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Bad_Moon_Rising
2002-Nov-28, 11:05 PM
Isn´t it nice to know that dear old NASA is mooning a moon shot ? (http://www.detnews.com/2002/technology/0211/28/technology-22806.htm)

"NASA declined official comment on the TransOrbital project, saying it is no longer in the moon business. But Wendell Mendell, NASA's manager for the Office for Human Exploration Science, said no one should expect any encouragement from the space agency where the moon is concerned.
"The moon is not an interesting body for NASA," he said. "My message is, don't waste your time at NASA explaining your neat idea, because you're not going to get anywhere."

Well, that´s straight talk from the horse´s mouth, eh ?!!

In the article, Alan Bean is quoted:

"But there are serious doubters, among them former astronaut and moon walker Alan Bean, who called the venture nothing more than a "pipe dream."
"There's no way to make any money going to the moon and back," said Bean, who makes a portion of his living painting moonscapes. "Someday, it will be an excellent business, but not now. If you do it once it would be nice, but there's no way to recover the costs. Someday there will be traffic between us and the moon, but it's probably 200 or 300 years away."

I guess that we´ll just have to keep our fingers crossed and hope for private companies to do, what NASA doesn´t want to. (Sigh !....)


<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: Bad_Moon_Rising on 2002-11-28 18:08 ]</font>

johnwitts
2002-Nov-28, 11:45 PM
Wendell Mendell? Who's idea was that?

Irishman
2002-Dec-04, 10:07 PM
I know Wendell. Used to have lunch with him periodically, back before he became the manager. That's his real name. I used to work with his son, before his son changed companies.

JayUtah
2002-Dec-04, 11:51 PM
dear old NASA is mooning a moon shot

Well, not in so many words. What do you think "declined official comment" means?

I have mixed feelings about Trans Orbital. I wish them the best, but every time I've spoken to someone there the conversation always ends with asking how much money I'm going to invest in Trans Orbital.

... said no one should expect any encouragement from the space agency where the moon is concerned.

Emphasis yours, I should add. Mendell didn't put it exactly like that; you're quoting the reporter.

"The moon is not an interesting body for NASA,"

That's debatable. Most of what we know and continue to study about the moon revolves around NASA.

"My message is, don't waste your time at NASA explaining your neat idea, because you're not going to get anywhere."

There simply isn't a lot of interest in sending more people to the moon because we've already been there and done that. NASA's budget today is a very small fraction of what it was during the 1960s, so it makes a lot of sense not to duplicate past endeavors without a clear purpose for doing so.

"There's no way to make any money going to the moon and back," said Bean

I agree. It's not profitable now.

I guess that we´ll just have to keep our fingers crossed and hope for private companies to do, what NASA doesn´t want to.

Why should NASA be interested in sending people's business cards to the moon and selling lunar real estate? Why do you think it's odd for NASA not to want to continue manned lunar exploration at the present time?

Stardust
2002-Dec-05, 12:38 AM
On 2002-12-04 18:51, JayUtah wrote:
dear old NASA is mooning a moon shot

Well, not in so many words. What do you think "declined official comment" means?

... said no one should expect any encouragement from the space agency where the moon is concerned.

Emphasis yours, I should add. Mendell didn't put it exactly like that; you're quoting the reporter.


I guess that we´ll just have to keep our fingers crossed and hope for private companies to do, what NASA doesn´t want to.

Why should NASA be interested in sending people's business cards to the moon and selling lunar real estate? Why do you think it's odd for NASA not to want to continue manned lunar exploration at the present time?



Tell me a thing, Jay ... How come you be such an arrogant person ? Were you born that way or did you take a Masters Degree in Arrogance ? You could learn a lot from Phil. I have never once seen him display an arrogant attitude, but you frequently do. Why ? What´s the point ? What are you hoping to achieve by such remarks ??


<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: Stardust on 2002-12-04 19:40 ]</font>

aporetic_r
2002-Dec-05, 03:15 AM
Tell me a thing, Jay ... How come you be such an arrogant person ? Were you born that way or did you take a Masters Degree in Arrogance ? You could learn a lot from Phil. I have never once seen him display an arrogant attitude, but you frequently do. Why ? What´s the point ? What are you hoping to achieve by such remarks ??


As one of my profs used to say, "Who wants a modest Mozart?"

Aporetic

JayUtah
2002-Dec-05, 05:57 AM
I have never once seen him display an arrogant attitude, but you frequently do. Why?

Do not mistake directness for arrogance. I wish to cut through the innuendo and come to the point. It appears the poster wishes to imply that NASA should be doing all the things Trans Orbital has planned, and that this is a despicable thing. I have asked questions intended to encourage the poster to resolve the innuendo one way or the other.

If the poster objects to my opinion or my manner, he is welcome to object himself. Have I offended you in some way, and if so, how?

CJSF
2002-Dec-05, 01:30 PM
On 2002-12-04 19:38, Stardust wrote:
[Tell me a thing, Jay ... How come you be such an arrogant person ? Were you born that way or did you take a Masters Degree in Arrogance ? You could learn a lot from Phil. I have never once seen him display an arrogant attitude, but you frequently do. Why ? What´s the point ? What are you hoping to achieve by such remarks ??


He didn't sound arrogant to me. Just direct. I've never thought Jay was arrogant at all.

