without letting the propaganda from 24 news network dedicate to stalking and criticizing the first minority president we have ever had. He knows he is not God or a fairy god mother, he has to make changes that are hard to fix the mess that nafta, both wars, and the Bushes created. Why no one actually challenges the Republicans with logic, truth, history and analysis boggles me. An irrational tea party just makes us look stupid to the international community and is a blatant example of creating hysteria so you can control people by fear. If you want to be proud of being a Republican strengthen the ethics of your party and next time you want to put up a graphic please do a better job, that will never sell your catch phrase. What you have posted tacky, ugly, no one will repeat it. I sorry it's too ambiguous.

    The Democrat War On Science started in 2007 when the newly installed Congressional majority whacked $550 million out of the NASA budget, specifically the Constellation program.

    There is no "Democrat War On Science" and there never was. That is pure B.S.! If you want to blame anyone for the cutbacks in science, then place the blame where it properly belongs, namely on the REPUBLICAN Bush and Cheney administration for squandering over a trillion dollars and bankrupting this nation! There is simply no money left for these programs.

    It ain't DEMOCRATS who are responsible for the "Texas Curriculum Massacre"! That's coming from the pure and unadulterated Christian Right, who want to send us all back to the Dark Ages where they live!

    Besides, you don't need to go to the moon to eventually send astronauts to Mars. And President Obama knows that! There is no scientific justification for going back to the moon. We have learned its lessons. We know how the moon came into existence. There's simply nothing of value on the moon that would justify a return to it and the tremendous cost entailed in such a return.
    There is no "Democrat War On Science" and there never was.
    I know which party you vote for ...

    ... if you only see cutbacks when Republicans do them, you are not being objective.  Republicans doubled funding for the NIH and the NASA budget went up 15% under Bush after going down 5% from the start of the Clinton years to the end, despite inflation.   So if funding is the metric, Republicans love science way more than Democrats.   

    And what does some goofy group in Texas have to do with Republicans?   Every time the Earth Liberation Front tries to blow up a researcher do you say that is a Democrat issue?

    A Democrat is blocking open access for taxpayer-funded science, not Republicans.
    Bush didn't squander over a trillion dollars on increases to the NIH and NASA. You know damn well where 95% of that money went, and it sure as hell didn't go to things like helping kids who were honor students in high school get a college education. I know, because my step-son was an honor student and made it all the way to the last half of his senior year in college while studying engineering while working 60-80 hours a week, but had to drop out because he couldn't keep up with the payments from one of those predatory banking institutions that we taxpayers had to many times is it now, Hank? And even the $12,000 in cash that we sent him to help him stay in school wasn't enough. The kid, who had always been an athlete since his was a small boy and in terrific physical shape and a non-smoker, all of a sudden developed hypertension and went into a hypertensive crisis and almost died because of the stress he was under. And all thanks to those two MF Bush&Cheney and the banks that they encouraged.

    I know which way you vote too, Hank. The Republicans piss the money away and then the Democrats get blamed for having to cut back.

    It's just like the Great Depression. Hoover got blamed for the stock market crash of 1929, when in point of fact those events had been set into motion when Calvin (do nothing) Coolidge and his (born-with-a-silver-spoon-in-his-mouth) Secretary of the Treasury, Andrew Melon who didn't know the first thing about economics and believed in exactly the same government-subsidization of Big Business just like Bush/Cheney, and Bush's brown-nosing father (that's what Nixon called Bush Sr. while he was the CIA director) and that moron, B-actor, Ronald Reagan who used to nod-off and sleep through half of the cabinet meetings. Face it, Hank! George W. Bush is the all-time worst president in the history of this nation and Richard Cheney is an Adolf Hitler wannabe and they have both destroyed your party. And if you align yourself with two men who think that torture is OK, then you have nothing more to talk about with me! Funny thing about the Great Depression of 1929, there was also a real estate balloon then too. In fact every damn thing that happened before the stock market crashed in 1929, happened during Bush's second term in office. Oh and Bush has another record! Of all the presidents in history he is the one who took the most vacation time. Out of 8 years in office, he took over a year of vacation time at taxpayer expense.

