Tag Archives: pork

NASA announces bold plan to still exist by 2045

Heh.

“It may seem impossible now, but we hope to realize the vision of establishing a human presence in NASA deeper into the century than ever before imagined,” Bolden added.

When questioned about the plan’s viability, Bolden told reporters that while certain doubts remain, the project was nonetheless an absolutely crucial undertaking for NASA. Bolden further emphasized that the Fortuna Program’s goal was technically achievable on paper, and could feasibly be accomplished in a real-world scenario so long as everything “goes perfectly” for the space agency.

“The first critical step toward reaching our goal is to still be here by the year 2020,” said Bolden, adding that the plan allowed absolutely no room for error. “From there, we will move on to the next phase of the mission, which is to implement an intensive 10-year plan to remain operational. If we meet that goal in 2030, then there’s no reason to believe NASA won’t make it to 2045.”

Read it all. As far as I can tell, there really hasn’t been much difference between NASA’s past two decades and what this Onion piece proposes for NASA’s next three decades.

In fact, after you read the Onion piece above, then read this Orbital ATK press release about the successful results from the solid rocket booster test firing in March. As successful and as legitimate as the engineering was for the booster test, why does the press release sound so much like the Onion article?

$10 billion wasted on military projects

Government marches on! In the past decade the Pentagon’s Missile Defence Agency has wasted $10 billion on defense projects that were either impractical and impossible.

I can’t provide any single quote about the absurd stupidity of these projects because the article is filled with so many. Read it all and weep. However, here is one quote which indicates who we should blame:

President George W. Bush, in 2002, ordered an urgent effort to field a homeland missile defense system within two years. In their rush to make that deadline, Missile Defense Agency officials latched onto exotic, unproven concepts without doing a rigorous analysis of their cost and feasibility. Members of Congress whose states and districts benefited from the spending tenaciously defended the programs, even after their deficiencies became evident.

You are probably thinking the fault lies with Bush and Congress for proposing foolish programs and then funding them even after they were revealed to be obviously foolish, because they provided pork for congressional districts. You are wrong. Though Congress and Bush certainly share the guilt, the really guilty party is the American public, which has been voting in favor of pork for decades.

We get the government we deserve. Until we stop electing candidates (from either party) who promise pork, we will continue to get pork, and waste, and a society that is steadily going bankrupt.

Oxford University Press bans mention of pork in books to avoid offending Muslims or Jews

Link here.

The absurdity of this ban is so over the top that I at first was reluctant to post a link, thinking it might be a hoax. It still might be, but I have seen it sourced now in at least two publications.

Even if it is a hoax, that people believe it tells us just how subservient our intellectual elites have become when it comes to freedom of speech. Today’s modern intellectual class does not believe in free speech, it believes in not offending anyone with whom they agree or sympathize. The result is that they insist on dictating to everyone what you can or cannot say.

NASA builds a $349 million test stand it knows it will never need

SLS marches on! Though Obama cancelled the Constellation rocket program in 2010, NASA continued to build a $349 million engine test stand for that rocket, finishing the tower in June 2014.

The test stand was also significantly over budget. It now sits useless, since the SLS rocket will use a different untested engine in its upper stage during its first manned flight.

It is every important to underline the chronology here. The rocket was cancelled in 2010. Construction on the test stand continued however for four more years, partly because of decisions by NASA management and partly because of mandates forced on them by Congress.

Stories like this illustrate why I think the political clout of SLS is weak. The program is too expensive, is riddled with waste, and it can’t accomplish anything anyway, making it a perfect target for both muckraking journalists and elected officials who want to make a name for themselves saving the taxpayer’s money. And both have a perfect inexpensive and successful alternative to turn to: private space.

SLS needs more money!

Surprise, surprise! A GAO report finds that SLS is over budget and that NASA will need an additional $400 million to complete its first orbital launch in 2017.

