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posted by martyb on Thursday January 11 2018, @09:47AM   Printer-friendly
from the My-button-is-bigger-than-your-button dept.

International Business Times reports:

...one of the biggest challenges Nasa has faced in recent years is not in terms of technological development, but rather dealing with the orders of politicians and flat budgets. This major shift in focus of the human spaceflight programme is happening for the third time in as many government changes.

"We're always asked to change directions every time we get a new president, and that just causes you to do negative work, work that doesn't matter," Scott Kelly, the astronaut who spent nearly a year in space aboard the International Space Station (ISS), told the Post. "I just hope someday we'll have a president that will say, 'You know what, we'll just leave Nasa on the course they are on, and see what Nasa can achieve if we untie their hands,'" he added.

The space agency's change in direction has upset many in the space community, said Scott Hubbard, former director of the Nasa Ames Research Center. "Please don't push the reset button again, because you're just going to waste billions of dollars of previous investment," he said he heard people say.

Maybe NASA should plan an array of projects with less than 4 year "point of no return" dates? Then, when directed to change course, change to the closest plan matching the new course and actually get it done. If politicians want longer projects, they need to start guaranteeing the funding to complete them, and accepting realistic estimates about actual time and cost to deliver instead of demanding short schedule bargain budget promises before signing off.


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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 11 2018, @11:40AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 11 2018, @11:40AM (#620894)

    Just because they are to stupid to disinguise between witchcraft and science and the propaganda narrative that brings them together

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 11 2018, @12:34PM (1 child)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 11 2018, @12:34PM (#620909)

    1) "Nasa"? Either they f'ed up the capitalization of NASA, big time, or they dropped an "L" and it's an article about "". [wikipedia.org]

    2) Unfortunate acronyms: "Nasa Ames Research Center"?

    • (Score: 3, Informative) by takyon on Thursday January 11 2018, @12:43PM

      by takyon (881) Subscriber Badge <{takyon} {at} {soylentnews.org}> on Thursday January 11 2018, @12:43PM (#620911) Journal

      It's ibtimes.co.uk. The UK doesn't capitalize each letter in an acronym (spoken as a word like "Nasa") but does capitalize each letter in an initialism (each letter pronounced separately like "BBC").

      --
      [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 [soylentnews.org]
  • (Score: 1) by khallow on Thursday January 11 2018, @01:06PM (4 children)

    by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Thursday January 11 2018, @01:06PM (#620916) Journal

    "I just hope someday we'll have a president that will say, 'You know what, we'll just leave Nasa on the course they are on, and see what Nasa can achieve if we untie their hands,'" he added.

    The thing is, it's NASA's job to make that case, not the politicians' jobs. And you wouldn't need one president to do that, you'd need several in a row willing to do that.

    • (Score: 4, Interesting) by Thexalon on Thursday January 11 2018, @04:37PM (3 children)

      by Thexalon (636) on Thursday January 11 2018, @04:37PM (#620973) Homepage

      The thing is, it's NASA's job to make that case, not the politicians' jobs.

      OK, so let me get this straight: NASA's leaders go to the politicians and say "This is the cool stuff we've been working on. We'd like to continue doing that, please, because we'll be able to show some really great results in a few years." Politician says "Well, that's nice, but what I'd really want you to do is this other thing, so that I can go down in history as the guy who announced the grand mission you guys do in a decade." And you proceed to blame NASA for that, even though they weren't the one who made that stupid decision.

      What's really to blame, of course, is short-termism: If it takes longer than 2 years to do something, congressmen don't want to hear about it, because they can't go back to their constituents and say "Look what I did!". If it takes longer than 4 years, presidents don't like it, for the same reason. And if it takes longer than 6 years, senators don't like it. This leads to a conflict between "We've been to the Moon before, so going there isn't as big a deal." and "It will take too long to get to Mars for me to be able to show ROI, so we shouldn't bother." And thus they leave the manned NASA programs floundering.

      One thing that might help is acknowledging the efforts of the Johnson and Nixon administrations to make sure the Apollo program continued, rather than focusing on JFK's declaration of the goal in the first place.

