Participatory Democracy

During the shuttle return to flight effort, we opened up a web site to the public to suggest ways in which we could make the shuttle safer.  There was a great outpouring of suggestions.  Some of them were duplicates, some of them were not technically feasible, but there were some inputs that stimulated our thinking in new ways that allowed us to come up with more creative ways to ensure the safety of our shuttle crews. 

I would like your comments on a different but related subject.

Every Federal agency is preparing information for the new occupants of 1600 Pennsyvania Avenue.  Of course this includes a description of recent accomplishments and projects in work.  Also in the package are the major issues facing each agency or department and the issues which the new administration will need to address.

I believe it would be useful to hear from you concerning what the major issues are facing NASA for the next administration.

Now, there are a couple of rules.  Occasionally there are comments posted to blogs that are . . . less than respectful.  In this case, please make your comments respectful.  This is not an invitation to personal attacks or a rant.  I am looking for respectful and THOUGHTFUL topics which you believe that NASA needs to address.

Finally, this is absolutely non-partisan.  I am not interested in political or partisan comments and those will not be posted. 

Given those short and brief rules, I am looking forward to your input.


29 thoughts on “Participatory Democracy”

  1. What a great opportunity! I look forward to seeing what others post, and hope to be inspired to suggest something equally thoughtful.

  2. Space is not my profession, so these are just my external perceptions as a software engineer.

    There seems to be a mismatch between what NASA is being asked to do and the resources available to accomplish that. Making these two things match up would have to be the overarching policy directive – without it everything will be subject to questionable choices. Acknowledging the indirect benefits a robust space program provides the country and thus increasing the resources available to NASA would be my preferred option and in the grand scheme of things if we can allocate $700 billion to tackle the financial markets, another $5 billion for NASA doesn’t seem like it should be infeasible. However, if that can’t be done, NASA’s goals should be more sharply focused and the excluded items redirected to the private sector or just left undone.

    NASA should be doing things which nobody else can do. It should be at the cutting edge of research and development both for space and aeronautics. It should be less about providing services private enterprise can develop on its own or which can be bought from international partners. There’s an opportunity cost in spending money on things private industry can provide. Now sometimes NASA is paying that resource premium (whether physical, time or simply money) to alleviate program risk and that’s completely acceptable, but if the extra risk is minor maybe it’s time to farm out more high-level development. I don’t mean operational risk, I mean the risk of something being late or coming out differently than originally intended.

    The opportunity cost of losing the NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts and of not being able to mount Cassini-style (and thus high cost) missions should be looked at carefully. In a budget crunch nothing is sacred, but these things go back to the ‘cutting edge’ idea.

    I’m not advocating NASA should get out of manned spaceflight or tone down its usage and support of the International Space Station either, because these projects have a big tertiary effect on the national morale and can inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers, but the inspirational effect of all those pictures of the surface of Mars or the moons of Saturn is a big deal too.

    This should be the century where we make space part of the human economic realm and NASA should be a trailblazer for the technologies needed to do that, so the USA as a whole is at the forefront of that. Otherwise the USA and NASA within it will have their glory fade as other nations take on that role.

    Sorry this got so long, I hope it was worth your while to read and provided something useful.

  3. Given the concerns the world has over energy, wouldn’t it be worthwhile NASA trying to make itself relevant in this field?

    I personally think investing in new forms of nuclear propulsion would inevitably also produce a range of spin-off technologies which could have some pretty major application improving the lives of the regular Joe on the street.

    One such technology which I’ve been watching for the last year has been the work of the late Dr. Robert Bussard and his “Polywell” Inertial Electrostatic Confinement (IEC) Fusion Reactor — which is currently being funded by the Navy at a fairly low level. Given that Bussard really wanted this to be utilized as an engine for space travel (Mars in 90 days was his goal), I would think NASA would be ideally placed to bring this potentially radiation-free nuclear technology to fruition.

