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Unmanned Spaceflight.com > Mars & Missions > Past and Future
BruceMoomaw
...from the Space Foundation's Elliot G. Pulham ( http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewsr.html?pid=20790) :

"As the space community is collectively lurching to find a road to sustainability for America's vision for space exploration, the big success stories most frequently trumpeted today have to do with Mars exploration. Without Dan Goldin, we very well might not have any of those success stories to which we so often point.

"By the late 1990s, Goldin had inherited a flawed and discredited Mars exploration architecture that had produced a string of embarrassing disasters. Most notable among these were the catastrophic uncontrolled landings of the Mars Climate Orbiter (which, of course, wasn't supposed to land at all, much less go full lawn dart), and the Mars Polar Lander that landed with considerably more gusto than it had been engineered to support.

"A key blunder, you may recall, was basic confusion among the spacecraft teams as to whether they were supposed to be working in U.S. Customary System of units or metric measurements. The 'was that inches or centimeters?' fiasco became long-running fodder for late-night comedians like Jay Leno and David Letterman.

"Snatching victory from the jaws of defeat, Goldin seized the moment to call for a clean sheet approach to Mars exploration. In 1999, a new Mars program office was established and a new strategy developed. 'Follow the water' became the Mars exploration mantra, and it has had breathtaking success. The new effort got underway with the successful Mars Odyssey - a legacy program that was rigorously re-scrutinized by the new program office leadership."
________________

Well! Y'all know that -- while Mars Observer's subtle (and, in my opinion, largely forgivable) failure was not Goldin's doing -- the 1998 failures were precisely the result of his own half-witted insistence that we fly two missions for less than the combined cost of Mars Pathfinder, and that his "victory" consisted entirely of hastily backing away from his own belief that we could fly a huge Mars program on a shoestring (including his downright lunatic scheme to launch two Mars sample return landers by 2005 for a total cost of less than $1.5 billion -- along with a Mars airplane in 2003 for less than $50 million spacecraft cost).
edstrick
Goldin, much as we like to stick pins in wax dolls of him, did a lot of good, much of it before his personality and managerial defects did a lot of damage. Smaller, Faster, Cheaper is good, as long as it isn't smaller, faster, cheaper, Cheaper, ***CHEAPER***. We had 2 good missions in 99 that were simply penny-pinched to death.
djellison
He wasn't perfect, far from it....but one thing for which I think he deserves credit is going for two MERs.

Doug
paxdan
.....pick any two.....
tedstryk
The fact of the matter is that when he took over, the only planetary missions that were flying were missions like Mars Observer, Galileo, and Cassini - Missions that had been planned in the early 80s or before - no more missions were being fed in to the pipleline, as the budgetary situation didn't allow for such spacecraft. His vision, flawed as it was, got planetary exploration going again. However, he got too carried away, and had an abrasive leadership style. But I don't think demonizing him is of any use.
BruceMoomaw
True as far as it goes -- he did begin the valuable work of busting up NASA's oversized "Flagship" missions. But it's important to realize that NASA had set up the planetary Flagship missions only as part of its continuing Great Swindle to support the Shuttle, by deliberately making sure that most US science spacecraft were so big that they couldn't possibly be launched on any expendable boosters less powerful than the Shuttle.

So, after Challenger, whoever took over as NASA's head in the early 1990s would probably have ended up having to do much the same break-'em-up job as Goldin -- and some of them probably wouldn't have gone in for his goofy additional willingness to demand cost cuts to the point of virtual insanity (which also contributed further to the Shuttle's continuing lack of safety, and thus maybe to Columbia).
tedstryk
Wow...that's a stretch....
Stephen
QUOTE (BruceMoomaw @ Jun 3 2006, 02:37 AM) *
True as far as it goes -- he did begin the valuable work of busting up NASA's oversized "Flagship" missions.

Are you intimating that NASA doesn't need any more flagship-size missions?

QUOTE (BruceMoomaw @ Jun 3 2006, 02:37 AM) *
But it's important to realize that NASA had set up the planetary Flagship missions only as part of its continuing Great Swindle to support the Shuttle, by deliberately making sure that most US science spacecraft were so big that they couldn't possibly be launched on any expendable boosters less powerful than the Shuttle.

OK, I'll bite: which "expendable boosters less powerful than the Shuttle" are you referring to?

My recollection is that there weren't any! Or rather there were not intended to be any other than the Scout once the Shuttle entered service. That's because NASA intended the Shuttle would replace every American launch vehicle other than the very smallest (the Scout) and the very largest (the Saturn V). I can still remember the graphic that appeared in various books published in the 1970s on America's space program showing the lineup of America's space vehicles and which were the ones that would go and which would stay. (Of course in the end the Saturn V was ditched as well.)

Naturally that necessarily meant that the only launch vehicle America would have available for launching interplanetary missions of any size, small, medium, or large, would be the Shuttle. So why on earth (or in space) would NASA "deliberately mak[e] sure that most US science spacecraft were so big that they couldn't possibly be launched on any expendable boosters less powerful than the Shuttle"?

Perhaps you had the ESA's ELVs in mind. But given that the space probes you're alluding to would (like the Shuttle) be being paid for by NASA your suggestion would seem to amount to NASA trying to "swindle" itself! blink.gif

So what evidence do you have to suppose that claim of yours?