      --
      A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of bad gravy.
      • (Score: 2) by bob_super on Thursday January 11 2018, @06:06PM

        by bob_super (1357) on Thursday January 11 2018, @06:06PM (#621006)

        "Good morning, Mr New President! Under the current schedule, we will launch to $space_body in 3.5 years, based on your providing us with a 10% annual budget raise. We were trying to find a good codename for the first launch of that mission, something that would sound good for your intro at the next Party Convention. Any suggestions ? "

        NASA has the perfect example of ego-driven politician to retrain themselves in proper selling techniques...

      • (Score: 1) by khallow on Thursday January 11 2018, @07:56PM

        by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Thursday January 11 2018, @07:56PM (#621059) Journal

        OK, so let me get this straight: NASA's leaders go to the politicians and say "This is the cool stuff we've been working on. We'd like to continue doing that, please, because we'll be able to show some really great results in a few years." Politician says "Well, that's nice, but what I'd really want you to do is this other thing, so that I can go down in history as the guy who announced the grand mission you guys do in a decade." And you proceed to blame NASA for that, even though they weren't the one who made that stupid decision. Yes, I do. It's their job to make the case not the politician's job.

        What's really to blame, of course, is short-termism: If it takes longer than 2 years to do something, congressmen don't want to hear about it, because they can't go back to their constituents and say "Look what I did!". If it takes longer than 4 years, presidents don't like it, for the same reason. And if it takes longer than 6 years, senators don't like it. This leads to a conflict between "We've been to the Moon before, so going there isn't as big a deal." and "It will take too long to get to Mars for me to be able to show ROI, so we shouldn't bother." And thus they leave the manned NASA programs floundering.

        Let us note that NASA sticks around while the presidents don't. Another reason why it should be NASA's job to make the case for long term missions.

        One thing that might help is acknowledging the efforts of the Johnson and Nixon administrations to make sure the Apollo program continued, rather than focusing on JFK's declaration of the goal in the first place.

        I think Apollo illustrates the other side of this problem. NASA also needs to be advocating stuff that is viable and useful. An alarming portion of its long term manned projects have been remarkably useless in the long term. For example, after 1975, there was almost no technological legacy from Apollo. Well over $100 billion in present money spending with the only long term consequence being some moon rocks and the first space station. Same goes for the Shuttle. Great demonstration that reusable technology can work - then they flew it for another 30 years and never did get around to building a successor. And what is the ISS doing now that'll be useful to us once it is no longer in space?

        Even on the unmanned side way too much of its technology is one-off and never to be used again. Even when such technology is reused (as with Mars atmospheric entry systems) it's with a handful of missions.

        We can speak glibly of how unfair it is that NASA projects aren't continued by subsequent presidencies. But it's not the job of presidents to continue the work of their predecessors. That work needs to be justified and it can't due to the relatively meaningless (keep in mind that the US spends a lot of money on these missions, extraordinary costs require extraordinary justifications) nature of the work that NASA routinely does.

      • (Score: 2) by dry on Friday January 12 2018, @01:04AM

        by dry (223) on Friday January 12 2018, @01:04AM (#621214)

        One thing that might help is acknowledging the efforts of the Johnson and Nixon administrations to make sure the Apollo program continued, rather than focusing on JFK's declaration of the goal in the first place.

        Wasn't it mostly due to Kennedy getting shot that Apollo happened? Even then, by Apollo 12 the public was bored and Nixon basically killed it.

  • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Thursday January 11 2018, @01:12PM (4 children)

    by JoeMerchant (3937) on Thursday January 11 2018, @01:12PM (#620919)

    I don't recall a major course change when Clinton or Obama took over, or did I just forget?

    • (Score: 2) by Grishnakh on Thursday January 11 2018, @04:20PM (3 children)

      by Grishnakh (2831) on Thursday January 11 2018, @04:20PM (#620967)

      I don't know about Clinton, but yes, Obama did a major course change too, just like Bush and Trump. Here's the Wikipedia article [wikipedia.org] about it. Here's an interesting article [planetary.org] about it too.

