Tag Archives: space exploration

Why governments can’t do it

A government official today unwittingly revealed a fundamental and unpleasant truth about how governments: operate. In an interview today, the head of India’s space agency denied that his country is in a space race with anyone.

Mr. Radhakrishnan, Secretary in the Department of Space and Chairman of Space Commission, said each country — whether it’s India, the US, Russia or China — had their own priorities.

“There is no race with anybody. If you look at anybody, they have their own direction. So, I don’t find a place for race with somebody. But I would say we are always on race with ourselves to excel in areas that we have chalked out for ourselves,” he told PTI here in an interview.

How typical. By denying the reality of the competition that India is part of Mr. Radhakrishnan illustrates for me and everyone once again the basic reason all government efforts eventually fail.
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The Democratic Party platform’s position on space and NASA is one sentence long.

The Democratic Party platform’s [pdf] position on space and NASA is one sentence long.

President Obama has charted a new mission for NASA to lead us to a future that builds on America’s legacy of innovation and exploration.

This is even worse than the Republican Party platform, and is more inexplicable. Considering how much support the Obama administration has given to private commercial space, this was a great opportunity to sell Obama as supportive of private enterprise. Sadly, they do not, which suggests again that Obama and his party really aren’t that interested in it.

Cave exploration the astronaut way

How not to go cave exploring:

An international crew of six astronauts will start training for a caving adventure designed to prepare them for spaceflight. CAVES, an abbreviation of Cooperative Adventure for Valuing and Exercising human behaviour and performance Skills, prepares astronauts to work safely and effectively and solve problems as a multicultural team while exploring uncharted areas using space procedures.

Or to put it more bluntly, overly complicated, bureaucratically organized, and not very efficient. For example:
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The head of Russia’s space agency makes news again

The following stories are all the result of statements made by Vladimir Popovkin, the head of Roscosmos, the Russian Federal space agency, during a radio interview yesterday.

This is the same guy that only a few weeks ago was throwing accusations at the U.S. for the failure of Phobos-Grunt.

What should we make of these statements? First, everything Popovkin says is aimed at fund-raising. Whatever his background, he is a political appointee whose job is to generate interest and funding for Russia’s space program. Everything he says in public must be weighed against this reality. That he first tried to shift the blame to the U.S. for Phobos-Grunt’s loss was an effort to absolve his program from any blame and thus reduce the possibility that the Russian government might cut his funding. Now that his agency has gotten approval of its insurance payment for the failure, however, he is free to say otherwise.

Second, these announcements give us a clear indication of where the Russia space effort is heading, and that effort looks both thoughtful and intelligent.
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Gingrich’s speech on space

In the days ahead there is going to be a lot of talk about Newt Gingrich’s proposals for space exploration. I think it important that people actually see and listen to the entire speech before discussing it. Here is the longest clip I can find on youtube, covering the first seven and a half minutes. I think it is complete, but unfortunately, I can’t be sure. It doesn’t appear to include his remarks about awarding space prizes, and when it ends Gingrich does not appear to be finished. When I find a longer clip I will post it.

Several points immediately come to mind:
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Gingrich plans ‘visionary’ speech on space this week in Florida

Gingrich has announced that he plans to give a “visionary” speech on space this week in Florida.

To me, this does not bode well. The last thing the American aerospace industry needs right now is another politician dictating a “new” path. The best thing Gingrich could do is to endorse the effort to have private companies do the work, and to then outline how he will get the government out of their way.

Herman Cain speaks out about NASA and space

Herman Cain speaks out about NASA and space:

When President Obama decided to cut, it put the United States in a position that we don’t like. We don’t like to have to thumb-ride with the Russians when we were the first ones and the leaders in space technology. It’s not just about getting to the moon and outer space. The space program inspires other technological advances to business and the economy. In the Cain presidency, it will be reversed back to where it should be.

As much as I might like Cain for some things, I could not help cringing when I read these words. They suggest a great deal of ignorance about what the Obama administration has done, a willingness on Cain’s part to pander to his audience (speaking as he was at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville), and a desire by this self-declared fiscal conservative to spend lots more money for a big government space program at a time when the federal government is broke.

I’d rather have Cain take a more thoughtful approach. Alas, this is a campaign. Moreover, whoever ends up as president after this election will probably be less important than the make-up of the next Congress. It is that part of the 2012 election that really counts.

Russia Speeds Up Moon, Mars Plans as U.S. May Cut Spending

Russia is accelerating its space program.

“It is the first time that the government has allocated decent financing to us,” Anatoly Perminov, head of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, said in a phone interview on April 2. The agency’s $3.5 billion budget for 2011 has almost tripled since 2007, reaching the highest since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. “We can now advance on all themes a bit,” Perminov said.

Unlike 50 years ago, when beating the U.S. into space marked a geopolitical victory in the Cold War, Russia is focusing on the commercial, technological and scientific aspects of space travel. President Dmitry Medvedev has named aerospace one of five industries the government plans to nurture to help diversify the economy of the world’s largest energy supplier away from resource extraction.

NASA Endeavour Shuttle Launch Delayed

The Daily Beast reports today that the last flight of the shuttle Endeavour has been delayed due to a schedule conflict with a Russian Progress freighter.

Note that this has not yet been confirmed by NASA.

Update from spaceref: NASA has rescheduled Endeavour’s launch for April 29.