back to article NASA chief blasts US space policy in leaked email

An internal email from NASA chief Mike Griffin has been leaked to the media. It expresses Griffin's frustration with recent US space policy, says that White House oversight offices have waged a "jihad" against the space shuttle, and offers a gloomy view of the future. The email was obtained at the weekend by the Orlando Sentinel …

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Politics

You can earn cash easily from war - I mean politicians and their affiliates can. At the same time earning cash from Science Projects? You need to know shit about those before investing in them...

Simple choice - WAR.

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Boffin

WAR

what is it good for?

Well, it is an instant solution to the arguments posed by the many uncomfortable comments our government have to listen to regarding global (in)security, privacy intrusions, excessive TAX, and CCTV since everything is immediately reduced to "it's in the nation's best interest ... what are you... some sort of pinko commie bastard?"; it causes an immediate reduction in the global population which has to be good for those of us struggling to buy food during the current economic farce; it is normally associated with huge advances in science and technology (which, if they are quick, will help to rush through an environmental impact assessment on the LHC); and lets not forget the instant justification for all those years spent maintaining expensive weapons of mass-D-struction instead of building schools and hospitals.

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Yay!

A new space race! At least we get something cool to read about, far better than arms races (And their nervous-sky-watching-for-ICBMs)

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Bronze badge

Why not cooperate?

With China and Russia and the EU and just build a decent rocket that can do lunar and then martian exploration?

Oh, because you want to try some willy waving.

I think we all need to grow a pair and cooperate to the moon at least.

Commercial orbital systems are being developed and should be working well soon, then the market can go for lunar missions - they'll have a target if we have a lunar station in place.

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Paris Hilton

"I believe he's attempting re-entry"

Does this mean that the Russians will have de facto control and therefore ownership of the ISS? Could they wait until the last US astronaut leaves, and then move it to a different orbit, and not tell anyone else? Perhaps they could cloak it, and use it as a secret space platform, like in "Moonraker". I hope they don't get ideas about wiping out humanity with a special virus.

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Happy

Amerifail

Well, I hear Chertoff (yes, that Homeland Bureaucratic Security dude) thinks that the USA infrastructure is decaying and needs about 1 trillion dollars pronto to get a much-needed refresh operation. Factor in the missing 3 trillions for Iraq, a few hundred billions of bail-out operations for failing banks, an imploding automobile industry, a recession, pumping up Georgia and the 'tans with a few billions, a super-expensive missile-defense system with spare Patriots thrown in, rebuiling the 5th fleet to impress the Carribean rubes, saving Israel from committing suicide, maybe an influenza outbreak and a few floods etc...

...where can one find the spare change for a viable space program during the next administration?

Happy face because "Always look on the bright side..."

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Flame

Politics = Poo

Decisions about technology made by politicians who have zero understanding of anything to do with technology will always boil down to one thing: money. If it costs "too much" then don't approve the budget, or put in place a set of requirements that are impossible to meet, the outcome of which will be a scenario hyped by the media as a failing by NASA, not the devious bastard politicians behind the scenes pulling the strings. "NASA fails again" is a much more sellable headline than "Politicians re-evaluate Shuttle's operational lifespan."

Bastard politicians.

Let's hope that the new administration is a little more friendly towards NASA. They need the budget to keep Shuttle running *AND* develop Ares/Orion, preferably with a couple of years of overlap.

Alternatively, if the new administration does mothball Ares/Orion through lack of funds and make no attempt to extend Shuttle's lifespan beyond 2010, then it almost certainly will be the start of commercial space access. So, perhaps it's not such a bad thing after all if the politicians are bastards.

Hmmm... I wonder how many politicians have vested interests in all those commercial space access companies... *THAT* would be an interesting story.

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Poor Griffin

I feel truly sorry for the man. But everything in the memo is SPOT ON, and needs no further context. It must really suck to be beholding to people who are not qualified to wipe your butt, not to mention their own.

That said, ISS, the space station without a name (or purpose) should have never been built. It will be at it's height of usefulness as a nighttime fireworks display when it reenters the atmosphere. Still, it does suck that we built 90% of it for Russia. Of course it's not really any more use to them than it is to us.

And it's the pinnacle of international political stupidity that Russia is "returning to its previous evil ways" for coming to the defense of ethnic Russians 10 miles outside their own border. Yet when NATO went thousands of miles to bomb Serbia back to the stone age and topple its government, in an illegal at of war against a sovereign country trying to control muslim terrorists within it's own boarders, that was a humanitarian act.