CJSF

_________________
"Be very, very careful what you put into that head, because you will never,
ever get it out."
-Thomas Cardinal Wolsey (1471-1530)

<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: Christopher Ferro on 2002-12-05 08:30 ]</font>

kucharek
2002-Dec-05, 01:35 PM
Anyone wants to buy a I http://www.vietmedia.com/forum/images/love.gif JayUtah bumper sticker...?

Harald /phpBB/images/smiles/icon_biggrin.gif

Rodina
2002-Dec-05, 01:37 PM
I think the point is that NASA has a track record of poo-pooing anything, or anybody, that wants to go into space without going through their front door and kissing them on the ring (e.g., Mars Direct, Dennis "It's not an orbiting dude ranch" Tito, etc.). NASA need not cooperate with these guys, but their official position should be a shrug, not a public snub ("go away kid, you bother me") - followed by a request that these folks not deorbit their package into any existing landing site.

Sure, TransOrbital sounds a little flakey but then, so does Celestis - the cremains space burial service - but they are still in operation so, presumably, think they can continue to make a buck and any additional demand for space flight is, necessarily, a good thing, as it ultimately helps increase the supply and lower the price of space flight. (If someone wanted to send a cinderblock to Pluto, I'd be all for it, no matter how pointless the gesture might be.)

Suggesting that NASA be polite - which is what I took the original post in this thread to be - is not asking too much.


>>> "It appears the poster wishes to imply that NASA should be doing all the things Trans Orbital has planned, and that this is a despicable thing."

Since when is it "despicable" to tell a government agency what to do? If NASA's on the public dole, it should be given the same deference from the public as, say, the Defense Department or the Department of Motor Vehicles which is to say - none at all.



<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: Rodina on 2002-12-05 08:43 ]</font>

JayUtah
2002-Dec-05, 03:09 PM
I think the point is that NASA has a track record of poo-pooing anything, or anybody, that wants to go into space without going through their front door ...

Then why would they have no official position, and the unofficial position is, "Don't talk to us about Trans Orbital or commercial service to the moon, we don't do that sort of thing."

e.g., Mars Direct

I don't know the whole story here so I won't comment.

Dennis "It's not an orbiting dude ranch" Tito

Apples and oranges. The ISS is a joint venture using public funds, and the Russians announced the tourism mission without first consulting with NASA. A joint venture means certain decisions -- like staffing -- are made jointly with the consent of all affected parties. NASA is charged with America's role in building and operating the ISS efficiently, safely, and responsibly. When NASA is not consulted about major decisions like this, that undermines its ability to carry out its responsibility. NASA is right to complain.

Now there are procedures in place that govern visitors to the ISS. NASA helped draw them up, approved them, and follows them.

NASA need not cooperate with these guys, but their official position should be a shrug, not a public snub

NASA made no official comment. You're going off the opinions of one NASA employee whom the reporter consulted, which may or may not reflect the position of NASA.

Sure, TransOrbital sounds a little flakey ...

That wasn't my point. My reaction to Trans Orbital has been that it's very hard up for cash and credibility, and understandably so. They're venturing into a market that requires staggering amounts of money for capitalization and has a slim chance of making a profit. I understand their need to ask for money. I understand their desire to get NASA's blessing.

... any additional demand for space flight is, necessarily, a good thing, as it ultimately helps increase the supply and lower the price of space flight.

Agreed. However, NASA is no longer trying to be a commercial space trucking company. It's a public entity, and as such prefers roles more appropriate to that status.

Suggesting that NASA be polite - which is what I took the original post in this thread to be - is not asking too much.

Again, you're taking an unofficial comment as official. We have no way of knowing the context in which Mr. Mendell gave his remarks, nor what other possible frames the reporter may have placed on the story. We don't know if Mr. Mendell's remarks merely sound rude because of how the story was written.

NASA does have tremendous interest in the moon, despite Mr. Mendell's (unofficial) assertion. But it doesn't (and shouldn't) have any interest in commercial traffic to the moon.

Since when is it "despicable" to tell a government agency what to do?

That was not my point. "Despicable" is my word, but the sentiment is Bad_Moon_Rising's. He seems to believe that NASA is doing or has done the wrong thing here, and that implies a wrongness of policy.

Anybody can criticize anybody or anything at any time, but it is more useful when that criticism has behind it some careful thought and perhaps suggests something better. I'm merely trying to draw out the reasoning behind BMR's apparent negativity toward this particular position.

Criticism of a public agency should not merely consider whether the outcome of its policy has negative consequences. It should consider whether the policy serves a greater goal. It should also consider whether the policy in question really is the policy of the agency, or whether it's the opinion of one person who happened to give his opinion. In other words, I think BMR is overreacting to an ambiguously frame statement by one person.

NASA's on the public dole

NASA is not on the public "dole". We pay NASA through tax money and receive commensurate public service from it. A "dole" suggests NASA does not work for its reward.

... should be given the same deference from the public as, say, the Defense Department or the Department of Motor Vehicles which is to say - none at all.

Consummately ad hominem. Deference should be based on actual performance, not on a stereotypically assigned characterization. If you wish to criticize NASA, do it on the basis of a reasonable consideration of what NASA actually says and does, not on whether you like or dislike government agencies.

Ironically, the DMV in Salt Lake County here in Utah is the paragon of efficiency. People still make fun of it because DMVs all over the country have historically been the butt of jokes. But I've never had to spend more than 15 minutes at the DMV (regardless of backlog) and can do many common things on the web or by mail. Maybe I've been lucky. But as an engineer I understand how to analyze systems, and the DMV here is efficient because it has been made systemically efficient. It follows procedures to optimize for the common case, to parallelize what can be made parallel, and to decouple the system.