  4. On the good side, there are the spinoffs that positively effect everyone in this country, and around the world. The spinoffs come directly – or indirectly from the programs that NASA has managed over the 50 years. Bring along some copies of the past n-years of Spinoff magazine to help make a point, and give them examples of other things not readily apparent. And as well, remind those at the White House that for every budgetary dollar NASA receives, that dollar and more historically gets paid back in many-many visably direct, and indirect ways to the nation. Paid back, not lost.

    Secondly – and this one might be a tough sell, but it’s all too well known; remind those folks that shortchanging NASA through weak budgetary practices (and weak short-sighted support) has lead to problems down the road that just cost us more: dollar wise, and historically it has cost peoples lives as well. Errors might well have not occured if NASA wasn’t forced into lesser designs because they had to ‘do it on the cheap’.

    IF they are serious about – for example Constellation; going back to the moon, and eventually even going to Mars, this program is not a ‘game that can be played on the cheap’. Too much is at stake – way too much. For example, making a serious commitment to a program like Constellation means a long-term commitment is necessary From the start, and for how long it takes, and for how long the program lasts. Cutting back, and/or slacking off will just cost more dollars later on, and again indirectly and unnecessarily cost lives.

    And, it calls for bi-partisanship from beginning to end. It is a team effort, from the lowest man on the ‘totem pole’, all the way up the ladder of responsibility – to the White House and the halls of Capitol Hill.

    Many will go to the White House with the same sort of requests, but you folks have a track record of achievement that’s hard to beat. They may bring up things that state otherwise, but you and others know, that if the government powers-that-be were to stand by their words (or had stood by their words…), and seriously stand by and support the goals that they assigned NASA to accomplish, great things would and will happen. They may need to be reminded that such things take time in orderto come to fruition, they don’t happen overnight, especially if the budget has not supported the goal assigned.

    Remind them – exploration is hard, but it’s humankind at it’s finest. It’s the base of this nations being. Remind them that in some ways, you are having to start over (building the vehicles), and in other ways the lessons of the rich past (Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, Skylab, ASTP, Shuttle and ISS) will be saving us taxpayers money and you folks time as well.

    Tough sell ahead of you. But you do have the ‘tools’ to perform a good sell. Break a leg.

  5. I was wondering if any work was still being done on the fuel depot concept, and if not I would encourage the next administration to authorize some kind of study/program for one. It seems like a good step towards lowering the cost of launching interplanetary missions.

  6. Wayne:

    Regardless of who is elected on Tuesday, the major issue facing NASA will continue to be how to pursue manned space flight after the retirement of the Shuttle. In the current economic environment there will be increased budgetary pressure to cut NASA’s funding, cancel the Constellation program, and downsize the manned space program to include only Orion missions to the ISS.

    The easy route will be for NASA to abandon the existing STS heavy lift infrastructure altogether and use the EELVs to lift Orion.

    The current Constellation architecture is taking us down the route of using all of NASA’s foreseeable manned exploration budget (and then some) to build the much-delayed Ares I (and in using up all the budget dollars on Ares I, the current architecture will implicitly cancel Ares V and the rest of the VSE).

    The only difference between using existing EELV’s to get to the ISS or developing an Ares I to get to the ISS is several billion in development dollars. Either of these two paths for NASA will mean humankind will stay stuck in low earth orbit until the Chinese or the Indians or the Russians or the private sector steps in.

    A new administration that instead seriously wants to pursue the VSE’s path to the moon, mars, and beyond could instead try to build a truly Shuttle-derived launch vehicle. A vehicle that maximizes reuse of existing components (like the RS-68, 8.4m tanking, and 4-segment SRBs), infrastructure (such as ET tooling @ Michoud, VAB work platforms, LC-39 launch towers, MLPs and crawlers) and people (including workers from ATK in Utah, LM in Michoud, and USA and NASA employees @ KSC). Such an architecture would minimize development and operations costs to fit within realistic budget expectations, and minimize the “gap” following the end of STS operations.

