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I want my $2!!! March 16, 2008

Posted by shubber in Uncategorized.
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Apparently, the little paper boy has grown up and now works for Bear Stearns.  Good thing, too, since they’re going to need his help to get their $2/share that they’ve been offered by JPMorgan in a last minute bailout.

This is still just the beginning of a VERY ugly period in the financial markets, folks.  So for those who aren’t paying attention, let me take this schadenfreude-laden moment to remind you that the world of space development doesn’t exist in a vacuum (yes, puns intended), and that the macro-forces which are about to rip apart our financial world (recession? what recession?) will be hammering some mighty loud nails into the coffins of NASA manned space, the VSE, and any cracksmoking fantasies you still harbor about going back to the Moon or on to Mars anytime between now and 2030.

I’ll bet a share of Bear Stearns on that.

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1. TomsRants - March 17, 2008

Indeed – if you have a dollar-based IRA or 401k you can rollover, you might want to talk to these people:

http://europac.net/

Their motto: “Because there’s a bull market somewhere.”

2. Jonathan Goff - March 17, 2008

Shubber,
Yeah, I’ve been worrying about the impact of the current downturn on the commercial space industry for a while now. I think both Ken and I have posted thoughts on our blog along those lines as well. The screwed up financial situation in this country doesn’t bode well for the future, but life will go on in one form or another. We can’t do much to change the overall direction of things, but at least we can make sure our personal financial houses are put in order as well as possible.

That said, downturns also present opportunities to the financially well-prepared.

~Jon

3. Alfred Differ - March 18, 2008

How long does our recession have to last to blow away all those crack-smoking fantasies for 2030? 8)

I’m reminded that 2030 is 22 years away and we typically have more than one cycle in that time span. How many cycles do we get and how much crack gets smoked in those highs? I’d bet that $2 on a couple more speculation bubbles between here and there, but not on humans on Mars or the Moon.

4. Paul F. Dietz - March 18, 2008

What we’re going to see is increasing emphasis on producing stuff we can sell to foreigners to pay down huge private and public debts, rather pointless stunts to inflate the national ego. At some point the notion that a national space program is important or desirable will become a curious anachronism — if it hasn’t already.

5. TomsRants - March 18, 2008

It depends, Al…we may be in so deep these days, that this may be the “last” cycle we see. The dollar could very well melt down for good, engendering my personal vision of millions of 401k and IRA investors descending on the Fed with torches and pitchforks.

But in the ashes of that bad end could come a revitalized currency that’s actually backed by something.

Seeing as how Americans always insist on learning things the hard way (history supports this), it may take until 2030 to pull out of the doldrums of being a 3rd or 4th rate economy. But after that, who knows?

6. Eric Haynes - March 18, 2008

The economy is bad, the sky is falling. Well, when is the economy NOT bad? If we go back 80 years to the Great Depression; officially 1929-1954. Then the Stagflation of the 70’s; 1970-early 80’s, add a few recessions in the mix we get HALF of the last 80 years the U.S. is in an economic crisis or at least a downturn. So yes, the sky is falling and it’s falling almost half the time. Is this time any worse? It’s not the govt’s fault Americans have massive credit card debt, can’t afford to pay their mortgages (ARM anyone?) and their Lexus payments. The economy is in a downturn because there isn’t any good news right now, that’ll change eventually. Anyway, it’s not like NASA or the private sector have much money in the first place to lose. True, VSE may fail but it won’t be because we’re in an economic downturn (which is how often? HALF!). It’ll be because of some bad political decision like a new president looking to make a change or some similar type of non visionary thinking. I’ll give Mike Griffin credit for being one of the best qualified men to run NASA because ANYONE else would have jumped off a cliff by now! Think about the nonsense he has to deal with, he’s got people always pointing their gun at him for EVERY decision he makes. There is one sad truth about manned space; there is no way you can get it done in this day in age. There are too many political obstacles in the way. That’s my 2 cents, er, 2 dollars.

7. Paul F. Dietz - March 20, 2008

There is one sad truth about manned space; there is no way you can get it done in this day in age. There are too many political obstacles in the way.

The very tenuous engineering and/or economic position of the whole enterprise is irrelevant, then?

The problem with manned space is not Those Darned Politicians. The problem with manned space is that it largely isn’t worth doing. Perhaps this will change in the future, way beyond the prediction horizon — but I am not holding my breath.

8. Eric Haynes - March 20, 2008

Quote: “The very tenuous engineering and/or economic position of the whole enterprise (manned space) is irrelevant, then?”

The short answer is yes, at least for the United States. The U.S. is not going to launch any manned space flights after the Space Shuttle retires in 2010. Z E R O. And it’s all political.

The successor to the Shuttle isn’t slated to fly until 2015, which you and I know will NEVER happen.

