A petition to kill SLS/Orion and LOP-G


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Link here. To quote their announcement at the link:

What’s killing America’s human access to space? Three projects: a rocket called the Space Launch System, a capsule called the Orion, and a new project called the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway.

These three programs are political boondoggles, pork, pie in the sky, jobs programs disguised as space programs. The Space Launch System, for example, is touted as the biggest rocket ever built. But its $30 billion development cost is eating up almost all of NASA’s human budget for deep space. Compare that $30 billion with the cost of developing Elon Musk’s Falcon Heavy—less than a billion dollars. In other words, for the cost of developing the Space Launch System, we could develop thirty brand new rockets if we took the Elon Musk route. Or we could develop an entire Moon and Mars program.

After thirteen years of promises, the Space Launch System has never flown. And when it does, it will cripple NASA. The cost of one launch will be between one and two billion dollars. For that price, you could buy between eleven and 22 launches of the Falcon Heavy. You could buy the launches for an entire Moon and Mars program.

What’s worse, after the launch of each Space Launch System rocket, we will throw the exorbitantly-priced rocket away, then we will be forced to buy another one. Meanwhile, Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos are making rockets reusable. And reusable rockets, like reusable busses, trucks, trains, cars, and airplanes, will lower our cost of access to space dramatically.

Then there’s the Orion capsule that the SLS will fling into space. It cannot land. It can’t land on the Moon. It can’t land on Mars. And it’s too small to carry crews to Mars. It is a boondoggle.

Topping it all off is the Lunar Orbital Platform – Gateway, another nipple in the mouth of the Space Military Industrial Complex, another make-work program. It is a mini space station orbiting the moon. It’s useless and can’t even be manned or womanned year-round. But it will cost so much to build that we’ll never be able to build lunar landers. We won’t touch down on the moon. We’ll simply circle the moon from a distance and watch with frustration as the Chinese land human beings. [emphasis in original]

The last point about LOP-G is especially important. It is designed not to promote the exploration and settlement of the solar system, but as a kind of purgatory where the U.S. will remain trapped in lunar orbit, accomplishing nothing, while other nations land and settle the Moon.

I have signed. Anyone who has been reading Behind the Black or listening to me for the past decade will know that this has been my position, from the get-go. I am very glad that others in the space industry are now standing up to echo that position.

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11 comments

  • wodun

    What’s killing America’s human access to space?

    NASA slow walking commercial crew not SLS/Orion and LOP-G. The two paths are both receiving all the funding they need. Spending more than asked on commercial crew is no guarantee that it will happen sooner and cutting SLS/Orion and LOP-G is no guarantee that the money will go to commercial crew.

    another nipple in the mouth of the Space Military Industrial Complex

    Uh, so the LOP-G is now a military installation? Who produced this sensational, and worthless, petition?

    It can’t even do opportunity cost right because we couldn’t develop 30 new launchers for the cost of SLS. SpaceX was successful because there is a market for them and that market helped them fund development, not just NASA. A better opportunity cost comparison is how many FH could be purchased and/or how much money could be spent on payloads.

    But it will cost so much to build that we’ll never be able to build lunar landers.

    Why? Because they will be built the traditional way by NASA? If that is the case, we might never have them no matter the existence of SLS/Orion or LOP-G. Why even assume that NASA will be building them when the clear lesson of COTS and SpaceX is allowing companies to build and control their own landers and for NASA to purchase their services?

    The petition is a nice PR stunt but it isn’t going to have any impact on decision makers, its an incredibly flawed portrayal of the current state of affairs, and the people who read about it aren’t going to have any change of mind since it is just preaching to the choir.

    There is a lot of dishonesty in that petition. It is possible to be persuasive about the flaws of SLS/Orion and LOP-G without stooping to fabrications and sensational distortions. Very disappointed, bleh.

  • BSJ

    By signing, you accept Change.org’s Terms of Service and Privacy Policy, and agree to receive occasional emails about campaigns on Change.org. You can unsubscribe at any time.

    No thanks.

  • wodun

    I went and looked at their TOS and it looks like a clever data harvesting operation. Very shrewd way to get individuals to volunteer what they are most interested it especially when combined with scraping social media accounts and tracking elsewhere on the internet. They didn’t get too specific in who they share their data with other than social media companies, partners, affiliates, subsidiaries, and customers so there are a lot of possibilities.

    The site is a business and one has to wonder how they turn a profit because it isn’t from hosting petitions that no one is under any obligation to notice or respond to. Considering the Obama administration used to pump up this site, there must be some political groups purchasing the data.

