New York Times yesterday had a Science Times article by Kenneth Chang on NASA’s plight. There are many issues that need careful examination to understand the 40-year mess our country is in. But this post is to make a single point.
The issue is that NASA had the shuttle cut out from under it (Bush/Chaney), the best efforts at a replacement strategy shredded (Obama) and a shiny new toy program set to be the wonder of the universe. NASA was given US$11.5 Billion (International: G$ as in computer disk GB) to develop a new Heavy Booster to reach deep into interplanetary space. All was mandated to be done by 2016 (5 years, by my algebra).
The article quoted Senator Bill Nelson (Dem, FL) “If we can’t do it for that, then we ought to question whether or not we can build a rocket.” That’s nice. A few paragraphs down NYT says that Nelson got negative analysis from NASA and stormed at General Bolden (NASA Administrator). Nelson “told him [Bolden] that he has to follow the law, which requires a new rocket by 2016.” (My emphasis.) Quote: then Nelson added “and NASA has to do it within the budget the law requires.”
I note here that Nelson did not say the rocket had to work, but NASA would do everything to deliver a functioning vehicle that will not explode on liftoff and damage parts of Florida (… read Soviet N1 experiences and Shuttle Challenger and… ) Quality was not stated but solidly implied.
Wow. Talk about old stuff. I sat in a 1988 review meeting at KMS Fusion (Ann Arbor) where our delivery of items was being criticized by the Staff at Sandia National Laboratory (covert goal was to shut KMS down). The point then was the company were told to deliver so many of fusion targets by a certain date and for the contract amount specified by the receiver; and all had to be perfect. Quantity, Price, Quality all specified by the customer. This is the nadir point where you realize you are being set up as a scape goat.
Quantity, Price, Quality 3 delivery attributes have existed for every item delivered since the world began. We know that the customer can control any 2 of the 3, but not all of them. Nelson was not born yesterday.
Nelson knows that an outsider cannot make this a law of the land, anymore than the apocryphal Indiana legislature could help survey workers by mandating π to be exactly integer 3.
Or does he? Did Nelson playboy his way through college without thinking what business is all about? Just set it up as a federal law and you can throw the NASA Administrator in jail for criminal activity. Cute way to finish off American technical expertize, once and finally.
We could do this in 5 years with a well working rocket, but NASA has to say for how much. We might do it for 11 or 12 G$ but NASA must say when (2050?) Or we could do both and generate a huge explosion pit on the Cape Canaveral landscape.
Here we have a choice: the silly, or the venal – possibly covert agenda to dismantle historical American technical hegemony. I prefer “silly.” I am sorry to say that Nelson is not a vicious Tea Party-ite, drawing rifle targets over people’s heads. I do not know his history (my regret) but I truly suspect him of being a Reaganite DINO.
This issue underlines one of the reasons I have opened this blog. US understanding of technical challenges is at an all time low point, suffering a steady decline for 40 years, since the mid 1970s. I lived this, I worked in a technology that served as the canary for technology mining. Mr. canary died some time ago.
Charles J. Armentrout, Ann Arbor
2011 Jan 26; Update 2011 Jun 03
Listed under Technology …thread Technology > Aerospace
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