Sunday, November 11, 2012

A Space Election? (in lieu of 'Rix Pix 2012')

President Obama  

Since I first went online I have had a custom of writing up my forecasts for US election results as 'Rix Pix' - first as an email to friends, then as forum messages, finally as blog posts here.

Several of my predictions here were so risibly bad as to make the point of why it is much better to predict the distant future, or at least the midfuture: I won't be around to be embarrassed. When it comes to election forecasts, it is much better to predict the past. But you already know the outcome, so I won't belabor it. (Obama won.)

On the other hand, I have read claims that Kim Stanley Robinson's hard SF novel Forty Signs of Rain features a superstorm called Sandy. But I haven't read the book, and Google offers no clear yea or nay. Can anyone here confirm or refute the story?


In any case, not until after the election did I find out that the outcome might turn out to be specifically relevant to space travel. Apparently Obama's re-election was welcome news at NASA, which will now push ahead with plans for human missions to translunar space and ultimately Mars.

Some of the usual provisos are in order. To say the least, space was not a first-tier issue in the campaign. It was not even a 20th-tier issue. I voted for Obama for purely terrestrial reasons, and I have no reason to think that he is particularly clueful about space. Very few politicians / statespersons are, and truth to be told it is not currently very big in the job description. Maybe in 2312 things will be different, but not now.

But as I have suggested here before, space fits into a broader policy context. And according to the Slate piece linked above,
Mitt Romney had spoken plainly about his plans to re-evaluate the purpose of government-sponsored space missions, thereby leaving agency officials uncertain that their ambitious plans would remain feasible under a Republican-controlled executive branch.
I did not trouble to look up whatever boilerplate the Romney campaign had about space exploration, any more than I looked up the Obama campaign boilerplate. I am certainly not going to do so now. But it is not hard to read between those lines, in terms of the current-era Republican Party. If you make 'small government' an all but religious doctrine, there is not a lot of room there for ambitious things like exploring the Solar System, in person or robotically.

Libertarian militarists would no doubt make an exception for military space operations. But for reasons somewhat exhaustively beaten to death on this blog, Realistic [TM] military space operations are, for now and a long time to come, confined to Earth orbital space. Sorry, no Space Force missions to Saturn.

Space exploration is a large, costly, and difficult enterprise, without short-term profit. It is not one that private enterprise is likely to undertake, or should be expected to undertake. But it is the sort of enterprise that governments can and do undertake. We have, after all, visited every major planet in our system.

And for what it is worth, private enterprise has always been involved. Our rockets are built by contractors, not by government arsenals. No deep principle is involved here, so far as I am concerned, but the approach seems to work. SpaceX is new, while Boeing goes back to barnstorming days. Their operating environment is far from an ideal free market (what, in the real world, isn't?), but some sort of competition keeps them on their toes. Anyway, space rocketry doesn't allow very much room for error.

But all that said, space exploration remains a public enterprise, and almost certainly will primarily remains so into and through the midfuture. The distinctly libertarian-leaning space community may find this an inconvenient fact, but do not expect it to change.

And that concludes my soapbox sermon for this cycle. We will return to your regularly scheduled blog shortly.



On a much more somber note, but relevant to topics discussed on this blog, it has now been 94 years since the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.





The image of President Obama was unimaginatively snagged from Flickr.

40 comments:

Brett said...

I started hearing some excitement about NASA planning for a moon or langrange point base, but I have no idea why and haven't heard about it since. What gives?

I wish there was some super-rich person who really liked unmanned exploration missions, and was willing to foot the bill for some (nobody's rich enough to really foot the bill for a full-blown manned space program). As is, we're stuck with governments and all their unpredictability.

You're right, in that this allows for NASA to keep some consistency in their programs for at least the next four years. Since most second term Presidents are lame ducks anyways, I wonder if Obama will take more of an interest in the program.

D said...

I don't recall the name of the storm in Forty Signs of Rain but I do remember that it was similar in composition and path to Sandy. The difference is that it turned west earlier and hit DC rather than New Jersey.

Anonymous said...

Whatever Obama may promise or want to do in space is going to be sandbagged by the fact that the US is borrowing money unsustainably. When the smash comes -- and it's going to be sooner than most people expect -- there won't be a dime left for NASA.

jollyreaper said...