As far as I can see if NASA is guilty of anything with the Shuttles (at least in respect of its space program) it's hubris and folly. The hubris: even contemplating replacing so much hardware with one launch vehicle before the new vehicle had even flown, much less proved itself in flight for a sufficient length of time to justify the confidence in it implied by the retirement of so many tried and tested launch vehicles. The folly: putting so many of its space program eggs in one launcher basket. For what nobody at NASA (or, to be fair, the Administration or Congress) seems to have contemplated--or if they did the notion was dismissed--was what the consequences would be should the entire Shuttle fleet, for whatever reason, be grounded?

Which, of course, is exactly what happened in 1986 following the Challenger disaster. Grounding the Shuttle fleet as a response was no different to what the FAA would do had a Boeing 747 mysteriously exploded in flight. But unlike America's air traffic system, which could always fall back to at least some degree on other makes and models of aircraft, NASA had no fallback position at all. However bad the problem might be if every Boeing 747 had to be grounded, intercontinental air traffic would not come to a grinding halt. Yet that is essentially what happened after the Challenger disaster. By grounding the Shuttles as a response to Challenger NASA effectively grounded the entire American space program, military and civilian.

To its credit, NASA has now learnt the lesson; and the more recent Columbia disaster, for all its impact, especially on ISS construction, has not prevented NASA's planetary missions flying.

======
Stephen
DonPMitchell
Another difficulty was the realization that it is too dangerous to use the shuttle to carry a fully fuel escape stage as payload. That put an end to ever using the shuttle to launch interplanetary missions.

I don't buy conspiracy theories, but I have heard that Boeing had a lot of trouble geting NASA to accept the Delta IV. Is there any truth to that? It does compete with the shuttle for milsat and comsat deployment.
BruceMoomaw
(1) "Are you intimating that NASA doesn't need any more flagship-size missions?"

Absolutely not; we all know perfectly well that they frequently do, and not just for space telescopes. Many planetary missions (especially in the outer Solar System) simply demand large spacecraft. My point was that a large number of the Flagship missions NASA was peddling in the 1970s and 1980s COULD have been broken up into smaller craft -- and, as I said, virtually any NASA Administrator besides Goldin would have had to do the same thing in the early 1990s. (I do, however, think he deserves more credit than I gave him in that earlier message for setting up the competitive-proposal system for Discovery and Explorer.)

(2) "OK, I'll bite: which 'expendable boosters less powerful than the Shuttle' are you referring to? My recollection is that there weren't any! Or rather there were not intended to be any other than the Scout once the Shuttle entered service. That's because NASA intended the Shuttle would replace every American launch vehicle other than the very smallest (the Scout) and the very largest (the Saturn V). I can still remember the graphic that appeared in various books published in the 1970s on America's space program showing the lineup of America's space vehicles and which were the ones that would go and which would stay. (Of course in the end the Saturn V was ditched as well.)

"Naturally that necessarily meant that the only launch vehicle America would have available for launching interplanetary missions of any size, small, medium, or large, would be the Shuttle. So why on earth (or in space) would NASA 'deliberately mak[e] sure that most US science spacecraft were so big that they couldn't possibly be launched on any expendable boosters less powerful than the Shuttle'?"

My dear fellow, that's exactly my point. NASA's unnecessary lumping of scientific missions into a small number of huge Flagship craft rather than a larger number of smaller craft, in order to make sure that there was no way to launch them on anything but the Shuttle (or the Titan), was done precisely to encourage the elimination of production of any US boosters but the Shuttle -- as yet another part of NASA's gargantuan fraud to ensure that the Shuttle program would continue to be funded even after its cost overruns and utility underruns were becoming gradually clearer.

Another part of that fraud was its straight-faced insistence that the Shuttle's chances of a launch explosion were only 1 in 100,000. They even tried to pull that one on the Pentagon -- which (fortunately for America) smelled a rat (after all, they had a very extensive space program of their own), did their own study which concluded that the real odds were 1 in 78, and then engaged in a furious battle with NASA to get Congress to resume Titan production in case the Shuttle got taken off line for a while. They finally got that measure approved in June 1985, only 7 months before Challenger blew up. Had they not done so, we would have had precisely no way to keep launching our vital reconnaissance satellites during the period before the Shuttle launch rate cranked back up to something like its former level in 1990-91.

The whole story is quite extraordinary, and the former NASA officials from that era don't even bother to publicly deny it any more, now that the statute of limitations for perjury before Congress has run out. The Shuttle's 1970s program manager, in fact, not only admitted it to the Columbia Accident Investigation Board during his testimony -- he actually laughed about the way NASA had snookered those ignorant Congressmen in the early 1970s to get the program funded in the first place! "Hell, anyone with any sense knew you'd never get more than 10 or 12 flights per year!" he guffawed during his testimony -- although it was only NASA's insistence that 50 flights per year were possible that got the program past Congress, since the studies had shown by then that only with a launch rate that high would it be even slightly more economical than continuing to use ELVs. (NASA seems to have yanked his testimony before CAIB off the Web now, along with all the other testimony to CAIB -- but not before I both recorded it and got a SpaceDaily article out of it.)
DonPMitchell
The military space program is a huge effort. I found figures for 2004:

NASA - $15.3 billion
Military - $20.4 billion

Military space command has a program that is rarely discussed. Besides KH and Lacrosse satellites, there is a huge command and control system based on satellites that permit generals in Washington or Colorado Springs to direct battles while observing in real time from space. That capability became routine during the first Gulf War. No matter what happens to NASA, the pentagon will always consider space to be the "high ground" which must be absolutely dominated by the US.

