August 31, 2006
Seth Borenstein's Hatchet Job

Immediately after LM was awarded Orion this afternoon, I noticed quite a number of people on various blogs and discussion boards expressing disdain for the company. Seth Borenstein cranks the LM antipathy to 11.

The article appears under his byline on the Houston Chronicle site (three times, in fact, at the moment). CNN doesn't carry the byline, but has a nice picture to illustrate it, extracted from decade-old archives, of Dan Goldin awarding the X-33 contract. What...they couldn't be bothered to actually use something current? Indeed, as we shall see, X-33 is a recurrent theme in Borenstein's hatchet job against LM.

In fairness, Borenstein may have also prepared an article on Boeing and Northrop Grumman to be published in the event they had won the contract, and it may have had the same relentlessly negative slant as well. However, the hit piece that did get published targets LM...so...let the fisking commence...

NASA on Thursday gave a multibillion dollar contract to build a manned lunar spaceship to Lockheed Martin Corp., the aerospace leader that usually builds unmanned rockets.
LM is also half of United Space Alliance, which maintains and operates the Shuttle fleet. Shuttles are manned, last time I checked, so the implication that LM has no connection to manned spaceflight is incorrect. As for building manned vehicles, NASA's Doug Cooke himself pointed out in the press conference that it has been over thirty years since a manned spacecraft was developed in the US (and nearly fifteen years since the last one was built). By anyone. That makes Boeing, too, an "aerospace leader that usually builds unmanned rockets." And NG doesn't even do that.
The last time NASA awarded a manned spaceship contract to Lockheed Martin of Bethesda, Maryland, was in 1996 for a spaceplane that was supposed to replace the space shuttle. NASA spent $912 million and the ship, called X-33, never got built because of technical problems.
Not entirely true. X-33 was in fact substantially built, with the front end largely complete, the main propulsion system installed, most of the secondary structure completed and awaiting installation, and the engines in testing at the time of cancellation. X-33 was not completed.

And if you're going to reach back for an example to slap LM with, Seth, it might be a good idea to use a relevant one: X-33 was not manned, nor was it a replacement for the Shuttle (it was a half-scale suborbital technology demonstrator for the full-scale VentureStar).

...In picking Lockheed Martin for Orion, described by NASA's chief as "Apollo on steroids," NASA bypassed Apollo throwbacks Northrop Grumman of Los Angeles, California, and its chief subcontractor Boeing of Chicago, Illinois. An early version of Northrop Grumman built the Apollo lunar lander. Companies bought by Boeing built the Apollo, Gemini, and Mercury capsules, and Skylab and the space shuttle.
"Throwbacks"? Well, at least he's spreading a little bit of the abuse around.

I'm not sure if this is his intention, but taken with the first paragraph, he seems to suggest that LM is the wrong choice for Orion and NG-Boeing is the right choice, because LM has no manned space experience while NG and Boeing have all the past heritage. Again, given how long it's been since those manned spacecraft programs occurred, is that heritage experience really relevant? If LM decided to re-enter the commercial passenger jetliner business, would the L-1011 experience from thirty-odd years ago be relevant today?

"NASA decided to do something different and go with a company that has not been in manned space before, sort of spreading the wealth and making sure they've got two contractors that know the manned space business," said aerospace industry analyst Paul Nisbet, president of JSA Research.
Ahh, maybe this is where Seth gets the idea that LM is not involved with manned spacecraft. Nisbet goes one step further, however, stating broadly and incorrectly that LM "has not been in manned space before". In addition to USA and the Shuttle ET, LM is in fact involved with the manned space program in ground operations, space operations, and astronaut and flight-control training. Has LM built a manned spacecraft? No. Neither have NG or Boeing, thanks to the passage of time. All three companies, however, have a broad range of relevant and transferrable experience in the various areas required for the task.
Lockheed Martin built several unmanned probes, including 1998's Lunar Prospector; 1976 Viking probes of Mars; Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, which entered the red planet's orbit earlier this year; and the 1999 Mars Climate Orbiter, which crashed because of a Lockheed Martin/NASA mismatching of metric and English measurement units.
If you're going to bring up X-33, why not bring up MCO, too? At least he rightly assigns equal blame to NASA for the error.
...Lockheed Martin's initial proposal was vastly different from what NASA wanted. Its first submission looked more like the since-abandoned X-33 spaceplane and less like a capsule. NASA told Lockheed Martin it wanted an Apollo-like capsule, so the company changed its proposal.
The problem here is that NASA didn't specify a capsule until the second round -- the shape was left up to the contractors in the first go.

