That reminds me of a sign I saw in a performance shop that read; "Speed
costs. How fast do you want to go?"
There are a few facts that seem to elude a lot of people. First of all, the
ISS is obviously an expensive undertaking no matter how you do it. There
are were so many things that had never been done before in the space station
program that one can hardly be surprised if it costs more than the original
estimates. It's a fact, real groundbreaking technological efforts are, by
nature, prohibitively costly.
If someone can do it cheaper, why haven't they ?
Also, the lack of long term commitment to space exploration has led to many
programs being funded by congress, only to be axed later for reasons that
can only be labeled as political. Congress gets all giddy with high-profile
success stories, jumps on a populist bandwagon to fund favored ideas, then
whimps out when the going gets difficult, cuts the budget, and then wonders
why progress is slow or totally stalled. Workers and researchers are
too-often micromanaged , given the responsibility for a task, but not the
authority needed to carry it out effectively, and the project suffers.
In short, nothing much happens until it goes up and down the chain of
command at least once. Progress can be slow, and the challenge is often one
of dilligence than of technical expertise. It all boils down to politics.
For the people who do the job , it boils down to unending patience and a
steadfast determination to achieve the goal.
Let us not forget about the congressional tendency to "increase" NASA
funding such that overall funding is increased while so much goes for
non-NASA related mandated pork-barrel projects to congressional cronies that
NASA has not seen a real-dollar budget increase in many years. NASA is
continually doing more, with less.
Now, let us talk about the "privatization" fiasco. Privitization is a shell
game that the fed used to make the budget appear smaller than it really is.
In short, a project does not have as many people on the payroll, so it must
therefore be cheaper to contract out all the work, right ? WRONG! It
costs something like 2X-3X to hire a contractor to do the same job. Also,
many jobs require skilled, experienced people , and NASA loses many of it's
experienced personnel as contracts change hands and contractors move on to
To make matters worse, many contractors spend a great deal of time acquiring
technologies they did not develop or pay for (your tax dollars did). You pay
for the research, they get the profits, and the technology frequently
becomes "proprietary information" of the corporation. The end result is that
you pay more than you should for the goods and services you buy later , when
that technology comes online as a guaranteed monopoly owned by some company,
instead of the knowledge and technology getting mainstreamed and benefiting
There is another anecdote that one frequently hears; "Better, Cheaper,
Faster... pick any two." This is a hard fact, and breakthrough
technologies like SSTO, maglev launchers, nuclear propulsion will never be
brough online until these facts are realized and this country gets down to
it and does the job right. If you want to have a leading role in aerospace,
you had best be willing to spend the money and the time to do the job.
Anything less is just playing around and won't get the job done.
Spaceflight is expensive, difficult, and dangerous. In that business you
shell out the bucks, and spend the time needed to solve the problem or
failure is a sure thing.
Glen Gardner (I just hate it when I rant, but YOU started it.)
>Below is the text of a message I just sent to my Congressional
>representatives. Might I humbly urge anyone who feels strongly about
>this issue to do the same. Writing your representative is incredibly
>painless these days. You can do it with a few mouse clicks at sites
>A concerted letter-writing campaign by the rmr community would be
>great, but even one person's voice makes a difference.
>Feel free to cut and paste the text of my letter. The subject line I
>used was "Budget: 'Star Wars', ABM treaty, NASA and the International
>Space Station" You can even go directly to my letter at
>and there's a link to forward a copy under your name. Or feel free
>to compose your own letter. I'm sure there are people out there much
>more eloquent than me. The important thing is to speak up and let
>your voice be heard.
>-- Erik Ebert, L1
> NAR #79868
> TRA #09105
>I am writing to express serious concerns over President Bush's
>proposed budget. What concerns me most is his cynical exploitation of
>the events of September 11th to push through a huge and unnecessary
>increase in defense spending, particularly spending on a costly,
>unworkable, and pointless 'Star Wars' system, and our related
>unilateral withdrawal from the ABM treaty with Russia.
>In these difficult times, I feel it is more important than ever to
>reject such isolationist, US-centric policies and focus instead on
>peaceful international partnerships and cooperation. In particular,
>we should not let a budget crisis, brought on at least partly by
>President Bush's huge proposed increase spending on the military and
>'Star Wars' to cause us to drastically slash funding for NASA, the
>International Space Station, and the peaceful exploration of space.
>Rather, now more than ever, we should be increasing funding for NASA
>and renewing and expanding our commitment to the International Space
>Station and the peaceful exploration of space, in a spirit of
>international cooperation and honoring our international commitments,
>and because it is the right thing to do.
>Thank you for taking the time to consider this important issue.