What I do find fascinating is the amount of self-deception and double-think evidenced in the operation of the Romney campaign. Based on the insider interviews, they were completely unaware of just how disastrous the poling was, that this Orca system was just a Vergeltungswaffen and not going to win a war for them that was otherwise lost. There were actually people flying in for the celebration party.

I think the futurist angle to look at here is how badly technology can aid in self-deception (GOP), how well-applied tech can be a force multiplier (Dems), and how both sides have trouble steering the message since the public is now no longer the passive consumer of media messages but a confusing mix of passive consumers, activist repeaters, message originators, and culture jammers.

I've heard more than one progressive say "I voted for the moderate Republican" and they're not talking about Romney. It will be interesting to see what pressure, if any, can be applied from the left.

As for the future of the GOP, if the hardliners can't be pushed out, we may well see the party fracture as moderate conservatives try to create a party and a platform with a chance of winning. We haven't seen a shake-up of the parties since the Civil War.

Tony said...

Not much to say about the election. Demographics is destiny.

Whether a steady hand at the tiller is going to keep things like SLS and manned exploration missions going will be more about fiscal alternatives than political philosophy.

WRT the particular point in the calendar of the Angloshpere, whatever you did, my fellow veterans, whether you fought, stood by, or simply soldiered on between wars, my hope is that you found value in it, if not for yourself, for something or somebody.

Brett said...

In the case of Obama, some of the stuff they used to increase turn-out by a few percentage points made a big difference. I've got to give credit to my political science graduate brethren, as well as the behavioral economists for that.

@jollyreaper
As for the future of the GOP, if the hardliners can't be pushed out, we may well see the party fracture as moderate conservatives try to create a party and a platform with a chance of winning. We haven't seen a shake-up of the parties since the Civil War.

I don't think we will. One of the parties in the two-party system has usually only broken up when there was a strong and growing alternative (like the Republicans for the Whigs back in the 1850s), and we don't have that yet on the Republican side.

Moreover, a lot of the conservatives will start changing their positions if not doing so just gets them high profile loss after loss. Look how quickly Sean Hannity changed his stance on immigration once it became clear that alienating latino voters could cost the GOP big time.

Tony said...

Political parties are bout getting candidates elected. Political philosophies are about personal principles. Where the two meet is how much compromise of personal principles one will accept for candidate electability. (Figuring that getting at least part of your preference is better than getting none of it.)

Where that takes the Republican party is up to the Republicans. BUt I think the party -- because it is about electability -- will sooner take action to gain the support of a broad moderate base than it will continue to kowtow to the far right. The far, right, for its part, can either compromise and vote Republican, vote for unelectable fringe candidates, or stay home. If the Republican party feng shuis things right, they will gain more in moderates than they lose in ultra-conservatives.

Damien Sullivan said...

OTOH, we have had long periods where one party tended to dominate national elections and the other one was regional. And GOP gerrymandering by the states seems set to give them the House for the next decade, despite getting fewer votes in House elections. So they could be the party of obstruction.

It's been noted that the California GOP has not been moderating or reaching out to get more seats despite being a long term minority; helped there by having lots of obstructive power.

The power of leaders and big money is limited; if Republican primary voters stay the course, that's going to limit how much change can happen. It's been said that New England Republicans these days are about as conservative as elsewhere, but there's fewer of them, so they nominate radicals who die in the general election.

Fox News has been called the propaganda arm of the Republican party, but arguably their financial interest is better served by the status quo, being able to whip up and feed off of aggrieved outrage.

So, who knows. Lots of conflicting self-interest and ideology here.

Tony said...

Damien Sullivan:

"It's been noted that the California GOP has not been moderating or reaching out to get more seats despite being a long term minority; helped there by having lots of obstructive power."

Based on my experience of living there for most of my first 37 years, the problem for California Republicans -- and it is probably more of a feature than a bug -- is that conservative communities in the the state tend to be very well defined and very conservative. They elect representatives to match. Liberal communtiies are likewise very well defined and very liberal. Even moderate Republicans, with the best outreach in the world, couldn't get elected.

jollyreaper said...

