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Government Moon NASA Space The Almighty Buck Science Politics

Former Astronauts Call Obama NASA Plans "Catastrophic" 555

Posted by timothy
from the how-to-spot-a-special-interest dept.
krou writes "Talking to the BBC at a private function held at the Royal Society in London, former astronauts Jim Lovell and Eugene Cernan both spoke out about Obama's decision to postpone further moon missions. Lovell claimed that 'it will have catastrophic consequences in our ability to explore space and the spin-offs we get from space technology,' while Cernan noted he was 'disappointed' to have been the last person to land on the moon. Said Cernan: 'I think America has a responsibility to maintain its leadership in technology and its moral leadership ... to seek knowledge. Curiosity's the essence of human existence.' Neil Armstrong, who was also at the event, avoided commenting on the subject."
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Former Astronauts Call Obama NASA Plans "Catastrophic"

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  • Re:What "empire" (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 13, 2010 @06:06PM (#31467606)

    We have over 700 military bases outside of America.

    Solely to defend our borders, I'm sure... :-\

    Our military and citizens don't get attacked when they are HERE on our soil much, now do they?

    Even the 9/11 commission has doubts as to their own findings, and even Japan knows that 8 of the 19 "hijackers" are still alive.

    Wake up, dude.

  • Re:What "empire" (Score:3, Informative)

    by Beelzebud (1361137) on Saturday March 13, 2010 @06:14PM (#31467656)
    People attacking our military might have something to do with us occupying their countries.
  • Re:Priorities. (Score:4, Informative)

    by ADHVfFsvjLIViaglKlqo (1766800) on Saturday March 13, 2010 @06:15PM (#31467660)
    The richest people in the U.S. have, on average, shorter lives than those in nations with universal health care. And these people have access not only to the insurance policy of choice, but to the doctors and hospitals of choice as well.
  • by Sir_Lewk (967686) <sirlewk@NospAm.gmail.com> on Saturday March 13, 2010 @06:17PM (#31467688)

    The cost is ridiculous

    You people keep on saying this, but it is absolute bullshit. Have you ever tried comparing the cost of manned spaceflight with... well... just about anything else the government does? It is damned cheap.

  • Re:What "empire" (Score:5, Informative)

    by ctishman (545856) <ctishman@nOsPaM.mac.com> on Saturday March 13, 2010 @06:26PM (#31467756)
    You're thinking of an empire in the 18th and 19th-century sense of the word – a sense that died its last official breath after WWII, when Britain released the last of its official colonies. In that era, when the nation-state was the ultimate expression of power, a colony flew the colonizer's flag, spoke its language, had the colonizer's religion imposed upon it. Going back into the heyday of colonialism, conquest was government-centric; national glory was the cause. With the rise of international business, however, the nation-state itself has been supplanted by the multinational corporation. They do not work for the glory of the nation, but for their own glory. They do not respect the laws of the nation, and do not obey except where those laws are convenient or enforceable. In short, the heyday of the nation-state is over. Let it not be said that the nation-state is dead, though. We're still in the centuries-long transition between forms of cultural organization, so while governments are the only ones permitted to hold the weapons (this, too is changing and will continue to change over our lifetimes), the multinationals' interests dictate where those weapons are pointed and when. This is why the United States has military presence in over a hundred countries in a time of peace. These are the agents of modern colonialism. This is why there are terrorist attacks against our troops and our cities and citizens. Not because they hate our freedoms, but because we are camped out, toting guns, on their land, and have been for a hundred years now.
  • by FleaPlus (6935) on Saturday March 13, 2010 @06:36PM (#31467848) Journal

    It's rather interesting that Buzz Aldrin has a completely opposite view of the new plan:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/buzz-aldrin/president-obamas-jfk-mome_b_448667.html [huffingtonpost.com]