And the LM lifting-body CEV looked nothing like X-33. At all. Maybe the X-24A, or the X-38, but not the X-33. Of course, comparing it to those other X-planes doesn't have quite the same negative implications, does it?

The competition involved the three largest aerospace companies in the United States. It pitted Northrop Grumman and partner Boeing, which has most of the nation's manned space experience, against giant Lockheed Martin, which has a larger Washington presence and heavy unmanned robotic probe experience, said space analyst Nisbet...The difference between the two teams is that Lockheed Martin is the old Washington firm with many ex-NASA and ex-Pentagon officials and its headquarters is just outside of the nation's capital.
Again, the experience claim is questionable due to the passage of time.

As for companies having Washington influence and ex-NASA and ex-Pentagon officials...um...does the name "Darleen Druyun" ring a bell? I seem to remember some scandal or other involving her taking a job with Boeing. Or how about Leonard Nicholson? Brewster Shaw? George Muellner? Tod Hullin?

Lockheed Martin's Orion subcontractors include Honeywell International Inc., Orbital Sciences Corp., Hamilton Sunstrand, a subsidiary of industrial conglomerate United Technologies Corp., and the United Space Alliance, which is a Lockheed Martin-Boeing joint venture to operate the space shuttle for NASA.
Aha, so Seth does know about USA.
Northrop Grumman's proposal to NASA appeared to be far more detailed in technical choices than the Lockheed Martin version, which left key decisions such as reusability and landing sites up to NASA.
On the LM side, this is a complete misreading of the proposal. Again, the facts here will come out eventually.
But others see no difference between the two.

"It's between tweedledum and tweedledee," said American University public policy professor Howard McCurdy, author of several books about the American space program. "They're both using the same management systems and the same technical systems that got us to the moon the first time."

For the management part to be true, the competitors would have to be ignoring forty years of progress, most obviously in computer-based management tools and the methods Deming and others put into practice in the 1970s and 1980s. The "technical systems" part is absurd on its face, and requires no explicit rebuttal.

One has to wonder how Professor McCurdy could possibly have known enough about the competing proposals to have made such a claim. Did he have access to the management and technical volumes from both teams? Or is he just making empty speculations?

"None of these companies know how to cost innovate," McCurdy said. "They're basically aerospace divisions that depend on government contracts. Their whole incentive, based on the international space station, is to drive up costs."
Opining on something without sufficient information? Check. Reciting conventional wisdom? Check. Dismissive attitude? Check. Looks like John Pike has some competition for the role of "expert space analyst".

I don't know what Seth Borenstein's apparent problem with LM is, but the sour-grapes article it resulted in was good for a laugh as it made its way around the office this afternoon.

Posted by T.L. James on August 31, 2006 10:17 PM | TrackBack

Comments

> NASA's Doug Cooke himself pointed out in the press conference that it has been over thirty years since
> a manned spacecraft was developed in the US (and nearly fifteen years since the last one was built). By anyone.

Do you believe him? If so, why?

It's been less than three years since SpaceShip One was developed -- not "over thirty."

> Opining on something without sufficient information? Check.

Professor Howard MCCurdy has written several noted books on NASA management, some of them funded by NASA.

You would find plenty of information there, if you bothered to check.

> Reciting conventional wisdom? Check. Dismissive attitude? Check. Looks like John Pike has some
> competition for the role of "expert space analyst".

Pot, meet kettle.

Recognizing there are alternatives besides Boeing and Lockheed is "conventional wisdom"? Wow. Who'da thunk it? :-)

> it resulted in was good for a laugh as it made its way around the office this afternoon.

People also laughed at the idea that a couple of "bicycle mechanics" could do something a well-funded US government effort had failed to do.

Before you laugh at critics like Howard McCurdy and "no ones" like Burt Rutan, perhaps you should build and fly your Orion capsule?