@Brett I'm not laying out a prognostication one way or the other. I will say that there are scenarios I feel are equally likely but "something that I didn't see coming" has just as much weight in my mind.

Obviously, if the party is capable of moderating they will retain their position. If they cannot, then either they remain in a minority status or have a civil war. These are all options, none of them certainties.

Tony said...

jollyreaper:

"...a civil war."

At the end of such a ridiculous exercise, even if the conservatives win, the country will still be mostly moderate and not interested in what they're selling. So you either get junta government, forcing people to be satisfied with less regulation and less government protection,* or you get all of the things the conservatives hate reestablished in a generation or less, because that's what the people want, whether the conservatives like it or not.

*How that would even work is beyond me, but we've seen attempts at even less logical social and economic organization in the recent past, so you never know...

jollyreaper said...

Well, by civil war I meant a damaging fight for control of the party, not actual bullets flying. I would consider anything that leaves the party materially weakened and in poor position to compete with the Dems to be worth calling a war.

One thing that's funny is people don't understand the words they're using. Most people are for the things that are generally considered to be liberal, only they won't agree with calling it that. They're for limited work weeks, government inspection of the food supply, oversight of banks, public education, fire and police protection, medicare, medicaid, social security, but none dare call it liberalism. They're conservative, by Gawd! Socialism is teh lie! Dems suck at messaging.

Tony said...

jollyreaper:

"Well, by civil war I meant a damaging fight for control of the party, not actual bullets flying. I would consider anything that leaves the party materially weakened and in poor position to compete with the Dems to be worth calling a war."

You have to understand, I live where people think holding on to their religion and their guns is not a sign of insanity, or even mild eccentricity. When you civil war around here, you mean it. Though of course nobody ever actually says that. They just make oblique references to "taking back the country".

"One thing that's funny is people don't understand the words they're using. Most people are for the things that are generally considered to be liberal, only they won't agree with calling it that. They're for limited work weeks, government inspection of the food supply, oversight of banks, public education, fire and police protection, medicare, medicaid, social security, but none dare call it liberalism. They're conservative, by Gawd! Socialism is teh lie! Dems suck at messaging. "

Where do you live? Seriously. Around here (Southern Utah) a lot of those things are considered at least mildly socialist by the conservative majority, even if they plan on benefitting from them. (Mostly Social Security and Medicare -- nobody around here has a problem with 50-60 hour week, if they get paid for it, and food safety is buying food from brands you know would be safe with or without inspection (not to mention growing your own).)

jollyreaper said...

There's a pretty good comic waiting to be told along these lines, 'They just make oblique references to "taking back the country".'

angry rednecks surrounding enlightened liberal protagonist.

protag: Ahoy, my good fellows. I know you are upset but there are many flaws in your reasoning that do not bear up under even a cursory scrutiny. The halcyon days of yore you long for never existed outside of your own self-indulgent rhetoric and nostalgic daydreams. Allow me to demonstrate the flaws in your thinking and we might come to a more enlightened and mutual understanding.

rednecks: Listen to that sissy talk. I think he's french. Let's get'r'dun!

protag: Oh, dear. *dies*

I live in Florida. Anyone who thinks working 50-60 hours a week is a good idea is a damned fool. It's one thing if you enjoy the work, if it's helping you build your business, if you are compensated for it. With most jobs they're only paying you for sub-40 hours and making you eat the rest. Just look at Walmart forcing people to work off the clock.

As for safe brands, how do you know if they're safe or not if nobody's inspecting? You can't expect blind faith to replace actually taking a look. Even St. Reagan, blessings and peace be upon him, said "Trust but verify."

Tony said...

jollyreaper:

"Anyone who thinks working 50-60 hours a week is a good idea is a damned fool. It's one thing if you enjoy the work, if it's helping you build your business, if you are compensated for it. With most jobs they're only paying you for sub-40 hours and making you eat the rest. Just look at Walmart forcing people to work off the clock."

Depends on your social context. I know plenty of people who would tell you that insisting on 8-hour days and weekends is weak and self-defeating -- just a road to mediocrity and dependence on others.

"As for safe brands, how do you know if they're safe or not if nobody's inspecting? You can't expect blind faith to replace actually taking a look. Even St. Reagan, blessings and peace be upon him, said 'Trust but verify.'"

