Foundation Urges Support for New NASA Space Plan

Foundation Urges Support for New NASA Space Plan

Calls Recent Attacks Unfortunate and Misinformed

The Space Frontier Foundation today called for all Americans to support the new space plan laid out by President Obama, calling a spate of attacks smearing the concepts unfortunate and obviously misinformed. Citing recent editorials, blogs and media appearances by supporters of the old space program, the Foundation urged all parties to take a fresh look at the proposals laid out by Obama in his April 15 speech at Kennedy Space Center and get behind the new initiative. Led by a small group of well known astronauts and congress members from areas whose districts have benefited from programs now shown to be dead end wastes of billions in taxpayer dollars, the attacks have portrayed the new initiative as an assault on NASA and America’s leadership in space – the Foundation says it is quite the opposite.

“The new vision for NASA is obviously and clearly a huge step forward for the agency and Americans who care about opening space in a real, sustainable and affordable manner,” said the Foundation’s Chairman Bob Werb. “ I was in Florida with the president and I know he means it when he says he strongly supports NASA and America’s leadership in space – he also believes in the American people’s ability to participate and create a new space industry.”

The Foundation, often a critic of NASA programs and plans as wasteful or counter productive to US space ambitions, finds itself strongly supporting many of the new changes. It says this is the first administration that has truly committed to the revolutionary changes needed to what has been a moribund space program that was going nowhere at great cost.

A sampling of these include:

  • An increase in the NASA budget of over $6 billion dollars over the next five years.
  • A hand off of routine transportation to Low Earth Orbit to commercial carriers including traditional and NewSpace firms – which enables NASA to focus on exploration rather than transportation and will spur a whole new commercial space industry in the US.
  • Developing new NASA transportation systems to operate efficiently in deep space – enabling wide scale future explorations of all sorts.
  • Investment in research to enable the use of resources in space
  • A focus on those technologies needed to support human habitation of space over “indefinite” periods.
  • NASA led missions to asteroids, the Moons of Mars and Mars itself within the next 20-30 years.

“We have been calling for many of these concepts for a long time as enablers for humans to live permanently beyond the Earth,” said the Foundation’s Rick Tumlinson. “We ask our national leaders and heroic explorers to take a deep breath, take a fresh look, and get with a program that will lead to more space jobs, more flights to space and more opportunities for a whole new generation of astronauts and regular people to enter the space frontier.”

The Foundation, many of whose members are actively engaged in space projects and companies, believes that NASA has been given an agenda that corrects decades of mistakes and dead ends, and will enable almost everyone who supports a strong and permanent US presence in space to get involved and excited about what is to come.

“This is a sea change in our course to the stars,” said Werb. “We will also work to protect and expand upon what has been laid out. If we follow and build on this plan the US will soon have a thriving commercial space industry with several new spaceships flying to and from space, multiple space stations both government and commercial and tens of thousand of new jobs all across the nation supporting this New Space economy.”

The Foundation intends to make sure that the agenda as laid out is not abandoned or sold out to appease some in the old school space establishment who are more interested in continuing to waste funds rather than enable the opening of space, and will be leading a crusade to support the changes, convince those who don’t understand what they mean, and educate Americans as to the potential offered by space as the next home of humanity.

“There are some who will not be persuaded, we will try to defend the new plan from their machinations and attempts to sabotage it,” said Tumlinson. “For our part, we want all of the above: near Earth space, Mars, and yes we will push for a return to the Moon – perhaps led by the private sector including universities and commercial firms.” He concluded, “NASA explorers will soon have the tools and funding to head off into the Solar System – and not just to plant flags and footsteps, but as harbingers of a new wave of human exploration and settlement as Americans of all types get to participate in opening this grand new frontier – after all, the Space Frontier Foundation believes we all have the right stuff. This is going to be an exciting time for all of us!”