Further, I work regularly with employees of the U.S. Department of Energy, and with very few exceptions I find them to be highly knowledgeable, very efficient, and technically demanding. I have no problem with my tax dollars being "doled" out to pay their salaries.

My whole point is: criticize NASA or anyone else if you feel like it, just don't do it shallowly or on the basis of some silly stereotype.

Rodina
2002-Dec-05, 05:50 PM
On 2002-12-05 10:09, JayUtah wrote:
NASA need not cooperate with these guys, but their official position should be a shrug, not a public snub

NASA made no official comment.

I meant that as positive aspiration, not a description of what had occured. Tone is hard to translate.


Suggesting that NASA be polite - which is what I took the original post in this thread to be - is not asking too much.

Again, you're taking an unofficial comment as official

>I've also been around the government long enough to know that unofficial statements often reflect official thinking far better than do official statements. I may be reading too much into here at this case, but if you wait for the press release, you are usually too late to affect policy.


Since when is it "despicable" to tell a government agency what to do?

That was not my point. "Despicable" is my word, but the sentiment is Bad_Moon_Rising's.

> My mistake. Your sentence was unambiguous.

... should be given the same deference from the public as, say, the Defense Department or the Department of Motor Vehicles which is to say - none at all.

Consummately ad hominem.

>> You suggest that this is somehow a flaw in the argument. Of course it was an ad hominem argument. How can it not be when I'm attacking the character of NASA and suggesting it be entitled to no more deference than any other government agency - because it is a government agency - agree with me or not as to my evaluation of NASA, I can't much argue about its essential characteristic of being government agency (which was my intent) without arguing about its essential characteristic of being a government agency.

>> Ad hominem arguments are entirely inappropriate in a context other than where the character of the person (or entity) is in question. But we can't have an argument about whether or not I'm funny looking if we don't speak ad hominem - and in such a case they are not only necessary, but inescapable.

Deference should be based on actual performance, not on a stereotypically assigned characterization. If you wish to criticize NASA, do it on the basis of a reasonable consideration of what NASA actually says and does, not on whether you like or dislike government agencies...
My whole point is: criticize NASA or anyone else if you feel like it, just don't do it shallowly or on the basis of some silly stereotype.

>> This is a political consideration and not a stereotype. I made no assertion about the character of government agencies (although you may have fairly deduced I don't much care for them in general). Whether the DMV in Utah or NASA or the Tennessee Valley Authority is the model of efficiency and charm or as corrupt as a 1950s Chicago Ward Boss, a government agency it should be open to questioning at all times and about all things. Even obtuse, time-wasting questions are usefully and properly posed to government agencies - they may not be as useful as pointed questions about specific policies, but forcing the government to answer for everything is one of the charms of being a citizen.

>> Our thread-leader was speaking hyperbolically, "Mooned a moon mission" or whatever he opened with wasn't meant to be the opening paragraph in a learned treatise about the commercial operations of NASA - it was just a toss off comment about folks' legitimate frustration with NASA, who has pumped everything into this pointless space station and behaves - more often than not - as a bureaucracy protecting its own turf rather than the much bolder NASA a lot of us grew up with. NASA built the ISS to have a reason for the shuttle to exist once it finally realized the game of 40 launches a year and $100/pound to orbit (or whatever its claims were) was done for.

>> Sure, TransOrbital is a high cost, high risk and - admittedly - rather strange gambit. But NASA's policy (unofficial and official) ought to be one of an official "don't matter to us" what you do in space (so long as it doesn't affect space traffic, radio spectrum (which is probably FCC anyway, but my point remains), or whatever. I think this unofficial statement, if accurately reported ("at least one sheep in Scotland is black on one side"), reflects NASA's long-standing bureaucratic distaste for folks who are doing it elsewhere.

>> If there were some hurt feelings back there - and there seemed to be - it's that I think you took that post way too seriously, Jay. Robert Heinlein wisely said "there's nothing in this world so socially unacceptable as being right too early." Picking apart what amount to little more than a heavy sigh may have been heavy handed.




<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: Rodina on 2002-12-05 12:51 ]</font>

<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: Rodina on 2002-12-05 12:56 ]</font>

Rodina
2002-Dec-05, 06:03 PM
And, for the record, I have the highest opinion of most employees of most government agencies. I've been one myself on three separate occasions (in all three branches of government). But that doesn't mean these bureaucracies don't behave with some predictable (and probably unavoidable) behavior about turf-protecting.

JayUtah
2002-Dec-05, 07:01 PM
I've also been around the government long enough to know that unofficial statements often reflect official thinking far better than do official statements.

The question is not whether Mr. Mendell's statement is official policy. The question is whether his statement was given as and can properly be described as official policy. You insist on calling it an official statement when the article specifically says it was not.

I may be reading too much into here at this case ...

Perhaps. That's my point. I think a lot of people are reading things into this article that aren't necessarily there, and I simply want to strip away the bias and discuss what was really said, and perhaps why it was said.

I intended to start a discussion on what would be responsible NASA policy regarding further exploration of the moon -- either by NASA or by private ventures. It's turning into a recriminatory debate over how much of a jerk I apparently am, and how unfairly I'm treating certain people (who have yet to object themselves to my treatment).