    You guys lost! The conservative revolution IS OVER!!! And you're going to keep losing, because we "Democrats" have become organized, and we will not rest until every single Republican in this nation is voted out of office! And you can take that to the bank!

    And what does some goofy group in Texas have to do with Republicans? Oh nothing, except the fact that those goofballs make up 90% of the Republican constituency!

    This is not an issue that you want to cross swords with me on, Hank. This is an issue that incenses me to homicidal rage! Literally! This is an issue over which I would leave ScientificBlogging forever! That's how deadly serious I am about this. You do not want to test me on this one.
    Satellites can be put into the air with rockets, they existed before space shuttle.

    Mammoth can be killed with stones; who the hell needs this new-fangled bronze stuff?

    I though luddites went out of fashion with sabots.
    LOL, is that sabots or which case who are you calling a luddite, me, the celts, the druids, or ancient Greeks because a typo would make a difference, it is so rare that I get call such wonderfully veil insult, I would want to know for sure. Name calling is not justification, however you have completely amused me to the point of laugh out loud.

    Oh, by the way the space shuttle is not more advance than rocket. The space shuttle uses an old rocket and we have thinner and smart ones capable of going into space.

    You can thank Reagan for that, its the benefit of his star wars program. He was hoping we could beat each other in space without humans rather killing other's countries however idealistic Regan's policies were because he was an actor. Please don't bring up trickle down economics, I love your insult and that would would kill my mood.

    Oh, by the way the space shuttle is not more advance than rocket. The space shuttle uses an old rocket and we have thinner and smart ones capable of going into space.
    True.  The shuttle needs a replacement.

    sabot - a kind of shoe that the French used to throw in machines at the beginning of the industrial age.  We British found the common spanner to be a much more effective means of holding back progress and have been throwing a spanner in the works ever since, just for the hell of it.  ;-)
    Yes well, don't loose sight of the mission.

    btw...I am one of the few people that doesn't ever want to wear a space suit, its like scuba-diving gear but worse and chasing your food would get annoying and getting extensive training to hope I can use it seems like a waste of time.

    Helpful suggestions to middle aged men mourning the fact that they will never walk on the rock we look at almost every night. (the mountains here are prettier anyway.)

    See a tree that lived a thousand years and it will start to activate parts of your soul you never knew existed. My theory is that botany proves the fourth force of Stephen Hawking, although no one has made that connection. Plants have some connection to the energy, because they respond to their environment. A plant can adjust to environmental changes in growth patterns and health which implies a sensory mechanism, but they have no nervous system or brain.

    ... implies a sensory mechanism, but they have no nervous system or brain.

    Cynthia: I am sure you will enjoy this article and the comments: Plant behavior
    My theory is that botany proves the fourth force of Stephen Hawking, although no one has made that connection.
    You've used the word 'theory' a few times.  I do not believe you know what it means.   'botany proves the fourth force' is not crafted in a way that makes a lot of sense.
    I am wondering the point of this comment, it is not well founded please elaborate.

    Yes well, don't loose [sic] sight of the mission.

    Your manic posts aside, that misspelling puts you out of contention as someone to be taken seriously.

    A lot of folks need to diversify their portfolio of emotional capital. That way, they won't threaten violence à la Eric when faced with even mild demurrals from some overly numinous element of their worldview.

    Its not complicated. I know policy wonks like to hyper analyze the economic of the matter, but they're missing the point. We go to the moon because its there! Why did we go to the moon the first time? Again, to show we could. There was no economic advantage. The greatest endeavors of human kind are not based on economics. The moon is one thing that everyone in the world can look up at night and recognize as a goal, the next step. Sure, landing on an asteroid might be cool, but it does not capture the mystery of the moon.

    If we're going to go to Mars, which also makes little economic sense, then the best place to establish a starting point for that journey (both literally and metaphorically) is the moon.

