NASA denies new space program is too risky, pricey

Jul 30, 2009 By JAY REEVES , Associated Press Writer
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(AP) -- Engineers designing NASA's next moon rocket denied Wednesday that the human space flight program dubbed "Constellation" is too expensive, too risky and would unnecessarily delay man's return to space.

The engineers defended their work to a committee appointed by President Barack Obama to review what's planned once the current shuttle program is retired.

The head of the office that has spent four years designing the next U.S. rocket, called Ares, told members of NASA's Human Space Flight Plans Committee that the current design was the safest, fastest way to get Americans back to space.

"We have done what we said we would do and we are well on the way to our first test flight," said Steve Cook, head of the Ares project office at NASA's Marshall Center in Huntsville.

Speaking during a public hearing, Cook dismissed suggestions by some that the space agency was on a flawed path with Ares.

"We are not drinking our own bath water," he said. "There have been several outside reviews since we began."

Other managers told the panel they were working through technical challenges with Ares, including a slim possibility that powerful energy waves created during a launch could injure astronauts or make it impossible for them to perform basic tasks, like looking at monitors.

The chairman of the review committee, longtime aerospace executive Norman Augustine, said members would offer broad options to Obama. Those could range from continuing to fly the to moving forward with Constellation without any changes, he said.

"We will not be in the tweaking business," Augustine said during a news conference.

Under a $35 billion plan put in place under former President George W. Bush, NASA is working to retire the shuttle fleet by the end of 2010 and return to human flight no sooner than 2015 aboard Ares.

Obama appointed the Augustine committee in May to seek information from NASA, outside scientists, the aerospace industry and Congress on the best way to send astronauts into space. It will submit a final report on Aug. 31, Augustine said.

Engineers are still working on the Constellation program during the review, and NASA plans to launch a test version of the human-carrying Ares I rocket by Oct. 31.

Work isn't as far along on a larger rocket called Ares V, which would lift heavy equipment into orbit for a mission and an eventual trip to Mars.

Former NASA Administrator Michael Griffin met with the panel privately before the public hearing. In a letter to members, Griffin said the Constellation program was being subjected to "broad but shallow criticism" when NASA needs continuity in its planning.

"Do not allow the parochial voices of the small-minded, the self-interested, and the uninformed to prevail," wrote Griffin, who now teaches at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. "Choose the future."

Arguing that Augustine's committee wouldn't even exist without budget concerns, Griffin said U.S. spaceflight shouldn't be done "on the cheap."

©2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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User comments : 8

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knobface
not rated yet Jul 30, 2009
yes well it would be like nasa to deni something wouldnt it ? huh ..huh ? am i right or wat ?
knobface
not rated yet Jul 30, 2009
"We are not drinking our own bath water," he said. haha i beg to differ
deatopmg
not rated yet Jul 30, 2009
"We are not drinking our own bath water," he said. "There have been several outside reviews since we began."
Yes, and here is another one; http://www.physor...662.html that they choose to ignore.

It may not be their own bath water they are drinking but they are drinking something (cool-aid?).

This organization (like all organizations eventually do) has evolved from a vibrant, innovative one to just another boring, bureaucratic, PR dependent agency because the mediocre have displaced the talented. Sad!
vanderMerwe
4 / 5 (3) Jul 30, 2009
It's hard to have a lot of sympathy for NASA since they created that Constellation abomination. All it is is a "lets keep all our current contractors busy" federally funded social welfare program.

We need to take a page from the Russians. Their Soyuz launcher dates from work done by German engineers working for them in the early 1950's. The Russian genius was to set up a production line and spend their energies on getting the system utterly reliable over the years.

Constellation is nothing more than a one-shot system which marries Saturn/Apollo and Shuttle technology. It will be very expensive and safety issue prone.

We should take the Russian example and set up a production line for something like the Falcon-9 and/or Falcon-9 Heavy launchers and set up a space station which is basically a construction hanger. With multiple launches we can then build earth-moon shuttles which move crew, landers and supplies between parking orbits around the two bodies. We should be doing small payload orbital launches several times a week, not a few times a year. If we want to get into space and actually do something useful instead of stunts, that is the way forward.
omatumr
2 / 5 (2) Jul 30, 2009
LET THE NEW NASA ADMINISTRATOR DECIDE

NASA has been plagued by poor science since the first Apollo Mission.

NASA has been blessed by good engineering since the first Apollo Mission.

I do not have a well-informed opinion on "Constellation," but overall I have been pleased with the performance of most of Obama's appointees.

Let's go with the new NASA administrator on this one.

With kind regards,
Oliver K. Manuel
Former NASA PI for Apollo
http://myprofile....anuelo09
vanderMerwe
not rated yet Jul 30, 2009
It's hard to have a lot of sympathy for NASA since they created that Constellation abomination. All it is is a "lets keep all our current contractors busy" federally funded social welfare program.

We need to take a page from the Russians. Their Soyuz launcher dates from work done by German engineers working for them in the early 1950's. The Russian genius was to set up a production line and spend their energies on getting the system utterly reliable over the years.

Constellation is nothing more than a one-shot system which marries Saturn/Apollo and Shuttle technology. It will be very expensive and safety issue prone.

We should take the Russian example and set up a production line for something like the Falcon-9 and/or Falcon-9 Heavy launchers and set up a space station which is basically a construction hanger. With multiple launches we can then build earth-moon shuttles which move crew, landers and supplies between parking orbits around the two bodies. We should be doing small payload orbital launches several times a week, not a few times a year. If we want to get into space and actually do something useful instead of stunts, that is the way forward.
spacester
not rated yet Aug 04, 2009
Excellent post, vanderMerwe!

***
Here's the fundamental problem with NASA: Congress does not trust the agency to do what it says it is going to do. Never, since Apollo, has the agency delivered the goods promised to Congress.

That's from Congress' point of view. What they ignore is that it is all their fault. Every budget and major review cycle Congress puts a gun to NASA's head and tells them to read the script to the cameras. The script is a lie from the beginning - a statement of objectives that can not possibly be obtained with the money provided - given the overriding need to keep the money flowing to congressional districts. Most congresscritters know how this game works, some do not. All profess amazement, after the results some in, of NASA's inability to make silk purses on a sow's ear budget.

Obama: BREAK THE CYCLE!

For the first time in modern history, NASA meets minimum standards for accounting for where all the money goes. That has been a HUGE step forward by the agency.

Congress had their chance a few years ago when Griffin was able to build on the work of O'Keefe (Mr. Number Cruncher himself) and Gregory (IIRC) and finally at long last presented a true accounting of where the money went during Psycho Dan's reign.

Four Billion or so, that was the bill for past accounting malpractice. This whole picture would be vastly different if Congress had ponied up that sum and let the agency move forward. But no, the agency was punished and has been scrambling ever since.







Obama: Pony up the cash. Get it from Big Oil and make them like it. A one-time lump sum boost (~$B10), a modest increase in budget and put NASA in a position to show us what it can do when funded and managed properly.







Go the the Near Earth Objects with Orion, let the good guys win: go with DIRECT and SpaceX and EELVs, prospect the lunar poles and start a lunar equatorial industrial park for ISRU and infrastructure development. Focus NASA's talents on propellant depots and advanced second stages for missions beyond LEO (NOT building launchers!).







Leverage public money and sow the seeds of the next great economic boom: space development.







Please?







No Bucks, No Buck Rogers.
spacester
not rated yet Aug 04, 2009
Sorry for the extra lines (the text editor added them).