NASA isn’t meeting its own requirements for matching cost and schedule resources with the congressional requirement to launch the first SLS in December 2017. NASA usually uses a calculation it calls the “joint cost and schedule confidence level” to decide the odds a program will come in on time and on budget. “NASA policy usually requires a 70 percent confidence level for a program to proceed with final design and fabrication,” the GAO report says, and the SLS is not at that level. The report adds that government programs that can’t match requirements to resources “are at increased risk of cost and schedule growth.”

In other words, the GAO says SLS is at risk of costing more than the current estimate of $12 billion to reach the first launch or taking longer to get there. Similar cost and schedule problems – although of a larger magnitude – led President Obama to cancel SLS’s predecessor rocket system called Constellation shortly after taking office. [emphasis mine]

I want to underline the current $12 billion estimate for the program’s cost to achieve one unmanned launch. That is four times what it is costing NASA to get SpaceX, Boeing, and Sierra Nevada to build their three spaceships, all scheduled for first manned launch before 2017. SLS not only can’t get off the ground before 2017, it can’t even get built for $12 billion.

If this isn’t the definition of a wasteful, boondoggle designed merely as pork, I don’t know what is. And what I do know is that there is no way SLS is going to ever get the United States back into space. It should be shut down, now.

NASA and Boeing finalize contract to build the SLS rocket

NASA and Boeing today signed a $2.8 billion contract for Boeing to build the core stage of the SLS rocket

Scheduled for its initial test flight in 2017, the SLS is designed to be flexible and evolvable to meet a variety of crew and cargo mission needs. The initial flight-test configuration will provide a 77-ton capacity, and the final evolved two-stage configuration will provide a lift capability of more than 143 tons.

It would be nice for the U.S. to have this heavy-lift rocket, but I fully expect the funds to run out immediately after it makes its inaugural flight, despite the wonderful pork it provides to so many Congressional districts. It just costs too much per launch.

The long range medical study of 100,000 children from birth to adulthood that Congress mandated fourteen years ago and has already spent a billion dollars without even getting started has just been delayed again after an outside review has raised new questions.

Pigs in medicine: The long range medical study of 100,000 children from birth to adulthood that Congress mandated fourteen years ago and that has already spent a billion dollars without even getting started has just been delayed again after an outside review has raised new questions.

I’ve reported on this project before. The idea is laudable but the implementation has been nothing but pure pork. Fourteen years and a billion dollars merely to design the study? Hey, if you believe this has anything to do with medical research I have a bridge in Brooklyn I can sell you real cheap!

NASA reveals that the second flight of SLS in 20210 might not be manned.

Pigs in space: NASA reveals that the second flight of SLS in 20210 might not be manned.

This project officially started in 2010, which means this second flight will come more than a decade later. They will have spent more than $20 billion by that time, not counting the money spent on Orion. They will have also spent billions developing one engine for the upper stage, only to shelve it to develop another which they will need to test. Hence, the possibility that the second flight will be unmanned. NASA has also admitted that the third flight of SLS won’t come until 2024 at the earliest.

What kind of crap is this? This isn’t a space program or a project to explore the solar system. It is pure pork, a boondoggle designed to spend as much taxpayer dollars as possible for as long as possible. It is time to shut it down.

The porksters arrive!

A draft bill in Congress is proposing the Pentagon develop an engine for the Atlas 5 engine to replace the Russian engine now used.

The legislation passed by a House subcommittee Wednesday calls for up the U.S. military to spend up to $220 million next year to kick off full-scale development of the engine, which could be ready for flights no later than 2019. The bill states the Defense Department “should develop a next-generation liquid rocket engine that is made in the United States, meets the requirements of the national security space community, is developed by not later than 2019, is developed using full and open competition, and is available for purchase by all space launch providers of the United States.”

There is no reason for this funding gift to the aerospace industry. For one thing, there are two rockets that already exist that use all U.S. parts, the Delta family of rockets and the Falcon 9. For another, if Congress stays out, the private sector will take care of this need and do it for a lot less and far quicker, while costing the taxpayers relatively little. By making this a government project we guarantee it will be expensive and take forever, thus keeping the pork flowing to Congressional districts without solving the problem.

