Bush's recent proposal got me thinking. Now I loved the early NASA stuff; I
was a kid in the 60's and avidly followed the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo
flights. But I worry that today's NASA would be utterly and completely
incapable of doing a manned lunar and/or Mars program.
Back in the 60's NASA built and successfully launched three totally
different manned spacecraft. Contrast that with the NASA of today where
they've become nothing but Shuttle repair engineers. And the success rate of
the current bunch is nothing to brag about.
Also look at today's NASA leadership versus that of the good old days. Back
in the 60's you could've taken Werner or any of his helpers, pulled them out
of the admin building, stuck a wrench in their hands and they'd know what to
do with it. Could you imagine Sean and his bunch doing the same? And could
you imagine the ultra gold-plated, complex beyond belief spacecraft that
they would feel obliged to build?
It was a nice thought, but it's not currently doable.
NASA built them? Don't think so, I'm pretty sure they were built by
established airframe manufacturers and many subcontractors. Mercury and
Gemini were built by McDonnell, I believe the Apollo command and service
modules were built by North American and the lunar module by Grumman.
NASA still uses several variations of the Delta and Atlas II. After the
bugs were worked out early on, they have become some of the most
reliable launch vehicles in history.
The boosters NASA has historically used, Redstone, Atlas, Titan II, were
all designed and built for the military. The Saturn's were conceived by
Von Braun's team at NASA but were contracted out to several companies,
including Chrysler, of K car fame. ;)
All of the spacecraft sitting on top of these boosters were designed and
built by major contractors based on NASA criteria.
Whoa, we're way off course here. I'm curious if the rest of you think the
current NASA could actually do a manned lunar mission.
WEll are they capable of doing it or not? My contention is they are not.
Not right now. But NASA couldn't do it whan Kennedy announced his
intentions either (regardless of technology). Major changes had to be
made, they hired a lot of good people, contracted several companies to
do the majority of the feasibility studies, built facilities, etc.
After a few years, they became the NASA juggernaut that put men on the
It took the same things then that it will take today to get NASA ready
to put us back on the moon again, a true unchanging and focused goal and
plenty of money. I'd imagine all levels of management could be
overhauled a bit too, but I'm not on the inside so that's speculation.
So as a manufacturer, you have the necessary permits?
Jerry wants to have it both ways. He claims he's the manufacturer when it suits
him, but when it comes to permits he claims he doesn't need them because he's
just a middleman.
From the viewpoint of an interested outsider, it looks like NASA and
its contractors have designed hundreds of workable spacecraft, but
virtually none of them have been built. Where would we be if we'd
"picked one" and proceeded, hell bent for leather - on the moons of
Saturn, looking out?
The saddest thing is projects where millions have been spent on
research, design and even construction - then the axe falls because of
a change in funding or political priorities.
Back in the 50's, Northrup (at government behest) designed and built an
aircraft that was 90% of what the Stealth Bomber is today. They were
sitting on the tarmac, ready for delivery - and the contract was
cancelled, the aircraft, plans and tools destroyed.
Ever hear of the superconducting supercollider? A research tool that
was almost completed, cancelled, and more millions spent to destroy
what had already been done.
I've heard even the current shuttle is a poor shadow of what it was
intended to be, before budget cuts and "changes of direction" crippled
So, a "true unchanging and focused goal" would have to be one where the
project proceeded with irrevocable funding until it was finished - or
NASA, not some Senator from Wisconson, said it couldn't be done,
Your post caused me to hit the reply button immediately with an urge to
offer a counter argument. But, I've sat here for several minutes and I
find myself unable to offer one. At this point in time, you are probably
correct in asserting that NASA is ill-prepared to actually EMBARK upon
manned missions as laid out by the Prez. Of course, NASA and America
were ill-prepared to immediately EMBARK upon a Moon mission when Kennedy
first proposed it.
But your point is well taken. Exploration is done for it's own sake. It
requires an attitude and a vision beyond budgets, political correctness.
and other bureaucratic concerns. NASA is a space "business" right now,
more than anything else. Its not their fault, really, as they get funded
to implement whatever Congress deems to be important. Since the Golden
Age, NASA has simply evolved into what we, via Congress, told them to
be. Overcoming this is not just a matter of technical and industrial
infrastructure; its a matter of culture as well. Bureaucrats and
administrators are not explorers, nor risk takers; traits which will
once again be required at NASA. (I certainly understand there are
explorers at NASA of the highest caliber; I am speaking of high level
Kennedy also had a couple things going for him when he proposed the Moon
mission; beating Russia, for instance, and doing something "first".
There's no real rally points like that for the nation now. In fact, as
we here experience daily, the government is actively discouraging
exploration, investigation, interest in science, and education.
I hope the administration sees the irony in lab ware being a controlled
material in Texas, in R/C hobbyists being officially "discouraged" from
autonomous flight experimentation, and in sport rocketry being regulated
to death when they realize what must be overcome and reinvented in order
to implement a manned space exploration program again.
If, indeed, the government has not already succeeded in beating the
sense of exploration, advancement, and wonder out of the people and
society altogether. Just look at all of the negative responses to Bush's
I hope not, but would not be surprised in the least to see the effort
killed or severely curtailed by Congress. It encourages and demands an
attitude and view that most in government, it seems, would rather the
people not possess.
Aw, heck. Just put General Yeager in charge of the program and let it go.
Yes, they are capable IF the "safety" department would get out of the
way. As it is there are safety "engineers" literally requiring ASME
stamps on tubing in test cells because they aren't comfortable with
(or have the knowledge base to make) any decision except extreme CYA.
So it will require a culture change - but one that is 180 degrees
opposed to where they have been heading.
Stamping a piece of tubing introduces stress concentrations that could
cause a fatigue failure, by the way.
"Brian Kosko" wrote in message
Over the years, I've gotten to chat with several of the folks from "the good
old days" as you put it. In fact, an uncle went to church with Werner and
was one of his helpers. One thing that they all mention when thinking back,
that it was a miracle more people weren't killed along the way the way
things were ran back then..
Having to bury friends, neighbors and coworkers isn't a very nice thought
yet must be doable. Maybe placing value on human life is the mistake here?
Tough call--Guess we know which side of the fence you sit...
You could say this about most any engineering managment today. Sad.
IT managment as well, heck most all managment today, stereotypically. 80/20
rule here guys, as I do know some great hands on managers hidden in a few
I saw a NASA special on PBS. Management looked like they were concerned with
good looking hair and great looking sun glasses.
I guess I expected pocket protectors and black rimed glasses, or at least
long hair and un-kempt beards on the PHDs.
Silly me. Off to the Hair stylist I go today, I need one of those great
looking Hair jobs so I can get that open VP spot at work.
Opps, I need to lose 20lbs as well, gym here I come.
How to break out of middle-management or the art of symbolism over
I was watching a program on Discorvery recently which showed that the launch
reliabilty of many of the vechiles in fact is a faily big lie. In fact the
most reliable launch vechile is the Vostok. Oddly enough the failures in the
US program were mostly the USAF vechiles. The US army didnt have a large
problem as Von Braun worked for the Army and inter service rivalry is so
strong the USAF refused to use Von Brauns information.
Anyway thats what this program said......but watching the Delta cato from 97
was pretty spec.
Love fromthe Group Heritic