Thursday, January 29, 2015

Will I be banned from Nasa Space Flight Forum?

The largest space forum I know of is There are a lot of knowledgeable people who participate including a number of professional aerospace engineers.

I enjoy this forum but in my opinion there is a bias for NASA sponsored HLV.

For example, the forum has subsections devoted to manned missions to Mars, the Moon and Near Earth Asteroids. There are a number of ways such missions could be accomplished. But evidently Chris Bergin feels SLS is the only option:

Notice all the HSF (Human Space Flight) missions come under the HLV/SLS/Orion/Constellation heading.

I mentioned to Chris Bergin that there may be other routes. For example an architecture based on propellent depots might get us to the moon. Chris retorted that some of the ULA depot guys participate in NSF and they don't bad mouth SLS. Well, one of ULA's parent companies is Boeing. Umm, Chris, maybe there's a reason ULA employees would be hesitant to criticize SLS.

I posted a cartoon to NSF:

Chris found my use of the "pork" offensive. He also didn't like didn't like my portrayal of Senator Shelby.

There are a few things Apollo, Ares and SLS have in common:
1) They're very large rockets
2) They're completely expendable.

Since they're big, that means big expense. Since they're not reusable, that big expense will be incurred each and every trip.

If every mission is going to cost a few billion, we are not going to colonize the Moon, Near Earth Asteroids or Mars. Settlement would take a long, sustained effort and this sort of expense just isn't sustainable.

If Shelby et al are trying to sell SLS as a way to open a new frontier, they are committing fraud.

So what is the goal of NASA's human space flight program? The occasional flag & footprints publicity stunt doesn't justify the expense. If NASA's human space flight program is all about jobs in Florida, Texas and Alabama, it should be axed.

I make no apologies for my cartoon.


Robert Clark said...

Thanks for the creative cartoon. I'm now convinced the only way we're going to get to Mars and other BEO destinations is if it is significantly privately financed. That is the only way we are going to be able to hold down costs.

Bob Clark

Tony said...

I think you are 100% right about SLS. On occasion I refer to the SLS as the "pork barrel to space".


May I suggest you take a little more "pedagogic" and/or diplomatic approach? While I don't read the forums, I read the articles on the nasaspaceflight website, and I can see that they have been suckered into the ULA/Boeing/Lockheed world, so far as they are clearly biased against e.g. SpaceX in what they write. In short: They are true believers. Bluntly telling them what boils down to "you're wrong and idiots" will accomplish the opposite of what you want to achieve.

I know it is hard, but don't try to force it. I think it is important to keep up the dialog with such people, as they have a quite large visibility, and many people turn to them for information about spaceflight – and loosing a voice that shows a slightly different reality than the one they try to portrait would be bad, really bad.

William Barton said...

Hop, I hope Chris has more sense than to ban you, or even stop you from speaking your mind, as your are one of the more valuable contributors to the forum. But if you do get banned, it's not the end of the work. Think of it as recovering energy from a time sink.

Marcel F. Williams said...

Space depots and heavy lift vehicles are actually-- complimentary-- systems.

Plus there is no other rocket system out there that will have the hugely advantageous fairing size (10 meters in diameter) that the SLS is going to have.

The SLS fuel tank technology is also going to give NASA and private industry a game changing pressurized tank technology that could be used for enormously spacious yet ultralight Earth orbital and deep space habitats such as the Skylab II concept.


Hollister David said...

Hey, William Barton! Good to hear from you. I miss seeing you in forums. But it's a time sink as you say. It might be good for me if I were thrown out. I saw some of your stories in Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine awhile back.

Marcel F. Williams said...

There is no bigger pork program than the ISS corporate welfare program for Commercial Crew industry. The continuing the ISS beyond 2015 and possibly beyond 2020 is a huge waste of tax payer money. And its also the most inefficient way possible to subsidize Commercial Crew development.

The most efficient way to promote Commercial Crew development is by promoting private commercial flights to private commercial space stations.

NASA could use the SLS to launch a Bigelow Olympus space station to LEO or an SLS fuel tank derived space station to LEO as a destination for super wealthy space tourist and space lotto winners. There's only about 50,000 people on the planet who can afford a $25 to $40 million flight to such a station. So there are a few potential customers on the planet:-)

Hollister David said...

Tony, attempts at reasoned and civil discussion seem fruitless. NASA's been on a dead end path since Michael Griffin and I don't see an end in sight. How many decades will we have to wait?

Yes, my tone has become strident and abrasive. It doesn't seem worthwhile trying to persuade Chris and SLS sympathizers. Certainly those at the pork trough don't seem inclined to repent.

The best hope, I believe, is alerting the general public -- some loud whistle blowing. My cartoon is an attempt to condense Shelby's bad behavior into a short, easily digested meme.

