Thursday, November 17, 2011

Kenneth Murphy on Nov. 8th Space Show

This show got my attention, so I downloaded it on a mp3 format file and listened in.

The reason that I'm interested, is of course, that I"m so focused upon going to the moon first.

Unfortunately, for those such as myself who would prefer to go the Moon first, this current resident of the White House has determined that we don't need to go there again since we have been there before.

That's true, that we have been there before, but only for flags and footprints. If the only point is to go to the Moon, then we are really done with it. But what if the Moon has plenty of good economic reasons to go there? Why not go there for economic reasons, besides just going there to look cool and take pictures? If there was an economic reason to go there, the incentive would in place for cost controls that would make it profitable as an economic enterprise.

The last part of the show, which was over 2 hours long, was that same gloom and doom about America that has turned me off in the past. But the warning is definitely there, for anybody who is bothering to look. One point is that none of the young generation wants to study science and engineering for the purpose of space exploration and development because there's not proper incentive for them to do so. As mentioned above, the one incentive to go there was pulled right out from under them when Obama canceled the Constellation program.

Mind you, this is not just political bashing. Obama didn't just modify the program, he canceled it outright. What would it have taken to make things just a little differently than what was already scheduled? Like keeping the Ares I and canceling the Ares V type rockets. You could then slightly modify the shuttle and make it for cargo only.

The Ares I could be close to operational now if it hadn't been canceled. The lower stage has been tested already. The second stage could have been what has just been tested recently and now will probably be canceled itself. The J2X could have been that second stage with the only remaining thing left as the capsule itself, which is nearly ready now.

Murphy wants to go around NASA altogether. If that happens, those in government have nobody to blame but themselves. Not only that, but the government is failing us, and this is but one example of how they are doing it.

We now how a heavy lift rocket on tap, but will be quite expensive. The trouble now is that same rocket will itself be canceled before it ever gets built. What if it was just a plain old Shuttle C, with minimal modifications and need for research and development?  Could that not have been done?  But it won't be and now this latest incarnation is vulnerable.

Murphy says that we need to bring value to the space program, or it won't survive.  There's no value in developing hardware and then scrapping it and never using it, or under-utilizing it.  It happened with the Saturn V, it happened with the Shuttle, and it has happened with Constellation.  Even the ISS was going to be canceled before Obama rescued it.  It isn't just Obama, it's the entire political class who do not have proper incentive to get value for the taxpayer.  The space program is a high profile example of why governments incentives are skewed toward inefficiency and waste.  The excuse is that they never have enough money, but if they didn't waste so much money, they'd be able to get more done.

Murphy says we need to develop cis lunar architecture.  This would save money, but the incentive, as mentioned, is in another direction.  The incentive is in making heavy lift rockets, which are expensive.  Super rockets as opposed to the use of a refueling infrastructure, which would be more economical.  Value, as Murphy suggests, is not properly incentivized in government, as it is in the private sector.

Another problem is cultural.  Too many people out there don't see value in space.  Even those amongst the religious sort, there is some "uncomfortable" feelings associated with the idea of settling or exploring space.  They actually fear the threat to their belief systems with regard to the settlement of space.  This doesn't show much faith, but the very opposite.  Why would anyone fear that unless one is really insincere in one's belief?  Great confidence and faith are incompatible with fear.  Frankly, I don't believe that a truly Christian person would feel any threat whatsoever with space exploration and settlement.  In this respect, I think the leadership in this segment of our society is also to blame.  Fearful people do not belong in leadership positions.

In sum, what it would take to get back on track would be to improve incentives.   To achieve that, the space advocacy community must do a bit of evangelizing upon the opportunities and values of space.  That community is small, so it needs to be expanded.  The public needs to be educated and motivated, so as to be steered away from irrational fears.  Provided that the community can reach enough people, and properly expanded, the politicians will be incentivized into paying and attention and making the proper decisions in the future that will assure a future for mankind in space.

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