It would also be interesting to know the size of the civilian space effort in America, comsats and resource satellites, etc. NASA's budget also does not cover some other agencies like NOAA, which pays for a lot of weather and Earth-resource missions.
ljk4-1
I wonder how long before we have the USSF - the United States
Space Force?

They are certainly pushing for it in this publication:

http://www.airpower.maxwell.af.mil/airchro...um06/sum06.html

Or does it already exist but they aren't telling the public?
Jim from NSF.com
QUOTE (ljk4-1 @ Jun 6 2006, 09:54 AM) *
I wonder how long before we have the USSF - the United States
Space Force?

They are certainly pushing for it in this publication:

http://www.airpower.maxwell.af.mil/airchro...um06/sum06.html

Or does it already exist but they aren't telling the public?


It doesn't exist. If it did, it doesn't mean that it has an "offensive" capability.

The issue is similar to when the USAF was part of the Army, and needed to break away.
Stephen
QUOTE (BruceMoomaw @ Jun 6 2006, 08:54 AM) *
(2) "OK, I'll bite: which 'expendable boosters less powerful than the Shuttle' are you referring to? My recollection is that there weren't any! Or rather there were not intended to be any other than the Scout once the Shuttle entered service. That's because NASA intended the Shuttle would replace every American launch vehicle other than the very smallest (the Scout) and the very largest (the Saturn V). I can still remember the graphic that appeared in various books published in the 1970s on America's space program showing the lineup of America's space vehicles and which were the ones that would go and which would stay. (Of course in the end the Saturn V was ditched as well.)

"Naturally that necessarily meant that the only launch vehicle America would have available for launching interplanetary missions of any size, small, medium, or large, would be the Shuttle. So why on earth (or in space) would NASA 'deliberately mak[e] sure that most US science spacecraft were so big that they couldn't possibly be launched on any expendable boosters less powerful than the Shuttle'?"

My dear fellow, that's exactly my point. NASA's unnecessary lumping of scientific missions into a small number of huge Flagship craft rather than a larger number of smaller craft, in order to make sure that there was no way to launch them on anything but the Shuttle (or the Titan), was done precisely to encourage the elimination of production of any US boosters but the Shuttle -- as yet another part of NASA's gargantuan fraud to ensure that the Shuttle program would continue to be funded even after its cost overruns and utility underruns were becoming gradually clearer.

(1) I'd be careful if I were you. Even more than "swindle", "fraud" implies serious criminal activity. Since some of the people you're alluding to are (probably) still alive and well and in a position to sue for defamation I can only assume you're either being reckless or have solid evidence to support your accusations.

If the latter then perhaps I had better clarify my earlier suggestion ("what evidence do you have to suppo[rt] that claim of yours?"): what are the sources of your claims about "flagship" missions? By that I mean what are your references so that the rest of us can go along to consult the evidence which convinced you?

(2) That aspect aside, what you seem to be postulating is yet another conspiracy by Nefarious NASA to deceive the Blissfully Ignorant (Congress in this instance).

Sound familiar?

The only thing missing is Richard Hoagland. (In fact I'm surprised he hasn't picked up on this one. It would be right up his alley. Perhaps he's waiting for the incriminating photos to appear. biggrin.gif )

(3) As for your argument that:
"NASA's unnecessary lumping of scientific missions into a small number of huge Flagship craft rather than a larger number of smaller craft, in order to make sure that there was no way to launch them on anything but the Shuttle (or the Titan), was done precisely to encourage the elimination of production of any US boosters but the Shuttle."

Perhaps you might oblige with an example or two of the sort you mean? The only examples I can think of that come anywhere near your description are Cassini and CRAF; and surely you can't call Cassini's scientific mission an "unnecessary lumping". In any case neither of them flew on the Shuttle, and one did not even get off the proverbial ground.

(4) Your entire case presupposes the existence of efforts by elements within Congress to retain those other boosters. While I do have some vague recollection of reading in the press about attempts in Congress to retain an independent capacity for the military, I do not recall anybody going in to bat for the civilian boosters. Why then would NASA invent these "unnecessary lumpings" of civilian space probes to discourage the elimination of a threat to the Shuttle which had no real existence?

Were there indeed serious attempts within Congress during the period in question to retain all or some of those other civilian boosters?

(5) All in all you seem bent on casting NASA's decisions in the worst possible light in order to support your own argument; and with all due respect your obvious bias against the Shuttle (and manned spaceflight in general) do not exactly assist your case. Without access to the evidence which seems to have convinced you my own instinct tells me that you are engaging in the very sort of thing you are accusing NASA of: spin-doctoring the facts.

If I am wrong please enlighten us all with actual evidence--as opposed to your interpretation of events.

QUOTE (BruceMoomaw @ Jun 6 2006, 08:54 AM) *
Another part of that fraud was its straight-faced insistence that the Shuttle's chances of a launch explosion were only 1 in 100,000.

Are you alluding here to the Challenger? (Which strictly speaking did not, of course, explode on launch. The problem occurred during flight.)

