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back to article Neil Armstrong: US space program 'embarrassing'

The first and last men to walk upon the moon have testified at a Congressional hearing that NASA is a national disgrace. The US space program is "embarrassing and unacceptable," said Neil Armstrong, who on July 21, 1969, first set foot on the surface of the earthly companion that, in his testimony, he referred to as Luna. " …

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nice to see

Statler and Waldorf are still going strong...

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SirDigalot you, sir, are an ignorant fool.

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Go

Statler and Waldorf

By Statler and Waldorf, do you mean Obama and Congress?

PEOPLE MUST BE INSPIRED. I've been in management for over 20 years and in the beginning I thought it was just about telling people what to do. I soon learned that People Must Be Inspired. You want to mobilize a nation, you want to make people proud? PEOPLE MUST BE INSPIRED!

Why do you think China wants to go to the moon? They want to motivate and inspire their people with the achievement, make them FEEL PROUD

Statler and Waldorf were losers with no accomplishments that sat on the sidelines.

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They don't have the money.

NASA crewed craft tend to be horrendously expensive - the shuttle was a badly compromised design.

If private spacecraft companies can get working vehicles they should be very much cheaper.

So why do they want NASA to build more crewed vehicles? And what have they got against Russia, are they still trying to fight the cold war against the Soviet Union?

Haven't they noticed that the world economy is in a terrible state at the moment?

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Boffin

They could have had the money

Apollo programme total cost around $192 billion, in 2011 dollars. Iraq campaign cost around 757 billion in 2011 dollars, Afghanistan campaign cost around 416 billion. Without going into the whole question of whether they should have been in Iraq in the first place, Iraq was a big government project so let's assume they spent double what they needed to on it: they could have gone to the moon on the cost savings.

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Boffin

@tfb

You neglected to mention that at it's peak NASA consumed 4.4% of the entire *federal* budget (at the time the US was in Vietnam).

Today as Administrator Bolden testified NASA takes < 1/2% of the of the federal budget.

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Boffin

you didn't quite "get" Cernan's remark

"So why do they want NASA to build more crewed vehicles? And what have they got against Russia, are they still trying to fight the cold war against the Soviet Union?"

Cernan wasn't necessarily still fighting the Cold War; he was merely pointing out the irony of how, over forty years after establishing space tech leadership and beating the Russians to Luna, we now have to depend on the Russians to ferry our crews to ISS for the foreseeable future.

Not that I was ever very gung-ho for the whole Cold War thing, nor have a problem with international cooperation in space exploration, but, still... it _is_ pretty goddamn' sad that it's come to that -- the nation that sent the first human expeditions to Luna now couldn't even get its shit together soon enough to have a next-generation manned craft built and at least well along in flight testing before the Shuttle program ended.

I mean, how long was it between the last Gemini flight and the first Apollo flight? A year, year and a half? Hell, it would've been sooner if not for The Fire -- which, ironically, bought us some time to properly test and improve the Apollo CM -- and, as I recall, the original plan was to have the Block I Apollo CM flying in LEO shakedown missions concurrent with Gemini:

http://astronautix.com/craft/apolloa.htm

"... As of the summer of 1961 it was planned that Apollo A boilerplate flights in the earth-orbit configuration would take place in October/December 1963 using Saturn C-1's SA-7 and SA-8. SA-9 and SA-10 would launch 3400 kg capsule-only payloads in February-April 1964 to near parabolic velocities in tests of the capsule's hypersonic aerodynamics and heat shield. These prototype capsules would be equipped with parachutes and be recovered.

These proving tests would be followed by Apollo A manned earth orbit space laboratory missions in the 1965-1967 period. Manned circumlunar flights would occur at the same time. The booster for such missions was originally intended to be the Saturn C-2. This was changed to the Saturn C-3 in June 1961 when it became clear the Apollo spacecraft would weigh too much for such missions. The C-3 in turn was cancelled in favor of the C-5, and discussion of circumlunar Apollo disappeared by the end of 1962..."