PLEASE!! If it's good for the goose it's good for the gander. Georgia made two fundamental mistakes. A) They believed a Bush B) They forgot rules 1 and 2.

1. Before you start a war, always remember: YOU MIGHT LOSE

2. Wars a way easier to start than they are to end (especially if you're losing)

[and in their case #3: Don't start a war with a country that can field more tanks than you have people]

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Unhappy

I'm surprised no-one has suggested...

the obvious solution.

Scrap the space programme entirely.

Yeah, I said it.

No more Shuttle, ISS, Ares, Rover, Fido or whatever. Bring all our people down from orbit and keep them here. Let the Russians keep the ISS, or privatise it.

If the space fanboys want to have a big Boys' Own Adventure they can do it on their own dime - not mine.

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Jon
Joke

Squatters Rights

Possession is 9/10 of the law. MIR2.0

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Unhappy

Saturn V!

Way too late to say it now, but the US should never have abandoned the Apollo hardware. They had a good (nay, brilliant!) system on their hands, and if they'd just kept on improving it, as was originally planned, instead of wasting decades and billions of dollars on the Shuttle, the US would already have reliable systems that would have made Ares V look like a firework.

Instead, they're still designing Orion, as they re-invent the wheel.

It's another thing to blame Nixon for: Deliberately killing the Saturn rockets, while pushing the Shuttle, while *not* funding the earlier space-station that the Shuttle was designed to build.

Those that say that the "primitive" Orion is a step backwards from the "sophisticated" Shuttle (and I used to be one of them) don't know what they're talking about. The Shuttle is over-priced and under-useful. Clever and creative use of conventional rocket designs could have accomplished everything that the Shuttle did, just cheaper.

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I can has some moneyz now, righ?

I feel for the guy...

And he will never get the money - Cheney took them with him to bribe the Saakashvili and his relatives. And when they spend the 1st billion they will surely want some more...

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@Terry, you forgot...

"Never start a land war in Asia"

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Unhappy

What he didn't say,

is that the Shuttle isn't suitable for manning the ISS. It can only stay in space for 2 weeks, If an emergency evacuaotion is meeded, Soyuz capsules that can stay docked for the ISS for six months are the only answer.

The ISS will be able to support a crew of six in mid 2009. I don't see this happening now if this agreement for NASA to pay for Soyuzs isn't renewed.

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@Stuart Van Onselen

Well said! Hopefully the next 10 years will see an explosion (pun not intended) in the commercial space access market, progressing hopefully towards commercial heavy-lift boosters within the 20-25 year range.

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Flame

If it were up to me....

I would give NASA the entirety of the defense department budget. If war is so profitable it should be able to pay for itself...

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Tom
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Of course the OMB and OSTP have been waging a jihad against the shuttle

This nightmare of a living dead program has crippled the US space program for at least the last decade. It only made sense in the context of the orbital transport station that was originally suppose to accompany it. After that was killed all else was putting lipstick on a pig and teaching it to sing.

Frankly, I think it's time to kill NASA or at least radically rethink it's mission. It might make sense as a regulatory agency, but the prime reason to have government fund it (steady, reliable budgets in the amounts needed to fund such a program) has turned out to be a mirage. Time for Congress to turn the exploration over to the private sector.

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Government leaders are agents of Russia?

U.S. Leaders are anti-American.

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Unhappy

@ John Robson

Stop speaking sence please, i mean come on how can we wave a big space program d*ck around if we're all waving the same d*ck. National politics just cannot be seperated. It just seems silly the China, India and the ESA are all going to redo everything that the US and Russia have already done what a massive waste of money time and resources.

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Bush Administration

One more reason to hate the Bush Administration. He barely got through college himself. Why would he value science?

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Joke

@ Terry

"And it's the pinnacle of international political stupidity that Russia is "returning to its previous evil ways" for coming to the defense of ethnic Russians 10 miles outside their own border. Yet when NATO went thousands of miles to bomb Serbia back to the stone age and topple its government, in an illegal at of war against a sovereign country trying to control muslim terrorists within it's own boarders, that was a humanitarian act." Well said mate totally agree but on a lighter note isnt the ISS actually called Hercules and the Russians also have one called Peter the Great?

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What's Bush got to do with it?