    I guess this is really the way things are these days. Free apps are just as bad and twice as addicting. Oh, and don’t use change.org from a mobile device if you don’t want them collecting even more data than they get from your PC.

  • Orion314

    glad to sign
    tx!

  • wayne

    wodun/bsj–

    Thanks greatly for exploring further into this!

    I initially thought this was related to the White House dot gov petition-page, but these are paid-campaigns. Lots-o-social-justice-warrioring going on at change dot org.
    (At least with the dot Gov petition site, when they get 50K signatures, they pretend to actually “do something.”)
    –This smacks of wholesale data-harvesting, and when the Product is “free,” YOU are the Product.

    –This particular campaign is sponsored by (i.e. paid for by…):
    http://spacedevelopmentsteeringcommittee.org/about-the-space-development-steering-committee/

    from their About page:
    “Founder of the Space Development Steering Committee is Howard Bloom a former visiting scholar at NYU’s Graduate Psychology Department, a former Core Faculty Member at the Graduate Institute, and the author of The Lucifer Principle: A Scientific Expedition Into the Forces of History (“mesmerizing”—The Washington Post), Global Brain: The Evolution of Mass Mind From The Big Bang to the 21st Century (“reassuring and sobering”—The New Yorker), The Genius of the Beast: A Radical re-Vision of Capitalism (“exhilaratingly-written and masterfully-researched. I couldn’t put it down.”–James Burke), and The God Problem: How A Godless Cosmos Creates (“Bloom’s argument will rock your world.” Barbara Ehrenreich).”

    Howard Bloom’s website is at:
    http://howardbloom.net/
    ….appears he wants to “reinvent capitalism.”

    Back to Change dot org:
    If you’re lucky enough to get hired at their San Francisco headquarters…..
    “Paid parental leave: All new parents are eligible for 18 weeks fully-paid leave as a global baseline. We value parents and understand the importance of family to a healthy workplace.”

  • wayne

    I don’t want to fully besmirch the stated goal of the petition, I’m just unclear on the underlying agenda of the sponsors and the people they chose to spread the word.

    I would however put forth, if folks are into petition’s, cut out the middle man and go straight to:
    https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/
    >>you need 100,000 signatures within 30 days. If you meet the threshold, “…it will be put in a queue to be reviewed by the White House.”

    or better still…. Vote in Elections!

  • Jason Hillyer

    Unfortunately I don’t think a petition is enough to shut this “pork” down, if the politicians want it, they’ll get it because the American Space Program is an easy sell… Just look how people love the Space Shuttle, even though it was a complete disaster and waste of 30 years.

  • Edward

    wodun,
    You wrote: “A better opportunity cost comparison is …

    Just because you do not like their comparison does not make this a “worthless” petition.

    Why even assume that NASA will be building [lunar landers] when the clear lesson of COTS and SpaceX is allowing companies to build and control their own landers and for NASA to purchase their services?

    This is the point of the petition. NASA has become a political, jobs-program, behemoth, boondoggle for Congress, not a manned space exploration organization. It is clear that Congress and NASA are slow walking SLS, Orion, and will slow walk LOP-G, too. None of these have a mission, so not only is there no rush for them but once they are operational it will become obvious to all that they have no purpose.

    Apollo, Gemini, and Mercury all had purposes and missions. They were developed quickly. Unfortunately, they were not developed inexpensively and related technologies that had been partially developed were abandoned. These technologies could have been valuable had we continued an aggressive exploration of space, but instead NASA turned into a Congressional jobs program with national prestige as a byproduct.

    Jason Hillyer,
    It is unlikely that a single petition will shut down any pork project, but We the People literally have the right to petition Congress with our grievances, and this pork is a grievance. Should Congress get the idea that We the People are dissatisfied and expect more from space than just pork projects, then maybe they will get serious about space exploration.

    In the meantime, it is beginning to look like private companies intend to do the job that We the People had expected NASA to do for the past half century.

  • wodun

    Edward
    July 18, 2018 at 2:58 pm
    wodun,
    You wrote: “A better opportunity cost comparison is …”

    Just because you do not like their comparison does not make this a “worthless” petition.

    Well, the comparison is flawed to the point of impossibility but what makes the petition worthless is that it has no worth. It is just a PR stunt. There is no outcome from the petition other than some limited PR and it isn’t intended to have any other outcome.

