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  Exploration: Asteroids, Moon and Mars
  Back to the Moon? NASA looks beyond lunar return (Page 2)

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Author Topic:   Back to the Moon? NASA looks beyond lunar return
Robert Pearlman
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posted 06-11-2013 07:58 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
What people here seem to be describing is the difference between the story of Lewis and Clark and the long-forgotten typical American family helping to settle the West.

Both played important roles in the United States becoming what it is today, but only the Lewis and Clark story still engages the masses as a story of exploration.

As much as we all get excited by the next trailblazing path, the slow push outwards will always follow. The true testament of a society that values exploration is the ability to acknowledge the importance of the intervals between the giant leaps.

SpaceAholic
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posted 06-11-2013 08:19 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for SpaceAholic   Click Here to Email SpaceAholic     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Apollo astronauts in total "explored" little more then fifty linear miles of the lunar surface... Lewis and Clark?

Robert Pearlman
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posted 06-11-2013 08:43 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I'm not sure the distance traveled really matters to the comparison.

Lewis and Clark didn't chart the entire Western frontier, nor did any one family making the migration. It was a combination of pioneers pushing open the frontier and the long, tedious process of learning how to live in that frontier that resulted in where we are today.

Fra Mauro
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posted 06-11-2013 09:59 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Fra Mauro   Click Here to Email Fra Mauro     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
It seems that no matter what the decade, NASA's plans are usually far more interesting (the what ifs..) than what eventually gets funded--even though they have some pretty significant accomplishments.

Glint
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posted 06-11-2013 11:23 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Glint   Click Here to Email Glint     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by SpaceAholic:
Apollo astronauts in total "explored" little more then fifty linear miles of the lunar surface... Lewis and Clark?

Yes, but look at the distance the Apollo missions had to travel before getting to those final 50 miles, or so. L&C and Apollo expeditions were both largely linear in their exploration. Plus, L&C were limited by sticking whenever possible to the waterways although they had scouts roaming around.

Also, both had very specific end goals: land a man on the moon, and discover the northwest passage to the Pacific Ocean. Each had its breakthroughs along the way.

jimsz
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posted 06-11-2013 11:40 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for jimsz     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Glint:
Also, both had very specific end goals: land a man on the moon, and discover the northwest passage to the Pacific Ocean. Each had its breakthroughs along the way.
Clear and definable goals. Does NASA even have any clear goals currently?

Robert Pearlman
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posted 06-11-2013 01:34 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Yes, NASA has clear goals:
  • Support research and science aboard the International Space Station through (at least) 2020
  • Rendezvous astronauts with an asteroid by 2025
  • Fly astronauts to (at least) orbit Mars by the 2030s
In addition, as codified into law by Congress:
  • Establish a heavy-lift rocket capable of enabling human flight beyond low Earth orbit

MCroft04
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posted 06-11-2013 11:00 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for MCroft04   Click Here to Email MCroft04     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Robert, I'm excited about these goals. But to make the next step you have to establish an outpost on the moon. I'm not the smartest guy on the planet, but this is a no brainier, regardless of your political affiliation. Let's go back to the moon and learn how to live in a hostile environment. Going to an asteroid will be fun and we will learn something, but it leads us nowhere.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 06-12-2013 01:59 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Barring a significant change of events, Congress is not going to allocate the funds necessary for a U.S.-built and led lunar outpost (or series of sortie missions).

(If other countries want to take the lead in landing humans on the moon again, then it should be within NASA's budget to enter limited partnerships with them, offering our expertise in return for having U.S. astronauts join the trip.)

For the several decades that have passed since Apollo, the U.S. has been making the same mistake over and over: letting our desires outpace our budget when it has come time to planning our next steps in space. We have chosen the missions we want, rather than the missions we need and can afford.

We can, in theory, afford to move a small asteroid to where an Orion crew module can reach it by 2025.

Building off that mission, it might be possible to fly an upgraded Orion and perhaps BEAM-like inflatable module to a near-Earth asteroid as it crosses the Earth-moon system, moving us further out into space.

Neither of those missions require the development of a lander, nor a landing on the moon first.

The combined deep space experience and proof of upgraded and new technologies should at least provide the foundation for a trip to orbit Mars (whether the budget for such will exist in the mid-2020s is yet to be seen).