      Among other things, Obama canceled the Constellation program, which was hopelessly over budget and behind schedule.

      • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Thursday January 11 2018, @04:55PM (2 children)

        by JoeMerchant (3937) on Thursday January 11 2018, @04:55PM (#620978)

        Makes sense - Space Center Houston is practically in Bush Jr's backyard, not surprising that he'd turn on a pork tap for them before leaving office.

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 11 2018, @07:40PM (1 child)

          by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 11 2018, @07:40PM (#621055)

          Houston is Mission Control and training, which isn't much impacted by Constellation's cancellation as long as some missions are running on any platform. Constellation would be launched from Florida and construction (just like it is with SLS) is spread all over the country to spread the pork around and buy votes.

          • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Friday January 12 2018, @01:14AM

            by JoeMerchant (3937) on Friday January 12 2018, @01:14AM (#621216)

            I lived right on top of the NASA campus in Houston from 2003-2006. The big hardware is indeed spread all around, but a manned program like Constellation has a huge amount of management, design, and top level oversight in Houston. If it ever got near flight stage, all the procedural development, simulation, etc. also happens in Houston (and is reportedly one of the crappiest jobs available there...)

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 11 2018, @01:58PM (4 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 11 2018, @01:58PM (#620931)

    that some now see as a feature.

    Historically the funding for NASA has been fickle.

    Start something, get a ways into the development, change direction.
    Really frustrating for good engineers used to making things that work.
    Also a breeding ground for a culture accustomed to sucking cash, not making things, and then retiring.

    Perhaps after a few cycles of this, what is left of NASA is happy to have the direction changed before being asked to show working results?

    We get what we pay for.
    NASA has some pockets of really amazing folks, but the big space, manned stuff seems less so.
    Perhaps they need to focus on how to make small things that are likely to see space but also useful to combine to do big dream stuff.

    • (Score: 2) by Grishnakh on Thursday January 11 2018, @04:21PM

      by Grishnakh (2831) on Thursday January 11 2018, @04:21PM (#620968)

      We get what we vote for.

      FTFY.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 11 2018, @04:42PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 11 2018, @04:42PM (#620974)

      I'm up in commie Canada but CBC has been comparing the number of laws enacted by the C's compared to the liberals and the default position is more is better because reasons... the Conservatives where awful because they passed lots of violent and not helpful laws If this now becomes the race to the bottom, pass as many laws as possible with as little thought as possible western civilization truly is doomed

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 11 2018, @06:07PM (1 child)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 11 2018, @06:07PM (#621007)

      This is probably why SpaceX et al. are doing well. They can do the long term stuff, then NASA just says "Hey, I need a rocket to launch , can you hook me up?"

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 11 2018, @07:34PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 11 2018, @07:34PM (#621052)

        I see SpaceX, but who is the 'et al.'?

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 11 2018, @04:26PM (1 child)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 11 2018, @04:26PM (#620969)

    Go for vacuum te moon is only a few days away!!! not "maybe" 6+ months with more radiation and probably less available water , Fine wanna lauch a tesla into mars orbit, no one should think this is anything but a publicity stunt by a man that admits he should have a volcano bad guy base... FFS stop listening to people that not only admit to being but mock you for being so stupid to give them ... BOND VILLANS... suckerburg, and I really wish I was as smart as Tesla have told you you are morons for believing anything they say

    • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Thursday January 11 2018, @06:23PM

      by JoeMerchant (3937) on Thursday January 11 2018, @06:23PM (#621014)

      I really wish I was as smart as Tesla

      Only people with a poor knowledge of Tesla's personal history, or a very poor sense of what intelligence alone gets you in this world would wish for such a thing.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 11 2018, @06:24PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 11 2018, @06:24PM (#621015)

    You know, maybe US needs to learn something and run agencies like NASA like the EU does science projects. You know, stable funding no matter what. And politicians don't get to pick (as much) and choose what gets funded where (as much).

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_Research_Council [wikipedia.org]
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_Space_Agency#Membership_and_contribution_to_ESA [wikipedia.org]

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