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How SLS reveals the difference between state-run propaganda and real journalism

The cost of SLS

On August 29, 2022, NASA will attempt the first launch of a government-built, government-owned, and government-designed rocket in more than a decade. The rocket’s development took more than eighteen years, moved in fits and starts due to political interference and mandates, cost more than $50 billion, and has been both behind schedule and overbudget almost from day one. Along the way NASA management screwed up the construction of one multi-million dollar test stand, built another it will never use, mismanaged that test program, dropped a rocket oxygen tank, and found structural cracks in an early Orion capsule.

This dubious achievement, even if the launch and month-plus-long mission of the Orion capsule to lunar orbit and back is a complete success, is hardly something to tout. NASA claims it and this rocket will make it possible for America to explore the solar system, but any honest appraisal of SLS’s cost and cumbersome design immediately reveals that claim to be absurd. SLS can launch at best once per year, and in truth will likely lift off at a much slower rate. It will also eat up resources in the American aerospace industry from technology better designed, more efficient, and more capable of doing the job.

Worse, the generally sloppy management of this program, with numerous major errors in design and construction, raises serious questions about the safety of any future manned flight.

And yet, as this launch day approaches, the American established press is going ga-ga over SLS. Below are just a small sampling:

Some of these articles make the effort to describe SLS’s overbudget and much delayed history, but most do not. Most instead look at this rocket and NASA’s effort through rose-colored glasses, fantasizing how this single launch heralds a new age of American space exploration. The launch is “a new chapter,” it is “historic”, it will play a “key role,” and it “paves the way” for “the return to the Moon!”

This launch however will do none of these things. It is simply the first launch attempt of a new rocket with limited capabilities that costs too much. Assuming the mission is 100% successful (something no one should expect for any rocket’s first launch), after the hype dies down NASA will be only slightly closer to its first manned mission to the Moon. Under its Artemis program — which insists SLS play a central role — it will still have to fly another mission around the Moon, this time with passengers, before it will attempt the manned landing, with the time between these flights measured in years.

In fact, an honest comparison with Apollo reveals the absurdity and outright foolishness of this NASA proposed flight schedule. NASA plans one unmanned test launch of this rocket before sending humans on it to the Moon. It will then proceed to the landing, after only only one manned mission.

While Apollo did send its first astronauts to the Moon on its second launch, with Apollo 8, that decision was made under the pressure of the race to beat the Russians, a pressure that does not exist today. Moreover, it was not part of NASA’s actual plan, which insisted on a careful sequence of manned Apollo missions, first in Earth orbit (to test the rocket and capsule), then higher in Earth orbit (to test the lunar lander), and then around the Moon (to test the rocket, capsule, and lander), and then finally flying the landing mission. These missions would take place two months apart, and would each test the next piece of equipment needed to make the lunar landing possible.

When you compare the two plans, Artemis appears very rushed indeed, even though it will take far far longer, its missions flying one to three years apart.

It is the obligation of journalists to state these facts, to not accept at face value the propaganda a government agency like NASA doles out routinely. For the media outlets above, however, that obligation has long been forgotten. Each has been captured by the government, and now works solely for it, pushing its agenda blindly.

For any adult American to pay much attention to any reporting from these outlets on any subject would thus be foolish. They have become propaganda outlets, not news sources, and a free citizen must not depend on such propaganda for his or her enlightenment.

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16 comments

  • Call Me Ishmael

    “… its second launch, with Apollo 8 …”

    Do you mean the second manned launch? Apollo 8 was actually the third launch of a Saturn 5, although the second unmanned test flight had some serious problems (nasty pogo).

  • Call Me Ishmael: Yes, I was referring to the second manned launch.

  • Tim Kyger

    Gaslighting. That is what the Media & NASA are doing here WRT the first SLS launch. ‘Course, the folks at NASA *believe* their cant, & The Media don’t know any better. The Man Behind The Curtin, The Great & Glorious Oz, I mean, NASA tells The Media what to report, & they dutifully report it. *sigh*

  • pzatchok

    All that cash for essentially something that a Falcon heavy could do. Or eventually the super heavy will also do far cheaper.

