The Houston Chronicle reports that Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) and Rep. John Culberson (R-TX) are working on a new budget bill that would give greater stability to the NASA budget. Their bill would create a 10-year appointed term for the NASA Administrator and a multiyear budget cycle for NASA.

This plan has been endorsed by Johnson Space Center director Michael Coats, who complains about NASA programs that have been canceled by budget shifts in the last seven years. Coats “notes that if they were able to plan out four or five years ‘it would be amazing what we could do with our team.’”

The Congressmen are addressing an old complaint from some pundits in the space-policy community. According to these commentators, NASA’s success is impeded by the electoral cycle, which brings changes to the makeup of Congress every two years and a new President every four to eight years. Each time, there are major changes or minor tweaks to space policy, which make it impossible for NASA to effectively pursue long-term projects.

This bill is troubling for two reasons. First, because it attempts to insulate NASA from political control and the electoral process. Making unelected government bureaucrats less accountable to the American people is never a good thing. Wolf and Culberson justify their action by pointing out that the Federal Bureau of Investigation enjoys similar protections. The problem with that analogy is that it’s not analogous. NASA is not a law-enforcement agency. It does not conduct legal investigations that may affect politicians and political interests, so the justification for long-term political autonomy does not apply.

Second, the bill fixes the wrong problem. What NASA needs is shorter planning cycles, not longer.

NASA’s management model, which cannot see a project through to completion in a single four-year electoral cycle, is badly broken.

In the private sector, successful technology managers do not  demand stability over 10-year periods. Ten years in an eternity in the high-tech world. Successful companies thrive on chaos. Project and product plans are in a constant state of flux, changing from month to month and week to week, right up to final release.

A good example is the Apple iPhone. Steve Jobs unveiled the revolutionary device to the world at the MacWorld conference in San Francisco in January, 2007. At the time, it had a plastic touchscreen. Everyone, including Apple, thought was the final design, but Apple engineers quickly realized the plastic screen was not durable enough and the phone was redesigned, with a glass screen, in time for its scheduled release in June. Since June 2007, Apple has released new iPhone hardware on an annual basis. But even that annual release cycle isn’t fast enough, so Apple designed a system that allowed the iPhone software to be updated between hardware releases. As a result, Apple can now introduce new iPhone features at any time.

Many of the features that Apple has introduced since 2007, including the hugely popular App Store, were not even planned when the iPhone was first unveiled. If Apple followed a rigid 10-year product plan, the iPhone would have no apps except for those preloaded by Apple, no 3G data, no turn-by-turn navigation, etc. It probably wouldn’t even have a touchscreen. (Touchscreen technology was virtually unusable in 2002.) The sort of innovation seen in the iPhone is only possible in an organization that thrives on chaos.

A more relevant example for NASA is the PhoneSat project at NASA Ames Research Center. NASA used Android smartphones to develop the lowest-cost satellites ever built, which also have more computing power than any satellite ever built. The PhoneSats could not have been developed on a 10-year planning cycle because Android because Android phones did not even exist 10 years ago.

There is a long history that proves it’s possible (and efficient) to develop aerospace vehicles on short cycles. Historically, most aircraft were developed on a four-year cycle. Only in recent decades has the growth of bureaucracy made that impossible. The result has been projects like the F-22 Raptor, whose development began during the Cold War but wasn’t completed until long after the Cold War ended. Production of the Raptor was then drastically curtailed by Congress, because the aircraft no longer fit the requirements of the new environment, resulting in a massive increase in per-unit cost. NASA projects have seen similar cost increases due to long development cycles and the inability of project managers to foresee changing conditions (some, but not all, of which are political).

When necessary, engineers have beaten that traditional four-year development cycle, by a wide margin. During World War II, North American built and flew the P-51 Mustang in less than five months from the time it received the first order. The famous Lockheed “skunk works” led by Kelly Johnson matched that feat, developing the P-80 Shooting Star, America’s first successful jet fighter, in less than six months.

