Opinion: Biden will inherit a mess at NASA

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President-elect Joe Biden inherits the task of deciding what to do next. He should focus on what has made the U.S. space program distinctive in recent years: the power of private competition.

As far back as 1989, presidents have been advocating for a return to Earth’s closest neighbor. The most ambitious effort, known as Constellation, began under George W. Bush in 2005, with the goal of putting Americans on the moon around 2020. It was a complex initiative that required the development of new hardware, including rockets and a space capsule now known as Orion.

By 2010, however, Constellation was so far behind schedule and over budget ‘ with no realistic prospect for success before the 2030s ‘ that President Barack Obama asked Congress to end funding for the program. In its place, Obama proposed a new initiative that retained the Orion capsule but aimed to take humans beyond the moon. It also added a new rocket, the Space Launch System (or SLS), partly based on hardware and designs dating back to the space shuttle.


Publisher: HoustonChronicle.com
Date: 2020-12-30T09:00:00+00:00
Author: By Adam Minter
Twitter: @houstonchron
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While you’re here, how about this:

Trump Leaves a Mess Behind at NASA

As far back as 1989, presidents have been advocating for a return to Earth’s closest neighbor, partly on the theory that it could be a testing ground for the equipment and processes needed for any deeper-space mission, such as a Mars visit, and partly’to spur the development of a private space industry. The most ambitious effort, known as Constellation, began under George W. Bush in 2005, with the goal of putting Americans on the moon around 2020. It was a complex initiative that required the development of new hardware, including rockets and a’space capsule now known as Orion.

Publisher: www.msn.com
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Adam Minter: Trump leaves a mess behind at NASA

In theory, building on existing designs should’ve accelerated the process. In reality, the precise opposite has happened. The 14-year-old Orion capsule has flown exactly once (on a crewless 2014 test flight), while burning through a whopping $24 billion. The SLS hasn’t fared much better: It has received more than $20 billion since 2011, cost estimates have risen by 33% in the past three years, and the rocket’s first scheduled launch ‘ originally set for 2017 ‘ has slipped to at least the end of next year.

A more efficient alternative is fixed-price contracts, in which a company keeps as profit whatever’s left over after it completes its assigned task. Beginning in 2006, NASA has used such contracts to boost the development of private space companies capable of reaching the International Space Station. The initiative has worked far better than anyone could’ve expected. In a 2011 report, NASA expressed bewilderment that SpaceX, then a young upstart, managed to develop its workhorse Falcon 9 rocket for just $390 million ‘ as opposed to a likely cost of $1.7 billion to $4 billion under traditional cost-plus assumptions. Today, the rocket delivers hardware and astronauts for companies and space agencies around the world.

Publisher: Bozeman Daily Chronicle
Date: AF6227EF91AE8A6C292AF357AF5D7D30
Author: Adam Minter Bloomberg Opinion TNS
Twitter: @bozchron
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Greetings Earthlings: There was a bright light and zap. The data presented above may one day be zapped to another dimension. Just thought you should be aware. Dude, there was a blue light over there just now.