    (If you haven’t already, see or read the Direct threads on the nasaspaceflight forums)

    PS – love the blog

  7. Wayne – With utmost sincere and abiding respect for NASA and all of the extraordinary professionals that NASA has had working there over the 50 years – the one thing that NASA can do to re-make itself – to once again recapture the fire and imagination of people everywhere – is to demonstrate and live (every day) the true sense of the real adventure that space exploration was always envisioned to be by common people just like me. We dream too – but our dreams are not being realized. Dr. Aldrin recently said that science fiction is the reason we have so much trouble getting people to stay focused and locked on to the realities of space operations and exploration today. He’s so right – because their imaginations have been fired by what can be – somehow, eventually – versus the mundane thing that we have made space into over time. What we lack in NASA today is a sense of pushing the envelope in areas where no one else can go – a true sense of danger and daring do versus the clinical/mechanical aspect NASA has achieved by making the really tough stuff look so easy – and doing it over, and over, and over … LEO, the ISS and all of the robotic planetary missions aside – they’re interesting but by definition ho-hum and “so what” – like it or not. All of these activities can and should be accomplished by private industry on a sunset contracting basis – only contracted for a limited amount/time if there’s no other funding source to light the stack. In fact, industry is where the average Joe (plumber or otherwise) is more excited about things than with anything NASA is pursuing – because they realize, for one keen example, that SpaceShipOne really/seriously no kidding bet its ass, hat and spurs – and the lives of the pilot/astronauts – and they made it! NASA needs to hand-off those missions it doesn’t need to keep doing. NASA should work with industry to make industry and space pay the freight – NASA can fuel and be the catalyst for the Great Space Rush. For example, NASA can and damn well should make a hard-charging full court press in leading the effort to clear away the nonsense in regulations, bureaucracy and other hindering governmental restrictions on the space industry. On the other hand, NASA can and should reserve for itself the truly inspiring challenges – that is those challenges that really inspire the common people – not just the elite engineers and scientists. Let’s go to the Moon and to Mars – and to the asteroids – in ten years (not 20 or 30) – and not just to visit but to colonize permanently – let’s be space beings – let’s crack the lid on this and get out there and explore, mine, live, etc. Better yet – make it a space industry challenge and guide, assist, and support the process. Idea: Design build and install the extensible inner system navigation and transportation system that makes space access routine, cheap(er) and available to the non-government astronaut – lay the Earth, Moon, Mars inter-space rails. Use industry to make that happen – not in a half-hearted way as is perceived currently be the case in NASA’s industry work. Do it grand style, and do it with a real fire in the belly – with urgency so that follow-on space operations can be done in their thousands upon thousands – not the tens. Then find, support and engage the exceptional missions that are to be the advance guard for routine mission capabilities and experiences 30 to 50 years hence. Idea: Retro fit the Hubble chassis and survivable systems – with new and advanced capabilities – and send it outward on a nuke power plant for a generation or two (maybe three or four) of deep space exploration and research past Pluto – looking for other planets/planetoids beyond, among so many other things. Idea: Put a manned permanent base on the Moon by 2015 – and build it from there – using the space industry. We can do it. NASA was always been – to me – and so many, many others around the world – the “can do the impossible” Team – not the timid bureaucracy extending mission timelines out multiple generations, for untold treasury, all expended on the more pedestrian stuff (forgive me, but that’s what most of us see and sense of most of the NASA missions today and as described for the near-to-mid-term). The only missions that get my heart really pumping have people on the stack riding the fire – for real exploration objectives – not garage and housekeeping antics aboard the ISS – let the space industry guys do all that – they’d love to. In short, I am tired of hearing how hard everything is, and so is everyone else. Let’s hear that regardless of how hard something/anything is that we’re going to do it, do it soon, and do it right – and keep on doing it. You know what I mean, “we choose to do it because it is hard” … where have I heard those magic words before …

    With ultimate respect and highest regards – would not have taken the time or spent the energy if I didn’t really care … and I’m just one guy out here in blogosphereland …


    Mike Kaufhold
    321 Calle de Sereno
    Encinitas, CA 92024

  8. I think it NASA would do well to look closely at the Astronaut Corps, specifically their number, qualifications, and conduct. They should each live up to the ideal their public persona represents. Each astronaut should simply be part of the professional NASA team, and should no longer spend years as expensive PR fodder as they wait to be assigned to perhaps a single flight. Those millions of dollars could then be put to better use.