Same way you always know if food is safe -- it's nutritious, returns value for your dollar, and doesn't make you sick. Strange how plenty of food producers actually care about that.

Anonymous said...

What a collection of straw men. No conservative wants to abandon law enforcement, fair regulations, protection for the poor. Literally no conservative has even questioned the wisdom of those things for a century. They only exist in Democratic strawman talking points believed by their ignorant, knee-jerk supporters.

WHat conservatives don't want is taxation that cripples the economy, regulation that destroys business, and massive wealth transfers that make us all poorer and turns half the country into permanently dysfunctional wards of the state.

Let's turn this around: do Democrats think it's a good thing for more than half the people in the country to be dependent on the Government? Do Democrats think its a good thing that fewer people are working now than in any year since the Reagan era? Do Democrats think it's a good thing that more people are getting food stamps now than ever before?

And do Democrats think it's a good thing that America's national debt is currently 1.6 trillion and rising? Right now, with interest rates scraping zero, we're paying as much in debt service as we are for defense. If interest rates rise, that's going to eat up all discretionary spending.

Meanwhile tax increases will only harm the economy. Pretending and wishing that there's any easy solution by "taxing the rich" doesn't change reality. We're already past the point where raising taxes DECREASES revenues, but Obama and his idiot faculty-lounge advisors don't care about that. They want to take wealth away from those who have it, in the name of "social justice" even if it does collapse the economy.

Anyone who didn't vote for Romney last week is to blame for what's coming. IT'S ALL YOUR FAULT YOU IDIOTS. I hope you enjoy the new depression, because you're going to be spending a lot of time there. BUt I'm sure you'll find some way to blame Republicans for it. YOU IDIOTS.

Tony said...

Talk about straw men...

Rick said...

Welcome to a new commenter! I do encourage 'anonymous' commenters to sign a name or handle, just to keep straight who is saying what to whom.

I'll assume that even what reads like a rant (to me) is seriously meant - this place is not big enough to be worth trolling.


Oddly, the 'fiscal cliff' that is giving everyone the vapors would radically cut the deficit. Whether it is such a good idea to do so abruptly in the short term is worth asking, though.

I've tended to think of mainstream Euro conservatives as more sensible than our kind (and more genuinely *conservative*), but austerity doesn't seem to be working very well. Knocking weak economies into even worse shape is no way to get repayment.

Not wanting to pay more taxes is natural, but saying that a return to Clinton era tax rates is the end of the world is ... major hype.


The Romney campaign's ability to convince itself not just that they might catch a break - that's only human - but that they were sure to win, seems to be part of a larger trend on the American right. When wishful thinking becomes a matter of principle, you get 'scientific' creationism, climate science rejectionism and, apparently, really bad political campaign intelligence.


As is, we're stuck with governments and all their unpredictability.

Alas, super-rich individuals are also unpredictable. Human nature at work.

And on the flip side, Apollo-level effort proved unsustainable, but NASA funding since that era has been fairly predictable over four decades. Sure, a major political crisis could disrupt that, but there is no way to completely escape uncertainty. That too is human nature at work.

Anonymous said...

Obama is playing partisan politics with space, exactly like successive British administrations did with the British aviation industry programs (the results of which were devastating to that industry). Since the Constellation Program was Bush's initiative, Obama cancelled in order to substitute his own and garner the credit. This practice is hideously wasteful. NASA is merely acting like a mistreated dog: master kicks it for no reason, it cowers and fawns and hopes to be forgiven; then is deliriously happy when master deigns to pet it.

The game Obama is playing might, given the ignorance of the general electorate, benefit his Party. In the long run, the principle he follows will not benefit space exploration. No matter how loudly the paeans are sung.

By the way, I'm not terribly partisan about these things. The Republicans are quite likely playing the same game; but that isn't the topic at the moment.

Anonymous said...

I have enjoyed my time on this blog, but with readers characterizing conservatives as ignorant rednecks bent on murdering the enlightened progressive, I don't think I'll be back. How chicken-little, self-indulgent and fearful you are! How stereotyping of anyone who has the gall to have differing views! Quick, call the police -- I have some conservative leanings and thus must be violent...

