Ten Reasons Why NASA Must Kill Ares I & Buy Commercial Rides to Space

by Rick Tumlinson on January 26, 2010

The Space Frontier Foundation has led the fight for a free and open frontier in space for over 20 years. It is our goal that you and your children should have the right to explore and settle space in any way you wish, using your own resources and with the right to harvest the resources of space to build new human communities beyond Earth. Our “grand” goal is nothing less than the expansion of the life of this precious world and the people on it into the infinite universe.

Over time, we have met with much success—although changing how an entire civilization sees and reacts to the space around them requires a revolution of nothing less than Copernican proportions. And trying to change seemingly mindless juggernauts like the US space program… well…  And yet, we persevere.

Right now we are engaged in a major battle that unlike many of the nuanced and subtle fights we have fought in the past, which may result in a major and irreversible shift towards what we call “Frontier-Enabling” activities.

Our goal in this is battle is simple: to end the money-wasting, pork-barrel-stuffing and vision-crushing failure of a program known as Ares 1, as Bob Werb explained in his recent Orlando Sentinel editorial. Not only will this NASA-designed and -operated plan for a rocket never fly; it is also dangerous and directly competes with private sector vehicles that can do the same thing.

Why does that matter? Because if we can nurture a robust private sector human spaceflight industry, NASA saves taxpayers money and can focus on exploring—not driving space “trucks.” This will open space to anyone who can pay, bring market forces to bear on launch costs and eventually we’ll all get to go. This includes those who are fighting for Ares—who, if they succeed, will have helped ground themselves and those they are allegedly fighting for.

Here’s why you can’t be a friend of Ares 1 and support your own goals in space, whatever they may be (except bringing home pork barrel spending):

  1. You can’t be a friend of human space exploration And a friend of Ares 1.
  2. You can’t be a friend of ISS and a friend of Ares 1.
  3. You can’t be a friend of NewSpace and commercial space activities and support Ares 1.
  4. You can’t be a good Republican and support a socialist solution to transportation like Ares 1 when private sector solutions exist.
  5. You can’t be a good Democrat and support your president when a pro big aerospace industrial contractor worst government practices and anti - entrepreneur, anti-populist and eventually embarrassing failure of a program like Ares 1 exists.
  6. You also can’t claim the legacy of John Kennedy and allow Ares 1 to kill our chance of returning to the Moon and finishing the work Apollo started.
  7. You can’t be a friend of the astronaut corps and support Ares 1, which will limit their chances of getting into space and exploring other worlds. (Hello, Arizona Congresslady who is married to a former astronaut who will never fly again if the NewSpace rocketship firms can’t hire him!)
  8. You can’t be a friend of the taxpayer and a friend of a billion dollar rip off like Ares 1.
  9. You can’t be a friend of using space exploration and using it to inspire children if you support a dead end, elitist, opportunity killing, and in the end hope dashing program like Ares 1.
  10. You can’t be a friend of NASA and be pro-Ares 1, as it will suck money from anything else the space agency wants to do from now on—when the agency could be leaving deliveries and transport to the private sector and focusing on science and exploration, where it excels.
Nelson Bridwell January 26, 2010 at 9:09 pm

It does not necessarily follow.

I am entirely in favor of Constellation. It does not follow that I must also be in any way opposed to commercial space ventures.

But the real question in my mind is why everyone appears to be ignoring your website. How is it that I am the only one who bothers to post comments here?

RickTumlinson January 29, 2010 at 7:45 pm

Actually. it does follow. Constellation as designed is anti-commercial, unsustainable and anti-frontier. There is along history of proponents of NASA programs sabotaging, killing or otherwise undermining commercial/private sector efforts to develop systems that are seen as competitive with their own feeding troughs.

Thanks for tuning in though. Honorurable debate is a good thing. And please spread the word. This is my first ever blog (I know, welcome to the 21st century etc.) I intend to stir up a lot of issues over time to advance the cause.

Horus6 January 27, 2010 at 2:57 am

Do you really think Ares I is that big a disaster? Can private corporations come up with the goods in a timely manner while maintaining safety and performance? How long do you think it will take private industry to design, build and test a shuttle replacement?

RickTumlinson January 29, 2010 at 7:48 pm

See the above. Absolutely.
Let's also bne clear on this. The shuttle was a failure. It Never met its design goals nor the the level of use it was pitched to have (it was supposed to fly 25-50 times a year and help bring costs down to tens of dollars a pound.
Government rocketships cannot do this. We need competition.
From adapted Atlas and Delta "traditional" rockets to new generations ships from SpaceX and OSC, if we nurture these guys the cost will drop and we will get our settlements on the Moon, Mars and the space between worlds.

redneck January 27, 2010 at 11:09 am

Yes Aries I is that big a disaster. Private industry will not come up with a shuttle replacement, they will replace it's capabilities with other vehicles that operate in a different manner. Private industry cannot afford to field vehicles with flight rates as low as the shuttle and still make a profit.

