RE: SETI Articles on Government Stupidity to NASA Budget

Larry Klaes (
Wed, 28 Jul 1999 11:18:05 -0400

>From: "Clements, Robert" <>
>Subject: RE: SETI Articles on Government Stupidity to NASA Budget
>Date: Wed, 28 Jul 1999 11:01:38 +1000
>X-Mailer: Internet Mail Service (5.5.2448.0)

>Let's not wander down _that_ road again: an unhealthy obsession with what
>private groups could & couldn't do helped get us in this mess in the first.
>Remember TransHab?; & the chaos which is sometimes laughingly referred to as
>the RLV market? A significant part of NASA's problems can be pinned on the
>lapel of the SFS; & its scarifying influence on certain elements of the
>Republican Party leadership....
>The immediate goal has to be to find out whether the US-American Republican
>Party has deep popular support for its radical tax cut package: if so, we
>have to wear the broad consequences of the policy (although the priorities
>reflected by the cuts - votewinner human spaceflight as opposed to
>(votelosing?) robotic missions - may still be open to debate); if not, the
>strategy has to be to break the political straightjacket which has made this
>decision. Obtaining reliable information on political intentions in the
>nation which orchestrated spin is going to be difficult; but it needs to be
>done: fast. The Republican party has clearly convinced itself that tax cuts
>are the way back into power; which leaves us with the nasty possibility of
>the Democrats playing a game popularised by labor (& other leftleaning)
>parties around the world: grab the bulk of the opposition's policies, trim
>the obviously ridiculous; & spin the appalling mange that's left as though
>it was some kind of viable alternative. To force some kind of real
>alternative package through the easyout of US-American realpolitick, we hard
>need evidence of support to block this budget in both the Senate & the White
>House... in effect, we have to convince Democrats - as well as the moderate
>Republican - that _no tax cuts_ is a serious votewinner....
>(Is that possible?; given the skewed democratic processes of US-America? The
>last election should'ave been a serious wakeup call to the Republican party;
>but the leadership is carrying on in major business-as-usual mode)
>On the question of private space exploration in particular:
>The numbers are still wrong; although these are likely to improve within the
>next decade. For financial reasons, the only options currently on the table
>are microsats; but these have serious limitations either in available mass
>or launch options: the $14m package recently offered by Jim Benson seems to
>be for Earth orbiting craft only, but might carry enough of a kick to get a
>cisLunar gravity assist (the thruster package hasn't be publicly stated, but
>no doubt Jim B. would sell you a good kick engine if you asked for it);
>while Ariane 5's ASAP-to-GTO configuration (which can certainly be used as a
>launchpad for Lunar orbit... both LunARSat & the CNES/NASA Mars
>micromissions rely on it) limit the craft & kick engine combination to
>200kg, which means very limited c (if you go quick&nasty with a chemical
>thruster) or extraordinarily long mission times (if you try a more ambitious
>mission using ion propulsion... qv the astonishing SMART-1 orbits). Don't
>know if ex-Soviet ICBMs can be used for micromission launches; but i find it
>difficult to believe they would be cheaper that ASAP (the same goes for
>Pegasus; which has had at least interplanetary mission proposal tagged to
>it... Mike Malin's SMACs proposal from the first Discovery AO). Add the
>science, instruments, operations; & we're talking a baseline at least equal
>to SMACs' $25m a flight & probably more; with limited launch & research
>flexibility; & despite the fact that everything's been outsourced & no
>technology development financed.
>Notwithstanding the recent interest in 1998 KY26, it's difficult to see
>where commercial operations would see a cut in the information obtained from
>these launches (on the technology side: NASA was unable to obtain corporate
>support for Champollion); & on the space research side: if there's no
>government-driven space development program, the water on 1998 KY26 is
>science rather than resource), although a National Geographic
>Society/Discovery Channel-style media organisation _might_ be interested in
>sponsorship possibilities (at least for a first flight)... money invested in
>the project would therefore be money lost by the investor; so you have to
>look at creating a tax deductible space research institute to collect
>financing & administer operations before you can launch anything. Is the
>space market really that large that it can support an interplanetary
>Explorers Club capable only of flying extremely simple missions at more than
>$25m a pop?
>(& if so: where are they now, when NASA's space science budget is being
>I noted with some interest that Pioneer Spaceplane's claims that its concept
>could launch 500kg to Mars for $7m (probably a legacy of Zubrin's role in
>developing the original concept); & assume that Rotory would be looking
>towards something similar... if even one cost effective RLV was currently
>available, the numbers here would change dramatically; & the Explorers Club
>option would start look very attractive indeed (more mass in orbit with
>higher c means better missions, possibly with little or no increase in
>cost). I'll go further & say that it's almost inevitable that such a group
>will arise following a substantive reduction in launch costs; given the need
>for messy, repetitive, robotic research in space & the public's preference
>for firsts & humans; & preferably first humans.
>But: not now, damn it... it's too early; & the numbers refuse to stack....
>All the best,
>Robert Clements <>
>> ----------
>> From: Larry Klaes[]
>> Sent: Wednesday, July 28, 1999 1:09 AM
>> To:;;
>> Cc: Andrew Chaikin; Andrew LePage; David Grinspoon; Donald Bellunduno;
>> Donald Bellunduno; Bruce Mackenzie; Frank White; Steve Somlyody;
>>; Philip Plait;; Athena Andreadis; 2001
>> Subject: SETI Articles on Government Stupidity to NASA Budget
>> Look at what our so-called representatives in the
>> United States Government have done to our future in
>> space!
>> At least in principle, they are supposed to serve
>> the needs of the people - so let them know how you
>> feel about this backward leap for mankind. Rail
>> against the dying of the light of knowledge and
>> progress, to paraphrase a poet.
>> Perhaps we should take a cue from SETI when its NASA
>> project funding was cut off by the US Government in 1993:
>> Go Private. It may not be as easy at first, but if we
>> let the ignoramuses continue to control the purse strings,
>> we will have no choice in the matter, unless we want to
>> see our future fade away.