Sheesh, I give up.

-James

jollyreaper said...

James, did you miss the part in the little story were the liberal puts himself is acting in a tongue-in-cheek stereotypical fashion?

As is, Facebook is full of nutters demanding secession, my dad is forwarding me all the winger emails, conservative friends are going on about how Obama is fulfilling the prophecies of revelation, cats and dogs living together, etc.

And frankly, I find the fan club mentality just as irritating. What do you think about Obama's policies? Look at his pretty his smile is! Oh fer cthulhu's sake. You can gush over Brad Pitt and sparkly armoires but could we get a little less Teen Beat on matters of national policy? Oh Michelle is so pretty! Yes, she is. But about her husband's policies?

Now, in terms of space, gentlemen. The new spacex rocket's MCT name is officially announced as mars colony transport. Everyone shut up for a moment while I close my eyes and live the dream for a moment. We'll talk engineering concerns and economic realities later. :)

jollyreaper said...

And I see automiscorrect screwed up half the words. Stupid tiny screen.

M. D. Van Norman said...

Forget the Republicans and Democrats. Where can I find these libertarian militarists I keep hearing about? I must not get that newsletter for some reason.

Tony said...

jollyreaper:

"Now, in terms of space, gentlemen. The new spacex rocket's MCT name is officially announced as mars colony transport. Everyone shut up for a moment while I close my eyes and live the dream for a moment. We'll talk engineering concerns and economic realities later. :)"

Sorry, j, but rockets don't exist in dreams. They exist in industrial economies. MCT is just vaporware until somebody pays to build one (or however many). Who's gonna pay? And who's gonna pay for the payload and mission management for that rocket?

Nobody that I know of.

Thucydides said...

As noted above, the Fiscal Cliff and the promise of four more years of piling up trillion dollar deficts each year will put a quick end to space exploration and many other government programs.

All it will really take is bond hawks demanding higher rates of return on US Treasuries (even with the shell game between the Fed and the Treasury, real people still are in the auction and will demand real rates of return), and soaring interest costs will consume a huge proportion of the US budget. Of course other foreseeable economic events such as mass selloffs prior to 01 Jan 13 in order to beat the tax deadline; employers ditching workers to avoid the economic costs of Obamacare or continuing gridlock on the debt ceiling (which would be entirely avoidable if the US Senate were to actrually pass or submit a budget; something they havfe not done in three years+).

Sadly, space exploration will remain a diverting fantasy for years to come, although depending on how other nations weather the fallout we may get to watch Chinese and Indian Space missions in the future.

Rob Lopez said...

I don't think either administration was really interested in space beyond Earth's orbit. There's nothing there they want.

Mention of moon bases or Mars exploration is just a carrot to keep scientists keen and working. They'll throw some loose change at robotic missions, but that's about it. One day, maybe, governments will mobilise the vast resources of their nations' taxes to really get out there - but only when there's a strategic reason. Columbus was sent across the Atlantic for strategic advantage over Portugal.

Right now, the real area of interest for major nations is domination of orbital space - as a way of directly affecting strategic considerations on Earth. In that sense, Space has already been weaponised - the military relies a lot on satellite technology. That's why Apollo was followed by the Shuttle, and why the Shuttle will now be replaced by drones. That's where the competition currently is.

I know there's the whole thing about Space being important for science - life on Mars, etc - but to nations in competition with each other in what is still an anarchic world, science is just another tool and, if necessary, a weapon.

When there's something up there that we really want ('we' meaning governments), then the Space Race will really begin. Then they'll spend what they spent on Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. And it won't be to promote space tourism either.

If Obama were to announce (like Bush) a new 'program' to expand efforts beyond orbit (in whatever manner), I'd take it with a pinch of salt and start reading between the lines. In that sense, nothing's changed since the seventies. I see no evidence for optimism yet.

The 'game changer' in Space hasn't been found yet. Until then, nobody's in any hurry.

Damien Sullivan said...

"the Fiscal Cliff and the promise of four more years of piling up trillion dollar deficts"

The fiscal cliff involves cutting spending and raising taxes, i.e. reducing the deficit. Unless you believe Keynesian economics, that austerity measures are bad in a recession.