    You know why kids don't care about these types of things anymore? Because their leaders don't inspire them to. Because their their teachers don't require them to. And because their parents don't expect them to. We as a country are lost. And the constant marginalization of big dreams and the impossible will keep us perpetually mediocre.

    I think you are onto something.  The real benefit to the Moon landings were non-existent and even the tangential ones (MRI, Tang, marginally better weather forecasting) from NASA technology are not worth the $16 billion a year it gets.

    But they inspired a lot of people.  I don't think anyone is going to jump up and down about a man on the Moon 50 years after the first one.  My concern is that this will lead to tit-for-tat thinking the same way Democrats "Borking" Robert Bork has since made Supreme Court nominations a carnival rather than the serious matter it should be.   If Pres. Obama is not re-elected a Republican could rightfully trash another $10 billion and do his own do-over to show he loves science.   Meanwhile, it is good for grandstanding but useless for actual science.
    Inspiration isn't exclusive to NASA. It exists in people. Their emotions, pain, passion, everything they hate, love, fear, and dream. Inspiration can be in a beauty cultivated in and out of science. A Theoretical Physicist could tell that they don't need NASA to have an imagination. What is more captivating a rock or your soul.

    on the ground I know the energy
    as it passes through my lungs
    as a child I felt only to love the rain and its dance of mist
    the expanses that I walk upon know my age and feet
    to kiss upon the lips of compassion deep

    We are not mediocre. We live around your corner, and across the street. We know things you would never see. We react in ways you don't understand because the isolation keeps you from the magic we hold in our hands. You could never survive the thing that we go through. Because you think there is nothing we do.

    I am a physicist and sure there is inspiration in all things. My point is "we" as a nation and as a world do not look to do the impossible, as a collective. Sure, we have individuals here and there that do great things. But when man landed on the moon the nation and the world was captivated. Now, we are captivated only by what divides us. We are decidedly mediocre.

    Okay, the moon landing captivated the U.S., the rest of the world were either jealous or trying to catch up. The USSR did beat us into space that is why we invented the moon landing. We were being egotists...even a plant can do something impossible completely naturally...trees in California are practically immortal in comparison to a human life span. There life spans thousands of years and their rings are basically a history of California climate...back further than we would ever be able to do without them. Their the oldest living historian in our country.

    Anyone who thinks that the reasons why we went to the moon in the first place was out of a sense of exploration is extremely deluded. It wasn't about exploration. It was about a Cold War and a contest to see who could develop the best intercontinental ballistic rockets to launch thermonuclear warheads at the other side.

    The Atlas booster rocket was an intercontinental ballistic missile. The Titan II rocket was an intercontinental ballistic missile. The only rocket ever developed through the entire moon program that was ever developed with the explicit purpose of launching astronauts into space and inserting them into TLI (Trans-Lunar Injection) was the Saturn V rocket.

    Now, that's a fact!
    Thank you...I don't pay attention to defense that much, I just can't quite get away from it that much to be ignorant of what is going on here. I wish I could...I will be polite now and stop.

    my piano and pizza with basil on it is calling, I have to decide when to call my friend and tell her I have no interest in becoming a third degree witch.

    The rest of the world was far more than jealous! Americans were in awe when Sputnik when flying over our heads. And the entire world was in awe when Neil Armstrong stepped on the moon. Sure, there was competition involved. But it also touched mankind in a unifying way. You cynical view says more about you than it does the world. I don't really care if it didn't inspire you. It did, in fact, inspire millions, both Americans and non-Americans.

    And I'm baffled by your incessant reference to nature and the trees and those around you. Sure, your metaphysical approach to reality is great. Should we all simply hold hands gaze into each others eyes and just agree that inspiration cannot come from doing but only day dreaming?? No one said inspiration can't be derived from other sources, so why are you seemingly offended by the notion that millions of people WERE inspired by the Apollo missions??

    Actually, you couldn't be more wrong. The space program profoundly inspired me as a youth. And if you had bothered to have done your homework first and read my article When Science Disillusions you would have realized that. Rushing to judgment about someone that you know nothing about and without even bothering to check the facts speaks volumes about you!