Foundation Urges Support for New NASA Space Plan (pdf)

17 Comments

  • Jamion says:

    * An increase in the NASA budget of over $6 billion dollars over the next five years.
    Which is mostly for climate change study, not for any actual space work.
    * A hand off of routine transportation to Low Earth Orbit to commercial carriers including traditional and NewSpace firms – which enables NASA to focus on exploration rather than transportation and will spur a whole new commercial space industry in the US.
    This has been happening for a while, not something new… this can't be a new direction for something that started over 6 years ago.
    * Developing new NASA transportation systems to operate efficiently in deep space – enabling wide scale future explorations of all sorts.
    Good, but what about manufacturing Space to Space vehicles, but moving ISS experiments to the moon and repositioning ISS for experimental craft development? Oh that's right Obama doesn't want to develop Space to Space travel, so he can continue to bitch about the efficiency of rocket engines.
    * Investment in research to enable the use of resources in space
    Excellent, I assume mining equipment. But where are we going to test these if we don't colonize the moon?
    * A focus on those technologies needed to support human habitation of space over “indefinite” periods.
    Excellent, see point above.
    * NASA led missions to asteroids, the Moons of Mars and Mars itself within the next 20-30 years.
    Very very good, but no mention of colonizing them… so what we go there come back and don't back for another 50 years, seems like the same crap with the moon. I say colonize Luna, Ceres, and Mars. And Ceres and Mars on first trip there, not some 50 odd years later. I started off liking your foundation, but the more I read about what you support the more I disagree with your direction, you seem more focused on killing mans survival in space then you do taking us there.

    With very little of the budget going for anything to do with space exploration or survival, where will NASA get the funding to actually accomplish this? As well with no colonization on the moon, why would any private company start building low earth orbit transit? The Obama left more questions then answers, and his new direction seems more like a blind man throwing a dart then any sort of actual strategy. Colonize Luna in 10 years, colonize Ceres with in 20 years of that, and finally Mars by 2050. Not just go, but colonize. And it is going to take a much bigger budget then what he is proposing, and it is going to take money actually going into this not crap like climate change.

    The world is suffering from much more dire problems. Our survival here, depends on our ability to go out there. To survive out there, not just small amounts, but huge amounts. We need moon for experimentation, testing, and soft launch platform for equipment. We need Ceres for water and minerals in the asteroid belt. We need mars simply to say we got to Mars… New direction my ass.

    • CycloneSteve says:

      Jamion,

      Independent thought is no longer permited. Clearly, by reading and then thinking about this article in an objective way you have broken the spirit of these new rules. Please cease and desist at once. Just nod your head and smile at all the wonderfull hope and change.

      • Rick Tumlinson says:

        Steve, study up my friend, we are pro settlement, and the changes in many ways reflect ideas we have fought for over two decades. They aren't perfect,m as it is after all a government program we are dealing with here. But they head in the right direction. You inferring we of all groups are fascistic is like saying Democrats march in straight lines.

        We are always cool with someone "outfronitering" us. It's the other direction our swords are pointed…lol…
        Rick
        and I prefer to debate and discuss with folks who use their own real names…or sign their comments.

    • VictorSmith says:

      The fact that NASA and the government are finally acknowledging, and actually promoting private space efforts is a major change in policy. This alone will result in more positive change and actual accomplishment on the space COLONIZATION front than any amount of NASAs runarounds. The X-Prizes started the ball rolling, getting NewSpace companies into suborbital flight, and, now with the Lunar X-Prize, involved with lunar landing and return. With the nod of the administration toward promoting NewSpace companies as one of the major players in providing LEO transport to and from the ISS, including at least a modicum of funding, I fully expect to see a greatly increased civilian presence in space. Given an opening, private sector aerospace companies are ready and willing to leap into the breach. Many, if not all, of the NewSpace companies share our vision of a spacefaring society and have been figuratively chomping at the bit to get any sort of official sanction, let alone funding, to help facilitate their programs. I believe that once we have private spacecraft regularly achieving LEO we will see a greatly accelerated program of industrialization in space, regardless of stated governmental goals. Once private industrialization of space begins in earnest we will see people living and working in space which will lead naturally to private missions to the Near Earth Asteroids, Luna and the Lagrange points for both profit and colonization.

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  • John says:

    Please do not send me any more e-mails. Any foundation that supports Obama and his ridiculous plan for the future of NASA and US manned space flight is a foundation that I refuse to support. Here is a plan. Lets put Obama, Pelosi and Reed on a spcecraft and make them the first creatures to leave the solar system. Then lets take the money ear marked for Obama care and send it to NASA.