"gridlock on the debt ceiling (which would be entirely avoidable"

It would be entirely avoidable if the Republicans voted to raise the debt ceiling. Or if Congress came its senses and abolished it. It's a completely manufactured crisis. As for the Senate, who's preventing them from passing a budget? Republican filibusters?

longbeast said...

I'm not from the US so I'll skip past the political talk...

Does anybody have any clue what the purpose of this proposed lunar space station is?

I've seen the usual talk about using fuel depots and bases to assemble interplanetary ships, but putting something like that out at a lunar libration point would be insane. Assuming you're using chemfuel rockets, you want to start interplanetary journeys from as low in Earth orbit as you can to get the most benefit from the Oberth effect. Assembling ships that high is a huge waste of fuel in both delivering the parts and in making your escape burn.

I guess if you have plans to use an electric thruster of some kind, you might want to start the trip from above the radiation belts, but I've heard no such plans.

Testing our ability to shield radiation would be worth the trip out there, but I'm not sure you need a manned station for that purpose alone.

What else could you usefully do out there?

Thucydides said...

Damien, the Senate has been controlled by a Democrat majority since 2006, and was in a supermajority position from 2008until the 2010 midterms, so the failure to pass or propose a budget is entirely self inflicted.

Since the House is in charge of money bills, the Senate leadership has consistently refused to even put the House budget on the floor for debate, much less a vote. The President has sent two budget proposals to the Senate, which were defeated by a 100% vote, neither party could support his proposals.

WRT this discussion, Space was never a great priority for any government, but now it will become unaffordable for the foreseeable future. Only when spending is brought under control, entitlements are reformed and the economy starts growing again will there be enough wealth to start applying to space. Rich hobbyists like Elon Musk simply cannot do it alone.

Rick said...

Partisan politics is how the political process deals with genuine, serious policy disagreements. It is ultimately a feature, not a bug.

It is totally reasonable to take what any administration says about its space plans with a hefty few grains of salt. The real tell will be whether the asserted plans fit within the budget. (That was the problem with Constellation - lots of big plans, without funding to pay for them.)

I'll note again that the 'fiscal cliff' is all about *cutting* the deficit, probably faster than it should be cut in a still-fragile economy.

That said ... carry on!

Rob Lopez said...

Here's where all the money and campaign promises are going: http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Front_Page/NK15Aa01.html

Orbital warfare in the planning stages... if the US doesn't go broke first.

Damien Sullivan said...

"Damien, the Senate has been controlled by a Democrat majority since 2006, and was in a supermajority position from 2008until the 2010 midterms"

Wrong.

Al Franken sworn in 2009 July 7. Ted Kennedy died 2009 Aug 25. The Democrats had 60 seats, in the gale of unprecedented filibusters, for all of 50 calendar days. Rather fewer Congress business days.

Modern filibusters mean that 60 votes isn't a supermajority, it's the equivalent of a bare majority, assuming every Democratic Senator voted the party line. Which they don't.

"the Senate leadership has consistently refused to even put the House budget on the floor for debate, much less a vote"

The House GOP budget that would abolish Medicare as we know it, yeah. And Senate GOP filibusters have kept Obama's appointees from coming to a vote too.

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Anonymous said...

Rick,

Could you designate all ignorant comments about fiscal deficits as trolling?
That'd get us rid of the consterning fetichist and off-topic "can't afford this or that" stuff.
As it stands, your blog looks like a reactionary cesspool.

I don't think this is the place for people to get an economics education so I see no point in discussing fiat money and public debt here.
If people want to deny that investment in space is conceivable, why are they commenting on this thread?

As for myself, I don't have any particular insight into the Obama administration's (lack of) space policy.
As everyone knows, they've been cutting budgets and cancelling missions the past few years. Why would that change now? The administration has lost the Congressional election as expected, right?
So any talk of a base on the Moon when they can't even fund their international commitments when it comes to robots...

-Horselover Fat

Thucydides said...

WRT the Senate putting a budget on the floor for a debate or vote; they may not like what the House presents, but the rules (and the law) are quite clear. The budget is something the Senate must address on an annual basis, and if they do not like the measures passed in the House, then they propose amendments and send it back.