    But you're not talking about the future. You're talking about nostalgia and going backward. You can't bring back the past. Those were different times--a time of innocence in our nation which was lost and which can never be regained or recreated again. You don't want to move forward. You want to live in the past.

    In point of fact, after Apollo 11, the "adult" American public quickly lost interest in the space program. It was only starry-eyed, naive children like me who remained inspired.

    It is not cynicism to state fact. Eisenhower created NASA for one purpose and one purpose alone, namely to beat the Russian.  The Redstone rocket for, goodness sake, which launched Alan B. Shepard into space was a direct decedent of the V2 rocket and was an intercontinental ballistic missile.

    I wasn't responding to YOU! I was responding to Cynthia.

    I would also point out that I don't see why i am required to do "homework" on your view of the world, independent of your post?? Do you do homework on every single anonymous blog post you respond to?? Not to mention, how am I suppose to know you authored the article you reference? Give me a break.

    Finally, I am thoroughly aware of the history of the space program. So please spare me the authoritative voice. Again, I was not responding to you in the slightest.

    Well, you may not have realized it, but yes you were responding to my comment. Your response was linked, even though unwittingly, to my comment and showed up my comments response display up above.

    And if you're going to make personal statements such as " Your cynical view says more about you than it does the world.", then yes, you had better do you homework first about the person to whom you're referencing.

    You may have intended to respond to Cynthia's comment, but you in fact responded to mine. What do you think caught my attention? I don't go looking for comments to respond to. I already have too many comments from the articles I've written to respond to as it is.
    If you honestly expect someone to "research" you when responding to your blog post you're crazy. The cynicism with which I referenced was contained in the post. I need not do a thorough background check, reading every scrap of material that a person has posted in order to make that conclusion. Not to mention that its impossible to do on an anonymous message board!!

    Anyway, I'm done with this website. It lasted all of a few weeks and basically I've come to the conclusion that while some of the initial authors are good (e.g., Hank), the replies are nothing more than back and forth ad hominem sanctimonious tit for tat. Good luck with the rest of your "articles."

    FYI, I think the reason it showed up in your thread is because I responded to her post which in fact was a response to your post, so you probably both got it.

    This is what happens when you make the foolish mistake of mixing politics with science. A good writer knows better! You either have an article about politics or about science, but not both! The same applies to religion and science!
    To be honest I thought that the idea of building yet another damm space capsuel system to go to the moon was nothing but a stupid play to the nostalgia of baby boomers.  However changing from that system to NOTHING is even stupider. 
    What we should be doing for access to low earth orbit is producing a fleet of upgraded space shuttles.  Resigned from the wheels to the wingtips.  For acces to deep space, we should be thinking about building space craft thta will remain in space once built.  Sort of "mother ships".  They don't have to be huge,  They could be thought of as skylab size space stations with propulsion.  As for landing on Mars thats where capsules come in to play.  We could do all of this within 5 years if we really put our minds to it. 

    To whoever says that the Democrats don't oppose basic research I have three words for you.  Superconducting Supercollider. 

    Science advances as much by mistakes as by plans.
    There are too many examples to count; since a whole book got written called "The Republican War on Science" and we are a politically agnostic site, someone has to point out that Democrats also trash science funding and advancement of knowledge on plenty of occasions. 

    The SSC was wildly over budget, way behind schedule and with no indication at all it could even work so I didn't disagree with canceling it either - if anything it saved taxpayers a lot of money we can use on ethanol subsidies and bridges to nowhere, but had Clinton said we were canceling it and instead building the ILC in 2020 I would have been skeptical.
    Even so.  A wildly over budget and behind schedule SSC would almost certainly have been completed before the LHC was. 
    But what do I know I was 12 or 13 when that was cancelled.  I already knew I wanted to be some kind of scientist and I knew that cancelling it was a bad omen for getting a job.   
    Science advances as much by mistakes as by plans.