Granted, it was six years between the last Apollo flight (ASTP joint Soyuz mission) and the first Shuttle launch, but the Shuttle -- despite turning out to be a flying white elephant -- was a huge engineering leap compared to Apollo. Also, iirc, the first Shuttle study contracts were issued while Apollo was still flying -- around 1969 or '70, I think:

http://astronautix.com/lvs/shuttle.htm

"...By mid-1969, the ambitious new NASA Administrator, Tom Paine, had proposed an extensive manned space exploration program as the logical follow-on to Apollo. A new, modular, reusable space transportation system would be required to set up bases on the Moon and Mars during the 1970s and 1980s. This system would consist of a reusable space shuttle to low earth orbit space stations and interorbital and interplanetary nuclear and chemical space tugs. The first major goal was a 12-man space station by 1975. NASA awarded $2.9-million study contracts to North American Rockwell and McDonnell-Douglas in July 1969. The space station was to evolve into a 50-man space base by 1980. Additional way-stations to Mars would be deployed in geostationary, lunar and Mars orbit during the 1980s.

George Mueller headed the space shuttle portion of this effort, which accelerated as the Apollo project grew to a close. NASA awarded four $0.3-million space shuttle / Integral Launch and Re-entry Vehicle ILRV Phase A study contracts to North American Rockwell, McDonnell-Douglas, Lockheed and General Dynamics in January 1969. Martin Marietta's bid was rejected, but the company continued to participate using its own funds. The ILRV requirement was for a booster/spacecraft combination with 12-crew / 2.3 - 22.7 metric ton payload capability, a 720 km re-entry cross range, and first flight by 1974. The most important mission was expected to be space station resupply payloads weighing about 11,300 kg. 120 different permutations were investigated by the contractors..."

So, now, we're talking about going "back to the future", as it were, with a ballistic capsule design for our next-generation crewed vehicle, and with a decade and a half of experience in building ballistic capsule designs to draw on, we're still, like, "d'uhhhhh". I mean, what the hell is up with that?

Cernan and Armstrong are right; as a spacefaring nation, we're in the goddamn' crapper. We're going to end up being the Portugal of the Space Age. I won't speak for my fellow Yanks here, but I, for one, plan to refrain from making snide cracks about UKSpace.

.

(btw, check out some of the early proposed Shuttle variants at the astronautix.com link. You think the Shuttle as-flown design was a stonking clunky beast...?)

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uhhmmm... yeah, what they said

I've commented on similar threads on related artlcles, so I won't waste more space. So, like, yeah... what they said.

If the US Govt hadn't forked over huge amounts to Wall Streeters and bankers -- upwards of $700b with no strings attached -- and pissed away absurdly huge amounts of cash trying to fight half a dozen wars (which hardly anybody wants) at once, then, yeah; we'd have ourselves a shit-kickin' manned program right now.

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establishing space tech leadership

like fist satellite...

first living creature in orbit...

first man in orbit....

first probe to visit another planet.....

way to lead the space race.

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FAIL

Manned Space Exploration

Manned space exploration is all well and good, but with focusing primarily on robotic exploration, to be eventually followed by manned exploration, we could do so much more. Robots can withstand Mars, likely Venus (but not for too long), Titan, and a dozen other places, and do so at astoundingly cheaper mission costs, even if they sent TWO of each robot, just in case one failed/blows up/etc. We could do tens of missions simultaneously for the same cost as having an astronaut golf on the moon....

Once we get a decent set of building bots on Mars putting together a habitat or digging/finding a hole, THEN we can send some 'nauts up to put boot-prints on top of rover tracks. This will likely be the best method of space exploration. We won't even mention how horridly overpriced the monopoly of space launches has been. Elon has shown us that.

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re: establishing space tech leadership

"like first satellite...

first living creature in orbit...

first man in orbit....

first probe to visit another planet.....

way to lead the space race."

Six words: ONE. SMALL. STEP. FOR. A. MAN.

http://spaceflight.nasa.gov/gallery/images/apollo/apollo11/hires/s69_40308.jpg

Chew on _that_.

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what about only nation on this planet who was able to send men on the moon and back? americans needs a big motivator to get things done.. the soviet threat was it 3 decades ago.. unfortunately, global warming and "to go where no man has gone before" does not strike a chord to roughly half of americans.

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Yeah I remember the fist satellite. punched straight through the atmosphere

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lol

and of course we are downvoting because of your freedom!

dolt

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Listento these guys.

They know what they are talking about.

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I beg to differ

The demise of NASA started long before the current government. In fact Dubia did much more towards its destruction than the current goons.

So blaming it all on Obama is a bit disingenuous. He has done his fair share, but he stepped on the shoulders of 'giants'".

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Goes even further back....

It's a pretty concerted effort. Clinton cut the budget for NASA for several years running in the 90s. Neither Bush did that, but they did cancel projects.

The decline is largely down to NASA's own incompetence, bad management and bureaucracy.

