Thursday, 4 December 2008

The New Race for the Moon?

From Moon Daily:
India will be able to send a manned mission to moon by the year 2020 if everything goes as planned, Indian Space Research Organisation Chairman G Madhavan Nair has said.
That's one heck of a big IF.
"If everything goes as per the plan we will be ready to send a man to moon by 2020", he added. "On one side we have the capacity and technology, on the other side we need to provide training to a human being to survive the condition on moon and the zero gravitation," he added.
That's a bit more like it. I'm not at all sure they have the capacity though - no heavy lift boosters (Ariane V or bigger) that would be needed for a Von Braun "assemble stack in NEO" plan, and certainly nothing to rival the "all in one go" approach of the Saturn V. To be talking about lunar missions when there's not even been a manned orbital one yet seems a little... ambitious?
"This demands for more amount of training on the ground, and we would be spending one third of the budget on training and development of technology," he further said.
1/3 is a bit low, considering the lack of experience so far. But it's at least in the right ballpark. We'll see.
"US and China are two main contenders who want to send man on moon by 2020. Though they have not yet announced anything but they have the capacity and adequate funds to send man to moon by 2020," he added.
I'm not sure he's correct there either: China is looking more towards 2025, and the US Manned Space Program is liable to come to a grinding halt in the near future. From the Houston Chronicle :
The Texas congressional delegation is launching a campaign to combat potentially deep budget cuts for NASA as President-elect Barack Obama focuses on rescuing the nation's economy.

The drive comes amid expectations that billions of dollars will be shifted from various federal agencies into new programs to stimulate the economy and stabilize the financial system.

With tough trade-offs ahead, NASA's supporters are bracing for a hard look by the new administration and Democratic-controlled Congress at the space agency's $20.2 billion budget for the current year, which includes $5.8 billion for the shuttle and $3 billion to develop the Orion moonship.

The open-ended rescue is expected to leave Obama little leeway to fulfill an expensive campaign promise he made in Florida to close a five-year gap between the shuttle's retirement and the moonship's inaugural as a way to keep 6,400 high-paying jobs at the state's Kennedy Space Center.

Now, said Scott Pace, the director of George Washington University's Space Policy Institute, "money for space is going to be extremely tight."

"That leaves you a difficult choice," Pace added. "Change the schedule or change the program."
$3 billion - or even $8.8 billion - isn't much compared to the cost of the economic bailouts, or Obama's new educational, health and welfare programme. But every little bit helps - "a billion here, a billion there, and soon you're talking about real money" as was so notoriously said in the US Congress.

The real problem though is not the technology - for US space scientists are the best in the world. It's not even the money, for there's plenty if it was allocated in a half reasonable fashion. No, the problem is that the US manned space effort is not primarily aimed at putting Americans into space: it's aimed at distributing financial pork from the political pork-barrel. The problem is illustrated by the article's continuation:
The state's congressional delegation of 20 Republicans and 12 Democrats is counting on building alliances with other House members, making good on promises of bipartisan cooperation with the White House and lobbying efforts by NASA contractors to help combat the looming challenges.

"The trick will be to show what manned space flight can do for the nation, rather than what the nation can do for manned space flight," said Pace, a former NASA associate administrator.

Appealing to national concerns also can pay dividends, said Susan McManus, a political scientist at the University of South Florida who has watched federal support for NASA ebb and flow. " 'Economy,' 'competition,' 'national security' — those are buzz words that win allies," she said.
It's not real - they're Buzz Words, mere ploys to get a slice of the pie.
"As Congress looks at ways to stimulate the economy, it cannot ignore the fact that the JSC is a mainstay of the Houston community that directly and indirectly impacts tens of thousands of jobs," Cornyn said in a recent speech.

NASA's spending accounts for more than 39,000 Houston jobs in areas such as retail, health care and construction, according to studies by the University of Houston-Clear Lake.

Some Texans are looking to Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., a veteran of a 1986 shuttle flight who chairs a NASA oversight panel.

The thinking? Obama might support spending for the manned space program because it would benefit Florida's Kennedy Space Center — an economic jewel in the electorally important state. That, in turn, would spill over to benefit Houston's JSC.
"We're used to working together as Team Texas," said Rep. Kevin Brady, R-The Woodlands, a member of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee.
Not Team America. That's the problem. Everyone wants their share of the pie, jobs in their electorate. Whether the program succeeds or collapses under he weight of inefficient dilution of resources is immaterial. Whether Americans ever go into space again after 2010 matters least of all.

From Fox News:
WASHINGTON — U.S. President-elect Barack Obama's NASA transition team is asking U.S. space agency officials to quantify how much money could be saved by canceling the Ares 1 rocket and scaling back the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle next year.
The questionnaire, "NASA Presidential Transition Team Requests for Information," asks agency officials to provide the latest information on Ares 1, Orion and the planned Ares 5 heavy-lift cargo launcher, and to calculate the near-term close-out costs and longer-term savings associated with canceling those programs. The questionnaire also contemplates a scenario where Ares 1 would be canceled but development of the Ares 5 would continue.
Logsdon also said he did not see any significance to the omission of cancellation questions about COTS, space shuttle, space station or other programs.

Executives at Alliant Techsystems (ATK), the Edina, Minn.-based prime contractor for the Ares 1 main stage, told Space News Nov. 25 they were not alarmed by the questions the transition team is asking about Ares and the Constellation program, which encompasses not only the shuttle replacement but also hardware NASA would need to land astronauts on the Moon.

"They are doing due diligence," said Charlie Precourt, ATK's vice president of NASA space launch systems. "If you are the incoming steward of all federal agencies you are going to ask a spectrum of questions like this."
Of course you are.

But if I were you... I'd start circulating your resume, if you know what I mean?


Sara said...

I believe what India may actually be saying, in a manner very similar to what happened in the 50's and 60's between America and the USSR, is:

"Hello, Neighbors Pakistan and China and others in the international community. In a little more than a decade we will have the ability to place a payload on the Moon. In the near future, we will be able to place a payload anywhere nearby."

Let's face it, much as we'd love to think that the original Space Race had pure science as it's goal, in reality it was political sabre rattling intended to display the ability to transport and drop warheads. Ever since the Cold War ended, manned space exploration has been a bit lost of purpose and drive. Getting politicians on board with exploration is difficult because there are few if any personal payoffs for the leaders.

Pain Killer said...

"Hello, Neighbors Pakistan and China and others in the international community. In a little more than a decade we will have the ability to place a payload on the Moon. In the near future, we will be able to place a payload anywhere nearby."

Well ... it has nothing to do with pakistan... It is a race between asian powers(India China and Japan)

It is only a rehearsal to join race with world powers(USA EU and Russia)....