Posted by: Edward Wright at September 1, 2006 03:15 PM


> For the management part to be true, the competitors would have to be ignoring forty years of progress,
> most obviously in computer-based management tools and the methods Deming and others put into
> practice in the 1970s and 1980s. The "technical systems" part is absurd on its face, and requires no
> explicit rebuttal.

So, if your management and technical systems are so innovative, why is Lockmart asking for billions of dollars to develop one capsule, while Kistler and SpaceX are getting only $500 million to develop *two* capsules and *two* launch vehicles?

No one is asking that question. :-)




Posted by: Edward Wright at September 1, 2006 03:26 PM

Mr. James,
Everyone looooves to bring up Burt's spaceship one. Fact - SS1 has NO air recycling system, NO water recycling system, NO waste management system (yikes, not even a bathroom).

SS1 is a really high roller coaster ride - not 'manned spaceflight.'



Posted by: Fellow LMer at September 1, 2006 03:34 PM

Wow, guess Seth hit a soft nerve. Let's see, why would he mention the X-33? Could be the 912 million dollars pissed away forever on a what turned out to be a boondogle. There is some concern that NASA just multiplied by 9 and awarded to LockMart just to show the X33 wasn't a complete mistake. Some of us will never forgive LockMart for that.

By the way, were you one of the people whose cell phones were forwarded? Great security you got there.



Posted by: Brad at September 1, 2006 06:02 PM


> Fact - SS1 has NO air recycling system

Fiction.

SpaceShip One used the same type of CO2 absorbers found on US submarines.

Are you going to start insulting the US Navy now?

> SS1 is a really high roller coaster ride - not 'manned spaceflight.'

Gosh, you Lockmart Fellows are cranky today. I thought the NASA-contractor line was, "We're all space buffs and would like to go, too. We were actually cheering when SpaceShip One flew"?

Roller coasters go to maybe 100 meters, max. SpaceShip One went to over 100 kilometers.

If you don''t understand the difference, maybe we should strap you into the pilot's seat on the next vehicle? :-)



Posted by: Edward Wright at September 1, 2006 08:47 PM

Ed, just because he's written several books on the space program doesn't make McCurdy infallible. He was offering an opinion about the content of the two proposals. Neither he nor Borenstein indicate here that he was part of the NASA selection team. Unless he was part of the selection team, he had no access to hard information on which to base his stated opinion.

As for SS1, it's not in the same league as Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, Shuttle, or Orion. Not to diminish the accomplishment of Rutan and his team -- it's just that SS1 is what it is, a high-performance airplane akin to the X-15. It is not a "spacecraft" in the same vein as the aforementioned vehicles, despite having crossed the arbitrary boundary into space.

The rest of your comment is based on the false premises that I think Rutan and others are "no-ones" and that we were laughing at Borenstein's article (and McCurdy's comments) out of a sense of snobbery or arrogance or some such. Not at all true -- most of the alt-space companies are a source of fascination for myself (and our engineering group), and we were laughing *at the article* because it was so disproportionately negative.



Posted by: T.L. James at September 1, 2006 08:48 PM

Brad, as I pointed out to Ed, Seth didn't "hit a soft nerve", we were laughing because his article was so over-the-top. I fisked it because it amused me to do so.

As for X-33...time has passed, and the players most responsible for that debacle (the Skunks) aren't involved this time around. We learned lots of painful (and invaluable) lessons from that program, believe me. Given Boeing's much more recent and ongoing scandals, do you think their team would have been a better choice?



Posted by: T.L. James at September 1, 2006 08:56 PM

Ed, you may think it's bogus, but we really did cheer on SS1. And most of alt-space as well. I can't say that I recall hearing any of my coworkers speak ill of Rutan's projects -- on the contrary, the attitude is typically one of admiration.

And if any of us are "cranky", perhaps it's because we've worked hard for the past two years to win this contract, and we're puzzled and disappointed in the response to the award -- you know, reactions spanning the full range from "ho-hum" and "who cares?" to outright hostility towards LM. I wasn't expecting champagne, but neither was I expecting such negativity.



Posted by: T.L. James at September 1, 2006 09:04 PM


> Ed, just because he's written several books on the space program doesn't make McCurdy infallible

You didn't say he was fallible. You said he lacked "sufficient information." Now you're backpedlling.

> He was offering an opinion about the content of the two proposals.

He was offering an opinion about NASA/contractor management, a subject he has written several books on.

