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Nasa Manned Spaceflight Funding, Can NASA afford manned spaceflight?
ilbasso
post Nov 24 2005, 03:46 AM
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The Washington Post reports in this article that the current US budget shortfalls may force NASA to cut half of the planned manned spaceflights in the coming years. Excerpts from the Post article:

"A large deficit in NASA's troubled shuttle program threatens to seriously delay and possibly cripple President Bush's space exploration initiative unless the number of planned flights is cut virtually in half or the White House agrees to add billions of dollars to the human spaceflight budget."
...
Under the budgets projected for the next five years, experts outside and within the Bush administration agree, it will be impossible -- by several billion dollars -- to complete the planned shuttle missions and finish the new spacecraft [CEV] by 2012, or maybe even by 2014...Griffin acknowledged as much at a Nov. 3 House Science Committee hearing, saying the plan to finish the space station and retire the shuttle in 2010 faces a "$3 billion to $5 billion" funding shortfall.

A committee document placed the deficit at "nearly $6 billion," and some sources said even that figure could be low. NASA's budget difficulties have also been complicated by having to pay for about $400 million in special projects inserted, mostly by senators, into the agency's 2006 funding.

The sources said the White House is juggling several proposals to close the deficit, but one industry source said, "None of the choices are good -- NASA's in a box."
...
Several sources confirmed that the budget office in the early negotiations proposed stopping shuttle flights altogether. "It sucks money out of the budget, and it's a dead-end program," one source said.

But "that argument's over," another source said. "The political side of the White House said, 'We're keeping it.' If you kill the shuttle right now, it will be heavy lifting for your foreign policy because of the international obligations" around the space station.

A proposal under consideration would keep the full complement of shuttle flights -- 18 to finish the space station and one to service the Hubble Space Telescope -- and let completion of the crew exploration vehicle slip to 2014, if necessary, or even beyond.

"The president said originally there would be a four-year gap, and that's realistic," one source said. "My personal view, though, is whatever date you set . . . it will slip."


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Guest_BruceMoomaw_*
post Nov 24 2005, 03:07 PM
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Another interpretation that can be placed on this article is that the White House will try to keep both manned programs -- Shuttle/Station and Bush's new manned lunar program -- going by cutting fully $1.2 billion per year out of the UNMANNED space program for at least the next five years. If so, the effect on space science will be devastating.
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OWW
post Nov 24 2005, 10:38 PM
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QUOTE (ilbasso @ Nov 24 2005, 03:46 AM)
Several sources confirmed that the budget office in the early negotiations proposed stopping shuttle flights altogether. "It sucks money out of the budget, and it's a dead-end program," one source said.

But "that argument's over," another source said. "The political side of the White House said, 'We're keeping it.' If you kill the shuttle right now, it will be heavy lifting for your foreign policy because of the international obligations" around the space station.
*


[paranoid]
I've often wondered if this is the reason it takes so long for the shuttle to fly again. Maybe they're waiting for the final $-verdict. No sense in repairing things that will never fly again.
I just think it is a ridiculous situation: NASA built the MERs in only two years for $400 million, but during the last three years they threw away a couple of billion to repair some cracks in a piece of foam, and they're still at it! Almost a year, yes a YEAR, between RTF and the next flight? Come on! I'm having trouble believing in such incompetence. unsure.gif
[/paranoid]
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Colby
post Nov 26 2005, 12:49 AM
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When you put the foam issue as you just did, it doesn't make any since. However, the payload involved isn't simply unmanned hardware, but humans. Also, NASA knows that funding for the Shuttle will most likely be nonexistent if another accident occurs.

As much as I love manned space flight and support the Vision for Space Exploration, I absolutely DESPISE the notion of taking funding from unmanned spaceflight to fund manned spaceflight. An effective space program has to be balanced.

One instance that has recently burned me is the Dawn mission to 1 Ceres and 4 Vesta. Did you know that JPL has been told to stand down with this mission? The solution to NASA's funding shortfalls isn't jiggling the books, but simply receiving more funding from Congress. Unfortunately, there is nothing simple about that.
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jamescanvin
post Nov 26 2005, 01:44 AM
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QUOTE (Colby @ Nov 26 2005, 11:49 AM)
When you put the foam issue as you just did, it doesn't make any since. However, the payload involved isn't simply unmanned hardware, but humans. Also, NASA knows that funding for the Shuttle will most likely be nonexistent if another accident occurs.