You suggest that this is somehow a flaw in the argument.

It is. Ad hominem arguments are by nature fallacious.

How can it not be when I'm attacking the character of NASA and suggesting it be entitled to no more deference than any other government agency

Precisely because the basis of your argument is NASA's membership in a class whose attributes you have implied, and not upon the specific merits of NASA's arguments.

Your argument is logically identical to a statement such as,

"We can't accept anything he says because he is a Jew."

This argument is fallacious because it relies on an unstated and unproven premise: that Jews are illogical or untrustworthy. Your argument relies on a similar unstated and unproven premise: U.S. government agencies are unworthy of respect.

The argument is further fallacious because it invokes an inappropriate specialization. This is the converse of an inappropriate generalization. An inappropriate generalization would be:

Tom is a Jew.
Tom is untrustworthy,
therefore Jews are untrustworthy.

An inappropriate specialization would be

Jews attribute great wisdom to Moses.
Tom is a Jew,
therefore Tom attributes great wisdom to Moses.

This syllogism is structurally valid. (The previous one was not.) However, it relies on an ambiguous major premise: Jews may in general and as a collective entity ascribe wisdom to Moses, but the world Jewish community is a very diverse group. There is a limit to how much a general statement can apply to any one member of a group.

You can say, on the basis of this statement, that Tom is likely to exhibit the behavior of the group, but the syllogism proves nothing about Tom. If we want to know whether Tom reveres Moses, we would have to ask Tom. Tom's feelings may contradict our deduced proposition, and this invalidates the deduction.

Similarly, if you want to draw a conclusion about NASA, you must examine NASA. You cannot prove something about NASA simply on the basis of some general characteristic (real or imagined) about a group two which NASA belongs.

I can't much argue about its essential characteristic of being government agency (which was my intent) without arguing about its essential characteristic of being a government agency.

A stereotype is a stereotype, no matter how you formulate the statement.

Ad hominem arguments are entirely inappropriate in a context other than where the character of the person (or entity) is in question.

No, you're using the practical definition of "ad hominem" whereas I'm using the formal definition. An argument is ad hominem if it relies upon attributes of the person making the argument rather than upon the factual or inferential merits of the argument itself. And this is in reference to the larger context of whether NASA's behavior was justified in its treatment of Trans Orbital.

Attempting to argue that NASA's treatment of Trans Orbital was improper because of NASA's reputed ill qualities as a government agency is ad hominem because it does not explore any logical justification NASA might have had for refusing public comment and for its informal aloofness.

The argument is, "NASA rejected Trans Orbital because NASA is slothful and resentful," or words to that effect. Then the premise is supported with the argument, "NASA is slothful and resentful because it is a government agency, and all government agencies are lazy and slothful."

The first argument fails because it is an ad hominem fallacy. The proof of the premise fails because it is an improper specialization.

I made no assertion about the character of government agencies (although you may have fairly deduced I don't much care for them in general).

Then please provide the correct interpretation of your statement below


NASA's on the public dole, it should be given the same deference from the public as, say, the Defense Department or the Department of Motor Vehicles which is to say - none at all.
It appears you are arguing that all publicly funded entites (i.e., "on the public dole") should be given no deference. Are your cited examples merely examples, or are they the subset of public entities to which your statement applies? If the latter, by what criteria would NASA be included?

it was just a toss off comment about folks' legitimate frustration with NASA ...

NASA's policy and direction in general are certainly worth debating. I'm interested in specifically how NASA's treatment of Trans Orbital is bad policy. The rest we can argue later.

... reflects NASA's long-standing bureaucratic distaste for folks who are doing it elsewhere.

I don't agree with this. NASA has wisely gotten out of the commercial space launch business. NASA is not well-equipped to conduct commercially viable space operations, and so has concentrated on research, infrastructure, and other enterprises known not to be profitable yet which are necessary and useful. What would be the basis for a resentment of private space enterprise?

If there were some hurt feelings back there - and there seemed to be - it's that I think you took that post way too seriously, Jay.

I felt the post was ambiguous. I asked questions intended to solidify BMR's intent. I feel I have been inappropriately attacked for doing so.

Valiant Dancer
2002-Dec-05, 08:28 PM
Just one thing, here.

Why would NASA want to comment on a strickly commercial group that only needs NASA's Ok for a flight plan? Since NASA no longer has an active manned or unmanned lunar lander (i.e. no longer in that kind of business) and is not privy to the design or makeup of the commercial venture, what would make any comment by NASA uninformed speculation. This seems to be a case of NASA not commenting on a specific program of which it has insufficient data.

Since NASA no longer has an active lunar program, it would be fiscally irresponsible for them to assist in funding (when funding for NASA is at a premium) an independant commercial venture.

NASA has their set of priorities set by management. NASA is oftentimes interested in "neet" ideas. It just doesn't have the funding to persue them all.

Rodina
2002-Dec-05, 08:28 PM
First off: I've taken no insult from what you've said and I certainly meant none toward you if you've taken it from me. So, my apologies on that.

That said:

I've also been around the government long enough to know that unofficial statements often reflect official thinking far better than do official statements.

The question is not whether Mr. Mendell's statement is official policy. The question is whether his statement was given as and can properly be described as official policy. You insist on calling it an official statement when the article specifically says it was not.