> Unless he was part of the selection team, he had no access to hard information on which to base his stated opinion.

One doesn't have to be on a selection team to have information about Lockmart management. Losing a satellite by forgetting to do an English-metric conversion -- things like that make the papers.

> As for SS1, it's not in the same league as Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, Shuttle, or Orion.

No, it isn't. SpaceShip 1 was a step toward reducing the cost of space transportation. Those other programs were steps toward increasing the cost.

I would put SpaceShip 1 in the same league as the X-15 (for which you also have disdain), X-20, DynaSoar. and Reusable Atlas.

> It is not a "spacecraft"

Oh, please! Lockheed calls every unmanned satellite it builds a "spacecraft." But a machine that can carry human beings, fly repeatedly into space, operate under human control -- in general, do everything an *aircraft* does, but in space -- you say that's not a spacecraft???

As John Stossel would say, give me a break! :-)

> The rest of your comment is based on the false premises that I think Rutan and others are "no-ones"

Did you not state, with apparent agreement, that "it has been over thirty years since a manned spacecraft was developed in the US (and nearly fifteen years since the last one was built). By anyone"?

If it hasn't been done by "any one," doesn't that make the people who have done it "no one"?




Posted by: Edward Wright at September 1, 2006 10:14 PM

Not backpedaling, I was addressing your appeal to authority, which amounted to "he's written books on the subject, therefore what he says is valid." He may indeed be an expert, doesn't mean he isn't wrong in what he said.

His opinion concerns what the contractors are "using". That implies knowledge of the proposals.

What makes you think I have disdain for either SS1 or X-15? I don't. Go back and read my comment a little more carefully -- I put quotes around spacecraft precisely because the term is broad. SS1 is a "spacecraft" because it got beyond the altitude established by convention as the edge of space. But as I said above, that alone doesn't put it in the same class as the vehicles in that list. Like X-15, it's a different animal built for a different purpose. Maybe it can "do everything an *aircraft* does, but in space", but it can't do everything those other vehicles could...and that's the point. Rutan has accomplished much, but he hasn't gotten quite that far yet.



Posted by: T.L. James at September 1, 2006 10:38 PM


> the players most responsible for that debacle (the Skunks) aren't involved this time around.

So, you're excluding Lockheed employees who have actual experience in aircraft and flight test? That sounds like the same thing that happened in Project Apollo. Apollo wouldn't listen to Scott Crossfield and other engineers who had worked on the X-15. The result was three dead astronauts in the Apollo 1 fire. "Spam in a can." Those who do not learn from history...

> I can't say that I recall hearing any of my coworkers speak ill of Rutan's projects

??? The post immediately above, by the "Fellow Lockmarter" is nothing but one long sneer at SpaceShip One.

You then proceed to take some potshots at SpaceShip One (and the X-15) as well.

> we're puzzled and disappointed in the response to the award

Let's see. Burt Rutan worked for two years *building* SpaceShip One before he showed it to the public. Without asking for a dime of taxpayer's money.

You guys worked for two years to produce some viewgraphs, and now you're getting billions of dollars in handouts.

Then you diss SpaceShip One as "a rollercoaster ride" and "not a spacecraft" in the same vein as your *viewgraphs*.

What are you puzzled about?

> neither was I expecting such negativity.

Okay. So, what are the positive aspects of a program that will result in astronaut layoffs, higher-cost space transportation, fewer manned spaceflights, and higher taxes?

I can see why this anouncement is good news for Lockheed employees, but what are the rest of us supposed to cheer for?



Posted by: Edward Wright at September 1, 2006 10:48 PM


> Not backpedaling, I was addressing your appeal to authority, which amounted to "he's written books
> on the subject, therefore what he says is valid."

I didn't say that. You made it up. I said he's written books on the subject, so therefore he does have information -- a great deal of information -- contrary to your claims.

Whether he's right or wrong is debatable, but he is clearly not an ignoramus as you would like have us believe.

> What makes you think I have disdain for either SS1 or X-15?

Your comments above.

> I don't. Go back and read my comment a little more carefully -- I put quotes around spacecraft

Yep -- "It is not a "spacecraft" in the same vein as the aforementioned vehicles"

> Maybe it can "do everything an *aircraft* does, but in space", but it can't do everything those other
> vehicles could...and that's the point. Rutan has accomplished much, but he hasn't gotten quite that far yet.