QUOTE (BruceMoomaw @ Jun 6 2006, 08:54 AM) *
They even tried to pull that one on the Pentagon -- which (fortunately for America) smelled a rat (after all, they had a very extensive space program of their own), did their own study which concluded that the real odds were 1 in 78, and then engaged in a furious battle with NASA to get Congress to resume Titan production in case the Shuttle got taken off line for a while. They finally got that measure approved in June 1985, only 7 months before Challenger blew up. Had they not done so, we would have had precisely no way to keep launching our vital reconnaissance satellites during the period before the Shuttle launch rate cranked back up to something like its former level in 1990-91.

The whole story is quite extraordinary, and the former NASA officials from that era don't even bother to publicly deny it any more, now that the statute of limitations for perjury before Congress has run out. The Shuttle's 1970s program manager, in fact, not only admitted it to the Columbia Accident Investigation Board during his testimony -- he actually laughed about the way NASA had snookered those ignorant Congressmen in the early 1970s to get the program funded in the first place! "Hell, anyone with any sense knew you'd never get more than 10 or 12 flights per year!" he guffawed during his testimony -- although it was only NASA's insistence that 50 flights per year were possible that got the program past Congress, since the studies had shown by then that only with a launch rate that high would it be even slightly more economical than continuing to use ELVs. (NASA seems to have yanked his testimony before CAIB off the Web now, along with all the other testimony to CAIB -- but not before I both recorded it and got a SpaceDaily article out of it.)

A URL for that SpaceDaily article might have been nice. Were you alluding to this one?

http://www.spacedaily.com/news/shuttle-03p1.html

As for that CAIB testimony, was it on "www.caib.us" (as distinct from the present "caib.nasa.gov")? If so, then for a trip down the CAIB memory lane check out:

http://web.archive.org/web/*/http://www.caib.us/

There you'll find a veritable flock of "www.caib.us" websites going back to late February 2003. What you want may or may not be there.

======
Stephen
Bob Shaw
Children:

Don't fight, or Uncle Doug will send you to bed without supper.

Bob Shaw
BruceMoomaw
Believe me, the evidence for deliberate fraud and perjury before Congress not only exists: it's out there in public in massive amounts, and I am hardly the only person calling it that. There are plenty of space journalists much more prominent (and skilled) than I am who have been saying exactly what I'm saying for a long time: Gregg Easterbrook and T.A. Heppenheimer, just to drop two particularly large names. (Heppenheimer's book "Countdown", for instance, is excellent on the subject.) NASA has never whispered a single threat to sue any of them for libel, and it never will -- because they're not libeling it. (Nor was Reagan's science advisor George Keyworth libeling it when he said, "All government agencies lie part of the time, but NASA is the only one I know of that does so most of the time." He need only have added that this is simply because, having far less reason to exist at its current funding levels than most other government agencies -- at least after the Moon Race was won -- it naturally has to lie far more in order to maintain its funding levels.) In this case, there really was a conspiracy -- and it didn't have to be nearly as absurdly huge and sweeping as Hoagland's implausible ones, because it simply took advantage of the serious scientific and engineering ignorance of most Congressmen. They were sitting ducks for it.

The unnecessary lumping together of smaller spacecraft into Flagship missions was done all the time where planetary spacecraft were concerned. It was the precise cause of the growth of Mars Observer from several small separate spacecraft into a single billion-dollar one (thus causing us to lose tremendously more from that one failure than would otherwise have been the case), and Goldin himself pointed out that Galileo could very easily have been split into two or three missions. The same thing was done to the EOS Earth observation satellites, which (along with their predecessor UARS) were initially grown to gargantuan size entirely unnecessarily so that they could only be launched on the Shuttle. One can even make a case that Cassini could have been split up.

And -- to repeat -- after getting the Shuttle funded in the first place in 1972 by making utterly ridiculous claims about its low cost and high flight rate, NASA naturally had to provide incentives for the program to be maintained after its cost started rising and its flight frequency started dropping. One of those dishonest incentives was arranging for most scientific satellites to be so big -- whether they required it or not -- that they couldn't be launched on Delta or Atlas. This was done SIMULTANEOUSLY with NASA's strangulation of the ELVs; it did not either precede or follow that event. It was done to nip any initial pro-ELV mutterings in Congress in the bud before they could get rolling. But in the case of the Pentagon, this sort of deception failed, because the Pentagon DID know enough about space travel to see through it after a few years. (The battle between the Pentagon and NASA on this after the Pentagon finally put its foot down was ferocious; if I remember correctly, it took about six months of furious lobbying by the Pentagon to overcome NASA's attempts to continue tricking Congress on this subject.)

Another part of the plan -- described by the former head of the National Academy of Sciences' Space Studies Board about four years ago, in print -- was to keep the astronomers who wanted the Hubble Telescope from following through on their planned announcement that the Telescope would actually work better if it was only launched once, to an altitude too high for the Shuttle to reach, with a new telescope being launched whenever necessary instead of carrying out repairs on the old one with the Shuttle. NASA informed the Hubble team that --unless they kept their mouths shut and went along with the agency's claim that the Telescope would do best in a low Earth orbit with periodic repair visits by the Shuttle -- the agency would make sure they never got any big space telescope at all. So they did.

Yep, that's my article, about Robert Thompson's testimony. Thanks very much for digging up the CAIB testimony records; I urge everyone on this site to read his testimony. It was a lulu, I assure you. The only real surprise in it to insiders, however, was his casual but startling revelation that Nixon, for his own political reasons, was in on the plot with NASA -- the previous assumption by historians had always been that it was deceiving him at the same time that it deceived Congress in 1972. That man seems to have had some kind of religious scruples against being honest.