>> No I didn't. I made a comment about what official policy should be. And, as I said, informal comments are usually more informative than official statements of policy.

[/i]I intended to start a discussion on what would be responsible NASA policy regarding further exploration of the moon -- either by NASA or by private ventures. It's turning into a recriminatory debate over how much of a jerk I apparently am, and how unfairly I'm treating certain people (who have yet to object themselves to my treatment).

>> As I said, I meant no offense. If any was taken, I'm really sorry. I thought I was simply pointing out why the other fellow got mad. I fear I've added to your sense of being ill-at-ease and that's decidedly not my point.

You suggest that this is somehow a flaw in the argument.

It is. Ad hominem arguments are by nature fallacious.

>> In general, yes, as a formal matter. In this specific instance, as an informal matter, not. I'm pointing out that NASA is a government agency and, therefore, ought not be deferred to. You seemed to take my calling NASA a government agency (I mean the list as examples of the entire class, not of those three initally referenced as particular bad actors) to be some sort of personal attack which detracted from my thesis. Since I wasn't entirely clear about my statement that *NO* government agency ought to be readily defered to - and you seemed to think my calling NASA a government agency was little more than calling it a bad name - I may have been misunderstood. But I was, essentially, making a political value judgment, not a formal proof.

>> If I mean to call my dog ugly, I'll call my dog ugly. Now that may be germane to a discussion of his ugliness and therefore not formally an ad hominem attack (say, in that case moving on to saying that "he smells" which would be an ad hominem attack if we were discussing his comeliness) - it is also, informally, an ad hominem attack. Formally, you are right - but I didn't expect to be engaged in an argument about formal logic which is totally unnecessary to informal debate.

[i]Precisely because the basis of your argument is NASA's membership in a class whose attributes you have implied, and not upon the specific merits of NASA's arguments.

>> Point taken, but see above.

Similarly, if you want to draw a conclusion about NASA, you must examine NASA. You cannot prove something about NASA simply on the basis of some general characteristic (real or imagined) about a group two which NASA belongs...A stereotype is a stereotype, no matter how you formulate the statement.

>> Sure, it's a stereotype. Stereotypes are often useful. Especially in politics. But my point was not about its stereotypical attributes as a government agency. My point was that it *IS* a government agency and therefore ought to be treated in a specific manner (i.e., non-deferentially). There's no logical fallacy there, just a statement of political opinion.

No, you're using the practical definition of "ad hominem" whereas I'm using the formal definition.

>> Yes, I was. So in an informal discussion, point that out and that perfectly astute logic lesson could have been shorter.

Attempting to argue that NASA's treatment of Trans Orbital was improper because of NASA's reputed ill qualities as a government agency is ad hominem because it does not explore any logical justification NASA might have had for refusing public comment and for its informal aloofness.

>> I agree, formally. But I inteded to call NASA names, and I did so. If I wanted to write a position paper on the subject, I'd have done that.

I made no assertion about the character of government agencies (although you may have fairly deduced I don't much care for them in general).

Then please provide the correct interpretation of your statement below
Quote:
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
NASA's on the public dole, it should be given the same deference from the public as, say, the Defense Department or the Department of Motor Vehicles which is to say - none at all.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

>> Nothing nefarious here. NASA gets public funds. I think the taxpayers get more than their money's worth from NASA. But it's still public money and should be looked on with tremendous skepticism -at all times-. Calling it the dole is a good, shorthand way to remind people (not least myself) that it's other people's money and not some costless "investment". I don't quite see the need for the sensitivity to it.


It appears you are arguing that all publicly funded entites (i.e., "on the public dole") should be given no deference. Are your cited examples merely examples...?

>> Yes. Thus the, "say, the Defense Department and the DMV" which can be read, easily enough as, "for example"

If the latter, by what criteria would NASA be included?

>> Not the latter. NASA probably does a better job than most departments/agencies with their money, but that wasn't my point.

NASA's policy and direction in general are certainly worth debating. I'm interested in specifically how NASA's treatment of Trans Orbital is bad policy. The rest we can argue later.

>> As for NASA's position being bad policy? Like I said, NASA need not cooperate, but neither should it be snippy (this article as partial data on that characterization which is entirely my own). What I would want to see is a someday, hopefully offical policy of both public (and private) agnosticism about private space ventures. Not a case-by-case NASA approval or disapproval, support or non-support (if NASA wants to fund a given project, it's then a NASA project and not germane to my point), but rather a simple: "follow these steps - for communication, contamination, radar-signature, non-volitility of materials - and you won't have a problem with NASA" or even, more generously, a policy which might say allow a private mission to be able to say of itself "complies with NASA's Non-Government Space Worthiness Standards" or something which would let folks be able to go to Arianespace or the Russians or the Chinese and say "Hey, this thing won't blow up your rocket" and maybe get a better deal. I think this has improved on the ISS visitor program by setting up some rules, but I don't think Tito would have gone and NASA made new rules if the Russians hadn't really made a stink about it. They didn't want the guys up there at all - but the Russians really forced it.

>> Mostly, I'd like an official policy which doesn't seem to be in NASA's current thinking based on this one, unofficial statement. It's one datum, I'm aware of that, but it's not one I'll readily dismiss as unofficial musings.

... reflects NASA's long-standing bureaucratic distaste for folks who are doing it elsewhere.....I don't agree with this. NASA has wisely gotten out of the commercial space launch business. NASA is not well-equipped to conduct commercially viable space operations, and so has concentrated on research, infrastructure, and other enterprises known not to be profitable yet which are necessary and useful.