  9. Obviously, the number one factor affecting NASA is the financial crisis and its effect on the budget. The next administration and the 112th Congress will have to make difficult and critical decisions balancing advancement of our space program, both manned and unmanned against available funding.

    While there is no question that the United States must see to completion of the International Space Station, if we are to remain creditable with our international partners. However, we cannot allow logistical support for the ISS following retirement of the Space Shuttle with its lift capability to eat up all available funding for exploration beyond LEO.

    Exploration, both unmanned and manned is imperative if the U.S. is to retain its pre-eminance in technological areas, on Earth as well as in space. There will be those who favor unmanned exploration over human exploration, but I believe that if we abandon, or even delay by very much, our human exploration, not only do we run the risk of being outstripped by other nations, but support from the general public for the unmanned explorations will die within one or two Congressional election cycles. After all, why send these probes if we are not to follow? In addition, with the efforts and funds being expended by other nations, most notably China, India, Japan, and Russia, we cannot afford to delay very long.

    With the current doubts about the efficacy of the Ares I and the fact that the NASA 2008 Authorization bill does NOT authorize any funding for Ares V, I would recommend that the next President and/or the Congress direct an unbiased engineering panel be assembled (from outside NASA if that is practicable) to evaluate whether the LV portions of Constellation be cancelled (continuing with Orion and development of the J-2X engine, and replaced by a combination of man-rated EELV’s (for replacement of the Shuttle after 2010 or slightly later) and a new booster of the Direct/Jupiter 232 class, or by the Jupiter 120/232 launch vehicles, or some other LV. This study to be completed, if practicable, before the next budget APPROPRIATION bill is passed. I would also recommend a decision whether it is more practicable and desireable to press for increased funding of commercially-developed ISS support, as soon as practicable.

    I would strongly recommend that the restrictions imposed on NASA prohibiting them from “marketing” itself to the American people be recinded or at least modified so that the public can be more fully informed as to what benefits have accrued to the general public in areas of health, technology and economics since the creation of NASA, and from military technology (improved breast cancer detection using NSA-released software enhancement technology in mammograms, for example), showing the benefits of continued space exploration.

    I would recommend that education programs be instituted that will expose elementary and middle-school students to the excitement of space and technology, and make them a part of the “No Child Left Behind” reading and math programs in whatever way practicable!

    Hopefull some of these recommendations will be enacted, and we can avoid becoming the Portugal of the Space Age!

  10. The issues that face NASA today are different from those that led to the creation of the VSE. In the wake of the loss of Columbia, a better trade between risk and benefit was sought, leading to the current Constellation mission plan. In choosing Ares-I, safety was clearly the deciding factor. Will the new president still mandate that, or will the manned spaceflight gap and the overall program cost be given higher priority?

    An EELV with an abort system would be safer that the Shuttle, and could be cheaper and, crucially, quicker to field than Ares-I (assuming that the findings of the OSP program are still valid).

    Secondly, the chosen lunar mission, with a crew of four, global access, and anytime return, requires a very large heavy launcher. Is this now too much of a luxury? ESAS found that a scaled-down vehicle using the STS infrastructure could, in a two-launch mission, achieve a very respectable TLI payload. Given the cost savings that such a re-design might allow, perhaps this, too, should be considered?

    I would rather see a slightly reduced lunar capacity than none at all!

  11. I can only agree with the posts I’ve read so far, and add my own emphasis-

    1) Demonstrate the vital role NASA plays as an economic and technical engine for the nation. In my role as an educator, I am stunned at the ignorance of the American public in regards to the spinoffs and growth that NASA has provided since its inception. If a president wants to see economic growth for the country – then increase NASA’s budget and challenges!

