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One Year Later, A Refresher May 9, 2007

Posted by shubber in Uncategorized.
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A series of back and forth comments on a recent posting of mine (“Space Race 2.0? Hardly.”) made me realise that, having reached our 1-year anniversary here at the Space Cynics…

Happy Birthday to Us
Happy Birthday to Us
Happy Birthday dear Space Cynics
Happy Birthday to Us…

Anyways: as I was saying, it being our one year anniversary, perhaps it’s time for a quick primer for those who haven’t been with us from the beginning (and can’t be bothered to actually read the archives – you know who you are) and a refresher for those who simply have lost the plot as to what we Cynics actually believe and hold dear.

So, without further ado, here you go.

Development of outer space (this solar system, the galaxy, whatever) WILL likely happen some day by humanity. I say likely because we have to first win that race against self destruction that we seem so hell bent upon. Assuming that humanity manages to get past our adolesence, then developing the “final frontier” is inevitable.

That doesn’t mean it will happen in our lifetimes.

The likelihood of lunar bases of any meaning, asteroid mining, L5 colonies, or any of that High Frontier gobbledegook (that’s the scientific term) happening in the next 20-30 years is so vanishingly small even the Hubble Space Telescope can’t see it. So get over it.

The same goes for massive space solar power satellites, an observatory on the far side of the moon, a meaningful Mars mission, etc.

The missing link, painfully bad analogies of the New World notwithstanding, is Cheap, Reliable, Reusable Access to Space (or, CRRATS). Without the ability to get things off Terra Firma easily and regularly, the markets (commercial ones, not just selling to NASA or the DoD) won’t develop. WHEN it happens, however, it will be like any other new market where the cost of entry has dropped considerably – more applications, more entrants, inevitable successes and failures, etc.

Dennis Wingo, for instance, had a great concept with SkyCorp – build satellite components on the ground, assemble the satellite in orbit, so that it costs less and has a better reliability (no need for the fully assembled version to suffer the extremes of the launch regime when you can send it up in pieces…). Unfortunately, without an industry configured around such a model, and no way to regularly get those pieces into orbit, assemble them at a station, etc., we’re stuck with the “Big Dumb Booster”(TM) approach.

Fanciful concepts of massive stations at GEO, or even a Space Elevator, ignore the reality that we can barely manage to assemble a station in LEO, which is tiny by comparison, and yet hugely expensive (and yes, many of the ISS costs were a waste, and there is virtually no amortisation of the NRE, but even still it is a ridiculously expensive way to go about things, building a station with overpriced launches).

We are cynical by experience, not because we are ill-informed. Combined we have decades of experience in a wide range of space-related businesses – so give us a little credit. That being said, to those of you who tune in from around the world to read our missives, thank you. It’s nice to know we are being read, even if we are but a small, often drowned out by the kool-aid crowd, voice in the wilderness.

Which brings up another point – this “us vs. them” mantra that gets touted every now and then about how we need to develop space to make sure that the core values of the US – “democracy and freedom” (or insert whatever jingoistic babble floats your boat) – is what takes root in space, instead of the evil commies or terrorists or whatever.

Get over it.

If anything, the lack of collaboration on the ground amongst the peoples of the Earth bodes ill for the future of humanity in space, at least in an organised fashion. If we can’t figure out how to play nice on the ground, it’d be hard to see how we’ll last long in space. And we’d better figure that out, because the “we need a space colony to preserve humanity in case a big asteroid wipes out the planet” kool-aid group needs to realise that some sad little outpost on the moon or, worse, in orbit doesn’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell of maintaining the Homo Sapien line if Earth is wiped out. At least for the next 100 years.

And that, my friends, is all that matters.

Because we (the current generation of adults in America, anyways) has shown it has no real concern for our own grandchildren and the world (and DEBT) we are leaving to them, so why should we be concerned with the world 100+ years from now?

Sure, in a touchy-feely leave no impact kind of way this is important – but be sure that you recognise that the vast majority of humanity will continue to do what they do because the laws of inertia and conservation work on a human level as they do in the realm of physics. Wishing otherwise won’t change that – and planning your business model around it is just the height of stupidity.