>> I don't think NASA -should- be in the business of commercial anything.

What would be the basis for a resentment of private space enterprise?

>> The basis for it would be a generalized, unavoidable bureaucratic need for turf protecting. Look at the history of just about any government agency - from the Army Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Land Management (read "Cadillac Desert" by Mark Sandler (I think it is) - for an interesting tale about the aquafication of the West and about how two bureaucracies competed with one other to dam everything) to the FAA, the FBI, the CIA and everything else. History, I think, speaks for itself as to my point.

>> Now, on the other hand, for how this is manifested - I think NASA's "not invented here" syndrome is pretty well documented, but I'll try to dig around and find a few links that describe it some what more detail.

I felt the post was ambiguous. I asked questions intended to solidify BMR's intent. I feel I have been inappropriately attacked for doing so.

>> I agree. And, again, I certainly meant no offense if any was taken.

JayUtah
2002-Dec-05, 09:30 PM
So, my apologies on that.

I'm more baffled than upset. I wanted to have a conversation with BMR about what he believed sound NASA lunar policy should be and I'm confused at the response I've gotten.

Now it's becoming a lesson in critical thinking, which is ultimately useful too, but it's not the discussion I set out to have.

I made a comment about what official policy should be.

Well, you phrased it as, "Their official response shouldn't be ..." which implies that their official response actually was a particular thing. NASA has no official position on Trans Orbital.

And, as I said, informal comments are usually more informative than official statements of policy.

Agreed, but there is a difference between accuracy and authority.

If NASA makes an official statement of policy, NASA employees would be bound to respect that and align with it where their professional duties were involved. The NASA administrator would be answerable to that policy.

If, on the other hand, some person at NASA gives his opinion, that may very well be the prevailing opinion of the policymakers at NASA, but without the official status other NASA people would be quite free to disagree.

I'm pointing out that NASA is a government agency and, therefore, ought not be deferred to.

And I still don't accept this as valid reasoning.

But I was, essentially, making a political value judgment, not a formal proof.

Well, fine, but the rules of inference are universal. They apply to informal arguments too.

If I mean to call my dog ugly, I'll call my dog ugly.

But then you would be judging your dog on the basis of attributes observable in your dog and particular to him. That's saying, "My dog is ugly because he's ugly," which is different from saying, "My dog is ugly because he's a dog." The latter requires proving the premise that dogs are ugly.

Your argument still relies on characterizing NASA based on its membership in a group, with implied qualities on members of the group. This proof is only valid if you can prove that the quality in question arises inferentially from membership itself.

I didn't expect to be engaged in an argument about formal logic which is totally unnecessary to informal debate.

Debate always invokes logic, whether it is characterized as formal or informal debate. Jumping into the pool gets you wet, regardless of whether or not you can swim.

Stereotypes are often useful. Especially in politics.

Useful, yes. Reliable, no. Politics is based more in rhetoric than in logic. Various principles of rhetoric are at odds with principles of logic.

For example, it's valid rhetoric to demonstrate that a significant number of people believe a certain thing, if one is trying to compel belief in that thing. But it's invalid logic. Belief in a conclusion does not establish the truthfulness of the conclusion.

There's no logical fallacy there, just a statement of political opinion.

You accept the premise axiomatically. That's the only difference. As I said, the syllogism is valid in form, but invalid in proof. In your opinion a government agency, by virtue of its being a government agency, is not worth respect. Someone who does not accept your major premise will not hold the conclusion. I don't hold your major premise, therefore I don't accept your conclusion by that argument.

But I inteded to call NASA names, and I did so.

That may have been your intent, but it was not what came out. If you intended to call your dog ugly, then say, "Bowser, my dog, is ugly." Don't say, "Bowser is ugly because he's a dog."

NASA gets public funds. I think the taxpayers get more than their money's worth from NASA.

Then it appears being on the "public dole" is not sufficient reason for treating an agency with disrespect. I agree.

... that it's other people's money and not some costless "investment".

I agree with the need for vigilance in public spending. But I don't agree with the implication that such oversight need presume mismanagement or incompetence. Oversight may serve just as effectively to confirm fiduciary trust.

We can draw certain parallels with corporations. Large corporations are publicly owned in the sense that the general public invests in them and such an investment creates a fiducial responsibility. We have been witness lately to a string of private companies that have violated investor trust. The fact that some companies have mismanaged investment does not mean we can convict all private companies by association. We must prove malfeasance individually in each case.

Public funding is different in that the taxpayer-investor has little fine control over where the funds are spent. But on the other hand the receiver of those funds is often subject to the irrational whims of the public's elected officials (board of directors). NASA admininistrators do not have fine control over appropriations. They must do as the Congress directs with the money Congress grants.

There are many reasons why the appearance of impropriety in a government agency is not necessarily an indication of that agency's failure to exercise proper fiduciary policy or management prowess.

It comes down to this maxim: Punish impropriety were impropriety is proved. Thus, if you believe NASA mismanages its funds or makes bad policy, go look at NASA. Don't try to deduce those conclusions by some other means. You don't deduce that your dog is ugly; you observe that your dog is ugly.

NASA probably does a better job than most departments/agencies with their money, but that wasn't my point.