During the Cold War, the Lockheed skunk works continued to churn out revolutionary aircraft at an incredible pace. The U-2 spy plane and the A-12 Blackbird (the Mach 3 prototype for the SR-71) were each developed in less than two years. The A-12/SR-71 remains, to this day, the fastest aircraft ever built. Developing an aircraft that can match the speed, range, and capabilities of the Blackbird would be a challenging feat for any aerospace company today. In the 1960′s, few engineers believed such an airplane was even possible, let alone that it could be developed in just two years.

Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird

There are many more examples of rapid development such as the Thor IRBM and Polaris missile submarine system, both developed in less than four years, and the Gemini space capsule, which took just over three years.

What is even more remarkable is that these systems is that they were all developed by engineers sitting at mechanical drafting tables and working with slide rules, without modern computer-aided design tools, computers, or even electronic calculators.

No competent aerospace engineer would argue that developing a space capsule, with current technology, is more challenging than developing the A-12 Blackbird was in 1962. Or developing the Gemini space capsule, also in 1962. So, why does developing the Orion capsule (“Apollo on Steroids,” as Mike Griffin famously put it) have to take 12 years – three times as long as a traditional aircraft development program, four times as long as the Gemini capsule, almost twice as long as Apollo, and six times as long as the A-12?

Burt Rutan, who followed in the footsteps of Kelly Johnson and created Scaled Composites as the intellectual heir to the Lockheed skunk works, once asked rhetorically, “If all NASA wants to do is go back to the Moon in a space capsule, why don’t they do it next Tuesday?”

What NASA needs is not more stability in its programs and planning process. Stability is stagnation. The Space Shuttle program was relatively stable, at a very low flight rate, for 30 years. As a result, the United States made relatively little progress in space during that period. The goal should not be stability but innovation. NASA should always be moving forward, trying something new. If it can’t fit its desired programs into a four-year Presidential election cycle, the solution is not to ask Congress to change the cycle. The solution is to design programs that can fit into that four-year cycle.

It’s nonsense to suggest that nothing of value can be accomplished within the confines of a four-year election cycle. In the 1940′s, the United States developed the P-38 Lightning and P-51 Mustang fighters, the B-29 bomber, the Essex-class carrier, and the atomic bomb in less than four years, while simultaneously destroying the two largest military powers on Earth.

By contrast, NASA has been working on what Wernher von Braun termed the “conquest of space” for 50 years, and it hasn’t even conquered Low Earth Orbit in any meaningful sense. The last thing NASA needs is a new budget cycle designed to slow things down for the sake of bureaucratic stability.

Written by Astro1 on August 12th, 2012 , Innovation, Space Policy and Management

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COMMENTS
    Gary commented

    It took 10 years and a very large budget to go to the moon. It never could have been done with a shorter cycle, especially with less money like today (about 0.5% of the federal budget vs about 4% for Apollo years). The most ambitious NASA projects will take longer than 10 years at current budgets. Sure we may have turned out new planes in a short time, but we spend far, far more on defense than space and it involves much more familiar technologies.

    The space program cannot be remotely compared with iPads.

    What NASA primarily needs is more, and guaranteed funding. In time they will get back the people they need, the scientist and engineers who were lost in the Apollo years. Only then can they return to their former levels of glory.

    Reply
    August 14, 2012 at 7:34 am
      admin commented

      Gary, Mach 3 airplanes were not “familiar techologies in 1962.” Atomic weapons were not familiar technology during World War II.

      Your defense spending comparison is simply wrong. Apollo cost as much as small war. The total cost of project Apollo was comparable to one year of European combat operations during World War II — but Project Apollo was a dead end. It didn’t free Europe. It didn’t lead to lunar settlements. You can’t even buy moon rocks on EBay.