    2) Emphasize Human Space Exploration – I have sadly discovered that the general public cannot name astronauts past Neil Armstrong with perhaps the exception of Christa McAuliffe (and most know her only as the teacher who died). While we praise the accomplishments of our various robotic servants, our imaginations more closely connect with other human beings. I’m afraid little Spirit and Opportunity don’t have quite the personality of a little Wall-E 😉 . Let the Astronauts have some hero-worship. It’s worth the public’s support.

    3) Just my opinion, but many share it… the true revolution in space support will only come when we discover gold in them thar hills. Meaning, we have to discover a financial “mother lode” that makes going to space profitable. Whether it’s Helium-3 fusion fuel, space tourism, or some sort of valuable mineral, we need to discover the economic value of space. We need new “miner-forty-niners”. The stampede to the New World only started when financial fortunes were to be had.

    4) This one is tough, but… somehow we have to get congress to fund NASA for more than one year at a time. This is a big impediment to the management of multi-year programs as they fall into and out of favor with changing politicians.

    Just some thoughts… thanks for the opportunity!

    Best regards,
    Mark in Utah

  12. 1. A reevaluation of Ares I and Ares V, including ending the problem. In particular, consider substituting the EELVs for Ares I and DIRECT for Ares V.

    2. Significant manned missions beyond Earth orbit.

    3. Development of (um) common sense technologies either for manned or unmanned flight (indefinite life support, food production, artificial gravity, space nuclear power and propulsion, orbital propellant transfer, spaec tugs, cable systems, etc). Also when feasible, develop competing versions of the technology.

    4. Get full use of the ISS including substantial private efforts, even if you have to subsidize every aspect of the customer experience. Otherwise, why keep it past 2016?

    5. Help encourage the development of a coherent, effective US government plan to encourage private investment in space. A key obstacle for NASA is that they are the only US customers for various space products (heavy lift vehicles, deep space probes, communication systems with Moon or Mars, etc). Further, US GDP from space is stalled around $100 billion a year due to heavy dependence on US government funding. This would include government using commercial products such as the EELVs where feasible, reduced taxes, etc.

    6. Fund more unmanned space science and exploration projects. This is NASA’s strongest area right now. Work on reducing duration of project life cycle. Consider exploiting economies of scale. That is, build more than a couple of probes at a time. Means less variety of projects, but more science for the dollar from the ones that launch.

    7. Eliminate use of cost plus contracts in NASA business. Cheaper, less overhead because government no longer cares about expenses, and enforces project management discipline on the government side.

    8. Restore the NASA library. Required by law and it holds about eight decades of valuable knowledge.

  13. The global space launch market suffers from one problem : underused launch capacity. I.e. there are a lot of rockets with too little payloads to go around. This does not much incentive for much innovation in the launch area, nor does it do much good to the prices.
    NASA, with its 16Bil annual budget could be a great customer, and for a small part of its budget could get a _LOT_ of payload tonnage to orbit and beyond each year, including humans.

    Instead it has elected, yet again, to compete on this field with yet another launcher that will not have much work to itself.

    8 industry partners submitted studies on how to do CEV and lunar architecture with existing launchers, in 2004. Surely, they werent all wrong ?

  14. As a non-us resident, I see that NASA has some big challenges in the coming years…

    Primarily – in my view – Nasa needs to keep the Constellation program going until it flies – not only once or twice in LEO but actually go back to the Moon and quickly start planning for a Mars mission.

    There’s no doubt that NASAs presence in space is needed – even though quite a few other countries are building their own space programs as we speak.

    Secondly – I think NASA needs to re-inject some sense of adventure into spacetravel.

    The Shuttle has been good – but it has also made spacetravel seem mundane and boring with the trips to the ISS and the rather dull (from a layman’s perspective) missions prior to ISS.
    Only the Hubble missions seem to have stirred the public emotions a bit.

    Giving spacetravel a sense of daring and risk will also keep the space program in tune with the prevalent tendency in our society to focus on adventure and out-of-this-world experiences – things must offer almost instant gratification and stir the adventurous juices.

    If that doesn’t happen, the attention shifts to something else almost immediately, and with it, perhaps the necessary funding to fulfil the goal of the Cx program.