If anyone, you should go after William Proximire; and then every administration afterwards. The only one who's been interested in space since Eisenhower(*) was Reagan, and Reagan kept everything in the classified world so we never got to see it. Every President has had a chance to increase NASA's budget, and every President has cut it, and eveyr Congress has approved the cut. This shame is bipartisan.

(*) Kennedy wasn't interested in space, he was interested in a PR stunt, and that's ultimately all that the Moon Shot ever was

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The Shuttle isn't NASA

The Shuttle is not a NASA vehicle; it's a USAF design with "NASA" painted on the side as an arms-control dodge. The design of the Shuttle is absolutely perfect if you want a rapid-response launcher for spy satellites.

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That's it, Mike, gotta cover your dick

Can't let the big monkeys see that you got a hard-on, because you're just a little monkey, and little monkeys aren't supposed to get hard-ons. Better get out there and retract that email just as fast as you can manage, otherwise you'll Get In Trouble. They'll say that you're Not A Team Player, that you Get Too Emotional. And you'll get kicked out of the DC inner circle and you won't get invited to all the best parties.

I mean, we can't expect a soft, safe politician to stand up for his own organization, right? We can't expect public statements from NASA that things maybe aren't going well, right? It's been firmly established that NASA is the government's bitch, routinely getting a slap in the face instead of a budget and then smiling with bruised lips because at least someone's paying attention to you. God forbid that the NASA Nerds ever have a strong opinion about anything.

Seriously--_why_ is Griffin trying to pull this back? Why not own it? Why not go to the public and say "look, NASA could be doing a lot more, but the government refuses to give us any money"? Stop pretending like the people are just some useless adjunct to The Government Bureaucracy.

(oh hey, other commentors: I can see you hammering at your keyboards, fingers fouling each other as you try to be the first one to type a snarky nihilist response to that last line. Shut the fuck up unless you've got something useful to add.)

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Alert

Prophecy

Sounds a lot like what Stephen Baxter's been predicting in his novels for years.

Read "Titan"

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Coat

You can stamp your feet and bawl as much as you like....

The ISS is "International" which means to make is work means learning to play nice with others. We've still got this mindset that only the US has the technology and resources to do anything significant and so everyone has to do it our way or we'll take our ball and go home. Unfortunately with all this ball outsourcing to China and the like they don't need our ball. Their ball may not have as nice a paint job or bounce quite as high but it works just fine for the game.

Its important to Reg readers because the US has been doing this chucking of its technical weight around for decades now and all its done is irritate people and give them an excuse to buy "anything but American". We've got these idiot free-marketers running the government who feel that at a whim they can stop trade and commerce....its nuts.

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i never understood

why armies need money to buy stuff..

The sole goal of armies is to conquer So the success of an army can be measured by the amount of stuff they can grab a hold of....

A very sucessfull army is thus self reliant.

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ian
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Rational?

Can anyone expect rationality from government twats who say "we make our own reality"? Perhaps NASA can harness the power of prayer to reach escape velocity (AKA "the rapture").

The sleep of reason produces born-again monsters.

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Pirate

War, Politics, Science and Good Sense

There is no other reason to go to space than pure curiosity - see what's out there; it might be worth lots of money, it might just make "us" smarter, it might kill us all. We don't know and we never will if we don't try.

In 1492 some ships left Europe to see what was on the other side of the ocean. It might be India, it might be oblivion, it might be nothing. We just don't know. A large part of the Portuguese gentry railed against the voyage of Christopher Columbus - "it's a waste of time", "nothing good can come from this", "we can spend this money better here at home", "God will kill us all for this", etc... The voyage was taken however, and it's really worked out quite well for everyone* you know - and that's the idea behind good science; to do something and see what happens. To push the big red button!

Whining about the small amount of money spent on science is really gay. It's statements like that, and the people that make them, that enable the BBG's (Bush, Blair, Gordon) of the world to rise to power. It's really quite sad.

* Does not include natives, heretics, or anyone remotely brown.

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ISS = Flying Turkey

Nobel Lauriate Steve Weinberg called the International Space Station a "flying turkey", and I agree. The US has wasted almost $100 billion on the shuttle and ISS, and there is no important science to show for it.

There is plenty of good science being done by robotic missions, and more that could be done: flyby's, orbiters, rovers and sample-return missions could be sent to planets, moons, asteroids and comets. Space telescopes to study planetary systems on nearby stars would also be more intersting than the ISS.