      If all you want to do is another Apollo mission, that could be done in less than four years. There’s no need to develop all the technology from scratch. But there’s nothing “ambitious” about repeating something you did 50 years ago. NASA should be pioneering new frontiers, not trying to return to the “glory days.”

      Reply
      August 14, 2012 at 10:28 am
        Gary commented

        My point in regard to the defense budget and aeronautics is that they had far more money to invest and it was being put into projects that evolved the very commonly used technology of flight. That is why this technology could be developed in only a few years. The defense budget in the early 60′s during Blackbird’s development was over 50% of our entire budget (about $400 billion today) and even greater in the years before that. NASA, by comparison, gets about 0.5% of our current budget and they have to deal with the complexities of space travel. Your article implies that because new airplanes were developed within a few years, NASA should be able to design and implement ambitious space projects, which are far more complex, in a similar time frame. At current budget levels this is unlikely.

        By NASA returning to “their former levels of glory”, I meant a manned mission to Mars, or something equally ambitious. Regardless, it will require an increased, guaranteed budget over more than just a few years.

        Reply
        August 16, 2012 at 8:50 am
          admin commented

          “My point in regard to the defense budget and aeronautics is that they had far more money to invest and it was being put into projects that evolved the very commonly used technology of flight. That is why this technology could be developed in only a few years.”

          You know not what you speak of. Rapid development costs less money, not more.

          Traditional NASA cost models said that Delta Clipper Experimental would cost $2 billion. Thanks to rapid development, McDonnell Douglas was able to build it in 22 months, for less than $60 million.

          There are many more examples.

          “The defense budget in the early 60′s during Blackbird’s development was over 50% of our entire budget (about $400 billion today) and even greater in the years before that. NASA, by comparison, gets about 0.5% of our current budget and they have to deal with the complexities of space travel.”

          Straw man argument. The original Blackbird development did not consume the defense budget. In fact, it didn’t consume any of it — it was a CIA project, DoD.

          Scaled Composites developed SpaceShip One for $25 million — and they had to deal with the complexities of space travel.

          “Your article implies that because new airplanes were developed within a few years, NASA should be able to design and implement ambitious space projects, which are far more complex, in a similar time frame. At current budget levels this is unlikely.”

          Space systems are not far more complex. It is often noted that the Boeing 757 was far more complex than the Space Shuttle. We suggest you research what companies like SpaceX, Boeing, Sierra Nevada, Armadillo, Masten, XCOR, and Bigelow Aerospace are doing right now. You can start with this website.

          NASA built the PhoneSat satellites, with more computing power than anything ever launched into space, for $3000-5000.

          The things you claim to be impossible are already being done. What man has done, man can do.

          “By NASA returning to “their former levels of glory”, I meant a manned mission to Mars, or something equally ambitious. Regardless, it will require an increased, guaranteed budget over more than just a few years.”

          In other words, a high-cost dead-end project, like Apollo. After which you will spend 50 years complaining about the fact that no one has ever gone back to Mars. Those who fail to learn the lessons of history are condemned to repeat them.

          Reply
          August 16, 2012 at 11:35 am
            Gary commented

            Good luck, peace out.

            August 16, 2012 at 5:36 pm
    aerospace grad commented

    This article is silly. Before a project is even started Systems Engineers map out time and personnel resources, along with dependencies, for any modern aerospace project. This includes contingencies and failures in technology readiness levels. If timescales could be truncated without significant detriment to success or loss of life, then they would be. Let’s not pretend every wishful armchair engineer knows more about the challenges of space missions than the people who actually do it.

    How many maiden flights of any of the aircraft you mentioned were straight into the battlefield at the most critical moments in battle – NONE.

    If space missions go wrong, people can die or you have loss of payload, if military projects go wrong, oh wait…

    Comparing challenges like autonomously navigating in hypersonic regimes through relatively unknown atmospheric conditions on distant planets, and landing with unprecedented accuracy – to consumer technologies? This is a joke right?