At present, we do not know how to land a crew on Mars. We've only just succeeded in getting a car-size mass to the surface (we'll get a second try at that with the 2020 lander). Experience with a moon lander won't help in that regard, due to (a) gravity, and more importantly, (b) the atmosphere.

But waiting for us in Mars orbit are two way stations that our (by then) experience with asteroids should help prepare us to work on and around: Phobos and Deimos. The moons of Mars are asteroids and built-in space stations.

From Phobos, we can control rovers on the surface of Mars in near-real time. That's important, because it can accelerate the work needed to survey the planet for dormant or even active biologicals. Unlike the moon, where the threat from lunar germs to Earth was quite low (and for which there was really no concern with terrestrial germs contaminating the moon), Mars is a different situation completely. We neither want to risk exposure either way on the Red Planet.

Phobos can be a research station for robotically-retrieved Martian samples, either to properly prepare them for the return to Earth or studied by scientists as members of the expedition crew. Meanwhile, living on Phobos offers the same lessons that Earth's moon would in learning to live in a hostile environment, setting us up for an eventual landing on Mars.

But that's getting way ahead of ourselves. Today, we can only do what we can afford. We can't afford a lunar outpost. We can afford (in theory) a sortie mission to a captured asteroid. We have to start somewhere; it might as well be somewhere that is realistic from the start.

MCroft04
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posted 06-12-2013 09:31 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for MCroft04   Click Here to Email MCroft04     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Robert, as always your logic is impeccable. As far as having the knowledge to land on Mars, I agree we don't know how to do it. But in 1961 we didn't know how to get to the moon either.

Most of your position is based on lack of funding, and you are correct. But I contend that if our politicians could work together (which appears to be more difficult than going to Mars) I am confident that alternatives could be developed, with one that could get us to the moon, and set us up for Mars, and possibly more.

I've been involved in many large projects (literally billions of dollars) where many of my colleagues claimed it could not be done, often for technical and/or financial reasons. But by following a well developed decision making process I've seen the un-doable accomplished.

First frame the opportunity, including a stakeholder analysis, a clear definition of success,and development of key project drivers (cost, reliability, schedule-what is most important). Then develop a complete list of alternatives, and then work each alternative to determine the best one before moving forward.

If you get the right people with the right frame of mind (glass half full) it is amazing what can be accomplished. We need people with a vision to make it happen.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 06-12-2013 09:43 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I hate to be so cynical Mel, but the idea of using "the right people" and Congress in the same context, let alone same sentence, seems to me to be the very definition of an oxymoron.

Even if Carl Sagan and Wernher von Braun were still alive, and they teamed up with Neil DeGrasse Tyson and Bill Nye, I very much doubt they could convince Congress to increase the NASA budget by very much.

So rather than try to continue fighting that uphill battle in the hopes of a different outcome, I think the best course of action is to make lemonade. We may not be able to have the space program of everyone's dreams but we can send astronauts beyond low Earth orbit, doing things never done before.

And in the process, we might, just might, get to see humans reach the vicinity of Mars.

jimsz
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posted 06-12-2013 11:33 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for jimsz     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Robert Pearlman:
Yes, NASA has clear goals
I don't see them as clear goals at all.
quote:
Support research and science aboard the International Space Station through (at least) 2020
Space Shuttle II. Go up, circle around and come back down. Only now we pay the Russians for the taxi ride. Uninspiring.
quote:
Rendezvous astronauts with an asteroid by 2025. Fly astronauts to (at least) orbit Mars by the 2030s.
I don't believe either of these will happen by an American. Chinese maybe, but not an American. NASA has lost it's capability to articulate a vision and the politicians (of all parties) have mortgaged the future of space travel with handouts and pork.

328KF
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posted 06-12-2013 11:52 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for 328KF   Click Here to Email 328KF     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I have to agree that it seems we are just shrugging our shoulders and settling for a questionable goal under the premise that we are just facing reality. I'd rather submit that reality is what we make it. Just because Charlie Bolden says we're not going to be a leader on the moon doesn't mean we can't. Bolden works for us, as we elected the people who both gave him his job and provide his funding.

