back to article Planetary exploration under threat, says space pioneer

Immediate past president of the Planetary Society, Lou Friedman, is worried that the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is putting NASA’s planetary exploration at risk. Writing at The Space Review, Friedman – who founded the Planetary Society in 1980 with Carl Sagan and Caltech professor and Mars exploration luminary Bruce …


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  1. David 164

    SLS is not needed.

    The exploration of Mars, and finding out where that Methane is coming from. An the Webb telescopes are far more important projects for NASA and for humanity.

    Scrap the SLS, keep everything else.

  2. Ryan 7

    I wish they'd find some common sense up there.

    Maybe then they'd let Mr. Musk handle the lifting.

  3. Goat Jam

    Planetary Exploration?

    When we still have ayrabs to bomb into democratic bliss?

    No chance of that happening any time soon.

  4. John Sanders

    Cultural Marxism

    This is the only thing that worries the left wing those days.

    "Cultural Marxism"

    Space exploration doesn't fit on their grandiose plan to bring the new man to fruition.

    A pyramidal social security scheme certainly does.

    So be it, space exploration the pinnacle of development of a civilization scrapped.

    So sad to know I will die without knowing much about Neptune and the farthest regions of the solar system... Let's hope the obamitas do not decide to cancel the new horizons project before 2016.

    1. Kharkov

      Cultural Marxism?

      Yes, the left is trying to scrap NASA. What a waste of 18 billion dollars.

      18 billion dollars that creates jobs, develops new technology, increases our understanding of the universe and inspires the next generation. All stuff the left hates...


      And now to be serious, if the Left had the power you ascribe to it, they'd be much more likely to cut the US's bloated defence budget - 12 aircraft carriers with 12 carrier air wings plus 12 groups of escorts plus 1 carrier in reserve plus another about to start construction make a prime example.

      NASA has lost all its joined-up thinking/planning and has become merely a way of dispensing cash to various Congressmens/Senators home districts/states.

      10 billion dollars for the first SLS with another 6 billion for Orion - a large metal can that, to be cost efficient, has to be 80 times better than SpaceX's Dragon capsule which it absolutely isn't. At least 2 billion for the 2nd SLS. At least 3 billion for the third SLS and at least a billion for each SLS from then on. Paid for by NASA out of its teeny-weeny 18 billion dollar budget, most of which is spent on old infrastructure.

      The Left, if they could, would get a comprehensive plan drafted to get us to the point of being a spacefaring race and increase the annual funding to get us there at least until more was spent on it than the military's annual air-conditioning budget.

      SLS will, as anyone can see, be cancelled in 2013 sometime after the 2nd Falcon Heavy flies. Money will be wasted, nothing will be gained and NASA's Deep-Space missions, Planetary Exploration and Earth Observation missions will be in chaos for the next decade.

      But hey, you can always blame it on the left...

    2. Volker Hett

      Luckily some forward thinking capitalists designed the Soyuz rocket in the old days and thus we have a way to support the ISS.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Who sent men to the Moon?

      Who was the last person to do something truly exciting with manned space exploration. Was it a Republican president?

      Dubya? Dithered until he set up the pork barrel for his Republican allies and fundraising mates in the industrial-military complex, known as the never-to-fly Constellation/Ares/Orion programme.

      Papa Bush? Refused to evolve the Shuttle, proposed impossible Moon and Mars missions with no supporting budget. But he did keep the space staiton alive as a pioneering international project (not that he had much choice)

      Reagan? Refused to evolve the Shuttle. Spent a lot of money of bonkers Star Wars toys. Proposed the impossibly expensive and over-ambitious Freedom space station, for a nation with almost no prior space station experience.

      Nixon? Axed Apollo. Crippled the Space Shuttle with compromises

      Hang on...was it that super-lefty JFK who set NASA on a course to the Moon with one of the most inspiring speeches in Presidential history? And his successor who stayed the course?

      1. maclovinz


        Seriously, the three responders to the original poster MUST not be from the US.

        Mainly because they actually know and have provided REAL-LIFE facts to support their arguments.

        Who are ye that knows the ways of reality so well? (A DUCK!)

        Maybe humanity has SOME hope after all.....

        Where am I?

        I've never encountered such my country...(or even in Soviet Russia....nah I kid, they actually did more for space than Righties in the US).

        Oh, and wasn't it Reagan (the guy the RIght LOVES) that REMOVED solar panels from the WH....for some......reason....

        Or, we have no hope at all....


      2. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

        @the Dinosaurs

        "Nixon? Axed Apollo."

        Shouldn't it be "Nixed Apollo"?

  5. Adam White

    Not the OMB!

    There goes the last institution with a reputation for independence and professionalism...

  6. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

    I would go much futher

    I would ban any planetary exploration mission which does not include one or more humans accompanying scientific payload.

    Losing an expensive piece of government property just because there was noone around to press the reset button, or look out the window to see where the Sun is, or brush off some dust from the solar panels, or give it a push when it bogged down in a patch of sand or [continue indefinitely] is a waste of taxpayer's money.

    1. Lord Raa


      And you've just increased the cost of all exploratory missions by several times the current budgets.

      Or are you planning to leave people out there, never to return?

      The idea of sending out probes to see what's out there and what we might need should we decide to go in person is much better.

      1. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

        [quote]Or are you planning to leave people out there, never to return?[/quote]

        That's details... The boffins can work them out.