    Reply
    August 14, 2012 at 12:22 pm
      admin commented

      The “armchair engineers” who built the PhoneSats would disagree with your statement.

      As would those who built DC-X, Lunar Prospector, etc. — just because you don’t know how to do rapid development does not mean it cannot be done.

      Yes, the P-51 did go straight into battle. There was a war on. So did the atomic bomb — and if you don’t think the Manhattan District faced unknown conditions, you need to read some history.

      Reply
      August 14, 2012 at 12:49 pm
        AEROSPACE GRAD commented

        Let’s not pretend that the P-51 or any aircraft did not have test pilots work out bugs before it went to battle (there are records of this obviously).

        You must have missed my joke about what happens when military projects go wrong so I’ll spell it out. The atomic bomb’s job was to kill people, loss of payload was guaranteed by the nature of its utility and failure was not a show stopper.

        Timescales can be compressed by throwing resources at a project, but it’s not likely to be the most efficient or ideal way to do things if you only have one opportunity for success and failure in the public eye is detrimental for your image and funding.

        Being at the mercy of short term funding is what stifles innovation, because they become afraid to fail. Long term funding would provide some immunity so NASA can attempt more innovative, riskier projects. Bureaucracy is the enemy of innovation, ask Skunk Works. Hire good people and let them do their jobs.

        Reply
        August 14, 2012 at 1:15 pm
          admin commented

          No one denies that the P-51 was flight tested, but flight testing doesn’t have to take a decade or longer.

          I know very well what happens when military systems go wrong. I’ve lost as many as six friends in aircraft accidents during a single week. It’s not a joke to me. That has nothing to do with the subject at hand, however.

          You don’t do rapid development by throwing resources at the problem. That’s a misconception. When it’s done right,,rapid development costs less.

          The skunk works never did long-term projects. If the Skunk Works does, that’s part of the problem. A lot of the innovation went away when Lockheed added the capitals and made it a trademark. X-33 was not a notable success.

          If NASA can’t adopt innovative techniques like rapid development, it will become obsolete and irrelevant to the new space age.

          Reply
          August 14, 2012 at 1:48 pm
            AEROSPACE GRAD commented

            Rapid development can cost less, but there is a minimum cost/(development time), and systems engineers are well aware of what it is, so none of this is new.

            Ps. I like the straw-man for ‘(modern) consumer electronics’ compared to Apollo guidance, almost cute for a straw-man but it’s no less a fallacy.

            August 14, 2012 at 3:30 pm
            admin commented

            No, it’s not a fallacy. You may be unaware of the power of modern electronics, but that doesn’t make it any less real.

            The actual computing power needed for a hypersonic reentry is much less than you imagine.

            August 14, 2012 at 3:47 pm
      admin commented

      During Gulf War I, pilots were asking their wives back home to buy consumer GPS units so they could have GPS in the cockpit.

      Homebuilt airplanes had in-cockpit weather years before the FAA approved its use in commercial airliners.

      Today’s smartphones have more processing power than a governemnt supercomputer from just a few years ago. More power than every computer on Earth in 1969.

      You’re right, comparing modern consumer electronics to an Apollo guidance computer is a joke.

      Reply
      August 14, 2012 at 1:08 pm
        Roger commented

        Not that I’m in favor of the current funding scheme, but this article is woefully ignorant of simple timing. Take the Cassini mission to Saturn for example. Assume you can build a spacecraft from scratch and launch it in 3 years. It takes 7 years to get there THEN you get to do the science. That’s already a decade before you look at a single picture. The dev cycle for many missions is only a part of time of the life of the mission. To think otherwise is just naivety (and, in case you don’t know, space rated electronics are nowhere near the ability as the current tech, and this isn’t just a labeling issue ).