But if you agree that impropriety is best judged individually -- regardless of whether you believe NASA does a good job -- then there's no point to invoking the qualities of the group. NASA is good or bad because NASA is good or bad; not because it's a government agency. Your argument would be so much stronger without the stereotype.

Like I said, NASA need not cooperate ...

NASA may have very good reasons for not cooperating with Trans Orbital, and even for not endorsing or encouraging that sort of endeavor. And while that may be unfortunate for Trans Orbital, we have to expect NASA to place its own goals first. We require NASA to set good goals and vigorously pursue them.

... but neither should it be snippy (this article as partial data on that characterization which is entirely my own)

NASA wasn't snippy. NASA wasn't anything. That's what "no comment" means. That's the difference between authority and accuracy. One person at NASA appears snippy. That person may reflect prevailing opinion at NASA but we don't know that, nor is it wise to assume it.

Mr. Mendell made some statements that are being interpreted here in a way that I don't believe is consistent with NASA's more authoritative policy. This is why I simply urge you to consider his statements as his, adn not necessarily as those of NASA.

They didn't want the guys up there at all - but the Russians really forced it.

This is the essence of compromise. This is probably the most important lesson we're learning while building the ISS. But that too is another argument.

Personally I would like to see NASA, in the distant future, assume a role similar to the FAA.
I don't think NASA -should- be in the business of commercial anything.

Neither do I. I think it's okay for them to attempt to recover compensation, where appropriate. We allow the National Parks service to collect use fees, for example. It's still a losing proposition, but it helps. But I don't think NASA should be in the business of faciliting invidual private commercial access to space.

This is why I don't think NASA should officially comment on Trans Orbital. And I think it's why NASA may want to convey the notion that it won't endorse private enterprise, or assist it financially.

The basis for it would be a generalized, unavoidable bureaucratic need for turf protecting.

NASA's turf is not Trans Orbital's turf. The whole point is that you can have a turf war only if there's turf that two people want. NASA doesn't want to sell access to space. Trans Orbital does.

We can draw a parallel between public and private research. I've participated in both. I've worked for companies that invest large amounts of money to conduct research which is then used to benefit the company by supporting new competitive products. Other companies are expected to do their own research. And parallel to this is the state of public research which is funded generally from taxpayer dollars and whose results are expected to be published in freely available sources. It benefits the whole community. Both avenues of research are important.

NASA conducts public research. Trans Orbital may, in the future, offer the means for private research. I believe the two can co-exist. NASA isn't interested in sending private citizens' business cards to the moon. Good for them.

Rodina
2002-Dec-05, 10:41 PM
I didn't expect to be engaged in an argument about formal logic which is totally unnecessary to informal debate.

Debate always invokes logic, whether it is characterized as formal or informal debate. Jumping into the pool gets you wet, regardless of whether or not you can swim.

Touche. But please note:

(A) I was involved in a debate. (B) I was not being logical. Therefore (C) not all debate involves logic. QED.

Take that!

___________

Now, as a formal matter, I think I made made point well enough - NASA ought to set some objective standards for both manned an unmanned vehicles whereby NASA would agree - ahead of time - that if some vehicle met these standards, NASA would certify it as spaceworthy (quite like the FAA's Experimental Airworthiness standards). I think this could have an important benefit for private investment in space. As, no matter how low budget my project might be, I could say "this meets NASA's requirements for space worthiness" and that could help sponsor investment even in these somewhat... well... unorthodox space missions.

I think that, far more than any sort of "commercial applications" office, would do a lot to promote private investment in space.

How, then, do you think NASA ought to approach this apparent attempt by TransOrbital or a similar entity to get NASA's blessing? Formal agnosticism, as I suggest? Benign neglect? Regulatory control?

JayUtah
2002-Dec-05, 11:20 PM
(A) I was involved in a debate. (B) I was not being logical. Therefore (C) not all debate involves logic. QED.

Or conversely:

Debates employ logic.
You were not employing logic,
therefore you were not participating in a debate.

I believe you tried to make a similar assertion.

NASA ought to set some objective standards for both manned an unmanned vehicles whereby NASA would agree - ahead of time - that if some vehicle met these standards, NASA would certify it as spaceworthy

There are many hurdles to clear before that could be put into place. NASA currently does not have statutory authority to regulate access to space. And to grant NASA that authority would have international ramifications, as well as severe political consequences.

But in the long run that may be useful. Now the question is how you draw up those criteria. Perhaps the best way is to treat the first few cases ad hoc and then generalize those ad hoc procedures into a generic policy.

How, then, do you think NASA ought to approach this apparent attempt by TransOrbital or a similar entity to get NASA's blessing?

Well, that's a loaded question. It's not clear that Trans Orbital has asked for NASA's blessing. I don't know anything about Trans Orbital's interactions, if any, with NASA.

I know they have had dealings with the State Department since that department oversees U.S. compliance with international treaties regarding the use of space, and specifically territorial claims on the moon. There was a news article several months ago about Trans Orbital having received approval from the U.S. State Department to conduct a lunar expedition.

Formal agnosticism, as I suggest?

I think that's the safest course of action at this point. I think it has less to do with indifference about lunar exploration than it does about the necessity to distance NASA from commercial enterprise.

You can guess what happened. The reporter called up the NASA PAO and said, "What do you folks think about Trans Orbital?" That's different than NASA issuing a press release to officially express their agnosticism. If someone asks you a question you have to provide an answer, even if that answer is, "I prefer not to answer the question."