        [quote]The idea of sending out probes to see what's out there and what we might need should we decide to go in person is much better.[/quote]

        The probes go there, see bugger all because someone left the lens cap on or something. So you send more probes, which fail because someone forgot to grease the solar panel hinges. Yet more probes are sent which promptly drive into a shallow sand pit and end their life circling around until their wheels fall off...

        Scientific return - miniscule. Budget appropriation - wonderful.

        So all these "cheap" missions together will cost as much or more than a manned expedition. They are good for maintaining employment but quite pathetic from the point of view space exploration.

        And we know what we might need - air, food, water, radiation shielding, fuel and engines. What else to we need to know before sending people there?

  7. Beachrider

    Someone is speaking 'for effect' again...

    NASA has both manned-mission dollars and unmanned-mission dollars in its approved budget for 2012. It sounds like someone wants either more money overall or different allotment of existing dollars. There are no approved NASA budgets after 2012, at this point.

    The discussion definitely needs to resolve which actual piece is 'most important'. Manned and unmanned both have their fanbois.

  8. Tom 13

    It's sad but true,

    NASA is only a government jobs program these days. And one that is managed by at best marginally competent paper-pushers.

    That's why I'm all in favor of killing it in it's current form, setting up the necessary regulatory bits as a new agency, and cutting loose the actual projects for private development. Time to set space exploration free.

  9. Wombling_Free

    Time to set space exploration free.

    What, sponsored by CocaCola? Monsanto?

    Space exploration is the kind of work (like the LHC) that can only be done by governments - perhaps a world consortium might be a good plan? You have to have the kind of procedures only governments can provide - would you rely on private enterprise to make sure Mars landers are properly sterilized?

    Space exploration is crucial to our survival as a species!

    Ummm, considering the history of the human race so far, fuck it. Put the money from NASA into religious studies; we deserve to die out. Lets give the prairie dogs a go at running the planet.

  10. Kharkov

    Corporate Exploration?

    Coca-Cola is supposed to spend a couple of billion dollars a year on advertising so it shouldn't be a stretch for them to buy a couple of Falcon Heavy launches per year (less than 250 million dollars a year). That said, they'd probably want to put a large solar sail up at about 300km with 'Coca-Cola' written on it in large letters.

    And a few space probes can piggy-back and get a free launch...

    More seriously, how about some of the big mining firms, which are just as big if not bigger than the soft-drinks companies, sending off a few probes to the Asteroid Belt looking for rare earths?

    Once the data comes in, they could send off a small pusher engine to bring the rock back to Earth orbit. Big rock, small pusher engine (or two), I'd expect it to have the rock here in about...

    20 to 30 years.

    From a company's point of view, it's not that long to wait. Send off a pusher engine or two every year to different rare-earth-rich asteroids and you could set up a 'pipeline' of rocks arriving in Earth orbit. A long wait for the first one but that's the beauty of a pipeline, you get a nice steady flow of materials after the initial wait.

  11. Beachrider

    Quite a puddle of thought here...

    This article started out lamenting the diversion of NASA budget dollars toward the deepspace manned technology development. NASA did do it, so it was just a question about whether it was wise to do it. Fair enough.

    Others continue to underestimate the difference between deepspace manned technology and LEO commercial capability. They are not comparable at all. Perhaps the commercial LEO purveyors will develop deepspace capability some day, but they are in the business of making a profit long before that. IMHO, deepspace commercial industry is at least 40 years away. It still needs to be lead by research-intensive funding. In the USA, that is the government and NASA.

    I am always defensive about preserving the fantastic work done by NASA unmanned programs, though. I think that Pioneer/Ranger/Surveyor/LRO/LCROSS (and LADEE in 2013) have been extremely useful in Lunar deepspace. The list is even larger for interplanetary deepspace. Only NASA has even attempted to go beyond the solar system (and they haven't gotten all the way, yet).

    1. Kharkov

      Deep Space Exploration

      I agree that it's not likely that the private sector are going to put money into deep space exploration. So it's basically NASA (or NASA funds) or nobody.

      However, SLS costs so much that there'll be no decent deep space exploration either. 10 billion dollars (plus another 6 billion for MPCV) for 1 rocket in December 2017. It'll go around the moon, do no science, leave nothing behind of any use and, in the end, be nothng more than a flag-waving exercise.

      A rocket that gets you to deep space but doesn't leave any budget to put anything (or anyone) on top of it is not a useful rocket, regardless of how much it can lift.

      Save the money by scrapping SLS (which is likely to happen anyeay), buy a few Falcon Heavies per year and you can do a lot of deep space exploration.

  12. Beachrider

    SLS/MPCV aren't going to the moon...

    Clearly, the Orion configuration was about moon travel, but MPCV specifically swept that expectation aside. MPCV is about other deepspace targets.

  13. Beachrider

    As to the $10Bn dollars for SLS...

    I suppose that it isn't in the press every day, but EACH Space Shuttle launch cost NASA between $1Bn and $2Bn. That certainly gives some scale to the SLS cost.

    Even with that, there is no clear reason to do interplanetary deepspace manned-mission research. That is a legitimate complaint! It certainly could start a fight in a geek-bar!

    NASA is going to do it anyway. Probably in hopes that, by the time it comes online, other science, political and technical priorities will make it clearly a great investment.

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