And, as Easterbrook says, it may not be coincidence that James Fletcher -- the NASA Administrator who launched NASA on its path of really huge post-Apollo fraud and dishonesty -- was a Nixon appointee. Bruce Murray, in his bitter book "Journey Into Space" -- another very good source on all this -- calls Fletcher "a strange man", and recounts the time Fletcher asked him to provide fake "true-color" photos of Mercury from Mariner 10 to sweeten the press. One strange and dishonest man appointed by another one. Murray, by the way, also informed me by E-mail that he had only learned from the CAIB testimony that the NASA official who told him in the book not to push for a Titan launch for Galileo because the Shuttle was sure to be ready by Jan. 1982 -- "Hell, Bruce, we have two years of pad" -- already KNEW when he said it that it was totally false. The guy wasn't mistaken; he was deliberately lying. By the time of the CAIB testimony, however, he was also safely dead and thus safe from any indignant confrontation by Murray.

(One final tidbit: even after Challenger, NASA was still so determined to launch Mars Observer on Shuttle rather than on a Titan, just to keep the Shuttle program propped up, that they deliberately delayed its launch from 1990 to 1992 for that reason alone -- a delay which raised the project's total cost so much that one of its most important instruments, VIMS, had to be kicked off it to compensate. They finally ended up having to launch it on a Titan anyway, of course.)
DonPMitchell
QUOTE (ljk4-1 @ Jun 6 2006, 06:54 AM) *
I wonder how long before we have the USSF - the United States
Space Force?

They are certainly pushing for it in this publication:

http://www.airpower.maxwell.af.mil/airchro...um06/sum06.html

Or does it already exist but they aren't telling the public?


Haven't you been watching Space Above and Beyond? We will just send the Marines into space if we need to open a can of whoopass on some aliens. (that should be read with the thickest American accent you can imagine...) :-)

Seriuosly though, here is the website of the Air Force Space Command: AFSC
tedstryk
QUOTE (BruceMoomaw @ Jun 6 2006, 08:54 AM) *
Absolutely not; we all know perfectly well that they frequently do, and not just for space telescopes. Many planetary missions (especially in the outer Solar System) simply demand large spacecraft. My point was that a large number of the Flagship missions NASA was peddling in the 1970s and 1980s COULD have been broken up into smaller craft -- and, as I said, virtually any NASA Administrator besides Goldin would have had to do the same thing in the early 1990s. (I do, however, think he deserves more credit than I gave him in that earlier message for setting up the competitive-proposal system for Discovery and Explorer.)


Gosh, and all this time I thought it had to do with the fact that when we were down to so few missions, they were desperate to cram everything they could on each one, since the next chance was going to be a long way off. But of course this wouldn't fit into your Shuttlemonster conspiracy, so it cannot be considered.
BruceMoomaw
QUOTE (tedstryk @ Jun 6 2006, 09:02 PM) *
Gosh, and all this time I thought it had to do with the fact that when we were down to so few missions, they were desperate to cram everything they could on each one, since the next chance was going to be a long way off. But of course this wouldn't fit into your Shuttlemonster conspiracy, so it cannot be considered.


You've got the sequence backwards -- there were so few missions because NASA insisted on making each one as big as possible, not vice versa. (While going through my old records two days ago, I ran across an article in "Science" on the advent of the Discovery Program making exactly that point. If I have to dig up all this stuff word for word to convince you people, I am going to be VERY annoyed -- but I'll do it.)

And, to repeat, I'm hardly the only one calling the Shuttle a "monster". Murray, however, in his book, is a bit more refined and merely keeps calling it "the Beast".

(By the way, I'll see if I can find that E-mail Murray sent me. I lost several thousand E-mails a couple of years ago in a hard drive accident, but I also have about 3000 stored on CD-ROM and Murray's may be among them.)
tedstryk
I am not saying the shuttle had nothing to do with it. And I am not saying there weren't other factors....I mean, there has been a propensity to want big missions that would do a lot, but simply break the bank. But I have studied it quite a lot, so I really don't need a history lesson. I also realize you are not going to consider anything that doesn't fit into your narrow view of how things work. Frankly, I would think a great conspiracy, in which the planetary programs were made impossibly large so that their funding would be gobbled by the shuttle, would be far more sophisticated and organized than those who supported the shuttle from the bureaucratic end were ever capable of.
mcaplinger
QUOTE (BruceMoomaw @ Jun 6 2006, 01:52 PM) *
The unnecessary lumping together of smaller spacecraft into Flagship missions was... the precise cause of the growth of Mars Observer from several small separate spacecraft into a single billion-dollar one...

While this seems to be the common wisdom, I don't think it's accurate. Mars Observer as flown looked very much like the Mars Geoscience/Climatology Orbiter proposed by the SSEC in the early '80s. The main difference was the addition of two small instruments (MOC and TES) instead of one big one (VIMS). The cost increases through May 1988 are documented well in the GAO report NSAID-88-137FS and say nothing about spacecraft size changes. I see no evidence that there was ever any serious plan to fly multiple spacecraft to address the goals of MGCO. The whole time I worked on it (1988-1993) MO was viewed as a low-cost mission, which in comparison with Galileo and Cassini, it was.