  • Paul Willett says:

    One simple question – after the shuttle is "retired" this year, when will Americans again fly into space (LEO or better, not suborbital tourism) on a non-Russian vehicle? Or put another way, how many years will we again be a non-spacefaring nation?

    It was bad enough that it took years to get Shuttle flying after Apollo, it was a travesty that it took years to get back into space after Challenger and Columbia, and it was downright criminal for Bush to kill Shuttle without having anything to replace it with for five to six (or ten) years. So why is it "good" for Obama to now be talking about going to an (unspecified) asteroid in fifteen years, without anything between now & then except for the hope of commercial flights.

  • Paul Willett says:

    Meanwhile, while Elon Musk and others have talked for years about supplying manned flight services, have any of these companies flown a single piece of man-rated hardware? Are any of these companies within years of doing so under even the most optimistic scenarios?

    At this point, the smart money says the Chinese and the Indians will both have manned launch capabilities before the US does again after the shuttle is retired. Retiring the shuttle is a good thing — but only AFTER you have something to replace it with. What we're doing now is a tragedy.

  • […] President Obama laid out an ambitious vision for American space exploration that included missions to an asteroid and to Mars while opening up routine launches to low-Earth orbit by private industries.  It is a great vision and I especially like the mission to an asteroid because of the vast mineral wealth from Near-Earth Objects and to develop an ability to protect against asteroid impacting on Earth.  It also appears that the plan has widespread support in the space community. […]

  • Bill B. says:

    The President didn't give the order or funds to SpaceX or the other "NewSpace" to go develop a manned vehicle to get to the ISS. Until his or any other administration gives significant several billions of dollars in funds – not the measly $500M over several years offered up to now – and a specific order(s) to develop specific vehicles, nothing is going to happen.

    About eight years back, a noted space author, and a friend, Bob Zimmerman, suggested that there should be an "X Prize" type of reward of $4B to whoever can get a crewed vehicle to the ISS, and return them safely to the earth. There was probably a lot more to it than that. But my point is that it will require in the low billions, not millions, to build such a vehicle. That isn't forthcoming…

    • red says:

      "But my point is that it will require in the low billions, not millions, to build such a vehicle. That isn't forthcoming…"

      Actually the 2011 NASA budget proposal includes $5.8B for commercial crew transport, so your low billions figure is met. That doesn't include whatever funds commercial vendors have to pitch in as "skin in the game".

      Commercial crew already got a $50M CCDEV down payment.

      The budget also includes $312M to enhance existing commercial cargo efforts. This might indirectly help commercial crew.

      With the Orion Lite Crew Return Vehicle plan, commercial vendors shouldn't need to keep their spacecraft at the ISS for 6 months, which makes their systems technically easier to build and makes their business case easier if they have reusable systems that can be applied to other business.

      The fact that the ISS will last until 2020+ and will be used a lot more gives commercial vendors an extra incentive to succeed.

      The technology demo for inflatable habitats may lower the barriers for commercial space stations that could be new markets for commercial crew.

  • Frank White says:

    Rick is right that this policy is not perfect, but it builds on ideas many of us have been advancing for years. It is an effort to do something new, and that should be important to the space community. How might it change the debate if we looked at this policy not as an ending but rather as a beginning, a template on which other components might be constructed?

  • Gary Oleson says:

    The Orion CRV might provide some interesting economies of scale. As I understand it, the limit of two Soyuz at ISS imposes a hard limit of 6 on the crew size. An Orion with, say, 6 seats plus a Soyuz would raise that limit to 9. Then the crew limit would be set by things like power, volume, and life support that can be added in increments. (Does anyone know what the current ISS configuration could support without the CRV limitation?)

    What makes this more interesting is that it takes about 3 crew to do maintenance & operations on ISS, so a crew of 6 really has only 3 free to do R&D or other value-producing activities. A crew of 7 would have one third more capability than a crew of 6, and a crew of 9 would have twice the capability. This makes an Orion CRV a very good investment even if it isn't developed later into the basis for a deep space craft.

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