RickTumlinson January 29, 2010 at 7:49 pm

Amen brother!

spacefan January 27, 2010 at 4:16 pm

Now the "pundits' resort to late night comendy routines to slam Ares I. There is no sustainable private sector without a sustainable business case for commercial rocket companies. That business case does not exist, thus the commercial up and comers want NASA to fund their commerical crew development programs, which in turn, makes them look just like the "big aerospace industrial contractors". What is commercial about that?

RickTumlinson January 29, 2010 at 7:51 pm

You have to start somewhere my friend. If you are going to spend a billion dollars and can use it to incubate and leverage a new industry vs. prop up an old dead end system then lets do it. The companies trying to open space do not want to stay as contractors – in fact we need to create systems not based on old style aerospace contracting, but pay for delivery contracts etc. As they grow the capacity they create will shift to more and more purely "commercial" paylods and passengers.
This is a kickstart effort. Let's be clear.

Wargolem April 30, 2010 at 11:03 am

You say it is a kickstart effort, then how about private space firms spend THEIR money and time drawing up plans and submitting them to NASA like Boeing and Northrupp Gruman have done? It sounds to me as if you want the TAXPAYERS to fund the private companies R&D and for the aforementioned PRIVATE companies to then be able to reap the rewards for something they never paid for in the begining…..

Myself, i believe that private competition is good, and yet i think about how wal-mart has ruined the american manufacturing industry. Only if they signed an agreement to manufacture the space vehicles and everything that goes into them in the United States, would i ever support anything like what you are suggesting. Yes we need to colonize, teraform, and explore the universe, but in my humble opinion we need people like yourself to give us more ammunition to fire at the people in the house and senate. At least give us something other than "You can not support ARES" because i said so….. sheeesh…

ISSvet January 27, 2010 at 7:37 pm

One correction – that's a one billion per flight rip off.

@Horus6
ULA proposed using EELVs to the Augustine Committee:
- Atlas V to provide commercial crew to ISS by 2013 at $130M per flight recurring and $400M non-recurring costs
- Delta IV Heavy to launch Orion by 2014 with greater than 20% performance margin at $300M per flight recurring and $1300M non-recurring costs

We already launch multi-billion dollar national security satellites with missions critical to the lives of our war fighters on those launchers. They have a perfect record of delivering those payloads. The human rating improvements will make them even better for everyone. Sooner, cheaper, better, and with a track record – what more do you want?

RickTumlinson January 29, 2010 at 7:55 pm

Again…right on! So even the "traditionals" can play! And exactly right. NASA trying to say their "stick" has more reliability than commercial systems is completely bogus.

MikeJ January 28, 2010 at 8:47 am

24 years ago I was determined to explore space.
24 years ago I had just returned from a T-38 training mission and with the rest of my pilot training class (86-04, “Jet-Punks”!) watched in silent shock as the news of the Challenger disaster came in. Growing up, I recall several visits to McDonnell Douglas with my Dad where I learned about the Mercury and Gemini capsules. At the age of seven I had watched in awe as NASA landed men on the moon. I drank the kool-aid (Tang, actually), I became a child of Apollo. 24 years is not so long ago, but the realization that I had been orphaned did not come quickly and the grieving process took some time. But now, together with my fellow brothers and sisters of Apollo, we honor the sacrifices of those before us by pressing on to fulfill that shared dream.
24 years ago I was determined to open the space frontier… that has never changed.

RickTumlinson January 29, 2010 at 7:56 pm

Need I say more…hell, you guys have it figured.

Ralph Ewig January 29, 2010 at 7:57 pm

Having worked on both the entrepreneurial and the traditional side of launch vehicle development, I agree that Ares is (was?) a bad idea. I also feel that the rumored approach of the new administration holds some promise, but again it all depends on the implementation. When Constellation started under O'Keife/Steidle there was a lot of positive energy and excitement throughout the industry, followed by an equal amount of disappointment when Griffin steered it towards Apollo-redux / span-in-a-can-mark-II . The current situation is very challenging, because developing a modern/viable launch vehicle to replace the Shuttle will take time and money, so everybody is rushing to do something quick & simple instead which then gets canceled in short order because is simply feels uninspired. I'm cautiously optimistic about the latest "system reset", just as long as this one-small-step-at-a-time approach actually does result in something real. We'll see …