Note that MGCO was originally supposed to cost $250M, not counting its Shuttle launch. The final figure, about $813M, includes the Commercial Titan launch, which was probably at least $150M not including the cost of the OSC TOS upper stage. The GAO report details cost increases for the spacecraft and payload of $163M.
BruceMoomaw
There was a piece on just that subject in "Science" (about half a page long) at the time of the Mars Observer failure. Mars Observer in its original form around 1983 was supposed to carry only about 4 experiments, with projected (if unclearly defined) later spacecraft to follow. Like Topsy, it growed -- and it growed because NASA kept piling additional instruments on the first spacecraft, instead of splitting them off onto one or more follow-up craft (which, of course, was what finally did happen after Observer failed).

Then the next event, as I said, was NASA's decision to try to keep it on the Shuttle even at the expense of a 2-year launch delay and the loss of one of its two most important instruments, VIMS. (VIMS got the axe because it was one of MO's two "facility" instruments paid for largely by NASA itself -- the other being the Gamma-Ray Spectrometer. All the other instruments were built and paid for mostly by their own experimenters, so that their costs were separate from NASA's own costs for the mission.)

I do also have the GAO report on Mars Observer, and will review it -- but just keep in mind that, technically speaking, every single thing that NASA did to start breaking up planetary missions and flying smaller ones after Challenger could have been done just as easily before Challenger. (The proposed Lunar Observer also started out dinky -- with only about 4 instruments -- but ultimately NASA was planning to put about 9 instruments on it. In the end, of course, LO didn't get funded at all.) There is a reason why that kind of breakup wasn't done -- even after COMPLEX recommended it in its 1983 advisory report (which I also have a copy of) -- and the reason is the one I mentioned. (COMPLEX even recommended splitting Cassini in two.)

As for Ted Stryk's comment: "Frankly, I would think a great conspiracy, in which the planetary programs were made impossibly large so that their funding would be gobbled by the shuttle, would be far more sophisticated and organized than those who supported the shuttle from the bureaucratic end were ever capable of": sorry, but that's exactly what happened. After all, it didn't have to be a sophisticated or complex conspiracy -- all that was necessary was for NASA's top-level officials (and particularly its Administrators from about 1972 through 1985) to say, "No, we're not going to fly a lot of small missions; we're going to fly just a few big ones." And, in fact, they did say that. One other little item I have in my files is Thomas Gold's 1992 piece on the subject in "Nature", in which he points out that NASA documents obtained from this period through the Freedom of Information Act (after years of resistance by NASA) have turned out to regularly include little handwritten notes from Fletcher, in particular, talking openly about the need for just this sort of dishonest move to bolster the case for the Shuttle. Gregg Easterbrook calls Fletcher "the Rasputin of NASA", and he deserves the title.

Once again: whether you guys like to hear it or not, this DID happen. We aren't even speaking in terms of it "probably" happening -- it provably, with no doubt whatsoever, DID happen. (And we get another indication of how it could have happened by considering the way in which, after Sean O'Keefe took over as NASA Administrator, his own underlings successfully flim-flammed him into supporting such wasteful absurdities as JIMO and the Hubble Repair Robot -- simply because he was an accountant who lacked training as an engineer. So do virtually all members of Congress.)

I'm going to spend a little while tonight digging up these documents I've mentioned; but I am not going to spend too long on this or on quoting them here in detail. If you want to find out for yourselves whether it happened, just read the same sources I use. They are absolutely unambiguous on the subject -- as unambiguous as Reagan's science advisor was when he called NASA a huge nest of habitual liars.
BruceMoomaw
Actually, let me add another remark about Ted Stryk's statement that I'm saying that there was "a great conspiracy, in which the planetary programs were made impossibly large so that their funding would be gobbled by the shuttle". On reexamining his sentence, I see he still misunderstands what I'm saying. I'm not saying that planetary missions were made huge so that "their funding would be gobbled by the Shuttle" -- a great part of NASA's total space science budget had ALREADY been gobbled by the Shuttle in any case. I'm saying that the part of the space science budget that was NOT gobbled by the Shuttle was then divvied up to produce a smaller number of bigger spacecraft rather than a larger number of smaller spacecraft, so that those spacecraft would have to be launched by a booster as big as the Shuttle.

The idea of "smaller but more frequent" spacecraft had already been proposed by COMPLEX as far back as 1983; NASA turned it down. Not until after Challenger and the downfall of the Shuttle program did NASA return to that idea and accept it. (As another example: at about the same time that the Discovery program started up in 1992, NASA proposed splitting the Lunar Observer back into two small separate "Lunar Scout" craft -- each one carrying 4 experiments, just as COMPLEX had originally recommended back in 1983 that the first Lunar Observer itself should do.)
tedstryk
I understand you perfectly well. However, the shuttle was purported to be useful for launching missions of any size, and none of these spacecraft were too large for other boosters, had NASA not cancelled them, as it did boosters for smaller missions as well. And there would have been advantages of having all the MO instruments on a single platform, and, had it gone up according to the original plan, would have cost less than MGS, MCO, and Odyssey.
mcaplinger
QUOTE (BruceMoomaw @ Jun 6 2006, 04:56 PM) *
There was a piece on just that subject in "Science" (about half a page long) at the time of the Mars Observer failure. Mars Observer in its original form around 1983 was supposed to carry only about 4 experiments...