    Thirdly – I believe that NASA needs to retake the position of the pioneer in space travel. Mundane missions with a “space truck” (pardon my french…) just does not match the image of NASA.

    Let the commercial operators handle the missions to ISS and the space tourists. NASA should go to the stars and broaden our horizons – and let the commercial guys make the money off the people who can only dream of doing what NASAs guys are doing.

    So to sum up:

    I think NASAs biggest challenge is to make our imagination fly again – take us places we haven’t been before – show us what it really means to go to the moon. To do so, you must secure the necessary funding and technology.


    PS: Thanks for your blog – it’s always thought-provoking and very informative! Please keep going 🙂

  15. At the very least NASA needs to reinstate ‘protecting the home planet’ into its charter. In regards to the Vision for Space Exploration, this would involve reengaging the life science sectors at NASA, using the ISS directly for life sciences research to enable long duration space flight with little or no resupply from Earth – easily accomplished tasks such as growing plants in space for oxygen supply and carbon dioxide removal, passive attitude and thermal control, etc. Long duration space flight will enable future charter missions to low gravity destinations like near Earth asteroids, the moons of Mars and the fifth planet Ceres. Low Earth orbit, both the ISS and equatorial, provides an ideal environment in which long duration space flight techniques may be addressed, tested and refined. LEO is easily attainable by commercial launch vehicles, and provides convenient radiation protection and orbital debris management via reentry. Short jaunts to distant destinations in undersized and reduced capability spacecraft does not adequately address the primary chartered goal of ‘protecting the home planet’. We need to be in it for the long haul, in a really big way. This requires government, institutional and popular commitment and funding, and high flight rate launch vehicles, as well as destinations more appropriate and well beyond what has been previously envisioned in the current vision for space exploration.

    One only need to look to Tsiolkovsky for direction :

    6) Lengthening rocket flight times in space.
    7) Experimental use of plants to make an artificial atmosphere in spaceships.
    8) Using pressurized space suits for activity outside of spaceships.
    9) Making orbiting greenhouses for plants.
    10) Constructing large orbital habitats around the Earth.
    11) Using solar radiation to grow food, to heat space quarters, and for transport throughout the Solar System.
    12) Colonization of the asteroid belt.

    Along with the chartered goal of protecting the home planet, clearly these are worthy goals for international commitment and cooperation. This is how we will indirectly and inadvertently create the knowledge and understanding of ourselves and our planet, and the universe in which it resides, which will in turn lead us to the solutions we will require right here to protect the planet that we all require for life.

  16. Firstly, I would like to mention that although I am not an american citizen, NASA indirectly benefits me and everyone else in the world. NASA inspires people everywhere to work in the science and engineering fields and is certainly a great torchbearer for humanity.

    I’ve seen this commented on before, but I think it is very important – NASA is only as good as its funding level. I don’t think Congress regards it as a priority, which means that issues such as continuing resolutions for funding impact very negatively on the agency. Ideally, NASA would be funded in a more long term manner, with longer term (maybe five year) budgets rather than yearly.

    I fear that Ares V and Altair might never be funded and we might end up with only Ares I and Orion for LEO taxi duties. I think that is one of the biggest issues that NASA faces – especially if there are any further cost increases, particularly with regards to closing the lunar architecture mass requirements (5.5 segment SRBs, composite cases, more RS-68s etc.) This is not so much a technical viability issue, as a funding constraints issue – particularly if there are Ares I cost overruns. I would suggest that the best thing that NASA could do to ensure that the manned lunar programme does not get canned is to internationalise it. Give a critical part of the programme to the ESA for example, and the programme becomes a lot harder to cancel – somewhat like ISS. Also this gives smaller countries a chance to participate (not that I can see NZ participating any time soon).

    Other funding related issues include the lack of outer planets flagship missions – will Europa or Titan missions ever get funded? There have been studies going on for a very long time.