Ahem. Hasn't gotten as far as Orion (one of those other vehicles)? How far is that???

Unless you've built and flown Orion in secret, SpaceShip One has flown farther, higher, and more often.

You want to give Orion credit for things that it *promises* to do in the future but hasn't done yet and may never do. Perhaps that's the reason why you haven't gotten the praise you expected?



Posted by: Edward Wright at September 1, 2006 11:11 PM

Ed. I'm going to say this slowly so you can understand it:

I. Like. SS1.

I. Like. X-15.

I'm. Not. Dissing. Either. One.

There. Read that again. Are we clear now? You got it? Is it getting through. God, I hope so. Your inability to grasp those simple truths, repeatedly stated, and your insistence on finding dislike of X-33 or SS1 in my words when there is none, is getting really, really tedious.

By the way, I understood from you comments on Rand's site, before you ever posted here, that you don't like Lockheed Martin or the Orion project. I clued into that one pretty quick. You don't have to keep telling me. I get the point. Several times over.

Now stop being such a hammerhead.



Posted by: T.L. James at September 1, 2006 11:28 PM

Congratulations on the Orion win!

I think the snark flying about is one part sour gwapes (weird filter you got there! I had to use a 'w' instead of an 'r') from the losing side, one part anti-human space exploration from the ivory tower types, and one part anti-NASA from the alt-space crowd.

I thought for some time that Lockheed would win the competition. Not because of any engineering details, none were available to analyze (though I did greatly admire the original 'pie-wedge' lifting body proposal). No, tt was because I suspected rot at the core of Boeing. All those scandals Boeing has suffered recently and the other problems under the new Boeing management team indicated problems at the top that I figured couldn't help but filter down and hurt the Orion effort.



Posted by: Brad at September 1, 2006 11:57 PM

Thanks, Brad. It was a little bit disappointing to see the lifting body go away.

Like I've said, it's going to be interesting to see how the two proposals compared when the details are publicly released.



Posted by: T.L. James at September 2, 2006 07:34 AM

Allow me to offer congratulations also.

With all the "snark flying about" on this post, the point seems to have been lost on some that Seth Borenstein's article was horribly biased. I say this as someone who has no personal affiliation with LM or NG-B, and no particular bias for or against the alt-space crowd. It is a long time since I have read such a widely circulated "mainstream media" article where the reporter had such a clear agenda. It really was shameful, and deserving of a fisking.

And as for Ed's question:

"Okay. So, what are the positive aspects of a program that will result in astronaut layoffs, higher-cost space transportation, fewer manned spaceflights, and higher taxes? I can see why this announcement is good news for Lockheed employees, but what are the rest of us supposed to cheer now?"

I'm cheering a space program with a destination. I'll take one meaningful trip to the Moon or Mars over decades of going in circles. Do I want to see more private enterprise in space? Of course. Once the frontier is opened I'd like to see NASA get out of the way and turn it over to the private sector. As far as I'm concerned they should be given as much of LEO as possible now, but the Moon and beyond? I don't think we're there yet.



Posted by: Aaron_J at September 2, 2006 09:27 AM

Maybe the reason why so many of us are disappointed by the awarding of Orion to LockMart is that in nearly 50 years or manned spaceflight, we are still sending "sticks with cans on top" into space, and it's LockMarts fault! The one chance we had for more advanced spaceflight, the X33, was so badly botched NASA had no choice but to revert to 60's technology. I'm sure LockMart will add sufficient steroids to the North American / Rockwell Apollo capsule to get it into space. The second time down the same path is always easier. It just could have, and damnit should have, been so much more, and THAT is what I blame LockMart for, and cannot celebrate your design win.



Posted by: Brad at September 2, 2006 02:02 PM


> I'm cheering a space program with a destination. I'll take one meaningful trip to the Moon
> or Mars over decades of going in circles.

You think you;ll take a trip to the Moon or Mars???

Sorry, Aaron, but NASA is not going to let you or me take any trips in their Orion capsule. Your chances of winning the astronaut lottery are less than your chances of winning the jackpot in Vegas.