Bruce, just because it says so in SCIENCE doesn't mean it's true. You can go back and look at the AO if you can find it, but there was no such "original form". MO did not "grow": the instruments were selected to the mass, power, and volume limits as stated in the AO. VIMS was subsequently deleted because they ran into massive development problems, and the radar altimeter became MOLA for the same reason, but there is no evidence of the kind of growth you suggest in the historical record, only from poorly-informed outsiders and long after the fact. And a lot of the misinformation seems to be sour grapes from unselected instruments, and the VIMS guys talking trash about those of us who made the cut.

According to "The Mars Geoscience/Climatology Orbiter 1990 mission" by Low et al, 1984, an Ames-led climatology study and a JPL-led geoscience study had been combined by the SSEC into a single MGCO mission by January 1984.
BruceMoomaw
TedStryk's latest comment actually points toward my whole central point all along: the real argument for breaking up space missions whenever it's practical to do so is that, if you do so, a design flaw that wrecks the first spacecraft doesn't cause you to lose as much as you would with a bigger spacecraft. Mars Observer cost twice as much as Mars Climate Orbiter and Mars Polar Lander did combined -- their two failures combined did only half as much damage as its single failure. "Smaller and more frequent" has always been the valid part of "better, faster, cheaper".

Now, a reinspection of the SSES' 1983 report "Planetary Exploration Through Year 2000: A Core Program", pg. 99) shows that Mike Caplinger is actually, to a large degree, correct about what that report says, and I was wrong -- the SSES itself did recommend, on balance, that two small separate Mars orbiters (Mars Geoscience Orbiter and Mars Climatology Orbiter) should be combined into a single "MGCO" with 6 instruments, because two of the instruments (GRS and VIMS) had some modest applicability to both disciplines. But this isn't really all that strong an argument for doing so, given the vulnerability of such a unified spacecraft to a single failure -- as of course actually happened, after which NASA immediately split up the replacement mission into not just two but three different orbiters. And Glenn Cunningham, in "The Tragedy of Mars Observer" ( http://trs-new.jpl.nasa.gov/dspace/handle/2014/24136 ) agrees with that "Science" article ("How Observer Became a Billion-Dollar Mission", 9-3-93, pg. 1266) that NASA then proceeded to swell the size of the unified Mars Observer far further beyond what the SSES recommended. This included adding the MOC after the initial science payload had actually been selected (this "eventually cost more than $20 million" according to "Science", and "used up all of the spacecraft's resource margins" according to Cunningham), and also included selecting science instruments that were much more sophisticated and costly than what the SSES had recommended.

So, to repeat: NASA, in those days, was fond of making spacecraft much bigger than they should be. Why? For exactly the reason I stated. Quoting former Space Sciences Board chair John McElroy: "The human space flight program saw the Space Shuttle as a means to continue its work until NASA was called upon to again tackle a new goal, and fought successfully to gain the Shuttle's dominance among the launch vehicles that NASA's program offices could employ." And part of doing that was for NASA's bosses to make sure that spacecraft were repeatedly made so big that they could tell Congress that only something as big as a Shuttle could launch them.

More on this later, after I reread Murray, Heppenheimer and Easterbrook on the subject. Right now I'm tired.
mchan
QUOTE (DonPMitchell @ Jun 6 2006, 01:29 AM) *
I don't buy conspiracy theories, but I have heard that Boeing had a lot of trouble geting NASA to accept the Delta IV. Is there any truth to that? It does compete with the shuttle for milsat and comsat deployment.

Delta IV started launching payloads way after the shuttle was no longer in the business of milsat / comsat deployment. Did you mean another ELV? But then the only other ELV made by Boeing (after the McDAC acquisition) is the Delta II which is out of the league of payloads that require a shuttle.
BruceMoomaw
The more I look into this, the more I think that -- at least on Mars Observer -- Caplinger and Stryk may well have a point; there seems to have been a significant amount of (mistaken) pressure from the scientists themselves to fuse two small missions into one bigger one there. I'm still reading on this (for instance, I've just discovered Howard McCurdy's 86-page report on the start of the NEAR project, which provides some information and some more new document leads on Mars Observer), and will report back again on this.

As for Mike's statement that VIMS got the boot from Mars Observer because of "severe instrument development problems": that's a new one to me, and I'd like to hear more. I've been working off (1) a very brief 1988 Aviation Week piece which said flatly that it was to deal with the price rise resulting from NASA's decision to delay the launch until 1992, and (2) a Mars Observer scientist I talked to back in 1991, who wasn't part of the VIMS team but was mad as hell that it had been removed and didn't say anything about development problems.
mcaplinger
QUOTE (BruceMoomaw @ Jun 7 2006, 11:37 AM) *
As for Mike's statement that VIMS got the boot from Mars Observer because of "severe instrument development problems": that's a new one to me, and I'd like to hear more.

I'll have to retract that because I can't find any public supporting documentation about rises in instrument cost. It might have just been that VIMS was the most expensive instrument.
BruceMoomaw
I'll go into a bit more detail later (it's been a long day) -- but:

(1) I'm currently rereading Heppenheimer's "Countdown", Murray's "Flight into Space", and Eric Chaisson's "The Hubble Wars" -- three books which I hadn't read in years (so that my memories of them were getting seriously fuzzy), and which should be required reading for anyone who has any illusions left about NASA. (Chaisson, however, also turns a baleful eye on his fellow scientists, some of whom are depicted as acting like tantrum-throwing three-year-olds -- including one prominent astronomer given to death threats and throwing things during conferences.)