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Mushroom

Why they don't have the money.

NASA Budget:

[- ]

US Military Budget:

[---------------------------------------------------------------------------------]

In fact the military graph should go further but I wanted to avoid wordwrapping it, I'm sure you get the point.

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Black Helicopters

It isn't money at all.

It is a total and absolute lack of leadership, but leaders need ideas to rally people around, so it isn't totally their fault. Leadership's been in short supply since 1963. Nobody said "and then what" to achieving the goal of putting a man on the moon -- and even then, nobody came up with a valid reason *why* we would *keep* people on the moon.

I look at the entire NASA moon program as a massive monument to JFK with little net effect -- nice that we could do it, but without valid reasons to keep doing it, 'because we can' will only get you so far. Look -- we're still sending satellites up -- we found a lot of uses for them. When we can find uses for a base upon the moon, we'll go there. The current reason IMO that there are no uses for a moon base is simply the cost of leaving the gravity well. Make that cheap, and then we will be taking vacations on Luna, and then Rule 39 will take over...

I, for one, am looking forward to movies of the Lunar tunnels, even if I will be too old to travel there.

When lunar travel becomes cheap, interplanetary travel will follow. I think that robotic exploration is also a waste. Their use is an admission that the costs are prohibitive and the safety for humans is marginal. That, right there, is where NASA failed us. Maybe robots will play a role, but few want to look at movies of space travel. The ones that do are already doing it. Robots may help find mineral/chemical wealth -- but without the means to get it down planet, NASA's still pissing in the wind, ought to be shut down, and a new agency organized.

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Anonymous Coward

Space is just too far away, and too much money and effort to get to

I say we leave it all the the BRIC countries, and only use the rockets on the bottom of our thermo-nuclear weapons to slow the fuckers down a bit.

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Importance

The question, of course, is: how important is it that the U.S, have greater manned space capabilities than Russia? The U.S. is still a technological leader, but it is possible that manned space activity of the sort which involved the Shuttle and the ISS is not particularly important to the well-being of U.S. citizens, to U.S. national prestige, or U.S. national security.

Building a colony on the Moon, landing a man on Mars - now, that would be something. But without the reasons that existed in the Cold War, it's not clear if the expense can be accepted.

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Anonymous Coward

Let me enlighten you with a quote

"Cutting the space budget really restores my faith in humanity. It eliminates dreams, goals, and ideals and lets us get straight to the business of hate, debauchery, and self-annihilation." -- Johnny Hart.

Now-a-days it's not really important except in their own minds. Whether the USoA will remain a technological leader remains to be seen; hordes of Chinese and Indian graduates are itching to get on with doing their thing, while the USoA struggles to maintain relevance and foo Europe struggles to retain teaching levels in higher education. Even if China or India only barely catches up with the western world, there's so many more of them and they're cheaper that they have a real edge on the western world. Losing the drive of the space race certainly doesn't help.

Going to the moon or mars isn't something I'd go for now. Rather, I'd concentrate on doing what the shuttle was conceived for but never delivered where manned flight did deliver and gave us cheap and quick travel across the globe: Getting us up the well cheaply and easily enough that building something like Freeside(ta) makes sense. After that, going to the moon or mars is going to be that much easier to sell to congress. And in the meantime you'll have a neat little money spinner because everyone'll want to go up to space, now that they can.

But first, nasa is getting lambasted, and rightly so, for costing an awful lot of money and not bringing home the bacon. In fact people are a bit shocked to realise that it's been that way for quite a while now. Even if there's still quite a lot of space-related exports going on, so far. Part of it is probably still that they had to achieve quite a lot in very little time and never consolidated, nevermind updated. The shuttle plans still aren't metric, for example, and that's a bit of a bummer trying to work together with the 95% of the world that is. Then there's the fact that the shuttle was far more expensive than it should be and there's been precious few attempts at getting it right. There's been some prizes and some promising third party things, but too little, too late from nasa--ie not seriously doing their job. Another part is that they've succumbed to middle management, some of which doesn't even appear to understand science as such at all, and to get rid of that they'll need a good scrubbing.

The comparison with Russia is (predictable) rhetoric and able handwaving over what was then the most important point ("yeah they have a new name now, so what?"), but retaining technology leadership is something else. If you have it, then lose it, getting it back is indeed going to be that much harder. In that sense, and knowing the psychological impact of failing there, it's not unimportant to the USoA's peace of mind to fix nasa's problems and become "numbah wan" once again.