    ... The President courageously decided to redirect our nation's space policy away from the foolish and underfunded Moon race that has consumed NASA for more than six years, aiming instead at boosting the agency's budget by more than $1 billion more per year over the next five years, topping off at $100 billion for NASA between now and 2015. And he directed NASA to spend a billion per year on buying rides for American astronauts aboard new, commercially developed space vehicles-that's American space vehicles. Other NASA funds will go into developing and testing new revolutionary technologies that we can use in living and working on Mars and its moons. ... For the past six years America's civil space program has been aimed at returning astronauts to the Moon by 2020. That's the plan announced by President George W. Bush in January of 2004. That plan also called for developing the technologies that would support human expeditions to Mars, our ultimate destination in space. But two things happened along the way since that announcement, which became known as the Vision for Space Exploration.

    First, the President failed to fully fund the program, as he had initially promised. As a result, each year the development of the rockets and spacecraft called for in the plan slipped further and further behind. Second and most importantly, NASA virtually eliminated the technology development effort for advanced space systems. Equally as bad, NASA also raided the Earth and space science budgets in the struggle to keep the program, named Project Constellation, on track. Even that effort fell short.

    To keep the focus on the return to the Moon, NASA pretty much abandoned all hope of preparing for Mars exploration. It looked like building bases on the Moon would consume all of NASA's resources. Yet despite much complaining, neither a Republican-controlled nor a Democratic-controlled Congress was willing or able to add back those missing and needed funds. The date of the so-called return to the Moon slipped from 2020 to heaven-knows when. At the same time, there was no money to either extend the life of the Space Shuttle, due to be retired this year, or that of the International Space Station, due to be dropped into the Pacific Ocean in 2015, a scant handful of years after it was completed.

    Enter the new Obama administration. Before deciding what to do about national space policy, Obama set up an outside review panel of space experts, headed up by my friend Norm Augustine, former head of Lockheed Martin and a former government official. Augustine's team took testimony and presentations from many people with ideas on what way forward NASA should take (that group included me). In October, it presented its report to the President and to Dr. John Holdren, Obama's science advisor and a friend and colleague of mine. The report strongly suggested the nation move away from the troubled rocket program, called Ares 1, and both extend the life of the space station and develop commercial ways of sending astronauts and cargoes up to the station. And it suggested a better way to spend our taxpayer dollars would be not focused on the Moon race, but on something it called a "Flexible Path." Flexible in the sense that it would redirect NASA towards developing the capability of voyaging to more distant locations in space, such as rendezvous with possibly threatening asteroids, or comets, or even flying by Mars to land on its moons. Many different destinations and missions would be enabled by that approach, not just one.

    But with the limited NASA budget consumed by the Moon, no funds were available for this development effort -- until now. Now President Obama has signaled that new direction -- what

  • Re:What "empire" (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 13, 2010 @06:38PM (#31467860)

    I think dfetter is talking about this empire. [wikipedia.org]

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 13, 2010 @06:50PM (#31467940)
    The astronauts, members of Congress, and defense contractors make it sound as though there was a robust manned program in place that Obama arbitrarily decided to cancel. Instead, the manned program was barely making headway and was cannibalizing the rest of the NASA budget. Here is background on the sad shape that NASA was in 2009: http://www.nasa.gov/pdf/396093main_HSF_Cmte_FinalReport.pdf [nasa.gov] or http://science.slashdot.org/story/09/09/08/1955242/Future-of-NASAs-Manned-Spaceflight-Looks-Bleak [slashdot.org] Summary: There was not enough money in manned spaceflight to hit anything close to the proposed schedule for shuttle replacement/Moon/Mars. The lack of money was driving the costs up even further (if you spread a program out over more time you wind up with a standing army drawing paychecks). The administration had the choices to give NASA a lot more money to get the manned program back on track, cut the manned program, or watch the unmanned programs be cannibalized to feed the manned program as they have been for the last couple years. I suppose upping the NASA budget would have been as good a stimulus as some, at least for aerospace engineers like me.
  • by FleaPlus (6935) on Saturday March 13, 2010 @06:52PM (#31467956) Journal

    Better go look at the budget. Obama's budget *increases* NASA spending while removing its most visible mission. Basically, he plans on creating the next Lockheed or Boeing at taxpayer expense.