(2) I have multiple-source confirmation of my previous belief that VIMS (although it did have some development problems) did indeed get the boot solely because of the 2-year delay and resultant massive cost jump in Mars Observer due to NASA's frantic attempts to keep it on the Shuttle manifest even after Challenger, rather than launching it on a Titan. (Murray devotes most of the last chapter of his book to that event alone -- and, my, is he steamed.)

(3) I have NOT been able to find direct confirmation of my initial statement that NASA deliberately made space science missions bigger than necessary in the 1980s in order to ensure that no rocket other than Shuttle could launch them -- but I have strong indirect evidence of it. Heppenheimer, for instance, also notes that in the 1980s NASA started flying bigger missions than before, even when it was unnecessary and dangerously risky -- and, while I haven't yet found any proof that NASA actually forced scientists to accept those missions, it's clear that it encouraged them to accept them (as with the SSES' 1983 acceptance of the belief that Mars Observer should not be split into two smaller spacecraft, for a single incredibly flimsy scientific reason).

(4) More seriously, I haven't been able to track down the source of my statement that NASA, in the early 1980s, blackmailed the scientific advocates of the Hubble Telescope into rejecting their own preference for a high-Earth orbit non-repairable version (which thus wouldn't require Shuttle repair visits) by threatening them with not getting any Hubble at all. I thought that incident was mentioned by John McElroy in http://www7.nationalacademies.org/ssb/aprjun02.pdf , but he doesn't. (Athough he does mention the very serious limitations on Hubble's cost-efficiency produced by that orbit -- as Freeman Dyson also does in an editorial in the April 1990 "Sky and Telescope", in which Dyson also points out that Lyman Spitzer himself stated similar beliefs when he proposed Hubble in the first place.) Nor is it mentioned by Chaisson in "The Hubble Wars". I have very clear memories of seeing that incident recounted somewhere, however, and I don't think I'm quite senile enough yet to have hallucinated it -- so I'll keep looking.
Stephen
Not sure how much help the following will be to the MO debate in this thread but I came across the following while doing a search of the NET:

(1) A 1992 document titled "Preliminary Design Review for [the] PERCIVAL Mission To Mars" (which this document says "has been designed as a follow-up mission to the Mars Observer...spacecraft that is currently in route to Mars") lists amongst Percival's mission objectives: "To provide a platform for scientific instrumentation cut from the Mars Observer mission due to funding cutbacks".

Among the instruments planned to be flown on Percival was VIMS.

(2) Meanwhile, this page of David Portree's "Romance to Reality" website refers to VIMS as "an instrument deleted from the prime MO spacecraft to make up for the cost of moving MO's launch from 1990 to 1992".

(3) On the other hand a more complex situation seems to be being suggested by a statement that appears on page D-2 (ie first text page of part D, chapter D1) of this PDF document from late 1993 (volume 1 of the "Mars Observer Mission Failure Investigation Board Report"):
"Envisioned as a low-risk, well-bounded, first-of-a-series project for focused science, the
Mars Observer mission underwent a number of significant changes during its eight-plus year
development period. The majority of these changes were driven by events that were external to the
project, and included funding reductions, launch vehicle uncertainty, redirection in the number and
complexity of science experiments, and elimination of follow-on missions. The net result of these
changes was to stretch the schedule by two years, change the launch vehicle from the Space Shuttle
to a Titan III, and increase the cost by a factor of two."

The report then goes on:
"These changes also had a more subtle, but possibly more serious effect. They led to frequent
violations of one of the basic tenets of the program: namely that Mars Observer was simply a
slightly modified for Mars Observer version of a well-proven, reliable, high-heritage-design
spacecraft that would undertake a different mission. In fact, many of the spacecraft systems had
been so extensively modified for Mars Observer that their heritage had been lost; others, whose
heritage remained intact, should have been requalified to verify that they would function properly
on an interplanetary mission of three years duration (an environment for which they were not
designed)."

(Elsewhere, Ronald F. Draper of JPL in a 1992 paper for a Symposium titled "Microelectronics for Planetary Spacecraft" noted:
"The Mars Observer spacecraft is an attempt to reduce the cost of planetary
missions by using a commercial Earth satellite slightly modified to do a
Mars Orbiter mission."
)

(4) Meanwhile, Mike might find this 1997 paper useful: "A Management Approach for Allocating Instrument Development Resources" by David Porter. Section 2.1 (beginning on p5) is titled "Mars Observer Instrument Cost and Mass Growth" and includes (on p6) a graph (figure 2) showing "Mars Observerís Instrument Cost Growth", which from the reference given appears to have been taken (or based on data taken) from "Mars Observer Project History" by C. Polk, JPL D-8095, JPL, December 1990.

At the foot of p5 Porter has this to say:
"The potentially hazardous effect of instrument cost and mass growth can result in instrument descopes in capability or de-selection from the science payload. In the case of Mars Observer, the instrument cost and mass growths (see Figures 2 & 3) resulted in the descope of the RADAR Altimeter & Radiometer (RAR) for the simpler Mars Observer Laser Altimeter (MOLA), and the de-selection of the Visual & Infrared Mapping Spectrometer (VIMS)."

======
Stephen

[EDIT: On reflection I've amended the Porter quote to give the complete version, which included mention of the RAR change as well the VIMS one.]
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