Whether the rest of the world needs that is something else entirely again, and I'll not say a thing about it here, now.

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Anonymous Coward

Wrong Priorities

"Going to the moon or mars isn't something I'd go for now. Rather, I'd concentrate on doing what the shuttle was conceived for but never delivered "

Id just go for a revision of planning, procedures, and all of the controls that stop creative people being creative.

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Alien

wooo no title

In an ideal world I would be supporting every word those two men just said, but a large portion of the civilized world is on its way back in to recession. America only barely avoided defaulting on its debt and, even if pumping money in to the space industry would help the US economy, have they got the money to spend in the first place?

Alien - we won't be seeing any of these any time soon...

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Anonymous Coward

You can't put a price on everything

And space exploration is vital for the future. People claim that the I.T industry is about 15 years behind were it should be thanks to intel and microsoft (I disagree butt hat's a different subject). How far behind are we with space exploration technology because of decades of stagnation and people complaining about the cost rather than looking at the future benefits.

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Anonymous Coward

I beg to disagree

"Alien - we won't be seeing any of these any time soon..."

Cause, theirs evidence from around the world that NASA know different at the very top of its compartmentalised department.

They are visiting us, its just a question of when someone stands up and admits it in front of the media.

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You can't put a price tag on the most important benefit of manned space exploration:

It fires the imagination as little else can.

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You may have heard it before...

I'd be interested to see a comparison between NASA's budget, the cost of Iraq and Afghanistan, and QEI & II.

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Mushroom

And please,

add in the RTIs on both types of expenditure too.

Also: To all the "we can't afford it in these times"; "we need to fix this planet first" whiners, I have this to say: "Six thousand billion dollars". That is how much we - as a global species - are quite happy to blow on warefare each year. We CAN afford to fix it all AND do much much more at the same time and much more to boot. We (in aggregate) simply don't want to.

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Holmes

yet...

you never hear the envionmentalist complain about all the smoke and poisonous gases ( gunsmoke , burnt powder , propellant , fuel) a typical war produces.....

Maybe we should start using envionmentally friendly and renewable weapons.

I'd love to see the day where two enemies would yell at each other , come here so i can smack you with this bunch of daisies.

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Really?

If you Google 'Environmental costs of war' you get more than five million hits.

Your 'never' would seem to be somewhat mis-informed.

As for daisies - well, yeah, they're obviously not as macho as nukes and poison gas are.

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Joke

Daisies aren't macho?

Hayfever is serious business!

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Anyone that follows the industry can see that in twenty years, there *will* be a colony in space, and it *won't* be displaying American colors.

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Any meaningful use of the word "colony" implies self-sufficiency. That's not going to happen in 20 years. If we turned all our swords into ploughshares and spent the savings on colonising space, it might happen in 50. But we won't, so it won't.

What you're imagining is something like the ISS, which is about as self-sufficient as leaving someone in a boat in the open ocean. Limited supplies inside and only death awaits outside.

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FAIL

Both of them off their rockers

Have they not noticed that Congress is the problem? Every time NASA engineers design something, Congress steps in and "redesigns" it. No wonder it's all uber expensive broken crap now.

I have utmost respect for their accomplishments, but both of them need to head back to the old folks' home.

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Downvoted for tone and disrespect.

While I concur that Congress is more of the problem than either NASA or the administration, it is difficult to tell of the bean counters when you are asking them for money.

Furthermore, even IF Congress had provided the money, I'm rather convinced that the middle-management-itis that has set in at NASA would have pissed it away. So given that the least dysfunctional part of the problem was still enough to kill it, we have a rather large problem with our space program on this side of the pond.

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Mushroom

Pork, Prizes and Elf and Safety.

NASA is just a vehicle for US Representatives to use to deliver Pork to their regions,

Frankly the best thing they can do with the bulk of the nasa budget it split into Ansari type X-Prizes, then let the Private sector compete to get them. Keep a certain amount for BAU work such as telescope and ground station funding.

Make the prizes suffuciently big enough there will be VC's falling overthemselves to fund the private companies vieing for those prizes.

Nasa's annual budget is ~$17bn (2008 figures) thats a lot of money in anyones world.

Say keep 5bn back - thats enough to accumulate multiple billiions for each prize over the year.

The next thing they could do is relax the health and safety regime for Space flight. Its meant to be a frontier - let people risk death exploring it and helping the human race move forward.

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Happy

@Gordon 10

"Nasa's annual budget is ~$17bn (2008 figures) thats a lot of money in anyones world."