    Quite the opposite, actually. The current Constellation program favors cost-plus non-competitive contracts, while the new plan uses fixed-price commercial contracts with multiple companies competing and developing in parallel, with companies only getting paid for meeting milestones. For example, a number of companies are currently under "CCDev" contracts for developing commercial crew vehicles and technologies, and only get paid the full amount if they meet all of their milestones by the end of 2010. You can read more about this in the budget documents:

    http://www.nasa.gov/news/budget/index.html [nasa.gov]
    http://www.nasa.gov/pdf/428356main_Exploration.pdf [nasa.gov]
    http://www.nasa.gov/pdf/428356main_Exploration.pdf [nasa.gov]

  • by sonicmerlin (1505111) on Saturday March 13, 2010 @07:00PM (#31468038)

    The good news for sure is an increase of $6 billion over the next five years. It stresses new technology and innovation (to the tune of over $1.5 billion), which is also good. A lot of NASA’s successes have been from pushing the limits on what can be done. It also stresses Earth science, which isn’t surprising at all; Obama appears to understand the importance of our environmental impact, including global warming. So that’s still good news.

    The very very good news is that half that money — half, folks, 3.2 billion dollars — is going to science. Yeehaw! The release specifically notes telescopes and missions to the Moon and planets. That, my friends, sounds fantastic.

    NASA’s Constellation program – based largely on existing technologies – was based on a vision of returning astronauts back to the Moon by 2020. However, the program was over budget, behind schedule, and lacking in innovation due to a failure to invest in critical new technologies. Using a broad range of criteria an independent review panel determined that even if fully funded, NASA’s program to repeat many of the achievements of the Apollo era, 50 years later, was the least attractive approach to space exploration as compared to potential alternatives. Furthermore, NASA’s attempts to pursue its moon goals, while inadequate to that task, had drawn funding away from other NASA programs, including robotic space exploration, science, and Earth observations. The President’s Budget cancels Constellation and replaces it with a bold new approach that invests in the building blocks of a more capable approach to space exploration

  • Re:Priorities. (Score:2, Informative)

    by kurokame (1764228) on Saturday March 13, 2010 @07:05PM (#31468074)
    It works out to about half a percent. Data [wikipedia.org].

    Different people will have different ideas of tiny, of course. My definition is motivated by my estimation of the cost/benefit ratio, and by what we could be doing if it was more of a priority. The payoff is very good relative to things which we spend much more on, and it should scale well if treated as a higher priority.
  • Re:What "empire" (Score:5, Informative)

    by surfcow (169572) on Saturday March 13, 2010 @07:10PM (#31468112) Homepage

    I respectfully disagree.

    US military spending accounts for 48% of the world's total military spending. (Look it up. http://www.globalissues.org/article/75/world-military-spending#WorldMilitarySpending [globalissues.org])

    For comparison, US military spending is 5.8 times more than China, 10.2 times more than Russia, and 98.6 times more than Iran.

    The US is the world's top arms merchant, sometimes selling to both sides in a given conflict.

    The US has military installations in 60+ nations.

    The US sometimes literally installs governments and supports many petty dictators and corrupt puppets - in exchange for their loyalty and cooperation.

    All this sounds like an empire to me.

    But don't believe me. Do some research. Hit wikipedia, google "World military spending", study world history, etc.

    If you still believe the US is not an empire, explain why not. Help me understand the distinction. I am willing to give you a fair listen with an open mind.

  • Re:Priorities. (Score:5, Informative)

    by daveime (1253762) on Saturday March 13, 2010 @07:42PM (#31468352)

    When the pension systems were implemented, typically a man would work for 45 years, paying into the system, and then live for maybe 5 years past retirement, drawing on that same system.