Regulatory control?

Well, NASA isn't really set up to do that. And it may never be. That's one possible direction for NASA in a commerically-dominated space industry. But perhaps it would be more natural to extend the role of an agency already experienced at regulation, such as the FAA.

johnwitts
2002-Dec-05, 11:59 PM
NASA may need to be wary of giving it's approval for private or commercial missions. If a mission goes bad, NASA looks bad, even if it has little to do with the actual enterprise. And without being intimately involved in all aspects of planning and performing that mission, how would it know enough to give an official 'NASA Stamp of Approval'?

JayUtah
2002-Dec-06, 12:07 AM
It's even more politically involved than that. Let's say NASA blesses Trans Orbital, and they're successful. Then let's say along comes Vegas Moon, Inc. that wants to send all those soft porn leaflets you get in Las Vegas to the moon. NASA, naturally, doesn't want to endorse that. Then all the free speech advocates start picketing NASA, claiming that it's government oppression, etc.

Any time someone is in a position of approving or disapproving something, he runs the risk that his decision will be second-guessed according to criteria that have nothing to do with what really motivated the decision. You get accusation of favoritism, corruption, partisanship. It's just not worth it.

The Bad Astronomer
2002-Dec-06, 12:48 AM
On 2002-12-05 08:37, Rodina wrote:
Dennis "It's not an orbiting dude ranch" Tito

Now, have a care here. This was the policy of Dan Goldin, who has gone on record as saying very mean-spirited things about Tito (and who had some other policies that could have used a bit of review). While Goldin made NASA policy, that does not mean it is now set in stone. O'Keefe may decide he loves civilians paying to go into space. Or if he deosn't, he may have valid reasons for it.

My point is that NASA is not some monolith, unchanging and unchangeable. It is not a single person; it is a collection of people and in many cases should not be judged as a single thing. I see Planet X people doing this all the time, saying "NASA this" and "NASA that", when in fact they heard from a single person. Unless you are the director, a single person doesn't make policy.

Rodina
2002-Dec-06, 01:35 AM
Phil -

Your point is well taken and, obviously, the policy on paying visitors to the ISS has changed. Of course, NASA changes - for both good and ill - and there's plenty of sparing within NASA about just about everything - obviously there are lots of folks who supported Tito (not least a number of astronauts).

It's not a monolith, of course (though perhaps it's covering up one near Tycho? Hmmmm?).

Alas, my off-hand comment about NASA was turned into a lecture series.

boron10
2002-Dec-06, 02:08 AM
At the very least, NASA could publish a manual of standards, so civilian companies could at least advertise, "complies with NASA standards." I know there are documents like this around, since some US Navy Electronics Technicians are trained to NASA soldering standards.



Alas, my off-hand comment about NASA was turned into a lecture series.

Ah, this is true, but we are all far more informed about debates and logic. We may now more critically observe the upcoming presidential race.

<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: boron10 on 2002-12-05 21:14 ]</font>

JayUtah
2002-Dec-06, 03:11 AM
NASA has standards manuals for its contractors. And it has specifications documents for things like telemetry, payload interfaces, and so forth. NASA doesn't have the authority (and probably not the inclination) to "certify" spacecraft that it hasn't ordered for its own purposes. But if someone like Trans Orbital wanted to make a "compliant" spacecraft it shouldn't be too hard.

The problem is that spacecraft (especially those NASA wants) are still highly specialized. There are commodity spacecraft (e.g., the Boeing 701), but the techniques for making it won't necessarily apply to an orbital survey craft. There isn't likely to be an all-encompassing set of standards against which to measure the performance and suitability of some particular random spacecraft.

Gramma loreto
2002-Dec-06, 06:35 PM
On 2002-12-05 18:20, JayUtah wrote:
But perhaps it would be more natural to extend the role of an agency already experienced at regulation, such as the FAA.


Aw c'mon...don't we have enough to do already?

More seriously, I find this prospect interesting because of the questions it raises. The first that comes to mind is, who will certify operators and/or spacecraft?

Current aviation safety inspectors (such as those who certify the previously mentioned experimental aircraft) must have experience in their area of authority. Inspectors who certify aircraft operators are experienced pilots. Airworthiness inspectors, who certify airframes, replacement parts, and maintenance operations, have backgrounds in maintenance. Certification of avionics is handled by inspectors who have specialized experience in that field. Extending the FAA's role to overseeing the safety of space operations means that we would have to recruit new inspectors with appropriate qualifications.

I think it's a fair bet that space operations inspectors would have to be astronauts...a decidedly small pool from which to recruit. Then there's the problem of these astronaut inspectors maintaining their qualifications as do our conventional aircraft operations inspectors. Conventional inspectors also conduct inflight surveillance. I imagine with the higher cost per seat for space flights, this would cause commensurately greater heartburn with the operators.

The recruitment of spaceworthiness and space avionics inspectors could come from a much larger pool...the contractors...but if re-usable craft are at issue, must the pool shrink again to those who supported maintenance operations between shuttle missions? Perhaps not, because much of the experience gained in maintaining, say, avionics in advanced military fighters, might be in large part transferrable to inspecting space craft avionics.

Those considerations aside, what are we gonna pay these folks in order to compete with the private sector. Hehe...a helluva lot more than I make, that's for sure. /phpBB/images/smiles/icon_razz.gif

Cheers,

Loreto
Minor Functionary
FAA Flight Standards