And speaking of keeping pork flowing to Congressional districts, pork king Senator Richard Shelby (R-Alabama) today ripped into NASA for trying to trim a little from the budget of SLS (which sends a lot of cash to Alabama). He also condemned NASA’s manned commercial effort.
» Read more

The Senate budget deal that the House will vote on today includes some really nice pork.

The Senate budget deal that the House will vote on today includes some really nice pork.

The bill includes extra funds to fix flooded roads in Colorado, a $3 million appropriation for a civil liberties oversight board and a one-time payment to the widow of Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), who died over the summer. It also includes a more than $2 billion increase in funding for construction on the lower Ohio River in Illinois and Kentucky. Current law authorizes $775 million in spending for related projects, and the bill increases it to $2.918 billion.

The last appears to be a kickback to Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) to get him to buy into this crap.

The bill also has this crap:

The legislation broadly re-opens the government through Jan. 15, and extends the ability of the government to borrow money through Feb. 7. It does so by allowing President Obama to waive the debt ceiling, a move that can be overridden by a resolution of disapproval by Congress that Obama could still veto. [emphasis mine]

In other words, Congress is now ceding this budgetary responsibility and power to the President, who will then rule by decree.

Update: The bill passed both houses of Congress and has now been signed by the President. Note that the only opposition came from Republicans, but even here the opposition was a minority. The Democrats strongly endorsed this bill, and for good reason. It gives them (and the Republicans who supported it) lots of pork and greater power for Obama. Americans meanwhile are screwed. The day of reckoning still looms.

Pigs in space

Today I have an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, entitled “No liftoff for these space flights of fancy.” It is essentially a more detailed reworking of my rant on the John Batchelor Show on July 30.

My point is that the federal space program mandated by Congress, the Space Launch System (SLS), is never going to go anywhere, and is nothing but pork that should be cut as fast as possible. (See my essay from November 2011 on how NASA and the federal government can better use this money to get more accomplished in space, for less.)

The comments to the article have generally been positive and in agreement. Those who disagree mostly question the $14 billion cost per launch that I claim SLS will cost. That number comes from John Strickland’s very detailed analysis of what it will cost to build, complete, and operate SLS. However, it doesn’t require much thoughtful analysis to realize that this number is not unreasonable.
» Read more

My rant Thursday against politicians on the John Batchelor Show

On my Thursday appearance last week on the John Batchelor Show John and I devoted the entire segment to talking about the sad state of NASA and how the partisan bickering in Congress is not only failing to deal with those problems, that bickering is intentionally disinterested in actually fixing them. As I say,

What both those parties in Congress and in the administration are really doing is faking a goal for the purpose of justifying pork to their districts, because none of the proposals they’re making — both the asteroids or the moon — are going to happen.

I intend to elaborate in writing on this subject in the next day or so. In the meantime, here is the audio of that appearance [mp3] for you all to download and enjoy.

Note that I specifically talked about the following stories during this appearance:

The plundering of NASA

From one of my readers: The Plundering of NASA: an Expose, How pork barrel politics harm American spaceflight leadership. You can buy the ebook edition here, and the print edition here.

I just finished reading it. Boozer’s introduction and opening two chapters provide one of the best detailed summaries explaining clearly why the United States today cannot launch its own astronauts into space, and why we are threatened with the possibility that we won’t be able to do it for years to come. And while his perspective is mostly from an engineering perspective, he also gives some of the political background behind this situation.

His later chapters are not as effectively written, but the opening is still worth it.

I will give a hint about his thesis: it involves comparing the Space Launch System (SLS) with private commercial space. And SLS does not fare well.

NASA has clamped down on travel expenses, reducing it by 30 percent in the past year.

My heart bleeds: NASA has clamped down on travel expenses, reducing it by 30 percent in the past year.

I’ve been to too many science conferences where there was a whole slew of NASA engineers and scientists from all across the country, there because they were getting a free ride from the taxpayer. Often it was absolutely worthwhile for NASA engineers or scientists to be there. More often, it was a complete waste of money that could have been used elsewhere to better effect.

In related news: NASA’s inspector general has suggested the agency could save a lot more money by closing many of its almost 5,000 facilities nationwide.