I've always put out here that the moons of Mars are worthy goals, and that the lowered bar of the asteroid mission are wasteful of time and resources. Many of the points Robert makes here about near-Mars operations are detailed in Buzz Aldrin's latest book. Unfortunately Buzz doesn't have to find a way to fund all that he proposes, so it's fairly easy to call for the huge infrastructure he needs to accomplish it.

It seems the issue becomes how do we best prepare astronauts in the near term for working on the surface of a Martian moon in the ever more distant future? Both potential destinations are significantly larger than the small rock NASA currently wants to drag back home, probably a lot dustier, and certainly won't have a huge multi-million dollar trash bag wrapped around them when we get there.

We won't be spending an extended time living and working at the rock on EM-2, won't be living off the land, and won't be going into realistically deep space. And once the mission returns with a cache of samples, we will have no further use for our newly acquired gem.

It seems most of the current argument against a lunar mission is the expense of a lander. I would like to think that by the time EM-2 or -3 flies, U.S. industry would be more than capable of developing a lunar lander capability at an affordable price to market to the government. Just look at what is happening in commercial space right now. If Space-X, SNC, and Boeing can develop orbital spaceships and space planes, they certainly can build a lander. ISS is the current destination and driver for the market, and the moon could be the next.

Living on the surface of the moon (perhaps in a group of Bigelow inflatable modules) is a far better simulation of near-Mars operations than the "bag-a-rock" goal. There will be lessons learned from doing it that we cannot even imagine now.

But I think the most important difference is that a permanent presence on the moon is an on-going proposition. Like ISS, once it is established and productive, it will help spur U.S. and other partner countries' industry to develop improved capability to keep it operating. There are endless opportunities for exploration and exploitation there, and there may be an eventual return on investment.

So even with the recurring sine wave of support from Congress, this lunar base would continue on with the support of commercial industry and expand our presence in the solar system beyond LEO.

The greatest flaw of the asteroid capture goal is that there is no impetus for it to lead to the next goal. Once accomplished and cast away, Congress could just as soon end funding right then and there. If that were to happen and NASA only then starts the "what now?" game, we might end up on the moon by 2025-2030, but we'll likely be met by others who had the foresight to go there first.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 06-12-2013 12:23 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by jimsz:
I don't see them as clear goals at all.
Regardless of your perspective (of which you are, of course, entitled), they fit the definition of "goals," which answers your question ("Does NASA even have any clear goals currently?").
quote:
Uninspiring.
Again, your subjective opinion. NASA's charter does not require its work or missions to be inspiring. We didn't go to the moon in the 1960s to inspire; that was a spinoff.
quote:
I don't believe either of these will happen by an American.
Fortunately, not everyone has given up hope in the United States, but then they also don't necessarily hold NASA to the same ideals as you.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 06-12-2013 12:39 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by 328KF:
I'd rather submit that reality is what we make it.
I'd submit history teaches a different lesson.

This is a history-based site, so I am surprised sometimes at how often it seems to be forgotten. Space Exploration Initiative (SEI), VentureStar (X-33), Orbital Space Plane (OSP), Vision for Space Exploration (VSE) and Constellation were all underfunded attempts at trying to reshape reality. And they all failed because they were not realistic.

quote:
...and certainly won't have a huge multi-million dollar trash bag wrapped around them when we get there.
Just to be clear, that was a conceptual animation at best. NASA has since suggested it may not envelop, but rather nudge an asteroid into cislunar space. The actual mission architecture will begin to take shape during a series of meeting this summer, beginning on June 18.
quote:
I would like to think that by the time EM-2 or -3 flies, U.S. industry would be more than capable of developing a lunar lander capability at an affordable price to market to the government.
Not that much has changed since Altair was shelved by the previous administration for being too expensive.
quote:
ISS is the current destination and driver for the market, and the moon could be the next.
I'll grant you this; if you accept the moon as a final destination, and not a stepping stone to Mars, then yes, a lunar base becomes more of a driver. But if your goal is the Red Planet within our lifetimes, then the moon is a trap.
quote:
The greatest flaw of the asteroid capture goal is that there is no impetus for it to lead to the next goal.
I disagree with the basic premise of your assertion, but beyond that I would suggest that miring us on the moon has a greater chance of Congress walking away and never (in our lifetimes) reaching Mars, then politicians abandoning U.S. manned spaceflight after one asteroid mission.
quote:
...we might end up on the moon by 2025-2030, but we'll likely be met by others who had the foresight to go there first.
I really don't understand this obsession with making everything into a race. The moon is a big place! And the U.S. will always be the first on the moon. Whoever gets there next will be the "Buzz Aldrin" of nations (not that there is anything wrong with that).