For the money spent pointlessly maintaining a crew in low-earth orbit, we could have built a nuclear powered manned spacecraft able to visit nearby planets. The Soviets designed such a craft almost 50 years ago (called TMK) and modern engineers could certainly do an even better job. If you really think manned space exploration is what you want to do.

The pressure to end the shuttle and ISS programs is not just anti-science, there are lots of scientists who believe they are a waste of money.

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Flame

As the only sane person in the room...

NASA needs a permanently bigger budget, adjusted for inflation and what-not, that politicians can't fuck with. There will be endless wars, including nuclear ones, caused by overpopulation if we can't get off this rock. Private corporations simply don't have the work ethic necessary to get the human race into outer space because they're about minimalism rather than overengineering. Without redundant systems, missions will fail, lives will be lost, and the corporations will take the heat NASA used to take. The rest of us will still be dying in wars necessary "to reduce the surplus population not contributing to world resource gathering" - poor people who consume more resources than they bring in because there simply aren't any more to gather (without starting a resource-burning war).

The circular logic boggles the mind. People, the resources are out THERE *pointing towards space*. Our planet can't hold more than 10-12 billion people and still be able to manage food and housing. Stop the wars, pool the resources, research the technology, build the ships, and get us into space. The only alternative is mass suffering and death. Either you're part of the solution, or part of the problem.

As for the ISS, well, NASA let Skylab burn, so if worst comes to worst, they can either let it burn, or use a satellite-destroying missile/laser on it. But common sense will prevail, and the Shuttle fleet will be dusted off and put back into service. And how difficult would it be to manufacture new shuttles based off the old blueprints? *shakes head in dismay* They could be making jobs by making new Shuttles, instead of canning jobs by phasing out the Shuttle program and letting our adversaries get footholds in space (while we cower on Earth).

It seems that everything in the Bush (lack of) administration is ass-backwards. This should be expected, though, from a man who denies evolution - why should he believe in outer space, either? "Man shouldn't be trying to enter Heaven without God's permission, should he?" Stupid. Thank God this asshole will be gone in about 3.5 months. Then the real work begins again, fixing what Bush and his cronies let rust and decay. I'm ready for us to get back out there, where we belong.

Flame, because the light of reason will shine again in about 3.5 months.

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Unhappy

A Bad Compromise

The current space program is a bad compromise. Either they should ditch the manned space flight idea and stick with robotic missions. Or put devote enough resources (money) to do something REALLY exciting like a manned mission to mars. The ISS is neither glamorous nor scientifically productive.

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Go

@Kevin Kitts

Right.

In the past wars server a purpose of reducing the population. Now with smart bombs and surgical attacks, they barely make a dent in population, so we need science to find us other places to live.

Either that or go back to big old wars, with either man to man combat or plenty of hydrogen bombs to reduce the population. We'll be ignorant, but there will be plenty of room.

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why don't you just tell everyone how to make bombs?

Hi, too much details about making bombs, you should be more responsible.

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boat

We're still trying to go from a simple bamboo canoe to a carrack or galleon.

Robotic missions plus massive investment into Earth to orbit and orbit to orbit tech should be on the menu. Propulsion, life support and sustainability in space needs investment.

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Space break: good thing?

The ISS was a white elephant from the beginning. Even though Apollo actually accomplished something, it managed to kill of research into nuclear rocketry(originally planned for the Saturn V). Maybe the break between Ares/Orion and the shuttle is a good thing - let the Russians have the Ivan Space Station(sorry) and end all nonrobotic operations. Use the intervening period to engineer not jut Ares/Orion but their successor as well in addition to tools needed to mine space. Once we return to space, we'll already have a no-holds-barred plan of action and the phases well on their way to implementation.

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Paris Hilton

Re: Space Break:Good Thing ?

And when the resurgant U.S, finds a Esa space station orbiting the Moon, in low lunar orbit, supplying a International, though non U.S, Moonbase (Alpha ?), which was launched by a couple of Ariane X booster's, & assembled in Earth orbit, what then...?

(Ariane X is a proposed stretch of the existing Ariane 5 ECA design, using 6 boosters rather than the current 2, & 2 Vinci engines for the second stage.

According to the proposed specifications, it could have ferry a 50 Tonne payload to LEO...).

Mine's the uniform with the black right sleeve, a comlock on the belt, & a stungun in the pocket...

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