    The old school aerospace companies are not launch companies but engineering, development and manufacturing companies. They do not care if anything ever flies to space as long as they get the cash for designing it and making it.
    And the longer they could stretch it out the better for their retirements.

    I understand them starting the project because they wanted to reuse all the old shuttle parts and tech. But that idea flew out the window inside of a few weeks after it was approved. At that point congress should have started to review it with a real eye towards saving money.

    At least ten years of waste would have been skipped or at least wasted someplace else.

  • Ray Van Dune

    Anyone who knows the whole “plan”, and especially how it is likely to have to evolve, knows that an SLS-centric view of Artemis is laughable.

    NASA needs to just buy enough paint to make their logo on Starships much bigger, and park the SLS. And Orion can go further than Dragon, but not to Mars. Park it too.

  • Richard M

    I’ve been a little struck by how the Planetary Society’s Casey Dreier has become more positive in his coverage of SLS of late.

    Then I read his comments to Axios the other day in their big SLS story, and maybe it fell into place a little more.

    _____
    Big exploration programs need political support, and if the leaders of these companies — like Musk — align themselves with one political party over another, as the SpaceX CEO has done with the Republican Party, it could turn people off to the space program at large.

    “If they see NASA enriching a strongly Republican-associated” individual, “that can alienate a big swath of public from this whole endeavor, more than spending an extra couple billion dollars on a rocket built in Alabama,” Dreier said.

    https://www.axios.com/2022/08/23/nasa-artemis-rocket-space-launch-system-launch

  • GaryMike

    For me, the only purpose of the US government is to send me my monthly social security check.

    I paid into the system for decades, I expect the promised return.

  • Jeff Wright

    SLS is ready to fly at least. There were tornado strikes and such. SuperHeavy not having ‘sparklers’ for methane? That looked junior league. I look forward to NTRs atop SLS.

  • Daniel Kaczynski

    GaryMike, So for you “….. the only purpose of the US government is to send….. (a) monthly social
    security check. ” You paid into the system for decades, you expect the promised return.

    You may find, as we all will, the the Gumint is no better at managing Social Security than it
    is at building rockets.

    As for SLS, well, would YOU sign up for a ride on that thing??

  • pzatchok

    ” Jeff Wright
    August 25, 2022 at 11:58 pm

    SLS is ready to fly at least. There were tornado strikes and such. SuperHeavy not having ‘sparklers’ for methane? That looked junior league. I look forward to NTRs atop SLS.”

    SLS has been delayed another year. Looking pretty junior league.
    Unless your just looking to suck more money out of NASA then they are doing a pretty top notch job.

  • pzatchok

    I was wrong sorry.

  • MDN

    I sure hope the Out of Warranty solid boosters work OK, or NASA will have some very serious splaining to do.

  • Jeff Wright

    Daniel–I’d be happy to ride atop SLS/Orion before a no-abort Starship.

  • GaryMike observed: “I paid into the system for decades, I expect the promised return.”

    Let us talk about futures contracts and credit. The money we paid (and I am still paying) into the system was spent decades ago. Our grandchildren are on the hook for us. It is the very definition of a modern major debacle.

  • GaryMike

    Daniel Kaczynski
    August 26, 2022 at 9:08 am

    “…the Gumint is no better at managing Social Security than it
    is at building rockets.”

    Quite so. Social Security taxes are theft that most people go along with out of a sense of charity because it’s cheaper than adoption. ;)

    “As for SLS, well, would YOU sign up for a ride on that thing??”

    Yes, because, when the time comes, it would be more exciting than going out into the forest looking for a mama bear and her cubs. The life insurance company would pay due to demise by accident/natural causes.

  • GaryMike

    Blair Ivey
    August 26, 2022 at 10:20 pm

    :…Our grandchildren are on the hook for us.”

    Quite so. Social Security taxes are theft that most people go along with out of a sense of charity because it’s cheaper than adoption. ;)

    I was on the hook, too. The system expropriates our resources, betting that we’ll pass away before we can make draws on the system.

    I’ve survived long enough that I can get my own money back. Eventually, I’ll maybe get money paid by people who passed before they could get their own money back. If I had passed and they did not, the system is the system. None of us refused to participate knowing that we’re all just playing the lottery.

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