Nelson Bridwell January 30, 2010 at 12:19 am

Interesting comment about costs.____Let's suppose that Aries costs 1 billion $ per launch, and that a commercial provider could provide this service for $250 million per launch. At 3 launches per year that might save NASA slightly more than $2 billion. An accountant would probably consider that helpful for NASA. Looking at the big picture, the results could be entirely different, particularly after an almost-safe-enough satelite-launcher-conversion explodes on the pad, setting NASA back yet another decade. ____How will this improve commercial space travel? Rides to space will still going to cost $25 million dollars. Unlike the airmail argument, the NASA launch rates will not be sufficient to generate any significant economies of scale. Space will continue to be unreachable to all of us except for Bill Gates or Lori Garver.____It looks to me like the premise of the "Space Frotier Foundation" guys could be a lot of wishful thinking, possibly also combined with envy-based hostility misdirected towards NASA professionals.____It is no crime to dream big. However, in my book it is a crime to kill off the dreams and realities of others.____Cheers,__ Nelson

Rick Tumlinson January 30, 2010 at 2:43 am

Ahem…professionals…lol…ok, slipping right by that (did you ever own part of a space station – I did – it was called Mir….couldn't resist.)

Lori doesn't get paid that kind of money either. BTW the reason it is $25 million or so 10 years after I signed up Dennis Tito to fly is Because we don't have a market operating in any form for orbital transportation. And yes, this kick start isn't a purely commercial market yet, it will help us get to one. Commercial schlommercial…I used to think banks were commercial…who knows anymore?)

Anyway, we have been "wishful thinking for more than 20 years…NOT. A lot of hard work and many many battles have been fought to get us to this point. At last we have real companies building real rockets mainly (so far) with their own and their investors Real money. And now we are trying to do right by the taxpayers by not wasting their funds while helping get this new industry a boost so it can help us all realize our dreams. All good stuff so far.
Stay with your first point about the accountant. Your second one about the explosion falls apart when you look at the NASA safety record….BTW it was Morton Fireball errr….Morton Thiokol….errr….ATK who gave us Challenger. So NASA decides to build an entire launch stack around the element that failed and killed that crew….nuff said.

RickTumlinson January 30, 2010 at 2:45 am

Ahem…professionals…lol…ok, slipping right by that (did you ever own part of a space station – I did – it was called Mir….couldn't resist.)

Lori doesn't get paid that kind of money either. BTW the reason it is $25 million or so 10 years after I signed up Dennis Tito to fly is Because we don't have a market operating in any form for orbital transportation. And yes, this kick start isn't a purely commercial market yet, it will help us get to one. Commercial schlommercial…I used to think banks were commercial…who knows anymore?)

Anyway, we have been "wishful thinking for more than 20 years…NOT. A lot of hard work and many many battles have been fought to get us to this point. At last we have real companies building real rockets mainly (so far) with their own and their investors Real money. And now we are trying to do right by the taxpayers by not wasting their funds while helping get this new industry a boost so it can help us all realize our dreams. All good stuff so far.

Stay with your first point about the accountant. Your second one about the explosion falls apart when you look at the NASA safety record….BTW it was Morton Fireball errr….Morton Thiokol….errr….ATK …who gave us Challenger. So NASA decides to go to ATK and build an entire launch stack around the element that failed and killed that crew….nuff said.

Saad January 30, 2010 at 2:17 pm

Comerial Spaceflight is doable, but the government must maintian its capability. We should have learned that industry does not care for what is right or wrong, and has done things in the past and present that is not in the best interest of the people but for there own greed. Also, rockets are built by contract and by the organizations that need it. The government buys its rockets from industry, and is the only organization that can fund research without fear of not meeting the bottomline. Commericial spaceflight is doable, if you want to compete, quit your excususes and do it. Keep the research alive and moving forward, the government bugget has srewed up advancements at NASA, but the private sector should be able to keep moving forward if there so smart and have a better way. Or are you waiting for government to fund you?

Nelson Bridwell January 30, 2010 at 6:15 pm

Rick:

Thanks for your thoughtful and somewhat humorous reply. It helps to better understand your viewpoint, even though I might not 100% agree.

Cheers,
Nelson

Randy Gigante January 30, 2010 at 7:35 pm

It finally looks like Obama is willing to take a stand somewhere FOR private enterprise and NOT big government. We in the Space Movement have been waiting for this kind of a game-changing opportunity for 20 years. We cannot let it slip away this time. Let's show the Congress that the people DO care about space and finally open the space frontier after 30 years of waiting !!

Gabe Kampis January 30, 2010 at 10:37 pm

Clear the air.

NASA is right to support its' own 'trough'. NASA staff are veterans, plus most of their $$ (as you all well know but choose to ignore) goes to US industry – from the majors on down.

NASA has a valid aura of respect for its achievements. Mike Griffin has done his best to destroy that with his 'pogo-stick' project, mercifully to be discarded, but NASA stands tall nontheless. Your favourite amateurs do not stack up.

Nor do you-all.

Little of Obama's money will go to US industry, most will go to Russian state-owned enterprises. The US will fly Russian for the next ten years.

Get rid of him.

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