    I am not qualified to make any judgements on the accuracy of their statements, but NASA needs to more openly address the concerns voiced by the pro-EELV and pro-DIRECT camps. In particular, certain ESAS appendices need to be sanitised and publically released and NASA criticisms of DIRECT need to be based on the 2.0 version. If Constellation and VSE are ultimately to succeed we need to get the entire community united behind them. Ultimately this is not going to happen until sufficient evidence is placed in the public domain so mollify these dissidents. I believe that the proponents of such ideas are largely well intentioned aerospace professionals, and can be argued with – unlike say much of the media, which is largely out for sensationalism (maybe with the exception of NSF and a few others).

    In short, the current combination of extremely limited funds and dissatisfaction is very troublesome. Hopefully if NASA can make it through to 2011, more funds will be freed up, but unless the political will for the lunar and planetary exploration programmes can be sustained there will be future trouble for the agency.

    New Zealand

  17. If the new administration’s theme is new deal new frontier I think NASA can benefit by being part of the infrastructure investment made as part of the stimulus package that’s being discussed now. We need to invest now in technologies that will benefit us in the future. The new frontier aspect is critical to getting our kids excited about math, science, and technology. I know of no other goverment agency that is better suited to engage kids this way. If some other country lands on the moon and we don’t, it’s not going to be very good example for our kids.

  18. If you want kids to get really excited about math and science have a national academic contest to send one or more students to ISS on Ares.
    To make it international, work with the Russians to send a Russian student at the same time on a Soyuz.

  19. What NASA needs is to rediscover how to inspire again. While the Shuttle and ISS missions have been technical and program successes in countless ways, they lack the soaring grandeur that Apollo gave to the American people and to the world. I still look back at what the engineers, astronauts and hardware of Apollo accomplished all those years ago and feel real pride swell up in my chest. In HBO’s dramatization of Project Apollo, “From The Earth to the Moon,” the actor portraying astronaut Dave Scott says “…and I believe there’s something to be said for exploring beautiful places. It’s good for the spirit.” The inspiration that human exploration of new beautiful places would give to America and to the world is priceless.

  20. 1) Global Warming planned satellites have been cut, creating data gaps that will permanently degrade our understanding of the science, and data from existing satellites has been actively surpressed.
    2) The blueprint for manned missions to Moon/Mars is a white elephant unless precursor technologies like the cancelled ISS CAM (to study in situ bone healing and Lunar-G wheat growth) are first developed. Profitable in situ propollent manufacturing from oxygen or water would almost surely christen such a blueprint the future of the human economy. This suggests the manned Moon/Mars blueprint is dependant on research from whatever federal agencies fund chemical and industrial engineering research.
    3) Recent findings demonstrate the Ice Moon Enceladus has carbon and likely slush, suggest Ganymede and maybe Callisto have water interiors, and Ganymede may have carbon. This suggests active ecosystems may exist on 4-5 Saturn and Jupiter satellites. Presently much effort is researching whether dormant or deceased ecosystems exist on Mars or maybe Titan. Perhaps liquid water should be the refocus for life in our solar system. Maybe requires NASA research in sensitive underground Antarctica ecosystems and extensive computer modelling.
    4) Solar sails will be a cheap way to map the Solar System and Oort Cloud. This awaits a space materials science manufacturing process. Maybe still to early to research?
    5) NASA may be federal-debt-forced to cutback. It would be nice if the non-defense projects the are of benefit to all nations could be delegated to other space agencies if possible. Other nations may be able to match NASA’s funding but not the technical expertise.

  21. I agree with Tim Armstrong’s comment about learning how to inspire again. A lot of focus has recently been on the somewhat controversial Ares launch vehicle, but I think that regardless of which expendable launch vehicle ends up sending the Orion capsule into orbit, NASA needs to also focus on research into new technologies once again. It was very disappointing to me to see the failure of such programs as X-30, X-33, and X-34, among others. Perhaps those projects were overly ambitious and poorly executed, but we must not become afraid of new ideas or unproven technology. I believe it is essential that we embrace bold and ambitious goals in order to advance and to inspire the next generation.