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Comments»

1. Shubber Ali - May 9, 2007

test of comments section – it appears some people are having trouble posting comments so i’m testing this…

2. Anonymous - May 9, 2007

Shubber, Happy Birthday and Congrats to you. Space Cynics was your creation. You have provided a superb forum for reality checks on most if not all space ventures that enter the public forum dialog. The fact that you invited the rest of us to join you as fellow “cynics” is a great honor because helping to bring reality to a world that has yet to understand the need for solid foundations is a great responsibility for us.

I wish we had more readers and participants, even people challenging us. But perhaps for every one or two that surfaces on Space Cynics to respond, question, or object to something one of us has said, there might be a hundred or more behind that person benefiting from the exchange.

Shubber, your creation is important and its an honor to be part of it. For all ye spacers out there, Cynics is still waiting for you to tell us the following two things:

1. The ISP value of the sugared form of Kool-Aid, a very popular fuel propelling much of the space industry, especially the commercial and alt.space communities.

2. The ISP value of sugar free Kool Aid as there are many spacers out there who prefer the cheaper and Lite form of whatever Kool Aid may be hand.

Once Cynics know the real ISP value of Kool-Aid in its two forms, we can help you extrapolate with the math just what quantity of Kool Aid you will need to get sufficient ISP to get to LEO or any other place in the universe or space. Maybe even back to school.

Again, Happy Birthday to you Shubber for your creation. A job well done!
Professor L.

3. TomsRants - May 9, 2007

Shubber:

I’ve always been honored to be part of this group, and the honor continues as you and I have decided to put our energies where our beliefs are and form Exodus Consulting Group.

As I said on Professor L’s show 12/31/06, the next three years or so will be “put up or shut up” years for alt.space. We will be there to report/comment on events. It’s going to be fun.

Here’s to another great and insightful year for the Space Cynics.

4. Jon Goff - May 9, 2007

Shubber,
I actually agree with almost everything you say,other than your guess at how long it will take before interesting things start happening. In fact, the only thing cynical about what you wrote is your estimated timescale. I agree that without a robust space transportation industry (ie CRRATS), nothing of interest is going to happen off-planet. What I think is the fun and interesting challenge is trying to figure out how to move from our current metastable state to that new state (and to try and figure out what if any role I can take in that transition).

And that boils down to markets, financing, technology, product development, etc.

Sounds like fun.

~Jon

5. murphydyne - May 10, 2007

Happy Birthday!

Glad to be of service.

(um, so, you know that Walking Eagle award…?)

6. Shubber Ali - May 10, 2007

(um, so, you know that Walking Eagle award…?)

murphydyne…. are you angling for a Walking Eagle..?

7. Roger Clandon - May 10, 2007

Interesting follow up on UP Aerospace’s launch from Spaceport America on April 28: Seems that at the last minute, the new Spaceport Director, Rick Homans (formally the NM Secretary of Economic Development)got a little nervous about the launch and decided to move the aim point 5 miles to the west (because safety is number one). Jerry Larson, President of UP Aerospace, was against the move but was told to either move it or don’t launch. As a result, the payload is now in the mountains west of the range and has yet to be recovered (almost two weeks later). The place where they think it came down is less than two miles from flat open land – Thanks a lot Rick. Next time just shut up and color and let technical people make the technical decisions, you moron! Yet another reason why we have to get spaceflight out of the hands of beaurocrats.

8. Anonymous - May 10, 2007

Shubber, could you make a blog post about why Astrovision Australia is no longer in operation? It could be interesting info for other space companies, they could learn from the mistakes astrovision made.

9. Gary - May 18, 2007

What about Launch Point Technology and their proposal to launch high-G tolerant payloads via a magnetic accelerator?

GAry 7

10. Tom Cuddihy - May 18, 2007

wrong Jon–the only thing it boils down to is higher ISP with high thrust to weight. You get an ISP of 900-1500, T-W of 50-1, you have a space faring society.

11. Anonymous - May 18, 2007

Well first of all, Happy Birthday. As with all birthdays, that means another year of growth and maturing. Now with that out of the way, I would like to comment on your article above.

I work on the team that processes the shuttles. I work on the team that is trying to get the ISS finished and set the stage for the colonization for the moon and trips to mars someday. Instead of spending my days writing clever blogs, I work every day in my small way trying to help humanity find its way to the stars. I live my dream every day.

I agree that we need a cheaper way of reaching orbit, but until then the big dumb boosters (and they are not that “dumb”) are our only means. There will come a time that a cheaper way will be found, but until then we aren’t going to sit idle and write blogs to look clever. We are going to continue to quietly launch our shuttles, finish the ISS, and move on to the Moon and Mars.