As much as I love manned space flight and support the Vision for Space Exploration, I absolutely DESPISE the notion of taking funding from unmanned spaceflight to fund manned spaceflight. An effective space program has to be balanced.

One instance that has recently burned me is the Dawn mission to 1 Ceres and 4 Vesta. Did you know that JPL has been told to stand down with this mission? The solution to NASA's funding shortfalls isn't jiggling the books, but simply receiving more funding from Congress. Unfortunately, there is nothing simple about that.
*


The case of Dawn though is not that it hs had money taken away to fund manned spaceflight, but that it's going overbudget. You should read
this thread about it.

James


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Toma B
post Dec 17 2005, 02:18 PM
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This is quote from Space.com article about Space Shuttle:
QUOTE
Flying the shuttles 19 more times before their planned 2010 retirement is likely to cost at least $22 billion, which lawmakers say is $3 billion to $6 billion more than what's currently allotted.
"Underfunding the shuttle is like building half a bridge"...


Just have something I would like to add here....
"Underfunding the shuttle is like building half a bridge"..."to nowhere!!!


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ermar
post Dec 31 2005, 04:02 AM
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The New York Times lays out its position on NASA funding:

"NASA needs some $3 billion more than previously projected to fly an additional 18 shuttle flights to complete the station and a 19th to service the Hubble Space Telescope. Unless the White House or Congress sees fit to pony up the needed money in coming fiscal years, NASA will have to make deep cuts in some programs.

The agency got a big lift from Congress this month when large bipartisan majorities passed an authorization bill that instructed NASA to engage in a broad range of activities and suggested that NASA be given increased funds, reaching a total of $17.9 billion in fiscal year 2007 and $18.7 billion in fiscal year 2008...

But authorization bills do not actually provide money. The real test will come when President Bush submits his budget proposal for fiscal year 2007 in February, and Congressional appropriations committees decide how much money they are willing to put up...

From our perspective, the costly shuttle and the space-station complex look more expendable than pathfinding robotic probes of the solar system and a transition to new manned space vehicles."
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David
post Jan 1 2006, 01:31 AM
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Let's suppose (and I don't suppose this is actually going to happen) that Congress turned around to NASA and said "Right now, we're going to cut all of your manned spaceflight budget down to the minimum you need to shut down the shuttle and withdraw from the ISS. Then you space boys go back to the drawing board and come back to us with a realistic statement of what you actually can do, assuming a static budget, and a clear statement of what you think the mission of manned spaceflight actually is and how your expenditures fulfil that mission."

What would Griffin & Co. come up with in that event?
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djellison
post Jan 1 2006, 01:46 AM
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Problem is, Bush went "Lets go back to the moon and stuff" and NASA went "OK". then 2 years later go "Right - it's going to cost 4 x more than you're willing to give us"

What they SHOULD have done is say "you're getting X...what can you do with it?"
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mars loon
post Jan 1 2006, 03:03 AM
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QUOTE (jamescanvin @ Nov 26 2005, 01:44 AM)
The case of Dawn though is not that it hs had money taken away to fund manned spaceflight, but that it's going overbudget. You should read
this thread about it.

James
*



DAWN is not that much overbudget. Its a great mission that is being held hostage to NASA buget cuts. DAWN is nearly complete and can fly an exciting science mission in 2006 if the funding and manpower is restored. The Discovery cost cap has just been increased and DAWN is within that cap. Also, Lets not forgot that the MER's were also overbudget. anyway, this has been extensively thrashed out in that thread cited above.

I agree that we need a balanced program of manned and unmanned. While I strongly support the return to the moon, I think it is TERRIBLE that the unmanned mission budget is being severly cut to support VSE. SEE also Craig Covaults editorial in the 14 Nov 2005 Aviation Week for more perspective
http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewnews.html?id=1075

NASA needs a significant budget increase NOW and the latest news is that Griffin is seeking a 9% increase. Time will tell if he gets it. Otherwise the RIF's will start very soon and NASA science missions will be decimated and everyone loses.

about the NY Times, they did not explicitely endorse a NASA budget increase as the early part of the editorial implied. they just laid out the choices if NASA does not get the increase.

ken
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edstrick
post Jan 1 2006, 07:29 AM
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djellison: "Problem is, Bush went "Lets go back to the moon and stuff" and NASA went "OK". ....."