    It worked simply because the life expectancy past retirement wasn't more than a few years.

    Now people are living longer after retirement than they ever worked, and drawing more from the system than they ever payed in. The pensioners now are using the current working populations contributions. So what will be left when today's workers reach retirement age ?

    That IS a pyramid scheme, whether you like it or not.

    It has nothing to do with "great outlook", it's got everything to do with cold hard reality.

  • Re:What "empire" (Score:3, Informative)

    by rolfwind (528248) on Saturday March 13, 2010 @07:56PM (#31468446)

    And what "empire" is that exactly? Do you demand we let go of Puerto Rico?

    How about the 835 installations located throughout the world?
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_armed_forces#Overseas [wikipedia.org]

    What about the billion dollar embassies being built in Baghdad?
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Embassy_of_the_United_States_in_Baghdad [wikipedia.org]
    Or being built now in London?
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Embassy_of_the_United_States_in_London#Future [wikipedia.org]

    Rome also placed "installations" all around Europe during its height and had to pull back eventually. We do the same thing. We might not have officially expanded territory but we are definitely protecting resources.

    On top of that, it's even worse because we are essentially paying for the other countries protection out of our own pockets without them contributing taxes like a territory would have done. They will have lower taxes in their home countries, which enables their workers to have a lower cost of living, making them more competitive than our workers, etcetera. And for all that protection, we don't even have a monopoly on the resources such as oil we are guarding, it goes to our competitors like China (most of our oil comes from Canada).

    Lots of bad effects for dubious return.

  • by h4rr4r (612664) on Saturday March 13, 2010 @09:15PM (#31468988)

    They were allies, declaring war on one was declaring war on them all.

      Iraq did not support those who participated in 9/11. Saddam was a horrible human, but his crazy was of a different variety than those who crashed planes into buildings.

  • Re:Priorities. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Tycho (11893) on Saturday March 13, 2010 @09:42PM (#31469148)

    [citation needed]
    This would be the CBO's forecast:

    http://www.cbo.gov/ftpdocs/113xx/doc11307/Reid_Letter_HR3590.pdf [cbo.gov]

    The coverage provisions will have a net cost of $624 billion for the ten years from 2010 to 2019, and a gross cost of $875 billion over the same ten years, the $624 billion number is what is actually relevant. However, with new taxes and other cost savings the bill would implement, the total effect of the bill on the budget deficit would be to lower the deficit by saving $118 billion over ten years. On the other hand the CBO estimate in 2003 for the bill that established Medicare Part D stated the new (at the time) benefits would have outlays (costs) of $460.7 billion from 2004 to 2013. That is here:

    http://www.cbo.gov/ftpdocs/44xx/doc4468/hr1s1.pdf [cbo.gov]

  • Re:Priorities. (Score:3, Informative)

    by Atlantis-Rising (857278) on Saturday March 13, 2010 @09:45PM (#31469164) Homepage

    Interesting, but ultimately ineffective. Are you suggesting, therefore, that three times more productive medical services are conducted on every person in the US per year than on every person in the UK per year?

    Because that's what the per-capita expenditures work out to.

  • Re:Priorities. (Score:3, Informative)

    by dryeo (100693) on Saturday March 13, 2010 @10:04PM (#31469288)

    You sure you aren't American? As your knowledge of history points to being American educated.
    The US, Australia and Canada did not invade and defeat enemies across the ocean. They went across the the Ocean to a base on an Island just a few miles away from the mainland called the British Isles and attacked from there. Look it up, the invasion of Europe was launched from England.
    Also one of the main reasons for the success of the invasion was due to the USSR attacking overland from the other direction.
    Up the page you show ignorance of the first World War as well, namely that one of the big motivations was the moving boundaries between the belligerents. Not only is there the whole mess in the Balkans but Germany and France still had problems with their boundaries from the Franco-Prussian war, namely the Alsace-Lorraine, one of the richer parts of Europe at the time.