328KF
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posted 06-12-2013 02:07 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for 328KF   Click Here to Email 328KF     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Robert Pearlman:
Not that much has changed since Altair was shelved by the previous administration for being too expensive.
Altair was shelved by the current administration along with Constellation. I don't believe anyone has studied a COTS-type arrangement with private enterprise to develop a lander capability, although at least one is being proposed.
quote:
But if your goal is the Red Planet within our lifetimes, then the moon is a trap.
I think differently. I believe the moon is a more logical step in he progression toward Mars, certainly more so than a drag/bagged/or otherwise transported small asteroid. Given our shared appreciation for history, based upon what I've seen in the past 40+ years I don't think you or I will see men on Mars in our lifetimes. I hate to say that, but unless something changes the game, that's my opinion. Therefore, I'm more interested in the most technically realistic and appropriate approach to getting future generations there.
quote:
I would suggest that miring us on the moon has a greater chance of Congress walking away and never (in our lifetimes) reaching Mars, then politicians abandoning U.S. manned spaceflight after one asteroid mission.
I'm not suggesting Congress will pull the plug entirely. They are very good at sniffing out convenient stopping points (like the assumed success of the asteroid goal) and reassessing the direction, especially when they have to come up with the money to take the next step.

I've suggested that a lunar base could become commercially self sufficient and employ numerous contracted transportation and habitation services to support it. With this setup, we will have a viable exploration program underway, a potential new industry of extracting resources (He-3, water, H+O= rocket fuel) from the moon, and be learning the lessons to go to a Martian moon.

quote:
I really don't understand this obsession with making everything into a race.
I'm not suggesting that either. If we get there to do valuable work and expand our presence beyond LEO, I'm okay with landing there a day or two after the Chinese.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 06-12-2013 02:27 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by 328KF:
Altair was shelved by the current administration along with Constellation.
All work had been halted on Altair by direction of the White House several months before the current administration first took office. The project might not have been canceled but it was essentially frozen due to a lack of funds.
quote:
I've suggested that a lunar base could become commercially self sufficient and employ numerous contracted transportation and habitation services to support it.
If that's viable, and I hope it is, then industry should take the lead (as at least one company has suggested), build the hardware, deploy the lunar base and then sell its services back to the government. Unlike COTS/CCDev, that provides a critical infrastructure for NASA's established activities, the space agency does not need a lunar base to begin pushing out beyond low Earth orbit.

328KF
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posted 06-12-2013 11:29 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for 328KF   Click Here to Email 328KF     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Robert Pearlman:
If that's viable, and I hope it is, then industry should take the lead (as at least one company has suggested), build the hardware, deploy the lunar base and then sell its services back to the government. Unlike COTS/CCDev, that provides a critical infrastructure for NASA's established activities, the space agency does not need a lunar base to begin pushing out beyond low Earth orbit.
Mmmmm... so government builds a $100 billion space station, then decides to cut off it's transportation and resupply system, thereby creating a market for commercial entities to compete for contracts to fill that gap.

An argument I have made before is pretty simple: no ISS = no market = no commercial interest in developing a LEO capability. If government hadn't come along with the need and provided the seed money (albeit years too late to minimize the "gap") there would be no Dragon, no Dream Chaser, and no CST-100 programs. I've also made the point previously that if these entities were left to fund start-up space programs for themselves, it would never happen. I felt, like you do in this case Robert, that if they felt there was a market, they should risk their own capital, rather than the taxpayers', but we now find ourselves in an unfortunate orbital lurch.

Remember the movie Field of Dreams? The common theme throughout the film? If you build it, they will come. Following the argument that COTS/CCDev for ISS is the model for the future, then shouldn't government have a role in partnering with private industry to service lunar surface activities? I'm not saying that we should go to the moon simply for the sake of creating a commercial market, I'm just following others' logic that government can have a great impact on driving private enterprise toward success.