Now the American system is different from a Parliamentry system (what I described above is the Westminister way of doing things), but the essentials of the Senate putting measures up for debate and proposing changes is not different in essence, and as such should be a pretty searing indictment on the lack of leadership and accountability of the Senate.

And since the Dems have had a majority for the last six years, you cannot lay the lack of action on the feet of the other party; a majority can get things done or reach across the aisle; they have chosen not to do so.

So Space, and eventually a lot of other stuff will go on the back burner until the economic mess is fixed (and what makes it even scarier is the root crisis is based on unsustainable debt; the longer governments choose to prevent deleveraging the worse the final unwinding will be)

Anonymous said...

Whether we like it or not, obstructionism is here to stay. The Democrats who now oppose the filibuster used it themselves during the Bush years, and expect to eventually need it themselves. Both parties do this sort of thing, which is why Ibama's space brainchild will be trashed and restarted for partisan gain by the Republicans, exactly as he threw away the money spent on Constellation (at least $8bill, I believe). And meanwhile, the space program, along with much else, will go the way of Britain's aviation industry. Leftist partisans will blame it on the Republicans while turning a blind eye to the same offenses committed by those whom they support; far rightists will do the same. And moderates on both sides can just watch the country melt down and eat their children's future...

Tony said...

longbeast:

"I've seen the usual talk about using fuel depots and bases to assemble interplanetary ships, but putting something like that out at a lunar libration point would be insane. Assuming you're using chemfuel rockets, you want to start interplanetary journeys from as low in Earth orbit as you can to get the most benefit from the Oberth effect. Assembling ships that high is a huge waste of fuel in both delivering the parts and in making your escape burn.

I guess if you have plans to use an electric thruster of some kind, you might want to start the trip from above the radiation belts, but I've heard no such plans."


Use of electric rockets is precisely why you'd use a Langrange point operational base. You use chemical rockets to get you through the Van Allen belts quickly. Then you use electrics for interplanetraty travel because they're more efficient.

Thucydides said...

Proposing a "base" at the L2 point has very little point, except to provide another target for cash to be spent on paper studies showered across aerospace corporations across multiple Congressional districts.

Sadly, we have debated the point to death; there is little economic or social incentive to spend great amounts of money on activities in space; those things that actually need to be done can be done far faster, better and cheaper using robotic devices. Those "nice to have" things like planetary exploration are also better done using robotic probes (and partially because we have a reasonable database of what works and does not work in Space based on unmanned satellites orbiting the Earth).

So we need to merge the "what is possible" with "what is needed", "what is desirable" and "what is affordable". The resulting Venn diagram is what we see today, a relative handfull of launches globally, mostly for communication and monitoring satellites for both military and commercial users.

So unless and until there is a big change in one of the "possible", "desirable", "needed", and "affordable" circles we are going to have to see the future as being roughly the same as the past.

longbeast said...

It looks like they really are considering solar electric propulsion.

http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2188/1

From reading that, it sounds less like a space station and more like an interplanetary spaceship.

Admittedly, a slow and pathetic spaceship without enough supplies to go anywhere, but even so...

Tony said...

Thucydides:

"Proposing a 'base' at the L2 point has very little point, except to provide another target for cash to be spent on paper studies showered across aerospace corporations across multiple Congressional districts."

As stated earlier, it depend on what you want to use it for. As a base for electrip propulsion interplanetary spacecraft, it makes some degree of sense.

longbeast:

"From reading that, it sounds less like a space station and more like an interplanetary spaceship.

Admittedly, a slow and pathetic spaceship without enough supplies to go anywhere, but even so..."


It's a station, albeit one that can conduct significant orbital adjustments. But it's still a station, in the sense that it's not going anywhere except some orbit WRT Earth or the Moon.

Thucydides said...

Frankly, given the ratio of "proposals" vs actual hardware and missions since the end of Apollo, I would suggest the L2 base (or whatever it is supposed to be) will never see the light of day.

The closest that may happen is some test systems may be assembled on the ground, and might even make it to the ISS. This supposes that the project will have some sort of definition and funding before the ISS is abandoned.

Of course, crossing the "fiscal cliff" will demonstrate in the most direct way possible what the true interests of the Administration and the political class is WRT space.