        You also don’t have any long term memory – “rapid development” was what Goldin pushed with “faster, better, cheaper”. They’ve “been there, done that.” This is not news to anyone who has paid any attention. The problem with rapid development is that it by definition has bugs and when space equipment has bugs, things tend to go spectacularly bad. NASA realized that given Congress is the way it is, it is better to spend more and increase your chance of success than it is to be cheap, and be punished severely if you fail. I do not fault them on that account.

        And, just to correct another mistake you made – if you want to go back to the moon, you really DO have to build everything from scratch. We don’t have the machining to build something as big as a Saturn V anymore ( and it’s not clear one would want to duplicate it even if we had the capability ). Also, it’s not like there’s an autocad file that you can ship off to china so I don’t know where you think this knowledge is going to come from…

        Reply
        August 14, 2012 at 4:48 pm
          admin commented

          You don’t need a Saturn V isn’t needed to go to the Moon. Gemini would have done it with Titan boosters and orbital rendezvous. You could do it today with Delta, Atlas, Falcon, Soyuz, Proton, Zenit, or Ariane.

          Our long-term memory is just fine. Therr is no evidence that FBC had no more bugs than traditional programs. You’re just repeating the common wisdom, which is wrong.

          Your Cassini example is a canard. The development cycle ends at launch. Operations is another matter.

          Not that Cassini is a good example of how to develop anything. Cassini-class missions are the problem, not the solution.

          Reply
          August 14, 2012 at 6:03 pm
            Roger commented

            Your argument is incoherent. First, NASA main problem is they have a lack of a mission, other than to do earth observations. This is mainly due to the fickleness of funding. This is a fact. Men on mars changed to men on moon, which got axed entirely within a short period of time. Expecting anything effective to come out of large changes in goals is just stupid.

            One can argue what the goals should be (I note that in your diatribe, you haven’t specified what this should be). Some argue for manned missions. Other for deep space exploration. Some say just shut it down completely except for research. I don’t care /what/ the choice is, but to say that one shouldn’t stick with that choice for a reasonable amount of time is silly. If you choose to send men to the moon, you DO need a very heavy lift vehicle. None of the lift vehicles you listed can bring men to the moon with food/fuel/equipment AND bring them back, so my statement that new need a new lift vehicle to do this still stands.

            As for your FBC statement, the /ONLY/ metric that exists is the # of successful to # of failed missions. Given that the mars failures were something that would have been picked up in adequate testing, it’s your statement that there isn’t any difference that needs supporting. For the record, I don’t think that FBC is a bad idea, but I’m also prepared to accept some failure. But it is utter nonsense to think given the same quality of Q/A, less of it is better.

            As for Cassini – news flash – NASA has a budget that they have to live under, so operations and development aren’t independent variables. My point was that if you don’t have stability in funding, all you do is introduce instability, which is never a cost reducer.

            This is not to say I don’t think NASA doesn’t need a huge overhaul. Only that your particular argument doesn’t do a good job arguing for it – it really does look like armchair engineering.

            August 15, 2012 at 5:26 pm
            admin commented

            “First, NASA main problem is they have a lack of a mission, other than to do earth observations.”

            NASA has many missions other than Earth observations. Cassini, which mention, is not an Earth observation mission. Just because they aren’t doing what you want doesn’t mean they aren’t doing anything.

            “If you choose to send men to the moon, you DO need a very heavy lift vehicle. None of the lift vehicles you listed can bring men to the moon with food/fuel/equipment AND bring them back, so my statement that new need a new lift vehicle to do this still stands.”

            No, your statement is incorrect. Merely repeating it does not make it correct. Gemini would have landed men on the Moon and brought them back, without a huge rocket. With rendezvous and docking, plus on-orbit refueling, it’s possible to go anywhere in the solar system.

            Just because somebody did something one way, in the 1960′s, doesn’t mean it’s the only way it can be done. If everyone followed your reasoning, we’d all be using rotary phones.

