RE: SETI Articles on Government Stupidity to NASA Budget

Clements, Robert (
Wed, 28 Jul 1999 11:01:38 +1000

Let's not wander down _that_ road again: an unhealthy obsession with what
private groups could & couldn't do helped get us in this mess in the first.
Remember TransHab?; & the chaos which is sometimes laughingly referred to as
the RLV market? A significant part of NASA's problems can be pinned on the
lapel of the SFS; & its scarifying influence on certain elements of the
Republican Party leadership....

The immediate goal has to be to find out whether the US-American Republican
Party has deep popular support for its radical tax cut package: if so, we
have to wear the broad consequences of the policy (although the priorities
reflected by the cuts - votewinner human spaceflight as opposed to
(votelosing?) robotic missions - may still be open to debate); if not, the
strategy has to be to break the political straightjacket which has made this
decision. Obtaining reliable information on political intentions in the
nation which orchestrated spin is going to be difficult; but it needs to be
done: fast. The Republican party has clearly convinced itself that tax cuts
are the way back into power; which leaves us with the nasty possibility of
the Democrats playing a game popularised by labor (& other leftleaning)
parties around the world: grab the bulk of the opposition's policies, trim
the obviously ridiculous; & spin the appalling mange that's left as though
it was some kind of viable alternative. To force some kind of real
alternative package through the easyout of US-American realpolitick, we hard
need evidence of support to block this budget in both the Senate & the White
House... in effect, we have to convince Democrats - as well as the moderate
Republican - that _no tax cuts_ is a serious votewinner....

(Is that possible?; given the skewed democratic processes of US-America? The
last election should'ave been a serious wakeup call to the Republican party;
but the leadership is carrying on in major business-as-usual mode)

On the question of private space exploration in particular:

The numbers are still wrong; although these are likely to improve within the
next decade. For financial reasons, the only options currently on the table
are microsats; but these have serious limitations either in available mass
or launch options: the $14m package recently offered by Jim Benson seems to
be for Earth orbiting craft only, but might carry enough of a kick to get a
cisLunar gravity assist (the thruster package hasn't be publicly stated, but
no doubt Jim B. would sell you a good kick engine if you asked for it);
while Ariane 5's ASAP-to-GTO configuration (which can certainly be used as a
launchpad for Lunar orbit... both LunARSat & the CNES/NASA Mars
micromissions rely on it) limit the craft & kick engine combination to
200kg, which means very limited c (if you go quick&nasty with a chemical
thruster) or extraordinarily long mission times (if you try a more ambitious
mission using ion propulsion... qv the astonishing SMART-1 orbits). Don't
know if ex-Soviet ICBMs can be used for micromission launches; but i find it
difficult to believe they would be cheaper that ASAP (the same goes for
Pegasus; which has had at least interplanetary mission proposal tagged to
it... Mike Malin's SMACs proposal from the first Discovery AO). Add the
science, instruments, operations; & we're talking a baseline at least equal
to SMACs' $25m a flight & probably more; with limited launch & research
flexibility; & despite the fact that everything's been outsourced & no
technology development financed.

Notwithstanding the recent interest in 1998 KY26, it's difficult to see
where commercial operations would see a cut in the information obtained from
these launches (on the technology side: NASA was unable to obtain corporate
support for Champollion); & on the space research side: if there's no
government-driven space development program, the water on 1998 KY26 is
science rather than resource), although a National Geographic
Society/Discovery Channel-style media organisation _might_ be interested in
sponsorship possibilities (at least for a first flight)... money invested in
the project would therefore be money lost by the investor; so you have to
look at creating a tax deductible space research institute to collect
financing & administer operations before you can launch anything. Is the
space market really that large that it can support an interplanetary
Explorers Club capable only of flying extremely simple missions at more than
$25m a pop?

(& if so: where are they now, when NASA's space science budget is being

I noted with some interest that Pioneer Spaceplane's claims that its concept
could launch 500kg to Mars for $7m (probably a legacy of Zubrin's role in
developing the original concept); & assume that Rotory would be looking
towards something similar... if even one cost effective RLV was currently
available, the numbers here would change dramatically; & the Explorers Club
option would start look very attractive indeed (more mass in orbit with
higher c means better missions, possibly with little or no increase in
cost). I'll go further & say that it's almost inevitable that such a group
will arise following a substantive reduction in launch costs; given the need
for messy, repetitive, robotic research in space & the public's preference
for firsts & humans; & preferably first humans.

But: not now, damn it... it's too early; & the numbers refuse to stack....

All the best,

Robert Clements <>

> ----------
> From: Larry Klaes[]
> Sent: Wednesday, July 28, 1999 1:09 AM
> To:;;
> Cc: Andrew Chaikin; Andrew LePage; David Grinspoon; Donald Bellunduno;
> Donald Bellunduno; Bruce Mackenzie; Frank White; Steve Somlyody;
>; Philip Plait;; Athena Andreadis; 2001
> Subject: SETI Articles on Government Stupidity to NASA Budget
> Look at what our so-called representatives in the
> United States Government have done to our future in
> space!
> At least in principle, they are supposed to serve
> the needs of the people - so let them know how you
> feel about this backward leap for mankind. Rail
> against the dying of the light of knowledge and
> progress, to paraphrase a poet.
> Perhaps we should take a cue from SETI when its NASA
> project funding was cut off by the US Government in 1993:
> Go Private. It may not be as easy at first, but if we
> let the ignoramuses continue to control the purse strings,
> we will have no choice in the matter, unless we want to
> see our future fade away.

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.0b3 on Sun Aug 01 1999 - 16:28:46 PDT