We are “doing” while you are “talking”. We have been “doing” for over 40 years now and are proud of what we have accomplished and excited over what is coming in the future.

If you want to help, then find a way to start working in the space program (any space program!) and be a part of the solution. I can assure you it is much more fun than sitting on the sidelines writing blogs.

Be safe and be well on your birthday. Hope for many more good years for you.

Random63

12. Shubber Ali - May 18, 2007

Well first of all, Happy Birthday. As with all birthdays, that means another year of growth and maturing. Now with that out of the way, I would like to comment on your article above.

Thanks (queue ominious music I think…)

I work on the team that processes the shuttles. I work on the team that is trying to get the ISS finished and set the stage for the colonization for the moon and trips to mars someday.

Methinks you should dust off your resume, then. Shuttles are being retired in the next few years (sooner if NASA manages to lose another one), and ISS won’t be around much longer afterwards, having been proven to be a colossal waste of money and sold on a lie, the occasional tourist notwithstanding.

As for feeling like you’re being part of something “bigger” (in this case, the eventual colonisation of the stars), um, well, whatever floats your boat. I suppose it is akin to being a pyramid builder who will die before the pyramids are completed – I guess it gives you a sense of fullfilment, but at the end of the day they are just big piles of sandstone in the desert. Which is quite a bit more than the manned space program has to show for it.


Instead of spending my days writing clever blogs, I work every day in my small way trying to help humanity find its way to the stars. I live my dream every day.

Well good for you. So do I, and yet I still find time to write a blog about space. Perhaps you should work on your time management skills…?

I agree that we need a cheaper way of reaching orbit, but until then the big dumb boosters (and they are not that “dumb”) are our only means.

Yes, economically speaking, they are DUMB. At least for anything other than the big comsats that have proven a business model that can absorb the cost of the launch vehicle. it is DUMB to throw away an asset worth tens of millions of dollars every time you want to get to LEO. From a technical point of view, of course they aren’t dumb – in fact they are extremely complicated and thus also not always reliable.

There will come a time that a cheaper way will be found, but until then we aren’t going to sit idle and write blogs to look clever.

We don’t LOOK clever. We ARE clever. And more importantly, we are RIGHT.


We are going to continue to quietly launch our shuttles, finish the ISS, and move on to the Moon and Mars.

No you won’t. You will quietly kill yet another program when you realise you don’t have the money for it after making lots of pretty CGI videos for the masses who have chosen their social security payments over your overpriced joyride back to space.


We are “doing” while you are “talking”. We have been “doing” for over 40 years now and are proud of what we have accomplished and excited over what is coming in the future.

Well, i’m not sure what “doing” you seem to be so proud of when it comes to manned space and NASA. Going to the Moon? NASA took the expedient and dumb route to achieve a political objective (beating the Soviets) and left us with an overpriced DUMB architecture (throwaway Saturns), which they then replaced with an overpriced pseudo reusable deathtrap (with the highest kill rate of any space vehicle so far) that was sold on a lie of high flight rates and economical operation. They then followed that up with a bigger lie – the International Space Station – which hardly broke new ground other than proving NASA had the power to force another government to deorbit their own functioning space station. ISS was sold to Congress when it was just about to get cancelled by a claim of commercial utilisation that has not materialised (and won’t).


If you want to help, then find a way to start working in the space program (any space program!) and be a part of the solution. I can assure you it is much more fun than sitting on the sidelines writing blogs.

Been there, done that. Spent five years working with NASA (manned space, as opposed to the fine work being done in the other, underfunded, portions of the organisation) watching them take reports and advice and toss them up on the high shelves to collect dust while they continued to do the same thing over and over and expect a different outcome. I believe that is the definition of insanity.

And writing a blog calling BS on their ongoing stupidity is heaps more enjoyable than watching my hard work get paid for then ignored simply so some manager could tick a box.

Be safe and be well on your birthday. Hope for many more good years for you.

Thanks, we do too.

13. Anonymous - May 19, 2007

Well I guess it just comes down to attitudes. I gave up a 22 year medical career to start work in the aerospace field because I believe in it. Currently I am getting my Masters in Space Operations Management so I can do even more for manned space flight. That may account for my “time management” problem that you have pointed out.