Musk seems to be blazing some new trails, I have been very impressed with his progress towards a reusable booster. If our policy makers were truly interested in opening a new frontier, they'd be wholeheartedly supporting SpaceX, Planetary Resources, and similar entities.

Tony said...

Yeah, trying to "convert" true believers is very time consuming, if not outright futile (cue in Thomas Kuhn, paradigm shift, yada yada…) – so yeah, I would agree that is not worthwhile to reach *such* persons.

But never forget for every SLS fan boy there are people lurking who have not such a consolidated opinion. And reaching them, giving them a chance to hear a different view, might be worthwhile. Whether the nasaspaceflight forum is the place for this, or if other places are more effective for this, I don't know.

Just make sure you know your audience. No need to preach to the choir, the people with a similar opinion like yours you don't need to convert. The ones who are married to the major aerospace players, you probably can't reach. But those in between, you stand a chance on reaching. Mudslinging is not the way, because for bystanders it is difficult to discern who is right and who is wrong. There is a place for sarcasm and satire with like-minded people (your blog maybe?), but be a voice of facts and reason in other forums, or don't discuss there.

Two facts really widened my view: The costs of SLS (as chronicled by R.D. Boozer on the Space Review), and the money of Comercial Crew awarded to SpaceX vs. Boeing. One doesn't need to use the word pork to get angry at the outrages sums that are transfered to the major aerospace companies, and at the chances that are lost. Give the money who really want to go to Mars, who want to mine resources in Space, and we will be on Mars in less than two decades IMHO.

LocalFluff said...

(I invoke the SLS+Orion launch abort system)

I'd love to see Hop piece together some outlines of an architecture for space flight. From an orbital mechanics point of view rather than hardware choices. Now, his great advice is fragmented and reactive. Imagine what are the most important things needed to be done in order to accomplish, for example:

- Establish regular traffic with Mars.

- Putting orbiters around Uranus and Neptune in order to support atmospheric studies of sub-Neptunian exoplanets, the most common type.

- Putting balloons in the atmosphere of Venus, also to support upcoming atmospheric exoplanet research.

- Leaving the Solar system, perhaps in order to use the gravitational focus of the Sun, or a mission to examine the first Oort cloud object ever found, if ever found. Improvements to Kraft Erickes trajectory?

Doug Plata said...

Hop, you might be reading too much into things. The description of the section reads as follows:

"Section for the Heavy Lift Launch Vehicle (HLV) or Space Launch System (SLS). Home of DIRECT's Jupiter, SD HLVs and other HLVs"

So the HLV section includes other HLVs. Presumably that could include Falcon Heavy and MCT as those things become more clarified. But right now, for truly heavy lift, SLS is, shall we say, the program of record.

Also, I may have missed it, but were you specifically threatened with being banned?

As for LEO depots, imagine launching two partially reusable Falcon Heavies and then docking one payload with the other (the US hasn't had a docking failure in over 40 years). Assuming that one of those payloads was a cryogenic stage, that non-depot approach could send very large masses BLEO. For a depot to make economic sense, it would need to deliver that much propellant at a cost lower than a partially reusable Falcon Heavy. That's an awfully tall order. A propellant depot in a single orbital inclination might make sense at some point in time for very large (rare?) missions but we need to make sure it does make sense before pursuing it either by policy or privately.


Anonymous said...

You all must live this piece of orbital mechanics history! In 1962, Krafft Arnold Ericke talks about interplanetary spaceflight:

Coastal Ron said...

Hi Hop. I saw the comment you left on the "Let’s Fix the Asteroid Redirect Mission" AviationWeek editorial, and I thought I'd look you up.

My comment here is about your observations about NSF though, but I'll leave a response at AW to your comments there.

I became a regular on NSF last year after Jeff Foust shut down his Space Politics website (I was one of the regulars). I think I had only posted a couple of times on NSF before then, but I have become a regular since then (over 1100 posts and over 570 Likes).

I am not an SLS fan at all, but I have found that I'm not alone at NSF with that opinion. Maybe more have been stepping forward, but I have no problem posting my views on the SLS and the Orion, plus all other topics.

That's not to say I haven't had posts deleted, because I have. But so have many others, so you do learn what is productive and what isn't. And that's really the challenge, is finding out how to critique without looking like you are attacking. Your cartoon is more the later.

So for instance, my latest line has been to describe how there is no funding for missions and payloads for when the SLS becomes operational, yet we will only have 6 years to build such missions or payloads if the FY2016 authorization bill passed in the House goes through as written. Pretty factual, so it's hard to dismiss (though SLS supporters try their darndest)

In any case, I welcome you to post on NSF, and I hope you find it is a productive forum to use.