            “As for your FBC statement, the /ONLY/ metric that exists is the # of successful to # of failed missions.”

            Correct, and there’s no evidence that FBC missions failed at a greater rate than conventional missions. To quote Lt. Col. Dan Ward of the USAF Acquisition Chief Process Office, “A closer examination of NASA’s FBC missions reveals an admirable record of success, along with helpful and illuminating lessons for anyone involved in developing and fielding high-tech systems. Far from an embarrassing failure or proof that program managers must ‘pick two,’ the FBC initiative actually improved cost, schedule, and performance all at once.”

            “As for Cassini – news flash – NASA has a budget that they have to live under, so operations and development aren’t independent variables.”

            We said operations and development are two separate matters — different phases — not “independent variables.” Please respond to what was actually written, not what you want to read.

            The critical time for a space probe is prior to launch, when most of the money is being spent. If it makes it off the pad, there’s little chance of the mission being canceled. So, the seven-year cruise time to Saturn is a red herring. It’s like saying the 60-year operating life of a DC-3 was part of its development cycle.

            Also, you haven’t explained why it’s so critical for NASA to go to Saturn right now, skipping over all the closer destinations which could be done for much less money.

            If there is a good argument against innovation, you haven’t made it.

            August 15, 2012 at 6:41 pm
            Roger commented

            I never said NASA wasn’t doing anything else. Look at the budget. Most of it (>%50) goes towards looking at the earth. Exploration is less than 1/4 of the ~18B$ budget, and this part is wildly unfocused. And you still haven’t enunciated what NASA should be striving for.

            As to your Gemini statement is armchair engineering at its best. All history can show is what actually worked (or not work as the case may be). One can speculate what might have made it better, but this is just speculation/opinion. Thinking it would be fact is foolish – as with all human endeavours, there are too many variables (many unknown) that makes the outcome of any significant change always unclear. You are also misinterpreting what I wrote. My point is “You can’t get back to the moon with men with the launch vehicles/mechanisms we currently have”. I *NEVER* said the Saturn V was the only way it could be done. As a matter of fact, I explicitly said “and it’s not clear one would want to duplicate it even if we had the capability”. Take your blinders off and read what I said. One could build an orbital gas station, but we don’t have that now. And your statement “With rendezvous and docking, plus on-orbit refueling, it’s possible to go anywhere in the solar system. ” is a non-statement. Obviously, the Voyagers showed that this can be done “old school”. Might it be cheaper, pending on the size of the payload? Sure. But your statement implies that it can’t be done currently, which makes you look foolish.

            re FBC: READ what I said. I never said this was a failure. What said was given Congress is the way it is, I do not fault NASA for backing away from it. It does not help you get funding when bozos point to your last failure and say “you guys can’t even convert units”. You also can’t argue with “Count the # of NASA Mars missions, separate out ones done under FBC, and those not done under it. Divide the # of failures by the counts. Which column is higher?” FBC would lose that metric. Being in the software industry, I’m aware of the good and bad points of RAD. Anytime you see someone advocating one method as the answer to all solutions is a red flag that the person does not know what he is talking about. I will also point out that FBC does not invalidate the RAID rule (FCR, pick 2). I really don’t know anyone (who knows, you might be the first) who would argue that more $ or time would not allow for more testing in uncertain areas, thus improving the reliability).

            re Operations and R/D. It was YOU (guys? since you keep using “we”) that said NASA needs shorter cycles IGNORING the fact that there are long term missions. If you don’t have long term funding, you are guaranteeing that development and operations is going to constantly battle it out for $s, with (new) development usually being the losers. This is a terrible way to do any development. The current spastic funding only assures that a lot of dollars are just wasted. Now, I’m certainly with you that a dev cycle of > 4 years should start sounding warning alarms, but this should NOT be conflated with not having long term budgets, which is what this article is doing and you arguing for. Missions that take a long time requires long term budgeting. I fail to see what is so hard to understand about that.