If you really want to go into space, you need to look elsewhere. The only way we'll get there is if costs go down, not up. That won't happen as long as we keep strapping astronauts into cannon balls and shooting then up on guided missiles.

The taxpayers have spent almost $100 billion building ISS so NASA would have a "destination" to go to. Now that it's almost built, NASA wants to go there anymore. They want to build an even-more-expensive ISS 2 on the Moon. How long do you suppose it will be before they get tired of that?

> Once the frontier is opened I'd like to see NASA get out of the way and turn it over to the private sector.

That's what we've been hearing for the last 40 years. How many decades do you think we should wait for NASA to "open the frontier" and gets out of the way?

I don't know about you, Aaron, but I don't expect to be alive in another 50 or 60 years. Why should we wait that long just because NASA and Lockheed want us to?

> they should be given as much of LEO as possible now,
>but the Moon and beyond? I don't think we're there yet.

Huh? Do you think Orion is up there right now?

NASA and Lockheed say they need 14 years and more than $100 billion before they can send Orion to the Moon. Forget "Mars and Beyond." That isn't even in their plans, whatever they tell Zubrin.

CSI and Space Adventures are both offering flights to the Moon right now, with capsules that already *exist*. Trips that could begin within the next two years. For hundreds of millions of dollars, not hundreds of billions. Not cheap enough that you or I could afford them, but a big improvement over Orion.

If you *really* want to take a trip to the Moon or Mars, you should be telling your elected officials to buy rides from private enterprise, instead of trying to put private companies out of business by building their own capsules.



Posted by: Edward Wright at September 2, 2006 02:33 PM


> in nearly 50 years or manned spaceflight, we are still sending "sticks with cans on top" into space,

Yes, exactly. The comment about how X-33 failed because it was "too much like an airplane" was priceless -- it could have come straight out of "The Right Stuff."

T.L. even wants the press to be the "Victorian Gentleman" and convey "proper feelings" about Orion.

The aviation industry flies more in one day than the missile mafia has since World War II. Yet, they still look down on us. They haven't learned a thing since the 1960's.



Posted by: Edward Wright at September 2, 2006 03:21 PM

Ed don't you think you made your point already half a dozen posts back?

If you have so much to say, have you considered starting your own blog? Please?

heh



Posted by: Brad at September 2, 2006 03:26 PM

By the way, there seems to be more than one 'Brad' posting here. This is my third post, the first one was at 11:57 pm September 1st.



Posted by: Brad at September 2, 2006 03:30 PM

(I know I'm going to regret asking this, but..)
Ed, where did I say that X-33 failed because it was too much like a plane?

Regarding the press, they are free to express whatever feelings they wish. Just as I am free to criticize their writings.



Posted by: T.L. James at September 2, 2006 04:54 PM

Angry Brad: Orion is not the North American/Rockwell capsule. It uses the same OML. That's it. And if you look back to last year, you'll find that LM's first proposal used a new lifting body shape -- the scaled-up Apollo OML shape was a NASA requirement issued in the second round. So yes, regardless of what happened with X-33, Orion itself could have been more...but NASA chose to go with a form with which they had experience.

Included in your comment is the notion that X-33 could have succeeded in advancing spaceflight technology had LM not "botched" the program. X-33 (and its related IR&Ds) did indeed develop a number of potentially useful advanced spaceflight technologies, or further experience with their application -- conformal and semi-conformal tankage, composite cryogenic tankage, integrated vehicle health monitoring, metallic TPS, LOx-compatible composites, composites NDE and repair techniques, rapid-turnaround launch operations, etc. The fact that the thing never flew means that the program did not bring these things to as high a TRL as might be desired, but the technology was nonetheless developed. (And before anyone gripes about the composite cryo tankage, I'm not talking about the honeycomb crap the Skunks used on their failed LH2 tanks. A half-scale prototype tank using a different approach performed quite well.)

Some if not all of that technology is presumably available for tech transfer/license (as TransHab was). If X-33 was the last chance for something better, why is it the alt-space companies aren't snapping up that design? Or, so far as I can tell, any of the major elements of it? Elon Musk is developing a 'stick with a can on top', and he isn't generally regarded as a fool.