  • Health before wealth (Score:3, Informative)

    by rwa2 (4391) * on Saturday March 13, 2010 @10:41PM (#31469494) Homepage Journal

    I'm really surprised no one has brought this up in the health care debate:
    http://www.ted.com/talks/hans_rosling_shows_the_best_stats_you_ve_ever_seen.html [ted.com]

    Anyway, I'm from Thailand, so I don't really care either way things roll. If the US doesn't bring its health care system up to the level of other industrialized nations and becomes paralyzed by preventable chronic conditions, it will be good for Thailand's "health tourism" industry.

  • by Bemopolis (698691) on Saturday March 13, 2010 @11:37PM (#31469790)

    In WW2 you got hit by the Japanese and invaded Germany.

    Except that Germany declared war on the United States the following week. And IRaq declared war on the US when..?

  • Re:Priorities. (Score:3, Informative)

    by hardburn (141468) <hardburn@@@wumpus-cave...net> on Sunday March 14, 2010 @12:14AM (#31469950)

    And never before in U.S. history have people needed to go to the emergency room. How did our parents and grandparents manage in such a hostile and brutal world?

    Many of them didn't live. Average life expectancy has gone up about 15 years since 1940. Source: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr57/nvsr57_14.pdf [cdc.gov].

    If you want to live in a hostile and brutal world, run off to Montana. I rather like civilization.

  • by DaHat (247651) on Sunday March 14, 2010 @12:40AM (#31470080) Homepage

    And you are... or if you prefer... willfully dishonest as you ignore facts on the ground.

    Need I remind you that it was THIS ADMINISTRATION (via Christina Romer) who published this rather well known graph [ggpht.com] that predicted what the unemployment rate would be with/without the '09 stimulus bill... and even with it... the actual has come out to be WORSE than they had predicted it would be without [wordpress.com].

    Now... could it be that the economy was so much worse off than they knew... perhaps... but that doesn't exactly paint them in a very competent light, now does it? I mean... if they cannot be trusted to know how bad something is... how can we trust them to be able to fix it? (hint: don't do either!)

    The fact is... Keynesian economics have never actually worked as proscribed... in fact, they've even gotten their implementation completely wrong [cnn.com] and are driven more by what they want than what actually works... and what's worse is they've instead made things far far worse than they would have been than if they had sat on their hands and done nothing.

    Remember... I'm not talking about perceptions here... I'm talking about what then canidate Obama, and later President Obama and his administration said they could/would do. I'm sorry for holding them to what they said.

  • Re:What "empire" (Score:3, Informative)

    by Seraphim1982 (813899) on Sunday March 14, 2010 @01:09AM (#31470200)

    I don't get your point. WW1 started because Austria-Hungry was occupying territory, and the population of said territory got pissed off and launched a terrorist attack. Everything beyond that was politics or military strategy, but the root cause of it all was troops being somewhere where they wern't wanted, which would seem to me to support the point he was trying to make.

  • by careysub (976506) on Sunday March 14, 2010 @11:07AM (#31472538)

    ... while he was writing about the hopes he had on the space exploration and everything. It makes me sad. In some way I'm glad he's gone so he doesn't have to see this.

    Having actually attended a lecture at JPL that Carl Sagan gave on exactly this topic - his views of space exploration, I am fairly certain he would be over joyed at this announcement.

    His key point in the lecture was that space science - that is, genuine space exploration - did not require manned flight and was far more economical without it, but was politically dependent on manned flight in the U.S. Thus, support for manned flight was indeed necessary to support space science, but only because of the unfortunate realities of space science funding in the U.S.

    Up until now his observation remained valid. He would be thrilled to see this extremely costly and anti-productive link broken.

    The cries from the "Oh no! Obama is abandoning space!" crowd underscore the fact that manned space flight is a deadly political anchor on actual space exploration.

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