  22. My apologies, I made a freudian slip on point 1 of my post. I meant “ending the program” not “ending the problem”.

  23. Dear Mr Hale

    I enjoy reading all your blogs

    New US Admistration should enact the following.

    1. Not retire Shuttle. Fly Shuttle for remainder of ISS program to 2025. Invite ESA, JAXA, Canadians to fund operating costs (2 to 3 billion a year?) of Shuttle plus private industry by allowing them commercial access to ISS. The Shuttle was designed to service needs of ISS with cargo up and particulary down – not Ares Orion. Retire 1 orbitor and use for spares. Restrict crew to 5. Fly 2 to 3 missions per year. Safety issues to be addressed by recertification as per CAIB funded by ESA etc. Solves Gap problem – there isn’t one. Solves funding problem of Ares Orion. Frees up money for constellation.

    2. Orion Ares to focus only on Moon, Asteroids and Mars with contigency capability to ISS only.


    Peter Davio
    Sydney Australia

  24. I would recommend using more participatory technologies in exchanges with the public (like this blog post). They yield a unique opportunity not afforded by top-down communication which is ineffective at engaging the next generation of bright minds.

    Based on the NASA mission statement, interactivity should be a priority at NASA. With many parts of NASA already implementing interactivity (many of them documented in the Participatory Exploration Summit final report) with great benefit, it makes good sense to maximize this benefit by prioritizing interactivity on some organizational/administrative level. If NASA increases interactivity in a significant, planned and strategic way, it may find itself again leading the world in innovation and inspiration.

  25. I think AM Ross is on to something here. I think the biggest challenge NASA faces in the coming years is making what we do relevant to the American people. We can’t just assume that figuring out new ways of explaining what we decided we’re going to do will pass muster.

    We have an obligation to accomplish the Vision for Space Exploration in a manner that gives value to our country. As one of the presenters said at a retreat I went to on inclusion & innovation, we need an idea that can sell itself.

    Ben Bova has proposed that NASA be challenged to build a solar powersat technology demonstrator by 2016 and then license that technology out to private ventures backed by low-interest rate federal loans, much in the same manner as the giant hydroelectric dams out West were built. Perhaps that is an opportunity for demonstrating the relevance of the agency.

    I would tend to agree that NASA’s mission to protect the home planet should also be restored. While we are definitely focused on taking the first steps to build a truly spacefaring civilization, we are also working to make life better here on Earth and figure out how to protect mankind from the threats that lurk in the vast emptiness.

  26. 1) Safely complete the planned missions to ISS. Even if this means pushing out past 2010, we MUST not ignore problems due to schedule pressure. Take the time needed to do the job right.

    2) Safely maintain ISS and build on our “continuous presence in space” experience.

    2) Proceed with Ares / Constellation / the VSE to the moon on as close to the current schedule as we can safely maintain. (If shuttle flights push out, let that minimize the gap. I know it needs money.) The moon is the natural extension of ISS exploration – far enough to force new technology, near enough to help bring people home.

    3) Continue work towards exploring asteroids, L-points, and Mars. We’ll need to find ways to solve the radiation problem and so many others to get here (past the moon)

  27. The data from space exploration has given us a better planet with a deeper understanding of our living conditions. But for what we know, there is so much more data yet to be collected. We are just starting. We have a lot more exploration that needs to be completed.

    Ignoring space and ignoring exploration to other planets will reduce our chances for survival to an incredible degree. It’s not fiction. There is way too much out there to not believe. I don’t think people realize the true value of what NASA has done, in collaboration with many other agencies, and what they all continue to do I really couldn’t (and don’t want to) imagine what life would be like if we never touched space.

    It is definitely awe inspiring. I am really excited to see what is discovered in future space exploration.


  28. What would make the shuttle even safer?
    Scenario: An object of considerable size is on a collision course with the shuttle while on a mission. The shuttle has the capability to avoid objects with boosters and whatnot. This object however is moving signifacantly fast, too fast to avoid with boosters.

    Suggestion: Some modern combat tanks have anti projectile rockets amung other things. A rocket or anti projectile system could be fitted to the shuttle to prevent this?

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