It’s quite satisfying to see my handiwork launch into space and contribute in a small way to our future. Are there problems in the space program? Of course there is! But, there are many successes and I guess that is what I focus on and strive to get more of.

You say you worked 5 years at NASA and then chose to leave. Seems the only thing now you are doing for space is enjoying tearing down the programs and the people who believe in it.

Ironic isn’t it? I see the glass half full and you don’t. I spend my day working to advance our presence in space while you spend yours at the computer writing clever and negative blogs. I launch shuttles and further my education in my chosen field that I love, while you launch blog entries insulting dreamers like me and what we do while launching nothing else of your own.

Yes I do wish you many more birthdays and the maturing that will come with them.

Be safe and be well,

Random63

P.S. Universe Today, which I belong too, recommended your site. I will have to let them know that I have not found your site at this time to be the space exploration advocate site as I originally thought, but more of a “cynical” and negative site that does not seem to be very productive to our dreams.

I wish you would come back to the space program and find the “dream” again and help us achieve it. I know you think that your work was not appreciated or noticed but I’ve found in my short time here at KSC that good work is noticed. Sometimes not right away or in the regular format, but if the work is good and honest, it does have a way of popping up at the right time. Who knows? If you were still here, you might see some of your good works you did previously already in use. I hope it is. Thank you for your 5 years of service.

14. Braungucke - May 20, 2007

I totally agree to your arguments, but nevertheless I think, if it were 1961, YOU would say a trip to the moon within the decade is impossible.

Or in the words of Mr. Henri Ford:
“There is no man living that can not do more than he thinks he can.”

So long,
Richard, Germany.

15. Shubber Ali - May 20, 2007

nevertheless I think, if it were 1961, YOU would say a trip to the moon within the decade is impossible.

Or in the words of Mr. Henri Ford:
“There is no man living that can not do more than he thinks he can.”

Richard, I would be the first to say it was POSSIBLE. And, obviously, it was achieved. Don’t mistake physics and economics – the two are VASTLY different disciplines, and in the case of the Apollo program, it was the latter which ended our first attempts at a sustained manned space program.

As for the pithy quote from Mr. Ford – let me suggest that if you think you can flap your wings and start flying, I’ll sit on the sidelines and laugh at you, because you are not biologically designed to fly. However, if you say “i’m going to figure out a way to travel in the air” then I would support your desire and ambition to do so. There is a fundamental difference between the two. Do a google search on Carl Sagan and Bozo the Clown. Or, better yet, just wait for my upcoming blog post on the subject…

16. Shubber Ali - May 20, 2007

Universe Today, which I belong too, recommended your site. I will have to let them know that I have not found your site at this time to be the space exploration advocate site as I originally thought, but more of a “cynical” and negative site that does not seem to be very productive to our dreams.

Free country, so I can’t stop you. However, if you really think that a contrarian voice is somehow dangerous to the development of space, I am left to wonder what it is you are afraid of in our message..?

I wish you would come back to the space program and find the “dream” again and help us achieve it.

Believe it or not, I believe that being the contrarian IS helpful to the development of space – because one of the biggest detriments to becoming a spacefaring society is the danger of the hucksters out there who poison the well by selling kool-aid to the masses, and investment community, and ruin the real potential that is there. I’ve seen that too many times in my short lifetime already.

I know you think that your work was not appreciated or noticed but I’ve found in my short time here at KSC that good work is noticed.

I’m not sure if that was meant as an insult (i.e., that my work must not have been good if it were not noticed…) or just poor phraseology. However, I’ll assume it was the latter. The issue wasn’t that it wasn’t noticed, btw, but rather that they buried it because of the implications of what we found in our research. A copy of that study was leaked from JSC to NASA HQ and then on to Congressman Rohrbacher’s office, which is the only reason it ever did get the notice of Congress… and led to the followup study which at one point had the NASA HQ rep say to me (direct quote):

“You can’t publish this! They’ll cancel the program!”

Perhaps you can see why I became a cynic?

Sometimes not right away or in the regular format, but if the work is good and honest, it does have a way of popping up at the right time. Who knows? If you were still here, you might see some of your good works you did previously already in use. I hope it is. Thank you for your 5 years of service.

If I were back in the game, my first priority would be to finish what I started – telling the truth about the economics and business realities in the space sector, and if that results in cutbacks or changes at NASA or anywhere else, so be it.

17. Les Melvin - June 22, 2007

It’s homo sapienS


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