            re “It’s like saying the 60-year operating life of a DC-3 was part of its development cycle.” My statement on that statement would be “If you intend to keep the DC-3 for 60 years, you have to budget in the maintenance/upgrades you are going to do for 60 years.” Obviously, a 60 year budget is stupid, since any budget beyond probably 4 years or so should come under some re-evaluation, but the line item doesn’t go away unless something radically changes.

            re “Also, you haven’t explained why it’s so critical for NASA to go to Saturn right now,” Do you even bother to read what people say, or do you just rant? What part of “I don’t care /what/ the choice is, but to say that one shouldn’t stick with that choice for a reasonable amount of time is silly” do you not understand?

            and finally “If there is a good argument against innovation, you haven’t made it.” Why would I argue against innovation? I’ve probably been a proponent of that before you even heard of NASA. What I will say is that this article didn’t make a coherent argument FOR innovation. If you want to promote innovation, you would argue against a) large cost items (ie, no more multi $B projects), b) pour more $ into Research instead of Development *AND* make sure a good chunk of the research goes into alternate concepts (the “and” is very important here) and c) have a long term goal to focus a) and b). Note that having a long term budget does not conflict with any of these (which is why I object to this article since it implies that long term budgets are mutually exclusive to innovation).

            August 16, 2012 at 1:55 am
            admin commented

            “Look at the budget. Most of it (>%50) goes towards looking at the earth.”

            You are misreading the budget. Earth Science is $1.7 billion. That’s less than 10%, not more than 50%.

            “Exploration is less than 1/4 of the ~18B$ budget, and this part is wildly unfocused. And you still haven’t enunciated what NASA should be striving for.”

            One-fourth of $18 billion is a huge amount of money. “What NASA should be striving for” is not the subject if this article. Do you think every article must “enunciate” every possible subject?

            “My point is ‘You can’t get back to the moon with men with the launch vehicles/mechanisms we currently have’”

            Yes, and your point is just as wrong as the first two times you made it. Space Adventures is offering rides to the Moon right now — with current launch vehicles. So is Excalibur Almaz. The Human Lunar Return study showed NASA could land astronauts on the Moon within five years for around $2.5 billion, using Titan and Shuttle. Those launchers are no longer available, but Delta and Atlas would do just as well.

            “re FBC: What said was given Congress is the way it is, I do not fault NASA for backing away from it.”

            You have low standards for public servants. By that logic, NASA should never attempt anything.

            “I really don’t know anyone (who knows, you might be the first) who would argue that more $ or time would not allow for more testing in uncertain areas, thus improving the reliability).”

            You can test software forever and still have it fail in flight. When F-22s crossed the International dateline for the first time, they suffered a software failure — after decades of development. “Build a little, test a little” is more effective way to discover problems than paralysis by analysis.

            “It was YOU that said NASA needs shorter cycles IGNORING the fact that there are long term missions.”

            We did not ignore the fact that there are long-term missions. We addressed long-term projects as something to be avoided, for the reasons stated in the article.

            “If you don’t have long term funding, you are guaranteeing that development and operations is going to constantly battle it out for $s, with (new) development usually being the losers.”

            So you say. Yet, the private sector which does not have long-term guaranteed funding is far more innovative than NASA is.

            “If you want to promote innovation, you would argue against a) large cost items (ie, no more multi $B projects),”

            We have done that, implicitly. Reducing development cycles is one of the most effective ways of reducing cost. For any given project, there’s a minimimum size team that’s needed to provide the required skill set. Employees expect to get paid every week, so the longer the project drags on, the more money you spend. There’s also the “cost of money,” which adds up quickly.

            “c) have a long term goal to focus a) and b)”

            And then complain because you can’t accomplish your goals within the available funding cycle and blame the American system of government rather than your own decisions? That’s a dysfunctional pattern if we ever saw one.

            August 16, 2012 at 3:14 am