I'm getting awfully tired of comments like this from space-literate people as opposed to expecting it from morons in the mass media and the general public.

http://www.thespacereview.com has a big chunk of the real backstory, together with stuff in Sitzen and Cowing's "New Moon Rising" book, excerpts of which are probably still on Cowing's NASA Watch website.

"Forging a vision: NASA’s Decadal Planning Team and the origins of the Vision for Space Exploration"
Long before President Bush announced the Vision for Space Exploration nearly two years ago, NASA has been quietly working on its own ideas for future human exploration of the solar system. Dwayne Day and Jeff Foust outline the history of those efforts and the influence they may have had on the creation of the VSE.
Monday, December 19, 2005

The real fact is that a "rebellion in the ranks" had been fermenting for a long time within NASA, with increasingly less-grudging support from first Goldin and then O'Keefe. The Columbia Catastrophe forced the issue to the front burner by demonstrating that the shuttle wasn't and could never be made what it should have been: Economical, Frequent and Safe access to and from space. The fact staring them in the face was that Shuttle had to be retired sooner than later and we'd either have to abandon manned spaceflight, or build new spacecraft for a new mission instead of forever going in circles. My impression without re-reviewing and reading the history of the initiative was that Bush was presented a series of options with recommendations as why some were bad options and others were better, all of the latter being variations on what was finally picked, with more or less push toward Moon and/or Mars in the different options.

Also note that the horrendous current and next-few-years cost overruns would be ocurring whether we do the whole initiative or just build a minimal station-access-vehicle.
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djellison
post Jan 1 2006, 11:44 AM
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QUOTE (edstrick @ Jan 1 2006, 07:29 AM)
Long before President Bush announced the Vision for Space Exploration nearly two years ago, NASA has been quietly working on its own ideas for future human exploration of the solar system.


It's been doing so since it was formed. That's its job.

But it takes all the studies to find out exactly how to do these things instead of speculating about them. They cant spend money doing anything more than the formative speculation until they get a nod to go ahead and do it. Those studies take time, and it's not till you've done them that you can go "right - this is the cost"

There's no way in hell it's going to get the goahead now. A 4x increase in NASA budget isnt going to happen. The public will not support it. If they DO - I will be utterly utterly astonished.

Clearly NASA were not given the chance to find out exactly how much this program is going to cost before GWB signed them up for it, because if they had, if they'd have said "Sure, but it'll cots 4x what you give us now" then GWB would never had signed them up for it .....would he?

Problem is - what CAN Nasa do on it's current budget? It can retire off the shuttle, just about, but it has to be replaced with something, and it cant do that without spending a lot of money, money it doesnt have whilst the shuttle still exists.

On reflection, it's sort of obvious. It takes all it's current money to run the Shuttle, so how in hells name were they ever going to develop something to replace it, whilst still flying STS? This isnt the huge-budget-Apollo days when Mercury, Gemini and Apollo spacecraft were all developed within a decade. Nasa does not have the money, and looking at how much they honestly think it's going to cost them, they're not GOING to have the money to co-develop new vehicles, whilst retiring STS at the same time. STS has to go first, and thus we'll get a big gap.

So this poses the question.... what now?

The entire situation is more up in the air now that it's ever been.

Doug
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Bob Shaw
post Jan 1 2006, 02:27 PM
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In my view, the Shuttle programme's woes hark back to the very start of the whole process of development - and funding. The Space Task Group plan which Spiro Agnew presented (in 1971?) to Richard M Nixon was, in it's own way, much like the current Bush initiative - a coherent, calculated and costed scheme for the exploration of the near environs of the Earth. And that was it's downfall. Nixon came back, not with a commitment, but with cuts. Political support for NASA was in free fall, and Nixon chose to back just one element of the STG architecture: Shuttle. In the era of the US disaster known as Vietnam, this was perhaps justifiable, and put the best possible gloss on things.