ISS is a government built cart without a horse, and government has invested in finding a new horse. A permanent lunar base could be a cart funded with government seed money followed by commercial infrastructure investment. This may well evolve into a separate profitable business servicing government funded advancement into deep space, and that potential will draw private enterprise to invest it's own capital.

All of this can be put to great use in an economically and technically feasible manner to move us toward the "next logical step" of setting up a base of operations on a Martian moon while maximizing the potential for successful work once we get there.

I have yet to hear a compelling argument for how breaking off a few pieces of a small relocated asteroid does anything to get us closer to that goal. All I hear is, "Well it's a cheap goal."

Robert Pearlman
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posted 06-13-2013 12:01 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by 328KF:
...then decides to cut off it's transportation and resupply system, thereby creating a market for commercial entities to compete for contracts to fill that gap.
The retirement of the space shuttle was not driven by a desire to create a market for commercial space vehicles. It was driven by the death of seven astronauts.

The decision to adopt a new acquisition strategy was partially born out of the correct realization that NASA's budget would not support the development of both a low Earth orbit taxi system and a vehicle architecture appropriate for exploration missions.

quote:
An argument I have made before is pretty simple: no ISS = no market = no commercial interest in developing a LEO capability.
I suspect that Space Adventures, Virgin Galactic and Bigelow Aerospace would disagree with you.

For that matter, development of Dream Chaser as a commercial spacecraft dates back to before the International Space Station and SpaceX was founded a year before the loss of STS-107, before Elon Musk could even factor in the space station as part of his company's manned spaceflight plans.

quote:
...move us toward the "next logical step" of setting up a base of operations on a Martian moon while maximizing the potential for successful work once we get there.
This makes sense only if the driving motivation is to expand space development rather than space exploration. NASA's charter however, is the opposite — further exploration while enabling development.

Setting up a moon base is a great way of making humanity's next destination the same as its last, the moon. It does little to push us out toward Mars (as Wernher von Braun and the Apollo generation learned).

Robert Pearlman
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posted 06-13-2013 12:25 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I want to add here that I am not anti-moon. I would love to see a moon base, asteroid missions and manned missions to Mars. But I don't want to wait until we can afford all of that to do any of it.

I think we've spent enough years planning and replanning and planning again. I think we need to stop hoping for a Congress that will properly fund NASA and just get on with what we can do with the allocated funds.

Hand-in-hand with that we need to be realistic about what that budget will buy, and not try, again, to stretch it too thin by proposing open-ended programs with too many components. We need to stop talking about what might be possible and just go do what is.

Tykeanaut
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posted 06-13-2013 02:47 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Tykeanaut   Click Here to Email Tykeanaut     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
It's always jam (jelly) tomorrow. I'm afraid I tire of the things that might happen. My current interest in spaceflight is purely historical.

ZeroG
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posted 06-13-2013 06:20 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for ZeroG   Click Here to Email ZeroG     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Robert Pearlman:
We need to stop talking about what might be possible and just go do what is.
Completely agree! I think going to the moon is the next logical step... besides I would love to see the moon in HD 3D Close-up! But at this stage I will go with whatever they can do! Let's just go and do it, stop planning the initial missions...

Saturn V
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posted 06-13-2013 11:54 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Saturn V     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Just to be the devils advocate here, if we only do what is possible within any particular budget we will never get to the moon or Mars because the budget will never be more than what will be provided over the course of 2 presidential terms. If with every President elected the budget changes there will never be enough time to develop the methods and means to go on the trip to these places. Try to work on something for more than eight years you won't get to finish before your budget gets cut by the next guy in office.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 06-13-2013 12:18 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
That's a valid point and I'm not suggesting we adopt this approach forever. But I believe a good deal of the problems we face with Congress is due to NASA itself becoming a "hangar queen," forever being tinkered with on the ground but never taking to the air (so to speak).

I think if we get the ball rolling, go somewhere and demonstrate that we can actually complete a mission, additional and more ambitious missions will follow, and so will the funding for such.

But I don't believe Congress will ever allocate more money to NASA without first demonstrating more than plans on paper. It is just too easy to forever tinker...


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