    NASA could never have developed X number of launchers if they did it the SpaceX way so it is just a bad comparison. I largely agree with the people who did the petition, I just want them to do a better job making their case. I want people getting good information not snow-jobbed because when people become aware they were conned, it makes them cynical and distrustful.

    This is the point of the petition. NASA has become a political, jobs-program, behemoth, boondoggle for Congress, not a manned space exploration organization.

    And yet the petition still wants a big government program, just a different one. A lunar COTS type of program is my preferred approach but I think they do a terrible job with the petition by being dishonest, overly sensational, and not using sunk cost and opportunity cost correctly.

    so not only is there no rush for them but once they are operational it will become obvious to all that they have no purpose.

    They have a purpose but whether or not they ever achieve that purpose is something else entirely. We also can’t forget the dual track. SLS/Orion and the LOP-G are dependent on the lunar COTS like track that NASA is also pursuing. But the commercial track is not dependent on SLS/Orion and LOP-G. While SLS/Orion and LOP-G can be viewed as jobs programs and pork for the traditional contractors, they will also serve as funding streams for commercial entities like Bigelow, SpaceX, BO and others as they compete to provide infrastructure and services. IMO, it is a bit of a mixed bag.

    In the meantime, it is beginning to look like private companies intend to do the job that We the People had expected NASA to do for the past half century.

    Hopefully. The only way out of the trap of competing over government funds and having government choose how funds are spent and what they are spent on is for the private sector to be able to stand on its own. Why would we even want the government doing this stuff? It isn’t that government doesn’t have a role to play but rather that they should not be the only role played.

    You are exactly right about how NASA is screwing over parts of the private sector by delaying commercial crew. Companies are waiting for human transport services so they can launch space stations. Some of them have deep pockets but they can’t tread water forever.

  • wodun

    Jason Hillyer
    July 18, 2018 at 12:36 pm
    Unfortunately I don’t think a petition is enough to shut this “pork” down,

    It isn’t intended to. The purpose is to get some PR for the organization and collect data on the people who sign for marketing and profit.

    The only way to change NASA’s direction is to get the President and Congress to do so and that takes far more than some silly petition on the internet. Heck, when I checked their goal was 200 signatures. There are only another two hundred and twenty million Americans to go but maybe you would only need sixty million for anyone to take the petition seriously.

  • Edward

    wodun,
    You wrote: “There is no outcome from the petition other than some limited PR and it isn’t intended to have any other outcome.

    Unless the point is to express displeasure with Congress’s misuse of NASA. If you are unwilling to tell President Trump and Congress what you want done, why would you expect them to do what you want? The petitioners may not achieve their goal, but at least they are making the attempt. With criticism like this, maybe Trump and Congress will kill these programs sooner than they would otherwise, allowing the resources to be reallocated to more useful and productive (even though they will be government) programs.

    The penultimate paragraph of the petition describes what they think America needs, and these things are similar to what you seem to think America needs. It seems to me that the petition is pleading your case. It is well structured as an essay; it explains the problem, gives examples, and presents solutions. Your solutions.

    NASA could never have developed X number of launchers if they did it the SpaceX way so it is just a bad comparison.

    And we wouldn’t want them to make too many launchers, but it is a demonstration as to the inefficiency of NASA’s development programs. The second suggestion (a Moon and Mars program), since it is an indirect comparison, is the more desired alternative use of the squandered resources. Or do you consider that to be a poor information snow job, too?

    A lunar COTS type of program is my preferred approach

    Just because your priority is different than what you think is theirs does not mean that their opinion is bad. A difference in opinion does not make the other opinion “dishonest, overly sensational, and not using sunk cost and opportunity cost correctly.

    Why would we even want the government doing this stuff?

    What we really want is for government to do the initial exploration and survey in order for private commercial companies to better plan and execute an expansion into space. Think of it as a series of Lewis and Clark expeditions that allow us to open up new frontiers. This is what we expected from the Space Shuttle and from the US space station Freedom. Instead, we got a hobbled Shuttle program and an expensive and degraded International Space Station. But at least they both had missions and goals to accomplish.

    Now we are looking at three new programs that have no mission. Wait until they, too, are degraded due to cost overruns or funding cuts.

    The only way to change NASA’s direction is to get the President and Congress to do so and that takes far more than some silly petition on the internet.

    Have you called your federal representatives to ask them to end SLS/Orion and (F)LOP-G and to reallocate those resources to more productive space programs? I didn’t think so.

    At least someone is making a first step.

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