All the other parts were put on the back burner. No Space Tug, no Station, no more flights to the Moon. As for Mars, no way. And the Shuttle option chosen was the cheapest-to-build, dearest-to-run version. And still it was called STS - the Space Transportation System, despite having nowhere to go other than, er, 'up'. Followed by 'down'...

Shuttle was never meant to be anything other than a first stab at a reuseable vehicle. It used 1970s technology, and it was *good* - it lasted a helluva long time, much longer than anyone planned for (but is now suffering from it's age, which makes it less and less economic - things like brittle wiring looms, structural areas which may or may not be corroding or suffering from metal fatigue, all that sort of stuff which goes to create 'Hanger Queens'). It's in exactly the same hole as Concorde, with an ever-more-fragile vehicle taking up a disproprtionate amount of effort to keep it flying. Columbia's destruction exactly mirrors the Concorde crash at Paris in it's effects. And, again, the RTF exactly mimics the experience of the UK Nimrod AEW - over cost, decades late, and built also for a mission which ended when the Soviet Union fell.

NASA folk aren't daft. They know all this. They love their old steam engine, though, and are very proud of it, even though at heart they know it has to go, and really shouldn't even fly again. What's needed is a sea-change, a paradigm shift.

A commitment to steady progress, with technology which isn't frozen in time, is what's made Soyuz such a prize. An iterative development from the early 1960s vehicle has given us what amounts to a cheap and off-the-shelf vehicle, available for sale to the highest bidder. It does what it does, and then some. It's a manned vehicle, a delivery vehicle, even a space tug. And it's already Lunar-capable.

If NASA can make the (painful) transition, then things may proceed. Otherwise, it's back to not-really-quite-enough business as usual. In which case, ESA, the Russians and the Chinese may well make a move. Not to mention India, and, of course, Japan. All these nations have been quietly setting the building blocks in place for all sorts of fun and games: Soyuz or Kliper launches from French Guiana, anyone? And there's the private sector, too. Not the sub-orbital crowd, but Mr Musk (who's already been contracted to launch the Nautilus TransHab-derived prototype space habitat) and a few others. NASA as enabler, perhaps? A new FAA for space? It's a prospect which is certainly in the wings, too, with University-led outsourcing (or just their plain consumption of NASA Centers).

Time will tell.

Shuttle was a triumph.

Past tense.

Bob Shaw


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dvandorn
post Jan 2 2006, 12:43 AM
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QUOTE (djellison @ Jan 1 2006, 05:44 AM)
Clearly NASA were not given the chance to find out exactly how much this program is going to cost before GWB signed them up for it, because if they had, if they'd have said "Sure, but it'll cots 4x what you give us now" then GWB would never had signed them up for it .....would he?
*

The NASA budget, corrected for inflation, has changed very, very little in the past 20 years. Some minor ups and downs, sure, but a relatively flat funding rate.

Whoever advised GWB on his decision to propose a return to the Moon and a manned Mars mission *had* to have known that this would require a budget increase of at *least* 4x what NASA gets per year now. That's what Presidential advisors are for -- to have at least a decent clue as to how much a given new initiative in *any* federal spending program is going to cost.

Bush *had* to have known, at least approximately, what NASA was going to ask for in re funding to make his Vision a reality. Perhaps he simply felt that he had so much political capital built up that he could get whatever he asked for from Congress, for whatever reason. I think perhaps that was an overly optimistic assessment of his own position...

-the other Doug


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“The trouble ain't that there is too many fools, but that the lightning ain't distributed right.” -Mark Twain
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dvandorn
post Jan 2 2006, 12:46 AM
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QUOTE (Bob Shaw @ Jan 1 2006, 08:27 AM)
Shuttle was a triumph.

Past tense.
*

Thank you for a fair and honest appraisal of the Shuttle program, Bob. Too many of us here are far to anxious to kill off manned spaceflight, under the delusion that doing so would result in an extra three or four unmanned flagship missions per year. Thanks for speaking out for the factual situation in re manned spaceflight, and in re the Shuttle program.

-the other Doug


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“The trouble ain't that there is too many fools, but that the lightning ain't distributed right.” -Mark Twain
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