Here too I’ve visited many NASA operations and found the work being done there redundant, completely unnecessary, or there was no real work being done at all. In the last case a lot of what I’ve seen is featherbedding, this time imposed by Congress to keep the money flowing to their constituents as pork. Unfortunately this last fact will probably make it very difficult to shut any of these facilities, as our representatives, from both parties, appear completely uninterested in serving the country. They’d rather act as union reps for these government employees.

Facing tight budgets, a National Science Foundation panel has recommended the shuttering of five major ground-based telescopes.

Facing tight budgets, a National Science Foundation panel has recommended the shuttering of five major ground-based telescopes.

Stay tuned for loud screams of outrage. However, some of these facilities have not been very useful for years. Consider the Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Radio Telescope. It was only rebuilt after it collapsed in 1988 because of the political clout of Senator Robert Byrd. By the time that reconstruction was finished, a process that took more than 20 years, the telescope was completely obsolete. Though it has done some good science, it is far outmatched by other radio telescope arrays.

Many of the facilities are funded merely due to bureaucratic and political inertia. For the astronomical community to be willing to recognize this is a good thing, for which they should be lauded.

NASA’s costs estimates too low for Congress’s heavy-lift rocket

Surprise, surprise! An independent analysis of NASA’s budget estimates to build Congress’s heavy-lift rocket, the program-formerly-called-Constellation, are untrustworthy and likely low.

“All three program estimates assume large, unsubstantiated, future cost efficiencies leading to the impression that they are optimistic,” the team said in its key findings. A risk assessment revealed the funding reserves projected for all three programs are insufficient, according to Booz Allen Hamilton. NASA has not disclosed its internal cost estimate for the Space Launch System. “Due to procurement of items still in development and large cost risks in the out years, NASA cannot have full confidence in the estimates for long-term planning,” the executive summary said.

This project is nothing more than Congressional pork. It will never get built. Sadly, it might waste a lot of money before it never gets built.

NASA about to decide on its shuttle heavy-lift replacement

NASA is about to decide on its shuttle heavy-lift replacement, and it looks like it will be almost entirely shuttle-derived.

As I have said previously, this rocket will almost certainly never fly. NASA has to start over after spending billions and years developing Constellation, and is being given less money and time to do it.

And even if I am wrong and this rocket does fly, I bet it will do only one flight and then be retired as too costly.

Another sign of tight NASA budgets ahead

From Jeff Foust: Another sign of tight budgets ahead.

The possibility that NASA’s budget might cut by several billion doesn’t bother me a bit. Unlike it seems everyone else, I ain’t gonna be one of those who says “We need to cut the federal budget, but just don’t cut MY favorite program.” NASA shouldn’t be immune to cuts. In fact, NASA could easily lose the several billion dollars per year that’s going to be wasted on the program-formerly-called-Constellation.

And if Congress decided to cut the subsidies to the new commercial space companies as well, I probably wouldn’t cry that much over that either. I think these companies can make it on their own. I think there is a market for their product. By taking NASA’s money up front, they are then forced to take NASA supervision, something I think will be very damaging in the long run.

Delays in NASA heavy-lift rocket plan stir skeptics

More proof it’s nothing but pork: Witnesses at House committee hearing express strong concerns about the heavy-lift rocket plan (the-program-formerly-called-Constellation) imposed on NASA by Congress.. Key quote:

“We simply do not know what is next,” said Maser, president of Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, which builds the space shuttle’s main engines. “We are in a crisis.”

Government high speed railroad and elections

The federal government’s very expensive and probably unnecessary project to build a high speed railroad line between two cities in Wisconsin — using stimulus money — is having a significant influence on the elections there. Key quote:

With the U.S. economy in shambles and our national debt strangling the country, it doesn’t bode well for Feingold that he supported the wildly unpopular health-care bill, which [challenger] Johnson wants repealed, as well as last year’s big clunker, the stimulus bill. Feingold’s support for the unfunded and bottomless money pit of [high speed rail] doesn’t appear to be working for him either. If an entrenched insider like Feingold loses, it could have serious ramifications for the future of high-speed rail across the country. [emphasis mine]