This may come as a shock to you but in US govt spending terms it's not.

It *really* isn't.

Human space flight, which is the cuckoo which NASA keeps feeding at the expense of nearly everything else (and specifically Shuttle *derived* HSF) is roughly $3Bn of that.

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The fact that it's a drop in the ocean if the US Govt budget is irrelevant - most Govts are hopelessly inefficient.

The same amount if money given to aggressive startups powered by people with real vision would achieve more faster and cheaper.

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Anonymous Coward

"relax the health and safety regime"

Wasn't that the motto of the shutttle program, primarily at the insistence of the military?

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Happy

@Gordon 10

"The fact that it's a drop in the ocean if the US Govt budget is irrelevant - most Govts are hopelessly inefficient."

True.

"The same amount if money given to aggressive startups powered by people with real vision would achieve more faster and cheaper."

Quit possibly. Actually just giving them what what asked for in the Presidents budget request, c850m, rather than the $500m (with c$190m on hold until Congress gets *evidence* NASA has signed SLS contracts) would be a *major* step forward.

Superficially NASA's and the 2 astronauts, (who I'm starting to think of for some reason as "The Soggy Bottom Boys") are concerned that all *four* of the companies building crew carrying vehicles will *all* fail.

This includes Boeing and Sierra Nevada Corp, both of who have had 1000s of staff engaged in the design and building of space related hardware for *decades*

It's hard to avoid the idea that this is a jobs protection programme for the various congressional districts involved in SLS..

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In fact

it almost certainly has been all along. The original Mk 1 NASA was a triumph of Keynesian investment.

Income from spin-off technology kept parts of the US economy humming along nicely for a decade or two - jobs and all.

Then we had a politics of right-wing media performance and engineering fail, and the original both and plan - engineering innovation AND social benefits - was forgotten, in favour of - well - who knows what, really?

NASA's unmanned projects continue to be pretty damn successful on the whole. But there was already a serious lack of vision during the 1970s, and the US has pissed away truly incredible sums on its other major corporate welfare program - international war exports.

That's what happens when the mil-ind corporations own most of your senators.

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And...

most corporations are sharp, incisive, innovative, and forward-thinking?

It was government 'inefficiency' that made the moon shots happen in the first place.

The private sector didn't have the balls or the motivation to make it happen on its own.

"The same amount if money given to aggressive startups powered by people with real vision would achieve more faster and cheaper."

That wouldn't be government money you're talking about there, by any chance?

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Unhappy

Yes, remember...

...the big-end of the private sector is run by the same class of bozos that run the government.

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Here, here!

I'd go a step further. NASA does that until a specified level of development is reached, at which point it becomes a space version of the FAA.

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That might be their motivation, but discounting it

simply because you attribute only to greed invites bad karma. When those 1000s of staff are dispersed to the four winds, it is nearly impossible to reform a team that meets or exceeds the capabilities of those you have dispersed.

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Unhappy

How far can you go tomorrow...

when the money men cut the budget today, and yesterday, and the day before that.

The second someone claims anything about "this administration's direction" they show an absence of thought or even recent memory. How much direction/motivation/enthusiasm can you attempt with no money? These fools won't even pay for implementation of the laws they have passed! Congress has _become_ Fox news - empty inflammatory talk, no brains, and no morals.

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Anonymous Coward

Liberty?

Wouldn't they be better off just using Ariane 5 which would appear to deliver more or less the same capability right now?

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Liberty is (supposed to be) cheaper

Liberty uses the Ariane 5 upper stage, but the ATK (Shuttle-derived) 5-segment solid-fuel rocket first stage. The solid ATK is much cheaper than the regular liquid-fuel Ariane 5 first stage. Or so they tell us.

It's really the Ares I with the J-2X upper stage swapped out. Which has to do with where ATK could raise money (by spreading the pork to Europe) as much as any technical merits.

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Boffin

@MD Rackham

"Liberty uses the Ariane 5 upper stage, "

No it does not. It uses the Ariane 1st stage with the Vulcain 2 H2/O2 engine.

"It's really the Ares I with the J-2X upper stage swapped out."

More or less accurate. With the difference that both the Ariane 1st stage and the Vulcain 2 have *flown*, although the J-2X (possibly the most pointless engine development in recent years) is on the stand.

Ariane Stage 1 is within about 1 inch in diameter of the ATK SRB so it's a *very* close fit. The joker in the pack is meant to be that no one has ever tried to altitude start a Vulcain 2.

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