Another flaw in your comment is the assertion that Orion is using 1960s technology. Not true. It is the same general approach used by the manned spacecraft of the 1960s -- a capsule riding atop a rocket -- and the same shape as Apollo, but other than that the technology is different. ECLSS, GN&C, communications, crew systems, materials, manufacturing methods, etc., are all new, and in many cases weren't even available ten or twenty years ago let alone in the 1960s.



Posted by: T.L. James at September 2, 2006 05:44 PM


> Ed, where did I say that X-33 failed because it was too much like a plane?

On Transterrestrial.com: "LMSW couldn't *ever* seem to grasp the notion that they were designing a (suborbital) spacecraft rather than a plane, and indeed continued to call X-33 and VentureStar "the airplane" throughout the program."

> If X-33 was the last chance for something better, why is it the alt-space companies aren't snapping up that design?

T.L., perhaps you're unaware that Lockmart was not the only bidder for X-33.

Perhaps you're also unaware that McDonnell Douglas had already won the SSTO design competition, before it was yanked away from SDIO and given to NASA.

Then NASA decided to recompete the contract and give it to the bidder whose proposal had the greatest risk and lowest technological readiness level. Care to guess who that was?

"Alt space" companies aren't snapping up the Lockmart design because your design didn't work. There are several companies "snapping up" the McDAC design.

> Elon Musk is developing a 'stick with a can on top', and he isn't generally regarded as a fool.

That's because Elon only wants to send Bob Zubrin to Mars. He doesn't really care about getting you or me into space. Jeff Bezos is building a fully reusable VTVL. Is he a fool? Was Pete Conrad a fool? Was Max Hunter -- a former vice president of Lockheed -- a fool?

> same general approach used by the manned spacecraft of the 1960s -- a capsule riding atop a rocket

There you go again. Not *all* manned spacecraft in the 60's used that approach. The X-15 didn't.

You say you want to go into space. Maybe you do, but are you doing anything to make that possible? You trash any vehicle that could get you into space. Instead, you want us to keep building guided missiles with "specimens" in "pods."

If launching pods on missiles is such a great idea, why haven't you managed to reduce the cost of access to space in 40 years? Flying Orion will cost as much as Apollo did -- are more than Lunar Gemini would have. As Max Hunter liked to say, "What's so brilliant about that?"



Posted by: Edward Wright at September 2, 2006 08:47 PM

Ed, you keep imputing to me beliefs I don't possess and words I haven't said. There's no point in arguing with you any further. Why don't you go off somewhere nice and quiet and have your own private argument with this other T.L. James you seem to think you're talking to.



Posted by: T.L. James at September 2, 2006 09:25 PM

Ed,

you read my comment:

"I'm cheering a space program with a destination. I'll take one meaningful trip to the Moon or Mars over decades of going in circles."

and then proceeded to write 4 paragraphs about how I (me, personally) will not be allowed to ride on Orion. Der. Let me rephrase so that you can understand:

"As far as space exploration is concerned, I would prefer to see one manned voyage to the Moon or Mars (regardless of who goes) versus decades stuck in LEO."



Posted by: Aaron_J at September 2, 2006 09:49 PM

Aren't comments fun, Thomas?



Posted by: Rand Simberg at September 3, 2006 09:26 AM

They'd be more fun if people actually read and comprehended them before responding to them.



Posted by: T.L. James at September 3, 2006 09:45 AM


> "As far as space exploration is concerned, I would prefer to see one manned voyage to the Moon or Mars

That's fine, Aaron. If you want to see a manned voyage to the Moon or Mars, you can rent "From the Earth to the Moon" or "Moon, Mars, and Beyond."

Some of us do want to take trips into space, though, Aaron. Trips that will help protect the national security of the United States, create new industries, maybe even save the human race from threats like asteroid impact events.

Please don't ask us to give all those things up just so Orion can produce a few more pictures. It is not government's job to produce pictures about space. That's Hollywood's job. Government's job is to provide for the common defense and promote the general welfare. That is what NASA should be doing.

Right now, the government is downsizing the Army, Navy, and Air Force and sacrificing preparedness so Mike Griffin can send astronauts to the Moon so Mike Griffin can send astronauts to the Moon using the most costly available architecture. Think about that when you aplaud those pictures Orion's going to produce.



Posted by: Edward Wright at September 3, 2006 05:33 PM

Senator Mondale? Is that you?



Posted by: jackal at September 3, 2006 06:28 PM