Furthermore, the U.S. is going to buy tickets to space from the Russians! Yes, those same Russians that are run by highly corrupt and powerful mafia type Oligarchs!

The U.S. may go the entire decade from 2010-2020 without launching one single manned spaceflight.

If that’s not the very definition of irrelevant, I don’t know what is.

9. Alfred Differ - March 22, 2008

You really think the Senate will tolerate that? I don’t see how.

10. Paul F. Dietz - March 23, 2008

The short answer is yes, at least for the United States. The U.S. is not going to launch any manned space flights after the Space Shuttle retires in 2010. Z E R O. And it’s all political.

Really. So, your position is that if, say, the cost of launching people into space were 1% of the current cost, the US government would still not fund manned space efforts?

If that is not your position then, yes, the tenuous engineering and economic position of the enterprise is very relevant.

11. Eric Haynes - March 23, 2008

Alfred Differ wrote:”You really think the Senate will tolerate that? I don’t see how.”

One scenario, 2009: The new US President replaces the current NASA Administrator. The VSE (HORRIBLE name, where’s that new NASA PR?) gets canx and replaced with the Prez’s “visionary” space initiative/policy.

Anyone want to comment on the possibility of this happening?

Eric – I’m just being cynical!

12. Monte Davis - March 24, 2008

True, VSE may fail but it won’t be because we’re in an economic downturn…

All depends on your definition of “because.” It’s not that human spaceflight’s fraction of NASA’s .7% of federal spending will become literally unaffordable. It’s that in the absence (a glaring absence since Jan. 2004) of either much public/legislative enthusiasm or much presidential “shoulder to the wheel,” VSE will be delayed, stretched out, and downscoped to nonexistence — along with a great many other things — during the austere period(s) ahead. There simply won’t be enough political cover.

13. Eric Haynes - March 24, 2008

Paul F. Dietz wrote: “Really. So, your position is that if, say, the cost of launching people into space were 1% of the current cost, the US government would still not fund manned space efforts?”

Paul, are you holding out on us? If, in your possession, you have some magical fairy dust that can reduce launch costs by an unbelievably unrealistic amount of 1/100th the current cost, then please share with the rest of us.

14. Jonathan Goff - March 25, 2008

Eric,
Paul, are you holding out on us? If, in your possession, you have some magical fairy dust that can reduce launch costs by an unbelievably unrealistic amount of 1/100th the current cost, then please share with the rest of us.

I think that even a lot of the cynics in this site would agree that chemical rocket propulsion could *theoretically* become 100x cheaper than it currently is. But that’s on the far end of a lot of engineering work, technology development, and several generations of vehicles. Right now we’re in a low-flight-rate, high-cost corner of the tradespace, and the trip from there to a higher-flight-rate, lower-cost corner of the tradespace is very challenging, not just due to the engineering challenges, but the financial/business challenges of closing a business or political case for doing the work we need to get there.

But Paul’s point was that if for some reason we had moved to that easier access side of the trade space already, it would be a lot easier for the US to justify a manned space program, even if it didn’t have a point. When you combine the a) high costs of a manned spaceflight program in the absence of actually doing anything useful to reduce costs, and b) a lack of much useful activity by our current manned spaceflight program, you get into the situation where continuing to justify spending at current levels is going to be challenging in an economic downturn.

Personally I think a budget hit for NASA that wiped out a good chunk of their manned spaceflight program might actually be the best thing that could happen for public and private manned spaceflight. It’s a slim chance, but right now the vast majority of NASA’s manned spaceflight money is going to jobs programs like Shuttle and Constellation that value keeping jobs in certain political districts over everything else. Until that changes, most of the money NASA spends on manned spaceflight will be wasted. Killing the bulk of the manned spaceflight program, and holding it that way for a few election cycles might be the only thing capable of breaking the back of those special interests sufficiently to allow NASA to even have a minor chance at doing something relevant and useful.

How’s that for cynical?

~Jon

15. Paul F. Dietz - March 27, 2008

Paul, are you holding out on us? If, in your possession, you have some magical fairy dust that can reduce launch costs by an unbelievably unrealistic amount of 1/100th the current cost, then please share with the rest of us.

Of course the point I was making did not require that I have any such technology in my possession. Your counterpoint appears to be that if something is technologically or economically impossible, then the reason we don’t have it is… political? Bizarre.

16. Paul F. Dietz - March 27, 2008

How’s that for cynical?

Insufficient, I’m afraid. I think it would require waiting long enough for almost everyone responsible for or complicit with the current debacle to have retired, died, or moved to another career. And even then I think NASA’s successor would quickly recreate the current dysfunction.

17. Vladislaw - March 31, 2008

What we need to do is send astronaut G.A. Custer to the black hills of shackelton crater and shout “GOLD”


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